Josh Marshall

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There was a good article in the Hartford Courant Sunday about Lieberman, and his oblivious self-immolation.

The whole thing is painful to watch. At least to me. I still can't help liking the guy.

But he brought it on himself. And he really has no one to blame but himself. Hubris, certainly. But even more than that the obliviousness that is born of hubris. He turns out to have been as oblivious about what was happening in his own state as he was about what was happening in Iraq.

People on Lieberman's side talk a lot about him as a man of principle sticking to his beliefs in spite of public opposition. But it's one thing to stick to your guns when you know you're going to pay a price, quite another to stick to them when you're totally out of touch with the consequences.

Set aside the great issues of the day that are implicated in this race. I'm fascinated by it on a personal level -- or at the level where personalities and character intersect with the subterranean tides of politics. What happened to this guy? No one seems to have had any grasp of the brittleness of his hold on the support of his constituents. Was it the sting of his rejection in 2004? The possibility of getting the Sec Def nod?

There's a great 10,000 word magazine article in this story.

So here, this morning, we have news of the IAF attack on the south Lebanese village of Qana, in which more than 50 people were killed, mainly women and children. The fact that Olmert, Peretz and Halutz offered an immediate apology and pledged an investigation tells you it's probably just as bad as it sounds.

Since Hizbullah doesn't broadcast news of their casualties, I think the damage Israel is doing to its fighting strength on the ground is likely being understated. But I don't see how we can argue, at this point at least, that Hizbullah as a movement doesn't seem strengthened by all this. Hopefully there's some way out of this in which the underlying problem here can be solved -- Lebanon's lack of control over the belligerent militia controlling its southern border. But it's hard to find the signs promising at this moment. And for Israel, one number tells the irreducible story. 140 rockets fell on northern Israel today. That's the highest count since July 12th when the whole thing started. And in terms of how Israel understands its own security, that's the most damning thing: even using main force, they can't stop the rocket attacks on their civilian areas.

As I said a couple days ago, the thing about this region is that things can always get worse, much worse.

And along those lines, I wanted to finish this post by flagging something ominous that keeps coming up in the Israeli press. There's a mix of public and private communications going on between Jerusalem and Damascus. Israel is trying to assure Damascus that they don't plan or want to expand the war to include Syria. Syria is clearly worried that they will and has their troops on full alert. Israel is also warning in no uncertain terms that Syria getting involved will spark massive retaliation.

But there are persistent signs that the US is egging Israel on to bring the war to Damascus.

Here's a clip from the end of an article today in the Jerusalem Post ...

[Israeli]Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the United States that the US would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria.

And there are other ominous indications of the US pressing for expansion the Israelis don't seem to want.

There's more here than the US not wanting a ceasefire before meaningful changes on the ground have happened in south Lebanon. Or at least I fear there is. This started because Israel doesn't want and won't tolerate a menacing militia building up on their northern border and lashing out with occasional raids or missile attacks, especially in the context of withdrawals from other areas.

The world has sat by for six years and let Hizbullah's anamolous position in south Lebanon be Israel's problem. Whether their response was wise or just, I'll set aside for the moment. It's not about totalitarianism or Afghanistan or Iraq, at least not in an operational sense, or dingbat fantasies about Freedom and Terror. But there do appear to be forces in Washington -- seemingly the stronger ones, with Rice just a facade -- who see this whole thing as an opportunity for a grand call of double or nothing to get out of the disaster they've created in the region. Go into Syria, maybe Iran. Try to roll the table once and for all. No failed war that a new war can't solve. Condi's mindless 'birth pangs' remark wasn't just a gaffe -- or perhaps it was a gaffe in the Kinsleyan sense of inopportunely saying what you really think. That seems to be the thinking -- transformation through destabilization.

Is it unspeakable?

You probably know that Mel Gibson was picked up last night on a DUI arrest outside LA.

Earlier today a number of readers sent me this story at which alleges that Gibson resisted arrest and among other things went on tirade against Jews. From the site ...

Once inside the car, a source directly connected with the case says Gibson began banging himself against the seat. The report says Gibson told the deputy, "You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you." The report also says "Gibson almost continually [sic] threatened me saying he 'owns Malibu' and will spend all of his money to 'get even' with me."

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

Now, I wasn't familiar with this site. So I didn't know what to make of it. What the site alleges is that the arresting officer wrote up a detailed report from which the alleged quotes above come. But the police brass thought its contents were too inflammatory. And a sanitized version of the police report was then prepared. The site published what it claims is the original suppressed report here.

Now, as I said above, I'm not familiar with the site. But this evening TPM Reader EG sent in this AP story reporting that Gibson's publicist has now released a statement in which Gibson says, inter alios, "I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable."

What the AP doesn't give any clue about is what these "despicable" statements might have been.

And you have to ask, why? Given what we know now, and now Gibson's cryptic apology, it really sounds like the TMZ story is probably on the mark. So why won't the AP touch that part of the story? CNN doesn't mention it either. People do say all sort of things when they're crazy drunk. But with Gibson, there's a history.

