Who knows the plans and why they were drawn up?


So here's the way I see it. The Bush administration is clearly attempting to create a pretext to attack Iran and creating the conditions where a series of massive bombing raids can be undertaken to degrade, and possibly delay, Iran's nuclear program, which is so well hidden and protected -- in part as a reaction to Israel's bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor -- that it is impossible to stop. It's my view that this raid will set up another war inside Iraq against American assets there as well as inciting worldwide terrorist attacks against Americans and their properties around the world, including inside the United States -- without doing much to prevent Iran's nuclear program. It is, in other words, perfectly consistent with everything Bush and the neocons have done in the past. And of course, this being the Bush administration, you can count on it being done incompetently and dishonestly.

Here we learn of Bush's strategy, outlined by Condi Rice, and Juan Cole is here.

Meanwhile, here we learn of Wes Clark's concern that the raid is being pushed by "New York money people." I agree with Clark, but I agree that he also said what he said badly, though not anti-Semitically. Thing is, the anti-anti-Semites have a racket going. Criticize the neocons for what they are actually doing -- or even use the word "neocon" -- and you're an anti-Semite. That means they get to keep doing it even if it means they are acting on behalf of what they believe are Israel's interests -- they usually turn out to be wrong about that too -- rather than America's. We saw during the Lieberman primary that The Weekly Standard actually does care more about what's good for Israel than for America -- they said American Jews should behave that way, and so do Newsweek's embarrassingly crazy Rabbi Gelman and Mona Charen and a few others. If anyone on earth thinks Marty Peretz cares more about the fate of the goyim in America than the heroes in Israel, I've never met him or her, but I won't go on about that. I'll just say if you read this excellent New York Times Magazine piece on Abe Foxman, you'll get a small inkling of how the system works.

The Mickster and I did a Bloggingheads thing yesterday. It's here. I am particularly badly lit, even for me. The topics are:

Jonathan Chait, one of the smartest of the "there are none so blind as those who will not see" liberal hawks, simply assumes that support of George H. W. Bush's invasion of Kuwait has been borne out by history. This may be true in political terms, but only because our political debate is so shallow, ahistorical, and unmoored to reality in any way. It is, however, false in reality, in part because it's impossible to disprove a counterfactual, but also because:

a) Both Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf opposed it and believed that Saddam could have been moved to leave without war and that Bush invaded prematurely.

b) Bush wimped out after doing only half the job, leaving the problem of Saddam to fester and imposing a cruel and heartless policy of sanctions that killed who knows how many thousands of Iraqi children and also sold out the Kurds after calling on them to rebel. Everyone would have been better off if Saddam had been forced to retreat without war as Powell and Schwarzkopf (and Mikhail Gorbachev) argued at the time.

The rest of his piece is pretty whack as well ... I mean, if you pick just one person, Jonathan Schell in this case, it's an automatic cheap shot. Something like 86 percent of people calling themselves liberals favored military retaliation against Al Qaeda. I sure as hell did, though Andy Sullivan wanted to put me and my friends in concentration camps at the time. Looking back, however, I think it was probably a mistake to trust the Bush administration to do anything at all with America's military. Everything they touch turns to disaster for everyone concerned, save for the pundits who say "Let's give them six more months." The fact that Chait picked someone who opposed Afghanistan makes me worry about whether he really wants to be honest about this. Spencer has more.

Every time I try to like a right-wing pundit, I get punished for it. Remember when I was being all nice to Monica Crowley? Sheesh, I'm ashamed. If Nixon were alive today and were a pretty blonde with a (wasted) Ph.D. and a radio talk show, he'd being doing stuff like this:

The F.O.I.A. reference was to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Monica Crowley, a conservative syndicated talk show host, asking for the names of all the lawyers and law firms representing Guantánamo detainees in federal court cases.

The Irony of Iraq: The system doesn't work.

Eric B notes: Shorter Joe Klein: "McCain's wrong about the surge and Obama is right, but I liked the way McCain came across on TV."

Pigs are flying, I suppose, as The Weekly Standard has a fair and decent piece on Hillary and the war. Of course, the political news this week is going to be all Obama. And it's going to be an Obama/Clinton/Edwards race unless Al Gore decides to get in, which I still strongly favor. The winner of that four-way contest -- whoever it is -- would be an extremely strong candidate in 2008 no mattter what, assuming the bloodletting is under control. And all four have the potential to be great presidents, though personally, I remain disappointed in Clinton's performance in opposing Bush's war. In any case, I don't understand, from a political standpoint, what John Kerry, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd think they're doing, but it's not my problem. (And I hope if Sharpton goes on another silly ego trip, well, everybody gets that that's the point.)

Crazy Marty Watch, continued: Martin Singer Sewing Machine, World Historical Figure. Mikhail Gorbachev, not so much. (Spencer)

This too, from Mr. Conflict of Interest. Rave Review:

"A sweeping chronicle . . . admirable clarity . . . skillful narrative" -- New Republic owner Martin Peretz in the Wall Street Journal, reviewing Michael Oren's "Power, Faith and Fantasy."

