Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Willful ignorance of the truth.
U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war, according to former senior intelligence officials who helped craft the reports.Unfortunately these findings did not match the happy talk of the administration or their toadies so America has stayed the course this entire time, while our leaders ignored the facts that were layed before them early on.
Among the warnings, Knight Ridder has learned, was a major study, called a National Intelligence Estimate, completed in October 2003 that concluded that the insurgency was fueled by local conditions - not foreign terrorists - and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops.
Robert Hutchings, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2005, said the October 2003 study was part of a "steady stream" of dozens of intelligence reports warning Bush and his top lieutenants that the insurgency was intensifying and expanding.This intelligence assessment of the insurgency was released after the presidents famous goading of insurgents to "bring it on", but the administrations blow hard attitude about Iraq was not, nor has it since been, checked by the intelligence. Or by the awful facts on the ground in Iraq:
"Frankly, senior officials simply weren't ready to pay attention to analysis that didn't conform to their own optimistic scenarios," Hutchings said in a telephone interview.
On Nov. 1, 2003, a day after the National Intelligence Estimate was distributed, Bush said in his weekly radio address: "Some of the killers behind these attacks are loyalists of the Saddam regime who seek to regain power and who resent Iraq's new freedoms. Others are foreigners who have traveled to Iraq to spread fear and chaos . . .Excuse phases! How about some reality checks? When one excuse is shown to no longer be tenable they go on to the next excuse rather than confront reality. Oh yeah... Reality is not so much in vogue with this crowd. This willful ignorance of the truth whenever it does not match the happy talk is just dangerous.
The terrorists and the Baathists hope to weaken our will. Our will cannot be shaken."
As recently as May 2005, Cheney told a television interviewer: "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."
White, who worked at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, said of the administration: "They've gone through various excuse phases."
"This was stuff the White House and the Pentagon did not want to hear," the former official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They were constantly grumbling that the people who were writing these kind of downbeat assessments 'needed to get on the team', 'were not team players' and were 'sitting up there (at CIA headquarters) in Langley sucking their thumbs.'"And now we come to the crux of the entire issue. This goes straight to the point of how this administration misled us to war. If you report the facts, and the facts do not fit the ideals of this gang of neocons, you are not on board. In other words, facts be damned, we want it to be this way and that's how it will be.
Indeed this headstrong insistence that the facts are to be ignored to fit the whims of this administration are evident in nearly every aspect of their governance. From hushing science (which clearly is about finding truths in everyday life, not about justifying a particular policy) which does not comport to their right wing view of any given issue, to cutting taxes on the wealthy in order to grow the budget out of deficit. And many many issues in between. The old saying goes there are only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. Add to the list the certainty that this administration will screw up any endeavor it sets out to accomplish because they simply can not be bothered to get the facts straight. Indeed from the issues of death (going to war) to taxes they have done a bang up job of it already. The facts are what they are, and to willfully ignore them as you plunge headlong into disaster is simply to govern with negligence on a criminal level. The longer the president insists on this headstrong ignorance of the truth, the worse the disaster is for this nation.
My struggle on the ports issue...
I am not willing to knee jerk a reflexive no answer to any notion that a company owned and operated by Arabs should be allowed to have this contract. I do believe there is a difference between a private company based in an allied nation, and a company wholly owned by a foreign government. The private company ought to make decisions based solely upon the best business interests of the company, but the government owned company may very well be influenced by political factors.
There is another issue that tends to lead me to support the suspension of the sale for the time being. This entire transaction appears to be yet another example of the administration making decisions arbitrarily, and then defying congress when the issue goes public. The administration seriously needs to be stopped in this pursuit of unbridled executive power. If it takes a bit of xenophobia on the control of our ports to check this practice, while I may deplore the xenophobia, the overall lesson to the administration needs to be taught.
How ironic that the president, who for so long has fed at the trough of public fear of terrorism by Muslim extremists, has been so successful in his fearmongering that it comes around to bite him on this issue. Maybe another valuable lesson that we can take from this mess is that the president should not be so quick to spread xenophobia for short term political gain.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Why we can no longer afford George W. Bush
The Case for Impeachment
Why we can no longer afford George W. Bush
The article is based upon house resolution 635, which you probably have not heard about. Representative John Conyers wants to form
“a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.”The evidence compiled by Conyers staff to justify the resolution is compiled in a 182 page report which took 6 months to complete and is heavily footnoted and sourced. All of this material is publicly available, so the only thing the report does is collate the information into one handy document. You can read the entire report at Afterdowningstreet.org if you wish.
The last paragraph by Mr. Lapham in the Harpers article is simply a must read so I will copy and paste it here. I do not need to bother with commentary on what Mr. Lapham says... he says it exquisitely on his own:
The Conyers report doesn't lack for further instances of the administration's misconduct, all of them noted in the press over the last three years—misuse of government funds, violation of the Geneva Conventions, holding without trial and subjecting to torture individuals arbitrarily designated as “enemy combatants,” etc.—but conspiracy to commit fraud would seem reason enough to warrant the President's impeachment. Before reading the report, I wouldn't have expected to find myself thinking that such a course of action was either likely or possible; after reading the report, I don't know why we would run the risk of not impeaching the man. We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal—known to be armed and shown to be dangerous. Under the three-strike rule available to the courts in California, judges sentence people to life in jail for having stolen from Wal-Mart a set of golf clubs or a child's tricycle. Who then calls strikes on President Bush, and how many more does he get before being sent down on waivers to one of the Texas Prison Leagues?
Mehlman calls swiftboaters heroes...
For the first time, Mehlman is now defending the Swift Boat veterans,Here we have the leader of the Republican party just out and out supporting a group who told lie upon lie about John Kerry's service in Vietnam. And please do not buy the line that this was not about Kerry's wartime service but rather the anti-war movement he supported when he got back. Check out this article on factcheck.org that destroys the swiftboaters accusations:
“No one’s taking away his service,” he emphasized. “The question was his judgment when he came back.”
He contrasted Kerry unfavorably with former Sen. Bob Dole, Kansas Republican, who was severely wounded in World War II, and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
A group funded by the biggest Republican campaign donor in Texas began running an attack ad Aug. 5 in which former Swift Boat veterans claim Kerry lied to get one of his two decorations for bravery and two of his three purple hearts.The swiftboat campaign was demonstrated time and again to be promulgating flat out lies. Yet now Mehlman thinks they should be defended, and has the unmitigated gall to invoke the names of Bob Dole and John McCain in doing so. These examples are indeed very instructive.
But the veterans who accuse Kerry are contradicted by Kerry's former crewmen, and by Navy records.
You see, when Bob Dole opposed Bill Clinton in the 96 election, there was nary a whisper of nefarious activity on the part of candidate Dole to get his hand mangled. No commercials by WWII figures decrying his medals. Quite simply Democrats are not interested in smearing war heroes, and Bob Doles record was treated with the honor that it was and is due.
What is really quite odd is Mehlman invoking senator McCain in this context. Because the Rove campaign machine saw to it that candidate McCain was swiftboated (before that term even had any meaning) in the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary. Bartcop has an excellent article which offers the details of this smear campaign.
“Some of George W. Bush's supporters have questioned Republican presidential candidate John McCain's fitness for the White House, suggesting that his five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam drove him insane at the time.”How absolutely appropriate it is for Mehlman to bring up McCain in this context, but how Orwellian of him to make it sound like McCains service is beyond reproach in this context.
In 2000, McCain operatives in SC accused Rove of spreading rumors against McCain, such as “suggestions that McCain had committed treason while a prisoner of war, and had fathered a child by a black prostitute,” according to the New Yorker.
Bush Used Fringe Veterans Group to Attack McCain as “Manchurian Candidate.”
“In the case of Ted Sampley, the same guy who did Bush's dirty work in going after Sen. John McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries is doing the job against Kerry this year. Sampley dared compare McCain, who spent five years as a Vietnam POW, with ‘the Manchurian Candidate.’”
Sampley Called McCain a “Coward” and a Traitor.
“Sampley… accused McCain of being a weak-minded coward who had escaped death by collaborating with the enemy. Sampley claimed that McCain had first been compromised by the Vietnamese, then recruited by the Soviets.”
Friday, February 24, 2006
Tom Delay vs. Stonewall Jackson
To start with a bit of an aside, my all time favorite quote comes from general Jackson. He was severely wounded by friendly fire at Chancellorsville. Jackson contracted pneumonia while recuperating and as he lay on his deathbed his mind took him to old battles. In his delirium he would call out orders to his men in the course of battle. Eventually he grew quiet, and then said "let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees", and died.
