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Tilting at Windmills

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May 8, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BEATING AL-QAEDA....Andrew McCarthy, in a furious polemic over at NRO, lashes out at George Bush for his inability to convince the American public that Iraq really is the central front in the war against al-Qaeda. Even Democrats, he says, know it's true in their heart of hearts:

That's because, (1) whether or not they actually believe it, top Democrats keep saying we should be fighting al Qaeda, and (2) al Qaeda, like it or not, is in Iraq — massed, determined and deadly. It is the enduring failure of the administration that it cannot seem to make Americans see these two stark realities.

Iraq: The place where jihadists commit the latest atrocity hard on the last. Iraq: The "capital of the Caliphate," as Osama bin Laden has called it, further describing it as the center of the "third world war ... a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam." Iraq: The site of the battle bin Laden aptly says will end either "in victory and glory or misery and humiliation."

McCarthy goes on in this frothy vein for over a thousand more words, but it's woefully insubstantial stuff. The fact that Osama bin Laden is delighted that the Iraq war has helped his recruiting effort is hardly a persuasive reason for us to stay there and continue to help him out.

In fact, there's a dirty little secret of the Iraq war that neither party is eager to acknowledge publicly: namely that the fastest way to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is probably for us to leave and let the Iraqis do it themselves. Republicans don't want to acknowledge this for the obvious reason: they want to stay in Iraq and this doesn't help their cause. Democrats, I suspect, also don't want to talk too much about this, but for a different reason: because it tacitly condones the reason the Iraqis can do a better job than us of stamping out AQI. It's not just that Iraqis know their own neighborhoods better than us (though that's part of it), but that when it comes to exterminating AQI Iraqis would almost certainly be far more brutal about it than Americans. That's not really a subject anyone wants to bring up in polite company.

But that doesn't make it any less true. If we leave Iraq, the country is unlikely in the extreme to become an al-Qaeda haven. Partly this is because it's rage at the American presence itself that provides a big part of the fuel for AQI's growth. Our withdrawal would eliminate that source of rage and devastate AQI's ability to continue its recruiting. Partly it's because, as we're seeing in Anbar province right now, even Sunni extremists don't like AQI. Left to their own devices they'll kill off AQI jihadists in order to protect their own tribal turf. And partly it's because once we withdraw, non-Kurdish Iraq will be free to finish its inevitable transition into a Shiite theocracy — a transition that's sadly unavoidable whether we stay or not. Yes, this transition will be bloody, but in the end Iraq will almost certainly be composed of the Kurdish north, which has no use for al-Qaeda; the remaining Sunni sheikhs, who also have no use for al-Qaeda; and the victorious Shiite central government itself, which likewise has no use for murderous Sunni jihadists on its soil. Between the three of them, AQI isn't likely to last a year.

Of all the reasons for staying in Iraq, a desire to finish off AQI is by far the least convincing. It's our presence that largely keeps AQI going, and our withdrawal is the surest way to ensure their demise. It won't happen without a lot of bloodshed, but it will happen.

NOTE: For the purposes of this post I've skirted the question of whether AQI is really al-Qaeda in the first place. For the time being, I'm agnostic on that question.

Kevin Drum 10:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (156)

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Comments

And hurray to King George for ensuring that there would continue to be victims of his war on Iraq long after the last of his soldiers leaves.

Posted by: noel on May 8, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

Al-Qaeda - the organization that carried out 9-11 - is not in Iraq. It's based - "massed" - somewhere in the hinterland between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with a few other splinter groups scattered here and there.

The group called "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" bears the same relation to the real Al-Qaeda that ZoSo does to Led Zeppelin. It's a cover-band, in other words, that sounds kinda the same, but has no continuity or connection with the original.

Posted by: lampwick on May 8, 2007 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

if this is the third world war what happened to the war between Communism and the West that these same guys called then the third world war? was it really only 2 and a half?

Posted by: della Rovere on May 8, 2007 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post, Kevin-- keep it coming!

Posted by: doug on May 8, 2007 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

This is exactly the idea I have expressed to my Representatives in Washington. AQ exists in Iraq for two reasons: because US troops are there, and wealthy Saudi citizens are sending support.

Now, that brings up the other not-talked-about-in-polite-company subject. What are we doing to insure the regional players stay in their part of the sandbox?

(Including Israel who, if early tittering indications pan out, seem to want to rid themselves of Hezbollah once and for all and then march to Syria before they quit)

Posted by: ww on May 8, 2007 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

>>but that when it comes to exterminating AQI Iraqis would almost certainly be far more brutal about it than Americans

Yeah, they'd probably torture them and stuff. Besides, we all know the US military uses those less brutal bombs (with Retsin!).

Seriously, how do you kill someone "more brutally?" And why does that matter? Would it be a deterrent to guys who are willing to blow themselves up with 20 lbs. of TNT strapped to their freaking balls? ("Well, I was going to strap this stick of dynamite to my freaking balls, but those Iraqis are just brutal in their methods. On second thought, better not blow myself up.")

??? and ?

Posted by: Orson on May 8, 2007 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

For the time being, I'm agnostic on that question.

read some Juan Cole.

Posted by: Disputo on May 8, 2007 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

The Rice-Rose interview nicely covered the question of "when are we leaving?" Not anytime soon. Peak oil looms large. China, India and the other growing Asian economies want oil. They're heavily invested in the Middle East, both in infrastructure and contractual negotiations. Eventually we're going to have to announce "Hands off, we bled for it, it's ours!" A military presence will be required for the inevitable push back. At least I imagine that's the thinking inside the WH. Won't fix Iraq. Won't work. Won't stop them from continuing the occupation.

Posted by: steve duncan on May 8, 2007 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I guess I don't understand why Afghanistan next door to Iraq should be well populated with a group highly supportive of al Qaeda (the real al Qaeda), namely the Taliban, but Iraq has no such elements.

What do we know about the religious/social composition of Iraq that makes a Taliban like element unlikely to be found there?

This is hardly a good argument for us to stay in Iraq, since the real al Qaeda has already all the safe haven it needs in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but I'm not sure I get the argument that AQI, whatever the hell that might actually be, couldn't flourish in Iraq.

Posted by: frankly0 on May 8, 2007 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

...lashes out at George Bush for his inability... to more resolute and unwavering – yeah, that’s the ticket baby. The US public is going to love that unwavering tic of Dubya's all the way to the polls in 08.

The loyal Bushie cult following sickos, they just can't stop themselves - stop themselves from encouraguing the radical wing-nut "bring em on" talks, how will the GOP ever get wing=nuts to shut up.

Some wacko Repugs, even to this very day, are still worried about those red communist that Joe McCarthy warned his fellow conservatives about, how those "reds" were trying to superimpose their communist will on conservative Americans.

RIP GOP.

Posted by: Me_again on May 8, 2007 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

To be an agnostic on whether AQI is really al-Qaeda is to sit on the fence regarding the most crucial question of all:

Are we fighting a war against people, or a war against names?

An army is good for only two things: killing people, and breaking things.

With our army we can win a war against people and their things. Hence, we won WWII, a war against the nations of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

But we can't win a war against Fascism. Facism is alive and well (though many fascists are dead).

Nor can we win a War on Terror.

So are we fighting Al-Qaeda (persons) or Al-Qaeda (name)? It makes a BIG difference which.

Posted by: lampwick on May 8, 2007 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

How do you wage a war against a brand name?

The idea is as absurd as trying to make love to Seven Up.

Posted by: gregor on May 8, 2007 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

once we withdraw, non-Kurdish Iraq will be free to finish its inevitable transition into a Shiite theocracy ...Yes, this transition will be bloody...

It certainly will Kevin. Iraq's only hope is for us to stay and impose democracy.

Posted by: Al on May 8, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez, I dunno, this reads a bit like an attempt at "evenhanded" Washington journalism.

Last I looked, Democrats WANT us out of Iraq, and are taking very public and formal steps to try to accomplish that.

I'm pretty sure their main reason for wanting us out of Iraq has nothing to do with whether it would hasten the defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq, but I'm also willing to bet that, if that were a potent issue in the US, the Democrats would use it to advance their argument.

I think the Democrats not mentioning it is due simply to the fact that it's below the notice of all but the most closely attentive students of the matter, most of whom want us out of there anyway.

You're right that it's very damaging to a central Republican talking point, and that's probably why THEY don't talk about it, but I see very little parallel between the positions of the parties on the issue.

Posted by: bleh on May 8, 2007 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

Of all the reasons for staying in Iraq, a desire to finish off AQI is by far the least convincing. It's our presence that largely keeps AQI going, and our withdrawal is the surest way to ensure their demise. It won't happen without a lot of bloodshed, but it will happen.

On that note, it is worth remembering that the recent Democratic proposal, since vetoed, proposed keeping U.S. forces in Iraq for the purpose of defeating al Qaeda, and like agents. How do you know that al Qaeda will be defeated? In Afghanistan al Qaeda allied themselves with the Taliban, who conquered the country against forces who had them considerably outnumbered. Absent American forces, wouldn't al Qaeda concentrate on bombing weak targets, in larger numbers than they do now, thus permitting the strongest of Sunni forces to defeat all comers? It isn't like the Shi'ites have a strong and unified army, sufficient to resist them.

Are you really sanguine (pun intended) about the lot of bloodshed that you predict? It is a prediction, right, not just a worry?

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 8, 2007 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

In his first sentence, he asserts that the problem with public opinion of the American economy is that we're just too unaware (or ungrateful) that the stock market has appreciated so much.

This is unrelated to his thesis, but reveals something of his grasp on reality.

Posted by: Will on May 8, 2007 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, how do you kill someone "more brutally?"

by taking less care to minimize collateral damage. In the frontier provinces of Pakistan, al Qaeda intentionally kills family members of its identified enemies. In Iraq they use suicide bombs against completely innocent and undifferentiated civilians. It isn't really "some one" whom you kill more brutally, but "some many".

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 8, 2007 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

"It isn't like the Shi'ites have a strong and unified army, sufficient to resist them."

The only thing worse than a strong & unified Shiite army for AQI is several strong & unified Shiite armies -- also known as militias. They will not survive.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on May 8, 2007 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

What’s the difference between Andrew McCarty and the Hindenburg?

One is a Nazi gas bag and the other is a dirigible.

Posted by: erict on May 9, 2007 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

Very well constructed and written, Kevin. I agree.

Posted by: DK2 on May 9, 2007 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry Moron, the "care" taken by George W. Bush to minimize "collateral damage" has left hundreds of thousands dead. And even if, as you will stupidly object, it is a mere tens of thousands of what used to be human beings until monsters like you decided it was perfectly fine to have them slaughtered, every single one of them is the victim of George W. Bush's inability to tell the difference between a national security threat and something that might, someday, with a lot of help, and more than a bit of wishful thinking, be a threat.

Saddam Hussein wasn't a threat to the United States. Iraq wasn't a threat to the United States. The bloodshed you use to make your cute little puns with is the result of people too stupid to notice the first too points and too callous to care about the victims of George W. Bush's assault on the Iraqi people.

Posted by: noel on May 9, 2007 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

how do you have the patience to go over there, kevin?

Posted by: gfw on May 9, 2007 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

The idea is as absurd as trying to make love to Seven Up.

Mmmmmmm.... Seven Up....

Posted by: Homer on May 9, 2007 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan next door to Iraq

That is because it is not. The country of Iran sits between the two.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on May 9, 2007 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

We have no f*cking clue what is going to happen to Iraqi society when we leave.

