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Interesting Press Conference:
President Bush gave a press conference today that I thought was unusually interesting. Members of the press asked more directly critical questions than I remember them asking in the past, and the President spent more time responding to criticism than he usually does. The transcript is here, and the video is here.
Vovan:
The sad part is that the members of the Fourth Estate find enough guts to ask critical questions when the president's approval rating is in the 30's. The media should always be challenging our elected officials, democrats or republicans, but they seem to always do it ist post facto, not when it actually matters.

Easier to kick someone when he is down I guess
3.21.2006 6:05pm
Eric Muller (www):
If only the press would cover all of the good news about the President's press conferences.
3.21.2006 6:06pm
Vovan:
If only the press would cover all of the good news about the President's press conferences.

There are no good news, but the fact remains, they only started to ask tougher questions when the president's approval rating plunged. When Bush was around 50%/60%, the media was complacent. The questions that they ask now, should have been asked a while ago, now I don;t think their "tough" questioning makes much difference.
3.21.2006 6:19pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
And do you really call this "tough" questioning? Has everyone forgotten the 1990's? Where are the follow-ups, the calls on his obvious b.s.? See:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/007956.php

(it appears we can't add links any more ...?)

Bush is a mental embarrassment. The incoherence of his responses should make any American ashamed that a majority of our votes (this time 'round) elected this guy.

Watching the House of Commons on C-Span, it appears to me that at least in the UK, you have to be able to think on your feet.

The 1st 5 strips at this link

http://www.mnftiu.cc/mnftiu.cc/war34.html

are the definitive critique of Bush with his mouth open.
3.21.2006 6:30pm
gab:
How 'bout this response to a question on the deficit?


Q Mr. President, in the upcoming elections I think many Republicans would tell you one of the big things they're worried about is the national debt, which was $5.7 trillion when you took office, and is now nearly $8.2 trillion, and Congress has just voted to raise it to $8.9 trillion. That would be a 58-percent increase. You've yet to veto a single bill, sir -- I assume that means you're satisfied with this.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I'm not satisfied with the rise of mandatory spending. As you know, the President doesn't have the -- doesn't veto mandatory spending increases. And mandatory spending increases are those increases in the budget caused by increases in spending on Medicare and Social Security. And that's why -- back to this man's question right here -- it's important for -- "this man" being Jim -- (laughter) -- sorry, Jim, I've got a lot on my mind these days. That's why it's important for us to modernize and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, in order to be able to deal with the increases in mandatory spending.

Secondly, in terms of discretionary spending, that part of the budget over which Congress has got some control, and over which the President can make suggestions -- we have suggested that the Congress fully fund the troops in harm's way. And they have, and for that the American people should be grateful.

Secondly, we suggested that Congress fund the reconstruction efforts for Katrina. They have spent now a little more than $100 billion, and I think that's money well-spent, a commitment that needed to be keep [sic]. Thirdly, we have said that other than security discretionary spending, that we ought to, last year, actually reduce the amount of discretionary spending, and were able to do so. Ever since I've been the President we have slowed the rate of growth of non-security discretionary spending and actually cut discretionary spending -- non-security discretionary spending. Last year I submitted a budget to the United States Congress. I would hope they would meet the targets of the budget that I submitted, in order to continue to make a commitment to the American people.

But in terms of the debt, mandatory spending increases is driving a lot of that debt. And that's why it's important to get the reforms done.
3.21.2006 6:35pm
Commenterlein (mail):
This is amazing:

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, interest rates are set by an independent organization, which --

Q -- still, are you concerned about that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not quite through with my answer yet.

Q I'm sorry.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm kind of stalling for time here. (Laughter.) Interest rates are set by the independent organization. ...

