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Friday, February 14, 2003

Where's the Beef.. er, um, Pork? No, wait — He Said "Catfish"...

Tony Adragna
Don't feel like digging around in the Congressional Record, so here's McCain's press release with pork menu and quotage from his floor statement. I find this bit entertaining
Mr. President, let's talk about the lowly catfish and its heretofore unknown relation to the cow. In the emergency disaster relief section of this bill, a provision was included that would qualify catfish farmers for livestock compensation payments. As my colleagues know, the livestock compensation program is a federal farm program that compensates eligible livestock producers—such as owners of beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, or certain breeds of buffalo—who have suffered losses or damages as a result of a severe drought.

"While I often take issue with various farm policies that disproportionately benefit large agribusiness or farms at the expense of small farmers and taxpayers, or those that compromise American agricultural trade commitments, this effort to compensate catfish farmers from a farm program that is intended for livestock stands out. I am certain that catfish proponents will offer a dozen different explanations to justify this provision. However, not even hog, poultry or horse producers are eligible under the livestock compensation program. Why should catfish then get livestock payments? When did a catfish become analogous to a cow?

"Catfish farmers are hardly left out in the cold—they are eligible for other types of emergency assistance from USDA. Also, in the recent 2002 Farm bill, domestic catfish proponents were successful in banning all catfish imports by requiring that foreign catfish be labeled as something other than catfish. It seems very clear to me that catfish farmers do not want to compete on a fair basis, domestically or abroad, and are willing to double-dip into disaster-relief funding intended for other farmers in need. Mr. President, let's remove this extraneous provision and let livestock be livestock, not catfish.
I think I eat more catfish than beef...

It's also kinda neat that this years list includes a provision "to combat 'feral hogs' in Missouri". Sheesh, don't these folks know that there's already a tried & true method of dealing with such critters? — Surely some congressional staffer coulda googled up wild hog hunting...

While I'm on the topic of pigs... Paul Berman says that " Joschka Fischer is wrong to resist the Iraq war. But he's not evil."
Fischer and a good many Europeans of his generation became militants of the New Left in the late 1960s and '70s because, among other motives, they considered themselves to be fighting a war against the lingering Nazism of German life and of Western civilization as a whole. This anti-Nazism of theirs turned out to be foolish in many ways—sometimes criminal, sometimes even Nazi-like at its most grotesque moments, which is why the New Left finally disintegrated. But the anti-Nazi motives were sincere, for all that. The impulse to go fight against totalitarian legacies had a large and (on balance) mostly positive effect on German and European society—or, at least, a great many Germans and Europeans believe that to be the case today. Fischer is by far the most popular politician in Germany right now, and that is partly because many people do credit him with having had moral and admirable motives in the past, even if they (and he) acknowledge that, in his youth, he went off the deep end from time to time.
Unapologeticaly not buying it, pal...

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Let's Have a Pork Roast

Tony Adragna
Sen. McCain just finished his annual decrial of pork barrel earmarking — pig's ears, anybody? — and it was a stand-up performance.

I'll link to the Congressional Record page when it becomes available...

It's Called "Dynamic Scoring"...

Tony Adragna
TAPPED quotes an article by Stan Collender in Government Executive Magazine — here's the link to "Secrets of S-3" that should went with TAPPED's item — criticizing the administration for saying things not supported by the budget documents.

Specifically, Table S-3[pdf] contradicts assertions from Mitch Daniels et al about the impact of the FY '04 budget.

How to reconcile the two? Easy — OMB doesn't use "dynamic scoring", so Table S-3, along with all of the other documents related to the budget submission, don't take into account the impact of above-baseline "growth" in revenue. But underlying the proposals is the "dynamic scoring" logic.

Of course the White House budget advocacy can't be reconciled with the OMB documents — they're proceding from different methodologies. That they don't reconcile is beside the point if Congress decides to adopt "dynamic scoring" in its approach to the budget.

Now, I agree with the criticism that the president's assumptions on revenue are problematic, and that the current proposals are a return to structural deficits — I said it first. But let's not confuse the debate by deliberately comparing apples to oranges....

