Friday, June 29, 2007

Those Lazy Iraqis: It's all their fault

Those Lazy Iraqis

It's hard to pull up your socks when your legs have been blown off
by Allan Uthman | The Buffalo Beast

"We have given the Iraqi people the chance to have freedom, to have their own country. It is up to them to decide whether or not they're going to take that chance."

-Hillary Clinton

"We're spending $2 billion a week, $8 billion a month, over $400 billion over more than four years. They now have to assume the responsibility of their own future."

-Chris Dodd

"We should put the responsibility for Iraq's future squarely where it belongs—on the Iraqis. We cannot save the Iraqis from themselves."

-Carl Levin

I can't take this anymore. It was bad enough when the White House started pushing that "when the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down" crap last year, but now the Democrats are chiming in with this "lazy, ungrateful Iraqis" trash, seemingly all at once.

Where is this bullshit coming from? No doubt, some Frank Luntz type—possibly Frank Luntz—held a focus group and found that Americans respond better to criticism of the war when it doesn't hint at American culpability in the embarrassing disaster it has become. Politicians, desperate to avoid the logically meaningless but emotionally powerful charge of "not supporting the troops," have hit upon a new formula: You can talk all you want about the hopelessness of continuing the occupation in Iraq, as long as you blame it all on the Iraqis.

Surely, politicians understand better than anyone the human desire to avoid acknowledging guilt. But blaming the occupied for the failure of their occupation is astonishingly despicable, even by today's standards. On the other hand, murderers often blame their victims to avoid dealing with their own insanity. No doubt Hitler blamed the Jews for the Holocaust.

You know, the Iraqis are hearing this stuff, too. They get Fox News. When Bush says we're fighting terrorism in Iraq to avoid fighting them in America, they hear it. Imagine what that sounds like to them: "Hey Iraqis, sorry about destroying your society and importing al Qaeda and all, but at least your deaths are keeping us Americans safe!"

They watch our politicians and analysts display woeful ignorance of the basic facts regarding Iraq on a daily basis. I can't count how many times I've heard some supposed expert talk about the Sunni-Shiite conflict as if it were the continuation of some centuries-long feud, when that is simply not the case. In the Democratic debate in South Carolina, Bill Richardson talked of "the three religious entities" in Iraq. I'd love to hear what he thinks the third is. Kurdish Scientologists?

All of this is bad enough. But understand, the best tally of Iraqi deaths as a result of the invasion put the number at around 650,000—almost a year ago. That's not counting Gulf War 1. Can you imagine how incredibly galling it must be to hear the people who have been bombing the hell out of your country for two decades tell you they're tired of "helping" you, and it's time for you to grow up and get your shit together? And then, the supposed opposition party steps right up and says the same damn thing?

How the hell does anyone stand up and say this stuff? What kind of person can tell such a transparently self-serving fiction and still manage to live with themselves? Let's face it: It was the Americans who dissolved the Iraqi army, sending 300,000 men with guns home with no pay and no future. It was the Americans who tortured Iraqi prisoners with little to no cause, in the most twisted, disturbing ways we could dream up. It was the Americans who tried to occupy a country on the cheap, ignoring the advice of their own military experts, in an extraordinary display of modern CEO-style "outside the box" arrogance. That was us. Not them. And for us, now, to pretend we did everything right, that we have provided some kind of golden opportunity for these people by destroying their infrastructure, assaulting their dignity, and doing nothing to repair either offense, is not just incorrect. It is downright disgusting. It reveals us as the low, deceitful, swindling, narcissistic assholes we truly are.

And it's not just that both parties are saying it; the really awful thing is that they have determined that it's what we want to hear. Because if we are willing to swallow that crap just because it makes us feel better about ourselves, what hope is there that we'll ever learn a thing about how to actually deal with terrorists?

When you think about it, this amazing capacity we seem to have for feel-good self-deception is at the root of our little terrorist problem. Think about how dysfunctional it is that we have never, as a nation, actually discussed the many real reasons Arabs have to hate us. We claim to be doing everything we can to prevent terrorism, but the unspoken truth is that we have never seriously considered changing the manner in which we pursue our foreign policy goals. Our image in the outside world is that of a duplicitous trickster, a myopic fair-weather friend whose word is a joke, and that image is well-deserved. Basically, we fund whichever group seems to be against the group we find most threatening at any given time.

For instance, we are now arming the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, to fight al Qaeda. That's right, the same Sunni insurgents who have been dutifully killing our own soldiers since we got there. Apparently, they have promised, scout's honor, not to use our own guns to shoot us. Also, we're funding Sunni al Qaeda-type terrorists in Lebanon, to fight Hezbollah. Al Qaeda, of course, is an outgrowth of the mujahadeen fighters we trained and funded to battle the Soviets in Afghanistan. In the '80s, when Saddam Hussein was committing most of the atrocities we now find so outrageous, we were giving him money to fight Iran. Before 9/11, we were giving the Taleban tons of cash to fight the opium trade in Afghanistan. Our foreign policy is a shifting, slithering mass of flip-flopping alliances, abandonments and betrayals.

Unsurprisingly, most people find this type of craven opportunism to be distasteful. Most Americans, however, have never once had to think about it, because they don't even know any of it ever happened. They don't know because market research has shown that they don't want to know, and no mainstream politician or journalist has the stones to go against those numbers.

Iraq, though, is no covert operation. There is no plausible deniability there. As much as we'd like to, there's no pretending we didn't just completely shit the bed on the global stage and create an entire generation of actual America-hating potential terrorists in the process. It's a blowback scenario that simply can't be swept under the rug. Americans can't go on pretending that this was a good idea, or that it never happened. So we go to plan C: It's all their fault. We really are a bunch of assholes.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

World survey: Everybody hates us, let's eat worms

Just think: If the whole world were one big high school, Jacques Chirac would be elected school President before George Bush.

Good thing running the world isn't a popularity contest!

Get with the program, World, you ungrateful bastards!

Environment and US policy top global fears
Simon Tisdall in Washington
Thursday June 28, 2007 | Guardian

Growing numbers of people worldwide view environmental problems, pollution, infectious diseases, nuclear proliferation and the widening gap between rich and poor as the most menacing threats facing the planet, according to a 47-nation survey published yesterday by the US-based Pew Global Attitudes Project.

The survey, which conducted more than 45,000 interviews, finds that global opinion is increasingly wary of the world's dominant countries but also unimpressed by aspiring leaders in Iran and Venezuela who challenge the international status quo. In contrast, the UN receives strong support.

The US comes in for sharp criticism. "Global distrust of American leadership is reflected in increasing disapproval of the cornerstones of US foreign policy," the survey says. "Not only is there worldwide support for a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq but there is also considerable opposition to US and Nato operations in Afghanistan ... The US image remains abysmal in most Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia and continues to decline among the publics of America's oldest allies."

