Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Thursday, December 30, 2004

One last sign of the times before the year is out - this comes from Atrios, but I felt like linking it myself. The last right-wing comment is scary until the end, when it gets funny all of a sudden. It actually reminds me of when Poppy was talking about getting shot down in World War Two, and thinking of God, and then suddenly he got frightened that maybe he was being a little too religious so he just suddenly blurted "and separation of church and state."

This guy is actually being very open and honest (if not particularly articulate) about how the far right feels about George Bush's electoral victory, but suddenly at the end he gets a little squeamish and has to throw in a little qualifier. Humorous.

Here's the article from E&P.

And the quote:

The Patriot Act will put both of you (Neuharth and Mitchell) on trial for treason and convict and execute both of you as traitors for running these stories in a time of war and it should be done on TV for other communist traitors like you two to know we mean business. This is war and you should be put in prison NOW for talking like this. Who the hell do you people think you are? You give aid and comfort to our enemies and aid them in murdering our proud soldiers. You people are a disgrace to America. Your families should be put in prison with you, then be made to leave and move to the Middle East ...This is a great Christian nation and god wants us to lead the world out of darkness with great leaders like President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Communists like Al and Greg will soon be in prison and on death row for your ugly papers. We won the election and now you are mad. We own America and all the rights, you people are trash, go back to Russia and Africa and take your friends with before we put you on death row after a fair trial.

The emphasis is, of course, mine. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Bob Herbert does it again.

I wonder if Safire even reads Herbert, and if he does, what exactly he thinks of it. It must seem like it's just from outer space somewhere.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

This Reuters story is pretty unequivocal.

Sometimes it can be a bit weird to see these sorts of headlines, since most readers of this blog have known for a long time (on their own, not because of me) that the Iraq war is an awful mess. But the impact of a group like CSIS putting out a report like this can hardly be overstated.

One of my pet peeves about news articles on think tank reports is that they often don't give you the name of the report, so it takes some doing to find the thing (especially since most think tanks write a lot of reports about very similar subjects). The title of this report is actually "Playing the Course : A Strategy for Reshaping US Policy in Iraq and the Middle East."

The biggest bombshell in the Executive Summary is not quoted by Reuters, so I will quote it here: "The U.S. faces too much Iraqi anger and resentment to try to hold on in the face of clear failure, and achieving any lasting success in terms of Iraqi political acceptance means the US must seek to largely withdraw over the next two years."

Now, CSIS is the most centrist of foreign policy think tanks - their position on the Iraq war was basically the position that John Kerry adopted. They weren't exactly in love with the idea, but once it became clear the war was going to happen, they offered a lot of advice on how the war ought to be prosecuted, advice which the president largely disregarded. Also like Kerry, once the war began they took the position that a quick withdrawal was out of the question.

Now they are admitting that if things continue to get worse in Iraq, we will have to get the troops out soon regardless, or we will have another Vietnam on our hands. The report includes a lot of frankly pitiful suggestions on how to make an early withdrawal look a little less like the massive failure of a crude and irresponsible war that killed tens of thousands of people for no good reason.

The report has headings like "Defining Success as Narrowly as Possible" and others that demonstrate pretty effectively that the report's authors don't think much of our chances of achieving anything positive in Iraq.

For some reason, the author makes a lot of hokey poker analogies, actually going so far as to pen a section called "Know When to Hold 'Em." Unfortunately he seems to be incapable, as is virtually every person in the mainstream discussion, of dealing with the logical reality of that analogy - the best play a poker player ever makes is folding a bad hand.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Another thing - long ago I read a post on Vampie Elf's website about Fascism and at the time I sort of wanted to respond to it, but then decided it was a little much to get into. However, since Safire has now brought the parallels between 1930's fascism and the current U.S. government back into play, I suppose we should discuss it.

The thrust of Vampire Elf's post was that it's silly to refer to Bush and Co. as fascists because fascism is what Hitler and Mussolini practiced and it's pretty extreme, a lot more extreme than anything Bush has done. He then cited a pretty narrow, modern definition of the word that could best be described as somewhat ahistorical.

Fascism was actually an important and serious economic concept in the 1930's and was, in fact, the wave of the future. Hitler went WAY beyond what economic fascists were recommending domestically, and also sort of gave fascism a bad name in Europe by invading everyone in the name of converting their economies to economic fascism, which knocked everyone's nose out of joint.

