Saturday, May 03, 2008

Iranian Domination: The Latest Right-Wing Strawman

I've long argued that one of the strengths of right-wing propoganda is that people on the right keep coming up with shiny new lies to bolster their policy initiatives. "Splatter-Boy" Dick Cheney was especially effective in deploying a wide variety of dishonest arguments to justify the invasion. One day, Cheney would accuse Saddam Hussein of being involved in 9-11 and the next he would claim that we needed to invade Iraq to prevent him from becoming allied with al-Qaeda. Then, Cheney might say something about mobile bio-labs and WMD's. When one argument got stale, Cheney would trot out another and he wasn't afraid to recycle old arguments that had been long been discredited because he knew that it would take a while to discredit them again.

That's why Cheney repeated the Saddam/9-11 lie so often after it had been debunked by everybody in the known universe, including George Bush. He knew it would work for awhile.
And the fact that all of these arguments were lies didn't deter Cheney a bit. "Truth" was something to be sorted out by other people.

Splattering out new right-wing arguments on Iraq is essentially what Bill O'Reilly's was doing in his interview with Hillary Clinton:
. . . Clinton stumbles on Iran. Both she and Obama want out of Iraq, but the unintended consequence of that would be a much bolder Iran. Those fanatics will spin a U.S. withdrawal as an "Islamic" victory. And then, most geo-political experts agree, Iran would attempt to dominate Southern Iraq.

The old right-wing shibboleths on Iraq withdrawal used to be that the majority Shiites would commite genocide against the Sunni population or that al-Qaeda would take-over or that Iraq would become a base for attacks against the United States.

But these arguments aren't working anymore. So O'Reilly cooked up Iranian domination as an "issue" to be tossed at Hillary Clinton and Dick Morris liked the idea so much that he featured it in his own column.

The argument is that Iran would seek to "dominate" Iraq or at least the Southern Iraq area around Basra.

Hillary Clinton responded not unreasonably that the Iraqis would reject Iranian efforts to dominate on ethnic Arab v Persian grounds.

She could have given 10 or 12 other objections as well, the most relevant being that Iran doesn't have the resources needed to dominate Iraq or any part of Iraq.

Despite spending $600 billion over the last five years, the U. S. still does not "dominate" Iraq enough to count on the Iraqi government, armed forces, or police as allies. Consequently, the Iranians would have to spend more than our paltry $120 billion a year in order to achieve real "domination."

However, Iran's actual defense/military budget is 6.2 billion dollars per year. That's not only not enough to militarily or diplomatically dominate Iraq, it's barely more than half of the $12 billion U. S. military expenditures in Iraq for the month of April 2008.

In my thumbnail estimate, the Iranians have enough resources to occupy Iraq for about one week per year if they decided to invade. Otherwise, they're going to be stuck in the same boat the U.S. is in, trying to help the Iraqis stabilize by encouraging negotiations among the various Iraqi Shiite groups. If the Iranians are going to have leverage, they're going to gain it through the kind of diplomacy they exercised to broker the cease-fire in Basra.

Otherwise, they're not really a problem.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Youth Will Be Served

Tonight, the Atlanta Hawks beat the heavily-favored Boston Celtics 103-100 to force a Game 7 in their first round playoff series.

I'm not surprised.

I've always admired Kevin Garnett and I liked Rajon Rondo when he was at Kentucky. But Atlanta's been able to use its youth and athleticism to considerable advantage against the Celtics and has a real shot at winning the deciding game in Boston.

Youth and athleticism is doing better these days. That's a big reason why Golden State beat the Mavs last year and an even bigger reason why the Yankees haven't been able to win it all lately in our former national pastime.

Maybe NBA teams should start giving the max contracts to rookies instead.

"Mission Accomplished"

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of George Bush's flight onto the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier with the famous and famously stupid "Mission Accomplished" banner.
"Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," Bush said at the time. "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on Sept. 11, 2001, and still goes on."
But what has the Bush administration accomplished?

More than I'd like to admit. They've kept fighting the war in Iraq despite the opposition of Congress, public opinion, and their own generals. In this sense, the Bush administration is a renegade government but they succeeded in intimidating the Democratic leadership into continuing the war.

The Bush administration has also succeeded in turning the United States into a rogue super-power. With the Bush doctrine, the United States reserves the right to invade any country that might emerge as a competitor. McCain advisers like Robert Kagan are following the logic of the Bush doctrine when they call for treating Russia and China with the same relentless animosity that we now reserve for Iran and North Korea.

Given that the Bush administration refuses to negotiate as a matter of principle and demands that every other country either give us what we want or face retaliation, it wouldn't be going to far to claim that the United States has become a force for instability throughout the world.

Much of the "rogue" status of North Korea and Saddam Hussein's Iraq is connected with their reflexive belligerence, indulgence in torture, and general refusal to follow international standards of behavior.

The same is the case with the United States under the Bush administration. President Bush, Dick Cheney, and other figures in the Bush administration have been so eager to exchange insult for insult with bin Laden, Ahmadinejad, and Kim that American pronouncements now have the same homoerotic feel as the put-downs and threats issues by professional wrestlers.

Much worse, the Bush administration has constructed a vast international network for illegally confining and torturing hundreds or thousands of innocent Afghans and Iraqis who have been taken up by the War on Terror dragnet. Whether it is exploring new vistas or sensory deprivation, developing tactics for tormenting Muslim prisoners, or elaborating a web or international institutions for torturing prisoners and hiding responsibility, the Bush administration has made a point of flouting international law and disdaining moral standards that the U. S. itself was active in creating.

If such practices continue into the next administration (and there's a good chance they will), the Bush administration will have succeeded in making the U. S. into a war criminal state.

The United States needs to turn away from the path defined by the Bush administration. But the first step in changing direction is acknowledging how successful the Bush administration has been in turning the United States into a rogue superpower and war criminal state.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Today's Hillary News

1. The Call. I finally got a call from some Hillary people asking for money. They weren't modest. They wanted $50 on top of the $100 I've already put in. I was glad to hear the pitch. I get a lot of calls from the Obama campaign. Still, the answer was "no."

2. Turning the Tide. There's been some good poll numbers coming out for Hillary. She's starting to kill Obama among white working-class voters. Likewise, there are a couple of polls out with her doing better than Obama among independents and she's lengthening her lead over McCain.

3. An Exercise in Tenacity. Fighting from behind, Hillary Clinton is showing just how tough she is. It's what I've wanted to see from a Democrat all along. And its helping her.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No Need for Enemies

With friends like Jeremiah Wright, it looks like Barack Obama is now out of the market for enemies.

In making his remarks yesterday, Wright decided that his need to take an "I'm About Me" moment took precedence over the campaign of his most famous parishioner, a long-time friend, and the first black presidential contender.
Wright seemed to relish the chance to speak out after weeks of being derided in the press. He reveled in his retorts, high-fiving an audience member, pointing and winking at his supporters and mocking descriptions of him as Obama's spiritual mentor.

But my impression about Wright is that he's just an "I'm about Me" kind of guy.

What a jerk!