Science, the White House, Iraq, and Iran

By Phil Plait | August 15, 2007 2:30 pm

There are so many ways history will remember this White House: the shameful lies, the egregious politics, the elevation of party and greed over country, liberty, and freedom.

I know that along with many others I carry the banner about White House suppression of science, and I know it’s a very important issue, but I’m not a fool; I know that in the long run, that won’t be on the list of the worst things the Bush Administration has done. That is, of course, unless their stance on global warming kills everyone, and/or winds up costing us (and by us, I mean all humans) trillions of dollars. Which it very well might.

Whenever this Administration says anything that even marginally intersects a science issue, I wonder where the lying will begin. This is not mere cynicism; it is based on long experience and observation. Stem cell research, global warming, the EPA, endangered species, the Plan B pill — these have all been spun, folded, and manipulated to fit the Bush Administration’s preconceived politics, as opposed to reality.

And again, it’s possible that in the long run these issues will be smoothed over, or eclipsed by much greater issues.

Like Iraq. I haven’t said much on this blog about the war (except for hammering home that in money alone it costs $11,000,000 every hour of every day), because so many others already do. But then I find out something so incredible I can hardly believe it… until I remember what this White House is capable of.

We are currently "surging" in Iraq, dumping tens of thousands more soldiers into the Viet Nam-esque quagmire in the hope that something good will come of it. The idea was that it would be given a few months to run its course, and then a non-partisan general (General Petraeus) would give an overview of the surge to Congress and the President. The decision to continue or pull out would be based on the general’s report.

Now comes the news — are you ready for this? — that the report will be written by the White House:

Despite Bush’s repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

Hey, how does that make you feel? Warm and squishy inside, knowing how loyal to the truth the Bush White House is? No? Then this will make you feel even better:

And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report’s data.

So the White House will take the general’s report, write it up themselves, present it to Congress, and then, in the end, it’s the White House that will decide how to act on it.

Do you hear that muffled screaming? It’s George Orwell yelling, "I told you so!"

And for those of you who will no doubt poopoo this and try to minimize it, try this New York Times article on for size:

The Bush administration is preparing to declare that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization, senior administration officials said Tuesday.

If imposed, the declaration would signal a more confrontational turn in the administration’s approach to Iran and would be the first time that the United States has added the armed forces of any sovereign government to its list of terrorist organizations.

We went to war in Iraq over a series of lies. We knew there were no WMD’s; inspections for a decade made that clear. We knew Saddam Hussein was not a clear and present danger to the US. We knew there was no connection between Al Quaeda (remember them?) and Iraq. And it obviously wasn’t to free the Iraqi people, because more nations have more suppressed populations, and have it much worse than Iraq.

Now we’re seeing the buildup to Iran.

The press is already calling Bush a lame duck, and that assertion is clearly ridiculous. With over a year left in office, what more disasters are we careening toward?

I know that the crushing suppression of science imposed by the White House is putting a metaphorical gun to the head of our children, but it’s becoming very, very clear that in other issues, that gun is not metaphorical at all.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics

Comments (174)

  1. aiabx

    I am removing BA from my bookmarks
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    .
    .
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    .
    and putting it in my Bookmark Toolbar folder to get to it even faster.

  2. There are so many ways history will remember this White House: the shameful lies, the egregious politics, the elevation of party and greed over country, liberty, and freedom.

    I’m more than a little worried that President Giuliani will make GWB look like a good president. But I’m rather pessimistic in that regard…

  3. When Bush was elected the first time there was so much controversy that I wondered whether he would live through his first term. These days I wonder if I will live through his second.

  4. Bill Bones

    Oh, Dr. Plait, don’t you have a telescope to look through instead of look at reality with your own eyes and make judgements as if you were not a scientist but a real human being with a variety of interests?

    Seriously… don’t recall who it was, but said that “You can count on that American always do the right thing… eventually”. The next 15 months look like a very, very distant “eventually”.

    Makes wonder what’s a more reality based assesment: either to think “what will happen if something happens before next elections”, or “what will happen when something happens before next election”…

  5. Cameron

    Anyone here read Animal Farm? We seem to be sleeping in beds without sheets now…(Look it up. It’s in there)

  6. Bill Bones

    The first paragraph above had a “irony on” and “irony off” tags… which went missing.

  7. DennyMo

    “We went to war in Iraq over a series of lies. We knew there were no WMD’s; inspections for a decade made that clear. We knew Saddam Hussein was not a clear and present danger to the US. We knew there was no connection between Al Quaeda (remember them?) and Iraq. And it obviously wasn’t to free the Iraqi people, because more nations have more suppressed populations, and have it much worse than Iraq.”

    All right then, if all the published reasons for going into Iraq were lies (and I’m not yielding that point, by the way), what do you propose WERE the real reasons?

  8. Really, I’m adding BA to my bookmarks – I’ve been constantly impressed by your taking the time to point out errors, facts, and cool stuff and this post, while off topic (to a degree) was well written and to the point and maybe serves as a reminder that the World is sometimes bigger than Universe.

    ~Allison

  9. DrFlimmer

    The real reasons? Better we do not think about it. I guess it was revenge for Bush Sr. and the oil… but I am just guessing!

    And I am also guessing that if America will go into the Iran… 9-11 was nothing against what will happen then. There are many ways to make enemys. This is one!

  10. From where I stand, tucked away safely in the North European Finland, I like the way Bush takes the US budget – to the dump. Now, hoping that the weapons factories plant their money overseas, the market will crash and inflation occurs. Even though the global markets get affected as well, there might be a time when I can buy lots of cheap stuff from Amazon!

    Hooray!

  11. Rebecca Davis

    If Iraq had no WMDs, then what did Saddam use against the Kurds? And, did he use all of it against the Kurds? Or, was that an accident or an epidemic?

  12. Brian

    “…in the long run, [suppression of science] won’t be on the list of the worst things the Bush Administration has done.”

    Actually, it may very well be. In a hundred years, say, people will judge our generation in terms of how we affected their lives. I doubt that they’ll care so much about our wars, any more than most of us care about the Peloponnesian War. But if we (and contiguous generations) have screwed up the ecology of their world, they will wish that we hadn’t.

  13. DrFlimmer

    Sorry, for double-post, but

    @Allison

    if more people would sometimes think about how unimportant and extreamly small the earth is compared with the universe, I guess we would do much better!

    Go out at night, watch the stars and then realise that the place where you must live (we do not have another one!) is so small and vulnerable. Maybe that’s a start to protect it in any way.

  14. Dan

    Well, Rebecca, no one’s doubting that Saddam had these WMDs twenty freakin’ YEARS ago. In fact, we know he had them because WE sold them to him. He probably even kept the receipts.

    So, I suppose, if we use your logic, let’s take that time you bought a Pinto back in the 70’s, okay? (If you didn’t let’s just pretend).

    Now, where is that Pinto? Why isn’t it in your garage? Did you hide it in your neighbor’s garage (and this is the neighbor who hates you)? Obviously, you must have that Pinto somewhere. It’s probably hiding next to that bottle of milk you bought in 1982.

  15. If Iraq had no WMDs, then what did Saddam use against the Kurds? And, did he use all of it against the Kurds?

    *facepalm*

  16. Christian Burnham
  17. Dan

    facticianon 15 Aug 2007 at 3:31 pm

    *facepalm*

    Mind-numbing, isn’t it? It’s baffling that people still try to justify this war.

  18. Chip

    Phil – That is one for the best, most succinct summations of what’s going on in Washington today I have read. Thank you.

    Oh America, where art thou?

  19. Chip

    Rebecca Davis wrote: “If Iraq had no WMDs, then what did Saddam use against the Kurds? And, did he use all of it against the Kurds? Or, was that an accident or an epidemic?”

    Saddam gassed innocent Kurds and Iranian soldiers during his war with Iran with bis-(2-chlorethyl)-sulfide, also known as mustard gas, and ethyl N, dimethylphosphoroamidocyanidate, a nerve agent known as Tabun. Donald Rumsfeld visited Saddam in 1984 as an envoy to restore diplomatic relations and Iraq purchased US made helicopters from which the gas was dropped.

  20. Ken G

    Thank you for that entry Phil, although it clearly has nothing to do with astronomy or science, really, the fact is we all have to take a stand somewhere, in whatever forums we find to do so. We all know the cost of remaining silent, or we simply have our heads in the sand. Arabian sand, it would seem.

  21. Paul S

    ” …. the shameful lies, the egregious politics, the elevation of party and greed over country, liberty, and freedom.”

    To one degree or another, that could describe every presidential administration and congress in the history of the United States, not to mention every government that has ever existed in the history of the human race. Also, most politicians will automatically put party and selfish interests over the interests of the country because they believe that the interests of their party and their supporters are IDENTICAL to the interests of the country. This is true not just of politicians, but of all people with political opinions. It is true of Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals and people of every ideological and political viewpoint whatsoever. EVERYONE assumes to one degree or another that their way is best for the country and society as a whole. It’s hardly a surprise to see that elected politicians seek to run things in accord with their ideological beliefs and the interests of those who voted for them and supported their campaigns financially.

    I’m no great fan of George W. Bush, but I think all of the talk about his administration being a permanent disaster for the United States and the world is a bit over the top. Every great country can survive poor leadership – in fact, I think the mark of a great country is that it can usually recover from poor leadership.

    As for how Bush will be regarded in the future, I think that nobody can really say one way or another. When he resigned, Nixon was considered by the majority of the American public to be a disaster, probably the worst president that the United States ever had. Some people still think that way, but in hindsight many people judge Nixon less harshly and take a more positive view of his administration. For all we know, this could happen with Bush as well. Who knows, if the push for a return to the moon that the Bush administration made ultimately leads to a permanent human presence on the moon, and other places, then in 100 years Bush might be considered the forefather of solar system colonization while the Iraq War will be regarded as a historical footnote. This might not be the most likely outcome, and it sounds ridiculous now, but I still maintain that it is somewhere between extremely difficult and nearly impossible to predict accurately how people of the future will view leading figures of the present day.

  22. Kullat Nunu

    If Iraq had no WMDs, then what did Saddam use against the Kurds? And, did he use all of it against the Kurds? Or, was that an accident or an epidemic?

    Right, Iraq did have plenty of chemical weapons. After the first Gulf War, remaining WMDs were destroyed. The inspectors obviously did their job very well. It’s a bit surprising that *nothing* was actually found. Even if there were, they would have become useless over the decade.

    The real reasons? Better we do not think about it. I guess it was revenge for Bush Sr. and the oil… but I am just guessing!

    Oil: keeping Iraqi oil from market rises the price of oil which makes certain people happy. Also, the neocons (the people behind this war) believe that by having a heavy military presence in the Middle East America has the control over other oil-hungry regions like Europe and China which are more dependent on the Middle Eastern oil than the US. Of course, eventual selling of Iraqi oil guarantees the revenues go to oil companies (the extremely pro-foreign oil company law that is yet to be ratified by the Iraqi parliament).

    Weapons industry is booming like never before, and so do “security firms” (i.e. mercenaries, whose number is greater than US soldiers), and construction firms have very lucrative deals. One massive military base costs several billions to build

    Oil + bases mean the US is to stay in Iraq for decades. No major presidential candidate is asking for a complete withdrawal.

    Revenge? Perhaps. Anyway, Bush Jr. has shown that he likes to act exactly opposite to his father (who was much more careful and didn’t want to overthrow Saddam).

    Israel lobby has very strong influence in Washington which is clearly visible in the presidential candidates’ speeches. AIPAC and other lobbies represent the right-wing Israeli opinion and are often much more hard-liner than average Israelis.

    Some evangelical churches that form the base of Bush supporters no doubt advocated a war against an Islamic country that was seen a threat to Israel.

    I don’t think the situation in Iraq will much improve after Bush. After all, it was already abysmal during his predecessor–Clinton bombed Iraq regularly resulting in thousands of casualties. The incredibly strict economical sanctions were far worser still. The country’s basic infrastructure was pretty much destroyed during the Gulf War and the sanctions guaranteed that no real reconstruction was possible. That led to sanitation problems and lack of proper medicine among others. As the result, perhaps a million people lost their lives (among them some 550,000 children).

    As crazy as it feels, it looks like GWB has only now overtook Clinton in the number of deaths. If the Lancelet survey was accurate (650,000 dead by summer 2005) and the rate of deaths has been constant (most likely it has risen, as the number of attacks have increased) the number is over a million. These are incredible numbers.

  23. I like how if you oppose Republican idiocy, you’re automatically a Liberal.

  24. Brian

    Christopher: There are VERY intelligent people who very much support the US intervention in Iraq…

    Intelligence is not the only relevant trait. What was Torquemada’s IQ? Does anybody care? Compassion and cruelty, indifference to and respect for the value of human life, these qualities have very little correlation to intelligence.

  25. Changcho

    Great article, B.A.! As for Christopher’s comments, ah, well, there will always be people who defend the undefensible…

  26. Kullat Nunu

    Perhaps it is wrong to fear that there will be a war against Iran–it may have already started. Seymour Hersh reported already in 2005 that there may be special US forces operating inside Iran (Mr. Hersh was the first to report about the torture in Abu Ghraib prison). It is also told that the CIA secretly supports minority anti-Iranian government guerrillas/terrorists groups.

    Funnily, first Saddam was accused of having incredibly advanced WMD programs, and now it is claimed that Iraqis can’t build even IEDs. The “Iranian-manufactured” IEDs are indeed build in Iraq. US soldiers uncovered one IED factory south of Baghdad. Curiously, it didn’t get much publicity. The Washington Times actually censored that part from the Reuters news piece.

    Iran’s nuclear program? According to the Non-Proliferation Treaty guarantees every country the inalienable right to develop nuclear technology for a civilian use. The IAEA inspectors haven’t found anything fishy and Iran has been very co-operative. Any claim that they’re currently developing nuclear weapons are baseless. In fact, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei¹, has denounced nuclear weapons as against Islam. It is hard to believe that a religious figure of his position could lie in a such matter without losing his credibility.

