Tuesday, February 28, 2006

GOP Calls Ethics Questions Unethical

Read it and weep. Or laugh. Or both.


The Bush Strategy: Aiding and Abetting bin Laden

"Quagmire" is still an accurate word to describe the situation in Iraq and the state of the Global War on Terror in general, but it's been used so much by now that it's losing its contextual meaning. These days, I'm leaning toward the term "Gordian knot," which Merriam Webster Online defines as "an intricate problem; especially : a problem insoluble in its own terms."

In last Sunday's Washington Post, John Brennan, former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, gave an interesting analysis on the size of the knot that currently binds us, and how we're approaching the "problem" on our enemy's terms .
Osama bin Laden's plan to use terrorism to trigger an Islamic reawakening that will challenge Western dominance of world events and assure the ascendancy of Sunni extremists is moving forward -- at an alarming rate.


Terrorism, in bin Laden's strategy, is only a tactic, a means to achieve what he believes is a providentially ordained objective -- global domination by an Islamic caliphate. Yet dangerously, the United States is focusing on countering that tactic, missing the growth of the extremist Islamic forest as we flounder among the terrorist trees.

I respect Brennan's opinions, but disagree with him on a couple of points. Like many analysts, he makes the mistake of dismissing terrorism as a "tactic." An act of terror is a tactic. Bin Laden's coordination of acts of terror to establish a regime of global terrorism was a strategic masterstroke. Quite arguably, his terrorism strategy has had more impact on the world political scene than all the armies, navies, and air forces in the history of humanity combined.

I also disagree that the United States is focusing on countering terrorism. Nearly everything we have done has distracted our efforts away from countering terrorism. In fact, our "war" on terrorism has only served to increase it, and our attempts to attrite terrorists have merely added to their number.

But Brennan and I are in accord on two points. Bin Laden's grand strategy is to use all instruments of power available to him to achieve the aim of establishing a pan-Islamic coalition of states that geographically resembles the old Ottoman Empire. And, as Brennan asserts, bin Laden's plan is progressing at an eye-watering pace.


The biggest hitch in our Gordian knot is the conflict in Iraq, a diversion that has turned into one of America's most complex entanglements. It's a counter-insurgency operation, a nation-building project, a massive economic drain, and yes, a civil war, all rolled into one untidy package.

Few things in warfare are black and white, or fit the neat categories that military scholars often try to shoehorn them into. But it is important that we recognize that a civil war--a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country--is underway in Iraq, and has been going on for some time. We need to accept that reality because it has critical importance to what our troops are doing in the middle of it, and how long we want to keep them there.

As with all wars, no two civil wars are identical, but they all have similarities. The Iraq civil war meets the common criteria of armed conflict between and among different factions within the country. Outside influences are involved in Iraq, directly or indirectly, and that too is common in civil wars. And as we see in Iraq, civil wars often involve guerilla forces, militias, insurgents, asymmetrical forces, terrorism, religious and cultural clashes, and struggles to establish fledgling governments.

The Iraq civil war is somewhat unique in several ways. It followed on the heels of an invasion that toppled the existing government. The new government, though popularly elected, is having trouble gaining the acceptance of the populace that elected it. Unlike the American Civil War, there is no clear "Union versus Confederate" delineation of belligerents. The main warring factions in Iraq are the Sunnis and the Shiites, but there are factions within factions. Both sides posses numerous militias loyal to religious leaders whose loyalty to the central government is tenuous at best. The government's army and police forces are largely made up of former militia members whose loyalties to the government are tenuous as well. To that mix, add Zarkawi's al Qaeda in Mespotamia, which brings the greater agenda of Sunni extremism to the conflict.

Add one more thing: the invading force that overthrew the old Iraqi government still occupies the country.


U.S. forces in Iraq have so many conflicting and shifting priorities they can hardly be expected to know which way to point their gun barrels. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the war chiefs may try to cast our trops in the role of "peacekeepers," but experience illustrates that peacekeeping efforts only work when all parties involved are genuinely committed to keeping the peace. At first blush, we might find reports of Sunni leaders' willingness to return to talks to form a new government to be a positive sign. I genuinely hope these overtures lead to a lasting stability, but I'm not about to bet a paycheck on it. We've seen this before. In the Iraqi version of Groundhog Day, there's no real progress. Every day is a near exact replica of the one before. Bill Murray will be knocking back martinis in the great beyond with W.C. Fields before he ever gets the girl.


"Inevitable" is a bad word in military scholarship circles. We don't want to assume that because "b" followed "a" in one historic case study, it's destined to happen this time. When dozens or hundreds of examples indicate a predominant trend, though, we need to make plans for the worst-case scenario to be the probable case.

In the Iraq scenario, the probable case is that this next round of talks between the Sunnis and the Shiites will produce a peaceful solution that lasts for weeks at best before the country erupts into yet another round of violence. At some point, our troops will be forced to take a side, and it will almost certainly be the side of the Shiite majority.

And we'll continue to pursue an unattainable resolution of an insoluble problem, fight bin Laden on his terms, and fuel his grand vision of establishing a Neo-Ottoman Empire.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Beware of Recovering Neocons (Like Francis Fukuyama)

Another icon of the political right has jumped ship. Sort of.

Francis Fukuyama, a founding member of the Project for the New American Century, has apparently rejected the neoconservative ideology he helped shape.

Last Wednesday, Guardian Unlimited ran "Neoconservatism has evolved into something I can no longer support," a commentary in which Fukuyama says "The US needs to reframe its foreign policy not as a military campaign but as a political contest for hearts and minds."
As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems unlikely that history will judge the intervention or the ideas animating it kindly. More than any other group, it was the neoconservatives inside and outside the Bush administration who pushed for democratising Iraq and the Middle East. They are widely credited (or blamed) for being the decisive voices promoting regime change in Iraq, and yet it is their idealistic agenda that, in the coming months and years, will be the most directly threatened.

Fukuyama says that the problem with neoconservative agenda was not its ends, but with its "overmilitarised" means of achieving them. But it's difficult to separate neoconservativism from militarism when the PNAC's top policy priority, clearly stated in its 1997 Statement of Principles, was to "…increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future[.]"

Without militarism, PNAC's policy goals sound little different from those of, say, Dennis Kucinich.

And while Fukuyama conspicuously refers to the neoconservatives in third person as he criticizes "their" decision to make war in Iraq, it's important to note that Fukuyama himself was a signatory of the 1998 PNAC letter to President Clinton urging use of military force to oust Saddam Hussein from power.


Fukuyama provides a laundry list of mistakes made by the Bush administration, and ends with this:
[T]he legacy of the [Bush] first-term foreign policy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarising that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate about how to appropriately balance US ideals and interests. What we need are new ideas for how America is to relate to the world - ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of US power and hegemony to bring these ends about.

Fukuyama is trying to sell the notion of a kinder, gentler neoconservatism (neo-neoconservatism?), but I'm not buying it. "The universality of human rights" is not a proprietary "neoconservative belief." PNAC's Statement of Principles contains no mention of human rights, nor does Rebuilding America's Defenses, the PNAC manifesto published in September 2000.

Increasingly, prominent neoconservatives like Fukuyama, Bill Kristol, and Richard Perle have been trying to distance themselves from the Bush administration, saying in essence, "We had the right idea, they just executed it wrong."

Don't believe this bunk for a second. The Bush administration has executed the policy exactly according to the plan, right down to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's invasion of Iraq with a "faster, lighter force." America doesn't need "new ideas" that retain "neoconservative beliefs." It needs to flush neoconservativism into the Potomac.

That will not only require removing PNACers like John Bolton from government office. It will take severing the policy influences of conservative "think tanks" like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Hoover Institution.

These outfits will likely try to make themselves over with painted-on smiley faces and a sheep's wardrobe, but don't be taken in by them. They're still wolves, and they're still hungry.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Civil War Sunday

My sixteen-year old, twenty pound Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary says a civil war is "a war between political factions or regions within the same country." So why is there any question among the media pundits and administration spokespersons as to whether or not we have a civil war in Iraq? These folks don't have access to a dictionary? Their interns don't know how to use one?

