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4 September 2015
4 September 2015
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Jennifer Jacobs, writing in Iowa Poll: Clinton leads, but Sanders draws near for The Des Moines Resgister reports”:
Liberal revolutionary Bernie Sanders, riding an updraft of insurgent passion in Iowa, has closed to within 7 points of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential race.
She’s the first choice of 37 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers; he’s the pick for 30 percent, according to a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll.
But Clinton has lost a third of her supporters since May, a trajectory that if sustained puts her at risk of losing again in Iowa, the initial crucible in the presidential nominating contest.
This is the first time Clinton, the former secretary of state and longtime presumptive front-runner, has dropped below the 50 percent mark in four polls conducted by the Register and Bloomberg Politics this year.
Joe Biden is a major factor here, polling at 14 percent, but Bernie’s message is resonating as reported by Martin Pengelly, writing for The Guardian in Sanders highlights differences with Clinton after Iowa poll shows tight race:
Asked on CNN how he would take on “the billionaire class”, a central target of his campaign stump speeches, in ways Clinton would not, Sanders said: “I believe that, when you have so few banks with so much power … you have got to break them up. That is not Hillary Clinton’s position.
“I believe that our trade policies—have been a disaster. I am helping to lead the effort against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That is not Hillary Clinton’s position.”
Sanders also said that he would “defeat” the Keystone pipeline, expand social security and raise the minimum wage to $15, all things Clinton would not do.
Touching on foreign policy, which has not been a focus of his campaign, he said: “I voted against the war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton voted for it.”
In a subsequent appearance on ABC, Sanders was asked about his votes against military force in Iraq and in Syria, as well as the first Gulf War. In 2001, after 9/11, he voted in support of the invasion of Afghanistan.
“There are times when you have to use military force,” he said, “no question about it. I am prepared to do it, but that is the last resort, not the first.
“I think historically, in too many instances, the United States has gone to war often unilaterally when we should not have.”
Then there is the little Constitutional matter of Congress never having voted to go to war.
4 September 2015
4 September 2015
31 August 2015
Former Plain Dealer columnist James Neff has written a thriller-like book—Vendetta: Bobby Kennedy Versus Jimmy Hoffa—of the long smoldering battle between Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa, two giants on the national scene in the 1950s and 1960s.
The book is stacked with inside info about how Bob Kennedy, as a staffer of the 1950s Senate Rackets Committee and the 1960s U. S. Attorney General under his brother President Jack Kennedy relentlessly pursued the Teamster boss.
Sy Hersh, a Pulitzer winner, rightly appraises the book:
If you think you know it all you don’t. James Neff has turned Bobby Kennedy’s headline-making clash with Jimmy Hoffa into a psychological thriller about two tough, powerful, and vengeful men who fought with all they had, exhausting both. This is not a book about a good Bobby versus a bad Hoffa. It is a study of two men who always got what they wanted staging a shoot-out on the streets of Laredo. And, as Neff tells it, there were no winners.
Hoffa eluded Kennedy until 1964 when he was found guilty on two counts in a jury tampering case.
Neff reveals conclusively that Kennedy was out to get Hoffa almost by any means necessary.
As one U.S. official noted, “Kennedy and I were never on the same Continue Reading »
27 August 2015
24 August 2015
I keep listening and reading stories waiting to see if anyone will have the balls to pick up Scott Adams’ discussions of the rise of Donald Trump. So far, I’ve not heard a peep. I don’t know if Adams’ is right or not—although I suspect he is—but I do think that he is the only one choosing to look at Trump through the lens of business and not politics. That difference leads him to this:
My updated prediction is that Trump will win the general election by a large margin. (Prior prediction was a small margin.)
You should read the whole post, and those leading to Adams’ conclusion.
Trump is a black swan, and if we don’t figure that out, we’re in big trouble.
23 August 2015
Why do we tell people to do what makes them happy? Is there a utility in happiness? How do we know that we are happy? How long must we exist in a state of happiness before we can consider ourselves happy?
