For those who enjoy war, everyone is a potential enemy.

I agree with Andrew Sullivan in describing President Bush as “a fucking disgrace”, based on this recap of the president meeting with a group of sycophants conservative journalists at the White House:

President Bush may have been most emphatic though when it came to the topic of “those left wing ads” attacking General Petraeus. The president brought the infamous New York Times MoveOn ad up without prompting, saying of his reaction to it: “I was incredulous at first and then became mad.”

“It is one thing to attack me — which is fine,” the president said. But the president’s view the attack on Petraeus as “an attack on men and women in uniform.” [sic somewhere in there]

As usual, our president sees the world only in black or white, and his view is concerned with the petty rather than the important. I don’t feel safer knowing this, even though I think Kathryn Jean Lopez expects us all to applaud the president’s irrational mind.

For bonus points, the blog entry at The Corner has an ad in the sidebar that asks “Why is MoveOn attacking Rudy Guiliani?” The answer: “Because he’s their worst nightmare.” Schoolyard egotism is not mature statecraft.

About that surge…

In its determination to remake Iraq into whatever it’s actually trying to create in Iraq (rhetoric aside), the Bush administration has clearly diverted its attention abandoned the legitimate war it entered. From Afghanistan:

Taliban insurgents carried out 103 suicide bombings in Afghanistan in the first eight months of 2007, a 69 percent increase over the same period last year, according to a United Nations report that is expected to be issued publicly on Monday. The record number of attacks killed more than 200 people, 80 percent of them civilians.

We had a clear chance in Afghanistan. There was no guarantee that continued dedication to the war we accepted¹ would end in a stable democracy. The seeds were there, as our stabilization efforts have apparently provided some results. But the Bush administration abandoned that war to fight the perpetual war, with Iraq the next, illogical frontier.

When the Bush administration says we need to stay and fight in Iraq because we started it, they lie. They don’t care about that. If they did, we’d be in Afghanistan to win, not to pursue the appearance of winning. And based on these numbers – remember, the Wall Street Journal’s editors believe this statistic to be a valid measure of success – we’re losing ground in Afghanistan. Heckuva job.

¹ “Accepted” isn’t really the word I want here, but I can’t think of a concise way to say that we were attacked with the support and protection of the Taliban. We didn’t start that war. Afghanistan was merely the battleground of a legitimate national security threat. We had to accept the rude invitation, for want of a less crude explanation.

Any fool can compare irrelevant statistics.

The editors at Opinion Journal put forth their case for the success of “the surge” in Iraq:

What’s more important is to note the changes that have taken place in Iraq, all of which indicate that the “surge” is working and that we are at last on our way toward a positive military outcome. As General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker prepare their testimony to Congress later this month, it’s worth pointing to a few indicators:

I’ll get to the indicators in a moment. I just want to demonstrate how clearly the editors have stated their interpretation of the included data points.

  • There were 30 “multiple fatality” (usually suicide) bombings in August 2007. In August 2006 there were 52.
  • There were 120 daily attacks by insurgents and militias last month, down from 160 in August 2006.
  • 60,000 prisoners were being held by the U.S. and Iraq as of last month, up from 27,000 a year earlier.
  • Iraqi security forces currently number 360,000, up from 298,000 a year ago.

Regarding the first two points, is it a relevant comparison to use statistics from last August, when the surge was merely a glimmer in the Bush administration’s eye? Wouldn’t monthly statistics from just before the surge began be more informative? Or at least important for context? Regardless of the outcome, using statistics from 6 months before the surge began looks like cherry-picking.

The last statistic is rather empty, outside any other context (wages, employment opportunities, actual merit-based achievements of the security forces, to name a few), so I’m discarding it.

I find the third indicator most interesting. Merely having twice as many prisoners is a measure of success. There is no mention of findings of guilt in a court of law. They’re prisoners, which means we have 33,000 more terrorists in captivity. Allow me to be kind and say that’s incomplete. Due process, burden of proof, innocent until proven guilty? Sound familiar?

