Undiplomatic Banner
17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 pm

What You Might Have Missed: Petraeus/Odierno


We’re trying out a new feature here at Undip:  “What You Might Have Missed,” which will highlight stories that other stories have kept off the front page.

BAGHDAD - SEPTEMBER 16:  Outgoing commander Ge...Today, it’s the transfer of authority from Gen. David Petraeus to Gen. Ray Odierno in Baghdad.  Petraeus will now head Central Command, which oversees all U.S. military activity from Egypt to Pakistan, an arc that includes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What I find particularly interesting about this story is that Petraeus and Odierno had completely different approaches to the occupation of Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.  When Petraeus led the 101st Airborne, he was praised for applying counterinsurgency doctrine in Mosul in a way that helped keep the region calm — until he left.

In Mosul, a city of nearly two million people, Petraeus and the 101st employed classic counterinsurgency methods to build security and stability, including conducting targeted kinetic operations and using force judiciously, jump-starting the economy, building local security forces, staging elections for the city council within weeks of their arrival, overseeing a program of public works, reinvigorating the political process, and launching 4,500 reconstruction project. . . . [I]n the book Fiasco, Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks wrote that “Mosul was quiet while he (Petraeus) was there, and likely would have remained so had his successor had as many troops as he had–and as much understanding of counterinsurgency techniques.” Ricks went on to note that “the population-oriented approach Petraeus took in Mosul in 2003 would be the one the entire U.S. Army in Iraq was trying to adopt in 2006.”

Contrast that with Odierno’s time commanding the 4th Infranty Division during the same period:

Odierno’s tenure as 4th ID commander in Iraq and his unit’s actions there have subsequently come under criticism from several sources. Many officers from the 1st Marine Division were critical of 4th ID’s belligerent stance during their initial entry into Iraq after the ground war had ceased and the unit’s lack of a ‘hearts and minds’ approach to counter-insurgency. Several authors have echoed similar criticisms shared with them by other military personnel in the theater. In his unit’s defense Odierno strenuously argued that the situation was that such an approach was required and subsequent insurgent activity justified the actions of 4th ID as former insurgents began to join the fight against Islamic extremist groups, such as al-Qaeda, in 2007.

To this day, Odierno rejects these arguments, saying that the situation then required an aggressive approach.  That said, Odierno did spend the past few years helping Petraeus craft the surge, and it’s doubtful that Petraeus would support the choice of someone he thought could not build on his success.

There’s an old saying in sports that you’re much better off being the guy who replaces the guy who replaced the legend.  Odierno doesn’t have that luxury.  If he fails, he may find that he’s on a short leash, as Petraeus, Gates, and Bush are unlikely to let Iraq to fall back into chaos.

Photo: Outgoing commander Gen. David Petraeus hands over the Multi-National Force Iraq flag to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates as Gen. Ray Odierno looks on during a Change of Command ceremony at Camp Victory on September 16, 2008 in Baghdad, Iraq. David Petraeus, the American general who presided during “The Surge”, the increase in American military presence believed to have been critical to reduced violence in the beleaguered country, handed over his command today to Gen. Ray Odierno. (Getty Images via Daylife)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

17 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:45 am

While You Were Filing for Bankruptcy: Pakistan


Has Bush just gotten us into another war?  According to a number of press reports today, the Pakistani Army has orders to fire on American troops should they cross the border from Afghanistan:

Pakistani troops have been ordered to fire on U.S. forces, if they launch another raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman tells the Associated Press.

“The orders are clear,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas  said in an interview. “In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire.”

And they’re our ally.  Led by the guy we wanted to succeed Pervez Musharraf.

It looks like Adm. Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has suddenly decided to vacation in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, Jeff Stein over at SpyTalk suggests some troubling parallels to an earlier American conflict:

Pakistan is beginning to remind me of Cambodia.

Just as Pakistan gives shelter to the Taliban attacking us in Afghanistan, not to mention Osama Bin Laden, Cambodia in the 1960s provided a haven for the North Vietnamese Army, which was killing us across the border.

