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Better Late Than Never...I Guess
John Kerry makes use of his newfound snap-on balls on Huff Po. Here's an excerpt:

In order to change course, we must level with the American people about the magnitude of the challenge: we must face reality so we can change it.

This starts by leveling with the American people about Iraq’s true position in the overall fight against jihadism. The President pretends Iraq is the central front on the war on terror. It is not now, and never has been. The truth is, his disastrous decisions have made Iraq a fuel depot for terror – fanning the flames of conflict around the world.

There is simply no way to overstate how Iraq has subverted our efforts to free the world from global terror. It has overstretched our military. It has served as an essential recruitment tool for terrorists. It has divided and pushed away our traditional allies. It has diverted critical billions of dollars from the real front lines against terrorism and from homeland security. It has unleashed dangerous, pent-up forces of radical religious extremism. It has weakened moderate leaders in the Middle East. It has strengthened and played into Iran’s hand. It has diminished our moral authority in the world.

The demagogic drumbeat about fighting terrorists over there instead of here -- even though they weren’t in Iraq until we went in, and it’s now a civil war we’re fighting -- has compromised America’s real interests and made us less safe than we ought to be five years after 9/11. The true measure of that is the stark fact that worldwide terrorist attacks are at an all-time high and there are now more terrorists in the world who want to kill Americans than there were at the time of 9/11.

After all the tough talk of “Wanted Dead or Alive,” after the Administration bragged and boasted – they meekly backed off in the mountains of Tora Bora. Osama bin Laden escaped because the administration held back the best military in the world – our’s – and outsourced the job to local militias. Since then Al Qaeda has spawned a vast and decentralized network operating in 65 countries. Only Dick Cheney could call this a success.

The situation in Afghanistan deteriorates steadily, squandering the sacrifices of our troops and allies in the military campaign of 2002. The Taliban now controls entire portions of southern Afghanistan, and just across the border Pakistan is just one coup away from becoming a radical jihadist state with a full compliment of nuclear weapons. Only Don Rumsfeld could proclaim this a victory.

The Middle East is more unstable than it has been in decades. Our stalwart ally Israel is surrounded by emboldened enemies who talk of wiping it off the face of the earth. Hezbollah flags fly from rooftops in Shiia slums of Sadr City and Iran is rebuilding Southern Lebanon. Only an Administration trapped in its own falsehoods could say we are making progress in creating a new Middle East.

North Korea has quadrupled its nuclear weapons capability, and is defiantly testing missiles that could reach our shores. Iran is moving steadily towards membership in the nuclear club; has expanded its terrorist clientele from Hezbollah to Hamas; maintains thousands of agents in Iraq; and is governed by a fanatic who almost daily calls for Israel’s destruction. Only George W Bush could declare this ‘mission accomplished.’

The Bush-Cheney policies have limited our power to act decisively and the regime in Tehran knows it. We have over 130,000 American troops in Iraq in the middle of a seething Shiite population that would explode if we moved against Iran. Our troops and our foreign policy are held hostage by the neocon catastrophe in Iraq. Only this White House could name this a plan for victory.

And be forewarned : don’t be surprised if they hype the Iranian nuclear crisis come October if all other appeals to fear are failing as the mid-term election approaches.

We have an Iraqi Prime Minister sustained in power by our forces, who will not speak against the Hezbollah terrorists, who will not say that Israel has a right to exist, and who will not condemn the Iranian nuclear program. No American soldier should be asked to stand up for an Iraqi government that won’t stand up for freedom and against fear

Here at home, too many things have not changed in the last five years. We learned on 9/11 painful lessons about the costs of a dysfunctional intelligence system marred by bureaucratic infighting, inadequate resources, and faulty analysis. Yet the 9/11 commission recently gave our own government a failing grade on implementing intelligence reforms. Today, our ability to intercept terrorist communications remains in a legal and constitutional limbo.

The Dubai port deal reminded us only a small percentage of cargoes entering U.S. ports are even inspected. Surely if we can inspect cargoes at the Baghdad airport, we can inspect cargoes at the airports in Los Angeles, New York, and right here in Boston.

