Bill Keller wants us to “get over Iraq” and “get Syria right”

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Could there be a less appropriate advocate for U.S. intervention in Syria than Bill Keller, Judith Miller’s editor at The New York Times during the runup to the disastrous war in Iraq?

Has this man ever been right about anything? Remember when he told us the baby boomers were responsible for the fiscal crisis and we should give up our hopes of a dignified old age because our selfishness has caused the U.S. to have “a less-skilled work force, lower rates of job creation, and an infrastructure unfit for a 21st-century economy”? Because obviously the costs of the Iraq war had nothing to do with the country’s current economic troubles.

Today Keller had the unmitigated gall to lecture us about the need to get involved in Syria. He isn’t really sure what we should do, but he’s positive we need to do it and he has a list of reasons why getting into another war in the Middle East is the right thing to do.

Of course even the monumentally “entitled” Bill Keller understands that lots of people are going to read his op-ed and respond by either screaming bloody murder or laughing hysterically at the spectacle of one of the architects of the Iraq War having the nerve to pontificate about another obviously insane foreign adventure.

So he tries to convince us that this time it’s different: “Syria is not Iraq,” he says.

Of course, there are important lessons to be drawn from our sad experience in Iraq: Be clear about America’s national interest. Be skeptical of the intelligence. Be careful whom you trust. Consider the limits of military power. Never go into a crisis, especially one in the Middle East, expecting a cakewalk.

But in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.

“Be careful whom you trust,” he warns. Then why would we trust the man who allowed a once-great newspaper to be given over to neo-conservative enablers like Judith Miller and Michael Gordon who lapped up and printed every lie the Bush White House fed them?

But Keller brushes our doubts aside and offers four reasons why Syria is different from Iraq. But some of his arguments sound awfully familiar to me.

First, we have a genuine, imperiled national interest, not just a fabricated one. A failed Syria creates another haven for terrorists, a danger to neighbors who are all American allies, and the threat of metastasizing Sunni-Shiite sectarian war across a volatile and vital region. “We cannot tolerate a Somalia next door to Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey,” said Vali Nasr, who since leaving the Obama foreign-policy team in 2011 has become one of its most incisive critics. Nor, he adds, can we afford to let the Iranians, the North Koreans and the Chinese conclude from our attitude that we are turning inward, becoming, as the title of Nasr’s new book puts it, “The Dispensable Nation.”

Weren’t we trying to keep Iraq from being a “haven for terrorists” too? And weren’t the neo-cons afraid of having the U.S. be perceived as weak?

Second, in Iraq our invasion unleashed a sectarian war. In Syria, it is already well under way.

This one is just ridiculous. We should invade because things are already worse than when we invaded Iraq?

Third, we have options that do not include putting American troops on the ground, a step nobody favors. None of the options are risk-free. Arming some subset of the rebels does not necessarily buy us influence. The much-touted no-fly zone would put American pilots in range of Syrian air defenses. Sending missiles to destroy Assad’s air force and Scud emplacements, which would provide some protection for civilians and operating room for the rebels, carries a danger of mission creep. But, as Joseph Holliday, a Syria analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, points out, what gets lost in these calculations is the potentially dire cost of doing nothing. That includes the danger that if we stay away now, we will get drawn in later (and bigger), when, for example, a desperate Assad drops Sarin on a Damascus suburb, or when Jordan collapses under the weight of Syrian refugees.

Huh? This one starts out sounding like an argument for staying out of Syria, so Keller throws in one of the neo-con arguments for invading Iraq–things could get worse if we don’t go in. Remember the warnings about “smoking guns” becoming “mushroom clouds?”

Fourth, in Iraq we had to cajole and bamboozle the world into joining our cause. This time we have allies waiting for us to step up and lead. Israel, out of its own interest, seems to have given up waiting.

What kind of argument is that? We should get into a war just because our “allies” want us to “lead?” Meaning they want us to provide the money and manpower.

Sorry, I’m just not convinced. Let the other guys do it for a change. If Israel wants to go to war in Syria, let them. In fact, let Bill Keller go if he’s so gung ho. Maybe he can convince some of his superrich pals to go along with him.