Now I understand full well the reputation of southern leadership during the civil war, and for the most part this outlook by the modern day liberal is well deserved. But I must assert that Stonewall was no Nathan Bedford Forrest (perpetrator of the Fort Pillow massacre and founder of the KKK) in his outlook and treatment of African Americans. Stonewall fought on the wrong side of his war, but he was not an ogre. Tom Delay on the other hand IS an ogre.
Let us consider some of the glaring differences between Delay and Stonewall: Consider military service. Tom Delay avoided service via student deferments and offered the following knee slapper when asked about his military service:
He and Quayle DeLay explained to the assembled media in New Orleans, were victims of an unusual phenomenon back in the days of the undeclared Southeast Asian war. So many minority youths had volunteered for the well-paying military positions to escape poverty and the ghetto that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like himself.Stonewall Jackson's military career has led to his mythic status in the halls of American military commanders. Tom Delays military service consists of riling up rednecks to vote for him...
Lifestyle: Stonewall Jackson lived a spartan existence. He believed that the enjoyable things in life lead to temptation and should be shunned. He would bring his own food, usually consisting of bread crusts, to social gatherings out of an eccentric fear of contamination. Jackson did not drink because he enjoyed it too much. Contrasted with Delay the difference in lifestyle could not be more extreme. The possibility that someone modeling themselves after Jackson would be the subject of the headline: "Donors Underwrite DeLay's Luxury Lifestyle" with a photo of Delay yucking it up on the golf course is simply inconceivable. Can you imagine Tom Delay after a week spent living hand to mouth in a tent? Hah!
Ethics: The piety of Stonewall Jackson is simply legendary. He would refuse to mail a letter if he believed the mail he sent would travel on a Sunday. The notion that Stonewall Jackson would act in any way other than the most ethical in his understanding of an issue simply is not believable. Do I really need to contrast this with Abramoff (close friend until he's indicted at which point he is an acquaintance) pal and indicted slimeball Tom Delay? Please...
The notion that Stonewall Jackson's name is besmirched by association with Tom Delay is simply not acceptable. Stonewall has enough of a hurdle to overcome with his reputation due to the side of the war he fought on. But I fear that some sort of movement to link Jackson and Delay could forever bring the reputation of Jackson to a low that no amount of military glory or personal virtue could hope to rehabilitate. I'm certain that the invocation of his name in defense of Delay caused Stonewall's bones to spin several times in his grave. Let us leave his memory in peace.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Respect for religion? Gay porn forced on detainees.
[State Department spokesman Richard] Boucher said that the common practice for American forces at Guantanamo and elsewhere is to provide Islamic detainees with prayer beads, copies of the Quran, culturally appropriate meals, time to worship and even daily calls to prayer.What Mr. Boucher failed to include in his laundry list of steps taken to respect the religion of the Guantanamo detainees was the gay porn that we forced them to watch during interrogations. According to an FBI email:
"Last evening I went to observe an interview of REDACTED with REDACTED. The adjoining room, observable from the monitoring booth, was occupied by 2 DHS investigators showing a detainee homosexual porn movies and using a strobe light in the room."The absolute depravity is simply breathtaking. This administration is responsible for some of the most outrageous examples of spiritual degradation that a sickened human mind can contemplate. Let us consider this disgusting example against a couple of statements of various high ranking administration figures.
President George Bush: ...the Administration is committed to treating all detainees held by the United States in a manner consistent with our Constitution, laws, and treaty obligations, which reflect the values we hold dear. U.S. law and policy already prohibit torture. Our policy has also been not to use cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, at home or abroad.Values we hold dear! Insert your own joke here... (insert! oh nevermind...)
Vice President Dick Cheney: We have them down at Guantanamo, where they're well treated. They're well housed. They're well fed. Their religious needs and desires are catered to. They're not being tortured or mistreated, but they are a major source of intelligence for us.The vice president clearly has the religious needs and desires of our prisoners confused with the needs and desires of the deliverance crowd. And guess what? Those backwoods hicks are not voting for Dems...
Finally please do not equate this post with an attack on gays. If people choose to watch or do what ever in the privacy of their homes, that's fine by me. I would hold the same level of outrage if we were forcing these prisoners to witness heterosexual porn, because these detainees would have their religious sensibilities offended by that as well. Indeed this behavior should outrage all Americans, whether they are gay, straight, agnostic or deeply religious. Values we hold dear indeed.
Never thought I'd hear THIS one...
President Bush on Thursday defended his administration's decision to allow a company from an Arab country to operate six major U.S. ports, saying, "People don't need to worry about security."I honestly do not know where to start on this. It is simply baffling. Do not worry about security? Hearing that from this president would be similar to having the pope tossing condoms over the balcony at St. Peters Square. People don't need to worry about security... Just wow.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Cheney shooting affidavits...
Pamela Willeford gives us the following self contradictory statement:
There was no alcohol consumed in the afternoon of the hunt in the field. I did consume a glass of wine at lunch, approximately 4 - 4 1/2 hours earlier.The time of the shooting is given as between 5:45 and 6 pm. By definition then Ms. Willeford drank the afternoon of the hunt in the field. The only way to possibly get around this contradiction is to parse Ms. Wittington's statement in such a way as to make it appear thusly. 'There was no drinking in the field during the afternoon of the hunt'. In other words they could be excused for drinking at the ranch that afternoon, because under this parsing it was not in the field. This is reminiscent of what the meaning of is is...
This also places another type of alcohol at the ranch. Vice president Cheney admitted that he had a beer at lunch when he was interviewed on Fox. Katherine Armstrong says that after the accident vice president Cheney mixed himself a cocktail. Now Ms. Willeford says she had wine at lunch. Far from the original reports that this was a party comprised of teetotallers, it is now apparent that the bar at the ranch was well stocked with many types of alcohol. Indeed the notion that Mr. Cheney would mix himself a drink after the accident but before being interviewed by the police seems to indicate that he could hardly have tried harder to appear under the influence the night of the accident.
On to another aspect of the affidavit that Kieth Olbermann is sure to notice: The contradiction of the original reports from Ms. Armstrong and what she says in the affidavit. According to Ms. Armstrong when speaking to the media after the accident:
Armstrong said she saw Cheney's security detail running toward the scene. "The first thing that crossed my mind was he had a heart problem," she told The Associated Press.In the affidavit Ms. Armstrong testifies thusly:
I saw the Vice President rush towards Mr. Wittington and almost in the same instant the Vice President's security detail was rushing to his side as well."I suppose we can make these two stories fit if we are to think that once the horrible impact of what just happened dawned upon Ms. Armstrong that she assumed the trauma of shooting a hunting partner had caused the vice presidential ticker to give out and that all the security detail were just doing their jobs of protecting the veep. But that would simply be silly thinking... It is pretty clear that Ms. Armstrong's story changed.
I for one have no doubt that this truly was a classic hunting accident. An unfortunate truth here however is that the use of alcohol is all to often a factor in these accidents. Law enforcement was not given permission to interview the shooter until any chance of finding alcohol in his system was well past. Mary Matalin's reflexive invocation of national security as the reason for not allowing law enforcement to interview the vice president is simply absurd. Is there any other time that can be thought of in which a person is known to have shot another person, and as soon as law enforcement became aware of the occurence did not gain immediate access to the shooter? This is just another example of how this administration considers itself to be above the law, and one must wonder the true reason for this obvious deviation from the norm.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Rumsfeld: Liar or orders not being obeyed.
"When we heard about it we said, `Gee, that's not what we ought to be doing,' and told the people down there,"Yet today we hear that what the secretary of defense said last week is actually no longer operative.
Although "it wasn't anything terrible that happened," Pentagon officials ordered a halt to the practice and "they stopped doing it," he added, according to a transcript provided by the [Charlie Rose] show.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was mistaken when he said last week that the U.S. military had stopped the controversial practice of paying to plant stories in the Iraqi news media, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.
Bryan Whitman, a senior spokesman, said Rumsfeld had been incorrect in saying during an TV interview Friday that the practice had been halted in the wake of negative publicity in the United States. Rumsfeld made a similar assertion during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations that same day.
We must draw one of two conclusions here. Either the U.S. military command in Iraq is willfully disobeying an order by the secretary of defense, or secretary Rumsfeld lied repeatedly about this program being discontinued. Given the track record of this administration I draw the conclusion that Rummy was being deceptive.
How odd that in the course of decrying the loss of the propaganda war to our enemies that Mr. Rumsfeld would wind up shooting himself in the foot for the whole world to note. The reason we take so many black eyes in the propaganda war is precisely because time and again our leaders are shown to be absolutely devoid of honesty.
Even as they whine about losing the propaganda war, they prove to be dishonest!
