Dear Iron Bloggers, Judges, Challengers and Loyal Readers,
Tonight I come before you to announce that what I set out to do with Iron Blog - to find out if I could create a place where people of different ideologies and parties could come together and discuss the day's issues without flaming - has been answered. My question at the core of this grand socio-political experiment was to see if gaps could be bridged and meaningful discourse could be had. Can we come from very different walks of life and civilly agree to disagree?
The answer, gentle reader, is yes.
More than the spectacle, more than the game and the winning and losing, /that/ is what I have always maintained this place was about. That we - you and everyone else who has come here and participated on any level - have succeeded is the greatest accomplishment we could ever have hoped for. True bipartisanship can happen, even during a disgustingly partisan election.
I have seen friendships formed here that simply never would have before - Chris and Robin, Jay and Thief, Rosemary and Pineapple Girl. People on polar opposites coming together and disagreeing, but still appreciating each other as human beings.
If only our elected officials could spend a week at Iron Blog, eh?
So no matter what happens next, what is to come or where we go, we will know what we did here, and we will be proud of it. I will forever be honored to have known you and watched these friendships grow.
Where is Iron Blog going? For now, into a holding pattern. There will be no more Battles for the near future - we just can't get them together right now. As a free, unpaid service the Judges, Iron Bloggers, Challengers and myself simply cannot get the time and numbers together to keep up the pace of the summer. All is not lost, however.
Starting next week I intend to start approaching major media sites - newspapers, blogs, online forums and the like, and I intend to seek sponsorship for Iron Blog as a commercial and professional endeavor. I envision an Iron Blog where we are free of Blogspot and Blogger, where our Judges get paid for their time, our Combatants get paid for their effort and I get paid for making the whole mad dance keep the rhythm. In this new environment I believe there could be a huge change in the response to what we need and what we do. Having committed, dedicated followers and supporters like yourselves working for free is a priceless gift, but Iron Blog just can't continue as is. We either need to shut it down or move it to the next level.
What can you do? Talk to people. Ask Kos, Instapundit, Charles and Atrios to take time from the partisan war and /SUPPORT FREE SPEECH/ and /TRUE PROGRESS/ in the blogosphere. The Daily Kos, Little Green Footballs, partisan bickering and party fundraisers are not what the blogosphere can truly be. The beauty of blogs is what /you/ have done, here, bringing people together to discuss the issues and find the answers. But only /you/ can bring it to the world at large. Help write emails to them, explaining how we are so much more than a parody of a cheesy cooking show, get them to voice their support. In going to the sponsors, having names like Markos Moulistas and Glenn Reynolds will /open doors/ that otherwise will remain locked. Tell them this site, this project deserves the simple effort of writing a statement in support of Iron Blog and its mission. Send them a link to this very post. Demand they do more than fight for their pet causes. We must fight for ALL VOICES to be heard.
Together we can move forward and prepare for the aftermath of this election. Someone is going to lose and someone is going to win and it may get ugly. There will be no better forum to bring people together to heal by meeting the minds than we have here, and there will be no better time to do it.
Thank you all for your dedication, donations, hard work and support so far. Words can never express my gratitude.
Well, Iron Blog has certainly barreled back this week. The Thirteenth Battle will prove unlucky for one of this week's combatants, but it seems that the readers have gotten lucky with this fine show. Thanks to you, readers, as well as the judges and the Chairman, for sticking around through the Blitz Battles and seeing what went down this week. And I would also like to thank Jimmie Bise, Jr., this week's Challenger, for coming back for another drubbing, and doing it in fine form and with good humor.
I have greatly enjoyed this Battle, though I have found it difficult to keep up as news kept pouring in all week, starting with John Kerry's speech Monday through yesterday's pundit-class yap-fest. But I think the Challenger and I, even if we were not always on top of the latest news, have covered the issues involved thoroughly and very well. Yet, on balance, I can't walk away from this Battle feeling any better about our involvement in Iraq over the last year or so than I did this time last week. It's not that I've convinced myself that things are worse than I thought; but, over the course of this Battle, the Challenger has failed to point to anything substantive, other than the one-sided rout of the Iraqi forces a year and a half ago, to show that victory in Iraq is on the way.
