Over the next week you will probably not see many postings on Deep Thought. That is because I am a precinct committeeman and this week my time away from work and family will be focused pretty much exclusively on GOTV efforts. If I blog it will be late at night (like this post) and maybe commenting mostly late at night on other blogs.
So, I'd like to 1. Encourage you all to vote on November 7 unless you are like me and have already cast your vote (in which case you can volunteer at your local party headquarters for GOTV activity, unless you are a Republican in which case you can just blog, watch TV and get some rest this week), and 2. chew on this post if you need something to think about. Also visit any of the good blogs in my sidebar. This is a post that I originally sent to Sar where she posted it as a guest post about three weeks ago in her blog, Belle of the Brawl. I promised not to post it anywhere else for a little while but now it's been a little while and the post is especially relevant this week as we seek for new leadership to help lead us out of the mess that we've been led into.
WHY CONSERVATIVES CAN'T BE TRUSTED TO LEAD THE WAR ON TERRORISM
Lost in the recent brouhaha over the Chris Wallace interview of Bill Clinton for FOX news, is that there is a fundamental truth that underlies all of this:
You can’t trust conservatives to lead the War on Terror. You just can’t. I have four reasons why I believe that.
Start with the history, since everyone seems to want to do that. Whatever Clinton’s failings on the issue (and as he himself said, he did fail since he didn’t get bin Laden), the failure of conservatives at all levels matches and exceeds his.
Start with August 18, 1998. On that day, Osama bin Laden first became a household name. Eleven days after bombs had ripped apart two American embassies in Africa killing hundreds, cruise missile strikes were launched at a meeting of senior al-Qaeda leadership which was being held that exact day at a training camp in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the missiles arrived after the meeting had adjourned but the fact that no one arrived late for the meeting (since bin Laden himself was known to sometimes be late) and that it was uncharacteristically brief could not have been foreseen by our intelligence analysts. Recall that the response from conservatives was one of outrage. Only it was not directed at the embassy bombers who attacked us on what is legally U.S. territory, but at Bill Clinton, for striking back at them. You see, August 18, 1998 was also the date on which Monica Lewinsky was giving a deposition at a courthouse in Manhattan, and the right was waiting with baited breath to see if any new salacious details would come out of it. So the right was unspeakably angry at Bill Clinton—
“"I think we fear that we may have a President that is desperately seeking to hold onto his job in the face of a firestorm of criticism and calls for him to step down.”
Senator Dan Coats, R-IN August 19, 1998
Here the President is shooting back at the same people who had murdered hundreds of people on U.S. territory only eleven days earlier and a U.S. Senator is not only claiming he did it for domestic political reasons, but in fact suggesting that he resign!?! Bin Laden must have taken a great deal of comfort from that remark. And among the right wing media, this charge continues to this very day:
Only in 1998 did the Clinton-haters ("normal people") force Clinton into a military response. Solely because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton finally lobbed a few bombs in the general direction of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
Ann Coulter, Sept. 14, 2006, writing in the ‘Jewish World Review’—and note that this was written a few days before the Clinton-Wallace interview’
Other than to note that Ann Coulter also believes that Saddam’s kicking the U.N. inspectors out that year had nothing to do with the four days of bombing that immediately followed their dismissal, this is not worth a response and shows the kind of idiocy that is still running around on the right.
Of course, Monica was on the front page on pretty much any given day in 1998, so apparently they wanted Bill Clinton to do nothing all year, in order to not divert any headlines from the all-important Monica scandal. Maybe Bill Clinton should have quit worrying about ‘wag the dog’ for the rest of his term, but those who put their desire to play political football by insinuating that the attack on bin Laden was in fact ‘wag the dog,’ ahead of the safety and security of America should never be forgotten.
Clinton in his interview also discussed the Cole. He pointed out, among other things, that even if he could be blamed for not doing anything about it for three months, George Bush had eight months, and did—nothing about the Cole.
