The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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saturday, september 27, 2003

Who'da Thunk It?
It might surprise you to know that Howard Dean is not a true antiwar candidate. In fact, it might surprise you to know that your own favorite blogger, maha, wants to stay the course in Iraq and spend more money and blood on it to keep the nonsense going.
Sure as hell surprised me.
But I spent a chunk of today (wasted) on an argument with some Kucinich supporters who believe their man is the ONLY Democratic candidate who is opposed to maintaining Bush's status quo in Iraq. And if you aren't with Kucinich, you're a pro-war, bloodthirsty Bush dupe. So there.
I am now sufficiently pissed off to blog about why Dennis Kucinich should drop out of the presidential race now.
Until last Thursday's debate I hadn't focused much on Kucinich. By reputation I know he's supposed to be the most "progressive" candidate in the field. I knew he was against the Iraq war, which is fine by me. But his opening remarks in Thursday's debate bothered me a lot.

SEIB: Turning on Iraq to Congressman Kucinich and Reverend Sharpton, you've both been outspoken critics of the war and have said, in fact, you'd bring the troops home. But the fact is that as of now the troops are there, the United States is committed.

Would you vote--will you vote yes or no on the $87 billion? And if the answer is no, what's the message you would send to the troops who are there today?

KUCINICH: The message is now I will not vote for the $87 billion. I think we should support the troops and I think we best support them by bringing them home.

Our troops are at peril there, because of this administration's policy. And I think that the American people deserve to know where every candidate on this stage stands on this issue, because we were each provided with a document--a security document that more or less advised us to stay the course, don't cut and run, commit up to 150,000 troops for five years at a cost of up to $245 billion.

A matter of fact, General Clark was one of the authors of that document that was released in July.

So I think the American people deserve to know that a candidate--and I'm the candidate who led the effort in the House of Representatives challenging the Bush administration's march toward war, I say bring the troops home unequivocally. Bring them home and stop this commitment for $87 billion, which is only going to get us in deeper.

After a while, we're going to be sacrificing our education, our health care, our housing and the future of this nation.

First, I've been googling since Thursday to find out what this "security document" is Kucinich is talking about, and I can't find it anywhere. Kucinich supporters have grasped at this alleged report as proof that Wesley Clark wants to spend $245 billion dollars for more warfare in Iraq, which is certainly at odds with the General's public statements.
General Clark wasn't given a chance to rebut Kucinich's claim. In the absense of context, it isn't unreasonable to assume that this "security document," if it exists at all, was an estimate of what the war will cost if it continues as it has. We're already up to $166 billion ($79 billion original appropriation plus the infamous $87 billion recently requested). One of these days it'll add up to real money.
It bothered me also that Kucinich glibly brushed off the $87 billion -- no more money to Iraq, just bring the troops home. Kucinich apparently plans to beam them back to North America next week with his Start Trek transporter.
It's morally cheap to be against the $87 billion. Of course, no one wants to spend the $87 billion. This is money that would never have had to be spent if we hadn't gone ahead with the dadblamed invasion. As several candidates said last Thursday, we must demand accountability for that money -- Congress must know exactly what the Bushies intend to do with every dollar. Perhaps a lesser appropriation will do. But to say no money at all is irresponsible.
As I've ranted before, our troops are in Iraq without adequate food, water, and shelter. Soldiers have died because there aren't enough kevlar vests to go around. Just today we learned of a new attempt by the Bushies to save money by risking soldiers' lives:
Even as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made headlines this week by announcing that up to 20,000 fresh troops may be called to Iraq, President Bush and members of the congressional leadership were quietly abandoning a plan to protect troop-transport airliners from missile attack by terrorists or Saddam loyalists.

The measure, first advanced by the Pentagon, would have begun an ambitious program to equip the commercial airliners that are used for troop transport with advanced technology to protect them from the shoulder-fired missiles. Confused by disarray in the administration's plans to protect airliners from missile attack, the House of Representatives slashed the original $25 million request to $3 million. Congressional officials say the Bush administration did nothing to win approval of the full measure -- despite recent missile attacks on U.S. military craft flying near the Baghdad airport. [Paul J. Caffera, "Bush Abandons Troop Protection Plan," Salon, September 27, 2003]

But according to Dennis Kucinich, our troops should just put up with these little hardships until we can bring them home, which in spite of the Congressman's best hopes will not be next week.
When I press them on the matter of how the troops will be brought home, the Kucinichistas tell me brightly that the Congressman has an original plan to turn Iraq over to the UN. Wow, I'm amazed nobody else ever though of that (sarcasm alert).
Still, the UN is not likely to march peacekeepers into Baghdad anytime this year. Perhaps not even next year. But we don't have to spend any more money to support the troops. They can just make do without kevlar vests and bottled water and other little frills.
(Am I still pissed off? You betcha.)
Face it, Kucinich was just plain demagoging this issue. The other candidates gave reasonable, thoughtful answers to the $87 billion question. For the record, I thought the best answer came from Carol Mosley Braun:
MOSELEY BRAUN: I stand with the mothers of the young men and women who are in the desert in Iraq and who right now are in the shooting gallery without even sufficient supplies to sustain themselves.

And so, it is absolutely, I think, critical that we not cut and run, that we provide our troops with what they need and that we just not blow up that country and leave it blown up; we have a responsibility.

Following in on that responsibility means we will have to vote some money. The estimates vary as to what that is.

Almost a year ago, I called on this president not to go into Iraq and I called on the Congress not to give him the authority to go into Iraq, and at the same time asked the question, "Mr. President, how much is this going to cost?" He didn't answer the question then, he's not answering the question now.

