Pontificator: News and Commentary

Saturday, March 29, 2003 :::
Iraqi Civilians Feed Hungry Marines

This is a story that doesn't fit into the rightwing narrative of all-powerful Americans coming to liberate the Iraqis from their horrible oppressors, or the left wing narrative of Iraqi civilians fighting hated American-imperialist invaders. Rather, it fits into the all too human story of soldiers getting in over their head in a messy situation, and getting help whereever they can, including from good-hearted people in the region. That's why I'm citing to it.

::: posted by Pontificator at 6:20 PM

General Karl Rove

A favorite attack of the right-wingers is to accuse left-wingers of “rooting” for the war to go poorly because then Bush will be hurt politically.

My thesis: at the upper echelons of Republican political strategists – the opposite is true!

Republican political strategists believe that the worse the war goes, the more we see American casualties, and the more we get drawn into a morass and quagmire, the better things will go for Republicans politically.

Under this line of thinking, if things go poorly, the “jingoist” strain of American voter will grow more prominent and vocal, and will actually influence “silent majority” voters into believing that opposition to the war is un-American and disloyal.

And then, as war gets even uglier, the “war party” develops more credibility among the “silent majority” on national security issues, while those who oppose the war on legitimate grounds are painted as anti-American, and they consequently lose credibility on national security issues.

Does this theory hold water? Let’s look at history.

First -- Vietnam. The worse things got, the better Richard Nixon did, until he won one of the biggest electoral victories ever over George McGovern in 1972. If it weren’t for Watergate, Republicans would have likely stayed in power continuously through 1992.

By contrast, let’s look at Gulf War I. It was over in a flash, so national security was taken off the table by election time, and Bill Clinton won. But let’s imagine if Gulf War I had gone poorly and turned into a quagmire with scores of American casualties. By election time, Democrats would have been advocating for a withdrawal, and Republicans would have been accusing Democrats of being unpatriotic and of putting American lives at risk. And that would have dominated the debate in election 1992. Would Bill Clinton have won under those circumstances? I don’t know – but I wouldn’t be surprised if the silent majority got scared and sided with Bush – leading to a Clinton loss.

I believe Karl Rove and the most intelligent Republican strategists understand this dynamic, and are hoping for a long bloody war with lots of casualties. I wouldn’t be surprised if this “wag the dog” strategy isn’t their secret strategy for re-election, and is far more influential in setting policy behind the scenes than we can even begin to imagine.

::: posted by Pontificator at 10:57 AM

Friday, March 28, 2003 :::
Al-Jazeera Hit By Terrorist Attack

Many on the right seem eager to expand the definition of terrorism to include things like, say, protesting. However, when Al-Jazeera's web-site is anonymously hacked, those same right-wingers cheer. I wonder what the right-wingers would say if they found out that an Iraqi citizen had hacked the Fox News website? Do you think maybe they'd call it terrorism?

::: posted by Pontificator at 5:54 PM

Iraqi Civilian Body Count

Somewhere between 253 and 333

::: posted by Pontificator at 3:19 PM

Thursday, March 27, 2003 :::
Sue Scalia

Yesterday, in oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, the gay sodomy case currently before the Supreme Court, the following exchange occurred:

Rehnquist wonders whether, if these [anti-sodomy] laws are struck down, states can have laws "preferring non-homosexuals to homosexuals as kindergarten teachers." Smith replies that there would need to be some showing that gay kindergarten teachers produce harm to children. Scalia offers one: "Only that children might be induced to follow the path to homosexuality."

....In response to a question from Justice Anthony Kennedy as to whether Bowers is still good law, [Texas district attorney Charles] Rosenthal replies that mores have changed and that "physical homosexual intimacy is now more acceptable." Since he suddenly seems to be arguing the wrong side of the case, an astonished Scalia steps in to say, "You think there is public approval of homosexuality?"...."You're saying there's no disapproval of homosexual acts. But you can't ... say that," he sputters.

Notice Scalia's comments, in bold, indicating a prejudice towards homosexuals.

In the District of Columbia, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation:

The District of Columbia, California has a law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination.

Human Rights Act, 1977, D.C.L. 2-38, D.C. Code §1-2541(c) 12/13/77: covers public employment, public accommodations, private employment, education, housing, credit, and union practices.

