Commentary Magazine


Topic: CBS News

Flotsam and Jetsam

NIAC has a “good name” in Iran. Of course, what’s not to like about a group that lobbies against sanctions?

PelosiCare fallout continues: “House passage of a sweeping anti-abortion amendment has set off a wave of soul-searching and finger-pointing among abortion rights activists — many of whom thought they’d found a safe harbor when Democrats won the White House and big majorities in Congress last year.”

More evidence the public doesn’t share the Obami’s enthusiasm for a civilian trial for KSM: “A new CBS News poll finds that only 40 percent of Americans believe suspected terrorists should be tried in an open criminal court. Fifty-four percent say such suspects should be tried in a closed military court.”

Lindsey Graham stumps Eric Holder on Mirandizing Osama bin Laden. And NPR reports it.

Obama taints the jury pool — and proves that this is harder than it looks.

Stunning video of the mom of a 9/11 victim giving Holder an earful. “The theatrics are going to take over at this point,” she explains.

Rudy Giuliani takes it personally also: “Giuliani called parts [of] his reaction to the decision ‘almost personal’ and said that ‘knowing many of the people who died that day,’ and having stayed in close touch with survivors, ‘there’s no reason to put them through what will become a much more intense reliving of what happened with the terrorists getting an equal chance to explain their side of the story,’ in a setting ‘where their lawyers would be unethical if they didn’t pursue every avenue of acquittal,’ which will probably include ‘putting the government on trial’ and, potentially, creating an atmosphere ‘of moral equivalence,’ which will be very upsetting.”

The New York Times says Asia is over Obama: “Instead, with the novelty of a visit as America’s first black president having given way to the reality of having to plow through intractable issues like monetary policy (China), trade (Singapore, China, South Korea), security (Japan) and the 800-pound gorilla on the continent (China), Mr. Obama’s Asia trip has been, in many ways, a long, uphill slog.”

From the “Most Transparent Administration in History” file: “Sen. Joe Lieberman said Wednesday he would hold a hearing this week on the Fort Hood shooting and may use his subpoena power to force government officials to testify. The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is moving ahead with the Thursday hearing despite pressure from the Obama administration to delay congressional inquiries.”

And we should trust these people with health care? “The chairman of the Obama administration’s Recovery Board is telling lawmakers that he can’t certify jobs data posted at the Recovery.gov Web site — and doesn’t have access to a ‘master list’ of stimulus recipients that have neglected to report data.”

The president says all that is just a “side issue.” What? This isn’t an “exact science.” Fills you with confidence, huh?

NIAC has a “good name” in Iran. Of course, what’s not to like about a group that lobbies against sanctions?

PelosiCare fallout continues: “House passage of a sweeping anti-abortion amendment has set off a wave of soul-searching and finger-pointing among abortion rights activists — many of whom thought they’d found a safe harbor when Democrats won the White House and big majorities in Congress last year.”

More evidence the public doesn’t share the Obami’s enthusiasm for a civilian trial for KSM: “A new CBS News poll finds that only 40 percent of Americans believe suspected terrorists should be tried in an open criminal court. Fifty-four percent say such suspects should be tried in a closed military court.”

Lindsey Graham stumps Eric Holder on Mirandizing Osama bin Laden. And NPR reports it.

Obama taints the jury pool — and proves that this is harder than it looks.

Stunning video of the mom of a 9/11 victim giving Holder an earful. “The theatrics are going to take over at this point,” she explains.

Rudy Giuliani takes it personally also: “Giuliani called parts [of] his reaction to the decision ‘almost personal’ and said that ‘knowing many of the people who died that day,’ and having stayed in close touch with survivors, ‘there’s no reason to put them through what will become a much more intense reliving of what happened with the terrorists getting an equal chance to explain their side of the story,’ in a setting ‘where their lawyers would be unethical if they didn’t pursue every avenue of acquittal,’ which will probably include ‘putting the government on trial’ and, potentially, creating an atmosphere ‘of moral equivalence,’ which will be very upsetting.”

The New York Times says Asia is over Obama: “Instead, with the novelty of a visit as America’s first black president having given way to the reality of having to plow through intractable issues like monetary policy (China), trade (Singapore, China, South Korea), security (Japan) and the 800-pound gorilla on the continent (China), Mr. Obama’s Asia trip has been, in many ways, a long, uphill slog.”

From the “Most Transparent Administration in History” file: “Sen. Joe Lieberman said Wednesday he would hold a hearing this week on the Fort Hood shooting and may use his subpoena power to force government officials to testify. The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is moving ahead with the Thursday hearing despite pressure from the Obama administration to delay congressional inquiries.”

And we should trust these people with health care? “The chairman of the Obama administration’s Recovery Board is telling lawmakers that he can’t certify jobs data posted at the Recovery.gov Web site — and doesn’t have access to a ‘master list’ of stimulus recipients that have neglected to report data.”

The president says all that is just a “side issue.” What? This isn’t an “exact science.” Fills you with confidence, huh?

Read Less

How NIAC Lobbied Against Dennis Ross

As revealed in Eli Lake’s bombshell story, the National Iranian-American Council has often acted as an advocate for the interests of the Iranian regime, especially in the early days of the Obama administration and before the Iranian election in June. As Lake documents, the leader of this “Iranian-American” organization, Trita Parsi, is not an American citizen. And the council, which claims to speak on behalf of the 1-million-strong Iranian-American community, has only a few thousand members.

It is also a 501(c)(3), which means that its mission and operation must be nonpartisan — no lobbying allowed. But as information obtained in the discovery phase of a lawsuit filed by NIAC against a critic shows, the organization has been deeply involved in political advocacy. What follows is but one example.

When it became clear in early January that President-elect Obama intended to pick Dennis Ross to oversee Iran policy at the State Department, NIAC sprung into action to scuttle the nomination.

In a Google group called the “New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee,” where several political allies of NIAC, including lobbying groups, participated, Patrick Disney, NIAC’s acting policy director, wrote that “I should be clear — I think we can still influence the [Ross] selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible.” He continued: “NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. … I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.”

This was followed by e-mail from Mike Amitay, who is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Center, a George Soros–funded 501(c)(4) — a lobby. Amitay agreed on the need for action against Ross and added that “a most troubling aspects [sic] of [Ross’s] limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.”

So, involvement in United Against a Nuclear Iran was a disqualification for the New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee. UANI’s goal is to “promote efforts that focus on vigorous national and international, social, economic, political and diplomatic measures” in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program. Its leadership consists of a bipartisan cast of foreign-policy leaders — it is an utterly, even conspicuously, centrist organization. But for NIAC, even an organization that so much as expresses concern about the nuclear program is unacceptable.

This e-mail exchange shows not just the political radicalism of NIAC and its advocacy of Iranian-regime interests but also the way the organization skates blithely across some very thin ice. Here we have an employee of NIAC acting in his official capacity and using his NIAC e-mail address to help organize a campaign to undermine an Obama-administration nominee. NIAC claims, and its tax status requires, that it is not a lobby and spends zero percent of its time lobbying. Yet Disney is joined by Amitay, a lobbyist, in organizing what is clearly a lobbying campaign. Nowhere is there an attempt to distinguish between the activities of the two groups or to assume roles consistent with their legal statuses. In fact, just the opposite — it is Disney who seeks to spearhead the campaign.

