The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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saturday, july 2, 2005

More Old Business
There seems to be some further corroboration that Karl Rove was the leaker in the Valerie Plame case. Greg Mitchell writes for Editor & Publisher:
Lawrence O'Donnell, senior MSNBC political analyst, now claims that at least two authoritative sources have confirmed that one name is top White House mastermind Karl Rove.

This afternoon, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff confirmed that Cooper did indeed talk to Rove for his story, but Rove's lawyer denied he was the key leaker in the case.

"The e-mails surrendered by Time Inc., which are largely between Cooper and his editors, show that one of Cooper's sources was White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, according to two lawyers who asked not to be identified because they are representing witnesses sympathetic to the White House," Isikoff writes on the Newsweek web site. "Cooper and a Time spokeswoman declined to comment. But in an interview with Newsweek, Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove had been interviewed by Cooper for the article. It is unclear, however, what passed between Cooper and Rove."
Luskin the Lawyer says Rove "never knowingly disclosed classified information" and that "he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." Further, Rove signed a waiver authorizing reporters to testify about their conversations with him.
Might Cooper and Miller have chosen to keep Rove's identity secret even after he had signed a waiver? Seems to me they might have.
Via News Hounds, Shepard Smith and Eric Burns discussed  the Rove/Plame connection on Faux Nooz and offered some speculation:

EB: ... did the story do anybody any harm? Yeah, Valerie Plame is no longer a covert operative. We tried to find out what happened to her. The CIA is notoriously unforthcoming. What we believe is she worked there until May. Is she still there? There's no way to know. Is she still a covert operative? Almost certainly not because her cover was blown.

Why would a journalist say 'I have a right to keep private sources which provided information for a story of this nature? I don't understand it. It's why people think journalists are arrogant (except for Fox, do they have journalists?) It's hiding behind a principle, when, in this case, the result of that principle is a story that did no good and some harm. (I think that is called freedom of the press)

SS: Of course, at the root of all of this is -- did the Bush Administration, or one person in the Bush Administration leak this as a gotcha and how dare you say bad things about this president. That's the root of it all.

EB: Yeah, but isn't that another reason why we should know the sources in this case. Not only is, perhaps, Valerie Plame worse off because of this story but there may be some important information about the motives of the leakers.

I mean, you know the journalist's augument here. If we're requested to tell people who our sources are, if we're required to tell a court who our sources are, well, maybe those sources won't talk to us in the future.

There is also some indication that Fitzgerald's investigation is no longer fixed only on who outed Valerie Plame

Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald has stated in court pleadings that he already knows the identity of Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper's sources regarding the senior white house official who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to Robert Novak.

Miller did some reporting for a story but never wrote an article. She has maintained she intends to go to jail rather than reveal her source -- though Fitzgerald has indicated in court filings that he already knows that official's identity.

So, why is it so necessary for them to provide the information?

As the Wapo article suggests, the investigation has moved from one involving the identity of the White House official to one involving perjury - i.e., a cover-up. The source may have been questioned in front of the grand jury and lied.

Digby: "The Iraq Group"

Atrios links to this new E&P scoop that says the Plame Grand Jury just subpoenaed documents from the Iraq Group, which set off some bells. It turns out the Grand Jury has asked for documents from this group before and I wrote about it back in February of '04. (Good to know I haven't completely blown all my brain cells.)

Here's what I
wrote at the time. Looking at it now it takes on some unusual (although likely completely coincidental) significance: ...

Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

The Iraq Group was, essentially, a propaganda arm of the White House. Fitzgerald's investigation may be going beyond Plame and into the whole fabric of lies that got us into the Iraq War. 

See also: Stirling Newberry, "On an Article Hangs Source X."

Update: Josh Marshall writes (emphasis added),

 Mike Isikoff's piece on Rove's role in the Plame case is now up on the Newsweek website. But the picture it paints seems a bit murkier than what Lawrence O'Donnel suggested. ...

...  What's implicit in Isikoff's report, however, and in the Tribune too, is that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald is after Rove for some felony arising out of the case (perjury after the fact? conspiracy?) but not the immediate and original act of leaking the name.

There's one other point worth noting here. As we've seen, federal law recognizes no reporters' privilege or confidentiality. But if recollection serves, there are DOJ guidelines which say that prosecutors should exercise a great deal of discretion when trying to compel testimony from journalists. They're not supposed to do it just to tie up a few loose ends, but only if there's real and significant crime they're trying to prosecute. And before they do so, they're supposed to have exhausted all other possible ways to get at the information.

5:56 pm | link

Old Business
Before plunging into conjecture of which knuckle-dragging troglodyte the President will nominate to replace Justice O'Connor, I'd like to call your attention to a possible breakthrough in the Valerie Plame case. Josh Marshall has the background.
This news is a couple of days old, but I want to be sure it isn't completely crushed under Supreme Court nominee conjecture.
Lawrence O'Donnell, senior MSNBC political analyst, claimed to know the name of the White House source who leaked Valerie Plame's name and identity to reporters. O'Donnell says it was Karl Rove, which is what we all suspected. There's always a chance O'Donnell is mistaken, of course, but given the retribution he's likely to face for making an unfounded allegation, I am inclined to think he knows.

Steven C. Day at PopPolitics makes a good argument that reporter privilege doesn't apply in the Plame case.

The attorney-client privilege, for example, has traditionally been one of the most broadly applied privileges, since clients need to feel free to communicate openly with their lawyers -- even about dastardly things. Yet, even this privilege is far from absolute. Of particular relevance here, the privilege (at least in most jurisdictions) doesn’t apply in any case where it is found that the communication in question was made in furtherance of a fraud or crime. In other words, the privilege protects communications about past criminal behavior, but, obviously, cannot properly be used to further the commission of future or ongoing crimes.

Is it so unreasonable to suggest that a similar dynamic applies in the case of the Valerie Plame investigation? The White House bad guy who dished the information about Plame being a covert CIA agent wasn’t merely acting as a source for a reporter, passing on info about a story; no, the bad guy’s contact with the reporters was directly in furtherance of the allegedly criminal plan to publicize Plame’s status in an effort to take political revenge against her husband.

Evidentiary privileges involve a balancing of conflicting interests: On the one hand, there is the interest in keeping the particular communication, in this case between a reporter and a source, confidential; on the other, there is the substantial interest in making relevant information available to the pursuit of truth in judicial proceedings.

What possible public interest is served by granting an absolute privilege to governmental agents to use members of the press to further a criminal enterprise?

Then, of course, there is the enduring mystery of why the Reptile, who is clearly in this up to his overgrown eyebrows, is getting a pass.
Postscript: I'm close to the scene of the crime this weekend--Washington, DC. I'll say hi to Karl for everybody.
7:39 am | link

friday, july 1, 2005

Prepare for Battle
Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement today. The battle over a Supreme Court nominee will soon be upon us.
Lock 'n' load, people.
Another 4th of July weekend is also upon us. I'm going to be busy, so posting will be sparse unless something significant happens. Sometime this weekend, be sure to eat some barbeque and drink some beer and watch some fireworks. And travel safely.
Also, be sure to read "Deja vu in Iraq" by Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe and "America Held Hostage" by Paul Krugman in the New York Times.
11:08 am | link

Another Reason to Not Support Hillary
This month Senator Clinton will be assuming a "key position" in the Democratic Leadership Council.
The woman really is turning into Exhibit A in "What's Wrong With the Democrats."
At the Nation, Ari Berman writes,

Clearly, Hillary hopes that by identifying herself with an organization devoted to bashing the Democratic base she can solidify her moderate credentials. "A senior Democratic aide suggested Clinton's involvement with the DLC is just another move toward expanding her political appeal as she ponders a presidential bid," Roll Call reports (subscription only). As recently as last March, Hillary was not listed in the DLC'sNew Democratic Directory of elected officials. Now she is.

For many politicians, joining the DLC offers supposed political cover. "It's the easiest, cheapest way for a politician who wants to be equated with 'different kind of Democrat,'" explains former Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi. (See "Going Nowhere: The DLC Sputters to a Halt.")