Update: Stan Collender admitted in an earlier column that the logic of "dynamc scoring" applied to the revenue growth through economic expnasion via fiscal policy [tax cuts] argument — not the OMB projections — is what underlies the the White House's budget advocacy. Why now pretend that the administration is getting caught out for relying on a document using assumptions that they've never particularly cared for?

Does al Qaeda Support Saddam?(cont.)

Tony Adragna
When last I addressed this question several points were made: a ) the question is only part of the test on whether a nexus exists, b ) the historical record — Saddam's not unrequited support of Hamas' program, and bin Laden's tacit acceptance of western support during the Afghan fight against the Soviets — proves that the ideological divergence is no firewall preventing linkages. This doesn't prove an actual linkage between Saddam & al Qaeda, but it does mean that the "different interests" argument isn't as much a disproof as some argument wants to rely upon.

To wit: The response to Sec. Powell's presentation on that point can no longer rest on "those guys hate each other." So, why is Richard Cohen doing exactly that?
"Once again, he [bin Laden] speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle and how he is in partnership with Iraq. This nexus between terrorist states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored."

But, sir, bin Laden also has some harsh words on the tape for Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party regime. He calls them "infidels." He says, "The socialists [the Baath Party] and the rulers have lost their legitimacy a long time ago, and the socialists are infidels regardless of where they are, whether in Baghdad or in Aden."

It seems to me, sir, that this statement substantiates what many experts have long maintained: that bin Laden loathes the secular, hedonistic dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. That does not mean, of course, that he hates Hussein more than he hates the United States. That is not the case -- and he says so. It's just that to use this statement to establish some sort of "nexus" between bin Laden and Hussein seems to be a reach.
Certainly Cohen is quoting bin Laden in support of the argument that they don't mix, but the quotation is highly selective. A fuller quotation of bin Laden speaks volumes on the points I've previously made
It's known that fighting to achieve victory for the infidels is not permissible. And you know the Muslim's belief should be clear when fighting that it should be for the sake of Allah. As the prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Whoever fought to raise the word of Allah, then he's fighting for the sake of Allah."

And it doesn't harm in these conditions the interest of Muslims to agree with those of the socialists in fighting against the crusaders, even though we believe the socialists are infidels. For the socialists and the rulers have lost their legitimacy a long time ago, and the socialists are infidels regardless of where they are, whether in Baghdad or in Aden (ph).

And this fighting about to take place resembles the fight with the Romans earlier and the collusion of interest doesn't harm, for the Muslims' fight against the Romans was due to the collusion of the interests with the Persians.[bold emphasis added]
Cohen is correct — bin Laden does call the Ba'athist socialists "infidels". Nevertheless, bin Laden says "it doesn't harm in these conditions the interest of Muslims to agree with those of the socialists in fighting against the crusaders".

In other words, as I previously suggested, Saddam & bin Laden currently have a common interest that outweighs their ideological divergence, and both are willing to exploit the commonality for their own purposes — Saddam toward his own glorification, and bin Laden in the pursuit of "In Sha' Allah".

I don't know why Cohen doesn't grasp this point. Maybe he does — that would explain why he resorts to such an obviously disingenuous form as the selective quotation...

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Oh, That Wesley Clark...

Tony Adragna
Josh isn't following the script
According to the script of the day, we're supposed to be castigating the French, Germans, Belgians, Russians and the rest of Old Europe for betraying us, endangering NATO, hanging Turkey out to dry, appeasing Iraq, and generally being incomparable weenies. A lot of smart people in the US are saying just that. But they're being profoundly shortsighted. After 9/11, the Bush administration quite consciously marginalized NATO, resisting even the symbolic involvement of the alliance which could be paying substantial dividends today. I think it's quite possible that the damage we are doing to NATO right now will turn out to be the most profoundly damaging legacy of this administration. (And the competition is substantial.)
Now, if you didn't click through the "marginalized NATO" link, here's another opportunity to read General Clark's "lessons of the Kosovo campaign". Can the class point out what's wrong with the lecture? Anybody?... Anybody?...

OK, I'll tell you what's wrong: Clark omits the fact that NATO had to be led toward action. This is no minor omission — Clark had previously admitted this point in an interview
The NATO defense ministers met in June, 1998. A lot of people have said that was a really important meeting. What did they ask you to do?

