Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 7:08 pm

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves matter. So does how we tell them.

America had been involved in World War II for almost two years before the government began releasing photos of American war dead to the public. Some of the first came from Tarawa atoll, where, in November 1943, a thousand Marines died in four days as their comrades killed almost 5,000 Japanese defenders. Those images were deeply disturbing to the American public — so much so that a documentary on the battle, With the Marines at Tarawa, wasn’t released until the following year, and then only after President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself signed off. (It’s a short documentary, 20 minutes, with no actors, covering the 4-day battle and its lead-up. You can watch the whole thing online at NPR’s website.)

By Vietnam, Americans had become accustomed to seeing bloody images of friend and foe, from wounded GIs being evacuated on tanks to Pulitzer Prize-winning photos of Vietnamese children burned by napalm and Vietcong being summarily executed.

But in 1991, a photographer named Kenneth Jarecke took a photograph of a dead Iraqi soldier who apparently had burned to death trying to escape his burning vehicle. The war, remember, was not an invasion of Iraq (although U.S. forces did cross the border), but an incursion intended to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait, which they had occupied the previous summer. In point of fact, there was only one way out of Kuwait for the Iraqi military there — a road later nicknamed “the Highway of Death” — and by some estimates 100,000 Iraqi soldiers died trying run the gantlet of U.S. and allied artillery, armor and air power to get back home, a story captured some time afterward in an article in The New Republic titled “Highway to Hell.” (Doesn’t seem to be online.)

Just before the cease-fire that ended combat in Operation Desert Storm, Jarecke stood on the Highway of Death and took his photo. He thought it would be a proper counter to the prevailing narrative, fostered by images from radio-controlled bombs and night-vision goggles, of Desert Storm as a “video-game” war. But the Associated Press and Time and Life magazines refused to run the photo; the AP’s decision essentially no U.S. newspaper would ever even have the chance to decide for itself. Only London’s Observer newspaper published it.

Should the AP and Time and Life have run the photo? Of course. American citizens have a right — and, I would argue, a moral obligation and a civic duty — to know what is done in their names, with their tax dollars, by their sons and daughters. The journalists’ call was the wrong one. The managing editor of Life then said that because Life had a fairly significant number of children in its readership, a photo that was “the stuff of nightmares” was inappropriate.

At this point, I’ll let Athenae speak (mostly) for me:

A family magazine. Yet that “family” magazine had no problem humping the next Iraq war, as if that’s not offensive to anybody’s family. As if what’s suitable for a family is to wage war without ever knowing the costs.

But how am I going to explain it to my children, the gentle reader asks. Well, let me throw this back at you: If you think it’s hard to explain a photo of a dead guy to your kids, imagine that guy’s kids. Imagine the explanation they must have needed. And then quit feeling so [expletive] sorry for yourself because it’s so hard for you to make sense of the world.

Moreover? It is not the journalist’s job to protect people from [expletive] thinking. It is not the journalist’s job to shield you from the consequences of your political actions. It is not the journalist’s job to decide, in advance, how upset you’re going to get about anything around you, and manage that upset carefully so as to ensure the circulation department receives no anguished calls.

It is the journalist’s job, as it always has been, to tell a story. If the journalist is brave that story’s about something you might not want to know about, like the human toll taken by even the shortest or “easiest” of wars. If the journalist is cowardly, or lazy, or stupid, or jus’ don’ wanna today, that story’s about how we can fight a war without really giving a [expletive] about it.

Surprisingly, we end up telling that story over and over and over again.

Things have gotten better in some ways. I would be remiss if I did not point out such examples as Carol Rosenberg, the McClatchy reporter who has pursued the truth about Guantanamo and its inmates like Hell’s own hound dog. And I don’t know that such photos wouldn’t be published today, if only because they’d be clickbait.

But the larger issue here, the issue of the news media shielding Americans from the consequences of their own decisions, remains alive and virulent, from war to job-killing trade agreements to Internet-killing FCC regulation to deadly refusal to expand Medicaid to global warming. That’s wrong. In fact, it’s evil. And it’ll stop only when enough people raise enough hell with enough news outlets that it’s forced to stop. To paraphrase Fredrick Douglass, evil doesn’t stop when you say “please.” It never has and it never will.

UPDATE, 8/14/2014: I’m elevating from the comments a link provided by my friend Nick Graham to an Iraq War poem, “A Cold Coming,” written by Tony Harrison and originally published in the Guardian newspaper alongside the photo. I had not read it before. Damn if it doesn’t rank up with anything by Sassoon or Owen or Jarrell.

 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 8:13 pm

If only the public flaying were not metaphorical

So recently, Politico, not known for either journalistic ethics or simple human decency, sat down to have a chat with Dick Cheney, his harridan erstwhile-lesbian-porn-writing wife Lynne, and his inept erstwhile political-candidate daughter Liz.

To talk about foreign policy.

With “noted mortgage fraud concern” Bank of America as sponsor.

I’m sorry to report that fricassee of feces was not on the menu, but the “chat” was utterly full of it. So, boy, howdy, was I happy to see Charlie Pierce at Esquire give the unindicted war criminal, his vile relatives, and Politico the hiding they so richly deserved. I’m delighted to say that no one was spared, not even the children.