That's not to say we shouldn't leave. It is to say that when we leave there is a *wide* range of possible outcomes, because we broke a whole country, and who can say when or how things are going to put themselves back together? Countries are complicated, which is why you should think before you run around breaking them.

Posted by: DPS on May 9, 2007 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

OK, I guess I don't understand why Afghanistan next door to Iraq should be well populated with a group highly supportive of al Qaeda (the real al Qaeda), namely the Taliban, but Iraq has no such elements.

What do we know about the religious/social composition of Iraq that makes a Taliban like element unlikely to be found there?

This is hardly a good argument for us to stay in Iraq, since the real al Qaeda has already all the safe haven it needs in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but I'm not sure I get the argument that AQI, whatever the hell that might actually be, couldn't flourish in Iraq.

Posted by: frankly0 on May 8, 2007 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

OK. I'm just getting in here, but I had to answer. If answered already, frankly0 is so ignorant he needs the reinforcement.

1)
What lies between Iraq and Afghanistan? Oh, not much. 800 miles of . . . da, da . . . Iran!

Or Los Angeles to Denver. And the mountains, too. You know, if you are this ignorant there are atlases and maps. Even on the internet!

2)
You haven't been keeping up with the ethnic conversation.

3)
Might be a good argument if you hadn't already proved your ignorance. Perhaps ask the question why they would?

Posted by: notthere on May 9, 2007 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

That is because it is not. The country of Iran sits between the two.

OK then, if you insist on altering the metaphor, two doors down.

Why believe that there is no element like the Taliban in Iraq, which would be sympathetic to al Qaeda or AQI?

Posted by: frankly0 on May 9, 2007 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

Everything I've read leads me to believe that to refer to al Qaeda, the 'real al Qaeda', as if it were a single, hierarchical organization is to fundamentally misunderstand al Qaeda. It's a movement, not an organization.

Posted by: Jim on May 9, 2007 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

frankly0:

There is no element like the Taliban in Iraq. The Taliban are Sunni fundamentalists, like Osama and al-Qaeda. There are Sunnis in Iraq, but they are predominantly secular. There are fundamentalists in Iraq, but they are Shia. Thus al-Qaeda has no natural host in Iraq, and would be expelled, like a donated organ from a donor of the wrong blood type.

This is why it was always absurd to think Osama and Hussein had any sort of connections in the first place.

Posted by: lampwick on May 9, 2007 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

notthere,

It would be nice if you could do more than refute my metaphor.

Posted by: frankly0 on May 9, 2007 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

lampwick,

I do wonder how if there may not be some sects of Sunnis even in Iraq that would be sympathetic to them.

Where, after all, do the current AQI derive from? I assume they are not all foreign, most especially if the foreign elements are in any case not from immediately neighboring territories. Are we really to believe that whatever indigenous elements of AQI are simply going to disappear, rather than go underground, protecting their own?

Why believe that?

Posted by: frankly0 on May 9, 2007 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

frankly0 -- what "metaphor"?

Posted by: notthere on May 9, 2007 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

Lampwick,

One other point.

I certainly understand that the Sunnis as represented by SADDAM were secular, and had no sympathy with al Qaeda. But that does not mean that there were not large numbers of Sunnis who might be sympathetic with al Qaeda in Iraq.

Again, where do the AQI come from, if not from Iraq itself? Is it really plausible that they are simply going to be exterminated? And, given their fundamentalism, what short of extermination will make them give up entirely on their goals and aspirations?

Posted by: frankly0 on May 9, 2007 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

notthere,

Figure it out.

Posted by: frankly0 on May 9, 2007 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

Check out the wikipedia entry on so-called al-Qaeda in Iraq. They're evil SOB's, but mostly foreigners (non-Iraqis), and they have no organizational connection to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

There is, you will see, no "al-Qaeda in Iraq". This group, once led by Zarqawi, calls itself the "Organization for the Foundation (Qaeda) of the Holy Struggle in Mesopotamia." The name "al-Qaeda in Iraq" was invented by US officials, for obvious PR reasons. To connect it with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda is like saying the National Abortion Rights Action League is related the National Football League.


Posted by: lampwick on May 9, 2007 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

lampwick,

Again, simply to make the point, even if a good number of the AQI, whoever they may be, are foreigners, I find it very implausible that they don't have people indigenous to Iraq who support them, much as the Taliban does the real al Qaeda.

After all, where do the AQI live? Who feeds them? How can one have thousands of such well stocked fighters without some native support?

Now I don't know what to make of it all, and I'm sure that the organizational ties are not strong. But if THEY choose to think of themselves as likeminded to the real al Qaeda (as I gather so does the real al Qaeda, at least if their videos are to be believed) I'm not sure they can simply be dismissed as unworthy of consideration.

Do we really care, for example, whether it's the "real" al Qaeda, or do we care instead whether they are a group likely to launch attacks against American interests and possibly Americans?

Posted by: frankly0 on May 9, 2007 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

One qualifier: when we leave, the Iraqi Sunnis will almost certainly have to continue to ally with al-Qaida just to resist the (bloody) Shiite takeover.

It would be more accurate to agree with Andrew Sullivan that what our departure from Iraq will do is to turn the war there from one by Moslems in general against the Non-Moslem Occupiers, into a bloody Sunni-Shiite religious war -- thus diverting the attention of both al-Qaida and Iran from us. Divide and conquer.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on May 9, 2007 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

franklyo --

as in figure it out, California bordering North Dakota?

Typically a metaphor might include some emblemism or comparison, close but not factual. Excuse me if that escapes me in your statements.

If I'm wrong, please enlighten.

As to al Qaeda, they are now in their second phase of rejection by the Sunii Iraqis. Although they may be welcome again, the al Qaeda objectives do not align with those of the Iraqi Sunnis, hence, at times, non acceptance.

al Qaedda are there to kill the US and to stir up a wider conflict. Iraqi Sunnis do not mind the first, and like the second when it is in line with their own objectives, but not otherwise.

Unlike, say, the IRA in Northern Irelend, al Qaeda will never find a home with the Sunni Iraqis. They don't jell.

Equally, for similar reasons, the Iraqi Shia will never totally kowtow to Iran, unless dominated by a body who enforces same.

The US is being most short-sighted in not looking down the road 3 or 5 years -- from 3 years ago!!

How did the foreign policy get taken over by such na�ve chumps? Look no further than this administration. No one else to blame. Just them.

And those they listened to.

Chumps!

Posted by: notthere on May 9, 2007 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

lampwich with the second post nailed it. AQI is at best a fucking franchise. That McCarthy sees it as one says masses about him and about American culture - none of it good.

And franklyO, you raise an interesting point but I don't think AQI is unworthy of consideration, simply worthy of different consideratation than those responsible for the twin towers. One group is responsible for mass murder on American soil, the other group is responsible for murder within Iraq and for attacks on American troops in response to the American occupation.

Posted by: snicker-snack on May 9, 2007 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

Its a problem for Bush since al Qaeda in Iraq equals the Royal House of Saud.

Posted by: Shawn Fassett on May 9, 2007 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK


Andrew McCarthy, in a furious polemic over at NRO, lashes out at George Bush for his inability to convince the American public that Iraq really is the central front in the war against al-Qaeda.

Andrew McCarthy actually believes Bush has abilities? btw, I liked him in St. Almo's Fire.

Posted by: Andy on May 9, 2007 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Bush's approval rating is at 28%.. he'd be hard pressed to convince the American public that the sky is blue, much less anything about Iraq..

Posted by: Andy on May 9, 2007 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

See Juan Cole's blog for May 3rd for why too big a deal is made of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

And see this article (or Google 'Sunni tribes al Qaeda) for evidence that even those Iraqi tribes who have tolerated "AQI" before are now turning against them (reverting to form, so to speak).

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article642374.ece

Posted by: lampwick on May 9, 2007 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

notthere,

Yes, since I obviously have to spell it out for you, I should not have said, Afghanistan was "next door" to Iraq, since that generally implies actual shared borders. I was really just intending that it was a neighbor, more broadly speaking, likely sharing some common elements in the population.

Of course, twit that you are, you can't get past my unfortunate metaphor to the broader issue I was raising, and instead spent the entirety of your first lengthy response to me making the biggest stinking deal you could about my choice of language.

This is one of the reasons I often detest raising any kind of controversial point in these comments. People rarely have the ability to see past the small errors to consider the larger issues being brought up.

At least lampwick responded more directly to the point, although he hasn't convinced me that there aren't indigenous elements in Iraq sympathetic to al Qaeda, or at least AQI.

Posted by: frankly0 on May 9, 2007 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

Now comes Barack Obama to inform us that 10,000 people died in the recent Kansas tornados.

(12 died)

Later, Obama explained that he was tired when he said it.

Just what we need to replace the tired old men in the Bush Administration.

A tired young man.

Posted by: TruthTeller on May 9, 2007 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

I am always amazed by people who think they know what will happen in the future under any circumstances, let alone what will happen in a place they have never been, among a people they don't know, and in an enterprise in which they have never been involved, i.e., war and especially terrorist war in an Arab country.

The idea that Kevin even thinks he knows what will happen is laughable. He is almost childlike when he talks about matters related to the military or war. What possible factual basis can Kevin have for his confident assertion that "tribal Sunnis" (as though he knows what they are) will prevail over al Qaeda. The underlying premise is that 150,000 American troops are having no limiting effect on al Qaeda is ludicrous. And his "dirty little secret" is that Iraqis will be more brutal that we are in "exterminating" al Qaeda and he throws in that Republicans want to stay in Iraq for some unexplained reason unrelated to fighting al Qaeda and helping Iraq. Where does he come up with such nonsense?

Posted by: brian on May 9, 2007 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, nothing seems to stop you from producing "optimism" out if your ass. Funny how it still smells like shit to everyone else.

Posted by: Kenji on May 9, 2007 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

I can’t help but think we may be missing something important. All the Bushies are hysterical about Hezbollah and Iraq, but don’t give a damn about Osama. Could it be the enemy is no longer Al Qaeda, the Sunni terrorist organization, but rather Shia Islam? (“Big Brother said Eurasia was the enemy, and had always been the enemy”). All of which makes our involvement with a Shiite Iraqi government more problematic.

Posted by: fafner1 on May 9, 2007 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

Brian -

Go read the article from Timesonline that I gave the link for above. That will tell you why Kevin thinks it is reasonable to assert that the tribal Sunnis will prevail over AQI; he's extrapolating from the present. The reasons Republicans want to stay in Iraq are no mystery: some still think we are spreading democracy by being there; most just want to save face.

After 9-11 all I wanted was justice; what Bush and his followers gave me was hysteria, hysteria, and more hysteria.

Posted by: lampwick on May 9, 2007 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect that being a member of al Qaeda is a lot like being a member of the hippies. Some called themselves hippies, and some were called hippies by others. I mean it's not like there is a desk out there in the desert somewhere with a guy sitting there like in Blazing Saddles taking applications and reviewing resumes is it?

Both Lampwick and Gregor above have it right I think. It is just a name. Or as Snicker Snack mentioned, a franchise. A franchise name.

Posted by: Dave Howard on May 9, 2007 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

"most [republicans] just want to save face?" I doubt it. If Republicans thought it was not winnable and/or it could not accomplish anything good, the political benefit of pulling out would be overwhelming (not for President Bush, Republican Congressmen).

Posted by: brian on May 9, 2007 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

lampwick,

I read the Times piece. It seems to me that it could be fairly read to support the opposite of what Kevin says about Sunnis on their own being able to anniliate al Qaeda after we leave. It reports how Americans and Sunnis have teamed up to beat al Qaeda.

