The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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saturday, september 20, 2003

Vive la France
Tuesday the "President" will address the United Nations. He will try to persuade the UN that the world must clean up the mess he made of Iraq.
Today the leaders of Britain, Germany, and France met in a quickie summit to find common ground before Tuesday. By all accounts, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, and Jacques Chirac agreed on everything but a timetable.

After their two-hour summit, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he and France's Jacques Chirac and Britain's Tony Blair agreed on "granting the United Nations a significant role and to work together to make possible a transfer of political responsibility to an Iraqi authority as quickly as possible."

"We are of the opinion that it is the task of the international community to give Iraq the chance for democracy and stability," Schroeder said. [Colleen Barry, "Leaders of Germany, France and Britain disagree on timetable for power handover in Iraq, but agree on strong U.N. role," Associated Press, September 20, 2003]

French President Chirac wants the transition to take place within months. Schroeder and Blair seem willing to let it take longer. But they agreed to support diplomats at the United Nations who are drawing up a proposal to counter the Shrub's.
In other words, the world -- even First Poodle Tony Blair -- is lining up to oppose Shrub's bid to maintain control of Iraq.
This is what Bush wants:
  • Up to 20,000 foreign troops. Originally Bush wanted these troops to be totally under United States control, but Colin Powell talked him down from this a bit. Now he wants all forces under U.S. control, but the force would also report to the UN Security Council.
  • Up to $20 billion from other countries to help pay for Iraq's reconstruction.

Bush also wants to maintain control of Iraqi civil structures for the foreseeable future, until such time as the Iraqis can be persuaded to accept the leadership and form of government Bush wants it to have. The Regime doesn't come out and say this, of course, but it's clear from their actions that this is the case.

And who will control the oil? The Bush Regime makes noises about Iraqi oil belonging to Iraqis. But right now Bush controls the military, and Bush controls the government, and therefore Bush controls the oil. How hard will he fight to maintain that control?

Going to the United Nations to ask for help puts some cracks in Bush's base. The neocons hate the UN. (Last April Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard warned that the UN would try to take control of reconstruction away from the U.S., and this must not happen.) But even the Bushies have come to realize that Iraq's costs in lives and treasure are going to hurt him politically. If Bush can get troops and money from other countries, it would give him some political cover going into next year's campaign. So he's going to the UN.

On the other hand, the member nations seem determined not to cave to Bush's demands without some concessions. And the concession they most want is control. But if Bush cedes any part of control to the UN, the neocons will take this as a sign of weakness. It would also confound their plans to control the Middle East through Iraq, which in their minds was the whole point of the war.

The Bushies built this box; let them figure out how to break out of it.

What the Senate Must Do. The U.S. Constitution provides that the President cannot make deals with other countries without the advice and consent of the Senate. It is time for Democratic senators to assert their constitutional authority and require the President to make concessions.

Senator Edward Kennedy is speaking up on Iraq, recently calling the Iraq War a fraud. Senator Robert Byrd has steadfastly opposed the war from the beginning. Democrats should look to these senior statesmen for leadership and insist that the letter of the Constitution be followed; the Senate must no longer be a rubber stamp for whatever the Boy King wants. If the UN makes a reasonable proposal for turning Iraq over to Iraqis as quickly as possible, the Senate should insist that Bush accept the proposal.

Meanwhile, back in Iraq. Another situation that bears watching: Five Iraqi leaders drafted a plan to replace U.S. troops with Iraqi militia.

Five Iraqi leaders have agreed on a sweeping new security plan in which most US troops would withdraw to their bases and turn over day-to-day policing duties to Iraqi militia forces working under the new Ministry of Interior.

Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, who hosted a meeting of the leaders, said US forces were making serious mistakes by trying to become a 'front- line' occupation force....

The plan represented the strongest intervention to date on the deteriorating security climate in Iraq by the leaders of the former Iraqi opposition, some of whom are said to be deeply frustrated by continuing instability.

Mr Barzani said that Iraqi leaders wanted to continue to work closely with the 140,000 coalition forces in Iraq. But he indicated that the five former opposition leaders would recommend to the 25-member Governing Council that the US military take a secondary and much reduced role.

