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MemoGate in Context

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Some on the left are still trying to stir up controversy surrounding the ‘Downing Street’ memo. One of the main agitators is Congressman John Conyers, who has actually set up a telephone hotline for ‘tips’ from any members of the public who happen to have any information which might contribute to impeaching President Bush, and who has been a steadfast supporter of conspiracy theories surrounding the 2004 election in the face of overwhelming evidence contradicting his position. Conyers plans to introduce legislation to start an investigation of the British memo this week in the House and John Kerry is believed to be planning to do the same in the Senate.

All of this centers around the third hand account in the memo of a briefing in which the head of MI6 reported that he had been told by his US contacts that President Bush was planning to take action against Iraq early after the 9/11 attack, and that he had requested that evidence of Iraqi offenses be assembled to support such action. To me this sounds pretty innocuous, but some have taken the wording of the memo which uses the term ‘fixed’ to suggest that the evidence was going to essentially be fabricated. It’s not a crazy position to take, but certainly not the interpretation which anyone involved would have chosen. Much has also been made of the idea that the memo shows an intent to make war on Iraq some months before the administration committed to that course publicly.

Thinking about the memo raised the question in my mind of exactly when the administration really should have started thinking about taking action against Iraq, and whether Bush’s sudden interest after 9/11 came out of the blue or had an origin even before that date. The World Trade Center attack is such a momentous turning point in recent history that I think we sometimes forget everything that happened before it, or that crises which began before 9/11 continued on after the attacks and were still serious and still needed to be dealt with.

I’m firmly convinced that George W. Bush had the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein in the back of his mind from the moment his father lost the election in 1992. He may not have planned or even thought he would get a chance to do anything about it, but I feel confident in saying he and his family weren’t exactly big Saddam fans during the 90s or later. Does that mean that he was planning to invade Iraq should he ever become president while he was running for Governor of Texas in the 90s? The thought occured to me a couple of times during the 90s, I’m sure it occured to him as well. That’s hardly the same thing as planning a war, but it could be used to show some sort of intent or premeditation.

If he was thinking about regime change in Iraq in the 1990s he wasn’t exactly alone. A lot of people who had been in his father’s administration and who were in the military command weren’t happy with the way the first Gulf War turned out, and many people saw Saddam as an ongoing threat, what with his constant blustering about WMDs and giving UN inspectors the runaround. It got to the point that in 1998 during the second term of the Clinton administration cruise missile attacks were launched on Afghanistan, Sudan and Iraq. Congress was equally concerned and passed the Iraq Liberation Act speficially authorizing unilateral measures to try to implement regime change in Iraq. This was actually the third act that year authorizing action against Iraq, following up on bills which authorized various types of monetary and material support for the Kurds, the Northern Alliance and other anti-Saddam groups.

The Iraq Liberation Act is significant, because it takes the form of a declaration of war in everything but name. It lays out the causes of action and every offense Saddam had committed in detail, and authorizes every action short of actual direct military intervention, including providing military services and support to anti-Saddam factions in Iraq. Its list of ‘Findings’ is especially significant, because it lays out 12 reasons why forced regime change in Iraq is justifiable, and the presence of WMDs in Iraq is given very little attention in the list. Much more emphasis is given to Saddam’s genocidal activities, hostility to his neighbors and prior use of WMDs. While his lack of cooperation with UN Inspectors is also included in one of the Findings, it’s clearly not the primary reason for removing Saddam, just another among many.

When we move forward a few years to 2002 and the decision is made to take military action agaisnt Iraq, WMDs have become a much more major concern. Yet although WMDs are specifically mentioned in the Authorization of the Use of Force Against Iraq bill, that bill’s primary justifications for attacking Iraq refer back to the Findings in the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act. So again, it’s not the WMDs which are ultimately used to justify action against Iraq, but the entire history of abuses and threats which characterize the Iraqi regime. Clearly the authorization of military force is just an extension of the already existing policy of regime change, just taking it to a higher level. And that regime change policy was based on human rights and past crimes of Saddam Hussein and his government much more than WMDs.

What does all this have to do with the Downing Street Memo? Aside from showing that members of Congress have very short memories, it demonstrates that the decision to pursue military action against Iraq didn’t happen in a vacuum and was part of an ongoing policy of supporting regime change for long-established reasons which had little to do with WMDs. It drives home the point that there was no need to assemble questionable data to support the fact that Iraq had WMDs – after all, that’s why UN inspectors were there. It also serves as a strong reminder of how aware our legislators were and had been for years of the crimes of the Iraqi regime and the need to remove Saddam from power. When Bush proposed military action against Iraq it wasn’t some radical plan that came out of the blue and needed extraordinary measures to be justified, it was an almost inevitable outgrowth of a policy which had begun in the previous administration. When they passed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 Congress knew that it was justified by far more than just WMDs, and they knew that if the measures it authorized did not work more extreme action – military action – might be necessary.

