Saturday, October 16, 2004


Jeff Merriam is a friend and a fellow international development professional. He sends a daily e-letter to a group of his friends. This is what he wrote on the subject of WMDs.

By Jeff Merriam

Did anyone watch the debate? Score another win for the challenger. It’s nice to know that the president is not worried about Osama; that would explain why he concentrated his efforts in fighting terrorism in a country that had no terrorist ties to Osama. Clarity on that topic proves less than reassuring.

So let’s ask the hypothetical question, just to expand our minds and sensibilities, what if Bush had continued to track Osama using the full power of our military? Let’s say we had 100,000 troops in Wazieristan and Afghanistan combing through every cave complex and cattle yard. Would the junior Senator from the great state of Minnesota being telling his staff to stay away from Capital Hill between now and the election? Would we have caught the slime ball? Maybe not, but I bet you that people would be feeling a hell of lot more faith in the whole homeland security apparatus. I’ll bet Al Quaeda would be considerably less organized. I bet Bush would look better in the polls.

And what if, just what if there had been weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Let’s just say we found big juicy missiles full of bio-toxins and an active nuclear program. What if the idiots in the White House actually knew what they were talking about on that score? Would the still blow the occupation with their arrogance? Would they get and destroy all the WMD before the bad guys found a way to use it against our troops or Israel? Think about it, if the Iraqis had WMD wouldn’t they have used them? Wouldn’t more American kids be dead and dying than the horrible numbers we have now?

There were caches of conventional arms found all over Iraq by our troops, but they were so busy racing to Baghdad to get the bad guys that they failed to destroy those caches. Now the bad guys are using those left behind rocket launchers and AK-47s. Can you imagine what a mess the region might be if there really were WMD? Think about Israel getting hit by nerve gas and maybe a small nuclear device in central Tel Aviv? Would our attack tactics have been different? Would we have stopped and destroyed the WMD before we moved on?

What difference would finding WMD meant to the occupation and post war mess? Little or no difference at all. Bush would be vindicated for his attack, but the administration still totally blew the occupation, and, by the way continues to blow it. I think the major difference is that the insurgents would have some nasty weapons that they do not now have. Numbers of deaths from car and suicide bombing would be in the hundreds and not in the tens. In other words, even if Bush was right about WMD we would be up to our neck in dead bodies. I don’t even think Bush would have the time to smugly tell the world, “You see, I told you Iraq was a threat.” He would have to add, “Heck it still is.” Think about it: what if the insurgents had missiles that could travel 1000 miles. They would be falling on Haifa, Rijad, Adana, and who knows where else.

Now the super leap in logic: what would happen if the neo-conservatives actually listened to the people that new piddly-squat about the Middle East and a) put in enough troops, b) put together a sufficient international coalition, c) recognized the need for nation building and made plans to do it, d) did not make Sadr into a martyr, e) retained the good offices of civil servants and members of the military to help run the country and maintain the peace, and f) put Chalabi behind bars where he belongs? What are the chances that someone would have gotten all of these things right you ask? Actually very high, because a number of people suggested these elements be included in the strategy. But that doesn’t answer the question. Assume also that they actually understood what they were doing. Would there still be an insurgency? Yes, there would, but it would be considerably smaller and less effective. It would probably be contained in Baghdad and Fuluja and the acts would have a frequency of a couple a week instead of five to ten a day.

What if instead of an American force there had been a legitimate multi-national, UN sanctioned peacekeeping force on the ground headed by the US? Would we need as many troops? Would frustrated unemployed youth see the US as the big invader, or would they recognize the multinational force as a liberator? I suspect they would resent anyone that came in to “keep the peace.”

So what exactly does all this mean? It means the fundamental mistake in this whole situation was going to war in the first place. Had there been weapons of mass destruction, the casualty levels would be ten fold what they are now. Had there been an international coalition, there still would have been some form of insurgency. The resentment in the Muslim world towards the US and the West would be only marginally less pronounced. Bottom line: this was a stupid war from day one. Even if everything were done right we still would be in the midst of a quagmire. That the Bush Administration bollixed the situation so badly can only be judged the carnage that rains down on the country every day.

