Sunday, August 27, 2006

Smoking Crack in Iraq (Still)

I had to say one last thing about the Iraq situation before leaving on a short vacation.

Saturday, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki again called for an end to sectarian violence in that country. The same day, police found 20 bodies in various districts of Baghdad. Sunday, Reuters reports, a car bomb killed nine people in central Baghdad. This was after a car bomb attack on the offices of the government owned newspaper al-Sabah that killed two people.

All this occurred in the middle of a major security operation being conducted in Baghdad by U.S. and Iraqi troops.

Bombs also exploded on Sunday in the Iraqi towns of Khalis and Kirkuk.

In late June, Malaki proposed a 24 point national reconciliation plan that included an amnesty offer to insurgents who had not been involved in terrorist attacks. This was interpreted by many to mean that insurgents who had only fought U.S. and other coalition occupying forces would not be considered criminals. As of late August, according to Reuters, no major Sunni rebel group has signed on to the reconciliation plan.

Earlier this week, young Mister Bush said, “We’re not leaving [Iraq] so long as I’m the president. That would be a huge mistake.”

"Not leaving" is the closest thing Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their yes sir generals have come to expressing a coherent strategy in Iraq. Don't be taken in by talk that the administration just isn't good at explaining the strategy to the American people. The administration is good at explaining everything from ignoring treaties to justifying torture to ignoring the constitution to exposing the identity of a CIA agent to…

They can't explain the strategy for "victory" in Iraq because there isn't one.

Last October, I identified the top Ten Bad Reasons to Stay in Iraq. You still hear some of these bromides bouncing around the echo chamber, and they sound every bit as ridiculous as they did ten months ago.

But what we're hearing more and more lately is something I call the "testosterone challenge." If we leave Iraq now, we'll show that Americans are weak, don't have the stomach to do what needs to be done, are lacking in resolve. Lacking in resolve… Brother. I've said it before: getting in a bar fight over a girl you just met shows resolve. Waking up in jail with two missing teeth and three broken ribs shows how stupid you are. Going back to the same bar and getting in the same fight over the same girl is utter insanity.

What we're doing in Iraq right now is even worse than that. We're standing in the middle of somebody else's bar fight, and our political leaders are trying to convince us we're all a bunch of sissies if we don't stay in the middle of it.

Staying in Iraq won't prevent the country from falling into a civil war. It's already fallen into a civil war, one that's spiraling into near-total Hobbesian conflict (which we can't prevent either.) The war hawks warn us that if we leave Iraqi the chaos may spill out into the rest of the Gulf region, but our presence there certainly isn't preventing that from happening. We can't contain the violence within Iraq itself--if it spreads across the borders, there's nothing we'll be able to do about it.

So if we can't stop the violence inside Iraq and can't keep it from spreading, what are we doing? There is no military solution, and no amount of American "political will" can change that reality. What we need is the kind of political will it takes to say, "enough is enough."


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. Just some logics:

    If your president said:
    “We’re not leaving [Iraq] so long as I’m the president. That would be a huge mistake.”
    then just throw him out of office and get rid of Iraq.
    Is impeachment possible in America now? Maybe after November's mid-term elections?

  2. As much as I'd like to be, I can't get too enthusiastic over the prospects of impreachment.

    And, my word, who would that leave in charge?


  3. I'll miss your commentaries while you're gone, but I'm glad you can take some time away from the madness. To do otherwise is to court profound despair.

    As far as impeachments go - you can go quite a ways down the line of succession and not find a satisfactory candidate, but would we really be worse off? That said, isn't it sometimes necessary to act on principle, to demonstrate to other potential tyrants that we will not stand for such malfeasance(s)?

    Even if the only result of impeachment(s) is to raise our standing and credibility in the world, that could be of great value. I am personally ashamed of our country's world presence, and feel that to be a great loss. It does not enhance our national security in the least to act without an ethical base and to use our military strength to intimidate and yes, terrorize, those weaker than we are.

    When our leaders behave like the worst sort of imperialists, and speak of (and direct) crusades, and endeavor only to wield the biggest stick against all comers and picking fights on false pretenses, we the people are made to look like asses for letting them persist. That and our complicity in the crimes being committed in our names (and on our dime) should sicken all of us. Impeachment is the only remedy we have in our arsenal.