Have any openly-gay law students or lawyers applied for clerkships with Scalia and been rejected? If so, I believe Scalia's comments in yesterday's oral argument could be Paragraph 1 of their lawsuits for employment discrimination in hiring!

Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice and law-breaker extraordinaire!

::: posted by Pontificator at 12:06 PM

Wednesday, March 26, 2003 :::
Iraqi Civilian Body Count

Somewhere between 227 and 307

::: posted by Pontificator at 4:33 PM

Bush Turns Saddam into a Hero

Saddam has always been deeply unpopular in the Middle East. However, now, Arabs in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East are rooting for the Iraqi dictator. This will be the true cost of the war in Iraq-- the cannonization of a brutal dictator, bred by anti-American rage at the West's military dominance. While Richard Perle and the other "superhawks" in the Bush administration believe that the Arab world is motivated mostly by fear of strength, what we are discovering is that pride, Arab pride, plays a huge role. Like it or not, there appears to be an extraordinary Arab resentment towards superior U.S. power, and a pride in Saddam's military resistance, sporadic as it is.

The point of our Middle East policy should be to make Arabs more in favor of democracy and democratic ideals, and less vulnerable to Islamist radicals and nationalist dictators. Unfortunately, our military strategy undermines this policy, because it forces rank-and-file Arabs into a position where they are supporting Saddam for reasons of Arabic pride, despite the fact that he is a brutal dictator. Did it ever occur to the superhawks that the way to defeat Saddam was to encourage a superior model of Arabic democracy to grow elsewhere, percolating from the bottom up in one of the more liberal societies such as Jordan or Qatar?? In that scenario, the Arabs could take credit for their own victory, and take deserved pride in the democratic result. Here, by contrast, Arab pride forces the very people we need, the undecided Arabs, to hate us and love Saddam.

::: posted by Pontificator at 9:44 AM

Tuesday, March 25, 2003 :::
North Korea Brinksmanship?

BusinessWeek says the Bush Administration is "reexamining the military option" with North Korea:

[T]he Administration has its eye on two "red lines" that it does not want Pyongyang to cross. The first would be any sign that the Yongbyon nuclear facility has begun to reprocess spent fuel rods -- a necessary step in the production of a nuclear bomb. The second would be evidence that North Korea has begun to export nuclear materials. Although the Bush Administration still hopes diplomacy will work with the North Koreans, if either of these lines is crossed Washington might consider military action. A surgical strike on Yongbyon could be handled by B-1 or B-52 bombers based in Guam, or by fighters on the carrier USS Carl Vinson -- the flattop moored off Busan to support U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises. The bombers, which carry as much as 40,000 pounds of munitions and could easily take out the site, would be accompanied by escorts to jam North Korean radar.

North Korea, on the other hand, may believe that, at this particular point in time, Bush is simply not in the position (in light of the Iraq war) to exercise the military option no matter WHAT North Korea does. Such thinking may lead North Korea to push forward with its nuclear plans now -- before Bush is in a position to retaliate militarily.

I'll go out on a limb and make a prediction. North Korea will cross one of these two "red lines" while the Iraq war is pending. What we'll do in response, however, I won't dare to predict.

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:47 AM

Clear Channel and the New American Oligarchy

Read Paul Krugman, before everyone else does.

::: posted by Pontificator at 12:00 AM

Monday, March 24, 2003 :::
Iraqi Civilian Body Count

Somewhere between 140 and 214

::: posted by Pontificator at 11:15 PM

Logistical Tail

This military analyst is worried about U.S. forces' supply lines becoming overstretched as they barrel through Iraq. I am expecting a lot more second-guessing of the Administration's judgment as the military's "logistical tail" gets stretched dangerously thin.

Don't you miss the Clinton Administration, when "tail" meant something completely different?

::: posted by Pontificator at 1:44 PM

Time for Operation Restore Credibility

Are some journalists still repeating the Pentagon blather that the most recent Saddam speech was taped before the war?? According to CNN, Saddam said the following:

In his speech Monday, Saddam, without the glasses he wore in Thursday's TV pictures, specifically praised the fighters in Umm Qasr and Al Qadisiya, in southern Iraq.

Do you really think Saddam could have predicted the cities where the United States would incur significant casualties before the fighting started? Blatently preposterous Pentagon disinformation will backfire and hurt the war effort.