Nine per cent of Turks, 13% of Palestinians and 15% of Pakistanis take a favourable view of the US. In Germany, the figure is 30%, in France 39% and in Britain 51% - all down on previous surveys. Only in Israel, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya do majorities believe US forces should stay in Iraq.

In an implicit rejection of the Bush administration's "freedom agenda", the survey also finds "a broad and deepening dislike of American values and a global backlash against the spread of American ideas and customs. Majorities or pluralities in most countries surveyed say they dislike American ideas about democracy."

[Gasp! They really do "hate us for who we are"! Jesus, let's kill 'em all, the freedom-hating SOBs! -- J]

And among key allies in western Europe, the view that the US unilaterally ignores the interests of other countries is deep-rooted. Overall attitudes to the US are broadly positive in most African countries, Japan, South Korea and Poland.

[It's good to know Africa has gotten over that whole putting AIDS in their Coke machines thing [wink-wink]. Africans are so big-hearted! -- J ]

Rising powers such as China and Russia get mixed reviews. Russia's Vladimir Putin scores worse than George Bush in terms of confidence that he will "do the right thing" in world affairs - 30% believe he will, against 45% for Mr Bush.

[Actually, I think this survey is a coup for Bush. Frankly, I'm shocked that 45% of the world thinks Bush will "do the right thing," whereas only 26% of Americans approve of the job he's doing. That's right: the rest of the world has more confidence in Bush than Americans do. Whodathunkit!? -- J ]

China's expanding military and economic power is also viewed with suspicion, except in Africa, where it has launched trade and aid initiatives.

Huge majorities in most countries, notably in the Arab Middle East, say they do not trust Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Venezuela's Hugo Chávez inspires similar suspicion, even in Latin America.

Rising alarm about environmental problems registers across the board. Thirty-seven per cent of Americans name the issue as the top global threat, up 14% in five years. In China, another big polluter, 70% agree. In Britain, the figure is 46%. Aids and other infectious diseases are viewed as the dominant threat in Africa and, increasingly, in Latin America.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Re: PC Culture vs. Culture of Umbrage

You know what worries me more than America's PC culture? Like Muslims in the Mideast, Americans have developed a hair-trigger sense of personal affront. This phenomenon certainly reinforces PC culture, but it's not the same thing. For example, your conservative friend wouldn't call MSU's Prof. Wichman "PC," (and after all, it is conservatives' prerogative to define what is PC), even though Wichman exhibits the same eager readiness to be offended as MSU's Muslim Students' Association.

The gist of Wichman's letter wasn't so much "Muslims are hypocritical, so your protests are meaningless" it was "Muslims are hypocritical," and it "offends me" (quote). His taking offense at people who were ridiculous to take offense in the first place is ridiculous.

(As somebody who frequently comments on current events -- often with much feeling and ire -- I do support one's right to get angry and argue, but that is not the same as sobbing, "You're wrong, and it offends me!")

Certainly, America's craven and lawsuit-abiding Lib'rul Media, Left-Wing Academia, and Lib'rul Activist Judges enable this "Culture of Umbrage" (to coin a term). Yet conservatives seem to have no problem competing for the title of "America's Most Offended" as they try equally hard to co-opt the media, public universities, and the courts to protect them from all forms of "disrespect" -- personal or impersonal, real or unintended.

Americans -- left, right, and middle -- are becoming a nation of petulant crybabies who collapse in whining tantrums when anybody points a finger in their faces and says, unapologetically, "you're wrong!" We can't stomach or tolerate real debate anymore, so we attack our opponents' backgrounds, their religion, or their "hidden meanings" to shut them up and tear them down.

Debate, get angry, protest -- but don't ask me to pass the Kleenex when I disagree with you! When it comes to political debate, don't expect me to give a damn about your precious feelings!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Jun 27, 2007 1:20 PM
Subject: Fw: Hooray for Michigan State University
To: Undisclosed-Recipient

This is a true story... check it out at

Tells Muslims to Leave Country Hooray for Michigan State University!

Well, what do we have here? Looks like a small case of some people being able to dish it out, but not take it.

Let's start at the top.

The story begins at Michigan State University with a mechanical engineering professor named Indrek Wichman. Wichman sent an e-mail to the Muslim Student's Association. The e-mail was in response to the students' protest of the Danish cartoons that portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. The group had complained the cartoons were
"hate speech."

Enter Professor Wichman. In his e-mail, he said the following:

Dear Moslem Association:

As a professor of Mechanical Engineering here at MSU I intend to protest your protest. I am offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests (the
latest in Turkey), burnings of Christian churches, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavian girls and women (called "whores" in your culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris France. This is what offends me, a soft-spoken person and academic, and many, many of my colleagues. I counsel your dissatisfied, aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile "protests."

If you do not like the values of the West - see the 1st Amendment - you are free to leave. I hope for God's sake that most of you choose that option. Please return to your ancestral homelands and build them up yourselves instead of troubling Americans.

I. S. Wichman
Professor of Mechanical Engineering

As you can imagine, the Muslim group at the university didn't like this too well. They're demanding that Wichman be reprimanded and mandatory diversity training for faculty and a seminar on hate and discrimination for freshman. Now the chapter of CAIR has jumped into
the fray. CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, apparently doesn't believe that the good professor had the right to express his opinion.

For its part, the university is standing its ground, saying the e-mail was private, and they don't intend to publicly condemn his remarks. That will probably change. Wichman says he never intended for his e-mail to be made public, and wouldn't have used the same strong
language if he'd known it was going to get out.

How's the left going to handle this one? If you're in favor of the freedom of speech, as in the case of Ward Churchill, will the same protections be demanded for Indrek Wichman? I doubt it.

Send this to your friends. Tell them to keep passing it around until the whole country gets it. This political correctness crap is getting old and killing us.

Let's hope that the Mechanical Engineering School at MSU continues to support mechanical engineering professor Indrek Wichman!

GOP presidential nominee: Don Knotts (R-NC)

Too bad Don Knotts is dead. He would be a great GOP presidential nominee: a real cowboy sheriff when his gun belt is on and the bad guy is behind bars, but Mr. Chicken whenever he's faced with a real threat.

The following op-ed says it all: Republicans can only offer us heaping helpings of FEAR . Leading contender Rudy Giuliani's campaign message is likely to be, "U-S-A! U-S-A! We're all s-s-cared sh-sh-shitless! But don't you w-worry, I'll sh-shoot that m-monster in the c-c-closet for you."

And as soon as we stop fearing for our lives, Republicans like Siegel chastise us for our, er, bravery (?). The "perceptions that give rise to fear in the first place" should not be eliminated, he writes. We shouldn't let our fear become dull and complacent; we should keep our fear razor sharp and ever-vigilant, in the scary face of all kinds of Islamic bogey man and nasty people.

