Fighting to save Christmas

It’s the middle of November. Yes, that means it’s time to take up arms to do battle in the “War on Christmas”! As we approach the joyous season of peace and goodwill, we can look forward to the moment, arriving any day now, when people like Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson of Fox News and their devoted followers come together in a spirit of unity to once again declare war on those who do not celebrate the holidays in their officially-approved Christian manner. This is a sure-fire ratings booster for the holiday season, not that I would think for a minute that these two Jesus-loving men would exploit this issue for their own gain.
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The Return of the Taliban

On October 3, 2006, the excellent PBS series Frontline broadcast a program with the above name. It examined the complexities of the politics of Pakistan’s northwest frontier provinces, which shares a 500-miles open border with Afghanistan, and explains why it has been a place where the Taliban could regroup and gain strength once again, threatening to cause the defeat of the US in Afghanistan.

(You can view the program here. This must-see one-hour program is split into seven parts. Be warned that part 1 contains some graphic and disturbing images of the victims of the brutal summary justice that the Taliban are notorious for.)

The program describes the complex web of shifting alliances and intrigue that characterize the region and why it is going to be so hard to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, even granting the assumption that going in militarily was a good idea. These rugged and difficult-to-reach regions of Pakistan are really quasi-independent entities over which the central Pakistani government has little or no influence, let alone control. The people living there also have long-standing ethnic and even familial ties with the Taliban and are unlikely to surrender them to either the US or the Pakistan government.

This gives the Taliban a safe haven from which to organize, train fresh cadres, and launch attacks against the NATO forces in Afghanistan. And yet if the US goes after them into Pakistan (as they have done on occasion with air strikes at the very least) they are violating Pakistani sovereignty and thus creating major political problems for their ally, Pakistani President Musharraf, who has had to repeatedly assure his own restive public that US forces will not be allowed to operate within Pakistan.

Furthermore, the program points out that the Pakistan intelligence agency ISI (their equivalent of the CIA) also has long standing ties with the Taliban, having supported and groomed them in their fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and are possibly undermining Musharraf’s attempts at reigning in the Taliban.

All this has led to a no-win situation for both the US and Musharraf. The latter has tried to deflect local opposition by trying to forge treaties with the tribal leaders in those regions, but this has raised the hackles of the US who feel that this will result in giving the Taliban an even freer hand to operate.

The BBC says that the number of casualties in Afghanistan has increased four-fold this year, another sign of the worsening situation there.

Monday, November 13, 2006 was the fifth anniversary of the routing of the Taliban that sent them fleeing from Kabul. The London Times has an article describing what has happened during that time, reporting on how “triumph and hope have given way to despair and disappointment.”

Meanwhile, the Times’s Christina Lamb describes the deteriorating security situation in that country where that which was once unthinkable, that the Taliban would return to power, is now seen as a real possibility. Once again, it is the war in Iraq that has been the cause.

If there is one factor most responsible for the Taliban resurgence it is the war in Iraq, which distracted the attention of London and Washington at a critical time. While US marines were toppling statues of Saddam Hussein and then finding themselves fighting a bloody insurgency, the Taliban regrouped and retrained in Pakistan.

The seemingly easy victory by the US and its allies in Afghanistan, like that of the initial Soviet Union military deployment in 1979, was deceptive. The Soviet Union then lost 15,000 troops in the subsequent decade and the British suffered similar losses in the 19th century. Lamb quotes the prescient warning of Sir Olaf Caroe, the last British governor of North West Frontier Province: “Unlike other wars, Afghan wars become serious only when they are over.”

The saddest moment for me while watching the Frontline program was the story of Hayat Ullah Khan. He was a young Pakistani reporter hired as a stringer by Frontline and given a video camera to use. He stumbled on a scoop when visiting his village in December 4, 2005 after an explosion in which a high-level al Qaeda operative Abu Hamza Rabia (rumored to be #3 in that organization) was killed.

The Pakistan government claimed that the explosion that killed Rabia was due to a bomb going off while he was working with explosives. But Khan captured photographs of bomb fragments that clearly confirmed that it had been fired by the US, presumably by a Predator drone. This photographic proof that the US was attacking inside Pakistani territory appeared all over the world and embarrassed the Pakistani government because of the violations of its sovereignty, leading to protests against the government.

