Just Above Sunset
March 6, 2005 - Why We Did What? Are We Allowed to Ask?

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This week there was an interesting comment from Eric Alterman is his attempt to pause and assess how we’ve done in Iraq so far, prompted by that car bombing that killed around a hundred and twenty people in Baghdad.


One keeps seeing and hearing the argument that because 58 percent of Iraqis under conditions of civil war turned out to vote (and chose a pro-Iranian, theocratic leadership) this somehow justifies Bush’s war.  The argument has become almost conventional wisdom on cable …  Yet to justify the decision to go war two years ago and the colossal loss of life in which has already resulted with even a remotely honest pitch, Bush would have had to come before the country, and argued the following:


         We really have no idea whether they’ve got WMDs or not.

         We will, however, make no attempt to guard the sites where we say we’re so sure they can found.

         We’re pretty sure they don’t have nukes, and they’re probably not anywhere near getting them, either.  Again, we’re not going to check very carefully once we get there.

         They’ve barely even met anyone from Al Qaida, and if they did, they didn’t like them very much.

         It’s going to cost, oh, I dunno, many, many hundreds of billions of dollars, over 1400 American soldiers dead, well more than 11,000 wounded, and who knows how many tens of thousands Iraqis.  (We don’t know because our government will make no attempt to keep track of Iraqi loss of life.)

         Iraq will be in a state of continual chaos as far as the eye can see.

         Every Arab country will henceforth hate our guts.

         It will, even by the CIA’s own estimate, inspire more terrorists to want to come here and kill us.

         It will divert our attention from genuine military threats deriving from North Korea and Iran.

         We will be hated across the globe as never before in our history and we will lose influence with our allies and all the really important countries in the world.

         Our soldiers will pick up innocent people off the street, torture them, proudly take pictures of themselves doing so, and these will become the new image of the American solider across the world.

         We will deplete our military resources and reserves and send untrained recruits into battle, inadequately armed, who have been forced to re-up owing to previously mentioned shortages.

         We will continue to lie to you about all of the above.  …


Finally, we would have to accept the principle that it’s OK to mislead the country, deliberately, into war, so long as the outcome of the war turns out OK.  (I’m not saying it has turned out OK; it hasn’t.  But even if it had, I don’t think it justifies a president deliberately undermining his sacred democratic duty to tell the truth on matters of war and peace.)


One is tempted to say - Get over it, Eric!  The majority of Americans are just fine with this all.  You could look it up.


But this mid-week was also curious –


A federal court today granted Jose Padilla's petition for writ of habeas corpus and ruled that the Bush Administration cannot continue to hold Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant unless it charges him with a crime. If it does not charge him, it must release him. …


“The court finds that the president has no power, neither express nor implied, neither constitutional nor statutory, to hold petitioner as an enemy combatant," Floyd wrote in a 23-page opinion that was a stern rebuke to the government. He gave the administration 45 days to take action.


Must be from a satire site….


Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta comments -


First of all, I saw all those things Eric Alterman would have the president tell us before we went to war, and now I very confused.  None of those seem like things that would have talked the American people into going!  So now I forget: Why DID we go?


Second of all, and maybe just as overly obvious an argument as my first one:


Back when all these guys were grabbed off the streets (or in Jose's case, I guess, off the tarmac), back in I guess it was 2001 or so, and were held indefinitely without charge and access to counsel, why didn't these judges come right out back then and say yes, this is obviously a gross violation of the Constitution, and they all need either to be charged or to be let go?


If you and I had no doubt back then that it was wrong, why does it have to take this long for the judicial branch to figure it out? Justice delayed really is justice denied, no? Don't we realize that injustice will always be served if we let the government do the wrong thing from the get-go, especially if the rest of us wait this amount of time before calling them on it?


I know what I'm asking should have an obvious answer, but I just don't know what it is. Maybe the lawyer types can weigh in on this and clue me on why this happens all the time.


Our Wall Street Attorney has a response to that -

I can't vouch for my answer being legally on point, but a few of things come to mind.

First, I don't know which judges these are, but if they are political appointees (a.k.a hacks), then, jaded as it may seem, to ask the question is to have the answer.

Second, assuming, arguendo, that all the judges are upstanding and honest individuals (I can attest to the fact that most fall into this category), then the problem may be the oft confusing premise that judges ought not to make the law, but rather to interpret what is already "on the books."  If Congress has taken it upon itself to create laws that are unjust, judges are, to an extent hog-tied to do much about it.  This brings me to the third point.

Third, if we do not like the laws, we should vote people into office that can change them.  We, as a country, had this chance and, to my way of thinking botched it.

There are many, myself included, who believe that we are living in the worst of times in America.  Those concepts upon which this country was founded have been perverted in order to perpetuate the Bush Family Business.  My concern is that, if the pendulum continues to swing in its current direction, it will be unable to swing back.

Have a nice day!


Dick, our friend up in Rochester shoots this back –


Let me see if I have this right: so you are saying that rather than everything being "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" everything is "f**ked"?


Wall Street -


"By George I think he's got it!"


Rochester -


You just had to say "by George", didn't you?  At last, sir, have you no sense of decency?


Our friend who teaches graduate business course for those seeking MBA degrees –


Decency has nary a thing to do with it!


