Saturday, June 24, 2006

WMDs: Santorum and Hoekstra Give It The Old College Try

I am mostly posting this for posterity because in the coming months and years we can expect the right-wing to cling to the lie that we found the WMDs in Iraq that we were looking for. The history of this war is a history of lies, from the ones that helped to start it to the endless ones used to rejustify and defend it since. In the latter category, revisionist history has played a big role... we've heard many lies in this area: President Bush didn't want war, Congress had the same intel he did, Bush/Cheney never said that Iraq or Saddam were connected to 9/11, Rumsfeld never said he knew where the WMDs were, Saddam kicked out the weapons inspectors, etc etc. All false; all spouted proudly as Bible truth by the Bush cultists.

Now comes the next big lie- courtesy of Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, and Fox News- that we found the WMDs in Iraq.

WOW! Huge news, right? Here's the Fox article-
Report: Hundreds of WMDs Found in Iraq

Santorum and Hoekstra proudly announced that a declassified report showed that weapons had been found in Iraq... President Bush just didn't want to tell anyone for national security and classification reasons (one military analyst for Fox even claimed that the administration covered the findings up to protect France, Russia, and China- what a nice guy!). At this point alone, it should've been obvious that the story is bunk. We know from the mobile labs debacle in May 2003 in which President Bush declared "We have found the weapons of mass destruction" (even though his office had already received a memo informing him that was not the case), that he has no problem lying jumping the gun if it will help save his case for war. If there was even a 0.0001% chance we had found the WMDs, the President would've immediately landed on an aircraft carrier inside the Green Zone and held a press conference to be broadcast worldwide with a glorious banner of vindication behind him.

Therefore it should not be surprising that the story has already been debunked.

In an appearance on Hannity & Colmes (in which Mr. Hannity breathlessly lauded Sen. Santorum for his discovery), Alan Colmes deflated the Senator's bubble by announcing to him that the Defense Department had already disowned the report. Colmes reported that "Jim Angle, who reported this for Fox News, quotes a defense official who says these were pre-1991 weapons that could not have been fired as designed because they already been degraded. And the official went on to say that they are- these are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had- and not the WMDs for which this country went to war. So the chest beating that the Republicans are doing tonight thinking this is a justification is not confirmed by the Defense Department."

Sen. Santorum was stunned. His last big hurrah was turning into another embarrassment.

Keith Olbermann also did a report with a lengthier Defense Dept. official quote.

Knight-Ridder reports further-
A new, partially declassified intelligence report provides no new evidence that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion, as President Bush alleged in making the case for war, U.S. intelligence officials said Thursday...

...But the intelligence officials said the munitions dated from before the 1991 Persian Gulf War and were for the most part badly deteriorated. "They are not in a condition where they could be used as designed," one intelligence official said.

"There is not new news from the coalition point of view," one official said, noting that chief U.S. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer predicted in a March 2005 report that such vintage weapons would continue to be found...

..Rep. Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, charged Thursday that Republicans' release of the report was a last-ditch effort to justify the war.

"Rolling out some old fairly toxic stuff sounds to me like a desperate claim by those who wish that we could find some new way to rationalize the ongoing devastation in Iraq," she said.

And there you go. Unless what President Bush said to the UN in 2002/2003 was "We believe Saddam Hussein has some musty 15-year-old weapons lying around. We must deal with this crisis immediately.", this story is over. In addition, this is not the first time we have found remnants of old munitions. As the Knight-Ridder report notes, this was to be expected. And it's unrelated to the case that the White House made for war (which included new WMD stockpiles, a nuclear program, yellowcake, uranium from Africa, aluminum tubes, etc)... On a final note, as pre-'91 weapons, it's almost certain that they include many of the weapons that we had sold/given to Saddam in the 1980's, so if I were Santorum, I wouldn't go flashing them around.

Meanwhile, Steve Soto at Left Coaster ponders the politics of this announcement.

Finally, Glenn Greenwald and Anonymous Liberal throroughly analyze this story, including the statements from both sides. The latter states in conclusion that "This is how GOP political propaganda works. You hype a completely trivial fact in an entirely misleading way in order to make a point that is the opposite of the truth. The claim is then repeated by the unscrupulous and the confused, and a significant percentage of the public ends up hearing it. The next day the claim is debunked in a story on page A10 of the paper, but by then the damage has already been done. Wash, rinse, repeat." Bingo. Just as polls continue to show that a shocking percentage of Americans still believe that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, once the propaganda has been internalized, it is very hard for the truth to override it.

It is for that reason that this is important. Like the revisionism and lies mentioned at the beginning, the falsehood of Santorum and Hoekstra's report will not deter President Bush's defenders from continuing to insist that we found the WMDs after all. We must continue to show that the truth is otherwise. The President made a false case for a unnecessary and preemptive war that continues to implode upon itself.

Luckily for all of us, it seems that their report has convinced few.

