Archive for the ‘Blair’ Category

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Did Congress “Vote For The War”?

November 29, 2007

Or was their intention simply to show Saddam that “we mean business”? (or something to that effect) 

This element of the popular talking points in today’s political discourse has always bothered and confused me.   I bring it up now because -as we turn the corner and head into the home stretch toward the ’08 presidential election- it is likely to be brought up more and more, especially with regard to Hillary Clinton.   This is also a bit of a followup post to the one I penned yesterday, as this topic is suddenly thrust to the forefront.    For the record, I’m not writing this post as an attempt to defend Clinton’s (or anyone in Congress, for that matter) vote, or her or the former president’s comments on the decision afterward.   Instead, this entry is designed to help clarify my thoughts on the matter and open up a discussion that doesn’t attempt to rewrite history, rather, to explore and reflect on what actually took place.

First, I think that the most important thing to point out that a vote for the October 2002 AUMF against Iraq was not an explicit declaration of war, at least not as it was written.   I did some searching, and Ron Paul summarized it fairly well when he voiced his concerns on the House floor on October 8th of that year (two days before the House passed it):

But I am very interested also in the process that we are pursuing. This is not a resolution to declare war. We know that. This is a resolution that does something much different. This resolution transfers the responsibility, the authority, and the power of the Congress to the President so he can declare war when and if he wants to. He has not even indicated that he wants to go to war or has to go to war; but he will make the full decision, not the Congress, not the people through the Congress of this country in that manner.

However, wording aside, this has always been the $60,000 question:  Can those who voted “yea” say that they didn’t consider the invasion to be a forgone conclusion (at least with a straight face)?  I mean, has Congress passed AUMF’s in that didn’t result in some military action?  Did the majority really have any other expectation?

The popular defense of the vote that came from the Democrats (especially) has always been that the resolution was intended to provide the leverage needed to put Saddam in a situation where he had no other choice but to comply with UN resolutions and allow the inspectors back in.  In fact, at the time that the resolution passed, there is evidence that there were those in Congress who believed that the AUMF was the best hope in avoiding war:

Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, said giving Bush the authority to attack Iraq could avert war by demonstrating the United States is willing to confront Saddam over his obligations to the United Nations.

“I believe we have an obligation to protect the United States by preventing him from getting these weapons and either using them himself or passing them or their components on to terrorists who share his destructive intent,” said Gephardt, who helped draft the measure.

In other words, the best way to disarm Iraq without military action was to use the inspectors, and it appears that the consensus at the time was that Saddam wouldn’t allow the inspectors back in without knowing that the threat of force was real.  Also, I think its fair to say that Congress wouldn’t have passed an AUMF unless the it contained language specifying that all diplomatic options towards enforcing UN resolutions (which called for inspectors) had been “exhausted”.  

One problem that Paul and others had with the resolution was the fact that the AUMF gave the president sole power to decide when those options were deemed “exhausted”.   So, again,  what it comes down to was whether or not the members of Congress believed that Bush was predisposed to invade, and if they were comfortable with that predisposition.  

But did the administration give any indication that he was?   On October 16th, the day he signed the resolution, Bush said things like this:

…”I hope the use of force will not become necessary”….

and

…”Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action”…

Of course, that’s what was said publicly. 

However, later on, the evidence that Bush was being disingenuous about this began to surface, culminating with the infamous Downing Street Memo:

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

So, did Congress (or at least, a percentage of the yeas) unwittingly give Bush the green light to commence a war that he had already decided to undertake?  The puzzle pieces seem to fit.  Bush wasn’t going to war without an AUMF, and Congress wasn’t going to approve an AUMF unless it called for diplomacy first.  So, if Bush wanted war, all he had to do is make sure that the resolution was worded in such a way that gave him the power to declare when the diplomacy had failed.  As it turned out, that appears to be precisely the wording that Congress approved in October 2002.   So, inspectors went in long enough to perhaps give the appearance that there was a legitimate effort to pursue a diplomatic solution and impose the UN resolutions, but it looks like Bush had decided at some point that March ’03 was the right time to “give up” and pull the proverbial trigger. 