In any event, it is a report from one city where the reporters stayed 24 hours. I don't know how much it says about a huge country with 75 million [?] people and open borders with mischevious neighbors. I think it is impossible to confidently predict the future, especially if the current dynamic is changed by our withdrawal. I think as a matter of common sense 150,000 troops are at least keeing a lid on things and must be having some effect when Iraqis genuinely team with us.

Posted by: brian on May 9, 2007 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

frankly0, of course you are the one that responded with I should "figure it out". Very nice.

frankly0:

Of course, twit that you are, you can't get past my unfortunate metaphor to the broader issue I was raising, and instead spent the entirety of your first lengthy response to me making the biggest stinking deal you could about my choice of language.

My "first lengthy reponse" 12:29am actually totalling 6 lines. Wow! Way long!

Later, I actually moved right along, ignioring your non-metaphor, and addressed your question about al Qaeda (1:19 AM). Please reread.

You are so weak!


Posted by: notthere on May 9, 2007 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

One qualifier: when we leave, the Iraqi Sunnis will almost certainly have to continue to ally with al-Qaida just to resist the (bloody) Shiite takeover.

This is an interesting take, and would certainly tell against the notion that AQI would simply be exterminated from Iraq after we left. It's hard to see why other, presumably secular Sunnis would not choose to ally with them instead of fighting still another enemy beyond the Shiites.

I think that the reality is that it's just not smart to make confident predictions about what will happen when we leave Iraq, except that it will be chaos for some good time.

It's anybody's guess what will in the end arise out of that chaos.

Posted by: frankly0 on May 9, 2007 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

Brian: "I am always amazed by people who think they know what will happen in the future under any circumstances, let alone what will happen in a place they have never been, among a people they don't know, and in an enterprise in which they have never been involved, i.e., war and especially terrorist war in an Arab country."

What a pity you weren't in the White House in 2003. We could have avoided a lot.

As for your statement that "150,000 Ameican troops" must be having a "limiting effect on al-Qaida": are we really going to go back to that tired argument that the best way to clean up the hospital is to make the cafeteria filthy so the germs will all migrate down there? The real question is whether our presence in Iraq is encouraging the growth of al-Qaeda and its ilk, in the world as a whole, more than discouraging it (as well as whether we need those troops worse in other capacities, such as trying to help put the kibosh on Iran's nuclear program and/or to cope with some sudden military emergency stemming from the fact that North Korea and Pakistan already have it). The answer to those questions is pretty discouraging itself.

Posted by: BruceMoomaw on May 9, 2007 at 2:10 AM | PERMALINK

Sure we have 150000 troops in Iraq, but they don't know an Al Quaeda member when they see one. Not one American soldier in a 1000 speaks fluid arabic. Not only do the Sunnia militia members all speak fluid arabic, they can recognize outsiders by their accents. Americans just don't get it about what it takes to fight a counter insurgency in a foreign country.

Posted by: fafner1 on May 9, 2007 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

If Republicans thought it was not winnable and/or it could not accomplish anything good, the political benefit of pulling out would be overwhelming (not for President Bush, Republican Congressmen).

Afraid this isn't right.

Admitting that the war is unwinnable would so deeply indict the GOP (which would thus be revealed as a gang that started a horrific war by mistake and then lost it), that the party's political viability would be called into question. It's absolutely imperative for Republicans to find someone else to foist blame for this thing onto.

So the current game plan is to hang on in Iraq, by any means possible, for the next 20 months, after which a Democratic President/Congress will need to take the difficult and painful measures necessary to bring the war to an end. The GOP can then claim it was their enemies the dreaded liberals who lost Iraq. But to get to that they need to continue pretending that the situation isn't lost already.

Posted by: jimBOB on May 9, 2007 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

Bruce,

I don't think it accompishes much in 2007 to criticize the decision in 2003. But I take it you agree with my view that no one, especially Kevin, can confidently predict the effect of our withdrawal.

I also don't think your second point captures the complete analytical question regarding growth of al Qaeda (or Islamist terrorism more generally). It is legitimate to try to figure out the effect of our presence in Iraq on al Qaeda growth, but the rest of the assessment (which you leave out) is how our withdrawal would affect the future growth of al Qaeda.

It is like those who criticize the Iraq war decision based on how it has transpired (a legitimate argument), but are unwilling to consider the rest of the anlysis, i.e., what would have happend had we had not gone to war in Iraq, not just in the short term, but also in the long term. Obviously, no one knows with certainty, but to be fair, one has to attempt to assess what havoc Sadaam and his sons would have caused over the next 50 years.

Posted by: brian on May 9, 2007 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

jimBOB,

I disagree because both dems and repubs supported this war, so repubs could move to the withdrawal position pretty comparably to how dems have gone there and could do so with plenty of time prior to the next election for people to forget their support of Bush and the war.

Your assessment of the repubs "game plan" assumes a significant number of them would be willing to risk their own seats in 2008, which I think is a doubtful proposition. It may soon become political survival for many of them. Many will only support Bush and/or do what they honestly think is the right thing until their personal careers are jeopardized.

Posted by: brian on May 9, 2007 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

Stop picking on Andrew McCarthy. What do you expect from the star of Weekend at Bernie's II?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 9, 2007 at 2:34 AM | PERMALINK

I sort of scrolled indiscriminately through the comments so far, so sorry if this has been covered, but: one of the ironically bad outcomes of our Iraq adventure is that, when we "leave" Iraq over the next couple years, and the inevitable diminishment of AQI occurs the way Kevin (correctly) describes, many of the "leaders" of AQI will melt away, only to reappear in Afghanistan and NW Pakistan, with loads of battlefield experience.

Our next President will almost certainly be faced with the necessity of committing a relatively large number of troops to Afghanistan, and will also be faced, fairly early in his presidency, with the choice of whether to deploy troops to nuclear-armed Pakistan to forestall an Islamist coup of Musharraf most likely led/assisted by an influx of AQ types from Iraq, knowing that such a deployment will fend off such a horrible result only temporarily (if at all), while fueling an increase in the intensity of the desire on the part of the Pakistani Islamists for overthrowing their military dictator.

Thanks, Dubya!

Posted by: El Caballo de Sangre on May 9, 2007 at 3:15 AM | PERMALINK

One qualifier: when we leave, the Iraqi Sunnis will almost certainly have to continue to ally with al-Qaida just to resist the (bloody) Shiite takeover.

I doubt very seriously the blood bath will happen if you get rid of AL Q. Sadr is a very smart man. He wants Iraq. He does not want a regional war. Remember Sadr called a march together for all Iraqis, Sunnis and Shias showed up to protest our being there peacefully. Sadr has the most to lose if the Saudis and others join in to support the Sunnis because Sadr will lose. To the Shites credit they actually showed alot of restraint when Al Q first attacked them with the suicide bombs. The dead bodies did not show up until we started sending the shias we trained on the streets in police uniforms. Our main focus in Iraq should have always been AL Q. Yet until 2006 our army didnt even know who was on whos side. One day we are fighting a group the next week we are protecting them.

As far as the article goes I give you this.

Introducing the "George Bush is Always Wrong" Hypothesis.

From my deep scientific mind that I call a brain I have created this new theory.

It's very basic but brilliant I must say.

Theory: If George Bush makes a prediction in Iraq or a denial there is a 99.9% chance that Bush will be wrong.

I've been 100% correct using my "Bush is always wrong" hypothesis.

So I will use it again.

If George Bush beleives all hell will break loose when we leave I beleive the opposite.

I've been saying this for 3 years. The day we leave Al Q better be right behind us because they will be hung in efigy by the time the Iraqis finish with them.


My theory has proven itself time and time again.

To bad Bodog doesnt take bets on Bush.
I would be a very rich man.

Posted by: langs13 on May 9, 2007 at 3:19 AM | PERMALINK

brian: "jimBOB, I disagree because both dems and repubs supported this war, so repubs could move to the withdrawal position pretty comparably to how dems have gone there and could do so with plenty of time prior to the next election for people to forget their support of Bush and the war."

FYI, brian, the majority of congressional Democrats -- and only seven congressional Republicans -- voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public law 107-243, 116 Stat. 1497-1502):

HOUSE: 296 Ayes (215 R, 81 D), 133 Nays (6 R, 126 D, 1 Ind.)

SENATE: 77 Ayes (48 R, 29 D), 23 Nays (1 R, 21 D, 1 Ind.)

I would further offer that those House numbers cited above also explain in part why Nancy Pelosi -- who led the Democratic opposition to the resolution in the House -- is now the Speaker of the House, and not former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, who openly cooperated / colluded with House Republicans to limit the floor debate and pass the measure.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 9, 2007 at 3:29 AM | PERMALINK

Sadr attempting to unite Iraqis.

I told you. Sadr wants Iraq as a whole. He is willing to negotiate with the Sunnis. I doubt very seriously the blood bath will happen. Sadr just wants his country back.

We leave they probably will unite and destroy the few AL Q members there. This may be the final nail in the coffin for the Republicans. Can you imagine we leave and they have a unifying love party that ceases all violence. That would be the ultimate slap in the face to this mission Bush and Repug America.

I'm betting they reconcile.
Bush has been wrong on everything in Iraq.
I'll take my chances betting against him.

http://www.iraqslogger.com/index.php/post/2693/Iraqi_Papers_Wed_the_New_Sadrists

After a long period of difficult cohabitation with the government and the Shi'a-dominated United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), al-Hayat is saying that the Sadr Current has apparently decided to chart its own path, apart from the other Shi'a parties and separate from the government.

Sadrist leaders spoke to al-Hayat and confirmed that the prevailing tendency within the Current is to withdraw from the UIA “due to a divergence with the UIA’s parties over critical matters.”

In parallel, the Sadrist Current has announced the launch of a new political project termed “reform and reconciliation.” The Sadrists say that their aim is to group Iraqi parties from all sects into a project for national reconciliation, and to regain the “patriotic inclusive character” of the Sadrist Current.

Al-Mada reported on the same topic, adding that Sadrists have been holding meetings with Sunni parties (the Accord bloc) and Shi'a parties that have withdrawn from the government (namely, al-Fadhila). Even though al-Mada tried to present the new Sadrist initiative as not being directed against the current Iraqi government -- al-Mada said that the aim of the new front is to “rectify” the demarche of the government – the newspaper reported that a Sadrist withdrawal from the UIA is becoming a real possibility.

A major part of the Sadrist initiative, said al-Hayat, is to distance the Sadrist Current from the sectarian reputation that it has gained over the last years. The newspaper said that Sadrists are exchanging messages with Sunni figures “outside of Iraq” in order for the Current “to regain its image as a ‘resistance organization’ rather than a sectarian one.”

Al-Mada interviewed a Sadrist leader, Nasir al-Sa'idi, who claimed that his party refuses the sectarian tag. Al-Sa'idi told the newspaper that the UIA was not meant to be a sectarian bloc, but a political coalition open to all Iraqis, “but,” al-Sa'idi added, “the sectarian mobilization that occurred during the election period did not permit the Sadrist Current to take a different posture.”

Posted by: langs on May 9, 2007 at 3:41 AM | PERMALINK

"What possible factual basis can Kevin have for his confident assertion that "tribal Sunnis" (as though he knows what they are) will prevail over al Qaeda."

Because only about 2% of the insurgents are Al Qaeda. They exist because their goals are the same as the goals of other fighters, but that would change if the US forces were removed.

