Salon: "Dangerous Rhetoric"

“Dangerous rhetoric”

When House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi voiced widely-held sentiments last week, telling a newspaper that President Bush was an “incompetent leader,” she rather predictably brought upon herself the wrath of Tom “The Hammer” DeLay. Calling Pelosi’s candid comments “dangerous rhetoric,” House Majority Leader DeLay actually said her words were “putting American lives at risk.” Using DeLay’s logic, below find other individuals who have carelessly put the lives of Americans at risk recently by speaking their minds:

Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, former CentCom chief: “There has been poor strategic thinking in this. There has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground. And to think that we are going to ‘stay the course,’ the course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it’s time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it’s been a failure.”

GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel: “I think you’ve got a president who is not schooled, educated, experienced in foreign policy in any way, versus his father.”

GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee: “The president talked about being humble when he was running for office but the opposite seems to be true.”

GOP Sen. Pat Roberts: “In fighting the global war against terrorism,’ we need to restrain what are growing U.S. messianic instincts – a sort of global social engineering where the United States feels it is both entitled and obligated to promote democracy – by force, if necessary.”

GOP Sen. Richard Lugar: “I am very hopeful that the president and his administration will articulate precisely what is going to happen as much as they can, day by day, as opposed to a generalization.”

Conservative writer and novelist Mark Helprin: “The war has been run incompetently, with an apparently deliberate contempt for history, strategy and thought, and with too little regard for the American soldier, whose mounting casualties seem to have no effect on the boastfulness of the civilian leadership.”

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol: “Well, that’s right, [Bush] did drive us into a ditch.”

CNN’s bow-tied conservative Tucker Carlson: “I supported the war and now I feel foolish.”

Former House GOP Leader Dick Armey: “We’re letting the political hacks overrule the policy wonks in this town.”

Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan: “It’s long past time that people can be asked simply to trust the president. After the WMD intelligence debacle and the Abu Ghraib disgrace, he has run out of that capital. He has to tell us how we will win, what we are doing, how it all holds together, why the infrastructure repair is still in disarray, and how a political solution is possible. I’m not sure any more that this president has the skills or competence to pull it off. But I am sure that he has very little time to persuade us he can.”

American Conservative Union vice chairman Donald Devine, who refused to join a standing ovation for President Bush at the ACU banquet last week, and called Bush’s speech “long and boring.”

Conservative columnist George F. Will: “This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts.”

All excellent quotes.

I’m with Tucker Carlson, by the way. I’d assumed there was postwar planning to mirror the war planning. Instead, as Anthony Cordesman testified to the Senate last week, “ideologues were able to substitute their illusions for an effective planning effort by planners using the interagency process…without a realistic and workable approach to creating stability and security, and dealing with nation building.”

The wasted opportunity (not to mention wasted effort and wasted lives) is titanic and tragic.

I don’t mean to attack you Daniel, but this was a big, big problem from the very beginning. Anytime someone, regardless of their political affiliation tried to bring up serious questions about the casus belli (or rather the lack thereof), they were automatically denounced as being “Un-Patriotic” or less often “Un-American”. People were begging for answers as to what would happen during the war and what would happen after the war, but they were silenced under the auspices of patriotism.

I don’t know how anybody can so blindly assume anything when the stakes are so high.

Daniel’s foolishly* blithe assumption was shared by far far too many people. It was – and still is – astonishing to me that so many people so completely trusted the adminstration to charge ahead with the invasion despite an appallingly evident lack of evidence and foresight.

  • I don’t mean this as an insult, since Daniel said he agrees with Carlson’s comment that he “supported the war and now feels foolish”. I hope enough Americans share their sentiment that Kerry will inherit the mess.

It was – and still is – astonishing to me that so many people so completely trusted the adminstration to charge ahead with the invasion despite an appallingly evident lack of evidence and foresight.

Resist the temptations of that meme. This wasn’t about trusting anybody, certainly not a Bush administration that I didn’t vote for and never at any point considered voting for in 2004.

There were only two ways to approach occupation – the sensible way that every expert was laying out in pre-war papers, and any other way, which would be madness. I’m a bit amazed that rational leaders selected madness from among the two options.

As for predicting this mess, I’ll concede that a lot of intelligent people were predicting disaster before the war. But to remind you, the anti-war polemicists were predicting lots of things: among them, widespread and immediate Islamic revolt in Arab countries, as well as open defeat of our military forces on the road to Baghdad.

(If you want to get me on naivete, get me on naively believing that Tony Blair wouldn’t have signed on for an invasion/occupation without having vetted the post-invasion plan. Blair is the leader whose articulations won my support for war, not Bush’s. So at least credit my naivete to the right figure…“trusting Bush” is not something I’ve ever done.)

