Friday, September 23, 2011

The ISI and the Kabul Attacks

Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency communicated with Afghan insurgents who attacked the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in central Kabul last week and appear to have provided them with equipment, according to U.S. military officers and former officials.

Communications gear used by the insurgents "implicated" the directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, Pakistan's spy service, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday. The equipment was found in a 14-story building under construction that the attackers used to lay siege to the embassy compound for 19 hours on Sept. 13, according to the official, who would not describe the equipment recovered.Bruce Riedel, a former White House advisor on Pakistan and a retired senior CIA official, said administration officials told him that "very firm intelligence" linked the Pakistani spy agency to the embassy attack, which killed at least nine Afghans.

"There are [communications] intercepts and the attackers were in cellphone contact back to Pakistan," he said.

In a dramatic appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged that the insurgents had received "ISI support" not only for the attack on America's most prominent diplomatic and military symbols in the Afghan capital, but also for a massive truck bomb assault this month on a U.S. combat outpost in Wardak province west of Kabul that wounded 77 U.S. soldiers.

Pakistan's government angrily denied any involvement. But Mullen's comments are the most direct, and most explosive, accusations by a senior U.S. official of direct complicity by Pakistan's chief intelligence agency in attacks on American facilities and military personnel.
Not any sort of surprise that they would deny it. Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have been strained for a while, and this is likely to seal their fate.

It's almost certainly true, though, and it's difficult to say what it'll mean. Pakistan's a nuclear power, so any sort of direct action is impossible even if it weren't a bad idea, but the United States will have to do something to make it clear that the ISI cannot be allowed to continue supporting this sort of action.

What's likely, then, is that the American government will take this as a go-ahead for continued drone attacks in Pakistan on the Haqqani network that was behind this attack.  It keeps Americans out of harm's way, and they're insulated from Pakistani objections by the fact that the ISI is partially responsible for this in the first place. It won't solve the problem, but it's the only plausible action that presents itself.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Orwell on Unemployment

From Wigan Pier:
But there is no doubt about the deadening, debilitating effect of unemployment upon everybody, married or single, and upon men more than upon women. The best intellects will not stand up against it. Once or twice it has happened to me to meet unemployed men of genuine literary ability; there are others whom I haven’t met but whose work I occasionally see in the magazines. Now and again, at long intervals, these men will produce an article or a short story which is quite obviously better than most of the stuff that gets whooped up by the blurb-reviewers. Why, then, do they make so little use of their talents? They have all the leisure in the world; why don’t they sit down and write books? Because to write books you need not only comfort and solitude—and solitude is never easy to obtain in a working class home—you also need peace of mind. You can’t settle to anything, you can’t command the spirit of hope in which everything has got to be created, with that dull evil cloud of unemployment hanging over you.
Welcome to America's future, ladies and gentlemen. The longer this nonsense lasts, the worse it gets. And with the choice of a Democratic president that—according to Suskind's latest—doesn't understand the central importance of aggregate demand on the economy vs. a Republican opposition that devoutly wishes that the long-term unemployed would just crawl into a hole and die quietly, it's likely to be getting worse for a good long time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Krauthammer's Tiger Rock

All these years, and Charles Krauthammer is still insisting that the lack of a second AQ attack proved that the War on Terror worked.

Of course, you could just as plausibly argue for the release of Alice Cooper's Dragontown  as the reason why there was no second attack.

What's really funny is that he's pretending that two "hot wars" in the War on Terror didn't cost a truckload of money because it was only a little more than a trillion dollars. Apparently a fair percentage of THE YEARLY DOMESTIC PRODUCT OF THE UNITED STATES isn't a big deal to him.

"Entitlements" are a big deal to him. Of course. They usually are to wealthy apologists for the ultra-rich, especially ones like Krauthammer that haven't the faintest clue how any of this works, and are just mouthing the words they're told to say by their handlers and sponsors. Social Security and Medicare, unlike the botched conflicts that he advocates and apologizes for, actually help people. Krauthammer wouldn't know what "helping people" was like if you gave him diagrams.

It isn't as bad as the spectacle of a Bush-admin neoconservative trying to take credit for the Arab Spring, like Michael Gerson. That goes beyond wrong to simply nauseating. But it still shows us exactly why America is in the fix it is: because people like this are given newspaper columns, fame, and power... instead of people with ideas, insights, track records and a positive outlook.