Not the first time this little matter has come up either; Republican congressman Curt Weldon claimed last year that changes made by former Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick prevented intelligence agencies from sharing information about terrorists, including Mohammad Atta and other 9/11 hijackers, who were known to the CIA in 1999 but which that agency was barred from sharing with the FBI and other agencies during late 2000, a year before 9/11. OK, what if Weldon, despite his obvious bias, is right? Even if we accept every accusation that Mr. Weldon makes at face value, the conclusion that 9/11 can be laid at the foot of the Clinton administration runs into the same flaw as blaming Clinton for the Cole runs into; even if the decision not to share the names was in fact made a full year before 9/11, for eight months of that time (in other words, most of it) the President was George W. Bush, not Bill Clinton. And John Ashcroft and his Justice Department could easily enough have reversed the policy at any time merely by the stroke of a pen, but apparently they did not consider that there was a need to do this.
There are other historical matters. We all know by now about how the Presidential briefing on August 6, 2001 was ignored, but you’ve heard about that before.
So let’s look at the second (and in my mind the single most important) reason why conservatives are not the best choice to lead the War on Terror.
What may be the real reason that Bush has not made it a top priority to catch bin Laden? Consider the by now pretty well documented contacts between neocon icon Grover Norquist and radical Islamicists (see this report if you need a reminder). In 1998, Norquist founded the “Islamic Free Market Institute” with private money, most of it raised in the middle east. Among his monetary sources was Abdurahman Alamoudi, the founder of the American Muslim Council. Alamoudi gave Norquist $35,000. In 2004, Alamoudi was convicted of illegal dealings with Libya (a nation then on the terror watchlist, and which has still not been held fully liable for the murder of over 250 people in the Lockerbie bombing in late 1988). More concerning, the contacts between Norquist and radical Islamicists continued after 9/11. In the article I linked to, it describes a White House meeting in which the President thought he was bringing ‘peaceful’ muslims into the White House to show tolerance and solidarity. In fact Norquist brought some of his friends in, apparently including Suhail Khan, a former director of the Islamic Institute, who was tasked with arranging access for muslims in the Bush white house. Khan’s father had been imam at a mosque in Santa Clara, Calif., which once hosted Osama bin Laden's second in command, the Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri. Another Norquist-linked muslim radical, who the White House had leading an interfaith prayer ceremony in the National Cathedral in Washington just three days after 9/11, and who twelve days after that was photographed with the President in the white house was Muzammil Siddiqi. Siddiqi is a key figure in Saudi-funded organizations that have spread the harsh fundamentalist brand of Saudi Islam known as Wahhabism. It is true that in the days immediately after 9/11 we were still in the ‘fog of war’ but once it cleared, the man who was most clearly the link between all of these individuals and the Bush white house was none other than Grover Norquist. In addition to that, as described
in an article in the St. Petersburg Times on March 11, 2003 fellow conservative icon Frank Gaffney saw Norquist entertain Sami al-Arian, a University of South Florida professor who is affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an organization which has been responsible for dozens of suicide attacks in Israel since 2000 and which the State Department has classified as a terrorist organization since its inception. Al-Arian, who was intially accused of ‘conspiracy to murder and maim persons abroad’ as well as fundraising on behalf of a terrorist organization, was tried last year in a jury trial. It resulted in a jury which acquitted him on the conspiracy charge but deadlocked on several other charges, made a plea deal earlier this year and was sentenced to remain in prison until November 2007 after which he will be deported (though al-Arian is appealing the sentence). Most disturbing is the date given in the 2003 article for al-Arian’s meeting with Norquist. It states that Gaffney said, ‘last July.’ That would be July 2002, almost a year after 9/11. One would think that in light of this kind of treasonous relationship with the same kinds of enemies who attacked America on 9/11, Norquist would at least be unwelcome at the White House.
One might think that, but then one would be sadly mistaken. Norquist, who had a hand writing the White House proposal on Social Security privatization that was put forward in 2005, is now (in his role as head of the organization which he founded, Americans for Tax Reform) pressing for an elimination of inheritance taxes. In this role he has just as much say on the right as he always has. Apparently they don’t consider him a security risk (though you or I would be under surveillance and not allowed anywhere near the White House if we had had even a fraction of as much contact with America’s known enemies as Grover Norquist has had.)
