Saturday, July 14, 2007
After all, would that nice Little Tommy Friedman, age 7, lead you astray?
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday that the Iraqi army and police are capable of keeping security in the country when American troops leave "any time they want," though he acknowledged the forces need further weapons and training.
The embattled prime minister sought to show confidence at a time when congressional pressure is growing for a withdrawal and the Bush administration reported little progress had been made on the most vital of a series of political benchmarks it wants al-Maliki to carry out.
Al-Maliki said difficulty in enacting the measures was "natural" given Iraq's turmoil.
But one of his top aides, Hassan al-Suneid, rankled at the assessment, saying the U.S. was treating Iraq like "an experiment in an American laboratory." He sharply criticised the U.S. military, saying it was committing human rights violations, embarassing the Iraqi government with its tactics and cooperating with "gangs of killers" in its campaign against al-Qaida in Iraq.
Friday, July 13, 2007
MR. FRIEDMAN: I don't think they could possibly be blamed for losing Iraq. We're at a stage now in Iraq, though, Tim, where all the issues that we were debating before--Do we have enough troops on the ground? What is the pace of training?--all the issues related to the Pentagon's performance here are still very much alive. Look what happened just in the last week--I mean, the number of American soldiers killed, the number of Iraqis killed. As much as I want this to succeed, as important as I believe this is, this is not over. It's not over for the Bush administration.
But I do believe that it is so important, and precisely because it's so important, it's too important to be left to the Bush administration alone. Democrats need to be in there. Joe Biden, who was here, gave a lot of good advice during the last two years to Rumsfeld that was ignored--OK?--about troop levels. And I believe that Democrats should be not only participating in this with their enthusiasm but with their ideas, and embracing it and trying to shape it. This is the biggest democratization project in the world going, and one that is fundamental to our national interests. The idea that the Democrats would just sulk on the side and basically put them in a situation where they only succeed if the country fails--that, to me, is as dumb as the day is long.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think Iraq may be an issue in 2008?
MR. FRIEDMAN: I don't--I'm hoping it won't be. I'm hoping that we'll be beyond it.
While it was apparent at the time, I'm still amazed that our elite political discourse over the past few years has been carried on by shockingly stupid people who bought into transparently absurd premises.
At heart really is the knee-jerk libertarian reaction against government infringement on some nebulous concept of "liberty." Drop me in the middle of the desert and I am truly free, though it's not really the kind of freedom I am interested in.
If you want a place like Manhattan to exist you have to accept the masssive government that is a necessary condition for such a place. All of those people and buildings piled on top of each other requires a rather invasive and elaborate regulatory structure, as well as substantial government provision of public services. One can cosmetically "privatize" some of those services, a process which in practice involves expanding the local patronage machine, but that doesn't change the fact that the government is basically paying the bill. You need the kind of collective action which only government, or some equivalent with a different name, can provide.
Having said that, I do think libertarians could find their calling by focusing on stupid state and local laws, and I don't mean symbolic but not especially important things like seatbelt laws and smoking bans. Small businesses do face rather onerous regulations and taxation, often applied by corrupt and/or incompetent agencies, in many municipalities. There are genuine and pointless barriers to the kind of economic freedom libertarians talk about, but the federal payroll tax isn't really a particularly important one.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Ralph Nader mocked politicians of both parties as “Republicrats,” equally subservient to corporations and the wealthy. It was nonsense, of course: the modern G.O.P. is so devoted to the cause of making the rich richer that it makes even the most business-friendly Democrats look like F.D.R.
But right now, as I watch Senate Democrats waffle over what should be a clear issue of justice and sound tax policy — namely, whether managers of private equity funds and hedge funds should be subject to the same taxes as ordinary working Americans — I’m starting to feel that Mr. Nader wasn’t all wrong.
What’s at stake here is a proposal by House Democrats to tax “carried interest” as regular income. This would close a tax loophole that is complicated in detail, but basically lets fund managers take a large part of the fees they earn for handling other peoples’ money and redefine those fees, for tax purposes, as capital gains.
The effect of this redefinition is that income that should be considered by normal standards to be ordinary income taxed at a 35 percent rate is treated as capital gains, taxed at only 15 percent instead. So fund managers get to pay a low tax rate that is supposed to provide incentives to risk-taking investors, even though they aren’t investors and they aren’t taking risks.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
However that's not the same thing as saying this is the most useful thing to do. Maintaining security doesn't simply involve trying to kill "the bad guys," and killing the bad guys also generally involves killing some not bad people especially when air power is involved.