Khan confessed to his mother that he feared reprisals for his reporting and sure enough, five days later, while riding in a taxi with his brother, he was abducted by people suspected of being government operatives. He was missing for six months before his body was found in a ditch, He had been shot five times and was handcuffed with government-issue handcuffs.

During Khan’s absence, the Frontline reporter Martin Smith questioned Pakistani president Musharraf about his whereabouts, saying that they had reports that the government was holding him. While Musharraf denied having any knowledge of the case or even the. name of Hayat Ullah Khan, it quickly became clear that he did know of the case. There seems little doubt that Khan was murdered by agents of the Pakistani government.

In its fight against terrorism, the US has thrown in its lot with lying, murderous dictators like Musharraf. It is not something to be proud of.

Although I have never visited Afghanistan (and don’t recall ever having met a single Afghan in my whole life), I feel a deep sense of sympathy for the Afghan people, ever since I saw the riveting 2003 documentary Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror by veteran Australian journalist John Pilger. Pilger has covered war zones for many decades going back to Vietnam and Cambodia and describes Afghanistan as a country “more devastated than anything I have seen since Pol Pot’s Cambodia.”

Perhaps more than any other nation, the Afghan people have been long-suffering victims, caught between foreign powers interfering in their affairs, brutal tribal warlords, and cruel and repressive religious extremists like the Taliban. I wonder if they will ever know peace.

The October Surprise That Failed?

Waiting for the ‘October Surprise’ has become a standard ritual of the American election season, and this year was no exception. As usual, nervous Democrats anxiously wondered what sort of manufactured event and tricks the Bush administration, weighed down by its abysmal approval ratings, would unleash in the week or two prior to November 7 that might sway voters and reverse the deteriorating fortunes of the Republican party. Would they announce the capture of Osama bin Laden? Would they launch an attack on Iran? Would they announce a dramatic change in strategy in Iraq?

When none of these things happened and the only news of significance to emerge in the waning days of the election campaign was the break up of Britney Spears’ marriage, and the Republicans ended up getting a drubbing at the polls, people began to wonder if alleged political genius Karl Rove’s well of tricks had simply run dry.

However there is reason to think that there actually was an attempt at creating an October surprise, but that it went horribly wrong, and that was the missile strike that killed 80 people by destroying a madrassa in the Bajaur region of northwest Pakistan on October 30. There is strong evidence to suggest that the strike was an attempt by the US at killing the number 2 man of al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri.

The Pakistan military immediately claimed responsibility, saying that they were the ones who had ordered and executed that strike because the madrassa “was no longer being used for imparting religious lessons and was instead in use as a military training camp”, presumably to train people to go across the border into Afghanistan and fight the US and NATO forces there.

The claim that the school housed militants was immediately disputed by residents of the area, who said that the dead were students from the surrounding area, many of them young children. The Pakistan government has sealed off the area and prohibited journalists from entering, thus preventing independent verification of the competing claims. However, news reports said that “A group of lawyers from Peshawar who visited the site last week said they saw no evidence of training or weapons. What they did see was disturbing enough: a tense, angry crowd that surrounded their vehicles, shouting for holy war against the Pakistani and U.S. governments, less than a week after local leaders had been ready to sign a peace pact with the government.”

What raises suspicions about the Pakistan military’s version of this incident is the timing of the strike. In September 2006, the Pakistan government, incurring deep US displeasure, had entered into a peace deal with the pro-Taliban militant leaders of North Waziristan (one of Pakistan’s northwest frontier provinces that borders Afghanistan) and was in the process of negotiating other deals with tribal leaders of other border regions. This rugged mountainous region is hard to monitor, is friendly to the Taliban, and the Pakistan government has historically had little control over it, with its own troops being periodically attacked and hundreds of people dying in the periodic skirmishes.

A news report said “Intriguingly, the attack was launch [sic] on the very day when the pro-Taliban tribal militants led by Maulana Faqir Mohammad and the deceased Maulana Liaquat were scheduled to sign a peace agreement with the Pakistan government.” Maulana Liaquat ran the madrassa (seminary) that was destroyed and was a leader of the banned pro-Taliban organization called Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-i-Mohammadi (TNSM). He was killed in the attack. “The TNSM Bajaur leader Maulana Faqir Mohammad, wanted for allegedly sheltering al-Qaeda and Taliban linked foreign militants, survived the attack as he wasn’t at the seminary at the time of the attack. He had attended a meeting at the seminary in the afternoon and left.”

