When Dick Cheney mounted his full-throated defense of the previous administration's national security state at the curiously named American Enterprise Institute this afternoon, he made his core argument (that the Bush-Cheney torture and surveillance programs should be praised by a grateful nation, not shunned and despised by phony moralists who don't seem to mind when Jack Bauer does it...) based on a set of facts that are no longer operative. [Illustration at left by Rex Lameray]
Cheney continued to make the case that he ... I mean President Bush ... did what had to be done after 9/11 in order to thwart another -- imminent -- attack on America. They had to waterboard the bad guys you see -- and make no mistake, these weren't balerinas they were near-drowning -- because no one at the time knew when or where the next attack was coming. And it was coming. It's always coming... a few hundred turns on the waterboard and a mock burial or two later, the attack never came. See how well that worked?
But Dick Cheney didn't mention that today, nor did he bother to defend it. He didn't have to. The media has so thoroughly set aside the stunning revelations in the previous paragraph, that Cheney doesn't even feel the need to bring it up. He is free to continue arguing his case on pre-May 13 thinking, and he knows he'll get away with it. After all, who's going to stop him ... the "media?" The vast majority of the Washington press corps has long since lost interest in the subject of how, and why, we got into Iraq. And as NBC's Mark Murray all-but admitted today, the mainstream press spends more time helping the GOP out with their media strategy than rethinking their credulous assent on the Iraq war. ... The Obama administration? They're all about "moving forward." ... Congress? Don't make me laugh. They're too scared of the vanishing right's mysterious power to cow them on national security issues even to vote for the money to close Guantanamo, and they can't even build up the spinal fluid to move forward on a truth commission. The American people??? I'm sure Dick, who was too scared to fight in Vietnam but is clearly not afraid of YOU, would simply say, "good luck with that."
The goal of the GOP attacks on Nancy Pelosi, which have succeeded in leading the credulous media down a pointless path, is clear: to kill any real investigation into Bush-Cheney-era torture, because such an investigation would inevitably lead to the conclusion that torture was not employed to save Americans from a "ticking time bomb," but rather, to produce false confessions tying Iraq to al-Qaida, to back fill a justification for the war. Watch Fox News work the plan:
There are exactly FOUR TV/cable reporters covering the torture for war bombshell, and all four of them are on MSNBC: Here's one of them: David Shuster:
The others are Chris Matthews, who is interviewing former NBC investigative producer David Windrem tonight, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. The rest of the collective Washington-New York media are fixated -- obsessed even -- over the Republican distraction story about Nancy Pelosi. Human events and others are now even embracing the fact that what was done was torture, so long as they can tie it to Pelosi.
I hope someone will ask him about the emerging evidence that despite his increasingly desperate attempts to shape history, the Bush-Cheney torture program was not about protecting Americans from an imminent "ticking time bomb" attack -- but rather was a sadistic attempt to falsify, and then shore up the falsified, case for invading Iraq. The evidence is everywhere. Plain as day.
We tortured Abu Zubaydah 83 times in one month to try to get him to falsely confess a link, and this after he had been cooperating with FBI interrogators...
We tortured the now very dead Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi to force him to confess to a link -- and he did. Per Andrew Sullivan:
...Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was first captured by the US and tortured by CIA surrogates in an Egyptian cell. Apparently, they beat him and put him in a coffin for 17 hours as a mock-burial. To end the severe mental and physical suffering, he confessed that Saddam had trained al Qaeda terrorists in deploying WMDs. This evidence was then cited by Colin Powell as part of the rationale for going to war in Iraq.
You'd think that given the serial bombshells that dropped from the Senate Arms Services Committee report, that the chair of that committee, whose name has become synonymous with the bombshells, would have been a prime booking for the Sunday chat shows. Instead, the debates over the "Levin Report" were confined mainly to the pundits, who were content to debate the vagueries of "politicizing policy," rather than the concrete lawbreaking and outrageous descent from civilization that torture represents.
Levin appeared on just one program: Fox News Sunday, and even there, what would seem to be the most relevant question of all was never asked. That question was framed by Frank Rich on Sunday:
The [Levin] report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.” As higher-ups got more “frustrated” at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, “there was more and more pressure to resort to measures” that might produce that intelligence.
In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.
But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus “intelligence” from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.
In short, to a show, and to a reporter, the media have treated the Levin report as if its most important finding was that waterboarding took place. Well, we already knew that. What we didn't know, and what the media has to date, almost completely erased from the coverage, is that the waterboarding was confined to so-called "high value detainees" of a very specific sort: men who the Bush administration must have considered credible witnesses to a lie (if only they could torture them enough to get them to tell it) ... namely, that an invasion of Iraq would be justified because Saddam Hussein was somehow complicit in 9/11. As Rich, who was the only member of the media, to my knowledge, who even brought up this incredible set of facts (and by the way Levin, who told Rich plainly that the torture for false information scenario was accurate, didn't bring it up on his own, either...) sums up:
Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to “protect” us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from “another 9/11,” torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House’s illegality.
And yet, that is the very possibility the media is, en masse, refusing to contemplate. You've really got to wonder why.
Torture, secret detentions and Europe strikes back
On the radar today:
It's not just Spain. Other NATO allies are considering perusing torture prosecutions against CIA and Bush administration officials if the Obama administration doesn't.
Meanwhile, British officials have released new information about the Bush administration attempts to cover up their crimes on the way out the door. In short, military prosecutors tried to pressure a former Gitmo detainee, Binyam Muhammad, into signing a plea deal that would have imprisoned him for 10 years in addition to the 7 he'd already been held, and that they tried to get him to sign a statement claiming he was NOT tortured, when he was, to promise not to sue, and to not talk to the news media.
... while Iraq continues to be a very violent place, where bombings killed scores yesterday/today, even as the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq (a group the Bush administration was kind enough to put there) is arrested.
What's going on at Apple? And who in their right mind would come up with a baby shaking game, anyway?
Lynndie England did time for Abu Ghraib while the architects walked
Given that we now know that the abuses at Abu Ghraib did indeed flow from Gitmo, and ultimately, from the Pentagon and White House (which many of us long suspected, and Gen. Janis Karpinski tried to tell us years ago, as she was being scapegoated for the Abu Ghraib outrages) should not the president now pardon the low level military personnel who took the fall for Bush administration torture policies? England, a nasty sort of gal who blamed the media for her plight, nonetheless got 3 years in prison for her part in the scandal; Army Spc. Charles Graner, England's superior at Abu Ghraib, is serving 10 years. Senior officers got relative slaps on the wrist, and Karpinski, who ran the facility, but not the interrogations, got demoted, all while the Bush administration continued to insist that it was these "bad apples" who did the dirty deeds, not them.
Now that we know better, is it time for pardons to be issued by the new president, and prosecution of the real criminals to commence? Watch Karpinski's impassioned appearance on "Countdown" last night:
Apparently, in addition to all the tax foul ups during the cabinet fill-out, Team O managed to dis General Tony Zinni... though the fault seems to lie in Hillaryland... The rub:
When retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinnitold the Washington Times that he was offered the job of U.S. ambassador to Iraq before being passed over in favor of diplomat Christopher Hill, he did not say that one of the outrages of the experience was that his friend of 30 years, fellow former Marine Corps commandant and now national security advisor James L. Jones, had offered him the job, and then failed to tell him when the decision was changed.
The cost of 'liberation': about 1 million Iraqis dead
George W. Bush will probably go to his grave spouting neocon claptrap about being the great liberator of Iraq -- about the more than 4,000 dead from American forces alone (more than were killed in the World Trade Center and Pentagon, plus United 93 combined, on 9/11...) was well worth it because we, the Americans, "liberated" Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Well, I wonder how the Iraqis feel about their "liberation." And how will they feel as the death toll is counted?
The numbers are shocking, though not unexpected. Alternet reports that in counting the war's human costs:
We have a better grasp of the human costs of the war. For example, the United Nations estimates that there are about 4.5 million displaced Iraqis -- more than half of them refugees -- or about one in every six citizens. Only 5 percent have chosen to return to their homes over the past year, a period of reduced violence from the high levels of 2005-07. The availability of healthcare, clean water, functioning schools, jobs and so forth remains elusive. According to Unicef, many provinces report that less than 40 percent of households have access to clean water. More than 40 percent of children in Basra, and more than 70 percent in Baghdad, cannot attend school.
The mortality caused by the war is also high. Several household surveys were conducted between 2004 and 2007. While there are differences among them, the range suggests a congruence of estimates. But none have been conducted for eighteen months, and the two most reliable surveys were completed in mid-2006. The higher of those found 650,000 "excess deaths" (mortality attributable to war); the other yielded 400,000. The war remained ferocious for twelve to fifteen months after those surveys were finished and then began to subside. Iraq Body Count, a London NGO that uses English-language press reports from Iraq to count civilian deaths, provides a means to update the 2006 estimates. While it is known to be an undercount, because press reports are incomplete and Baghdad-centric, IBC nonetheless provides useful trends, which are striking. Its estimates are nearing 100,000, more than double its June 2006 figure of 45,000. (It does not count nonviolent excess deaths -- from health emergencies, for example -- or insurgent deaths.) If this is an acceptable marker, a plausible estimate of total deaths can be calculated by doubling the totals of the 2006 household surveys, which used a much more reliable and sophisticated method for estimates that draws on long experience in epidemiology. So we have, at present, between 800,000 and 1.3 million "excess deaths" as we approach the six-year anniversary of this war.
This gruesome figure makes sense when reading of claims by Iraqi officials that there are 1-2 million war widows and 5 million orphans. This constitutes direct empirical evidence of total excess mortality and indirect, though confirming, evidence of the displaced and the bereaved and of general insecurity. The overall figures are stunning: 4.5 million displaced, 1-2 million widows, 5 million orphans, about 1 million dead -- in one way or another, affecting nearly one in two Iraqis.
Meanwhile, the Iraqis are becoming more like us every day. Turnout in the recent national elections was only about 50 percent. According to AfterDowningStreet, the coming victory of Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa Party is seen by Iraqis as the best option to end the American occupation. But the turnout also reflected a dispirited nation:
Interviews suggest that the low voter turnout also is an indication of Iraqi disenchantment with a democracy that, so far, has brought them very little.
Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the fall of a brutal dictator, Iraqis witnessed unprecedented violence in their nation and what they believe is humiliation under a foreign occupation. Even on Saturday, U.S. tanks could be spotted across Baghdad on largely empty roads.
Following elections in 2005 Iraq spiraled into a sectarian war. People cowered in their homes while others literally killed each other in the streets. Many here feel the people they elected were party to or were at least complicit in the violence. The security forces too were feared as sectarian death squads and Iraqis also believed that American raids or passing U.S. tanks sometimes resulted in innocent civilian deaths.
Many blame the U.S. presence in Iraq for sowing the seeds of sectarianism by bringing back exiles to rule them.
And still more evidence of the Bush-Americanization of Iraq:
Beyond the disillusionment, thousands of potential voters were unable to cast ballots Saturday because official voter lists did not contain their names. Street protests resulted.
Has anybody seen Karl Rove, and does he have an alibi...?
In the 1990s, America exerted leadership in all the remote corners of the globe, from the southern cone of South America to Central Asia. Now, the United States has largely left the field in many regions, leaving others to step forward.
Bush has been blamed widely for the erosion of American prestige. And the decline in U.S. influence is partly the result of the reaction to his invasion of Iraq, his campaign against Islamic militants and his early disdain for treaties and international bodies.
But the shift is also a result of independent forces, though hastened by an aversion to Bush. These include the steady ascent of China, India and other developing countries that throughout the last decade have seen their economies grow, amassing wealth and quietly extending their reach.
As smaller countries have built economic and political ties to these rising powers, they have worked to free themselves from exclusive dependence on the United States.
"There is no return to the time when the United States was the 'indispensable power,' " said Stewart M. Patrick, a former State Department official at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The world has moved on."
According to the author, part of the problem is Bush unilateralism in Iraq, on climate change, and on Russia. Another factor in the decline is Bush's benign neglect of whole regions, including both Asia and South America:
The U.S. National Intelligence Council issued a report this year, "Global Trends 2025," that notes a shift of economic power from the West to the East that is "without precedent." In 2025, the United States will "remain the single most powerful country, but will be less dominant," it predicts.
Since World War II, the United States has led by its power of persuasion, as well as its economic might. But other countries' unhappiness with the Iraq war and the conduct of the Bush administration's "global war on terror," means that the "American brand is less legitimate and its persuasive powers are compromised," said Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University and the Council on Foreign Relations.
There also has been a dwindling of U.S. influence as the administration has focused most of its energy and resources on the Middle East and Southwest Asia, leaving much less for Central and Southeast Asia, Latin America and other regions. Many are going their own way, developing new ties among neighbors.
Latin American countries, for example, are building an organization called the Union of South American Nations and a NATO-like defense alliance called the South American Defense Council. The United States, long dominant in the hemisphere, is pointedly excluded from both.
An 8-year-old group called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with Russia, China, and four Central Asian states, has been slowly developing, in part because some members want a bulwark against U.S. involvement in the region.
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's Christians, a scant minority in this overwhelmingly Muslim country, quietly celebrated Christmas on Thursday with a present from the government, which declared it an official holiday for the first time.
But security worries overshadowed the day for many, particularly in the north where thousands of Christians have fled to escape religious attacks.
Overall security in Iraq has improved markedly in the past year, but a fatal car bombing in Baghdad on Christmas morning was a gruesome reminder that serious problems remain.
The bombing outside a restaurant frequented by police killed four people and wounded 25 others in the Shiite neighborhood of Shula, said a police officer on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give information to news media. The U.S. military later announced that one person was killed and 21 wounded. There was no way to immediately reconcile the differing numbers.
An American soldier was killed in a rocket or mortar attack near the northern city of Mosul, the military announced.
Throw a shoe at Dubya, get a parade. Well maybe not exactly a parade, but lots of support for sure, even from our supposed friends in the Middle East...
Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George Bush during a press conference.
Protesters hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the US president.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was kidnapped by Shiite militants last year, was being held by Iraqi security and interrogated about whether anybody paid him to throw his shoes at Bush during Sunday's press conference in Baghdad, said an Iraqi official. He was also being tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were being held as evidence, said the official.
Showing the sole of your shoe to someone in the Arab world is a sign of extreme disrespect, and throwing your shoes is even worse.
Newspapers across the Arab world printed front-page photos of Bush ducking the flying shoes, and satellite TV stations repeatedly aired the incident, which provided fodder for jokes and was hailed by the president's many critics in the region.
"Iraq considers Sunday as the international day for shoes," said a joking text message circulating around the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Palestinian journalists in the West Bank town of Ramallah joked about who would be brave enough to toss their shoes at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another US official widely disliked in the region.
Many users of the popular internet networking site Facebook posted the video of the incident to their profile pages, showing al-Zeidi leap from his chair as Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki were about to shake hands and hurl his shoes at the president, who was about 20 feet away. Bush ducked the airborne footwear and was not injured in the incident.
"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," al-Zeidi yelled in Arabic as he threw his shoes. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
Sorry, but that "airborne footwear" bit is priceless. And I thought the Saudis were our pals! (eyes rolling...)
... from the New York Daily News. Not to be outdone by their bonus online headline: "Shoe-icide attack." How droll.
And now, seven of the top ten reasons the shoe in the face incident was "totally awesome"
1. Because before the shoe was even thrown by Iraqi reporter Muntadar al-Zaidi, George Bush went in for a straight-on fraternity-style handshake with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. 2. Because shoe-throwing (along with calling someone a dog, which al-Zaidi also did) is one of the most offensive insults an Iraqi Arab can hurl. After the fall of Baghdad, the United States government made much ado about those seemingly trumped-up videos of children throwing shoes at the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein. It's not awesome to see our president attacked, but it does neatly complete the circle, doesn't it? 3. Because al-Maliki totally tried to deflect the second shoe. 4. But he didn't try that hard. 5. Because George Bush was kind of laughing throughout the whole thing. 6. Because the other Iraqi reporters immediately jumped in to stop the shoe attacks. 7. But the Secret Service took their sweet, sweet time to take the guy down.
Read the other three reasons for yourself, right here on the New Yorker website.
Meanwhile, if Mr. Al-Zeidi, who is now a bonafide celebrity in the Muslim world, is harshly punished ... say, tortured... by Iraqi security forces, does that mean we really didn't change much in Iraq?
How much does it suck being George W. Bush right now?
You make a surprise trip to Baghdad to burnish your "legacy" and some Iraqi guy throws a shoe (or two) at you:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at -- but missed -- President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit.
Bush ducked, and the shoes, flung one at a time, sailed past his head during the news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in his palace in the heavily fortified Green Zone.
The shoe-thrower -- identified as Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network -- could be heard yelling in Arabic: "This is a farewell ... you dog!"
While pinned on the ground by security personnel, he screamed: "You killed the Iraqis!"
Al-Zaidi was dragged away. While al-Zaidi was still screaming in another room,Bush said: "That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me, you may want to know."
Hurling shoes at someone, or sitting so that the bottom of a shoe faces another person, is considered an insult among Muslims.
Yeah, I think it's pretty much an insult in any religious tradition... Now of course, it wouldn't be a proper CNN scoop without 4 minutes of commentary by our favorite Aussie, Michael Ware (he broke the story on CNN). And catch George W. Bush's explanation of the incident (spoiler alert! He says "so what if somebody threw a shoe at me???" Hilarious!) Watch:
You really can't make this stuff up!
Oh, and I wonder why an Arab journalist would have a problem with Dubya ... hm... could it be ... Abu Ghraib? up to 1 million Iraqis killed in the war? The illegality of the war itself? The suffering the Iraqi people continue to endure in the advent of war? 2 million Iraqi refugees? Torture at Guantanamo? Need I go on?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, the top cadre in GWB's "coalition of the willing," Great Britain, is left to exit the country in a lump. Or as the Times of London puts it:
Britain faces humiliating Iraq withdrawal
British Forces will leave Iraq by the end of next July under a humiliating proposal that lumps the once-valued deployment with five smaller contingents, including those of Romania, El Salvador and Estonia.
Even as President Bush paid a surprise farewell visit to Baghdad yesterday to celebrate the passage of a bilateral accord with Iraq, Britain faced being only a part of a shared military pact after negotiators ran out of time to seal country-specific deals.
Under the US-Iraq status of forces agreement, drawn up after nine months of heated negotiation, US forces will leave within three years. The deal for Britain and the others was described by Muwafaq al-Rubaie, Iraq’s National Security Adviser, as a “mini-agreement for the six entities”.
The proposed legislation states that all duties performed by the contingents, which include 42 Australian officers and 200 troops from 15 Nato countries, as well as the larger British presence, must stop by the end of May. “There will be two months’ grace for the forces to leave Iraq by July 31,” Fawzi Hariri, the Iraqi Industry Minister, said. “There was no way we could have done a security agreement to the same level of detail that we had with the Americans in such a short period.”
... Grouping Britain with contingents such as Estonia, which has only 36 soldiers in Iraq, and El Salvador, with a mere 200, is a far cry from the start of the invasion when British Forces were second in importance only to those of the US.
Meanwhile, British forces suffered a loss as a 13-year-old Iraqi child blew himself up, killing four British troops in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — George W. Bush hopes history will see him as a president who liberated millions of Iraqis and Afghans, who worked towards peace and who never sold his soul for political ends.
"I'd like to be a president (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace," Bush said in excerpts of a recent interview released by the White House Friday.
"I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process. I came to Washington with a set of values, and I'm leaving with the same set of values."
He also said he wanted to be seen as a president who helped individuals, "that rallied people to serve their neighbor; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package."
Bush added that every day during his eight-year presidency he had consulted the Bible and drawn comfort from his faith.
"I would advise politicians, however, to be careful about faith in the public arena," the US leader said in the interview with his sister Doro Bush Koch recorded as part of an oral history program known as Storycorps.