More than that, "fighting al Qaeda" is simply Bush administration propaganda for what the entire war effort is about. Bush thinks we're fighting al Qaeda, the public thinks "fighting terrorists" is a noble cause, and 6 years later we're still linking all this up to a horrible day in September when a bunch of guys not from Iraq killed a bunch of people on US soil.
The administration has never been able to distinguish their propaganda about what was going on in Iraq with what was actually going on in Iraq.
...nor has Fred Hiatt ever been able to do so.
Yes, this is a local thing, but I'm entitled now and again. Basically a developer who built an otherwise reasonable building decided to just annex 6 feet of sidewalk, making the rest of the sidewalk impassable to anyone in a wheelchair while laughably trying to describe the whole thing as a wheelchair ramp. Asshole.
The “bipartisan” compromise the Ignatiuses of the world envision is that we stay in Iraq so that we can stay in Iraq. Because if we pulled out of Iraq, well, we wouldn’t be there any more.
And if we weren't there any more, the fragile egos of vain frightened old men would be in trouble.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
While religious tolerance is a wonderful thing, overall the whole ecumenical "we're (believers) all on the same Judeo-Christian team" crap has been a horribly bad development. Keep the tolerance, cut the whole "we all basically agree" crap. We don't. We disagree.
CARVILLE: Look, to me, I forgive -- I mean, I completely forgive him, but he's -- it's the people of Louisiana he's got to go to. And people in Louisiana are going to say, that's great. I'm just saying, but -- but we don't need to be embarrassed anymore. We don't need to have $90,000 in the freezer. We don't need somebody like getting a prostitute to wear -- getting him to wear a diaper or whatever the story is.
But what's the original sourcing for this? That I haven't seen.
A clear majority of the Senate—56 Members – sent a strong message today in favor of ensuring responsible deployment cycles for our men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. I regret that we did not reach the 60-vote margin that would have allowed this amendment to prevail. It was offered in the spirit of bipartisanship. It was offered with the intention of protecting the well-being of our troops.
“A Republican filibuster kept this amendment from passing by an up-or-down vote. Americans are tired of this kind of posturing. The troops and their families don’t want to hear about political, procedural maneuvers. What they really care about are results. They are looking for concrete actions that will protect the well-being of our men and women in uniform.
“The question on this amendment is not whether you support this war or whether you do not. It is not whether you want to wait until July or September to see where one particular set of bench marks or summaries might be taking us. The question is this: more than four years into ground operations in Iraq, we owe stability, and a reasonable cycle of deployment, to the men and women who are carrying our nation’s burden. That is the question. And that was the purpose of this amendment.”
WASHINGTON (AP) - The government has concluded that al-Qaida has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since the summer of 2001, The Associated Press has learned.
That war, too, has had a tremendous cost. That war, too, apparently failed to achieve its objective.
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush has ordered his former White House counsel, Harriet Miers, to defy a congressional subpoena and refuse to testify Thursday before a House panel investigating...
...Conyers&Sanchez respond. Time to throw her in the slammer.
COOPER: Michael, I want to play something that Senator Lieberman said about the war in Iraq. Let's -- let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: The war is not lost in Iraq. In fact, now American Iraqi security forces are winning. The enemy is on the run in Iraq. But, here in -- in Congress, in Washington, we seem to be, or some -- some members seem to be on the run, chased, I fear, by public opinion polls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Is the enemy on the run in Iraq, Michael?
WARE: No, certainly not.
And I think we need to be aware that it's enemies. I mean, America doesn't face just one opponent in this country, but a whole multitude, many of whom are becoming stronger, the longer the U.S. occupation here, or presence here, in Iraq continues. So, unfortunately, I'm afraid that Senator Lieberman has taken an excursion into fantasy.
Still, those looking for a bit of fun can call Susan Collins' office and inquire about whether she's planning to side with her friend Olympia or her BFF Joe Lieberman
Washington, D.C. Office (202) 224-2523
...Webb amendment filibustered, Collins abandons BFF Joe.
