i’m from iran and i’m here to help…

we’ve got mail…and it’s from our good friend the president of iran. wonkette provides a snarky interpretation here.

mahmoud ahmadinejad is underestimating the average american. we can tell the difference between what he’s doing, and what our own government is doing. have we made mistakes? of course we have, but we are able to debate issues freely without fear of being jailed for our beliefs. if we believe that a change of political leadership is needed, we decide that at the ballot box rather than resorting to violence and explosives. he has no moral authority to judge us until he starts giving some of those same freedoms to his own people. somehow i don’t see that happening.

msnbc.com has requested that we the people respond to his letter, so here’s what i have to say:

mr. president:

i’m not a diplomat. i don’t work for the United States government. i am just an average american, so i guess your letter was directed to folks like me. what a mistake that was. i see you for the threat to the safety and security of the united states and our allies that you are. whether we agree with the iraq project or not, i would say that most of us still don’t want to lose, and we definitely don’t believe that you have the best intentions of iraq in mind when proposing negotiations.

you don’t fool us. you may have charmed the drive-by media and the liberal talking heads in the US and elsewhere, but we know that we can’t trust you. words are just words, no matter how pretty they look on paper. you are asking us as americans to take you seriously as someone we can negotiate with in good faith.

sorry…mahmoud…find another sucker. the american people don’t buy your lies, and the administration shouldn’t either. stop wasting our time with your beautifully-written drivel. it’s not working.

other msnbc commenters were not nearly as polite, but i’m not going to link to them. we need the bush administration to take the same line the american people are taking with this guy. i hope that they will.

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the price of surrender

andrew cline in the american spectator:

Generals often make the mistake of fighting the last war. On Iraq, Democrats are doing exactly that. They just cannot get past Vietnam. Someone might want to remind them of two important lessons of Vietnam they seem to have forgotten: 1) In the absence of U.S. troops, the Communists slaughter of innocents continued unchecked; 2) Our retreat taught the world what the North Vietnamese already knew: To defeat the United States you don’t have to win a single battle, you just have to kill enough Americans to turn public opinion against the war.

The irony is that only if Democrats have their way and U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq before the mission is complete will Iraq be another Vietnam.

we lost in vietnam. we didn’t consider the consequences of withdrawing our troops from vietnam and surrendering to our enemies in this war. public opinion changed the course of this war. we thought that vietnam was unwinnable, just like iraq seems to be. the situation couldn’t possibly have gotten any worse there than what the american people were seeing on the evening news. then we left vietnam to destroy itself and learned a painful lesson for our efforts there. we weren’t defeated because our military couldn’t do the job. we were defeated because we lost the will to fight the battles necessary to win that war.

we are learning the wrong lessons from vietnam. iraq won’t become more stable if we pull our troops out tomorrow. it could get much worse than it is now. the insurgents believe that we are close to giving up on iraq. the results of the election might point them in that direction. the increased violence certainly doesn’t hurt their attempts to make that case to the american people. that said, i still think that we want iraq to succeed, even though most of us are not convinced that the bush administration had the best plan to do that.

nibras kazimi, hudson institute, writes:

There are legitimate concerns over where things stand in Iraq. Those who are genuinely worried about the welfare of the Iraqi people as well as about America’s long-term interests should be commended for fretting over what is a fatefully decisive issue. However, these anxieties are being preyed upon and manipulated by dark and cynical forces whose affirmed goal, from the very beginning, was to declare the democratic experiment in Iraq a “failure.” Within Iraq, the jihadists and Baathists are among these forces, joined by the intelligence services and news bureaus of regional state actors such as Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Inside Washington, these forces include some who are in the pay of the Saudis, and bureaucrats safeguarding their careers. Coming in third are those who would rather win local congressional elections than a very serious battle in Baghdad.

there are serious consequences to losing iraq, just as there were serious consequences to losing vietnam. that’s why we need to find a resolution to this conflict that will stabilize iraq before we start withdrawing our troops.