Keep dreaming, Georgie. And praying. For now, it appears that rather than seeing you as the Great Liberator, history will judge you as America's worst president ever, and a man who:
Squandered the world's good will after 9/11, and his own country's, by politicizing the tragedy.
Invaded and occupied a country that did not threaten the United States, costing the lives of some 5,000 Western troops, and countless Iraqi lives.
Destroyed his country's military.
Returned Afghanistan to war-torn disaster, while doing no better there than the Soviets did in the 1980s, while failing to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
Turned the United States into a practitioner of torture.
Created an American gulag at Guantanamo Bay, while producing no significant prosecutions related to the 9/11 terror attacks.
Turned the nation's spying infrastructure on its own citizens.
Raised a private, mercenary Army of contractors who ran roughshod through Iraq, destroying American credibility and endangering both Iraqi and American lives.
Banrupted the United States, taking our economy from the surplus he inherited from President Clinton to the largest deficits in our history.
Presided over the largest increases in domestic spending in history.
Presided over a near criminal bailout of Wall Street, that amounts to the largest transfer of wealth from the middle class and working class to the rich since the Robber Barons.
Watched as his party became a criminal gang operating out of the White House, K Street and Capitol Hill.
Turned the American presidency into a laughing stock.
Turned the United States into a rogue nation and international pariah.
Failed utterly in his role as communicator in chief.
Empowered the forces of religious intolerance in the U.S., to the detriment of the now utterly politicized Christian faith.
And the least of his sins, destroying the Republican Party's brand, perhaps for a generation.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is out with its 2008 Congressional Report Card, and the news for our most prominent veteran at the moment, John Sydney McCain III, isn't good. McCain gets a "D" from the IAVA. That would be the letter immediately after the letter "C," which, incidently, is what Mac's fellow Arizona Sen. John Kyl got.
The scoring was based on the Senators' votes on a number of bills important to veterans, including:
A 2007 bill funding veterans' healthcare
A March 2007 bill funding so-called MRAPS ("mine resistent ambush protected" vehicles for use in Iraq and Afghanistan
A 2008 vets' healthcare funding bill
October 2007 legislation added to the National Defense Authorization Act that expanded veterans' opportunities to seek VA healthcare and for Guardsmen and Reservists to keep education benefits after separating from the military.
An April 2008 bill to improve so-called "adaptive housing" for disabled veterans
A move in may of this year to stop the second rate G.I. bill being pushed by Miss Lindsey Graham to try and kill Jim Webb's stronger benefits bill
The "Post 9/11 G.I. Bill" improving veterans' education benefits
The second vote on the G.I. Bill that passed with an emergency supplemental for Iraq war funding in June of this year
And the final phase of passage of the 21st Century G.I. Bill (Webb version, which McCain opposed.)
McCain declined to become a co-sponsor of the Webb G.I. Bill, despite entreaties from friends of his in the Senate including Chuck Hagel. His low score also stems from the fact that he was absent for 6 of the 9 votes. (Kyle was there every time, but he voted against veterans benefits four out of nine times, including against the enhanced G.I. Bill).
As for Barack Obama? He receied a "B" from the IAVA. The Illinois Senator signed on as a co-sponsor of the G.I. Bill, and voted with veterans all but the four times he was absent from the chamber.
Amid all the sturm und drang about the Clintons and whether or not they really, really support Barack Obama (and whether or not substantial numbers of Hillary's supporters are insane...) you probably missed this interesting piece of news. I know I did:
Gen. David Petraeus, top commander of coalition military forces in Iraq, recently sat down with Newsweek to do a “valedictory” interview before he takes up his new post as CENTCOM commander next month.
Newsweek reported that while Petraeus recognized that al-Qaeda in Iraq has been significantly diminished, he refused to say the terror group had been “defeated.” Moreover, Petraeus acknowledged that the recent successes in Iraq may have been possible without the surge:
Petraeus is careful not to credit all the progress to the surge of U.S. troops in 2007. The sea change came last year from a series of movements now known as the Awakening. […] So would the Sunni Awakening have succeeded without the surge? Possibly, he concedes.
That's going to be news to John McCain. I sure hope he doesn't start calling the general a traitor. He does that sort of thing, you know...
Petraeus' uncharacteristic demonstration of a hint of independence would be huge news, were it not for the fact that his actual boss -- President Bush, as to opposed to the guy who THINKS he's president ... and who ownes seven houses, some of them probably white -- has been taking increasing steps to inch slowly out of Iraq on his way out the door.
The U.S. and Iraqi governments are negotiating ... somebody hold John McCain down for a minute, will you? Thanks ... a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. But the Guardian reports the U.S. may not be getting their way in the negotiations.
American negotiators have not yet succeeded in getting Iraqi officials to agree to keep US troops well into the next president's first term, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, confirmed yesterday.
On a surprise visit to Baghdad, Rice denied earlier reports this week that the two sides had ironed out the last disputes in a heavily contested draft agreement that is due to replace the UN mandate covering the US-led occupation.
President George Bush wants the pact to authorise a troop presence at least until 2011 so that he can trumpet it as proof of his policy's success. But the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has adopted the rise in nationalist feeling in the Iraqi parliament and among the public and is insisting on a clear timetable for withdrawal, the lifting of judicial immunity for US troops who commit abuses, and a veto on US military operations, including the arrest of Iraqis.
The pact has been downgraded into a "memorandum of understanding" to avoid the need for the US Senate to approve it. In Iraq, it has to clear several hurdles. "Once a breakthrough has really been achieved, the draft will be presented to the council of ministers", Raid Fahmi Jahid, the science and technology minister told the Guardian yesterday.
If the government approves the draft, the parliament will have the last word.
The Iraqi side has been pressing for a withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraqi cities by the end of June, and for all troops to leave a year or so later. But after her talks yesterday, Rice said only "aspirational timetables" were worth having in the agreement.
The Bush administration was angered last month when Maliki gave broad support to Senator Barack Obama's pledge to pull all combat troops out of Iraq by June 2010. This undermined his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, who insisted along with the Bush administration, that withdrawals be linked to achieving various political and security goals, the so-called "conditions-based approach" as opposed to "artificial timetables".
Irony alert: Bush scolds Russians on 'bullying and intimidation'
Offering further proof that Republicans now believe the U.S. invasion of Iraq happened in the 20th century, President Bush today slammed Russia for invading a sovereign country that didn't threaten it:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Friday chided Russia for Cold War-style behavior, saying, "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."
[Feb. 23, 2003] Bush Threatens Economic Retaliation If Other Countries Do not Support Invasion - [Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria] Aznar pleads for patience from Bush, and says that a UN resolution is vital. Aznar notes that public opinion in Spain is heavily against the war. Bush retorts that should certain countries not support the war in the UN, they could face retaliation from the US: “Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola, and Cameroon should know that what’s at stake is the security of the United States.” Bush mentions negative votes could endanger a free trade agreement with Chile and financial support for Angola. [Agence France-Presse, 9/26/2007]
Back to today's events...
Bush said the United States stands "with the people of Georgia and their democratically elected government." He said the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity "must be respected."
"We will not cast them aside," he said.
Bush said Russia's invasion of Georgia in recent days has "damaged its credibility."
Russia must respect the freedom of its neighbors," Bush said, calling Georgia a "courageous democracy."
Sovereignty ... damaged credibility ... where have I heard those phrases before... oh, I remember!
The way the Iraq war was conducted was a "tragedy" that has seriously damaged the credibility of the US and the UK on the international stage, according to former British Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.
Greenstock blamed the architects of the 2003 joint invasion, in particular the US, of "woefully inadequate planning." Years of potential progress were wasted in the first few days in April 2003 after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, he said.
... Greenstock served as UK Ambassador in New York during the countdown to the war and subsequently as Prime Minister Tony Blair's special envoy to Iraq. His own memoirs have reportedly been blocked by the UK Foreign Office.
"We cannot just put these mistakes behind us and move on, because the consequences have seriously affected, at least for a while, the credibility of the US and the UK in the international arena," he warned.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condi Rice is headed to Georgia carrying a peace treaty that would essentially allow Russia to have the two break-away Georgian provinces it already occupies, by letting Russian troops remain there, something Moscow apparently concurs with, since Vlad Putin has already told Georgia to forget about getting them back.
I think it's proper to ask whether the U.S. invasion of a sovereign Iraq and its aggressive, "bullying" tactics in the run-up to that invasion emboldened the Russians, both by setting a dangerous precedent for pre-emptive war, and by neutering the U.S.' ability to respond militarily to an actual crisis. Russia knows that any consequences it suffers from the U.S. will be minor, since the Iraq war also enriched Russia as a major oil producer (those inflated prices went right into their pockets.) So Putin is probably laughing at the man he duped into believing he was his friend, while asking Dubya, in regard to "consequences": you and what army.
From David Kilcullen, a "former Australian Army officer who is now an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice," and the guy who helped design the current U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq with David Petraeus:
Kilcullen, who helped Petraeus design his 2007 counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, called the decision to invade Iraq "stupid" -- in fact, he said "fucking stupid" -- and suggested that if policy-makers apply the manual's lessons, similar wars can be avoided in the future.
"The biggest stupid idea," Kilcullen said, "was to invade Iraq in the first place."
I guess he cares more about pointing out stupidity than he does about the security of the American people... right John McCain? Sadly, Kilcullen's assessment is far from a unique one:
David Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and now with the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, said: "Declaring this to be a success based on recent improvements is like saying that a person badly disabled by gunshots has seen his wounds heal. The damage has been done.
"Bush's foreign policy has been a failure and it will be judged on Iraq. He will bear responsibility for an unnecessary and costly war that violated international law, alienated allies and distracted us from the core issues of terrorism, Afghanistan and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.
"This has to be the worst managed foreign policy of any president since the Second World War. Even if in the medium term Iraq becomes comparatively peaceful, would it be worth the cost? I do not think so."
As for America's standing around the world, the war alienated some major American allies, France and Germany most notably. Others did send troops after the invasion - Spain and Italy among them - but then left as public opinions at home turned hostile.
On the other hand, a number of smaller countries, many of them from the former Soviet block, saw an opportunity to show their loyalty to the US and sent contingents - the Czech Republic, Poland, Georgia and others. For them, a strong and active United States bodes well for their future security.
In turn, Britain's support for the United States has led to further divisions within Europe. These had an impact in the Lisbon treaty talks about a future foreign policy for the EU, strengthening the British determination to keep it firmly in the hands of individual governments.
The invasion of Iraq also caused alarm bells to ring in Russia. There, a new mood of hostility to the West has developed and the Russians have become wary of American power.
Nor has Iraq sparked the democratic revolution in the Middle East that Mr Bush hoped for. And the Israeli/Palestinian conflict remains unresolved.
Ironically it is Iran, with which the US shares a mutual hostility, that has emerged with greater strength, to the concern of the Gulf Arab states.
A Justice Department report confirms that two former underlings of America's worst Attorney General EVER, Alberto Gonzales, broke the law by taking political persuasion into account in JD hiring. The perps: Regent University "Law School" grad Monica Goodling, and fellow traveler D. Kyle Sampson. Alberto wasn't faulted in the report... why? The only remaining question: how quickly does Michael Mukasey announce that he will do nothing?
Meanwhile, how big of a budget deficit will George W. Bush leave to the next president? Try $490 billion:
The next president will inherit a record budget deficit approaching $490 billion, a Bush administration official said Monday.
The official said the deficit was being driven to an all-time high by the sagging economy and the stimulus payments being made to 130 million households in an effort to keep the country from falling into a deep recession. A deficit approaching $490 billion would easily surpass the record deficit of $413 billion set in 2004.
The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity because the new estimate had not been formally released. Administration officials were scheduled to do that at a news conference later Monday.
The new figure actually underestimates the deficit, since it leaves out about $80 billion in war costs. In a break from tradition — and in violation of new mandates from Congress — the White House did not include its full estimate of war costs.
White House press secretary Dana Perino had no comment on the $490 billion figure. But she told reporters that the White House and lawmakers acknowledged months ago that they were going to increase the deficit by approving a short-term boost for the slumping economy.
"Both parties recognized that the deficit would increase, and that that was going to be the price that we pay," Perino said.
The White House had earlier predicted next year's deficit at $407 billion. Figures for the 2008 budget year ending Sept. 30 may also set a record.
When Dubya took office in 2001, the CBO estimated the U.S. had a ten-year budget surplus of $5.6 trillion. Bush even trumpeted the surplus in a campaign ad back in 2000:
Bush for President, Inc. "Surplus" 30 sec. TV spot run in NH latter part of Jan. 2000. Maverick Media
Male Announcer [music]: George W. Bush's tax plan is called an economic agenda worthy of a new president.
The Bush plan reserves $2 trillion of the surplus to protect and strengthen Social Security and pay down the national debt. The rest is dedicated to priorities--education, rebuilding our military, and providing a real tax cut for every taxpayer.
Some Washington politicians say it's better to keep the money in Washington. Governor Bush believes we can meet priorities and still give families back more of what they earn.
Over to Iraq (a/k/a "Surgistan,") where two apparent female suicide bombers killed more than 50 people and injured some 240 others in Baghdad and Kirkuk. The Guardian puts the death and injured toll even higher, at 55 and 300.
Standing in the cheese aisle of an all-American supermarket, John McCain takes his surge mishap from the other day ... and makes it worse. This time, he's explaining that "the surge" -- that magical unicorn of Iraq fixology -- didn't begin in January 2007 when President Bush announced it, or in June 2007 when all of the additional troops were in country (mostly in Baghdad, by the way, not Anbar province, where the "Sunni awakening" took place in August 2006) but at, before, or sometime around the time of said awakening ... meaning ... it ... happened before even President Bush knew about it? Oh, just watch the "Countdown" clip:
Here’s the new McCain campaign rationale for his obvious screw-up: the surge, for all of you calendar-lovers, may technically have come after the launch of the Anbar Awakening, but it doesn’t matter because were it not for the surge, the Awakening would have failed miserably. The influx of U.S. troops may have come after the Awakening, but it made the success of the Awakening possible. That, in a nutshell, is the new argument.
As spin goes, that’s pretty creative. But that doesn’t make it right.
First, the McCain campaign is making a case that’s supported by practically nothing. The vast majority of the troops involved with the surge went to Baghdad, not Anbar, the latter of which saw one U.S. brigade. Did the presence of this brigade make the surge successful? It can’t be disproven, but it’s hardly the accepted consensus, either.
Second, and more importantly, the latest spin is disconnected to what McCain, you know, actually said. McCain insisted that the surge “began the Anbar awakening.” It didn’t. In fact, to hear McCain tell it, the only Awakening the surge happened — not succeeded, but happened — is the surge, which is clearly false. All the after-the-fact rationalizing won’t change this obvious mistake.
And by the way, the Colonel that McCain keeps referencing, Col. MacFarland, doesn't support his story, as even conservative media critic Howard Kurtz has figured out:
the official, Col. Sean MacFarland, has said that Sunni leaders began cooperating against al-Qaeda months before President Bush's surge began.
CBS News SVP Paul Friedman said in a statement: "The report was edited under extreme time constraints and one piece of tape was put in the wrong order. Fortunately, this did not in any way distort what Senator McCain was saying."
But did the "wrong order" mean a violation of their Standards? Crooks and Liars reports the CBS News Standards (sec. 111-5 Editing, to be exact) says, "If a question to an interview subject is used, the answer must be to that specific question."
As has been made clear over the last 24 hours, that did not happen.
It's not as if TV and cable news outlets haven't used editing to "shape" an interview to fit the prevailing narrative. Such editing hatchet jobs are actually pretty common, as General Wes Clark recently found out. But the CBS edit snaffu stands out because it isn't about omission, it's about a news organization actually rearranging a subject's answer in a way that, intentionally or not, shielded the subject from their own embarrassing words. It's no wonder that, despite the whining and carping from the McCain camp, most rational people believe that there is no political figure in America, with the possible exception of Collin Powell, who has enjoyed more loving treatment from the press than John McCain. To quote CNN's Jeffrey Toobin:
"...if there is one public figure in America who has gotten better press over the years than John McCain, I don't know who it is."
Barack Obama's campaign for the US presidency received another boost today when the Iraqi government welcomed him to Baghdad by again appearing to back his timetable for withdrawing troops from the country.
The Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh expressed hopes that combat forces could leave by 2010 – in line with Obama's pledge to withdraw troops within 16 months of the US election.
"We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq," Dabbagh told reporters, noting that any withdrawal plan was subject to change if the level of violence rises again.
The statement comes after talks between Obama and the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and a weekend when the Iraqi government unconvincingly tried to clarify its position on troop withdrawals.
Which brings us to a lovely British turn of phrase: the scupper.
Oh, and guess who emailed the original Maliki backs timetables story around to the press? Yep. The Bush B-Team.
Happy Monday! Barack Obama is in Basra, Iraq, with the Congressional delegation, just in time to thank Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for endorsing his plan for a 16 month timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Maliki's statement, coupled with his vague non-retraction that pointedly contained the word "timeline," rather than the Bushian formulation "aspirational goal for a time horizon" was significant, and it leaves poor John McCain looking like the "odd man out" when it comes to Iraq. To backtrack, this is what Maliki told Germany's Der Spiegel this weekend:
In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible.
"U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."
(Original interview here.) The Bush administration was quick to react:
Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman with President George W. Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, said that embassy officials explained to the Iraqis how the interview in Der Spiegel was being interpreted, given that it came just a day after the two governments announced an agreement over American troops.
"The Iraqis were not aware and wanted to correct it," he said.
Yeah, really? And how would Stanzel know that?
Diplomats from the United States Embassy in Baghdad spoke to Maliki's advisers on Saturday, said an American official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss what he called diplomatic communications. After that, the government's spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, issued a statement casting doubt on the magazine's rendering of the interview.
The statement, which was distributed to media organizations by the American military early on Sunday, said Maliki's words had been "misunderstood and mistranslated," but it failed to cite specifics.
"Unfortunately, Der Spiegel was not accurate," Dabbagh said Sunday by telephone. "I have the recording of the voice of Maliki. We even listened to the translation."
But the interpreter for the interview works for Maliki's office, not the magazine. And in an audio recording of Maliki's interview that Der Spiegel provided to The New York Times, Maliki seemed to state a clear affinity for Obama's position, bringing it up on his own in an answer to a general question on troop presence.
The following is a direct translation from the Arabic of Maliki's comments by The Times: "Obama's remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq."
He continued: "Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq."
"A Baghdad government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said in a statement that SPIEGEL had 'misunderstood and mistranslated' the Iraqi prime minister, but didn't point to where the misunderstanding or mistranslation might have occurred," the magazine said, which also noted that several media organizations, including CBS, had pointed out the confusion or tepidness of the spokesman's rebuttal.
"SPIEGEL sticks to its version of the conversation," it said.
Al-Dabbagh explained that Mr. al-Maliki confirmed the existence of an Iraqi vision stems from the reality with regard to Iraq security needs, as the positive developments of the security situation and the improvement witnessed in Iraqi cities makes the subject of U.S. forces’ withdrawal within prospects, horizons and timetables agreed upon and in the light of the continuing positive developments on the ground, and security that came within the Strategic Plan for Cooperation which was laid and developed by Mr. Maliki and President George Bush. The Iraqi government appreciates and values the efforts of all the friends who continue to support and supporting Iraqi security forces.
Al-Dabbagh underscored that the statements made by the head of the ministerial council (Prime Minister al-Maliki) or any of the members of the Iraqi government should not be understood as support to any U.S. presidential candidates.
BAGHDAD, July 6 -- A wave of attacks in Baghdad and areas north of the capital Sunday shattered a relative lull in violence, killing 16 people and injuring 15 a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that Iraq's government had defeated terrorism.