    Anyhow, we all do need a break now and then, because burnt out we are useless. Take care, Jeff, and do your best to leave all this behind for your short reprieve.

  4. I doubt there are sufficient grounds for impeachment, and I would really hate to see impeachment thrown around like a political football (i.e. you impeached our guy now we'll impeach yours). Granted the impeachment of Clinton was far more stupid than any impeachment of Bush would ever be, but I dislike the idea of the opposition turning to impeachment when they don't like what the President is doing. If Bush is impeached that is two in a row, it'll be entirely along partisan lines just like the impeachment of Clinton, and that alone tells me it is a bad idea. Forget impeachment. Let's just worry about getting a majority in Congress and then focus on 2008.

  5. A little more food for thought on the impeachment issue. Here are some factors to consider. None of them alone is dispositive, in my view, but taken as a whole it sets up a very good reason to be against impeachment:

    1. Any impeachment vote will be almost entirely (if not entirely) along partisan lines. That is not what an impeachment should be. That's partisan payback, not a legitimate act in my view.

    2. The President, I think, actually believes he has the authority to do the things he does. That doesn't count for a whole lot in and of itself, but:

    3. The President has opinions of two Attorneys General backing him up and telling him he has the authority, as well as the opinions of White House counsel. That gives his viewpoint added weight.

    4. Not only are his own attorneys and the Attorneys General supporting him (which one would expect) there are opinions of well-respected lawyers that back him up. Like it or not, some people who are very well-versed in the law think he has the authority. I disagree, and I know most people here do as well. At my firm, there are some noted attorneys who agree with Bush on this, and they aren't all Republicans. Makes for interesting debates.

    5. The law here is unsettled. Cases challenging Bush haven't been finally adjudicated. They're making their way up through the courts now.

    So, in my view, if you support impeachment you're supporting fully partisan impeachment of Presidents like we saw with Clinton (a complete farce) and you're saying that in areas of unsettled law the President does not have the ability to rely on the opinions of his own counsel and the Attorney General in determining the legality of actions. That's a big mistake, in my mind, and I think the consequences will be detrimental to the country.

    Most of the impeachment talk (not all, but a lot of it at any rate) is coming from the impeach-first crowd, who wanted to impeach Bush the day after he was first inaugurated. Remember those guys?

    It's a mistake, and hopefully one our Congress won't make unless something changes substantially.

  6. Kathleen,

    Yes, a week off is just what the head doctor ordered. Have you seen the Isikoff article on Armitage's role in the Plame case? How in the wide world of sports and arts is this just coming out now?

    I tend to lean toward Mus's views regarding impeachments. Everything Bush has done was covered by a legal opinion from Berto or Ashcroft or one of their boys. I'm sure that was a Cheney touch--remember who Cheney used to work for.

    Yeah, I know it's a dodge, and Mus doesn't like the analogy, but I liken it to being to get off anything by hiring a lawyer to tell you it's okay.

    "But your honor, my attorney said it was okay to drink and drive."

    Ah, well.

    Elections are coming, and things are likely to get wild and wooly after Labor Day.

    See you all then.


  7. I'm not sure impeachment is the right answer to a criminal administration either. But I'm very certain that George Bush knew that his attack against Iraq was a violation of the UN Charter and also actionable under the Treaty of Rome, which established the International Criminal Court. Anyone who doubts that should remember that one of the first things the Bushites did was press for a suspension of the US obligation to the Treaty as a signatory, using the specious argument that they had to protect the troops from retribution by other nations.

    I'm sure it was only coincidence that a group of criminals that refused to provide troops with adequate water, food, ammuntion, armor and effective plans was concerned about their vulnerability to trial as war criminals, don't you agree? And, of course, prior to Mr Bush's great moment in history four days after 9/11 they had announced that there could be only one Commander-in-Chief and that was Himself. Before that, military leaders in the various theaters were titled "C-inC." This was actually a clear statement, identifying Mr Bush as the supreme military head of the US armed forces. By this action, they were firmly establishing his authority (and hence culpability) as supreme head of the armed forces.

    Musmanno, when your colleagues argue that Mr Bush has the legal authority to do what he has done, ask them why there was a sudden push for revocation of the War Crimes Act of 1996.

