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January 19, 2007

But Don't You Dare Question Our Patriotism...

Month after month the press wring their hands over the escalating violence in Iraq: 70% of which occurs in only 5 neighborhoods in a single city. This, we are told, is a miserable failure on the part of the Bush administration to bring peace to an entire nation.

But as Pam Hess recently noted, that's only part of the story: a tale the media persist in distorting by omission:

...the problem that I think here is that there are two kinds of stories about Iraq. There's the accountability story which we're all obsessed with covering. And the president's even added some fuel to the fire by admitting he made a mistake, although not delineating what those mistakes are. But then there is the success stories.

We're not writing those. We're not asking those hard questions. We're only talking about accountability. And again, it's the country that's paying.

Bush is leaving in two years, but we are still going to be in Iraq. We need to figure out a way to make this work.

Pottery Barn rules are flung around with joyous abandon when the mission is blaming the President but vanish faster than a disgraced Congressional intern when it comes time to actually do something about the problem. The implications of "you own it", you see, just can't be adequately addressed by a nonbinding House resolution and now that the American people have placed the adults firmly in charge of both the House and the Senate we are about to see concrete results of all those lofty "we support the troops" sentiments we've been hearing for years:

Dean Barnett is exactly right. He points to a new Fox poll asking people if they hoped that Bush's new plan in Iraq would succeed. Here are the results broken down by party:

Overall: 63% Yes 22% No 15% Don’t Know

Democrats: 51% Yes 34% No 15% Don’t Know

Republicans: 79% Yes 11% No 10% Don’t Know

Independents 63% Yes 19% No 17% Don’t Know

Remember, this isn't a question about whether you think the plan will succeed, but whether you hope it will succeed.

I guess we have the answer to Ms. Hess' question - we're not going to find a way to make Iraq work if the Democratic Party has anything to do with it because 49% of the people who put them in office either don't want us to win the war or "aren't sure" yet whether they want us to win.

It's that simple.

Month after month our media ask why we're unable to bring the violence under control in Iraq. The truth is that most of Iraq isn't awash in Sunni/Shia violence we read about every day from Baghdad. Anbar province, which we also hear about non-stop, isn't experiencing sectarian violence. Most of the problems there (as General Mattis commented recently) are of another type:

...al-Anbar does not have the sectarian violence that the rest of the country has. It's the Sunni triangle. In fact, the only area that has any significant Shia in it is an area on the eastern side and we have no sectarian violence. Interestingly enough, it's an area with Sunni and Shia living side by side, and we have no significant violence, I couldn't tell you why.

Fallujah is considered to be so changed for the better that Sunni fleeing out of Baghdad are going to Fallujah now. Who would have thought that two years ago? It sounds almost bizarre.

So why all the fighting in Baghdad? Why not ask the Iraqis:

The fear that the United States, bedeviled by internecine feuds, might cut and run has been at the root of the violence since Iraq's liberation in 2003.

Jihadists have fought not because they hope to win on the battlefield, but to strengthen the antiwar lobbies in the United States and Britain. Some in the new political elite have become fence sitters because they regard the United States as a fickle power that could suddenly change course. Others have created or expanded militias, in case the United States abandons Iraq before it can defend itself against internal foes and predatory neighbors.

They listen to us. They look to America as an example of how a succesful democracy should function. And when they do, they hear things like this:

On Dec. 5, Newsweek magazine touted an interview with then-incoming House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes as an "exclusive." And for good reason.

"In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq," the story began, Mr. Reyes "said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a 'stepped up effort to dismantle the militias.' "

"We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq," the Texas Democrat said to the surprise of many, "I would say 20,000 to 30,000."

Then came President Bush's expected announcement last week, virtually matching Mr. Reyes' recommendation and argument word-for-word -- albeit the president proposed only 21,500 troops.

Wouldn't you know, hours after Mr. Bush announced his proposal, Mr. Reyes told the El Paso Times that such a troop buildup was unthinkable.

"We don't have the capability to escalate even to this minimum level," he said.

The chairman's "double-talk" did not go unnoticed. Among others, Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, says such blatant "hypocrisy" undermines both national security and the war on terrorism.

Unfortunately for the new House intelligence chief, this is his second (some would argue his third) major blunder in the space of one month. When asked by Congressional Quarterly reporter Jeff Stein whether al Qaeda was a Sunni or Shi'ite organization, he answered: "Predominantly, probably Shi'ite."

As Mr. Stein wrote later: "He couldn't have been more wrong. Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shi'ite showed up at an al Qaeda clubhouse, they'd slice his head off and use it for a soccer ball."

