No, no, no, no, NO!

The Dems in Congress should go after corruption related to our defeat in Iraq.

There’s something parricidal about disagreeing with Ron Suskind on a blog called The Reality-Based Community, but Suskind’s target list for Congressional investigations couldn’t be more wrong.

The fundamental fact the country is going to have to confront over the next decade is our catastrophic defeat in Iraq. The fundemental political challenge for the Democrats is to fend off the “stab-in-the-back” narrative that worked so well for the Republicans after Vietnam (and for which the Republicans have never acknowledged their debt to the Nazis, who invented it). That narrative gave the Swiftboat attack on Kerry its power: whether or not he was a war hero was secondary to the undisputed fact that he was an anti-war hero, and thus in the view of many of his fellow Vietnam vets one of the authors of our defeat and thus partly responsible for dimming their glory as warriors and making their sacrifices meaningless.

A truthful narrative about Iraq would be “We were arrogant, and overestimated our capacity to shape the world to our visions.” But that’s not a story the country wants to hear. An alternative narrative, equally truthful, is “We took on a tough but potentially manageable challenge and blew it due to the incompetence and corruption of the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress.”

I would therefore nominate as the prime investigative targets for the next Congress:

1. Corruption and patronage in the CPA.

2. Corruption and crony capitalism in contracting in Iraq, especially for support of the troops but also for reconstruction.

3. Corruption and earmarking in the award of defense contracts.

4. Corruption and earmarking in the award of intelligence contracts.

5. Corruption and patronage in DHS and its White House predecessor office under Tom Ridge.

The goal should be to establish the following proposition in the public mind:

For all their tough talk, the Republicans are too incompetent and too crooked to entrust with the national security.

Hat tip: Kevin Drum, who agrees with Suskind.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

21 thoughts on “No, no, no, no, NO!”

  1. Yeah, I thought that was a really odd list. Lynch and Tillman? Old news, my friend.
    OTOH, all-Iraq all the time presents an eggs/basket problem. The Medicare issue is a good one to pursue.

  2. This is a great list. But I would change one thing–if this is to be a set of investigations leading up to the 2008 elections, start from the bottom and run these in reverse order of priorities. Slay the National Security dragon and the last refuge of Rovianism will be erased.
    Suskind's list has a different tone to it–and he makes a specific disclaimer that going after classified information will not have the desired effect. But getting the Part 2 of the Senate investigation would be a great first step to start opening doors. Clearing the intelligence community and placing the blame where it belongs will create a powerful ally in opening up the secret books.

  3. But people still are not aware of the real Jessica Lynch story and they were emotionally connected to it. Same with Pat Tillman. The nation connected to these people and will feel personally affronted by the lies. Yes the corruption and incompetence at the CPA are more important but if you want to open minds you need to first open hearts.

  4. Actually, I think you and Suskind are in much closer agreement than you think. I had much the same reaction you had here on a first reading of his piece, but a second says to me he agrees completely with your list and goal.
    As to the poster who says Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman are "old news," I have to disagree. They may be old news to political junkies like we are, but I think the majority of Americans really don't know – or aren't aware of – the facts we know, because the majority of Americans aren't political obsessives like we are. Past that, Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman personalize the larger problems in ways people can relate to directly, they are a "doorway" into understanding the larger problems, and seeing who has been responsible for them. Starting with something the folks who don't normally pay attention can relate to is how you get them to pay attention further.
    I fully agree with your point that the Right has got to be "de-fanged" of the ability to wave the bloody shirt of "the stab in the back," and that will only come from what Suskind termed the"pit bull investigations." Your list is good, and can be expanded to the morons who didn't foresee the need for body armor, armored vehicles, the assholes who cut the VA budget, etc., etc.
    Let the circus begin – I am certain Republicans will make excellent lion food, though perhaps not healthy lion food since there will be so much fat (headedness) in the diet.

  5. This is a good list. It will be very difficult to make political hay out of Democrats rooting out corruption.

  6. "But people still are not aware of the real Jessica Lynch story and they were emotionally connected to it. Same with Pat Tillman. The nation connected to these people and will feel personally affronted by the lies."
    No, they will feel personally affronted by the exposure of these as lies. People WILL blame the messenger here. The American psyche likes heroes, even if they're manufactured. Expose the clay feet of Tillman and Lynch, and you create the appearence that Democrats are interested in bashing war heroes.

  7. re TW Andrews 10:43 comments: Tillman and Lynch didn't/don't have feet of clay. Those feet belong to the liars who refused to be honest with the U.S. population. Both are excellent examples of the present administration's misleading of us. Showing the true facts concerning the death of Tillman and the capture of Lynch will only underline the depths the Bush administration goes to control the facts concerning Afghanistan and Iraq.

  8. "Tillman and Lynch didn't/don't have feet of clay. Those feet belong to the liars who refused to be honest with the U.S. population."
    Agreed, but there are better ways to expose the lies than by what will be easily portrayed as an attempt to denigrate people who are currently perceived as heroes. Forcing the truth about Tillman and Lynch into popular circulation will be a political loser for the Dems.
    Going after corruption and Haliburton is a *much* better bet.

  9. Just one point about Tillman: apparently his relatives are fighting mad about the way his story was mis-told. As long as there's no daylight between the Democrats and the Tillman family, that hearing is a pure winner.

