A couple of weeks ago, I wrote skeptically about predictions that Saddam's imminent sentencing would give the GOP a last-minute election bump. Sure, the verdict gives Bush and Republican candidates something to crow about for a couple of days, but the announcement is so unsurprising as to be anti-climactic. Its timing is still subject to speculation. But perhaps the more important question is what the verdict means for Iraq. Does it, as Iraqi blogger Riverbend fears, mark the beginning of Bush's own personal disengagement with the war, another "Mission Accomplished" moment he can use to claim success and move on?
I'm more than a little worried. This is Bush's final card. The elections came and went and a group of extremists and thieves were put into power (no, noI meant in Baghdad, not Washington). The constitution which seems to have drowned in the river of Iraqi blood since its elections has been forgotten. It is only dug up when one of the Puppets wants to break apart the country. Reconstruction is an aspiration from another lifetime: I swear we no longer want buildings and bridges, security and an undivided Iraq are more than enough. Things must be deteriorating beyond imagination if Bush needs to use the 'Execute the Dictator' card.
Sentencing Saddam to hang may make for a nice line to add to stump speeches, but it won't change things on the ground. It won't end the insurgency or the civil war or turn the lights back on. It won't bring the troops home or chart a course for victory. Even if the timing was a Rovian plot, it just goes to further demonstrate how out of touch the administration is from the reality of Iraqand its own electorate. Which is why, come Wednesday, this hopefully will be remembered as the November surprise that wasn't.
With the Democrats poised to retake the House next week, it's only a matter of time before a freshly emboldened blue-state rep (besides John Conyers) dares to utter the i-word. Outside of D.C., there's been no such reticence to suggest that George W. Bush has committeed high crimes and misdemeanors. Which isn't to say that the idea of impeachment has any chance of going anywhere soon. Even if it does gain political traction, would forcing Bush into early retirement be worth the trouble? In our latest issue, Tim Dickinson wades into the slew of pro-impeachment books out there and considers these questions. I won't give away the ending, but he's not real excited by the (far-fetched) prospect of President Cheney or (gasp!) President Pelosi. Check it out.
I enjoy making decisions. You know, there's something exciting about reading and studying history and realize you're making history with it. And one of the lessons, by the way, about when you read history is that, after your presidency, you know, it's going to take a while for the historians to fully understand the decisions you made, if you're making big decisions, and so therefore you don't worry about history.
I like to say there's a portrait of George Washington in the Oval Office. I often look at him. I've read three history books about him. And if they're still analyzing the No. 1 guy's presidency, old No. 43 needs to not worry about it.
In short, Bush seems to hope that his legacy will rest on a solid foundation of inscrutability. Take that, eggheads!
Today's New York Times reports that the federal government stuck plans for a nuclear weapon up on the Internet, free for the taking (until yesterday). The "Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal" was set up at the behest of Congressional Republicans smarting from the failure to find WMD's in Iraq; the website, which contained 55,000 boxes of Saddam-era documents, was meant to be a post-facto freelance intelligence-gathering free-for-all. The Weekly Standard and conservative bloggers were big fans of this idea. But the cache also included what experts are calling a "basic guide to building an atom bomb." Oops. (Not that the amateur WMD-hunters are buying it: Jveritas, an Arabic-speaking blogger who has translated many documents, claims the prospect of, say, Iran using the nuclear plans is "a laughable idea.")
This is not the first time that Iraqi nuclear plans have been shared online by the U.S. government. As Kurt Pitzer reported in the September/October 2005 issue of Mother Jones, spin got the better of security when the military picked up Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, the mastermind behind Saddam's nuclear centrifuge program in 2003:
On June 26, the CIA posted a press release about Obeidi's cache -- the most valuable WMD evidence the U.S. has yet obtained in Iraq -- on its official website. It also put up digital photos of the components and even one of the key centrifuge diagrams. The pictures, which [former U.N. weapons inspector David] Albright says could be "incredibly useful" to any regime trying to start a covert nuclear program, were online for almost a week -- long enough to be downloaded and made freely available on the Internet -- before the agency took them down. Literally buried for 12 years, some of Saddam's hoard of nuclear knowledge got out because of the U.S. government, not in spite of it.
Just a quick follow-up to the previous posting on the skyrocketing American casualties in Iraq. The Air Force is requesting $50 billion in emergency fundingthat's an amount nearly half of its normal budget. The branch has been stretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there's another reason it needs more cash:
Another source familiar with the Air Force plans said the extra funds would help pay to transport growing numbers of U.S. soldiers being killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.