But what economic fascism actually entailed was complicated, and indeed many of the concepts that were espoused by economic fascists in the 1930's were adopted by the statist reactionaries of the 1970's and 1980's, who conferred upon themselves the title "Free Market Capitalists." The main points of free market capitalism are increased central planning, absolute freedom for corporations, removal of local checks on government and corporate power, and the free flow of capital across national borders, a veritable wish list of 1930's economic fascists (who included Churchill and Roosevelt.)

As this wondrous Free Market Capitalism started to be imposed through international banking institutions, even this venerable terminology started to develop something of a negative stigma (particularly in the countries where the policies failed miserably), so the modern way of referring to Free Market Capitalism is by using the term "Democracy." This is how we arrive at the somewhat confusing but nonetheless consistent conclusion that Venezuela, where free and fair elections result in the reelection of an immensely popular socialist president, is not considered "democratic" by U.S. policymakers, but El Salvador, which has been ruled by marauding death squads for decades, is held up by pundits such as David Brooks as the very model of a modern nascent democracy.

Of course, the reason fascism is such a loaded word today is not because of the domestic policies it entails but because of the means by which Hitler and Mussolini set out to impose this system on the world - namely by invading and occupying countries on some spurious pretext, and later using the resistance to their occupation as a retroactive justification for having invaded (along with setting up torture and extermination facilities in the occupied countries, etc.) which of course American leaders would never do.

A while back, Jon Last wrote a piece in the Weekly Standard online defending the Galactic Empire from the Star Wars movies. A lot of people found it funny and emailed it to me. I did not find it particularly funny, except in a very bitter sort of way, since Jon Last actually makes his living defending the Galactic Empire in real life. In the defense of the people who emailed me the link, most of them did not know who Jon Last is, and I admit, had the piece been written by someone else, it probably would have given me a chuckle.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is this crazy-ass thing from Safire, which, well, I can't really describe it. Just read it. If you don't have a username and password on NYTimes, use BugMeNot.

Even though the article is really stupid, you have to read through it, because the really mind-bending part isn't until the very end. See it? Yeah, where he brings up the fact that the title of his article was actually the title of an article defending fascism written in the 1930's, when Hitler was announcing his intention to rid the world of badness through a policy of preventive war and conversion of an alien race of malcontents through mass arrests and large-scale killing?


Beyond just being fucking creepy, what is really weird about this article is the absolute lack of any kind of perspective. Safire appears to have no idea how propaganda really works, despite having been a propagandist himself for oh, about 40 years. Normally I think of folks like him as having at least some grasp of the fact that propaganda is propaganda, with a childish overlay of "we're right so it's OK when we do it" to help them sleep at night.

But here Safire seems to imply that Hitler and his apologists were basically like COBRA, putting out these treatises extolling the virtues of grinding people under their boots, just because they could. OF COURSE fascist apologists did not do that - they couched their calls for repressive domestic measures and aggressive war in the language of freedom, democracy, and human rights. As I mentioned long ago in this space, the rationale Safire uses in this very article to retroactively sell the Iraq war is in fact the exact same rationale Hitler used to sell his invasion of Poland - that the Polish leader at the time was a dangerous nut (he was.)

In fact, more and more the biggest difference between Hitler and Bush/Cheney appears to be one of competency and thoroughness. Hitler spent several years fattening up his infantry in preparation for his massive campaign of aggressive war; Bush and company decided they would just go to war with the army they had. Hitler spent years playing up Jewish and Roma stereotypes in preparation for his campaign of domestic repression via ethnic scapegoating; Bush and company figured they could just rely on anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment left over from the Reagan years.

And we're still not supposed to remember the Reichstag fire, even on the far left. We'll save that parallel for Christmas 2005, maybe.

Guh. What a country.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

As everyone knows by now, today there was a significant attack against a military base in Mosul that killed a couple dozen U.S. troops and a few civilians, in addition to wounding an unknown number of people.

First I must remark that the difference between the reaction to 60 Iraqis being killed last week (a shrug) and the reaction 24 Americans being killed today (mounting horror) fills my heart with shame and sadness, but there is not much more to be said about that, so I will leave it aside.

What will be much discussed (though if experience is any indicator, it will be discussed in increasingly moronic terms until, by the Sunday talk shows, no thoughtful line of reasoning will be discernible amidst the din) is what, exactly, this means for the security of the elections that are scheduled for one month from today. This will be treated as a very difficult question that big minds are wrestling with, when of course anyone can conclude that if a tent full of U.S. soldiers can be subjected to a large-scale attack in broad daylight, the chances that polling places will have anything even approaching a minimum semblance of security is simply ridiculous and can be dismissed out of hand.

