The saga of Saddam's end—his capture, trial and execution—is a sad metaphor for America's occupation of Iraq. What might have gone right went so wrong. It is worth remembering that Saddam Hussein was not your run-of-the-mill dictator. He created one of the most brutal, corrupt and violent regimes in modern history, something akin to Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China or Kim Jong Il's North Korea. Whatever the strategic wisdom for the United States, deposing him began as something unquestionably good for Iraq.
But soon the Bush administration dismissed the idea of trying Saddam under international law, or in a court with any broader legitimacy. This is the administration, after all, that could see little advantage to a United Nations mandate for its own invasion and occupation. It put Saddam's fate in the hands of the new Iraqi government, dominated by Shiite and Kurdish politicians who had been victims of his reign. As a result, Saddam's trial, which should have been the judgment of civilized society against a tyrant, is now seen by Iraq's Sunnis and much of the Arab world as a farce, reflecting only the victors' vengeance. ...
As if to make that point, the entire Saddam death video has now made the Internet, complete with the taunts and jeers of Shiite onlookers as Saddam is led to the gallows. The former dictator faces his final moments amid very telling cries, not of "long live Iraq!" ... but of "Moqtada al-Sadr!" ... the real power behind the Shiite Maliki government (despite its Sunni window dressing.) It's in Arabic, but according to translations (via CNN, mostly, but also here) the mostly Shia onlookers tell him to go to hell, he tells them to go to hell. They curse him, he recites verses from the Koran. Then they drop him and his neck snaps on impact. Watch for yourself:
The brutality of the video is unsettling, but I think must see viewing for all Americans who wish to understand the ways of war, and of vengeance. Saddam Hussein deserved to be put on trial for his crimes, deserved to have justice meted out upon him. But as with everything else we've done in Iraq, this version of "justice" will not stand up in the eyes of the wider Arab and Muslim world. It will look to them like a good ole' Texas lynching.
And that doesn't help keep our troops alive in Iraq.
"We oppose the death penalty in all cases as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, but it is especially abhorrent when this most extreme penalty is imposed after an unfair trial," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme. "It is even more worrying that in this case, the execution appeared a foregone conclusion, once the original verdict was pronounced, with the Appeals Court providing little more than a veneer of legitimacy for what was, in fact, a fundamentally flawed process."
Amnesty International said it had greatly welcomed the decision to hold Saddam Hussein to account for the crimes committed under his rule but this should have been done through a fair process. "His trial should have been a major contribution towards establishing justice and ensuring truth and accountability for the massive human rights violations perpetrated when he was in power, but his trial was a deeply flawed affair" said Malcolm Smart. "It will be seen by many as nothing more than 'victor's justice' and, sadly, will do nothing to stem the unrelenting tide of political killings." ...
...At the time of his execution, Saddam Hussein was also standing trial before the SICT, together with six others, on separate charges arising from the so-called Anfal campaign, when thousands of people belonging to Iraq's Kurdish minority were subject to mass killings, torture and other gross abuses in 1988. It is expected that this trial will now continue against the other accused. The execution of Saddam Hussein is a major blow to the process of establishing the truth of what happened under his rule. and as such another squandered opportunity for Iraqis to find out about and come to terms with the crimes of the past.
Nicholas Kristoff of the NYT offers Dubya some advice, summarized nicely by the good folks at Raw Story:
Aside from replacing Cheney, characterized as "the single worst influence on your foreign policy, as well as the most polarizing figure in your administration," Kristof also advises the president to "seriously engage Iraq's nastier neighbors, including Iran and Syria, and renounce permanent military bases in Iraq"; to "start an intensive effort to bring peace to the Middle East"; to "confront the genocide in Darfur"; to "revive the theme of compassionate conservatism by extending your excellent five-year AIDS program"' to "address climate change"; to "put aside those thoughts of a military strike on Iranian nuclear sites, and make it clear to Israel that we oppose it conducting such an attack"; to "address our disgraceful inequities in health care"; and to "revive the reform proposals that President Clinton urged in 1999," rather than just "giving up" on Social Security. ...
... "Tenth, don't toss this newspaper to the floor and curse the press for your unpopularity," Kristof writes. "Instead, borrow from your playbook after you lost the New Hampshire primary in 2000 -- grit your teeth, retool and steal ideas from your critics and rivals."
John Edwards was good on Stephanopoulos today, and I think his biggest score (besides re-establishing his pretty ... particularly with that lip thing removed...) was naming the Bush-neocon strategy of escalating the war in Iraq not a "surge," as the White House calls it, but rather, the "McCain doctrine." Excellent pre-emptive strike on the probably Republican nominee, who is, after all, the heir apparent to Dubya. Way to stick him with Bush's Iraq policy.
Question: is any major event not fodder for the online left's complaints about the Administration of George W. Bush? They are, to be sure, by and large obsessive cultists in form and effect; but surely reason may kick in at points. One gets the impression of a class of people who wake up, drink their coffee, go to shave, cut themselves, and promptly curse the war in Iraq. The monomania simply does not end -- and the execution of Saddam Hussein is no different. I have already expressed my dislike for executions: but I also retain the bare capacity for rationality that allows me to understand the end of the dictator as a fundamental good.
The leftist "netroots"? Not so much.
Well I'm not sure if I qualify as a member of the left "netroots" -- but I will say that even as a staunch opponent of the death penalty, which I consider distasteful, draconian and uncivilized (not to mention a constant opponent of this awful, pathetically incompetent president,) I knew from the moment that U.S. troops pulled Saddam Hussein out of that spider hole that his execution was the only possible outcome (well, that or his being dragged by armed Shiite or Kurdish gunmen out of his American holding cell and murdered like a dog in the street... and even that would have probably ended with a hanging...)
For Shia and Kurdish Iraqis, who were so brutally victimized under a man who was for some, the only leader they have known, Saddam's death was perhaps a necessary catharsis. But I would caution Hugh and other Bush fans that catharsis for Iraqis was never, and still is not, the primary concern for Americans. Especially since catharsis for Iraqis has so far, not translated into good will for American troops, cooperation with the U.S. "mission" in Iraq, or an end to the violent civil war that is tearing that country apart while our guys are stuck in the middle.
What is of primary concern is American foreign policy, and whether those policies, undertaken by our elected leadership, are in the best interests of the United States. I would argue that Saddam's hanging advances U.S. interests not one whit, and it wasn't even a stated goal in the war (Bush, after all, on March 18, 2003 offered to allow him to leave Iraq alive with his sons and surrender the country, and its oil wealth, to us, which supposedly would have avoided war altogether...)
Iraqi catharsis isn't even likely to reduce the rampant and seemingly bottomless violence and sectarian bloodletting that is of primary concern to American troops and taxpayers, who are paying, in very different ways, for a policy that has already proven to be bereft of benefit for America. (December is now officially the deadliest month for U.S. troops this year.) Iraq posed no military threat to us, so toppling Saddam and taking over his country didn't protect us from attack (I won't even mention the nuclear piece, which has long since been rendered ridiculous.) He had no ties to terrorists, except possibly the Mujeheddin e-Kalq, an anti-Iranian terror group that members of Congress favor, so deposing Saddam and having him summarily executed doesn't protect us from terrorism.
The only possible benefit to the U.S. of Saddam's death will be the fact that members of the U.S. military will no longer have to guard him inside Iraq, something that posed a constant security threat to American troops, given the number of Iraqis who likely wanted to find and kill him. Of course, much the same thing could have been accomplished by exiling the man. And perhaps the hanging will strengthen the unelected fourth prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who even Washington doubts can control the country. But since the U.S. has been sending signals that it may be shopping for replacement, strengthening Maliki -- and by extension, his backers, like Moqtada al-Sadr, whose father was executed by Saddam -- may be counterproductive for us... emphasis on for us... (recall that the U.S. had been cuddling up to a possible Maliki replacement, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of something called SCIRI -- the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq , until of course, we went and grabbed a couple of Iranian diplomats and accused them of planning terror attacks ... needless to say, we've since let them go...)
To sum it up, I don't believe that Saddam's death advances U.S. interests, and therefore I see no reason to except my general opposition to the death penalty in this case. At the same time, I understand that for Iraqis, if not for us, this was something that was probably inevitable, and in many ways, very much understandable, from their point of view. How that helps our cause in Iraq -- whatever in Gods name that cause is, at this point -- I sure as hell don't know.
So is Saddam's death a "fundamental good" as Hewitt (who also appears to oppose the death penalty) asserts? I don't think that you can credibly argue that it is. It's fundamentally cathartic for many Iraqis, Iranians and Kuwaitis, it puts the coda on a brutal and terrifying chapter of Iraqi history, and in that it probably won't abate, and could worsen, sectarian violence in Iraq, it is either a net irrelevancy, or a net negative, from a policy standpoint, to the American people.
The American military — once a staunch supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war — has grown in creasingly pessimistic about chances for victory.
For the first time, more troops disapprove of the president’s han dling of the war than approve of it. Barely one-third of service members approve of the way the president is handling the war, ac cording to the 2006 Military Times Poll.
When the military was feeling most optimistic about the war — in 2004 — 83 percent of poll re spondents thought success in Iraq was likely. This year, that number has shrunk to 50 percent.
Only 35 percent of the military members polled this year said they approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, while 42 percent said they disapproved. The president’s approval rating among the military is only slight ly higher than for the population as a whole. In 2004, when his popularity peaked, 63 percent of the military approved of Bush’s handling of the war. While ap proval of the president’s war lead ership has slumped, his overall approval remains high among the military.
Just as telling, in this year’s poll only 41 percent of the military said the U.S. should have gone to war in Iraq in the first place, down from 65 percent in 2003. That closely reflects the beliefs of the general population today — 45 percent agreed in a recent USA Today/Gallup poll.
Another interesting bit of info from the article, two thirds of those surveyed in the poll have been deployed to Iraq at least once. But in the overall active duty force, an incredible 72 percent of U.S. military personnel have been deployed at least once to Iraq. Bush's approval rating among the military remains relatively high, at 52 percent according to this poll, but that's down sharply from 71 percent in 2004. And then there's this:
While Bush fared well overall, his political party didn’t. In the three previous polls, nearly 60 percent of the respondents identi fied themselves as Republicans, which is about double the popula tion as a whole. But in this year’s poll, only 46 percent of the mili tary respondents said they were Republicans. However, there was not a big gain in those identifying themselves as Democrats — a fig ure that consistently hovers around 16 percent. The big gain came among people who said they were independents.
Similarly, when asked to de scribe their political views on a scale from very conservative to very liberal, there was a slight shift from the conservative end of the spectrum to the middle or moderate range. Liberals within the military are still a rare breed, with less than 10 percent of re spondents describing themselves that way.
Interesting. How did the media fare?
The poll asked, “How do you think each of these groups view the military?” Respondents over whelmingly said civilians have a favorable impression of the mili tary (86 percent). They even thought politicians look favorably on the military (57 percent). But they are convinced the media hate them — only 39 percent of mili tary respondents said they think the media have a favorable view of the troops.
Ouch! And what about the leadership in Washington?
The poll also asked if the senior military leadership, President Bush, civilian military leadership and Congress have their best in terests at heart.
Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of those surveyed said the senior military leadership has the best interests of the troops at heart. And though they don’t think much of the way he’s handling the war, 48 percent said the same about President Bush. But they take a dim view of civilian military lead ership — only 32 percent said they think it has their best inter ests at heart. And only 23 percent think Congress is looking out for them.
Actually, I think the fact that fewer than half of respondents thought the president has their best interests at heart is shocking, while the Congressional number isn't really surprising, given the clear fact that it's the military contractors the 109th Congress showed the greatest concern for over...
With Saddam executed following a U.S. invasion, it's easy to look rather simplistically at Iraq and the U.S. as enemies. That, of course, is far too simplistic. From the Research Unit for Political Economy:
In 1979, Saddam, already effectively the leader of Iraq, became president and chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. The entire region stood at a critical juncture.
For one, the pillar of the US in West Asia, viz, the Pahlavi monarchy in Iran, was overthrown by a massive popular upsurge which the US was powerless to suppress. This made the US and its client states deeply anxious at the prospect of similar developments taking place throughout the region.
For another, in Iraq Saddam had drawn on the country’s oil wealth to carry out a major military build-up, with military expenditures swallowing 8.4 per cent of GNP in 1979. Starting in 1958 Iraq had become an increasingly important market for sophisticated Soviet weapons, and was considered a member of the Soviet camp. In 1972 Iraq signed a 15-year friendship, cooperation and military agreement with the USSR. The Iraqi regime was striving to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. Apart from Israel, the only army in the region to rival Iraq’s was Iran’s. But after 1979, when the Shah of Iran was overthrown, much of the Iranian army’s American equipment became inoperable.
The Iraqi invasion of Iran in 1980 (on the pretext of resolving border disputes) thus solved two major problems for the US. Over the course of the following decade two of the region’s leading military powers, neither of them hitherto friendly to the US, were tied up in an exhausting conflict with each other. Such conflicts among third world countries create a host of opportunities for imperialist powers to seek new footholds, as happened also in this instance.
... Despite its strong ties to the USSR, Iraq turned to the west for support in the war with Iran. This it received massively. As Saddam Hussein later revealed, the US and Iraq decided to re-establish diplomatic relations—broken off after the 1967 war with Israel—just before Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980 (the actual implementation was delayed for a few more years in order not to make the linkage too explicit). Diplomatic relations between the US and Iraq were formally restored in 1984—well after the US knew, and a UN team confirmed, that Iraq was using chemical weapons against the Iranian troops. (The emissary sent by US president Reagan to negotiate the arrangements was none other than the present US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.) In 1982, the US State Department removed Iraq from its list of “state sponsors of terrorism”, and fought off efforts by the US Congress to put it back on the list in 1985. Most crucially, the US blocked condemnation of Iraq’s chemical attacks in the UN Security Council. The US was the sole country to vote against a 1986 Security Council statement condemning Iraq’s use of mustard gas against Iranian troops — an atrocity in which it now emerges the US was directly implicated (as we shall see below).
Brisk trade was done in supplying Iraq. Britain joined France as a major source of weapons for it. Iraq imported uranium from Portugal, France and Italy, and began constructing centrifuge enrichment facilities with German assistance. The US arranged massive loans for Iraq’s burgeoning war expenditure from American client states such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The US administration provided “crop-spraying” helicopters (to be used for chemical attacks in 1988), let Dow Chemicals ship it chemicals for use on humans, seconded its air force officers to work with their Iraqi counterparts (from 1986), approved technological exports to Iraq’s missile procurement agency to extend the missiles’ range (1988). In October 1987 and April 1988 US forces themselves attacked Iranian ships and oil platforms.
Militarily, the US not only provided to Iraq satellite data and information about Iranian military movements, but, as former US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) officers have recently revealed to the New York Times (18/8/02), prepared detailed battle planning for Iraqi forces in this period—even as Iraq drew worldwide public condemnation for its repeated use of chemical weapons against Iran. According to a senior DIA official, “if Iraq had gone down it would have had a catastrophic effect on Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and the whole region might have gone down [ie, slipped from US control—Aspects] —that was the backdrop of the policy.” ...
When Saddam Hussein looked in disbelief at the over-sized noose that was fitted by masked volunteers around his neck, the man who helped to put it there by invading Iraq and toppling the dictator was soundly asleep at his ranch in Texas.
It was only nine o'clock in the evening in Crawford but George Bush was already embedded in the land of nod, with orders not to be woken until the morning.
The blithe indifference of deep slumber was the final snub to the dead man who once described himself as "Salahadin II", "the Redeemer of all the Arabs" and "the Lion of Baghdad".
Some might think that George Bush can't afford to sleep soundly these days with his approval ratings in the cellar and his policy towards Iraq in inertia.
But while the world stirred to comment, cyberspace buzzed with applause or condemnation and Cable television hyperventilated, George Bush soldiered on in sleep. He arose only at 4.40am, we are told, which is his usual time of rising.
One hour later he had a 10-minute conversation with his National Security adviser Stephen Hadley about the events in Baghdad. ...
...On one level, the hanging of Saddam Hussein is the end of a dramatic family saga that has pitted the Bushes of Texas against the Husseins of Tikrit.
It is a saga that started with a tacit alliance.
When George HW Bush was vice president, Saddam Hussein was still seen as a potential partner thanks to his status as the enemy of America's enemy, Iran.
It was in 1983 that Donald Rumsfeld was dispatched to Baghdad as a friend of the Reagan administration to shake the hand of Saddam Hussein and offer America's help against the ayatollahs during the Iran Iraq War.
Alliance finally turned into animosity when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and President Bush cobbled together an international alliance of Western and Arab states to remove him from Kuwait but not from power.
"The butcher of Baghdad" began to call President Bush "the viper" and George junior, "the son of the viper".
It was at that time that the famous Al Rashid hotel in Baghdad received an elaborate mosaic of President Bush "the criminal", which patrons were forced to stomp across on entering the lobby.
Two years later Saddam Hussein tried to get President Bush assassinated.
The White House has always maintained that personal grudges had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq.
And yet in September 2002, as preparations for war were well under way, George Bush the younger told a Houston fundraiser: "This is after all the man who tried to kill my dad." ...
...The personal side of this bitter family saga is over.
But even from his unmarked grave, Saddam Hussein will continue to haunt the Bush administration and define the legacy of the 43rd president of the United States.
