Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Matthew Yglesias: Michael Kinsley Is Playing a Second-Rate Imitator of Himself

Michael Kinsley is a brilliant writer who, unfortunately, has spawning about four dozen unbearable second-rate imitators. Sometimes, though, it's like he's playing a second-rate imitator of himself: "I’m sorry, but I just can’t see how firing eight can be heinous but firing 93 is perfectly OK. Nor can I see—if the issue is neutral justice—how firing someone from your own party is worse than firing someone from the other party." I can't imagine that Kinsley can't actually see the difference here. The issue, obviously, isn't the crude quantity of firings, but the nature of the firings.

Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush in an election, took office a few months later, and swiftly fired all of Bush's appointees for US Attorney jobs. He then replaced them with people chosen, in practice, by the relevant local political stakeholders -- that state's Democratic Senators, if any, and a more complicated process in states represented by two Republicans. The message this sends to people working in US Attorney's offices throughout the country is that . . . US Attorneys will lose their jobs if the partisan control of the White House switched. George W. Bush, by contrast, fired a handful of US Attorneys who had displeased the Bush team's political fixers, under circumstances where (contrary to historic practice) the White House got to hand pick their successor. The message this sends to federal prosecutors throughout the land is that US Attorneys' are now considered part-and-parcel of George W. Bush's political team and that those who fail to act accordingly will be sacked.

The implications of the two actions are entirely different. There's no indication what Bush did was illegal. Rather, he operated within his legal discretion. We grant the president a certain amount of discretion, however, primarily on the theory that if he uses that discretion in an abusive or unwise manner, his opponents will make political hay out of it.

A world in which there's 100 percent turnover of US Attorneys when partisan control of the White House switched, but who otherwise can expect to continue in their jobs as long as they maintain basic standards of conduct, has no particular implications for the neutral administration of justice. A world in which US Attorneys are subjected to the day-to-day whims of the West Wing has completely different implications.

Sahar: The Number

The Number

Every time I tell myself that my next blog will be a pleasant story of days of old, I am confronted with a different story that needs to be told.

A friend of mine called me to tell me the bad news. Her brother had been kidnapped, and the ransom set at $100,000.

For any Iraqi, such an amount spells disaster.

Selling all they could sell, the whole extended family pitched in to save the poor man. They told the abductors that they couldn’t manage more than 20,000. (It is common knowledge that none can sell his house or his car; the odor of ready cash would attract others).

Surprisingly, the criminals said “OK, have a woman bring the money to …..”. After leading her on a merry dance, a boy of sixteen or seventeen approached her, took the money and said, “We will contact you”. And that was the last they saw of them.

Two weeks later, their women combing the hospitals and then the morgues, had found no trace of Hani.

They were told to speak to the contractor. “What contractor??”, “The one who is in charge of burying all the unidentified bodies we get.” “What??”

So they asked around, and were directed to an ordinary looking man, who was not at all surprised to hear of their dilemma.

“Yes, I’m in charge of burying the bodies that are not claimed. There is no room for all these bodies in the morgues. You must identify him first, and I will direct you to his grave.”

“ How can we identify our brother??”

“Don’t worry; I’m well set up!” He walks towards a really posh car, opens the door, takes out the latest laptop, and sets it on the bonnet. “I have here photos of all the bodies I bury. Each one is given a number that is engraved on the headstone of his grave in Nejef. Browse.” True enough, Iyman said, her sister started looking through hundreds of photographs, of the head and shoulders of people killed in the streets, without their folks knowing about them; but didn’t find her brother’s photo.

“Try Abu Haider, or any of the others.” The contractor advised. “They are just as conscientious as I am.”

“We found his picture! We have his number!” crying “His face was all bruised and there was a hole drilled in his forehead! Oh, Sahar! He died in pain! His hands were tied above his head!”

They went to the wilderness that was being used as burial ground, on the outskirts of the city of Nejef. But there was no trace of Hani’s grave. They inspected each and every grave, each and every headstone for his number. But it was not there. They looked in all the graveyards, not just this one, but the number was not to be found.

Justin Logan: Spinned Surge

The job of neoconservative writers analyzing the Iraq war has largely been to obscure objective analysis and provide talking points for war supporters. Robert Kagan's column in Sunday's Washington Post (promptly distributed by the White House in its "Iraq Update" email early Monday) fulfills that role with aplomb. Simultaneously smearing opponents of the war (not to mention journalists) as praying for failure and proclaiming that "the surge is succeeding," Kagan adds to his regrettable legacy of undue optimism.

There are some basic problems of logic in his attack on the media. Kagan suggests that American journalists are so invested in seeing the surge fail to pacify Iraq that he is forced to "wonder if the Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does." But then Kagan goes on to use information from, well, American journalists to assemble data indicating that violence in Baghdad has ebbed; that Iraqi attitudes have turned from pessimism; that an oil sharing law is nearing completion; that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior recently conducted a purge of its personnel; and that the Mahdi Army has gone to ground. Kagan closes by pleading that "no one is asking American journalists to start emphasizing the 'good' news. All they have to do is report on what is occurring, though it may conflict with their previous judgments." But, of course, American journalists have provided the very fodder for Mr. Kagan's argument.

The more troubling aspect of the Kagan piece, however, is the substantive claim: that the surge is working. The first problem with this argument is that the surge has hardly gotten underway yet. Earlier this month, none other than General David Petraeus remarked that "we've just started" with the surge and that only two of the five projected brigades had even arrived. The claim that two brigades (less than 10,000 troops) have transformed Baghdad is either mendacious or simply daft. A more sober view comes from President Bush, who recently announced his plan to send almost 5,000 more U.S. troops into Iraq on top of the 21,500 already promised.

A more honest line of argument, which Kagan flirts with making in his article, is that the recent downtick in violence is partly a result of Shia militias having gone to ground in Baghdad, content to sit out the surge as long as possible, wait for it to fail (a failure manifested by Sunni insurgents' ability to wreak havoc, surge or no surge), and then reemerge as the protectors of the Shia faithful. The recent bombings during the Shiite celebration of Ashura are one alarming indicator that this process easily could unfold.

