Wanted, Dead or…
Uday and Qusay tasted “American Justice,” a la Bush. But what if we had captured them alive?
The TV Veto
Congress got the message loud and clear: People care about media diversity. Congress blocked the FCC’s relaxed media ownership rules. Will Bush veto Congress?
The Dems Inch Forward
What with the economy, the death toll in Iraq and growing credibility issues, Bush’s numbers are showing some losses. The Democrats see an opening.
Wanted, Dead or…
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz admitted on Wednesday that, yes, US officials underestimated the strength of the opposition in Iraq and have done other “stupid things” there. Wolfowitz seemed to be referring to things like, say, not getting the power back on. But as it turns out, one of the U.S.’s biggest bragging points to date — the killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein — may also not have been the absolute smartest thing to do. The two men might have yielded very valuable intelligence. Some critics now claim that just as US intelligence underestimated the might of Saddam Hussein loyalists, so did they underestimate the worth of Uday and Qusay Hussein had they been kept alive.
The battle at a posh palace in Mosul, Iraq killed four, including Saddam Hussein’s 14 year-old grandson. It has now sparked debate as to whether the Hussein brothers, who were armed with AK-47’s and pistols, should have and could have been kept alive. As the events of the raid on Tuesday begin to unravel, critics question why Uday and Qusay Hussein were not simply captured — after all, they were Saddam’s henchmen and probably knew more about him and his whereabouts than most — not to mention the location of those darn WMDs.
At a news briefing yesterday, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, dodged the question repeatedly — claiming the commander on the ground was right to use his judgement that he made the “right” decision.
But Newsweek’s Rob Nordland questions why the brothers — who could have given the US military some vital information — weren’t forced out of the house and captured. Also, he quotes intelligence experts who claim that the force used was excessive and unnecessary:
“Who beside the sons might have better information about the one H[ighly] V[alued] T[arget] that really matters, Saddam? ‘The whole operation was a cockup,’ said a British intelligence officer. ‘There was no need to go after four lightly armed men with such overwhelming firepower. They would have been much more useful alive.’ But Sanchez insisted it wasn’t overkill. ‘Absolutely not. Our mission is to find, kill or capture high-value targets. We had an enemy that was barricaded and we had to take measures to neutralize the target.’
Against such lightly armed resistance, couldn’t a siege or even a teargas attack have done the job more efficiently, and perhaps captured the HVTs alive? Sanchez repeated his mantra that the local commander made the right decision and he wasn’t going to second-guess it. But a total of 200 heavily armed U.S. troops, backed by missiles, armored personnel carriers and helicopters? An officer at the scene made the improbable claim to a Newsweek reporter that tear gas might have hurt neighbors. As it was, there were no reported civilian casualties with the much heavier weaponry; the house, which belonged to a prominent local sheik, was set well away from others. ‘Bollocks,’ said one former Special Forces soldier. ‘A SWAT team could have taken them. It didn’t need a company.’
The military claims that it didn’t opt to capture Uday and Qusay because it didn’t want to risk the chance that the two brothers might escape. Plus, they didn’t want a prolonged siege like the one involving Manuel Noriega in 1989, cites the New York Times:
‘The option to surround the house and wait out the individuals in the house was considered and rejected,’ Sanchez told reporters today. ‘The commanders on the ground made the decision to go ahead and execute and accomplish their mission of finding, fixing, killing or capturing.’
‘Would they be incredibly valuable as intelligence assets? Yes,” said Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a former Persian Gulf war commander. ‘Would it be extremely valuable to put them on trial before the Iraqi people? Yes.’
‘But it’s also almost nonsensical to risk losing them to escape, risk 40 days of a Waco standoff,’ he said.”
Meanwhile, Bush is heralding the deaths of Uday and Qusay as “the clearest sign yet that the former regime is gone and will not be coming back.”
“Now, with the regime of Saddam Hussein gone forever, a few remaining holdouts are trying to prevent the advance of order and freedom,” Bush said.
Could be, but a day after the raid two American soldiers were shot and killed in Iraq.
Regardless of how much of the current resistance was tied to the brothers, their deaths leave many questions. As one blogger points out, the world is certainly better off without Hussein’s sons. But “[T]he problem with deriving a sense of triumph from such an end is that it is short-lived. American Justice, a phrase Bush misuses regularly, isn’t frontier justice. Far more satisfying for us, the Iraqi people, and the perceptions about our commitment to true Democratic justice, to have captured and tried them.” Imagine how the US might have mended fences with Europe and the UN by bringing Uday and Qusay to the Hague. Now that’s “American justice” in action.
When the House of Representatives came to a vote on blocking the FCC’s attempt to relax rules on media ownership, Republican and Democratic Representatives laid down their partisan swords and passed the bill 400 – 21. Score one for media-ownerships caps. It was a rare moment of unity, bringing together a motley crew of organizations like the National Organization for Women, the National Rifle Association, and the Christian Coalition (all organizations that sometimes find themselves in the kind of minority position that benefits from a diverse media).
The vote would cap a media conglomerate’s ownership of TV stations, allowing networks to hold only enough stations to reach 35 percent of all US households. An earlier Federal Communications Commission decision had set a cap at 45 percent — a number that was strongly criticized by Congress. Wednesday’s vote, and the public rallying around the cause of media diversity, sent a clear message to the FCC and to Congress — Americans value a broad range of viewpoints.