Saddam is alive -- we missed him in the "decapitation attack." If we insist otherwise, we look like idiots. Let's admit he's alive and move on.

::: posted by Pontificator at 9:48 AM

The Putrid Stench

While Iraqi and American soldiers are dying, the Bush administration is encouraging war profiteering, by big GOP donors:

ABCNEWS has obtained a copy of a 99-page contract worth $600 million.

"We have never in our 40-year history spent this much money in one country in one year," said Andrew S. Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, an independent federal agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the State Department.

The USAID contract is filled with details about plans to construct Iraqi schools, airports, roads, bridges, hospitals, power plants and more.

‘Limitations of Competition’

But other details are being shielded by the USAID, which chose to conduct the bidding in secret.

"It's the scope and breadth that, I think, has made people take a second look at this in terms of the secrecy and the limitations of competition," said Steven Schooner, a law professor at George Washington University.

Normally, USAID puts out contracts on the Internet, and any company can bid. But to move this through quickly, the agency said it went to firms with track records and security clearances. It asked seven — about half the number that normally would have sought the business — to bid.

Among the companies believed to be bidding are Bechtel, Fluor, Parsons, the Washington Group and Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm.

All are experienced. But in addition, all are generous political donors — principally to Republicans.

Bush's Republican cronies will get rich off the blood of the innocents. And that's a fact.

::: posted by Pontificator at 12:18 AM

Sunday, March 23, 2003 :::
Iraqi Civilian Body Count

Somewhere between 126 and 199

::: posted by Pontificator at 9:20 PM


Check out the title of this CNN article: "Pro-U.S., Anti-war Demonstrators March."

Earth to CNN: the Anti-war demonstrators are pro-U.S., too! The warmongers do not have a monopoly on patriotism!

The Bush warmongers and their media-whore cheerleaders are skipping hand-in-hand to Baghdad and draggging the rest of us into bloody hell. It's a sick symbiotic relationship. The media-whores get access to power and inside information, and the Bush warmongers get unfairly favorable press coverage. The rest of us get the shaft, or worse, death in Baghdad.

Is there one sane person on this planet who still believes that the media is liberal?

::: posted by Pontificator at 9:15 PM

New Regular Feature on Pontificator!

Pontificator now has a regular feature, which will be updated as circumstances warrant. This site is now your place to find the best current estimate of the number of Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq during the American invasion. Because the rest of the media doesn't really give a rat's whisker about the number of Iraqi civilians killed, the best that can be done apparently is to give an estimate of the minimum and maximum number of civilians who have been killed.

Here's the first update:

Civilians killed in Iraq by US-led military action during 2003: between 69 and 99

Again this will be a regular feature on Pontificator.

(Note: thanks to the respected academics and activists at www.iraqbodycount.net for actually doing the work to estimate the number of killed Iraqi civilians. I am just the messenger for their work).

::: posted by Pontificator at 6:13 PM

Republicans today want you to believe it is unpatriotic to criticize Bush during the Iraq war. Many have taken a hatchet to Tom Daschle, implying that his critical comments of a few days ago were borderline-treasonous. Yet these same hypocrites criticized Clinton mercilessly during the Kosovo war. Here are some examples:


From March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999, the United States and NATO engaged in a military campaign to protect ethnic Albanians in Kosovo from Serbian aggression. While American troops engaged in battle, Republican presidential candidates and leaders in the House and Senate criticized the Clinton administration and the war in Kosovo, including the proposed supplemental funding for the conflict.

May 4, 1999 -- The Scotsman reported, “The Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, said at the weekend: ‘I think that, as Jesse Jackson would say, give peace a chance here. There seems to be some momentum. There seems to be an opportunity - we should seize this moment. As a matter of fact, you know, I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning. I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area.’” [Scotsman, 5/4/99, emphasis added]

GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL): “Many may question the path that has taken us to this point. I have my own questions about the long term strategy of this campaign.” [Dallas Morning News, 3/25/99]

Then-House Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-TX): “I had the utmost confidence in President Bush. He had laid the groundwork, and our national interest in the Middle East was clear. In the gulf we had a country that was invaded [Kuwait], and an oil interest to defend. … [In the Balkans] we have a president I don’t trust, who has proven my reason for not trusting him: had no plan. We have a civil war that was
falsely described as a huge humanitarian problem, when in comparison to other places, it was nothing.”
[Washington Post, 5/4/99]