And what do you know? Along with Keller, Judy Miller’s old partner Michael Gordon, who still has his job at the Times, and has been writing story after story pushing U.S. involvement in Syria–as has op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman (I can’t provide links right now because I don’t seem to be able to circumvent the paywall). But here’s Greg Mitchell at The Nation:

Hail, hail, the gang’s nearly all here. Michael Gordon, Thomas Friedman, now Bill Keller. Paging Judy Miller! The New York Times in recent days on its front page and at top of its site has been promoting the meme of Syria regime as chemical weapons abuser, thereby pushing Obama to jump over his “red line” and bomb or otherwise attack there. Tom Friedman weighed in Sunday by calling for an international force to occupy the entire country (surely they would only need to stay one Friedman Unit, or six months).

Now, after this weekend’s Israeli warplane assaults, the threat grows even more dire.

And Bill Keller, the self-derided “reluctant hawk” on invading Iraq in 2003, returns with a column today stating right in its headline, “Syria Is Not Iraq,” and urging Obama and all of us to finally “get over Iraq.” He boasts that he has.

The Times in its news pages, via Sanger, Gordon and Jodi Rudoren, has been highlighting claims of Syria’s use of chem agents for quite some time, highlighted by last week’s top story swallowing nearly whole the latest Israeli claims.

Please go read the rest. Michell makes much more coherent arguments than I can. I’m still just sputtering from rage and trying to keep from banging my head on my keyboard.


Wednesday Evening Reads: Great Tits and Newt Gingrich

Oh boy…just a warning, tonight’s post is going to be infantile.

Good Evening!

Did you hear the news today? Newt is out! (And yes, that title is a bit tongue in cheek. The Great Tits I am talking about are song birds, more on that later. And yes, that title is in reference to T & A meaning Newt is the ass.)

Okay, on with the show:

The big story tonight is from the Supreme Court…and the apparent favoring of Arizona’s argument regarding Immigration. I know that Dakinikat has a post up about this, but I wanted to cite a couple quotes from the NYT article she linked to:

Considering Arizona Immigration Law, Justices Are Again in Political Storm –

Justices across the ideological spectrum appeared inclined to uphold a controversial part of Arizona’s aggressive 2010 immigration law, based on their questions on Wednesday at a Supreme Court argument.

“You can see it’s not selling very well,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the court’s liberal wing and its first Hispanic justice, told Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., referring to a central part of his argument.

Mr. Verrilli, representing the federal government, had urged the court to strike down part of the law requiring state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop if the officials have reason to believe that the person might be an illegal immigrant.

“Why don’t you try to come up with something else?” Justice Sotomayor asked Mr. Verrilli.

Damn, that is not a good sign for those of us who believe this Arizona Immigration law takes things way to far into the danger zone. However,

Should the court uphold any part of the law, immigration groups are likely to challenge it based on an argument not before that court on Wednesday — that the law discriminates on the basis of race and ethnic background.

Indeed, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made clear that the case, like last month’s arguments over President Obama’s health care law, was about the allocation of state and federal power.

“No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it?” the chief justice asked Mr. Verrilli, who agreed.

Should the court uphold most or all of the Arizona law or strike down the heart of the health care law, it would represent a political blow to President Obama in the final stretch of the campaign season. The health care decision is also expected by June.

Wednesday’s argument, the last of the term, was a rematch between the main lawyers in last month’s case. Paul D. Clement, who argued for the 26 states challenging the health care law, represented Arizona. Mr. Verrilli again represented the federal government. In an unusual move, Chief Justice Roberts allowed the argument to go 20 minutes longer than the usual hour.

But one thing is certain, Verrilli, who is the same lawyer that argued the Health Care case…and we saw what a blunder that performance was, Verrilli seems to have stumbled again today.

Mr. Verrilli, whose performance in the health care case was sometimes rocky, seemed on Wednesday occasionally to frustrate justices who might have seemed likely allies.

At one point Justice Sotomayor, addressing Mr. Verrilli by his title, said: “General, I’m terribly confused by your answer. O.K.? And I don’t know that you’re focusing in on what I believe my colleagues are trying to get to.”

