Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hatters or Hares?

Good old Bob Herbert. His column in today's New York Times nails it on the head:

"The incompetence at the highest levels of government in Washington has undermined the U.S. troops who have fought honorably and bravely in Iraq, which is why the troops are now stuck in a murderous quagmire. If a Democratic administration had conducted a war this incompetently, the Republicans in Congress would be dusting off their impeachment manuals."

"Bring 'em on," President Bush said in July of 2003 as the insurgency in Iraq picked up steam. Two years later, as the insurgency continued as strong as ever, Vice President Cheney declared that it was in its "last throes." Donald Rumsfeld insists we are making progress though he admits there are no "metrics" by which we can measure that progress.

There has been no change in strategy over those two years, and there appears to be no plan to change it now.

This sure sounds like insanity to me: denial of reality, blind adherence to a failed program, refusal to admit mistakes, and a belief that if you tell the same lies often enough, they will become truths.

And oh, let's not forget--the commander in chief says God is telling him what to do. Which possibility is more frightening--that he honestly believes it, or that he's just saying it?

The Generals--specifically Myers, Abizaid, and Casey--should in theory know the fatal consequences of ignoring reality and sticking to failed strategies in war, but they appear to be duty bound to the political agendas of the neo-conservative wing of the Republican Party.

My decades as a naval officer taught me that when things don't make sense, one of two things are going on:

--The people in charge are desperate and don't know what else to do.

--The people in charge have an agenda they're hiding from you.

I'm firmly convinced that in our Iraq situation, the latter is the case.

If you think you'll ever see American troops withdraw from Iraq, think again. The invasion of Iraq was conceived in the nineties by William Kristol, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton and others for the specific purpose of grabbing the most geo-strategically important real estate in the Middle East. They never planned to give it back.

But I could be wrong. The people running this country and this war could all just be madder than March hares.

Scary, huh kids?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Love: American Style

Something something 9-11, mumble mumble 9-11, hamana hamana 9-11, gurgle gurgle 9-11, yada yada yada yada 9-11.

Who needs an exit strategy if you never plan to leave? The neoconservatives cooked the Iraq invasion up in the 90s for the express purpose of grabbing control of Iraqi oil and erecting a permanent military base of operations in the geographic heart of the Middle East. No sense building a military base of operations if you're not going to keep your military in it, is there?

Just who are these neoconservative people and how did they drive an entire country into a misguided war? As Jim Lobe wrote for AlterNet in 2003, "The neoconservatives do not represent a political movement, [but are] a small, tighly-knit clan whose incestuous familial and personal connections, both within and outside the Bush administration, have allowed them grab control of the future of American foreign policy."

Lobe's article constructs the basic neocon family tree, starting with Irving Kristol--"the Godfather of neoconservatism"--to his son Bill, editor of the Rupert Murdoch owned Weekly Standard and founder of the Project for the New American Century. Lobe describes the PNAC as the "front group which cemented the powerful alliance between right-wing Republicans like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, Christian and Catholic Right leaders like Gary Bauer and William Bennett, and the neocons behind a platform of global U.S. military dominance."

Richard Perle is one of Papa Irving's most prominent disciples. "Perle himself married into neocon royalty when he wed the daughter of his professor at the University of Chicago, the late Alfred Wohlstetter -- the man who helped both his son-in-law and his fellow student Paul Wolfowitz get their start in Washington more than 30 years ago."

The list goes on. The scholarly Kagans--Donald, Bob, and Frederick--who "have written reams of columns warning that the currently ballooning Pentagon budget is simply not enough to fund the much-desired vision of U.S. global supremacy."

Eliot Abrams, Norman Podhoretz, Jean Kirkpatrick, Richard Pipes and his son Daniel...

Take a look at the names at the PNAC web site--which include Steve Forbes, Fred Ikle, Dan Quayle, John Bolton, and Jeb Bush--do a little math, and you come up with a core group of about fifty people. Fifty or so people who dream of turning America into a theocratic oligarchy that maintains a perpetual state of war, and are getting away with it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

More Lessons in Irony...

Dubya's going to give his lunatic speech on the war at Fort Bragg?

Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian. Rovewellian...

Come on, America. Put down the Kool Aid and pick up the Starbucks.


Coming Soon to a Blog Near You...

You can't begin to understand to know how or why America got to the position it's presently in without a basic grounding in the neo-conservative movement. This piece from The Christian Science Monotor profiles several key members, including father/son team Irving and Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and John Bolton.

More to follow...



What They Don't Say

“No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.”

-- Carl von Clausewitz

Two years after the fall of Baghdad, and despite the Pentagon's blitz of the political talk shows last weekend, we still don't have the answers to two basic questions: what did we hope to achieve by invading Iraq, and how do we intend to achieve it?

According to US Central Command chief General John Abizaid, "the troops" need for Americans to know why we're fighting in Iraq, and what we're fighting for, and how we're going to win. But things are so complicated over there that he can't explain them to us in the "common sense" necessary for us to talk about it back home.

Any strategy that's too complicated to explain is too complicated to work, and a strategy without specific goals is no strategy at all. Can it really be that the Bush administration has committed us to an aimless, never-ending war? Or does it have specific aims in mind that it doesn't want to tell us about? If the latter is the case, what might those aims be?

A cursory look through the web site of the neo-conservative think tank Project for the New American Century provides some interesting clues. The PNAC--whose members included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, and others presently in key Bush administration positions--called for President Clinton to unilaterally remove Saddam Hussein from power in January of 1998.

The PNAC letter to Clinton stated that if Saddam acquired weapons of mass destruction, "a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard." (Let's see, now, what was Dick Cheney doing around the time he was helping the PNAC formulate this policy? Oh, that's right--he was CEO of Halliburton, wasn't he? Gee. You think there's a connection?)

Also at hazard, the letter stated, would be "our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states." What better way would there be to protect our friends and allies in the Middle East than to establish permanent military facilities--maybe 14 of them--in the geographic heart of the region? Militarily, this would gives us a secure base of operations with interior lines of communication and diverging lines of operation directly into Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. And combined with our bases in Afghanistan, we'd literally have Iran surrounded.

What better way to, as the PNAC put it back in June of 1997, to establish and secure "American global leadership?"

America's first president was a guy named George who could not tell a lie. Tonight, another president named George will address the nation on network television--before an adoring audience of Army Rangers--to tell us why we're in the war and what we expect to get out of it. Do you think the George we have now will come clean with us?

I don't.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Press the Meat

If hot air won wars, we'd be in great shape, because we got plenty of it from Rummy and his Central Command Yes Man on the Sunday talk shows.