One of the lessons of the last decade is really simple: never trust neoconservatives. They cannot govern countries, they cannot fight wars, they cannot budget responsibly, and they cannot be trusted to provide advice about anything.   Mock them, deride them, and dismiss them if you want...just never, ever trust them. Their ideas are poison and their doctrines corrupt.

They were wrong. They were ALWAYS wrong. They always will be.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

So. It's the 9/11/2001 Anniversary. It's really bad now. There's still hope.

Ten years.  It's been ten years since Osama Bin Laden's people attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Ten years since the United States discovered that it was vulnerable. I don't think America has gotten over that, not really. As was constantly pointed out at the time, America hadn't had a real attack on mainland soil since the Civil War. Nobody knew what to expect. Nobody knew how they'd react. They found out.  It was shock, horror, dread, and confusion. There was also a bit of disbelief.  Everybody—including myself—felt like it was something out of a movie. It wasn't real. Things like that don't happen for real.

Ten years since America went slightly mad. No, really. How else can you explain the "War on Terror"? It was always a bad idea. It was always somewhat incoherent. It's pretty much over now, and the consensus is that it was never properly thought out or worked that well.  Attacking Afghanistan robbed Al Qaeda of their home base, but botching the occupation gave Al Qaeda's Taliban allies renewed strength, and the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban was a big issue for years; quite rightly, as it turns out, since Osama was hiding out in Pakistan. It wasn't until the War on Terror ended that 9/11's chief architect was found and killed. If anything repudiates it, that would.  Well, anything except IRAQ.

It's been ten years since a group of mad delusional idiots that call themselves "neoconservatives"—a group that's always been obsessed with Iraq—seized control of the levers of American foreign and defense policy, and proceded to drive it into the ground. Almost all the goodwill that America received after the attack was burned away by these fools and their obsession with Iraqi conquest. Almost all the advantages gained in bloody Afghanistan combat were bled away by the Iraq misadventure, and pretty much every ally of note that helped America in Afghanistan walked away in shock and disgust. Almost all of America's credibility as an international voice, as an exemplar, and as a friend to democracy ended thanks to the neoconservatives' Iraq adventure.

The worst thing about it isn't even the invasion, not really. The worst part was the botched occupation. America treated its Iraqi subjects terribly, inflicting the worst sort of horrible right-wing bullshit on them at the hands of the worst sort of Republican apparatchiks. One need only read Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City to see just how badly the "Green Zone" was run, and how ruinous the Republicans have been.

And, yes, it's been ten years since the foundations were set for the current economic crisis. Sure, the regulatory changes that opened the door for the excesses of Wall Street were made back in the 1990s. But absent all this adventurism, America's fiscal situation would be very, very different, and the Republicans wouldn't have been able to wave the flag in order to silence critics of their broken, oligarchic economic policy. Hell, Bush would have probably have been kicked out of the White House in short order. What a better world it would be.

He should have been kicked out. All this happened on HIS watch. There's more than enough evidence that the ideological fervor of his administration helped blind them to the threat posed by Al Qaeda. Republicans are very good, though, at making people think that they're good at both economics and security when they're utterly terrible at anything but punishing the poor and striking macho poses.  They didn't deserve it, but they got it anyway.

So, ten years later, how is America? America is broke. America is dispirited. America's workers are unemployed, underemployed, or massively overworked. America had to win its "war" only by giving up the idea that it's a "war" at all. America's poor leadership and deluded right-wing economists helped drag down the entire world, to the point of threatening the very existence of the European project.  America's corporations and a tiny ultra-rich minority are doing quite nicely, but nobody else is; America's sinking into the sort of inequality and oligarchy that's normally associated with third-world dictatorships.

Worst of all, ten years later, America's governing plutocrats still won't even pay all of the medical bills of the brave men and women that risked their lives helping people to survive this horrible attack.

Yet there is hope. This has been a terrible decade,  but there is still hope. I still remember how people drew together after the attack. I remember people lining up to give blood to any survivors. I remember the strong national resolve to keep going, and to show that people would not be intimidated by extremist thugs, no matter how they dress. I still remember the times when Americans came together—most recently back in 2008—to say that they wanted a better country. I remember how people bust their asses to try to improve their life and station, and still believe in the American dream of prosperity despite every single piece of evidence in the world telling them otherwise.