NoOneWasSpared

Just a few gems:

[Politico's] puerilty has finally crossed over into indecency. Its triviality has finally crossed over into obscenity. The comical political starfcking that is its primary raison d’erp has finally crossed over into $10 meth-whoring on the Singapore docks.

… and …

It’s not just that TBOTP["Tiger Beat on the Potomac" -- Pierce's epithet for Politico] invited the Manson Family of American geopolitics to come together for an exercise in ensemble prevarication. It’s not just that the account of said exercise is written in the kind of cacophonous cutesy-poo necessary to drown out the screams of the innocent dead, and to distract the assembled crowd from the blood that has dripped from the wallet of the celebrity war-criminal leading the public display. And it’s not as though this was a mere interview—a “get” that could help you “win the morning (!).” In that, it might have been marginally excusable. No, this was one of [Politico editor] Mike Allen’s little grift-o-rama special events—a “Playbook lunch,” sponsored by that noted mortgage fraud concern Bank Of America. There’s an upcoming TBOTP “event” in L.A. that is sponsored by J.P. Morgan. I know what Mike Allen is, but I am so goddamn tired of haggling about the price.

… and …

That’s the freaking problem? That Dad and Mom and Exemptionette got together, but The Gay One didn’t show up. The problem was not that your publication decided to publicize itself, and suck up some of that sweet sponsorship cash from Wall Street, by putting a coward and a torturer on display with the more unpleasant members of his family? The problem was not that the alleged journalists running your place decided to give a platform to a man whose only public appearances in the near future should be unsponsored events at the Hague?

It goes on like that, a righteous rant to rank with the best of Thompson and Taibbi. I didn’t even quote the best parts.

I have not had a lot of energy or attention for blogging of late. (I’m actually finally reading “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and I also just discovered “Breaking Bad.” Sue me.) But I’m glad that Pierce is on the job. And some of the commenters give as good as Pierce does; I particularly liked the notion that Cheney will outlive even Keith Richards for all the wrong reasons.

Anyway, go read and get mad all over again — at the war criminal, his family, and the whores who give him a platform. They’re all deserving targets of wrath. For as Liz Cheney says herownself, “You can’t be responsible about the future if you don’t understand what happened in the past.”

 

Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:40 am

And while we’re on the subject of Iraq …

I see now that bloody-handed GOP foreign-policy apparatchik John Bolton has leaped into the fray as well, joining the Cheneys, Lindsay Graham, Paul Wolfowitz and all the other bloody-minded neocons in arguing that we need to KILL KILL KILL in Iraq because MURCA!

And news-media outlets of all political stripes are giving these effups a platform.

Yo, media: Stop. Just. Stop.

Every one of these people was wrong, wrong, WRONG about Iraq. They lied us into a war, they lied to us about how much it would cost in blood AND treasure, they lied to us about how we would be received, they killed thousands of American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi troops and civilians for a lie, and in the process they mismanaged the whole thing to the point at which it would have been impossible to mess it up worse if they had been trying, if in fact they were not. ANY news outlet giving ANY of these people a platform anymore is committing journalistic malpractice, full stop.

(As I’ve said before, I, too, was wrong about Iraq. I supported the invasion because I believed the lies about a possible nuclear program and not for any other reason. I knew damn well that the case was far from conclusive, but the idea of Saddam with a nuke combined with my belief that no administration would deliberately lie this country into a war to overcome my misgivings. To borrow from “Animal House,” I fucked up. I trusted them. But my mistake, however naive, at least was honest. These people, with far more information, fabricated a casus belli, which is a war crime by definition.)

Media, if you truly want to help your readers/viewers understand Iraq rather than just beating the drum for MOAR WAR, you might do well to consult some of the people who were right about Iraq. Just for starters, here’s Athenae, who predicted in 2006 what’s happening today:

It occurred to me this weekend, listening to family and others talk about the war, that really what we’re doing now as a country is looking for some answer that doesn’t make us wrong, doesn’t make us [expletive]s, doesn’t make us the people who screwed this up so catastrophically that there’s no way out.

You see that with McCain and his troop plans, you see it with various Bush officials and their whole “we have to give it time, just like Vietnam” schtick (which, way to lose the five people you still had on this issue, Genius McMensa), and you see that with every single person around the Thanksgiving table that talks about how “we can’t leave now, it’ll just turn into chaos.” And I think the liberal war supporters are most swayed by the last argument, because c’mon, they clung so desperately to their hope that Bush wouldn’t cock this up, plus they were the ones screaming about US sanctions and repression in the Middle East long before we needed those excuses to blow some stuff up.

Things will be horrible if we leave. The answer to that last is always, unequivocably yes, yes, it will. Iraq will continue to be chaos, civil war, a breeding ground for hatred of America and a place of misery for those who live there. When the bough breaks, the cradle of civilization will fall. It’s time to stop dancing around that and just admit it. If we leave, it will be awful. For us, for them, for everyone.

BUT THERE’S NOTHING WE CAN DO TO STOP IT ANYMORE.