But I believe that it's going to be important for us to come up with the money to make certain that our young men and women and our reputation as leaders in the world is not permanently destroyed by the folly of preemptive war.

You say she doesn't want to cut and run? In Kucinich World, that makes Mosley Braun a war monger. For shame.
(Keep in mind also that, as all us armchair military experts know from reading Civil War novels, retreats are very dangerous to troops unless they are done correctly. A haphazard retreat exposes troops to more dangers than if they are just holding a line.)
Another Kucinich moment of brilliance, from the debates -- "I'm disappointed that my fellow colleagues here haven't continued to make the connection between the rising deficit and the war in Iraq. Because unless we commit ourselves to get out of Iraq--get the U.N. in and get the U.S. out--we're going to see rising deficits."
Is he serious? Does he think no one but he is making the connection between the Iraq War and the deficit? Again, that's just plain demagoguery.  
Kucinich also joined in ganging up on Howard Dean by saying he was surprised that Dean, a medical doctor, would promote a health insurance plan that doesn't cover every American. Neither do the plans offered by Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards or other candidates, but Kucinich only singled out Dean.
It must not be forgotten that in his first three terms as a Congressman, Kucinich had a consistently anti-abortion rights voting record, earning him endorsements from the National Right to Life Committee.  "He absolutely believes in the sanctity of life and that life begins at conception," Kucinich's spokeswoman explained last year.

Now he says he sees the error of his ways and is pro-choice. Yeah, I've heard that one before. 'Scuse me if I don't entirely trust you, Congressman.

Face it, folks. Dennis is a flake and needs to go away before he damages the cause further.

Oh, and how did the Kucinichistas come to the conclusion that Howard Dean is not a true antiwar candidate? From this article in Salon, published February 19, 2003.

It's Thursday, Feb. 6, the day after Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations of evidence of Iraq's noncompliance with Resolution 1441. Edwards calls it "a powerful case." Kerry says it's "compelling." Lieberman, of course, is already in his fatigues.

Dean isn't sold. It doesn't indicate that Iraq is an imminent threat, he says.

From Washington come the barbs -- The New Republic calls it proof he's "not serious." ABC News' "The Note" wonders if he's backed himself into a corner. Dean has opposed the pending war because he didn't think President Bush had made his case. If he doesn't support military action now, the thinking goes, then he's just contradicting himself. Or, at the very least, he's been put in an untenable and -- for the moment, at least inside war-ready Washington, unpopular -- position.

He gets a deluge of phone calls from reporters asking him to clarify his position. Which is -- "as I've said about eight times today," he says, annoyed -- that Saddam must be disarmed, but with a multilateral force under the auspices of the United Nations. If the U.N. in the end chooses not to enforce its own resolutions, then the U.S. should give Saddam 30 to 60 days to disarm, and if he doesn't, unilateral action is a regrettable, but unavoidable, choice.

"Dean is stirring up antiwar people," a senior advisor to one of his Democratic opponents says. "They are against all war, not just against war without U.N. support. When we do go to war, and Dean says he's with our troops and president in time of national crisis, the antiwar activists he's cultivated will turn on him quickly."

Dean says that's fine, and denies that there's any inconsistency. "I think people are madly trying to find one," he says. "It's part of the game." [Jake Tapper, "On the Campaign Trail With the Un-Bush," Salon, February 19, 2003]

I repeat, Kucinich supporters whip out this very article to "prove" Dean is flip-flopping on the war. A tad short on critical thinking skills, it seems. 

4:35 pm | link

Hot Links 9:13 am | link

friday, september 26, 2003

Barbarians at the Gate
This is just plain sick, folks. This is what Faux News did to Tucker Carlson of CNN's Crossfire:
Carlson had been defending telemarketers on the show, and an e-mail writer during the show suggested he give out his home phone, saying he wanted to direct-market to Carlson some of his "junk in the garage."

According to the report, co-host Paul Begala encouraged Carlson to reveal the number, which he did – only it was the Fox News number, not his home number.

"Get out your pen," Carlson said before reciting the main line at the Fox newsroom. [World Net Daily, September 25, 2003]

Now, this is a cute little prank. I would have expected Faux News to retaliate by directing callers to CNN News, which they did in some news releases. But someone at Faux posted Tucker Carlson's private unlisted number on Faux's web site.
Carlson said hundreds of angry phone calls were made to his home, including threatening calls. Carlson's wife and four young children were at home at the time the calls were made. []
Imagine the semihuman, mouth-breathing, chromosome-challenged cretins who actually watch Faux News, then imagine these creatures talking to sweet little children. Disgusting. 
9:59 pm | link

Colin Powell Bombshell
"We had a good discussion, the foreign minister and I and the president and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions -- the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was 10 years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."
5:50 pm | link