The reporter added: "To me, it's like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who's on what side?"

In the same interview, Mr. Stein had asked Mr. Reyes about the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

His now-infamous reply: "Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah? ... Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o'clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?"

Can anyone really blame the Sunnis and Shia for wanting to kill each other when they see American Republicans and Democrats unable to work together after two centuries?

Apparently, on the House Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence, no se habla "intelligence". Or, apparently, survival.

Update: I've decided I need to visit Beth every morning. Maybe I wouldn't be wiping out so many of my own posts.

Posted by Cassandra at January 19, 2007 08:12 AM

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The percentages of "Don't Know" is pretty significant across the board.

Sure people are confused about why the president is only now sending more troops when his then Army COS suggested back in 2003 sending hundreds of thousands of troops.

Sure people are confused when the recently replaced military leadership says repeatedly, "we don't need more troops here," and the president says he listens to his generals, but he's ordering more in anyway.

Sure people are confused when the president says, within weeks, to paraphrase, that this is a monumental struggle of our times, but he encourages everyone to go shopping more.

Sure people are confused when they see their neighbors and friends being deployed oconus and all they are encouraged to do is slap a yellow ribbon their car.

If the burden of this monumental struggle, as the president claims it is (and I'm not saying it isn't), was spread around a bit more than on just the military and their immediate families, maybe the "don't knows" would know.

Posted by: jpr at January 19, 2007 10:38 AM

The percentages of "Don't Know" is pretty significant across the board.

At least people are beginning to ADMIT that they don't know.

I've been continually frustrated by the touting of these polls of obviously UNIFORMED Americans that indicate that support for the war has slipped.

Speaking of, "don't know," a surprising number (20%) of people say they have, "never heard of," our illustrious House Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi.

This is actually UP from 43% who never heard of her in October of '06, which may do a lot to explain the election results!

Posted by: JannyMae at January 19, 2007 10:48 AM

I wish the troop count could just be left out of it. It's becoming the nexus of attention over the far more important strategic shifts that are the crux of the "surge."

As to sacrifice/burden, I think there's more sacrifice going on than meets the eye, but it's intangible and its true effects won't be felt for years.

The calls for sacrifice seem to willfully ignore that there are more ways than enlisting to contribute to the cause. Nine times out of ten, it seems to me that people that call for more sacrifice are really saying that they want something punitive in order to punish those that believe, as I do, that this is the right war, at the right time, for the right reasons.

Posted by: Daveg at January 19, 2007 10:50 AM

Trackbacked at The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 01/19/2007

Posted by: David M at January 19, 2007 11:01 AM

Am I against Bush's plan to let radical Shiites take over Iraq via "democracy"? Hell yes I am and I don't care what neo-cons cry over that position. This is global foreign policy, not "team spirit" night at the high school football game. Neo-cons need to take their heads out of their *sses.

Posted by: mike at January 19, 2007 12:20 PM

That's not Bush's plan, but if it makes you feel better to throw up a straw man so you can burn it in effigy, have at it.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2007 12:24 PM

When I say that poll, I was stunned. How can you, if you are a real American, not automatically say "Yes" when asked if you want the President's plan to succeed? Those that said "No" are worse than those that said "Don't know". Don't these people understand that if the President's plan DOES succeed, that means reduced violence, and a majority of our troops and came home, their mission successfully completed? I don't think they will all come home - we still have forces in Germany and Japan, and that war has been over for more than 60 years.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 19, 2007 12:33 PM

The question asks whether you hope the plan will succeed. It's quite likely that a lot of people who answered "I don't know" didn't read that as,

"Do you wish our troops success?"

but rather as,

"Do you have any hope that this plan will work?"

The second question will generate a lot more negatives, and a lot of "don't know" responses. The first question can only generate positive responses outside of the Code Pink left.

Posted by: Grim at January 19, 2007 12:38 PM

But that's not what they asked Grim. They didn't ask whether the respondents expected or had any rational HOPE it would expect, but whether they hoped it would succeed.

Two very different questions.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2007 12:49 PM


Well, something along the lines of what Grim suggested (versus a more literalist reading) is, pretty obviously, what is going on. The literalist interpretation of the poll and its results leads to a rather unintuitive (and empirically false) accounting of domestic public opinion. Generally it's best to hew to Carl Sagan's observation that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

Posted by: dgf at January 19, 2007 01:33 PM

Yes, the two are obviously very different, which makes you wonder about the reading comprehension of many of those polled.