On this one, the Bush Administration seems to be the oddball out.
According to Reuters, the White House has vowed to veto any bill that bans the 45 percent cap, arguing that the current laws are sufficient for the representation of media diversity:
“‘The Administration believes that the new FCC media ownership rules more accurately reflect the changing media landscape and the current state of network station ownership, while still guarding against undue concentration in the marketplace,'” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
The FCC regulations are just a small part of the bill in question — a huge government-spending bill of $37.9 billion that sets the budgets for the State, Commerce, and Justice departments. A Bush veto could in turn affect the time and effort needed to pass a new spending bill. The New York Times’ conservative columnist William Safire isn’t so crazy about the potential use of a veto:
“The Bush veto threat would deny funding to the Commerce, State and Justice Departments, not to mention the federal judiciary. It would discombobulate Congress and disserve the public for months.
And to what end? To turn what we used to call ‘public airwaves’ into private fiefs, to undermine diversity of opinion and — in its anti-federalist homogenization of our varied culture — to sweep aside local interests and community standards of taste.”
But Bush’s Senior Advisors continue to recommend that he use his veto power to maintain the changes made by the FCC last month. And the nation’s largest networks — Viacom, Murdoch, Disney, and GE (Safire calls them the “Four Horsemen”) — have friends in Congress who are now out collecting signatures from other Representatives on a letter that would bolster the Bush veto. Safire, noting that the 400 supporters of the 35 percent cap showed little interest in signing, simply writes:
“Sometimes you put the veto gun back in the holster.”
The Dems Inch Forward
Sure, Bush has power, a tendency to hold grudges, and a campaign war chest of epic proportions. But the Democratic candidates are slowly mounting a challenge.
Bush’s financiers are sure to be proud of his whopping $41 million in the bank. Yep, lots of moola. But President Bush has put the fear of Iraq and the economy into his campaign advisors, with his recent drop in the polls. Bush’s little problem with the State of the Union is beginning to catch up with him. Recent polls show that while six of every 10 Americans still approve of the President’s job performance, Bush’s value as a trusted leader has slipped several points to 47 percent from his 56 percent in March, according to CNN-Time.
Democrats see an opening. The presidential candidates have started to criticize the president once seen as untouchable, in the hopes of capturing undecided voters. Joyce Terhes of the Republican National Committee blames the Democratic candidates entirely for Bush’s slump in the polls. “We’ve got nine Democrats out there beating up on him [Bush]. That’s the problem.” That may be part of the problem. But even some Republicans now recognize that the faltering economy, the continuing death toll in Iraq, and questions about the president’s credibiliy might also be having an effect. President’s Bush strength was that voters who liked him saw him as a straight-shooter and a good guy. Admitting that he was wrong (at best) and then passing the buck to Tenet, on the State of the Union speech, has tarnished that image.
Still, assuming that the Democratic candidates are having an effect on the electorate, let’s take a look at the Dems as they line up to have their moment on the offensive.
Former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, was in New Hampshire this week scolding the President for the mess he’s made in Iraq. Dean continued his rant by attacking Democrats who refused to question the President’s rush to war. He told his audience: “The time to question the president was not after we go to war.”
It seems like anyone running for president, or even thinking of running, is now making sure to get their digs in on Iraq. Both Dennis Kucinich and Dick Gephardt took their time this week to blast the Bush administration. Gephardt, who was feeling particularly liberal while campaigning in San Francsico this week, railed at Bush about his “chest thumping unilateralism.” Even Senator Joe Biden of Delaware — who has been flirting with the idea of candidacy and already has a groupie contingent — got his two-cents in during his spot on NBC’s Meet the Press. Biden emphasized the need to broaden our coalition in Iraq.
“Everybody knows we need tens of thousands of troops for an extended period of time, tens of billions of dollars for an extended period of time, and we need to bring order very quickly so we need more police for an extended period of time. One of two things: They’re either now, like we’re doing, we’re providing 90 percent of the troops, 90 percent of the money, 100 percent of the deaths, almost.
My goal is to bring American forces home, supplant them with international forces. Look, everybody talks about oil, Tim. We sat with our guy, we appointed, the president appointed to run the oil operation in Iraq. He says if everything goes perfectly for the next 18 months, the total revenue that will be raised by the sale of Iraqi oil will be somewhere around $18 billion. It’s costing us a billion dollars a week just to keep our troops there. What are we talking about here?
It’s time for the president to level with the American people and to go straightforward and say what we said on this show back in August of last year. Folks, we must win this war. This is all about us being more secure.”
So after all the politicking, what do the polls say? A California field poll finds that Dean is holding on to a one point leadin the state. An Associated Press poll found that Joe Lieberman had the most national support from Democratic voters. He was followed closely by Gephardt, but voters said that if Hillary Clinton was running she would be choice number one.
But Dean seems to be taking the “polls schmolls” attitude. He is raking in the online dough and boasting to reporters. He told the Associated Press this week that he can win the Iowa caucuses next year. He prided himself on his work ethic, “I think it’s possible if we work hard enough.”