Saturday, October 09, 2004
I like this style of debate better. While I doubt that five people in that audience truly were undecided, the questions were fresh, and the candidates weren't sure what to expect. Which, I think, gives you an even better look at what a candidate is like.
So, who won? I'd have to say Kerry. Not necessarily on "points" (in which case it's closer to a draw, though Kerry's Supreme Court answer was masterful, while Bush's was close to incoherent.)
No, the reason Kerry won is because he further dissolved the Bush campaign's image of him as a dangerous and vacilating man.
The Bush campaign has made that the centerpiece of their effort. And with good reason, since there isn't a whole hell of a lot Bush has done that he can brag about. But now, in two debates, Kerry has punctured that caricature. He's come across as a responsible Senator who has a plan and (gasp!) convictions. His answer on the tax question, where he looked right into the camera, was on a par with the best of Reagan and Clinton.
And Bush? He was bouncing out of his seat. His voice was near shouting once or twice. He talked over Kerry and Charles Gibson at one point is his desire to rebut. His answer on stem cell research was ignorant. But what bothered me was this quote:
I don't seen how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.
Oh, really? I have a suggestion, Mr. President. Crack open a book on the history of World War Two sometime, the most massive conflict the United States has ever been involved in. The entire time, minds were being changed. If they weren't, we'd have invaded Europe in 1943 and been slaughtered. And here's a saying you'd do well to remember, George: "No plan survives contact with the enemy."
In other words, nothing will go how you expected it, and you have to adapt to that certainty. In Iraq, Bush has most definitely not done that. We've seen the results. And from his comments last night, he has learned nothing from the experience.
So Kerry did what he had to do: not screw up and reassure the American people. His lead in the polls should continue, if not increase by a point.
Oh, and Bush's timber crack? Turns out he did own a piece of a timber company. Oops!
Thursday, October 07, 2004
He could have passed that knowledge [of WMD weapons] onto our terrorist enemies ... [he] was a unique threat, a sworn enemy of our country, a state sponsor of terror operating in the world's most volatile region. In the world after Sept. 11, he was a threat we had to confront and America and the world are safer for our actions.''
- President Bush today, talking about the Iraq Group Survey report and why it was still right to invade Iraq.
What country could be passing on knowledge of A/B/C weapons to our enemies?
George, meet Hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, meet George. Oh, you two already know each other...
I present the following tidbits for your consumption. First, an excellent question from Andrew Sullivan:
Returning to Bremer. One of his early complaints was insufficient troop numbers to stop looting, restore order and protect unguarded weapon sites. Leave everything aside and focus on the latter. The war was launched because we feared Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. The main fear was that these weapons might be transferred to terrorists who could use them against us. And yet in the invasion, there was little or no effort to secure these sites! And there was no effort to seal the borders to prevent their being exported, or purloined by terrorists. Why? I've long pondered this, but Bremer's gaffe brings it back into focus. Why would you launch a war that failed in its very planning to avoid the disaster that you went to war to prevent? I don't understand. We were lucky in retrospect that Saddam didn't have any WMDs. The way this war has been run, it would have actually increased the chances of such weapons getting to America via terrorists rather than reduced them. At least, that seems to me to be the logical inference. Am I somehow wrong? Why did the administration leave weapons sites unguarded for so long? Why did they not send enough troops to secure the borders? I'm still baffled. And rattled. Can anyone explain?
Can anyone explain? I doubt it. Remember too that when Gen. Shineski told Bush et al. that they'd need a few hundred thousand troops, he was fired. Talk about willfull ignorance...
Then throw in this old story from MSNBC. It details how Bush had multiple shots to bomb Zarqawi and his terrorists well before he launched the Iraqi invasion. Yet he didn't. Why? Because killing Zarqawi would weaken his case for invading Iraq. Read that a few times to get the importance of it. In the war against terror, Bush let a terrorist live, because if that terrorist died, it would be harder for Bush to invade Iraq.
So how can invading Iraq be part of the war on terror if Bush had to let terrorists live to justify the invasion?! Answer: it isn't. A brutal truth, but the truth.
