Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Friday, April 30, 2004

The Friday Blog

OK, here's my rundown of all the yammering and blathering and other inanity that went on in our vaunted free press this week.

First, there's the very important story of what is being called the Fallujah agreement. Go ahead and read about it. No seriously, go read it. Get all the details. OK. Done?

Let me run down the nuts and bolts of this "agreement:" The Marines get out of Fallujah. Some of Saddam's generals get to raise an army and be in control of the city. We get nothing.

This is an agreement? This sounds like "losing." Basically we're saying "OK, we lost. We're leaving in disgrace. Sorry about the 1000 or so people we killed for no reason."

Now, I'm pretty torn on what to root for in Iraq. But this seems pretty much like the worst of all worlds. We inflame tensions in an important Iraqi city. We make a lot of threatening noises like we're going to go in and kill everybody. We bomb some mosques. Then suddenly we pack up and leave and put Saddam's goons in charge again. They say "Oh yeah, we'll take care of the insurgents, don't worry."

I hate to sound like a broken record here, but what exactly is the plan in Iraq? You've heard my plan - get the fuck out now. Lots of people seem not to like my plan. So let's see a better plan. Hustle it up, people. Time is money.

Second, Bush and Cheney finally appeared before the 9/11 commission and said, well, we don't know. There was no television. There was no transcript. Somebody took notes, but Scottie Mac wouldn't even answer questions about whether the guy knew shorthand. Apparently the number and identity of White House officials who know how to write real fast is an important state secret. I could link to a story here, but there's really no point. We don't know.

Third, you should read Paul Krugman. Not just this one. Generally, all the time. Is he that great? No. On an incisiveness scale from David Brooks to Noam Chomsky, I'd say he rates about a 5. But that's pretty good for a columnist at a major paper.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

And there you have it. It's always something small, isn't it? $700 million out of a $40 billion bill. But it's going to be very bad for Bush.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

This one pretty much speaks for itself.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Recently I've been running across a lot of "Time Capsule" stuff - things I would want to put into a time capsule to show people in 100, 200, 500 years exactly what this moment in history was all about.

The easiest stuff to spot is always the craven, the shameful and the ludicrous. That's why I do not hesitate to nominate David Brooks' column in the NYT today. This article - which strikes me as the sort of thing George Will might have written when he was 8 - bills itself as a call for seriousness. Could this possibly be satirized? I got it - how bout a line of whoopee cushions that fart out "Oh Be Serious!" when you sit on them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

OK, well, it turns out David Obey has been quoted in some news reports about this story. Surprise, surprise, Dave says Bush didn't tell him jack shit.

The Administration maintains that they "gave Congress all the information they were required to." Which, if they didn't tell Obey, is a damn lie.

I must be missing something here, because the White House seems to be stabbing itself in the heart. Scottie Mac and his crew are usually extremely careful not to go on record at all, ever, about anything. That way they don't really have to worry about being consistent in their lies; they just say "oh well you misunderstood me."

But here's the White House official line on the $700 million they diverted from the Afghanistan war to prepare for the Iraq war.

Scottie Mac:
Congress was kept informed and the funding, the emergency funding from the -- the emergency funding gave the Pentagon broad discretion in how funds were used. And they also pointed out that the funding specifically for Iraq came after the resolution that Congress passed. And Congress was kept fully informed of the funding.

OK, he's got to be talking about the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Recovery From and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States, HR 2888. It was passed just a couple of weeks after the September 11th attacks. What he's saying - that the bill is pretty vague about what exactly the money is for - is true. Also, if the provisions of the bill were followed, it's also true that Congress would have had to be informed about where the money was going. Here is the relevant snippet:

"Provided further, That the President shall consult with the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Committees on Appropriations prior to the transfer of these funds."

Which means, in short, that if the Pentagon was planning to use money allocated in this bill to prepare for war in Iraq, he would have had to talk to at least one Democrat. In fact, the Democrat he would have had to talk to is David Obey of Wisconsin. It seems completely unthinkable that he would have done that. Why? Obey wouldn't have gone for it. He opposed the Iraq war from the start and he voted against the IWR. If Bush had come to him and said "we're diverting funds from Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq" he would have gone completely apeshit.