Monday, February 20, 2006
U.S. spreading democracy, until we do not like the results...
Khalilzad reminded the Iraqis that the United States has spent billions to build up Iraq's police and army and said "we are not going to invest the resources of the American people and build forces that are run by people who are sectarian" and tied to the militias — some of which the ambassador said received "arms and training" from Iran.This determination by the administration to whole heartedly endorse democracy until we do not like the outcome is also reflected by the U.S. requesting that the newly elected Hamas government return $50 million , which Hamas has agreed to give back.
I suppose then that what America really means when we advocate democracy, is for the new government to actually be elected by the people, whilst also being favorable from the wests point of view. The chances of the democratically elected governments of Arab peoples seeing things eye to eye with Washington are remote.
Does this mean that in my humble opinion, America is duty bound to support democracies that work against western interests? No. But we should understand full well the consequences of our stated goal of spreading democracy through out that region. The past assertions by president Bush that democracies are peaceful and do not invade their neighbors has now been shown to not be the case. Indeed the example set by the Bush administration destroys his own argument. We should not support governments that advocate violence and terror whether they be democratic, kingdoms, theistic, or pro western.
I would however like to see the west at least give Hamas a chance to try their hand at ruling before doing all in our power to pull the rug out from under them. If the Hamas governing style resembles the Hamas revolutionary non governing style, then is the time to condemn and withdraw support. The fact is that governing tends to bring revolutionaries and hardliners down to earth. Witness the transformation of Ariel Sharon from Zionist hardliner to pragmatic peacemaker. It appears already that the choice by Hamas for prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh , sends a signal of moderation. Ismail is described as "a moderate by Hamas standards".
On the question of the new Iraqi government: America can only expect that the new government will have close ties to Iran. The majority of Iraqi citizens are Shiite Muslims and identify with their neighbor to the east. The head of Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security agency is recently quoted as saying
"When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos,"An additional cause to rue the invasion from the perspective of the west may well be the formation of a government wholly allied with Iran. Before the invasion president Bush rather ridiculously lumped Iran, Iraq and N. Korea into an axis of evil. Considering the history of the region the notion that Iraq and Iran formed a coalition of any sort prior to our invasion is preposterous. Now, thanks to our disastrous occupation and our determination to install a democracy in Iraq, the fact is that we are in the process of installing an ally of Iran on it's western border. It really is no wonder that the work of building an Iraqi army is crawling at a snails pace. We really have no interest in training and arming the Baghdad wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Indeed the assertion by the head of Shin Bet pertains, not only in respect to the chaos that followed the order imposed by Saddam's dictatorship. We may well rue the day we brought down the regional check to Iran, and actually strengthened them as Iran rose to regional domination.
"I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam."
If we must insist on democracy, we must live with the consequences.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Admin excuses & John McCain...
I rather tend to believe that this talking point proves there is a major problem. Name me a conflict in recent American military history in which so many people have been accused of inhumanity to prisoners. The war in Iraq, and the global war on terror have seen a tremendous wave of such allegations. Why was not this surge of prisoner abuse the case in Desert Storm, Vietnam, N. Korea, WWII, and WWI?
One must conclude that the soldiers we send to guard the detainees in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are either guided to do these abuses, or not given the training and guidance to not abuse these detainees. In either case the administration bears responsibility. Saying that hundreds of these cases have been investigated and adjudicated hardly speaks well of the administration. In fact looking at this from a historical perspective, that talking point is damning of this administration.
Which brings me to the issue of how this has been handled by congress. The president recently signed the McCain amendment which banned the ill treatment of detainees under American control, but at that signing the president made clear that he only intended to obey the law as he saw fit. Using what he considers to be the power of the unitary executive the president declared while signing the McCain law :
The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.This signal from the president was noted by senator McCain and the co-sponsor of the amendment in question senator Warner, who jointly issued the following warning:
"We believe the President understands Congress's intent in passing by very large majorities legislation governing the treatment of detainees included in the 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations and Authorization bills. The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation. Our Committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the Administration's implementation of the new law."Gee mr. Frik, why are you rehashing this ancient history you might be asking yourself right now. It seems pretty cut and dried... The president is probably going to use what he sees as his unitary executive privilege to continue torturing prisoners, senator McCain will vigorously perform his oversight role as spelled out by the constitution, and we will have a fight sometime down the road evidently. The reason that this scenario may no longer operative is because of this story :
Obviously using President Bush's direct mail list, the letter signed by McCain asks for $1,000 or $1,500 to support candidates agreeing with McCain on "key issues."Admittedly, this may be me running with a conspiracy theory, but several questions need answering. How did senator McCain wind up with the mailing list of president Bush? Is this not a blatant conflict of interest. In this letter senator McCain asks the reader to help with "reining-in lobbyists" and "reducing the power of the special interests". Exactly how did you get this list senator, and will this have any affect on your stated goal of overseeing the administration with respect to the humane treatment of detainees. Can we be assured that the list being given to senator McCain was not in itself an effort to "lobby" McCain by the ultimate "special interest": the administration, who really does not want this confrontation with McCain. It is hard to imagine the senator appealing for aid from the infamous cult of Bush and then turning around and biting their beloved leader in return.
The stories detailing the administrations intent to break the law that you sponsored are are already out there senator.
THE United States is helping Morocco to build a new interrogation and detention facility for Al-Qaeda suspects near its capital, Rabat, according to western intelligence sources.The American people are counting on you senator McCain. We only hope that you have not thrown away the principles that led you to take the stand against the administration in the first place, for a veritable forty pieces of silver.
The construction of the new compound, run by the Direction de la Securite du Territoire (DST), the Moroccan secret police, adds to a substantial body of evidence that Morocco is one of America's principal partners in the secret "rendition" programme in which the CIA flies prisoners to third countries for interrogation.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups critical of the policy have compiled dossiers detailing the detention and apparent torture of radical Islamists at the DST's current headquarters, at Temara, near Rabat.
Friday, February 17, 2006
The cult of Bush...
Bush took questions from the friendly audience after his prepared remarks. The first questioner said the nation was blessed to have Bush as president. The next questioner referred to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as "your great brother."These Bush prescreened audiences remind me of the craven gatherings of yes people that spontaneously generated each time Saddam made a public appearance when he was running the show in Iraq. These crowds would make Kim Jong-il proud.
So I decided to do some research on the white house website (click that link at your own risk, we know how concerned about your privacy the white house has been lately) and Google (some privacy issues there as well)
Here's an audience member from today's speech:
Q Thank you for being our President. We are all way better off and very safe --Wow... stop with that critical line of questioning or you may be dragged out by the secret service there bud.
Here are some hardball questions to the president delivered at Kansas St. University on January 23.
Hello, Mr. President. I am an American Iraqi Kurd. I would like to salute you and salute all the troops are freeing 27 million people. They are free...(Applause.)All this from one person! A veritable fillibuster of praise...
Mr. President, I would like to share this thought with all our nation and everybody who is questioning what happened to the chemical weapons. Saddam burned 4,500 villagers. I lost more than 10 members of my family under the ground. We found their bones after, when we freed Iraq. Saddam, himself, and his people, his followers, they are chemical weapons. Please stop questioning the administration and their decision. It was the best decision anybody could take. Freeing 27 million people. (Applause.)
Mr. President, all I could tell you, I have two members of my family, they are in the Iraqi parliament. And both of them are women. My sister-in-law and my aunt, they are in the Iraqi parliament. And I would like you to share this happiness with me and with all the Iraqi people. Thank you, Mr. President.
Q Mr. President, thank you for being here. I served under your father, he was my Commander-in-Chief in Desert Storm. And it was with great interest that I followed your campaign; my husband and I both are great fans of yours. I thank you for making the hard decisions, for making -- not listening to the critics and keeping your campaign promise.Surprise surprise! Great fans and rooting for Alito... I never would have imagined.
And I've been following the confirmation hearings of Judge Alito. And I certainly hope he's confirmed.
Q Hi. First I'd like to say that when I was first able to cast my vote for President, it was my honor to vote for you --Newsflash! Every single person allowed into that audience cast their votes for Bush. Or would have if they could have anyway.
Here is an example of tough crowd participation in a discussion on the war on terror with the president on January 11:
Q How can people help on the war on terror?This from a poor brainwashed seven year old! You have to wonder if he prays at the shrine of Ronald Reagan his parents erected at home each night before he goes to bed.
Q Along with the seven-year-old, my question is, how is it that the people of Iraq when polled have more hope about their future than the rest of the -- than the rest of the world has, with regard to what we're doing in Iraq? How can we get the positive things that are happening in Iraq -- how can we get everybody to know what's happening out there?I've got an idea. How about if we have the president take fake questions from staged audiences every so often and we'll just sort of beat some optimism into the public!