Then, as the kicker, the Washington Post reports that for every dollar of American taxpayer-funded aid that goes to Iraq (through payments to Halliburton, mostly) only 27 cents of each dollar benfits the Iraqi people. The other 73 cents? "Administrative and management costs." Which is just insane. If this were a charity, people would be getting arrested. Never should management and adminstrative costs consume almost 3/4 of the total funds. That's obscene! Compare this to The Red Cross. With all that they do, and the staff they employ, 82% of total funds go to programs. That the US government and Halliburton cannot match this level of compentency in rebuilding Iraq is pathetic. Hell, you could double their efficiency and they'd still fall short!
Oh ya, only two percent of the contracts were awarded to Iraqi companies. You know, those companies owned and staffed by the people we are supposed to be helping.
Gotta wake up and smell the coffee, people. Party loyalty doesn't trump common sense. I don't know if Kerry will do better. In fact, I know I'll disagree with a lot of what he does. But Bush has done nothing to deserve another four year term. And the fact he has an (R) next to his name shouldn't dictate a mindless pull of the lever for this walking popsicle stick.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
And by "Report" I mean the final report of the Iraq Survey Group. Led by the CIA, it's job was to determine the extent of Saddam Hussein's WMD programs prior to the US invasion in 2003.
Here are the highlights:
- Hussein held no A/B/C stockpiles at the time of the US-led invasion
- Hussien held small quantities of Biological material, likely used for assassination purposes.
- Hussein believed that WMDs kept the US from occupying Iraq in 1990-91. He also believed that they saved Iraq by stopping an Iranian offensive in the Iran-Iraq war. So he wanted to renew his WMD programs.
- To this end, Hussein began a program of subverting the UN sanctions and the oil-for-food program.
- In short, he (from the CNN story) "personally approved the recipients of an oil voucher distribution system, which was designed to influence other nations and individuals to lift the U.N. sanctions and help him import prohibited material"
- He pursued the illegal procurment of said prohibited material to be in a position to begin creating B/C weaponry once the sanctions were lifted.
So, what does all this mean? Well, both the GOP and the Dems. will focus on different parts. The GOP will point to Hussein's intent to restart his WMD programs. The Dems. will point to the fact he held no stockpile of weapons and was not an "imminent" threat.
Who's right? Well, both are. But Bush claimed at the time the war stated that Hussein held stockpiles of WMD and was an "imminent" threat, not a "gathering threat", as WH spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday. You can't rewrite history on a whim, Scott. Bush was wrong about the situation at the time and executed a flawed and half-baked invasion of Iraq. That's simply the truth, whether people want to stomach it or not.
But let's focus on a couple of other areas. Getting UN backing on this venture was slim to begin with, since so many of the countries were hip-deep in Hussein's voucher scam. Something I wrote about back in February. (New link to the MEMRI doc here). France and Russia were the biggest beneficiaries of this program. Which shouldn't be surprising, since they were also in deep with Hussein when it came to developing Iraqi oil reserves. Let's be blunt: France and Russia had a vested interest in keeping Hussein around. Period.
And all those Arab countries that are so upset with us for invading Iraq? Countries like Egypt, Libya, "Palestine", Syria, Lebanon? All beneficiaries of the voucher program. Such sympathy they have for the Iraqis, especially now that their gravy train has been deposed.
But back to the UN. Even with this rampant corruption, the sanctions were working. Hussein had no stockpiles. And Bush's claim that the sanctions were about to collapse is bunk. Why?
Simple. For the sanctions to be ended, the Security Council has to approve it. And the US, as we know, holds a permanent veto on the Council. So if France, or Russia, or anyone else asked the Council to end the sanctions, all the US had to do was say "No." That's it. One syllable, two letters, and the sanctions on Iraq stay in place.
So why didn't we do that? A good question that has yet to be answered.
I'll state what I have always said. Hussein needed to be dealt with at some point. He was a de-stabilizing force in the Middle East. But he was not an "imminent threat" He could have been isolated while we committed fully to Afghanistan. And once we were done there, he could have been re-evaluated as a threat relative to Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions, or Syria's WMD development. The sanctions were not going anywhere.
But we all know what happened instead. And now we have to make it work, because leaving Iraq now would make the situation worse than it was before we invaded.
The shame is that we didn't have to invade at all.