Persia delenda est*

As you may know — unless you rely on the corporate media for your news, of course — yesterday the U.S. Senate unanimously declared that Iran was committing acts of war against the United States: a 97-0 vote to give George W. Bush a clear and unmistakable casus belli for attacking Iran whenever Dick Cheney tells him to.

Read all about it.

* Persia must be destroyed. A take-off on Carthago delenda est, Carthage must be destroyed.

Warp Factor Nine

WASHINGTON (AP) – A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaida has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.

A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document – titled “Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West” – called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.

Down in the Engineering Sub-Basement at the White House, a voice barks from an intercom: “We need more power!” A man with a Scottish accent yells back: “Cap’n! The reality-distortion crystals are almost fused after that speech in Cleveland. I canna give ya no more power or the spin engines will IMPLODE!”

“Dammit, Scott! I need maximum spin, and I need it NOW.”

At his news conference Thursday, President Bush acknowledged the report’s existence and al-Qaida’s continuing threat to the United States. He said, however, that the report refers only to al-Qaida’s strength in 2001, not prior to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The group was at its strongest throughout most of that year, with well-established training camps in Afghanistan, recruitment networks and command structures.

Bush used the new threat assessment to show his administration’s policies are the right course.

“Because of the actions we’ve taken, al-Qaida is weaker today than they would have been,” he said. “They are still a threat. They are still dangerous. And that is why it is important that we succeed in Afghanistan and Iraq and anywhere else we find them.”

Yes, I suppose that in some sense, colossal failure does indicate why it is important to succeed. But as I recall, back in September of 2001, just about everyone in the civilized world agreed that success in dealing with those who had attacked us was a good thing. Even many who loathed you, Mr. Bush, and thought you’d stolen your office, agreed that we as a nation should succeed in defeating that threat, and supported you toward that goal.

So why is it, six years later, that what you have to show is a reiteration that they are dangerous?

Why is it, almost six years to the day after your infamously ignored daily briefing entitled “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US”, you are being handed a document entitled “Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West”?

It seems to me there was a tall, horsey-faced guy running around a few years ago, complaining about a place called Tora Bora, and shifting focus onto Iraq. Huh. How about that?

We’ve now spent somewhere around a trillion dollars on our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s a one followed by twelve zeroes. It’s a room full of a million boxes, and when you open each box, inside there is a million dollars!

And yet, six years and a trillion dollars later, the President himself will admit that “They are still a threat. They are still dangerous.” Does he say this in his resignation speech, shamefully acknowledging his failure, before being allowed to honorably retire behind closed doors with a revolver?

No! He does it in irrational defense of his own policies, and in the same breath asserts the importance of success!

Mr. Bush, we all agree about the need for success. That’s what you’re being paid to deliver, and why you were re-hired in 2004. Success against al Qaeda.

Where is it?

Dippie Debbie

Debbie Schlussel wants to protect you from the threat of crazed jihadists with weapons of mass destruction. Weapons like … cherry bombs?

The Canton Eagle reported:

A night of hurling improvised cherry bombs from a pickup truck ended poorly for one Canton resident on Sunday night.

According to Canton Police, a 23-year-old man sought treatment at Oakwood Healthcare Center on Canton Center Road after a Ping-Pong ball filled with a chemical compound exploded in his hand.

Sgt. Rick Pomorski said the man and two friends learned how to make the devices, which were also made using tennis balls, on the Internet.

Playing with explosives is a very risky behavior,” he said. “It only takes one mistake and you could lose life or limb.”

So don’t play with explosives, children.

The man was lighting wicks on the bombs and throwing them out the passenger side of the truck as it traveled down Lotz Road, between Cherry Hill and Ford roads.

What do you want to bet large quantities of beer were consumed sometime before this incident?

Anyway, the police have the bombs and identified the bombers. It seems the bombers didn’t actually hit anything. But Debbie saw what the police did not. Her version of the episode:

An unnamed 23-year-old man from Canton, Michigan–a Detroit suburb near Dearbornistan with a large Muslim population composed primarily of Pakis, er . . . Pakistanis–should be among this year’s candidates for the Darwin awards.