In the context of this history of a policy of justifiable action to accomplish regime change in Iraq, the Downing Street memo starts to look like a description of routine preparations, rather than a description of some sort of radical policy. While John Conyers will certainly try to get as much mileage out of it as he can, a look at the history reveals the truth that the memo is much more a trivial footnote than a major revelation.

Dave





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  • http://cranialcavity.net/wordpress/index.php Marc

    Well written Dave. The anyone but Bush crowd will be arouns any minute and try to prove you incorrect.

    But we both know how that goes, long on words but offer no proof to back up their position.

  • sonja valentine

    what about the ‘millennium challenge ’02’ war games? preparation (and 250 million dollars spent) for these ‘games’ began in 2000, before anything happened with saddam at all. and while the challenge did not specifically mention saddam, the scenario was patently obvious. AND the blue team, which was the pentagon/US team suffered a catastrophic defeat by (actual) General Paul Van Riper, who commanded the red team as the ‘rogue dictator.’ so maybe bush wasn’t thinking of starting a war in the 1990’s, but it sure seemed to weigh heavily on his mind in 2000.
    war games

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Good point, Sonja. What those who want to find blame often forget is that preparation for war is ongoing, whether we’ve committed to making war yet or not. If General Pershing hadn’t been put in charge of preparing for WW2 20 years before it happened we would have been almost incapable of joining in quickly enough to help when we finally decided to join the war.

    The pentagon is always running scenarios and developing plans and considering the most likely possibilities for potential conflicts we might have to get involved in, and the idea of a follow-up war in Iraq should not have been a big surprise to anyone.

    Dave

  • SFC SKI

    Considering the US military practices fighting any and all possible enemies, none of the above should surprise anyone.

    We practiced fighting the Soviets in Central Europe for over 40 years, and yet never did, wargaming is merely lookingat courses of action in the event they become necessary.

  • M Paulding

    You’re right, Dave. The decision wasn’t made in a vacuum, but in an atmosphere of lies orchestrated by Bush’s Office of Special Plans, led by Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, and friends.

    You know, it’s “nice” that they had a vision of what America’s role in the world should be, but it would have been “nicer” if they’d shared it with the American people. Instead, they shoved it down our throats with a pack of lies.

    Walter Pincus’ article in Washington Post today about the “new” Downing Street memo proves their idiocy. Additionally, this new memo corroborates the earlier one, that is, the “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”. And there are more memos coming.

    Bush and his so-called “conservatives” have squandered $208 billion and what was the finest army on earth in a sinkhole that was of no strategic interest to the United States.

  • http://pvsc.blogspot.com/ Chadzilla

    Uh…wasn’t Bill Clinton President in 2000?

  • http://www.psychopundit.com Dave Nalle

    Yes, Clinton was president in 2000, but Bush was running for president.

    And Paulding – come up with something new if you want to keep discussion of this going. The same old whining about ‘lies’ isn’t getting us anywhere.

    Dave

  • http://www.psychopundit.com Dave Nalle

    BTW, as far as I can tell the memo referred to in the Pincus article is the same memo we’re all talking about. I can’t find any info on a new memo or anything like one.

    Dave

  • http://cranialcavity.net/wordpress/net marc

    As far as I can tell the second memo is this one from eight months before the DSM.

    It’s all great stuff as long as your eyes aren’t obscured by the foil hat slipping your your eyes.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    That page is no longer available at WaPo. In anycase, the Pincus article seems to refer only to the DSM we’re already familiar with.

    Dave

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    If Clinton had any balls, he would have invaded Iraq after Saddam’s goons tried to murder former President Bush…

  • Shark

    Clinton had balls.

    See “blue dress” for more.

    Yer welcome.

    PS: Dave, Bush lied.

  • http://georgepwood.com George P. Wood

    Another piece of fine analysis, Dave. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Marc, I think the memo you’re actually referring to is the British AG’s opinion on the legality of the Iraq war which is referenced in an article from last week in the WaPo by Glenn Frankel.

    This memo is actually mentioned in the DSM, and has been referred to by Tony Blair since that time. In fact, it’s Blair’s office which released it. I haven’t seen the text, but as I understand the memo it is rather lengthy and goes over the legal arguments for and against making war on Iraq, drawing no ultimate conclusions. Bush was given a similar briefing which came up in the recent Gonzales confirmation hearings, again running down the legal justifications for and objections to the war.

