Thursday, November 30, 2006

GeorgeWill's long record of dishonesty, now and back to 1980.

Smart people are talking about the dishonesty in yesterday's column by George F. Will. Although I was shocked by it, too, it was a minor lapse by Will's standards. This is a good time to remember his enormous breach of ethics in 1980 - one which made him the role model for a generation of cynical, dishonest, and self-serving journalists and pundits.

Yesterday, Will altered quotes from his own paper's reporting in order to make Sen-elect Jim Webb look ruder (and the President more polite) during their encounter. In fact, Webb was direct and Bush was - I can't put this more politely - a dick.

The press has tried to cover up W's nasty streak for six years, but it does slip out from time to time - often with the people whose children are fighting his war. But whether you agree with my assessment of the President and Webb or not, quote-doctoring is a journalistic lie.

Yesterday's mendacity was nothing for George F. Will, however. He has been a disgrace to his once-honorable profession for a long time. His sleazy behavior in years past helped pave the way for the debased media of today.

The Carter/Reagan debate, and Will's role in it, changed journalism forever. Will went on national television that year to comment live and "objectively" on Ronald Reagan's debate performance - without disclosing that he was working for the Reagan campaign and had helped Reagan prepare for that very debate - using stolen property.

This unethical behavior set a new low for journalistic ethics. What was equally ground-breaking was the fact that, once his behavior was made public, he paid absolutely no professional price for it. No censure, no widespread criticism, no loss of employment.

Here's what's known, and not in question, about Will's behavior in 1980:

* He was an advisor to the Reagan campaign, and specifically coached Reagan on how to handle the one debate he held with Jimmy Carter.

* He appeared on Nightline as part of a panel to review the debate the night after he coached Reagan.

* Ted Koppel noted that Will "met with Reagan" the previous day, and said that Will was known to have "affection" for Reagan - but did not disclose he was working for the campaign in a professional capacity. (That's an enormous omission - and Koppel appears to have helped "spin" the "disclosure" in Will's favor.)

* Will, Reagan, and the rest of the team used a Carter debate briefing book which was clearly stolen property. The result? Reagan's effective "there you go again, Mr. President" routine.

* Will praised Reagan highly on Nightline, saying "his game plan worked well." (Viewers didn't know at the time that this "game plan" was Will's own creation.)

The consensus today is that Reagan won that debate overwhelmingly. But, as often happens, it wasn't all that clear at the time. Yes, Carter was weaker than expected and Reagan beat expectations (which, as with W, were deliberately pre-set at a low level by spin doctors.) But the overwhelming Reagan victory pundits recall today was partially the product of contemporary chatter that turned into consensus.

Will's self-serving praise for his candidate (and himself) contributed to the perception that Reagan won - and that, despite popular perceptions, he was actually "Presidential."

What were the repercussions for this shocking breach of journalistic ethics, which included lying by omission, misrepresentation, breach of the public trust, and use of stolen property? How did the journalistic community punish its own?

Will won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary the following year!

With that award, the editorial community made it clear that issues like disclosure, conflict of interest, and lying by omission no longer mattered. Ethical breaches were no impediment to either honor or success in American journalism. ((And they wonder why the profession has lost public respect.)

Washington insiders like to say that Will, unlike many other conservative commentators, is a "decent" guy. I don't think so. Decent human beings don't lie, and they don't behave unethically. It's true that Will is sometimes willing to deviate from conservative orthodoxy, and that's a good thing.

I suspect it's also possible to meet him at a cocktail party and have a very pleasant talk about baseball or other side topics. (Well, probably not possible for me, after today - but that wasn't too likely to happen anyway.) Beltway pundits notwithstanding, however, one cannot be a decent human being while behaving in this manner.

Honesty, morality, and fair play are the true marks of decency. In those areas Mr. Will - and those journalists and pundits who follow in his footsteps - are sadly lacking.

Paschal: Republicans, running repeatedly on "moral values" and "protecting the family against gays" etc., have repeatedly shown themselves to use any dirty tricks available to win, such as "Swift-boating" veterans, rumor mongering against McClellan and McCain. IMO, Repugs epitomize hypocrisy in politics. George Will is simply a prime example.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Carter: "IRAQ WAR is one of the worst blunders any President has ever made" I AGREE.

From CNN's Situation Room


BLITZER: Former President Jimmy Carter has been a vocal critic of

some Bush administration policies, including the war in Iraq. He has a

unique perspective on international conferences fueled by religion and

long histories of hatred. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has a new book

entitled "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid."

He's joining us now in the SITUATION ROOM.

Mr. President, thanks for coming in.


pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: A very provocative title.

We'll get to the book shortly.

Let's get through some of the major issues of the day.

The president spoke forcefully today about Iraq at the NATO summit,

not backing down at all, seemingly repeating the lines he was saying

before the Democratic victory in Congress.

Listen to this little clip.


BUSH: We'll continue to be flexible and we'll make the changes

necessary to succeed. But there's one thing I'm not going to do -- I'm

not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is



BLITZER: Smart strategy on his part to enunciate that policy the

way he is?

CARTER: Well, I think that he and the American people, the members

of Congress, everyone in the United States, and maybe around the world,

are waiting to see what Lee Hamilton and Jim Baker recommend.

BLITZER: But is that outsourcing foreign policy, sort of kicking,

punting the ball down the road to these outside 10 Democrats and

Republicans giving him advice? Is that smart?

More after the jump...

CARTER: Well, I don't think he did it. I think this was an

initiation by the Congress. He has his own recommendations, to be

derived from people in his administration.

But I think it would be natural for President Bush to adopt as many

of the policies that Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton recommend, and their

committee, as he possibly can.

If there are some things with which he disagrees, in order to save

face, or to show his independence, that he's still the

commander-in-chief, then he will do it.

But I think in general, the recommendations of the committee will be

seriously considered by the White House and maybe a lot of them will be


BLITZER: He can reject or he can accept whatever he wants. You

used to do the same thing...

CARTER: Sure, he's the commander-in-chief. Absolutely.

BLITZER: ... when you were president.

Is this a civil war that the U.S. is involved in in Iraq right now?

CARTER: Well, I know that NBC has ordained that it be called a

civil war.

BLITZER: But what do you...

CARTER: But we're...

BLITZER: What about Jimmy Carter?

CARTER: I think civil war is a serious -- a more serious

circumstance than exists in Iraq. And I say that based on some of the

civil wars with which we've been involved in the last few years.

For instance, we've worked 19 years to try to get a civil war ended

in southern Sudan, where two million people died. And we just helped to

hold an election in the Republic of Congo, where four million people

have died in the last eight years.

BLITZER: So you're saying this is not a civil war?

CARTER: Well, I think you can -- if you want to call it a civil

war, some of the news media, like NBC, or if you want to call it not a

civil war, by the White House, it's a matter of judgment. I think

semantics or what you name it. It doesn't have any real effect.

BLITZER: The U.S. this commission you're talking about, this

bipartisan Lee Hamilton, James Baker Iraq Study Group, one of their

proposals that there's a lot of speculation about, that they're going to

recommend the U.S. starts talking directly with Syria and Iran.

Listen to what the president said today about Iran.


BUSH: We see the struggle in Iran, where a reactionary regime

subjugates its proud people, arrests free trade union leaders and uses

Iran's resources to fund the spread of terror and pursue nuclear weapons.


BLITZER: This doesn't sound like someone who really wants to let

Iran play a significant role in Iraq right now.

CARTER: Well, you know, there's a difference between letting Iran

play a role in the future of Israel, on the other hand, which would be

completely out of the question, and including Iran and Syria in a

conference of all of the surrounding nations, including those that are

close to us, moderate Arabs like Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia and

some of the other Gulf States.

But I think if they are included in a conference, that would

reassure the Iraqi people that some day in the near future they're going

to have complete control over their military and political and economic

destiny, and Israeli and American occupation forces are going to be

withdrawn. I think that would be something that the president should


BLITZER: You know a lot about Iran. You spent the last 444 days of

your presidency focusing in on the American hostages.

CARTER: I remember that.

BLITZER: I know. I remember it very well. I think everyone who

was alive remembers it, as well.

This is a regime -- basically, the same people who were in charge

then, who took over for the shah, are still in charge right now, led by

a supreme ayatollah, who has been meeting today with Talabani and

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met yesterday with Jalal Talabani, the president of



BLITZER: This is the same Iranian president who said last October,

a year ago: "Israel must be wiped off the map of the world, and god

willing, with the forces of god behind it, we shall soon experience a

world without the United States and Zionists."

CARTER: This is one of the most ridiculous and obnoxious statements

that I've ever heard a public official -- certainly in a leadership

capacity -- to make. It's ridiculous and ought to be completely


However, you know, the Iranian people and the government, I think

collectively, would like to see a stable Iraq and there may be a role

for them to play in the conference that I think will be forthcoming.

And I think this is going to be one of the key recommendations of the

study commission that we've already discussed.

And so I think this is one that I would certainly approve, is a

broad-based conference, maybe even including France and Russia and

others who might help to reassure the Iraqi people that their nation is

going to be, I would say, reconstructed and given the proper element of

freedom and independence.

