Es verdad -- those Washington Bullets again ...

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

David Brooks gives George Packer the neocon seal of approval ($) he has so richly earned, while at the same time, slyly insinuating that Walt, Mearsheimer, and Jimmy Carter are anti-Semites because they question U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. It's an improvement, style-wise, from the time at the beginning of the war when Brooks insisted that anyone who used the term "neoconservative" was ipso facto an anti-Semite, which is not saying much, because that was just plain crazy. (Irving Kristol is an anti-Semite? About himself?) Brooks' ambition in that column was to silence, by smearing, anyone who questioned the efficacy of the ruinous war he and his friends were then selling to the nation on the basis of the deliberate lies of our leaders. Had we listened to the prescient and patriotic people he sought to ex-communicate, who knows how many hundreds of thousands of innocent people would still be alive. In any case, back to my point, Brooks was an honest neocon onceuponatime and getting a spot on the Times op-ed could have turned him into an honest old-fashioned small-c "conservative." Instead, it's turned him into a propagandist for a failed ideology. Anyway, my heartfelt congratulations to Packer ...

Then again, the neocons are in pretty good shape, considering ... What do you get when you try to help George W. Bush if you actually go to Iraq? Just jail if you're lucky; jail, torture and possibly death if you're not.

If you help them out in Italy, apparently, you get jail as well. (I wonder if this applies to all countries that begin with "I")

We note, with the WSJ ($), that the White House failed to complete a single Guantánamo trial in the five years before the Supreme Court struck the system down in June, here.

One more foreign policy failure. If you're scoring at home, that would be, um, well, virtually everything ...

Time is hiring columnists. So if you're keeping score at home, that now makes four columnists who passionately hate liberals and consider them to be disloyal, one liberal who, while a great columnist, to be honest, does not much like liberals either, and one liberal blogger who specializes in, sorry mom, "ass-fucking." And this is the So-Called Liberal Media ... reels the mind ...

P.S. Just what would Bill Kristol have to say or do to discredit his reputation as a political analyst?

Remember, when this contemptible woman moved to LA, the Times thought it was front-page news. Why? Because that's how the refs are worked ...

Mickey says my man Boehlert is unhinged to suggest "warbloggers want journalists to venture into exceedingly dangerous sections of Iraq because warbloggers want journalists to get killed." But you know, Mickey's own girlfriend, Ann Coulter, complained during the CNN Eason Jordan mess that U.S. troops were not killing enough journalists. Sure, it was a joke of sorts, but it's only a joke because it's what Coulter types really believe. Otherwise, what's funny about murder?

How can CNN Headline News keep Glenn Beck on the air when he makes stupid, pernicious and defamatory statements like this one. What a pig. (Surprise, surprise. ABC News loves him too.)

Slate hed writers slander Obama.

The pony in the Knicks' manure pile: Now they can fire Isiah Thomas for cause -- worry about the lawsuits later -- and get someone running the organization who at least approaches competence ...

More on Pinochet, Kirkpatrick and the Washington Post editors who love them ...

(borrowed from H. Diplo)

1) From: David Noon, University of Alaska:

The Washington Post editorial about Pinochet -- approvingly cited by David Horowitz -- must rank among the more intellectually dishonest pieces to appear in that newspaper's pages in recent years. The bulk of the piece aims to argue one irrelevant point (that Castro is/was worse), one questionable assertion (that Jeane Kirkpatrick was "right" about right-wing dictators) and one enormous falsehood (that Pinochet deserves credit for Chile's economic success).

The latter claim is especially popular but easily refuted. The Chilean "free market reforms" -- administered by a regime that overthrew a democratically-elected government -- garroted that nation's economy for a decade. With the abolition of minimum wages, the evisceration of the state's pension and social welfare systems, the assaults on unions (itself a violation of human rights), and other "free market" gestures, unemployment and poverty surged in Chile; Santiago became one of the most polluted cities in the world; children died of common, preventable diseases that thrived in the deregulated rubble of the Pinochet economy. During the panic of 1983, Pinochet altered course and adopted traditional Keynesian remedies to avert a disaster of his own regime's creation. Meantime, the export economy in Chile has been driven in no small degree by mines nationalized by the Allende regime.

