Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Will the Republican Party . . .

crawl up its own anus and disappear? It's looking that way. To get us started,
here's Peter Canellos in the Boston Globe:

In defending the Iraq war, leading Republican presidential contenders are increasingly echoing words and phrases used by President Bush in the run-up to the war that reinforce the misleading impression that Iraq was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In the May 15 Republican debate in South Carolina, Senator John McCain of Arizona suggested that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden would "follow us home" from Iraq -- a comment some viewers may have taken to mean that bin Laden was in Iraq, which he is not.

Former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani asserted, in response to a question about Iraq, that "these people want to follow us here and they have followed us here. Fort Dix happened a week ago. " However, none of the six people arrested for allegedly plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey were from Iraq.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney identified numerous groups that he said have "come together" to try to bring down the United States, though specialists say few of the groups Romney cited have worked together and only some have threatened the United States. . . .

Michael Scheuer , the CIA's former chief of operations against bin Laden in the late 1990s, said the comments of some GOP candidates seem to suggest that bin Laden is controlling the insurgency in Iraq, which he is not.

"There are at least 41 groups [worldwide] that have announced their allegiance to Osama bin Laden -- and I will bet that none of them are directed by Osama bin Laden," Scheuer said, pointing out that Al Qaeda in Iraq is not overseen by bin Laden.

Then we have Maureen Dowd, who can usually be found ridiculing Al Gore for being fat, or John Kerry for not making his own sandwiches, but on this occasion manages to sound intelligent. She's hidden behind Times Select, but to punish her for her infinite sins, I'm going to go with Stephen Benen's rip off:

The president said an intelligence report (which turned out to be two years old) showed that Osama had been trying to send Qaeda terrorists in Iraq to attack America. So clearly, Osama is capable of multitasking: Order the killers in Iraq to go after American soldiers there and American civilians here. There AND here. Get it, W.?

The president is on a continuous loop of sophistry: We have to push on in Iraq because Al Qaeda is there, even though Al Qaeda is there because we pushed into Iraq. Our troops have to keep dying there because our troops have been dying there. We have to stay so the enemy doesn’t know we’re leaving. Osama hasn’t been found because he’s hiding.

The terrorists moved into George Bush’s Iraq, not Saddam Hussein’s. W.’s ranting about Al Qaeda there is like planting fleurs du mal and then complaining your garden is toxic.

Then the Palm Beach Post -- not exactly located in among the pointy-headed Northeastern liberals -- editorializes as follows:

In a commencement speech this week at the Coast Guard Academy and in a White House news conference, President Bush fell back on the argument that even if the surge doesn't work, America needs to stay in Iraq - to fight the terrorists who are in Iraq because America is in Iraq. "In the minds of Al-Qaeda leaders," he told the Coast Guard graduates, "9/11 was just a down payment on violence yet to come." He linked that potential to Iraq by citing (conveniently) declassified allegations that Osama bin Laden in 2005 ordered Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to set up a terror cell in Iraq to strike at the United States.

But Zarqawi wasn't an Iraqi. He was a Jordanian who went to Iraq because of all the American targets there. Fending off criticism that Mr. Bush was selectively declassifying material, Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, told The Associated Press that the information about alleged plots was being declassified now because all the leads had been followed and the players were either dead or in U.S. custody.

Not quite. A U.S. airstrike did kill Zarqawi last year. But what about that other "player," the one supposedly giving him the orders? That would be Osama bin Laden. He decidedly is not in U.S. custody, and if he's dead, the world doesn't have that happy news yet. Instead of pressing the hunt, President Bush diverted resources from Afghanistan, which had harbored bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, and then ordered an Iraqi invasion and occupation that has turned into an Al-Qaeda recruiting bonanza, as his own Zarqawi allegations prove.

I provide all these lengthy quotations to suggest, finally, a change in the zeitgeist. While balance in journalism still requires, for the most part, that truth and lies be treated with equal respect, the endless circular justifications for the Iraq adventure have finally become too much, at least for a few of the braver souls in the corporate media.

And yet, and yet, as Glenn Greenwald shows, the preposterous sophistry that cutting off funding for the war means defunding "the troops" is almost impossible to kill. Americans, it seems, have very nearly lost the capacity to think. Our political discourse consists for the most part of stringing together a small set of nonsense phrases.

I'll tell you what. I stayed up to catch Al Gore on the Daily Show and Letterman on Thursday, and I finally figured something out. I could never understand why the political reporters hated him so much that they sabotaged his 2000 campaign and made the election close enough for Karl Rove to steal. Now I know. It's because he's smarter than they are, and they can't stand that. They loved Bush because he is an idiot, which made them feel an instant connection.

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