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January 3, 2007

The unsleeping eye
Posted by Teresa at 08:32 AM *

As mumblingly reported by the NYTimes, and more sharply observed by The Talking Dog, Bush has claimed that he was asleep at nine in the evening, Crawford time, when Saddam Hussein underwent his botched execution.

That’s a big change from Bush crowing on national TV three years ago about Saddam being captured. This was supposed to be the Big Bad, Mr. “He tried to kill my Daddy.” You’d think Bush could stay up past an eight-year-old’s bedtime to observe the occasion of him getting offed. Not so, according to the NYTimes: “Before the hanging was carried out in Baghdad, Mr. Bush went to sleep here at his ranch and was not roused when the news came.”

I don’t see any reason why I should believe that.

I think reports and footage of the event were rushed to Bush in Crawford. What he learned at that point was that he’d lost control of the way Saddam Hussein’s death was going to be presented to the world. Someone had sneaked a cellphone into the execution and recorded the whole thing live. It didn’t match the preferred version.

An execution has to be stage-managed if it’s going to send the right message. There needs to be an appearance of impartial professionalism and control to give it that air of inevitability, and make the executioner seem like the business end of law and order, not just some guy who’s about to kill some other guy. If everything goes smoothly, the stunned and depersonalized prisoner will have only one role available to him, that of a man crushed under the weight of the law, in a ceremony which engages only with the termination of his physical life. Our sympathies, if any, will be strictly abstract.

Needless to say, Saddam Hussein’s execution didn’t meet those standards.

They tried. The official video was silent, and the initial reports described Saddam Hussein as a broken, terrified man who went quietly to the gallows. The cellphone version blows that apart. It’s raucous. You can hear the executioners and their claquers jeering at Saddam, and chanting partisan political slogans. He’s not crushed, he’s Saddam Hussein, and he exploits the opening they give him. Not only does he maintain his dignity and composure—he refused to have his eyes covered—but he definitely gets off all the best lines. Of course, it’s not that hard to come off like a martyr when your executioners sound like a lynch mob.

That’s got to have chapped Bush’s ass. He’s into breaking people who’ve opposed him. But that’s not the cellphone video’s most disastrous feature. Here’s Glenn Greenwald’s description:

It really is striking, and a potent sign of just how absurd is our ongoing occupation, that the “Iraqi Government” which we are fighting to empower could not even conduct this execution with a pretense of legality or concern for civilized norms—the executioners were not wearing uniforms but leather jackets and murderers’ masks, conducting themselves not as disciplined law enforcement officers but as what they are (death squad members and sectarian street thugs).

And the most revealing, and most disturbing, detail is that Saddam’s executioners—in between playground insults spat at a tied-up Saddam—chanted their religious-like allegiance to Moktada Al Sadr, the Shiite militia leader whom we are told is the Great Enemy of the U.S., the One We Now Must Kill. This noble and just event for which we are responsible was carried out by a brutal, murderous, lawless militia.

And there’s the problem. Bush must have been furious. Killing Saddam Hussein would have been one last photo op, one more chance to claim some degree of success in Iraq. Instead, he got a rushed, illegal execution, timed to be an affront to Sunnis, that’s given a boost to the insurgents, exacerbated sectarian conflicts, and made us look bad. Again. (Nobody’s buying the line that this was the Iraqi government’s blunder. Everyone figures we had essential control of the situation. They’re right.)

This is happening just as Bush is getting ready to announce his firmed-up plans for his latest project: blowing off the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations in favor of massively escalating the war:

The BBC was told by a senior administration source that the speech setting out changes in Mr Bush’s Iraq policy is likely to come in the middle of next week.

Its central theme will be sacrifice.

The speech, the BBC has been told, involves increasing troop numbers.

Since I have an extraordinarily long memory, stretching back for weeks, I remember that when he first came up with this proposal, the idea was that we’d be using these additional troops to make one more big push. After that, the idea was that they’d be used to stabilize our hold on Baghdad. Now their purpose is going to change from training Iraqi forces (I must have missed that one), to providing security for beleaguered Iraqi civilians.

This is classic Bushwah: he wants something, so we get treated to one reason after another for why we should give it to him, with never an apology or explanation for the changes. All we can tell for sure is that he wants to dump 30,000 more troops into Iraq, and he’s lying to us about why he wants to do it.

(As I’ve said elsewhere, I believe his actual reasoning is that if we keep piling on more people and resources in Iraq, there’s some slight chance that he’ll get what he wants, which is to win a war, or at least displace its loss past the end of his administration; whereas if we get our guys out before the place goes up in flames, he won’t. So what if this longshot gamble costs hundreds or thousands more lives? None of them are his.)

This plan isn’t prospering. For one thing, the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously think it’s a lousy idea. For another, he isn’t getting support from Republican legislators, many of whom have noticed that (1.) the war is a fiasco; (2.) their constituents don’t support it; (3.) the number of our dead just hit 3,000; and (4.) a lot of Republicans took a fall in the 2006 elections.

And now, just as Saddam was taking the long drop—a natural moment to argue that we should finish the job by sending in a bunch more troops to take out al-Sadr, the other Big Bad who’s oppressing the Iraqi people—all these supposed officials of the government we’ve been propping up are chanting “Muqtada al-Sadr.” Bush can kiss that argument goodbye. And if we withdraw from Iraq instead of mounting Bush’s massive escalation, he won’t be able to avoid being credited with the loss.

That’s why I think this one finally got to him. Unlike any of our previous fiascos in Iraq, Saddam’s execution actually cost Bush something personally. I figure he told his staff that if anyone phoned, they should tell them he’d already gone to bed.

Comments on The unsleeping eye:
#1 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 09:01 AM:

The execution of Saddam was always bound to be an amoral farce. How could it be otherwise, under the tender ministrations of the president who taunted Karla Faye Tucker to the grave?

U.S. military deaths in Iraq have reached 3,000. For what? Saddam is dead. George W. Bush has his "mememto," Saddam's pistol, which he keeps in the White house study. Saddam's dead and so are 3,000 American troops. Can we bring the rest home now? How much longer will this charade continue, now that it's arch-villain has been disposed of? To what end? Oh, I forgot -- it's about democracy. How about if we just call it "mission accomplished' and get the hell out of there?

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 09:13 AM:

Already gone to bed, or already passed out drunk? Which do you think is more likely?

===========

As may be:

What did Saddam do that got him executed?

Back in 1982, before Rumsfeld shook Saddam's hand and sold him nerve gas, something happened in the town of Dujail:

1) There was an assassination attempt against Saddam in 1982.

2) Immediately after Saddam sent his forces into the town.

3) Thousands were arrested.

4) 148 were killed.

5) Some were tortured and raped.

6) The town's groves were destroyed.

7) The inhabitants of the town were displaced.

Now compare with Bush. In 1993 something happened in Kuwait:

1) In 1993 there was an assassination attempt against George H. W. Bush.

2) Ten years later George W. Bush sent his forces into Iraq. ("After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad.")

3) Thousands were arrested.

4) Around 600,000 have been killed.

5) Some were tortured and raped.

6) Many towns' groves have been destroyed.

7) Hundreds of thousands are displaced.

That isn't to say that Saddam wasn't a very bad man, but his major crimes (gassing the Kurds, for example) weren't what he was executed for.

#3 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 09:23 AM:

And that is what pisses me off, James. The bastard commited real crimes that deserved punishment, including ecological genocide; and this... this...this...ridiculous foolishness...this...imbecile blunder...has made that murderous SOB into a some kind of a resistance hero.
I keep thinking of Talleyrand's famous cynicism: this is worse than a crime, it's a blunder. Is there anything at all these people do well besides funneling cash to various and sundry favored pockets?

#4 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 09:30 AM:

Without the moral high-ground, it was even more important that the execution of Saddam Hussein be carried out in a professional manner. However thin the legal pretense, the message that was intended was that Hussein's behavior was unacceptable and must be punished. The reason that the dignity of the prisoner should be preserved is not for the prisoner's sake. It is so that the actions of the state are clearly contrasted with the actions of the condemned.

Execution, if carried out in public, or if captured on a cel phone camera, is dramatically visual. Hussein's execution was visually similar to the various videos that terrorists have sent over the years documenting their "execution" of hostages. It was murder when they did it. The video makes it clear that it was murder when we did it, also.

Oh, and did anybody else keep on getting flashbacks to _The Shadow of the Torturer_ with derisive commentary by Severian?

#5 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 09:35 AM:

Just a side-note: in households (like mine) where wake-up time is before 6 a.m., staying up till 10 p.m. is something of a luxury -- that's why I miss a lot of good shows on PBS. As for Shrub, maybe he had to get up early to feed the cows or something (yeah, right).

#6 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 09:53 AM:

it gets worse

and we're going to keep "sacrificing" soldiers until people like this fix the civil war?

#7 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 10:00 AM:

Indeed. The crowd of witnesses, executioners, and bystanders chanting "Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!" when Muqtada al Sadr (head of the Mehdi Army) is the person against whom this planned "surge" is aimed, makes it clear that Bush has once again blundered.

If there's anything you can predict about Bush's actions, it's that they'll be stupid and counterproductive. Whatever he announces this coming week, you can be sure of those two things: Stupid. And counter-productive.

But, now, did Saddam in fact try to kill his dad?

There's some doubt, based on the 2004 report of the Iraq Survey Group (made with access to Saddam, to his closest advisers, and to Iraq records). As stated here (and apologies for the length of the quote):

But a closer look at the 11-year-old plot, particularly in light of the findings by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), the special team of experts that spent 15 months investigating Baghdad's WMD programs, that they were all dismantled in 1991, shortly after the end of the Gulf War, may now be warranted, especially if Bush is still laboring under the impression that Saddam ''tried to kill (his) dad''.

While the ISG's 960-page report, known as the Duelfer Report, does not address the assassination attempt, its chronology and depiction of Hussein's worldview -- adduced through lengthy interviews by one Arabic-speaking FBI investigator and other interviews of Saddam's closest advisers -- make the notion that the Iraqi dictator tried to kill Bush all the more implausible.

For one thing, Saddam, according to the report, was convinced that the CIA had thoroughly penetrated his regime and thus would know not only that he had dismantled his WMD (which the CIA apparently did not), but also would know about his plans for important intelligence operations. Under those circumstances, it is hard to understand why he would then order an assassination attempt on the former U.S. president.

Even more interesting, according to the report, was Saddam's ''complicated'' view of the U.S. While he derived ''prestige'' from being an enemy of the U.S., he also considered it to be ''equally prestigious for him to be an ally of the United States -- and regular entreaties were made during the last decade to explore this alternative''.

Indeed, beginning already in 1991, according to the report, ''very senior Iraqis close to the President made proposals through intermediaries for dialogue with Washington.''

''Baghdad offered flexibility on many issues, including offers to assist in the Israel- Palestine conflict. Moreover, in informal discussions, senior officials allowed that, if Iraq had a security relationship with the United States, it might be inclined to dispense with WMD programs and/or ambitions,'' it added.

The report even concluded that Iraq was willing to be Washington's ''best friend in the region bar none''.

The fact that the U.S., under Bush Sr. and Clinton, did not show interest was apparently a source of bewilderment to the Iraqi leader, according to the Duelfer report.

If Saddam had tried to kill the ex-president, he probably would not have been bewildered by Washington's lack of interest, but, by all accounts, he was.