'The biggest mistake the Americans have made is to confront the Iraqis face to face and to be in the frontline of confrontation,' he said. [The Straits Times, September 20, 2003]

Related Links

"Europe's Leaders Want UN Role in Iraq," The Age, September 20, 2003

Nicholas Horrock, "Bush Says Iraq Is the World's Problem, UPI, September 18, 2003

David Westphall, "'America First' in Mesopotamia," The Sacramento Bee, September 21, 2003

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Hot Links 8:15 am | link

friday, september 19, 2003

Name That Tune
Or, Darryl Worley Is an Idiot
Some time in the last century I lost track of popular music. But I take it that Darryl Worley's song "Have You Forgotten" was a big hit last spring. I heard it on CNN, at the end of Lou Dobb's Moneyline; it accompanied a video of Our Soldiers going off to war.
Sample lyric:

Have you forgotten how it felt that day
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away?
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside
Going through a living hell
And we vowed to get the ones behind Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

I've been there with the soldiers
Who've gone away to war
And you can bet that they remember
Just what they're fighting for.

I was inspired by this little ditty to create the "Field Guide to Evil Doers."
The song also inspired me to strangle Darryl Worley. I didn't do it, but I wanted to. I bring this up to remind everybody how much our "news media," the so-called liberal one, is complicit in the deception that Saddam Hussein was behind September 11.
Mr. Worley made a ton of money on this song, I bet. He made money helping the Regime snooker the American people into waging a war. It was blood money, I say. And CNN promoted the song and the war and the Bush Regime and made no attempt to correct the error.
About that same time, Gene Lyons wrote this column:
Tooling along I-430 for an early morning assignation with a horse, I noticed a woman in the inside lane with a patriotic message in her rear window. In big, carefully-scripted white letters, it read: SUPPORT OUR TROOPS IN IRAQ. Then beneath: REMEMBER 9/11.

Having hoped to avoid this accursed war for a couple of hours, I found myself marveling at the thought processes--if those are the right words--that created this manifestation of patriotic zeal. Support our troops? Absolutely.  Now that the fighting has begun and it's clear that the bewildered little man  with the cocky swagger and the fear in his eyes has staked his political future upon overthrowing Saddam Hussein--as odious a tyrant as the U.S. has ever armed and supported--one can only pray that American and British soldiers get the job done quickly, with maximum effective force and minimum loss of life. ...

But "REMEMBER 9/11?" Madam, that was a different Arab, called Osama  bin Laden. Not an Iraqi, but an exiled Saudi. Osama denounces Saddam as an "infidel," and would enjoy seeing him dead quite as much as you would.  Not one Iraqi among the 9/11 hijackers. Attacking Baghdad in response to  9/11 is the equivalent of attacking China to avenge Pearl Harbor. [Read more]

So if I knew and Gene Lyons knew and no doubt you, dear reader, knew that Saddam Hussein was not behind September 11, how come CNN didn't know? They must've known. Lou Dobbs is a smart guy; didn't he know?

Somebody's got some 'splainin' to do.


'Course, among other things we need to take a hard look at all official pronouncements of the Regime leading up to the war, especially in regard to last October's war resolution and speeches to the UN.

Must Read: The Guardian Interviews Paul Krugman

The Radical Hand Behind Bush's War Moves

The End of American Economic Supremacy?

Cheney's Conflict With the Truth

Bob Herbert on Wesley Clark

Judicial Payback

The Big Lie

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thursday, september 18, 2003

Dies Irae
The Guardian is reporting that "up to eight" U.S. soldiers were killed today in an ambush west of Baghdad, although this number isn't confirmed in other sources. Reuters reports that three American soldiers were killed by guerillas in Tikrit, and another American died in an accident involving power lines.
That means perhaps as many as 12 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq today.
Had they heard the "President" say there was no connection between Iraq and September 11? Did they die believing they'd been betrayed by their commander in chief?
The fault is not yours, soldiers. You did your duty. Go in peace.
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wednesday, september 17, 2003