Arianna Huffington rightfully blasted Tim Russert for his weak performance with Donald Rumsfeld on Meet the Press.

But I was more dismayed watching Face the Nation 's Bob Schieffer feed straight lines to General John Abizaid, the four-star in charge of Central Command. Lou Costello never had it so good. To read the transcript, you'd swear Abizaid's people wrote the entire interview.

Schieffer's cooperation was no more obvious than in his timing of questions about public support for the war. He saved them for last, allowing Abizaid to finish with the administration's favorite exit patter:

"The public support for out troops in the field has always been important... They don't want to be looking over their shoulder wondering what folks back home are thinking. They want to know that people understand what we're fighting for, why we're fighting, and how we can win this thing."

Little makes my blood boil more that listening to generals blaming their failures on lack of public support. Especially generals like Abizaid who tell the public it has to "understand what we're fighting for," and yet:

"It's hard for us to be able to talk about this most complicated region this most complicated war and put it in the common sense necessary for folks back home to talk about it."

A junior high school teacher once told me that you don't really understand anything unless you can explain it. If the head of Central Command can't explain what we're fighting for and how we can win, who can?

And if nobody understands what we're fighting for and how we can win, what are we fighting for?

Rumsfeld, Abizaid, and the rest of senior Pentagon leadership appear to have no specific end state in mind, no coherent strategy for achieving one, no metrics by which to measure their progress, and give no visible indication that they have the slightest grasp of the basic tenets of military art.

I'll start supporting this war the second the generals in charge start sounding and acting like professional military officers.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Wrestling With Pigs

An old joke says that when you wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig likes it.

So it goes with leading Democrats' reaction to Karl Rove's "therapy" comments about the "liberal" reaction to the 9-11 attacks. Rove has the look and squeal of a character from Animal Farm, but he's really the brain behind the Bush administration's version of 1984.

Rove's seemingly "careless" remarks were aimed at two audiences:

--The addicted followers of the BBBC (Big Brother Broadcasting Conglomeration) who suck up any neo-conservative slop thrown their way so fast they don't even notice how it tastes, and...

--The gullible dupes of the opposition who are perfectly happy fight with Rove at the lowest common level.

In military art terms (that most "military experts" you see on TV, including and especially Donald Rumsfeld and his coterie of four star yes men, don't know or understand), this is known as "ceding the initiative." When you agree to meet the enemy on the terms, place, and time of his choosing, you're already three quarters along on the way to defeat. (Which, by the way, is exactly what Rummy and the Yes Men have done with Iraq and the entire War on Terrorism.)

Thus it is with the Democrats' decision to square off with Karl Rove in his own pigpen. Nobody sounds more like a sissy than someone who cries out loud about being called a sissy.

C'mon, Democratic Party. The next time I hear the pigs squeal, I want it to be because you're kicking them in the balls. And for God's sake, please don't rely on Wesley "The Lunatic of Kosovo" Clark to do it for you.


Have a nice weekend, everybody.



Rummy and the Yes Men

Yesterday in the Capitol, Senator Edward Kennedy told Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld that the war in Iraq has become a "seeming intractable quagmire."

Rumsfeld looked around the witness table and said that none of the four star generals seated with him "agrees with you that we're in a quagmire and that there's no end in sight."

Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf; Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq; and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff then avowed that they agreed with their boss. What else were they going to do? The time to tell Rummy how wrong he is was a long time ago.

But if Abizaid, Casey, and Meyers had stood up to Rummy back then, they wouldn't have been sitting next to him in the Senate chamber yesterday. Everybody who stood up to Rummy in the beginning is gone.

Two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein's statue, how they can deny the situation in Iraq is a "quagmire" defies logic and common sense. Maybe they don't like the sound of the word "quagmire." Perhaps they'd prefer predicament, difficulty, crisis, dilemma, perplexity, Gordian knot, quandary, entanglement, imbroglio, scrape, jam, fix, mess, muddle, morass, pickle, jam, or pinch.

Take your pick, fellahs...


It's abundantly clear that the strategy in Iraq isn't working, no matter how vehemently Rummy and the Yes Men insist that it is.

Here's what Iraq veteran Paul Reichert has to say about the situation over there:

"The insurgents are getting better at attacking US and Iraqi forces. And they are made of much more than merely 'dead enders.' I know. My men and I were on the ground in Iraq for almost a year. We were attacked by them. We detained them. We killed them. And we saw a definite increase in the overall complexity of the attacks waged by them. And that increase in the sophistication of enemy tactics has only continued since we left."

But the powers that be have no intention of changing their strategy--they're determined to stick to a failed plan until it succeeds, no matter how long that may take.

And guess what? If the plan never succeeds, it won't be their fault!

Senator Joseph Lieberman told Rummy yesterday that he fears that "American public opinion is tipping away from this effort,"

Rummy answered, "I have a feeling they're getting pushed," an obvious reference to unfavorable reports on the war in the mainstream media. (Which is a ridiculous notion--the mainstream media have given the administration a pass on this war from the get-go.)

Rummy's loyal Labrador Abizaid picked up the drumstick. The troops are becoming aware of dropping public support for the war, and are asking him "whether or not they've got support from the American people." While he claims that confidence among the troops in the field "has never been higher," he has "never seen the lack of confidence greater" in Washington.

Here it comes, folks: the next chapter in the Karl Rove playbook. Failure in Iraq won't come as a result of their flawed strategy. It will come from your lack of confidence in their flawed strategy.

Please, please, please don't fall for this cynical propaganda. Don't sit by and be a "good little citizen." Don't let them turn America into one nation, under Bush, with war without end.



Thursday, June 23, 2005

I'm Sorry He's Sorry

Yesterday Senator Dick Durbin apologized for comparing interrogations techniques at Guantanamo with methods practiced by Nazis, Stalin, and Pol Pot in his speech of June 14. I'm not sorry that he apologized; I'm sorry he brought up Nazis and other baddies. He'd already said what he needed to say.

--Alberto Gonzales, then-White House chief counsel, recommended to the President the Geneva Convention should not apply to the war on terrorism.

--Colin Powell, who was then Secretary of State, objected strenuously to Alberto Gonzales' conclusions. In a memo to Gonzales, Powell wrote that setting aside the Geneva Conventions "will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice... and undermine the protections of the law of war for our own troops... It will undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain."

--After the President decided to ignore Geneva Conventions, the administration unilaterally created a new detention policy. They claim the right to seize anyone, including even American citizens, anywhere in the world, including in the United States, and hold them until the end of the war on terrorism, whenever that may be.

--U.S. military lawyers called this detention system "a legal black hole." The Red Cross concluded, "U.S. authorities have placed the internees in Guantanamo beyond the law."