Saddam had always promised to lure, fight and defeat the Americans in the cities of Iraq.
No-one thought at the time that this would happen after he had already been deposed.
But his prophetic threat is becoming reality, triggering a multi-headed insurgence that no longer fights on his behalf, and a vortex of sectarian violence that makes a conventional civil war look organised and coherent.
Funny that Saddam Hussein was rushed to the gallows to be hanged for the killing of 148 Shiites at Dujail in 1982, following an uprising and assassination attempt there earlier that year, an act which effectively cut off the opportunity to try him for far bloodier events: the bloodletting during the Iran-Iraq war (after Iraq invaded its neighbor in 1980), and the gassing of tens of thousands of Kurds at Halabja during the 1980s, as part of the notorious Anfal campaign, which involved the serial slaughter of something like 180,000 Kurds in 1987 and 1988. From Deutsche Presse-Agentur:
Saddam and his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid (known as Chemical Ali) were charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The other defendants were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Hearings in the Anfal case continued after the verdict in the Dujail case was announced in November, with the last session of the trial taking place on December 6.
Both the Anfal campaign and the Halabja massacre were among the seven preliminary charges listed at Saddam's first court appearance on July 1, 2004.
The other charges, which were initially expected to form the bases of subsequent trials included the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the crushing of the Kurdish and Shia rebellions in 1991 after the first Gulf War, the killing of thousands of political opponents over a 30- year period, the disappearance of 8,000 members of the Barzani Kurdish clan in 1983, and the execution of five Shiite religious leaders in 1974.
People close to former foreign minister Tariq Aziz had said Aziz planned to testify on Saddam's behalf at the Anfal trial, which was to be next, and that disclosures in that trial would have been, shall we say, revelatory about the involvement of foreign governments, including the United States, in supplying chemical munitions to Iraq. (That's why the saying goes, we know Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s, because we have the receipts...)
Killing Saddam has elated Saddam's enemies in Iran, and the Shia and Kurds in Iraq (and Dearborn, Michigan,) but it hasn't answered some of the salient questions about his rule, and about U.S. involvement in propping him up over the years (including arming both sides during the Iran-Iraq war.) And it has denied answers and justice to far more people, including, ironically, the same Shiites and Kurds who are dancing in the streets today. Funny that.
"The execution of Saddam Hussein was a victory for the Iraqi people and no other country should take credit for that," Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid-Reza told IRNA in a first reaction by Tehran to the execution.
Assefi however criticised the swift execution and speculated that the United States preferred to avoid disclosure of more details in the court hearings.
"Investigation into the Iraqi invasion in Iran (1980-1988) and in Kuwait (1990) could have disclosed the US involvement in Saddam's crimes and therefore the Americans preferred to close the case earlier," the Iranian official said.
CNN and other news outlets have posted video of the lead-up to the Saddam execution, and of his body covered partially by a body bag, such that you can see his distorted head position and broken neck.
The preamble video shows Saddam waving off the black hood that would have covered his face, and the hangman's noose being placed around his neck as he steps onto the platform that will be dropped out from under him, breaking his neck as he falls (we in the States are far too delicate to watch that video, of course...) and Newsweek has an exclusive interview with the man hired to videotape Saddam's end. A clip:
Dec. 30, 2006 - Ali Al Massedy was 3 feet away from Saddam Hussein when he died. The 38 year old, normally Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's official videographer, was the man responsible for filming the late dictator's execution at dawn on Saturday. "I saw fear, he was afraid," Ali told NEWSWEEK minutes after returning from the execution. Wearing a rumpled green suit and holding a Sony HDTV video camera in his right hand, Ali recalled the dictator's last moments. "He was saying things about injustice, about resistance, about how these guys are terrorists," he says. On the way to the gallows, according to Ali, "Saddam said, ‘Iraq without me is nothing.’"
Ali said Saddam showed no remorse, but that he could see in his eyes that he was afraid. The cameraman went on to describe the execution:
Ali says he followed Saddam up the gallows steps, escorted by two guards. He stood over the hole and filmed from close quarters as Saddam dropped through—from "me to you," he said, crouching down to show how he shot the scene. The distance, he said, was "about one meter," he said. "He died absolutely, he died instantly." Ali said Saddam's body twitched, "shaking, very shaking," but "no blood," he said, and "no spit." (Ali said he was not authorized to disclose the location, and did not give other details of the room.)
Ali said the videotape lasts about 15 minutes. When NEWSWEEK asked to see a copy, Ali said he had already handed the tape over to Maliki's chief of staff. "It is top secret," he said. He would not give the names of officials in attendance, though he estimates there were around 20 observers. One of them, Iraqi National Security Adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, told CNN that Saddam clasped a Koran as the noose was tied around his neck, and refused to wear a hood. He also said that government officials had not decided whether or not to release the videotape. The execution reportedly took place at 6:05 a.m. local time. Prime Minister Maliki did not attend.
The article goes on to describe how Ali, unlike the U.S., was greeted as a liberator upon returning to the Green Zone.
Our man Bushie apparently went to bed at his normal nappie-time and so missed the execution coverage. I'm sure Karl had it Tivo'd for him:
Spokesman Scott Stanzel said the president was told of the impending hanging Friday afternoon and went to bed shortly before it took place, with instructions not to be woken up.
The White House issued a statement ostemsibly from his subconscious...
The reaction around the Arab world has been mixed, a blend of silence and anger, particularly with the execution coming on the highest day of Ramadan for Sunnis (the Shias place the high mark a day later.) From the BBC:
For many ordinary people in the Arab world, Saddam Hussein was admired if not particularly loved.
He was an active and strident supporter of the Palestinian cause and many regarded him as a strong leader who dared to defy both America and Israel. Images of the former leader having the noose pulled around his neck will shock many.
Libya has declared three days of national mourning.
Lawmakers and members of the militant Palestinian group, Hamas, have condemned the execution, with one calling it "a political assassination" that "violated international laws".
Interesting about our new friend, Libya, eh?
Opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq was almost unanimous in the region. So perhaps it was no surprise that his trial was also regarded as unfair, as an exercise in 'victor's justice'.
Many Arab governments and people saw the legal process as instigated and controlled by Washington.
Despite the insistence that the trial, verdict and now execution was a purely Iraqi affair, few in the Middle East will believe that.
Saudi Arabia said it was surprised and dismayed at the timing of the execution on the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-adha. There was also criticism at how quickly the trial was over amid accusations it had been politicised.
But for those who crossed swords with Saddam, his execution is welcome news.
Iran fought a long and bloody war with Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of people on both sides. The country's deputy foreign minister called it a "victory for Iraqis". Hamid Reza Asefi predicted it would lead to more violence in the short-term, but would ultimately benefit the country.
But the response from Kuwait, a country Saddam invaded in 1990, was more muted. The state-owned news agency reported the only official reaction which was that this was "a matter for Iraqis".
Most other governments in the region have remained completely silent. To be fair, this is the first day of Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday in the Islamic calendar. Even so, it seems many have chosen not to step onto what is widely regarded as extremely delicate territory. ...
"The government told us to send provincial representatives, including the governor or his deputy and the leader of Saddam's tribe to the burial of executed Saddam," Abdullah Jabara, deputy governor of Salahudin province told Xinhua by telephone.
"I answered that we will not go to Baghdad unless they agree to give us his body to hold a suitable funeral for him and bury him in Uwja village beside his sons Uday and Qusay," Jabara said. ...
... Meanwhile, Jabara said that the city of Tikrit, capital city of Salahudin province, was under curfew and security forces intensified patrols.
However, security measures did not prevent people in many cities of Salahudin province from taking to the streets and protesting Saddam's execution. ...
...The demonstrators raised posters of Saddam Hussein and angrily chanted slogans slamming the execution of the ousted leader.
"This is an unjust and aggressive act toward many Iraqis," Muhammad Tawfiq, a demonstrator, told Xinhua.
"The execution itself on the first day of Eid al-Adha is a violation of rights of millions of Iraqi Sunnis," Tawfiq said, adding that "this is an insult at Sunnis. We condemned this cowered act."
CNN is reporting, based on news reports in Arab media, that Saddam Hussein was hanged shortly after 10 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time. At this point the reports are unconfirmed, but Iraqi TV is reportedly broadcasting that information to the citizens there. I guess Bush won't get his State of the Union split screen after all...
Although the U.S. has taken pains to distance itself from the event, so that it doesn't look like it's being carried out by mere viceroys (good luck convincing the Muslim world of that...) there was a bizarre twist at the last minute, with Hussein's lawyers appealing in U.S. district court to try and stay the handover of the former dictator from U.S. to Iraqi custody. There's a lot of rich irony in this paragraph from a Bloomberg account:
Gilman told the judge that Hussein is petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus to force the U.S. government to let him argue that his rights are being violated.
I guess Hussein's lawyers didn't realize that in the Bush era, the U.S. doesn't do habeas corpus ... sort of like a certain dictator we know...
10:33 update: CNN now reporting that Iraqi state run TV is confirming that Hussein is dead. His half-brother and intelligence chief Barzan al-Tikriti and Awad Ahmed al-Bandar, who was chairman of the Revolutionary Court that ordered 148 Shiite villagers in the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad in 1982, after an assassination attempt there, also are (or already have been) on the gallows. I can't help but wonder if it's significant that Hussein was hanged on the day of the high point of the Muslim Hajj (he wasn't exactly a model Muslim, though not surprisingly, he seemed to find religion at the end...)
True to form for our violent little duchy in the desert, Iraqi state run television couldn't even get the scoop on the Hussein execution -- that honor went to U.S.-run al-Hurrah TV, the Bush administration, and outfits like CNN (which broke the story first.) The BBC concurs that the U.S. trying to portray this as a purely Iraqi event, but it appears that story isn't going to be quite believable. More on that and reax from London here. This reaction is typical:
Kamil Mahdi, Iraqi expatriate, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter university
Quite honestly, I don't think much of it any more, given what's happening in Iraq. It will be taken as an American decision. The worst thing is that it's an issue which, in an ideal situation, should have unified Iraq but the Americans have succeeded in dividing the Iraqis.
Iraqi Shiites and Kurds will no doubt rejoice at the execution of their tormentor, who ran Iraq like his own private fear factory. Sunni reaction, both in Iraq, and around the world, remains to be seen.
...so, by the way, does the videotape. And I suppose Dubya will make some sort of sober sounding statement, as soon as he and Laura and the puppies are through hiding in the armored car from that tornado alert in Texas... (ahem) But will Bush benefit from Saddam's offing? signs point to no, according to John Zogby and other analysts, unless Iraq is somehow magically pacified, stat.
Saddam Hussein's death appears to be imminent and that his death by hanging will likely be videotaped. In fact, the U.S. may hand the former Iraqi dictator over to Iraqis as early as today. Assuming he survives long enough to make it to the gallows, the execution could take place in days, weeks, or maybe on Dubya's State of the Union speech day!
Ford, Nixon were BFFs... And Ford's pardon of Nixon may not have been the bald escape from justice that some have judged it to be:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 — President Gerald R. Ford was never one for second-guessing, but for many years after leaving office in 1977, he carried in his wallet a scrap of a 1915 Supreme Court ruling. A pardon, the excerpt said, “carries an imputation of guilt,” and acceptance of a pardon is “a confession of it.”
Mr. Ford’s decision to pardon Richard M. Nixon for any crimes he might have been charged with because of Watergate is seen by many historians as the central event of his 896-day presidency. It also appears to have left him with an uncharacteristic need for self-justification, though friends say he never wavered in his insistence that the pardon was a wise and necessary act and that it had not resulted from any secret deal with his disgraced predecessor.
“I must have talked to him 20 times about the pardon, and there was never a shred of doubt that he’d done the right thing,” said James Cannon, a Ford domestic policy adviser and author of a 1994 book about his presidency. During one of their discussions, Mr. Ford pulled out the 1915 clipping, from Burdick v. United States. “It was a comfort to him,” Mr. Cannon said. “It was legal justification that he was right.”
Over the last three decades, as emotions have cooled, many who were initially critical of the pardon have come to share Mr. Ford’s judgment that it was the best way to stanch the open wound of Watergate. In 2001, a bipartisan panel selected Mr. Ford as recipient of the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library, singling out for praise his pardon decision, which Mr. Ford later said he believed was a major factor in his failure to win election to the presidency in 1976.
In a 2004 interview with Bob Woodward, reported Thursday night on The Washington Post’s Web site, Mr. Ford offered another, less lofty motive for the pardon: his friendship with Nixon, which lasted for two decades after the pardon and which letters show was closer than publicly understood.
“I had no hesitancy about granting the pardon,” Mr. Ford told Mr. Woodward, “because I felt that we had this relationship and that I didn’t want to see my real friend have the stigma.”
Few dramas in American political history remain more riveting than that of Nixon’s exit and Mr. Ford’s reaction, at first halting and then decisive, to the looming possibility of a former president on criminal trial for months on end.
“At the time, I thought this was going to cause a problem with the public and the press, and of course it did,” said Robert T. Hartmann, a former Ford aide. “I thought he was right. But it’s also important to be seen as right and remembered in history as having done the right thing.”
Meanwhile, here's an interesting picture, from the Times today:
Gerald Ford disagreed with President Bush's decisions regarding Iraq. He told Bob Woodward, but had Woodward pledge not to reveal the information until after his death. Before he died Ford had expressed support for Bush's war.
The hanging of Saddam Hussein (pictured above with his good friend, Don Rumsfeld,) perhaps in days or weeks, or maybe to coincide with a certain State of the Union address... will accomplish three things:
1. It will satiate some of the Iraqi Kurdish and Shiite thirst for revenge ... 2, It will harden the Sunni insurgency and further divide Iraqis from one another ... 3. It will make a martyr of Saddam among his Ba'athist and other Sunni supporters ... and that includes al-Qaida types, who like Saddam, are Sunnis.
Already Ba'athists are threatening to retaliate. Iraqis are lining up to apply for the job of hangman, and Saddam is filling out his martyrdom papers and writing a letter, telling Iraqis to unite, but not to hate the infidels, for they know not what their leaders do. He must have had a P.R. coach...
Meanwhile, remembering what the dictator was convicted of, courtesy of the BBC:
The American journalist Bob Woodward, in his third book about the Bush administration at war, State of Denial, relates a story told by Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, who was the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.
Prince Bandar recalls a conversation that Saddam Hussein had with King Fahd of Saudi Arabia after a group of extremists took over the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979.
The rebels had been caught and thrown into jail, and this was the Iraqi leader's advice: "In my mind, there is no question that you are going to kill all 500, that's a given.
"Listen to me carefully, Fahd. Every man who in this group who has a brother or father - kill them. If they have a cousin who you think is man enough to go for revenge, kill them.
"Those 500 people are a given. But you must spread the fear of God in everything that belongs to them, and that's the only way you can sleep at night."
That seems to have been the tactic that Saddam Hussein used at Dujail in 1982, when - after an attempt to assassinate him - 148 people were killed. It is the crime for which he has been sentenced to hang.
Perhaps Saddam Hussein will accept his fate on the gallows as an occupational hazard of being a despot. Or maybe he never intended his own rules to apply to himself.
Gerald Ford has died at 93 years of age. He was the longest living ex-president, and the only president to serve, never having been elected (Bush's 2000 "election" notwithstanding...) Whatever the hallmarks of his tenure (those images of the last choppers rising away from a desperate Saigon as Ford brought an end to the tragic Vietnam war, the Helsinki accords, surviving not one, but two assassination attempts -- ironic as he was a member of the Warren Commission -- being the first "Saturday Night Live" president, and making Chevy Chase a star, and his being among the last of a dying breed of relatively moderate Republicans. ... oh an add one more: Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens ... may he live to torment the wackadoo right for many years to come... and yeah, gifting the world with the public careers George H.W. Bush, his CIA director, Don Rumsfeld, his SecDef, and ... yeesh ... then Chief of Staff Dick Cheney...) he will forever be known for his most controversial decision: the "full, free and absolute pardon" of Richard M. Nixon on September 8, 1974, avoiding what could have been a savage and ugly court battle. (read the full text of the pardon without commentary here.)
Ford defended the pardon to the end, and many historians agree with him, that like Lincoln after the Civil War, Ford chose the path of national healing. After Watergate, Vietnam, Roe v. Wade, the civil rights struggles and more, America was an exhausted, beaten down, angry nation, desperately in need of healing. And Gerald Ford was the healer in chief. Maybe the historians have a point, though the questions, about whether there were back-room deals with Alexander Haig, or with party leaders, or with Nixon himself, will always linger over the pardon, along with the unrequited yearning for Nixon's confession of guilt (he claimed until the end, to have been impeached because he "lost political support...")
Although, there is something to the argument that Nixon should have been made to answer for his crimes, and give the country their catharsis that way. But given how bitterly divided we were then, and the 30 year outgrowth of partisan hatred and retribution that followed the pardon (including the "revenge impeachment" of Bill Clinton by hysterical, ultra-partisan Republicans in Congress), imagine the civil war that would have erupted between Democrats and Republicans had Nixon been clapped in irons. (More on Ford's "fast, clean start" here)
You knew there was going to be some big drama in the wake of James Brown's death, as if passing away on Christmas Day after breathing "I'm going away now" in a hospital bed, following a diagnosis of walking pneumonia at the dentist's office wasn't dramatic enough... So here it is:
James Brown had a girl right up until the end of his life. His children from previous unions and their attorney have allegedly locked the woman, backup dancer Tomi Rae Hynie, out of the home she shared with The Godfather of Soul and their five year old child.