    The only significance of this memo is that it tags an earlier date onto consideration of war as an option. But as I pointed out in this article, the war option has to have been on the table since well before Bush even took office, so this isn’t a startling revelation.

    Dave

  • sdk

    Clinton inherited Iraq from Bush I. I do not know why one would expect Clinton to re-mobilize and invade Iraq. Bush I, on the other hand had the forces in Iraq, encouraged the public to rise against Saddam, and then promptly abandoned Iraq and the inspired population to be killed by Saddam.

    Bush I and Reagan also pumped up Iraq during the 1980’s and encouraged a war with Iran that would help dissolve Islamic (Shiite) revolution from reaching the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait). The USA was aware of the use of poisonous gases, as well, yet continued its support of Iraq.

    We made the monster so we could kill him.

  • JR

    If Clinton had any balls, he would have invaded Iraq after Saddam’s goons tried to murder former President Bush…

    Hey, Bush’s problem. If couldn’t finish his own war, fuck him.

  • MCH

    “If Clinton had any balls, he would have invaded Iraq after Saddam’s goons tried to murder former President Bush.”
    – R. J. (Bobby) Elliott

    Look Bobby, it doesn’t take balls to send other people over to die in an invasion; just like it doesn’t take balls to “support” a war without enlisting (hint: please look in the mirror).

    And how about G.W. Bush, for example, who didn’t even have the balls to attend his last two years of National Guard meetings…

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    The anyone but Bush crowd will be arouns any minute and try to prove you incorrect

    nope. we’ve given up.

    dave has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is never incorrect, except when he confuses connecticut with new hampshire.

  • sdk

    The Bush administration is either inept or corrupt, or both.

    The Bush administration fabricated the degree of the Iraqi threat. (People within his administration have written as much. The “memos” concur.) He could not invade Iraq because Saddam was an “Evil Man.”

    He needed the WMDs and an imminent threat they posed to justify war. But, they did not exist. So, they were made up. Everything points this way.

    Is this wrong? Of course it is. If you want to “free” Iraq, then introduce that as such to the American people. But, deceiving them with false threats is wrong.

    The problem with wars is that people die. That is why Bush and members of his administration will not be able to travel in their later years internationally, lest they be arrested as war criminals.

    All this blather to say these lies are okay, or that questioning our leadership is wrong is jingo-idiotic nonsense.

    The neocons got it so very wrong. The Right is so intent on controling power, that they do not even care to explore why it was thought that the US forces would be met as liberators, why the cost would be minimal, what intelligence was presented that “clearly” showed stockpiles of WMDs ……

    The Bush administration is either inept or corrupt, or both.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    So, SDK, you didn’t actually read this article or anything, did you?

    If you are saying the war was based on lies, then you are saying that the Clinton administration and most of the Democrats in Congress are liars just as much as the Bush administration.

    If everyone’s a liar, who are you going to turn to in order to run our country?

    Dave

  • sdk

    You are right. I may have went off on my own tangent from the article.

    As to your point, the intelligence was not generically available to everyone. It was assumed that the White House was privy to the “best” information. And so, faith was placed in the White House’s interpretation of the intelligence.

    Are you suggesting that the White House is/has been forthcoming on substantive documents regarding this war?

    Having said that, I do believe that there should have been more debate with regard to going to war. However, because the White House framed the threat as imminent, Congress gave great license to them.

    This is the point. This White House did not appraoch a legitimate course of reasoning to justify the war. The populous in affect had to be duped to support it, regardless of the direction of policies that you mentioned in the article.

    This duping involved the insinuation that Iraq had direct involvement with terrorist organizations, and moreso, had WMDs that could be delivered to the USA through these terrorist ties. These ties have been debunked. Yet, they were the strongest justification that provided public support for a war with Iraq.

    Now, was the intelligence really bad, or was there an agenda? Lying about the intelligence to deceive the Congress and public is what this is all about.

    The article implies that the USA was moving toward regime change anyhow. However, regime change alone is an illegal justification for war.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    But regime change was not the justification for war, it was the objective of war. As shown clearly in the 1998 act referenced in the article, the justifications for regime change were extensive and not necessarily reliant on WMDs and certainly also sufficient justification for war, even though war was not the option chosen at that time. As someone pointed out earlier, the assassination attempt on President Bush I was sufficient justification for war, as were each other 11 points cited in that bill.

