Friday, September 30, 2005

Quote of the Day...

...from Lucy Daglish on MSNBC:

"I'm no expert on ethics. I'm a lawyer."

For Something Completely Different...

Over at Knits End, the always witty and charming Kerstin decries how awful she looks in her latest creation.

I suspect that the vast majority of her admirers will think otherwise.

Have a great weekend, everybody!


Smoking Crack About Iraq

If you thought Mike Brown was a buffoon, how do you like the Abbott and Costello routines Donald Rumsfeld and the Not Ready for Wartime Players have been staging lately?
In testimony before Congress on Thursday, the senior American military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. of the Army, said the most recent analysis of intelligence from across the country supported the Bush administration's optimistic predictions that the referendum would pass.

Intelligence analysis supports the Bush administration's predictions? That joke's getting a little stale, isn't it, General?

It looks like a private polling company agrees with the intelligence, although according to the NYT…
Their calculations are complicated, because by law the constitution will fail if it is rejected by two-thirds of the voters in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces, even if a majority of voters nationwide approve it… In regions dominated by Sunni Arabs, opinion polls have shown sentiment running just about two to one against it.

How many US tax dollars did we pay for these complicated calculations that back up our intelligence but really don't?


It looks like I'm not the only one who's leery of the intelligence and the polls.
Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, asked General Casey in a pointed exchange during the hearing on Thursday, "If there's a strong majority of Sunnis, which is very possible, that vote against that constitution, could that not possibly lead to a worsening political situation rather than a better one?"

"I think that's entirely possible," the general replied. "I mean, as we've looked at this, we've looked for the constitution to be a national compact, and the perception now is that it's not, particularly among the Sunnis."


Once it's established that the intelligence and polls might be cooked, the story flip-flops.
Officials say that if the constitution is defeated, insurgents will most likely believe that they have won a significant victory and be encouraged to fight on. Conversely, it is said, the insurgency will grow stronger if the voters approve the constitution, because that will anger Sunnis who opposed it and empower Sunni insurgents who can claim that their views were ignored.

So, either way, things could be bad?
"A vote for the constitution doesn't mean we're headed for peace and prosperity," Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the Central Command, said in an interview this month. "Iraq is going to be a pretty difficult security environment for a while."

Dirdle, dirdle, dirdle. The constitution will probably pass because the intelligence says is will, but if it doesn't, that's all right, because things will be difficult either way, because the constitution we thought would be a national compact probably won't turn out to be the national compact we hoped it would be?


It gets worse. From Mister Rumsfeld himself:
"Insurgencies ultimately are defeated by the indigenous people in that country, not by outside forces, because outside forces can in fact contribute to the growth of an insurgency if they are seen as an occupation force."

But no word on when the indigenous people will be ready to defeat the insurgency in that country.
Mr. Rumsfeld and the panel of military officers resisted setting any date for reductions of American forces in Iraq, saying those decisions will depend on the growth of capable Iraqi security units and the level of security throughout the country.

And how is the growth of capable Iraqi units coming?
(General Casey said that) growing numbers of Iraqi police and Army forces are increasingly able to provide security in their country.

…only one Iraqi Army battalion (is) capable of fighting without help from United States armed forces.

Let's do some quick math. If it took two years to make one Iraqi Army battalion that's capable of fighting without help, how long will it take to make eight or ten of them?

In the meantime, it looks like we'll have to fight the insurgency with an outside occupation force that will add to the growth of the insurgency.


Watching Rummy and his stooges buck and wing their way around Iraq reminds me of something I think whenever I see a major leaguer bobble a routine fly ball: I could play that bad for half the money this guy's making.

Uncle Karl Made Him Do It?

Do you think Bill Bennett was trying to draw the heat away from Tom Delay? And if he was, who do you reckon came up with the idea?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More Next New World Order

Regarding global military spending, I recommend you take a look at the CIA World Fact Book page on the subject.

The U.S is number one, of course, and the number posted (370$ billion) is from 2003. Number two is China at $67.5 billion (2004). Next in order come Japan, France, England, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, India, and Australia, ranging from $17 to $46 billion. Russia is not included because there's no way of knowing what they really spend, but it's a safe assumption that the vast majority of what's left of its Cold War arsenal is either burning in Chechnya or caked in rust.

Of that list, China is the only country one can reasonably argue we might have to fight a conventional, symmetrical war with in the next 10 to 20 years, and that would be a naval/air war in which we would interdict an invasion of Taiwan (which is extremely unlikely to occur).

I have yet to hear a compelling argument as to why America continues to pursue an arms race with itself.

Corrupts Absolutely

"'Berto, how 'bout you write me up one of them things… What do you call 'em?"

"A memorandum, Mister President?"

"Yeah, one of them."

"What do you want the memorandum to say, sir?"

"I want to be able to do what I want, you know, without any of that treaty and convention and constitution stuff getting in the way."

"You want me to write a memo that grants you absolute power?"

"Yeah. Absolute power. I like that sound of that."

"Have it for you by noon, boss."


Today in Iraq has the letter that Captain Ian Fishback wrote to Senator John McCain regarding prisoner abuse committed by members of the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq and Afghanistan.

…While I served in the Global War on Terror, the actions and statements of my leadership led me to believe that United States policy did not require application of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan or Iraq. On 7 May 2004, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's testimony that the United States followed the Geneva Conventions in Iraq and the "spirit" of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan prompted me to begin an approach for clarification. For 17 months, I tried to determine what specific standards governed the treatment of detainees by consulting my chain of command…

Despite my efforts, I have been unable to get clear, consistent answers from my leadership about what constitutes lawful and humane treatment of detainees. I am certain that this confusion contributed to a wide range of abuses including death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment. I and troops under my command witnessed some of these abuses in both Afghanistan and Iraq…

My strong sense is that this Captain Fishback is an intelligent, mature man and that he isn't coming forward now for the sake of calling attention to himself. And he sure as heck isn't doing it to enhance his military career (um, his military career is over). So it sounds to me like he knows what he's talking about and, more importantly, that he's telling the truth.

And what he's telling is just another symptom of what seems to be an encompassing break down in the military chain of command, a breakdown caused by an "optional" war initiated on fuzzy pretexts and conducted in a manner outside the accepted laws of armed conflict, and a breakdown that began at the very top with the Commander in Chief.


Snippets on the "torture memo" from the Center for American Progress:
According to Newsweek, the memo "was drafted after White House meetings convened by George W. Bush's chief counsel, Alberto Gonzales, along with Defense Department general counsel William Haynes and [Cheney counsel] David Addington." The memo included the opinion that laws prohibiting torture do "not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants." Further, the memo puts forth the opinion that the pain caused by an interrogation must include "injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions—in order to constitute torture."

"Laws don't apply to the President." Doesn't that make you all warm and safe?

And why don't they apply? According to Gonzalez:
the war against terrorism is a new kind of war…this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

The "new kind of war" meme is one of the most disingenuous notions that the administration and its echo chamberlains have palmed off on the American public. They have told us this war is "new" because it involves terrorism, asymmetric forces, propaganda, intelligence, law enforcement, non-state political entities, religion, and a host of other factors that have been integral factors of war throughout recorded history. There is nothing about our war on terrorism that Greek military historian Thucydides didn't write about in 400 B.C., and none of it was new then either.


The trail goes from Mister Bush to Donald Rumsfeld to General Geoffrey Miller who goes to Guantanamo then Iraq and then Afghanistan. The top echelons of command, including Army Chief of Staff and Rumsfeld crony General Peter Shoomaker continue to insist that the torture incidents have been "the actions of a few."

So it's little wonder that Captain Fishback got so little response from his superiors in the chain of command. Fishback's superiors know that culpability goes all the way up to "the actions of a few" at the very top of the food chain, and nobody has enough clout to take on those characters. They have absolute power.

Remember? 'Berto gave it to them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Delay Indicted!

How about that?

The Next New World Order

This is an early draft of a piece I'm preparing for some woebegone segment of the mainstream media. I've pilfered many of these ideas from "real" political science guys. Some of them are semi-original. Please feel free to critique, suggest, castigate, what have you…

There is no miracle solution in Iraq. If there were, Rumsfeld and his generals would have stumbled across it by now. Come civil war or high water, Iraqis need to ratify their constitution in October and hold their elections in December. And America needs to bring its troops home so we can get organized to face the next new world order.