We need a "different kind of Democrat," all right. What we don't need are more posturing, calculating, packaged-to-appeal-to-swing-voter Dems like Hillary. We've got way too many of those now. That's why most of the public thinks Democrats have "no core set of convictions or point of view."
Be sure not to miss David Sirota's "Why the Public Believes Dems Stand for Nothing." And follow that up with "Democrats: The Party of Losers" by AaronBurrFan at BOP News. Among other points, ABF suggests that progressives stop working with the clueless and corrupt Dem insiders who keep marching the party off a cliff.
[Americans] are willing to accept progressive governance, but they do not consider Democrats a progressive party. Indeed, what has been going on for the past six months is that progressives within the Democratic Party have been fighting tooth and nail, this has hurt Bush, and conservative empty Democrats have taken credit for the victories. And progressives - as seen in their support for Hillary Clinton and Bob Casey - are quite willing to let this happen. The screeching 'we have to wiiiin' whining is drowning out the 'we have to improve the country', and they are different and often mutually exclusive ethos. For instance, the pro-life anti-stem cell Casey will give bipartisan cover to Republicans in the Senate, all the while taking advantage of progressive anti-privatization work to unseat Santorum.
In the comments, ABF asks that we "stop giving money to single-issue groups and Democrats in general elections and dedicate that money to progressives running in primaries." I hope that in 2006 the Left Blogosphere will seek out and promote progressive Dems running in primaries and help turn the party around.
6:30 am | link

thursday, june 30, 2005

Not Just Like Vietnam
Richard Cohen writes in the Washington Post today that Iraq is becoming more and more like Vietnam.

The similarity is most striking in the language the president used. First came the vast, insulting oversimplifications. The war in Iraq was tied over and over again to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, although that link was nonexistent. The Sept. 11 commission said in plain English that there was no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Even a line such as we must "defeat them abroad before they attack us at home" had a musty, Vietnam-era sound to it. Whether it's true or not, it is an updated version of the domino theory: if not Saigon then San Francisco.

Second, just as Lyndon Johnson and others referred to communism as if it were a worldwide monolith, so Bush talks about terrorists. He mentioned "terrorists" 23 times, and while he also occasionally employed the word "insurgents," his emphasis was on the wanton murders of the former and not the political aims of the latter. He even cited the terrorist leader and al Qaeda associate "Zarqawi" by name, saying the United States would never "abandon the Iraqi people to men" like him -- strongly suggesting that he was the problem in Iraq. Abu Musab Zarqawi, though, is only part of the problem.

Yesterday, Eric Alterman posted a "Vietnam Preflight Check."

    1. Cabal of oldsters who won’t listen to outside advice? Check.
    2. No understanding of ethnicities of the many locals? Check.
    3. Imposing country boundaries drawn in Europe, not by the locals? Check.
    4. Unshakeable faith in our superior technology? Check.
    5. France secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
    6. Russia secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
    7. China secretly hoping we fall on our asses? Check.
    8. SecDef pushing a conflict the JCS never wanted? Check.
    9. Fear we’ll look bad if we back down now? Check.
    10. Corrupt Texan in the WH? Check.
    11. Land war in Asia? Check.
    12. Right unhappy with outcome of previous war? Check.
    13. Enemy easily moves in/out of neighboring countries? Check.
    14. Soldiers about to be dosed with *our own* chemicals? Check.
    15. Friendly fire problem ignored instead of solved? Check.
    16. Anti-Americanism up sharply in Europe? Check.
    17. B-52 bombers? Check.
    18. Helicopters that clog up on the local dust? Check.
    19. In-fighting among the branches of the military? Check.
    20. Locals that cheer us by day, hate us by night? Check.
    21. Local experts ignored? Check.
    22. Local politicians ignored? Check.
    23. Locals used to conflicts lasting longer than the USA has been a country? Check.
    24. Against advice, Prez won’t raise taxes to pay for war? Check.
    25. Blue water navy ships operating in brown water? Check.
    26. Use of nukes hinted at if things don’t go our way? Check.
    27. Unpopular war? Check.

Yet there are differences, and today on Salon Sidney Blumenthal described the biggest difference:

In his call for "sacrifice," Bush strove to sound somber, but his tone was more gladiatorial than anguished. His speech superficially recalled the Vietnam speeches of Lyndon Johnson, another president who tried to muster public support for a war that increasingly resembled a quagmire. But Johnson's speeches were filled with a sense of the sobriety of the venture and moment. Even as he urged patience, as Bush did, and said the nation was being tested in Vietnam, as Bush did about Iraq, he spoke of moral ambiguities. In his State of the Union address of 1967, for example, Johnson said of the Vietnam War: "No better words could describe our present course than those once spoken by the great Thomas Jefferson: 'It is the melancholy law of human societies to be compelled sometimes to choose a great evil in order to ward off a greater.'" And Johnson warned the country against "arousing the hatreds and the passions that are ordinarily loosed in time of war."

lbj.jpgJohnson was an anguished president, a reluctant warrior, personally devastated by the loss of life and fully aware of the tragedy of the war to himself, his presidency and the nation. Vietnam was a war he inherited; he had made no single decision to go to war. From the beginning, he knew he presided over a disintegrating policy. He believed that if he withdrew from Vietnam, he would provoke a right-wing backlash as virulent as McCarthyism and sacrifice the Great Society. Johnson grappled with bad and worsening prospects. He was always skeptical about the war and tended toward pessimism. He gathered as much information as he could and reached out to the most informed people he could. He especially sought out senators he respected who had serious reservations, like Richard Russell and Mike Mansfield.

"You can't listen to those tapes of Johnson without hearing a man in utter agony, knowing he's trapped," Leslie Gelb, director of the Pentagon Papers project inside the Defense Department during the Johnson administration, and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. "Bush doesn't think he's trapped. Bush has reduced everything to will. I've never seen any self-doubt or agonizing, or anyone who works with him suggest that."

From the thoroughly favorable political position of national unanimity after 9/11, Bush pursued a war of choice in Iraq, relying on shaky, distorted and false intelligence. Skeptics were driven into a corner and punished. The administration became an echo chamber.

Narcissistic personality disorder, anyone?

8:04 pm | link

Secrets and Lies

THERE IS AN assumption that Saddam Hussein's upcoming trial will validate the Iraq war -- but watch out.

The trial -- starting as soon as next month -- may not be great news for the United States. In fact, it may allow the former Iraqi dictator to publicize some obscure but extremely sordid aspects of the US relationship with him and make a very public defense against the validity of the constantly changing reasons for the current Iraq war. The trial could easily backfire and go haywire from the US government's point of view.

The United States has coordinated holding Saddam for over a year and a half with no trial yet. It appears that Iraq wants to start the trial, while we are happy with the delays.

You know that if the Bushies were confident Saddam's trial would make them look good, they would have had it already.

According to Alastair Macdonald of Reuters, the Kurds and Shiites of Iraq are chomping at the bit to try Saddam Hussein--understandably--but the U.S. is hoping for a full-blown war crimes trial.

Sounds like an excuse to me.

I found this Christian Science Monitor article from February saying that war crime trials for SH and 11 cohorts would begin "within the next two to four weeks, according to a US government official who works with the Iraqis." It's, um, been a lot longer than two to four weeks. And it sounds as if the U.S. had been helping get ready for the trial:

Because the building blocks of the case presentation are so crucial, US government officials say the training and evidence-gathering period for the Iraqi judges, prosecutors, and investigators has been long, but vital. Advisers from the US State Department and Department of Justice (DOJ) have been working with the Iraqi court since it was launched by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in December 2003. According to the US official working with the operation, they focused on two levels: the hardware and the people.

A special courtroom had to be constructed. Evidence that had been previously documented had to be collated. Evidence seized by the US military had to be examined. Judges, lawyers, investigators, and document experts had to be vetted and trained. "They don't have a real history of doing this kind of thing," says the US official. "The concept of command responsibility is new to them."

