What Do Iraq and the California Governor’s Recall Have in Common?

They are both mainly about accountability. Sure, there are plenty of problems in the new Iraq. But such issues are secondary to the main goal of our invasion, which was to depose Saddam Hussein. We understood that making Hussein accountable for his threats and depredations was the key, not only to pacifying Iraq but also to reducing the threat (by increasing the expected cost) of aggression by North Korea, Iran and other hostile opportunists.

Similarly, recalling CA Gov. Gray Davis isn’t mainly about finding a replacement with better policy ideas. It’s about making Davis accountable for his incompetence and thereby encouraging elected officials to behave better in the future. It’s unfortunate if Arnold Schwarzenegger (assuming he’ll be Davis’s replacement) doesn’t have a good program but that’s secondary to punishing Davis. CA voters who support the recall in large numbers seem to understand this, as do members of the political class who oppose it.

In situations like these, often the fastest way to figure out whether to support a particular course of action is to look at who opposes it. You can’t go far wrong with a foreign policy whose opponents are mainly dictators, anti-American European politicians and leftist whackos. Nor as a rule will you go wrong backing domestic policies that are opposed by incumbent pols, establishment journalists, unions and big-business go-along-to-get-along types.

26 thoughts on “What Do Iraq and the California Governor’s Recall Have in Common?”

  1. That’s one theory, I guess.

    Another theory for your humble consideration is that both might be strategic blunders of colossal proportions.

    Iraq doesn’t seem to be particularly pacified. And the lesson taken by North Korea and Iran seems to be that the best defense against an pre-emptive American Invasion is a nuclear stockpile.

    Shwartzneigger is a political neophite and, as the early favorite, he’ll probably receive most of the Press’s attention…not all of it as fawning as the initial coverage is. The upshot is that the recall might allow California Democrats to elect a Democrat that they like better than Grey Davis.

  2. Come on, Feinstein stayed out of it, none of the Dems. have Arnies name recognition.

    And the ONLY reason this recall had a chance in hell is because Davis used an Enron-ified number for the deficit in the last election.

    I think this whole thing IS indeed a punitive populist measure.

    And Issa bowing out of it was pure high-road genius: if the R’s take it, he’ll get some cookies for that move from the national GOP. Especially if Bush then takes CA in 2004.

    Hell, “a rancid piece of cheese” is tied with Davis staying in on the totally-non-scientific web poll on my blog.

  3. Patrick,

    Your implicit rewriting of recent history is quite interesting. Apparently, Iran and North Korea have just started working on nuclear weapons to protect themselves from the big evil American Empire.

    No matter how many decades of lies they have produced, the likes of Iran and NK can always make up a last-minute excuse for some indefensible age-old policy and, in all supposedly well-informed democracies, find people to believe them.

    Just so you know, Iran has been trying to acquire nuclear weapons about 30 years ago to protect itself from…Iraq, which was acquiring a so-called “experimental” (that’s diplomatic slang for “not civilian”) reactor from France. Due to the Islamic Revolution, and after the said reactor was flattened by Israel (which everybody called “immoral” and “illegal” at the time – rings a bell ?), their efforts slowed down but never really stopped. They redoubled after the collapse of the former USSR – 14 years ago now – made such material, and the knowledge about it, more accessible. The current nuclear effort, involving the building of nuclear plants by the Russian started back then. Before the first Gulf War. So I’m afraid you’re a wee late on this ball. Better late than never, I guess.

    As for North Korea, all its neighbors, whether Japanese, Chinese or Russian, consider it a threat or a problem. The only people who believe it to be a victim are the same westerners who never gave a flying f*** about North Koreans or Iraqis and couldn’t be bothered to do anything for them unless *they* are personally and directly threatened.

    Not in their name.

    “Please do not disturb” is what they should wear around their necks so the rest of us know better and avoid intruding in their reality distortion fields with poisonous things like facts and history.

  4. Sylvain,
    before you accuse me of ‘rewriting history’,
    get your own history right:

    It’s not the Soviet Union that fell fourteen years ago, but the Berlin Wall. You are off by a couple of years.

    Your history of Iran’s nuclear development efforts isn’t particularly credible:
    The U.S. didn’t accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons until 1995, but you’re saying that Iran had a continuous nuclear development program that started almost twenty years before that. Before even the Shah was overthrown ?