We lost this war three weeks after the invasion; we lost this war two and a half years ago at least. Those of you who read this blog just to be pissed off and think I take some pleasure in that can just go [expletive] off, you don’t know how much I wanted to be wrong about the sick feeling in my gut at seeing the looting start. We lost this war before it even began, with the piss-poor excuses for planning that gave us the Ballad of Dougie Feith and His Sidekick Ahmed Chalabi, that gave us Curveball and WMDs and letting libraries burn. We lost this war when we marched in with our own ideas about how to run Iraq and as much as said to the locals, [expletive] off now, let us play with our new toy. We lost this war long ago, while the majority of Americans were still waving flags and singing “we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.” The only way to fix it, the only way to win, is to build ourselves a time machine and go back and not invade in the first place.

What’s more, I think the people saying we can’t abandon the Iraqi people, I think they know it, too. I think deep down they know there’s no way this is going to end well, considering how it began. I think deep down they know there’s no way to turn this around, but they don’t want to look at it yet, stare themselves in the face, see how completely and utterly taken they got. Take responsibility for the collective American failure. Take the weight of that on their souls.

I do get it: It’s not wrong to want the best. But it is selfish and small and downright immoral to allow your wanting the best to put others in danger when you know your delusions are just that. You have the right to pretend. You don’t have the right to ask someone to die for your puppet show. You don’t have the right to keep thinking it’ll get better, not when you know it won’t.

And so the answer to the statement, the desperate excuse, the Hail Mary: “We can’t just leave, it’ll be chaos.”

Yes. Yes, it will.

But American news media still insist on dividing their potential sources into the Very Serious People like Cheney and Bolton and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and so on, and those of us who disagree with them, who are dismissed as “unserious” or, in Internet parlance, Dirty [Expletive]ing Hippies. And those media ignore the fact that the “unserious” people, the DFHs, have been right all along.

Sadly, this phenomenon of providing platforms to people who have been proved wrong repeatedly isn’t limited to the subject of Iraq. It also applies to the economy and jobs, global warming, and just about every other major public-policy issue. I believe Driftglass said it best:

LIBERALS

Harry Reid on Dick Cheney on Obama on Iraq; or, All mistakes are created equal

Harry Reid voted for war with Iraq. He now says he shouldn’t have, but he did. Unlike some people, however, he at least takes advantage of the benefits of hinsight to admit his mistake:

If there’s one thing this country does not need, is that we should be taking advice from Dick Cheney on wars. Being on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is being on the right side of history. To the architects of the Iraq War who are now so eager to offer their expert analysis, I say, Mr. President, thanks, but no thanks. Unfortunately, we have already tried it your way and it was the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the country.

Some foes of the Iraq War complain that because Reid voted for war, he’s somehow just as guilty. And why not? Because believing that no administration would intentionally lie us into a war is EXACTLY as bad as the actual lying, right?

Saturday, May 10, 2014 10:46 pm

An even more special kind of stupid

SpecialKindOfStupid

It takes a very special kind of stupid to inherit peace, prosperity and a budget surplus and explode the deficit, allow a horrific terrorist attack, launch a war both illegal and unnecessary (killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the process), order Americans to carry out exactly the same kind of torture for which we hanged Germans and Japanese after World War II AND push policies that allowed the worst economic crisis in three-quarters of a century.

But it takes an even more special kind of stupid to say, on the subject of George W. Bush, to intelligent Americans, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?” Naturally, these days we do not lack for that very special kind of stupid; we need only turn to Matt Bai, formerly of the Times Almighty and now with Yahoo, to find it:

A graphic this week on FiveThirtyEight.com showed how fewer and fewer Americans blame Bush for the country’s economic morass, even though his successor, Barack Obama, won two presidential campaigns based on precisely that premise.

Bush’s critics will argue that this is testament to how quickly we forget the past. But it has more to do, really, with how we distort the present.

The truth is that Bush was never anything close to the ogre or the imbecile his most fevered detractors insisted he was. Read “Days of Fire,” the excellent and exhaustive book on Bush’s presidency by Peter Baker, my former colleague at the New York Times. Bush comes off there as compassionate and well-intentioned — a man who came into office underprepared and overly reliant on his wily vice president and who found his footing only after making some tragically bad decisions. Baker’s Bush is a flawed character you find yourself rooting for, even as you wince at his judgment.

Not just no, Matt, but hell, no.

I don’t need to read your buddy’s slobbery hagiography: I know what I saw and heard, out of the man’s own mouth, for eight long, painful, and disastrous years. For sheer incompetence, only Buchanan comes close, and in terms of the consequences of his stupidity, he is without peer or even parallel. America is vastly poorer, dumber, less free and yet more vulnerable today than it was in 2000, and the blame for that can be laid squarely at the feet of Li’l Boots McDrydrunk and the monsters he hired. I heard the man talk, so I know for a fact that he is an imbecile. I heard him admit on ABC News that he ordered torture, so I know for a fact that he is an ogre. And you, sir, can go straight to hell with him.