He used to so much more coherent (and would have probably even remembered what the Fed is) during his time as Texas governor. What happened to him? Or more precisely, what happened to his brain?
3.21.2006 6:38pm
Commenterlein (mail):
I used to be more coherent as well - sorry for the lacking "be" in the previous comment.
3.21.2006 6:39pm
Le Messurier (mail):
What the...? The press has bashed Bush for five years and after one press confrence you say it's about time they started asking critical questions. The "critical" and biased press have done as much harm to our country's war efforts as Bush's own mistakes. Failure to understand Al Queda's efforts to undermine domestic support for the war has led the left to a dillusional belief that we can exit Iraq and be "safe" behind the bulwuark of the Atlantic Ocean. What we need from the press is truth, and that's a rare commodity in the 4th estate today.
3.21.2006 6:49pm
Dustin R. Ridgeway (mail):
/GOP Talking Points.
3.21.2006 6:54pm
Vovan:
Failure to understand Al Queda's efforts to undermine domestic support for the war has led the left to a dillusional belief that we can exit Iraq and be "safe" behind the bulwuark of the Atlantic Ocean.

The fact that after three years you still equate Al Queda and Saddam's Iraq, in my opionion proves the point that the press has not done its job.

But hey, you are more than welcome to disagree with me.
3.21.2006 6:58pm
A Blogger:
Le Messurier,

I see you are lost. The site you are looking for is here.
3.21.2006 6:59pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Vovan:

Zaquari (sp) is Al Queda in Iraq. He has said so. He has said that a major goal is to undermine domestic US supoport for the war effort. What's so hard about that? There is other evidence of Al Queda in Iraq of course. If you think I'm saying that Al Queda and Hussein conspired to commit 911 I'm not and to my knowledge the only people who have suggested this are moonbats trying to attribute it to a US motive to go going to war in Iraq.

A Blogger

I go there regularly as you obviously do.
3.21.2006 7:15pm
Constantin:
Vovan, where does he equate al Qaeda with "Saddam's Iraq"? Looks to me like he's linking al Qaeda with post-Saddam Iraq, which link is a demostrable fact.
3.21.2006 7:15pm
Robert Cote (mail) (www):
The quote being repeated in the MSM: Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

Man does he ever have tough skin. How many people reading would be able to hold their anger in the face of being called a lying premeditated warmongering murderer?
3.21.2006 7:15pm
Vovan:
If you think I'm saying that Al Queda and Hussein conspired to commit 911 I'm not and to my knowledge the only people who have suggested this are moonbats trying to attribute it to a US motive to go going to war in Iraq

My Apologies,

My main point I think still stands. The hard questions were not asked before the war, which undoubtedly played a part in the willingness of the country to engage in it.
3.21.2006 7:28pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Vovan

I'm sure we'll disagree on this till the cows come home. but I think we did the right thing in going to war in Iraq IMhO. Having said that, IMhO we made a terrible mistake by not forcing (how I don't know) a front in NW Iraq through Turkey. I believe this would have completely changed and diminished the insurgency that came about especially in the Sunni triangle. Also, I second terrible mistake was the poor planning for post conquest administration. It seems there was no plan. We must overcome these earlier deficiencies to succeed in Iraq.
3.21.2006 7:45pm
Vovan:
Le Messurier

I agree with what you are saying regarding the situation right now, however I would have preferred for the United States to deal with a secular, albeight slightly homicidal Saddam, than with religious, but no less homicidal clerics (Sadr for example), for whom we have cleared a path to power.

From a purely realist perspective imho, Saddam is more of a rational actor, than the newcomers.

Although I understand your point of view - if Iraq will closely ally to the United States in some point in the visible future, Bush will probably be vindicated at least on that part of his presidency. I just don;t know if we are closer to that goal right now.
3.21.2006 8:00pm
Huh:

He used to be so much more coherent (and would have probably even remembered what the Fed is) during his time as Texas governor. What happened to him? Or more precisely, what happened to his brain?


