Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why The 'War on Terror' Is Not, And Never Has Been, Anything Like WWII

The immediate post-9/11 period was an interesting (and not always in the good way) time in America. Uber-patriotism ruled the day, with American flags flying off every stoop and car across the country. We stood behind our President as he sent our forces off to Afghanistan to get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive". We scratched our heads, but laughed it off, when he said we could defeat the terrorists by shopping our brains out. Previously intelligent, liberty-minded members of Congress passed something known as a Patriot Act. This cheery jingoism also seemed to find an enemy in dissent and freedom of speech. Bill Maher famously learned that the hard way when ABC canned him over a controversial remark about whether terrorists (or us) should be labeled cowards, even leading the White House press secretary to remark that Americans "need to watch what they say, watch what they do".

In 2002, Bill Maher- evoking the last American war that truly made sense- wrote a book entitled "When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism". In the book, Maher wrote in detail numerous suggestions for fighting terrorism, including better understanding why terrorists actually hate us, saner airport security, really addressing terror financing, and putting our national resources in perspective. He also lamented a lack of WWII-era sacrifice, like how our grandparents bought war bonds or saved tin and oil to help the war efforts. Our soldiers weren't fighting the war alone, the whole country fought the war. It prevented people from thinking about war passively (as we do now) and made the price of victory that much more earned. Such collective sacrifice and charity would be labeled "communist" by a conservative movement today that seems to insist the best way to support our troops is to put them out of our mind.

In the opening chapters, Maher summed up this devolving of what constitutes patriotism-
That's what this book is about: how we can all connect what we do on the home front to quicker victory here with fewer of our servicemen overseas...

...Of course, there are reasons why the American government no longer helps us make war-related connections, mostly having to do with where those connections might lead us politically. There's a World War II-era government poster that reads "Should brave men die so you can drive?"- a question we might well ask ourselves today. But don't count on the government to ask it, not in an age when campaign contributions from oil companies are so important to getting elected...

...Americans today confuse freedom with not being asked to sacrifice. The fact that you can't have everything you want exactly when you want it has become un-American. We'd rather sacrifice virgins than SUVs: "I'll guzzle as much gas as I want- this isn't Europe!" Sure you can, Captain America, but just imagine a World War II-era American saying "I'll use as much damn gas as I want- and while we're at it, screw your victory garden!" They'd call you "Axis Asshole". Somehow, America morphed from a nation that embraced rationing to one that practically impeached Jimmy Carter for having the nerve to suggest we turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater. Even in the wake of an event so invasive and frightening as September 11, not one person in a leadership position in America asked anyone to really give up or rethink anything. Pandering to a spoiled citizenry had become so ingrained, it remained in place even as buildings and complacencies crumbled. "Keep shopping!" the President told us, letting the political chips fall where they may.

"Shop till they drop!"

Yes, we were asked to do very little, and we responded. That's the bargain we tacitly make with our Presidents: we don't ask too much of you, if you don't ask too much of us...

...In World War II, the axis- the original one, not the cover band working today- had to fight every American, and they knew it. Civilians, and the level of support they give their protectors, make the difference in war time- a lesson we learned, or should have, in Vietnam...

What he said.

My grandmother tells me stories about WWII all the time; I enjoy them greatly. When we talk about current events, she is both angry and confused. She tells me that all in her long life, she has never seen anything like this presidency, and this woman lived through the Great Depression and the Cold War. As she might say to Bush's current war(s) and his attempts to morph it into WWII, "War on terror, I lived with WWII, I knew WWII, WWII was a friend of mine. War on terror, you are no WWII."


More revelations of reporters who were paid by the White House to promote an agenda-

NY Times: U.S. Paid 10 Journalists for Anti-Castro Reports
The Bush administration’s Office of Cuba Broadcasting paid 10 journalists here to provide commentary on Radio and TV Martí, which transmit to Cuba government broadcasts critical of Fidel Castro, a spokesman for the office said Friday.

The group included three journalists at El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister newspaper of The Miami Herald, which fired them Thursday after learning of the relationship. Pablo Alfonso, who reports on Cuba for El Nuevo Herald, received the largest payment, almost $175,000 since 2001...

Their contempt for democracy is overwhelming.

Assuming the Democrats are planning investigations if/when they control the Congress this January, I think a necessary one is into just how many 'journalists' were on the payroll of this administration (Fox News notwithstanding, natch). Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, 'Jeff Gannon', paid propaganda in Iraq (and hell, let's throw in Judy Miller, even though she did it for free) are among the more famous examples. But how many more were there that never came to light? It's a question that needs answering.

Is There Still a Terrorist Threat?

A new article written for the bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations asks that question: "Is There Still a Terrorist Threat?". It's a tricky question. Yes, there are terrorists and yes they are quite global in their reach (but are less organized, more decentralized, and less competent than we originally believed). I think the question he is really asking here is "Does the reality of terrorism match the narrative we created after 9/11?". This is a debate the country needs to have, if only so that we can put the issue in its proper perspective and stop letting it dominate American life and politics.

The author, in addition to a detailed analysis of the current status of Al Qaeda, correctly points the finger for this enduring narrative on those running our country (the administration, the media) who have always had a vested interested in us believing we are under constant threat of death from jihadists in our midsts- 'TERRORISTS UNDER THE BED' he named one section. I don't agree with all of the conclusions that he makes (I wish I was convinced that Al Qaeda "scarcely exists", as he asserts- 'sparsely', maybe), but I think it's worth reading for some needed perspective on the subject.

Some key sections-
If al Qaeda operatives are as determined and inventive as assumed, they should be here by now. If they are not yet here, they must not be trying very hard or must be far less dedicated, diabolical, and competent than the common image would suggest...

...[N]one of this is to deny that more terrorist attacks on the United States are still possible. Nor is it to suggest that al Qaeda is anything other than a murderous movement...

...But while keeping such potential dangers in mind, it is worth remembering that the total number of people killed since 9/11 by al Qaeda or al Qaeda like operatives outside of Afghanistan and Iraq is not much higher than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States in a single year, and that the lifetime chance of an American being killed by international terrorism is about one in 80,000 -- about the same chance of being killed by a comet or a meteor. Even if there were a 9/11-scale attack every three months for the next five years, the likelihood that an individual American would number among the dead would be two hundredths of a percent (or one in 5,000).

Although it remains heretical to say so, the evidence so far suggests that fears of the omnipotent terrorist -- reminiscent of those inspired by images of the 20-foot-tall Japanese after Pearl Harbor or the 20-foot-tall Communists at various points in the Cold War (particularly after Sputnik) -- may have been overblown, the threat presented within the United States by al Qaeda greatly exaggerated. The massive and expensive homeland security apparatus erected since 9/11 may be persecuting some, spying on many, inconveniencing most, and taxing all to defend the United States against an enemy that scarcely exists.

Of course, I don't think we will be able to approach this subject as nation rationally until at least 2009.

