Saturday, September 16, 2006

What Democrats Should Be Saying

The Democrats seem content sitting on the sidelines and continuing to let the Republicans implode. This is a poor strategy. This week's 'revolt' by key Republicans against the President's torture policy threatens to undermine the important point that a GOP Congress acts solely as a rubberstamp to the President's radical agenda. The Democrats need to stop playing defense and take the offense, regardless of what their worthless pollsters tell them. They also need to stop waiting for the lapdog media to start covering their campaigns (sorry, Nancy, saying pretty please won't help) and start aggressively pushing their agenda into the spotlight, but not in the flashcard Chuck Schumer way.

In this campaign, they need to do several things: make clear the numerous failures of the President and his party and demand accountability for them, clearly outline the ways in which a Democratic congress will be different, and finally outline their approach to the top political issue in the campaign- national security.

What Democrats should be saying over and over again is this:

We all understand the terrorist threat and want to eradicate it as best we can, but what Bush's critics want is to do it right. We believe that the President and his Congress have exaggerated the 'war on terror' into a cartoon battle and have thus lost focus on what is really the issue. We believe that counterrorism means real security and policework, not scaring the American people into supporting you. We believe the President has prosecuted these counterterrorism efforts wrongly and we want to hold him accountable for his failures.

We believe that the President was wrong at the start of the war in 2001 to prosecute it on the cheap and ask no domestic sacrifices of the American people (ie. maybe a moderate tax increase to pay for the war rather than shortsighted deficit spending, a serious effort to end our dependence on the oil that funds terrorism, etc). We don't believe he was right to fumble the Tora Bora assault in late 2001, allowing bin Laden to escape. We don't believe the President was right to take his eyes off the worthwhile fight in Afghanistan to start planning an unnecessary, preemptive war against the marginalized Iraq. We don't believe it was then right to proceed with that war without a plan. We don't believe it is right to continue to stay a failed course in Iraq, as our resources are better needed elsewhere.

We believe that using the continuing fight against terrorism to justify illegal torture and murder, kidnappings, illegal prison camps, illegal/warrantless spying on American citizens, restricting free speech and press, and a general increase in presidential power shows a unserious approach, as well as a lack of respect for the democracy and the 'freedoms' our soldiers are supposedly fighting and dying for.

We don't believe that it was right for the President to tell the rest of the world that they exist solely to serve our needs. And we don't believe that it was right for the President to use the 90%+ support we all gave him after 9/11 to divide the American people for the continued political benefit of himself and his party.

We believe that the President's radical actions have made us less safe... and less free here at home.

We want to win this struggle, but we believe that the President and his party are a detriment to that effort.

We also believe that exaggerating the threats that we face, and making our counterterrorism efforts the sole priority of our nation, is not a responsible way to govern. Hurricane Katrina reminded us that our domestic priorities have been immensely neglected as the President pursued his crusade. We believe that is possible to keep our eye on the terrorist ball, while also understanding that we have a committment to the American people to provide for them reliable and affordable healthcare, real jobs, a reliable public infrastructure, a balanced budget, a healthy environment, an education system that works, open and honest government, and a guarantee that the American way of life will not be sacrificed under the guise of protecting it.

We believe that the time for accountability and change has come. On November 7th- your choice is clear. If you want more of the same, vote Republican. If you've had enough, vote Democratic.

[Related reading: Election Endgame: Enough Already (TPMcafe)]

You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown

It's time for more fun with YouTube (what did we ever do without it?). This video is a great campaign ad for a Democratic congressional candidate named Charlie Brown. I wish all the Democratic beltway consultants would see this and take notes... it's exactly the kind of ad all Democrats should be running this Fall.

And that brings me to my next entry...

Quote of the Day

"Who knew, in 2000, that 'compassionate conservatism' meant bigger government, unrestricted government spending, government intrusion in personal matters, government ineptitude, and cronyism in disaster relief? Who knew, in 2000, that the only bill the president would veto, six years later, would be one on funding stem-cell research?

A more accurate term for Mr. Bush’s political philosophy might be incontinent conservatism...

...George Tenet’s WMD 'slam-dunk,' Vice President Cheney’s 'we will be greeted as liberators,' Don Rumsfeld’s avidity to promulgate a minimalist military doctrine, together with the tidy theories of a group who call themselves 'neo-conservative' (not one of whom, to my knowledge, has ever worn a military uniform), have thus far: de-stabilized the Middle East; alienated the world community from the United States; empowered North Korea, Iran, and Syria; unleashed sectarian carnage in Iraq among tribes who have been cutting each others’ throats for over a thousand years; cost the lives of 2,600 Americans, and the limbs, eyes, organs, spinal cords of another 15,000—with no end in sight. But not to worry: Democracy is on the march in the Middle East. Just ask Hamas. And the neocons—bright people, all—are now clamoring, 'On to Tehran!'

What have they done to my party? Where does one go to get it back? One place comes to mind: the back benches."
--Christopher Buckley, asking fellow conservatives to quit while they’re behind.

[See more articles: Time For Us To Go- Conservatives on why the GOP should lose in 2006.]

Friday, September 15, 2006

'Giving Geneva Rights To Terrorists'-- A False Debate

I was listening to KCRW's 'Left, Right, and Center' this afternoon and heard a typical piece of beltway thinking in regards to the political fallout of the President's proposed torture/tribunals legislation. Tony Blankely, the show's right, stated that "my guess is that when the polls come out, you'll see something like 55 or 60% of the public agreeing with the President's position".

The idea that this is an issue that benefits the President or that people will support his position is only true to the extent that it has been debated on Bush's terms and not addressed the more troubling outcome of what the President is attempting... a blank check to engage in the kind of torture already prohibited by military law and Congress and to set up the kangaroo courts only marginally different than those that the Supreme Court already dismissed.

The official conservative spin on this issue (parroted on the few conservative blogs I found today that would even acknowledge Bush's defeat on this by his fellow Republicans) is that 'terrorist rights' advocates like Powell or McCain want to 'give Geneva rights to terrorists'. But that is a false debate... if only because it uses the term 'terrorist' in an extremely broad sense for starters. To set the debate in these terms is the reason that the President moved Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others from his secret CIA prisons to Guantanamo. By shoving the scariest terrorists in the face of Americans (the only thing we have to fear is... everything), the President hopes to make it politically impossible to oppose his draconian measures. There was no other reason why these suspects needed to be transferred at this time. Even Bush's most loyal defenders didn't deny this political reason for the actions when the story broke; rather, they bragged about Bush the Genius. They will make the whole debate about KSM and the others, but that's like using a drop of water to condemn a whole ocean.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others are the exception, not the rule.

Would the majority of people support giving KSM Geneva protections? No, I suppose they would not. But the President's legislation is not about KSM and the others. It is a broad and permanent policy pronouncement, which we will have to live with for years. It is about how we treat our prisoners in general and how we carry ourselves as a nation.

The vast majority of those who have passed through Bush's prisons, or just received some quick torture, were minor players at best... assuming they were even terrorists at all.

