A GOLDEN OLDIE

Lots of people are now complaining about the Bush spending habit. Here’s my piece from two years ago. Anyone who voted for the guy has, to my mind, somewhat tattered standing to criticize the spending now. On fiscal matters, there was one big difference between Bush and Kerry last November. Kerry backed the pay-as-you-go principle, where every new piece of spending would be offset by a spending cut. Operation Offset, anyone? And with a Republican Congress, you can bet your life government spending would be far lower under president Kerry than it now is under president George “Whatever it costs” Bush. From my Kerry endorsement last fall:

Domestically, the record is horrifying for a fiscal conservative. Ronald Reagan raised taxes in his first term when he had to; and he didn’t have 9/11 to contend with. Ronald Reagan also cut domestic spending. Bush has been unable to muster the conservative courage to do either. He has spent like a drunken liberal Democrat. He has failed to grapple with entitlement reform, as he once promised. He has larded up the tax code with endless breaks for corporate special interests; pork has metastasized; and he has tainted the cause of tax relief by concentrating too much of it on the wealthy. He has made the future boomer fiscal crunch far more acute by adding a hugely expensive new Medicare prescription drug entitlement.

Would anyone care to disagree now? By the way, I’m glad to see that the NYT’s John Tierney has endorsed a 50 cent increase in the gas tax. Sorry I can’t link.

A PATTERN OF ABUSE: Beyond the abuse and torture of detained Iraqi prisoners, we also have the issue of general treatment of the Iraqi population. The Dayton Daily News has just done a study on how the military has acted in response to mistreatment of Iraqi civilians. The results are to any reader of this blog unsurprising:

Using previously undisclosed Army records, the Dayton Daily News found that dozens of soldiers have been accused of crimes against Iraqis since the first troops deployed for Iraq. But despite strong evidence and convictions in some cases, only a small percentage resulted in punishments nearing those routinely imposed for such crimes by civilian justice systems. In a number of other cases, there was no evidence that thorough or timely criminal investigations were conducted. Other cases weren’t prosecuted, and still others resulted in dismissals, light jail sentences or no jail sentence at all… Charges involving Iraqi victims were three times more likely to be dismissed or withdrawn by the Army than cases in which the victims were soldiers or civilian military employees, the examination found… In a number of incidents in which soldiers were accused of killing civilian noncombatants, the Daily News found the Army did not conduct thorough or timely criminal investigations, or there was no evidence any investigation was conducted.

This is not in the same league as abusing defenseless prisoners, and shouldn’t be confused with it. And obviously, it’s tense and back-breaking work in Iraq and some of this is inevitable in wartime. But the military climate over there – set by commanders – is not conducive to winning over the Iraqi public. And so it doesn’t help our cause. I wish we had a Pentagon leadership more attuned to this. But, of course, we don’t.

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