Joint Chiefs Chair: the forgotten war needs more troops
The latest in the "Iraq stole our war" saga, courtesy of the Washington Post:
The nation's top military officer said today that more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan to help tamp down an increasingly violent insurgency but does not have sufficient forces to send because of the war in Iraq.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said insurgent Taliban and extremist forces in Afghanistan have become "a very complex problem" that is tied to the extensive drug trade, a faltering economy and the porous border region with Pakistan. Violence in Afghanistan has increased markedly over recent weeks, and June was the deadliest month for U.S. troops since the war began in 2001, with 28 combat fatalities.
"I am and have been deeply troubled by the increasing violence there," Mullen said, adding that he has made no secret of wanting to send more forces into the country. "The Taliban and their supporters have become more effective in recent weeks. ... We all need to be patient. As we have seen in Iraq, counterinsurgency warfare takes time and commitment."
Mullen said military commanders are looking at the prospects for sending additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009, but conditions in Iraq would have to continue to improve for that to happen. The war in Iraq has occupied as many as 20 military brigades during the troop buildup over the past year. The military is reducing that force to 15 brigades this year.
"I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq," Mullen said. "Afghanistan remains an economy of force campaign, which by definition means we need more forces there. We have the ability in almost every single case to win from the combat standpoint, but we don't have enough troops there to hold. That is key to the future of being able to succeed in Afghanistan." ...
And as for the neocons' plans for the next war?
Mullen said plainly that he opposes the U.S. or Israel engaging Iran with a military strike.
"My strong preference is to handle all of this diplomatically with the other powers of government, as opposed to any kind of strike occurring," Mullen said. "This is a very unstable part of the world and I don't need it to be more unstable."
Four oil giants are set to sign no-bid contracts with the Iraqi government, returning them to Iraq's oil ... I mean to the country ... after a 36 year absence.
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.
The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.
The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.
There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.
Sensitive to the appearance that they were profiting from the war and already under pressure because of record high oil prices, senior officials of two of the companies, speaking only on the condition that they not be identified, said they were helping Iraq rebuild its decrepit oil industry.
For an industry being frozen out of new ventures in the world’s dominant oil-producing countries, from Russia to Venezuela, Iraq offers a rare and prized opportunity.
A story in the UK Independent reveals a secret plan by the Bush administration to lash the next U.S. president to his Iraq policy, and maybe the president after that, too...
A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.
The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.
But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.
The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.
The Independent digs into the details of the "deal":
The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.
The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: "This is just a tactical subterfuge." Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its "war on terror" in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.
Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called "strategic alliance" without modifications, by the end of next month. But it is already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs as a continuing American attempt to dominate the region. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and usually moderate Iranian leader, said yesterday that such a deal would create "a permanent occupation". He added: "The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans."
Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.
The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being fought between Iran and the United States over who should be more influential in Iraq.
Although Iraqi ministers have said they will reject any agreement limiting Iraqi sovereignty, political observers in Baghdad suspect they will sign in the end and simply want to establish their credentials as defenders of Iraqi independence by a show of defiance now. The one Iraqi with the authority to stop deal is the majority Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In 2003, he forced the US to agree to a referendum on the new Iraqi constitution and the election of a parliament. But he is said to believe that loss of US support would drastically weaken the Iraqi Shia, who won a majority in parliament in elections in 2005.
This is a breathtaking step by a brazen administration. What does Congress plan to do about it?
Even as the U.S. military struggles to make improvements in the way we treat detainees in Iraq, the Bush administration continues to stain America's honor with its brutal, ugly so-called "war on terror." First, the military effort:
BAGHDAD — Once a byword for torture and disgrace, the American-run detention system in Iraq has improved, even its critics say, as the military has incorporated it into a larger counterinsurgency strategy that seeks to avoid mistreatment that could create new enemies.
But these gains may soon be at risk. Thousands of detainees are to be turned over to the Iraqi government, some perhaps as early as the end of the year, a further step toward Iraqi sovereignty. Yet however tarnished America’s reputation may be for its treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, the reputation of many Iraqi prisons is worse.
“The Americans are better than Ministry of Interior prisons,” said Mahmoud Abu Dumour, a former detainee from Falluja, the Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad. “They will torture you. Maybe you will die. With the Americans, if you enter Abu Ghraib, they will only wage psychological war on you.”
Already, Human Rights Watch has criticized the military for transferring some convicted juveniles to Iraqi custody, where they are kept in what the group said are abusive conditions.
Criticism also remains high that the American military detains too many people, deprives them of due process and holds them too long, even if innocent. Many are taken in only because they were near an insurgent attack.
While nearly all of the more than 21,000 detainees in Iraq are in American custody, Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, who runs detainee operations countrywide, is proceeding with a broad experiment to restructure it. His goal is to use the system of detention centers as another front in the counterinsurgency war, trying to reduce the likelihood that they become a recruiting ground for militants.
“The extremists owned the battlefield of the mind,” said General Stone, a Marine Reserve counterinsurgency expert who took responsibility for the detention system last spring. Before he arrived, moderate and extremist detainees were usually mixed, turning the American-run detention facilities into what he called a “jihadi university.”
General Stone’s goal now is to isolate those he believes are extremists, who are a minority of detainees, and persuade the other detainees that they will have better lives if they keep away from those who preach jihad. It is part of the effort to bring detention policy here in line with American military strategy that seeks to separate insurgents from civilians, mentally and physically.
General Stone’s goal is to move detainees, particularly more moderate ones, through the system faster by instituting review boards to hear each detainee’s case. So far, these boards have released at least 8,400 people. He has also pushed to expand paid work programs, like carpentry shops, brick factories and laundries, as well as educational programs, especially for juvenile detainees and the many illiterate adults.
It is difficult to assess this drive toward improvement. Outsiders are forbidden to interview detainees. The International Committee of the Red Cross has regular access to the facilities, but the United Nations and human rights groups say they have not been permitted to enter. ...
And then there's this, not-so-minor issue, that has to do with the wind-down of the Bush administration's stewardship, if you can call it that, of Iraq:
Looming on the horizon is the end of the United Nations authorization of the American involvement in Iraq, including the detention system. The authorization expires Dec. 31 and the United Nations is not expected to take up the issue again, leaving it to negotiations between the United States and Iraq. But the outlook for such a deal, which involves sweeping issues of troop withdrawal, as well as detention and other aspects of an American presence in Iraq, is in doubt.
On Sunday, for instance, the Iraqi government said it would not accept an American draft proposal on the issues.
The detention issues at play cover difficult legal and ethical ground, so much so that no American official interviewed for this article was willing to speak on the record about the discussions.
At the heart of the problem are all the so-called security detainees, who make up an overwhelming majority of the 21,000 people in American custody. They are the people who have been arrested because, in the judgment of the United States military, they could present some threat, even if they are not accused of extremist activity.
It is expected that Iraqi officials, who are now completing new prisons, will seek to take more control of detention operations, including taking custody of at least some of the current Iraqi detainees. That prompts the question characterized by one American military lawyer as “What do we do with the red population?” or those detainees the Americans consider to be extremists — the 8,000 detainees that General Stone referred to as a continuing threat.
Even as the Americans try to overcome their reputation for past mistreatment, serious allegations of torture and substandard conditions in some Iraqi prisons persist. Iraq’s Interior Ministry detention centers, which hold the largest numbers of pretrial detainees, have been run primarily by Shiites and have a record of overcrowding and abuse against the predominantly Sunni detainee population.
There have also been many allegations of torture. In cases in 2005 and 2006, it was American and British soldiers who rescued beaten and starved prisoners.
“If the coalition is going to turn over detainees, there are real Convention Against Torture issues,” said Kevin Lanigan, a former Army Reserve judge advocate in Iraq who is director of the law and security program at Human Rights First, a rights organization.
He was referring to the international Convention Against Torture, which among other things prohibits nations that have signed it from turning detainees over to countries where there are “substantial grounds” to believe that they would be tortured. Iraq has also signed the convention.
And speaking of "Convention Against Torture issues," the Guardian reports on "ghost ships" rendering detainees to ports unknown, where they may indeed, pose those issues.
The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.
Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.
Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.
The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.
It is the use of ships to detain prisoners, however, that is raising fresh concern and demands for inquiries in Britain and the US.
According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.
Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.
Reprieve will raise particular concerns over the activities of the USS Ashland and the time it spent off Somalia in early 2007 conducting maritime security operations in an effort to capture al-Qaida terrorists.
At this time many people were abducted by Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in a systematic operation involving regular interrogations by individuals believed to be members of the FBI and CIA. Ultimately more than 100 individuals were "disappeared" to prisons in locations including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantánamo Bay.
Reprieve believes prisoners may have also been held for interrogation on the USS Ashland and other ships in the Gulf of Aden during this time. ...
So let's get this straight. The Bush administration is concerned about turning over Iraqi prisoners to the Iraqi government because of concerns they might be tortured, but we continue to ferry prisoners secretly on American military vessels, where we might be torturing them ... I mean "interrogating" them ... and where we very well might be rendering them to rogue governments so that THEY can torture them?
And right wingers want to keep this outrage going with four years of John McCain?
Since the 2000 election, John McCain has been the golden boy of the Washington press corps. They travel with hin. They laugh at his jokes. They insert the word "maverick" into every story about him. They eat him up with a spoon.
Well... this ain't the year 2000 John McCain.
The current version is forgetful, stammering, and really, scary angry ... a LOT. And there's evidence that the major media reporters who used to dote on him, are changing their tone, perhaps fearing a future Saturday Night Live parody about offering the old boy a pillow...? Case in point, the conference call on which McCain surrogates tried to cover for McCain's latest gaffe on Iraq, as reported by the HuffPo's Sam Stein:
...Reminded that troops in Iraq currently number 155,000, well above the pre-surge level of 130,000, McCain refused to acknowledge on Friday that he had misspoke.
"I said we had drawn down," the Senator declared during a press conference (watch video). "I said we have drawn down and we have drawn down three of the five brigades. We have drawn down three of the five brigades. We have drawn down the marines. The rest will be home the end of July. That's just facts, the facts as I stated them."
But that isn't what he stated. On Thursday, in fact, he made a very specific measurement as to the extent of troop reductions.
"I can tell you that it [the mission in Iraq] is succeeding," said McCain. "I can look you in the eye and tell you it's succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels."
And that was just the beginning. McCain's gaffe had already been exacerbated during a conference call earlier in the day, when aides to the Arizona Republican insisted that he had not misspoke, even while McCain surrogate Sen. Jon Kyl acknowledged on the same call that he had: "What he said was not entirely accurate. OK. So what?"
The campaign aides also ridiculed reporters for even caring about the topic. "It is the essence of semantics," foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann said. "We are having this call about a verb tense and if you choose to write a story about Sen. McCain's use of a verb tense you need to hold Senator Obama to that exact same standard."
All of which, of course, simply piqued the interest of reporters. Michael Dobbs of the Washington Post pointed out that, contrary to the McCain campaign's tone, word choice does, in fact, matter. "If Bush had said 'the mission will be accomplished' as opposed to 'mission accomplished' -- those are two completely different things with completely different meanings."
An increasingly irritated Scheunemann responded: "If you're going to start fact-checking verb tenses, we're going to make sure we start monitoring verb tenses a lot more closely than we have in this campaign."
Later in the call, a reporter questioned whether McCain's verbal error was a sign that the Senator's age was affecting his memory and understanding.
"In every campaign, when you want to change the subject you try to pick a little thing that you can pick on and try to change the subject," replied Senator Jon Kyl, a McCain supporter. "I don't think this has anything to do with age."...
Now, if only MSNBC would replay HIS pastor videos over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again... or at least ask his boy Joe Lieberman why he's still hanging out with John "Hitler was an agent of God" Hagee...
John McCain stepped in it again. Call it a senior moment if you want, but Mac apparently doesn't know what our troop levels are in Iraq, even though he has made a point of shoving it in our faces how many times he has traveled there. Here's a peek at the latest face-off:
The likely GOP presidential nominee told an audience Thursday: "We have drawn down to presurge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadar City are quiet."
In fact, U.S. troop levels are not yet down to levels before President Bush's troop increase last year, a move that McCain endorsed.
There were 15 combat brigades in Iraq before the increase began. Five were added, and the United States has been reducing numbers since December. As of Friday, there are 17 brigades in Iraq, another brigade will depart in June and the plan is to pull out another in July, returning the level to 15.
Prior to the increase, there were 130,000-135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
In a conference call with reporters, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, an Obama supporter, argued that McCain was misrepresenting the facts when he said that the U.S. military has drawn back to levels before last year's force increase in Iraq. "That just is just not true. And everybody knows it's not true. And I assume Senator McCain just doesn't know the facts here," Doyle said in a conference call with reporters.
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, another Obama backer, echoed Doyle's criticism.
That prompted an angry response from the McCain campaign.
"Clearly John Kerry and Barack Obama have very little understanding of troop levels, but considering Barack Obama hasn't been to Iraq in 873 days and has never had a one-on-one meeting with General Petraeus, it isn't a surprise to anyone that he demonstrates weak leadership," the McCain campaign said.
In a dueling conference call, Sen. Jon Kyl, a McCain backer, accused the Obama campaign of deflecting from the real issue that Obama still calls for withdrawal even though the troop-influx strategy has worked to curb violence and he hasn't been to Iraq in two years. "It is absolutely the case that the decisions have been made to draw down to presurge levels," Kyl said.
The Arizona senator said, "It is correct that the levels of troops there are not the same as they were during the surge, and, in fact, all of them will be home by the beginning of July."
In response, the Obama campaign said the GOP campaign "still can't explain why John McCain could be so clearly and factually wrong in stating that our troops are at pre-surge levels. They are not, and anyone who wants to be commander in chief should know better before launching divisive political attacks. Once again, Senator McCain has shown that he is far more interested in stubbornly making the case for continuing a failed policy in Iraq than in getting the facts right."
George W. Bush thinks it appropriate to accuse a fellow American of appeasing Iran while on foreign soil. But he and his friends also thought it appropriate to put a foreign national on the U.S. payroll for years to supply them with false intelligence on Iraq, all the while apparently blissfully unaware that their payee was spying for Iran. (At least we hope they were unaware...) Now, the neocon darling Ahmad Chalabi has, at long last, been cut off:
Sources in Baghdad tell NBC News that as of this week American military and civilian officials have cut off all contact with controversial Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, the former favorite of Washington's once powerful neoconservatives.
The reason, the sources say, is "unauthorized" contacts with Iran's government, an allegation Chalabi denies. Iran has been accused of arming and training rebel Shiite forces in Iraq.
Only this week? What the hell have you idiots been doing all this time???
Since the invasion, reports of Chalabi's ties to Iran and his contacts with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have at times been sore spots. The FBI once sought to interview him, sources say, about allegations that secret U.S. codes had been passed to Iran.
Since September 2007, however, American military officials and civilian officials working out of the U.S. Embassy had contacts with Chalabi. At that time he was installed as the head of a "services" committee for Baghdad that was to coordinate the restoration of services to the city's residents.
Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq, even escorted Chalabi on a trip, on U.S. helicopters, to address reconstruction issues. And American officials attended meetings with him and supported his efforts.
That contact and all support has ended as of this week, American officials tell NBC News. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
The U.S. Embassy had no comment, and a spokesman for the multinational force said any questions "related to Dr. Chalabi and his duties and status" should be addressed to the Iraqi government.
At noon, the Senate quickly “devolved into a procedural mess” when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attempted to attach Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) watered-down GI Bill — which is strongly backed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — as an amendment. McConnell also immediately seconded his measure, but then filed cloture, “prohibiting Democrats from filing their own version of the proposal.”
This amendment is a poison pill. It not only kills the Public Safety bill, but also blocks Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) more generous GI Bill from being considered. In one swift maneuver, conservatives trampled over first responders and veterans. In a fiery speech, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) responded on the floor:
We have seen this parliamentary gimmick that has taken place offered by the Republican leadership that is a slap in the face to every firefighter and police officer and first responder in the country. […]
We’re saying to the firefighters of this nation and to the police officers of this nation and the first responders of the nation: Your interest, the safety and security of our communities across the nation, should be put aside in favor of some political gimmick by the Republican leader here in the United States Senate.
Way to support the troops, boys. Of course, John McCain's little buddy, Miss Lindsey, has offered her own, watered down G.I. bill, and McCain's emissaries have begun scampering around Jim Webb's ankles looking for an embarrassment-avoiding compromise. Here's hoping Webb and the Dems (and their Republican supporters on the bi-partisan bill) stand strong. Don's we at least owe the men and women George sent to their doom in Iraq a decent G.I. bill?
"No, no, I was talking about that we had fought the Gulf War for several reasons," McCain told reporters.
One reason was Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, he said. "But also we didn't want him to have control over the oil, and that part of the world is critical to us because of our dependency on foreign oil, and it's more important than any other part of the world," he said.
"If the word `again' was misconstrued, I want us to remove our dependency on foreign oil for national security reasons, and that's all I mean," McCain said.
"The Congressional Record is very clear: I said we went to war in Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction," he said.
Oh, well that clears that up. I mean, all the WMD we found in Iraq and all...
I think it's pretty evident to anyone who's paying attention that John McCain is down to doing anything, short of literally dropping to his knees and becoming Monica Lewinsky to whatever Republican would have him, to get into the White House. He has switched positions on nearly every issue that could be said to be a onetime core belief: tax cuts for the rich in a time of war, immigration (he reversed his support for his own bill...) even torture (not to mention the whole "against the King holiday, for the King holiday thing...) So it should come as no surprise that McCain's views on a longterm occupation of Iraq might be, how shall we say, fluid, as well:
When it comes to getting U.S. troops out of Iraq, Sen. John McCain was for the idea before he was against it.
Three years before the Arizona Republican argued on the campaign trail that U.S. forces could be in Iraq for 100 years in the absence of violence, he decried the very concept of a long-term troop presence.
In fact, when asked specifically if he thought the U.S. military should set up shop in Iraq along the lines of what has been established in post-WWII Germany or Japan -- something McCain has repeatedly advocated during the campaign -- the senator offered nothing short of a categorical "no."
"I would hope that we could bring them all home," he said on MSNBC. "I would hope that we would probably leave some military advisers, as we have in other countries, to help them with their training and equipment and that kind of stuff."
Host Chris Matthews pressed McCain on the issue. "You've heard the ideological argument to keep U.S. forces in the Middle East. I've heard it from the hawks. They say, keep United States military presence in the Middle East, like we have with the 7th Fleet in Asia. We have the German...the South Korean component. Do you think we could get along without it?"
McCain held fast, rejecting the very policy he urges today. "I not only think we could get along without it, but I think one of our big problems has been the fact that many Iraqis resent American military presence," he responded. "And I don't pretend to know exactly Iraqi public opinion. But as soon as we can reduce our visibility as much as possible, the better I think it is going to be."
The January 2005 comments, which have not surfaced previously during the presidential campaign, represent a stunning contrast to McCain's current rhetoric.
They also run squarely against his image as having a steadfast, unwavering idea for U.S. policy in Iraq -- and provide further evidence to those, including some prominent GOP foreign policy figures in the "realist" camp, who believe McCain is increasingly adopting policies shared by neoconservatives. ...[Sam Stein, the Huffington Post]
"When our Secretary of Defense says that it is up to the Iraqi people to defeat the Baathists and terrorists, we send a message that America's exit from Iraq is ultimately more important than the achievement of American goals in Iraq. We send a signal to every Iraqi - ally, neutral and adversary - that the United States is more interested in leaving than we are in winning."
"The United States will fail in Iraq if our adversaries believe they can outlast us. If our troop deployment schedules are more important than our staying power, we embolden our enemies and make it harder for our friends to take risks on our behalf. When the United States announces a schedule for training and deploying Iraqi security officers, then announces the acceleration of that schedule, then accelerates it again, it sends a signal of desperation, not certitude…. When we do this as our forces are coming under increasing attack, we suggest to friends and allies alike that our ultimate goal in Iraq is leaving as soon as possible - not meeting our strategic objective of building a free and democratic country in the heart of the Arab world."
