Saturday, October 16, 2004

Fair and balanced: The very smart Mark Kleiman on the so-called mutiny,
Some new details have emerged. Not only was the fuel convoy ordered out will ill-equipped, ill-maintained vehicles and insufficient armed guard, the fuel they were ordered to deliver was fuel they had just tried to deliver to another base, which turned it away as contaminated. (The mission apparently was completed safely by an other unit, but the entire It's not hard to understand how an order to undertake duty not only hazardous but apparently futile might attract grumbling.

But flat refusal? That's beyond an "inappropriate" way to raise "valid concerns." (A reader points out that I was wrong to say, in my earlier post, that it was never justified: an illegal order is to be refused. But there's no suggestion that he order in question was illegal.)

and then we have the clever and cranky heart of gold Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran:
Our republican-support-the-troops friends have now proven for once and for all that the troops are not being supported in the way that they need to be. A platoon of reservists in Iraq, there for the great food and dancing girls basically told the powers that be "fuck no" when ordered to do a convoy run, and now they're being investigated for their alleged infraction.


My esteemed colleague, Mark Kleiman, whom I consider to be one of the smartest bloggers out there, makes a comment: Look, nothing justifies refusing orders in a combat situation.


I don't personally believe that to be the case, and we have no idea what these men and women knew (the current intel on the ground, for instance) and no one ever said that committing suicide was either a smart or particularly patriotic plan for winning a battle or doing a routine (?) resupply mission.


It doesn't look as simple as following or not following orders. There's much to be said for Mark's 2nd hypothesis "The order was so bone-headed that the publicity surrounding a court-martial might be embarrassing to the Army."
I didn't want to go legal on anyone, but came across this: Obeying Orders: Atrocity, Military Discipline, and the Law of War
There are also discernible connections, that the law can better exploit, between what makes men willing to fight ethically and what makes them willing to fight at all. Specifically, obedience to life-threatening orders springs less from habits of automatism than from soldiers' informal loyalties to combat buddies, whose disapproval they fear. Except at the very lowest levels, efficacy in combat similarly depends more on tactical imagination than immediate, letter-perfect adherence to orders.

I have a feeling that we have a clear case of "bone-headed" order a la Kleiman and refusal to "committing suicide" a la Fish. See two liberals do make a right.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Tales from the Bushiverse
What the debates tell us about the president's psyche
Bush critics, of course, most often write off the "Bush Bubble" as a product of spin or calculated disingenuousness. But it doesn't seem particularly well calculated: Many Bush boosters now seem to be agreeing that the president could appeal to skeptical swing voters by conceding that "mistakes were made," as it were, and pledging to make corrections. There is a qualitative difference in Bush's spin, as Mark Halperin recently bought himself some trouble by noticing. John Kerry exaggerates or oversimplifies in the course of making factual arguments, which is what you expect from politicians engaged in deliberate spin. Bush's distortions, on the other hand, go to the core of his reelection campaign, and are often almost self-destructively ludicrous in a post-pajama age where he-said, she-said journalism is giving way to more robust fact checking. Why, for instance, would anyone merely trying to massage a reality cite the Duelfer report rather than avoid mentioning of it at all? Why return to the line about sanctions and inspections not working when this only reminds people that, in fact, they were?

I haven't completely given up on the ideal of absolute honesty from politicians, but it does stay in my back pocket. I expect that Kerry will be off on some numbers by a few billion in explaining the costs incurred thus far in Iraq, but for Bush to say that not finding WMD or programs to make them doesn't matter, breaks the total bullshit meter. People are dieing because of this little detail and he says it doesn't matter. Dangerous delusional liars are supposed to be part of history, not part of our government.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

An Open Letter to the American People:
We, a nonpartisan group of foreign affairs specialists, have joined together to call urgently for a change of course in American foreign and national security policy. We judge that the current American policy centered around the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period, one which harms the cause of the struggle against extreme Islamist terrorists. One result has been a great distortion in the terms of public debate on foreign and national security policy—an emphasis on speculation instead of facts, on mythology instead of calculation, and on misplaced moralizing over considerations of national interest. [1] We write to challenge some of these distortions.