This raises the puzzling question of why the Pakistani government would arrange to make a peace deal and then turn around and bomb the very people with whom it had made the deal, on the very day that the deal was to be signed. It did not make sense and the people of the region quickly dismissed the idea that Pakistani forces had been responsible for the attack. They said that the madrassa was destroyed by missiles fired from US Predator drones. They cited witness who said they heard the drones circling overhead and said that Pakistan President Musharraf was trying to hide the fact that the US had attacked targets within Pakistan. As a result, there has been a violent reaction against the Pakistani government, with demonstrations and rallies and a suicide bomber who killed 42 Pakistani government troops on November 8.

But why would the US embarrass their ally so publicly? One possible argument is that they wanted to scuttle any peace deals between the Pakistani government and pro-Taliban tribal leaders. But killing 80 seminary students seems an extreme step to take to achieve that goal, even if you suspect that some of them might be militants in training.

The more likely reason is that the US had received intelligence that Ayman al Zawahiri may have been at the seminary, either hiding there or talking to the students.

This would not be the first time that the US had tried and failed to kill him in that region, where Zawahiri is supposed to have relatives. On January 14, 2006, the US had launched similar Predator drone missiles at the village of Damadola in the same region. That attack ended up killing 18 people including women and children, but no Zawahiri. Two weeks later, Zawahiri released a video taunting the US for their failed attempts at finding him.

It was outrage over the January deaths in Damadola that forced Musharraf to publicly declare that the US would not be allowed to launch any more attacks within Pakistani territory, which may have been why the Pakistan authorities were forced to claim responsibility for the recent madrassa attack.

It seems quite plausible that the October 30, 2006 missile attack was an attempt at an October surprise, a gamble that hoped to net the death of Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command and the main strategist of al Qaeda. This would have allowed Bush to claim that he was achieving success in the war on terror, and put terrorism front and center in the minds of voters just days before the election.

If so, it failed in that goal. What is has done instead, apart from leading to more deaths of innocent people, is undermine and weaken the main ally that the US has in that region, Pakistani President Musharraf, an October surprise just for him that he neither wanted or needed.

The fallacy of torture’s effectiveness-3

(See part 1 and part 2.)

In the cover story of the October 2006 issue of The Progressive magazine, Alfred W. McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror dissects The Myth of the Ticking Time Bomb argues the apart from its immorality, the chief argument against torture is that the price it enacts is too high and ultimately defeats the people who use it.

The price of torture is unacceptably high because it disgraces and then undermines the country that countenances it. For the French in Algeria, for the Americans in Vietnam, and now for the Americans in Iraq, the costs have been astronomical and have outweighed any gains gathered by torture.

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The fallacy of torture’s effectiveness-2

(See part 1 here.)

In the cover story of the October 2006 issue of The Progressive magazine, Alfred W. McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror dissects The Myth of the Ticking Time Bomb and points out that there is little evidence that useful information is gleaned from torturing this or that individual.
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The fallacy of torture’s effectiveness

I have written before that the passage and signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) means that the US, as a nation, has decided that it has accepted the idea that the government can arrest and detain and torture people indefinitely without giving them access to family, lawyers, or courts. Thus, in one stroke, the US has abruptly removed individual freedoms and protections that took years of hard struggle to attain.
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Michael Ledeen – The ultimate revisionist

Of all the people that are mentioned in the Vanity Fair article that are seeking to escape responsibility for their role in urging the Iraq war, none sinks lower than that Michael Ledeen.

Jonah Goldberg alerted us to the fact that Ledeen was an “entertaining speaker” but he did not tell us the half of it. In the Vanity Fair interview Ledeen turns out to be real yukmeister when he argues that the influence of the neoconservatives paled in comparison to a much more powerful bloc: “Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes.” So according to Ledeen, it is women, those lovesick, lovelorn women surrounding George Bush and assiduously competing for his affections, who are to blame for the Iraq mess! Bush was too enraptured by the sirens around him to listen to those who were giving him good advice. Who would have suspected that the whole Iraq war was a soap opera, the result of romantic intrigues within the White House?
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Trying to avoid blame for the Iraq fiasco-2

(See part 1 here.)