The only thing I’m rooting for where Bush is concerned is a seat in the dock at The Hague. And while oral sex is no longer a crime, public oral sex still is, so, Matt, buddy, next time you sit down to write about Bush 43, I’d look around for cops first.

 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 10:00 pm

Driftglass summarizes “Hubris” for you because I had to study

This is just a taste. And I am grateful to him for the service (which was live-tweeted, thus the weird diction/syntax in places; also, I did a quick search-and-replace on some of the more vapors-inducing participial adjectives):

  • Remember David Brooks’ column calling people who opposed Wolfowitz antisemitic? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember David Brooks’ columns mocking Liberals who opposed Iraq war as deluded Bush-deranged posers? No? That’s the firetrucking problem
  • Remember David Brooks calling people cynical assholes who objected to Dubya’s flightsuit tango? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when the collaborators at the NYT gave a firetrucking weekly column to Bloody Bill Kristol? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when David Brooks leveraged his Liberal bashing tripe into a column-for-life at the NYT? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember Steve Gilliard? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when the wingnutosphere went nuts trying to discredit every alarming report out of Iraq? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when palette-trucks of shrink- wrapped taxpayer cash just firetrucking vanished into Iraq? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when everything that is now settled history was America-hating surrender-monkey treason? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when a gay hooker Conservative “reporter” w/ a fake name sat 100 ft away from Dubya for 2 yrs? No? That’s the firetrucking problem
  • Remember when Halliburton made $$ selling American soldiers in Iraq toilet water? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when the GOP made “[Forget] Reality” into American national policy? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when Phil Donahue got fired for telling the truth and Conservatives got promoted for lying? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember how the Cheney clans got really, really rich sending kids off to die for their lies? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when 60 million Americans re-elected these deficit-creating war criminals? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember the incompetent children of GOP campaign contributors were put in charge of governing Iraq? No? That’s the firetrucking problem.
  • Remember when Fox News told soldiers rolling into battle to look into the camera and say “Fox Rocks!” No? That’s the firetrucking problem.

You know, I stack this list up against the whining from Politico reporters that I mentioned below, and I think perhaps I should call Mike Allen or Jim Vandehei at Politico and tell them, “There are better ways you could be spending your time, and some pseudonymous blogger in flyover country has just handed you a double fistful of them for free, so pack a lunch and get busy.

That, also, is the polite version. Too. Here’s kind of what I really feel like saying.

Monday, May 28, 2012 10:38 pm

Memorial Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 10:38 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Greetings. Not dead. Not even sick anymore. Life just happens. (If you follow me on Facebook, you have some inkling of this.)

But it is Memorial Day, which I take seriously. And because I take it seriously, and because I take seriously the appalling waste of the lives of our service members in Afghanistan and Iraq, the vet suicide rate (currently 18 per day, and more now in total than died in combat in OEF/OIF), the pure evil behind cutting VA funding, and the subject of war in general, I’ll refer you to this, which I wrote almost seven years ago and which remains, I believe, relevant.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 8:09 pm

“He captured it in a way that made amnesia no longer an option.”

On the 50th anniversary of the National Book Award for William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, the folks at the Smithsonian remind us not only why the book was so valuable then but also why it is so valuable today.

A lot of people on both sides of the aisle are still trying to argue that amnesia about our own sins is an option. Right now they’re winning, but I’m pretty confident of history’s verdict.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 9:41 pm

“Abracadabra,” or “Stick ‘em up”?

Like Keyser Soze in “The Usual Suspects,” some $1.2 billion in customers’ money has disappeared from MF Global Holdings Ltd., the trading firm run by former U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J.:

Federal officials looking for an estimated $1.2 billion missing from customers of MF Global Holdings Ltd. feel more and more that a lot of it may never be located, according to a report citing sources familiar with the probe.

What’s been learned so far suggests that a good deal of the money may have “vaporized” because of scrambling in trading in the week before MF Global filed for bankruptcy protection Oct. 31, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing “a person close to the investigation.”

Many now think specific MF Global employees used money from a customer account meant to be walled off and used it to cover collateral requirements or to unfreeze assets of banks and others as they became more worried about how exposed they were to MF Global, the Journal reported.

The probe also is looking at other possibilities that have taken on weight, including the chance that the firm lost a lot in investments that used customer money, according to the report.

At least, that’s what they’re saying in public. Duncan “Atrios” Black thinks the truth might be a little different:

No the money hasn’t disappeared, they’re just making clear that whoever took it is unlikely to relinquish it. Whoever took it is more important than the people it was taken from. … And a new standard will be established: the right people are free to steal $1.2 billion.

And who might those people be? Emptywheel hazards a guess:

I actually don’t think Federal Reserve Bank of NY Board Member Jamie Dimon got his hands on the almost $3 billion of Iraqi money deposited in the FBRNY that has vanished.

An audit by [Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart] Bowen’s office published on Sunday investigated the roughly $3 billion the Iraqi government gave the Defense Department to pay bills for contracts the Coalition Provisional Authority awarded before it dissolved in 2004. Most of these funds were deposited into an account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.  Even though DOD was responsible for maintaining the proper documentation, it could only account for $1 billion of the money.