Fourth, we will restore our deterrence with Iran. Tehran will no longer be able to bleed us through its proxies in Iraq, and we will be much freer to hit Iran — should we ever need to — once we’re out. Moreover, Iran will by default inherit management of the mess in southern Iraq, which, in time, will be an enormous problem for Tehran.
This the fourth "advantage" of little Tommy Friedman's wonderful idea to have a withdrawal date from Iraq.
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA): Well, sometimes you win the game when you throw a Hail Mary pass, you know? And maybe this might be a worthwhile endeavor.
Just prefacing my question about Iraq, let me just note that this administration's insistence on sending to prison two border guards for what they were doing, where they intercepted a drug dealer on our Southern border, undermines the president's support among those of us who would like to offer more support, because if he thinks this lowly of securing our Southern borders, it makes us question why we're sending troops overseas -- just preface it with that.
Is this not -- and we wish you success, but is this not the Iraqi people's last chance, because of the public opinion here in the United States? And we wish you success. We wish the president success, because we want the forces of evil to be thwarted there in Iraq. But if the Iraqi people don't step up after we've given them this chance, this is their last chance. Is it not?
SEC. RICE: Well, obviously, failure in Iraq would be of great consequence for us and for the American people, as well. And so I think what we're trying to do is, in what is a very important and pretty bad set of circumstances in Baghdad, to give them a chance to get on top of this sectarian violence. But I don't think they have --
REP. ROHRABACHER: Well, we're giving them a chance.
SEC. RICE: I don't think they have many more chances to do it.
REP. ROHRABACHER: There it is. We don't have many more chances. I'd say it's their last chance
The president did not predict how long the surge will last, but Pentagon officials say if this new strategy works, they should be able to begin withdrawing troops from the streets of Baghdad in about six months.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (DEMOCRAT)
What leverage do we have that, six months from now, you will not be sitting before us again saying, 'Well, it didn't work."
CONDOLEEZZA RICE (SECRETARY OF STATE)
Well, Senator, the leverage is that we're not going to stay married to a plan that's not working in Baghdad.
I mean, they really seem to be looking forward to it, and they take great delight in the thought that, by God, people will see things differently when it happens.
They relish the thought. They hunger for that terrorist attack they need to save their Party.
I, Not Atrios, think Democrats would be wise to talk on TV about how the last thing we need is to put people in power who have such a stake in having terrorists attack Americans.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Anyway, I haven't seen SiCKO. I haven't put any time into researching any claims, or counterclaims, in the movie. But what is clear is that "fact checking Moore" means one can throw up something, anything, and use it to cast doubt on his integrity. I welcome fact-checking. I just wish CNN would subject more of their guests to it.
...snark and statistics aside, at my old age of 35 I came of age during what I perceive to be the height of neo-puritanism (AIDS and the Reagan era) and neo-temperance (MADD, general health concerns, expanding drug laws and cultural taboos), people had the occasional fun and sex, as did people 10-15 years older than I was.
The key difference now is that both male and female first marriage ages are going up in tandem. The age gap between the genders shrunk in the 50-70 years as both men and women were marrying earlier, and then the gap remained relatively small as members of both genders began to delay marriage until a later time.
Let's turn one of the Republican presidential debates into a theological debate. Then the absurdity of all of this (religion in politics, not religion) will be made obvious.
...cutting back to Bush:
Now back to the president, he is talking about the so-called surge and strategy in Iraq...
...New technologies enabling us to become better stewards of the enviornment. Imagine one day being able to drive your car with hydrogen...
Fareed Zakaria who supported the war.
Bill Kristol who supported the war.
Richard Holbrooke who supported the war.
Ken Duberstein who supported the war.
Rahm Emanuel who supported the war.
David Ignatius who supported the war.
Michael Duffy, Tom Ricks, and Robin Wright who, as "straight" journalists, presumably took no public positions on the war.
So my question to each of you, in sum, is if there isn't sufficient evidence of this kind of summitry and diplomacy -- if there isn't a sufficient political process in place -- and I want your judgment as to whether or not there is -- will more troops have any chance of, in fact, getting what we want, or is it going to make matters worse? And if it does, where are we after putting them in in six months if it hasn't worked? Mr. O'Hanlon?
MR. O'HANLON: Senator Kerry, very tough question. I like your idea of a ledger. On the positive side of the troop surge proposal, I would say we all know tactically there have never been enough troops in Iraq to clear and hold. So that's the tactical argument for this case. It would have been a much more compelling argument three and four years ago than it is today, but I think it remains at some level in the plus column. On the negative column, of course, we know that there is no political resolution of these very sectarian divides --
FOREMAN: Six months from now, are we going to look at this area right here where most of them are going to go and say we're better off or worse off?