Let's take the Chairman's questions, and sum up what we've got so far:
I. Are we winning the war?
We are not. The Challenger has failed to offer either a metric or solid evidence that what we're doing is winning. (I do not count killing more of them than they kill of us "winning.") The claims of Official U.S. Sock Puppet Iyad Allawi are belied by the facts on the ground
. Even the Kurds, our most likely allies, are turning against us
But I think the most damning evidence is simply that things are getting worse for our soldiers
and the people
of Iraq. Those people, united once in their hatred of Saddam, are now uniting again in hatred of us
. I encourage you to look around the web today--the rules prevent me from linking to new sources, but more news of just how dangerous Iraq really is seems to break by the hour.
The Challenger opened with a maudlin reminiscence of the day the US military's PSYOPS staged
the literal fall of Saddam, and went on to claim that what was going on now is a "new" war. He did not address the Constitutional objection to this "new" war I raised in my First Rebuttal, and just plowed ahead with that same line of thought in his Second Rebuttal. I don't know what he has said in his Closing, but, please, even if you choose to believe the Challenger that our present troubles are not "the Iraq war," there is something going on over there
. There are battles, there are fighters, there are casualties. And it is not
going well for our side.
II. Can we win it at all?
Yes, we can. I am on record all over the internet for having opposed this war in the first place. I wish to everything sacred that we could go back to October 2002, or at least February or March 2003, and change what has happened. Short of someone inventing a way-back machine, that can't happen.
But I am also on record all over the internet for believing that we cannot abandon Iraq now. President Bush wants to talk about the "Ownership Society," I hear. Well, we own Iraq. We needed to listen to Eric Shinseki
, Anthony Zinni
, and Thomas White
when they said we'd need 400,000 troops to ensure that an insurgency doesn't tear Iraq apart. Maybe we didn't have that kind of manpower ourselves, in which case we should have worked actively to build a true multilateral force rather than barrel ahead with an inadequate and shrinking coalition. (Just over the course of the Battle this week, our coalition has lost another member
At any rate, in my Opening Statement, I laid out the three paths that seem to be open to us: staying the course, cutting and running, or significantly increasing troop levels to pacify resistance without more strikes on civilians. The Challenger, complacent in his claim that the Iraq War ended on April 9, 2003, must think staying the course, with its certain death and misery, is the way to go; at least, he hasn't offered a single alternative. As for me, I'll listen to the experts, thank you very much.
III. Have the President's policies steered us towards victory or disaster?
I am not one to question the Chairman (since it usually works the other way around!), but this is the spanner in the works, here. I'm afraid that my serious--and it was
serious--address of this question in my Opening Statement and Rebuttals has been dismissed outright as a "partisan screed." But it was not; every argument I made against Bush and his team was backed up by solid facts and hard news stories, not opinion pieces or partisan hacks. I stand by the assertion I made in my opening, that the first step toward truly winning the peace is changing leaders.
The Challenger never touched, not even in passing, some of the most important points I made by dismissing them as mere ad hominem
. Even after I called him on it directly, he declared that he made "pretty good paraphrases" and didn't actually address anything.
First there's the whole shifting rationale for war
thing. I haven't returned to it, mostly for space reasons and because the Challenger left it, like so many other elements of my Opening, unchallenged. But it's still there. I tried to explain some reasons why I felt we were not succeeding in Iraq, and I pointed out how the confusing rationale for the war made it hard both to sustain popularity here at home and to tell when we've won. The Challenger dismissed all of this by paraphrasing it as "Bush lied." That's not the point. I don't appreciate having been lied to, of course. And the Challenger did not do anything to suggest that the Bush team had not
lied when I said they did
. But beyond that, there has never been a clear goal put forward by the administration, nor has there been a coherent, reasonable plan. Just because things happened doesn't mean they were planned for; just because things happened doesn't mean they were our objectives. This administration hoped it would work out. Hope is not a plan.