  10. You're right.
    I might add hearings centering around Gen Shinseki, his advice, and what was done to him.
    Because there's a larger narrative of corruption here, the corruption of honest decision-making. Transparency, consultation, tolerance and even encouragement of dissenting views, honest discussion: this is the right way to determine our course and the proper means. Subversion of these principles in the name of expediency is almost always a cover for hidden agendas.

  11. My first reaction is that Mark's comment is 100% correct.
    However, I wonder if events will not overtake our 50-year history of stomping around the globe blowing things up. Then too, there is the consideration that if the Bushies hadn't mired themselves in Iraq, we might now be mired in Venezuela.
    And we already know you can lead a Democrat to water, but you can't make them drink. They went along with the coverups of the October Surprise, Iran-Contra, and the subsequent pre-emptive pardons by Bush I of Reagan-era criminals.
    Democrats are much better at governing than they are at investigating. It may be better to support what they do instead of nagging them about what they don't do.
    Treasure this moment of moderation, because you won't get much more of this out of me.

  12. "An alternative narrative, equally truthful, is 'We took on a tough but potentially manageable challenge…'"
    Hmmm. Politically savvy? Probably. Reality-based? I'm not convinced.
    More to the point, your two "equally truthful narratives" are incompatible.

  13. Mark: :: A truthful narrative about Iraq would be "We were arrogant, and overestimated our capacity to shape the world to our visions." But that's not a story the country wants to hear. An alternative narrative, equally truthful, is "We took on a tough but potentially manageable challenge and blew it due to the incompetence and corruption of the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress." ::
    The second narrative is not equally truthful, though I grant it's far more politically palatable. I don't even think the first one goes far enough.
    The current regime came into power intending to invade Iraq.
    The PNAC signatories in powerful positions, including Cheney and Rumsfeld;
    O'Neill's realization at the first NSC meeting of the new administration in 2001 that the decision had been made behind the scenes and the cabinet and advisors' discussion would just be about timing and tactics;
    the immediate leap to use the September 11 attacks as an excuse;
    Blair agreeing to go along with Iraq later if they'd just "do Afghanistan first";
    the premature redeployment of money and military resources out of Afghanistan to prepare for the Iraq war;
    the references by Abramoff, the Time reporter's overhearing (and reporting a year later) "F*** Saddam, we're taking him out", and the British memos.
    This war was always going to happen. It was a perfect storm of interests: looting spree for Cheney's corporate friends and Republican donors (with appropriate kickbacks to the party slush funds), political "war president" credentials for Bush and Rove, bases and a compliant government for that presence in the oil fields that we've committed to since Carter was president (that would allow us to leave Saudi Arabia to cool out our good friends there).

  14. Lynch & Tillman get spun too easily and, alas, AREN'T TERRIBLY IMPORTANT to the horror that's overtaken our country.
    If we blow it trying to go into those stories, then forget any *serious* oversight.
    Don't forget: the media will be hostile to whatever the Dems do.

  15. Mark, don't you also need to include the intelligence stovepiping and domestic eavesdropping along with the outright corruption?
    The first was the means of selling the war and the second was the weapon to silence opposition.
    And they would fit under your rubric, under
    "Intellectual corruption" or something.

  16. NO, the first and only question is: what were the real reasons for invading Iraq? What possessed the United States to invade – pre-emptively – a non-threatening country?
    Everything else follows after that, either as a corollary or as less important.

  17. Couldn't agree more with your list.
    "The fundamental fact the country is going to have to confront over the next decade is our catastrophic defeat in Iraq."
    Actually, the timetable is the '08 election, and assuming Iraq will only get worse and that Bush may not be able to wait until the next administration for a forced retreat of the U.S. military, it is vitally important that Democrats don't step in front of the bus by calling for the withdrawal themselves, but instead make it completely clear how Bush led us into an unwinnable war and made it worse through incompetence and profiteering.

  18. While it would be great to see these Iraq war crimes investigated, your investigation list is guaranteed to overwhelm whatever 'action plan' the Democrats come up with (which will of course be a trying and difficult plan to do and to think about it, because there is no solution to the problem Bush has created which would not be trying and difficult). Faced with a probably complex long-term Democratic war plan which will not really be implemented (since the way a war is conducted is really the province of the President), and a constant drumbeat of Congressional investigations, which will more dominate the public mind? The answer is very obvious.
    Your list represents the fastest way possible for the Democrats to become fixed in the public mind as a party much more concerned with political revenge than solving the nation's problems.
    While focusing on Lynch and Tillman is equally dumb and EQUALLY ABOUT IRAQ (Hello, Suskind? Anybody home?) Suskind's point that they should keep the Congressional investigating to an absolute minimum in the field in which they really want to impress upon the public that they have a better plan, is essentially valid.
    Your list would destroy the Democratic Party for another ten years. What if instead of doing what every detractor and critic expects them to do (in fact, is ACHING for them to do), and instead becoming the Party That Actually Governs? We could use one of those.

  19. "… more concerned with political revenge than solving the nation's problems."
    It takes some pretty high-proof Kool-Aid to think Iraq is "solvable." The only battle left there is who to blame for creating a failed state. Democrats can't afford to lose it.

Comments are closed.