When people have looked into the individual cases, they have found that most of those swept in Bush's wide net were only guilty of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Andrew Sullivan did a great writeup on this last week. He wrote, "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. Earlier this year, to cite another investigation, the National Journal examined court documents relating to 132 'enemy combatants' at Gitmo, or about a quarter of the detainees there... [and finds that the] government's documents tie only eight of the 132 men directly to plans for terrorist attacks".

In his war, the President has decided what the rules are: If he decides that you are a terrorist, you are. If he decides that you should be tortured, you will be. If he decides not to call it 'torture' so he can save his own ass politically, it will not be 'torture'. If he decides that your insane ramblings you spout to stop the torture is the truth, then it is true. If he decides to use that 'truth' as the justification for further actions (preemptive wars or security crackdowns at home), then it is proper justification. If he decides to put you on trial without evidence or due process, then you are and always were guilty. Any questions?

Did these people deserve to be robbed of their Geneva protections, their dignity and humanity, and- in some cases- their lives? Is that the argument that the President wants to make to the American people? I doubt it.

So, no the President will not, and should not, win this fight.

Furthermore, at today's press conference, NBC's David Gregory made an excellent point- If the United States decides that the Geneva Conventions (which have been international law for half a century) do not apply to them, then do they still apply to any other nation? How would the President react, Gregory asked, if a foreign government captured a U.S. soldier/officer, subjected him to torture, then tried and convicted him with evidence he wasn't allowed to see? The President dismissed the question as a hypothetical and angrily refused to answer when prodded further.

And Josh Marshall rolls his eyes at the President's argument that "time is running out" for Congress to pass this legislation and that "the program" (gee, that doesn't sound too Orwellian) cannot proceed if Congress will not provide the U.S. intelligence community with the legal "clarity" they need to proceed. Ignoring that legal clarity already exists in the form of the Geneva rules, Marshall correctly disputes the supposed urgency of this. He says "Time is running out to set up military tribunals to try suspected terrorists who we've had in custody for two, three, four, in some cases I think even close to five years with no particular need or urgency to try them at all. But... when Congress comes back in December it'll be too late[?]" I would add, though, that one reason for the rush may be concerns over war crime prosecution.

I hope that the Democrats will continue to stand up to the President on this vital issue and not listen to what the opposition wants them to believe. It is people like Blankely who insisted it was politically expedient in 2002 for Democrats to support the Iraq war resolution. And I hope that that Republicans- Powell and the others- who have stood up to the President will also not back down. He will use the elections and the specter of terrorism to try and force his radical agenda, but he must not succeed.

"The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism"-- Colin Powell.

[Related topic: The President also got called out at the press conference on his warrantless wiretapping program. The President did not give a substantive reply, simply insisting it be called the 'terrorist surveillance program' and then laughing about those semantics. Tim Greave at Salon has the money quote on this false debate: "When anyone suggests that the administration actually follow the law and get a warrant when it engages in wiretapping, Bush and his surrogates immediately claim the critics want to prevent the United States from listening to al-Qaida altogether. We know that's not true, they know that's not true, but they're hoping that there are just enough people out there who don't know any better to keep the Republicans in control of the House and Senate come November."

Atrios also points out some key logic holes in the White House's wiretapping argument.]

Quote of the Day

"No one should ever question the patriotism of somebody who—let me just start over—I don't question the patriotism of somebody who doesn't agree with me."
--President George W. Bush, this morning

I'm sorry, that sound was me laughing and crying at the same time.

Securing Baghdad-- The Moat Strategy

We're really turning the corner now...

AP: Iraq to dig trenches around Baghdad
Iraqi security forces will dig trenches around Baghdad and set up checkpoints along all roads leading into the city to reduce some of the violence plaguing the capital, the Interior Ministry said Friday.

To help halt that bloodshed, more U.S. troops have been shifted to Baghdad from the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, a senior U.S. commander said...

Nothing says 'welcome to our capitol' like a good solid trench.

In related news, I watched the streaming video of the President's press conference this morning (boy, he sure has been chatty lately, no?) and heard a real gem. The President continued to use Zarqawi to justify his invasion of Iraq. After a reporter questioned him on that much-debunked point, Bush conceded the findings of the Senate intelligence Committee that Zarqawi and the Iraqi government had no relationship and that, in fact, Hussein viewed al Qaeda as a threat and wanted Zarqawi kidnapped or gone (Bush also lied- no surprise there- by stating that he had never insinuated a relationship between the two anyway).

However, the President insisted, Zarqawi had been in Iraq at one point and that was enough for him. Note to other countries (including the U.S.): If any terrorist has ever passed between your borders, however briefly or secretly, your country may be invaded at any point. Withusoragainstus and all.

So this war went from being about mushroom clouds and 9/11 to being about... Zarqawi may have passed through at some point. Or something. Who can even keep track anymore. Had enough?

Encouraging Signs, Pt. II

The President's planned torture/kangaroo court legislation just got a major smackdown-
A rebellious Senate committee defied President Bush on Thursday and approved terror-detainee legislation he has vowed to block, deepening Republican conflict over terrorism and national security in the middle of the election season.

Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia, normally a Bush supporter, pushed the measure through his Armed Services Committee by a 15-9 vote, with Warner and three other GOP lawmakers joining Democrats. The vote set the stage for a showdown on the Senate floor as early as next week.

In an embarrassment to the White House, Colin Powell — Bush's first secretary of state — announced his opposition to his old boss' plan, saying ["The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism"]....

...The president's measure would go further than the Senate package in allowing classified evidence to be withheld from defendants in terror trials, using coerced testimony and protecting CIA and other U.S. interrogators against prosecution for using methods that may violate the Geneva Conventions...

Okay, so when is President Bush going to say that these Republicans are aiding the terrorists?

(UPDATE: Oops, he practically did this morning! And told another bin Laden lie to boot.)

Seriously, kudos to all Committee members who took a stand against Bush's draconian plans.

Meanwhile, a revelation by Sen. Graham says that, according to one reporter, "the White House had [military lawyers] in a meeting for five hours... and tried to force them to sign a prepared statement" defending the President's position. Shameful.

Finally, one blogger shares my frustration that it was the Republicans who most vocally stood up to the President on this issue and not the Democrats, who did so quietly and away from the spotlight. "Dear Democrats: Please get off your asses", he writes. Amen.

Encouraging Signs, Pt. I

Encouraging news that warrantless wiretapping may not make it to full passage just yet...

From the AP-
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the [warrantless wiretapping] bill on a party-line vote Wednesday, but it is stalled in the House amid opposition from Democrats and some Republicans concerned that the program violates civil liberties.

And Glenn Greenwald has good news from Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid-
Sen. Reid stated flatly and unequivocally -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that the Specter bill was not going anywhere, that it would not be enacted. I then asked him how he could be so certain about that -- specifically, I asked where the 51 votes against the Specter bill would come from in light of the support it enjoys from both the White House and at least some of the ostensibly "independent" Republicans...

...When I asked him expressly whether the Democrats are committed to filibustering the Specter bill if doing so is necessary to defeat it, he said he thought that would not be necessary, but repeated that they would make sure the Specter bill did not become law. He was unequivocal about that a second time...

