Recently I was arguing with one of my dumber friends about the Iraq war. He loves Bush and thinks bigger bombs is the answer in Iraq. I wasn’t gaining any ground in the argument until I used a simple analogy. I said, “Your solution is like shattering an expensive vase and then saying, ‘We need to keep smashing it until it’s fixed.’”
I stumped him. He was silent. So here’s a brief list of other analogies you can use on your dumb friends. And the truth is, I’ve seen similar ones work on some of the smartest political pundits.
1) The country of Iraq has essentially been demolished. The right-wingers keep saying the answer is continued large-scale military action. That’s like if someone got into a car accident, went into a coma, and the doctors believed the patient could be healed by more car accidents. So they just keep putting him into cars and sending him off cliffs.
2) I’ve heard people say that being against Bush or Petraeus or the war in Iraq is equivalent to being against the troops. That’s like if I knew someone who repeatedly sent brave puppies out into traffic. I called that person an asshole for abusing the puppies and abusing their power. Then you accused me of being anti-puppy.
3) The administration talks about the success of the surge because violence has decreased, but we’re in fact paying the militias not to kill each other or our soldiers. It’s like if you were treading water, two sharks approach and begin biting you, you give each one a small piece of fish to distract them. While they take a moment to eat the fish, you sit there treading water and yelling, “Problem solved!”
4) At the Petraeus hearings, he refused to give any sort of definition for “victory” in Iraq. That’s like running a foot race, you’ve gone 30 miles, you’re exhausted, and when you ask your coach driving along next to you how much farther, he just keeps saying “You’ll know it when you get there.” He keeps saying that until you collapse and die.
5) We claim to be “fighting the terrorists” in Iraq, but in fact our presence is helping to create more terrorists. The disaster in Iraq serves as a great training and recruiting tool for an entire generation of terrorists. It’s like trying to kill a gremlin by dousing him in water.
6) KBR, Halliburton, Blackwater and other companies have huge pull in our government (such as the vice presidency). So essentially they decide when the war is over. They also happen to be making millions upon millions of dollars from the war. So asking them to decide when the war is over, is like asking an ugly guy cast in a threesome porn movie to decide when the scene is over. Chances are the scene would go on for months, if not years. The entire crew would be standing around asking, “It’s not over yet? When will we know when it’s time to end it?” And the ugly guy would respond, “Um, it’s a bad idea to set timetables. Just trust me on this.”
7) Lastly, President Bush is like a colorblind child with a Rubik’s Cube.
I’m quite fond of analogies in general, and these in particular.
There is little doubt that Americans generally feel that the initial use of military force in Iraq was a mistake. Recent, paradoxical polls show a dramatic increase in the number of people who believe that the war is now going well alongside a hardening majority who believe it should not have been begun. Barack Obama’s strongest argument on Iraq is increasingly about the past.
But presidential elections tend to focus on the future. In spite of their past failures, whom do you trust more to conduct a flawed, messy war in the years ahead? Lincoln or McClellan? Nixon or McGovern? Bush or Kerry? McCain or Obama?
Well, obviously, the candidate that I trust more to conduct a flawed, messy war is McCain. But I would much rather end the flawed, messy war, which is why I’ll vote for Clinton or Obama. And cross my fingers.
President Bush has sent his trade pact with Colombia to Capitol Hill, and suddenly Washington is not only ablaze with cherry blossoms but cluttered by chestnuts. Every old argument for the virtues of free trade is being recycled by the league of American editorialists, whose all-but-universal commitment to a failed policy will surely excite the wonder of future historians.
The amazing thing about the free-traders’ arguments is that they never change. Today’s free-trade commentaries make the same points as the pro-NAFTA editorials of 1993-94. Now, as then, bilateral trade is a win-win proposition for the peoples of both signatory nations. It raises living standards in developing nations. An educated American workforce has nothing to fear from competition.
Read these commentaries, and you’d think that the past 15 years hadn’t happened. If NAFTA had been a win for Mexico, the millions of its farmers displaced by U.S. agribusiness would have found better jobs in Mexican industry. Instead, with Mexico failing to invest in its own people, and with China supplanting Mexico as our manufacturers’ preferred source of cheap labor, those farmers are disproportionately the immigrants who’ve crossed the border to work here in the States.
Read these commentaries, and you’d never know that America has gone from being a nation that manufactured things to a nation that manufactures debt. Manufacturing (as Kevin Phillips points out in the forthcoming issue of the American Prospect, which I edit) accounted for 25 percent of America’s gross domestic product in the 1970s but just 12 percent in 2006. Finance, which amounted to 12 percent of GDP in the ’70s, amounted to 20 percent in 2006.