If George W. Bush is an Evangelical Christian, and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is a Shiite Muslim, and the Dali Lama is a Buddhist, and the Pope is a Catholic, and bears go potty in the woods, Iraq is in the middle of a civil war, and has been for some time.


The only argument for keeping our troops in Iraq that has had any resonance with me is the one that says we owe something to the Iraqi people. It's Colin Powell's dopey Pottery Barn allegory. We broke it; we own it. That had a certain justifiable logic back when we were being told that hordes of foreign terrorist recruits were flooding into Iraq to block the forming of a new, popularly elected government. Then we learned that foreign fighters made up a small fraction of the insurgency, perhaps as little as two percent. Now we see that the strife in Iraq is almost solely between its two main internal factions, Sunnis and Shiites.

So there's no longer a valid view that says we're conducting a counterinsurgency operation. We're walking the fine line between peacekeeping and peace enforcement.

In practical terms, peace enforcement is the more militarily aggressive type of operation, as it involves "taking a side" and applying combat force to defend one faction from the other. Peacekeeping forces act as a buffer between opposing factions, but typically tend to "pick sides" when it becomes necessary to defend themselves, at which point they're no longer "keeping" peace, they're enforcing it.

But regardless of how we define military peace operations, they seldom go well. Ronald Reagan's Lebanon incursion and Bill Clinton's Somalia experiment are two prime examples of the fallacy of America's ability to establish peace through use of military force.

I've said for many years that when our military's mission grinds down to "drill about smartly and defend yourself," it's time to get the troops the hell out of wherever they are.

It's clear that our offensive sweeps of insurgent strongholds haven't had a lasting impact. We're not protecting Iraqi civilians, we're not creating an effective Iraqi security force, and we're not empowering Iraq's new government.

Aside from providing bad guys with targets, just what are our troops accomplishing in Iraq?

Groundhog Days

I just ran across this Knight Ridder article.
CIA officers in Iraq are warning that the country may be on a path to civil war, current and former U.S. officials said Wednesday, starkly contradicting the upbeat assessment that President Bush gave in his State of the Union address.


Bush, in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, insisted that an insurgency against the U.S. occupation, conducted primarily by minority Sunni Muslims who enjoyed power under Saddam Hussein, "will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom."

"Month by month, Iraqis are assuming more responsibility for their own security and their own future," the president said.

The article was published in January 2004.


On Wolf Blitzer's show this morning, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley denies Iraq is in a civil war. Hadley must not have access to a dictionary either, or two year old newspapers.

Wolf shows him graphics that show there are presently zero combat capable Iraqi units. Hadley says those statistics don't count. He says training Iraqi troops will take "months and years."

Seems like we heard that kind of talk months and years ago.

Will we be hearing it months and years from now?

Get It, Don't Get It, Don't Got It

Later on Wolf, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California) says the last thing we want to do is to get caught up in the middle of a civil war. When are these people going to realize that we already are?

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) says we can't allow the civil unrest in Iraq to spread throughout the Middle East. If we can't stop civil unrest from spreading throughout Iraq, how does she imagine we'll stop it from spreading through the Middle East?


And what did I tell you about the neocons abandoning ship? Think Progress covers PNAC founder Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday this morning blaming everything on Rumsfeld. The War hasn't been a "serious effort," Kristol says.

Kristol is one of many neoconservatives making a serious effort to dodge blame for the foreign policy disaster he played a key role in creating.


TP also covers George Will on ABC's This Week.
George Stephanopoulus: What does a civil war look like?

George Will: This. This is a civil war.

You'd think that if George Will could get it, everybody could.


Wolf asks Iraqi national Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie how long before Iraq's government stands up. Al-Rubaie says he thinks it will take a couple months.

How many elections have they held, and they still don't have a government?


Reuters reports that two more U.S. soldiers were killed by a bomb in Baghdad last night.

How much longer will we have to watch these reruns?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Fat Lady Sings: Buckley Says It's Over

A key conservative voice has ceded the reality of the Iraq imbroglio. In a National Review essay yesterday titled "It Didn't Work," William F. Buckley admitted that "…the American objective in Iraq has failed."
Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.


Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.

I’m heartened to see at least one leading conservative confess to a truth that so many of us recognized over a year ago. Now we'll see how long it takes the White House and its supporters in Congress to face facts.

Stand by for Bill Kristol, Donald Kagan, and the other neoconservatives who crafted the Iraq policy to start laying blame on Rumsfeld, and laying it on thick. Rumsfeld certainly has much to answer for, but his conduct of the Iraq War was not nearly so disastrous than the existence of the War in the first place, and Rumsfeld didn't cook that scheme up in a vacuum. He had a lot of company: Kristol and Kagan, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Dick Armitage, Bill Bennett, and John Bolton, just to name a few of the co-conspirators.

From my perspective, our military performed magnificently. Our men and women in uniform did the job they were trained to do: defeat the Iraqi armed forces. That they have been unable to quell a combination of an insurgency and a civil war is nothing for them to hang their heads over. That's not the kind of thing they were designed for.

America's failures in Iraq have been failures of foreign policy, a horribly misguided policy shaped behind closed doors by the Project for the New American Century and blindly adhered to long after ground truth had revealed its fundamental flaws.

The question for America is how much further will the Bush administration take us down this slope?

The probable answer: as far as we let them.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Neo-connecting the Dots from Bush World to DP World and Beyond

It didn't take a Tarot deck to see this one coming.

On February 22, Lou Dobbs dusted the Bush family fingerprints on the Dubai Ports World deal.
President Bush's family and members of the Bush administration have long-standing business connections with the United Arab Emirates, and those connections are raising new concerns and questions tonight in some quarters about why the president is defying his very own party leadership and his party in defending the Dubai port deal.

The UAE, it turns out, is a major investor in The Carlyle Group, an equities firm where Big Daddy Bush once served as a senior adviser. Last year, Dubai International Capital, a government-backed buyout company, invested $8 billion in a Carlyle fund.

Bush brother Neil of Savings and Loan scandal infamy appears in the scenario. Little Brother has reportedly received funding for his educational software company from UAE investors.

As reported earlier by P&S and others, Treasury Secretary and Bush family friend John Snow is the former chairman of CSX, the rail company that sold its port operations to Dubai Ports World a year after Snow left CSX to take the Treasury post. Snow now claims he had no knowledge of the sale. "I learned of this transaction probably the same way members of the Senate did, by reading about it in the newspapers," Snow told reporters.


David Sanborn, chosen by Bush last month to oversee U.S. port operations, is the former director of Dubai Ports World's European and Latin American operations.

Many Republicans in Congress are screaming holy murder over this deal, but it's interesting to note which leading GOP legislators are sticking to the Bush flypaper.

Senator John Warner (R-Virginia) says he believes the "commander in chief" deserves some deference in the port security decision. "I think the president and his subordinates followed the law, did a careful examination," he says. "And at this point in time, I do not see a basis to question it."

Warner is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and is a major player in the wheelings and dealings between Congress and the military industrial complex. But Warner's under-the-table maneuvering isn't limited to arms contractors. In August 2005, he helped fellow Virginia legislators Randy Forbes, George Allen, and Virginia Drake slip a $10.8 million rider into the transportation bill to build an interchange along Interstate 64 that will support a development project planned by TV evangelist Pat Robertson, Roberston is a long time contributor to GOP election campaigns, most notably those of Allen, Forbes, and Drake.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), a sometime critic of the Bush administration, says it's important to trust President Bush on this issue. It's funny how when shove comes to biff, McCain always backs the White House. We'll probably never know what the Rovewellians have on McCain, but whatever it is, they have it in spades.

The GOP crony circle supporting the DP World deal isn't limited to present members of Congress. Bob Dole, the former Senator and presidential candidate who helped the Bush campaign swift boat John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race, is now a lobbyist. He works for Alston and Bird, the D.C. law firm that represents Dubai Ports World.

Dole's wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, claims she had no knowledge of her husband's efforts to grease the skids on the port deal.