    But back to current events, The fact that a major chunk of the U.S. Military is bogged down in Iraq and desperately in need of reinforcement troops (that the U.S. doesn’t have, unless it takes them out of Korea or Japan)…is a deterent in what way ?

    And as far as Shwartznegger goes; I understand that it’s not just the Democrats that are looking to take him down, but Rush Limbaugh too.

    since politics isn’t like an action movie, some of the flak aimed at him is bound to do some damage. Of course, since he’s a neophyte at running for elections, we don’t know how well he’ll handle it.

    I’m not saying that he can’t win, just that he’s not a shoo-in, and the cost of failure will be greater than if the republicans had never launched the recall effort.

    Likewise the Iraq invasion: our military might have won the battle for Bagdhad, but if it can’t hold it, then the cost of failure will be greater than if we had never started the war.

    Like I said, colossal strategic blunders.

  5. Patrick,

    I think that you missed a large part of my point, which was that we will have been successful in Iraq even if the post-war doesn’t go well. Never mind your characterization of us as “bogged down,” which I think is mistaken, the fact that we have wrecked Hussein’s regime and killed his sons (and appear likely eventually to kill him as well) cannot be seen as anything but a great success in deterring would-be Husseins around the world.

    Surely such an outcome, far from representing a “strategic blunder,” is of great value to us.

  6. Patrick, most people agree the Soviet Union unraveled in 1989 with the Berlin Wall. The official end, with the CEI flag etc is a cosmetic conclusion to that. As you say, we are talking about a couple of years.

    Second, does a US “accusation” issued in 1995 prove nothing happened before ? Since when ? As for not finding it “particularly credible”, that is only your opinion, and one that reveals your rather large ignorance in this particular department. Anybody smart enough to Google “Iran nuclear weapons program” and click on the 4th link could find this : http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/menukes.cfm, among many other sources, which states : “Iran’s nuclear program began under the Shah in 1974”. So yes, good friend, before the Shah was overthrown, and because Saddam next door was going down that road too. Duuuuuh. (Hello, McFly, anybody home ?)And this : “In 1987 and 1988, the reactor sites at Bushehr I and II were damaged by Iraqi air strikes, and progress was again arrested. ” So yes, nuclear power plants were being built before Gulf War 1, and before the Berlin Wall came down, and therefore before the Soviet Union collapsed. Any questions ?

    But I guess such intense research is below you or not worthy of your precious time. In any case, I recommend checking your own assumptions before attacking the credibility of others. And sticking to facts and proof instead of trying to shoot the messenger. It’s nicer that way. Or you can dismiss as “not particularly credible” anything you don’t want to hear. That’s OK but please kindly refrain from doing so here and go loiter somewhere else.

    As for your question related to the US military being bogged down, I would be tempted to point out that more people have died from the heat in Paris in the past two weeks than GIs in Iraq in the past couple of months but that’s too easy. Well, if it is not a deterrent, how do you explain NK getting all worked up about it and begging for a non-aggression treaty, and then agreeing to six-party talks they’ve been refusing for years ? I have news for you : people scream for non-aggression treaties and negotiations when they shit in their pants, not when they’re all gung-ho and self-confident.

    As for Iran, it is even more involved in talks to reinstate official relations in the US now, and quite cooperative against Al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives. Granted, it’s more fun to believe they hate our guts and want to pick a fight. They don’t. They can’t. They won’t.

    I’ll pass on the assumption that NK can’t be dealt with without the troops currently present in Iraq. We hear those every time. You can’t win in Afghanistan in the winter. You can’t win in Iraq in the summer. The supply lines are too stretched, not enough troops, Baghdad will be Stalingrad, blah blah blah. Yawn.

    As for Arnold, I honestly don’t care much about that circus. I’d almost say my laundry matters more to me, to put it in prospective.

  7. Jonathan,
    I seem to recall that we invaded Iraq to “disarm” Saddam Hussein because he had failed to do so voluntarily, because we had “hard evidence” that he had illicit “weapons of Mass Destruction” which posed an “imminent threat” to America.

    No argument that deposing Saddam Hussein was part of that much larger goal. But if that’s the only part of a goal that we’ve achieved (because we were badly mistaken about the rest), I can’t classify the whole entreprise as successful.

    Not when the aftermath is an occupation that’s costing us about $1Billion a week.

