Posts tagged ‘WMD’

You Heard It Here First

I said it a couple of weeks ago:

Economists will be poking through this situation years from now, and may well find the bunkers
empty of WMD's.  Another trillion dollar commitment and unprecedented
expansion of executive power ramrodded on the back of fear mongering
and chicken-little crisis declaration.

And even before that on October 1

Well, they're picking through the bunkers now, and its not at all clear the threat was what it was portrayed to be.  The Fed of Minneapolis debunks four myths (pdf)

Myth 1. Bank lending to non…nancial corporations and individuals has declined sharply.
Myth 2. Interbank lending is essentially nonexistent.
Myth 3. Commercial paper issuance by non…nancial corporations has declined sharply and rates have risen to unprecedented levels.
Myth 4. Banks play a large role in channeling funds from savers to borrowers.

Apparently, others are starting to make the WMD comparison.

A couple of examples below.  First, sure looks like all the inter-bank lending has dried up:

Interbank_4

Yep, and no one is lending to Main Street businesses either, so we better do something!

Commercial_2

Just to avoid confusion, that upward spike began in September, well before the Lehman bankruptcy.  Similar stories in commercial paper, consumer lending, leases, etc.  See the whole thing.

My Head is Spinning

I am on vacation this week, so blogging will be light.  Just as well, as I have absolutely no idea where to begin with the Federal plan to semi-nationalize the banking industry.  I fear that the Bush administration has done it to us again.  Economists will be poking through this situation years from now, and may well find the bunkers empty of WMD's.  Another trillion dollar commitment and unprecedented expansion of executive power ramrodded on the back of fear mongering and chicken-little crisis declaration.  Henry Paulson screams to the world that the sky is falling, and then wonders why he can't stop the panicked stampede.  The Fed breaks the discount window wide open and promises to lend and recieve near infinite amounts of bank funds, and then wonders why banks have stopped lending to each other and only will do business with the Fed.

The Panic Imperative

Eric Posner writes:

Many legal academics claimed that courts should serve as fire walls
against the conflagration of fear. When the government locks someone
up, the courts should realize that in many cases either government
officials have panicked or are violating someone's civil liberties
merely to assure frightened citizens that something is being done. For
that reason, courts should treat the government's justifications with
skepticism, and never ever trust the executive branch.

These arguments have not yet surfaced in the current crisis. The
specter of fear is everywhere, not just on Wall Street. And the scale
of the government's reaction is no less than what it was after
9/11"”that is what probably scares ordinary people the most. Yet no one
who believes that the government exploited fears after 9/11 to
strengthen its security powers is now saying that the government is
exploiting financial crisis fears in order to justify taking control of
credit markets. No one who thinks that government would use fear to
curtail civil liberties seems to think that government would use fear
to curtail economic liberties. Why not?

No one, except me of course.  From my October 1 discourse with a Democratic friend:

I find it surprising that you take this administration
on faith in its declaration of emergency in the financial sector.
You've lamented for years about the "rush to war" and GWB's scare
tactics that pushed, you felt, the nation into a war it should not be
fighting, all over threats of WMD's that we could never find.  You
lamented Democrats like Hillary Clinton "falling for this" in Congress

But now the mantra is the same - rush, rush, hurry, hurry, fear,
fear, emergency, emergency. Another GWB declared crisis in which the
country needs to give the administration unlimited power without
accountability and, of course, stacks of taxpayer dollars to spend.  A
decision that has to be made fast, without time for deliberation.
Another $700 billion commitment.     And here the Democrats go again.
Jeez, these guys may have the majority in Congress but it is sure easy
for GWB to push their buttons when he wants to.  Heck, Pelosi is acting
practically as the Republican Whip to get GWB's party in line.

This is Iraq without the body bags, and without the personal honor
of brave soldiers in the trenches to give the crisis some kind of
dignity.

The Bailout is Back

So what does it take to overcome the opposition of Congressmen who said they opposed the bailout bill as too expensive, too big of a giveaway, and too much of a moral hazard?  Why, more moral hazard (in the form of higher FDIC insured balances), increased spending, and, incredibly, money for alternative energy.  Are these guys a joke or what?  (HT Hit and Run)

By the way, I had a conversation yesterday with a very anti-Bush, anti-Iraq-War Democrat -- the sort that can't get through a five minute conversation without making a Dick Cheney crack.  She was lamenting the failure of the bailout package in the House and excoriating Republicans for being so ignorant and narrow-minded.  My response was:

I find it surprising that you take this administration on faith in its declaration of emergency in the financial sector.   You've lamented for years about the "rush to war" and GWB's scare tactics that pushed, you felt, the nation into a war it should not be fighting, all over threats of WMD's that we could never find.  You lamented Democrats like Hillary Clinton "falling for this" in Congress

But now the mantra is the same - rush, rush, hurry, hurry, fear, fear, emergency, emergency. Another GWB declared crisis in which the country needs to give the administration unlimited power without accountability and, of course, stacks of taxpayer dollars to spend.  A decision that has to be made fast, without time for deliberation.  Another $700 billion commitment.     And here the Democrats go again.  Jeez, these guys may have the majority in Congress but it is sure easy for GWB to push their buttons when he wants to.  Heck, Pelosi is acting practically as the Republican Whip to get GWB's party in line.