Your observation seems 100% dead on. I sometimes wonder if he's sick, perhaps the victim of a degenerative cognitive illness. But he certainly seems less coherent since his days as governor, and even since the early days in his presidency. Speaking as a Texan, I can remember when he was quite lucid and capable of carrying on actual give-and-take exchanges with the media. Not anymore. Anytime he gives a joint press conference with another world leader, I'm a bit embarrassed at his poor command of English.
3.21.2006 8:09pm
bluecollarguy:
Vovan:
"The fact that after three years you still equate Al Queda and Saddam's Iraq, in my opionion proves the point that the press has not done its job."




Nobody equates al Qaeda and Hussein's Iraq however there are many who deny Husseins links to Al Qaeda and terrorism in general prior to our invading Iraq. Iraq funded Abu Sayaff in the 90's. Iraq gave safe haven to Abu Abbas of Achille Lauro fame and Abu Nidal of Fatah fame. Ansar al Islam was operating n Northern Iraq. Zarqawi was doing his thing in Iraq pre war as well. Hussein was paying bounty for dead Israelis and Americans.

No known link to 9/11 but links to al Qaeda and terrorists of all sizes and shapes? You betcha.
3.21.2006 8:20pm
Medis:
He may have spent more "time" responding to critical questions, but I don't think he expended any more effort to actually grapple with the underlying criticisms. As far as I can tell, this was all just the same old answers.

Incidentally, I particularly admired his invitation to have an "honest and open debate without needless partisanship" about his "terrorism surveillance program," in which the Democrats should start by admitting they just don't want to give the people on the "front lines" the tools they need to protect us. Fun stuff.
3.21.2006 8:29pm
bluecollarguy:
Commenterlien:
"He used to so much more coherent (and would have probably even remembered what the Fed is) during his time as Texas governor. What happened to him? Or more precisely, what happened to his brain?"


The "Fed" sets interest rates in Europe and Japan? Sheesh, live and learn.
3.21.2006 8:37pm
Vovan:
To bluecollarguy

I am not arguing the fact that Saddam funded some pretty despicable elementns in the region.

My point is that the new power in Iraq will continue to fund those same elements, but will be harder to negotiate/deal with. After all Saddam was a proven commodity, the godless Soviets have dealt with him, the US dealt with him - he was a standard run of the mill non-aligned dictator in the bi-polar world. However, the clerics whether Sistani, or Sadr who is greatly reveled becasue of his father, whom not surpisingly Saddam killed, will advance their own agenda, that imho is not exactly in line with the US intersts.

After all if they are condemning to death a recent convert to Christianity in the democratic Afganistan, what do you think they'll do in Iraq?
3.21.2006 8:44pm
Medis:
bluecollarguy,

No one to my knowledge claims that Saddam's Iraq had no ties to terrorism whatsoever. What many claim, however, is that Saddam's Iraq was not somehow unique in that sense, and that those ties did not give rise to such a grave threat to the United States such that they could justify a preemptive invasion which is going to cost many hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of American lives, and many more thousands of American wounded ... not to mention potential long-run costs and harms, such as a reduction of good will and corresponding increase in animosity toward the United States that may well result in a net increase in anti-United States terrorism worldwide.
3.21.2006 8:53pm
Ross Levatter (mail):
Robert Cote said:

"The quote being repeated in the MSM: Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

Man does he ever have tough skin. How many people reading would be able to hold their anger in the face of being called a lying premeditated warmongering murderer?"

Well, not many, but it does seem less demanding to expect this of someone who IS a lying premeditated warmongering murderer...

Suspecting this answer may not satisfy,

RL
3.21.2006 8:56pm
Anonymous Reader:
To all who seem to imply that it would be better to deal with a Sadaam in power than a democratic Iraq; please rethink your position. You are advocating that it would be better to leave a mass murderer in charge; a person who flaunted UN resolutions; a person who was definitely unstable. I would hope that this would be a serious debate not a partisian debate.