How Low Can He Go?
More Josh Marshall -- the Wall Street Journal took issue with Mr. Marshall's recent claim that Dubya's job approval numbers are in free fall and will continue to decline. Their basic argument is that if Dubya's approval numbers continue to fall as fast as they've been falling lately, he'll be at minus 11 percent by September 2003. And since that isn't possible ...
Mathematically, then, Bush's "free fall" has to end at some point, with his ratings at least leveling off. And it seems likely that his "bottom" is a lot closer to the current 49% than to zero, for the simple reason that his own party remains united behind him. [James Taranto, "Best of the Web Today," WSJ Opinion Journal, September 25, 2003]
Well, they do have a point -- he can't fall to a minus percentage, unless you count me several times. So the question is, how low can he go?
If the WSJ is right, and registered Republicans remain solidly behind Bush, then he could go as low as 35 percent. I understand that's the percentage of voters in 2000 who identified themselves as Republicans (39 percent Democrats; 27 percent independent).
But then, of course, there are self-described "independents" who are dittoheads (and therefore Bush supporters). And there are Republicans who are real Republicans and don't like the growing Bushie budget deficit (I've met some of 'em at Howard Dean meet-ups). So I don't think you can go by that.
Bush won't fall to zero, because there is a segment of our population who will stand by him no matter what. The man could ride a tricycle down Pennsylvania Avenue, naked but for a clown wig, and there are some who would call it the beginnings of a bold new transportation policy.
I call this phenomenon "Peggy Noonan Syndrome."
There are no polls that will tell us how many have an incurable case of PNS, but my guts tell me it's somewhere around 30 percent of the voting population, give or take a lot.  So, I predict that Bush has falling room below the current 49 percent, but no matter what he does it won't go below the 30s.
But that's low enough.
12:30 pm | link

Hot Links, Plus Jaw-Dropper of the Week
You've got to read Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo today. Long-time Bush insider and former FEMA director Joe Allbaugh is now chariman and director of a company called New Bridge Industries, which "was created specifically with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq" according to New Bridge's own web site. Unbelievable.
8:11 am | link

thursday, september 25, 2003

Whither the Neocons?
I don't buy right-wing newspapers. If I'm going to waste money, let it be on chocolate or shoes. But I do check in with the online editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, the Washington Times, and some other publications to find out what the enemy is up to.
Neither the WSJ or the Weekly Standard had commentary available to non-subscribers on the "President's" UN speech. Maybe it was in the print editions. But it seems (possibly) significant that neither of these publications came out with ringing online endorsements of the Tuesday speech.
Instead of commentary on the speech, WSJ Online Journal ran a piece by Claudia Rosett called "New World Order" that may be humorous (hard to tell with WSJ humor) and which includes this observation of the UN:
United Nations. Well, that's the official name--but it's high time to reconsider. The unity here consists largely of shared high-end real estate in New York and a strange presumed equivalency among all rulers of sovereign states, an assumption that does no service to the cause of peace and freedom. What we need is hardly a society of "united" (or maybe "convened") nations, but of "free nations"--perhaps with a children's table out back for the world's tyrants.

U.N. Resolutions. In light of the U.N.'s utter failure to resolve any of the most pressing issues of the world's surviving tyrannies and their terrorist spawn, maybe we should in such cases start talking about U.N. "irresolutions." [Claudia Rosett, "New World Order," Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2003]

Maybe WSJ is pretending the UN speech never happened.
The Weekly Standard Online carried several articles on the California Recall, plus commentaries on North Korea and the Dixie Chicks. Not a peep about the UN speech.
Only the Washington Times dutifully praised Bush's speech:
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, President Bush made a strong argument on behalf of Washington's efforts to rebuild Iraq and create a stable, democratic Middle East. The president rightly didn't give any ground to foreign and domestic critics of the policies he has pursued with extraordinary determination since the September 11 attacks. Instead, he took advantage of the opportunity to address the U.N. to re-emphasize the reality that we make progress in the war on terrorism by encouraging democracy in dangerous, volatile regions like the Middle East. ["Bush's Powerful Case," The Washington Times, September 24, 2003]

Solid proof that Tony Blankley lives in an alternate universe.

According to Oliver Burkeman of the Guardian, some neocons are losing their passion for the Bush II Regime. Burkeman reported from the neocon thinktank American Enterprise Institute.

In interviews with the Guardian they expressed deep scepticism about President Bush's new overtures to the UN, accusing the White House of a lack of commitment - and, most surprising of all, rounding on their former hero Donald Rumsfeld. The distance between the president and the movement widely credited with persuading him to go to war in the first place has never seemed greater.

"All of us surely understand that, but for the president, we wouldn't be arguing about postwar Iraq - we would still be arguing about what to do with Saddam," said Thomas Donnelly, an AEI scholar and senior fellow at the Project for the New American Century, the influential rightwing group whose founding signatories include Dick Cheney, the vice-president, Mr Rumsfeld, and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.

"But having got rid of the guy, we're now understanding that regime change is a much larger undertaking than we thought it was. But this is a unique American responsibility, and passing the buck to the rest of the world, a good portion of which didn't agree with us in the first place, is not a great idea." [Oliver Burkeman, "Vision of the Neocons Stays Fixed on Making Hard Choices," The Guardian, September 23, 2003]

These people crack me up. They were the true believers in the Cakewalk Theory. After a fun little war, liberated Iraqis would embrace democracy and American values would bloom throughout the Middle East. Now they say, um, well, it's all been more difficult than we thought it would be.

What can one say but, duh.