I try to ignore these things. But yesterday Glenn Reynolds falsely claimed I said something I simply never did. And since what he claimed I did was call for the mass and indiscriminate killing of civilians at the outset of the Iraq War, it was more than the average lapse. In fact, unless Glenn simply never read what I actually wrote, I think there is no explanation for this other than that Glenn is being willfully dishonest and quite consciously lying. I don't even want to discuss this more since it's so dark and shameful. But here is the March 2003 column Glenn refers to. And here are two posts at other sites -- one short and another in the context of a broader argument -- which explain the nature of Glenn's false claim and dishonest intent.

Man walks into Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle building, announces "I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel," then opens fire.

1 dead. At least 5 wounded.

Late Update: The emails we get. This one from GS: "Yes Josh. And in 1994 Barush Goldstein assassinated 27 innocent people while they were praying. Were you making a point or helping to keep score? You disappoint me."

Later Update: The AP is now reportedly disputing the quote. I'll update when I hear more.

Even Later Update: AP now saying the quote is verified.

Late, Late Update: Police news conference to be streamed here at 11 PM Eastern.

From Haaretz ...

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, underwent a series of tests at a Tel Aviv hospital on Friday after complaining of abdominal pain.

The IDF chief was later declared healthy and allowed to go home, the army said.

An IDF spokesman said Halutz had been taken to hospital with stomach pains and had undergone tests. He was released later on Friday after doctors found nothing wrong with him.

"There is nothing wrong with his health," the spokesman said earlier.

TV reports said the 58-year-old Halutz, who has been leading Israel's 17-day war against Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, was also complaining of exhaustion.

Officials at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital said he was sent home after several hours with a recommdentation that he rest and eat properly. The military said Halutz was given a clean bill of health.

TPM Reader AS on the unfolding disaster ...

Via Kevin Drum, I read Mona Charon's recent post about dual loyalties and Jewish Americans. Now I have a ton of Israeli colleagues, and I've talked about this a bit with them. Almost all of them believe that the past six years were a huge missed opportunity, in that Hizbullah's build-up in Lebanon was unchecked.

Oddly enough, only a few seem to share my view that this traces back (at least in part) to Bush's stupid move in dropping Clinton's peace moves. The military option Israel is exerising now is driven by frustration, not any real plan for victory. Leadership by the US over the past six years might have done much to limit Hezbollah's strength there, and avoided the current crisis--or at least, made the current crisis one that the Lebanese could have managed themselves.

Some of my Jewish American friends express this, but not all. And I've yet to read any American journalist (bloggers included) clearly express this point: that anybody with Israel's long-term well-being at heart really sees the current US administration as an unmitigated disaster. They won't achieve the lasting peace that Israel needs, in fact they will probably end up undoing the past couple of decades of prosperity in Israel.

Whether or not Bill Clinton's specific proposals were the best idea or not, they led to genuine dialogue. Whether Arafat was sincere or not, he was still talking, and others in the region were participating. Bush, having been let into the China shop, is now doing what he does best.

I'm looking forward to your hearing your views on this.

It actually goes way beyond the incoming administration's decision to ignore the Israel-Palestine track from the get-go, though that has played a very big part in this unfolding disaster. The Bush administration has always seen the situation in Israel-Palestine as essentially a side issue in the larger context of the Middle East, one to be solved through overthrowing regimes either in Baghdad or Damascus. The Israelis and the Palestinians themselves had already done quite a lot to make a mess of things by January 2001. But by comparison with today things six years ago seem almost idyllic.

The thinking of the Bush administration was that the Clinton folks had put tons of time into the Peace Process and what had it gotten them? Just a big headache and no achievements, either political or substantive.

But what I think you learn when you watch the region over time is that things can always get worse. And quite a lot of effort is often required to keep things on the barely tolerable level of miserable without slipping into the truly horrible. To prevent going from one to the other is a job of international management that really a greater power alone can accomplish. Us. Us with the Europeans. Probably also the Russians and even the Chinese. Easy? No. Do these different countries have different agendas, not all of them wholesome? Sure. But that's life. Or rather, that's running the world.

Is this crisis the Bush administration's doing? No, it has deep roots that go well beyond it. Would things have gotten quite this bad if the administration hadn't basically ignored these problems for six years and simultaneously blown up the Fertile Crescent? No way.

This is the Bush administration's apocalypse. We are, to borrow the phrase, just living in it. But then, that's quite bad enough, isn't it?

Behold our Middle East policy!

This is President Bush's answer to David Gregory's question today at the news conference, which I referenced earlier.

Let me make an additional point about this answer. We know the president isn't very articulate in news conference settings. But national leaders don't have to be articulate to be good leaders. In fact there have been a number very good ones who could scarcely speak coherently for thirty seconds.

But if you watch this passage I think you see something different. Namely, that pretty much everything that's happened over the last three years, and certainly over the last three months has just gone in one presidential ear and out the other. He is, in both the deepest and most superficial sense, out of it.