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Russert Watch: General McCaffrey, Yearly Kos, and the Bloated Corpse of al-Zarqawi

06/11/2006 04:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Along with Congressman John Murtha and General Wesley Clark, General Barry McCaffrey is among the top three most sensible retired American servicemen on the national media stage. There are so many reasons, evidenced on Meet the Press today, why General McCaffrey should replace Donald Rumsfeld right damn now. More on the General momentarily.

The opening of the show was particularly interesting this week.

First, I just can't get enough of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's dead, bloated face which predictably kicked off the Meet the Press opening montage. One question here: why did the government and the right-wing have such an issue with the Abu Ghraib photos, but this one gets the Thomas Kinkade treatment -- enlarged and tastefully mounted in a decorative oak frame and aired around the clock? It's worth noting that the House passed a law this week calling for a $325,000 fine for anyone who says "shit" on television. Bloated corpse face everywhere, good. The word "shit," bad. God bless America.

Next, to promote the second half of the show, Meet the Press presented a collage of various blog logos. The Huffington Post, one of the most visited blogs and probably the fastest growing political community on the internet, was conspicuously absent from the group. I wonder why. But cheers to the Meet the Press producers who at least selected a balanced grouping of blog logos on the graphic: five conservative blogs, five progressive blogs, two party blogs, and one bipartisan blog (Unity '08). Nice balance even though the party blogs and the DLC's Bull Moose blog can hardly be considered part of the indie-minded netroots.

Speaking of the party blogs, Thom Hartmann brought this up last week on his show... What's the deal with the upside-down stars on the official GOP logo? I'm not making this up. The three stars on the official logo are upside-down. I thought upside-down stars signified, amongst other things, Satanism. At least that's what my Mom told me when I was 13-years-old and wanted to buy Motley Crue's "Shout At The Devil" album. From Carl Teichrib's Pentacles and Pentagrams:

"Going deeper yet, the upside-down star/pentagram has long been recognized as the symbol of Satan. Anton LaVey, author of the Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals, lavishly used this symbol in his ceremonies and rituals -- most often depicted as the 'goat's head.'"

There's a great example of the upside-down star logo on the GOP En Espanol site. Wait -- what? The GOP has a website in Spanish? I thought they wanted English as our national language.

So let's get this straight. Right-side-up stars signify the American flag and the forces of good; the upside-down star signifies Satan, Motley Crue, the GOP, and a goat's head; and the upside-down star with two humps on top signifies the forces of Bam Margera. Got it. Let's move on.

General McCaffrey, a last-minute replacement on MTP for General George Casey, has long opposed the president's tactics in Iraq. And Tim Russert thankfully allowed him to detail most of his views in depth.

"The challenge is in the Pentagon, the civilian leadership. Do we have an adequate military to sustain this operational pace? And the answer is no. I've been saying the Army is 80,000 soldiers short, the Marines are 25,000 people short. SOCOM is under huge stress, and we aren't resourced to continue this effort. We've got to make up our mind. Are we going to pay for the kind of strategy we're prosecuting or not?"

The answer to the General's hypothetical is "no." We're not. If they increase the troop levels, there's a laundry list of consequences they'll face, including accusations that we're escalating during a time when more and more Americans believe the war is a mistake. If they reduce the troop levels, the White House looks like it's cutting and running, and the base goes apeshit. Once again, the only option is redeployment.

Fully understanding the conundrum, General McCaffrey told the Dallas Morning News last April: "It's a civil war. The allies are going to leave. By next Christmas we're there alone. It's over."

Grim. Even more grim:

"Look, unemployment is a bigger problem than the AIF, the Iraqi insurgent force. I think that's the other challenge. We spent 18 billion on economic reconstruction. There's only 1.6 billion left in the pipeline. Tim, when that money runs out, in my judgment, we just lost the war. We've got to sustain the economic reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, for that matter."

The General's plan is to draw down our forces -- and this, he claims, is mandatory -- by 50-to-100,000 troops before the end of the year. He continued, and I'm paraphrasing, that we simply cannot continue to support $10 billion per month in expenditures along with our current troop levels in midst of a civil war on the ground and an untested Iraqi government in Baghdad.