    As for lying about intelligence, the administration gave all the data they had to the house and senate intelligence committees and they came to the same conclusion. There’s no indication that this evidence was fabricated by anyone in the administration. Certainly it was selected to highlight what they thought were the most actionable causes for war, but all the data was in there, not just WMDs, and if some of it was innacurate, it’s already been clearly proven that the errors came from the sources, not the administration.

    Dave

  • Jsheenan

    You are deluded if you think that Americans okayed the war on Iraq because of some ongoing “policy” by the administration to get Hussein out. The only reason we thought our troops should be killed in action was because Bush told us there were WMDs. The British documents clearly show that Britain and America had to use any means necessary to sell the war. Hussein might have been a ruthless dictator, but don’t think for a second Americans would have let our own boys die if Bush just said, “here’s a bad guy, let’s get him out.” He knew he had to lie and tell us there was a link between Al Quaida and Iraq and that Iraq had weapons that could destroy the world. He lied. Get used to the fact that the people in power are not always out for your best interest, and DO something about it rather than just providing another mouthpiece for them.

  • sdk

    I think the objective of this war was to pad Bechtel and Halliburton with obscene profits and garner control of oil Iraqi oil resources.

    The USA is a huge consumer of oil, and our security and continued life style of excess will require such assets.

    If this is the objective, then of course the Bush administration has successfully pursued their objective.

    If the objective was to build a peaceful self reliant democratic nation who would not be a threat to its neighbors …

    Nah. It couldn’t be.

    Perhaps the Iraqis are angry because they cannot find a job to feed their families, yet expats are paid ridiculous salaries by single-bid open-ended contracts. And these companies also get bonuses.

    Interesting, Dick Cheney must be a prophet to have been able to prepare his company so well that it would be the only company able to compete for the lucrative Iraqi contracts. It’s almost like he knew there would be a war in Iraq.

    We are losing the war because we are not helping the Iraqi people, but killing them. Their standard of living has diminished since the USA invasion. This is pretty basic human nature. If you kill people’s children, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and friends, they may not like you. Go figure.

    (And the prison scandals are not helping the USA make a good impression either.)

    Even if on thinks that the war was necessary, who can argue that it has not been an ill-planned fiasco.

  • Maurice

    sdk

    if you really believe what you are posting then I hope you are riding a bike to work and heating your house with a wood stove.

    In your perfect world how would you have handled Saddam Hussein?

    Would you have been motivated to do something about the ethnic cleansing in Rawanda, or are you isolationist?

  • sdk

    Actually, I don’t own a car and I am a vegetarian.

    However, I did work for the USA DoD for over 10 years as an analyst. I believe in a strong national defense. I just do not appreciate being lied to.

    I would likely not vote Republican in most cases. But, I can respect different beliefs, and moreover, a FAIR fight.

    A healthy democracy demands an informed populice. Bush has diminished our (USA) moral authority and strength on his watch. We are not safer, wealthier, or stronger.

    Please list Bush’s accomplishments.

    What remarkable thing has he done well?

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Jsheenan:”You are deluded if you think that Americans okayed the war on Iraq because of some ongoing “policy” by the administration to get Hussein out.”

    The public didn’t okay the war at all, Congress did. And Congress was intimately familiar with and involved with the ongoing process of working for regime change in Iraq.

    Jsheenan: “The only reason we thought our troops should be killed in action was because Bush told us there were WMDs”

    Speak for yourself, because your opinion is certainly not universal.

    Jsheenan: “The British documents clearly show that Britain and America had to use any means necessary to sell the war.”

    The methods used to ‘sell’ the war and the reasons for making war are not necessarily the same thing. And the fact remains that when it came to justifying the war on an official basis, WMDs were just a small part of the total picture, even if they were the one the public chose to gobble up.

    Jsheenan:”Hussein might have been a ruthless dictator, but don’t think for a second Americans would have let our own boys die if Bush just said, “here’s a bad guy, let’s get him out.””

    Interestingly we went along with the first Gulf War, on far less provocation than the second one, and with no accusations of WMDs to speak of.

    Jsheenan: “He knew he had to lie and tell us there was a link between Al Quaida and Iraq and that Iraq had weapons that could destroy the world. He lied.”

    There is ZERO evidence to support the claim that Bush lied. Face facts.

    Jsheenan: “Get used to the fact that the people in power are not always out for your best interest, and DO something about it rather than just providing another mouthpiece for them.”

    My main way of doing something about it is to promote truth and oppose deception. Since you’ve bought into a whole bunch of half truths and distortions, you’re just the kind of person I’m trying to help.