“It’s symptomatic of the poor record keeping that was rife throughout the early stages of the reconstruction effort,” Bowen, who has conducted three other major audits into the original pot of roughly $21 billion in Iraqi funds the U.S. managed in 2003 and 2004, said.

After all, that money dates to 2004 and Dimon’s service on the FBRNY Board didn’t begin until January 2007. (Though I will note that Jamie Dimon and Iraq’s money overlapped at the FBRNY for a year.) Moreover, it was DOD’s responsibility to keep track of the money, not the FBRNY or Jamie DImon.

Still, I can’t help but notice that the announcement that we’ve lost almost $3 billion of Iraqi’s money (on top of the more than $100 million in cash that managed to walk out of Saddam’s former palace) came within a day of the time some are declaring the missing MF Global $1.2 billion has “vaporized.”

[snip]

That money does seem to have been lost in the immediate vicinity of Dimon’s JP Morgan.

As the week progressed, MF Global executives came to believe that JPMorgan Chase & Co., one of MF Global’s primary bankers and a middleman moving that cash, was dragging its feet in forwarding the funds.

Corzine phoned Barry Zubrow, then JPMorgan’s chief risk officer, to question the slow payments. Corzine also called William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, to update him on MF Global’s status and told him that payments were slow to arrive from JPMorgan and others.

[snip]

JPMorgan was able to slow the delivery of funds, worsening MF Global’s distress. As a result, they note, hundreds of millions of dollars of MF Global money may be still stuck in accounts at JPMorgan.

So while I’m not suggesting Jamie Dimon bears any personal liability for these missing billions (or those of Lehman or Bear Stearns), I will note that Dimon seems to have the 21st Century equivalent of the Midas Touch: Rather than turning things into gold when he touches them, when billions get within reach of Jamie Dimon, they seem to vaporize.

For the record, I have no earthly idea where either the MF Global money or the Iraq money went, but I’m confident that it didn’t go wherever it went accidentally. Would it be irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.

Thursday, September 15, 2011 7:05 pm

Why John Cole is better than The New York Times

John Cole was a Republican who supported invading Iraq in 2003.

Bill Keller is the editor of The New York Times, whose flawed reporting contributed significantly to the perception that the U.S. needed to invade Iraq.

Here is what Bill Keller says about his role in that fiasco:

Where does this leave me? The world is well rid of Saddam Hussein. But knowing as we now do the exaggeration of Hussein’s threat, the cost in Iraqi and American lives and the fact that none of this great splurge has bought us confidence in Iraq’s future or advanced the cause of freedom elsewhere — I think Operation Iraqi Freedom was a monumental blunder.

Whether it was wrong to support the invasion at the time is a harder call. [Emphasis added; see below -- Lex] I could not foresee that we would mishandle the war so badly, but I could see that there was no clear plan for — and at the highest levels, a shameful smugness about — what came after the invasion. I could not have known how bad the intelligence was, but I could see that the White House and the Pentagon were so eager to go that they were probably indifferent to any evidence that didn’t fit their scenario. I could see that they had embraced Chalabi, the exile cheerleader for war, despite considerable suspicion within the State Department and elsewhere that he was a charlatan. I could have seen, had I looked hard enough, that even by the more dire appraisals of Hussein’s capabilities he did not amount to what Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. called in a very different context “a clear and present danger.” But I wanted to be on the side of doing something, and standing by was not enough.

And here is what Cole — who, by the way, is no longer a Republican — says about what Bill Keller says:

What a bunch of mealy-mouthed bullshit, particularly the highlighted part. The war has been a complete and total disaster, and you don’t just get to grant yourself absolution by claiming it was a tough call. The simple fact of the matter is that warmongering cheerleaders like me and Keller got it wrong. The difference between me and Keller is I have the balls to admit I was wrong. Lots and lots of people with the exact same information we had got it right. Not only did they get it right, but they were chided and derided by folks like me, and in some cases were investigated by the CIA or had their covert cover blown.

So STFU, Keller. You were wrong then, as was I, and you haven’t learned a damned thing in the decade since other than the most important thing in our modern political and media environment is to never admit you were wrong.

For the record, I, too, supported the invasion, mainly because of the claims that Saddam had or was close to getting nuclear weapons and because I naively believed that the U.S. government wouldn’t lie us into a war again (remember the Gulf of Tonkin?). And I, too, was wrong. I apologize for that. I take a little comfort in the fact that I didn’t chide or deride those who disagreed with me, but not much.

And I think Cole’s larger point is crucial. Those who were right — about Iraq, about the housing bubble, about the widespread mortgage fraud — are still being chided and derided. Certainly they were not being given positions of responsibility and authority as a reward for their having been correct. Hell, they’re almost never even showing up on the Sunday-morning talk shows. Meanwhile, toads and worse like Doug Feith and John Yoo are rewarded for their wrongness. (Keller, for his part, should have lost his job over Judy Miller alone.)

Behavior like that is not how a great country stays great.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 7:54 pm

Memo to John Boehner and his batsh*t friends

We need to get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not need to stay there, let alone raise the retirement age to 70 and cut Social Security benefits to pay for it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:22 pm

Mission accomplished

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 10:22 pm
Tags: , ,

Remember how bin Laden said he planned to bankrupt America?