8:54 pm | link

Chris Matthews Makes Me Puke
Any reasonable person who watched even a few seconds of CNBC's post-debate coverage will know precisely what I mean.
If you missed today's Democratic candidate debate, there's a transcript here. I thought everyone came across well. Comments to come.
7:03 pm | link

George W. Bush Will Lose the 2004 Election
The last time -- the only time -- I made an election prediction in The Mahablog the prediction was ... well ... wrong. I predicted in 2002 that New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli would keep his Senate seat. Whoops!
But I can't help myself sometimes. I'm predicting right now that Boy Wonder Bush is going to lose in 2004, and that he will lose BIG. In fact, it won't surprise me if Republican Party leaders approach him next summer and ask him to step down in favor of another candidate.
No, I don't think this is wishful thinking, even though he will have more campaign money than God, and even though a big chunk of the Republican Party base thinks he IS God.
The boy's approval numbers are in free fall. The most recent polls show his rating dipping below 50 percent. This means that at least half of the voters aren't buying his bullshit any more.
And, frankly, the only thing the boy had goin' for him was (phony) credibility. People believed him. In spite of the economy, in spite of the job layoffs, in spite of John Ashcroft, in spite of the missing weapons of mass destruction -- he said he was doing right, and people believed him. But the numbers say he is losing that credibility, and I don't see how he's going to get it back.
The mess in Iraq is not going to get better quickly. It's possible that by this time next year there will be more international help, the Iraqis will have simmered down, and U.S. troop numbers will have been reduced. But ... if that happens, it will be in spite of the Bush Administration, not because of it. (See yesterday's Mahablog.) 
Plus, there are no weapons of mass destruction, there were no weapons of mass destruction, and eventually -- about six months after nearly everyone in the world has figured this out -- U.S. "news media" will push the Bushies hard enough that someone in the administration will crack and admit they fabricated the WMD stories to give themselves an excuse to go to war in Iraq.
The economy is not going to recover in ways that will be apparent to most people. It's possible that by next summer the stock market will be on an upswing and there will be some positive economic indicators. But jobs are not going to come back that soon, and salaries will continue to be stagnant.
The cost of oil is going up and will go up a lot more this winter because of OPEC's decision to cut production. This winter, gasoline pump prices may hover around $2 a gallon at least in most parts of the country and go way above $2 a gallon in places.
On the other hand, Bush will fight tooth and nail to keep his job, because he knows that if he no longer controls information people will find out the truth about what he knew before September 11. And he will have tons of money -- perhaps as much as $200 million, which is a lot more than he's pledging to fight the evil international sex slave trade -- and he will use any means to get the votes to win. I repeat, any means.
Still, next spring, as the Republican Party looks to its convention -- its New York City convention -- if Shrub isn't ahead in the polls, GOP party bosses may ask him to step down. Because he sure as hell isn't going to get a bounce out of the the New York City convention.
Hee hee.
11:33 am | link

Hot Links 8:12 am | link

wednesday, september 24, 2003

The Morning After: Are We Waking Up Yet?
As speeches go, Bush's effort at the UN yesterday was remarkably bad. And this was not because Bush's delivery failed, although he had all the enthusiasm of someone about to get root canal.
The fact is, the speech itself was a mess. There was nothing fresh or compelling in it. As Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate, "The speech seemed cobbled from the catchphrases of last year’s playbook."  It was the same old rhetoric and the same old half-baked ideology and the same old lies, and it was clear by the UN's "polite" reception that he wasn't foolin' anybody.
You'd think, given the importance of the speech, the writers would have made an effort to swing for a home run instead of taking the walk. And so the question of the day is, what's wrong with these people?
OK, I admit that "what's wrong with these people?" has been the thrust of The Mahablog ever since I launched it (July 2002). But the problems with the speech illustrate the fundamental flaws of the Bush II Administration..
Caught in His Own Web
In the September 20 Mahablog I wrote,

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.

Glenn Kessler writes in today's Washington Post that the Bushies had already decided before yesterday's speech that the UN was not inclined to provide help with Iraq, especially if the White House does not relinquish some control. At the same time, Kessler says, Bush's conservative base doesn't want the UN to have any control. Faced with declining approval rating numbers, the Bush speechwriters were more interested in appeasing the folks at home than in getting anything out of the UN.

"There is a hell of a case of donor fatigue," a senior administration official said today. "A realistic appraisal [of what a new resolution would bring] is 'not much.' "

Bush's rhetorical maneuvering room was limited in other ways. Faced with the worst approval ratings of his presidency, Bush designed his speech to appeal to a domestic audience. But the president's conservative base, long skeptical of the United Nations, would not approve of an explicit acknowledgment of a broad U.N. role in Iraq. Bush limited his comments on potential U.N. aid to programs that bring broad bipartisan support, such as UNICEF and the World Food Program. [Glenn Kessler, "A Vague Pitch Leaves Mostly Puzzlement," The Washington Post, September 24, 2003]

Yesterday's speech revealed Mr. Flight Suit having a failure of nerve.  On September 7 he had to tell the nation he needed $87 billion from Congress to spend on Iraq. In this speech he promised to ask for help from the UN to lessen the burden on U.S. taxpayers. But yesterday he was unable to make the speech he needed to make to get that help, because that would have required (1) offering to share control with the UN and (2) admitting that things are not going as well in Iraq as he's been pretending.

Josh Marshall writes that the Administration is stuck in a loop:

First, some major setback occurs in Baghdad. Next, the White House reacts with a newfound desire to broaden its coalition by bringing in the United Nations and our allies.

When the crunch comes, however, the White House can’t bring itself to make the hard decisions necessary to change the dynamic in Iraq or the United Nations. So everything falls back to the status quo ante until the next bomb blows up in Baghdad. [Josh Marshall, "Administration Stuck in an Infinite Loop," The Hill, September 24, 2003]

Bottom line: For the first time in his pampered, privileged, silver-spoon life, George W. Bush is not going to get bailed out by his daddy's rich friends or his business cronies. He has to make the tough choice between risking the support of the Hard Right and the neocons in order to do the right thing by Iraq and the U.S., or clinging to his political support and letting Iraq and the U.S. suffer the consequences.