Wow, what a message of hope. What a reason to live. Whoopee.

So, with that in mind….


Get scared, damnit! They're all out to kill you in your back yards and suburbs, every last one of you! Ahhhhhh!!!

(But seriously, here's the real deal: Your chances in America of being killed by a terrorist are less than dying in a car accident or being hit by lightning. And if you don't live in NYC, DC, LA, or another big U.S. city, your chances of perishing at the hands of Islamic terrorists are similar to being hit by falling cosmic debris. So, if Siegel is arguing that we should maintain a fear of terrorists that is slightly less acute than our paralyzing fear of automobiles, thunderstorms, and shooting stars, then I agree with him 100%. We've got to keep things in perspective, after all.)

Loss of Fear Itself

by Bill Siegel
06/27/2007 |

As the presidential campaign heats up, the allegations of fear-mongering are also picking up steam. While it was utilized frequently in the last Congressional elections, it is now appearing in a variety of non-candidate voices. In a recent cover story, Newsweek's Fareed Zacharia stressed that the new post-Bush era must see the American public get out from under the fear that had been created by the administration to justify its global war against terrorism. He also often attacks the Giuliani campaign for trumpeting fear to sell him as the candidate best suited to respond to our frightening situation. In "Sicko", Michael Moore describes the use of fear as a critical tool in the government's arsenal keeping us unwilling and unable to stand up and demand that to which we are presumably entitled. Paradoxically, in warning us against the fear tactics supposedly utilized by the administration, these voices have, in fact, merely asked us to replace the fear of the enemy with the fear of Bush. We must guard against them being guilty of the very same political gamesmanship they seek to expose.

When we react to something overzealously, it is not uncommon to overcompensate by retracting or withdrawing from it. Whether it be a new technology (automobiles, the internet), a new political system (democracy in the Middle East), or even a new love interest, initial enthusiasm is often exaggerated and then followed by a contraction in the other direction which is almost equally guilty of excess. The internet "bubble" of the 90's, which became so irrationally funded, was met with a collapse that virtually blacklisted most internet investments in the early 2000s. As a result, many opportunities were missed which later became great success stories. Many were just as blind to opportunities during the collapse as those who missed the initial bubble.

We must be vigilant that such an overreaction does not take place with respect to the fear of our terrorist enemies. Following 9/11, Americans not only felt massive fear; they began to perceive their enemies in new ways based upon that fear. As they learned more about the Islamic world, they rearranged their priorities to fit those perceptions. This allowed most Americans to support aggressive military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and the more aggressive pursuit of terrorists around the world. As the threat became clearer, fear seemed not only appropriate but a critical motivating force. To various degrees, we have gotten used to fear as part of the fabric of the war we fight.

Faced with the frustrations not only of the Iraq war but of the broader terrorist threat many today are seeking a relief from the debilitating consequences fear can have on us.

Precisely because fear is so difficult to maintain and manage, we seek to find ways to eliminate it. The most effective tool for doing so is to reorder our perceptions to eliminate the need for fear. We are prone, therefore, to candidates' descriptions of the current situation as one that can be easily handled. We can be coaxed to believe that the enemy cannot easily hit us at home, that it can be tamed through proper respect, statecraft, and skilled negotiation, that it has little to do with Islam itself and thus represents only a small fraction of the 1.2 or greater population of Muslims worldwide, that state sponsors such as Iran and Syria can be dealt with and really want the same things we want, etc. Mostly, we are easily assuaged by the image of an upbeat, attractive, articulate presidential figure regaining our lost respect in the world, winning back our friends and allies, and demonstrating to the enemy that we are ready to acknowledge their place in the world we share.

The allegation of fear mongering greatly adds to these perceptions as it simply tells us that we did not need to be afraid as we have been. To some degree, perhaps, that is true. There is, arguably, a great tendency to overreact. In great part, however, that is the goal of the enemy: to wear us down so that we defeat ourselves. The path of this defeat is not military. Rather, it is to get us to change our perceptions that give rise to the fear in the first place. Once we so change our description of the enemy, the problem, the value of what we are fighting for, we become vulnerable to all this enemy seeks to do.

Unfortunately, the nature of this war does not tolerate our wishes for emotional peace. Nor does this escape our notice. Rather, at least unconsciously if not consciously, we seem to realize on some level that we are confronted with an enemy that simply will not just go away and desires only our destruction. There is no negotiation with this type of foe despite our wish to presume that it is just like us and, ultimately, desires peace. There is no response to this type of threat other than fear. And fear, while distressing, is a guide which can help us to navigate this new threat properly. Therefore, we should not be in a rush to eliminate fear.

As Democrats seek the White House, relief from fear is one of their most powerful promises. [Those liberal bastards! How dare they!? -- J] Oddly, the same candidates who claim that Bush never asked the citizenry for a sacrifice fail to see that the emotional beatings this war has and will continue to create for us all are part of the sacrifice asked and made.

Bush has repeatedly made clear that fighting this enemy will take many years if not generations. Fighting is itself a learning process. We must continue to learn, adjust, and press forward. Part of what we will learn better is how to use and maintain our fear in a more positive way while simultaneously remaining acutely vigilant over the enemy. All the while, we must be careful to not pull back excessively from our fear into the delusion that we are not really in a war for our existence. That is precisely what the enemy is trying to sell us.

[Ummm… excuse me, but if al Qaeda were doing its devious best to continue killing us without scaring us, why do they make videos of cutting people's heads off? This guy Siegel is an ass. -- J]

Mr. Siegel lives in New York.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

CEOs revolt against U.S. health care, global warming

If Big Business can't finagle cushy deals from Big Government, then their second choice is always clear & fair rules of the game for everybody (i.e. regulation). Because if regulation applies equally to all their competitors, then regulation is a shared burden with no opportunity for unfair competitive advantage.

Plus, U.S. corporations are finally wising up: rising U.S. health care costs are a huge cost to business; and global warming's catastrophic effects will eventually ruin markets and destroy predictability.

Revolt of the CEOs

A massive expansion of the federal government, supported by big business, is on the way. Conservatives couldn't be less prepared.

By Christopher Hayes | Washington Monthly

Years from now, historians will argue over the exact moment at which the Great Conservative Crack-up finally occurred, and they'll have no shortage of candidates. Was it December 21, 2004, with the appearance of the first poll that showed a majority of Americans believed the Iraq War to be a mistake? Or September 2, 2005, when President Bush told Michael Brown he was doing a "heckuva job" while New Orleans drowned? Or a month later, when Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle indicted Tom DeLay?

But I'd take January 22, 2007. On that date, a who's who of corporate America—CEOs from such industrial stalwarts as Alcoa, DuPont, Caterpillar, Pacific Gas and Electric, and General Electric—joined environmental leaders at a Washington press conference on global warming. Their surprising message for the president and Congress: Please, for the love of God, regulate us.

