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Archive for January, 2005

Seymour Hersh on “Insurgency”

January 28th, 2005 No comments

I’m not the only one who thinks this word is huge piece of deceptive and delusional spin. Seymour Hersh isn’t worrying about dictionary definitions, though:

I think there’s a way out of it, maybe. I can tell you one thing. Let’s all forget this word "insurgency". It’s one of the most misleading words of all. Insurgency assumes that we had gone to Iraq and won the war and a group of disgruntled people began to operate against us and we then had to do counter-action against them. That would be an insurgency. We are fighting the people we started the war against. We are fighting the Ba’athists plus nationalists. We are fighting the very people that started — they only choose to fight in different time spans than we want them to, in different places. We took Baghdad easily. It wasn’t because be won. We took Baghdad because they pulled back and let us take it and decided to fight a war that had been pre-planned that they’re very actively fighting.

U.S. Intelligence Report: Iraq is Making the World More Dangerous

January 14th, 2005 No comments

The National Intelligence Council* just issued Mapping the Global Future: Report of the National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project.

Significant among its findings: Iraq is a training ground for terrorists.

"The al-Qa’ida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq."

"Iraq and other possible conflicts in the future could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are “professionalized” and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself."

Let’s not forget: prior to this war, islamic fundamentalist activity in Iraq was limited to a small group of Iranian-supported jihadists occupying a small sliver of the country, outside of Saddam’s control. (Saddam and the Islamic fundamentalists hated each other–remember the Iran/Iraq war?)

So much for making the world a safer place. It’s time to put some true conservatives in office.

* "The National Intelligence Council (NIC) is the Intelligence Community’s (IC’s) center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking." It operates under the purview of the CIA, and incorporates intelligence estimates from all the U.S. intelligence agencies.

Social Security: Sham “Risk” Arguments

January 9th, 2005 No comments

I hate it when people who I agree with use stupid arguments to support their (our) positions. It sets us up as straw-men that our rhetorical opponents can swat at will.

The AARP’s ads about Social Security privatization fall right into that trap.

Their position? Privatized funds invested in the market are like gambling. "If we feel like gambling," says the tagline beneath a pair of forty-somethings, "we’ll play the slots."

And on the AARP web site: "There are places in retirement planning for risk, but Social Security isn’t one of them."

Plenty of bloggers are taking this line as well:

"Let’s call it what it is: Gambling"

The speciousness of this position is epitomized in an otherwise cogent NYT Op-Ed piece by Bary Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College and the author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. Here’s the key sentence:

For example, a person who retired in 2000 after a lifetime of investing half in stocks and half in bonds would have had 50 percent more in his account than a person making the same investments who retired in 2003.

The problem: Schwartz doesn’t compare either of these lifelong investors to a person who invested in treasury bonds for a lifetime. Both equity/bond investors would be far, far ahead of that person. That is presumably why Schwartz immediately (though grudgingly) goes on to "grant the advantages of putting trust fund money into equities."

What I’m saying here doesn’t support or vilify privatization. It just shows that the "risky business" argument is specious. It’s a setup for successful counterattacks. Let’s stop giving ammunition to the enemy.

Update, Jan. 10: Here’s another ridiculous example, an "Essay" by John Schwartz in the NYT. Two representatively idiotic paragraphs:

But let’s get back to Social Security. Why stop with the stock market? Mutual funds aren’t nearly risky enough for those of us who are ready to take the future in our teeth and shake it until it’s dead. The true adventurers among us want the financial equivalent of bungee jumping – provisions in retirement plan law to allow us to automatically use a substantial portion of what the government would otherwise be putting into those T-bills (BOR-ing!) and instead buy, say, lottery tickets. Or weekends in Atlantic City. Welcome to your new 401(k): the "k" stands for keno.

It gets better. How about a federal program that would let citizens try to sink a basket from midcourt for double or nothing on their Social Security payments? We need to appoint a blue-ribbon presidential commission to research old "Honeymooners" episodes to find can’t-lose, get-rich-quick schemes. The problem for Ralph Kramden was probably in the execution, not the underlying ideas.

With ridiculous arguments like this, we’re just asking those we disagree with to kick us.

Insurgents surging in from inside and outside

January 9th, 2005 No comments

It seems that the military is pretty unclear on what an "insurgent" is, as well. As reported in the VOA News (that’s Voice of America) on Dec. 16, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, General George Casey expressed " concern that insurgents are still infiltrating into Iraq from across its border with Syria. General Casey charged that former members of Saddam
Hussein’s regime are living in Syria and providing assistance to those
fighting the U.S.-led coalition. ‘We see a facilitation mode through
Syria for foreign fighters coming into Iraq.’"

Now which is it? Are the native Iraquis insurgents, or are foreign fighters (from, for instance, Saudi Arabia) actually the insurgents?

This may seem picayune, but it does seem important to know who we’re fighting.

Know your enemy: is Al Quaeda: “coming” or “flooding” into Iraq?

January 9th, 2005 No comments

In his testimony on January 7, Attorney General hopeful Alberto Gonzales said, "We had members of Al Qaeda, intent on killing Americans, flooding into or coming into Iraq."

Which is it? Coming or flooding? Does he know? Does anyone know, either in or outside of the (American or Iraqui) administration? Is the press asking?

Nobody I can find knows, or is telling–one or both. To what extent is the fight in Iraq with home-grown rebels, and to what extent is it with the international web of Islamic fundamentalists?

The New York Times reported yesterday that the U.S. is holding 325 foreign fighters captured in Iraq. (With no Geneva protection, natch.) What percentage of captured fighters does that represent? Couldn’t commanders in Iraq give us a reasonable estimate of that percentage?

It’s impossible to make reality-based decisions about Iraq if we don’t even know these facts. Has anyone even seen an estimate?

Admitting I’m Wrong: “Insurgents”

January 4th, 2005 1 comment

If there’s one thing I admire, it’s people who are willing to acknowledge when they’re wrong. In that spirit, I must concede my sister’s point: "Insurgent" comes from roots meaning "rising up," not my assumed meaning of "surging in."

Dictionary.com definitions for "insurgent"

So, it’s a perfectly accurate word to describe the anti-American (and quite arguably anti-Iraqui) fighters in Iraq.

But I still think there’s Rove-spin behind it.