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Friday, July 15, 2005

Some good things about our President

LI has often had harsh things to say about President Bush. But fairness requires that we also praise the President when he is right. Lately, we’ve been thinking that Bush must have received intelligence that Osama bin Laden is particularly vulnerable to humor. The man has several congenital diseases, and the frail system might shake itself mortally out of shape if subject to enough fits of laughter.

That explains much of the policy we are pursuing in Iraq, and throws a flickering light on the unexpected keenness of our Texan president, known for his pratfalls on bikes already. From class clown to strategy leader – such things can only happen in America. For instance, this story, from the Kurdish press, shows how cleverly Bush is pushing the “fatal joke” plan:

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa stating that the future Iraqi state will be called “The Islamic Federal Republic of Iraq.” On 10th of July, al-Sistani had issued another fatwa in which he stated, “The Iraqi constitution must not contradict with Islam.” Al-Sistani, who in the past has stated that he would not get involved in Iraqi politics, daily issues decisive fatwas on the way the Iraqi socio-political system is to be shaped, which has so far meant that al-Sistani has practically overridden the work of the committee that is responsible for producing the new Iraqi constitution. It has also been noted by observers that the Shiia bloc uses al-Sistani as, what has been termed, a “pressure-pump”. Whenever the Shiia bloc wants to impose an issue over the Iraqi Assembly and the Kurdish bloc, they request al-Sistani to issue a fatwa. As it is known, “Fatwas” are non-negotiable.”

And so 1700+ American soldiers have died, 15,000 have been wounded, 200 billion dollars has been doled out, 28-100,000 Iraqis have died so that we can proudly plant the Islamic Federal Republic in Mesopotamia. Good job, neo-cons. I suppose the root of our success, here, begins with the brilliant beginnings of our campaign, when we made secular democracy synonymous with a noted Middle Eastern fraud, Ahmed Chalabi. That ploy "failing" (as we knew it would), we then sealed the deal by supporting known car bombing terrorist Allawi as the next representative of all things secular. Of course, Allawi greenlighted our attempt to purge the Sunnis from participation in Iraq's political structure by razing Fallujah. Success followed success, although you would never know this from the press, who seem totally out of the loop as far as our higher strategy is concerned. Since then, all elements have converged as planned to make Iraq a showcase of Islamic fundamentalism – and to overthrow the risible physiology of the A.Q. leadership. Future historians will probably speculate about when Bush got the idea. Surely he watched Monty Python in his younger days, when he was serving in a unit in defense of the Gulf Coast. I'd guess he saw the skit about the killing joke, and it stuck in his mind. The minds of great scientists are mysteries, and Bush's mind is no different. Those who criticize his intelligence are simply fetishizing the verbal. That isn't how Bush stores up his mental material.

So, there you have it. Those who accuse this President of a disconnect from reality should connect the dots and smell the coffee. America is proud and strong today, and as we dot the map of the Middle East with more Islamic republics, we will be ever stronger and ever prouder.


Paul craddick said...


I think I get it; Bush is channeling the ghost that Rodney Dangerfield gave up - so the joke's on him.

You, I regret to notice, seem to be channeling the spiritus perennium of Chicken Little. The falling sky has occluded your view of the other objectives driving the invasion of Iraq - which, as you know, I describe as follows:

* To end, conclusively and decisively, the decade-plus, on-again/off-again war with Saddam Hussein. In so doing:

* To verify well and truly that Saddam had disarmed - and disarm him if he hadn't.

* To prevent an eventual, or disrupt an actual, collaboration between Saddam and Al Qaeda and/or likeminded groups.

Unless I am much mistaken, those objectives have been met or are in the process of being met.

Well, at least you're not foisting the most dire possible interpretation onto Sistani's "vision" !; and since you're glad to roll out your "Burkean" credentials as the occasion suits you, I'm happy to see that your inner Burke is remembering that an antecedent social force such as religion cannot and should not be ignored as a potential makeweight to the ambitions of power - especially if one is keen to prevent dirigisme. And what do you know? - Sistani said "federal." He might even mean it.

roger said...

Paul, interesting points.