It's worth lingering for a moment over just how strange this was. Back in 1997, when the Clinton administration signed the Kyoto Protocol, businesses lobbied the Senate strenuously not to ratify the treaty. And yet here were industry leaders—some with miserable environmental records and decades of experience fighting off the long arm of the law—taking the lead in advocating for a comprehensive, economy-wide regulatory regime to address global warming. It's a little like a thief who's been running from the cops suddenly stopping, turning around, thrusting out his wrists, and saying, "Arrest me."

These weren't the only CEOs asking government to step in and solve a pressing social problem. Two and a half weeks later, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott joined Andy Stern, the president of the Service Employees International Union, to announce his company's support for some form of universal health care. When it comes to business's united front against regulation, as Leo Hindery, former CEO of the YES Network and author of the book It Takes a CEO, puts it, "[These guys are] looking and saying, 'Look, if we don't play this global-warming thing right, heck with politics, our company's going to get hurt. If we don't reform health care, I don't care if I'm a Republican, my company will fail.' "

Not everyone's happy about this shift. A Wall Street Journal editorial dubbed General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt a "climate profiteer," while CNBC analyst Larry Kudlow complained, "Wal-Mart's standing shoulder to shoulder with the public service unions who basically want nationalized health care. Is Wal-Mart just kind of getting duped into this?"

But other allies of the corporate sector see these moves less as betrayals or mistakes and more as a turning of the page. "The country goes through cycles, and I think we are in a different period now," Charles Kolb, a pillar of the Beltway establishment and the president of the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington-based business advocacy group, told me. Kolb served in both the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, and he said that he sees Reagan and Margaret Thatcher's downsizing of the regulatory state as historic achievements. But, he went on, "the issue is not whether [Franklin D.] Roosevelt was right or wrong, or whether Reagan was right or wrong. Look, the question I would ask is, Are there areas that we need to rethink?"

If the nation's business leaders seem increasingly open to an expansion of government's role in dealing with climate change and health care, they're not alone. A recent New York Times poll found 52 percent of Americans rating global warming as "very serious," while 63 percent agreed that "[p]rotecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high and continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost." And according to an October 2006 USA Today survey, 68 percent of Americans believe providing health care coverage for everyone is more important than keeping taxes down. The sentiment extends more broadly: last year, a Pew poll showed that only 45 percent of Americans now think the government needs to get smaller, down from 61 percent a decade ago.

If these polls and other political winds are any indication, then massive change may be coming to Washington in the near future, most likely starting in January 2009. On energy and health care—two huge sectors of the American economy—the regulatory power and reach of the federal government is likely to expand in a way that hasn't occurred since the 1970s. Today's conservatives, desperately embracing the small-government ideology that once supported their movement, are almost completely unprepared for this tsunami of federal growth. Unless they can get business back on their side, or win back power, they'll be in a position neither to stop this development nor to shape it. Indeed, right now they seem blithely unaware of what's about to hit them.

The history of the relationship between big business and the Republican Party isn't quite as simple as one might imagine. Not much gets done in American politics without either the active support or the strategic silence of major corporations, and while big business has been a remarkably consistent and aggressive foe of certain staples of progressivism (anything having to do with unions, for instance) it has also lent crucial support to some of the most significant expansions of the regulatory or welfare state. To name just one example among many, the Social Security Act of 1965, which reformed Medicare and Medicaid, came about in large part because of the backing of Blue Cross Blue Shield, who wanted to unload the high-risk, high-cost elderly onto government.

As recently as the late 1980s and early 1990s, top-drawer corporations could still be found supporting efforts to expand Washington's reach—particularly when those efforts were designed to solve social problems that affected their bottom line. For instance, in response to the failure of the education system to provide properly trained workers, business threw its weight behind the call from the nation's governors, and then president George H. W. Bush, for greater federal involvement in local schools—support that CEOs have kept up through subsequent administrations. And though it's been somewhat lost to history, big business, faced with spiraling health care costs, was an early driver of President Clinton's reform initiative. When the plan was unveiled in 1993, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offered tentative backing.

That was not to last. Conservatives, led by Newt Gingrich, Bill Kristol, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses—an interest group for small and medium-sized businesses, with an unwaveringly conservative line—recognized the political threat that universal health care posed. In a now-famous strategy memo, Kristol warned that Republicans had to kill, rather than amend, the Clinton proposal. Its success, he warned, would "re-legitimize middle-class dependence for 'security' on government spending and regulation," and "revive ... the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests." Kristol and his allies succeeded in convincing big business that their long-term interests couldn't brook a Democratic resurgence. The change was decisive. The business community mobilized against the Clinton plan, spending $17 million on advertising, and helping to ensure its defeat.

Riding the momentum of that victory, the Gingrich revolution swept Republicans into power, inaugurating a new era in which there would be almost no daylight between major corporations and the GOP. Tom DeLay's K Street Project kept corporations inside the tent by threatening to stonewall their legislative agenda unless they hired lobbyists who had been preapproved by Republican gatekeepers. Business, which in the past had dispensed its largesse without much heed to party, now cast its lot with the side that controlled nearly every branch of government. During Bush's first year, Karl Rove won business support for tax cuts, even though the White House didn't insert the breaks and loopholes for corporations that many in the business community had sought. (Rove wanted a relatively "clean" bill to insulate Bush from the criticism that had bedeviled Reagan's tax cuts back in 1981, when, in the words of Reagan budget director David Stockman, "the hogs were really feeding.")

While under the DeLay/Rove machine the GOP has often acted as little more than an agent for the interests of big business, the relationship has by no means been unidirectional. The Republicans also have used corporations for their own ends. DeLay, perhaps self-servingly, boasted of the arrangement this way: "We are ideologues. We have an agenda. We have a philosophy. I want to repeal the Clean Air Act. No one came to me and said, 'Please repeal the Clean Air Act.' We say to the lobbyists, 'Help us.' We know what we want to do, and we find people to help us do that."

Of course, DeLay is now under indictment and no longer in Congress, and the machine he helped construct, a hybrid of ideological zeal and crass corruption, is quickly breaking down. Democrats now control Congress, and the president's approval ratings rival Nixon's during Watergate. The GOP machine was always, crucially, a monopoly enterprise, relying on its stranglehold on Congress and then the White House to keep its various constituencies in line. This generally held sway even as Hurricane Katrina and Iraq made the administration's incompetence harder and harder to ignore, and business leaders started shaking their heads behind closed doors. But with its popularity and power now greatly diminished, the party is no longer able to keep those splits private. "The ability of the administration to intimidate the business community ... seems gone," said John Podesta, who heads the Center for American Progress. "They don't seem very afraid to incur the wrath of the White House."