Let's hope his efforts, at the least, renew a national debate on this important matter.

Odds and Ends

President Bush met with a number of top conservative journalists at the White House and told them that capturing Osama bin Laden remains a "low priority" for his administration. Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes writes that emphasis on “bin Laden doesn’t fit with the administration’s strategy for combating terrorism.” As Atrios notes, President Bush has quoting bin Laden at length and comparing to Hitler and other historical villains, but capturing him? No, not interested. It would seem that he's too valuable as a rhetorical boogeyman to be removed from the equation.

If Democrats can't run with this, they need serious help. The President just said that the leader of al Qaeda, one of the architects of 9/11, is not a priority for his administration. He needs to be held to account for that position. Whether or not capturing/killing him will have an impact on worldwide terrorism (questioning this is a new GOP talking point) is irrelevant; this is a man who must be brought to justice. It has huge symbolic value in terms of restoring an image of American competence/seriousness in the world, and will allow us to move past 9/11 and move toward a serious, more realistic approach to combating terrorism. Just my two cents.

On a related note, author Robert Dreyfuss calls out the 'war on terror'.

And Sen. Feingold calls out President Bush on his inflammatory 'islamofascist' rhetoric.

Robert 'Douchebag of Liberty' Novak changes his story once again, this time blowing apart Richard Armitage's assertion his leak of Valerie Plame's identity was just harmless gossip. "Armitage did not slip me this information as idle chitchat, as he now suggests. He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column," Novak wrote.

In the Middle East, the situation in the Gaza Strip continues to deteriorate. "It is difficult to exaggerate the economic collapse of Gaza", writes the NY Times. Poverty and violence continue to rise.

Meanwhile, actor/activist George Clooney urged the U.N. to take serious action against "the first genocide of the 21st century", which is taking place in Darfur. Said Clooney: "[T]his genocide will be on your watch. How you deal with it will be your legacy — your Rwanda, your Cambodia, your Auschwitz."

Another Republican goes down... top representative Bob Ney pleads guilty for his role in the Abramoff scandal.

In what should be a warning to cocky Democrats, the Republican Party's voter turnout efforts in the Rhode Island primary suggests how well organized the party is going into the midterm elections. As turnout is key to victory, this is an area where Democrats need to play serious catchup.

Slate magazine looks at where key races stand by.

One blogger wants to know why we have all forgotten the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Finally, the Washington Post reports that "The amount of ice being formed in the Arctic winter has declined sharply in the past two years, a finding that NASA climate researchers say significantly increases their confidence that greenhouse gases created by autos and industry are warming the Arctic and the globe."

In related news, Mike Jackson, chief executive officer of AutoNation Inc, said that the U.S. should raise taxes on gasoline to encourage the development of more fuel-efficient technologies. 'We're at a tipping point here", he said.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Peace In The Middle East?

Time magazine interviewed King Abdullah II of Jordan on a Middle East peace plan for their current issue. I found the interview to be a great read and wanted to share it here. The King seems to be saying all the right things here: that a Palestinian state must be step one on the road to peace, a plan that offers security guarantees for the Israeli people and integration into the Middle East, and a realization that (at this point) Iran is only as big a problem as you make it. Here's the full interview:
Q: Five years after 9/11, has the war on terrorism made the world safer?

What it's done is make it more complicated. We are still not addressing the root causes. The Lebanese war dramatically opened all eyes to the fact that if we don't solve the Palestinian issue, the future looks pretty bleak for the Middle East. Unless we solve the core problems, terrorism in its strength will always be with us.

Q: Why stress the Palestinian issue?

There needs to be some sort of Palestinian integral geographic state, today and not tomorrow. If we don't achieve that, the trend is maybe Israel doesn't want peace, maybe the Americans don't want peace. That's what we moderates are having to fight. We are running out of arguments. If we don't see tangible results on the ground by 2007, then I don't think there will ever be a Palestinian state. Then I think we are doomed to another decade or decades of violence between Israelis and Arabs, which affects everybody.

Q: Why so dire?

A lot of people in the area feel that because Israel is not invincible, as people thought, maybe dialogue is not the way to discuss issues with Israel. The moderate voice now has been neutralized.

Q: What can you do?

We are relaunching the Arab initiative, reaching out to the Israeli public, saying, Look, it is Beirut Plus now. There is movement by core Arab and Muslim countries [Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan], saying, Look, if we solve the Palestinian issue, it is one major step forward in bringing peace and stability to the region.

Q: What's new with Beirut Plus?

The short-term objective is to get straight back to negotiations. But we want to jump ahead to something tangible. We need to get to the point where people want to sign on the dotted line. We want to move to a two-state solution, but we are not going to go back and forth with lawyers until we get there. We need to start building things on the ground. What we have seen with Israel and its Arab neighbors is a unilateral approach. I think it has finally dawned on our friends in Israel that that doesn't work.

Q: What does this plan have for the Israelis?

Security guarantees by the Arabs. The assurance that they [the Israelis] are fully integrated--socially, economically, politically and culturally--into the Middle East.

Q: Is the Bush Administration on board?

The back-and-forth is very positive.

Q: What about Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert?

He is a man that I trust will commit to peace and deliver.

Q: Why should Israel deal with Hamas when you don't trust it either?

I don't think that Israel is looking just at having a problem with Hamas. It is looking further afield and seeing major security challenges. There are other regional powers that are vying for supremacy in this area. Usually when that happens the net result is conflict and violence.

Q: If you mean Iran, does President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scare you?

Nobody scares me. I think part of the Iranian policy is to say, I am here, people, take me seriously.

Q: How tough should the U.S. get with Iran over its nuclear program?

I don't think the Middle East could afford another war. And a war with Iran would open a Pandora's box, one that I don't think the Middle East would recover from.

Almost makes you hopeful, no? Almost.

Senate Judiciary Committee Parties Like It's 1984- Approves Warrantless Wiretapping

News of a Republican party crackup, or a distancing from Bush, has been exaggerated. Ohh sure, they'll quibble over the semantics for the cameras and swing voters, but when the President Bush needs to push his terror Big Brother legislation, they're his dutiful rubberstamp as always.

Today's abdication of their constitutional duties occurred on Arlen Specter's Senate Judiciary Committee, as the warrantless wiretapping bill he engineered with the White House got one step closer to becoming law-
A bill backed by President George W. Bush to enable a court review of his domestic spying program won the approval on Wednesday of a U.S. Senate panel under election-year pressure to safeguard civil liberties.

Bush's Republicans hailed the measure and brushed off Democratic complaints that it could actually further undermine the rights of law-abiding Americans because of what they called loopholes that would expand presidential powers...

...Specter's bill would permit but not mandate a FISA court review. Critics charge it would also expand Bush's powers to eavesdrop. They said the FISA court would review the entire program at once rather than individual wiretaps, which could continue without warrants.

"This bill is all about authorizing the president to invade homes, e-mails and telephone conversations of American citizens in ways that are expressly forbidden by law," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee....