    ¹ Yes, he is the highest authority in Iran. The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn’t control the nuclear program or military. He can tell nasty things about the USA and Israel, but he has not much actual power. Interestingly, he is much less popular in Iran than GWB in the US which is quite an achievement.

    The recent condemnation of Iran by the US Congress could be seen almost as a declaration of war. It was very accusatory and there is not a shred of evidence that Iranians have actually involved in the killing of US soldiers. In fact, US presence in Iraq may be beneficial to Iran since the most pro-Iranian groups sit in the Iraqi government (the prime minister’s Dawa party was formed in Iran, and so was SIIC, previously SCIRI by no other than Ayatollah Khomeini). If the US troops leave, they would have a hard time against nationalist anti-Iranian groups like Sunnis and Sadrists (yes, Moqtada al-Sadr is a nationalist and anti-Iranian; funny how media spins the facts).

    If the United States attack to Iran, the effects will be dire even if the attack is only limited):
    * Firstly, Iran can easily disturb distribution of oil by closing the Hormuz strait; oil prices would skyrocket and that would have global consequences.
    * Secondly, US troops in Baghdad are dependent of supplies that are transported from Kuwait; if Iran is attacked, the southern Shi’ite regions could rise against the US troops and block the shipments. Troops in Baghdad and surrounding areas are already underequipped.
    * Thirdly, a yet another attack against a Muslim country (after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia) hardly improves the relationship between the US and the Islamic World. The number of potential terrorists could multiply as it did after the invasion of Iraq.
    * Fourthly, secularism and democracy are considered as Western values in the Islamic World. Genuine nationalistic pro-democracy activism could be regarded as American influence which could lead to further repression and civil right abuse in the Middle Eastern countries that already have really poor civil right records.
    * Fifthly, an attack on Iran could destabilize Pakistan which could lead to a fundamentalist regime. Imagine a Taleban-style government equipped with nuclear weapons…

    If Bush doesn’t attack Iran, the future still looks bleak based on the comments of all major presidential candidates. There is obviously a lot of though talk, but speaking of nuclear weapons as an offensive weapon against a non-nuclear armed country is incredibly irresponsible and dangerous. A nuclear attack in Iran would lead to a nuclear proliferation the world has never seen.

  27. Well, take heart. A major offensive is in the works in the Tora Bora region. Osama bin Laden will be captured, tried, and executed just in time for the 2008 elections – and Karl Rove will be sure to set up the photo opportunity with Giuliani standing next to bin Laden’s dangling corpse.

    I’ve always said that history will hold less scorn for the Current Occupant and what he’s done to our country than it will for the New Silent Generation that let him do it.

  28. MadProphet

    At what point do you Americans say “Enough! We move on Washington and drag the administration into the streets!” ?

    You realize the rest of the world laughs (and is terrified at the same time) at the current condition of American politics.

    Only in the U.S. does someone who lies about oral sex with an intern gets impeached, but someone who lies about a war gets re-elected.

    Now that I have blown off some steam, I would like to state that from what I have read here, the vast majority of the posters here are intelligent, well-read, and reasonable. (The antithesis of what the Bush administration caters to).

    So the question I am really posing is how many are there like you in the U.S.? Are there enough of you to actually revolt and pull down this administration before they attack Iran, and start potentially WWIII?
    Because attacking Iran will create a polarization and uniting of the Arab world beyond the concept of any neocon. Maybe that is a poor way to make the statement. How about ” will lead to a polarization and uniting of the Arab world beyond the wildest dreams of any neocon”.

  29. lib_eater

    Why haven’t you libs moved to Canada like you promised you would?

    Bush’s foreign policy is top notch….a strong offense is the BEST defense

    Stop whining

  30. Where is Dr. Santy when you need her?

  31. Frank Ch. Eigler

    Christopher makes me proud to have Christopher as my middle name.

  32. DenverAstro

    I have more to say on this subject than I have time to type it all out. I have been paying very close attention to this administration for many years now. Phil’s post is right on the money and is a very intelligent summing up of the situation. If any of you want a more in depth look at this would-be Napoleon sitting on his fat ass in the White House, read a book called, “Fraud”, by Paul Waldman. You can buy it at Amazon. I read this several times in the last few years and am appalled by the ability of his political machine to tell bald faced lies to the American people while doing the exact opposite. I can’t go into this without writing a huge post here so I can only suggest in the strongest way to please take the time to read Waldman’s book. You simply won’t believe it. His research is all well documented in the book so you can check it all out for yourselves if you like. I did…

  33. George E. Martin

    A few hours ago, Brian said:

    “I doubt that they’ll care so much about our wars, any more than most of us care about the Peloponnesian War.”

    Strangely sometimes, when I think about George W’s Iraq adventure, the Peloponnesian War comes to mind. Many years ago when I was taking an ancient history course, I either read or heard someone say that the Peloponnesian War was a war that Athens did not have to fight and it was a war that Athens did not have to lose..

    In my dark moments I sometimes wonder if in the future people will be saying the same thing about the U.S. invading Iraq.

  34. Frank R

    BA, you have said in the past that this is your blog and you will write what you want and not limit it to astronomy which is your right, but my gosh you are driving me away with your anti-Bush rhetoric. A beautiful post about Mira is follwed by a rant that sounds like something heard on Air America. Maybe you could just do an astronomy/science blog and then a seperate politics blog so I could just avoid your political rants.

  35. Brian

    Frank R,

    I also loved the Mira post, and I like this one because I agree with enough of the points BA makes in it. Some of his other posts I don’t like for whatever combination of reasons, so I just skip them. I’d say just pick and choose what you want to read here, just as you would with a newspaper or a magazine. I think we’re hooked here because his astronomy posts are just soooooooooo good.

  36. BaldApe

    DennyMo said:
    “All right then, if all the published reasons for going into Iraq were lies (and I’m not yielding that point, by the way), what do you propose WERE the real reasons?”

    The real reason was actually uttered by Dubya in one of his rare truthful moments: “He tried to shoot my daddy.”

    And if we get a President Giuliani, it’ll be “He blew up my office building.” Of course, like Bush, it’ll be the wrong “he.”

    On global warming, BTW, wouldn’t you love to see a debate over whether federal flood insurance should cover losses due to sea level changes? Seriously, I’m afraid that some relatively quick (decades) changes in Antarctica and Greenland will render some very expensive real estate total losses. Check the elevation of most of the Southern end of Manhattan Island.

  37. I think Christopher has it.

    Be careful of the “911 Truthers”. I now regard them almost in the same group as Moon Hoaxers. Their arguments are seductive and hypnotic. You only have to listen to someone like Phil Hendrie to realise the quagmire you can end up in listening to these people. He has in me in hysterics. I wonder if it’s about time a lot of people grew up very fast. This ridiculous polarisation of the issues where you’re either “for peace or for war”. Politics is by it’s very nature a brutal business. Claims rise and fall like Scientific theories in some ways. I see many of the Anti War people shouting “conspiracy” and “lying”, when maybe it’s their thinking that has failed. We need people who can apply new ways of dealing with international crisis. We are still resorting to 20th Century approaches.

    MouseOnMars

  38. Brian

    Christopher: But incompetence is NOT lying…and yes there is a PROFOUND diffference.

    Ah, yes. As Kenneth Starr once intoned to Barbara Walters, “You don’t lie – ever, ever, ever, ever.”

  39. Ibrahim

    I just in the Middle East for two months (the UAE and Jordan) I found it interesting running into Iraqi refugees at every turn, especially in Jordan, which shares a border.

    People can say what they like to support the war, but there is a certainty over there that the US will abandon Iraq. For the Iraqi refugees I talked to and others in the Middle East the only question is: “When?”

    King Abdullah of Jordan is shrewdly (if unrealistically) trying to secure civilian nuclear power since he apparently feels that he cannot depend on the fuel pipelines that come almost exclusively from Iraq. I remember being in the middle of metropolitan Amman last year when there was a massive blackout for several hours due to the blockage of a single gas pipeline.

    The UAE gave indefinite visa extensions to Iraqis with legal status the moment the US went in, and has yet to rescind it.

    The reason other Arab nations are skeptical of any claims of progress in Iraq is simple history. The region has seen religiously motivated civil wars before in areas like Lebanon, where the factions fought until there was no longer any energy among the populace to continue the conflict.

    I also simply can’t believe that Iran would try to undermine any attempt at a stable Shii’a majority government. Not because they’re saints, but because such a government would inevitably be at least semi-friendly. It simply makes no logical sense for Iran to do so. The Turks, the Syrians, the GCC countries, and Israelis have a hundred more reasons to avoid a “Stable United Iraq”(TM).

  40. Brian

    Well Google just refreshed my memory on my 7:37 pm post. It was Diane Sawyer, not Barbara Walters.

  41. Brian

    Ibrahim,

    Thanks for the perspective. I was becoming enmeshed in the politics and forgetting about the people. I hope they manage OK.

  42. John Foudy

    “I also simply can’t believe that Iran would try to undermine any attempt at a stable Shii’a majority government.”

    A stable Iraqi government of any stripe in place before the Americans are out would be considered a defeat by Iran- all things considered they would prefer a Shii’a government- so long as the US gets no credit whatsoever for it.

    Also I’m not defending President Shrub, but I wonder what countries Phil considers to be more oppressive to its own citizenry than Iraq under Hussein, North Korea? Sudan? Zimbabwe? Some of the former SSRS are pretty bad… Iran’s been locking up people at an accelerating rate the last few months

  43. Clearly the reports that the Democrats are very concerned that the surge is working is true.

  44. Brian

    John Foudy: …would be considered a defeat by Iran….

    Maybe by some groups, but maybe not by others. I don’t know. Different groups may keep score differently. Maybe we’ll say we won, Iran will say it won, and no one else will be listening. But in real political and economic terms, and in terms of friendship, a Shiite government would ally itself with Iran, I think. I don’t really know, I’m kind of guessing here. Maybe Ibrahim could come back and give us some more insight. He seems have some feel for how people in that area tend to see things.

  45. Ibrahim

    I have to admit, John might be right. I admit I’m working on the assumption that the Iranians are approaching this rationally and seeing how this administration operates, I realize that I might be putting too much stock in the good sense of governments. Not to cop out, but maybe we’re both right. Maybe there are different factions within Iran working different angles for their own reasons. Maybe not.

    The Iranian Revolutionary Guard (AKA Islamic Revolution’s Guards Corp) is a weird somewhat unpredictable paramilitary/gendarmerie/morality squad and the Iranian army has no means of joint control even if it wanted it. They are loyal to the Ayatollah and not the president.

    On the one hand Iran has made it clear that it wants normal relations with Afghanistan and Iraq, and has put money where it’s mouth is to that effect. If we leave and the situation degenerates (more) then Iran will definitely fight Al-Qaeda for the title of Supreme-Poopah-Global-Defender-of-Islam.

    On the other hand, maybe Iranians also see US withdrawal as inevitable and figure they may as well give Americans a bloody nose so long as they’re so close. Admittedly it would look better for Iran if Shii’as came out on top of a civil war rather than laying claim to an Iraq stabilized by the US.

  46. Brian

    Interesting. Thanx.

  47. Brian

    If you go back there, Ibrahim, and you meet anyone who might like to here this, please tell them that Brian from the US says hello and wishes them the best. I really mean this. Thanx again.

  48. Murff

    The Tora Bora skirmish mentioned earlier is much more important than the news has been reporting yet.

    They way the Bush administration is handling Iraq and the War on Terrorism has been top notch. Instead of using empty words and posturing, they used action (a rarity for politicians thses days) and got results.

    Instead of quoting the 100% anti-Bush New York Times, try looking up some Iraq news publications. They present both good and bad stories, not just the one sided grade school reporting you see in the U.S. these days. I don’t listen to U.S. news sources anymore on world affairs. I go to that regions local news sources, the reporting is far more diverse.

    They way the Bush administration has handled science, and more generally, all education, is …well….horrible. I completely agree on that issue. And it’s not just Bush, as you have pointed out in this blog, there are so many state level decisions that are anti-science or “anti-reality”.

    Maybe someone can look up the number of people Saddam Hussien killed and then expalin to me why that alone was not a good enough reason to remove him from power.

    I can’t say whether Bush knew there were no WMD’s, or whether he believed the intel reports saying there were. We may never know. But I can tell you this, in the U.S. I can’t name a single poolitician I would trust to watch my kids why I ran to the corner market for some milk…can you?

    Brian Murff
    USAF
    Al Dhafra AB, UAE

  49. Mike Randall

    Thanks for the blog.

    Just for the record, I’m (slightly) a Bush supporter. I don’t think the issue is nearly as black/white as you present it. I wish we hadn’t gone into Iraq, but hindsight is 20/20. I imagine Bush wishes we hadn’t gone in either.

    The David Kay report, when read with an open mind, really helps to explain what was going on when we went to war. Both sides have used it for fuel. See more at: http://slate.com/id/2089471/.

  50. I get a bad vibe from this. What if Bush is trying to set the stage so that when his term is over he can declare an emergency and stay in power? He stole one, maybe two elections. What would keep him from stealing the whole country?

    Would we stop him?

  51. Daffy

    Murff: “Maybe someone can look up the number of people Saddam Hussien killed and then expalin to me why that alone was not a good enough reason to remove him from power.”

    far more Iraqi’s have died since we invaded. Why don’t you care about them, I wonder?

  52. Skepterist

    I’ve tried hard not to post on this topic, but I would like to add my no-cents worth…

    I don’t like President Bush very much. His policies on science, education and the environment are bad, and sometimes abhorrent. I have mixed feelings on his support on space missions and going to the moon, but at least that is a step in the right direction.