''From the report, Saddam seems to be not a madman, but someone who would understand very well the consequences of an assassination'', notes Gregory Thielmann, a former senior State Department analyst who specialized in Iraq's WMD programs

''If his top priority was getting the (UN economic) sanctions lifted (as indicated by the report), then it doesn't follow that he would try to kill the president of the United States,'' added Thielmann.

You can read the entire Duelfer Report here, to see if that was a fair summary. The most relevant sections are Regime Strategic Intent and Regime Strategic Intent Annexes.

The article referenced above makes one other interesting point: of the eleven Iraqis and three Kuwaitis who were tried and convicted for the assasination attempt against Bush senior, only one said that Bush was the target, and he recanted his confession during the trial, claiming that it was obtained under torture.

So it appears possible that "he tried to kill my dad" wasn't true either.

#8 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 10:16 AM:

Mad King George is upset that some video proves he's walking around wearing no clothes.

#9 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 10:23 AM:

This WAS supposed to be the "one thing" that Bush got right. We botched the occupation, They didn't welcome us as heroes. They didn't turn to democracy. Afghanistan is falling apart. Everything Bush has done in every single setting is complete and utter crap.

The execution of Saddam was going to be the one grand feather in Bush's cap.

And once again, he f-ed up even that. Bush's presidency will go down in history as such:

a theft wrapped in a blunder inside an arrogance.


#10 ::: David Dvorkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 10:41 AM:

Americablog has an interesting post today that argues that there are two videos, and the second one is of professional quality, not something from a cellphone.

#11 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 10:43 AM:

I have heard that Shrub 'goes to bed' around 8:30 or 9pm, and gets up about 6 or so. Whether he's actually asleep at 9 is a whole 'nother question, but it appears that he gets his full eight hours a day, plus whatever in naps. If any part of him is fatigued, it's his brain, which isn't used to doing anything elective. [/snark]

#12 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Someone please give me good evidence that Bush is not an agent of the Iranian Government. Please? I don't want to be in tinfoil-hat mode.

#13 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 10:53 AM:

I don't really want to say something glib about the US having one chance to do something right but dropping the ball yet again, but was there ever any reason to believe that this wouldn't end this way?

In the past few weeks I've seen a couple of things that lead me to the conclusion that the qualities of this execution are the governmental mirror of corporate culture driven as it is by power point slides and “smart” goals. There are no handy units by which the trial or the execution can be measured other than guilty/innocent and alive/dead. So he’s guilty and dead. Goals met. Annual bonus in the bag.

It’s not like it would have been difficult to try him for crimes against humanity for which he was certainly guilty, find him guilty in a trial with which no reasonable man could find fault, and execute him in a way that said, “There are crimes so barbaric for which society must reserve its ultimate punishment and this man is guilty of those crimes.” But that would look really verbose on the goals document. Guilty? Check. Dead? Check. More thought probably went into picking the fonts and the background for the slide deck.

It is as if we looked at the story where the Soviet shoe factory cranks out 80,000 pairs of women’s size four shoes because 80,000 pairs of shoes is their goal and they didn't have enough leather for anything else and said, "Now that's the way to run a culture!"

#14 ::: Andy Vance ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 11:03 AM:

He fell asleep reading Camus, natch.

#15 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 11:10 AM:

BSD... Someone please give me good evidence that Bush is not an agent of the Iranian Government.

I think he really works for K.A.O.S.

#16 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 11:29 AM:

I think he really works for K.A.O.S.

Hence the bumbling! It's all becoming clear.

#17 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Stochastic Logic. That's the title of the book about the Bush Administration.

#18 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 11:35 AM:

A semi-random collection of semi-random thoughts in honor of our semi-president:

1) He was in bed, bemoaning for the umpteenth time the fact that his presidency doesn't have the "reset" button that his life used to have.

2) Regarding the comments about the charges he was tried for, I read something recently (I thought it was in the sidelights, actually, but maybe I'm mistaken) that suggested he was tried on those charges because investigation of events subsequent to that period would be ... dicey. Apparently many of the crimes after that point would be/could be cast in a light that we helped the crimes happen, so the decision to charge him on the earlier crimes was to "protect" the country and the administration.

3) I teach high school. Some of my students have been saying one of the videos shows the hanging itself was botched -- that Hussein's head was nearly ripped off and his body was hanging by a scrap of flesh. Is this true?

4) As our hostess says, George III doesn't care. He wants what he wants -- I don't think he's clear himself on what it is. But until he finds it and decides he's happy and satisfied, we aren't going anywhere.

5) General rant: When the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared that gay marriage could not be disallowed under the existing Mass Constitution, opponents complained about "liberal judges legislating from the bench."
When the legislature recently recessed without addressing a citizen petition to change the constitution to "pro-descrimination" (I love governor elect Deval) and the Supreme Court declar4ed that unconstitutional and demanded they add the issue back to the agenda for the new legislature opponents speak of "the Supreme Court that hears the people." And yet, it's the same court! As always, it all depends on whose ox is being gored.

#19 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 11:44 AM:

More troops now will only work if you're willing to push the big reset button. We already called off a search for two kidnapped troops because it upset somebody in al-Sadr's camp. I know what I would have said to those orders had I been the commander on the ground. They could have started the court martial right after I finished my search, before that I would still be working on adding charges.

Without taking the huge political hit of telling the Iraqis, "Hey, you know those three elections you had. Well, we weren't serious about that transfer of power, psych! Do over!" It's not going to work.

"Okay, everybody. (clap, clap) That was a good dress rehearsal. There were a couple of flubbed lines, missed cues and some bad entrances. But we all have got it together this time. Break a leg. Cue the music, tanks, and women with flowers."

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 11:55 AM:

3) I teach high school. Some of my students have been saying one of the videos shows the hanging itself was botched -- that Hussein's head was nearly ripped off and his body was hanging by a scrap of flesh. Is this true?

No, it isn't true.

#21 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 11:57 AM:

Some thoughts:

I firmly believe that Junior Evil had a live video feed from the execution. If there's a "professional quality" video out there, it's from that feed. The reason to claim that he was already asleep when the execution occured is because even Bush's half-assed PR team realizes that it would look really bad to admit that he was watching.

When Bush starts talking about "sacrifices", what we need to understand is that he's talking about is the kind of sacrifice that the Aztec priests were performing.

And we must remember that the Iraqis were taught the fine points of deathsquad-related-activities by Ambassador Negroponte, who specializes in it.

#22 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 11:57 AM:

#12 Bush is not an agent of the Iranian Government.

Because he's an agent of North Korea?

#23 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 12:15 PM:

*If* the US was not in charge and the decision to rush the execution was made by the Iraqis, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the decision-makers in the Iraqi government want the sectarian violence to get worse, as an excuse for "cracking down" on (eg, murdering) the Sunnis.

I find that to be a far more disturbing thought than the thought that the US screwed up the timing.

#24 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Gwynne Dyer used to say, speaking about nuclear war, that there's nothing on earth worth blowing the earth up for.

The practical problem with Darth Cheney's probable plan -- to cause such a complete change in government that the existing Iraqi laws forbidding foreign control of oil production were rendered void -- is that it's rapidly approaching the point where there isn't that much oil; no conceivable amount of oil revenue could pay for this.

Bush, Cheney, et al wouldn't care, if they got the oil -- looting the public purse isn't something about which they've got many qualms -- but it's looking more and more likely that they're not going to get the oil.

You want to talk about serious, personal failure? Try "not getting the oil". Consider the range and magnitude of freaking out among people who are, at best, utterly amoral and totally self-centered. Consider who they think failed.

Of course Incurious George is a wee small bit put out.

#25 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 01:08 PM:

it's looking more and more likely that they're not going to get the oil

Nobody is going to get the oil. The fields are ruined. Have been for a while. This is the oil equivalent of the salinization of the Fertile Crescent.

#26 ::: David Dvorkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 01:10 PM:

He fell asleep reading Camus, natch.

Oh, that's good!

#27 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 01:22 PM:

TomB --

There's alleged to be a considerable amount of untapped light sweet crude there, somewhere out in the Western Desert. Whether this is delusion, suspicion, or a confirmed reserve I have no idea.

It would be very interesting to have the minutes from those energy strategy meetings VP Cheney held with a number of oil company executives, so we might know which they thought it was.

#28 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Saddam Hussein's capture, trial, and execution were important enough to spend multiple years planning, killing people for, putting other people at risk for, destroying the infrastructures of at least two countries for, spending billions of dollars on, and eliminating civil liberties in the pursuit of...but not staying up until 9 pm for.

And his PR people thought this made him look better than the alternative.

#29 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 01:51 PM:

Must of had the same pr guy as his dad.

Just before the bombs began to drop in the PG war...Bush sr was reported to have already gone to bed before the war officially started.

This shocked me as young teen...and I still carry it with me as the height of stupidity today.

No ideas are original.

#30 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 02:07 PM:

As a certain German philosopher remarked 154 years ago: "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

Nuremberg was the ending of one tragedy. The trial and execution of Saddam, it turns out, was a gigantic farce.

Meanwhile, the Emperor Georgius Augustulus is busily trying on different cloaks to cover up his intellectual vacuity and moral nakedness. Last month it was the cloak of Harry Truman (a man who possessed a moral centre, unlike the current Oval One); more recently, it's been Gerald Ford whose dignity W has been talking up.

Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, a brute, a man who had not the least compunction about torturing and murdering his enemies, including people who had made the mistake of marrying into his family. That W was able to ensure that he went to his death like a man, in full possession of his dignity, says nothing about Saddam but a hell of a lot about W.

#31 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 02:27 PM:

Bush is an idiot and coward, but he does regularly go to bed at 9pm or so. It's frequently reported locally, and even the gossip columns comment on how their parties tend to end much earlier than with other presidents.

#32 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 02:52 PM:

Word is coming out that there has been an arrest regarding this botch -- of the person who took the video. Who says that the Iraqi government has not learned from us? It seems to me that they have the Bush process down cold:

  • Announce that everything went perfectly to plan, with carefully edited evidence in support.
  • Declare indignantly (when the truth leaks out) that you are shocked, shocked to find out that you were inadvertently in error.
  • Vow to get to the bottom of this mess and punish whoever was responsible.
  • Instead, concentrate on finding whoever leaked the inconvenient truth.
  • Allow the guilty parties to escape punishment (or even identification).
  • Pin the blame on an innocent party that you dislike for some reason or other.
And to think that there are cynical people who think we have not been sucessful in bringing American-style government to Iraq.

#33 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 02:56 PM:

#14 He fell asleep reading Camus, natch.

And his last thoughts before drifting off: "Mm, yeah, I think I could kill an Arab...Huh? What? Zzzz..."

#34 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 02:57 PM:

While it would be rewarding to the Cheney administration to sell off the Iraqi oil to the highest Western bidder (they have tried at least twice) keeping it in the ground is a very, very close second place. Exxon-Mobil is worth a trillion dollars more than they were in 2001, just due to the increased value of their reserves.

On to Saddam. One is reminded of the recent adage that Bush will screw things up more than you thought possible, even when you allow for the fact that you know he screws everything up. I have no idea what's going to go wrong with the expected "surge", but just thinking about it makes me queasy.

#35 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 03:02 PM:

It sounds like the Surge is a done deal.

Remember: If it all goes terribly wrong, it's the Iraqis' fault.

#36 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Fragano @ 30

the Emperor Georgius Augustulus is busily trying on different cloaks to cover up his intellectual vacuity and moral nakedness

Very well said, although I think vice versa may be slightly more accurate: everyone has seen has intellectualism (or lack thereof), and his moral center is a vacuum.