If Bush's bio is our guide, he lacks the fortitude and character to do the former, so we are stuck with the latter as long as Bush is President of the United States.

Can we afford to stay stuck for another 15+ months, assuming the next election gets him out of office?

At the very least, Congress must take Bush in hand and make some decisions for him. The House must demand that Bush reveal where every U.S.dollar is going in Iraq -- no more secrets, or no more money. The Senate must exert its constitutional power to direct the President in foreign policy.

Most Republicans will whine and squeal about "partisan politics," but I think it's possible there are enough honest statesmen among the GOP in Congress to join with Democrats in this effort. If the President's approval numbers continue to slide, maybe -- just maybe -- Congress will finally get past its own failure of nerve and do its job.

Commentary on the Speech
The New York Times
The Washington Post
Other Stuff in the Nooz
5:59 am | link

tuesday, september 23, 2003

Curiouser and Curiouser
A web site dedicated to investigating electronic voting has been disabled, apparently by court order. Diebold, Inc., objected to the site because it linked -- just linked -- documents on another site relating to Diebold's development of voting machine technology. The disabled site is, and I'll try to get more details up tomorrow.
11:44 pm | link

Bush at the United Nations -- Transcript
What follows is a transcript of the "President's" speech at the UN today. Don't trust those other transcripts -- mine is better.

Mr. Secretary General, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

On September 11, 2001, the center of New York City became a battlefield and a graveyard and one hell of a photo op. 

You may wonder why I'm bringing up September 11 in a speech on Iraq, since I've admitted there is no connection between Iraq and September 11. Well, the only reason the American people supported me in the great effort in Iraq is that most of 'em believe there is such a connection, and I want them to keep thinking that.

Since that day, terrorists have struck in Bali, in Mombasa, in Casablanca, in Riyadh, in Jakarta, in Jerusalem--and mostly this terrorism didn't have much to do with Iraq either. But last month some different terrorist bombed the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

The U.N. headquarters in Baghdad stood for order and compassion, and for that reason -- and because the CIA got some boys liquored up and told 'em I was there -- the terrorists decided it must be destroyed.

By the victims they choose and by the means they use, the terrorists have clarified the struggle we are in. And I'm glad they did, because otherwise I wouldn't understand it myself. Those who target relief workers for death have set themselves against all humanity. Those who incite murder and celebrate suicide reveal their contempt for life itself. They have no place in any religious faith, they have no claim on the world's sympathy, and they should have no friend in this chamber. But you let me speak here, anyway, and I thank you.

The Taliban was a sponsor and servant of terrorism. When confronted, that regime chose defiance, and that regime is no more. [Pause; Karl Rove runs to podium, hands Bush a note.] Oh, wait; it says here the Taliban is making a comeback. Well, never mind.

Afghanistan's president, who is here today, now represents a free people who are building a decent and just society. They're building a nation fully joined in the war against terror. [Pause; Rove runs to podium and whispers in the President's ear.] Well, we acknowledge that the decent and just society extends to just a few square blocks of Kabul, and the rest of Afghanistan is a mess. But you got to start somewhere.

The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror with weapons of mass destruction. We knew they had those weapons, because we had the receipts. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder and refused to account for them when confronted by the world. Saddam had written down where and when the weapons had been dumped on the back of a napkin and tossed the napkin, but how were we to know that?

The Security Council was right to be alarmed, because we raised enough stink about Saddam to drown out every skunk in North America. And because a coalition of at least a couple of nations acted to defend the peace and the credibility of the United Nations, even while we called you "irrelevent," Iraq is free.

Saddam Hussein's monuments have been removed along with that mosaic tile picture of my daddy in that Baghdad hotel. Plus the torture chambers and the rape rooms and the prison cells for innocent children, which are now occupied by U.S. soldiers who never got the barracks Brown and Root was supposed to build. And as we discover the killing fields and mass graves of Iraq, the true scale of Saddam's cruelty is being revealed.

Of course, my daddy shouldn't have mouthed off about an uprising against Saddam and then sit by while Saddam wiped out his opposition, but that's not my fault.

The Iraqi people are meeting hardships and challenges, like every nation that has set out on the path of democracy, yet their future promises lives of dignity and freedom. And that is a world away from the squalid, vicious tyranny they have known. Instead of squalid, vicious tyranny, they now enjoy squalid, viscious anarchy. That's entirely different.

Across Iraq, life is being improved by liberty whenever people can get out of the way of the airstrikes. Our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were supported by many governments and America is grateful to each one. Your checks are in the mail.

So let us get over that little disagreement we had last year and move forward. There are challenges we must meet together.

First, we must stand with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq as they build free and stable countries. Free people embrace hope over resentment and choose peace over violence, unless they are Republicans.

The United Nations has been a friend of the Afghan people, distributing food and medicine, helping refugees return home, advising on a new constitution, and helping to prepare the way for nationwide elections. And it's a good thing, because the United States ain't doin' it.

NATO has taken over the U.N.-mandated security force in Kabul. American and coalition forces continue to track and defeat Al Qaida terrorists and remnants of the Taliban, even the same guys we defeated last year. They are persistent little buggers.

By the end of 2004, more than 90 percent of Iraqi children under age 5 will have been immunized against preventable diseases, such as polio, tuberculosis, and measles, thanks to the hard work and high ideals of UNICEF. Iraq's food distribution system is operational, delivering nearly a half million tons of food per month, thanks to the skill and expertise of the World Food Programme. And as soon as you guys are done in the Middle East, we're gonna need you in Mississippi. Probably Texas, too.