Needless to say, it’s a little disturbing to think that Bush didn’t really care if the inspectors actually found anything, but perhaps it really was just part of the dog and pony show to sell the war.

What’s also pretty unsettling is the fact that members of Congress didn’t seem to have a coherent view on what they were voting on.  Some obviously saw it as essentially a war declaration, while others saw it as simply a means of granting leverage.  Still others, like Paul, objected to it as a violation of the Constitution in principle.

It could very well be that this resolution passed because too many members made the mistake of trusting the president.   It would be interesting to know how many of those who voted for the AUMF honestly felt the way Gephardt did, and assumed that their vote was actually a necessary step toward a peaceful solution.  We’ll probably never have a full account of what all these people were thinking privately, unfortunately.   Part of the problem is that the public isn’t really seeing this for what it was because the facts and rhetoric are blurred by politicians who are trying to balance a reasonable explanation for their position with the desire to avoid having their name and words like “unwittingly” mentioned in the same sentence (not to mention the pundits who have an interest in saving face as well).  This dynamic would certainly explain why there are statements that lead to accusations of “flip-flopping” on the issue permeating the political discourse and the media for so long, as well as the fact that the whole thing is debated… even five years later

So, did members of Congress “vote for the war”?  I guess it would depend on which one of them you ask (or, perhaps which pundit you’re listening to).   Technically, however, I think that Paul was right, in that they ultimately voted to let Bush decide.

WordPress.com Political Blogger Alliance

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Downing Street Memo, Revisited

August 14, 2007

While skimming the comments section of LGF, I noticed that one of the Lizards suggested that Wikipedia failed to discredit the now-famous Downing Street Memo.  I felt obliged to mention that the DSM is, in fact, a real British document that was leaked to the media in May 2005*.  There is no discrediting it; neither Bush nor Blair have disputed the document’s authenticity. 

(Since I’ve never mentioned the DSM on my blog in the past, I suppose it makes as good a subject as any for tonight’s entry)

First, here is the text of the actual document (drafted July 23, 2002).

Key portions:

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

and…

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

One should really read the whole thing, but these portions are what makes the document significant. Why?  Well, to me, it has to do with what Bush said a few months later, on the day the Congress authorized the use force against Saddam:

“Our goal is not merely to limit Iraq’s violations of Security Council resolutions, or to slow down its weapons program. Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action. Yet, if Iraq is to avoid military action by the international community, it has the obligation to prove compliance with all the world’s demands. It’s the obligation of Iraq.”

Most of the conversation over the significance of the memo has been concerning whether it is proof that Bush “lied” about WMD.  While much can be interpreted about the line “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” (which included countless debates about what “fixed” really meant), I think this overlooks the bigger lie.

This document did not reveal the deliberations of parties that were looking to resolve a problem while considering military action as a last resort.  These were discussions about how to legitimize a war.  THAT’S the lie.  All the hype about WMD’s and connections to terrorism, along with going through the motions of UN blessings was really nothing more than the dog and pony show.   They were planning what they had to do to make an invasion happen and at least give it the appearance of being legitimate.  Intelligence with regards to Saddam’s weapons programs and ties to al Qaeda may very well have been misrepresented and conveyed to the public in a way of making worst case scenarios appear to be iron-clad facts, but that’s not really what this memo proves. It only proves that the focus on these things was seen as part of the means to an end.

*In actuality, there were about a half dozen more British documents that were leaked to the press around the same time as the original DSM, each of them containing evidence that supports my conclusion.  They’re all worth reading.  Also, another key piece of evidence about the WMD intelligence specifically came last December in the form of testimony from Britain’s UN negotiator, Carne Ross.

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Duh! Headline Of The Day

June 17, 2007

Blair knew US had no post-war plan for Iraq

!

Tony Blair agreed to commit British troops to battle in Iraq in the full knowledge that Washington had failed to make adequate preparations for the postwar reconstruction of the country.