BLITZER: If you ask me, it sounds like the Baker-Hamilton

commission is getting ready to call for an international conference to


CARTER: Which I think would be good.

BLITZER: Well, Baker, when he was secretary of state, used to call

for those conferences in Madrid, as you remember, the Oslo conference...

CARTER: I remember it well.

BLITZER: ... and before the first President Bush went ahead and

liberated Kuwait, the international conference. So I suspect that will


Listen to this clip, also, from what the president said today,

because it sounds to me like the neo-conservatives, who were so

instrumental in shaping a lot of this strategy, that he's still very

much influenced by that line of thinking, because listen to this.


BUSH: The war on terror that we fight today is more than a military

conflict, it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century.

And in this struggle, we can accept nothing less than victory for our

children and our grandchildren.


BLITZER: It doesn't sound like he's moving away from that

neo-conservative ideology from earlier, does it?

CARTER: No, but one of the most ridiculous and humorous things that

I've seen lately is the neo-conservatives moving away from George Bush --

BLITZER: Well, a lot of them have (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

CARTER: ... when they were the orchestrators and the supporters and

the originators of the Iraqi adventure. And now that it's gone bad,

they've said we didn't have anything to do with it. Bush has just

really fouled up himself, and his associates, if they're still there.

So I think that's a really funny thing to see.

But I think there's no doubt that the neo-conservative inclination

is still prevalent, both, maybe, in the White House and also among some

of those that have abandoned President Bush.

BLITZER: I assume you believe that the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the

removal of Saddam Hussein, was a huge -- with hindsight, was a huge


CARTER: Well, when you throw in the removal of Saddam Hussein, I

don't include that. But I think that the original invasion of Iraq, and

all of its consequences, yes, were a blunder, including what happened

with the leadership.

BLITZER: In the scheme of things, how big of a blunder was it in

terms of foreign policy blunders that American presidents h made?

CARTER: One of the -- it's going to prove, I believe, to be one of

the greatest blunders that American presidents have ever made.

BLITZER: Bigger than Vietnam?

CARTER: I think it's going to be a close call, but perhaps much

more vividly known by the rest of the world than Vietnam was. And, of

course, my answer is predicated on not knowing what's going to happen in

the future.

I think that President Bush could still salvage out of Iraq a

conclusion that he could identify as victory if he would agree that this

international conference would come in and help Iraq and if there could

be an orderly withdrawal of American troops and Iraq could be sustained,

with the support of the rest of the world, as a viable democracy.

Then he could say, in retrospect, this was a success. And I think

that's what he would like to see as an ultimate indication of a victory.

BLITZER: If you were president right now, what would you do, given

the current situation as it exists on the ground?

CARTER: I would immediately convene an international conference and

let it be known -- which is not known now -- that America has no desire

to maintain a permanent military presence in Iraq. Almost every Arab

leader with whom I have discussed this issue in the last year or two

believe that the current plan is some day, 20 years from now, still to

have a military presence of the United States inside Iraq. I would make

that clear. And I would involved as many of the neighbors and other

leaders in the world along with us, not in the occupation of Iraq, but

in the orderly withdrawal from Iraq of American troops and a reassurance

to the Iraqi people that you can control your own affairs.

BLITZER: Let's talk about your new book, "Palestine: Peace, Not

Apartheid." The book jacket, the book cover, has a picture of you. It

also has a picture of the wall that Israel has constructed...


BLITZER: ... along the West Bank to protect itself, presumably,

from terrorists coming into major Israeli cities and towns.

CARTER: Not along the West Bank, but inside the West Bank.

BLITZER: Inside the West Bank...


BLITZER: ... to separate, if you will, the Palestinian territories

from Israel, pre-'67 Israel...

CARTER: Well, as a matter of fact...

BLITZER: ... or close to those lines.

CARTER: As a matter of fact, that's not correct, Wolf.

What the wall does is separate Palestinians from other

Palestinians. This wall is not built between Israel and Palestine.

It's built between the Palestinians and other Palestinians.

BLITZER: In terms of going a little bit further than the pre-'67



BLITZER: You're right, it's all built on Palestinian-occupied


CARTER: And in some places it goes much further than a little bit.

BLITZER: You know you're going to be -- you're already being

criticized for using the word apartheid.

CARTER: Well, let me explain the title...


CARTER: ... because the title was very carefully...

BLITZER: Because that's such a provocative -- the impression that

somebody gets -- and you can't judge a book by its cover -- but the

impression you get looking at this cover, you see "Palestine: Peace,

Not Apartheid," you see a wall and you say is Israel creating an

apartheid regime in the Palestinian territories?

CARTER: Let me answer the question.

First of all, the entire title should be considered. First of all,

it's Palestine and not Israel. I have never insinuated and do not think

at all that Israel would perpetrate apartheid within their own nation,

because the Arabs that live in Israel -- and there's a lot of them --

have the full civil rights that other Israelis have, Jews or not.

What I say is Palestine. And then peace is what I'm for, and not


However, in the West Bank, in the occupied territories, a horrible

example of apartheid is being perpetrated against the Palestinians who

live there. Israel has penetrated and occupied, confiscated and

colonized major portions of the territory belonging to the Palestinians.

In order to do that, they have now built roads between those

isolated settlements -- about -- well, more than 200 of them. And those

roads connect those settlements but they are exclusively to be used by


So the Palestinians are separated from their own land. And in order

to keep the Palestinians from objecting to this, the Israelis have

arrested and imprisoned about 9,000 Palestinians, including 300

children, some of them 12 years old, and others women, about 100 women.

And, in the process, the Palestinians are completely treated as inferior


This is not...

BLITZER: What...

CARTER: This is not based on racism, is the last thing I want to

say. It's based on a minority of Israelis -- and I say that very

carefully -- a minority of Israelis who refuse to swap land for peace.

BLITZER: But the...

CARTER: They would rather have the land than peace.

BLITZER: But the government, the current government of Prime

Minister Olmert...


BLITZER: ... the previous government of even Sharon and before that...

CARTER: Netanyahu.

BLITZER: But -- Netanyahu, but Barak, Ehud Barak, they offered,

under the last days of the Bill Clinton administration, a deal which

would give up most of the West Bank, including parts of Jerusalem

itself. And Clinton said Arafat missed a major opportunity to resolve

this crisis right then.

CARTER: That is not quite an accurate description of it, which the...

BLITZER: Well, let me read to you what

CARTER: ... the accurate description...

BLITZER: Let me read to you what Jim -- what Bill Clinton wrote in

his book, "My Life." He was the president who as negotiating at Camp



BLITZER: ... and then at Taba, trying to resolve this. And Barak,

the prime minister...


BLITZER: ... who made some major...

CARTER: OK. Go ahead.

BLITZER: ... major concessions. He said: "Right before I left

office, Yasser Arafat thanked me for all my efforts and told me what a

great man I was. 'Mr. Chairman,' I replied, 'I am not a great man, I am

a failure and you have made me one.' Arafat's rejection of my proposal

after Ehud Barak accepted it was an error of historic proportions."

CARTER: OK, well...

BLITZER: That's what the former president wrote in his book.

CARTER: All right. Well, in my book, which I think is accurate --

I hate to dispute Bill Clinton on your program because he did a great

and heroic effort there. He never made a proposal that was accepted by

Barak or Arafat.

BLITZER: Why would he write that in his book if...

CARTER: I don't know.

BLITZER: ... if he said Barak accepted it?

CARTER: I don't know...

BLITZER: And Arafat rejected it.

CARTER: You could check with all the records. Barak never did

accept it. And at Taba, for instance, which you've mentioned, not only

were Americans included, but Barak subsequently said I never authorized

any Israeli to negotiate at Taba with any Palestinians. And they never

did have any negotiations there.

What President Clinton proposed was never put in a map. But I've

got in this book a map, as interpreted by the Palestinians, the

enlightened Palestinians that want peace, and interpreted by the

Israelis. It's completely different. And one major difference is who

controls the entire Jordan River Valley.

The Jordan River Valley, as you know, is on the Jordan border, on

the eastern side of the West Bank, and it is controlled by the

Israelis. That completely excludes the Palestinians from having access

to anything in the east, including Jordan.

And Gaza is now completely surrounded by a high wall with only two

openings in it. And this wall is being built to confiscate even more

land that owns -- that's owned by the Palestinians.

BLITZER: But the Israelis did pull out of Gaza only to find that

these Katusha rockets, these other rockets, had been launched from Gaza

into the southern part of Israel.

CARTER: Israel withdrew from Gaza and then the Palestinians -- what

precipitated this was not the Katusha rockets, it was the seizure of an

Israeli soldier, which was probably a mistake on their side.

So the Palestinians do hold one Israeli soldier.

The Israelis hold 9,200 Palestinians, as I said earlier, including

300 children and about 100 women.

And as soon as the Palestinians took this soldier, immediately they

offered to swap this soldier to the Israelis for a limited number of

women and children being held by the Israelis in prison.

The Israelis rejected that offer.

BLITZER: All right, I know your time it limited, but I do want to

ask you a quick question on 2008.

CARTER: Quickly.

BLITZER: Is the United States, is the American public ready right

now for a woman president or for an African-American president?