Bold added by me. Another recap: Specter's 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, and still won't have to get, 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.

It rewards the President for breaking the law by legally validating his actions.

This is after numerous courts have either slammed the program's constitutionality or just questioned in general the administration's arguments for denying the program sufficient oversight. Such oversight will be harder to obtain if this legislation is approved by the full Congress.

Glenn Greenwald analyzes the politicial particulars of what was voted on yesterday.

How this went from a major scandal with impeachment implications to an afterthought I will never know. This is such a fundamentally important issue for democracy and the White House has made it a political football. And the media and the Democrats let them. Shame on them all.

Meanwhile, Specter continues pretending his White House-sponsored bill's goal is oversight-
"My search has been to find a way to have a judicial review," said Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican senator who drafted the bill with the White House. "If someone has a better idea, I'm open to it."

Uhhh, how about growing a spine, Arlen?

A related issue, taking longer to nail down, is the President's proposed legislation on torture and tribunals for terror suspects at Gitmo. Republican Sens. Warner, McCain, and Graham continue to quibble with the White House over Bush's demands. McCain said that if the United States redefines abuses under the Geneva treaty, "then every nation in the world will amend Common Article 3 to their satisfaction. Then the next time a special forces soldier is captured out of uniform, then that government will have their own interpretation." Will they stand their ground or do the big fold like Specter? Stay tuned!

So concerned is the President, he's personally going to Capitol Hill to strongarm more GOP support.

UPDATE: Now even Colin Powell has voiced opposition to Bush's legislation. And the Democrats stay silent why?

[Related reading: On spying, GOP senators "work together" -- with the White House
-Glenn Greenwald: Libertarians, Conservatives and Warrantless Eavesdropping
-Digby Low-Tech Sophisticates]

Turning The Corner

Here's some more good news out of Iraq...

Iraq has turned to its neighbor Iran for support-
Iran's president -- hosting a visit from Iraq's prime minister and expressing support for his country's beleaguered war-torn neighbor -- says the Islamic republic supports a "united" Iraq and will help the nation "establish full security," an Iranian news agency reported...

..."Iran will provide assistance to the Iraqi government to establish full security. We believe strengthening the Iraqi government is tantamount to promoting security, peace and friendship in that country," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying...

...Iran and Iraq are linked in large part by common religion, but their relationship is complicated. Iran -- populated largely by Persians, Azeris and Kurds -- is predominantly Shiite Muslim. About 60 percent of the people in Iraq are Shiite, most of whom Arabs...

...Asked what he meant by [a relationship with] no interference, [Iraqi government spokesman Ali] Dabbagh replied that Iraq did not want to be drawn into the disputes between Iran and the United States...

This strong relationship between the two countries no doubt will make it harder for the neocons to sell an invasion of Iran as the next stop in their crusade to remake the Middle East in our image. The Bush defenders will no doubt assure us they don't mind this because, hey Iraq is a free country and can make its own alliances (agreed there), but deep inside they realize what a defeat this for their original gameplan.

As will this news too-
U.N. inspectors investigating Iran's nuclear program angrily complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran's capabilities, calling parts of the document "outrageous and dishonest" and offering evidence to refute its central claims.

Officials of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency said in a letter that the report contained some "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements."...

...The committee report, written by a single Republican staffer with a hard-line position on Iran, chastised the CIA and other agencies for not providing evidence to back assertions that Iran is building nuclear weapons....

On Iraq- UN = right; White House = wrong. But hey, no need to pay attention to them, right?

Meanwhile, nearly 100 people were killed in Baghdad in just a 24-hour period. Freedom sure is untidy.

Jon Stewart Has A Heart-To-Heart With President Bush

An all-time classic segment this past Tuesday, ending with Jon addressing the President-

The Little Richard translation in particular is just genius.

"What I’m saying it this; If this is a battle for civilization, make your case and gear it up. Let’s World War II this thing. Alright? And if it’s not, stop scaring the shit out of everybody every two years."

[Related money quote from Digby: "The entire campaign is built on a Disneyfied version of WWII and boomer childhood nightmare cartoons of The Cold War. They trying to squeeze all the boogeymen of the 20th century into Osama bin Laden's turban in the hope that they can cop a little bit of that Hollywood heroism themselves. (After all, their hero Ronald Reagan didn't actually fight in any real war either --- he just remembered the movies he was in and thought he had.) It is deeply, deeply unserious."

Final note from blueduck- This isn't to say that combating terrorism is not a deeply serious issue. It is. But the administration's approach to it, and their misappropriation of it, creates a whole new set of problems for us. As Stewart's address points out, they will rhetorically call it WWIII for political gain, but their actual approach is indeed deeply unserious.]

Our Crazy Fundamentalist President

It really shouldn't be understated what a crazy person our President is-
President Bush said yesterday that he senses a "Third Awakening" of religious devotion in the United States that has coincided with the nation's struggle with international terrorists, a war that he depicted as "a confrontation between good and evil."

I don't mean this as partisan snark or sarcasm... but that really sounds like the kind of shit Osama says.

2009 cannot come fast enough.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Borat Causes Diplomatic Chaos

No, this isn't an Onion article...

Daily Mail (UK): Bush to hold talks on Ali G creator after diplomatic row
...And now a movie of Borat's adventures in the US has caused a diplomatic incident...

...Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev is to fly to the US to meet President Bush in the coming weeks and on the agenda will be his country's image.

President Nazarbayev has confirmed his government will buy "educational" TV spots and print advertisements about the "real Kazakhstan" in a bid to save the country's reputation before the film is released in the US in November....

Nice. I like.

I also read that the U.S. is planning to test fancy new laser weapons or whatever on American citizens!!!

Life is definitely outpacing whatever satire can make of it.

Matt Lauer Questions Bush on Prisons, Torture / Bush: 'People Wanna Murder Your Family, Matt!!'

NBC's Matt Lauer actually conducted a pretty in-depth interview with the President earlier this week, in particular a discussion of secret prisons and torture. Lauer asked some excellent questions (ie. what exact methods were used, if the interrogation methods used were 'legal' and humane- as Bush insisted- then why were they done in secret prisons whose very existence was denied up until last week). President Bush did not answer these questions. Instead, when not stammering and getting huffy like a little child, he resorted to raising his voice and telling Lauer that evil people want to murder his family and similar emotional appeals. You have to see this one to believe it. Video posted below.

Notice how he sneered at the idea that the rest of the world can question us post-9/11?

You'll also notice a typical Bush contradictory response... insisting that we do not torture, while basically stating that our torture is saving lives. And while they will continue to play the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed card, the fact of the matter is that the majority of people held at prisons like those in Europe or in Abu Ghraib were mostly guilty of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. KSM is the exception, not the rule. Lauer also did a good job always referring to "suspected terrorists", whereas the White House wants to play judge, jury, and executioner by themselves.

