Admit It, Peter Beinart: Your Column Didn't Work

There’s a funny sound one makes with one’s mouth when somebody says something unbelievable, sort of a verbal double-take that sounds something between “wha?” and “hey!” so it sort of comes out as “whaaayy?” Get ready, because you’re about to make that sound right now. Here it comes, from Peter Beinart’s column in The Washington Post today, “Admit It: The Surge Worked.”

It’s no longer a close call: President Bush was right about the surge. According to Michael O’Hanlon and Jason Campbell of the Brookings Institution, the number of Iraqi war dead was 500 in November of 2008, compared with 3,475 in November of 2006. That same month, 69 Americans died in Iraq; in November 2008, 12 did.

Violence in Anbar province is down more than 90 percent over the past two years, the New York Times reports. Returning to Iraq after long absences, respected journalists Anthony Shadid and Dexter Filkins say they barely recognize the place.

Is the surge solely responsible for the turnaround? Of course not.


He continues:

Is the surge solely responsible for the turnaround? Of course not. Al-Qaeda alienated the Sunni tribes; Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army decided to stand down; the United States assassinated key insurgent and militia leaders, all of which mattered as much if not more than the increase in U.S. troops. And the decline in violence isn’t necessarily permanent. Iraq watchers warn that communal distrust remains high; if someone strikes a match, civil war could again rage out of control.

Moreover, even if the calm endures, that still doesn’t justify the Bush administration’s initial decision to go to war, which remains one of the great blunders in American foreign policy history. But if Iraq overall represents a massive stain on Bush’s record, his decision to increase America’s troop presence in late 2006 now looks like his finest hour. Given the mood in Washington and the country as a whole, it would have been far easier to do the opposite. Politically, Bush took the path of most resistance. He endured an avalanche of scorn, and now he has been vindicated. He was not only right; he was courageous.

(I just threw up in my mouth a little. “Courageous?”)

If “the surge worked,” then all other factors, including those Beinart cited (and he omitted some others, such as ethnic cleansing, diaspora, and the awakening movement) ought to be irrelevant. “The surge worked” means that without it and it alone, violence would not have abated in Iraq. If you insist on falling upon a Post Hoc argument, you don’t get to add an “except after C.”

And if the situation is as fragile as you indicate, if a match strike could reignite civil war in Iraq, did “the surge work?” Really?

Beinart argues that it would behoove the new leadership in Washington to “admit” that “the surge worked” to avoid falling victim to a similar state of hubris that plagued the outgoing administration. So, we should “admit” that “the surge worked,” although a host of other factors may also have contributed to whatever turnaround has occurred in Iraq, just to make sure that President Obama doesn’t swagger up to a camera and say “Bring ’em on?”

And if Beinart believes the invasion of Iraq to have been “one of the great blunders in American foreign policy history,” how can he argue in defense of escalating the blunder? If we were wrong to go in, how can we have been right to go in more, no matter what the result? How can you square it with the fact that there would have been no insurgency and no need for a surge if we’d cooled our jets in March 2003 instead of invading a sovereign nation unprovoked?

Sorry, slick. We don’t have to admit nothing, except for that thank goodness Barack Obama is about to take the oath of office.

The Upside of Taxation Without Representation

I often think it would be nice to live in Washington, D.C. proper. However, as a longtime civics nerd, I could never stand for it. I prefer to actually be represented in the United States Congress. So, for that among other reasons, I live on this side.

However, D.C. residents will have quite an advantage on January 20. D.C. has decided to make it virtually impossible to attend the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. They’re closing bridges to cars AND pedestrians. They’re closing Metro stops by the Mall. They’re shutting off Metro escalators. They’re requiring you to be on site by 7 a.m. or not at all. So. If you’re here and you want to be there, beware. It’s not going to be easy. Of course, if you live in the city, you can hop on your unicycle and scoot right over there. Nice.

Myself, I shall be home in sweats and Homer-Simpson-head slippers watching it on the television just like a normal American, perhaps sipping a glass of Glühwein, certainly with a chilled bottle of bubbly wine at the ready. This is what C-SPAN is for, after all; for rescuing longtime D.C. residents who are sufficiently grumpy enough about commuting to stay home for one of the most historic events yet of the century. Imagine. We’re going to inaugurate a smart President. Isn’t that historic?