…In the years since NAFTA was passed, the jobs created in the United States have been disproportionately low-wage service-sector and retail jobs. And in the years since we granted permanent trade relations to China and U.S. companies moved their factories from the Midwest to the Middle Kingdom, incomes in America for all but the rich have been stagnant — at best.
In short, while we’ve been practicing free trade, we’ve been devoid of any national policy geared toward retaining or creating good jobs…. Among the industrial democracies, only the United States has allowed its corporate sector to decimate its union movement, leaving the vast majority of its workers with no leverage to obtain higher wages. And only the United States has kept its economy humming chiefly by extending more and more credit to those with largely stagnant incomes — an economic strategy that led us into our current recession and, most likely, toward a long-term decline in living standards.
What’s been missing in America’s trade policy is a preference for Americans. The object of trade in China is to help the Chinese nation. German trade is designed to help Germany; Scandinavian, to help the Scandinavian nations. This is not the case here. General Electric goes abroad to lower costs and boost profits. Goldman Sachs invests abroad in the same kind of low-wage, high-profit enterprises. That’s the mission of such businesses. But the U.S. government has never taken on the mission of defending the American economy, or the American people, in the global economy. That is not the only reason the broadly shared prosperity of the three decades following World War II is now a distant memory, but it is a certainly a major reason.
The problem is, things like better wages, job security, and upward mobility for us little people are simply not a priority for the Bush government. To them, as long as corporations, senior executives, and finance high-rollers are doing well, that’s all that matters. (Dubya’s happy talk about the economy makes a lot more sense in this context, although it’s a toss-up whether he thinks everything’s great because his rich friends are doing well, or if he’s simply lying his ass off – either explanation is equally plausible to me.) Indeed, they see things like better wages, job security, and upward mobility for us little people as threats to corporate profit margins.
Let me put it another way: What incentive do BushCo. and the Republicans (and, sadly, a good chunk of the Democrats) have to make the economy work for everyone? We already know that altruism, compassion, and a sense of fair play are not in their emotional toolkit, and they simply cannot fathom the idea of trickle-up economics, where workers who get paid more spend more.
They don’t even have to worry about their self-centered policies producing an economic collapse, because the government will just bail the big shots out. Not us little people, of course – we’re on our own.
“The next six months will be critical” is going to end up with the same kind of cultural resonance as “The check’s in the mail,” “How would you like to buy the Brooklyn Bridge,” and “I have chosen you to help me get my dead boss/uncle’s $50 million out of Nigeria.”
In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.
The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of “combined” interrogation techniques — using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time — on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.
Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects — whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.
The high-level discussions about these “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed — down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.
The advisers were members of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.
At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.
Contacted by ABC News today, spokesmen for Tenet, Rumsfeld and Powell declined to comment about the interrogation program or their private discussions in Principals Meetings. Powell said through an assistant there were “hundreds of [Principals] meetings” on a wide variety of topics and that he was “not at liberty to discuss private meetings.”
Hey, you hear that flushing sound, Colin? That’s the last remaining scraps of your reputation. Remember when everyone thought you were a statesmanlike man of integrity? Pretty awesome, wasn’t it? And now you’re just another of Dubya’s war criminals.
According to a former CIA official involved in the process, CIA headquarters would receive cables from operatives in the field asking for authorization for specific techniques. Agents, worried about overstepping their boundaries, would await guidance in particularly complicated cases dealing with high-value detainees, two CIA sources said.
Highly placed sources said CIA directors Tenet and later Porter Goss along with agency lawyers briefed senior advisers, including Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and Powell, about detainees in CIA custody overseas.
“It kept coming up. CIA wanted us to sign off on each one every time,” said one high-ranking official who asked not to be identified. “They’d say, ‘We’ve got so and so. This is the plan.'”
Sources said that at each discussion, all the Principals present approved.
Then-Attorney General Ashcroft was troubled by the discussions. He agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources said.
According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”
Ashcroft sounds a lot more concerned with optics than ethics. Powell had a little more of a big-picture concern, but didn’t do squat about it:
Then-National Security Advisor Rice, sources said, was decisive. Despite growing policy concerns — shared by Powell — that the program was harming the image of the United States abroad, sources say she did not back down, telling the CIA: “This is your baby. Go do it.”
So Condi is incompetent and evil! Maybe she would make a perfect running mate for McTrainwreck. And did Colin Powell always completely lack balls, or did he hand them over to Dubya when he assumed the Secretary Of State position? Wasn’t this the point (or one of the points) where a Principled Man Of Conscience says, “I cannot be party to this,” and resigns? As opposed to, “Gee, I sure wish you guys wouldn’t do that, but okay.” Heroic.
3 commentsApril 10th, 2008 at 07:08amPosted by Eli