Don: ‘Your advice to Todd Vogel, of Seattle, about buying in Vancouver to take advantage of a boom in case Bush wins – please, please, please don’t buy here. The Vancouver housing market is bad enough as it is without you encouraging your readers to buy what little is left (fewer than 400 properties on the market). Note to Todd: It rains here even more than in Seattle.’

Sue: ‘I have been an avid reader of your column for some time, but your recent links have been really over the edge. One column reads like an anti-Semitic exposé of a Zionist plot to cause unrest in the Middle East. The other, like the greatest conspiracy of all time to take over the Middle East like a modern day Hitler. You are right that we were misled into this war. You are right that Bush ignored the rest of the world and alienated our allies. But quoting these idiots doesn’t enhance your case, it just makes you look as nutty as they are.

☞ I certainly hope the columns I linked to are nutty. I’m just less certain than you that they are. Meanwhile, here‘s what you might view as a more thoughtful one . . . from the Washington Times, no less (not generally thought of as biased against the right wing) – highlighted for speed-readers:

Road maps and detours
By Bruce Bartlett
Published April 21, 2004

On Monday, the New York Times reported growing numbers of conservatives are turning against President Bush on Iraq. This follows an inarticulate defense of the Iraq operation by him in a press conference last week and growing attacks on our troops. It is now becoming increasingly clear the basic rationale for the war was not well thought through and that postwar planning was deeply flawed at a minimum. These may result from a basic weakness in this White House’s policymaking and decisionmaking process.

I have to say my own feelings on the war parallel those of many others who previously supported the war but now feel deep misgivings. Although I don’t often write on foreign policy, I felt I had an obligation to take a stand on Iraq before the war started. In a February 2003 column, I reluctantly supported the war because at the time I thought there was credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. With that country ruled by a lunatic dictator with known ties to terrorist groups, I felt President Bush deserved the benefit of the doubt.

Since then, I have been very disturbed by the lack of WMDs. I am not yet convinced Mr. Bush manufactured evidence for their existence as a pretext for war. But I do believe he has fostered a White House culture that contributes to error, by stifling internal debate, a decisionmaking process that seems to shortcircuit research and analysis, and an obsession with loyalty and secrecy that makes the Nixon White House appear a model of openness and transparency.

In this respect, I have been strongly influenced by Ron Suskind’s recent book, The Price of Loyalty, which was based on interviews with former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and thousands of internal documents provided by him. That book paints a picture of an administration in which it appears Mr. Bush often makes key decisions with little if any analysis or discussion among those who are to carry out the decisions.

In short, President Bush often seems to operate like the character from “Alice in Wonderland” who declared, “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.” Instead of figuring out why and how things should be done before acting, the White House seems to act first and then create ex post facto rationalizations for that decision in lieu of serious deliberation.

Although I claim no inside knowledge of the national security process in this administration, I do know Mr. Suskind and Mr. O’Neill’s characterization of its domestic policy operation rings true. While it is conceivable a completely different process operates in the national security arena, I think that is highly unlikely. Presidents establish a style and tone for their White House staff operations and it operates across the board. Therefore, I have every reason to believe the same weaknesses that exist on the domestic side exist within the national security operation as well.

Contrary to what conspiracy theorists imagine, I don’t think President Bush ever ordered up invented facts to justify the Iraq war. Rather, I think there was a great deal of what economists call self-selection bias. Facts that confirmed what Mr. Bush wanted to believe tended to filter up to him, while conflicting facts tended to be sidelined.

This sort of thing happens on every issue in every White House. But in this White House, the system of deliberation, debate, analysis and discussion seems unusually weak. As a consequence, there was no way of leveling the playing field, with the result decisions were made on the basis of biased presentations rather than objective analysis.

In previous administrations, one safety valve has been the press. When participants in the decisionmaking felt the president was not fully taking into account certain facts or views, they would be leaked. At least then there was a chance that they would come to his attention. But in this administration there is very little of that, with loyalty and secrecy being enforced to an amazing degree that appears unprecedented.

Moreover, President Bush is, self-admittedly, not a big consumer of news from outside sources. Consequently, alternate ways of communicating facts and views to him are shut down.

Of course, one cannot know whether a more open and honest debate on Iraq would have led to a different result. But I for one would not have supported the war if I thought its principal justification was the liberation of the Iraqi people, which is what the White House now says was its primary mission. Our military exists to defend the nation, not be the world’s policeman. If there is a linkage, President Bush has yet to make it.

Bruce Bartlett is senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis and a nationally syndicated columnist.

Sarah: ‘I am disappointed that Paul Roberts associates Christian fundamentalist ‘agitation to escalate the Middle Eastern conflict’ with Zionism. There is no Zionist agitation to escalate the Middle Eastern conflict; on the contrary, it is the Zionists, represented by the Israeli government, who are pushing for a Middle East peace. As Sandra L. said, If all Arabs put down their weapons, there would be peace; if Israel put down her weapons, there would be no Israel.’

Lynn: ‘The question is not how we got here, it is: what do we do NOW?’

☞ I agree. We have the wolf by the ears. Now what? My own feeling is that we need to show the world we are not comfortable with the leadership that has gotten us here. Firing the CEO would send the right message and give us a fresh start. The new CEO could then reestablish our alliances and formulate with our allies the best way to proceed.

It may even be that they decide THIS is the best way to proceed (more or less) – especially now that the President has asked the UN to determine whom to hand partial sovereignty to, which was clearly not his original plan.

But just having others see our genuine dismay at the way we were misled . . . and offering a believable commitment to international cooperation and the prospect of better judgment . . . could improve our effectiveness in fighting terrorism and, now that we’re there, stabilizing Iraq.

Jon Frater:Here is an even more devastating article by Paul Craig Roberts – whose politics I almost never agree with, but very much worth reading. [The piece Jon links to makes the case that over the past 25 years or so we have destroyed Iraq. – A.T.]’

☞ One of the things I think we have to remember in considering this tragedy is that as monstrous as Saddam was, it was we, under Reagan/Bush, who gave him the WMD to use on the Iranians (and told him where to drop them). We, under Bush-Quayle-Cheney-Rumsfeld, who doubled his trade credits the year after he gassed his own people. And we, via communication from our ambassador, April Glaspie, who may even have at least partially green-lighted his invasion of Kuwait.

None of this is to say we should not be thrilled Saddam is gone. (But at what cost?) Or that we should not be deeply proud of, and grateful to, our troops. (The mind boggles at the bravery and sacrifice of their service*.) It is just to suggest that little of this is simple, except perhaps to President Bush, who knew long before September 11, 2001, that Iraq needed to be invaded; who doesn’t read newspapers; and who at his most recent press conference couldn’t think of a single mistake he had made.

* And at the way so many National Guard families are being bankrupted while the Bush Cabinet gets millions of dollars in income tax cuts.

Tomorrow: An Opposing View. Next Week (Please!): Back to Money


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