Another tectonic shift in global power is already taking place. American's days as a "hegemon" are over. We must take prudent steps to ensure we emerge as a "first among political entities." To do so, we need to have a basic grasp of the coming redistribution of power.

A quick look at global gross domestic products suggests we'll soon live in a world with four distinguishable but interconnected tiers of state, super-state, and non-state players: major powers, balance powers, regional powers, and wild cards.

The major powers will be the United States, the European Union, and China. They will establish (reestablish) geographic spheres of primary influence that will look much like the ones that existed prior to World War I. America, for instance, will exert direct influence over and area similar to the one it dominated after the Spanish American War.

England, Russia, and Japan will be key balance powers that exert influence globally, but usually in loose alliance with one or more of the major powers.

Regional powers like India, South Korea, and Malaysia will be the third tier. Their main influences will be somewhat limited to the geographic spheres of their nearest major power, but they too will have effect on certain aspects of the entire global scene (as witness the "brain drain" of American technology jobs to India).

The wild cards will include The Middle East, North Korea, and Africa.

The Middle East is a veritable herd of cats. Post-U.S. Iraq occupation, it could fall into a serendipitous age of relative peace at one extreme or a decades long era of "third world war" at the other. How the Middle East evolves will determine the extent to which the other tiers can coax it into the 21st century or will need to contain it until the region matures sufficiently.

The North Korea situation will likely remain much as it is. The major and balance powers will play a containment game of stick and carrot until North Korea matures and stabilizes.

Africa, I don't know. Henry Kissinger called it "the loaded gun pointed at the South Pole." Barring some truly unexpected phenomenon (like the discovery of extra-terrestrial intelligence), the subcontinent will remain the world's orphan. It may be the best the tiered powers can do to keep it from becoming the annex to a chaotic Middle East.

The major and balance powers will compete and cooperate in the economic realm. Arms races and conflicts among them will be rare; not necessarily because of a breakout of international brotherly love, but because as America's Iraq experience has illustrated, modern symmetric warfare has become an utterly counterproductive means of pursuing national aims.

Economy will be the primary instrument of power for the regional entities as well, though they may cling to armed force as a way of coping with neighboring wild cards.


Though economy will be the primary engines of the major and balance powers, they will also maintain a modicum of military force as a means of keeping the wild cards corralled. And given that the United States presently outspends the rest of the world combined on defense, it will retain the lead in "armed diplomacy." But America will need to cut its arsenal to a realistic minimum in order to stay competitive economically.

"Expert" opinions to the contrary, we do not need to build a bigger Army. We would only need a larger land force to fight more wars like the one in Iraq. And if the Iraq war taught us anything, it's that we don't need to fight any more wars like that one.

For the time being, we'll need to maintain sufficient land power to deter or repel an invasion of South Korea from the north, and keep enough air and naval power to dissuade or interdict a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Keep in mind, though, that we won't have to do these things alone. Both South Korea and Taiwan have built up defense forces over decades for the sole purpose of countering the specific threats they face.

America will also retain the bulk of the nuclear deterrence arsenal. Ballistic missile defense may prove a fiscally superior alternative to deterrence at some point in the future, but not before significant technological breakthroughs are achieved.


The next new world order will depend on the major and balance powers resolving two key issues, and resolving them fairly quickly.

First is their dependence on Middle East oil. Unless the big powers wean themselves from this energy requirement, they will find it difficult to tame or contain this wild card region.

Second--and this is important to everyone in the upper power tiers--America must transition to a peacetime economy. We have been on a fiscal war footing since Pearl Harbor. Given the ubiquitous influence and power the military-industrial-congressional complex has consolidated over the past sixty some years, changing the economy will be a daunting task. But I'm convinced it’s a necessary undertaking, and an achievable one.
If America truly is dependent on a half-trillion dollar annual input from the federal government to run it's economic engine, there are plenty of things we can pour tax dollars into besides weapons. Rebuilding our national infrastructure (particularly along the Gulf Coast) and undertaking a complete makeover of our energy system are two good places to start.

Coming Attraction...

Later today: "The Next New World Order," an early draft of a vision for America and the world after Iraq.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Iraq: Alas and Alack

You could almost predict this.

Just as David Ignatius told us how the generals now have a "new" strategy for Iraq, we get word that whatever the "new" strategy is, it still isn't working.

From Tuesday's San Francisco Chronicle:
A senior U.S. Marine commander said Monday that insurgents loyal to militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had taken over at least five key western Iraqi towns on the border with Syria and were forcing local residents to flee…

Two weeks ago, Marine spokesmen denied initial reports that insurgents had taken control of the area…

We have no reason to believe anything we hear about the war in Iraq or anywhere else that we hear from any source in our government.


Mentally challenged Lynndie England has been convicted on six counts connected with the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal, and faces up to ten years in prison.

Alberto Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld, and General Geoffrey Miller, chief architects of the "torture culture," have yet to face charges of anything.


Richard Cheney and John Bolton, key players in the Iraq "intelligence cook off," still hold offices of nearly unimaginable power.


Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, former operational commander of forces in Iraq who signed a memorandum that authorized 12 torture techniques that exceeded guidelines of the Army's Field Manua, was cleared of any "wrongdoing" by an Army inquiry.


This Iraq war has been a continuous cycle of hoax-debacle-cover up. Only a nation of lemmings would continue to support it indefinitely.

Get the constitution ratified, hold the elections, bring the troops home.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mainstream Media Fails Us Again?

Did anybody see a single image of Saturday's anti-war protest in D.C. on any of the news networks?

Shame the Nation...

Cindy Sheehan just got arrested outside the White House.

No doubt they'll take a DNA sample and enter it into the secret database.

The Next Big Blow

I haven't heard anyone talking about this yet.

For obvious reasons, the federal and local government response to Rita was notably superior to the response to Katrina. A prime factor in that--other than political pressure--was the level of proactive effort involved.

Here's the $200 billion question: will we be able to sustain that kind of effort for each and every big storm that comes rolling our way?

Is anybody at Homeland Security/FEMA/Northern Command thinking about that?

Alack in Iraq

David Ignatius gives the low down on the "shift" in the Iraq strategy:
Centcom chief, Gen. John Abizaid, gathered his top generals here for what he called a "commanders' huddle." They described a military approach that's different, at least in tone, from what the public perceives. For the commanders, Iraq isn't an endless tunnel. They are planning to reduce U.S. troop levels over the next year to a force that will focus on training and advising the Iraqi military. They don't want permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. Indeed, they believe such a high-visibility American presence will only make it harder to stabilize the country.

Okay, David. Reduce troop levels over the next year and train and advise the Iraqi military. How is this different from what we perceive now?
The goal over the next decade is a smaller, leaner, more flexible U.S. force in the Middle East--one that can help regional allies rather than trying to fight an open-ended American war that would be a recruiting banner for al Qaeda.

I'm lost. Iraq isn't an endless tunnel, but we'll be there for at least another decade. We'll have a smaller, leaner force that helps regional allies for the indefinite future, but we won't be fighting an open-ended American war. We'll be fighting other people's open-ended wars? And if we don't have permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, where will we put out smaller, leaner force? The Holiday Inn?
"The longer we carry the brunt of the counterinsurgency fight, the longer we will carry the brunt," says Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who commands U.S. troops in Iraq.

Did Casey really say that? He must be taking rhetoric lessons from his Commander in Chief.
"The military commanders have concluded that because Iraqis have such strong cultural antibodies to the American presence, the World War II model of occupation isn't relevant. They've sharply lowered expectations for what America can accomplish.

They're just now figuring out that the World War II model isn't relevant? Appalling!
What Abizaid and his commanders seem to fear most is that eroding political support for the war in the United States will undermine their strategy for a gradual transition to Iraqi control. They think that strategy is beginning to pay off, but it will require several more years of hard work to stabilize the country. The generals devoutly want the American people to stay the course...

Ah! If their strategy doesn't work, it will be because eroding political support undermined it, because the American people didn't stay the course. Where have we heard that line before?


This Ignatius article is a total zoom job. I can't tell if Ignatius is zooming us, if the generals are zooming Ignaius, or if the generals are just zooming themselves.

There is absolutely nothing new or unexpected in any of this. They're still just making it up as they go along.

Karen Hughes: Right Out of Doonesbury

You don't have to make stuff up with the Bush Gang. They're self-lampooning.