Nah, I think Debbie’s got that one sewed up.

Since Muslim terrorists are generally more clandestine–and occasionally more clever–than that, looking for the best way to hurt the most infidels and not get caught, the man and his buddies might not be Muslims.

Yeah, whenever I hear about some yahoos throwing home-made cherry bombs out of a pickup truck, the first thing I think of is al Qaeda. I got a tip that some terrorists tried to take out the Brooklyn Bridge with 10 strategically placed M-80s and and several dozen birthday sparklers.

But who knows? We know how the media generally tries to shield the “Religion of Peace,” from any and all crimes–like the Trolley Square terrorist in Utah, the UNC jeep jihadist in Raleigh, NC, the Seattle Jewish Community Center terrorist, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Regardless, I would be remiss in not pointing out the large Muslim Paki, er . . . Pakistani population in Canton. After all, I wouldn’t want to disappoint my friends from the deceptively-named, Nazi-funded Media Matters for America.

“Paki” is considered a racial slur in Britain. And for the record, Media Matters objects to being called “Nazi-funded.”

His neighbors in Canton certainly deserve to know his name for their own personal safety. And I’ll be following this case.

Like this case, we were never told the names of the men in the nearby Arabic neighborhoods of Dearbornistan and Dearbornistan Heights, last year, who were involved in pointing laser pointers at planes at Detroit Metro Airport ….

I hear they’ve got precision bottle rocket teams, too.

So what is this guy’s name and his religion? And that of his friends? Just asking. But how dare I ask.

Years ago, when I was living in Ohio next door to Mean Jean Schmidt, some neighborhood punks blew up my mailbox (on a post, by the road) with a cherry bomb. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me to ask what the punks’ religion was. But if it had occurred to me to ask, would I have dared?

(Thanks to Dependable Renegade for the Brooklyn Bridge tip.)

Tenet Talks

Former CIA Director George Tenet’s hotly anticipated book about What He Did to Get Us Into War will hit the shelves on Monday, and the New York Times has an advance copy. Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti write,

George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence, has lashed out against Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials in a new book, saying they pushed the country to war in Iraq without ever conducting a “serious debate” about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States.

The 549-page book, “At the Center of the Storm,” is to be published by HarperCollins on Monday. By turns accusatory, defensive, and modestly self-critical, it is the first detailed account by a member of the president’s inner circle of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the decision to invade Iraq and the failure to find the unconventional weapons that were a major justification for the war.

“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” Mr. Tenet writes in a devastating judgment that is likely to be debated for many years. Nor, he adds, “was there ever a significant discussion” about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion.

Well, OK, so we knew that. But it’s nice to have corroboration.

Tenet admits to making the famous “slam dunk” remark that Bob Woodward wrote about in one of his books. But he says it was taken out of context and, in any event, played no part in the decision to go to war.

Mr. Tenet described with sarcasm watching an episode of “Meet the Press” last September in which Mr. Cheney twice referred to Mr. Tenet’s “slam dunk” remark as the basis for the decision to go to war.

“I remember watching and thinking, ‘As if you needed me to say ‘slam dunk’ to convince you to go to war with Iraq,’ ” Mr. Tenet writes.

As violence in Iraq spiraled beginning in late 2003, Mr. Tenet writes, “rather than acknowledge responsibility, the administration’s message was: Don’t blame us. George Tenet and the C.I.A. got us into this mess.”

Shane and Mazzetti say that Tenet portrays President Bush “in a largely positive light” but is much less kind to Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, and others who, before and after 9/11, largely ignored al Qaeda because they were obsessed with Saddam Hussein. Tenet also settles some scores with Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley.

And Tenet corroborates what many former Clinton Administration officials said about the Bushies ignoring warnings that al Qaeda was really, truly dangerous and needed to be made a high priority.