And this comes in the context of a litany of other incriminating revelations — that Parsi set up meetings between U.S. congressmen and the Iranian ambassador to the UN, that members of NIAC attended meetings explicitly devoted to establishing lobbying agendas and tactics, and so on. And all this, it must be added, in order to help the Iranian regime get sanctions lifted and end American opposition to its nuclear ambitions.

Below the jump is a copy of the e-mail exchange in question.
Read More

As revealed in Eli Lake’s bombshell story, the National Iranian-American Council has often acted as an advocate for the interests of the Iranian regime, especially in the early days of the Obama administration and before the Iranian election in June. As Lake documents, the leader of this “Iranian-American” organization, Trita Parsi, is not an American citizen. And the council, which claims to speak on behalf of the 1-million-strong Iranian-American community, has only a few thousand members.

It is also a 501(c)(3), which means that its mission and operation must be nonpartisan — no lobbying allowed. But as information obtained in the discovery phase of a lawsuit filed by NIAC against a critic shows, the organization has been deeply involved in political advocacy. What follows is but one example.

When it became clear in early January that President-elect Obama intended to pick Dennis Ross to oversee Iran policy at the State Department, NIAC sprung into action to scuttle the nomination.

In a Google group called the “New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee,” where several political allies of NIAC, including lobbying groups, participated, Patrick Disney, NIAC’s acting policy director, wrote that “I should be clear — I think we can still influence the [Ross] selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible.” He continued: “NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. … I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.”

This was followed by e-mail from Mike Amitay, who is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Center, a George Soros–funded 501(c)(4) — a lobby. Amitay agreed on the need for action against Ross and added that “a most troubling aspects [sic] of [Ross’s] limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.”

So, involvement in United Against a Nuclear Iran was a disqualification for the New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee. UANI’s goal is to “promote efforts that focus on vigorous national and international, social, economic, political and diplomatic measures” in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program. Its leadership consists of a bipartisan cast of foreign-policy leaders — it is an utterly, even conspicuously, centrist organization. But for NIAC, even an organization that so much as expresses concern about the nuclear program is unacceptable.

This e-mail exchange shows not just the political radicalism of NIAC and its advocacy of Iranian-regime interests but also the way the organization skates blithely across some very thin ice. Here we have an employee of NIAC acting in his official capacity and using his NIAC e-mail address to help organize a campaign to undermine an Obama-administration nominee. NIAC claims, and its tax status requires, that it is not a lobby and spends zero percent of its time lobbying. Yet Disney is joined by Amitay, a lobbyist, in organizing what is clearly a lobbying campaign. Nowhere is there an attempt to distinguish between the activities of the two groups or to assume roles consistent with their legal statuses. In fact, just the opposite — it is Disney who seeks to spearhead the campaign.

And this comes in the context of a litany of other incriminating revelations — that Parsi set up meetings between U.S. congressmen and the Iranian ambassador to the UN, that members of NIAC attended meetings explicitly devoted to establishing lobbying agendas and tactics, and so on. And all this, it must be added, in order to help the Iranian regime get sanctions lifted and end American opposition to its nuclear ambitions.

Below the jump is a copy of the e-mail exchange in question.

—–Original Message—–
From: Mike Amitay [mailto:mamitay@osi-dc.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 2:35 PM
To: jparillo@psr.org; PDisney@niacouncil.org; new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com
Subject: RE: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

Ross has not worked extensively on Iran, though his most recent employer WINEP, is a “think-tank” created by AIPAC leadership in the 1980s. As Jill points out, a most troubling aspects of his limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran. (Holbrooke also serves on this body). UANI is a right-wing “pro-Israel” PR effort established to push a more militant US policy towards Iran. If in fact Ross appointment confirmed, I find this deeply troubling. One question to consider, however, is whether publicly objecting to Ross would damage our ability to work with him and others in USG in the future.

###########################################

Mike Amitay – Senior Policy Analyst
Middle East, North Africa and Central Eurasia
Open Society Institute / Open Society Policy Center
1120 19th Street, NW – 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20036
202-721-5625 (direct) 202-530-0138 (fax)
www.soros.org / www.opensocietypolicycenter.org

—–Original Message—–
From: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com [mailto:new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Jill Parillo
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 2:03 PM
To: PDisney@niacouncil.org; new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com; IranPWG@yahoogroups.com
Subject: RE: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

On Ross, I sent an email earlier, but I would like to add:
Engagement with Iran is aimed at reducing tension in US-Iranian relations, to avoid war and build confidence, so to get to a point where together we can develop common policies that will US and Iranian concerns.

If someone is sent to the talks (like when Burns was) who could increase tension, the policy of engagement as a solution to the Iran challenge will not be a success.
We should talk to those that know Ross well and his policies, and ability to negotiate in a peaceful fair manner.

In spending time as part of the Department of Disarmament Affairs and at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, I sat through several high level negotiations where country Ambassadors walked out of the room because of Bush Administration officials being very rude. The right person and the right policy are important.

We need to also pay attention to who the envoy will report to, in this case it is Clinton, not Obama.
I have never met Ross in person, so I will not judge if he is a good or bad pick. However, I can say I have concerns, since he signed onto the attached paper which says, “WE BELIEVE A MILITARY STRIKE IS A FEASIBLE OPTION…..the United States will need to augment its military presence in the region. This should commence the first day the new President enters office.” I am taking this out of context, so please look at this section for yourself, but in any case, it is concerning.

Best,

Jill

PS. I am off to speak in Italy until Jan 19-Pugwash Conference, so I may not be available for much of the next 10 days. Thanks

—–Original Message—–
From: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com [mailto:new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of pdisney@niacouncil.org
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 1:33 PM
To: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com; IranPWG@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

All,

As the rumors appear to be more substantiated by the hour, I think we should start a conversation about what our response will be if Dennis Ross is named Iran envoy.

I should be clear–I think we can still influence the selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible. However, if it does prove to be Ross, we have to make a choice as to how to respond.

NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. We would make it clear that we prefer to work with Obama, and that Ross does not align with Obama’s plan to change America’s approach. Obviously, there are pro’s and con’s to any strategy, but if it’s simply impossible for us to work with Ross, we should be in a position to say I told you so after he messes everything up. But I’d like to hear others’ thoughts.

Again, this is a brainstorm rather than a concrete plan. I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.
Thanks very much.
-p

January 7, 2009, 10:21 AM
Obama
Picks Foreign Envoys

Posted by Michelle

Levi

Transition officials confirm to CBS News’ Marc Ambinder that President-elect Obama has asked Dennis Ross, Richard Haas, and Richard Holbrooke, to serve as his chief emissaries to world hot spots. Ross and Holbrooke both served in senior Clinton administration roles. Haas had senior posts in the Bush administration from 2001 to 2003 and in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

It’s expected that Ross will be assigned the Iran portfolio, that Holbrooke, the hard-headed architect of the Dayton Peace Accords, will take the difficult Southwest Asia portfolio, including India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that Haas will deal with the Middle East.

