Browsing the blog archives for September, 2006.

Human Error

Congress, Republican Party

There’s something about the sexual exploitation of children that pushes a denial button. Too often friends, family, and associates of both the perpetrators and the victims avoid acknowledging the truth. Of course the perpetrators don’t want to admit to what they’ve done, but often the victims lock their victimization into the darkest corners of their minds and never speak of it, either. I don’t know why this is true, yet it happens time and time again.

We might be shocked that the Catholic Church covered up the pedophilia of some priests rather than deal honestly with it, but the same behavior can be found in families and any other group where adults and children form relationships. Nearly always the first reaction to evidence of sexual abuse is to pretend it isn’t happening. And even when there’s an acknowledgment it might be happening, the next reaction is to protect the perpetrator. People like to believe they would protect the child, but when confronted with reality they often hesitate to do so. This may be because they sincerely like the perpetrator and can’t believe he is some kind of predatory monster. Cognitive dissonance wins out over taking action to protect the child.

We’ve learned that Speaker Dennis Hastert was told of of allegations against Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) of improper contact with a young male page, which contradicts what Hastert said yesterday. Today Hastert and other Republican leaders are full of thundering indignation about Foley’s alleged acts. The lawmaker who oversees the page program says he knew about Foley’s “funny” emails a year ago. This fellow claims he “took immediate action,” even though the action seems to have had no effect or follow up. And in spite of all the thundering indignation, Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio blocked a vote on a resolution offered by Nancy Pelosi “asking the House Ethics Committee to begin a preliminary investigation into Foley’s conduct and the GOP leadership’s response to it,” says CNN.

I sincerely hope that Foley’s conduct amounted only to inappropriate emails. Whatever it was he might have done, however, we’re likely to find out that lots of people either knew or suspected Foley’s behavior was inappropriate, yet they couldn’t bring themselves to confront him. Or if they did speak to him, they still covered up for him. This isn’t a Republican thing, it’s a human thing.

Today there’s considerable rib-nudging activity on the Left. As much as we all like to see hypocrisy outed, this isn’t something to joke about. Some on the Right are facing up to what happened, but others sniff about a setup or engage in some weird denial of the denials. I suggest it would be more helpful if everyone resolved to notice, acknowledge, and act upon inappropriate behavior between adults and children and not ignore it or cover it up. This doesn’t mean engaging in vigilante witch hunts; just stop the denial.

Update: Could somebody explain to Don Surber that sexual exploitation of a minor is not equivalent to alleged sexual harassment of an adult?

Ex-New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey made life hell for Golan Cipel, who became the object of his unwanted attention. Like Foley, McGreevey resigned. But unlike Foley, McGreevey’s resignation was timed to allow a Democratic successor without an election; looks like Republicans will lose Foley’s seat.

And unlike Foley’s target, Cipel was not a minor. Far from it.

Is Surber implying that, since Cipel was not a minor, what McGreevey allegedly did was worse (note that Mr. Cipel’s claims are uncorroborated)? How weird. I’m not saying either one is OK, but they are hardly equivalent. Adults don’t sustain the same kind of emotional and psychological damage and ought to be able to stand up for themselves better than a child can.

Also, I’m not aware that other Democrats in New Jersey had any idea that Mr. Cipel was feeling victimized until McGreevey spoke out about it, meaning that the New Jersey Democratic Party was not covering up for McGreevey. (I could be mistaken on that point; let me know if I am.)

I’d also like to point out to Mr. Surber and the other righties who are whining about a “setup” that had other Republicans in Congress dealt forthrightly with this matter a year ago, when they found out about it, it wouldn’t be coming up six weeks before an election.

Don’t blame the Dems for this mess, dude.

Update update: See John Nichols at The Nation for a different perspective.

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Out of the Memory Hole

Bush Administration

While wandering around the web today I came across this Lawrence Kudlow article that accuses Democrats of living in fantasyland.

This coming from Larry Kudlow is equivalent to a sewer accusing the Dems of being full of shit.

The whole article is a ghastly exercise in projection — accusing Dems of everything Republicans are guilty of — but I want to narrow my comments to one part of the article. Kudlow says:

And then there’s Sen. Hillary Clinton, who recently stated: “I’m certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report titled ‘Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States,’ he would’ve taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team.”

The Democrats must be held accountable for such statements.

Mrs. Clinton neglects to tell us that the subject of a Dec. 4, 1998, brief received by President Clinton was “Bin Laden preparing to hijack U.S. aircraft and other attacks.” This material comes courtesy of the 9-11 commission, which President Clinton himself cited during his now infamous interview with Chris Wallace.

You can find the text of this memo on this page (scroll about two-thirds down the page). Following this, you can find what the Clinton Administration did in response (e.g., airports put on high alert; Generals Shelton and Zinni came up with military options; etc.). Larry Kudlow doesn’t seem to understand that the significance of the August 6, 2001 memo was not that Bush was given a memo, but that Bush was given a memo and blew it off.

The Clinton Administration did take steps in response to the December 4, 1998 memo. Perhaps they could have done more, but something (what Clinton did) is more than nothing (what Bush did).