And From the Irony is Dead Department…

Lou Dobbs again:
At the United Nations tonight, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton is demanding that the United Nations take action to end corruption and abuse in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush still says he'll veto any congressional kibosh of the Dubai Ports World Deal. "I'm trying to conduct foreign policy by saying to people of the world, 'We'll treat you fairly,'" he says.

The foreign policy Bush wants to conduct is the same foreign policy that has Zalmay Khalilzad, Bush's handpicked Ambassador to Iraq, saying that the Middle East country is in danger of falling completely apart.

Administration supporters like former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute continue to argue that the Constitution gives Mr. Bush a free hand to conduct foreign policy in any way he sees fit.

On the domestic front, lawyers for Lewis "Scooter" Libby argue that Libby's indictment is unconstitutional because special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed by the Justice Department and not by Mr. Bush.

That, friends, is the state of the Union and the world on February 24th in the year of our Lord 2006. Have a great weekend. See you on Monday if we're all still here, and haven't been sold as indentured servants to the emir of the United Arab Emirates.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

From the Foks Who Promised You a New American Century

A review of the global security situation...


A bomb shatters the golden dome of a Shiite Shrine in Samarra, a town 60 miles north of Baghdad.

In retaliation, Shiite militiamen go ape in Baghdad, firing rocket propelled grenades and machine guns at Sunni mosques. In total, 27 Sunni mosques are attacked. Three imams are killed and another is kidnapped.

Iraqi Army soldiers, called out to stop the violence, stand by and watch it all happen.

Violent protests erupt across the country.

Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia leads many of the protests, blames the bombing of the shrine on "occupation forces."

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iran's top Shiite cleric, says, "If the government's security forces cannot provide the necessary protection, the believers will do it."

Some Iraqi leaders blame the United States for failing to prevent the violence.

One Iraqi Shiite leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, American ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's veiled threat on Monday to withdraw U.S. support if the Iraqis fail to form a nonsectarian government is to blame. "This declaration gave a green light for these groups to do their operation, so he is responsible for a part of that," Hakim says.

U.S. media pundits continue to argue over whether a civil war has broken out in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs chairman Peter Pace continue to complain that the media isn't reporting enough of the "good news" out of Iraq.

In other foreign policy news:

Our pals in Iran, who told us they'd build nukes whether we like or not, have pledged financial aid to Hamas, that terror group we don't like that won the elections in Palestine which we didn't expect to happen.

Since he can't get Iran to cooperate on a nuclear deal, Mr. Bush is now trying to meddle in India's nuclear program.

Our cuddly ally in Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, is losing his war against al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

In Afghanistan, the "crown jewel" in our Global War on Terror, militants are attacking schools and teachers.

In the worst foreign policy news of all, Condi Rice has made a surprise visit to Lebanon. I guess she had to sneak up on them so they wouldn't run away and hide before she got there. The best diplomatic move George W. Bush could make would be to chain Condi to her desk at Foggy Bottom. Among her, Rumsfeld, and Chertoff, it's a dead heat as to who's the biggest screw up in the Cabinet.

And on the Homeland Security front:

Bush domestic security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend is getting ready to release a report that says the nation needs to revamp the way it responds to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. It took a whole staff of people to help her figure that out.

The folks who tell you "we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" want to spend $49.9 billion on homeland security in 2006, calling the outlay "a responsible effort to align spending with strategic priorities."

Last but not least, NYT's David Sanger tells us it doesn't matter if a Dubai company owns six American ports because security sucks at all American ports regardless of who owns them.


Mind you, all this is taking place under the stewardship of an administration that claims foreign policy and national security are its strong suits.

The long pole in the policy tent, of course, is Iraq, and we need to shut down that circus right now. We're not weakening the insurgency, we're not averting the civil war, and we're not bolstering Iraq's new government. A shrine blows up, all hell breaks loose, Iraqi troops pick their noses and rubberneck, and leadership across Iraq's political spectrum blames everything on us. I'm not upset that we threatened to withdraw support from the Iraqis if they failed to get their act together. I just damn angry we didn't do it two years ago.

There is no excuse whatsoever at this point for one more American kid to be killed or mangled in a futile attempt to bring that country into the 21st century. Iraqi troops aren't standing up. They're sitting down.

John Murtha's Iraq strategy is the only one that contains an ounce of sanity. Every second we delay redeploying out troops to the periphery is a senseless and irresponsible drain of our national treasure and power.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Harvard President Quits, U.S. President Doesn't

It's not what you know. It's what you can get away with.

Dr. Lawrence H. Summers has resigned as president of Harvard University after a stormy five-year tenure. After a stormy five-year tenure as president of the United States, George W. Bush appears to have no intention of leaving.

Dr. Summers alienated many Harvard professors with his "bullying and arrogant" leadership style. Mr. Bush's bullying and arrogant leadership style has alienated a major section of the U.S. and world population.

Dr. Summers came into office hailed as once-in-a-century leader. Mr. Bush took office as a self-acclaimed "uniter." Both men miserably failed to live up to their early promise.

But the two presidents' careers are not entirely identical.

Dr. William C. Kirby stepped down as dean of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences three weeks ago. Kirby's resignation marked the beginning of the end for Dr. Summers.

When Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill resigned in 2003 over disagreements with his boss on tax policy, it was just the beginning for Mr. Bush. A year after he left the administration, O'Neill went public with his criticisms of Bush and his policies.

In a 2004 interview with Leslie Stahl of CBS, O'Neill said that at cabinet meetings, Mr. Bush was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection."

O'Neill accused Vice President Dick Cheney of not being an "honest broker" and of being part of a "a praetorian guard that encircled the president" to protect him from views contrary to established policies. It was Cheney who told O'Neill, "You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter," and who asked O'Neill to resign after a heated debate over tax cuts.

But O'Neill's most important revelations concerned administration planning to invade Iraq long before the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001.

“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” O'Neill said, adding that going after Hussein was "topic A" ten days after the 2001 inauguration. "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this.’"

O'Neill was the primary source for The Price of Loyalty, the book by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind that uncovered the facts behind the run up to the invasion of Iraq. From his interviews with O'Neill and other government officials who attended the Iraq meetings, Suskind learned that the Iraq plans envisioned deploying peacekeeping troops and holding war crimes tribunals. The plans also proposed ways to divvy up Iraqi oil wealth.

In the course of his research, Suskind obtained a Pentagon document dated March 5, 2001 titled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts." The document contained a map of potential oil exploration areas.

Suskind told CBS: “It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries. And which ones have what intentions. On oil in Iraq.”

Suskind was surprised (and perhaps appalled) that during the 2000 campaign, Bush had criticized the Clinton-Gore team for being too interventionist. "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions," Bush had said, "then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that."

Suskind remarked, "…the administration had said 'X' during the campaign, but from the first day was often doing 'Y.' Not just saying ‘Y,’ but actively moving toward the opposite of what they had said during the election.”

O'Neill and Suskind confirmed what those who had been tracking the rhetoric of the neo-conservative think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) suspected all along. Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Perle, Robert Kagan, and others had been conspiring to invade and occupy Iraq and grab its oil since some time in the 1990s, well before George W. Bush announced his plans to run for the GOP presidential nomination.

In PNAC's seminal Rebuilding America's Defenses, published in September 2000, the architects of what would become the Bush administration's foreign policy freely admitted their aspirations to secure control of the Middle East--and hence its oil reserves--through military force, even if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power.
The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The PNAC neocons realized, though, that the road to their dream of a global American empire was "likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event--like a new Pearl Harbor." (Italics added.)

9/11 gave the Bush foreign policy team just the "catastrophic and catalyzing" event they needed to slip their hidden agenda past the American public and the global community. The rest, as they say, is history.


Had the president of the United States been someone like Harvard's Dr. Summers, Paul O'Neill's forced resignation and the subsequent discoveries of the administration's policy machinations would likely have led to impeachment proceedings. But George W. Bush is no Lawrence H. Summers. Summers' mistake was that he didn't surround himself with a protective phalanx of ruthless ideologues, a dogmatic political party, and the religious right. If he had, he'd no doubt still be president of Harvard.