There is a growing possibility - perhaps now a probability - that the January 30th elections will be such a colossal disaster that, rather than this sudden tranformation to a desert paradise that is supposed to result from the election of a powerless sham parliament, we are going to see the wheels come off the Iraq occupation in February.

There are basically two ways we can go with the elections - one, we can provide a minimum of security, with the predictable result being massive disruption of the voting by resistance bombings and attacks. Two, we can provide heavy security, with the predictable result being massive attacks against U.S. troops and heavy American casualties.

Given the political impact of these two possible results - that is, given the fact that hundreds of dead Iraqis will not arouse nearly the outrage of a few dozen dead American soldiers - it seems fairly clear that the path chosen by Rumsfeld and Cheney will be to allow a free-for-all on Iraqi polling places, except for a few key ones that are easily defended and where majorities of sympathetic Shi'ite's can be expected to turn out.

So Iraq's first experience with what are being called free and fair elections will be the following: The election is administered by an occupying government and overseen by a puppet prime minister installed by that occupier. The polling places where opponents of the current government are likely to show up will be turned into killing fields, while a few key areas, dominated by supporters of the government, will be allowed to vote unmolested, under heavy protection from the soldiers whose to presence in the country they are expected to assent.

The main counterbalance to the overwhelming power of the occupying government will be gigantic infusions of money from Iran, a neighboring country that has been trying to destablize and manipulate Iraq's government for decades, with the on-again off-again help of the very government currently occupying Iraq. This interference is denounced at great volume by officials of the occupying government as unacceptable meddling in the affairs of a sovreign nation (presumably the sovreign nation of Iraq, not the U.S.)

So, on a scale of one to ten, how free do you think the Iraqi people are going to find their elections? How fair?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Starting Monday, the mourning period for Gery Webb will be over and I'll go back to blogging about other stuff. But I must point out one last thing - Cockburn and St. Clair have put up an excerpt from their awesome WhiteOut on that explains the basic story of the destruction of Webb by the newspaper business.

It's a little breathless, but I've never seen even a tiny piece of it refuted by anyone. Chilling stuff. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Here's another Gary Webb article, this one from Counterpunch. It's somewhat uplifting and also somewhat sad to see the depth of feeling that existed out there for this man. I know I never wrote him and told him what a giant he was to me. It makes you wonder, what if he had known what we all felt about him? Probably wouldn't have mattered. But we'll never know.

Mike Ruppert has a nice short writeup on Gary Webb's death that reflects very closely my feelings on the matter, except that I wasn't actually suicidal in 1996. But I did see Webb as a sort of guiding spirit - I was forming a lot of very unpopular opinions at that time and receiving a lot of negative feedback from friends and family about them, and to see someone like Webb standing up to all that was a real inspiration, no doubt.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Gary Webb is dead today, in an apparent suicide. I am sure I cannot describe my feelings, but I will say it is probably much like Kurt Cobain's biggest fan's felt when they learned of his suicide 10 years ago. I am crushed. The man was beyond a hero and an inspiration; he was a god to me. He proved a lot of things about this world, some of them not so lovely, and he had grit and passion and he wasn't afraid to stand up to the whole goddamn world if he had to.

In the end, perhaps it was just too much for him.

If you don't know who Webb is or what made him special, I'm not going to try to bring you up to speed in this space. You should check it out for yourself. Start here, it's Webb talking at a conference and his warm personality and his toughness really come through. After you read this, or better yet listen to it, google some of his work and be educated about what investigative journalism was, before we decided all that reality was harshing our mellow, and we'd really prefer our reality with a heaping helping of TV, thank you very much.

Yeah, I'm bitter. And no, I don't rule out the possibility that it wasn't a suicide. But whether he did it himself or somebody did it for him, it's the same bastards that are at fault anyway. I'll miss you, Gary. I wish you hadn't done it. But I understand.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

One thing I'm having trouble getting my mind around is the near-absence of right-wing braying about the Ohio recount, which appears ready to proceed and could definitely expose some extremely unsavory facts about the Ohio vote, even if the new results aren't nearly enough to erase Bush's large 113,000-vote margin there.

For example, google news searches on "Ohio recount" still don't turn up any significant number of right-wing news sources. I think there are two ways of interpreting this.