Keep in mind that less than four months earlier, in August 1998, President Clinton had initiated a series of cruise missile strikes on al Qaeda targets in Sudan and Afghanistan and had issued an executive order freezing assets owned by bin Laden and al Qaeda and stipulating that U.S. citizens and firms could not do business with them [source]. Also in 1998 President Clinton authorized the Hart-Rudman Commission on national security. You know, the commission that issued a final report on January 31, 2001, predicting terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The report Bush ignored.

The 1998 memo was written during an ongoing antiterrorist effort. The 2001 memo was written while Bush was on vacation.

Back to Kudlow:

Additionally, terrorist expert Richard Clarke, whom the former president also cited in the Wallace interview, made it clear in an August 2002 press conference that the Bush administration had stepped up the anti-bin-Laden effort during its first eight months in power. Clarke said Bush shifted the anti-terror effort from a rollback strategy to an elimination strategy. The Bush administration also increased the anti-al-Qaida budget fivefold. Translated, Bush was tougher on al-Qaida than his predecessor.

Wow, did Richard Clarke really say that? I was drawing a blank. A bit of googling refreshed my memory. Fred Kaplan described Clarke’s testimony to the 9/11 Commission:

Three of the panel’s Republicans tried to throw some punches Clarke’s way, but they didn’t land.

James Thompson entered the ring with a swagger, holding up a copy of Clarke’s new book in one hand and a thick document in the other. “We have your book and we have your press briefing of August 2002,” he bellowed. “Which is true?” He went on to observe that none of his book’s attacks on Bush can be found anywhere in that briefing.

Clarke calmly noted that, in August 2002, he was special assistant to President Bush. White House officials asked him to give a “background briefing” to the press, to minimize the political damage of a Time cover story on Bush’s failure to take certain measures before 9/11. “I was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what the administration had done and to play down the negative aspects,” Clarke said, adding, “When one is a special assistant to the president, one is asked to do that sort of thing. I’ve done it for several presidents.”

Nervous laughter came from the crowd—or was it from the panel? The implication was clear: This is what I used to do and—though he didn’t mention them explicitly—this is what Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley are doing now when they’re defending the president.

In the interest of full disclosure, here is Clarke’s 2002 press briefing, and here is a PDF of Clarke’s testimony to the /11 commission. The press briefing, read casually, certainly gives an impression that the Bushies had stepped up to the plate. But if you know the details you can see that Clarke is doing a soft shoe. Right off the bat he says “that no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration,” but we know for a fact that Clarke had passed a plan to the Bush administration. It appears the Bushies were forcing Clarke to lie for them.

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Be of Reasonably Good Cheer

Bush Administration

For your late night reading enjoyment — John Dickerson on the potential impact of Woodward’s book

State of Denial is a significant blow to the president both politically and strategically. Politically it comes after the 9/11 anniversary restored some of Bush’s popularity and improved voters’ feelings about his administration’s competency. Democrats jumped on the new revelations, holding a press conference Friday on Capitol Hill to talk about the book before it had even come out, proving that press conferences—like many book reviews—do not require actually reading the book.

As a policy matter, the book undermines Bush’s attempts to strengthen the national will for the long and drawn-out fight ahead. For the last year, the administration has been unsuccessfully trying to get the mix in the president’s public statements right: enough candor to show people Bush is aware of what’s really going on in Iraq but enough optimism to keep Americans behind the fight. “There is a clear distinction between having confidence in your strategy and that ultimate success is achievable while also recognizing it will be extremely difficult to get there,” says a senior White House official. “The president’s speeches during the last year have struck that balance. What was Churchill saying during the middle of the blitz—’have no fear, we’re losing and things won’t get better?’ Hell no; he was honest about the predicament, but confident that they would succeed. By no means am I saying the president is Churchillian, but there is a long history of war-time leaders being optimistic even during the darkest days.”

Woodward’s book undermines the effort to make this pitch. He charges the president has not been straight with the American people about how bad things are in Iraq and how much worse it’s going to get. But his most damning claim—screaming at you right there in the title—is not that Bush is deceitful; it’s that he’s clueless. People many not care if Bush admits reality to the public, but they hope he’s admitting reality to himself. …

… Woodward isn’t going to change minds, but he’ll do something more dangerous: He will confirm the doubts about Bush that a majority of Americans already have.

See also Dan Froomkin.

Righties are dismissing Woodward’s new opus, of course. The Flopping Ace, just to choose one, simultaneously calls the work a “gossip novel” and a retelling of old news. But I have a question about what else the Ace said —

Isn’t funny how just a few days ago we heard all over the news that Al-Qaeda was crying about getting their asses kicked from one side of Iraq to another?

All over which news? Does anyone have a clue what the boy is talking about? Or is this Nooz from the Alternate Universe?

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More News That Isn’t News

Bush Administration

Bob Woodward’s new book says the White House ignored pleas from an Iraqi adviser that thousands more troops were needed to put down the insurgency. David Sanger writes in today’s New York Times:

The book describes a White House riven by dysfunction and division over the war.

The warning is described in “State of Denial,” scheduled for publication on Monday by Simon & Schuster. The book says President Bush’s top advisers were often at odds among themselves, and sometimes were barely on speaking terms, but shared a tendency to dismiss as too pessimistic assessments from American commanders and others about the situation in Iraq.