The book recounts C.I.A. efforts to fight Al Qaeda in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks, and Mr. Tenet’s early warnings about Osama bin Laden. He contends that the urgent appeals of the C.I.A. on terrorism received a lukewarm reception at the Bush White House through most of 2001.

“The bureaucracy moved slowly,” and only after the Sept. 11 attacks was the C.I.A. given the counterterrorism powers it had requested earlier in the year.

There’s a bit more background about the book and the “slam dunk” remark in this Washington Post article.

Update: Paul Kiel writes,

George Bush insulates himself from reality! The administration didn’t seriously entertain the notion that Iraq didn’t have WMD’s! Dick Cheney is an asshole!

OK, so the revelations in George Tenet’s new book aren’t going to shock anyone, but they are notable considering the source.

Yeah, pretty much. There was some hope Tenet would reveal something new, but it doesn’t seem that he did.

A Note of Optimism

The Talking Dog interviews David Rose, author of Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights and a contributing editor of The Guardian and Vanity Fair. Here’s the note of optimism:

Eventually there will be a pendulum change– the values that made the United States unique– the power of its Constitution– will reassert themselves. Enough people will regard Guantanamo with the same shame as the detention of Japanese in World War II… or the Red Scares… We’ll just have to see if and when this happens.

Let’s hope.

Wu Wei

I’ve been reflecting on the reaction to yesterday’s “Unspeakable Truth” post, about America’s self-destructive reaction to the September 11 attacks. The post began by quoting historian David Bell, who argued that Islamic terrorism, although certainly very dangerous, is not an existential threat to America. (It is unfortunate that the article was published under an inflammatory headline, “Was 9/11 really that bad?” Most of the right-wing reaction to the article didn’t get past the headline, which very likely was written by some dweeb on the Los Angeles Times copydesk and not Bell himself.)

I also quoted James Fallows’s “Declaring Victory” article from the September 2006 Atlantic Monthly, which I’m very sorry is available only to subscribers. However, I have blogged about this article here, here, and here, here, and probably elsewhere. In this article Fallows interviews a number of national security experts for their assessment of where the U.S. stands in its counterterrorism efforts. Shortly after this issue of Atlantic Monthly came out, parts of a National Intelligence Estimate of April 2006 were declassified and released, and as I noted here, Fallows’s experts and the NIE came to pretty much the same conclusions.

Among other things, the NIE and the Fallows experts agreed that the war in Iraq is growing the threat of terrorism against the United States, not reducing it. Very briefly, Bush’s Folly is not only increasing the number of Islamic hotheads who want to strike America; it is also diverting many national security resources that could be put to better use elsewhere.

The Fallows experts discuss a number of actions the U.S. should be doing but isn’t, as well as action the U.S. is doing but shouldn’t. I’m very sorry there’s a subscription wall around the Atlantic Monthly article, but if you go through my old posts linked above you’ll get a pretty good picture of what’s in it.

However, I assure you that nobody — not I, not James Fallows or his interviewees, not the National Intelligence Estimate — recommended doing nothing.

As you may have noticed if you followed yesterday’s “Unspeakable Truth” comments, righties seem to see only two options: thrashing about self-destructively and making the problem worse, or nothing.

It doesn’t matter how carefully one explains and documents reasons why the Bush Administration’s approach to national security is counterproductive. All they comprehend is “Bush’s Way” or “nothing.” Comments to the “Unspeakable Truth” post were typical, such as this one:

I find you lefties amusing. You’d rather wait until there’s a Stalingrad type siege to fight back, maybe. Of course, you’d want to poll ‘the world’s’ opinion for permission first.

Or this one:

Knock Knock.
Who is there?
Jihaddi terrorist.
What can I do for you today?
I am here to hurt your family. But only one of them. I don’t have enough bullets in my gun to kill you all.
Oh that’s fine then. Since my family will continue to exist even with the dead member, then I shouldn’t overreact to your threat.