"There can be little political or economic progress in Iraq until the United States creates a stable and secure environment there. Prematurely placing the burden of security on Iraqis is not the answer. Hastily trained Iraqi security forces cannot be expected to accomplish what U.S. forces have not yet succeeded in doing: defeating the Baathists and international terrorists inside Iraq. It is irresponsible to suggest that it is up to Iraqis to win this war."
In that same speech, which was praised by the PNAC crowd, McCain called for feeding more U.S. Marines and soldiers into the Iraqi grinder.
So while I like the idea of calling McCain on stuff like this, and think it will make great 527 fodder ... if we ever get an anti-McCain 527 ... the danger with McCain is not that he doesn't really mean it when he says 100 years, it's that he DOES.
Bin Laden's deputy says Iran trying to undermine al-Qaida
By LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt - Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader issued a new audiotape Tuesday accusing Shiite Iran of spreading a conspiracy theory about who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks to discredit the power of the Sunni terrorist network.
Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, has stepped up his denunciations of Iran in recent messages in part to depict al-Qaida as the Arabs' top defense against the Persian nation's rising power in the Middle East.
The increasing enmity toward Iran is a notable change of rhetoric from al-Zawahri, who in the past rarely mentioned the country — apparently in a hopes he would be able to forge some sort of understanding with Tehran based on their common rivalry with the United States. Iran has long sought to distance itself from al-Qaida.
Doh!!! How could they do it to ya, John???
"Al-Zawahri wanted to work with Iran, but he's deeply disappointed that Iran has not cooperated with al-Qaida," said Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert and author of "Inside al-Qaida: The Global Network of Terror."
So now, al-Zawahri "wants to appeal to the anti-Shiite, anti-Iran sentiments in the Arab and Muslim world," said Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore.
Al-Zawahri appeared intent on exploiting widespread worry in the Arab world over Iran's influence, particularly in Iraq, to garner support for al-Qaida. At the same time, he sought to denigrate Iran's ally Hezbollah, which has gained some popularity even among Sunnis in the region for its fight against Israel.
Al-Zawahri's comments came in a two-hour audio posted on an Islamic militant Web site, the second message in weeks in which he answered hundreds of questions sent to the site by al-Qaida sympathizers and others. ...
("Psst!... John ... can we start bombing Iran yet?" "Patience Joe ... Patience...)
Oh wait, there's more...
... in many of his answers, al-Zawahri went out of his way to criticize Iran. He said the Iraqi insurgent umbrella group led by al-Qaida, called the Islamic State of Iraq, is "the primary force opposing the Crusaders (the United States) and challenging Iranian ambitions" in Iraq.
One questioner asked about the theory that has circulated in the Middle East and elsewhere that Israel was behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Al-Zawahri accused Hezbollah's Al-Manar television of starting the rumor. "The purpose of this lie is clear — (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said.
"Iran's aim here is also clear — to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq," he added. Iran cooperated with the United States in the 2001 U.S. assault on Afghanistan that toppled al-Qaida's allies, the Taliban.
And now for the big finish:
... the change in tone could be because of al-Qaida's failure to win the release of al-Qaida figures detained by Iran since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, including al-Qaida security chief Saif al-Adel and two of bin Laden's sons.
Gunaratna said that up to 200 al-Qaida figures and their families are under house arrest in Iran and that Tehran has rejected al-Qaida attempts to negotiate their release.
Al-Qaida doesn't have the strength to launch attacks in Iran, but it intends to do so "in the future," he said. "If al-Qaida becomes strong in Iraq ... Iran believes al-Qaida in Iraq could become a major threat."
Al-Qaida has previously claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks.
In an audiotape last week, al-Zawahri denounced what he called Iran's expansionist plans, saying Tehran aims to annex southern Iraq and Shiite areas of the eastern Arabian Peninsula as well as strengthen ties to its followers in southern Lebanon. He warned that if Iran achieves its goals, it will "explode the situation in an already exploding region."
So al-Qaida is not only NOT cooperating with Iran, it intends to "strike it in the near future..." and Iran is not only NOT arming, training or helping al-Qaida (a ridiculous notion repeatedly put forward ... accidentally...??? ... by John McCain and his neocon friends) ... they are detaining al-Qaida prisoners?
Recall that in his testimony, General Petraeus declared that the biggest threat to the U.S. inside Iraq is Iran. But John McCain and the neocons claim the biggest threat to the U.S. inside Iraq is al-Qaida (all 1,000 of them...) so which is it, and if they're not working together, as John McCain would have the American people believe, is one of them more or less working in line with our interests? And if al-Qaida, wherever they are, including the franchises like al-Qaida in Iraq, constitute our single worst enemy, then isn't the enemy of our enemy ... Iran ... kind of on our side?
Based on the Senate hearings today and the testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, we are never, ever, ever, ever, everevereverever going to leave Iraq, because as Barack Obama brought out in his questioning, we will never meet the benchmarks that define when we've succeeded, given that those benchmarks cannot be described. It's almost like saying we have to stay there because we're there, and since our being there is helpful, we have to remain indefinitely because we fear our help will never be enough. Tedious? Yes. But also a lie.
For all the talk about tying the next president to some ridiculous "status of forces agreement" (that Congress will kindly be "informed of," but that the Iraqi parliament would actually get to vote on...) the fact remains that tThe U.S. cannot sustain a 140,000 troop presence in Iraq ad infinitum, I don't care how much John McCain and George W. Bush (and Halliburton) want to. We're leaving Iraq, maybe in a year, maybe in two, maybe three. But I find it hard to believe that the next president can extend the disaster that we've got going on over there and have any prayer of maintaining his or her presidency. The only way to do it would be to drive Iraq completely out of the news cycle, so that the war drags on and on without the public noticing it. We're close to that now, I'll admit. But I also agree with Gen. McCaffrey and other military leaders when they say that the military itself cannot sustain this, and sooner or later, I believe that the leadership of the military, extricated from their forced obeisance to Mr. Bush by virtue of an election, will stand up and say "no more."
Vice President Dick Cheney came to rouse the troops in Iraq this week. But their replies are any indication, the VP's peroration wasn't very persuasive.
ABC's Martha Raddatz talked with troops gathered to hear Cheney speak. Just one was quoted speaking highly of McCain -- though she suggested she found other McCain supporters. The airman's remark?
"Might as well keep it going."
By the way, I think the Keith count tonight was 11 troops in the group, 4 for Obama, 2 for Hillary, 1 for McCain and the rest undecided, but hoping whoever wins will get them the hell out of Iraq.
By the way, apparently comparing Barack to Tiger is very much in fashion. A Google search of "Obana and Tiger Woods" turns up some 437,000 entries. Even with duplicates of the same linked stories, we're talking about thousands of possible references, with everyone from Cliff May to John Fund to some guy named John Ziegler getting in on the act. (Fund, by the way, is no Tiger Woods of journalism: his December 2006 reference comes in a column predicting Obama won't run for president.)
"Tell us how fabulous you are! And isn't Iraq pretty?"
That's pretty much my summary of the Republican and Lieberman testimony on the Senate Armed Services Committee as General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared before it today (the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, featuring Senators Biden and Obama, is taking their crack at Petraeus at 2:30.)
On a more serious not, I wonder if these geezers ever get tired of being wet-pantied lackeys of the Bush administration? Jason and I were just talking last night, about the fact that in America's history, Senators and Congressmen were often larger than life figures -- the speaker of the House was often as well known to the public as the president. In recent times, think of giants like Tip O'Neil, and the more distant past, Senators like Daniel Webster, Charles Sumner, John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay. Now, Senators are little more than high-nosed partisan hacks, especially on the GOP side (think Henry Hyde or Newt Gingrich), or miniature men who are little more than the president's butlers, eager to fritter away their Constitutional prerogatives and suborn themselves to the "unitary executive" (think Denny Hastert -- whose name we literally couldn't recall last night...) It's almost laughable to say that the Congress, in its present construction, is a co-equal branch of government. Poor Robert Byrd with that little Constitution in his pocket is probably rolling around in his grave -- and he's still alive! [Photo at left: anti-slavery crusading Senator Charles Sumner]
Pathetic. Truly pathetic.
Related (and more uplifting): the Senate's "famous nine" (don't look for John Cornyn or Lindsey Graham to ever make this one...)
Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, putting them before a cavalcade of Senate stars, including committee Chairman Carl Levin (MI), Jim Webb (VA), John Warner (VA), Robert Byrd (WV), Lindsey Graham (SC), both Florida Senators, Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, Claire McCaskill (MO), Liddy Dole (NC), and two out of three potential future presidents: John McCain, who is the ranking Republican on the committee, and Hillary Clinton. Oh, Joe Lieberman is on the committee too (shudder).
In their opening statements, both men testified that essentially, U.S. troops will remain in Iraq indefinitely in large numbers, even after the U.N. mandate for the occupation of Iraq expires on December 31st. And Petraeus called for a 45-day waiting period before the U.S. draws down its forces in July. Crocker called for the signing of a "status of forces agreement" between the U.S. and Iraq to solidify the U.S. presence there after December, and he claims that the U.S. does not intend to have permanent bases there, the permanent bases we're building in that country notwithstanding... Crocker claims that such an agreement will neither tie the hands of Congress nor of the next president of the United States. Hm. And! He says the administration will "keep the Congress fully informed." How very kind of him to say. I can just see Dick Cheney snickering in the cloakroom as we speak...
John McCain is taking his turn now, trying to sound knowledgeable about Moqtada al-Sadr, Mosul and other things that begin with "M." He is sprinkling his "questions" with allusions to "victory!" And he wants to hear more about the "Iranian threat" and their support of "various elements that are Shiite extremists" particularly in Basra. Time to fact check that one. You can't trust much that the old feller says about Iraq, Iran, al-Qaida or much else. Ah, the aging brain...
Update, 11:07 - Oh god, Lieberman is talking now... (gagging ... gagging...) He's pleading for the "hear no progress, see no progress" Dems to "agree on the facts" presented by the two political appointees of the Bush administration testifying before him. Yes, makes sense...
Update, 12:00 - Bill Nelson just quoted Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who testified earlier this week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that regarding Iraq, "this thing is over, we're coming out," and the only question is, how we stage a withdrawal that gets our forces out safely and with some measure of dignity for the United States. That, it seems to me, is the question. (I skipped the testimony of the various Republican suck-ups who parroted administration Iraq-speak during their (wasted) time. McCaffrey's exact quote was as follows:
"The Iraqi government is dysfunctional, the Iraqi security forces are inadequate, ill-equipped, and we've got very little time. By the way, I'm not recommending we come out of Iraq in a year or three. That's what's going to happen. This thing is over."
And he went on to say that:
"We're going to see some Iraqi two-star general in charge of Iraq three years from today," he predicted, some "hot-shot division commander" who seizes control. The best hope is that it is not another Saddam Hussein.
And in case you think McCaffrey was an outlier, here's another quote from that April 8 hearing:
"Let's be very clear," former Army War College commandant Robert Scales Jr. testified. "Regardless of strategy or who's in office, we're going to get out of Iraq, just driven by the conditions of the military."
Not exactly the rosy, "we'll stay forever and the Iraqis will cheer" scenarios being peddled by Crocker and Petraeus (who, in their defense, are at the moment, wholly in the hands of the president of the United States and thus chained to his boss's obsessive desire to keep U.S. forces in Iraq, permanently if possible.)
The case is closed, the clowns have left the big-top, and an exhaustive review of 600,000 documents has proven, once and for all, that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al-Qaida. Can we stop debating this now?
Rather silent out there in Red Blogland, although this poor dear seems to have gotten confused about the second-tier Al Qaida in Mesopotamia, thinking gosh, they must be the same crew run by Osama bin Laden ... and missing the very salient point that, um, THEY WEREN'T THERE BEFORE THE WAR WE STARTED in 2003...
So Samantha Power resigned from the Barack Obama campaign today, reportedly over her comments to a UK reporter that Mrs. Clinton is "a monster" ... but here's what else Ms. Power said that might have speeded her exit from the campaign:
"It would be the height of ideology, you know, to sort of say, well I said it therefore I'm going to impose it on whatever reality entreats me," Power told the BBC.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe disagreed Friday with the suggestion that it would be responsible to leave "a little wiggle room" when establishing the date by which all U.S. combat troops should be out of Iraq.
"He has been and will continue to be crystal clear with the American people that if and when he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in - as he said, the time frame would be about 16 months at the most where you withdraw troops. There should be no confusion about that with absolute clarity," said Plouffe.
The Clinton campaign of course jumped on those remarks, accusing Obama of campaign double-speak, "just like NAFTA" (sure you want to bring that up, Canada callers?) But then there's this bit, which suggests that, just like NAFTA, Camp Hillary's criticisms ought to start with the man in the mirror:
The reporter's question was also prompted by Gen. Jack Keane (Ret.), an ABC News consultant and one-time Clinton adviser, telling the New York Sun "he is convinced Mrs. Clinton would hold off on authorizing a wide-scale immediate withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq."
Clinton today distanced herself from Keane's remark.
"He is doesn't work for my campaign he is not an adviser, he is one of the many military veterans whom I respected whom I am very pleased to have offer advice from time to time. He is not within the campaign," Clinton told reporters Friday.
Of course, the Obama camp's response to all of this was weakened by the fact that they went into defense mode, forgetting to throw in a little anti-monster offense. Not the difference in tone in these two broadsides, and the stature gap, as Hillary did her own hatchet swinging while Team Obama relies on the campaign manager:
"While Senator Obama campaigns on his plan to end the war, his top advisors tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president. This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail and telling people in other countries another. We saw this with NAFTA as well," Clinton said.
"He has attacked me continuously for having no hard exit date and now we learn that he doesn't have one -– in fact he doesn't have a plan at all according to his top foreign policy adviser," she said. "He keeps telling people one thing while his campaign tells people abroad something else I'm not sure what the American people should believe but I would refer you to the BBC interview in which the top foreign policy adviser is speaking about senator Obama and Iraq," Clinton said.
Plouffe responded in a conference call with reporters Friday: "Sen. Obama has said that one of his first, you know, sort of moments upon entering the Oval Office would be to sit down with his Joint Chiefs of Staff and make it very clear that a withdrawal is going to begin, and it needs to be done rapidly," he said.
"We need to quickly move to withdraw troops so that we can more effectively focus on some of the threats we're facing in Afghanistan and other parts of the world."
Unfortunately, that's not the way to beat a Clinton. If you're fighting this particular monster, you need to bring an anvil to the ring, and leave the whiffle bat at home.
Damn, I love Chuck Hagel! My favorite Republican lawmaker (and a man who should be running for president) is at it again, calling out the Bushies in no uncertain terms:
"This is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I've ever seen personally or ever read about," the always blunt and frequently quotable Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said yesterday during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
"This administration in my opinion has been as unprepared as any administration I'm aware of," Hagel added, "not only the ones that I have been somehow connected to and that's been every administration -- either I've been in Washington or worked within an administration or Congress or some way dealing with them since the first Nixon administration. I would rate this one the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus -- almost every area, I would give it the lowest grade. ...
"And you know, I think of this administration, what they could have done after 9/11, what was within their grasp. Every poll in the world showed 90% of the world for us. Iran had some of the first spontaneous demonstrations on the streets of Tehran supporting America. They squandered a tremendous amount of opportunity."
Hagel, who toyed with the idea of running for president himself, also said:
He would be open to the idea of either working in a Democratic administration or even running as the vice presidential nominee on a Democratic ticket -- though, he conceded, "I probably won't have to worry about it" because he's unlikely to be asked.
"If there was an area that I thought I could make a difference and influence policy, leadership, outcome ... then I would entertain" those possibilities, Hagel said. ...
Don't count on not being asked, Chuck. You're one of the few clear-thinking, independent-minded Republicans in Congress, and one of only a handful of people who truly embody the term "Senator" -- quite the opposite of the kow-towing, royal boot-licking Joe Liebermans around you. If you ran for president, I would seriously consider crossing political lines to support you.
The full transcript of Hagel's remarks can be found on the CFR website.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Thursday called on Congress to approve billions of dollars in additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before lawmakers leave for their Christmas break.
He said the Army will have to shut down bases and start furloughing between 100,000 and 200,000 civilian workers by mid-February if Congress does not clear the funds.
"Pentagon officials have warned Congress that the continued delay in funding our troops will soon begin to have a damaging impact on the operations of this department," Bush said Thursday. "The warning has been laid out for the United States Congress to hear."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates already has ordered the Army and Marine Corps to plan for cutbacks, including civilian layoffs, termination of contracts and reduced operations at bases, The Associated Press reported. ...
Congress should tell Dubya "go ahead, make our day." If the DOD can't live on more than $400 billion a year, then it SHOULD cut back, just like the rest of us have to do when we go over budget. The Fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Act named for Virginia Senator John Warner, and signed by Bush in October of 2006 handed the Defense Department $500 billion for military operations this year. In addition, there have been numerous supplemental "emergency funding" bills authorizing still more money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And yet, the president is whingeing that Bob Gates is running out of cash? What is he, a college freshman with a new credit card?
Bottom line, Bushie; use the money you've already got. If the Democrats who control the House have half a brain (and this is not verifiable at this juncture...) they will fold their arms and put away our wallet.
In the largest call-up of U.S. diplomats since the Vietnam War, the State Department is planning to order some of its personnel to serve at the American Embassy in Iraq because of a lack of volunteers. Those designated "prime candidates" - from 200 to 300 diplomats - will be notified Monday that they have been selected for one-year postings to fill the 40 to 50 vacancies expected next year.
A spokesman for the union that represents U.S. diplomats told The Associated Press on Saturday that "assigning unarmed civilians into a combat zone should be done on a voluntary basis."
They will have 10 days to accept or reject the position. If not enough say yes, some will be ordered to go to Iraq and face dismissal if they refuse, said Harry Thomas, director general of the Foreign Service.
Starting Nov. 12, "our assignments panel will assign people to Iraq," Thomas told reporters in a conference call Friday. "Under our system, we have all taken an oath to serve our country, we have all signed (up for) worldwide availability.
"If someone decides ... they do not want to go, we will then consider appropriate action," he said. "We have many options, including dismissal from the Foreign Service."
Only those with compelling reasons, such as a medical condition or extreme personal hardship, will be exempt from disciplinary action, Thomas said. He said the process of deciding who will go to Iraq should be complete by Thanksgiving.
Diplomats who are forced into service in Iraq will receive the same extra hardship pay, vacation time and choice of future assignments as those who have volunteered since Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this past summer ordered Baghdad positions to be filled before all others around the world.
About 200 Foreign Service officers work in Iraq.
It is certain to be unpopular due to serious security concerns in Iraq and uncertainty over the status of the private contractors who protect U.S. diplomats there, particularly after a deadly Sept. 16 shooting in which guards from Blackwater USA protecting an embassy convoy were accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians.
So why wouldn't our diplomats want to go to the neocon paradise we've created in Baghdad?
Iraq is an extremely dangerous hardship post with near daily insurgent mortar attacks on the fortified Green Zone where the embassy is located.
While you were choking on that $190 BILLION supplemental war request by the Pentagon, several chess pieces moved in the endless global war today. Here are three:
The Knight: An amendment (#3017) to the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, authored by uber-neocon Joe Lieberman and Arizona Republican John Kyl, passed the Senate with 76 votes to 22 against (Biden and Dodd voted against it, as did military vets Chuck Hagel and Jim Web; Hillary "Margaret Thatcher" Clinton voted in favor, and Barack failed to show...) The admendment is tantamount to a soft declaration of war, even with the more egregious portions stripped out, and the technically non-binding nature of the measure. Recall that this is the same Joe Lieberman who was the AUTHOR of the legislation that gave George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq. The resolution designates Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and decrees:
(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;
(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;
(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224; and
(6) that the Department of the Treasury should act with all possible expediency to complete the listing of those entities targeted under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747 adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006 and March 24, 2007, respectively.