    As far as our Military being bogged down, we don’t have enough troops in Iraq to keep the peace. Wonder of wonders, we can’t seem to get more from our allies (except maybe from Turkey, which would be disastrous), and we don’t have the troops to even rotate out the battle-weary troops now in Iraq, per our military doctrine.

    I think I’m calling it like it is.

  8. Patrick,

    If it turns out there are no weapons, the enterprise is a total success. Saddam is gone, no WMDs. The alternative is a lot scarier : that right now, drums of stuff are lying somewhere and those who know where and what they are have the choice between waiting for US troops to pick them up, or sell it, and their knowledge to others. That would be a failure indeed.

    But I guess that doesn’t really matter. $1bn per week is too much. So expensive. How can we possibly waste so much money removing a dictator that has been raping a country of 24 million for nearly 30 years, when we could spend it at home on pork barrel legislation and highways ? How foul. And in three weeks, or faster than anyone had thought possible : how unsuccessful ! I guess doing something good for a bad reason is a failure.

    And you’re right. Things would be so much better with French and German and Spanish troops. Ever wondered how many they could provide ? A lot less than the UK, who has already pulled back quite a few. In 1991, it took France almost 6 months to put together a full division (10,000 men in the French Army) and move it over. And after France, most of the “allies” can provide even less. So yeah, our allies could free up maybe 20,000 US soldiers. You’re right, we can take on the world with that many more men available. Oh wait, we have more than that left. Never mind.

    You’re not calling it like it is, but like you think it is, which is substantially different; and not unlike the sheep who were talking Vietnam and quagmire and Stalingrad the day before the tanks rolled into Baghdad unopposed.

    Stick to it, some day you’ll be right about something.

  9. Scott, dead right. It’s more comfortable to find refuge in denial. And a lot easier. That’s how we got World War II. Germany spent years violating the Versailles Treaty. By the time France and the UK realized they had a big threat next door, it was too late.

    Which, incidentally, is the ridiculous paradox of the anti-war argument. They believe we should wait until country X, Y or Z is a threat before things get ugly. Yeah. Like you’ll be willing to take the kind of casualties that come with fighting someone mean enough to be a threat to the US, when you can’t even stomach it now.

    You can also see it in France in the past couple of years, with respect to the growing antisemitism there. First, Jews were yelled at and insulted in the streets. Those were only words, they said. Then schools were vandalized, synaguogues burned, tombs desecrated. Those are only buildings, they said, nothing to get worked up about. Then came the stones, thrown at people and schoolbuses. These were just the frustration of a youth without aims, they said (no joke).

    Then a bunch of young thugs climbed the walls of Jewish schools and beat the crap out of anything that moved, children, teachers, with baseball bats and crowbars. And they were not Arabs. No comments, we’re looking into it.

    Plus ca change…

  10. Hey Sylvain,
    you’re the one that started with the accusations about rewriting history, so spare me the mock-outrage.

    Reading the article whose link you provided, I’m left with the impression that this is Iran’s third attempt at developing nuclear capability, and *not* a continuation of the Shah’s nuclear program.

    you seem to be stretching the truth in your cited facts in order to make your point. Take your point if you want, it’s largely irrelevant to my argument, but realize that in making it, and especially how, you do diminish your credibility.

  11. Patrick,

    Hussein’s hostile intent toward us, together with his history of ruthlessness and aggression, made the threat he posed undeniable. We should have destroyed him in 1991. Thank God we finally did (and thank God Israel bombed the reactor in 1981).

    I don’t think the Iranian mullahs and Kim Jong Il are now thinking: Hussein won because the Americans are spending $1B/week. I think they’re trying to figure out how not to be next. If you don’t think that’s a big victory for us, all I can think is that you have unusually high standards.

  12. Jonathan,
    With regards to Hussein’s “hostile intent”,
    that intent was alleged by the same people who alleged that they had “hard evidence” that Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    That has not been borne out by the evidence of inspection teams from both prior and after the invasion.

    Hussein may have been hostile, no question of that, but as he didn’t have the means to carry any threat, the extra expense of invading and occupying Iraq versus continuing containment, is *pure loss* to us.

    The allies that we alienated in our rush to invade, the evidence be damned, is *pure loss* to us.

    (frex, consider the EUCB’s dumping of its Fannie Maie/Freddy Mac bonds a vote of no-confidence in our economy that would have been inconceivable prior to this war)

    The $1Billion/week figure is essentially the Bush administration’s first real estimate of the occupation. If they continue to true to form vis-a-vis budget deficits, that cost is surely underestimated and will rise significantly before it’s over. Keep in mind that Iraq is not yet in full guerilla war mode.