I keep coming back to the lack of planning for what would happen once Saddam fell, or, at the very least, the deliberate ignorance of what our military commanders thought we needed and intimidation on our commanders in the field so they are afraid to ask the civilians in the Pentagon
for what they need. This is poor leadership at its worst; this is government at its most dangerous.
Such poor planning is perfectly in line with what we've seen from the Bush team, though. Yes, it was a small point in my Opening Statement, but it went unrefuted and sits as yet another piece of the puzzle that is the Bush team's inability to lead. That point? The Bush team couldn't close the deal in Afghanistan
, in a war that was truly popular and that should have been prosecuted to the fullest extent. So how can we trust them to win Iraq?
Finally, one of the most frightening aspects of this administration, again ignored by the Challenger because he thinks, I suppose, that it's ad hominem
, is the way no one ever admits or takes responsibility for mistakes. No one ever thinks to say, "Things aren't going so well, so we're going to try something new." No one ever gets fired for screwing up. The course doesn't change even when we're going the wrong way
Again, I'm not going to change your mind about the upcoming election. (I mean, I hope I will, but I doubt it.) I'm not going to change the Challenger's mind. That's not my task here. I was asked to answer whether or not we're winning, whether the president's policies had anything to do with it, and whether we could win it at all. This past week, I fought every partisan urge in my body to paint as negative a picture as I could about Iraq because I do
have hope. But my hope is not my plan.
It shouldn't be yours, either.
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat
first want to thank The Chairman for inviting me back for my second
Iron Blog Battle. I have enjoyed this debate immensely and appreciate
the confidence he's had in me to give a good and informed fight. I
trust that I've repaid tht confidence and the hard work he's put out
(in some very trying circumstances) with a good debate here this week.
I also want to thank my opponent, the estimable Jay Bullock. I know he
has had to spend a good amount of time at the computer when it might
have been a lot more comfortable for him to be resting elsewhere. I
appreciate the time he's spent in crafting his arguments and in
forcing me to work very hard indeed to rebut them. I hope that I've
given him a battle worthy of the work he's invested. Lastly I want to
thank all of you. None of us debate simply because we want to hear the
sounds of our own voices. We want what we say to be heard, considered,
and weighed. I appreciate greatly that you all have taken the time to
read what I've had to say. Whether in the end you agree with me or
not, I know that you have at least given me the respect of considering
what I've written. I consider that valuable and am grateful to all of
you for it.
Now to the question: Are we winning in Iraq?
Well, of course we are. By any reasonable metric - several of which I
demonstrated to you in my First Rebuttal, we are defeating the
disaffected Baathists, the paid mercenaries from Syria and Iran, and
the al-Zarqawi terrorists who seek every day to convince us that we
are not. We kill them in almost unbelieveable numbers, we have largely
driven them from their places of sanctuary into smaller and smaller
areas where Coalition military encircles them while the Iraqi
government erodes their support inside the country with newly-found
political acumen. National election planning continues apace as Iraq
builds polling places and prepares for a January election - the first
free election in the country in over three decades.
You had only to watch the leader of Iraq - the man who heads a
government given unanimous legitimacy by the UN Security Council -
address a joint session of Congress to see a tangible sign of how we
are winning in Iraq.
Yet the war we fight is not won.