On a, as we know, the inspection of the nuclear weapons and weapons dumps were negligible at best. Given that the pro-war sphere is continually claiming that Saddam Hussein was buying yellowcake the way I buy sushi at the Whole Foods, we can only conclude that this yellowcake has gone into the network, thereby increasing the danger to the U.S.

on b., a war that is of longstanding but is not activated seems, to me, to be a war that is a legal fossil. It is like a regulation about blacksmithing in Central New York. Hence, although I buy that as a justification for the war if that justification was made by the warmakers -- if, for instance, George Bush had said, we are already at war with Saddam Hussein -- but I believe that the people who have the power to make war are the ones whose actions and words ultimately justify it, or not. This is actually a very Burkean principle. I'll look up the letter to Hercules Langrishe later on -- I think there are some apposite quotes.

and c. makes little sense to me. We could as well justify invading Canada or the U.K on that pretence. Any government might collaborate with Al Qaeda. Instead, see a -- we have opened up the borders of Iraq to Al qaeda, failed to secure what arms were there, and continued Clinton's policy of moving A.Q. around, instead of destroying it. By preventing a non-existent alliance, we have created a stronger terrorist network. Great work. The word is that the London bombings are connected to a guy sent by A.Q. to the UK. Typical. I love the meme that Bin Laden is just a guy sitting in a cave, now. As if O.B.L was sitting in Goldfinger's palace in Afghanistan. How often does the point have to be made, via explosion -- A.Q. has no trouble keeping in contact with its network from a center in Central Asia. And having our pet dictator pretend to chase him around Pakistan is a joke. Astonishingly, four years after 9/11, Bush has pursued the same policy against A.Q. as Clinton did after the first WTC explosion. Move him out, let him be, watch the merry explosions go off, four years later.

and d., where is the mention of liberalization? That was on your list. Is present day Basra an example of it? and the federal, for some reason, isn't pacifying the Kurds. In fact, they are sorta wondering why Sistani's fatwas are automatically Iraqi law. I'll think the Kurds are going to have a big surprise with the coming Iran-Iraq military alliance that's being negotiated this week in Teheran. We will see.

roger said...

Paul, here's a large chunk of Burke from the letter. Don't you love the word operose? I do. Anyway, out of this, it is very hard for me to derive a state dependent on fatwa, supported by an occupying force. But Burke did appreciate religion as part of the culture, and thus part of the political culture, of the commonwealth.

I supported, and still support, the elections Sistani demanded. However, I'm not surprised that the state is turning into an Islamicist one. Islamo-fascist, to use field commander Hitchen's term. The moderation of that inevitability could have been achieved if we had long ago made peace with Iran, and so had more leverage. But alas, American interests were sacrificed, once again, to neo-con ideology.

"It is not a fundamental part of the settlement at the revolution, that the state should be protestant without any qualification of the term. With a qualification it is unquestionably true; not in all its latitude. With the qualification, it was true before the revolution. Our predecessors in legislation were not so irrational (not to say impious) as to form an operose ecclesiastical establishment, and even to render the state itself in some degree subservient to it, when their religion (if such it might be called) was nothing but a mere negation of some other—without any positive idea either of doctrine, discipline, worship, or morals, which they professed themselves, and which they imposed upon others, even under penalties and incapacities—No! No! This never could have been done even by reasonable Atheists. They who think religion of no importance to the state have abandoned it to the conscience, or caprice of the individual; they make no provision for it whatsoever, but leave every club to make, or not, a voluntary contribution according to their fancies. This would be consistent. The other always appeared to me to be a monster of contradiction and absurdity. It was for that reason, that some years ago I strenuously opposed the clergy who petitioned, to the number of about three hundred, to be freed from the subscription to the 39 Articles, without proposing to substitute any other in their place. There never has been a religion of the state (the few years of the Parliament only excepted) but that of the church of England; the church of England, before the reformation, connected with the See of Rome, since then, disconnected and protesting against some of her doctrines, and the whole of her authority, as binding in our national church: nor did the fundamental laws of this kingdom (in Ireland it has been the same) ever know, at any period, any other church as an object of establishment; or in that light, any other Protestant religion. Nay our Protestant toleration itself at the revolution, and until within a few years, required a signature of thirty-six, and a part of a thirty-seventh, out of the thirty-nine Articles. So little idea had they at the revolution of establishing Protestantism indefinitely, that they did not indefinitely tolerate it under that name. I do not mean to praise that strictness, where nothing more than merely religious toleration is concerned. Toleration being a part of moral and political prudence, ought to be tender and large, and not too scrupulous in its investigations; but may bear without blame, not only very ill-grounded doctrines, but even many things that are positively vices, where they are adulta et praevalida. 1 The good of the common-wealth is the rule which rides over the rest; and to this every other must completely submit."

roger said...