Also, just because the US supported Sadaam at one time, oh yeah, during the Cold War against the USSR, oh yeah, we also supported the Taliban against.... that's right... the USSR. The world dynamic has changed. The Cold War is over and the new world war is against those dictatorships who do more to destablize a region than help the common good of mankind.

I feel that we must remember history and not fall into the trap of thinking things were hunkey dorey before the World Trade Center towers fell to the ground.

Anonymous Reader
3.21.2006 9:09pm
bluecollarguy:
Vovan:

"I am not arguing the fact that Saddam funded some pretty despicable elementns in the region."

Well, that's good, it means you're rational.

My point is that the new power in Iraq will continue to fund those same elements, but will be harder to negotiate/deal with. After all Saddam was a proven commodity, the godless Soviets have dealt with him, the US dealt with him - he was a standard run of the mill non-aligned dictator in the bi-polar world. However, the clerics whether Sistani, or Sadr who is greatly reveled becasue of his father, whom not surpisingly Saddam killed, will advance their own agenda, that imho is not exactly in line with the US intersts."

A proven commodity? If mass murder, funding terrorism and paying bounty for the heads of Americans and Jews are commodities then yes that was all well known. I can only speak for myself but I knew going into Iraq it would get messy. Lancing a boil is always messy. And sometimes the boil gets infected but sometimes not. Given his penchant for mass murder using chemical weapons, his support of every terrorist who came down the Baghdad pipe and his looney tunes progeny I supported the Iraq war and still do.

"After all if they are condemning to death a recent convert to Christianity in the democratic Afganistan, what do you think they'll do in Iraq?"

I'm not a seer but my hope is that Bush has nudged the Middle East off the course that they were on and unto a course which makes the US more secure when I am long gone but my grandchildren are still here. Anecdotal tales of horror from that part of the world will not sway me a bit. After all, I live in a country where church burnings have become sport.
3.21.2006 9:22pm
bluecollarguy:
Medis:

"No one to my knowledge claims that Saddam's Iraq had no ties to terrorism whatsoever."

I stated that he had ties to al Qaeda as well as other terrorist organizations. Many claim that there were no ties and make use of the 9/11 strawman argument that Bush claimed that Iraq was buddied up with al Qaeda. Of course he never sia that but that doesn't stop people from arguing against that false premise.

"What many claim, however, is that Saddam's Iraq was not somehow unique in that sense, and that those ties did not give rise to such a grave threat to the United States such that they could justify a preemptive invasion which is going to cost many hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of American lives, and many more thousands of American wounded ... not to mention potential long-run costs and harms, such as a reduction of good will and corresponding increase in animosity toward the United States that may well result in a net increase in anti-United States terrorism worldwide."

I think you make a valid argument, though I disagree with it, until you get to the part where the Iraq war will result in a net increase in terrorism against the United States. The islamofascists don't need an excuse to attack American interests but it is much tougher to do so when the good guys with the bad attitudes and painted faces are breathing down their necks. The results speak for themselves. There have been no net increase of attacks on American interests but there were many attacks on American interests dating back to the Carter and Reagan administrations. Weak or, worse yet, no response in kind to terrorism didn't seem to win them over.

I am reminded of prewar Afghanistan when the conventional wisodm that since the Soviets spent 10 years and billions of rubles losing to the mujahadeen America would have no chance of defeating the islamofascists runnning amok there. I argued that the Soviet military machine was a ghost of it's past and not even in the same league as my young brothers in arms. Sometimes conventional wisdom is wrong and someday when I'm long gone the conventional wisdom that invading Iraq was a mistake will no longer be conventional or wisdom I think.

Regards,
John
3.21.2006 9:38pm
JRDickens (mail):
Vovan and others of his ilk display exactly why there are no answers wothwhile at these press conferences. There is no possible way that President Bush could act or speak which would satisfy them. If he says something they don't agree with, he's lying. If he admits to making a mistake, they pounce. If he does something, he villified for doing it. If he doestn'y do something, he should have.