One is slightly disheartening, which is that Republicans know that the vote was fair and accurate and see no real reason to howl about it, since it's all just an exercise in futility anyway. That's disheartening because, I'm not afraid to admit, I would much rather believe that the Republicans somehow tampered with the results of the election than that they won fairly. This might strike some as nuts, but that's fine; I write a lot of things people think are nuts.

The other is somewhat encouraging, even intriguing. The right-wing media machine, despite being extraordinarily heirarchical in some respects, is also somewhat organic, in that the base-level howlers like Frontpagemag and Talon News just sort of intuit what to write about by reading the statements of Republican public figures, taking it as gospel, and expanding it to fill whatever space is necessary to form a position on whatever issue they are obsessing about that day. There's no top-down directive coming out that says "Here is the message." These pubs are conduits for a message that's drawn, in a certain sense, from the collective conservative unconscious. There is a general script that's crafted carefully at the top by people like Bill Kristol and Rupert Murdoch, but it's not disseminated in any overt way outside of the media empires that they control directly (which are themselves substantial, of course.)

On this issue, it would be extremely difficult to get out an anti-recount message that made much sense. You can't use the "people are tired of this" meme as right now, most people have no idea there even is a recount going on. Other arguments that have been used locally by Republicans in Ohio (chiefly "it's too expensive") simply aren't of concern to people who don't live in Ohio.

This I think was probably the point of the low simmer that was achieved shortly after the vote, kept up by ambiguous but non-inflammatory comments from Democrats including Kerry and Edwards. Clearly on the off chance that there was some sort of funny business in Ohio, Kerry and Edwards want to expose it. But they don't want to get clobbered for prolonging a divisive election.

One aspect of the 2000 recount battle that was never adequately discussed was the degree to which "popular" outrage, whipped up frantically by right-wing media outlets, led to a sort of default position against a hand count in Florida. It thus seemed very natural when the Supreme Court issued an objectively rather ridiculous stay of that count followed by a cowardly per curiam opinion declaring that the count could not proceed, in part because it was too late in the year.

I definitely want to caution anyone who's still holding out hope that the Ohio recount will lead to an actual reversal of the election. That's monstrously unlikely, even more unlikely than Bush's victory. But some good could definitely come of it, and the path we are on right now has a good feel. Keep an eye on the Ohio recount. If it turns out that Kerry really lost by, say, 70,000 votes, it won't seem like much of a story at first. But eventually someone might think to ask why, exactly, the official count was off by so much. And that could open a very interesting line of questioning. Very interesting indeed.

Monday, December 06, 2004

A few words about the BCS.

First, I would like to please retire the phrase "It's all about money" from the discussion. This point is, I believe, self-evident. In any controversy having to do with televised sports, the key factor in the end will always be vast, vast gobs of sponsorship money. The national championship game is played every four years, after all, at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, which fact I think speaks for itself. But the phrase has become akin to the now-exclusively-ironic "Will someone please think of the children?" and it is becoming embarrassing to hear it uttered in earnest.

When the BCS was first being discussed, it was relevant and salient to point out that the two incompatible goals of maintaining the traditional bowl structure and crowning an undisputed* national champion were nonetheless going to be smashed hamhandedly togehter due to the dictates of corporate profit, owing to the fact that montstrous sums of corporate money are tied up in the branding of the bowls, both major and minor, and to abandon that system would be to do the unthinkable and render many of those investments valueless. But now I think we can all agree on the nature of the dead horse, and he merits no further flogging.

One question that was given a truncated hearing at the time was the question of why, exactly, it had suddenly become all-important to crown an undisputed* national champion. In my purist opinion, the old system of simply crowning champions of invitational bowls was sufficient. The so-called "national championship" was from the very beginning a fiction dreamed up by sportswriters, not a real championship decided on the field of play. It was not as if there was some golden age (when the national championship "really meant something") to which we were trying to return.

What's more (and this is a pet peeve that transcends sports) I was amazed at the lack of discussion of the fact that the system that had been proposed - having the top two teams actually play each other - would not in fact fix the worst flaw in the old system, that of arbitrarily having to exclude a team that is objectively just as deserving as one that is included. It's just that now the result of this arbitrary exclusion is that instead of a pall of illegitimacy hanging over a fake championship trophy that never really meant anything significant, the pall of illegitimacy hangs over an actual game.

