Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A generous way to put it -- the lede of Dana Milbank's piece in tomorrow's Post: "President Bush and leading Republicans are increasingly charging that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and others in his party are giving comfort to terrorists and undermining the war in Iraq -- a line of attack that tests the conventional bounds of political rhetoric."

Can we re-check the sprinkler system in the Reichstag?

An amazing exchange from Jim Lehrer's interview this evening with Iyad Allawi, which opens and shuts the case on the latter's credibility about anything.

JIM LEHRER: What would you say to somebody in the United States who questions whether or not getting rid of Saddam Hussein was worth the cost of more than a thousand lives now and billions and billions of U.S. dollars?

PRIME MINISTER IYAD ALLAWI: Well, I assure you if Saddam was still there, terrorists will be hitting there again at Washington and New York, as they did in the murderous attack in September; they'll be hitting also on other places in Europe and the Middle East.

So, if we hadn't <$Ad$>invaded Iraq we'd be experiencing repeated 9/11s, with similar events in Europe in the Middle East.

Is it necessary to say that, despite all the bad things Iraq's Baathist regime represented and did, there is no evidence (pace Laurie Mylroie) that it ever attempted, let alone succeeded in mounting, any sort of terrorist attack on the American mainland?

Presumably the dramatic loss of credibility suffered if the US had failed to invade Iraq would have led to a sudden reversal of Baathist policy and a sudden unleashing of a wave of Mukabarat terrorist strikes on the American mainland.

Every so often you just have to sit back and marvel at the Twilight Zone we're living in at the moment.

Here we have a US-installed foreign head of state, whose travel schedule is determined by the US State Department, visiting the US to buoy the president's election campaign and spouting demonstrable lies in order to support a retrospective rationale for war that the White House wants Americans to believe but lacks the gall to state explicitly.

Look at this very odd article on MSNBC.com.

It's a Nightly News 'reality check' with the headline: "Violence surges even as conditions improve."

It reads like a classic example of the media's desire to find balance in cases where there really isn't any balance to be found.

The piece starts by noting Iraqis' skeptical reaction to Prime Minister Allawi's speech today, specifically with regard to the fight against the insurgency and how successful it's been.

"What he's saying isn't true. I can't even name an Iraqi city where there aren't clashes," says one Iraqi man-in-street.

The piece then goes on to describe the spiralling level of violence and the fact that insurgents are now increasingly targetting Iraqis themselves, which is presumably not an improvement, especially if you're Iraqi.

The reporter even notes that a good deal of reconstruction money has had to be diverted to security.

Then come the improvements. First there's a bulleted list of updates on reconstruction ...

Electricity: There is more than under Saddam but demand is up 80 percent, so it's still rationed — four hours on, two hours off.

Water: U.S. officials say there's no clean drinking water in all of Iraq because of sewage contamination.

Oil: The biggest problem is sabotage, keeping overall production short of the three million target, at 2.6 million barrels a day.

Jobs: A major improvement — one year ago, 60 percent of Iraqis were unemployed. Today, it's almost half that — 30-40 percent.

So there does seem to be more electricty. And unemployment has come down.

Or has it?

As it happens, in a piece in the Washington Post today, Jessica Matthews -- who knows a bit about these things -- says the Iraqi unemployment rate still "may be 60 percent."

And just a few days ago the AFP said that estimates of Iraqi unemployment range from 20% to 60%. So perhaps no one has any really good idea.

In any case, the reporter then notes these improvements ...

Iraqis no longer live under the oppressive scrutiny of Saddam's government. The giant busts that once adorned Saddam's palaces have been torn down like his regime — giving Iraqis something unquantifiable — their freedom.

Another freedom — the press. There are now about 200 independent newspapers; under Saddam there wasn't a single one.

Setting aside the sculptural improvements, freedom, or here more specifically the overthrow of a brutal authoritarian regime, is unquestionably a good thing. But you can't call this an 'improvement' in this context since Saddam's government was overthrown 18 months ago. And it's not clear that Iraqis have become more free since then.

