Iraq Study Group Echoed Kerry’s Warnings

I already noted it, but it looks like others are now catching on to the fact that the Iraq Study Group is repeating many of the same things John Kerry has been saying for quite a while. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports:

Some of the recommendations from the Iraq Study Group sound especially familiar to U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., who campaigned on many of them when he ran for president two years ago.“The report underscores what many of us have long been arguing: There is no military solution to our deep problems in Iraq,” Mr. Kerry said Wednesday after the report was released. He said the focus should be on a report that spotlights the futility of the current Iraq policy and deserves the attention of the White House.

For example, the report calls for the withdrawal of nearly all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by early 2008. While Mr. Kerry was far from alone in advocating such a timetable, he was talking about it during the 2004 presidential campaign. On Wednesday, he lamented only that the study committee recommendation did not include a deadline.

In an April 22 speech at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, Mr. Kerry said, “Iraqi leaders have responded only to deadlines — a deadline to transfer authority to a provisional government, and a deadline to hold three elections … And it will demand deadline toughness to rein in Shiite militias Sunnis say are committing horrific acts of torture every day in Baghdad. So we must set another deadline to extricate our troops and get Iraq up on its own two feet.”

The report recommends pressuring Iraqi leaders to assume responsibility for their country’s security — another central Kerry theme that he touched upon in that same Boston speech:

“If Iraq’s leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year’s end,” he said at the time. “Doing so will actually empower the new Iraqi leadership, put Iraqis in the position of running their own country and undermine support for the insurgency, which is fueled in large measure by the majority of Iraqis who want us to leave their country.”

Writing in The New York Times on April 5, Mr. Kerry called for a summit meeting where Iraqi factions would work toward a political agreement that includes security guarantees, the dismantling of the militias and a plan for reconstruction.

Speaking again at Faneuil Hall in September, Mr. Kerry said, “Our own generals have said Iraq cannot be solved militarily. Only through negotiation and diplomacy can you stem the growing civil war.”

The report emphasizes a regional approach, saying that Syria and Iran should be involved in ending the violence.

Mr. Kerry broached that suggestion in an April 2004 speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., three months before accepting the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency.

Wednesday, Mr. Kerry endorsed the report’s call for additional military and economic support to Afghanistan, saying it is clear the U.S. must simultaneously redeploy from Iraq to succeed in Afghanistan.

Thank You Congressional Republicans

Never let it be said I have never thanked the Republicans for anything. I do appreciate one action they took, with Democratic support, as they rushed to push through many last minute measures after being voted out. From reports on the tax and trade package:

It would stave off a scheduled 5.1 percent cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare payments…

This is a product of a flawed formula to determine physician reimbursement under Medicare which attempts to tie physician reimbursement to overall medical spending. The system hasn’t worked because individual physicians have little influence on overall health care costs. The formula would result in five percent cuts annually for the next eight years. Just try cutting Medicare payments by forty percent and see how much trouble the elderly will have in obtaining adequate health care.

In recent years Congress, under Republican control, has acted to eliminate such cuts. The American Medical Association does report that this year it was a bipartisan effort. Hopefully the Democrats will eliminate this flawed formula entirely, and actually increase reimbursement to account for inflation and increased practice expenses.

The Conservative Blogosphere vs. The Associated Press

The right wing blogosphere is taking on the mainstream media again over an allegedly inaccurate account about six Iraqis who were set on fire. Kathleen Carroll, executive editor and senior vice president of The Associated Press issued her most recent statement on Friday:

In recent days, a handful of people have stridently criticized The Associated Press’ coverage of a terrible attack on Iraqi citizens last month in Baghdad. Some of those critics question whether the incident happened at all and declare that they don’t believe our reporting.

Indeed, a small number of them have whipped themselves into an indignant lather over the AP’s reporting.

Their assertions that the AP has been duped or worse are unfounded and just plain wrong.

No organization has done more to try to shed light on what happened Nov. 24 in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad than The Associated Press.

After a lengthy discussion of the facts, she concludes:

Questioning their integrity and work ethic is simply offensive.