Here is the transcript of an interesting twist to the adoring audience question time we see demonstrated repeatedly. The white house thought it would be a good idea to have the president toss some questions to some hand picked troops in Iraq. The result was simply a public relations disaster. Crooks and Liars has the video of the troops being coached prior to the event, but for the purpose of this post let us look at some of this interaction.
THE PRESIDENT: That's good. And so, like -- I mean, and so the vote is in less than 48 hours -- or about 48 hours, I guess. And so how do you -- how would -- are you confident? I mean, how do you feel the operations are going?The president obviously did not mean to throw a hardball with that question, because if he had meant to he would have asked something like: 'Did you receive coaching on how to answer my questions' or 'do you hear much local sentiment about the Abu Ghraib scandal?' By not intending to toss a hardball question here, the president has hit his mark perfectly.
CAPTAIN KENNEDY: Mr. President, I'm going to field that question to Captain Smith.
THE PRESIDENT: I didn't want to give you -- I didn't want to throw you a hardball there, Captain.
In the following exchange president Bush asks Sgt. Major Akeel from the 5th Iraqi Army division a hardball and gets zinged in return.
BUSH: Yes, Sergeant Akeel, thank for joining us. I appreciate your service. You got something to say, Akeel?At this point in the event the train has totally come off the tracks and we need to get this wrapped up so the president can go blow up at whoever thought this disaster would fly.
AKEEL: Good morning, Mr. President, thank you for everything. Thank you very much for everything.
BUSH: You're welcome.
AKEEL: I like you.
BUSH: Well, I appreciate that.
MURPHY: Good morning, Mr. President.
BUSH: Go ahead.
Quite frankly this is so over done it really should embarrass the recipient of the adoration. Some of the worst cases can be found by mining questions from the audience during the 2004 campaign:
Q First of all, , I have to say, my mom said to tell you she loves you.The cult of Bush is strong...
Q President Bush , we absolutely love you. We love your sincerity. We love everything you represent.
Q (Inaudible.) Okay, I'll speak louder. , Thank you, President Bush, for your integrity. You're a man of honesty and I trust you with my life and my family's.
I'm just sick...
The story details a whisper campaign designed to sink the primary candidacy of Paul Hackett for Ohio U.S. Senate. If true this means that the Democratic establishment participated in the swiftboating of a veteran.
In the course of discussing politics with my conservative girlfriend I am quick to point out the differences between Republican and Democratic treatment of veterans who run against them. I am able to point to the examples of Democrats not slamming the service records of Bob Dole or George Bush in WWII. Where as Republican operatives were willing to make an issue of John Kerry's service in Viet Nam and even eat one of their own with the South Carolina whisper campaign against John McCain by the Bush campaign. How sad that this high ground is now given up, and it happens to one of our own no less!
Here are some of the more sordid parts of the Mother Jones article:
Swift boats soon appeared on the horizon. A whisper campaign started: Hackett committed war crimes in Iraq—and there were photos. “The first rumor that I heard was probably a month and a half ago,” Dave Lane, chair of the Clermont County Democratic Party, told me the day after Hackett pulled out of the race. “I heard it more than once that someone was distributing photos of Paul in Iraq with Iraqi war casualties with captions or suggestions that Paul had committed some sort of atrocities. Who did it? I have no idea. It sounds like a Republican M.O. to me, but I have no proof of that. But if it was someone on my side of the fence, I have a real problem with that. I have a hard time believing that a Democrat would do that to another Democrat.”
In late November, Hackett got a call from Sen. Harry Reid. “I hear there’s a photo of you mistreating bodies in Iraq. Is it true?” demanded the Senate minority leader. “No sir,” replied Hackett. To drive home his point, Hackett traveled to Washington to show Reid’s staff the photo in question. Hackett declined to send me the photo, but he insists that it shows another Marine—not Hackett—unloading a sealed body bag from a truck. “There was nothing disrespectful or unprofessional,” he insists. “That was a photo of a Marine doing his job. If you don’t like what they’re doing, don’t send Marines into war.”
A staffer in Reid’s office confirmed that Hackett had showed them several photos. “The ones I saw were part of a diary he kept while serving in Iraq and were in no way compromising. The one picture in question depicted Marines doing their work on what looked like a scorching day in Iraq,” said the aide.
But the whispering continued, and Hackett was troubled. “It creates doubt and suspicion,” Hackett told me, saying his close supporters were asking him privately about the rumors. “It tarnishes my very strength as a candidate, my military service. It’s like you take a handful of seeds, throw them up in the wind, and they blow all around and start growing. It really bothered me.”
This is simply outrageous. The only thing that keeps me from just throwing up my hands and walking away from politics right now is my deep concern and love America. But by god there must be something done about the cancer that has become our political discourse in this nation. Shame on you power broker Democrats! SHAME!
Thursday, February 16, 2006
The Cheney cocktail.
This means that after the accident, but before being interviewed by law enforcement, that the owner of the ranch has the vice president drinking a cocktail. Mr. Cheney admits having a beer at lunch some four hours prior to the accident. How is it that the vice president would drink immediately after the accident but before speaking to law enforcement? This was at least his second drink of the day, and the vice president mixed beer and hard liquor during the course of the days drinking. It seems as though he could hardly try harder to be under the influence the evening of the accident, before law enforcement interviewed him. One can only speculate as to why a gunshot victim were admitted to the hospital in the early evening on Saturday, but the vice president was not interviewed until mid morning the next day, but the appearance here is hardly complimentary of the vice president, or local law enforcement.
One other thing to consider, and this is entirely speculation on my part. There is a time between the lunch and the hunt where the hunting party relaxes inside the ranch. It is admitted by the vice president that he drank a beer during lunch. But we are to think that during those couple of hours when the hunters were relaxing inside the ranch and digesting their lunches that there was no alcoholic consumtption what-so-ever? I would tend to believe this if there was no drinking at lunch. But once establishing that the party was drinking at the lunch, and then immediately relaxed about the house I find it difficult to believe that the drinks were verbotten at that point. I certainly have no evidence at this point to back up this supposition, but to me it just makes sense.
I really wish that the medications being taken by the vice president were known. I would really like to know the effects of those drugs when mixed with alcohol. Toss in guns, and little birds and you have a virtual recipe for disaster!!
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
NGO report: Torturing Iraqis strengthens the insurgency.
"The harm from excessive use of force, torture, tactics that inflict widespread civilian injury and reliance on sectarian militias outweighs any military gain,"Whoa there ICG dudes... you obviously have been infiltrated by Osama's islamo-commie minions! Erm... on second thought let us consider what this group had to say in their last report on Afghanistan:
With a deteriorating security situation, this is no time for wobbling when it comes to desperately needed reinforcements for Nato’s International Assistance and Security Force. Robust peacekeeping forces must go where they are needed most – not, as has all too often happened, to the safest areas.So we see that in calling for the reinforcement of Nato's troop level, and the call to send them to danger zones rather than keeping them holed up in safe areas that the ICG is hardly a mouth piece of Taliban/Al Qaida.
So when the ICG says that torturing the locals and acting like cads in the pursuit of security strengthens the insurgency in Iraq, we might do well to listen. Of course the self evident truth of this statement should be obvious to any analyst who cares to think it through. Unfortunately these analytical types seem to be few and far between in the current administration. Let us consider some more points in the ICG report.
The report also urged the United States to make "repeatedly clear at the highest level" that Iraqi's oil resources "belong to the Iraqi people and no one else," and that withdrawal will occur as soon as the new government requests it.Ooops... what was that noise I just heard from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave? It was the sound of this report being crumpled up and tossed into the presidential round file. The oil belongs to the Iraqi people? By 'the Iraqi people' the ICG must mean whichever people happen to live in the area that produces oil, because we already see the Kurds reaching deals for the oil in north Iraq without consulting the central government.
This whole notion that we will leave when invited to by the central government hardly matches with president Bush's oft stated goal of basing strategy on the say so of American military commanders on the ground. If the commanders do not agree with the central government that the coalition should withdraw, does the president over ride them?
The ICG report also hardly paints a rosy picture of the strength of the insurgency:
"There is little sign of willingness by any significant insurgent element to join the political process or negotiate with the United States. While covert talks cannot be excluded, the publicly accessible discourse remains uniformly and relentlessly hostile to the occupation and its 'collaborators.' "So all the yakking by administration toadies from vice president Cheney (the insurgency is in it's last throes ) to the white house described 'senior U.S. general in Baghdad', C.D. Alston (the insurgents show no ability to carry out numerous and persistent attacks) really is just hokum. Who woulda thunk it?!