    Dave

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    SDK: “I think the objective of this war was to pad Bechtel and Halliburton with obscene profits and garner control of oil Iraqi oil resources.”

    Which is demonstrably false, of course. Look at the huge oil profits coming out of Iraq…ooh boy. And once the fields are running again, the money is pledged to the Iraqis, not anyone else. The upside for us is mainly that having more oil in circulation will help our economy. Regardless of who controls the oil the same small number of companies would still be doing the extraction, shipping and refining. If we hadn’t hired Halliburton then eventually the Iraqis would have. If we hadn’t deposed Saddam and had let him start pumping oil again, HE would have hired Halliburton.

    SDK: “Interesting, Dick Cheney must be a prophet to have been able to prepare his company so well that it would be the only company able to compete for the lucrative Iraqi contracts. It’s almost like he knew there would be a war in Iraq.”

    It’s just what Halliburton does. Whether in Iraq or somewhere else, they’re the first choice for oil field services and a lot of other related services. Having a war in Iraq just interferes with them doing their job and making money.

    SDK: “We are losing the war because we are not helping the Iraqi people, but killing them. Their standard of living has diminished since the USA invasion.”

    Completely untrue. See other articles on BC for favorable comments from Iraqis on the US. And the fact of the matter is that the standard of living and wage levels in Iraq have increased since Saddam’s regime lost power.

    Dave

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    SDK: “Actually, I don’t own a car and I am a vegetarian.”

    You wouldn’t last long down here in Texas.

    SDK: “A healthy democracy demands an informed populice.”

    Then why do you side with those who are trying so hard to distort the truth of the situation in Iraq?

    SDK: “Bush has diminished our (USA) moral authority and strength on his watch. We are not safer, wealthier, or stronger.”

    Well, we’re certainly safer and wealthier. Our economy is in enormously better shape, and the War in Iraq has successfully diverted a lot of terrorist efforts. As for stronger, I think that once we resolve the Iraq situation our military certainly will be. And here at home we’re certainly stronger now that we see how much is at stake and have learned to steel our resolve.

    Dave

  • M Paulding

    Our economy is in enormously better shape? Dave, please, now you’re on a subject about which I know a great deal. The U.S. economy is near MELTDOWN. Take a look at the latest flow of funds analysis out of the Federal Reserve last week. The only thing keeping this game going is Asian money. Man, you are deluding yourself.

  • M Paulding

    I should add that former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, in a speech at Stanford a couple of months ago, estimates the probability of a MAJOR FINANCIAL CRISIS in the United States within the next three years to be 75%.

    So, it isn’t just my opinion. Maybe you’d call it “whining”. Dave, you’re setting up strawmen, and some of us are growing weary of knocking them down.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Do you not remember the post-9/11 recession? Every economic indicator has advanced substantially since then. An overextended national debt is a problem, but by no means unsurmountable, especially given ongoing GDP growth.

    Dave

  • M Paulding

    Dave, this economy is still hundreds of thousands of jobs behind where it should be at this stage of recovery. Don’t take my word for it, look at the Federal Reserve and Department of Labor studies. As for the national debt, it’s growing much FASTER than the GDP is, so don’t tell me we’ll grow our way out of it. Take a look at the level of state and local borrowing in the last flow of funds report. It’s INSANE.

    I’m not faulting Bush for all of the U.S. economy’s problems, but he has certainly made the problems worse. At least a half-dozen Nobel Prize winners in economics agree on that point, as do a majority of mainstream economists.

    Americans are going to pay, and dearly. They just haven’t figured that out yet. When they do, the DSM is going to be the least of Bush’s problems.

  • sdk

    Actually, I am a resident of Houston, Texas. (I am registered to vote in Harris County, Texas, and voted absentee in the last election)

    But, I was a bit disingenuous about my automobile usage. I work on a research ship, and much of my time is on a ship or overseas. So, I do not really need a car. Having said that, when I worked on Richmond Avenue, I lived approximentally 2-3 blocks from work and walked/bicycled. I am a member of the Houston Vegetarian Society and know how to take the bus.

    I was in Da Nang, Viet Nam when 9/11 happened. I cannot express to you the outpouring of sympathy and support there was there — in Viet Nam — for America and its citizens right after 9/11. The sentiments of the international community have changed a lot since then.

    There must be some issues that people believe Bush has been successful at. We would have to parse out the fact and fiction and specify what success means.

    But, if you compare the economy where we were with Clinton, to where we are now, we are not doing better. If you look at where we are now compared to where Bush said we would be, we are not even close to being there.