But much progress has been made, the US official says. In addition to the legal training by the DOJ staff, led by Greg Kehoe who has had experience with the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the judicial staff has traveled to London, Amsterdam, and Sicily for further training, including mock war-crimes trials.

So how come it's the last day of June and Saddam Hussein hasn't been tried yet? What's the holdup? It was our idea to try SH in Iraq and not in an international court. Now Iraq's Prime Minister is applying pressure to get the trial started.

Much about Saddam's history vis a vis the U.S. is public knowledge, yet not common knowledge, at least among Bush supporters. It's possible, with support for the war lagging, the Bushies have decided this is not the time for the American public to be treated to a review of that history.  

Or, maybe there's more we don't know about.

4:39 pm | link

George W. Bush Is Soft on Terrorism
David Neiwert at Orcinus writes another excellent post, saying what needs to be said.
One of the cornerstones of the Republican attack on liberals as "weak on terrorism" -- voiced most notoriously by Karl Rove last week, but really a constant and building theme since 9/11 -- is the notion that the Bush administration has been aggressive and "resolute" in tackling this threat.

Like most Republican themes these days, it is unadulterated bullshit. It pretends that the arrogant imposition of a long-planned policy is the same as resolve, and that the careless use of military power is the same as aggressiveness. It also pretends that all of these, somehow, are an adequate substitute for real competence.

The reality is that the Bush administration has foregone a serious and effective campaign against terrorism by pursuing an unrelated military misadventure that will, in the long run, weaken our national defense -- especially against terrorist attacks.
In today's WaPo, David Ignatius writes,
The war in Iraq has in fact made America's terrorism problem worse. The CIA reached that judgment in a recent report, and any fair-minded person would come to the same conclusion. By toppling the cruelly repressive regime of Saddam Hussein, the United States turned Iraq into a new breeding ground for jihadists.
Bold words. But then Ignatius becomes Exhibit A in "Why We Can't Have an Intelligent National Discussion About Iraq":
That doesn't mean the war was wrong, but it does make it hard to justify as an anti-terrorism stratagem.
That doesn't mean the war was wrong? If a war is suppose to be an antiterrorism measure, but in fact has the result of being a proterrorism measure, why doesn't that make the war wrong? 
We all hope American and Iraqi forces will contain the insurgency there, but what happens then? The answer, unfortunately, is that the terrorists go elsewhere -- as did Osama bin Laden's Afghanistan recruits. I'm told the intelligence community speaks of this problem as "bleed out" -- a graphic metaphor for how terrorist cells would seep into neighboring countries and conduct operations there and, indeed, around the world.
Again we see the words insurgents and terrorists used as synonyms. Iraqis who are fighting because we invaded their country are insurgents. The fact that a lot of those insurgents are now learning the methods of terrorism and joining the larger effort, the jihad against the West, is one of the many truths the Right lacks the moral courage to acknowledge. Per rightie rhetoric, all Muslims fighting the U.S. occupation of Iraq are lifelong members of same group of terrorists who struck the U.S. on 9/11.
As they say, it ain't just a river in Egypt.
The rest of Ignatius's opinion piece amounts to a big wimping out; he still argues that we have to keep fighting the terrorists/insurgents in Iraq so that they don't come here. But why not? The t/i's are not exactly bottled up. From today's Bob Herbert column:

The administration seems to have learned nothing in the past two years. Dick Cheney, who told us the troops would be "greeted as liberators," now assures us that the insurgency is in its last throes. And the president, who never listened to warnings that he was going to war with too few troops, still refuses to acknowledge that there are not enough U.S. forces deployed to pacify Iraq.

The Times's Richard A. Oppel Jr. wrote an article recently about a tragically common occurrence in Iraq: U.S. forces fight to free cities and towns from the grip of insurgents, and then leave. With insufficient forces left behind to secure the liberated areas, the insurgents return.

"We have a finite number of troops," said Maj. Chris Kennedy of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. "But if you pull out of an area and don't leave security forces in it, all you're going to do is leave the door open for them to come back. This is what our lack of combat power has done to us throughout the country."

If there were a finite number of terrorists in the world, and if we had 'em surrounded in Iraq, the "we have to fight them there so that they won't come here" theory would make sense. But there aren't, we don't, and it doesn't.
The attacks of September 11 were carried out by 19 men, not an army. I fail to see why the jihadists won't, sooner or later, peel off a handful of fighters and send them here to kill Americans at home.  What's stopping them?
In fact, it's a logical strategic move, no different from the strategy that sent "Crazy Bill" Sherman strolling through Georgia in 1864. It's a wonder to me it hasn't happened already.
It's essential that we keep repeating the fact that the Iraq War has nothing to do with September 11. It's also essential to keep repeating that the Iraq War has only tenuous and theoretical antiterrorist applications. The Bushies invaded Iraq because they wanted to invade Iraq.  Keeping Americans safe from terrorism was not the reason, but the excuse.
What about September 11? David Neiwert responds to Karl Rove:
The reality: When liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attack, they wanted to prepare an effective, nimble response combining military action with intelligence-gathering and law enforcement, as well as addressing the root causes of terrorism; conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and simply prepared to sell George W. Bush as a "war president."

Turns out they were pretty good at that. But fighting terror? These guys make Larry, Moe and Curly look like icons of competence.
IMO going after something like international terrorism--something liquid and borderless--through conventional warfare makes as much sense as shooting at flies with a shotgun. 
On the other hand--and I know some of you will disagree with me on this--the attacks of September 11 required a hard response. A nation cannot afford to let a challenge like that go unanswered. I'm not talking about revenge or retaliation, but demonstration. I certainly wouldn't have saved the shock and awe for Iraq. I would've come down on every Taliban/al Qaeda stronghold in Afghanistan, and I would have come down on them a lot harder and a lot faster than the Bushies (who gave Osama bin Laden ample warning and time to escape) did.
Karl Rove said, "In the wake of 9/11, conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States military against the Taliban." But they didn't unleash that power in Afghanistan; they used only a small part of that power. They held back, saving the shock and awe for Iraq.
I say again--it's Bush and his supporters who are soft on terrorism, not liberals.
If it had been up to me, and the U.S. had truly unleashed power and might in Afghanistan, when the smoke cleared I would have said, this is what happens when you mess with the United States. But then I would have poured every possible resource into the security and rebuilding of Afghanistan.
And, at the same time, I would have increased security at airports, seaports, and major cities in the United States, and pursued anti-American terrorism globally through a mix of special operations, intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomacy. Karl Rove might call that planning to "prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." I call it fighting terrorism smart, not stupid.
Instead, the Bushies held back in Afghanistan. They sent minimal troops and special ops to reinforce the Northern Alliance, and relied way too much on Pakistan to close the borders. Even so, many oppressed people were liberated from the Taliban, which was good. But then we all but abandoned Afghanistan to pursue whatever goal Bush thought he was pursuing in Iraq. Today, Carlotta Gaul writes in the New York Times:
The loss of a military helicopter with 17 Americans aboard in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday comes at a time of growing insecurity here. For the first time since the United States overthrew the Taliban government three and a half years ago, Afghans say they are feeling uneasy about the future.

Violence has increased sharply in recent months, with a resurgent Taliban movement mounting daily attacks in southern Afghanistan, gangs kidnapping foreigners here in the capital and radical Islamists orchestrating violent demonstrations against the government and foreign-financed organizations.

The steady stream of violence has dealt a new blow to this still traumatized nation of 25 million. In dozens of interviews conducted in recent weeks around the country, Afghans voiced concern that things were not improving, and that the Taliban and other dangerous players were gaining strength.