But the most damning fact about the "surge is working" narrative is that the violence in Iraq always has been cyclical, with dips in violence occurring every year in the months from January through March or April. So, in fact, the decline in violence Kagan observes was entirely predictable, and indeed was predicted. The Pentagon's own "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" report pointed out that by the end of 2006, the violence in Iraq had reached its highest level since the war began, and so the downtick should be viewed in that context. But what appears likely to happen is what has happened since the beginning of the war: these temporary downticks do not stop the overall upward trend of violence in Iraq. See page 20 of the most recent "Iraq Index" from the Brookings Institution for glaringly obvious proof of this ratcheting up of violence in the country.

The president and supporters of the war protest that we should "give the surge a chance to succeed" before criticizing it. But since the plan in place defies, for one, the joint Army-Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual authored by General Petraeus himself, this is akin to wishful thinking. (By the metric of Petraeus and countless others, to run a serious counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq, we would need 500,000 troops; if we could somehow sequester Baghdad and only fight there, we would need roughly 120,000 troops.)

A miracle in Iraq just may happen, and all Americans would be relieved if it did. It may also happen that Israelis and Palestinians decide that fighting is not in their interests and spontaneously lay down their arms. Banking on such events, though, is an unsound basis for the formation of national policy.

To borrow Kagan's own formulation, no one is asking neoconservative polemicists to admit how wrong they have been, consistently, about the Iraq war. All they have to do is begin looking at facts and data instead of pretending that wishful thinking and spin can save this disastrous war.

Scott Horton: The Struggle to See What Is Right in Front of Your Nose

There are times in the last six years when I've felt like I was trapped in one of those science fiction movies from the fifties. A focal character has discovered a group of ruthless aliens out to destroy the world, disguised as human beings and accepted in the fold of the community. He could go denounce them in a wild-eyed way to his friends and neighbors - but who would ever believe him? I got an early, very deep look into the heart of the Bush Administration. I was shocked at what I saw and at first didn't trust my own eyes and ears. That disinclination to believe what we directly observe is almost always a mistake, sometimes a serious mistake. And yet for years it's been a steep uphill struggle to get the American public to see and understand what is in front of them, and the danger it presents to our nation and the world. The Bush team are not strange monsters from outer space; in fact they are human. All too human. Their failings are the sort that commonly mark the weak-minded man who comes to wield great power without oversight and accountability. Today Alberto Gonzales reiterates his claim that "mistakes were made" - though supposedly not by him - and George Bush stands behind his long-time personal counselor, saying that he approved the sacking of the eight US attorneys, and there was nothing the matter with that decision. These excuses are flatly dishonest, and the suggestion that their actions were consistent with established practice of other governments is pernicious. What is at stake here? The issue is enormous. It is whether the criminal justice system will be turned into a partisan political tool. Bush's Administration is already widely called a "hackocracy" because of his tendency to fill slots with unqualified and incompetent partisan hacks. But the crisis at DOJ goes far beyond that. Even civil service positions - which have been protected from this sort of partisan corruption since the Hatch Act of 1939 - are being politicized. The Boston Globe, for instance, has closely documented the process of weeding out qualified career attorneys from the Civil Rights Division at DOJ and their replacement with political retainers - and the same process has continued throughout the Department. But at the heart of the DOJ scandal lies political intrusion into the exercise of prosecutorial discretion - one of the areas which a democratic society most needs to shield from partisan intrusion. There is now clear evidence that Gonzales and Bush directed political prosecutions and attempted to deflect prosecutions of Republicans for political purposes. A state that criminalizes political adversaries and that cloaks the criminal conduct of its retainers is by definition a tyranny. In 1946, George Orwell penned a series of essays that are, I believe, the most important to appear in the English language in the last century. He pointed to the emerging challenge of totalitarianism. He mapped the working of the totalitarian mind. How would it undermine the foundations of a liberal democratic culture like that of the United Kingdom or United States? It will assault our language. Our political institutions. Our political culture. It will try to build a party state and to accumulate unchecked executive power in the hands of a single person or a small leadership cadre. The tools used are potent but perhaps not easily recognized. As Orwell noted in the essay "In Front of Your Nose," men who aspire to totalitarian rule will attempt to persuade their subjects of preposterous untruths - things that, extracted from a political context - surely no one would ever believe. The current debacle over the cashiered US Attorneys threatens to develop into such an exercise, though I am encouraged that both the media and the public are awakening from their slumber and coming to understand what is before them. The evidence of what has happened and why is all about us. It is obvious. Yet Bush and Gonzales insist that we ignore what we have seen and read and accept instead their dishonest characterizations. America will survive as a democracy and its institutions will survive only if we remain conscious of the idea of our democracy. And only if we keep our eyes open and recognize what is right in front of our noses. But, as Orwell says, it requires a constant struggle.

Matthew Yglesias: No, When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?

I had really thought Jon Chait's initial reply to Joe Lieberman's deranged complaint that "there is something profoundly wrong when opposition to the war in Iraq seems to inspire greater passion than opposition to Islamist extremism" was perfectly adequate, but Jonah Goldberg seems interested in this goofy debate perhaps we should turn the question around: Why does opposition to the anti-war movement inspire greater passion among conservatives than does opposition to Islamist extremism?

In my opinion, it's a mixed bag of motives. Hating liberals has been a core element of American conservatism since long before anyone knew or cared what Islamist extremism was. What's more, a lot of conservatives are greedy. Write a book about how Hillary Clinton is like Musolini and you might sell some copies; get paid. Of course, that doesn't really excuse it since the reason liberal-bashing books sell better than earnest tomes about counterterrorism policy is, precisely, that conservatives are more emotionally invested in liberal-bashing than in opposing Islamism. There's also the fact that your average conservative probably doesn't know any radical Islamists personally, so they kind of carry a psychological grudge against liberals that they don't share with regard to Islamist extremists.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dana Milbank on Alberto Gonzales

Dana Milbank on Alberto Gonzales:

Dana Milbank - The Grand Elusion - washingtonpost.com: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales faced the cameras for all of nine minutes yesterday, but he managed to contradict himself at least four times as he fought off calls to resign over the firing of U.S. attorneys. "Mistakes were made," he said in fluent scandalese, but "I think it was the right decision. ""I am responsible for what happens at the Department of Justice," he posited, but "I . . . was not involved in any discussions about what was going on." "Kyle Sampson" -- Gonzales's chief of staff -- "has resigned," he said, but "he is still at the department." And, finally, "I believe in the independence of our U.S. attorneys," Gonzales maintained, but "all political appointees can be removed . . . for any reason."