Sorry for the lengthiness, but to clear up a confused passage in my response to you: the justification that we were at war already seems to justify a war, but not the war as advocated by Bush and co. And in fact I have never heard anyone but you use that justification. Has anybody in the administration ever said anything like that?

Paul craddick said...


I didn't mention liberalization specifically because I took that to be at the heart of your post - you were
ridiculing the kind of "liberalization" that we've facilitated. Hence I was emphasizing the other respects in which
the aims of the invasion have been/are being met.

I'm not sure why you find it a "gotcha" that (so far as I know) no one in the administration explicitly adverted to the extant belligerence with Iraq - or at least no one emphasized it - as an argument to justify invasion. I would think that the apposite question is whether a focus on the longstanding conflict somehow contradicts the letter or
spirit of the administration's case. As to the letter, I think it entails at least some tension, as the harping on about UN resolutions left the "ownership" of the conflict somewhat ambiguous (more on this in a moment). As to the spirit, not only do I see no incoherence, but, on the contrary, the de facto belligerence was implicit in the administration's case for war - otherwise it would have hardly made any sense to express special concern about Saddam's capacities, and intentions towards us; namely, to "single out" Saddam as a noteworthy foe. The public case
pivoted on the fact that he was a unique enemy - and thus was rightly treated as a serious "threat."

The state of war was also implicit in the declared right of the US to step outside the ambit of the UNSC if that
body dithered again, as it had for the previous 12 years. But that's the rub, as far as I can tell, as to why the
administration didn't emphasize that the fight was, and had been, ours - they attempted to preserve the alleged
"unity" of nations post 9.11, shaming the other UNSC members into blessing what, in logic, was entailed by all the limp resolutions issued previously. In retrospect this was probably a mistake, and certainly embarrassing - a classic eat and preserve the cake maneuver.

Plus, domestically, to speak of "being in a state of war" would likely provoke endless discussion about the
legalities and technicalities of exactly what that meant, questions about Congressional authorization, etc, and then a chorus would arise and demand to know "why we weren't told," in the 2000 election ("or on 9.10.2001") that we were in a state of war with Iraq all along.

Without inviting incessant debate about our relationship to Iraq, they still could have emphasized the following (and I fault them for failing to do so): "For 12 years we have had our troops garrisoned in Saudi Arabia,
our ships in/around the Gulf (like the U.S.S. Cole), and our airmen in the no-fly zones, regularly exchanging fire with Iraqi anti-aircraft positions. The events of 9.11 have shocked us into an awareness that complacency is something we can hardly afford with respect to a situation that has been deteriorating precipitously. Hence we aim
to conclude the conflict on our terms, abandoning the older pattern of reaction ..." (Parenthetically, it's
sobering to go back and look at the figures, in terms of the number of sorties undertaken in the no-fly zones [tens or even hundreds of thousands], and the cost; I think that in 2000 alone the price of upkeep for the zones was $1.4 billion. And it's not as if Iraqis weren't being killed in the exchanges). These facts belie, by the way, your asseveration that the conflict was not "activated."

Regarding your contention that the fear of a "collaboration" between Saddam and Al Qaeda was as
ill-placed as concern about the same with AQ and Canada ... C'mon - the US never passed a "Canadian Liberation
Act," which (as in the case of Iraq) clearly signified a state of belligerence; and Bin Laden never declared American policy vis-a-vis Canada as a Causus Bellum! As I said in the long post at my site, it was rational to fear a confluence of interest between Iraq and AQ precisely because events had pushed them into a "sympathetic" relationship - both had greater reason to hate the US than one another, and it's easy to imagine how they could have been mutually useful.