--A Federal court has already held the administration has failed to comply with the Supreme Court's rulings. The court concluded that the detainees do have legal rights, and the administration's policies "deprive the detainees of sufficient notice of the factual bases for their detention and deny them a fair opportunity to challenge their incarceration."

--With no input from Congress, the administration set aside our treaty obligations and secretly created new rules for detention and interrogation. They claim the courts have no right to review these rules. But under our Constitution, it is Congress's job to make the laws, and the court's job to judge whether they are constitutional.

--The administration also established a new interrogation policy that allows cruel and inhuman interrogation techniques.

-- Secretary Rumsfeld approved numerous abusive interrogation tactics against prisoners in Guantanamo. The Red Cross concluded that the use of those methods was "a form of torture."

--Numerous FBI agents who observed interrogations at Guantanamo Bay complained to their supervisors. In one e-mail that has been made public, an FBI agent complained that interrogators were using "torture techniques." That phrase did not come from a reporter or politician. It came from an FBI agent describing what Americans were doing to these prisoners.

--Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

By this point, Durbin had drawn a clear picture of an administration that had cast off or maneuvered around any restraint of international agreement or constitutional law, granted itself absolute power, and incontrovertible evidence of the corrupted abuse of that power.

Then he brought up Nazis and Commies and blew it. He should have known better. He'd seen what the Rove Machine had done with the Amnesty International comments.

Now, most of American will only remember that Durbin called it bad names. It will forget Durbin's stark, urgent message: the power of the mightiest nation in history resides in one man--unchecked, unconstrained, and unaccountable.

Patriots like Senator Durbin want us to take our republic back, and I do too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

How Long Will This Keep Going On?

Support the troops, because Donald Rumsfeld and his yes men generals aren't.


A Father's Day story in The Arizona Republic tells of a dad spending $600 on a state-of-the-art flak jacket and other equipment for his son in the Marine Corps who is about to deploy to Iraq. John Tod of Mesa, Arizona says his son's superiors "strongly suggested he get this equipment because when they get to Iraq they will wish they had."

No, this didn't take place two years ago, or even a year ago, or even three months ago. It's taking place right now, in June of 2005.

Mr. Tod's congressional representative, J.D. "Bush Boy" Hayworth, claims he never heard of a service member being told to buy his own equipment. If that's true, it's only because Hayworth's ears are covered over by his butt cheeks.

In a related story from June 21, The Boston Globe reveals the findings of a report by the Marine Corps inspector general: "The estimated 30,000 Marines in Iraq need twice as many heavy machine guns, more fully protected armored vehicles, and more communications equipment. About a quarter of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force's Humvees lack sufficient armor to protect troops against roadside bombings, including 1,000 vehicles that have yet to be fitted with armor plates to protect the undercarriage."

Hey! Maybe that's the White House's secret exit strategy. We won't pull the troops out until they're equipped to fight, no matter how long it takes.

Words can't express how angry I am over this. Imagine: a cabal of rich men with imperial ambitions take over a country, lie to the entire world to justify an invasion it's been planning for years, talks the population into funding the military to the tune of a half trillion dollars a year, but doesn't bother to fully equip the very troops who carry out its malignant strategy.

Too strange to be fiction, huh?


We can't say nobody ever told us what absolute power does.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

More Dubya Talk

President Bush told European leaders yesterday that his strategy in Iraq "is going to work."

Forget a timetable for troop withdrawal. At this point, I'll settle on a timetable for when the strategy is going to start working, because it's not working now. And Bush says he has no plans to change it. Well stay as long as it takes to "prevail," whatever exactly "prevailing" consists of.

To those who have lost family members in the war, Bush said, "We're...not going to allow their mission to go in vain."

So we're going to save their mission by sticking to a strategy that's not working?

Mr. Bush's "Dubya talk" reflects the general illogical, emotional rhetoric of the entire chicken hawk echo chamber.

We can't allow those killed in action to have died in vain.

Imagine what you would tell me if I said you had to sacrifice your son to justify my son's death.

If we withdraw from Iraq, we'll demonstrate to the world that the US military cannot win the conflicts it faces in the twenty-first century.

We've already demonstrated that. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: the "best trained, best equipped" armed force in history did not protect us from the 9-11 attacks, nor did it deter them. And it's presently mired in a struggle with a marginally trained, minimally equipped insurgency force.

But this is a new kind of war; we have to learn how to fight it.

There's nothing about this war that Thucydides didn't write about in 400 BC (History of the Peloponnesian War), and none of it was new then either. Insurgencies, terrorism, asymmetric forces, religious extremism, and the rest of it have been integral factors in war since time immemorial.

It doesn't matter how we got here. We're here now and we have to stay the course.

It does matter how we got here; how we got here has everything to do with whether or not we stay the course. There's a big difference between sticking with a just, necessary war and sticking with a failing war started by sinister leadership on false pretexts.

We have to show the will of the American people to stay the course.

This is a repeat of the tired (and delusional) history rewrite that blames defeat in Vietnam on the American people. The real version is that the American people got fed up (finally) and rejected a bad war started and run badly by bad men.

The Bush-hawks would have the country believe that if we lose in Iraq, it will because a weak-kneed populace failed to support its president's war. Don't listen to that hogwash. The American people won't lose this war. America's disingenuous leaders will--if they haven't already.

Real American's support their commander in chief.

Unless you're presently on active duty in the military, George W. Bush isn't your commander in chief. He's the commander in chief of your military. Real Americans are not subjects of George W. Bush. We are citizens of the United States of America. Whatever he may think, God did not appoint George W. Bush as president. He is a public servant. If you disagree with his policies, it is your right (and also your duty, I'll argue) to oppose them.



PS Best Dubya Talk quote of the week:: "I think about Iraq every day, every single day."

Maybe he ought to start thinking about it twice a day, huh?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Lessons in Irony

George Bush stated on television today that John Bolton will hold the United Nations to account.

This from the man who refuses to accept accountability for anything.



Friday, June 17, 2005

No One in His Senses...

In the 19th century, Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz wrote: “No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war."

Some time later, 21st century American president George W. Bush, referring to the march to war in Iraq, said, "My conversations with the Prime Minister [Tony Blair] was how can we do this peacefully?"

Do what peacefully?

If weapons of mass destruction were the real reason for invading Iraq, why didn't we leave when we found out there weren’t any there?

Did we really invade because of suspected al Qaeda connections? Al Qaeda didn't have a presence in Iraq until we invaded the country. Did we start a war to give ourselves an excuse to fight it?

If the real goal in Iraq was regime change, did Bush and Blair honestly believe they could do that peacefully?