Each men’s turf is still in flux, so these early assignments are not firm.
Read More Posts In Transition

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

–~–~———~–~—-~————~——-~–~—-~
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups “New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee” group.
To post to this group, send email to new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee+unsubscribe@googlegroups.com
For more options, visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee?hl=en
-~———-~—-~—-~—-~——~—-~——~–~—

Read Less

Good News From Sadr City

The degree of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s leverage over thug cleric Moqtada Sadr is becoming more clear. The New York Times reports that Iraqi troops poured into Sadr City on Tuesday and, meeting little resistance, claimed key positions deep inside the neighborhood that’s been a hub of Shiite militia violence since March. The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung says this operation is actually being carried out in accordance with last week’s ceasefire arrangement between Sadr and the Iraqi government. The government’s plan to root out criminals and militia members is underway and no one in this bastion of Sadr support seems to be doing a thing about it.

There have been no reported casualties. None. Moreover, “Iraqi troops moved forward without any major incidents.” Virtually every detail in the Times story is encouraging. Not the least of which is the report of Iraqi military self-suffiency:

No American ground forces accompanied the Iraqi troops, not even military advisers. But the Americans shared intelligence, coached the Iraqis during the planning and provided overhead reconnaissance throughout the operation. Still, the operation was very much an Iraqi plan.

This is not an American operation with an Iraqi face or even a joint-operation. This is simply what allies do.

The Los Angeles Times quotes U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Stover:

I think this is the turning point where we start seeing the Special Group criminals picked up by the Iraqi security forces and a lasting peace for the Iraqi people. . . And it will be because they did it, not us.

And at CBS News, lefty blogger Kevin Drum makes the following acknowledgment: “And it’s worth saying that the March operation in Basra looks better now than it did at the time too.” Though, with nothing worrying to write about, he tags his coverage thusly: “It may all go to hell tomorrow. Who knows? For now, though, keep your fingers crossed.”

The degree of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s leverage over thug cleric Moqtada Sadr is becoming more clear. The New York Times reports that Iraqi troops poured into Sadr City on Tuesday and, meeting little resistance, claimed key positions deep inside the neighborhood that’s been a hub of Shiite militia violence since March. The Washington Post‘s Karen DeYoung says this operation is actually being carried out in accordance with last week’s ceasefire arrangement between Sadr and the Iraqi government. The government’s plan to root out criminals and militia members is underway and no one in this bastion of Sadr support seems to be doing a thing about it.

There have been no reported casualties. None. Moreover, “Iraqi troops moved forward without any major incidents.” Virtually every detail in the Times story is encouraging. Not the least of which is the report of Iraqi military self-suffiency:

No American ground forces accompanied the Iraqi troops, not even military advisers. But the Americans shared intelligence, coached the Iraqis during the planning and provided overhead reconnaissance throughout the operation. Still, the operation was very much an Iraqi plan.

This is not an American operation with an Iraqi face or even a joint-operation. This is simply what allies do.

The Los Angeles Times quotes U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Stover:

I think this is the turning point where we start seeing the Special Group criminals picked up by the Iraqi security forces and a lasting peace for the Iraqi people. . . And it will be because they did it, not us.

And at CBS News, lefty blogger Kevin Drum makes the following acknowledgment: “And it’s worth saying that the March operation in Basra looks better now than it did at the time too.” Though, with nothing worrying to write about, he tags his coverage thusly: “It may all go to hell tomorrow. Who knows? For now, though, keep your fingers crossed.”

Read Less

More on Hillary’s Fabrication

I wanted to add my thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s fabricated story about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996. It is a damaging, and probably deeply damaging, blow to an increasingly weak and desperate candidate. It will now become fodder for late night talk show hosts. It also builds on other false claims she has made, from her role in the Northern Ireland peace talks to S-CHIP legislation. And the sniper fire tale reinforces an existing impression about the Clintons: they cannot be counted on to tell the truth in matters small or large, about them or about others, about policy or about their personal conduct. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Senator Clinton acknowledged the story was false only after indisputable video evidence (in this case from CBS News) emerged. Like her husband and the blue dress, the Clintons only concede their untruthfulness when they’ve been caught – on camera or via DNA – in their untruths.

I have thought for a long while now that Clinton Fatigue Syndrome was real, even among Democrats, and it would emerge as the campaign unfolded. It has, in many different ways – triggered by angry and false comments by Bill Clinton to this story to much else. It brings rushing back many of the bad memories from the 1990s and reminds people how the Clintons operate, both in campaigns and while in office. There is, at core, a corruption of character.

Monday night Joe Klein was on CNN downplaying the significance of Mrs. Clinton’s tall tale:

It’s a war story, and — and she exaggerated it. And it doesn’t speak well of her. And it’s very un-Hillary like. But could I just, for the sake of the fact that we’re in silly season now, and everybody — all these candidates are totally exhausted, just plead for charity, not only for her, but for the Obama supporters… I mean, these are not the important issues in the election. The important issues are two wars, an economic crisis, and — and the need for energy independence…. The question is whether you blow up these little exaggerations that everybody makes, including candidates, to the point where it obscures the real issues in the campaign. I’m willing to give her a break on this one, even though, as I said, it’s very much unlike her, and it’s clearly her telling a war story.

It’s not clear that this “exaggeration” is un-Hillary like. In fact, as I alluded to above, there are other examples. And of course she was a key figure in the Clinton White House which, as Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post wrote at the time, followed a “pattern of knowing and reckless disregard for the truth.” It strikes me that Klein was more on target when he wrote a 1994 cover story for Newsweek, “The Politics of Promiscuity,” in which he said this:

With the Clintons, the story always is subject to further revision. The misstatements are always incremental. The “misunderstandings” are always innocent – casual, irregular: promiscuous. Trust is squandered in dribs and drabs. Does this sort of behavior also infect the president’s public life, his formulation of policy? Clearly, it does.

Hillary Clinton will almost surely lose the Democratic nomination for president; the question is how much damage she will do to herself, and to Obama and her party, in the process. I suspect the answer is a fair amount.

I wanted to add my thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s fabricated story about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996. It is a damaging, and probably deeply damaging, blow to an increasingly weak and desperate candidate. It will now become fodder for late night talk show hosts. It also builds on other false claims she has made, from her role in the Northern Ireland peace talks to S-CHIP legislation. And the sniper fire tale reinforces an existing impression about the Clintons: they cannot be counted on to tell the truth in matters small or large, about them or about others, about policy or about their personal conduct. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Senator Clinton acknowledged the story was false only after indisputable video evidence (in this case from CBS News) emerged. Like her husband and the blue dress, the Clintons only concede their untruthfulness when they’ve been caught – on camera or via DNA – in their untruths.

I have thought for a long while now that Clinton Fatigue Syndrome was real, even among Democrats, and it would emerge as the campaign unfolded. It has, in many different ways – triggered by angry and false comments by Bill Clinton to this story to much else. It brings rushing back many of the bad memories from the 1990s and reminds people how the Clintons operate, both in campaigns and while in office. There is, at core, a corruption of character.