Wow. You know, a lawyer arguing before the SCOTUS…that is like the top achievement of a career. You got to prepare for this sort of thing. That this  lawyer came unprepared or ill-equipped to handle such a demanding hearing, twice, makes me wonder…WTF?

Anyway, the “remarks” are something to read, some of them sound very annoyed, check it out.

Reuters has an article discussing some background on Zimmerman: George Zimmerman: Prelude to a shooting

A pit bull named Big Boi began menacing George and Shellie Zimmerman in the fall of 2009.

The first time the dog ran free and cornered Shellie in their gated community in Sanford, Florida, George called the owner to complain. The second time, Big Boi frightened his mother-in-law’s dog. Zimmerman called Seminole County Animal Services and bought pepper spray. The third time he saw the dog on the loose, he called again. An officer came to the house, county records show.

“Don’t use pepper spray,” he told the Zimmermans, according to a friend. “It’ll take two or three seconds to take effect, but a quarter second for the dog to jump you,” he said.

“Get a gun.”

I urge you to read this article, just a couple more teaser paragraphs:

During the time Zimmerman was in hiding, his detractors defined him as a vigilante who had decided Martin was suspicious merely because he was black. After Zimmerman was finally arrested on a charge of second-degree murder more than six weeks after the shooting, prosecutors portrayed him as a violent and angry man who disregarded authority by pursuing the 17-year-old.

But a more nuanced portrait of Zimmerman has emerged from a Reuters investigation into Zimmerman’s past and a series of incidents in the community in the months preceding the Martin shooting.

Based on extensive interviews with relatives, friends, neighbors, schoolmates and co-workers of Zimmerman in two states, law enforcement officials, and reviews of court documents and police reports, the story sheds new light on the man at the center of one of the most controversial homicide cases in America.

This next link made me think of Ralph, one of our regular readers and commenters. He has followed the countdown of Atrios “Wanker of the Decade.” This is a summary plus, you might say, of the winner of this Wanker award:  10 of Thomas Friedman’s Dumbest “Big Ideas” | Media | AlterNet

In conferring the honor of “Wanker of the Decade” on New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, blogger Duncan Black observed that “truly great wankers possess a kind of glib narcissism, the belief that everything is about them while simultaneously disavowing any responsibility for anything.” The sorry “state of the world is what it is,” Black continued, “in large part because people in positions of great power think this absurd buffoon of man is a Very Serious Person.”

Wow, some of the stuff Friedman has said is f’d up! I mean, I knew the guy was “wanker” extraordinaire, but some of his articles from the early and middle 90’s are way out there. Read that link to see what I mean.

Now a couple cartoons to pass the time before the Great Tit article.

4/26 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Gingrich bows out | Mike Luckovich

Yes both from Luckovich…

4/25 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Global warming | Mike Luckovich

Now, it is with great pleasure that I present to you the headline that made me spit my green coffee this morning… Great tits join mobs with neighbours they know

Oh, it gets better…

Great tits in nestbox (c) Chris Perrins Great tits with familiar neighbours successfully raise more chicks
Like many birds, great tits are protective parents, often putting themselves at risk to mob predators that threaten their chicks.

A study has now shown that they will join anti-predator mobs if they hear alarm calls from birds they know well.

Scientists found that the birds would “join in” defensive mobs that were instigated by neighbouring birds they were familiar with.

The findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

“Joint mobbing” – birds ganging up to fend off predators – has been seen in many bird species.

But the researchers were particularly interested in the phenomenon in great tits because, in their previous work, they noticed that the birds’ lives were affected by the birds they lived next door to.

Oh, there is nothing like joint mobbing from a group of great tits…believe me, when great tits feel the things they care about are in danger…they get protective and form anti-PLUB mobs….oops, I mean anti-predator mobs. And when these Great Tits gang up and help their neighbors to fight against the predator GOP politician, oops I did it again…I mean perceived dangerous predator…watch out!

Well, think of this as an open thread/evening reads…and post whatever you want!