Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Iran: Here We Go Again, Mainstream Media and All

In case you hadn't noticed, we're being manipulated toward another war. The run-up to an attack on Iran is in full swing, and the justification for it is shifting as fast as the justification for invading Iraq did. And it appears that the media is being as compliant in echoing the Bush administration's message on Iran as it was in supporting their Iraq propaganda.

Thanks to Steven D of Booman Tribune for calling our attention to this scintillating piece of propaganda from a CNN report posted on Wednesday:
Iranian-U.S. tensions have been ratcheted up recently, with two U.S. officials theorizing about the possibility that Iran was involved in a January 20 attack that killed five U.S. soldiers.

Two officials from separate U.S. government agencies said Tuesday the Pentagon is investigating whether the attack on a military compound in Karbala was carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives.

"People are looking at it seriously," one of the officials said, adding that the Iranian connection was a leading theory in the investigation.

The second official said: "We believe it's possible the executors of the attack were Iranian or Iranian-trained."

We've become so inured to hearing from "unnamed sources" that we hardly question any more why the sources are left unidentified or how credible they are, or what their motivations in talking to the media might be.

One thing we can be fairly certain of is that the "two officials" cited in this story are not whistle blowers. Whistle blowers don't make statements that support administration policies, nor do they couch their language in disclaimers. Notice how every allegation of Iranian involvement in the Karbala attacks is accompanied with modifying language: the Pentagon is investigating, people are looking at it seriously, we believe it's possible…

The CNN article later states that "Some Iraqis speculate that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps carried out the attack in retaliation for the January 11 capture by U.S. forces of five of its members in Irbil."

Who would those "some Iraqis" be, and who told the author of this article that they speculate Iran's Revolutionary Guard carried out the Karbala attack? For that matter, why doesn't the author's name appear in a byline? Yes, big news agencies often publish stories without crediting their staff writers, but this story contains serious political content attributable to no virtually no one. The only person it specifically cites is Mr. Bush, and that was in a specific reference to a statement he made in a Monday interview with National Public Radio. It's kind of hard to quote a public statement the president of the United States and hide the source of the statement.

"I Believe"

Masters of manipulation who use misinformation, disinformation, false propaganda and other rhetorical means of mass mind control know how to both exploit the abstraction aspects of the communication process and couch their language in a way that covers the territory above their fetlocks.

They know that as a message works its way through the echo chamber, the qualifying language will fade below the noise threshold while the "message" will continue to reverberate loudly and clearly. They know that "We believe it's possible the executors of the attack were Iranian or Iranian-trained" will eventually be rebroadcast as "The executors of the attack were Iranian or Iranian-trained."

But by having included the disclaimers in their original statements, they can always disavow culpability for having deliberately misled the public. Keep that in mind when you hear the likes of Messrs. Bush and Cheney say they firmly "think" or "believe" something to be true about Iraq, Iran or any other "factual" information they use to justify their foreign policy decisions.

Were irony alive and with us, it would roll its eyes at the mainstream media's willingness to echo the administration's pro-Iranian war propaganda even as Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter now testifying in the I. Lewis Libby trial, tries to defend her role in the Bush administration's media manipulation that led to the Iraq invasion.

MSNBC just ran a piece by notably unreliable source Jim Miklashevski that talked about claims that Iran is behind all the recent violence in Iraq. After Micklashevski's segment, the pretty talking head admitted than nothing Mick had said had been proven, but I doubt anybody heard what she said.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Iran: Once More Unto the Quagmire

James Glanz of the New York Times reports that Iran plans to expand its economic and military ties with Iraq.

Imagine that. Iran, a neighbor of Iraq, a country with which it fought its only modern war, has expressed an interest in being part of the solution to Iraq's security and rebuilding equation. How dare they?

And what subversive, violent steps do the Iranians propose to cement those ties? They want to establish an Iranian national bank branch in Baghdad. Shudder. We better get more troops in Baghdad right away to make sure that doesn't happen.

Mr. Bush says we "will respond firmly" if Iran steps up military actions in Iraq that threaten U.S. troops or Iraqi citizens.

Mr. Bush claims Iran is providing bad guys in Iraq with weapons. He's not real clear about explaining which Iraqi bad guys Iran is giving those weapons to.

Iran's president says his country only wants nuclear capability for peaceful purposes. Mr. Bush tells us Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons. We can't tell for sure which president is telling the truth about Iran's nuclear intentions, but as far as we know, Iran's president hasn't told us a lie yet.

Iran's president says the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty guarantees his country the "inalienable right" to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. This is true.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has told us that our major allies are united with us in efforts to isolate Iran. This is far from the truth.

China and Russia are Iran's energy partners. European governments are resisting American pressure to apply sanctions on Iran, citing "technical and political problems related to the heavy European economic ties to Iran and its oil industry."

Saudi Arabia is collaborating with Iran in an effort to mediate an agreement to end the violent political crisis in Lebanon.

Saudi writer and academic Khaled al-Dakhil says that "The United States is the first to be blamed for the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East."

In October, our buddies in Kuwait reneged on a promise to send observers along on a U.S. led naval exercise in the Gulf. A U.S. State Department official said the Kuwaitis were being careful "not to antagonize the Iranians."

Mr. Bush has authorized U.S. troops to kill or capture any member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard or its intelligence services believed to be working with Iraqi militias. Many in the U.S. intelligence agencies and State and Defense Departments are skeptical of this move, fearing it will exacerbate the growing conflict between Tehran and Washington.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh has encouraged the U.S. and Iran to resolve its differences.

Mr. Bush still asserts that he wants to solve U.S. problems with Iran through diplomacy, but he still refuses to have direct diplomatic talks with Iran.

The Bushketeers

Mr. Bush says he doesn't intend to invade Iran. There's one Bush statement we can believe. He doesn't intend to invade Iran because he can't. His ground forces are tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he can bomb the bedazzle out of Iran from the air and the sea, and with each passing day it looks more and more like that's precisely what he intends to do.

The time for dismissing suggestions that Bush has ambitions of expanding his Middle East wars into an apocalyptic global conflict as conspiracy theory is over. The time is coming--and it's coming very soon--where Congress will have to take swift, draconian measures to slam the brakes on the administration's train wreck of a foreign policy.

If Congress can't curb Bush's reckless pursuit of war without end, America will be up the proverbial creek with neither a paddle nor a canoe. The Supreme Court won't stop him. Even if it were inclined to, the judicial system doesn't work fast enough. The media, the supposed fourth estate or our Constitutional system, has crumbled under the weight of neo-Orwellianism. The so-called "liberal media" has become, wittingly or unwittingly, a compliant tool of the Big Brother Broadcast. Just this morning (Tuesday) I listened to MSNBC "correspondents" and "analysts" echo the administration's propaganda on Iran, unfiltered, as if it were proven "fact."

Don't fall for the canard that says Bush can't do any more damage to American power and prestige because he's a "lame duck." If he continues to get his way, we'll be stuck so deep in the quicksand that a herd of elephants and a team of mules together won't be able to haul us out of it.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sunday Yak About Iraq

Also at DKos.

The latest round of Sunday political gabfests reinforced my belief that the Iraq escalation plan is a very bad idea. The folks who support Mr. Bush's policy continue to echo the same pocketful of talking points, and those points don't make sense. In all, the essence of the pro-escalation rhetoric now boils down to five basic arguments.

1) We should give the new strategy a chance to succeed.

A parallel and perhaps more honest argument would be that we should give a bad strategy a chance to fail, and just about everybody can see the insanity of that position.

The only thing certain in war is uncertainty, or what Carl von Clausewitz referred to as "fog and friction." No plan, even a superior one, survives first contact with the enemy, and least not in total. No one, including its most ardent proponents, asserts that there's anything "sure fire" about the escalation plan, or even that it has a better than 50-50 chance of succeeding. Heck, they still can't give a cogent definition of what "success" in Iraq might be.