It was a critical meeting, because that's the meeting in which NATO began to seriously discuss the process of taking action, if necessary. There was a lot of discussion of what was going on in Kosovo. People had finally come to terms with the fact that it wasn't just an ordinary reaction to some domestic terrorism that was taking place--they were seeing the first stages of unfolding drama that was likely to culminate in ethnic cleansing. It's a pattern that's been seen elsewhere in the Balkans.

Secretary Cohen made a speech which, people told me, drew gasps in the room. He was tough.

Secretary Cohen explained that it was time for NATO to essentially lay down the law and take a stand. . . . He said we should cut off what the Serbs were doing, and make it very clear that it wouldn't be tolerated. He was very direct in asking that this be done, and it drew a lot of discussion around the table.

So the defense ministers were trying to get a grip on this, and trying to deter it. They asked us to undertake some planning, and to underscore the fact that we were going to do some planning, they asked us to do an air exercise. So we set up an air exercise, and did it in only 48 hours. We brought in over 100 aircraft, flew around the periphery of Kosovo, went into Albania, flew in Albania, then around Macedonia, and around the border. We knew we were being picked up by Yugoslav radar, which we thought was there.
Had it not been for Sec. Cohen's gasp drawing speech and U.S. leadership, might not the NATO ministers still be sitting 'round a table trying to "get a grip"? Let's turn to an interview with Cohen for a clue to the answer
One of my biggest concerns was whether or not the NATO allies were willing to invest in any kind of a campaign. I was absolutely convinced that the United States could not afford to take any kind of unilateral action from a political point of view, and certainly we were not going to recommend to the president and to the Congress that we intervene unilaterally without NATO consensus and support. There was a long debate for months, beginning in 1998, over whether NATO had any legal authority to take action.

I spent a considerable amount of time dealing with my colleagues at the defense minister level, who were concerned about potential instability spreading, with an influx of refugees coming into their countries--then they'd have to be willing to take action to defend the integrity of their own borders. At that point, the overwhelming majority said they couldn't take any action without a UN Security Council resolution. My point was that if that's the argument and that's your position, in all likelihood, no action would be taken. It's probably unreasonable to expect the Security Council to authorize any kind of military action to prevent what is taking place. So it became a debate over the issue of legal authority. I tried to prepare my colleagues in NATO that if they're going to take action, they must be willing to take strong action, and consider all of the options. That started way back in the spring of 1998.
Sheesh, the Balkans were re-Balkanizing in a violent fashion, but NATO wouldn't act without "consensus" and a Security Council resolution.

Hell, even Pravda caught General Clark overtly admitting that action in the Balkans had to be "sold" to NATO
"By Spring of '95," stated Clark, "the UN mission in Bosnia was clearly in trouble. America prepared to put in 25,000 troops to help our allies... we went to Europe, we sold our allies on American leadership." Clark defended American dominance of NATO, saying, "The U.S. created NATO-(and so) it earns the right to put in the commander."

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Who Wrecked NATO?

Herr Schroeder retakes Belgium, with French help this time...
Tony Adragna
Writing about the current dispute over whether NATO ought send some assistance to Turkey, Fred Kaplan starts
It's one thing to accuse France and Germany of behaving stubbornly in the dispute over war with Iraq. It's another thing to wreck NATO in the process. Yet Bush officials seem strangely determined to do just that—or maybe they're just oblivious of where the latest round of the U.S. vs. "old Europe" kerfuffle might lead
Now, I do agree with Kaplan vis a vis Sec. Rumsfeld's oft impolitic phraseology, and if he had stopped there I'd be in complete agreement — at least so far as the old NATO is implicated. But, Kaplan is on a roll and can't stop himself — after explaining for us how it is that the Berlin - Brussels - Paris salient is well defended, he then launches an offensive
This is not merely a legalistic dispute. By invoking the NATO Charter to continue its increasingly antagonistic conflict with France and Germany, Bush officials are behaving disingenuously and dangerously. What's disingenuous is that this administration has never been especially mindful of the p's and q's, or even the ABC's, of international treaties—NATO included. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, the entire European wing of the alliance offered to come to America's assistance, invoking Article 5: An attack on one is an attack on all. Bush waved off the gesture—in retrospect, a huge mistake, even if mainly a symbolic one. The reinforcement of the alliance, and of the idea that it still has a purpose after the Cold War, could have helped him a great deal in the subsequent war on terrorism and perhaps even in the current planning for a war against Iraq.
How disingenuous is Kaplan here? Very!