From the NYT.
Under Secretary of State Karen P. Hughes arrived in Egypt on Sunday in her overseas debut as President Bush's "public diplomacy" envoy. She denounced Islamic militancy, defended administration policies in Iraq and said the slow response to Hurricane Katrina was regrettable but not racist.

I wonder if they're still calling it a "listening" tour.
The audiences were friendly… Not one questioner…asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sounds like a standard Bush administration town hall meeting. How did they get that many loyal Republicans over to Eqypt?
"I understand that many of the concerns are deep-seated," Ms. Hughes told reporters. "I'm probably not going to change many minds."

No kidding?


When Cheney steps down for health reasons, who gets nominated to take his place?

(I'll take 2 to 1 on Condi.)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Brave New Database

This from WaPo and other places:
Suspects arrested or detained by federal authorities could be forced to provide samples of their DNA that would be recorded in a central database under a provision of a Senate bill to expand government collection of personal data.

They won't even have to arrest you and charge you with anything. They just have to detain you. The feds will be able to pick you up for whatever reason they want and put your DNA in a national database.

J. Edgar Hoover would have loved it.

I hear the sound of one Republic crumbling.

War Profiteers and Yes Men

I hate to dignify this piece of bald-faced denial with a link, but I guess I have to if I'm going to talk about it.

It's a piece from National Review written by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey and Army Chief of Staff Peter Shoomaker about the issue of torturing detainees.

Everything has been investigated. Nothing's the fault of anybody at the top. It's all being taken care of; trust them.

No mention of the memos signed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. No mention of how Albert Gonzalez wrote a memo saying the Geneva and UN
Conventions didn't apply.

And just who are these Harvey and Shoomaker guys?

Harvey is your standard Rumsfeld service secretary: a man in charge of weapons acquisition who just happened to spend his career as an executive with major defense contractors.

And Shoomaker's a long time Rummy crony who got called out of retirement because no one else would go along with Rummy's vision for "transforming" the Army.

Our armed services are in the hands of war profiteers and yes men.

And they wonder why parents don't want their kids to enlist.

Undersecretary of Spin

From Friday's WaPo:
As Karen Hughes, longtime presidential adviser and new public diplomacy guru at the State Department, prepares to leave this weekend on a "listening tour" of the Middle East, a congressionally mandated advisory panel to the department warned that "America's image and reputation abroad could hardly be worse."

I'm not sure why we needed a congressionally mandated advisory panel to tell Hughes our image is down the tubes. Maybe that's the only way she'd "listen."
The Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy cited polling that found that large majorities in Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia "view George W. Bush as a greater threat to the world order than Osama bin Laden."

In my view it's a toss up who's a greater threat to world order. But between the two of them, bin Laden is the one who seems to know what he's doing.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday that Hughes is "going to be starting a conversation with the rest of the world." He said that she will be "listening" on the trip, "and in listening, she will also be trying to explain our policies and laying the foundation for the coming years, in terms of our public diplomacy efforts."

So she's going to listen and talk at the same time. It's been my experience that people who do that don't hear anything, and the people they're talking to don't want to listen.
Rami G. Khouri of the Daily Star in Beirut wrote in a commentary last week that Hughes's efforts have promise "but I fear if some early distortions, gaps and misguided operating principles are not quickly amended, she and her efforts could turn out to be another howling waste of time and money."

I suspect she'd do more good by standing on the White House lawn and howling at the moon. But we'll see. She may surprise us and actually accomplish something, but her track record isn't promising. She's a longtime Bush adviser, remember. And the Bush team has never been strong on substance.
"Straight talking will work, but sweet talking won't," said James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. "This is not about feigning sincerity; it's about responding to concerns. We are in a hole too deep."

Feigning sincerity is precisely how the Bush administration got itself--and our country--in the hole it's in now. Will they overnight learn to stop digging? I'm skeptical.

They've built an oligarchy on the premise that they can spin reality into whatever they want it to be, and so far, they've gotten away with it. But the truth is catching up with them.

Perception is not reality. The map is not the territory. Or, as I like to put it, calling bull crap chocolate ice cream doesn't make it cold.

America's poor image is a direct result of the Bush administrations policies and actions. If the policies and actions remain the same, so will the image.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Playing the Shame Game

As bad as the Army's looking lately, there's still plenty of shame to go around. It seems that my United States Navy has been part and parcel of the "extraordinary rendition" business. From the AP:
A branch of the U.S. Navy secretly contracted a 33-plane fleet that included two Gulfstream jets reportedly used to fly terror suspects to countries known to practice torture, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press…

At least 10 U.S. aviation companies were issued classified contracts in 2001 and 2002 by the obscure Navy Engineering Logistics Office for the "occasional airlift of USN (Navy) cargo worldwide," according to Defense Department documents the AP obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Contracts issues in 2001 and 2002? Interesting time frame. Do you wonder if 'Berto Gonzalez maybe wrote a memo saying it was okay to issue those contracts?

Neither the CIA nor a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon would comment for this story. Officials at the Navy Engineering Logistics Office, or NELO, in Arlington, Va., didn't respond to messages requesting comment.

No comment? Shock! Awe!
Joseph P. Duenas, counsel for the logistics office, declined to provide the contracts, saying they "involve national security information that is classified."

What information held by any office of the executive branch isn't classified these days?
The permits list 31 planes under NELO contract other than the two Gulfstreams. They include a small Cessna; three huge Lockheed Hercules cargo planes; a Gulfstream 1159a; a Lear Jet 35A; a DC-3; two Boeing 737s; and a 53-passenger DeHavilland DH-8 photographed by plane spotters in Afghanistan. Ownership of the planes is shielded behind a maze of paperwork and elusive executives.

Our entire administration seems to be shielded behind a maze of paperwork in the elusive executives.

Are we ready to take our country back from these people yet?

Neo Priorities

First things first for Uncle Karl? From Senator Frank Lautenberg's web site:
September 23, 2005

Honorable George W. Bush President The White House Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

The assignment of your Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl C. Rove, as the lead White House official for disaster coordination and recovery efforts raises troubling questions given his partisan political background.

As all know, Hurricane Rita is bearing down on the Gulf Coast even as the nation reels from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It would be expected that Mr. Rove would be at his post "24/7" during this crisis.

However, as unlikely as it might seem, we have learned that Mr. Rove will be traveling to North Dakota to engage in political fundraising activities. When this fearsome hurricane makes landfall on Saturday, Mr. Rove will be delivering a political speech to the North Dakota Republican Party, and will be featured as a special guest at a fundraising dinner.

I respectfully urge you to remind Mr. Rove of his responsibilities as the coordinator of relief and recovery efforts, and direct him to keep his attention focused on this critical job. There will be plenty of time for fundraising, but for now, putting lives back together and rebuilding communities must take priority over building political war chests.


Frank R. Lautenberg

Maybe Karl's looking for contributions to his Traitorgate defense fund.

(Hand salute to First Draft.)

Spin Doctors of War

The DOD's official statement on the 82nd Airborne prisoner abuse story:
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. John Skinner criticized the report as a predictable effort to try to "advance an agenda through the use of distortions and errors in fact."

Which is a predictable response from the Pentagon spin factory.


Neo Napalm

Ariadne asked about the legal status of napalm use. Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on the subject.

Napalm was banned for use on civilian targets by a United Nations convention in 1980, but the U.S. did not sign the convention.

The U.S. "officially" destroyed its napalm arsenal in 1991, but "napalm like" bombs were used in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The Whole Barrel

From The New York Times (italics are mine):
Threeformer members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division say soldiers in theirbattalion in Iraq routinely beat and abused prisoners in 2003 and 2004 tohelp gather intelligence on the insurgency and to amuse themselves.

Thenew allegations, the first involving members of the elite 82nd Airborne,are contained in a report by Human Rights Watch. The 30-page report doesnot identify the troops, but one is Capt. Ian Fishback, who has presented some of his allegations in letters this month to top aides of two seniorRepublicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John W. Warner of Virginia,the chairman, and John McCain of Arizona. Captain Fishback approached the Senators' offices only after he tried to report the allegations to his superiors for 17 months, the aides said. The aides also said they found the captain's accusations credible enough to warrant investigation.

AsI've said before, the biggest casualty of our War on Terror has been the Department of Defense in general and the United States Army specifically.