Just as in Pakistan, we “secretly” bombed Cambodia to get the North Vietnamese, killing innocent peasants.  When Cambodia’s prime minister resisted American pressure to oust the North Vietnamese, he was overthrown by U.S.-backed generals.

When we next sent combat units into Cambodia, there was a quantum leap of death, havoc — and radicalization — in the countryside, just as in Pakistan today.  Cambodia’s communists now found the peasants to eager to sign up, just as Muslim extremist leaders are finding today in Pakistan. . . .

Is something like that in Pakistan’s future? Nobody can be sure.  We do know that the escalation of U.S. (and some Pakistani) military operations there, much ballyhooed here for killing a few al Qaeda captains, is turning more and more Pakistanis against us.  And that’s a quandary for which there are no immediate answers, much less easy ones.

But we do know there’s one big difference between Cambodia and Pakistan.

Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

The analogy isn’t perfect.  We fomented the coup that brought Lon Nol to Cambodia, but in Pakistan, our guy got overthrown.  And there’s a big difference between a massive bombing campaign and a few cross-border incursions.  But it does make you think.

Undip reader Midwest McGarry, who raised similar concerns, also asks why American incursions don’t trigger the War Powers Act.  One reason is that both the U.S. and Pakistan officials are pretending none of this happened:

. . .the Pakistani and United States military publicly denied any such incident on Monday, and a Pakistani intelligence official said that an American helicopter had mistakenly crossed the border briefly, leading Pakistani ground forces to fire into the air. . . . On Tuesday, American officials repeated their denials that such an incident occurred.

If there were no incursions, there is no need to inform Congress as required by the War Powers Act.

But there’s another, more important reason.  Back in 2001, shortly after September 11, Congress passed a S.J. 23, Authorization for Use of Military Force:

[T]he President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons. . . .

SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

So you see, Midwest, the President already has the authorization he needs.

Am I the only one not comforted by that?

Maybe the October Surprise came a bit early this year.  So far, no new statements by either campaign.

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

12 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:55 pm

While You Were Watching the View. . .


Don’t feel bad — I was too.  But meanwhile, the Administration continues its sightseeing tour of Pakistan’s NWFP.

The US military conducted another airstrike inside Pakistan’s lawless tribal agencies. The target of the strike was an al Qaeda-linked group called Al Badar, which is run by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Unmanned Predator aircraft launched several missiles in the early morning at a target in the village of Tol Khel on the outskirts of Miramshah, the administrative seat of North Waziristan. Twelve members of Al Badar (or Al Badr) were reported killed and 14 were reported wounded in the attack, according to AFP. . . .

Hekmatyar runs the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, a radical Taliban-linked faction fighting US forces in Afghanistan. He has close links to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, as well as the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s military intelligence agency.

The US targeted a Hekmatyar compound in South Waziristan on Aug. 13. Taliban commanders Abdul Rehman and Islam Wazir, three Turkmen, and “several Arab fighters” were reported in the strike. Reports indicated up to 25 terrorists were killed in the attack.

The US has conducted eight airstrikes and raids in North and neighboring South Waziristan since Aug. 31. Five of the strikes have been aimed at compounds in North Waziristan. Four of them were operated by the Haqqani Network. . . .

The Haqqanis are closely allied with the Taliban and al Qaeda, and have close links with the Inter-Services Intelligence. The Haqqanis run a parallel government in North Waziristan and conduct military and suicide operations in eastern Afghanistan. Siraj Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s son, has close ties to Osama bin Laden and is one of the most wanted terrorist commanders in Afghanistan.

Holy Bush Doctrine, Batman!

Looks like Bush is taking Obama’s advice.  Too bad it’s seven freaking years after he first should have done it.

