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War and Freedom
 How to Have Both
- Sunday Times, (November 13, 2005)


The End of Gay Culture
 And The Future of Gay Life
- The New Republic, (November 1, 2005)


An American Hero
 Ian Fishback Steps Forward
- Sunday Times, (October 2, 2005)

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Saturday, January 15, 2005
 
HEWITT'S SLEIGHT OF HAND: First off: I agree with Hugh Hewitt about both Armstrong Williams and DailyKos. But there's a big distinction. Kos clearly disclosed his payola from the Dean campaign. Williams never told anyone he was on the take from the Education Department. That makes a huge difference. Maybe Kos should have made more of a deal about it, but that's a quibble, not a major concern. (I'm leaving out any conflicts of interest that we don't yet know about. Maybe Kos is worse - but we can't know that right now. And we know that Kos, like Hewitt, is a rabid partisan.) Hewitt defends himself against this obvious point by writing that "defenders of Kos are glossing over the fact that I brought up the Kos disclosure on O'Reilly and then deemed it inadequate." But this is what Hewitt actually said on O'Reilly: "Now Daily Kos says, this is one of the bloggers from the left, says he disclosed it, but not to the satisfaction of anyone who watches him. I didn't know." But Kos doesn't just say he disclosed it; he did. "Not to the satisfaction of anyone who watches him?" So whence his defenders? I put this glitch down to Hewitt's partisan blinders. When you treat politics as religion, this is what happens to you.

A NEW IRAQ BLOG: Some great observations here. One of the most striking: how amazing most of the U.S. soldiers are there. We really owe them a huge amount of gratitude and support. Of course, it's precisely because these guys deserve the highest of praise that we shouldn't stint in punishing the few bad apples and insane policy directives.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "[W]atching the Williams case unfold makes it feel like someone finally shined a light on a murky old swamp. Media figures have been 'selling' themselves to people in government for years. But the pay the toadies traditionally get in return for their supportive opinions isn't actual money. It's access, invitations to fancy parties, phone calls from movers and shakers -- the feeling of power." - Bill Powers, National Journal.

IN THE WILL: Annie Leibovitz is second in line only to Susan Sontag's son, according to the New York Daily News. In Virginia, Leibovitz would, of course, have to fight for this in court. In all those states with bans on civil marriage and civil unions, Sontag's bequest could be challenged by Sontag's relatives as well, if they so chose. Still, since Leibovitz and Sontag were just good friends, why should anyone worry?

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Long time reader, sometime responder, frequent tipper, left-coast lesbian. I don't read Malkin because I don't agree with her opinions on a personal and political basis. I read your blog this morning and clicked onto the link and was quite disturbed at the abuse and the scope of the VENOM that is directed toward her. I'm not a gifted writer so what I'm trying to express may not be well worded. The content of the abuse ... the sexual objectification of her as a minority/Asian/Phillipina in order to diminish her opinion ... the threat of sexual dominance over her in order to silence her opinion...it's outrageous and disgusting. And, reading it again, I don't know that this garbage comes from the right. I think my liberal brothers and sisters are letting me down." I think so too. These kinds of smears are beyond left or right. More feedback on the Letters Page.

- 1:51:48 PM

Friday, January 14, 2005
 
THE HOPES OF IRAQIS: If you're feeling blue about Iraq, check this story out in the Washington Post. Made my lunch-hour. The elections are vital. The very fact of their occurrence could help transform the situation. Remember that 80 percent of Iraqis want them to succeed. "It's one of my wishes to die at the gate of the polling station. I want to be a martyr for the ballot box," says one Iraqi. A martyr in the Muslim world - for democracy! That's new. And deeply hopeful.

- 6:06:46 PM
 
DISSING MALKIN: My own issues with Michelle Malkin have to do with her occasional rhetorical excesses and her hard-right politics. But she's often a brave writer, even when I disagree with her (which is a lot of the time). And I have to say the kind of abuse she has received for being a minority conservative is truly vile and upsetting. It is, however, to be expected. It comes from right and left. The web seems to empower it. My favorite email this week:
Sodomite, Tom Delay isn't doing anything the Democrats haven't done in Texas since the Civil War. You being a Lymie non citizen of this country so consumed with the fact that you have an disease that you will die of from taking it in the ass too many times. Andy Sullivan, the laughing stock of the blogosphere, even Jonah Goldberg and Glen Reynolds are sick of you. Excitable Andy Sullivan. HIV.
I like that last almost desperate acronym. It's like the guys who hang out on my block who sometimes yell "faggot" when I walk by. Duh.

- 12:46:20 PM
 
NOT JUST INDIA: Of course, the non "Judeo-Christian" cultures that have sustained democracy include the first ever democracy, in Athens. And, in recent times, Japan. And South Korea. We also have plenty of examples of "Christian" cultures supporting dictatorship.

- 12:44:01 PM
 
McCLELLAN'S TORTUOUS ANSWERS: Another must-read from Marty Lederman on the pirouettes Scott McClellan now has to perform to prevent the obvious conclusion that the administration supports the use of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of some detainees. McClellan's point is that the administration resisted the idea of a Congressional ban on cruel, inhumane and degrading practices for the CIA outside U.S. territory because it was already banned and the legislation was superfluous. Yet Condi Rice's letter at the time stated that she opposed the new restrictions because they would "provide legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled under applicable law and policy." So it would change things but was also redundant? I don't get it. Poor Mclellan. It's only going to get worse.

- 12:36:26 PM
 
DENIAL, AGAIN: NRO's Denis Bowles says that the entire substance of the hundreds of cases of abuse and torture can be summarized thus:
Is there any substance to [Human Rights Watch's] complaints? Well, yes — you should not make terrorists stay up late listening to Ratt and you should not make Iraqi convicts get naked and then laugh at them. If you're an American soldier doing these kinds of things, you'll be punished, even as others also try to punish your fellow soldiers and your country.
The only word for this is denial. Please, Denis, read the reports. At least thirty inmates have died after "coercive techniques" in U.S. custody. The government itself has conceded that the U.S. has tortured five inmates to death. Hundreds more have been hospitalized or permanently physically scarred. Even if you radically restrict your analysis to the night shift in Abu Ghraib, the abuses far outstrip forcing people to listen to music or laughing at nakedness. What has happened to American conservatism when it is reduced to ridiculing genuine and important issues of human rights?

