“History Is A Cruel Judge Of Overconfidence”: Ten Years Ago, Bush Declared “Mission Accomplished” And The Media Swooned
Today marks the tenth anniversary of Mission Accomplished Day, or as it might better be known, Mission (Not) Accomplished Day. Sadly, it comes amid another upheaval in sectarian violence in Iraq—two days ago The New York Times warned of a new “civil war” there—and a week after the attempts at Bush revisionism upon the opening of his library. We’re also seeing aspects of the run-up to the Iraq invasion playing out in the fresh, perhaps overheated, claims of chemical weapons in Syria.
In my favorite antiwar song of this war, “Shock and Awe,” Neil Young moaned: “Back in the days of Mission Accomplished/ our chief was landing on the deck/ The sun was setting/ behind a golden photo op.” But as Neil added elsewhere in the tune: “History is a cruel judge of overconfidence.”
Nowhere can we see this more clearly than in the media coverage of the event.
On May 1, 2003, Richard Perle advised, in a USA Today op-ed, “Relax, Celebrate Victory.” The same day, President Bush, dressed in a flight suit, landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to major military operations in Iraq—with the now-infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner arrayed behind him.
Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a “hero” and boomed, “He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.” He added: “Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple.”
PBS’ Gwen Ifill said Bush was “part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.” On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, “The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a—on a carrier landing.”
Bob Schieffer on CBS said: “As far as I’m concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time.” His guest, Joe Klein, responded: “Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me.”
Everyone agreed the Democrats and antiwar critics were now on the run. The New York Times observed, “The Bush administration is planning to withdraw most United States combat forces from Iraq over the next several months and wants to shrink the American military presence to less than two divisions by the fall, senior allied officials said today.”
Maureen Dowd in her column did offer a bit of over-the-top mockery, declaring: “Out bounded the cocky, rule-breaking, daredevil flyboy, a man navigating the Highway to the Danger Zone, out along the edges where he was born to be, the further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.
“He flashed that famous all-American grin as he swaggered around the deck of the aircraft carrier in his olive flight suit, ejection harness between his legs, helmet tucked under his arm, awestruck crew crowding around. Maverick was back, cooler and hotter than ever, throttling to the max with joystick politics. Compared to Karl Rove’s ”revvin’ up your engine” myth-making cinematic style, Jerry Bruckheimer’s movies look like Lizzie McGuire.
“This time Maverick didn’t just nail a few bogeys and do a 4G inverted dive with a MiG-28 at a range of two meters. This time the Top Gun wasted a couple of nasty regimes, and promised this was just the beginning.”
When Bush’s jet landed on the aircraft carrier, American casualties stood at 139 killed and 542 wounded. That was over 4,300 American, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, fatalities ago.
By: Greg Mitchell, The Nation, May 1, 2013
Has any political party in history been as hypocritical as the modern GOP in terms of paying lip service to principles they undercut with policies?
Republicans say they are all about supporting our troops, and then they slash veterans benefits. They loudly proclaim their religious devotion to gatherings of evangelicals, but their philosopher queen is the faith-hating atheist Ayn Rand (see video in Noteworthy box above). Turns out they have two faces even for matters of critical national security, as yesterday’s editorial in the New York Times, “Budgeting for Insecurity,” makes disturbingly clear. An excerpt:
House Republicans talk tough on terrorism. So we can find no explanation — other than irresponsibility — for their vote to slash financing for eight antiterrorist programs. Unless the Senate repairs the damage, New York City and other high-risk localities will find it far harder to protect mass transit, ports and other potential targets.The programs received $2.5 billion last year in separate allocations. The House has cut that back to a single block grant of $752 million, an extraordinary two-thirds reduction. The results for high-risk areas would be so damaging — with port and mass transit security financing likely cut by more than half — that the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King of New York, voted against the bill as “an invitation to an attack.”
The Times editorial goes on to explain that the “Republicans made clear that budget-cutting trumped all other concerns…One $270 million cut, voted separately, would eliminate 5,000 airport-screening jobs across the country, according to the Transportation Security Administration.” They also fought to cut more than half of funding for first responder training, but the Democrats were able to restore most of it.