My opponent would have you believe that because we face setbacks -
some serious - that we are losing. He would quote opinion pieces from
news magazines and anti-war bloggers living in Iraq to bolster his
opinions. He points you to a National Intelligence Estimate that he
says he tends to believe aftre he's already told you how he's doubted
its veracity. He says the President had no plan but quotes the
analysis of a man who tells you that not only was there a plan but
also that the plan has changed to fit the rapidly-changing reality of
I've chosen largely not to use the opinions of others because I
beleive we've already heard far too many of them. Blogs far and wide
are chocked-full of people who are all too willing to give their own
opinions on someone else's opinions until it's nearly impossible to
tell what the original opinion was. I don't believe that is how we
ought to debate this issue. In my arguments, I've tried very hard to
give you news articles, statistical abstracts, and the words of the
people with their hands under the hood, so to speak, so that you can
decide for yourselves. I've shown you, using the words of the Iraqi
Prime Minister himself, that there is a plan and that it's being
implemented. I've shown you who the enemies are in Iraq and how we're
beating them tactically and for the minds of the Iraqi people. I've
demonstrated that we've won the first war and are winning the second
(which, I ought to note commenced the moment that the first shot from
the assorted rabble rang out against our troops and our soldiers, in
defense of themselves and the innocents around them, fired back.
Constitutional approval for our troops to defend themselves against
terrorists and assorted rabble? You don't need me to demostrate that
to you, do you?).
Much of my opponent's response to my arguments have been, "Oh yeah?
Well this critic disagrees with you!". And of course they do. Critics
disagree with people. That's the one and only thing in their job
description. Amd Jay's critics excel in their jobs. Their criticisms
flow like a river from the Internet and right into his arguments. But
they're not facts. They're opinions - no more valid than yours and
mine. But that's what he has.
I'm not saying that our fight in Iraq right now has been perfect. I'd
be foolish to do so. But I'm also not willing to equate a difficult
fight to losing which is exactly what Jay has done during this debate.
Because our soldiers are being killed, we are losing. Because parts of
Iraq are not secured, we are losing. Because we are spending a lot of
money to rebuild Iraq, we are losing. Because the whole of Iraq did
not erupt into Times Square on New Year's Eve, we are losing. What he
has not considered - what he can not
consider is that we are
losing soldiers because there is a concerted effort from two other
nations to ensure that the Iraqi government fails, that reviving the
spirit of a nation made insensate by decades of abuse and cruelty
takes more than a year, that convincing those who want back the
uncontested power they once had takes time and stubborn determination,
and that putting back together a country that has been ruined and
despoiled by a man who chose to enrich himself while children starved
and died can not be done cheaply. He can not consider these things
because if he does - if any of us do - we have to admit that just
perhaps what the President has been doing in Iraq for over a year may
make some sense. If he considers these things, he may find that he
will have to give the President some credit for the good things that
have happened in Iraq. My friends, I assure you that you will see the
sun moving backwards in the sky or John Kerry taking only one position
on an issue before you see that happen.
In early 2003, US forces, "unilaterally" accompanied by soldiers of
several other nations stormed back into Iraq with the goal of
defeating the Iraqi Army and deposing Saddam Hussein. We accomplished
that without question. Then we marshalled more allies to rebuild a
broken but hopeful Iraq and were saddened when some who had promised
to help us in this just cause decided to forego their promises. But we
continued on. It didn't take long, though, before others came to Iraq.
Bearing weapons given them by hostile neighbors and with pockets
bulging with money to buy anything they wanted, foreign fighters -
some who carried the names of Hezbollah and Hamas but some who merely
wanted their chance to shoot and kill Great Satans - found those
remnants of the prior regime intent on halting this new government and
taking back the power they once held. Soon, they found others who were
more than eager to help - terrorists who had operated with Saddam
Hussein's support under a man named al-Zarqawi. They wished to bring
their own war to Iraq, and so they have.
And so here we are. The question The first question The Chairman asked
was "are we winning the war?". I believe I've shown you that we've
already won one war and, in ways that matter a great deal, we are
winning the second.
My opponent would show you otherwise, but I believe he has failed. You
have not been deceived.
And still, we are winning.
-Jimmie Bise, Jr., Challenger.