The O'Neill affair didn't cause Mr. Bush to skip a beat. He replaced O'Neill in the Treasury Secretary post with John Snow: the same John Snow who just awarded control of six American ports to Dubai Port World. This same John Snow was the chairman of CSX, the rail firm that sold its international port operation to Dubai Port World a year after Snow left CSX to take the Treasury job.

Imagine how the faculty would have reacted in Dr. Summers had let his comptrollers pull a stunt like that at Harvard. Tar, feathers, and a rail might have been involved.

But in the Land of Winkin', Blinkin', and Bush, this kind of under the table hanky-panky is a time honored family tradition.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Port Security: The Torture Never Stops

This doesn't even require an editorial comment.

From The Daily News Washington Bureau:
The Dubai firm that won Bush administration backing to run six U.S. ports has at least two ties to the White House.

One is Treasury Secretary John Snow, whose agency heads the federal panel that signed off on the $6.8 billion sale of an English company to government-owned Dubai Ports World - giving it control of Manhattan's cruise ship terminal and Newark's container port. Snow was chairman of the CSX rail firm that sold its own international port operations to DP World for $1.15 billion in 2004, the year after Snow left for President Bush's cabinet.

The other connection is David Sanborn, who runs DP World's European and Latin American operations and was tapped by Bush last month to head the U.S. Maritime Administration.

The Great White Executive Power Sharks

Any American concerned about the relentless pursuit of absolute power by the Bush administration must read Jane Mayer's latest New Yorker article . As compelling as any narrative non-fiction you're likely to read this year, "The Memo" recounts the brave efforts of senior career government officials to curb the abusive interrogation techniques practiced in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere. Mayer's article is also an important piece of reportage that documents the actions of key Bush administration insiders as they conspired to place the President of the United States above the constraints of constitutional and international law.

Nearly the entire cast of administration heavies appears in the piece.

Administration lawyers Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, and David Addington write the memos that authorize "cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees" and espouse "an extreme and virtually unlimited theory of the extent of the President’s Commander-in-Chief authority.” Other administration attorneys closely aligned with Vice President Dick Cheney join ranks to squelch opposition to official policies. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sends Major General Geoffrey Miller to Guantanamo with "carte blanche" permission to do whatever is necessary to obtain information from prisoners, then sends him to Iraq to do more of the same. Confronted with reports of prisoner abuse, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan prevaricates. George W. Bush asserts that “Any activity we conduct is within the law."

Mayer includes pieces of her interview with Colin Powell's former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson, who told NPR last fall about the torture policy audit trail "that ran from the Vice-President’s office and the Secretary of Defense down through the commanders in the field."
When I spoke to [Wilkerson] recently, he said, “I saw what was discussed. I saw it in spades. From Addington to the other lawyers at the White House. They said the President of the United States can do what he damn well pleases. People were arguing for a new interpretation of the Constitution. It negates Article One, Section Eight, that lays out all of the powers of Congress, including the right to declare war, raise militias, make laws, and oversee the common defense of the nation.” Cheney’s view, Wilkerson suggested, was fuelled by his desire to achieve a state of “perfect security.” He said, “I can’t fault the man for wanting to keep America safe, but he’ll corrupt the whole country to save it.”


As we have seen in the recent controversy surrounding the NSA domestic surveillance program, the administration continues to claim absolute authority for Mr. Bush to conduct the so-called Global War on Terror in any manner he sees fit, citing executive constitutional powers that appear nowhere in the Constitution and permissions granted by Congress that aren't actually delineated in the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.

Now, as always, the Bush team isn't about to let facts or reality get in the way of their bottomless thirst for absolute rule, as illustrated in this February 18 report from the San Francisco Chronicle (hand salute to Nitpicker):
Legal challenges against Bush's efforts are likely to fail because the president has constitutional power to act as commander in chief and conduct foreign affairs, said Kris Kobach, former counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft.

"Article II will trump anything Congress tries to do through statute," Kobach said.

This is the crux of the Bush power game strategy. If enough lawyers pour enough lies into the Big Brother Broadcast, enough of the people will be fooled enough of the time to keep Big Brother and his little helpers in power.

Just for grins, let's review--one more time--what Article II of the Constitution actually says about presidential war powers.
The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States…


He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur[.]

That's all, folks!

Mayer's piece serves to remind us that from the outset, this administration aspired to establish levels of executive authority that amount to totalitarianism. And as the right wing rhetoric over the NSA spy program confirms, these great white power sharks won't curb their insatiable appetites for absolute rule until somebody stops them. And who's going to stop them? The courts, stacked with Bush appointees, aren't likely to. Nor is the White House complaint GOP ruled Congress.

Where are Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfus, and Robert Shaw when you need them?


For more discussion of presidential powers, see The Ides of December and Top Ten War Powers Myths.

Intelligence Agencies Erase History

The administration that accuses its opposition of "rewriting history" has been busy erasing it. From NYT's Scott Shane:
In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.

The project apparently began in 1999 when the CIA and other agencies declared objections to a declassification order signed by Bill Clinton in 1995, and accelerated after George W. Bush came into office. According to Shane over 55,000 pages of previously declassified information have been reclassified.

The reclassification program is so classified itself that few people knew about it until last December.
That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves.

Mr. Aid was struck by what seemed to him the innocuous contents of the documents — mostly decades-old State Department reports from the Korean War and the early cold war. He found that eight reclassified documents had been previously published in the State Department's history series, "Foreign Relations of the United States."

"The stuff they pulled should never have been removed," he said. "Some of it is mundane, and some of it is outright ridiculous."

Aid and other historians complained to the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office, which began an audit of the reclassification program. Archive officials say the program has revoked access to 9,500 documents, more than 8,000 of them since Mr. Bush took office.

Anonymous sources believe most of the reclassification is being conducted by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Dr. Anna K. Nelson, a foreign policy historian at American University, called the program a "travesty" and said "I think the public is being deprived of what history is really about: facts."

Facts. In these Rovewellian times, we don't want any of those pesky things lying around where anybody can discover them.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Real National Security Girly Men

Incredibly, the Bush administration still manages to perpetrate the myth that the Democrats are weak on national security. I say "incredibly" because it is difficult to imagine how anyone could have possibly mismanaged our so-called Global War on Terror worse than Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the neo-cabal have.

More than two and a half years after the fall of Baghdad, an Iraqi special operations unit has taken the lead in a "smash and grab" mission against an insurgency cell in a rural community in Area IV labeled "Objective Hades."

"Only" a third of the troops in this operation were American forces, who merely came along to "observe and advise." The rest were "elite" Iraqi counterterrorism forces.

This supposedly indicates that the stand up/stand down plan is working. But having a third of a strike force go along to "observe and advise" indicates that the other two thirds still need entirely too much observing and advising.

In other words, they still suck.


Perhaps more significant than the level of supervision these "elite" Iraqi forces still require is the type of mission they're being trained to perform. For all the good these smash and grab missions have done to date in quelling the insurgency, we might as well call them "grip and grins."

That, of course, is nothing compared to the profound strategic error in the terror war of committing the overwhelming majority of our force to Iraq when the main sector of effort should have been Afghanistan. This is one of Congressman John Murtha's (D-Pennsylvania) main criticisms of the conduct of the war, and he's right.


In a remarkably (but predictably) skewed report, The Washington Times described last week's House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee hearing on defense spending as a "public faceoff" between Murtha and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

WaTime characterized criticisms of Rumsfeld by Murtha and Congressman Ken Obey (D-Wisconsin) as "attacks." It described Murtha's plan for redeployment of U.S. troops to the periphery of the region as "pessimistic" and all but accused him of pandering to the "political left and liberal press."

This sort of subliminal propaganda not only works on the gullible right, it appears to influence the left as well. While Murtha's plan is the only one on the table that makes any sense, the rest of the Democratic Party has shunned it, evidently fearful of being cast as "weak" by the right wing media and its cooperative echo chamberlains in the mainstream information sphere.

