Friday, September 03, 2010

Taking No Prisoners

There probably is, somewhere, a conservative Republican who is different. And if you can get hold of a periscope, you might be able to find him/her.

Different as in willing to compromise- maybe go one-fourth of the way while the adversary meets you three-quarters of the way. We're not asking much here.

But even that is asking too much. Crooks and Liars has the video and transcript (below and immediately below, respectively) of an argument (relevant part in asterisks) which took place on Wednesday's AC (Anderson Cooper, but CNN believes "AC" is way cooler) 360 between Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former Bush 43 press secretary Ari Fleischer.

COOPER: Out of Iraq by the end of next year, that was the promise from President Obama. He said the combat mission's over, but America and will provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

Ari, you were obviously working for George W. Bush. I'm curious to what you thought as you listened to this. And obviously, not a great speech but a historic moment.

FLEISCHER: Well, my first thought was 7 1/2 years ago I was in the Oval Office when the president gave a speech committing us to Iraq. And it's appropriate. Americans don't like to commit troop abroad. And when we do, we want to win, and we want come to come. And the president -- I think President Bush has won because of the surge.

And then, in December of 2008, remember when the shoe was thrown at him? That was actually the announcement of a security agreement with the Iraqi government to bring our troops hope at the end of 2011.

The day had to come. So I'm glad the day was able to come and that President Obama gave a speech where he could thank the troops who also made this possible who really deserve all the credit for making it possible.

COOPER: Do you think he should have said more about President Bush?

FLEISCHER: You know, I think it would have been gracious of him if he'd mentioned the surge, but the problem he has, for President Obama to put the words "President Bush," "Iraq" and anything good in the same sentence, the Democrat base, which already doesn't want to show up in November -- what will Nancy Pelosi see if he starts talking like that?

So I understand -- I wish he was more gracious about it, but he has his own Democratic political imperatives, and he has -- he followed those tonight.

COOPER: Paul, what did you think of the speech? We haven't heard from you tonight.

BEGALA: Well, I think it was -- first, he was trying to do three different things, right? Say we're going to withdraw from Iraq, but we're going to surge into Afghanistan, but we're going to withdraw from there, too. But then, we're going to take care of folks here at home. I want to pick up, though, on this point that Ari makes about the surge, because it is staggering to me. First off, the surge was only necessary because President Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld went to war with too few troops, because they wanted to prove General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, wrong. That's why we needed it in the first place.

Second, it could have never succeeded without the preceding Sunni awakening. Iraqis themselves had to decide. It wasn't the American surge and then -- that cured it. It was the Sunni awakening.

But I'll make a deal with President Bush. We'll give you all the credit for the surge if you take half of the blame for the lies that got us into the war, by which I mean Iraq -- excuse me, Ari, by which I mean...

FLEISCHER: No, Paul, it's not right.

BEGALA: ... by which I mean Ari himself saying Iraq was an imminent threat to America, by which the president of the United States saying it was a mushroom cloud that could become a smoking gun, by which I mean the threat of unmanned aerial drones that Saddam supposedly had that would gas America, the connections that they allege which were false between al Qaeda and -- and Saddam's regime.

So, you know, there was so much they got wrong about this. Some of it just was botched, and some of it was deeply dishonest. And the notion that somehow George Bush is owed any moment of grace here is appalling to the history.

FLEISCHER: Neither you nor anybody else, including your old boss, Bill Clinton, challenged George Bush when he said that, because the intelligence that they all saw, too, led them to the same conclusion. So I think seven years...

BEGALA: You know they didn't see...


FLEISCHER: First off...

BEGALA: They didn't see all the intelligence, because you guys weren't sharing it.

FLEISCHER: This is the night that President Obama said thanks to the military; our troops are coming home. I was gracious enough to praise President Obama for saying that. It's an appropriate moment for our country to bring them home and to welcome them home.

But for you to say that President Bush lied about this, Paul, that is exactly the type of divisiveness we're trying move beyond in this country. When you know as well as I do he followed the intelligence that he was given by the CIA.

BEGALA: He manipulated -- he manipulated and cherry picked the intelligence...


BEGALA: ... as did Mr. Cheney, as did Mr. Rumsfeld, and that's why 4,427 Americans are dead.


FLEISCHER: It was nothing to cherry pick. That's everything we needed to know.