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the stakes

victor davis hanson:

…So we are at a crossroads of all places in Iraq. The war there has metamorphosized from a successful effort to remove a mass-murdering dictator into the frontlines of the entire struggle between Islamic radicalism and Western liberality. If we withdraw before the elected government stabilizes, the consequences won’t just be the loss of the perceptions of power, but perhaps the loss of real power. What follows won’t be the impression that we are weak, but the fact that we are–as we convince ourselves we cannot win against such horrific enemies, and so should never again try.

That stumble will send a shudder throughout the so-called West that will be felt worldwide. It will insidiously show that the premodern world proved the master of the postmodern, as al Qaeda’s Alfred Rosenberg, the pudgy Dr. Zawahiri, boasted all along–whose followers will not be happy with a successful defense when they think they can go back on an even more successful offense.

In the end, the Islamicists’ best way to blow up the world’s Starbucks or to turn off freewheeling American television is ultimately with a whimper, not a bang. They need not plant a hundred thousand bombs across the Westernized globe, but simply to cauterize its very spinal cord in the United States–the willingness of the American public, as in the past, to confront only the latest challenge to their freedom and all the ripples from it.

read it all here.

justice for saddam

saddam is no longer president of iraq. that’s a good thing. he will die for his crimes. that’s also good. it’s a positive development for iraq, for its people, and for iraq’s continued evolution toward a more democratic and free society. what the iraqis also need to move forward is a strong political leader they can rally around, and they need to have confidence that the government will be fair to all the religious groups in iraq. we can send in the heavy machinery and our awesome military to police everything, but that won’t be enough to sustain iraq long-term.there are diplomatic and political obstacles to that stablization, and one of those is probably prime minister maliki himself. the iraqis need to have a strong political leader who is credible not only with the international community, but also with the majority of iraqis. i’m not sure maliki’s that guy. he still has a little time to prove himself. the important thing is whether the iraqis trust him to capably run the country.

a few roadblocks to the stablization of iraq are still to be cleared. training the iraqi police is an important part of the process, but it’s not the only goal we need to accomplish before leaving iraq. access to basic services (food, water, and electricity) is still a problem in iraq. that’s one thing that fuels discontent, and the insurgents know this as well as their opposition does. we need to find a way to reduce support for the insurgency by the average iraqi, or there will never be a resolution to this conflict.

i know the left in this country is tired of hearing that their “principled opposition” to the war in iraq is having a determental impact on events in iraq. it’s becoming harder and harder to declare that statement a absurd exaggeration by the republicans or neo-cons, or whoever the designated “iraq apologist” is this week. the military can take care of its own morale. they will be professional and do their jobs as well as they would have without criticism from the anti-war left. our concern should be that the iraqi people will lose faith that america will see this through, and in fact, that’s already beginning to happen. as a result of all this war waffling, we are seeing that iraqis are unsure whether they can trust us. that is, i believe, another reason why some iraqis would rather trust insurgents than the united states or their own government. there is recent history that would cause them to question our resolve in iraq, but the stakes are too high to pull out right now.

there are serious consequences we will have to face if we do not succeed in stablizing iraq, so i hope that we can find a better plan to do that than the one we have.

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hidden in plain sight

i just don’t see how anyone in the media originally missed this part of the excerpt from the National Intelligence Estimate, since it was in the first paragraph. here’s a reading comprehension exercise for them. see if you can figure out what this means, ladies and gentlemen of the press. full text here(pdf).

United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa’ida and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qa’ida will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organization. We also assess that the global jihadist movement—which includes al- Qa’ida, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells—is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts.

there’s no way that our counterterrorism efforts have been effective. after all, we have been so distracted by the iraq war that we have forgotten about al-Qa’ida. right? if you want to accept the NIE report, then you might want to look at everything it says, including the parts that support the President’s view of the war on terrorism. there is good news and bad news in these Key Judgments which have now been declassified. the analysis that we have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa’ida and disrupted its operations is something that the media wants to gloss over. that is a positive thing…and we need to acknowledge any ground that we have gained in this war on terror.

there is still work to be done. as this excerpt points out, jihadists are adapting to our counterterrorism measures. we need to be continually re-assessing strategy and adapting to new enemy tactics. our vigilance in this area should remain constant, no matter which party controls congress or the white house.

it goes on to suggest that “Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit…” what kind of responsive political systems would promote this greater pluralism? democracy could be one of those systems. it doesn’t necessarily have to be of a jeffersonian stripe. any system that allows for individual rights and freedoms would have the desired effect. while i am not completely sold on the democracy project, i don’t see the current alternatives as ones that will allow Muslim countries to achieve this greater pluralism.