Posted by: JannyMae at January 19, 2007 01:35 PM

I'm sure curious about 2% of the 900 respondants. Those would be the 18 people that claim to have never heard of Dick Cheney. I also question the integrity of the 9 Independents that claim to have never heard of George Bush. How is it possible to never have heard of George Bush?? I can't reconcile that figure with an accurate poll.

Question 21 seems odd, too. "Do you think most Democrats want the plan to succeed or fail?"

38% of Democrats responded that they believe that most Democrats want the plan to fail. 67% of Repubs believe the same thing. I'm not sure what it means, but...

Also interesting was question #38: "Do you think TV news presents all viewpoints, or is it biased, and if it is biased, in which direction?" (paraphrased to save typing)

Only 9% of Repubs think TV news isn't biased, while 69% think it is biased to the Liberal side. Interestingly, 21% of Dems think it's unbiased, but 32%(!!!) believe it is biased on the Liberal side. That surprised me.

Posted by: Daveg at January 19, 2007 01:37 PM


I looked up the raw data from the poll. The question Cassandra highlighted was #19. The very next question was:

How likely do you think the it is that the Iraq plan President Bush announced last week will succeed?

Very likely 10%
Somewhat likely 29%
Not very likely 27%
Not likely 25%
Don't know 10%

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 19, 2007 01:47 PM

I was going to point that out but I have been busy with work and haven't had time to pull up the poll and wade into it.

People were asked both questions, right next to each other. And they are quite distinct in meaning.

People can try to read all they want into this, but it was a simple question and had a simple answer, and respondants had a chance to answer BOTH questions.

And we have the answers.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2007 01:54 PM

And thank you, Miss Ladybug.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2007 01:54 PM

I'd like to ask the pols to sacrifice their petty political posturing long enough to win this battle for the Iraqi people. HA HA HA HA HA!

Let me tell you what an elderly state lawmaker once told me when I was attempting to lobby him on a measure that would benifit "all" the people in the state. He said " Son, (no kidding!), let me tell how it is down here. When you first come down to Richmond, you come to do some good. But right away you learn that it's all about getting re-elected. Oh sure, every once in while you might get a chance to do some good. But you won't be able to do any good a hundred percent of the time unless you get re-elected. Now tell me, son, is this bill gonna get me re-elected?"

He didn't support the bill, but he did get re-elected.

Posted by: spd rdr at January 19, 2007 02:01 PM

You're quite welcome, Cassandra. I've got quite a bit of free time, since I haven't been able to sub yet since graduating last month ;-)

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 19, 2007 02:19 PM


Let me tell you how it is:

When you first come to Richmond to make slaw, you may think you're pretty hot sh*t because you've got two kinds of cabbage. But right away you learn that it's all about the mayonnaise. Oh sure, every once in while you might throw in some fancy mustard or even a few caroway seeds. But you won't be able to do it right a hundred percent of the time unless you start with homemade mayo. Now tell me, son, are you using homemade mayonnaise?"

Posted by: Elderly Slawmaker at January 19, 2007 02:35 PM

I'm going to pay for that...

Posted by: Elderly Slawmaker at January 19, 2007 02:36 PM

Actually the question wasn't whether you hoped it would succeed but the question was:

Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush announced last week to succeed?

Posted by: Masked Menace at January 19, 2007 02:37 PM

OK, in a more serious vein... :p

I think mr rdr made an excellent point. You do have to get reelected to be able to do any good, however there also needs to be some intelligent reckoning of the value of individual issues and votes to the constituency at that time relative to the value of an individual getting re-elected as well as (perhaps) the cumulative effect of making that type of decision over and over again (the so-called 'losing your soul' effect).

If everyone plays the game, what you get is gridlock: Nancy Pelosi pulling junior Congressmen into her office and threatening them with ostracism or worse if they cross the aisle and work with the other side, all while she excoriates the Rethugs for creating the harsh partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill. That's what we have now. And it's unacceptable.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2007 02:50 PM

Well, to play it another way:
F'rinstance, my own brother in law wants to shoot Bush (and he doesn't mean it figuratively, either, and he thinks the FBI has his name and is following him. I kid you not.)
One of my so-called professional colleagues who has a Ph.D. in Chemistry, created quite a stir in a restaurant in Reno, Nevada a few years ago when he started to go on rant about Bush being worse than Osama bin Laden.

I could go on with other anecdotal examples. But so what.

So yeah, there are really people out there who think these things. If you read into the entry by "mike" above, you can also rationalize your "no" response as being absolutely patriotic.