But what does war chief Donald Rumsfeld have to offer?

"When we get up in the morning, there's no road map how to do this," he said. "There's no guidebook that says, 'Gee, today you do this.' It is tough stuff."

Rumsfeld--and his hand picked four-star yes men--have no plan.

As Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) said in June of 2005, "The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is, we're losing in Iraq."

And yet an alarming number of Americans continue to believe that their safety and the security of their nation are in good hands.

Simply Rovewellian.


On a related note, ABC News and other sources report today that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has vowed never to be captured alive. That should be an easy vow to keep. If we haven't been able to capture him alive by now, it's doubtful we ever will be.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sunday Drive By

You gotta love this. By way of BooMan, the Articles of Impeachment for President George W. Bush as proposed by Rhode Island U.S. senatorial candidate Carl Sheeler.

Pretty good arguments, Sheeler makes.

Friday, February 17, 2006

GOP Leaders Block NSA Investigations

Why doesn't this surprise me?

In yesterday's Pen and Sword post, we reported on the announcement that the Justice Department would conduct it's own investigation on the NSA spy scandal, and predicted that GOP congressional leaders would likely block outside investigations by the legislature.

Lo and behold.

Today, from NYT's editorial staff:
Is there any aspect of President Bush's miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up?

For more than a year, Mr. Roberts has been dragging out an investigation into why Mr. Bush presented old, dubious and just plain wrong intelligence on Iraq as solid new proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was in league with Al Qaeda. It was supposed to start after the 2004 election, but Mr. Roberts was letting it die of neglect until the Democrats protested by forcing the Senate into an unusual closed session last November.

Now Mr. Roberts is trying to stop an investigation into Mr. Bush's decision to allow the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without getting the warrants required by a 27-year-old federal law enacted to stop that sort of abuse.

Roberts is not, apparently, using the Justice investigation to justify his actions yet (we don't need to investigate them because they're investigating themselves), but there's little question he's keeping that card tucked in his sleeve.

Roberts had promised to hold a vote of the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday on whether or not the committee would hold its own investigation. But he cancelled the vote, and announced that he was working on a change to the FISA law that would eliminate the need for an investigation. How? By making warrantless NSA spying on Americans legal, and retroactively legitimizing the Bush administration's years of illegal wiretapping.

Roberts has yet to explain how making warrantless wiretaps on Americans legal will make them constitutional in accordance with the Fourth Amendment.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The administration's henchmen will argue that a warrantless search can be "reasonable," and hence adhere to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. But will they be willing to provide hard evidence of the reasonable nature of the wiretaps?

One of the best examples of a "reasonable" warrantless search is the police officer at the front door who hears a child inside crying for help and enters the house to investigate. This is a relatively sane procedure, and most Americans will agree to the soundness of it.

Can the administration present this kind of case for "reasonable" warrantless wiretaps? So far, they've been unwilling to discuss any operational measures involved in the NSA domestic surveillance program, and it's doubtful that they'll change their tune now. So they'll ask us to take their word for it that they'll take proper steps to ensure all their warrantless wiretaps are reasonable.

Which means Robert's law would give them a blank check to do what they've been doing all along in total absence of oversight, thus supporting Mr. Bush's claim of absolute power and authority to sidestep the Constitution whenever he likes.

A Ray of Hope or Another Train Coming?

It seems that not all congressional Republicans have leashed themselves to the administration's heel. NYT's Eric Lichtblau and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report today that the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee have agreed to open an investigation on the NSA spying program.
Representative Heather A. Wilson, the New Mexico Republican and committee member who called last week for the investigation, said the review "will have multiple avenues, because we want to completely understand the program and move forward."

But there's a brown banana in the cereal bowl. An aide to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) told the Times that "the inquiry would be much more limited in scope, focusing on whether federal surveillance laws needed to be changed and not on the eavesdropping program itself."

Which means that the leaders of both intelligence committees--Roberts and Hoekstra--are in lockstep. They don't want to do any real investigating; they want to make sure that whatever the imperial executive department wants to do is "legal," even if they have to pass unconstitutional laws to make it so.

These events illustrate once again what has been obvious to many Americans for some time. As long as the GOP retains a death grip on Congress, we have no oversight, no checks, no balances, no separation of powers, and no republic.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Justice Department to Investigate Itself.

This sounds all too familiar. From NYT's Scott Shane and Eric Lichtblau:
The ethics office of the Justice Department has begun a review of the department's role in the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, a move that could shed light on internal dissension over the legal status of the secret program.

Having an ethics office in the Bush Justice Department is like hiring a pimp to enforce chastity at a brothel.
Congress has not opened any investigation of the program, despite the urging of Democrats, some Republicans and privacy advocates, who believe that the eavesdropping violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act because it is conducted without court warrants.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to hold a closed meeting on Thursday to decide whether to conduct its own examination, but the White House strongly opposes an investigation, and Democrats say they are pessimistic that a full inquiry will be opened.

I’m pessimistic on that score too. How many times have we seen this pattern? The GOP controlled Congress makes noises about investigating the shenanigans of the executive branch, then the executive branch announces it's investigating itself, and Congress calls off its investigation, saying it's no longer necessary.

Wouldn't you love it if the IRS promised not to audit you if you promised to audit yourself?

I hate to say this, but it looks to me like Bush is going to skate again. So long, checks and balances. Nice knowing you. It was fun while it lasted.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell How Much It Costs

In military matters, if it's not one thing, it's another. Even as our force continues to grind itself into a sand dune, Military.com runs a story on the cost of allowing gays to serve.
Discharging troops under the Pentagon's policy on gays cost $363.8 million over 10 years, almost double what the government concluded a year ago, a private report says.


Congress approved the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in 1993 during the Clinton administration. It allows gays and lesbians to serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps as long as they abstain from homosexual activity and do not disclose their sexual orientation.

Homosexuals have been serving in armies and navies since long before the Greeks attacked Troy. Despite my fairly passable knowledge of military history, I can't for the life of me tell you when it became an "issue," but one thing's for sure; it's an issue now, and is likely to be one for a long time to come.

In my experience, "don't ask, don't tell" was a proverbial double-edged sword. The upside was that if you suspected a fellow service member of being gay, you weren't obliged to do anything about it. Live and let live, focus on important matters.

The downside was that if someone got outed, you were still obliged to discipline him or her under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which still outlaws homosexuality and requires, under most circumstances, that open gays be separated from service with less than honorable discharges. (There are varying degrees of severity in non-honorable discharges, but any discharge that isn't honorable isn't good.)

In that sense, I thought "don't ask, don't tell" was entirely unfair. We told prospective recruits it was okay to be gay, but if they couldn't keep it a secret they'd be out on their ears with a bad mark on their permanent records.

There's no way of knowing if we have more gays in the services now than we did before don't ask don't tell. (You can't ask and they can't tell, remember?) But no one in their right mind thinks that rescinding don't ask don't tell would eliminate gays in the military.

Is there a solution to this conundrum?

There's only one I can think of: eliminate the ban on homosexual behavior from the UCMJ.

This isn't a popular idea in very many military circles, but I think we can make a few reasonable arguments to support it by dissecting the leading arguments against it.

At some point, regardless of the branch they serve in, military members will be forced to live together in close quarters, sharing sleeping and sanitary facilities. It's probably reasonable to say that sailors and soldiers shouldn't be forced against their wills to share an open bay shower with homosexuals. But guess what: that's going to happen no matter what the policy is. And frankly, if I'm sharing facilities with gay men, I'd prefer to know which ones are gay than have to wonder about it.

Many object that allowing open homosexuality will lead to senior service members to use their rank and position to sexually prey on junior personnel. That's a legitimate concern, but it's not one that's exclusive to lesbians and gays. There's no reason homosexuals can't be held to the same fraternization standards as heterosexuals, and subjected to the same penalties if they violate those standards.

It's possible that gay service members would be subject to ridicule, ostracizing, and even violence. But the military can solve that problem the same way it solves the problem of prejudice against any minority personnel: by not tolerating it.


