Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

TPM Reader PT ...

In your blog today... "More evidence that the administration has no plan in Iraq."

I disagree. I thought months ago, and wrote you, that they plan to begin a significant drawdown before the election this fall. Their strategy is to attempt to demonize any Democrat who calls for withdrawal so that Democrats will not end up with a unified, strong stance. If Republicans can say in Sept through Nov., "See, we've taken the lead on withdrawing the troops" this will help burnish their (false) image of strength, control etc., and will gather them credit. But, if it looks like Democrats forced the issue, it would be an admission that the whole Iraq enterprise was FUBAR and the administration has had to alter course, making them look weak.

The public has already decided the war was a mistake. The Republicans are trying prevent the public from giving credit for the planned withdrawal to Democrats, and unfortunately many Democrats appear too craven to position themselves squarely in the line of fire. Unless they do I predict the withdrawal of significant numbers of troops at summer's end will redound to Bush's credit. Democrats are playing this very unwisely.

Novak, Sept. 20, 2004: "Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: ready or not, here we go ... Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush's decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his present national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal."

BBC: "The "reconciliation" plan announced on Sunday by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is part of a grand strategy by the Bush administration to stabilise Iraq - or to stabilise the perception of Iraq - in advance of the mid-term elections for Congress in November. Other parts of the plan are an insistence that democracy has arrived in Iraq and must be supported, a refusal to set any date or timetable for a total withdrawal of US troops (presented as a weakness), yet with a suggestion that a reduction might start soon as the effort to transfer responsibility to Iraqi forces gathers pace."

More evidence that the administration has no plan in Iraq.

No leaving Iraq until 2009, the president says. But then the administration leaks word that the pull-out is in 2007. No plan -- just whatever sounds best at the moment.

Against a phased withdrawal before they were for it.

They can't keep their story straight because they don't have any plan or sense what they're doing.

Who can trust them to get it right after they've gotten it wrong so many times?

TPM Reader GG advances the point ...

I'm convinced that one of the primary reasons this administration doesn't want a timetable is that it would pin them down on what they are trying to do, how long they think it will take, and what it's going to cost. It would start to make them accountable. This drivel about not wanting the insurgents to know when we will be leaving is just bunk. It's easy to create a timetable with enough latitude and thresholds to allow the flexibility to alter or delay troop movements. I would hope that troops would be moved in progressive stages and positions, so that if setbacks occur we can reverse course.

The administration's position is geared to hiding as much as they can from us. Accountability is not a word in their vocabulary. The Dems need to keep pushing for a flexible timetable with thresholds set for Iragi army and security force levels and competence. While there should be some flexibility to accommodate setbacks, the only way we can get Iragis to really step up is to provide them with reasonable deadlines. A timetable will also have an positive impact on all the reconstruction efforts (such as they are) and force them to a timetable of their own, which would also create some accountability.

Bottom line is this administration doesn't want to be accountable.

The Iraqi government wants a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The Bush administration is firmly against it.

What should we draw from that?

The key, I think, is this: putting a limit on the duration of the US troop presence in Iraq is not a counsel of despair. It isn't just getting the hell out. It is a necessary part of the solution, or what we might call, at this late stage, the least bad possible outcome for the country.

Not just the departure of American troops at some distant and unspecified point in the future when everything in Iraq has calmed down and it's a fun place to live, but having it begin to unfold in the here and now. That accomplishes two things -- it begins to lance the boil of foreign occupation and it forces the Iraqis themselves to start taking steps to run and control the country themselves. This would have to take place as part of a political program of national reconciliation as Prime Minister Maliki is proposing.

Am I sure this will work? Not at all. As I've written at various points over the last couple years, this is the root irony and tragedy of the situation we've gotten ourselves into in Iraq. We are both the glue holding the country together and the solvent tearing it apart.

But President Bush's policies are not only failing. He has shown by words and deeds that he's given up on doing anything else but holding on with the status quo until he can unburden himself of his responsibility for the situation in January 2009. He has no policy or plan but denial.

Uniforms and shoes were the least of it.

It seems the new terrorist cell rolled up near Miami was in such preliminary stages of launching their jihad that they hadn't yet set aside time to become Muslims.

From the NYT: "Neighbors said at least some of the men were in a religious group called the Seas of David that appeared to mix Christian and Muslim beliefs. The group wore uniforms bearing a Star of David and met for Bible study, prayer and martial arts in a one-story warehouse in the heart of the predominantly Haitian section of the impoverished Liberty City area."

From CNN: "The sister of Lyglenson Lemorin, or "Brother Levi," one of the men arrested Thursday on charges of concocting a terrorist plot, said her brother was involved with the group of men to study religion. Gina Lemorin, who had just returned from her college graduation in Atlanta, Georgia, when she learned of the charges, said he had been with the group in Miami doing construction work. But when the group began practicing "witchcraft," she said, Lemorin left and moved to Atlanta about four months ago ...The family of Phanor, who according to the indictment calls himself "Brother Sunni," told reporters in Miami he was innocent of all charges and was a practicing Roman Catholic, not a Muslim. "They all call themselves brothers and they well-mannered," said his older sister, Marlene Phanor. "All they was trying to do was clean up the community. We are Catholic. He's Catholic." She said the family attends St. Mary's Catholic Church in Miami. Sylvain Plantin, a cousin of Phanor's, said he was involved in a religious group called "Mores," which met to read the Bible."

From KR: "The group apparently did little to inspire fear in the Liberty City neighborhood where they took up residence. A close family friend and a distance cousin of Stanley Grant Phanor described the leader of the group, Narseal Batiste, as a "Moses-like figure" who would roam the streets in a cape or bathrobe, toting a crooked wooden cane and looking for young men to join his group. Sylvain Plantin, 30, said Batiste was a martial arts expert who preached an obscure religion."

It's good news whenever we roll up anyone who aspires to become a terrorist whacko. But even if Al Gonzales won't 'fess up, I'm sure the FBI special agents working this case must have realized this was the stupidest group of would be terrorists they're likely to come upon.

From the DOJ release ...

In addition to conducting surveillance, the defendants allegedly provided the individual, whom they believed was an al Qaeda member, with a list of materials and equipment needed to wage jihad, including boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios and vehicles.

Boots and uniforms? Terrorist uniforms?

Here's the indictment.