    However, I can say one thing about him: He sticks to his convictions. Like it or not, this man firmly believes that he is doing the right thing, and no matter what the polls, the media or the democrats say, he’s going to do what he thinks is right. If he is wrong, then soon it won’t matter, because someone else will be put into his position, and THAT person will have to do what he or she thinks is right.

    As to the war in the middle east, all I can say is this: Why we went to war was decided almost six years ago. Whatever the reasons we went to Afghanistan and Iraq, the fact is, we are there now. And, since we are there (and this is going to be a very simplistic point of view) we owe it to our country to stand united in whatever battle we are faced with. To do otherwise not only undermines the principles upon which this great country was built, but weakens us as a whole in the face of the rest of the world.

    A wise man once said, “If we are forced into war, we must give up political differences of opinion and unite as one man to defend our country. –Thomas Jefferson to Thaddeus Kosciusko. 1799.”

    A common saying where I’m from is, “When you make a mistake, a good friend will bail you out of jail. But a great friend will be there right beside you.”

    If you disagree with the current administration on any policy except the war we are currently in, then fight back. Call your state’s senators and representatives. Make your voice heard. Stop the mistakes from happening again. Get the administration to change or get out using the proper channels. That is exactly what the founders of this country intended. But do not undermine the sacrifices your brothers and sisters and best friends are making every day by not supporting them when they need you the most.

    Be the best friend to your country, even if your country has made a mistake.

  53. strangeangel23

    On 15 Aug 2007 at 4:34 pm Christopheron wrote:

    > There are VERY intelligent people who very much support the US intervention in Iraq… I can name one offhand who Mr. Plait may even know… Mr. Christopher Hitchens is an atheist a skeptic and a very intelligent man who often argues in favor of that intervention with great passion and eloquence.

    I guess he wasn’t skeptical enough. And however passionate and eloquant one argues for intervention in Iraq, it was still a dumb idea. Yes it”s true: atheism doesn’t make you immune from making gross errors in judgement.

    On 15 Aug 2007 at 5:52 pm lib_eater wrote:

    > Why haven’t you libs moved to Canada like you promised you would?

    Because Canada is ran by conservatives. Get your facts staight about our country before shooting your mouth off. And at least be eloquant about it if you don’t.

    Note to BA:

    Glad you brought that up.

  54. yogi-one

    Phil is allowed a political post every now and then. In fact, I wish more scientists had been more vocal earlier on about the war on science waged by the Bushies. They seem to love science when it means selling drugs to the public or developing weapons systems, but hate science when it is about clean energy or climate change. Too many scientists tried for too long to pretend they were above politics and this attitude caused the scientific community to suffer a major ass-kicking at the hands of greedy politicians and rabid creationists.

    And the war in Iraq affects everybody. Just today one close friend of mine was informed his brother is going to Iraq, and a co- worker who has already had two kids over there was informed that yet another relative was going to have to go.

    Politics and war don’t magically stop having effects on a person just because they are a scientist. More scientists would do well to come out of hiding on these issues, IMHO.

  55. shanem

    Well said Phil, reminds me of the “sorry” site from a few years ago – looks like it all turned out even worse than was feared.

  56. Mircea

    The ‘reasons’ for the 2003 Irak war, debunked by the U.S. Senate:

    http://intelligence.senate.gov/phaseiiaccuracy.pdf

    from here:

    http://intelligence.senate.gov/pub109thcongress.html

    If nothing happens to the way a presidential administration is regarded after such a report, and they are still free and left to juggle with the funds and pass bills and such, I believe one can expect anything coming from them. But then again, this is not democracy anymore. This coming from a guy who lived for 16 years in totalitarian regime.

    Nice read, Phil.
    Unfortunately, from what I see is happening in the U.S., far from across the ocean, Orwell must be twisting in his grave.

  57. Murff

    Daffy: “far more Iraqi’s have died since we invaded. Why don’t you care about them, I wonder?”

    Don’t put words in my mouth please. I don’t like to see anyone die.

    Are you are saying that the U.S. has killed more Iraqi’s than Saddam killed Kurds? The U.S. killed mostly military personnel when we invaded Iraq, not civilians. Now the U.S. is focused on terrorists. Of course there were civilian deaths, but not nearly on the scale that Saddam killed them. Also if you notice, most civilian deaths are being caused by terrorists, not the U.S.

  58. Craig

    But of course Phil P. will be the first to praise the Bush Admin’s military agency, NASA, when it comes up with the obligatory Apollo leftovers photos next year from the LRO – as “definitive proof” the landings happened.

  59. r2ro

    Hmmm. I seem to have stumbled on to badpolitics.com by accident.

  60. antaresrichard

    I’m sorry, I find perverse the kind of support and appeals to unity that prizes blind or near blind patriotism over the value of a human life.

    By all means, for the misguided sake of honor, let’s continue needlessly throwing the irreplaceable lives of others in harm’s way (especially if we feel it a mistake). Heavens, let us compound our error, close ranks, and march with greater even determination down the stray and deadly path we suspect our leadership has chosen. Let’s us hail their convictions more than their judgment.

    For my part, I would rather praise the person at the back of the file with the sense and effrontery to break decorum, than the person at the opposite end urging lockstep respect for the banner waving fool. That person at the back might have a better regard for my life.

    Here’s a telling 1994 video that’s been making the rounds in the news today. Myers has it on his blog. Hope I did this correctly:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCccFPZAHV0&mode=related&search=

  61. Stuart

    In General: I’m surprised to see so many 29%-ers here. But then again, this site attracts moon-hoax believers, 9/11 “truthers”, and evolution deniers, so it does get a lot of lunatics from the Left, the Right, and everywhere in between.

    Murff: You couldn’t be more wrong. The scale of death in Iraq is vastly, vastly greater now than at any time under Saddam. (Possibly excluding war dead during the original Gulf War with Iran, and that war was largely the US’s fault, too!).

    The number of dead due to the US invasion exceeded the number of civilians murdered by Saddam two years ago and has kept climbing inexhorably since. And Saddam’s murders took place over decades, these deaths took place in just a couple of years.

    The only estimates of death in Iraq put the figure damn close to a million! Just try to picture that. Imagine a square array of bodies, 1000 bodies by 1000 bodies. If that doesn’t shock you, you are a psycopath who must be removed from the general population ASAP.

    (I say “only estimates” because the US govt doesn’t even try to estimate civilian deaths. They don’t even publish a too-low-to-be-true count. They pretend that these deaths simply aren’t occurring.)

    And yes, we know that “terrorists”/”insurgents”/”bloody religious fanatics” are doing most of the killing. US soldiers “only” kill a couple of innocent civilians a day on average (e.g. the Haditha murders). But those evil men who are doing the killing, would not be doing so had not the US invaded Iraq, destroyed the physical infrastructure, and disbanded the police and army.

  62. Bryan Haught

    Very few of the comments above, pro and con, address the camel-breaking straw that prompted Dr Plait’s post.
    Does anyone posting here, pro-or-anti (insert noun here), think that having a government grade its own homework – as the NY Times reports the Bush Administration is about to, regarding the surge/escalation/small reinforcement and redeployment/ in Iraq – is a good idea? Can we trust this report to be free from hype and nuance?

    It’s too bad we don’t have an Inspector General of the United States. I nominate Freeman Dyson.

  63. K

    AND there’s nothing we can do about it AND the next crop of losers aren’t worth getting out and voting for either. Oh wait, we don’t vote FOR someone, we just vote AGAINST someone worse. It’s all an illusion of choice when it comes to politics.

  64. brad

    I don’t always agree with everything posted here, but I agree with this. I think we are headed for possibly another war and that will necessitate a draft. Our leaders have been short sighted, and I think we will suffer for it.

  65. Carakav

    Skepterist: “But do not undermine the sacrifices your brothers and sisters and best friends are making every day by not supporting them when they need you the most.”

    Supporting war is not supporting the troops. I was a member of the US Army and it annoys me to no end that people believe this crap.

    Stop using the troops as a justification for preemptive war.

    And please stop taking Jefferson out of context. Iraq was not marching on our doorstep like England was during the revolution, and an a-symmetrical attack by a (then small) organization such as Al-qaeda does not count as an invasion.

    It seems to me that the only alarmists here are those that over-estimate the need for these recent conflicts.

  66. Brian

    So what lessons can we take away from the war in Iraq? I think one of them is that once you start a war, you may not be able to control it. I am virtually certain that none of the original advocates of this war expected it to evolve the way it has. Personally, I am amazed at how things have unfolded.

  67. Brian

    “The U.S. killed mostly military personnel when we invaded Iraq, not civilians.”

    A person is a person is a person.

  68. Rift

    The only complaint I have of the article is the comparison to Vietnam. A pet-peeve of mine, this is NOTHING like Vietnam, except perhaps that it is a quagmire we aren’t likely to get out of soon (at least with leaving an intact Iraq). The closest thing in US history this is similar to is our occupation of the Philippines after the Spanish American War. There were suicide attacks on American personnel (where we get the word amok from), the army went to the .45 as the standard sidearm because smaller caliber sidearms wouldn’t stop them. But instead of having car bombs, they had stone tipped spears…

    Also, it saddens me how selfish we in the west are. Why all the rich free democratic nations aren’t united in going around toppling dictatorships amazes me. I’m not trying to condone Iraq, Bush went in unilaterally, which was stupid, and it wasn’t to free the Iraq people, for as you say there are people suffering under worse dictators. But how can we stand around and let a goodly number of the earth’s population suffer like that? Isn’t that as serious an issue as global warming? Why isn’t the rich west industrialized nations banning together to stomp this madness out? Should we be freeing people? We have blinders on, and want to sit fat and happy while the majority of the world still suffers under dictatorships and economical deprivations.

  69. Brian

    My main objection to war is all the killing and maiming, the deprivation and suffering. Aside from that, I think its generally OK.

  70. Skepterist: “However, I can say one thing about him: He sticks to his convictions. Like it or not, this man firmly believes that he is doing the right thing, and no matter what the polls, the media or the democrats say, he’s going to do what he thinks is right. If he is wrong, then soon it won’t matter, because someone else will be put into his position, and THAT person will have to do what he or she thinks is right.”

    You could not have said it better, although I don’t know if you meant to; Bush is a fool. An educated, intelligent person does not “stick to their guns” when CONTRADICTING EVIDENCE is presented. A wise person will change how the behave based upon what they learn. This is not a situation where you simply do what you “think[s] is right”; think it all you want, it doesn’t make it true. The truth is this entire administration is an absolute joke. They have silenced science and reality in favor of nonsensical dogma, they have murdered Iraqis, they have sent countless troops to their deaths in a quagmire, they have failed to act during national disasters, and for what?

  71. Daffy

    Murff: “Are you are saying that the U.S. has killed more Iraqi’s than Saddam killed Kurds? The U.S. killed mostly military personnel when we invaded Iraq, not civilians. Now the U.S. is focused on terrorists. Of course there were civilian deaths, but not nearly on the scale that Saddam killed them. Also if you notice, most civilian deaths are being caused by terrorists, not the U.S.”

    Don’t put words in MY mouth. The fact is that FAR more Iraqis have died since our invasion…but I did NOT say we killed them all. They were killed because we destabilized the country and allowed anarchy to reign. The excuse that Saddam Hussein killed his own people (although entirely true) gets pretty thin in light of that fact.

    Was Hussein evil? You bet. Was it evil to run in and destroy all stability and directly or indirectly cause the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians? Ask the dead people.

  72. boppa

    >>>>Skepterist:As to the war in the middle east, all I can say is this: Why we went to war was decided almost six years ago. Whatever the reasons we went to Afghanistan and Iraq, the fact is, we are there now. And, since we are there (and this is going to be a very simplistic point of view) we owe it to our country to stand united in whatever battle we are faced with. To do otherwise not only undermines the principles upon which this great country was built, but weakens us as a whole in the face of the rest of the world.>>>Skepterist:A common saying where I’m from is, “When you make a mistake, a good friend will bail you out of jail. But a great friend will be there right beside you.”

  73. Daffy

    Rift: “The only complaint I have of the article is the comparison to Vietnam. A pet-peeve of mine, this is NOTHING like Vietnam, except perhaps that it is a quagmire we aren’t likely to get out of soon (at least with leaving an intact Iraq).”

    Um…isn’t that the entire point of the comparison?

  74. Brian

    “He sticks to his convictions.”

    One aspect of intelligence is the ability to learn. President Bush seems to lack this ingredient.

  75. boppa

    grr where did my replies go to the quotes???

    :-(

  76. alejandro

    if america will declare war to iran…. it will be with the “yes” vote of the senate (hillary clinton included…) have yor forget tha america went to war with the approval of de the congress??? please….

  77. Carey

    Christopher (way up there): you make some good points, and I appreciate your presentation. You do provide an existence proof of an atheist Bush supporter, but of course you are an anomaly.

    You, like me, seem to lean libertarian. Having come of age, politically speaking, during the 2000 presidential election, I have never associated Republicans with fiscal conservatism, so I am always confused that libertarians more often identify themselves with Republican or right-wing views than Democrat or liberal views. Because to me, Republicans are socially conservative and fiscally liberal – my exact opposite.

    Yes, Democrats tend to spend a lot of money on bureaucratic nonsense. But Republicans, in my admittedly short experience viewing them with a critical eye, tend to spend a lot of money on war. I would rather have my taxes go to bureaucratic nonsense that employs nincompoops than a pointless war that kills innocents. Wouldn’t you?

    I am socially liberal first, and fiscally conservative second. As an atheist, the spreading disease of ignorance, vectored almost entirely by the Republican party, is far more alarming than increasing taxes to fund social programs that may or may not actually help people. I ask you, Christopher, and all libertarians who self-associate with the right wing, how a free market and small government are more important to you than having an administration that has an awareness of the profound benefits of science. How do you justify putting “fiscal conservative” before “social liberal”?

