Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Last Throes Redux

Great News! The Washington Post reports that the U.S. is talking about "speeding up " the withdrawal from Iraq. I must have missed the story on what schedule we are accelerating, but, what the hey. From what I can gather the reason is that the level of the insurgency , while getting more violent, is not increasing in numbers. And, as we are told, insurgencies need to increase to be successful. Boy these guys are good. Anyway, since the level is not going up the insurgency must be waning, which means we have succeeded and can leave.

Isn't that great. It is the last throes all over again but who cares. Let's just get out of there.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Karl Rove Outed Valerie Plame

According to this source Rove leaked Valerie Plame's identity as a covert CIA agent to Bob Novak and probably others. If true, that opens the possibility of perjury charges, if he denied his involvement to the Grand Jury, as well as charges for the underlying crime.

Now, is it really credible that he was the only one in the White House in on this?

Torture is Beneath Us

This Op Ed piece by Burton J. Lee III, who served as George H. W. Bush's physician for four years, is an absolute must read by anyone concerned about the moral compass of our nation. This is how it begins -

"Having served as a doctor in the Army Medical Corps early in my career and as presidential physician to George H.W. Bush for four years, I might be expected to bring a skeptical and partisan perspective to allegations of torture and abuse by U.S. forces. I might even be expected to join those who, on the one hand, deny that U.S. personnel have engaged in systematic use of torture while, on the other, claiming that such abuse is justified. But I cannot do so.

It's precisely because of my devotion to country, respect for our military and commitment to the ethics of the medical profession that I speak out against systematic, government-sanctioned torture and excessive abuse of prisoners during our war on terrorism. I am also deeply disturbed by the reported complicity in these abuses of military medical personnel. This extraordinary shift in policy and values is alien to my concept of modern-day America and of my government and profession."

Friday, July 01, 2005

We Won - The Iraqis Can Handle It

When I suggested, tongue in cheek, that we accept the Vice President's position that the insurgency is in its last throes and begin withdrawing, I was only half kidding.

Now many "experts", most in the mold of the Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Cheney, would disagree with my suggestion. You remember, "cakewalk," "we know where the WMD are," and "we'll be greeted with flowers in the streets." The folks who gave us that wisdom now have a new litany of sage prognostications which they announce as if they are reading off stone tablets. "Failure is not an option". "Iraq will descend into chaos, possibly civil war". "We have to stay the course to avoid a humiliating defeat." "Our oil supplies are at stake." "Iraq will become a breeding ground for terrorists," "If we do not succeed Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Emirates and the rest of the region will be thrown into chaos and be vulnerable to extremists," ad nauseam.

The problem with all of these statements, aside from being totally refutable on their merits, is that they assume we can "win" in the sense of bringing a peaceful, democratic, stable, pro-American, devoid of insurgent groups, unified Iraq into existence. We can't. And the sooner we come to that realization the sooner we will be able to put this sorry episode behind us, bear the shame of having failed, put up with some more regional uncertainty, and hope to begin the very slow process of rebuilding our national and international self esteem.

Now I would not suggest that we withdraw without first having declared victory. After all, we succeeded in our declared war aim - Iraq has no WMD. On our secondary was aim we also succeeded - Hussein is behind bars. The interim government has been established and has promised to hold Constitutional elections this fall. They should be held to that deadline and their failure to achieve it will be theirs, not ours. The only remaining thing is for us to insist that the Iraqi government to establish a timetable for completing the process of rebuilding its army and police force - to be completed in not less than two years. Our withdrawal, which should be staged according to that timetable. (We should be able to begin immediately based on the numbers of troops the President has already announced are our fully operational.) If, in the future, the Iraqis fail to meet their timetables our withdrawals should continue as scheduled, to be sure they know we are serious.

Everyone knows that Vietnam is not a perfect analogy, but consider this. What was the difference between the U.S leaving Vietnam after the Tet offensive in the Spring of 1968, and when we finally withdrew in 1973? Sadly, the answer is about 30,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives. We could have had "Peace With Honor" in 1968 and saved ourselves and the Vietnamese a lot of death and destruction. But we didn't because we were told, failure was not an option, Vietnam would descend into chaos, the Communists would take over the country, we would suffer a humiliating defeat, the Soviet Union would use our defeat to press its advantage throughout Africa and the Middle East, and all of Southeast Asia would fall to the Communists, jeopardizing even South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Australia. At the time, these outcomes were accepted as gospel and were so dire that they could not be seriously debated.

Did any of that happen? Yes. We suffered a humiliating defeat and Vietnam became Communist. We got over our defeat and now have diplomatic relations with Vietnam. It's hard to argue that our international prestige was in worse shape after the war than it was during the last five years of the conflict. But the rest was all conventional wisdom bunk.

(There was one other thing, though. We destroyed our Army, which took over a decade to rebuild. We are well on the way to destroying it again and the rebuilding period could well be longer.)

Here we are again. We have a choice. We can accept reality now or accept it two, five or eight years from now. For the United States the difference will be the numbers of brave Americans killed or wounded in the process, the amount of money spent, and the level of resentment we leave behind. For the Iraqis, it will only mean a delay in the arrival of that day when they complete the process of establishing the country they desire, with or without civil war. It may be one country or maybe three, but they will get there. And the length of the period of turmoil will be less the sooner we leave.