Monday night Joe Klein was on CNN downplaying the significance of Mrs. Clinton’s tall tale:

It’s a war story, and — and she exaggerated it. And it doesn’t speak well of her. And it’s very un-Hillary like. But could I just, for the sake of the fact that we’re in silly season now, and everybody — all these candidates are totally exhausted, just plead for charity, not only for her, but for the Obama supporters… I mean, these are not the important issues in the election. The important issues are two wars, an economic crisis, and — and the need for energy independence…. The question is whether you blow up these little exaggerations that everybody makes, including candidates, to the point where it obscures the real issues in the campaign. I’m willing to give her a break on this one, even though, as I said, it’s very much unlike her, and it’s clearly her telling a war story.

It’s not clear that this “exaggeration” is un-Hillary like. In fact, as I alluded to above, there are other examples. And of course she was a key figure in the Clinton White House which, as Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post wrote at the time, followed a “pattern of knowing and reckless disregard for the truth.” It strikes me that Klein was more on target when he wrote a 1994 cover story for Newsweek, “The Politics of Promiscuity,” in which he said this:

With the Clintons, the story always is subject to further revision. The misstatements are always incremental. The “misunderstandings” are always innocent – casual, irregular: promiscuous. Trust is squandered in dribs and drabs. Does this sort of behavior also infect the president’s public life, his formulation of policy? Clearly, it does.

Hillary Clinton will almost surely lose the Democratic nomination for president; the question is how much damage she will do to herself, and to Obama and her party, in the process. I suspect the answer is a fair amount.

Read Less

Hillary Did Not Lie

Hillary Clinton needs no adversary. She is self-destructing while Barack Obama lounges poolside in St. Thomas. For some reason she thought that her crisis management credentials would be bolstered by an account of her running for cover. So she used an actual trip she made to Bosnia in 1996 as material and painted a scene out of a Bruce Willis movie:

“I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia. I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

She left out the whooping chopper blades.

As it turns out this scene made it onto the small screen, in the form of a CBS News report. The footage of Hillary and daughter Chelsea engaged in a leisurely meet-and-greet on the tarmac is now up on youtube. There’s no sniper fire, but there is an 8-year-old girl with braids and Hillary does have to duck down a little to receive her hug and kiss.

Yes, we understand that people have bad memories. Yes, we are reconciled to the fact that politicians often have conveniently bad memories. But Hillary has an excellent memory, and furthermore she wasn’t lying. This kind of tall tale cut from whole cloth is the special realm of the Clintons, and it is an indication of a dangerously deluded mind. When Hillary recounted her great escape, she believed every word of it.

Just consider the mental hocus-pocus that goes into concocting a story such as this one. Hillary would never have made this story up if she realized that it could be so easily disproved. Given that her landing in Bosnia was attended by her teenage daughter, a few celebrities, and many members of the media, the only way for her to have gone through with this fabrication was to somehow believe it. Anything short of that full commitment would have allowed her to see that the narrative would be instantly discredited. Consider, too, how slight an impression the trip to this war-torn land must have made on Hillary in order for her to manipulate it so. Furthermore, this statement does not seem to have been an off-the-cuff comment. She calculatingly put it out there in order to achieve a desired effect. This was considered.

People talk a lot about “Hillary Derangement Syndrome”— a pathological hatred for all things Hillary. But I think HDS works better as a diagnosis for the condition from which the senator herself suffers.

Hillary Clinton needs no adversary. She is self-destructing while Barack Obama lounges poolside in St. Thomas. For some reason she thought that her crisis management credentials would be bolstered by an account of her running for cover. So she used an actual trip she made to Bosnia in 1996 as material and painted a scene out of a Bruce Willis movie:

“I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia. I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

She left out the whooping chopper blades.

As it turns out this scene made it onto the small screen, in the form of a CBS News report. The footage of Hillary and daughter Chelsea engaged in a leisurely meet-and-greet on the tarmac is now up on youtube. There’s no sniper fire, but there is an 8-year-old girl with braids and Hillary does have to duck down a little to receive her hug and kiss.

Yes, we understand that people have bad memories. Yes, we are reconciled to the fact that politicians often have conveniently bad memories. But Hillary has an excellent memory, and furthermore she wasn’t lying. This kind of tall tale cut from whole cloth is the special realm of the Clintons, and it is an indication of a dangerously deluded mind. When Hillary recounted her great escape, she believed every word of it.

Just consider the mental hocus-pocus that goes into concocting a story such as this one. Hillary would never have made this story up if she realized that it could be so easily disproved. Given that her landing in Bosnia was attended by her teenage daughter, a few celebrities, and many members of the media, the only way for her to have gone through with this fabrication was to somehow believe it. Anything short of that full commitment would have allowed her to see that the narrative would be instantly discredited. Consider, too, how slight an impression the trip to this war-torn land must have made on Hillary in order for her to manipulate it so. Furthermore, this statement does not seem to have been an off-the-cuff comment. She calculatingly put it out there in order to achieve a desired effect. This was considered.

People talk a lot about “Hillary Derangement Syndrome”— a pathological hatred for all things Hillary. But I think HDS works better as a diagnosis for the condition from which the senator herself suffers.

Read Less

Must. Surrender. Somewhere.

Let’s consider what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama might now be saying if over the past six years George Bush had done precisely what the Democrats claim he should have regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. If the U.S. had beefed up forces in Afghanistan and ignored Saddam Hussein, I imagine the Democratic argument (as extrapolated from current policy positions) might go something like this:

We have now spent six years bogged down in George Bush’s Afghan war, while Saddam Hussein continues to build his palaces on the graves of innocent Iraqis. We’re locked into an endless commitment in Afghanistan, refusing to let the Afghan people shape their own post-Taliban futures, while intelligence reports continue to come in that Saddam Hussein is not only working on weapons of mass destruction, but associating with and even training the types of people who attacked us on September 11. We have leveled to dust a nation without the resources or operational knowledge to attack the U.S., while we’ve let Saddam Hussein’s Iraq build its deadly arsenal and expand its lethal network of associates. How does this make the U.S. look in the eyes of the world? And why should our allies tolerate it? Why should you, the voting public? I intend to restore our standing in the global community by beginning immediate troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and facing the real threat represented by dangerous regimes such as Iraq. America needs a real leader, not someone who won’t go into Iraq because his father had thought it would be too tough for America to handle.

As is happened, things took a different course. We went into Iraq while continuing to fight in Afghanistan. We’ve had our formidable challenges in both theaters, but the point is the Democrats can always plug in proper nouns as needed and make an argument like the one above. Which they’ve done. We know from Hillary that it’s too late to win in Iraq, and from Obama that we need to withdraw from Iraq immediately and pick up the pace in Afghanistan. We must, you see, stop fighting somewhere.

But how is this surrender argument to be maintained in the face of continued success in Iraq? This question will get tougher and more crucial for whichever Democrat is nominated to go up against John McCain. Well, today Ted Rall has a piece at Yahoo News which may suggest a new direction in such surrender mad-libs: We need to pull out of Afghanistan after all.