#37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 03:26 PM:

Pedantic Peasant #36: I think you're right. Thanks.

#38 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 03:31 PM:

I've read that "surge" was chosen in part to avoid the word "escalation" due to the baggage the latter word has.

That being the case I resolve to use escalation whenever I have cause to discuss the further addition of soldiers to this disaster.

#39 ::: Andy Vance ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 03:31 PM:

It's funny 'cause it's twue! Reawwy!

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Remember: If it all goes terribly wrong, it's the Iraqis' fault.

And the Democrats' fault. Especially Bill Clinton.

(Shouldn't you say when it all goes terribly wrong?)

#41 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 03:33 PM:

Marilee@31: No matter what your regular routine is, there are some things you stay up for.

I, for example, would stay up late to:
1.) watch any member of the Bush administration on trial at The Hague, or
2.) sit in stupified delight as Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman, and Teresa played checkers in my living room.

Both of which have about the same probability of happening, but I can always dream.

#42 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 03:49 PM:

Aconite @ 41 --

Make sure you invite me over in either case.

#43 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 03:51 PM:

Aconite@41 : It seems more likely that you would find Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman, and Teresa playing Chinese checkers, that being a game that works with three players. Or maybe even something actually fun, like "Lord of the Fries."

#44 ::: Wakboth ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 04:00 PM:

#1 Saddam is dead. George W. Bush has his "mememto," Saddam's pistol, which he keeps in the White house study.

You know, that makes think about the "Scorched Earth" scene from Babylon 5, with President Clark...

#45 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Wonderful headline on the front page at the LA Times:
Bush to offer plan to balance budget
Saying that it took only two years to cut deficit in half, president says rest could be gone by 2012.

Delusional, all right. What deficit is he talking about having halved in two years? Where does he think the money will come from to retire it by 2012 (well after he's out of office, you'll have noticed)? The same place he's planning to get all those troops for his 'surge' (which I think is some place upon which he sits)?

#46 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 05:41 PM:

Claude Muncey@42: You betcha.

mjfgates@43: But I had to come up with something less likely, like plain checkers, because, you know, The Hague. Personally, I'd pull out my old copy of Pizza Wars, once I got over the happy shock of finding them on my doorstep. Neil would say something funny, and Teresa would topple over, and Joss would write a screenplay about it. And the world would be a better place for it all.

#47 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Aconite @ 46 --

Excellent. You make the popcorn, I'll bring the beer.

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 06:13 PM:

Surge?

The logistics are going to be a bitch.

More supplies to move around Iraq, needing more truck convoys and more escorts. The combat units will need their own transport, and I've seen reports that units in the USA are short of equipment just for training. You might be able to get a few more ton-miles out of the logistic system in Iraq, but you can't time-share tanks.

#49 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 06:28 PM:

One line post over at Think Progress:

If we surge and it doesn’t work,it’s hard to imagine what we do after that. — Fredrick Kagan, the “intellectual architect” of the Iraq escalation.
Scared silly yet?

#50 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 07:09 PM:

Seems to me Bush was always sleeping through executions in Texas, too, so it's not as if he hasn't had plenty of practice. I was wondering, in the aftermath of Saddam's grotesque execution by that gloating death squad, why there wasn't more commentary about George Bush's role the last time he was involved with executions, when he was the Death Penalty Decider for the state of Texas -- in which capacity he had been known to do his own share of gloating. Poking about on the Web, I came across an October 2000 piece about Bush published by Derrick Z. Jackson in the Boston Globe. It seems remarkably prescient now -- especially the title, "Bush's Death Factory."

#51 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 07:43 PM:

Scrabble. And you guys would have to play too.

#52 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 07:45 PM:

Scrabble?

*brightens up*

#53 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 08:58 PM:

I hope someone has been grabbing these "surge" documents from Fred Kagan, AEI, et al. as they're appearing. It looks like it's been evolving fairly rapidly, quite possibly to triangulate the political battle. (In particular, what I recall Fred saying back in Nov and Dec didn't include the word "surge" and he made it clear that he thought troops would have to be there for a long time, that a short-term push wouldn't cut it.)

That idea is not totally gone from the Dec. 17 powerpoint at AEI, but it looks to me like it's been downplayed. The intro now uses "surge", the front of the deck focuses on activities in the next few months, and it isn't until slide 42 that the full troop reckoning is made clear ("substantial increase 30k army and marine units per year for the next 2 years... increases must be permanent."), and I can't find any slides in teh deck with dollar costs for this, or any contingency plans for what we do if things go seriously awry or security isn't as easy as we expect.

The plan that I've seen evolve has always made some awfully optimistic assumptions about what we can and will do.
(Slide 36, for instance, just blithely says "restore essential services [such as] electricity immediately," without further detail, as if this weren't something that we'd been trying to do for the past nearly 4 years wihtout success. And securing Baghdad alone won't do it, as the NYT has made clear-- you have to secure hundreds of miles of power lines going *to* Baghdad, which is a much taller order.)

Now, if you've already decided that all other options other than staying in and finishing the job by yourself are off the table, it's easy to see why you're forced to be wildly optimistic about the all-in strategy. What other choice do you have, given those constraints? (And can you afford to think much about what happens if the "surge" doesn't work? If the Post article referenced in an earlier comment is accurate, then this is something the planners would rather not think about.)

I don't think we can necessarily change the planners' minds on working within that box. But I think we *can* ("we" being the American public and media) push them to be up-front and specific about the costs, risks, success criteria and assessment standard, and contingency plans of their proposal. They might not like having to answer questions along these lines, especially since, spelled out in full, I think it will become clear that they are unacceptable to the majority of the American people. But if you're intellectually honest-- and I believe the Kagans on the report are, even though I have much to disagree with on their proposal and general strategic outlook-- you have to provide some real answers to these sorts of questions if pressed for an answer.

Let's make sure that happens. At the very least, let's make sure that we have a record of what answers have been given, or not given, over time.

#55 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2007, 10:59 PM:

"(Nobody’s buying the line that this was the Iraqi government’s blunder. Everyone figures we had essential control of the situation. They’re right.)"

I'm not quite so sure. Maliki is far from a U.S. puppet. He stopped the search for the two missing soldiers, and if that's not a clearcut example of U.S. impotentence in Iraq I don't know what is. I don't find it too hard to believe that the execution was also done by Maliki behind their backs. The idea that everything, or even anything, that happens in Iraq is subject to U.S. control strikes me a somewhat laughable.

This is especially true given the manner of the execution--it seemed designed for a local audience, not for an international one. Everything about it--the timing, the lynch-mob style--seems meant to thrill the Shiites and enrage the Sunnis. To me this screams of Iraqi control. The only thing the Bush administration is good at is media spin and there's no way in which this makes them look good. I can't even see how watching Saddam executed by a mob of Sadrists would be personally satisfying for Bush.

Possibly the idea for it came from Washington (though I doubt anything so concrete as an order) but the timing and implementation of it were pure Iraqi. I don't see it as an Iraqi blunder, though--rather it was a calculated move on Maliki's part to better position himself in the forthcoming and inevitable civil war.

#56 ::: Ragnell ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 12:09 AM:

Okay, legal experts, help me out: Instead of pulling funding, why can't Congress just rescind the Iraq War Resolution? Can the 110th introduce a resolution withdrawing the approval? This would at least give all of the people who voted for it before a chance to reposition themselves as against the war.

#57 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 12:09 AM:

Don't know where I read it today (I had one of my few truly boring days today at work so invaded greater blogistan....) but someone pointed out that all the other presidents by this time in their term (or more often within three years of their term) look like they've aged 20 years in that time. Or more. Bush looks just as crisp and unlined and unburdened as he did when elected.

He's not clever enough to be a vampire. And we can see hiim in the sunlight. Probably he really is Cheney's (et al) meat puppet, consciousless and guiltless as a dumb fsck can be. But a good repeater of speeches and public appearances. More Kabuki theater.

#58 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 12:27 AM:

"(Nobody’s buying the line that this was the Iraqi government’s blunder. Everyone figures we had essential control of the situation. They’re right.)"


I'm not quite so sure. Maliki is far from a U.S. puppet.

The US had physical custody of Saddam. If Bush wanted to stop the execution, all he would have had to do is fly Saddam to some base and say, "Sorry, have a few more questions for him. We'll turn him over later." What could Maliki do about it?

#59 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 04:19 AM:

Lydia at #4: The reason that the dignity of the prisoner should be preserved is not for the prisoner's sake. It is so that the actions of the state are clearly contrasted with the actions of the condemned.

And the reason Saddam wasn't allowed any dignity? Because these people are so vicious and vindictive they can't, literally can not, postpone the immediate gratification of cheap revenge in order to promote the long-term success of larger, more important issues. Which is a good thing for the rest of us, I guess, as their avid drooling over the nasty execution details keeps them out of our hair.

#60 ::: Susan Kitchens ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 04:54 AM:

Paula @ 57:

someone pointed out that all the other presidents by this time in their term (or more often within three years of their term) look like they've aged 20 years in that time. Or more. Bush looks just as crisp and unlined and unburdened as he did when elected.

Hmmm. It must be the light. Because I see earlier campaign-era photos (that's 2000) and think, well, he may be doing a crappy job, but the White House is aging him.

Hair much grayer. Blotchy face, and generally stressed/peeved/fatigued expression.

Though if you want to make it an actual wrinkle-count, well, I dunno. I'm not looking at high rez fotos.

Then again, the wrinkles I see are an attempt at appearing to be thoughtful, you know, as in capable of rational thought. Oh dear, there I go. I've misunderestimated him again.

#61 ::: ajay detects comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 04:54 AM:

Free pumpkin stencil???

#62 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 08:31 AM:

James D. Macdonald @ 40

Remember: If it all goes terribly wrong, it's the Iraqis' fault.

(Shouldn't you say when it all goes terribly wrong?)

Why state the obvious... : )

Aconite @ 41, and others,
Re: The Hague

Yeah, all the obits on Ford reminded me that Nixon got a full pardon. Now admittedly, Ford was from the same party and an appointed VP, bt what are the "real" chances that whoever occupies the Oval next, of whatever party is going to take action against "George and the Pillagers"?

I regretfully expect we'll get the disappointing "America needs time to heal" and "We don't want to further divide the country" speeches, as Bushco(TM) trots happily off to retirement.

On the plus side, however marginal, I have yet to hear anything about Cheney running in '08 -- how often does the VP of a two-term presidency NOT get the party's nod, much less avoid consideration all together?

As far as the escalation/surge goes, it would be wonderful if questions were asked, but find it doubtful, and since the "liberal media" is still owned and operated by the conservative right, I doubt anyone will really stir up the waters.

Ragnell @ 56
As far as Congress stopping the war, IIRC, they have the power only to declare war, without which declaration, we are supposed to be unable to begin military involvment (which, as I understand it, is why we have monuments to "the Korean conflict" not to a war -- it was never approved, and therefore never happenned).

They also have the power to treaties. But -- presumably due to the normally wise-headed injunction against war-by-committee -- they do not have the power to withdraw the declaration or -- I believe -- demand a treaty. That power rests with the Commander-in-Chief.

The Congress (from Article 1, section 8):

Congress shall have the power:

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

and The president (from Article 2, section 2):

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices, and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.