As the Times editorial asks, “Are these really the programs to be cutting?” Not if we put national security before politics.
By: Democratic Strategist Staff, June 10, 2011
Joe Scarborough has an op-ed in Politico premised entirely on the false premise that left-wingers who once “condemned [President Bush] as an immoral beast who killed women and children to get his bloody hands on Iraqi oil” have now “meekly went along” with President Obama’s Libya intervention.
Now, there are all kinds of things wrong with this argument. For one, there are some massive differences in the two cases. Scarborough describes the Libya intervention as an “invasion,” but that’s quite a stretch given that no ground troops are involved. Libya is a multilateral response to an imminent massacre, while Iraq was neither. Third, and worst of all, those who most fervently opposed the Iraq invasion — the blood for oil folks described by Scarborough — are all opposed to the Libya intervention. Has he not been following the debate on this?
The whole failure of Scarborough’s argument points to one of my professional hobbyhorses, which is the need for opinion journalists to quote the people they’re criticizing. It’s a really simple step, but it’s absolutely vital, one that allows your readers to see if the belief you’re attacking is actually held by anybody influential. If Scarborough decided to find some examples of lefties who were wildly denouncing Bush as a wanton murderer of civilians driven by a lust to steal Iraqi oil who also supported the Libya intervention, he’d have quickly discovered that there aren’t any, and that his whole argument is based on a false premise.
Indeed, at the end of his op-ed, Scarborough does cite one real life-example — Katrina Vanden Heuvel, who he calls “one of the few liberals to take a principled stand.” But she’s not the exception. She’s just the one actual case study he bothered to look at.
Now, calling people out by name is sort of rude, and the most prestigious outlets of opinion journalism tend to shy away from it. I believe New York Times columnists are actually instructed not to argue with each other in print, which leads to these weird “Tell Joe I won’t pass the salt until he apologizes” indirect debates. It’s probably no surprise that a chummy guy like Scarborough would only want to name liberals he praises, while leaving the targets of his criticism unnamed. But this is a habit of opinion journalism that leads to terrible, straw man arguments.
By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, March 29, 2011
Meet The Press had a very interesting cast of characters today for their round table discussion on the events occuring in Libya. Panelists included Helen Cooper, White House Correspondent for the New York Times; Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent; Michael Hayden, Former Director of the NSA and CIA; John Miklaszewski, NBC News Chief Pentagon Correspondent; and Richard Haass, President of The Council on Foreign Relations.
None of the input by these elitist panelist’s came as a surprise. In fact many of their responses were predictable. Cooper, Mitchell and Miklaszewski obviously wanted to use their airtime to promote their next story..to keep the news cycle going. That’s their job so more power to them. Hayden, as a George W. Bush appointee, surely would not suddenly have a change of heart and say anything contrary to the proven failed policies of that administration. Richard Haass, in symphony with Hayden, played his “bad cop” role to the hilt. Haass never seemed to miss a step in his criticism of the Obama administrations handling of Libya (excerpted comments):
David Gregory, the host (and I use that term lightly) of Meet The Press, Began the discussion: I want to talk, however, about how much is on the president’s plate right now. You talk about crisis management and a confluence of crisis. We’ve pulled together some cover stories from Time magazine–I want to put it up there on the screen–”Target Gaddafi.” The next one, “Hitting Home: Tripoli Under Attack.” And the next one, “Meltdown.”
MR. RICHARD HAASS: It’s a lot to manage, but also it raises the importance of an administration having its priorities. You’ve got a lot to manage with Japan, you’ve got a lot to manage with what’s going on in the broader Middle East, you’ve got a lot to manage what’s going on in the United States in terms of our economy and our deficit. So one of the real questions is why are we doing as much are we are doing in Libya? So many of your guests are talking about too little too late. Let me give you another idea, David, too much too late. In times of crisis and multiple crisis, administrations have to figure out their priorities. They got to do some triage. The–to me, the big problem is not what we haven’t done, it is what we are doing.
MR. GREGORY: Richard, you, you just have broad concerns as you, as you penned a piece in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, “The US should keep out of Libya.”