    Iraq was not a slam-dunk, and the mission has not been accomplished. The price of occupation is way above the initial neocon assessment. The insurgents are not all coming from other countries, but are home grown Iraqi’s who want their country back. No one has been throwing flowers. Iraqi oil revenues are not paying for the reconstruction, and most realists do not see a peaceful, democratic, self-sufficient Iraq arriving any time soon.

    The USA government lied to its citizens regarding Private Lynch and Pat Tilman. Military recruitment is way off pace. And stop-loss programs are keeping soldiers from getting out. Additional rotations are also common. Over 1700 USA soldiers have died now.

    And no WMDs were ever found, even the one’s bush “knew” were there.

    So, what has Bush been right about?

  • M Paulding

    Maurice commented in #25:

    >>In your perfect world how would you have handled Saddam Hussein?< <

    Saddam Hussein WAS being handled. Brent Scowcroft said it best. Sure, he was a nuisance, but he was CONTAINED. SADDAM HUSSEIN'S IRAQ WAS NOT A THREAT TO THE STRATEGIC INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES. Maurice, we don't live in a perfect world and both of us should know that we can't make it one.

    >>Would you have been motivated to do something about the ethnic cleansing in Rawanda, or are you isolationist?<<

    Maurice, the United States should not be the world’s policeman, nor can it afford to be. The United States can, and should, offer humanitarian aid, but only as part of a MULTILATERAL effort. ETHNIC CLEANSING IN RWANDA, CAMBODIA, EAST TIMOR, DARFUR, CHECHNYA, OR ANYWHERE ELSE, IS NOT A THREAT TO THE STRATEGIC INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES.

    What have we learned? You only involve the military when our strategic interests are threatened, and only when all diplomatic efforts to solve the problem have been attempted and demonstrably failed.

    The United States should participate in peacekeeping and other efforts only as part of MULTILATERAL efforts.

    This is the lesson Dubya should have learned from his Daddy.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>So, what has Bush been right about?<<

    Sadly he’s absolutely dead right about Social Security, but that issue has been lost in all the furor over things like the Iraq situation.

    Dave

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    M.Paulding: “Dave, this economy is still hundreds of thousands of jobs behind where it should be at this stage of recovery.”

    What do you base this on? We’ve got unemployment almost as low as it can go. There’s a limit to how many more jobs could even be generated.

    M.Paulding:”Don’t take my word for it, look at the Federal Reserve and Department of Labor studies. As for the national debt, it’s growing much FASTER than the GDP is, so don’t tell me we’ll grow our way out of it. Take a look at the level of state and local borrowing in the last flow of funds report. It’s INSANE.”

    I have looked at these reports. Yes, our debts are higher as a nation, both governmental and personal, than they were during the 1990s. But if you look at the debt in the larger context, the rate of growth is not insurmountable. We had higher growth rates for most of the 70s and 80s, including rates double what we have now for a couple of years in the 70s. Guess what, we survived.

    What Bush essentially did with his tax cuts was to stop the rapid rise in federal income from taxes which created the surpluses of the late part of the Clinton administration, and return us to the sable model of gradual debt growth of the prior two decades, at least in theory. It looks alarming when compared with the unusual circumstances of the prior surplus, but looks very normal when compared to the overall pattern of debt growth over a longer period of time.

    Dave

  • M Paulding

    According to the jobs report released last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average monthly growth of payrolls over the past year was 181,000. Monthly payroll growth over a comparable period during the previous recovery was over 300,000. That’s a difference of 119,000 jobs per month.

    The unemployment rate remains low because of persistent long-term unemployment. Remember, Bush didn’t extend unemployment benefits. When a person’s unemployment benefits run out, they are dropped from the unemployment statistics. Take a look at the household survey data, particularly the labor force participation rate, which has remained far below its previous peak. A lot of employable men and women have been sitting it out since 2001.

    As to the sustainability of the United States’ current account deficit, it isn’t. That’s not just my opinion, it’s also the opinion of Obi Wan Greenspan, who said so during his Congressional testimony last week. He also said as much in his remarks to the European Banking Conference in Frankfurt, Germany on November 19, 2004.

    The International Monetary Fund has issued a warning to the United States concerning its current account deficit. See “World Economic Outlook”, April 13, 2005.

    If you are truly interested in this major problem, as opposed to regurgitating White House press releases, I suggest the following readings as a start:

    “The US as a Net Debtor: The Sustainability of the US External Imbalances,” Nouriel Roubini and Brad Setser, New York University, November, 2004.

    “Will the Bretton Woods 2 Regime Unravel Soon? The Risk of a Hard Landing in 2005-2006.” Roubini and Setser, New York University, February 12, 2005.