Call me a cynic, but I can’t help believe that the Bush Administration (and the McCain campaign, for that matter) and trying as hard as they can to find and kill Osama before the election.

| posted in foreign policy, politics, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

11 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:03 pm

Seven Years Later: From Tragedy to Denial


Given everything going on around the election — lipstick, pigs, sex, wolves, seals and all sorts of other so very important matters — you might have missed this little gem, from yesterday’s White House press briefing:

Perino’s claim that Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, not Osama bin Laden, was the “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks is so staggeringly and blatantly a lie that it’s hard to know where to start.  For the Administration to cover up its failure to capture bin Laden by arguing the detention of KSM somehow matters more, is akin to suggesting that Radovan Karadzic’s arrest absovled Soblodan Milosevic of any responsibility for what happened in Bosnia.

Whenever any leader makes a decision, there are two levels of responsibility:  strategic and tactical.  The person who identifies the direction that an organization or country or business is going to take determines the strategy.  The person who designs and implements the actions necesssary to implement the strategy  determines the tactics.

In this case, Osama bin Laden chose the strategy — attacking the United States.  Khaled Sheikh Mohammed decided the tactics — how and where to make the attack a reality.  It is just mind-boggling that the Bush Administration doesn’t understand — or is pretending not to understand — the difference.

Just in case it’s the former, permit me to remind Ms. Perino and her boss what Osama bin Laden said in his first interview (with Taysir Alluni, al-Jazeera’s Afghanistan bureau chief)  after the September 11 attacks.  The transcript is from Messages to the World:  The Statements of Osama bin Laden:

As far as concerns [America's] description of these attacks as terrorist acts, that description is wrong.  These young men, for whom God has created a path, have shifted the battle to the heart of the United States, and they have destroyed its most oustanding landmarks, its economic and military landmarks, by the grace of God.  And they have done this because of our words — and we have previously incited and roused them to action. . . . And if inciting for these reasons is terrorism, and if killing those that kill our sons is terrorism, then let history witness that we are terrorists. . . .

Making connections is easy.  If this implies that we have incited these attacks, then yes, we’ve been inciting for years, and we have released decrees and documents concerning this issue, and other incitements which were published and broadcast in the media.  So if they mean, or if you mean, that there is a connection as a result of our incitement, then that is true.  So we incite, and incitement is a duty. . . .

I say that the events that happened on Tuesday September 11 in New York and Washington are truly great events by any measure, and their repercussions are not yet over. . . .These repercussions cannot be calculated by anyone due to their very large — and increasing — scale, multitude and complexity, so watch as the amount reaches no less than $1 trillion by the lowest estimate, due to thise successful and blessed attacks.  We implore God to accept those brothers within the ranks of the martyrs and to admit them to the highest levels of Paradise.

Now I know that Ms. Perino is not a lawyer, neither is President Bush.  I’m not either.  But unlike me, they’re surrounded by some of the top legal minds in the country.  One of them just might want to explain to Bush and Perino the concepts of conspiracy and incitement.  It just might clarify things a little.

Then again, those are the same lawyers who told Bush that torture was okay.  So maybe not.

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

10 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:15 pm

Department of Things They Should Have Thought of Seven Years Ago


From the BBC today:

US to focus on Pakistani border

Adm Mike Mullen said he had asked for a “a new, more comprehensive military strategy for the region that covers both sides of that border”. The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff has called for a new strategy in Afghanistan which will deny militants bases across the border in Pakistan. The US must work closely with Pakistan to “eliminate [the enemy's] safe havens”, he told Congress.

. . .Mullen was giving evidence to the House Armed Services Committee months before the seventh anniversary of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taleban and pursue al-Qaeda.  He argued that militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan were waging a common fight.

“In my view, these two nations are inextricably linked in a common insurgency that crosses the border between them,” he said.  “We can hunt down and kill extremists as they cross over the border from Pakistan… but until we work more closely with the Pakistani government to eliminate the safe havens from which they operate, the enemy will only keep coming.”

You think?

Um, pardon the impertinent question, but shouldn’t you have freaking done this seven years ago????

