You can learn a lot about what’s on someone’s mind by looking at his priorities. For example, during the famous “military phase” of the Iraq invasion (March 20-May 1 2003), U.S. troops moved quickly to secure oil fields, rip up the floor mosaic depicting George H.W. Bush in the lobby of the Rashid Hotel (visitors had stepped on Poppy’s face), and haul down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square (staged so that in photos it would appear Iraqis were doing the hauling). They did these things, of course, because these were priorities for the Commander in Chief.

What were the troops not ordered to do? They were not ordered to secure: stockpiles of conventional weapons and explosives; the old nuclear research facilities at Tuwaitha; the offices of the Military Industrialization Commission, where any records of WMDs would likely have been kept; the Iraq National Museum; and many other facilities that were looted and destroyed while U.S. troops looked on. (And note that I do not blame the troops for this. I blame whoever issued the orders.)

What does this tell us about the Bush Administration’s priorities? It tells us that oil and personal revenge were priorities; WMDs and conventional weapons that might have — hell, probably did — fall into the hands of terrorists were not priorities. Finding those pesky WMDs didn’t become a priority until later, when their absence was becoming a political liability for the Bushies.

And what does it tell us about priorities that, before the invasion, the White House was gung ho about handing out contracts to their good buddies in the defense industry, but forgot to plan for an occupation at all? I’m sure I don’t have to explain what this says about priorities.

For that matter, when President Bush finally began to focus on the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, one of his first acts was to suspend the Davis Bacon Act, so that his contractor buddies wouldn’t have to bother about paying prevailing wages to workers. After he was persuaded to reverse the suspension he seems to have lost interest in the Gulf Coast entirely except as an occasional photo op backdrop. If he couldn’t exploit Katrina to devalue labor, the Gulf just wasn’t a priority.

The priority thing came to mind when I read this editorial in today’s Washington Post:

THE BUSH administration has pushed aggressively for expanded surveillance powers, military commissions and rough interrogation techniques. When it comes to fighting the war on terrorism, just about anything goes. Except, that is, those routine steps with no civil liberties implications at all that might significantly interrupt terrorism — such as, say, reading the mail of convicted terrorists housed in American prisons. The federal Bureau of Prisons, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine wrote, “does not read all the mail for terrorist and other high-risk inmates on its mail monitoring lists.” It is also “unable to effectively monitor high-risk inmates’ verbal communications,” including phone calls. So while the administration won’t reveal the circumstances under which it spies on innocent Americans, the communications of imprisoned terrorists, at least, appear sadly secure.


This is not a hypothetical problem. Jailed terrorists and organized-crime figures try to communicate with confederates outside of prison walls. Three inmates involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, while housed at the federal government’s highest-security prison, managed to exchange around 90 letters with Islamist extremists between 2002 and 2004, including with terrorists in Spain who were planning attacks there. Just last month, federal prosecutors accused a drug lord at the same facility of running a huge distribution network in Los Angeles using coded conversations and messages. Imprisoned people can direct major crimes from behind bars.

The mail isn’t scrutinized, the editorial continues, because there aren’t enough translators available to read it, and those officers who do take a look at the mail are not trained to recognize suspicious content.

This doesn’t seem to be an insurmountable problem. It requires only the allocation of resources to do the job. Somehow, it fell way down the White House priority list, which suggests to me that gathering intelligence on terrorism is not a high priority. Expanding executive power is the priority.

Here’s another one: What does it tell us that Congress has set aside $20 million for an Iraq victory party? This $20 million is in the 2007 budget. The 2007 budget cuts medical and prosthetic research — including research to improve treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, blast-related injuries and Gulf War related illness — by $13 million.

Priorities, anyone?

17 thoughts on “Priorities

  1. Whoa. WTF, indeed. They’ll tap my phone but not examine a prisoner’s mail? Maybe we should all learn to speak Farsi, pdq.

    What is that bit of Christian Scripture about straining at gnats while swallowing camels?

  2. This post, straight reporting and succinct, should be required reading for all voters……you laid it out so well, as usual, Maha.

  3. They don’t need no steenkin’ prosthesis…

    It’ll look better if they’re on crutches as they limp by Bush on the reviewing stand…

  4. You know, every time there is an IED that kills American troops,or Iraqi civilians for that matter, I wonder if the explosives used are the explosives that the Americans failed to secure after the invasion. It’s really ironic when you hear stories of big sweep military operations that net maybe 10 AK-47’s and a handful of bullets, and then you consider that hundreds of tons of high explosives were carted off for use by the insurgency because somebody wasn’t paying attention. I guess freedom wasn’t the only thing on the march in the early days, so were the high explosives.

  5. The $20 million party fund is the epitome of Bushismo. In an administration that carefully manipulates appearances while ignoring substance, of course celebrating victory in Iraq is more important than…y’know…achieving victory.

  6. Somehow – we have to overcome the DESIRE by otherwise sane people to see Bush as a great leader – and Iraq as a noble conflict. We have made great strides- according to the polls, the average voter does separate the conflict in Iraq from the overall war on Islamic Fundamentalism.