They are so blinded by their high minded arrogance that they can't look past their own noses. THEY have all the answers. THEY know what's really going on (nudge nudge)

Why anyone would want to lead these freaks is beyond me.
3.22.2006 12:14am
Ross Levatter (mail):
Blue collar guy: "I can only speak for myself but I knew going into Iraq it would get messy. Lancing a boil is always messy. And sometimes the boil gets infected but sometimes not."

Dictionary.com: "boil, n.

A painful, circumscribed pus-filled inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissue usually caused by a local staphylococcal infection. Also called furuncle."

So it seems Bluecollarguy knows as much about dermatology, and analogies, as he does about Iraq.
3.22.2006 1:24am
Ross Levatter (mail):
JRDickens opines:

"Vovan and others of his ilk display exactly why there are no answers wothwhile at these press conferences. There is no possible way that President Bush could act or speak which would satisfy them...."

Me, I'd be satisfied if the President of the United States could just construct a coherent, grammatically correct sentence. Too bad No Child Left Behind arrived so late...
3.22.2006 1:29am
finec:
On CSPAN (I love CSPAN) I watched Bush, and then Blair. Not that I love Blair, but can we please swap leaders until 2008?

Echoing bluecollarguy, you've got to love the fact that the president thinks the US Fed sets worldwide interest rates. I bet the Bundesbank is loving this.

Seriously, how do pro-business Republicans deal with the contrast between the current crowd, who have no idea what they're doing, and the Clinton/Rubin/Summers regime? It's really like we have plunged into an abyss, in terms of sheer competence.

If the Peso crisis or LTCM happened today, the whole financial system would be toast. Toast.
3.22.2006 1:45am
Medis:
bluecollarguy,

As I noted, that is a "potential" long-run harm. Terrorism is going to be a decades-long, and perhaps generations-long, problem for the United States, and it is simply far too early to know the "results" of our invasion of Iraq over that sort of time scale. But I will note one problem with your logic is that you seem to treat the number of "islamofascists" in the world as a fixed quantity, but I would suggest that it is actually a variable, and a function in part of world events. In other words, the question is not just what motivates "islamofascists" once they are "islamofascists", but also what motivates someone to become an "islamofascist" in the first place. And again, we are potentially talking about future generations of people, and what will shape their attitudes toward the United States.

In that sense, one has to wonder what would have happened if we had, say, instead spent a portion of those hundreds of billions (and none of the lives and wounded) on a project like providing clean water for poor communities in developing nations, including many Islamic communities. How would that alternative project--of a charitable rather than warlike nature--have affected relations between the United States and future generations in the "Islamic world"? In other words, why not combine the stick--Afghanistan--with some sort of carrot--like a clean water project?

Of course, those in the Administration who seized on 9/11 as an excuse to push for the Iraq War imagined that our invasion of Iraq WOULD be viewed as a sort of carrot (this was the basic premise behind their "we will be greeted as liberators" claim). That was just one of the many ways in which their blind adherence to ideology led them to make naive and highly erroneous predictions about the effects of their actions.
3.22.2006 7:51am
bluecollarguy:
Ross,
:-} OK, you got me, my metaphor should have said spread the infection to be precise. But I am happy to know that you take no exception to my metaphor of the Middle East as a boil.

I also noticed that you had nothing to say about Iraq other than making a false assertion as to my knowledge of same. No surprises there.
3.22.2006 9:32am
Houston Lawyer:
I don't think anyone voted for Bush because of his eloquence. He used to be a fun guy to listen to, back when he was governor and had the smirk. He lost the smirk at the 2000 Republican convention and hasn't been the same since. His inability to speak coherently appears to be inherited from his dad.