Figuring the odds of success or failure of any given war plan is a dicey proposition (pun intended), but the escalation strategy contains so many inherent flaws that it seems doomed to flop like a grounded trout.

To begin with, the 20 something thousand U.S. troop infusion is, by oncoming U.S. Iraq commander David Petraeus's own estimate, too small to restore order to Baghdad and the al-Anbar province. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Petraeus said that he'll make up the difference with Iraqi troops and American civilian contractor security forces. But wait a minute. Iraqi troops have a significant track record of being unreliable, and American contractor security forces have a reputation for being a battery of loose cannons.

Unity of command will be lacking. The Iraqi forces will fall under a separate chain of command, outside of Petraeus's direct control, and the contracted mercenaries seem to answer to no one. That's a sure-fire recipe for disaster. You can't have unity of effort without unity of command, and without unity of effort, any war plan is toast before it goes into the mixing bowl.

Ultimately, the escalation strategy relies on the Iraqi government meeting certain benchmarks and getting its act together, and that government has shown no ability or inclination to do either of those things.

2) We should support the Commander in Chief.

We did support the Commander in Chief, time and time and time again. He's been wrong every time, and there's no reason to think he's gained any wisdom over the years because he's still listening to the same advisers. The architects of the escalation strategy are the same group of neoconservative's who talked young Mr. Bush into his Iraq misadventure in the first place.

The Constitution makes Bush the Commander in Chief of the military, not the country. It divides war-making powers between the executive and legislative branches. In fact, it places the power to decide to go to war, as well as regulation of the military, in the hands of Congress. The Constitution makes no distinction between the Commander in Chief's "powers" in wartime or peacetime. The only "war powers" law on the books presently applicable is the War Powers Resolution of 1973, and that law was intended to limit presidential power to conduct war, not to expand it.

This Commander in Chief has led us around corners into one blind alley after the next. He's lost all claim to authority to lead us anywhere anymore.

3) Criticism of the policy emboldens the enemy.

The enemy is about as emboldened as it can get. "Shock and Awe" tactics from the mightiest nation in human history didn't defeat them, and there's no indication that it ever will.

As Jim Webb said on Face the Nation, "Who is the enemy?" The conflict in Iraq had more sides than the Pentagon, if not more. To say that open debate on policy and strategy in a supposedly free society will "embolden" a nameless, faceless enemy is to concede that that enemy--who or whatever it is--has already won.

4) Any anti-escalation resolution passed by Congress will send a negative signal to our troops.

This argument is the latest variation of the "support the troops" canard. Hopefully, you've notice that with the exception of John McCain, opponents of the escalation strategy actually served in the military and or have experienced war up close and personally, and proponents of it had "other priorities" when it was their time to serve in a bad American war.

More importantly, though, regardless of who does or doesn't support the escalation, we don't decide policy and strategy based on what the troops like or don't like.

5) If General David Petraeus supports the escalation policy, and the Senate confirmed General David Petraeus to be U.S. commander in Iraq, the Senate must support the escalation policy.

Generals give orders to the troops, not to Congress. Whether Petraeus really supports escalation or is simply marching to his boss's tune, the ultimate policy decision isn't his to make. Whatever orders he eventually receives from Mr. Bush will be the result of the contest of wills between Mr. Bush and Congress.

Last Chance

My overwhelming impression is that pro-escalation types don't really believe the escalation will accomplish anything, and what I hear between the lines is, "It's our last chance, so we have to try it."

That's not a good reason to try something you don't think will succeed, especially something that involves considerable cost and risk.

I've been on the fence about the wisdom of passing non-binding resolutions, but have come around to favoring one. That will give Mr. Bush one last chance to come to his senses before Congress has to pull the money plug.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Friday, January 26, 2007

"Last Throes" Cheney: Same Old Dick, Same Old Tricks

Also at DKos.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."


In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, Dick Cheney continued to insist that the things are going great guns in Iraq. In a rapidly changing world, it's comforting to see that some things stay the same, huh?

From Peter Baker of the Washington Post:
Vice President Cheney said yesterday that the administration has achieved "enormous successes" in Iraq but complained that critics and the media "are so eager to write off this effort or declare it a failure" that they are undermining U.S. troops in a war zone…

…The pressure is from some quarters to get out of Iraq," he told CNN. "If we were to do that, we would simply validate the terrorists' strategy that says the Americans will not stay to complete the task, that we don't have the stomach for the fight."

…Cheney said the administration would disregard the nonbinding resolution opposing the troop increase and suggested it undermines soldiers in a war zone. "It won't stop us," he said. "And it would be, I think, detrimental from the standpoint of the troops."

Only Dick Cheney could claim, with a straighter face than he managed to keep during Mr. Bush's recent State of the Union address, that we have achieved "enormous successes" in Iraq. Maybe he was talking about the enormous gains in his stock options in his old company Halliburton.

Only Dick Cheney, who had "other priorities in the 60s" than fight in the Vietnam conflict, and who avoided serving in a time of war by securing five draft deferments, would accuse his fellow Americans of not having the "stomach" to fight.

But Cheney's not alone in his cynical use of Orwellian rhetoric that blames critics and the media for failures of strategies and policies that he himself helped formulate, execute and support. And he's hardly the only member of the neoconservative echo choir who claims that checks, oversight or criticism of his neoconservative initiatives will be "detrimental" to the troops or "validate the terrorists' strategy."

The Cheney Republic

Not only does Cheney say that Congress "won't stop us" from escalating the war in Iraq. He appears to be creating a situation in which Congress can't stop his military/industrial gravy train from rolling into Iran.

Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane of Raw Story tell us in a recent article how Cheney's office has been manipulating America toward a war with Iran since before the Bush administration even took power.

According to Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker and others, Cheney was the U.S. official who gave the "green light" to Israel for its recent incursion into Lebanon. Once Cheney gave the thumbs-up to the operation, according to one of Hersh's sources, “…persuading Bush was never a problem, and Condi Rice was on board."

The War Drum Beat Goes On

Cheney also appears to be a key player behind our recent in air strikes in Somalia, supposedly aimed at al-Qaeda leaders but which, by best accounts, failed to kill the al-Qaeda leaders they were targeting. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said that he was not aware of any White House consultation with Congress prior to the air strikes. I have not heard of anyone in Congress asking what the hell is going on in Somalia?

Our once mighty country is under the control of a man who is part Rasputin, part Svengali and part Machiavelli.

I can't wait to see what he tells Mr. Bush to decide next.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Iraq: Smoke, Mirrors and Escalation

"Every battle is won before it is fought."

-- Sun Tzu

Conversely, every battle is also lost before it's fought.

During his State of the Union address Tuesday, Mr. Bush asked members of Congress critical of his new Iraq strategy to "give it a chance to work." If ever a strategy appeared to have no chance to work, it's the one we're about to execute as part of the "way forward."

Earlier on Tuesday Lt. General David Petraeus, on tap to become the new U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services committee that the "new" military strategy for Iraq can work, but not if the Iraqi government fails to carry out its political reconciliation program.

The government reconciliation program will be a difficult thing to carry out if the Iraqi politicians don't start attending sessions of parliament.

Damien Cave of the New York Times reports that:
[Iraq's] Parliament in recent months has been at a standstill. Nearly every session since November has been adjourned because as few as 65 members made it to work, even as they and the absentees earned salaries and benefits worth about $120,000.

Part of the problem is security, but Iraqi officials also said they feared that members were losing confidence in the institution and in the country’s fragile democracy. As chaos has deepened, Parliament’s relevance has gradually receded.

Petraeus, who oversaw development of the Army's new field manual on counterinsurgency, acknowledged that his own guidelines called for 120,000 troops to secure a city the size of Baghdad. Once the "surge" is in place, Petraeus will only have 32,000 U.S. troops in Baghdad, but he figures that ought to be enough because, well, he'll also have about 63,000 Iraqi troops and a bunch of civilian contractors (i.e., mercenaries) to guard government buildings and such.

