You've got a lot of nerve...


Tom Friedman writes, "Mr. Gore lost the presidency, but in the dignity and grace with which he gave up his legal fight, he united America."

You may remember that Al Gore never really had any chance to resist the Supreme Court's decision. The decision itself was a travesty. The court ignored its most profound philosophical commitments to federalism and devolving more power to the states in order to overturn the Florida court's decision and did so along nakedly partisan lines. If the two justices who had been appointed by Bush's father -- an obvious conflict of interest -- had recused themselves, then Gore would have become president, and hundreds of thousands of people whose deaths Bush and Cheney have caused for foolish and counterproductive reasons would still be alive today and the world would be a better place in almost every way. My point is, it is the pundits who made it impossible for Gore even to think of resisting by fighting it out in the Electoral College and demanding that the man who won the popular vote win the presidency. (Republicans were planning to make this argument when it looked like the vote might go the other way). Many of these pundits were calling for Gore to cave even when it was clear he had won the popular vote and maybe Florida as well. (I think he did, but it really doesn't matter. The vote was a statistical tie, decided purely on the basis of political machinations, at which the Gore team was sadly inept.) Friedman recognizes at least a portion of the catastrophe that Bush has caused -- "Never has so much national unity -- which could have been used to develop a real energy policy, reverse our coming Social Security deficit, assemble a lasting coalition to deal with Afghanistan and Iraq, maybe even get a national health care program -- been used to build so little" -- but not his responsibility and that of his colleagues in misportraying Gore during the election, misportraying the results of the Florida vote, and then shilling for Bush's lies about Iraq. (And don't expect the MSM's war on Gore, here and here, to disappear, save for a few weeks, perhaps.)

Meanwhile, in a column that shames his colleague across the page, Frank Rich explores the manner in which the rest of us have behaved like "Good Germans" in sitting still for the evil our government continues to commit in our name:

By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. ... There has been scarcely more response to the similarly recurrent story of apparent war crimes committed by our contractors in Iraq. ... There has been no accountability. The State Department, Blackwater's sugar daddy for most of its billion dollars in contracts, won't even share its investigative findings with the United States military and the Iraqi government, both of which have deemed the killings criminal. ...

We can continue to blame the Bush administration for the horrors of Iraq -- and should. Paul Bremer, our post-invasion viceroy and the recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts, issued the order that allows contractors to elude Iraqi law, a folly second only to his disbanding of the Iraqi Army. But we must also examine our own responsibility for the hideous acts committed in our name in a war where we have now fought longer than we did in the one that put Verschärfte Vernehmung on the map. ...

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those "good Germans" who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It's up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war's last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country's good name.

Meanwhile, unlike most of the pundits who cheered for this war, Jonathan Rauch has written a tough-minded, honest column explaining why and where he went wrong. It's in the National Journal, and here is a snippet:

Since 2004, it has become clearer that the Bush administration's prewar hype portrayed the intelligence on Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction as solider and starker than it really was. Not enough people, including people in the media, asked enough hard questions. I should have been more skeptical of the WMD hard sell. That was mistake No. 1.

Mistake No. 2 was forgetting the difference between experts and poseurs. Over the past few years, it has become clearer that the hazards of the U.S. occupation of Iraq were not unforeseeable. In fact, quite a few people foresaw them. And warned about them. And went unheeded. Partly that was because the Bush administration wasn't interested, but partly it was because a lot of us in the media gave a lot of ink and airtime to pontificators who had never been to Iraq, who had never fought in a war or served in an embassy or worked on a reconstruction team, and who did not know Iraq's language, culture, people, leaders, history, or region. Other than that, they were experts.

In 2002 and 2003, of course, there was no way of knowing which of countless forecasts and opinions would prove correct. The experts were divided; sometimes fresh-eyed amateurs see what jaded experts miss; the previous U.S. Iraq policy was no big success. All true. Still, the fact that so many of the war's sturdiest proponents were journalists and pundits -- in other words, hacks, like me -- should have rung more alarm bells. That was mistake No. 2.

Those, however, were small mistakes compared with the fundamental one.

It was not, really, a mistake about the war at all. It was a mistake about the president.

I wrote back in Slate then that whatever one thought about the argument for war, and I did not find it convincing, even if I had, I would have opposed it on the grounds that George W. Bush could not be trusted to conduct it. I think Rauch, like most of the MSM, was naïve about Bush back then, and many were bullied as well by conservative journalists and propagandists. Still, I respect his willingness to grapple with his mistakes, and I don't think we should trust the judgment of anyone who supported this catastrophe but refuses to do so.

Speaking of the above, Andrew Sullivan picks a fight with young Ezra and gets his posterior handed to him, here. I hope this will quiet down all those people who say I should be nicer to Sullivan simply because he's switched sides. (And Sullivan remains prideful not only in his role described here, regarding McCaughey's dishonest article, but also regarding his role as a publicist for Charles Murray's racist pseudoscience. Congrats to the Atlantic for scooping him up ...)

Mickey piles on usefully, here.

And don't miss Phil Weiss on Freedom's Watch and the Jews.

Now maybe the young folks will "get it," "Bruce with the Arcade Fire "

From TomDispatch:

Independent journalist David Morse's dramatic, first-person account of a trip to southern Sudan, accompanying three young Sudanese refugees -- part of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan -- back home: "With the Lost Boys in Southern Sudan, 'Starting from Zero' (Part 1)"

"Starting from Zero" -- the first of a two-part report -- takes the reader on a dramatic journey into a place little known or written about here: the southern reaches of Sudan, which, in the not too distant future, may be the point of origin for the next disastrous oil war on this planet. Morse embarked this summer on a seven-week trip with three young refugees, three "Lost Boys," returning to the homes they fled years ago in the midst of a bitter north/south civil war in southern Sudan. At a young age, each had trekked thousands of kilometers after their villages were ravaged by mounted militia representing the Islamist government in Khartoum, Sudan's capital. They braved death in many forms before ending up in the United States, gaining educations, and deciding to return to their childhood places of origin in search of parents, friends, age-mates -- and with the desire to help their impoverished homeland.

Morse begins this way:

"To the extent that the media spotlight is ever directed at Africa, it has focused on Darfur, in western Sudan, where several hundred thousand people have died in ethnic violence since 2003. Just next door, beyond the glare of the spotlight, however, is South Sudan, where an estimated 2.2 million people were killed in two decades of bitter internecine fighting. There, a fragile, three-year-old peace agreement is rapidly coming apart. A new conflagration in South Sudan would engulf Darfur, dwarf the carnage that has taken place so far in the region, and launch sub-Saharan Africa into the age of energy wars."

And then Morse plunges the reader into the impoverished (if energy-rich) South, a bar in Kuajok, a boomtown where, as Morse comments, "All that's missing is the money." There, he finds himself immediately staring down the barrel of a pistol held by a two-year-old Dinka toddler. And that's just the beginning of this odyssey of a report.

Morse's South Sudan is a world almost unknown to us and yet crucial to know. In "Starting from Zero," you begin to know it in a way that is moving and disturbing.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Dan Garfinkel

Hometown: Pittsburgh

Not to beat a dead horse, but if you saw the Who in 1979 and last year, you did not see "The Who." They were never the same without Keith Moon and, now, with The Ox gone, it is Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey with a backing band. As for the Band, I can tell you that in 1969, they were astounding. On the other hand, Bruce at the Cleveland Agora in 1978 was unforgettable. Also, for that matter, Bob Marley at the Agora in the summer of 1975.

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