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it’s just that simple

mort kondracke nails the big question in the november elections. will it be decided by views on iraq or on the war on terrorism? i believe that the answer will determine which party will be left standing at the end.

Republicans think they gain by calling the Democrats “defeatists” on Iraq and by asserting that Democrats are “weak” on terror because they opposed the NSA wiretap program and had qualms about efforts to track terrorist finances through the international banking system.

Who’s actually gaining in this struggle is hard to tell. Traditionally, Republicans lead Democrats in public trust on fighting terrorism by margins of 25 to 30 points, but recent polls have shown that advantage dropping to single digits.

A Pew poll last week showed that more Americans, 69 percent, are concerned Republicans would get the United States involved in new wars than the 57 percent who are worried that Democrats are weak on fighting terror.

This week, however, a Gallup Poll reported Bush’s overall approval rating rose to 42 percent from 37 percent over the two weeks since the London plot was stifled and, for his handling of terrorism, to 55 percent from 47 percent.

But for handling Iraq, he remained mired at 36 percent. And a CBS/New York Times poll showed Americans, by 51 percent to 32 percent, don’t think Iraq represents a “major part” of the war on terror.

If the election hinges on “terror,” Republicans may win. If it’s “Iraq” and things keep looking grim there, it’s a Democratic advantage. That will frame the argument through November.

that’s the disconnect. americans don’t see iraq as a major part of the war on terror. the bad news for president bush is that he has been unable to sell this connection, since saddam didn’t directly order 9/11 and there’s no concrete evidence that he knew about bin laden’s plans. it is an unwinnable battle trying to explain to the american people why iraq was a legitimate target even if it didn’t have a direct link to 9/11. so i’m not going to make that attempt.

this disconnect actually benefits republicans, since bush’s ratings on the overall war on terror vastly exceed his numbers on the war in iraq. that’s why the way the debate is framed makes a huge difference. of course there are other valid criticisms of the party in power, and we all know what those are, but iraq and the war on terror will still be the primary debate going into this midterm.

the final outcome of the iraq war will determine how aggressive we will be as a country in prosecuting the war on terror, and how future and current bad actors will view the resolve of the united states in dealing with threats to its security. you can argue about whether it was part of the war on terror in the beginning, but it certainly is now. our success or failure in iraq will have major consequences for the rest of the region. can we leave iraq a better place than we found it? what will our enemies say about us when the united states military finally leaves iraq? will they be convinced that we are serious about fighting terrorism? those are questions that we will answer, and the world is watching us.

this should not be a partisan snipe-fest. republicans and democrats alike should be equally committed to giving our government the tools it needs to fight this war on terror effectively and to protect us here at home. we should support candidates who take this view, and reject those who don’t.

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lieberman: rummy must go

from face the nation sunday night (8/20): (pdf)

BOB SCHIEFFER: Tell us what you would do right now that is different than what the president is proposing.

Sen. LIEBERMAN: Yeah. I think there’s–three years ago in October on this show you asked me and I said that I believe that it was time for new leadership at the Pentagon. I think it’s still time for new leadership at the Pentagon. With all respect to Don Rumsfeld, who has done a grueling job for six years, we would benefit from new leadership to work with our military in Iraq. We also have to put severe pressure on the Iraqis to contain the sectarian violence that is there and stand up their ministries of defense and interior security. And then we’ve got to get the other Arab countries and hopefully some of the Europeans in with us to help to reconstruct Iraq. There is still hope in Iraq, and so long as there is, we cannot just pick up and, and walk away and leave them to the sure disaster that would follow and that would compromise our security in the war against terrorism.

SCHIEFFER: All right. All right.

JIM VANDEHEI: In five or 10 years, that’s fine?

Sen. LIEBERMAN: I don’t believe it will take five or 10 years.