  13. I think it’s obvious that Hussein was an immediate danger. But even if it was not obvious, there was enough of a risk that he soon would be a danger to justify our deposing him. If he’s not a danger and we depose him we still deter our other enemies. That’s a better use of public funds than most of what the govt spends money on. Considering the cost of underestimating enemies, Sept. 11 being a prime example, I think it’s prudent for us not to cut the risk/reward calculations too fine.

    Or do you think that we don’t have enemies, or that you can assess perfectly their intentions and capabilities and know precisely when an attack on one or more of them becomes justified? If so, you have better judgment than most national leaders since the beginning of time. But perhaps you do.

    How much do you think the ECB’s dumping of our bonds cost us as compared to the cost of Sept. 11? Sept. 11 happened because we ignored threats and did not impose accountability on our enemies.

    As a nation we can respond prudently to apparent threats, as we just did WRT Iraq, or we can avoid action until we have absolute proof that a threat exists, which is how we operated prior to 9/11. If you want us to wait for proof, you should acknowledge that there is likely to be a significant human cost to doing so.

  14. Jonathan,
    The danger was so obvious, that the U.N. security council voted a second resolution authorizing retribution against Iraq after being presented with the U.S.’s best evidence, right ?

    If the EUCB’s dumping of our bonds was the catalyst for the interest rise, then it’s what killed the refinance boom.

    Keeping in mind that it’s rhe refinance boom that’s been keeping the economy afloat, if barely, its abrupt end is going to be a severe shock to the economy.

    The destruction of both towers of the WTC and three thousand people was a big shock too, but not nearly the same order of magnitude.

  15. Patrick,

    With all due respect, you are trolling and burying yourself deeper by the post.

    You claimed the very notion that Iran was working on nuclear weapons while the Shah was in power was not “particularly credible”. Presented with evidence, which proved you wrong and ignorant of basic facts since this program did start 30 years ago, you then desperately attempt to claim my “diminished credibility” based, in your own words, on an “impression”, in other words, on your reading of this report. Given this discussion, your mistake and the way you are handling it, you will excuse me if I consider your “impression” suspiciously likely to be biased.

    Mock outrage ? It’s called sarcasm and it was directed at you. I didn’t “start accusations”. Accusations are not ‘started’. You implicitly rewrote history, you have proven your ignorance of the facts beyond a reasonable doubt and are now trying to get out of your hole through subjective “impressions”. Anything to avoid admitting your error and hang your mistaken judgment by whatever thread available.

    The Iranian program was indeed interrupted and slowed down, as I did mention, but with an important caveat you are most careful to avoid specifying : never by choice or policy, but due to events independent of the will of the regime in power at the time. Either due to a coup (Islamic Revolution), or bombing of installations by a foreign country (Iraq).

    Which hardly constitutes proof that Iran’s only or main motive for a nuclear program is the current Administration’s foreign policy. In fact, quite the opposite. If it were not for these fortuitous interruptions, Iran today would obviously be much further along than it is. And with revelations about Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities dating back to 1991, and this unsourced, unattributed 1995 “accusation” you referred to predating this White House by 9 and 5 years respectively, your case seems exceedingly weak.

    You are free to interpret the facts any way you want. It does not make your interpretation correct, factual, logical nor true. You have to argue for this and I am afraid you are failing abysmally. Flat claims of “diminished credibility” based on your “impression” after reading one single document related to facts you didn’t know about until today are unlikely to cut it with us or our readers.

    A few more points regarding your other comments.

    First, UN inspectors demanded a *minimum* of six months to assess Iraq’s claim and status. They did not get that time. But if six months are needed, I’d think the occupying forces would need at least the same amount of time to establish this as well. Interesting how the same people how kept saying 6 months were a minimum are sure there is nothing after 3 and scream bloody murder. The double standard is rather blatant.