Funny, guys.  But I tend to agree with our Wall Street friend that the thing is that it takes time for issues to work their way back to evaluation.  The idea we could chuck anyone in jail forever with no charges on mere Bush whim was dumb-assed from the get-go.  But it takes time to litigate it.  My first wife, a regular reader here, might remember that back in Rochester we were tail-ended by a guy who was returning from root canal or something and so full of drugs he could hardly stand, much less drive.  Massive damage to the blue Vega GT coupe - and I asked an attorney about legal action.  He said it would be at least two or three years before it reached a docket of any kind and to forget it – let the insurance cover it.  Things take time.  We let the insurance cover it.  The other driver had none.  That this constitutional case took so long to reach decision-makers is no surprise.


His other point?  Are we living in the worst of times?  Ask my conservative friends.  Everyone has different views of that.  Abolishing minimum wage, and make it next to impossible to sue corporations for damages cause by fraud or dangerous products, and cut out all funding for housing for the disabled and most stuff for the poor (see this), changes to bankruptcy law so you must pay it all – all this is good for business and helps the economy.  High unemployment and low wages really do help keep costs down – primarily reducing the cost of labor.  Profits rise, and for every one person out of work there are still six, somewhere, with cash to buy what you make.  Good times.  It all depends on your point of view.


The ownership society?  Much has been said on that.  This Social Security Reform stuff?  You will now own your very own deck chair on the Titanic, and can pass it on to your children.


But most of America is joyous at these times – and our new Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has outlined the Justice Department's priorities.  Public Enemy Number One: Obscenity.  Priorities, folks!  Why are you worried about this other stuff?


And this, just for the News Guy in Atlanta -


Senator fights cable 'indecency'

Alaska's Stevens says he'll push to apply public broadcast standards to satellite, too.
March 1, 2005: 2:20 PM EST


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said Tuesday he would push to apply broadcast decency standards to subscription television and radio services like cable and satellite.


"Cable is a much greater violator in the indecency area," the Alaska Republican told the National Association of Broadcasters, which represents most local television affiliates. "I think we have the same power to deal with cable as over-the-air" broadcasters.


"There has to be some standard of decency," he said. 


Our Wall Street friend needs to get with the program.  We are getting dirty words and jiggling bare boobs off the televisions, and making ourselves pure.  Let the poor sink.  They’re a drag on the economy.


Good times?  End-Times?  Whatever.  Jesus is coming, so relax. 


And it will all end.  Hey – get with The Eschatology Program at and learn more.  Messianic Eschatology – wonderful stuff.



  • The branch of theology that is concerned with the end of the world or of humankind.
  • A belief or a doctrine concerning the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the Second Coming, or the Last Judgment.

Our Wall Street friend needs to get with the program.  We are getting dirty words and jiggling bare boobs off the televisions, and making ourselves pure.  Let the poor sink.  They're a drag on the economy."

And our Wall Street friend replies –

The problem is that we are looking at nationalism at its "finest." 


Remember the great soviet composers of the early to mid 20th century?  If Stalin liked it, it was good; if not...


Curiously, wasn't it Prokofiev who died on the same day as Stalin?


As for your conservative friends, I know many "smart" people who don't understand that democracy is based on the robust exchange of ideas.  Not in their America, nor W's.  There is no robust exchange.  There are only unquestioning patriots and the remainder are merely un-American treasonous agitators working against the "homeland."  This second group would include most critical intellectuals.  

Well, maybe those are the times we live in, and live with.  Justification is just so last year!


Just Above Sunset columnist Bob Patterson adds this -


A Bush family tradition is every Bush term is marked by a war that the country didn't want.


In 1991, George HW Bush took the US into Desert Storm.  According to the book "Sound and Fury" by Eric Alterman, the polls right before the war started were about 43% in favor.  The fact that it was over quickly made it very popular in retrospect.


George W. Bush took the US to war in Afghanistan, and also Iraq during his first term in office.  What were the last pre-war poles like?


Putting aside (for the moment) the question of a new Bush term and a new war for America, let's just consider how this Champion of Democracy feels about the will of the people.  Poles show that the changes to Social Security aren't going over as well as say approval of sliced bread.  Will that mean the president will "bow to the will of the people?"


Somehow, I don't get the strong premonition that that's the way the cards will fall.


Screw the people and what they want.  A guy with the power of the presidency (and the CIA, FBI, etc. files) can do some powerful arm-twisting which comes in handy when you want to start a war and such.  Will the guy shown in the photo punching a rugby player in the face, be a good Christian and fold his cards and say "maybe next year?"  Or will he dismantle Social Security?


By the way, the Democracy on the March junta liberated Kuwait a while back.  How's Democracy doing there?  Isn’t a royal family still ruling them?  Okay, maybe the elections will be next year.




Now as to this new Bush term and this war, America doesn't want.  Listen to Hugh Hewitt's talk radio show.  Every day we postpone the war with Iran is a giant step closer to disaster.  If it were up to Hewitt, we'd start the Shock and Awe 2.0 tomorrow.


Let's not have any dissenters pointing out there isn't enough troops to fight another war.


If we start a war with Iran (in June) and need more troops, then maybe Democrat Charlie Rangle's bill to re-start the draft won't be ignored much longer.


Who's with me on this?


Not me.  What’s the justification again?  Are we allowed to ask?



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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