Padlocked, that is...
Brown's lawyer Buddy Dallas told The Associated Press. "I have not even been in the house, nor will I until appropriate protocol is followed." He also stated on Tuesday that the late singer and Tomi Rae were not legally married and that she was locked out of his South Carolina home for estate legal reasons.
Apparently Tomi Rae Hynie was already married to a Texas man in 2001 when she married Brown according to the attorney, making her marriage to Brown illegal, attorney Dallas said. He said Hynie later annulled the previous marriage, but she and Brown never remarried.
"I suppose it would mean she was, from time to time, a guest in Mr. Brown's home," Dallas said.
On Monday, the 73-year-old Brown died at an Atlanta hospital, and Hynie, 36, discovered that the gates to their Beech Island, S.C., home was padlocked. Hynie claims to have a legal right to live in the home with the couple's 5-year-old son.
"This is my home," Hynie told a reporter outside the house. "I don't have any money. I don't have anywhere to go."
Attorney Dallas stated to the AP that Brown's estate was left in trust for his children. No further word was revealed on how the property was to be diviided.
However, there were strong indications it would not be divided with Ms. Hynie...
Dallas said Brown and Hynie had not seen each other for several weeks before his death. ...
(Sigh.) I'll tell ya there's no scorn like the scorn of the previous baby's mama's kids... Now, other news reports have said that Brown and Hynie split in 2003, taking out a very public ad saying so, and then supposedly remarried in 2004 (or planned to...) but this article throws that into question. And then there's this, from another wire service story:
Dallas said legal formalities need to be followed now, adding that Brown's estate was left in trust for his children. He declined to elaborate on Brown's final instructions.
“It's not intended and I hope not interpreted to be an act of unkindness or an act of a lack of sympathy,” Dallas said. “Ms. Hynie has a home a few blocks away from Mr. Brown's home where she resides periodically when she is not with Mr. Brown. She is not without housing or home.”
So which is it? Does she have nowhere to go or doesn't she? Curious. BTW the AP story above refers to Ms. Hynie as Brown's "partner" -- maybe it's a Cali thing. The first fire story, via Monsters and Critics, calls her his "common law wife."
Anyway, on a different note, here's the reax from Rev. Al Sharpton, who cited Brown as a semial influence.
Saving Boston from a riot after Martin Luther King's assassination...
Creating modern funk music...
Influencing generations of musicians, from rock, to soul to hip-hop...
Being a crucial part of the civil rights movement, along with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Mohammad Ali and other entertainment and sports icons who made African-Americans feel proud and embrace possibilities they could only have imagined before...
I was born right at the cusp of the 1970s. When I was a little kid, my mom had the big afro, loved Ali and taught us that Malcolm X was just as important as Dr. King. She loved Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte and the late Nat King Cole and other Black entertainers who portrayed strength and pride in being who you are. Black is beautiful was just catching on. It's hard to believe that Blacks never embraced such a thing in our popular culture before that time. Bussing was just starting, and many Black kids were under daily assault by white kids and their parents, who didn't want them around (my older sister included.) Life was just about to change for Black America -- we were launching the new, take no bull-shit era of African-American history, and James Brown was a big part of that.
But I guess everyone gets tired. So rest yourself, Godfather. We'll do the feeling good for you.
Pushing for war witn Iran? And more chaos in Basra
If that was your goal, how about detaining a handful of Iranians inside Iraq and positing nebulous charges that they were "planning attacks against Iraqi security forces"? Then, since you're already bungling the damned war, how about detaining the Iranians in the compound of the very party you're trying to boost as the new Shiite leadership of a coalition government, embarrassing the current Shiite Prime Minister in the process?
It's like a neocon cluster-f*** from hell. From the Sunday NYT:
BAGHDAD, Dec. 24 — The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington.
The Bush administration made no public announcement of the politically delicate seizure of the Iranians, though in response to specific questions the White House confirmed Sunday that the Iranians were in custody.
Gordon D. Johndroe, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said two Iranian diplomats were among those initially detained in the raids. The two had papers showing that they were accredited to work in Iraq, and he said they were turned over to the Iraqi authorities and released. He confirmed that a group of other Iranians, including the military officials, remained in custody while an investigation continued, and he said, “We continue to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees.”
It was unclear what kind of evidence American officials possessed that the Iranians were planning attacks, and the officials would not identify those being held. One official said that “a lot of material” was seized in the raid, but would not say if it included arms or documents that pointed to planning for attacks. Much of the material was still being examined, the official said.
Nonetheless, the two raids, in central Baghdad, have deeply upset Iraqi government officials, who have been making strenuous efforts to engage Iran on matters of security. At least two of the Iranians were in this country on an invitation extended by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, during a visit to Tehran earlier this month. It was particularly awkward for the Iraqis that one of the raids took place in the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders, who traveled to Washington three weeks ago to meet President Bush.
So what exactly is the evidence, or will these guys be simply declared "enemy combatants" and shipped off to one of our secret prisons, or dare I say for interrogation in Syria, like we did before Syria became country non grata?
A bit more:
A senior Western official in Baghdad said the raids were conducted after American officials received information that the people detained had been involved in attacks on official security forces in Iraq. “We conduct operations against those who threaten Iraqi and coalition forces,” the official said. “This was based on information.”
A spokesman for Mr. Hakim, who heads a Shiite political party called Sciri, which began as an exile group in Iran that opposed Saddam Hussein, declined to comment. In Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, had no comment about the case on Sunday other than to say it was under examination.
The action comes at a moment of extraordinary tension in the three-way relationship between the United States, Iran and Iraq. On Saturday, even as American officials were trying to determine the identity of some of the Iranians, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution imposing mild sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has rejected pressure to open talks with Iran about its actions in Iraq.
Much about the raids and the identities of the Iranians remained unclear on Sunday. American officials offered few details. They said that an investigation was under way and that they wanted to give the Iraqi government time to figure out its position. A Bush administration official said the Iranian military officials held in custody were suspected of being members of the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It has been involved in training members of Hezbollah and other groups that the Americans regard as terrorist organizations.
American and Iraqi officials have long accused Iran of interfering in this country’s internal affairs, but have rarely produced evidence. The administration presented last week’s arrests as a potential confirmation of the link. Mr. Johndroe said, “We suspect this event validates our claims about Iranian meddling, but we want to finish our investigation of the detained Iranians before characterizing their activities.”
Hm. So guys, are we shoring up Mr. Hakim or accusing him? Do go on, Grey Lady:
The raids and arrests were confirmed by at least seven officials and politicians in Baghdad and Washington. Still, the development was being viewed skeptically on Sunday by some Iraqis, who said that they suspected that the timing was intended to reinforce arguments by some in the administration that direct talks with Iran would be futile.
And I'd say they're probably correct...
The United States is now holding, apparently for the first time, Iranians who it suspects of planning attacks. One senior administration official said, “This is going to be a tense but clarifying moment.”
“It’s our position that the Iraqis have to seize this opportunity to sort out with the Iranians just what kind of behavior they are going to tolerate,” the official said, declining to speak on the record because the details of the raid and investigation were not yet public. “They are going to have to confront the evidence that the Iranians are deeply involved in some of the acts of violence.”
Clarifying, indeed. More about "Sciri":
The predawn raid on Mr. Hakim’s compound, on the east side of the Tigris, was perhaps the most startling part of the American operation. The arrests were made inside the house of Hadi al-Ameri, the chairman of the Iraqi Parliament’s security committee and leader of the Badr Organization, the armed wing of Mr. Hakim’s political party.
Many Shiite political groups are now suspected of having ties to Iran, and Sciri is no exception. Senior party leaders lived in exile in Iran for years plotting the overthrow of Mr. Hussein. Some married Iranians and raised their children there.
Mr. Hakim has emerged as the central Iraqi Shiite who is backing a new bloc made up of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds that would isolate more radical politicians. Americans back the new bloc, and Mr. Hakim traveled to Washington earlier this month to discuss its formation with Mr. Bush. It was not clear how the arrests, embarrassing to Mr. Hakim, would affect those political efforts.
Hiwa Osman, a news media adviser to Mr. Talabani, said, “The president is unhappy with the arrests.”
To understand this, you have to remember that during the time of Saddam, opposition groups were as likely to be based in Tehran as in London, with Shiite groups becoming closely aligned with the Iranians (as we ourselves have been from time to time.) It would follow that Mr. Hakim -- not unlike Grand Ayatola Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful Shiite cleric, and perhaps the most powerful man, in Iraq -- is closely aligned with Iran (Sistani was born there, though to my knowledge, he is not a Persian.) One last bite before I'm through:
The disagreement will further irritate relations between Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq and his American supporters. The Shiite-led government has begun to chafe under the control of the Americans, pressing for more control of its army and for greater independence from what it says is unilateral American decision making.
And what could this sudden burst of independence by Mr. Maliki signal? If the U.S. is seeking to isolate him, and perhaps to replace him, with Mr. Hakim, then why piss off Mr. Hakim by arresting Iranians who may have been his allies? It makes about as much sense as, well, invading Iraq. What is clear is that on the same weekend when meek-ish sanctions were passed by the UNSC against Iran, this little diplomatic raid won't do a thing to ease tensions, but it could provide our neocon president with a fresh reason to push for war with Iran.
Now to the British, who are doing some pissing off of their own. Writes the BBC:
Basra City Council has withdrawn co-operation from UK forces in southern Iraq after the police's serious crimes unit was disbanded by troops. More than 1,000 troops helped to break-up the unit, which has been blamed for robberies and death squads.
Major Charlie Burbridge said local politics was "complicated" and targeting the unit had been justified.
Mohammed al Abadi, head of the city's council, said the raid was provocative and illegal.
During the operation, troops stormed the unit's headquarters and took charge of 127 prisoners whom they feared might be killed.
hey demolished the Jamiat police station, which was the Serious Crimes Unit's base in Basra.
Hm. So how to "put this in context...":
Major Burbridge, speaking on behalf of the British Army in Basra, said: "The local provincial council, or a few members of the local provincial council, conducted a press conference a couple of hours after the operation was completed and they criticised the way in which, or the means by which, we conducted the operation.
"Now let's say we put this in context. Of course the local political scene is a complicated one and the governor [Mohammed al-Waili] wasn't there at the press conference."
The major added: "He [Mohammed al-Waili] even had a conversation with our general and said that we had done the right thing.
"Furthermore, we have continued to have overwhelming support up in Baghdad from the Ministry of Defence, so we're pretty confident we've done the right thing here."
Perhaps we're at such a bad stage in Iraq that "pretty confident" is the best we're going to get...
Maj Burbridge added: "For some time we've been talking about culling the police force; well, this is exactly what we've done.
"We've removed a very significant and nasty part of the police force which has been scaring people in Basra and ultimately it's going to make Basra a better place.
There have been long-held fears of the Iraqi police being infiltrated by corrupt officers.
And British forces have said some Iraqi commanders were using the unit as a cover for death squads and criminal activities.
I'm sure they have. The station in question had earned the catchy moniker, "the stastion of death. Catchy, no?
Welcome to post-Saddam Iraq. Same as pre-Saddam Iraq, only with bloody, out of control violence on every street corner.
If you ever doubted that President Bush has licked every last droplet out of the neocon Kool-Aid pitcher, you need look no further than the rumblings about his ISG-spurning, soon-to-be unveiled plan for carving out "a way forward" in Iraq. It reads like a post from "pick your right wing blog," or like a William Kristol column from the Weekly Standard.
According to Kristol and others who are following the goings-on inside Bush's palace of delusion in Washington, not only does Bush plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq (permanently, Kristol hopes, escalating the war with a focus on Baghdad, he also plans to shake off the last vestiges of his supposed conservatism by embracing an expensive "New Deal" for Iraq, pouring lard and Karo syrup onto the $663 billion Iraq boondoggle to the tune of another $10 billion (for now), probably with more to come. From the Times of London:
THE White House is expected to announce a reconstruction package for Iraq as part of a plan for a “surge” of up to 30,000 troops into Baghdad when President George W Bush unveils America’s new strategy next month. Bush is being urged to give up to $10 billion (£5.1 billion) to Iraq as part of a “New Deal” that would create work for unemployed Iraqis, following the model of President Franklin D Roosevelt during the 1930s depression.
No word on who, if anyone, will provide oversight over the spending of these fresh funds.
Bush has reportedly cowed the squishy Joint Chiefs once again, and led by the punk-ass JCS chief, Bill Casey, they are going along with Bush's escalation plan. It's all about forcing some elusive "victory," apparently at any cost. And how ironic that Bush would embrace a Rooseveltian strategy, given his family's historic distaste for FDR... oh, and then there's the small fact that Iraq's primary issue isn't an economic depression. Their economic problems are but one outgrowth of an ongoing and bloody civil war unleashed by us. FDR responded to a domestic economic crisis and a war abroad. Bush has collapsed the two into one inside Iraq, which is now the official laboratory of the bruised but unbowed neocons.
Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House and a member of the defence policy board advising the Pentagon, is calling for a cross between the New Deal and the post-second world war Marshall Plan that would “mop up every young Iraqi male who is unemployed”. He said it would be “as big a strategic step towards victory as whether you have more troops or fewer troops”.
Gingrich believes his position as a staunch conservative could help to sell the reconstruction package to sceptical Republicans who argue that Iraq has already cost too money. The Pentagon this month requested an extra $100 billion from Congress as an emergency supplement to the 2007 military budget, bringing the total to $663 billion.
So how much is Iraq worth to you? Are you prepared to watch your country spend a trillion dollars on the war, plus jobs for every accounted for Iraqi male, while your job is by no means secured here at home? The Jobs for Iraqis plan, married to the new, bigger, kick down Iraqi doors project is what it's increasingly looking like Bush will go with in 2007. God help us all. This fool is going to both bankrupt us, and destroy any last vestiges of our superpower status.
Anybody remember the Roman Empire? I don't think it ended well...
With the end of the year upon us, you know the drill. You'll be reading tons of year-end lists of all kinds. Things like...
The top five rehab residents of 2006:
#5: Mel Gibson #4: ex Congressman Mark Foley
#3: Waifer thin celebrigirl Nicole Richie
#2: Newly sprung from drugged out co-dependency Whitney Houston #1: Miss Second Chance, Tara Connor
Or, what about the totally not gay celebrities of the year? #5: Clay Aiken ... and get your icky hand out of my face! #4: Tom Cruise ... honeymoon optional! #3: The guys from Brokeback Mountain ... how many "guy-on-girl movies" do you think these guys are going to have to do to finally get people over the gay cowbody thing??? #2: Oprah and Gayle ... sure, Oprah lent her some underwear once... what girl hasn't?
#1: Anderson Cooper ... still gray, and still getting fan mail from girls!
Or what about, gadget of the year: #5: Nintendo Wii ... new, 'spensive, and dangerous! #4: iPod nano/shuffle ... they just keep making more of 'em, and the people keep buying... #3: flat screen TVs ... they're becoming as common as K-Fed sightings! #2: Motorola Razr ... is there anybody out there who didn't have this phone? #1: Blackberry ...still king, still addictive like crack cocaine...
Most obnoxious celebrities of 2006? #3: Madonna (pretentiousness has finally completely overtaken her...) #2: Brangelina (three words, do-gooders: please stop helping.) #1: Rosie O'Donnel (two words: Donald's right.)
As you know, for many women, there's no man quite so enticing as somebody else's man (right, Julia Roberts?). So this year, we at the Reid Report would like to honor the top five man-stealing hussies of 2006, and their man-ho's, too...!
#5: Denise Richards. How gangsta is Denise Richards? After she dumped that louse Charlie Sheen, she snagged her next man-ornament, rocker Richie Sambora, right out from under the clutches of her best friend, Heather Locklear ... who also happened to be their NEIGHBOR! And she did it after counseling her gal pal to get a divorce ... so she could steal ... her ... man...! I told you she was gangsta! So who are the people in your neighborhood? Man-stealling hussies, that's who!
#4: Britney Spears: Having yanked K-Fed off the couch of his baby's mana interloper from Brandy's TV show, Britney got to breedin' with him late last year, producing, fresh for 2006, an adorable little air bag, who coubles as a yo-yo, and a new baby Kevin can't possibly pay for any more than he pays for the other ...what is it four now, or six...??? Her interview with Matt Lauer? A comedy classic worthy of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour! And how often does your new, soon to be ex-hubby's ex actually THANK you for stealing her deadbeat man? Only in your world, Britney. Now go finalize those divorce papers and put on some drawers!
#3: Scary Spice: Why any woman would want to steal a man capable of making six ... that's SIX kids with one woman is beyond me, but Scary got her Murphy ... and her own little bundle of Murphy joy, too ... assuming that paternity test comes through before he spends all of his "Dreamgirls" money on child support...
#2: Karrine Steffans, a/k/a the video vixen and best-selling author, "Superhead": She helped free Whitney from Bobby Brown, and test drove a Mercedes, all in one gossip column! Love that! Now just keep Bobby busy long enough for Whitney to completely detox and get her album done and we're straight...
... and at number 1: you guessed it! Brangelina! They managed to devastate America's sweetheart, Jennifer Aniston, and enthrall Anderson Cooper and that Asian lady from the Today Show all at once with their charitable, third world adoption magic! Who will they cheat with next??? What lengths will Angelina go to to prove she's not the wicked witch of the West? Can Brad fake that golly-gee do-gooderism long enough to get back his box office mojo??? And what fabulous negro charity will benefit from all this man-stealing, wife dumping excitement???
