Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Fisking Edwards

Now that I have the transcript, I just can't help myself. Somebody stop me. Here goes:

EDWARDS: We lost more troops in September than we lost in August; lost more in August than we lost in July; lost more in July than we lost in June.
But only half as many in June than in May, and half as many in May than in April. It is possible to prove just about anything if you're selective enough with your data. For example, you might say that our losses in the third quarter were 20% lower than in the second quarter, and that would be true as well. None of this brings us any closer to understanding whether we are doing well or poorly. The fact that Al-Sadr is completely marginalized and restricted to just one slum in Baghdad, while only two months ago he was in control of Najaf, Karbala and Kut is an indicator that we are doing well.
EDWARDS: And it's not just me that sees the mess in Iraq.
There is no mess, you just really wish there was one.
EDWARDS: They also didn't put the alliances together to make this successful.
Okay, when anyone says "alliances", all I want to know is precisely which countries and how many troops would they contribute. Anyone?

We all know that there are pretty much no countries from the European Union that would be willing send troops that have not already sent troops. Another very interesting question is how many troops they could send even if they wanted to. The answer is a lot closer to "nil" than it is to "enough to make a difference".
EDWARDS: We need a new president who has the credibility, which John Kerry has, to bring others into this effort.
Anyone other than our actual allies, if the disgraceful performances towards Allawi and the Australians are any guide.
EDWARDS: Mr. Vice President, there is no connection between the attacks of September 11th and Saddam Hussein.
See my earlier post that catalogs all the known connections. About twenty of them. CIA says they know of over a hundred.

If I hear anyone say "no connection" one more time, I will lose it.

Oh, wait, Edwards is about to repeat it. Five times. Aaargh.
EDWARDS: The 9/11 Commission has said it. Your own secretary of state has said it. And you've gone around the country suggesting that there is some connection. There is not. And in fact the CIA is now about to report that the connection between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein is tenuous at best. And, in fact, the secretary of defense said yesterday that he knows of no hard evidence of the connection.
Okay, let's get this connection business straight.

We know that many top officials in Saddam's regime met with the top Al Quaeda leadership.

We know that they met with the attackers in the months leading up to the attacks.

We know that Saddam's security and intelligence services provided critical training and expertise to Al Quaeda.

We know that they trained hundreds of terrorists in how to hijack airplanes without weapons.

We know that they gave money to various Al Quaeda affiliates before and after the attack.

We know that they helped organize the meeting at which the attack was planned.

But I guess we don't know whether they bought the tickets or the boxcutters.


And read the 9/11 commission report while you're at it. About half of this is documented in there, the other half comes from a number of credible sources documented here in excruciating detail.
EDWARDS: And, in fact, the secretary of defense said yesterday that he knows of no hard evidence of the connection.
What exactly would constitute "hard evidence"? A photo of Saddam with all the hijackers in front of a big freaking banner that says we're-about-to-kill-a-lot-of-infidels-thank-you-Saddam? What?
EDWARDS: Here's what it means: It means that Saddam Hussein needed to be confronted. ... But it also means it needed to be done the right way. And doing it the right way meant that we were prepared; that we gave the weapons inspectors time to find out what we now know, that in fact there were no weapons of mass destruction
Confronting Saddam, Kerry-Edwards style:

"Say, Saddam old chap, do you have any WMDs?"
"Can we check?"
"Umm... okay."
"Okay, guess you don't. You can stay in power now. Terribly sorry to have bothered you."

Is that it? Why don't you just say so?
EDWARDS: But we had Osama bin Laden cornered at Tora Bora. We had the 10th Mountain Division up in Uzbekistan available. We had the finest military in the world on the ground. And what did we do? We turned - this is the man who masterminded the greatest mass murder and terrorist attack in American history. And what did the administration decide to do? They gave the responsibility of capturing and/or killing Saddam - I mean Osama bin Laden to Afghan warlords who, just a few weeks before, had been working with Osama bin Laden.
The "warlord" story sounds good, but it is not true. Lt Smash analyzes exactly what happened and when. Conclusion? We did far better than anyone had a reason to expect with the assets we could get into position in time. The logistical problems of operating in Afghanistan are severe, and we only had very light SpecOps forces there at the time, so there was no choice but to rely on local allies. Could we have done anything to prevent some of the people we were after from bugging out? Probably not, since almost anything else we could have done would have been much slower. So some would still have gotten away.
EDWARDS: Our point in this is not complicated: We were attacked by Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden. We went into Afghanistan and very quickly the administration made a decision to divert attention from that and instead began to plan for the invasion of Iraq.
Okay, saying that we were attacked by Al Quaeda is like saying we were attacked by the Renaissance. It is a broad movement of like-minded individuals who cooperate when it suits them, not a hierarchical organization. Anybody who would draw up such a narrow definition obviously doesn't know anything about the "Muslim way of war" or the actual structure of islamist organizations. There are literally hundreds of independent islamist or Salafist groups working on all fronts, from terrorism to combat to funding to recruiting to training to political influence or even running in elections. Al Quaeda is an equal opportunity franchise. I think I should start a new meme: "there is no Al Quaeda".