Our coalition has made sure that the former dictator will never again use weapons of mass destruction. They'll need a new dictator for that.

We are interviewing Iraqi citizens and analyzing records of the old regime to reveal the full extent of its weapons programs and its long campaign of deception. [Rove runs up to podium gesturing frantically, speaks to President.] We're not supposed to mention the David Kay report? Can we edit the tape? This is live? Oh, crap ... Karl, you promised me this wouldn't be live! Well, forget I said that.

And at the same time, our coalition is helping to improve the daily lives of the Iraqi people. The old regime built palaces while letting schools decay, so we are rebuilding more than a thousand schools. The old regime starved hospitals of resources, so we have helped to supply and reopen hospitals across Iraq. The old regime built up armies and weapons while allowing the nation's infrastructure to crumble, so we are rehabilitating power plants, water and sanitation facilities, bridges and airports.

However, as we do this, the schools, hospitals, and infrastructure in the United States is going to hell, so I've come here today to ask for help. Even if you don't help, I can blame you guys if the power goes out again.

And I have proposed to Congress that the United States provide additional funding for our work in Iraq, the greatest financial commitment of its kind since the Marshall Plan, which was a big important thing that happened when I was a baby. The primary goal of our coalition in Iraq is self-government for the people of Iraq, reached by orderly and democratic process; just not in the immediate future.

A second challenge we must confront together is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The deadly combination of outlaw regimes and terror networks and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away. 'Course, I don't like to waste time tryin' to figure out what makes these people tick, either. Let's just bomb 'em. Shock and awe -- let God sort 'em out.

A third challenge we share is a challenge to our conscience. We must act decisively to meet the humanitarian crises of our time. The United States has begun to carry out the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, aimed at preventing AIDS on a massive scale and treating millions who have the disease already. We have pledged $15 billion over five years to fight AIDS around the world, although of course we won't release this money unless people prove to us they aren't having sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

There's another humanitarian crisis spreading, yet hidden from view. Each year an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 human beings are bought, sold or forced across the world's borders. Among them are hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, and others as young as 5, who fall victim to the sex trade. This commerce in human life generates billions of dollars each year, much of which is used to finance organized crime. The victims of sex trade see little of life before they see the very worst of life: an underground of brutality and lonely fear. governments that tolerate this trade are tolerating a form of slavery.

This problem has appeared in my own country and we are working on it. We are investigating sex tour operators. We are comparing rates and figuring out when we can get away for a couple of weeks... wait a minute; how'd this letter from Neil get mixed up in my speech?


As an original signer of the U.N. Charter, the United States of America is committed to the United Nations. And we show that commitment by working to fulfill the U.N.'s stated purposes and giving meaning to its ideals, as we interpret them, whether you like it or not.

May God bless you all.

12:46 pm | link

Hot Links 7:44 am | link

monday, september 22, 2003

Desperately Seeking Justification
Determined to put a brave face on its support for Bush's War, the Wall Street Journal today editorialized that the "President" has been entirely too cautious in making the case for Iraq-al Qaeda links.
I'll pause and let you read that again. Yes, too cautious. That's what it says.

The Bush Administration was cautious, arguably too cautious, when making its case for the liberation of Iraq. Exhibit A is what it said about the links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Investigators, interrogators and even journalists are turning up evidence of a stronger relationship than the limited ties originally sketched by President Bush and Colin Powell.

Since the limited ties originally sketched by Bush and Powell have been entirely debunked, WSJ needs some new ones if it's going to maintain the fiction that there was some noble purpose to the war in Iraq. So let's see what this "new" evidence is! And, as you read this, keep in mind that this is the best stuff WSJ could come up with.
  • Abdul Rahman Yasin, a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was being harbored in Iraq.

Translation: After eluding capture for making the 1993 bomb, Yasin fled to Iraq because he is a native of Iraq and presumably knew people there who would let him sleep on the sofa. Iraqi authorities claim they imprisoned Yasin in 1994, which I guess is "harboring" in a sense. However, the Iraqi Yasin learned to make bombs in Pakistan, not Iraq. (1) Still, no connection to September 11 or al Qaeda yet.

  • Documents recently found in Tikrit indicate that Saddam provided Yasin with monthly payments and a home.

Analysts and law enforcement agents disagree on the conclusiveness of the documents. (2) But still no link to al Qaeda.

  • The terror cell that carried out the 1993 bombing received funding from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 2001 attack, according to "federal authorities."

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is a bad guy apprehended in Pakistan last March. Mohammed really is an al Qaeda honcho who very possibly did take part in the planning of the September 11 attacks. And, he is uncle to Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted of participating in the 1993 WTC bombing. (3)

So, al Qaeda big shot Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is related to Ramzi Yousef, who worked with Abdul Yasin in the 1993 bombing, and Yasin is an Iraqi who may have been given sanctuary from U.S. law enforcement by Saddam Hussein.

And Kevin Bacon was in Footloose with Dianne West, who was in The Birdcage with Gene Hackman, who was in The Firm with Holly Hunter, who was in Copycat with Sigourney Weaver. Isn't this fun?

  • About a month after September 11, reports surfaced that lead hijacker Mohammed Atta had met in Prague with an Iraqi embassy official and intelligence agent named Ahmed al-Ani. Al-Ani was a later expelled from the Czech Republic, in connection with a plot to bomb Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Iraq. Despite repeated attempts to discredit the report of a meeting between the two, Czech officials at the cabinet level have stuck by the story.