He had the look of a hunted man in his appearance at the Justice Department. He wiggled his toes inside his shoes and shifted his feet. He spoke too loudly into the microphone. He arrived 18 minutes late, gave well-rehearsed answers and appeared intent on getting out as fast as he could, ignoring reporters' shouts of "Sir! Sir!....

Schumer said he was unsatisfied with Gonzales's sacrifice of his chief of staff. "Kyle Sampson will not become the next Scooter Libby, the next fall guy." Echoing a phrase used in the Libby trial, the senator continued: "The cloud over the Justice Department is getting darker and darker." Before the day was out, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.) and other Democrats joined Schumer's call for Gonzales's head. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), giving the news conference with Schumer, was not so bloodthirsty. "I'm more reserved, in general, than my colleague over here is," she said of Schumer....

Reporters were happy to help. They besieged a woman carrying a box labeled "Xerox," elbowing one another to grab still-warm bundles of e-mails. It didn't take much searching of them to find evidence of the political nature of the firings and the White House's role. "WH leg, political, and communications have signed off," deputy White House counsel William Kelley wrote to Sampson and then-White House counsel Harriet Miers in December 2006. Other e-mails, from Sampson, had him "waiting for a green light from the White House" and asking Miers and Kelley to circulate the firing plan to Karl Rove's "shop."...

Even. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the administration's most faithful legislator, said "the appearances are troubling" for Gonzales. "I'm concerned," Cornyn said with Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) at his side. "This has not been handled well." The best Cornyn could offer Gonzales: "In Texas, we believe in having a fair trial and then we have the hanging."

Gideon Rachman: How to help the huddled masses through immigration

Gideon Rachman: How to help the huddled masses through immigration

Gideon Rachman's Blog: Next week I hope to visit the US. I will put it no more strongly than that. I have learnt not to take my right to visit America for granted – ever since being ignominiously deported in 2003. When I rang my wife from Dulles airport to tell her that I was being put on the first plane home, she briefly feared that I was about to reveal a double life as an international drug-smuggler or pornographer. Nothing so interesting. I had simply forgotten to get myself a journalist’s visa.

The best stories of this sort usually involve the innocent foreigner being shackled or bundled off to the state penitentiary. Not in my case. The officials dealing with me were polite, sympathetic – but implacable. I protested feebly that I was a former Fulbright scholar who had lived in the US for several years. I had written for American journals, I knew important people, Britain was fighting alongside the US in Iraq. None of it cut any ice. As one of the immigration people explained: “We could have made an exception before 9/11, but not now.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

QUOTE OF THE DAY.... From General Tony McPeak

The Washington Monthly: QUOTE OF THE DAY....From General Tony McPeak (ret.): "America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn't make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference."

Jim Henley: Parallelism Is Not Argument

Jim Henley: Parallelism Is Not Argument:

Out of the Mouths of Neobabes II § Unqualified Offerings: [Eliot] Cohen tries to make a nigh-Riemannian parallelism do the work of argument. He wants you to think that if we had fewer bombers, the kidz would be listening to Chinese rappers, or maybe Islamofascist ones. Curiously, the era when American (and British) bands started dominating global culture was the heyday of Team B, who insisted that the Communist bloc had the beleaguered West utterly outclassed militarily. Those where the days when a sequence of red and blue bar graphs could bring the insecure American a parapornographic thrill of doom. Look how tall the red bar is on the tanks graph! The missile graph! The fighter plane graph! “What did you scare yourself with before ‘dhimmitude,’ Grandpa?” “Commitude, children!” Curiously, the kidz did not start listening to Russian bands. Because Russian bands sucked. Vaclav Havel got into Velvet Underground and brough the whole fraudulent arrangement down like a chainsmoking, diffident Samson. And the Velvets didn’t even sell!

Cohen can’t show that  “American military power” causes the Internet, only that they both use “information technologies.” I am aware of the internet’s roots in DARPA, thank you. But Cohen can’t make the case that people grew the actual internet as it developed out of ARPANet because America has troops all over the place, so he doesn’t even try. Best not call attention to the fact that people glommed onto the internet instead of other candidates - e.g. Minitel - because people could make it into something cool, for a bunch of semi-compatible definitions of cool.

And of course he closes with a question trying to pretend it is its own answer. It’s not. And I daresay Pervez Musharraf would want to know just what Cohen means by “free trade.” Meantime the kidz love the manga, even though, mascot or no, the Japanese military is nothing to write home about.

What the neocons’ libertarian-inclined friends should have noticed about them early is just how little faith neoconservatives have always had in the market as such.

Hilzoy: War Is Not The Instrument He Thought It Was

Hilzoy: War Is Not The Instrument He Thought It Was

Ezra Klein: "War Is Not The Instrument He Thought It Was": Hilzoy has a long and beautiful post on why using war to set up democracy in other countries is so difficult. There are lots of reasons for this, but the reason she discusses hadn't really occurred to me before:

we should never forget how astonishing it is that people vying for power are willing to concede even when they believe that the rules have been broken, out of respect for the rule of law and for courts they believe to be profoundly in error.

In many countries, there are no established procedures for resolving conflicts, and certainly none that command the kind of allegiance that would lead people to yield even when they believe that they deserve to have won. In those countries it will always be tempting to think: well, this election was stolen from us, and this year-old Constitution is unfair; why not fight for a better one? Wouldn't our opponents do the same?

This is especially likely in a country in which the price of losing a political struggle has always been not just being in the minority party in Congress, but death or subjugation. And it takes a long time to learn to trust that losing power will not cost you your life or your freedom, when all your experience to date has taught you the opposite.

When you use force to liberate a country, like Kuwait, that has only been occupied for a short time, you can hope that its people will accept their previous government, and that whatever made that government function in the past will have survived. But when you liberate a country like Iraq, a country whose people have been brutalized, you risk loosing Hobbes' "war of all against all" on its people. You remove the sovereign who has kept that war in check, without thereby creating any of the political virtues that allow alternate forms of government, like democracy, to function.