By any measure, U.S. troops and their NATO allies are getting their a–es kicked in the country that Reagan’s CIA station chief for Pakistan called “the graveyard of empires.” Afghanistan currently produces a record 93 percent of the world’s opium. Suicide bombers are killing more U.S.-aligned troops than ever. Stonings are back. The Taliban and their allies, “defeated” in 2001, control most of the country–and may recapture the capital of Kabul as early as this summer.

And, anyway, Afghanistan is the wrong place to fight the war on terror:

Afghanistan’s connection to 9/11 was tertiary. At the moment the first plane struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center, most of Al Qaeda’s camps and fighters were in Pakistan. As CBS News reported on January 29, 2002, Osama bin Laden was in a Pakistani military hospital in Rawalpindi on 9/11. The Taliban militia, which provided neither men nor money for the attacks, controlled 90 percent of the country.

Ta-da!

So, it’s time to pull out of Afghanistan and fight in Pakistan. And then when we’re there? Well, we’d be ignoring Saudi Arabia, naturally. And once we’re in Saudi? We’d be insensitive cowboys treading on holy sand and ignoring the terror financing that comes from the UAE. And once there? We’d be turning against a “non-political” ally and economic partner. And on, and on, and on. The arguments will continue to chase the U.S. around the globe, and the U.S. will continue to act prudently, if imperfectly, to marginalize or destroy the enemies of liberal democracy. The very fact that America prevents the worst threats from materializing is what allows for this silly rhetorical fill-in-the-blanks game to begin with.

Let’s consider what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama might now be saying if over the past six years George Bush had done precisely what the Democrats claim he should have regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. If the U.S. had beefed up forces in Afghanistan and ignored Saddam Hussein, I imagine the Democratic argument (as extrapolated from current policy positions) might go something like this:

We have now spent six years bogged down in George Bush’s Afghan war, while Saddam Hussein continues to build his palaces on the graves of innocent Iraqis. We’re locked into an endless commitment in Afghanistan, refusing to let the Afghan people shape their own post-Taliban futures, while intelligence reports continue to come in that Saddam Hussein is not only working on weapons of mass destruction, but associating with and even training the types of people who attacked us on September 11. We have leveled to dust a nation without the resources or operational knowledge to attack the U.S., while we’ve let Saddam Hussein’s Iraq build its deadly arsenal and expand its lethal network of associates. How does this make the U.S. look in the eyes of the world? And why should our allies tolerate it? Why should you, the voting public? I intend to restore our standing in the global community by beginning immediate troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and facing the real threat represented by dangerous regimes such as Iraq. America needs a real leader, not someone who won’t go into Iraq because his father had thought it would be too tough for America to handle.

As is happened, things took a different course. We went into Iraq while continuing to fight in Afghanistan. We’ve had our formidable challenges in both theaters, but the point is the Democrats can always plug in proper nouns as needed and make an argument like the one above. Which they’ve done. We know from Hillary that it’s too late to win in Iraq, and from Obama that we need to withdraw from Iraq immediately and pick up the pace in Afghanistan. We must, you see, stop fighting somewhere.

But how is this surrender argument to be maintained in the face of continued success in Iraq? This question will get tougher and more crucial for whichever Democrat is nominated to go up against John McCain. Well, today Ted Rall has a piece at Yahoo News which may suggest a new direction in such surrender mad-libs: We need to pull out of Afghanistan after all.

By any measure, U.S. troops and their NATO allies are getting their a–es kicked in the country that Reagan’s CIA station chief for Pakistan called “the graveyard of empires.” Afghanistan currently produces a record 93 percent of the world’s opium. Suicide bombers are killing more U.S.-aligned troops than ever. Stonings are back. The Taliban and their allies, “defeated” in 2001, control most of the country–and may recapture the capital of Kabul as early as this summer.

And, anyway, Afghanistan is the wrong place to fight the war on terror:

Afghanistan’s connection to 9/11 was tertiary. At the moment the first plane struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center, most of Al Qaeda’s camps and fighters were in Pakistan. As CBS News reported on January 29, 2002, Osama bin Laden was in a Pakistani military hospital in Rawalpindi on 9/11. The Taliban militia, which provided neither men nor money for the attacks, controlled 90 percent of the country.

Ta-da!

So, it’s time to pull out of Afghanistan and fight in Pakistan. And then when we’re there? Well, we’d be ignoring Saudi Arabia, naturally. And once we’re in Saudi? We’d be insensitive cowboys treading on holy sand and ignoring the terror financing that comes from the UAE. And once there? We’d be turning against a “non-political” ally and economic partner. And on, and on, and on. The arguments will continue to chase the U.S. around the globe, and the U.S. will continue to act prudently, if imperfectly, to marginalize or destroy the enemies of liberal democracy. The very fact that America prevents the worst threats from materializing is what allows for this silly rhetorical fill-in-the-blanks game to begin with.

Read Less

Anyone Seen Bill?

The directive may have come from Hillary’s campaign or it may have been doctor’s orders, but boilin’ Bill Clinton has been officially benched. Here’s the International Herald Tribune:

He is being kept as far from the media as possible to prevent any more of the red-faced, finger-wagging tirades and freelance political commentary that polls say cost Hillary Rodham Clinton a lot of support, particularly among black voters.

So what audiences in venues like Lancaster, a working-class town of 33,000 about 35 miles, about 55 kilometers, southeast of Columbus, are seeing is a subdued and substantive former president going on at length about Iraq, health care, education, job creation and what he portrays as the multiple sins of the Bush administration.

Okay, not benched—sent down to the minors. It certainly took the Clintons long enough to face up to the fact that Bill was not being received with the public adoration they thought his due. The Tribune reports that in a December New York Times/CBS News Poll, 44 percent of those polled said they were more likely to vote for Hillary because of her husband and 7 seven percent said he made them less likely to do so. In the latest such poll, respondents were split evenly at 22 percent in each category.

Since Bill has been demoted from the main room to the lounge, Hillary has made the mistake of embodying the traits that seemingly turned her husband’s fans against him: the divisiveness, sense of entitlement, scolding, baiting, and general propensity for playing the victim don’t look much better on her. I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that if she too went into hiding for a while, her numbers might jump.

The directive may have come from Hillary’s campaign or it may have been doctor’s orders, but boilin’ Bill Clinton has been officially benched. Here’s the International Herald Tribune:

He is being kept as far from the media as possible to prevent any more of the red-faced, finger-wagging tirades and freelance political commentary that polls say cost Hillary Rodham Clinton a lot of support, particularly among black voters.

So what audiences in venues like Lancaster, a working-class town of 33,000 about 35 miles, about 55 kilometers, southeast of Columbus, are seeing is a subdued and substantive former president going on at length about Iraq, health care, education, job creation and what he portrays as the multiple sins of the Bush administration.

Okay, not benched—sent down to the minors. It certainly took the Clintons long enough to face up to the fact that Bill was not being received with the public adoration they thought his due. The Tribune reports that in a December New York Times/CBS News Poll, 44 percent of those polled said they were more likely to vote for Hillary because of her husband and 7 seven percent said he made them less likely to do so. In the latest such poll, respondents were split evenly at 22 percent in each category.