Tom Delay (R-TX): The deployment of U.S. military forces in Kosovo is “just another bad idea in a foreign policy without a focus.” [Editorial, Saint Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota),

Tom Delay (R-TX): “America needs to quickly change directions and leave behind this chilling comedy of errors that has defined our foreign policy.” [Copley News Service,

Then-Senate Assistant Majority Leader Don Nickles (R-OK): “I think he’s [Clinton] gotten us into a mess. I don’t think you can bomb a country into signing a peace agreement.” [Washington Post, 4/13/99]

Then-Senate Assistant Majority Leader Don Nickles (R-OK): “I want NATO to be credible, but for crying out loud, when you are so arrogant to say here is our wisdom, here is this accord, we determined this is in your best interest and you must sign it or else we are going to bomb you--I stated in my speech on the bombing resolution that I don't think you can bomb a country into submission or into signing an
agreement.” [Congressional Record, Senator Don Nickles, 5/3/99]

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK): “(P)resident [Clinton] has decimated our ability to defend ourselves.”
[USA Today, 4/5/99]

Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH): “I don’t believe that a ground war in Kosovo using American troops is going to be very successful.” [NBC, “Meet the Press,” 4/18/99]

Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA): “This is the most inept foreign policy in the history of the United States.” [Washington Times, 4/29/99]

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN): “This is President Clinton’s war, and when he falls flat on his face, that’s his problem.” [New York Times, 5/4/99]

April 13, 1999 -- In a speech, Representative Tom Campbell(R-CA) denounced the military campaign in Kosovo and said, “We are presently at war and it is an unconstitutional war.” (R-CA) [New York Times, 4/14/99]

April 15, 1999 – In an interview on “Inside Politics,” then-GOP Presidential candidate Rep. John Kasich (R-OH) discussed the military situation in the Balkans and said, “I don’t understand what [the Administration’s] goals are. ... I am opposed to ground troops. I am for keeping the pressure on Milosevich but frankly I think we need to look for mediation. I don’t think we ought to look at opportunities to raise the level of violence there. I think we ought to look for opportunities to be able to mediate a solution.” [“Inside Politics,” CNN, 4/15/99]

April 28, 1999 -- House Republicans undermined U.S. foreign policy by rejecting a resolution (S.Con.Res.21) authorizing the ongoing NATO air campaign in Yugoslavia. A Washington Post editorial said of the vote, “The Republican leadership has shown an amazing lack of leadership. Cowardice triumphed over principle. ... Those who will more likely suffer from this abdication are the NATO alliance, its military campaign, the Kosovars and, in the long run, the Republican Party itself.” House Republicans defeated the resolution 213 to 213. [House CQ Vote #103, 4/28/99; Editorial, Washington
Post, 4/30/99]

May 5, 1999 -- Two American Apache crew members were killed in Albania. The American soldiers were the only NATO casualties during the air strikes. [Associated Press, 5/5/99]

May 5, 1999 -- The New York Times quoted Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) as saying, “We should not use Social Security to pay for a war in the Balkans.” [New York Times, 5/21/99]

May 7, 1999 – Speaking on the House floor, then-GOP Presidential candidate and House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. John Kasich (R-OH) criticized the Clinton administration’s policy in Kosovo and said, “Escalating this war doesn’t make any sense because starting this war did not make any sense.” [Washington Times, 5/7/99]

May 19, 1999 -- GOP members of the House Armed Services Committee voted to prevent the use of any of the funds in the fiscal year 2000 defense authorization to fund NATO’s efforts -- combat or peacekeeping -- in Yugoslavia. Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor (TX) offered an amendment to remove the Yugoslavia funding restriction, but Republican committee members defeated the measure 27 to 31. [CQ House Committee Coverage, 5/20/99]

May 20, 1999 -- While speaking on the floor of the Senate Banking Committee about funding air assaults in the Balkans, Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) said, “I don’t see how we are going to save Social Security if we keep spending the surplus.” [Washington Times, 5/21/99]

June 10, 1999 -- NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo ended with signing of peace accord. [Associated Press, 6/10/99]

Remember these quotes next time Rush Limbaugh, Bill O-Reilly or Sean Hannity accuses Daschle of being a traitor.

::: posted by Pontificator at 3:49 PM


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