First, we (and the rest of the world) have seen that our "best-trained,best-equipped, best-funded" force is not trained, equipped, or funded tofight and win the kind of war it's fighting now. Second, the various agenciesof the military have been caught telling us too many lies (Abu Ghraib, PatTillman, etc.). Third, as Captain Fishback's case illustrates, the chainof command has been corrupted. The source of this behavior, and the subsequent cover-up, goes clear back to the office of the Secretary of Defense.

Finally, our military appears to have transformed into the armed branch of the neoconservative core of the Republican Party.

Is there any way to clean this house without pulling down the entire structure?

Friday, September 23, 2005

More Pavlov's Dogs of War

From an unnamed steer, this Air Force Times piece on Pavlov's Demographics of War.

An interesting statistics byte:
Deaths of U.S. troops in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom also have been disproportionate to ethnic makeup of the military, the report states. Based on the 1,841 deaths and 12,658 wounded service members as of May 28, when the report was being prepared, 71 percent of the dead are classified as white, 9 percent as black and 10 percent as Hispanic.

I'm pushing a theory here, but what percentage of first lieutenants at the head of a patrol or with their heads stuck out the tops of an armored vehicle are white?

Not that it matters that much. From what I can see from the vantage of my age, any American with a net worth of under $ 5 million is a "person of color."

More Dubya Talk

My favorite Dubya-ism from yesterday’s press conference at the Pentagon:
"The battle lines are drawn and there is no middle ground."

No, Mister Bush. That's the problem. It’s an insurgency. There are no battle lines. It’s all middle ground.

And there’s no sense to the notion that withdrawing from Iraq will give the terrorists an “historic victory over the United States.” They’ve already won an historic victory. History’s mightiest military force is bogged down by a rag tag group of insurgents armed with hand held weapons and makeshift bombs. Every day that we stay in Iraq, every drop on blood and national treasure we spill there, makes the enemy more triumphant.

Mister Bush continues to tell us we need to stay in Iraq until we “get the job done.” But we’ll never get the “job” done, even if he ever gets around to telling us what the “job” is.


The "neo-con job"--as those of us who've followed the Project for the New American Century since the late '90s have come to know it--is establishing a base of operations in the heart of the Middle East from which we can control the region and its oil. But that job isn't achievable. We've demonstrated that we cannot control Baghdad with conventional military force. How can we possibly ever control the entire Middle East with it?

Sure, we could nuke that whole part of the world to a cinder. But then we wouldn't be able to get at the oil, so what would it accomplish? Show the rest of the world that we have "resolve?" And what would we do if the rest of the world didn't like it? Nuke the rest of the world too?

Wouldn't that do wonders for the climate!


Please don't be taken in by "experts" who claim to have a pie-in-the-sky counterinsurgency scheme for Iraq. All of these "strategies" would take a decade or more to complete, and there's no reason to believe that they'll result in a situation better than the one we would have had if we'd just waited for Saddam Hussein to die of old age.


With each passing day I become more convinced that there's only one sane solution to this Iraq fiasco. Let them get their constitution ratified and hold a general election in December and get out. If they decide they want to have a civil war after that, let them have one. Make it clear that we won't step into the middle of it. Tell them that only when and if they get their own security situation together will we come back in and help them rebuild.

I don't claim that this is a "good" option. But there aren't any good options. And as Iraq strategies go, I have yet to hear a better one. And it beats the living daylights out of what we're doing now. We can't minimize the damage by making more of it.

"Staying the course" indefinitely would be like setting the barn on fire to keep the horses warm.


Have a peaceful weekend.

Mixed Messages

The US media aren't the only ones getting zoomed about Iraq.

From the UK Times Online.

Brit press kicked out of Basra, told conflicting tales.
Mixed Messages:

“This was a small unrepresentative crowd (200-300) in a city of 1.5 million” _Statement by Brigadier John Lorimer, Commander 12 Mechanised Brigade.

“The crowd was at least 1,000, probably more” _Captain James Bradford, No 2 Company Coldstream Guards.

“We’ve heard nothing to suggest we stormed the prison. We understand there were negotiations”_MoD spokesman three hours after Warriors attacked the compound.

“I am glad to say that the three young men in those pictures have injuries which are not serious” _John Reid.

“A number [were] hit by petrol bombs of whom one is sadly in a serious condition,and has been taken back to the UK”_Lt-Col Nick Henderson, Coldstream Guards.

“There has not been a fundamental breakdown in trust between the British Government and the Iraqi Government”_John Reid, Wednesday.

“The governing council decided to stop all co-operation with the British”_Basra governor Mohammed al-Waili yesterday.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

All Points Bulletin!

Can anybody find a transcript of today's Bush press conference?

I'm getting real worried about having the rest of the world watch the guy stumble around on camera.

Support the Troops (Again)

The chicanery just doesn’t stop.

From the Navy Times:
A group of House Republicans have proposed a plan to offset the costs of relief and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina that includes trimming military quality-of-life programs, including health care…

… Reduced health care benefits could save $2.4 billion over 10 years.

Yeah, that’s gonna take care of that darn old Kartina expense.

I’m here to tell you, our troops and their families are already screwed blue when it comes to health care.

Elsewhere, Dave Sirota points out that the richest 1 percent of Americans are scheduled to receive $336 billion in tax cuts over the next five years.

I reckon we won’t have to worry about their health care costs, huh?


I thank my Maker I'm no longer in a position of having to look an enlisted man's wife in the eye and "explain" this to her.


I’m going to start counting the number of cars I see in the Norfolk area with both a Bush-Cheney sticker and a Support the Troops ribbon stuck on the bumper.

Iraq: a Herd of Cats

Iraq in a snapshot…

This piece from The Associated Press pretty much sums it up:
British troops in the tense southern city of Basra greatly reduced their presence in the streets Thursday, apparently responding to a provincial governor's call to sever cooperation until London apologized for storming a police station to free two of its soldiers…

…Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie called Monday's attack by British forces on a Basra police station "a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty."

…At least five Iraqis were killed during Monday clashes between British forces and Iraqi police and demonstrators.

There’s winning hearts and minds for you.
Elsewhere, a roadside bomb hit a U.S. convoy in southern Baghdad, killing one soldier and wounding six others; a car bomb wounded another American soldier outside the capital; and suspected insurgents gunned down at least eight Iraqis in four separate attacks Thursday, officials said.

And speaking of Baghdad, here’s an interesting tidbit from Knight Ridder:
The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad neighborhoods is proceeding at an alarming and potentially destabilizing pace…

…Government officials and academic experts agree that the virtual expulsion of some ethnic groups from mixed communities is troubling and threatens the nation's stability, which depends on a degree of ethnic harmony.

Two years into our occupation of Iraq, the place is up for grabs. There is no “plan” or “strategy” by which we can herd this cat stampede.

As I said in an earlier column, the only argument for “staying the course” that still has any resonance is the one that says we owe the Iraqis something for all the tragic mistakes we made attempting to “liberate” them. But it appears to me that whatever we “owe” them, we’ve come pretty close to paying off.

Saddam Hussein is gone. We have spent enormous national treasure attempting to help Iraq institute a government and establish an infrastructure. If they can’t learn to get along, that’s their problem, not ours. And as the situation in Basrah illustrates, the notion that we can force them to live together in harmony is absurd.

My exit strategy? Get the constitution ratified and get out. When they get their act together, then and only then should we think about going back in and helping them rebuild. Whatever we want in terms of bases or oil we can negotiate for then.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Why I Like Poets...

...even though I often don't know what they're talking about.

National Book Critics Circle Award winning poet Sharon Olds doesn’t care to read from her works for a Laura Bush pro-war event:
Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House…

…I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration…

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.



You go, poem girl! I couldn't stomach it either.

Something We Didn't Already Know?

Arianna’s “two sources” give us some not too surprising news today:
I'm now hearing that the [Plamegate] investigation may be inching closer to never-confirmed UN Ambassador John Bolton.

That doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me, and I doubt it surprises anyone else who visits this site. Bolton was, after all, a signatory on the Project for a New American Century letter that established ousting Saddam Hussein with military power as the key component of the neocons’ foreign policy plan. And he was a major player in cooking the Iraq WMD intelligence from the State Department’s side of the equation.

Arianna exposes another dot in the connection that I was previously unaware of: Fred Fleitz, Bolton’s former chief of staff.
He is a career CIA agent who Bolton handpicked to join him at Foggy Bottom, having gotten to know him during the administration of the first President Bush. While working as Bolton's top aide, Fleitz also continued his work in the CIA's WINPAC division, the group responsible for some of the worst prewar intelligence on Iraq (they were, among other things, big fans of Curveball and had "high confidence" in the presence of WMD in Iraq)…

…Over the years, Fleitz earned a reputation as Bolton's chief enforcer, a swashbuckler willing to go the extra mile to make the intel fit the desired policy -- even if it meant knocking a few heads.