In a devastating account of the chaotic preparations for the war, which comes as Blair enters his final full week in Downing Street, key No 10 aides and friends of Blair have revealed the Prime Minister repeatedly and unsuccessfully raised his concerns with the White House.

Well, on second thought, that might be news. Sorta. But I think we all suspected or assumed that this was the story ever since all those British memos surfaced back in 2005 (there was another one that came out late last year, although that had more to do with the dog and pony show).  I guess it does put those “WTF were they thinking?” questions back out there again though. 

BTW- I still want to know how Blair came up with the whole ’45 minutes’ thing.  Maybe he thought of it while he was shaving or something. 

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WordPress.com Political Blogger Alliance

May 25, 2007

I had an idea (strange, huh?). Originally I thought it would be neat to add political WordPress.com blogs in a special section of my blogroll, and create my own little community of amateur pundits that use the service. In a way, ALL WP.com bloggers are part of a community already, but I thought I’d start a club just for those who like to talk politics.

Most political bloggers will have blogs from other services in their blogroll.  Not everyone uses WP, after all.  There are advantages to staying within the community, however. One advantage would be ease of commenting. Once you’re logged in, you can hop from blog to blog without having to enter in tedious email info and quickly drop a comment (nice to have avatars too), and all discussions can easily be kept track of through the “my comments” section of our dashboards.  Another advantage: you don’t have to do a lot of work to ping these blogs.  All you have to do is link to a post, and it pings them immediately (leaving a pingback in the comments section).  With other blogs (or blog services), you may have to copy/paste trackback urls, and that can be a bit of a crap shoot.  It can work real slick for some blogs and not work at all for others (or at least I’ve discovered). Yet another advantage is how easy it is to search for tags within the community, but that is less special because services like technorati seem to be dialed into it as well. Anyway, you get the idea….

So, every so often, I’ll click on the WP ‘politics’ tag and check out what people are posting.  If I stumble upon a blog that I haven’t seen before, I’d just add it to the blogroll.  I’ve been adding a couple a week since I started it.  I’m sure there are more, so as time goes on this list will grow in my sidebar (under “wordpress political blogs”)

Then I started thinking. What if we formed some semi-formal alliance? A ‘club’ made up exclusively of WP.com political bloggers (right, left, and center) who could regularly exchange ideas and comment on others’ posts. So far I haven’t seen anything like that. Maybe it’s worth a shot?

I whipped up a ‘club’ button that we can put in the sidebar. You’ll have to forgive my photoshopping skills, but here goes:

wppoliblog1.jpg

If you want to add the button to your blog (it links back to this post), here is the code (with border):

<a href="https://chenzhen.wordpress.com/2007/05/25/wordpress-political-blogger-alliance"><img src="https://chenzhen.files.wordpress.com/2007/05/wppoliblog1.jpg&quot; alt="WordPress Political Blogger" /></a>

WordPress Political Blogger

…and without a border:

<a href="https://chenzhen.wordpress.com/2007/05/25/wordpress-political-blogger-alliance"><img border="0" src="https://chenzhen.files.wordpress.com/2007/05/wppoliblog1.jpg&quot; alt="WordPress Political Blogger" /></a>

WordPress Political Blogger

Update 11/2:  The alliance has become interactive!  The lowdown:

What I’m attemping to create here is a tool that we can use to make our blogs more lively and entertaining.  I’m not really forcing any obligations on anyone, so I don’t want you to get the impression that going along with this means that there’s going to be a whole list of expectations (beyond etiquette).  You don’t have to respond to every ping.   Just so you know.  