Except that, uh, no, Petraeus won't exactly "have" all those extra forces because the Iraqi forces will be under direct Iraqi control, meaning Iraqi commanders will answer not to Petraeus but to the Iraqi government whose parliament can't assemble a quorum. And the U.S. civilian contractors aren't exactly under Petraeus's control because they're, um, civilians. Senator Lindsey Graham has introduced legislation that will bring contractors under military jurisdiction, but such a law will likely raise constitutional challenges.

This situation violates the "unity of command" warfare principle, a tenet of armed conflict that most military thinkers consider absolutely essential to any successful combat operation.

And yeah, Petraeus says he has concerns about that.

Phantom Benchmarks and Standard Disclaimers

One of the conditions of the new plan/new strategy/new way forward or whatever we're calling it today is that the Iraqi government--the one that never meets--agrees to meet a series of benchmarks. Carl Levin (D-MI) of the Senate Armed Services Committee has repeatedly asked the administration for a list of those benchmarks, but none have been forthcoming. Levin has threatened to use the committee's subpoena power to obtain the list, but having the list made public, or at least available to the committee, may not make a fly's eyelash worth of difference because whatever the benchmarks are, it doesn't appear Petraeus or anyone else in the administration plans to hold the Iraqi's responsible for meeting them.

Tuesday Morning, prior to Patraeus's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post reported that Patraeus…
…plans to send all 17,500 additional U.S. troops ordered by President Bush into Baghdad, regardless of whether Iraqi army units join the fight as planned, according to officials familiar with his thinking. Anticipating an uneven performance by the Iraqi army, military planners are advocating using American force and funding quickly to establish early victories, both in improving security and showing economic progress.

Maybe Patraeus hopes that the Iraqi units will refuse to show up, as they've refused to so often in the past. That might solve a large part of his unity of command problem, but it leaves him another 60 something thousand troops short of the number he himself says he needs to bring Baghdad under control.

Pundits and politicians across the political spectrum describe Petraeus as the finest mind in our military today. Based on what I've heard from him in the past few weeks, I'd say he's madder than a Lewis Carroll hatter. I'd also say he's turned into a world-class political sycophant.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), a vocal proponent of escalation, asked Petraeus if Senate approval of a resolution assailing Mr. Bush’s new strategy could hurt the morale of American troops. “It would not be a beneficial effect, sir,” Petraeus said.

Senator Joe Lieberman (?-CT), who also backs the escalation, asked Petraeus if such a resolution would “give the enemy some encouragement” Petraeus replied, “That’s correct, sir.”

This "encourage the enemy" and "demoralize the troops" rhetoric is the center of gravity of the Bush administration's Orwellian campaign to squelch any and all criticism and oversight of its woebegone Iraq flop, and Petraeus has, by all indications, bought into it.

Petraeus is being set up to be the ultimate goat. Our escalation in Iraq looks to be a historic equivalent of what the Sicilian Campaign of 415 BC was to Athens--a spectacular defeat that marked the end of an empire by virtue of its own incompetence. Why Petraeus, supposedly a brilliant strategist, is willing to take the helm of a campaign that by his own calculus has little to no chance of succeeding is anybody's guess.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved a non-binding resolution dismissing Mr. Bush's Iraq escalation initiative as "not in the national interest." The full Senate will begin debate on the issue next week.

I don't know if either the House or the Senate will be able to stay Bush's hand on the escalation issue, but it is, I think, important for some segment of America's body politic to be able to stand up after the fact and say, "Hey, we told you that was a crazy idea."


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

John Warner Balks on Iraq Escalation

Senator John Warner (R-VA) has introduced a resolution that opposes sending more U.S. forces to Iraq. Warner's resolution also calls on Mr. Bush to keep American troops out of sectarian fighting.

Keeping American troops out of sectarian fighting in Iraq will take some doing--it's pretty much all sectarian fighting.

More sides than the Pentagon

Yes, much of the violence in Iraq is still aimed at U.S. troops, but most of the death and destruction results from conflict between opposing sectarian groups. Some of it is probably conducted or goaded on by external elements like al-Qaeda, but even that, strictly speaking, is "sectarian" as it involves conflict between religious denominations.

In Iraq, we have sects within sects. We have a uniformed Iraqi security force that's infiltrated by sectarian militias, and a "unity" government whose members are more loyal to sectarian factions and militias than they are to the central government.

I can't read the tealeaves on the situation with Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr yet. 600 members of his Mahdi Army have been detained recently, yet he has agreed to end his political bloc's two-month boycott of the Iraqi parliament. Clearly, strong words were exchanged behind closed doors that convinced al-Sadr his best option was to throw some of his followers--perhaps the ones he reportedly lost control of--and play ball with the unity government.

One has to wonder how many of these 600 prisoners just arrested were among the 2,500 prisoners Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki released last summer as part of his "national reconciliation" program.

Al-Maliki has urged the U.S. to arm Iraq's security forces with more and better equipment so they can play a larger role in rounding up the militias. But will Iraq's forces use the weapons on the militias or give the weapons to them?

I'd like to think a troop surge, if it takes place, will improve things in Iraq. I'm concerned, however, that we would just be placing more G.I.s into the middle of a Hobbesian nightmare. Don't let anybody convince you that they'll be conducting a "peacekeeping" mission. Peacekeeping is something you do when the belligerent factions genuinely want peace. The U.S. surge troops will be doing something called "peace enforcement," which is a military euphemism for "fighting a war."

In peace enforcement, the enforcers have to pick a side, and alliances have shifted so often within the Iraqi government we may have trouble figuring out whose side we're on from day to day.

Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post reports that Lieutenant General David H. Petraeus, about to become the U.S. commander in Iraq, intends to deploy the 17,500 additional troops earmarked for Baghdad whether Iraqi units participate as planned or not. Yet we've been hearing all along that the "new way forward" plan would be contingent on Iraqi cooperation.

We've heard that this is an "Iraqi" plan that will work because the Iraqi politicians won't interfere. We've heard that chain of command issues will be solved, and that forces will operate under control of Petraeus. But then we've also heard that Iraq is a sovereign nation. How does a sovereign nation allow a foreign army to operate on its sovereign soil outside the control of its sovereign government?

If that's sovereignty, George W. Bush is Abraham Lincoln.

I don't know if non-binding resolutions by Congress will have any effect on Mr. Bush's decision making, but I don't see any reason not to give them a try. The argument that such resolutions will send a demoralizing signal to the troops is worse than disingenuous. It's the latest in the series of tactics the administration and its fawners have used to hide behind the troops to force bad policies down our throats. A sane society doesn't support policies and strategies on the basis of how they make the troops "feel," and it doesn't let its political leaders get away with that kind of manipulation.

What do you figure the odds are of Mr. Bush pulling this card from his sleeve in his State of the Union speech tonight?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

McCain and Graham on the Sunday Funnies--the "Truth" is in the Talking Point

Proponents of the Iraq war escalation were talking the same old shinola on the last round of Sunday political talk shows. The "same old" sounds lamer with each iteration.

On Meet the Press, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) trotted out the "if we withdraw, they will follow us home" duck call, as if we're all still dumb enough to be fooled by it (though, lamentably, some of us still are). They--whoever the hell "they" are--don't have a navy or an air force to follow us with. Al-Qaeda, Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and the other militias in Iraq can't execute an assault on Los Angeles or San Diego. It's too far to swim or jump from there to here. They could, I suppose, hide themselves in our troops' luggage, but I'd like to think that even our feckless Homeland Security apparatus is competent enough to keep them from sneaking into America that way. As to honest to goodness terrorists drib-drabbing their way through our borders, nothing we're doing in Iraq will keep (or has kept) that from happening.