CARTER: Yes, I think so, if they get the most votes. And I think

they have a good chance to get the most votes. I think you have to go

back a year-and-a-half before the other previous elections. And no one

would have dreamed this far in advance that I would get the nomination,

that Michael Dukakis would get the nomination or that Bill Clinton would

get the nomination.

So to conjecture about who might be the nominee in 2008 in November,

or elected, I think is really out of our realm.

BLITZER: Do you have a favorite right now?

CARTER: Not yet.

BLITZER: But we'll stay in touch.

The book is entitled "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid."

Jimmy Carter is the author.

Thanks very much, Mr. President, for coming in.

CARTER: And I hope it will provoke a discussion and a debate in

this country, which is always missing, as you know.

BLITZER: Well, you'd better believe it's provoking a lot of debate

right now.


BLITZER: And I know you're ready for that debate.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

CARTER: Thank you, Wolf.

Good to be with you.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Who is to blame for the Iraqi fiasco? opinion USA today

'Neocons' Abandon Iraq War at White House Front Door

President John F. Kennedy's famous remark that victory has a thousand fathers and that defeat is an orphan couldn't be more apt these days. The intellectual godfathers of the ruinous Iraq war - "neoconservatives" who insisted it would be a breeze to invade Iraq and transform it into a beacon of democracy in the Middle East - are jumping ship and pointing fingers.

Their scurrying defection is a telling measure of how poorly the war is going and how bleak the outlook is. As of today, U.S. involvement in Iraq will have lasted longer than American participation in World War II. The price in American lives is approaching 3,000; the cost in dollars exceeds $300 billion. The Thanksgiving Day massacre in Baghdad, in which bombings killed and wounded hundreds in a Shiite neighborhood, only underscored Iraq's descent into chaos.

The neoconservative version of history is that the Iraq war was good idea undone by Bush administration incompetence after Saddam Hussein fell. Influential adviser Kenneth Adelman, who famously predicted Iraq would be a "cakewalk," now says, "This didn't have to be managed this bad; it's just awful." Another prime mover behind the war, former assistantDefense secretary Richard Perle, told Vanity Fair: "The decisions did not get made that should have been. ... At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible."

To blame administration bungling exclusively for the Iraq debacle, however, is to learn the wrong lesson. It's true that the occupation of Iraq was mismanaged from the outset. By failing to guard massive munitions stockpiles, the administration helped arm the insurgency. And by disbanding the Iraqi army, it gave the insurgency men to use those arms. But the mistakes began with the decision to go war itself, a naive and arrogant exercise in wishful thinking that the nation can't afford to repeat.

The pretext, of course, was that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that represented an imminent threat to U.S. security. In large part, however, the motivation was the neocons' belief - adopted by the administration - that ousting Saddam would create a beachhead for democracy in the Middle East. The effects, the neocons argued, would ripple through the region. The Arab public, inspired by U.S. ideals, would marginalize extremists and dictators alike, bringing peace.

U.S. policymakers would have benefited from more time reading history and less concocting rosy scenarios. In the 1920s, the British similarly believed that democracy could be imposed on a tribal culture accustomed to rule by strongmen. After a few massacres, the British learned their lesson, installed a king and retreated.

Now a bipartisan Iraq Study Group, the Bush administration and Congress are all scrambling to find a way out of the Iraq quagmire. None of the options is appealing or offers the sort of outcome the war's architects envisioned.

It's important not to buy the new self-serving line from the neoconservatives, some of whom are already beating the drums for a pre-emptive attack on Iran's nuclear program. Recovering the international goodwill squandered in Iraq, and dealing wisely with the threats from Iran and North Korea, requires facing the mistakes squarely.

Although, on Sunday, the 1,347-day-old Iraq war was being compared in duration to WWII, the lessons are better drawn from Vietnam. Gen. Colin Powell, secretary of State in President Bush's first term, said his Vietnam generation learned from that experience to go into conflicts only with a defined mission, an overwhelming force and a clear exit strategy - and to reassess quickly if the mission changes. Unfortunately, in Iraq, the Powell Doctrine took a back seat to neoconservative fantasies.

Copyright © 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hypocrisy of Fox News, News Corp, Murdock, et al. by Ken Garcia, Examiner

Moral high ground sorely lacking in Simpson fiasco

SAN FRANCISCO - As the recent O.J. Simpson/News Corp. pseudo-reality project proved this week, when it comes to the rush for ratings and money, tastelessness knows no bounds.

But the only real surprise in the lurid tale isn’t that television and publishing executives at News Corp. green-lighted the project. It was that they seemed taken aback when the Furies of hell were unleashed after it was announced that an acquitted, but suspected, killer of two young people was about to tell millions of people how he would have murdered them, that is, if he had really done it.


Now you know the world has spun off its axis when News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch is portrayed as an arbiter of taste and values. The man who brings us Fox News, that televised testament to fair and balanced coverage, canceled the book and TV special this week, calling it an “ill-conceived project.”

Too bad such caring thoughts about the victims’ families

didn’t enter the executive suite three months ago when the Simpson book “I Did It,” was first shopped to an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, another subsidiary of Murdoch’s vast media group.

Perhaps the saddest part is that it took all the threats of a boycott from advertisers, network affiliates and bookstore chains — the money-producing part of the project — to get it squashed, since it’s clear that Fox figured it had a sweeps-week winner on its hands.

And as much as I hate to admit it, they were probably right. After all, any country that could make celebrities out of Geraldo Rivera, Jerry Springer and Paris Hilton could probably find merit in watching a notorious man muse about slashing two people to death.

Simpson said he did it for financial gain — he called it “blood money” — and that may be the only truth to come out of this misguided mess. He said he deserves the criticism he deserves, but that’s a lot easier to say after you’ve been paid up to $3.5 million for selling your soul.

Simpson said he never spoke to book publisher Judith Regan until he taped the TV interview. “In the course of the interview I said, ‘This is blood money and I hope nobody reads it.’” Yet at the same time he told the Associated Press that he did the project because he thought the book would have been a best-seller and “my kids would have been coming into a lot of money.”

So he doesn’t want people to read it but he thought it would be huge publishing success. And that must make sense only if you’re one of the greatest open-field runners in football history — able to reverse fields at top speed while looking smooth in the process.

I have always hoped we’d seen the last of O.J. Simpson, a man that San Francisco once held up proudly as its own, watching him rise to great heights and popularity through his athletic skills. But after Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were brutally slain in 1994 — and all eyes focused on one man — that changed dramatically.

But in a way, this tragic farce could not have involved anyone else, because those who remember the murder trial will recognize that it was the precursor to modern-day reality TV, an unfolding drama that became must-watch television. It made celebrities out of characters minor and major, from Kato Kaelin to Johnny Cochrane, and exposed a racial divide rarely seen on film. And it came to a shocking conclusion, one that still eats away at the families of the victims — something that Simpson and the cast at News Corp. so blithely ignored.

Could the new “spin” on some old murders have brought boffo box-office? Absolutely — in much the same way that a car wreck brings out curious onlookers.

One thing I learned long ago in journalism school was that death, or any life taken even in the most seemingly dumb circumstances, is not to be treated in a lighthearted way. How people die may be morbidly fascinating (see car wreck above), but it is not entertainment. That’s been the standard for news gatherers for as long as they’ve existed, and even with the rise and popularity of horrible reality shows, that standard has not changed.

But the real fear factor is that the Simpson fiasco shows how far media executives will go to grab headlines, ratings and monetary returns in the face of the most basic human value — respect for life itself.

That may not mean a lot to the players involved in this latest sorry circus, but that is expected when the high moral ground barely reaches the top of the curb.

Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at or call him at (415) 359-2663.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanks, Conservatives, for your wit. . .Ivins.

Thanks—No, Seriously
by Molly Ivins

It’s time to give thanks, and I want to start off with a great, big thank you for the top American movement conservatives and all the fun we’ve had since Election Day. I know I promised not to gloat after this election was over, but I’m not talking unseemly gloating—I’m talking about moments so brilliantly hilarious the only option is to put your head down on the desk and howl.

First in line is the wit of The National Review’s Kate O’Beirne, who clearly teamed up with Borat to explain the great conservative win. Her explanation is that this is a win for conservatism because a great many of the D’s elected are so conservative themselves. She says half of them are conservatives.

She is indeed right. If only twice as many Democrats had been elected, it would have proved that there are twice as many conservatives in the country, and this is clear to any thinking person. We might challenge Ms. O’Beirne to explain how the next Republican win is a victory for liberalism.

The reason that O’Beirne and others are able to accept such an absurdity is because they’ve been listening to George W. Bush for six years and are thus able to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

Speaking of “thinking,” another great moment for conservatives this year was highlighted on the Nov. 16 edition of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Host Jon Stewart addressed a recent remark that CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck made to Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim ever elected to Congress.

Beck said, “I have been nervous about this interview with you because what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’ ” After airing Beck’s comment, Stewart declared, “Finally, a guy who says what people who aren’t thinking are thinking.”

While the Washington press corps worried its pretty little head to a frazzle over Nancy Pelosi’s Armani suits and terrible start as speaker of the House (except she hasn’t started as speaker), they forgot to fret over Trent Lott, who had previously been bounced unceremoniously from the Senate leadership team to which the Republicans just reelected him. They seem to have forgotten that he had expressed the wish that Strom Thurmond, the segregationist candidate for president, had won in 1948.

