Political MoJo

Iraq: No Oil for War...

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 7:06 PM EDT

Washington Post: Government Accoutablility Office chief David M. Walker told Congress last week that "massive corruption" and "a lot of theft" in Iraq's government-controlled oil industry is not exactly helping matters in that country. He said it took him "a second and a half" to figure this out, seeing as how "the numbers just didn't add up."

Oil production is below pre-war levels, thanks to the insurgency and attendant difficulties in maintaining infrastructure, and apparently about 10 percent of Iraq's refined fuels and 30 percent of its imported fuels are being stolen.

The GAO had been asked to ascertain, in the words of Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn), "whether we had and have a strategy and to what extent that strategy is meeting the needs of our engagement in Iraq." Doesn't look like it.

The GAO report criticized the administration's strategy for not identifying which U.S. agencies are responsible for implementation, for not integrating U.S. goals and objectives with the Iraqi government and for failing to identify future costs.

A big mistake, says the GAO, was to assume oil revenues would pay for the invasion/occupation/reconstruction of Iraq. In the immortal words of Paul Wolfowitz in March 2003, "The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. Now, there are a lot of claims on that money, but...We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon." Well, as Bush admonished at his press conference with Vladimir Putin last week, "Just wait."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

At Least We're Not Losing...

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 7:04 PM EDT

I hate to poach posts outright from Kevin Drum, but this quote, from Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker, on how we're doing in Iraq, deserves a reprint:

The question was, do I think we're winning in Iraq?....

[Long silence, sound of papers shuffling.]

I, y'know....

[Another silence.]

I think I would answer that by telling you I don't think we're losing.Well, then. Good thing we're going to be in the country until at least 2016, if various senior military officials can be believed.

Actually, I may as well try to make some more substantive comments about Iraq by noting that the New York Times also had a truly excellent article a few weeks ago about Algeria. Yes, Algeria. In an attempt to help reconcile the country after its bloody civil war in the 1990s, the Algerian government last year passed an amnesty bill that released thousands of Islamist fighters from prison and shielded former government-backed death squads from prosecution. The point was to try to forgive and forget and hope that everyone would drop their weapons and make peace.

Now this is what some people in the Iraqi government have been considering with regards to Sunni insurgents. But as the Times reports, amnesty really hasn't gone all that well in Algeria: "the fighting is not over… [d]ozens are dying monthly." Not surprisingly, many Algerians aren't enamored of the idea that death squads and terrorists get to avoid prosecution. One would presume that, in Iraq, many Shiites would be just as upset with the idea of amnesty, and it might not reconcile much of everything. At any rate, it's a important cautionary tale, and a reminder that there are few, if any, panaceas for a country split open by civil war.

Is Bush Finally Getting Serious About Loose Nukes?

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 6:25 PM EDT

Like Michael Crowley, I've been continually stunned by the fact that officials in the Bush administration appear to care very little about all the loose nuclear material floating around the world.

I'm generally of the opinion that the possibility of another low-level terrorist attack in the United States on the scale of, say, the London bus bombings, while tragic, shouldn't be among the country's highest concerns. We're never going to be able to prevent every minor attack, a few bombs aren't going to bring down the republic, and anyway, there really are more pressing problems out there (global warming, say). But there's one big exception here—a nuclear attack wiping out an American city would be unimaginably catastrophic, and the government really should do everything in its power to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands. But the administration's progress on this front has been absolutely dismal, despite the fact that this stuff isn't terribly difficult to accomplish.

So it's very good news that President Bush and Vladimir Putin are now "announc[ing] a new global program to track potential nuclear terrorists, detect and lock up bomb-making materials and coordinate their responses if terrorists obtain a weapon." Obviously I'd like to know the details here, and whether they've taken all the steps advocated by, say, the Nuclear Threat Initiative—and whether words will translate into action, etc.—but this looks like progress. I'd ask why it took the administration five years to get around to this, but maybe we can leave aside carping for now.

Those Language-Hijacking Conservatives

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 6:22 PM EDT

Over on the always interesting if often arcane Language Log, linguist Geoff Nunberg reveals another weapon in conservatives' linguistic arsenal: the object+present participle compound. Those are syntactic constructions like "tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking", which make for handily efficient epithets. He writes: "In fact you could trace the whole history of the right's campaigns against liberals via those compounds -- from tree-hugging and NPR-listening back through the Nixon era's pot-smoking, bra-burning, draft-dodging, and America-hating, until you finally excavate the crude origins of the trope in nigger-loving, the ur-denunciation of white liberal sentimentality."

The subtitle of Nunberg's great new book, Talking Right, lists some of the right's favorites, including the current codeword for treachery, "New York Times-reading." Somehow he left out "Mother Jones-reading," which a Google search finds to be a nice standby for would-be Frank Luntzes seeking to expand their repertoire. A few examples:

"hardcore, Lenin-goateed, Mother Jones-reading left-wingers" .... "pasty-faced tofu-munching, Mother Jones-reading, socialist-vegan-liberal…" .... "the Volvo driving, Mother Jones reading, sprouts eating crowd…" .... "Until later you Volvo driving, latte drinking, Mother Jones reading, leg warmer wearing, liberal." .... "clove-smoking, Birkenstock-wearing, Mother Jones reading, granola crunchers" .... "the Nader-voting, Strawpleberry Mocha Frappucino-sipping, Mother Jones-reading, hipster-dirtbagger Francophile Lefty progressives"
That leg warmer one hurts. And for the record, that would be a decaf, fat-free, fair-trade Strawpleberry Mocha Frappucino.