Checks and Balances- They're All The Rage Now

While the political battles won't be over for several more weeks, President Bush didn't exactly have the week he hoped for. First, the President proudly (?!) confirmed the existence of his secret torture prisons and hoped for Democratic opposition to his planned Gitmo kangaroo court to smear them, but instead found the most vocal opposition came from highly-respected Republican senators. His Iraq speeches, and continued attempts to conflate that war with the 'war on terror', fell on the deaf ears of a populace immune to his rhetoric. The confirmation of his recess-appointed U.N. ambassador John Bolton is in limbo- or worse- after a key Republican on the panel expressed concern. Democrats succeeded in reopening a CIA unit devoted to the capture of Osama bin Laden, reminding Americans that the terrorist leader remains free. And finally, his attempts to proudly (?!) use his warrantless wiretapping program to cast another political battle appears in doubt, as the program suffered two defeats- one in a Senate committee debate, and the second in court.

First up, bad news for the White House/good news for democracy in the Senate-
President Bush's support proved insufficient to push a bill authorizing his warrantless wiretapping program through the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday...

...The need for Congress to give legal status to the program gained a sense of urgency last month when a federal judge in Detroit ruled that it violated rights to free speech and privacy as well as constitutional separation of powers...

...Specter's bill was negotiated with the administration. It would submit the program to a special court for a one-time constitutional review, expand the time for emergency warrants from three to seven days and require the attorney general to inform Congress's intelligence committees on the program's activities every six months...

...One such [opposing] measure, backed by a group of moderate Senate Republicans, poses the biggest threat to Specter's bill because it would impose tighter restrictions on the administration's power to wiretap. The House, too, was considering a measure that would impose tougher checks on the president's power.

Just to recap for those new to Sen. Specter's game, his bill (responding with faux-concern to a program known to have targeted innocent Americans with no proveable success), would actually solidify the White House's claim to unlimited power on the wiretap issue by having a court give a one-time permanent rubberstamp to the program, a move not mandatory as the President would have the option of submitting the program for review, also expand the time required before getting a warrant (the ones the President refused to get anyway, starting this whole thing), would grant a retroactive amnesty for all violations of wiretapping law, and would make it more difficult for courts and Congress to challenge future Presidents on the issue.

Sen. Feingold has the money quote on this whole farce: "The president has basically said: 'I'll agree to let a court decide if I'm breaking the law if you pass a law first that says I'm not breaking the law.' That won't help re-establish a healthy respect for separation of powers. It will only make matters worse."

The Village Voice's Nat Hentoff has an excellent column this week on Specter's sham:
Arlen Specter's Sellout-
Senate Judiciary Committee chair intent on rescuing Bush from felony charges

The second defeat for the program this week came from yet another court smackdown-
A Portland-based federal judge [U.S. District Judge Garr M. King] on Thursday refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- just as President Bush was urging Congress to authorize it...

...King ruled that the NSA program is hardly secret anymore, and the Oregon charity can attempt to prove that some of its private conversations were picked up by the eavesdropping program.

"The existence of the surveillance program is not a secret, the subjects of the program are not a secret and the general method of the program -- including that it is warrantless -- is not a secret," King wrote. "Where plaintiffs know whether their communications have been intercepted, no harm to national security would occur if plaintiffs are able to prove the general point that they were subject to surveillance."...

This is all encouraging news.

I end by quoting a commentary piece from the UK's Guardian newspaper on the issue of defending liberties in a post-9/11 political environment: "At the same time as insisting that they are defending Western freedom, the [neocons] declare war on it. They urge us to exchange liberty for security while implying that to do so somehow increases the state's powers to fight terrorism... Libertarians are just as interested as he is in hunting down terrorists, but they believe that it should be done within the law as it stands, because to do otherwise is to attack the very values that we are defending... Freedom is the thing which patrols and constrains government and that is why it is not amenable to compromise and will not suffer such notions as 'preventive interrogation'."

Confirming The Obvious, Pt. 236

Just another reminder for the 46% in case they'd care to take notes...

AP: Senate: No prewar Saddam-al-Qaida ties
There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence that Democrats say undercuts President Bush's justification for invading Iraq.

Bush administration officials have insisted on a link between the Iraqi regime and terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Intelligence agencies, however, concluded there was none...

...The declassified document released Friday by the intelligence committee also explores the role that inaccurate information supplied by the anti-Saddam exile group the Iraqi National Congress had in the march to war.

It concludes that postwar findings do not support a 2002 intelligence community report that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program, possessed biological weapons or ever developed mobile facilities for producing biological warfare agents...

Links to the full report can be found- here.

This new report should get the number of those still believing a link existed down to 45%.

[Related cartoon- A Nation Remembers]

Friday, September 08, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Coulter's outrageous views and her poisonous rhetoric rendered her anathema to the respectable right. Over time, though, the Coulter style has gradually crept into conservatism's mainstream. Maybe it's sheer greed; Coulter has certainly demonstrated that extremism sells books. Maybe it's the reward structure of cable-news shows, which love to sic right-wing mad dogs on seemingly clueless moderate liberals. But I'm inclined to think the main driving force is the bankruptcy of contemporary conservatism as represented by the Bush administration. An aggressively interventionist foreign policy has stumbled badly; a sharp cutback in taxes has failed to bring prosperity to the middle class; and, since Hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans, citizens have come to regard governmental incompetence less as a reason to vote Republican than as a reason to hold Republicans responsible for indifferent stewardship. Things have gotten so bad that the GOP may conceivably lose control of both the House and the Senate in the coming midterm congressional elections.

When you don't have anything new to say, and what you've been saying in the past no longer has much plausibility, you have three choices. You can shut up. For conservative commentators, this is inconceivable, not to mention financially ruinous. You can re-examine your premises. This is not the conservative style. Or you can pump up the volume."
--Timothy Noah, in Slate magazine summing up the sad remains of modern conservatism

Scientist: 'Grab Your Ankles And Kiss Your Ass Goodbye'

Man, these scientists sure know how to be a bunch of buzzkills, huh?- (Reuters): Scientist: Planet going back to dinosaur era
Global warming over the coming century could mean a return of temperatures last seen in the age of the dinosaur and lead to the extinction of up to half of all species, a scientist said on Thursday.

Not only will carbon dioxide levels be at the highest levels for 24 million years, but global average temperatures will be higher than for up to 10 million years, said Chris Thomas of the University of York.

Between 10 and 99 percent of species will be faced with atmospheric conditions that last existed before they evolved, and as a result from 10-50 percent of them could disappear...

...Scientists predict average global temperatures will rise by between two and six degrees centigrade by 2100, mainly as a result of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide being pumped into the air from burning fossil fuels for transport and power...

Well, we'll be dead by 2100 anyway. Let Dr. Farnsworth worry about that.