Thanks for the late Johnny Apple and the now retired Adam Clymer (who predicted a 28-seat sweep and the possibility of taking the Senate) for reminding us that The New York Times used to know how to cover politics. So, for that matter, did The Washington Post, now graced only by E.J. Dionne.

Thanks for Cokie Roberts, who was the only alert citizen on television on election night. The others were either stalwart Republicans or John McCain worshipers.

Thanks from a grateful nation for an obedient press corps that failed during Bush’s six-hour, carefully orchestrated visit to Indonesia to register the fact that there were massive demonstrations against his administration and its policies toward Muslims. The demonstrators during his short visit forced him to stay behind the presidential palace wall all day and—due to concerns for his safety—not spend the night.

So many of our media mavens have been so wrong for so long that we may yet see a mere modicum of becoming self-doubt from our professional pontificators. And think how thankful we’d all be for that. Their sources, led by Karl Rove, have had them eating Pablum out of their hands for years now.

Nope. No hope.

Copyright © 2006 Truthdig, L.L.C.


Friday, November 24, 2006

What is the point of the Iraqi deaths? by Andrew Greeley

What is the Point of Iraq Deaths?
by Andrew Greeley

My mother used to tell me when I was very young a story about the last American to die on Nov. 11, 1918, at 10:59 in the morning. It was an urban folk tale of that era, doubtless, though indeed there was an American who was the last victim of the war. His death was pointless, that was the sentimental irony of the story. But so was the death of everyone else who died in that absurd, insane mass murder. The "Great Powers" of Europe stumbled into the war because of a toxic mix of arrogance and ignorance and couldn't find a way out of it. Nothing was settled, the war went into a recess to be renewed 20 years later with even more demonic fury.

I found myself pondering as I watched the heartbreaking Veterans Day ceremonies on television, what the government will tell the family -- parents, spouse, children -- of the last American to die in Iraq. Or the families of all the men and women who have died there. What was the point in their deaths? They fought bravely for their country. They did their duty. They will be missed. Their courage is an honor to their sacrifice. That should be enough and that's all there is.

They died defending American freedom? But American freedom was never at issue. They died to protect the country from weapons of mass destruction, to create a democracy in the midst of the Arab world, to win a victory that would enhance American credibility, to keep faith with those who had already died, to get rid of Saddam Hussein, because the president said it was the right thing to do, because Iraq was the central front in the war or terror?

Or should they be told the real truth? Their young person died because of the arrogance and the ignorance of the American government, because of mistakes and blunders, because some of our leaders thought the war was a good thing, because it would take pressure off of Israel, because of Arab oil.

What can we say to the additional survivors between now and the day the last American dies there, all those lives erased in a lost war our leaders could not end? Should we tell them what Henry Kissinger said of Vietnam casualties after President Nixon took office -- they died in the name of American credibility?

Every time I hear on the radio of new casualties or see bereaved families on television, or open newspapers with massed photos of those who have died, I want to scream "all these losses, all this suffering, all these shattered families were unnecessary." I sense from a great distance the pain and the grief.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney killed them.

Most Americans agree that the war was mistaken in its inception and mismanaged in its execution. If some of that majority do not also feel the grief and the pain and the rage, the only reason is that they have hardened their hearts in the name of patriotism or party loyalty or the words of the bible. God have mercy on those with hard hearts.

The issue now is whether the new coalition of leaders can find the quickest, safest way out. We must hope and pray that they can, that the hubris that led the country into the war will not prevent us from getting out.

Will God punish the United States for all the deaths, both Iraqi and American? I don't believe that God works that way. However, our intervention in that chaotic, broken country will certainly have created hundreds, perhaps thousands of would-be martyrs who will seek vengeance. We will have brought it on ourselves.

God forgive us for the war, especially those who voted for it in 2004, and especially the pundits, the commentators, the editorial writers who supported the war until almost the last moment and are still willing to accept more casualties so this country and its president can escape with some dignity.

It's a shame there will be no war crimes trials.

© Copyright 2006 Sun-Times News Group

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bush in Vietnam, meanings?

November 21, 2006

Stupidity, Ignorance, Lies, Myths, Panic and Fear

By larry beinhart

George Bush went to Vietnam. He was asked how that war compared to this war and his answer was, "We'll succeed unless we quit."

It is time to get serious about the history of the war in Vietnam. The failure to do so is part of what permits idiocies like this war.

The great myth, and it's clearly the myth that George Bush believes, is that the US lost the war in Vietnam because liberals, Hollywood actresses, hippies and CBS News subverted our will to fight.

That's not true.

We lost the war in Vietnam because we were fighting for something we could not achieve.

We were fighting to convince the Vietnamese to accept a variety of Western backed dictators, crooks, and cowboy colonels as their leaders. We were opposed by an idealistic, disciplined, organized and relative uncorrupt movement with a charismatic leader.

That was our goal in the conflict. It's not the reason we went to war.

We went to war because of a mythology.
It was a mythology very like the one that George Bush has created as the context for the War in Iraq.

Back then, we saw the world in bi-polar terms. The Free World vs. Communism.

Because the world was bi-polar we had to count anyone who was anti-Communist as good and support them. So dictators and juntas and mini-fascists all over the globe got to be counted as members of the Free World.

It also meant that all Communists had to be the enemy, and, indeed were part of a world that was united against. Any step forward for any one of them was a loss for us in the overall war.

It was clear that Vietnam could never invade the United States. They were no direct threat to us. Indeed, Ho Chi Minh expressed a great deal of admiration for the United States and offered friendship.

But we had to stop South Vietnam from going Communist because if we didn't lots of bad things would happen. All of South East Asia would fall like dominoes. After that, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Australia, India, and soon we would be surrounded and alone.

So we went to war. We fought for ten years. 58,000 Americans died.153,000 were wounded. At least 1,000,000 Vietnamese died.

Then we withdrew.

What happened? Was the vast Communist bloc strengthened?

Not exactly. Within five years, China went to war with Vietnam.

It was fairly short war. Vietnam won.

Meantime, Cambodia had been taken over by the Khmer Rouge. They were communists too, but too extreme for the Vietnamese. So Vietnam invaded Cambodia to get rid of Pol Pot and his madmen. That went on for nine years.

We continued to treat Vietnam as a pariah nation for twenty years.

Finally in 1995 we 'normalized relations.'

When George Bush got there in 2006 he found a Communist country. But a friendly one. Willing to do business. A great tourist destination.

In short, what he found, was what we could have had for the asking back in 1961. Or in 1947 for that matter.

It's easy to say that's 20-20 hindsight.

Could that have been known before we went to war in Vietnam?

The answer is that, yes, it could.
Was that known to the people in power, before we went to war? Or, if not then, early in the course of the war?

The answer to that is also yes.
Not, perhaps, with absolute certainty, but certainly it was known.

So why do we go ahead? Why were we trapped in the myths?
Not fear of communism. The fear on the part of our politicians of being called, "soft on Communism."

Both Kennedy and Johnson, at least at times, knew we couldn't win. Yet said they were afraid to be a president who "lost Vietnam." Then Richard Nixon came into power and lost Vietnam.

Nixon never got blamed for it. That's because he sort of owned the "soft on communism" franchise and he wasn't about to use it on himself.

Is this an argument that somehow we should not have fought Communism then and we should not fight terrorism or Islamo-fascism now or whatever else threatens us in the future?

No, it's not.

Actually, there were many places where we stood up to, subverted, or acted against the communists where we were very successful. And those countries are almost certainly better off for it.

Yet here's a real oddity. There are only five countries that remain Communist today: Vietnam, Laos, North Korea, Cuba and China.

We fought wars in the first three.

We should divide the Korean into two parts, two separate wars even. In the first part the North invaded the South and we entered the war to repel the invasion. That was very successful. In the second part, we invaded the North to make the whole country non-Communist. That was a great failure.

We backed an invasion of Cuba, we attempted numerous assassinations, and we have it embargoed to this day.

As for China, we backed the Nationalists against the Reds. Then we defended Taiwan (a success story) and tried to keep Red China isolated and ostracized.

Roughly speaking, the countries we fought the hardest are the ones that remain Communist today.

People will unite against a common enemy. Left to their own devices, they will, slowly, begin to question what's wrong with themselves.

The next lesson is this. Even if we agree to think of the War on Terror as something like the Cold War, we still have to think of the various battles one at a time. They are separate events and require separate responses.

The threat of force, as a deterrent, is extremely useful.

Actual force, going to war, is extremely good for repelling an invader and restoring a regime. It worked in South Korea. It worked when Saddam invaded Kuwait.

But actual force has it's limits. It's very dangerous to invade a country.

It can be done. But only if there's a viable replacement and we can get in and get out, as we did in Panama and Grenada.

But if we have to stay and put in or prop up a regime and become an occupying power, then it's a disaster.

But if there isn't one, it's Vietnam. Or Iraq.

There, very briefly, are some of the lessons that George Bush should have learned by comparing the two. The strictly practical ones, this does not address moral or legal issues.

Since he failed, the media which surrounds him should have done the job and pointed it out to us. Particularly since he failed. They were skeptical of him. They raised their eyebrows. Some even said quagmire. But they didn't attack the myths, the lies and the ignorance.

