Sunday, October 15, 2006


Three recent books about the "fiasco" in Iraq - "Cobra II" by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor, "State of Denial" by Bob Woodward and just plain "Fiasco" by Tom Ricks - have attracted a lot of attention, and sales. All three well-written exposes repeat the now well-known argument that our government's incompetence and arrogance have nearly ensured America's failure in birthing democracy in Iraq.

It's worth noting, though, that many of the authors' critical portraits rely on private conversations and anonymous sources. The most damning informants in these books are never identified and so can't be questioned.....

In "Fiasco," often verbatim quotations are not cited with specific attribution, but only vaguely noted in the text as "said a Bush administration official" or "recalled one officer." Among the endnotes in "State of Denial," we are apprised, "The information in this chapter comes primarily from background interviews with seven knowledgeable sources." But who are these "seven knowledgeable" sources? Since Woodward so far won't name them, how do we really know that they are "knowledgeable" or even "primarily" used? Is the answer because they talked to Woodward (and not to others?), or were pre-selected because they happened to agree with his own views?

In "Cobra II," we wonder why one "former Centcom planner" would talk while others (more numerous?) choose not to. And in "Fiasco," is the talkative but unnamed "Bush administration official" getting even at his rivals by offering only his interpretation of shared past conversations?

There are a number of other things wrong with all this gossip. First, note the disturbing pattern in this resorting to anonymity. Usually the unidentified source supports the author's critique - and thus is almost always critical of the present policy in Iraq. Rarely do these journalists quote unnamed sources who dissent from their own views, although there are surely pro-U.S. Iraq policy candid voices among the thousands of retired generals....

These past couple of weeks, current and former officials have been protesting that they were unfairly characterized in Woodward's book - and have argued that conditions in Iraq are not as bad as alleged by anonymous sources. And while there have been on-the-record critics of all three books, none of the unnamed accusers cited in them has come forward.

These virtual histories all allege a "state of denial" and lack of accountability on the part of government officials. Perhaps - but how odd then that the authors of "Cobra II," "Fiasco" and "State of Denial" have used the very secrecy and subterfuge they claim to deplore in their targets.

More here



Israel ramps up Gaza offensive: "Israel stepped up its offensive in the Gaza Strip on Friday, killing at least four people in a series of attacks throughout the coastal area. The fighting brought the death toll in the offensive to 13 Palestinians, including a young girl, since Thursday. The army has been carrying out an offensive throughout Gaza since June, when militants linked to the ruling Hamas militant group tunneled into Israel and captured an Israeli soldier. The soldier remains in captivity. After a recent lull, the fighting has picked up in recent days. Israel TV said the operation in Gaza Friday was the largest there in weeks."

Attack ads are good for you!: "Negative campaigning is an issue across the country this fall, in campaigns from Massachusetts to Hawaii and in races down the ballot from U.S. senator to county assessor. As wounded politicians whine that such speech is out of bounds, it's time to stand up in defense of the much-maligned attack ad. In this age of instantaneous information via blogs, round-the-clock cable coverage, and other media, political attacks can be swiftly countered. Any opinion offered about a candidate, no matter how mean, vile, or sinister, can be rebutted immediately and globally. Thanks to such exchanges, voters this year will know a lot about prospective elected officials if they are willing to process multiple sources of information and draw their own conclusions."

The communitarian conundrum: "The great moral difficulty with communitarianism is that, if taken to extremes, it treats individuals as though they were little more than cells of a larger organism. Just as when doctors kill cells to prevent cancer from spreading, communitarianism readily justifies state intrusion into the private sphere in the name of some communal good. Worse yet, communitarian societies require a standard of behavior more demanding than most members of an unredeemed society are unable or unwilling to meet most of the time, and that all are unable to meet all of the time. Hence, it is hardly surprising that world history is littered with the failures of communitarian utopia."

America, 300 million strong: "One day this month an immigrant will arrive or, more likely, a baby will be born who will make the United States a nation of 300 million. This demographic milestone has prompted hand-ringing among environmentalists on the left and immigration opponents on the right, all of whom are misguided. Passing the 300 million mark should be cause for celebration: Never in the history of mankind have so many people lived such free and prosperous lives in one country."

"Wal-Mart Laws" harm black communities: "The 'big-box ordinance' passed on July 26 by the Chicago City Council would require national retail chains such as Wal-Mart and Target to pay their Chicago employees at least $9.25 an hour plus $1.50 in benefits, to increase to $10.00 an hour and $3.00 in benefits by the year 2010. The law would apply only to retail stores with at least 90,000 indoor square feet, owned by national companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more. ... Advocates of the ordinance, both black and white, claim it will help poor black Americans. But support for this ordinance did not begin in the black community, nor would its effect be to benefit blacks."

Christians and big government: "There was a day when social conservatives were united with economic conservatives in the belief that small, limited government was not only good for our economy and the prosperity of American families, but essential to protect traditional family values. We all fought for a limited federal government -- a government that had the decency to respect the American people by staying out of their lives. Small government meant that all Christians could practice their faith as they saw fit. Big government violates those rights by meddling in our lives, misusing our hard-earned money, and dictating cultural norms to us."



"All the worth which the human being possesses, all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State." -- 19th century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel is the most influential philosopher of the Left -- inspiring Karl Marx, the American "Progressives" of the early 20th century and university socialists to this day.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch)

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