MARKS: We need to say we're better off.
ZAHN: We need to, but will we?
MARKS: There are ways to achieve that. And it's not mutually exclusive. It's not a political solution better than a military solution. All of these are essential ingredients to a solution. So it's not a military strategy.
Unless considerable progress is made in Iraq in a relatively short time, you will see Republicans crossing over and joining Democrats in challenging his Iraq strategy in a bipartisan way. This is a dead serious six months we're approaching.
MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t think it`s his last stand. I think it`s the second to the last stand. I think asking for more troops suggests hope that if we try a little harder, it will work. I think the next go-around, six months from now, or a year from now, perhaps, you`ll see the president come back to the American people and say, give me one last shot at this. I think he has one more chance after this. It`s not the end of the game.
This is the second to the last battle, I believe, of this war politically. But I do believe his numbers will continue to go down. I think we`ll see casualties in the streets of Iraq, Baghdad. It`s going to be a bloody campaign and I don`t think it`s going to yield stability.
This is why I`m saying, look, this is the last chance for Maliki, the last chance for the Americans.
The full context for these nutters was:
BUCHANAN: He has said it this time. The last test is right now.
This is why I`m saying, look, this is the last chance for Maliki, the last chance for the Americans. The acid test is whether they go after the Mahdi army, which I think knows we will go after them. And that`s why I think it may very well run to earth for the next six months.
SCARBOROUGH: We have to -- we have to do that. We have to go after al-Sadr. We have to go after the Mahdi army. And, if we are, in fact, trying to start a democracy over there, and bring justice to Iraq, then, we have to arrest or kill al-Sadr.
Judd Legum, on the same show, provided sanity:
LEGUM: It was really -- it was kind of a letdown. And I predict that, you know, in six months nobody is going to remember this speech. The strategy laid out today won`t have an impact on the situation in Iraq.
And all the people who are on TV today say, "This is the last chance. This is our one last shot. We`ve got to give it a go," are going to be saying again, we need to give it one last chance. I give it a go.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Or, read George Eliot.
...adding, a bunch of people have suggested that the Vitter press release is proof that ABC inappropriately sat on info. I don't know if that's the case, but from what I understand ABC only got a few years of the phone records before the judge temporarily stopped it. It's late so I'm too lazy to hunt it up, but from what I remember the "DC Madam" said that only 4 years had been handed over and I believe the years in question wouldn't have included the time period suggested by the Vitter info.
For all I know ABC did sit on stuff we'd consider appropriately newsworthy, but I don't think this revelation demonstrates that point.
For immediate release
July 9, 2007
Vitter Issues Statement
U.S. Sen. David Vitter made the following statement today about his telephone number being on the old phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates prior to his running for the U.S. Senate. He respectfully requests that the statement be used in full without editing or paraphrasing.
"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there-with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way," Vitter said.
Don't know when exactly this was. While it might have been prior to his Senate run it was most likely while he was a member of the House.
Rudy! picks another winner. Vitter's his Southern Regional Chair.
A progress report on Iraq will conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reform, speeding up the Bush administration's reckoning on what to do next, a U.S. official said Monday.
For those keeping score, that means zero.
The Kagan family has secured themselves a lovely place in history. Perhaps their children will have to change their names.
Happy to be wrong.
The truth is that finding super awesome things to link to takes time. It actually takes the most time. Writing - at least the kind of "talking with my fingers" that I do most of the time - is the easy part. It's the finding of the conversation topic that's difficult, especially 15 hours/day 7 days/week.
People also seem to have this sense that if it's front paged on Daily Kos, or linked to here, or whatever, it somehow gains magic powers. Sad to say, a blog post ain't gonna change the world.
Time to stop meta before the madness sets in.
I just got a press release from the office of the ambassador from a certain country informing me that all of their diplomatic vehicles will now be hybrid-electric ones.
Just part of my day...
David Brooks, on PBS NewsHour July 6th: "And, then, the final thing, the problem with the Iraq Study Group--and Mark is absolutely right. I think the Bush administration bitterly regrets not embracing that now."