Or this one:

I think you guys might be right. It got me thinking about how many innocent victims get killed while being mugged or raped because they fought back, or more importantly because the perp didn’t want to leave any witness because of the severity of the punishment if caught. I mean, we are just talking about a couple of bucks or a little bit of your time here people, not an existential threat, is that really worth dying over? If you just gave them what they wanted and then we all just look the other way, how many innocent lives would be saved?

What’s ironic about that last comment is that, essentially, the Bush Administration is giving Osama bin Laden what he wanted. It has been well documented by Richard Clarke and others that for many years Osama bin Laden’s game plan was to provoke the United States into invading a Muslim country. This, he figured, would incite large numbers of Muslims into vowing jihad against the U.S. And it seems he was right.

Effective counterterrorism requires a multifaceted approach, discussed in the old posts linked above; there’s no one, big, splashy, magic-bullet solution. And unfortunately, comprehending the various facets and perceiving how they work together requires an attention span somewhat longer than that of a fruit fly. Hence, righties hear “nothing.”

As a counterweight to the Extremely Stupid, see Lorelei Kelly’s article “What Progressives Have in Common with the Military” in AlterNet. It begins:

When Army Col. Ike Wilson returned home in March 2004 from a 12 month deployment in Iraq, one thought remained with him: “Why such a deliberate plan to fight the war, but none to win the peace to follow?”

Wilson, a West Point professor with years of military planning experience, knew that placing this question at the the center of national security policy discussions was the only way to truly learn from Iraq and Afghanistan. He soon founded the Beyond War Project as a hub to educate both the military and the public about a new vision for war, peace and America’s role in the world. Thus far, he’s signed up participants ranging from Cornell University’s Peace Studies Program to the U.S. Air Force.

Wilson’s approach typifies today’s professional military education, which includes a breadth of topics that might surprise those more familiar with the liberal arts. In contrast to linear Cold War themes like strategic nuclear deterrence, military schools emphasize humanities subjects such as language, international cooperation and world culture. Such lessons arrived in these academic settings in the early part of the decade–though it took the terror attacks of 9/11 and two offensive U.S. military actions before elected leaders really paid attention to the dramatic shift from Cold War thinking.

Today, nearly every general that testifies before Congress claims that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan do not have purely military solutions. This sea change means that many members of the military and progressives are philosophically much closer than either believes and they are both hurt by the lack of meaningful interaction. Understanding and aligning with the military around shared concerns could be a crucial new strategy for the left.

The rightie approach to national security is what I call the “bison herd stampede strategy.” A big herd of terrified, stampeding American bison (buffalo to us old folks) generates huge, destructive force, but it’s got no brain. And the herd is as likely than not to stampede right over a cliff.

The approach described in Ms. Kelly’s article, however, puts thinking ahead of stampeding. I’m not going to excerpt any more of it, because it’s better to read the whole thing.

Thinking about “nothing” reminded me of the Chinese principle of Wu Wei, which is usually translated as “not doing” or “without action.” Wu Wei is often misinterpreted as passivity, but Wu Wei is an important principle in Chinese martial arts, which is a clue that it is not passive at all. There’s a pretty good explanation of this in this article:

True martial arts masters understand wu wei as “spontaneous action” or “effortless flow”. You might know that Bruce Lee founded Jeet Kune Do, a style that, like the man himself, was imbued with an emphasis on speed and power. But you probably didn’t know that he also founded Wu Wei Gung Fu, a fighting art that expressed his ultimate philosophy: “Learn technique. Practice technique. Forget technique.” At the highest level of this discipline (as well as other martial arts), the warrior becomes one with the flow of reality around him. In that state of oneness, he is able to act without the necessity of volition. To the bystanders, he doesn’t seem to do much, and yet he delivers the exact minimum of impact at the exact right time to accomplish what needs to be done and not one iota more.

Not that I was ever a martial arts master — my best sport was croquet, but it’s been years since I’ve played even that — but I understand some basic principles, such as using the energy of your opponent’s momentum to bring him down. The master who uses no more energy than is necessary is harder to defeat than one who is fighting as hard as he can.

