Hypocrite in Chief

Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision. And they end up alienating decent people across the globe.

This is from President Bush’s Veteran’s Day address. And I bet he said it with a straight face.

Other howlers:

My administration remains firmly committed to serving America’s veterans.


Since I took office, my administration has increased spending for veterans by $24 billion, an increase of 53 percent.

In the first four years as president, we increased spending for veterans more than twice as much as the previous administration did in eight years. And I want to thank the members of the Congress and the Senate for joining me in the effort to support our veterans.

For some accounts of the many ways the Bush Administration has tried to screw both veterans and active-duty military, go here, here, and here. This very week, Republicans in Congress were pushing for $600 million in cuts to veteran’s benefits, which would deny health care to 100,000 veterans.

Is the President lying when he says he increased spending? Not necessarily. He has had to spend more because of the carnage created by his policies.

Then Bush wanders into the topic of radical Islamic terrorism. Catch this “transition”:

Islamic radicalism is more like a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command. Yet these operatives fighting on scattered battlefields share a similar ideology and vision for our world.

We know the vision of the radicals because they have openly stated it in videos and audio tapes and letters and declarations and on Web sites.

First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace and stand in the way of their ambitions.

Al Qaida’s leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicated, quote, “their resources, their sons and money to driving the infidels out of our lands.”

The tactics of Al Qaida and other Islamic extremists have been consistent for a quarter of a century.

They hit us and they expect us to run.

We didn’t run, exactly, but we did allow the people who “hit us” to get away while we invaded someone else.

Last month, the world learned of a letter written by Al Qaida’s number two man, a guy named Zawahiri. And he wrote this letter to his chief deputy in Iraq, the terrorist Zarqawi.

In it, Zawahiri points to the Vietnam War as a model for Al Qaida. This is what he said: “The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents is noteworthy.”

See how slick he is? We go from the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 to Iraq, without a blink. He doesn’t come out and say “Iraq was involved in September 11,” but anyone listening to this speech who didn’t know better would infer that it did. This is, I’m sure, what the speechwriter intended.

The terrorists witnessed a similar response after the attacks on American troops in Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu in 1993.

They believe that America can be made to run again, only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.

Secondly, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Islam governments.

I’m sure that is what they want, but never forget it was the Bush White House who made this possible. Removing Saddam Hussein from power played right into Osama bin Laden’s plans. See also testimony here on the fact that Saddam Hussein, bad guy though he certainly was, was at least not allowing al Qaeda to train in areas under his control.

But, thanks to Bush, they are training in some of those places now.

And let us not forget that the Bushies deliberately allowed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to escape on at least three occasions.

Bush continues,

In his recent letter, Zawahiri writes that Al Qaida views Iraq as, quote, “the place of the greatest battle.”

The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. We must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war against the terrorists.

The “front” appears to be bleeding over into Jordan, but let’s go on … The “great battle” of Iraq is a living monument to the failure of the Bush Administration to respond correctly to September 11. We shouldn’t be fighting there at all. The organization responsible for September 11 primarily was in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it operated only in those parts of Iraq that Saddam Hussein did not control. We held back in Afghanistan because the Bushies already were preparing to invade Iraq. We let Osama bin Laden get away, and then we fulfilled his dearest wish and invaded another Muslim country that was no danger to us. We might as well have sent Halliburton to Osama with orders to build his training camps.

Then Bush whines on for a bit about how Syria had better watch its butt — like they have reason to be afraid of us now — then he complains about

elements of the Arab news media that incite hatred and anti-Semitism, that feed conspiracy theories and speak of a so-called American war on Islam, with seldom a worry about American action to protect Muslims in Afghanistan and Bosnia and Somalia and Kosovo and Kuwait and Iraq, or seldom a word about our generous assistance to Muslims recovering from national disasters in places like Indonesia and Pakistan.

Our government denies that U.S. military used white phosphorous against Iraqi civilians, but the Army’s own arguments are contradictory. The military denied bombing a wedding last year, also. And read this recent Fareed Zakaria column, which begins, “Ask any American soldier in Iraq when the general population really turned against the United States and he will say, ‘Abu Ghraib.'”

Stuff like this happens in war, which is why it’s a bit irrational to invade people who were no threat to you and then expect them to love you for it. It’s your actions, not your good intentions, that people notice.

Stephen Zunes wrote for ZNet:

What Bush fails to note is that much of the suffering and frustration felt by the Iraqi people is a direct result of U.S. policy. Not only did the Iraqi people suffer under decades of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship (which was backed by the United States during the peak of his repression in the 1980s), the U.S. led one of most intense bombing campaigns in world history against Iraq in 1991, resulting in severe damage to the civilian infrastructure. This was followed by a dozen years of crippling U.S.-led economic sanctions that resulted in the deaths hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly children, from malnutrition and preventable diseases. As a result of the U.S. invasion, at least 20,000 civilians have died violent deaths, the country is facing a low-level civil war and an unprecedented crime wave, basic utilities have yet to be restored on a regular basis, unemployment is at an all-time high, there are mounting ethnic tensions which threaten to tear the country apart, priceless national artifacts have been stolen or destroyed from museums and archeological sites, and infant mortality is way up.