    Removing Saddam Hussein is not pure loss to us, nor to the world, nor to the Iraqi people. Such blanket statements are not only highly rhetorical and superficial, they are ridiculous after only a few weeks. As for the “loss” of allies, I never realized France, Germany and Belgium mattered so much to America’s political, economic and military well-being. Specially when history consistently shows the opposite to be true time and again; World War 1, World War 2, Bosnia, Kosovo…who needed who ? Their losing America’s friendship and respect is definitely a painful loss to them. Hence their desperate and frantic attempts at patching things up. Do you see Bush flying to Paris or Berlin to mend fences ? Or is Germany’s foreign minister coming over to make amends ? The facts, once again, contradict you.

    Your bond claim is another flat, flawed statement, asserting causation from a weak correlation. Since the economy was already weak long before the war, blaming its weakness, and the ECB’s, or anyone else’s, bond trades on the conflict is nonsensical, all the more so when bond prices rallied after the conflict. And when recent economic indicators show the economy today to be better than before the war, one can only make the case that the ECB’s profit-taking timing was off by a couple of months.

    As for the claim that such a sale would have been “inconceivable” before the war, that is simply preposterous. American bonds have been bought and sold by the ECB before, and they will be again. The notion that the ECB would have kept its bond positions, regardless of their value and the state of the US economy if it wasn’t for the war in Iraq is, to be blunt, stupid and conflicts with years of evidence to the contrary. Unless you meant to say the ECB is dumb and economically illiterate (for which there also is some evidence, I must say).

    Finally, I recall Congress approving a $79bn supplemental war budget. Most, if not all of the war costs, are within that budget and do not contribute to the deficit yet, or very little. Assuming all current operations were 100% deficit-funded, they would still represent no more than 10-12% of the total currently projected deficit after a full year of occupation. And 2.6% of the total government budget. Your obvious alarm at the war’s cost seem, today, to be vastly out of proportion with the actual scale of the problem, given how early it is in the game.

    I guess if this were 1943, you would be arguing we cannot afford fighting the Germans and must finish Japan first. Europe, the Jews and the British can wait a bit longer. Some agreed with that analysis, at the time. Nobody remembers their name, nor cares to.

    To conclude, we are an open-minded bunch here. Except for one thing : we have no tolerance whatsoever for fools and trolls. And I am afraid you have reached this point. I am sure you can find better outlets to vent your flawed, superficial, misinformed, disconnected opinions, or parrot the mainstream media’s headlines and generally preach to a compatible choir.

    The rest of us have no time left for this drivel, I’m afraid. I know I don’t.


  16. And one last parting note, Patrick. If your claim that Iran is “stockpiling” nuclear weapons as a consequence of the invasion of Iraq was irrelevant to your argument, why make it ? Why hand others sticks to beat you up if they are unnecessary and could weaken your case ? Why support an argument with irrelevant points at all ? And then persist by supporting this “largely irrelevant” point by attacking someone else’s credibility when a) you have no idea what you’re talking about and b) the point is “largely irrelevant” in the first place ?

    Never mind the fact you did use this “largely irrelevant” fact at the top of your very first post in this thread to justify your “argument” that the operation was a “strategic blunder”…

    Or has it just suddenly become “largely irrelevant” because you were so wrong ?

    Gee, I wonder. You’re on to something though. Your points are indeed largely irrelevant. Keep working on that, you’re on the right track.

    Enough said.

  17. Sylvain,
    Yes we do seem to be talking past each other.
    C’est bien dommage.

    My argument vis-a-vis Iran and North Korea was that The Iraq Invasion is no deterrent, but impetus to accelerate any nuclear weapons development. The U.S. attacked the weakest of the three, and was the most circumspect with North Korea (whose nuclear weapons program is most advanced, and who showed the most belligerence).

    The number of years that each country has spent working on its nuclear program is irrelevant to that argument.

    With respect to your six months double standard claim. 3months-pre plus over 3months-post equals your 6+ months of inspections. Considering how the Bush administration derided the U.N. inspectors for being misled and incompetent, the much larger U.S. inspection force with full seems to have come short, given roughly the same amount of time.

    You may think that we have done the Iraqis a great favor by overthrowing Saddam for them; but the Iraqis in Iraq don’t seem to be buying it.

    The Latest Baghdad Blogger article at the Guardian
    has one Iraqi comparing Paul Bremmer to Hussein; just as oppressive and out of touch with their reality.

    I can’t say I disagree with them.

