May 05, 2007

Bush @ 28%

news photo

It's still mysterious to me: who are these people who still support Bush? If he is at 28% approval, as the latest Newsweek poll reports, then maybe Bush is now down to his ineradicable base, the evangelical wingnuts who have flicked it in where life on Earth is concerned. Commander Guy still pulls about 70% approval ratings from Republicans, which strongly suggests that political and religious affiliations have entered into some sort of unholy matrimony in the reptilian brains of a large swath of the American population. I leave out the 1% or so of America's plutocratic class who like Bush simply because he doesn't get in the way of their unbridled acquisition of money. Team Bush, for example, is still researching global warming, while the rest of the civilized world has moved on to one of two positions: (1) frantically trying to deal with it, or (2) admitting that it's too late.

When I look at the photos above, I get the strong sense that Bush simply plays at being President. Long ago he figured out that the presidency was simply another in a long line of jobs for which he had no aptitude. It's always seemed ludicrous to me that politicians debate Bush's "policies," as if they were dealing with a coherent set of principles based on thorough analysis. They're nothing of the kind. Take the current tactic du jour of his Democratic opposition. They're talking of "de-authorizing" the Iraq War. Someone in the Democratic Caucus should read the original damned Authorization for Use of Military Force, October, 2002. It is, as almost all Congressional enactments are, an incomprehensible pile of bullshit. Nevertheless, the "authorization" for invading Iraq, for each and every point, depends on Saddam Hussein being in power. Nothing in the Authorization in the least grants Bush permission to engage in the endless "nation-building" exercise we've been enmeshed in since the Mission Accomplished speech. It's not a matter of "de-authorizing" the war; it's a question of pointing out there is no authority for what we're doing. None whatsoever. It is a full-blown Constitutional crisis (though no one ever talks about it) that the "President" continues prosecuting a war for which there is no legal basis, and if Congress were serious about stopping him, they could initiate litigation in the Supreme Court, hoping to slip it by the pervert/psycho wing of the Court.

So the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we've got about 8 years to deal decisively with global warming, or the most extreme consequences will become unavoidable. The United States, of course, sits at the very center of the action plan, and the simian pretender pictured above sits at the very center of the U.S. We can't figure out how to stop a war which the vast majority of the American populace wants over right now. Which we don't need to fight. For which there is no legal authority. Which is bleeding us dry. And the same Congress is supposed to come up with an integrated, highly technical, comprehensive plan for averting disaster for the world?

May 02, 2007

Bush's Iraq Strategy Revealed

..."But slowly but surely, the truth will be known. Either we'll succeed, or we won't succeed. And the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives. And that's what we're trying to achieve."

So there you have it at last: Bush's Iraq Strategy. Certain elements of the strategy seem incontrovertible; for example, the dichotomy between succeed/won't succeed. I would concede that one or the other will happen. To succeed, but slowly but surely, involves sectarian violence down, although not to zero. Bush points out that "parts" of our own country have got a certain level of violence to "it" [sic]. Antecedents, along with the rest of the English language, are not Bush's long suit. I would concede this as well. He probably means urban areas, in general, but let's not forget Dick & Perry in Kansas. The reference to the United States is not elaborated, but I think I can help. Bush suggests here that no one would quibble with America as a successful country despite the violence, since Americans feel comfortable, he contends, living their daily lives. The precise level of violence which is consistent with success in Iraq is where Iraqis feel comfortable living their daily lives as well. Thus, summing up the various elements, and placing them in some kind of cogent relationship, success in Iraq will be achieved when Iraqis feel comfortable the way we do.

This is a far cry from the original rationales for the war, which dealt with mushroom clouds and Saddam's support for al-Qaeda. A million men or so have rotated in and out of Iraq (mostly in) and the country has spent $500 billion over more than a four year period so the Iraqis could feel comfortable living their daily lives. Thus, the war has been about the affective well-being of the ordinary Iraqi going about his/her daily life.