But though Norquist’s contacts were of the out in the open variety, there is something much more sinister that has not been talked about openly, but perhaps it is time to talk about it openly. A fighter is only as good as his or her heart. So let’s look at the heart of conservatism in terms of the fight against radical Islam. Consider that in fact these Islamicists have much the same social agenda as conservatism: A theological outlook in which morality is the foundation for society, in which schools and other social institutions are based on a religious underpinning, and in which such perceived immorality as abortion, pornography, pre-marital or extra-marital sex and homosexuality is elevated to the level of a serious crime, sometimes even punishable by death. Islamicists also espouse a society in which government is fundamentally weak and real decisions are made by a council of Clerics, and religious institutions also oversee and decide on the distribution of social welfare. Prayers are offered in every classroom, scriptural doctrine including creationism is taught masquerading as science, women are expected to remain virginal and pure until marriage and then be subservient to their husbands, and political campaigns are conducted through mosques. True, the name of God is different, but the basic structure is very much the same as what some social conservatives would like America to be like. The Islamicists are fighting against having a secular government, so why would Americans who are against having a secular government put much of their heart into the fight?
Honestly, do you TRUST social conservatives to run the war against terror? To paraphrase an old saying, it is hard to get a man to fight very hard against his brother, and social conservatism and radical Islamicism are brothers in spirit if not in fact. I suspect that Grover Norquist is not the only conservative leader who at least at some level sympathizes with Islamic extremists, and we absolutely cannot have such people leading us in our fight against these fanatics. At the end of the day it is much easier and much more natural for a conservative to order and want to win a war against a secular dictator with a history of socialism like Saddam Hussein than against people who deep down he admires, sympathizes with and and whose society in many ways is the model he would like to see for America.
Another reason conservatives cannot be trusted to lead the fight against terror:
We know what fiscal conservatism is. It is the penchant for cutting budgets until they bleed, in order to not waste any of the valuable taxpayer money you are spending. If you will pardon me for laughing at the idea that this white house is actually fiscally conservative (as we well know that is not true, at least in regard to corporate welfare) they are in fact fiscally conservative where they shouldn’t be—on behalf of our troops and in the war on terror. The cuts in the Veterans administration aside, some of their little acts of fiscal conservatism have included:
1. On Sept 10, 2001, then Attorney General John Ashcroft denied a request from FBI director George Tenet—to reconsider a budget cut in funding for antiterror programs.
2. The so-called ‘Rumsfeld doctrine,’ that war can be fought on the cheap, has been remarkably expensive so far, failing to put forth the resources early to decisively win in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Even if they were made available now, the resources that would have prevented the insurgency from getting started would probably have a hard time quelling it now.
3. The ongoing battle over body armor. They just have never adequately funded it. Then they tried to blame the deficiency on Democrats (which makes no sense because Democrats don’t control the budgeting process in the house anyway—the fact is, it was inadequate and even after a soldier asked Rumsfeld about it while he was once making a ‘surprise’ visit to Iraq, it remained inadequate.)
4. Even trying to cut combat pay for troops (which they thankfully backed off from after the proposal became a national outrage) and other similar cheapskate measures. My brother in law and his Colorado national guard unit got a two week furlough from Iraq a couple of years ago. But the army just flew them to someplace on the east coast and the soldiers had to buy their own tickets home (and on short notice those aren’t cheap.) Note that was a national guard unit all from Colorado, so they all had to buy their tickets home and back. A couple of them just hung out back east and made a couple of phone calls home because they couldn’t afford the plane ticket.
5. Their move to cut Homeland Security funding in cities which might be more vulnerable to a terrorist attack this year and shift it to cities which are more likely to suffer natural disasters (call it still fighting last year’s war). Not that they aren’t needed in places like LA and the south, but to take funding away from New York and Phoenix in order to cover it just shifts the deficiency without addressing it. This really bothers me the most because it is a reflection of the fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals—conservatives see a fixed pie (budget) and divide it up as well as they can. Liberals analyze what is needed, and then do what is needed to provide the resources.