Ah, but where was David on the ISG back in the day, you know, when it counted most? Here he was on January 11th of this year, busily poo-pooing the ISG's findings ("pulling a tooth slowly"), just as debate had been raging as to whether Bush should adopt same: "So we are stuck with the Bush proposal as the only serious plan on offer."
Even Brooks's take on the ISG "plan" is either missing the point or deceptive. The ISG put out a framework into which roughly any "let's start getting the hell out, if even slowly" move by the Bush administration could have been fit. The point wasn't really to provide a plan, the point was to provide cover for Bush and all the Republicans (and some Democrats) who had been screaming that if we leave Iraq WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE. The purpose was to provide political cover for an exit strategy, and any exit strategy, even a glacial one, would've been fine. All they had to do was trot out Baker and Hamilton to say that yes, this fits our recommendations, and all the very serious wise old men would've nodded their approval at the brave and cunning president and the wonderful and noble Republican party. That was the chance that Bush missed. The issue isn't that he failed to implement the ISG plan, it's that he failed to take the opportunity to start getting the hell out.
We can't maintain troop levels after the Spring, so the beginning of withdrawal is inevitable.
A fast withdrawal would be disastrous, so we can't do that.
We have to have some US presence just in case.
As Petraeus told her, it would be horrible to just sit in bases doing nothing while civil war raged.
In other words, we should withdraw troops down to the level at which we wouldn't be able to do much other than guard our own stuff, which would be horrible. Or something. It's all utterly incoherent.
It isn't the White House that fails to understand the "depths of difficulty" they're in, it's Republicans in Congress.
I assume all these Turkish troops on the border aren't planning to do much, but what exactly would we do if they did? We certainly have many levers of power we can use against Turkey, and going to war against Turkey seems to be the least effective one because it would be, you know, insane.
So: "We're looking at the possibility that if we find the pony we can withdraw some troops" might happen.
"We're looking at the possibility that we can withdraw some troops" won't.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
But the White House is urging her to ignore the subpoena. And since, in the words of Taylor's lawyer, the president is "a person whom [Taylor] admires and for whom she has worked tirelessly for years", she doesn't want to testify and thinks she shouldn't have to.
Pleading the fifth is on the books. Various privileges, though most are bogus, can be asserted and litigated. But being a member of the Bush personality cult just isn't a reason to refuse to testify.
Right. There may be some imagined if probably bogus privilege the Bushies can try to claim. They could use that claim to try to block her from testifying by going through the courts. But there's no "I want to testify but I can't because they're telling me not to" rule that makes any sense.
SECTION: EDITORIAL; PAGE C7
LENGTH: 797 words
HEADLINE: Breaches Of Trust
BYLINE: David S. Broder
The problem is not Caspar Weinberger. The problem is not George Bush. The real problem that was revealed -- again -- by the presidential pardon of former secretary of defense Weinberger and those other Iran-contra figures is bigger and more bothersome.
The real problem is that we have not found any effective method to instruct White House and executive branch officials on their duty to obey the law, because we have failed as a society to express our contempt and disgust for those who violate their oaths of office with such impunity.
The record is depressing. All those top White House and Justice Department officials in the Nixon administration went to jail for their parts in planning, or covering up, Watergate. You would have thought that would send a message clear enough for anyone to grasp. But the U.S. attorneys and special prosecutors have been kept busy by successor administrations. The crimes and the coverups go right on.
The deterrent effect of these much-publicized cases has been minimal. It may be, as some suggest, that the impact would be different if the White House crooks were sent to the slammer with criminals of less distinction, instead of being allowed to do their time at Allenwood or other prison farms where the amenities are not so scarce.
But I'm not sure that even the threat of Stateville or San Quentin would convince these characters that Americans mean what they say when they talk about this being a government where no one is above the law.
Frankly, they have good reason to doubt it. The criminal justice system works only when the crimes involved are those that evoke genuine abhorrence from the society. Murder, rape, kidnapping, aggravated assault, distribution of hard drugs -- these are the easy cases. The perpetrators are locked up -- sometimes, even put to death -- because we think their actions abominable.
A curtain of shame also descends on those who recklessly endanger the lives of others -- drunken drivers, for example, or makers of dangerous machinery. We don't draw the line as clearly on perpetrators of financial fraud, even though they also often ruin people's lives. Too often, a stock market manipulator or crooked speculator/developer wins sympathy by pointing to good works he has done.