But let's reflect for a moment on what the Post decided to gloss over in its rush to celebrate the "free market." Under Pinochet, at least 3000 died and tens of thousands were imprisoned and subjected to state-sanctioned torture. Of the 3500 women arrested for political causes during the Pinochet years, nearly all reported being sexually assaulted. During the initial months after the 1973 coup that deposed Salvador Allende, the Chilean junta imprisoned so many civilians that stadiums, naval vessels and military camps were enlisted to aid the nation's overburdened penal institutions. New prison complexes were established in the most remote areas of the country. The Direccion Nacional de Inteligencia (DINA), Pinochet's secret police, orchestrated the repression and carried out several assassinations against former Allende officials. In one of their most notorious exploits, DINA agents working with anti-Castro exiles killed Orlando Letelier -- former Chilean ambassador to the US -- and a 25-year old American woman named Ronni Moffitt, both of whom worked at the Institute for Policy Studies. The 1976 car bombing, which took place in Washington, DC, blew Letelier's legs off and nearly decapitated Moffitt. American intelligence officials knew about the plans two months before they were executed; in the aftermath of the attack, those same officials -- most notably Kissinger's Latin American deputy Harry Schlaudeman -- studiously avoided asking the Pinochet regime the obvious questions about its involvement in the bombing.

In late 2004 a commission led by Sergio Valech, the former archbishop of Santiago, published its final report on Pinochet's reign of terror -- the third and most exhaustive of the three commission inquiries into the Pinochet legacy. The Valech Commission heard testimony from 35,000 victims of state repression from the period of 1973 to 1990; Archbishop Valech himself described the 1200-page report as "an experience without precedent in the world," one that presented Chileans with "an inescapable reality: political detention and torture constituted an institutional practice of the state." More than anything, the report undermined Augusto Pinochet's traditional defense that renegade officers -- a small handful at best -- were responsible for acts of cruelty that had been unjustly exaggerated by opponents of the regime. The Washington Post might have glanced at the report -- as well as other parts of the public historical record -- before turning its attention to Castro, Kirkpatrick, and the mystical influence of Milton Friedman on the Chilean economy.

2) From: Christopher L Ball, Iowa State University

The Washington Post's editorial writers need a better sense of history, both economic and intellectual.

The political right in the US is overly praiseworthy of Pinochet's economic legacy. He promoted some free market changes, but he left the nationalization of Chile's cooper industry in place, and only later allowed foreign firms to invest in new mines. The state copper company, CODELCO, remains the world's largest copper producer today. His development record is exaggerated, too. Chile's record of per capita GDP growth, a leading development indicator for neo-liberal economists, under the dictactorship (1974-1990) was not as good as its neighbors. Chile's real GDP per capita in constant 2000 US dollars was 1.17 higher in 1990 than in 1974 v. 1.35 for Colombia and 1.3 for Brazil. Chile's great economic advances come after authoritarian rule ended. Between 1990 and 2003, Chile's per capita GDP was 1.7 times greater versus 1.12 for Colombia and 1.05 for Brazil.[1] There is no doubt that Pinochet's regime initiated economic reforms, but the democratic regime continued and expanded them and its stewardship saw the stronger period of growth.

The political left is overly scornful of Jeane Kirpatrick's 1979 "Dictatorship and Double Standards" article, but not for the reasons the WP imagines.[2] Leaving aside the occasionally snarky but often incisive criticism of the Carter administration's foreign policy, she argued, drawing openly on Samuel Huntington, that rapid political, economic, and social modernization in the "Third World" would likely fail. She argued that "traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies, that they are more susceptible to liberalization, and that they are more compatible with U.S. interests" (p.44). Traditionalist dictators are not less repressive because they are morally superior to revolutionaries. For Kirpatrick, they repress less because maintaining a rotten status quo creates less opposition than radically re-making society. Incremental progress in contestation and participation are more likely in traditional regimes for no better reason than that no Third World revolutionary state had yet democratized. It is not for lack of imagination or a decade's foresight that she omits mention of Soviet and East European communist dictatorships in the context of comparing the prospects for change in traditional v. revolutionary regimes but rather that these European states were part of the modern, not the developing, world.