This Wikipedia article on Wu Wei isn’t bad; I like this part: “The aim of wu wei is to achieve a state of perfect equilibrium, or alignment with the Tao, and, as a result, obtain an irresistible form of ‘soft and invisible power’ over things (the self, others, a country).” Tao may be a little too mystical for some of you, but the essential point is that it’s best to do just enough; not too much, not too little.

The power of water is a frequent theme in the Tao Teh Ching, such as in #78:

Nothing in the world is softer than water,
Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong.

The Tao Teh Ching also takes a dim view of hardness and rigidity. This is from #76:

Just as a sapless tree will split and decay
So an inflexible force will meet defeat;
The hard and mighty lie beneath the ground
While the tender and weak dance on the breeze above.

From a Taoist/martial arts perspective, the U.S. has made every possible mistake in the “war on terror.” We’re like the big, dumb, muscle-bound brute that Jackie Chan whips every time. Wu Wei looks like “doing nothing” to some people, but it’s just the “nothing” that needs to be done.

Unspeakable Truth

David Bell, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University, has an op ed in today’s yesterday’s Los Angeles Times called “Was 9/11 really that bad?” In spite of the flame-baiting headline, which I doubt Professor Bell wrote, it makes a sensible point.

Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?

Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies’ objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.

Yet a great many Americans, particularly on the right, have failed to make this distinction. For them, the “Islamo-fascist” enemy has inherited not just Adolf Hitler’s implacable hatreds but his capacity to destroy. The conservative author Norman Podhoretz has gone so far as to say that we are fighting World War IV (No. III being the Cold War). …

… as the comparison with the Soviet experience should remind us, the war against terrorism has not yet been much of a war at all, let alone a war to end all wars. It is a messy, difficult, long-term struggle against exceptionally dangerous criminals who actually like nothing better than being put on the same level of historical importance as Hitler — can you imagine a better recruiting tool? To fight them effectively, we need coolness, resolve and stamina. But we also need to overcome long habit and remind ourselves that not every enemy is in fact a threat to our existence.

This is pretty much what I’ve been saying all along. There aren’t enough jihadists in the world to destroy the United States. There aren’t enough of them to invade us, seize Washington, and occupy our territory. There just aren’t. That ought to be obvious. Even if they could pull off another 9/11, that wouldn’t destroy us, either.

Professor Bell began his op ed this way:

IMAGINE THAT on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against

Yes, if the jihadists could pull off a 9/11 attack every six hours for four years, that would constitute an existential threat. But, obviously, they can’t come anywhere close to that.

At this point I want to remind readers that I was, in fact, in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and am an eyewitness to the collapse of the WTC towers. Anyone who comments that I am in denial about what happened on 9/11 will be well and thoroughly ridiculed.

Naturally a number of rightie bloggers already are hyperventilating over Professor Bell’s op ed, and their reactions prove once again that righties have the reading comprehension skills of gnats. And you absolutely can not challenge a rightie’s overblown senses of righteousness and victimhood without getting snarked.

The point that Professor Bell only mentions, but which is critical, is that our overreaction is hurting us more than it’s hurting them. Several antiterrorism experts interviewed by James Fallows for this September 2006 Atlantic Monthly article made the same point most urgently. I blogged about this article here, here, and here, and probably elsewhere. Here’s an excerpt:

No modern nation is immune to politically inspired violence, and even the best-executed antiterrorism strategy will not be airtight.

But the overall prospect looks better than many Americans believe, and better than nearly all political rhetoric asserts. The essence of the change is this: because of al-Qaeda’s own mistakes, and because of the things the United States and its allies have done right, al-Qaeda’s ability to inflict direct damage in America or on Americans has been sharply reduced. Its successor groups in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere will continue to pose dangers. But its hopes for fundamentally harming the United States now rest less on what it can do itself than on what it can trick, tempt, or goad us into doing. Its destiny is no longer in its own hands.