It’s working.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:24 pm

So, you Obama supporters who thought he was gonna get us out of Iraq?

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Sad — Lex @ 10:24 pm
Tags:

Nah. Guh. Happen:

I have sent the enclosed notice to the Federal Register for publication, continuing the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq. This notice states that the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13438 of July 17, 2007, is to continue in effect beyond May 22, 2010.

Obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to this threat and maintain in force the measures taken to deal with that national emergency.

So we get to spill even more blood and treasure over there on behalf of a government and a populace that hates our guts. My, I’m so glad the grownups are in charge.

Monday, April 26, 2010 10:46 pm

Winning the Iraq war …

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,We're so screwed — Lex @ 10:46 pm
Tags:

won’t happen like this:

Hundreds of Sunni men disappeared for months into a secret Baghdad prison under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s military office, where many were routinely tortured until the country’s Human Rights Ministry gained access to the facility, Iraqi officials say.

The men were detained by the Iraqi army in October in sweeps targeting Sunni groups in Nineveh province, a stronghold of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq and other militants in the north. The provincial governor alleged at the time that ordinary citizens had been detained as well, often without a warrant.

Worried that courts would order the detainees’ release, security forces obtained a court order and transferred them to Baghdad, where they were held in isolation. Human rights officials learned of the facility in March from family members searching for missing relatives.

You know why I and others raised so much hell about Abu Ghraib? This is one big reason why.

Wonderful. Freakin’ wonderful. Could we possibly have messed up the Iraq invasion any worse than we did? Is there anything at all we did right, anything that is at all likely to contribute to a better life for the Iraqi people after we leave?

Monday, February 15, 2010 10:38 pm

Good news! It’s not too late to screw Iraq up even more!

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 10:38 pm
Tags: ,

The joint U.S.-Iraqi military force has decided to ally itself with the Peshmerga, which very likely has been massacreing Christians and “other ethnic minorities” for more than a year.

Where are the wingnut Christianists when you need them? [/snark]

Sunday, December 20, 2009 11:28 pm

Odds and ends for 12/20

How do you surge?: McClatchy’s Nancy Youssef talks about some of the logistics issues, primarily the strain being put on facilities at Bagram and Kandahar that were never meant to handle as much as they’re handling now, let alone what they’ll be asked to handle as the surge begins. One issue among many: sewage. Ew.

Poetry corner: “Joezymandias”

Worst ideas of the decade, per the WaPo. Ed adds Invading Iraq without a Plan, Market Worship, and Vampire Saturation. I think Vampire Saturation wasn’t an idea so much as something that just sort of happened. However, I think a Zombie Apocalypse is a fabulous idea, and I’ll keep you posted as to my progress in that regard.

Best U.S. political analysis by someone too young to remember Nixon and too drunk to make sense, from commenter R-Jud at Balloon Juice: “To answer the question, ‘Were people this stupid before Nixon?': of course. They just didn’t have a huge, completely subservient, instantaneous multimedia complex capable of giving them airspace or feeding them the latest catchphrases. Another thought: you could say that the people cynically manipulating the crazies, as Nixon did, have died off or faded away over the last 40 years, and in their place we’ve been electing a bunch of the true-believing crazies, who’ve grown up on the Republican groupthink their entire lives. The crazy just keeps boiling down and down to its pure essence.”

Oh, is THAT all?: I blogged on the day it happened that the Supremes had refused to grant cert in Rasul et al. v. Myers et al., in which some Guantanamo detainees had sued Donald Rumsfeld and 10 military officials for having been tortured. At the time, I was hoping that SCOTUSblog, usually the go-to source for interpretation and analysis of high-court decisions, would fill in the contextual gap. As of this writing, that hasn’t happened. But the detainees’ attorneys — who, to state the obvious, have an interest — and Empire Burlesque say the Supremes, agreeing with the Obama Justice Department, which, unconscionably, agreed with the Bush Justice Department before it, have effectively decided that military detainees abroad “are not persons” and therefore “have no right not to be tortured.” Now, aren’t you glad you voted for change?

Before you praise Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., as a “fiscal conservative,” note this.

“I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier”: Way-cool video from Airventure 2009, to the tune of The Killers’ “All These Things I’ve Done” (h/t: Fred):

Monday, December 14, 2009 10:02 pm

Odds and ends for 12/14

Kabuki: President Obama talked tough to the bankers today, but don’t be misled: If he 1) knew what he was doing and 2) were serious about it, a lot of the executives he’s talking to would have been jobless by now and the U.S. taxpayer would be substantially better off.

Heck of a job, Bushie: The Bush administration’s birth-control policies helped fuel a population boom in Africa, which also means a poverty boom. Nice.

Tony Blair: We were gonna remove Saddam, and if he didn’t have WMDs, then we’d come up with some other reason. No, that’s actually pretty much what he said. If we don’t put these people in prison, our grandchildren are going to be calling us “good Germans.”