Of course, the relentless push of real-world problems has been even more important than the weakening of conservative power in prompting this shift. After a period in the late 1990s during which HMOs helped keep a check on health care costs, those costs started to rise again in 2002, and are now hovering around 7 percent above inflation. In addition, as the world has continued to warm, the scientific consensus around global warming has hardened. Of the ten warmest years on record, four have been in the last decade.

In 2005, Peter Darbee, the CEO of PG&E Corporation, decided his company would do well to take a hard look at this reality. PG&E is no Ben & Jerry's do-gooder company. In fact, it's been an archetypal Hollywood bad guy: as the movie Erin Brockovich dramatized, in 1996 it was found to have contaminated the drinking water of a southern California town and was forced to pay $333 million, the largest settlement in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history. Still, Darbee had become convinced that climate change was a real and growing problem, and that his company, which provides power for much of the West Coast, was a major contributor. So he initiated an internal process to produce a report on climate change and its effects. The results were unequivocal: "We came to the conclusion that the earth is warming, mankind is responsible, and the time to act is now," he told me. The internal review also concluded that the best way to address the problem was some kind of mandatory control and regulation of carbon emissions.

Last year Darbee emerged as an outspoken proponent of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's ambitious greenhouse-reduction strategy, and helped to organize the business-environmental coalition that put together the January press conference. When I asked him what initially prompted his decision to focus PG&E's attention on climate change, he cited a basic principle of management: the longer you wait to address a crisis, the less room you have to maneuver. "We could sit on this and drag our heels and then the consequences could be drastic. The more time you have to deal with it, the more degrees of freedom you have."

Even for those CEOs preoccupied with the next quarter's earnings, the long term has a funny way of sneaking up. Imagine for a moment you're planning a new factory to produce washing machines. Ideally, the facility is going to operate for a number of years into the future, but its operating costs are going to be quite different if the federal government imposes a carbon tax at some point in the near future. How much capital do you invest up front to reduce the facility's emissions? Or imagine you're a major car company debating whether to site a new car plant in Canada or Alabama. After weighing the pros and cons, you decide on Canada. Why? Because in the United States, health care costs are growing at 7 percent above inflation, and you're likely to be on the hook for your employees' health care costs into the foreseeable future. This, in fact, is exactly what happened in 2005, when Toyota sent shockwaves through corporate boardrooms by opting to open a new plant in Woodstock, Ontario, citing Canada's socialized medicine as a factor.

If the Toyota decision was a wake-up call on health care, Hurricane Katrina played a similar role on climate change. "I think it moved the frame of reference," said Mindy Lubber, who leads a group of institutional investors working to pressure businesses to reduce emissions. Even for those CEOs who'd believed that climate change was a problem, Lubber said, most had conceived of it as a long-term issue. "And as a CEO, I'm programmed to think about quarterly earnings. But what we saw with Katrina was that quarterly earnings are impacted," since the destruction of the Gulf refineries caused a spike in energy prices, among other negative effects.

Health care and climate change are, of course, distinct issues, each with their own associated policy debates—single-payer or individual mandates, carbon taxes or cap and trade—but what unites them is the unpredictability of the future costs they'll impose on business. "The one thing that business managers and CEOs hate is uncertainty," said Bruce Josten, a top lobbyist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "They love certainty. Here you have two issues of huge uncertainty and huge unpredictability."

But certainty requires clear rules, and those have been lacking at the national level. In the absence of federal leadership, state governments have rushed in to fill the vacuum, passing rafts of legislation meant to encourage alternative energy use, curb carbon emissions, and provide health insurance for their citizens. The initiatives on both these fronts—from Massachussets Governor Mitt Romney's universal health care reform to New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg's recently unveiled congestion pricing—have triggered fears among corporations that they'll have to deal with a state-by-state patchwork of fifty different regulatory regimes, giving them a powerful incentive to support a comprehensive nationwide approach.

[Ah yes, the 50 States, our "laboratories of democracy," as states-rights conservatives love to call them. Doh! -- J]

Whatever public-mindedness there was to Darbee's decision to take a lead on carbon regulation, his calculation of the likelihood of future regulation had more than a little to do with his conversion. "It's not clear whether we will get legislation in this administration," he said. "But I think in the next three years, the probability approaches 100 percent." The more convinced corporations become that regulation is going to happen, the more invested they become in shaping that regulation. In this way, the anticipation of future regulation creates something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. "The underlying statement I've heard is that if this [health care] system collapses then the business community will end up with something they don't like," Andy Stern told me. "There's sort of a sense [that] we should lead this, or if we don't, whatever happens we should accept the consequences."

"The corporate guys are beginning to think this is going to happen," said Bill Galston, a senior policy adviser in the Clinton White House and a current fellow at the Brookings Institution, referring to health care and climate change legislation. "They are willing to make their peace with the welfare and regulatory state as long as they can have some say. What they don't want is for the train to leave the station and they're not in the first-class car." The Chamber of Commerce's Josten summed up his members' views this way: "You want a seat at the table, because if you're not at the table you may be on the menu."

Though in the imagination of the left, big business and conservatives are natural allies, from the point of view of many on the right that's hardly the case. "I see most of the corporate types as the enemy," conservative direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie told me, speaking of big business's newfound support for action on global warming and health care. "I don't see them as our allies, never have. They're country-club Republicans. They really don't like us, quite frankly, and it's probably mutual. Can you imagine Jeff Immelt standing up and defending any social issue he feels strongly about, or talking about the vulgar culture we have? They're very unprincipled with these things. They're recovering big-government types. You give them a temptation, and they jump at it."

In that sense, the partnership that congressional leaders forged with big business in 1993 has always been unstable. And the recent defections of some CEOs have sparked vituperation from movement loyalists. "I've been hearing that the Fortune 500 types would love to drop their legacy costs off at the federal taxpayer," conservative power broker Grover Norquist lamented to me. "The Safeway guy"—CEO Steve Burd, who recently endorsed Democratic Senator Ron Wyden's universal health care legislation—"has signed off on pensions because he's a lousy businessman. He screwed up, and he wants the rest of us to pay for his lousy incompetence. Wrong answer!"

Norquist and his allies understand that their only hope is to remake that 1993 deal. But short of the GOP retaking Congress and holding on to the White House—or the earth suddenly cooling—that's not going to happen. And at some level, conservatives know it, responding to questions about the rift with blustery denial: "There are 27 million companies in America," said Norquist. "I'm surprised at how few collaborators the Democrats can come up with. The Germans had better luck."