50 Simple Things You Can Do To Fight the Right

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 5:43 PM EDT

Okay, it seems a shadowy group of progressive numerologists has decided that the number 50 is endowed with mystical properties that, harnessed effectively, will put the U.S. governance back on a rational footing and possibly levitate the Pentagon. First, we had "50 Ways to Save the Ocean," now, from Earth Works Press (the folks who brought you "50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth,")..."50 Simple Things You Can Do To Fight the Right," a handbook crammed with useful information about what "YOU can do at home and in your community to defend America!"

What YOU can do is, among other things, "reclaim the Bible," "take back the language," "be a media watchdog," and, yes, "give the Right a wedgie" (disappointingly, they mean "wedge issue"). The books tells you how. Click on the cover image to check it out.

50 Things.jpg

"What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit..."

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 4:47 PM EDT

"...Bush says with his mouth full as he buttered a piece of bread." (WP)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Reed now blames Indians for the mess he's in

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 4:08 PM EDT

Ralph Reed, realizing that he was getting nowhere fast with his "I don't know what you're talking about" defense against charges that he plotted and successfully carried out a money-laundering scheme, has now changed that defense to "It was the Indians' fault."

Reed, you will recall, has been accused of using Jack Abramoff's Indian casino money to pay for Christian anti-gambling campaigns. The true "Christian" purpose of these campaigns was to wipe out any competing gambling outfits. Yesterday, Reed--who is running for the office of lieutenant governor of Georgia--said during a debate:

I would have been happy if they [Abramoff's tribal clients] paid me directly. They were the ones who made the decision that I would be paid through nonprofits.

In other words, the Indians did it.

Perhaps the most startling fact of all is that Reed and his opponent, Casey Cagle, are said to be in a dead heat for the lieutenant governor's race.

The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe has filed a lawsuit against Reed. He calls it "nonsense" and maintains it is an example of why "I'm in favor of tort reform." Nice try, Ralph.

War, War, War...and More War

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 3:03 PM EDT

Think Progress (watching the Sunday shout shows so you--and I for that matter--don't have to) picks up a remarkable exchange between arch-neocon William Kristol and commentator Juan Williams. Kristol having "argued" that the Bush administration's "coddling" of Iran had "invited" the current fighting in the Middle East, and that the United States should wade into the battle, Williams retorted:

You just want war, war, war, and you want us in more war. You wanted us in Iraq. Now you want us in Iran. Now you want us to get into the Middle East. … You're saying, why doesn't the United States take this hard, unforgiving line? Well, the hard and unforgiving line has been, we don't talk to anybody. We don't talk to Hamas. We don't talk to Hezbollah. We're not going to talk to Iran. Where has it gotten us, Bill?

Kristol threw up his hands and didn't answer.

And this was on Fox!

Why Collective Punishment is Wrong

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 2:53 PM EDT

Israeli troops are re-entering Gaza, according to the Washington Post. This passage, though, illustrates an important point:

Mariam el-Selgawi, a neighbor who fled her home with her eight children and elderly in-laws, said she knows why the Israelis are back.

"Because of the rockets, everyone is launching rockets" from the agricultural areas inside the Gaza Strip over the border at Israeli towns, she said. "Days before, there was a group trying to shoot a rocket, and they were hit by a missile from a drone, and all of them died.

"All the time I get in fights with them when they come. They know it will bring Israel back to the area," she complained of the Palestinians firing the projectiles. "The last time I said: 'The Israelis are going to come and kill us. Aren't you afraid you're going to make us orphans?' And one of them said: 'We will launch the rockets from your house. You deserve it,'" and they fired it from outside her fence, she said.

Her father-in-law, Ali el-Selgawi, 76, sat forlornly on the linoleum schoolroom floor that is the family's latest bed, sipping juice and shaking his head. "You can't talk to them, or they just hit you," he said.Perhaps someone can prove me wrong, but I doubt they're the only people in Gaza who feel this way, or are trapped by the situation, and it certainly lays bare the sheer immorality of Israel's practice of collectively punishing all residents of Gaza by knocking out their electricity, sewage treatment plants, and water wells.

No Way Out in Lebanon?

| Mon Jul. 17, 2006 2:28 PM EDT

As we know, Israel wants Hezbollah off Lebanon's southern border so that the rocket attacks on its civilians will end. The Lebanese government was supposed to disarm Hezbollah over the past few years and deploy its own army on the border, but it's been much too weak to do so, and has been reluctant to confront Hezbollah for fear of triggering another civil war. (Nor, for that matter, has the Lebanese government received much help from the international community towards this end, despite the fact that UN Security Council Resolution 1559 explicitly calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah.)

So that's where things get tricky. Besides being immoral, Israel's current strategy—bombing lots of suburbs and killing a bunch of civilians—doesn't appear likely to achieve its goals. If the IDF couldn't eradicate Hezbollah during its occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000, it's unlikely to do so now. And it seems especially unlikely to do so by turning northern Lebanon into rubble, which will only weaken the Lebanese government vis-à-vis Hezbollah.

But what else can be done? Kofi Annan and Tony Blair are calling for an international peacekeeping force to enter Lebanon, and quell the fighting. But what then? It's not even clear that an international force could disarm Hezbollah, as Israel seems to desire (simply moving the militia—and its long-range missiles—away from the border won't put an end to the underlying issue here). The U.S. can't even disarm Shiite militias in Iraq and it has over 100,000 troops there. Hezbollah is still very popular among Shiites in Lebanon's south. This seems like the sort of thing that ought to be tried, at least, but it's also possible that this entire mess really is as intractable as it seems.