Six Degrees of al Qaeda
Talk about not getting their stories straight. Today the "President" finally admitted that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with September 11, although he is sticking to the story that Saddam Hussein had links to al Qaeda.
Today's story came from CNN's John King, who asked the "President" directly if Hussein was behind September 11. "We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11" attacks, Bush replied.
I liked the "President's" expression and tone of voice when he said this. He seemed mildly surprised ANYone would have thought such a thing about Saddam Hussein. Imagine!
The Bushies are not having a good week. For months they'd been putting off questions about the missing weapons of mass destruction with promises that the facts would all come out in the David Kay report, but this week we learn that David Kay didn't find anything to report. (If we still had independent news media this would have been front page headlines.)
But it's curious to me that several people high up in the administration came out with statements denying a Saddam-9/11 link in the past two days. The spin on Saddam Hussein's ties to September 11 appears to be "we never said it and we can't imagine how anyone got that idea."
Last night on ABC's "Nightline," Condi Rice said, "'We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein ... had either direction or control of 9/11....What we have said is that this is someone who supported terrorists, helped to train them (and) was a threat in this region that we were not prepared to tolerate." Saddam had to be removed, she said, because he represented a threat in ''a region from which the 9/11 threat emerged.''
Uh huh. And yesterday when our boy Rummy was asked about a Saddam-September 11 link, he said, "“I’ve not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that.”
In today's White House press briefing, Our Lady of Honest Reporting Helen Thomas had this exchange with Scott McClellan (who is the new Ari Fleischer):
Q Earlier today you said that the President made no connection between 9/11 and Iraq. You said that there was no indication that there was a linkage at all. Can you explain why the American people seem to know -- to believe, according to the polls, that there is a connection? Does the White House have anything to do with that, and are you going to do anything to disabuse the perception?

MR. McCLELLAN: You're right, if you're talking specifically about the September 11th attacks, we never made that claim. We do know that there is a long history of Saddam Hussein and his regime and ties to terrorism, including al Qaeda. Secretary Powell went before the United Nations and outlined what we knew back in February. And we have long talked about --

Q What did you know -- that one person was treated in a hospital?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish -- one other point here that's important to keep in perspective in light of September 11th is that one of the most dangerous new threats we face in the post- September 11th world is the nexus between outlaw regimes with weapons of mass destruction --

Q Where are they?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and terrorists. And the horrific attacks of September 11th vividly brought to light the importance of confronting these threats and confronting them before they reach our shores. There are some dangerous new threats out there, and the President is leading and acting to eliminate those threats so that the American people are more safe and secure from the kind of attacks that we have experienced.

Q Are you -- but are you trying to tell the American people now the truth, that there is no linkage?

MR. McCLELLAN: We know, Helen -- I mean, this is reopening a debate that was never had because the whole entire -- the entire judgment of the international community was that Saddam Hussein was a threat. That's why there were a number of -- the United Nations

Q They never authorized an invasion.

MR. McCLELLAN: The United Nations passed a number Security Council resolutions. You're correct on that point. But when you talk about the threat that Saddam Hussein posed, we know that this was a brutal regime that oppressed the Iraqi people. We know that this was a regime that had a long history of possessing chemical and biological weapons, and even using chemical weapons against his own people. We know that this was a regime that had invaded and attacked its neighbors. So the threat was --

Q I'm talking about linkage with al Qaeda.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you jumped into the threat there. Secretary -- again, Secretary Powell went through this. We know that a leading collaborator and senior associate of al Qaeda was in Iraq, al Zarqawi, who was responsible for directing the cell that killed an American citizen in Jordan. He was responsible for the network that developed a -- poisons and toxics labs in northeastern Iraq. There are many things we know about the history of Saddam Hussein's regime and his ties to terrorism, including al Qaeda, and we have outlined all that previously. [Link]

Yeah, and they lied about all that previously, but let's go on ... By the way, the person treated in a hospital was of course Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist treated in a Baghdad hospital after an injury. Problem is, it isn't certain that al-Zarqawi is a member of al Qaeda. Some people believe he's in a rival terrorist group.
Poor Dick Cheney must've been left out of the loop, because he was the one Bush Administration personage off message (on Sunday's "Meet the Press"):
MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn’t have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, we’ve learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.