The top five 'so totally not gay' Republicans of 2006
With the New Year upon us, I decided to repost this reidblog classic, for your end of year enjoyment. Mazeltov!
Move over David Dreier! You may have gushed repeatedly over muscular Arnold Schwarzenegger during his first run for governor, and you may have been famously passed over last year as a potential replacement for the criminally-challenged Tom Delay, but this year, you've got some serious competition, girlfriend! So now, without further ado, here are the top five Republicans judged by my very own satirical keyboard to be the real leaders of the "gay Republican mafia" in Washington and beyond...
#5 - Karl Rove. Apparently known as Miss Piggy in Washington's gay circles, Bush's brain continues to enthrall the press as the supposed architect of conservative dominance, for ever, and ever, and ever. Except that if his party gets routed in the midterms next week, the press will ofiiciously claim that it's all his fault. You can't win for losing, girlfriend. Rove is the mastermind of the vaunted "get out the evangelical vote" strategy, whereby you trick millions of Bush-worshipping evangelicals into thinking that the Methodist president is totally on their side on social issue, promise them lots of faith based money, mandatory prayer in schools, an end to the teaching of evolution, a Ten Commandments in every public building, right wing judges and the overturning of Roe v. Wade any day now... ... and then give them nothing but weekly conference calls for their leadership and statewide marriage amendments for the rabble, until the next eelction rolls around, when you promise them the same stuff all over again. Now, it appears the fundies are catching on, and Rove's "strategery" may be running out of road. Two snaps down, Miss Piggy.
#4 - Dennis Hastert. Speaking of covering for Mark Foley... what could be creepier than a Congressman who likes to get lickered up and hang around the page dorm and the male showers? Try a fat, touchy-feely wrestling coach who lives with his male chief of staff while his wife lives in Illinois... The mental pictures alone are mind-melting.
#3 - Ken Mehlman. The RNC chair couldn't seem gayer if he ran a palm full of "product" through his hair and dressed himself from head to toe in designer neutrals and Donald J. Pliner slip-ons. But he continues to be one of Washington's best ... or is that worst ... kept secrets, and not at all afraid to play the race card through the powerful coffers of the RNC ... while simultaneously denying he even knows what the race card is. Kudos!
#2 - Ted Haggard. As the leader of one of Colorado's largest evangelical churches, not to mention the 30 million member strong National Association of Evangelicals, Pastor Haggard helped write Colorado' marriage amendment, which is on the ballot this month, while taking weekly conference calls with the White House and monthly meetings with a gay escort and meth dealer ... now something about that list just doesn't sit right (if Haggard is indeed gay, and we know he's married, does that mean he'd be breaking the Colorado law or upholding it...) Anyway, his wife gayle and his five kids may be shocked to learn that Haggard is at least part-time gay, but at least he wasn't cruising local restrooms for casual sex like the married gay guys down here in Florida do.
#1 - Charlie Crist. The man who probably will be the next governor of Florida has dodged the gay question for years, and this year survived not only a right wing primary challenger who rather unsutbtly alluded to Crist's secuality by hammering home the point that only he, Tom Gallahger, sports a wife and children, but also a direct outting by his third party opponent, Max Linn. Despite that, and his alleged personal ties to Mark Foley, Crist is on track to succeed his friend, Jeb Bush, and face whatever scandals could come from his alleged sexual liasons with a young, male, evangelical Christian Katherine Harris staffer and an equally male (though likely not as evangelical) convicted criminal once he's taken office. Maybe Crist's inevitability stems from the fact that this totally not gay, anti-Muslim preacher got a personal guarantee of Crist's success from God (that before Crist forgot who that preacher was due to his anti-Muslim rhetoric.) Either way, it's all great for Florida, to be sure, and even better for the reporters who love to make fun of the state that gave us Bush v. Gore. Hey, if Crist gets really down and dirty over the next two years, he could one day sign the slate of electors that makes totally gay-friendly Republican Rudy Giuliani president! Can't wait!
It's been a swell year in news soundbites. So now, without further ado, here is the ReidReport list of the top 10 zingers, near misses and whoopsies of 2006.
#10. "I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."-- President Bush explaining to the hard-headed press corps in April that Don Rumsfeld was doing a fabulous job as defense secretary, and that he hears voices ...
#9. "This is the moment to say that there are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of 'em is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn't become the speaker." -- Fox News' resident angry Bushophile Sean Hannity, bolstering the GOP faithful the August before the midterm elections, by explaining to them that it might take a suicidal jihad to keep the Democrats from controlling the House of Representatives. And why not! After all, it would be an AMERICAN suicidal jihad...!
#8. "You may end up with a different math, but you're entitled to your math. I'm entitled to 'the' math." -- Former electoral "genius" Karl Rove telling some snotty NPR host on October 24th that he sees tons more polls than stupid NPR does anyway, so he knows for sure that Republicans are going to hold the House and Senate ... not too long after the interview, the Republicans lost the House and Senate...
#7. "You know, education ... if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." -- Former presidential candidate John Kerry flubbing a joke, and with the cynical help of "friends" like John McCain and the media mob, throwing his presidential ambitions off what you might call, the permanent cliff...
#6. "I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies." -- Tortured radio and cable TV chat host Glenn Beck pleading with 100 percent American, U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota to reassure him that as an American Muslim, he's not secretly working with al-Qaida, as all Muslims tend to side with the terrorists, you know... deep down inside ... their little Muslim hearts...
#5. "Halfrican and, again, his father was -- his father was from Kenya, his mother's white. OK, now, I have nothing with mixed -- nothing against mixed-race people but, my point is, when this guy stands in front of a black audience, pretending like he was born and raised in the hood, and he can identify with their problems, he doesn't allow -- he is not, in my opinion -- 'cause my opinion is your average white guy -- he is not allowed to wear the African-American badge because his family are not the descendants of slaves, OK?" -- Obscure talk radio co-host Brian Sussman showing his ass to the man who could soon be the first African-American president of the United States, Barack Obama.
#4. "This fellow here with the yellow shirt ... Macaca or whatever his name is. ...so welcome, let's give a welcomoe to Macaca over here. Welcome to Virginia and the real world of America." -- Former Virginia Senator George Allen, putting a steak through the heart of his political career, and handing the Senate to the Democratic Party, just be being his lil' old racist self.
#3. "He's a nigger! He's a nigger!!!" -- Washed up comedic actor Michael Richards coming unglued at an L.A. nightclub, and jerking many Africna-Americans out of their closet Seinfeld fix, while simultaneously inspiring "Afro-American" comedians everywhere to give up the N-word. Way to make a difference, Kramer! And can I say, "Macaca!"
#2. "I went there for a massage" -- disgraced pastor Ted Haggard explaining why he was hanging out with a crystal meth-selling male gigolo in Denver, and giving cheating bastards everywhere the best excuse EVER for getting caught in flagrante! Put that one in your excuse baggies for later, Brangelina...!
#1. "Enough is enough!! I have had it... with these muthafuckin' snakes... on this muthafuckin' plane!!!" -- Big screen bad-ass Samuel L. Jackson, proving once again, why he, and he alone, is the soundbite king, this time as the star of the campy classic, "Snakes on a (muthafuckin') plane." Bitches!
And now, here's your bonus soundbite of the day. Enjoy!
"The irony is, what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over " -- President Bush at the G8 summit this summer, chowing down on buttered rolls (like a holstein cow, or a prison inmate fresh out of solitary, you pick your visual...) discussing the vagueries of Middle East foreign policy with the U.K. prime minister, and introducing the Brit-deflating phrase, "yo, Blair!" into the universal lexicon. My, how Her Majesty's empire has fallen...
Isn't it great to live in a free country? Just ask these guys. They wanted to tell you some things about the U.S.' historic relationship (and it's current blunderous one) with Iran. And they would no. The authors of a recent piece for the New York Times used to work the Iran issue within the federal government. So when it came time to tell you what they know, they were allowed to go ahead and publish their piece ... with blacked out passages courtesy of the Orwellian bunch at the White House.
Kudos to the Times for publishing the redactions as they were, for all the world to see. I guess Tehran's got nothing on us. (P.S., read all of the citations. They're very illuminating...)
... and good thing I have my Raw Story decoder ring! Perhaps the most interesting thing you'll find in the supplemental materials is a reminder that in fact, Iraq under Saddam Hussein WAS harboring a terrorist group -- it just hapened that the terrorist group it was harboring was not strictly anti-U.S., rather it was the Iranian anti-Irani regime Mujajeddin e-Kalq, which enjoys support inside the Republican lunatic fringe in Washington, led by Florida's own, shameless and wacky, Castro-hunting, terror group defending Congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Ileana just loves the MEK, despite their past history of anti-U.S. activity, and their very recent history of attacking Iraqi Kurds and Shia, purportedly people our troops are struggling to defend. It just gets thicker and thicker, doesn't it?
Bottom line: after 9/11 Iran was ready to help the U.S., and would have, had the kooks inside the administration not scuttled all attempts to engage Tehran on the full table of issues between our two countries. You can guess for yourself who those kooks are.
"Though it's tempting to think that adding troops for a little while would solve the problem, this is a seductive and dangerous road. It's the same vague reasoning that led to sending hundreds of thousands of troops to Vietnam. ..." -- From the editorial board of USA Today
The latest gambit: send Bob Gates to Iraq to "bypass the filter" of the uniformed military leadership, and ask the troops what they want. Well that in the hell do you think they want? They want back-up, meaning more troops. So will this be Bush's way of using the soldiers as a prop, yet again, in order to create an excuse to turn "I listen to the generals" into this year's "read my lips, no new taxes?" Righto. More from that USAT editorial:
So far, there's not much specificity beyond "more troops in Baghdad." Where in a city of 5 million would they go? Which warring groups would they fight? How would this be different from what's not working? This is the most pointed criticism of the surge idea, and the president acknowledged it at a news conference Wednesday, saying he would only approve a "specific mission." The fact that he couldn't immediately articulate one suggests the surge is an idea in search of credibility, not a strategy developed to solve a defined problem.
Assuming the short-term goal is to stabilize Baghdad, which the administration has labeled the definitive battleground, the next question is whether that is achievable. U.S. and Iraqi forces have been trying to pacify the capital since summer by massing forces there, but an unusually downbeat Pentagon report revealed this week that "Operation Together Forward" seems only to have intensified the violence. The report notes that the effort to control the violence in Baghdad worked at first, but that the insurgents adapted and violence surged again in September. One factor: Iraqi police tipped insurgents to raids by U.S. and Iraqi troops, allowing the bad guys to melt away. ...
... Bush likes to say he listens to his commanders about troop levels, and two of the nation's wisest combat veterans — former secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. John Abizaid, the outgoing top U.S. commander in the Middle East — have advised against surging U.S. troops.
Sending more troops to Iraq would have been a good idea in 2003 to stabilize the country after Saddam Hussein was toppled. Today, it has the scent of doubling down on a losing bet, a desperate option seized upon because the cost of others is so high.
Promoters of the more-troops option Bush is considering include Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and neoconservative think tanks that supported the war and are frustrated with its failures. Those supporters should ask themselves one more question: Would they want their own children "surged" into a chaotic environment with such an ill-defined mission and limited prospects of success?
My guess would be they would not.
The bottom line is, everybody knows that the Iraq war is lost and over, except for President Bush and a last remnant of his wack-job followers. Oh, and Joe Lieberman and John McCain. How pathetic. Even Reagan Republicans like Joe Scarborough have begun to describe the president as dangerously isolated and almost delusional in his determination to "stay the course." What is it going to take? How many lives is this president willing to waste in his vain pursuit of "victory" in Iraq? Dude, there IS no victory to be had in Iraq. They're not fighting us, they're fighting each other, and we're in the way.
It's time to leave Iraq.
And if I were the Democrats in Congress, I would prevent Bush's vain little troop surge the old fashioned way: by refusing to pay for it. The Dems should tell the president: we will fund only ongoing battlefield necessities for existing forces (including necessary troop rotation), but won't give you a dime for a single soldier more. Period.
Could the 2008 presidential race produce the first billion-dollar campaign? And what in the hell does that mean for the Republic? We could be looking at a situation where our next president is virtually a multinational corporation, owned by so many corporate and moneyed interest groups that even opinion polls won't matter. No wonder John McCain is selling his soul at bargain basement prices. Clearly he has figured out that only the Bush donors can get him the $500 million he needs to buy his way into the presidency...
And meanwhile, does Tehran have a point about Israel and the U.N.?
UNITED NATIONS -- Iran demanded Tuesday that the U.N. Security Council condemn what it said was Israel's clandestine development of nuclear weapons and "compel" it to place all its nuclear facilities under U.N. inspection.
If Israel refuses to comply, Iran said the council must take "resolute action" under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter which authorizes a range of measures from diplomatic and economic sanctions to military action.
Iran insists its own nuclear program is a purely peaceful effort to develop energy, but the United States and many European nations believe Tehran's real aim in enriching uranium is to produce nuclear weapons. The Security Council is currently debating a resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend its enrichment program.
Iran's U.N. Ambassador Javad Zarif said in identical letters to the council and the secretary-general that the council's actions would show whether it was acting under the U.N. Charter or as "a tool" for a few permanent members who have encouraged Israel "to persist in its lawless behavior with impunity."
The reference appeared aimed at the United States, Israel's closest ally, which would almost certainly veto any council resolution on Israel's nuclear program.
Zarif said that Israel was the only obstacle to establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.
Israel has a longstanding policy of ambiguity on nuclear weapons, refusing to confirm or deny whether it has them. But in the German TV interview broadcast Dec. 12, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert listed Israel among countries that possess nuclear weapons.
Olmert's comments _ which his office said were misinterpreted _ came days after Robert Gates, who took over Monday as U.S. defense secretary, said in testimony to a Senate committee that Israel was a member of the club of nuclear-armed nations. ...
What is wrong with these people? Meanwhile...
When it's not copping out and naming YOU it's "person of the year," (helllloooo!! Ahmadinejad? Hellooo??) TIME Magazine is reporting that the born again neocon in the White House may not be done waging stupid wars quite yet. and that Dubya may not be satisfied with utter conflagration in Iraq and Iran. To whit:
The Bush Administration has been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad. Parts of the scheme are outlined in a classified, two-page document which says that the U.S. already is "supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists" in Europe. The document bluntly expresses the hope that "these meetings will facilitate a more coherent strategy and plan of actions for all anti-Assad activists."
The document says that Syria's legislative elections, scheduled for March 2007, "provide a potentially galvanizing issue for... critics of the Assad regime." To capitalize on that opportunity, the document proposes a secret "election monitoring" scheme, in which "internet accessible materials will be available for printing and dissemination by activists inside the country [Syria] and neighboring countries." The proposal also calls for surreptitiously giving money to at least one Syrian politician who, according to the document, intends to run in the election. The effort would also include "voter education campaigns" and public opinion polling, with the first poll "tentatively scheduled in early 2007."
So we're still into vote tampering, meddling in elections, and dare I say, Mr. Negroponte, assassinating foreign leaders, perhaps, should the "election" not go our way? Somebody call Kissinger. His old boss is back. Wait, wait, there's more:
The proposal says part of the effort would be run through a foundation operated by Amar Abdulhamid, a Washington-based member of a Syrian umbrella opposition group known as the National Salvation Front (NSF). The Front includes the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that for decades supported the violent overthrow the Syrian government, but now says it seeks peaceful, democratic reform. (In Syria, however, membership in the Brotherhood is still punishable by death.) Another member of the NSF is Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former high-ranking Syrian official and Assad family loyalist who recently went into exile after a political clash with the regime. Representatives of the National Salvation Front, including Abdulhamid, were accorded at least two meetings earlier this year at the White House, which described the sessions as exploratory. Since then, the National Salvation Front has said it intends to open an office in Washington in the near future.
Oh, goodie! A new Iraqi National Congress! Just what we needed. Now where's that hole in the head...
One more bite, just to help you sleep tonight:
"Democracy promotion" has been a focus of both Democratic and Republican administrations, but the Bush White House has been a particular booster since 9/11. Iran contra figure Elliott Abrams was put in charge of the effort at the National Security Council. Until recently, Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of the Vice President, oversaw such work at the State Department.
And in those capable culpable hands, rests the "war on terror." (Photo credit: About.com)
Update: Inevitably, there's more ... (sigh.) Can we write these neocons off as absolutely insane yet?
President Bush only seems to know one thing: he wants more troops ... more troops taking shots and dodging IEDs in Iraq ... more troops for the U.S. military, period. But he's still blythely enjoying the lazy days of winter when it comes to telling the American people, the troops, and perhaps even himself, what the hell he's going to do about the mess in Iraq. As for Bush's idea of "surging" up to 30,000 troops into Baghdad to hold the city, until we take them out and lose it again? If Bushie really did listen to General Abizaid and the newly manly (well ... semi-manly...) Joint Chiefs of Staff, he wouldn't do it. Here's what the military folks Mr. Bush swears he listens to are saying about his borrowed policy solution, via his heir apparent, John McCain, first, courtesy of the WaPo:
Among the options under review by the White House is sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops to Iraq for six to eight months. The idea has the support of important figures such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and has been pushed by some inside the White House, but the Joint Chiefs have balked because they believe advocates have not adequately defined the mission and are pushing it mainly because of limited alternatives, according to U.S. officials.