Lawrence Eagleburger: $1 Billion of Counterproductive Insanity

Lawrence Eagleburger: $1 Billion of Counterproductive Insanity:

Think Progress » $1 billion of counterproductive insanity.: Lawrence Eagleburger on the massive 1,000-employee U.S. Embassy in Baghdad: “I defy anyone to tell me how you can use that many people. It is nuts…it’s insane and it’s counterproductive…and it won’t work,” says the Republican former secretary of state and member of the Iraq Study Group. “I’ve been around the State Department long enough to know you can’t run an outfit like that.

Belle Waring: And a Pony!

Belle Waring: And a Pony!

John & Belle Have A Blog: If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride -- A Pony!: You see, wishes are totally free. It's like when you can't decide whether to daydream about being a famous Hollywood star or having amazing magical powers. Why not -- be a famous Hollywood star with amazing magical powers! Along these lines, John has developed an infallible way to improve any public policy wishes. You just wish for the thing, plus, wish that everyone would have their own pony! So, in Chafetz' case, he should not only wish that Bush would say a lot of good things about democracy-building and fighting terrorism in a speech written for him by a smart person, he should also wish that Bush should actually mean the things he says and enact policies which reflect this, and he should wish that everyone gets a pony. See?...

Kieran Healy: Ye Ladies of Easy Leisure

Kieran Healy: Ye Ladies of Easy Leisure

Crooked Timber: Now that’s more like it. The end of bastardy! The rise of female contraception! Divorce! Sex education! Cars! Maggie Gallagher could learn a thing or two from Leon Kass. If you think society is being dragged to perdition by a bunch of car-owning, pill-popping, body-piercing, career-oriented, degree-granted, sexually confident, frequent-flyer, atheistic sluts then just come out and say it. And the best part is, Leon is just warming up.

He continues:

The change most immediately devastating for wooing is probably the sexual revolution. For why would a man court a woman for marriage when she may be sexually enjoyed, and regularly, without it?

Well, it’s not as if I’m going to make my own pot roast, now is it?

Many, perhaps even most, men in earlier times avidly sought sexual pleasure prior to and outside of marriage. But they usually distinguished, as did the culture generally, between women one fooled around with and women one married, between a woman of easy virtue and a woman of virtue simply. Only respectable women were respected; one no more wanted a loose woman for one’s partner than for one’s mother.

Those were the days. Men could be men, and women could be modest—except for the ladies of easy leisure, who were available for extramarital sex, backalley abortions, syphilis, etc.

The supreme virtue of the virtuous woman was modesty, a form of sexual self-control, manifested not only in chastity but in decorous dress and manner, speech and deed, and in reticence in the display of her well- banked affections. A virtue, as it were, made for courtship, it served simultaneously as a source of attraction and a spur to manly ardor, a guard against a woman’s own desires, as well as a defense against unworthy suitors. A fine woman understood that giving her body (in earlier times, even her kiss) meant giving her heart, which was too precious to be bestowed on anyone who would not prove himself worthy, at the very least by pledging himself in marriage to be her defender and lover forever.

Except for understandable lapses—see above re: women of easy virtue.

Once female modesty became a first casualty of the sexual revolution, even women eager for marriage lost their greatest power to hold and to discipline their prospective mates.

Because of course being subordinated in this manner, and having all of the negative consequences of sexual activity fall entirely upon you, and living under an all-pervasive double standard is of course the greatest kind of power that anyone can have. It’s like, Inter-Continental Ballistic Modesty! Men wish they had that kind of power. But, alas, we are weak beings:

For it is a woman’s refusal of sexual importunings, coupled with hints or promises of later gratification, that is generally a necessary condition of transforming a man’s lust into love.

In fact, we are so weak that even our self-control is entirely your responsibility.

Women also lost the capacity to discover their own genuine longings and best interests.

See above re: pot roast. Also Valium.

Apparently this is the first of a three-part series. You know, the sad thing about this sort of thing is that the entry of women into college and the workforce since 1945, the sexual revolution, and the increase of geographical mobility really are huge social changes. They really have had tremendous consequences of all kinds for individuals, families and whole societies. Entire branches of social science are given over to trying to understand them. Leon Kass’s horror at the way the world has turned out is unsurprising. His desire to return to some kind of Victorian nightmare is just about understandable. But it’s bad sociology and it’s appalling moral philosophy as well.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Spencer Ackerman: Suicide Bomber Tactics in Afghanistan

Since at least 2004, Iraq-style tactics -- suicide bombings, recorded kidnappings and executions, and in particular improvised explosive devices -- have been trickling into Afghanistan, to the point where some observers have feared the "Iraqification" of that country. It's not something to be sanguine about, as today's suicide bombing outside of Bagram demonstrates. But according to a new Jonestown Foundation analysis by Brian Glyn Williams and Cathy Young, there's something of a silver lining: suicide bombings are indeed up -- as of late February, there have already been 21 suicide bombings in 2007; that's nearly as many as in all of 2005 -- but they're ... not killing many people.

Astoundingly, of the 21 attacks carried out this year, in 16 cases the only fatality has been the suicide bomber himself. In the 17th case, the suicide bomber succeeded in killing himself and one policeman. In two other cases, the suicide bomber was arrested or shot. This translates to 19 Taliban suicide bombers for one Afghan policeman, hardly an inspiring kill ratio for would-be-suicide bombers. In most of these cases, the suicide bombers attacked foreign convoys on foot or in cars and were unable to inflict casualties on their targets. Typically, the suicide bombers' explosives went off prematurely or their bombs failed to kill coalition troops driving in heavily armored vehicles.

In only three of the 21 cases for 2007 were there notable fatalities. In the first successful case, a suicide bomber killed two Afghan policemen and eight civilians (Camp Salerno, Khost, January 23). In the second case, three policemen were killed (Zherai District, Khost, February 4). In the third case, the February 27 attack on Bagram Air Base while Cheney was visiting, the bomber succeeded in killing 15-23 people (including two to three coalition soldiers). Such numbers hardly compare to Iraq where suicide bombers often carry out synchronized attacks that regularly kill anywhere from 60 to 130 people. Such uninspiring statistics beg the question: what are Afghanistan's suicide bombers doing wrong?