Her emphasis was on revolutionary change rather than political ideological per se. This was why the Islamicists in Iran and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua were her main foci -- both movements sought "Great Revolutions" in politics, the society, and the economy, rather than mere seizure of the state. So it is incorrect to state, as the WP does, that she said "right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers" for two reasons. First, revolutionary autocrats, not just communist ones, was her focus. Second, Pinochet needed to repress severely in order to advance his political and economic agenda, despite being able to piggy-back on the more radical changes that Allende had made (copper nationalization, agrarian reform). Traditionalist dictators were not to be tolerated in hopes that they would make economic reforms or even political liberty. Indeed, rapid modernization efforts, like those the Shah undertook, might undermine their rule. They were less malign because they would not be aligned with the Soviet Union or opposed to the US. For Kirkpatrick, this was reason enough to support them and oppose revolutionary regimes.

[1]. Calculated from "Real GDP per capita (Constant Prices: Laspeyres)" variable provided by Alan Heston, Robert Summers and Bettina Aten, Penn World Table Version 6.2, Center for International Comparisons of Production, Income and Prices at the University of Pennsylvania, September 2006. http://pwt.econ.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt62/pwt62_form.php

[2]. _Commentary_ (Nov. 1979)

End H-Diplo.

And a sad, but telling editorial from the conservatives at The Economist could see what the alleged liberals at The Washington Post could not: "General Pinochet's claim to have stood selflessly for the former was tarnished when it emerged that he had amassed a fortune incommensurate with his salary. Even if history bothers to remember that he privatised the pension system, that should not wipe away the memory of the torture, the 'disappeared' and the bodies dumped at sea. His defenders -- who include Britain's Lady Thatcher -- really should know better."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Mark Richard
Hometown: Columbus

Dear Eric,

The polls showing 27% support for Bush's war got me to thinking about the differences between Vietnam and Iraq. You would have thought the former war would have been much more unpopular. The death toll in Vietnam was around 58,000 Americans, all told, as against going on 3,000 in Iraq. Most of the Vietnam War was fought with a conscript army, as opposed to the all-volunteer force in Iraq. The North Vietnamese leadership was not intrinsically violent and stupid as was the Ba'athist leadership under Saddam, though like all armies they did some cruel and evil things.

In spite of these differences, American public opinion was at no time more "dovish'" than that of the White House, in spite of efforts to construct a narrative implying the opposite. Johnson's problems stemmed from his liberal domestic policies, not from his war. Nixon's policies in Vietnam were supported by the public in repeated polling, right to the end of direct U. S. involvement in January 1973.

I believe the difference was the nature of the opposition. There has been little in the way of Vietnam-style mass demonstration - the old Left idea of political expression. There has been less of the tainting of the plain case against the war by the injection of a political ideology that sought to make large statements about the war as a metaphor for the general sickness of American culture and institutions. I'm old enough to remember that people who ordinarily would have opposed the war could not bring themselves to side with the anti-war demonstrators, who were seen as too indiscriminately left-wing, too Hollywood-and-Broadway, too college ... there was some strong class warfare going on there. In Iraq, the opposition has mainly been content to let the Administration's policy speak for itself, with that support for the Iraq war has declined almost to the political equivalent of a vanishing point.

The way to oppose a foolish policy may be avoiding excessive moralism of "the Vietnam War is immoral and illegal" variety in favor of the more straight-forward pragmatism of "it's a mistake, it's not working, it's not good for the country." Your correspondents may not appreciate this, but I always felt the marchers against the Vietnam War prolonged the U.S. involvement, by stiffening the opposition along class lines; would that public opinion had turned so decisively against Johnson before the combat deaths in Vietnam had reached the 3,000 mark.

Name: Jason Brown
Hometown: Los Angeles

Dear Mr. Bateman,

I read your description of Baghdad geography, and your sense of disbelief that an officer in the Yarmouk district would report on an incident in Hurriyah. In your words: "it's the equivalent of a Brooklyn local police precinct for a story that occurred in northern Yonkers! Hello?"

I looked at the map of Bagdad and Yarmouk, which is indeed about three miles from Hurriyah. It seems to be directly connected in a straight line by major roads, and there don't appear to be any significant geographical obstructions.

