Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Porky Pelosi Swagger

If it were a musical, I guess they would call it "Nancy, Get Your Gun."

After President Bush said he would veto any war-funding ill calling for an end-date for troops in Iraq, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi swaggered before the CNN cameras to declare "there's a new congress in town."

"When the president says he wants to veto this bill he says, I am vetoing accountability - accountability of my own administration and of the Iraqi government," she added. "He says, I forbid. He told me, I forbid, I forbid accountability. I forbid additional assistance and meeting the health needs of our military and our veterans. I forbid meeting the needs of the people struck by Katrina. I forbid s-chip helping the poorest children in America get healthcare. I forbid disaster agriculture assistance to farmers and cattlemen across the country who need this help."

Health needs of our military and veterans? Katrina? Healthcare for poor children? Agriculture assistance?

What, you may ask, does any of that have to do with the war in Iraq? Nothing.

Nothing, except it represents a portion of the pork Democrats larded into the House and Senate bills to bribe Congressmembers to vote for them.

Ah, that certainly is a cool breeze blowing through the halls of Congress since Nancy and her boys took over. Not.

Business as usual.

Big Nance also noted failed public confidence in Bush and the Iraq War, but she better check her numbers -- current polls how public confidence in Congress declining and rising for the president.

Friday, March 09, 2007

And in the glass houses department...

So much for the the Democractic revolution...

Current polls show public opinion of Democratically controlled Congress on par or lower than for President Bush, with both hanging in the low 30s for approval.

As one pundit put it: buyer's remorse?

Not surprising considering how the Democrats have failed to live up to the hype that swept them to power last fall. What exactly have they done since taking office?

Lessee, there was the non-binding resolution on the Iraq "surge," which is essentially the legislative equivalent of impotence. Now they're pimping a fall 2008 deadline for complete withdrawal from Iraq (still working out the bugs on that one -- "what's a more positive word for 'retreat?'")

On the issue corruption there was, well, there was some minor legislation about perks from lobbyists, which of course the lobbyists are already working around -- no more sitdown meals, but appetizers are okay. So put that filet mignon on a stick and eat it standing up and you're all good.

Ho hum.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Leaky Prosecution Convicts Libby

Scooter Libby, former aide to VP Dick Cheney, found guilty of perjury in the Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame leak case.

Not real surprising -- Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was hellbent to convict someone of SOMETHING in this, and Libby is the fish.

Before the pundits and shriekers spool up, a couple things to keep in mind:

-- Libby was not the one who leaked Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak, -- former Deputy Defense Secretary Richard Armitage (an opponent of the Iraq war) was. And Fitzgerald knew that from the start.

-- Libby was not charged with leaking Plame's identity.

-- Plame's identify was essentially the most talked about thing in Washington, according to the testimony at the trial, and Libby never denied that he participated in those discussions.

-- The substance of the charges was that Libby's notes indicated he had conversations about Plame's identity earlier that he said he did while testifying. So he was essentially accused of forgetting when he had specific conversations about something everyone was talking about.

-- Whether Libby is a liar or not is not clear. But it's clear that Joe Wilson is-- he wrote in the New York Times that he found no evidence Iraq sought uranium in Niger, but he told the CIA the exact opposite (as documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee report on prewar intelligence).

So while Libby's guilt is shaky at best, the bona fide leaker Armitage and the confirmed liar Wilson remain uncharged.

Libby's conviction will be overturned on appeal.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Preventing a new killing fields

William Shawcross was a vocal critic of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia and somewhat sympathetic to the Communist "freedom fighters" in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

Until he saw what they did when they took over in 1975.

The following piece by him appeared in the UK Times on Saturday:

Remember: for Cambodia, read Iraq

The Killing Fields illustrates brilliantly part of the long disaster that has been Cambodia over recent decades. It is a compelling film that follows the story of a young Cambodian, Dith Pran, who worked for the New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg in Cambodia during the brutal five-year war that resulted in the communist Khmer Rouge victory in April 1975.

At that moment all the foreigners and their Cambodian friends took refuge in the French Embassy, hoping for safe passage out of the country. They had not reckoned with the horrific total revolution that the communists planned to impose. They demanded that all the Cambodians, including Pran, surrender, while the foreigners were trucked out of the country. In tears, the foreigners, including Schanberg, let their friends go. Many were murdered at once as “Western agents”.

For the next three and a half years Pran had to conceal his past as he worked in the fields. The communists under Pol Pot shut Cambodia off and imposed one of the most vicious totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. Up to two million of the seven million people died, either murdered by the Khmer Rouge or from starvation and disease as a result of the draconian agrarian policies they imposed. Pran survived.