“Does al-Qaeda still constitute an ‘existential’ threat?” asks David Kilcullen, who has written several influential papers on the need for a new strategy against Islamic insurgents. Kilcullen, who as an Australian army officer commanded counter-insurgency units in East Timor, recently served as an adviser in the Pentagon and is now a senior adviser on counterterrorism at the State Department. He was referring to the argument about whether the terrorism of the twenty-first century endangers the very existence of the United States and its allies, as the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons did throughout the Cold War (and as the remnants of that arsenal still might).

“I think it does, but not for the obvious reasons,” Kilcullen told me. He said the most useful analogy was the menace posed by European anarchists in the nineteenth century. “If you add up everyone they personally killed, it came to maybe 2,000 people, which is not an existential threat.” But one of their number assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The act itself took the lives of two people. The unthinking response of European governments in effect started World War I. “So because of the reaction they provoked, they were able to kill millions of people and destroy a civilization.

“It is not the people al-Qaeda might kill that is the threat,” he concluded. “Our reaction is what can cause the damage. It’s al-Qaeda plus our response that creates the existential danger.”

This is the point that righties are, universally, too stupid or too scared to get. The pathetic little weenies hide behind their keyboards and do everything they can to jettison the Bill of Rights and the balance of powers because they are afraid and they think a big almighty dictatorial President can save them.

Whoever the next President is, let me say now that it is not enough for this individual to want to end the war in Iraq. I want this individual to lead the American people away from the fear and hysteria the Bushies have cultivated to their advantage. The American people need to understand that, although terrorists can take lives and knock down buildings, the only thing the nation has to fear is, well, fear itself.

Update: See The Anonymous Liberal.

Bushies Know Best

You’ll like this one. Suzanne Goldenberg writes for the Guardian:

The Bush administration’s most senior legal official said today that US courts were not fit to make decisions on national security and should show deference to the White House.

I should have warned you at the top of the post to sit down and stay calm.

In remarks made after a talk at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative thinktank, the attorney-general, Alberto Gonzales, said: “I don’t think that a judge is equipped at all to make decisions about what is in the national security interest of our country.”

Mr Gonzales’s comments come a few days after a Pentagon official provoked a national backlash after suggesting large corporations boycott law firms that defend detainees at Guantánamo.

You, there! You banging your head against the wall! Stop that right now!

The Associated Press reports (emphasis added),

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says federal judges are unqualified to make rulings affecting national security policy, ramping up his criticism of how they handle terrorism cases.

In remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday, Gonzales says judges generally should defer to the will of the president and Congress when deciding national security cases. He also raps jurists who “apply an activist philosophy that stretches the law to suit policy preferences.”

‘Scuse me while I go bang my head against the wall. At least I didn’t throw up, like some people.

Big Tent Democrat explains,

I think the Attorney General could not be clearer. He advocates the vitiation of the Constitution by the judiciary when the President so desires. He is unfit for the office of Attorney General. He should be removed from office.

On the other hand, AG Gonzales has decided the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program will be subject to FISA approval, after all. (Glenn Greenwald is, as ever, the go-to guy for in-depth explanation of FISA.)

I understand Mr. Gonzales is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

Speaking of atrocities, my buddy the Talking Dog (who is not an atrocity; more of a shepherd-newfoundland mix, I think) interviews H. Candace Gorman, one of the attorneys Alberto Gonzales thinks should be boycotted because she represents detainees at Guantánamo. Good stuff.

Bleep Lieberman

Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball of Newsweek write that Senator Joe “Vichycrat” Lieberman has “quietly” decided to give President Bush a pass on Katrina.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the only Democrat to endorse President Bush’s new plan for Iraq, has quietly backed away from his pre-election demands that the White House turn over potentially embarrassing documents relating to its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

Lieberman’s reversal underscores the new role that he is seeking to play in the Senate as the leading apostle of bipartisanship, especially on national-security issues.