It does strain credulity to suggest that we are using 150,000 troops to keep 1,300 Al Qaeda fighters busy, which is why you don't see those numbers reported much. But it is an important number and bears repeating. Only about 2% of the insurgents in Iraq are Al Qaeda.

Two percent.


Posted by: mcdruid on May 9, 2007 at 3:58 AM | PERMALINK

Brian: "I also don't think your second point captures the complete analytical question regarding growth of al Qaeda (or Islamist terrorism more generally). It is legitimate to try to figure out the effect of our presence in Iraq on al Qaeda growth, but the rest of the assessment (which you leave out) is how our withdrawal would affect the future growth of al Qaeda."

It is also legitimate to try to estimate the odds that our staying will do anything to prevent that imminent civil war between the minority Sunnis and the Shiite-run government -- which, as Drum says, have always been, and still are, miniscule. That, lest you forget, is the factor overriding all others in Iraq. Once that occurs, the takeover of all of Iraq but the Kurdish sector by Shiites who will be -- to put it mildly -- unfavorably disposed toward al-Qaida will be inevitable, as will al-Qaida's worldwide diversion into a campaign against Shiites (and Iran) rather than against non-Moslems.

One should also keep in mind that, if we keep US forces in Kurdistan (which is the logical thing to do for multiple reasons), we will be in a position to bomb the hell out of any al-Qaida training camps that do temporarily turn up in the rest of Iraq.

"Obviously, no one knows with certainty, but to be fair, one has to attempt to assess what havoc Sadaam and his sons would have caused over the next 50 years."

One also, of course, has to assess how much havoc a nuclear-armed Iran -- or a destabilized, already nuclear-armed Pakistan with al-Qaida's leadership actually living on its territory -- will cause over the next 50 years. Or the next 10. First things should have been first, Brian.

What is absolutely beyond doubt is that, when Andrew McCarthy engages in fuzzy purple screechings that American withdrawal from Iraq will beyond doubt produce worse consequences than our staying there futilely, he is spouting idiocy.


Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on May 9, 2007 at 4:51 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats, I suspect, also don't want to talk too much about this, but for a different reason: because it tacitly condones the reason the Iraqis can do a better job than us of stamping out AQI. It's not just that Iraqis know their own neighborhoods better than us (though that's part of it), but that when it comes to exterminating AQI Iraqis would almost certainly be far more brutal about it than Americans. That's not really a subject anyone wants to bring up in polite company.

I know you're being evenhanded, Kevin, but Democrats have always agreed that we are at war, legitimately, with al Qaeda. I simply can't feature anyone quailing about getting rid of these bloodthirsty killers, brutal or otherwise. If we're willing to contemplate blowing up al Qaeda terrorists with "daisy cutter" bombs -- and we are -- why should we have qualms about how the Iraqis get rid of that threat?

However, given the Bush Administration's frequent overreaches in the so-called War on Terror, it's probably a safe bet that general purges and brutality in Iraq might be passed off as anti-al Qaeda ops. But even then it isn't like it isn't happening on a daily basis there, surge or no surge.

Posted by: Gregory on May 9, 2007 at 5:50 AM | PERMALINK

brian, everyone's favorite faux-reasonable concern troll, wrote: I am always amazed by people who think they know what will happen in the future under any circumstances

Yeah, like predicting we'd be greeted as liberators in Iraq.

I am always amazed that brian pretends anyone is fooled for a moment by his faux-reasonable tone or takes his GOP propaganda seriously.

Posted by: Gregory on May 9, 2007 at 6:01 AM | PERMALINK

Excellent post, Kevin. Despite all of the propaganda oozing out of the cesspool that the White House has become, our continued involvement in Iraq is the best recruiting tool al-Qaeda has and Bush and Cheney are playing right into al-Qaeda’s hands.

Bush himself has created a haven for terrorists where none existed before. George W. Bush is the personification of failure.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 9, 2007 at 6:42 AM | PERMALINK

Sarcozy (from his first speech since the election): "France will not abandon women who are CONDEMNED to the bhurka."

Posted by: nikkolai on May 9, 2007 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Cheney's Leer & the Glint on the Cross
Among all of Dick Cheney's distasteful contorted facial expressions the one that was most chilling and evil, which I wish that I had not seen, was the leer he transmitted to a GOP faithful audience when he disclosed that AQ in Iraq now numbers fifteen thousand.
His leer fully transmitted that he used the propaganda lies, that AQ was connected to Iraq, to get our guns and oil companies into Iraq. It also transmitted the, to him, deliciously evil twist that the lie has now morphed into the truth.
That AQ is now several thousand strong in Iraq is a grotesque result of the pathetically naive Neocon misadventure. It's also a plank in their arguments that we need to stay.
"The dolts, (meaning the American public and the MSM), don't have a clue as to what evil we will employ to accomplish our goals," is what the leer beams to the mightiest of the Bush base.
...as the sunlight flickered on the cross in his lapel...
--cognitorex--

Posted by: Craig Johnson on May 9, 2007 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

War in Iraq = War on Terror is an irrational public relations formulation promoted by Frank Luntz. The al-Qaeda connection is derived from this formulation. It is not intended to stand up to reason or to speak to reason or even to real events in the real world. It is intended to persuade the uninformed that they should give consent to Dick Cheney’s Middle East project and, in the big picture, to Republican political power. Like all propaganda it is calibrated to set the terms of understanding the real world in favor of a particular agenda. Even when exposing it as baseless propaganda one can easily be seduced into thinking that there is some grain of reality in it, however exaggerated. So even a discussion of the merits of the claims tends to reinforce a calculated world-view. The thing to remember is that War in Iraq = War on Terror does not come from an analysis of fact but the desire to mislead by appealing to lazy prejudice and crude assumption.

Posted by: bellumregio on May 9, 2007 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

The question is not whether al Qaeda will have a safe haven in Iraq (it won't, for the reasons Kevin mentions), the question is what actually happens to the people who make up the "al Qaeda cover band" who are currently in Iraq once we leave.

It would be far easier for Iraq, Syria, and Iran to simply allow them to relocate (back to their native lands like Saudi Arabia, or into Pakistan/Afghanistan) than it would be to hunt them down and wipe them out. The goal of everyone in post-occupation Iraq will be stability -- and since stability can most easily be achieved by sending radical islamists the message "leave or be exterminated" and letting them go, there will be considerable incentive to allow this to happen.

Which is why the current US policy in Iraq is so boneheaded. Instead of recognizing that Iran and Syria will be essential to establishing stability in Iraq -- and working with them to achieve that stability in exchange for their co-operation in eliminating Sunni jihadists -- we're doing just the opposite.

Posted by: paul_lukasiak on May 9, 2007 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

Idiots like brian tell us that those inexperienced in matters of war should refrain from predicting the outcome of one - and when confronted with the irony of George "TANG" Bush, Richard "Five Deferments" Cheney, and Condoleezza "What? I'm a girl, I don't have to do that" Rice starting one by telling us it would be a cakewalk, he has nothing to say. He also fails to mention his great experience and why we should take him seriously on matters where he's shown such stunning ignorance.

Of course, brian insists that we not talk about how stupid it was to go to war for Bush's electoral chances because to discuss the roots of this assault on the Iraqi people is to expose the Republicans (like brian) as unserious about national security and unfit to make decisions about what color hats are worn by the military, let alone who they should kill.

Posted by: noel on May 9, 2007 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

The ISI formation initially caused a real problem for the Sunni resistance, but a split they recognized. See here for a discussion of the formation of the RJF (the Reform and Jihad Front), an anti AQ umbrella group.

As to Taliban and AQ;Al-Qaeda does not fit into any plans involving Pakistan, but mutual respect between the al-Qaeda leadership and the Taliban still exists. All the same, there is tension over their ideological differences, and al-Qaeda sources believe it is just a matter of time before the sides part physically as well.
The Asia Times

And don't forget that Jordanian intelligence and agents located Zarqawri for the US bobs to take out.

AQ is and will be a problem, both the original and the extra crispy knockoff version

Posted by: TJM on May 9, 2007 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Al: "Iraq's only hope is for us to stay and impose democracy."

When will people learn that democracy, by its very nature, cannot be "imposed". It must be claimed and embraced and owned by the people. The people must not only want it, they have to be willing to fight and die for it.

Posted by: Ralph Kramden on May 9, 2007 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

and they say the Democrats are wafflers when it comes to Iraq/foreign policy! The Gop, and the neocons who love them, can't even settle on the single reason, if their is one, week to week when it comes to the debate about 1) why we are in Iraq and 2) why we should stay there. How do you argue with someone who is constantly shifting the point but forever wrapping it up with the tired mantra "support our troops." Well guess what? Here it comes , the heresy of all heresies - if NOT supporting our troops gets us out of this quagmire any quicker than I DO NOT SUPPORT OUR TROOPS.

This is all so ridiculous. Every public opinion poll in this country and in Iraq overwhelmingly supports the view of that the U.S. should leave this theater and let the Iraqis settle matter fdor themselves. It's quite obvious to both sides of the aisle that we are never ever going to leave this front en masse, that Iraq, like Germany and Japan and Korea, will become another outpost for the American military. So why not sooner than later?

Posted by: ny patriot on May 9, 2007 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Pakistan has no love for AQ, either. Senior al-Qaeda member Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi, 46, was one of these men - and he paid dearly for the move after being fingered by Pakistan. On Friday, the Pentagon announced that Hadi had been arrested late last year and handed over to the US Central
Intelligence Agency. Describing Hadi as "one of al-Qaeda's highest-ranking and experienced senior operatives", the Pentagon said he had been sent to the US Defense Department-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Here

Posted by: TJM on May 9, 2007 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

both dems and repubs supported this war, so repubs could move to the withdrawal position pretty comparably to how dems have gone there and could do so with plenty of time prior to the next election for people to forget their support of Bush and the war.

In your dreams. The Republicans ran (and won) two elections based on their starting this war before it turned against them in 2006. They've been howling incessantly about how leaving Iraq is tantamount to defeat, and that anyone who advocates it is a traitor or worse. Bottom line is that in terms of public perception, this war is a GOP war, notwithstanding some early browbeaten acquiescence by some spineless Dems.

Posted by: jimBOB on May 9, 2007 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Bottom line is that in terms of public perception, this war is a GOP war, notwithstanding some early browbeaten acquiescence by some spineless Dems.

Posted by: jimBOB"

Fair enough. By that standard, defeat, if Murtha-Pelosi-Reid can pull it off, will be owned by the Democrats. The Democrats are so committed to defeat that a successful outcome in Iraq would also condemn them to the role of the British Labour Party before Blair.

I wonder if any of you have ever read any military history to gain a sense of how much fumbling and how many mistakes go into every successful campaign? The best comparison I can think of for this situation is the Civil War in 1864 when copperhead Democrats were determined on defeat for the Union. Let's hope (I do anyway) Petraeus is Sherman.

Posted by: Mike K on May 9, 2007 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

All of which makes me even more convinced that we need to change the language of this conflict. I have stopped calling the debacle in Iraq a 'war' and recommitted myself to 'occupation' for several reasons:

1: wars are patriotic. no one wants to lose a war, or be seen as unsupportive of the military in times of war. Military occupations, on the other hand, are flat out unAmerican.

2: there was a war against Iraq: we won it, decisively. Been there, done that, have the tshirt, hung the dictator, won the capital. Good job. there was nothing wrong with planning or executing the war. Even the President told us the war was over.