The chiefs have warned that a short-term surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, according to the officials, who described the review on condition of anonymity because it is not complete.
A White House laboring to find a new approach in Iraq says it is considering sending more U.S. troops, an option that worries top generals because of its questionable payoff and potential backlash.
The military's caution is based on two chief fears - that even temporarily shipping thousands of more troops would be largely ineffective in the absence of bold new political and economic steps, and that it would leave the already stretched Army and Marines Corps even thinner once the surge ended.
They also worry that it feeds a perception that the strife and chaos in Iraq is mainly a military problem; in their view it is largely political, fed by economic distress.
Rep. Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who will become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee next month, echoed those sentiments Tuesday. "I'm convinced the Army and the Marines are near the breaking point," Skelton said, while expressing skepticism that a big troop surge would be worth the trouble.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, told reporters last week that a surge would make sense only under certain conditions.
"We would not surge without a purpose," Schoomaker said. "And that purpose should be measurable."
Gen. John Abizaid, the top commander for U.S. forces in the Middle East, told Congress last month that sending an extra 20,000 troops could "achieve a temporary effect" but added that it could not be sustained because the Army and Marine Corps simply are not large enough.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has also questioned whether more troops would work, saying, "I am not persuaded that another surge of troops into Baghdad for the purposes of suppressing this communitarian violence, this civil war, will work."
In other words, there's no point in super-sizing failure. Change of policy should mean change of policy.
Prediction: Barrack Obama is running for president. Proof: he's already chased the first mid-level candidate out of the race.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana announced on Saturday he will not seek the presidency in 2008, saying he believes the odds of a successful run were too great to overcome.
"At the end of the day, I concluded that due to circumstances beyond our control the odds were longer than I felt I could responsibly pursue," Bayh said in a statement. "This path - and these long odds - would have required me to be essentially absent from the Senate for the next year instead of working to help the people of my state and the nation."
The announcement comes just two weeks after Bayh, in an appearance on a Sunday talk show, said he would take a first step toward a presidential campaign by forming an exploratory committee. His decision to step aside narrows a crowded field of possible candidates that, for now, is dominated by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.
Asked how he would address the issue of his relative lack of experience, Obama said he thought that the campaign itself--how he managed it, his position on issues and his framing of a vision for the country--would answer the question. "That experience question would be answered at the end of the campaign," he said.
"The test of leadership in my mind is not going to be what's on a paper resume," Obama said. Vice President Dick Cheney, a former defense secretary, and departing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "had the best resume on paper of any foreign policy team and the result has been what I consider to be one of the biggest foreign policy mistakes in our history," he said.
Though he was born in 1961, Obama cast himself as the face of a post-Baby Boomer generation not fundamentally shaped by Vietnam and the culture conflicts of the 1960s. He said he could "help turn the page in ways that other candidates can't do."
Sounding very much like a candidate, Obama called Clinton, 59, a "tough, disciplined, smart, intelligent public servant." But, compared to Clinton, he maintained he was able to look at "some issues differently as a consequence of being of a slightly different generation."
On the Republicans, including the new establishment candidate, John McCain:
As for Republicans, Obama said he placed Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the same position Clinton holds among Democrats, with great name recognition and resources and the ability to sew up much of the party establishment. But he also said he considered Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney an "attractive candidate," though he said Romney was "making a mistake in trying to look more conservative than he may be" to gain core conservative support.
Run against McCain
Speaking of a potential matchup with McCain, Obama said he was under no illusions about how a GOP presidential campaign would be run against him.
"War hero against snot-nosed rookie," Obama said. ...
..."Look, if it's John McCain ... I don't think you need a lot of imagination to figure out how they would run that campaign. `We live in dangerous times. Terrorism's looming. We need a battle-tested leader and that's John McCain.' I think that's how they present it."
On the Rezco scandalette:
Obama acknowledged "it was stupid" of him to get involved in the purchase almost one year ago of a strip of property adjoining his $1.65 million home from Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who owned a vacant lot next door. Rezko, a political insider and fundraiser, was indicted in October on charges of trying to extort campaign donations and kickbacks from firms seeking state business. Rezko has pleaded not guilty.
"I am the first one to acknowledge that it was a boneheaded move for me to purchase this 10-foot strip from Rezko, given that he was already under a cloud of concern," Obama said. "I will also acknowledge that from his perspective, he no doubt believed that by buying the piece of property next to me that he would, if not be doing me a favor, it would help strengthen our relationship."
And two more quotes that I think make Obama the most compelling figure in a potential race:
"What I at least think about is, whether through luck or happenstance or serendipity or convergences between my biography and events, doI have a particular ability to bring the country together around a pragmatic, common-sense agenda for change that probably has a generational element to it as well?"
... "I think that experience question would be answered during the course of the campaign. Either at the end of that campaign, people would say, `He looked good on paper but the guy was kind of way too green' or at the end of the campaign they say, `He's run a really strong campaign and we think he's got something to say and we think he could lead us.'"
Obama nailed it. At the end of the day, voters will get a "feel" for what kind of leadership they want. If it wound up being McCain vs. Obama, the question would be whether we want to reach back to the past, to a war hero who now embodies not only the establishment's "war on terror", but also the legacy of George W. Bush (which McCain has fully embraced,) or whether we want youthful, fresh leadership, and a dramatic change for America. There would also be a hell of a fight on the issue of race, particularly with McCain drafting the team that produced that odious Harold Ford ad, and with his having opposed the King holiday. McCain-Obama would be a study in direct opposites: opposites on the Iraq war, on racial issues, on abortion, afrirmative action and on and on. Because of that, it would be a much more interesting race, in many ways, than McCain-Hillary.
America needs a serious ideological test: old vs. young, pro-war vs. anti-war, white old boy's club past vs. the multicultural future. And at this stage, as much as I love Hillary, I think Obama fits the bill better than any other candidate. So goodbye, Evan Bayh (good job getting that you had no shot) ... stay pretty, John Edwards ... Loved your TV ads, Bill Richardson ... bag it, Vilsack ... keep on talkin' Joe Biden ... and you're the man, Chuck Hagel (Bayh may be the first casualty, but I wouldn't expect Vilsack or Biden to hang on much longer...) Don't tell mama, but my vote would be with Obama.
Update:You cannot close the book on the Obama topic until you have read this post. Rick Morin, you GO boy (and Baldiocks, too...)
Ads for draftObama.org will begin airing in New Hamshire next week. Interesting. And while I'm on the subject, if Barack Obama runs, and I think it would be good for the country if he did, the race suddenly becomes a truncated sprint between Hillary, Barack, and a quickly diminished list of "alternatives" --
Bill Richardson (the Hispanic)
Evan Bayh (white guy #1)
John Vilsa... oh never mind...
Of those, I'd say Edwards quickly rises to the top, knocking the others quickly out of the box. So what we're left with, in my opinion, is the following options:
The 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' ticket (Hillary-Obama ... for Dems who want to have their first female president and their first Black president, too...)
The 'I Love Lucy ticket' (Hillary-Richardson ... for Dems who believe the key to the White House runs through the West...)
The 'Miami Vice' ticket (Edwards-Obama ... for Dems who like their presidents white and male, but who savor the chance to reinvent the 1992 youth ticket...)
WASHINGTON Dec 14, 2006 (AP)— Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson was in critical condition Thursday after late-night brain surgery, creating political drama about which party will control the Senate next month if he is unable to continue in office.
Johnson suffered from bleeding in the brain caused by a congenital arteriovenous malformation, the U.S. Capitol physician said, describing the surgery as successful. The condition, present at birth, causes tangled blood vessels.
"The senator is recovering without complication," the physician, Adm. John Eisold, said. "It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long-term prognosis."
Eisold said doctors had to drain the blood that had accumulated in Johnson's brain and stop continued bleeding.
Johnson's condition, also known as AVM, causes arteries and veins to grow abnormally large and become tangled.
The senator's wife, Barbara Johnson, said the family "is encouraged and optimistic."
The situation with Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota gets critical. He suffered some sort of episode, which originally looked like a stroke, and underwent surgery overnight. Everyone is trying not to be morbid, but if he were to be unable to serve out his term, the Republican govenor of his state could appoint a Republican in his place. If that happens, you can kiss Pat Leahy's promise to subpoena the torture memo goodbye, among other things, and welcome back the ultimate presidential butler, Pat Roberts of Kansas, to the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The novelty in the government’s approach is in its broad use of a grand jury subpoena, which is typically a way to gather evidence, rather than to confiscate all traces of it. But the subpoena issued to the A.C.L.U. seeks “any and all copies” of a document e-mailed to it unsolicited in October, indicating that the government also wants to prevent further dissemination of the information in the document.
The subpoena was revealed in court papers unsealed in federal court in Manhattan yesterday. The subject of the grand jury’s investigation is not known, but the A.C.L.U. said that it had been told it was not a target of the investigation.
The subpoena, however, raised the possibility that the government had found a new tool to stop the dissemination of secrets, one that could avoid the all but absolute constitutional prohibition on prior restraints on publication.
Meanwhile, the Joint Chiefs limp into the West Wing to tell the president what he wants to hear they think he should do. Watch for the contradiction in the fourth and fifth paragraphs:
The nation's top uniformed leaders are recommending that the United States change its main military mission in Iraq from combating insurgents to supporting Iraqi troops and hunting terrorists, said sources familiar with the White House's ongoing Iraq policy review.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney met with the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday at the Pentagon for more than an hour, and the president engaged his top military advisers on different options. The chiefs made no dramatic proposals but, at a time of intensifying national debate about how to solve the Iraq crisis, offered a pragmatic assessment of what can and cannot be done by the military, the sources said.
The chiefs do not favor adding significant numbers of troops to Iraq, said sources familiar with their thinking, but see strengthening the Iraqi army as pivotal to achieving some degree of stability. They also are pressing for a much greater U.S. effort on economic reconstruction and political reconciliation.
Sources said that Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is reviewing a plan to redefine the American military mission there: U.S. troops would be pulled out of Iraqi cities and consolidated at a handful of U.S. bases while day-to-day combat duty would be turned over to the Iraqi army. Casey is still considering whether to request more troops, possibly as part of an expanded training mission to help strengthen the Iraqi army.
So the JCS don't favor adding more troops, but Casey, who is competing with Dick Myers for title of wimpiest Joint Chief ever, is looking into the possibility of requesting more troops? Whatever.
Do you think the high school kid at left could grow up to be president of the United States in your lifetime? Just by looking at him, would you expect him to want to be? Would you change your mind if you knew that the kid at left is Barack Obama, back in his days at Punahou School in Hawaii?
Obamamania is in full effect (and not just among lefties seeking some sort of national racial therapy) ... at least for now ... until the media tire of giving him the Full Monica and begin tearing him apart, ahead of their quadrannual ritual of kissing the ass of whichever Republican becomes the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary. So Obama has a little over a year to enjoy the glow, and to survive the afterglow.
Howard Kurtz stumbles on what could be Obama's first scandal challenge, and quotes Right Wing Nut House and other conservative bloggers who are already seeking to peel away Obama's glorious outer layer of "all things to all people" (except racist rednecks) likability.
It seems that Obama and his wife closed last year on a $1.65-million house on the city's south side on the same day that Rezko closed on a $625,000 vacant lot next door. Then Obama paid Rezko $104,000 to buy part of the lot. Well, none of that seems terribly unusual to me, except maybe the part about Obama paying his landscaper to mow Rezko's yard and Rezko agreeing to pay for a $14,000 fence along their property line.
The problem is that during this period, Rezko came under grand jury investigation. He has since pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to obtain kickbacks from companies seeking state business, according to the Tribune. Rezko has also pleaded not guilty to separate allegations that he bilked a loan company through the fraudulent sale of his pizza businesses. (I hereby copyright Pizzagate if this story takes off.)
Suddenly, Obama had a PR problem, or as he put it to the Chicago Sun-Times, "I misgauged the appearance presented by my purchase of the additional land from Mr. Rezko . . . It was a mistake to have been engaged with him at all in this or any other personal business dealing that would allow him, or anyone else, to believe that he had done me a favor."
This seems like a minor-league issue. But as Bill Clinton learned about his money-losing Arkansas land deal, when you run for president, everything in your past gets magnified.
Problem? Maybe. Maybe not. but don't think the right is going to just sit there and let Obama become a presidential contender. Sure, for now, he'll do as a brickstop to slow Hillary's march to the White House. But if it gets serious -- or he gets onto Hillary's ticket, consider all bets off. If you think the right has been nasty up to now, and if you think we've seen the worst of GOP race-baiting and redneck fear-mongering, just wait till you see them in 2008.
"First, it must be said that a Democratic corpse plucked from a Chicago graveyard could have won the race for Illinois senator in 2004.
You might recall that the Republican nominee Jack Ryan was forced to withdraw 4 months before the election following revelations contained in child custody documents relating to Ryan's divorce from actress Jeri Ryan (the sexiest Borg in the Star Trek Universe) that he forced the comely actress to go to sex clubs with him . . .
...and his replacement Alan Keyes, is certifiably nuts...!
"Obama is an empty vessel. Not a Clintonesque figure in that he tries to appeal to all voters in some way but rather a welcoming icon who invites the voter to take something away and make it their own as far as how they view the man. Is this dishonest? Or is it great politics? . . .
"We see this dance by the media every four years. Bored with writing and talking about the same old faces, the media seeks out a darkhorse candidate and elevates him for a short while to prominence -- only to then amuse themselves by tearing him apart piece by piece once they've decided he is not worthy of all the glowing coverage.
"In Obama's case, there is the added significance of race to be considered. Will the Senator's blackness protect him from the usual smear tactics practiced by politicians from both parties?"
An intriguing question, given that we've never had a serious black contender for the presidency--or serious female contender, for that matter.
You've still got it, Moran...
Meanwhile, over at NRO, Larry Kudlow is advising Obama to have a chat with Harold Ford before he decides to run, ostensibly to be counseled on how to become less liberal. Memo to Kudlow: Ford lost his bid for the Senate, despite being a center-right Dem, and entirely because he's a Black man in Tennessee. Maybe Obama and Ford could chit-chat about that...
And yesterday, I listened to about a half hour of the Michael Medved show, as caller after caller took him up on his challenge to whites who wouldn't vote for Obama (or Colin Powell or Condi Rice, for that matter) based on race, to tell him why.
The best answer: "I have lots of Black friends... lots of Black friends ... but they got mad at me during the O.J. trial, and so I think they just have too much baggage."
Runner up: "He'd get all the Blacks and Browns all riled up together..."
God bless America, indeed.
I for one think Barack should run for president, even if he would lose. I think that his running would be a teriffic test for America, just to see where are collective heads are at. Let's see if white folks really are as evolved and tolerant as they tell pollsters they are, or whether racism is there, just below the surface, waiting to reach out and slap down any nigger who would dare tread toward the White House. I love it when people are who they are, and this would be white America's chance to show the world. Like Hillary's race, it would be instructional, a great civics lesson, and unlike Rev. Al's run, it would carry with it the envigorating sting of possible success.
Still unable to admit that the Iraq war is lost, the Bush Pentagon plans a new stragegy: escalation. According to the LA Times today:
WASHINGTON — As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff will present their assessment and recommendations to Bush at the Pentagon today. Military officials, including some advising the chiefs, have argued that an intensified effort may be the only way to get the counterinsurgency strategy right and provide a chance for victory.
The approach overlaps somewhat a course promoted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz). But the Pentagon proposals add several features, including the confrontation with Sadr, a possible renewed offensive in the Sunni stronghold of Al Anbar province, a large Iraqi jobs program and a proposal for a long-term increase in the size of the military.
Such an option would appear to satisfy Bush's demand for a strategy focused on victory rather than disengagement. It would disregard key recommendations and warnings of the Iraq Study Group, however, and provide little comfort for those fearful of a long, open-ended U.S. commitment in the country. Only 12% of Americans support a troop increase, whereas 52% prefer a fixed timetable for withdrawal, a Los Angeles Times/ Bloomberg poll has found.
"I think it is worth trying," a defense official said. "But you can't have the rhetoric without the resources. This is a double down" — the gambling term for upping a bet. ...
Sounds like a sucker's bet to me. So do experts think it would work?
Such a proposal, military officials and experts caution, would be a gamble. Any chance of success probably would require major changes in the Iraqi government, they said. U.S. Embassy officials would have to help usher into power a new coalition in Baghdad that was willing to confront the militias. And the strategy also would require more U.S. spending to increase the size of the U.S. military and for an Iraqi jobs program.
You see, this is what happens when the White House becomes subsumed by partisan politics. Bush is governing, not from reality, but from the right wing of the blogosphere, where the continued braying for "victory" is the last gasp of an almost pathologically angry, paranoid minority of angry, white gun-nuts who nonetheless fear entering the military themselves, but who have an unlimited tolerance for the battlefield deaths of others.
This policy is a failure, Mr. President. Get us the hell out of Iraq and do what you can to salvage the remainder of your presidency, and for God's sake, the country's good name.
Back to the article. The question: WWGD ... What will Gates do?
The wild card in the Pentagon planning is Robert M. Gates, due to be sworn in Monday as Defense secretary. Gates had breakfast Tuesday with Bush and will participate, along with outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in today's meetings.