MR. HAASS: Again, our interests aren’t vital. We’re talking about 2 percent of the world’s oil. Yes, there’s a humanitarian situation on, but at the risk of seeming a bit cold, it is not a humanitarian crisis on the scale say of Rwanda. We don’t have nearly 100–a million people, innocent men, women and children whose lives are threatened. This is something much more modest. This is a civil war. In civil wars, people get killed, unfortunately. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves. This is not a humanitarian intervention, this is U.S. political, military intervention in a civil conflict which, by the way, history suggests, often prolongs the civil conflict. And, as several people have already pointed out, what is step B? Whether Gadhafi complies with what we want or whether he resists successfully, either way, we are going to be stuck with the aftermath of essentially having to take ownership of Libya with others. And just because others are willing to share in something, as so many people point out, doesn’t make it a better policy. It just means the costs are going to be distributed. But the policy itself is seriously flawed.
MR. GREGORY: The big ideas and are we getting them right?
MR. HAASS: Mike Mullen says the big idea, the biggest single national security threat facing the United States is our economy, it’s our fiscal situation. This will not make it better. Instead, we are ignoring a previous secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, someone you haven’t had on the show in awhile. We are going abroad in search of monsters to destroy. There’s any number of monsters. But is this, right now, something that’s strategically necessary and vital for the United States, given all that’s happening in places like Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, around the world, with all that we need to repair at home? The answer, I would think, is not. And that’s the big idea the administration’s missing. It’s not enough to simply want to do good around the world wherever we see bad. We’ve got to ask ourselves, where can we do good, at what cost, against what else we might have to do?
All of Haass’ comments gave me a flashback. Iran immediately came to mind. Haass, Iran..Haass, Iran. When is enough actually enough..when is enough not enough?
The answer is Mr. Haass, you’ve got a credibility problem. The following article appeared in Newsweek on January 22, 2010. It was written by none other than Richard Haass:
Enough Is Enough
Why we can no longer remain on the sidelines in the struggle for regime change in Iran.
Two schools of thought have traditionally competed to determine how America should approach the world. Realists believe we should care most about what states do beyond their borders—that influencing their foreign policy ought to be Washington’s priority. Neoconservatives often contend the opposite: they argue that what matters most is the nature of other countries, what happens inside their borders. The neocons believe this both for moral reasons and because democracies (at least mature ones) treat their neighbors better than do authoritarian regimes.
I am a card-carrying realist on the grounds that ousting regimes and replacing them with something better is easier said than done. I also believe that Washington, in most cases, doesn’t have the luxury of trying. The United States must, for example, work with undemocratic China to rein in North Korea and with autocratic Russia to reduce each side’s nuclear arsenal. This debate is anything but academic. It’s at the core of what is likely to be the most compelling international story of 2010: Iran.
In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration judged incorrectly that Iran was on the verge of revolution and decided that dealing directly with Tehran would provide a lifeline to an evil government soon to be swept away by history’s tide. A valuable opportunity to limit Iran’s nuclear program may have been lost as a result. The incoming Obama administration reversed this approach and expressed a willingness to talk to Iran without preconditions. This president (like George H.W. Bush, whose emissaries met with Chinese leaders soon after Tiananmen Square) is cut more from the realist cloth. Diplomacy and negotiations are seen not as favors to bestow but as tools to employ. The other options—using military force against Iranian nuclear facilities or living with an Iranian nuclear bomb—were judged to be tremendously unattractive. And if diplomacy failed, Obama reasoned, it would be easier to build domestic and international support for more robust sanctions. At the time, I agreed with him.
I’ve changed my mind. The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.
The authorities overreached in their blatant manipulation of last June’s presidential election, and then made matters worse by brutally repressing those who protested. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lost much of his legitimacy, as has the “elected” president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The opposition Green Movement has grown larger and stronger than many predicted.
The United States, European governments, and others should shift their Iran policy toward increasing the prospects for political change. Leaders should speak out for the Iranian people and their rights. President Obama did this on Dec. 28 after several protesters were killed on the Shia holy day of Ashura, and he should do so again. So should congressional and world leaders. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards should be singled out for sanctions. Lists of their extensive financial holdings can be published on the Internet. The United States should press the European Union and others not to trade or provide financing to selected entities controlled by the Guards. Just to cite one example: the Revolutionary Guards now own a majority share of Iran’s principal telecommunications firm; no company should furnish it the technology to deny or monitor Internet use.