Additionally, to be truly effective, these people require safe haven states or regions, for reasons discussed at length in classic insurgency texts, and more recently here. For the purposes of winning the fight against them, there is no distinction between them and the governments that support or tolerate them. In that sense Iraq was not a surprising choice: it was probably in the top-five possible places where the headquarters and training operation would have moved to from Afghanistan and by far the most potentially dangerous choice to us. (some of the other choices would be Bangladesh and Malaysia, by the way).

If our enemy is just Al Quaeda, how successful have we been in fighting them? Well, considering we have captured about three-quarters of their top leadership (that we know about) and destroyed pretty much all of their training camps (that we know about), I'd say pretty darn successful.
EDWARDS: And these connections - I want the American people to hear this very clearly. Listen carefully to what the vice president is saying. Because there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11th - period.
Yeah, just keep repeating it. What, eight times so far? It's still wrong.
EDWARDS: The 9/11 Commission has said that's true. Colin Powell has said it's true. But the vice president keeps suggesting that there is. There is not. And, in fact, any connection with Al Qaida is tenuous at best.
Repeat it eleven times, it must be true. Nope, still wrong.
CHENEY: The senator has got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11, but there's clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror.
I'm a bit disappointed with this reply. This would be a good time to come out swinging. Perhaps: "Saddam has collaborated with Al Quaeda and other terrorist groups on numerous occasions, and we believe that they collaborated on 9/11, but we have no absolute proof of that... yet".
CHENEY: A little tough talk in the midst of a campaign or as part of a presidential debate cannot obscure a record of 30 years of being on the wrong side of defense issues.
Very, very true. Recently Kerry sounds almost more hawkish than Bush. If you weren't paying attention, you might think he really means it.
EDWARDS: They got it wrong. When we had Osama bin Laden cornered, they left the job to the Afghan warlords. They then diverted their attention from the very people who attacked us, who were at the center of the war on terror, and so Osama bin Laden is still at large.
Uh uh. Repeat of the warlord story.
EDWARDS: What John Kerry said ... he said: We will find terrorists where they are and kill them before they ever do harm to the American people, first.
Tough talk, but that is all it is.
EDWARDS: Here's what's actually happened in Afghanistan... What's actually happened is they're now providing 75 percent of the world's opium.
I'd really like to know where the numbers come from, especially since I've read both that a) the Taliban cracked down on opium production and b) the Taliban helped grow opium for export to finance themselves and Al-Quaeda. Only one of these is true, but which one?
EDWARDS: The vice president just said that we should focus on state sponsors of terrorism. Iran has moved forward with its nuclear weapons program. They're more dangerous today than they were four years ago. North Korea has moved forward with their nuclear weapons program, gone from one to two nuclear weapons to six to eight nuclear weapons.
Now the Democrats want to go to war with Iran and North Korea. Who knew? LOL.
EDWARDS: We're going to make sure that the American people know the truth about why we are using force and what the explanation for it is.
Okay, this was a palpable hit. I firmly believe that Iraq was a masterstroke of strategy, brilliantly conceived and well executed - but it is largely unexplained. Almost everything the administration has said was either a justification (as opposed to a reason) or an extremely general reason like "promoting democracy". The grand strategy reasons: picking favorable terrain, splitting the area controlled by the enemy in two, giving Iran a push, the "flypaper strategy" - those who are watching can figure them out, but we didn't hear them from the administration. Are we ready to hear them? Perhaps not, because they suggest a conflict vastly larger in scope than Iraq. Nobody likes World War 3.
EDWARDS: It's one of the reasons that we're having so much difficulty getting others involved in the effort in Iraq.
Who? Specifically? The Vulcans?
CHENEY: Well, Gwen, the 90 percent figure is just dead wrong. When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well as the allies, they've taken almost 50 percent of the casualties in operations in Iraq, which leaves the U.S. with 50 percent, not 90 percent.
Exactly. The fact that Iraqis are fighting on our side must be so alien to some people's worldview that it just doesn't register.
CHENEY: The allies have stepped forward and agreed to reduce and forgive Iraqi debt to the tune of nearly $80 billion by one estimate. That, plus $14 billion they promised in terms of direct aid, puts the overall allied contribution financially at about $95 billion, not to the $120 billion we've got, but, you know, better than 40 percent. So your facts are just wrong, Senator.
Nail him.
EDWARDS: This vice president, when he was secretary of defense, cut over 80 weapons systems, including the very ones he's criticizing John Kerry for voting against. These are weapons systems, a big chunk of which, the vice president himself suggested we get rid of after the Cold War.
True, but if you look more closely, there is a bit of a difference. This was blogged in more detail at one of the milblogs that I can't find at this moment, so from memory: Cheney voted to cut systems which were essentially obsolete after the fall of the Soviet Union, like the Crusader SPH. Kerry voted at the height of the Cold War to cut systems that eventually became the mainstay of the armed forces, like the F16. Cheney's cuts were probably a good idea, allowing more effort to go into useful projects. Kerry's cuts would have been, well, suicidal.
EDWARDS: John Kerry has been absolutely clear and consistent from the beginning that we must stay focused on the people who attacked us; that Saddam Hussein was a threat that needed to be addressed directly; that the weapons inspectors needed to have time to do their job.
Do their job and then presumably leave him to rule in peace. Oh, and then we could have lifted the sanctions, ne c'est pas?
EDWARDS: Had they had time to do their job, they would have discovered what we now know, that in fact Saddam Hussein had no weapons, that in fact Saddam Hussein has no connection with 9/11, that in fact Saddam Hussein has little or no connection with Al Qaida.
What did I tell you? Practically the nicest guy you ever met.
EDWARDS: Right now, the United Nations, which is responsible for the elections in January, has about 35 people there. Now, that's compared with a much smaller country like East Timor, where they had over 200 people on the ground.
A good point, 35 people is not enough, but this is only damning the UN. UN responsible for the elections? Hah. Not according to their actions.