We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know. [Link]
The story about Mohamed Atta in Prague has been debunked over and over, yet Cheney can't let go of it. He clings to Atta in Prague and al-Zarqawi in Baghdad to cover himself, like a nude fat man with nothing but a hand towel.
(To go off topic for a moment -- I watched the Cheney-Russert interview and considered writing about it here on The Mahablog. But Cheney told so many lies in that interview I was just overwhelmed. It might take decades to answer every lie in that interview. I'm getting on in years, you know, and who knows how much time I have left? Younger people like David Corn should tackle the beast.)
By now those of us paying attention know full well that Osama bin Laden couldn't stand Saddam Hussein and wouldn't have anything to do with him. And it's obvious by now that there are no Saddam Hussein-al Qaeda connections, but this is the one bit of spin the Bushies don't want to stop spinning.
The true believers at the Weekly Standard trust their President.
In interviews conducted over the past six weeks with uniformed officers on the ground in Iraq, intelligence officials, and senior security strategists, several things became clear. Contrary to the claims of its critics, the Bush administration has consistently underplayed the connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Evidence of these links existed before the war. In making its public case against the Iraq regime, the Bush administration used only a fraction of the intelligence it had accumulated documenting such collaboration. The intelligence has, in most cases, gotten stronger since the end of the war. And through interrogations of high-ranking Iraqi officials, documents from the regime, and further interrogation of al Qaeda detainees, a clearer picture of the links between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is emerging. [Stephen Hayes, "Saddam's al Qaeda Connection," The Weekly Standard, September 1, 2003]
You are welcome to read the article to see what is "emerging," but it looked like the same old bunk to me.
What the neocons are trying to do is akin to a "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" game. Much of the world is swarming with Muslim terrorist groups, and sometimes these groups work together, and sometimes they don't, and some individuals move between groups, and if you look hard enough you can always find this guy who knew this other guy who was in an al Qaeda cell, and the first guy met with somebody who knew Saddam Hussein ten years ago, according to another guy.
Hell, using this same technique, we could prove that George W. Bush was in league with al Qaeda. There are fewer degrees of separation between him and Osama than most other people on the planet.
9:15 pm | link

Visit the Barf-O-Rama!
I'm announcing a new feature in The Mahablog -- the Bush Barf-O-Rama! This is the place for the most clueless and tasteless and insipid and stomach-turning pro-Bush graphics and articles I can find. If you have any candidates for the Barf-O-Rama, please email me!
P.S. Also don't miss the October issue of Vanity Fair and its special report on the Bushes and the bin Ladens.
3:56 pm | link