Bush is collecting recommendations from his administration this week as he crafts his strategy for Iraq. But some defense officials say Gates may seek more time to weigh other options. And before endorsing an increase in combat forces, Gates may press commanders in Iraq for assurances that U.S. forces can hold off an escalation of the sectarian civil war.
Some military officers believe that Iraq has become a test of wills, and that the U.S. needs to show insurgents and sectarian militias that it is willing to stay and fight. "I've come to the realization we need to go in, in a big way," said an Army officer. "You have to have an increase in troops…. We have to convince the enemy we are serious and we are coming in harder."
The size of the troop increase the Pentagon will recommend is unclear. One officer suggested an increase of about 40,000 forces would be required, but other officials said such a number was unrealistic. There are about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
The administration has spent about $495 billion for Iraq and terrorism-related efforts since 2001, including $70 billion so far in fiscal 2007. It is planning to request as much as an additional $150 billion to fund the war effort through the rest the budget year.
The problem with any sort of surge is that it would require an eventual drop-off in 2008, unless the president was willing to take the politically unpopular move of remobilizing the National Guard and sending reserve combat units back to Iraq.
But military officials are taking a close look at a proposal advanced by Frederick W. Kagan, a former West Point Military Academy historian, to combine a surge with a quick buildup of the Marines and the Army. That could allow new units to take the place of the brigades sent to Iraq to augment the current force.
"It is essential for the president to couple any recommendation of a significant surge in Iraq with the announcement that he will increase permanently the size of the Army and the Marines," Kagan said.
Kagan, who plans to release a preliminary report on his proposal Thursday, said he had discussed his ideas with people in the government. Although the military has had trouble meeting recruiting goals, Kagan said Army officials believed they could recruit at least an extra 20,000 soldiers a year. The Army missed its recruiting targets in 2005 but met this year's goal.
The troop-increase strategy faces substantial hurdles. Although both Democrats and Republicans have voiced support for increasing the overall size of the ground forces, key Democratic leaders are opposed to sending additional forces to Iraq.
Military leaders are also aware that the public has grown impatient. With a majority of the country favoring a timetable for withdrawal, a strategy to increase the number of troops in Iraq would have to include a plan to buy the military more time.
An increase in U.S. forces is not universally popular in the military. Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, has long argued that increasing the size of the force would be counterproductive, angering the very people the U.S. was trying to help.
Outside the Pentagon, in other corners of government, officials are skeptical that an increase in military power will end sectarian violence. James Dobbins, a former U.S. diplomat and advisor to the Iraq Study Group, said many Iraqis believed that U.S. forces put them in danger, rather than improving security.
"The American troop presence is wildly unpopular in Iraq," Dobbins said. "Any effort to double our bet will lead to ever more catastrophic results."
In other words, it's a freaking muddle. Nobody knows which way to go, up or down, in or out. The detritus from this lunatic policy, for which not a single neocon think tanker has paid in any real way, just keep coming. Two final, and grim points... first:
"You do not want to withdraw your troops until you achieve your mission," said Andrew Krepinevich, a counterinsurgency expert and director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "We are going to be in Iraq for a long, long time. It is going to be decades before Iraq can be left to its own devices without descending into a civil war."
And worst of all:
...inside the Pentagon, the study group's overall proposals are widely seen as a withdrawal plan — and a recipe for massive ethnic cleansing in Iraq. Some officers believe that because the U.S. invasion unleashed the ethnic strains, the blood spilled from larger-scale civil war would be on America's hands.
Damn straight. And I can be assured of it just based on some of the comments I get on this blog, not to mention my experiences out there in the world. In case you missed it, here's the transcript from Paula Zahn's short but serviceable special on race in America. And here is the priceless clip that includes a Vidor, Texas woman who gives new meaning to the word "hillbilly." Hint: you can't eat with us niggers if you don't have any teeth, mama... (Photo credit courtesy of LIFE Magazine. You'll want to read the caption.)
(Sigh.) You know, I'm with John McWhorter on one thing: I wouldn't want to live in Vidor, Texas, so they wouldn't have to worry about bringing out the Klan for me. But white people too easily write off the Vidors of the world as aberrant, and distant from them. You can't know racism exists if you don't want to know. And most white people don't want to know.
... in the Sean Bell shooting, the so-called "fourth suspect" who supposedly ran from the scene before or after the 50 shot barrage that killed the groom on his wedding day and wounded to other men, emerged as a late detail that supposedly justified the actions of the plain-clothes cops. But that brings up a logical question, which is asked by a New York Daily News columnist: if there was a fourth man, why was there no police to look for him on the night of the shooting?
In all the frantic police radio calls made in the first few hours after Sean Bell was killed, one thing was noticeably missing: There was not a single report of a fourth man fleeing the scene. No warning that someone might be armed, dangerous and on the loose.
No dragnet for the elusive "fourth man."
"There was no 'escaped perp' alert radioed by the cops involved and no Level 1 mobilization by NYPD afterward to find a man with a gun," a law enforcement source who reviewed the radio transmissions told the Daily News.
The source's statement directly contradicts initial reports that police conducted a search in the neighborhood for a fourth man after the shooting.
More details from the night of the shooting, courtesy of NYDN:
Videotapes obtained by cops from two surveillance cameras at the Port Authority's Jamaica Ave. AirTrain station a half block away from the shooting site reveal that one of the bullets fired by the five cops narrowly missed striking a civilian and two Port Authority patrolmen who were standing on the station's elevated platform.
None of the members of the surveillance team that was backing up the undercover cops in the Kalua Cabaret that night was wearing an NYPD raid jacket, and none of the three cars used by the nine-member team was equipped with a portable police light that could alert civilians they were police.
Because of a communication foulup, a female detective and a female investigator who were part of the backup team and parked on 95th Ave. - a block from the shooting - had no idea the other members of the team had moved in to make an arrest. After the shots erupted, the two female cops received a cell phone call from another team member that the shots involved their team. The female team members radioed a "10-13" [assist officer] call on their police radio, but they could not tell dispatchers their exact street location. They then raced to Liverpool St. by such a roundabout route that Internal Affairs investigators have dubbed theirs the "useless" car.
The firing of so many shots at Bell and his companions - all of them unarmed - immediately sparked a firestorm of questions. Black and Latino leaders were enraged by the dragnet that has swept southeast Queens ever since police investigators focused on an alleged fourth man.
Top NYPD officials have repeatedly said such a mystery man was seen getting into or out of Bell's car near the Kalua Cabaret and may have been armed. They say witnesses saw the man run from the scene after the shooting started.
In the week after the tragic incident, Queens cops conducted raids and arrests of several of Bell's friends, all on unrelated charges. They also detained for questioning several men who attended the bachelor party for Bell that night at the club. In each case, police grilled the men about Bell and the alleged fourth man.
If there was a fourth man with a gun, it would certainly bolster the claims of the five cops that they were justified in firing so many shots.
Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman, the wounded friends of Bell that survived, told investigators from the district attorney's office last week that there was no fourth man in or near their car.
Charlie King, an attorney for five civilian witnesses to the shooting, two of whom were picked up by police, called the police dragnet an attempt to intimidate his witnesses, all of whom had already agreed to talk to prosecutors.
I think it's safe to say that something is very, very fishy here.
I suppose it was kind of amusing that Nancy Pelosi's demographically correct choice to head the House intelligence committee instead of either her rival Jane Harman or the well qualified Alcee Hastings -- Silvestro Reyes of Texas -- can't tell a Sunni from a Shiite, or al-Qaida from a whole in a wall ... unless, of course, you actually want the intel community to do something about Iraq and about the war on terror.
But now, the issue of which groups are which is of vital importance to Iraqis, who are carrying two passports just to be prepared in case they're stopped by Shia or Sunni militias, and to the Bush administration, which is waist deep in a quagmire the president is dragging his damned feet figuring out a way out of (while American troops die at a 100 a month clip and Iraqis die at a rate of more than 100 a day...
Now, apparently, Team Cheney has come up with a solution: pick a winner -- the Shiites and Kurds -- marginalize the Sunnis and hope for the best. From the Indianapolis Star:
The administration seems to be leaning toward a more polite version of this "pick-a-winner" approach, which is to support the Shiite-led government and an Iraqi army that is overwhelmingly Shiite and Kurdish. Officials hope they can contain the sectarian fighting short of full-blown civil war and partition of the country. But with Khalilzad scheduled to return soon to Washington, probably to be replaced by veteran diplomat Ryan Crocker, the U.S. effort is likely to involve less "Sunni outreach" and more reliance on the Shiite majority and its elected government.
Somebody tell the majority Sunni Saudis, Egyptians, Jordanians and Syrians... Oh, did I mention the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. just suddenly got out of Dodge?
Another Bush idea under mull: go with McCain (now and in 2008?) and send in more troops, in a Lyndon Johnson-style escalation.
Ehud Olmert slips up and commits and act of truth, and the Israelis are mad at him, why? Why are they so intent on hiding the fact that they have nukes? Ashamed, perhaps, that they are flouting international nuclear conventions in much the same way as, say Pakistan and India did in the '90s, or the way the West says Iran is now? Hm?
In an interview with a German television station broadcast Monday, Olmert appeared to list Israel among the world's nuclear powers, violating the country's long-standing policy of not officially acknowledging that it has atomic weapons.
Asked by the interviewer about Iran's calls for the destruction of Israel, Olmert replied that Israel has never threatened to annihilate anyone.
"Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map," Olmert said. "Can you say that this is the same level, when you are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"
Israel, which foreign experts say has the sixth-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, has stuck to a policy of ambiguity on nuclear weapons for decades, refusing to confirm or deny whether it has them.
The comments came days after incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in testimony to a Senate committee, identified Israel as a nuclear power.
With Olmert's quote featured on the front pages of all of Israel's major papers Tuesday and with political rivals calling for his resignation, aides to Olmert - who was in Berlin Tuesday on a state visit - hurriedly said the remark had been misinterpreted.
Misinterpreted, meaning it could have been interpreted to mean that perhaps Israel's neighbors have a reason to want nukes ... because Israel has them?
Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin said the prime minister had been listing not nuclear states but "responsible nations."
"The prime minister stated clearly that Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East," Eisin said, adding that the quote had been "taken out of context."
Out of context? Won't be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East? But dear, you already have. Let's get to the meat of the matter:
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, of the hard-line Likud, another opposition party, said the comment could hurt Israel's attempt to get the international community to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Shalom said Olmert "gave tools" to Israel's enemies, allowing them to say, "Why are you dealing only with Iran while Israel is confirming that it has the same kind of weapons?"
Why indeed. This is the country that jailed one of its own nuclear scientists for 18 years for simply acknowledging publicly that the Israelis have such weapons, and which continues to hold him under virtual house arrest and bar him from leaving the country. Such democracy...
And the fundamental question is this: why should the world tolerate Israel's illicit possession of nuclear weapons any more than it tolerates such posession by Iran, Saudi Arabia or Egypt, all of whom are said to be pursuing nukes? Is there an inherent European and Jewish right to such weapons that excludes Muslims and Arabs, and if so, under what law does that rule exist?
George W. Bush is losing it. The signs are all there. He's stubbornly refusing to acknowledge, at least publicly, that his policy in Iraq has failed. He is only forcibly listening to the Iraq Study Group, military leaders, news reports and hell, at this point, Jesus himself could tell him that we're losing in Iraq and he would brush him off with one of those snarky wink and head nod things. Bush seems to be holding out for someone who will join him in unreality and tell him that there is still a way to win in Iraq, or as the new Bushspeak goes, to achieve "success." It isn't going to happen, Dubya. It's over. Deal with it. Start drinking again if you have to.
In 72 hours last week, a bipartisan commission harshly repudiated Bush's Iraq policy. Incoming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told senators the U.S. isn't winning the war. Then a British journalist snarkily asked at a White House press conference if Bush weren't "in denial" about Iraq.
For good measure, a new poll found only 27% of Americans back his Iraq policy, a new low. And a moderate GOP senator termed the policy "absurd" and possibly criminal.
"He'll be fine but he can't be doing very good," said a well-placed Bush source who talks with the President often. "It's been a terrible year, and it keeps getting worse."
Yet Bush is described by another recent visitor as still resolutely defiant, convinced history will ultimately vindicate him.
"I'll be dead when they get it right," he said during an Oval Office meeting last week.
Another Bush confidant, however, says the President reluctantly understands an Iraq course correction is mandatory:
"He is determined not to let Iraq go up in smoke and start a slaughter. But he knows something's got to give here. It just has to. We're going to start a pullout. The only question is when."
Despite the Democratic takeover of Capitol Hill and the steady cavalcade of grim news from Iraq, White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and political guru Karl Rove are busily overseeing Bush's State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 23.
Outside Republican sources report that except for isolated pockets of realism, the West Wing bunker hasn't yet absorbed Bush's diminished power.
"The White House is totally constipated," a former aide complained. "There's not enough adult leadership, and the 30-year-olds still think it's 2000 and they're riding high."
One White House assistant insisted to a friend last week that the election was merely a repudiation of Bush's execution, not his policies.
"They don't get it," a GOP mandarin snapped. "The Iraq report was their brass ring to pivot and salvage the last two years, and they didn't grab it."
Even if the chaos in Iraq subsides, prospects for other Bush accomplishments in the twilight of his term are difficult at best.
"Short of doing something on Iraq, there's not much good he can do anymore," a key Bush adviser conceded.
A senior Republican official who enjoys excellent relations with the White House was even more downbeat.
"We will get an immigration bill, and the President will make a valiant but doomed attempt at entitlement reform," he said. "But we are looking at two frustrating years of gridlock and several foreign policy failures."
And about Bush's meeting yesterday with former generals, including Barry McCaffrey and war hawk Wayne Downing, the WaPo reports:
President Bush heard a blunt and dismal assessment of his handling of Iraq from a group of military experts yesterday, but the advisers shared the White House's skeptical view of the recommendations made last week by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, sources said.
The three retired generals and two academics disagreed in particular with the study group's plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops in Iraq and to reach out for help to Iran and Syria, according to sources familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was private.
The White House gathering was part of a series of high-profile meetings Bush is holding to search for "a new way forward" amid the increasing chaos and carnage in Iraq. Earlier in the day, Bush met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other high-ranking officials at the State Department, where he was briefed on reconstruction and regional diplomatic efforts in Iraq.
The military experts met with Bush, Vice President Cheney and about a dozen aides for more than an hour. The visitors told the officials that the situation in Iraq is as dire as the study group had indicated but that alternative approaches must be considered, said one participant in the meeting. In addition, the experts agreed that the president should review his national security team, which several characterized as part of the problem.
"I don't think there is any doubt in his mind about how bad it is," the source said.
The group disagreed on the key issue of whether to send more troops to Iraq, with retired Gen. John M. Keane arguing that several thousand additional soldiers could be used to improve security in Baghdad, and others expressing doubt about that proposal, according to sources at the meeting. But the five agreed in telling Bush that the Army and Marine Corps both need to be bigger, and also need bigger budgets.
Did you catch Ken Adelman on MTP this weekend? He looked like the odd man out, not only for his light colored suit in a sea of grey (surrounded by Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post and "Fiasco" fame, Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haas, and military historian Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins University,) but also for his continued idealism and refusal to admit that he was wrong when he predicted a "cakewalk" in Iraq. Adelman says he was only referring to the toppling of Saddam. Indeed, Adelman's words from February of 2002 suggest a cakewalk in toppling Hussein:
I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps.
Gordon and O'Hanlon mention today's "400,000 active-duty troops in the Iraqi military" and especially the "100,000 in Saddam's more reliable Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard," which "would probably fight hard against the United States -- just as they did a decade ago during Desert Storm." Somehow I missed that. I do remember a gaggle of Iraqi troops attempting to surrender to an Italian film crew. The bulk of the vaunted Republican Guard either hunkered down or was held back from battle.
Today Iraqi forces are much weaker. Saddam's army is one-third its size then, in both manpower and number of divisions. It still relies on obsolete Soviet tanks, which military analyst Eliot Cohen calls "death traps." The Iraqi air force, never much, is half its former size.
Iraqi forces have received scant spare parts and no weapons upgrades. They have undertaken little operational training since Desert Storm.
Meanwhile, American power is much fiercer. The advent of precision bombing and battlefield intelligence has dramatically spiked U.S. military prowess. The gizmos of Desert Storm were 90-plus percent dumb bombs. Against the Taliban, more than 80 percent were smart bombs. Unmanned Predators equipped with Hellfire missiles and Global Hawk intelligence gathering did not exist during the first Iraqi campaign.
In 1991 we engaged a grand international coalition because we lacked a domestic coalition. Virtually the entire Democratic leadership stood against that President Bush. The public, too, was divided. This President Bush does not need to amass rinky-dink nations as "coalition partners" to convince the Washington establishment that we're right. Americans of all parties now know we must wage a total war on terrorism.
Adelman and company are bitterly blaming President Bush for the debacle in Iraq, forgetting that it was their damned idea in the first place. Remember Pat Buchanan's "pre-cooked meal?" Adelman was one of the chief cooks. Now he's among the main bottle breakers.
Iraqi ministries are spending as little as 15 percent of the 2006 capital budgets they received for the rebuilding — with some of the weakest spending taking place at the Oil Ministry, which relies on damaged and frequently sabotaged pipelines and pumping stations to move the oil that provides nearly all of the country’s revenues. In essence, the money is available — despite extensive sabotage, the oil money is flowing — but the Iraqi system has not been able to put it to work.