So what the hell is going on? Did Bush lie to Obey about where the money was headed? Probably not. He was probably just vague. Indeed, committee Chairman Bill Young's statement on the Woodward allegations seems to confirm this, if you read between the lines. Check out Young's statement here. Here's the quote that jumps out at me:

"In most cases, these funds were provided with unprecedented flexibility because of the dynamic combat environment and a unconventional terrorist threat. Because of the lack of specificity in the Woodward account it is impossible to determine what specific funds he is alleging were spent without Congress’s knowledge. The Administration is required to provide regular reports on the expenditure of war funds. The war on terror is a global fight, our soldiers need the resources and flexibility to fight the enemy wherever they are located.

A couple of key tacit admissions here. One, that basically the President came to Congress and said "Need money to kill bad guys" and Congress signed the checks. There was no accountability to speak of, which is not surprising with this bunch. But what's more interesting is the last sentence, where he says the Administration is required to provice regular reports on the expenditure of war funds. Read the bill; he's right, technically. It's actually the OMB director who's required to provide a quarterly report to Congress on where the money is going. What the President is required to do is consult with the Appropriations chair and the ranking Democrat.

So the guy we need to talk to is David Obey. I haven't seen any quotes from him in any news stories yet. Maybe I should give him a call.

Friday, April 16, 2004

I just composed a very funny post in this browser window and it got deleted. Which is why one should not compose anything in a browser window. And it's also why this week, there is no blog for you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

So I've been getting farther and farther behind in everything from volunteer work to writing to work to my personal finances. So now I'm resolving to get back on top of things. Which means I'm going to institute a regular blogging schedule, both to keep myself from using it as a way to avoid work and also to make sure I do it every week. From now on, a blog every Friday, an article submitted to DU every Tuesday, and other than that, nada.

See you Friday.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I may be getting The Sinus Infection, which has afflicted me every spring since I moved to this city. It's early for it this year, which is strange because spring is late, but I wouldn't put anything past my traitorous sinus cavities. In any case, I already finished my most recent article for DU, so it'll be out Thursday. Enjoy; it's a cheery one.

BTW Check out Michael Chabon's Op/Ed in the New York Times today. I wonder what Chabon is like in person. If I could write like that, I'd be a fucking dickhead all the time, to everyone. If anyone gave me any shit about it I'd say "my last novel won a Pulitzer. How'd yours do?" and then laugh and laugh and laugh.

Probably why God made me a hack.

Monday, April 12, 2004

More on the numbers in Iraq... There appear to be two completely different stories being told, and both can't be true. Both can be false, of course, but both can't be true.

Story #1 - Iraqi insurgents number between 1,000 and 6,000.

This is coming from Scott McClellan and Don Rumsfeld, echoing Pentagon estimates of the strength of the insurgency.

Story #2 - Massive Iraqi casualties in Fallujah represent insurgents, not unarmed civilians.

This is coming from the general whose men killed those 600 or so Iraqis.

If there are between 1,000 and 6,000 insurgents in THE WHOLE COUNTRY, and we killed 600 of them last week IN FALLUJAH ALONE, the fighting in Fallujah should be completely over. There's no one left there to fight. The President Himself could head over to Fallujah tomorrow, hang out, eat some lamb, shoot the shit with the locals. They love our asses there now.


So, probably there are a few more insurgents than 1,000 to 6,000. How many, we can't really know, but Paul Bremer did give us an estimate the other day at about a million (see my post from last week.) That seems more reasonable.

Of course, just because we accept that Story #1 is a crock of shit doesn't mean Story #2 is necessarily true. In fact, it's pretty much impossible that it's true. It's actually quite insulting to our intelligence that this general would try to tell us that in house-to-house fighting in a dense urban area, 600 people were shot dead and not one of them was an innocent bystander. At least tell a believable lie. Tell us it was only half insurgents. Hell, tell us one in ten was a civilian and we'll pretend that's realistic. But all 600? Is that really the story we're sticking with?

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

One more thing that's very unsettling. Paul Bremer is now saying that 90% of the Iraqi population is not violently opposing the U.S. occupation. By inference, that means that he believes 10% of the population has joined the insurgency.

That's 2.4 million people.

That's taking Bremer's estimate at face value. My inclination based on the pattern of administration obfuscation up to this point that this is probably an optimistic estimate, but let's assume it's precisely correct, and take the most conservative possible interpretation of this remark.

Let's assume that when Bremer talks about 10% of the population being part of the insurgency he means not only the men who are actually fighting the U.S. but also their families. That would mean that only 10% of the adult men in the country are opposing the occupation, which puts the total insurgent force at around 700,000. That's also assuming that men with large families are at least as likely to join the insurgency as men without wives and children, a dubious assumption at best. Since that's almost certainly not true, we can say that there are probably at least one million adult men in Iraq who are violently opposing the U.S. occupation.