Bill Clinton could speak run-on sentences ad infinitum
George Bush senior never gave a memorable speach
Ronald Reagan had a gift for speaking, but to his critics he was a moron and a B movie actor.
Jimmy Carter ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

We all wish our leaders could speak and argue like Margaret Thatcher. Get over it
3.22.2006 10:08am
Rusty (mail):
Believe me. When the chairman of the fed farts, every banker in the world wants to know what it smells like. So in effect, we do control the interest rates in a lot of countries.
3.22.2006 10:29am
Cindy Sheehan:
The reason "hard questions" were not asked before the war, a premise I will assume is true, is that such questions would have had to be asked of Sens. Kerry, Edwards, Clinton, et al., and of Billy-boy, Algore, Madeleine Albright, et al., all of whom agreed with the Administration's basic arguments (or earlier had voiced similar ones) in favor of acting. "Bush lied, people died" indeed.

Regarding the speculation about the President's brain, I wonder if any of the latter-day Ciceros posting on this issue has ever read a transcript of his own speech, formal or informal, or even a deposition? (Most of the comments on this site are littered with spelling and grammar errors.) Simmer down.
3.22.2006 11:35am
Vovan:
The reason "hard questions" were not asked before the war, a premise I will assume is true, is that such questions would have had to be asked of Sens. Kerry, Edwards, Clinton, et al., and of Billy-boy, Algore, Madeleine Albright, et al., all of whom agreed with the Administration's basic arguments (or earlier had voiced similar ones) in favor of acting. "Bush lied, people died" indeed.

It Appears Ms. Sheehan that you have problems reading as well, here let me repost my argument:
The media should always be challenging our elected officials, democrats or republicans, but they seem to always do it ist post facto, not when it actually matters

Yes, harder questions should be asked of the Democratic senators as well, my point is that they are not being asked, and have started being asked of the Administration after the popularity if the president free-falled.
3.22.2006 11:44am
Just an Observer:
My thoughts on what I consider Topic A at the press conference:

Politics vs substance on NSA surveillance

Both the question about the NSA surveillance controversy and the President's answer concerned the politics of the matter.

Neither addressed the substantive issue, which is whether Bush broke the law.

This is not surprising. White House reporters would almost always rather talk about politics than complicated legal issues, and in this case Bush obviously thinks he is politically strong and legally weak.

The question the President should be asked is, "Why won't you take the legal question to the courts for a ruling?"


were posted last night at RedState. There I ended up conducting a remedial tutorial for several Bush partisans on the legal issues explored here at Volokh many times. It is amazing how much ignorance and disinformation there is on this subject after more than three months.
3.22.2006 3:02pm
Just an Observer:
BTW, I occasionally enjoy watching the weekly question period in the UK's House of Commons. There the prime minister must stand and answer questions from partisan ally and foe alike.

Can anyone imagine our president handling that?
3.22.2006 3:12pm
bluecollarguy:
Medis,
"As I noted, that is a "potential" long-run harm..."


There certainly is a potential long run harm but there is also certainly a long run benefit. That was what the debate was all about. We just came to opposite conclusions. I often wonder though if those of us who came to different conclusions came to them on the same set of facts. No problems with my logic however, I understand that nothing is static, not even static. :-} I happen to once again disagree with your conclusion. I think many people underestimate the power of the American soldier to remove the myth of the devil Americana. One corpsman winding his way through the killing field to rescue a wounded Iraqi child in some village in Bumstuck, Iraq does more to further the ideals he represents than all the gasbags in DC combined. We should recognise and appreciate that I think.

"In that sense, one has to wonder what would have happened if we had, say, instead spent a portion of those hundreds of billions (and none of the lives and wounded) on a project like providing clean water for poor communities in developing nations, including many Islamic communities."
We don't have to wonder Medis, we have the data to evaluate your suggestion. The oil for food program did not go well. Like sanctions, the money flows to the tyrants and the people suffer. In the case of Iraq Hussein and his insane sons built gold plated rape rooms inside the gold plated palaces and the folks went hungry. Are there ever just wars?

"Of course, those in the Administration who seized on 9/11 as an excuse to push for the Iraq War imagined that our invasion of Iraq WOULD be viewed as a sort of carrot (this was the basic premise behind their "we will be greeted as liberators" claim)...."