Facing pressure from congress, President Bush is about to launch a campaign to ease America's concerns about the conduct and progress of the war in Iraq, but doesn’t plan to offer any policy changes.

Is that because:

a) there's no real policy to change?


b) because the real policy was one that couldn't possibly have been achieved peacefully, so the Bush team figures it's best if he just doesn't talk about it?

Before you decide on an answer: if you haven't done so yet please, please, please read the 1998 letter from the Project for the New American Century to President Clinton calling for "removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power" through military action. Make sure to take a good look at who signed it. Then pass the link along to your friends.


Good grief! Some right wing wonk on MSNBC just denied the administration ever tried to tie Saddam Hussein to 9-11.

We live in Rovewellian times.

I'm going to try and get my mind off this over the weekend. Maybe I'll catch up on the latest news about Tom Cruise and Katie.

I'll leave you with a couple more logic puzzlers.

--How many more have to die in this war to prevent others from having died in vain?

--How long do you keep making a mistake to justify having made it in the first place?



Thursday, June 16, 2005

Smoking Crack About Iraq?

I like the New York Times' Tom Friedman. He's a smart guy, he writes extremely well, and his heart's almost always in the right place. But I think his column from yesterday, "Let's Talk About Iraq," indicates that like much of the rest of America, he's clinging to false hopes about Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"This is no time to give up," he writes. "[This war] is still winnable--but it is time to ask: What is our strategy?

It's time to get real. This war is only "winnable" if we rewrite our definition of "win." And the time to ask what our strategy is was a long time ago, back when everybody but the administration realized a serious insurgency was getting underway.

Friedman calls for a "bold mobilizing strategy right now" to fix our problems in Iraq, but the sad reality is that the window for "victory" has closed. So many things are broken in this war that nothing short of a time machine could fix them all.

It's too late to go back and erase Donald Rumsfeld's "disastrous mistake" of not putting enough troops into Iraq at the outset, and of not taking the insurgency seriously until it was in full roar. And it's too late to fix the the disastrous mistakes that led up to the war, and to fix the others that sprang from it.

We can't go back to 1998 and squelch the Project for a New American Century's conspiracy to take Saddam Hussein from power by military force. We can't un-cook the intelligence on Iraq, or stop Rumsfeld from going to war with his "transformational" vision of a light force. There's no stopping Alberto Sanchez's legal machinations that led to the rule of law and human rights fiascos in Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, and Gitmo. It's too late to prevent the civil war in Iraq, or the "free elections" in the Middle East that have turned terrorist groups like Hezbollah into legitimate political parties.

Iraq is not, as Friedman suggests, "drifting toward a dangerous tipping point." It's way past the tipping point, and it's hurtling downhill in a handbag. America's military might has proven to be an inferior tool of foreign policy; its political and military leaders have been exposed as sinister, dishonest, and hypocritical.

Some call this kind of talk self defeating--what Congressman J.D. "Party Puppet" Hayworth described on this morning's Imus show as a "Cronkite covenant of craven capitulation." I call it "facing the facts." No "mobilizing strategy" will accomplish anything if it includes sticking our heads in the sand.

The best we can reasonably hope for now is that things in Iraq won't turn out too badly. America's real challenge will be to devise a strategy to restore its prestige and credibility, and put it back on track toward becoming a "shining city on the hill."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tillman's Death Do Us Parse...

Hooray for Robert Scheer of the LA Times. Somebody in the mainstream media shares my outrage over the Pat Tillman affair.

"The deception (over the cover up of the facts of Tillman's death) has continued with the latest and allegedly definitive government statement," writes Scheer. "Last week, the Army unconvincingly claimed that the suppression of field reports that Tillman was killed by friendly fire did not amount to an official cover-up but was merely the result of confusing regulations that should be changed--'an administrative error,' in the words of Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the head of Army public affairs."

Scheer quotes Mary Tillman, Pat's mother, as saying, "the documents we received state that Gen. (John P.) Abizaid knew on April 28 that Pat was absolutely killed by fratricide. Why were we not told prior to Pat's memorial service, which was nationally televised on May 3? We weren't told until five weeks later, and only because the troops that were with Pat came home from Afghanistan and the story was unfolding."

Mrs. Tillman refers to the Army's official report of the fratricide incident, which the Tillman family has seen but that has not been released to the public.

According to Scheer, the report makes it clear that "In the rush to honor Tillman with the Silver Star before a much-publicized memorial service, the Army deliberately obfuscated the fact that Tillman was a victim of friendly fire."

Scheer ends his editorial with one of the bravest and most resonant sentences I seen in the mainstream press in months:

"That Bush has not acknowledged the controversy over Tillman's death, yet was so quick to invoke Tillman's heroism in the midst of the Abu Ghraib scandal and on the campaign trail, speaks volumes about how politicians exploit soldiers, both the living and the dead."

Bravo, Mr. Scheer.


Heritage Youth, or I Know What You Did Last Summer

In a related story by Jason DeParle of the New York Times, the Heritage Foundation is indoctrinating the next generation of Karl Roves.

64 bright-eyed college kids will serve an internship this summer with the renowned conservative think tank, living in dormitory rooms with balconies and earning $2,500 for their ten-week stints.

Ronald Reagan calendars cover the dorm walls, according to DeParle, and brown bag lunches are " the free market theories of Friedrich von Hayek."

Those lucky kids! Imagine how dreary their summers could have turned out. They might have been stuck in low paying, menial jobs; forced to learn how less fortunate Americans live. Out of utter boredom, they might have resorted to reading classic literature on their own time for no pay or college credit. That might have led them to become (shudder) independent thinkers; misguided souls who consider individual issues on their own merits and who gullibly concede from time to time that people who don't agree with them sometimes have legitimate points of view. They might even fall into the delusional belief that things are seldom black or white, entirely right or totally wrong, and that it doesn’t always have to be a "with us or against us" world.

Fortunately, none of that will happen to this bunch of eager young conservatives. They'll be safely conditioned in the mantra that "the truth is in the talking point," and make valuable connections that will insure their future successes as GOP wonks.

Or U.S. Army public affairs officers.



Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Absurdities, Atrocities, and Karl Rove

I readily confess that I see Karl Rove's fingerprints almost everywhere I look these days--but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. (Just because you're paranoid...)

Duncan Hunter's recent rant on treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo is one of the more blatant examples: "The inmates in Guantanamo have never eaten better, they've never been treated better and they've never been more comfortable in their lives."

I'm sure that's true--now that the jig's up on what happened before. Listen closely to his speech (available here)and you'll note that everything he says about conditions at Guantanamo is framed in present tense. This is graduate level lying--misleading and telling "the truth" at the same time.


