Monday, November 06, 2006

Timing the news, good noose and bad news

I have a hard time getting in all the reading these days in spite of my frequent exhortations to anyone in earshot that they should budget more time for staying informed. In particular, I have neglected Alternet but thanks to Thivai at Dialogic, I came across a good write up by Joshua Holland on the curious timing of the announcement of the verdict against Saddam Hussein. Its not that the timing didn't immediately strike me as the wan November Surprise Rove has been smirking about...its that I was unaware of several of the details of the trial and its failure to follow competent and defensible judicial processes: this is a rushed verdict and thereby a wasted opportunity to hold up in full detail before the world exactly how rotten that SOB was.

The TV news is full of coverage of preparations for the expected surge of violence at the announcement of the verdict. Odd that there would be so much anticipation since we all know damn well he is to be found guilty. I wanted to read the text of the verdict because the news coverage I heard only mentioned Saddam's crimes against Shia populations. Where's the rest of the verdict? I searched for "text of verdict" Saddam and the top of the search hits was the Bush Crimes Commission verdict against Bush. I also found a liberal bashing website making an interesting attempt to spin the verdict, using Chris Matthew's claim that the verdict works against the pro-war Republican party. That was a proof that "Dem outrage" at its obvious timing is over done. Matthew's claim is that any attention drawn to the war hurts Republicans. Yeah, right. That must be why the President got on the news last night talking up his trophy trial's unsurprising outcome. Despite the administration's claims that this trial shows Iraqis are now taking charge of their own country, the fact is that Bush "diplomacy" is exerting as much force as any Iraqi and the real action in Iraqi politics at this point is sectarian militias unfriendly to any Iraqi government that smells of Bush. If this trial were the objective or the proof of any substantial "iraqification" of the war, we'd like to hear the president say "mission accomplished" again and this time mean it and get us the hell out of there before any more people get killed. We aren't going to hear that because trial or not, the place is a bloody mess and the US owns much of the blame for botching the peace and fomenting the insurgency through sheer arrogant incompetence.

The various news reports of the verdict on the web only mention Saddam's guilt in killing Shiites. Nobody on the planet, liberal or conservative, doubts he was a cruel murdering despot. But a show trial that only nets a few of his henchmen and omits vast amounts of evidence is yet another wasted opportunity. Is there justice for the Kurds in a verdict that does not mention the genocide they suffered? Is there even safety or security to be reaped if the trial stops at a handful of culprits and does not ferret out the Baathist party operatives and lieutenants that made Saddam's choke hold on the country possible? No. We have left much undone in our haste here.

Even if you give Bush credit for bagging his Baghdad nemesis, it is by now an overstated and overshadowed triumph. Was this triumph, which may only be a personal vendetta of Bush and a few close advisors, worth the cost? The cost is more than the hundreds of thousands of lives lost. The cost is more than the 200 billion per year that is sapping our economy and starving our urgent domestic health, infrastructure and retirement programs. The cost is not just the bitter division of Americans into camps claiming and disclaiming that trumped up wars make us "more secure". The cost is Iraq itself. The country and its 26 million suffering souls, which Mr. Bush convinced too many Americans he could save from despotism by making war, was in fact a rather fragile arrangement of factions. Iraq was always much easier to break than it was to fix and its obvious now to all. It was obvious to many before March of 2003 but they were purged from Bush's counsels or ignored. That country is now badly broken and in a scary echo of Iraq's fatal factional strife, America too is torn over its involvement in the debacle. Bush the "uniter", indeed. If this concocted "Surprise" hanging lets the Republicans hang on to power, maybe they deserve it: fixing the mess they made will be a much greater effort than the already costly effort of the backfired "war on terror". No popular options I can envision are going just quickly and cheaply set things right. It would be fair, if foolish, to let that thankless job be the work for the Republicans who made it necessary.

This verdict is one of the most actively spun pieces of news I have ever tried to get a grip on. Fisk's more deeply moral analysis of the verdict is rare and refreshing. For now I just wanted facts. I had to resort to a Canadian newspaper to get an article that stuck to quotes and narrative without telling me what to think. Of all the politicians talking, Reid of NV may have best got it down to the simple without loosing the dismaying truth:
Senate minority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said: "Iraqis have traded a dictator for chaos" and that White House policy had left U.S. troops "caught in the middle."
In the most damning fusillade from frustrated military professionals yet, those who can best speak for the "troops caught in the middle" blasted the bungling of the Secretary of Defense who none the less continues to enjoy Bush's unquestioning support. I repeat an old thought: this persisting at false and immoral agendas that characterizes the Bush administration has worked the saddest and scariest detriment to our defense: fracturing the cohesiveness of the military.

Four leading U.S. military publications - the Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times - said in an editorial to be published today Rumsfeld had "lost credibility" with senior U.S. commanders and shoulders the blame for strategic blunders in Iraq.

"His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised," the editorial says.

"And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt."

While I do not have any personal knowledge of whether or not the administration colluded with Iraqi authorities to get a favorably timed release of the verdict, the facts may no longer be the interesting news in this regard but rather the story becomes how deeply cynical this administration's frequent and clumsy lying have led us to become. Pity poor Tony Snow having to fend off all the doubters:
White House press secretary Tony Snow said it was "absolutely crazy" to suggest U.S. influence in the timing of the verdict.
I have had enough of this. This country has fought wars in the past that put all Americans on same side. It is stupid wars and unjust wars that divide countries. In my calls to voters yesterday, I only had time to hear views of a few people. They don't always like the Democratic candidate so much but they all fear keeping one of Bush's yes-men in office. Please understand, if you think you don't need to vote because poll numbers are looking good, you are setting us up for a terrible outcome. Your vote may be the one that exceeds the margins that corrupt vote counting can conceal. VOTE. If you are not sure where to vote or what the polling hours are in your precinct, call 1-866-MY VOTE -1 [1-866-698-6831] . If you know someone who is unsure or uninterested about voting, ask them why. The war is not the only issue but it is draining so much good will and money from the nation that almost every other domestic issue you can name [except jobs in munitions factories] is suffering some neglect and shortage of money. If you hear an admission that vague fear seems to have translated itself into specific wishes for leaders of military action, point out that while the world is not filled with friends of the US:
  1. War has not made us safer, Spain and the UK have already felt the backlash of war.
  2. We are being manipulated into a state of fear by the administration's constant use of terrorism's specter and by media that prosper when viewers are anxious and find themselves in a position to fan anxiety.
If only for that phone number, pass this post around please!

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