Here's an interesting issue for the "liberal media" to ponder:
In January, 2004, when the Des Moines Register made an unexpected endorsement of John Edwards as the best presidential pick for participants in Iowa's Democratic Caucuses, it was national news. The Register, an extremely influential newspaper because of its wide circulation in a relatively small state, shook up the Democratic dance card. The Register's editors found themselves being interviewed on national television and radio programs, as political writers for daily newspapers across the country stumbled over themselves to assess the significance of this particularly influential newspaper's endorsement of a still relatively unknown senator. As it turned out, the attention to the endorsement was merited, as Edwards himself acknowledged that his strong second place finish in the caucuses owed much to the boost he got from one of Middle America's most historically powerful and respected publications.
So what would happen if the same newspaper were to come out this year with a strong editorial calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq? And what if that editorial represented a reversal of the newspaper's previous "stay-the-course position?
Would that be news? Would national media outlets that are supposedly trying to ascertain the changing sentiments of the nation with regard to the war, and that are already busy charting the 2008 presidential competition in Iowa, take notice of an important development in a bellweather state? Might it be considered significant that a large daily newspaper with a national reputation has joined what Editor & Publisher magazine's Greg Mitchell -- who has for two years been noting the lack of serious discussion about ending the war on the nation's editorial pages -- refers to as "the very thin ranks of those proposing an exit strategy"?
The answer, lamentably, is "no."
We know because the Register did endorse a withdrawal timetable in a major editorial published Sunday, March 19, in which the newspaper's editors argued: "The old notion of an open-ended commitment to 'stay the course' no longer makes sense. The nature of the conflict has changed. So must American strategy. A date certain to end the U.S. occupation should be the linchpin of that strategy -- not to abandon Iraq but to put its feuding factions on notice that the United States isn't going to hang around to baby-sit their civil war."
Yet, with the better part of a week gone by, the Register's wise words have barely been noted outside Iowa -- not even by the political reporters who keep every farmer in the state on speed dial in anticipation of the next round of presidential caucuses. (Google "Iowa presidential caucuses" and "200*" and you'll find several hundred articles just from the past few weeks.)
The point here is not to suggest that one Iowa newspaper's shift in stance on the war should dominate the national news. The point is to ask: Why no attention at all?
Why has the same mass media that provides 27/7 coverage of President Bush's latest repetitions of worn arguments for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq displayed no significant interest in the fact that the Register had broken ranks with the lockstep of major American dailies on what is supposed to be a volatile and divisive issue?
Here's one answer: Perhaps, despite all the whining from the White House and its many broadcast, print and digital echo chambers about how the "mainstream media" is too tough on the President and his war, most major news outlets that have taken positions tend to be skeptical but still officially supportive adherents of the president's approach -- as opposed to advocates for the sort of withdrawal timetable that has been advanced by Representative John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, and that polls suggest the majority of Americans favor. (A recent Gallup Poll found that 54 percent of those surveyed favor withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq within a year.)
By endorsing a withdrawal timetable, the Des Moines Register -- the largest-circulation newspaper in one of the most closely watched political environments in the country -- distinguished itself from the vast majority of American daily publications. It also gave voice to popular sentiments that are still too rarely voiced in the major media of the land.
It should have been news. That it was not is one more indictment of the television networks and vast majority of major newspapers of a country where the discourse is far too narrow, and where the term "liberal media" is not merely inaccurate but comic.
Here is the Des Moines Register editorial, "Timetable to Leave Iraq," which appeared March 19, 2006:
The time has come for President Bush to do what he has resolutely insisted he would never do: Set a timetable to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
The old notion of an open-ended commitment to "stay the course" no longer makes sense. The nature of the conflict has changed. So must American strategy.
A date certain to end the U.S. occupation should be the linchpin of that strategy -- not to abandon Iraq but to put its feuding factions on notice that the United States isn't going to hang around to baby-sit their civil war.
What was originally thought to be a conflict involving a few insurgents trying to drive out American forces has morphed into something else. The insurgency is no longer about the American occupation. Iraqis are slaughtering Iraqis in a vicious cycle of suicide-bomb atrocities and revenge assassinations.
It¹s a harsh thing to say, but if Sunni and Shiite Iraqis insist on killing one another, let it be without American troops standing in the crossfire.
The United States has no vital interest in taking sides. It does, along with the rest of the world, have an interest in having a peaceful Iraq, but it is increasingly apparent that imposing harmony in a land of centuries-old tribal, religious and ethnic blood feuds is beyond the capacity of 130,000 U.S. troops, no matter how superb their performance and how great their courage.