We should have stuck around Afghanistan and found the bad guys there. The world supported us in doing that. Instead we have a possible Code Orange, or even Code Red time up for us in the next week or so because of the elections correlating with the Bush Administrations poor record on both homeland security (look at the budget numbers) and fight against international terrorism. What if we caught Osama? I suspect that it wouldn’t bring Al Quaeda toppling down, and I would be willing to bet cash money that there would be reprisals during the first couple of weeks until the system either created a new leader or simply petered out. But we don’t know because we shifted resources to a pet project of a bunch of arrogant, poorly informed, misguided, partisan, true believers.

Why did we go into Iraq? What the hell motivated such a stupid departure from the actual war on terrorism? If the presence of WMD would have just made the situation worse, what the hell were we thinking?

That’s right Dude, I got to thinking. Why should we settle for a measly 20,000 when we can have the whole million?

It comes back to Bush’s fervent belief that God, of all entities, put him on earth for a purpose and that purpose was to make the Middle East democratic. God did put Bush on this earth for a purpose, in fact there were two purposes; first, to take the mantle of the worst US President from the shoulders of Millard Fillmore, and second, to get John Kerry elected.


Bush's Re-Election Would Doom Moderate Republicans

The article below was written by Michael Cudahy ( Mr. Cudahy is a political writer and analyst from Massachusetts. He was a former national campaign staff member for President George H.W. Bush, Executive Director for Elliot Richardson's Committee for Responsible Government, and National Communications Director for the Republican Coalition for Choice. His article is reproduced with his permission.

By Michael Cudahy

If President George W. Bush is reelected, the direction of the Republican Party is likely to undergo a massive and fundamental shift. Long-held principles of liberty, integrity and respect for human rights -- established by Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower -- could be relegated to the pages of history books.

Should the president win reelection we could see national identity cards, a continuation of irresponsible fiscal policies, and a foreign policy that rejects a decades long respect for multilateralism. These are positions that have defined the party for the better part of the 20th century and are deserving of this president’s consideration.

Ironically, the decision rests in the hands of the centrist or “moderate” wing of the Republican Party -- the very people whose values will be devalued if this administration is permitted another four years in office. Representing only 18-20% of registered Republicans nationwide, they are in a position to supply Democrat John Kerry with the 3-5% points he needs to win an extremely close presidential election.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush mesmerized many of his party’s centrist members with talk of “compassionate conservatism,” and a desire for bipartisanship cooperation.

“President Bush’s rhetoric during the 2000 campaign held the promise for a significant change of direction,” said Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI). “There was a strong bipartisan desire for mutual respect and cooperation -- for the good of the country. We were exhausted by the bitter partisan infighting, but this administration’s behavior has only made the problem worse.”

“We are seeing policy initiatives that are diametrically opposed to the promises we heard four years ago,” Chafee says. “The president is advancing an extreme agenda that rejects everything from worldwide environmental cooperation to the banning of access to abortions for service members overseas."

“Moderates were in a position to provide significant assistance to this president,” says Chafee. "Sadly, he chose a different direction."

The question that needs to be addressed is the commitment and courage of rank and file Republican centrists. Are they prepared to overthrow the neo-conservative Republicans that betrayed President George H.W. Bush in 1992, or has their will been broken by the strong-arm tactics of the last 12 years?

“The problem with moderates,” says Ann Stone Chairman of Republicans for Choice, “is that they are so moderate, so civil, and generally so silent. Nonetheless,” Stone says, “only 38% of her membership will be supporting President Bush.”

In talking with Republican activists who have consistently supported moderate positions for decades, I discovered that none were willing to speak on the record. To a person they are intimidated by the extremely personal and well organized attacks by members of the Bush administration’s political operation.

"When I talk anecdotally to moderate Republicans, it's very hard to find one who is going to vote for Bush,” said John Zogby, president and CEO of the polling firm Zogby International, in an interview with "On the other hand, it's not showing up in our polling." In fact, Zogby's latest polls show 87 percent of Republicans backing Bush. "I'm just watching and waiting and saying to myself maybe there's something going on here, because I'm hearing it."

Consequently, it is hard to understand why respected and visible moderate Republican leaders like Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator John McCain, and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani went to such lengths at the Republican Convention in New York to provide President Bush with important political cover. It is particularly difficult to understand when this administration has done virtually nothing to support their concerns.

While some political analysts suggest it is a strategy to reestablish influence for the centrist Republican agenda, other observers question whether the benefits will be worth the price.