    As far as the EUCB goes, I said it “dumped” its Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac bonds. Perhaps, I should have said “liquidated” ? this is beyond mere selling of some of its holdings. Politically, it would not have been allowed, prior to the fallout from the run-up to the war, even if the economics of the situation had warranted it.

    speaking of money, That $79Billion budget will be used up long before the war is over; almost certainly within a year. A fullblown guerilla war will almost certainly be more expensive than the current $1Billion/Week (maybe) restive peace.
    Getting our military hardware and people in Iraq blown up by RPGs is a very expensive and inefficient way of stimulating our economy.

    you are at least as guilty of specious, rhetorical replies as you accuse me of using, you just seem to be too vitriollic to notice it.

  18. Patrick, I’ll bite one last time.

    Your not listening does not constitute “talking past one another”. Please do not attempt to dilute your own mistakes and spread them around. The age of Iran’s nuclear program is totally relevant when someone claims its motivation is the invasion of Iraq.

    You are asserting Iraq is the weaker of the three. I disagree. North Korea, for all its boasts and claims of nuclear weaponry, which remain to be verified – and can’t be since they conveniently kicked out inspectors – probably was and is the weaker of the lot, for all its paper might. But the risks were higher there. Seoul is within artillery and missile range. And South Korea must play along for an attack there.

    As for North Korea showing belligerence, I am afraid you are falling for ancient Stalinist propaganda, my friend. Is begging and screaming for a non-aggression treaty belligerence ? Hello ? And given that NK’s demands in this respect have become even more urgent since the Iraqi invasion, your case for the invasion being no deterrent is contradicted by the facts so far.

    Your inspection argument is lame, at best. Since the people inspecting now are not the same as those inspecting before the war – and for good reasons – the clock has been reset. Your previous argument about interruptions definitely applies here. The American inspectors started from scratch. Never mind the fact that they are dealing with a security context that is a lot dicier than before the war, and with no help – but no hindrance either – from the Iraqi government, since it’s gone. So giving them only three months is utterly unrealistic. Your case, once again, makes no sense. And to be honest, I hope there is nothing. The alternative is too scary to contemplate; stuff lying around here and there, waiting to be found by who knows who. And when we find it, how will we know it’s the whole lot ? And let’s remember absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Hans Blix himself made that point at the UN and all seem quite happy to forget it today.

    Now I must admit you have a scoop. The Guardian is known around the world for its integrity and lack of bias – a recent article in that paper claimed the US was hostile to Cuba because it was jealous of its achievements in health care and education; which we knew given the number of Americans swimming across on little rafts…right ? – and one blogger’s opinion is always representative of an entire country’s, specially if he’s been chosen by The Guardian. The day the death of the two sons was announced, Baghdad erupted with celebratory gunfire. This, of course, is of no importance to the Guardian or yourself. Nor the fact that they were found thanks to volontary Iraqi tip-offs. As for comparing Bremer to Hussein, are you saying Bremer shovels opponents into mass graves, kills Kurds with chemical weapons, runs torture chambers, rape rooms and puts the children of his jailed or executed senior officers in jails ? Your Iraqi seems to have been spared a lot of troubles in the past 30 years and is obviously not one of the thousands looking for traces of a loved one in one of the 70+ mass graves found so far. As you would say, your Iraqi’s analogy seriously ‘diminishes his credibility’. But if he’s going to make money writing for the Guardian, this is definitely what he has to write. He’s telling them what they want to hear. And clearly, what you want to hear as well. Good for him.

    Just so you know, the rest of us were reading Salam Pax long before The Guardian syndicated him. We still do and it’s quite a bit of fun to compare his actual blog with The Guardian’s edited version of it. You are invited to do the same. And by the way : Salam did not describe Bremer as Saddam; he says Haifa, the nice lady at the office, did. Who’s trying to stretch the truth here ?

    Regarding the bonds, I am afraid you are once again proving you don’t know what you’re talking about. For starters, it’s not the EUCB, it’s the ECB or European Central Bank. The ECB recommended EU central banks sell the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae bonds they hold due to the trouble at both corporations. Just like bankers sold their Enron bonds and shares way back, central banks get rid of paper that smells riskier than they assumed it to be. No mystery there.

    Then you go on making an essentially pointless semantic argument; closing a position, selling a position, liquidating a position or dumping a position are all the exact same thing. Except the latter two provide more drama and artificially reinforce one’s conclusions.