So only the President can make the treaties, i.e. decide when the war is over. "By advice and consent of Congress" is one of those terms people love to debate, but essentially means it's his choice, Congress can ask or demand, but ultimately only he can decide ...


Of course, since Congress passes the budget, it is theoreticaly possible to tie the CiC's hands and force a peace, but then you'd also have to wage a really good PR campaign, because you don't want those headlines of "Congress refuses to protect our troops" or somesuch.

#63 ::: j. burke ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 09:01 AM:

I suspect the whole execution went off exactly as planned; they wanted Saddam to be ridiculed just before he died, and the hangmen and audience were hand-picked for that end. For God's sake, the hangmen were Shi'as; you don't let the enemies of a condemned man pull the lever unless you want it to be a spectacle. The only kink in their plans was the camera-phone video; they didn't plan on that ruining the official facade. They wanted it both ways--to have Saddam go out in an Old West lynching, and have the public think it was nice and dignified.

#64 ::: Kristin ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Please let us also remember that the "surge" in Iraq is Plan B. Plan A was supposed to be going to war with Iran by now.

#65 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 09:35 AM:

Even if I believed in the death penalty (which I do not), this was so NOT the way to go about it.

#66 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 10:21 AM:

"surge" is Ministry of Truth speak for "Escalation".

We don't escalate wars, we "surge" them, cause surge sounds cool and sexy.

#67 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 10:38 AM:

Pedantic Peasant @ 62

But Congress didn't declare war. So there isn't any need for a treaty to end it. It should be possible to either withdraw the resolution, preferably with a 'we were wrong' statement, or pass another resolution annulling it. IMHO.

#68 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 11:35 AM:

PJ Evans @ 67

But Congress didn't declare war. So there isn't any need for a treaty to end it. It should be possible to either withdraw the resolution, preferably with a 'we were wrong' statement, or pass another resolution annulling it.

Thanks PJ. I had thought when they voted an authorization, Back in Oct. '02, it was a declaration under a diffrent name. So, I went looking for more:

Addendum -- War Powers Resolution of '73

War Powers Resolution made to update for modern world conditions. President must present report to Congress within 60 days of starting hostilities, then seek approval. If he gets an authorization, all is well, it's as good as war, if not, then he must call the troops home.

The text:

Section 4,c:

(c) Whenever United States Armed Forces are introduced into hostilities or into any situation described in subsection (a) of this section, the President shall, so long as such armed forces continue to be engaged in such hostilities or situation, report to the Congress periodically on the status of such hostilities or situation as well as on the scope and duration of such hostilities or situation, but in no event shall he report to the Congress less often than once every six months.

Section 5, b & c

(b) Within sixty calendar days after a report is submitted or is required to be submitted pursuant to section 4(a)(1), whichever is earlier, the President shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces with respect to which such report was submitted (or required to be submitted), unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces, (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States. Such sixty-day period shall be extended for not more than an additional thirty days if the President determines and certifies to the Congress in writing that unavoidable military necessity respecting the safety of United States Armed Forces requires the continued use of such armed forces in the course of bringing about a prompt removal of such forces.

(c) Notwithstanding subsection (b), at any time that United States Armed Forces are engaged in hostilities outside the territory of the United States, its possessions and territories without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, such forces shall be removed by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution.

Section 8, d

Nothing in this joint resolution--
(1) is intended to alter the constitutional authority of the Congress or of the President, or the provision of existing treaties; or (2) shall be construed as granting any authority to the President with respect to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances which authority he would not have had in the absence of this joint resolution.


So again, legalese is not my thing, and I'm no Constitutional scholar, but it would seem on the surface that the 2002 resolution serves as well as a declaration.

Mind, there is a codicil that no one is certain the Powers clause is Constitutional as it's never been tested. Likewise given the tap-dancing and hand-waving that accompanied the mendacious Iraq presentation, I wonder if one could argue the resolution was obtained falsely and thereby invalid.

But the bottom line is: the first step is to invalidate the resolution, then to get out.

#69 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 11:46 AM:

Pedantic, your conclusion fits mine just fine: Out as soon as possible, and no escalation under whatever name. (And while we're at it, I wnat to arrange for Jenna and not-Jenna to get recruiting literature from every branch possible, as frequently as possible.)

#70 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 11:53 AM:

I keep imagining a Dysfunctional Family Circus caption: "Extreme escalation! SURGE!!"

#71 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 12:10 PM:

Georgie-Porgie isn't sorry the execution was a freak show -- he's sorry that the video got out.


"The president is focused on the new way forward in Iraq so these issues are best addressed out of Iraq, out of Baghdad," deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel said. "Prime Minister Maliki's staff have already expressed their disappointment in the filmings, so I guess we'll leave it at that."

#72 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 12:27 PM:

Maliki isn't a puppet. In Sandy Levinson's analysis, he's a wind-up toy:

I've never forgotten a discussion of the Vietnam War, in which I (or someone else) referred to the "puppet" government in South Vietnam. Barney [Frank]'s immediate response was that it was not a "puppet," which can be controlled by a puppeteer, but, rather, a "wind-up toy," which, when placed down on a floor or a table, may have gotten its initial energy from the person doing the winding, but then has an independent capacity to run into walls or fall off the table. I was reminded, not for the first time, of this analogy when reading the remarkable story by John Burns and Marc Santora indicating that "U.S. Questioned Iraq on the Rush to Hang Hussein." This was a predictable disaster with regard to winning the hearts and minds of anyone other than Shi'ites who are establishing an ever-increasing sectarian control of Iraq, yet the US supinely turned over Saddam Hussein, just as many white sheriffs in the past turned over prisoners, at least some of whom were guilty, to the lynch mob.
The Bush Administration has achieved what is perhaps the worst of all worlds in Iraq, having wound up an Iraqi government that it is incapable of influencing on anything so basic as the inadvisability of executing the deposed president on the eve of the most sacred Islamic holiday while being taunted by persons described by John Burns as Shi'ite thugs.

#73 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 12:40 PM:

#58-59:

You guys seem to be assuming that the Bush administration has some great competence and control over what's going on in Iraq, and that they've used that to intentionally botch Saddam's hanging. What evidence do you have for any of that? I mean, from the limited information I can find, it looks like we have lost control over most of what goes on in Iraq, that our tame Iraqi government is about as happy to screw us as every other Iraqi faction, and that very few of our grand plans go the way we expect. It seems much more plausible to me that the hanging was Bush and company's best attempt at seeing justice done in a humane way, planned by the guys who are still sure that the Iraqis will be bringing us candy and flowers any day now.

Similarly, if Bush and company are planning to manipulate the world oil market to make themselves rich (this sounds pretty silly to me), what makes anyone here suspect them of enough competence to succeed?

#74 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 12:47 PM:

#62 Pedantic Peasant:

The problem is, while Bush has been a disaster as a president, we don't want to establish the pattern of having things go all wrong in your time in office leading to some kind of revenge or persecution when your party loses power. That sort of pattern creates some really ugly incentives to stay in power at all costs.

Impeaching him would make far more sense, since this might result in more competent leadership. But prosecuting him for anything short of absolutely rock-solid evidence of crime after he leaves office will look exactly like payback by his political enemies. The next failed president will remember the lesson, and we won't like how he applies it to his own decisions.

#75 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 12:58 PM:

On one hand, if the phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" means anything at all, Bush has committed them, and continues to commit them, giving us impeachment as the correct response.

On the other hand, impeachment would turn into a real black hole, sucking all the energy out of everything else, and at this moment we need to expend our energies on fixing what's wrong. The problems won't go away while our attention is distracted by an impeachment.

When the captain has run the ship on the rocks the first priority is patching the holes, not courtmartialling the stupid SOB.

#76 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Probably not OT: Harriet Miers just resigned.

#77 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 01:20 PM:

James Macdonald, re #58: you are right that the US could have flown Saddam off and refused to release him. But, I suspect, to do so would have resulted in exposing the Us relationship with the Iraqi government as a colonial one, and demonstrating that -- whatever we say -- the Iraqi government is not sovereign and has no power except that which we choose to grant it. The Shiite population would have lost whatever faith it still has in the government.

One of the facets of the mess we've created in Iraq is that almost any action we take in that country is now going to irritate someone, and be used by the people so irritated as proof of the proposition that the government is against them, meaningless, or both. Spiriting Saddam off would simply have upset a different part of the population ... and undermined the legitimacy of the government which we are (vainly, I suspect) trying to prop up.

#78 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 01:51 PM:

Albatross @ 74:

A disaster is something that happens unintentionally. Bush has not been a disaster. He has willfully and intentionally led the U.S. into Iraq on pretexts, half-truths, innuendos, and outright falsehoods. Likewise, he and his cohorts have abrogated or ignored any aspects of law they wished. Or at least, that they thought they could get away with.

Your argument that

prosecuting him for anything short of absolutely rock-solid evidence of crime after he leaves office will look exactly like payback by his political enemies. The next failed president will remember the lesson, and we won't like how he applies it to his own decisions.

certainly makes sense, but

1) My lament is that I am very much afraid that any form of repercussions -- including censure or impeachment -- will be ignored in favor of a pardon.

2) That this administration either
a) is relying on this eventuality; or
b) is completely convinced in its own righteousness;
and either way, needs to be shown it is/was wrong.

3) If there are no consequences for Bush's gross misconduct and abuse of power, then the next greedy, dishonest, self-serving, imperialistic president will remember the lesson, and we won't like how he applies it to his own decisions.


I completely agree with James D. Macdonald @ 75, that the reality of the situation is such that we will need to settle for fixing the ship and let Bush and his crew escape in their little lifeboat while we do.

My one real comfort is imagining how history will define this administration, and the small, doubtful hope that Bush does (or will) care, and that it will bother him.

#79 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 02:06 PM:

Here's another take on sacrifice that's maybe a little more appropriate to our current situation...

#80 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 02:10 PM:

Some of the legal eagles over at firedoglake have pointed out that, having been pardoned, guys like Libby couldn't invoke the 5th amendment to avoid testimony in later legal actions involving the stuff for which they were pardoned.

#81 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 02:10 PM:

I'm not sure that it is all that significant whether or not Shrub saw the execution the same night.

What I find far more scary is that NPR reported, last night when I was driving home from work, that his people are saying that he still hasn't seen it.

Catching the news the next morning is no big deal. Not having followed the news almost a week later is deliberate ignorance. The president not seeing international news is a refusal to do his job.

#82 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Nah, we don't want a sacrifice ...


One sacrifices the good, noble king to save and restore the land. Odds are if we were to sacrifice fearless leader here, inside a year we'd end up with famine in the heartland, recession on Wall Street, and an invasion by Canada.

#83 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 02:24 PM:

PJ Evans @ 80

I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV, but that doesn't sound right. AIUI, if you are pardoned, then you are cleared and cannot be (found) guilty, and so he cannot be tried at least on criminal charges.

Now maybe he'd still be open to a civil suit, but that's a different kettle of fish ...


Ursula L @ 81

No, it's consistent, internally anyway.

He knows what his job is, has already made up his mind, and doesn't need to be distracted by any inconvenient little facts.

Pretty much his thinking is:

"My job, kill Saddam." and
*Mission accomplished; two thumbs up*

Hows and whys don't matter -- he's "a man of action"

#84 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Pedantic @ 83:
I think civil suit is the general idea. Think the Wilsons and Libby. It almost - but only almost - makes you hope that Scooter gets pardoned, so he has to answer the questions in the civil suit, or be in really deep something-or-other. (Me, I really want him found guilty and thrown in jail. Then make him answer questions while wearing orange.)