I say again--it's Bush and his supporters who are soft on terrorism, not liberals.
The only thing BushCo knows how to do is manipulate events for maximum political profit. And that's what they did with 9/11. It should be abundantly clear to anyone paying attention that BushCo has no clue how to actually fight terrorism, and that they are incapable of learning. The fact that so many Americans continue to support the Bush Administration is a testament to the power of cognitive dissonance.
7:50 am | link

wednesday, june 29, 2005

It's all about rationalization--some on the Right are twisting recent history into pretzels in a pathetic attempt to make a connection between September 11 and Iraq. Andrew McCarthy writes:
It was good to hear the commander-in-chief remind people that this is still the war against terror. Specifically, against Islamo-fascists who slaughtered 3000 Americans on September 11, 2001. Who spent the eight years before those atrocities murdering and promising to murder Americans — as their leader put it in 1998, all Americans, including civilians, anywhere in the world where they could be found.
As several writers explained today in their critique of last night's speech, the Saddam Hussein regime that we invaded in March 2003 had no operational ties to the terrorists who perpetrated September 11. It was not until after we invaded Iraq, and because we invaded Iraq, that Islamic extremists began flocking to Iraq to fight us.
But, because we have sunk so much of our attention and resources into Iraq, to the detriment of the effort in Afghanistan, many of the terrorists who really did have some connection to 9/11, like Osama bin Laden, remain free.
BTW, if you've never read "Bush's Lost Year" by James Fallows, from the October 2004 Atlantic Monthly, here's your chance. The fact is, the Iraq war is nothing but a distraction from the real antiterrorism efforts the U.S. should have been making, and could have been making, except the Bushies couldn't think of anything else but invading Iraq.
And because the United States invaded Iraq, we unwittingly created a place where hotheaded jihadists get the training to effectively commit acts of terrorism anywhere in the world. 
Way to go, Junior. The fact is that our war against terror seems to be having the opposite effect-- it's creating more terror.
But the righties really don't care about terrorism. They just want to hang on to their delusions about the greatness of George W. Bush. Want to see proof? Go back to McCarthy's article. God help us, he repeats all the old fantasies and rumors the righties floated in 2002 and which later were throroughly and utterly debunked. He even sends Mohammed Atta back to Prague, for pity's sake. And McCarthy is clueless enough to mention Abu Musab Zarqawi, a horrendously dangerous man who owes his life and freedom to George W. Bush's "war on terror." 
NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger. ...
...  Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
Clearly, fighting terrorism was not Bush's first priority. Invading Iraq was the first priority; fighting terrorism was just an excuse. September 11 was just an excuse. And the 3,000 dead are just resources to be manipulated. Bush uses their corpses to prop up his sorry excuse for an administration, just as Bush apologists use them to excuse their jingoism and xenophobia. 
Here's the difference between righties and the rest of us: Some of us care more about national security and honoring the 9/11 dead than we care about glorifying Prince George. But righties care more about glorifying Prince George than they care about national security and honoring the 9/11 dead.
Updates: Bradford Plumer takes on another of Andrew McCarthy's howlers. As the disinformation campaign continues, Steve M correctly calls the "disinformers" proxies. This is how the Rove White House operates; they get stooges to tell the biggest whoppers for them. Eripost at The Left Coaster takes some of the straw out of the Right's straw men.
9:12 pm | link

You Won't Believe This
Via Steve M.--take a look at the White House Iraq policy web page. Someone in White House web administration is a tad off message.
CNN Headline: "Bush Slammed for Iraq Link to 9/11." The public can't be reminded often enough that Iraq has nothing to do with 9/11.
11:29 am | link

The Reviews Are In
magician.jpgPresident Bush took his magic act on the road last night. Unfortunately, the big finale--where he draws a curtain over September 11, and out pops Iraq--didn't wow everyone.
Also last night the President appealed to young people to join up.  "There is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces," he said. I'm sure this will inspire a generation of young Republicans to write letters to the troops, or at least send postcards, or maybe just think about the troops once in a while. 'Twould be nice.
The theater critics weigh in:
Bush invoked Sept. 11 five times in his speech and referred to it by implication several more times. Although he has previously agreed with investigators that there is "no evidence" of a link between Saddam Hussein's government and the attacks masterminded by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, he used much of his speech to depict the militants in Iraq as the same breed of Islamic terrorist who struck the United States. The White House titled his remarks a discussion on the "War on Terror," not Iraq.

"This war reached our shores on September 11th, 2001," Bush said. "The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom." He added that many of the insurgents in Iraq "are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania."

The address continued a shift in the administration's emphasis as it has justified the Iraq war, beginning with the threat posed by Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction, continuing to the need to promote democracy in the Middle East and now suggesting a more seamless link to the attacks on American soil.

"The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden," Bush said Tuesday night, referring to Abu Musab Zarqawi, the insurgent leader in Iraq. Bush quoted bin Laden calling the Iraq conflict a "third world war" and added that terrorists "are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September 11th, 2001."

More than two years ago, Bush argued that Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq could make the nation a haven for terrorists. But in his nationally televised speech, Bush asserted that the tumult that has followed Hussein's removal created the same threat. ...
... By completing "the mission," Bush declared, "we will prevent Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban — a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends."

That argument drew instant scorn from some Democrats, who argued that Bush was defending the continued military operations on the basis of a threat that did not exist before the invasion. ...

What the president said about 9/11 wasn't false, exactly; White House speechwriters are better than that. The president talked about the war that "reached our shores" on 9/11, the speech that he gave after 9/11, the Americans who died on 9/11, the "lessons" that we learned from 9/11, the way that the terrorists tried to "shake our will" on 9/11 and, once again, the speech that he gave after 9/11.

Bush didn't say Tuesday night that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11, but he didn't have to, either. His administration has spread that phony story so many times before -- sometimes explicitly, more often through the sort of guilt-by-association game the president played at Fort Bragg -- that the president's supporters have long since internalized it.

Ellis Henican, New York Newsday:

In his prime-time talk, the president did finally acknowledge a growing public distaste for his war: "I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future."

But he pinned his defense of the war policy almost entirely on a single, discredited connection, the claim that Iraq was tied to Sept. 11.

He cited the terror attacks repeatedly. He even quoted Osama bin Laden, who had about as much connection to Saddam Hussein's Iraq as Pancho Villa did to Imperial Japan.

"We are fighting against men with blind hatred - and armed with lethal weapons - who are capable of any atrocity," Bush told 750 soldiers and airmen in the base gymnasium. "They are trying to shake our will in Iraq - just as they tried to shake our will on Sept. 11, 2001. They will fail."

They? Well, you know, whomever.

We did not expect Mr. Bush would apologize for the misinformation that helped lead us into this war, or for the catastrophic mistakes his team made in running the military operation. But we had hoped he would resist the temptation to raise the bloody flag of 9/11 over and over again to justify a war in a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks. We had hoped that he would seize the moment to tell the nation how he will define victory, and to give Americans a specific sense of how he intends to reach that goal - beyond repeating the same wishful scenario that he has been describing since the invasion.

Sadly, Mr. Bush wasted his opportunity last night, giving a speech that only answered questions no one was asking.

Editorial, New York Daily News:

The only other arrow in Bush's quiver is the support for his handling of the overall war on terror. That explains why he frequently linked Iraq to the Sept. 11 attacks. He didn't come out and say Iraq was directly involved; rather, he said "the only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of Sept.11 - if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi - and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden."

That's a slick phrasing that aims to remind people why they initially supported the war. But the burden now is a litany of false claims that, at best, make the war's execution look inept.

Start with the "Mission Accomplished" banner of May 1, 2003, when the President jauntily declared an end to major combat operations. At that time, 140 American troops had been killed. Or consider Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's claim six weeks later that only "dead-enders" were obstructing us. Some 200 were dead then. Then came Vice President Cheney's recent foolish claim that the insurgency is in "its last throes."

None of those things turned out to be true. And unless Bush can soon show major, clear progress, last night's speech will either be forgotten or become one more mark against him.