Since Bill has been demoted from the main room to the lounge, Hillary has made the mistake of embodying the traits that seemingly turned her husband’s fans against him: the divisiveness, sense of entitlement, scolding, baiting, and general propensity for playing the victim don’t look much better on her. I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that if she too went into hiding for a while, her numbers might jump.

Read Less

Democracy Talk in The Apolitical Emirates

President Bush supposedly ratcheted up the tough talk against Tehran in his speech in the United Arab Emirates today. However, it’s hard to tease out any substantive change in the mere repetition of charges against Tehran: that “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere” is an undisputed matter of public record. It was somewhat more heartening to hear the President return to the democracy schema that sat on the back burner throughout the more trying phases of the Iraq War. CBS News reports:

In renewing his “Freedom Agenda” – Mr. Bush’s grand ambition to seed democracy around the globe — he declared that “democracy is the only form of government that treats individuals with the dignity and equality that is their right.”

“We know from experience that democracy is the only system of government that yields lasting peace and stability,” he added.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal has a surreal companion piece to Bush’s speech in the form of an opinion article by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The former ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and current vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates has penned something that reads more like a corporation’s quarterly letter to stockholders than a statesman’s declaration of policy. The fascinating document includes this gem:

“What are Dubai’s political ambitions?” Well, here’s my answer: We don’t have political ambitions. We don’t want to be a superpower or any other kind of political power. The whole region is over-politicized as it is. We don’t see politics as our thing, we don’t want it, we don’t think this is the right thing to do.

Sheikh Mohammed stresses the importance of capital investment in the path to well being. Someone should point out to him that there’s no such thing as opting out of politics, and that the Middle East doesn’t suffer from a shortage of capital, but from the lack of political institutions that enable the sharing of prosperity.

President Bush supposedly ratcheted up the tough talk against Tehran in his speech in the United Arab Emirates today. However, it’s hard to tease out any substantive change in the mere repetition of charges against Tehran: that “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere” is an undisputed matter of public record. It was somewhat more heartening to hear the President return to the democracy schema that sat on the back burner throughout the more trying phases of the Iraq War. CBS News reports:

In renewing his “Freedom Agenda” – Mr. Bush’s grand ambition to seed democracy around the globe — he declared that “democracy is the only form of government that treats individuals with the dignity and equality that is their right.”

“We know from experience that democracy is the only system of government that yields lasting peace and stability,” he added.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal has a surreal companion piece to Bush’s speech in the form of an opinion article by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The former ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and current vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates has penned something that reads more like a corporation’s quarterly letter to stockholders than a statesman’s declaration of policy. The fascinating document includes this gem:

“What are Dubai’s political ambitions?” Well, here’s my answer: We don’t have political ambitions. We don’t want to be a superpower or any other kind of political power. The whole region is over-politicized as it is. We don’t see politics as our thing, we don’t want it, we don’t think this is the right thing to do.

Sheikh Mohammed stresses the importance of capital investment in the path to well being. Someone should point out to him that there’s no such thing as opting out of politics, and that the Middle East doesn’t suffer from a shortage of capital, but from the lack of political institutions that enable the sharing of prosperity.

Read Less

Huck’s Confused on National Security

It’s something of an understatement to say that Mike Huckabee, now leading polls in Iowa, has a national security problem.

This is from a CBS News story covering the former Arkansas governor in Des Moines last Tuesday:

Now a reporter was asking Huckabee about the National Intelligence Estimate report, which had found that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago. The report had been front-page news, and it seemed likely to transform the rhetoric about Iran coming from the presidential candidates.

Huckabee, to the surprise of the reporters gathered around him, was unfamiliar with the report.

This coming Sunday’s New York Times magazine will feature a cover story by Zev Chafets on Huckabee that offers troubling insight into gaffes like the one above. Asked about his foreign policy credentials, Huckabee’s response sounds more like a puffed up on-line dating profile than the CV of a future commander-in-chief: “In his defense, Huckabee mentioned that as governor, he had visited ‘‘35 or 40 countries,’’ where he sometimes “negotiated trade deals.”

When Chafets asked him what thinkers influenced him on foreign affairs, the first name mentioned was columnist Thomas Friedman—not so much a strategist as a well-meaning hand-wringer, ever-hopeful on the sidelines. (Friedman himself recently admitted, “My Iraq crystal ball stopped working a long time ago. I’m taking this one step at a time.”) Then, in an ideological 180, Huckabee mentioned Center for Security Policy founder Frank Gaffney.

Mike Huckabee is coming out of Iowa riding a policy-free wave. If he keeps trying to do national security every way and no way at once, he’ll roll into McCain-friendly New Hampshire on a mere ripple.

It’s something of an understatement to say that Mike Huckabee, now leading polls in Iowa, has a national security problem.

This is from a CBS News story covering the former Arkansas governor in Des Moines last Tuesday:

Now a reporter was asking Huckabee about the National Intelligence Estimate report, which had found that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago. The report had been front-page news, and it seemed likely to transform the rhetoric about Iran coming from the presidential candidates.

Huckabee, to the surprise of the reporters gathered around him, was unfamiliar with the report.

This coming Sunday’s New York Times magazine will feature a cover story by Zev Chafets on Huckabee that offers troubling insight into gaffes like the one above. Asked about his foreign policy credentials, Huckabee’s response sounds more like a puffed up on-line dating profile than the CV of a future commander-in-chief: “In his defense, Huckabee mentioned that as governor, he had visited ‘‘35 or 40 countries,’’ where he sometimes “negotiated trade deals.”

When Chafets asked him what thinkers influenced him on foreign affairs, the first name mentioned was columnist Thomas Friedman—not so much a strategist as a well-meaning hand-wringer, ever-hopeful on the sidelines. (Friedman himself recently admitted, “My Iraq crystal ball stopped working a long time ago. I’m taking this one step at a time.”) Then, in an ideological 180, Huckabee mentioned Center for Security Policy founder Frank Gaffney.

Mike Huckabee is coming out of Iowa riding a policy-free wave. If he keeps trying to do national security every way and no way at once, he’ll roll into McCain-friendly New Hampshire on a mere ripple.

Read Less

What the Army Wants You to See

Some colleagues, readers, and friends have suggested the dispatches I published from Iraq as an embedded reporter might not be reliable, even if true, because I only saw what the United States Army wanted me to see. CBS news anchor Katie Couric said as much about her own coverage when she first arrived in Baghdad in September.

I’ve had the same thoughts myself, and I quietly wondered if I should disclose them. I chose not to, though, because my experience, as it turned out, didn’t actually warrant it.

The Army hooked me up with the 82nd Airborne Division in the Graya’at district of Baghdad in July. There hadn’t been any violence there since early in 2007. The soldiers hadn’t suffered a single casualty—not even one soldier wounded. How convenient, I thought, that the Army sent me to such a place. I appreciated not being thrown into a meat grinder and shot or blown up, but Graya’at did strike me as a dog-and-pony-show sort of location. Maybe it was. It could certainly function as one, if that’s what the Army intended.