We can’t be sure that the prisoners are receiving any sort of judicial oversight, so the increased prisoner statistic is just a worthless number, although the Journal’s endorsement says much. It’s just as easy to conclude that our military is rounding people up and imprisoning them without cause. I assume the only reason we’re supposed to accept that the prisoners are justly held is because we’re America and we’re just. It’s a worthwhile assumption rooted in our history, although the Bush administration regularly demonstrates its lack of interest in continuing its practice. But even if that assumption is correct, this statistic’s current form is nothing more than propaganda.

Republicans support the heterosexual troops.

This point didn’t fit in my first post on yesterday’s House vote, but it’s worth making:

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said passage would threaten the safety of the troops rather than protect them because the measure would arbitrarily leave units at home that had specialized skills needed in the war.

Arbitrarily? Is it arbitrary to oust gay service members from the military without any misconduct on their part? What if they have “specialized skills needed in the war”? Like Arabic language skills, for example. If we can’t translate gathered intelligence because it’s in Arabic and the persons who can tell us what it says are at home, does that threaten the safety of the troops? Should I expect Rep. Hunter to sponsor legislation to repeal Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell? If not, why is marginalizing gay and lesbian service members more important than protecting the troops?

Democrats want to bring the troops home if doing so hurts Republicans.

I’m interested in yesterday’s House vote guaranteeing time at home for troops returning from Iraq for personal reasons. As I’ve written before, I have two brothers in the military. My 19-year-old brother is in the Marines. He just left for Iraq for the first time. This concerns me, even though he’s beyond excited about going. He’s in for a shock, of course. But this bill isn’t geared¹ to him.

My brother in the Navy left for Iraq on Monday. This is obviously an occupational hazard, so as much as he is realistic and uninterested in returning, he must follow orders. Within the context of the House’s bill, my brother is returning to Iraq six weeks after returning home from his first tour. He will probably not be in Iraq more than a few months, but he barely settled in and unpacked. How long do the president and the Congress think this can continue if most service members think like my brother in the Navy rather than my brother in the Marines?

¹ I understand that the bill is directed at one man only, President Bush. It’s a cowardly political move aimed at shaming Republicans rather than having Democrats lead. Democrats must stop believing the president’s rhetoric about presidential power for war-making.

Why do you support the enemy?

Glenn Reynolds (approvingly?) links to Victor Davis Hanson highlighting an atrocity, but only provides the concluding rant. That rant:

For a self-congratulatory culture issuing moral lectures on everything from global warming to the dangers of smoking, the silence of the West toward the primordial horror from Gaza to Anbar is, well, horrific in its own way as well…

The primordial horror he says we’re ignoring a story of al Qaeda terrorists literally baking a child and serving him to his family. Figurative show of hands here… who isn’t repulsed by that story? Who believes the murderers capable of doing that aren’t the vilest scum possible?

If you haven’t spoken out against it, Victor Davis Hanson wants you to know that you should be ashamed of yourself. You’re part of a self-congratulatory culture committing a horror of your own, since your silence – and probably any sort of questioning of the current administration’s efforts to prevent such horrors – clearly indicates your approval that the act he mentioned is somehow not despicable. Or at least no worse than Paris Hilton’s troubles or whether or not you were able to score an iPhone last week.

Clearly punditry has few minimum requirements beyond smug, ignorant self-righteousness.

Not Acting Presidential

This lovefest for Democrats and their progressive rebuke of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” is fascinating:

The presidential candidates are dividing starkly along party lines on one of the signature fights of the 1990s: whether the 14-year-old policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be repealed and gay men and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military.

In back-to-back debates in New Hampshire this week, every Democratic candidate raised his or her hand in support of repealing that policy, while not a single Republican embraced the idea. Democrats argued with striking unanimity that it was time to end the uneasy compromise that President Bill Clinton reached in 1993, after his attempt to lift the ban on gay men and lesbians in the military provoked one of the most wrenching fights of his young administration.