So it sounds like Fleitz fit right in with the rest of the neo-cabal.


Arianna makes a point that Frank Rich and others (including little old moi) have been asserting for months, but that deserves repeating:
So when Joe Wilson started making a stink about faulty intel, you can bet that those whose raison d'etre had been spreading faulty intel would move mountains to discredit him. This is a key point because, in the end, Plamegate isn't about the outing of Valerie Plame or the sliming of Joe Wilson. It's about Iraq and the White House's attempt to slam the door on questions about the corrupted intelligence that was used to lead us into a disastrous war. Intel that Fleitz and Bolton played a key role in shaping.

Intel that supported a policy and strategy that Bolton played a key role in formulating.


Of the myriad challenges America faces now, I think none is more important than preserving our constitutional republic. And nothing, I believe, will substitute in that regard for putting the sinister (yes, I said “sinister.” The term applies perfectly) ideologues who put us in the untenable situation we’re in today behind bars.

Technical Difficulties

P&S content will be light today thanks to a technical difficulty that motivated me to buy my birthday present early. (It's a G5 iMac. Pretty groovy.)

If you have time, take a look at "An Honest Victory" by ex-Marine Nathaniel Flick. I don't agree with much of what he says, but I like this:
As things stand, American citizens - and the military - have been offered a false choice between "staying the course" in Iraq and precipitous withdrawal.

This puts the aimpoint smack on the center of the Rovewellian "limited choices" propaganda we've heard since day one with this administration. It was "invade Iraq or do nothing" before. It's "get the job done or slink away" now.

Clearly, now as then, we have a wide range of "courses" to choose from. But before we can truly evaluate them, the administration must come clean with us on what the "job" we need to get done consists of.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More Critical Mass Cronyism

This from WaPo:
The push to appoint Julie Myers to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, comes in the midst of intense debate over the qualifications of department political appointees involved in the sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina.

Get this:

Even Republican Senator George Voinivich says she's not qualified for the job. And what's she got to say to that?
In written answers to questions from Congress, Myers highlighted her year-long job as assistant secretary for export enforcement at Commerce, where she said she supervised 170 employees and a $25 million budget.

Good God. I'm more qualified for that job than she is.

Except for this:
Her uncle is Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She married [Homeland Security Secretary Michael] Chertoff's current chief of staff, John F. Wood, on Saturday.

They're not even bothering to cover it up to any more.


No doubt this latest round of neo-cronyism will lead to more no-bid contract awards for border guards and immigration administration. But I'm more worried about what this political incest is leading to. We've already seen a mass exodus of competent career government employees who'd rather take their chances in the private sector than work under incompetent members of the greater Bush friends and family circle. By 2008, there will be nobody left in federal government who knows what the hell they're doing.

Empire Falls

The "problem solvers" who tried to bring you an empire have failed. It's high time--if not already too late--to think about what comes next for the United States of America.


The latest corner turned in the Iraq insurgency (hand salute to Chelicera):
British armored vehicles backed by helicopter gunships burst through the walls of an Iraqi jail Monday in the southern city of Basra to free two British commandos detained earlier in the day by Iraqi police, witnesses and Iraqi officials said. The incident climaxed a confrontation between the two nominal allies that had sparked hours of gun battles and rioting in Basra's streets.

The Brits tried to put their own version of Rovewellian spin on the story:
In London, authorities said the two commandos were released after negotiations. But the BBC quoted British defense officials as saying a wall was demolished when British forces went to "collect" the men.

This is embarrassing enough. But the underlying cause of the incident tells just how bad the problem in Iraq actually is.
Basra, a city of 1.5 million, is heavily under the control of Shiite political parties and fighters of the Badr militia of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Shiite religious party that has a leading role in Iraq's government.

Citizens and authorities allege that Badr fighters have infiltrated police forces and are carrying out abuses under the guise of police authority. Rivalry also runs strong between those militia fighters and the militia of Moqtada Sadr, a Shiite cleric.

And you think we have dishonest government in America?
Elsewhere in Iraq, anti-corruption investigators said they expected charges against the country's former defense minister, Hazim Shaalan, in the alleged embezzlement of more than $1 billion that was meant to help rebuild the country's security forces.

The defense minister is a crook and the cops are gangsters. The situation in Iraq isn't just unwinnable. It's already lost.


I've said it before, but it bears repeating: empires that ended badly failed to recognize that the military power that established them was insufficient to sustain them. By the time they realized they had extended themselves beyond their reach, they were already in decline. And the longer they denied their decline (usually by going back to the military power well until it was completely dry), the harder they crashed into the back pages of history.

The "empire" chapter in American history is closing. How the rest of the story turns out depends on how soon we accept that reality and begin to restructure our national power paradigm in a manner that will leave us a nominal "first among world nations." A vital step in that process will be downsizing and reshaping our military. We must not continue to spend as much as the rest of the world combined on an instrument of power that has demonstrated itself to be obsolete.

No Win Situation

I'll get out and buy a copy of this issue of Time Magazine.
More than a dozen current and former intelligence officers knowledgeable about Iraq spoke with TIME in recent weeks to share details about the conflict. They voiced their growing frustration with a war that they feel was not properly anticipated by the Bush Administration, a war fought with insufficient resources, a war that almost all of them now believe is not winnable militarily.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Stupid Neocon Tricks

Top ten bad reasons for "staying the course' in Iraq.

10. Democracy takes time. America needed 13 years to write its Constitution.

The American Revolution analogy is ludicrous. Britain did not invade America in 1776 to liberate us, and we did not ask them to stick around for more than a decade to help us form our government.

9. If we leave now, we'll embolden the terrorists.

They're not exactly shrinking violets now. The longer we've stayed, the bolder they've become.

8. Withdrawing will show lack of American resolve.

Getting in a bar fight over a girl shows resolve. Waking up in jail with your nose broken shows how stupid you are.

7. We're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here.

If we don't have to fight them over here, why do we spend around $40 billion a year for a Department of Homeland Security?

6. The spread of democracy in the Middle East will enhance America's security.

"Free" elections in the Middle East have helped Afghanistan become the world's leading exporter of narcotics and transformed terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah into "legitimate" political parties.

5. We need to support our troops.

I applaud and deeply respect our men and women in uniform for their magnificent service and sacrifice. These are my people, remember? However, comma...

In the first place, we are supporting our troops--to the tune of nearly half a trillion dollars a year.

Second, when we continue to commit those men and women in uniform to a struggle for which there is no military solution, we are abusing them, not supporting them.

Third--and most importantly--America does not exist for the purpose of supporting its military. Our military exists to support America. And if it's not defending us at home or achieving our national aims overseas, it's not supporting our country.

4. If we pull out now, we'll look weak.

We've committed our national power into an ill-advised war and are losing. How much weaker can we look?

3. In times of crisis, we need to rally around the president and his policies.

America will not maintain or restore its power and prestige by behaving like a nation of lemmings. There is nothing noble, brave, or patriotic about following the leader over the cliff and into the sea.

2. "They tried to kill my dad."

Thanks to Mister Bush's policies and strategies, they've succeeded in killing a lot of dads, and moms, and aunts, and uncles, and brothers, and sisters...


If we cut through the bunk mentality and frame the argument for staying in Iraq to reflect the neocons' real purpose for the Iraq invasion, it would sound something like this:

1. We set out to establish a military base of operations from which we can control the Middle East and its oil, and we should persist until we "get the job done."

Even though it's true, it's still specious. Our "best-trained, best-equipped, best-funded" military can't get Iraq or Afghanistan under control. How can we possibly expect to lock down the entire Middle East?


We owe something to the Iraqi people.

This is the only rationale that still holds water with me. We need to pay for the pottery we broke. But how much do we need to pay for it, and who exactly is this "we" we're referring to, Kimosabe?

"We the people" weren't the honchos of the Project for a New American Century who made ousting Saddam Hussein the crown jewel of the Bush administration's foreign policy. "We" did not cook the intelligence on Iraq. "We" did not ignore the advice of generals who warned against invading Iraq, then warned against invading with too few troops. And "we" did not fumble the counterinsurgency effort for two years.