This is the reality of the world today – a world more dangerous because of the Bush blunders and a challenge far more complicated than the gruff Cheney sound bites. America deserves – our safety depends—on a winning strategy to reverse this dangerous course and make our country more secure.

There are five principal priorities that demand immediate action: (1) redeploy from Iraq, (2) re-commit to Afghanistan, (3) reduce our dependence on foreign oil, (4) reinforce our homeland defense, and (5) restore America’s moral leadership in the world. These “5 R’s”—if you want to call them that-- are bold steps Democrats will take to strengthen our national security, and that the Republicans who have set the agenda today resist to our national peril.

We must refocus our military efforts from the failed occupation of Iraq to what we should have been doing all along: tracking down and killing members of al Qaeda and their clones wherever they are. We must redeploy troops from Iraq – maintain enough residual force to complete the training and deter foreign intervention, so we can free up resources to fight the global war on terror.

Republicans want to wrap this strategy in slogans because they’re afraid to debate what it really is: a redeploy-to-succeed strategy – to succeed in defeating world wide terror, and to succeed in making Iraqis themselves responsible for Iraq.

This is the opposite of the administration’s stand-still-and-lose strategy - -a clear alternative from a broken policy of “more of the same.” Every time President Bush tells the Iraqis we will “stay as long as it takes,” he is giving squabbling politicians there an excuse to take as long as they want. All of us want democracy in Iraq but Iraqis must want it for themselves as much as we want it for them. It’s long overdue for the president to realize that no American soldier should be sacrificed because Iraqi factions refuse to resolve their ethnic rivalries and their competing grasp for oil revenues.

At each step along the way, the Iraqi leaders have responded only to deadlines-a deadline to transfer authority to a provisional government, a deadline to write a Constitution, a deadline to hold three elections. So we must set another deadline to extricate our troops and get Iraq up on its own two feet-- a clear deadline of July, 2007 to redeploy our combat troops. Make Iraqis stand up for Iraq – and bring our heroes home.

We also desperately need something else this administration disdains: diplomacy. Real diplomacy -- a Dayton-like summit of Iraq and the countries bordering it, the Arab League, NATO, and the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council. Our own generals have said Iraq can not be solved militarily. Only through negotiation and diplomacy can you stem the growing civil war, and only by setting a deadline to get out can we force Iraq and its neighbors to take diplomacy seriously.

“Staying the course” isn’t far-sighted; it’s blind. Leaving our troops in the middle of a civil war isn’t resolute; it’s reckless. Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion.

Neither can the Administration pretend that the war in Afghanistan is over or that the peace has been secured. On Thursday the president said we’re on the offensive against terrorists in Afghanistan, even as the American NATO commander on the ground showed the opposite is true by making an urgent plea for more troops.

The truth is -- the Bush-Cheney Administration has engaged in a policy of cut and run in that country. This Administration has cut and run while the Taliban-led insurgency is running amok across entire regions of the country. The Administration has cut and run while Osama bin Laden and his henchmen hide and plot in a lawless no-man’s land. They cut and run even as we learn from Pakistani intelligence that the mastermind of the most recent attempt to blow up American airliners was an al Qaeda leader operating from Afghanistan – yes, from Afghanistan. That’s right – the same killers who attacked us on 9/11 are still plotting attacks against America and they’re still holed up in Afghanistan.

To avoid repeating the terrible mistakes of the past, we need to send significant reinforcements to Afghanistan: Start with at least five thousand additional American troops –more elite Special Forces troops, the best counter-insurgency units in the world; more civil affairs forces; and more experienced intelligence units. More predator drones to find the enemy, more helicopters to allow rapid deployments to confront them, and more heavy combat equipment to make sure we can crush the terrorists. And more reconstruction money so that the elected government in Kabul, helped by the United States, not the Taliban, helped by al Qaeda, rebuilds the new Afghanistan.

That’s how you win the hearts and minds of the local population, that’s how you win a war on terror, that’s how you show the world the true face of America.

America needs a national policy that understands we are threatened not just by gun barrels, but by oil barrels. The great treasury of jihadist terrorism is mideast oil. We fund both sides in the war on terror every time we fill up our gas tanks. We know how dependent we are on oil, but it’s not just us. We must liberate the Middle East itself from the tyranny of dependence on petroleum so that the region no longer feeds restive and rising populations of unemployed young people a diet of illusions and rationalizations paid for by our oil money.