Our earlier incompetence in Iraq is going to look like a walk in the park compared to what we’re now trying to do in Afghanistan.

Heckuva job, Dubya.

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

8 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:45 pm

Beyond November: Ruben E. Brigety


The Connect U.S. Fund has launched a new two-year initiative to help shape debate during the upcoming Presidential transition.  As part of this effort, they’ve asked leading thinkers and advocates to talk about what should be the top two or three foreign policy priorities for the next President.  They’ve also kindly allowed us to cross-post the responses here.

The series took a brief hiatus during the conventions, but it’s back and will continue from now until the election.  Today, we’ll hear from Rube E. Brigety.  Future posts in the series will appears every Thursday.  You can find the previous posts here.  Thanks again to Heather Hamilton and Eric Schwartz for making the cross-postings happen.

Regardless of who wins the Presidential election in November, America will face challenges around the world that are arguably unprecedented in their complexity and scope. The list of urgent issues is well known – two active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the quest for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, resurgent powers in China and Russia, a weakened U.S. dollar, the need for energy independence, and the effects of climate change, just to name a few.

A common thread connecting all of these problems is that they cannot be solved with the approaches that have dominated U.S. foreign policy for the last eight years. For much of the last decade, particularly since 9/11, our government has resorted to unilateral methods to solve multilateral problems, and resorted to the use or threat of force to advance our interests abroad. Time and again, this has contributed to America’s declining popularity in the world even as it strains our military, marginalizes our alliances, and leaves crucial problems to fester. All of this can be traced to a zero-sum world view which does not tangibly link the security and prosperity of the United States with needs and aspirations of most of the world.

Our country needs more than new policies to confront the foreign policy challenges of the next decade. It needs a new worldview. It needs a framework for understanding the limits of unilateralism and military might, and the potential in cooperation and non-military methods of influence.

At the Center for American Progress, we have advanced an idea called “Sustainable Security.” An amalgamation of national security, collective security and human security, the Sustainable Security paradigm recognizes the importance of improving the lives of other people around the world as a critical security concerns for the United States. Rather than seeing foreign assistance as charity best relegated to the periphery of our statecraft, sustainable security emphasizes investing in social and economic development in countries around the world as a means of countering various threats – from the growth of radical extremism to the ravages of climate change. Furthermore, it posits that true “security” for the United States and other countries can only happen when development assistance is pursued in a cooperative manner with other countries and when it is closely coordinated with our other diplomatic and defense priorities. While there will always be a place for use of force, sustainable security argues that we have as much to gain from investing in the welfare of others as we do from investing in weapons systems to advance our nation’s security interests.

From this worldview, a few important foreign policy priorities follow. First, the United States should adopt a National Development Strategy. Despite the fact that we spend more on development assistance than any other country in the world, we do not have an articulated strategy to guide its distribution or to relate it to other aspects of American foreign policy. Promulgating a National Development Strategy from the White House that is applicable to every federal agency involved in delivering assistance would be a major statement of the important of foreign aid to our national security and provide crucial guidance for this important instrument of policy.

Second, we will have to reform the structures that deliver foreign assistance. The most important reforms should include the creation of a cabinet level development agency and a recapitalization our development infrastructure. Most of our allies that are major donors of development assistance have a cabinet agency to direct that activity. We are in the distinct minority in this regard. Elevating development assistance to a cabinet level status will not only show how important it is for us, but it will also ensure that development considerations are appropriately accounted for in our foreign policy. The next time we are forced to go to war with another country, we would be much more likely to take into account post-conflict considerations about economic reconstruction and rule of law if we have a powerful agency whose job it was to think about it and to perform the required tasks. Also, we cannot make development a major part of our foreign policy as long as there are more drummers in military bands than there are development professionals in the employ of our government. With less than one-thousand Foreign Service officers assigned to the U.S. Agency for International Development, our ability to do vital development projects, and to support our defense and diplomatic initiatives, is imperiled. This is a situation which must be reversed.