Of course, one thing that all the people interviewed in the Vanity Fair article share is that they never acknowledge any personal responsibility for causing the mess in Iraq. They never apologize. Instead they are anxious to say that they are not to be blamed for this mess. So scapegoats must be found.

Rumsfeld is turning out to be everyone’s favorite target and the knives are definitely out for him, fueled by the ringing endorsement that Bush gave him and Cheney last week, a move that stunned those who perhaps thought the Iraq policy might be salvaged with someone new as Secretary of Defense.

Kenneth “Cakewalk” Adelman is one of those disillusioned by his former hero. He had expected great things from Rumsfeld but now says: “I’m very, very fond of him, but I’m crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don’t know. He certainly fooled me.”

The Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times released a joint editorial on Saturday, November 4, 2006 under the headline “Time for Rumsfeld to go” in which it argues that the current military leadership has lost faith in him. The editorial ends:

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with
Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.

Rumsfeld, with his strutting, his overbearing language and demeanor, and his browbeating of anyone who might deign to challenge him, epitomized the know-it-all arrogance of this administration and is fully deserving of criticism, But this editorial is quite an extraordinary and disturbing development for a democracy. Although these newspapers are not part of the military, they seem confident that they are expressing the sentiments of the current military leadership. When the current military people quasi-publicly criticize the defense secretary, this undermines the principle of civilian control of the military. It does not rise to the level of a coup but is disturbing nonetheless. More than anything, this illustrates how dangerously out of balance the whole government has been brought to by the Iraq war.

Other former war supporters interviewed in the Vanity Fair article are also gloomy about the possible outcome of the war. Eliot Cohen, director of the strategic-studies program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and member of the Defense Policy Board, says: “I wouldn’t be surprised if what we end up drifting toward is some sort of withdrawal on some sort of timetable and leaving the place in a pretty ghastly mess.”

Frank Gaffney, an assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan and founder of the Center for Security Policy, delivers perhaps the unkindest cut of all: “[Bush] doesn’t in fact seem to be a man of principle who’s steadfastly pursuing what he thinks is the right course. He talks about it, but the policy doesn’t track with the rhetoric, and that’s what creates the incoherence that causes us problems around the world and at home.”

Bush’s appeal to many voters has been that he is a man of principle who knows what he believes and acts on those beliefs. To be accused by his erstwhile friends of being weak and confused must hurt.

Richard Perle wants everyone to understand that none of the current mess is the fault of the neoconservatives. He says: “Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I’m getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war.” (my emphasis)

Meanwhile infamous Iranian exile Ahmed Chalabi, now living in London, has emerged from the shadows and blames Paul Wolfowitz, the Pentagon, the Americans, anybody. This is the same Chalabi who regaled gullible and now disgraced New York Times reporter Judith Miller with stories about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs provided by Iraqi “defectors” who turned out to be frauds. She then published those stories on the front pages of that paper, and the Administration then completed that incestuous cycle by using those same stories to argue that there was independent proof that Iraq had WMDs.

An article in Editor and Publisher excerpts an article by reporter Dexter Filkins that just appeared in the New York Times, giving us Chalabi’s own revisionist history:

Now, in an interview in his London home, Chalabi, betraying what Filkins calls “a touch of bitterness,” declares, “The real culprit in all this is Wolfowitz,” the former assistant secretary of defense, whom he still considers a friend. “They chickened out. The Pentagon guys chickened out. . .The Americans screwed it up. . .America betrays its friends. It sets them up and betrays them. I’d rather be America’s enemy.”

Chalabi has nothing to say about his leaks to Judith Miller of The New York Times, but Filkins does recall her famous email from 2003 when she boasted that Chalabi had “provided most of the front-page exclusives on WMD to our paper.” 

David Kay, the weapons inspector, weighs in on Wolfowitz: “He was a true believer. He thought he had the evidence. That came from the defectors. They came from Chalabi.”
. . .
Chalabi counters views that he was the catalyst [for the war], saying that it was Bush officials who “came to us and asked, ‘Can you help us find something on Saddam?'”