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) re-re-re-re-re-played the standard false analogy canard on Late Edition about how we should be patient with the Iraqi government because look how long it took the United States to form a constitutional federation after we revolted against the British. Graham and others who pull this cheap trick never bother to point out that, oh, yeah, we didn't ask the British to stick around for a decade so we could blow them and each other to kingdom come while we worked out how to organize ourselves.

On the same program, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) talked so much Rovewellian trash you could almost see the sweat dripping from his hands onto Wolf Blitzer's glass table.

In all, the right wing idiocracy revealed itself--once again--for what it really is: a feather-blowing machine that's running out of bulls to pluck.

Tongues on Fire

In all, the GOP Sunday punchers came off like a herd of J.D. Hayworth class Bush-kebobs, determined to stick to their rhetoric even though it makes less sense than the conversation in a Lewis Carroll tea party.

In Sunday's New York Times (TimesSelect password protected), Frank Rich wrote…
Those who forget history may be doomed to repeat it, but who could imagine we’d already be in danger of replaying that rotten year 2003?

…This White House gang is so practiced in lying with a straight face that it never thinks twice about recycling its greatest hits…

… The most important lies to watch for now are the new ones being reiterated daily by the administration’s top brass, from Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney on down. You know fiasco awaits America when everyone in the White House is reading in unison from the same fictional script, as they did back in the day when “mushroom clouds” and “uranium from Africa” were the daily drumbeat…

…The latest lies are custom-made to prop up the new “way forward” that is anything but…

…Facing the truth is the only way forward in Iraq.

The truth is that there is no "victory" to be had in Iraq, or for that matter, in the Middle East, and the only "way forward" is the way out.

Tell the Truth?

The war rhetoric of the Bush administration and its echo chamberlains is so disingenuous that to label it "criminal" would be a punch-pulling piece of understatement. How do their consciences allow them to practice such extraordinary disassemblage and how do they continue to get away with it for so long after reality has proven their assertions so false?"

Yale University professor emeritus and moral philospher Harry Frankfurt provides the likely explanation in his famous extended essay now published as a stand alone volume titled On Bullshit.
One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted…

Bullshit "artists," Frankfurt points out, differ from liars to the extent that liars know they're denying reality and they're deceiving their audience. Bullshitters don't recognize any reality other than the one they manufacture.

The audience that time after time after time eats up this "perception is reality" fertilizer is the lemming-like segment of the population I call the "autistic right." They've been conditioned by talk radio and Fox News and The 700 Club and on an on and on to accept things unsupported by the slightest hint of factual information as the "truth," and have been trained to regard anything resembling doubt or skepticism as unpatriotic, heretical or worse. They've come to accept shouting contests and schoolyard insult exchanges as genuine debate.

In his seminal novel of dystopia 1984, George Orwell describes this process as "reality control," a condition achieved through a tecnique called "doublethink."
Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated…the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty.

Thus it is that meme maestros like Bush, McCain, Graham and others can speak so forcefully and--to some--convincingly about their patently insane policy and strategy positions.

They really and truly believe their own bullshit.

And as I’m fond of saying, you can only call bullshit chocolate ice cream for so long before people start noticing that it doesn't taste or smell like chocolate ice cream is supposed to.

At least, I hope that's the case.

But maybe I'm ignoring reality.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Even Kissinger and Krauthammer Lukewarm on Iraq "Surge" Strategy

You know there's good reason to be leery of a neoconservative driven foreign policy decision when a) young Mr. Bush makes it and b) Henry Kissinger endorses it with faint praise and c) even neocon stalwart Charles Krauthammer says it's a dumb idea.

Last Thursday, in an International Herald Tribune essay titled "Withdrawal is not an Option," Kissinger wrote:
President George W. Bush's bold decision to order a "surge" of some 20,000 American troops for Iraq has brought the debate over the war to a defining stage. There will not be opportunity for another reassessment.

Kissinger seems to be hedging his position on Bush's escalation strategy. Aside from describing the surge decision as "bold," he doesn’t have much else nice to say about it. Instead, he produces a laundry list of past mistakes in the Iraq fandango, gives the standard platter of platitudes about the dire consequences of "withdrawal" and the need for America to stay engaged in the Gulf region that sound like the same glittering nonsense he muttered into the echo chamber when he worked for Richard Nixon. Then he says something quite interesting:
As the comprehensive strategy evolves, a repositioning of American forces from the cities into enclaves should be undertaken so that they can separate themselves from the civil war and concentrate on the threats described above [militias, death squads and terrorists].

Does that sound familiar? It should. "Reposition" (to put something in a new position) is a whole lot like the word "redeploy" (to move people or equipment from one area or activity to another.)

Where have we heard that term "redeploy" before?

Another Bag of Krauthammers

Last Friday, in his Washington Post op-ed "A Plausible Plan B," neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer was more openly skeptical of the surge option.
If we were allied with an Iraqi government that, however weak, was truly national -- cross-confessional and dedicated to fighting a two-front war against Baathist insurgents and Shiite militias -- a surge of American troops, together with a change of counterinsurgency strategy, would have a good chance of succeeding. Unfortunately, the Iraqi political process has given us Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite coalition.

Krauthammer is confident that the U.S. troops will acquit themselves admirably (as am I), but that the surge effort "will fail, however, because the Maliki government will undermine it."

Krauthammer proposes an alternative "Plan B" in which we tell Maliki:
Let us down, and we dismantle the Green Zone, leave Baghdad and let you jfend for yourself; we keep the airport and certain strategic bases in the area; we redeploy most of our forces to Kurdistan; we maintain a significant presence in Anbar province, where we are having success in our one-front war against al-Qaeda and the Baathists. Then we watch. You can have your Baghdad civil war without us. [Italics added.]

Krauthammer's Plan B sounds very much like Kissinger's "repositioning" plan, which sounds very much like someone else's Plan A that's been on the table for more than a year.

Political Charades: "Sounds Like…"

Like many neoconservative pundits, Krauthammer has a long-established penchant for treating the truth like a freckled stepchild who just tracked mud into the house. His assertion that we are having success in Anbar against al-Qaeda and the Baathists is probably exaggerated at best. As recently as September, U.S. forces were reported to have "lost control" of the area, and recent reports of "progress" in the region give little tangible evidence that we've actually "turned the corner" there.

More egregious, however, is Krauthammer's statement that "the abandonment of Iraq…appears to be the default Democratic alternative." That's utter bunker mentality bunk.

If there is such a thing as a Democratic "default" position, it's the one proposed by Congressman Jack Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) in November of 2005.

Back then, Murtha got the swiftboat treatment from the autistic right, which labeled him as a traitor, a coward and other epithets.

Now that the neoconservatives have been run over by a streetcar named reality, they're starting to pitch Murtha's proposal as if it were their own idea--a delicious piece of triangulation that in another era they would have described as (heh-heh) "Clintonian."

Maybe irony isn't dead after all.



Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Iran: Putting the Brakes on Bush

Also at DKos.

Praise the Lord and purse the ammunition. A genuinely bi-partisan movement seems to be emerging in the House of Representatives to block a preemptive U.S. attack on Iran, but crafting effective legislature of that nature may prove difficult.

Michael Roston of Raw Story tells us that Representative Walter Jones (R-NC)--the former ideologue who once forced the House of Representatives cafeterias to change "French fries" to "freedom fries" on their menus--will introduce legislation that will require Mr. Bush to seek approval from Congress before initiating any military strikes on Iran.

Jones said that "One of the many lessons from our involvement in Iraq is that Congress needs to ask the right questions prior to exercising its Constitutional authority to approve the use of military force," and that the legislature needs to make it "crystal clear" that "…no previous resolution passed by Congress authorizes such use of force."

Jones's resolution states that Mr. Bush may not take action in Iran "Absent a national emergency created by attack by Iran, or a demonstrably imminent attack by Iran."

Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) thinks this wording may give Bush too much leeway. He fears a repeat of the Tonkin Gulf incident that prompted Lyndon Johnson to escalate America's military involvement in Vietnam.