BEGALA: When Dick Cheney said, as he did, that Saddam has long- established ties with al Qaeda, the evidence is overwhelming, you know, the Iraq study group said no that wasn't true.

FLEISCHER: The 9/11 Commission report said Saddam had ties to al Qaeda.

BEGALA: It's just incredible.

FLEISCHER: The 9/11 Commission Report, it said they weren't operational. Our point of view is never let them become operational.

BEGALA: This is -- this is the thing: he was no threat to America. Ari, himself...

FLEISCHER: Now you're changing your tune because you're recognizing the 9/11 Commission report agreed with the president...

BEGALA: They said there were no operational links. There were none.

FLEISCHER: That's correct. We didn't want them to become one.

BEGALA: Well, we don't want Canada to have operational links either. How about we go -- how about we go have Operation Canadian Freedom?

No, look, this was from the beginning, it was a war of choice. It was Mr. Bush's choice, and it was a tragic choice; 4,427 Americans are dead. Thirty-five thousand Americans are wounded, plus those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, plus those suffering from traumatic brain injury. This has been a catastrophe for America, a catastrophe for our armed services who served with such heroism. And for Mr. Fleischer to sit here and expect a pat on the back, it is appalling. It is, as we would say in Texas, I guess it's chutzpah.

FLEISCHER: In Paul Begala's view of the world, we'd all be better off and safer off if Saddam Hussein was still running Iraq.

BEGALA: And those 4,427 Americans were alive.

FLEISCHER: Any time anybody loses their lives in the military, our nation suffers for it. Any one individual, anywhere.

But the point is we now have a new Iraq, an Iraq that has a chance to become a bastion of freedom and, hopefully, an Iraq that can change the Arab Middle East, so it's a more peaceful area where wars don't start. That's what Iraq now gives us a chance to do. And that's why I hope, now with the 50,000 remaining troops, we will be successful, and they don't lose the peace in Iraq, which is...

BEGALA: And we have -- we have a diminished America, a depleted America. We have a divided America. And we have, tragically, military cemeteries that are filling up. That is a hell of a price to pay to get rid of a guy who was no threat to America.

FLEISCHER: No threat to America?


COOPER: I want to bring in other panelists in just a second. We've got to take a quick break, though.

Begala is quick to compromise- he says that he'll "make a deal with President Bush" and "give (him) all the credit for the surge if" Fleischer assumes "half of the blame for the lies that got us into the war." Fleischer's response: there was no manipulation of intelligence, the war was a huge success, and President Bush (he had claimed earlier in the dialogue) "won because of the surge."

Ignoring evidence, withholding evidence, manipulating evidence- it all has been documented, with this a fairly good summary. My favorite, however, is former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice telling Wolf Blitzer of Saddaam Husein

We know that he has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon. And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought -- maybe six months from a crude nuclear device..... The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.

A year later

U.N. inspectors found Iraq's nuclear program in disarray and unlikely to be able to support an active effort to build weapons, the atomic agency chief said in a confidential report obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei reiterated that his experts uncovered no signs of a nuclear weapons program before they withdrew from Iraq just before the war began in March.

"In the areas of uranium acquisition, concentration and centrifuge enrichment, extensive field investigation and document analysis revealed no evidence that Iraq had resumed such activities," ElBaradei said in the report, made available to the AP by a diplomat.

"No indication of post-1991 weaponization activities was uncovered in Iraq," he said.

But Condoleezza Rice knew it all- and made sure we would fear a nuclear attack unless her boss launched a war on Iraq.

In the same way Fleischer just knows the surge was an unmitigated success. The Iraqi government has begun cozying up with Teheran, while Iraq's army chief has

predicted trouble next year when all the remaining US troops are due to leave. "The problem will start after 2011 – the politicians must find other ways to fill the void after 2011," he said.

The Associated Press recognizes that although the Obama Administration has reported, through NBC News, that American combat operations in Iraq have ended

50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.

Those are 50,000 American soldiers who are not in Afghanistan. The (mostly) American effort in Afghanistan continually has been hampered since the wondrous surge began in Iraq, in which a far less consequential war has been fought.

Paul Begala, with the vast majority of the evidence supporting his position, is willing to compromise with Ari Fleischer and other Bush apologists. But Fleischer, like most conservatives, operates on a different principle: never compromise, never retreat, never defend. Attack, strike and never admit uncertainty.

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