    The Democratic Party is, frankly, a bunch of wusses who think they know better how to spend my money than I do (and I only use “wusses” in the sense that they don’t stand up to Republicans, not that they’re peace-mongers). But the Republican party is far, far scarier – they think they know better how to exercise my freedom than I do.

  78. SCR

    Well said & good on you for saying it Phil Plait!

    I couldn’t agree more & I can’t understand why George the Second a.k.a. “Shrubya the Mad” hasn’t been impeached long, long ago. Then tried for treason, war crimes and crimes against Humanity. Then convicted and executed for it along with his neo-con allies, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rove etc .. Blair & my own disgraceful excuse for a PM John Howard also.

    No, I’m not joking. The precedent is right there with Nuremberg and the Japenase Imperial leaders post WWII – and, of course, with Saddam in Iraq.

    As for the Peloponnesian war comments – I concur with the person who drew the parallel – they destroyed the glory that was Athens and set Humanity and science back a hell of a long way. There’s a definite parallel. Its also worth noting that the Vietnam war killed the Apollo programme and meant that after taking that one great step we fell right back on our butts. Will Iraq do the same or worse to our aspirations of returning and exploring further? I fear so.

    For whatever its worth, I suggest the slogan – Invade Space not Iran! ;-)

    Please, Amercians, for the planets sake, for your own –

    IMPEACH BUSH NOW!

    Democrats – show some spine for once, please! Every day Bush Jr holds power he does everyone more damage. Every day we are all less safe because of his incompetent nespotic despotism.

    Stop the planned war on Iran before its too late and we really _are_ in World war Three … So like I said, please, for pity’s sake, for the planets sake, for F_’s sake! :

    IMPEACH BUSH NOW!

  79. SCR

    George E. Martin – I agree with your comments on Athens and the Peloponnesian war.

    Phil Plait – again, very well said indeed – you are a legend & posting strong, accurate, passionate assessments likethsi raises you in my esteem even further.

    I’m forwarding this link to some friends too – hope & expect that’s ok.

    Moderators, if you can edit my post above and take out the abbriev. swear-word of the blanked variety, please do so -can’t edit here myself alas ..

    & finally because it needs tobe caleld for until it happens :

    IMPEACH BUSH NOW!

    Really folks if Amercian democracy is tomean anything, if Amercia is to stop gettingworseand start getting better, we need to

    IMPEACH BUSH NOW!

    Before he starts another needless war,
    Before science becomes a sermon snore,
    Before we lose all reasons law

    IMPEACH BUSH NOW!

    ———-
    “…With me in charge every missions a suicide mission!”
    – Zap Brannigan, ‘Futurama’ (Clearly Bush Jrs role model.;-) )

  80. SCR

    George E. Martin – I agree with your comments on Athens and the Peloponnesian war.

    Phil Plait – again, very well said indeed – you are a legend & posting strong, accurate, passionate assessments likethsi raises you in my esteem even further.

    I’m forwarding this link to some friends too – hope & expect that’s ok.

    Moderators, if you can edit my post above and take out the abbriev. swear-word of the blanked variety, please do so -can’t edit here myself alas ..

    & finally because it needs tobe caleld for until it happens :

    IMPEACH BUSH NOW!

    Really folks if American democracy is to mean anything, if Amercia is to stop gettingworseand start getting better, we need to

    IMPEACH BUSH NOW!

    Before he starts another needless war,
    Before science becomes a sermon snore,
    Before we lose all reasons law

    IMPEACH BUSH NOW!

    ———-
    “…With me in charge every missions a suicide mission!”
    – Zap Brannigan, ‘Futurama’ (Clearly Bush Jrs role model.;-) )

  81. J S Wirfs

    I think you should stick to pointing out funny oversights in movies that were overlooked by screen writers who smoked pot all through their science classes and leave politics alone. Because it is clear to me you have your head firmly up your ass.

  82. John Foudy

    “Don’t put words in MY mouth. The fact is that FAR more Iraqis have died since our invasion…but I did NOT say we killed them all. They were killed because we destabilized the country and allowed anarchy to reign.”

    well that works only if you disregard the Iran/Iraq war (or trot out the ludicrous assertion that it was our fault- it wasn’t Hussein was terrified at the thought of a Shiite revolution in Iraq- he thought twas the only thing that could topple him from power- he also believed that Iran was military weak at the time – it was- in the wake of its revolution- Iraq at the time was armed almost exclusively with Soviet weaponry)

    it also only works if you believe the much disputed “One Million” casualties claim (which most people don’t- if only on demographic grounds) other estimates range around 100-200,000, which is certainly bad enough, but comparing deaths before and after is more a utilitarian exercise than a moral one anyway.

    Bush will be gone in 18 months, the question is what now?
    The obvious answer is we leave, but how and when?

    I suspect that if we simply cut and run, Iraq implodes into something like Somalia. MANY MANY MANY more deaths will occur, murders, disease starvation, eventually some order will emerge.

    Is a viable single state still possible in Iraq? I have no idea
    Is it possible to divide the country into 3 without accelerating the bloodshed? I have no idea.
    Is it possible for the US to restore order and reduce the current level of bloodshed before leaving? Possible but not likely, I really don’t know.

    Do we announce that we are leaving on X date? The neocons say that will just encourage the terrorists, others say that will give the Iraqi government a deadline to meet.

    In Israel the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza obviously emboldened forced against Israel, BUT the US is not Israel, the forces arrayed against Israel want Israel’s land and want to drive them off the map – the anti-US terrorists on the other hand do not have any territorial designs in the Western Hemisphere- what they want is for us to leave (not just our troops- they want us, our media our culture, EVERYTHING gone, no oil workers, no aid workers, no rock music, no jeans, no internet, nothing- they want all non-islamic influence removed from what they see as their part of the world).

    We “could” give them (the bin Ladens etc) what they want I suppose- and they would cease being a threat to us (They would no longer need nor be capable of producing WMDs etc.) in a few generations most of the world would be living in the 21st century, and a large part of the middle east would be living in the 17/18th century trying to replicate the experience of Japan under the Sho-Guns. They’d be a threat to no one except themselves

  83. strangeangel23

    …unfortunately, skepticism, being of critical thought in nature also includes politics. There are no sacred cows.

  84. Armand

    Seldom have I read more liberal claptrap. The never ending attacks on my Country and my President leaves me sick to tears. I joined BA for astronomy not political hype by someone who is hopelessly naive about politics. I remove BA from my favorites. I can get better astronomical information elswhere. I am not opposed to critisism when it is presented in a civilized manner. You liberals however with your shrill and vindictive comments really turn me off.

  85. Tukla in Iowa

    I wish we hadn’t gone into Iraq, but hindsight is 20/20.

    Only the frightfully clueless need “hindsight”. Millions of us knew invading Iraq was reckless and pointless before it happened, just as millions of us suspected it would happen as soon as Bush got elected thanks to his PNAC connections.

  86. Tukla in Iowa

    Armand, I assume if a Democrat is elected next year you will make damned sure to shush anyone who dares criticize him or her with the same vehemence as you do those of us who criticize Bush.

    Wow, I just made myself laugh.

  87. Scott

    I am a member of the US Air Force. I’ve been deployed to Kuwait three times, Saudi Arabia once, Iraq once and a few other places I can’t talk about a few other times. Grand total I’ve spent 572 days out of the last 9 years in the middle east and 15 months in South Korea. My shortest trip to the desert was 4 months, the longest 178 days before and through the war in 2003. I have spent more time out in the cities in Kuwait and Iraq and dealing directly with the public over there then some Americans have outside thier own home towns. Yet every one of those people wants to tell me how the war is going based on what they saw on CNN. Believe me, not one of those people has any clue how the war is really going.

    Let me tell you a little story.

    Picture it, Kuwait city, 2000. I was on my second trip to Kuwait. A few people found out I had been there before and that I knew my way around Kuwait city so they asked me to take them on a little site seeing trip and show them where the gold market was at. I figured “what the heck, its an excuse to get off base for a while”. I checked out a vehicle from the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office, piled 6 of us into the vehicle and we headed down town. We found an excellent resturant I remembered from my last trip for lunch. (Jean’s Cafe, on the gulf coast road if anyone’s ever in Kuwait and wants to check it out) After lunch I took them to Fahaheel where the gold markets were at and we did some shopping. we looked around a bit and a few of the guys were haggling prices for some gold jewelry so myself and the one female Airman who was with us stepped outside to wait for the rest of the group to make thier purchases.

    As we waited outside the shop a Kuwaiti man approched us and asked if we were U.S. Military members. We were in civilian cloths but I’ve never been able to fool myself into believing that we didn’t stand out like a sore thumb in the middle of an arab city. We responded that, yes, we were Air Force. He pointed across the street at a big dirt parking lot and told us that 10 years ago, that parking lot had been his gold shop and he had lived in an apartment above the shop with his wife and two sons. When the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait they had ransacked the city of all its valuables and even blown up his store with a shell from a tank. Luckily he and his family were not home at the time. He fled to Eqypt with his family where they had been ever since.

    One week before the day he met me he had decided it was safe to move his family back to Kuwait and begin thier lives over again. He told us that we were the first Americans he had seen since his return and he just wanted to shake our hands and thank us for giving his country thier freedom and staying to keep the “wolves to the north at bay” He then shook my hand, nodded to the girl with me, turned around and walked away.

    Many of the service men and women I have deployed with have had very similar experiances in Kuwait and Iraq. Contrary to what CNN would like you to believe, we are not universally hated over there. In fact, the greater majority of Iraqies actually like us. I have met a few who don’t particularly like the fact that we are there but I have yet to find one who wants us to pull out completely.

    Christopher hit the nail on the head way up above.

  88. Gary Ansorge

    I agree.

    IMPEACH GEORGE BUSH NOW!

    Gary 7

  89. Carakav

    Armand: It’s my country too. It’s also my president (though I didn’t vote for him), and guess what? This being a Republic, I can verbally attack him all day long.

    If you don’t like the political stuff, then ignore it. Phil makes it pretty clear when he is and is not talking politics.

    Also:

    It’s interesting that your definition of “civility” seems to be when people only make statements that agree with your point of view.

  90. Irishman

    DennyMo said:
    > All right then, if all the published reasons for going into Iraq were lies (and I’m not yielding that point, by the way), what do you propose WERE the real reasons?

    Not to speak for Phil, but here is my take. The Neocons have been advocating for decades the idea of creating a stable, Muslim democracy in the Middle East. The idea is that a stable Muslim democracy would show the people of the area that democracy can work for them, and still allow them to be Muslim. In theory, that sounds reasonable. Now comes the practice.

    9/11 gives the Bush Neocon administration justification. They go after Osama and Pakistan for supporting him, and it that was justifiable (if arguable). But that wasn’t sufficient for the Neocons. Iraq was next on the list. I think Bush did have a personal motivation (attempted assassination of Bush senior), though I don’t think that was a sole motivation. I think access to oil was a strong motivation, but again, I don’t think it was the sole motivation. I think the primary driver was the excuse to turn Iraq into the Neocon experiment to create a stable democracy, one that would ensure US access to oil and simultaneously get rid of Hussein. So the Bush Neocons push the plan of forced democracy upon Iraq.

    And there lies the biggest part of the problem: forced democracy.

    Craig said:
    > But of course Phil P. will be the first to praise the Bush Admin’s military agency, NASA, when it comes up with the obligatory Apollo leftovers photos next year from the LRO – as “definitive proof” the landings happened.

    NASA is not a military agency. It is a civilian agency. It is an administration under the Executive Branch of the federal government.

    And what’s your point?

  91. John Foudy

    “And there lies the biggest part of the problem: forced democracy.”

    It worked in Japan… more or less

    The neocons have wanted to reshape the middle east for a long time- I don’t think they were the driving force for the invasion, they simply gave it intellectual cover.

  92. Alien_from_Europe

    lib_eater on 15 Aug 2007 at 5:52 pm
    “Why haven’t you libs moved to Canada like you promised you would?
    Bush’s foreign policy is top notch….a strong offense is the BEST defense
    Stop whining”

    Why is it that Phil Plait is being harrassed for speaking up? As a scientist he is seeking truth. So why should he confine his blog (as demanded by some) to natural science only? Because what he says might be true? Maybe even an inconvenient truth?
    Saddam certainly was a villain but GWB started a war that cost many lifes and is absolutely pointless. Wrong reason to go to war, wrong enemy to struggle with (anybody remember Osama Bin Laden?) and wrong ideals. There have been very few “just”wars in the last millenia (WW II being one) and this one in Iraq is no exception.
    I wonder why this catastrophe is still justified as lib_eater above does. And I often wonder why LIBERAL which is according to the Oxford dictionary someone who “(in a political context) favors maximum individual liberty in political and social reform” is an invective in a country where FREEDOM is such an issue.
    I hope that this war soon ends but I have very little faith in a government that has lied so often to its own people!

    Alien from Europe

  93. Carakav

    Scott: I knew a marine once named, Scott… Cool fella. Anyway…

    Being a former military man myself, I know exactly what you’re saying. But for every Iraqi that shakes your hand, how many don’t? You remember the good folks, and the bad folks, because they leave a clear impression in your mind.

    I know that a strong majority of folks over there don’t want us around. Not because they hate us, but for a multitude of personal and understandable reasons.

    I say we let democracy work in Iraq. Let’s ask the Iraqi people to vote on A: whether on not they still want us around, and B: What they want us to do if they ask us to stay.

    I could easily get behind that.

    But that’s not what is happening. No one in the administration is displaying and legitimate concern for what those people actually want.