If you want to participate, there are just a few details…

  1. In order for this to work smoothly, everyone needs to create a page that can be pinged.  It took me about 2 min. to make mine: https://chenzhen.wordpress.com/wp-political-blogger-alliance/ .  And I need to know the link so that I can consolidate them, so just post it in that thread or respond in email once you’ve whipped it up.  That’s really the only requirement.  A handful of you already have done this, and the pings work beautifully.  The idea here is to compose a code that is easy to paste in your post that allows you to ping everyone in the alliance at the same time.*
  2. I don’t really like the idea of any one blogger “abusing” the tool by using it to try to dominate the discussion.  In other words, if you’re calling out and pinging the alliance 3 times a day it might get a little annoying.  Sure, it’s easy enough to just ignore such a thing, but nevertheless I think it would be akin to blog whoring just for the sake of blog whoring.  It’s kind of a fine line, and we’ll probably tweak the guidelines as we go forward, but for now I’ll stick with a rule of 1 per day max.  No minimums, since some of you might prefer to comment only.  And, it probably goes without saying, but we don’t want to double up on a topic either, so try to make sure that a story or headline hasn’t already had pings sent by someone else first.  If it has, and you’ve got your own unique analysis that you just spent like 2 hrs on, just link to that thread in your post instead.  We’ll see it.  Make sense?
  3. Be somewhat civilized.  This might be the hard part, ’cause a) there’s a very diverse crowd being pinged and b) it’s the internet.  In debate, you win by attacking the argument or idea, and you lose once you resort to attacking the person (there is a difference).  Keep that mindset, and we’ll be fine.  That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a good blog war.  This will be a bit of a free-for-all, so I hope people are relatively thick-skinned when it comes to having  logic, facts, position, etc. challenged.  We’ll just have to see how this goes, cause I’m not sure if anyone has really tried anyting like this before. 
  4. This is about “politics”, so use the “politics” tag/category when you post, and only send the pings when you post about “politics”.  You might have a cool car, for example, but please don’t ping the whole group to show off the latest pics you just posted.  Also, consistent use of the “politics” tag in general means more views from the wider wordpress.com audience.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy as individuals to block urls and IP’s if #2 or 3 becomes a problem for someone.

* The up-to-date code can always be found in my sidebar (——>): 

Founder of the

WordPress Political Blog Alliance

WordPress.com Political Blogger Alliance

Simply copy the “WordPress.com Political Blogger Alliance” and paste it at the bottom of your post. Once your post is published, it will send a ping back to everyone in the alliance.  Easy!

Update 11/4: A tag (category) specifically for the alliance:

WordPress Political Blogs

Create the “WordPress Political Blogs” category and add it to your alliance-oriented posts.  In2thefray and I have already added the RSS feed for this tag in our sidebars, so we can see the latest offerings right on our blogs:

RSS WP.com political blog alliance

Even better, if everyone uses the tag consistently, the above link will provide a great chronological record of the posts within the alliance. In addition, you will have a record of your own contributions to the alliance in your sidebar (assuming you have added the “categories” widget).  Remember to use “WordPress Political Blogs” exactly (alternate spellings and abbreviations will be a different tag, technically)

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The Iraq War In Two Images

March 19, 2007

I was doing some late-night surfing for more info about Iraq’s southern provinces when I stumbled upon a pair of images that gave me pause. Both pictures were allegedly taken in Az Zubayr, Iraq, in January 2005.

An Iraqi woman flashes the victory sign with a purple finger, indicating she has just voted, at a polling station in the centre of Az Zubayr, southern Iraq.<br>  Photo: AFP<br>

A British soldier aims his gun at an Iraqi woman in Az Zubayr, January 26

It’s also worth noting that Az Zubayr was one of the southern Iraqi towns under British jurisdiction.  Britain has since declared victory in her mission out there, and it appears that the locals aren’t sure that’s a good thing, even 2 years after the infamous ‘purple finger’ picture was taken: Sunnis and Shias appeal for British to stay on

“I request the British people and commanders to keep British forces working in Az Zubayr until the Iraqi security forces have the authority to run affairs,” he said. “If I inform the Sunni people of Az Zubayr that the British are leaving they will leave too.”

He said that once the militias became aware the British were leaving they would prepare to move into Az Zubayr to overrun the police.

The sheik’s pleas were even echoed by the rival Shia-backed Tharallah party. Salan Maki Mohana, the party leader in Az Zubayr, said it would be “very dangerous” for the British to leave.

“Lots of people will take advantage of the bad security,” he said.