Wishful Thinking

Time magazine's Joe Klein writes an Iraq war speech he wishes Bush would give-

What Bush Should Have Said:
An alternative speech for a president seeking support on Iraq

It's actually a pretty good speech, very humble and forward-thinking. I don't agree with all of it (I'm not convinced sending 30,000 more troops to Baghdad at this point will do more than delay the inevitable), but it'd be a decent start overall for a new direction. Of course, the reality is that President Bush will sooner convert to Islam than deliver this speech.

Part of the problem in the past few years is that the centrists like Mr. Klein have been waiting for an inevitable course correction from the President (either foreign or domestic) and keep giving him the benefit of the doubt in general. A great example of this is NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman's repeated assurances every so often that if we just give the war 'six more months' it will work out (note: Mr. Friedman, after years of this, has finally conceded defeat on the issue). Time and time again they are proved naive.

George W. Bush isn't a good President who just took a bad turn somewhere along the way... He is a completely bad President, period- a man completely intellectually uncurious, obsessed with winning political battles over the real ones, incapable of admitting a mistake, and wholly dependent on/devoted to the ideologues who shaped his policies.

The idea that President Bush would ever admit a) that many post-9/11 decisions were made in anger and impatience, b) that his 'freedom agenda' in the Middle East was an inevitable failure and that a new path is needed, c) that the Iraq war was unnecessary because the U.N. sanctions/inspections had worked, d) that he should raise gas taxes to get serious on ending foreign oil dependence, or e) that he should meet with President Ahmadinejad is laughable. This is a man who will deny ever linking Saddam to 9/11 while using 9/11 to justify toppling Saddam in the same sentence. Only the influence of a higher power- be it God or Dick Cheney- could ever shift the beliefs he clings to.

The next 2+ years will go better if people stop passively waiting for the President to be something he's not.

[PS- Speaking of Tom Friedman, this quote of his Sullivan links to hits the nail on the head.]


Something to keep in mind as the anniversary media blitz continues-
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: The number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan has already surpassed the death toll of 9/11.

On Sunday — while Americans (and this site) enjoyed a long weekend of drinking booze and grilling meats — the “War on Terror” military toll reached 2,974 and then kept right on going. In three separate attacks across Iraq, six U.S. soldiers were shot dead or blown up. A seventh soldier suffered a “non hostile” death.

The official death toll of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was 2,973...

...And this month, the Iraq War has officially lasted longer than America’s war against the Nazis.

The war in Afghanistan has now dragged on longer than the American Civil War, the Korean War, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American war and America’s involvement in World War I and World War II.

Those death totals, of course, don't include the tens of thousands of civilians killed.

Has this been worth it? I doubt I could be convinced that it has.

Be Afraid, Be Patriotically Afraid

In my first post about President Bush's speech on the prison transfers and military commissions, I ranted about how transparent the political motives behind it were. I wanted to write in more detail this morning on what will be the general theme across all the Republican moves between now and November... fear.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-IL) sums up the strategy: "The Republican Party will spend the next 30 days trying to make you afraid. It is the Republican midterm election strategy. For the rest of September, until the moment Republican leaders gavel the Congress into adjournment, Republican speakers will rise and implore the American people to be afraid... During September, Republicans will wield the gavel, but they will not make America safer... Republicans will spend the next 30 days trying to stay in power, nothing more." He then lists all the numerous important domestic and foreign priorities that will be ignored while this song-and-dance ensues. It's worth reading in full.

This campaign extends far beyond Capitol Hill too. The Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch writes about one incident in his hometown in which FBI agents were giving out terrorism-related materials to local media. The materials were not warnings of any threats, but rather just friendly reminders that terrorism exists. A Philadelphia Inquirer quotes the FBI agent as saying "the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks provides an opportunity for the government and media to remind people about the danger terrorists pose. The greatest danger to America today is complacency." 'Complacency', Bunch reminded, being the new GOP buzzword meaning that we aren't sufficiently terrified. No doubt incidents like this are occurring all across the country, particulary in swing states.

Meanwhile, blogger Shakespeare's Sister sums up my feelings on the BS legislative priorities that will be pushed as the forefront of this campaign-
Hmm. What, pray tell, is [Majority Leader] Boehner talking about when he says that House Republicans will focus first and foremost on homeland security and national security and border security, if they’re not going to focus on immigration, which Congressional Republican leaders, who are now abandoning immigration reform, have been telling us for awhile is the preeminent homeland security and national security and border security issue?
Republicans in the House and Senate say they will focus on Pentagon and domestic security spending bills, port security legislation and measures that would authorize the administration’s terror surveillance program and create military tribunals to try terror suspects.

“We Republicans believe that we have no choice in the war against terror and the only way to do it is to continue to take them head-on whether it is in Iraq or elsewhere,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the majority leader.
Oh, I see. So they’re basically going to inch us closer to a police state, spy on us, operate above the law, and stay the course in Iraq. Cool. I feel much more secure now.

Moving on to that issue of a fear/terror-created police state, a new poll shows that a shockingly high percentage of Americans would be fine with this. A landmark new Zogby poll has many depressing results, not the least of which is the fact that almost half of Americans still believe Saddam was connected to the 9/11 attacks (though they don't think the war was worth it). More importantly, it finds that many Americans support random searches of their bags anywhere, regular roadblocks, searches of their cars, monitoring of their phone, and maybe even searching of their mail. Not surprisingly, Republicans polled support all this, with Democrats and independents noticeably less open to it, but not entirely unopposed.

What was it that Benjamin Franklin said once upon a time? "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ahh, yes, that was it. What a defeatist he was.

In conclusion, I end with this quote from Keith Olbermann on MSNBC the other night- "Mr. Bush, you are accomplishing in part what Osama Bin Laden and others seek — a fearful American populace, easily manipulated, and willing to throw away any measure of restraint, any loyalty to our own ideals and freedoms, for the comforting illusion of safety."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Not So Fast, King George...

Yesterday, President Bush, in full-on political mode, gave a speech which confirmed the CIA's secret torture prisons, noted key terrorist suspects were being transferred from them to Guantanamo, stated his intentions to hold his own brand of trials for them there (despite this being rejected by the Supreme Court), and asked the Republican Congress to rubberstamp all of that. The move was intended to force a partisan debate on the war on terror which he believed will play to his, and the Republicans', benefit.

However, he is facing criticism from not only key Republicans, but within the military too-
U.S. military lawyers on Thursday challenged President George W. Bush's plan to try terrorism suspects, including the accused September 11 mastermind, as Democrats charged the White House with election-year fearmongering...

...Pentagon lawyers balked at Bush's proposal to limit the terrorism suspects' access to evidence.

"I'm not aware of any situation in the world where there is a system of jurisprudence that is recognized by civilized people where an individual can be tried and convicted without seeing the evidence against him," Brig. Gen. James Walker, U.S. Marine Corps staff judge advocate told a Congressional hearing.

Bush was forced to find a new way to try foreigners suspected of terrorism after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the tribunal system his administration created. Most of the suspects were captured in Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo Bay...

...Many congressional Democrats, and even a few Republicans, are uncomfortable with the tough rules Bush wants for the military trials. But with the fate of suspects like [Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed at stake, the White House hopes to make it politically harder to oppose Bush...