Bush continues,

Some have also argued that extremists have been strengthened by our actions in Iraq, claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals.

I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001.

This is nearly word-for-word from a speech Bush made on October 6, of which Fred Kaplan wrote,

This is mere playing with words. Notice: First, he cites the claim that the U.S. occupation has “strengthened” the extremists; then he dismisses some straw man’s contention that our presence has “caused or triggered” the radicals’ rage. The fact that 9/11 preceded the invasion of Iraq is irrelevant to the point that he started to counter—that the occupation “strengthened” the insurgency. This point is incontestable. (On the most basic level, before the invasion, there was no insurgency and no al-Qaida presence in Iraq, except for a training camp run by Zarqawi—and that was in the Kurdish-controlled northern enclave, which Bush could have bombed, and was encouraged by the Joint Chiefs to bomb, at any time.) More important, to evade the point is to misunderstand this phase of the war—and, therefore, to misjudge how to win it.

[Update: This wasn’t the only section of today’s speech lifted from the October 6 speech; see Sadly, No.]

Bush continues,

No act of ours invited the rage of killers and no concession, bribe or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder.

On the contrary, they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence.

Isn’t that the excuse we’re making for invading Iraq–that we could change them by force into becoming a pro-western democracy?

Come to think of it, that makes about as much sense as the sound of one hand clapping. A war koan!

Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, we will never accept anything less than complete victory.

That sounds grand, but as Fred Kaplan points out Bush has yet to explain what he means by “victory” and how he plans to get there.

Then he goes on about awful things Islamic terrorists have done. And these are, indeed, awful things. Islamic terrorists are nasty and dangerous and up to no good. It would be really nice if we had some effective policies to counter them, instead of Bush’s policies, which empower Islamic terrorism and make it stronger.

Here’s the part of the speech getting headlines:

Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war.

These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community’s judgments related to Iraq’s weapons programs.

That’s because the bipartisan Senate investigation didn’t look for evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community’s judgments related to Iraq’s weapons programs. From Media Matters:

In fact, there has been no official investigation into whether the Bush administration “lied about intelligence [or] distorted intelligence … to produce assessments that would support a supposedly pre-baked decision to invade Iraq.”

The first phase of the Senate Intelligence report determined, by the unanimous 17-0 vote that Garrett referenced, that intelligence assessments were not tainted by “pressure” that analysts received from policymakers, but it did not investigate whether the Bush administration misused that intelligence. The committee postponed analysis of the latter, more volatile question until after the 2004 presidential election, pledging to include it in phase two of the report. The Robb-Silberman report similarly excluded examination of the use of intelligence, noting: “[W]e were not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community.”

Can we say that righties by nature are congential liars? I think we can.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein.

Well, not about the aluminum tubes, or buying yellowcake in Africa, and in March 2003 the UN weapons inspectors were begging Bush for more time because they weren’t finding WMDs …

They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions, citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction.

The UN wasn’t keen on us invading, either.

Many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: “When I vote to give the president of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat and a grave threat to our security.”

That’s why more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.

The newest offensive in the War on Terra is on reality itself. Those 100 Democrats did not have access to the same intelligence; they had access to intelligence cherry-picked and massaged by the Bushies.

To his credit, Bush took the time to say that the enemy is not Islam, but extremists. And then finally, near the end, we get to the quote at the top of this post — “tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision. And they end up alienating decent people across the globe.” In this case it’s the neocons’ grand vision, and the United States government trying to simultaneous claim that we don’t murder and torture innocent people but, by the way, we need to have a free hand to murder and torture people just in case.

And they’re ending up alienating decent people across the globe.

It Ain’t Over ‘Til Scooter Sings

Murray Waas has a new article at National Review Journal explaining that Karl Rove is not free and clear.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald delayed a decision on whether to seek criminal charges against Karl Rove in large part because he wants to determine whether Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, can provide information on Rove’s role in the CIA leak case, according to attorneys involved in the investigation.

Even if Fitzgerald concludes in the near future that he does not have sufficient evidence to charge Rove, the special prosecutor would not rule out bringing charges at a later date and would not finish his inquiry on Rove until he hears whatever information Libby might provide — either incriminating or exculpatory — on Rove’s role, the sources said.

Karl could be under a cloud for many, many months. Heh.

Armistice Day

It’s Armistice Day. Click here for a Wilfred Owen retrospective. More here.

Today the French are pleading for calm. The Brits observed two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour this morning.