New funding for the project housed at Yale University that documents human-rights abuses in Iran is warranted. If the U.S. government won’t reverse its decision not to provide the money, then a foundation or wealthy individuals should step in. Such a registry might deter some members of the Guards or the million-strong Basij militia it controls from attacking or torturing members of the opposition. And even if not, the gesture will signal to Iranians that the world is taking note of their struggle.
It is essential to bolster what people in Iran know. Outsiders can help to provide access to the Internet, the medium that may be the most important means for getting information into Iran and facilitating communication among the opposition. The opposition also needs financial support from the Iranian diaspora so that dissidents can stay politically active once they have lost their jobs.
Just as important as what to do is what to avoid. Congressmen and senior administration figures should avoid meeting with the regime. Any and all help for Iran’s opposition should be nonviolent. Iran’s opposition should be supported by Western governments, not led. In this vein, outsiders should refrain from articulating specific political objectives other than support for democracy and an end to violence and unlawful detention. Sanctions on Iran’s gasoline imports and refining, currently being debated in Congress, should be pursued at the United Nations so international focus does not switch from the illegality of Iran’s behavior to the legality of unilateral American sanctions. Working-level negotiations on the nuclear question should continue. But if there is an unexpected breakthrough, Iran’s reward should be limited. Full normalization of relations should be linked to meaningful reform of Iran’s politics and an end to Tehran’s support of terrorism.
Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.
Which is it Mr. Haass…Is the humanitarian crisis in Libya too small or is there just too little oil? Are you a realist or just another political hack?
By: raemd95: Excerpts are quotes from Meet The Press, March 20, 2011; Enough is Enough: By Richard N. Haass, originally published in Newsweek, January 22, 2010
A hammer is supposed to be used to pound nails. But as the Beatles pointed out more than 40 years ago, it can also be used as a murder weapon. Nobody, however, is calling for a ban on hammers or calling them “death mallets.”
Maybe that’s why the resurrection of the “death panel” canard, as applied to end-of-life planning, seems so unnecessary. Here’s how the New York Times started its story a few days ago:
“When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over ‘death panels,’ Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.”
The only opponent quoted in the story was this:
Elizabeth D. Wickham, executive director of LifeTree, which describes itself as “a pro-life Christian educational ministry,” said she was concerned that end-of-life counseling would encourage patients to forgo or curtail care, thus hastening death.
“The infamous Section 1233 is still alive and kicking,” Ms. Wickham said. “Patients will lose the ability to control treatments at the end of life.”
Which, with all due respect, was no more accurate a summary of “Section 1233″ or the new regulation than “death mallets” would be to describe hammers.
Don’t believe me? Section 1233 was contained in one early draft of the health care reform bill. Here’s the text of that version of the bill (search for “advance care planning consultation”). It would have allowed Medicare to pay for one such consultation every five years, if the patient wanted it.
Such consultation was to include: an explanation of advance care planning, advance directives, health care proxy, list of resources for further information, explanation of palliative and hospice care, explanation of the advantages of an up-to-date advance treatment order. It would have required training for health care providers (you’d be shocked at what some doctors don’t know about this stuff). And would have required standardization of information and forms used.
It also listed some of the conditions that could be included in a directive. And said that Medicare would pay for more frequent consultations if there were a significant change in condition.
Overly detailed and controlling? Maybe so. Death panels? Not hardly. Limit a patient’s ability to control treatments at the end of life? Not in any clause or sub-clause I can find.
Jump to the new regulation. (It’s in here.) The relevant passage is a lot shorter than the killed section of reform legislation. It adds “voluntary advance planning upon agreement with the individual” to the items that Medicare will pay for during an annual physical. Here’s the whole thing:
“Voluntary advance care planning” means, for purposes of this section, verbal or written information regarding the following areas: (1) An individual’s ability to prepare an advance directive in the case where an injury or illness causes the individual to be unable to make health care decisions. (2) Whether or not the physician is willing to follow the individual’s wishes as expressed in an advance directive.”