The fact is that wars are expensive. That is why they are best avoided. Enormous amounts of resources are wasted just to destroy what has been built. But if you fight a war, then you can’t fight it cheaply. You just can’t. Even I know that. I’ve never suggested that we shouldn’t have built all the hardware we made for fighting WWII even though after the war most of it was melted back down for scrap metal or sold to third world countries for their military. Sometimes we spend too much to feed the military-industrial complex when there is no war, but during a war you can’t practice fiscal restraint—lives depend on adequate, and frankly an oversupply of funding (since Congress can’t move as fast as events on the ground.) And yes, Vietnam was mismanaged and yes, Democrats (especially Robert McNamara and LBJ) were responsible. But a lack of funding and/or troops was never the problem there.
Then there is another reason conservatives, certainly the current crew, cannot be trusted: BASIC COMPETENCE.
We all know the story of how our willingness to send in local Afghans instead of U.S. Marines to get bin Laden at Tora Bora gave him the opening to buy his way out, so I won’t belabor that here. What I will belabor is the even more obvious story. Iraq.
First of all, Iraq is 1,000 miles away from where Osama and his pals were/are hanging out. What the decision to go into Iraq did was
1) take the heat off of them, so that they can now concentrate on creating more terror plots. The assertion that the ‘terrorists are over there fighting us so we don’t have to fight them here’ is ridiculous, as has been shown by the Bali, Madrid, Istanbul and London bombings. Having a few hundred terrorists shooting at American soldiers in Iraq does not in any way at all preclude them from also having ten or twenty carrying out an operation somewhere else at the same time, and only a complete dunce would suggest otherwise. But then again I’ve heard that suggestion time and again so I suppose there are many dunces out there, especially on right wing talk radio.
2) cause a very visible shift in Afghan allegiances as the dubious warlords who had come over to our side to help get rid of the Taliban in late 2001 saw that we were no longer making it our top priority and so shifted their allegiances again, just as has happened for thousands of years. The fact that we now have 150,000 Americans (the exact level varies) in Iraq while only about 20,000 in Afghanistan (plus about as many allied troops) makes it abundantly clear that whatever we are pursuing in Iraq (which I’m not sure what that is since the mission keeps changing) is a lot more important than whatever we are pursuing in Afghanistan (which may or may not be bin Laden—recently the CIA team which was specifically tasked with tracking down intel on him was disbanded )
3) give them, as we saw in the report out this week (which reiterated what was said in a report from January 2005) a great recruiting and training ground. In light of Iraq, their assertion that Americans want to occupy muslim lands, while in fact patently absurd, rings true in the muslim world.
4) Seriously undermine our greatest national asset, America’s military capability. George Bush inherited the most feared, most powerful military machine in the history of the planet. It has now been squandered in Iraq, and right now it is not much of a military threat to anyone. Why else are the Iranians being so belligerent lately? Because they know we could bomb the crap out of them, but as history shows time and again (most recently in Lebanon) a war cannot be won by bombing unless boots follow the bombs, and they know that right now we don’t have the boots available. And none of this needed to be. Had we either not gone into Iraq, or followed Gen. Shinseki’s advice to occupy it with 400,000 troops initially in order to prevent an insurgency from taking root then we would still have a credible deterrent today. But then there was that ‘Rumsfeld doctrine,’ of small numbers of light forces doing the trick. What is amazing is that Rumsfeld, the incompetent, is now poised to become the longest serving secretary of defense—ironically surpassing Vietnam incompetent Robert McNamara (of course.) And speaking of Rumsfeld, as I just blogged on the other day (link http://tiodt.blogspot.com/2006/09/insurgency-was-anticipated-rumsfeld.html ) the promise that he and Bush made that the generals on the ground would determine troop levels was a lie when they said that in 2004, and they told it knowing very well that they were undercutting the military leadership.