The country is facing this national failure to spend even as American financial support dwindles. Among reasons for the problems — like a large turnover in government personnel — is a strange new one: bureaucrats are so fearful and confused by anticorruption measures put in place by the American and Iraqi governments that they are afraid to sign off on contracts.
The inability to spend the money raises serious questions for the government, which has to demonstrate to citizens who are skeptical and suspicious of government corruption that it can improve basic services, and that at a time when American funds for reconstruction are being reduced, it can prove to other foreign donors that it can quickly put to use the money they may be willing to commit.
After the expenditure of roughly $22 billion in American taxpayer dollars on Iraq reconstruction, the increase of the Iraqi capital budget was seen by many as a sign that oil revenues could finally begin paying for the rebuilding, four years after Bush administration predictions that the country could afford the program on its own.
Meanwhile, the intrigue over the murder of former Russian Spy Alexander Litvenenko spreads to Germany,
The German authorities announced Sunday that they had begun a criminal investigation of a Russian businessman after finding traces of polonium 210 around Hamburg that date back to Oct. 28 — four days before he met in London with the former Russian spy who died after ingesting the radioactive substance.
The British police have so far found no evidence of polonium contamination in London earlier than the date of that meeting, Nov. 1. The Sunday announcement raised the possibility that the polonium was carried from Moscow to London by way of Germany.
It has also added to suspicions that the case is somehow connected to the shadowy world of agents and businessmen, defectors, spies and exiles let loose by the dissolution of the K.G.B., and still entwined with successor agencies.
Meanwhile the U.S. is using a super-secret method for sussing out Iran intel: Google!!!
And pop quiz!!! If you can't answer the question, "which sect of Islam do members of al-Qaida belong to?" you might be the man for House intelligence chief! But not you, Alcee Hastings and Jane Harman! No, not you two ... you know way too much... (Here you go, Mr. Reyes: Sunni vs. Shia Islam 101 ... and don't worry, it's a pretty quick read...)
Apparently if you're Princess Diana, we are. The Guardian reports:
The American secret service was bugging Princess Diana's telephone conversations without the approval of the British security services on the night she died, according to the most comprehensive report on her death, to be published this week. Among extraordinary details due to emerge in the report by former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Stevens is the revelation that the US security service was bugging her calls in the hours before she was killed in a car crash in Paris.
In a move that raises fresh questions over transatlantic agreements on intelligence-sharing, the surveillance arm of the US has admitted listening to her conversations as she stayed at the Ritz hotel, but failed to notify MI6. Stevens is understood to have been assured that the 39 classified documents detailing Diana's final conversations did not reveal anything sinister or contain material that might help explain her death. Scotland Yard's inquiry, published this Thursday, also throws up further intelligence links with the Princess of Wales on the night she died. The driver of the Mercedes, Henri Paul, was in the pay of the French equivalent of M15. Stevens traced £100,000 he had amassed in 14 French bank accounts though no payments have been linked to Diana's death.
Stevens's conclusion is that Diana, her companion Dodi Fayed, and Paul himself died in an accident caused by Paul driving too fast through the Pont de l'Alma underpass in Paris while under the influence of drink. The car was being pursued by photographers at the time.
Tests have confirmed that Paul was more than three times over the French drink-drive limit and was travelling at 'excessive' speed. The inquiry will quash a number of conspiracy theories that have circulated since 31 August 1997, among them that Diana was pregnant. It also found no evidence that the princess was planning to get engaged to Dodi, son of Mohamed Fayed.
The Harrods tycoon believes that Paul's blood samples were swapped to portray him as a drunk in an elaborate cover-up by the establishment to stop Diana marrying Dodi, a Muslim.
Stevens is expected to concede that while there was a mix-up it was an accident and that the original French post-mortem which found that Paul was three-times over the French drink-drive limit was correct.
Well that's another reason Tony Blair should stop being a punk and stand up to George W. Bush. Of course, his performance on Stephanopoulos this week convinces me that he can't come up from underneath Bush's buttocks, because he's just as deluded about "democratizing" Iraq as the president is.
In today's NYT, more evidence that George W. Bush is no longer living in the world of reality, but that he has instead retreated into a hermetic bubble of unreality, determined to forge "victory" in Iraq, even at the expense of bankrupting the treasury, breaking the military and sending more and more American troops to their deaths, or toward permanent maiming, all for a president desperate to hold back the tidal wave of defeat that even now, is washing over his policy in Iraq. From today's article by Jim Rutenberg and David Sanger:
In interviews over the last two days with officials from the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and foreign diplomats, President Bush and his top aides were described as deeply reluctant to follow the core strategy advocated by the study group: to pressure Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to rein in sectarian violence faced with reduced United States military and economic support.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has cautiously embraced that approach, several officials said, but others — including people in the National Security Council and the vice president’s office — argue that the risks are too high. “The worry is that the more Maliki is seen as our puppet, because he is abiding by our timelines and deadlines, the internal political dynamics will become so fragile that the whole government would collapse,” said one senior official participating in the internal review. “That would set us back a year.” A senior official said the administration was not near a “decision point” on how to go about influencing Mr. Maliki to move faster, and he said it was taking seriously some of the report’s suggestions.
But in interviews, senior administration officials, who would not be quoted by name because Mr. Bush has made no final decisions about how to deal with the Iraq panel’s recommendations, questioned the study group’s assertions that Iran had an interest in helping to stabilize the situation in Iraq, or that it made sense to start negotiations with Iran without conditions. And they took issue with the decision by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and the nine other members of the commission to make no mention of promoting democracy as an American goal in the Middle East, and to drop any suggestion that “victory” was still possible in Iraq when they presented their findings to Mr. Bush and to the public on Wednesday.
“You saw that the president used the word ‘victory’ again the next day,” said one of Mr. Bush’s aides. “Believe me, that was no accident.”
The administration’s inclination to dismiss so many of the major findings of the bipartisan group sets the stage for what could become a titanic struggle over Iraq policy. Just two months ago, administration officials were saying that they believed the findings by the panel headed by Mr. Baker and Lee H. Hamilton, a former congressman, would be all but written in stone — and that Mr. Bush would have little choice but to carry out most of them. But in recent weeks, the White House sought to describe the panel’s role as that of one advisory group among many.
Meanwhile, Andrea Mitchell aired the obvious, in stating on Chris Matthews' show (with David Gregory sitting in) that the ISG had crafted its recommendations with a key goal in mind: shrinking the U.S. trrop presence significantly, in time for the 2008 New Hampshire primary. That means the White House will have to fight not only the realists in Washington, but also the politicians of his own party, who see their chances of rebounding in 2008 melting away with every body bag that returns home from Baghdad. As former WH chief of staff Andy Card told the Times reporters for their story, “The president’s obligations sometimes require him to be very lonely.” Indeed, and so, sometimes, to his psychoses... More from the story:
Mr. Bush has empowered the “Crouch Group,” a small group of advisers being coordinated by Jack D. Crouch II, the deputy national security adviser, to assemble alternative proposals from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department, the Treasury Department and staff of the National Security Council.
The administration’s strategy appears to be: Adopt parts of the recommendations that are under way already, or that are considered minor modifications of those efforts, and pick away at those that the administration believes imply retreat or folly. For example, the administration is embracing a recommendation that it put energy into reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Ms. Rice is planning a trip to the region early next year, and the administration says it plans to build on a new initiative by Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert. Similarly, officials have described the report’s call for the creation of an “Iraq International Support Group” as a natural expansion of two regional forums that Ms. Rice has already met with several times, an economic cooperation group called the “Compact for Iraq” and the “Gulf Plus Two” group, which includes the Gulf Cooperation Council, plus Egypt and Jordan.
But other recommendations are being cast as overly optimistic. For example, while White House and Pentagon officials note that they are already embedding additional trainers and advisers in Iraqi units, they expressed deep skepticism that the force of 4,000 advisers could be rapidly increased to the 10,000 to 20,000 envisioned in the report. As a result, they said, they doubted it would be possible to pull back all 15 American combat brigades from Iraq’s streets and towns by the first quarter of 2008, the goal in the panel’s report.
Not a good look for the GOP in 2008...
And by the way, Australia has already said it would not participate in the embedding program, and for all his boy in the bubble talk on Stephanopoulos' show today, Tony Blair is even now preparing to yank much of Britain's force commitment out of the Iraqi hell hole.
Mr. Bush seems to be embracing the notions of the farthest fringe of his supporters, who still demand "total victory" in Iraq, even as the rest of the sane world has accepted the fact that such victory is no longer possible, if in fact it ever was. And the real laugher is the way in which the ISG's findings are being dismissed: because they are not "realistic" enough. Ha! I'm with this guy:
“Given the track record these guys in the White House have, you would think they would show a little humility about taking aboard some outside ideas,” said one Republican member of the commission who spoke on condition of anonymity.
You sure said it, anonymous. One more bite:
One foreign diplomat, who requested anonymity because he was discussing American deliberations, said one strategy being considered would include dividing the labor between American and Iraqi forces — with Americans focusing on hunting down elements of Al Qaeda, and the Iraqi forces focusing more on sectarian clashes. The Iraq Study Group report leaves open the possibility of a temporary increase in forces, and envisions a similar role for the United States in seeking out Al Qaeda.
An administration official said that such a division of labor could not be so black and white. And Vice President Dick Cheney is said to be urging caution in dealing with the Shiite and Sunni factions, concerned that the administration avoid signaling that the Shiites would be abandoned as they were at the end of the Persian Gulf war.
So the U.S. combat strengh will be concentrated on hunting down the factions that make up fewer than 5% of the violent groups in Iraq, while the weak, sectarian Iraqi armies will go after the remaining 95%? Them and what army???
Meanwhile, Iraq continues to descend into unimaginable chaos, as Tom Ricks reports that much of the middle class has fled, leaving only "the men of the gun" -- and they're getting U.S. issued guns at premium prices in Iraq's increasing status as arms bazaar and wild west shooting gallery.
Talabani was particularly critical of the 96-page report's recommendations for more centralized control of Iraq's oil wealth, embedding thousands of U.S. troops with Iraq's security forces to advise and speed up their training and legislation to allow thousands of people from Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath party to return to their jobs, according to news reports.
"I think that the report is unjust and unfair and contains some dangerous articles which reduce the sovereignty of Iraq and its constitution, and it is against the long struggle of the Iraqi people against dictatorship," Talabani said, according to a Washington Post translation of a statement provided by his office. Talabani made his comments in a meeting with reporters.
He said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should control the county's security forces without requiring U.S. authorization.
"What will be left of the Iraqi sovereignty if the Iraqi army becomes a tool in the hand of foreign officers who came form abroad?" Talabani said.
Talabani also said the report gives the impression its authors believe Iraq is a "colony" to be dealt "as they will."
Sen. Joe Biden, on Stephanopoulos toda, helpfully pointed out that the Kurds don't like the proposal because they want Kirkuk, and the report blocks the way. (Baker has long ties to the Saudis, who are Sunni, and the report seems to be rubbing Shiites and Kurds the wrong way because it appears to call for protection and favoritism toward the despised Sunnis, who benefited under Saddam, and who, by the way, represent the majority in nearly every country that surrounds Iraq. Did I mention that many of these Sunni countries, including Saudi Arabia, repress their Shia minorities?)
Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans now believe that the Iraq debacle will end in a "clear-cut victory" (which leads me to wonder what that 9 percent are smoking, and whether they're sharing it with President Bush...) Just 27 percent approve of the president's handling of the war, according to a new AP-Ipsos poll. Welcome to the new world order.
... apparently, before his death he converted to Islam... Allah Pundit's gonna just love that... From the German press:
dpa German Press Agency Published: Thursday December 7, 2006
By Anna Tomforde, London- The first chapter in the increasingly entangled tale surrounding the death of Alexander Litvinenko closed Thursday as the former Russian spy took his secrets to his grave in a London cemetery where Karl Marx is buried. Close friends and family gathered at Highgate West cemetery in North London to lay the 43-year-old to rest in a special airtight coffin, chosen to prevent the escape of the radioactive poison that killed the former KGB agent on November 23.
The dead man himself added another facet to the bizarre circumstances of his spy thriller life and death with the revelation that he had converted to Islam.
Accordingly, relatives and friends joined other Muslims for midday prayers in the Central London Mosque in Regent's Parks at lunchtime Thursday, before they proceeded to a "private non-religious service" at the cemetery in the north London district where Litvinenko lived.
Litvinenko's aging father, Valter, his mother, Nina Belyavskaya, and his first wife, Natalia, were among some 30 relatives and friends who travelled from Russia to attend the funeral. ...
... Among those present at the mosque, and the funeral, were Litivinenko's close friends, including former Chechen separatist Akhmed Zakayev, the exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky, the filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov and a number of other London-based Kremlin critics.
Following his defection to London in 2000, Litvinenko became a protege of Berezovsky, the Russian tycoon who fell out with the Kremlin, and who believed that he owed his life to Litvinenko.
The former spy alleged publicly in Moscow in 1999 that he had been "ordered to liquidate" Berezovsky in London.
The then head of the secret services that allegedly gave the order was Vladmir Putin, now the Russian President.
If this is the only thing the Democratic Congress accomplishes in its first, vauted 100 hours, I for one will be more than satisfied:
WASHINGTON - President Bush's victory in getting the rules he wanted to try suspected terrorists could be diminished.
The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee signaled this week that he'll join prominent Democrats in seeking to restore legal rights to hundreds of suspected terrorists confined at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.
While the measure to restore the right of habeas corpus has almost no chance of passing before Congress adjourns later this week, the message is clear: When Democrats take over in early January, the issue could resurface.
The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which Bush signed into law in October, prevents detainees who aren't U.S. citizens from challenging their detentions in civilian courts. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who voted for the legislation despite his opposition to stripping such rights from detainees, on Tuesday reintroduced legislation to restore those rights. A similar measure sponsored by Specter failed by three votes in October.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Specter said he was reintroducing the issue to prevent federal courts from striking down the legislation, which some of the detainees' attorneys have challenged.
But some lawmakers privately speculated that Specter may have decided to reintroduce the legislation after a recent article in the New Yorker magazine suggested that his desire to retain his powerful committee chairmanship led him to go along with the administration's wishes.
Specter on Tuesday repeated his contention that the act violates the Constitution.
"The Constitution of the United States is explicit that habeas corpus may be suspended only in time of rebellion or invasion," Specter said on the floor. "We are suffering neither of those alternatives at the present time. We have not been invaded, and there has not been a rebellion. That much is conceded."
His co-sponsor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who'll become chairman of the Judiciary Committee when the Democrats take over in January, noted that the effort to secure habeas appeals for all detainees failed by only three votes.
Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America described the pregnancy as "unconscionable."
"It's very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father," said Crouse, a senior fellow at the group's think tank. "They are encouraging people who don't have the advantages they have."
Crouse said there was no doubt that the news would, in conservatives' eyes, be damaging to the Bush administration, which already has been chided by some leaders on the right for what they felt was halfhearted commitment to anti-abortion and anti-gay-rights causes in this year's general election.
Carrie Gordon Earll, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family, expressed empathy for the Cheney family but depicted the pregnancy as unwise.
"Just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, one-man marriage doesn't mean it's a good idea," Earll said. "Love can't replace a mother and a father."
Psstt!! Dubya!! You should also note that the love of the Christian right isn't that easy to replace either.
LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- Comedy Central has ordered "Lil' Bush: Resident of the United States," a cartoon satire that re-imagines President Bush and key executives in his administration as elementary school misfits.
The title character is surrounded by close pals like Lil' Cheney, who grumbles unintelligibly, and Lil' Condi, who pines for Lil' Bush and does his homework for him.
"Bush" is not without its risque moments. When Lil' Bush's school serves falafel instead of hot dogs for lunch in one episode, he and his pals torture the cafeteria employees with methods made famous during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
Six episodes from writer-producer Donick Cary ("The Simpsons") have been ordered to air on Comedy Central next year. ...
The cartoon is an adaptation from an Amp'd Mobile cartoon. Nice.
... that was the quote from NBC's Tim Russert this afternoon, referring to what he says a senior Republican told him on condition of anonymity. The unnamed official was talking about the Iraq war, and the neoconservative dream of building a democratic foothold in the Middle East. The pronouncement came as the Iraq Study Group finally released its report, which contains 96 pages of bad news for the Bush administration, and 72 ideas for getting us out of there by early 2008, leaving only a contingent of embedded military trainers and advisors behind. The report contains key recommendations, including talking with other nations in the region (I suppose if Syria was good enough to help us during the first Gulf War and fine enough for the current president to render our secret prisoners to, we could probably stand to chat with them about their neighbor, Iraq...), foregoing any idea of permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, and threatening the Iraqi government with quicker pullouts of troops and funding if they don't get their act together.
Bill Kristol, of all people, is calling the document "deeply irresponsible," because it "presents no military options" for "achieving our goals in Iraq." Well that's probably becasue there are no military options, and nobody but George W. Bush and perhaps his dog and his psychiatrist know what in the name of God our goals are at this point. And I suppose Kristol's idea of a "responsible" document might be, oh, one of the PNAC missives, which call for the overthrow of a secular dictatorship in the heart of Babylon in hopes that the Shia minority once unleashed with lay down like lambs with their Sunni tormentors in one big festival of secular brotherhood (cue the sweeties and flowers). Yeah, that was some pretty responsible reportage there, Kristol. Now kindly shut up and stop making an ass of yourself on television.