Given the U.S. naval buildup in the Gulf and growing tensions between America and Iran, Paul has good reason for concern. Standing Rules of Engagement give a commander the right and obligation to "take all necessary and appropriate action for his unit’s self-defense" in response to a hostile act (an attack or use of force) or hostile intent (the threat of imminent use of force).

Retired Admiral Frank Kelso, a former Chief of Naval Operations, once said “The demonstration of hostile intent is the single most difficult decision that a commander has to make during peacetime.” This is especially true in the age of medium and long range anti-ship cruise missiles that can be launched from ships, aircraft or shore facilities. A wide variety of factors may indicate a pending missile launch, and commanders may feel compelled to take preemptive action to defend their vessels.

Applying the Brakes

It remains to be seen just how far Congress can go to stay Mr. Bush's hand in an Iran scenario. It can probably pass legislation that specifically states the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed in 2001 does not give Mr. Bush permission to preemptively strike Iran. Unfortunately, the War Powers Act of 1973 allows a president to commit U.S. forces to combat for 60 days before a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization is required from the legislature.

Repealing the War Powers Act could be a counterproductive move. Vice President Dick Cheney has called the Act "…an infringement on the authority of the president.” If Congress strikes down the Act, the White House may "interpret" that as a removal of all restrictions on Mr. Bush's power to initiate and conduct war.

Since Article I of the Constitution empowers the legislature to "…make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces," Congress could conceivably repeal or alter the Standing Rules of Engagement, but to do so would be imprudent; it could be the equivalent of tying military commanders' hands behind their backs.

Like Iraq with an "N"

As many observers have noted, the rhetoric and posturing toward Iran is reminiscent--if not nearly identical--to the run up to the invasion of Iraq. The recent appoint of Admiral William Fallon to replace General John Abizaid as head of Central Command is seen by military pundit Ralph Peters and others as a preparatory step for conducting naval and air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities should Mr. Bush decide such actions are necessary.

It may be that the best way to stay Bush's hand will come from international pressure. Russia's recent delivery of TOR M-1 surface-to-air missiles to Iran sent a clear signal of Russia's position on any U.S. military action against Iran. China is thought to have made an agreement to develop Iran's Northern Pars natural gas field, and reportedly told the U.S. not to interfere in the venture. The timing of China's shoot-down of one of its own weather satellites can hardly be regarded as coincidental. Iraq's President Jalal Talabani has encouraged the U.S. to engage in direct diplomacy with Iran. Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar-Spanta has reportedly ruled out the possibility of America using his country as a base of operations for a military operation against Iran.

The Decider

Mr. Bush has effectively isolated himself from the entire world. He's lost his international allies, he's lost Congress and he's lost the American people. But there's some question as to whether that's registered with him yet.

Bush has replaced most of the key civilian and military members of his national security team. Bill Kristol's cadre of neoconservative ideologues still appear to be the major influence on his foreign policy, and Kristol is an unabashed proponent of military action against Iran.

Vice President Dick Cheney, thought by many to be the real power behind the Bush presidency, is a long time Iran hawk. According to an Associated Press story, Iran offered to help stabilize Iran and end its support of terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah back in 2003. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, thought it was "a very propitious moment" to strike a deal," but, Wilkerson said, Cheney vetoed it. It seems highly unlikely that Cheney will back down from his "big stick" posture on Iran now.

One senses an almost universal atmosphere of both defiance and despair regarding the Bush administration. It's almost as if key players both at home and abroad are saying, "We'll do everything we can to rein this guy in, but if we can't, well, he's on his own."

The White House appears to have backed down on its National Security Agency warrantless surveillance program. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has announced that the program will submit to the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), but details on how the new arrangement between NSA, the Justice Department, and the court are unclear because administration officials won't discuss them.

So I don't take the administration's reversal on the NSA surveillance issue as a sign that it's starting to heed outside influences.

Whether Congress, the courts and the international community can stuff the Bush II executive branch back in its box remains to be seen.

Stay tuned, boys and girls. Anything can happen in the next 30 minutes.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

More Bush Administration Miasma in the Middle East

Senior Newsweek editor Michael Hirsch says the "Green Zone" in Baghdad is now being called the "Yellow Zone."

I say it's time to start calling it the "End Zone."

Among the most lamentable aspects of wars are their unfavorable and unintended consequences. Germany and Japan did not set out to have their major cities destroyed or to submit to unconditional terms of surrender. The United States and England did not conduct a generational struggle against the Axis Powers for the purpose of creating a 50-year Cold War with their old ally Russia.

We have yet to see the full extent of the unfavorable consequences of our Iraq experiment. We squandered our military victory in Afghanistan. By taking Saddam Hussein out of the Middle East equation, we triggered the impending emergence of Iran as a regional superpower and gave our Cold War foes Russian and China an opening to reestablish a bi- or multi-polar global balance of power. By most informed accounts, our land forces are stretched to the "breaking" point and the efficacy of America's armed forces as an instrument of national power has been profoundly damaged.

The spread of democracy, ostensibly a key policy aim behind the Iraq invasion, has boomeranged on us. Terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood have become legitimate political parties, and three "purple finger" elections in Iraq have produced a government that teeters on the brink of collapse.

The Bush administration's pursuit of global engagement through armed force has left America as isolated, if not more so, than at any time in the past hundred years. Russia's sale of TOR M-1 surface-to-air missiles to Iran has pundits asking whether Russia is our friend any more. That's an easy one to answer: nobody is our friend any more. Even our bulldog Britain shies away from us.

But as badly as our actions have come back to haunt us so far, I fear the worst is yet to come.

More Iraq Blowback

Mr. Bush seems hell bent for Kevlar to send 20 something thousand more troops to Iraq no matter who thinks it's a bad idea or who tries to stop him. There's a good chance that the best the escalation strategy will accomplish is to create 20,000 new targets for the bad guys.

Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times reports that several dozen members of Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia have been arrested over the past several weeks. There's no telling what kinds of dire consequences that could produce. Will it break up the fragile Shiite bloc in the Iraqi government? Will it weaken al-Sadr's forces to an extent that allows Sunni militiamen to wreak havoc on the Shia population in Baghdad? If Shia-Sunni violence in Baghdad intensifies even further, will U.S. troops step in, and if they do, whose side will they take? If they step in on the side of the Shia's, will the Saudis come to the aid of the Sunnis?

Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post informs us that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says his government's need for U.S. troops could "dramatically go down" in three to six months if America accelerates delivery of arms and equipment to Iraqi forces. But do we really want to put more beans and bullets in the hands of Iraq's army and police? Iraq's army has a proven track record for not showing up for operations it doesn’t want to fight in, and Iraq's police are reputed to be infiltrated by militiamen who function as sectarian death squads.

I've said this before but it bears repeating: Iraq is a goat rope tied in Gordian knots and wrapped around a Mobius strip. It's a quagmire and a rabbit hole and a wasps' nest and a whole lot of other chaotic conundrums besides.

As is the entire Middle East situation.

Inside Our Circle

The genius of Osama bin Laden is that he's managed to maneuver the mightiest nation in history into a downward spiral, and he's done so without an army or a navy or an air force or an economy or a diplomatic corps or any other traditional, institutional form of power. Bin Laden has so expertly disrupted our decision/action cycle that whatever action we take plays into his grand strategy.

America's most influential strategists--Bill Kristol's gang of neoconservative ideologues who are urging Mr. Bush into the Iraq escalation and military aggression against Iran--are reminiscent of the feckless English political and military leadership in C.S. Forester's World War I novel The General (Thanks to Random Traverse for providing a link to this quote.)
In some ways it was like the debate of a group of savages as to how to extract a screw from a piece of wood. Accustomed only to nails, they had made one effort to pull out the screw by main force, and now that it had failed they were devising methods of applying more force still, of obtaining more efficient pincers, of using levers and fulcrum so that more men could bring their strength to bear. They could hardly be blamed for not guessing that by rotating the screw it would come out after the exertion of far less effort; it would be so different that they would laugh at the man who suggested it.