Williams and Young studied 158 suicide attacks since 2001 and found an answer. While Iraqi suicide bombers target civilians and soft targets in order to sow destabilization and provoke/respond to sectarian violence, nearly all Taliban suicide bombings -- and in Afghanistan, resistance to the presence of foreign forces and the Karzai government is overwhelmingly Taliban -- are focused on Afghan or U.S./NATO security forces. The two researchers assess that unlike the Iraqi insurgents, al-Qaeda or Shiite militias, the Taliban has to cleave the population away from the Karzai government, but in the process must "avoid losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people by needlessly killing civilians." The trouble is that it works. Members of the International Security Assistance Force have in some cases balked at taking up operations in suicide-bomb-heavy territory. Worse still, Williams and Young find that freaked-out ISAF forces have responded by upping their tolerance for collateral damage. Little is more provocative in Afghanistan than civilian deaths at foreign hands; in that sense, the Taliban gambit does show some success. Consider what you've got here: a localized insurgency that needs to deny Karzai and his allies control of Afghanistan and finds that even ineffective suicide bombing can have some utility as a deterrent force. Yet it remains a force with limited potential for growth among the civilian population and it's fearful of inflicting civilian casualties. Basically, this is about as favorable terrain for counterterrorism as ever there is (saying that while recognizing that no counterterrorism campaign is really favorable). Here's where you want to put Petraeus and his COIN wise men.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden: Underrated Webloggers of Our Time: Hilzoy

Hilzoy, of Obsidian Wings.

Violence is not a way of getting where you want to go, only more quickly. Its existence changes your destination. If you use it, you had better be prepared to find yourself in the kind of place it takes you to.
Much more at the post; read it all. Why doesn’t this woman have an opinion column in a national newspaper?

Joshua Micah Marshall: Another Bush Screw-Up that Staggers the Mind

White House: Okay, maybe the North Koreans don't have a uranium enrichment program after all.

You have to be relatively deep into the minutiae of North Korea policy for this story. But it's a big one. The Bush administration is now saying they're really not even sure the North Koreans have a uranium enrichment program for the production of nuclear weapons.

A 'senior administration official' tells the Times, "The question now is whether we would be in the position of having to get the North Koreans to give up a sizable arsenal if this had been handled differently."

That, as they say, is something of an understatement.

This gets a tad tedious. But bear with me because it's important.

Speaking very broadly, there are two big ways to make nuclear weapons -- with uranium and plutonium. Each involves different technical challenges and processes. And each has a different bang you get versus the complexity of the task of putting the thing together.

The big issue with North Korea has always been their plutonium production. Back in 1994, they were on the brink of being able to produce bombs with the plutonium they were making. The US came close to war with the North Koreans over it. But the two countries settled on something called the 'Agreed Framework' in which the North Koreans' plutonium production operation was shuttered and placed under international inspection in exchange for fuel oil shipments and assistance building 'light water' nuclear reactors.

We don't need to get into the details of the agreement at the moment. The relevant point is that from 1994 to 2002 the North Korean nuclear weapons program was frozen in place. The strong consensus judgment was that they had not yet made any nuclear weapons. And during that period they could not access the plutonium they had already produced.

It was on the basis of this alleged uranium enrichment program -- which may well not even have existed -- that the US pulled out of that agreement. This allowed the North Koreans to get back into the plutonium business with a gusto. And they have since produced -- by most estimates -- at least a hand full of nuclear weapons, one of which, albeit a rather feeble one, they detonated last October.

So now let's review that quote from the senior administration official: "The question now is whether we would be in the position of having to get the North Koreans to give up a sizable arsenal if this had been handled differently."

Frankly, it's not much of a question.

Because of a weapons program that may not even have existed (and no one ever thought was far advanced) the White House the White House got the North Koreans to restart their plutonium program and then sat by while they produced a half dozen or a dozen real nuclear weapons -- not the Doug Feith/John Bolton kind, but the real thing.

It's a screw-up that staggers the mind. And you don't even need to know this new information to know that. Even if the claims were and are true, it was always clear that the uranium program was far less advanced than the plutonium one, which would be ready to produce weapons soon after it was reopened. Now we learn the whole thing may have been a phantom. Like I said, it staggers the mind how badly this was bungled. In this decade there's been no stronger force for nuclear weapons proliferation than the dynamic duo of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush.

Bjorn Staerk: What Went Wrong?

After the September 11 terror attacks people looked for books that could explain the new world they lived in. One of the authors they found was the historian Bernard Lewis, whose "What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response" became a bestseller. Lewis looked at the Muslim world's failure to deal with the West's military and economic superiority. Islam had seen itself as the center of the world, but the West pricked their bubble, and Muslims have been struggling ever since with a volatile mix of envy and hatred towards it.

This is not an essay about Bernard Lewis, or his ideas. I bring him up because the same question keeps spinning around in my head these days, only now with a different subtitle: "What Went Wrong? Islamist Impact And Western Response". When I look around me at the world we got, the world we created after 2001, that's the question I keep coming back to: What went wrong? The question nags me all the more because I was part of it, swept along with all the currents that took us from the ruins of the World Trace center through the shameful years that followed. Iraq, the war on terror, the new European culture war.

This mirror of "What Went Wrong" wouldn't be a story on the same scale, but it has the main theme in common. It would be about Westerners who had their reality bubble pricked by people from an alien culture, and spent the next couple of years stumbling about like idiots, unable to deal rationally with this new reality that had forced itself on them. Egging each other on, they predicted, interpreted, and labelled - and legislated and invaded. They saw clearly, through beautiful ideas. And they were wrong.

Who were these people? They were us. "Us"? This seemed a lot clearer at the time. Us were the people who acknowledged the threat of Islamist terrorism, who had the common sense to see through the multicultural fog of words, and the moral courage to want to change the world by force. It included politicians like George W. Bush and Tony Blair, it included the new European right, it included brave and honest pundits, straight-talking intellectuals in the enlightenment tradition.

And then there were people like me, who labelled ourselves "warbloggers", and called our friends "anti-idiotarians". Phew, all those labels! Now, anyone who knows me knows that I've been drifting away from where I started for years. They're going to laugh if I pretend that I've ever been an Islamophobe, or that I was among the most eager of the Bush supporters, and use that to claim special insights into these people. Some of the ideas I criticize I believed for a long time, some for a short time, and some I never liked at all.

And by "us" I don't mean that everyone thought alike, I mean that there was an identity based on an unspoken agreement about who were "ok" and who weren't. And - God help me - I was ok. I haven't been for a while now, but it's only recently I've realized just how little there's left of what I believed five years ago. Our worldview had three major focus points - Iraq, terrorism and Islam - and we were wrong about all of them.