It means as much or as little as you want it to mean. I can't control what other people think or say in polls ("Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a hypnotist!"), so how much should I (or any of you!) let it bother you?
If the Democratic party and their pals like olympia Snow and Chuck Hagel get there way, cap troop levels, etc., then GWB's hands are tied, and whatever happens is on their heads, quite frankly. Sad but true political calculus, or whatever those guys do to tote it up at the end of the day.
If the "surge" goes forward, and it all works out, then GWB and his supporters (such as yours truly) look good; but more of our guys get seriously dead, unfortuately.
If the "surge" goes forward and it all goes awry, then the Republicans get hammered in 2008 elections and worse, a lot more people in Iraq get seriously dead; ours and theirs (Iraqis in general).

So reality being what it is, beyond your own thoughts and beliefs and the handfull of people that you can actually interact with, what the faceless masses out their think and say is beyond any of our puny abilities to influence, quite frankly. I admire Cassandra as she wades into the breach everyday to try and educate us unwashed, rethuglican neo-nazis, but how wide is anyone's influence, really? She keeps my morale up, but how many minds has she really changed? Whose mind wants to changed? Let's see a show of hands?
Reading the daily spew from Kos and the Huffington Post may boil your blood, but really, it's beyond what any one of us can do to change their minds (whatever mental processes they have left, that is). Concentrate your energy on what you can affect.
Donate time and money to Soldiers's Angels or the like. (I know that many good people here do that already, more than me, I'm sure)
Write to the guys in theater.(same)
Write to your Senator or Congressman (I send off missives to George Voinovich every other week or so)and give them a piece of your mind (politely, of course).

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 19, 2007 03:24 PM

While I do understand what you are saying, Don, that it really shouldn't bother us, I still have to analyze it myself.

The poll results indicated that 51% of the Democrats, i.e., the President's POLITICAL opponents, do not want the plan to succeed. I'm forced to ask the question, "Why do they want it to fail?" The obvious answer is because they want the President to fail, for whatever reason.

If the president fails, the country fails, yet, because they oppose the president so strongly, they have no problem with that. I find that disturbing.

Posted by: JannyMae at January 19, 2007 04:04 PM

No Janny, it's 51% of self-identified Dems that want it to succeed.
34% that want it to fail and 17% that have no opinion (whatever that means).

I don't know how the poll was "weighted" per the Party responses or anything like that, either.

I also recall (just a vagrant memory) that AFTER WWII was finished, about 30% of the people polled thought the whole thing was "a mistake".

My own father (WWII veteran) also told me once (non-vagrant memory)how dis-illusioned he was after he came home in '46. I don't quite know what he meant, but, there you go.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 19, 2007 04:19 PM

Well, if that's the case, then all I can assume is that the "Don't know" crowd meant, "I have no idea. Where's Iraq?"

Posted by: Grim at January 19, 2007 04:44 PM


Posted by: Cassandra at January 19, 2007 04:48 PM

But that is still 49% who can't say they want the plan to succeed. I would hope that the poll showed more like 90-something percent WANTING it to succeed...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 19, 2007 04:59 PM

I don't think I meant it shouldn't bother us, but how much energy can you or should you waste worrying about it? A lot of things bother me that are beyond my ability to change, and it is a difficult thing to face. But brooding about it won't make the world a better place. I know there are regular readers here who have a much bigger stake in this than I do, and I don't mean to mock them AT ALL! But the worry about attitudes beyond your control just leads to anxiety and fear, and fear leads to the Dark Side, young Padawan, so....uh, wait a minute there.

Frankly, after almost 4 years of a lot of "negative" reporting, and 63% still favor the President's plan, and only 22% are affirmatively AGAINST, I'm actually encouraged. But then I'm sometimes dumb as a doornail, so there you go.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 19, 2007 05:03 PM

I don't think I meant it shouldn't bother us, but how much energy can you or should you waste worrying about it? A lot of things bother me that are beyond my ability to change, and it is a difficult thing to face. -- Don

Yeah, that's more like it, Don. I can agree to that. You're right also, I reversed the 51-49%, but it's still right around half.

Your points about taking action rather than brooding.

I also agree that it's really encouraging that so many do support it, after all the negative, negative, negative coverage.

What I found encouraging, also, as I said in my first post, is that people are actually beginning to admit that they don't know enough about some of these issues to have an opinion on them.

Posted by: JannyMae at January 19, 2007 05:18 PM

I find writing letters to the CongressCritters to be a tremendously helpful thing in terms of blackmail (votes for sale), campaigning for their opposition (take the vote away from the incumbent)
as well as clarifying their position or lack thereof.

The congresspeople to get hold of are the ones in your district as well as the senator from your district.

Calling once in a while is a good thing to do.
You can also find out which intern/pages do their job by getting the word out to the Honorables.