5. Made us look like suckers that P.T. Barnum could have had a field day with. His ‘worthy’ successor as a huckster is charlatan first class Ahmed Chalabi. The two timing Iraqi politician, who helped give us the ‘ammunition’ to invade Iraq by making the preposterous claim that Saddam Hussein not only had weapons of mass destruction, but could deploy them in 45 minutes (a charge dutifully reported as fact by the White House spin machine during the run-up to the war), and who is on the lam from Jordan for a $28 million bank fraud judgment against him in that country, was shown to be a double agent working for Tehran. Among other ‘gifts’ to the Iranians, Chalabi informed them that we had cracked their intelligence code. Of course Chalabi is part of the new Iraqi government, having at one point schmoozed his way up as high as the post of deputy prime minister, a position he held until May 2006. One thing is certain—with Chalabi part of the new government, corruption will certainly also be welcome there. Any self-respecting American would never allow this weasel (who is unfortunately covered by diplomatic immunity) to ever again set foot on American soil, and immediately declare him ‘persona non-grata.’ Not the case however. On November 9 of last year, Chalabi was a guest and featured speaker at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (read the announcement here )
As a matter of fact, I’ve been to a conference at the AEI (on health care, in 2001). Yes, I had an open mind on that topic and wanted to hear from all sides before making my mind up on the issue. Ironically the featured speaker that day was Tom DeLay. Maybe that explains why conservatives like Chalabi so much. According to the Sept. 9, 2004 edition of the London Telegraph, a secret document written in 2002 by the British Overseas and Defence Secretariat reportedly described Chalabi as "a convicted fraudster popular on Capitol Hill". Pretty much says it all.
And there are other matters of incompetence in terms of the war on terror not at all having to do with Iraq. For example, the singular example of the Bush administration in opposing the creation of the 9/11 commission for months, until public opinion forced them to give in. There have been two similar commissions within anyone’s memory: the Pearl Harbor commission and the Warren commission which investigated the Kennedy assassination. To be honest, I sincerely hope and pray that while I live to a good old age, I don’t live long enough to ever see another such commission. However, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the 9/11 attacks rose to a level that required an independent investigation from such a bipartisan commission. Certainly they were as serious as either of the events that prompted the first two such commissions. But instead of supporting the creation of such a commission, which could (and eventually did) zero in on the causes and breakdowns that allowed this to happen, the Bush administration, apparently more worried about political matters, chose to oppose it, and then when it was created, limit its scope, limit its funding and is still not even close to recommending its recommendations. For example, 2% of cargo containers entering the U.S. were inspected in 2001, and the figure is still the same today.
Then there is the go it alone matter. It’s hard now to remember the almost universal support that we had after 9/11. No one begrudged our doing whatever was necessary to get bin Laden and remake Afghanistan. But George Bush wanted to do things ‘his way or the highway.’ He refused to listen to the advice of allies with much more experience in the middle east concerning the perfidity of local warlords and the limits of how far they could be trusted as allies (see Tora Bora again). And then that rigid view grew and came to include Iraq. Unlike his father, he was only interested in a ‘coalition of the willing’ (as in willing to do it his way). More and more countries went from being pro-American to being anti-American, if not their leadership then their public. More than half of the original coalition we had in Iraq have bailed on us. And by now, the main allies he began the war with, Aznar of Spain, Berlusconi of Italy and Blair of Britain—have been or are being forced out, and just to put the exclaimation point on it—supporting Bush in the Iraq war ultimately made the difference in a narrow electoral loss for Berlusconi and is the main reason for the imminent departure of Blair. So now, as we face a showdown with Iran—and as just described with our military bogged down in Iraq, we can count on a ton of moral support and lip service from the rest of the world. But George Bush has so alienated the rest of the world by his caustic, stubborn rigid personality that he now really does have to go it alone. In any potential conflict with Iran, a nation three times a large as Iraq, we could certainly use real military allies but the ineptitude of this administration has pretty much guaranteed that this time we won’t have any. Maybe a big cheer section, but nobody out on the field backing us up.
So there are four reasons why I don’t trust conservatives to be leading the war on terror: History, Fiscal conservatism, Social conservatism, and Incompetence.
So under the circumstances, it will be only not soon enough when we finally get rid of conservative leadership and get liberals, who after all, actually DO find Islamic extremism to be deplorable enough to want to actually get the people who have attacked us.