Friday, May 30, 2003

Administration lies, war and Iraqi WMD

Quite a bit is being heard now about the failure to find WMD in Iraq thus far. Many are chalking it up to administration lies. While I'm sympathetic to this charge (the Dub has so little trouble lying to the public), I'm of the opinion that incompetence is perhaps an even more devastating charge than lying, as regards Iraqi WMD.

It is an established fact that Saddam once had these weapons, and that he had them into the 90's, at least for awhile (since the inspectors assisted the Iraqis in destroying quite a few). It's entirely reasonable to conclude that Saddam did have a penchant for the things. If WMD were the reason, real or imagined, that we attacked Iraq, then why the hell didn't the administration secure the sites where it expected to find them?

Yes, I think the administration played up the threat. Perhaps they played up the threat to such a degree that the American People and Congress can rightly claim to have been misled. However, I do believe the administration thought the threat was real, at least to a degree. Yet, they failed to take the necessary steps to alleviate that threat -- perhaps out of overconfidence, perhaps because doing the job right was subservient to neo-con grand plan ideology, or perhaps out of simple incompetence.

Their abject failure to secure the sites, plus other sources of dangerous materials such as nuclear waste repositories, may very well have put all of us in greater danger. They transformed Iraq into a buffet for any terrorist group that chooses to take advantage of the situation. Despite perceiving danger to the US Citizenry, the administration did not act reasonably and responsibly to alleviate it.

Perhaps Saddam was working to give terrorists who wanted a piece of our collective ass access to WMD, and maybe he wasn't (I haven't seen solid evidence that proves he was trying to do so). But one thing's for sure: any such terrorists had access after the war, and they may still have that access right now.

The thing is, the only way we will know is if and/or when such a weapon is used somewhere.

Clearly, then, in contrast to Bush's grandstanding regarding having "accomplished the mission", the opposite is true: by their own standards, the administration's stated objective has not been met. The administration has failed. Rather than closing a door to terrorists (which may or may not have been open), they threw it wide open.

With that in mind, I don't think it matters much whether we find WMD in Iraq. To be sure, finding nothing will tend to support the notion that there really wasn't much there for terrorists to get their hands upon. And finding something will provide nice PR. But there's no way to know with any degree of accuracy how much al Qaeda (or any other terrorists) has gained by the misprosecution of this war and its aftermath.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

A suggestion for jump-starting the economy

A lot of very good stuff has been posted around the blogs lately on several topics. One of the most interesting topics has been about the GOP's irresponsible tax cut, the fact that it won't jump-start the economy and what would be good ideas for doing so.

Several ideas have been put forth, and a number of them have been ranked by CBPP (described here in a prior post). They include:

  1. Covering the States' financial crisis

  2. Extending unemployment benefits for everyone

  3. NOT cutting taxes on those who won't spend the money

To these, I'll add an idea that's occurred to me and several other people: Deficit spending on last-mile high-speed Internet access (the Internet connections that lead to people's houses).

One of the hardest-hit areas of the economy has been the communications sector, which suffered a bigger bubble than most (we now have a lot of Internet bandwidth sitting unused). A program to bring high-speed access to everyone would use up much of this unused capacity, as well as stimulate spending on computer upgrades and new devices which could make use of the bandwidth.

(This, incidently, is one reason why Bush's tax cut won't work: it tries to pump money into the supply-side, while we're already awash in supply and companies/investors already have plenty of cash. In fact, the Dub's tax cut runs so blatantly afoul of all we know about economics [and its ideas are already so thoroughly disproved] that many believe the point is actually to push a radical right-wing agenda of forcing extreme government cutbacks in the future. I'd say there's a pretty good case to be made for this -- we're not dealing with people who really care what most people want.)

Such a program would have to be done carefully, as one wouldn't want to end up undercutting the market for current high-speed services. Still, most homes in the US remain without a high-speed connection, and whole new markets could be created.

Selling this program could be done rather easily. A Democratic candidate (say) could put it forth like this: "Bush's fiscal irresponsibility has forced us to make some difficult choices. I we want to keep Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (actually, three of the best programs we have) long-term, I believe, first of all, that we need to undo the portion of the tax cuts passed so far on the wealthiest Americans. We can't afford them, and neither they nor the economy need those cuts. Instead, I propose to spend the money on a program to bring a high-speed Internet connection to every home in America..."

Let Bush try to whine about how we all need to keep "more of our own money" when that carrot is dangled in front of voters. The right-wing would rage about the incompetence of government in such an endeavor, at which point the easy rejoinder could be made: "who do you think built the Internet in the first place?"


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