We, and the Iraqis, are responsible. The UN may bitch but it will accept the results. After all, what the hell are they gonna do with 35 people?
CHENEY: Our most important ally in the war on terror, in Iraq specifically, is Prime Minister Allawi. He came recently and addressed a joint session of Congress that I presided over with the speaker of the House. And John Kerry rushed out immediately after his speech was over with, where he came and he thanked America for our contributions and our sacrifice and pledged to hold those elections in January, went out and demeaned him, criticized him, challenged his credibility. That is not the way to win friends and allies. You're never going to add to the coalition with that kind of attitude.
They're not trying to add to the coalition, they have an election to win.
EDWARDS: And regardless of what the vice president says, we're at $200 billion and counting. Not only that, 90 percent of the coalition casualties, Mr. Vice President, the coalition casualties, are American casualties. Ninety percent of the cost of this effort are being borne by American taxpayers. It is the direct result of the failures of this administration.
Get debunked, dust yourself off and repeat the exact same thing. Why not?
CHENEY: Classic example. He won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of Iraqi allies. It's their country. They're in the fight. They're increasingly the ones out there putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left. They're doing a superb job. And for you to demean their sacrifices strikes me as...
EDWARDS: Oh, I'm not...
CHENEY: ... as beyond...
EDWARDS: I'm not demeaning...
CHENEY: It is indeed. You suggested...
EDWARDS: No, sir, I did not...
CHENEY: ... somehow they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future.

I want to give Cheney a big hug at this point. Strange, I know, I mean this is Cheney after all, but that is just how I feel.

I think he was about to say "beyond the pale". And he's right, you know.
EDWARDS: This, unfortunately - what the vice president is telling people is inconsistent with everything they see every single day. It's a continuation of, "Well, there's a strong connection between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein." It's not true. It's a continuation of at least insinuating that there's some connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. It's not true.
Okay, now we're up to fourteen repeats of "no connection", or I may have lost count. I guess that makes it a definite fact. Nope, still wrong.
CHENEY: We know that when we went into Afghanistan that he [Zarqawi] then migrated to Baghdad. He set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Kermal (ph), where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use. He is, without question, a bad guy. He is, without question, a terrorist. He was, in fact, in Baghdad before the war, and he's in Baghdad now after the war.
Good but it should be more forceful. It is highly unlikely that Zarqawi could have operated without state support in Saddam's Iraq. Of course also know that a meeting took place between Zawahiri, Al-Quaeda's second in command, and Taha Ramadan, an Iraqi vice-president, about a year earlier. Connect the dots. Hmm, I think that will be my new stock response to "no connection".

I think I'll stop the fisking here. The remainder deals with Iran, North Korea and domestic issues. I think nobody really knows how to handle Iran and North Korea at this point, and domestic issues are essentially irrelevant during a war. Sue me.