The President hopes his new 'You are either with the GOP or with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed' strategy will trump the criticism.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan dug through the speech and found many lies. The first-
Then there is the president's second untruth about who actually has been detained at Gitmo and elsewhere:
"It's important for Americans and others across the world to understand the kind of people held at Guantanamo. These aren't common criminals, or bystanders accidentally swept up on the battlefield - we have in place a rigorous process to ensure those held at Guantanamo Bay belong at Guantanamo."
Again, as has been exhaustively documented, this is false. Dozens of Gitmo detainees have been released with no charges brought against them, just as the U.S. concedes that up to 90 percent of those jailed at Abu Ghraib were innocent. Read this op-ed about just one man detained for four years at Gitmo, even though the administration conceded he was innocent... That's the "rigorous process" the president spoke of yesterday. It doesn't exist - and never has.

And the second-
It's right there in the president's speech yesterday: once again, baldly stated, as if saying it more categorically makes it true:
"I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world: The United States does not torture. It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorized it - and I will not authorize it."
There is no other way to say it. On one of the gravest moral matters before the country, this president is knowingly stating an untruth... But we know - and the enemy knows - what the techniques are... Far, far worse has been done to detainees in less closely monitored "interrogations" in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the secret sites (now admitted) in Eastern Europe. (Yes, Dana, you deserve your Pulitzer.) Dozens of corpses are the result of the president's "safe and lawful" interrogation methods... The president is asking the Congress to establish this in law. Yes, this is America.


Finally, on a related note, reports indicate that Republicans are torn whether or not to rubberstamp the President's warrantless wiretapping.

The President may win this political fight, but the real loser is our nation's dignity.

Quote of the Day II

"There are some people, and I'm one of them, that believe George Bush was placed where he is by the Lord. I don't care how he governs, I will support him. I'm a Republican through and through."
--Substitute teacher Clydeen Tomanio, in an article on Southern voters

This sentiment is quite common, and speaks volumes about the direction the GOP is going.

Odds and Ends

Lots of news today, so here's your Cliff notes, courtesy of the Duck.

A Knight-Ridder news service reporter, speaking with "more than a dozen top Army and Marine Corps generals" found that they all agreed "that America's strategy and tactics in Iraq have failed, and that President Bush's policy of 'staying the course' in Iraq isn't likely to produce anything but more frustration, more and greater problems for the United States in a dangerous world, and more and bloodier surprises for the 135,000 American troops in Iraq." Meanwhile, the Iraq war has turned Southern female voters away from the Republican party.

In other Iraq news, the Senate Intelligence Committee is once again delaying the release of a key "report comparing what Bush administration officials said about Iraq before the war with what they actually knew about Iraq before the war" until after the midterm elections. The Republican chairman, Pat Roberts, had also delayed the release prior to the 2004 election and has been stalling ever since. The report would likely officially confirm what we all know already.

In other Senate news, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was supposed to vote today on whether or not to confirm John Bolton as U.N. ambassador, but the Committee chairman pulled the vote from the schedule. A key reason is said to be concerns from Sen. Chafee (R-RI) about Bolton. This may not bode well for Mr. Bolton.

Moving on, it seems that Republicans are doing a happy dance over the news that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was one of Robert Novak's source for the Valerie Plame leak, inisisting that this proves the scandal was much ado about nothing. Frankly, I find this not surprising, but severely intellectually challenged. First off, Armitage was long suspected as the missing third source back when we all understand this was a big deal, and secondly his role was just one small piece in the larger puzzle. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had written extensively in his court filings of a conspiracy eminating from the Vice President's office to out Plame. As journalist Murray Waas wrote in an analysis of Fitzgerald's findings, "a senior administration official said that even if Cheney did not directly authorize Libby to leak the information to the press, the vice president might have set a climate in which his aides viewed it as routine to release classified information whenever it served their purposes." Karl Rove was involved in this campaign as well, and prior to Armitage talking to boot. The Armitage revelation does not change that. As for the idea that he simply passed on what he thought was 'gossip', it's pretty laughable. I doubt a Deputy Secretary of State would find the time to 'gossip' about a undercover CIA operative to Robert Novak of all people, coincidentally doing the same thing other administration officials were. Furthermore, Armitage's more subdued reputation aside, his connections to the Cheney neocon wing are well-documented.

More detailed Plame post-scripts from the New York Observer and The Nation.

In other news, Israel has lifted their air blockage of Lebanon.

ABC is still planning to air its reality-challenged 9/11 docudrama- "The Path To 9/11"- on Monday and Tuesday, despite numerous protests from both Democratic and Republican government officials noting that whole chunks of the movie have been fabricated or falsified to fit a partisan agenda. ABC has been promoting the film heavily amongst conservative bloggers and activisits, but has denied everyone else (even President Clinton himself- whose lawyer has written a letter in complaint) early access to the film. ABC is blowing off the critics, but has said they'll air a disclaimer with it. Unfortunately, they will not be providing barf bags to aid in your viewing.

Finally, designs for the three new World Trade Center towers have been unveiled.

Heat, Frost... Climate Change Dangers Come From Everywhere

Some scientists are concerned about a possible global warming "time bomb" from permafrost-released methane buried underneath the soil-
...Methane a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide is being released from the permafrost at a rate five times faster than thought, according to a study being published Thursday in the journal Nature. The findings are based on new, more accurate measuring techniques...

...Scientists worry about a global warming vicious cycle that was not part of their already gloomy climate forecast: Warming already under way thaws permafrost, soil that has been continuously frozen for thousands of years. Thawed permafrost releases methane and carbon dioxide. Those gases reach the atmosphere and help trap heat on Earth in the greenhouse effect. The trapped heat thaws more permafrost and so on...

Stupid scientists, why can't you find delicious candy hidden in permafrost instead?

President Bush Speaks On Prisons; Commands Our Respect Fear

President Bush gave the latest in his series of 9/11 Anniversary Media Blitz Fearapalooza speeches yesterday. But the topic this time wasn't another Iraq 'stay the course' pep rally; it was to... confirm the existence of the secret CIA torture prisons that they denied even existed and that they threatened to imprison a Washington Post reporter for writing about. You know, those prisons. This information, by the way, was declassified yesterday morning for the sole purpose of this speech. And so important was this speech that the President even asked the networks to interrupt soap operas for! Here's the AP summary-
President Bush on Wednesday acknowledged for the first time that the CIA runs secret prisons overseas and said tough interrogation forced terrorist leaders to reveal plots to attack the United States and its allies.

Bush said 14 suspects — including the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] and architects of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania — had been turned over to the Defense Department and moved to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for trial...

Okay, interesting information... but why reveal this now, Mr. President? And why transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and all the other suspects to Guantanamo after they've been in custody for years? Did important national security/justice matters warrant this or...
Nearing the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, Bush pressed Congress to quickly pass administration-drafted legislation authorizing the use of military commissions for trials of terror suspects. Legislation is needed because the Supreme Court in June said the administration's plan for trying detainees in military tribunals violated U.S. and international law.