I had to check myself, though. Embed coordinators asked me what kind of stories I wanted to cover. I explicitly said I wasn’t there to chase car bombs. The world doesn’t need yet another reporter on that beat. Also, I told them, access to Iraqi civilians is important. Reporting strictly from inside a military bubble is hardly better than filing reports from the Al Rasheed Hotel in the Green Zone. Graya’at, then, was the right place to embed me.

You could just as easily say the coordinators did exactly what I asked them to do instead of accusing them of sending me on a happy tour to skew coverage in the Army’s favor. The worst you could fairly say is that their interests and mine were in alignment.

Baghdad isn’t the only place I went in Iraq with the Army. I also went to Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province and the scene of the some of the most vicious fighting of the entire war.

Captain Phil Messer asked me what I wanted to see when I arrived at his outpost.

“Destruction,” I said, because I hadn’t seen much of it yet and needed some photos. So far my only pictures of war damage were taken from inside a Humvee while driving past on the way somewhere else.

“Whatever you need,” he said. “It’s my job to help you do your job and take you where you need to go.”

Some of the destruction he showed me was total. All of it was horrific. Two American colonels in the area compared the battle of Ramadi to Stalingrad. What Captain Messer showed me made that sound credible. You can see some of the photographs here.

He didn’t know who I was or what I would do with those pictures. I told him nothing about my “agenda” or why I wanted a tour of the damage. I could have used those photos as evidence of wanton American destruction of civilian neighborhoods had I so chosen. Many of those buildings were destroyed by American firepower, but others were destroyed by insurgents. BCIED’s—Building Contained IED’s, or building bombs—exploded all over that city. IED’s buried deep under the roads tore the streets and the sewer system to pieces. Car bombs blew windows out everywhere. It wouldn’t be right to blame it all on the Americans, so I didn’t. Captain Messer, though, didn’t know what I was up to. If it was his job to show me only what the Army wanted me to see, he is not very good at his job.

He did, however, show me what I needed and wanted to see. That was his job, or at least part of it. Plenty of officers in the Army understand that. Lieutenant Colonel Mike Silverman at the Blue Diamond base in Northern Ramadi defended the media’s often negative coverage point blank when I asked him what he thought of it. “It’s true that the media doesn’t have the same agenda in Iraq that we do,” he said, “but I’m not sure it’s the media’s job to have the same agenda in Iraq that we do.”

What ultimately convinced me that the Army didn’t send me off on a Potemkin tour of Iraq was Major Mike Garcia’s suggestion that I visit the small town of Mushadah just north of Baghdad. The Army can’t order me to go anywhere, but he said he could arrange it for me if I was interested. I had not heard of the place until he mentioned it to me, and would never have ended up there on my own.

What I found there was dispiriting, to say the least. He warned me that it was bad news up there, and he was right.

Humvee convoys from Camp Taji to Mushadah were hit with IED’s every day. It was too dangerous for dismounted foot patrols. Captain Maryanne Naro warned me not to step outside my up-armored Humvee for any reason unless something catastrophic happened to it. Half the Iraqi Police officers at the station were too afraid to go out on patrols, and the other half, or so I was told, worked with al Qaeda. I didn’t meet a single American soldier in the area who thought things were going well there, and I wrote a gloomy essay about the experience which you can read here.

The Army never would have put me in a Humvee to Mushadah if their goal was to control what I saw so they could gin up positive stories.

I don’t know why Major Garcia thought I should go to Mushadah, and I didn’t ask. I am grateful, though, for the suggestion and the experience. It provided some necessary balance for the good news I found and reported elsewhere in the country.

Some colleagues, readers, and friends have suggested the dispatches I published from Iraq as an embedded reporter might not be reliable, even if true, because I only saw what the United States Army wanted me to see. CBS news anchor Katie Couric said as much about her own coverage when she first arrived in Baghdad in September.

I’ve had the same thoughts myself, and I quietly wondered if I should disclose them. I chose not to, though, because my experience, as it turned out, didn’t actually warrant it.

The Army hooked me up with the 82nd Airborne Division in the Graya’at district of Baghdad in July. There hadn’t been any violence there since early in 2007. The soldiers hadn’t suffered a single casualty—not even one soldier wounded. How convenient, I thought, that the Army sent me to such a place. I appreciated not being thrown into a meat grinder and shot or blown up, but Graya’at did strike me as a dog-and-pony-show sort of location. Maybe it was. It could certainly function as one, if that’s what the Army intended.

I had to check myself, though. Embed coordinators asked me what kind of stories I wanted to cover. I explicitly said I wasn’t there to chase car bombs. The world doesn’t need yet another reporter on that beat. Also, I told them, access to Iraqi civilians is important. Reporting strictly from inside a military bubble is hardly better than filing reports from the Al Rasheed Hotel in the Green Zone. Graya’at, then, was the right place to embed me.

You could just as easily say the coordinators did exactly what I asked them to do instead of accusing them of sending me on a happy tour to skew coverage in the Army’s favor. The worst you could fairly say is that their interests and mine were in alignment.

Baghdad isn’t the only place I went in Iraq with the Army. I also went to Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province and the scene of the some of the most vicious fighting of the entire war.

Captain Phil Messer asked me what I wanted to see when I arrived at his outpost.

“Destruction,” I said, because I hadn’t seen much of it yet and needed some photos. So far my only pictures of war damage were taken from inside a Humvee while driving past on the way somewhere else.

“Whatever you need,” he said. “It’s my job to help you do your job and take you where you need to go.”

Some of the destruction he showed me was total. All of it was horrific. Two American colonels in the area compared the battle of Ramadi to Stalingrad. What Captain Messer showed me made that sound credible. You can see some of the photographs here.

He didn’t know who I was or what I would do with those pictures. I told him nothing about my “agenda” or why I wanted a tour of the damage. I could have used those photos as evidence of wanton American destruction of civilian neighborhoods had I so chosen. Many of those buildings were destroyed by American firepower, but others were destroyed by insurgents. BCIED’s—Building Contained IED’s, or building bombs—exploded all over that city. IED’s buried deep under the roads tore the streets and the sewer system to pieces. Car bombs blew windows out everywhere. It wouldn’t be right to blame it all on the Americans, so I didn’t. Captain Messer, though, didn’t know what I was up to. If it was his job to show me only what the Army wanted me to see, he is not very good at his job.

He did, however, show me what I needed and wanted to see. That was his job, or at least part of it. Plenty of officers in the Army understand that. Lieutenant Colonel Mike Silverman at the Blue Diamond base in Northern Ramadi defended the media’s often negative coverage point blank when I asked him what he thought of it. “It’s true that the media doesn’t have the same agenda in Iraq that we do,” he said, “but I’m not sure it’s the media’s job to have the same agenda in Iraq that we do.”

What ultimately convinced me that the Army didn’t send me off on a Potemkin tour of Iraq was Major Mike Garcia’s suggestion that I visit the small town of Mushadah just north of Baghdad. The Army can’t order me to go anywhere, but he said he could arrange it for me if I was interested. I had not heard of the place until he mentioned it to me, and would never have ended up there on my own.

What I found there was dispiriting, to say the least. He warned me that it was bad news up there, and he was right.