"The insurgency is increasingly optimistic about victory."
What this all boils down to is that the ICG reports findings are just obvious. Do not torture the citizens or you may tick them off. The nations resources belong to the nations citizens. Tactics that cause large amounts of casualties amongst innocent civilians do not please the locals. You read this stuff and just think... "Well DUH!"
Yet deep in my heart I just pray some flunkie in the white house reads this, bites down hard and marches up to the president to lay these facts on the line. We can only hope said flunky does not get bawled out too much, and maybe some of this will get through to the president and lead to some positive change in Iraq.
Congressional Democrats need to get a spine.
It appears to me that the stated goal of vice president Dick Cheney and presidential advisor Karl Rove to make the NSA spy program an election year issue have thrown the Democrats off their game. To me the issue is very clear. If the neo cons wish to make a campaign issue over the fact that the president broke the law and when found to be doing so defiantly proclaimed his intention to keep doing it, all over a program which truly is ineffective then lets welcome that fight not run from it. Or did these congressional Democrats think that this would be the one issue that once exposed would lead to the surrender of power by the neo con Rovians? Of course they will fight back, and lie and bluster... but the issue is with us, unless we surrender it, which for all the world is just what it appears these spineless Democrats are in the process of doing... sort of.
Here is Rep. Jane Harman on Meet The Press:
I still support the program, but it needs to be on a sounder legal footing, and I think the Gang of Eight process violates the National Security Act of 1947, which requires that, unless it's a covert action program-Congress, that means the two Intelligence Committees-have to be fully and completely briefed.Ms. Harmann concurrently says (to paraphrase) 'I support the program, but it was illegal'. Part of the program was that the full senate and house intelligence committees not be briefed because the white house was concerned there may be leaks. Her fall back is that she was unable to fully understand the illegality of the program because of the very secretive nature of the program. As she says, prior to announcing she is for the admittably illegal program:
I couldn't talk to anyone about this program, and did not until the president disclosed its existence. It's not the leak to The New York Times that triggered things-and by the way, I deplore that leak-but the day after that, President Bush disclosed the fact that the program existed, at which point I consulted constitutional experts, the former general counsel of the CIA, some of the excellent staff on the House Intelligence Committee, and then I learned, although I'm a trained lawyer, about some of the serious legal issues that I have been raising ever since.This logic simply does not fly. If the program is illegal, as she admittably says it was, that should be the end all be all of her way of thinking. And how do you deplore the Times leaking what you now admit was longstanding and continuing illegal behavior by the president of the United States? Deplore the leak? If the Times had not sat on that story for over a year, I'd be pulling for them to get a Pulitzer. This one waffling paragraph by Ms. Harman convinces me that maybe she would best help the situation by not giving us her opinion on this particular matter until after the mid terms.
What can be said of Senator Tom Daschle. Personally I think he's great. His loss in the senate truly was a sorrowful occasion and I look forward to hearing his perspective on many issues. BUT... on the issue of this program, he seemed to parrot Ms. Harman:
Well, Tim, I think Jane is right. We have had a good deal of analysis done on what you can and cannot talk about, and I think the president's making a false choice here, and we're hearing again the argument this morning that somehow we-we either are for hating the terrorists or protecting our values. We both-we all support going after the terrorists. We support the wiretapping program. We support doing everything we can to ensure we've got the best information we can get. But we also support respecting the rule of law.Once again we hear a Democrat say (to paraphrase) 'The program is illegal which is bad, but the program is good'. Why does Mr. Daschle even have to say this? He's not running for office in 2006 as far as I can tell. Maybe if he were, he would develop a spine on the issue but still! My conclusion is that since both Mr. Daschle and Ms. Harman were briefed on the program due to their respective roles in congress, once the program became public the Democrats who were briefed took some heat over this. They may be feeling a need to justify the lack of action... (which action by the way they could not take because of the nature of the program. I'll back them on that one anyway.)
Democrats now seem to think that the public will think they are weak for not supporting the program itself, not based upon legalisms but based upon the supposed effectiveness of the spying program. Yet anyone who cares to look at what has been shown about the programs worth in terms of actually being a useful tool in the war on terror can see the fallacy of this presupposition. As mentioned in the Truthout.org article linked above:
A former senior prosecutor who was familiar with the eavesdropping programs said intelligence officials turning over the tips "would always say that we had information whose source we can't share, but it indicates that this person has been communicating with a suspected Al Qaeda operative." He said, "I would always wonder, what does 'suspected' mean?"So the president can scream at the top of his lungs about this being a terrorist surveillance program and how vital it is in the war on terror. Lets consider for a moment what has happened with the presidents credibility with the American people. According to a recent CNN poll, there is an even split down the center with 49% thinking the president is honest, 49% believing he is not honest. That 'is honest' number is down from 56% a year ago. Now from that number we know there are approximately 35% of what can only be called koolaid drinkers, who would reflexively give a positive response to anything regarding the cult of Bush. Consider for example that in this same survey 38% of respondents consider that the 2nd term of president Bush has been a success, which belief can only be held by a koolaid drinker. No matter how Democrats frame the argument there is no reaching a koolaid drinker. That leaves 14% of the non koolaid drinkers thinking the president is honest. I am convinced these people do not watch much news, but if they started to pay attention they could hardly hold this impression. Democrats can work with these numbers simply by telling the truth.
"The information was so thin," he said, "and the connections were so remote, that they never led to anything, and I never heard any follow-up."
In response to the F.B.I. complaints, the N.S.A. eventually began ranking its tips on a three-point scale, with 3 being the highest priority and 1 the lowest, the officials said. Some tips were considered so hot that they were carried by hand to top F.B.I. officials. But in bureau field offices, the N.S.A. material continued to be viewed as unproductive, prompting agents to joke that a new bunch of tips meant more "calls to Pizza Hut," one official, who supervised field agents, said.
The truth of the matter is that the NSA spy program is illegal, AND ineffective. Democrats should in no way support the continuance of this program. If a bit of saber rattling is all it takes to throw the Democrats off their game, we will have a long hard slog to defeat in the mid terms. The time to grow a spine and start dishing it back is right now... or as Elvis would croon, It's now or never!
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The story of Sami al-Hajj: U.S. targets Al Jazeera
Sami al-Hajj was captured in Pakistan by Pakistani forces (the Reporters Without Borders press release mistakenly says he was captured in Afghanistan) December 15 of 2001. He was a cameraman for Al Jazeera and had just been assigned to cover the inauguration of the new government in Afghanistan. He was held by Pakistani authorities until January 7, 2002 when he was transferred to U.S. custody and detained at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.
Sami al Hajj has described the 16 days he spent in detention in Bagram air base as "the worst in my life". He states that he was severely physically tortured and had dogs set upon him, that he was held in a cage a freezing aircraft hangar and was given insufficient, often frozen food.Sami al-Hajj was transferred to Guantanamo Bay on June 13, 2002. This quite clearly is a case where, despite repeated declarations by president Bush, a detainee was not captured fighting on the battlefield. According to Sami al-Hajj, the treatment he recieved at Guantanamo was horrendous as well:
He was then transferred to Kandahar, where his abuse continued. Sami al Hajj alleges that:
- He was subjected to sexual abuse by US soldiers, including being
threatened with rape
- He was forced into stress positions, being forced to kneel for long
periods on concrete floors
- He was beaten regularly by guards
- He had all the hairs on his beard plucked out one by one
- He was not allowed to wash for over 100 days, and he was covered
- Guards at the camp shattered his knee cap by stamping on his legNow one may wonder why a journalist, would be treated in this manner. He has not been charged with any crime: Al Jazeera relates:
- He has been beaten on the soles of his feet
- Military dogs were used to intimidate him on his arrival in Guantánamo
- He has been subjected to racist abuse and has been given less time for recreation because he is black
- Prior to being allowed to see Sudanese intelligence agents who had come to Guantánamo to interview him, he alleges that he was shackled and pepper sprayed
There are technically no charges against Sami.One of the most novel charges against Sami al-Hajj is that of "making videos of Osama Bin Laden". Of course any journalist on the face of the earth, given the chance to make a tape of Osama, or interview, or report live from the location of, or whatever journalistic term you wish to use would leap at the chance. If video taping Osama is a crime, why hasn't Peter Arnett been arrested yet? It's called journalism. Maybe this administration should look that word up.
He has not been charged with any crime.
He has simply been accused of being an "enemy combatant" – a ridiculously vague term that can include anyone the Americans want to include.
There is absolutely no factual basis to this allegation, and the way that the US makes it is simply dishonest.
For example, he is accused of being seized when he was trying to go to Afghanistan. Of course that is true.