Nothing will change if autocratic regimes keep pumping prosperity out of the ground to pay off a new generation with petrodollar welfare checks. We cannot change this if our oil money is sustaining the status quo. We must end the Empire of Oil.

We can’t allow Energy independence to be used as a mere slogan, it has to be a solution. We need a revolutionary set of new policies to promote alternative fuels on a crash basis. This is essential if we are to reverse the tide towards catastrophic global climate change; it is essential to making the United States a leader in vast new opportunities to develop and market clean energy technologies—but most importantly, energy independence is essential to defeating jihadist terrorism and liberating our country from our bondage to tyrannical, hostile, and unstable regimes.

How come Democrats never talk like men until after they're running for president?

Posted by aalkon at September 10, 2006 7:01 AM

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How come Democrats never talk like men until after they're running for president?

One word: consultants.

Posted by: deja pseu at September 10, 2006 8:24 AM

While they're running, you mean? How come the Republican consultants shape their guys like cowboys and the Democrats get Naomi Wolf to tell them to wear earth tones? What's wrong with these morons?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 10, 2006 8:34 AM

Yeah, while they're running. They're so busy trying not to piss anyone off, that they end up turning everyone off.

Posted by: deja pseu at September 10, 2006 8:46 AM

If you read just one sentence from this piece, let it be the first one Amy quoted:

> we must level with the
> American people

That's a brutal condescension.

1. Of course you must. Who ever said you have a choice about honesty for the American people, John?

2. Why didn't you tell the truth earlier, before the election, or before you voted for invasion?

3. Are you implying that we're such delicate little urchins that we prefer to be sheltered from our own warmaking?

4., 5., 6., 7.,.... Grrrr!

Who put that line in the speech? A consultant? Who approved it? What were they thinking? What feeling did they hope to nourish in the listener?

It's long speech, but here are some contentions:

> a mission that has not
> weakened terrorism but
> worsened it.

How would you know?

> They were attacked and
> killed not by Saddam
> Hussein but by Osama
> bin Laden.

Osama was not a single actor. He was the product of our historical mismangement of the whole region.

> But Americans now see
> through this charade.

As if we didn't when we rejected your Presidential candidacy? Democrats really, really believe Americans are stupid, aren't shy about saying so, and yet are stunned when they lose elections.

Christ, I can't continue. It's a bucket of bullshit, it doubles down on the failed wagers of yesteryear, and I predict great things for the Republican party this November.

Posted by: Crid at September 10, 2006 10:07 AM

Crid, you make some good points here, especially with respect to Kerry's and many other Democrats' failure to speak out against the Iraq policy when they were faced with the vote prior to the 2002 elections. And Bush clearly plans to try to do the same sort of thing this election with the bill he's proposed for trying KSM and other terror suspects. However, this time around, there's a lot less faith in the Bush administration than there was four years ago; his new tribunal bill also appears to be opposed by some prominent and well-respected members of his own party such as Senators Graham, Warner and McCain (and Bush and Rove have a lot less arm-twisting ability than they did before). A majority of people in a recent poll think that Iraq is not central to the war on terror, think that it was not worth it, and think that our policies are creating more terrorists than we're killing. This leads me to believe that attacking the President's policies here may not be the "doubl(ing) down on the failed wagers of yesteryear (nice phrasing, but the way!)" that you think it to be. But I could be wrong. Never misunderestimate the Democrats' ability to seize defeat from the jaws of electoral victory.

As an aside, Kerry's still a pompous, long-winded tool. But the election won't be won or lost on what he says.

Posted by: justin case at September 10, 2006 11:04 AM

> this time around, there's
> a lot less faith in the
> Bush administration than
> there was four years ago

This brings to mind the melodies of Disney films I was forced to watch as a child. "If we just believe, *really* believe, and hold our breath 'til we turn blue, Tinkerbell will fly through the window and turn us into pixies in Happyland, where everything is candy and sunsets!

"(Also, I will feel a stirring attraction to the curviness of her closed but muscular thighs, but I won't know why! There's something about the way her butt pumps towards the stars just before she flicks her wand that sets my pre-school heart free!)"

