Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Democrat Congress Ignorant On Iraq

The Left-leaning "New Republic" asks (below): How Can Congress Run Iraq If It Doesn't Know A Thing About It?

Maybe it was a slip of the tongue. But, when Nancy Pelosi confessed last year that she felt "sad" about President Bush's claims that Al Qaeda operates in Iraq, she seemed to be disputing what every American soldier in Iraq, every Al Qaeda operative, and anyone who reads a newspaper already knew to be true. (When I questioned him about Pelosi's assertion, a U.S. officer in Ramadi responded, incredulously, that Al Qaeda had just held a parade in his sector.) Perhaps the House speaker was alluding to the discredited claim that Al Qaeda operated in Iraq before the war. Perhaps. But the insinuation that Al Qaeda's depredations in Iraq might be something other than what they appear to be has become a staple of the congressional debate over Iraq. Thus, to buttress his own case for withdrawal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "We have to change course [away from Iraq] and turn our attention back to the war on Al Qaeda and their allies" - the clear message being that neither plays much of a role there.

What is going on here? There are two possibilities: First, Reid and Pelosi could be purposefully minimizing the stakes in Iraq. Or, second, they don't know what they're talking about. My guess is some combination of the two. Political maneuvering certainly contributes to the everyday pollution of Iraq discourse. But a lot of the pollution derives from legislators being functionally illiterate about the war over which Congress now intends to preside. In this, of course, they're hardly alone. The Bush administration's wretched Iraq literacy has been well-chronicled. But, with Congress demanding a louder say in the management of the war, the same knowledge gap that plagued our arrival in Iraq looks like it will be revived just in time for our departure.

Whatever explains the literacy gap, this much at least is obvious: Having been called into being by politicians on both sides of the aisle, the war in Iraq no longer bears a relation to anything they say. You don't need to cherry-pick quotes to prove the point: Nearly every time a senator's mouth opens, something wrong comes out. A typical example came a few weeks ago when Senator Joseph Biden took to the op-ed page of The Washington Post. In response to an equally surreal op-ed by Senator John McCain, Biden wrote,

The most damning evidence that the "results" McCain cites are illusory is the city of Tall Afar. Architects of the president's plan called it a model because in 2005, a surge of about 10,000 Americans and Iraqis pacified the city. Then we left Tall Afar, just as our troops soon will leave the Baghdad neighborhoods that they have calmed.

A minor detail perhaps, but "we" never left Tal Afar. In 2006, the First Brigade of the First Armored Division replaced the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, actually boosting the number of Americans in the city. Biden's analysis will also come as news for the 25th Infantry Division, whose soldiers were patrolling the streets of Tal Afar even as the senator claimed otherwise. Not to single Biden out: Who can forget Representative John Murtha's suggestion that it would be a cinch for American forces to "redeploy" from Iraq to nearby Okinawa, 5,000 miles from Baghdad? Or House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes not knowing whether Sunni or Shia populate the ranks of Al Qaeda? U.S. officers in Iraq say that, during their briefings to visiting delegations, they routinely find themselves subjected to examples of congressional oversight along the lines of: Is (the northern city of) Mosul east or west of Baghdad? What's the difference between a brigade and battalion?

As to why some of Capitol Hill's would-be war managers can't name more than a single Iraqi province, officers and journalists offer all kinds of theories. A common explanation points to the shrinking percentage of veterans in Congress, which amounts to a paltry fraction of the World War II cohort that legislated the war in Vietnam (and, incidentally, did a lousy job). But the ranks of the confused feature enough veterans, most notably Reid and Murtha, to disprove the theory. Another blames the reluctance of delegations to venture beyond the Green Zone or the bases they visit - and, then, their reluctance to be dazed by the sheer unfamiliarity of it all. "I'll never forget the helicopters coming in at night delivering wounded to the hospital in the Green Zone," the Iraq Study Group's Leon Panetta marveled to The Washington Post. "We've all seen 'M.A.S.H.,' and yet it was happening right there." Which brings us to yet another explanation for the literacy gap: Today's wise men don't exactly rise to the level of their predecessors. In place of William Bundy and Walt Rostow, we have Panetta and Vernon Jordan; as the custodian of William Fulbright's legacy, we have Harry Reid. The former hungered for the data and lacuna of war; the latter seem frankly uninterested.

More than that, congressional leaders often seem loath even to hear about events on the ground. During General Petraeus's visit to Washington last week, for example, House Democrats at first denied the Iraq commander an opportunity to brief them, citing "scheduling conflicts." And, when he finally did brief Congress, the evidence of progress that Petraeus was expected to present was dismissed before he even offered it. "He's the commander," Senator Carl Levin reasoned. "We always know that commanders are optimistic about their policies." The joke here, of course, is that Levin and his colleagues were not so long ago denouncing the Bush administration - and rightly so - for the sin of disparaging military expertise. True, civilians have no obligation to heed that expertise. They do, however, have an obligation to be informed or, at a minimum, to listen.

But, then, expertise may be beside the point. Obliviousness, after all, has its uses. It comforts the sensibilities of politicians whose varying levels of awareness allow them to favor certain facts and not others. Obliviousness testifies to the virtue and good intentions of members of Congress who, in truth, couldn't care less what comes next in Iraq. It invites Americans to indulge in the conceit that what happens in Washington obviates the need to think seriously about what happens in Baghdad.

More here



Kurds expose Palestinian failure: "I want to compare the Kurds to the Palestinians.... consciously or not, and I believe consciously, the Kurds followed the example of what the Zionists did from the twenties on. For several decades, even under the raging reign of Saddam Hussein, they built an educational system and a health system, they had a working Kurdish government that no one recognized, they paid attention to all of the requirements for civil society. There is a vibrant economy and it is generating serious foreign investment. It is true that, for the last dozen years or so, their ambitious ventures were implicitly and explicitly carried out under the protection of the U.S. Yet it was as if nobody noticed. The international system paid no attention, except to warn that there should not be a Kurdish state. There should not be a Kurdish state. There really should not be a Kurdish state. Yet there is a Kurdish state, and it will get along with Turkey. Contrast the Kurds with the Palestinians. Everyone is passionate for a Palestinian state.... But the Palestinians don't have a state, and it's not because Israel failed to give them one or negotiate one with them. The contrast is startling: no one wants a Kurdish state and yet there is one. Everyone wants a Palestinian state, people are willing to die for it and, what's worse, kill for it. Mahmud Abbas is president of the state, and there is an elected parliament with a designated prime minister and a "unity" government. But let's face it: the state of Palestine simply does not exist"

EU worried about Russia: "European Union policymakers have long sought peace, stability and prosperity on the bloc's borders and backed the vision of an EU surrounded by well-governed and well-intentioned neighbours. Unfortunately for the EU, however, today's European political reality is starkly different. With Russia in anti-Western mood over a mix of issues, including missiles, energy and the status of Russian minorities in the Baltics - as well as continuing uncertainty over Moscow's stance on the final status of Kosovo - the EU's hopes of stability on its frontiers are fading fast.

British Labour Party fading: " In the South West, where I was following the local results, the most striking trend was the virtual disappearance of the Labour Party. There are now 109 councils in England which either have only a single Labour councillor or - most of them - none at all. Four of these are in South or West Somerset; in a large number of our local Somerset wards, there was no Labour candidate. In England, Labour lost more than a quarter of its council seats; it is now in third place, 300 behind the Liberal Democrats, who are 3,000 behind the Conservatives. In Wales, Labour had its lowest share of the vote in almost 90 years


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"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here.

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) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party".


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