Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Who is the mystery Democratic presidential candidate? The one tagged in the previous post as having his own history of rough-n-tumble race politics?

Well, not to paraphrase a certain former senator from Wisconsin, but I have in my hand a copy of an old magazine article covering an earlier point in the candidate's political career. And here's one choice tidbit. It's a quote from a John Metcalf, one of the candidate's campaign workers at the time ...

"[Candidate X] has gotten a lot smarter in the last couple of years," says Metcalf. "He learned to play dirty pool. Hell, there are a lot of ethnics out there who want to keep the n----rs on their side of the river. It's a racial issue. There are a lot of bigots in that district and someone has to represent them, let's face it."
Let's be clear: that's not a quote from the candidate, but from one of his campaign workers. But the rest of the article paints a similar, if less inflammatory, picture of the style of politics in question.

More soon.

Does one of the Democratic presidential candidates have his own history of rough-n-tumble race politics? No, I'm not talking about Al Sharpton. And, No, I don't mean what Republicans call race-politics or race-baiting (i.e., accusing racists of actually being racists.) No, I mean the real thing. The genuine article!

Here's my new column in The Hill. This week: the price we're paying for the White House's decision to piss off everyone in the world at the same time.

Hmmm. That's not a great sign.

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim tells MSNBC that a prolonged US military occupation of Iraq could be met with a "religious war." And he's one of our guys, the head of one of the Iraqi exile groups we're relying on to help rebuild the place.

One could jump from this to a few good whacks against the Bush administration. But I think that would miss the point. al-Hakim's statement just underscores the sheer immensity of the task we're setting ourselves up for.

First, a little background. al-Hakim is the head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), an Iranian-backed Shia exile group which the Bush administration has cautiously courted in its efforts to bring some unity to the Iraqi opposition.

The MSNBC article, I think, overstates al-Hakim's and SCIRI's importance. "Among the half-dozen Iraqi opposition groups," says the author, "Hakim’s council is the most significant." This may be true in one respect. Some of the opposition groups we support are so pitiful that they have little if any actual presence in Iraq. But though Shias make up the majority in Iraq, it's not at all clear that al-Hakim's brand of Iranian-backed fundamentalism has a big audience.

However that may be, his statements point to a big problem. Even our would-be supporters in regime change don't want to be associated with an occupation by a foreign (and non-muslim) power. And yet there's almost no way we're going to achieve our objectives without a long occupation which is deeply-entrenched and so overwhelming numerically that it can throw a blanket of enforced peace over all the tensions, divisions and rage that Saddam's tyranny has both created and held in check for three decades.

The real problem is that we're embarking on an enterprise which does not admit of half-measures. As Fouad Ajami notes in this article, an American invasion of Iraq will at first almost certainly be viewed as a neo-Imperialist attempt to take over an Arab country, secure its oil wealth, and do various other bad things.

Certainly, this will be the case outside Iraq and probably inside as well. There's a good chance it will always be seen that way. But the only chance of changing the equation is to undertake the sort of thorough-going internal transformation of the country that we managed in Germany and Japan. But as I say, the situation doesn't admit of half measures. You can go in, topple Saddam, turn it over to some oppositionists and wish'em the best. Or you can go for a massive military occupation and thorough reconstruction of the society. (The Army Chief of Staff told a Senate committee yesterday that the numbers needed would total several hundred thousand soldiers.) Anything in between seems doomed to disaster since you'll get all the down-sides of being a non-muslim occupying power and none of the (possible) upsides of installing a quasi-democratic regime. You'll get the fruits of all the region's deep-seated pathologies and no chance to uproot them.

For my own part, I think proponents of the root-and-branch approach miss an important part of why Germany and Japan worked. It's called World War II. One of the reasons the Germans and the Japanese stood still for what we accomplished in their countries is that we had just spent a couple years thoroughly bludgeoning their countries. Day and night bombing against major population centers, the disruption of the economies, the very real threat that if it wasn't us it'd be the Russians taking over, etc.

By 1945, we had pretty much destroyed the Germans' and Japanese' will to fight. And they were pleasantly surprised when they discovered how relatively benign our rule was. The same set of circumstances won't apply to Iraq. And that should be a cause of real concern.