Oh, please WSJ; the "Czech officials at the cabinet level" who stuck by this story must've been drunk at the time. Not only has the Czech government debunked this story; American intelligence agencies don't believe it, either. They've documented that Atta was in the United States when this meeting allegedly took place.(4)

  • Also in October 2001, two defectors alleged that a 707 fuselage at Salman Pak, south of Baghdad, was being used to train terrorists in the art of hijacking with simple weapons such as knives. Though no link to al Qaeda was alleged, some of the trainees were said to be non-Iraqi Arabs. The fuselage was clearly visible in satellite photos, and has since been found.

So (bleeping) what?

  • Former Iraqi intelligence chief and then-ambassador to Turkey Faruk Hijazi had met with bin Laden and associates on multiple occasions.

Hijazi is the guy Mohamed Atta allegedly met with in Prague, or would have had he been in Prague, according to some web sites. Hijazi allegedly met with Osama bin Laden in Turkey sometime in 1998, although I can't find anything that says "on multiple occasions." (5) I found no information on Hijazi from mainstream news sources except that he is in U.S. custody now.

  • Reporters for the Toronto Star and London's Sunday Telegraph found a memo from Iraqi intelligence, in which bin Laden's name was covered over with Liquid Paper, on the subject of planned meetings with an al Qaeda representative visiting Baghdad on February 19, 1998.

I repeat -- this is the best evidence of an al Qaeda-Saddam Hussein link the Wall Street Journal could find.

  • Also in 1998, a U.S. government source told Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard, Iraq paid bin Laden deputy Ayman Zawahiri $300,000.
I looked and looked for corroboration of this story and found nothing. However, according to CNN, al-Zawahiri traveled to California in 1995. Does this mean then-Governor Pete Wilson is linked to al Qaeda? (6)
Inquiring minds want to know!
2:00 pm | link

Iraqis Miss the Point
Alert reader "sf" passed along this New York Times article, which I had overlooked:
In a 6,000-mile end run around American and British occupation authorities, leaders from the Iraqi Governing Council say they will go to Congress this week to argue that American taxpayers could save billions of dollars on Iraq's reconstruction by granting sovereignty more rapidly to the council, the 25-member interim government here.

In interviews, the Iraqi leaders said they planned to tell Congress about how the staff of L. Paul Bremer III, the American occupation administrator, sends its laundry to Kuwait, how it costs $20,000 a day to feed the Americans at Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, how American contractors charge large premiums for working in Iraq and how, across the board, the overhead from supporting and protecting the large American and British presence here is less efficient than granting direct aid to Iraqi ministries that operate at a fraction of the cost.

"The Americans are spending money here to secure themselves at a rate that is two to three times what they are spending to secure the Iraqi people," said Ahmad al-Barak, a human rights lawyer and a member of the council. "It would be better for us if we would be in charge of how to spend this money and, of course, they could monitor how it is spent." [Patrick E. Tyler, "Iraq Leaders to Press Congress for Control Over Rebuilding," The New York Times, September 22, 2003]

Of course, it makes perfect sense in light of the Bush Regime's stated goals that these jobs be turned over to Iraqis as quickly as possible. This would not only save U.S. taxpayer dollars but would also provide jobs to Iraqis and get more money circulating within the Iraqi economy.

With the Bushies, however, the stated reason for doing anything is not the real reason. So corporate fat cats, consultants, and various Bushie hangers-on are living high on the hog ('scuse me, it's a Mulsim country; let's say "raking it in") at the expense of Iraqis and American taxpayers -- why, my dear, that was the plan all along! And, it's working swimmingly!

I mean, why would Bush care about putting Iraqis back to work, when the U.S. is shedding good manufacturing and tech jobs as fast as it can? Why should any of us expect to live well in the Bushieworld to come? We ordinary folks are just cost as far as the wealthy are concerned, and we'd better adjust. The only job skills we'll need involve food serving, shoe shining, opening limo doors, and saying, "yes, massah!"

The Iraq governing council, to show us how cost-cutting is done, cancelled the $5,000-a-day food service contract arranged for them by Paul Bremer and found less expensive ways to feed themselves.

Clearly, these Iraqis will never amount to anything. In the Bushie value system, if you aren't wasting and consuming more than you produce, you aren't worth holding the reigns of  power. Economy, like paying taxes, is for the little people.

11:09 am | link

Hot Links 7:22 am | link

sunday, september 21, 2003

Late Nite Nooz
Couple o' things got my attention this evening. First, Mark Crispin Miller (The Bush Dyslexicon) has a blog now, and check this out -- Mark says Diebold voting machines in Volusia County, Florida, coughed out a negative vote count for Al Gore in 2000. Yes, children, somehow Al Gore got minus 16,022 votes in Volusia County. Whoops! Go to Mark's blog for the details.
Second, according to a story in tomorrow's Guardian, the U.S. has put Iraq up for sale.
Iraq was effectively put up for sale yesterday, when the US-backed administration unveiled a sweeping overhaul of the economy, giving foreign companies unprecedented access to Iraqi firms which are to be sold off in a privatisation windfall.

Under the new rules, announced by the finance minister, Kamil Mubdir al-Gailani, in Dubai, foreign firms will have the right to wholly own Iraqi companies, except those in the oil, gas and mineral industries. There will be no restrictions on the amount of profits that can be repatriated or on using local products. ...

The reforms won the backing of the US treasury secretary, John Snow, who said they were "policies that make sense... that offer real promise." ...