One of the more important ideas I acquired in college came from a Political Science course in the early ’80s examining terrorists and terrorism. The easy take-away from the course was that one person’s terrorist was another’s freedom fighter, but that wasn’t the important bit. What stuck with me—I want to attribute this to Lenin but I’m uncertain as to the origin—was the greater idea that there can be just and unjust war. A just war is one in which the base of power is expanded by the war, i.e. more people share in the power of a community or nation, and a unjust war is one in which the power base is reduced.
As I learned this morning—in reading Oliver Burkeman, writing in Misery, failure, death and a slap in the face. Great advice for life from James Hollis for The Guardian—this dynamic can apply to the individual as well and that the better question to ask yourself is not will this choice make me happier? but rather, will this choice make me larger? Burkeman begins:
Frankly, I’m embarrassed to admit that one of the books that matters to me most is called What Matters Most. Sophisticated readers are supposed to be changed in subtler ways, by novels and poems that don’t crassly advertise their life-changing intent. But I don’t think the title of this wise book of advice should be interpreted as self-help cheesiness; really, it’s refreshing bluntness. Life is full of troubles, writes the psychoanalyst James Hollis, and every choice you make is in some sense a failure. Then you die.
The task, for each person, is to figure out what they are, and then heed that call instead of resisting it.
This is a radical and humbling way of thinking about psychology. It means that what you think you want from life probably isn’t what life wants from you. And it means that living meaningfully is almost certainly going to screw with your plans, forcing you out of comfort and certainty, and into suffering and the unknown
So, life sucks is a valid philosophy? Perhaps.
At any major juncture in life, Hollis argues, we should ask: “Does this path, this choice, make me larger or smaller?” There’s something uncanny about this question, which has seen me through several dilemmas since discovering his work. The usual question is “Will this make me happy?”—but few of us, if we’re honest, have much of a clue about what will make us, or our loved ones, happiest. Ask whether a choice will make you larger or diminish you, though, and surprisingly often the answer’s obvious.
I’ve never asked myself that question, but will.
22 August 2015
Living in North Royalton, Ohio, has many pluses. We have a Metro Park in my back yard. We have a mini-pack of dogs who romp and play in our insanely large front yard and who are always so happy to see me when I come home. We can sit on our back deck and watch our menagerie of wild turkeys, hawks, raccoons, owls, deer and snapping turtles, to name a few, that live and parade through our wee meadow.
What I miss is having a coffee shop. We had one, a really poor one, plain and sterile and about as inviting as McDonald’s (we do have one of those, along with a Burger King and an Arby’s and several Subway shops. The closest we come now is Becker’s Donuts, which does have a single table and acceptable coffee to go along with the great doughnuts.
Sitting here in my writing room, looking out at the meadow, is really great, but there are times when I miss the buzz (the real buzz, not the horrible soundtrack loop) of a busy coffee house like Phoenix in Cleveland Heights.
We can’t have everything.
Maybe the time has come to finally buy my own espresso machine.
21 August 2015
Hey, Jimmy Haslam, can we wipe your butt for you?
Do you need anything else we can give you?
That’s the attitude of Mayor Frank “Neighborhood” Jackson and Council President Kevin “Go Along” Kelley. And other city leaders for decades.
The pair has just given another gift to the Cleveland Browns owner.
One of the most under-estimated downtown businesses is parking.
And now the Mayor and Council President sneakily have given Haslam almost exclusive use of the city’s Willard Park garage on game days. Willard attached to City Hall. Close to the stadium.
It follows the tradition of city government giving away assets to private interests.
Presently, the city rewards Haslam by allowing exclusive use of Willard garage, not far from the stadium the city gave Haslam.
And it’s for Browns loge and special seat fans. Screw the rest of you ordinary Browns fans. Find someplace else to park.
Further, it means those who ordinarily use Willard have to be out of the garage by 5 p.m. on game days. Private customers, screw you too.