One sign that the report is probably as close to on target as we can expect for now, the neocons like Kristol (and the Bush-bots on right wing idiot radio) hate it. Good. Now all we need is someone to lock the president in a closet until he cries uncle and agrees to at least have someone literate read it to him. You don't have to lock yourself in a closet to read it, though, you can simply download the pdf file here.
(BTW 10 more troops were killed in two separate incidents in Iraq today. Just let's you know how well things are going, Fox News...
What does Congress's love child with the Axis of Evil look like? A James Baker-Lee Hamilton press conference. Having plowed my way through the dreariness of the report, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of disgust. I could have written this report twelve months ago, knowing who was involved. In essence, the report calls on the United States to capitulate to its enemies, abandon its friends, and blame Israel.
In one of the worst days in America since we abandoned Viet Nam, America is once again about to capitulate from a position of strength. I am, at the moment, ashamed of my country's Politicians...deeply ashamed.
You're just getting there now? Welcome to the real world, buddy.
La not-so-dolce Malkin serves up links to other rightie commentators, but she skips the most salient part of this commentary by Andrew McCarthy of the National Review:
So, no, says the president. We are staying in Iraq until we win. Great. But what is winning? What is the “victory” we are seeking?
On this, there is no consensus. That is why Americans have soured on Iraq. History proves that the American people have plenty of stomach for a hard fight, however long it takes, if they understand and believe in what we are fighting for. And this, consequently, is where history will condemn the Bush administration.
Leadership, too often, has been rudderless. After 9/11, the president deployed our armed forces but told the American people the best thing they could do was go on with their lives — go shopping, lest the terrorists win. There was no sense of shared sacrifice. No stressing that the nation as a whole had a vested interest in facing down not just a relative handful of terrorists but a fundamentalist ideology, shared by millions, calling remorselessly for our destruction.
Our military, alone, was left to bear the burdens. The 9/11 attacks were left to speak for themselves … and they faded from elite memory in about the time it took for habitués of the New York Times’ West 43rd Street offices to forget those two tall buildings they used to gaze on from their windows.
Perhaps worse, after rallying and winning reelection strictly because Americans trusted him more than Sen. Kerry to protect our security, the president went dark. From November 2004 until the middle of the following year, President Bush, leading a nation at war, was virtually mum on the subject. There were political reasons for this — there always are. We hadn’t found Saddam’s weapons; addressing the war risked reminding the public of intelligence failures and premature “mission accomplished” bravado; the administration wanted to use its pre-lame-duck months to focus on Social Security, immigration, and the rest of its legislative agenda; and so on.
On Iraq, the president decided his reelection meant he had already won the argument. But when you’re at war, and you’re the president, you’ve got to win the argument every day. If you’re not winning it, you’re losing it … and with it the public support essential to war-fighting.
So, facing down his critics, the president insists we will stay and “win.” The problem is: His vision of winning is a stable, democratic Iraq — something Americans would not have gone to war over in the first place. Sure, it is an outcome we should all devoutly wish to see some day. But it is not something we would have sent American troops to Iraq to die for, any more than we would send them, say, to Sudan — particularly when the case has never been made that either stability or democracy in the Middle East will make the United States safer.
The “more troops” enthusiasts want to stanch Iraq’s ever bloodier sectarian strife. But Sunnis and Shia have been slaughtering each other intermittently for fourteen centuries. The thought that we infidels are going to put an end to that is as foolishly presumptuous as the pipedream that we will anytime soon achieve “two states living peacefully side-by-side” in Israel and “Palestine” — the latter’s existence being dedicated to annihilation of the former.
I'm with you up to the Palestinian bashing part, Andrew, and then we part ways here, at the paragraph Ms. Malkin liked best:
There is only one good reason for American troops to be in Iraq. It is the reason we sent them there in 2003: To fight and win the “war on terror” — i.e., the war against radical Islam — by deposing rogue regimes helping the terror network wage a long-term, existential jihad against the United States. You can argue that Iraq was the wrong rogue to start with; but destroying radical Islam’s will and its capacity to project power is what the war is about.
... yes, except that the war on terror never had anything to do with Iraq. Shia and Sunni slaughtering each other, as you just said a couple paragraphs ago, does not the war on terror make. Sunnis and/or Shia slaughtering us, now that's what the war on terror was supposed to be about, right? There is no "long-term existential jihad" being waged against the United States from inside Iraq. They're fighting each other to get hold of the oil and the government, and they're fighting us to get us to leave so they can get back to killing each other over the oil. What part of "civil war" don't these wingers understand...?
Back to a good point by Mr. McCarthy:
The “victory” President Bush talks about in Iraq involves successfully propping up a Shiite-dominated government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. An Islamic fundamentalist, Maliki, in his 23 years of exile from Saddam’s Iraq, ran the “jihad office” for the radical Dawa party in Damascus — a party with deep, historic ties to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, and which is suspected of complicity in the 1983 bombing of the United States embassy in Kuwait.
On to the Wizbangers!
They link to two wrist-slashing missives (one, two) from the vacant lot that is becoming the neocon right (who was that at Wizbang who snarkified about "thinkers" versus "linkers"...? But I digress... First, Ben Shapiro asks: WILL WE EVER WIN ANOTHER WAR??? And Rick Moran moans:
Today is the day that the Iraq Study Group will deliver its not so secret recommendations on how we can best pull out of Iraq without leaving behind a bloody mess, regional chaos, increased Iranian influence, and a helpless, toothless, Iraqi government dominated by theocrats and thugs.
This is our new battle cry; "We must mitigate defeat!"
Stirring, isn't it? Not quite the ring that "Remember the Alamo" has but then, this is the 21st century and such patriotic and emotional displays are frowned upon by the blue blooded "wise men" of the ISG who have labored long and hard to produce this recipe for American retreat.
And that was before he read the report! To that, Wizbang's crazy Aunt Kim retorts: "The only acceptable outcome is total victory!!!" (done in her best Weimar Republic.) Ok, Kimmie, kindly explain to us, and hell, to your own side... what "victory" entails... or just keep spouting those cute platitudes to the Bush-bots. Either way works for me.
So basically the ISG wants us to stand down in one year even though there's no evidence that the Iraqis are ready to stand up. The issue here is less the combat capability of the Iraqis (although that's a concern) than the fact that the Iraqi government, which will control its military, does not appear committed to key U.S. objectives such as fighting pro-Iranian militias (of course our "peace partners" in Iran will be fine with that). Thus, the U.S. needs to maintain a substantial military presence for purposes largely independent of supporting Iraqi military objectives.
I'll reserve final judgment until I've read the the whole thing. But right now, this report looks like the worst of all possible worlds -- give up in Iraq over the course of one year and make concessions to Iran and Syria on the way out. I think I'd prefer an old-fashioned surrender.
"The Iraqi government is not committed to key U.S. objectives"??? Do you even read the stuff you post on your blog, man? Sheesh...
And now to my favorite rightie, RightWingNuthouse. He writes:
What could be significant about the ISG is that they may have initiated a change in the national conversation about Iraq. By painting such a dire picture of what is happening there and pointing out the catastrophe that is in the making, while establishing themselves as a bi-partisan voice, perhaps we can get away from this stupid, self defeating back and forth about “blame” which only scores political points and matters not a bit to what needs to be done, and start working together to figure out how we’re going to get out of this mess without blowing up the world in the process. ...
... Baker botched it. Giving a baseball analogy, he made sure he didn’t strike out by trying for a single when he should have risked it all and gone for the home run. His greatest fear evidently was that Bush would ignore their recommendations. That should have been the least of his worries. Bush resides somewhere between fanatasyland (“We’re winning”) and the river denial. The only way to shake the CIC out of this stupor would have been to dazzle him. Instead, Bush is perfectly comfortable with saying that the ISG is only one avenue in the way forward and that he has other choices. ...
Proving again the irony of his blogname.
At the end of the day, I doubt the report will be seen as some magical turning point in the war in Iraq. But it does, I think, create room for Republicans in Washington to finally exhale, and finally admit that, as Russert's secret source said, "it is over." The dream of creating some model of democracy in Iraq is over. Bush's idiodic experiment with neocon fantasy military baseball is over. The notion that we will rule Iraq as some sort of oil proxy / neocon tinkering lab where they can try out all the wierd societal and monetary experiments the voters won't allow them to try here is over. And probably, so is the notion that we can some how emerge from Iraq looking "victorious." As RWNH put it, the best we can hope for -- and all Americans, whatever our party, should hope for it for the sake of our country, not for the sake of this failed president -- is that we can leave Iraq with something like our dignity intact, and without allowing the region to plunge further into chaos.
Yep. We're fighting them over there to mitigate disaster everywhere. Deal with it.
Take a drink every time the president uses the word "fabulous" ... here's your first go:
"'I'm not happy about it,' Bush said in a one-minute appearance with Bolton before cameras in the Oval Office. 'I think he deserved to be confirmed. And the reason why I think he deserved to be confirmed is because I know he did a fabulous job for the country.'" (Bush on John Bolton's resignation as forced U.N. ambassador)
Okay, Tony Snow, you may need to tell yourself (and that guy in the bubble you work for) that Robert Gates didn't say we're not winning the war in Iraq, but it looks like reality is having the best week ever! ... even if it had to come from an Iran-Contra guy. Hey, has anybody broken it to Bob that Noriega's back in office in Nicaragua? Enjoy your new job, man!
Perhaps because as every day ticks by, the haunting realization dogs him that had the son he wept for this week in Florida -- Gov. Jeb Bush -- won his gubernatorial race in 1994, and had George W. lost in Texas that year, he might have a son in the White House who would at least uphold the family name and honor with a reputation for competence and ideological consistency, if not compassion or brilliance or whatever elusive quality was possessed by the Great Men of the White House.
And Bush I surely knows that for all his faults, and his penchant for the family foible of authoritarianism and testiness, Jebbie is a man who gets things done, or who at least appears to. Jeb's accomplishments in Florida, while wildly divisive (big tax cuts for corporations, giving away the store to the big insurance companies, sapping Medicaid, including cutting off little retarded kids, a massive, onerous school testing regime and the erasure of affirmative action by decree,) he managed to get them done (along with one good thing: he staved off the family yen for oil drilling by keeping Exxon and friends away from the Florida coast.) And even those who loathe Jeb admit he is an intelligent man, very good at hurricane follow-up, and able to make things happen in a legislature controlled by his own party (often by bullying, but hey, it's politics...) So a Jeb version of the Iraq war -- not to mention the Katrina aftermath -- surely would have gone down far differently, for the family, for the country.
Instead, George Herbert Walker Bush can look forward to spending his dotage knocking around the globe with his new son, Bill Clinton (who at least seems to defer to and even dote on him,) helping Junior build a presidential library at his wife's alma mater (with $500 million in Saudi cash) out of a few tattered copies of "My Pet Goat" and that picture of him on Air Force One flying away from the burning twin towers in New York to safety somewhere in the Midwest on 9/11 (or the one of him flying way over New Orleans well after the point where it would have mattered following Katrina), and trying to block out the nightmarish reality that at the end of the day, he may be best remembered for being a good humanitarian in his presidential afterlife, paired with Clinton, whom he once despised ... for beating Saddam Hussein in Kuwait before his son screwed it up in Iraq, and for being the father of the worst ... president... in U.S. history. ... Ever ... Everrrrrrr. Here's historian Eric Foner from this Sunday's WaPo historian op-ed-a-pallooza:
At a time of national crisis, Pierce and Buchanan, who served in the eight years preceding the Civil War, and Johnson, who followed it, were simply not up to the job. Stubborn, narrow-minded, unwilling to listen to criticism or to consider alternatives to disastrous mistakes, they surrounded themselves with sycophants and shaped their policies to appeal to retrogressive political forces (in that era, pro-slavery and racist ideologues). Even after being repudiated in the midterm elections of 1854, 1858 and 1866, respectively, they ignored major currents of public opinion and clung to flawed policies. Bush's presidency certainly brings theirs to mind.
Harding and Coolidge are best remembered for the corruption of their years in office (1921-23 and 1923-29, respectively) and for channeling money and favors to big business. They slashed income and corporate taxes and supported employers' campaigns to eliminate unions. Members of their administrations received kickbacks and bribes from lobbyists and businessmen. "Never before, here or anywhere else," declared the Wall Street Journal, "has a government been so completely fused with business." The Journal could hardly have anticipated the even worse cronyism, corruption and pro-business bias of the Bush administration.
Despite some notable accomplishments in domestic and foreign policy, Nixon is mostly associated today with disdain for the Constitution and abuse of presidential power. Obsessed with secrecy and media leaks, he viewed every critic as a threat to national security and illegally spied on U.S. citizens. Nixon considered himself above the law.
Bush has taken this disdain for law even further. He has sought to strip people accused of crimes of rights that date as far back as the Magna Carta in Anglo-American jurisprudence: trial by impartial jury, access to lawyers and knowledge of evidence against them. In dozens of statements when signing legislation, he has asserted the right to ignore the parts of laws with which he disagrees. His administration has adopted policies regarding the treatment of prisoners of war that have disgraced the nation and alienated virtually the entire world. Usually, during wartime, the Supreme Court has refrained from passing judgment on presidential actions related to national defense. The court's unprecedented rebukes of Bush's policies on detainees indicate how far the administration has strayed from the rule of law.
Ouch. Still, it's not like mean things about the Dubya presidency havn't been said before. Historians have had Dubya gunning for James Buchanan's spot at the bottom of the presidential pile for a while now. But the latest bashfest had to have a special sting for the old man, who has recently found a new son who actually seems to need him, and as he watches his favorite boy end his political career (at least for now), well short of the mark he and the family had envisioned for him.
Which leads me to my favorite "Bush as worst president ever" headline: Bush: At least he’s not Nixon. And that's one of the kinder articles. A clip:
Comparisons of presidents across different eras are typically the stuff of parlor games, not serious historical study. But if anyone can be said to deserve the mantle of the worst, it's Nixon. Indeed, looking at his disastrous presidency may help put Bush's failures in perspective.
Like Bush, Nixon fancied himself a "wartime" president in the manner of Franklin D. Roosevelt and therefore entitled to deference in the face of a national emergency -- a view at odds with how most Americans see these controversial, far-off conflicts. And while the oft-cited analogies between the Vietnam and Iraq wars tend to be glib, each conflict has significantly determined its president's reputation. Like Nixon, Bush has heeded Henry Kissinger's advice not to withdraw from a quagmire, preferring to brand critics cowards or traitors. Like Nixon, Bush has also sought to conceal from the public the full scope of the U.S. commitment. Under blanket assertions of "national security" meant to end public debate, he has used Nixonian wiretapping to achieve his ends. These decisions will surely stain his legacy.
But can we conclude that Bush's war policy is worse than Nixon's? However toxic the fallout from Iraq, it's hard to imagine that it could greatly exceed the damage wrought by Vietnam, the wounds from which are still raw 30 years later, as its role in the 2004 presidential election showed. (On the other hand, Nixon can't be blamed for starting his war, whereas Bush initiated his -- albeit with substantial backing from Democrats.) Bush's view of power and his iron-fisted manner of governance also come from the Nixon playbook. Karl Rove, who headed the College Republicans during Watergate, sought to complete Nixon's mission of building a permanent Republican majority. In Nixonian fashion, the Bush-Rove strategy has been to use bullying to stifle opposition: demonizing the news media, discrediting policy experts, disdaining the separation of powers. Bush's theory of a "unitary" executive power is little more than a restatement of a Nixon utterance: "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."
But again, if Bush has given Nixon good chase when it comes to undemocratic hardball politics, he hasn't surpassed the master. Nixon's belief in the inherent legality of his own actions led him to authorize burglaries and approve criminal acts -- paying hush money, trying to get the CIA to lie to the FBI -- to thwart the Watergate investigation. And these were only the most well-known and well-documented of the counts against him in the articles of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974.
Yes, there's the fact that Bush didn't authorize actual burglaries. Cold comfort, I'm sure, to the man who scratched and strove to become Nixon's vice president, only to lose out to that milquetoast Gerald Ford... Such a life. So many disappointments.
It's enough to almost make you pity the old man. Or at least to see why he was sobbing.
Oh, and check the letters to the editor from E&P. Some of them are downright brutal. And there was one op-ed saying Bush could rebound with the benefit of time, but the guy who wrote it used to be a Bush flak ...er... speechwriter, so reprinting that would be like getting your Iraq information from Fox News, and who needs that?
WASHINGTON - Unable to win Senate confirmation, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment expires within weeks, the White House said Monday.
Bolton’s nomination has languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a year, blocked by Democrats and several Republicans. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a moderate Republican who lost in the midterm elections Nov. 7 that swept Democrats to power in both houses of Congress, was adamantly opposed to Bolton.
Critics have questioned Bolton’s brusque style and whether he could be an effective bureaucrat who could force reform at the U.N.
...The White House resubmitted Bolton’s nomination last month. But with Democrats capturing control of the next Congress, his chances of winning confirmation appeared slight. The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, said he saw “no point in considering Mr. Bolton’s nomination again.”
While Bush could not give Bolton another recess appointment, the White House was believed to be exploring other ways of keeping him in the job, perhaps by giving him a title other than ambassador. But Bolton informed the White House he intended to leave when his current appointment expires, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.
Or maybe they could not do so and say they did! Syonara!