Anyone who says that there was "no relationship" between the two hasn't bothered to investigate the relevant
history. The question turns on the kind of relationship; the 9.11 commission concluded that there were indeed contacts and mutual vetting, but could find no persuasive evidence of an "operational relationship" (i.e., evidence of collaboration in any mayhem). This is obviously an indeterminate conclusion - and is of little relevance to how things looked "from the outside," that is, to a prudential observer or policy-maker contemplating
the history of the US in the Middle East and North Africa over the preceding decade, in the wake of 9.11.

By the way, I'm not the only observer to emphasize the significance of our ongoing belligerence with Iraq (though my formulation is my own, and preceded my acquaintance with the shading others have brought to the argument). Come to think of it, all of the ones of which I'm aware are, I guess, on your shit list: the dreaded Hitchens (who penned a book, "The long-short war"), blogger Oliver Kamm, and Victor Davis Hanson.

I'll consider your Burke citation, and respond if I have any thoughts of relevance - and/or I might have something to say on your specific contention about WMD. Thanks.

roger said...

Paul, when you write: "Plus, domestically, to speak of "being in a state of war" would likely provoke endless discussion about the legalities and technicalities of exactly what that meant, questions about Congressional authorization, etc, and then a chorus would arise and demand to know "why we weren't told," in the 2000 election ("or on 9.10.2001") that we were in a state of war with Iraq all along," I totally agree with you. The only difference is: I think this is an indictment of the war, and you think this is an indictment of the process of checks and balances that keeps the executive branch from operating as it will.

Although I don't have a lot of sympathy with the original intent crowd, I do think the expansion of the executive's ability to declare war, or to start and maintain war like operations, is scandalous. Your example of the continuing war with Iraq is not, to me, a justification of the war, but it is a justification of returning to a very strict reading of the constitution in which the executive power was bound, intentionally, to preserve the republic from just that kind of perpetual war power. I wrote, after the 2004 election, that the one good piece of news in it was the defeat of the dreadful patsy from South Dakota, Senator Daschle. When people talk about impeaching Bush, they should think, too, of the way Congress acted in 2002 and 2003. I think the rubber stamp on Bush's war was an impeachable offense too -- a real derelection of Congressional duty. Not, of course, that I expect a lot of bribed and cheesy suits to ever investigate themselves, or engage in any intelligent activity whatsoever. The Confederacy that runs D.C. in conjunction with a faux opposition is beyond redemption. But I am putting the ideal case.

Given Scalia's original intent doctrine, I wonder if he'd be willing to knock out much of the power to make war that the exec branch has accrued. That would be nice. Shrinking the War Department down to, say, one that spent a reasonable billion a year maintaining our state reserves. Wouldn't it be lovely?

Paul craddick said...


I'm not, by any stretch, against checks/balances -- since, as you allude to, Congress rubber-stamped Bush essentially doing as he saw fit vis-a-vis Iraq, the executive and legislative branches were in accord. My point is that rhetorically it might have made a certain amount of since to avoid the "we're already at war" argument.

If the invasion of Iraq allegedly provides the grounds, the notion of impeaching Bush (i.e., singling him out for gross malfeasance) is ludicrous , for precisely the reason you say. And it makes for droll reading to go back and examine the on-record statements of all those Democrats who connected Iraq to the wider "war on terror" and were certain about the WMD! Perhaps the biggest buffoon of all is JFK(erry) himself, in contrast to whom Bush appears as a model of consistency, sober judgment, and systematic thinking!

You've lost me with this point:

"Your example of the continuing war with Iraq is not, to me, a justification of the war, but it is a justification of returning to a very strict reading of the constitution in which the executive power was bound, intentionally, to preserve the republic from just that kind of perpetual war power."

You seem to keep denying, implicitly, that we were in a de facto state of war already. Do you deny it? If so, on what grounds? Or do you acknowledge it, and lament the deliberative process which led from "low-level" war to all-out invasion? (If so, again, you've got Congress to thank for its abdication of responsibility; or, perhaps, politics aside, a majority of Democrats really did perceive a threat from Saddam, and only now have found it convenient to pretend that Bush "tricked" them!).

And it was Congress that, in '98, passed the Iraqi Liberation Act - which certainly turned up the heat, symbolically and literally, in the belligerence with Iraq. Do you fault them for doing so?

roger said...

a. yes, of course I fault congress for the 98 act; and
b. the war that you describe -- a sort of refrigerator war, from 91 to 2001 -- is a classic case of the abuse of war. I'm not going to string out tedious quotes in the comments from the Federalist, but maybe I'll make a post. Since, actually, 48, and the special "note" that declared semi-war on Russia, the abuse of the power to make war has multiplied. Iraq is, of course, the absurd finish of the system.