So let's all stop calling this a war. we aren't fighting for territory, or resources, or for revenge. We aren't even fighting for ideology, we are fighting to maintain the governance status quo. That's not a war, it's an occupation. Like it or not, the US military is the de facto governing structure in Iraq, we hold all the real power, with no accountability in Iraq. So the Iraqis fighting us are not fighting an invading army, they are fighting an occupying army. To make a bad 1980's movie analogy, we are not the Wolverines of Columel, CO, we are the Soviet and Cuban troops occupying the town. Nowhere in our mythology does the American experience celebrate an occupying force crushing the local opposition, quite the opposite, in fact, we celebrate the few who stand up and fight the many. We need to remind people that we are losing a little bit of our soul with every day that passes in Iraq. and we cannot 'pacify' Iraq without giving up the last remnants of the American Dream. It's simply not in our collective nature to do this. the American ideal is not the Maoist "you have to break some eggs to make an omlette" that first comes order and authority and then liberty follows. We don't do that well. the American ideal is that liberty comes from the chaos of the people and opportunity. This is what we are selling out in Iraq every day. We aren't just losing precious men and women in Iraq; we aren't just wasting hundreds of billions of dollars, we are losing our collective soul. Do we really think this si a good trade?

Posted by: northzax on May 9, 2007 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if any of you have ever read any military history ... The best comparison I can think of for this situation is the Civil War in 1864 when copperhead Democrats were determined on defeat for the Union. Let's hope (I do anyway) Petraeus is Sherman.
Posted by: Mike K on May 9, 2007 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

I have. The best comparison is 1814 and the War of 1812. A War with muddled strategic objectives and a divided America. Patraeus can't be a Sherman. There is not body of troops in front of him to destroy. The other way this is not like the Civil War is that Lincoln had a strategy to win, the modern GOP does not, it's a strategy to hold, until the problem can be passed to the next President.

Posted by: Northern Observer on May 9, 2007 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Trust me, Mike K, the Republicans own the defeat too. Their total lack of any credibility on the issue of national security is exemplified by their decision to use Iraq as an electoral strategy. Now that the American people are waking up to the fact that George W. Bush's "Short Victorious War" was none of those things the only thing left is a long time in the wilderness for the architects of this disaster - you and the rest of the warmongering Republicans.

Posted by: noel on May 9, 2007 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

If Bush fulfilled the wish of the Republican dead-enders, and constantly emphasized that we had to stay in Iraq to defeat al Qaida, it would simultaneously highlight the fact that it was his actions that brought them into Iraq. He can't work one angle without exposing the other. It might lead people--even Republicans--to question his fitness to make decisions. I guess someone, Rove or Cheney, has decided that it's too risky to beat the al Qaida drum at full volume. They let others keep up the rhythm in the background.

The Freepers still long for Bush to bust out with both barrels blazing rhetoric on our need to stay the course. They express bewilderment at his comparatively low profile on the matter. I share their deeply felt desire for him to make numerous public appearances where he speaks at length on our need to stay in Iraq until we "win." I want him to include lots of fact-checkable truthiness in his speeches, and to appeal directly to Americans on the basis of his proven integrity. Preferably these speeches will be made when he's sharing a platform with a Republican who is up for election in 2008. Go, Mr. Pretzeldunce!

Posted by: cowalker on May 9, 2007 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

defeat, if Murtha-Pelosi-Reid can pull it off, will be owned by the Democrats.

Mike K demonstrates the precise rhetorical stance that invalidates brian's notion that the GOP could get away with turning against the war and withdrawing. They are totally invested in this idiotic idea that if we stay there long enough we can "win."

six suspected terrorists, three of them in the US illegally, are in custody on charges of planning terrorists attacks, not in Iraq but in New Jersey.

Assuming this is not another potemkin prosecution a la Padilla, these guys were caught by normal law enforcement strategies rather than extraconstitutional Patriot Act overreaching. Certainly their capture had nothing to do with a bungled occupation halfway across the world, other than if the occupation wasn't happening they might not have had any motive to plan their attack in the first place.

the torture that assuredly awaits them- as soon as Cheney gets back.

And all the Bushbots have been assuring us forever that the U.S. doesn't torture. Could they have been lying? Heavens!

Posted by: jimBOB on May 9, 2007 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

OK, I guess I don't understand why Afghanistan next door to Iraq should be well populated with a group highly supportive of al Qaeda (the real al Qaeda), namely the Taliban, but Iraq has no such elements.

Well, for one thing, it may be because Iraq is not next to Afghanistant.

What do we know about the religious/social composition of Iraq that makes a Taliban like element unlikely to be found there?

In extremely simplified terms, the Taliban's brand of Islamic extremism is based largely on Pashtun tribal traditions, traditions which actually predate Islam and have very little to do with the religion proper. Afghanistan was a relative backwards hinterland, while Iraq was far more sophisticated and modern a society.

Posted by: Stefan on May 9, 2007 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Using the American Civil War for an analogy, is not well thought out - First of all, once Sherman captured Atlanta, he did not have a large body of enemy troops ahead of him. The march was more of an effort to cut supply lines of food and disrupt their rail system. Sherman did not fight pitched battle until turning north. So, Petraeus is out cutting off supply lines to a guerilla enemy?

The Copperheads were not out to defeat the Union. They, and McCellan, wanted to negotiate for a peace. The Democratic Party is not looking for the defeat of the US in Iraq. They are looking for ways to stop the useless and needless slaughter of our troops in a war based on lies.

And, with Bush as President, and the hierarchey of the Repug Party filled by Southerners, who really won the first phase of our Civil War? Wars are not always over, when the last shots in anger are fired.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on May 9, 2007 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, but when I have made this argument to my more conservative (knee-jerk-type) acqaintances, they typically respond that it is a GOOD thing that we are "keeping AQ bottled up in Iraq." That this "keeps them from attacking us" at home. I have despaired of ever having a rational argument with the KJT conservatives.

Posted by: oldster on May 9, 2007 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

And what does the Patriot Act have to do with some class clowns running down to a local photo shop to have a DVD made of their "paramilitary training" activities?

For a proper prospective on some of these clowns, read Juan Cole this morning.

al-Quaeda must really be auditioning only the dumb and dumbest for their ranks.

Posted by: stupid git on May 9, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

MikeK:The best comparison I can think of for this situation is the Civil War in 1864 when copperhead Democrats were determined on defeat for the Union. Let's hope (I do anyway) Petraeus is Sherman.

I am no expert on the Civil War, but I do seem to remember that there was a clear goal. The Union goal was to get the Confederate forces, all under the command of Robert E. Lee, to surrender. They would know they won when he surrendered. When he surrendered, the war was over.

What is our clear, universally agreed on, goal in Iraq that means victory? What will be the clear, universally agreed on, evidence that the surge is "working" or "not working" in September?

This war-become-occupation is a mess. One of the original goals (destroy Saddam's WMDs) turned out to be based on lies. We attained the one reasonable military goal of deposing Saddam. The other goal (spreading democracy) was not something within the power of Americans to accomplish. Basically we unilaterally set a goal for Iraqis and called it our military objective. How stupid was that? We're seeing how stupid.

Posted by: cowalker on May 9, 2007 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

What a week for Royalty - The Queen attends the Kentucky Derby and is feted by our Clown in Chief at the White House.

Cheney visits our Raj outpost colony to inspect our Sepoys.

And, our Boy King, forces Kansans to suffer yet again.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on May 9, 2007 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, since I obviously have to spell it out for you, I should not have said, Afghanistan was "next door" to Iraq, since that generally implies actual shared borders. I was really just intending that it was a neighbor, more broadly speaking, likely sharing some common elements in the population.

Afghanistan doesn't, actually, share common elements in the population with Iraq other than religion. Afghanistan is made up of a hodge-podge of various ethnic and religious groups such as the Pashtuns, Tadjiks, Uighurs, etc., while Iraq is largely Arabic with a minority Kurdish population. The Iraqis speak Arabic and Kurdish, which is also not a language native to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is in Central Asia, while Iraq is in the Middle East.

It's kind of like claiming that, for example, Canada and Mexico share some common elements because they're both Christian and are on the same continent. Technically true, but the differences far overwhelm any similarities.

Posted by: Stefan on May 9, 2007 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

brian: I am always amazed by people who think they know what will happen in the future under any circumstances, let alone what will happen in a place they have never been, among a people they don't know, and in an enterprise in which they have never been involved, i.e., war ...

That's kind of a harsh knock on Bush by brian, isn't it?

Posted by: Stefan on May 9, 2007 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Good thread.

The democrats today actually are very comparable to the 1864 "cooperheads" (who actually were the same democratic party that exists today -- the democrats nominated McClelland). The potential difference is that without American military success in Iraq, the dems today have a good chance of winning the political debate at least short term.

Paul said the current dems "are looking for ways to stop the useless and needless slaughter of our troops in a war based on lies." That is pretty much exactly what the cooperhead dems said in 1864, with Lincoln being the alleged liar. Lincoln won the political debate, thank God, principally because of the military success of Sherman taking Atlanta.

While the comparison is not perfect, it at least makes you think.

Posted by: brian on May 9, 2007 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

northzax,
I agree the war in Iraq is not a necessary war. It is best understood in light of princely project-wars. There is a great long history of such wars where princes dip into the public pocket to achieve what are essentially private goals. One of the main reasons Parliaments, as opposed to the Executive, have the power to tax is to prevent project-wars that are not in the national interest. Experience tells us that if the Executive alone has the power to declare and prosecute a war than that power will be used to achieve private ends. Remember European monarchs liked to claim that by definition there was no difference between their interests and those of the nation.

During the 19th century wars for markets and resources replaced wars of the monarch to became the stock and trade of the great empires. Great imperialists like Cecil Rhodes and great imperial companies like the East India Company were regarded as acting in both their personal interests and in the interests of the nation whose domains were expanding with capital investment.

George Bush’s administration has married these two traditions. Historically they are just continuing the Great Game in Middle East. Saddam Hussein is only the latest in a long string of uncooperative Middle Eastern leaders to be deposed by a western power. As usual regime change is justified as a way to spread liberal democracy (fighting terror or ignorant fundamentalism is just a cover story) and, as usually, the only real change will be who gets access to resources (mostly oil) and markets. As we blog Dick Cheney is headed to the Middle East to probably work on the groundwork of the new Iraqi Oil Law. None of this is remarkable.

It is surprising that they have claimed, somewhat naively, the classic rights of absolute monarchs to achieve their goals. This is what is so fascinating. They see themselves as an isolated vanguard that must dominate the non-imperial state bureaucracy and convince the public of their esoteric war. Far far from being a war of national worth it is a war brought about by a small faction within the greater bureaucracy for reasons of politics, foolish idealism and naked material ambition.

It is an imperial project-war.

Posted by: bellumregio on May 9, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

stephan,

My knock is on Kevin. But yes, I think a similar criticism could be made to some extent about Bush in 2002-03.

cowalker,

You are not correct that when Lee surrendered it was necessarily the end of the Civl War. You should read April 1865 - The Month that Saved America. Lee was down to less than 20,000 troops (probably, no hard numbers) when he finally surrendered and there were far more troops under Johston in North Carolina and under other generals in the deeper south. There also was no guarantee those other troops would surrender or that a guerilla war would not ensue. It is true that the miliary goal focused on the Southern Armies, particularly Lee. The political goals were more complicated, but by 1864 it surely was save the union, plus the disputed goal of ending slavery (which those pesky democrats were mostly not in favor of).

Posted by: brian on May 9, 2007 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK
For the purposes of this post I've skirted the question of whether AQI is really al-Qaeda in the first place.