There is one problem with allowing open homosexuality in the armed services that I don't have a solution for. A whole lot of people who choose to join the military have a deep held belief that homosexuality is a sin against God and nature, and there's probably not much anyone can do to change their views.

Keep in mind, though, that the guy who decided In the Navy would make a great recruiting jingle was most likely a homophobe admiral who didn't realize The Village People were gay.

So anything can happen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

GOP Dupes the Troops

Legislation snuck into the defense spending bill in December by senior GOP congressional members pulled the rug out from under countless U.S. military members.

Most Americans are aware that the "midnight rider," inserted into the bill after hours by Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Congressman Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), protects vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits in the event of the outbreak of a bird flu pandemic. But it also blocks members of the armed services from seeking redress against companies that produced experimental vaccines used in military inoculation programs.

On December 22, 2005, Bob Evans of the Hampton Roads Daily News reported that three veterans' advocacy groups had protested the legislation.
In an open letter to President Bush and Congress, the groups said, "subjecting service members to dangerous vaccines while giving protection to vaccine manufacturers is not only a threat to the health of our troops, it is a threat to the ability of our armed services to recruit and keep soldiers."

The groups noted that the legislation strips veterans…of their ability to sue for damages if the vaccines, now experimental, are used and cause someone harm. Under the terms of the bill, the government would compensate victims but the specifics of how that would work and the amount of money was not determined.

The veterans groups' letter, and an advertisement they placed in the Congress Daily newspaper on Friday, cites statistics from a story in the Daily Press detailing how the Department of Defense withheld data on more than 20,000 hospitalizations of troops who received the controversial anthrax vaccine from 1998-2000. [Italics added.]

The Frist/Hastert defense bill rider also prevents those harmed by vaccines from obtaining information about the vaccines or the manufacturers.


I was one of the troops required to take the anthrax vaccine while deployed overseas with the Navy in 1999. So far, I'm not aware of any health problems the vaccine has caused me, but not everyone I knew was so lucky.

Participation in the vaccine program was mandatory. Sailors who refused to take the vaccine were subjected to discipline under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Many were administratively discharged from service.

Several sailors who declined to be inoculated cited information gained from the Internet warning that the anthrax vaccine had not been fully tested, and was still in the "experimental" stage. Information disseminated through "official channels" refuted the Internet warnings, labeling them "irresponsible," and assuring Navy personnel that the vaccine was perfectly safe.

During that deployment, a number of my shipmates developed painful and disfiguring skin conditions, the cause of which was described by Navy medicine as "undeterminable." When we returned home to Norfolk, Virginia, a dermatologist at Portsmouth Naval Hospital told one of our female sailors that her skin condition was the result of her use of the birth control pill.

To the best of my recollection, it was roughly a year after our return from deployment before Navy medicine openly admitted that the outbreak of skin conditions had been caused by the squalene oil based adjuvant used in the vaccine known as MF59.

The squalene in MF59 is thought to cause a variety of auto-immune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Lou Gehrig's disease.

In 2004, Emmy and Peabody Award winning investigative reporter Scott Malone wrote a piece for Military.com on the book Vaccine - A: The Covert Government Experiment That's Killing Our Soldiers And Why GI's Are Only The First Victims.
Author Gary Matsumoto tells an amazing, six-year scientific mystery story, unraveled literally strand by strand and lab sample by lab sample. It is a real-life and death CSI show, and perhaps a tragic mistake of gargantuan proportions, affecting thousands if not hundreds of thousands of US fighting men and women.

In a crash effort to boost the effectiveness and lessen the required doses of existing anthrax vaccines, US military researchers apparently turned to squalene, a naturally-occurring oil distantly related to cholesterol. The squalene was added to various "experimental" batches of the vaccine administered to troops destined for the first Gulf War in 1991. But when injected, even in the minutest of amounts, squalene oil can cause the body's immune system to create its own specialized anti-bodies which then indiscriminately attack all such other oils in the body. These auto-immune reactions have the exact same symptoms as those of the victims of the so-called Gulf War Syndrome.


The present day vaccine story is not so pretty a tale, however, with descriptions of the occasional horrible death, including one vet who died in excruciating pain as the skin on his entire body withered away. [Italics added again, for obvious reasons, hopefully.]


Matsumoto reports that scientists have only discovered this past summer that the latest possible victims of adjuvant-induced squalene antibodies are the recently returned Iraq War II veterans-a few even suffering some of the same auto-immune symptoms as their earlier comrades.


Coming up: neo-connecting the dots between pharmaceutical corporate influence and the "midnight rider."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Daffy Diplomacy

Here's another bitter consequence of the utterly inept Bush foreign policy. The spread of the democratic process in the Middle East has been so successful that we now have to step in and highjack it.

NYT's Steven Erlanger filed this today:
The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.

The intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.

We don't like the way Palestine's elections worked out, so we'll starve the Palestinians until they vote out the government they just voted in and vote the government they just voted out back in.

Won't that win hearts and minds?

You might think, at first, that this strategy was cooked up by a bunch of interns in the basement at Foggy Bottom, but guess again. Erlanger's sources say this approach is being discussed "at the highest levels of the State Department and the Israeli government." Scary, especially when you consider how many people at the highest levels of the State Department are Bush crony appointees. Even scarier when you remember that some of these people actually have graduate degrees in international relations. Secretary of State Condi Rice not only has a PhD in international studies, she was a professor of political science at Stanford where she won two of the school's highest teaching honors.

Which gives you an insight on the lamentable state of American foreign diplomacy.

The administration asserts that it objects to Hamas's longstanding policy that the State of Israel should cease to exist, but the Bushmen have another reason to be worried. Hamas was voted in to get rid of a rampantly corrupt ruling party, and Bush and his supporters don't like the Palestinians setting that kind of example for the American public.


Part III of the ePluribus series on PTSD is up at Kos.

If you get a chance, stop by and read our analysis of how our veterans are being neglected by their government.

Support the troops!

Brave New Bush World

The $250,000 of covert propaganda money that the administration paid Armstrong Williams to promote No Child Left Behind was just the tip of the iceberg. According to Richard Williamson of National News, the Government Accountability Office has reported that the Bush machine spent $1.4 billion in taxpayer dollars to ad agencies over the last two and a half years.
The six largest recipients of ad and PR dollars were Leo Burnett USA, $536 million; Campbell-Ewald, $194 million; GSD&M, $179 million; JWT, $148 million; Frankel, $133 million; and Ketchum, $78 million. The agencies received more than $1.2 billion in media contracts, according to the report.


The Department of Defense spent the most on media contracts, with pacts worth $1.1 billion, according to the study. The Department of Health and Human Services spent more than $300 million, the Department of Treasury spent $152 million, and the Department of Homeland Security spent $24 million during the period.

One has to wonder what fraction of that $1.1 trillion Department of Defense advertising money it would have taken to solve the body armor problems? Who didn't get $300 million worth of health and human services because the money went for public relations. Whatever the Department of the Treasure advertised for $152 million, it wasn't very effective because I sure don't remember it. Do you?

$24 million for Homeland Security publicity? Why? They got plenty of publicity without having to buy it.


Don't let this administration get away with telling you this was $1.4 billion worth of public service announcements or "education." It's pure political propaganda. We live in the Brave New Bush World, and we're paying our government to brainwash us.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Murtha: We are not Fighting Terrorism in Iraq

I just caught Congressman John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) on NPR's Diane Rehm Show. The more I hear what Murtha has to say, the more I agree with him. Here are what I thought were some of the best points he made today, and why I think they're spot on accurate observations.

-- We are not fighting terrorism in Iraq.

As Murtha points out, as best we can tell there are only 1,000 to 1,500 members of al Qaeda presently in Iraq. The vast majority of the people we're killing and capturing in Iraq are not international terrorists; they're either Iraqi insurgents or innocent civilians.