At the end of 1975 I went to the Thai-Cambodian border to talk to refugees. Their horrific stories of people with glasses being killed as “intellectuals” and of “bourgeois” babies being beaten to death against trees were being dismissed as CIA propaganda by the antiAmerican Western Left, but it seemed obvious to me that they were true. I wanted to discover how the Khmer Rouge had grown and come to power; I wrote a book called Sideshow, which was very critical of the way in which the United States had brought war to Cambodia while trying to extricate itself from Vietnam.

But horror had engulfed all of Indo-China as a result of the US defeat in 1975. In Vietnam and Laos there was no vast mass murder but the communists created cruel gulags and, from Vietnam in particular, millions of people fled, mostly by boat and mostly to the US. Given the catastrophe of the communist victories, I have always thought that those like myself who were opposed to the American efforts in Indochina should be very humble. I also think it wrong to dismiss the US efforts there as sheer disaster. Lee Kuan Yew, the former longtime Prime Minister of Singapore, has a subtler view. He argues that, although America lost in IndoChina in 1975, the fact that it was there so long meant that other SouthEast Asian countries had time to build up their economies to relieve the poverty of their peasants and thus resist communist encroachment — which they probably could not have done had IndoChina gone communist in the 1960s.

That long view seems to me to be the one that has to be applied to Iraq. I still believe the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was the correct thing to do — and it was something only the United States could have done. For all the horrors that extremist Sunnis and Shias are inflicting on each other today, the US rid the world of the Pol Pot of the Middle East. So long as the vile Saddam family regime remained in power there was no hope of progress in the region. There is still hope — if we do not abandon the Iraqi people.

In Indo-China the majority of Western journalists (including myself) believed that the war could not or should not be won. Similarly today, for too many pundits hatred (and it really is that) of Bush and Blair dominates perceptions. Armchair editorialists love to dismiss the US effort in terms of Abu Ghraib or Haditha. They were not typical moments. Evidence of the courage and commitment of ordinary US soldiers is inadequately covered by many papers, as is the courage of millions of ordinary Iraqis.

There are encouraging signs — the Iraqi military is becoming ever more competent; Sunni tribal leaders seem increasingly angry with al-Qaeda brutalities; parliament is discussing contentious legislation on dividing oil and gas revenues fairly between different parts of the country; the dinar is still strong, indicating confidence; most Iraqis still seem to desire a united country.

Of course huge mistakes have been made. We should lament and criticise them but not dismiss the underlying effort. President Bush’s new strategy (and probably his last throw) is to “surge” thousands of US troops into Baghdad. Rather than abusing him we should all be hoping that it is not too little too late.

The consequences of an American defeat in Iraq would be even worse than in IndoChina. As the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Musab al-Zarqawi, said before he was killed by a US air strike: “The shedding of Muslim blood is allowed in order to disrupt the greater evil of disrupting jihad.”

If Iraq collapses, such nihilist killing will spread far wider. As in Cambodia, bloody mass murder is the only alternative to what the US-led coalition is trying to achieve. Thanks to the sacrifice of young American and British soldiers, and to the courage of millions of ordinary Iraqis, the country can still have a better future — if we remain committed. Remember 1975.

William Shawcross is the author of Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia, and Allies: The US, Britain, Europe and the War in Iraq

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Gore Pool

Great editorial in the Wall Street Journal today about the woo-ha regarding Al Gore's profligate energy use compared to his moralizing on global warming.

Gore's palatial Tennessee homes uses more electricity in a month as the average American household uses in a year. That he balances this by purchasing "carbon offsets" -- investments that reduce carbon dioxide output, effectively cancelling out his overweight emissions -- misses the point, says the WSJ.

While expects everyone else to suffer the inconveniences that go along with conservation, he has the luxury of buying his way out.

"We don't begrudge Mr. Gore his Tennessee spread or his pool, but his energetic energy use does underscore the complicated nature of modern economic life and the real costs of "doing something" about global warming, "says the WSJ. "The pleasures of affluence take energy, whether they be relaxing in a hot tub after a long day of predicting the end of the Greenland ice sheet, or flying in a private jet to talk political strategy with Leo DiCaprio. You never know where you're going to leave your next carbon footprint.

"Mr. Gore is rich and fortunate enough to be able to afford the "carbon offset" for his energy indulgences. The middle-class parents who need a gas-guzzling SUV to haul the kids to soccer practice might not be so lucky. They might even settle for an unheated pool."