Ahhh, politics! There we go.

So to sum up: After being smacked down by the Supreme Court over his planned kangaroo courts in Guanatamo Bay and facing growing political disapproval nearing the election, the President decided to transfer these terrorist suspects from the secret prisons to the more public Gitmo, for political reasons, as his Republican allies in Congress prepare legislation to get around the Court ruling and rubberstamp the President's prison policies and kangaroo courts, as well as to make sure Bush administration officials will be exempt from war crime prosecutions.

And if the Democrats stand on principle and fight this, they will be branded as terrorist sympathizers and appeasers. It is the same strategy that got many Democrats to vote for the Iraq resolution in the last midterm election cycle. I can only hope that they have learned their lessons since then.

President Bush's loyal supporters cheered this move, not even denying the transparent political motives behind this. "[T]he Left won't be happy about the return of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Zubaydah, et al. to the front pages; nor will Democrats in Congress relish having to vote on a vital issue of national security between now and November", a Powerline blogger said. Mark Loyola (what an appropriate name) at The Corner pretty much said the exact same thing. A followup post at Powerline expressed concern that not only will the 'Lamont Democrats' (oop, guess they're still using him as a liberal boogeyman) oppose the President's legislation, but that the "terrorist rights wing" of the GOP- McCain, Graham, Warner, etc- will too. What a frightening point of view and a sad indictment of what has become of the conservative base under Bush.

Just this past Tuesday, I warned of an October surprise from the GOP involving terrorism in some way. This announcement today, and the legislative battle that will follow, is merely the opening shot in that campaign. The Rove/Melhman machine's just warming up.

And while it will of course mean will bunk in terms of the congressional battle, there is significant disgust being registered by the majority of bloggers (those outside the dwindling 'base')... I can imagine the editorial pages of newspapers will have much to say about this in the morning as well (example- this NY Times piece noting that "Two months before a Congressional election... President Bush finally has some real terrorists in Guantánamo Bay").

A sampling from the blogosphere reaction follows. First up, Andrew Sullivan-
This is the Rove gambit: make this election a choice between legalizing torture or enabling the murderers of 9/11 to escape justice. The timing is deliberate; the exploitation of 9/11 gob-smacking; the cynicism fathomless. There is only one response: call them on it and vote for their opponents in November. And pray that in the meantime, John McCain won't lose his nerve or his integrity.

Next, Glenn Greenwald-
Republican strategists have made explicitly clear that their strategy for the midterm elections, now just two months away, is to highlight the terrorist threat to the fullest extent possible. Accordingly, top Bush officials, including the president, have spent the last week giving a series of extraordinary speeches about terrorism, featuring highly charged accusations of "appeasement," along with escalated rhetoric equating the threat from al-Qaida to that posed by the Nazis during World War II and by Communists under Lenin and Stalin. Republicans clearly want the news dominated by alarming discussions of the terrorist threat, as opposed to the highly unpopular war in Iraq, which has receded from view in recent weeks despite continued grim developments.

Last but not least, Josh Marshall-
President Bush wants to gin up a hail mary pre-election political fight over the constitution (no pun intended) of military tribunals for accused terrorists. This election-timed stunt is intended to put fourteen faces on the president's fight over the rules for his kangaroo courts.

So now, you're either with Bush or you're with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

What am I missing exactly?

What they all said x 1,000.

Finally, Marty Lederman analyzes the President's planned legislation; it's not pretty.

What a vile man our President is. These issues surrounding the war on terror are serious and complicated, with deep implications for not only national security, but for the integrity of a constitutional democracy as well. And here he is playing games with all that as a last, desperate effport to manipulate the outcome of a democratic election to his liking. This goes far beyond typical election year politics. Coming up on the anniversary of the loss of nearly 3,000 Americans, no one in the Republican party is talking about how to honor them (unless burning effigies in front of a mosque counts), because they're too busy trying to profit from their deaths. It makes me ill. I just want to crawl into a hole and hide until this is all over. Thank you for making the 9/11 memory even more grim than it already was.

Quote of the Day

"The way to win the struggle is to win it."
--Sen. Kyl (R-Ariz), yesterday on how to defeat terrorism

Thank God for Republicans; I see now our strategy of "losing" was the wrong approach.

Quote taken from this article: Effort to force Rumsfeld 'no confidence' vote falters in Senate

In regards to the Rumsfeld issue, Matthew Yglesias thinks the Democrats are too narrowly focusing their criticism. He states, "This Rumsfeld-obsession plays a genuinely pernicious role in our national discourse. The basic reality of the matter is that between September 2001 and Spring 2003 the bulk of the American political and media establishments endorsed the key elements of the Bush foreign policy. Over the subsequent 18 months or so, it became obvious to the bulk of this establishment that the Bush foreign policy was a moral and practical disaster. Rather than conclude that they were operating from mistaken premises and that they should come up with some new, authentically different ideas, the predominant impulse has simply been to say 'we could have gotten away with it to if it wasn't for that meddling Rumsfeld!' Well, no. Rumsfeld's ideas were bad ones. But the bad ideas -- the policies, Bush's policies, The Washington Post's policies, Andrew Sullivan's policies, etc. -- are the issue here, not Rumsfeld personally."

It's a good point. While Sec. Rumsfeld does bare greater responsibility for these failures than most (as a member of original neocon brigade that thought up this war, helped architect our torture policy, ran the war with hubris and shortsightedness, etc), there is still a risk to make him the scapegoat... and thereby absolve everyone else of blame if/when he is removed from office. Similar to Hurricane Katrina and Michael Brown. With that said, I still think it was, and is, the right move for the Democrats. Rummy needs to go. Others do too, but he remains the weakest link.

Diplomacy's Boring, Can We Blow Stuff Up Yet?

Ohhh Matt is all excited, his favorite boogeyman may be coming for a visit-

Color me skeptical that a) he will come, and b) that Bush will show if he does.

Meanwhile, the usual neocon media cheerleaders declare it is inevitable that President Bush will direct military strikes against Iran, for not doing so would mean that his presidency is a failure, you see. Podhoretz says this not with a sense of foreboding, or even resolve, but with a child-like giddiness one normally associates with a toddler smashing up his favorite new toy.

A new polls finds Americans and the French cautious, but not outright opposed to that.

However, a closer inspection seems to indicate that President Bush fears a congressional vote on the war because he knows it is not a political battle he may win. Despite what the aforementioned poll indicates, I am sure the vast majority of Americans aren't ready to let this administration start another war. Due to their immense incompetence, American foreign policy may be in limbo until 2009. Still, the road-to-war rhetoric will continue no matter what, because it adds to the fog of fear they have been creating. But where this is all going remains to be seen. Nothing good can come from this, I am sure.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's The Real Economy, Stupid!

Speaking of things certain minority parties could speak to voters about as to why we need a change in leadership, Kevin Drum at Washington Post posts the following map showing changes in incomes since 2001.