“This legislation which came in by Department Request and was passed April 13, 2015 clearly ‘end runs’ the Council, to put it in football terms,” wrote Mike Polensek, dean of Council, to Kelley.
“I don’t believe for one moment that you, Councilman Ken Johnson or the Council as a whole, for that fact, envisioned the Administration leasing the Continue Reading »
21 August 2015
At the first Bernie Sanders meeting I attended, the gathering was white and mostly 40-plus. There was a scattering of 20 somethings and I was encouraged by their attendance. The Guardian has a story this morning suggesting that Millennials, perhaps dissatisfied by the Occupy movement are turning out for Bernie.
Adam Gabbatt, writing in Millennials ‘heart’ Bernie Sanders: why the young and hip are #FeelingtheBern tells us that:
It’s 8pm on a Wednesday and in a Brooklyn loft, a Bernie Sanders screen-printing event is in full swing.
“It’s a four-year-old workout shirt,” says Nick Kowalczyk, holding up a once-white cotton T-shirt that now has a lot of yellowing under the arms.
Kowalcyzk, 29, is an actor originally from Atlanta. His friend asks if he plans to wear his cowboy hat with the freshly printed shirt, which now has a red heart with a cutout face in the middle which vaguely resembles an outline of the head of the Vermont senator and leftwing candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Above the heart: “Bernie.” Below it: “For President.”
“Fuck yeah,” says Kowalczyk. “I’m gonna wear a lot of things with this.”
Dozens of people walk around the loft, an apartment with the high tin ceilings and single-pane windows of a converted factory. Most have brought T-shirts to be printed. Freshly inked shirts hang from clotheslines strung across the space, delicately balanced on window ledges and strewn across chairs.
This energy reminds me very much of the feelings around the campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. They both lost, of course, but properly channeled and supported by more politically savvy organizations, they could have defeated Richard Nixon, just as the thousands turning out for Bernie can help him roll over the Republican drones.
20 August 2015
Scott Adams make the case that Donald Trump is a scholarly descendant of Milton Hyland Erickson, a man that Scott calls the first American-born wizard. He also suggests that Hillary Rodham Clinton is also somewhere on the Erickson family tree.
Because the two presidential candidates are intellectual siblings, Adams sees the potential for the 2016 presidential race to become a wizard war.
What was Erickson’s wizardry power? Mind control.
In 1901 the first American-born wizard came into the world. His name was Milton Hyland Erickson. And to the wizards he later trained, he was their Merlin, or Dumbledore if you prefer. The main difference is that Erickson was real.
Erickson was an autodidact, and maybe more. He discovered that he could arrange words in a way that cast spells on people and took control of their minds. If you have seen the Star Wars movies, you know all about the Jedi Mind Trick. Erickson’s power was like that, but slower, and with more words.
In earlier times, such a person would be burned as a witch. But Erickson was born into an age of science, and in the new world, non-science claims such as his were swept to the side and assumed to be bunk.
Fortunately for us all, Erickson was a good wizard. And he made it his life’s work to train other wizards in his ways. As one might expect, the most talented of Erickson’s wizards went on to amass incredible wealth and breathtaking power. The new wizards were not saints, or even close, but they were generally a force for good. They built some of the biggest companies in the world. They led nations toward social justice. They ended wars triggered by evil wizards overseas. They stimulated economies.
These super-wizards live and work among us, but their powers are visible only to other trained wizards. The public believes these wizards achieved their success with luck, brains, hard work, and passion. Those things matter, but the wizards had more. They could shape reality by altering how people see the world.
What Scott calls wizardry, most people see as Psychology, but, as Adams reminds us, Arthur C. Clarke had a view on the difference: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Can Harry, Hermione and Ron save us?
20 August 2015
Not a bad idea for your family, your community, your nation or the planet (well those too) but a bad idea for your investment portfolio. This email hit my desk this morning.
What has the Wellcome Trust gained from its investments in coal, oil and gas?