    (Note: The administration does not equal the military in general)

  94. Skepterist

    I don’t pretend to think I have all of the same information that the president of the United States has. I therefore, cannot say with 100% certainty that pulling out of Iraq right now is a good idea. People say Bush is not intelligent enough to see the overwhelming evidence against what he is doing. Is it possible that from the comfort and safety of our homes, watching only the body count on CNN, that we do not see all of the evidence FOR what we are doing in Iraq? I’m not the president, and I’m not living in Iraq, therefore I can’t see all of the evidence for or against this war.

    To compare the actions or character of Bush to those of Saddam are completely ludicrous. How many of your family members has Bush kidnapped in the middle of the night, thrown into prison and murdered? How many military attacks has Bush made against entire towns right here in our country? Because that’s what Saddam did.

    Carakav said, “Supporting war is not supporting the troops.” Oh really? And how does NOT supporting the war support our troops?

    Thomas Jefferson could not imagine an enemy using airplanes as bombs to kill thousands of people at once. Whether we wait for our enemies to come to our soil or go to their land to fight them, the point is still valid. If your country is at war, put your petty political differences aside and stand united. Personally, I’d rather fight them over there than over here.

    I didn’t say sit back and allow Bush to move us into an even greater fiasco with Iran. I said follow the process. Vote for or against him on any future military plans, depending on what you think is right. But support your country as a unified country right now, while our men and women are still fighting a war. The Democrats knew this in 2002 when they unilaterally approved military action. But since then, a lot of people seem to have forgotten that we are at war. And this opposition here at home weakens our forces over there. It emboldens the enemy, it gives them hope, and it costs our troops their lives.

    United we stand. Divided we fall.

  95. Brian

    BOWLING PIN IN MIAMI

    Here is the alley;
    There is the ball.
    Bermuda High hold,
    So my house can stand tall.

    Off topic, I know, but timely for me.

  96. Brian

    BOWLING PIN IN MIAMI

    Here is the alley;
    There comes the ball.
    Bermuda High hold,
    So my house can stand tall.

    Off topic, I know, but timely for me.

  97. Bolo

    “So what lessons can we take away from the war in Iraq? I think one of them is that once you start a war, you may not be able to control it.”
    –Brian

    I hate to break it to you, but that lesson is several thousand years old. It wasn’t learned just now–it was either forgotten and relearned or totally ignored.

  98. Brian

    Bolo,

    It might be applicable to the situation with Iran, for instance.

  99. SCR

    Jim Howard on 15 Aug 2007 at 8:50 pm said :

    “Clearly the reports that the Democrats are very concerned that the surge is working is true.”

    Evidence please? On The Other Hand :

    500 people killed in Kurdish North Iraq via four huge AQ bomb blasts on todays news. The political situation is going backwards as a far as the Iraqi govt goes withSunnis withdrawingand Shiite-Sunni fighting worsening. Plus the death toll continuing to sky-rocket both for the occupying US troops & the Iraqi civilian populace…

    If that’s the surge working I’d hate to see what you consider it looks like when its _failing_ . ;-(

    The Bay of Pigs invasion
    The Veitnam War
    The Iraq War

    All massive blunders with disasterous conseqeunces caused by US ideologues launching ill-planned dumb attacks for dubious political reasons (Anti-Castro fanaticism, Domino theory & Neo-con insanity respectively.)

    Harsh truth is we lost this latest American War as soon as it was launched.

    We’ve certainly lost it now. Even if some folk both in the White House and here can’t recognise that fact yet and are still in wilful Denial.

    Whether we pull out now or in twenty years time, reality is that Iraq has been transformed from a stable, fairly secular, fairly modern dictatorship under Saddam Hussein – a bad nation but one of the better bad ones as things go – into a far worse chaotic, violent, unworkable failed state mess with civil war, religious war and war against occupation taking place concurrently.

    Nice one Bush Jr. (Sarcasm)

    The best thing to do now – although its very painful and probably impossible under this lunatic President – is admit defeat, get the hell out, apologise to the World and learn the harsh lessons of Iraq – and Vietnam, etc.. before it.

    Best thing now is to cut losses and MOST importantly NEVER repeat the same mistakes again. The USA needs to stop being a rogue superpower and start to become a decent global citizen.

    This means America must take a long hard look at itself, take back its foreign policy from the real “axis of evil” : the Israeli lobby – Neo-Cons-Big Oil & other Multinational business. It means learning to be a bit more humble and bit less arrrogant, a bit more willing to listen and work with international law and organistaions like the UN. Most of all it means learning to leave other nations the hell alone – & especially NEVER go to war without a really, really, really good reason.

    Here’s a good idea for the new President (after Bush II goes – hopefully impeached if any justice or sense prevail ..) The USA should adopt the NO wars of aggression clause it imposed on post War-Japan.

    As for bin Laden and terrorism – well that threat has been blown out of all proportion – losing two skyscrapers and under 3,000 innocent people does NOT justify destroying two nations and slaughtering HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of innocent people.

    OBL is probably already dead (Recall the reports a while ago that he’d died of typhoid anyone?) but if not he soon will be – unless Osama’s already in US custody and being kept in “election reserve” .. :-( He and his group are essentially a criminal problem that has been elevated and promoted by Bush’es stupidity in giving them the war they wanted. Take that needless and unwinnable war away and you diminish their power greatly. Hunt them down, arrest and execute them as the mass-murdering pyschopathic criminals they are by all means; but lets not pretend they’re as big a danger as Bush & his neo-con puppet-masters make ‘em out to be. ‘Coz they’re simply not.

    As for the exaggerated ‘phantom menace’ of Islamic fundamentalism – well leave the Islamic world alone & stop funding and supporting Israel regardless of israeli crimes against humanity its forever commiting against the Palestineans. Step back. Stop shouting at them and start listening to them fairly. Cut the anti-Islam rhetoric and start behaving reasonably. The Muslim world does have legitimate greivances agaisnt the West ingeneral and the US specifically. Address those and treat them with respect and things’ll calm down again.

    Christian fundamentalism is, arguably perhaps, a far greeater threat to the West than the Islamic variety. Vice-versa, Islamic moderation is a far greater threat to Islamic fundamentalsim than that – and will prevail given the chance – and the space. Invading their lands only encourages and incites the fundamentalists and decreases support for the moderates.

    Incidentally, I consider myself a friend & supporter of America and say all this in her interest – watching your nation go the way it has lately has been like watching a traffic accident happening to a friend in slow motion. Incredibly sad and painful. I just hope you’lll recover and become yourselves again.
    ——————————————————————–

    ” ..the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. We [the USA] are only 6% of the World’s population – we cannot impose our will upon the other 94% of mankind.”
    – John F. Kennedy. (Quoted by Phillip Adams, Page 11, ‘Weekend Australian’ magazine. Dec. 13-14, 2003.)

    : “We cannot consider that the armed invasion and occupation of another country are peaceful or proper means to achieve justice and conformity with international law.”
    – Quote from President Eisenhower (quoted in ’The Guardian weekly’, 2005 Jan 28th – Feb. 3rd .)

    “There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies against despots – suspicion.”
    – Demosthenes, Phillipics-2. [Collins Concise Dictionary of Quotations, P.108.]

    “Wherever our armies have marched, wherever they have encamped, every species of barbarity has been executed. We planted an irrevocable hatred wherever we went, which neither time nor measure will be able to eradicate.”
    – Col. Charles Stuart during the American War of Independence, 1778.

    “Protest : the alternative to complicity”
    – Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown, quoted in ‘The Age’, 2004 May 15th.

  100. Carakav

    Skepterist said: “Oh really? And how does NOT supporting the war support our troops?”

    The problem with your logic is that you think that, somehow, the soldiers give a rat’s anus about what you or I think. I know that when I and my buddies were overseas, we had our opinions about what civilians were saying, but it wasn’t an important part of our lives. It certainly wasn’t a factor in our moral.

    We cared about three things: Eating chow, sleeping, and getting ample time off for leave, for fun, or just to do nothing (which is what soldiers do best). Some of us even loved training or PT, but I can’t think of any who actually wanted to fight downrange. (I can recall a couple who wanted to be in Iraq, but those were either A: Officers who wanted promotions, B: Guys who wanted combat pay, or C: Folks who wanted to be with their buddies)

    As with all things, there are exceptions to the rule. There were some who wanted to help Iraqis, and there were just as many that wanted to kill them.

    If you want so bad to please the troops, then you should send them cookies. Or you could join them.

    Otherwise, it’s all just talk.

    In regards to your other statements: If you think that an occasional terrorist attack, or political disagreement is enough to cause the United States to “fall,” then you have a low opinion of your country indeed.

    I for one, know that we are stronger than that.

  101. John Foudy

    “The Muslim world does have legitimate greivances against the West ingeneral and the US specifically. Address those and treat them with respect and things’ll calm down again.”

    No it doesn’t (at least before Iraq anyway). Latin America has legitimate grievances against the US, Native Americans have legitimate grievances against the US.

    Of all the various countries and cultures that feel they had grievances against the US, the Arab world had the least justification, none, zilch, they just wanted some outsider to blame for the failures of their own societies. They claim the existence of Israel is the US’ “fault”- for better or worse we really can’t be blamed or take credit for that.

    They blame us for losing in 1948 (ditto)

    They blame us for 1956 (which is absurd)- that was England and France- we were the ones who told them to knock it off, earning the antipathy of France’s foreign policy establishment for all time btw.

    They blame us for the 6 day war- nope not us.

    They blame us for losing in 1973- well at least they have a little smoke- we had just started being a serious arms supplier to Israel at this point

    They blame us for the house of Saud- we didn’t put them there, we just do business with them like everyone else does.

    They blame us for cultural changes, TV, music, clothes, women wanting drivers licenses, guilty as charged I guess.

    I quite frankly am not interested in there grievances aside from our occupation of Iraq and our monetary support of Israel (I don’t care for or against Israel, I just don’t want my tax money going to them) because quite frankly the rest of them are either nonsensical or nonexistent.

    I look at the militants in the Arab world vis a vis the rest of the world the way I look at the Confederacy vis a vis the rest of the US in 1860.

  102. Kullat Nunu

    Of all the various countries and cultures that feel they had grievances against the US, the Arab world had the least justification, none, zilch, they just wanted some outsider to blame for the failures of their own societies.

    Um, you mean they have no right to blame the US when it supports their dictators? You must be kidding.

  103. ArchFerdinandDuke

    I gues the clown heard a voice in his head again.

  104. Carey

    John Foudy: You forgot the US overthrow of a legitimately elected government in Iran in the 50’s so we could put the Shah in its place. I guess democracy was okay, as long as the people voted the “right” way.

  105. Kullat Nunu

    Also I’m not defending President Shrub, but I wonder what countries Phil considers to be more oppressive to its own citizenry than Iraq under Hussein, North Korea? Sudan? Zimbabwe? Some of the former SSRS are pretty bad… Iran’s been locking up people at an accelerating rate the last few months

    Not to mention Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Burma and so forth.

    The civil rights situation in many of those countries is terrible, but invading any of them would make it far more terrible there. According to Iraqis, the current situation is much worser than during Saddam’s rule (even under the sanctions!). Similarly, many Afghanis agree that the Taleban, although ruthless, were not as bad as the current lawlessness and regular NATO bombings.

    War of aggression is the ultimate crime, the worst crime against humanity. As an example, the Nazis killed incredible number of people in their concentration camps, but the number of dead there pale in comparison with the number of civilian deaths in the Second World War.

  106. Bobdcat

    Too bad the White House didn’t refer to this Cheney’s psychic vision in 1994:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=S9YuD9kYK9I

    Perhaps this guy has replaced Cheney in the meantime:

    http://employeecomedy.typepad.com/cheneyrobot.jpg

  107. Brian

    John Foudy: I quite frankly am not interested in their grievances….

    That would be fine if we didn’t care about reaching any sort of accord with them. Now you may say well who cares about reaching an accord with them, but then I think problems arise if we don’t.

  108. It’s unfortunate that the White House is writing the report on the surge, because reports from most sources, even the New York Times, have shown that the surge is actually helping significantly. The White House is shooting itself in the foot. No surprise there.

    But Iraq did have WMDs. Saddam used chemical warfare against the Kurds — most notably in March 1988 against the town of Halabja. This has been well-documented.

    I know that you find accuracy to be of utmost importance, so if you mean nuclear weapons, please say that. The mainstream media tosses around “WMD” to mean nukes — we don’t have to do that here — we’re better than that.

  109. John Foudy

    “You forgot the US overthrow of a legitimately elected government in Iran in the 50’s so we could put the Shah in its place.”

    I said, “Of all the various countries and cultures that feel they had grievances against the US, the Arab world had the least justification”

    When did Iran become part of the Arab World? I guess I missed that one.

    Anyway, ok we get some blame for supporting their dictators, not as much blame as they get for supporting them, but I guess we get some blame.

    And maybe just maybe I’m still cranky about having a building fall on my head 6 years ago for no [good] reason.

  110. John Foudy

    “That would be fine if we didn’t care about reaching any sort of accord with”

    I’m not. I don’t think we can reach an accord with them that would also comport with the West’s notion of human rights. I’m all for leaving.

  111. Quiet_Desperation

    Not sure I see the point of the blog entry.

    Disclaimer: I hate Bush, and love Phil’s entries on politics when it does have a scientific angle.

    But is there a reason here? Is there anyone left, pro or con, who is going to change their view of Bush at this point? Yes, the war was a major mistake. Thanks for the newsflash, Mr Cronkite.

    I love ya, Phil, but this sort of stuff is covered much more extensively and deeply elsewhere. All it does is generate a heated list of responses that, to be blunt, with few exceptions, is just the same old rhetoric from the usual ideological camps. Yawn.

    The usual black helicopter woo woo stuff. From both sides. *snore*

    But, just my humble opinion. Good luck on your trip.

    >>> They blame us for cultural changes,

    Heck, everyone does that, and it’s so silly. There was a guy in a story about France a couple years ago complaining about a McDonalds. Dude, it wouldn’t be there if there was no demand for it. Complain to your countrymen who eat there.