Of course, I don't want Bush impeached. I'm much too anti-american for that. I want the red states to drink all of their medicine.

Deleted said...

I assume (or hope) you're kidding about a full dose of Bush-style governance for the Republican-friendly states. Misery American-style breeds an appetite for more of the same (it'll finally work when we get a large enough dose), with the survivors increasingly convinced that something -- perhaps divine -- has set them apart from the rest. And what of the voting minority who rejected the Bushist doctrine for the sober and sensible liberalism of John Kerry (reporting for duty)? We must help our brothers, sisters and Snopeses, Roger, if only to keep them from sinking the lifeboats out of spite.

roger said...

Harry, man, if I can't vent a little spite in the comments, I'm going to get an ulcer!

No, I don't want Bush preserved to punish the Red States. But I also think impeachment is a bad tool to use, most of the time. I think, in retrospect, it was bad to use it to get Nixon to resign. Nixon I think of as a Shakesperian monster, but the consequences of the Watergate business have been bad.

I haven't got a coherent philosophical reason for this, but it has to do with the same feeling I have about, the electoral college. Take my old buddy Kerry. If he had won Ohio, and lost the popular vote, he would be president. I would find that absolutely unjust. Voting should be, in my opinion, highly respected. For the same reason, I think Alabama should be made to give voting rights to ex felons (which is how the state has managed to exclude 25 percent of the black male population from voting -- an old Southern trick).

kmort said...

Voting should be, in my opinion, highly respected.

I disagree with this. The Rousseauian impulse is I believe a big problem of yankee politics. Populism is as bad for authentic liberals as it is for the mroe intelligent conservatives. With a few higher standards for voting--say basic reading comprehension test at the polls (I would say ex-felons who pass it should be permitted to vote) or a college-degree requirement think of how much more accurate and meaningful the vote would be. I don't think the dixie rural protestants nor the urban gangstas are smart enough to vote (one of the South Park freaks made this point during the campaign and a bunch of ho-wood celebs were outraged). A simple test on issues and candidates could establish that. And education requirements for aspiring politicians would also be a prudent political solution. Looking at the Cali House for instance, with all of the real estate vermin and bidnessmen and urban gangsta molls you wonder if they could do a present or future value problem, not to say calculate interest rates. I suspect Ahhhnuld himself is dimmer than the average 6he grade home economics teacher.

roger said...

Kmort, while I would ideally like to see a more informed electorate, I don't think that has too much to do with voting. What I like about voting, and what I like about democracy, is feedback. To my mind, this is its superiority. But if you preselect your feedback, it soon becomes useless. The thing about an election is that there is all kinds of information that each elector has, even the dumbest, that is not uniformly shared. For instance, I have no idea what it feels like to be a mother with five kids in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I don't know what it means to be a sharecropper in Bougalousa, Mississippi (in fact, I don't even know if there is a Bougalousa, Mississippi). One way to skew the feedback to a certain party is to encourage apathy among one group and enthusiasm among another group -- in fact, I would say that is precisely how politics is played in the U.S. But I think that is bad, since it leads to a government with increasingly deadened feedback in certain areas, and hyperkinesia in other areas. While not buying the Wisdom of Crowds thesis entirely, I do buy the logic of it to a certain extent.
Now, to my mind, one of the ways of encouraging apathy is to remove elected officials -- as in Watergate -- or to chose the officials according to some anachronistic machinery that has long lost its function -- as with the electoral college. I see no rationality at all in giving small states an aggrandized power, even on your theory -- is it really true that the people of South Dakota are smarter than the people of California? Or the people of Kansas are smarter than the people of florida? It might be the case that the people left behind in the god forsaken states are actually living proof of the lesser intelligence that goes with clinging to a increasingly unfavorable ecological niche -- but I'm not going to get sourcastic, here.

roger said...

PS -- in a sense, to get philosophical for a moment, the justification for electoral democracy seems to me to have more to do with Nagel's what is it like to be a bat than Rousseau -- since what one wants is a representation of tacit knowledge, which might be generally non-discursive.