As late as November 2003, Mr. Bush is quoted as saying of the situation in Iraq: “I don’t want anyone in the cabinet to say it is an insurgency. I don’t think we are there yet.”

More juicy bits:

The book describes a deep fissure between Colin L. Powell, Mr. Bush’s first secretary of state, and Mr. Rumsfeld: When Mr. Powell was eased out after the 2004 elections, he told Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, that “if I go, Don should go,” referring to Mr. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Card then made a concerted effort to oust Mr. Rumsfeld at the end of 2005, according to the book, but was overruled by President Bush, who feared that it would disrupt the coming Iraqi elections and operations at the Pentagon.

Vice President Cheney is described as a man so determined to find proof that his claim about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was accurate that, in the summer of 2003, his aides were calling the chief weapons inspector, David Kay, with specific satellite coordinates as the sites of possible caches. None resulted in any finds.

One big dysfunctional family. I like Laura Rozen’s comment here:

And what is Cheney’s source for coordinates for nonexistent WMD stockpiles in Iraq? Seriously, if you watched Cheney on Tim Russert the other week, you start to wonder if someone is briefing the vice president on intelligence reports that do not appear to be coming from the known US services. He seems to be being briefed from a totally different stream of intelligence. It’s quite disturbing. He doesn’t seem fully aware even now how much the public analysis of US reports contradicts what he seems to believe is true (for instance, he still seems convinced about Atta in Prague, even though, US intel services that we at least know about contradict that according to the new Senate Select Intel committee Phase II report).

(Waving arm) I know! I know! He’s got a reverse polarity tin foil hat that detects thought waves that bounce off the moon and channels them directly into his brain!

Sanger points out that Woodward’s other books give a different impression.

Mr. Woodward’s first two books about the Bush administration, “Bush at War” and “Plan of Attack,” portrayed a president firmly in command and a loyal, well-run team responding to a surprise attack and the retaliation that followed. As its title indicates, “State of Denial” follows a very different storyline, of an administration that seemed to have only a foggy notion that early military success in Iraq had given way to resentment of the occupiers.

As Steve M. says, “When you’ve lost Bob Woodward, there’s no where else to go but down.”

I like these bits from David Sanger, too.

Mr. Woodward writes that in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet believed that Mr. Rumsfeld was impeding the effort to develop a coherent strategy to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Mr. Rumsfeld questioned the electronic signals from terrorism suspects that the National Security Agency had been intercepting, wondering whether they might be part of an elaborate deception plan by Al Qaeda.

On July 10, 2001, the book says, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice at the White House to impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack. But both men came away from the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had not taken the warnings seriously.

Hmm, where have we heard this before

If you’ve never read “Blind Into Baghdad,” James Fallows’s Atlantic Online article from 2004, I suggest you go ahead and read it now. If there’s a subscription wall at Atlantic Online you can read the article here. In a nutshell, before the invasion, the Administration got tons of advice from experts that anticipated every bad thing that would happen. Every one.

Tomorrow CNN will be running a documentary on Rumsfeld in which Rummy says, “Well, I think that anyone who looks at it with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight has to say that there was not an anticipation that the level of insurgency would be anything approximating what it is.” In fact, all kinds of people anticipated that the force Rummy sent into Iraq would be inadequate to keep the peace. Rummy just wouldn’t listen to them.

Anyway, at the end of this essential piece Fallows speculates why the Bushies are such flaming idiots that they didn’t think they needed to worry about the occupation:

How could the Administration have thought that it was safe to proceed in blithe indifference to the warnings of nearly everyone with operational experience in modern military occupations? Saying that the Administration considered this a truly urgent “war of necessity” doesn’t explain the indifference. Even if it feared that Iraq might give terrorists fearsome weapons at any moment, it could still have thought more carefully about the day after the war. World War II was a war of absolute necessity, and the United States still found time for detailed occupation planning.

The President must have known that however bright the scenarios, the reality of Iraq eighteen months after the war would affect his re-election. The political risk was enormous and obvious. Administration officials must have believed not only that the war was necessary but also that a successful occupation would not require any more forethought than they gave it.

It will be years before we fully understand how intelligent people convinced themselves of this. My guess is that three factors will be important parts of the explanation.

One is the panache of Donald Rumsfeld. He was near the zenith of his influence as the war was planned. His emphasis on the vagaries of life was all the more appealing within his circle because of his jauntiness and verve. But he was not careful about remembering his practical obligations. Precisely because he could not foresee all hazards, he should have been more zealous about avoiding the ones that were evident—the big and obvious ones the rest of the government tried to point out to him.

A second is the triumphalism of the Administration. In the twenty-five years since Ronald Reagan’s rise, political conservatives have changed position in a way they have not fully recognized. Reagan’s arrival marked the end of a half century of Democrat-dominated government in Washington. Yes, there has been one Democratic President since Reagan, and eventually there will be others. But as a rule the Republicans are now in command. Older Republicans—those who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, those who are now in power in the Administration—have not fully adjusted to this reality. They still feel like embattled insurgents, as if the liberals were in the driver’s seat. They recognize their electoral strength but feel that in the battle of ideology their main task is to puncture fatuous liberal ideas.