The U.S. invasion produced chaos and unleashed ancient hatreds, as experts on the Middle East warned it would. President Bush chose not to listen, preferring to believe his own fairy-tale vision of happy Iraqis welcoming Americans. Now, in the words of the nursery rhyme, all the king¹s horses and all the king's men can't put Iraq back together again.
Only the Iraqis themselves can halt the madness.
The last hope for averting all-out civil war and the possible breakup of Iraq is if a national unity government can be established, but members of the ethnically divided parliament have been unable to form such a government. An announcement by the United States that our troops will pull out might help focus the minds of the Baghdad politicians. It would force them to stare into the abyss of a full-blown ethnic civil war with no American troops around to keep the country in one piece.
Once they're on notice of an American departure, Iraqi elected leaders and insurgents alike will have a powerful incentive to reach an accommodation.
Withdrawing U.S. troops does not mean abandoning the region. American diplomats should continue encouraging the formation of a unity government during a phased withdrawal, and the United States should remain obligated to help rebuild the country if order returns. Regardless of what happens, American air power should guarantee the security and autonomy of the Kurds in northern Iraq, who have achieved relative stability in their region and have been staunch friends.
The United States should maintain forces nearby and stand ready to confront any terrorist regime that might emerge in some part of Iraq. The international force must be maintained in Afghanistan, too, to prevent the return of the Taliban and keep up the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
But the military occupation of Iraq has achieved all it can. It's time to redeploy the troops, keeping in mind that the original mission has long since been achieved. No weapons of mass destruction in Iraq threaten America, and a dictator has been deposed. A democratically elected parliament is in place.
Whatever happens from here must be left up to the Iraqis themselves.
I'm sure you many of have heard about President Bush's proposal to sell off national forest land to raise money for the federal budget. The plan, which requires Congressional approval, would list 309,421 acres for sale in more than 30 states. (Click here for a state-by-state list.)
Most of the Forest Service tracts are small, isolated parcels adjacent to private or state land. Successful bidders would develop, or possibly log, these lands, taking them out of the public domain forever. How the parcels were picked remains a mystery. Regional forest officials say the sales list was cobbled together over the past month and generally tried to exclude scenic lands that shelter threatened and endangered species. However, during the selection process, the list was not widely distributed, even within the Forest Service agency itself.
The Wilderness Society has usefully detailed a number of the plots that would go up for sale. Click here to see what would be lost. The potential financial gains on this stupid idea are so far outweighed by the social and environmental loss the privatization would represent that even numerous Republican heavyweights have parted with their president on this issue. The idea reminds Sen. Lamar Alexander "of selling off the 'back 40' to pay the rent. It's short-term thinking." For Sen. Elizabeth Dole, it's "not a wise investment." And Republican governor of Missouri Matt Blunt thundered that "Missouri's natural resources are not a commodity. They are intended to be enjoyed by all, not to be sacrificed to fill holes in the federal budget." Holes, he might have added, that can be filed in innumerable other ways--starting with rolling back tax cuts for the rich who don't need them in the slightest.
So let's try to crash this GOP bake sale. It's critical to make sure that our fellow citizens know that Bush is looking to sell-off so many acres with a flimsy rationale to cover his privatization scheme. Click here to find contact info for your local newspaper and ask them to take an editorial stand on the issue. Then click here and let your elected reps know that you expect them to oppose Bush's bill when it comes up for a vote in the next couple of months.
After that, check out what our friends at Environmental Action have done to help us win this fight--they've launched an innovative online photo rally, using Flickr, with the goal of collecting 1,000 photos from citizens nationwide showcasing the very places that are at risk. It's very powerful to be able to see the spots that the GOP wants to turn into strip malls, luxury housing and who knows what else. The album will be delivered to every Member of Congress when it's complete. It might help turn the tide. And it's very cool to look at.
I'm in a secure and undisclosed location for a 52 hour break from thebrutal beast called a political weekly. That's why I'm on e-mail at 11pm Tuesday night. (And scouring the local papers for news of CondeeRice's imminent visit to this island, for a meeting to repair raggedrelations with the Caribbean Community Alliance known as Caricom. Most of the foreign ministers from the 14 Caribbean nations are--like the rest of the world--angry with America over the War in Iraq, and even angrier over the the US role in Haiti.) That's also why I hunted down a newspaper Tuesday morning, and found the Miami Herald. Good paper. Its front page featured an interesting story about Venezuela, "Caracas Emerging as New Capital of the Left." Later that afternoon, I tracked down a New York Times and discovered the same Juan Forero story on the Times' front page. (The NYT opted for--what seemed to me--a snarkier headline, "Visitors Seek a Taste of Revolution in Venezuela.")