Incidentally, Az Zubayr is one of the areas in Iraq where Shia and Sunni have lived together in relative peace. 

Just another stop on the road towards my understanding of this conflict.  It’s pretty hard to wrap your mind around it all, so on occasion I’ll make efforts to expand on what I know.  I can’t help but wonder about that woman with the purple finger, however.  She went nameless in every caption I’ve found, but that image is quite possibly the most memorable one taken from this war thus far.  I think it’d be interesting to find out who she is and how she’s doing now.

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Whatever Cheney Says, Conclude The Opposite Is True

February 22, 2007

I think that much is obvious at this point.  After years of being dealt spinmeister classics such as “greeted as liberators“, “last throes“, and the ever-famous “simply stated, there is no doubt“, Cheney still makes a lot of headlines when he speaks.  It’s pure blog fodder for everyone, and I’m not exactly sure why I’m choosing to imbibe today, but nobody really takes him seriously when he says things like this (about Britain declaring victory):

cheney.jpg

“Well, I look at it and see it “is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well,”*

*Wink, Wink

Update:  Low and behold, Cheney managed to give us two in a row:

Karl: Back in 1991, you talked about how military action in Iraq would be the classic definition of a quagmire. Have you been disturbed to see how right you were? Or people certainly said that you were exactly on target in your analysis back in 1991 of what would happen if the U.S. tried to go in —

Cheney: Well, I stand by what I said in ’91. But look what’s happened since then — we had 9/11. We’ve found ourselves in a situation where what was going on in that part of the globe and the growth and development of the extremists, the al Qaeda types that are prepared to strike the United States demonstrated that we weren’t safe and secure behind our own borders. We weren’t in Iraq when we got hit on 9/11. But we got hit in ’93 at the World Trade Center, in ’96 at Khobar Towers, or ’98 in the East Africa embassy bombings, 2000, the USS Cole. And of course, finally 9/11 right here at home. They continued to hit us because we didn’t respond effectively, because they believed we were weak. They believed if they killed enough Americans, they could change our policy because they did on a number of occasions. That day has passed. That all ended with 9/11.

I know, there’s really nowhere to begin with that statement.  Not only does he not answer the question, he just doesn’t make any sense.  But, hey, we’re talkin’ about 9/11 here, OK?  Everyone knows that any argument makes sense as long as you slip it in there.

I’ll give it a quick, token try though:  He’s either saying that the best way not to appear “weak” after 9/11  was to choose a quagmire in that “part of the globe”, or he’s saying that 9/11 has “happened since then” and has somehow changed the dynamic in Iraq so that his quagmire assessment is now invalid.  This response looks to be more like a simple hodgepodge of mismatched talking points than a coherent argument.  He continues:

In Iraq, what we’ve done now is we’ve taken down Saddam Hussein. He’s dead. His sons are dead. His government is gone. There’s a democratically elected government in place. We’ve had three national elections in Iraq with higher turnout that we have in the United States. They’ve got a good constitution. They’ve got a couple hundred thousand men in arms now, trained and equipped to fight the good fight. They’re now fighting alongside Americans in Baghdad and elsewhere. There are — lots of the country that are in pretty good shape. We’ve got to get right in Baghdad. That’s the task at hand. I think we can do it.

I ask again, why even bother interviewing him?   

Other bloggers are scratching their heads as well: Carpetbagger: Cheney debunks himself 

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Britain Declares Victory

February 20, 2007

Big news regarding our friends (yes I do think of them that way) the Brits: Blair to announce Iraq withdrawal plan

Prime Minister Tony Blair will announce on Wednesday a new timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, with 1,500 to return home in several weeks, the BBC reported.

Blair will also tell the House of Commons during his regular weekly appearance that a total of about 3,000 British soldiers will have left southern Iraq by the end of 2007, if the security there is sufficient, the British Broadcasting Corp. said, quoting government officials who weren’t further identified.

The announcement comes even as President Bush implements an increase of 21,000 more troops for Iraq.

My thoughts below the fold…

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