I sdon't see fundamental change in public opinion. Even if it were there, it's not exactly a zero-sum game. The fact that Republican policy fails in Iraq doesn't mean people wish Democrats had won any elections.

> the election won't be
> won or lost on what he
> says.

True, but it may well pivot on what he believes. While his chatter about war and morality is no more of interest than in October 2004, his rhetorical choices are telling. Whether by Deja's consultants or personal ineptitude, powerful currents of condescension continue to distinguish and derail Democratic thinking.

Gail Zappa was for several recent years the greatest contributor to the Democrats. In a radio interview last month, she said "People are making choices not because they're evil, but because they're stupid! And they just need to be shown (snicker) another option." You'd not believe how much vehemence she put into the word "stupid." I'll send you a link if you want to hear it.

Anyway, that's the attitude that putting up the money. This is a hyooge irony: The left is making the same mistakes they and their parents made with Ronald Reagan just 20 years ago ('fool me once', etc). They can't face up to being humbled by someone they think socially beneath them, so they're having their balls served to them on toast points by Karl Rove. If so much weren't at stake in their incompetence, it would be amusing.

Posted by: Crid at September 10, 2006 1:44 PM

This nitwit calls the President down, for not using more of our military? What an ass!

Hey, frag bait! Congress - that would be you - is sitting on its long-winded butt with an intern on each knee because YOU intend to let the Administration do everything under the War Powers Act. So you can promote the lie that service to the country is what YOU are doing.

Posted by: Radwaste at September 10, 2006 2:38 PM

Regarding whether there's a fundamental change in public opinion (as compared to the last elections), there's good reason to believe there has been. The Iraq war these days is, on balance, a negative for the Republicans, which wasn't the case in the last election. People weren't sick of it the way then the way they are now. Unless all the polls lie, only about 40% of the population are supporters of the Bush admin's policies. It's a bad thing when your party's leading spokesman approval ratings are that low. But you are correct in your assertion that it's not a zero sum situation. Rove is trotting out the old "be scared, vote Republican" theme out for the third time. We'll have to see if that dog will still hunt. In the meanwhile, I guess we'll see if the Democrats make a case for themselves.

As far as Gail Zappa, whatever. It's not like there aren't plenty of nasty political contributors and personalities to go around on either side of the issue; as far as insulting people, that's a wash.

P.S. Bush IS dumb

Posted by: justin case at September 10, 2006 4:57 PM

> there's good reason to
> believe...

...or not.

I don't believe in predicting political outcomes, IJS that Kerry is still repellant. And if his approach is typical of what Democrats will use in the next months, bad things will happen for them.

> as far as insulting
> people, that's a wash.

Nope. Justin, what exactly did you mean this afternoon when you called Kerry "pompous"? I think the need to look down on others is a fundamental human drive. It follows food, clothing, shelter and sex, but precedes music, prayer and medicine.

Reagan (and now other Republicans) learned not to clumsily shit on the aspirations and perspectives of other Americans, no matter how humble they may be. Dems are the party who thinks there are people who can be mocked and dismissed without comment. Did you read Rosa Brooks in the LAT book section this morning? Intellectualism is their favorite hook, but there are others.

Posted by: Crid at September 10, 2006 7:29 PM

(I meant to tie in that part about "Bush is dumb" explicitly, but you get the point)

Posted by: Crid at September 10, 2006 7:31 PM

Regarding my "Bush is dumb" comment - I was just having a little snarky fun being provocative.

You say that Republicans have "learned not to clumsily shit on the aspirations and perspectives of other people." One implication of this statement is that've learned to do so skillfully. You may be on to something there. Here's a nice example: how they treat their pro-life, Christian base. Pay 'em lots of lip service, use them to raise tons of money and get out the vote. Then, when Linc Chafee or Arlen Spector are opposed in their primaries by true pro-life conservatives, throw tons of money and clout behind the pro-choicers (one of whom is chair of the judiciary committee... not that their base has any concerns about what that committee decides or anything). You're correct - there's nothing clumsy about that type of shitting.

Posted by: justin case at September 11, 2006 1:56 AM

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