Daniel, there were plenty of voices and quite a bit of reporting indicating political motivations for this war well before it started. Naively trusting anyone, especially a foreign leader however well spoken, when we’re talking about war is not a good idea. This is a democracy. You and I are responsible for what our country does. If we don’t have the facts because we’re not told them then it’s incumbent on us to see the people lying to us or keeping secrets from us are removed from office one way or another. If we don’t have the facts because we don’t look for them or decide that someone’s ‘word’ is good enough for us then we only have ourselves to blame. A country gets the politicians it deserves, right?

The evidence for terrorists operating out of Iraq or weapons of mass destruction being present hardly passed the Russia test. If Russia had offered the evidence to the UN or US we offered on Iraq as justification to invade the country, how would we have responded? We’d have laughed them out of the room. Fuzzy satellite photos with dubious assertions attached (which now even Powell admits he feels uneasy about) and vague satellite phone intercepts. The only Al Qaida operatives in Iraq we know of were based in the friggin’ Kurdish areas under our protection! According to reporting this administration turned down the chance to attack them much earlier as it would weaken ‘our case for war’. Crap was invented. Who the hell had the incentive to forge those Nigerian uranium documents? Ya think it mighta, coulda, been us? And lets not dwell on the steel tubes.

And all the while we have growing news reports of pressure being placed on analysts at State and the CIA to conclude Iraq’s an imminent threat. A slowly deepening understanding of the political motives, history and sympathies of the neconservatives. Many old school statesmen of the real politik and internationalist camps growing concerned about the unilateralist and exceptionalist rhetoric coming out of the White House and the possibility of a completely unnecessary war about to be waged.

Where was the press? Where they usually are, especially the broadcast media, looking to sell advertising and nothing moves popcorn and Broncos better than tracerfire against a night’s sky.

What made you think even for a moment that the bait-and-switch administration that promises all kinds of things but only delivers for an extreme right constituency dominated by the religious right and monied interests could possibly have the brains and wherewithall to actually pull off this extremely tricky act of imposing democracy at gunpoint in an all but balkanized, traumatized, religiously paranoid, anti-American (especially after the first Gulf War’s internal score settling and sanctions regime), and desperately poor Muslim country bordered by Iran, Wahabbist Saudi Arabia and Syria?

And do it with so few troops. You do know it was more than just Rumsfeld’s lust to prove his personal theories on a light, fast, military were the way to go right? It was also to preserve force for the expanding conflict. That’s right. You know the neocon plans, they were not secret just hardly reported on, The Project For New American Century. They wanted to use our new base in Iraq to project force anywhere in the region we (or Israel it seems) might imagine a threat. Sigh.

I’m sorry. But “Because Blair made it sound cool with that sexy British accent and great diction” isn’t a very good reason for arguing as vociferously as you have for the war.

That’s water under the bridge now. It actually means shit who was right then. What matters is that you’re right now.

Hm. That raises an interesting point: There’s been a lot of talk and speculation about the US reasons for the war, but much less discussion of why the British decided to back it. Why did the British government decide to join the war so actively, really?

Note the date.

I find myself with a few spare minutes and make the mistake of reading Thomas Friedman again. His conclusion after a long, dull and witless ramble about the introduction of “democracy” to Iraq (just what the Gulf region needs, more puppet states) reads “If [it is] done right, the Middle East will never be the same. If done wrong, the world will never be the same”. There’s not much you can say to that except “shut up you silly man”. But it does inspire in me the desire for a competition; can anyone, particularly the rather more Bush-friendly recent arrivals to the board, give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:

It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration
It was significant enough in scale that I’d have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)
It wasn’t in some important way completely fucked up during the execution.

It’s just that I literally can’t think what possible evidence Friedman might be going on in his tacit assumption that the introduction of democracy to Iraq (if it is attempted at all) will be executed well rather than badly. Worst piece of counterfactual speculation by Friedman since the day he pondered the question “If I grew a moustache well, I would look distinguished and stylish; if I grew one badly, I’d look like a pillock”.

As I understand it, Idar, Blair got the idea that Bush was going into Iraq with or without anybody. This was shortly after 9/11. He had a pretty crappy choice to make here. Side with the majority of Europeans and British public opinion and alienate the United States while also, effectively, isolating it from any moderating influence or siding with the United States and serving as a bridge between Europe and the White House.