This is Iraq without the body bags, and without the personal honor of brave soldiers in the trenches to give the crisis some kind of dignity.

Coyote's Law and WMD

Coyote's Law states:

When the same set of facts can be explained equally well by

  1. A massive conspiracy coordinated without a single leak between hundreds or even thousands of people    -OR -
  2. Sustained stupidity, confusion and/or incompetence

Assume stupidity and incompetence

Conspiracy theories have swarmed around the Internet on how the administration may have systematically lied about WMD to create the outcome (invasion) that it wanted in Iraq.  Today, however, the bipartisan presidential commission set to look into these issues unanimously confirms Coyote's Law - it was incompetence!

In a scathing report, a presidential commission said Thursday that
America's spy agencies were "dead wrong" in most of their judgments
about Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction before the war and that the United States
knows "disturbingly little" about nuclear threats posed by many of its
most dangerous adversaries...

The report implicitly absolves the
administration of manipulating the intelligence used to launch the 2003
Iraq war, putting the blame for bad intelligence directly on the
intelligence community.

"The daily intelligence briefings given
to you before the Iraq war were flawed," it said. "Through
attention-grabbing headlines and repetition of questionable data, these
briefings overstated the case that Iraq was rebuilding its WMD
programs."

Hat tip to Captains Quarters for the link.  By the way, this may take Bush off the hook to some extent for past failures, but the responsibility for reform sits squarely in his lap, and so far we have seen little progress in cleaning up the mess.

Conservatives and the Oscars

I really didn't want to go here again, but after some thought, I am really amazed at all the disdain for the Oscars coming out of the conservative blogs(CQ,Powerline,LaShawn Barber,LGF).  As I posted here, I thought Rock did an OK job, and for once all the awardees kept their speeches focused on movies rather than their own lame political views. 

However, conservative blogs have pointed out that most conservatives probably got turned off during Rock's monologue, particularly his jabs at GWB, and tuned out.  I am confused just what Rock said that was so horrible.  First, it is expected that monologues like this take some shots at whoever is in the White House.  And Rock certainly did so, but he also took shots at prominent liberals and Hollywood luminaries as well.

Second, just what did he make fun of?  He made fun of going to war and not finding WMD.  Now, I am certainly bright enough to know that the argument for war was more nuanced (heh heh) than just WMD's, but if I was a conservative, I would LOVE it if someone made fun of GWB every day for our WMD intelligence.  If such jokes at his expense occur frequently enough, maybe he will get mad enough to do the real thorough house cleaning of the CIA which is desperately overdue.

The other thing Rock poked fun at Bush for was the growing deficit.  Hey, conservatives out there, what's wrong with that?  Again, I am smart enough to understand there are valid reasons for deficits - wars and recessions are two of them.  Also, I understand that if you want to cut spending, you usually have to cut taxes first, drive the budget into deficit, and use that as a lever for getting spending cuts.  However, Bush has done NOTHING in four years to try to reign in domestic spending, and has done several things (e.g. prescription drug benefit) that greatly increase spending.  Reagan ended up with large deficits but only after putting up a valiant fight with a Democratic-controlled Congress to cut spending.  GWB has a Republican Congress and hasn't even tried.  So what's wrong, even for conservatives, with taking a poke at GWB on deficits?

Oh yes, the blogs have one other complaint - that he said "ass".  You know, whenever I hear this kind of complaint, it just reminds me of Beavis and Butthead going "heh, heh heh, heh -- he said ass -- heh, heh"

That Awkward Global Test, Part 1

The Duelfer Report has become sort of a political Rorschach test for both opponents and supporters of the war in Iraq. Opponents of the war (examples here and here) will point to the findings that Iraq, at the time of the invasion, did not have WMD's and probably got rid of them soon after sanctions began and that inspections seemed to be working. War supporters (examples here and here) will point to the findings that Saddam was carefully maintaining the capability to produce WMD's in anticipation of restarting the programs when sanctions lifted. Rather than read all these conflicting reports, go to the original - the executive summary of the report is clear and you can get the gist in a page or two.

The point of the post is really not about WMD's, but about other countries and their attitudes about US and the war. As quick background, I supported the war in Afghanistan, because they obviously harbored those who attacked us and I felt it was important to set the example of a strong response to a terrorist act (rather than the weak response to the USS Cole or the first WTC bombing). The fact that Afghanis are having their first election in millennia and tens of millions of people, particularly women, are freed from the shackles of totalitarianism is just gravy. I opposed the war in Iraq, mostly because I did not think it was our job as a country, or my job as a taxpayer, to help clean up the world. I am not dumb -- I get the argument about stopping Hitler in Czechoslovakia, but I was worried that success would be pushing on a balloon - we might push back terrorism and totalitarianism in Iraq, but what about Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iran, etc?? Hitler was a one-headed monster - Islamic fascism unfortunately seems to be a many headed hydra. I know that President Bush would argue that a free and sortof democratic Iraq could be the seed around which moderation crystallizes in the Arab world. I would dearly love this to be true, but I fear that it is wishful thinking.

