Politics & Policy

Rock Bottom, “Diversion,” The Debates, &C.

The Kerry campaign has reached rock bottom. I’m not talking about its standing in the polls–I don’t care about that, so much. I’m talking about its moral status. Its behavior during Prime Minister Allawi’s visit to the United States was appalling. The contempt that these people–the Kerry people–threw on Allawi was beyond belief. I feel like a McCarthyite when I think, “Are they on the other side? They seem desperate for our endeavors in Iraq to fail. They seem to be rooting against us.” But I think it.

Of Allawi, Joe Lockhart, the Kerry mouthpiece, said, “You can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips.” That’s the sort of thing you can read in the official Syrian press–or are they more discreet now?

Allawi himself was forced to declare, “I am a tool of nobody.” And catch the magnificent sarcasm at the end of this statement: “I don’t know what is rosy and what is not rosy. I am painting a picture that I know. I am the prime minister of Iraq, and I am talking about Iraq–I know what is happening there. I know the details. . . . I have only been out of Iraq for five days, so I don’t think that in the last five days things have changed dramatically.”

In the mid-1980s, when he visited Washington, Jose Napoleon Duarte kissed the American flag. That caused a lot of the Left to choke. And now Allawi is thanking America–and much of the Left is fuming.

I think we can safely generalize that they enjoyed neither the liberation of Afghanistan nor the liberation of Iraq. Because it is better that those two countries be unfree than that a Texas evangelical conservative do the freeing.

George W. Bush needs to stick it to Kerry in that first debate–not merely play defense. He needs to find a way of saying, “What kind of democrats are you Democrats? I mean, don’t you hope we succeed? Does the Taliban out, and Karzai et al. in, and Saddam Hussein out, and Allawi et al. in, embarrass you? Sure, Kofi Annan and the thugocracies of the U.N. are against us. But where do you stand? Does our relative unpopularity at the U.N. embarrass you?”

Get ‘im, W. This is no time to act overly “presidential.” Your job is to shame these people–a job for which they have given you plenty of material.

‐I wish to quote to you from Amir Taheri’s column, yesterday:

Allawi bears his title of “interim” with pride–in contrast to those “presidents for life” who fill the U.N. assembly hall every autumn. As an opponent of dictatorship for almost 30 years, this British-trained neurologist has paid a heavy price in personal suffering, including years of imprisonment and exile and the murder of his wife by Saddam’s henchmen.

I’ve met several of these Iraqi leaders (though not Allawi). They have come through various forms of hell, and their lives are perpetually in danger now. The likes of Joe Lockhart aren’t fit to wipe the dust from their shoes.

‐You might have noticed that our old friend “diversion” is back–the claim that the Iraq war constituted a “diversion” from the “real war,” the War on Terror, and more specifically the hunt for bin Laden, or–as the Democrats like to say–”Osama bin Forgotten.” Just the other day, Kerry said, “The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy, al Qaeda. There’s just no question [no question] about it. The president’s misjudgment, miscalculation, and mismanagement of the war in Iraq all make the War on Terror harder to win.”

But wait a minute: I thought that, in the Kerry worldview, there was no need for a war on terror, given that this was just a matter of a little law enforcement and intelligence work.

Anyway, on this “diversion” business, let me quote from a piece I did last January, on Wesley Clark, when he was running for the Democratic nomination.

Listen to a bit more [Clarke]: “A wise leadership would not have put us into Iraq at this time. Instead we’d have concentrated on Osama bin Laden. We knew who attacked this country on 9/11, and it was not Saddam Hussein. It was Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network. We should have gone after that network and we should have gone after it directly instead of taking half the United States Army and putting it in Iraq and using $150 billion and distracting us from our world leadership in the War on Terror.”

These comments raise many questions. First, how do you “concentrate” on bin Laden (if he is in fact still alive–and even if he is not)? This is a great Democratic talking point, and it has been intensified now that the elusive Saddam has been captured, for obvious reasons. But what makes Clark and others imagine that the choice is either-or: either “do” Saddam or “do” Osama? It takes a strange mind to suppose that President Bush is not moving heaven and earth to run bin Laden to ground. A senior administration official raises what he calls “a narrow, nasty, amoral political point: The capture of bin Laden is so obviously in Bush’s interest–the crushing of al Qaeda is so obviously in his interest–I mean, why wouldn’t the president be trying! Of course we are!”