With great risk comes great opportunity, and this is particularly true for the next Presidential administration. Changing how we approach the problems of the world is vital to achieving durable solutions for ourselves and our allies. Let’s hope our next President take on the challenge.

Reuben E. Brigety, II is Director of the Sustainable Security Program at The Center for American Progress. Prior to joining CAP, he served as a Special Assistant in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development.  Brigety is also an Assistant Professor of Government and Politics at George Mason University. He is the author of Ethics, Technology and the American Way of War (Routledge, 2007) and a variety of other articles and book chapters. Before entering academia, Brigety was a researcher with the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. He served on HRW research missions in Afghanistan in March 2002 and in Iraq in April and May of 2003. He also served as HRW’s coordinator for crisis management during the Iraq war and as an HRW delegate to the Convention on Conventional Weapons negotiations in Geneva. Before joining HRW, Brigety was an active duty U.S. naval officer and held several staff positions in the Pentagon and in fleet support units.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

20 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:46 pm

More on McCain, Torture, and the Bush Administration


A provocative comment today from Undip reader jelperman in response to this post:

If McCain is heroic for being tortured, then so are the people who were tortured at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

No, no, no jelperman!  Don’t you know?  It wasn’t torture at Guantanamo or at Abu Ghraib or even Bagram, for that matter.  Just listen to what Dubya said:

Among the euphemisms that the President would employ in the years to follow were “enhanced” interrogations, “robust” interrogations, and “special” interrogations.

You know what we need?  A commission to investigate all this.  Seriously.  Like the 9/11 Commission. Except we need a better name.

I was thinking “grand jury” would do nicely.

But before that happens, we need to ask John McCain to move beyond his history to answer some serious questions about his position on torture.  I respect and honor his service and his courage while in captivity.  I applaud the fact he wants to close Guantanamo.  But his record on this issue is far from spotless: he voted for Military Commissions Act, against using the Army Field Manual standard for all USG interrogations, and even did a cameo on that torturegasm known as 24.

So given those inconsistencies, he needs to explain his position in much greater detail.  So here’s a question for him:

Given that the North Vietnamese tortured you during your time as a prisoner of war, and given your strong assertions, most recently during your August 15 talk at the Aspen Institute, that the United States has no moral imperative to torture, would you support a criminal investigation into allegations that the Bush Administration sanctioned and perhaps even mandated the torture of terror suspects?  And if not, why?

Here’s another one:

As President, would you support the closing not only of Guantanamo, but also of the CIA’s “black sites” in Afghanistan and at least seven other countries?  And would you allow the Red Cross to interview the prisoners currently held in these facilities?

So here you go, mainstream media, your chance to show you have a backbone.

Come on, mainstream media!  You can do it!

Anyone?

Anyone?

Bueller?

Sigh.

| posted in foreign policy, media, politics, pop culture, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

10 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:02 pm

Controlympics: Pollyanna George


From Bob Costas’s interview with President Bush during NBC’s Olympics coverage tonight:

COSTAS: This past week, you restated America’s fundamental differences with China. But given China’s growing strength, and America’s own problems, realistically, how much leverage does the U.S. have here?

DUBYA: First of all, I don’t see America having problems. I see America as a nation that is a world leader that has got great values.

I’m speechless (wordless?  what is the blogging version of speechless?).  I thought he stopped drinking.  Maybe he’s high on vollyball babes.  I mean, Dude, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST SEVEN FREAKING YEARS?????  Just off the top of my head:

  1. We’ve lost our lead in manufacturing to China.
  2. We’ve mortgaged our economy to the Chinese and others.
  3. We now torture, contrary to everything we supposedly stand for.
  4. We now detain people indefinitely.
  5. We haven’t captured Osama bin Laden or other al Qaeda leaders.
  6. We’re mired in two wars, one of which is going badly and while the other is going better, we are spending billions of dollars a month to try to find a way out.
  7. Our two largest mortgage lenders are in deep trouble, and the USG probably is going to have to bail them out.  And thousands upon thousands of Americans are losing their homes.
  8. As many as a dozen of our elected and appointed officials (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Addington, Yoo, Cambone, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rice, Tenet just off the top of my head) may be indicted for war crimes after the Administration ends.
  9. The Katrina crisis demonstrated just how incompetent our government can be in the face of a massive human disaster.
  10. Guantanamo; Abu Ghraib; Bagram; secret sites in Eastern Europe.