[Related- New intel report reignites Iraq arms fight (AP)]

He Speak, You Listen

Josh Marshall has an open letter to Senate Democrats on the Iraq war debate.

A must-read in full:
You're really doing a poor job in the public debate over Iraq.

Luckily, unlike what's imagined by the imbeciles who write The Note and others in Washington, reality is not simply a DC media and politics confection. The Dems can muff this several times before coming back and getting it right. And they'd still be more or less fine. Because the Iraq War is still really unpopular. And the great majority of the country has lost faith in President Bush's conduct of the war.

But that's still no excuse for handling this so poorly.

The Democrats have to be much more aggressive. But 'more aggressive' doesn't mean a quicker withdrawal. It means making your point forcefully, on your own terms, repeatedly.

But they're not doing that.

What I see is Republicans on TV repeating their 'cut and run' charges. And to the extent I see Democrats, it's Democrats denying the charge. No, we're not for cutting and running.

The president wants to stay in Iraq for at least three more years. It's not that he won't set a date to withdraw. He doesn't even have a plan that gets to the point where the US could end the occupation. In practice he wants to stay in Iraq forever. What Repubicans are voting for is More of the Same, More of the Same failed policy.

Let's work through a bit of this. If the president had a plan for success he would say, 'I plan to get X, Y and Z done and then we're going to bring American troops back home. I expect those three things will be accomplished by the middle of 2007.' Or maybe he'd say 2008 or the beginning of 2009.

But he doesn't say any of those things. When he says we're staying in Iraq as long as he's in the White House he makes clear that he doesn't have any plan other than staying in Iraq. Other than staying there indefinitiely or basically forever. Isn't it possible his 'plan' could work and have us out in 2008? Obviously, he's discounted that possibility because, again, he has no plan.

For my part, I'd rather put more troops into Iraq than leave the status quo, as long as there was a clear plan for bringing the war and occupation to a satisfactory conclusion. The thing is that the status quo is morally indefensible because it just means continue to burn through men and money for a failed policy because President Bush isn't capable of admitting his policies have failed.

He's like an owner of a business that's slowly going under. He doesn't know how to save the situation. So he won't get more money or resources to fix the business. That's throwing good money after bad. And he won't just liquidate and save what he can, because then he'd have to come to grips with the fact that he's failed. So his policy is denial and slow failure. Here of course the analogy to President Bush is rather precise since he only has to hold out until 2009 when he can give the problem to someone else, just as he did in his past life with other businesses he drove into the ground.

But for the country that's not acceptable. We don't have a policy except for slow burn and denial. And the president's ego isn't enough to ask men and women to die for. We need an actual plan. And the president doesn't have one.

Democrats need to hammer this point again and again and not get tripped up in the president's bully-boy rhetoric. The president has no plan. He wants to stay in Iraq forever. He says for at least three more years. All the Republicans agree they want more of the same.

No one wants that in this country. All the Democrats have to do is get up on the airwaves and say it. Again and again.

Even the side with an insipid argument can take the day if the other side remains unheard.

As he notes, the public is already on their side on the realities of this war.

They just need a coherent counterstrategy on the issue to solidify that.

[Related reading:
-AP: Democrats want change in Iraq
-Paul Begala (TPM Cafe): GOP on Iraq = More of the Same
-Firedoglake: IRAQ: Republicans Vote to Sit and Watch
-Editor & Publisher: Polls, Pundits and Pols
-Andrew Sullivan: Email From A Democrat
-Sen. Harry Reid: It Is Long Past Time to Change Course
-AP: Iraqis call state of emergency in Baghdad
-Times Online (UK): Peace deal offers Iraq insurgents an amnesty]

Cheney's War

'Frontline' on PBS aired a documentary this week on Vice President Cheney entitled "The Dark Side". It chronicles Cheney's central role in the Bush administration, particularly in the execution of the war, and how he has used it to expand presidential power and authority.

You can watch it online- here.

Friday, June 23, 2006

I Feel Dirty...

...I actually agree with something Bill O'Reilly has to say.

On an episode of the "O'Reilly Factor" this week, Bill'O had Michelle Malkin on to discuss a number of issues, including the Iraq debate and immigration. The latter is a favorite subject of Malkin's whose immigration stance is based less on legal concerns, but rather on her well-known xenophobic fervor (hilarious examples- here and here). And it was on this topic that Bill'O took Malkin to task for her position (by Fox standards anyway). Here is what he said-
"Michelle, do you think there's going to be any compromise on the immigration bill, or do you still wanna kick doors and drag little kids out and throw them across the border?... Because I believe that part of the problem is the federal government's problem. That these people came here illegally, yes, but we allowed them to. And we are at fault too. And because we bear some responsibilty, we ought to cut them some slack, while at the same time securing the border so it never, ever happens again."

Video- O'Reilly vs Malkin

I actually agree with his stance there. It's been that kind of a week, I guess.