Leader, The Guardian:

Vietnam is often mentioned. If there have to be comparisons, Malaya might be a better one, although it was far less violent. But Vietnam is relevant in the sense that, although no politician, official or soldier would ever use the phrase "light at the end of the tunnel", that is beginning to be the message from Washington. Again and again the administration has proclaimed that the war would be over once some necessary stage was passed, whether it was the formation of a government, the drafting of a constitution or the completion of some phase in the training of Iraqi forces. Yet the bombs keep on going off, the mortars keep on coming in, and the bullets keep on finding their marks, often enough in the bodies of Sunni moderates. Now George Bush and his associates are using different words, long haul words, tunnel words. General John Abizaid, the US commander in the Middle East, stated in congressional evidence that the insurgency was just as strong as it was six months ago. A CIA report has suggested that Iraq is training a new generation of jihadists. And Donald Rumsfeld now says, with the assumed wisdom that is his stock in trade and without admitting for one moment that he has ever said anything different, that everybody knows that insurgencies go on for years. President Bush, making yet another speech on Iraq yesterday, is emphasising the themes of endurance and patience.

President Bush's pep talk to the nation Tuesday night was a major disappointment. He again rewrote history by lumping together the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the need for war in Iraq, when, in fact, Saddam Hussein's Iraq had no connection to Al Qaeda. Bush spoke of "difficult and dangerous" work in Iraq that produces "images of violence and bloodshed," but he glossed over the reality of how bad the situation is. He offered no benchmarks to measure the war's progress, falling back on exhortations to "complete the mission" with a goal of withdrawing troops "as soon as possible."
Bush continued to maintain that Iraq is "a central front in the war on terror." How did he prove this case? He quoted Osama bin Laden, who once said, "This third world war is raging in Iraq. The whole world is watching this war." You see, Bush attacked Iraq (which had no weapons of mass destruction and no operational ties to the terrorists who mounted the horrific attacks of 9/11), a war ensued, Islamic fundamentalists rushed to Iraq to do battle with the Americans, bin Laden welcomed this opportunity to have his followers kill US troops (who might otherwise be coming after him or securing Afghanistan), and that is Bush's proof the war in Iraq is "a central front in the war on terror." In essence, because bin Laden said so after Bush invaded Iraq.
[Cross posted on The American Street.]
5:47 am | link

tuesday, june 28, 2005

Fun and Games
I'm probably going to miss the speech tonight, but let's make predictions --
1. How many times will Junior use the word resolve
2. How many times will Junior evoke 9/11?
3. Will there be a banner in the background, and if so, what will it say? (Hat tip to Global citizen for the question.)
4. If the banner uses the word resolve, do I get a prize?
5. How many times will Junior mention how hard he is working?
6. How many times will Junior say he is thinking about Iraq every single day?
7. Will Junior announce any concrete changes in policy (i.e., troop strength, withdrawal timetables) or will the whole speech be about resolve and working hard and stuff?
8. How many Iraqi troops will Junior say are armed and ready to defend their country? (Note: this number will, of course, bear no relationship to the actual number of Iraqi troops armed and ready to defend their country. I'm just asking what number Junior will pull out of his butt.) 
9. Will he declare we are winning? or that victory is just around the corner? Or will he admit that the effort will take a lot more time (at least until January 2009).
10. Whatever he says, will Peggy Noonan and/or the National Review crew call this speech
(A) The best speech Bush has ever given;
(B) The best speech ever given by a wartime president;
(C) The best speech ever given by a human being;
(D) An inspiration for the American people that will rally them to support the war;
(E) A reminder that liberals are subhuman slime that should be eradicated from the face of the earth; or
(F) All of the above?
Feel free to make predictions or ask more questions in the comments. Post-speech discussion is also welcome.
Dan Froomkin makes some predictions here.
Speaking of liberals, there are some posts and articles out today that ought to be read together.
E.J. Dionne, "The New McCarthyism"
Stirling Newberry, "A Moral Order"
Update: I didn't watch the speech. Seems I didn't miss anything. Some better bloggers than I did watch it. Links to commentary:
Kevin Drum: "The usual rah rah."
Think Progress: "By the Numbers"
3:53 pm | link

DSM Study Guide
Glenn Frankel of the Washington Post Foreign Service prepared a study guide to the Downing Street Memos, supplemented by interviews with U.S. and British officials (all anonymous), plus written accounts such as Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack.
If you put Frankel's guide together with Quiddity's Iraq Decision Timeline, you get a crystal clear picture of a Bush White House gripped by a single-minded determination to get Saddam Hussein. Not having a clear purpose or justification for getting Saddam Hussein was not about to hold them back.
As Jack Straw wrote to Tony Blair in one of the memos, "We have also to answer the big question -- what will this action achieve? There seems to be a larger hole on this than on anything." Straw's memo also reminds us that the Bushies' justifications for their obsession with Iraq, to the exclusion of other threatening and hostile regimes, were remarkably flimsy. Further, the memo reminds us that the invasion of Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11, except that 9/11 made it easier to sell the invasion to the public.
I'll get back to the Bush Iraq obsession in a minute. Tony Blair's support of Bush's scheme was always the bigger mystery to me, and Frankel provides at least a murky view of Blair's reasoning. Blair seems to have decided that Britain's strategic relationship with the U.S. was paramount and required going along with Bush no matter what.
"The basic calculation was: Right or wrong, it is in our interest to stand with the United States," said Michael Clarke, director of the International Policy Institute at King's College, who met with policymakers at key points during the year.
Further, at least some of the Brits hoped to moderate Bushie impulsiveness.
The first major British cabinet discussion on Iraq took place March 7, 2002, according to the memoirs of Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary who quotes several senior cabinet secretaries as raising questions about the war. "What has changed that suddenly gives us the legal right to take military action that we didn't have a few months ago?" demanded David Blunkett, one of Blair's closest political allies.
Blair defended his approach, Cook reported, by saying Britain's national interest lay in staying closely allied with the United States. "I tell you that we must steer close to America," Blair said, according to Cook. "If we don't, we lose our influence to shape what they do." ...
... A U.S. official who observed the process said British objections followed a traditional path. "To some extent the mandarins were playing the role they were acculturated to play in the Washington-London dialectic, which is always to play devil's advocate," he said. "I'm not saying they were sanguine -- they weren't -- but since time immemorial they have always played Athens to our Rome, working hard to remove us from a tendency toward what they consider impetuosity or misguided idealism."
Frankel also says that Colin Powell and Jack Straw were consulting with each other daily by the summer of 2002. By then Bush was all-fired determined to go to war, and the best Powell and Straw could hope for was a token approach to the UN to provide Bush with some butt cover.
Back to the Bushie obsession with Iraq: The Bushies and the Brits appear to have believed, sincerely, that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. But that didn't make Saddam a unique threat, nor did it make Saddam an imminent threat, especially after the weapons inspectors were readmitted to Iraq. And by the time of the invasion it was apparent to nearly everybody but the Bush White House that Saddam had no weapon, nuclear or otherwise, capable of touching U.S. soil. At most, he was a threat to his neighbors, and most of his neighbors were opposed to the invasion.  
(And yeah, I know, as the righties are always quick to bring up, Bush himself never explicitly said the threat was imminent. Bush proposed invading Iraq before Iraq became an imminent threat, a policy that could, of course, justify invading any nation on the planet. The fact remains that from the summer of 2002 until the invasion in March 2003, Bushie surrogates were all over mass media describing Iraq as an imminent threat, mushroom clouds and all. And when the wussy, terrorist-loving liberals asked, why do we have to invade Iraq right now, especially after the weapons inspectors were readmitted, the answer always was that Saddam and his terrorist henchmen might strike the U.S. at any moment. We could risk no more delays.  We must invade now! Now! Now!
This was, in other words, another variation of plausible deniability. Countless surrogates made the "imminent" claim on Bush's behalf so that Bush could deny he'd made the claim in case it was proved wrong. Which suggests the Bushies were at least dimly aware they might be wrong.)
So, for the Bushies, what was the big rush?
I wrote in March 2003 that the Iraq War must've seemed the magic bullet that would solve all of Bush's political problems. (The war drumming helped the GOP enormously in the 2002 elections, of course. But I believed in 2002 that once the elections were over and the inspectors were readmitted, Bush would settle down and drop the Iraq thing. And I was wrong.)
The first purpose of the war, IMO, was to gratify Bush's desire to glorify himself and be a war president just like his daddy. The whole "military phase" of the war--from the "embedded" journalists to the flight suit prace--was carefully stage managed so that Bush could strut around and take credit for the glorious victory.
I wrote in March 2003--and I had forgotten this--the Bushies were frustrated even then with news coverage of Iraq because it was insufficiently upbeat; they weren't getting as much "rah rah" as they'd hoped for. And this was when CNN was leading into war coverage with schmatzy graphics of Bush's face superimposed over an American flag.
Also, consider that a remarkable number of people Bush II appointed to serve in his administration had worked for Bush I--e.g., Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Colin Powell. Many of these people owed their careers to their affiliation with the Gulf War. And for at least some of these people, IMO the obsession with Saddam Hussein had a lot more to do with the Gulf War than with anything going on in 2003. They wanted a do-over.
And I think the desire for a do-over was, subconsciously, a big part of PNAC's half-assed theory that removing Saddam would cause democracy to bloom throughout the Middle East.