As for the President's statement that those in the secret prisons or those in Guantanamo were taken "off the battlefield", that is nonsense. However, since in the neoconservative view of the war on terror the entire world is a 'battlefield', it is a statement of truth in his eyes. We know now as fact that numerous innocent people were held in these prisons, some having been released without explanation, and that they were pulled off the streets of their towns or kidnapped. Andrew Sullivan did a great writeup on this subject last week. Countless innocent people were tortured, some fatally so.

And I have no doubt that 98% of the information we received from brutalizing these miscellaneous Muslims was jibberish and led to dead ends. We already know a lot of the intelligence used to sell the Iraq war was based on the rantings of men who would tell their captors anything they wanted to stop the pain (ie. the case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi). Again, Sullivan did a great writeup on this last week.

The President also briefly, in passing, mentioned the warrantless wiretapping scandal when he stated "we're listening to al Qaeda if they're calling in this country, and some people wanna get rid of that program". Unfortunately, Lauer did not question the President on this statement. As I have lamented on numerous occasions, the media and the Democrats allowed the White House to falsely frame the debate on this scandal as being about wiretapping v. not wiretapping. It has never been about that. It is the Fourth Amendment, the '78 FISA law, checks and balances, and whether we live in a society where the President can override/violate the laws of our land without oversight solely on his say-so. No one opposes wiretapping al Qaeda communications and if they do, the President has yet to name a single person who does. We have a system to allow the President to do that, but he abandoned it to (surprise) go it alone. And he must be held accountable for that.

Finally, Salon's Mark Benjamin takes a detailed look the legislation that the President is urging the Congress to pass for him before the elections (his 'Get Out of Jail card')-
...Some observers, however, say that the bill does much more than establish tribunals [at Guantanamo Bay], and that its true impact is not fully appreciated. Among other things, the White House is seeking to ensure that the Geneva Conventions are no longer an enforceable standard for the United States in the conduct of war. "This is huge," said Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First. "It will be viewed as a rejection of the baseline standards for treatment under the Geneva Conventions."

Now a group of retired military officers is readying a letter to the president that articulates serious objections to Bush's proposal. In an exclusive interview with Salon, the former military attorneys, or judge advocates general, claimed that the legislation would condone abusive interrogations of the sort that were prohibited by the Supreme Court's recent Hamdan decision, and largely gut the War Crimes Act of 1996, a law that gives U.S. courts the authority to convict Americans for Geneva Conventions violations. The bill, the attorneys claim, would endanger U.S. troops who are held prisoner and further erode the stature of the United States in the international community...

Had enough?

[Related: John Yoo summarizes the last 5 years in two short sentences (Glenn Greenwald)]

Conservatives: 'Please Get Rid Of Us'

Some highly respected conservative voices join together to spread a unified message...

...It's time to dump the Republicans.

Washington Monthly: Time For Us To Go-

Conservatives on why the GOP should lose in 2006.

Now that's the kind of common-sense conservatism I can get behind!

Sound Advice

Talking Points Memo features more sound advice for Democrats, this time from a reader-
If the Democrats want to achieve a substantial victory in November there are two words they need to excise from their vocabulary, "ashamed" and "politicized." Those words need to be replaced with "failure" and "accountability." Every time a Democrat gets the understandable urge to cry foul and say the President should be "ashamed" for having "politicized" national security, they need to exercise some self-censorship, and go on the offensive and attack the President for his many failures and promise the American people to hold him accountable...

...Rather than trying to work the refs, Democrats need to remind the American people over and over that this President has failed at everything he has done: he has failed to capture bin Laden, his policy in Iraq is a monumental failure, and he has failed to make the American people safer. Every level of government has broken down because of Bush's mistakes. These guys can't even get the little things right let alone the big stuff. And voting Republican only means more of the same.

Sounds about right to me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Quote of the Day

"What stunned me [during the President's address Monday night] was that instead, with just a few chilling sentences, Bush painted a portrait of war without end, amen. 'The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict,' Bush declared. 'It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation. Our nation is being tested in a way that we have not since the start of the Cold War.'

Think about that presidential prediction. Bush is saying that 50 or 60 years from now, when today's children are worried about cosmetic surgery and their retirement homes, we will still be on the battlements worldwide against an enemy whom we might call al-Qaida, the terrorists, violent Islamic radicals, the evildoers or, simply, them. This is not merely a war like Vietnam that will come to an abject end after it destroys two presidencies. No, in the Bush version of the future, a dystopian epic that might be called 'It's an Awful Life,' peace is a blessed oasis that might not be reached until the era of 'a bridge to the 22nd century.'

Equally hyperbolic is the president's claim that the nation's current struggle represents a time of testing unmatched since the days of the Berlin Blockade, the Korean War, fallout shelters and duck-and-cover drills in elementary schools. Do Bush and his advisors seriously believe that al-Qaida, scattered terrorist cells and the last-throes dead-enders in Iraq constitute a threat graver than the Cuban Missile Crisis?...

...As the president said, 'We are now in the early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom.' He was, of course, trying to fit World War II and Cold War imagery into a modern context. But Bush could have also been describing the long, twilight struggle here at home between the democratic values of Athens and the militaristic ethos of Sparta."
--Walter Shapiro, on the 'never-ending war'

Still Being Taken Seriously

An interesting aspect of conservatism is the internal belief that they are never wrong; their failings are not the fault of conservatism or politicians, but rather abstract factors (such as the media). They'll get it right the next time, they swear! This is definitely true of their Iraq failures, as we are constantly reminded that liberals were still wrong to oppose the war, they were still right to start it, and that it all would've worked out fine... if only it didn't.

Today the usual pundits called for one last escalation of the Iraq war. Read it and weep:

-Glenn Greenwald: Rich Lowry, Serious Foreign Policy Expert, announces his serious plan for victory in Iraq
-Atrios: If at first, second, third ... nevermind, but this time We'll Succeed!
-Think Progress: National Review Editor: ‘People Would React Favorably’ To Escalating Troop Levels In Iraq

This tired "if we just escalate the war a little more and really commit to it, we'll turn the corner for sure this time" rhetoric is exactly the same sort of backwards logic that kept the United States mired in the Vietnam quagmire for well over a dozen years. See if you can find audio of the 1966 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Vietnam in which many of the war's initial supporters- such as Sen. Fulbright- expressed strong doubts that this had all been the wise choice. Regardless, the President and Congress stayed the course, to use Bush's words, and countless thousands of Americans continued to die for nothing until seven years later when the Nixon/Ford administration did the only thing they could do and pulled the plug on that war. That war was unwinnable. The lesson we learned from it wasn't that we should've stuck it out longer, as some delusional conservatives now argue, but that our national interests would've been better served if we had ended it much, much earlier. As Sen. Clark told the Secretary of State in those 1966 hearings- "I would hope very much that we are going to stop escalating this war any further. I think it was about a year ago that you told me we had lots of wiggle room. I think we're running out of wiggle room."

Will Democrats Snatch Defeat From The Jaws of Victory?

It is pretty much conventional wisdom that Democrats will retake the House this Fall, and quite possibly the Senate as well. So why am I not convinced? Well, probably because I've been here before- 2000 and 2004 are the best examples. The Democrats are the sure winners... and then they lose. Of course, I am sure voter fraud counts for a lot of that and I am sure will be in play this year. But considering the GOP's track record, no race should be close enough for that to be a factor.