There are real threats in the world. But they need real solutions. Our guide to real solutions, is real history. Otherwise, we are led by panic and fear into stupidity

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Larry Beinhart is the author of Wag the Dog, The Librarian, and Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin. All available at


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Lesson f rom Vietnam: Bush's striking incompetence.

Lessons From the Vietnam War
By Keith Olbermann
MSNBC Countdown

Monday 20 November 2006

Keith Olbermann responds to Bush's comparison between Vietnam and Iraq.

It is a shame and it is embarrassing to us all when President Bush travels 8,000 miles only to wind up avoiding reality again.

And it is pathetic to listen to a man talk unrealistically about Vietnam, who permitted the "Swift-Boating" of not one but two American heroes of that war, in consecutive presidential campaigns.

But most importantly - important beyond measure - his avoidance of reality is going to wind up killing more Americans.

And that is indefensible and fatal.

Asked if there were lessons about Iraq to be found in our experience in Vietnam, Mr. Bush said that there were, and he immediately proved he had no clue what they were.

"One lesson is," he said, "that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while."

"We'll succeed," the president concluded, "unless we quit."

If that's the lesson about Iraq that Mr. Bush sees in Vietnam, then he needs a tutor.

Or we need somebody else making the decisions about Iraq.

Mr. Bush, there are a dozen central, essential lessons to be derived from our nightmare in Vietnam, but "we'll succeed unless we quit," is not one of them.

The primary one - which should be as obvious to you as the latest opinion poll showing that only 31 percent of this country agrees with your tragic Iraq policy - is that if you try to pursue a war for which the nation has lost its stomach, you and it are finished. Ask Lyndon Johnson.

The second most important lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: If you don't have a stable local government to work with, you can keep sending in Americans until hell freezes over and it will not matter. Ask Vietnamese Presidents Diem or Thieu.

The third vital lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: Don't pretend it's something it's not. For decades we were warned that if we didn't stop "communist aggression" in Vietnam, communist agitators would infiltrate and devour the small nations of the world, and make their insidious way, stealthily, to our doorstep.

The war machine of 1968 had this "domino theory."

Your war machine of 2006 has this nonsense about Iraq as "the central front in the war on terror."

The fourth pivotal lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: If the same idiots who told Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to stay there for the sake of "peace With honor" are now telling you to stay in Iraq, they're probably just as wrong now, as they were then ... Dr. Kissinger.

And the fifth crucial lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush - which somebody should've told you about long before you plunged this country into Iraq - is that if you lie your country into a war, your war, your presidency will be consigned to the scrap heap of history.

Consider your fellow Texan, sir.

After Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson held the country together after a national tragedy, not unlike you did. He had lofty goals and tried to reshape society for the better. And he is remembered for Vietnam, and for the lies he and his government told to get us there and keep us there, and for the Americans who needlessly died there.

As you will be remembered for Iraq, and for the lies you and your government told to get us there and keep us there, and for the Americans who have needlessly died there and who will needlessly die there tomorrow.

This president has his fictitious Iraqi WMD, and his lies - disguised as subtle hints - linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11, and his reason-of-the-week for keeping us there when all the evidence for at least three years has told us we need to get as many of our kids out as quickly as possible.

That president had his fictitious attacks on Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, and the next thing any of us knew, the Senate had voted 88-2 to approve the blank check with which Lyndon Johnson paid for our trip into hell.

And yet President Bush just saw the grim reminders of that trip into hell: the 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese killed; the 10,000 civilians who've been blown up by landmines since we pulled out; the genocide in the neighboring country of Cambodia, which we triggered.

Yet these parallels - and these lessons - eluded President Bush entirely.

And, in particular, the one over-arching lesson about Iraq that should've been written everywhere he looked in Vietnam went unseen.

"We'll succeed unless we quit"?

Mr. Bush, we did quit in Vietnam!

A decade later than we should have, 58,000 dead later than we should have, but we finally came to our senses.

The stable, burgeoning, vivid country you just saw there, is there because we finally had the good sense to declare victory and get out!

The domino theory was nonsense, sir.

Our departure from Vietnam emboldened no one.

Communism did not spread like a contagion around the world.

And most importantly - as President Reagan's assistant secretary of state, Lawrence Korb, said on this newscast Friday - we were only in a position to win the Cold War because we quit in Vietnam.

We went home. And instead it was the Russians who learned nothing from Vietnam, and who repeated every one of our mistakes when they went into Afghanistan. And alienated their own people, and killed their own children, and bankrupted their own economy and allowed us to win the Cold War.

We awakened so late, but we did awaken.

Finally, in Vietnam, we learned the lesson. We stopped endlessly squandering lives and treasure and the focus of a nation on an impossible and irrelevant dream, but you are still doing exactly that, tonight, in Iraq.

And these lessons from Vietnam, Mr. Bush, these priceless, transparent lessons, writ large as if across the very sky, are still a mystery to you.

"We'll succeed unless we quit."

No, sir.

We will succeed against terrorism, for our country's needs, toward binding up the nation's wounds when you quit, quit the monumental lie that is our presence in Iraq.

And in the interim, Mr. Bush, an American kid will be killed there, probably tonight or tomorrow.

And here, sir, endeth the lesson.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Watershed moment for Congress, William Greider



[from the December 4, 2007 issue]

The Democratic Party was not really ready for this. Democrats have been in the wilderness so long--since Ronald Reagan launched the conservative era twenty-five years ago--that older liberals began to think it was a life sentence. Bill Clinton was the party's rock star; he made people feel good (and occasionally cringe), but he governed in idiosyncratic ways that accommodated the right and favored small gestures over big ideas. The party adopted his risk-averse style. Its substantive meaning and political strength deteriorated further.

Then George W. Bush came along as the ultimate nightmare--even more destructive of government and utterly oblivious to the consequences.

The 2006 election closed out the conservative era with the voters' blast of rejection. Democrats are liberated again to become--what? Something new and presumably better, maybe even a coherent party.

This is the political watershed everyone senses. The conservative order has ended, basically because it didn't work--did not produce general well-being. People saw that conservatives had no serious intention of creating smaller government. They were too busy delivering boodle and redistributing income and wealth from the many to the few. Plus, Republicans got the country into a bad war, as liberals had decades before.

On the morning after, my 6-year-old grandson was watching TV as he got ready for school. He saw one of those national electoral maps in which blue states wiped away red states. "Water takes fire," he said. Water nourishes, fire destroys. How astute is that? It could be the theme for our new politics.

With Democrats in charge of the House and the Senate, we can now return to a reality-based politics that nourishes rather than destroys. The party's preoccupation with "message" should take a back seat to "substance"--addressing the huge backlog of disorders and injuries produced by conservative governance. This changeover will be long and arduous. But at least it can now begin.

Republicans lost, but their ideological assumptions are deeply embedded in government, the economy and the social order. Many Democrats have internalized those assumptions, others are afraid to challenge them. It will take years, under the best circumstances, for Democrats to recover nerve and principle and imagination--if they do.

But this is a promising new landscape. Citizens said they want change. Getting out of Iraq comes first, but economic reform is close behind: the deteriorating middle class, globalization and its damaging impact on jobs and wages, corporate excesses and social abuses, the corruption of politics. Democrats ran on these issues, and voters chose them.

The killer question: Do Democrats stick with comfortable Washington routines or make a new alliance with the people who just elected them?

continued at

Friday, November 17, 2006

Neocons blame Bush and torpedo true conservatives by their imperialist ambitions.

Neocons Blame Bush for Iraq Fiasco
by Helen Thomas

The mid-term elections sounded the requiem for the group of neoconservatives who helped design the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq.

It's over for them and their big dreams of pre-emptive wars and conquest of the Middle East. If anything, this group has left America weakened by the tragic military misadventure in Iraq. They convinced President Bush it would be a "cakewalk" to invade and occupy Iraq but it has turned out otherwise. Those power-driven ideologues have learned that the price for their dream was high -- too high.

So much for their calamitous "Project for A New American Century," which laid out the agenda to transform several Arab nations to their liking. It also meant sending Americans to kill and die for reasons yet to be explained by the president.

The neocons now blame a dysfunctional Bush administration -- not their own ignorance of the history of the Arab world. They have belatedly learned that Iraqis -- like any other people -- will fight any foreign invader and occupier. History would have shown them that overcoming an insurgency in the form of internal resistance has been a losing proposition. Look at the experiences of such high-powered nations as the U.S. in Vietnam, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the French in Algeria.

Among the first of the Iraq war architects to bail out was Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy defense secretary, who now heads the World Bank. When he spoke several months ago at the National Press Club and was asked about Iraq, he replied: "That's not my problem."

Many top-strata Pentagon civilians close to Rumsfeld's inner circle are expected to be getting pink slips when Rumsfeld departs after former CIA director Robert Gates is confirmed as his successor.

Another Iraq hawk who has departed is Douglas Feith, the former Defense Department official who set up a separate intelligence unit in the Pentagon to offset the more dovish CIA analysis of the mythical military threat by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Feith is now teaching at Georgetown University.