Posted by: Cricket at January 19, 2007 05:37 PM

Somehow, I messed up my post above. I'm having a really BAD DAY.

Let's try again:

"Your points about taking action rather than brooding are quite valid."

Posted by: JannyMae at January 19, 2007 05:42 PM

I have, at times, sent emails to my reps. and Senators. Only ones I ever got a response from were the Republicans. I hate phones, so the letter writing may be an alternative for me.

Posted by: JannyMae at January 19, 2007 05:51 PM

You can contact every Senator and Representive via email/online email form. I email both Senators from my state (Cornyn and Hutchison), and my Representive (I used to have Lamar Smith, but redistricting puts me with Lloyd Doggett).


Just look up the name of who it is that represents you.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 19, 2007 05:56 PM

I honestly think some of y'all are giving those seditious bastards way more benefit of the doubt than they deserve. I'd bet some of those "I don't know" answers were leftards unwilling to say "no" because they KNOW it's wrong to root against your own country, but they still believe it, nevertheless. The ends justify the means, etc. It's what they're all about, which is why others answered "no."

And who the hell are the Republicans who answered no/don't know? Moby? Pat Buchanan? I find that utterly incomprehensible.

Posted by: Beth at January 19, 2007 05:58 PM

They say it isn't pretty watching slawmakers make slaw.

But damned if it isn't tasty when made right.

Posted by: Slaw Abiding Citizen at January 19, 2007 07:10 PM

I find that sending letters to my representative gets a pretty good response, and they seemed like awfully helpful and personable people when I visited their office. Or atleast the assistants there were.

But then, like some others pointed out, it was because he was a Republican Rep. Anyhow, I'm thankful he's still there.

Posted by: Kevin L at January 19, 2007 07:18 PM

Yeah, I know what you mean, Kevin. When I lived in AR, I had a business trip to Columbia, MD in May 2003. I decided to take a couple of days and play tourist. I contacted my representative - John Bozeman (R). Through his office, I was able to tour the White House (you can't just show up for a tour anymore - you have to be "sponsored"), and got a guided tour of the Capitol from one of his interns (a young man from Arkansas who was attending GW there in DC). Even got a photo with Rep. Bozeman and the other ladies from Arkansas who took the tours at the same time I did.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 19, 2007 07:31 PM

Man, I fought the slaw and the slaw won!

Posted by: Eating Greens Day at January 19, 2007 09:37 PM

Well, I've sent emails to John Kyl and John McCain, my AZ Senators, and gotten responses in both cases.

On the other hand, I sent TWO emails to my then Rep. in Congress, Jan (I'll support abortion till my last dying breath) Schakowski in Illinois, and never received a response. They were on separate occasions, and one was in regards to abortion, but I don't recall the other one.

Posted by: JannyMae at January 19, 2007 09:42 PM

I'm not really fond of slaw, but there is a place out here that serves a dynamite slaw made with apple cider.


Posted by: JannyMae at January 19, 2007 09:42 PM

Shut up punk before I hand down some serious justice.

Posted by: Slaw Enforcement Officer at January 19, 2007 09:43 PM

Now now.... you are all equal before me!!!

Posted by: The Rule of Slaw at January 19, 2007 09:53 PM

Equal before the slaw. I am blind.

Posted by: Justice at January 19, 2007 10:16 PM

All this slaw talk is making me hungry...

Posted by: Slaw Dog at January 19, 2007 10:48 PM

To live as one likes is plebian; the noble man aspires to order and slaw.

Posted by: Slaw Philosopher at January 19, 2007 10:55 PM

Just so-so....

Posted by: The Slaw of averages at January 19, 2007 11:23 PM

Does this mean that one who keeps a law blog is called a slawg?

Posted by: Cricket at January 19, 2007 11:36 PM

Obviously it's time someone laid down the Slaw around this place.

Posted by: Slaw And Order at January 20, 2007 12:31 AM

Are you counting Sadr city as 1 of your five neighborhoods? because thats like 2 million people.

Posted by: peance at January 20, 2007 10:44 AM

And Iraq has 27 million people. Again, 70% of the violence is occurring in a relatively concentrated area. 2 million people would be what? Not quite 14% of Iraq's population? As opposed to trying to stop a situation where the violence is diffuse and widespread over 70% of the country's geography, for instance, where you'd need 20 times the troops just to cover the same ground?

If you're looking at this as a tactical problem and talking about trying to contain/stop it, I'd say that's a *good* thing, wouldn't you?

Posted by: George W. Bush at January 20, 2007 11:02 AM

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