Nope. No problems there.  I apologize Mr. President, you’re absolutely, completely, and irrevocably right insane.

| posted in foreign policy, media, politics | 0 Comments

2 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:29 am

The Mother of All Hungamas


My friend Nilay, who hails from Guwahati in the Assam province of India, taught me a great Hindi word:  hungama.  Think of it as a cross between a major kerfuffle and a holy mess.

RIght now, Pakistan has managed to put itself in the middle of one big honkin’ hungama, perhaps the largest ever recorded.  Via The New York Times:

American intelligence agencies have concluded that members of Pakistan’s powerful [Inter-Services Intelligence] service helped plan the deadly July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, according to United States government officials.

[I}ntercepted communications between [ISI] officers and militants who carried out the attack…[provide] the clearest evidence to date that Pakistani intelligence officers are actively undermining American efforts to combat militants in the region.

The American officials also said there was new information showing that members of the Pakistani intelligence service were increasingly providing militants with details about the American campaign against them, in some cases allowing militants to avoid American missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Concerns about the role played by Pakistani intelligence not only has strained relations between the United States and Pakistan, a longtime ally, but also has fanned tensions between Pakistan and its archrival, India.

[snip]

When asked Thursday about whether the ISI and Pakistani military remained loyal to the country’s civilian government, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the [U.S.] Joint Chiefs of Staff, sidestepped the question. “That’s probably something the government of Pakistan ought to speak to,” Admiral Mullen told reporters at the Pentagon.

Uh-oh.

If there’s one thing we don’t need right now, it’s a nuclear state deciding to commit an act of war on another nuclear state.  What the hell were these guys thinking?  “I’m bored.”  “Yeah, me too.”  Hey, I know what we can do.  Let’s turn South Asia into a big glass puddle!”

This could spin out of control faster than a tight-fitting sari on a Bollywood starlet.  The Indians are not going to be satisfied with false contrition and muttered apologies.

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

1 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:30 pm

Obama’s Next Commercial: Political Jujistsu


If I were Barack Obama, here’s what I would say in my next commercial.

Hi, I’m Barack Obama.

You’ve seen a lot of commercials from Senator John McCain, lately.  Without exception, they’ve been attacks on my character, not my positions.  I was disappointed that John chose this tack, especially given his repeated promise to run a positive, issues-based campaign.

If my opponent chooses to run nothing but negative ads, avoiding real debate on what matters to Americans, that is his prerogative.  It would be easy for me to respond with similar attacks.  But doing so not only would run counter to my principles, it also would continue the divisiveness and distrust that have dominated our political discourse for far too long.

This does not mean I will not continue to challenge his misstatements and distortions. I will not let stand his attempts to disparage my character or question my love for this country.  But I will not make similar attacks against him.  Like John, I promised to focus on issues rather than personalities.  Unlike John, I will keep that pledge.

Earlier this year, John challenged me to join him in a series of town hall meetings held all around this great country.  We were not able to make that happen, in large part because our campaign staffs focused on petty details rather the big picture.  I accept my share of the responsibility for that mistake.  I hope that my opponent will recognize his role as well.

Today, I accept his proposition:  ten town hall meetings, to be conducted after the conventions, without moderation of any kind.  I hope that we can hold a real debate on the things that matter to this country:  the state of our economy; the worsening situation in Afghanistan; energy security; global warming; and yes, how best to disengage from Iraq.