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 03:07 PM:

#84: More importantly, anyone who is pardoned can't refuse on 5th Amendment grounds to testify against anyone else. Since they can't be incriminated, they have no fear of self-incrimination, at least for the crimes covered by the pardon. It's the same principle as grants of immunity, but arrived at by a different mechanism.

#86 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 03:13 PM:

#83 -

Sure, it's consistant - if he'd seen the execution that night, he couldn't have still not seen it by last night.

And since we know Shrub, we see the problem right away.

But if, say, Clinton hand not seen footage of a news event the night it happened, no one would stress, because we'd know he'd catch up with the news in the morning.

Not seeing something as it happened is not a big deal. Routinely not knowing the news days later is a big deal.

#87 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Albatross: Similarly, if Bush and company are planning to manipulate the world oil market to make themselves rich (this sounds pretty silly to me), what makes anyone here suspect them of enough competence to succeed?

For one thing, it's not just manipulating the oil market, though that is a big part of it (look how very much more wealthy the oil people are now than they were when Bush took office), it's direct war profiteering through Halliburton, etc. Probably lots of things we don't know about. And why does it sound silly?

As for competence? Every action they've taken, even (especially) those that seemed like blunders, have served to get us more and more entrenched in a state of eternal war. They were competent enough to convince almost everyone that we needed to attack Iraq, and they were competent enough to stay popular despite everything long enough to get us embroiled to the point where it's impossible to see a way out.

#88 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 04:14 PM:

When the captain has run the ship on the rocks the first priority is patching the holes, not courtmartialling the stupid SOB.

That makes sense. But could we at least post a guard or two on him to have him arrested as soon as the ship is in port?

21 January, 2009, Bush should be in the brig. Along with Cheney. And Rumsfeld should be there long before then.

#89 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 04:53 PM:

According to a diary on DKos, Bush is now asserting in a signing statement attached to a postal reform bill that he has the right to open domestic mail, sans warrant.

#90 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 05:09 PM:

Lizzy in #89: just in case we thought that the war was won. If Congress doesn't act against such egregious breaches of the constitution, can we really say we are a democracy? I wish that, at least, someone would put forth a bill of censure. And...just whose mail does the Administration want to open, anyway? It is not like e-mail, where the NSA can build a giant information vacuum. Or maybe it is; I suppose that standard size letters could be automatically opened and scanned.

#91 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 05:22 PM:

In David Simon's nonfiction Homicide book (the same one that the TV series was based upon), the detectives had a rule of thumb -- if a suspect fell asleep waiting to be questioned, he was much more likely to be guilty. It was more than just innocent people being more worried because they knew they were innocent, the kinds of people that commit crimes often have a fundamental belief that they'll get away with it that leads them to be relaxed when they shouldn't.

So Bush sleeping through the news of Hussein's execution might well be a cousin of the above.

#92 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 06:43 PM:

#85 More importantly, anyone who is pardoned can't refuse on 5th Amendment grounds to testify against anyone else. Since they can't be incriminated, they have no fear of self-incrimination, at least for the crimes covered by the pardon.

It makes sense that the same principle that applies in grants of immunity would apply to pardons, but is there precedent for this interpretation (or does it otherwise have established standing in law)?

#93 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 06:46 PM:

Tehanu @ 59:

And the reason Saddam wasn't allowed any dignity? Because these people are so vicious and vindictive they can't, literally can not, postpone the immediate gratification of cheap revenge in order to promote the long-term success of larger, more important issues. Which is a good thing for the rest of us, I guess, as their avid drooling over the nasty execution details keeps them out of our hair.

I'm not buying the "these people are so vicious and vindictive" argument. Which people, the Americans, or the Iraquis? Maybe I put too much faith in the power of power, but I'm finding it unlikely that either government did it solely out of spite. Bile they have a-plenty, but if it was spectacle they wanted, why wasn't it in a public square? Why did they make a vid of it that attempted to make it look proper and dignified. What I want to know is whose political axe was being sharpened.

Why the hurry? All of a sudden, the man must be executed at a religiously significant time? Why not wait out the 30 days, why frantically rush around, finding loopholes from the law? Wouldn't the Iraqi government have a better handle on what would and wouldn't cause his death to become a martyrdom? What the heck is it with the Muqtada sympathizers given the right to hang him? What political hay does that make? Which bits of the story are true and which aren't?

The execution was carried out in a shameful fashion, but I continue to wonder why. It's not as if execution isn't a solved problem, so to speak. It seems unlikely that the spectacle was simply the result of bungling.

#94 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 10:32 PM:

Maybe it's because I've been reading up on Stuart and Georgian England for way too long, but reports of Saddam's demeanour brought to mind the public executions where Jack Ketch was hooded and the condemned man made a defiant speech before being hanged. It only needed ballad sellers hawking broadsheets of his career and alleged last words.
-Barbara

#95 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 11:04 PM:

Re the surge: Best RumInt I'm getting (from the Army side of the house) is a "bump" (why this term, when a surge is a motion, a swell, and a bump is an immobile thing...) of, at most, 20,000.

Where they think they are getting three brigades, I don't know.

As far as the ability to stop the war goes; I recall someone explaining that Bush had failed to meet the actual requirements of the resolution, instead waving around the (legally meaningless) predicate language.

If correct he has no actual authority to stop them from pulling the plug, as he was in violation of the law when he sent them.

#96 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 11:08 PM:

I really like this headline from Reuters: "Bush voices regrets on handling of Saddam hanging".

"Voices regrets". About as close as a mainstream headline writer can get to saying that he's making unfelt mouth noises without actually, y'know, saying it.

#97 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 01:37 AM:

Jim@#75: When the captain has run the ship on the rocks the first priority is patching the holes, not courtmartialling the stupid SOB.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the first priority is relieving the SOB of command if he continues to be derelict in his duty.

Restated: a stopped clock may be right twice a day, but first it has to stop. Or be stopped.

#98 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 01:47 AM:

I dunno. When Bush starts talking about the nation needing to "sacrifice", all I can think of is this.

(It's not actually the best link I can find -- the current rhetoric reminds me more of the rhetoric about the populace of Japan needing to be prepared to make the "ultimate sacrifice", which John Dower talks about in Embracing Defeat. It's a fascinating and scary book which feels all too relevant to our current situation.)

#99 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:13 AM:

theophlyact at #72: "Maliki isn't a puppet. In Sandy Levinson's analysis, he's a wind-up toy:"

That's just mildly insulting, isn't it? As if deprived of U.S. guidance they'll topple haplessly off the table edge. Why is it so hard to allow Maliki or other Iraqis the privilege of self-motivation? They aren't wind-up toys or puppets--they're human beings, with their own concerns and ambitions. When they betray U.S. interests, it does not necessarily follow that it is because of incompetence or carelessness. Perhaps they are simply competently and carefully watching after their own interests.

Civil war is not happening in Iraq because they just can't help themselves. It is happening because there are large numbers of people who want it to happen and are actively working towards it. Is Maliki one of them? The evidence is far from reassuring.

Albatross at #73: Agreed. Why assume that this is an utter botch of Bush's when it works so much better as a political ploy of Maliki's?* Why would Bush (a) allow Sadrists, of all people, to execute Saddam or (b) do it on the eve of a Sunni religious holiday? He hates Sadr and doesn't give a damn about the Sunnis. Yet both make sense if the execution is thought to be Maliki's doing.

*Which is not to say that this scenario is anything other than another type of botch.

#100 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:49 AM:

#93 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2007, 06:46 PM:

Tehanu @ 59:

And the reason Saddam wasn't allowed any dignity? Because these people are so vicious and vindictive they can't, literally can not, postpone the immediate gratification of cheap revenge ....

I'm not buying the "these people are so vicious and vindictive" argument. Which people, the Americans, or the Iraquis?

Uh ... I guess I meant the Americans...actually, well, Bush and Cheney. Your response was a lot more thoughtful than my remarks -- not that I'm retracting them or anything, just wishing I'd made myself a bit clearer.

#101 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 07:14 AM:

Lydia Nickerson @ 89: Time to start encrypting one's mail, then. I wonder if Enigma is enough to stop the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or if one needs to dust off one's copy of GPG. (I did a little digging, and apparently Enigma can be had in software. (Unix))

#102 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 07:20 AM:

Damn, don't know how that happened, but I mistook Lizzy L for Lydia N. Sorry...

#103 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 07:52 AM:

Saddam's execution was a carefully calculated gesture by the Iraqi government, the Shia sect who carefully courted and seduced the American government to get themselves installed when they had neither the balls nor the ability to supplant Saddam's regime themselves. The gesture is directed to every Sunni (and a good few Shia who are not members of their tribe, plus what are left of the Marsh Arabs and the Kurds) It is a thumb drawn slowly across the throat. The protector of the Sunnis can no longer protect them. They, each and every one of them, are next. The Maliki regime cannot stop the majority of the killings because they are doing the killing. It is payback time and it is worth remembering that these guys have thousands of years of practice at blood soaked payback.

Maliki is not a puppet. The puppet here is George Walker Bush. Maliki is no more shocked and awed by the US than his neighbour. He and his hold America in no more than contempt, a tool that was useful and can now be disgregarded as an irrelevance in what he has planned - and what he has planned is genocide.

Of course, he's not the only one there with that on his mind, which is what makes the situation so much fun, fun, fun (if your name is Beelzebub)

#104 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 08:22 AM:

Martyn Taylor @ 103

All correct...

When will the US learn to just stay the Hell out?

The Iran hostage situation was precipitated by our assistance and support to a leader the Iranians didn't want, and helping said leader circumvent the country's elections ...

Osama is one of the people we trained to be a resistance fighter to keep the Russians out of Afghanistan ...

Now Iraq, where we have replaced a stable government with Civil War and are again breeding hatred with our interference in their culture.

The big problem IMHO is that when America in general and Bush in particular say "democracy" they seem to think "western culture." There seems to be an assumption that if they are "properly trained" in democracy then their culture will suddenly change.

Given the fact of the ever-growing divide at home between "red states" and "blue states" I find it stunning that people think democracy overseas will be less contentious and somehow bring our cultures closer.

Democracy means letting the people govern. While this is laudable it is important not to forget that the French Revolution was also democratic, and that if what "the people" want is bloodshed, a democracy will hasten, not prevent, the problem. Likewise, while helping other countries develop into democracies may be a good idea in theory, helping give power to a group that thinks you'd be better off dead is ultimately self-destructive.

#105 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 09:09 AM:

When the captain has run the ship on the rocks the first priority is patching the holes, not courtmartialling the stupid SOB.

No. If the CO has run you aground *and* continues to drive the ship onto the rocks, you relieve him, save the ship, and then take it to the courts. If you are right, you'll win. If not, you've just copped to mutiny. If he won't be relieved, you relieve him anyway -- even if that means detailing him to sweep the seabed.

If you refuse to do anything -- if you keep the madman in charge, you are just as responsible for the loss of the ship and crew.

Saving the ship is fine if the CO is working to do the same. When the CO is the one sinking the ship, step one is to stop him, because as long as he's giving orders, you are not going to save the ship.

This is the XO's nightmare -- but this is also the reason we have XOs.

Since we can't do that, we have a real problem. The courts won't stop Bush. Congress refuses to try -- one of Pelosi's first mistakes was "Impeachment is off the table."