Dick Cheney's comments were similar: "My own personal view of it is that those who are most urgently advocating that we shut down Guantanamo probably don't agree with our policies anyway,"

Also both true and false. No doubt that is Cheney's personal view of it. And most folks who advocate shutting the prison down probably don't agree with this administration's policies.

That doesn't make the administration's policies right, and it doesn't mean Gitmo shouldn't be shut down.


We find a subtler form of Rovewellianism in Jim Hoagland's column from Sunday's Washington Post titled "Losing the War of Opinion." Hoagland castigates the administration for damaging the government's credibility by being so reluctant to reveal information, but he skips over the real problem--the administration is reluctant to reveal information because it has so much to hide.

And nested among Hoagland's criticism are subliminal pro-administration messages.

"...It is American morality," he writes, "not Saddam Hussein's demonstrated lack thereof--that is becoming a defining issue now, however unfair that may seem."

It doesn’t seem unfair to me at all, Paul. You're offering Team Bush refuge behind the "moral equivalence" argument. We know Saddam Hussein was a bad man. That doesn't make the bad things our government has done okay. I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating: if Saddam Hussein and his like are the Bush administration's moral benchmarks, America is in big trouble.

What's more, "American morality" is not the defining issue. The defining issue is George W. Bush's morality.

Hoagland's article contains several other subtle Bush-propping blurbs, but the most objectionable is this:

"But the White House is too quick to find comfort in the ignorant partisanship of some foes and the partisan ignorance of others -- and in the reality that patience is required in all wars and particularly in one as amorphous and demanding as this struggle has become."

Holy manipulation, Paul! Opposing the White House doesn't necessarily make one partisan, and it certainly doesn't make one ignorant (in fact, it makes one just the opposite). And the "reality" is that patience is not a virtue in any war, particularly in one as sinister and dismally managed as this one has been from the beginning.


One last glimpse into Rove Land:

Tucker Carlson and other right wing pundits assert that the continuing revelations of the Downing Street Memoswon't have much impact because the memos don't tell us anything we didn't already know.

True again: they don't tell us anything we didn't already know. But I'm hoping Carlson and his likes are wrong about lack of impact.

It's not too late to sign John Conyers' letter to President Bush demanding a full investigation of the Downing allegations. If you're of a mind to, stop by Congressman Conyers' web site and show your support.


I leave you with a favorite quote from Voltaire:

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



Monday, June 13, 2005

Insurgency ABCs

If A is greater than B, and C is greater than A, can B be greater than C?

We better hope it can, because that's the logic behind our strategy in Iraq.

Our "best trained, best equipped" military made mince meat of Iraq's regular forces (which it was trained and equipped to do), but is unable to quell an irregular force of insurgents (which it wasn't trained or equipped to do--not particularly well, anyway). Now, our best hope for victory in Iraq is to reconstitute the regular force we trounced and train it to do something we can't.

Logical? No. Possible? Maybe. Probable? Hmm...

Fortunately or unfortunately, war, like all forms of social and political intercourse, doesn't conform to neat, formulaic calculations. Despite advances in the technology of the machinery of war, human beings are still involved, and human beings tend to behave in ways that defy logic.

So maybe we can reconstitute and train a force inferior to ours to defeat an enemy that's proven superior to us.

I pray that's the case, because thanks to the neo-folks who launched this war, that's the only roll-of-the-dice strategic option we have.

But I'm not betting a paycheck on its chances of success.



Saturday, June 11, 2005

Just driving by...

Well, almost taking the weekend off...

If you're of a mind to and haven't done so yet, stop at Congressman John Conyer's site and sign his petition to launch an investigation on The Downing Street Memo.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Weekend Downdate

My time/work log tells me I've been posting 500 plus words here every day for over a month. Time to take a weekend off, I think.

Thanks to everyone who's stopped by. According to the blogo management outfits I subscribe to, over three thousand of you have stopped by to read. Not a bad figure, I reckon, considering that I don't offer much here other than my own opinons.

Catch you all again early next week.



The Brave New World Dictionary

The Army's public affairs office has finally released a crafted reply to Pat Tillman's parents.

"The Army did not 'cover up' any facts," the PAO says. "While procedural misjudgments and mistakes contributed to an air of suspicion, no one intended to deceive the Tillman family or the public as to the cause of his death."

Just what did they intend?

According to Army officials, the service's own investigation of the incident states that the Army knew "almost immediately" that Tillman had been inadvertently killed by fellow soldiers, and that U.S. personnel "destroyed evidence" when they burned Tillman's bloody body armor and uniform the day after his death.

Based on a quick look at my Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, that sounds like deception to me. Maybe the Army spin-doctors don't think "deceive" carries the exact correct shade of meaning. Maybe they prefer "cozen," "dupe," "fool," "gull," "hoodwink," "trick," "defraud," "outwit," "betray," "bamboozle," or "cheat."

Or maybe the PAO means the deception wasn't "intentional," that it just happened by accident.

And yeah, strictly speaking, the Army didn't "cover up" the facts. It burned them.

This, of course, is only the latest effort by government propagandists to parse the truth. They probably think they can get away with it forever.

But eventually, they'll come face to face with the reality that calling bull crap chocolate ice cream doesn't make it cold--or make it smell any better either.



Get Your Patriot Act Together

What's wrong with this picture?

In a speech to the Ohio State Patrol Academy on Thursday, President Bush said, "The Patriot Act closed dangerous gaps in America's law enforcement and intelligence capabilities, gaps that terrorists exploited when they attacked us."

In reality, the dangerous gaps in law enforcement and intelligence capabilities are still there, and the Patriot Act offers little if anything to help close them.

A Justice Department report made public on Thursday reveals that the FBI and CIA had all the information they needed to stop at least two of the 9-11 attackers, but managed to drop it in a cauldron of bureaucracy, clunky computer technology, and inter-agency rivalry.

Almost three years and $170 million later, the FBI's computer system still isn't fixed. And it appears the bureaucracy and inter-agency rivalry isn't either.

"The problem has been recognized," says MSNBC analyst Rick Francona, but the system hasn't "caught up" yet. Was the lack or information sharing between agencies something that the Patriot Act resolved? "It was a mindset," says Francona, referring to the reluctance of agencies to share information that might allow a rival organization to get credit for breaking a case.

I've only read the complete Patriot Act once, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing in it that keeps our law enforcement and intelligence officials from acting like children.

Aside from vague, unsubstantiated claims by Mister Bush and other administration officials, no one has offered credible evidence that the Patriot Act has enabled apprehension of any potential terrorists who wouldn't have been rounded up without the Patriot Act.