The answer is that they have nose-dived in the past year due to falling share prices. By remaining wedded to the fossil fuel industry, the Wellcome Trust has lost £175m. BHP Billiton’s share price slid by 45%, Shell’s by 30%, Rio Tinto’s by 29% and BP by 21%.
The first-class research funded by the Wellcome Trust is vital for understanding and treating diseases such as cancer and malaria. But betting on the fossil fuel industry has been bad business for Wellcome over the last year.
The Keep it in the Ground campaign will keep pushing the Wellcome Trust (and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) to divest from fossil fuels. We worked with Medact, the global health NGO, to pool the voices of the medical profession against the Wellcome Trust’s stance on their investments. Just last week we published a letter signed by almost 1,000 health professionals – available here.
James Randerson, Assistant National News Editor
What Randerson is talking about is the story this morning from Damian Carrington who writes:
The Wellcome Trust’s investments in fossil fuel companies have lost an estimated £175m in the last year, due to sharp falls in share prices. Research by the Guardian shows the medical charity has sold off two-thirds of its holding in Shell but also increased its investment in the fastest falling of its stocks, mining giant BHP Billiton, by 8%.
The Wellcome Trust is the world’s second-biggest non-governmental funder of medical research but has been the focus of a Guardian campaign asking the Trust to sell its fossil fuel investments, which today stand at an estimated £370m.
Current fossil fuel reserves are already several times greater than could be burned while keeping below the internationally agreed target of 2C of global warming. But coal, oil and gas companies continue to explore for new reserves. The Keep it in the Ground campaign argues that financing such companies is inconsistent for an organisation dedicated to improving health, given that a recent landmark report concluded climate change threatens to undermine half a century of progress in global health.
The Wellcome Trust – which funds a range of research into diseases such as cancer, malaria and Ebola – invests in four major fossil fuel companies, all of which have seen large falls in their share prices in the last year. BHP Billiton’s share price slid by 45%, Shell’s by 30%, Rio Tinto’s by 29% and BP by 21%.
Bill McKibben, founder of the global fossil fuel divestment campaign which has seen companies, universities, churches, cities and philanthropic organisations around the world divest, said the Wellcome Trust’s failure to divest from fossil fuels meant it had lost money that could have funded its programmes.
I’m about half way through Namoi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate, the book that kicked off The Guardian’s campaign. You can read my notes on the introduction here. More are to follow.
19 August 2015
I had no idea that a prosecution of the private corporation tasked with vetting employees of private corporations conducting the most sensitive of public work—dealing with our nation’s security—was going on. The firm involved has agreed to pay a fine of $30 but there is no mention of how many millions the company received from government contracts, nor the news that we no longer trust this company to help protect our security.
The most important and, obvious, sentence in the piece is this:
The justice department said that from March 2008 through at least September 2012, [United States Investigations Services Inc, the private firm that vetted former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden] deliberately circumvented quality reviews of completed background investigations in order to increase its revenues and profits.
Surprise, surprise, an organization whose very heart and soul demands the increase of revenues and profits to assuage the cravings of shareholders cut corners to do just that. No corporation can ever be expected to do less.
19 August 2015
—from Wings of Fire: An Autobiography of APJ Abdul Kalam, p. 175
Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam (1931-2015) was a scientist, aeronautical engineer, writer, and the 11th President of India, serving from 2002-2007. During his decorated 40-year scientific career, Kalam pioneered India’s space, missile and nuclear programs, earning him the nickname “Missile man of India”. Some of the posts he held include director of India’s first satellite launch vehicle, chief of the guided missile development program and chief scientific advisor to the Prime Minister.
We don’t send people to school to become parents. They don’t have to be board certified and licensed to produce progeny. People, even when they want to be good parents, make mistakes. I’m sure that Kalam’s parents thought they were doing the very best for their son, ensuring him a prosperous future. More importantly, perhaps, I think that any person able to answer the questions that Kalam asks before this quote—Are you aware of your inner signals? Do you trust them? Do you have the focus of control over your life in your own hands?—are critical because I don’t think we all have that focus. Kalam was extraordinary in that respect. The vast majority of humans are followers, not leaders.