Rumsfeld, 10 military officials skate on torture liability: The Supreme Court declined today to hear an appeal of an appeals-court ruling that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 military officials are immune from civil claims of torture filed by four now-released Guantanamo prisoners from Britain. Even the normally reliable SCOTUSBlog hasn’t elaborated on this ruling, so I’m not sure what it means, but any time the word “immunity” appears close to Rumsfeld’s name, my gorge rises. (So, yeah, in case you’re wondering, I’ve spent the last five years throwing up in my mouth a little bit.)

“The bill is a hodgepodge. And it should be.”: Physician/journalist Atul Gawande, author of this groundbreaking article on why medical costs are rising so fast, says there’s actually a century-old historical precedent for measures in the health-care reform bill to improve efficiency, and a successful precedent at that: agriculture. It’s an unexpectedly optimistic piece. Check it out.

Burn in hell, Joe Lieberman: Ezra Klein says it best: “At this point, Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals. That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.”

“You have toyed with me for the last time!”: Fully a third of Democratic voters say they’ll be less likely to turn out in 2010 if Congress doesn’t pass a public option. Also, 81% say Joe Lieberman should be punished if he filibusters health-care reform. I think Lieberman should be punished in any event, just for being an ass.

Not so fast with that cover-up, there, mate: Also related to the Iraq invasion, six top physicians in Britain have launched legal action to have the purported suicide of government bioweapons expert Dr. David Kelly re-investigated. Kelly died in 2003, supposedly a suicide, just days after he was exposed as the source of a news report that a dossier of evidence regarding Iraq’s WMD program had been “sexed up” to justify invading Iraq. The physicians credibly claim that the investigation was, in technical terms, screwed six ways to Sunday.

Not so fast, the sequel: The Russian Supreme Court has overturned the acquittals of four suspects in the 2006 slaying of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. All four were accused of being accomplices. The actual triggerman, who evidence in the trial said was paid $2 million, is believed to be still at large. (Earlier.)

What’s going on in southern Russia? In August, 20 people died in a suicide bombing, described in Russian news reports as the latest in a series of attacks in the republic of Ingushetia. Then early today in that same area, a large bomb on an above-ground natural-gas pipeline was defused. Insights, anyone?

Ho-ho-home: Authors Stephen and Tabitha King are paying $12,999* so that 150 members of the Maine National Guard, currently in training in Indiana before shipping out to Afghanistan in January, can come home for the holidays. Glad they’re getting to go home. Wish they didn’t have to go overseas.

*Because he thought $13,000 was an unlucky number. One of King’s personal assistants kicked in the remaining buck.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:42 pm

Odds and ends, Nov. 17

  • Our eyes are on Afghanistan, but the prize is energy-rich Uzbekistan. So they boil political opponents alive. Big freakin’ deal.
  • The Special Inspector General of the fed bank bailout program says we need to audit the Fed already. Fine minds agree. So let’s audit the Fed already.
  • Tim Geithner’s pissing away of taxpayer money earlier this month, to the benefit of — surprise!! — Goldman Sachs and AIG —  would’ve been grounds for dismissal, if not execution, in any country that wasn’t already a banana republic. Unfortunately, we’re all now singing the Chiquita song:

This, Mr. Geithner, is what moral hazard is all about. Thanks to your actions you have doomed the U.S.’s formerly free and efficient equity markets to the biggest capital market bubble in history, which, like any ponzi, has only two outcomes: it either keeps growing in perpetuity as greater fools crawl out of the woodwork to keep it growing, albeit at ever slower marginal rates (note, this did not work out too well for Madoff), or it eventually pops. And the longer it takes to pop, the greater the ultimate loss of value: one day Madoff’s business was worth $50 billion, the next day it was $0. And that is precisely the same fate that American capital markets will have at some point in the upcoming months or years. When future historians look back at what specific action caused the biggest crash in U.S. capital markets history, Mr. Geithner’s cataclysmally botched negotiation of the AIG counterparty bailout will undoubtedly be at the very top of the list. In the meantime, just like in the Madoff case where the trustee is trying hard to trace where any stolen money may have been transferred to, to see the fund flows in our ongoing “ponzi in progress”, look no further than the bank accounts of Goldman bankers as they receive their biggest ever bonus this year …

 

  • Relatedly, I’m a lot less bothered about Obama bowing to an Asian leader than I am about his bowing to Goldman Sachs.
  • Question of the day, from Michael Lind: Shouldn’t the government pledge allegiance to the people, rather than the other way around?
  • Nice punking of an anti-immigration crowd. Not-so-nice behavior of the cops on hand, who were shoving around nonviolent counterprotesters rather than the anti-immigration folks who started the fisticuffs.
  • Time to revoke David Broder’s membership in the Wise Old Mainstream Media Pundits’ Club: When you say it’s more important to do something, anything, now than to do the right thing, you’re reckless. When you say that about a decision over whether to start, or expand, a war of choice, you’re just batsh*t insane definitely not supporting the troops.
  • Faith may well complement competent psychiatric care, but it is no substitute, a fact that appears to have escaped the Department of Veterans Affairs. And this is just one facet, albeit a particularly annoying one, of the VA’s utter failure to cope competently with the mental-health problems of veterans of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. My senior senator, Richard Burr, ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a guy with a DSCC bulls-eye on his back this election year, could do himself a lot of political good, in addition to doing a lot of real-world good for a lot of deserving people, if he just rode this issue like a beast across the plains of Mongolia.
  • And speaking of Richard Burr, call the WAAAAmbulance. Apparently, Senate Republicans are concerned that TV commercials about them supporting government contractors who let their employees get gang-raped may engender bad feelings against … um, well, the 30 Senate Republicans who supported government contractors who let their employees get gang-raped. (Here’s the one on Burr:)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 7:34 pm