- 12:13:37 PM
 
SOCIAL SECURITY AND MORALITY: Jon Rauch has, as always, a very perceptive piece on the president's social security reform plans. Money quote:
The 2004 exit polls suggested, to many conservatives, that "moral values" won the election for Bush. It may seem odd, then, that his boldest post-election priority is not abortion or gay marriage or schools, but Social Security. The key to the paradox is that Social Security reform is not, at bottom, an economic issue with moral overtones. It is a moral issue with economic overtones.
It's about transforming a culture of dependency into one of self-reliance. That's partly why I support it. But this impending fiscal crisis stuff with regard to social security is not plausible. I wish they'd talk that way about Medicare. But they've made that real crisis far worse.

- 12:01:04 PM
 
ARNOLD'S INNOVATION: Peter Beinart seconds Schwarzenegger's idea that redistricting should be taken out of the grimy hands of people like Tom DeLay. Amen.

DERBYSHIRE AWARD NOMINEE: "It's time to ask, bluntly, whether self-government can work for people not operating within a Judeo-Christian worldview." - Joseph Farah, WorldNet Daily, a far right website. One word: India.

QUOTE OF THE DAY I: "Freedom of thought, community and faith, civil equality, and the rights of due process, are meaningless unless they are universally valid. They are also non-negotiable. As Salman Rushdie himself said shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the things that the jihadists are against -- 'freedom of speech, a multi-party political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals, women's rights, pluralism, secularism, short skirts, dancing, beardlessness, evolution theory, sex … even the short skirts and dancing … are worth dying for.' Rushdie's maxim holds true all the more in light of Theo van Gogh's murder. The viciousness of our enemies -- and they are our enemies -- remains undiminished. We liberals had better find the courage not to be intimidated." - Daniel Koffler, a junior at Yale.

QUOTE OF THE DAY II: "Normally you can't shut her up but she went very silent and I just heard this little voice say 'Dad, I think I've glued my eyes shut'," - the husband of a somewhat foolish grandmother.

AN OPEN LETTER: To my mother. What happens when you write a racy, sexy blog ... and your mom reads it. Just make sure she's not on BigMuscle.com that's all. I liked this entry too.

THE HIGH GROUND: No, we shouldn't take seriously everything that Human Rights Watch says. But it is simply fact that the revelations of widespread use of torture by the U.S., which extend far beyond Abu Ghraib, have made the defense of the U.S. far harder in the rest of the world. I know that when I get into fights with my European friends about U.S. policy (and I have broken up many a London dinner party with my pro-Americanism), this will get thrown back in my face. And I will have little substantive to rebut it. Yes, I still think we clearly have the moral edge over our enemies. But less now. Much less. Speaking of which ...

- 12:26:33 AM
 
MAC DONALD RESPONDS: On the City Journal website, Heather Mac Donald responds to my and Marty Lederman's dissent from her anti-anti-torture article. She writes:
The Fay and Schlesinger reports provide no evidence for the proposition that the CIA's very aggressive secret methods allegedly used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammad influenced either the interrogation rules at Iraq or the prisoner abuse.
Huh? That's the entire central point of both reports. Reading her piece, it's not obvious she has read the reports at all. She frames her argument by asserting that the "narrative" of the migration of torture techniques from Gitmo to Iraq is an invention of the press and liberals. In fact, that entire narrative is that of the offical government reports themselves. The very word "migrate" is Schlesinger's coinage. She writes: "The decision on the Geneva conventions was irrelevant to interrogation practices in Iraq." Every single report on the abuses says the exact opposite.

THE TRUTH: Here's Lederman's useful summary of what the reports actually say:
The reports explain in detail that the interrogators at Guantanamo, and the conflicting and confusing set of directives from the Pentagon for GTMO, 'circulated' freely to Afghanistan and then to Iraq (Schlesinger 9). Lieutenant General Sanchez, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force in Iraq, approved techniques going beyond those approved for GTMO, 'using reasoning' from the President's February 7, 2002 directive on unlawful combatants (id. at 10). The 'existence of confusing and inconsistent interrogation technique policies,' including a 'proliferation of guidance and information from other theatres of operation,' and the fact that personnel involved in interrogation in GTMO and Afghanistan 'were called upon to establish and conduct interrogation operations in Abu Ghraib,' all contributed 'to the belief that additional interrogation techniques were condoned in order to gain intelligence' (Jones 15-16; Fay 8, 10, 22). 'The lines of authority and the prior legal opinions blurred' (Fay 10), and 'DoD’s development of multiple policies on interrogation operations for use in different theatres or operations confused Army and civilian Interrogators at Abu Ghraib' (Fay Finding No. 7).
The point is that the category of "unlawful combatant" "migrated" from Guantanamo and the CIA to Iraq and the general military, as did the non-Geneva methods of interrogating them. Was this the intention? We simply don't know.

HAS SHE READ THE REPORTS? What we do know is that all the reports specifically say that the relaxation of existing CIA rules, ostensibly for very few cases, had a huge impact on the general conflict. The hundreds of incidents of torture that we know about (and we don't know everything because much of the CIA's operations were off-limits even to the official investigators) are inexplicable without this. We know that the Pentagon distributed the new rules widely - and that brutality occurred across the theater of war thereafter. The only way Mac Donald can avoid the obvious question as to how all these torture incidents then occurred is simply by pretending that none of them happened at all. Mac Donald further says of Abu Ghraib: "Though [the photos] showed the sadism of a prison out of control, they showed nothing about interrogation." In the first paragraph of the Schlesinger report, we read: "We do know that some of the egregious abuses at Abu Ghraib which were not photographed did occur during interrogation sessions and that abuses during interrogation sessions occurred elsewhere." Mac Donald also argues that "For the record, I explicitly reject torture in my article." That's true. But it's only true because, for Mac Donald, even "water-boarding," the technique that Condi Rice has explicitly insisted on retaining for the CIA, is not obviously "torture":
Later, the CIA is said to have used 'water-boarding' — temporarily submerging a detainee in water to induce the sensation of drowning — on Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Water-boarding is the most extreme method the CIA has applied, according to a former Justice Department attorney, and arguably it crosses the line into torture.)
"Arguably crosses the line?" Mac Donald makes Jay Bybee look like the Dalai Lama.

THE BOTTOM LINE: What's my bottom line, she demands? It is, I repeat, to stick to non-coercive techniques, as laid out in Geneva and U.S. law. Imagine that: obeying the law of the land. (And I know of no solid cases where the use of torture has led to actionable and useful intelligence in any case.) By the way, that's Bush's official position as well. More important, my bottom line is to send a very strong signal that anything else will not be tolerated. Bush should have fired Sanchez and Abizaid and Rumsfeld and Miller immediately after getting the first reports from Abu Ghraib. He didn't. Even when the photos surfaced, he refused to discipline anyone truly responsible. When more and more reports of torture emerged, he had another chance to fire the generals and officials responsible for conflicting messages and winking at abuse. Why didn't he? Or do we really want to know the answer to that question?