But what the US does not say in its charges is that he was on assignment for Aljazeera, he had a legitimate visa to go, and he was not doing anything wrong.
The true reason Sami al-Hajj has been through all this appears to be quite simply that this administration can not tolerate Al Jazeera. Sami al-Hajj has made clear whenever given the chance to communicate with the outside world that he is being pressured to connect Al Qaida and Al Jazeera. According to al-Hajj's lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith in the previously referenced article from Al Jazeera :
The US military wants Sami to say that Aljazeera is a front for al-Qaida, and is funded by al-Qaida.It should shock the conscience of all freedom loving Americans that our government would torture a reporter simply because he worked for a network that the administration did not like. But the unfortunate truth of the matter is that this animosity for Al Jazeera manifests itself in ways that go beyond detaining reporters. Al Jazeera offices in Kabul and Baghdad have been struck by U.S. bombs, killing several employees of the network. Indeed in December 2005, a memo was released by British sources which detailed a conversation between president Bush and prime minister Blair in which Bush discussed bombing the headquarters of Al Jazeera in Qatar.
He refuses to say this because it is not true.
The US military has revealed to him that the US taps the telephones of Aljazeera journalists (they were tapping Sami's personal calls to his wife while he was on assignment).
In particular, the US wants Sami to be an informant against some of his colleagues at Aljazeera, whom they claim are members of al-Qaida.
Sami resolutely refuses to do this, as he says it is simply not true.
The fact that the administrations overt hostility to Al Jazeera lead to the bombing of both the Baghdad and Kabul offices (despite repeated declarations from the administration that we do not target journalists) is demonstrated by the admission from Rear Admiral Craig Quigley to BBC correspondent Nik Gowing:
He said the Pentagon was indifferent to media activity in territory controlled by the enemy, and that the Al-Jazeera compound in Kabul was considered a legitimate target because it had 'repeatedly been the location of significant al-Qaeda activity'. It turned out that this activity was interviews with Taliban officials, something Al-Jazeera had thought to be normal journalism.Now this administration would like to portray itself as the purveyor of freedom around the globe? Maybe if they would like to be taken seriously in this they will stop bombing the media outlets they do not care for and release these journalists held without charges. Freedom of the press as a principle of democracy should not just pertain to Fox news.
Monday, February 13, 2006
JFAI (Just freaking admit it) II
"I reject outright the suggestion that President Bush was anything less than fully involved," said White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend.The entire non koolaid drinking universe knows this is not the case Ms. Fragos because we have the pictorial evidence.
Here is Mr disaster involvement eating cake with John McCain [in Arizona] Monday Aug. 29, the day that the Hurricane struck... Marie Antoinette would be proud.
Here is the fully involved president on Tuesday Aug. 30, the day AFTER Katrina struck doing his best Nero impression: Strumming a musical instrument [in San Diego] as New Orleans drowns.
The truly amazing part here is that the white house would make this claim knowing full well that these pictures displaying the lack of involvement by the president are readily available to anyone who cares to do the most basic search. This claim of involvement is yet another example where the evidence is clear, but the administration can not bear to admit their obvious mistakes.
On a cheerful note, I would like to acknowledge a report from the Republican controlled congress that demonstrates, in at least this one instance, a determination to take their oversight role seriously. Congratulations. After 27 straight posts in which I discuss congressional oversight, here is one example where I do not wind up calling the Republican congress administration toadies!
Just freaking admit it!!
the spokesperson for vice president Dick Cheney had the following comment about the accidental shooting of one of Mr. Cheney's hunting partners:
"The vice president was concerned," said Mary Matalin, a Cheney adviser who spoke with him Sunday morning. "He felt badly, obviously. On the other hand, he was not careless or incautious or violate any of the [rules]. He didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to do."Why is this administration so terrified of admitting to making any mistake, even when it is crystal clear that a mistake has been made. There simply is no way to deny that the shooter in a hunting accident bears fault. It does not matter how the victim was behaving prior to being shot. If the shooting is accidental, the shooter made a mistake... PERIOD!
Now before you take off on me wondering where the heck I get off being a liberal but standing up on my stump to denounce Mr. Cheney over a gun accident let me tell you a bit about my gun experience. I was raised in Montana, and was exposed to guns all through my childhood. I took the hunters safety course required at the time for all underage would be hunters in the state. My dad drummed gun safety into my malleable little brain. So when it comes to the "gun culture" I know a bit about it.
There is simply no excuse, and I mean NO excuse for an accidental hunting shooting. If some nut were to don antlers and crawl about the brush with a deer hide on his back, that would not be accidental, that would be suicide. But someone separating from the group then being shot is by definition a mistake on the part of the shooter. A safe hunter KNOWS what he is shooting at before they pull the trigger and that's that.
Now do not get me wrong here. I fully believe there was no malicious intent on the part of Mr. Cheney. This was a true hunting accident and that happens hundreds of times every year.
But for the vice presidents spokesperson to deny that he made a mistake when he mistakenly shoots someone on a hunting trip is just asinine. It is concrete proof that even when a mistake is evident for the entire world to see that this administration is not capable of admitting it. This truly is pathetic.
Friday, February 10, 2006
Mr. Pillar proves beyond a shadow of doubt, for any who really care to understand the truth, that the administration misused intelligence to lead America into war. He says:
"Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war," Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Instead, he asserted, the administration "went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."It is clear that this administration only truly worries about intelligence when it suits their agenda. Hence it is ok to sacrifice the identity of undercover CIA agents if the act furthers the administrations political agenda. The misuse of the intelligence to lead America into the disaster that has become the Iraq war is simply criminal. As is the outing of Valerie Plame, apparently at the behest of vice president Cheney.
"It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized,"
The Republican toadies in congress apparently have no interest in finding the truth in all this. As noted in the Post article:
Yesterday, the Senate Republican Policy Committee issued a statement to counter what it described as "the continuing Iraq pre-war intelligence myths," including charges that Bush " 'misused' intelligence to justify the war." Writing that it was perfectly reasonable for the president to rely on the intelligence he was given, the paper concluded, "it is actually the critics who are misleading the American people."Why is the senate Republican policy committee covering for the Bush administration. Ok I'll admit... that last question if taken as an honest query is pretty stupid. The real question here is why won't the congress fulfill the role given it by the constitution of oversight of the executive branch? Once again silly question. It's because this gang of Republicans do not believe in such niceties as the constitutional system of check and balances, or the fourth amendment or sundry other rights and niceties that prior to the 2000 election of Al Gore (selection of George Bush) were taken for granted. I mean here is the SENATE Republican policy committee telling an absolute falsehood to cover for the administration that the senate has a constitutional role in overseeing, whilst accusing those who tell the truth of misleading the public!
It is examples such as this that convince me that a major plank in any platform for Democratic congressional candidates ought to include a promise to vigorously perform the constitutional oversight role of the office are running for. There are a growing mountain of examples of congressional rubberstamping of failed administration policy, but in my opinion none so egregious as the unwillingness to call the administration to account for the Iraq mess.
Mr. Pillar makes it clear that the stated policy of president Clinton; longterm containment of Saddam, was seen prior to the invasion by the intelligence community as being effective:
Pillar wrote that the prewar intelligence asserted Hussein's "weapons capacities," but he said the "broad view" within the United States and overseas "was that Saddam was being kept 'in his box' " by U.N. sanctions, and that the best way to deal with him was through "an aggressive inspections program to supplement sanctions already in place."To reiterate: the implication of "intelligence analysis on Iraq" on policy was to avoid war. The neo cons not only tossed this on it's ear, but they started a needless war that has cost hundreds of billions of dollars, along with tens of thousands of American casualties. Unacceptable!
"If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication," Pillar wrote, "it was to avoid war--or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath."
The notion that there would be a "messy aftermath" plainly was discounted by the cheerleaders for war in the administration. The speculation by administration toadies that we would be greeted with flowers and Iraqi oil would pay for everything has been replaced with the grim reality of a deadly insurgency and the bleeding of our treasury. The following quote by Mr. Pillar ought to prove a criminal indictment of this administration in regard to our preparation for post invasion planning:
Pillar describes for the first time that the intelligence community did assessments before the invasion that, he wrote, indicated a postwar Iraq "would not provide fertile ground for democracy" and would need "a Marshall Plan-type effort" to restore its economy despite its oil revenue. It also foresaw Sunnis and Shiites fighting for power.The first request for an assessment of post invasion Iraq happened a year AFTER the invasion? And we now know that the intelligence assets that are normally used to determine these type of findings had it right before the war. This truly is criminal negligence on behalf of the administration in not planning for what we are now experiencing. Following policies based upon faith in a given outcome and ideological zeal whilst willfully ignoring the facts simply must have consequences if the administration leads us to disaster.