Believe it or not, this isn't meant to say we shouldn't try to accomplish this. Once the decision for war is made it is really the only policy we can pursue. But the scope of enterprise is awe-inspiring.

One of the small, ugly ironies of all this haggling at the UN is this line of reasoning that the UN's credibility and future are on the line in all this. To a significant degree, I think this is true: The Security Council said Saddam had to disarm. Now they really need to make sure he does. But the people in the administration who are pressing this argument about the UN's credibility are also people who have more or less unconcealed contempt for the institution in the first place and would probably just as soon see it trashed anyway. As John Judis notes, they haven't worked with the UN. They've bullied it.

With so much sound and fury and just plain old crap being written about Iraq, be sure not to miss John Judis' new article about the Bush administration's three contending factions on the Iraq question and how they brought us to this current point. It's one of the most clear-minded and enlightening pieces I've read on the topic in some time.

Cover-ups are so easy when no one chooses to pay attention. Yes, we're talking about GOP Marketplace and the phone-jamming scandal.

(Click here to see the "You are not authorized to view this page" sign where GOP Marketplace's website used to be)

The New Hampshire Republican party has always claimed that the $15,600 it gave GOP Marketplace was supposed to be used for get-out-the-vote calls, not the sabotaging of the Democrats' phone-banks for which it was actually used. In fact, members of the New Hampshire state GOP professed to be so irate that they were demanding a refund. "If we don’t get it back," State party Election Law Committee member Richard Kennedy, R-Hopkinton, told The Manchester Union Leader, "you might see a theft of services charge."

Now, if you're interested in getting to the bottom of these sorts of hijinks you want to see dust-ups like this because if things get ugly -- and especially if they go into the courts -- you know all the details are going to come out.

But now it seems the New Hampshire Republican party isn't quite so interested to see that happen. Late last week, the head of the New Hampshire GOP, Jayne Millerick, told the Union Leader that she's decided not to seek any refund after all, preferring instead to "move forward."

That's what's called the other shoe dropping.

As most of you know, the standard six degrees of separation mumbo-jumbo seldom applies to the political world, since you can usually connect up most things with two or perhaps three degrees tops.

Like Miguel Estrada -- would-be conservative ideologue in residence at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and the still too-little-noted phone-jamming scandal in New Hampshire.

How do they connect up? Let's go to the tape ...

According to this press release, the Republican Leadership Council (RLC) is now running Spanish-language TV ads in California, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico attacking Democratic Senators who are part of the filibuster of Estrada's nomination.

Now, as you -- the loyal Talking Points reader -- will well remember, the Executive Director of the RLC, Allen Raymond, is also the president of GOP Marketplace, the Republican phone-bank chop-shop which sabotaged Democratic phone banks in New Hampshire last election day and is now being investigated by state and federal authorities.

Now, my mistake here was to imagine that the eight Republican Senators who are on the board of the RLC would have blanched a bit at the head of their organization getting caught hatching political dirty tricks which also seem to violate state and federal laws. But apparently it's not that big a deal. Last week I spoke Dave Lackey, a spokesman for Maine Senator Olympia Snowe (R). He told me they didn't have any comment. And if I had any questions I should take it up with the RLC, i.e., not their problem.

I'll call some of the other Senators' offices tomorrow and see what I come up with.

Some stuff you just can't make up.

Until a few months ago Saddam Hussein was sending his Mig-21 jet engines abroad for refits and upgrades. That wasn't all. The sanctions-busting company doing the refits was also apparently working with the Iraqis on converting some of their jet trainer aircraft for remote piloting. This would have made them into so-called 'poor man's cruise missiles,' capable of delivering thousand pound munitions up to 900 miles.

Where was this factory?



North Korea?

The island in the South Pacific Osama bin Laden is setting up as a new Shariah-based version of Fantasy Island?


Try a section of Bosnia (Republika Srpska) under the jurisdiction of the United States military.

Oops ...

Check out this new article in The Washington Monthly for all the ugly details.

I've had a number of readers write in to take me to task for the quote which leads off the second half of the interview with Ken Pollack. I told a few folks who wrote in to look more closely and see that it was Pollack's quote, not mine. When I looked back at how I framed it, though, I realized that that wasn't as clear as it should have been. In any case, that's Pollack's quote (see below), not mine.