David Corn

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief

Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.

Get my RSS |

Email from Iraq: U.S.-Approved Turkish Attack on Kurds Will Hurt the U.S.

| Mon Dec. 17, 2007 9:34 AM PST

On Sunday, Turkish fighter jets bombed targets in northern Iraq, looking to strike Kurdish militants--and did so with the permission of the U.S. government, which controls the air space over Iraq. Turkey's military chief, General Yasar Buyukanit, was quoted on Turkish television saying, "America gave [us] intelligence. But more importantly, America last night opened [the Iraqi] air space to us. By opening the air space, America gave its approval to this operation."

This one-day military mission might have tremendous consequences that affect the U.S. position in Iraq. Last week, on this site, retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor speculated that recent developments in Iraq (the so-called Great Awakening in Anbar province and the so-called surge) could lead to a Turkish-Kurdish military conflict and land the United States in the middle of a regional war. (In Macgregor's view, the United States would end up on the side of the Kurds, which is not what's happening at the moment.) Given the profound political instability within Iraq, a Turkish-Kurdish war in the north could cause all efforts at national reconciliation (no matter how unsuccessful they have been so far) to collapse.

Shortly after news of the air strike broke, a former U.S. official who is trying to broker business deals in the Kurdish region of Iraq fired off an email to me. He was in Iraq at the time of the attack, and he was outraged at the U.S. involvement in the Turkish strike. He has been in contact with leading Kurds in Iraq and fears this development could lead to a great unraveling in the north. In his email (which I've tidied up), he wrote:

The blow back here in Kurdistan is building against the US government. There are protests and visible anger as the story of the US Air Force helping the Turks kill Kurds in the Kandil Mountains spreads. My [Kurdish] colleagues here are headed to an emergency session of the parliament. The entire [Kurdish] negotiating team left Baghdad and flew back here to attend the session. People are really upset. The Turks of course are...emphasizing that the US Air Force was heavily involved in the attack.
The Kurdish theme is one of shock, and betrayal. The Kurds see themselves as the only true friend of the Americans in the region, and the only part of Iraq that is working, and are especially hurt by the attack. The US has never killed Kurds deliberately before. We killed a lot of them in the war by accident and recklessness, which [the Kurds] managed to rationalize away, but never on purpose. We are at a loss to understand the [US government] thinking on supporting this operation.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Democratic Debate: We Watch So You Don't Have To (and There Was Nothing To See)

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 1:52 PM PST

This afternoon, the Democratic presidential candidates gathered in Des Moines for their final debate prior to the Iowa cacuses on January 3. For undecided voters, there was no new material

Here's a brief recap of an utterly uneventful affair. From the horse race perspective, no one flopped, fumbled or drooled. And no one attacked anyone. There were no moments you will see replayed and dissected excessively on cable news shows. There were, essentially no highlights--except perhaps for a moment when Barack Obama was asked how his foreign policy as president would be a break from the past given that he has several ex-Clintonites advising him. Before he could answer, Hillary Clinton said, "I want to hear that." As the crowd laughed, Obama shot back, "I'm looking forward to you advising me as well." That was as spicy as it got.

And for anyone obsessed with policy matters, there was not much there either. (Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel were not invited to attend because the host, the Des Moines Register, determined that neither have a functioning campaign office in Iowa.) Bill Richardson called for a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget and for awarding line-item veto authority to the president--positions most of the other candidates do not back. He also called for scrapping the no Child Left Behind law; the other candidates talked of fixing it. Each declared their intention to end the war in Iraq; there was no detailed discussion about that. But Richardson declared he would leave no residual troops in Iraq. (Iran did not come up.) After Richardson called China a "strategic competitor," Chris Dodd maintained the United States has an "adversarial relationship" with China.

There were no clashes of policy or proposals. Clinton, Obama and Edwards did not revive their past disagreements over Social Security and health care. And while Obama decried "special interests" in Washington, John Edwards repeatedly--and I do mean repeatedly--cited the necessity of crushing "corporate power" and "corporate greed" in Washington, claiming he was the only candidate with the guts and spine to do so.

As soon as the debate ended, it was as if it had never occurred.

Hillary Wins Big Endorsement: Her Mother

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 9:42 AM PST

The Hillary Clinton is airing a new 30-second television ad in Iowa today that features...her mother:

DOROTHY RODHAM: What I would like people to know about Hillary is what a good person she is. She never was envious of anybody--she was helpful. And she's continued that with her adult life with helping other women. She has empathy for other people's unfortunate circumstances. I've always admired that because it isn't always true of people. I think she ought to be elected even if she weren't my daughter.