- 12:21:43 AM

Thursday, January 13, 2005
 
EMAIL OF THE DAY II: "I attended a continuing legal education seminar for Army Reserve and National Guard lawyers last weekend. I was struck by one thing: The biggest response from a ballroom full of JAG lawyers was when one dynamic Colonel spoke and said the Army needed to do a better job in handling detainees. He quoted a dispatch from WWII when the commander of a US prisoner of war camp reported back that his camp was under air attack by the German air force, that he could not protect his German prisoners of war, and he had opened the gates and set them all free. This is the standard for the US Army and we need to live up to it. The room cheered. My impression is that the people who have been trained in this stuff (at least the citizen solders) may not be terribly pleased and indeed may be somewhat embarrassed with how this is unfolding. This is also consistent with the JAG lawyers being kept out of the loop." Yep. Good soldiers don't believe in this poison. Alas, their civilian superiors do.

CORRECTION: The newly minted word "santorum" - meaning "the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex" - didn't win the word of the year according to the American Dialect Society; it won the most outrageous word of the year. My apologies.

- 1:46:24 PM
 
LEDERMAN ON WATER-BOARDING: Marty Lederman's blog is again a must-read on the Bush administration's support of torture. One interesting fact: a recent USA Today poll, cited by Lederman, shows very strong public opposition to torture of even known terrorists even if they might have information to prevent future terror attacks. That's extremely reassuring - and much higher majorities oppose the use of torture in the hundreds of cases where the exact culpability or even identity of the detainees is unknown. 82 percent oppose the use of the Bush-Rice-Rumsfeld backed policy of water-boarding. Glenn Reynolds' belief that we shouldn't make a fuss about torture because the backlash will lead to even worse methods doesn't seem to hold up. Thank God.

- 12:39:49 PM
 
THEY SUPPORT CIA TORTURE: It's hard to find clearer evidence that Condi Rice wants to keep torturing detainees than the fact that the administration refused to acquiecse in a legislative ban on CIA torture last December. The techniques include Algerian-style water-boarding. Does Alberto Gonzales find that "abhorrent"? Will some reporter now do his job and ask Rumsfeld whether he endorses this CIA technique? The trouble with this president is - how do I put it? - he's lying. He publicly says he finds torture abhorrent, and yet he ensures that the CIA's expansion of torture techniques is retained. Remember that these relaxed CIA rules were widely disseminated throughout the military, where they are clearly illegal; and helped form the atmosphere and misunderstandings (or were they actually correct understandings?) of what was permitted and what was not. Again what's remarkable is not just the brazenness of the Bushies' endorsement of torture but the absolute cravenness of the Democrats, the pathetic excuse we have for a political opposition. If you're still unclear about the relationship between the new Bush-backed CIA rules and what has happened throughout the war on terror, revisit this post from Marty Lederman. And remember that the incidents we have are not from black box CIA interrogations. If the abuses were this bad in the regular military, can you imagine what is actually going on - where none of us can find out?

QUEER PATRIOTS FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY: The first "Queer Eye" episode in the new series was a moving fusion of red and blue. Or so says Young Curmudgeon.

EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Doesn't Bush (or any other religious person, even one who happens to BE president) have a right to suggest that he sees faith as so integral to proper perspective that he would most likely not support the presidential candidacy of an atheist? I am no bigot or religious fanatic, but I happen to agree. I might be willing to make an exception for the right person, but as a rule I will not vote for a president who has no faith convictions. I think it is human nature to suspect that people who differ from us in so fundamental a way cannot be trusted to make "presidential" decisions. I am fond of any number of faithless people, but I am quite convinced they have made a serious miscalculation in a fundamental matter. I certainly know many atheists or convicted agnostics who don't trust Bush primarily because they cannot relate to his faith life, and they do not trust him as a result. They have every right to feel that way, and vote accordingly. Votes in a democracy pivot on these kinds of concerns all the time, and they are perfectly legitimate, whether they come out of ideological, religious, or philosophical convictions of citizens." I disagree. One of the tasks of liberal citizenship is to eschew our religious convictions as guides to the equality of other citizens. It is, in my view, a failure of the liberal temperament to regard some who have a different faith or no faith as somehow less qualified for public office, let alone the highest public office. When the president himself says this, it's even more troubling. But Bush has never understood classical liberalism. He is a conservative, religious statist, who sees himself as the personal guardian of the country. He's Bismarck with a penchant for massive government debt. Hence the secrecy, condescension and occasional lapses like his subjective statement ruling atheists out of the presidency. But we knew this already. More feedback on the Letters Page.

LINCOLN, KUHN AND PARADIGMS: An interesting angle on the gay Abe debate over at Upword.

- 12:14:04 PM

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
 
IN PLAIN SIGHT: My review of the various government reports on torture by the U.S. in the war on terror is now up on the NYT site. Maybe it helps explain why I am still exercised about this. I remain a strong believer in the cause of liberating Afghanistan and Iraq from tyranny; and in trying to move the Arab Muslim world toward democracy. President Bush and prime minister Blair deserve huge praise for seeing this through. I just cannot believe what the Bush administration has managed to do in the execution - to America's reputation, to the West's integrity and to the cause itself. It is not irreparable - and I'm very cautiously optimistic about the long-term prospects for Iraq. But we owe it to the cause to investigate where we have gone wrong, and to do everything we can to put it right. The Bush administration's failure to come to terms with this simply isn't good enough, in my view. The fact that the United States has been routinely and illegally practising torture in its interrogation procedures is abhorrent to everything we are supposed to stand for. Some things simply cannot be wished away or moved on from. Especially when, in all likelihood, they are still occurring.

- 11:40:58 PM
 
BUSH AND THE LORD: Did I over-react? It's worth looking at the full quote as produced by the Washington Times:
"I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit. That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit. On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord." (My italics)
Now notice that Bush is explicitly qualifying his defense of religious freedom (or the freedom to have no religion at all) by saying that the presidency, in his view, should nevertheless be reserved for people with a relationship of a personal nature with "the Lord." He isn't simply saying that he doesn't see how he could have endured the presidency without faith; he is asserting that he cannot see how anyone could be president without a "relationship with the Lord." Now I can see how this might be simply a slip of the tongue: just a projection of his own experience with nothing more to be inferred from it. But given how this administration has consciously eroded the distinction between church and state - fusing the two with federal funds, using religious groups as its political base, incorporating religious leaders into policy-making, and defending public policy decisions on purely religious grounds (calling civil marriage licenses "sacred," for example) - this is worrying. To put it bluntly, on the separation of church and state, I don't trust these guys.