Then, I looked at a map of New York. Brooklyn is a big area, but it's roughly 15-20 miles from "North" Yonkers -- which makes the distance of your comparison off by about 600%. Getting between Brooklyn and Yonkers also involves crossing a river, and is by no means a straight line down a single thoroughfare. A more accurate analogy to Yarmouk and Hurriyah might be a police precinct in Brooklyn Heights reporting on an incident in "North" Williamsburg.

In short, your analogy is either based on complete ignorance or it is deliberate misinformation. It's odd that you would use such a deceptive comparison, especially one that is so obviously, demonstrably false. After all, this isn't about left and right -- it's about accuracy.

And hubris.

Name: John
Hometown: Kinnelon

There's egg on the Coast Guard's face over the revamping of the cutter fleet, but I think a good deal of blame must be shouldered by Congress. The Coast Guard, previously under the Department of Transportation, with a staff of 38,000 active servicemembers - smaller than the New York City police force - is tasked with maritime search and rescue, law enforcement, aids to navigation, vessel traffic management, marine safety, vessel inspections, port security, ice breaking, as well as assisting the Department of Defense, was shouldered with a new "national security" mission under the Department of Homeland Security. Inherent to that mission was somehow performing national coastal security for 89,000 miles of tidal coastline (excluding the Great Lakes). For those old enough to remember, counternarcotics enforcement of this amount of coastline by this size force was a failure, through no fault of their own. The Drug War -- the oft forgotten, hyped-up national law enforcement effort -- experienced only moderate success once the DoD was able to get involved. Even then, the smugglers carrying countless millions in illegal drugs across the 1,500 mile land border with Mexico could only laugh at the billions in taxpayer dollars being spent in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean by the Coast Guard and DoD.

Certainly, the Coast Guard needed a new fleet of ships. For years, the Coast Guard recommissioned US Navy cast-offs into its fleet because funding was never available to upgrade -- in stark contrast to new DoD vessels and aircraft continually coming off the assembly lines. The cost of one Seawolf submarine would have funded the entire Coast Guard operational budget for a year! Five of the original 110-foot patrol boats could be built for the coast of one F-14 Tomcat fighter (1980's $), of which 5 were lost annually to accidents. Once again, the Coast Guard was in the process of "upgrading" these 20+-year-old boats rather than getting a replacement fleet.

I guess now the appropriating folks at the Coast Guard are playing with the big boys and have their first "Osprey" design. Fortunately, no one has been killed and it's only money. Back to the drawing board.

More importantly, Congress should rethink the missions of that critical force.

Name: Tom Wright
Hometown: Nashville, TN

Eric Boehlert's latest explanation given above carries little weight with me.

In his own words he says: "Should the AP be held responsible for its reporting, and should the global news agency be diligent about whom it hires inside Iraq? Of course. And there should be hell to pay if it's proven any news events were manufactured."

And yet, when someone called into question the legitimacy of a news event or more specifically the legitimacy of a supposed news "source" his immediate reaction was to condemn the messenger and try to shift the debate from the accuracy of the reporting to an "us versus them" dispute.

I do not hold the view that "...all of the AP's Iraq reporting is bogus and all of the mainstream media's Iraq reporting is bogus because journalists want the U.S. to lose..." However; I will make two predictions: 1) Capt. Hussein will never be found, or if found, he will prove to be an imposter, 2) the AP will not claim that the due diligence involved in vetting Capt. Hussein deviated in any way from standard practice. In other words, the departure from the norm in this case is not that that the AP's work was sloppy but rather, this time, some bloggers have been able to point it out.

The mainstream media's Iraq reporting is not all bogus because journalists want the U.S. to lose. The reporting is mostly bogus because it is shoddy work.

Name: Larry Birnbaum
Hometown:

You're annoyed that people quote Abe Foxman without mentioning that he pressured the Polish legation to rescind use of its space for a talk by Tony Judt.

I'm annoyed that you continue to discuss Mearsheimer without noting his strident warnings, before the Iraq war, that Israel might use the war as cover to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from the West Bank, something that people should know about in evaluating his judgment and the credibility of his other claims. More here.

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