Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Crush
The first official Army history of the Iraq war was released earlier this week. It details faulty equipment, short supplies, no decent intelligence--and GI ingenuity that saved the bacon of the geniuses in Washington who planned the war on the cheap. It occurs to me that policymakers and politicians have--perhaps in every war, but certainly in this one--traded on the patriotism and cameraderie of common soldiers to shore up their own shortcomings as planners, knowing that when lives are on the line, the soldiers themselves will go around any obstacle, even those erected by their own commanders, to complete the mission. While it's doubtful that Rumsfeld and company ever said about a particular aspect of the war, "Don't worry about it, the troops will figure something out," the troops did, and made the planners look smarter than they deserve to look.

As the Iraq war intelligence fiasco grows even more egregious day by day, it's worth examining how well intelligence has served the United States in previous decisions to go to war. The answer: not especially well, as Slate reported earlier this week. From the Spanish-American War to Grenada, what we thought we knew and what was actually true were not necessarily the same thing.

Here's an astounding piece from CNET on Howard Dean's views on computer privacy. In March 2002, Dean argued for a national ID card that would contain a great deal of personal information about the holder. Dean also suggested that computer manufacturers install card readers in all PCs, even for home use, and that users be required to insert their national ID cards into the readers before logging on for any purpose. Yikes. That's worse than anything John Ashcroft has suggested. Granted, it was at a time before Dean became a viable candidate for president, but CNET reporter Declan McCullagh has been trying to find out--unsuccessfully--what Dean thinks now.

My spouse and I didn't get to see Dean speak in Madison last night after all. The people running the Madison meetup had decided to have it at a downtown movie-theater-turned-nightclub even before landing the Dean appearance. The venue would have been a bad one for a business meeting in any case, too small with nonexistent sightlines to the stage, but it was even worse when clogged with an overflow crowd. It seemed ironic to me that half of the balcony seats were marked "reserved for press." Given that the people standing actually want to see Dean elected--as opposed to the reporters on his campaign, who've done a great deal to sink his candidacy in the last month--the reporters should have been made to go to the overflow bar next door. (Jack Lessenberry of Detroit's Metro Times has an entertaining rant on the media and the campaign from Michigan, where voters will caucus on Saturday. Key quote: "[A]fter salivating over Howard Dean for months, the national media have dropped him as though he were a Cass Corridor hooker and they were approaching the county line.")

So, rather than standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a Rose-parade-like crush, and in a spot where we wouldn't have been able to actually see Dean at that, the Mrs. and I left, and I'm guessing we weren't alone. It was a disappointing (albeit strangely fitting) end to my Deaniac days.

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