Other issues: The Reptile wrote more than a week before the invasion,

A senior Bush official privately admits what his administration cannot declare publicly. The stagnant economy, a dagger aimed at the heart of George W. Bush's second term, will not immediately respond to the president's economic growth program. The economic engine will not be revived until the war against Saddam Hussein is launched and won.

Military victory is anticipated inside the Bush administration as the tonic that will prompt corporation officers and private investors to unleash the American economy's dormant power. Although it is impolitic to say so, the fact that the United States will be sitting on a new major oil supply will stimulate the domestic economy. That puts a high premium on quickly gaining control of Iraq's oil wells before they can be torched--a major uncertainty in an otherwise strictly scripted scenario.

''This is Texas poker, with the president putting everything on Iraq,'' a Republican senator (who thoroughly approves of this policy) told me. The extraordinary gamble by Bush leads to deepening apprehension by Republican politicians as they wait for the inevitable war. They consider the Democratic Party divided, drifting to the left and devoid of new ideas. Yet, Bush's re-election next year is threatened by two issues: the economy and the war on terrorism. Success on both is tied to war with Iraq. [Robert Novak, "Playing Texas Poker, Bush Bets All on Iraq," The Chicago Sun-Times, March 6, 2003]

If anybody in Washington knows where all the bodies are buried, it's the Reptile. And you'll remember that in 2003 U.S. troops quickly secured the oil fields, if nothing else. 

Finally, there's nothin' like a war to enable big, lucrative contracts for business cronies in the defense industry. You might remember the pre-invasion scene in Farhenheit 9/11 in which the cronies were practically drooling over the profits to be made. By mid-April 2003 the private contractor brigades were ready to go:

A U.S.-financed bonanza of reconstruction and nation-building work is about to roll across Iraq, and U.S.-based firms with close links to the Pentagon and State Department are cashing in.

School systems, textbooks, airports, police operations, local government, water plants and sewers will be overhauled and in some cases created from scratch by U.S. contractors, paid out of U.S. funds.

The initial round of contracts totals about $1-billion (U.S.). Independent analysts say the cost of rebuilding Iraq could reach $20-billion a year over several years. [Paul Knox, "White House Fast Tracks Tenders to Rebuild Iraq," The Globe and Mail, April 19, 2003]

And, finally, what was going on in March 2003 that persuaded the Bushies they had to act immediately? The answer to that is obvious. By March 2003 they weren't dealing with a defiant Iraq and new revelations of WMDs. They had to act quickly because Saddam was being reasonably compliant with the inspections, and the inspectors weren't finding WMDs. If they had waited much longer, the Iraq hysteria would have ebbed, and the opportunity would have been lost.

7:54 am | link

monday, june 27, 2005

Guilty Pleasures

"Somebody who did a lot of traveling immediately after the attacks said to me, about six weeks later, that if you didn‘t live in New York or you didn‘t work at the Pentagon or you didn‘t have people on the planes or in the buildings, that 9/11 was, for a lot of people, if not everybody else in the country, to say it cruelly, a photo-op, a chance to act as if you had been violated or lost something, when you hadn‘t been violated or lost anything at all."

The words above are Keith Olbermann's. He said this on the Friday edition of Countdown. MSNBC finally got around to posting the transcript this afternoon. I pasted a little more of the transcript to the end of this post.

I try not to go around saying that those who were in New York City or Washington on 9/11 understand the attacks differently from those who weren't. I try not to say it because it sounds snotty, and it's not something you can prove. But I know I've said it a few times, because I think it's true

The first time I went back to the Midwest and saw people wearing commemorative 9/11 T-shirts--burning towers in background, weeping American eagle in foreground--I was stunned. Just the idea of a commemorative 9/11 T-shirt seems obscene to me. And if you don't understand that, then you don't understand 9/11 the same way I do.

I can only speculate, but I do think many Americans got a big vicarious thrill out of the attacks. It must've been great television. But even better, it was a five-star excuse to wallow in self-righteousness and indignation. And the villians of the drama were swarthy Islamic aliens, which was great for xenophobes. When the towers collapsed, suddenly it was socially acceptable to haul xenophobia out of the darkness and place it on a pedestal. Party time!

We're talking major gratification here. It must've been downright intoxicating. No wonder the drooling mouth breathers are so hysterical over the plans to build an educational Freedom Center next to Ground Zero. Using 9/11 to inspire something better in humanity must really piss them off, because all this time they've been using 9/11 to indulge something ugly in themselves.

Conventional wisdom is that, tomorrow, Bush will evoke 9/11 to shore up support for his war in Iraq, never mind that there are no ties between Iraq and 9/11. Maybe that trick works on people who weren't there. I guess, if the experience of 9/11 isn't personal, punishing any Muslims will do.

It doesn't do for me. I suspect it doesn't do for a great many eyewitnesses and survivors. It doesn't do at all.

But the biggest outrage of all is that the same people who failed to bring the guilty to justice turn around and say we're soft on terrorism. Worse, they accuse us of hating America because we refuse to enable their betrayal of the 3,000 dead.

To knee-jerk Bush supporters, the 3,000 dead are nothing but props, tools for manipulating public opinion, background in a photo op. That's how they understand 9/11.


From the June 24 Countdown, MSNBC:

OLBERMANN: ... Let‘s ask one of the four widows, whose tireless efforts kick-started the 9/11 commission, Lorie Van Auken, whose husband, Kennett (ph), died in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Ms. Van Auken, thank you for your time.  Good evening to you.

LORIE VAN AUKEN, 9/11 WIDOW:  Good evening to you.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  I was living in the United States of America on 9/11 and the months of bipartisanship that followed it.  Where in the heck do you suppose Karl Rove was at that time?

VAN AUKEN:  That‘s a really good question, because after 9/11 -- first of all, on 9/11, people were killed that were Republicans, Democrats, liberal, conservative.  Nobody picked or chose how that went.

And after 9/11, we supported going after the person who perpetrated the attacks, as we were told, Osama bin Laden.  And we supported going after the terror training camps and stopping the drug trade which funded the terrorists.

So I don‘t know where Karl Rove was for that.

OLBERMANN:  Somebody who did a lot of traveling immediately after the attacks said to me, about six weeks later, that if you didn‘t live in New York or you didn‘t work at the Pentagon or you didn‘t have people on the planes or in the buildings, that 9/11 was, for a lot of people, if not everybody else in the country, to say it cruelly, a photo-op, a chance to act as if you had been violated or lost something, when you hadn‘t been violated or lost anything at all.

And I have to say, I thought I sensed that in Mr. Rove‘s smugness, in that tone Wednesday night.  What did you think of what you heard from him?

VAN AUKEN:  I thought his comments were rather cold.  You know, they‘re supposed to be compassionate conservatives. Those comments were not compassionate.  And they were not true.

OLBERMANN:  Big-picture question here.  As my allusion to that old “Twilight Zone” episode at the start of the segment suggests, at some point, how and who starts this kind of talk doesn‘t matter any more.  It devolves.  I mean, it‘s devolved into our past into each side shooting, figuratively or literally.  How do we steer out of this skid at a time like this in our history?