These are cold numbers and the numbers don't lie. I always think back to my various visits to Gettysburg and the assessment of Confederate General James Longstreet who strongly lobbied Robert E. Lee to redeploy the rebel forces south of the Union lines rather than fighting them from a tactically poor low-ground position. In addition, just before the Pickett's Charge assault on the last day, Longstreet estimated the losses of the assault and mathematically knew, based on the open ground, the distance to the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, and the troop strength of the attacking divisions, that the charge would be bloody and unsuccessful. General Lee, many historians suggest, failed to fully take into account Longstreet's misgivings and plowed ahead with unfortunate (for the Confederates) and deadly results. To Lee's credit, at the end of the war he opted to not disband the rebel army into insurgent units because he knew that insurgent warfare meant infinite warfare.

Yep. Had the president and Sean Hannity been around during the Civil War, Longstreet would've been labeled a cut-and-runner (cutter-and-runner?) and Lee would've been labeled a quitter.

General McCaffrey appears to have a rational knowledge of the numbers -- the realities -- in Iraq. Congressman Murtha understands the odds. Only bravado and politics are preventing their estimates from being fully considered by the Pentagon, Rummy, and the president.

On to Afghanistan, where, General McCaffrey says, the Taliban forces have risen from 10 man units a year or two ago to battalion levels in 2006 -- 300 man units. Russert noted that the Taliban is the strongest it's been since 9/11, while General McCaffrey reminded us of one of the biggest mistake of BOTH wars:

"We took these high-value special operations troops and jerked them out of Afghanistan to posture for the intervention in Iraq."

Coupled with the very real fact that violence in Afghanistan is at its highest level since the beginning of the war, why hasn't it sunk in with apologists of the president that Iraq was a colossal mistake and the only option would be to redeploy now - before we face the 2006 equivalent of Pickett's Charge: more dead soldiers without a clear victory on any level.

Lewis Black posed a question in his latest HBO special that summarizes the situation perfectly. Again, I'm paraphrasing, but you'll get the point: how can we all look at the same video of a cat being run over by a Land Rover and disagree about what we just saw?

Next up, Markos and the blogosphere. Here's where Russert's forehead began to collapse in on itself with visible disdain for the topic. Nothing specifically tangible, but you could tell that Russert has no love for the progressive bloggers. Again, I wonder why.

Markos Moulitsas appeared via satellite from Las Vegas, the home of the Yearly Kos convention; Byron York from the Natrional Review also from Vegas; with Jonathan Alter from Newsweek and Amy Walter in studio.

Interesting observation from Byron York:

"The difference is that bloggers on the right spend most of their time commenting on the news of the day, while bloggers on the left claim to be building a new political movement, one that is revolutionizing Democratic-party politics."

But:

"But, you know, as far as the, the strength of the so-called net roots, a writer a while back called Markos Moulitsas a king-maker, to which another blogger, Mickey Kaus, replied, "Yeah? Name the king." The fact is, is that they--Markos and the Daily Kos has lent its support to more than a dozen candidates in the past couple of years and none of them have won."

Yeah. Why haven't the progressive blogs completely taken over the Democratic Party in just a few years? Of course, the answer is obvious. Movements take time. The modern conservative movement required millions of dollars and more than 30 years, give or take.

The CA-50 special election came up and here's where everyone fell short. Here was an opportunity for Markos to bring up the highly dubious Diebold machines used in the election and how election volunteers were allowed to bring the machines home. In addition, where was the mention that, with Bilbray's margin of victory at round 6,000 votes, there are still, according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, more than 34,000 absentee and provisional ballots that haven't been counted yet? Why did Busby concede knowing this? Why did Libertarian candidate Paul King receive roughly 500 more votes (2201 votes so far) than any other Libertarian running (around 1700 each) in Tuesday's vote? Even if the additional ballots are counted and Bilbray still wins, there are some puzzling questions that need answers.

Questionable results aside, there's no reason to believe that the success of Bilbray on Tuesday has any bearing what-so-ever on the Republican chances in November.

Markos:

"Well, this was a very heavily Republican district. The fact that it was even competitive says a lot about the position of the Republicans this coming fall. Now, I don't think that the Democrats are probably going to make as many gains as a lot of people think they might because of the gerrymandering and other factors, but the fact is that Republicans had to pump in $11 million dollars to the Democratic 5 million in order to save and rescue a seat that was heavily theirs to begin with."

That's it for Russert Watch for this week. Some videos from Yearly Kos are beginning to appear at LinkTV. Be sure to watch Arianna's inspiring foreign policy remarks.

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