Monday, May 31, 2004

Some Things That Have Happened Since My Last Blog Entry


  • General Anthony Zinni (U.S.M.C., Ret.) became the latest in a lengthening parade of esteemed former military and intelligence professionals who, having served in the Bush administration, have subsequently felt driven to sharply criticize its Iraq policy, demonstrating once again that there is no criticism so devastating as that of the good soldier who -- against his natural and honorable reluctance to challenge the Commander-in-Chief publicly -- feels himself forced into the role of critic by the sheer incompetence and arrogance of the political leadership.


  • A number of conservative commentators -- including notably George F. Will -- began (somewhat beleatedly) to recollect that a conservative posture in foreign policy is supposed to be characterized by patient humility with respect to ends and prudent realism with respect to means, causing them to begin expressing frank disapproval of the odd combination of stubborness, intellectual drift and wishful thinking that is Bush's Iraq policy.


  • Wesley Clark published a timely and thoughtful critique of Bush's foreign policy failures, in which he goes beyond a rehearsal of particular blunders to detail how completely this administration has departed from the core strategic principles that underlay the half-century-long foreign policy consensus that won the Cold War, and shaped the post-war order, right up through the administrations of the elder Bush and Clinton -- in the process reminding everyone (if more reminders were needed) that Wes Clark would make a great choice for either Vice President or National Security Advisor in a Kerry Administration.


  • The Abu Ghraib torture scandal broke, kept breaking, then broke wide open, quickly putting the lie to the Administration's bungling attempts to contain it, and leading, unsurprisingly, to a further sharp erosion in the fast-disappearing trust of the Iraqi people, on whose behalf all of this was (so we are now given to believe by Administration apologists fresh out of other justifications) supposed to have been undertaken.


  • Rush Limbaugh and a gaggle of lesser right-wing commentators rushed to minimize the astonishing dishonor and shame of the Abu Ghraib revelations -- thereby redoubling the dishonor and covering themselves in shame -- but usefully betraying, in the process, the utter chasm that exists between these arm-chair hawks and the overwhelming majority of our Armed Forces who, as proud and patriotic professionals, are under no illusions whatsoever about the dire implications of Abu Ghraib, both for the nation-building effort in Iraq, as well as for the well-being of the United States Armed Forces, whose burden the former has (most unwittingly) become.


  • A wayward American civilian named Nick Berg fell into the clutches of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi and his Ansar al-Islam group (evidently now operating at will in post-Saddam Iraq) and, in a bit of al-Qaida style propaganda immediately reminiscent of the murder of journalist Daniel Perl in Karachi in 2002, was brutually murdered on video -- all of which makes the White House's repeated refusal to crush Zarqawi's group when it had several chances to do so (a refusal apparently based on the desire to preserve one of the few, if still transparently spurious elements in the Administration's pre-war case for Hussein as a terrorist mastermind) even less forgiveable than it already was.


  • Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile who only yesterday was the toast of Washington, the source for so much of the "intelligence" and "reporting" upon which the case for war in Iraq was built, the man who, once upon a time, was to have been installed as the Pentagon's hand-picked choice to lead post-Saddam Iraq, thereby inaugurating an era of pro-American and pro-Israeli liberal democracy there -- was paid a visit by the United States Army -- prompting Mark Kleiman to ask, "Which is the most embarrassing element of the Chalabi situation?"


  • John Kerry gave a pretty good speech, setting forth in broad outline a national security strategy for these troubled times -- so good, in fact, that it is almost enough to make one forget the far more powerful and pertinent one given by Al Gore a day earlier, in which, in a register more of prophecy than of policy, he dared to say what moral and political sanity demands must be said about Abu Ghraib and its consequences: this is what comes of empire building.


  • Over two hundred more U.S. soldiers have died for whatever it is we will turn out to have been fighting for in Iraq, bringing the total to 814 -- with 675 of those having perished since the day when the President of the United States stood on the deck of a warship, basking in the borrowed glory of those just returned from harm's way and, with the campaign video cams rolling, declared that the mission, whatever he then imagined it to be, was accomplished.