There is another likely reason, of course- incumbency. The majorities of voters do not pay close attention to politics. They may hate their Senator or Representative, see the ads for his/her opponent, but when they walk into the booth on Election Day (if they do at all) they just push down the level for the name they recognize more- the incumbent. All the anger over Iraq, wages, and gas prices matters little when people vote this way. Strict, down-the-line partisan voting affects this too, but reports indicate the GOP base is shaking on that front. I am encouraged by that news, as well as the unusually high anti-incumbent trends we saw in the summer primary races. So I am holding onto hope.

The NY Times had this depressing news yesterday, however-
In a year when Democrats hope to take control of the House of Representatives, New York would appear to be fertile ground for toppling Republican incumbents. Democrats have a statewide edge in enrollment, and a popular incumbent, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is at the top of the party’s ticket.

Currently there are 54 competitive races in the U.S. House across the country, including five in New York.
In fact, just a few months ago, Democrats envisioned significant gains in New York, perhaps picking up as many as four seats, possibly even five. But that goal now seems increasingly remote, and there is an emerging consensus among political analysts that the party’s best chance for capturing a Republican seat is the battle to succeed Representative Sherwood L. Boehlert, one of the most liberal Republicans in Congress, who is retiring...

So what do Democrats need to do to seal the deal with voters (besides making sure Republicans don't shift focus away from the national debate)? Articulate their opposition strategy.

I turned on local news channel NY1 last night a little bit after President Bush finished his speech. The host was taking calls and emails to get viewers' response to the speech. Not a single person who called or wrote in, not one, liked the speech. They found it uninspiring and said that the rhetoric he used was the same as always, and that they have lost faith in his ability to turn rhetoric into results. This is encouraging. But when a caller brought up the Democrats, a general theme was heard... they are leaning toward them, but they haven't heard the Democrats properly articulate what their policies will be. In addition to simply pointing out the numerous failures of Bush and the GOP, voters want the Democrats to include a forward-thinking aspect to their campaigns, clearly laying out what they would do differently, and better. I hope Sen. Schumer or some of the other Democratic campaign bigwigs were watching.

Talking Point Memo's Josh Marshall has more advice for Dems: Get off your ass-
A message to Dems: Get off your butt, forget the cult of Rove, and start contesting the election.

[T]he bigger victory Rove has managed over Democrats [is this]: his ability to get deep inside the heads of many Democrats and make them think that no matter what the situation or what the available facts suggest, Karl Rove must be on top of the situation and it must be playing to his advantage. The only question is finding out precisely how.

Don't get me wrong. I think the man is a blight on the country, one who consistently uses amoral tactics and often immoral in his goals. But he's no genius. And I think his political gifts are actually quite overstated. The GOP has had a damn good run for the last six years. But I don't think that's mainly because of Karl Rove. I think it's largely because of 9/11 and a pretty effective policy of exploiting it for narrow political goals.

Yesterday, I noted that the RNC is banking on oppo research and personal attacks on Democratic candidates to get them through November in one piece. As a sign of what's to come, they've put in charge of the effort one of their number involved in not one but two recent cases of Republican campaign corruption and criminal conduct.

So, yes, be ready for anything. But it is also hard to think of another time when the incumbent party stood before the country with more of a record of failure, incompetence and corruption as the Republican party of President George Bush does today. That's more than enough to run on, if only the decision is made to really contest this election on the issues before the country, to, in a word, fight.

Also sound advice. The Democrats cannot continue to let the Republicans frame the debate, and then simply yell back at that their framing. They need to set the terms of the debate themselves and be 100% unafraid to challenge the Republicans on any issue, even if their misguided beltway wisdom says it's politically expedient to stay quiet. The squeaky wheel gets the voters. Run, Democrats, run... and put your heart into it this time.

Finally, an encouraging sign... The President's national security fearopalooza may be outlasting its usefulness.

Reality To Vice President Cheney: 'Go Fuck Yourself'

While President Bush attempted- by increasingly low White House standards anyway- to appear apolitical on the anniversary, Cheney was... well, Cheney-
Vice President Cheney offered a veiled attack yesterday on critics of the administration's Iraq policy, saying the domestic debate over the war is emboldening adversaries who believe they can undermine the resolve of the American people.

"They can't beat us in a stand-up fight -- they never have -- but they're absolutely convinced they can break our will, [that] the American people don't have the stomach for the fight," Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The vice president said U.S. allies in Afghanistan and Iraq "have doubts" the United States will finish the job there. "And those doubts are encouraged, obviously, when they see the kind of debate that we've had in the United States," he said. "Suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists."...

Has there ever been a Vice President in the history of the United States with as low an opinion, and as hostile an attitude, toward the American people? This man seems to deplore the very country that he rules over.

What Democrats should be making clear in no uncertain terms- besides the fact that Cheney is a senile madman- is the difference between Afghanistan and Iraq in order to solidify the misguided and delusional priorities of the President and his party. They abandoned the former mission to (wrongly) start the latter... and that has left us increasingly vulnerable with depleted resources and far too many dead. Furthermore, since the President has made clear he will never change course and that he is simply marking time until leaving this mess to his successor, it is vital that we have a Congress that recognizes we are mired in a no-win situation and takes the necessary steps to bring this war to a conclusion.

I think Salon's Tim Greave said it best last month in rebutting another of Cheney's rants: "The case for withdrawal is pretty simple: We shouldn't have invaded Iraq in the first place, and the cost of staying there -- in lives, in money, in the lost opportunities to deal with Osama bin Laden or Iran or North Korea -- far exceeds whatever marginal benefit there may be in staying the course, which is serving mostly to make Americans a target and create a dangerous sort of codependency on the part of the Iraqi government and its fledgling security forces."

Democrats, take some notes. That's the simple case you need to be making to voters.

Finally, reality (a well-known terrorist appeaser) has more bad news for Mr. Cheney-
The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

The officials described Col. Pete Devlin's classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar as the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed so negative a report from Iraq...

Had enough?

Social Security Privatization, Take 2?

All signs indicate that the President will try it one last time-
Still don't believe Social Security is on the ballot this November?

In an interview published today in The Wall Street Journal, President Bush told editorial page editor Paul Gigot that next year he plans on partially phasing out Social Security and replacing it with private accounts, and that he thinks he can do it as long as the Republicans retain control of Congress, which he thinks they will...

Just one more reason to throw these bums out in November.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Quote of the Day

"What's also telling, as usual, is what Bush didn't say yesterday, and doesn't say, period.

He doesn't say we won't allow ourselves to be terrorized, and we won't be afraid. (That would run counter to the central Republican game plan for the mid-term election.) He doesn't say that in our zeal to fight the terrorists, we won't give up the qualities that make America great. He acknowledges no mistakes, he calls for no sacrifice, he refuses to reach out to those who disagree with him." columnist Dan Froomkin, in today's column.

(And to make that indictment of Bush seem tame, see what Keith Olbermann has to say.)