And so it is that bin Laden, Russia, China, Iran and the rest of our adversaries are perfectly happy to stand on the sidelines and cheer while they and the rest of the world watch us screw ourselves into oblivion.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bush Administration: More Middle East Miasma

The Media Line reports that Iran claims it has shot down a U.S. drone aircraft that crossed into Iranian airspace . (Hat tip to Raw Story for the link.) The drone was probably conducting a reconnaissance/intelligence gathering mission, but what it was doing doesn't matter so much as where it was doing it.

The Iranians may have shot the drone down with the new TOR M-1 surface-to-air missile system it bought from Russia, but that doesn’t really matter either. What matters is that if the U.S. flew a military aircraft, piloted or not, into Iranian airspace, Iran had a right to shoot it down.

That's assuming, of course, that the drone really flew into Iranian airspace and the Iranians really shot it down.

Central Command spokesman Captain Frank Pascual says that, "There has been no loss of any of our drones or UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] and as a result, the claim that the Iranian government is making is false."

Who are we to believe? The Iranians aren't the cuddliest toys in the playpen, but as far as we know for sure, they haven't lied to us yet, which is a lot more than we can say for Central Command (think Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman, etc.) and the rest of the Pentagon and Bush administration information sources.

The truth in this story may lie anywhere (pun intended) along a spectrum of likelihoods. At one extreme, the reported shoot down may a complete Iranian fabrication designed for both domestic and international consumption. At the other end, Central Command may be covering up. Somewhere in between is the possibility that the drone did enter Iranian airspace, and the Iranians shot at it and missed (that scenario would jibe with Central Command's Rovewellian non-denial denial that "there has been no loss of our drones").

But, as with so much of what has happened during the Bush II era, we don't know what really happened, and we probably never will.

Known Unknowns

If there's one thing we do know, it's that our government is not telling us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The party of Abraham Lincoln based a successful political strategy on a policy of fooling "most of the people most of the time" through largely nonsensical talking points and frightening images crafted at conservative think tanks like the Hoover Institution, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Project for the New American Century.

At this point in the failing American experiment, our information environment is so polluted that no message delivered through any media source can be taken at face value. We can't tell for sure if something cited to an "unnamed" government official is a genuine piece of whistle blowing or a deliberately planted tidbit of misinformation/disinformation/propaganda.

The best we can do is filter out the noise and look at as much "factual" information as we can find, and if we do that, we'll find a situation that bodes ill for the United States under the neoconservative Bush doctrine.

Saying and Doing and a Strategy of Ignorance

"If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle."

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

-- Sun Tzu

Foreign policy-wise, we've blown it. Iraq is unwinnable. Afghanistan is irretrievably squandered. Our recent incursion into Somalia is just another lit match applied to an ocean of kerosene.

Punky little Iran has us by the zipper, and its biggest, bestest buddies--Russia and China--are on the cusp of reemerging from their Cold War defeat, and they're about to do it "without fighting." Why should they pour blood and treasure into the fan through war and a pointless, symmetrical arms race. It's far wiser for them to sit on the sidelines and let us bleed and spend ourselves into the sand on our own.

Mr. Bush continues to heed he advice of neoconservative point talkers like Fred Kagan, whose understanding of the enemy and himself would fit comfortably in the fold between his chins.

A former professor of military history at West Point, Fred Kagan is the brother of Bob Kagan and son of Donald Kagan, both of whom are neo-cronies of Weekly Standard editor and Project for the New American Century founder Bill Kristol (who is the son of Irving Kristol, considered to be the "godfather" of American neoconservatism).

None of these surly characters have any experience of military service, which brings to mind another cogent Sun Tzu quote:
It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tyrannus Bush: Can Anyone Stop Him?

Also at DKos.

Young Mr. Bush appears intent to remain a law unto himself.

Last week a senior Department of Defense official and certain media outlets launched a campaign to discourage attorneys with major law firms from representing detainees at the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo Bay. For years, the administration and its supporters in Congress and the media have fought to deprive these detainees from protections and rights to due process guaranteed by international and U.S. law. Yet, as civil rights lawyer Joseph Margulies points out in the Chicago Tribune, it's uncertain whether any of the 400 "unlawful combatants" still at Guantanamo did anything to warrant their imprisonment.
Bush administration officials have assured the American people that Guantanamo keeps us safe because it keeps dangerous Al Qaeda terrorists off the street.

But the Pentagon's data show that only 8 percent of the prisoners at the base are even alleged to have been Al Qaeda fighters--assuming the allegations against them are true.

Bait and Switch

Jose Padilla, the U.S. citizen arrested as a "combatant" in 2002, was accused of being part of a plot to explode radioactive "dirty bombs" in U.S. cities. In 2005, in order to avoid a showdown in the Supreme Court over the legality of Padilla's detention, the government pressed formal charges against Padilla in federal court. But the charges did not include involvement in the "dirty bomb" plot. Padilla was charged instead as a conspirator in a number of Islamic extremist plots to commit terror in Bosnia, Chechnya and elsewhere during the 1990s.

The judge in the Padilla case has postponed the trial for three months to allow the prosecution time to assess Padilla's mental condition. Padilla's attorneys claim that the interrogation techniques used on him for over three years of isolated incarceration have left him unable to assist in his own defense.

On Tap

In December 2005, we discovered that Mr. Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to conduct wiretaps on U.S. citizens without court orders. At the time, Mr. Bush said that he would continue to authorize the warrantless wiretaps.

In August 2006, a federal district court ruled the NSA program's warrantless wiretapping and e-mail monitoring was unconstitutional. Mr. Bush disagreed with the ruling, and ordered the Justice Department to appeal the decision. The warrantless electronic monitoring program is still in operation.

Mr. Bush has said that "If Al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know why they are calling." On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable statement. But neither Mr. Bush nor any of his echo chamberlains have bothered to explain why they need to monitor communications without warrants which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows to be obtained 72 hours after the fact.

The Bush administration also insists it has authority to open first class mail without a warrant.

Libby, Libby, Libby on the Table, Table, Table

The trial of former Dick Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby has finally commenced. At the Huffington Post, Timothy Naftali says that "Whether I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby is found guilty or not, his trial will finally allow the public to see how the Office of the Vice President led the Bush Administration's domestic agitprop campaign to get us into Iraq."

I'm not so sure about that. Yes, the Valerie Plame/Nigergate/traitorgate scandal was always about much, much more than whether someone in the administration purposely revealed the identity of a covert CIA operative. It was about the lengths to which the administration went to protect the intelligence hoax it pulled to sell America on its now discredited Iraq policy. But don't get too het up about the prospect that Libby's trial will bring all that to light.

Libby is on trial for perjuring himself before the grand jury. I strongly suspect that any attempt by the prosecution to push the scope of the trial beyond the perjury charge will get swatted down by the prosecution and the judge like a geriatric fly.

Dick Cheney will be called as a witness in the trial, and many in the info-sphere are abuzz that Cheney will be revealed as the mastermind behind the big Iraq intelligence cook-off, but again, don't count on it. Big Dick's not the one on trial, and any attorney who tries to make him the defendant will get, figuratively or literally, shot in the face.

Cheney will live to continue pulling the same kind of canard on Iran that he pulled with Iraq.

You and Whose Army?

Mr. Bush has made it quite clear that he'll move forward with this plan to escalate the Iraq war whether Congress likes it or not. Some in Congress have threatened to withhold funding for the troop "surge," but Bush claims that Congress has already approved sufficient appropriations to fund it. He's probably right.

At Senate hearings last week, Joe Biden (D-Delaware) warned Condoleezza Rice that Mr. Bush would need congressional authority to initiate military actions against Iran. He's probably wrong. Whether they know it or not, Congress has probably also appropriated enough money for an air and maritime operation against Iran, or at least enough to start such an operation.