    Regardless of the beliefs of observers, they knew they were guilty of de facto War Crimes. Doesn't criminal law distinguish between innocent acts and acts of intention? I would suggest that the very fact they are seeking repeal of this law indicates they know they're guilty pf criminal acts.

  8. 1. "The war hawks warn us that if we leave Iraqi the chaos may spill out into the rest of the Gulf region..." - those of us who are old enough to have participated in the SouthEAST Asia unpleasantness hear a familiar ring in that.
    2. Agree w/ Musmanno that a Bush impeachment would: a) do no real good and b) lower even further the opinion of the rest of the world towards our country.
    3. Jeff, enjoy the vacation. Look forward to your return.

  9. Jeff:

    I think your analogy to having a lawyer tell you something is ok is generally a good one, but I would distinguish between two situations: 1) cases where there is clear-cut law on the issue; and 2) cases where the law is open to reasonable interpretation and is unsettled.

    For example, if your lawyer tells you it is OK to murder someone, then that's not a shield for you. The law on murder is clear and no lawyer's opinion saying it is OK is going to change it.

    On the other hand, I do a lot of rendering legal opinions, and in my field the law is quite often subject to reasonable interpretation in one direction or another. If I give a client a legal opinion, supported by a reasonable analysis of the law, then my client gets the benefit of that opinion and is entitled to rely on it as a shield even if it turns out I was wrong (i.e. that a later court disagrees).

    So I agree with your analogy, subject to the two caveats above.

  10. Lurch:

    I don't think the article you posted demonstrates that they knew they were guilty of war crimes. I think Gonzales raises the issue, as he should if he's a competent attorney, then offers advice as to how to make sure they remain outside of the law (i.e. by declaring al qaeda prisoners exempt from the Geneva Conventions - a stance that is not entirely unsupported by the Conventions themselves). I doubt the admin thinks al qaeda fighters fall under the Conventions. As for repealing it, it looks more like they were worried about a future admin or Congress using it as a means of political payback than any real sense that they were in violation of it.

  11. Thanks for the opinion, Musmanno. Philosophically, I have no great problem with the consideration that aQ are not protected under the Geneva Conventions and associated protocols.

    But I do wonder about the 400-odd innocents released from Guantanamo within the last 3 months, don't you? Wouldn't it make better sense to firset determine whether a prisoner IS aQ before locking him away incommunicado for 4 or 5 years?

    (The above circumstance is one of the reasons why Bu$hCo is so frightened of being tried as war creimninals.)

    If you didn't like the MSNBC articloe, how about this one?

    Or this one:

    Suspected aQ prisoners may or may not be "stateless actors" but they are still human beings. By actively trying to become more savage than aQ we are seriously imperiling the moral standing of the US in the world community. We will be the bully everyone fears, and everyone tries to hurt. And, without any friends, the fall will be much more horrible.

    Just because a lawyer gives an "intellectual opinion" that a demonstrably illegal act is technically legal under special circumstances does not make it so. I wonder how AG Gonzalez would view matters if he were remanded to the Hague? Or better yet, to a CIA black prison in Jordan or Thailand.

    If you've ever had the occasion of talking with a scammer and, when questioning his methods be told, "Hey - it's legal" then I expect you understand what I'm talking about. There is technically legal and then there is morally and ethically correct.

  12. Lurch:

    I agree with you entirely, and the detention at Guantanamo Bay without charges being brought or any kind of due process (at least that I'm aware of) is insupportable. Should Bush be impeached over it? I have my doubts. The whole impeach-Bush move seems to me to be entirely too partisan, entirely too much of a way to get back for Clinton, and entirely too much based on an emotional, visceral hatred of Bush. I thought the hatred of Clinton by the Republicans was bad, and I think the same thing about he hatred of Bush. I don't care for it and I don't think it is necessary to political discourse. I certainly don't think it should rule policy.

    As for being 'technically' legal, I agree with you again. I conduct my life according to what is morally and ethically correct, not what is technically legal. That said, if I did do something that was morally wrong, but not technically illegal, I wouldn't expect to be charged with a crime (and in fact the government would have no business charging me with one).