What's interesting about Chavez and the "Bolivarian" revolution, as writer/activist Chiesa Boudin notes in the Times/Herald article, is that it has little to do with the fact that some on the left glorify the Venezuelan President because he has positioned himself as the anti-Bush leader in Latin America. It has more to do, Boudin observes, with the fact that "many people who had been dismayed by the advance of globalization saw the possibility of a better world in Venezuela. The fact that we have a country that's trying to create an alternative model is bold and ambitious and unique, and that's why people are wondering, 'Is this possible.'"
These are times for progressives, for the left to unshackle its imaginations and create an alternative politics. The alternative probably doesn't exist in Chavez's Venezuela--for reasons some on the democratic left have pointed out. (Though his use of the country's oil profits to help poor citizens is a model for all oil-rich countries.) But there are many alternative models and movements out there--ones we can support and build. (In the short-term, I say let's nationalize the 2006 elections around three things: Defend the Constitution; End the War; Pass National healthcare.)
What's clear is that the view most insidiously expressed in the acronym TINA--There is No Alternative--is now discredited. As thewanton and destructive Bush era draws to a close, with the ruins all around us, isn't it a moment to remember that there are always alternatives in history, politics and life? Especially today.
Hope and fear are always the polar forces at work in Americanpolitics and this Texas-macho President has brilliantly orchestrated thenation's fear of terrorism into a winning position. Support him, hewill protect us, take the fight to the treacherous enemies and crushthem. He has reminded us relentlessly of what we most fear. For many, itfelt reassuring to hear his resolve. But the brave-cowboy act is over. Hefailed himself yesterday in the White House press room.
George W. Bush called the press conference to sell hope--givepeople a reason to keep on believing--but trampled his own objective.Instead, he deepened the public's fear--not of Muslim terrorists--but of his own leadership at war. Does this guy know what he's doing? He got us into this mess; does he know how to get us out?
A fatal admission was revealed when Bush was asked whether he couldenvision a day when US troops were out of Iraq. The Presidentshrugged, as though the question does not apply to him. "That'll bedecided," Bush said, "by future presidents and future governments ofIraq." When I heard this, I thought, that's going to be tomorrow'sheadline. Sure enough, it was in the Washington Times, a conservativenewspaper that always rallies to Bush's side. "Bush commits until2009," the banner headline declared.
That remark shuts down hope and kicks it out the door. Want to bringthe troops home? For the next three years, forget it. Bush's comment,it is true, was more ambiguous than the headline. But it's too late forWhite House amplifications. The headline is the shorthand that willlinger in public consciousness, repeated endlessly in the politicalchatter.
Does this guy have a clue? His tone of casual dismissal sends achill down the spine. His press conference blunder will stalk George Bush until he either makes a big change in policy or personnel or actually gets us out of Iraq. He can't just smirk and walk off the stage.
The rhetorical war over immigration has suddenly become a ground war in Southern California. While some towns in conservative Orange County are now encouraging their local police to roust the undocumented, one small city in Los Angeles County has taken the opposite tack.
The city council of Maywood, more than 95% Latino and with a population of 45,000, has vowed to declare itself a "sanctuary city" for undocumented immigrants. And the council majority, which took power a few months ago, is going way beyond symbolism.
The city has dismantled its traffic division and changed the laws for towing and impounding cars. What's that got to do with illegal aliens? Plenty, it turns out. Under the previous city administration, the city was apparently feeding off of large fines and vehicle impounds imposed on the undocumented who got snared in Maywood's often ubiquitous ‘sobriety checkpoints' – in reality an organized shakedown operation run out of City Hall.
Other actions by the new city government – elected in an explicitly pro-immigrant campaign--include passing resolutions against proposed restrictive border measures.
The council also wants to rename one of its local schools for Mexican independence hero Benito Juarez. Just because the city is 96% Latino, however, doesn't mean that everyone's going along with the new sanctuary program. Some old timer Anglos as well as Latinos are upset. And, predictably, the City of Maywood has become a high-profile target for some of the local right-wing radio talkers.