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tuesday, september 16, 2003

No Gods, Just Generals
Retired Army General Wesley Clark is going to campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to CNN. He will announce his decision tomorrow in Little Rock. This is good news.
There's something positive to be said for all the candidates (except, of course, for Joe Lieberman), but I think the contrast between the intelligent, soft-spoken, handsome General and the inarticulate, buffoonish, chickenhawk Usurper will be obvious even to Bush supporters, dense as they are.
Some will say, well, he looks good, but just because he's been a general doesn't mean he would be a good president. That's a point.
There have been three presidents who went from a military career into the White House without having held any other elected office. They were Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower -- a mixed bag. But each man had some good qualities that we could use now.
Zachary "Old Rough and Ready" Taylor was in the White House for a short time -- he was inaugurated in 1849 and died of food poisoning in 1850. Taylor was a Louisiana plantation owner and slave owner, yet he was a solid Union man anpreztaylor.jpgd not afraid to stand up to plantation aristocrats over the question of allowing slavery into the West.
Southern plantation owners planned to spread slavery into the western territories, and they particularly wanted to establish slave plantations in the Golden State of California, then in the full glow of the Gold Rush. Politicians in Washington DC hotly disputed whether the territory would be "slave" or "free."
To end the dispute, Taylor urged Californians to go ahead and draft their own constitution, making the choice for themselves (they chose "free"). The white guys in power in the southern states were furious that they would not be allowed to impose slavery on people in another state who might not want it (a weird variation on states' rights, huh?).
(It occurs to me that we could draw a nice constrast between the meddling of plantation owners in California politics then and the meddling of neocons in California politics now, but let's save that one for another day.)
Southern leaders confronted Taylor and threatened secession. Taylor told them that if they tried to seceed, he'd lead the army himself to stop them, and they would be hanged.
When Taylor died in July 1850, Congress was struggling with the Compromise of 1850, which was ratified in September and which postponed the final secession crisis for another decade.
Ulysses S. Grant is my all-time favorite dead white guy and a man who grant.jpgdeserves to be remembered better than he is. Revisionist southern historians painted Grant as an ignorant drunk who imposed harsh military rule on the South during Reconstruction. Truth is, he wasn't ignorant, he wasn't a drunk, and he kept troops in the South mostly to prevent freed African Americans from being slaughtered by white mobs.
Grant was unusual for a white man of his day in that news of atrocities commited against former slaves actually bothered him. And, he thought he ought to do something to protect citizens from terrorists. He came down especially hard on the Ku Klux Klan, and whites north and south thought that Grant was going way too far to prevent those poor, oppressed, sheet-wearing white boys from exercising their traditional right to slaughter black people for fun.
Grant also shocked decent white society by appointing a Seneca chief (and personal friend) named Hasanowanda ("Ely Parker" to white folks) to be head of the Indian Bureau. An Indian in the Indian Bureau! Oh, my dear, that was just too radical. Tongues wagged about what an ignorant fool Grant was. Even worse, Commissioner Parker tried (not always successfully) to weed out corruption in his bureau, which pissed off the many people who'd been lining their pockets at the tribes' expense. These crooks brought trumped-up fraud charges against the Commissioner, who was exonerated. Parker resigned, however, partly because he realized he was becoming a political liability to the President.
The only thing most people remember about the Grant Administration were the scandals such as Crédit Mobilier. But today's historians are in the process of re-evaluating Grant, and they are concluding that much of Grant's bad rep is not deserved. "There's a sense of Grant as a decent guy who tried his best, and there was corruption, but he wasn't involved personally, and he trusted people too much," says Eric Foner, a historian at Columbia University [link].
Most significantly, after the Civil War he befriended former enemies (notably Col. John Mosby, the infamous "Gray Ghost," whom General Grant had threatened to hang), prevented President Andrew Johnson from bringing Robert E. Lee to trial for treason, freed Confederate officers from prison, and worked quietly but tirelessly to cool the hatred still simmering between North and South.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is the most difficult to evaluate of the three "general" eisenhower.jpgpresidents. The covert military actions cooked up by Eisenhower and his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, remain controversial, and many blame Eisenhower for the War in Vietnam.
On the other hand, war-hero Eisenhower was one of the few men in the nation who could stand up to the "let's nuke Khruschev" element without a political penalty. Ike won World War II, he stopped the shootin' in Korea, and when he refused to risk war against China or the U.S.S.R. when others were rarin' to go, most people trusted his judgment.
Behind the scenes, Ike and some other moderate Republicans (yes, Virginia, once upon a time there were moderate Republicans) maneuvered Joe McCarthy into the Army-McCarthy Hearings that were Tailgunner Joe's dénouement. Eisenhower is also the fellow who first warned us to beware of the military-industrial complex.
Eisenhower appears to have been less concerned than his predecessor Grant with civil rights for African Americans. But when it was necessary to act, Eisenhower, like Grant, sent troops to the South to protect African Americans from white mobs at Little Rock High School.
Also like Grant, Eisenhower was determined to maintain peace. In those days the right wing of the Republican Party was itching to start World War III; Ike kept them contained.
I realize some people on "the left" are wary of having a "military man" as President, but, believe me, we've done worse. Better a man who's seen broken bodies on the battlefield than a "chickenhawk."
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monday, september 15, 2003

Bring Out Your Dead

HALABJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Secretary of State Colin Powell said at the mass grave of Iraqi Kurds killed in a 1988 gas attack that the killings showed the world should have acted sooner against President Saddam Hussein. [Jonathan Wright, "Powell Inspects Iraq Chemical Attck Site" Reuters, September 15, 2003]

Indeed, Mr. Secretary? And what were you up to in 1988? Oh, my ... you were Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor! And in that capacity you orchestrated the Reagan Administration's response to the atrocity: rewarding Saddam Hussein with continued aid.

Quickie review -- Halabja is a town in the southern part of Iraqi Kurdistan (northeastern Iraq) with about 60,000 inhabitants. In 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, Kurdistan resistance fighters supported by Iranian troops took possession of the town.

The next day, Iraqi Migs and Mirages appeared out of the sky and dropped chemical bombs. About 5,000 Iraqi Kurds died, most very quickly. Soon newspapers around the world carried photographs of the dead -- men, women, children-- in the streets of Halabja.