The consequence is that Republicans are less used to exposing their own ideas to challenges than they should be. Today’s liberals know there is a challenge to every aspect of their world view. All they have to do is turn on the radio. Today’s conservatives are more likely to think that any contrary ideas are leftovers from the tired 1960s, much as liberals of the Kennedy era thought that conservatives were in thrall to Herbert Hoover. In addition, the conservatives’ understanding of modern history makes them think that their instincts are likely to be right and that their critics will be proved wrong. Europeans scorned Ronald Reagan, and the United Nations feared him, but in the end the Soviet Union was gone. So for reasons of personal, political, and intellectual history, it is understandable that members of this Administration could proceed down one path in defiance of mounting evidence of its perils. The Democrats had similar destructive self-confidence in the 1960s, when they did their most grandiose Great Society thinking.

The third factor is the nature of the President himself. Leadership is always a balance between making large choices and being aware of details. George W. Bush has an obvious preference for large choices. This gave him his chance for greatness after the September 11 attacks. But his lack of curiosity about significant details may be his fatal weakness. When the decisions of the past eighteen months are assessed and judged, the Administration will be found wanting for its carelessness. Because of warnings it chose to ignore, it squandered American prestige, fortune, and lives.

Ah, but Fallows wrote that in 2004. The nation has learned so much more since … oh, wait …

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Canada Probably Doesn’t Want Us, Anyway

big picture stuff, blogging, Canada, liberalism and progressivism

This seems a good time to plug Bill Scher’s new book, Wait! Don’t Move to Canada!. Bill is the very smart guy who runs Liberal Oasis. You might have caught him on Tucker Carlson’s show on MSNBC last night. You probably didn’t, because I can’t imagine many of you actually watch Tucker, but maybe some of you do. (If so, why? I’m sure you could find a Law & Order rerun if you flipped channels.)

In the last post I wrote that it’s time to decide if the nation is salvageable or not. Lots of people have decided it isn’t. As I said, these people may be right. But if you think it’s too late to fight, then please step out of the way. Some of us haven’t given up yet.

Wait! Don’t Move! is a handbook for liberals who want to fight but aren’t sure how. Thankfully, Bill moves beyond cheery little checklists reminding you to write your congressperson. Suggestions for action are presented within a Big Picture framework. It’s not just about defeating Republicans, but about making America safe for liberalism again. Throughout, Bill challenges readers to be clear about what we want. Instead of just reacting to the Republican agenda, we should be showing the nation an alternative way to look at issues. We should fight from a position of clarity and purpose rather than defensiveness. We should not, for example, try to counter the Religious Right with our own public displays of religiosity, but instead promise to preserve religious liberty by keeping government out of religion.

And, anyway, if we cede the U.S. to Republicans, sooner or later they’ll invade Canada. Might as well stop them here.

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Congress, Democratic Party

Glenn Greenwald reads my mind.

… everyone has to answer for themselves these questions: (1) do you believe that the incalculable damage imposed on this country by the Bush administration and its followers (including in Congress) can be impeded and then reversed and, if so, (2) how can that be accomplished? For those who have given up and believe the answer to question (1) is “no,” then, by definition, there is nothing to discuss. You’ ve decided that there is no hope, that you’re done fighting and trying to defend any of your beliefs and principles, and you’re ready to cede the country to those who are in the process of destroying it.

And may I interject, if your answer is no, you may be right. Time will tell. But until time has told, I’m proceeding with yes. That’s the choice I’ve made. If your choice is no I’m not going to say you are wrong, but you might as well stop reading, because the rest of this post is devoted to yes options. And if all you have to add to the comments is no — don’t bother.

But for those who believe that the answer to question (1) is “yes” (and I believe that emphatically), then the answer to question (2) seems self-evidently clear. The most important and overriding mandate is to end the one-party rule to which our country has been subjected for the last four years. Achieving that is necessary — it is an absolute pre-requisite — to begin to impose some actual limits on the authoritarian behavior and unchecked powers of this administration — because, right now, there are no such limits.

And, independently, killing off unchallenged Republican rule is the only possible way to invade the wall of secrecy behind which this administration has operated and to find out what our government has actually been doing for the last five years. Shining light on the shadows and dark crevices in which they have been operating is vitally important for repairing the damage that has been done. If nothing else, a Chairman Conyers or a Chairman Leahy, armed with subpoena powers, will accomplish that.

This is a point I’ve tried to make many times, and it’s nearly always countered by a chorus of whining about how Dems are wusses and they always will be wusses and only idiots support them. Listen, nobody could possible be more frustrated with Dems than I am. But if we’re operating on the assumption of yes, we need the Dems, like it or not. And here’s why:

First, you cannot ignore parties. Political parties are intrinsic to how Congress functions. It matters enormously which party is the majority and which party gets to choose committee chairpersons and set agendas.

What about third parties? Bucking the two-party system isn’t an idea somebody came up with last week. Americans started complaining about the two-party system back when the two parties were the Democrats and the Whigs. Since about the 1830s vast numbers of Americans have worked their butts off to create viable national third parties. They have always failed. I don’t see a 180-year trend reversing itself in the next six weeks.

The reason third party candidates can’t win has to do with how we run elections, in particular the “winner take all” system in which whoever gets the most votes gets the prize. Countries with viable multiple parties have runoffs if nobody gets a majority, and that makes a world of difference. Go here and play with the demonstrations if you don’t understand why this is true.