"I have been blessed with numerous friends who have backed me throughout this project and offered greatly valued comments on the text. Thanks go to ... Martin Peretz" and many others -- Michael Oren, in "Power, Faith and Fantasy."

Bonus Crazy Marty item: Their rugs are ugly, too.

P.S.: Read the comments. The non-racist stuff is just made up.

From the Benton Foundation:


At the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, something profound happened in the government secrecy system. With little fanfare, the paradigm of secrecy shifted. The days when secrets would be secret forever officially ended that night. Some 700 million pages of secret documents became unsecret. No longer were they classified. They became . . . public. Imagine it: Some 400 million formerly classified pages at the National Archives, another 270 million at the FBI, 30 million elsewhere, all emerging into the sunshine of open government, squinting and pale, like naked mole rats. This would seem a victory for freedom of information, just as President Bill Clinton envisioned when he signed Executive Order 12958 in 1995 (affirmed by President Bush in 2003), which mandated that 25-year-old documents be automatically declassified unless exempted for national security or other reasons. But it is not so simple. There is a dirty little secret about these secrets: They remain secreted away. You still can't rush down to the National Archives to check them out. In fact, it could be years before these public documents can be viewed by the public. Fifty archivists can process 40 million pages in a year, but now they are facing 400 million. The backlog, inside the National Archives II facility in College Park, measures 160,000 cubic feet inside a massive classified vault with special lighting and climate controls to preserve old paper. Row upon row of electronically operated steel shelves, all a pale gray, hold hundreds of thousands of document boxes buffered to fight destructive acidity. The place feels like the set of a science fiction movie, all pristine and orderly and hushed. Inside the boxes are documents that have to be scrutinized and processed according to the classification instructions written on them by staffers in any one of several agencies, which leaves archivists with a task not unlike deciphering a 25-year-old crime scene.


Lucky me, I saw Willie Nelson (and his harmonica player) play with Wynton Marsalis and company in the world's nicest performance space, the Allen Room at Jazz and Lincoln Center, on Friday night. The short show -- it was over before 9 -- was both moving and impressive. Willie's voice range is pretty narrow these days but no less expressive than it's been in the previous six decades. Both men stretched to accommodate one another -- as did the other musicians, but they played tunes that provide the foundation on which almost all American popular musicians have been building for the nearly the past century. It was wonderous and wonderful in an extremely relaxed fashion. The Times' Nate Chinen notes, here: "[T]he concert's most transcendent moments conveyed more of a quiet ache. They were 'Stardust' and 'Georgia on My Mind,' a pair of Hoagy Carmichael standards that Mr. Nelson long ago personalized. He sang them both with a forthright intimacy, as if telling a cherished bedtime story. And the band was right there with him, emphasizing how the blues are as much a feeling as a form."

Amen, brother.

Rest in Peace:

Alice Coltrane.

Michael Brecker.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown: Raleigh, NC


I understand where you're coming from, but I think you're badly missing developments, at least in the upper South, notably here in NC.

Yeah, I know, Jesse H and the two nimrods we have in the Senate now. Even that is misleading, though. Much of that relates to the utterly hopeless candidacies of Dem Erskine Bowles which brought them BOTH to office. Bowles had too high a profile and too much insider support for another D to take on, but he was just awful as a candidate. He's a good guy, if centrist / conservative, but as a candidate he had no game whatsover. So we get Dole and Burr, both of whom were beatable.

Not to mention the fact that you're forgetting just how close Harvey Gantt came to unseating Helms (the first time). The fact that the dirty tactics succeeded is sad indeed, but Helms was never more than a 51% candidate, for all those years, and that was some years back.

In the House, conservative Dem Heath Shuler's win was widely noted, but how about Larry Kissell, who with hardly any national $ at all came within a whisker of defeating Robin Hayes. Kissell is a straightahead (overuse word alert) populist who got outspent by about a zillion to one. The NC delegation is now 6-7 and should be 7-6; watch Kissell (who is a guy with some serious game) in '08. My bet is Hayes doesn't even run ...

The Democratic tide is rising at the state level (up from a split House a few years ago), in spite of having to jettison a corrupt House Speaker (who, btw, is being replaced by a highly respected liberal Chapel Hill lawyer, Joe Hackney). Ty Harrell, the black candidate (in a bow tie no less) who was cited by Steve, won in a predominantly white Raleigh district (defeating an old-time Helms acolyte), while the predominantly black Southeast is represented by a very effective white female who used to be head of NC ACLU. This in Raleigh, which nobody traditionally confuses with Durham, leave aside Chapel Hill or Asheville, in terms of perceived liberalism. Not to mention Julia Boseman, an openly gay female legislator from Wilmington, which is down in conservative Eastern NC. Nobody appears to give a rat's *&^, which amazes me too, but there you have it.