VAN AUKEN:  Well, first of all, you know, understanding 9/11 means you go after the person who perpetrated it, Osama bin Laden, not Saddam Hussein.  It means that we secure our ports.  We secure our borders.  It means that we show that we really did understand what happened.

And perhaps we stop doing business with nations that might export terrorism, which would lead me to say that it‘s time for to us really pursue alternative energy resources.  I personally would love to see the World Trade Center site, at least part of it, turned into a memorial, and also turned into a research center for alternative energy resources, not nuclear energy, because that could be a target for terrorists to use against us.

But I think that we—actually, it‘s time for America to just, you know, get—to actually have somebody lead us into the future with, you know, ways of powering our country that are safe or better for the environment, and stop mudslinging at each other, and really do something that‘s going to take us into the future.

OLBERMANN:  Lorie Van Auken, thank you for sharing your perspective on the remarks of Mr. Rove tonight.

7:06 pm | link

Bombs Away
Looks like the Bushies have found another creative way to funnel taxpayer money to their biggest campaign contributors. In today's Los Angeles Times, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin write about the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the Atomic Bomb was born.
Sixty years ago, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the World War II director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, proved that there are some things that government-university partnerships can do better than any private-sector entity. In just 27 months — from April 1943 to August 1945 — Oppenheimer and his team of scientists produced a combat-ready atomic bomb. The military head of the Manhattan Project, Gen. Leslie Groves had awarded the contract for the new laboratory to the University of California because he understood that no private corporation was capable of attracting the talented scientists needed to meet this challenge.

Important lessons for our national security are implicit in this history, lessons the Bush administration ignores as it prepares to turn over much of the management of the Los Alamos lab to a private defense contractor. Everything we know about the Manhattan Project and the subsequent history of the lab suggests that this is a mistake and a lost opportunity.
All together, people: WTF?
Most people still think of Los Alamos as strictly a weapons lab. But since the end of the Cold War many of the lab's scientists have been doing research on fuel cells, solar energy, fusion and other cutting-edge technologies. It is not an exaggeration to say that the viability of our nation's economic and environmental future depends on achieving breakthroughs in these fields.

This is not work that can be done most effectively by a defense contractor. History suggests that only the government can marshal the commitment of will and resources necessary to effectively combat global warming. Only the government can inspire scientists with a sense that this is a national mission. And only a great university can create a research atmosphere that will attract the talented scientists needed to get the job done.

Nevertheless, the Bush administration has decreed that the University of California must partner with a defense contractor if it is to bid to manage Los Alamos. UC's partners are Bechtel, BWX Technologies and the Washington Group. This partnership will compete against one made up of the University of Texas and defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The administration will award the contract in December.
I know you'll like this part:
Astonishingly, the government's bidding criteria amounts to a corporate giveaway.
Astonishingly? Bird and Sherwin need to get out more.
The UC administrators have been operating the $2.1-billion lab for $8.7 million in management fees. By next year, according to the terms of the Bush administration bidding criteria, this management fee will escalate to between $63 million and $79 million a year.

All of this smacks of another corporate boondoggle. Worse, it is likely to destroy an institution that has the potential to extricate us from our growing environmental quagmire. To ensure that the work at Los Alamos continues at the highest level, the facility should be divided into two separate entities: a weapons laboratory run by a defense contractor and an unclassified environmental research complex managed by a university.
Beside the obvious--some defense industry execs are about to get even richer--one also might suspect that, hence, not a whole lot of the resources at Los Alamos are going to be used to research environmental technologies.
In other nuclear/WTF? news we read in the New York Times that the "U.S. Has Plans to Again Make Own Plutonium." William J. Broad writes,

The Bush administration is planning the government's first production of plutonium 238 since the cold war, stirring debate over the risks and benefits of the deadly material. The substance, valued as a power source, is so radioactive that a speck can cause cancer.

Federal officials say the program would produce a total of 330 pounds over 30 years at the Idaho National Laboratory, a sprawling site outside Idaho Falls some 100 miles to the west and upwind of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Officials say the program could cost $1.5 billion and generate more than 50,000 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste.

Project managers say that most if not all of the new plutonium is intended for secret missions and they declined to divulge any details. But in the past, it has powered espionage devices.

"The real reason we're starting production is for national security," Timothy A. Frazier, head of radioisotope power systems at the Energy Department, said in a recent interview.

He vigorously denied that any of the classified missions would involve nuclear arms, satellites or weapons in space.

One more time: WTF?
Plutonium 238 is not used to make weapons, Broad writes. Instead, it is used as a long-term power source in places where other power sources may fail, like outer space or deep under the ocean. The Cassini space probe is powered by plutonium 238. The domestic stockpile is running low. So it's not unreasonable to plan on making more.
On the other hand the chuckleheads in Washington shouldn't be trusted with sharp objects, let alone plutonium. I can just see Dick the Dick and Rummy planning secret nuclear-powered spy missions because, you know, that's what cool tough guys like them do.
And if you've never been to Idaho, go now. Might be your last chance.
1:45 pm | link

THE American general who commanded allied air forces during the Iraq war appears to have admitted in a briefing to American and British officers that coalition aircraft waged a secret air war against Iraq from the middle of 2002, nine months before the invasion began.

Addressing a briefing on lessons learnt from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 “carefully selected targets” before the war officially started.

The nine months of allied raids “laid the foundations” for the allied victory, Moseley said. They ensured that allied forces did not have to start the war with a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions.

If those raids exceeded the need to maintain security in the no-fly zones of southern and northern Iraq, they would leave President George W Bush and Tony Blair vulnerable to allegations that they had acted illegally.

We're not just talking about wussy, Frenchified international law here. We're talking about violation of all-American, red-white-and-blue constitutional law; a bare-assed usurpation of power that the Constitution says belongs to Congress. If that's not an impeachable offense, then nothin' is.
Do you want to know?

That's the only popular division that matters in the United States today: Those who want to determine once and for all if President Bush knowingly ``fixed the facts'' regarding Iraq, thereby misleading Congress and the American people into supporting an unnecessary war, and those who will cover their ears and hum loudly in order to maintain their belief that Bush and his advisors remain above reproach.

You're in one camp or the other. Either you want to know if you've been lied to, or you don't.

The denial of some righties has gone way off the pathology scale. It's a terrible but fascinating thing to watch, and a powerful affirmation of the fact that nobody can bullshit us better than we can bullshit ourselves. If you are absolutely determined to see UFOs in the sky, the face of the Blessed Virgin on a cheese sandwich, proof that Saddam Hussein was a threat to America, or great leadership in George W. Bush, then you will see them. 
Steinback continues,
The American public is inching tentatively toward a reckoning unlike any this nation has ever experienced. The oh-so-clever Bush administration strategists and their quasi-media acolytes, who have kept the reckoning at bay with a deft combination of we're-at-war patriotic fervor and fear-the-evil-liberals rhetoric, are running out of parlor tricks.
Karl Rove is still pullin' that ol' liberal boogyman rabbit out of his hat, but is anyone but die-hard Kool-aiders impressed? Here in the one of the bluest parts of Blue Nation it's hard to tell. New Yorkers are no rubes, and the Bushie bag of tricks never fooled them. But Steinback thinks the public is growing tired of BushCo's act. "More and more Americans are tiring of the bluster and blather that had entertained them like an endless summer action flick," he writes, and I hope that's true.
Regarding last weeks' effort by John Conyers to get the White House to respond to the Downing Street Memos, Steinback writes,
After the briefing, Conyers carried a letter to the White House, signed by more than 120 House members, asking for answers to questions provoked by the Downing Street Memo.

Not only was Conyers rebuffed, he was slighted.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan, in a press briefing that day, dismissed Conyers as ``an individual who voted against the war in the first place and is simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed.''

Did you catch the irony? Conyers has no credibility to challenge the president's actions toward Iraq, the White House argues, because Conyers has opposed the war from the beginning. Yet just a few months ago, the Bush people ridiculed Sen. John Kerry because Kerry allegedly supported the war before being against it - remember all the giddy supporters chanting ``Flip-flop! Flip-flop!''