The only tangible thing the Patriot Act has done is infringe on individual rights guaranteed by the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution.

America doesn't need the Patriot Act. America's Dick Tracy and James Bond wannabes need to get their acts together.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Defense Spending: Good Money After Bad

In today's New York Times, Tim Weiner sheds light on the bottomless money pit the US military has become.

"After years of failing to control cost overruns," he writes, "the most powerful officials at the Pentagon are becoming increasingly alarmed that the machinery for building weapons is breaking down under its own weight... The Pentagon's new planes and ships are costing three, four, and five times the weapons they will replace."

The Pentagon has more that 80 weapon systems under development, Weiner says. These systems are $300 million over budget; their total cost: $1.47 trillion "and rising."

New weapon systems development costs $148 billion a year. 20% of those dollars are hidden from the public in the classified "black budget." Research and development costs, now $69 billion annually, have climbed 77 percent since 2000. Weiner says to expect the cost of buying new weapons to increase nearly 50 percent by 2011.

The growing price tag on new weapons is "A time bomb with a slow fuse that is now going off," says Franklin C. Spinney, a former Pentagon budget analyst.

What's sucking up all the money? Here are just a few examples.

--The 22-year old ballistic missile defense system program, which has yet to pass a realistic test, has cost $100 billion to date.

--The Navy's DDX destroyer program will need roughly $20 billion to produce five surface combatant ships.

--The Army's Future Combat System, first expected to cost $78 billion, could wind up costing twice that amount.

--Two decades ago, the Air Force's F-22 fighter aircraft program promised to deliver 760 jets at $35 million each. Today, the plan is for 180 jets at more than $330 million a copy.

How much will these and other high dollar programs really cost at the end of the day?

"No one has a clue," says Spiney.

Keep in mind, folks, that none of these big ticket items have a whole lot to do with directly fighting terrorism.

Also keep in mind that when you hear official government numbers on "defense" spending, you're not hearing the whole story. You may not even be hearing half of it. The Pentagon's authorized $442 billion budget doesn't include operating costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor does it include Homeland Defense spending, or intelligence spending outside the Department of Defense, or most law enforcement spending on Homeland Defense operations.

How much are we really spending on "defense?" It's hard to say, but the War Resistors League estimates that 48 percent of the $2.1 trillion federal outlays in 2006 will go toward military related expenditures. At a glance, I think their estimates are a bit inflated, but they're closer to reality than any number the government will give us.

To summarize:

The US spends upwards of half its budget on defense, nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. And most experts tell us we're no safer than we were on 9-11-2001.

In an era where economy has decisively overarched military strength as the dominant tool of national policy, it may well be that the greatest threat to America's security is its own military.



Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Joseph Stalin: America's Moral Benchmark

Former President Jimmy Carter has joined the chorus calling for the closure of the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Like many others, though, Mr. Carter criticized Amnesty International for calling the prison "the gulag of our time," and said that alleged abuses committed there could never compare with the atrocities committed by the late Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.

Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum expresses similar sentiments today in "Amnesty Amnesia." Anne is "appalled by this administration's detention practices and interrogation policies, by the lack of a legal mechanism to judge the guilt of alleged terrorists, and by the absence of any outside investigation into reports of prison abuse." But she's a sight more het up about Amnesty International comparing us to Stalin, and accuses the organization of attacking "the American government for the satisfaction of their own political faction."

The "deny and accuse" mentality seems to have permeated every segment of our society. Even humanists like Jimmy Carter grope to excuse our darkest behaviors. "Yeah, we did something very wrong, but that mean old Amnesty International called us a bad name."

Let's get something straight. Amnesty International did not approve suspension of Geneva Convention rights for the Gitmo prisoners, nor did it decide to place them in a facility outside of the United States proper where Constitutional rights of the accused would not apply.

We did that.

Us. The United States of America. Remember? We're the guys who admonish everybody else about human rights and rule of law.

Amnesty International is the bad guy because it isn't on our side?

Hey. Amnesty International isn't supposed to be on our side. It isn't supposed to be on anybody's side.

Were they wrong to use the term "gulag" to describe the prison at Gitmo?

Guess what? It doesn't matter. Somebody using a wrong word doesn't make the reality of Gitmo all right.

And Bush's Gitmo not being as bad as Stalin's gulag doesn't make Bush's Gitmo all right either.

Unless, of course, we've adopted Stalin as our moral benchmark, and anything we do is okay as long as it isn't as bad as anything Stalin did.

I'll tell you something Uncle Joe didn't do though; he didn't cook his intelligence to justify going to war with Hitler. So maybe all these crybabies wringing their hands about comparing us to him should just SHUT THE HELL UP!

You think?


Mattias Karen of Associated Press reports that global military spending broke $1 trillion in 2004. U.S. military spending accounted for nearly half of the amount, and that's not counting expense of the War on Terror, Homeland Security, and other hidden costs.

The good news? Saddam Hussein's 2004 military spending was $0 trillion.

Mission Accomplished!


To set the record straight:

No, I don't agree that Guantanamo is George W. Bush's gulag.

But I hope it's his Waterloo.



Monday, June 06, 2005

Let Freedom Ring Flat

As the cable news channels obsess on Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, and Russell Crowe, this story on the Lebanese elections gets buried in the clutter...

The good news is that free elections were held in Lebanon. The bad news is that the big winners were Hezbollah, the militant Shia group considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Hezbollah has traditionally called for the destruction of the state of Israel. The pro-Syrian group now claims it has a mandate to retain its weapons, defying international demands that they disarm.

Holy unintended consequences!

Once again, our policy of spreading democracy has left us with a bullet hole in our kicking foot. We have, in effect, legitimized a terrorist organization. What can we do about it? Take Hezbollah off the terrorist list? (Bet you dollars to donuts that's just what we wind up doing.)


In a related story, the U.S. Department of Energy has announced that the price of gas rose two cents per gallon last week . The cost of crude oil has increased roughly 41% in the last year.

So we got that going for us.


And speaking of unintended consequences of foreign policies, let's play another round of the quiz game craze that's sweeping the country--

Name! That! War!

Based on the clues, answer:

a) What does this historic war sound like?


b) What was it really?

The clues...

-- After decades of conflict with an ideological enemy, Nation A emerges as a sole superpower.

-- Though theoretically the world's bastion of democracy, Nation A is in reality controlled by the vision and policies of a single leader and his inner circle of wealthy cronies.

-- After the death of a Nation A hero, Nation A's leader gives a "funeral speech" that convinces the citizens of Nation A to embark on an imperialistic military campaign to "aid fellow democracies."

-- Nation B, a former ally of Nation A, feels threatened and takes actions to curb Nation A's expansionist activities.