In return for promises by the Bush administration to present a case to the U.N and to take the middle east peace process seriously, Blair committed his forces to the Iraq operation. Of course, Bush’s case to the U.N. was pretty much crap. “Do what we say or be irrelevant.” And we’ve seen how the Bush administration’s handled the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But by then Blair was in up to his neck and had to ride things out or just end up with a worse mess than he already had on his hands.

That’s pretty much it.

Going back to the quotes (which are excellent Jason) for a different spin on things.

A lot of them are from the Senate GOP oldtimer paleocons and dissidents. I think they are quietly fighting an internal, longstanding battle in the GOP between fiscal conservatives/personal freedom advocates and the current holders of the power in the party, the “bankrupt the government in order to shrink it”/neoconservative players. The fiscal responsibilityissue is of special concern, and that’s why you have horrific people like Dick “Barney Fag” Armey speaking with some reason here.

One of those quotes really perked my ears, and has ever since I first heard that he said it. That one is from William Kristol, who in his spare time runs the scariest think tank ever. Granted, the quote given by Salon and attributed by Jason is somewhat out of context, I think the hardcore neoconservatives are looking at the Iraq situation as squandering their best, and probably last, chance to gain real public support for American geopolitical empire. Every time I see Bill he’s sporting this sorrowful look when talking (usually bitterly about Bush) about Iraq, much like what you’d see from a person talking about the love of their that got away. And it’s delicious. :twisted:

Maybe I just didn’t get to see it, not being as close to the situation as those who live in that part of the world, but where did Blair act as a “moderating influence”? He seemed as gung-ho from this side of the pond as Bush did about the whole affair, sometimes even more so. I don’t really recall any “Hey now, let’s do this, but let’s do it thinking clearly” moments from Blair, but as I said, I’m probably working from faulty coverage not watching the local news there.

Also, was there really much bridge-building between Europe and the US on the part of Blair? My limited perception is that he fully bought into the “with us or against us” bandwagon.

Feel free to correct me in mistaken perception due to not really following events on that side of the coalition.

Not to divert the thread from its new course regarding Blair, but DeLay fucking pisses me off more and more as time passes. His comments regarding Ms. Pelosi just reminded me of an old article on Slate.

Why did Mr. DeLay not hesitate to “put American lives at risk” back in 1999?! :(

Frontline did a show just about Blair and his relations with the Bush administration after 9/11 and leading up to Iraq. If I weren’t so tired after a very long day at work I’d go link to it and quote. But the gist is that Blair wanted to get Bush on a somewhat more moderate, balanced, path behind the scenes. In public he’d have to toe the line, naturally. Otherwise Blair’d lose whatever leverage and influence he thought he had. Which turned out to be, of course, much less than he’d imagined. should be the url. Something like that. I think the episode was “Blair’s War” or something.

Edit: Here’s the direct url.

The Lion of Britain, reduced to a mewing kitten.

I think Blair’s days may be numbered, and the upcoming local elections may prove a shock to Labour. Labour itself are still popular, because the economy is still going strong, but Blair has lost a great deal of the public’s trust. People just don’t believe him after all the spin he put on the Iraq war. The Hutton inquiry was a good litmus paper for people’s opinions of him. While Blair celebrated victory over the BBC, the British public overwhelmingly saw it as a whitewash. Now there is talk from the Labour camp of Gordon Brown, the treasurer, taking over for the next election. I imagine if the public go out and vote against them in the local elections, as a protest, as polls suggest they might, he could be given the boot very soon in order to save Labour in time for the next general election.

Aren’t the British conservatives just as opposed to this war as the British left?

Blair is the British left, or at least the leader of it. Labour have been traditionally Britain’s left wing party, although they’ve become so centrist of late it’s getting harder to tell the difference between them and the right wing Conservatives. The whole thing was a mess. Blair’s support for the war caused a great deal of dissent in the Labour ranks, as it goes against traditional Labour principles, which is why you got a lot of the cabinet walking out, like Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. These people became highly critical of Blair, once out of office, which has been a consistent source of embarrassment for him.

The Conservatives didn’t know what to do, because they had to support the war, and couldn’t criticise Blair on that front. That left us with the bizarre situation of only the smaller parties, like the Liberals and Green Party opposing a war that the majority of the public didn’t want to be a part of. Talk about representing the people. The Liberals and Greens are hoping to catch some of the protest votes, and the Liberals have already stolen one Labour stronghold from them in a by-election recently.

Most of the Tory’s seemed to be broadly in favour of the invasion and broadly against how it was done - attacking Labour’s deference to Bush’s actions. However war support has trickled away on all sides as a convincing case for war was never forthcoming. There have been numerous issues like this without any strong left/right polarisation in the past. New Labour may have won the election but that doesn’t mean Old Labour is going to forget what it is.