Still, we all can honestly answer the questions, if only to ourselves, and act accordingly.
18 August 2015
Louis C.K. takes us to task for hyperbole, but there are moments in our lives that are amazing and awesome. For me, one of those moments came on Christmas Eve, 1968 when astronaut William Anders snapped the photo above of the first Earthrise witnessed by humans. Years later, another space photo of Earth, taken from the Voyager I space craft from 3.7 million miles away awed humanity. Of that photo—mouse over above—Carl Sagan wrote:
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity—in all this vastness—there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known. —Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
All of this is a lead up to Oliver Burkeman’s Awe: the powerful emotion with strange and beautiful effects. Burkeman writes:
If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t need psychological research to convince you that you need more awe in your life: a trip to Yosemite or the Sheeps Head Peninsula, or merely watching the BBC’s Planet Earth or The Cave of Forgotten Dreams ought to do the trick. But here’s some psychological research for you anyway: according to work recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which I found via Smithsonian magazine, feeling awe in the face of overwhelming natural environments is associated with more “pro-social” behaviors of generosity and kindness.
No wonder, then, that I, an millions of others who have seen Earthrise and The Pale Blue Dot, have turned to environmentalism in some way. How could we not feel small and vulnerable and an imperative to protect the only home we will ever have?
18 August 2015
So, The New York Times talks to highly paid Amazon employees looking to be treated like they’re still living at home with their shelf of Best Smile trophies. Well, boo hoo hoo. Welcome to the real world where work is work. These people fell for the do what you love and the money will follow bull shit and Now they’re upset because they don’t get to play video games and eat free pizza all day.
You want to know why I have zero sympathy for these spoiled brats? Because back in 2012 Mac McClelland went undercover and wrote the real story about Amazon workers, a job so tough that McClelland didn’t last three days.
Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, writing in Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace lede:
On Monday mornings, fresh recruits line up for an orientation intended to catapult them into Amazon’s singular way of working.
They are told to forget the “poor habits” they learned at previous jobs, one employee recalled. When they “hit the wall” from the unrelenting pace, there is only one solution: “Climb the wall,” others reported. [They’re not talking about the kind of wall that Donald Trump, and other Republicans, want to build along our southern border, but rather the kind of wall marathoners talk about or the wall in Officer And A Gentleman. JH] To be the best Amazonians they can be, they should be guided by the leadership principles, 14 rules inscribed on handy laminated cards. When quizzed days later, those with perfect scores earn a virtual award proclaiming, “I’m Peculiar”—the company’s proud phrase for overturning workplace conventions.
At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)
Oh please. Did these cry babies think that The Apprentice was fake television like professional wrestling?
Maybe they should spend a few weeks as a real Amazon worker.
17 August 2015
A week ago Monday I wrote, in POLICE PWN LA TIMES, GET TED RALL FIRED… about The Los Angeles Times taking a dupe of a faked, 12-year-old audio tape as grounds to fire cartoonist Ted Rall.
Rall has not taken the insult lightly. Sam Thielman, writing in Fired Los Angeles Times cartoonist hits back at newspaper for siding with LAPD for The Guardian tells us:
Award-winning cartoonist and journalist Ted Rall has accused the Los Angeles Times of wrongly casting doubt on his professional integrity, retracting one of his columns and ending his freelance work with the paper in order to curry favor with the Los Angeles police department.
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists has called for an investigation into the process resulting in the Rall’s dismissal, saying the Times “should have demanded a higher standard of proof in this matter”.
A frequent critic of the LAPD and winner of multiple national awards, Rall was formerly a staple of the Los Angeles Times opinion pages. The controversy centers on a column he wrote in May about jaywalking fines, which began with Rall’s recollection of a 2001 incident during which the cartoonist claimed he was handcuffed and “roughed up” by an LAPD officer, who threw his driver’s license into the sewer, during a jaywalking stop. Rall also says he was not jaywalking at the time.