In his Tuesday press conference, President Bush delivered the good news:
But I believe -- I believe the Iraqis -- this is a moment where the Iraqis had a chance to fall apart, and they didn't. And that's a positive development.
Not falling apart. That's hardly the prewar view of post-invasion Iraq Bush sold the American public three years ago. But "positive" has become a rather relative term regarding Iraq.
When asked whether he was concerned by the growing number of Americans who, according to the polls, are "questioning the trustworthiness of you and this White House," Bush replied,
I believe that my job is to go out and explain to people what's on my mind. That's why I'm having this press conference, see. I'm telling you what's on my mind. And what's on my mind is winning the war on terror.
Is that supposed to reassure Americans--or Iraqis? Such a remark prompts a larger question: why does Bush and the White House believe that sending him out to give a seemingly endless series of speeches on Iraq--and his plan for victory there--is going to change anything at this stage? This is the guy who said the war was about WMDs and who said virtually nothing when senior members of his administration before the war made it sound as if the post-invasion period would be a breeze. With that history, is sharing what's on Bush's mind about Iraq an effective strategy?
Asked about Senator Russ Feingold's bill to censure him for approving warrantless wiretapping conducted by the National Security Agency, Bush replied,
I think during these difficult times -- and they are difficult when we're at war -- the American people expect there to be an honest and open debate without needless partisanship. And that's how I view it. I did notice that nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me, I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program.
No needless partisanship? It's not needless partisanship to accuse the Democrats of being opposed to a "terrorist surveillance program"? This was a good example of the White House's Rove-ian response to criticism of the wiretapping program: equate the controversial (if not illegal) wiretapping with all surveillance conducted of terrorist suspects, including that which occurs lawfully under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and is monitored by the FISA court established by that law. No Democrat puts forward the "message" that "we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program." The only issue is whether wiretapping can be done outside of the FISA law--which Bush claims is permissible and which others (including assorted legal scholars) argue is illegal.
Dick Cheney took this counteroffensive one step further the day before Bush's press conference. Speaking at a GOP fundraiser at the Spread Eagle Tavern and Inn in Hanoverton, Ohio--pop. 388--he blasted Feingold and other critics of the warrantless wiretapping, by saying, "This outrageous proposition that we ought to protect al Qaeda's ability to communicate as it plots against America poses a key test for the Democratic leaders."
So here Cheney was not only whacking Democratic critics for being opposed to what Bush calls "a terrorist surveillance program." He assailed these Democrats for protecting al Qaeda's "ability to communicate."
Is not such rhetoric a tad partisan--and demagogic? He is accusing Dems of helping the mass murderers of 9/11. But since the Bush administration decided not to extend its "terrorist surveillance program" to domestic communications of terrorism suspects (and limited the warrant-free wiretapping to communications involving at least one overseas party), couldn't the same be said of the Bush-Cheney administration--that the president and the vice president are protecting the ability of al Qaeda suspects to communicate within the United States? It certainly could--if you were willing to engage in needless partisanship.
As for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, Bush did set something of a negative timetable. "Will there come a day--and I'm not asking you when, not asking for a timetable--will there come a day," a reporter asked, "when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?" Bush answered:
That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq.
In other words, three more years of US troops in Iraq--at least. Now that sounds like a no-spin-answer.
Tossed a softball question during Tuesday morning's press conference about whether he should be censured for ordering warrantless wiretapping of phone conversations "during a time of war," President Bush fell back on the lie that Americans must surrender liberties -- and the rule of law, itself -- in order to be made safe from terrorism.
The question, a virtually verbatim repeat of talking points circulated by the Republican National Committee, was about as generous a set-up as a president has ever gotten in a press conference.
"Thank you, sir," began Carl Cameron, who serves as Fox News' always-on-bended-knee chief correspondent in the court of King George. "On the subject of the terrorist surveillance program -- not to change the tone from all this emphasis on bipartisanship -- but there have been now three sponsors to a measure to censure you for the implementation of that program. The primary sponsor, Russ Feingold, has suggested that impeachment is not out of the question. And on Sunday, the number two Democrat in the Senate refused to rule that out pending an investigation. What, sir, do you think the impact of the discussion of impeachment and censure does to you and this office, and to the nation during a time of war, and in the context of the election?"