It’s awfully easy to take pot shots from the safety of a computer keyboard thousands of miles from the chaos of Baghdad.

The Iraq war is one of hundreds of conflicts that AP journalists have covered in the past 160 years. Our only goal is to provide fair, impartial coverage of important human events as they unfold. We check our facts and check again.

The attitude of the right wing bloggers is that they have their story and they are sticking to it. Just like they stuck to claims that we were threatened by WMD in Iraq, that there was a connection between Saddam and 9/11, that the war is allowing us to kill off al Qaeda in Iraq so that we don’t have to fight them here, and that we are winning the war. Confederate Yankee is criticizing several liberal blogs for not siding with them on the story.

There are several reasons why this story may not have been of interest to liberal bloggers. While the conservative bloggers are somehow certain of the facts, the rest of us simply do not know. The efforts described by Carroll to determine the truth sound more valid that the attacks of those who “take pot shots from the safety of a computer keyboard thousands of miles from the chaos of Baghdad.” If AP got a story wrong they deserve criticism, but it is difficult to take the word of those conservative bloggers who have been wrong so many times over the word of a journalistic organization which generally gets the facts right. In addition to the questions of credibility raised by the issues over Iraq in the previous paragraph, we are also reminded that these are also the same people who believe that Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry have any validity, that intelligent design is a valid alternative to evolution, and that Fox News can be used as a source for accurate news or information.

The pattern we have seen repeatedly is that conservative bloggers judge claims not based upon any meaningful measure of accuracy, but by whether the claims help promote their political biases. We’ve seen a similar situation when a Reuters stringer was exposed for altering a photograph. I initially commended the conservative bloggers who exposed this fabrication. Unfortunately their true colors were exposed when they continued to claim “Reutergate” as an example of media bias even when Reuters proved them wrong by firing the photographer.

Besides questioning the accuracy and judgement of the right wing bloggers, liberal bloggers also question their motives. If the goal was accuracy this would be admirable, but we repeatedly find that the goal is more often an attack on those they perceive as political opponents. Another goal is often to prevent the reporting of news, such as with their opposition to reports from Abu Gahab and the reports on the warrantless wiretaps. In the case of the disclosures of the monitoring of financial transactions, the right wing blogosphere attacked the New York Times for reporting the story but ignored the fact that the conservative Wall Street Journal reported on the same program.

The conservative blogosphere just has not shown any interest in fact finding or honesty. Conservativism has become an authoritarian movement which is more concerned with preventing publication of information critical of the government than with preserving the free press. This latest crusade against the AP smells far too much of another one of their attempts to suppress the free press than a desire for media accuracy, regardless of the facts of this specific case.

The Dixie Chicks Playboy Interview


The Dixie Chicks were interviewed in the December issue of Playboy. Here’s a portion of the interview pertaining to their criticism of George Bush and the war:

Playboy: Natalie, when you went onstage that night in London, did you think you were about to rip into the president of the U.S.?

Natalie Maines: I don’t even remember. We had talked beforehand about how lame it felt to be doing shows on the eve of a war. I needed to acknowledge that we weren’t oblivious to what was going on in the world, just not to feel shallow. But I never liked to get serious onstage. I felt pressure to entertain, and people aren’t at your show to feel down. Now, when I watch the clip of my saying it, I see I’m trying to keep it lighthearted but still acknowledge that I’m not some flighty blonde. But no, I hadn’t planned out what I was going to say.

Playboy: Emily and Martie, what was your reaction?

Emily Robison: I had a physical reaction, like when you slip in the lunchroom and wait to see who saw you. Heat from the head all the way down, that’s what I felt. It was the president, you know? It was kind of like the feeling you’d get when you were called into the principal’s office.

Playboy: When did it become apparent to you that the Bush comment wasn’t going to slip by unnoticed?

Maines: When the AP picked it up. I knew we would be used to draw attention away from the things that were going on. I knew the far right and the religious right were capable of sabotage, so I wasn’t surprised by any of that. Our manager said, “It’ll blow over in three days tops,” but right then I said, “You’re wrong.” Still, there were daily shocks. (more…)