"Al-Qaeda in Iraq", as its been known the last few years, is, in one sense, "really" al-Qaeda: both the center of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda in Iraq say they are part of the same network, and so at least superficially they are. OTOH, it wasn't al-Qaeda before the US was involved in Iraq, but a rival organization with vaguely similar ideology, and once it isn't fighting against the US in Iraq, there's little value, on either side, to the nominal association.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 9, 2007 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Bellumregio:

I concur, but that all applied to the initial invasion, when this was a war. My point now is that this is no longer a war, we are not fighting FOR anything, only to maintain our control over land against others who wish to dislodge us from within. This is an occupation. the terms are so different and loaded, that those of us opposed to this debacle are losing the high ground every time we allow the term 'war' to be used.

you can, unfortunately, glorify war. Look at the Saint Crispin's Day speech- you can use war, and the imagery of war, to get the blood flowing, to stir the patriotic juices of the people. Wars have ends, wars have goals, however misguided or evil those may be at times. No one wants to lose a war, any more than people want to lose a football game, we are competitive people. So fine, let's jsut say that we won the war, (which is true) and start calling this what it is: an occupation. and no one likes an occupation.

Posted by: northzax on May 9, 2007 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

"The Copperheads were not out to defeat the Union. They, and McCellan, wanted to negotiate for a peace."

And peace on their terms meant defeat. There was going to be a Union or not.

"The Democratic Party is not looking for the defeat of the US in Iraq. They are looking for ways to stop the useless and needless slaughter of our troops in a war based on lies."

Interesting juxtaposition of two mutually exclusive ideas. You must be an artist. Orwell (You should read him sometime) said that long wars are unnecessary. All it takes to end them is surrender.

The "lies" meme is getting old. I could recite all the Democrat speeches from the Clinton administrtaion to you but you probably would not believe them. Those who wish to forget history always seem able to do so. Then they repeat it. The left's reaction to the New Jersey case illustrates the fundamental unseriousness you share. When the radical Muslims blow up a major site, like the New York subway, you will convince yourself that it is Bush's fault.

Posted by: Mike K on May 9, 2007 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK
Because only about 2% of the insurgents are Al Qaeda. They exist because their goals are the same as the goals of other fighters, but that would change if the US forces were removed.

I'm not sure that's true; as long as there is general strong Sunni disatisfaction with the government—which a US pullout won't necessarily end but might create more of an incentive for the government to bend to end—the group presently known as al-Qaeda in Iraq will have considerable commonality of purpose with the broader Sunni resistance even though a US withdrawal will give al-Qaeda in Iraq less commonality of interest with the broader al-Qaeda.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 9, 2007 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK
Why believe that there is no element like the Taliban in Iraq, which would be sympathetic to al Qaeda or AQI?

It is reason enough not believe in a thing that there is no evidence justifying belief in it.

Like Saddam's "reconstituted nuclear weapons".

Posted by: cmdicely on May 9, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Blow up the NYC subway?

Geez, I thought their next target was the Balboa Bay Club.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on May 9, 2007 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

brian: "Paul said the current dems 'are looking for ways to stop the useless and needless slaughter of our troops in a war based on lies.' That is pretty much exactly what the cooperhead dems said in 1864, with Lincoln being the alleged liar. Lincoln won the political debate, thank God, principally because of the military success of Sherman taking Atlanta."

If this is some way of subtly suggesting that Bush somehow has Lincoln-esque principles, you're nuts. Lincoln had what Bush is completely lacking -- defensible moral principles for going to war: preserving the integrity of the Union, and preventing the spread of slavery throughout the United States. And it's no minor point that Bush launched an unprovoked attack on a sovereign state, while Lincoln responded to an unprovoked attack.

Nice try, though.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on May 9, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Well, if they hit Mike K's favortie shopping spot, Frederick's of Hollywood, then all gloves are off.

Posted by: stupid git on May 9, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK
Where, after all, do the current AQI derive from?

Mostly, I think, Iraqi Kurdish Sunni extremists with a much smaller number of foreign fighters, both before the invasion when its name was (approximately) Monotheism and Jihad and after the invasion when it merged with some other groups and renamed itself al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 9, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK
The "lies" meme is getting old. I could recite all the Democrat speeches from the Clinton administrtaion to you but you probably would not believe them.

That Clinton Administration officials claimed that intelligence prior to the 1998 Desert Fox campaign suggested something is of little to no probative value when offered as proof of the Bush Administration's honesty in claiming that current intelligence showed the same thing as true in 2003, 5 years after Desert Fox.

For a whole host of reasons.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 9, 2007 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Mike K: "When the radical Muslims blow up a major site, like the New York subway, you will convince yourself that it is Bush's fault."

Well, seeing as he's been the commander guy with a rubberstamp Republican Congress for lo these many years, who do you propose be held responsible? The 6-month-old Democratic Congress? Al Gore?

Tool.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on May 9, 2007 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Mike K: "I could recite all the Democrat speeches from the Clinton administrtaion..."

I don't know what "Democrat speeches" are, but we want you to start reciting them. Now. You do that, over in the corner, quietly, while the rest of us go on with our work. Thank you.

Posted by: Kenji on May 9, 2007 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

noel: I'm sorry Moron, the "care" taken by George W. Bush to minimize "collateral damage" has left hundreds of thousands dead. And even if, as you will stupidly object, it is a mere tens of thousands of what used to be human beings until monsters like you decided it was perfectly fine to have them slaughtered, every single one of them is the victim of George W. Bush's inability to tell the difference between a national security threat and something that might, someday, with a lot of help, and more than a bit of wishful thinking, be a threat.

It is possible to be even more brutal than that, and the suicide bombers in Iraq are doing so. During the sanctions regime, the Baathists intentionally withheld medical supplies from their population, and intentionally let the civilian infrastructure decay (water, sewage, oil, electricity) while directing their income toward the military bases and "palaces". And they did so while subjecting most of their citizens to arbitrary arrest, torture, and execution.

It is in fact possible to have considerably more brutality in Iraq than has been experienced there since 2003. The worry over such a possibility is the reason that Congress does not order American troop withdrawals to start today.

Nobody wants to be responsible for causing more Iraqi suffering, destruction and death, even if the responsibility to date rests with Bush and those who voted to support him.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 9, 2007 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Why believe that there is no element like the Taliban in Iraq, which would be sympathetic to al Qaeda or AQI?

Oh there probably is...NOW. Thanks Georgie.

Posted by: ckelly on May 9, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK
…The left's reaction to the New Jersey case illustrates the fundamental unseriousness you share…Mike K at 11:36 AM
This case, like others before it that were also trumpeted in the media, show a decided lack of seriousness. Practicing with paint guns? What clowns. Yet, when there were numerous warnings about a pending major terrorist attack, the Bush government did absolutely nothing except tell one briefer that ""You've covered your ass, now" Posted by: Mike on May 9, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

chauncey,

You saw the possibility of Lincoln principles in Bush. I did not say anything about that. Only the passage of time will answer the issue raised by your comparison of them.

The Civil War politics were complicated. You say Lincoln had "defensible moral principles for going to war: preserving the integrity of the Union, and preventing the spread of slavery throughout the United States." Lincoln claimed at the time he was forced to war, not that he went to war. I don't think preventing the spread of slavery was a princple upon which Lincoln said he went to law or that in any sense he would have "gone to war" on that issue. I think it is fair to say that he politically opposed the spread of slavery to new states or territories, but his views on slavery were not always clear and might be described as "nuanced." As some point (I think after the start of the war), he famously said that he would be fine with saving the union either by freeing all the slavers or by freeing none of the slaves. I think Lincoln ultimatly was a man who met the challenge of the time, a master politician and probably should be viewed as a great president, but at least by our standards today, let's not go overboard on Lincoln's moral principles.

Posted by: brian on May 9, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm not sure that's true; as long as there is general strong Sunni disatisfaction with the government...the group presently known as al-Qaeda in Iraq will have considerable commonality of purpose with the broader Sunni resistance even though a US withdrawal will give al-Qaeda in Iraq less commonality of interest with the broader al-Qaeda."

Well, the primary goal, and strength, of Al Qaeda is their successful attacks on the Western Imperialist Powers. So if they were to become part of a purely sectarian fight, not only would they lose part of their world wide support, but it would also be contrary to their strengths. The absence of a U.S. presence in Iraq would also reduce their attractiveness for foreign recruitment.

Posted by: mcdruid on May 9, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

One little question,Who do you suppose warned Usma bin Laden that Clinton was sending in cruise missles."cough cough cheney cough cough".Who was it that belittled Clinton every time he took a shot at AQ. "cough newt cough cough".So it seems the righties where a little behind on getting terrorists.What say you Mike.

Posted by: john john on May 9, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting how brian's initial arguments were so summarily disposed that he doesn't even pretend to defend them, but instead goes off into increasingly tenuous similarities between our own Civil War and our occupation of a different culture.

Posted by: mcdruid on May 9, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Marler, the idiocy of your argument should be apparent even to someone as dense as you. The lackwits who have brought us to this state (Bush, the clods who voted for him, the braindead thugs who voted for him after he started murdering the Iraqi people) have ensured that there is no way forward but through. All options involve more dead Iraqi civilians.

You and your kind demonstrated how little you value human life when the first night was one of abject terror for the civilians living in Baghdad.

You are too late to the party for us to take your faux humanitarian concerns seriously. The iron heel of George W. Bush's Anarchy in Iraq is far worse than the brutal dictatorship of Hussein. At least with Hussein there were rules. They might have been arbitrary, and they might have been somewhat changeable, and they might have been brutal. And yet it was still better than the nightmare you and yours have inflicted on the Iraqi people.

If you had a shred of decency you would donate most of your money to helping the people of Iraq put their lives back together after this is all over and you would never, ever, vote again knowing that your inability to understand the consequences of actions has resulted in tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of human beings having their lives taken from them.

Posted by: noel on May 9, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan, two doors down from Iraq ... that's rich.

That "door" inbetween is the biggest Shiite country in the world, which actually offered us help after 9/11 because they hate AQ almost as much as we do.

Posted by: Cal Gal on May 9, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

he hasn't convinced me that there aren't indigenous elements in Iraq sympathetic to al Qaeda

Our military is going to be very busy indeed if we plan to occupy every country that has "elements sympathetic to Al Qaeda".

Posted by: ckelly on May 9, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

I am always amazed by people who think they know what will happen in the future under any circumstances, let alone what will happen in a place they have never been, among a people they don't know...blah blah blah.

Yes. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were amazingly incompetent and spectacularly wrong about Iraq weren't they?

Posted by: ckelly on May 9, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

My point now is that this is no longer a war, we are not fighting FOR anything, only to maintain our control over land against others who wish to dislodge us from within.

Fighting to maintain control over land against others who seek to dislodge you seems to be a pretty classical definition of what war is. See, e.g. the Vietnam War or the 1979-1989 Afghanistan War.

This is an occupation.

It is also a war. The two terms are not mutually exclusive. In addition, the fact that over 600,000 Iraqis have died so far indicates rather strongly that it is a war.

Posted by: Stefan on May 9, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

brian: "I don't think preventing the spread of slavery was a princple upon which Lincoln said he went to law or that in any sense he would have 'gone to war' on that issue. I think it is fair to say that he politically opposed the spread of slavery to new states or territories, but his views on slavery were not always clear and might be described as 'nuanced.'"

I don't know how you disentangle his desire to stop the spread of slavery from the issue of secession. If he didn't feel strongly about the former, the South would have had no motivation for the latter.

"As some point (I think after the start of the war), he famously said that he would be fine with saving the union either by freeing all the slavers or by freeing none of the slaves."