The Bishop: An amendment (#2997) authored by Joe Biden passed the Senate, also by a wide margin (75 to 23,) advocating a plan of "soft partition" -- something Biden has been pushing for some time -- which would turn Iraq into a loose republic. Clearly, the idea of the United States Congress voting to change the form of government in a supposedly sovereign country is bordering on scary, but then again, this is America. We tend to do that sort of thing. (full text here, again, search for 2997). In fact, the Biden amendment is largely an exercise in wishful thinking. It reads in part:
(1) the United States should actively support a political settlement among Iraq's major factions based upon the provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions;
(2) the active support referred to in paragraph (1) should include--
(A) calling on the international community, including countries with troops in Iraq, the permanent 5 members of the United Nations Security Council, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Iraq's neighbors--
(i) to support an Iraqi political settlement based on federalism;
(ii) to acknowledge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq; and
(iii) to fulfill commitments for the urgent delivery of significant assistance and debt relief to Iraq, especially those made by the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council;
(B) further calling on Iraq's neighbors to pledge not to intervene in or destabilize Iraq and to agree to related verification mechanisms; and
(C) convening a conference for Iraqis to reach an agreement on a comprehensive political settlement based on the creation of federal regions within a united Iraq;
(3) the United States should urge the Government of Iraq to quickly agree upon and implement a law providing for the equitable distribution of oil revenues, which is a critical component of a comprehensive political settlement based upon federalism; and
(4) the steps described in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) could lead to an Iraq that is stable, not a haven for terrorists, and not a threat to its neighbors.
The Rook: On the domestic front, a federal judge has struck down two the many egregious portions of the Patriot Act, in a case stemming from a chilling incident for anyone who believes in the basic civil liberties and freedoms promised by the Constitution:
Federal district court judge Ann Aiken struck down the government's ability to get orders from the secret spy court for anything other than acquiring foreign intelligence activities, saying that using that court and its lowered standards -- instead of getting a traditional criminal wiretap order -- violates the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The ruling applies to Patriot Act changes to wiretapping laws and to so-called sneak-and-peak searches, where the government can search someone's home secretly and never have to disclose the search to the individual.
The ruling comes out of a lawsuit brought by Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield, who was arrested by the FBI shortly after train bombings in Madrid, Spain. The FBI publicly said Mayfield's prints matched the bomb, though Mayfield had no passport and the Spanish police told the FBI they did not believe the print was a match. The government approached the secret spying court, saying that Mayfield was an "agent of a foreign power" which allowed the government to get warrants to secretly search his home and office, as well as bug his house and eavesdrop on him, for use in a criminal court. Prior to the Patriot Act, searches authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had to have a primary purpose of gathering foreign intelligence, rather than prosecuting a person.
Mayfield, a practicing Muslim who argues he was targeted by the FBI because of his religion, was later exonerated of all charges.
Mayfield and the government settled his lawsuit, with the exception of his challenge to the changes to the Patriot Act that allowed the government to use secret spying orders, rather than traditional wiretaps, for criminal cases.
It's a chilling incident, but a heart warming result.
The score for today: one down, one neutral, one up.
Is George W. Bush offering free advice to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on how, if either becomes president, they can help us stay in Iraq? (And isn't that rather like Adolph Hitler advising Moshe Dyan?) I'd almost prefer to believe that Bush is devious enough to be trying to poison the waters for the Democratic front runners with their base by making it appear that they're on his side when it comes to keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for years to come ... but that's not our President Bush, is it?
Our president Bush is delusional, and apparently quite insane. He's like a little Nero fiddling away, unaware that the city is in flames.
Admiral William Fallon, head of CENTCOM, thoroughly disses Gen. David Petraeus, calling him ... well ... "an ass-kissing little chickenshit." No, seriously, he did. No disrespect to the General, but daaaaaaaammnn....
A lot of people, myself included, have been getting on the Democrats for not standing more firmly against George W. Bush's agenda, particulary when it comes to Iraq. But do the Democrats really have the power to bring the House of Bush down? Maybe, maybe not. Joe Biden has made a debate point of saying "you don't have the votes!" And maybe he's right. A little numbers reminder for you:
The Democrats won 54% of the popular vote, to wrest control of the Senate away from the GOP in 2006, winning six seats (the ones I predicted they'd get, by the way... just thought I'd throw that in.) But did they win the Senate?
After the 2006 election, the Democrats hold 49 seats in the Senate. The Republicans? They too hold 49 seats. The other two seats are held by Independents: Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Dems, giving them that 50th seat that keeps Dick Cheney out of their Kool-Aid, and Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut neocon who claims he caucuses with the Democrats, too, and who was allowed to keep his committee assigments as if he hadn't lost the Democratic primary in Connecticut to an actual Dem.
And Lieberman? Well he's a whole 'nother, nother.
He supports George W. Bush ... totally.
He is zealously in favor of continuing the war in Iraq.
He is eager to expand that war to Syria, and to Iran.
Case in point: here's Lieberman questioning Gen. David Petraeus the day before yesterday on the subject of Iran's supposed complicity in the fighting in Iran, and what he thinks the U.S. should do about it. Note that Petraeus does the calm military version of "get the f--- outta here...!"
Disentangling the mangled hash that is George W. Bush's brain can't be an easy thing to do, but new information seems to come out every month that attempts to explain what the president was thinking when he made the disastrous decision to put the United States Army and Marines into Iraq.
And depending on who you believe, George Bush either knew that Iraq had no WMD and didn't care, or he still believed Iraq had WMD as late as 2006. At the end of the day, it may not matter, but for the purposes of history, it will be pondered for generations whether this man took his country to war based on deliberate lies, or negligent ones.
Meanwhile, even Wolf Blitzer is now acknowledging the failures of the Iraq campaign, pointing out these unpleasant statistics to one of the Bush faithful during his program on CNN:
Bombings, sectarian slayings and other violence related to the war killed at least 1,773 Iraqi civilians in August, the second month in a row that civilian deaths have risen, according to government figures obtained Friday. In July, the civilian death toll was 1,753, and in June it was 1,227.
Oh and the ethnic cleansing since the surge? It's up.
Iraq remains "unable to govern" itself effectively and hobbled by the absence of strong leadership, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's inability to broker political accord continues to make him vulnerable, according to a new U.S. intelligence report released today.
Seven months after President Bush ordered more U.S. troops to the country, "there have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq's security situation," the report concludes. . If U.S. forces continue their current strategy, security "will continue to improve modestly" over the next six to 12 months but violence will remain high and political reconciliation will remain elusive.
The report , determined that while some Iraqi security forces "have performed adequately," overall they "have not improved enough to conduct major operations independent" of U.S. forces in multiple locations on a sustained basis.
If U.S. troops were to downscale their mission to supporting Iraqi security forces and hunting terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda, the report contends that move "would erode security gains achieved thus far."
The British have a new "super weapon" to use to fight the "war on terror" in Afghanistan: an "enhance blast weapon" that kills the enemy by sucking the air out of his lungs and rupturing internal organs.
On the domestic "war on terror" front -- National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell admits what we already knew: that AT&T and other phone companies helped the government to spy on us. Why the admission? Because McConnell would like Congress to exempt the telcos from their customers' lawsuits. Nice.
It looks all bad. Bud don't worry, Dubya! Maybe some silly neocon can get Bushie to launch us another war?
Ari Fleischer has a new job! He's the spokesman for a group launching a $15 million ad campaign in support of Bush's Iraq surge. Ari appeared on "Hardball" yesterday with Mike Barnacle sitting in for Chris Matthews, and Barnacle scored two major slapshots: first, asking Ari to name the soldier featuerd in the ad (Ari couldn't recall) ... and second, after what sounded like a slathering set-up, asking "so Ari, how many Iraqis were on those planes that flew into the World Trade Center?" Watch:
As for who's funding the campaign, NBC's First Read has the rundown:
The donors who are financing the new multi-million-dollar TV ad campaign arguing against a withdrawal from Iraq include a Who's Who of former Bush Administration ambassadors (to plum assignments like France, Italy, and Malta); a least one of Bush's original Pioneers; the man ranked by Forbes (in 2006) as the third-richest American; and, of course, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
Brad Blakeman, the president of Freedom's Watch, which is running these ads, released the following names as donors to his group. Blakeman told NBC that the rest of the donors are choosing to be anonymous. Freedom's Watch is a 501(c)4 organization, which can collect unlimited contributions and doesn't have to disclose its donors.
When you're a chickenhawk... never bring up Vietnam
George W. Bush, America's second most powerful chickenhawk (Dick Cheney being the first,) made a serious mistake this week, during a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars. In pleading for more time and more support for his Mesopotamian disaster, he stumbled upon an unfortunate analogy. Said the Texas, Alabama and Massachusetts Air National Guard no-show:
"One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like boat people, re-education camps and killing fields..."
"Historical parallels of that kind are not very helpful, and I don't think they happen to be right," she said. "This is a different set of circumstances, with different stakes for the United States."
Yeah, a set of circumstances a lot like Vietnam...
Meanwhile, in his speech, Bush also walked back from any criticism of the administration of Iraqi P.M. Nouri al-Maliki. Said Bushie about his equally incompetent, Shiite militia-coddling pal:
"Prime Minister Maliki's a good guy, good man with a difficult job and I support him," Mr Bush told military veterans in Kansas city.
The president also vowed to stay the course in Iraq and for the first time compared the situation to the Vietnam War, arguing that America's withdrawal had been catastrophic for millions of people.
"As long as I am commander in chief we will fight to win," Mr Bush said to resounding applause from a conference of US military veterans in Kansas City, "I'm confident that we will prevail."
And why so nicie?
The Iraqi prime minister had earlier reacted angrily to what he called the "discourteous" remarks from his US allies.
AdvertisementHe suggested that if the was not treated well by the Americans, he would find another patron much less to their liking, such as Iran or Syria.
"Those who make such statements are bothered by our visit to Syria," said Mr Al-Maliki.
"We will pay no attention. We care for our people and our Constitution and can find friends elsewhere.
"No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people."
The message was driven home to president Bush overnight.
So Iraq is, or isn't, Vietnam, we're never leaving, and Maliki's doing a heckuva job. Well alrighty then.
Back to Bush's Vietnamization strategy, David Gergen weighs in:
"He may well have stirred up a hornet's nest among historians," Gergen stated. "By invoking Vietnam, he raised the automatic question, 'Well, if you've learned so much from history, Mr. President, how did you ever get us involved in another quagmire?' ... It's surprising to me that he would go back to that, and I think he's going to get a lot of criticism."
"This is not a man who's talking about compromise," Gergen emphasized "This is not a man who's talking about a Plan B. ... This a man saying, 'I'm hanging tough.'"
"The reason we lost Vietnam, in part, was because we had no strategy," said Gergen. "And the problem we've got now in Iraq, what is the strategy for victory? ... It's not clear we have a winning strategy in Iraq. That's what cost us Vietnam. That's why we eventually withdrew under humiliating circumstances."
"[Bush] talks black and white," Gergen concluded. "Victory or withdrawal, those are the two options. And Democrats and Republicans are saying, 'Mr. President, there is a third option here, and that is a partial pullback. Stay there, try to prevent a civil war.' ... Today, there was no indication he was willing to do that."
Update: Watch Dubya for yourself:
Update: Veterans react to Bush's chicken hawkery...
Iraqification: Cheney's words come back to haunt us
With Iraqi Sunnis now begging their Arab brethren for help to stop what that country's most senior politician is calling a genocide by ruling Shia, backed by Iran, which lawmaker Adnan al-Dulaimi says could spread to other Arab regimes, there are new wrinkles in George W. Bush's Iraq miracle:
A plot to ship 150,000 rifles from Italy to the Iraqi interior ministry -- the same ministry feared by many Sunnis inside Iraq as something of an Office of Ethnic Cleansing, was uncovered, with the Italian Mafia apparently behind the deal. The Guardian reports:
An Iraqi interior ministry official insisted the weapons were mostly for Iraqi police in Anbar province. But, given the close relationship between the Shia-led government and Shia militias and the irregular nature of the arms order, the disclosure prompted suspicion that the eventual destination could have been the militias, or police units close to them.
The aborted shipment comes only a week after a congressional investigation team found that the Pentagon could not account for 190,000 US-supplied weapons that had gone missing in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. It would have been another spectacular lapse to add to a growing list that began immediately after the invasion when the US failed to protect Iraqi army weapons dumps from looting and disbanded the Iraqi army complete with weapons.
The anti-Mafia investigators stumbled on the deal, which had not been authorised by the Italian government, while shadowing a group of suspected Italian drug traffickers. Expecting to find drugs during a covert search of the luggage of a suspect boarding a flight to Libya early last year, police instead found helmets, bullet-proof vests and a weapons catalogue. ...
Meanwhile, we step into the wayback machine to listen to a former U.S. Secretary of Defense explain to us why invading and occupying Iraq as the climax of the 1991 Gulf War would be such a bone-headed idea. Let's head back to 1994. Our epxert: one Richard Bruce Cheney. Bruce ... take it away...
Q: Do you think the U.S., or U.N. forces, should have moved into Baghdad?
Q: Why not?
A: Because if we'd gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn't have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.
Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it -- eastern Iraq -- the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.
It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.
The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families -- it wasn't a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?
Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.
Righto. Meanwhile, on this side of the ledger, the U.S. lost five more troops today.
Sleep well, Dick. And your little pal George, too...
Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution has gotten a lot of mileage out of playing indignant over charges that he has been a booster of the Iraq war, and the current surge strategy of George W. Bush. This following his and fellow think tanker Ken Pollack's rosy-ish op-ed in the New York Times on how we just might be winning the war (a view that has won them praise from the neocon faithful.) Now, the third man on that recent Brookings trip to Iraq has what you might call a difference of opinion with O'Hanlon and Pollack on how things are going:
It is scarcely surprising that my perceptions of a recent trip to Iraq are different from that of two of my traveling companions and those of several other recent think tank travelers to the country.
From my perspective, the US now has only uncertain, high risk options in Iraq. It cannot dictate Iraq’s future, only influence it, and this presents serious problems at a time when the Iraqi political process has failed to move forward in reaching either a new consensus or some form of peaceful coexistence. It is Iraqis that will shape Iraq’s ability or inability to rise above its current sectarian and ethnic conflicts, to redefine Iraq’s politics and methods of governance, establish some level of stability and security, and move towards a path of economic recovery and development.
The full report is here. And Cordesman's analysis of why anything at all might be going better in Iraq? Luck.
Soccer (that's football, to you) may not be able to save Iraq, but for a few brief hours this weekend, it did bring that broken country together. What a great story -- despite the revelers throwing their Kalashnakovs in the air and waving them like they just don't care, resulting in at least four accidental deaths, not to mention the bombers who were determined to turn the festivity into tragedy, the way a bomber did after Iraq clinched the semifinals. The Iraqi team, known as the "Lions of Mesopotamia," is comprised of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, who played together as Iraqis, though they had to practice as Jordanians, since it's too dangerous for them to practice at home on one of those soccer fields our troops are risking their lives to construct. And they are an example of what Iraq can be -- plural, unified, and nationalistic beyond the constrictive bounds of sect.
But wait, it gets better...
The guy who scored the winning goal to clinch the 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia? He told the press afterward that U.S. troops should get out of Iraq. Like, yesterday.
31: The percentage of Americans according to a new ABC/WaPo poll who say the Supreme Court is leaning too far to the right (BTW Bush's approval rating in that poll: 33 percent, with 65 disapproving -- 52 percent strongly so... the highest strong disapproval Bush has faced since he took office.)
Other tidbits from the poll:
58 percent strongly disapprove of the situation in Iraq (68 disapprove period), and a record 56 percent disapprove of the U.S. "campaign against terrorism." Interesting... both all-time highs for those questions.
64 percent disapprove of the job Republicans are doing in Congress, with 34 percent approving; and 51 percent disapprove of the job Democrats are doing, with a much more respectable 46 percent approving. i'd wager that most of the Dems' disapproval stems from their failure to really take on (if not take down) this president. Evidence of that: 63 percent disapprove of the Dems' handling of the situation in Iraq, though the public prefers the Dems to handle Iraq over President Bush by a margin of 55 to 32 percent, and 59 percent of respondents favor withdrawing U.S. troops from the conflict.
BAGHDAD, July 23 — While Washington is mired in political debate over the future of Iraq, the American command here has prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant American role for the next two years.
The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.
The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security.
That new approach put a premium on protecting the Iraqi population in Baghdad, on the theory that improved security would provide Iraqi political leaders with the breathing space they needed to try political reconciliation.
The latest plan, which covers a two-year period, does not explicitly address troop levels or withdrawal schedules. It anticipates a decline in American forces as the “surge” in troops runs its course later this year or in early 2008. But it nonetheless assumes continued American involvement to train soldiers, act as partners with Iraqi forces and fight terrorist groups in Iraq, American officials said.
The goals in the document appear ambitious, given the immensity of the challenge of dealing with die-hard Sunni insurgents, renegade Shiite militias, Iraqi leaders who have made only fitful progress toward political reconciliation, as well as Iranian and Syrian neighbors who have not hesitated to interfere in Iraq’s affairs. And the White House’s interim assessment of progress, issued n July 12, is mixed.
But at a time when critics at home are defining patience in terms of weeks, the strategy may run into the expectations of many lawmakers for an early end to the American mission here.
The plan, developed by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador, has been briefed to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. William J. Fallon, the head of the Central Command. It is expected to be formally issued to officials here this week. ...
So when are we getting out of Iraq? President Bush has said that "future presidents..." plural ... will decide that. And Hillary got a smart-ass answer from the Pentagon when she asked about withdrawal plans. Now we're starting to see the bigger picture.
The Pentagon's Eric Edelman, one of those notorious neoocn undersecretaries, tossed Hillary a big, juicy softball with his ridiculous "aiding the enemy" letter in response to her letter, via the Senate Arms Services Committee, on which she serves to oversee the Pentagon ... duh ... and in which she asked for any Pentagon plans for an orderly eventual withdrawal from Iraq. Here's the background, in case you missed it:
On May 23, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging him to “prepare plans for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces.”
Given the express will of the Congress to implement a phased eplroyment of United States forces from Iraq and the importance of proper contingency planning to achieve that goal, I write to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress - including the Senate Armed Services Committee - with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning.
Clinton said she conveyed similar concerns in a private meeting with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace, and has publicly warned the administration that redeployment is “complicated” and “If they’re not planning for it, it will be difficult to execute it in a safe and efficacious way.”
Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. … [S]uch talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.
Tough talk, and I'm sure Mr. Edelman thought that as in the past, such talk would shut down any talk about withdrawal, timetables, or opposition to the president's policy in Iraq. But this is not 2004, and Hillary Clinton is not John Kerry. In fact, as The Politico's Ben Smith points out, Edelman's broadside was probably the best thing to happen to Hillary all week:
Defense Undersecretary Eric Edelman, a former Cheney aide, really handed Hillary an enormous gift with his letter warning that "premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda."
That may have worked in 2004. Now it's just a gift to Hillary. Her staff would not, of course, say whether they knew how the AP had "obtained" Edelman's letter. But it was an incredible gift to her, and her aides promptly hit it out of the park, right there in the first version of the story.
Her Senate spokesman, Philippe Reines, demanded that the administration provide a withdrawal plan rather than "a political plan to attack those who question them."
He also called the comments "outrageous and dangerous" and, to boot, warned against "redeploying out of Iraq with the same combination of arrogance and incompetence with which the Bush administration deployed our young men and women into Iraq."