FAITH AND ITS LIMITS: Look, I share Bush's faith, admire it, respect it, and am quite sure it has helped him greatly in a terribly difficult time in the White House. More: I'm glad he has a relationship with Jesus to guide him. If he had said just that, it would be an inspiring and innocuous statement. Likewise, I have no problems with presidents' invoking God in speeches and the like. But Bush went further. He linked the office of the presidency to religious faith. And as president, his words carry weight. No, he cannot legally prevent atheists from running for president (although his party would never nominate a non-Christian for president and would be hard-pressed to nominate someone who isn't an evangelical). But if an atheist were to run, Bush's position would logically be that, in his view, the man or woman would be unable to be an effective president, because they would not have the spiritual resources to withstand the pressure of the job. I do think that's over the line. The deists who founded the republic would also be excluded on Bush's reasoning. They had no "relationship with the Lord." (And "the Lord" in this instance is quite obviously Jesus, not the Jewish God. So Jews and Muslims are excludable as well.) The deeper point is: the president represents all the people, including atheists. As president, he should not be opining that people who have no faith in "the Lord" are somehow handicapped for the highest public office. Imagine if an atheist president said that "I don't see how you can be president, at least from my perspective, if you believe in something that cannot be rationally proved." The religious right would immediately proclaim the man a bigot (and they'd be right). Bush is not a bigot. He just sees the world through the prism of his own life. As a man, that is his right. As president, he shouldn't be sending signals that some people, because of their irreligion, are incapable of representing all the people. And that applies especially because an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with him.

THE GOOD NEWS: In the Washington Times interview, Bush seems really committed to ratcheting down government spending. Money quote:
Look, I fully understand there are people saying, "Can't America deal with these twin deficits?" It's an issue which we're concerned about as we go into the second term. And you'll see us submit a tough budget and call upon Congress to enact it. I've had a good record, by the way, of getting Congress to pass the budgets we've submitted. And we're going to fund the war. I mean, we get soldiers in harm's way, they're going to have what they need. And we'll protect this homeland. But the nondefense discretionary spending and nonhomeland discretionary spending is tough; it's going to be tough again. It was less than 1 percent last time. I'm not going to give you a number yet; we need to get the process right. But it will be — it will be tough.
He's right, in my view, to tackle social security; right to insist on benefit cuts as well as part-privatization. I just wish he hadn't mortgaged our future with that new Medicare entitlement (Apparently he thinks it will save money in the long run. Try not to laugh too hard.) Still, there are real signs that the Bushies are talking the talk on spending control. We'll see, I guess. Walking is another matter.

- 11:38:26 PM
 
PUTIN'S FORTRESS: New restrictions on immigration would bar foreign visitors who don't share "Russian values." I hope he doesn't give Karl Rove any ideas. Russia will also bar people with HIV from entering the country. Why is it that the first instinct of a country with a domestic HIV explosion is to ban foreigners with it?

"SANTORUM" WON: But the press would never pick it as the newly coined word of the year. So it got consigned to second place. Slate explains it all.

WHY DOES IT MATTER? Many of you have emailed me to ask why it matters one drop what Lincoln's sexual orientation was. Well, the relationship between his conflicted sexual orientation and his political life hasn't been fully or even partly explored and Tripp ventures nothing but a few musings. Future scholars may now try. I certainly don't believe that someone's being gay makes them somehow a better person. Jeffrey Dahmer and Ernst Roehm were gay, along with Proust, Auden, Michelangelo and Whitman. But I do think that any historian trying to understand Lincoln should be interested in his emotional life and development. To me, it merely reveals more layers of Lincoln's greatness. Here's what I wrote to a friend yesterday:
Understanding Lincoln's personality - his deep depressions, his terrible marriage, his strange and distant religious faith, his empathy for outsiders - all make more sense when you consider the kind of toll his sexual orientation must have taken. Imagine a Jew forced to conceal his identity all his life for political reasons. Do you really think this is irrelevant to understanding someone's life? I don't think many straights understand the enormous psychological damage homophobia does to people who lived in societies where they could never express love or have meaningful relationships. It's crippling at the deepest level of the human soul and heart. Lincoln triumphed over this to do truly great things, although he also succumbed at times to profound despair. He overcame the prejudice of his time and managed to find love and solace in a few moments of intimacy. He did so without ever lying or even concealing his loves. Why denigrate or minimize that personal triumph? Especially when so many of Lincoln's Republican successors are intent on reimposing the agony and misery of the closet today?
That's why it matters. We owe the past our respect. And we owe Lincoln of all people a modicum of honesty.

- 11:34:33 PM
 
ATHEISTS NEED NOT APPLY: What was Bush thinking with this statement: "President Bush said yesterday that he doesn't 'see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord,' but that he is always mindful to protect the right of others to worship or not worship." So, out of his beneficence, he won't trample on others' religious freedom. But the White House? That's for Christians only. No Jews? Or atheists? Notice also the evangelical notion of a personal "relationship" with the Lord. That also indicates suspicion of those Christians with different approaches to the divine. I must say this is a new level of religio-political fusion in this administration. To restrict the presidency to a particular religious faith is anathema to this country's traditions and to the task of toleration. The president surely needs to retract the statement.

- 1:54:40 PM
 
PHILIP NOBILE BUSTS HIMSELF: The hatchet-job performed by Philip Nobile in the Weekly Standard on C.A. Tripp's "The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln" might be perceived as an attack on the whole idea of Honest Abe's at least complicated sexual orientation. Readers who are interested in the intellectual honesty of Mr Nobile should read this essay of his from 2001, when he is full of spleen against what he regards as the "homophobia" of established Lincoln scholars in denying the same-sex loves in Lincoln's life. He says in correspondence in the 2001 essay that he was writing his own book on the subject entitled, "A Harp of a Thousand Strings: The Queer Lincoln Theory." That vital fact - a blaring conflict of interest - was never disclosed in the Standard. In the 2001 essay, moreover, Nobile states his own view quite clearly:
Incidentally, I do not argue that Lincoln was bisexual, but rather that bi-sexuality is a better explanation than the standard all-heterosexual one.
Later in the same piece, he writes:
I am neither gay nor an advocate of Lincoln's homosexuality. But I do believe that bisexuality (he was bisexual by definition) is the best explanation for Lincoln's sex life.
So the Weekly Standard's reviewer was a strong proponent of the view that Lincoln was bisexual. He had his own book in the works on the subject. Tripp beat him to the punch - and is now dead so cannot challenge Nobile's account of the editorial process. Isn't this a conflict of interest that the Standard should have disclosed? Isn't it relevant background for understanding Nobile's own motives for trashing a book by a scholar whose exhaustive research on the subject may have made Nobile's own book largely redundant?