Which ideology Medis? Fighting terrorism where it rears it's ugly head? Disposing of homicidal maniacs with a penchant for using chemical weapons and invading their neighbors as visions of Saladin waltz through their twisted little minds? Or the one that says after America was attacked in NYC, the paradigm changed?

Yes, there were stupid statements made and rosy scenarios thrust forward in an attempt to garner support for the Iraq war. I grant you that. That doesn't make the policy decision wrong though it certainly affected the conduct of the war. You can argue that point but it won't be with me. I agree that we could have conducted the war more efficiently. But my arm chair quaterbacking on that doesn't move the ball down the field so I'm reticent to engage in that discussion. We all make mistakes and one of the awful things about war is that sure as shooting awful mistakes will be made.
3.22.2006 6:01pm
Medis:
bluecollarguy,

You paint a romantic image of the American soldier. I suspect similar images dominated the minds of those who thought we would be greeted as liberators. Unfortunately, reality is far more complicated, as are the views of Iraqis when it comes to the ongoing American presence in their country.

Conversely, you paint all charitable works as akin to the oil-for-food program. Again, reality is more complicated.

In general, you talk only about the reasons to go to war, and discuss none of the many reasons why starting a war may be a bad idea. But history has proven time and again that few people who start wars get what they expect out of doing so.

So, while I do think some wars are just and worth the costs of fighting them, I don't trust anyone's judgment on that matter until they first prove that they can honestly assess the risks and costs of war in addition to the possible benefits. And I have seen absolutely no hint of such an ability on the part of the Administration or its die-hard defenders. All I see is talk of the potential benefits, and a wave of a hand at all talk of risks and costs.
3.22.2006 8:37pm
Anonymous Reader:
Medis,

I have to beg to differ on your previous comment. As a servicemember who was involved in the Iraq War from the beginning, let me tell you that we were indeed greeted as liberators. The people there waved and cheered us as we passed through. Yes, there were elements who didn't see us as liberators and are now active in fomenting instability. But not everyone loves policemen either. So what's your point?

Also, the best laid plans don't survive first contact. We had a lot of thoughts and opinions and plans on what we thought Iraq would do and a lot of that fell through. So we're forced to reevaluate our plans and carry on. You can't sit here, 3 years later and rewrite history. Things happen, water under the bridge, etc. The real question is, what can WE as a Americans do to help the Iraqis cement their government? I'll tell you that all the doom and gloom and pessimism isn't helping their cause. Put yourself in their shoes, if supposedly more enlighted people were saying over and over to give up, you've got too many problems that we're just going to run away, how would that make you feel?

As for the good works, if the media did a better job telling the ENTIRE story of the goings on in Iraq, you would be more informed about the good works that we do over there on a daily basis. Building schools, fixing their power grid, their water infrastructure, etc. It's just that that kind of news doesn't buy ratings. It's boring and I guess you could argue, "We're supposed to do those things..." But my point still stands. Ask any servicemember who has served over there or are still serving over there if we're still doing good public works. Shoot, we've even got civilians who've quit their jobs in the US risking their lives to help them. So, you're a good commentor and I love reading your thoughts, but you're wrong on this one.

Anonymous Reader
3.22.2006 9:40pm
Medis:
Anonymous Reader,

As an aside, I don't think you can blame the media for painting a pessimistic picture. For one thing, the Administration does in fact constantly promote the message you are repeating (about all the good works we are doing in Iraq). The American people have heard that message--they are just finding it less and less credible over time. For another thing, if you read some Iraqi blogs, I think you will see that the overall reality of reconstruction in Iraq is not as rosy as the Administration's anecdotal evidence would suggest. But most importantly, a lot of the basic facts--the numbers of dead and wounded, the actual dollar costs of the war, the actual dollars allocated but not spent on reconstruction--are objective.