Recall Clark’s words: We should have gone after that network and we should have gone after it directly. Did the general somehow miss the Afghan campaign? Did he miss the ruin of the Taliban–al Qaeda’s chief patron–and the utter disruption and dispersal of al Qaeda itself? Does he doubt that U.S. forces killed as many al Qaeda as possible, and are continuing to do so?

Then there is the notion that the administration shifted the military from al Qaeda to Iraq–that, in Clark’s words, it “saved” troops to “go after” Saddam. The senior administration official points out that “there are more special-forces troops in Afghanistan than in Iraq.” So “the contention that we have forgotten al Qaeda and bin Laden is false.” To be sure, American resources are not infinite, and you could argue that there are CIA operatives and the like who are working in Iraq who instead should be in Afghanistan. “But the United States has a lot of interests,” and, in the case of the War on Terror, “the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone.” To say that one should tackle al Qaeda but not Iraq is like saying that “we should not have fought Germany because we were fighting Japan”; or that, in the Cold War, “we should have let Berlin go and kept them out of Cuba. Life is a little more complex.”

Granted, Clark, along with many others, refuses to see any connection between the regime of Saddam Hussein and terror. But that is a question of educability, and probably of blind political partisanship. Says this senior administration official, “Consider state support for terrorism: We have gotten Afghanistan and Iraq out of the business. More and more it appears that Libya is out of the business. Sudan used to be a base; it is no longer.” The loss of these states is a blow to al Qaeda, dangerous though it still is.

And what of the charge that the U.S. Army could somehow be deployed against al Qaeda (instead of wasting time and lives in Iraq)? Sadly, al Qaeda is a different kind of foe, to be fought mainly in the shadows. As the official asks, “How could we have ’saved’ the 82nd Airborne for al Qaeda? Where does General Clark plan to put the First Infantry in the fight against al Qaeda? This is really a classic twilight struggle” (a phrase memorably applied to the Cold War by President Kennedy).

To hear Clark tell it, “If I’d been president, I would have had Osama bin Laden by this time.” You might dismiss this remark as an expression of campaign fever, Bush-hating, or military braggadocio. But you would probably not call it temperate or honorable.

Sorry for the copious quoting, but nothing–practically nothing–has changed.

‐I wish this election weren’t so important–but it is. (I’m talking about the American election, not the Iraqi one, although that is important too.) There is too much power in the hands of the American people–their decision in November will affect huge swaths of the world. An election in Denmark or Papua New Guinea has no such effect. But elections here can.

It’s one thing if a country wants to screw itself–but think of all the peoples Americans screw if they make the “wrong” choice!

I know Dick Cheney got in trouble for saying something similar the other week; but I’m not running for anything, fortunately, and I can take full advantage of Amendment No. 1.

‐On Larry King Live, John Edwards said, “I take very personally what George Bush has done to my country.”

Can you imagine if Bush or some other conservative Republican said “my country” that way? Can you imagine? Can . . . you . . . imagine? The cries of McCarthyism–and for banishment–would be deafening.

‐In response to that last item, I’ll get a million letters saying, “George W. Bush isn’t a conservative! His spending, waaaa, his steel tariffs, waaaa. Gee, it’s not even worth voting in November! Or maybe I’m voting for Kerry, because at least a Republican Congress with a Democratic president . . .”

Spare me, please: No tack is more obnoxious to me, at the moment. Try me later (much later).

‐Teresa Heinz Kerry has been doing her thing, warning of an “October surprise”–the announcement that bin Laden has been nabbed. This seems to be a Democratic article of faith–and it was born back when Saddam was captured, and Madeleine Albright opined that we had bin Laden already.

A couple of months ago, I was at a big political gathering, at which a very, very, very prominent Democrat said, “If you guys present bin Laden before the election, a lot of us Democrats are going to say you had him on ice.”