A jaywalking stop? In Los Angeles? What? There was no actual crime being committed within say five blocks of the officer in question? Fast forward 12 years.
In July, Rall said he received a call from the LA Times’ Paul Pringle, a Polk and Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter whose focus is institutional corruption. Rall said that Pringle questioned him aggressively about the incident and then told him: “The LAPD says that none of this ever happened.”
“‘There never was a crowd, there never was any shouting at the cop, you were never handcuffed, he never roughed you up, he never threw your driver’s license on the ground,’” Rall said Pringle told him.
When Rall protested, Pringle cited the audio tape, which Rall had not known existed.
“I started to wonder: ‘Oh my god, I’m almost 52, am I getting old? Am I losing my mind? What’s going on?’”
Rall asked Pringle for the tape and said hearing it jogged his memory. He said he remembered the officer speaking to him in a tone he described as “jaunty” while handling him roughly.
Since, in his words, “that tape isn’t exactly Industrial Light and Magic”, Rall paid to have the audio cleaned up and claims it is now possible, among other things, to hear an onlooker say “why’d you handcuff him?”
Rall has produced both the original and an enhanced version of the recording the Times told him it heard, claiming that dialogue on the cleaned-up tape exonerates him. He also questions why the mostly incomprehensible tape was used against him in the first place.
The incredible bit here, for me, is that LAPD, reportedly a sophisticated and savvy organization, resorted to a doctoring of a tape so amateurish that I would expect better from a seventh grade science student.
16 August 2015
16 August 2015
We were this close to winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, achieving lasting peace in our time, bringing all the peoples of the Middle East to accept Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior and losing 10 pounds in just 10 days. That’s the fantasy Republicans in general and the clown-car brigade in particular would have us believe.
Sadly, none of the delusions above are true (well, maybe you could lose 10 pounds in 10 days) but if you repeat a lie often enough, people will begin to accept that your myth is their reality. Peter Beinart, in The Surge Fallacy for The Atlantic writes:
More than three-quarters of Republicans want American ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq, and a plurality says that stopping Iran’s nuclear program requires an immediate military strike.
As long as their son’s and daughters aren’t the ones with boots on the ground, of course; this is why I continue to favor the return to a universal draft. Beinart sees the myth that we were winning the war before the Kenyan Marxist took office as the driving force beneath the blood lust. Except we were never even in the same zip code of victory.
The decline in violence was astonishing: In 2007, the war took the lives of 26,000 Iraqi civilians. In 2008, that number fell to just over 10,000. By 2009, it was down to about 5,000. When Republicans today claim that the surge succeeded—and that with it Bush won the war—this is what they mean.
But they forget something crucial. The surge was not intended merely to reduce violence. Reducing violence was a means to a larger goal: political reconciliation. Only when Iraq’s Sunni and Shia Arabs and its Kurds all felt represented by the government would the country be safe from civil war. As a senior administration official told journalists the day Bush announced the surge, “The purpose of all this is to get the violence in Baghdad down, get control of the situation and the sectarian violence, because now, without it, the reconciliation that everybody knows in the long term is the key to getting security in the country—the reconciliation will not happen.”
But although the violence went down, the reconciliation never occurred. According to the legend of the surge, Iraq’s collapse stems from Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops at the end of 2011. “If we’d had a residual force of 10,000 to 12,000,” Senator Lindsey Graham said last year, “I am totally convinced there would not have been a rise of al-Qaeda.” In reality, the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, began persecuting the Sunnis—thus laying the groundwork for their embrace of ISIS—long before American troops departed the country. As early as 2007, writes Emma Sky, who advised both Petraeus and his successor, General Ray Odierno, “the U.S. military was frustrated by what they viewed as the schemes of Maliki and his inner circle to actively sabotage our efforts to draw Sunnis out of the insurgency.”
When you’re allowed to move the goalposts at will, getting sacked for a 12-yard loss can suddenly look like a game changing play.