There aren't many people left who believe that it was a good idea for the US, Britain and their coalition to invade Iraq in 2003. At least fifty thousand Iraqis dead, (or a hundred, or several hundred), maybe two million refugees, and who knows how many more when the Americans finally give up and leave. Supporters of the war have dropped off one by one, for different reasons. Some neo-conservative intellectuals believe that the plan was good, but that George W. Bush screwed it up. There might be something to this. With smarter people in charge, the odds might have been better. But this assumes that a smarter administration would have embraced their plan to invade Iraq in the first place. I don't think it would, and I think the blame belongs with the thinkers who pushed for war, as much as the officials who carried it out.

Every war must have a war party, a group that actively tries to sell war to the government and to the public. For Iraq, that war party was us - neo-conservative intellectuals, and pundits and bloggers who were sympathetic to them. Without all these people arguing for war, legitimizing it, begging for it, an invasion would have been difficult.

Anyone who argues for war plays with dangerous forces, so they must do it responsibly or not at all. Foolish wars have led countries to disaster. They have caused the deaths of millions. History and psychology tells us that war parties tend to be over-confident, paranoid and emotional. So the minimum you should expect from a responsible war supporter is that they are aware of this bias, and do their best to counterbalance it.

It's not enough to believe that you are right. You have to be actively open-minded, you have to listen to your critics, and encourage devil's advocates. You have to set up a robust information structure that makes it as difficult as possible for you to ignore reality. This is the only good way to prevent self-deception. It works. And we did not do it.

What we did was the opposite. At every level, from the lowliest blogger to the highest official, war supporters set up filters that protected them from facts they did not want to hear. We saw what we wanted to see, and if anyone saw differently, we called them left-wing moonbats who were rooting for the other side. We defined the entire mainstream media establishment as irrelevant, leaving more biased, less experienced "new" media as our primary source of facts. We ignored reasonable critics, and focused on the crazy ones, so that we could tell ourselves how incredibly smart we were.

Among the bloggers there was a sense that there were all these brilliant people, who knew so much about history, war and society, who had previously been without the tools to express themselves. Thanks to the wonders of amateur media, we could now finally exploit this huge reservoir of expert knowledge. And when you contrasted the lazy neutrality of the old media with the energy of the new, it certainly could seem that way. Here were people who regularly would write thousands of words about the historical context of Islamist terrorism, who could write brilliantly about freedom and democracy, who commented boldly on the long trends of history. How could such people be wrong?

But what we saw was not expert knowledge, but the well-written, arrogantly presented ideas of half-educated amateurs. This, too, went all the way from the bottom to the top. It often struck us how well the writing of the best of the bloggers measured up to that of pro-war pundits and intellectuals. We thought this showed how professional the amateurs were, when what it really told us was how amateurish the professionals were.

And so we came to believe that we could invade Iraq and plant the seeds of a new, democratic Middle East. Yes yes there were also the nukes, but we saw beyond that, towards a spring of freedom that would delegitimize terrorism and fanaticism all over the region. Some people will tell you that they never pretended this would be easy, that they always knew it might not work. There are no certain outcomes, and if you have a good chance of success, that chance is worth taking, even if it doesn't end well. Also many argued - and I think I may have been one of them - that instability would be a good thing for the Middle East. The stability of these authoritarian and extremist regimes was precisely the problem. A little chaos would only do the region good.

When I think of this chaos argument today I am struck with horror at the stupidity of it. There's no secret about what happens when a state collapses. It might go well, but when it doesn't, there is no upper limit to how badly it can go. Millions of people may die. Fanatics and sadists fight their way to the top, trampling the weak down beneath them. In our vision of a liberated Baghdad, we saw the beginning of a new Eastern Europe. Now, I have nightmares of Congo, Rwanda, Angola, Uganda, Algeria, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Lebanon, Afghanistan.

As for the chance of success, what gave us the idea that we could estimate this? There are some now who say that even if the war supporters got a lot of things wrong, so did the opponents, so there you go, that's uncertainty for you. Everyone was wrong, but at least we were on the side of freedom, and they were on Saddam's. But that's just not true. The opponents were right. They said this was extremely risky, they said it might result in countless deaths and instability. They got a lot of details wrong, but that's just the point. For the Iraq invasion to go right, war supporters had to get many predictions right. Opponents knew that if any of those predictions were wrong, the whole thing could fail. So the smart choice was to be cautious.

War opponents said a lot of things that were stupid, cynical and deluded. Some war supporters find comfort in this, I don't. The opponents were, on the whole, right. We were wrong, and people in Iraq will pay for this mistake for a long time.


The war on terrorism has not been a disaster, but there too we went wrong. And not just Iraq war supporters. This mistake crossed party lines and infected mainstream thought through most of Europe and North America. We got the threat wrong, and we got the response to it wrong.

Right after September 11, civil liberties activists warned us not to overreact. Attacks like these, they said, were a classic threat to individual freedom. We had to make sure that we didn't fall into xenophobic hysteria and authoritarian solutions. We listened to this, we nodded, and then we all went ahead and ignored it.

There were of course no anti-Muslim riots, no massacres, no overt authoritarian measures. But everyone agreed that terrorism was such a large threat that we had to give the state new powers to fight it. The most extreme examples were the cases of torture by proxy and imprisonment without trial by the US, but all over the West there has been a new wind of authority. Some argued that freedom of speech should be restricted for Muslim extremists, others that the police needed more powers of surveillance.

The British CCTV system, built partly in response to IRA attacks, shows how eagerly people may trade freedom for security. All it takes is a permanent climate of fear, and the calm, soothing voice of authority telling you it knows how to make you safe. I'm not saying that we've become unfree, or are about to. But I think the path towards it is open. The only response to terrorism we can imagine is to give more power to the state, and once given, that power will be hard to take back.

I'm pessimistic about this, because the underlying mechanism of trading freedom for security so strong. The security is often illusory, giving us little more than a temporary reduction of anxiety. The anxiety soon returns, and more freedom must be traded away. Just as a war frenzy can spin out of control, so can a panic for law and order in the face of terrorism. Especially so since the alternative is so depressing and counterintuitive.