A HOAX AND A FRAUD: Weirder still are the inconsistencies between Nobile's Standard piece and his previous essay. In the Standard, he argues that "the Gay Lincoln Theory fails any historical test." His previous book title was "A Harp of a Thousand Strings: The Queer Lincoln Theory." In the Standard, Nobile trashes Tripp in part because he allegedly "papered over holes in his story with inventions (Lincoln's law partner and biographer William Herndon never noticed the homosexuality because he was an extreme heterosexual and thus afflicted with 'heterosexual bias')." In his previous piece, when he was peddling his own book, he complains that Lincoln scholar Gabor Boritt "seems to be following the het line of all Lincoln scholars, with the exception of Thomas Lowry, who refuse to examine Lincoln's passionate preference for male company (though Sandburg referred to Lincoln's "streak of lavender and spots soft as May violets" in connection with Joshua Speed)." The "het line"? That's more accusatory of Lincoln scholars than anything Tripp wrote. In the Standard, Nobile writes, against Tripp, that
Tripp was cavalier about the negative reaction from historians--ascribing their rejection of the theory to their unwillingness to admit homosexuality in their hero. He said that Donald told him that he would not believe Lincoln was gay even if Lincoln said so. Tripp was even convinced that another doubtful biographer was timid because he was a nervous closet case--until the man introduced him to his fiancée.
Yet his 2001 essay was titled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Publish: Homophobia in Lincoln Studies?" So he trashes Tripp for the exact same thing he argued only a few years ago.

THERE'S MORE: In the Standard, Nobile argues
One of the biggest roadblocks to the Gay Lincoln Theory is the fact that neither friends nor enemies ever connected the man to homosexual thoughts, words, or deeds. Would not a secret of that magnitude have leaked out somehow, sometime? Tripp had Lincoln boinking four bosom buddies during his prairie years, but there was not a whiff of this supposed hanky-panky anywhere in the record, not even in Herndon's exhaustive history of Lincoln's frontier contemporaries.
Yet in his previous essay, Nobile makes exactly the opposite point. In a letter to Borritt, Nobile specifically disowns the idea that the views of Lincoln's contemporaries or even Lincoln himself are salient:
[R]eferring to Lincoln's subjective state of mind regarding the possible homosexual nature of the overnights with Derickson, you wrote: 'There is no evidence that [the homosexual dimension occurred] to Lincoln.' This observation is true, but beside the point. At issue is not whether Lincoln perceived his feelings as homosexual, but whether he had such feelings and may have acted on them. The midnight rendezvous with Derickson are the best evidence that he did.
He also writes:
Of course, it is impossible to know what "most people" in Lincoln's day might have thought about this matter. In any case, popular perception is irrelevant to historical truth, whatever it turns out to be. Fortunately, we know exactly how one Lincoln insider reacted when she heard the Derickson rumor. "What stuff!," exclaimed Elizabeth Woodbury Fox, wife of Lincoln's naval aide, in her diary of November 16, 1862.
In the Standard, Nobile argues that Lincoln's early doggerel poem about boy-boy marriage suggests nothing:
In his mid-1990s draft, Tripp regarded the verse as another smoking gun: "viewed through the prism of sex research, the poem is an open and shut case, a virtual certification of Lincoln's own engagement in homosexuality," he wrote at the time. David Donald criticized Tripp's forced interpretation in his 1996 letter: "The person who tells a joke about 'fags' or 'gays' or 'butch' women may reveal a lack of taste but that does not necessarily indicate homosexual leanings." Under pressure from Donald and me, the simple equation of the poem and homosexuality was dropped.
In an email to Oxford University Press, however, Nobile made a strong case for his own book, insisting on the importance of the Derickson affair as evidence of Lincoln's bisexuality. Then he adds, to bolster his case: "Incidentally, did you know that Lincoln wrote a boy-sex poem when he was 20?"

WILL THE STANDARD CORRECT? Is there a resolution to these contradictions? The best gloss is that Tripp believed that Lincoln was a 5 on the Kinsey scale and Nobile apparently thought he was more of a 3 or 4. Both believed Lincoln was bisexual to varying degrees. Even in the Standard, in a paragraph buried near the end of a piece calling the gay Lincoln theory a "fraud" and a "hoax," Nobile concludes:
The Gay Lincoln Theory, for all its jagged edges, may be a more satisfying explanation for the president's weird inner life than the Utterly Straight Lincoln Theory. "I have heard [Lincoln] say over and over again about sexual contact: 'It is a harp of a thousand strings,'" Henry Whitney told William Herndon in 1865. Leaving aside Tripp's bad faith, it is not utterly beyond imagining that Lincoln may have played a few extra strings on that harp.
Are we really to believe that the vituperation in Nobile's piece is compatible with a simple difference of opinion over a nuance? Given the evidence in front of us, I'd say that the real bad faith in this instance is Nobile's, not Tripp's. The Standard piece is a work of character assassination against a rigorous scholar who cannot defend himself, in the service of a political agenda that is indeed homophobic. Maybe the Standard's editors were unaware of Nobile's rival book and past attacks on the "het-line" of homophobic Lincoln scholarship. Well, they are aware now. They need to apologize for this lacuna and correct the record.

- 1:15:41 PM
 
'BLOGGER NATION': Are we now the establishment? Fineman says we are. His admission that the mainstream media have acted as a de facto political party for three decades strikes me as a big deal - the first crack of self-awareness in the MSM. But I truly hope the blogosphere doesn't become its replacement. Blogs are strongest when they are politically diverse, when they are committed to insurgency rather than power, when they belong to no party. I'm particularly worried that the blogosphere has become far more knee-jerk, shrill and partisan since the days when I first started blogging. Some of that's healthy and inevitable; but too much is damaging. In challenging the MSM, we should resist the temptation to become like them.