In Maine, police had to intervene when a group of VFW members tried to remove 2,000 white flags placed at veterans’ cemetery in remembrance of U.S. soldiers who’ve died in Iraq.

I think Wilfred Owen would have appreciated the flags.


The Los Angeles Times is running duelling op-eds on torture today, one by a computer scientist and one by a former CIA operative. You can guess which one is for it.

The computer guy, David Gelernter, from what I’ve seen of his bio, has no experience with spying or war. He’s a computer guy. His knee-jerk argument is that those who support the McCain Amendment are knee-jerkers.

But of course you don’t have to be “pro-torture” to oppose the McCain amendment. That naive misunderstanding summarizes the threat posed by this good-hearted, wrong-headed legislation. Those who oppose the amendment don’t think the CIA should be permitted to use torture or other rough interrogation techniques. What they think is that sometimes the CIA should be required to squeeze the truth out of prisoners. Not because the CIA wants to torture people, but because it may be the only option we’ve got.

McCain’s amendment is a trap for the lazy minded. Whenever a position seems so obvious that you don’t even have to stop and think — stop and think.

But if you are ignorant of the subject at hand, even a smart guy can think all day long and still be wrong. People with experience (see the previous post) say that what you squeeze out of prisoners is unlikely to be truth. Gelernter doesn’t acknowledge even the possibility that tortured people will say anything to stop the torture. Nor does he address larger concerns about the residual effects of torture–that it creates new enemies and dehumanizes the torturer. Gelernter presents a mathematical equation–torture applied to bad guys equals useful information–without showing how he arrived at his “solution.”

Get this:

Those who defend McCain’s amendment and attack Cheney and Bush feel a nice warm glow, as if they’re basking in virtue, as in a hot tub, sipping Cabernet. But there is no virtue in joining a crowd, even if the crowd is right — and this one isn’t.

McCain is a bona fide hero. But there’s nothing courageous in standing firm with virtually the whole cultural leadership of this nation and the Western world, under any circumstances. It’s too easy. To take a principled stand that you know will make people loathe and vilify you — that’s what integrity, leadership and moral courage are all about. This time Cheney is the hero. McCain is taking the easy out.

That’s the weenie’s whole argument–people who oppose McCain’s Amendment do so because they are noble and courageous, never mind that it’s unlikely either Cheney or Gellenter will ever be required to dirty their hands with torture personally. People who favor the McCain Amendment are intellectually lazy and don’t understand the harsh realities of the world. This includes ex-POW John McCain who (Gelernter implies) is just too emotional on the subject of torture to understand it.

Gellenter hasn’t noticed that his own argument is entirely emotional. He offers no data or evidence to back up his assumptions. Instead, he puts himself on the pedestal of righteousness and smears the opposition. A true rightie.

On the other side, ex-CIA operative Larry Johnson offers information, not emotion.

If you inflict enough pain on someone, they will give you information, but what they tell you may not be true. You will have to corroborate it, which will take time. And, unless you kill every suspect you brutalize, you will make enemies of them, their families, maybe their entire villages. What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust — even with a terrorist, even if it’s time-consuming — than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets, who believed that national security always trumped human rights.

And that’s the point. We should never use our fear of being attacked as justification for dehumanizing ourselves or others….

… am not advocating that terrorists be given room service at the Four Seasons. Some sleep deprivation — of the sort mothers of newborns all endure — and spartan living conditions are appropriate. What we must not do is use physical pain or the threat of drowning, as in “waterboarding,” to gain information. Tough, relentless questioning is OK. Torture is not.

Thankfully, several Republican senators, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are defying Cheney’s campaign for a torture loophole. Cheney’s plea to permit CIA officers unrestricted interrogation methods would be the death of the CIA as a professional intelligence service and another stain on the reputation of the U.S.

This is from the Knight Ridder article discussed in the last post:

Advocates for flexibility argue that, in fighting terrorism, sometimes the stakes are so high that repugnant measures are justified.

One is the so-called “ticking time bomb” scenario, in which a captured terrorist has information on an imminent attack that could kill hundreds or thousands of civilians.

Two administration officials, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak to the press, said Cheney had described such a scenario several times, in which interrogators using generally approved methods can’t pry the particulars out of the prisoner in time to prevent an attack.

Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz has argued that in such cases, torture should be used as a last resort, openly, with approval by the president or a Supreme Court justice.

But intelligence officers and other U.S. officials said the scenario was more likely to be found in James Bond films than in the real war on terrorism.

Asked how he’d handle it, McCain replied: “It’s a one in a million issue, and if something was one in a million situation, I would support whatever needs to be done. But that’s a one in a million situation.”

“If you have exceptions, then there’s more exceptions and more exceptions and more exceptions,” he said.

It tells you something when those with real-world experience of an issue are lining up on one side, and those on the other learned all they think they know from watching movies.

See also: John Cole Tim F. at Balloon Juice.