-- A general war ensues between Nation A's coalition of states and Nation B's axis of allies. This war, which lasts for decades, features clashes of religions and cultures, asymmetric forces, state-of-the-art technologies, intelligence failures, propaganda, terrorism, insurgency, betrayal, cover-ups, strategic defense initiatives, shifting alliances, personality conflicts among key politicians and generals, and misguided strategies.

-- When Nation B cuts Nation A off from its traditional sources of critical strategic resources, Nation A embarks on an excursion to Island C in an attempt to find a new source of vital raw materials.

-- After years of unsuccessfully courting Island C with diplomatic and economic tools of pursuation, Nation A becomes frustrated and launches an invasion of the Island. The invasion fails. Nation A's military power is destroyed, and its reign as world hegemon ends forever.

Sound familiar?

Here's what it was really.



Name That War!

To misquote Mark Twain, history doesn't repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.

This is the first in a series of quizzes about historic warfare case histories. From the clues given below, see if you can guess which war this "sounds like," and which one it really was.

--In order to consolidate its empire, militaristic nation A invades nation B.

--Nation A's chief minister uses war as primary means of foreign policy, considers legislative body to be a "rubber stamp" for the head of state's policies.

--Nation A defeats nation B's army, captures nation B's head of state, lays siege to nation B's capital. Nation A briefly believes the war is over.

--Nation B establishes new government, resists occupation, forms irregular force. Prolonged guerilla style warfare ensues.

--On and off state of warfare between nations A and B for decades. Nation A ultimately decisively defeated by powerful allies of nation B.

(What it really was.)

Draft Beer, Not Kids

Thanks to recent talk about extended U.S. presence in Iraq, the media--mostly the blogosphere--is awash with talk about the possibility of America reinstituting the draft. This comes despite Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's consistent assurances that "The last thing we need is a draft." But Rumsfeld's track record with reality-based pronouncements hasn't been all that accurate, so there's good reason to be concerned.

Plenty of other high profile people have talked about the necessity for a draft over the past few years, among them Senator Charles Rangel (D, New York), Senator Charles Hagel (R, Nebraska), and most recently, celebrity sports announcer and self-confessed Vietnam-era draft dodger Jim Lampley.

The arguments for a draft look something like this:

-- A draft will make all Americans share the burden of the war.

-- A draft will spread the burden of service across all economic classes.

-- A draft will bring blue and red states together, making them both take a more critical look at Bush administration war policies and actions.

-- A draft will make the Iraq war end sooner.

These arguments are pure baloney.

American taxpayers have shared the burden of hundreds of billions of dollars to support this woebegone war. We'll be paying off the debt created by the Iraq excursion for generations.

Any new draft will be like the last draft. The underprivileged and undereducated will become rifle soldiers. The Bush twins will serve as flight attendants with the Air National Guard.

A draft will just be one more thing for the blue and red states to separate on. Blue staters will blame the need for a draft on the red staters who voted for Bush. Red staters will blame the need for the draft on the Blue staters who didn't provide enough volunteers. '

A draft won't shorten the war; it will just add fuel to the fire. We're far better off to let this conflagration burn itself out.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Dem Dum Dems

I wish the Democrats would quit beating themselves over the heads trying to find an "identity." They already have one, and one that sounds pretty good. The Dems should sell themselves as:

- The party of tolerance.
- The party of individual rights and dignity.
- The party of compassion (the real kind).
- The party of religious freedom and separation of church and state (don't think for a minute you can have one without the other).
- The party of fiscal responsibility and prosperity.
- The party of enlightened foreign policy, one that balances security requirements with diplomacy and other tools of power.
- The party that deals in reality.

Over at Capitol Banter, cyber pal r. scott kimsey notes:

"The (Democratic) party comes across as shrill, as being more interested in personal attacks than policy..."

I think, scott, this is largely because they've been outmaneuvered by their opposition's propaganda machine. These days, my definition of "irony" is Ann Coulter calling Maureen Dowd a strident bitch. When it comes to shrill, personal attack, could anyone ever match Ann, Rush, Laura, O'Reilley, Hannity, Buchanan, and the rest of the Rovewellian echo chamber? If you want to see "nasty" and "vulgar," watch the tape of Dick Cheney's speech at the last GOP convention.

Remaking the Democratic Party into a mirror image of the GOP would most likely be a mistake. At some point, the center--where the margin of victory will come from--is going to get sick of the GOP (if it isn't already).

One thing the Dems need to come to terms with, though: if they want to pull in the center, they'll need to dump the Hollywood crowd, or at least ask them to tone it down. Whoopee and Chevy hurling obscenities at the GOP won't win over any new hearts and minds.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Red Faced in Virginia Beach

In an earlier post, Join Now and Avoid the Draft, I described reports of ominous threats from Army recruiters that if they don't get enough volunteers, they'll have to reintroduce the draft. This appears to be happening.

And Republican Senator Chuck Hagel did make a lot of noise about bringing back the draft--but he made it more than a year ago. The way I wrote Join Now, it appears that he made his remarks on the subject last week.

That was extraordinarily careless of me. Yes, the possibility of a draft is a real and serious issue, but by shifting the time frame of Senator Hagel's remarks, I made the possibility seem more immediate than it actually is.

The Pen and Sword site is opinion-editorial, not "news;" one designed to persuade (and hopefully entertain) rather than inform. Nonetheless, I have an obligation to base my arguments on reasonably verifiable facts presented in a reasonably accurate manner.

With Join Now and Avoid the Draft, I failed to meet that obligation.

Please accept my apologies. I've removed the post from the site, and will replace it with a more accurate commentary at a later date.

Jeff Huber

Friday, June 03, 2005

Grovelers, Hypocrites, and Civil Libertarians

Charles Krauthammer's daily minimum dose of Kool-Aid in today's Washington Post is an artful blast at Gitmo apologists. Did he miss a single trick from the Karl Rove playbook? Let's see...

"Grovel" and "enough already" in the title. "Self flagellation" is there. "Run and hide," good. "Self flagellation" a second time, excellent. "Inflammatory allegations." You go, Krautster!

I really like this:

"Moreover, what were the Korans doing there in the first place? The very possibility of mishandling Korans arose because we gave them to each prisoner. What kind of crazy tolerance is this?"

That's telling them, Chazman. We wouldn't have been cast as bad guys if we hadn't been such good guys in the first place. What were we thinking, being tolerant like that? Almost un-American, wasn't it?