Is there still any danger here for Clinton, any chance that voters — Democratic primary voters?! — consider criticism of the war effort and discussion of withdrawal disloyal? Edelman seems to have thought so -- that excerpt reads as a shot across the bows. But it's a bit too late in the day for that, isn't it? When you've everyone from Richard Lugar to a front-page blogger on Kos getting your back, it's a pretty good day.
Indeed. Hillary, who is clearly thinking about her administration, rather than her nomination, is simply smoking the Bush administration out on its continued lack of planning in Iraq. The fact that the undersecretary would throw elbows in such a retro, 2004 manner might leave one to conclude that, just as they failed to plan properly for the occupation of Iraq, the Pentagon has made no plans for withdrawal from Iraq. And Hillary is on firm ground in asking the questions, first, since its her job as a member of the Armed Services Committee, and because the American people are demanding withdrawal by 70 percent majorities, and it would help to know if the civilian morons running the Pentagon have any clue how to get it done.
Hillary gets to try out her Dojo Bill immediate slap-back style, plus she gets some love from the left end of the base, and she plumps up her credentials as a pragrmatic, thorough and forward thinking commander in chief. Nice work if you can get it. More on Clinton's response, including her letter to Edelman's boss:
Saying that other members of the Bush administration had not resorted to political attacks when asked about contingency plans or the possibility of a phased withdrawal, Senator Clinton, a member of the Armed Services Committee wrote:
Rather than offer to brief the congressional oversight committees on this critical issue, Under Secretary Edelman – writing on your behalf – instead claims that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies. Under Secretary Edelman has his priorities backward. Open and honest debate and congressional oversight strengthens our nation and supports our military.
His suggestion to the contrary is outrageous and dangerous. Indeed, you acknowledged the importance of Congress in our Iraq policy at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in March, when you stated, “I believe that the debate here on the Hill and the issues that have been raised have been helpful in bringing pressure to bear on the Maliki government and on the Iraqis in knowing that there is a very real limit to American patience in this entire enterprise.”
I renew my request for a briefing, classified if necessary, on current plans for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq or an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning. I also renew my concern that our troops will be placed in unnecessary danger if the Bush Administration fails to plan for the withdrawal of U.S. Forces. Finally, I request that you describe whether Under Secretary Edelman’s letter accurately characterizes your views as Secretary of Defense.
I would appreciate the courtesy of a prompt response directly from you.
Take that in our backside. (Full letter via ThinkP here)
Meanwhile, the headline I get out of the New York Times/CBS poll is that Americans of both sexes are united in finding Hil to be a credible CIC, and that she's holding all the cards when it comes to the women's vote, with the exception of the throwback '50s housefrau vote. ...
Update: Bob Gates apparently is saying he will get back to Mrs. Clinton shortly. Meanwhile, the headlines have been gonzo for her:
The Republican leadership in the Senate has done it again.
After an all-night session called by Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in which the Iraq war was, at long last, debated as to its continued viability, Republicans led by Mitch McConnell, John McCain, and phony Independent Joe Lieberman, blocked attempts to pass the Levin-Reed (Jack Reed of RI, not Harry) amendment, which would have finally begun the process of bringing this disastrous war to an end. The Republicans are feeling quite proud of themselves tonight, having voted to protect the president, rather than American troops, once again. Apparently, support the troops, for Republicans, means supporting only their commander in chief, and to hell with those who are actually fighting and dying for his catastrophic mistake. (Note that the latest NIE indicates that Bush insistence on switching our focus from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2002 hurt the war on terror, by taking our eye off the ball in the Afghan-Pakistan border region, where al-Qaida is actually based, as opposed to Iraq, where only name-only offshoots dwell... for Michael Ware's spot-on take, click here.)
Reid has responded by pulling the entire Defense Authorization Bill from the floor, leading Republicans, in an incredible display of chutzpah, to blame Democrats for not supporting the troops. John McCain's melodramatic press conference performance, gilded by his pathetic attempts to get back into the good graces of the hard core fools who now constitute the Republican Qaida, was actually embarassing.
So now, Republicans, you must take complete ownership of this war. The Democrats are now four square against its continuation, as are seven in ten Americans. That leaves you alone as the defenders of the president an his Mesopotamian adventure. You own it, with all its consequences.
The tally in today's 52-47 vote: only four of the seven or so Republicans who have now publicly expressed opposition to the current war strategy had the courage to vote their convictions. They were: Chuch Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Susan Collins, also of Maine. Others, like Virginia's John Warner, tucked their pride and manhood into their pockets and voted with the president. Shame on them.
And to those who are still clinging to this war, and to this president, apparently without regard to the carnage its creating, both against Iraqis, and against our troops, shame on you.
President Bush is trying desperately to hang on to his Iraq war policy, as Republicans jump ship left and right (figuratively). Bush was practically begging Ohioans yesterday to support the war, and to give General Petreus a chance to report some "good news" in September. Meanwhile, Michael Moore points out the crying shame that Democrats -- who were swept into power in 2006 for one reason: to end the war (okay, too, the second being to end the rampant cronyism and corruption of the GOP) --haven't been able to find the stones to get the job done, or at least to keep pushing their position and forcing the Republicans to defend the president at their own risk. The sad truth is, it's going to take Republicans to bring this war to a close. They'll push to do it, because they fear for their own reelections, and they fear the loss of the White House in 2008. The problem, both for them and for the Democrats, is that we have a president who is determined to pass the Saigon moment of the Iraq war's eventual end on to the next president.
Related: Gordon Smith takes Iraq from the criminal to the insane.
Update: The Senate's Republican leadership successfully blocked an amendment to H.R. 1585 (the 2008 Defense authorization bill) put forward by Virginia Dem Jim Webb to limit troops combat tours to allow them adequate time to rest. Cynically, the GOP blocked that opportunity for our troops, with Joe Lieberman siding with them. In the end, only seven Republicans -- most up for reelection or otherwise politically inclined to walk away from the president (with a few principled ones like Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith) -- voted with the unanimous Democrats, leaving the measure four votes shy of the needed 60-vote margin. To read all of the proposed amendments, click here. By the way, the goodly Senator Brownback declined to cast any vote at all... what a punk...
Update 2: with the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars now reaching $12 billion a month and $600 billion overall -- the cost of the Vietnam war -- the country now solidly against the war, and even election-minded Republicans starting to walk away from the policy, US News reports that White House West Wingers are starting to panic. I don't know that it would matter if they were, since I continue to believe that this president wants to wage this war until his last day in office, pushing off any total collapse of Iraq until the next administration -- particularly if it is a Democratic one -- takes over. Then the Republicans can blame Iraq's descent into utter chaos on the opposing party, rather than taking responsibility for their war. The Dems have finally caught on to this, and are preparing, in their weak little Democratic way, to fight back.
He didn't listen to Collin Powell before the invasion of Iraq, when the decorated military man spent a whole 2 and a half hours trying to talk him out of the war. Two and a half hours? Wow. Now that's a statesman! Yeesh...
He just might be possibly thinking about bringing the Iraq war to a close ... not!
And apparently, while he is a wide open book to the creators of Lil' Bush, he remains a singular mystery to the people who work with him:
"Top administration officials are aware that the strategy's stated goal -- using U.S. forces to create breathing space for Iraqi political reconciliation -- will not be met by September, said one person fresh from a White House meeting," Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks wrote for the Post. "But though some, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have indicated flexibility toward other options, including early troop redeployments, Bush has made no decisions on a possible new course."
The official told the paper, "The heart of darkness is the president. Nobody knows what he thinks, even the people who work for him."
Supporters of Manuel Noriega are anticipating his possible release from a Miami prison in September ... but all I want to know is whether or not he was a CIA informant...
Hearing alert! The Senate judiciary committee plans to call Patrick Fitzgerald to testify in their investigation of Libby commutationgate.
Inside the neoconservative mind: Bill Kristol likes George W. Bush more when he's Machiavellian. And he loves it when the president goes to the tired Clinton well for cover for his own disgraceful actions. Kristol's explanation of the timing of Bush's Libby rescue: he did it because the Clintons were in Iowa, and he wanted to distract the media into talking about them, and about Bill's pardons. And Kristol says, that's a good thing...
I can't think of a more horrible crime. A gang of teenaged hoodlums ambush and gang rape a woman -- a mom -- and then force her 12-year-old son to join in, at gunpoint. The two out of about 10 masked, gun-wielding monsters that Palm Beach, Florida police have caught? They're aged 16, and 14. Yep. 14. Unbegoddamnedlievable. Meanwhile, the father of one of the teens, who apparently come from the requisite screwed up backgrounds, is standing by his boy. Yeah. Figures. Blah blah blah... send them to jail for life...
Another Republican (Pete Domenici) begins to back away from the war, suddenly voicing support for redeployment. Don't get it twisted. These guys could give a damn about the troops (in my opinion). They care about their reelections, and in 2008, they don't want to have to run on the war. Domenici is up for reelection in 2008, along with several other GOP Senators who are now "evolving on Iraq." The list (with the newly doubtful highlighted):
On his first ever meeting with Rummy on May 6, 2004, the day before the Defense chief's testimony to Contress on Abu Ghraib (Taguba had issued his report a full three months earlier):
Taguba was met at the door of the conference room by an old friend, Lieutenant General Bantz J. Craddock, who was Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant. Craddock’s daughter had been a babysitter for Taguba’s two children when the officers served together years earlier at Fort Stewart, Georgia. But that afternoon, Taguba recalled, “Craddock just said, very coldly, ‘Wait here.’ ” In a series of interviews early this year, the first he has given, Taguba told me that he understood when he began the inquiry that it could damage his career; early on, a senior general in Iraq had pointed out to him that the abused detainees were “only Iraqis.” Even so, he was not prepared for the greeting he received when he was finally ushered in.
“Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice. The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials. Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”
In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?” At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”
On Don Rumsfeld's "memory problems":
Rumsfeld told the legislators that, when stories about the Taguba report appeared, “it was not yet in the Pentagon, to my knowledge.” As for the photographs, Rumsfeld told the senators, “I say no one in the Pentagon had seen them”; at the House hearing, he said, “I didn’t see them until last night at 7:30.” Asked specifically when he had been made aware of the photographs, Rumsfeld said:
There were rumors of photographs in a criminal prosecution chain back sometime after January 13th . . . I don’t remember precisely when, but sometime in that period of January, February, March. . . . The legal part of it was proceeding along fine. What wasn’t proceeding along fine is the fact that the President didn’t know, and you didn’t know, and I didn’t know.
“And, as a result, somebody just sent a secret report to the press, and there they are,” Rumsfeld said.
Taguba, watching the hearings, was appalled. He believed that Rumsfeld’s testimony was simply not true. “The photographs were available to him—if he wanted to see them,” Taguba said. Rumsfeld’s lack of knowledge was hard to credit. Taguba later wondered if perhaps Cambone had the photographs and kept them from Rumsfeld because he was reluctant to give his notoriously difficult boss bad news. But Taguba also recalled thinking, “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.—Can’t Remember Shit. He’s trying to acquit himself, and a lot of people are lying to protect themselves.” It distressed Taguba that Rumsfeld was accompanied in his Senate and House appearances by senior military officers who concurred with his denials.
“The whole idea that Rumsfeld projects—‘We’re here to protect the nation from terrorism’—is an oxymoron,” Taguba said. “He and his aides have abused their offices and have no idea of the values and high standards that are expected of them. And they’ve dragged a lot of officers with them.”
On the response to his investigation:
At the time, Taguba was working for Major General Mike Myatt, a marine who was the officer in charge of strategic talks with the South Koreans, on behalf of the American military. “I needed an executive assistant with brains and integrity,” Myatt, who is now retired and living in San Francisco, told me. After interviewing a number of young officers, he chose Taguba. “He was ethical and he knew his stuff,” Myatt said. “We really became close, and I’d trust him with my life. We talked about military strategy and policy, and the moral aspect of war—the importance of not losing the moral high ground.” Myatt followed Taguba’s involvement in the Abu Ghraib inquiry, and said, “I was so proud of him. I told him, ‘Tony, you’ve maintained yourself, and your integrity.’ ”
Taguba got a different message, however, from other officers, among them General John Abizaid, then the head of Central Command. A few weeks after his report became public, Taguba, who was still in Kuwait, was in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan with Abizaid. Abizaid’s driver and his interpreter, who also served as a bodyguard, were in front. Abizaid turned to Taguba and issued a quiet warning: “You and your report will be investigated.”
“I wasn’t angry about what he said but disappointed that he would say that to me,” Taguba said. “I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.”
On the investigation itself:
Taguba’s assignment was limited to investigating the 800th M.P.s, but he quickly found signs of the involvement of military intelligence—both the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, commanded by Colonel Thomas Pappas, which worked closely with the M.P.s, and what were called “other government agencies,” or O.G.A.s, a euphemism for the C.I.A. and special-operations units operating undercover in Iraq. Some of the earliest evidence involved Lieutenant Colonel Steven L. Jordan, whose name was mentioned in interviews with several M.P.s. For the first three weeks of the investigation, Jordan was nowhere to be found, despite repeated requests. When the investigators finally located him, he asked whether he needed to shave his beard before being interviewed—Taguba suspected that he had been dressing as a civilian. “When I asked him about his assignment, he says, ‘I’m a liaison officer for intelligence from Army headquarters in Iraq.’ ” But in the course of three or four interviews with Jordan, Taguba said, he began to suspect that the lieutenant colonel had been more intimately involved in the interrogation process—some of it brutal—for “high value” detainees.
“Jordan denied everything, and yet he had the authority to enter the prison’s ‘hard site’ ”—where the most important detainees were held—“carrying a carbine and an M9 pistol, which is against regulations,” Taguba said. Jordan had also led a squad of military policemen in a shoot-out inside the hard site with a detainee from Syria who had managed to obtain a gun. (A lawyer for Jordan disputed these allegations; in the shoot-out, he said, Jordan was “just another gun on the extraction team” and not the leader. He noted that Jordan was not a trained interrogator.)
Taguba said that Jordan’s “record reflected an extensive intelligence background.” He also had reason to believe that Jordan was not reporting through the chain of command. But Taguba’s narrowly focussed mission constrained the questions he could ask. “I suspected that somebody was giving them guidance, but I could not print that,” Taguba said. ...
...“After all Jordan’s evasiveness and misleading responses, his rights were read to him,” Taguba went on. Jordan subsequently became the only officer facing trial on criminal charges in connection with Abu Ghraib and is scheduled to be court-martialled in late August. (Seven M.P.s were convicted of charges that included dereliction of duty, maltreatment, and assault; one defendant, Specialist Charles Graner, was sentenced to ten years in prison.) Last month, a military judge ruled that Jordan, who is still assigned to the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, had not been appropriately advised of his rights during his interviews with Taguba, undermining the Army’s allegation that he lied during the Taguba inquiry. Six other charges remain, including failure to obey an order or regulation; cruelty and maltreatment; and false swearing and obstruction of justice. (His lawyer said, “The evidence clearly shows that he is innocent.”)
And finally, on then Iraq commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez:
Taguba came to believe that Lieutenant General Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, and some of the generals assigned to the military headquarters in Baghdad had extensive knowledge of the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib even before Joseph Darby came forward with the CD. Taguba was aware that in the fall of 2003—when much of the abuse took place—Sanchez routinely visited the prison, and witnessed at least one interrogation. According to Taguba, “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on.”
Other outrageous findings: Hersh says the Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the man sent from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib in 2003 to "Gitmoize" the place, later got that assignment -- after Taguba's report -- to clean the place up! Miller got his new assignment just one month after the Taguba report became public. And as for a Congressional investigation? No serious one took place, all though this famous scene did involve a Congressman from Miami:
At the House Committee hearing on May 7, 2004, a freshman Democratic congressman, Kendrick Meek, of Florida, asked Rumsfeld if it was time for him to resign. Rumsfeld replied, “I would resign in a minute if I thought that I couldn’t be effective. . . . I have to wrestle with that.” But, he added, “I’m certainly not going to resign because some people are trying to make a political issue out of it.” (Rumsfeld stayed in office for the next two and a half years, until the day after the 2006 congressional elections.) When I spoke to Meek recently, he said, “There was no way Rumsfeld didn’t know what was going on. He’s a guy who wants to know everything, and what he was giving us was hard to believe.”
At least someone was paying attention... Previous:
Seymour Hersh has a new report out about our debacle in Iraq, including a chilling interview with Major General Antonio Taguba, author of the now famous "Taguba Report" on the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Herse did an interview with Wolf Blitzer as well as one on "Hardball" tonight, in which he detailed three key points:
The abuses at Abu Ghraib weren't initiated by the West Virginia grunts, they came from much higher up...
President Bush and then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld knew about the abuses, no matter what they told Congress or their handlers told the press, months before the pictures came out, and as Hersh told Chris Matthews tonight, "what did the president do about it? Nothing."
Blitzer asks Hersh about a quote given by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba said in a May 6, 2004 meeting with Rumsfeld, then-Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and top brass at the Pentagon.
"I described the naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum and said, 'That's not abuse, that's torture,'" Taguba said. "There was quiet."
The following day, May 7, Rumsfeld testified before the House Armed Services Committee.
"It breaks our hearts that in fact someone didn't say wait, look, this is terrible," Rumsfeld said. "We need to do something to manage -- the legal part of these proceeding along fine. What wasn't proceeding along fine was that the president didn't know, and you didn't know and I didn't know and as a result, somebody leaked a secret report to the press and there they are."
Hersh scoffs at Rumsfeld's response.
"It's sort of ridiculous. Everybody at the top, by the middle of January, knew," Hersh said. "The only question I raise at the end of the article, is what the president know, when?"
... "It's not when they saw the photographs," Hersh stresses. "It's when they learned how serious it was. They were told in memos what the photographs showed... They showed other, more sexual abuse than we knew, sodomy of women prisons by American soldiers, a father and his son forced to do acts together. There was more stuff [than] was made public. You didn't need a photograph if you had a verbal description of it.
Update: Of the countries that changed for the worse last year, three were in Africa: Somalia, Equatorial Guinea (surprise, surprise) and Niger. But lebanon changed for the worst -- down nearly 12 percent from the index last year. And among those that got better, there were some that were more or less expected -- Bosnia and Indonesia have made significant strides, and Liberia, with its new, female president, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, appears to be on an up-trend. But surprisingly, "me dad's" country, the DRC, also took a turn for the better. Well, I guess when things can't get much worse...
Not-to-be renominated and bad -- but not as bad as Dick Myers -- Joint Chiefs Chair Peter Pace says he's not leaving his job voluntarily. I guess it's too bad he's not an old Bush crony from Texas -- if that were the case, he'd still have his job. As it is, Pace is left with the memory of being called an incompetent yes-man by Harry Reid...
It seems a legitimate quetsion to ask, given his recent public statements on Iraq, where in Joe's mind, things are just greeeaat... to his breathtaking inability to grasp the concept that the troops he gets to talk to on his two day junkets to our violent little tributary in Mesopotamia aren't free to tell him where to stick his war plans ... to his latest statements on Iran, which Joe thinks we should commence bombing, like, yesterday...
"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Lieberman told Bob Schieffer. "And to me, that would include a strike into... over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."
Lieberman made the comments to Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" this past Sunday, as a follow up to his rather dramatic attempt to link Shiite Iranian arms and dollars to, of all things, Wahabi/Sunni al-Qaida:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: Well, we'll see when we talk to Admiral Mullen, but so far I don't think so. I think the president is holding firm and Secretary Gates is. And the firmness, as I can tell you coming back from Iraq, Bob, is that you can't look at Iraq in a vacuum. What we're involved in here, as General Lute said to our committee last week, is the--Iraq is now the main front in the long war we are fighting against the Islamist terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. In fact, 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq today killing Iraqis and American soldiers are foreign al-Qaeda fighters. Iran is training and equipping soldiers, Iraqis to come in and kill American soldiers and Iraqis. So we--we've got to see that larger context, and that's why we're committed to helping the Iraqis to stability and victory.