The power of the purse, it appears, has been circumvented, and the power of Congress to stop Mr. Bush from expanding his "war" on terror, extremism, Islamo-fabulism or whatever his Rovewellians are calling it these days is otherwise extremely limited. The War Powers Act of 1973 gives a U.S. president a free hand to initiate and conduct combat operations before he needs to ask permission from anybody.

Irony, tossing and turning in its grave, is still asking why nobody has questioned under what authority the recent U.S. air strikes and other offensive operations in Somalia were executed. That makes irony a darn sight more curious about the Bush agenda than Joe Biden or anyone else in Congress seem to be.

America has become a mirror image of Julius Caesar's Rome: we're a militaristic dictatorship disguised under a cheap beard and plastic eyeglasses as a republic.

The courts have spoken. The congress has spoken. The people have spoken. None of that makes no never-mind to our present day tyrant.

The only real difference between Julius Caesar and George W. Bush is that Caesar knew how to use his military successfully.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

"Glittering Joe" Lieberman on Iraq

On Meet the Press Sunday, Senator Joe Lieberman (D*-Connecticut) shot off what may be his most astounding glittering generality to date. He said, "my own sense of history tells me that in war, ultimately, there are two exit strategies. One is called victory; the other is called defeat."

Joe Lieberman's sense of history is appalling. It's fair to say that, as often as not, wars have terminated with neither side scoring a complete victory or suffering a total defeat. As 18th century philosopher David Hume pointed out, the balance of power concept in international relations goes back to ancient times. The balance of power model recognized that political entities would compete through military, economic, and other means, but that no single political entity would ever accumulate enough power of any form (military, economic, diplomatic, ideological, etc.) to eliminate another one.

The "Good" War and the Other Ones

Lieberman and others consistently make the mistake of regarding World War II as the classic model of armed conflict. World War II was, in fact, something of an aberration.

World War II is the closest thing the modern world has seen to what 19th century warfare theorist Carl von Clausewitz described as armed conflict in its "absolute form." In the "Good War," states on both sides committed--or came close to committing--the entirety of their national instruments of power to achieving "victory." Once the allies committed to a declared end state of "unconditional surrender" by the axis powers, the stakes became astronomic, and as the tide of war turned against Germany and Japan, their definition of "victory" became forcing the allies to settle for something less than unconditional surrender. Germany's Battle of the Bulge offensive and Japan's Kamikaze strategy were desperate attempts to convince the allies that attaining their political war aims would cost more than the aims were worth.

Most other modern armed conflicts pre and post-World War II involving developed nations have been what Clausewitz referred to as "limited" wars, ones in which goals were tempered by considerations of costs and risks.

(A valid argument can be made that World War I was also an "absolute" war, and I'm certain it seemed that way at the time. Nonetheless, I group it in the "limited" category for a number of reasons, most notably that it ended in an armistice with neither side scoring a decisive military victory.)

More Dubya Talk

Lieberman wasn't the only Bush echo chamberlain talking gibberish on Sunday.

Fred Kagan of the neoconservative think tanks Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) was the primary architect of the Iraq escalation strategy that Joe Lieberman so enthusiastically endorses.

Funny thing, though. Before Glittering Joe made his remarks about victory and defeat on Meet the Press, National Security Adviser Steven Hadley told Tim Russert that the escalation strategy is an "Iraqi government strategy." Fred Kagan didn't credit the Iraqis for the ideas he proposed in his "Choosing Victory" presentation, the one where he said that the proposals of the Iraq Study Group would not succeed. Does that make a Kagan a big dumb plagiarist? Or does it make Hadley a big dumb liar?

Or does it mean we're being smothered by the same pillow of bull feathers we've been breathing into for the last six years?

Last we heard, the basic scheme behind the escalation strategy is for five brigades to go to Baghdad and one to Anbar Province. When asked how this plan to secure Baghdad and Anbar is different than all the previous ones, we hear that, well, this time it's an Iraqi plan, and they'll have to agree to go along with it, and…

Oh. Wait a minute. From Monday morning's New York Times
Just days after President Bush unveiled a new war plan calling for more than 20,000 additional American troops in Iraq, the heart of the effort--a major push to secure the capital--faces some of its fiercest resistance from the very people it depends on for success: Iraqi government officials.

American military officials have spent days huddled in meetings with Iraqi officers in a race to turn blueprints drawn up in Washington into a plan that will work on the ground in Baghdad.

But the signs so far have unnerved some Americans working on the plan, who have described a web of problems--ranging from a contested chain of command to how to protect American troops deployed in some of Baghdad’s most dangerous districts--that some fear could hobble the effort before it begins…

… “We are implementing a strategy to embolden a government that is actually part of the problem,” said an American military official in Baghdad involved in talks over the plan. “We are being played like a pawn.”

We've been played like pawns in Iraq for years.

The folks pushing for the escalation strategy are blithering ideologues. Their understanding of military and foreign policy affairs would fit up their noses with plenty of room left over for a Happy Meal's worth of nickels.

The plan to send more troops to Iraq is a tank of kerosene looking for a lit match, and yet, incredibly, according to Fox News, Mr. Bush announced Monday morning that he's determined to proceed with the escalation. "I fully understand they could try to stop me," Bush said of the Democrat-run Congress. "But I've made my decision, and we're going forward."

God help America. Please. Soon.

We've had enough bang in this woebegone war. It's time to let it end in a whimper. No victory. No defeat. Just over.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Rovewellian Right Assaults Lawyers Over GITMO

Also at Kos.

As the fifth anniversary (January 13) of the use of the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay as a holding facility for prisoners of our "war on terror" approached, the Rovewellian noise generator kicked into high gear in response to the anticipated global protests demanding that the prison be shut down.

I never thought anything could motivate me to come out in defense of lawyers, but elements of the unscrupulous right just gave me all the provocation I need to violate my own principles.

I hate being manipulated like that.

Kill All the (Wrong Kinds) of Lawyers

Neil A. Lewis of the New York Times reveals that conservative media figures and a senior Department of Defense official have been intimidating attorneys who represent detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

In a radio interview last Thursday, Charles D. Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, expressed dismay that attorneys at the nation's top law firms were representing prisoners being detained in Cuba, and suggested that the firms' corporate clients should terminate their business ties. Stimson named 12 of the law firms involved on air.

Friday, Robert L. Pollock of the Wall Street Journal editorial board published the names of the law offices in an op-ed piece and quoted a "senior U.S. official" as saying “Corporate C.E.O.s seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists.”

The list of law firms involved in the Guantanamo issue came to light as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by conservative talk show host and sometime MSNBC anchor/commentator Monica Crowley.

In his radio interview, Mr. Stimson admitted that some of the attorneys defending Guantanamo detainees might be contributing their time and talents on a pro bono basis, but that "others are receiving moneys from who knows where, and I’d be curious to have them explain that.” He also said, “I think, quite honestly, when corporate C.E.O.s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms."

I find it interesting that Mr. Stimson, who was a Navy lawyer, would choose to use that kind of language. We really have no way of knowing which (if any) of the Guantanamo detainees are actually "terrorists," and his clear implication is that some attorneys representing the detainees are being paid by terrorist groups. When he gets a lawsuit slapped upside his noggin, I hope for his sake that he has the good sense to hire a better lawyer than he is.

I'll also be curious to discover who pays his legal fees.

A senior Pentagon official told NYT's Lewis that Stimson's comments “…do not represent the views of the Defense Department or the thinking of its leadership.” It's interesting, though, that Stimson made his comments on Federal News Radio, a D.C. based station aimed at an audience of government employees.

And it's funny how a government agency could let a government employee broadcast a message on a government propaganda outlet and then disavow what he said, huh?