David Rose has written about the demise of the neocons in an article titled "Now They Tell Us" to be published in the January issue of Vanity Fair magazine. Rose quotes Richard Perle, who long advocated "regime change" in Iraq, as being shocked at the brutality of the war. "I underestimated the level of depravity," Perle told Rose, adding that "an American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic 'failed state' is not inevitable but is becoming more likely."

And get this: Perle, former chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, blamed Bush. "The decisions did not get made that should have been made," Perle said. "At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible," he said. In retrospect, Perle said, if he had the chance to do it again, he would not have advocated the invasion of Iraq.

Rose said he had expected to encounter disappointment among the neocons but instead found them to be despairing and angry over the incompetence of the Bush administration they once saw as "their brightest hope."

(Paschal's comment here: W. is a typical MBA, with ideas rather than real management experience. His administration demonstrated over and over again there was no practical and effective management of anything from the top. )

Former White House speechwriter David Frum who coined the "axis of evil" slogan for Bush to single out Iran, North Korea and Iraq as dangerous, also blames Bush for the Iraq quagmire.

Rose quoted Frum him as saying that the insurgency has proved "it can kill anyone who cooperates" with the U.S. -- and the U.S. has "failed to prove it can protect them." That situation, he added "must ultimately be blamed on failure at the center, starting with President Bush."

With friends like the neocons, Bush needs no enemies.

There is an irony in the president's diplomatic visit to Vietnam this week, evoking memories of another U.S. military misadventure. But he will also see a silver lining even in defeat, as old wounds are forgotten and new friends are made.

For that reason Bush should swallow his pride, acknowledge a colossal mistake, restore our moral image on the international stage and set the nation on a peaceful course in the 21st century.

It's not too late.

Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers. E-mail:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What populist reforms will (need) the Dems undertake, opinion,

True Blue Populists
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Monday 13 November 2006

Senator George Allen of Virginia is understandably shocked and despondent. Just a year ago, a National Review cover story declared that his "down-home persona" made him "quite possibly the next president of the United States." Instead, his political career seems over.

And it wasn't just macaca, or even the war, that brought him down. Mr. Allen, a reliable defender of the interests of the economic elite, found himself facing an opponent who made a point of talking about the problem of rising inequality. And the tobacco-chewing, football-throwing, tax-cutting, Social Security-privatizing senator was only one of many faux populists defeated by real populists last Tuesday.

Ever since movement conservatives took over, the Republican Party has pushed for policies that benefit a small minority of wealthy Americans at the expense of the great majority of voters. To hide this reality, conservatives have relied on wagging the dog and wedge issues, but they've also relied on a brilliant marketing campaign that portrays Democrats as elitists and Republicans as representatives of the average American.

This sleight of hand depends on shifting the focus from policy to personal style: John Kerry speaks French and windsurfs, so pay no attention to his plan to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy and use the proceeds to make health care affordable.

This year, however, the American people wised up.

True to form, some reporters still seem to be falling for the conservative spin. "If it walks, talks like a conservative, can it be a Dem?" asked the headline on a story featuring a photo of Senator-elect Jon Tester of Montana. In other words, if a Democrat doesn't fit the right-wing caricature of a liberal, he must be a conservative.

But as Robin Toner and Kate Zernike of The New York Times pointed out yesterday, what actually characterizes the new wave of Democrats is a "strong streak of economic populism."

Look at Mr. Tester's actual policy positions: yes to an increase in the minimum wage; no to Social Security privatization; we need to "stand up to big drug companies" and have Medicare negotiate for lower prices; we should "stand up to big insurance companies and support a health care plan that makes health care affordable for all Montanans."

So what, aside from his flattop haircut, makes Mr. Tester a conservative? O.K., he supports gun rights. But on economic issues he's clearly left of center, not just compared with the current Senate, but compared with current Democratic senators. The same can be said of many other victorious Democrats, including Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island, and Sherrod Brown in Ohio. All of these candidates ran on unabashedly populist platforms, and won.

What about Joe Lieberman? Like shipwreck survivors clinging to flotsam, some have seized on his reelection as proof of Americans' continuing conservatism. But Mr. Lieberman won only through denial and deception, for example, by rewriting the history of his once-fervent support for the Iraq war and Donald Rumsfeld. He got two-thirds of the Republican vote, but managed to confuse enough Democrats about his positions to get over the top.

Last week's populist wave, among other things, vindicates the populist direction that Al Gore took in the closing months of the 2000 campaign. But will this wave be reflected in the actual direction of the Democratic Party?

Not necessarily. Quite a few sitting Democrats have shown themselves nearly as willing as Republicans to bow to corporate interests. Consider the vote on last year's draconian bankruptcy bill. Mr. Lieberman voted for cloture, cutting off debate and ensuring the bill's passage; then he voted against the bill, a meaningless gesture that let him have it both ways. Thirteen other Democratic senators also voted for cloture, including Joe Biden, who has just announced his candidacy for president.

The first big test of the new Democratic populism will come over reform of the 2003 prescription drug law. Democrats have pledged to repeal the clause in that law preventing Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices. But the fine print of how they do that is crucial: Medicare reform could be a mere symbolic gesture, or it could be a real reform that eliminates the huge implicit subsidies the program currently gives drug and insurance companies.

Are the newly invigorated Democrats ready to offer a real change in this country's direction? We'll know in a few months.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bush's Accountability Problem: About to be solved for him by others?

Bush's Belated Accountability Moment
By Nat Parry
Consortium News

Sunday 12 November 2006

After securing a second term in November 2004, George W. Bush was asked by the Washington Post why no one in his administration had been held accountable for the problems facing US troops in Iraq. Bush replied dismissively, "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections."

The President echoed that sentiment two weeks before this year's Nov. 7 balloting, rejecting the notion that the midterm elections could serve as a check on his administration. Accountability, Bush said, is "what the 2004 campaign was about."

But it appears Bush may have spoken too soon. With the Democratic sweep of Congress, the White House finds itself confronting the likelihood of a more systematic and more rigorous form of accountability from congressional Democrats newly armed with subpoena powers.

Rep. John Conyers, who has been holding investigative hearings into administration wrongdoing from the Capitol basement because the Republican congressional leadership denied him a committee room, now stands poised to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Though handicapped in his earlier investigations, the Michigan Democrat unearthed and documented a staggering array of White House deceptions that led the United States into war, as well as evidence of other abuses such as torture, warrantless domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, and erosion of civil liberties.

Constitution in Crisis

Conyers's 350-page report, "Constitution in Crisis," deals with the so-called Downing Street Minutes, which revealed that the Bush administration was "fixing" the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to justify a pre-ordained policy of war against Iraq.

The "single overriding characteristic running through all of the allegations of misconduct ... has been the unwillingness of the Bush Administration to allow its actions to be subject to any form of meaningful outside review," the report said.

"Not only were 122 Members of Congress unable to obtain any response to their questions posed regarding the Downing Street Minutes," the report goes on, "but neither the House nor the Senate has ever engaged in any serious review of the facts surrounding the NSA domestic spying programs."

That dynamic could change with the new make-up of Congress. Not only will Conyers be chairing the Judiciary Committee, but Henry Waxman, D-California, will be taking over the House Committee on Government Reform.

Complementing Conyers's investigations into pre-war manipulations of intelligence have been Waxman's investigations into administration favoritism toward Halliburton, which was formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Texas-based company has profited handsomely by securing no-bid contracts for everything from rebuilding in Iraq, to supplying US troops with food, to repairing government facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina, to building detention facilities in the US. [For more information on the latter, see's "Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs.'"]

According to an analysis by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, these no-bid contracts have contributed to the value of Cheney's Halliburton stock options rising by more than 3,000 percent. In 2005, Cheney's stock options increased in value from $241,498 to over $8 million.

"It is unseemly," noted Lautenberg, "for the Vice President to continue to benefit from this company at the same time his administration funnels billions of dollars to it."

Another issue that could be explored by Waxman's committee is the content of the Energy Task Force meetings during the early days of the Bush administration. Though ordered by a federal judge to release the task force records completely, the administration heavily redacted the 13,500 pages of documents.

Before turning the records over to the Natural Resources Defense Council as ordered by the judge, the administration removed extensive portions of information. "Some pages were empty," said the NRDC. "Whole strings of correspondence were stripped to just a few words."

Nevertheless, the records revealed that energy industry lobbyists played a pivotal role in developing the administration's national energy strategy, and actually wrote much of it themselves.

"The administration sought the advice of polluting corporations early and often and then incorporated their recommendations into its policy, sometimes verbatim," according to the NRDC.

Oil Fields

Though most attention on the Energy Task Force has focused on the perceived impropriety of oil companies dictating national energy policy, another concern is that the energy companies may have influenced the administration's decision to invade Iraq.

In 2004, reporter Jane Mayer disclosed a National Security Council document dated Feb. 3, 2001. It instructed NSC officials to cooperate with Cheney's Energy Task Force, explaining that the task force was "melding" two previously unrelated areas of policy: "the review of operational policies towards rogue states" and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields."

Mayer's discovery suggests that the Bush administration in its first days recognized the linkage between ousting the likes of Saddam Hussein and securing oil reserves for future US consumption. In other words, the Cheney task force appears to have had a military component to "capture" oil fields in "rogue states." [For details on Mayer's document, see The New Yorker, Feb. 16, 2004.]