That’s it. No panels, death or knotty pine. Just a conversation with your doctor if you want it. No loss of patient control unless the patient is in a condition where conscious control is impossible — in which case the whole point of the planning is to ensure that the patient’s wishes be followed.
Since the New York Times figures Wickham has enough clout to stand in for all opponents, I tried to contact her. No joy. I checked her organization’s website for more insight into her objections. I found that LifeTree is not a generically Christian group, but one that has Catholic roots, starting with the blessing of the bishop of Raleigh, N.C.
So I shifted my search to the National Catholic Bioethics Center, figuring I’d find a reasoned critique that would likely be in accord with the beliefs of LifeTree. I found Marie T. Hilliard, the center’s director of bioethics and public policy. She was more than willing to engage me in civil discussion.
The Catholic Church is in favor of end-of-life planning, she said.
“The issue is not whether a discussion by a health care practitioner with a patient on end-of-life care issues is a good. It is a good,” she said. “And encouraging providers to have truly informing discussions on this issue also is a good.”
So what’s Hilliard’s beef with the regulation? She fears the way that written “orders for life-sustaining treatment” (called “POLST” or “MOLST”) could be abused. A form signed today might not include the actual situation that pops up years down the road.
In other words, a patient could complete a POLST/MOLST form indicating the patient did not want life sustaining treatment, which could be an antibiotic or a blood transfusion or proportionately beneficial assisted nutrition and hydration, before any of the facts that would be appropriate to such decision-making were in play.
The new regulation actually addresses at least one of her concerns in that it makes the consultation available annually, rather than using the bill’s five-year rule. And a standardized form can certainly include the vast majority of situations a patient is likely to encounter. The version prepared by the Rabbinical Council of America, for instance, covers persistent vegetative state, coma, lesser brain injuries along with a terminal illness, and brain injury without a terminal illness along with 31 possible procedures.
But there are conditions and procedures the form does not address. Would a longer form, with more choices, make the possibility of error less likely? Or would a form that’s much longer make it less likely that someone would be willing to fill it out at all?
Hilliard also raises a “slippery slope” argument, suggesting that widespread use of such forms would be employed to put pressure “on persons with disabilities and their families to forgo life sustaining health care treatments.”
To which argument I have consistently replied that if you have a doctor who wants you or your loved one dead, your problem is bigger than a signed form.
Hilliard recommends the use of “health care agents,” a sort of human advance directive. This could be a family member or some other designated person who has the authority to speak for the patient.
The concept was actually included in the killed portion of the health care reform bill, referred to as a “health care proxy.” Perhaps it should have been included in the new regulation.
I think Hilliard and I both agree that the biggest problem with end-of-life planning is that far too often it’s done poorly.
We have a 24/7 consultation line on medical ethics; (1,400 calls per year) and the most frequent call we receive is on end-of-life care, NOT because there is not an advanced directive, often because there is and it does not address the situation at hand, and no helpful discussion had been held with the health care agent. Then there is the question of whether or not the health care agent is locked in by the letter of the law, knowing that the spirit of the will of the patient may be violated.
And that’s for people who have directives or health care agents. Imagine the situation for the far greater number of people who never address these issues until there’s a crisis.
I have some personal experience in this matter. My dad died earlier this year. He was 92. Several years before, my wife had prodded him (and the rest of us) to fill out advance-care directives. Her career has been in long-term health care and she’d seen too many families torn apart by being forced to consider these decisions only under the most terrible stress.
Because we’d talked about the topic once, nudged into it by filling out the directive, we found it easier to return to the subject over the years as my dad’s condition faltered. We and his doctors were all clear about what he wanted — right up to the point when he decided he’d had enough. I cannot imagine how much more difficult those final days would have been without those previous conversations.
But most families do not have the advantage of having an elder-care expert “on staff.” If this regulation prods more doctors into a difficult conversation, if it prods more people into thinking about these issues when they have the luxury of time for reflection, that seems like a good idea to me.
Can such a process be abused? There is no system created by humanity that cannot be turned to evil ends. And yet most of us own a hammer.
By: Jeffrey Weiss-Correspondent-Politics Daily, January 2, 2011; Photo- Getty Images