Even if you could elect a third-party candidate, that person would be helpless to accomplish anything unless he became a de facto member of one of the two parties. And, frankly, even if we could scrape the Dems out of the picture entirely and start over with a dream party of fired-up progressives, given our poisoned political culture our dream party would end up being just like the Dems. We’re not going to get the party we want until we change the political culture, and we won’t get even a chance to do that until we break one-party Republican rule.

I know the Dems are flawed. But here’s an analogy: Let’s say you’ve got a job to do that ought to be done with a hammer. But you don’t have a hammer; all you have is a wrench. You can do the job with a wrench, but it’s going to take longer and the results will not be perfect. But without some kind of tool you can’t do the job at all.

In the real world you might choose to put off doing the job until you can get your hands on a hammer. But let’s say your life depends on doing this job right now. By the time the hardware store opens it will be too late. So are you still going to sit passively until you get a hammer, or do you wrench away?

I see a Dem takeover of Congress this November as a stopgap measure. Even if Dems take both houses of Congress we face enormous challenges to pull the nation back from the brink and restore our pathological political culture to something approaching health. But if the Republicans keep control of both houses of Congress, the task of saving our nation may become impossible.

Time is short. We cannot afford to sit on our hands and wait for the Messiah Candidate to come and save us. We’ve got to work with the tools we have. Once we’ve pulled back from the brink of disaster we can take steps to get better tools.

Here’s another analogy: Imagine you are stranded on your roof in rising floodwaters. Sooner or later you’re going to drown if you aren’t rescued. Yet you refuse to be rescued in an old rowboat because it might be leaky and you are waiting for a helicopter.

Well, folks, the Dems are the rowboat, and there ain’t gonna be a helicopter.

… a desire to see the Democrats take over Congress — even a strong desire for that outcome and willingness to work for it — does not have to be, and at least for me is not, driven by a belief that Washington Democrats are commendable or praiseworthy and deserve to be put into power. Instead, a Democratic victory is an instrument — an indispensable weapon — in battling the growing excesses and profound abuses and indescribably destructive behavior of the Bush administration and their increasingly authoritarian followers. A Democratic victory does not have to be seen as being anything more than that in order to realize how critically important it is.

If at this point you are still thinking you’d rather eat bugs than support the Democrats — fine, but if you answered yes, what options can you offer?

I’ve been reading through the comments on Glenn’s site. One person after another writes no way; Dems cave in time after time; how are they different from Republicans? But none of them can offer an alternative, other than armed rebellion. That amounts to a concession that the nation already is dead. Maybe it is. But armed rebellions are nasty and bloody, and armed rebellion likely would not bring the old government of 1787 back, no matter who wins. There’s no way to predict what will be left standing when the dust settles. I’d rather not go there, thanks.

In the real world, one has to either choose between two more years of uncontrolled Republican rule, or imposing some balance — even just logjam — on our Government with a Democratic victory. Or one can decide that it just doesn’t matter either way because one has given up on defending the principles and values of our country. But, for better or worse, those are the only real options available, and wishing there were other options doesn’t mean that there are any. And there are only six weeks left to choose the option you think is best and to do what you can to bring it to fruition.

That pretty much says it. If you still aren’t persuaded then — Canada is north.

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Bill of Rights, We Hardly Knew Ye

Bush Administration, Democratic Party, Republican Party, The Constitution, torture

If there’s any comfort to be taken from today’s defeat of the “habeas corpus” amendment to the detainee bill it’s that only one Democratic Senator, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted with Senate Republicans to defeat the bill. William Branigin of the New York Times reports:

Senators voted 51 to 48 against the amendment, which called for deleting from the bill a provision that rules out habeas corpus petitions for foreigners held in the war on terrorism. The writ of habeas corpus, which is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, allows people to challenge in court the legality of their detention, essentially meaning that they cannot be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Regarding the detainee bill itself — 32 out of 44 Senate Democrats voted against the bill. According to Glenn Greenwald, the 12 are Carper (Del.), Johnson (S.D.), Landrieu (La.), Lautenberg (N.J.), Lieberman (Conn.), Menendez (N.J), Nelson (Fla.), Nelson (Neb.), Pryor (Ark.), Rockefeller (W. Va.), Salazar (Co.), Stabenow (Mich.).

Of that group I am most disappointed in Frank Lautenberg, who usually is on the side of liberalism.

Glenn Greenwald comments:

But it is still difficult to understand the Democrats’ strategy here. They failed to try to mount a filibuster because they feared being attacked as coddlers of the terrorists. But now they voted against the bill in large numbers, thereby ensuring those exact accusations will be made anyway — and made loudly (the White House already started today). Yet they absented themselves the whole time from the debate (until they magically appeared today), spent the last several weeks only tepidly (at most) opposing the President’s position, and thus lost the opportunity to defend and advocate the position they took today in any meaningful way. As a result, the Democrats took a position today (opposition to this bill) which they have not really defended until today.