This point is irrelevant. Freeing the slaves was never the issue in the run-up to the war. The combustible issue was slavery in the territories, which prompted the South to secede, which led to the chain of events that resulted in the Confederacy attacking Fort Sumter.

And, for the record, there is no possibility of Lincoln's principles (or any principles, for that matter) in Bush. But I don't hesitate to call bullshit when I see you suggesting them.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on May 9, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Helen Thomas to George Bush: Mr. President, you've got over 100,000 troops in Iraq and it's been estimated there are about 1,500 Al Qaeda sympathizers attacking our troops. Why haven't we defeated them yet?

Bush: Next question.

Pres. Lincoln to George Bush: President Bush, if you aren't going to use your troops to capture or kill our enemies in Iraq, may I borrow your army?

Bush: Next question.

Pres. Teddy Roosevelt: Bush you ass, get away from my Bully Pulpit (as he uses his bullwhip to lash Dubya).

Posted by: MarkH on May 9, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Some information for the mouthbreathers regarding the number and make-up of Al Qaeda in Iraq:

January 29, 2007

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Most insurgents who are battling U.S.-led forces in Iraq's Anbar province are local Iraqis loyal to al Qaeda, and not foreign fighters, the U.S. commander in the region [Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer]said Monday.

and this:

"The foreign fighters' attacks tend to be more spectacular, but local nationals, the Saddamists, the Iraqi rejectionists, are much more problematic," said Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, commander of the Army's 42nd Infantry Division.

and then read this, where General Mixon, when asked directly if the attacks in the North are from Al Qaeda, responds that the violence is from Sunni groups.

Helloooo. The generals on the ground in Iraq are saying that Al Qaeda is 1) tiny in number, and 2) made up mostly of locals, and 3) not the main problem there. Foreign fighters make up less than one percent of those killed or detained in Iraq.

Try and wrap your tiny little brains around that. You have your facts wrong, you're concerned with the wrong problem, and your analysis is beyond bad.

Posted by: trex on May 9, 2007 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, how do you kill someone "more brutally?"

It is in fact possible to have considerably more brutality in Iraq than has been experienced there since 2003.


Marler, the idiocy of your argument should be apparent even to someone as dense as you. The lackwits who have brought us to this state (Bush, the clods who voted for him, the braindead thugs who voted for him after he started murdering the Iraqi people) have ensured that there is no way forward but through. All options involve more dead Iraqi civilians.

The iron heel of George W. Bush's Anarchy in Iraq is far worse than the brutal dictatorship of Hussein. At least with Hussein there were rules. They might have been arbitrary, and they might have been somewhat changeable, and they might have been brutal. And yet it was still better than the nightmare you and yours have inflicted on the Iraqi people.

Well, you appear to agree that it is possible to kill more brutally, which was my first point. You think the rules under Saddam Hussein "might" have been changeable, arbitrary and brutal.

The next question might be, who has killed the most Iraqis? followed by How have they done so? In recent months, most Iraqis that have been killed have been killed by suicide bombers, most of those reputedly al Qaeda. Will the killings get worse, perhaps even more brutal, if American troops withdraw?

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 9, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K: "Let's hope (I do anyway) Petraeus is Sherman."

Would that be the Gen. Sherman who, against the pointed advice of his own generals, foolishly ordered a frontal assault on heavily fortified Confederate positions at Kennesaw Mountain outside Atlanta, vaingloriously sacrificing thousands of Union soldiers in the process? Or the Gen. Sherman who literally stood idly by while his army ruthlessly sacked and burned a prostrate and defenseless Columbia, SC in the final months of the war?

Regardless, your analogy is faulty, because while Gen. Sherman was an active protagonist in a civil war, Gen. Petraeus is hopelessly trying to referee one.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 9, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

MatthewRmarler: "The next question might be, who has killed the most Iraqis? followed by How have they done so? In recent months, most Iraqis that have been killed have been killed by suicide bombers, most of those reputedly al Qaeda. Will the killings get worse, perhaps even more brutal, if American troops withdraw?"

The killings will be no more brutal, just more widespread. The Iraqi troops & police force have shown to neither the capability nor the willingness to address the violence. The Iraqi government has done nothing to address the issue. So your argument is really for using the American military as an Iraqi police force. Indefinitely. By your logic, Americans can never leave.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on May 9, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Al-Qaeda in Iraq massed, armed and deadly? Has Mr. McCarthy not been reading Max Boot's dispatches from Al-Anbar province or the military's glowing reports about how violence is down in Al-Anbar and that the Iraqi tribal sheiks are turning against and fighting Al-Qaeda? It seems to me Al-Qadea in Iraq is on the run, not "massed, armed and deadly."

But of course, you acknowledge that then the whole point of our presence there unravels doesn't it?

Posted by: Sean Scallon on May 9, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Al-Qaeda in Iraq massed, armed and deadly? Has Mr. McCarthy not been reading Max Boot's dispatches from Al-Anbar province or the military's glowing reports about how violence is down in Al-Anbar and that the Iraqi tribal sheiks are turning against and fighting Al-Qaeda? It seems to me Al-Qadea in Iraq is on the run, not "massed, armed and deadly."

But of course, you acknowledge that then the whole point of our presence there unravels doesn't it?

Posted by: Sean Scallon on May 9, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Blow up the NYC subway?

Geez, I thought their next target was the Balboa Bay Club.

Posted by: thethirdPaul"

Thank you for supporting my point that you are all unserious.

Posted by: Mike K on May 9, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent, Donald from Hawaii,

Or will General Petraus stop refugees from gaining the protection of American forces, the way Sherman stopped the freed slaves from crossing a river to join with the Union forces. As a result, many were massacre by Rebel Forces.

And, as to the war being fought over slavery, then why did so many Union troops desert and Northern civilians riot in New York, following the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation?

That war was far more complicated than merely throwing out generalisms. Such as many of the Peace Democrats, aka Copperheads, were against the war policies because of economics, i.e., loss of income in Indiana and Illinois by high rail shipping costs and the lack of river transport. Others were against Lincoln's heavy handed disregard for the Constitution in abolishing Habeas Corpus and the use of martial law in Northern states. Not all Republicans were abolitionists, either. More very grey areas, than simple black and white ones, no pun intended.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on May 9, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Geez, Dr Mikey, Uncle Paul was just worried about your yacht.

Posted by: stupid git on May 9, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

chaunceyatrest: So your argument is really for using the American military as an Iraqi police force. Indefinitely. By your logic, Americans can never leave.

One of the unknowns is wheter a continued presence of Americans will eventually result in a more peaceful Iraq so that Americans can start leaving then. The Democratic plan, vetoed by Bush, would have permitted Americans to remain for training the Iraqi army, protecting infrastructure, and combatting terrorists. Your caution, that Americans might always be present, is important, given that we still have forces in Germany and other European countries, in Bahrain and Kuwait, in Japan and S. Korea.

One of the points that KD comes back to is the issue of specifying goals in advance vs. specifying the withdrawal schedule in advance. Even the Iraq study group didn't advocate bringing American forces home before spring 2008; and they conditioned the recommendation on "if circumstances permit" (paraphrase, not exact quote.) Even in Iraq about 2/3 of poll respondents prefer keeping American troops until greater peace is restored.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 9, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Marler, you think the dead care how they died? You think the members of a wedding party murdered because they happened to be in the path of American bombs are happier that it wasn't Saddam Hussein that killed them? You think the fact that people aren't safe from random violence because people like you don't know the first thing about evaluating threats is an improvement over Saddam Hussein?

And no, you dimwitted apologist for mass-murder, it doesn't matter what the raw numbers are (within limits - if Hussein had been on King George's killing spree there would have been a humanitarian reason to go there - he wasn't, there wasn't and your post hoc concern for the Iraqi people is belied by your willingness to use the slimmest of straws to justify their murder). And if it did, then there is evidence that the short, brutal reign of Bloody King George has been harder on the Iraqi people than the entire reign of Saddam Hussein.

Again, I advise you to never give voice to the idiocies that infest what you jokingly call your thought processes. And never, ever vote.

Posted by: noel on May 9, 2007 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

MatthewRmarler: "One of the unknowns is wheter a continued presence of Americans will eventually result in a more peaceful Iraq so that Americans can start leaving then."

If we don't know this after 4 years & $500 billion, there's precious little reason to continue waiting to find out. There is absolutely no indication that the American presence is contributing to peace, and every indication that it's actually fueling the insurgency.

"Your caution, that Americans might always be present, is important, given that we still have forces in Germany and other European countries, in Bahrain and Kuwait, in Japan and S. Korea."

Given that American forces aren't killed on a daily basis in "Germany and other European countries, in Bahrain and Kuwait, in Japan and S. Korea," your point is irrelevant.

"Even in Iraq about 2/3 of poll respondents prefer keeping American troops until greater peace is restored."

That's an incredibly convenient way of reading that poll. According to the survey, 80% were opposed to the presence of US troops, with 33% wanting them to leave immediately. The poll also indicated that only 18% of Iraqis have any confidence in US troops, and more than half of Iraqis believe that violence against US forces is acceptable -- up 17% since 2004. Only 42% of Iraqis think life is better now than it was under Saddam.

Between what you omit and what you suggest, your entire argument is fundamentally dishonest.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on May 9, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Even in Iraq about 2/3 of poll respondents prefer keeping American troops until greater peace is restored.

That's odd, when detailed polling methods such as interviews methods are used experts to determine the number of dead in Iraq you reject them as untrustworthy. Yet here you're touting unnamed generic polls that you haven't even provided cites for as a reason to stay.

Does your lack of integrity (not to mention your lack of humanity) know no bounds? Which is it: are polls valid in Iraq or aren't they?

In any event, here's a more recent poll of Iraqis concerning the matter of withdrawal:

On Tuesday, without note in the U.S. media, more than half of the members of Iraq’s parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal, according to Nassar Al-Rubaie, a spokesman for the Al Sadr movement, the nationalist Shia group that sponsored the petition.

Huh. I wonder how you should spin that development.

Also, I believe you are misrepresenting the Iraqi polls, but I have step out. Perhap someone would be kind enough to do a little research and hand Matt's ass to him that issue as well.

Posted by: trex on May 9, 2007 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK
The next question might be, who has killed the most Iraqis? followed by How have they done so? …MatthewRmarler at 2:40 PM
That is completely irrelevant. According to international law to which the US is a signatory, an occupying power such as the US in Iraq

has a duty to ensure public order and safety in the territory under its authority. Under customary international law, this duty begins once a stable regime of occupation has been established. But under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the duty attaches as soon as the occupying force exercises control or authority over civilians of that territory -- that is, at the soonest possible moment (a principle reflected in U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10)….
If the US is unwilling or unable to fulfill its treaty obligations, it should withdraw.

…the issue of specifying goals in advance vs. specifying the withdrawal schedule in advance. Even the Iraq study group didn't advocate bringing American forces home before spring 2008; and they conditioned the recommendation on "if circumstances permit" (paraphrase, not exact quote.) Even in Iraq about 2/3 of poll respondents prefer keeping American troops until greater peace is restored. MatthewRmarler at 3:38 PM

Your appeal to Iraqi public opinion is misplaced. 82% have little or no confidence in the US and UK occupying forces. 40% blame the US and Bush for the violence in Iraq.

Nor is your argument relevant. The US had no business invading Iraq; it has no business occupying Iraq; and it has no right to remain in Iraq. This war is built on lies; the occupation is built on incompetence and failure. The sooner the US leaves, the better off the Iraq people will be.