Anyway, my basic point is that the people in the Administration who used 9/11 as an opportunity to push for invading Iraq systematically ignored or grossly underestimated all of the risks and costs associated with their plans. And their continued inability and/or unwillingness to grapple with these risks and costs renders them incompetent to make important decisions going forward.

You offer bromides about plans not surviving contact with the enemy and water under the bridge, but the fact is that many people in advance of the war, including many people in the government and military, tried to point out to these people that they were grossly underestimating the risks and costs associated with their plans. Those other voices in government were systematically ignored, bypassed, and eventually pushed out of the government entirely.

And this is part of a general pattern which cuts across all aspects of government in this Administration: first comes the decision, and then comes the analysis, and the job of the analysts is to support and justify the decision. If an analyst actually questions or undermines the decision, they are ignored, bypassed, and eventually dismissed from service.

The "liberators" meme is an interesting example of this pattern. The precise problem with this view is not that it is wrong as far as it goes, because a substantial majority of Iraqis did in fact appreciate that we freed them from Saddam. Rather, the precise problem is that there is a lot more to consider. For example, a lot of Iraqis are grateful that we got rid of Saddam and yet at the same time they see our presence in Iraq as a threat--eg, to their religion, and/or to their sovereignity, and so on. Again, many people in government--usually the ones who actually had some experience with Iraq--understood this would be a serious problem, and yet these people were ignored.

But I agree with the sentiment that we should be looking for some solutions, not just analyzing the problems--but meaningful solutions cannot be achieved if you don't understand the problems first. And the first and most obvious step to working toward solutions to our problems in Iraq is to remove from power those people who have consistently shown their inability to exercise good judgment and to replace them with better leaders.
3.23.2006 7:34am
Anonymous Reader:
Medis,

I appreciate your view and I agree with some of what you're saying. You're right that there were analysts whose predictions and analysis were ignored and who were ultimately dismissed or moved on from to other jobs. As unfortunate as that is, it goes with the territory. It's a coin flip. You can make predictions and whatnot, but sometimes you're wrong and sometimes your right. Which is why it's important to leave the analysis to the people who best know the subject and have the most experience in that area. So I agree that the administration has been heavy handed about some things, but when you feel you're right, it's hard not to do so.

As for the media vs the administration. Yes, the administration puts out a picture of the situation (rosy, negative, positive, pessimistic, etc), but when the media portrays a different picture? Who are the people to believe? We're all skeptical of the govt to begin with to varying degrees and we generally think/assume the media acts in our best interests. So I think that when you have two competing views like that, we're in trouble. The good thing is that we have the ability to communicate directly with the people in the trenches, the servicemen and women with blogs and email who can at least attempt to give us the real deal in the field. It's a catch-22 for the govt. If they put out a negative picture, it's used as a bludgeon to show that Iraq is a failed operation, blah, blah, blah. If they put a rosy picture out, they're accused of making things sound better than they are. What I want and would expect the media to do is to be more objective. Sorry, body counts, casualties, that's not "objective" per se. The use of those numbers is highly subjective. I don't want to repeat discussions from other threads, but context is important when referring to body counts.

I agree to a point about replacing leaders who have failed in their jobs. And this may come across the wrong way, but sometimes it's necessary for leaders to LEARN from failure. I am not trying to minimize the loss of life and the serious involved, and sometimes things are so FUBAR that heads have to roll. But if we're too quick to fire and replace people because of mistakes then we risk losing some important intangible benefits. All to often I hear/read things about people who want specific high level folks to be fired or replaced because of mistakes. That's the easy way out in my opinion. Because by clamoring for their replacement, they're indicting everyone else who works for them. They don't make all the decisions or study all of the information themselves, so if mistakes are made, they're made on several levels. Yes, the buck has to stop somewhere, but sometimes it's not as easy as "fire Mr Rumsfeld and the war will be won."

Anonymous Reader
3.23.2006 12:07pm