However, I will say that I have occasionally wavered in my opposition to the Iraq war. One reason is that I am thrilled to see Saddam gone and the Iraqi's trying to make a go of a free society. I wish them well. I cannot understand nor tolerate people who allow their opposition to the war and/or the president to cause them to root for failure as the Iraqi people try to make a go of it.

Second, as is sometimes the case as a libertarian, I have found myself, in my opposition to the war, uncomfortable with many of my bedfellows.

For example, many folks who oppose the war seem to feel that they actually have to go overboard and defend Saddam and pre-war Iraq. An extreme example is Michael Moore's ridiculous Fahrenheit 9/11, which tried to paint a happy picture of Saddam dominated Iraq. I find that position indefensible. Saddam sucked, and Iraq under Saddam sucked. The lighter version of this position is the Kerry campaign's position that we have substituted one bad thing (Saddam) for another (chaos and violence), with the implication that the Iraqi people are (or should be) unhappy with the trade. This is ridiculously disingenuous. Absolutely no one taking this position, that chaos is worse than dictatorship, would take this position for their own country. The proof? When faced with the choice of adopting a more statist security system in this country (Patriot Act, detentions, etc.) to avoid chaos and violence (e.g. future terrorist attacks) the anti-war crowd opposed these measures. And I promise, for all the talk of Bushitler, etc, these measures are trivial compared to what was done to keep "order" in Saddam's Iraq. So it strikes me as tremendously hypocritical to advocate for the Iraqi's a course no one would consider here in the US.

The other issue on which I disagree with my anti-war brethren is this notion of not building up a sufficient alliance or getting enough global approval. This is actually the point I have been trying to get to in this post. For months, I have suspected that this discussion was both naive and misdirected. Naive, because all along I was pretty sure that France and Russia were Saddam's allies, and no more likely to join a coalition against him than Mussolini was going to join the allies against Germany. Misdirected, because if we are going to wage a war with Islamo-fascists, help from countries like Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia is probably far more important than getting a few hundred MP's from France or Germany. Recent reports, including the Duelfer report and investigations of the ongoing UN oil-for-food program scandal, have begun to put factual flesh on the bones of my suspicions.

Since this post is going long already, I will continue in part 2.

UPDATE #1

I had a couple of emails already on Iraq. Let me clarify. I do not outright oppose the use of the military, even unilaterally, as a foreign policy tool. Also, I am not one of those idiots that somehow want to believe that terrorists are only attacking us because they have some valid complaints, and if we would just peacefully resolve their valid complaints, they would go away. Most terrorists and the nations that support them are bullies that hate our entire way of life, and who respond to nothing other than force. I have no problem agreeing that fighting terrorism will require military action against sponsoring nations, not just police work.

However, the attack on Iraq and its timing never quite made sense to me. I think of Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, et al as a bunch of teenage boys who have been raising hell in the neighborhood for over a decade. After years of ignoring their crimes or at worst giving them a stern talking to, we suddenly take one aside (and not necessarily even the one most culpable) and shoot him. This made some sense with Afghanistan, since we could draw a direct line of culpability between the Taliban and the 9/11 attacks. But was it time to shoot Iraq? And while there certainly were links between Iraq and terrorists, were they really worse than Syria's or Iran's or Saudi Arabia's. Certainly shooting Iraq got the group's attention, that we can hopefully mine diplomatically over the coming years, but shooting Afghanistan should have had a similar effect, and we never really tried to leverage that before we moved on to Iraq.

UPDATE #2

By the way, leaving now in Iraq and giving up and/or giving in would be a disaster. Reagan's retreat from Lebanon and Clinton's retreat from Somalia were disasters to US Foreign Policy. Our best weapon is to give the opposition no hope of victory. Once you demonstrate there is a point at which you back down, you will always be driven to that point by the opposition. I disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq, but now that we are there, there is no turning back the clock. Our presence is a fact and we must make it a success or it will really be a waste. Good article by Orson Scott Card on this subject here. Relevant quote:

However, there is an element of truth in Roberts's remark. For a time, the humiliatingly rapid defeat of Iraq's military (with the tacit consent of many Iraqi soldiers, it's important to add) will cause angry young men in the Muslim world to enlist in greater numbers in the effort to wipe out that stain on Muslim honor.

But it is not an infinitely expanding cycle. There is not an endless supply of young Muslim men willing to kill -- or die -- to inflict painful but strategically meaningless attacks on a grimly determined America.

But if America is not grimly determined, then that changes everything. Instead of recognizing the futility of giving their lives to kill Americans, these Muslim young men will be filled with hope that their sacrifice might yield results.