    The standard of High Crimes and Misdemeanors sets a terribly high bar in my mind (and as you probably know the reference to misdemeanors doesn't refer to the common usage of that word today).

  13. Musmanno, it's comforting that everytime we have a discussion like this, you always ending up with my take on things.

    Take note, please: it has been carefully and extensively documented that


    He has even admitted on several occasions that he broke the law. What he did was morally and ethically wrong, and was, in fact a violation of Federal Statutes.

    So I would expect him to be charged, and tried.

    Now I agree the standard for High Crimes and Misdemeanors is quite high. Impossibly high in Mr Bush's case. I mean, really....

    Can you see him getting a blow job? I can't see him getting one in a Las Vegas cathouse with $100 bills sticking out of every pocket.

    So, impeachment, but no conviction.

  14. I don’t think it is fair or accurate to label those who support impeachment proceedings against Bush as being a partisan stance, or as taking revenge for Clinton’s impeachment trial (stupid and overreaching as it was).

    Speaking for myself and those with whom I have discussed this at length, there are plenty who support Bush’s impeachment based strictly upon cause: he has broken the law and has violated his oath of office and is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands, and the torture of untold numbers. My opinion of the man is irrelevant in the face of the evidence against him.

    And, are these fellows “partisans”?

    “[President Bush] presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law, [and if he] maintains this disregard or contempt for the coordinate branches of government, it’s that conception of an omnipotent presidency that makes the occupant a dangerous person.”
    - Bruce Fein, former associate deputy attorney general under Reagan, quoted by Lewis Lapham in Harper’s Magazine, March 2006.

    “I think that if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed.”
    - Norman Ornstein, scholar at the (conservative) American Enterprise Institute, quoted by Lewis Lapham in Harper’s Magazine, March 2006.

    Personally I think Bush and Cheney belong in the dock of the Hague, but as Americans, we're limited to impeachment as a course of remediation.

  15. Kathleen, I caertainly agree with you about the trial that is needed, but in honesty I can't see it happening, either in the Senate or in The Hague.

    One thing you misstated however. "...but as Americans, we're limited to impeachment as a course of remediation."

    Actually, if the government of the US was asked by the International Court to render them both for trial we would be faced with a political crisis that could possibly split the nation in two - literally. I can see the red states actually seceding.

    Now, as attractive as that might seem at first glance, you have to remember how visious and vitriolic these folks are. They'd immediately want to build a wall shutting us out, and the chaos would be incredible.

    Having said that, I think if the ICC asked a Democratic Admnistration and Congress......


  16. Lurch:

    Red state people aren't any more viscious or vitriolic than blue staters. I've lived plenty among both.

    As for the International Criminal Court, the U.S. should not turn its people over to any tribunal that doesn't guarantee the fundamental due process rights prescribed by our Constitution.


    As I said, not everyone who wants to impeach Bush is a 'partisan,' but the vast majority are, both among government officials and the public. In addition to the arguments I gave above, an impeachment would be a waste of time and resources, just like the Clinton impeachment was, although at least with Bush you have a stronger case for impeachment than with Clinton (but not strong enough I think). In addition to the quotes you posted, there are people with good credentials who side with Bush on the legality of what he does. That's my point about this being an unsettled area where interpretation varies widely. If we impeach a President because we can quote a handful of experts who think what they are doing is illegal, then we'll be able to make a case against every President, past and future. Heck, Lincoln acted in a way that was not only blatantly illegal but in direct defiance of a Supreme Court decision that SAID it was illegal. He wasn't removed from office by operation of law (though an assassin managed it).

  17. Anonymous2:43 PM

    Thought this was interesting. Typical response to those not down with the war.

  18. Rummy. I could just vomit.

  19. I can't believe Rumsfeld still holds his position. A reasonable President would have asked for his resignation long ago.

  20. Musmanno, I wonder whether you think we should impeach (or consider impeaching) a president who authorizes secret evidence presented to a court in the absence of the defendant?

    I don't want to appear confrontational, but I think at some point or other even YOUR levels of tolerance will be breached.

  21. Musmanno, a question. What exactly does "settled law" mean? I remember Roberts used the phrase in his confirmation hearings and you use it in your posts here. Does it mean a statute that's been upheld by a court? Thanks, Mike