'Freedom', at least at this level of abstraction, must be seen as a post-Saddam baseline.

In some measure they've probably become less free since creeping Islamization has reduced the rights of women in certain areas and brought de facto bans on drinking alcohol.

But the real point is that the unquestionable good of the end of a dictatorial government can't be pointed to as a sign that conditions are improving at the same time that violence surges, right?

Take a look at the piece yourself and tell me if the reporter doesn't struggle to find a single measure by which conditions in the country are improving or a single anecdote that would justify his headline.

This afternoon, after John Kerry said that Iyad Allawi was painting an overly rosy picture of the situation in Iraq, Dick Cheney said "John Kerry is trying to tear down all the good that has been accomplished, and his words are destructive to our effort in Iraq and in the global war on terror."

In other words, democracy in America is harmful to building democracy in Iraq.

Not that we really need to revisit this cudgel-issue of which candidate has more endorsements of foreign leaders, but on this issue pundits have shortchanged the incumbent.

Those who claim that Kerry has a lock on the support of foreign leaders have, rather unfairly, lumped all foreign leaders together into one pool, rather than dividing them into different subsets and weighting them accordingly. The issue is sort of like that raised by Ruy Teixeira about public opinion polls which have oversampled Republican voters.

If you take this more specific view, you see that among those foreign leaders President Bush has himself appointed to office his rate of support runs extremely high -- probably approaching 100%.

"Foreign terrorists are still pouring in, and they're <$NoAd$>trying to inflict damage on Iraq to undermine Iraq and to undermine the process, democratic process in Iraq, and, indeed, this is their last stand. So they are putting a very severe fight on Iraq. We are winning. We will continue to win, and we are going to prevail."

Iyad Allawi Prime Minister of Iraq September 19th, 2004 This Week, ABC NEWS

"Yes, the American troops have advanced further. This will only make it easier for us to defeat them."

Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf (aka "Baghdad Bob") former Iraqi Information Minister

[ed.note: I found the Sahaf quote on this famed Sahaf fan appreciation site. I tried to confirm it using Nexis. And I found several instances of it in reputable publications, such as the Times of London. But in each case these other publications seem to have sourced their usage to this same Sahaf fan website. So caveat lector. But you get the idea.]

Why so many fringy right-wing nutball sites on GoogleNews? J.D. Lasica reports so you can decide.

Talk about unorthodox.

A journalist -- Marc Sandalow, Washington Bureau Chief <$NoAd$>of the San Francisco Chronicle -- decided to discuss charges that John Kerry has waffled on Iraq policy by actually going back and reviewing his record as expressed in policy statements, speeches and votes.

Not surprisingly, he found Kerry has had pretty much the same position since the whole Iraq debate started ...

[A]n examination of Kerry's words in more than 200 speeches and statements, comments during candidate forums and answers to reporters' questions does not support the accusation [of flip-flopping]. As foreign policy emerged as a dominant issue in the Democratic primaries and later in the general election, Kerry clung to a nuanced, middle-of-the road -- yet largely consistent -- approach to Iraq ...

[T]aken as a whole, Kerry has offered the same message ever since talk of attacking Iraq became a national conversation more than two years ago.

Someone's got to talk to this Sandalow guy and straighten him out. Maybe someone from CNN?

"The path to our safety and to Iraq's future as a democratic nation lies in the resolute defense of freedom. If we stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq, they would be free to plot and plan attacks elsewhere, in America and other free nations. To retreat now would betray our mission, our word, and our friends."

That's President Bush from his appearance today with Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq.

Sentence one is certainly an arguable proposition and not without some merit, though it's bundled with so much rhetoricical mush as to have little concrete meaning. I think you can say the same thing for sentence three.

But surely sentence number two is pure foolishness. "If we stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq, they would be free to plot and plan attacks elsewhere, in America and other free nations."

Does anyone even possibly believe this is true? They're trapped in Iraq? We've got them pinned down so they can't hatch plots against US or European targets? 'The terrorists' are so busy with the insurgency in Iraq that they can't spare a few Mohammad Attas to blow stuff up over here?

Think about ...


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