Republicans, weighed down by the knee-jerk small-government philosophy that their base demands, simply lack the ideological flexibility to even talk about issues, like global warming and health care, that will require an expansion of government—much less propose ideas to help shape them. Just look at the presidential field: John McCain has retained the lone plank of his maverick platform by sponsoring legislation in the Senate to cap and trade carbon emissions, but he's not spending much time touting that effort in front of Republican primary voters. Rudy Giuliani, who as mayor of New York was moderately fiscally conservative but certainly no supply-sider, is now waxing poetic about the benefits of the flat tax, the beauty of the Laffer curve, and the creeping "socialism" of the Democratic Party's universal health care proposals. And Mitt Romney finds that his signature accomplishment as governor of Massachusetts—a universal health care law that relies heavily on "individual mandates"—makes him suspect in conservative eyes. "He's spinning his wheels at 100 miles an hour to explain how it wasn't a big-government solution but a market solution," former GOP Congressman Dick Armey told me.

So Republican presidential candidates are caught in a bind: between, on the one hand, what the public increasingly wants and the business class increasingly sees as necessary, and, on the other, what the party's ideological enforcers demand. Some conservatives aren't too blinkered to see where this is likely to lead. From his perch on the New York Times op-ed page, David Brooks has been urging fellow conservatives to stop looking to the idealized small-government icons of Goldwater and Reagan as a guide to the problems of the twenty-first century. "Democratic approaches are favored on almost all domestic, tax, and fiscal issues, and even on foreign affairs," Brooks wrote in an April column entitled "Grim Old Party." "The public, in short, wants change. And yet the Republicans refuse to offer that."

At the end of the day, the country can't tax-cut its way to better health care or a post-oil economy or fewer carbon dioxide emissions. The titans of capitalism are beginning to realize that, even if the conservative movement's leading lights can't—or won't.

Sen. Voinovich (OH-R) turns on Iraq: Beginning of the end?

Those of you from Ohio ought to send Voinovich a congratulatory letter of support for his stand, because right now he's in lonely company. It will take Republicans in the Senate to get us out of Iraq!

Voinovich: Bring our troops home

AP, June 26, 2007

WASHINGTON – Sen. George Voinovich said Tuesday the U.S. should begin pulling troops out of Iraq and bolster diplomatic efforts, becoming the second Republican lawmaker in as many days to declare President Bush's war strategy a failure.

"It's in their best interest to become part of the solution instead of sitting on the sidelines," the Ohio senator said of the Iraqi people. "I don't think they'll get it until they know we're leaving."

Voinovich's remarks come on the heels of similar comments by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. The two GOP senators previously had expressed concerns about Bush's decision to send 30,000 extra troops to Iraq in a massive U.S.-led security push in Baghdad and Anbar province. But they had stopped short of saying U.S. troops should leave and declined to back Democratic legislation setting a deadline for troop withdrawals.

Lugar and Voinovich said they are still not ready to insist on a timetable for withdrawal. But they both made it clear their patience was gone.

Voinovich said he was presenting his proposal for a way out of Iraq in a letter to the president, slated for release later today.

Once Iraq's neighbors "know we are genuinely leaving, I think all of a sudden the fear of God will descend upon them and say, 'We've got to get involved in this thing,'" he said.

"It can't be something that is precipitous, but I do believe that it should be enough so that people know we are indeed disengaging," Voinovich said.

The loss of GOP support for the president's strategy is significant. Democrats may still not be able to push through legislation demanding an end date to the war, but softer alternative proposals are in the works that could still challenge Bush.

After the Fourth of July recess, "you'll be hearing a number of statements from other (Republican) colleagues," predicted Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a longtime skeptic of the war strategy.

Spokesman John Ullyot said Warner is drafting a legislative proposal on the war, but declined to discuss the details. The measure would likely be offered as an amendment to the 2008 defense authorization bill on the floor next month.

The White House on Tuesday appealed to members for more patience on the war in Iraq.

"We hope that members of the House and Senate will give the Baghdad security plan a chance to unfold," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Snow also said Lugar was a thoughtful man and that his remarks came as no surprise.

"We've known that he's had reservations about the policy for some time," he said.

In January, Lugar expressed concerns about the president's decision to send 30,000 extra troops to Baghdad. But he voted against a resolution opposing Bush's troop build up, contending that the nonbinding measure would have no practical effect. In the spring, he voted against a Democratic bill that would have triggered troop withdrawals by Oct. 1 with the goal of completing the pullout in six months.

In a floor speech Monday, Lugar said the U.S. should reduce the military's role in Iraq and called on Bush to press other diplomatic and economic initiatives instead. Because of Lugar's position as the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, his speech was a considered a blow to the administration as it tries to shore up sagging political support for the unpopular war.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Where we fight is a matter of expediency?

The op-ed below illustrates why semantics (i.e. rhetoric) and framing the debate are so important to decision-making: Using the wrong words to describe things puts the wrong emotions, images and associations in our minds, leading us to make very bad decisions.

Are we indeed "at war" with al Qaeda? I've argued that we are not. At least not according to any traditional definition of warfare. Yet "war" still seems like the most suitable term available, since military combat operations are involved, and because we are fighting an organized enemy determined to kill us.

As I've also argued, we should treat the fight against al Qaeda with the seriousness of a war, but we should not call it a war, even if we think it is one. Why? Because our enemy al Qaeda – who is inferior to us by almost any metric – wants a big war. Their problem, operationally, is that they can't bring a war to us. Al Qaeda can only try to provoke us into starting a war in a Muslim country sympathetic (or potentially sympathetic) to its cause, hence its 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately, we chomped on their bait. Since then al Qaeda has had us where it wants us: mired in two Islamic countries fighting counter-insurgency operations, where enemy casualties, seizing territory, and other standard metrics of victory in war are nearly irrelevant.

Operationally, it makes almost no difference to al Qaeda where they fight us, as long as that country has a Muslim population. Nor does al Qaeda care if the ensuing war destroys that country or its people. But we are America; we are different; and we should care.

And let's be honest: We can never stomp out al Qaeda completely. Not as long as all it takes to be a member of al Qaeda is an Internet connection, a Koran, some weapons or homemade chemicals, and a lot of anger.

Therefore, we should focus on limiting al Qaeda's ability to attack the U.S. homeland, which I think we have done, somewhat, since 9/11. And concurrently, we must de-legitimize terrorism as a form of jihad in the Muslim world. We can start doing that by taking the moral high road, and practicing what we preach: respect for democracy and self-determination, (even if people vote for bad leaders); respect for international law; respect for personal dignity, regardless of nationality or religion; and most important, we must stop invading or occupying Muslim countries.

It's impossible to start a dialogue with Muslims when they feel under attack. Their religion requires them to come to the aid and defense of other Muslims. Which is why bin Laden was overjoyed when we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. We shouldn't provide any more fuel to al Qaeda's fiery rhetoric about America's plans to kill and enslave Muslims. We shouldn't jump at the chance to play the role of bloodthirsty villain and callous bully. We shouldn't willingly pose for any more of al Qaeda's "Allah Wants YOU" recruitment posters.