If Bush can't get his way through Congress, he'll just make an executive order and do it anyway. If Congress refuses to impeach when he does that, *he wins*.

So, guess what. We're getting two years of something scarier than Cocky Bush. We're getting Threatened Bush.

I wonder how many cities are going to die because of this.


#106 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Where they think they are getting three brigades, I don't know.

I suppose we could pull ALL our troops out of Afghanistan, send them to Iraq, and then lose both countries.

Half a step forward, six flights of stairs back.

Wheee!

;/

#107 ::: Pedantic Peasant ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 09:35 AM:

Erik @ 105

When the captain has run the ship on the rocks the first priority is patching the holes, not courtmartialling the stupid SOB.

No. If the CO has run you aground *and* continues to drive the ship onto the rocks, you relieve him, save the ship, and then take it to the courts. If you are right, you'll win. If not, you've just copped to mutiny. If he won't be relieved, you relieve him anyway -- even if that means detailing him to sweep the seabed.

If you refuse to do anything -- if you keep the madman in charge, you are just as responsible for the loss of the ship and crew.

Saving the ship is fine if the CO is working to do the same. When the CO is the one sinking the ship, step one is to stop him, because as long as he's giving orders, you are not going to save the ship.


Excellent analogy. Cogently argued!

#108 ::: Ron Henry ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 10:24 AM:

I'm with albatross in comment 73:

Accepting Bush asleep at 9pm requires no stretch of the imagination, and demands no framework of hypothetical GWB staff lies, or critics' conspiracy theorizing, to account for it: the current administration is rife with incompetence and its putative head is lazy, self-centered, and largely irrelevant to the core decision-making processes (come one, we've known this last part since GWB's non-participation in the events of Sept. 11, 2001).

I can't imagine anyone doubting GWB prioritizing his immediate personal comfort or desires over the nation's interest -- he indulges his own schedule and pastimes all the time, and falling asleep early when something big is about to go down is entirely in character.

#109 ::: Kristen ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 10:45 AM:

I think this post is very smartly written. I heard yesterday (01/04/07) on NPR reports that Bush hadn't seen the cell phone footage yet - almost a week post execution. All I could think was, "how could he be the last adult in the US with access to the Internet to view this footage?" Of course it seems odd.

Bush did have something to lose with this execution and I think he's lost it. Now his administration must scramble toward the next cause/excuse (it's hard to tell anymore).

Now, I fully support the troops, at home and abroad. I just feel it's high time we had an actual plan. An actual course to the "Stay the Course" mantra we've been repeatedly beaten over the head with.

It's obvious targeting al-Sadr isn't going to work, at least not in light of the video's audio portion.

I'm anxiously awaiting Bush's speech rumored to be put forth next week. I think the nation is collectively holding its breath. Finally, something we're all doing together.

#110 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 11:08 AM:

There's a interview posted here where the shrink being interviewed says that Bush is in fact incompetent to be president, and, evil as he is, we'd be better off with Cheney.

#111 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 11:35 AM:

Kristen, 109: I haven't seen it either. OTOH I'm not the soi-disant leader of the ex-free world.

#112 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 12:41 PM:

"Thanks for calling the Whitehouse. I'm sorry we couldn't take your call right away. We're really busy formulating the plan we should have had three years ago. The prof says he'll only dock us one letter grade, though, since it's late. Once we get this idea out, which Dick says should only be another week, we'll be back to business as usual."

#113 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 02:26 PM:

I haven't seen the footage, and I'm not going to. I've not seen the Daniel Perl footage either.

I don't want to see it. I don't need to see it. Until one of those changes, I'm not going to see it.

Hussein was a shit, no argument. I don't think killing people, per se, is always wrong (though I am against states doing it) but I don't need to wallow in the baser aspects of human nature.

But I've seen enough dead people that adding one more seems pointless, and I can't think of any good I do myself by watching it.

Were I president, my views would be the same, and I would still be able to say, "I haven't seen it."

But I'm not president, and I find it less than credible when the man who is in that office right now tells me he hasn't seen it. It's possible, but from what I've seen of his personality, I find it unlikely he didn't watch.

#114 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Stephan Brun @101

No, Enigma is no where near strong enough; in fact, if you believe that the NSA has actually had access to powerful enough practical quantum computing resources for many years now, neither is GPG/PGP. Have a nice day, citizen....

#115 ::: Kathyn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 03:22 PM:

Earl @144, Stephan @101,

Not long ago we had dinner with a multi-millionaire Canadian who funded the building of a large research centre for Quantum Computing. Someone at the table asked him "so, how may qubits are you up to now, eh?"

He answered "I'm unable to tell you." Not because he didn't know.

Charlie, yer antibodies in Redmond aren't doing their job. Please Advise.

#116 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 03:28 PM:

This needs to be pointed out but the Iraqi Security Minister in an interview ith NPR said that the Iraqies were not in charge of the execution...and a few minutes later US officials say that they had no control of the execution and were not present after handing Hussein over.

So who killed Saddam and why are we asking?

#117 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:15 PM:

Has anyone yet floated the conspiracy theory that the phonecam footage was deliberately leaked to make it clear that the execution wasn't carried out by agents of the USA (be they CIA or Army)?

#118 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:17 PM:

(I'm thinking about "plausible deniability" here, because the whole affair has a nasty stench of Special Rendition to it. And, hey, it's not a great leap from having people whisked off into Night and Mist to be tortured and having them executed.)

#119 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Given Georgie's disturbing attitude towards previous executions and ongoing torture, I can't help but wonder if "He went to bed and, uh, didn't see it because he was asleep" is code for "He watched it in his bedroom, and we don't want to think about the noises we heard coming from there."

#120 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Kristen at 109: I haven't seen it and am not going to see it. But I agree with Terry Karney, it seems unlikely, given that streak of vindictiveness we have all observed in Bush, that he hasn't taken a look.

#121 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:40 PM:

Pedantic Peasant (78):

"If there are no consequences for Bush's gross misconduct and abuse of power, then the next greedy, dishonest, self-serving, imperialistic president will remember the lesson, and we won't like how he applies it to his own decisions."
I'm entirely in agreement. Bush and the Republicans have been breaking the system. Sometimes you have to publicly correct errors and impose penalties in order to re-teach everyone the rules of the game.

(This last week or so I've been grimly amused by Republican congressmen suddenly preaching bipartisanship, and complaining that they're being oppressed. "Being out of power" doesn't seem to have previously been comprehended in their worldview.)

Ursula (81):

"I'm not sure that it is all that significant whether or not Shrub saw the execution the same night.

What I find far more scary is that NPR reported, last night when I was driving home from work, that his people are saying that he still hasn't seen it."

And Kristen (109):
"I heard yesterday (01/04/07) on NPR reports that Bush hadn't seen the cell phone footage yet - almost a week post execution. All I could think was, 'how could he be the last adult in the US with access to the Internet to view this footage?'"
I think he's lying about having seen it. His people have been doing everything they can to downplay Bush's interest in the execution, including pretending that it was an insignificant event, by way of trying to distance him from the fiasco. (See also.)

Connie H. (91):

"In David Simon's nonfiction Homicide book (the same one that the TV series was based upon), the detectives had a rule of thumb -- if a suspect fell asleep waiting to be questioned, he was much more likely to be guilty."
May I say that as a narcoleptic, I find that disturbing?

Terry Karney (95): In the midst of all the fuzzy, distorted language around Bush's planned escalation, it's a relief to read a sentence like "Where they think they are getting three brigades, I don't know."

I also liked this:

"As far as the ability to stop the war goes; I recall someone explaining that Bush had failed to meet the actual requirements of the resolution, instead waving around the (legally meaningless) predicate language.

If correct he has no actual authority to stop them from pulling the plug, as he was in violation of the law when he sent them."

I doubt it'll happen, but that scenario will feed my more cheerful fantasies.

Ron Henry (108):

"Accepting Bush asleep at 9pm requires no stretch of the imagination, and demands no framework of hypothetical GWB staff lies, or critics' conspiracy theorizing, to account for it ... I can't imagine anyone doubting GWB prioritizing his immediate personal comfort or desires over the nation's interest -- he indulges his own schedule and pastimes all the time, and falling asleep early when something big is about to go down is entirely in character."
I have no problem with that. He'll do what he wants to do, and the public interest be damned. What I don't believe is that missing Saddam Hussein's execution is what he'd want to do. He's personally vengeful, and Saddam gave him a lot of grief.

Terry Karney (113): You don't have to watch. The account at Baghdad Burning is enough, and it'll give you the dialogue in translation, too.

#122 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:42 PM:

Aconite (119), that's just plain wicked. It's also harder to get out of my head than "Waltzing Matilda."

#123 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:51 PM:

Wicked, wicked, wicked.

(Note to self: stop at drugstore on way home, pick up mental floss.)

#124 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:53 PM:

Teresa, I know, and I'm sorry. Really, really sorry. I wish I had a brain brush.

#125 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 04:58 PM:

No, don't apologize. It's an impressively ... sticky little meme.

#126 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 05:05 PM:

Monica's dress, Georgie's TV screen....

Oh, God, please, somebody stop me.

#127 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 05:06 PM:

BEHIND THE HEADLINES:

"Hey, Harriet. Pick up 'nuther jar of Vaseline for me on your way in tomorrow?"

#128 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 05:08 PM:

The insider-tells-all books that will be appearing in a few years will be, um, interesting reading. They may have to have plain brown dust covers, though.

#129 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 05:46 PM:

While I can well believe he was wanking to the Saddam death-porn (little Saddamite wanker that he is), I personally lean toward the belief that he was just passed out drunk.

wsh smn wld knck rd nt hs bthtb. 'm s sck f tht gy.

#130 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 05:47 PM:

I'll like to thank Aconite for bravely moving to the head of the line of Making Light posters who will be sent to the Happy Camps when the 2008 Presidential election is canceled and the Constitution suspended for the duration of The Emergency.

#131 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 05:48 PM:

#129: ". . . he was just passed out drunk."

Now, now. Bush found God, remember? The proper term for his condition is "full of the Holy Spirit."

#132 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 05:51 PM:

"Congress refuses to try -- one of Pelosi's first mistakes was 'Impeachment is off the table.'"

That wasn't a mistake. That was sheer political brilliance.

It is an obvious lie, of course, to say that "impeachment is off the table." It's like saying at the start of a new Congress that you look forward to working together with the opposition party to forge a bipartisan consensus— it's so much easier said than done that it's basically de rigeur to say it and watch everyone else dispense with the catcalls about it being a baldfaced lie since nobody sane wants to be told what they already know.

Saying "impeachment is off the table" sucks the oxygen away from the GOP grassfires about Democrats going on a witch hunt. It also distracts GOP attention away from the fact that Pelosi has promised to Release The Waxman. If investigations reveal evidence of impeachable wrongdoing that cannot be spun or ignored by reasonable people, i.e. grassroots Democrats, then Pelosi can reverse herself on her "off the table" promise and nobody will punish her for it.

It's a gimme. Pelosi would have been stupid to say anthing else.

#133 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 06:03 PM:

Aconite @124,

No, no apologies, do go on with your Bushilisks.

[frantically builds program to rot-13 every other word in a comment, allowing the gist without the unscrubbable images: "Jraa ist qnf Nunstück tvg und Fybgrezrlre? Ja! ... Beiherhund qnf Oder qvr Flipperwaldt trefchg."]