Whatever the price of "their" bad policies, strategies, and decisions turns out to be, "we" will be the ones who pay for them. Really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes, remember?

How responsible are "we" for "their" deceptions and mistakes, and how much do "we" want to pay for them?


On a related note:

As Katrina hit, Dick Cheney, one of "those" neocons who constructed "our" Iraq strategy, was looking at buying a $2.9 million house in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, just down the road from "that" Donald Rumsfeld's place.

The Bell Tolls

This is very, very bad news. From WaPo:
After generally rejecting body counts as standards of success in the Iraq war, the U.S. military last week embraced them -- just as it did during the Vietnam War. As the carnage grew in Baghdad, U.S. officials produced charts showing the number of suspects killed or detained in offensives in the west.

[Major General Rick] Lynch, the military spokesman, cited killings and detentions of 1,534 insurgents in the region. The fact that the number of insurgents killed or captured in the northern city of Tall Afar was roughly equal to advance estimates of their strength, he said, was proof that insurgents weren't simply escaping to fight another day -- and that U.S. forces were doing more than razing infrastructure. "Zarqawi is on the ropes," Lynch told reporters.

"On the ropes," General? What does that remind me of?

The military types turning to body count as a measure of effectiveness know it isn't one. But they're plumb out of anything else to manufacture "good news" from.

Monday Morning Steer...

Chelicera's thoughts on America and Rome in "Watching the Trainwreck."
Are we there yet?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sunday Sermon

Frank Rich echoes my sentiments again:
Having turned the page on Mr. Bush, the country hungers for a vision that is something other than either liberal boilerplate or Rovian stagecraft. At this point, merely plain old competence, integrity and heart might do.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Here it Comes Again...

From WaPo:
Bush Says Spending Cuts Will Be Needed

An administration official said the White House and Congress will look for specific spending cuts, starting with about $20 billion in savings identified in the president's 2006 budget. Still more could come from changes to entitlement programs to slow their growth. Those proposals have already been examined by Congress and rejected.

Also, some of those cuts would hit precisely the programs the lawmakers want to expand. Among the programs slated by Bush for cuts were Medicaid, which he now wants to extend to evacuees, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which is faced with the huge burden of repairing levees and dredging waterways wrecked in the storm.

Hmm. If we take away money from the Army Corps of Engineers, who in the private sector do you reckon we'll pay to fix the levees?

Standby for the propaganda blitz from the usual suspect think tankers (Hoover, Heritage, AEI, etc.).

Saturday Drive By

Arianna makes a good point today with "Katrina Relief: It's Iraq Déjà vu All Over Again."
The feeling that the Katrina relief effort is going to be Iraq all over again is unavoidable when you look at the list of the companies already being awarded clean up and reconstruction contracts. It's that old gang from Baghdad: Halliburton, Bechtel, Fluor, and the Shaw Group (which has a tasteful notice on its website saying "Hurricane Recovery Projects -- Apply Here!"). Together again. A veritable moveable feast of crony capitalism...

And what about financial oversight of the tens of billions that will be doled out to these corporate chums of the administration? After consistently stonewalling investigations into the corruption that has plagued U.S. efforts in Iraq, the president vowed to have "a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures" related to Katrina. But, as Think Progress points out, such promises seem laughable when you remember what happened to Bunny Greenhouse. After blowing the whistle on Halliburton's corrupt Iraq war contracts, the Army Corps of Engineers auditor was demoted. That should really motivate the Katrina contract inspection team.

Uh huh. And Karl Rove is on the scene to smear anybody who raises any questions about what's going on.

Friday, September 16, 2005


From a New York Times editorial on Mister Bush's speech last night:
The speech, as good as it was, marks only a moment of clarity.

As good as it was? Surely they didn't mean to say that. Something must have happened to the piece on its way to the printer. I'd guess the original statement was:
Clearly, this speech was as good as we're going to get for the moment.

Have a good weekend!


The Neo Deal

Tell me this is a bad dream. We're going to pony up $200 billion for the neo-reconstruction of the south and Karl Rove is in charge?


Many in congress say we need to cut spending elsewhere to keep from passing this debt on to future generations. I'm guessing the administration is all on board with that idea.


How do you put $200 billion in perspective? Let's see; that kind of money buys about 100 B-2 stealth bombers, or maybe ten aircraft carriers. But it's so hard to tell how much these big-ticket weapon systems really cost because they do such a good job of hiding the overruns.

$200 billion is roughly what we've spent on the war in Iraq to date, but it's less than half of the $500 billion we'll spend on defense (not including Homeland Security) in 2006.


That brings me to a letter to the editor from today's Virginian-Pilot, my local paper. It's a repeat of a number of Rovewellian talking points about why we need to "stay the course" in Iraq, and it's a perfect example of how idiotic these arguments are.
Why Are We Rushing the Situation in Iraq?

After 9/11, we Americans were ready and willing to go to war. That war took us to Iraq, and as soon as soldiers started dying, we wanted out. Now it seems that every time the media report on action in Iraq, the report always ends with "there have been (insert number here) casualties since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations."

The majority of Americans are crying "foul" and demanding that the soldiers come home. This seems a bit hypocritical to me. Here in America, we gained our independence in 1776, but it wasn't until 1789 that we were somewhat satisfied with a working Constitution. That's 13 years!

Then, nearly a century later, a large portion of the country was not happy with that Constitution and started the Civil War to try to win the right to do things their way. It took almost a century for our country to get on its feet and gain stability. So who are we to expect a weaker, war-torn country like Iraq to be squared away overnight? Our troops are over there doing the best they can with what they have to work with.

Iraq needs our help to get the ball rolling just as we did 230 years ago. Let our soldiers do their jobs so that you can continue to do yours.

Too many Americans still gargle on this kind of sewage and can't even taste it.

Americans were ready and willing to go to war after 9/11 for the same reason they're crying "foul" now. The Bush administration lied to us about the reasons for war.

The British did not invade and occupy us in 1776 for the purpose of "liberating" us. We didn't ask them to stick around for 13 years to help us write our constitution. They had the good sense not to step into the middle of our "southern insurgency" or keep troops on our soil for a century after that to help us "get on our feet."

Iraq is a war torn country because of our presence there. Yes, our magnificent troops are doing the best they can with what they have to work with. But the best they can do isn't doing a heck of a lot of good.

And unless you work for Halliburton, I'm not sure how letting the soldiers "do their jobs" will let you keep yours.


There are only four areas of federal spending in the $380-550 billion range that can cover the neo-reconstruction costs: the Department of Defense, Health and Human Services, Social Security payments, and the Treasury Department.

Nearly all of the Treasury's costs go toward interest payments on our nearly $8 trillion national debt. We can't cut the interest payments because we don't really make them. When the annual deficit exceeds the interest payment (which it does most years lately) we're really just adding the interest to the balance of the loan.

The neocons will make arguments like the one in today's Virginian-Pilot to avoid touching defense spending.

That leaves Social Security and Health and Human Services, which are the legacies of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

Yeah, that New Deal. The one the neocons have been trying to tear down for a long, long time.

And guess what Uncle Karl and the gang will try to dip into to buy back the south with their Neo Deal?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I Think He Really Tried...

Most of it looked to me like a thousand yard stare into the teleprompter.

At the end of it, and after watching some of the Chris Matthews punditry, it sounds like the folks who've been trying to kill FDR's New Deal are now going to revive it to save themselves.

The Neo Deal?

"Four Years and Seven Scores Ago..."

Mister Bush will address the nation in about two hours. This will be his last chance to be a real leader (i.e., a grown man in a position of grave responsibility in a time of crisis).

To do that, he'll have to toss the Rovewellian meme menu overboard.

I doubt he'll do that. Here's what I think we'll hear a lot of:

-- "9/11" (twenty or more times?).

-- "We're problem solvers" (at least three times).

-- "War" (five times minimum).

-- "Evil doers/ones/axis" (once, surely).

-- "Heroes" (no predicting how often this will pop up).

-- "Blame" and/or "blame game" (break out your pocket calculator from here on).

-- "Compassion."

-- "Rich cultural diversity."

-- "Stay the course" or something very much like it.

-- "We (I) can do two things at once.


No doubt we'll also hear comparisons of America's present situation to World War II and/or the Civil War and/or the Cold War and the accompanying implicit comparisons of Mister Bush to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan.