    The BEST way out of Iraq – is to allow the people of that democracy to decide – in an election – that our assistance is no longer needed. To stay past that point makes our ‘help’ something different – occupation. The argument that the bad guys would get control of the oil, brings the motives of the administration into question. And it misses a major point. It’s not our oil.

    Dare the administration to put our presence up to a popular vote!Will ANYONE believe that we don’t want the oil – we are just protecting that wealth for the benefit of the poor Iraqi people????? Even after they have demanded in a free and fair election – that we get the hell out!

    The latest poll out of Iraq suggests that 60% think it’s OK for militias to kill Americans in Iraq. There’s not much doubt for anyone with his head out of – the sand – what the results of such an election would be.

  7. TurdBlossom has to be crapping his panties about everything coming out the last two weeks. I would not doubt if he is ordering another ‘terra’ attack to get everyone good and scared, so we forget about Diebold changing/manipulating election results.

  8. Doug Hughes, you said it….”it’s not our oil” Such a basic point means nothing to the ‘power of oil’ obsessives who are the very same folks who could care less about the human toll of their Iraq create-a-war…….well, it only means something to them in as far as they recognize the value of hiding their thieves’ intent and actions behind sloganeering about ‘war on terror’, ‘democracy building’, and so forth.

    Every time I hear the phrase, “stay the course”, I translate it to mean, “even if thousands are dying, even if the American public is turning deaf to our spin, we will ‘stay the course’ until we fulfill that golden dream of our oil buddies, the opportunity to pluck control of those Iraqi oil fields.

  9. Stay the course..Yeah. Bush is saying stay the course because he has no options other that to run down the clock and pass off his debacle to his successor. Like the inmates of Auschwitz who knew their only way out of the death camp was through the chimney; Bush’s only way out of Iraq will be through defeat.. So, naturally he doesn’t want to face the consequences of his failure.
    The funny part is that Bush had testosterone oozing out of his ears as the war time President/commander-in-chief when he charged into his folly, and now he’s clinging desperately to bald face lies and rhetorical deceptions trying to stay ahead of his impotence. If his ears weren’t filled he would have heard Saddam’s warning not to invade.

  10. The truth is…”creative destruction” has been the not so subtle underlying agenda all along, but the ‘leaders’ of this criminal cabal could not sell THAT poisonous and preposterous program to anyone possessed of a shred of conscience so it had to be cloaked in lies and cliches about the ‘Noble Cause’.
    The blind eye to all the warnings, unsecured mountains of high explosives, insuficient armor on Humvees, and on and on and on, does not demonstrate incompetence so much as it does the underlying intent to get the ball rolling and keep it that way no matter what the cost even to our own clealy expendable fodder units OR the ‘security’ of the country itself… and henceforth the more ‘terra’ that is subsequently engendered or threatened, the more reasonably ‘justified’ ‘staying the course’ somehow becomes for those who have lost sight of all the original lies and the more confusing the whole issue becomes for both parties and the American people on how to ‘conduct’ what has been basically a blatantly obvious deceptive and criminal enterprise from day one.
    Suits the perps just fine I should think..

  11. WTF indeed!!!
    This Codpiece Cowboy and his cronies couldn’t run a small town Seven-Eleven, let alone a country, in the aftermath of what happened on 9/11. They can rob it, but they can’t run it…
    Those of us who saw this coming are now being accused of “hindsight bias.” It’s not “bias” when it comes to knowing ones head from ones a$$! It’s reason and logic.
    But maybe, finally, America is starting to wake up! It may be pulling its head up out of its a$$.
    Lied into a needless war? Little reaction from the public.
    The Iraq War is a fiasco? Nohin…
    Credit Card companies write bankruptcy bills? Nothin…
    Katrina? “Hey, hon, is my head up my a$$? No? Yes! A little? Really? OK.”
    Warrantless monitoring of calls and the internet? Nothin…
    We gave up Habeus Corpus. Nothin…
    IM’ing a same-sex 16 year-old page!!! JESUS, wake up the MSM! We’ve got a full-blown (no pun intended) SEX SCANDAL on our hands!!!
    Hey, somebody, blow-dry ‘Ol Wolf off! Give David Gregory’s eyebrows a trim! Shave Katie Couric’s legs for a glam shot!
    YEAH, we’ve got a SEX SCANDAL to cover!!!
    WTF happened to America?
    But, I’ll take anything I can get at this point…
    America’s Foley may yet save us from America’s Folly.

  12. The $20 million party fund will probably just get picked up by one of the neocon theives and murders as they leave the White House (if they give it up). It seem very doubtful it will ever be used to celebrate a victory. Then again , who knows…….maybe bush will declare victory, as imagined in that hollow bone he has resting above his shoulders.

  13. Besides the oil fields themselves, the trrops were ordered to secure the Oil Ministry, which was one of the only, perhaps the only, government building in Baghdad which wasn’t looted.

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