No, I don't think Stimson has to fear for his financial future; but I'd like to have been in the room to see the look on his face when he drew the short straw.

Piled Higher and Deeper

In a rant on MSNBC Friday, conservative pundit Pat Buchanan insisted the Guantanamo detainees weren't entitled to rights or due process because they are "prisoners of war." He used the "prisoners of war" term repeatedly.

From the outset, the Bush administration insisted that the detainees at Guantanamo were not "prisoners of war" but rather "unlawful combatants," and as such were not entitled to any of the rights and protections included in the Geneva Convention, the United Nations Convention against Torture or the laws and Constitution of the United States.

Surely Pat Buchanan knows that. Maybe he doesn't. But whether he's deliberately lying or unforgivably ignorant, he's wittingly or unwittingly part of the malignant right's misinformation/disinformation/propaganda/blackmail/extortion campaign, one that by all appearances is designed to keep the Bush administration's high crimes and misdemeanors from coming to light.

If irony were still alive and with us, it would chuckle that neo-fascist choir is banging its anvils in attacks on the kinds of lawyers who insist on enforcing the rule of law in an effort to protect the kinds of lawyers--like Attorney General Alberto Gonzales--who insist that when it comes to anything Mr. Bush does, the rule of law is "quaint" and "obsolete."

And if shame still existed, the likes of Charles Stimson, Robert Pollock, Monica Crowley and Pat Buchanan would take their money/retirements, and go home, and shove a cork in their pie holes.

Lamentably, irony and shame, rule of law, checks and balances and separation of powers, "inalienable" individual rights, enlightened reason, transparency in government and a host of other supposed American values are deader than the bolt lock on your front door.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Iraq debate: chasing dreck down the porcelain throne

The debate over sending more troops to Iraq is descending into the same Rovewellian jaw jacking that got us bow down in a sand dune from the get-go.

On MSNBC Friday morning, Senator Jon Kyle (R-Arizona) made boo noise about the choice between "success" and the dire consequences of "failure," but like most Bush backers, he failed to define what either success or failure might consist of.

Young Mr. Bush's Former Chief of Staff Andrew Card said, "No one else has offered a solution." Andrew Card must have missed all that stuff about the Iraq Study Group, or Jack Murtha's redeployment proposal.

In one of those he said/she said shouting contests that passes for honest debate these days, Pat Buchanan derided the Democrats for not having the guts to pull the plug on the war financially. Words like "cowards" and "unpatriotic" flew. Buchanan got in the ubiquitous slam on the media--the very media that pay him to call people "cowards" and slam the media.

On Capitol Hill, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "The stakes now are incalculable." Nothing's new about that. Everything is incalculable with the Bush administration: victory, defeat, cost, risk, causes, consequences…

Here we are, debating what may be the most important decision in the history of the United States, and the Bush echo chamberlains are feeding us the same standard menu of glittering generalities, straw man attacks, false limited choices, appeals to emotion (mostly fear), bait and switch tactics, and so on and so on and so on.

Disappointing, certainly, but hardly surprising.

Smoke, Mirrors and Escalation

The administration's camp warns that "failure" in Iraq will lead to a regional conflict, even as they support Bush's efforts to create one.

I was somewhat encouraged during Thursday's Senate hearings when Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) told Rice that Bush would need congressional approval to order military strikes against Iran, but I doubt if Rice was listening. Even if she was, I wonder why Biden bothered to tell her that; she doesn't have any control over U.S. foreign policy, and she sure as hell doesn't know anything about military matters.

At the hearings, Rice defended U.S. military deployments to the Gulf region as necessary to assure allies in that they "have the defense capacity that they need against a growing Iranian military buildup."

Modern Iran has fought one war. That was against Iraq in the 1980s, a war initiated by Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran. (Please note that the U.S. backed Hussein in that war.) Iran has never projected land power further than several miles beyond its own border. Its navy, a sea denial force, is designed to operate in the Persian Gulf and off the coastal waters in the Gulf of Oman and the Caspian Sea. Its air force is geared toward maritime patrol, air defense and close support of ground forces. We don't know whether they have ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, but we know they don't have them now and won't have them--unless they buy them from, say, China or Russia--for several years.

In short, Iran's military is designed to repel invasion, air attacks and, if strategically necessary, to shut down access to the Persian Gulf.

So Condi's talk of a "military buildup" is a purple herring. (A "red herring" is a false, distracting argument. A "purple herring" is red herring so old and so false that it's dying from lack of oxygen.)

Sleight of Hand

Among the things I find discouraging about Biden's admonition to Rice about Iran is that he seems to be missing three vital factors.

1) The heated rhetoric toward Iran and the increased U.S. naval presence in the Gulf lends itself to a repeat of the Tonkin Gulf incident that sparked major U.S. involvement in the Vietnam Conflict. For reasons I hope are obvious, I won't go into tactical or operational details, but given the nature of today's stand-off weapons and sensors, and the standard rules of engagement under which American naval forces operate, an accidental "incident" is not at all unlikely. That would give Mr. Bush all the political cover he needs to open a can of spank on Iran.

2) Biden and congressional opponents of Mr. Bush on both sides of the aisle seem to be completely ignoring what's going on in Somalia. We've apparently been wiping out entire villages there in hopes of killing one or two or three al-Qaeda guys suspected of having had something to do with the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Kenya in Tanzania.

Is it somehow okay for Mr. Bush to escalate his war against Islamo-fabulism in Africa without congressional approval, but not in the Middle East?

3) Andy Card said Friday morning that Mr. Bush has listened to a lot of experts, but it seems the only ones he's paid attention to are the neoconservative cabal fronted by Weekly Standard editor and Fox News pundit Bill Kristol, the same gang of political thugs who got us into this plumber's nightmare.

Is there anyone who can see beyond solutions that amount to little more than sticking fingers into leaks in the sewer pipe?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

George W. Bush: Decider, Divider, Escalator

Also at Kos.

We're about to send two of our least effective instruments of power to the Middle East: Patriot Missile batteries and Condi Rice.

And oh, yeah, 21,500 more troops.

No one seems to seriously think Mr. Bush's escalation strategy will work, including, one gets the distinct impression, Mr. Bush himself.

The Works

That depends, of course, on what your definition of "works" is. If you mean something along the lines of "restore order to Iraq, disband the militias, unify the government and rebuild the country," no, that's not going to work.

If you mean: "escalate and expand the war throughout the region," yeah, that will work. It's working already.

The "surge" is underway. ABC reports that elements of the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday.

U.S. forces have raided the Iranian consulate in the Iraqi city of Erbil and arrested five members of its staff. It looks like that's as close as we're going to come to conducting direct diplomacy with Iran.

Mr. Bush has ordered an additional carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf region.

We've conducted air raids in Somalia, ostensibly in an effort to kill senior al-Qaeda members suspected of being responsible for the 1998 bombing U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. CBS reports that none of the intended targets were killed. U.S. Navy ships are intercepting maritime traffic of the Somali coast, searching for al-Qaeda members attempting to flee the country.

We've begun to deploy F-117 stealth bombers to South Korea. An Air Force spokesman says the deployment is "part of ongoing measures to maintain a credible deterrent and presence in the West Pacific.’’


The House and Senate are holding hearings today on the Iraq policy that Mr. Bush announced last night. I'm more than a little concerned that Congress seems so fixated by Iraq right now that they're not paying any attention whatsoever to the escalation that's already taking place.

Military pundit Ralph Peters of the New York Post finally figured out that the assignment of Admiral William Fallon to take charge of Central Command was all about getting tough with Iran. You know something is obvious to everyone if Peters gets it.

Here's what gets me. Bush backers warn us that withdrawal from Iraq will cause the violence there to spread into a regional war, yet everything Bush is doing seems purposely designed to ensure that a regional war--one that spans the Horn of Africa to the Korean Peninsula--is precisely what happens.

And nobody in Congress or the mainstream media seems to be on to that yet.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.