I have previously mentioned my Uncle Bonk who used to be my Auntie. He is married to a lovely young woman the family adores, and they make their home in the handsome midwest. I always love to watch straight and uninitiated people try to figure that shit out.

“But wait,” they say, wrinkling their noses. “‘His’ wife is a lesbian? That means she likes women, right? Then why’s she with a woman who looks like a dude? Why not just go with a dude?” Then their heads explode and fireworks and monkeys shoot out, and the monkeys scream and jump around and throw their own poop. You should see it. It’s awesome.

Here, fellow straight people. Let me sort it out for you.

When people are becoming aware of their most basic identifying traits, they learn three things about themselves. They discover what kind of naughty parts they have. They learn what gender they are. And, they figure out if they want to grope males or females. For straight people, these three aspects all happen to line up all in a row. So we commit a gigantic post hoc ergo propter hoc, and that post hoc delves a large, central brain ridge with the assumption that our genitals dictate our gender identification and that those dictate our sexual preference, and we put a nice pretty little bow on that and we stick it under the I’m-Straight-So-Life-Is-Nice Tree.

In truth, though, or at least by my theory, it is profound ambivalence, not the nice neat lines that the straight of us have to work with, that is the natural order of things. The truth is that these three human aspects are separate issues. One’s junk doesn’t determine anything but one’s junk. Gender I.D. and sexual preference are arrived at independently. Don’t think so? What the hell else explains how I know a F-M transgendered person who still likes boys?

(Do not expend too much effort on that last sentence at once. I don’t want to cause any more spontaneous cranial explosions than I absolutely have to.)

This is why many straight people have such difficulty understanding and accepting homosexuality. We assume that A leads to B leads to C, but it just doesn’t. Just because you’ve got an outie doesn’t mean you’re a man, and just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you feel like cozying up to a lady. Sit alone with this idea for a little bit, and it might just explain a thing or two.

This is why a guy like Rick Warren and his ilk sound so utterly ignorant to me, when they compare homosexuality to goat-fucking and pedophelia. And, certainly, this marks my first disagreement with the President-Elect, who is having “Pastor” Warren deliver the inauguration invocation.

This is a bad idea. If it’s meant to appease the religious goofies, it won’t. Remember, Bill Clinton’s invocation was led by Billy Graham, whose ground troops spent the next eight years sniping at him from the stands. You cannot appease these people. You cannot appease these people because they are people who will not rest until we pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ. All this will accomplish is to piss off the folks who hit the streets and the dial tones for him in October.

Which brings me to this: It’s not just Warren’s astounding pronouncements about homosexuality that renders him unqualfied for the job. It’s his statement that those who “do not believe” are not qualified to serve in public office. That probably qualifies him even less than his biggotry of homosexuals. The man is an admitted theocrat, and theocrats make up a tremendous bulk of the scourge that has ruined this country.

Besides, it is time now to dispense with the notion that all American Christians are politically conservative whackos. Believe it or not, some Christians actually voted for Barack Obama! In this entire world, Barack, you can’t find a Pastor who doesn’t equate a gay person to a goat-fucker? You don’t need to go far, sir, to find a tolerant, progressive church. You really don’t.

Look, I understand that President Obama isn’t going to be able to govern from the hard-core left, and I don’t even think that he gave any indication that he intended to try. I do, however, think that Obama did promise to bring back a certain level of civility and respect to public discourse. In other words, I know he didn’t promise to get out in front on gay marriage, in fact, he said quite plainly that he’s more of a “civil unions” guy. But I think he did promise to be the kind of President who wouldn’t point and laugh and yell “fag.” That is essentially what this pick does, and it is entirely the wrong foot from which to step first.

Kucinich 2012

We here at the Serious Poo-Poo Institute of Technology have wondered for some time what the hell a guy’s gotta do around here to get impeached.

Now, we know.

An Illinois legislative impeachment panel started work on an unprecedented impeachment process Tuesday, taking the first steps toward removing Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office.

The embattled Democrat signaled he isn’t going down without a fight.

Lawmakers on Monday quickly shelved the idea of setting a special election where voters would fill the vacant Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama — the seat the governor is accused of trying to sell before his arrest last week on federal corruption charges.

But the House also voted 113-0 to create a bipartisan committee that will recommend whether Blagojevich should be impeached.

Pot Pourie

  • By the way. If you had your heart set on buying up “,” it’s too late. I just wish I could find a T-shirt.
  • Anyone else nervous that Obama has yet to name a Labor Secretary?