Chalabi, after doing all that he did to provide the US with arguments to go to war, now “claims that he warned the Bush people that various Iraqi informants were unreliable, only to hear the Americans say, referring to the source, “This guy is the mother lode.” Chalabi, of all people asks, “Can you believe that on such a basis the United States would go to war?”

These people are a real piece of work. After feeding each other stories that they all wanted to believe, and foisting them on a gullible American public through an equally gullible media, they now express amazement that anyone would have taken the case for war seriously.

We have to leave it to editorial cartoonist Tom Toles to sum up the idiocy of this position:


Trying to avoid blame for the Iraq fiasco

I had thought that I had said all that I had wanted to about the warmongering pundits attempts at rewriting the history of the Iraq war, but some dramatic developments over the weekend compel me to revisit the question. The recognition that the situation in Iraq is very bad, if not hopeless, is more widespread among war advocates than even I had thought. Consequently, the attempts to avoid blame for the debacle have become even more desperate

It is clear that the Iraq war debate has long past the point at which the options could be described as to whether the US should “stay the course” or “cut and run.” Now the options are better described as a choice between those advocating “stay and lose” (which is the position of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and a rapidly shrinking coterie of their true-believer allies) and the “run and blame” crowd, which has seen an explosive growth in its ranks, consisting largely of conversions from the once-enthusiastic war supporters.

Nowhere is the extent of the disaffection with the war and the Cheney administration revealed more than in an extraordinary preview of a Vanity Fair article released over the weekend. (The full article will be in the January 2007 issue.) The article, titled Neo Culpa, consists of interviews by David Rose of the leading lights of the neoconservative movement. Rose says that as he prepares for the interviews: “I expect to encounter disappointment. What I find instead is despair, and fury at the incompetence of the Bush administration the neoconservatives once saw as their brightest hope.”

All of the people interviewed by Rose are now distancing themselves from any responsibility for the war. The Vanity Fair articles lists an astonishing number of influential former war cheerleaders who have turned against the Bush administration. In the process, they are scrambling to find excuses, seeking to blame others for their grand dream going sour. Once again, though, their chief complaint is not that the war was wrong in principle but that they had no idea that the current administration would be so incompetent in executing the war or that the Iraqis would be so stupid as to not realize what was in their own best interests. In fact, according to them, everyone and everything is to blame except the one thing that is obvious: that the idea of the invasion itself was wrong and that they were wrong to promote it.

Take Richard Perle, once chair of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee and popularly known as “The Prince of Darkness”. He blames all the problems on the “depravity” of the Iraqi people and the “devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush.” He says that “The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn’t get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly. . . At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible. . .I don’t think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty.”

Perle now says that “total defeat – an American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic “failed state” – is not yet inevitable but is becoming more likely.” He still believes in some of his earlier delusions, though. “I don’t say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct.”

But he has suddenly realized that there were options other than going in with guns blazing. “Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have.” Thanks, Prince. I am sure that the hundreds of thousands of dead people and their loved ones, casualties of the war you helped instigate, feel so much better now that you have seen the light.

Of course, Perle was one of the very people who poo-poohed any overtures by the Iraqi government to avoid war and was gung-ho about the invasion. The London Guardian newspaper reported in November 2003 that these overtures were actually channeled through Richard Perle but went nowhere because of stringent conditions imposed by Perle himself. This has become a standard pre-war tactic, to impose conditions that you know will be refused, and then justify invasion because of that rejection.

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum also says something extraordinary. “I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything.”

Pause for a moment to understand how low Frum’s opinion of Bush is. What he is saying is that by him putting words in Bush’s mouth, Bush might come to act on them. In other words, he thought of Bush as an idiot who could be made to say things that other people want him to say, and having said them, believe in them because he had said them. Frum is saying now that Bush is even more of an idiot than he had thought, because although he did say the words Frum put in his mouth, he did not really understand or know what he was saying, and therefore did not wholeheartedly act on them.

And then there’s the famous Kenneth “Cakewalk” Adelman. He too now says that he was wrong to have placed his faith in Bush and his fellow bunglers.

Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: “I believe demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” Now he berates the entire administration, saying: “I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional. . .There’s no seriousness here, these are not serious people. . .The problem is a performance job. . .Rumsfeld has said that the war could never be lost in Iraq, it could only be lost in Washington. I don’t think that’s true at all. We’re losing in Iraq.”

Next: More neo culpas

Why the pro-war pundits must be countered

I have spent this week trying to explain why we should not take seriously even those pro-war pundits who now think invading Iraq was a bad idea. The reason is that they have never acknowledged the fundamental wrongness of that policy and instead have tried to portray it as errors in implementation. This kind of thinking merely lays the groundwork for future wars by persuading people that it can be done correctly.

There have been many conflicting reasons given for invading Iraq. These reasons have been endlessly recycled so that as one argument is shown to be false, the next one is produced, with defenders of the war saying “But the real reason for the war is. . .” By filling in the blanks with changing rationales, they can go through the entire cycle and come back to the beginning and act as if it is a fresh argument.

Cartoonist Tom Tomorrow is, as usual, ahead of the curve in identifying and skewering this tactic.

Currently, the favored point in that cycle is the argument that the invasion of Iraq was to bring democracy to that country. This ‘motherhood and apple pie’ argument is always the next-to-last refuge of the scoundrel since no one opposes democracy. The fact that this was not the argument made at the time shows that the proponents of the war want us to forget the actual reasons given for invading that country.

Why is that? Because then those same arguments can then be recycled to make the case for going to war against Iran or Syria or North Korea. The same warmongers and think tanks who urged war on Iraq are now re-positioning themselves saying that while that war may have not turned out well due to tactical failures (such as not having enough troops, or disbanding the Iraqi army, or failing to hand over power quickly enough, planning ahead for the post-war occupation, or whatever), the US has learned from that unfortunate experience and will do the next invasion correctly, with glorious success.

One does not know where to begin in dismantling such a hubristic attitude. Comedian Bill Maher on the New Rules segment of his program Real Time with Bill Maher says it best as to why we should never listen to these people anymore.

And finally, New Rule, in two parts: A) You can’t call yourself a think tank if all your ideas are stupid. And B), if you’re someone from one of the think tanks that dreamed up the Iraq War, and who predicted that we’d be greeted as liberators, and that we wouldn’t need a lot of troops, and that Iraqi oil would pay for the war, that the WMD’s would be found, that the looting wasn’t problematic, and the mission was accomplished, that the insurgency was in its last throes, that things would get better after the people voted, after the government was formed, after we got Saddam, after we got his kids, after we got Zarqawi, and that the whole bloody mess wouldn’t turn into a civil war…you have to stop making predictions!
. . .
You know, it’s a shame what happened to think tanks. They used to produce valuable, apolitical analysis. But partisanship crept into many of them. And the Bush Administration doesn’t just come up with something as stupid as “If we leave now, they’ll follow us home.” No, they have someone from a think tank say it first. It’s a way to lend respectability.
. . .
The think tanks that incubated the Iraq war have lofty names like the Heritage Foundation and the Project for a New American Century. Whatever. They’ve been wrong so often, I’m surprised they’re not my broker. Richard Perle thought we could win Iraq with 40,000 troops. Paul Wolfowitz predicted, in 2003, that within a year, the grateful people of Baghdad would name some grand square in their fine city after President Bush. And he was right when he said they’d be waving American flags. They were on fire.

William Kristol pooh-poohed the fears that Sunnis and Shiites would be at each others’ throats, as “the stuff of pop psychology.” Right.
. . .
And now, Mr. Kristol proposes immediate military action against Iran, predicting the Iranians will thank us for it. Hey, you know what, Nostrodamus? Why don’t you sit this one out? We’ll get by using the Magic Eight Ball for a while.

(You can see the video of this Maher segment here.)

But they will not sit this one out, nor the next one, nor the next one. They will remain fixtures in our media, endlessly recycling their ideas, pushing for more wars, hoping that the public will not notice the hollowness of their arguments or their lack of any empirical support or the fact that they have been wrong so often in the past.

Our only option is to treat them with the contempt they deserve.

POST SCRIPT: Stephen Colbert again

See Colbert have fun with the ridiculous flap over Kerry’s botched joke.