I guess rising tides don't always lift all boats after all.

[Related editorials-
-NY Daily News: America's wealth of poverty
-Washington Post: Perfect Storm for the Poor: In Income Data, Something More Damaging Than Katrina]

Meanwhile, In Afghanistan...

How are things going in Afghanistan (the war actually connected to Al Qaeda/9-11)?

Ummm, notsogood.

NY Times: Afghan Symbol for Change Becomes a Symbol of Failure
...When the Taliban fell nearly five years ago, Lashkar Gah seemed like fertile ground for the United States-led effort to stabilize the country. For 30 years during the cold war, Americans carried out the largest development project in Afghanistan’s history here, building a modern capital with suburban-style tract homes, a giant hydroelectric dam and 300 miles of canals that made 250,000 acres of desert bloom. Afghans called this city “Little America.”

Today, Little America is the epicenter of a Taliban resurgence and an explosion in drug cultivation that has claimed the lives of 106 American and NATO soldiers this year and doubled American casualty rates countrywide. Across Afghanistan, roadside bomb attacks are up by 30 percent; suicide bombings have doubled. Statistically it is now nearly as dangerous to serve as an American soldier in Afghanistan as it is in Iraq.

Helmand’s descent symbolizes how Afghanistan has evolved since the initial victory over the Taliban into one of the most troubled fronts in the fight against terrorism...

The war where the President should've stayed the course and didn't.

If I were a certain minority party on the verge of a comeback, but still needing to seal that deal, I might want to make this an issue. "Where's Osama", I might ask. I might also initiate a discussion of our priorities (balancing between domestic and foreign), how we allocate our resources, and the limitations of our reach. A comparison with Iraq, specifically focusing on how unnecessary it was and the false premises on which it was sold, might also help make the point. Is said party listening?

[PS- Our 'ally' Pakistan says bin Laden will get a free pass if found in their borders. Oop.

Related reading:
The "central front" in the terror war? Look out, it's right behind you! (Salon War Room)]

Missing One Poodle. If Found, Please Call.

After much speculation, a date for Tony Blair's departure has been revealed-
Tony Blair will quit as Labour leader on May 31 next year and then resign as Prime Minister on July 26, according to The Sun newspaper.

The claim follows a day of speculation about when he will step down and demands from his loyalists for him to name a date to leave Downing Street...

Oh, Tony. You could've had a great run over there, but then you decided to be BFFs with the village idiot. At least you are leaving of (mostly) your own volition; that should save you some dignity. If you need to talk to someone, you can always call Colin Powell; I have a feeling he might know how you feel.

Get Well Soon

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy had heart surgery this past weekend.

Best wishes to him and his family for a speedy recovery.

(And to all the other Justices, may the next 2.5 years bring great health as well)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bush: 'Hey Everyone, Turns Out We're Dependent On Oil!!'

I've become so immune to all the news lately, that, while I am quick to respond to all the insanity, it still takes a lot to actually make me angry. This story did the trick for some reason-

President Bush, apparently suffering from amnesia, made the following remarks yesterday: "The problem is we get oil from some parts of the world and they simply don't like us. And so the more dependent we are on that type of energy, the less likely it will be that we are able to compete, and so people have good, high-paying jobs... Dependence on foreign oil jeopardizes our capacity to grow."

Every few months, the President makes some (accurate, but empty) comments about our dependency on foreign oil, and every time he does so he acts like it is not only the first time he is making that observation, but also like the first time anyone has made that observation. American Presidents have been issuing warnings on this issue as far back as Nixon or Carter. President Bush himself has done the same for years (see examples- here), while not doing anything to help the situation and, so it appears, actively making it worse.

President Bush even hyped up his stance on foreign oil dependency as a major theme of this year's State of the Union address. But the reality quietly came out days later (not that anyone bothered to notice) when "his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally". And specifically in regards to Bush's pledge to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past", Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said "This was purely an example". Oop, our fault for taking his words literally!

And a solution he used in April? Easing environmental regulations on the oil companies so they can be more productive. Leadership! Sure, some have called for alternative strategies (increasing the gas tax, creating more economic incentives to dump SUVs and bought fuel-efficient/hybrid cars, working to find non-oil fuel alternatives, harnessing the power of solar panels and windmills and hydroelectricity, etc), but the President is quite happy just paying lip service to the problem while winking back at the increasingly rich oil companies who have helped shape our national energy policy.

As blogger Shakespeare's Sister said best, "One of the things I most detest about Bush is his tendency to speak about domestic issues as if he isn’t the fucking president. The unmitigated temerity of constantly talking about problems facing Americans as if he’s helpless to do anything about it—as if his hands are tied because we gosh-dern citizens don’t spontaneously just up and stop using oil, or stop being poor, or stop being unemployed—makes me want to put my fist through a wall."

If the President needs a start, maybe he can check out California; I hear they figured it out.

Like Deja Vu All Over Again, All Over Again

Matt Drudge, the internet's favorite warmonger, leads with another in a series of sensationalistic Iran headlines-

These conservatives are really war junkies. Somebody should get them some help.

(Oh, and this much-touted headline today?- 'Iran leader calls for purge of liberal university teachers'. Not to be snarky, but what he's calling for there doesn't sound any different to me than what the far-right conservatives- the Limbaugh/Fox News crowd- have been calling for here at home for years. Just saying.)

[Related reading for some perspective:
-Newsweek (Fareed Zakaria): The Year of Living Fearfully: Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has gone from being an obscure and not-so-powerful politician to a central player in the Mideast, simply by goading the United States.
-Glenn Greenwald: Is Iran "the most active state sponsor of international terrorism"?]

Fighting Back

Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate have written a letter to the President-

Democratic Leadership on Iraq

It's a good read; outlines fairly well where they stand and what their position is.

(But don't count on that ol' liberal media giving it press with more Bush speeches to report)

One of the most-hyped focuses of the Democrats' plans is their call for the firing of Sec. Rumsfeld (they are planning a 'no confidence' vote on his leadership). Smart move- I can't imagine many Republicans facing close elections will want to go on the record as supporting Rumsfeld. If anything, they will try to dump Rummy themselves rather than let the Dems get the credit. He's been wrong on everything and his pet project- Iraq- is out of control, but it may have been his 'appeaser' rant that sealed the deal. Time for a change; throw him (and all the other bums) out.

9/11 (™ Republican Party, copyright 2001)

ABC- part of that ol' liberal media- is airing a 9/11 docudrama called "The Path to 9/11", which early reports indicate is a right-wing whitewash of what happened. Further nailing that point home is the fact ABC has been granting preview screenings and press junkets for noted right-wing voices and bloggers (Rush Limbaugh loved it, for the record), while actively excluding liberal bloggers and even the Democratic co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission. If interested in this (personally, I avoid all the 9/11 dramatizations- real thing was dramatic enough- but did enjoy Court TV's nonpartisan "On Native Soil: A Documentary on the 9/11 Commission Report") here are some links with more details on this-

-Firedoglake: Fact or Fiction?
-Firedoglake If Only I Had An ABC-Approved Press Pass
-ThinkProgress: Richard Clarke Blasts Key Scene In ABC’s 9/11 Docudrama
-ThinkProgress: Writer of ABC’s 9/11 ‘Docudrama’ Is Avowed Conservative Activist
-Digby: Path To Rewriting History

Just a taste of the GOP-fueled 9/11 media orgy we can expect in the next week.