But back to THK: She told a crowd that her husband “would never allow an American boy or girl to go to war because of our need for oil.” And who, exactly, has done that? I think we can say that Mrs. Kerry is unequivocally part of the No Blood for Oil crowd.

She also said, “Iraq and terrorism had nothing to do with one another. Zero.” Forget about the 1993 WTC bomber, and Abu Abbas, and Abu Nidal, and Zarqawi, and Saddam’s funding of suicide bombers, and . . .

The main thing about Mrs. Kerry is not that she is ignorant; the main thing about her is that she is a leftist–she talks exactly like the leftists I’ve been reading about in David Horowitz’s new book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left. (I am writing about it for the next NR.)

‐A question I would like asked of either Kerry: “If bin Laden were seized or killed, would you regard that as a good thing or a bad thing?”

‐I quote from a Jodi Wilgoren news story in the New York Times: “Mr. Kerry’s nemesis, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, is spending $1.3 million in five swing states with a spot accusing him of meeting with the enemy in Paris–a reference to his trip to the Paris peace talks, where he met with both sides.”

Ah, both sides! Well, then!

‐One more word about the New York Times: I used to be an admirer of Nicholas Kristof, who with his wife Sheryl WuDunn wrote one of the best books I know about the PRC: China Wakes. But I think I’m done with him now. He wrote in his latest column,

I’m talking about the arrangement under which the U.S. cuts Pakistan some slack on nuclear proliferation, in exchange for President Pervez Musharraf’s joining aggressively in the hunt for Osama–in the hope of catching him by Nov. 2.

Yes, and only by November 2. Because otherwise, who cares?

The Kristof of China Wakes would never survive as an opinion columnist for the New York Times. The readers would eat him alive, if the editors didn’t do it first. But Kristof has made himself the perfect, USDA-approved Times columnist. Good boy.

‐So, do you know who’s prepping John Kerry for debate? His good friend Greg Craig, of Elian Gonzalez (and other) infamy. Um, does South Florida know this (where the first debate is being held, incidentally)? Should the GOP make sure it does?

‐Speaking of debates: It is now legend that the first Bush, back in 1992, looked at his watch during one of the debates with Governor Clinton (and Ross Perot). This is supposed to represent Bush’s shameful detachment. But the watch legend is like the Ashcroft-covered-the-breast legend: false–in that Bush was looking at his watch as a way of saying, “That Clinton has gone on and on; hasn’t he used his time up on this already?”

Ah, well–you can’t fight legend, usually.

‐Speaking of Clinton: Did you notice that, as he was cataloguing GWB’s sins this year at the Democratic convention, he included the ABM treaty–the president’s withdrawal from same? Incredible. This proves a point I’m in love with making: that Democrats–Clinton, Biden, et al.–were far more injured on the Russians’ behalf than the Russians themselves were.

And SDI proceeds apace, unnoticed ’cause of the War on Terror. Good. (Not the War on Terror–SDI’s being allowed to proceed without undue harassment.)

‐The New York Sun had an article about who might succeed Kofi Annan as U.N. secretary-general. Among the names mentioned is President Khatami of Iran. An “acid-tongued American diplomat” was quoted as saying, “We had a Nazi [Waldheim], why not a representative of a terrorist state?”

That’s my kind of diplomat (although my kind wouldn’t have to be anonymous)!

‐Speaking of the Sun: If you care to read me on Thursday night’s New York Phil. concert, and Saturday night’s Die Walküre (Met), go here.

‐Finally, I’d like to say something–something weird–about Françoise Sagan, the French writer who died on Friday. In the Times obit, she was quoted as saying, “I had incredible luck, because just when I grew up, the pill came along. When I was 18, I used to die with fear of being pregnant, but then it arrived, and love was free and without consequence for nearly 30 years. Then AIDS came. Those 30 years coincided with my adulthood, the age for having fun.”

Um, I’m sorry, but this reminded me of a thought I’ve often had: What a pity that some people had to spend their entire lives under Russia’s Communist regime. Evgeny Mravinsky, for example–the great conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic–was born in 1903 and died in 1988. He had his whole, long career under those brutes, not a day before, not a day after.

I told you this comment would be weird.

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