And this is masterful:

"Even greater hypocrisy is to be found here at home. Civil libertarians, who have been dogged in making sure that FBI-collected Guantanamo allegations are released to the world, seem exquisitely sensitive to mistreatment of the Koran. A rather selective scrupulousness. When an American puts a crucifix in a jar of urine and places it in a museum, civil libertarians rise immediately to defend it as free speech. And when someone makes a painting of the Virgin Mary, smears it with elephant dung and adorns it with porn, not only is that free speech, it is art--deserving of taxpayer funding and an ACLU brief supporting the Brooklyn Museum when the mayor freezes its taxpayer subsidy."

Chucky, how'd you manage to clump "hypocrisy" with civil libertarians, the FBI, Newsweek, tax subsidies for art, pornography, and the ACLU all in one paragraph? And pandering to the Christian right to boot! Wow. I'm in total awe.

Ooh, check out that grand finale:

"Get over it," "stop whimpering," "start defending ourselves."

Outstanding job overall, Krautmeister. Just one thing; you left out "hand wringing."

Try to do better next time, okay?



Thursday, June 02, 2005

Some Disassembly Required

The New York Times' Bob Herbert beat me to the punch today with his column "Truth and Deceit." (Maybe that explains why Bob's writing for The Times and I’m not.)

In the column, Bob compares the Nixon White House to the Bush administration--Vietnam/Watergate versus Iraq/Intelligence-gate. I may not have anything of significance to add to Bob's comments, but I'll give it a try.

I have no idea what Mark Felt's real motivations were in helping Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein break the Watergate story, or why he chose now to come out of the closet.

But I have a pretty good idea what his detractors are up to.

Former Nixon Speech writer Pat Buchanan blasted Felt, calling him a "traitor," among other things, and blaming him for bringing down the Nixon administration. Pat makes no mention of the things the Nixon administration did to bring itself down.

Convicted Watergate conspirator Charles W. Colson said, "When any president has to worry whether the deputy director of the FBI is sneaking around in dark corridors peddling information in the middle of the night, he's in trouble." Colson ignores the fact that what got Nixon in trouble was having his henchmen sneaking around the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the middle of the night.

And G. Gordon Liddy, another convicted conspirator, said Felt had "violated the ethics of the law enforcement profession" by taking his information outside legal channels. The G-Man didn't bring up the ethics violations committed by then FBI Chief Patrick Gray and attorney general John Mitchell when they passively and/or actively assisted in the cover-up.

What we have here is the classic GOP deny-and-accuse brainwash tactic that began in the Nixon administration and survives to this day. The people who committed the crimes take the moral high ground and condemn the whistle blowers.


Little surprise that the key figures in the Bush White House got their political starts in the Nixon administration, or that they've continued to hone the tactics they learned in that era.

The overwhelming burden of evidence shows that the Iraq invasion was decided upon by the Project for a New American Century cabal long before George W. Bush threw his hat into the ring for the GOP presidential nomination. We know that the intelligence on Iraq was shaped--largely by former members of the PNAC--to support the nomination. We know that Donald Rumsfeld ignored advice of senior military officers who cautioned that a quarter million or more troops would be needed to restore order to an ethnically, religiously, and politically divided Iraq. And we know that prison abuses in Cuba, Afghanistan, and Iraq resulted from policy decisions made at the highest levels of our government.

We know this largely because of former and current government officials who "leaked" information to the free press.

Three decades ago, similar revelations brought and end to a corrupt, dishonest administration. But a funny thing is happening today. The administration is blaming its own misdeeds, mistakes, and miscalculations on "disgruntled turncoats" and the "irresponsible media." The sad part is, they appear to be getting away with it. A significant portion of the public seems perfectly willing to blame everything on the messengers and to absolve the perpetrators of all sins.

Why is this happening? I can think of two possible reasons.

We may have evolved into a nation of pasture grazers--a society of followers who would rather believe anything our leaders tell us than see through their "disassembly," and who obediently take out our frustrations on whatever scapegoats our leaders herd us toward.


We may have developed a lamentable but necessary pragmatism. Even many of us who opposed the invasion of Iraq and who are appalled at our leaders' mishandling of it believe our country's best course of action is to make what we can of a bad situation. Abandoning Iraq now would most likely lead to a civil war that would spread beyond Iraq's borders, making the Middle East a more chaotic and dangerous region than it was before.

My guess is that most of us fall into one camp or the other, and that some of us have a foot in both.

Wherever you fall in this spectrum, keep one thing in mind. If this Iraq excursion turns out badly, it won't be the fault of the media, or the Clintons, or China, or those who voiced opposition to the administration's policies and actions. It will be the fault of the bad men who started the war on bad pretexts and ran it badly.


James Corum's "War From the Top Down" in today's NYT is good reading for all students of the counter-insurgency problem in Iraq. Corum closes with:

"Counterinsurgency is not rocket science--which is unfortunate because America would be good at it if it were. A successful counterinsurgency strategy requires a return to military basics, especially well-trained officers. Unless we provide Iraq with good leadership, our plan to spread democracy, which looked so close to victory two years ago, will end in defeat."



Wednesday, June 01, 2005

I Beg Your Pardon...

What did he tell us in the Rose Garden?

My head's still spinning from yesterday's presidential press conference. Here's what I took away from it.

President Bush is pleased with the progress in Iraq and thinks the Iraqi government is "plenty capable" of handling the insurgency. Great! Let them handle it and bring our troops home.

Mister Bush is in favor of taking the "diplomacy approach" with North Korea. Could that be because he doesn't have any other approach to take since the U.S. military is bogged down in Iraq?

We don't have an energy plan? Weren't all those secret talks a few years back between Uncle Dick and the oil bigwigs about coming up with an energy plan? Or did the plan go south when they didn't grab control of the Middle East oil like they thought they would?

The Amnesty International report on Guantanamo was an "absurd" pack of lies told by "dis-assemblers" who "hate America." Well, I'm sorry about that nasty old report, but what did Mister Bush think would happen when he approved suspension of the Geneva Conventions?

President Bush wants us to look upon China as "an economic opportunity." Is this the same China that's in the Axis of Evil, or is he talking about a different China? Or is it the same China, but not in the Axis of Evil any more?

What's really up with the Bolton nomination? Could it be that Mister Bush wants to do the same thing with the UN that he wants to do with Social Security--dismantle it? Funny how Mister Bush doesn't want to release vital information about Bolton's activities, but it's the Senate Democrats who are "stalling."

Much has been made of Bolton's escapades with the State Department, but many don't know that he was a key member of Bill Kristol's neo-conservative Project for a New American Century. His signature appeared on letters written in 1998 to President Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Trent Lott that advocated use of military force to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Do you think that might have influenced his shaping of the intelligence on Iraq?

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the video of Bolton in action at the UN at The Huffington Post.

I leave you once again with one of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain:

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."