-- We have lost the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

The innocent civilians we have killed are a large reason for this. This is not to say that our troops on the ground are running around purposely killing civilians. On the contrary, at the tactical level, I believe that we're taking every possible measure to avoid collateral damage consistent with the safety of our own troops. But operationally and strategically, we're conducting the war in a manner in which large numbers of non-combatant deaths are unavoidable. Despite our precision weapons technology, we simply can't take down a defended town like Fallujah without either inadvertently killing a number of mommies and babies or getting a lot of our own troops blown up because they have their hands tied behind their backs.

By this point in this woebegone war, we may well have wrought more death and destruction on Iraqi innocents than the monster Hussein ever did. That we did so in a "noble cause" is really irrelevant. The civilians we have killed accidentally and the ones Hussein killed on purpose are equally dead. And their surviving friends, neighbors, and family members are equally angry at and fearful of us as they were of Hussein.

-- "Staying the course" is not an exit strategy.

It may seem superfluous to have to point out that "staying" and "exiting" are polar opposites, but apparently it's necessary to highlight the inherent absurdities of the Bush administration's propaganda to the folks who still buy it.

Time after time after time, the people who brought us this war have refused to articulate what they consider to be the conditions of "victory." And with no specific stated measures of success, "staying the course" literally means that there is no exit.

Operation Iraqi Freedom: a play in two acts by John Paul Sartre.

-- Al Qaeda wants us in Iraq. Iran wants us there, China want us there, using up our resources.

This is the sorriest reality of our lamentable excursion into Iraq. The longer we stick around in that country, the weaker it makes us militarily, economically, and diplomatically. And the longer we make up bogus excuses to stay there, the more we deplete our already profoundly damaged credibility in the world community.

Every tape and video released by bin Laden or his henchmen purposely targets the deluded barbecue cowboy mentality of George W. Bush and his supporters. There's no better way to convince self-consciously self-styled tough guys to stay in a stupid, self-defeating fight than to threaten to call them sissies if they pull out of it.

Shoot, what would Mommy think, with all them A-rabs calling Junior a pantywaist? Ain't no way in hell we're gonna let that happen, by golly.

What a profound American tragedy it is that we're letting people with that kind of schoolyard mentality drive our foreign policy.

As I've said before, the rest of the world is looking on and giggling as we senslessly pour American treasure and blood into Iraq.


For more specifics on John Murtha's positions on the Iraq War, visit this page at his web site.

Coming Up...

Jack Murtha on the Iraq War.

In the meantime...

I'm guessing that the GOP is scratching its head, wondering what to do about Cheney nailing his buddy with a shotgun.

Here's what I suggest: have the Republican controlled Senate Judiciary Committee investigate the matter, and have Jeff Sessions propose legistlation that makes it legal for a Vice President to shoot his hunting partner.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

What I Did on this Cold, Overcast Sunday in Virginia...

…was watch entirely too many political talk shows. Here's what I saw.

Meet the Press

Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) consistently refuses to explain why 72 hours isn't enough time to process retroactive warrants for spying on Americans, even after Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-California) points out that the warrants only take a day to prepare.

Roberts slips in several remarks about the President's constitutional powers, implying that he doesn’t need the AUMF, or FISA, or anything else passed by Congress to do whatever he needs to do to protect America. As usual, there's no mention of what the Constitution says about a President's special wartime powers, which is nothing.

Congressman Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) insists government whistleblowers don't need to go to the press because grievance procedures are in place within federal agencies. But he doesn't go through the litany of whistleblowers who have been crushed for standing up to the Bush administration.

Face the Nation

Condi Rice: it's okay for Russia to talk to Hamas because Russian doesn't consider Hamas a terrorist organization. So Hamas is only a terrorist organization if we talk to them?

Rice also says certain Islamic countries are using the controversial Danish cartoons as an excuse to encourage anti-American sentiment. Good girl, Condi. Blame America's unpopularity with the rest of the world on the Danes. Who wears the collar next week? Lapland?

Host Bob Schieffer makes the truest statement we're likely to hear in the mainstream media all year: "The Department of Homeland Security is a monumental flop."

Late Edition

Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska). "Intelligence is always imperfect." Our intelligence is the perfect scapegoat. It's darn good enough to let us take measures we couldn't otherwise justify, and if things go wrong, it’s the fault of intelligence.

Give Hagel his due; he's stood by his principles concerning the Iraq War. Wolf quotes National Review referring to him as "Senator George Hagel, (R-France)." Hagel should consider that a badge of courage. National Review

Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut): the cartoon crisis proves that our war on terror is a "world war." Ever since the BRAC negotiations, where Lieberman lost his sub base in Groton then got it back, he's been one of the administration's most vocal pro-war echo chamberlains. Wolf shows a clip of Lieberman "We undermine our president's credibility at our country's peril.

Lieberman states that we have to stay in Iraq to finish the mission, but like the Bushmen, he offers no clue as to what finishing the mission might consist of.


Wolf interviews Paul Pillar, the retired CIA analyst who has come out to reaffirm that Cheney and the rest of the neo-cabal cherry picked the intelligence on Iraq. He says it was pretty clear to anyone working in the intelligence community that the administration was determined to invade Iraq as part of its pre-determined policy.

Pillar says he's coming out now because he's retired. Not a day goes by that I don't thank my Maker that I retired from the military before all the Bushcapades went down.

Pillars revelations are nothing new, of course. We've heard all this from senior insiders before. That Pillar's statements haven't sparked marches on Washington is a sign of our national form of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The reality of what our leaders have done to America and the rest of the world is too horrible to confront. Our entire population goes about its daily business with a thousand yard stare.

The Politics of PTSD

Part 2 of the ePluribus story on the mistreatment of vets returning from the Middle East with PTSD is up at Kos. If you have the time, please stop by, read, and comment.

The entire series is now posted at the ePluribus Media Journal.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Revoltin' Bolton and the NSA

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's been looking for John Bolton's name to bubble up in the NSA surveillance controversy. In December of 2005, Larry Johnson of TPM Cafe offered this:
The revelation that the National Security Agency was allowed to conduct non-FISA intercepts of American citizens should bring last summer's hearing on John Bolton's nomination to the United Nations back into focus. As Legal Times noted in September of this year, "During the confirmation hearings of John Bolton as the U.S. representative to the United Nations, it came to light that the NSA had freely revealed intercepted conversations of U.S. citizens to Bolton while he served at the State Department. . . . More generally, Newsweek reports that from January 2004 to May 2005, the NSA supplied intercepts and names of 10,000 U.S. citizens to policy-makers at many departments, other U.S. intelligence services, and law enforcement agencies."

TPM's Johnson reminds us that we still don't know what information those intercepts contained or whether or not they were obtained legally.

Here's what Newsweek reported on the story in June of last year.
The bitter debate about John Bolton's nomination to the United Nations may have called unwelcome attention to the spying practices of the National Security Agency. Bolton told Congress last month that he asked the NSA for the names of Americans in raw intel reports. NSA rules prohibit the agency from spying on Americans; if electronic eavesdroppers inadvertently pick up American names, the NSA is supposed to black them out before forwarding reports to other agencies. But analysts and policymakers can make written requests to the NSA for U.S. names, which the State Department says Bolton did 10 times since 2001.

As you may recall, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked for more information about Bolton's NSA dealings during his confirmation hearings, but the administration refused to comply with the request. The GOP controlled committee, chaired by Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), did not issue a subpoena.

The Senate delayed Bolton's confirmation, and Mr. Bush made him the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations with a recess appointment in August of 2005.


As Jason Leopold of Truthout observes, the revelations of the Bolton confirmation process should have "blown the lid off" of Bush's domestic NSA spying program last spring.
At the hearing in late April, Bolton, a former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, told Congress that since 2001 he had asked the NSA on 10 different occasions to reveal to him the identities of American citizens who were caught in the NSA's raw intelligence reports in what appears to be a routine circumventing of the rules governing eavesdropping on the American public.

It turned out that Bolton was just one of many government officials who learned the identities of Americans caught in the NSA intercepts. The State Department asked the NSA to unmask the identities of American citizens 500 times since May 2001. (Italics added.)


Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Chatter: Dispatches From the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping, said at the time that he was troubled that, other than the questions raised by Rockefeller, Congress and the Senate showed little concern over the NSA's practices "beyond the specifics involving Bolton."

"If the National Security Agency provides officials with the identities of Americans on its tapes, what is the use of making secret those names in the first place?" Keefe wrote in an August 11 op-ed in the New York Times. "We now know that this hasn't been the case - the agency has been listening to Americans' phone calls, just not reporting any names. And Bolton's experience makes clear that keeping those names confidential was a formality that high-ranking officials could overcome by picking up the phone."


During Bolton's U.N. confirmation hearings, former head of the State Department's intelligence bureau Carl Ford described him as "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy."

Ford told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Bolton was a "serial abuser" of subordinates who once berated a State Department intelligence analyst and sought to have him fired for disagreeing with Bolton's assessment of Cuba's alleged biological weapons program.

Ford also said that in 30 years of government service that included lengthy assignments with the Pentagon and the CIA, he'd never seen anyone like Bolton " in terms of the way he abuses his power and authority with little people… The fact is that he stands out, that he's got a bigger kick and it gets bigger and stronger the further down the bureaucracy he's kicking."

Many political analysts (including this one) are convinced that Bolton's educated toe played a major role in suppressing intelligence assessments that disagreed with the Bush administration's preferred interpretations of information on the status of Saddam Hussein's WMD program. As Jason Lepold of Truthout reported, at the time of the run up to the invasion of Iraq, Bolton was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. In the 1990s, he was a key member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the neoconservative think tank that crafted the Iraq policy well before George W. Bush declared his intention to run for the presidency.


From the "Irony is Dead" department:

Bolton, who so brazenly cooked the intelligence of Iraq's nuclear weapons program to justify an optional war, is up for a Nobel Peace Prize for exposing Iran's nuclear buildup.

Bolton exposed Iran's nuclear buildup just in time to ensure there was nothing American could do about it but refer the matter to the United Nations.

If irony were alive and with us, it might make a pithy comment about the fact that America didn't trust the UN to handle the Iraqi nuclear program that didn't exist, but trusts the UN to deal with the Iranian nuclear program that, apparently, does exist.

Saturday Drive By: the Bush-capades

I just caught the latest he said/she said debate on MSNBC between Pat Buchanan and what's-his-name. Buchanan; a typical "maverick" Republican--scratch the surface and you'll find a typical Republican, the kind for whom there's no greater virtue than loyalty to Bush.

The pretty girl--the blonde pregnant one, I think--brought up the revelations that Dick Cheney ordered Scooter Libby to leak parts of the classified National Intelligence Estimate to the press. She also mentioned that they've been screaming for the head of whoever it was that leaked the story about the NSA domestic spying program to The New York Times. She asked if they weren't being hypocritical.

Of course they aren't, according to Pat. They were well within their rights to release classified information to make the case for their invasion of Iraq.

That Pat could make a statement like that and not provoke outrage is a sign of just how numb the media and the public have become to the right wing's arrogance and audacity. Pat says its okay for the White House to reveal national secrets for propaganda purposes, and what's-his-name doesn't even bother to try to push back. It seems I've been watching Pat Buchanan kick what's-his-name's rear end for years now, and the only thing I can ever remember about what's-his-name is that I can never remember his name.

Maybe it's time for the left to put somebody up against Pat who can, oh, say, think and talk at the same time. (But please don't make it James Carville.)


Speaking of numb, I had my weekly Bush-capades phone discussion with my brother-in-law this morning. We both realized that the administration and the GOP have cut so many capers that between the two of us we can't keep track of all the stunts they've pulled in the last six or seven days.

The elephant won't even fit in the room anymore.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Kool Aid from a Canteen

According to Robert Novak, one of the patriotic members of the administration controlled press who helped reveal Valerie Plame's undercover identity as an arms proliferation agent with the CIA, has now revealed the White House's latest strategy for selling its woebegone war in Iraq.
…the Bush administration is going directly to the public with its war message. Raul Damas, associate director of political affairs at the White House, has been on the phone directly to Republican county chairmen to arrange local speeches by active duty military personnel to talk about their experiences in Iraq.

This flies in the face of a Department of Defense directive issued in August of 2004 by then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty" limits military members on active duty from engaging in certain political activities. Among other things, a member may not:

-- Use his or her official authority or influence for interfering with an election; affecting the course or outcome of an election; soliciting votes for a particular candidate or issue; or requiring or soliciting political contributions from others.

-- Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions (unless attending a convention as a spectator when not in uniform).

-- Make campaign contributions to another member of the Armed Forces or an employee of the Federal Government.

The Wolfowitz memorandum also sets restrictive conditions on military members' ability to run for public office.

Now it appears that military members, legally bound to follow the orders of Mr. Bush, are being encouraged to participate in political activities that support the agendas of their commander in chief.

To steal a line from L. Frank Baum, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

P&S Preview

Coming up:

Catch F-22, airpower myths, and other smoke screens from the military industrial complex.

In the meantime, I invite you to peruse "In an Arms Race with Ourselves" at the ePluribus Media Journal and "Invasion of the Transformers" at Military.com


One more thing--don't get your hopes up about the stories that say Scooter Libby revealed parts of the National Intelligence Estimate to the press on Dick Cheney's say so. In general, classified documents contain information with varying levels of classification: top secret, secret, confidential, and so on. Some paragraphs are labeled "unclassified," and I'm guessing there's a good chance that those paragraphs are the ones that Cheney told Libby to show to the likes of Judith Miller and Bob Novak.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope Libby has actually given testimony that will nail Big Dick for committing treason. But given this administration's record for setting traps to make their opposition look bad, I suspect I'm right.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

ePluribus on Returning Vets and PTSD

Our ePluribus Media article on veterans suffering from PTSD is up at the ePluribus Community site and at DKos. My colleagues D.E. Ford and I.L. Meagher have done a fantastic job of crafting a comprehensive piece on this vital American issue.

Neo-connecting the Dots: Delay, Deny, Derail the Investigations

The mask has come off the GOP, and the face behind it is even more frightening than the mask was. Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press reports:
Indicted Representative Tom DeLay, forced to step down as the No. 2 Republican in the House, scored a soft landing Wednesday as GOP leaders rewarded him with a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.

This is the Republican's version of in-kind replacement. Delay was given the committee seat vacated when Duke Cunningham (R-California) stepped down after he pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes.

Bill Burton of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said, "Allowing Tom DeLay to sit on a committee in charge of giving out money is like putting Michael Brown back in charge of FEMA."

I think Burton's analogy is flawed. Putting Michael Brown back in charge of FEMA wouldn't be nearly as outrageous as putting Tom Delay back on the Appropriations Committee is. Brownie's just incompetent, which by GOP standards these days is downright virtuous.

There's more, of course.

Delay also got a seat on the House subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department, which is presently conducting an investigation of the Jack Abramoff influence peddling scandal. Delay, as you may know, had close ties to the U.S. Family Network, an advocacy group almost entirely funded by corporations linked to Jack Abramoff.

The Justice Department itself is under investigation by the Senate Judiciary committee over the NSA spying shenanigans. Watch the contest develop between Delay and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) to see who can shout the loudest, "Everything they did was legal!"

The house Justice Department committee also has responsibility for NASA, and hence the Johnson Space Center, which is located in Delay's Houston area district.

Funny thing. As Associated Press and other news sources have reported, Bush appointed NASA Inspector General Robert W. Cobb is under investigation for allegedly failing to investigate safety violations and retaliating against whistle blowers. At least 16 individuals have files complaints against him.

The agency conducting the inquiry is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an agency under the Justice Department, which is overseen by the House subcommittee Tom Delay just got assigned to.

Hold on, there's one last thing.

Chris Swecker, assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division, is the head of an outfit known as the "Integrity Committee."

To paraphrase Comedy Central's John Stewart, you couldn't make this stuff up, but you wish to God you had to.

And to think that anybody at all criticised Hillary Clinton for saying the U.S. House of Representatives is run like a plantation.