    >>> Why is it that Phil Plait is being harrassed for speaking up?

    Because there’s no real point to having stuff like this here. It’s everywhere. People have chosen their side. No one is going to be swayed. It’s just heat without light at this point. Sound and fury signifying nothing.

    >>> The Neocons have been advocating for decades
    >>> the idea of creating a stable, Muslim democracy in
    >>> the Middle East.

    You nailed it. All the black helicopter stuff people cling to is just woo woo nonsense. The truth is that there is a school of thought in certain corners of American politics that thinks we need to drag the Middle East kicking and screaming into the 21st century. A lovely idea if it were possible, but it’s not, as Iraq has shown.

    It’s why I don’t get *THAT* excited over the ID crowd here in the States. In the Mid-East the religions have gone beyond the normal level of mental illness into a pandemic of utter psychosis. I have no idea how you fix that. I have begun to fear that some memes are simply invulnerable once they reach a certain point of maturity.

    >>> However, I can say one thing about him: (Bush)
    >>> He sticks to his convictions.

    So did Hitler! Ack! I Godwin-ed myself! Eeek! *BOOM* (head exploding)

    Just kiddin’, but your statement REALLY depends on the nature of the so called convictions. He sticks by his open border convictions, and if you live here in Southern California you’d know the wonderous result of those.

    >>> I have met a few who don’t particularly like the fact
    >>> that we are there but I have yet to find one who wants us
    >>> to pull out completely.

    I work in an area where I hear lots of stories like that from the military as well. The media does overblow things. That’s what the media does. Witness Paris Hilton’s jail adventure.

    But this isn’t what people like me wanted. We wanted to take the fight to the Islamic extremists after 9/11. Enough is enough and all that. They attacked US soil, so the game was afoot. There was talk of a new military that would come out of the night, out of the shadows without warning and destroy terrorist training camps and cells. We’d go after the money flow. We’d send the fear back to the terrorist with much added interest. We’d teach them what REAL terror is.

    Instead we’re baby sitting a civil war between violent, rabid sociopaths over some slight difference in a set of fairy tales that you have to ask a religious studies professor to define. WTF?

  112. Encolpius

    Armand cracks me up:

    “…liberal claptrap….never ending attacks on my Country and my President…sick to tears….political hype…hopelessly naive…. I remove BA from my favorites. …You liberals however with your shrill and vindictive comments really turn me off.”

    Shrill and vindictive comments?

    HAHAHAHA!

  113. Stuart

    Megan: That’s twice in one day that I’ve heard that argument. Have you been posting elsewhere?

    Yes, Saddam had chemical weapons, TWENTY YEARS AGO!!! (Many of those weapons supplied by the USA!)

    But 99.9% of the stockpiles and 100% of the manufacturing capability was destroyed after the first Gulf War. And the last 0.1% was found only after the invasion, but it was decrepit, decayed, and worthless as weapon. It had simply been forgotten.

    So no, we are not talking just about nukes, we’re also talking chemical and biological.

    During and after the build-up to this disaster he had nothing but a decrepit army carrying insufficient stocks of outdated conventional weapons. The invasion was a cake-walk. It was the aftermath that killed the majority of the US troops.

  114. Stuart

    The 29%-er Trolls: Can’t you rather poor examples of your species at least pretend to raise some kind of point?

    Half the conservatives in this thread at least try to make some points in favour of Bush’s Mesoptamian Adventure, but the other half just throw generic insults and threaten Phil with the horror of not having his blog read by idots! As you can see, he’s quaking in his boots. NOT!

  115. Ibrahim

    One thing I notice, aside from how badly this potentially intelligent discussion has degenerated, is everyone has their own evidence to prove and justify their own opinions.

    Simply as a thought experiment, not picking on any side, how many people refused to evaluate the situation until they used as much information as possible to form an opinion? (the tricky part is being honest with yourself)

    I know I’m not immune to this kind of failure of logic, no one is. Many people experience knee-jerk political reactions dependent on what they think are priorities for this country and society.

  116. John Foudy

    “how many people refused to evaluate the situation until they used as much information as possible to form an opinion? (the tricky part is being honest with yourself)”

    as much as possible?

    sheeesh tough standard…

    most people (and I’m not necessarily excepting myself from this) are like the little kid Calvin in the old Calvin & Hobbes cartoon strip
    one day, in the middle of an argument with his father, for the very first time Calvin could see from someone’ else’s point of view rather than his own.
    The result? Suddenly he could see objects from every angle, like a cubist painting, no more down/up, left/right, near/far, all perspective was lost.

    Calvin was disoriented, he could no longer make sense of the world, so he forced himself to see from one point of view again, ran to find his father and said,
    “you’re still wrong”.

  117. Mango

    Irishman:
    > he Neocons have been advocating for decades the idea of creating a stable, Muslim democracy in the Middle East.

    Really only for a little over one decade, but otherwise you are spot on in answering DennyMo’s question.

    After people arguing passionately over this for 4 and a half years, it’s the only explanation that stands up to reason. They believed they could create a stable democracy in the Middle East and leverage it to put pressure on its neighbours, eventually causing all oppressive and autocratic rulers to be toppled and replaced by constitutional democracies and free markets. Then these countries would cease to be threats to US interests and instead become reliable trading partners.

    Many people think it’s about oil. It is, but indirectly so. Oil and Israel: Apart from those two things, the US wouldn’t care about political stability in the Middle East. There would be no US interests in the region to protect, and it wouldn’t be any different from sub-saharan Africa. But the Iraq invasion was part of a much larger strategy.

    When you read the PNAC stuff from the mid-90s, and look at the progression of messages that followed the successful invasion of Afghanistan, I think these conclusions become somewhat obvious. This is not a line of reasoning pinned to partisanship: I think conservatives might even be able to defend the true rationale for invading Iraq. Some liberals bought into it (including the influential Canadian liberal Michael Ignatieff, who almost became leader of the Canadian left-wing party last year). They argue that there is nothing inherently wrong with defending one’s national interests (there isn’t, that’s what governments are supposed to do), and the Iraq invasion might have been justified because it was supposed to have been in the interests of the Iraqi people as well. Maybe if it had succeeded.

    I disagree, by the way, about the biggest part of the problem being forced democracy. The main problem was administrative incompetence in dealing with the ‘post-war’ situation. The reconstruction plan did not take into account the complexities on the ground in Iraq, and various interests exploited that fact. Iran and Syria are among those interests.

  118. Mango

    Quiet_Desperation:
    “But this isn’t what people like me wanted. We wanted to take the fight to the Islamic extremists after 9/11. Enough is enough and all that. They attacked US soil, so the game was afoot. There was talk of a new military that would come out of the night, out of the shadows without warning and destroy terrorist training camps and cells. We’d go after the money flow. We’d send the fear back to the terrorist with much added interest. We’d teach them what REAL terror is.

    Instead we’re baby sitting a civil war between violent, rabid sociopaths over some slight difference in a set of fairy tales that you have to ask a religious studies professor to define. WTF?”

    Very well said.

    Good comment on Phil’s post, too. I’ll add that I am surprised Phil is buying into the ‘buildup to Iran’ thing. Is this supposed to be before or after the pull-out from Iraq? That will be next year or the year after. The writing’s on the wall.

    The idea of the US invading Iran is hard to take seriously. The US right now has neither the political will nor the military muscle to do that unless they withdraw from Iraq first, which creates an obvious conundrum.

    People are getting worked up about the possibility that a near-end-of-term president will drag an overstretched military into a war against a strong opponent against the will of Congress and the American people. This would be like Nixon pulling the troops out of Vietnam and then invading China immediately after.

  119. Stuart — I haven’t been posting elsewhere. (I post under my real name and I am identifiable. You’d know if it were me.) Have you considered that maybe you keep hearing the Kurd story cuz it’s, like, true or something? Gee, I don’t know.

    Chem/bio weapons are not hard to make. You could probably make a crappy one with stuff in your fridge and under your sink. So anyone can have “WMD” if you really get down to it. The big scam the government perpetrated was including the already-discredited concern about Saddam’s attempts to acquire uranium in the 2003 state of the union address. The scam wasn’t “hey, Saddam’s got chem/bio weapons.” That’s why I posted about being specific. It drives me crazy that everyone tosses around the WMD moniker, which itself doesn’t mean anything — theoretically, WMD includes chem/bio/nuclear weapons. But didn’t 9/11 appear to cause mass destruction? And that was caused by giant improvised explosive devices (ie airplanes full of jet fuel). They wouldn’t be considered WMD. I’m just an editor talking about terminology here.

    It always depresses me when people try to imply that I am some kind of crazy conservative when I am stating facts. Conservatives think I’m a crazy liberal when I state facts that *they* don’t like. What does that say about politics in this country?

    I never should have posted this comment, because now I’ve wasted my valuable time on a pointless argument. It’s not like we can go back in time and undo the Iraq war. Unfortunately.

  120. Stark

    “we’re baby sitting a civil war between violent, rabid sociopaths over some slight difference in a set of fairy tales that you have to ask a religious studies professor to define.”

    Exactly right Quiet_Desperation and handy turn of phrase as well.

    Many folks keep saying the US should just pull out now. Many of these same folks use the loss of life (using, of course, the most inflated set of numbers they can find) as good reason to leave immediately.

    OK then, suppose the US does pull out completely tomorrow? What exactly do you think will happen? Spontaneous peace? Not likely. No, what you’ll get is a bloodbath that makes the current state of affairs look like a Disney movie. The egg is broken folks, it no longer matters how it got that way. Leaving now and leaving the innocent Iraqis – those would be the apparently few that have not taken up arms in one way or another – to the mercy of the militias would be a far greater crime than sticking around until they can get their own act together.

    If you look at the news reports from around the world a picture becomes clear. Quiet_Desperation hit the nail on the head – the US soldiers are referees in this fight. The various factions kill each other at every opportunity – they only go after the US troops (and really aren’t terribly effective at that) when the US troops step in to break things up. Without the US military there you end up with a vacuum of power. No one faction is strong enough to assert power over the other factions – this means you get a bloodbath…. unless you have somebody strong enough to step in and prevent it and in this case thats the US military.

    The other thing I would predict you’d see is Iran rolling in with much more manpower than the US has committed followed swiftly by a purging of Kurds and Sunnis. The US is actually quite restrained in it’s use of force on the ground… Iran would not be. It is unnaceptable to a modern western society to wage total warfare (see the way war was fought in cities in WWII for an example. Also, see the firebombings of Dresden and Tokyo for an even better example of what this means) but the concept is not only accepted but even encouraged in islamic culture – it’s the idea of jihad.

    Just to be clear: I have been opposed to the war since it’s start. That is a moot point. It is happening and to simply walk away now would be a crime even more vile than going in in the first place. I’m not sure what the best answer is but simply walking away isn’t it. If you want a quick end to the deaths the only real solution would be to remove the ability of the people to wage any offensive at all… which would mean levelling the cities and wiping out most of the population. I don’t think ANYBODY wants to see that.

  121. Brian

    We’re going stay there ’til every last Iraqi has been liberated.

  122. Brian

    Megan,

    Is that you in the picture? I always figure that happy people must be doing something right, so I listen when they talk.

  123. TheBlackCat

    Stark, you are assuming we can stop it. You are assuming that we are somehow capable of preventing the coming bloodbath. How, exactly, do you expect us to be able to do that? If they are really that intent on killing each other, how can we possibly stop them?

    Personally I agree with Irishman. Forced democracy (or a republic, technically) is the problem here. Very rarely, if ever, does forced democracy work on a country that does not have a recent history of democracy already. Germany and Italy prior to WWII did, for instance. I do not know about Japan. The U.S. is one of, if not the, only examples of a country establishing a lasting republic after a violent revolution. And the 13 colonies had a long history of republican governments that were established by peaceful means, and those governments never really ended. Nearly every republic in existence today came about by peaceful means or by restoring the republican form of government that the country had shortly before.

  124. Stark

    Liberated? Liberated from what? Don’t you need an oppresive government/regime to be liberated?

    Of course, if folks want to leave them to kill each other until only the victor remains by all means advocate that the US do so. This may in fact be the best option, as abhorrent as it is. Just don’t try to use the loss of life so far as a cogent argument that pulling completely out would be a good thing to do. There are other arguments as to why that would be a good thing (fiscal loss the US, loss of good will towards the US, loss of US soldiers lives, and at least 50 others) but the loss of Iraqi life to this point just isn’t one of them since the death rate would only go up in an all out civil war.

    Like I said, I don’t know a good solution to this… but I suspect that nobody else does either or we’d probably already be headed down that road. You can certainly argue that the best short term interest for the US is to pull out… but the long term effects of leaving a broken Iraq to it’s own devices are much harder to discern.

  125. Brian

    One of my problems is that I don’t really know what will happen in various proposed scenarios. Many of the same pundits lecturing me on the consequences of various actions are the same people who have been wrong about everything else – wrong about WMDs, wrong about the Iraqi’s gratefully welcoming us as liberators, wrong about the war lasting at most six months, etc.

  126. Stark

    BlackCat –
    Like I said, I don’t have the answers. I do know that leaving them to their own devices and letting the bloodbath roll – in a situation the US created – will not sit well with either the typical American or the world in general. It will sit even less well with those who look for any excuse to demonize the US and will forment further islamic anger against the west in general and the US in particular. Like I said, it was a bad idea to go in in the first place but the egg is already broken. The question now is do you settle for scrambled eggs or try to make an omlette.

    And yes, I know thats an odd simile, but I skipped lunch… ;)

    DenverAstro – I know a number of people who feel exactly that way. At times I too feel that way… then my humanity kicks in. Pesky thing that. I blame my parents. ;) I’d say kill em’ all and let god sort ‘em out… except there is no god.