The Little House I Used To Live In

From my keyboard, it is difficult to blog here about politics and policy right now. President-Elect Obama is working in suspended animation; all he can really do right now is march out his cabinet picks and tell people that everything is going to be all right. So, what more is there to analyze at this point in the game?

So, Fred Armisen’s been working hard on his Obama. This “I Keep It Cool” sketch from last evening was just terrific.

Finally, an addition for Zappadan: From The Onion of April 2004.

Frank Zappa Fan Thinks You Just Haven’t Heard The Right Album
NEDERLAND, CO.—In spite of your insistence that you are not into Frank Zappa, avid fan Roger Von Lee believes that you would change your mind if you heard the right album. “You’re prejudiced, because the only Zappa you know is ‘Valley Girl’ and ‘Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow,'” Von Lee told you Tuesday. “Seriously, you need to check out Hot Rats or Absolutely Free. Zappa and the Mothers were at their peak, and Zappa’s jazz-rock fusion experiments predate Bitches Brew. That’ll totally convince you that Zappa’s the shit.” Von Lee added that if those two don’t get under your skin, he can recommend another 15 to 20 albums that will for sure.

Incidentally, Burnt Weeny Sandwich is one of my favorites as well, evar. One of Zappa’s great strengths was knowing what to do with other musicians. Jean-Luc Ponty was, I think, one of the finest examples of this. Good-NESS, how did that man’s fiddle not catch on fire?

Competence Astonishes

Did you hear the one about the Republigoat Congresswoman who got a telephone call from the President-Elect and was so incredulous that it was him that she hung up on him? TWICE?

This was Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who by the way is actually an interesting politician. The Sally Jessy Raphael doppelgänger appeared on the season finale of Real Time With Bill Maher. She is a Republigoat but parts with her party on issues regarding the gheys. Wiki: “She supports anti-hate crime laws, anti-discrimination bills, believes gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the armed forces, voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, and is one of two Republican members of the LGBT congressional caucus.” (The other Republigoat member of that caucus: Chris Shays of Connecticut. I am proud to note that my own Congressman, Jim Moran, is a member of the caucus, too.) Unfortunately, she insists on being wrong about everything else.

Ros-Lehtinen got the call from Obama, who wanted to congratulate her on her victory, and assumed it was a prank.

“I thought it was one of the radio stations in South Florida playing an incredible, elaborate, terrific prank on me,” Ros-Lehtinen told the newspaper. “They got Fidel Castro to go along. They’ve gotten Hugo Chavez and others to fall for their tricks. I said, ‘Oh, no, I won’t be punked.'”

The call came about 1 p.m. Obama congratulated her on her re-election, saying he was looking forward to working with her as the ranking Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs committee, Ros-Lehtinen told the newspaper.

The conversation lasted about a minute when she cut Obama off, telling him she wasn’t falling for the hoax and that he was a better impersonator than the guy on Saturday Night Live, she said.

Washington, D.C. has been so Delayian for so long that Ros-Lehtinen couldn’t imagine that the President-Elect would reach out to her across party lines, so much so that the woman hung up on the President-Elect. This competence thing is going to take some getting used to after eight years of being led by a buffoon.

Peace Sells, But Who's Buying?

There is a brouhaha in Leftblogistan regarding the President-Elect’s recent personnel decisions. A blogger I read frequently, Godless Liberal Homo, expressed it in comments here at KIAV. On a post in which I praised the Clinton pick, he wrote: “The idea of a bloodthirsty war monger like Clinton as Secretary of State is really frightening.”

Believe me, I’m ecstatic when a colleague leaves a comment. (Hell, I’m ecstatic when a spambot leaves a comment.) However, from where I sit, the language seems strong. Didn’t we just wrest the gears of government from the warmonger? Didn’t we just give civilian command of our armed forces back to an adult? And now, that adult’s pick for State is “frightening?” Hillary Clinton is a warmonger? What’s Condi Rice, then? A vampire who can grow to 60 feet tall and has laser beams in her eyes and is evil and OMG she’s right behind you?

To quote the eminently quotable Chris Hayes of The Nation—and, to be fair, the lad has a point:

Not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive has, as far as I can tell, even been mentioned for a position in the new administration. Not one. Remember this is the movement that was right about Iraq, right about wage stagnation and inequality, right about financial deregulation, right about global warming and right about health care. And I don’t just mean in that in a sectarian way. I mean to say that the emerging establishment consensus on all of these issues came from the left. There’s tons of things the left is right about that aren’t even close to mainstream (taking a hatchet to the national security state and ending the prison industrial complex to name just two), but hopefully we’re moving there.