Clearly, whether you've always opposed Iraq or recently reached that conclusion, Team Bush thinks you're irrelevant.

That's not leadership; that's obstinacy.

I think it may be more than obstinancy, but let's of the several reasons we can't have a serious national debate about Iraq is that the hawks simply discount any opinion but theirs as irrelevant. And it's not just the rightie hawks guilty of this. Somehow, lefties who supported the war originally but now realize they were wrong still seem to think their opinions should carry more weight that the opinons of people who opposed the Iraq war all along. Very odd.

And, of course, debate is short-circuited by the false dichotomy that to oppose the Iraq War is to be "soft" on terrorism. There are nominal "liberals" guilty of that one, too.

Over on the Kos Diaries, QWQ writes that the Bushie War on Reality may be in its last throes. "The Bush Administration's effort to silence Iraq critics by rewriting the history of 9/11 has reached new levels of desparation," QWQ says, pointing to Dick the Dick's recent slander of Chuck Hegel.

The sad thing is that if we had the same level of television coverage of Iraq that we had of Vietnam, the whole Bush White House would be impeached next week. As long as Iraq is, to most Americans, a fantasy war going on in another time-space continuum, all of the evidence of BushCo dishonesty will wash over much of the public like so many Tom Cruise interviews.

I wonder what would happen if someone with deep pockets could buy 30-second television spots that simply provided Iraq headline news: This American soldier died in Iraq today. These were severely wounded. Today, approximately $x tax dollars will be spent on the Iraq effort. Etc. Bring the true cost of the war into public consciousness. Then let's see how much they enjoy the BushCo magic act.

Update: Be sure to read "The Tipping Point" by Gary Younge in today's Guardian.

6:35 am | link

sunday, june 26, 2005

"All compounded things will decay." -- the Buddha (last words)
All physical entities are finite. No material thing is immutable. Whatever is, is subject to destruction. It can be used up, worn out, broken, corrupted, or otherwise bleeped. Even if you take extraordinary care of a thing, eventually it will disintigrate. Mountains erode away; oceans dry up. And whatever goes up will come down, somewhere.
One of the fundamental distinctions of the rightie mind is that righties can't grasp this. They may say they do; but the only way to invest the rightie world view with any internal logic is to assume that things, or at least some things, don't change.
Rightie environmental policy is an obvious example. Although righties may say they understand that resources are finite, their policies seem to be based on a belief that resources are infinite. There will always be forests, and air, and water. Right? And if science says otherwise, we'll just rewrite the science.
Righties adamantly and consistently refuse to look at the fundamental reason there is talk about a draft. The reason, of course, is that the United States military is a finite entity. We cannot continue to send soldiers and equipment hither and yon to be killed or destroyed without replacing those killed or the equipment destroyed.
If you have 100 apples and you eat all of them, then you have no apples. This isn't rocket science.
Granted, a lot of the righties were confused by the Charles Rangel bill, since the point Congressman Rangel was trying to make went flying way over their heads. But I have yet to find a rightie who can honestly address the fact that, sooner or later, we're going to have to choose between scaling down our military involvements and reinstating the draft.
In other words, righties, you can have an all-volunteer Army, and you can have your glorious little war in Iraq, but someday you may find that you can't have both. So which is it gonna be?
At our current rate it may take us a couple of centuries to literally get down to An Army of One, but it will take a whole lot less time to so deplete our military that it puts the defense of our nation in jeopardy.
Democrats on the whole do not want a draft. Further, I do not believe BushCo wants a draft. They've said all along they don't plan to reinstate the draft, and I believe them; they don't plan to reinstate the draft. But these are guys who don't plan well.
We know that recruitment goals are not being met. Reenlistment rates for the Guard and Reserves are dropping procipitously. I believe the "regulars"--active duty Army--are reenlisting at an above-normal rate, which may slow the rate of depletion. But there is still depletion. And, unfortunately, there is still rightie denial. But let's go on ...
Today Nick Kristof focuses on the economy--"A Glide Path to Ruin." He makes a good argument that the biggest threat to America's future is not Islamic terrorism, but Bush's fiscal recklessness.

"I think the greatest threat to our future is our fiscal irresponsibility," warns David Walker, the comptroller general of the United States. Mr. Walker, an accountant by training, asserts that last year may have been the most fiscally reckless in the history of our Republic. Aside from the budget deficit, Congress enacted the prescription drug benefit - possibly an $8 trillion obligation - without figuring out how to pay for it.

Mr. Walker, America's watchdog in chief and head of the Government Accountability Office, is no Bush-basher. He started out his career as a conservative Democrat, then became a moderate Republican and has been an independent since 1997.

Now he's running around with his hair on fire, shrieking about America's finances. Well, as much as any accountant ever shrieks.

I asked Mr. Walker about Paul Volcker's warning that within five years we face a 75 percent chance of a serious financial crisis.

"If we don't get serious soon," Mr. Walker replied, "it's not a question of whether it'll come, but when and how serious."

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-winning economist, says he is also "very worried."

"I find it very difficult to know how to put a number" on the probability of a crisis, he added, "but there's a widespread sense in the market that there is a substantial chance."

Bushie economic policy seems to be based on a belief in infinite wealth. As a result, we're being saddled with infinite debt. Plus, "three-fourths of our new debt is now being purchased by foreigners, with China the biggest buyer of all. That gives China leverage over us, and it undermines our national security," says Kristof. I posted some links regarding the Chinese buyout of America yesterday.
For that matter, what's up with corporate executives who continue to patch up their bottom lines by shorting the employees, but who assume there'll always be plenty of consumers with sufficient income to buy their products? Where do they think those consumers are going to come from? China?
Current Republican political strategy is based on the belief that the GOP will always be the majority party. Granted, they are pulling every string they can pull to make that belief come true. But nobody stays on top forever. Someday, if our republic survives as a republic, Republicans will be a minority party again. And then they're going to rediscover the value of the filibuster. Just watch.
Awhile back I read a chunk of Francis Fukuyama's The End of History. When I first plowed into it I was puzzled, because what Fukuyama wrote wasn't making sense. I wondered if he had some intellectual point too subtle and nuanced for me to grasp. And then I realized, with growing horror, that Fukuyama believes literally in an end of history. "Liberal democracy" (by which I infer Fukuyama means something neither "liberal" nor "democratic" as most of us might understand those words) is the final destination of mankind's political evolution, he says, and once mankind has universally achieved this state, history (meaning wars and other political upheavals) will end.
This is what passes for "smarts" among the righties.
No wonder they can stomp on, twist around, and subvert our political processes to suit their ideological ends without worrying about the damage they are doing. They believe "liberal democracy" is immutable. It just always is, like water and money. Subvert it, break it, bend it out of shape, and it'll just snap back, good as new.
Is your hair on fire yet?
12:17 pm | link

Pataki Caught in Time Warp!
Somebody call Mr Spock. Govenor Pataki fell into a time anomaly. He is criticizing art displayed in a museum that has not yet been built. 
Hours after the Daily News disclosed that a museum set to rise on the site had displayed kooky and anti-American art, the governor said there can be no place where nearly 3,000 innocents died for an institution that attacks the United States and the heroes of 9/11.
Wow. I'm impressed.
Seriously--apparently, a nonprofit institution called The Drawing Center is scheduled to be given space on the perimeter of Ground Zero. According to their mission statement
The Drawing Center is the only not-for-profit institution in the country to focus on the exhibition of drawings, both historical and contemporary. It was established in 1977 to provide opportunities for emerging and under-recognized artists; to demonstrate the significance and diversity of drawings throughout history; and to stimulate public dialogue on the issues of art and culture.
Among the many exhibitions the Drawing Center has presented were some pieces that righties and The Daily News found politically objectionable. Therefore, the Drawing Center should have no place anywhere near the Freedom Center, which the righties don't want built, either.
In other words, if the righties get their way, the terrorists will have won.
10:51 am | link

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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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