“A second Bush term would be a disaster for American women,” said, Evelyn Becker Deputy Communications Director at NARAL. “We would see an effort to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with ultraconservative justices in an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, as well as continued and aggressive legislative moves to limit women’s access to birth control, proper family planning and health care services,” she said.

The November election will also decide other major legislative battles critical to party moderates. We are certain to see the Bush administration set new standards in partisan politics. This extreme behavior could precipitate a serious economic crisis, as a result of irresponsible tax policies and out of control government spending, while threatening the American tradition of free speech with measures such as the USA Patriot Act.

We will find out in a few short weeks whether Republican moderates can be bought off by the occasional bone and a seat at the children’s table, or whether they will regain their voice and become major players in setting the party’s political agenda for future generations.


By William Fisher

Margaret Carlson of TIME magazine, who describes herself as “a product of the (Catholic) School of the Good Shepherd outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania”, writes in the Los Angeles Times that she finds it “jarring” that “the word ‘lesbian’ still leaps out in the middle of a presidential debate.”

It may be “jarring” to Ms. Carlson, but the more important point is that it is totally irrelevant to one’s choice for president.

Meanwhile, an editorial in the Raleigh (North Carolina) News and Observer congratulates Messrs. Bush and Kerry for giving the American people “a series of informative and energetic dialogues”. The paper concludes that “if all Americans were to case their votes for president based on what they had an opportunity to learn in the three presidential debates, that final choice would represent the consensus of an educated, enlightened electorate – something that would be healthy, indeed.”

Allow me to demur. The exquisitely negotiated minuet as to format and ground rules for these debates virtually guaranteed the triumph of sound bites over substance. These ensured that voters would never hear enough about any single issue to be even minimally informed.

Worse, in two of the three debates, the questions put to the candidates were written by the debate moderators. In the middle debate, the so-called Town Hall format, voters submitted the questions and the moderators selected which ones to ask.

So, while we now know what the moderators think is important, the debates and the debaters remained silent on some of the most important issues facing the US. One such issue is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, only briefly mentioned in passing; a second is Abu Ghraib and related prisoner abuses issues – not mentioned at all; a third is reform of our intelligence community, counter-terrorism policy, homeland security and the impact of these issues on American civil liberties.

John Kerry well knows – and has said so on other occasions – that the road to peace in the Middle East runs not through Baghdad but through Jerusalem. It can only be viewed as a lesson in Pandering 101 that he never mentioned – and the president never had to defend -- his outrageous and unproductive positions on this issue. The President needed to be held accountable for abdicating responsibility for addressing this issue with energy, consistency and imagination, and personal involvement. And candidate Kerry failed to do so.

Mr. Kerry also failed to mention the prisoner abuse scandal and the role it has played in the collapse of American credibility around the world. He knows that, contrary to the President’s unconscionable spin on this issue, these bestial acts were far from the work of ‘a few bad apples’. He knows that the CIA is being investigated for, as a Washington Post editorial put it, “introducing abusive interrogation techniques into Iraq and illegally hiding prisoners from the International Red Cross.” He knows that a major Pentagon investigation of how US interrogation policies spread through Afghanistan and Iraq was to be released by the end of September, but has yet to appear. And he knows that a panel appointed by the Pentagon found responsibility for prisoner abuse at senior levels of the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the White House, and that no one in the Bush Administration has yet been held accountable.

In the final debate, Mr. Kerry excoriated the president for failing to inspect 95% of the millions of freight containers that enter US ports each year, and for inspecting airline luggage but not airfreight. But he left unaddressed the issues of a gigantic, under-funded mega-bureaucracy known as the Department of Homeland Security; an intelligence community whose long-overdue reform was initially opposed by the president; a Justice Department that took 5,000 people into custody and convicted no one; and a truly sinister piece of legislation passed by the House of Representatives that would facilitate even more secretive detentions and deportations – including deportations of asylum-seekers to countries where they would likely face torture. If less draconian and more effective legislation is to emerge, the thanks will go not to Senator Kerry, or to the president, but to the 9/11 Commission and to the boundless energy and determination of the 9/11 survivors’ families.

That the candidates shared the same stage was good. That what we saw and heard could be called ‘debates’ is arguable. That the result was likely to produce anything like “an educated, enlightened electorate” is delusional.