We're smarter than that, right? Then come on!

Where We Fight

On which battlefields will we wage war against al Qaeda?
By Cliff May
June 22, 2007 |

America is at war with al Qaeda — on that surely we can agree — and we know that al Qaeda has bases in Pakistan. In fact, it is probable that Osama bin Laden resides at one of those bases. But we can't fight al Qaeda in Pakistan because Pakistan is an ally, and America does not violate the territorial integrity of its allies.

Al Qaeda is active in Gaza, according to Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence. Al Qaeda supports Hamas which has just waged a bloody — and successful — civil war against Fatah, its Palestinian rival. But we're not about to invade Gaza in pursuit of al Qaeda. Even Israel, which withdrew from Gaza two years ago, is not eager to return there.

In Lebanon, Fatah al-Islam, which is fighting the Lebanese government, is believed to be linked to al Qaeda. But the last time U.S. troops were in Lebanon, they were attacked by suicide bombers dispatched by Hezbollah, a terrorist organization directed by the regime in Tehran. There is no way the U.S. is going to send troops into Lebanon again.

Groups linked to al Qaeda are in Somalia. We have supported Ethiopian troops fighting there. But a serious effort by Americans against al Qaeda in Somalia seems unlikely.

Al Qaeda cells operate in Europe. But it is problematic for American operatives to kill or capture terrorists there: To do so sparks allegations from the "human rights community" and the media about violations of international law, torture and secret prisons. Also, as has happened in Italy, it can lead to criminal prosecutions of Americans thought to be involved. So America's ability to fight al Qaeda in Europe is limited.

There are probably al Qaeda cells in the U.S. too. One hopes the FBI is monitoring them. But until the members of these cells commit crimes, there is not much that can be done. On what basis could Mohammed Atta, ringmaster of the 9/11/01 hijackers, have been arrested on 9/10/01?

What's more, some judges and legal activists are now insisting that even combatants illegally in the U.S. are entitled to all the rights enjoyed by American citizens. If this view prevails, fighting al Qaeda within the U.S. will become even harder.

That leaves only two places where we know for sure al Qaeda and its associates are operating actively — and very lethally — and where the U.S. can send its best warriors against them with the approval of the local, elected governments. Those places are, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan.

But many politicians, looking at polls showing Americans fatigued by a war that was not supposed to be so prolonged or arduous, now favor withdrawing from Iraq — retreating from the battlefield al Qaeda calls the central front in their jihad against us.

And does anyone seriously believe that, after leaving Iraq, we would not soon exit Afghanistan as well? How many suicide bombings of police academies, market places and mosques would be required to get us out — slaughters that the major media will, as usual, blame not on the killers but on the "foreign occupation"?

If this is where members of Congress want to go, they ought to be honest about where it leads: Al Qaeda will still be waging a war against us, but we will no longer be waging much of a war against al Qaeda.

To be sure, the war we've been fighting is not the war Americans signed up for when President Bush made the decision to enter Iraq four years ago. In the 20th century, international conflicts took the form of great European armies clashing. In the 21st century, Pentagon strategists thought conflicts would consist of short, decisive battles with small, well-trained American forces wielding high-tech weapons to produce "shock and awe" and break the enemies' will to fight.

Our enemies had other plans. They decided to fight from the shadows — kidnapping, torturing and mass-murdering whatever victims are at hand, relying on key groups in the West to blame the carnage not on them but on us, thereby eroding our will to fight.

Today's wars, military analyst Tom Donnelly has written, are "like the frontier fighting of the 19th century — in the American West but also in the far-flung outposts of the British Empire … the prime directive for U.S. land forces is neither deployability, nor mobility, nor lethality, but sustainability."

[Let's recall how the U.S. Army and the British Empire won their colonial wars of the 19th century: by enslaving, imprisoning, or killing every man, woman, and child who might be associated with the enemy. In other words, ethnic cleansing. "Sustainability" is just a euphemism for old school atrocity – because that's what it will take to subdue Afghan and Iraqi nationalists who resist U.S. occupation. – J]

And right now, sustainability appears to be the capability most lacking — not among America's troops in the field but among the political classes in Washington. Almost a decade ago, Osama bin Laden said that Americans were "unprepared to fight long wars." Secure in his Pakistani redoubt, he must be pleased that his analysis is proving so uncannily accurate.

How Cheney froze out the EPA on global warming

The more I read about Cheney, the more frightened I am. This is a long article; below is just an excerpt.

The Secret Campaign of President Bush's Administration To Deny Global Warming

Posted Jun 20, 2007 12:49 PM


[Christine Todd] Whitman should have had her doubts. Prior to joining the Cabinet, she sought personal assurance from Bush that the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] would be able to call its own shots without deferring to the CEQ - the Council on Environmental Quality, a policy arm of the White House. As Whitman recalls it, Bush made no effort to mask his bureaucratic ignorance. "What's CEQ?" he asked blankly.

Cheney took full advantage of the president's cluelessness, bringing the CEQ into his own portfolio. "The environment and energy issues were really turned over to him from the beginning," Whitman says. The CEQ became Cheney's shadow EPA, with industry calling the shots. To head up the council, Cheney installed James Connaughton, a former lobbyist for industrial polluters, who once worked to help General Electric and ARCO skirt responsibility for their Superfund waste sites.

Industry swiftly took advantage of its new friend in the White House. In a fax sent to the CEQ on February 6th, 2001 - two weeks after Bush took office - ExxonMobil's top lobbyist, Randy Randol, demanded a housecleaning of the scientists in charge of studying global warming. Exxon urged CEQ to dump Robert Watson, who chaired the IPCC, along with Rosina Bierbaum and Mike MacCracken, who had coordinated the National Assessment.

Exxon's wish was the CEQ's command. According to an internal e-mail obtained by Rolling Stone, Connaughton's first order of business - even before his nomination was made public - was to write his White House colleagues-to-be from his law firm of Sidley & Austin. He echoed Exxon's call that Bierbaum, the acting director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, be "dealt." In the end, each of the scientists on Exxon's hit list was replaced. "It was clear there was a strong lobby and activity against me by some in the energy industry - especially ExxonMobil," says Watson."

Deadline for surge's progress already forgotten

They'll Break the Bad News on 9/11
By Frank Rich | New York Times | June 24, 2007

By this late date we should know the fix is in when the White House's top factotums fan out on the Sunday morning talk shows singing the same lyrics, often verbatim, from the same hymnal of spin. The pattern was set way back on Sept. 8, 2002, when in simultaneous appearances three cabinet members and the vice president warned darkly of Saddam's aluminum tubes. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," said Condi Rice, in a scripted line. The hard sell of the war in Iraq — the hyping of a (fictional) nuclear threat to America — had officially begun.