Conventional wisdom says that Lieberman is so much in love with his self-image of the Good German Democrat that he’d send his mother to Iraq to make Bush happy. Of course, it’s always possible someone is paying him off.

On Wednesday night, Bush conspicuously cited Lieberman’s advice as being the inspiration for creating a new “bipartisan working group” on Capitol Hill that he said will “help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror.”

Talk about someone backing the wrong horse.

Last year, when he was running for re-election in Connecticut, Lieberman was a vocal critic of the administration’s handling of Katrina. He was especially dismayed by its failure to turn over key records that could have shed light on internal White House deliberations about the hurricane, including those involving President Bush.

Asserting that there were “too many important questions that cannot be answered,” Lieberman and other committee Democrats complained in a statement last year that the panel “did not receive information or documents showing what actually was going on in the White House.” …

…But now that he chairs the homeland panel—and is in a position to subpoena the records—Lieberman has decided not to pursue the material, according to Leslie Phillips, the senator’s chief committee spokeswoman. “The senator now intends to focus his attention on the future security of the American people and other matters and does not expect to revisit the White House’s role in Katrina,” she told NEWSWEEK.

Joe is finding other ways to sell us all out. From an editorial in today’s New York Times:

Making his umpteenth pitch to Congress to provide more security money for New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated the obvious when he said that money to defend against terrorism should be divvied up based on an assessment of risks, not “spread across the country like peanut butter.” After all, his testimony to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee echoed one of the key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The mayor estimated that more than $3 billion had been distributed in this lunatic way to date.

Unfortunately, the committee’s incoming chairman, Senator Joseph Lieberman, is partial to peanut butter. Mr. Lieberman, who won re-election last November as an independent with help from Mr. Bloomberg, continues to believe that every state, regardless of the risks or threats it faces, should be getting antiterrorism money. In negotiations with the House, Mr. Lieberman is seeking a “compromise” formula that preserves guaranteed minimums for relatively low-risk places like his home state of Connecticut. The minimums he wants well exceed the financing favored by the House, and cannot be justified on the basis of national security.

If the Senator isn’t pocketing a generous amount of “thanks” from somebody besides his constituents ….

Getting Colder

Following up the last post — Just to show How Far the Righty Have Fallen — rightie bloggers are whoopin’ and high-fivin’ it up over the missile strike in Somalia. For example, Curt at Flopping Aces celebrates payback for the U.S. troops killed in the 1993 “Blackhawk Down” firefight in Mogadishu. “God knows we would never get it when Clinton was in office,” he says.

I assume the Bush Administration plans a retaliation for the U.S.S. Cole bombing of 2000 sometime in 2013. I guess we’re taking the old saying “revenge is a dish best served cold” literally.

The Pentagon says the recent attack was not about what happened in 1993. However, one of their justifications for blitzing the Islamists involved the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by al Qaeda in 1998. Suspected perpetrators of those acts of terrorism are being harbored by the ICU, the Pentagon said.

In 1998 the Clinton Administration waited only 13 days after the embassy bombings, not 13 years, to launch cruise missiles that struck an al Qaeda training complex in Afghanistan and destroyed a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in the Sudan that allegedly produced nerve gas. You might remember that subsequent news stories said the facility in Sudan was a legitimate pharmaceutical plant and that the missile attack killed an innocent night watchman. Republicans verbally bludgeoned President Clinton about the dead night watchman and the “aspirin factory” for, well, a long time. I think they’re still at it.