Bush was, needless to say, ready for the Cameron's inquiry.Grabbing hold of the "time-of-war" reference as the lifesaver it was intended to be, the president said, "I think during these difficult times -- and they are difficult when we're at war -- the American people expect there to be a honest and open debate without needless partisanship. And that's how I view it. I did notice that nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me, I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program. That's what they ought to be doing. That's part of what is an open and honest debate. "
Of course, no prominent Democrat has ever suggested publicly or -- to the extent that reporting has revealed -- privately that it would be wise to do away with surveillance programs that are designed to thwart terrorism. What Democrats and Republicans have suggested is that the president ought to obey the law when ordering federal agencies to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens.
As Feingold, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin who raised the issue of censure last week, noted on Monday: "At his press conference today, the President once again failed to tell the American people why he decided to break the law by authorizing a program to spy on Americans on American soil without court orders. Instead of offering any defense of the program's legality, the President shamelessly played partisan politics by implying that Democrats don't want to wiretap terrorists. That is flat-out wrong, and the President knows it. Of course we should wiretap suspected terrorists, and under current law, we can. The question is why the President believes he needs to break the law to do so."
If Bush had acknowledged the legitimate bipartisan concerns about his spying program, and if he had pledged to obey the law in the future, it is doubtful that the issue of censure would ever have arisen.Bush knows this. Yet, despite his pronouncements Monday, he is doing everything he can to prevent an "open and honest debate" by murking things up with false charges and claims regarding his critics.
The prepped president used Cameron's question as a jumping off point for an even more surreal assault on the truth when he attempted to confuse Americans with regard to the recent Patriot Act debate.
"I did notice that, at one point in time, they didn't think the Patriot Act ought to be reauthorized -- 'they' being at least the Minority Leader in the Senate. He openly said, as I understand -- I don't want to misquote him -- something along the lines that, 'We killed the Patriot Act,'" said Bush. "And if that's what the party believes, they ought to go around the country saying we shouldn't give the people on the front line of protecting us the tools necessary to do so. That's a debate I think the country ought to have."
What the president conveniently failed to mention is that the Senate Minority Leader, Nevada's Harry Reid, voted with the vast majority of Senate Democrats this month to reauthorize the Patriot Act in the form favored by the administration.
While Reid and a number of Republican senators had earlier expressed support for efforts to temper some of the Patriot Act's most clearly unconstitutional components, they fell in line with the president when the votes were counted.
To their credit, a bipartisan coalition of House and Senate members refused to do back the Patriot Act in that final version, not because they want to take away the tools that fight terrorism but because they believe, as did Benjamin Franklin, that: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
What Bush, in a call for "open and honest debate" that was really a carefully choreographed attempt to create a false divide between supposedly tough-on-terror Republicans and supposedly soft-on-terror Democrats, is the fact that some of the most conservative Republicans in Congress -- including California Representative Dana Dohrabacher, the chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, and Alaska Representative Don Young, the 3rd ranking Republican in the House who serves as a key member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security -- sided with Feingold in opposing reauthorization of the Patriot Act in the form promoted by the Bush White House.
Arguing that "there are enough laws already enacted on our books today that we don't need to create further laws that infringe upon the constitutional rights of every Alaskan," Young said in announcing his opposition to the Patriot Act that, "I still feel this legislation was never fully thought out. We rushed to put together legislation that we thought would safeguard us from another terrorist attack. In the process we have created a bill that I feel takes away our constitutional freedom. Over four years have past and there have only been a few essential elements added to this bill. However, overall this is still a bad piece of legislation."
Those are the words of a prominent member of the president's own party. If George Bush was genuinely interested in "open and honest" debate," he would acknowledge that the issue is not whether Republicans or Democrats want to fight terrorism. The issue is whether it is necessary to disregard the Constitution in that fight. If Bush believes that his is the appropriate course then, to paraphrase the president himself, he ought to take that message to the people and say, "I promise that I won't be bothered by the Bill of Rights."
That, not his attempts to create a false discourse, would make George Bush a part of the "open and honest debate" he so disingenuously claims to desire.
Last Thursday the Pentagon launched "Operation Swarmer"--described as the largest air assault in Iraq since March 2003. I was at a conference on Iraq at the Center for American Progress and saw the news flashing repeatedly on CNN, MSNBC and Fox. The timing, a few days before the war's 3rd anniversary and amidst a torrent of negative opinion polling for the Bush Administration--seemed highly suspicious.
Well, this Operation, like so much of what the Administration has told us about the war, turned out to be a lie. According to reporters on the ground from Time magazine:
There were no air strikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What's more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the US and Iraqi commanders.