I'm personally sick of the President and his Republican allies acting like they own the 9/11 tragedy. The way that they speak to Democrats- and really, all Americans in general- about those attacks is as if we don't understand what terrorism is (case in point, this AP headline today: 'Bush reminds Americans U.S. is at war'), but in reality they're just upset that we aren't as afraid as they want us to be. As Neil Young said in an interview in April, "No one, George Bush or anyone else, owns the 9/11 mentality. It belongs to the United States of America. It belongs to everyone who was sitting there with their family, watching those buildings get hit by those jets. It belongs to George Bush and his family, it belongs to John Kerry and his family, it belongs to me and my family, my American family. I have a post 9/11 mentality. It’s just not the same as George Bush's."

(And maybe since we're focusing on 9/11, maybe we can actually remember those now in extremely poor health because they rushed to the Trade Center to respond, after being told the air was clean. Our current leaders talk alot about heroes, but in reality they treat them like chumps.)

[Related- 9/11 hits TV (]

Prepare For An October Surprise

(Hint: It will involve terrorism in some way)

From the Washington Post-
...President Bush's low approval ratings, the sharp divisions over the war in Iraq, dissatisfaction with Congress, and economic anxiety caused by high gasoline prices and stagnant wages have alienated independent voters, energized the Democratic base and thrown once-safe Republican incumbents on the defensive.

As the campaign season begins, Democrats are trying to guard against premature celebration, even as their prospects are brighter than most ever imagined. Republicans are hoping for some outside event that would show the president and their party in a better light -- a spate of good news from Iraq, a foiled terrorist plot or an unlikely break in the deadlock over immigration on Capitol Hill....

Interesting. Rather than stand their ground and their defend their records, the Republicans are hoping for an 'outside event' that will distract voters in the final weeks before the election. And who can blame them? If your record involved the largest deficit in U.S. history, greater economic class disparity, two horribly mismanaged wars, a catering to religious extremists at the expense of any substantive domestic agenda, and being known as the rubberstamp to the worst President ever... you wouldn't run on it either! Bring on the sham terror-related legislation, Al Qaeda videos, and foiled terror 'plots'!

For instance, the NY Times reports that Congressional leaders are abandoning their more controversial and complicated immigration legislation plans and choosing instead to focus on the terror issue: "Congressional Republican leaders have all but abandoned a broad overhaul of immigration laws and instead will concentrate on national security issues they believe play to their political strength... Republicans in the House and Senate say they will focus on Pentagon and domestic security spending bills, port security legislation and measures that would authorize the administration’s terror surveillance program and create military tribunals to try terror suspects."

Regarding the bolded part- what measures would that be? Why Sen. Specter's amnesty bill, of course, which will make warrantless surveillance legal and allow for all future Presidents to bypass court oversight. This bill represents a major low point in our constitutional democracy and is a perfect example of why the GOP rubberstamp Congress needs ousting. Will Democrats take the bait or will they stand on principle and defeat this? I'm not too optimistic.

Ugh. Maybe this is why so few people vote.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Happy Labor Day

If The Constitution Falls In The Woods And No One Is Around To Hear It...

With last month's release of a 350+ page report by Democrats members of the House Judiciary Committee entitled 'The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War, and Illegal Domestic Surveillance' roundly ignored by the media, it is increasingly obvious that we as a nation will never have a much-needed national debate on the constitutional implications of what the President has done in the name of the 'war on terror'.

At this point, I am not even sure why I bother to discuss it here, but I think it's important to document this, so when my grandchildren ask me about this point in American history, I can say "hey I gave a shit". Anyway, here's where we stand...

The Bush administration has "asked a federal judge to delay enforcing her order for a halt to the government's warrantless communications surveillance program." The Justice Department stated the recent decision in a federal court ruling warrantless wiretapping unconstitutional places 'the gravest of harms to the government and to the American public'.

Why the government cannot simply get the required warrants for their surveillance (as required by law, with retroactive windows available for emergencies) and/or how ignoring said law improves the quality of intercepted communications is- surprise- not something that the Justice Department addressed.

Why, it's almost as if the program was based less on security concerns and more on a larger agenda of unlimited executive power!

The Village Voice's Nat Hentoff explored the ruling in his most recent 'Liberty Beat' column-
...Not only did the president violate a statute but he also, the judge added, "blatantly disregarded the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights" (very much including the Fourth Amendment)...

...What makes this regeneration of the powers of Constitution all the more important, even if her ruling is overruled by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on its inevitable way to the Supreme Court, is that Judge Taylor represents the awakening, at last, of more of the judiciary to its crucial responsibility to respect—and act—on the separation of powers.

In June, the Supreme Court itself unambiguously told the president he had acted outside the law in establishing the sham military commissions at Guantánamo—and has violated the Geneva Conventions and our own 1996 War Crimes Act in our abusive and, I would add, sometimes fatal, treatment of suspected terrorist prisoners wherever we hold them...

That landmark Supreme Court case I wrote about in July; it disproves the spin by the Bush defenders that Judge Taylor's ruling was out of the ordinary. Numerous judges have been knocking down the President's theories on executive authority.

Hentoff also wrote a good piece last month on signing statements: Bush's Invisible Ink

I am not sure what can be done to get the media and/or the public at large to care about these stories. Perhaps if we tell everyone that the Bush/Cheney 'unitary executive' theory killed Jon Benet, the cable news channels will come to investigate. In the meantime, the only realistic hope is for a Democratic takeover of the House, placing people who believe in accountability, and checks and balances, back into positions where they can do something about it.


Last November, the White House unveiled- with great fanfare- something called the 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq' (in reality a 2+ year-old document dusted off for PR purposes). It broke down the strategy into three parts: the political track (fundamentalist Shia government? check.), the security track (rampant sectarian violence? check.), and the economic track (something about 'reconstruction').

In an analysis looking at the President's grimmer tone in discussing Iraq, the New York Times wonders why that document hasn't been mentioned since-
President Bush’s newest effort to rebuild eroding support for the war in Iraq features a distinct shift in approach: Rather than stressing the benefits of eventual victory, he and his top aides are beginning to lay out the grim consequences of failure...

...It is reminiscent of — updated for a different war, and a different time — President Lyndon B. Johnson’s adoption of the “domino theory,” in which South Vietnam’s fall could lead to Communism’s spread through Southeast Asia and beyond. In the case of Iraq, Mr. Bush’s argument boils down to a statement he quoted from General Abizaid, his top commander in the Middle East: “If we leave, they will follow us.”