    “Global: Original Sin”, Stephen Roach, Chief Global Economist, Morgan Stanley Global Economic Review, April 2005

    “Global: The Big Squeeze,” Stephen Roach, Morgan Stanley, April 4, 2005

    “Global Current Account Imbalances and Exchange Rate Adjustments”, Maurice Obstfeld and Kenneth Rogoff, UC Berkeley and Harvard.

    “Attention: Deficit Disorder,” Robert E. Rubin, New York Times, May 13, 2005

  • M Paulding

    Gee, I forgot to mention the tax cut. Obi Wan Greenspan, who supported the tax cut in 2001, came out against it a couple of weeks ago. See his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee. He withdrew his approval because Clinton’s budget surplus turned out to be far less than was estimated at the time. The response of the Republican-controlled Congress? They made the tax cut permanent.

    One final note about strawmen. Dave, please don’t revert to saying something like “Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, Nouriel Roubini, Brad Setser, Kenneth Rogoff, Maurice Obstfeld, Stephen Roach, and Paul Volcker are all wrong because they’re leftist renegades.”

  • M Paulding

    Gee, I also forgot Social Security. Look at the numbers: a $50 billion deficit in 2020, $250 billion in 2030, and $400 billion in 2050.

    You know what? What about the $650 billion current account deficit we’ve got RIGHT NOW? You know, all that money we’ve been borrowing, particularly from the Asians and the rest of the Third World, to finance the war in Iraq, your credit card debt, and your mortgage?

    Here’s some reality for you: the probability is high that YOUR mortgage is owned, albeit indirectly, by the Peoples’ Bank of China or the Bank of Japan. Think about that!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Paulding, I’m offended that you think I would attempt to accuse all those people of being leftists or even attempt a straw man argument. I’m not familiar with all of them, and while Rubin is left leaning Greenspan and Volcker certainly aren’t. Plus, it’s not a matter of left and right, it’s a matter of interpretation of data and trends.

    Just as you went out and found a set of articles by a few authors who support your negative view, I can easily go out and find articles which support the opposite view. That’s not particularly productive as I see it.

    I’m not a big fan of the idea of trade or budget deficits. Of the two I see the budget deficit as more serious.

    In the area of trade, the fact is that a country can function just fine economically as a net consumer rather than a net producer of goods. And data clearly shows that a rising trade deficit is linked very closely to a rapidly rising GDP. Trade imbalances are characteristic of periods of economic growth.

    As for the government’s budget deficit, it does need to be controlled, but it’s by no means grown to the point where that’s not possible. Rising government debt does have positive effects on the economy. It reflects increased government spending which means more business on government contracts, lower taxes on consumers which means more consumer spending, and goes hand in hand with low interest rates whcih also helps out consumers. In many ways a high deficit is just what you need to get out of a recession, so long as it can be reigned in once the economy is booming.

    As for employment, I’ve gone extensively through the BLS figures. Not only has real employment been rising steadily for about a year, but so have average hourly wages, total man hours worked and total industrial payrolls. That means more people working and earning more each month, and it’s been going that way for a year or so.

    I’m not talking about the official unemployment figure here, I’m referring to the number of people who actually have jobs. Over the past year we’ve seen almost 3 million people added to the full-time work rolls according to the BLS. That’s not a paltry figure at all. That’s real, substantial job growth, actually slightly higher than the rate of job creation over the course of the Clinton administration, when we had an economic boom.

    Dave

  • M Paulding

    Dave, you’ve bought the party line. If you’re comfortable with their pre-packaged heat and serve facts, that’s fine. I supplied citations so that everyone can read the facts and analysis, then decide for themselves.

    You’ve got one thing right: there’s a whole lot of consumin’ goin’ on. But there’s no saving. As a result, capital for domestic investment is now being supplied by overseas lenders.

    You say “it’s not a matter of left or right, it’s a matter of interpretation of data and trends”. You’re right about the data and trends part. The problem is that the data and trends show that the United States economy is running on fumes. And it will continue to run just fine until it ends up on the side of the road.

    As to the “left and right” part of your comment, I’ll say this: if forced to choose between spending $208 billion on the war in Iraq and investing the same amount in the American people and their infrastructure, I would have chosen the American people. That’s what makes me a conservative. Bush, who most definitely is not a conservative, made a choice driven by neoconservative doctrine. It was the wrong one, and all of us are soon going to suffer a diminished standard of living to pay for it.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>Dave, you’ve bought the party line.< <

    What party line would that be? As far as I can tell the Republicans have no economic policy or party line on economics. There are some right wing think tanks like Cato and Heritage which have some ideas, but no clue at all among party leadership.