Witness that masterful conflation! Iraq is where we're fighting the Saudis, Yemenis and Egyptians who attacked us on 9/11??? Well I'll be damned! And 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are al-Qaida? Good thing suicide bombers are responsible for less than five percent of the violence in Iraq. Any more than that and we'd really be screwed! And Iran has put aside its fundamental hatred of al-Qaida Sunnis, which it demonstrated when Tehran helped us fight the Taliban and al-Qaida ... which it has always detested ... in Afghanistan, to arm and train these Saudis, Yemenis, and other al-Qaida types, despite those same al-Qaida types' hatred for Shiites??? And despite the fact that al-Qaida in Mesopotamia is KILLING SHIITES DAILY ON THE STREETS THROUGHOUT IRAQ??? Wow... Joe sure knows Muslims... not...
Lieberman has been down this road before. Not only was he the co-sponsor of our current war debacle in Iraq, he has repeatedly issued threats of doing the same thing to Iran, including all-but declaring war on them single-handedly last December. As a matter of fact, perhaps the only people more eager for the U.S. to bomb Iran might be the neoconservative nutjobs, and the Israeli Likudniks (not to mention the big defense contractors and oil giants who have made a killing on the breaking of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in Iraq, but who have yet to profit from a war waged primarily by the men and women of the Navy and Air Force... oh, yeah, and Dick Cheney, he's really into the bomb Iran thing... and worse, Lieberman has become the convenient lure that the Cheney wing of the Bush administration dangles before the press gaggle to make the idea of another war sound bipartisan ... or is that tripartisan???
Lieberman's warmongering is particularly scary because it dovetails with an apparent push inside the Bush administration's militant wing to get a war going, even if it means going around Secretary of State Rice, or even around the president himself, if we won't play ball. Curious leaks to the Jerusalem Post and other militant Likudnik outfits don't help:
Predicting that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon within three years and claiming to have a strike plan in place, senior American military officers have told The Jerusalem Post they support President George W. Bush's stance to do everything necessary to stop the Islamic Republic's race for nuclear power.
Bush has repeatedly said the United States would not allow Iran to "go nuclear."
A high-ranking American military officer told the Post that senior officers in the US armed forces had thrown their support behind Bush and believed that additional steps needed to be taken to stop Iran.
Predictions within the US military are that Bush will do what is needed to stop Teheran before he leaves office in 2009, including possibly launching a military strike against its nuclear facilities.
On Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut said the US should consider a military strike against Iran over its support of Iraqi insurgents. ...
The story goes on to posit a theory that the U.S. could institute a Naval blockade against Iran, without closing the Straights of Hormuz completely. Are you thinking Gulf of Tonkin? Naval ship left curiously unprotected? Supposed Iranian attack on said ship... and Dems fainting into a pro-war swoon??? You get the picture.
“Only someone who never wore the uniform or thought seriously about national security would make threats at this point. What our soldiers need is responsible strategy, not a further escalation of tensions in the region. Senator Lieberman must act more responsibly and tone down his threat machine.”
Spoken like a true soldier.
And by the way, if Joe and the neocons are able to trick or goad the U.S. and Israel into launching World War III with Iran, it will drag in Russia and China, and not on our side. The idea of launching a war against Iran, which has a real military, including a Navy and Air Force, unlike the paper tiger that was Iraq, is insane. Or maybe it's not ... because such a war would send global oil prices through the stratosphere, which will mean big bucks for Big Oil. And it could have the secondary effect of pushing the reluctant Iraqi parliament to approve that abomination of an oil law, signing away that country's rights to exploit its own oil to the major Western oil companies for 30 years, in order to help Iraq make up for sidelined Iranian oil, to feed Europe and Asia's need. This thing stinks to high heaven, and as Sy Hersh and others have been warning us for years, it's only a matter of time and timing. Enough of the right people want war, and they know that the Democrats in Congress cannot, or will not, stop them.
I guess that letter recommending leniency for Scooter Libby wasn't worth so much after all. I mean, who needs a recommendation from an unemployed guy?
WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced on Friday he was replacing General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to avoid a divisive showdown in Congress focusing on the Iraq war.
“I am disappointed that circumstances make this kind of a decision necessary,” Gates said of the loss of Pace, who has held the country’s top military post since September 2005.
Gates said he had intended to name Pace to a second two-year term as chairman in September, but changed his mind after consulting members of Congress, who also already have an eye on the 2008 presidential polls.
“I have decided that at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform and General Pace himself would not be well served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he told reporters.
In other words, who wants to go through the trouble of defending the conduct of the war before the Congress? Anyway, Pace will be sorely missed, particularly by the secretly gay guys in the military. He really championed them... Oh, and I'll bet the Iraqis will miss him, too.
There's debate reality, and there's reality reality. This is the reality in Iraq:
GENEVA - More than 4 million Iraqis have now been displaced by violence in the country, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday, warning that the figure will continue to rise.
The number of Iraqis who have fled the country as refugees has risen to 2.2 million, said Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. A further 2 million have been driven from their homes but remain within the country, increasingly in “impoverished shanty towns,” she said.
Pagonis said UNHCR is receiving “disturbing reports” of regional authorities doing little to provide displaced people with food, shelter and other basic services.
Can these idiots do anything right??? Whether it's the war on terror or Iraq, the Bush administration appears to be operating on all cylinders -- assuming it's the job of those cylinders to screw things up...
A Gitmo detainee who was locked up in the Cuba gulag when he was 15 can't be tried under Bush's military tribunal system because he was designated an "enemy combatant" and not an "unlawful enemy combatant." Now, some are saying the mistake could jeopardize the whole, un-American system of Bushian justice.
Meanwhile, insurgents have posted video purporting to prove that they killed three U.S. troops still missing in Iraq.
And CNN reports that a senior U.S. general says that so far, the surge is a bust. Still waiting for the website to post the report, but Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr just reported it during Lou Dobbs' show.
Update: Hell, even the torture general, Ricardo Sanchez, thinks the war has gone to hell. Sanchez said in a recent speech in San Antonio:
“I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will — not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat,” Sanchez told the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s also kind of important for us to answer the question, ‘What is victory?’, and at this point I’m not sure America really knows what victory is.” […]
“I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time and we’ve got to do whatever we can to help the next generation of leaders do better than we have done over the past five years,” Sanchez said, “better than what this cohort of political and military leaders have done.”
Why so bleak?
The U.S. has lost 16 troops in just the first four days of June. This coming right after May having been the deadliest month of the year to date. And even with all the carnage on both sides, U.S. troops still do not control all of Baghdad -- forget Iraq -- we're just talking Baghdad! Add to that the psychological burdens being placed on our forces, half of whom are facing psych issues, according to a recent study.
For God's sake, how much failure can one country take? Or rather, two???
The Dems are debating in New Hampshire. First thing I noticed, the CNN stage managers were careful to place the top three candidates -- Edwards, Clinton and Obama, in the center, flanked by Bill Richardson and Joe Biden, to make a tight three-shot, a wider four-shot, or a b-list excising five-shot possible for the morning papers. (Dodd is on the other edge.) And right at the ends are Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Now if I was being mean, I'd say the stage was like an inside out candy bar, with the nuts on the outside. But that wouldn't be Christian...
(Don't send me angry emails. It was a JOKE...)
Second: tonight's debate is going to be heavy on Iraq. Edwards' plan is to put distance between himself and what he sees as the wafflings of Hillary and Barack on their votes to end funding, without making lots of noise about it. That led to the best line of the night so far, from Barack, addressing Edwards' charge that he and Hillary failed to make clear how they were going to vote on funding, implying that they slunk into the chamber to cast their ballots. Edwards snipe: it's the difference between following and leading. Obama's retort:
"I opposed this war from the beginning, John, so you're about four years behind on leadership on this."
Update: Joe Biden reminds me of my high school English/literature teacher Mr. Sims. He's blunt, he's loud, he's wordy, and he makes it plain. As his fellow contestants bickered over whose fault it is that we're in Iraq -- George W. Bush's or the Democrats who voted to authorize the war, and over who can, cannot, will or will not vote to "end the war," Biden had a mini-meltdown that went something like this:
"Look, man! ... We've had so many lies over the last five years, it's time somebody told you the real deal! We've got 50 votes, people. FI'TTY. You wanna vote to cut off funds? You need ten more! The only way this war is gonna end is to get a Democrat into the White House, capice? Do I need to do this again in Pig Latin???"
Other notes. Hillary's play clearly is to reduce the divide between the candidates on Iraq. Edwards' is to increase it. So far, I think it's a draw.
Rorschach test: raise your hands if you think english should be the official language of the U.S. Only Mike Gravel raised his hand. Barack is taking a shot at cleaning it up for the other seven now, saying that the question is intended to divide. Gravel got a smattering of applause, Barack got much more. Hillary is taking her swing, saying that the Congress dealt with this before, and said that the problem is, if it becomes official as opposed to our agreed upon national language, you couldn't print ballots and other documents in other languages to help people with poor english skills. In other words, it's a technicality. Dodd is taking his crack at it now.
Update: Another Rorschach question. A New Hampshire teacher asked what would be the candidates' priorities for their first 100 days. John Edwards gave a rambling answer about traveling the world to restore America's alliances and global leadership. In other words, he'd get the hell out of here and go on a European vacation? John-Boy, your consituency as president would be the American people, not the people of Europe or the world. Hillary gave the right answer: end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home. Simple and correct. Obama couldn't really do much beyond saying ditto to Hil, so he threw in "tackle healthcare, because I think that's something that we could get done." Yeah, right... Kucinich threw one in from LaLa land, and it had something to do with peace, and maybe moving everyone onto a Kibbutz... Gravel did the bug-eyed, all these people are nuts, thing.
A final note: was this not the whitest audience you've ever seen in your life? I actually think Barack Obama was the only Black person in the room (and Richardson was the only Hispanic.) Michelle Obama wasn't there, so Barack might be the only Black person in New Hampshire tonight... jeez...
All in all, I'd say Hillary won this debate hands down. She came off as the most experienced, the most composed, the most rational, and the most responsible. Barack was solid but didn't wow me. I always love listening to Joe Biden, because he's entertaining and informative. I thought Edwards came off as combative and a bit desperate. I don't think his answers were very well thought out, and he still strikes me as a candidate more about style than substance. He took several swings at Hillary and Barack, but I don't think he landed any punches.
Everyone else could have just as easily stayed home, although I would give Bill Richardson a serious look as secretary of state during the next Clinton administration.
BAGHDAD - Fourteen American soldiers were killed in three deadly days in Iraq, the U.S. military said Sunday, including four in a single roadside bombing and one who was struck by a suicide bomber while on a foot patrol southwest of the capital.
The blast that killed the four soldiers occurred Sunday as the troops were conducting a cordon and search operation northwest of the Iraqi capital, according to a statement. Two other soldiers from Multi-National Division — Baghdad were killed and five were wounded along with an Iraqi interpreter in two separate roadside bombings on Sunday, the military said.
One soldier was killed Friday after the patrol approached two suspicious men for questioning near a mosque, and one of the suspects blew himself up, according to a statement. The military did not provide more details.
Seven other troops were killed in a series of attacks across Iraq on Saturday.
The deaths raised to at least 3,493 members of the U.S. military who have died since the war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
U.S. commanders concede that the surge strategy, which takes U.S. troops out of barracks and heavily armed vehicles and splits them into smaller units who are mixed in with the Iraqi military units and pushed out into the Iraqi body politic, has resulted in more casualties. And expect it to only get worse as the summer drags on. Meanwhile, Moqtada al-Sadr, with whom the U.S. is seeking talks apparently, talks to the UK Independent. According to the paper:
The Shia cleric told The Independent on Sunday in an exclusive interview: "The Americans have tried to kill me in the past, but have failed... It is certain that the Americans still want me dead and are still trying to assassinate me.
"I am an Iraqi, I am a Muslim, I am free and I reject all forms of occupation. I want to help the Iraqi people. This is everything the Americans hate."
Mr Sadr, revered by millions of Iraqi Shias, spoke after leading Friday prayers in the Grand Mosque at Kufa, just over 100 miles south of Baghdad. It is one of the four Iraqi cities considered holy in Shia Islam. He always wears a black turban, the traditional symbol of a Shia cleric who can trace his ancestry to the Prophet Mohamed. But for the second time in two weeks, he also wore a white shroud - a symbol of his willingness to be martyred, and his belief that death is close at hand.
As for talking to the Americans:
"There is nothing to talk about," he said angrily. "The Americans are occupiers and thieves, and they must set a timetable to leave this country. We must know that they are leaving, and we must know when." He has reason to be wary of US offers to negotiate. As revealed by The Independent last month, respected Iraqi political figures believe the US army tried to kill or capture Mr Sadr after luring him to peace talks in Najaf in 2004.
"We are fighting the enemy that is greater in strength, but we are in the right," he said. "Even if that means our deaths, we will not stand idly by and suffer from this occupation. Islam exhorts us to die with dignity rather than live in shame."
Cue the wingers associating al-Sadr with the Democrats ... see that! The key word is "timetable"! That's what the terr'rists want!!! Actually, that's what the Iraqis want -- and al-Sadr is an Iraqi. It's also what 70 percent of the American people want. And I'll bet, it's what the majority of American troops in Iraq want.
Too bad we don't have a government in Washington capable of implementing the will of the American people.
Back to al-Sadr: his rise to power and influence coincides with a greater Shia movement throughout the Middle East that has strong ties to Hezbollah, and therefore, in standard issue GWOT parlance, to Iran:
Mr Sadr, whose rise to become one of the most influential figures in Iraq coincided with the US overthrow of Saddam, said his movement sought to follow the example of Hizbollah, the Shia armed resistance movement in Lebanon. "Hizbollah and the Mahdi Army are two sides of the same coin," he said. "We are together in the same trench against the forces of evil."
Al-Sadr denies that he is favorably disposed toward increased Iranian influence in Iraq, and in most analysts' opinion, he is first and foremost an Iraqi nationalist. According to the same article, his Mahdi Army has even met with Sunni militias who are fighting al-Qaida and the occupation at the same time, ostensibly because they share common goals (to expel both foreign fighters and foreign troops from the country.) But the notion that al-Sadr would make common cause with Hezbollah, which receives both funding and inspiration from the Mullahs in Iran is worrying for the Bushies, who have inadvertently become the chief enablers of both Hezbollah and Iran. But here's the rub -- those Shia movements are primarily anti-Israel, and their ire is directed there, and only secondarily at the U.S., because of our unwavering support for the Likuud government in Israel and their expansionist politices in the West Bank. Conversely, the al-Qaida, Sunni movement, is more directly aimed at us, and at the Sunni dictators and monarchs we prop up (in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.) Together, they form not a single "axis" of terror, but a multi-headed hydra of anti-Western militancy, which the Bush administration has neither the wisdom nor the competence (nor the strong alliances for that matter,) to confront.
And because of that, these movements -- and general anti-Western militancy untethered to any group or movement) are spreading, in Europe, in Africa, in Latin America, in the Caribbean ... and to some extent, inside the U.S. Is it a mortal threat to you and me? Not really. Most of us will never be confronted by a terror attack. Are we under constant threat, as the Republicans would have us believe? I would guess not. No need to hide under the bed. But these developments have serious long term implications for Western society writ large, as they aggravate socioeconomic fissures that over time, could undermine the social fabric that holds us together. In other words: Bush's war has made us less safe for a longer time.
And the worst thing is, he doesn't seem to know what he has done, let alone what to do about it, and neither do the insane neoliberal so called "neocons" around him. Their madness has undone George W. Bush's presidency, undermined our democracy, and weakened our nation, our security, and our national honor. So what are they doing ? Why, praying for another war, of course.
Shame on all of them. The blood of our fallen servicemen and women -- who hail from the half of our uniformed military who are bearing the full brunt of Bush's war all alone -- are on all their hands.
A federal judge yesterday ordered the military to temporarily refrain from awarding the largest security contract in Iraq. The order followed an unusual series of events set off when a U.S. Army veteran filed a protest against the government practice of hiring what he calls mercenaries, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The contract, worth about $475 million, calls for a private company to provide intelligence services to the U.S. Army and security for the Army Corps of Engineers on reconstruction work in Iraq. The case, which is being heard by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, puts on trial one of the most controversial and least understood aspects of the Iraq war: the outsourcing of military security to an estimated 20,000 armed contractors who operate with little oversight.
Brian X. Scott, a 53-year-old Colorado man, filed the complaint in early April. He argues that the military's use of private security contractors is "against America's core values" and violates an 1893 law that prohibits the government from hiring quasi-military forces.
Scott's challenge set off a domino effect, prompting the Government Accountability Office to dismiss protests brought by two major private security contractors the Army had removed as potential bidders -- Erinys Iraq, a British firm, and Blackwater USA of North Carolina.
Michael Golden, the GAO's managing associate general counsel for procurement law, said the agency dropped the matter because Scott's court complaint may force the Army to revise the lucrative contract. ...
In a kind of re-run of Sen. John McCain's visit to Baghdad last month, Sen. Joe Lieberman, another well-known hawk on the war, made a surprise visit to Iraq today, complete with market stroll dressed in helmet and flak jacket and surrounded by troops.
When it was over, like McCain, he declared the escalation off to a promising start.
But Leila Fadel, a longtime McClatchy reporter there, found many soldiers with a somewhat more pessimistic view. Here is the opening of her report today.
Spc. David Williams, 22, of Boston, Mass., had two note cards in his pocket Wednesday afternoon as he waited for Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Williams serves in the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., the first of the five "surge" brigades to arrive in Iraq, and he was chosen to join the Independent from Connecticut for lunch at a U.S. field base in Baghdad.
The night before, 30 other soldiers crowded around him with questions for the senator.
He wrote them all down. At the top of his note card was the question he got from nearly every one of his fellow soldiers:
"When are we going to get out of here?"
All in all, though, Joe really dug the nifty sunglasses he bought from a not-yet blown up Iraqi vendor...
President Bush has appeared delusional before, with stories that he told Britain's Tony Blair in 2003 that God told him to invade Iraq and thus, solve the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. But now, Bush apparently has gone completely around the bend. In short, he means to keep the U.S. in Iraq, not for one more year, or five, or even ten, but more like 50 ... or forever. A disturbing portrait from the Dallas Morning News:
Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."
(Read the entire piece here, it's got great insights into how our intervention has shattered the traditional societal structures of the Middle East, resulting in metastasizing terrorism...)
And Bush himself has made it plain that no matter what reality presents itself, he never intends to allow our troops to leave Iraq. In fact, Bushie says we should stop thinking of Iraq as a quagmire, like Vietnam, and start thinking of it like an armed stalemate, like Korea:
Presidential spokesman Tony Snow said Bush has cited the long-term Korea analogy in looking at the U.S. role in Iraq, where American forces are in the fifth year of an unpopular war. Bush's goal is for Iraqi forces to take over the chief security responsibilities, relieving U.S. forces of frontline combat duty, Snow said.
"I think the point he's trying to make is that the situation in Iraq, and indeed, the larger war on terror, are things that are going to take a long time," Snow said. "But it is not always going to require an up-front combat presence."
Instead, he said, U.S. troops would provide "the so-called over-the-horizon support that is necessary from time to time to come to the assistance of the Iraqis. But you do not want the United States forever in the front."
In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, overthrew its regime (which posed a hypothetical threat), and, in the four years since, has kept about 150,000 troops in the country to kill terrorists (who weren't in Iraq before the war), to train the Iraqi army (which the Bush administration, for still-mysterious reasons, dismantled at the occupation's outset), and to keep a "low-grade" sectarian civil war (which erupted amid a vacuum of authority) from boiling over.