Moreover, former AP correspondent Christopher Albritton writes that the targeted area north of Samarra has been "swept/contained/pacified/cleared five or six times since 2004." Operation Swarmer "was designed to show off the new Iraqi Army--although there was no enemy for them to fight." There were as many troops, fifteen hundred, as residents in the desolate area. No wonder Albritton termed the mission "Operation Overblown."
It's reassuring to know where our $300 billion are going. Aren't there enough threats in Iraq that we don't need to fight nonexistent ones?
There is not a lot of debate anymore about the fact that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is the loosest cannon in the arsenal. Consider his claim, made in a Sunday oped piece in the Washington Post that, "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis."
So who agrees with the Don's attempt at analogy?
Er, well, no one -- at least, no one in their right mind.
It is a measure of how out of touch Rumsfeld is not just with contemporary reality but also with well-established history that he has united both Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, foreign and defense policy veterans who are not often on the same page.
Kissinger, the former Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, rejected Rumsfeld's Germany-Iraq comparison as absurd. "In Germany, the opposition was completely crushed; there was no significant resistance movement," the German-born diplomat who served with U.S. forces in his native land after World War II, told CNN's "Late Edition."
Kissinger, a sympathizer with the administration's Iraq policies, made a game effort of trying to reinterpret Rumsfeld's remarks in a form that might make sense. But it was to no avail, as Brzezinski shredded Rumsfeld's rewrite of history.
"You know, that is really absolutely crazy to anyone who knows history. When we occupied Germany in '45, there was no alternative to our presence. There was no resistance. The Germans were totally crushed. There was no resistance. And a great many Germans realized that they had to go back to the democracy that they had before Hitler came to power. And many people don't know that Germany was a thriving democracy for decades before Hitler came to power," the man who served as national security adviser under President Carter said of Rumsfeld's rant.
"The situation in Iraq is totally different. And for Secretary Rumsfeld to be talking this way suggests either he doesn't know history or he's simply demagoguing."
At this late date, it really is not worth the time of energy that would be required to figure out whether Rumsfeld's historical education is deficient, whether he is "simply demagoguing" or whether, as his words and actions so frequently suggest, he is "absolutely crazy."
It is better simply to accept the assessment offered by Paul D. Eaton, the retired Army major general who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004. Writing in Sunday's New York Times with regard to Rumsfeld, Eaton argued that, "He has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq."
"Mr. Rumsfeld must step down," added Eaton, whose stance was echoed on CNN by U.S. Senator Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."Imagine what would happen if it were announced tomorrow in the headlines of the papers of America and throughout the world that Rumsfeld was fired," explained Biden. "It would energize, energize the rest of the world, to be willing to help us. It would energize American forces, it would energize the political environment. Yes, he should step down. I agree with every single statement made by the former general training Iraqi forces in Iraq."
In addition to imagining all of the possibilities that Biden suggests, a Rumsfeld resignation would also do something else: It would create an opening in the Bush Cabinet for a Secretary of Defense who has a grounding in reality -- rather than in the phantasmagoria that defines Donald Rumsfeld's warped worldview.
In the March 27 issue of The Nation, Ari Berman writes of top Democratic consultants' strategy to either completely avoid discussing Iraq or support the war while criticizing George Bush's handling of it.
As if to prove Berman's point, two days ago Hillary Clinton sent a fundraising email on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) under the bold subject heading, "Changing the Senate."
Clinton opens with the pronouncement, "You and I both know America needs a change of direction--and the American people know it too."
Yes, it's true that the American people know it. And, as Berman points out, "Asked what should be the highest priority for America this year, the largest number of respondents in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll chose bringing most of the troops home."
But in her 672 word email (hint to Dems: your emails are too long) calling for "change," how many times did Senator Clinton mention Iraq? You guessed it--not a mention.
Healthcare costs, education, energy, and New Orleans–-all critical issues--are each mentioned in the NY Senator's appeal, along with this assertion: "I know that Democrats like you are ready to stand up and take on these tough challenges."
Hillary's right on this. But Democrats and independents are also taking a stand on changing course in Iraq while leading Democrats run for cover. Where is their passion and attention on an issue that is paramount in voters' concerns?
Three years, 20,000 U.S. casualties, up to $300 billion in direct war expenditures and close to $1 trillion in estimated total costs--and still no position? If not now, when?
Here's an idea: contact Hillary, the DSCC, and the DCCC--tell them until they take a stand for you, you won't take a stand for them either. The bank is closed. Because while they might not listen to the people, we know that money still talks in Washington.