Still, you’d think that they would have approved striking and destroying an al Qaeda training facility in Afghanistan. Guess again; grief for that dear, innocent night watchman far overwhelmed any concern for national security. Ol’ blood ‘n’ guts himself, Christopher Hitchens, sniffed:

Well then, what was the hurry? A hurry that was panicky enough for the president and his advisors to pick the wrong objective and then, stained with embarrassment and retraction, to refuse the open inquiry that could have settled the question in the first place? There is really only one possible answer to that question. Clinton needed to look “presidential” for a day. He may even have needed a vacation from his family vacation. In any event, he acted with caprice and brutality and with a complete disregard for international law, and perhaps counted on the indifference of the press and public to a negligible society like that of Sudan, and killed wogs to save his own lousy Hyde (to say nothing of our new moral tutor, the ridiculous sermonizer Lieberman). No bipartisan contrition is likely to be offered to the starving Sudanese: unmentioned on the “prayer-breakfast” circuit.

After 9/11, of course, the rightie tune was that Clinton should have acted quicker and bombed the Afghanistan facility while Osama bin Laden was still there. The attack missed him by hours.

Regarding the pharma plant, though I understand the CIA and some former Clinton Administration officials still stand by the nerve gas claim, consensus leans on the aspirin factory side of the story. Even so, going by this Wikipedia article, the Clinton Administration was a lot more successful at capturing, prosecuting, and convicting the perpetrators of the embassy bombings than the Bush Administration has been concerning those responsible for 9/11.

However, as this blogger points out, righties since then have become considerably more sanguine about the slaughter of civilians, including children, in the name of fighting terrorism. Yep, after the attacks on 9/11 the righties shed their tender sensibilities rather abruptly, and they flipflopped from complaining that Clinton had done too much to claiming he hadn’t done enough.

The missile story also reminded me of this famous exchange between Senator Bob Kerrey and National Security Adviser Condi Rice from the 9/11 commission hearings:

KERREY: You’ve used the phrase a number of times, and I’m hoping with my question to disabuse you of using it in the future.

You said the president was tired of swatting flies.

Can you tell me one example where the president swatted a fly when it came to al-Qaida prior to 9-11?

RICE: I think what the president was speaking to was …

KERREY: No, no. What fly had he swatted?

RICE: Well, the disruptions abroad was what he was really focusing on …

KERREY: No, no …

RICE: … when the CIA would go after Abu Zubaydah …

KERREY: He hadn’t swatted …

RICE: … or go after this guy …

KERREY: Dr. Rice, we didn’t …

RICE: That was what was meant.

KERREY: We only swatted a fly once on the 20th of August 1998. We didn’t swat any flies afterwards. How the hell could he be tired?

RICE: We swatted at — I think he felt that what the agency was doing was going after individual terrorists here and there, and that’s what he meant by swatting flies. It was simply a figure of speech.

KERREY: Well, I think it’s an unfortunate figure of speech because I think, especially after the attack on the Cole on the 12th of October, 2000, it would not have been swatting a fly. It would not have been — we did not need to wait to get a strategic plan.

Dick Clarke had in his memo on the 20th of January overt military operations. He turned that memo around in 24 hours, Dr. Clarke. There were a lot of plans in place in the Clinton administration — military plans in the Clinton administration.

In fact, since we’re in the mood to declassify stuff, there was — he included in his January 25th memo two appendices — Appendix A: Strategy for the elimination of the jihadist threat of al-Qaida; Appendix B: Political military plan for al-Qaida.

So I just — why didn’t we respond to the Cole?

RICE: Well, we …

KERREY: Why didn’t we swat that fly?

Ahh, those were the days. There’s more amusing nostalgia in the linked old post. Are the righties now reduced to cheering the swatting of flies? To be fair, Pajamas Media reports the U.S. has “boots on the ground” in Somalia, but so far I haven’t picked up this information in other news stories.

In January 1998, the neocons at PNAC sent a letter to President Clinton advising him that “regime change” in Iraq should be the aim of U.S. policy in the Middle East. A look at PNAC’s archives for 1997-2000 reveals the pnac’ers were obsessed with Saddam Hussein. But they seem not to have noticed Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda at all, unless I’m missing something. Even memorandums written within days of the embassy bombings are about Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. And these are the same geniuses pushing Bush into an escalation in Iraq now. If neocon policies don’t touch off a pancontinental war across the Middle East and much of Africa it will be a miracle.