Yep, if we leave, all those feuding Iraqi factions will surely follow us home, if only to continue their civil war in towns that get more than four hours of electricity a day. Ohh, did he mean terrorists? Because they only make up a small percentage of the groups we're fighting there (and only are there because of our invasion). But hey, maybe Bush is right... he all but left Afghanistan so that he could invade Iraq and the terrorists did follow us there. Maybe he should've stayed the course in his first war.

Continuing on-
...Missing from Mr. Bush’s latest speeches, at least so far, is detail about the progress of his previous plan, the “Strategy for Victory” of November, billed as the product of a review and rethinking of what had worked and what had failed...

...The Pentagon’s latest report to Congress about progress on that strategy painted a mixed but largely grim picture, especially about the rise of sectarian violence and the failed effort to create an effective Iraqi police force. So why not announce a new change of strategy? A senior official said this week that the president could only talk about a change of strategy so many times, without looking as if he is constantly casting about for solutions...

...For now, with a critical election looming in just 10 weeks and nervous members of his own party searching for an argument they can sell back home, he is trying to focus voters not on the high price of winning but on the harder-to-define cost of letting the dominoes fall.

The domino effect that they don't want you to think about are the consquences that starting this war of choice have brought us: a damaged reputation worldwide as a go-it-alone bully, terrorism inflamed, an empowered radical Shia movement, a depleted military and treasury, reports of rampant abuses by U.S. soldiers further hurting U.S. credibility, a divided and angry U.S. population, and an inability to focus on other foreign and domestic priorities. None of that had to happen.

The President wants us all to forget that he chose this war for increasingly dubious reasons; it was not a war of necessity by any means. The President tries to use the 9/11 conflation to obscure that, by stating that this war "came to our shore". That can be said of Afghanistan, but not Iraq. Iraq didn't come to our shore or anyone else's. We came to its shore (to preempt things we would soon find out the administration knew were exaggerated at best), and brought our shock and awe with us.

Meanwhile, in a speech the other day, President Bush downplayed the shadow of civil war in Iraq, stating that "only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country." I'm sure most of the people want peace, Mr. President, but if wishes were horses, etc... You can't end the sectarian violence with peppy speeches littered with the word 'victory' as frequently as possible. Victory is not possible if you continue to quibble with what is reality. Even your own Pentagon doesn't share your optimism, which notes rises in violence and how the threat of civil war occupies our military in full. They've taken their efforts as far as they can go and are now just treading water sand. Your own military commanders have been saying the same thing as well. But the White House does not want us thinking about that, because they know that American disapproval of the war will increase, as only the Bush loyalists will accept U.S. soldiers fighting and dying for another country's civil war.

Their real strategy as November approaches appears to be confusing us as much as possible.

Meeting The Press

Think Progress has a depressing roundup of appearances on the Sunday morning shows-

-Dole Stumped When Asked To Name Anyone Who Believes ‘The Terrorists Can Be Appeased’

-Santorum: ‘I Think The Focus Should Not Be Iraq, It Should Be Iran’

-Santorum Tells Casey His Dead Father ‘Would Be Very Upset’ With Him

-Kristol: ‘Bush Should Pardon Libby. He Should Do it Now’

No wonder I sleep in on Sunday.

[Related- Democrats on a roll in battle for U.S. Congress (Reuters)]

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"There’s Osama bin Laden still running free. We’re deeper into Afghanistan and deeper into Iraq. I don’t see any end to it."

Right after 9/11, at the beginning of the 'war on terror', the government had unquestioned support. In every situation- Patriot Act, Guantanamo, not finishing the job in Afghanistan, invading Iraq, warrantless wiretaps, etc- people gave the administration the benefit of the doubt. One great example of this deference (besides the flag-waving rush to war in 2003) was when Bush flat-out lied in one of the '04 debates about his "just not that concerned" quote about bin Laden, and no paper found it headline worthy the next morning.

Coming up on 5 years later, people are starting to realize that they may not have deserved that benefit of the doubt. The fact is that the administration doesn't seem to have a better grip on the problem than they did before the attacks. They know there are terrorists and that they are working to stop them (and that the issue benefits them politically); but they don't deserve a parade for that, it's their job. However, they don't seem to have put any thought into who these people are and how our actions/inactions affect the situation (as the Iraq war- and Bush's lack of knowledge of the difference between Sunnis and Shiites before invading- has illustrated). President Bush still refers to them as "evildoers" and "folks" and works hard to conflate all the factions of the Middle East together as if they were one entity (ie. use of the generic term 'islamofascist'). In addition, the fact that the President, and most of the country it seems, still believe that the reason they hate us is "for our freedoms" is proof that they have the most simplistic view of the situation possible.

Their view of the situation just doesn't mesh with reality. Polls show people starting to agree-
...Five years after the attacks of Sept. 11, fully one-third of Americans think the terrorists may be winning, the poll suggests. Worries fed by the war in Iraq have spilled over into the broader campaign against terrorists who directly target the U.S.

Half in the poll question whether the costs of the anti-terror campaign are too great, and even more admit that thought has crossed their mind...

...Not everyone agrees the war in Iraq is central to the war on terror, as the Bush administration maintains. Six in 10 polled think there will be more terrorism in this country because the U.S. went to war in Iraq. Some feel strongly that the two wars are separate...

...And they are divided about whether they are losing personal freedoms, according to polling done between Aug. 7-17 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points...

...Objections to the U.S. policies include invading Iraq without sufficient support from allies, faulty claims of weapons of mass destruction and holding “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo for many months without trial.

Some say they’re worried that terrorists are recruited faster than they can be captured or killed...

The White House blames this on fatique and/or lack of patience. I have patience. I just don't share the administration's worldview or have any confidence that our current leaders know what the hell they are doing.

That seems to be an opinion growing in popularity. Maybe I'm a trendsetter.

[PS- Perfect time for another Al Qaeda video. Always good for getting the base riled up.]


That's the only word to describe this.

AP: Life-sized likenesses of Guard members ease separation pains
Lt. Col. Randall Holbrook travels just about everywhere with his wife Mary and their two sons, Justin, 14, and Logan, 5...

Randall has little to say because he’s a ‘‘Flat Daddy,’’ a two-dimensional foam board likeness from the waist up of the Maine Army National Guard officer from Hermon who was sent to Afghanistan in January with the 240th Engineer Group of Augusta.

The Guard has provided more than 100 of the cutouts to families of deployed service members as a way to ease the pain of separation...

...The Holbrooks’ Flat Daddy has been to birthday parties, ballgames, school, the hairdresser, the babysitter’s with Logan, and to the funeral of Mary Holbrook’s mother...

...‘‘One night, I finally asked him, ’Who are you talking to?’ And he said, ’I’m talking to Daddy,’’ Fish said. ‘‘I just about broke down crying.’’...

I suppose the sentiment is right, but it's still very sad. 'Flat Daddy'. Wow.

American life in the Bush generation... one big Onion article.