    >> If you’re comfortable with their pre-packaged heat and serve facts, that’s fine. < <

    Show them to me and I'll tell you if I am - I've never seen them

    >>I supplied citations so that everyone can read the facts and analysis, then decide for themselves.< <

    And I took my data directly from documents at the BLS and BEA where everyone can read them too, not a word from any other source.

    And BTW, your characterization of the employment situation is categorically and absolutely incorrect, yet you referenced the BLS, when their figures demonstrate you to be absolutely wrong.

    >>You’ve got one thing right: there’s a whole lot of consumin’ goin’ on. But there’s no saving. As a result, capital for domestic investment is now being supplied by overseas lenders.< <

    Again, not true. There's not as much savings going on as one might like their to be, but just refinancing homes at lower rates is a form of savings on an enormous scale. The value of doing that - and it's widespread - far outstrips any decline in traditional savings.

    >>You say “it’s not a matter of left or right, it’s a matter of interpretation of data and trends”. You’re right about the data and trends part. The problem is that the data and trends show that the United States economy is running on fumes. And it will continue to run just fine until it ends up on the side of the road.< <

    I look at the same data and come up with different conclusions, perhaps because I'm being more inclusive or just more accurate in my reading.

    >>As to the “left and right” part of your comment, I’ll say this: if forced to choose between spending $208 billion on the war in Iraq and investing the same amount in the American people and their infrastructure, I would have chosen the American people. That’s what makes me a conservative.< <

    No,, that's what makes you a satist, not a conservative. A conservative would cut government spending alltogether and return that money to the people to spend and invest as they chose.

    >> Bush, who most definitely is not a conservative, made a choice driven by neoconservative doctrine. It was the wrong one, and all of us are soon going to suffer a diminished standard of living to pay for it.<<

    Nice to see that you at least admit that Bush isn’t a conservative. It’s hard to get most leftists to see that, though many conservatives do.

    Dave

  • M Paulding

    There you go with that leftist stuff again. Remember me, the Goldwater Republican? Dave, you and Larry Kudlow would get along just fine.

  • M Paulding

    Satist? You didn’t read my comment carefully. I said, “If forced to choose…”. Of course, in an ideal world any surplus should go directly to the people.

    But the United States government is writing checks in your name like a drunken sailor and someone, and in this case the American people, have to cash them. Bush and his crowd are forcing the United States to borrow in excess of $650 billion a year and YOU WANT A TAX CUT? Who’s the satist?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>There you go with that leftist stuff again. Remember me, the Goldwater Republican? Dave, you and Larry Kudlow would get along just fine.< <

    Hey, you're a Goldwater Republican too? Fancy that. Odd how you're so far from Goldwater's views on foreign policy. I'm not that familiar with Larry Kudlow, except to know that he's a free trader, which I tend to agree with. I don't have much time to watch TV.

    >>But the United States government is writing checks in your name like a drunken sailor and someone, and in this case the American people, have to cash them. Bush and his crowd are forcing the United States to borrow in excess of $650 billion a year and YOU WANT A TAX CUT? Who’s the satist?<<

    Sorry, typo. It’s not ‘satist’, it’s ‘statist’. And a statist is someone who expects the state to solve problems for them – like by raising taxes to cover a deficit.

    I don’t like the high level of borrowing, but I understand it and how it functions. Were I in charge I would not have taken the course Bush has, but he was desperate to get us out of the recession and had a way to do it, and now he has to take whatever blame comes from dealing with it.

    I’d have cut taxes more and let the recession run its course. I also wouldn’t have signed the Patriot Act and wouldn’t have invaded Ira. But then I also wouldn’t have gotten elected to a second term.

    Dave

  • M Paulding

    >>I also wouldn’t have signed the Patriot Act and wouldn’t have invaded Ira. But then I also wouldn’t have gotten elected to a second term.<<

    Dave, regardless of our disagreements, this statement alone makes you OK in my book, especially the second part, which indicates you’ve got principles. If we ever meet, I hope you’ll allow me to buy the first round.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Who the hell is Ira and why did we invade him?

    You’re welcome to buy me a round M – I prefer .45LC.

    I do have to add the caveat that although I would not have invaded Iraq, now that we have invaded it I don’t see any reasonable course but to see the process through to the best possible conclusion, whatever measures it takes. Once you start something like this you have a commitment to see that it ends up being done right and thoroughly.

    Dave

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    “Who the hell is Ira and why did we invade him?”

    Someone wanted to be inside his heaven.