To start, it is simply not true that "this administration has never been especially mindful of the p's and q's, or even the ABC's, of international treaties-NATO included." Of the three treaties — Kytoto, Rome & ABM — that the U.S. is constantly vilified for turning our back on, two had never been ratified by our government, and we therefore never had any obligation to be "mindful" — "especially" or otherwise — of those treaties. The third treaty was dispensed with formally after consultations with the other party — Russia — and in a manner especially mindful of that treaty's provisions for withdrawal.

Kaplan wants to add the NATO Charter to that list of treaties that the U.S. has no use for, and complains that Mr. Bush "waved off the gesture" an offer of assistance from "the entire European wing of the alliance." On September 11, 2001 the North Atlantic Council did "express its solidarity with the United States of America." That expression was reiterated on September 12, but with a condition on the provision of assistance
The Council agreed that if it is determined that this attack was directed from abroad against the United States, it shall be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more of the Allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.
Mindful of "the p's and q's", we went to NATO, made a presentation, and the invocation of Article 5 was confirmed.

What happened next? Did we then, as Kaplan asserts, wave off assistance? Not hardly. Rather, we made specific requests of NATO, and the members agreed. Also, while "Enduring Freedom" was not a NATO led operation, "14 NATO Allies have forces directly involved" in that operation, and "Troops from NATO countries also make up the bulk of the 4,500 strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the United Nations-mandated international force deployed in and around Kabul to help stabilise the country." Does that sound like a wave off?

Note also the "United Nations" reference — we went to the Security Council before launching our campaign in Afghanistan, and we're there again now.

This administration's willingness to work with our tradtional allies and within the construct of international law, notwithstanding rhetoric from some quarters (including places inside the administration), is evident from the record. It's also evident that most of our NATO allies are willing to stand behind U.S. leadership. The only thing contributing to NATO's breakup is the wedge being driven into that line between "old Europe" and new realities

It's the Battle of the Bulge all over again, only this time Antwerp went without a fight...

Monday, February 10, 2003

What Chemicals Are They Sniffing at the Sunshine Project?

Tony Adragna
Atrios quotes a bit of reportage on "US Plans for Use of Gas in Iraq".

Well, read the report, then listen to the exchange[mp3] between Meehan & Rumsfeld.

Now, neither Rumsfeld nor Myers "revealed the plans" to "gas Iraq." What they testified to is that there had been attempts to draft Rules of Engagement that would allow the use of "non-lethal riot agents", but that they haven't been able to get at such an animal, and I'm not sure they can.

As for Rumslfeld's "regrets", if the folks at Sunshine could pull their heads out of the mushroom beds for a moment they'd understand exactly what it is that is regrettable — absent the ability to use some riot agent, the only alternative is deadly force.

What this means can be figured out by looking at plans to use "gas or aerosols on unarmed Iraqi civilians, in caves, and on prisoners." Again, Rumsfeld did not speak of "plans". Nor did Rumsfeld make any mention of specifically targeting "unarmed Iraqi civilians." Rather, the point he was making is that when enemy combatants are, for instance, holed up in a cave with a bunch of civilians, it makes sense to use riot agents to incapacitate everybody in the cave so that we can get at the combatants. The alternative is to indiscriminately kill everybody in the cave.

Because the CWC explicitly bans the use of riot agents as a weapon of war, we may regrettably have to kill more civilians than would be necessary. If the folks at Sunshine don't think that situation regrettable, then I suggest they've no moral compass.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Powell Maintains the Spotlight

Will Vehrs
Punditwatch is up for all to peruse. Colin Powell did a star turn on three shows as George Stephanopolous tried to do a good turn for possible anti-war presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. The Prince of Peace is also revealed ... all that, and more.