  127. ken

    I think some of you should read more sites like Michael Yon’s ( http://www.michaelyon-online.com/ ) I personally don’t know all the answers but I think no matter what we do when it comes to the middle east it’s going to be ugly. Finding the least ugly option that makes things better for the future is the hard part.

    I don’t mind Phil’s political comments, I enjoy some of them. Even if it’s just for amusement. As for what I think is the main point of his post, if Petraeus agrees with the report, I’m not too concerned with who wrote the words. I’m also can’t see getting upset that the white house is going to take things under advisement and then decide on how to act on it. That’s kind of their job.

    And personally, I’d call Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.

    In response to a lot of the posts here, all I’ll quote Gen. McCallif, “Nuts.”

    Ken

  128. Brian

    “I’d say kill ‘em all and let god sort ‘em out… except there is no god.”

    Well, if there is no god, then there’s probably nothing to sort either.

  129. Stark

    Brian,

    I’ve based my thoughts on what would happen in Iraq on the actions that are visible there now – not on what the talking heads say. Most of the attacks you see – the bombings – are not aimed at US troops at all.

    Lets look at a few of the worst attacks over the last few months:

    Aug. 14: Four suicide bombers hit a Kurdish Yazidi community in northwest Iraq, killing at least 200 people and wounding 300 others.

    July 7: A suicide truck bomber hits market in a Shiite Turkoman town north of Baghdad, killing at least 160 people.

    June 19: A truck bomb packed strikes the Shiite Khulani mosque in central Baghdad, killing at least 87 people.

    April 18: A car bomb explodes at a Baghdad market as workers leave for the day, killing 127 people.

    Notice anything funny about those? None of them were attacks on US outposts or bases – which are there and easy enough to attack if you choose to – they were all on civilain targets and all motivated by religious or ethnic issues. US soldiers are NOT the targets here. This is a civil war and the US soldiers serve only to make the various factions keep their heads down. They go out and find weapons and explosives caches and try to bring down the most brazen of the militias. Imagine what it would be like without their moderating presence.

    Still, it sucks. I sincerely hope I’m wrong and after the US pulls out ( and I believe it probably will when the next president comes in) we’ll get a chance to see. I don’t think I am though – the signs certainly don’t point that way.

  130. Brian

    ken: Finding the least ugly option that makes things better for the future is the hard part.

    Especially since different parties may have different opinions about what “better” means.

  131. Stark

    Ken said : “Finding the least ugly option that makes things better for the future is the hard part.”

    It’s most definitely a case of bad options all the way around. Makes me glad it’s not up to me to make the call – no matter what you do history will judge you harshly for it.

  132. Folcrom

    Over here in OZ,
    we have a Prime Minister who could pee in your face, tell you it’s raining and get away with it!

    Slipperyer than an eel
    Slimier than a slug and
    with the forked toungue of a snake.

    But then, aren’t all politicians like that.
    I know they all are over here in Oz.
    Cant trust any of them.

    Folcrom.

  133. Brian

    Stark,

    I’m not saying you’re wrong about there being a bloodbath when we leave Iraq, I am just not sure. People, including myself, seem to be notoriously bad at predicting what other people will do. I don’t know what the person I live with is going to do half the time, so I’m just not confident in thinking I know what a bunch of people I’ve never met and really know only in stereotype will do.

    I do notice that most of the people warning of the boodbaths (not you, but Bush, Rumsfeld, right wing talk radio hosts, etc.) are the very same people who wouldn’t want to leave anyway because they are still hoping to eventually “win”, whatever they imagine that might mean. I am dubious about their motives for spreading these visions of mayhem, because I don’t think that would be their main concern in any case. I think they just hope we’ll all buy into it to give them more time to try to “win”.

    The gut-wrenching dilemma is that, almost by coincidence, they may actually be right this time. I guess there is a first for everything.

  134. Ken G

    It seems pretty likely there will be a bloodbath when we leave– anyone who helped the Americans will be in deep trouble. Unfortunately, this is no reason to stay– because we will eventually leave, and the longer we stay, the more powerful and virulent our enemies, and the worse the bloodbath. Why aren’t people making this simple equation? Is it just too awful? Was Vietnam and Cambodia really that long ago?

  135. Stuart

    Megan: OK, I concede that this side-argument is kinda pointless, as we seem to be agreeing on most of the important things.

    And I didn’t mean to imply that there was anything dishonest about you potentially posting the same thing on different sites. It’s just that I honestly couldn’t remember who had posted before, or even where. Brain like a sieve, me…

    But now, my points of contention (without the hysterical <caps><italic><bold> I used in my previous post, and for which I now apologise.)

    1) The story of the gassing of the Kurds is true. I never said otherwise! But it is also irrelevant, as it was committed years ago by a type of weapon that Saddam lost ~15 years ago.

    2) Chem weapons were one of the things that Bush ostensibly went into Iraq to destroy. Powel mentioned “mobile chemical weapons plants” in his infamous UN speach. Some really stupid congressmen did crow about the tiny cache of forgotten, outdated and decayed chemical shells that were found. So it wasn’t just the nukes that he was supposed to have had.

    So, to answer your main point: The use of the term “WMD” is accurate, because Bush, Rumsfeldt and Powel were talking about both nuclear and chemical weapons. And they were wrong on both counts.

  136. Quiet_Desperation

    >>> Well, if there is no god, then there’s probably
    >>> nothing to sort either.

    Has anyone ever developed a theological cosmology that included and afterlife but no God? Where there *is* an existence for our consciousness after our bodies die, but no supreme being. It’s simply the natural order of things and evolved that way along with the physical universe.

    The string theory folks talk about how gravity is a force from another D-brane. Maybe consciousness is as well. Crap, I think I just gave away a good book idea. :)

  137. Brian

    Ken G,

    We need you on the “Dark Hole” thread to help figure out what’s happening in Abell 520.

  138. Armand

    I am glad my comment made some of you laugh. Let me make my position clear. No matter who is in the White house be it Democrat or Republican deserves the respect of the office. One does not make wild and groundless accusations and use demeaning language to attack that person. Critisism is fine, as long as it is presented in a civilized manner.

    Besides this was to be about astronomy not politics.

  139. Brian

    Armand: No matter who is in the White House be it Democrat or Republican deserves the respect of the office.

    Every human being deserves an infinite amount of respect simply for being human. So I agree that the president deseves a lot of respect and, in fact, would deserve it even if he were not president.

  140. TheBlackCat

    @ Quiet_Desperation

    Try some branches of Buddhism and Hinduism.

  141. I like Christopher’s argument that Bush and his staff are so stupid and incompetent that they can’t know anything for sure. Since they were too stupid to determine the threat, they decided that the best course was to start wars and slaughter people.

    But it seems like all the stupid stuff keeps leading to big profits for the war industry. Evidently, the stupider you are, the richer you and your friends become.

    In a speech two years ago, Bush told us that it isn’t his job to win in Iraq, it is his job to keep the war going and hand it off to the next administration.

    Bush is very very happy with the war. He loves it. It is going exactly as he intended. Considering that the war against Iraq is a big success in bush’s book, and he doesn’t want to win it, what do you think the purpose of the war is?

    I’m not what it means to say that intelligent people are behind this war. Intelligent people have supported all sides of every war. Some people just love wars.

  142. scott koontz

    First, thank you Phil. I could not agree more. The point that students should not grade their own papers is exactly what BushCo has been doing for years. Maybe Gonzo should preside over his own hearings.

    And for those who think that all presidents are alike, I have to laugh. Sure, they all owe the many who helped purchase their way into office, but there must be some scale. In terms of science and environment, BushCo has to be the worst on record. Follow the money, especially with President Cheney’s past. In terms of war and so-called hindsight, we have all the facts we need to show that BushCo had to bend the existing facts and even request new “facts” until he received what he wanted. Even THEN he had to make his weak case to, sadly, wimpy Democrats who knew better.

    Not all presidents are the same. Please do not use the argumnent that they are all equally bad because they are all, to some degree, corrupt. I wish to announce, very clearly, that Bush and his regime are the worst thing to happen to my vision of America in my lifetime.

  143. Petreus has already told us that the war against Iraq is like the British war against Ireland and will take as long. the n he tells us we’ll be at war there another 38 years. Funny, Ireland and Britain have been fighting 800 years and it only ended when Britain delcared peace and left. An action we would call, losing. We shouldn’t let this obscure the argument though.

    Clearly if we’re going to keep fighting for 38 years, we’re not serious about winning If we were, we’d bring back the draft and get most every healthy male of suitable age over there to win the peace. But we’re not doing that, because we don’t want to win. We just want to keep slaughtering people.

    In the mean time, Halliburton continues to pump Iraqi oil and they keep all the profits. But at least the US taxpayer covers all of their expenses. in a little over 30 years, Iraq’s oil production will be pretty much ended, and it won’t be worth staying there anymore.

    Now if we look at an alternate reality…. Suppose Saddam had died of a heart attack, Iraq and become a democratic nation, sanctions lifted, investments pouring in… Their maximum oil production of a few million barrels a day, would be increasingly consumed by their own industries. They’d be buying cars, building more factories, making microwave ovens, etc… They would’ve rapidly reached the point where their oil consumption would’ve matched their oil production. Their oil exports would decline and cease. Millions of barrels of oil a day would be taken off the market. Obviously, the rest of the world can’t allow this to happen.

    Now look at Iran. In a few short years, their domestic oil consumption is expected to match their exports. Millions of barrels a day of oil exports will dry up. Now, if we can destroy Iran and put Halliburton in charge of their oil fields, all of Iran’s oil production can stay on the world market.

  144. Oh come on, all presidents are exactly alike.

    If you put Bush and Clinton side by side, you can’t tell them apart. They are like identical twins! :P

  145. Jason

    “If you put Bush and Clinton side by side, you can’t tell them apart. They are like identical twins!”

    Except that Democrats tend to be less socially repressive.

    On most other stuff they are the same, yes.

  146. Liberal AND Proud

    The surge is working?

    If this is success, I’d hate to see failure.

  147. Republican Success is not measured by benchmarks, but by feelings and self esteem. If you feel like a winner, then you are a winner. In fact everyone that agree with Bush is a winner. That’s why the guys that screwed up Iraq all got Medals of Honor. Its like giving out trophies at a little league baseball game, just for showing up.

    If more soldiers die, it is proof we are winning.
    If less soldiers die, it is proof we are winning.
    If a major US city is nuked, it will prove that Bush is protecting us from terrorism.If a major US city is not nuked, it will prove that Bush is protecting us from terrorism.

    If the Green Zone gets nuked, well it will just show how desperate the enemy is, and prove that we are winning.

    Hundreds of years from now, we will still be winning in Iraq. The only way we can lose, is to leave.

    Winning = eternal war.

    Because if someone wins, then someone has to lose. And that is unhealthy and un-Republican. It can harm someone’s self esteem. And self esteem is really important. So in Iraq nobody wins or loses. We just pass out trophies and medals until the end of time.

  148. I am not an American. However, I care about the USA’s political landscape like an ant cares about the herd of cows wandering along the trail across which I’m walking. And, heaven help me if the herd gets spooked and starts trotting or galloping.

    A “global warming” metaphor. At the moment, “sub-prime mortgages” in the USA have caused at least a slight melt in the sub-strata of the USA’s fiscal glacier. The resulting outflow is set to overwhelm the series of lakes and the stream that flows from that glacier. Not only this, the seismic shocks caused by the shifts in the glacier, caused by the too-rapid melting of the glacier, are felt far away, and cause the foundations of other glaciers to falter.

    Is the Bush Whitehouse responsible for the USA’s sub-prime mortgage debacle? Perhaps not directly.

    Is the USA’s expensive war in Iraq responsible for instability in the USA’s financial underpinning? At least ‘maybe’.

    Is the Whitehouse’s ignorance of scientific data, research,and fundamental knowledge (including global warming) of concern? Yes.

  149. EnragedParrot

    Skepteric:
    “However, I can say one thing about him: He sticks to his convictions. Like it or not, this man firmly believes that he is doing the right thing, and no matter what the polls, the media or the democrats say, he’s going to do what he thinks is right.”

    I think you’re right. I think George Bush is an intelligent, pious, deeply religious man sticking to his convictions and doing what he believes is right.

    Some of the most abhorrent, disgusting things in the history of the human race have been done by people just like that.

    Just my two farthing’s worth.

  150. Russ

    LA Times article.

    This entire thread rambles on because of inflammatory comments in the post. Stick to the facts and you’ll get a better signal to noise ratio.

    Anyway, the article makes a big deal about the White House authoring the final report, and also the White House judging the progress of the surge and the next step.

    First of all, hello? Who else is going to author the report. Petraeus himself? The White House is the office of the commander of the the armed forces. They have the resources to author the report based on the information coming out of Iraq.

    Second, who else would make military decisions regarding the troop surge? Again, the Office of the President is the commander of the armed forces. The Congress can declare and fund war. They cannot declare the X battalions go here, city Y be bombed, etc.

    The BA needs to read the Constitution.

    The first questions to Petraeus can be:

    * Have you read the full report?
    * Do you agree with the findings of the full report?

    Petraeus was approved unaminously. Is congress going to now turn around and call him a liar? Eh, it would make sense given that the approved him and then attempted to destroy his chosen strategy.

    So. Plan is, congress hears the report, questions Petraeus and then has 1 of 2 options.

    A) Continue funding the war
    B) Stop funding the war

    There is no option (C) where the tell the military what to do. So, no, there is no Orwellian conspiracy. In this case, the branches of government are doing what they are supposed to be doing. The Republican Executive branch is supporting a war that Republicans support, the Democrat controlled house has the option to cut the funding for that war.

    A) Con

  151. BILL BONES:

    I think the quote you mentioned was from Winston Churchill.