- 10:41:30 AM

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
 
MAC DONALD, TORTURE, THE CIA AND BUSH: One distinction somewhat blurred in Heather Mac Donald's limited defense of torture in City Journal is the distinction between what might be allowed for the CIA in "black box" interrogations of high-level Qaeda detainees, and the military's general strict prohibition of inhumane treatment of detainees. This is an important distinction; but it was blurred almost immediately by the Bush administration itself. Marty Lederman has a must-read on all this. Here's one important point:
I agree with MacDonald that the 2002 OLC Memo likely was not intended to affect interrogation policies in the military. But she is wrong to insinuate that the Pentagon was unaware of the OLC Memo, and to argue that the Memo had no effect on Pentagon policies and practices. Although I assume the Memo was originally intended for use by the CIA, the White House soon forwarded it to the Department of Defense, where huge portions of it were incorporated virtually verbatim in the DoD Working Group Report on Guantanamo interrogation techniques in early 2003 (even though the statute discussed in the OLC Memo did not even apply at Guantanamo during the period in question). Most notably, the Pentagon adopted wholesale the most indefensible and most dangerous portions of the OLC Memo—where OLC concocted unlikely criminal defenses of 'necessity,' 'defense of nation,' and 'presidential authority,' and where OLC argued that criminal laws restricting methods of interrogation are unconstitutional to the extent they impinge upon the President’s decisions of “what methods to use to best prevail against the enemy.'

Armed with these OLC assurances of virtually no legal exposure, the DoD Working Group itself concluded that these techniques were among those that are lawful under the restrictive laws governing military interrogations: placing a hood over detainees during questioning; 20-hour interrogations; four days of sleep deprivation; forced nudity to create a 'feeling of helplessness and dependence'; increasing 'anxiety' through the use of dogs; quick, glancing slaps to the face or stomach; and the threat of transfer to another nation that might subject the detainee to torture or death.
These relaxed strictures can also swiftly evolve in chaotic or badly organized wars into something much worse. Which is what happened. When regular soldiers see prisoners dehumanized in this way as a legitimate policy, it is unsurprising that further improvisation occurs. Moreover, all of this is almost certainly illegal for the regular military. I'm sorry but there is a clear link between decisions made by Bush and what happened at Abu Ghraib. I don't fully understand why Mac Donald ignores this, because, in some ways, what the administration did makes even the selective use of a few, strict coercive techniques in a handful of cases much less likely, as we go through what I hope is a backlash against this cruelty and chaos.

THE MIGRATION OF TORTURE: Moreover, whatever the intent of the White House, the Fay/Jones and Schlesinger reports specifically argue that the relaxed rules for the CIA "migrated" to Iraq, where the Geneva Conventions indubitably apply. Money Lederman quote on this latter point:
The reports explain in detail that the interrogators at Guantanamo, and the conflicting and confusing set of directives from the Pentagon for GTMO, 'circulated' freely to Afghanistan and then to Iraq (Schlesinger 9). Lieutenant General Sanchez, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force in Iraq, approved techniques going beyond those approved for GTMO, 'using reasoning' from the President’s February 7, 2002 directive on unlawful combatants (id. at 10). The 'existence of confusing and inconsistent interrogation technique policies,' including a 'proliferation of guidance and information from other theatres of operation,' and the fact that personnel involved in interrogation in GTMO and Afghanistan 'were called upon to establish and conduct interrogation operations in Abu Ghraib,' all contributed 'to the belief that additional interrogation techniques were condoned in order to gain intelligence' (Jones 15-16; Fay 8, 10, 22). 'The lines of authority and the prior legal opinions blurred' (Fay 10), and 'DoD’s development of multiple policies on interrogation operations for use in different theatres or operations confused Army and civilian Interrogators at Abu Ghraib' (Fay Finding No. 7).
There is, then, a direct link between the memos approved by Bybee, Gonzales, Bush, Rumsfeld and others and what eventually took place (and is still taking place, so far as we know) in the war in Iraq. We don't know the intent or motives of the original decisions. But we do know the consequences.

- 11:08:58 PM
 
THE POST-WAR MESS: Here's another must-read. It's by Michael O'Hanlon in Policy Review, about the non-planning for the situation after the fall of Baghdad. We can and should have debates about whether we ever had enough troops to do what we needed to do after initial victory. I'd say it's obvious that Shinseki was correct. Should we have gone to war under the circumstances then prevailing? Probably not. Given the lack of urgency with regard to Saddam's WMDs (yes, this is hindsight, but so is all of this), we obviously should have waited. But even if we were concerned about WMDs and terrorists, it behooves any administration to plan very carefully for an occupation and to ensure that we have enough troops to keep order. Chaos breeds chaos. In any case, the administration doesn't get the benefit of the doubt about this for one simple reason: they had no plan for occupying Iraq. Money quote from O'Hanlon:
Lest there be any doubt about the absence of a plan, one need only consult the Third Infantry Division’s after-action report, which reads: "Higher headquarters did not provide the Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) with a plan for Phase IV. As a result, Third Infantry Division transitioned into Phase IV in the absence of guidance."
The rest is pro-Bush spin. David Adesnik has an excellent post about all this. I recommend it highly as an adjunct to the O'Hanlon essay.

MORE IMAGES: The NASA site is indeed a great one. Here's a close-up of tsunami damage. I don't mean to sound like Al Gore but this one is way cool as well.

- 11:05:19 PM
 
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Please, Andrew, depair about something worth despairing over; but Glenn Reynolds' use of wing-wang is no more proof of what he believes about gays than your link to Engrish says anything substantial about your beliefs concerning the Japanese. Glenn made his point. It just does not matter to him whether Lincoln was gay or not. If that's the worst that straights can think about gays, then I say bring on the worst. And keep laughing." Yeah, maybe I lost my sense of humor. Glenn is, as I said, on the side of the angels and I have long appreciated his matter-of-fact support for gay equality. More feedback on the Letters Page.

- 9:56:21 PM
 
THE ORIGINAL MR BURNS ANALOGY: I didn't mean not to credit Michael Crowley.

- 3:48:44 PM
 
"WHERE HE PUT HIS WING-WANG": This, apparently, is Glenn Reynold's view of what being gay is. And Glenn is on the side of the angels in this. It's enough to make you despair.

- 3:45:34 PM
 
THE FACE OF REPRESSION: Here's a photo of an Iranian blogger, one of more than 20 detained by the theo-fascists for freedom of expression. Money quote: "My interrogator punched me in the head and stomach and kicked me in the back many times to force me confess to having illegal sex and endangered national security through my writings, Mazrouei said." He was blindfolded for 66 days in solitary confinement. And yes, it pains me that now every defender of the Islamists can say that U.S. custody is just as bad as the Iranians - and, in many cases, far worse. We have squandered a part of the critical moral difference that justifies our fight.

- 1:41:58 PM
 
THE EARTH AT NIGHT: Just a cool pic. (Hat tip: Volokh).