#134 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 06:03 PM:

j h woodyatt @ 132

I'm looking forward to the Waxman being released. In fact, I sent an e-mail to him the other evening (My Congressperson!) with the first line:
Go, Henry! Go, Henry! Fight! Fight! Fight!

(In his district due to some interesting gerrymandering, as a half-mile or so in any of three directions puts you in another district)

#135 ::: Steven Gould ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 06:16 PM:

I think he's the worst president ever. Ever. Ever.

Did I mention he's not a good president?

#136 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 06:31 PM:

s/President/Emperor/

...

And he's showing signs of reaching for the status of a Nero.

(Although there's a way to go before he's in the same league as, say, Francisco Solano López.)

#137 ::: Andy Vance ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 06:53 PM:

I'm afraid I'm going to miss the sumbitch when he's gone. Agonizing over his abject, brainless nihilism is a sickeningly seductive habit, like smelling one's own armpits.

#138 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 08:21 PM:

These days, Enigma can be cracked by German violinists in their spare time, albeit with the help of a couple thousand friends.

If the NSA can crack modern strong crypto in the general case, they either have a fast way to do integer factorization, a non-trivial quantum computer, or both. Both of these are so far outside the bounds of current public knowledge, that I wouldn't worry.

It's highly plausible, though, that they could crack it in some specific cases due to bugs in specific algorithms or implementations.

But the crypto is the chain's strong link. I'd expect them to pursue stealing the key(s), if they were really interested in something. And if you and your correspondents don't manage your personal and electronic security like members in good standing of an espionage agency, my money would be on the NSA. (OK, even if you did, my money would still be on the NSA.)

(And, of course, after we all have hardware and OSes so encumbered by DRM as to make it finally plausible, I expect a revival of the Clipper Chip, and a move to outlaw Internet trafficking of data encrypted otherwise, if not to ban all other crypto outright. What, me, pessimistic?)

#139 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2007, 08:57 PM:

114 Earl:

Enigma was broken during WW2 by the British. If there's a problem with GPG, it's almost certainly an implementation screw up (these are common, and security-relevant ones have been found in GPG before). The ciphers are sound, as far as the public community knows, and that's pretty far these days. But there are an amazing number of ways to screw up the implementation of crypto, ranging from fairly obvious but hard-to-get-right stuff like key generation to weird stuff like being too informative in your error messages (which gets used in some attacks).

115 Kathyn:

The people I know working on quantum computing don't seem to see it as any kind of a near-term threat. Some huge breakthrough is always possible, but I don't think this is the likely threat.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you're running GPG or PGP or any other crypto software on your XP box, which you also use to surf the net and play online games, quantum computers are *way* down the list of threats you need to worry about.

#140 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 12:36 AM:

Release The Waxman

...

Oh, never mind.

#141 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 12:49 AM:

Has anyone yet floated the conspiracy theory that the phonecam footage was deliberately leaked to make it clear that the execution wasn't carried out by agents of the USA (be they CIA or Army)?

Leather jackets and ski masks? I don't think the video proves Americans didn't execute Saddam. I don't think Americans did it. But if you were going to intentionally leak the video, you would only do it if you could tell it wasn't americans working the rope.

I also think that deliberately taping the execution is something too stupid for even Bush to have contemplated. The execution was supposed to be a "theoretical" event. A "hypothetical". Something where the "ugly" is committed behind closed doors and out of public view.

Then discussions of his execution would be "hypothitical" discussions of the wrongs committed by Saddam and his history and his evil deeds and attrocities, and pile them up high so that Bush can point to them and say "Yes, it was worth invading Iraq", nevermind Bush's stupidity, lies, and misinformation.

But now, a video turns a hypothetical into a flesh and blood man. And a hypothetically neutral and just execution turns into a reality of a lynch mob. And all of Bush's little piles of Saddam's past are overshadowed by the immediate present of just how ugly we've become.

No, I don't think Bush had video intentionally leaked.

#142 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 01:22 AM:

And he's showing signs of reaching for the status of a Nero.

I think he's reaching for the status of a Caligula. And I hope he suffers the same fate.

#143 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 04:54 AM:

albatross, my recollection is that GPG/PGP uses the public-key system to pass a session key for a more conventional cipher.

Both are good ciphers, but I've always thought that worrying about the security of the public-key side is missing the point. A cipher system is only as good as the weakest link. The government codebreakers don't have to crack the problem of factoring large numbers.

And, big hint here, why did they stop making a fuss about exporting PGP-like cryptosystems?

#144 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 04:58 AM:

Some people would say President Pelosi is about as likely as Emperor Claudius.

But I'm a little inclined to think of the baddie in Gladiator. Except that I doubt Bush would go into an arena even if his opponent was already dead.

#145 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 10:22 AM:

I'm still disappointed that, even though two films have clearly shown us that the emperor Commodus died in a gladiatorial bout, the historical record shows that he was strangled. Although he entered the arena as a gladiator, it's fairly clear that he was never in any danger. (Having just checked Wikipedia, it seems he charged a million sesterces for an appearance, not small change in anyone's pocketbook. There's a thought on how to deal with a budget defecit).

#146 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 11:25 AM:

Has anyone yet floated the conspiracy theory that the phonecam footage was deliberately leaked to make it clear that the execution wasn't carried out by agents of the USA (be they CIA or Army)?

Since the US had custody of him, they either executed him or turned him over to those who did. Either way, the US is responsible.

And since the Iraqi government is seen as corrupt puppets, who's only purpose is to allow the US access to Iraqi oil while they suffer, the trial is seen a sham carried out with the US running things behind the scenes.

The US invaded and occupied, creating this mess, we're responsible for it, even if we can do no more to control the mess than the Germans could control the French Resistance.

#147 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Didn't sesame street have a song:

nah NAAAHHH na na na na
caligula
nah na NAH nah

#148 ::: Andy Vance ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 12:47 PM:

Snicker:

I'll go out on a limb and predict that the Bush Library collection will grow to at least 10,000 volumes when you include The Pet Goat, The Plague by Camus, and 9,998 Bibles.
#149 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 12:56 PM:

Assuming it didn't get destroyed in security screening, the Bush library should contain at least one hand-bound copy of the Constitution.

Not that I ever got a thank-you note, of course.

#150 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 12:59 PM:

Dave Bell writes: "And, big hint here, why did they stop making a fuss about exporting PGP-like cryptosystems?"

Because banning their export was like the dumbest idea evar?

This was most clearly illustrated when you could buy "This T-Shirt Is A Munition" T-shirts on the web, and people like me were showing up in them at U.S. airports on inbound international flights.

An awful lot of very expensive software development would have had to move offshore if that ban were left in place.

#151 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 01:21 PM:

Do you want to know what a coded message from an actual terrorist would look like?


"Hey, Joe! The picnic is on for next Friday. If you bring the soda, I'll bring the chips and dips. Fred has the hamburgers. Martha says hi, but sorry she can't come. -- Bill."

I mean -- how do you go about breaking "Wound not my heart with monotonous languor"?


#152 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Greg London@146: That was The Muppet Show.

Kids today. Sheesh.

#153 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Greg (151), Aconite (151): Actually, Mah-Ná-Mah-Ná is from the Italian porn film Svezia, inferno e paradiso (Sweden, Heaven and Hell). It quickly become an international pop instrumental hit just about everywhere but the English-speaking world. By the time the US and UK discovered it, the association with porn was forgotten.

There's a relatively decent Wikipedia article here that tracks how a porno soundtrack* became associated with the Muppets.

(Sorry to go so far off topic, but a friend has asked me to put together a "groovy" .mp3 playlist, and I'm taking the job much too seriously. Mah-Ná-Mah-Ná didn't even make the cut.)

* Maybe Greg's association of the song with Caligula is not that far off track after all.

#154 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 03:43 PM:

Howard @152

Funny that you should mention Manamana. It seems to hold a mesmeric fascination for the under-six set. I just this evening showed it to my three year old nephew, who now joins my daughter in uncomprehending addiction to that video clip.

Didn't knw it came from porn. That just makes it funnier.

#155 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 04:04 PM:

I have a friend who, when she dies, wants a TV screen instead of a tombstone, and wants that TV screen to be playing the Manamana clip from The Muppet Show. She says it sums up just about anything she could ever say about life. She knows it comes from a porn soundtrack.

I can't say as I disagree. It's a great piece of television.

#156 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 04:18 PM:

ethan (154): Your friend's dream can now be a reality.

Utilizing solar-power technology and a weatherproof LCD panel it provides families the option of viewing a personalized video tribute right at their loved one’s final resting place. The VIDSTONE Serenity panel features a 5-10 minute multimedia memorial detailing the most precious memories of your loved one’s life. Their unique memories are no longer solely relived in your mind, but at your loved one’s place of rest.

I can't think of a more thoughtful gift.

#157 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 04:22 PM:

Jim @ 150:

I was having the same thoughts. Birders' slang, for example: 'Look at all those butterbutts and pingpong balls!'

(translation: yellow-rumped warblers and bushtits)

#158 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 04:55 PM:

PJ Evans @156

It took me three read-throughs to get bushtits to come out as a bird name.

Just sayin'.

#159 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 05:03 PM:

abi #157: Barbara.

Eeee-eeee-www--www!

#160 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Xopher @158

No, just kept seeing the letter L there where it wasn't.

But thank you for that added layer of imagery.

#161 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 05:20 PM:

ROFLMAO.
(The picture is truly eeewww.)

For the insatiably curious: bushtits are little gray-brown birds, looking something like pingpong balls with wings and tails, coming in twittering flocks during most of the year, moving through shrubs and trees.

#162 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 05:54 PM:
(*Ahem.*)

(Small reminder: it's not right; it's only dubiously constitutional; but statements explicitly wishing harm to the President (or someone occupying his office) can get you harassed by guys who take this stuff much too seriously. Therefore, if you're going to say things of that nature, make sure they're obviously implausible. Making them risible helps too.)

(Thank you.)

#163 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 05:55 PM:

The preceding was not in response to anything specific.

#164 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 07:08 PM:

abi, #148, Good gift! I can't imagine he'll read it, but maybe someone else will find it useful.

#165 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 07:29 PM:

Marilee @163
Thanks. I found it a very interesting exercise.

I did ask that, if he didn't have a use for it, it go to an educational institution.

I then bound five more to sell. I've sold four of them, to people across the political spectrum, from liberal to (paleo)conservative. I should put more energy into getting rid of the fifth.

#166 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 08:26 PM:

Whoops. I'll try to be more careful. I don't think I've had anything disemvowelled before. Chastened here.

#167 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 10:14 PM:

There was a great article somewhere about the dubious Constitutional status of what Teresa was talking about at #161, that was basically an excuse to just over and over and over say things like, "So if I said that I wanted to ____, that could get me in trouble, right? Because obviously I don't want to _____, but let's say I really did want to ____," except with the blanks filled in. It cracked me up.

Did that make sense? Or were there too many blanks?

#155 Howard Pierce: I'm forwarding that to her. We'll see what she says...I doubt she'll like it, when confronted by the horrible, tacky reality. I think the best part of the copy is the bit that goes, "While nothing ever replaces the gift of life..."

#168 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 10:15 PM:

Small c, not big c.

#169 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2007, 11:53 PM:

There was a great article somewhere [..]

I think I remember the article you're talking about. It might have even been Highlighted/Sidelined. It had been in Harpers (or The Atlantic). I can't remember anything so specific as 'who wrote it'; can't get enough of a handle on it to google-wrestle it to the ground.