  152. Alien_from_Europe

    “>> Weaseldogon 17 Aug 2007 at 9:53 am

    I like Christopher’s argument that Bush and his staff are so stupid and incompetent that they can’t know anything for sure. Since they were too stupid to determine the threat, they decided that the best course was to start wars and slaughter people.
    But it seems like all the stupid stuff keeps leading to big profits for the war industry. Evidently, the stupider you are, the richer you and your friends become.
    In a speech two years ago, Bush told us that it isn’t his job to win in Iraq, it is his job to keep the war going and hand it off to the next administration.
    Bush is very very happy with the war. He loves it. It is going exactly as he intended. Considering that the war against Iraq is a big success in bush’s book, and he doesn’t want to win it, what do you think the purpose of the war is?
    I’m not what it means to say that intelligent people are behind this war. Intelligent people have supported all sides of every war. Some people just love wars.

  153. Alien_from_Europe

    ——————————————————-
    >>> Weaseldogon 17 Aug 2007 at 9:53 am

    …In a speech two years ago, Bush told us that it isn’t his job to win in Iraq, it is his job to keep the war going and hand it off to the next administration.
    Bush is very very happy with the war. He loves it. It is going exactly as he intended. Considering that the war against Iraq is a big success in bush’s book, and he doesn’t want to win it, what do you think the purpose of the war is?
    I’m not what it means to say that intelligent people are behind this war. Intelligent people have supported all sides of every war. Some people just love wars.

  154. Paul S

    Regarding Iran, I think that the odds of the US attacking Iran in the foreseeable future are about the same as the US attacking the Soviet Union during the later years of the Vietnam War – pretty close to zero. The US military is pretty heavily tied down in Iraq, and to even think about attacking Iran as well would require a considerably larger army. That would mean a reinstitution of the draft, which is politically impossible. Even after we withdraw from Iraq, the majority of public opinion is probably going to be opposed to any more such large-scale adventures for years into the future.

    I believe that one reason that Bush wants to remain in Iraq is fear that things will be even worse if we withdraw. This is not necessarily an irrational fear – as other posters pointed out, the different factions in Iraq have become more and more interested in killing each other and less interested in killing Americans unless the Americans are standing between them and their domestic enemies. The argument that the presence of the US forces makes the domestic violence worse does not make much sense to me – it seems much more likely that US (and British) forces are the only thing preventing the situation from becoming even worse. After all, Vietnam did not get any less bloody after the US left – it just meant that the killing was being done entirely by native forces and the US didn’t have to get its hands dirty anymore. US withdrawal from Vietnam and southeast Asia in general did not mean fewer deaths – it meant even more, especially after the communists won in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

    Basically, the Bush administration thought that setting up a relatively liberal elected government in Iraq would be relatively easy, and that the US would enjoy the support of most of the Iraqi population after getting rid of Saddam. A pro-US regime in Iraq would make it easier for the US to pressure anti-US regimes to adopt a friendlier stance, or possibly even overthrow them outright. They turned out to be quite wrong about all of this, partly because the US mishandled the early stages of the occupation, partly because US leaders misread the psychology of people in the area. The purpose of the US presence in Iraq has shifted from making things better to preventing things from becoming even worse than they are now.

  155. Daffy

    “Some people just love wars.”

    Well, Halliburton certainly does. They have twice rebuilt Iraq…and now that they have relocated to Dubai, they won’t even have to pay income tax on their windfall. Could this whole thing really just be a simple matter of greed?

  156. Dagger

    “From the outside looking in”

    WMD = Justification for War (according to the Bush administration*)
    so,
    No WMD = No justification?

    The long and short of it is that the country of the United States attacked another nation WITHOUT provocation or justifiction… period.

    Another couple of countries in recent memory did that too, around 1939, Septemberish.

    And that is where my comparrison of nations ends.

    The United States didn’t enter WWI until 1917, fully 3 years after it began. Why?

    The United States didn’t enter WWII until 1941 when it was attacked WITHOUT provacation or justification. Again almost 3 full years after the conflict began? Why?

    What has changed in the United States since the early part of the last Century? Why has the United States let itself become the unchecked aggressor?

    Understanding the reasons to these questions would be to understand the answers on what needs to be done to get your nation back.

    (*Bush administration – neither Democrat nor true Republican, so what then?)

  157. Bill

    Phil,

    At first I enjoyed reading your blog on all things astronomy. However, as of late, your off-topic liberal posts are becoming boorish; especially when it comes to the global warming hysteria.

    I realize it is your blog, but you have lost me as a regular reader. You should have stuck with what you once did best; Bad Astronomy.

    I am removing the bookmark and the links to your site as I can no longer recommend it.

  158. bill estes

    What happen to astronomy? Are you just another dumb democrat that likes to bash our country? Your just aiding and abetting the enemies of America. Do you also sit around with that fat ass Mike Moore and finger yourself?

  159. Brian

    Bill: …Especially when it comes to the global warming hysteria.

    I think we need an accurate scientific assessment of the climate situation. This assessment will come from scientists. Most scientists are much more interested in science than in politics. They are, typically, much more interested in being right than in pleasing political factions. I know that may be difficult for some to fathom, but I can take myself as an example. I find many political discussions annoying and biased even when I agree with the person’s basic point of view. I’ve always had an aversion to exageration and general BS, but I am very interested in science. I realize that many other people aren’t, because whenever I try to discuss neutrinos or one of my other favorite topics with many of my friends, they quickly maneuver the discussion over to some such topic as sports or a situation involving their relatives. But, although many do not seem to share my temperament and interests, some do, and some of those who do become scientists. I am attracted to the rigor and scrupulousness of well-done science, and so are most of those who have chosen a career in science. Remember that a lot of the top climatologists are not even Americans and do not care a hoot about our politics.

    I really haven’t seen any “hysterical” climatologists running down the streets screaming. “Hysteria” is a hyperbolic description in any case, but the exageration comes from the politicians and other partisans, not from the science itself. The majority of climatologists seem to think that the Earth is warming and that the primary factors are anthropogenic. If you are genuinely interested in climat change but want to avoid the hype, avoid the political discussions and focus on the science. The August 2007 edition of Scientific America summarizes the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, prepared by 600 or so scientists from 40 countries.

  160. Daffy

    “What happen to astronomy? Are you just another dumb democrat that likes to bash our country? Your just aiding and abetting the enemies of America. Do you also sit around with that fat ass Mike Moore and finger yourself?”

    The true face of the Republican party.

  161. Ken

    Brian, claiming the IPC report is not political brought some very good humor to my day.

    Dagger; One of the things that very few seem to mention is the U.N. treaty signed after the “first” gulf war. If you read it you’ll notice the Iraq really didn’t follow any of it, thus the all the useless resolutions after it from the U.N.. It also states that if Iraq doesn’t comply, military force may be used again.

    “Germany neither intends nor wishes to interfere in the internal affairs of Austria, to annex Austria, or to conclude an Anschluss.”
    Adolf Hitler – 21st May 1935

  162. Brian

    Ken,

    I think that the IPCC report is, for the most part, unbiased for several reasons:

    1. I think that there are a lot of honest people in the world. Maybe I’m just projecting, but I have a tremendous amount of faith in my fellow human beings.

    2. I have heard no credible evidence that the report is biased – innuendo does not count as credible evidence.

    3. Many scientists have a particular afffinity for accuracy. They like science more than they like politics. This may be difficult for you personally to comprehend, but I feel that many scientists have a disposition similar to mine. There is an winsome aesthetic quality to scrupulous adherence to the pursuit of scientific truth. Perhaps many people cannot understand why, but some of us really enjoy this.

    4. I have read the account of the IPCC report in Scientific American and it makes sense to me. The figures for the various forcings, the chronological land and sea temperature graphs, etc., are in accordance with the figures that I have seen elsewhere.

    5. Being “wrong” is the quickest way to commit professional suicide in science. Producing an inaccurate report would ruin the authors’ reputations within the scientific community.

  163. Ken

    Brian, I also think that most scientists are interested in accuracy and learning about this world of ours. But I’ve also seen James Hansen completely ignore a legitimate question question during a question and answer period. Only he knows why he didn’t answer, but as a viewer it sure looked like the answer might have contradicted his point so he ignored it. I only use this as an example to point out the scientists are still human. And no , I don’t completely trust what is essentially a U.N. committee.

    I’ve also seen that people tend to see what they want to see. And scientists sometimes fall into that trap as well. We (people) tend to take little bits of data and assume that the data is telling us the whole story. Seems to me we’d have learned by now that it’s not.

  164. Brian

    For some reason, I never considered the possibility that James Hansen authored any part of the IPCC report. If he did, he was still only 1 person out of 600. Since Hansen, himself, seems to take a more extreme position than the report does, I would not consider him part of the consensus. Hansen has also been politically outspoken to a degree that is unusual among climatologists, to the extent that he may be the only climatologist that many people could name off the top of their heads (I don’t count TV weather reporters). I think he views himself as something of a whistle-blower about what he deems active suppression of science by the Bush administration. I think he regards that as his major role.

    I am not sure why you take such a dim view of the U. N. in this matter. An accurate assessment of the climate situation would benefit everyone.

  165. Brian

    Ken: I’ve also seen that people see what they want to see.

    I agree with that, but, in the case of professional climatologists, there is a great deal of personal and professional incentive to see what is actually there. Remember that the climate situation will become more and more clear as time passes. Politicians will still try to spin things, but if the Emperor is naked…. The members of the committe will judge themselves as will others on the basis of whether they turn out to be right or wrong in retrospect.

  166. Irishman

    Dagger said:
    > The United States didn’t enter WWII until 1941 when it was attacked WITHOUT provacation or justification. Again almost 3 full years after the conflict began? Why?

    That’s not actually correct. The U.S. did not officially join the war until after Pearl Harbor, but it had been contributing supplies to the British and French. Furthermore, Pearl Harbor was not exactly without provocation. The U.S. was engaged in diplomatic wrangling with Japan, and was applying a lot of pressure for certain ends. The big issue with Pearl Harbor was the attack occurred prior to a formal declaration of war. Of course, that was largely a logistical snafu where the declaration was delayed and the first engagement carried out on schedule, so the Japanese did not intend for Pearl Harbor to precede the official declaration. But it sure made for a good rhetorical and emotional argument to drag the U.S. fully into WWII.

    And your point is not invalidated by the errors in the above statement.

    Brian said:
    > Being “wrong” is the quickest way to commit professional suicide in science. Producing an inaccurate report would ruin the authors’ reputations within the scientific community.

    Actually, being wrong isn’t so bad. What is bad is being intentionally wrong. Fraud is the ticket to professional suicide.

  167. Ken

    Brian, I used Mr. Hansen as an example only of a scientist being human. I’m not aware that he is connected to the report. I’m not sure how he views himself, but the idea that he’s being suppressed by Bush is ludicrous considering the number of times he has given talks, and on cspan even.

    While an accurate assessment of the climate situation might benefit everyone, from what little I’ve seen and read we’re a long way from that. Things like there only being 6 Brazil GHCN stations doesn’t convince me that we’re getting good enough data, let alone accurate data.

  168. Brian

    Irishman,

    I typed the sentence to which you just objected too hastily. If there had been a way to go back and change it after posting, I would have revised it. I agree with you that being “wrong” is not the worst possible problem. You point out that fraud is much, much worse. I agree. I also think that it is worse if your work is viewed as “sloppy”. Good work is often superseded as more data comes in, possibly taken with more sensitve equipment. Other scientists will respect your work if you did the best you could with the equipment you had and included appropriate error bars. Your conclusions are judged, but so are your methodology and the quality of your work. Anyway, both for the reason you point out and the one I point out, it behooves one to do the best work possible. Of course, doing a really good job is very satisfying also.

    I would also have changed the sentence after the one we just discussed. The word “ruin” is too strong. Although that word may apply in some cases, I think “severely damage” is better.

  169. Brian

    Ken,

    I was merely using Hansen’s claims about suppression as an example of his outspokenness. I express no opinion about the veracity of said claims. His outspokenness, in turn, was used only to support the contention that he is atypical among climatologists.

    As long as you support, both verbally and actually, the gathering of good science, as implied in your second paragraph, then you and I agree on a major point. As much as possible, we need to free the scientific endeavor from political influence.

  170. Alien_from_Europe

    ——————————————————-
    Weird, but the blog did only post my quote of Weaseldogon but not my comment. Maybe, the NSA is eavesdropping.
    ——————————————————-

    After years of wondering what exactly made the Bush government go to war it appears more and more that is was neither big-oil (although Halliburton certainly is happy about the course of events) nor messianic democracy seeding (even if Wolfowitz would have loved to do) but simple ass-kicking. The US has been attacked on their own soil and somebody had to pay. Never mind that no solid evidence was found it could be fabricated as this was to be an American century.

    And now the US is caught in the dilemma of being part of the problem it can‘t abandon for fear to appear as a weakling. However, even with the best of intentions it is impossible to to bring peace by destructive force alone. Specifically, when there has been peace in Iraq (albeit an unpleasant one) in terms of non-military violence before and daily doses of friendly fire now.
    And the current sole self-definition of America as seen by the Bush government, in terms of battle-strength, is all but helpful.
    The conservative dinosaurs should stop whining about the unfair rating their getting and face the harsh truth: the US started a pointless war and lost it.
    Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld where stupid enough to walk into the powder-keg with lighters on. Everybody told them so but they stubbornly insisted on pursuing /(in their view) the only way. Such manners make the US appear quite unreliable as a partner for no one knows for sure when, say, Denmark is marked as part of the axis of evil. The Bush government has demonstrated repeatedly that it is obsessed only with its public appearance and not with their own people or the well being of its allies.

    In this light the „United we stand. Divided we fall.“ dogma is only a feeble excuse for carrying on without a clue and therefore Phil Plait‘s comments on politics are important and necessary. It is truth seeking and not truth claiming as the Bush government has much too often demonstrated. In the course of this truth claiming many people have died.

    Alien_from_Europe

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