- 1:32:05 PM
 
MR BURNS TO DHS: Michael Chertoff is a dead-ringer. Well, at least the nuclear power plants will be secured.

- 1:17:30 PM
 
"A GOLD-PLATED BOLLOCKING": Yes, I miss the English English language sometimes. Labour deputies have been haranguing their two major leaders, Blair and Brown, for their personal rifts. Brown is quoted in a new book, compiled with his cooperation, as saying to Blair: "There is nothing you could say to me now that I could ever believe". I think the Tories have found their electoral slogan. They'll lose anyway.

- 1:14:36 PM
 
EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Andrew, re: Lincoln. I think the problem is that heterosexuals still don't understand that "gay" isn't only about sex. They think of homosexuals as defective straight people with uncontrollable sexual urges, and I guess a flair for drama. They don't understand our emotional orientation towards members of our own sex. They can't identify with this, or else they are scared of it (I'm not sure which). This is the source of the whole problem, I think." I tend to agree. Of course, many heterosexuals have begun to understand. And, as I've said many times, homosexuality is very easy to understand. It is exactly the same as heterosexuality, with the gender reversed. Gays, however, cannot expect straights to understand this all by themselves. It's up to us to explain, and keep explaining. One reason I have written sometimes painful accounts of my own life is not that I enjoy losing privacy, but that I feel it's the only way to get people to understand what I'm actually talking about. Straights who don't understand are not necessarily prejudiced. They're just under-informed. Gay people should spend the bulk of their efforts in the difficult process of informing. And the most integral part of that informing is coming out.

- 12:57:41 PM
 
ANOTHER 'IMMINENT' MEME: This time, it's the right that's doing the distorting. Steve Clemons explains.

- 12:16:44 PM
 
THE LINCOLN QUESTION: My piece on C.A. Tripp's Lincoln book, is now up at TNR. Having read the book closely, I'm struck by how obtuse some of the reviews have been. Gay journalist, Paul Varnell, in an email, put the process of assessment now unfolding thus:
1. It is simply not true at all, Tripp is all wrong.

2. It is almost surely wrong and the evidence is strained.

3. It could be true, but the evidence is insufficient.

4.There is something to Tripp's case, but we can never know for sure.

5. It is probably true, but we must await further evaluation of the evidence. Meanwhile we should suspend judgment.

6. Tripp is, of course, right, but everyone knew this already this and it doesn't change anything we think about his public career.
We are hovering now somewhere between 4 and 5. Read it yourself to find out. The data it collects are arresting to anyone not deeply resistant to the idea of Lincoln's primarily homosexual orientation. And yes, of course it matters. If America's greatest president was gay, it must play a part in the current discussion of gay equality in America. That's why the Weekly Standard has pulled out all the stops to kill off the book. One thing none of the reviews says: the book is complemented by several essays at the end by leading Lincoln scholars, two of whom specifically differ from Tripp's conclusions. It's a very fair document: about as far from a "hoax" and a "fraud" as the Weekly Standard is from treating the open-ended question of Lincoln's sexuality honestly.

- 10:32:39 AM

Monday, January 10, 2005
 
THE END OF RATHER: He has to go now, doesn't he? When all the people directly associated with this debacle have quit or been fired, on what basis does he stay? He fronted the report. He stood by it. He took responsibility for it. On his watch, CBS News became a laughing stock. Is he really going to let everyone else take the hit? Has he lost all sense of self-respect as well as loyalty? For goodness' sake, Dan. Go. Even Howell did eventually. People will remember the rest of your legacy. But if you hang on to your job as long as you hung on to that "story," all you will prove is your pride.

GENE THERAPY: My own view is that gene therapy will turn out to be far more important in arresting HIV than the futile pursuit of an elusive vaccine. And we have just had a break-through. (Hat tip: Pacopond.)

TIME FOR HEALING WATCH: Red America, as seen by a Village Voice cartoonist.

THE LIMBAUGH DEFENSE: Rush Limbaugh saw nothing wrong with Abu Ghraib. Now we hear the sickening psychopath, Charles Graner, push the same vile arguments in defending himself from the charge of torture. "You're keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections," Graner's lawyer said. "In Texas we'd lasso them and drag them out of there." Ah, the Texas defense. Let's review just one incident, reported by the ICRC, in which Graner featured:
One of those days the guards tortured the prisoners. Those guards are Grainer [sic], Davis and another man. First they tortured the man whose name is Amjid Iraqi. They stripped him of his clothes and beat him till he passed out and they cursed him and when they took off of his head I saw blood running from his head. They took him to solitary confinement and were beating him every night... After they brought six people and beat them up until they dropped on the floor and one of them his nose was cut and the blood was running from his nose and he was screaming but no one was responding and all this beating from Grainer and Davis and another man... And after that they beat up the rest of the group until they fall to the ground. Every time one of them fell to the ground they drag them up to stand on his feet. Grainer beat up a man whose name is Ali the Syrian and he was beating him until he gotten almost crazy ... They hanged him and he was screaming but no one helped him.
Well, as long as they weren't actually torturing anyone, eh, Bybee?

- 11:45:06 PM
 
WHAT IS ENGRISH? "Engrish can be simply defined as the humorous English mistakes that appear in Japanese advertising and product design." Enjoy. Come croser, Mr Brix. A rittle croser.

THE LEFT AND IRAQ: The betrayal continues.

CAMPUS CONSERVATIVES: City Journal surveys the scene among young Republicans. They show remarkably strong support for many conservative ideals - lower taxes, strong families, fighting terrorism aggressively. The one exception: marriage rights for gays. They can't see the problem with allowing everyone to have family values. Just don't tell their elders.

MISSING IN ACTION: Nat Hentoff asks where the Congress is in exposing the use of torture by the U.S. military under the Bush administration.

THE STANDARD'S NEW LOW: Check out the cover-image on the new Weekly Standard: a text-book example of homophobia. We gays are always invited to reach out and have sane conversations with conservatives at places like the Weekly Standard. But how can you converse with people whose attitude is one of pure contempt?

- 11:44:10 PM
 
PAGE 153: Yep, that's the page in the CBS report where they declare that blog criticism of Rather's lies was driven by a "conservative agenda." All of it? How do they know? Meanwhile, the blatant partisanship of Mapes and Rather have that weasel expression "appearance of bias" attached to it. Grrrr. Rather should have been fired. But Bush-supporters in particular have some double-standards in this regard. Isn't CBS actually being tougher on its miscreants than the Bush administration ever is?