Now, for two years in a row our bright and shiny solution-in-search-of-a-problem has produced a national title game involving football powerhouse University of Oklahoma at the expense of a more deserving team. Last season, the howls of the sportswriters were deafening; this year they are barely audible. Why? This year, the excluded team is Auburn, a team few people have heard of. Last year it was USC, one of the most famous and successful programs in the country. Thus last season, when the nonsensical BCS rankings excluded USC, they were exluding the team that had actually been voted the #2 team in the country.

Indeed, you may be surprised to read that the Auburn exclusion is on one footing with the USC snub, as most of the sports media seems to think it's just fine, as opposed to last season when a casual channel surfer might have concluded that the building housing the BCS computers was actually being burned and looted by outraged sports fans. But consider the comparitive accomplishments of the two teams and see if you can explain why Team A is in the championship and Team B is not.

Team A played three top-quality teams in 2004, #6 Texas, #22 Texas A&M, and #23 Texas Tech. Two of those games were at Oklahoma, one was away (@Texas A&M.) Their conference championship game was agaisnt Colorado, a marginal team.

Team B also played three top teams in 2004, #8 Georgia, #12 LSU, and #15 Tennessee. However, they played Tennessee again in the conference championship, for a total of four quality wins. One of those wins came on the road (@Tennessee) and another on a neutral field (vs. Tennessee.)

You could argue, and you would be correct, that Team A (Oklahoma) dominated in a much tougher conference, the Big 12 South, than did Team B (Auburn), in the SEC West. There is only one walkover game in the Big 12 South (Baylor), while Auburn was in no real danger of losing to subpar Mississippi, Mississippi State, or Arkansas. But the overall in-conference slate of the Tigers, who also played the two top teams in the SEC East, stacks up fine against that of the Sooners, who added only Big 12 North cellar-dwellers Kanas, K State, and Nebraska to their regular-season schedule.

The only thing you could possibly say in favor of Oklahoma's schedule is that OU was a little more daring during its nonconference games, hosting the sometimes-dangerous Oregon Ducks (who were not in fact dangerous this season - they beat no team with a winning record) and scrappy Boston College while Auburn faced perennial pushovers Louisiana-Monroe and The Citadel.

But the fates of top teams should not be decided on the basis of whether they choose to bestow merciless beatings upon horrible teams or simply very bad ones. And in the end it matters little if you believe that Oklahoma really SHOULD be the team on its way to the national championship game this year. The fact remains that the BCS seems capable of rendering a satisfactory verdict on the identity of the country's two top teams only when the answer is already obvious to anyone who follows college football.

When the result is close, as it has been the last two years, the BCS computers are powerless to lend any clarity to the situation. This is because tiebreakers (that's what the BCS computer rankings are, a complex tiebreaker system) are ALWAYS arbitrary. In pro sports, the tiebreakers that decide the identities of playoff teams exclude at most the 5th- or 6th- best team from the postseason. In college football, the complicated computer tiebreaker system has the potential to exclude, on the basis of reasons no one can explain, the second-best team in the country from the national championship game, and in this writer's opinion it has done so for two straight years.

So what is to be done about this screwed-up situation? Well, maybe nothing. When you think about it, as much noise as is being made about how crazy all of this is, it's hard to say who, exactly, is being hurt by it, other than the people who have this deep psychic need to know exactly who is the undisputed champion of amateur* American football, who you'll recall are the idiots that got us into this mess in the first place.

Consider USC, last year's "shadow champion," who got shut out of the national title game, were crowned co-national champs anyway, and went into the following season as the consensus #1 team in the country. There are worse fates.

Or this year's Auburn Tigers, who would have had to defeat the hypertalented Trojans or the amazingly versatile Sooners to preserve their winning record under a fairer system, in a game in which they would have been double-digit underdogs. Instead, they'll face the solid but very beatable ACC Champion Virginia Tech Hokies and (with a win) can crow all offseason about how they COULD have won it all, if only they had been given the chance.

In that sense, the deliciously ironic reality of the BCS is that it's not totally clear that winning the BCS tiebreaker sweepstakes is better than losing it. The team that loses the Orange Bowl this season will have no claim to the national title. The team that lost the right to play in the Orange Bowl at all just might.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Cheesy thought of the day:

Every day is a new chance. I woke up this morning and I wanted to go back to bed, feeling very put-upon that I had to get up, shower, eat breakfast and go to work, where I have to try to deal with a weird and quite serious technical problem affecting our entire division's network, whose proper operation is in many respects primarily my responsibility, in addition to numerous smaller chores relating to my condo association and other mundane aspects of suburban living.