    Your assertion that it would have been politically impossible to do such a move prior to the war is untenable. The ECB is independent, as are the other EU central banks, such as the Bundesbank, which is not selling (http://biz.yahoo.com/djus/030730/1342001394_1.html). In fact, I will argue the opposite to be true, regardless of the war in Iraq. Should the ECB, or the Bundesbank, or the Bank of England hold on to bonds from US corporations (Fannie and Freddie are not govt. agencies) while their value is falling and their risk premium going through the roof, it would be an uproar and most definitely politically unacceptable. Their job has never been to hold losing positions to please Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or the US government regardless of the underlying value of those assets. Your believing otherwise is silly and based on a deep misunderstanding of the most basic facts. You see a remote correlation and you go on to assert a strong causation, jumping from one to the other with nothing to hang your theory on. It is the ECB’s job to recommend selling these bonds given the beating they are taking. There is no conspiracy theory angle here, the ECB, for once, is doing its job.

    As for the $79bn budget, it was for 2003. The point was that your claims of war expenses increasing the deficit were mistaken. And again, even if all the current operations were 100% deficit-funded, the increase in deficit would not be substantial enough to warrant your alarmism. And what does “almost certainly” mean ? Is it certain or not ? Pick one and stick to it. Earlier they were bogged down, and now there is no “full-blown guerilla war” yet ? Which is it going to be ? You don’t know how much more, if anything, it will cost. The coalition force there is larger than the entire Israeli military and on any given day, the vast majority of them (as in 99.8%) see no fighting or notable incidents, in fact no more than the Israeli themselves; and if teeny Israel can afford this kind of low-intensity guerilla for forty years and thrive in the middle of a small dry area, I’d argue there is a good chance the US could (although politically, it’s another story entirely; the Israeli have no alternative but to hang on). Most of the cost i.e. keeping the troops there, refueling them, supplying them, is already factored in. More fighting will cost more lives, for sure. But the increase in spending will only be very incremental at this stage. Interestingly, your hoping for troop rotation would be the more expensive alternative. Moving troops in and out on a regular basis is hugely expensive, and continually increases risks by bringing people who are not familiar with the environment or terrain. These people are professionals. Troop rotation is not an entitlement or a necessity. As World War 2 vets how often they rotated.

    As for the economy, it seems to stimulate itself pretty well these days, and a few Humvees damaged by RPGs is not what’s going to hold it down today or tomorrow. And I never heard anyone saying the point of the exercise was to stimulate the economy, given the predicted costs of the operation from day one. In general, it is interesting to note than money is the more important factor for you. Iraq and Iraqis, US soldiers and other issues seem peripheral to your precious tax dollars. Not fighting to save money can be as morally despicable as fighting for money, Patrick. I don’t expect a Guardian reader to understand this one but one can always hope.

    And kindly shove your bottom-line name calling where it really belongs. You came here and made the wrong point. Once set straight, you turn around and condescendingly dismiss someone as not credible based on nothing but your considerable ignorance. When set straight once again, you claim they diminish their credibility by making a valid point !! Who’s too specious and vitriolic to notice what he’s doing ? You’re on my turf, buddy. You don’t come into my house uninvited to flip me a middle finger and expect I’ll pop a beer open for you, do you ?

    How about this : foreign policy and economics are like medicine and porn. You’re eithe knowledgeable about them, or you’re not. Now, you might be a fine doctor and a porn expert, but when it comes to the other two, you are way out of your depth and have a lot more reading and listening to do before you can show up here, stand up on your silly little soap box and dish out your sniggering, supercilious little lecture.

    Now bugger off. Go litter somewhere else.

  19. :)

    Lex, this goes to show the Internet allows one to publish stuff that is not worth one single sheet of paper…

    But then, since there is The Guardian, we might as well.

  20. You’re right, Sylvain. They are both about accountability.

    For too many years we let terrorists kill our countrymen without an appropriate response, inviting further depradations. Those days are over. Among the 2 dozen reasons for deposing Hussein, any one of which were sufficient, is the simple fact that we must drive a dagger into the heart of the Arabist/Islamist and Stalinist world. Either we drag them into the modern era, or they drag us into the pit with them. Choose.

    Davis & his ‘Government by payola’ regime has succeded in turning California into a modern Dust-Bowl-in-reverse, only this time, the disaster is man-made instead of natural. The decendants of the Okies are getting into their cars and fleeing by the tens of thousands. It’s “The Wrath of Grapes”. Tom Joad, phone home.

    Reagan strongly supported the recall provision. I’m with Ronnie.

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