Under American military doctrine, there is one way and one way only to "pacify" a population and that is to kill all the militants in said population.

So, accepting the conservative estimate that active armed militants number about 1 million, the U.S. strategy in Iraq is to kill those 1 million with a minimum of "collateral damage," which is to say that we will try to kill maybe only one non-insurgent for every insurgent. So that's about 2 million people we have to kill. This is also assuming, of course, that no more Iraqis join the insurgency after today, despite the two million of their fellow citizens that have been killed by the occupying army.

If we take the "Vietnam Ratio" of enemy losses to American losses, we can assume that one of our soldiers will be killed for every fifty Iraqis we kill. That's, again, a conservative estimate, as the available evidence suggests that ratio is a lot lower in Iraq, perhaps as low as 20:1. But assuming 50:1, that means that in addition to the 2 million Iraqis that will be killed in this war, there will also be about 40,000 U.S. soldiers killed. At 20:1, that number jumps to 100,000.

I'd like to throw something out there, for just any old person to pick up. So far it seems like pretty much everybody in the elite opinion sector - politicians, pundits, and businesspeople - thinks we need to "say the course" in Iraq. So here's my question for those who think this - is this the course? Two million Iraqis dead? At least 40,000 American troops dead, probably many more?

If that's not the course we're supposed to be staying, can someone please indicate what the course is? How are we planning to convince the 1 million armed Iraqi insurgents to lay down their arms and accept the American-imposed government?

Mr. Bush? Mr. Kerry? Mr. Novak? Mr. Friedman? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?

"This is one person who is deciding that rather than allow democracy to flourish, he's going to exercise force. And we just can't let it stand. As I understand, the CPA today announced the warrant for his arrest."

- George W. Bush, April 4, 2004,3858,4896030-103681,00.html

The fact that George W. Bush's handlers are sending him out to say stupid, clearly double-edged shit like this is a bad, bad, bad sign for this administration. The Republican spin machine generally has been lurching a bit recently, and I believe the GOP will need to cut Bush loose, for all practical purposes, once the Senate races start to heat up. The unsinkable Bush administration has sprung some pretty serious leaks. Speaking of which...

This article is pretty run-of-the-mill stuff, but how exactly did this story come about? Maybe AP Reporter Curt Anderson woke up one day with a burr up his butt to do a nice bio on the Deputy Attorney General and it just happened to get picked up in basically every paper in the free world. Maybe.

Or maybe somebody at Justice decided that Comey's name needed a little positive exposure because soon he's going to have the entire right-wing slime machine bearing down on him and trying to paint him as a communist pantywaist.


In any case, six months ago, in most company you would have gotten a lot of perplexed looks if you said simply "George W. Bush has compromised national security for his narrow political gain." Now, you might still confuse people, but just because they wouldn't know whether you meant Plame, Iraq, September 11th, the National Energy Strategy, mercury legislation, underfunding homeland security, etc. etc. etc.

Bush is not yet "toast," as many optimists have asserted, but he's getting there. Since Bush never does anything that actually helps regular people, his approval ratings have two modes - Elevator Mode and Quicksand Mode. Any time Bush does something that gives people a woody (declaring war, capturing Bad Guys) Elevator Mode takes his ratings straight up. Then Quicksand Mode takes over and the ratings slide down, down, down, until the next elevator takes him back up again.

Rove's plan, I assume, was that Bush would need two more elevators, the peaceful handover of Iraq and the capture of Osama bin Laden. It looks at this point like there's going to be a Tet offensive in June just before the handover of power; in fact the darkly ironic thing about the whole debate over whether we should push back the deadline is that the CPA might not even last until June 30th; they may find themselves run out of town on a rail in the next two months. This leaves aside the important and very vexing question of exactly how all those CPA "civilians" are going to get themselves out of Iraq without a large number of them being slaughtered.

So Elevator #1 seems to be out of service. That means that the only bullet left in the gun, as it were, is the capture of bin Laden. But again, it's questionable whether Bush can really survive until October when the bin Laden capture would have maximum electoral effect. If Bush's ratings continue to slide into the 30's, the Rove machine will simply have to do something. That means busting out bin Laden early, which leaves no October surprise.

Unless, that is... No, no one is that evil. Right?