#170 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 12:51 AM:

Greg London@146: That was The Muppet Show.

meeep!

(scurries away)

#171 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 12:51 AM:

Article one: There is no problem in politics that cannot be solved by the use of a bigger hammer.

Article two: The hammer required for some problems is so big that it may tip over and crush the person wielding it. This, however, also solves the problem.

#172 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 01:43 AM:

#142:

Yep. The public key stuff is based on some hard number theoretic problem (either factoring or discrete log, which are related), but I don't think the schemes actually used have reduction proofs to the hard problems. (I know RSA doesn't.) The public key stuff always seems very fragile to me, like someone might come up with a much better factoring algorithm and break everything in the field today, or discover some flaw in the schemes as they're implemented. That's happened a bunch of times in the past, with attacks based on the padding schemes for RSA, reaction attacks (send a badly-formed ciphertext, and look at which error message you get or whether you get an error message back), and timing attacks, among many others.

The symmetric ciphers used seem less fragile. Most attacks on reasonably well-known symmetric ciphers end up requiring insane amounts of known or chosen plaintext.

But I thnik the real likely threats are in details of the protocols, message formats, and all the weird implementation stuff. There was a pretty big flaw in GPG found a couple years back based on a very innocent-looking optimization.

Nobody makes a big deal about export anymore because the feds lost that battle. It wasn't possible to control access to crypto (I think it was always intended as a holding action anyway), and the restrictions were costing a lot of companies a lot of money, being widely ignored by individuals, and were being challenged in court.

#173 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 02:18 AM:

It might have even been Highlighted/Sidelined.

Make that Particled/Sidelighted. Yeesh.

#174 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 02:34 AM:

Ahh, of course it was Particled or Sidelighted. If I've learned anything in the short time I've been here, it's that if I like something, y'all liked it first.

Still, it's worth mentioning.

#175 ::: Wim L ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 03:48 AM:

Dave Bell #142: My friends who spend more time than I do second-guessing the government on that kind of thing are of the opinion that the TLAs are good enough at traffic and network analysis now that they don't need to read your mail.

#149: Honestly, I'm not sure the government cares. A lot of software development (and research) has moved out of the US as a result of crypto and copyright-related law snafu here.

#176 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 09:11 AM:

Crypto: memory cards are becoming so large that it would not be unfeasable to entertain the idea of converting communications between a small group of people to use audio MP3 compression and one time pads.

Yeah, you have to manage a pad per person, but cards are so small and can hold gigabytes of data that the pads for a dozen people could fit in your pocket on a keychain with your car keys.

#177 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 11:25 AM:

#171 writes:
But I thnik the real likely threats are in details of the protocols, message formats, and all the weird implementation stuff. There was a pretty big flaw in GPG found a couple years back based on a very innocent-looking optimization.

Frankly the real threats have nothing to do with the protocols. If I'm that interested in what you're sending, it's much easier to break an appropriate set of kneecaps, or tap in before the content is encrypted.

It's much cheaper, usually faster - and doesn't involve factoring large numbers.

Beyond that, you really need to evaluate your ciphers in the context of what you're trying to protect. If your information is useless within hours of being sent, that's the attack vector you need to worry about. If you're dealing with a universally capable enemy, you're screwed no matter what...

#178 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2007, 09:36 PM:

David Bell @143 "And, big hint here, why did they stop making a fuss about exporting PGP-like cryptosystems?"

My impression is that they want to allow the big media companies to use strong encryption. The international banks, currency traders, securities exchanges, et al, may also have kicked up a fuss.

#179 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 02:47 PM:

Just had one of those WTF? moments, when my suspension of disbelief in reality slips.

US warns Iran on Iraq 'meddling'

US Vice President Dick Cheney has warned Iran not to interfere in Iraq.

The US government thought it was very important that the Iranians should "keep their folks at home", he said.

...

Mr Cheney is the latest member of the Bush administration to warn that the US will take steps against those trying to destabilise the situation in Iraq.

Why? Are we afraid of the competition?

#180 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 03:54 PM:

abi, isn't that like the Klingons warning off the Romulans after their takeover of Organia?

#181 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 04:20 PM:

abi #179: It sounds almost as is the Shrub administration has decided that the solution to the mess in Iraq is to create two more messes in the region.

Look for a 'Downing Street Memorandum' showing that the Iranians actually have weapons of mass destruction.

#182 ::: Kali ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Dave Winer has linked an interesting article over on Scripting News:

Jason Lefkowitz outlines a reaistic nightmare scenario in Iraq.

Could one of you military theory guys look at this one?

#183 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 07:27 PM:

Kali --

Being cut off from supply is certainly a real risk, and one of the risks that has caused the "pre-surrounded" American deployment in Iraq to come under criticism more or less since the initial attack. (Which took some major risks to maintain a high operational tempo.)

Could the Iranians take the ports? Probably, yes. I would expect that they would avoid this, and would instead support a general insurgency within Iraq, because enough blown up road has the same effects and doesn't require them to put formed units into the field and at risk of air attack.

They would also prefer not to take on UK or US ground forces in an open field battle if they can avoid it; sufficient numerical advantage will let you win, but it's almost certain to be expensive. Much better to come in to establish order after the locals and supply starvation have destroyed the majority of Anglo forces. (The UK institutional memory is long, and I persist in believing that there's a reason they're holding the port and more or less refusing to move in-country away from it.)

But, anyway, yes, open hostilities with Iran do involve a strong risk of losing the entire deployed army in Iraq. I personally waffle between the neocons being too convinced of American military invincibility to recognize this and the neocons really, really wanting an institutionally transformed army and being willing to destroy the existing one to get it.

#184 ::: Kali ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 07:46 PM:

Thanks! That was very clear.

I'm suddenly much, much more interested in what the UK forces are up to.

#185 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 08:11 PM:

If the US Army, at some level - possibly its field command, lower than the Pentagon - is not aware that it is a Very Good Thing to have someone reasonably trustworthy holding the major port of a country that they might have to get out of in a hurry, then they're not as smart as I think they are.

For the record, I think that the field command of the US Army is pretty smart.

#186 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 09:34 PM:

I'm suddenly thinking of this from The Onion.

#187 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 10:33 PM:

Dave --

Of course you want somebody reliable holding the port.

When the somebody reliable holding the port won't go more than a day's drive from it, nohow -- there were discussions about deploying British troops further into Iraq, an opportunity they vehemently declined -- and is presently doing a steady draw-down of forces, one might call that grounds for pause.

There are entire categories of situations where the difference between really poor troops and the best troops in the world is twelve hours. Surrounded and out of supply is one of that class of situation; it flat doesn't matter how good the troops and the field grade officers are.

#188 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 11:16 PM:

Graydon, so long as the port is kept open, I don't see how the troops holding it are going to be out of supply. They might not be able to do more than hold a perimeter, but if they're RMC and 5th Brigade Group, I guarantee they'll do that, in the face of whatever the hell the insurgents plus the Iranians can put up, for as close to 'indefinitely' as makes no difference.

To shut Basra down from beyond such a perimeter would take serious artillery, rocket or conventional, not some mortars on trucks. Placing or firing that artillery in the face of what can be brought down on it is not a realistic prospect. This is not Dien Bien Phu, and the US Navy and Air Force, 2007, is not the French equivalent in 1955.

#189 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 01:37 AM:

Regarding PGP and its use of public keys: The "hybrid" approach (using the public-key cryptosystem only to encrypt the nonce key for a symmetric cryptosystem, which is then used to encrypt the actual message) is the way everybody does it. This is because the public-key algorithms are much slower than the symmetric algorithms. It's really the only way it can be done.

#190 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 06:16 AM:

Graydon #183

I personally waffle between the neocons being too convinced of American military invincibility to recognize this and the neocons really, really wanting an institutionally transformed army and being willing to destroy the existing one to get it.

David Brin has a semi-serious theory about this in the comments of this post.

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006/12/back-to-political-state-of-world.html

(In brief: the one's who believe in invincibility are being used by those who have other objectives)

#191 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 10:55 AM:

Dave --

The troops holding the port -- the Brits and et ceteras -- are likely to stay in supply provided shipping is able to proceed in the Persian Gulf. That's part of my point -- the British are emphatically unwilling to leave the port area, presumably out of concern for the potential supply situation.

Given a "war with Iran" scenario, that shipping will proceed is a rotten assumption. (mines, missiles, tube artillery, wretched naval escort environment...)

Even if the troops holding the port are in supply, that doesn't mean the American units deeper in Iraq will be, since that supply has to be conveyed in vulnerable vehicles over vulnerable roads.

#192 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 07:11 PM:

ethan @167: There was a great article somewhere about the dubious Constitutional status of what Teresa was talking about at #161, that was basically an excuse to just over and over and over say things like, "So if I said that I wanted to ____, that could get me in trouble, right? Because obviously I don't want to _____, but let's say I really did want to ____," except with the blanks filled in. It cracked me up.

I found the article I was thinking of (the old-fashioned way: sorting through a pile of magazines at the library); On Simple Human Decency, by Ben Metcalf, in the June 2006 issue of Harper's. Is this the one you're thinking of? I haven't determined whether it had in fact been Particled or Sidelighted, but it was in the same issue of Harper's that provided the source for the Stabbed In the Back: The Past and Future of a Right-Wing Myth Sidelight.

Now if I can find that article about Barack Obama... I think it had been in The Atlantic...

After analysing Obama's history, the reporter wonders if he might be a narcissist. He comes to no conclusion, but thought it was interesting that Obama doodled pictures of his own face.

#193 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 08:21 PM:

After analysing Obama's history, the reporter wonders if he might be a narcissist. He comes to no conclusion, but thought it was interesting that Obama doodled pictures of his own face.

doodled pictures of his own face???? for christ's sake, that disallows any visual artist i've ever heard of or met from running for office.

was this guy for real?

i mean, maybe visual artists shouldn't run for office, those who are artists as their primary identity don't seem to anyhow, & people always love to say how hitler was a painter (art teachers love to point out that his paintings were crap).

i'm willing to believe only true narcissists could run for us president, & venerable thinkers from douglas adams to sarah vowell would agree....

so, in conclusion, this article, as described, seems friggin loony to me. also, how we choose presidents? friggin loony.

#194 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2007, 09:44 PM:

There might be a distinction between what the artist does by practise, and what the doodler does as a pen-mediated daydream. Somewhere in my library of boxes, I have a book of the doodles of famous people: Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan*, Herbert Hoover, LBJ. Wasn't all politicians; Clare Boothe Luce and Walter Cronkite were included, as well as various actors. The guy who put the book together wasn't looking for art; he was looking for the sort of sketches people did while they were talking on the phone.

That image of Obama's doodle wasn't the central thesis of the article; it was more of a throwaway line. But the author added it, I assume, because it captured something for him. I was trying to find the article again, so I could verify the memory, and provide a link for anyone who wanted to read the original, because the image captured something for me too: the feeling that Obama is about Obama.

I suppose it is unlikely that you won't find a politician who doesn't have a strong narcissistic streak. But I'd rather have someone who sought attention by using his position to do something (as Spitzer did during his time as Attorney General in New York State) than just talking himself up.


* The book described in this link is not the book I am remembering, but they are the same doodles.

#195 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 05:00 AM:

Rob Rusick #192: That's the one. God, it's good. I'd forgotten the overblown style, which makes it even more hilarious.

And #194: How much does it not surprise me that one of Reagan's doodles is a ridiculous Asian stereotype?

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