I place only one condition on my participation:  that Senator McCain stop his deliberately misleading attack ads.  Then, and only then can we stop playing games and start focusing on what really matters: returning this country to greatness and its people to prosperity.

My name is Barack Obama.  I hope that you will support me this November.  I approved this commercial.

I think this would put McCain on the defensive.  I think the frame would become McCain’s attacks rather than the content of those attacks.  And I think that ultimately McCain would refuse because he knows he can’t win on the issues.  And that would make future attacks less credible.

Perhaps more importantly, it would allow McCain a credible way to reclaim his soul from the Rovian vampires now running his campaign.  Of course, that’s assuming he wants that.

I recognize that there are risks for Obama here:  some commentators will suggest that he’s avoiding the charges that McCain has leveled.  But with his new website and ad, he’s already tried that, and it’s done little other than encourage the McCain team to keep attacking.

Obama has an opportunity to demonstrate that old-style attack politics don’t work anymore. Yes, some people won’t get it, and some will criticize a change in tactics no matter what he does.  But the upside to this bit of political jujitsu is so great that it’s worth that risk.

| posted in foreign policy, politics, world at home | 0 Comments

28 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:30 pm

Criminal Mastermind with a Fourth-Grade Education


No, I’m not talking about The Joker.

I’m not a big fan of what Rebecca McKinnon calls “parachute journalists” — reporters who spend a very limited time in a country and then write stories describing “ancient ethnic hatreds” and “the profound despair of local villagers,” as if they had spent the last thirty years living there.  It’s the war correspondent ethos run amok.

The latest is from Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald, who spent two whole days in Guantanamo covering the war crimes trial of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver.

That said, I did find one item in Rosenberg’s story interesting:

In the al Qaeda world of driver Salim Hamdan, exhortations to martyrdom and railing at the infidels can become mind-numbing.  Or so claimed several FBI agents who testified last week at the trial of Osama bin Laden’s driver, the Yemeni with a fourth-grade education. ”Mr. Hamdan pretty much got tired of hearing the same thing over and over again,” said FBI Agent George Crouch Jr. And so, he “tuned out.”

I haven’t seen this reported anywhere else, and it certainly makes sense.  If you’ve ever been in a car with a bunch of metalheads listening to Motörhead at maximum volume, sooner or later you’re going to start tuning out Lemmy, no matter how awesome a rock god he may be.

What isn’t clear from Rosenberg’s account is whether the FBI agents were testifying for the prosecution or the defense.  You’d think that would be an important detail, one worthy of putting in the freaking story.

But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Rosenberg’s story is its sheer banality.  She makes it sound no different from a visit to District Court — if a District Court sold “Got Freedom?” t-shirts** and kept bottled water in a portable mortuary.

This is the best the Bush Administration could do?  Set aside, just for a moment, the due process violations and the allegations of torture.  Assume, just for a moment, that the Bush Administration is right — that these guys deserve to have the book thrown at them.  I know that it’s hard to do without causing your brain to explode, but just for argument’s sake, go along with me for a minute.

So the trials start.  And who’s the first defendant?  Osama’s driver.  A guy with a fourth-grade education.  Do they think he’s Alfred to Osama’s Batman or something?  Or that he’s the criminal mastermind?  Seriously?  Maybe it would help if The Wall Street Murdoch Journal ran an op-ed called “What Hamdin and The Joker Have in Common.”

If the Allies had used the Bush Administration’s approach after World War II, they would have started with, I don’t know, Ezra Pound before they got around to prosecuting Goebbels, Speer, et. al.  That is if Pound was a retarded 19-year-old from West Virginia.

It just doesn’t make any sense.  But then again, you’d think I would have learned by now not to expect sanity, logic, or even consistency from the gang of thugs we call the Bush Administration.

**Shouldn’t the t-shirts read “Don’t Got Freedom”??  It is Guantanamo, after all.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, used under a GNU Free Documentation License.

| posted in foreign policy, media, pop culture, war & rumors of war, world at home | 0 Comments

28 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:30 am

Obama, Europe and Gallup: A Berlin Bounce?