I agree that nothing you say is exactly wrong, but your conclusion is. Think about it; trim the "South" which the GOP dominates by a large state or 2 (VA, NC, and, yes, maybe even TN)? Make the R's have to spend serious time and dough to hold on throughout the South? Would that change your mind about this?

BTW, first saw Randy Newman in a double bill with John Prine back in the mid-70s during what was, for Newman, the Good Old Boys tour. In Birmingham, AL, no less, where he was duly incredibly well received. Yeah, I know, it doesn't prove anything, and I was about to depart B'ham myself, but still ...

Name: Jim Hassinger
Hometown: Glendale, CA

It's about progressivism in the South, that's our problem there. FDR managed to get along with the old segregationist dragons by appeasing them with industrial projects and not enforcing the 14th amendment. Things have improved a great deal in the South since then, though the leatherhead faction still seems ascendant for the moment, selling old-time religion and advertainment capitalism.

I think that leaves Democrats with a poor hand to play in the South. Criticize the state of affairs and you get accused of being elitist. Or appease the perceived Southern voter and end up a party of Liebermen.

Southern Democrats, what's left of them, are understandably touchy. How about this? Progressivism has a lot of appeal to everyone, that's the whole idea. There are lots of good progressives in the South, and we can win a slice there too. But we'll never return to FDR's Southern Democrats, because they don't exist anymore. On the other hand, maybe the Republican South is melting, too.

The Democratic Party will rise in the South when progressives win the South.

Name: John Atkinson
Hometown: Houston, TX

Dear Doctor:

Thank you for posting my message from yesterday. I appreciate it.

"But where I live, bub, white people vote for blacks and straight people vote for gays. (How many openly gay elected officials do you have in the land of cotton, again?)"

Bub was the grandfather on My Three Sons. Please call me John. Two openly lesbian elected officials in Texas that come readily to mind are Lupe Valdez, the Sheriff of Dallas County, and Annise Parker, Controller of Houston. Both have pages in Wikipedia.

Eric replies: Thanks, bub.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

I wrote last week about the error of debating strategy when the problem is more fundamentally the policy. Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee yesterday was a stunning exposure of how the Bush administration, lurching ever more deeply into disaster, is clueless about policy.

After asserting that the U.S. commitment to the Iraqi government was not open-ended, she was asked what the administration's next move would be if the Iraqi government did not meet benchmarks. Her answer was that it was not "good policy" to entertain the failure of a strategy when undertaking it as a course for success. Really, she said that. After all of the failure for which the Bush administration has had no ready response, the Secretary of State dared to say that we should not prepare for contingencies because we're hoping that this will work, even though its failure is highly likely. This view is the calling card of the Bush administration and why we and the world cannot tolerate this gang of corrupt fools any longer.

Name: Richard Hart
Hometown: Durham, NC


This is Richard Hart, editor of the Independent Weekly in Durham, N.C. I think I have something you might like: A LOOK magazine article from 1966 that asks five top academics/pundits (including an unknown named Henry Kissinger and the military editor of the NYTimes) to give LBJ advice on what to do in Vietnam. Only one got the right answer.

Here's the column (the LOOK magazine pdfs are at the bottom). I wrote about it, and most interestingly, there's a link at the bottom of the column to pdfs of the LOOK story. The similarities to the Iraq debate are scary. Really.

Hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Name: David Dennie
Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia

Hey Eric,

First, a little Who nitpicking in response to Mr. Pierce's plaint "...We've needed a live collection from the Who's Next period for years..."

Well, a live recording from the Who's Next period DOES exist; it's on Disc 2 of the 2003 "Deluxe Edition" reissue of Who's Next. That disc contains most, if not all, of The Who's legendary April 26, 1971, Young Vic show, recorded over a year after Live at Leeds, and including such hard-to-find-live songs as "Time Is Passing," "Too Much of Anything," "Getting in Tune," and '"Bargain."

A rare, but forgivable, miss by the estimable Mr. Pierce.

Oh, and while I have you, one other thing if I may: I know it's your blog and all, but, PLEASE, enough with the rock-song quotes in the top-line headers every day. I mean, it's enough when lame Newsweek does it, but it's entirely beneath someone of your usually discriminating taste. Yeeesh!

Eric replies: Do other people feel this way? I stole the idea from Spencer, not Newsweek (sheesh), but it is hard work.

Name: Alex Swingle
Hometown: NYC

"Success Story" the last good song by John Entwistle? Sorry, Charles, while I am glad you are back, I think you are wrong here. How about "905" on Who are You?

And everything I know is what I need to know
And everything I do's been done before
Every sentence in my head
Someone else has said"

This pretty much describes the Beltway Pundit Cocktail Circuit, no?

Name: Brian Gygi
Hometown: Albany, CA

Happy Birthday, Doc. I donated $35 to the Lawrence Shelter, and boy do I have the warm fuzzies. And remember, no matter how old you feel, you'll always be younger than me.

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