Agam's Gecko
Friday, December 02, 2005

was able to see most of George Bush's important speech on Wednesday night (here) via the APTN satellite feed, and I must say that it was a very good one. I guess his opponents are all lining up now to take credit for having forced him to come up with a new strategy for Iraq. (Don't tell them it's the same fundamental strategy he's been outlining consistently until now -- it would hurt their pride.)

Likewise I think that all the recent calls for immediate withdrawal, or at least a definite timing for complete withdrawal, was a case of the opposition party trying to jump out in front of the progress they surely know is taking place (but aren't very disposed to talk about). If the elections, which are set to take place less than two weeks from today, proceed in a reasonably peaceful way (and going by the first two national votes in January and October, that's a good bet), it's almost certain that there will be a drawdown of US force numbers very soon afterwards. The Dems (or some of them, see below) are hoping to take the credit themselves for this.

But back to the speech for a moment. This was said to be the first in a series of policy speeches related to Iraq and the wider war which Bush will be delivering in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, many people, especially those who have already made up their minds that this man is a dangerous, diabolical idiot (or some other combination of genius and stupidity leavened with pure evil), will not even hear what he had to say. They'll know the speech from a couple of bite-sized clips that the tv networks serve them (and if there was any verbal stumble during the 45 minutes, it would certainly be included as "crucial moments" of the speech for news purposes). As protein wisdom wrote a couple of days ago:
But what will be most clear is that control of the narrative by way of the legacy media is still the most important tool in a wealthy representative republic whose citizens are on the whole disengaged from politics and tend to follow stories only in soundbite format.
People really ought to hear this directly, especially if they hate Bush. Either watch it here (Real Player link), pick it out from C-SPAN's page, or at least read the text from here.

What I liked best though, was to see again the depth of feeling and empathy in this man, the qualities that won me over in the days after America was attacked. It was evident in his Veterans' Day speech when he spoke of the courage of the Iraqi people, and of their own nascent defence force as well as of American and other coalition service members. It's evident in many of his addresses, depending of course upon the subject. But it always strikes me as odd that while this president is far more open with his emotions than any other in my memory, his predecessor is the one famous for feeling everybody else's pain. I once asked a friend why he could be so sure that Mr. Bush was evil (he also "knew" that the US itself is evil, but that's another story). He replied that simply because Bush was completely devoid of empathy or compassion, which he could know for certain by observation, was enough proof.

If you saw the speech on tv, or if you can see clearly enough with the C-SPAN net video, there are at least three places where he talks about the courage of those making sacrifices for others, or the inspiring story of the Iraqi people's determination for freedom, where his empathetic emotions appear very close to the surface. And not momentarily either, but extending through whole passages of his delivery. I guess I like this in him, because I'm somewhat the same way lately, when I talk to others about these things. One such passage came when he spoke about Jeffrey Starr, the Marine whose letter to his girlfriend, discovered after he was killed in action, was twisted by the New York Times and quoted out of context to give a false impression of his feelings about what he was doing. The president didn't mention any of that of course, but his emotions almost got the best of him when he spoke Corporal Starr's words straight, as written:
One of those fallen heroes is a Marine Corporal named Jeff Starr, who was killed fighting the terrorists in Ramadi earlier this year. After he died, a letter was found on his laptop computer. Here's what he wrote, he said, "[I]f you're reading this, then I've died in Iraq. I don't regret going. Everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so they can live the way we live. Not [to] have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

There is only one way to honor the sacrifice of Corporal Starr and his fallen comrades -- and that is to take up their mantle, carry on their fight, and complete their mission. (Applause.)
I won't get into the strategy itself in this article -- it's all stuff that anybody who's been paying attention will have known for quite some time already. There were a few new pieces of information, but the strategy today is the same one he's been talking about for at least a year -- and a surprising number of people seem not to be able to understand it in simple English, so they keep crying that "There's no plan! We need a plan!" In fact, the White House released an unclassified version of the strategy showing the overall policy, strategic and political goals for success, and put it on the net for anyone to read. How many national leaders, while engaged in a war, have ever done that? Yet ten minutes later, there was John Kerry hogging the spotlight from his party's principle defense spokesman, whining that "There is no plan!" I heard him too, live via satellite over here, and he sounded pathetic. Oh by the way, the WH has also put all their "Setting the Record Straight" series on one page now. It's great to see them finally making the case in an effective way.

At least there is one Democrat who understands the stakes here, and that's Joseph Lieberman:
I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn. . . .

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory...

After a Thanksgiving meal with a great group of Marines at Camp Fallujah in western Iraq, I asked their commander whether the morale of his troops had been hurt by the growing public dissent in America over the war in Iraq. His answer was insightful, instructive and inspirational: "I would guess that if the opposition and division at home go on a lot longer and get a lot deeper it might have some effect, but, Senator, my Marines are motivated by their devotion to each other and the cause, not by political debates."
Why don't the Democrats have more statesmen like this?


he new Able Danger Blog has been digging for evidence of media coverage regarding the continuing efforts to open up the matter, and recommends this online interview with Tony Schaffer as being the best available overview of the program and its accomplishments. It's very long and I'm only part way through it, but it's really interesting so far. Highly recommended for those interested.

One of the bloggers over at the Able Danger page has distilled what we know so far about the matter, and even for someone who has tried to follow this since August, some of the points were a surprise to me. Wai to Mike for putting this together:
Simple questions with simple answers

Did Able Danger identify Mohamed Atta in January 2000? Yes.

Did they figure out that he was in the US on their own? No.

Did they identify all members of the 9/11 plot who were in the US by June 2000? Yes.

Did they identify any members of the plot who entered the US at a later date? No.

Was Able Danger shut down before most of the 9/11 hijackers entered the US? Yes.

Did they share any information about suspected Al Qaeda members with the FBI? No.

Did they find out Mohamed Atta had met with the other leaders of the 9/11 plot? Yes.

Were they kept from sharing their data because the suspects were here legally? Yes.

Do we know if they were tracking the movements and travel of Mohamed Atta? No.

Do we know Able Danger connected Mohamed Atta to Al Qaeda and Bin Laden? Yes.

Do we know Able Danger connected Mohamed Atta or anyone in Al Qaeda to Iraq? No.

Was Able Danger kept from sharing data with the FBI in the Clinton years? Yes.

Is there any indication that President Clinton ever knew about Able Danger? No.

Was Able Danger shut down and its team members reassigned in the Bush years? Yes.

Is there any indication that President Bush knew about Able Danger before 9/11? No.
Congressman Weldon, who has spearheaded the effort to get this out in the open, said that he expected a response from the Pentagon this week. Well, it's Friday and I haven't heard anything yet. You can add your name to his letter to Rumsfeld, already signed by over half of the House members, here.

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