And expect to hear Mister Bush accept responsibility for the Katrina fiasco, but not admit that he did anything wrong that he should be held responsible for.


He's speaking from New Orleans. I'm not clear if he's going to speak to an audience, or have a coterie standing behind him.

If he does, you can bet you'll see him surrounded by a sea of administration icons and (most importantly) black smiling faces.


I hope I'm wrong about all this. I really do hope that the George W. Bush we see tonight brushes off his handlers and acts like a real president of the United States.

But I'm not optimistic. Leopards and spots, and all that.


This is Mister Bush's chance to deliver his version of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

President Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address himself. He actually made several drafts of it, just like a real writer would. I still consider this Lincoln speech to be the most moving and inspiring piece of literature ever written by a political leader.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Pardon my cynicism, but if the speech Mister Bush gives tonight sounds anything like the speech President Lincoln gave at Gettysburg, it will be because his speech writers plagiarized it straight out of The Gettysburg Address.

For Something Completely Different...

If you haven't yet discovered the delightful Kerstin of At My Knit's End, treat yourself and click here.

Jewels of Denial

Last throes...

The terrorists are losing, that's why they keep fighting...

That’s how wars go; things get worse before they get better...

We're problem solvers...


Our government's utter denial about the status of its Global War on Terror--particularly the Iraq piece--has reached critical mass.

From today's New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Thursday, Sept. 15 - Insurgents staged at least a dozen suicide bombings that ripped through Baghdad in rapid succession on Wednesday, killing almost 150 people and wounding more than 500 in a coordinated assault that left much of the capital paralyzed.

Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia claimed responsibility for the assault, which inflicted the biggest death toll in Baghdad since the American-led invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam Hussein more than two years ago.

The violence appeared to be retaliation for the weeklong siege of the insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar and included a bombing in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad that used a new tactic: luring scores of day laborers to a minivan with promises of work, and then blowing it up. At least 112 died in that blast alone, the second highest death toll from any single terrorist bombing in Iraq since the invasion.

What do the good guys in charge have to say about it?
Senior American commanders say they are pursuing militants, including [Jordanian terrorist leader] Mr. Zarqawi, who have been driven out of cities in central and north-central Iraq, including Baghdad.

The militants have been driven out of Baghdad? If that's the case, how did they just manage to blow the living beans out of it?

The head good guy likes what he sees:
"The insurgency is much more pushed to the west in Iraq this year than it was in the previous years," Gen. John P. Abizaid, the leader of the military's Central Command, said in an interview on Tuesday. "I actually regard that as a sign that the insurgency is having a hard time getting established elsewhere."

Actually, General? Do you regard that as a good sign? It looks to the rest of us that however "pushed to the west" the insurgency is, it can still hit you in the breadbasket whenever it wants. And is the insurgency having a "hard time getting established elsewhere" or is it not bothering to get established elsewhere because it's established just fine where it is?

Even the Iraqi cabinet is in on the act, releasing a statement saying the attacks revealed the insurgents'...
"...desperation and cowardice in the face of the setbacks they have suffered in Tal Afar and elsewhere at the hands of Iraq's security forces... The fact that the terrorists are claiming to be responding specifically to Operation Restoring Rights [the military offensive in Tal Afar] shows the serious blow that operation has dealt them."

So the insurgents have suffered at the hands of Iraq's security forces? Where were Iraq's security forces when the insurgents attacked their capital city? And if the insurgents hadn't attacked Baghdad in response to the Tal Afar offensive, would that mean they hadn't been dealt a serious blow?

My favorite jewel of denial came from a senior officer on the Central Command Staff:
"[Zarqawi] marshals his resources in order to have days like today to get himself in the news."

Holy sound of one jaw dropping. The insurgency mounts its most successful attack ever and one of Abizaid's colonels dismisses it as a photo opportunity.


An otherwise darn good article by Newsweek's Michael Hirsh contains this Rovewellian talking point:
"I do think there's been progress in some areas," says Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the State Department's head of policy planning in Bush's first term. "In the last four years, for example, I think the world has become a tougher place for terrorists to operate in."

I read this and dashed off an e-mail to a friend who works around the five-sided echo chamber and asked him how this gasbag Haass can say the world is a "tougher place for terrorists to operate" when the administration's own bean counters admit that global terrorism is on the increase?

My friend wrote back and accused me of "cherry picking."


There is no more accurate or relevant "metric" of a Global War on Terrorism than whether terrorism is waning or on the rise. The administration and the Pentagon can spin all the fairy tales it wants about how well things are going, but this war of theirs is an utter disaster.


There are three basic principles about lying in warfare.

Lying to the enemy is normally a good thing. In military lingo we call that "deception," something that should be part of any war plan.

Lying to your population about a war tends to get you in trouble (as we've clearly seen with this Iraq fiasco).

When wartime leadership lies to itself, it's doing the same thing as that guy who sat in his bunker and issued orders to army divisions that no longer existed.

That guy had already lost.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Down the Think Tank

I share Paul Krugman's concern that the Mike Brown phenomenon is symptomatic of a government bureaucracy made ineffective through political patronage gone rampant. And I'm concerned about the departure of so many competent career government servants who refuse to work for clueless cronies of the Bush machine.

But I'm equally concerned by the number of qualified people who are institutionalizing the neoconservative ideology throughout the United States government.

Neo-connect the dots...

They're everywhere now. They're so prevalent that it's darn near impossible to track all the ties between big business, big religion, big government, and the military.

Today we'll go to Wikipedia and start our seach with Dick Cheney. You'll find that after leaving office in 1993, he became CEO of Halliburton and joined the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative, non-profit think tank that...
...has emerged as one of the leading architects of the Bush administration's public policy; more than two dozen AEI alumni have served either in a Bush administration policy post or on one of the government's many panels and commissions.

In 1997, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and others formed the Project for the New American Century, the group that crafted the Bush administration's policy on Iraq. Along with Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, other PNAC members appointed to government posts by Mister Bush were John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and Richard Armitage. PNAC members also represented religious right advocates Gary Bauer and Bill Bennett.

The Heritage Foundation is another influential conservative think tank headquartered in an eight story building on capitol hill.
Unlike traditional think tanks, which tend to house scholars and politicians-in-exile who produce large books, Heritage tends to employ bright, aggressive public policy analysts who produce comparatively shorter policy papers intended to pass what Heritage calls "the briefcase test" for busy politicians to read on the run. Heritage also pioneered the "marketing" of policy ideas by astute packaging and public relations, now a staple feature of Washington think tank activity.

Heritage members include John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan; Richard Allen, a Reagan National Security Advisor; Paul Bremmer, former military governor (for all purposes) of Iraq under Donald Rumsfeld, and Lawrence ("Curly Joe" to his friends) DiRita, special assistant to Rumsfeld.

Closely associated with Heritage is the Hoover Institution. Richard Allen is also a member of this group, as are conservative columnist Thomas Sowell and Secretary of State Condolleeza Rice.

Established as non-profit organizations, these think tanks share many of the same private funding sources. Not surprisingly, major corporations in the energy, transportation, banking, and defense industries are key contributors.


And from another angle...

Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran
gave me a steer to these comments by Lucian Truscott posted in Mark A. R. Kleinman.
A little known study of the political opinions of senior military leaders was done by Duke University a few years ago. The study -- of Colonels and above, up to and including 4 star Generals -- revealed that in this time of the volunteer military that some 66% described themselves as conservative Republicans, and something like 5% described themselves as Democrats. The rest described themselves as "independents."

Friends of mine at the Pentagon and in the military at the time the study was done said the real numbers are far worse. One friend, a West Pointer with a Phd. from Harvard who taught me economics at West Point in the late 60's and who recently retired from being an Asst. Secretary of the Army, told me the so called "independents" included savvy senior officers who were actually very conservative Republicans but who realized how it would look if the numbers were "bad" and so labeled themselves as "independents." My friend said the senior military is more likely 90% or more conservative Republican, with few if any independents.

As an aside, I personally know two West Point Captains who were run out of the Army by their senior commanders when it became known that they had voted for Clinton in 1996, so the political leanings of senior officers are not an abstract thing. The far-right leanings of senior military officers have real consequences. If you have any doubt of this, see also the reporting on what you might call the take over of the Air Force Academy --including its most senior leadership -- by fundamentalist Christians in recent months. See also what they did to the one (female) chaplain who dissented from the prevailing wisdom on religion at AFA. She was fired and reassigned and has resigned from the Air Force. One guess which political party the fundamentalist "leaders" of the Air Force Academy belong to.

