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Deriding Joe Lieberman

By Tom Bevan

Watching the left attack Joe Lieberman has been an interesting and sometimes comical process. Take Paul Campos. The University of Colorado Law Professor and Rocky Mountain News columnist can often be one of the more intelligent voices on the left, but he went completely off the rails yesterday trying to take a swipe at Joe Lieberman.

Campos started by drawing a ridiculous comparison, saying there's a "subtle distinction" beween those who send him emails saying that 9/11 was an inside job and those who send him emails suggesting that Saddam Hussein was "personally involved" in the 9/11 attacks:

I'm pretty sure the former e-mails come from pathetic lunatics living in basements, who post their rants on Web sites that get 10 hits per day. I'm completely sure who sends me the latter messages: the White House Office of Communications.

Setting aside the fundamental unseriousness of comparing the White House press operation to tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists, Campos's charge is also rubbish. The White House does send out daily updates on Iraq which promote good news and also highlight stories intended to bolster its case, but no administration official has ever asserted that Saddam Hussein was personally involved with 9/11. To the contrary, Bush went out of his way almost three years ago to make clear the opposite.

Nevertheless, Campos sets up this straw man to get to his real agenda: attacking Joe Lieberman as a puppet of the Bush administration because Lieberman "goes out of his way to repeat the most outrageous Republican propaganda" on Iraq. What does Campos cite as a damning example of Lieberman's puppetry? The fact that Lieberman says there's been progress made in Iraq over the last year:

Consider what he said just last week: "The situation in Iraq is a lot better that it was a year ago," Lieberman observed. The Iraqis "are on the way to building a free and independent Iraq. Two-thirds of their military is now ready, on their own, to lead the fight with some logistical backing from the U.S. or stand up on their own totally. That's progress. And the question is, are we going to abandon them when they are making that progress?"

This might as well be a press release from the Ministry of Truth. Indeed, it's substantively identical to the "This Week in Iraq" e-mails I get from the White House. I'm sure my fellow liberal pundits get the same e-mails, and are similarly appalled by the willingness of the administration to continue to spout transparent nonsense in the service of a bankrupt policy. (Someone who claims "the situation in Iraq is a lot better than it was a year ago" deserves precisely as much respect as someone who claims President Bush carried out the 9/11 attacks).

There are two points to make here. First, Joe Lieberman has been to Iraq at least four times over the last two years which is, I'd be willing to wager, four times more than Paul Campos. That gives him some standing and perspective from which to make a judgement about "the situation" in Iraq. Second, Campos has clipped Lieberman's quote to rob it of some valuable context. For the record, here is the full text of what Lieberman said last week, responding to a comment by Ned Lamont during their televised debate that no progress was being made in Iraq:

Well, Tom and Joanne, Ned has got me confused again. But I'll tell you one thing he is wrong about. The situation in Iraq is a lot better, different than it was a year ago. The Iraqis held three elections. They formed a unity government. They are on the way to building a free and independent Iraq. Their military -- two-thirds of their military is now ready, on their own, to lead the fight with some logistical backing from the U.S. or stand up on their own totally. That's progress.

And the question is, are we going to abandon them while they are making that progress?

So, Lieberman responded to Lamont's claim of no progress in Iraq by citing two specific areas where gains have been made; on the political front and with the training of Iraqi security forces. Clearly, the formation of a unity government was a large and critical step forward in Iraq during the past year. Even Paul Campos would have to admit that.

As to the training of Iraqi security forces, the most recent Brookings Institution "Iraq Index", published on Monday, reports that the number of total Iraqi security forces (which includes general police, national guard, border patrol, and Iraqi armed forces) totalled 268,400 last month, up from 168,674 in June of last year - a sixty nine percent increase. And as I reported on Monday, Coalition forces are prepraring to hand over security control in the first of Iraq's eighteen provinces. Both signs of progress.

Obviously, terrrorist and sectarian violence remain a serious and formidable problem in Iraq. But even despite the horrific spike in violence in recent days, there are signs suggesting that things have been slowly improving in Iraq . Again, referring to the most recent Brookings Institution index which tracks various reconstruction and security benchmarks in Iraq, here's a chart comparing a few indicators for the first six months of this year versus the first six months of 2005:

Category
Jan-Jun
2005
Jan-Jun
2006
% Change
U.S. Fatalities
410
356
-13.2%
U.S. Casualties
2,862
2,433
-15.0%
Iraqi Military & Police Deaths
1,142
1,021
-10.6%
Attacks on Oil & Gas Pipelines, Installations, and Personnel
61
30
-50.8%
Car Bombs*
448
292
-34.8%
*Data available for Mar-June

Another indicator worth mentioning as well: the number of actionable intelligence tips from Iraqis has increased from 483 in March 2005 to 4,578 in March of 2006.

As I said, the news isn't all good. Serious trouble spots remain - kidnappings are up, as are multiple bomb fatalites - but that's not the point. The point is that Campos's hatred of Bush and his view of Iraq as a "bankrupt policy" has blinded him to acknowledging any signs of progress Iraq - so much so that he derides Joe Lieberman for having the gall to mention in it public. Unfortunately, that's the case with much of the left and the Democratic party these days, and it's the reason they sometimes come off looking like they're rooting for America - and more precisely, this President - to fail in Iraq.

Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics. Email: tom@realclearpolitics.com

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