As I wrote earlier (Living With Terrorism), the right way to fight terrorism is to be stronger than our fear of it. There are many things we can and should do to prevent terrorist attacks, but we have to treat fear as the single most damaging weapon terrorists have. Compared to a panicked public, a bomb is relatively harmless. With weapons, terrorists can only do as much damage as a weapon can do. Through fear, they have the full powers of state and society to play with.

When terrorists attack, we should resist the immediate impulse to "do something". We should not be "swept off [our] feet by the vividness of the impression, but say, 'Impression, wait for me a little. Let me see what you are and what you represent. Let me try you.'" I don't believe this is realistic. I believe that our civil rights are in the hands of terrorists. The more bombs, the less patience people will have with personal freedom. We'll hear all the old arguments, presented as new, about suicidal liberalism, the chaos of freedom, and the importance of moral unity. We already are. And that's why I'm a pessimist. We were wrong about terrorism, we still are, and I suspect we always will be. At best we can hope for long periods of calm where personal freedom is allowed to reassert itself.

Islam and the culture war

The last major mistake we made was about Islam, and especially the role it got to play in what we might call a European culture war. The European culture war is a war in defense of secular, but Christian-based, enlightenment values against Muslim extremists, multiculturalists and naive leftists. It is a war for the "soul" of Europe, as Pat Buchanan said about the American counterpart.

Europe's culture warriors often come from the right, like me, but many also from the left. What they have in common is frustration with what they see as a deadening centre-left consensus among the elites - politicians, academics, journalists. There's a sense that there is this great fog of dishonesty that we must chase away with reasoned and courageous thinking. The elites believe in little, they tolerate anything as long as it is foreign, and despise everything that is solid and proud in European culture. That's why they aimed so much hatred against Christian pseudo-fanatics, while letting genuine Muslim extremists in through the back door. They told us that Europe's worst enemy was itself, when of course the real threats come from the outside.

The culture warriors want to restore Europe's sense of purpose, and restore some of its old values - including our Christian heritage. Not necessarily Christianity itself, but they admire its moral firmness. The elites believe nothing, and that makes us vulnerable to Muslim extremists, who are blessed with a complete lack of uncertainty and a total committment to their religion.

Islam is the key to the European culture war. There is a sense that we have been infiltrated and betrayed, that Europe is slowly falling apart from the inside, and it is all because of Muslim immigration. Millions of unintegrated muslims, most of whom are at odds with basic European values, and many of whom actually despise our culture and want to make it more Islamic - and a few of whom are willing to kill us to accomplish this. Most culture warriors don't believe that Islam is inherently evil, they believe it can be secularized - Westernized, but they all believe it is the key to everything that is happening, not least for what it reveals about our own elites.

Here's why I'm frustrated: I'm not sure where all this went wrong. I can look back at what I believed some five years ago, and what motivated me to hope for exactly the kind of thing we now have - a grassroots reaction to the centre-left multicultural consensus, edging steadily in on the mainstream - and I'm not so sure that I was wrong. This idea that it should be ok to discuss Muslim extremism, and make demands of immigrants, and not meet cruel traditions with a tolerant smile, I certainly still believe that. And this rebellious reaction I had to the media consensus, there was nothing wrong with that. And we really do need to revive some liberal and rational strands of thought that somewhat inaccurately go by the name of enlightenment values.

But there must have been something wrong with that starting point, nevertheless, because why else would so many people who adopted it gradually turn it into something distasteful and frigthening? Or maybe it was like that from the beginning, and it just took me a while to notice. However it was, their lack of doubt bothers me now, their self-righteousness and anger, their clear labelling of people as either corrupt enemies or enlightened friends.

I'm bothered by their humorless sarcasm and gotcha-approach to cultural criticism. I worry that their defense of European culture has become rationalized chauvinism. I'm dumbstruck by their choices of intellectual heroes. And I fear that their constant indignation and certainty will inspire a popular revival of xenophobia.

I realize that it is precisely in reaction to such behavior that the "multicultural" worldview makes sense. We do need to doubt ourselves. We do need to worry at least as much about our own potential for evil as that of the foreigners. We do need to meet other cultures with some humility and respect. We do need to have mixed feelings about our own culture, admiration tempered by wariness, as with a wild animal. We do need to listen to people who believe differently, instead of just lecturing them. Not because there is no right or wrong, true or false, and not because every culture is equal, but because the alternative is so dangerous. The road of the righteous champion of the Army of Light.

So it appears that I believe all of these things, both the essential ideas of the culture warriors and those of their multicultural enemies. This might be a contradiction - I'm not sure. It would seem that I'm both anti-elitist and elitist, that I understand both those who want to confront and those who want to talk. And maybe that's not such a bad place to be.

I know how the culture warriors feel about such doubt, they see it as weakness, a fear of moral clarity. But I see something cold and inhuman in their clarity. Give me conflicting ideas, isolated incidents, and individuals. Keep your angry visions, I'll do just fine with doubt and curiosity.

And now..?

Now I try not to do it all over again. I think I'll begin by writing down, in big letters, somewhere I can't help but notice it: "Warning! Objects in blogs are smaller than they appear."

Richard Cohen Needs to Fire Himself Now

In his February 27 column, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen faulted "some of my colleagues" who "caricatured" former Vice President Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign "as a serial exaggerator, a fibber, a pretender -- the guy who invented the Internet, who was the model for the novel (and movie) 'Love Story,' who applied one too many coats of passion to that kiss he delivered to his wife, Tipper, at the Democratic National Convention in 2000." Cohen himself, however, contributed to this "caricature" of Gore in 2000, even after he acknowledged that the portrayal of Gore as dishonest was baseless.

Cohen wrote in his February 27 column:

It's a joke, isn't it? I mean, it was Gore who was universally seen as the flawed man, uncomfortable in his own skin and, therefore, in this TV age, incapable of uniting the nation. He was caricatured by some of my colleagues as a serial exaggerator, a fibber, a pretender -- the guy who invented the Internet, who was the model for the novel (and movie) "Love Story," who applied one too many coats of passion to that kiss he delivered to his wife, Tipper, at the Democratic National Convention in 2000. There were so many reasons not to vote for him -- none, in retrospect, much good.