Yes, the correct ideas always do come from us. This is true. But I don’t think it’s a clear perspective to see this in a vacuum. We have, for goodness’ sake, just ended a political campaign where a candidate actually gained traction by suggesting that our progressive income tax system is socialism. They have rearranged the furniture and turned out the lights, and Americans are so politically disoriented that a mainstream candidate actually kicked up dirt over progressive taxation, normally a political eunich in all but the most deepest darkest corners of the fringes. For where they’ve taken us, now makes the ’50s look like 1968. This deliberate skewing of our political landscape makes the argument over whether or not Barack Obama is a centrist or a leftist or if he’s Pinochet seem to me rather moot and tired. Because there’s a much more basic rescue required here.

There is much to be said for opposing the manical philosophies of the current regime; I have often said and do maintain that Atlas Shrugged should be kept wrapped in brown paper and behind the counter and not sold to anyone younger than 35. But the American electorate achieved something even more basic and greater than that when it elected Barack Obama. After nearly a decade, it finally found itself able to assert that government, good, competent government, is necessary. I do not think this election was simply a rejection of the Bizarro-Utopian Anarchists who have become the Republigoat Party, though that was certainly part of it. It was more broadly, I think, a rejection of stupid assholes. The people have spoken—we shall use water on the crops intead of Brawndo. They want good government and I don’t think they much care that, in our darkened, rearranged parlor room, good government and progressive government seem to be exactly the same. So. Bully for us.

There is, though, one progressive program I’d like to see happen, preferably during year one. I think this program could mollify the progressive wing and would actually be some mighty juicy policy to boot. Obama should delve directly into Dennis Kucinich’s plan to create a Department of Peace, and he should name our Dennis its first secretary.

A Department of Peace would be a logical department to tackle the largest global security issue of our time, that of loose nukes—an issue that seems to be a slippery pig under the auspices of the State Department. It would monitor human rights and would work to create a culture of conflict resolution in our government. The Department would also take on domestic issues, such as prison rehabilitation and gangs. The point being that this idea doesn’t just wear Birkenstocks. It would be a serious policy effort.

More to the point, though: I do not understand how the Untied States expects to approach other nations claiming to be a seeker of peace when it does not have a cabinet level position dedicated to that ideal but does have one that used to be known in grittier days as the Department of War. Establishing this department is a matter of credibility on the global stage, especially considering the horrible warmongering malfeasance to which we’ve just subjected the world. The establishment of a Department of Peace would explicitly signal that, while we still intend to carry the big stick, we are once again finally willing and able to speak softly.

So, rather than piling on President-Elect Obama for naming this person or that to that already existing post, perhaps it is time to pile on him for an entirely new department altogether. Let’s tell him: You said “change,” man. Pony up. We want a Department of Peace.

Don't Worry, America! You're Still A Nation of Bigots and Superstitious Shitheads!

Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting “Assassinate Obama.” Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.

Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.

There have been “hundreds” of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

The full vile nasty AP story is here. One can only hope that four years of a vibrant, successful Obama administration can decimate such ugliness.

Secretary of State Clinton

President-Elect Obama has a knack for personnel in the exact same way that The Current President doesn’t.

He is making personnel decisions that seem not just good, not just right, but downright inspired. When I heard the name “Rahm Emanuel” as COS, I immediately thought, “Eureka!” and bolted out of the tub. A coworker I often discuss such matters shook her head. She said Rahm wouldn’t take the job. She said her inside poop indicated Obama/Emanuel personality clashiness, and that due to that, Obama would not offer, and Emanuel would not accept.

I told her he would and he would. Because the choice was inspired. It was inspired and it had to be. And there you have it.

Hillary Clinton at State is the same deal. I know this sounds odd, considering all the digital ink I spilled calling the woman “Tweety Monster” and wishing she’d just dry up and blow away back in New York. But the idea of Hillary at State, it seems so damned, well, you know: Inspired. I know the most oft-mentioned choice is Kerry, but that’s never sat quite right with me, and nor has the suggestion of Bill Richardson. But Hillary Clinton at State? Inspired.

Update: For a completely opposite viewpoint on this, please see The Pensito Review.