The NSC document reinforced allegations made by Bush's first Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, who described a similar early linkage between invading Iraq and controlling its vast oil reserves.

In Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty, O'Neill described the first NSC meeting at the White House only a few days into Bush's presidency. An invasion of Iraq was already on the agenda, O'Neill said. There was even a map for a post-war occupation, marking out how Iraq's oil fields would be carved up.

O'Neill said even at that early date, the goal of invading Iraq was clear. The message from Bush was "find a way to do this," according to O'Neill, who was forced out of the administration in December 2002.

Combined with the Downing Street Minutes, O'Neill's account provides substantial evidence that the Bush administration had decided early on to invade Iraq, and simply decided on weapons of mass destruction as the most convenient pretext for war.

Words of Caution

Another investigation-worthy topic about the run-up to war is how the Bush administration dismissed and rejected words of caution from knowledgeable sources inside and outside the US government.

Although many Bush defenders now claim that no one could have foreseen what a disaster the war would turn out to be, there were those who urged caution before the invasion, including members of Bush's own administration.

Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser under George H.W. Bush and chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, said a strike on Iraq "could unleash an Armageddon in the Middle East."

Also, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, who served as a Middle East envoy for George W. Bush, warned in October 2002 that by invading Iraq, "we are about to do something that will ignite a fuse in this region that we will rue the day we ever started."

America's closest ally in the invasion, the United Kingdom, also had strong reservations. Although publicly British officials supported Bush's calls to forcibly "disarm" Iraq, behind the scenes, they worried that the war was poorly conceived, possibly illegal and potentially disastrous.

Internal government documents disclosed in 2005 by British journalist Michael Smith indicate that British officials foresaw a host of problems, including weak intelligence on Iraq, lack of public support for war and poor planning for the aftermath of military action.

The investigations by John Conyers and Henry Waxman - both armed with subpoena powers - could connect the dots linking Cheney's Energy Task Force, oil companies, Halliburton, pre-war deceptions and poor post-invasion planning.

The results of that investigation might shock the American people, adding to public pressure for impeachment.

Off the Table?

Though incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declared impeachment of Bush and Cheney "off the table," it's unclear what would happen if the White House chooses to stonewall congressional oversight or if investigations turn up damaging evidence of grave abuses of power.

Already, there are those such as former Nixon administration counsel John W. Dean who argue that Bush-Cheney's crimes are worse than Richard Nixon's and are grounds for impeachment.

There is also a fledgling grassroots movement for impeachment that could gather force in the coming months, emboldened by the Democratic victory. In Philadelphia, activists, lawyers and a former member of Congress held a forum this weekend to launch a new movement for impeaching Bush and Cheney.

Pelosi's own constituents in San Francisco voted decisively on Election Day to endorse Bush and Cheney's removal from office. Proposition J, which called for impeachment, passed with the 59 percent of the vote.

In his presidential news conference the day after the election, Bush was asked if he was "prepared to deal with the level of oversight and investigation that is possibly going to come from one chamber or two in Congress?"

Bush replied that the Democrats "are going to have to make up their mind about how they're going to conduct their affairs."

If it is left up to the likes of Conyers and Waxman, who seem to have already made up their minds, Bush might finally learn what an "accountability moment" really means.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

NOW: overlook for sake of consensus or require accountabiliyt?

When is a Crime so Great it Shouldn’t be Acknowledged?
by Robert Shetterly

Before the votes were even counted, a strange chorus arose, like toads from the swamp, from every point on the Democratic compass --- so persistent, one might even think it choreographed --- croaking in a dire basso, "Now’s the time to work on fulfilling the Democrats agenda, not the time to hold anyone accountable for the massive corruption or the extraordinary lies that got us into this mess.: Let's be moderate, let;s be wise, the toads all intoned, let's don’t disintegrate into partisan bickering about who’s responsible. And, pullleeeease, don't even utter the word impeachment. No, no, no, let’s repeal the tax cuts for the rich, raise the minimum wage, enact universal health care, raise the mileage on our cars, sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, reduce the debt, fund our schools, fix social security, and work in a bi-partisan way toward an exit strategy from Iraq. All very sensible. Every single one of those things needs to be fought for if we want to have economic and social justice.

But, that's not enough. I thought one of the corner stones of our democratic republic was the rule of law. Transparency. Accountability. We hold people accountable so every bozo with a zip gun won’t stick up a 7-11 for fifty bucks or start a pre-emptive war by lying to the people. We sent a Japanese soldier to prison for twenty-five years after WW II for waterboarding a United States soldier; we hung Adolph Eichmann. I'm trying to imagine what our response would have been after that war if the Nazis had said, "Look, we lost the war, our cities are rubble, our people starving, we have no infrastructure, don’t waste your money on some stupid, inflammatory trials at Nuremberg about the people who started this war or thought the Holocaust was a cool idea. Sure, mistakes were made, but let's just get on with re-building." Very sensible.

Massive crimes have been committed. Our administration has ridden roughshod on our Constitution as though it were a hobbled and blind cow. What-might-have-been looks like a bomb crater. So irresponsible and massive are the crimes that the perpetrators have changed the laws to avoid being held accountable for crimes against humanity. So irresponsible that their failure to act to mitigate global warming endangers the very survival of human life on our planet. Hundreds of thousands of people are unnecessarily dead, many more hundreds of thousands maimed and wounded. The incredible debt undermines our economy and will plague our children. When is a crime so great that it shouldn’t be acknowledged? Or prosecuted? Do we pat Rummy & Dickie & Georgie & Connie on the butt and send them to the bench with a, "Nice game, kids. Let’s all be good sports and let someone else have a go at it"? Live and let live?

Behind all the outrageous events of this era --- Iraq, global warming, the debt, election fraud, war profiteering, failure to create alternative energies, species extinction --- is a culture of non-accountability, cronyism, and obscene profit. How will it stop? Raising the minimum wage by $1.50 over three years might not do it. Arrogance, deceit and blatant crime are responsible for these crises. Not poor execution. Accountability is the way out. There is no reason why we can’t pass fair, life-saving legislation at the same time. We can walk and chew gum. We have grown so accustomed to living in a world of euphemism and double speak, so accustomed to not calling reality by its name, that we think there is no reality except what we can get away with, the reality that sells the product or “develops the resource.” Not true. Nature won’t be fooled. And we only imperil ourselves and our cherished institutions if we don’t hold ourselves accountable. It’s not about partisan revenge, it’s about naming the crime. Some very bad people have broken our laws, dashed our hopes, mortgaged our futures, broken our hearts, and betrayed our country. They need to pay the piper. If we don’t hold them accountable, who will we allow to hold us accountable for making things right?

It's a platitude to say that political progress is the art of compromise. We compromise in order to share as much justice and opportunity as evenly as we can. But when great crimes have been committed by our elected leaders, we shouldn’t compromise with our sense of justice. It’s hard to admit because as citizens we are responsible, too. But that responsibility demands an accounting, demands an earning back of national integrity by investigating the depth of the crimes. That’s called maturity. Our leaders have inflicted an enormous trauma on Iraq and on us. We will all be much healthier if we heal by inquiry and justice rather than repression.

Robert Shetterly [send him mail] is a writer and artist who lives in Brooksville, Maine. He is the author of Americans Who Tell the Truth. See his website.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What one word cost the GOP, by Ward Sloane

What One Word Cost The GOP

Washington Producer Ward Sloane has some thoughts on how one word may have changed history.

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
What a difference one word can make.

Yesterday afternoon, Senator George Allen conceded that Democrat Jim Webb had defeated him. Not by much, he said, but beaten none-the-less. Still, he was gracious and announced that he wouldn’t demand a recount. Oh, and he didn’t call anyone "macaca."

Before last August, hardly anyone in America had ever heard the word “macaca.”

Then, in the heat of his campaign, Senator Allen turned toward a member of Jim Webb’s staff who was recording the event on video and inexplicably used the word that would mean the end of his senate career.

Here’s what he said, pointing his finger at a young, dark skinned man of Indian-American heritage:

"This fellow here, over here, with the yellow shirt, Macaca or whatever his name is. Let’s give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America."

Literally, macaca is a kind of monkey. And to be called “macaca” is considered to be a slur in many cultures. In America, a white man calling a dark-skinned man a monkey is considered a racial slur, at least by most people.

The incident escalated, in part, because he tried to excuse himself by saying that he’d never heard of the word "macaca" before he said it. And he apologized every fifteen seconds or so. Because the excuse wasn’t believable, the apologies seemed hollow.

When it became clear that neither the excuses nor apologies were working, George Allen changed the subject. He pulled out an article Jim Webb had written 27 years ago and used it as proof that Webb hated women. And then the campaign that was supposed to be a referendum on the war in Iraq turned into a nasty, mean, brutish and ugly fight by both sides.

No one can know what is truly in a person's heart and soul. Just as surely, as no one can know why Allen used that word at that time. But it turns out “macaca” is a very expensive word, not just for Allen, but for the Republican Party. It cost George Allen his senate seat and the Republican Party their majority in the United States Senate.#

Thursday, November 09, 2006

World Reacts to US Election

World reacts to US elections
09/11/2006 - 08:46:26
Ireland Online

US midterm election results that heralded a massive power shift in the American political landscape were greeted with jubilation around the world.