They make this same mistake over and over. Isn’t this exactly what happened when they sort-of-supported-but-sort-of-opposed the Iraq war resolution in 2002 because they were afraid of being depicted as soft on terrorism, only to then be successfully depicted as soft on terrorism because they were too afraid to forcefully defend their position? It’s true that fewer Democrats voted for the President’s policy this time around, but it’s equally true that they found their voice only on the last day of the debate — on the day of the vote — after disappearing for weeks while they let John McCain “debate” for them.

Several liberal bloggers had predicted the McCain et al. “compromise” was just a head fake to keep the Dems off guard, and that in the end Bush would get the bill he wanted. The Wise Guys in Washington have yet to figure this stuff out.

Dan Froomkin:

Today’s Senate vote on President Bush’s detainee legislation, after House approval yesterday, marks a defining moment for this nation.

How far from our historic and Constitutional values are we willing to stray? How mercilessly are we willing to treat those we suspect to be our enemies? How much raw, unchecked power are we willing to hand over to the executive?

The legislation before the Senate today would ban torture, but let Bush define it; would allow the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant; would suspend the Great Writ of habeas corpus; would immunize retroactively those who may have engaged in torture. And that’s just for starters.

It’s a red-letter day for the country. It’s also a telling day for our political system.


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What You Get for $2 Billion a Week

Bush Administration

Bryan Bender reports for the Boston Globe that our little adventure in Iraq is costing us U.S. taxpayers $2 billion every week.

By some coincidence, $2 billion just about what Senator Hillary Clinton is seeking in total to cover health care for 9/11 Ground Zero workers.

Thousands of sick ground zero workers need nearly $2 billion in long-term treatment for ongoing health woes, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday in the U.S. Senate as she offered legislation creating a long-term medical program.

Clinton, D-N.Y., brought an amendment to a ports security bill seeking to create a five-year, $1.9 billion treatment program for those still suffering the after-effects of the toxic dust, debris and fumes they endured at ground zero after the 2001 terror attacks.

“If we don’t take care of these people now and start putting up a system that we can have in place for the next several years, we are going to betray a fundamental responsibility to those who we salute whenever it is convenient, whenever it is political,” said Clinton, speaking on the Senate floor two days after the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Many of those who worked for months to look for bodies and clear the debris of the fallen World Trade Center are sick. Many will be sick for the rest of their lives. Mount Sinai Medical Center released a study showing nearly 7 out of every 10 Ground Zero responders now have lung problems because of it. At least one former New York police officer has died from Ground Zero lung disease.

I don’t know if the Bush Administration has responded directly to Senator Clinton’s proposal. The news story linked above says that the Bush Administration plans to spend $75 million “specifically to treating problems that include lung disease, gastrointestinal disorders and mental disorders.” I infer they haven’t spent it yet. Someone might ask what they are waiting for.

What else does $2 billion buy? The Center for Public Integrity says that

In the 2004 federal races, more than $1.78 billion flowed through a professional corps of consultants whose influence plays an important, though largely unexamined, role in the unrelenting escalation of campaign spending, a groundbreaking Center for Public Integrity study has found.

The money going to these consultants amounted to about half of the total spending by presidential candidates, national party committees, general election candidates for Congress, and so-called “527”s — independent political groups.

Conclusion: Every week we spend more more in Iraq to recruit jihadists than what was paid to consultants for bad political advice in all of 2004. That’s a lot of money.

Among the many U.S.-taxpayer-funded projects in Iraq include the Baghdad Police College. Amit R. Paley writes in today’s Washington Post:

A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, U.S. investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country’s security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed “the rain forest.”

“This is the most essential civil security project in the country — and it’s a failure,” said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. “The Baghdad police academy is a disaster.”

The contractor that laid this egg is Parsons Corporation. According to the Center for Public Integrity, other Parsons projects in Iraq include:

  • An 89 million contract to help destroy captured enemy weapons.
  • More than $31 million for the renovation of the Tadji military base and the Iraqi Armed Forces recruiting stations.
  • Two contracts with ceilings of respectively $500 million and $900 million from the Program Management Office. These were to renovate, rebuild and construct new “public buildings, hospitals, healthcare clinics, and housing throughout Iraq,” and the other was construction and rehabilitation of security and justice facilities.
  • Up to $800 million to rebuild the oil infrastructure in northern Iraq.
  • Now the taxpayers will get to spent more money checking how well those projects turned out.

    A new poll says “About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year,” according to the Associated Press. They hate to see us waste money, I guess.

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    Bush Administration, National Security, September 11, War on Terror

    Earlier this week I cited an article by Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, “What Went Wrong,” from Newsweek, May 27, 2002. The Hirsh-Isikoff and other news stories that appeared in late spring of 2002 revealed that the Bush Administration had received copious warnings about the September 11 attacks and had failed to act on them.

    Much of what would later be found by the September 11 commission was in these articles. We saw Sandy Berger and Richard Clarke explicitly warn the incoming Bush Administration that they must give the threat of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden the highest priority. We learned that the Bush State Department and National Security Council decided to put al Qaeda low on their priority list, in spite of the warnings. We learned that the Bushies didn’t bother to use unarmed drones, as had the Clinton security team, to gather intelligence in the critical summer of 2001. We learned that President Bush had been given an explicit warning of a terrorist attack involving hijacked airplanes on August 6, 2001 (although it would take the 9/11 commission to pry the title of the warning, “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States,” out of Condi Rice). We learned that the Bush team had not followed up on this warning.