Pillar wrote that the intelligence community "anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks -- including guerrilla warfare -- unless it established security and put Iraq on the road to prosperity in the first few weeks or months after the fall of Saddam."
In an interview, Pillar said the prewar assessments "were not crystal-balling, but in them we were laying out the challenges that would face us depending on decisions that were made."
Pillar wrote that the first request he received from a Bush policymaker for an assessment of post-invasion Iraq was "not until a year into the war."
I would love to hear Mr. Pillar's assessment of how this war has affected our enemies in the war on terror. How it can be argued that Al Qaida or their allies have been weakened is a mystery to me, and quite simply the vast majority of expert opinion on this recognizes that this war has been a tremendous boon for the terrorists. This war is acknowledged by experts as one of the, if not THE, greatest strategic blunder in American military history. This disaster of an administration unwittingly helps the terrorists, weakens our military, drains our treasury, and then tries to convince us that they are the folks to trust with our security? We should trust them with our safety after this unbroken string of calamity and ineptitude? Riiiiight...
Thursday, February 09, 2006
U.S. to Cuban delegation in Mexico City: You can't stay here.
Brookly McLaughlin, a spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, confirmed Tuesday that the department had told Starwood to expel the Cuban delegation.So there you have it. Not only is the hotel in Mexico, or any other nation in which it operates not allowed to provide service to Cuba, it can not even legally serve Cuban nationals. I suppose that it is required for all U.S. subsidiaries to ask for proof of nationality before offering services to anyone. If that nationality is Cuban, no room at the inn for you.
"The hotel in Mexico City is a U.S. subsidiary, and therefore prohibited from providing a service to Cuba or Cuban nationals," McLaughlin said, referring to the Helms-Burton law, which tightened U.S. trade sanctions first imposed against Cuba in 1961.
"The hotel acted in accordance with U.S. sanctions," he said.
Needless to say the Mexican government is not amused:
Mexico is weighing a diplomatic complaint against the United States over a case in which a U.S. owned hotel expelled Cuban representatives attending an oil meeting here last week...I guess there are laws in Mexico against something known as... what is the word I'm looking for here... ahh, I believe it is "discrimination". Mexico has laws that forbid discrimination based upon a persons nationality. It seems that Mexico has yet to get the memo on this. The U.S. has determined that it is now ok to discriminate based upon nationality, religious beliefs, (not many Catholics were rounded up after 9/11 with no charges), political beliefs,* if you are named Ted Kennedy **or a four year old child ** wrongly put on the no fly list, if a CIA flunky has a hunch*** about you, or for any of a plethora of other reasons. When will Mexico get with the program and start towing the administration line here!? (I just thank my lucky stars that I'm a corpulent, white, male... wait a minute I'm a liberal!)
Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said he personally favors the highest possible fine - an amount equivalent to about US$463,000 - against Mexico City's Hotel Maria Isabel Sheraton for applying foreign laws on Mexican soil.
I think at some point this will wind up in court and the administration will be laughed off the witness stand. The U.S. has no right to compel a company to break the laws of another nation. Or we had no right before this gang of neo cons took over and decided the world was their private property.
You may have noticed some asterisks after the links in the sentence regarding the types of discrimination that are now ok with this administration. I'm trying something new here. Rather than breaking up the sentence with a description of each story, I'll footnote them below. If it works maybe I'll do more of it in the future... if not I'll cease and desist. But I'll never know how it works unless I try it at least once right?!
* Link details the story of French activist Jose Bove, denied entry to America for no apparent reason other than he denounces globalization and genetically altered food.
**Link to a story detailing the mistaken addition of Ted Kennedy and four year old Edward Allen to the no fly list.
***Links to the story of Khaled Masri, a German citizen who was rendered to Syria after a case of mistaken identity.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Science takes another hit from the Bush admin.
The administration requested a scientific study of the effects of salvage logging in burned forests. In wingnut world it is a given that the clear cutting of burned forests helps prevent further wildfires by clearing debris. Guess what? The science actually determined that this logging contributed to the possibility of wildfire by adding fuel content to the forest floor and also killed seedlings. These are unacceptable results in Bushworld... and these scientists must be punished! Remove their funding, and let that be a lesson to any other scientists who are so foolish as to not politicize their findings. Add this example to the growing and mammoth pile of cases where-in the administration has punished scientists for simply being scientists, and not administration policy toadies.
Odd, is it not, that this action comes from the very same president who in the recent state of the union yawner called for the training of 70,000 math and science teachers. By what right does this president propose with any standard of believability that he is the benefactor of the future scientists of America? He has done all in his power to make a mockery of the modern day scientific community.
Nasa visitor center: U.S. citizens only
Give me a freaking break! This center is the public face of NASA and it makes sense that we would welcome foreigners to see this wonderful ode to American ingenuity and enterprise. Indeed NASA has made a point of outreach to other nations. Can you imagine the indignation if we did not allow foreign astronauts on board the space shuttle because those astronauts may pose a security risk? When we landed on the moon the famous quote was not "one small step for man, one giant leap for Americans!" It was one giant leap for mankind... as in all of mankind, both foreign and American. Young and old. All colors, sizes, intelligence... ALL MANKIND!
Now we are supposed to be in such danger that we can not allow those threatening foreigners to threaten the NASA visitor center. Have we really reached the point in our national psyche that we are so spooked that we take this type of action? The story in the free press details how this policy has stopped a class of kindergarteners from taking what once was an annual trip to see the "rocket ships". The class could not go on the field trip because two of the kids are not American citizens.
This policy is wrong headed and needs to be reversed.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Senator Feingold: Stop cheering lawbreaking.
The President was blunt. He said that he had authorized the NSA's domestic spying program, and he made a number of misleading arguments to defend himself. His words got rousing applause from Republicans, and even some Democrats.Do you remember the halcyon days of yore when the Republicans were the party of law and order. Remember how they savaged president Clinton for lying? If we could have known then what we know now, those same Republican blowhards would have been laughed off the national stage. Now when the issue of presidential lying, lawlessness and deceit are of issues of grave national interest, these same law and order Republicans circle the wagons and throw up stonewalls. Not only do they attempt to justify this egregiously unconstitutional power grab, this lawless trainwreck of an administration is cheered by the same members who most loudly called for the replacement of Bill Clinton. The hypocrisy is simply breathtaking.
The President was blunt, so I will be blunt: This program is breaking the law, and this President is breaking the law. Not only that, he is misleading the American people in his efforts to justify this program.
How is that worthy of applause? Since when do we celebrate our commander in chief for violating our most basic freedoms, and misleading the American people in the process? When did we start to stand up and cheer for breaking the law? In that moment at the State of the Union, I felt ashamed.
Senator Feingold does not trust president Bush:
Unfortunately, the President refuses to provide any details about this domestic spying program. Not even the full Intelligence committees know the details, and they were specifically set up to review classified information and oversee the intelligence activities of our government. Instead, the President says "Trust me."Amen brother Feingold. On issues of trustworthiness there are many other examples where this administrations outlook leading into a given proposition has been rudely proven wrong by facts as they develop. Take the budget deficit. Remember how the line back in the day was that tax cuts were actually supposed to increase revenue? How about the hurricane Katrina relief effort? Remember how that scandal lead to the president calling for investigations to find out what went wrong. And now we find that the administration is refusing to turn over documents to the congressional committees who are investigating the response. How about the very issue senator Feingold is addressing with this speech. Remember how the president claimed during the 2004 campaign that to spy on Americans suspected of terrorist connections he had to have a court order. (Senator Feingold does cover this in his speech, but not in the context of the president saying "trust me") Remember how the administration rejected attempts by the congress to give the president the power he now claims he has congressional authority to proceed with? Trust the president? I think senator Feingolds take on how worthy this president is of our trust is actually a bit thin in the telling, but I understand that to detail all of the lies told by this administration would be construed as a filibuster after about twelve hours of non-stop examples.
This is not the first time we've heard that. In the lead-up to the Iraq war, the Administration went on an offensive to get the American public, the Congress, and the international community to believe its theory that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, and even that he had ties to Al Qaeda. The President painted a dire - and inaccurate - picture of Saddam Hussein's capability and intent, and we invaded Iraq on that basis. To make matters worse, the Administration misled the country about what it would take to stabilize and reconstruct Iraq after the conflict. We were led to believe that this was going to be a short endeavor, and that our troops would be home soon.