From Paris to Pakistan, politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens said they hoped the Democratic takeover of Congress and the departure of defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld would force US President George Bush to adopt a more conciliatory approach to the globe’s crises, and teach a president many see as a “cowboy” a lesson in humility.

In Italy, Premier Romano Prodi said Rumsfeld’s surprise resignation in particular underscored the depth of what has happened in America.

“Even though US politics had already started changing, Rumsfeld’s resignation means an accentuation of this change,” said Prodi.

“We’ll see over the next few days what the new direction will be, but certainly we have a political structure both in the executive power, in the House and in the Senate, that is deeply different from that of a few days ago.”

The defence secretary was both deeply hated and grudgingly admired around the world for his unwavering stance on Iraq and support for controversial Bush administration policies like the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and harsh interrogation methods that many feel border on torture.

In Afghanistan, the government of President Hamid Karzai expressed sadness over Rumsfeld’s abrupt departure.

“We are sad that he has resigned,” Jawed Ludin, the chief of staff for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said. “We in Afghanistan are very pleased and very grateful for (Rumsfeld’s) support for Afghanistan.”

Ludin added that Kabul did not expect Washington to changes its policy toward the country.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has been criticised by some conservative Republicans, offered a diplomatic take on the impact of a Democratic Congress on work at the United Nations.

“We have been here for over 60 years,” Annan said.

“We have seen lots of elections in the United States and we have worked with the winners, whether Democratic or Republican, and we look forward to working with the administration and the new Congress as they move in, and we will want to work with them as effectively as we have worked with others.”

Elsewhere, giddiness over an electoral black eye for Bush was almost palpable throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

In an extraordinary joint statement, more than 200 Socialist members of the European Parliament hailed the American election results as “the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world” and said they left the Bush administration “seriously weakened”.

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez, an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, applauded Rumsfeld’s resignation and suggested Bush should quit as well. The leftist leader beamed as he read aloud a news report of Rumsfeld’s resignation.

“Heads are beginning to roll,” Chavez said during a news conference yesterday. “It was about time he resigned. The president should resign now.”

In Sri Lanka, some said they hoped the rebuke would force Bush to abandon a unilateral approach to global issues.

“The Americans have made it clear that current American policy should change in dealing with the world, from a confrontational approach to a more consensus-based and bridge-building approach,” said Jehan Perera, a political analyst.

The Democratic win means “there will be more control and restraint” over US foreign policy.

Passions were even higher in Pakistan, where Bush is deeply unpopular despite billions in aid and staunch support for President General Pervez Musharraf.

One opposition politician, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, said he welcomed the election result but was hoping for more. Bush “deserves to be removed, put on trial and given a Saddam-like death sentence”, he said.

The prospect of a sudden change in American foreign policy could also be troubling to countries such as Britain, Japan and Australia, which have thrown their support behind the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Democrats campaigned on a platform that demanded a change of direction in Iraq, and the war has lost the support of the majority of American voters.

“The problem for Arabs now is an American withdrawal (from Iraq) could be a security disaster for the entire region,” said Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi analyst for the Gulf Research Centre in Dubai.

He said the Middle East could be left to cope with a disintegrating Iraq mired in civil war, with refugees fleeing a failed state that could become an incubator for terrorism.

Today, Australia’s conservative Prime Minister John Howard said he did not believe Washington would pull its troops out of Iraq.

“The strategy is not going to change,” Howard told reporters in Canberra. “Clearly the president has reacted to the vote. Obviously he has and that is sensible but his reaction does not amount to a fundamental change in direction.”


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumsfield and the Perils of Hubris, by Mark Thompson,

Behind Rumsfeld's Fall: The Perils of Hubris
Analysis: The Defense Secretary was saved by the 9/11 attacks, but fell short in his effort to remake the military and overreached in Iraq

Donald Rumsfeld was dispatched to the political gallows Wednesday as swiftly and surprisingly as his arrival there, for a second tour, was nearly six years ago. A hard-nosed businessman, tough political infighter, and Dick Cheney's mentor, he was a good choice to retool a Pentagon that had grown fat and complacent since his last tour as Pentagon chief ended in the Ford administration.

But he quickly stumbled in his stubborn effort to remake the Pentagon. He, and the Bush administration, failed to make the tough choices necessary to build a 21st century fighting force. Instead, they stuffed billions of dollars into 20th century weapons system that sprang from the drawing board when Russia was still the Soviet Union. As F-22 attack planes and Virginia-class submarines consumed the Pentagon's purse, there weren't enough soldiers to prevail in Iraq — and those dispatched lacked the necessary armor to do their jobs.

It's hard to recall it now, but Rumsfeld was on the ropes before the 9/11 attacks. His roughshod treatment of many in the military — fairly or unfairly — had many officers, especially in the Army, setting their bayonets into place by the middle of 2001. It was only the al-Qaeda attacks that saved Rumsfeld's job later that year, many Pentagon insiders believe. Overnight, he achieved pop-culture status, his stern countenance and parrying of press questions bringing him a peculiar kind of Washington fame in those scary weeks following 9/11. Yet it was the pair of wars launched in the wake of those terror strikes that, over time, highlighted on a far bigger stage his short-sighted and subordinate-ruffling demeanor.

Rumsfeld and the generals around him puffed with pride when their fairly audacious war plan for Afghanistan succeeded in ousting the Taliban from power before the end of 2001. If anything, that increased the hubris that came to doom the U.S. mission in Iraq. It was that same sense of imperiousness, more than anything else, that toppled GOP control of Congress on Tuesday. On Wednesday, almost as an afterthought, it also brought to an inglorious end to Rumsfeld's Pentagon tenure.

Copyright © 2006 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


What it will take to end war
By James Carroll | November 6, 2006

THE WAR in Iraq has emerged as a key issue in tomorrow's election, but in what way can its course be influenced by voting results?

On the one hand, President Bush has just renewed allegiance to Donald Rumsfeld, the contractor of disaster, and to Dick Cheney, the architect. This suggests that, even after abandoning the rhetoric of "stay the course," Bush remains committed to the present folly. Two more years of Rumsfeld and Cheney in charge mean two more years of needless American casualties, jihadist recruitment, Middle East turmoil, and vast additions to the toll of Iraqi dead. If the elections maintain Republican majorities in Congress, the administration will feel no external pressure to change its Iraq policy. Absent that, Rumsfeld-Cheney will simply carry on.

On the other hand, Democrats could take the House, and perhaps even the Senate. What difference would that make to the war? Obviously, in one or both houses, the opposition could then convene hearings in which both the present conduct of the war and past failures and deceptions could be investigated. Congressional hearings can be a powerful forum. Until now, it has not served the Bush administration's purposes to have the American public well instructed on the complexities of Iraq, but intensive media focus on testimony by the war's witnesses, critics, and victims would change

We have been here before. Of all the acts of opposition to the war in Vietnam, none was more consequential than the hearings presided over by Senator William Fulbright -- a Democrat challenging a Democratic administration. The Fulbright hearings served as the nation's classroom, with a visceral uneasiness about the war evolving into informed opposition. The decisive election year was 1968, and, sure enough, voters cast their
ballots for peace.

But if the past has ever offered instruction to the present, here is one lesson that must not be missed: The Vietnam War dragged on for nearly seven more years after that critical election. Why? Because public uneasiness with the course of the war was not enough. The only way out of the disaster was to accept defeat, and that America was loath to do. President Nixon came into office on the promise that he had a "secret plan" to end the war, but no sooner had he moved into the White House than he
swore he would not be the first US president to lose a war. "Peace with honor" became the shibboleth. The killing continued, the air war came into its own, and more people died in Vietnam after 1968 than had died before. The American public's retreat from concern about the war was epitomized by Nixon's overwhelming reelection in 1972. How did that happen?

It is one thing to feel uneasy about your nation's war, or even to move to a position of outright opposition. It is another to face the harsh fact that the only way out of the war is to accept defeat. The goal of "peace with honor" assumes that the nation's honor has not already been squandered. During Vietnam, for all the widespread opposition to the war, the American public was never ready to face the full truth of what had been done in its name, and so the martial band played on. And on. The war ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, with the United States whining that somehow it had been the victim. Not incidental to the present disaster is the fact that the men dragging out that shameful last moment of Vietnam, when our nation's abject defeat was made plain for all the world to see, were Ford administration honchos Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

Rumsfeld and Cheney are prepared to do it to their nation again. The question now is whether America will let them? The general uneasiness with the war in Iraq is mostly tied to how badly it has gone. Tactical and strategic planning have been bungled at every level, and the elusive enemy is yet to be understood in Washington.

If the Democrats take power with the elections tomorrow, congressional hearings will have a lot of such questions to consider. But what about the moral question? For all of the anguish felt over the loss of American lives, can we acknowledge that there is something proper in the way that hubristic American power has been thwarted?

Can we admit that the loss of honor will not come with how the war ends, because we lost our honor when we began it? This time, can we accept defeat?

Paschal: How we answer this question will affect not a few but hundreds and thousands of more lives, on every side. 11/7/06

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company