Never envious, always helpful. Insipid? A wee bit. And note that she's been helping "other women," not "other people." With Barack Obama in the lead in the first state, the Clinton campaign is obviously aiming to preserve its support among older women. Is this an indication Clinton and her strategists are worried about their base?

Update: Video of the ad after the jump.

At GOP Debate, No Faith-Based Smackdown--and No Winner or Loser

| Wed Dec. 12, 2007 2:11 PM PST

Okay, so there was no theological smackdown at the GOP presidential debate this afternoon in Iowa. This face-off was probably the most stilted event of the campaign so far. The questions from Carolyn Washburn, the editor of the Des Moines Register were mostly predictable and rarely probing. (In thirty seconds, state how would you better American education.) Consequently, not much happened.

There were no fireworks. No candidate went after another. (In one humorous aside, Fred Thompson said to Mitt Romney that he was getting pretty good at Thompson's own trade: acting.) The sniping over religion that had erupted between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney was not continued. Washburn did not ask Huckabee about a widely noted remark he made asking if Mormons believe Jesus and Satan were brothers. Rudy Giuliani may have only referred to 9/11 once. (A record?) Romney looked grand and smooth and spoke eloquently about education accomplishments in Massachusetts when he was governor of the state; John McCain touted his years of service and involvement in national security matters, and looked old. Huckabee explained that his faith caused him to believe that all citizens deserve access to good health care and decent education. No one won; no one lost.

That may be good news for Huckabee. Though he has jumped into the lead in Iowa, no one was gunning for him (except fringe candidate Alan Keyes, who inexplicably had been invited to participate in the debate). So Huckabee pranced through the encounter no worse for the wear. And Romney, the previous leader in the Hawkeye State, remains within striking distance of Huckabee.

There were only a few interesting moments in the 90-minute-long session. Two involved Thompson. When Washburn asked the candidates to raise their hands if they believed human-induced global warming is a threat Thompson said he wasn't going to engage in any "hand-shows." The rest of the pack followed suit. Thompson declared he would only answer the question if given a minute to do so. Given that Thompson in a radio commentary last March mocked people concerned with global warming and made comments suggesting he was a global warming denier, his refusal to agree with this basic statement was suspicious.

Then when the subject of the debate turned to the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that reported Iran in 2003 discontinued a secret nuclear weapons program, Thompson indicated that he didn't accept the NIE and said that a U.S. president ought to rely more on British or Israeli intelligence then the U.S. intelligence community. A "president cannot let a piece of paper by a bureaucrat determine solely what his action is going to be," Thompson insisted. But that was a rather inaccurate description of an NIE. Such a document is not a report dashed off by one bureaucrat; it is the consensus document of the intelligence establishment, which is made up of sixteen different agencies. It can be wrong (as was the sloppy and hastily-compiled NIE on Iraq's WMDs). But Thompson's eagerness to belittle the intelligence system of the government he seeks to head might be considered troubling by voters looking for a president who will resist the I-know-best urge when deciding national security policy. But with Thompson's campaign sputtering, his skepticism toward the Iran NIE and global warming is not a pressing matter.

Minutes after the debate ended, a Thompson campaign email landed in reporters' inboxes that slammed Romney for helping to create a health care program in Massachusetts that covers abortions for a small copayment. The subject head: "Romney -- $50 Abortions in Massachusetts." The Thompson campaign is probably hoping for some viral action on this missive.

This email was a reminder. Though the candidates played nice on the stage during the debate, they still have plenty of time to throw muddy iceballs at each other before Iowa caucus goers gather on January 3.

Thu Mar. 27, 2014 12:49 PM PDT
Fri Mar. 14, 2014 4:59 AM PDT
Tue Jan. 28, 2014 8:40 AM PST
Tue Jan. 28, 2014 7:40 AM PST
Mon Nov. 25, 2013 10:09 AM PST
Fri Oct. 11, 2013 9:20 AM PDT
Tue Sep. 10, 2013 7:10 PM PDT
Tue Sep. 10, 2013 10:02 AM PDT
Mon Sep. 9, 2013 7:13 AM PDT
Tue Apr. 30, 2013 1:32 PM PDT
Mon Apr. 8, 2013 10:00 AM PDT
Fri Mar. 29, 2013 7:22 AM PDT
Thu Jan. 24, 2013 9:20 AM PST