A billion here, a billion there …

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 7:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

This is, sadly, a pittance compared to a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, but according to Senate testimony, about a quarter of the $50 billion supposedly spent on Iraq reconstruction has been wasted or stolen.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 10:14 am

Memo to Jail-Me Judy

(This post originally appeared in my blog The Lex Files at News-Record.com, which is no longer available.)

So former New York Times reporter (or Bush-administration mouthpiece) Judith Miller was actually presuming to lecture the rest of us this past weekend on journalism ethics.

It is to laugh.

Now, to be absolutely, positively, scrupulously fair to Miller, she’s quite right about increasing levels of secrecy, and corresponding decreases in the levels of freedom, in this country. In fact, the country’s voters spoke rather loudly last Tuesday to the effect that they get that and want to do something about it.

But I had to laugh at this:

Miller said the American media, however, give the federal government reason to doubt its motives and competence each time it is discovered that an article is plagiarized or gossip is reported as fact.The blurring of entertainment and news and the relaxing of journalistic standards can be seen in online bloggers who are critical of people without giving them an opportunity to respond or who don’t post corrections when they learn that what they have posted is wrong, she said.

“I’m worried about bloggers,” she said. “(A post) starts as a rumor and within 24 hours it’s repeated as fact.”

While she advocates a federal shield law to protect mainstream journalists from divulging their sources, she doesn’t favor extending that to bloggers who don’t follow the standards and ethnics of the journalism industry.

Still, she wouldn’t restrict a blogger’s right to publish online. She said some bloggers have been invaluable in uncovering government flaws.

“I’m glad to welcome them as long as they agree to the standards,” she said.

Tell me, Miss “I was proved f—— right”: What exactly are the standards?:

On September 7, 2002, Miller and Times reporter Michael R. Gordon reported the interception of metal tubes bound for Iraq. Her front page story quoted unnamed “American officials” and “American intelligence experts” who said the tubes were intended to be used to enrich nuclear material, and cited unnamed “Bush administration officials” who claimed that in recent months, Iraq had “stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.”[4]Miller added that “Mr. Hussein’s dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions, along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq’s push to improve and expand Baghdad’s chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war.” Although Miller conceded that some intelligence experts found the information on Iraq’s weapons programs “spotty,” she did not report specific and detailed objections, including a report filed with the US government more than a year before Miller’s article appeared by retired Oak Ridge National Laboratory physicist, Houston G. Wood III, who concluded that the tubes were not meant for centrifuges.

Shortly after Miller’s article was published, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld all appeared on television and pointed to Miller’s story as a partial basis for going to war. Subsequent analyses by various agencies all concluded that there was no way the tubes could have been used for uranium-enrichment centrifuges.

Miller would later claim, based only on second-hand statements from the military unit she was embedded with, that WMDs had been found in Iraq. (NYT; April 21, 2003) This again was widely repeated in the press. “Well, I think they found something more than a smoking gun,” Miller said on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. “What they’ve found is a silver bullet in the form of a person, an Iraqi individual, a scientist, as we’ve called him, who really worked on the programs, who knows them, firsthand, and who has led MET Alpha people to some pretty startling conclusions.” This story also turned out to be false.[5]

On May 26, 2004, a week after the U.S. government apparently severed ties with Ahmed Chalabi, a Times editorial acknowledged that some of that newspaper’s coverage in the run-up to the war had relied too heavily on Chalabi and other Iraqi exiles bent on regime change. It also regretted that “information that was controversial [was] allowed to stand unchallenged.” While the editorial rejected “blame on individual reporters,” others noted that ten of the twelve flawed stories discussed had been written or co-written by Miller.[6]

Miller has reacted angrily to criticism of her pre-war reporting. In a May 27, 2004 article in Salon, published the day after the Times mea culpa, James C. Moore quoted her: “You know what,” she offered angrily. “I was proved f—— right. That’s what happened. People who disagreed with me were saying, ‘There she goes again.’ But I was proved f—— right.” This quotation was originally in relation to another Miller story, wherein she indicated that trailers found in Iraq had been proven to be mobile weapons labs. That too was later shown to be untrue.

So tell us, Judy: Is it OK if the bloggers lie the country into a war, like you did, as long as they correct their misspellings?

Actually, strike that. I’ll tell you what: In the unlikely event we who are still in the business of trying to report stuff instead of making stuff up need your advice, we’ll beat it out of you. Otherwise? Just. Shut. Up. Our jobs are hard enough as it is.

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