Let's not talk about "the world's" reaction to this tragedy, Mr. Secretary. Let's talk about your reaction. In 1988 then senators Claiborne Pell, Al Gore, and Jesse Helms introduced a bill to impose economic sanctions on Iraq in response to its use of chemical weapons. The Reagan White House blocked that bill. You were part of the Reagan White House, Mr. Secretary.

Secretary of State George Shultz denounced Iraq's use of chemical weapons, but others in the administration seemed more concerned about the Iraqi reaction should the sanctions become law. (Senate passage of the Pell legislation produced the biggest anti-American demonstration in Baghdad in 20 years.) Working with the Republican House leadership and some House Democrats, the administration was able to water down and ultimately defeat the Prevention of Genocide Act.

While past error is no indication of future action, the Kurds have not forgotten that Secretary of State Colin Powell was then the national security adviser who orchestrated Ronald Reagan's decision to give Hussein a pass for gassing the Kurds. Dick Cheney, then a prominent Republican congressman and now vice president and the Bush administration's leading Iraq hawk, could have helped push the sanctions legislation but did not. [Peter W. Galbraith, "The Wild Card in a Post-Saddam Iraq," The Boston Globe Magazine, December 15, 2002; emphasis added]

In fact, the United States continued to provide Iraq with money and arms after the gassing of the Kurds at Tuwaitha. According to Douglas Frantz and Murray Waas of the Los Angeles Times, in 1989 President George H.W. Bush signed a top-secret directive ordering closer ties with Baghdad and opening the way for $1 billion in new aid to Saddam Hussein.

Getting new aid from Washington was critical for Iraq in the waning months of 1989 and the early months of 1990 because international bankers had cut off virtually all loans to Baghdad. They were alarmed that it was falling behind in repaying its debts but continuing to pour millions of dollars into arms purchases, even though the Iran-Iraq War had ended in the summer of 1988.

In addition to clearing the way for new financial aid, senior Bush aides as late as the spring of 1990 overrode concern among other government officials and insisted that Hussein continue to be allowed to buy so-called "dual use" technology -- advanced equipment that could be used for both civilian and military purposes. The Iraqis were given continued access to such equipment, despite emerging evidence that they were working on nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction. ...

And the pressure in 1989 and 1990 to give Hussein crucial financial assistance and maintain his access to sophisticated U.S. technology were not isolated incidents.

Rather, classified documents obtained by The Times show, they reflected a long-secret pattern of personal efforts by Bush -- both as President and as vice president -- to support and placate the Iraqi dictator. Repeatedly, when serious objections to helping Hussein arose within the government, Bush and aides following his directives intervened to suppress the resistance. [Frantz and Waas, "Bush Secret Effort Helped Iraq Build its War Machine," Los Angeles Times, February 23, 1992]

But 15 years later, one of the architects of the soft-on-Saddam policy is so sorry "the world" didn't do something about Saddam back then.

The truth is, 15 years ago the dead of Halabja were an inconvenience. You and others in the Reagan-Bush White House made sure those deaths didn't get in the way of your foreign policy agenda. But when the agenda became an invasion of Iraq, you shamelessly dug up the Halabja corpses and put them on display for your own purposes. Suddenly, you really, really cared about them.

Yeah, tell me another one, Mr. Secretary.

What It Iraq or Iran? While I'm on the subject -- last January a retired CIA analyst and American War College professor named Stephen Pelletiere wrote an op ed for the New York Times that said Halabja was most likely gassed by Iran, not Iraq. This article has circulated widely on the web, and many people take it to be absolute proof that Saddam Hussein did not gas the Kurds at all. Mr. Pelletiere is in a better position than I am to know the truth, but I have doubts about this claim.

First, Halabja was not an isolated incident. After taking control of Iraq in 1969, one of Hussein's goals was to establish a single Arab nation across the Middle East, lead by Iraq. It was Baath Party policy to make Iraq more "Arabic," meaning minority ethnic groups were to be assimilated, deported, or killed. The Kurds were special targets of this policy.

Even after the Iran-Iraq War had ended, Saddam Hussein continued to eradicate the Kurds. "By 1990, Hussein's forces had obliterated more than 4,000 villages, depopulating rural Iraqi Kurdistan," wrote Peter Galbraith in the Boston Globe.

And then there's the fact that news and photographs of the massacre in Halabja first came from Iran. And survivors all insisted the bombs dropped form Iraqi planes.