The Politics Of It

President Bush is going to give a speech tonight. I do not intend to watch it, and short of some monstrous new policy shift or announcement, I do not intend to blog about it after it is done. It will be the same speech he's been giving for five years filled the same platitudes about freedom and the same political posturing. The only real mystery is guessing which of his disastrous, unamerican policies he will use the shadow of 9/11 to defend and demand renewed support for. The Iraq war? Guantanamo Bay and secret prisons in Europe? Torture? Warrantless wiretapping and data-mining? Iraq is a given, but he may throw in one of those other things if he's feeling ballsy enough.

I intended not to blog about the politics 0f 9/11 today- letting my last rememberance post stand alone- but then I realized that violated my earlier post about moving on. Touche, me. And since the terrorists 'hate us for our freedoms' (and no other reason!), I also realized I would be doing ol' Osama- remember him?- a favor if I gave the politics a pass on this somber afternoon.

Rather than explore the politics aspects and aftermaths of all this myself, I will simply link to some articles and commentaries I found interesting today. Maybe you will find something of interest to you in the bunch.

-AFP: Fifth 9/11 anniversary marked by tears and politics
-NY Times: The Hole in the City’s Heart
-Washington Post: Bin Laden Trail 'Stone Cold'

-Bob Burnett (HuffPost): The Legacy of 9/11
-Salon War Room: The path to Iraq
-David Corn (The Nation): Cheney, 9/11 and the Truth about Iraq
-Eric Alternman: 9/11: America attacked twice
-Atrios: The Good War
-Robert Scheer (TruthDig): Robert Scheer: Gaping Holes in the 9/11 Narrative
-Attytood (Will Bunch): The Emperor's New Clothes: How 2nd graders saw what the American media wouldn't report
-The American Prospect (Michael Tomasky): Ground Zero ceremony 'left aside the partisan rancor'??
-George Lakoff (HuffPost): Five Years After 9/11: Drop the War Metaphor
-Americablog: The lessons of September 11

TruthDig has a good video compilation. Think Progress features a comprehensive timeline.

(And yes, this is a real wire service photograph from today)

September 11

Where does one even begin? So much has happened in the past five years politically that this day has taken on a second meaning for me. But I've covered that already. Being at the World Trade Center that morning, I saw things I wish would never have to experienced by anyone in this world ever again. In a perfect world, the cycle of violence would not continue. But the world is not perfect. I honor those we lost that morning not only in New York but in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon too, those who now suffer from illness because of their rescue efforts afterward, and all those anywhere who have died since in related conflicts.

Most vivid in my mind is staring up at the flaming hole in a tower that had been ubiquitous in our skyline, a firefighter telling me to leave the building as I stared out in the debris-covered Trade Center courtyard, flaming plane and office debris hurtling through the air after the second plane plowed through the tower, and the horrifying sound of people hitting concrete who had lept 90+ floors to their death in fear. I also remember, as I humorously recall to my friends, the two bagel stand guys down in the concourse below the Trade Center debating whether they needed the boss' permission to close up and leave, right after the first plane hit, back when no one was really sure what was going on. I remember as well, minutes after the second tower was hit, standing several blocks away down Church Street and pondering the political implications of what was happening around me. I was walking uptown, at about 21st and 1st avenue, when the first tower fell.

What I also remember- and what I will choose to focus on as I recall that day- are the spontaneous acts of human kindness and compassion that I saw all around Manhattan that day. New Yorkers had always endured a reputation as gruff, antisocial people who would just as soon steal your watch as give you time of day. 9/11 dispelled that myth. I saw with my own eyes that day strangers hugging strangers, firetrucks and ambulances being applauded as they sped by, and people lined up so deep to donate blood that hospitals actually had to turn people away. We were united- not just New York, but America, and the world.

Of course, later that day, I saw my first sign that such peace and unity was not to last. Waiting on line at a supermarket that evening with a friend of mine of Indian descent, a man behind us on line tapped her shoulder. "Are you from over there?", he asked angrily. We said nothing and paid for our purchases and left. She cried the whole way home. I knew the backlash to what had happened that day would not be pleasant.

That night we walked downtown, past the candlelight vigils in Union Square down toward St. Mark's Place. There I was returned to the unity and peace that I will remember as my reflection on that day. Everyone was quiet, deep in serious conservations or in silent reflection. I saw more strangers hugging strangers that night. And makeshift memorials all over town. It was uplifting.

That is what I am going to focus on this morning. I hope you will too.

It's Going To Get Uglier

Andrew Sullivan previews the next stage of the GOP's political survival strategy-
Next week, I'm informed via troubled White House sources, will see the full unveiling of Karl Rove's fall election strategy. He's intending to line up 9/11 families to accuse McCain, Warner and Graham of delaying justice for the perpetrators of that atrocity, because they want to uphold the ancient judicial traditions of the U.S. military and abide by the Constitution. He will use the families as an argument for legalizing torture, setting up kangaroo courts for military prisoners, and giving war crime impunity for his own aides and cronies. This is his "Hail Mary" move for November; it's brutally exploitative of 9/11; it's pure partisanship; and it's designed to enable an untrammeled executive. Decent Republicans, Independents and Democrats must do all they can to expose and resist this latest descent into political thuggery. If you need proof that this administration's first priority is not a humane and effective counter-terror strategy, but a brutal, exploitative path to retaining power at any price, you just got it.

Don't it just make ya proud? Bill Clinton's got the money quote on the Republican's use of these themes and tactics: "They've trotted that dog out for the last three elections - and it's got mange all over it."

Digby predicts Sens. McCain, Warner and Graham will cave. Knowing McCain, it is likely.

But that's a national campaign. What are Republicans planning to do on the local level?-
Republicans are planning to spend the vast majority of their sizable financial war chest over the final 60 days of the campaign attacking Democratic House and Senate candidates over personal issues and local controversies, GOP officials said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which this year dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates, plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads.

The hope is that a vigorous effort to "define" opponents, in the parlance of GOP operatives, can help Republicans shift the midterm debate away from Iraq and limit losses this fall...

I really wish I could pull a Rip Van Winkle and not wake up until the morning of election day. This election season is going to put all others to shame. This current Republican party, probably one of the most incompetent and shrill majorities in American history, is not going to down without a fight. It will be a bloodbath and God help us if the Democrats aren't up to the fight.

And that's not even factoring in the real and serious threat of voter fraud and disenfranchisement on Election Day- their other tried-and-true 'Hail Mary pass'. Hopefully, someone is keeping an eye on that too.

Pathological Liars

Speaking of lies...

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee finally released a much-delayed report on the case that was made for the Iraq war. Among its key findings were that "There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida... 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 report also noted that Hussein saw Al Qaeda as a threat to his regime. Most of this has been known for some time, but the obvious cannot be confirmed enough. Why is that? Because nothing will ever stop the pathological liars in the White House from continuing to deceive the American people.

Case in point: Vice President Cheney's appearance yesterday on 'Meet the Press'.