[Related blog post by Greg Saunders:
Let’s pretend for a moment that the GOP cares about immigration reform…]

Sutton Impact

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Anyone Notice A Pattern Here?

"I don't think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we've encountered."
-Vice President Dick "Last Throes" Cheney (June 19, 2006)

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
-President "Heckuva Job, Brownie" Bush (September 1, 2005)

Why I'm beginning to think this administration is monstrously incompetent.

But hey, that's just me...

[Related links of the latest good news (?) news from Iraq:
-NY Times editorial: A Long Road Ahead in Iraq
-Editor and Publisher: 'Wash Post' Obtains Shocking Memo from U.S. Embassy in Baghdad
-AP: Bodies of 2 missing GIs recovered in Iraq
-NY Times: Iraq Debate in Senate Turns Emotional
-TruthDig: Truthdigger of the Week: John Murtha
-Talking Points Memo: Post 1 and Post 2]

Money quote from Josh Marshall-
Here is a claim that needs to be blown apart. Get real: the administration isn't trying to seize the offensive on Iraq. The war is dismally unpopular and on that basic judgment opinions are largely congealed and fast congealing. They know that. What the White House is doing is trying to knock the opposition off its stride and scare them out of their own offensive, which is to hold the administration accountable and press for a change of direction on Iraq.

Of course, the White House is going to try to call any change of direction "Cut and Run". That's their angle. That's their card. If you can't stand in the debate in the face of that, far better to leave all foreign policy entirely off the table and contest the election on minimum wage or college loans...

...But the White House is making and has made its stand quite clear -- American troops in Iraq at least through 2009, and probably for the indefinite future; and no reevaluation of the basic concept of why we went in. So, a good idea to start with and we'll stay there more or less forever. (Saying we'll be there until 2009 and then having no plan to leave after that = forever.) That position is so out of sync with where the country is and so disastrous for the country's security and future prosperity, that I don't think anyone should be afraid to go to the country opposing it. The truth is that the president doesn't have any policy beside denial about how we got into this jam.

What he said- Democrats should not be afraid to expose this position for what it is.

[PS- At least they're remembering to finish the job in Afghanistan-
U.S. Airstrikes Rise In Afghanistan as Fighting Intensifies:
In Response to More Aggressive Taliban, Attacks Are Double Those in Iraq War

Bush Pledges U.S. Will Respect Human Rights... Reality Disagrees

I read this headline and shook my head:
"Guantanamo detainees unaware of defense lawyers"

The article itself is equally depressing-
The Yemeni captive who killed himself at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had an attorney arranging to visit him in August, but did not know it when he committed suicide.

One of the Saudis, Mani Shaman al Utaybi, 30, had been approved for transfer to a jail back home, but also had never been told he was cleared to depart the U.S. detention center...

...But attorneys for the men_who the military initially said had no lawyers_say that had the detainees known of legal efforts on their behalf, they might be alive today...

Isn't that great? Doesn't that just make you feel proud?

Meanwhile, President Bush promises- again- the U.S. will straighten up and fly right...
US President George W. Bush will pledge to respect human rights in his war on terror, according to the draft of a final statement prepared for an EU-US summit, amid complaints from the Europeans about US treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay...

Empty promises. As his signing statement on the McCain torture ban showed, nothing Bush promises in this regard can be trusted. These people ripped up the Geneva agreements right after 9/11 and haven't looked back since. If the European Union thinks they can actually hold him to it, then more power to 'em, but we haven't had much luck in that department here. Is it 2009 yet?

UPDATE: Here's the headline this morning; Bush is spinning away-
Bush faces EU criticism on Guantanamo

[PS- Andrew Sullivan looks at life inside Guantanamo Bay:
What's Really Happening At Gitmo?]

What's the GOP Up To?

Let's briefly check in and see what the Republicans' election year stunt status is...

On gay marriage, the religious right is moving forward in spite of the congressional loss-
Religious Right Seeks Unprecedented Constitutional Convention To Ban Gay Marriage Without Congress (Think Progress)

On their constitutionally-insulting flag-burning ban effort, things are looking up-
The Dumbest Law Ever (Unclaimed Territory)

On abortion, another state moves toward a ban, anticipating a Roe v. Wade rematch-
Louisiana gov. signs law that would ban abortions (Reuters)

On immigration, Senate-House conflicts doom chances for reform until next year-
GOP leaders: No immigration bill this year (AP)

[In related news, Josh Marshall looks at conservatives distancing themselves from Bushism...

...And looks at the 'meh' response to the Democrats' "new direction" platform.]


Was away from blogging for a couple of days... no specific reason, just needed to take a break (for important stuff, like catching up on TV). Will have some posts up later on today with more thoughts on the midterms, Guantanamo, and the continuing last throes of the insurgency in Iraq. See ya then, I'll bring snacks.

[North Korea doesn't address missile plans (AP)]