Americans should remember that the solution to the current malaise isn't difficult.  Despite the anti-worker rhetoric, it isn't about Americans being lazy or stupid or unskilled. The current recession and stagnation is just the side-effect of a lack of aggregate demand. That's it. It's eminently fixable, too. If Americans come together to rebuild and and improve the infrastructure that lies at the foundation of their economy; if they help their friends, relatives, and neighbours that are currently unemployed; and if they realize that AMERICAN CITIZENS ARE THE JOB-CREATORS, not the plutocrats that have been mismanaging their money, they can bring their country back.

It'll mean that some Americans will need to set aside certain assumptions. "Conservative" doesn't mean "prudent". A government's finances are not that of a household. "Belt-tightening" is not the way to fix an economy. "Stimulus" doesn't mean bank bailouts. You should identify with your fellow citizens, instead of the wealthy plutocrats that are sucking the country dry and sending the wealth offshore. Privacy and civil rights aren't negotiable, no matter how many times someone says the word "War". And, for the love of God, everybody needs to remember that Republican ideologues are terrible at governing and always will be. 

If that can happen, though, then America can move forward. Americans can look back on this horrible past decade as a cautionary tale, and teach their children the lessons they need to learn so that it never, ever happens again. EVER.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Chait's Comedy Gold

So, yeah, Jonathan Chait wrote a howler in the New York Times, where he brought the rank rightish apologias of the National ReviewNew Republic to the Times. It's a typical Chaitesque piece where he talks about how horrible the "Left" is and how they're all delusional and about how everybody that "mattered" thought that Obama's stimulus was huuuuge.

(Yep. That's right. To Chait, Paul Krugman doesn't matter.) The funniest bit, though, comes later. It isn't the bit where he studiously ignores everything that Bush succeeded in pushing through Congress to focus on Social Security, the one bit where he didn't. It wasn't even the bit where he treated Colin Freakin' Powell as some sort of nonpartisan barometer of opinion, when he was one of Bush's Cabinet members. No, the funniest bit has to be the part where he says "In the position of choosing between the agenda he came into office hoping to enact and the short-term imperative of economic rescue, he picked the former."

You may ask "When the hell did he do that? He didn't succeed in winning any Republicans over for health care, and every other significant bit of his agenda either didn't pass or was so watered down as to be unrecognizable." And that's just it: he doesn't say. He did mention cap-and-trade and financial reform, but both are examples that liberals are right about this: his "capital banking" was absolutely useless and unnecessary, because it didn't buy him a damned thing when it came to the point when he started trying to actually pass his agenda. Never mind the Republicans; even his own party members treated him like a supplicant, instead of the leader of their party and the damned President of the United States.

Bush was never, ever treated that way by Republicans, even when they disagreed with him. They weren't that dumb. Tthey knew very well that Bush's people would PUNISH them if they fell out of line. DINOs never had to worry about that. Why would they? The only people that Obama ever punished were the very progressives that Chait so thoroughly and utterly despises.  So the DINOs stomped all over this "agenda", again and again and again, with progressives getting more and more convinced that Obama was either powerless or a closet Republican. Progressives feel that they've been had. Progressives know that they've been had.

It's funny, yes, but it's also somewhat sad.  This isn't the only misrepresentation of progressives' criticism. The whole article is absolutely littered with them. It's a stack of strawmen built so high that satellites may crash into the top layer. Yet I can't help but think that these cartoonish versions of progressives are how Chait actually views us. Everything he writes just reconfirms it, including his submission to the biggest newspaper in America.

I wonder whether it's even his fault. When Washington is so thoroughly, utterly hostile to progressives, when it's a town so thoroughly dominated by the Republicans and their conservative-movement owners, how could he possibly resist it? He probably never even meets progressives. I suspect that, at this point, he just knows us from the stereotypes that he inherits from the Republicans and DINOs around him.

So we get articles like this, where he knocks down strawmen and hopes that nobody notices. It'd be funny...if it weren't so sad.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Happy Labor Day

With any luck, more people will be able to call themselves laborers by this time next year.