Posted by: Mike on May 9, 2007 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Perhap someone would be kind enough to do a little research and hand Matt's ass to him that issue as well.

It won't matter...Marler will just pretend that "no one destroyed his argument" again.

Posted by: Gregory on May 9, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Before I leave here's a quick poll from January '06. Note that we are currently a year and a half into the timetable for that group of Iraqis who wanted us gone in two years tops:

Asked what they would like the newly elected Iraqi government to ask the US-led forces to do, 70% of Iraqis favor setting a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces. This number divides evenly between 35% who favor a short time frame of “within six months” and 35% who favor a gradual reduction over two years. Just 29% say it [the U.S.} should “only reduce US-led forces as the security situation improves in Iraq.”

There may be more recent polls, will check later.

Posted by: trex on May 9, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K, by supporting the war on the Iraqi people you demonstrated long ago that you were serious about neither human life nor national security. Any rational person looking back at the disaster they caused with this disability would retreat from the field of discourse. Certainly it takes some stones for Republicans - the champions of frivolousness in national security to whine about anyone else's seriousness.

Posted by: noel on May 9, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

One last bit:

Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, September 27, 2006; Page A22

BAGHDAD, Sept. 26 -- A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.

In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to State Department polling results obtained by The Washington Post.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/26/AR2006092601721.html

And there you have it, one more Marler untruth unraveled.

Posted by: trex on May 9, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

support among Sunni Muslims for a withdrawal of all U.S.-led forces within six months dropped to 57 percent in September from 83 percent in January.

that was probably the best poll up to Sept 26.

Kevin Drum linked to a poll more recently than that, did he not? January or February?

the thread is a little old. I'll have to spend some time searching for poll results.

catch you later.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 9, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

heres a good one:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/19_03_07_iraqpollnew.pdf

Q27: 35% of Iraqis want coalition forces to leave immediately, up from 2005.

There are a lot of year-by-year comparisons, which show that Iraqis believe that things have gotten worse over the past 3 years.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 9, 2007 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

Your caution, that Americans might always be present, is important, given that we still have forces in Germany and other European countries, in Bahrain and Kuwait, in Japan and S. Korea.

Remind me again, how many of those forces are getting shot at and blown up every day? About zero, isn't it?

Posted by: Stefan on May 9, 2007 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Brian: "Paul said the current Dems 'are looking for ways to stop the useless and needless slaughter of our troops in a war based on lies.' That is pretty much exactly what the Copperhead Dems said in 1864, with Lincoln being the alleged liar."

Pfaw. The Copperheads wanted the US completely out of the war. The anti-Iraq Dems want the US out of this particular misconceived CAMPAIGN in the worldwide Megaterrorist War; they have NEVER wanted us out of Afghanistan, and it's a safe bet that most of them won't favor ducking when confronted with a genuine nuclear-terrorist threat (which Bush lied through his teeth to us about where Iraq was concerned, that being the only way he persuaded most of us to back his Iraq campaign in the first place. Of course, by yelling Wolf in that particular case, he has made it harder for anyone to argue us into actions against Iran's Bomb program -- but then, another major reason for that is the fact that most of our military is stuck in the Iraq tarbaby, crippling our military ability to strike against Iran's nuclear program in any case.)

Posted by: BruceMoomaw on May 9, 2007 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Mike K, by supporting the war on the Iraqi people you demonstrated long ago that you were serious about neither human life nor national security. Any rational person looking back at the disaster they caused with this disability would retreat from the field of discourse. Certainly it takes some stones for Republicans - the champions of frivolousness in national security to whine about anyone else's seriousness.

Posted by: noel "

Pretty funny. You have no idea of world history, the Wahabbi threat, the theory of deterence, the history of 20th century American politics and a few other items. The Democrats have not been respected in national security since 1968. The only time a Democrat has been elected president was in the wake of the Nixon scandals and when the USSR had collapsed. Clinton believe the foolish end-of-history theory but history often comes back to bite fools. So it happened. If you had read anything serious in the past ten years you would understand the risks we face. Since you haven't, you don't.

Posted by: Mike K on May 9, 2007 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

There are a lot of year-by-year comparisons, which show that Iraqis believe that things have gotten worse over the past 3 years.

The correct response is: "Damn, once again you totally busted me making shit up. Foiled again!"

You blithering moron.

Posted by: trex on May 9, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

brian: "You saw the possibility of Lincoln principles in Bush. I did not say anything about that. Only the passage of time will answer the issue raised by your comparison of them."

LOL! How about the passage of five minutes' time? Your man is a pathetic buffoon -- not fit for Lincoln Logs, let alone Principles -- and these endless comparisons with Bill Clinton onlt make your case more tragic. Funny, but tragic.

Hey, have you and Mike K joined up yet in the Big Cause? You guys are as casual with other people's lives as you are with the truth.

Posted by: Kenji on May 9, 2007 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK
BAGHDAD - A sharp increase in mortar attacks on the Green Zone — the one-time oasis of security in Iraq’s turbulent capital — has prompted the U.S. Embassy to issue a strict new order telling all employees to wear flak vests and helmets while in unprotected buildings or whenever they are outside.

Al Qaeda is not known for their mortar use and we're told all the other Iraqis love us for liberating them. I wonder who the hell could be doing this? Barbara Streisand? The French? The liberal media?

Posted by: trex on May 9, 2007 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan: Remind me again, how many of those forces are getting shot at and blown up every day? About zero, isn't it?

Did I make a mistake by agreeing that American forces might stay a long time?

Would you be in favor of withdrawing American forces from S. Korea if they started getting shot there?

trex: "Damn, once again you totally busted me making shit up. Foiled again!"

The whole poll is worth reading, but only 35% of Iraqis polled believe that Americans should leave right away.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on May 9, 2007 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

The whole poll is worth reading, but only 35% of Iraqis polled believe that Americans should leave right away.

Funny how that poll isn't in line with the other polls I cited on that question. Do you think it might be the way the question was asked? There were four different options for remaining but the only one for leaving was "leave now" -- and assuming a margin of error that answer may have held a plurality over the others.

The other funny thing about that poll is if so many people want us to leave, how come in the preceding question 80% of Iraqis say they oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq? And 50% say the surge will increase violence and a huge plurality blame all the violence in Iraq on the U.S. and Bush. If most Iraqis oppose our presence there, believe we are making it worse, and believe attacks on us are justified - why would they contradict themselves in that poll question?

But if we're comparing polls, I can come up with three in the past year and a half showing a majority of Iraqis wanting us to leave. Obviously the methodology of the one you cited is flawed on that question, as is your ability to evaluate the reliability of source material. What is it you do for a living again?

But why should you own up now? You've never owned up to being wrong on the failure of the reconstruction, on the availability of clean drinking water, on restoration of electricity, on the insurgents attacking the infrastructure, on believing the myth of the Jessica Lynch story, on the methodology of the Johns Hopkins study, on the makeup of Al Qaeda in Iraq, on not being aware of the multiplicity of players contributing to the violence in Iraq, about the number of provinces seeing violence in Iraq, about Iran wanting to destabilize Iraq when in fact they want a stable SCIRI-led government, wrong about the nature of the massacre of the "cult" in Najaf -- shall I go on?

You have been endlessly wrong about your facts and wrong in your predictions. Given that, why should anyone in their right mind ever listen to a single thing you wrote and take it seriously?

Asshole.

Posted by: trex on May 10, 2007 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

"You have been endlessly wrong about your facts and wrong in your predictions. Given that, why should anyone in their right mind ever listen to a single thing you wrote and take it seriously?"

Because the surge MIGHT end up working. Everything that's happened thus far COULD completely reverse itself and start going our way. If we stay LONG ENOUGH, Iraqis will see how GOOD we are, and how EFFECTIVE we can be. If we need to, we'll even add 3000 MORE TROOPS.

The entire argument these asshats offer boils down to two points:

-- if you think it's bad now, wait until we leave, and
-- you can't prove it won't happen, therefore you have to give it a chance.

This is what they're left with.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on May 10, 2007 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Mike K, you complete moron, you've been practicing your coprophagia again - believing the idiotic propaganda you proffer. The only people who think that the Democrats have a national security problem are those too stupid to look at the facts. In 1968 the Democrats were right that slaughtering the Vietnamese people (and anyone else who happened to be in the neighborhood) for the glory of politicians at home was a really fucking bad idea.

The Republicans, on the other hand, looked at the mess already made and said - "hey, let's turn this disaster into a nightmare of epic proportions" and the result was Pol Pot and the killing fields and the clear demonstration, for anyone with even the barest modicum of sense to see (you, Mike K, are excused - you've demonstrated none), that the Republicans weren't to be trusted on matters of national security.

This was demonstrated again when Ronald Reagan armed terrorists on two continents and helped ensure that one Osama bin Laden got plenty of training in the art of terrorizing the populace in order to achieve a strategic goal.

In other words, only someone so mindbogglingly stupid as yourself could claim the Democrats were anywhere near as inept at national security as the architects of the destabilization of Cambodia, the arming of terrorists in Latin America, and the funding of the architect of the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

As I've pointed out to others as stupid as you - refrain from voting. You don't have the mental capacity to make an informed decision. The United States would be better off letting untrained mice solve problems in quantum physics than it is letting people with your obvious mental defects vote.

Posted by: noel on May 10, 2007 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

Bruce Moomaw wrote:

"[T]hey have NEVER wanted us out of Afghanistan, and it's a safe bet that most of them won't favor ducking when confronted with a genuine nuclear-terrorist threat...."
_________________

Oh, cool. Make us run from the campaign where at least we can employ most of our technology and can make a difference and go fight where most of our advantages disappear. Real fine.

"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier."

Comforting like, ain't it?

And, while it's possible one can believe that the opposition will really, truly, surely, stand up to a nuclear Iran, it ain't anything to bet the house on. After all, the very next words sets up their excuse for the next failure - don't blame us, it'll all be Bush's fault. And that will make it alright now, won't it?

Posted by: trashhauler on May 10, 2007 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Analyses of whether or not AQI is really al Qaeda, etc, miss the point: al Qaeda is less an organization than a brand, offered gratis for anyone who wants to use it to mark their efforts.

The more popular the bin Laden / al Zawahiri style of jihadist struggle becomes, the more often terrorists will identify with al Qaeda. At the moment, rage is on the upsurge in the Islamic world, so the AQ brand is rising in value.

Michael Griffin

Posted by: Michael Griffin on May 10, 2007 at 3:53 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter trashhauler - I lost my keys out there in the field, but I'm looking for them here under the street lamp because the light is better.

Well, that plus fear mongering and wishful thinking that big daddy Republicans (you know, the geniuses who told us Saddam Hussein was going to nuke Bedford Falls and so we had to get him) have any credibility on national security.

Posted by: noel on May 10, 2007 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Shoot, noel, my personal preference was to simply pull out of Saudi Arabia when they wouldn't support our Afghanistan campaign and let Saddam do his thing. Weren't we already guilty of starving tens of thousands of Iraqi babies because of the sanctions? So, let 'em lapse. Our allies were cheating, anyway.

It would have been a near certainty that before very long, Saddam would have started throwing his weight around again. With us fighting in Afghanistan, it would have been a sure bet that he'd soon make common cause with Al Qaeda, as well.

We already had ample casus belli against Saddam without the WMD angle. Still, most of it wouldn't have been supported by the namby-pambies, so I would have preferred we let him take another swing at somebody before we went in and killed him.

The current Administration took a different view and here we are. So, where do you want us to look for our keys, next?

Posted by: trashhauler on May 11, 2007 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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