- 3:50:19 PM
 
WHO ELSE? Armstrong Williams says he wasn't the only conservative "journalist" on the government's payroll. Hmmm. Who else? Williams should name names or shut up. I haven't written anything about his pathetic role as a propagandist for the Bush administration, because it's so self-evidently unethical it doesn't need me to spell it out. But it says something about the cluelessness of someone in the Bush administration. I mean: why pay for propaganda when you can get it quite easily for free?

SPEAKING OF WHICH: I'm sorry, but I can't help laughing at this paragraph from professional hysteric, Brent Bozell:
Loser: "South Park." The producers of this curdled, malodorous black hole of Comedy Central vomit want to elicit only one sentence from viewers: "Did I just see that on television?" For anyone who thinks television today is not as offensive -- and downright stupid as those "prudes" say it is, we suggest a look at the Dec. 1 episode. At the South Park "Whore-Off" competition, Paris Hilton inserts an entire pineapple into her vagina. A gay man in a biker vest then takes off his pants and puts the entire body of Paris Hilton up his rectum. Remember this episode the next time some TV critic raves about the "talent" behind "South Park."
Actually, of course, the show is far smarter than that, as Tom Monster explains. South Park is the only show I know smart enough to defend being a total slut while wanting to keep it from being broadcast to children. Bad slut: Ms Hilton. Good slut: Mr Slave. You'd be surprised how many men in harnesses would never dream of broadcasting their sexual amusement beyond the tight confines of their own subculture. They're subtler conservatives than Mr Bozell.

A STRAIGHT CONSERVATIVE: Who sees the real case for equal marriage rights.

- 3:41:05 PM
 
RATHERGATE FALLOUT: It's pretty damning stuff. Not a whole lot of news in it, though, from my summary reading. Terminating Mapes is serious accountability. Here's the real money quote:
The panel finds that once serious questions were raised, the defense of the segment became more rigid and emphatic, and that virtually no attempt was made to determine whether the questions raised had merit.
No attempt to ask questions? Wasn't Rather part of this defense? And wasn't it relevant that critics were accused of partisanship? Why the knee-jerk partisan response? What interests me about the summary is that all sorts of sins can be attributed to journalists - rushing a story to print, not following rudimentary fact-checking rules, refusing to re-check after questions were raised, etc, etc. But the one thing the report is clear about is that no political bias ever influenced the process. Even when you have Mapes calling Lockhart, the report insists that this created "the appearance of political bias." (My italics.) Others will parse the report more carefully, I'm sure. But the refusal to acknowledge this blind spot is not encouraging.

- 10:47:44 AM
 
STRATFOR ON THE WAR: Like many other smart analysts, the pro-war Stratfor military experts have concluded that the war to control the Iraq insurgency or to erect democratic institutions in Iraq has been lost (subscription required). I think it's time to start truly absorbing this possibility. Why lost? Because we blew the opportunity to control the terrain with insufficient troops and terrible intelligence; because all the institutions required to build democracy in Iraq have already been infiltrated by insurgents; because at key moments - they mention the fall of 2003 or spring of 2004 - we simply failed to crush the insurgency when we might have had a chance of success. Short version: we had a brief window of opportunity to turn our armed intervention into democratic liberation and we blew it. Money quote:
The issue facing the Bush administration is simple. It can continue to fight the war as it has, hoping that a miracle will bring successes in 2005 that didn't happen in 2004. Alternatively, it can accept the reality that the guerrilla force is now self-sustaining and sufficiently large not to flicker out and face the fact that a U.S. conventional force of less than 150,000 is not likely to suppress the guerrillas. More to the point, it can recognize these facts: 1. The United States cannot re-engineer Iraq because the guerrillas will infiltrate every institution it creates. 2. That the United States by itself lacks the intelligence capabilities to fight an effective counterinsurgency. 3. That exposing U.S. forces to security responsibilities in this environment generates casualties without bringing the United States closer to the goal. 4. That the strain on the U.S. force is undermining its ability to react to opportunities and threats in the rest of the region. And that, therefore, this phase of the Iraq campaign must be halted as soon as possible.
They recommend withdrawing U.S. forces to the periphery of Iraq and letting the inevitable civil war take place in the center.

DARKNESS BEFORE DAWN? The war has not been a complete loss, Stratfor argues, because it has engineered a slight shift in the behavior of neighboring regimes, and has allowed us to have a new base in the Middle East. The conclusion:
Certainly, it would have been nice for the United States if it had been able to dominate Iraq thoroughly. Somewhere between "the U.S. blew it" and "there was never a chance" that possibility is gone. It would have been nice if the United States had never tried to control the situation, because now the United States is going to have to accept a defeat, which will destabilize the region psychologically for a while. But what is is, and the facts speak for themselves. We are not Walter Cronkite, and we are not saying that the war is lost. The war is with the jihadists around the world; Iraq was just one campaign, and the occupation of the Sunnis was just one phase of that campaign. That phase has been lost. The administration has allowed that phase to become the war as a whole in the public mind. That was a very bad move, but the administration is just going to have to bite the bullet and do the hard, painful and embarrassing work of cutting losses and getting on with the war. If Bush has trouble doing this, he should conjure up Lyndon Johnson's ghost, wandering restlessly in the White House, and imagine how Johnson would have been remembered if he had told Robert McNamara to get lost in 1966.
I hope they're wrong but I fear they're right. For the immediate term, it makes no difference. We have to hope and pray that a democratic miracle really will emerge. There have been darknesses before dawn in history before. And then there have just been darknesses.

THE ZBIG AND SCOWCROFT SHOW: Here's a transcript of their discussion at the New America Foundation.

- 12:34:43 AM
 
MALKIN AND COULTER: Yes, I broke one of my rules by awarding Ann Coulter a Malkin Award. Even though it was technically a headline, written by someone else. I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Now, if you know the tradition of the United States Army, one thing has been consistent and that is that we are aggressive and tough on the field of battle, but when you take prisoners they are treated humanely and with respect. That's the rule that was set by George Washington in the battle of Trenton on Dec. 25, 1776. The soldiers of the continental army took the Hessians and said these soldiers are mercenaries and we should take retribution on them. They wanted the Hessians to run the gauntlet and they would beat them with sticks. General Washington said we will not do this. He said these people will be treated with respect and dignity and they will suffer no abuse or torture, because to do otherwise would bring dishonor upon our sacred cause. That's one of the first orders given to the continental army and that antedates the United States. It has been military tradition for 240 years, and it was stopped by Donald Rumsfeld." - former lawyer for Andrei Sakharov, Scott Horton. (Hat tip: Amba.)

THE GOODS ON SLEEP: Fascinating. Fascinating Fascinatingzzzzzzzzz.

- 12:33:43 AM



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