    Righties quickly stepped in and declared that there wasn’t anything the Bush Administration could have done, because the Bush team had not been given the day, the hour, the airports, the targets, the exact plan. We’ve since been treated to a blow-by-blow description of what went on at NORAD and the FAA on September 11. It was not pretty. Every ball that could have been dropped, was dropped. Although there is no excuse for the inability of NORAD and the FAA to work together in this time of crisis — that’s part of their jobs — it is obvious neither agency had been given so much as a hint to be alert to anything extraordinary. By the time the managers at the FAA and NORAD realized the nature of the crisis, it was pretty much over.

    Had they been better prepared, had they been on a higher alert, had even one hijacker crew been stopped, had even one tower been spared, hundreds of lives might have been saved. And that failure is the fault of the federal executive branch that existed in 2001 — the Bush Administration. Yes, many of the slip-ups originated in the intelligence agencies. But had Bush rattled cages to make al Qaeda a priority, it might have made a difference. We’ll never know.

    Michael Hirsch wrote in the May 17, 2002, Newsweek, in an article titled “What Did He Know?”:

    George W. Bush has been all but untouchable in the war on terror, and he has the poll ratings to prove it. Now, for the first time, doubts are surfacing publicly in Washington-and knives are being sharpened-over what Bush knew about the threat from Osama bin Laden and when he knew it.

    Most of the questions center on a recently disclosed intelligence briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, at which the president was warned that, among other threats, Al Qaeda-linked terrorists might try to hijack an airliner. Considering that, at about the same time, FBI agents in Phoenix and Minneapolis were raising suspicions about Middle Easterners taking flight lessons in the United States and the intentions of Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged “20th hijacker” who had been arrested, the revelations have opened up a credibility gap for a White House that prides itself on giving things straight to the American people. The reason is simple: Bush and his top officials insisted in no uncertain terms after September 11 that they had no inkling of the attacks beforehand.

    The Bush administration, which faces a series of hearings on Capitol Hill, is mounting a stout defense. National-security advisor Condoleezza Rice, at a White House briefing on Thursday, said the hijacking threat that Bush heard about a little over a month before the attacks was not linked to any specific threat. It came during an “analytic” briefing and only “mentioned hijacking in the traditional sense,” she said-in other words, the use of passenger planes as hostages, not missiles. “This government,” she said, “did everything it could in a period when the information was very generalized.”

    In truth, the question of whether the Bush administration was paying enough attention in general to the terror threat is what is really at issue-far more than what the president specifically learned on Aug. 6 or at other briefings. The new disclosures could open a Pandora’s box of questions about just how focused the Bush administration was on deterring and disrupting bin Laden before September 11.

    Newly emboldened Democrats on the Hill, for instance, and even some Republicans, might think to ask why an administration that blamed its predecessor for failing to deter bin Laden ignored, for nearly eight months, hard evidence linking the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole in Yemen to Al Qaeda. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld both suggested publicly that the Clinton administration had left America with a weak image abroad. As Bush told The Washington Post in January, “It was clear that bin Laden felt emboldened and didn’t feel threatened by the United States.” But the new administration mounted no retaliation of its own, despite what seemed to be a clear casus belli.

    I want to emphasize that these words were published in a major national news magazine in May 2002. Yet more than four years later, we are still struggling to bring these facts to the nation’s attention.

    Instead of being held accountable, President Bush was wrapped in a cult of personality that protected him from criticism. The nation was persuaded that President Bush was uniquely, almost supernaturally, qualified to protect the nation from terrorist attacks. What should have been the Bush Administration’s shame was spun and exploited into an unbeatable political asset.

    What happened to “the series of hearings” Hirsch spoke of? In fact, the Senate and House Intelligence Committees had announced a joint inquiry in February 2002. This was after President Bush and Vice President Cheney had personally asked Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to limit the investigation. The hearings began in June, 2002.

    From The Memory Hole:

    From June to October 2002, the Intelligence Committees from the US Senate and House teamed up to probe, more or less, 9/11. Of course, the Joint Investigation ran into all kinds of roadblocks. It took Congress five months to even announce the inquiry and another four months before it got started. Bush and Cheney each personally asked then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to keep the scope of the probe narrow. Republican Senator Richard Shelby openly complained of the lack of cooperation from the FBI, intelligence agencies, and others. [Read more]

    Throughout June, July, and the first half of September, 2002, the Joint Inquiry held closed sessions. The second half of September saw all open hearings, while those in October alternated between open and closed. In December, the Joint Inquiry issued its report, but only 24 pages were publicly released out of a total of over 800.

    In May 2003, Newsweek, Knight Ridder, and other media outlets reported that the Bush Administration was working to block the release of the Joint Inquiry’s full report. In fact, officials were quoted as saying that they’d like to retroactively classify parts of the material that came out during the open hearings. They’re upset about some of the information divulged by senior intelligence officials and by the Inquiry staff’s leader, Eleanor Hill. (They now regret giving Hill and her team access to so many classified intelligence briefings.) [Read more]

    The Memory Hole has archived all publicly released statements from the hearings. The two links provided in the quote above both document the many ways the Bush Administration tried to stonewall the hearings — first by opposing any investigation at all, then by withholding critical documents and witnesses, finally by suppressing much of the final report.

