Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Sunday, February 25th, 2007.


Al Wins!

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Democratic Party, entertainment and popular culture, science

If you’re watching the Oscars, by now you know Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” won in the best feature length documentary category. If you missed it, you can watch Al’s acceptance at Crooks and Liars.

Be sure to see William Booth’s article in WaPo, “Al Gore, Rock Star.” Sample:

Take the Cannes Film Festival: Al Gore was mobbed. By French people. He was a presenter at the Grammy Awards, alongside Queen Latifah, where he got one of the biggest welcomes of the night. “Wow. . . . I think they love you, man. You hear that?” the current Queen asked the former veep. Earlier this month, the ticket Web site at the University of Toronto crashed when 23,000 people signed on in three minutes to get a seat to hear Gore do his thing on the oceanic carbon cycle. At Boise State, Gore and his slide show sold out 10,000 seats at the Taco Bell Arena, reportedly “faster than Elton John.”

That popping sound you hear is the exploding of rightie heads.

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A Note of Optimism

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torture, War on Terror

The Talking Dog interviews David Rose, author of Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights and a contributing editor of The Guardian and Vanity Fair. Here’s the note of optimism:

Eventually there will be a pendulum change– the values that made the United States unique– the power of its Constitution– will reassert themselves. Enough people will regard Guantanamo with the same shame as the detention of Japanese in World War II… or the Red Scares… We’ll just have to see if and when this happens.

Let’s hope.

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Slush Funds

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Bush Administration, Middle East

Crooks and Liars:

Sy Hersh tells us that the echos of Iran Contra weighed heavily in Negroponte’s decision to resign his post and is claiming that Bush is funneling money without authorization or oversight that has ended up in the hands of Sunni jihadist groups.

Negroponte — Iran Contra — Hmmmm.

We already know that the Bushies used money appropriated for Afghanistan in Iraq. We know that money appropriated for Iraq reconstruction was directed elsewhere. It would not surprise me at all if all kinds of money is being spent that Congress doesn’t know anything about.

See Hersh’s new New Yorker article, “The Redirection.”

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

Having failed to mop up the Taliban and al Qaeda, the Bushies are now turning their misdirection toward Hezbollah. This is just the sort of thing the neocons would have thought up, isn’t it?

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. “We haven’t got any of this,” he said. “We ask for anything going on, and they say there’s nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, ‘We’re going to get back to you.’ It’s so frustrating.”

Frustrating ain’t half of it. See also Think Progress.

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Everything Old Is New Again

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Bush Administration

The Associated Press reports:

A suicide bomber struck today outside a college campus in Baghdad, killing at least 41 people and injuring dozens as a string of other blasts and rocket attacks left bloodshed around the city.

Most of the victims were students at the college, a business studies annex of Mustansiriyah University that was hit by a series of deadly explosions last month. At least 46 people were injured in Sunday’s blast.

The wave of attacks around Baghdad came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lauded the progress of an ongoing U.S.-Iraqi security operation seeking to cripple militant factions and sectarian killings in the capital.

Here’s the punch line — over at Townhall, Patrick Ruffini reports that the “surge” is working.

In a sane world, we would have come a long way from spring 2003, when some rightie emailed me the image of Saddam Hussein’s statue being torn down as “proof” that I was wrong about invading Iraq being a bad idea. I remember thinking at the time that this individual was not, um, grasping the big picture. However, we have not come a long way at all. Righties just sink into deeper levels of denial. They go from denying there were no weapons of mass destruction to denying there is an insurgency to denying there was no Saddam Hussein-al Qaeda connection to denying there is a civil war to denying that the situation is bleeped up beyond all hope. (See also Kevin Hayden on “Ruffini World.”)

For the current big picture, see this editorial in today’s New York Times:

Almost five and a half years ago, America — united by the shock of 9/11 — understood exactly what it needed to do. It had to find, thwart and take down the command structure of Al Qaeda, which was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 innocent people on American soil. Despite years of costly warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, America today is not significantly closer to that essential goal.

At a crucial moment, the Bush administration diverted America’s military strength, political attention and foreign aid dollars from a necessary, winnable war in Afghanistan to an unnecessary, and by now unwinnable, war in Iraq. Al Qaeda took full advantage of these blunders to survive and rebuild. Now it seems to be back in business.

As our colleagues Mark Mazzetti and David Rohde reported last week, American intelligence and counterterrorism officials believe that Al Qaeda has rebuilt its notorious training camps, this time in Pakistan’s loosely governed tribal regions near the Afghan border. Camp graduates are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq — and may well be plotting new terrorist strikes in the West.

To underscore this point, the current issue of Newsweek has an article on Mullah Omar.

Frank Rich shows us the panoramic view:

The intelligence and counterterrorism officials back then [summer of 2001] were privately sounding urgent warnings like those in last week’s Times, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The system “was blinking red,” as the C.I.A. chief George Tenet would later tell the 9/11 commission. But no one, from the White House on down, wanted to hear it.

The White House doesn’t want to hear it now, either. That’s why terrorism experts are trying to get its attention by going public, and not just through The Times. Michael Scheuer, the former head of the C.I.A. bin Laden unit, told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last week that the Taliban and Al Qaeda, having regrouped in Afghanistan and Pakistan, “are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States” (the real United States, that is, not the fictional stand-in where this same scenario can be found on “24”). Al Qaeda is “on the march” rather than on the run, the Georgetown University and West Point terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman told Congress. Tony Blair is pulling troops out of Iraq not because Basra is calm enough to be entrusted to Iraqi forces — it’s “not ready for transition,” according to the Pentagon’s last report — but to shift some British resources to the losing battle against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

This is why the entire debate about the Iraq “surge” is as much a sideshow as Britney’s scalp. More troops in Baghdad are irrelevant to what’s going down in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The surge supporters who accuse the Iraq war’s critics of emboldening the enemy are trying to deflect attention from their own complicity in losing a bigger battle: the one against the enemy that actually did attack us on 9/11. Who lost Iraq? is but a distraction from the more damning question, Who is losing the war on terrorism?

The Democrats may not be moving quickly enough to suit us, but they are at least shifting their weight around. Last week they were talking about repealed the 2002 war resolution. (This is not unprecedented; the Tonkin Gulf resolution was repealed, also. It didn’t end the war, however.)

Frank Rich continues —

Yet Mr. Bush still denies reality. Ten days ago he told the American Enterprise Institute that “the Taliban have been driven from power” and proposed that America help stabilize the Pakistan border by setting up “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones” (remember that “Gulf Opportunity Zone” he promised after Katrina?) to “give residents the chance to export locally made products to the United States, duty-free.” In other words, let’s fight terrorism not by shifting America’s focus from Iraq to the central front, but by shopping for Taliban souvenirs!

Presidents have lost control of events many times before. However, I can’t think of any other president who lost it this badly and didn’t even notice.

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