Humvee convoys from Camp Taji to Mushadah were hit with IED’s every day. It was too dangerous for dismounted foot patrols. Captain Maryanne Naro warned me not to step outside my up-armored Humvee for any reason unless something catastrophic happened to it. Half the Iraqi Police officers at the station were too afraid to go out on patrols, and the other half, or so I was told, worked with al Qaeda. I didn’t meet a single American soldier in the area who thought things were going well there, and I wrote a gloomy essay about the experience which you can read here.

The Army never would have put me in a Humvee to Mushadah if their goal was to control what I saw so they could gin up positive stories.

I don’t know why Major Garcia thought I should go to Mushadah, and I didn’t ask. I am grateful, though, for the suggestion and the experience. It provided some necessary balance for the good news I found and reported elsewhere in the country.

Read Less

Katie’s World

At her National Press Club event yesterday, we heard this from CBS News anchor Katie Couric:

The whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying “we” when referring to the United States and, even the “shock and awe” of the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable. And I remember feeling, when I was anchoring the “Today” show, this inevitable march towards war and kind of feeling like, “Will anybody put the brakes on this?” And is this really being properly challenged by the right people? And I think, at the time, anyone who questioned the administration was considered unpatriotic and it was a very difficult position to be in.

There is a lot to unpack in these few sentences. For one thing, Couric’s aversion to using the word “we” when referring to her own country is both weird and revealing. After all, she is part of the United States, a citizen of America, and so she is part of “we.” Hers is an example of a certain journalistic sensibility that feels as if members of the media are compromising their objectivity by referring to their country as if they were a part of it. And I suppose in The World According To Katie, it would be a gross violation of journalistic ethics to hope for America to prevail in a war to depose Saddam Hussein and bring liberty to his broken land. Hence, I suppose, her discomfort with how well the initial stages of the Iraq war went.

Read More

At her National Press Club event yesterday, we heard this from CBS News anchor Katie Couric:

The whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying “we” when referring to the United States and, even the “shock and awe” of the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable. And I remember feeling, when I was anchoring the “Today” show, this inevitable march towards war and kind of feeling like, “Will anybody put the brakes on this?” And is this really being properly challenged by the right people? And I think, at the time, anyone who questioned the administration was considered unpatriotic and it was a very difficult position to be in.

There is a lot to unpack in these few sentences. For one thing, Couric’s aversion to using the word “we” when referring to her own country is both weird and revealing. After all, she is part of the United States, a citizen of America, and so she is part of “we.” Hers is an example of a certain journalistic sensibility that feels as if members of the media are compromising their objectivity by referring to their country as if they were a part of it. And I suppose in The World According To Katie, it would be a gross violation of journalistic ethics to hope for America to prevail in a war to depose Saddam Hussein and bring liberty to his broken land. Hence, I suppose, her discomfort with how well the initial stages of the Iraq war went.

This point is worth pausing over. After all, during his reign, Saddam Hussein routinely executed political opponents and political prisoners. Children and young people were tortured to force their parents and relatives to confess to alleged political offenses. Schoolchildren were summarily shot in public—and families of executed children were made to pay for the bullets and coffins used. Human Rights Watch concluded that the Iraqi regime committed the crime of genocide against Iraqi Kurds—and estimates are that more than 300,000 Iraqis were executed during Saddam Hussein’s reign. He was also responsible for invading two nations at a cost of more than a million lives. Imagine hoping that the United States would defeat such a regime quickly, easily, and with a minimum loss of life and damage. The audacity!

As for the “inevitable” march toward war and her “kind of feeling like, ‘Will anybody put the brakes on this?’”: First, the “march” to war was not inevitable—one person on this planet could easily have put the brakes on it. His name was Saddam Hussein. He could have stopped the war at any time, if only he had met the commitments to which he had agreed. It was Saddam Hussein who was in material breach of Security Council Resolution 1441. It was he who had amassed a record of defiance for more than a decade. But for Katie Couric, the responsibility for war rests not with the former dictator of Iraq, but with the President of the United States.

And then there is tossing out the standard talking points that those who questioned the administration were “considered unpatriotic” and “it was a very difficult position to be in.” By whom, in Couric’s imaginary history, were critics of the administration considered “unpatriotic”? This notion is a flimsy urban legend—and yet Katie claims to have been put in a “very difficult position” based on a scenario that never even occurred. What a tower of strength she is.

The virtue of such statements, I suppose, is that it rips away the pretense of objectivity—as if that was even necessary at this stage. It appears as if Katie Couric is a worthy successor to Dan Rather—and her comments, in some ways so utterly typical, also remind us why CBS’s ratings are in the toilet, and deserve to be.

Read Less

New Polls on the War

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll brings moderately positive news about public attitudes toward the war in Iraq. For the raw results, click here. For the Times write-up, click here.

The percentage of the public saying that invading Iraq was the correct decision has risen slightly. Forty-two percent now say it was the right thing to do, while 51 percent say we should have stayed out. That’s a shift from the May poll that had found only 35 percent in support of the invasion and 61 percent claiming it was a mistake. In addition, the public assessment of how well things are going in Iraq has turned slightly more upbeat. While only 3 percent think that things are going “very well” (up from 2 percent), 29 percent now think things are going “somewhat well,” a six-point increase from the previous poll. At the same time, the percentage of those saying things are going “very badly” has fallen from 45 percent to 35 percent—a whopping 10-point decline.

Read More

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll brings moderately positive news about public attitudes toward the war in Iraq. For the raw results, click here. For the Times write-up, click here.

The percentage of the public saying that invading Iraq was the correct decision has risen slightly. Forty-two percent now say it was the right thing to do, while 51 percent say we should have stayed out. That’s a shift from the May poll that had found only 35 percent in support of the invasion and 61 percent claiming it was a mistake. In addition, the public assessment of how well things are going in Iraq has turned slightly more upbeat. While only 3 percent think that things are going “very well” (up from 2 percent), 29 percent now think things are going “somewhat well,” a six-point increase from the previous poll. At the same time, the percentage of those saying things are going “very badly” has fallen from 45 percent to 35 percent—a whopping 10-point decline.

It would be a mistake to read too much into these results. It is not, by any stretch, evidence that the public has turned in favor of the war effort. But it is an indication that public sentiment remains a bit unsettled, and that positive news from the front—of the kind we have been hearing increasingly in the past couple of months—can have some impact on the public’s views.

Moreover, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests that most Americans, while in favor of withdrawal, are not demanding a complete pullout. I found these findings, buried deep in the Post article, interesting:

About six in 10 said forces should be withdrawn to avoid further casualties, even if civil order is not restored, and 56 percent want to decrease the forces in Iraq. Both figures are at new highs, but few Republicans agree with either position.

Even among Democrats, there is no consensus about the timing of any troop withdrawal. While three-quarters want to decrease the number of troops in Iraq, only a third advocate a complete, immediate withdrawal. There is even less support for that option among independents (15 percent) and Republicans (6 percent).

If I had to sum up these findings, I would say that, while antiwar forces are still winning the battle for public opinion, an information surge is allowing supporters of the war effort to gain some ground. Whether they can consolidate and even expand these gains remains to be seen. That will turn on how much success American forces have over the next few months. But the war on the home front is not irretrievably lost.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.