This does not seem to me an unfair oversimplification. On the broader front, the idea of "stabilizing" the Middle East, or the democracy-domino theory, or Bush's claim that so long as we fight in Iraq we'll never endure another terrorist attack in the U.S. - to all this, I would counter that these are merely conjectural theories. No matter how strenuously, or loudly, anyone says these things, they remain notions which are not amenable to empirical proof. Maybe yes, maybe no, but there is no way to know for sure at the present time.

What "metric" will we use to determine when Iraqi violence has subsided to the point where Iraqis feel comfortable about living their daily lives? A poll taken based upon a scientific sample? Given Bush's reaction to the Lancet study of Iraqi civilian deaths, he doesn't seem to give much credence to the results of such inquiries. The President's own "gut" feeling about how comfortable the Iraqis are living their daily lives? He could exhort this country, I suppose, with a thundering oration to a joint session of Congress wherein he exclaims, "the Iraqis are almost comfortable enough now! We're making steady progress!" That seems tepid and unconvincing. A soldier dying for Iraqi comfort might question his mission or the meaning of his sacrifice.

I notice that Bush does not require a fully-functioning democracy in Iraq as a condition of success; thus, Iraqi comfort in a theocracy or military junta might also make the grade, although Bush might have assumed that we all knew he meant it must be a democratically-based comfort. Or maybe not. He sometimes refers simply to a "functioning" government able to "defend" itself, and a theocratic system under Sharia law might actually manage this better than a democracy rivened by sectarian conflict. The overall good news is that with a successful mission so vaguely defined, we might get there tomorrow, especially since most polls show about 80% of the Iraqi people want the American occupation to end now or very soon. "It's peaceful enough," they'll say. "We're comfortable, we're comfortable. Now please get the hell out of here."

April 30, 2007

Bush Declares Complete Success for Surge

from New York Times, May 30, 2007
(Washington, D.C.) -

President Bush declared today that the Iraqi surge strategy had succeeded completely, and again called on the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress to send him a clean bill free of any restraints whatsoever on his authority to conduct the war as he sees fit. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both expressed increasing impatience with an intractable Democratic leadership which insists on tying any further funding for the war to timelines and benchmarks.

"There's no reasons at all at these junctures to just go on with benchmarking and timelining," the President said to the press corps gathered in the Rose Garden. "Our troops is not a contingent which can be, or will, holding hostage as part of politics, and believe me, I know about politicking in this town, but wherever there's indications our strategies has leaped our mission forward, folks see these suiciders with their fabulous exploding cars and then sort of lose the vision."

In later comments at the Capitol rotunda following a meeting with Republican Congressional leaders, the Vice President summarized the Administration's position with typical concision: "These treasonous rats in the Democratic leadership need to hand over the dough pronto. The mission is a complete success."

Reports from Baghdad in fact have demonstrated a remarkable turnaround since the introduction of additional troops in the early part of this year. The numbers for sectarian fatalities caused by death squads and militias, deaths by exploding car bombs, overall Iraqi civilian deaths and the casualty figures for American troops are all significantly reduced. Indeed, the latest reports indicate the same metric for each category, namely, zero.

"We've really turned the corner," a jubilant General David Petraeus exulted in a press conference held in the Green Zone. "No one is dying here anymore, even from natural causes. The surge has brought what some had called a 'civil war' completely under control."

Congressman Henry Waxman (Dem., Los Angeles) pointed out that the rosy reports were in large part due to a change in recording fatalities and acts of violence in and around Baghdad. "The Bush Administration has instituted a policy of not counting any fatalities at all," a clearly exasperated Waxman complained at a hastily called conference outside his office. "It started by not counting deaths from car bombs, and then the Iraqi government stopped reporting civilian deaths, and when the press let them get away with that, they stopped counting all the bodies picked up on the street every morning, then anyone else found dead, and then Defense stopped reporting any American casualties. So of course it looks good, but it doesn't bear any resemblance to reality."

Congressman Waxman, a persistent administration critic, has often taken positions contrary to Bush policies, and it was not immediately clear whether his criticism represented the consensus view of the Democratic caucus. It was clear, however, that the strong improvement in conditions in Baghdad would increase pressure on the Democratic leadership to pass a funding bill with no strings attached.