Right. Allow me to quote Kip:

… If Biden, Dodd, Obama and Clinton are all so yippee-ki-yay to abolish this abomination, then why haven’t any of them actually introduced a bill in the Senate to do so? Recall that the House version already exists (although it is languishing in committee) — all any Senator has to do is introduce the same text. …

That’s obvious, and as Kip also points out, Sen. Clinton is on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where such a bill would begin. So why exactly should those of us who think that members of our military should be judged solely on their conduct be happy about this?

Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster who also works for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, argues, “Iraq and the war on terror have created a whole new narrative around the issue of gays serving in the military.” Advocates of changing the policy increasingly argue that it is costing the military talent and manpower it badly needs.

On the other hand, there are political risks, which Republican candidates hinted at this week. If the Democrats emphasized the issue, even in their primaries, it could seem a distraction from issues that are more important to most Americans, including the war, gasoline prices and health care, said David Winston, a Republican pollster. Beyond that, in the view of some Republicans, the issue feeds into the criticism that surfaced in the early 1990s — that the military should not be a laboratory for social engineering.

Why should I vote for a Democratic candidate who can’t figure out that a narrative explaining why booting translators, who are in short supply, from the military during a war in which those skills are most needed is the perfect, impenetrable argument against such nonsense that the war demands institutionalized bigotry? If they can’t understand that, they are idiots incapable of formulating any strategy more complex than basic pandering. If they understand it, they are cowards afraid to challenge stupidity. I’ll vote for neither.

Post Script: Mitt Romney believes that now is not the time to repeal “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” because we should not undertake a “social experiment” in a time of war. First, as currently defined, that war is permanent. Quite the convenient catch-22. Second, Romney believes that equality under the law is a “social experiment.” I don’t know which point makes him more unfit to be president.

Memorial Day

There’s a lot going on with the contract search and home renovations/repairs, so I’ve been a bit busy. I have a bunch of stuff to catch up with here, which I’ll do tomorrow. For today, I just want to post a quick Memorial Day thought.

As I’ve mentioned here before, two of my brothers are in the military. One brother is in the Navy, serving as part of an aircrew flying in Iraq. He’s been out for almost six months, in Japan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Thankfully, he’ll be home from this tour one week from today. Today, it’s important to me to remember that too many families are dealing with loss instead of homecoming. I do not want to forget that.

My other brother is finishing up training in the Marines. He’ll be home in a couple of weeks for a short leave between training and shipping out to his new base in Japan. I don’t know much right now, but I hope Japan means Japan and not Iraq. I’m not optimistic, unfortunately. Unlike my brother in the Navy who lost any misguided illusions about war he may have had before he shipped out, I don’t think my brother the Marine has an understanding of the horrific nature of any way, noble or not. Breaking that must occur, but I hope it comes easy and soon. For now, I appreciate his desire to serve.

May they both continue to stay out of harm’s way.

Orwell would be dismayed but not surprised

No matter how many times it’s used, the euphemism fools no one:

Of course, [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed]’s credibility is a very big “if.” He might have lied in his confession about his role in the 1993 WTC bombing; he might have lied to his CIA captors (which itself would say something about the effectiveness of their aggressive interrogation); or, in selecting bits and pieces out of their full context, the CIA project officer may have accidentally mis-briefed the 9/11 Commission staff.

If nothing else, good writing demands using the word torture. Don’t put two words where one will prove sufficient suffice. Regardless, even the partisans know that we torture. Using code words doesn’t make it less offensive.

On not finishing the job

We all know Iraq is where we’re supposed to be focused. Without said focus, we want the terrorists to win. Got it. But the Bush administration should be ashamed for allowing Afghanistan to get back to this point:

Taliban militants have hacked off the ears and noses of three Afghan drivers captured helping American forces.

Obviously we can’t stop every attack like this, but it highlights how little commitment the administration has that it moved on before standing up a free, stable society in Afghanistan. Mission accomplished, heckuva job, Brownie, and all that.

Via Andrew Sullivan