America wasn't paying close enough attention then. We can't afford to repeat that blunder now. Last weekend the latest custodians of the fiasco, our new commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and our new ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, took to the Sunday shows with two messages we'd be wise to heed.

The first was a confirmation of recent White House hints that the long-promised September pivot point for judging the success of the "surge" was inoperative. That deadline had been asserted as recently as April 24 by President Bush, who told Charlie Rose that September was when we'd have "a pretty good feel" whether his policy "made sense." On Sunday General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker each downgraded September to merely a "snapshot" of progress in Iraq. "Snapshot," of course, means "Never mind!"

The second message was more encoded and more ominous. Again using similar language, the two men said that in September they would explain what Mr. Crocker called "the consequences" and General Petraeus "the implications" of any alternative "courses of action" to their own course in Iraq. What this means in English is that when the September "snapshot" of the surge shows little change in the overall picture, the White House will say that "the consequences" of winding down the war would be even more disastrous: surrender, defeat, apocalypse now. So we must stay the surge. Like the war's rollout in 2002, the new propaganda offensive to extend and escalate the war will be exquisitely timed to both the anniversary of 9/11 and a high-stakes Congressional vote (the Pentagon appropriations bill).

General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker wouldn't be sounding like the Bobbsey Twins and laying out this coordinated rhetorical groundwork were they not already anticipating the surge's failure. Both spoke on Sunday of how (in General Petraeus's variation on the theme) they had to "show that the Baghdad clock can indeed move a bit faster, so that you can put a bit of time back on the Washington clock." The very premise is nonsense. Yes, there is a Washington clock, tied to Republicans' desire to avoid another Democratic surge on Election Day 2008. But there is no Baghdad clock. It was blown up long ago and is being no more successfully reconstructed than anything else in Iraq.

When Mr. Bush announced his "new way forward" in January, he offered a bouquet of promises, all unfulfilled today. "Let the Iraqis lead" was the policy's first bullet point, but in the initial assault on insurgents now playing out so lethally in Diyala Province, Iraqi forces were kept out of the fighting altogether. They were added on Thursday: 500 Iraqis, following 2,500 Americans. The notion that these Shiite troops might "hold" this Sunni area once the Americans leave is an opium dream. We're already back fighting in Maysan, a province whose security was officially turned over to Iraqi authorities in April.

In his January prime-time speech announcing the surge, Mr. Bush also said that "America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced." More fiction. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's own political adviser, Sadiq al-Rikabi, says it would take "a miracle" to pass the legislation America wants. Asked on Monday whether the Iraqi Parliament would stay in Baghdad this summer rather than hightail it to vacation, Tony Snow was stumped.

Like Mr. Crocker and General Petraeus, Mr. Snow is on script for trivializing September as judgment day for the surge, saying that by then we'll only "have a little bit of metric" to measure success. This administration has a peculiar metric system. On Thursday, Peter Pace, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the spike in American troop deaths last week the "wrong metric" for assessing the surge's progress. No doubt other metrics in official reports this month are worthless too, as far as the non-reality-based White House is concerned. The civilian casualty rate is at an all-time high; the April-May American death toll is a new two-month record; overall violence in Iraq is up; only 146 out of 457 Baghdad neighborhoods are secure; the number of internally displaced Iraqis has quadrupled since January.

Last week Iraq rose to No. 2 in Foreign Policy magazine's Failed State Index, barely nosing out Sudan. It might have made No. 1 if the Iraqi health ministry had not stopped providing a count of civilian casualties. Or if the Pentagon were not withholding statistics on the increase of attacks on the Green Zone. Apparently the White House is working overtime to ensure that the September "snapshot" of Iraq will be an underexposed blur. David Carr of The Times discovered that the severe Pentagon blackout on images of casualties now extends to memorials for the fallen in Iraq, even when a unit invites press coverage.
Americans and Iraqis know the truth anyway. The question now is: What will be the new new way forward? For the administration, the way forward will include, as always, attacks on its critics' patriotism. We got a particularly absurd taste of that this month when Harry Reid was slammed for calling General Pace incompetent and accusing General Petraeus of exaggerating progress on the ground.

General Pace's record speaks for itself; the administration declined to go to the mat in the Senate for his reappointment. As for General Petraeus, who recently spoke of "astonishing signs of normalcy" in Baghdad, he is nothing if not consistent. He first hyped "optimism" and "momentum" in Iraq in an op-ed article in September 2004.

Come September 2007, Mr. Bush will offer his usual false choices. We must either stay his disastrous course in eternal pursuit of "victory" or retreat to the apocalypse of "precipitous withdrawal." But by the latest of the president's ever-shifting definitions of victory, we've already lost. "Victory will come," he says, when Iraq "is stable enough to be able to be an ally in the war on terror and to govern itself and defend itself." The surge, which he advertised as providing "breathing space" for the Iraqi "unity" government to get its act together, is tipping that government into collapse. As Vali Nasr, author of "The Shia Revival," has said, the new American strategy of arming Sunni tribes is tantamount to saying the Iraqi government is irrelevant.

For the Bush White House, the real definition of victory has become "anything they can get away with without taking blame for defeat," said the retired Army Gen. William Odom, a national security official in the Reagan and Carter administrations, when I spoke with him recently. The plan is to run out the Washington clock between now and Jan. 20, 2009, no matter the cost.

Precipitous withdrawal is also a chimera, since American manpower, materiel and bases, not to mention our new Vatican City-sized embassy, can't be drawn down overnight. The only real choice, as everyone knows, is an orderly plan for withdrawal that will best serve American interests. The real debate must be over what that plan is. That debate can't happen as long as the White House gets away with falsifying reality, sliming its opponents and sowing hyped fears of Armageddon. The threat that terrorists in civil-war-torn Iraq will follow us home if we leave is as bogus as Saddam's mushroom clouds. The Qaeda that actually attacked us on 9/11 still remains under the tacit protection of our ally, Pakistan.

As General Odom says, the endgame will start "when a senior senator from the president's party says no," much as William Fulbright did to L.B.J. during Vietnam. That's why in Washington this fall, eyes will turn once again to John Warner, the senior Republican with the clout to give political cover to other members of his party who want to leave Iraq before they're forced to evacuate Congress. In September, it will be nearly a year since Mr. Warner said that Iraq was "drifting sideways" and that action would have to be taken "if this level of violence is not under control and this government able to function."

Mr. Warner has also signaled his regret that he was not more outspoken during Vietnam. "We kept surging in those years," he told The Washington Post in January, as the Iraq surge began. "It didn't work." Surely he must recognize that his moment for speaking out about this war is overdue. Without him, the Democrats don't have the votes to force the president's hand. With him, it's a slam dunk. The best way to honor the sixth anniversary of 9/11 will be to at last disarm a president who continues to squander countless lives in the names of those voiceless American dead.