Although we applaud the Bush Administration for its initial focus on destroying al-Qaida bases in Afghanistan, its failure to engage sufficient U.S. troops to capture or kill the mass of al-Qaida fighters in the later stages of that war was a great blunder. It is a fact that the early shift of U.S. focus to Iraq diverted U.S. resources, including special operations forces and intelligence capabilities, away from direct pursuit of the fight against the terrorists. [2]

Many of the justifications offered by the Bush Administration for the war in Iraq have been proven untrue by credible studies, including by U.S. government agencies. There is no evidence that Iraq assisted al-Qaida, and its prewar involvement in international terrorism was negligible.


For Bush to change course would mean he would have to admit that he has made a mistakes(s), so this letter might as well have been written on a stone and thrown into the ocean, even though its satisfying to see such a cogent argument made by some very bright people.

Monday, October 11, 2004

For Marines, a Frustrating Fight
Some in Iraq Question How and Why War Is Being Waged
ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq -- Scrawled on the helmet of Lance Cpl. Carlos Perez are the letters FDNY. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York, the Pentagon and western Pennsylvania, Perez quit school, left his job as a firefighter in Long Island, N.Y., and joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

"To be honest, I just wanted to take revenge," said Perez, 20.

Pfc. Kyle Maio, 19, spots Lance Cpl. Carlos Perez, 20. Maio said he thinks U.S. officials are not being candid about Iraq because of upcoming U.S. elections.

Now, two months into a seven-month combat tour in Iraq, Perez said he sees little connection between the events of Sept. 11 and the war he is fighting. Instead, he said, he is increasingly disillusioned by a conflict whose origins remain unclear and frustrated by the timidity of U.S. forces against a mostly faceless enemy.


Sunday, October 10, 2004

Good write up at Kos about the myth that the courts are liberal. That the election is just not about fair taxes, the environment, or Iraq; its about the constituional principles at stake if the courts continue to swing far right.

Defeating the Rightwing Tide in the Federal Courts
The Supreme Court is hardly the only concern, however. Typically, the Court hears fewer than 100 cases each year. Thousands are heard in the federal appellate courts, which means these judges have the final say on constitutional questions. Ten of the 13 federal circuit courts are controlled by Republican appointees, and two others are close. On the federal district courts, 356 of the 680 judges are Republican appointees. They, of course, are also appointed for life. You can see the breakdown at the excellent Alliance for Justice site.

You don’t have to read far in the mainstream media to find a familiar theme: the courts are controlled by liberals. In fact, however, from 1969 to 2004, Republican presidents appointed 975 federal judges and Democrats appointed 615.

Despite all the whining about blocked confirmations of Bush’s federal court nominees, the Senate has confirmed 226, 88% of those put forward. The current vacancy rate in the federal court system is 2%, 28 judges, the lowest in 20 years. In the last six years of Bill Clinton’s terms, thanks to the machinations of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and others, 35% of the nominees were blocked.

Good write up at Kos about the myth that the courts are liberal. That the election is just not about fair taxes, the environment, or Iraq; its about the constituional principles at stake if the courts continue to swing far right.

Defeating the Rightwing Tide in the Federal Courts
The Supreme Court is hardly the only concern, however. Typically, the Court hears fewer than 100 cases each year. Thousands are heard in the federal appellate courts, which means these judges have the final say on constitutional questions. Ten of the 13 federal circuit courts are controlled by Republican appointees, and two others are close. On the federal district courts, 356 of the 680 judges are Republican appointees. They, of course, are also appointed for life. You can see the breakdown at the excellent Alliance for Justice site.

You don’t have to read far in the mainstream media to find a familiar theme: the courts are controlled by liberals. In fact, however, from 1969 to 2004, Republican presidents appointed 975 federal judges and Democrats appointed 615.

Despite all the whining about blocked confirmations of Bush’s federal court nominees, the Senate has confirmed 226, 88% of those put forward. The current vacancy rate in the federal court system is 2%, 28 judges, the lowest in 20 years. In the last six years of Bill Clinton’s terms, thanks to the machinations of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and others, 35% of the nominees were blocked.