Let's look at a transcript (with bold added by me)-
CHENEY: You’ve got Iraq and Al Qaeda, testimony from the Director of C.I.A. that there was indeed a relationship — Zarqawi in Baghdad. et cetera. Then the..

RUSSERT: The committee said there was no relationship. In fact, Saddam —

CHENEY: I haven’t seen the report. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

RUSSERT: But Mr. Vice President the bottom line is…

CHENEY: We know that Zarqawi running the terrorist camp in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. After we went in after 9/11, then fled and went to Baghdad and set up operations in Baghdad in the spring of 2002 and was there and then basically until the time we launched into Iraq.

Condoleeza Rice was also trying to reassert these debunked lies on Fox News.

It's amazing, but not even remotely surprising.

(Oh a reminder- they didn't plan for a post-war either and find the actual number of civilian deaths irrelevant. And that Iraqi constitution? It's seen better days.)

[PS- The Bush cultists over at Powerline are furious too... at the Senate Intelligence Committee for releasing this pesky report. Darn you, you... Republican-controlled Committee!! They then insist that we need to vote for Republicans this Fall, to, ummm, stop these Republicans from doing... ahh, whatever, I give up.]

Best. War. Ever!

Trailer for a new book called "The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq"-

It's actually a pretty good compilation of the story thus far. Let's hope there's no sequel.

Website- The Best War Ever

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Run Al, Run!

An encouraging headline...

AP: Al Gore Says He Hasn't Ruled Out 2nd Run

Moving On

Rather than indulge in today's 9/11 mediapalooza, I am reposting this entry...

In their issue which poses the question 'What If 9/11 Never Happened?', New York magazine also has an article on the grief culture that has consumed America since the attacks (the "age of terror" the main article calls it). It definitely spoke to something I've been thinking about about for a while... namely, as I mentioned in my entry yesterday about refocusing the war on terror, that it's time to stop letting said war dominate American life and politics. Our leaders and relevant agencies (FBI/CIA/NSA/Military) will still be dealing with the terrorist threat and tracking down plots on a daily basis- and have been for over a decade- but the country as whole needs to finally move on.

That may sound harsh to some, but eventually the grieving process does come to an end. Five years later, it's definitely past time. We always remember those we lost, but we move on. To allow one singular event- no matter how powerful- to dictate the policies and lifestyles of a nation like ours is simply irrational. If a psychiatrist was diagnosing America and its behavior post-9/11, he'd definitely recommend we be medicated. A "national neurosis, a perpetual childhood," the article calls it. In addition, as the article notes, this grief culture plays into the hands of our enemies by making us appear weak and fragile... two words one would not normally associate with this country. We have let the terrorists win by legitimizing their power and winning their PR war for them.

This stalled, perpetual grieving culture can be blamed on the two parties most responsible for enabling it-- firstly, the politicians, namely the Bush administration whose political survival depends on the 'daddy state' they created to hide their foreign and domestic failures. Secondly at fault is the media, who love the sexy excitement that can be exploited from terror stories. We have the power to force them to stop this charade by moving on ourselves. We have to. So many important issues- namely the entire domestic agenda of the United States (job creation, healthcare, minimum wage, rebuilding New Orleans, immigration, etc)- have been on pause for the last five years. We can finally tackle those issues while keeping our eye on the terrorism ball, if we learn to put the latter in its proper context.

We shouldn't forget the lessons of that day, but it's time to be America again.

Let's move on.


Here's my quote of the day...

"That [post-9/11] unity was never going to last. The world more easily prefers a superpower when it's wounded and weakened than when it rises and growls. But we have not merely returned to the messy family arguments of Sept. 10. We are divided at home, dreaded abroad, in need of a hard conversation about America's vital interests and abiding values but too bitter and suspicious to have it.

All wars, even the noblest, bring a reckoning of means and ends. The war on terrorism has long since lost its crisp moral lines. Who foresaw that the battle would require a national seminar about when it's O.K. for Americans to torture prisoners and whether near drowning counts? Or a debate over which clauses of the Constitution might be expendable? We may agree that terrorism is wicked, but we're still unsure about how to answer it."
--Nancy Gibbs, wondering in Time Magazine 'What We've Learned'.

A related article at Salon sums up how I feel this weekend:
What we lost

Almost 3,000 Americans died on Sept. 11, 2001. But our losses are still mounting -- in Iraq and at home -- thanks to the bullying, big-lie culture that dominates American politics today.

One of the greatest post-9/11 failures (beyond our foreign policy ones) was the squandering of the post-9/11 moment and all the opportunities it provided. Not only were Americans united as one, but the world was with us as well. Never before has a President had such an opportunity to lead his country, and the world, in a new direction. But, despite a decent start in those first few weeks, it was pissed away. 'We are all Americans' quickly was replaced by 'with us or against us'. 9/11 and terrorism was used to divide the American people, worse then they were before the attack, and score cheap political victories. The Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Iraq and the lies surrounding it, Abu Ghraib, continued tax cuts, wiretapping... it just kept piling up. I am ashamed of what has been done in our names. I don't like reflecting on this weekend and having my thoughts be on the President; this never should have been political. But he made that decision for us five years ago. And for what was this moment pissed away? For expanded presidential power? For war? For partisan gain? I don't know, I don't think anyone knows.

I hope that, whatever the reason, it was worth it, Mr. President.

[Related read: Historians Will Morally Impeach George W. Bush For Exploiting, Not Honoring, 9-11]

Rumsfeld Refused To Plan For Post-War/U.S. Cooks Books On War Dead

Just when you thought you'd read all the bad stories on the politics behind the Iraq war, a new revelation creeps up that- bam!!- reminds you of what a horrible scam these neocons pulled on the American people.

Knight-Ridder Wire: Army general says Rumsfeld refused to plan for post-war Iraq
Long before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists to develop plans for securing a post-war Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said Thursday...

..."Then, just as we were barely into Afghanistan Rumsfeld came and told us to get ready for Iraq." [said Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid]...

..."The secretary of defense continued to push on us that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we're going to take out the regime, and then we're going to leave," Scheid said. "We won't stay."..

..."I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that" [we needed post-invasion operations like security, stability and reconstruction], Scheid said...

"He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war."...

Bold added by me... Do I even need to comment on this one?

Revelation #2- the U.S. is redefinining what counts as 'death' in Iraq to cut down death tolls-
U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure the results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, aren't counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of the country's sectarian violence.

In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.

That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July.

But it eliminates from tabulation huge numbers of people whose deaths are certainly part of the ongoing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Not included, for example, are scores of people who died in a highly coordinated bombing that leveled an entire apartment building in eastern Baghdad, a stronghold of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr...

I'm shocked. I didn't think they were even counting the killed Iraqis at all!

I know it's not blowjob perjury, but someone should be impeached/fired over all this.

[PS- Because these revelations are so depressing, I decided to find good news about Iraq to balance it out: "Millions of Shiite pilgrims thronged the streets of Karbala on Saturday for a religious festival that ended peacefully amid tight security... About 4 million people were in Karbala for the festival observing the birthday of Imam al-Mahdi al-Muntadhar, a ninth century religious leader." And almost no one was murdered!]