I continue to be fascinated by this.  According to Gallup, Obama got almost no bounce from Iraq and Afghanistan, but does seem to be enjoying a not-insignificant bump from Berlin.

Here are Gallup’s own headlines from the last four days:

Read the rest of this entry »

| posted in foreign policy, politics, war & rumors of war, world at home | 0 Comments

27 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:00 pm

Hagel Defends Obama (Vandy Prize)


Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) isn’t happy with his old friend John McCain:

Sen. Chuck Hagel took on his old friend and fellow Vietnam veteran Sen. John McCain, criticizing McCain’s new TV ad attacking Sen. Barack Obama.

In the ad, the Republican presidential candidate complains about Obama’s recent decision not to visit U.S. troop hospital in Germany, saying, “Sen. Obama made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops.”

“I do not think that ad was appropriate,” Hagel said in an appearance on CBS-TVs “Face the Nation.” Obama’s staff was advised by the Pentagon about the military’s concerns with Obama bringing his political campaign to see soldiers there, his advisers have said.

It’s been two weeks since Steve Clemons reported that Hagel was going to endorse Obama, and it hasn’t happened yet.  That may be because Hagel doesn’t plan to, or it may be because Obama wanted to wait until after their trip.  Either way, having a man who once was a top pick for VP (albeit in 2000) now criticize him publicly must be driving McCain nuts.

Read the rest of this entry »

| posted in foreign policy, media, politics | 1 Comment

27 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:00 am

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me


The McCain campaign has no shame.  None at all.  This isn’t just beyond the pale, it’s political pornography.

What a lie-filled sack of hate.

Let’s count the lies, shall we?

  1. “He hadn’t been to Iraq in years.”  Notice the tense.  I guess the McCain campaign thinks people are so dumb that they won’t notice Obama JUST GOT BACK FROM IRAQ.
  2. “He voted against funding our troops.”  It is accurate to say that Obama voted against the bill cited in the ad.  But so did McCain.
  3. “And now he made time to go to the gym….”  The “gym” in question was in Afghanistan, and he didn’t work out — he shot baskets with our troops, who cheered him.  Just watch the video they play in the background.
  4. “…but canceled a visit with wounded troops.”  No, he was told by the Pentagon to stay away.
  5. “John McCain is always there for our troops.”  Except, of course, when it comes to bringing them home from Iraq.
  6. “McCain:  Country First.”  No, John McCain is putting himself first.  This is sick, nasty, filthy propaganda.  He has demonstrated that he is unworthy of the presidency.

This truly is sad.  I entered this race feeling like we had the chance to have a real debate on the issues featuring two men who historically had foresworn attack ads.  And now we have this.  It just makes me sick.

This isn’t partisanship.  It’s fear-mongering and hateful.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

22 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:00 pm

Obama Wins the Meme Wars


Three days into his much-ballyhooed trip (and with a huge assist from Nour al Maliki), it’s become clear that Obama has won the meme wars.  Take, for example, this photo, which ran all over the place:

Read the rest of this entry »

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

21 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:00 am

Diplospeak Translator: The Condi and Iraq


Time to roll out a new feature here at Undiplomatic:  the diplospeak translator.  The idea is to take statements by U.S. government officials and convert them into plain English.  Allow me to provide an example:

DIPLOMAT:  We had a free and frank discussion.

TRANSLATOR:  The meeting involved a lot of screaming.  Toward the end we started throwing chairs at one another.

Our first subject:  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, affectionately known around here as The Condi.

With Maliki-palooza breaking out this weekend, nobody seemed to notice that The Condi took time out from her busy golfing schedule Saturday to talk to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about her short game Iran and Iraq, among other issues.

Read the rest of this entry »

| posted in foreign policy, media, war & rumors of war | 1 Comment

  • Podcast Player

  • Podcast Feeds

    • View in iTunes
    • Any Podcatcher

  • Archive