Senator Feingold knows about checks and balances:
The President has broken the law, and he has made it clear that he will continue to do so. But the President is not a king. And the Congress is not a king's court. Our job is not to stand up and cheer when the President breaks the law. Our job is to stand up and demand accountability, to stand up and check the power of an out-of-control executive branch.This is senator Feingold living in a pre 2000 world evidently. Does he really think that the Republican machine will allow Republican members of congress to actually provide a check to president Bush? That is so 1999. After the selection of George Bush in 2000, all that high falutin checks and balance talk went straight out the window where it lay wounded on the sidewalk in ignominy. The falling of the twin towers on 9/11 gave the final crushing blow to the already wounded checks and balance ideal. That notion has given way to the new Republican ideal for the way of political empire known far and wide as the rubber stamp.
That is one of the reasons that the framers put us here - to ensure balance between the branches of government, not to act as a professional cheering section.
We need answers. Because no one, not the President, not the Attorney General, and not any of their defenders in this body, has been able to explain why it is necessary to break the law to defend against terrorism. And I think that's because they can't explain it.
Instead, this administration reacts to anyone who questions this illegal program by saying that those of us who demand the truth and stand up for our rights and freedoms have a pre-9/11 view of the world.
In fact, the President has a pre-1776 view of the world.
The speech is great and I could go on for another ten paragraphs at least. Just link to the speech and read it for yourself. This Feingold fellow is starting to really come into the spotlight as a Dean type Democrat who is not afraid to tell it like it is. I would love it if Al Gore were to run for the Democratic nomination in 2008, but failing that I'll definitely be keeping an eye on Feingold.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Testify... admin word for obfuscate.
We begin by going straight to the core of the administrations legal reasoning that justifies the NSA spy program.
GONZALES: Senator, I think that, in reading that provision you just cited, you have to consider Section 109.The senate majority leader when the authorization to use force passed congress in Sept. 2001 was ex senator Tom Daschle. Senator Daschle says:
Section 109 contemplates an additional authorization by the Congress. Congress provided that additional authorization when it authorized the use of military force following the attacks of 9/11.
Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.It is clear that the administration tried to insert language into the bill to allow them to use war powers inside the United States and that congress refused this request. When considering congressional intent of the authorization this must be taken into consideration. When the attorney general asserts this as the additional authorization envisioned under FISA, he plainly does not heed congressional intent.
Here is a line of questioning from senator Patrick Leahy that should raise a few eyebrows:
[Leahy]Well, if the president has that authority, does he also have the authority to wiretap Americans' domestic calls and e-mails under this authority if he feels it involves Al Qaida activity?The attorney general of the United States of America can not assure us that the administration has not authorized spying on purely domestic communication. It seems this angle should be followed up on. I mean it seems pretty straight forward. The answer we would like to have is that the president is not constitutionally permitted to do so, and he would not disregard the constitution. Of course such a statement from an administration toady would be met with disbelief, but would it not be the proper way of answering this question?
I'm talking about within this country, under this authority you have talked about. Does he have the power under your authority to wiretap Americans within the United States if they're involved in Al Qaida activity?
GONZALES: Sir, I've been asked this question several times.
LEAHY: I know. And you've had somewhat of a vague answer, so I'm asking again.
GONZALES: And I've said that that presents a different legal question, a possibly tough constitutional question. And I am not comfortable, just off the cuff, talking about whether or not such activity would, in fact, be constitutional.
GONZALES: I will say that that is not what we are talking about here. That is not...
LEAHY: Are you doing that?
GONZALES: ... what the president has authorized.
LEAHY: Are you doing that?
GONZALES: I can't give you assurances. That is not what the president has authorized for this program.
Here is Republican senator Orin Hatch going to the old canard that president Clinton's administration did it too.
HATCH: Well, it's important, General, to bring out that President Clinton's administration ordered several warrantless searches on the home and property of a domestic spy, Aldrich Ames.And here is the rebuttal to this specious line of reasoning provided by Democratic senator Diane Feinstein:
That's true, isn't it?
GONZALES: That is correct, sir.
HATCH: That was a warrantless set of searches.
GONZALES: That is correct, sir.
HATCH: And the Clinton administration also authorized the warrantless search of the Mississippi home of a suspected terrorist financier. Is that correct?
GONZALES: I think that is correct, sir.
HATCH: The Clinton Justice Department authorized these searches because it was the judgment of Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, somebody I have great admiration for, that -- and let me quote her. It has been quoted before, but I think it's worth quoting it again. This is the deputy attorney general of the United States in the Clinton administration.
The president, quote, she said, "The president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes." Now this is against the domestic people.
"And the rules and methodologies for criminal searches are inconsistent with the collection of foreign intelligence and would unduly frustrate the president in carrying out his foreign intelligence responsibilities."
You're aware of that quote.
GONZALES: I am aware of it, yes, sir.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.So the Republican talking point that Clinton did it too is only half right. There was no law that covered that circumstance, and once the need for oversight became clear the administration (being concerned about constitutional questions and acting lawfully) approached congress for guidance. Where as the current administration (not being concerned about constitutional questions and acting unlawfully) sees no need to observe the mandate of the FISA law regarding spying on Americans. They simply did not care to abide by the law so they chose to ignore it. Indeed when consideration of the possible expanding of the FISA statute to include the actions taken by this administration was floated to congressional leadership the administration declined to do so because, as the attorney general puts it:
Mr. Chairman, I want to respond to you on the Jamie Gorelick/Aldrich Ames situation...
FEINSTEIN: ... because, in fact, the law was changed directly after the Aldrich Ames case.
I called -- because I heard you say this before -- so I called Jamie Gorelick and I asked her to put this in writing. She has done so and I have it before me now.
And she points out in this letter that her '94 testimony arose in context of congressional consideration of an extension of FISA to cover physical searches.
And at the time, FISA covered only electronic surveillance such as wiretaps.
In 1993, the attorney general had authorized foreign intelligence physical searches in the investigation of Aldrich Ames, whose counsel thereafter raised legal challenges to those searches.
FEINSTEIN: Point: There was no law at that time.
And then she goes on to say that the Clinton administration believed, quote, "It would be better if there were congressional authorization and judicial oversight of such searches. My testimony did not address inherent presidential authority to conduct electronic surveillance which was already covered by FISA."
GONZALES: There was a consensus that pursuing the legislative process would result likely in compromising the program.So it is ok for the terrorists to know that we can secretly search their personal effects before attaining a FISA warrant, subpoena library, medical, financial and internet use records, and a whole host of other counterterrorism actions known to anyone who cares to read the text of the Patriot Act but to clarify the constitutionality of warrantless spying on American citizens is giving the terrorists too much information? Besides which the knowledge by the terrorists that they were being spied upon is something everyone assumes they already knew... including Alberto himself as he lets us know with this interchange between himself and senator Joe Biden:
BIDEN: General, how has this revelation damaged the program?Honestly, I do not believe the attorney general was intending to tell a joke here. Yes you would assume the enemy is presuming we are spying on them. Still... the congress can not be approached to give the president this authority? When the congress attempts to give the president the authority they are rebuffed at the time by the administration questioning the constitutionality of the proposed revision. So were they lying about the reason to dismiss the authority then, or are they lying now?
I'm almost confused by it but, I mean, it seems to presuppose that these very sophisticated Al Qaida folks didn't think we were intercepting their phone calls.
I mean, I'm a little confused. How did it damage this?
GONZALES: Well, Senator, I would first refer to the experts in the Intel Committee who are making that statement, first of all. I'm just the lawyer.
And so, when the director of the CIA says this should really damage our intel capabilities, I would defer to that statement. I think, based on my experience, it is true -- you would assume that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind of surveillance.
But if they're not reminded about it all the time in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget. (LAUGHTER)
Senator Biden then asks if any sort of criminal proceeding has developed from this program.
[Biden]Let me ask you this question. Do you know -- and you may not -- do you know how many of these wiretaps and/or e-mail intercepts have resulted in anything?We all know that the director of the FBI is a political appointee. Odd how his rosy outlook on the spy program tips does not mesh with the stories by the rank and file fbi agents who were flooded with a deluge of worthless leads due to this program:
BIDEN: Any criminal referral.
GONZALES: Without getting into specifics, Senator, I can say that the director of the FBI said this has been a very valuable program. And it has helped identify would-be terrorists here in the United States, it has helped identify individuals providing material support for terrorists.
"We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism Â case closed," said one former FBI official, who was aware of the program and the data it generated for the bureau. "After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration."
In bureau field offices, the NSA material continued to be viewed as unproductive, prompting agents to joke that a new bunch of tips meant more "calls to Pizza Hut," said one official who supervised field agents.
Well it is about time for me to bugger off and I've already written too much. I just hope reading through all this does not take too much time from whichever federale is keeping an eye on me... Hate to cause you too much work bud!
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]