At the time, however, Cohen himself frequently propagated the image of Gore as an "exaggerator." For example, in his October 12, 2000, Post column, Cohen wrote:

In Reagan's case, these stories were dismissed by his supporters and characterized as charming eccentricities. Yet, some of the same people and editorial organs now get the vapors when confronting one of Al Gore's exaggerations. Gore, for some reason, is a liar while Reagan was just a marvelous storyteller.

I am not going to sit here and defend Gore's exaggerations. I wish he wouldn't make them. I wish he did not say he had been to the Texas fires when he hadn't. (Maybe he ought to have said concentration camp.) I wish he had not compared his dog's prescription plan to his mother-in-law's. I wish he had been a bit more modest about his role in developing the Internet or, way back, in describing his Vietnam War experience.

In fact, Gore never claimed that he "had been to the Texas fires" -- a reference to wildfires that broke out in Parker County, Texas, in 1998. Gore simply stated that he went "down to Texas" at the time the fires broke out -- not to the site of the actual fires, as Cohen implied. At the October 3, 2000, presidential debate, Gore said: "First, I want to compliment the governor on his response to those fires and floods in Texas. I accompanied James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires broke out." Gore later acknowledged that he mistakenly claimed that Witt, then-director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had accompanied him on the trip to Houston, when, in fact, it was Witt's deputy who had accompanied Gore. An October 4, 2000, Associated Press article quoted Gore saying: "I was there in Texas, in Houston, with the head of the Texas emergency management folks and with all the federal emergency management folks. If James Lee was there before or after, then, you know, I got that wrong then." As USA Today reported on October 11, 2000: "Gore said Tuesday that he had made 16 or 17 similar trips with Witt and simply confused those with the one he made to Texas with Witt's deputy."

However, the Bush campaign, Gore's critics, and the media seized on Gore's misstatement that Witt had accompanied him, casting Gore as a liar or an exaggerator. The October 4 AP article cited above quoted Bush saying: "Of course, it turned out he didn't (make the trip with Witt). This is a man -- he's got a record, you know, of sometimes exaggerating to make a point." On the October 4 edition of CNN's Crossfire, co-host Mary Matalin said: "He did not accompany James Lee Witt in '96 or '98. He never toured any of the fire zones. He did get a briefing in the pilots lounge at the airport when he went down to campaign for Governor Bush's opponent."

Cohen also wrote in his October 12, 2000, column:

Gore's burden is his association with Bill Clinton, whose behavior was largely overlooked by the press until it could be overlooked no more. So now we study Gore for the telltale signs of a larger problem. But what could it be? He has been vice president for eight years, a senator and congressman before that. No one who has worked with him calls him a liar. He is just an exaggerator.


Gore's abiding, overriding and maybe insurmountable handicap is that he is no Reagan--he lacks the man's charm. Where Reagan could dismiss his critics with a wave of his hand and some disarming joke, Gore just digs in more, tries harder and smiles like the groom at a shotgun wedding.

It seems true that Reagan sometimes could not distinguish between what he had seen on film and what he had experienced firsthand--and so his stories, strictly speaking, were not lies. With Gore, it's not clear if he gets confused or knows at the time that he's taken things too far. But the outcome is the same: False is false.

Cohen also questioned whether Gore was "real" and suggested he was a "pretender." In his October 12, 1999, column, Cohen wrote:

Whatever else you -- or I -- might say about [former Senator Bill] Bradley [D-NJ], he has conducted himself with dignity, with the strong suggestion that there are things he will not do and positions he will not take just to become his party's nominee. His manner assures us that, just as he had a life before this presidential race, he will have a life afterward. He seems to know who he is.

I wish I could say that about Gore. But there is something both frantic and synthetic about the campaign's move to Nashville and all this talk about home. It was only done, after all, when the campaign got into trouble. It's not so much a move as a retreat. Besides, if Gore has to be on location to be real -- if he has to be in Tennessee to be the sort of person he really is -- then what is he going to do if he wins the presidency -- move the White House to Nashville?

Albert Gore was first elected to Congress in 1976. He has been a public figure since his twenties, a national figure since his thirties, a presidential candidate by his 40th birthday (in 1988) and vice president since 1993. All this searching for roots, all this stuff about home, suggests something I'm sure he does not intend. It's not that we really never knew the real Al Gore. It's that he never really knew himself.

In his November 2, 1999, column, Cohen wrote:

"The male body is home to me, my rocket, my whirlpool." So wrote Naomi Wolf in her book, "Fire With Fire" which will soon be required reading along the campaign trail. Wolf -- sometimes a feminist, sometimes not, but always controversial -- has just been revealed as a secret Al Gore campaign adviser, apparently teaching the vice president how to be a rocket and a whirlpool. Some of us, though, would settle for just plain Al Gore.

But it is more and more clear that no one, least of all Al Gore, knows who that is. This is why he moved his campaign headquarters from Washington to Nashville, why he has gotten some new suits (it's the whirlpool look), and often appears in leisure clothing. He is newly energetic, sometimes manic and moves like a character in some speeded-up silent movie. I suppose this is what happens when you're a rocket.


An alpha male would not have hidden her. An alpha male would not have been afraid to be up-front, maybe introducing her to the press and saying -- in effect -- I'll take your best punch. And an alpha candidate would have realized that Wolf's presence on the payroll was going to leak. After all, she was pulling down big money. Others had been fired. This was Washington. This was politics.

Mostly, though, an alpha candidate would not need Wolf at all. He would not have to be told who he is and how to dress. He would be led by conviction -- out of a solid sense of who he is. Gore keeps signaling that's not the case. Maybe, come to think of it, he's a whirlpool after all. His campaign's going down the drain.

Notably, in his August 10, 2000, column, Cohen defended Gore against false claims that he was a liar:

In contrast, poor Al Gore has not been able to make a single exaggeration or the slightest fib without the hall monitors of the press issuing multiple demerits. In fact, even Bush got in on the act. In Philadelphia he poked fun at Gore's purported claim to have invented the Internet.

Trouble is, Gore made no such claim. Instead, he spoke as a legislator who really had been among the first to grasp the importance of the Internet: "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet." He did. You can look it up.

Similarly, Gore did not say he had discovered the Love Canal toxic waste debacle, nor did he claim that the character in Erich Segal's "Love Story" was based entirely on him. Yet for these and other supposed statements--some, I grant you, sloppily worded--a brace of commentators has called Gore a liar. A full listing plus an account of what Gore really said was published in the April issue of the Washington Monthly.