SCHIEFFER: OK. I’m sorry. We have to let it go there. Thank you very much.

there’s that gutsy lieberman all those crazy republicans adore. i bet they just love that he called for the head of donald rumsfeld. i’m guessing this is not something karl rove told him to say. this is no different from what some of his fellow democrats have been saying, but lieberman is a little late to this bandwagon, even though he may have said something similar to this in the past. he is fighting an uphill battle if he thinks that he can win back those lamont voters with this suggestion. he has already lost them, and there’s nothing he can say to convince them that he is against this war or against anything the bush administration is doing.

i agree with most of what lieberman is suggesting here, although I’m not as optimistic as he is that we can get the europeans to help us with the reconstruction. they seem to view iraq as our mess to clean up, and i don’t know what incentives would change their minds about that. so we are where we are. we do need to re-think our current strategy there, because what we are doing now is not working. if we leave iraq without finishing what we started there, the situation will get worse, not better. that’s the reality.

i hope lieberman is right when he says that he doesn’t think that it will take five or ten years to stabilize iraq. there have been some estimates (one from the atlantic monthly) that paint a more gloomy picture of our progress in iraq and what it will take to complete this mission. unless the american people see significant signs of improvement in iraq, they won’t support five or ten more years there. the american people are unconvinced that we are winning in iraq. unless that changes, it will be difficult to keep our troops there much longer.

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it’s up to us

in november, we will have an opportunity to vote on the direction of the iraq war. we have a chance to choose between two parties with what (i believe) are two totally different views on the prosecution of the iraq war and on the overall war on terror. while i think that it’s an unfair characterization to paint candidates such as ned lamont and democratic leaders like howard dean as closet sympathizers with al qaeda, it is important to point out that their proposals aren’t necessarily the best way to deal with iraq.

this is the point where our faith in the current course is tested. it’s a legitimate argument to point out that we are struggling in iraq right now. i’m tired of trying to defend the president on his iraq policy, because it seems to go against what we are all seeing on the evening news. i’m sure that many other republicans and especially those in congress have that same inner struggle, especially when their defense of the president may cost them their jobs.

there’s more at stake here than choosing to support the war in iraq or to oppose it. what we will be deciding in november is how aggressively we want to deal with the terrorist threat we face in this country. i can’t say this enough…karl rove didn’t invent this threat just to scare the country into voting for republicans. IT’S REAL. when we go to the polls this november, that’s the question we will have to answer. can the democrats prove that they will use any means available to them to catch the terrorists who want to kill us? whether you agree with everything bush has done, or whether you question the legality of some of those programs, there should be no doubt that he will do whatever he feels is necessary to protect us.

the future of iraq and the direction of the war on terror has now being placed into our hands. it’s up to us to decide what happens next. consider this decision carefully. choose wisely.

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself” — John Stuart Mill

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the battle for iraq

iraqi prime minister maliki addressed a joint session of congress today, and this is part of what he said.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, our nascent democracy faces numerous challenges and impediments, but our resolve is unbreakable and we will overcome them.

The greatest threat Iraq’s people face is terror: terror inflicted by extremists who value no life and who depend on the fear their wanton murder and destruction creates.

They have poured acid into Iraq’s dictatorial wounds and created many of their own.

Iraq is free, and the terrorists cannot stand this.

They hope to undermine our democratically elected government through the random killing of civilians. They want to destroy Iraq’s future by assassinating our leading scientific, political and community leaders. Above all, they wish to spread fear.

Do not think that this is an Iraqi problem. This terrorist front is a threat to every free country in the world and their citizens. What is at stake is nothing less than our freedom and liberty.

Confronting and dealing with this challenge is the responsibility of every liberal democracy that values its freedom. Iraq is the battle that will determine the war. If, in continued partnership, we have the strength of mind and commitment to defeat the terrorists and their ideology in Iraq, they will never be able to recover.


that’s the bigger issue here. terrorists must not be able to dictate the direction of a country.  that’s what the terrorists are trying to do in iraq. we cannot allow this. terrorism won’t stop after iraq, but we need to deal the islamic extremists as many damaging blows as we can. that’s why we need to support israel and any other country that is actively fighting terrorists. israel is doing its part against terrorism in its current struggle against hezbollah, but it’s a recurring problem for them. we may never see the end to the war against terrorism.  that doesn’t mean that we should ignore the growing threat it poses to each and every one of us.