    The Administration also fought tooth and nail to prevent an independent, public investigation of the attacks. It was only because of pressure from September 11 families — notably the Family Steering Committee — that the 9/11 Commission was created at all.

    During the 16 months of investigation by the 9/11 Commission, the Bush Administration continued to play games over access to documents and witnesses. The commission was forced to issue subpoenas to the Federal Aviation Administration and NORAD to get information about the FAA-NORAD problems I mentioned above, and it was only weeks ago that we learned the testimony from the FAA and NORAD was, um, wrong.

    Even after the 9/11 Commission finished its work, many questions remain unanswered. And as September 11 faded from public consciousness, it seemed likely they would remain unanswered.

    Yet now, finally, the questions Michael Hirsch and others asked in the spring of 2002 — What did President Bush know? And what did he do about it? — are being asked again. Hallelujah.

    David Horowitz’s propaganda miniseries, “The Path to 9/11,” and President Clinton’s robust response, have hauled all the old questions into the light of day once again. Glenn Greenwald writes at Salon:

    Republicans appear to have gravely miscalculated in provoking Bill Clinton into the debate over the Bush administration’s terrorism policies. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, most Democrats have refrained from aggressively blaming the administration for the attacks, blame that could easily be assigned by exploiting two simple facts — 1) the 9/11 attacks happened while Bush, not Clinton, was president and 2) Bush received the Aug. 6 presidential daily briefing embarrassingly titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” and apparently did nothing in response. With some scattered exceptions, both parties seemed content more or less to maintain a truce with regard to casting blame for the 9/11 attacks by agreeing that few people in either party recognized the magnitude of this threat until those attacks happened.

    But ABC’s broadcast of the right-wing propaganda film “Path to 9/11” forced into the public discourse a comparison of Bush vs. Clinton on the question of terrorism. And the subsequent attempts by right-wing pundits and “journalists” to heap the blame for terrorism on the Clinton administration left Clinton with no choice but defending himself aggressively. Following the Wallace interview, Condoleezza Rice accused Clinton of making statements about the Bush administration’s pre-9/11 anti-terrorism efforts (or lack thereof), which Rice said were “flatly false,” comments that in turn prompted an aggressive response from Hillary Clinton.

    My explanation of the many ways Condi Rice lied her ass off is here.

    Last night, Keith Olbermann’s Countdown presented a segment on Bush’s failure to address terrorism before September 11. You can see the video here, and Crooks & Liars has the video and a rough transcript. It was well done. Attacking George Bush’s image as Our Glorious Protector From Scary Swarthy People With Bombs still takes guts, although not as much as before Katrina. (Indeed, I’m surprised there’s not more reaction from rightie bloggers today; the Word must have been handed down to shut up about the pre-9/11 thing so that maybe it’ll go away.)

    Olbermann put together one part of the pre-9/11 puzzle I had not considered before, even though I’d had the pieces. This is from the Crooks & Liars transcript:

    Mr. Bush was personally briefed about al Qaeda even before the election in November, 2000.

    During the transition, President Clinton and his National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, say they told Bush and his team of the urgency in getting al Qaeda.

    Three days before Mr. Bush took office, Berger spoke at a “passing the baton” event that Rice attended.

    Berger (1/17/01): “Sitting at the Norfolk Base with survivors from the USS Cole only reinforced the reality that America is in a deadly struggle with a new breed of anti-western jihadists. Nothing less than a war, I think, is a fair way to describe this.”

    Eight days later, Clarke sent Rice the strategy Clinton developed for retaliating, in the event al Qaeda was found to be behind October’s attack on the USS Cole.

    The next day, the FBI conclusively pinned the Cole attack on al Qaeda.

    Mr. Bush ordered no military strike, no escalation of existing Clinton measures. Instead, he repeated Clinton’s previous diplomatic efforts, writing a letter to Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf in February, and another on August 4th.

    Until September 11th, even when Mr. Bush was asked about the Cole, an attack carried out on water, by men in a boat, he offered a consistent prescription for keeping America safe, one he reiterated upon taking office.

      Bush (2/27/01): “To protect our own people, our allies and friends, we must develop and we must deploy effective missile defenses.”

    … According to the 9/11 report, even bin Laden expected Bush to respond militarily to the Cole bombing. Quote, “In February, 2001…according to [a] source, Bin Laden wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not he would launch something bigger.”

    Obviously, W is a Weenie who encouraged that “something bigger” by his failure to act. Not Clinton’s failure, Bush’s failure.

    I have never said that President Clinton was blameless, or that there wasn’t more he could have done. But the elevation of the hapless and clueless George W. Bush into some kind of Demigod of National Strength has got to be one of the most pathological events in American history. For generations historians will be looking back on our little era and asking, “How could so many people have been so blind?

    I think the time is ripe for Democrats to pull a Karl Rove and mount an attack directly on Bush’s alleged “strength.” It’s past time to dismantle the Big Lie that George W. Bush is an effective leader against terrorism.

    Whatever else happens, please help keep this issue out in the light. Don’t let the VRWC cover it up again. Don’t let the lies continue.

    Update: See also Brilliant at Breakfast.

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