But the real difficulty arises when the crime is not against an individual but against the society as a whole, its vital institutions or its Constitution. That is where we go squishy soft and lose our moral bearings.
Many of the Watergate figures became celebrities who stepped out of jail into lucrative work on the book-and-author lecture circuit or as permanent fixtures on the TV and radio talk shows. Oliver North, who was convicted of "obstructing Congress" by giving false testimony in the Iran-contra case, was in great demand as a fund-raiser for congressional candidates. With his conviction overruled by an appeals court finding that the trial may have been tainted by witnesses' knowledge of the statements that North had made under a grant of immunity to congressional investigators, he is now getting ready to run for the U.S. Senate in Virginia. Jefferson and Madison must be spinning in their graves.
Far worse, look at the case of Richard Nixon, the "unindicted co-conspirator" in the Watergate coverup, forced to resign from the presidency and then pardoned. Here is a man who sanctioned a secret police operation from the White House itself, a man who subjected his country to two years of incredible stress and division while trying to protect himself from the consequences of his own crimes.
So what happens to him? After a minimal period of penance, he resumes his role as commentator-in-chief on national and international affairs, welcomed with standing ovations by such organizations as the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the American Newspaper Publishers Association -- the very people whose reporters were wiretapped by the Nixon White House.
Today, many of those newspapers are condemning Bush for pardoning Weinberger and for failing to acknowledge the wrongdoing in the Iran-contra affair. They should look to their own behavior before they cast stones.
And so should we all. The voters were outraged by the petty finagling of the House bank scandal, but forgive far more serious breaches of trust. Until this society is prepared to condemn and to shun those who abuse their governmental authority, there is no point in having special prosecutors or others trying to squeeze these cases through the criminal justice system.
We don't need more convictions and pardons of government officials. We need scorn and shame for those who violate their oaths of office. And that is a penalty that the American people -- and only the American people -- can invoke.
Obviously if she doesn't want to testify they can play legal games to try to prevent her from being compelled to testify, but she's said she's willing. How can they stop her? I don't get it.
A bomb blast killed 17 new Iraqi army recruits and wounded 20 others on Sunday while they were travelling on a road near Baghdad, police and an army officer said.
And still they cling to their rallying cry... FRIEDMANS FOREVER!
The Iraqi government is unlikely to meet any of the political and security goals or timelines President Bush set for it in January when he announced a major shift in U.S. policy, according to senior administration officials closely involved in the matter. As they prepare an interim report due next week, officials are marshaling alternative evidence of progress to persuade Congress to continue supporting the war.
Why Bush and the military are emphasizing Al Qaeda to the virtual exclusion of other sources of violence in Iraq is an important story. So is the question of how well their version of events squares with the facts of a murky and rapidly changing situation on the ground.
But these are stories you haven’t been reading in The Times in recent weeks as the newspaper has slipped into a routine of quoting the president and the military uncritically about Al Qaeda’s role in Iraq — and sometimes citing the group itself without attribution.
And in using the language of the administration, the newspaper has also failed at times to distinguish between Al Qaeda, the group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an Iraqi group that didn’t even exist until after the American invasion.
There is plenty of evidence that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is but one of the challenges facing the United States military and that overemphasizing it distorts the true picture of what is happening there. While a president running out of time and policy options may want to talk about a single enemy that Americans hate and fear in the hope of uniting the country behind him, journalists have the obligation to ask tough questions about the accuracy of his statements.
Middle East experts with whom I talked in recent days said that the heavy focus on Al Qaeda obscures a much more complicated situation on the ground — and perhaps a much more dangerous one around the world.
“Nobody knows how many different Islamist extremist groups make up the insurgency” in Iraq, said Anthony H. Cordesman of the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Even when you talk about Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the idea of somehow it is the center of the insurgency is almost absurd.”
•NBC’s “Meet the Press,” — Guest: Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican.
•“Fox News Sunday,” — Guests: Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat; Rep. Chris Cannon, Utah Republican; Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican.
•ABC’s “This Week,” — Guests: Rep. John Conyers, Michigan Democrat; Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican; former senator Mike Gravel, Alaska Democrat.
•CBS’ “Face the Nation,” — Guests: Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat; Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican.
•CNN’s “Late Edition,” — Guests: Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraqi national security adviser; Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican; Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat; Sen. Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican.