Agam's Gecko
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Chicken Little
Chicken Little, and friend
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uring the past week, since President Bush began a belated "push-back" against his defeatist opposition in a speech delivered on Veterans' Day, it has been absolutely astounding to witness the degree of historical revisionism being indulged in by many members of the Democratic Party, and of the mass media.

Given that most of these -- politicians and "newspapers of record" alike -- were often more definitive in their statements on the need for regime change in Iraq than was even the Bush White House in the months before the war, and given the "chickenhawk" epithet used to dismiss supporters of Iraq's liberation who haven't actually gone to war themselves (like me, for example), I don't see any problem endorsing Jeff Goldstein's newly coined term - the chickenlittlehawk. Those who once stood on principle (or claimed they did), who once understood why Saddam's continuance in power post Sept. 11 was intolerable (or said they did), who backed regime change through votes in congress, and in editorial pages of the most influential newspapers, but who now cry that they were all deviously tricked into it by others, will now be fairly known as chickenlittlehawks.

Many honourable and principled people opposed Iraqi liberation from the outset -- these are not who I'm writing about. Some are true pacifists, for whom the use of force is never justified under any circumstances. I respect such people if their position is consistent, even though I can't share it. However these Democrat chickenlittlehawks are not pacifists, and we know this from their hawkish statements in support of Iraqi liberation, and in support of President Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq. Bush read out a couple of these statements during his Veterans' Day speech, and in the week that followed many dozens of similar statements have been retrieved from the archives. In cases involving such luminaries as John Kerry, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger, Richard Clarke, Nancy Pelosi, Carl Levin, Jay Rockefeller and many others, their pre-war statements are simply incompatible with their present day outrage.

This is not because of new information, and it is not due to changed minds. Everyone has the right to change their mind -- I certainly have on particular issues, especially over the past four years. If these people would admit to having changed their minds, either through a deeper, ethical self-questioning or through acquisition of new information -- in other words to admit to having been wrong -- I could respect them. But they don't. They want to say, "I told you so," when they did nothing of the sort. They want to bray that "We were misled into an unnecessary war," when they had access to the same intelligence analyses that the administration was using. They want to whine that, "Bush lied," when they are unable to point to a single lie on his part, and when many of their own statements of the time went far beyond what the administration had been saying. In short, they want to rewrite history, especially their own histories, for political expedience today.

Either they were being completely disingenuous then, or they're being disingenuous now (and quite possibly both), in the interest of political gain and in disregard for any consequences, including the demoralisation of their own service people at a time of war, weakening the will of the public to see the mission through to completion, and giving aid and comfort to their enemies. I would like to ask them (slightly changing Howard Baker's famous question from the Senate Watergate Committee hearings), "What did you know, and when did you forget it."

Al Qaeda leaders are not stupid. They recognise that the main battlefield is the information war taking place on the American home front, and they've openly stated that this is the battle they plan to win, and believe they can -- dreaming of reprising Vietnam, Somalia and Lebanon. Despite their strategic mistakes both inside and outside Iraq which have resulted in serious loss of status among Arabs and other Muslims around the world, their most effective enablers are still those voices in the United States calling for immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq -- in a word, capitulation. While the Arab populace most proportionately opposed to US actions in Iraq (Jordanians) have been rallying against al Qaeda in their thousands, in repeated and still growing demonstrations against the murderers of their own "9/11" (calling for Zarqawi to "go to hell" and worse), the terrorists' hopes for gaining the seminal territory for their new caliphate are continually buoyed up by triangulating politicians and opinion makers in the "news" business back on the home front. Some Americans are following al Qaeda's playbook to the letter -- most of them (I seriously hope), unwittingly.

Think about it: what will be the result if America turns tail and runs home now? In less than four weeks, Iraqis will elect a new parliament under the sovereign legitimacy of a democratic constitution -- the product of a national and inclusive negotiation process, ratified by democratic vote in the face of the most violent intimidation imaginable. What could be a more perfect time to leave them in the lurch -- from the point of view of al Qaeda? What better way to send a clear message around the world, demonstrating for all to see just who is the "stronger horse" (bin Laden's words) -- from the point of view of al Qaeda? How can it be ensured that the US will never again be trusted to keep its word, or to stand with those who are struggling the hardest against the common enemy?

Run up the white flag, that's how it's done. Run from the fight, now that well over 200,000 Iraqi forces are in service, the bulk of them either conducting anti-terrorist operations alongside coalition troops or in fact leading these operations with some degree of coalition support. When US politicians claim that only one Iraqi battalion is ready to fight, they are lying. That's months old news, when there was one battalion ranked at Level 1, in a four rank system. Level 1 means they are fully independent, need no support of any kind -- 100% self-sufficient, not 98% or 99% (those would be Level 2). Nearly all the rest are at Levels 2 and 3 -- planning and leading anti-terrorist operations with some degree of support, or "fighting alongside" (as Gen. Petraeus put it), respectively. The newest recruits and the most recently formed units will of course start out at Level 4, as they all have done. Sen. Levin, who I've heard recite the "one battalion" canard, knows all this -- he's on all the heavyweight committees, and Petraeus testified to him directly.

Gen. Petraeus was the head of the force training program, and says the units' progress up the ranks of readiness are good. The national forces have reached the stage where capabilities grow geometrically, and there hasn't been a case of Iraqi soldiers or police running from any kind of fight since the January 30 elections. They are committed, increasingly capable, and tantalisingly close to shouldering the fight on their own -- which they want as much as anyone else, and probably more.

John Murtha said yesterday that 80% of Iraqis want the US military to leave, citing this in his headline-grabbing call for a full immediate withdrawal. I think that's probably on the low side, and suspect that nearly all Iraq's people want foreign forces out of their country. I want this too. So does the Iraqi government, so does Bush, his generals in the field, and the courageous men and women under them. Everybody wants this -- but some want to do it right, while others seem driven to do it wrong. If Mr. Murtha could ask Iraqis the question he could only imply with his statement -- "Do you want coalition forces to leave immediately?" -- he would find his ratios reversed. Opinion surveys show that three quarters of Iraqis polled answer "no" to this question.

Representative Murtha, noted by every news factory as a Democrat "hawk" who originally supported the US action, expected to make waves today with his "changed" position. He did so, getting top billing in all the papers and news shows. For someone like this to suddenly join the Cut and Run Club was said to have "shifted the ground." But how much of a shift is it, when an astute blogger can find out where he was at a year and a half ago:
By Erin P. Billings and Emily Pierce
Roll Call Staff
May 6, 2004

Signaling a new, more aggressive line against the Bush administration's policy on Iraq, Rep. John Murtha (Pa.), the House Democrats' most visible defense hawk, will join Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) today to make public his previously private statements that the conflict is "unwinnable."
Maybe he made them public, and then everybody forgot? So they became private again? Or something? Here's more from May 2004, wai to Jeff again. So why all the fuss over this guy, the Democrats' big "defense hawk"? If eighteen months ago he said that the mission couldn't succeed, and today he says it's time to cut and run, are we to pretend that all the progress made between those two times didn't really happen? The vastly more effective and growing indigenous security forces, the continuing shift of public opinion against the vicious "freedom fighters", the political advancements which have met every single milestone set -- there is ample evidence of solid progress to anyone who honestly looks. The headlines would have more properly read, "Murtha Still Hasn't Changed His View."

Neither has Ted Kennedy. I saw him again this morning claiming that Bush had been misleading the country when he said the threat from Saddam had been "imminent". Bush never said that, and they can't find a single instance where he did. He is on record many times before the war, saying that the threat needed to be dealt with before it became imminent. Imminent is already too late. Kennedy puts words in Bush's mouth while his comrades struggle to erase the ones from their own. Here's Jay Rockefeller, as remembered by Tom Maguire. Here's Richard Clarke, as Byron York recalls his warning that, if things got too tough for Osama in Afghanistan, he'd just "Boogie to Baghdad." And here's a terrific dissection by Seixon of some "news report" that contains a boatload of disinformation about what Bush said, what Cheney said and much more -- all of it wrong. There are too many examples, but one that particularly caught my eye was this one from he who would be President:
CNN'S LARRY KING: "What about enhancing this war, Senator Kerry. What are your thoughts on going further than Afghanistan, all terrorist places ..."

KERRY: "Oh, I think we clearly have to keep the pressure on terrorism globally. This doesn't end with Afghanistan by any imagination. And I think the president has made that clear. I think we have made that clear. Terrorism is a global menace. It's a scourge. And it is absolutely vital that we continue, for instance, Saddam Hussein." (CNN's "Larry King Live," 12/14/01)
There are plenty of these, you can see more of them presented with photographic accompaniment over here. For a full and complete examination of who is really lying about Iraq, this is the article that really wraps it up, and may indeed be the one which finally prompted the administration to start their belated engagement in Setting the Record Straight.

And what about today? Howard Dean was on Russert last weekend, when he refused to appear together with Ken Mehlman, Republican Party chairman and Dean's counterpart on the other side. With such a weak grasp of the facts, I can see why:
HOWARD DEAN: I think Democrats always have to stand up and tell the truth and that's what we're doing. The truth is that the president misled America when he sent us to war. They did -- he even didn't tell the truth in the speech he gave. First of all, think there were a lot of veterans were kind of upset that the president chose their day to make a partisan speech. Secondly, the president didn't even tell the truth in his speech. He said that the Senate had the same intelligence that everybody else did. That was not true. He withheld some intelligence. Then he said the commissions all said that what he had done in the lead-up up to the war was fine.

TIM RUSSERT: What did he withhold?

DEAN: He withheld -- he knew, he knew that there was no connection between Saddam and 9/11 and he insisted on trying to make that case to the American people.

RUSSERT: But he never said Saddam was involved in September 11.

DEAN: He never actually came out and said just that. But in every speech he gave during the campaign and afterwards, he left the impression. He left the impression with 65 percent of the American people, who agreed that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. It made that -- it was dishonest, what he did.
Ah, another favourite "talking point" -- the conflation of the known contacts between Saddam and al Qaeda which went back a decade and which included offers of asylum for bin Laden if he had to leave Sudan, with the issue of involvement with Sept. 11. The first is well documented, and the second was never claimed. Yes, a lot of Americans did believe Saddam was probably in cahoots with bin Laden, and did tell pollsters that they felt it at least likely that he had a role in Sept. 11. That's the kind of result you'll get when asking people what they "believe" as opposed to "know," and not really very surprising.

What nobody has shown, since it never happened, is even a single statement by any official making the claim that it was true. Cheney was questioned on this repeatedly, and always answered that there was no confirmed evidence for it. Yet if you were to poll Americans today, asking if they believe that Mr. Cheney had claimed Saddam's involvement in Sept. 11, I would bet that most would say yes. The power of relentless media repetition of the dishonest mis-parsing of language, exemplified above by Mr. Dean -- "...he (Bush) insisted on trying to make that case..." but "never actually came out and said just that."

Christopher Hitchens this week noted some tricky parsing in a Washington Post "news" story intended to rebut the president's setting the record straight. They quote Bush asserting, "When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support." And then the Post knocks it down by answering, "The October 2002 joint resolution authorized the use of force in Iraq, but it did not directly mention the removal of Hussein from power." Hitchens continues:
A prize, then, for investigative courage, to Milbank and Pincus. They have identified the same problem, though this time upside down, as that which arose from the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act, during the Clinton-Gore administration, in 1998. That legislation--which passed the Senate without a dissenting vote--did expressly call for the removal of Saddam Hussein but did not actually mention the use of direct U.S. military force.

Let us suppose, then, that we can find a senator who voted for the 1998 act to remove Saddam Hussein yet did not anticipate that it might entail the use of force, and who later voted for the 2002 resolution and did not appreciate that the authorization of force would entail the removal of Saddam Hussein! Would this senator kindly stand up and take a bow? He or she embodies all the moral and intellectual force of the anti-war movement. And don't be bashful, ladies and gentlemen of the "shocked, shocked" faction, we already know who you are.
But Chris, you old ex-Trotskyist neo-con, there were no WMD's in Iraq! Whaddya say about that, huh? Even Hans Blix expected the coalition's intervention would uncover hidden weapons...
And this, of course, it actually has done. We did not know and could not know, until after the invasion, of Saddam's plan to buy long-range missiles off the shelf from Pyongyang, or of the centrifuge components buried on the property of his chief scientist, Dr. Mahdi Obeidi. The Duelfer report disclosed large latent facilities that were only waiting for the collapse of sanctions to resume activity. Ah, but that's not what you said you were looking for. ... Could pedantry be pushed any further?
Oh, I just bet it could. You just wait.

Meanwhile the anti-freedom-fighting savages yesterday slaughtered more than 70 Kurdish Shia Muslims at two mosques in north eastern Iraq, and more innocents in Baghdad where they destroyed civilian apartment blocks. While Congressman Murtha was grabbing top billing on al Jazeera, the New York Times, Washington Post and everywhere else with his new "plan" to desert the Iraqi people because the terrorists are obsessed with targeting Americans (the "primary target" of, and "catalyst" for the violence), and that "this is a flawed policy wrapped in an illoooosion," our common enemy once again bursts his illusion by doing what they're best at -- butchering the innocent and defenceless.

But this morning, watching C-SPAN live coverage, I see that Democalypse Now has been postponed for the time being. Reacting to the "Murtha Plan," House Republicans offered a resolution for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. "It is the sense of the House that deployment of US forces in Iraq be terminated immediately." They wanted to give the chickenlittlehawks an opportunity to stand up and be counted. The resolution was supported by three Democrats, and 403 members opposed. Iraqis, who are trying valiantly to establish their new society by making constant and observable progress that is being willfully ignored by defeatist US politicians and media, and their US and coalition allies standing with them against that despicable totalitarian enemy, have a momentary reprieve from the anticipated surrender. They do not want to follow al Qaeda's play book, and the Iraqi sky is not falling. But those who wish to fulfill Zawahiri's prediction by deserting them, might yet bring it down.

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