Yesterday, one Iraqi businessman warned that the economic reforms would "destroy the role of the Iraqi industrialist". Wadi Surab told the BBC that Iraqi entrepreneurs would be unable to compete with foreign companies in privatisation tenders. [Rory McCarthy, "Foreign Firms to Bid in Huge Iraqi Sale," The Guardian, September 21, 2003]

The new policies give foreign firms far more access than is usual in Third World countries. Iraqis are concerned, but the policy was implemented without public debate. The Guardian says 192 public sector companies are up for sale.

Ain't democracy grand?

Oh, and some American firms have already gotten in on the ground floor, notably Kellogg, Brown and Root.

11:34 pm | link

The Stalking Horse
The right-wing brain is a thing of wonder, more amazing than a six-legged frog. If I had one stuffed in a mayonaise jar, I'd charge admission to see it.
The Right's most recent collective brain child is the "stalking horse" theory, which goes like this: The Clintons talked Wesley Clark into the race for the presidential nomination so that he would be a "stalking horse" meant to confound the campaigns of the other nine candidates, notably Howard Dean. This would leave room for a last-minute entry by Hillary Clinton in 2004.
Or else, the theory goes, Clark is meant to split the Democrats so that none of them can be elected in 2004, and then Hillary can get the nomination and run in 2008.
Or, Clark is the stalking horse of Democratic insiders trying to bring down Howard Dean, because they think he is another Mondale or Dukakis. Of course, the Clintons are behind this plot also.
Whatever. Bottom line, Clark is from Arkansas and the Clintons say he's a good man. Therefore, there must be a nefarious purpose behind Clark's candidacy.
A stalking horse is something like a red herring. My dictionary says it means "a person put forward to mislead; a sham." (Bird hunters used to hide behind their horses, and horse and hunter would stalk a bird together until the hunter was close enough to shoot.)

And, of course, in the right-wing mind it isn't possible that Clark would run because he believes he could be elected and serve as President. Nah; there must be another reason.
The stalking horse theory and its variations sprang up suddenly last week, and by today it was all over the Sunday talk shows, spouted (with a straight face!) by Bill Safire on Meet the Press, among others.
Behold the stalking horse in recent right-wing commentary:
Clark is in the race, and he will stay in the race as long as it suits the Clinton's fancy, perhaps up to and including winning the nomination itself. (He will not, of course, be allowed to win in November.) It is an insult to Machiavelli to call this scheming Machiavellian. One must never, however, underestimate the Clintons' self-centeredness, venality, or ability to make their evil schemes work. Republicans have been doing that for years, and they've paid the price. If you say of the Clintons, "Oh, they wouldn't do that," you are wrong.

Right now they are playing a four-star General for a sap and working day and night to deny their own political party the chance to win the presidency in 2004. Their current tactic is the old stalking horse trick. If that doesn't work, they'll try something else. Howard Dean, beware. You've never met anybody like them in Vermont. [Jay Bryant, "Wes Clark: The Stalking Horse,", September 19, 2003]

Bill Clinton talked up his wife and Gen. Wesley Clark, the latest Democratic 2004 entry, as the two stars of their party, sparking speculation that Clark might be a stalking horse for a late Hillary entry. [Deborah Orin, "Hillary Deletes Fans' Prez-Run Email," The New York Post, September 20, 2003]

The Clinton “orchestration” behind Clark’s campaign is so apparent that commentators are already speculating whether General Clark is running for himself – or as a stalking horse for Hillary and/or as a puppet for Bill. Is all this being arranged to knock down rivals and clear the way for a Clinton-Clark “C-C Rider” ticket in 2004? [Lowell Ponte, "Wesley Clark: A Clinton by Another Name?" Front Page Magazine, September 17, 2003]

This one is my favorite so far --

But, consider the distinct possibility that he is, in addition to being a serious candidate in his own right, potentially a stalking horse for the other Clinton – Hillary.

Can you not imagine Clark-Clinton or Clinton-Clark as the ultimate dream ticket for the Democrats in 2004?

It could happen. We could find our nation back where it was between 1992 and 2000. I have a feeling, because of his utter ruthlessness and predisposition to kill innocent civilians in Serbia and Kosovo, that Clark is potentially even more dangerous than Clinton. [Joseph Farah, "Why Wesley Clark Is Dangerous," World Net Daily, September 19, 2003]

Clark will take our nation back to where it was between 1992 and 2000? And that's a problem? (Although, frankly, Bush has screwed the nation up so much I don't think it'll go back to anything like the 1990s in my lifetime. Unfortunately.)

But I say this theory doesn't go far enough. Let's say the Clintons support Wesley Clark and he gets the nomination. Then he chooses Hillary Clinton as his running mate, and they win the election. Then, sometime in 2005, the President's body will be discovered in Fort Marcy Park, apparently dead of a suicide. Hillary becomes President and appoints her husband Bill as VP.

Or, sometime in 2005, President Clark (whose mind was put under Hillary's control using techniques developed at Fort Hood) abruptly resigns, and then Hillary becomes President and appoints Bill, etc. The former President Clark spends the rest of his life stalking small birds with a horse.

Or, right after the inauguration, President Clark pulls off a rubber face and ... underneath, he was Hillary all along!

Or, the President of the United States willfully ignores terrorist threats and, after a catastrophic act of terrorism that kills thousands of Americans, arranges for relatives and business partners of the terrorist mastermind to safely leave the country. Then to distract the nation he starts a war with another country ... no, wait; that actually happened, didn't it?

Never mind.

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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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