Then on the bus I read a story of a cab driver who was shot in the back three times a couple of nights ago, one of the bullets actually passing through the back of his neck and out his mouth in a jet of blood. He staggered to get help, bleeding heavily, and woke up this morning lying in a hospital bed unable to speak, facing a lengthy, painful and uncertain recovery that may bankrupt him, and feeling like the luckiest man in the world.

The obvious moral of the story is trivial. Less obvious is the question, how heedless the man who needs to be shown another who is near death in order to remember that he is himself fully awake and alive in the world, with all of its possibilities stretched out before him like a fine velvet carpet?

OK, that's it for the motivational speech. On to the complaining.

In the Post this morning you'll find a smorgasborg of highly objectionable material, some of which I will now highlight and lampoon in the familiar fashion.

First, there's this cheery story from Page 1 (ATF) letting us know that troop levels in Iraq will rise to 150,000 this month, the highest level since the invasion. It's a good story, as such stories go, but it has some problems.

To see the first one, you have to look at the graphic, which shows that U.S. force levels were lowest at the beginning of February and began to climb during that month, and continued to increase in March, reaching 130,000 (up from a February nadir of less than 110,000) by the beginning of April.

The author of the article, Thomas Ricks, presents as factual the Pentagon line that the rise in troop levels was a response to the growing power of the insurgency and the need for greater "force protection." But that analysis is hard to square with the facts.

The serious bloodletting of the Shi'ite uprising in Sadr City and Najaf began on April 4th and continued through the end of April, with a slight lull during the week of the 18th to the 24th. In all, some 135 U.S. troops were killed in April, then the highest monthly death toll of the war (eclipsed last month.)

From the beginning of February to the beginning of April was actually one of the quietest periods of the occupation. In the eight weeks between February 1 and April 1, the weekly death toll from "hostile" causes reached double figures only once - 11 the week of March 7-13. Yet during that time the U.S. troop presence was increased by some 20,000, with about 10,000 more added in the month of April. The decision to add those troops was made before the April 4th uprising began.

It seems far more likely (and more prudent) that troop strength is being dictated not by the intensity of the resistance but by other, strategic factors. Clearly if the goal were truly to increase the likelihood of a waning insurgency before the "elections" (more on those quotes in a moment), a draw-down of troop strength, not an escalation, would be in order.

Which raises the question - what are our strategic goals in Iraq? The way the papers have presented things, one could be forgiven for believing that we are increasing our military presence only to get the Iraqis through the January elections, at which point we will be able to hand over the reins of government to the newly legitimized Iraqi government. That's a short-term, tacitcal goal that gives the American public a feeling of hope about the future of the Iraq endeavor. Which is why toads like Jim Hoagland are hammering, hammering, hammering away at the magical date of "January 30th."

Well, in this article about Sunni support (such as it is) for the election plan, you might notice a date you haven't seen before - December 2005. That's the date that Iraq's first constitutionally elected government will be chosen. Not one month, but one year from today.

So who or what, exactly, is being elected in January? That information is maddeningly hard to come by. To the best of my understanding, the Iraqis are electing an preconstitutional "parliament" that will be tasked with the writing of the Iraqi constitution, and that will have the power to do little else. Iyad Alawi, the American puppet PM, will remain in power. Crucially, the new parliament will NOT have the authority to ask the United States to withdraw.

Again, the question is, why? Clearly, the United States wants troops to remain in Iraq in order to pursue additional strategic goals beyond simply shepherding in a new Iraqi parliament. So, once again, Mr. President, WHAT ARE THOSE STRATEGIC GOALS?

Finally, returning to Hoagland's swill, let me say that the one useful thing about this piece is that it serves as a nice litmus test. If you cannot see what is sickening and hypocritical about the following two paragraphs, you are part of the problem. Period.

Majority rule is an attainable and legitimate result for the balloting, even if an important part of the country's 20 percent Sunni minority continues to bomb, behead or bully other Iraqis as it seeks to create chaos, prevent voting and/or regain power. Fallujah, in its own way, already voted for its view of Iraq's future, and lost.

The former Baathists and foreign Sunni extremists who turned Fallujah into Terrorism Central wrote in blood their campaign's "moral values," which center on blocking Iraq's Shiite majority, thought to be 60 percent of the population, from ever gaining power. It is no more complicated than that.