Like I said: they're everywhere.

Shameless Self Promotion

"Wars and Empires" at ePluribus Media.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Bad News Bearers

When everyone's afraid to tell the captain the ship's sinking, you have more problems than just a sinking ship. You have a dysfunctional organization and a bad captain.

It was no surprise to me to read this account in Newsweek 's article "How Bush Blew It"
It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States...

The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him...

We're not talking about a bunch of kids on summer internships. We're talking about Mister Bush's most senior advisors, drawing straws to see who gets yelled at.


Short tempers and an unwillingness to hear what you don't want to hear from your subordinates is a trademark of the Bush administration. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are both infamous bullies. Little wonder they considered John Bolton the perfect man for the United Nations Ambassador slot.


Don't want to hear about no terrorist attacks. Don't want to hear the intelligence on Iraq is wrong. Don't want to hear we need more troops. Don't want to hear the insurgency's getting out of control. Don't want to hear 'bout no hurricane.

Can't be distracted by all that right now. Remakin' the whole world in your own image is hard work. Just tell me what I want to hear or get out.


Q: What's the difference between a crony, a yes man, and a sycophant?

A: A crony is a yes man you've known since your Texas days. A sycophant is a crony who actually hisses as he says "yessssssss."


Direct quote from Mister Bush's press conference today:

"Of course I rely on good people."

And from the standard echo menu:

Blame game... Blame game... Blame game...

Problem solvers... Problem solvers...

We're moving forward...forward...forward...

If talking points were horses, beggars would ride.


We don't know too much about Osama bin Laden's leadership style, but he must be doing something right. With no army, no navy, no air force, no national treasury--shoot, the guy doesn't even have a country--he's managed to stand the most powerful nation in history on its ear.

Virtually everything the Bush administration does plays into bin Laden's grand strategy. It's telling that the US Army can't meet its enlistment quotas, but bin Laden's organization has no trouble recruiting a sufficient number of suicide bombers.

And as fundamental Islam grows more popular in the Middle East daily, support for the Bush administration--both foreign and domestic--dwindles by the hour.

It might be overstatement to call bin Laden a political and strategic genius, but based on his results so far, he's looking like a far sharper tack than the one that's stuck himself in our collective foot.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

And There's This...

It's impossible to say how much of this story from the Islamic news group Kavkaz is true:
Residents of the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar has sent out an SOS to the international community to interfere with the US occupation authorities to stop their continuing bombing of their devastated city, revealing a terrible humanitarian situation.

"US and Iraqi forces are still besieging Tal Afar amid ongoing intensive bombing, ordering residents of Hassan Kawi and Sarray neighborhoods to evacuate immediately," a Tal Afar tribal leader told IOL over the phone Thursday, September 8.

"The Americans are seemingly bombing the city with chemical weapons," he said, adding Tal Afar residents are speaking of suffocations and other health problems upon exposure to any hit area.

...but it's a good indication of just how badly we've been outmaneuvered by bin Laden and his followers. Everything we do plays into the opponent's strategy.

This article may be a pure piece of fabricated propaganda. But given our government's track record of hiding and distorting the truth about our war on terror, there's every reason to give it credibility.

Tangled webs, and all that.

Sunday Drive By...

I highly recommend Mark Danner's "Taking Stock of the Forever War" in today's New York Times Magazine. I am especially impressed by (and completely agree with) this:
Four years after we watched the towers fall, Americans have not succeeded in "ridding the world of evil." We have managed to show ourselves, our friends and most of all our enemies the limits of American power. Instead of fighting the real war that was thrust upon us on that incomprehensible morning four years ago, we stubbornly insisted on fighting a war of the imagination, an ideological struggle that we defined not by frankly appraising the real enemy before us but by focusing on the mirror of our own obsessions. And we have finished - as the escalating numbers of terrorist attacks, the grinding Iraq insurgency, the overstretched American military and the increasing political dissatisfaction at home show - by fighting precisely the kind of war they wanted us to fight.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Meanwhile, Back in Baghdad...

From The New York Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Saturday, Sept. 10 - The private security company that guards Baghdad International Airport shut down the airport on Friday, saying it had not been paid for the past six months. But the company, Global Strategies Group, announced early Saturday that it had agreed to reopen the airport on Saturday morning after a promise by the Iraqi government to pay half the amount owed.

The shutdown on Friday nearly led to a standoff between American military forces and Iraqi soldiers when United States forces rushed to the airport to prevent Iraqi troops from taking it over, according to Iraqi officials and the security company.

What in the wide world of sports is going on over there?


The NYT editorial board and others have argued that Katrina illustrates the need to keep the National Guard at home, and call for expanding the regular Army to support overseas deployments.

I say making a larger regular Army is a bad idea. We only need a bigger Army if we want to fight more invade and occupy wars like Iraq. And if we've learned anything from the war in Iraq, it's that we don't want to fight wars like that any more. But if we build an Army designed to fight wars like Iraq, guess what kind of wars we'll fight in the future.


The present mix of regular, reserve, and guard forces was specifically designed to avoid another Vietnam. In that conflict, Lyndon Johnson expanded the Army through the draft, and kept the guard at home to maintain an illusion of "normalcy" in the great society.

After Vietnam, congress restructured the Army so that the bulk of combat support (cooks, doctors, truck drivers, etc.) would reside in the Guard. Presidents could no longer commit the nation to major prolonged conflicts and "hide" them from the American pubic.

Making an Army capable of major sustained deployments without the guard would, in essence, give that sort of power back to the president.

I don't think we want that.


As for sending significantly larger numbers of troops to Iraq now:

The Army's tooth-to-tail ratio is something like one to seven. That means that for every "trigger puller" we put in theater, we need to send along seven cooks/doctors/truck drivers/etc. In a war with no clear forward lines and rear areas, much if not all of that one trigger puller's efforts will center on protecting the seven folks we sent to support him.

So no, even if we had the extra troops to spare, I don't think an increased presence at this point will do much good.


Time for this one to take a break and go for a visit in the "real world." Have a great weekend.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Sound of One Jaw Dropping...

Those unconscionable cretins at the Department of Defense still plan to hold their tax-payer sponsored pro-war rally this weekend.

And Clint Black's still going to sing for them.

$ Talks

What was Dick Cheney--America's First Heart Patient--doing down in the Gulf States, exactly?

On the very same day that Congress pushed through an administration mandated $50 billion disaster bill that no one ever has to account for?

While Joe Albaugh, former head of FEMA and present day Halliburton consultant, is sniffing around for disaster relief contracts in Louisiana?

Read about it here and here, folks.

The wolves aren't even bothering to don sheep's clothing anymore.

Another Official Votes With His Feet

(Hand salute to Dana Priest and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post)
Robert Richer, the second-ranking official in the CIA's clandestine service, has announced his retirement, telling colleagues that he lacked confidence in the agency's leadership, according to current and former intelligence officials.

Yesterday, Goss sent an unusual worldwide message to all CIA employees praising Richer for his nearly 35 years of service. That only fueled the belief among some former intelligence officials that Richer's resignation reflects ongoing problems at the agency.

Meanwhile, Back at the Inquisition...

Thanks to Jo Fish at Democratic Veteran for the bogey dope steer to this:
A federal appeals court ruled today that the president can indefinitely detain a U.S. citizen captured on U.S. soil in the absence of criminal charges, holding that such authority is vital to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.

This decision was part of the Joseph Padilla case. Padilla is/was a gang member who allegedly attended al Qaeda training camps and planned to "blow up apartment buildings in the United States."

I have no doubt this Padilla character is a real bad man. But we've dealt with a lot of real bad men in this country's history, and didn't need to override the Bill of Rights to handle them.

Speaking of bad men...

Here's the really, really scary part:
The decision by a three-judge panel was written by Judge J. Michael Luttig, who is one of a number of people under consideration by President Bush for nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Granting the president absolute power seems to be the way to get on the Supreme Court these days. It worked like a charm for John Roberts.
Judge John G. Roberts Jr. was interviewing for a possible Supreme Court nomination with top Bush administration officials at the same time he was presiding over a terrorism case of significant importance to President Bush.

Roberts...met with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and other administration officials about the Supreme Court job while sitting on the three-judge panel that eventually allowed Bush to resume the use of military officers to conduct trials of terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


Can you say "Torquemada?"