It would be gratifying for those of us opposed to the Iraq War to believe Saddam did not gas the Kurds, but I believe he did. Stephen Pelletiere possibly picked up misinformation on the incident spread by the Reagan Administration (including, perhaps, Colin Powell).

For more information: "Gassing His Own People?" on Democratic Underground, February 8, 2003, by yours truly.

1:56 pm | link

Hot Links 7:39 am | link

sunday, september 14, 2003

Gems from George
Last week the "President" announced a new three-point plan to counter terrorism, and it's a doozie.
Speaking at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, "President" Bush called on Congress to  "untie the hands of our law enforcement officials" by giving them more power to investigate and detain people without any pesky oversight.
I've been digging into the legal/constitutional implications of the "president's" request. The result is that I have a headache. There are some complex issues, especially regarding the question of administrative subpoenas. But here's a quickie analysis. Think of it as "Patriot Act II for Dummies."
Point 1: Administrative Subpoenas
According to the "President,"
Administrative subpoenas, which enable law enforcement officials to obtain certain records quickly, are critical to many investigations. They're used in a wide range of criminal and civil matters, including health care fraud and child abuse cases. Yet, incredibly enough, in terrorism cases, where speed is often of the essence, officials lack the authority to use administrative subpoenas. If we can use these subpoenas to catch crooked doctors, the Congress should allow law enforcement officials to use them in catching terrorists.
Let's review plain vanilla subpoenas for a moment. As all us Law and Order fans know, before the cops grab a suspect's financial records or diary or whatever, they have to get a subpoena from a grand jury. Very simply, this discourages law enforcement agents from messing with individual citizens just because they want to.
But the "President" wants his Justice Department -- the executive branch -- to be able to subpoena evidence and witnesses without asking the judicial branch for permission.
He argues that those pesky subpoenas are a terrible drag on investigating the bad guys. However, it's not true that administrative subpoenas are widely used in non-terrorist types of investigation. They are most often used in health care investigations, which often begin as civil cases where grand jury subpoenas cannot be issued. They are also used in child abuse investigations when a child might be in immediate danger.
There's also an "exigent circumstances" doctrine that allows law enforcement guys to seize evidence if it is about to be destroyed or to apprehend fleeing witnesses or suspects without waiting for a subpoena. If FBI agents see that Abdullah the Terrorist is about to toss his laptop into Lake Michigan, they can grab it.
So why does Bush want his Justice Department to have subpoena power, really?
Point Two: No Bail
Today, people charged with certain crimes, including some drug offenses, are not eligible for bail. But terrorist-related crimes are not on that list. Suspected terrorists could be released, free to leave the country, or worse, before the trial. This disparity in the law makes no sense. If dangerous drug dealers can be held without bail in this way, Congress should allow for the same treatment for accused terrorists.
Civil libertarians complain that the Bushies are moving away from presumption of innocence to presumption of guilt. And John Ashcroft's Justice Department already uses power the Constitution never gave it to detain people, even U.S. citizens, indefinitely. If an agency can show a court that a suspect is a flight risk, the court can withhold bail. So let's let courts make that decision.
Point Three: The Death Pentalty
Under existing law, the death penalty applies to many serious crimes that result in death, including sexual abuse and certain drug-related offenses. Some terrorist crimes that result in death do not qualify for capital punishment. Sabotaging a defense installation or a nuclear facility in a way that takes innocent life does not carry the federal death penalty. This kind of technicality should never protect terrorists from the ultimate justice.
This is my personal favorite. Think about it --  terrorists around the globe frequently kill themselves in their acts of terrorism. I haven't done a survey to pick out the ratio of suicidal to non-suicidal terrorists out there, but my impression is that the bulk of 'em are suicidal. So what's the use of the death penalty? Are we gonna sew their charred corpses together and hang 'em?
Shrub may miss those Texas perp fries, but there's no statistical evidence that they prevented any murders. The death penalty is a sop to dimwits who think revenge is some kind of victory. Plus it's obvious Shrub gets off on it.
Put together, what's Shrub's asking for is the ability to investigate, arrest, and detain indefinitely anyone the Bushies want to investigate, arrest, and detain, without oversight. And at the end of the process, they can celebrate with a hangin'.
Let's hope there are enough real patriots in Congress to kill this plan, quick.
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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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