In the half-century-plus since the Korean armistice of 1953, just 90 U.S. soldiers have been killed in isolated border clashes in Korea. In the mere four years since the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, more than 3,000 American servicemen and women have been killed, and the number rises every day.
To sum up, we intervened in South Korea as a response to an invasion and as part of a broad strategy to contain Communist aggression. We intervened in Iraq as the instigator of an invasion and as part of a broad strategy to expand unilateral American power. We remained in South Korea to protect a solid (if, for many years, authoritarian) government from another border incursion. We are remaining in Iraq to bolster a flimsy government and stave off a violent social implosion.
In other words, in no meaningful way are these two wars, or these two countries, remotely similar. In no way does one experience, or set of lessons, shed light on the other. In Iraq, no border divides friend from foe; no clear concept defines who is friend and foe. To say that Iraq might follow "a Korean model"—if the word model means anything—is absurd.
Related: Tony Snow tries to clean it up, and fails.
Washington, DC – At a Memorial Day event in an American Legion hall in Alton, N.H., yesterday, Mitt Romney lashed out at an Iraq War veteran who “complained that he hasn't been able to get adequate medical care since returning from Iraq in January 2005.” [AP, 5/29/07] When asked by the man’s wife and friend about his problem getting treatment for a broken foot, Romney “questioned the man's status, wondering why the military wouldn't help him if he is active duty.” According to news accounts, when the man’s friend began to explain by saying, "He's in the window," Romney “cut him off” and snapped "Don't give me, ‘he's in the window’…He's either active duty or not." [AP, 5/29/07] Romney’s only response: the man should call his senator. [Concord Monitor, 5/29/07]
The “window” Romney’s questioner was referring to is the gap resulting from the persistent failure to form a seamless transition between Department of Defense and Veterans Administration health care programs. Too many injured active duty personnel lose their health coverage for a time when they are transferred from military health care to the VA system. While Democrats have been working to close that gap, Romney’s insensitive response shows both a lack of understanding of the issue and a lack of sensitivity to the hardships it causes.
“Mitt Romney’s heartless tirade shows how little he understands the challenges facing our veterans and military families,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera. “Republicans in Washington have consistently shortchanged those who have served this country. They have failed to fully fund veteran’s health care programs or plan for the needs of our wounded troops, shortcomings Democrats in Congress are working to correct. Unfortunately, Mitt Romney apparently doesn’t understand that supporting our troops and veterans means more than offering empty platitudes about their service while clinging to President Bush’s failed leadership and failed strategy in Iraq.”
Read the Concord Monitor story here. And more on Romney's New Hampshire visit here.
BAGHDAD - Eight American soldiers were killed in roadside bombings and a helicopter crash in a restive province north of Baghdad, the military reported Tuesday, making May the deadliest month of the year for U.S. troops in Iraq.
In other violence, three German computer consultants were kidnapped Tuesday from an Iraqi Finance Ministry office in Baghdad, an Iraqi government official said, and two car bombings killed 40 people in the capital, police said.
The Americans — all from Task Force Lightning — were killed Monday in Diyala as the U.S. commemorated Memorial Day, bringing the number of U.S. forces killed this month to at least 110.
While it's not a surprise to learn that the president of the United States was warned three months before he launched the invasion of Iraq that the consequences would include precisely the chaos, civil war and disintegration we are seeing now, and that he ignored those warnings absolutely, it sure does make you mad. According to a report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday (via the HuffPo):
WASHINGTON — Intelligence analysts predicted, in secret papers circulated within the government before the Iraq invasion, that al-Qaida would see U.S. military action as an opportunity to increase its operations and that Iran would try to shape a post-Saddam Iraq.
The top analysts in government also said that establishing a stable democracy in Iraq would be a "long, difficult and probably turbulent process."
... The investigation reviewed assessments from a number of agencies but focused on two January 2003 papers from the National Intelligence Council: "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq" and "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq."
Those papers drew from expertise within a number spy agencies and were distributed to scores of White House, national security, diplomatic and congressional officials _ most of whom were listed in 81 pages of the Senate report.
Among other conclusions, the analysts found:
_ Establishing a stable democracy in Iraq would be a long, steep and probably turbulent challenge. They said that contributions could be made by 4 million Iraqi exiles and Iraq's impoverished, underemployed middle class. But they noted that opposition parties would need sustained economic, political and military support.
_ Al-Qaida would see the invasion as a chance to accelerate its attacks, and the lines between al-Qaida and other terrorist groups "could become blurred." In a weak spot in the analysis, one paper said that the risk of terror attacks would spike after the invasion and slow over the next three to five years. However, the State Department recently found that attacks last year alone rose sharply.
_ Groups in Iraq's deeply divided society would become violent, unless stopped by the occupying force. "Score settling would occur throughout Iraq between those associated with Saddam's regime and those who have suffered most under it," one report stated.
_ Iraq's neighbors would jockey for influence and Iranian leaders would try to shape the post-Saddam era to demonstrate Tehran's importance in the region. The less Tehran felt threatened by U.S. actions, the analysts said, "the better the chance that they could cooperate in the postwar period."
_ Postwar Iraq would face significant economic challenges, having few resources beyond oil. Analysts predicted that Iraq's large petroleum resources would make economic reconstruction easier, but they didn't anticipate that continued fighting and sabotage would drag down oil production.
_ Military action to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would not cause other governments in the region to give up such programs.
(Wapo version here) I guess the intelligence community was more prescient than the Bushies would have us believe, because it seems that all of these predictions have come true. But don't tell that to the Bush boot-licking Republicans:
Some Republicans rejected the committee's work as flawed. The panel's top Republican, Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, said the report's conclusions selectively highlight the intelligence agencies' findings that seem to be important now, distorting the picture of what was presented to policy-makers.
He said the committee's work on the Iraq intelligence "has become too embroiled in politics and partisanship to produce an accurate and meaningful report."
Really, Kit? Inaccurate? What part of civil war, increasing threats to the region and continual, useless bloodletting do you not understand?
"The most chilling and prescient warning from the intelligence community prior to the war was that the American invasion would bring about instability in Iraq that would be exploited by Iran and al-Qaida," wrote four Democratic senators _ Rockefeller, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Meanwhile, four Republican senators _ Bond, John Warner of Virginia, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Richard Burr of North Carolina _ wrote that the report exaggerates the importance of the pre-invasion assessments. They said the reports weren't based on intelligence information, but instead were speculation from experts in and out of government.
"They were no more authoritative than the many other educated opinions that were available in the same time frame," the Republicans wrote.
Do you have to shed all of your integrity to be a Republican? Are you allowed to keep even anounce of dignity?
Those who still have a pulse and who have turned off the monotone of the Bushbot drone instructions in their government issued earpieces can read the intel report for yourselves here.
Meanwhile, flush with a fresh $100 million to continue wasting Americana and Iraqi lives for his neocon project in Mesopotamia, President Bush appears simultaneously to be looking for a way to the exits. The idea is that the pragmatists now encircling him, Bob Gates, Condi "the chameleon" Rice, and probably his political guru Karl Rove, are double talking the basies, who fiend for war, while Bush is thinking about the 2008 elections. According to a new report by McClatchy Newspapers:
The Democrat-led Congress has pushed Bush, unsuccessfully thus far, to begin winding down the war, which has claimed more than 3,430 U.S. lives since it began in 2003. Bush has refused. He has said an early exit would be disastrous for U.S. interests and that no timetable should be set for reducing U.S. ground forces.
On Thursday, however, the president and some of his chief military advisers spoke more directly of a possible change in course.
Pace and Gates responded to a reporter who noted that earlier Thursday, Bush said at the White House he liked a proposal from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
The group in December recommended many changes in Iraq policy, including a shift from fighting the insurgency to a training and counterterrorism role. At the time, Bush rejected that advice. Instead, he chose to boost American troop levels in Baghdad, believing the war would be lost unless the Iraqi capital could be secured.
Gates, who was a member of the study group before he was nominated to replace Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, did not say whether he thought it likely that a shift from a combat role would be adopted in September.
"That kind of a role clearly would involve fewer forces than we have now and forces with a different mission," Gates said.
Pace said he agreed. "That's part of the dialogue right now and exactly what we'll be looking at between now and September," when Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, is expected to tell the administration and Congress whether the Iraq strategy is working and whether course corrections are due.
Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army general who spent a week in Iraq in March assessing the situation, said in a telephone interview Thursday that it appears to him that the administration is looking for a way out of Iraq.
"I think they're headed toward the door," McCaffrey said. For now they hold out hope that by the end of this year the troop buildup in Baghdad will change the momentum of the war, he added. "But failing that, they're going to start withdrawing."
Hm ... so, righties, would that make Bushie a "Defeatopublican?" More from the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, May 25 — The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.
It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course.
The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.
The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, while removing Americans from many of the counterinsurgency efforts inside Baghdad.
Still, there is no indication that Mr. Bush is preparing to call an early end to the current troop increase, and one reason officials are talking about their long-range strategy may be to blunt pressure from members of Congress, including some Republicans, who are pushing for a more rapid troop reduction.
The officials declined to be quoted for attribution because they were discussing internal deliberations that they expected to evolve over several months.
Officials say proponents of reducing the troops and scaling back their mission next year appear to include Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They have been joined by generals at the Pentagon and elsewhere who have long been skeptical that the Iraqi government would use the opportunity created by the troop increase to reach genuine political accommodations.
So far, the concepts are entirely a creation of Washington and have been developed without the involvement of the top commanders in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, both of whom have been enthusiastic supporters of the troop increase.
Those generals and other commanders have made it clear that they are operating on a significantly slower clock than officials in Washington, who are eager for significant withdrawals before the president leaves office in January 2009.
Ah yes. Timetables. So bad for keeping our plans secret from the enemy ... so good for presidential politics.
President Bush gave a feisty press conference this morning, making it clear that he has no respect for the American people, less for Congress. He's going to have his war as long as he wants it. Unfortunately, there isn't an opposition with the stones to stop him.
Update:Here's the roll call in the House. 86 Democrats voted for the bill. 140, led by Maxine Waters and other members of the Out of Iraq Caucus, voted no. I'm disappointed that Miami Congressman Kendrick Meek voted for the bill. Just read his press release on it ... sorry, not convinced. Meek's release reads in part:
...“My position on the Iraq War is clear: I am against the continuation of this war. It does not make us safer; the American people do not support it; even our closest allies in the world have withdrawn their troops from it, leaving us to fight it virtually alone; and a majority of the Congress wants to put an end to it. ...
...we will keep up the pressure, and we will continue to work for the votes we need. In July, Congress will vote on the Defense Appropriations Bill and in September, Congress will vote on the Iraq Supplement for FY08. It is my hope that those votes will accomplish what the American people want, and what the Democratic Congress will force the White House to do – to bring an end to this failed war.
“It is important to keep in mind the big difference between opposing the misguided policy of the war, and supporting the brave men and women who are doing their duty in fighting it. This legislation continues to fund our troops through September 30, 2007. It is not a blank check; it is a lifeline to our troops in the field who cannot be left without the proper equipment and ammunition while serving in a theater of war.
“This legislation also includes other needed provisions. It raises the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour, the first increase in nearly ten long years. It provides $2 billion in additional funding for health care programs for our veterans. It provides $1.1 billion for family housing allowances not requested by the President. It provides $1.6 billion for a strategic reserve readiness fund, including $1billion to purchase Army Guard equipment. It also provides $3 billion for Mine Resistance Ambush Protected vehicles to provide our troops better protection from Improvised Explosive Devices that will ultimately save lives.”
K. Still not convinced. The best way to force Bush to change course is to give him nothing, re-send timelines again and again, and push him to June 30th, and then force him to take what he can get. That's hardball. ... Anyway, Rep. Alcee Hastings voted no, as did most of the CBC, and the House leader, Nancy Pelosi.
Update 2 8:55 p.m.: The Senate has now passed the bil too. 14 Democrats voted no, apparently including Senators Clinton, Obama and Dodd. Biden voted yes. Here's all you need to know about the Dems:
Faced with continued White House opposition after the veto, the Democratic leadership agreed to drop the withdrawal language so the spending bill could be moved by Memorial Day.
Smile and wave that flag, boys ... smile and wave...
Update 3: May 25 6:57 a.m.: Confirmed -- Hillary and Barack voted no on the war funding. For Hillary to do so means she's more worried about the Democratic base than about the Republican ads. ThinkProgress has the full roll call of Senators voting no. It's a short list:
There are two things you need to know about George W. Bush. One is that he has no sense of history. The other is that he has no sense of shame. Once you understand those two things about the 43rd president of the United States, you basically know what to expect from him.
It is because Bush has no sense of history that he was so easily convinced, flattered and goaded by his neoconservative handlers into invading Iraq, and why he still fails to understand the ramifications of that invasion, not only for his presidency, but for the country, the Middle East, and the world. It's because he lacks shame that he is so clearly willing to fight to the last American to see his policy continue for as long as he can get away with it, preferably, until he leaves office, leaving Iraq to complete its collapse on someone else's watch.
Which brings me to the Democrats.
They clearly don't understand who the president is, which is why they're unable to stop him from getting away with the things he does -- domestic spying and other outrages against the Constitution, torture, an unnecessary war in Iraq, a failed war in Afghanistan, and the pillaging of American blood and treasure for the benefit of his corporate friends, most notably Big Oil and the defense industry. The Democrats cannot, or will not, stop George W. Bush, because they constantly underestimate his failure to comprehend history, and his incapacity for shame. They think that if they meet with him, he'll compromise, and if they compromise with him, he'll bend, and if they give him a short term victory or two, he'll reward them by changing course.
George W. Bush is going to hang on to every single thing he holds dear, from his war to his Karl Rove to his pitiful attorney general, because his only fear is of a small, hardened core of fanatics who are demanding that American blood continue to be spilled until it is possible to call Iraq, the war on terror, and the triumph of Christ over the Infidels, a victory. His only loyalty is the oil and defense giants who have propped him up all his life. His fanatics guard his corporate paymasters, and together, they are his base -- his "Qaeda."
The only way to fight such a person is to bloody his nose over and over and over again until he has no choice but to relent. The Democrats blinked on Iraq funding, and now they will have little if any chance of bringing the war to an end, as 7 in 10 voters want them to do. Meanwhile, the president is rubbing their moist little puppy noses in his utter defeat of them, even as the vast majority of Americans groan.
The Democrats suffer from so many deficiencies and so many fears, it's almost too depressing to begin naming them. They fear Karl Rove and the 30 second ads accusing them of not funding the troops more than they fear their own voters. They fear that somehow, Iraq will turn itself around, blossom into a democracy, and make Bush appear to have been right, leaving them on the wrong side of history. They fear Bush will find a way to rebound in the polls. They fear that he must have some supernatural power to keep them out of the White House. Because they operate based on fear, they lack the ruthlessness it would take to fight a guileless president.
And because of that, the Democrats likely will continue to fail the American people.
While the Iraqi government draws up plans for what to do if the U.S. withdraws, the Democrats in Washington prepare plans for what to do if the administration won't back down on Iraq timelines or benchmarks: in a word, they're going to cave.
Jimmy Carter can be called many things, but shy isn't one of them. The former president has been pasting the Bush administration for its foreign policy blunders for years, and Mr. Carter remains firmly convinced that Bush's policies -- most notably Iraq -- have seriously damaged America's standing around the world, weakened our moral authority, and left us more, not less, vulnerable to terrorism. Worse, Carter believes that Bush squandered the oppourtunities created during his administration, and nurtured by subsequent presidents Bush I and Clinton, to bring closure to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On all those points, Carter is dead on, in my opinion.
But who thought the man could be so gangsta???
Carter did two big interviews this past week. The first, with the Arkansas Post-Gazette, covered Bush's assorted foreign policy sins. Said Carter:
"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." ...
... "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."
Next, Carter did an interview with the BBC, in which he spread the lack of love to retiring Prime Minister Tony Blar. Asked to desribe Blair, Carter's answer was blunt and to the point, as reported by the BBC's Barney Porter:
JIMMY CARTER: The war was unjustified, unnecessary and has worked a tragedy on the Iraqi people, on the American people, on some of the British people and has caused deep schisms on a global basis.
BARNEY PORTER: But President Carter hasn't stopped there. He has also commented on British Prime Minister Tony Blair's unconditional support for President Bush.
JIMMY CARTER: Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient and I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world.
BARNEY PORTER: He also says Mr Blair could have exerted greater influence over President Bush, and made it tougher for Washington to shrug off critics. Instead, he says Britain's strong support has been crucial in bolstering the administration's position.
JIMMY CARTER: Okay, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us, and so I think the combination of Bush and Blair giving their support to this tragedy in Iraq has strengthened the effort and has made opposition less effective and has prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted.
Carter has gone after Blair before, including calling him "subservient" to Bush. And Carter has savaged the Iraq war itself, telling the anti-war UK Independent back in 2004 that it was both unnecessary, and based on lies. But the comments from a former president about a sitting president (and about a departing ally) are being called "unprecedented," and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley is calling them "fighting words." Maybe that's why Carter is walking back from his tough statements today, as criticism mounts, including from the White House, which had this to say about Carter:
In response, White House spokesman Tony Fratto on Sunday said: "I think he is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments."
Well, the White House's ire may finally have gotten to Carter, who began the walk back from his comments today.
This all comes as the Bushies are worried that Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, will reverse Britain's all-in support for Bush's policies in Iraq, something that Brown's people presently deny.
It also comes at a time that some analysts are predicting that the Bushies may see the answer to their problems in Iraq in a familiar thing: regime change, once again in Iraq, whre Mr. Maliki's days may be numberd, and possibly even in Iran.
Finally, a serviceable conservative argument linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11
This is about as good as it's gonna get, righties, and interestingly enough, it comes closest to the explanation proferred during this week's GOP debate in South Carolina, by one Ron Paul... From the Hutchinson News, courtesy of an enterprising FReeper:
Many Americans don't understand why the Saudis flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
During Desert Storm, the first President Bush decided to use a containment strategy against Saddam Hussein instead of attempting to remove him from office. This strategy required stationing American troops in Saudi Arabia.
Osama bin Laden and his supporters believed that our troops, which al-Qaida considered to be "infidels," were not only occupying their holy land but desecrating it. They hated us because of the occupation and decided to try to force our troops out.
First they attacked our troops. When that didn't work, they attacked our embassies and the U.S.S. Cole. Bin Laden then decided to declare war on the U.S. by attacking the U.S. directly in what became the 9/11 attack.
The 9/11 attack was the price we paid for allowing Hussein to stay in office instead of attempting to remove him during Desert Storm.
We are now at war with al-Qaida. They are fighting us in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The author is arguing, after this pretty decent start, that we have to stay in Iraq and "fight them over there" so we can protect ourselves from further attacks. That's where the argument begins to fall apart, but let's examine the above part of the argument:
In fact, during and after Desert Shield/Desert Storm under the first President Bush, American troops were in fact staged in Saudi Arabia, at various air bases, most of which were little more than open fields. In the final two years of the Bush I administration, construction began on a massive air base called Al Kharj. According to GlobalSecurity.org:
During Desert Shield, coalition forces found it necessary to build what was then called Al Kharj from scratch. From October 1990 to March 1991, a combined 435-person RED HORSE squadron was involved in more than 25 major projects, valued at more than $14.6 million. These included bedding down the largest air base in theater (in terms of number of aircraft -- capable of bedding down five fighter squadrons) at Al Kharj Air Base. Erecting 17 K-Span facilities and carving out roads, they created a theater munitions storage depot. RED HORSE, augmented by the 4th CES from Seymour Johnson AFB, NC, and contract personnel, hauled 200,000 cubic yards of clay to build a foot-thick clay foundation for tent city. Eventually, they erected a tent city, set up four kitchens, an air transportable hospital, six K-span structures, and support facilities. They built munitions storage areas and bladder berms, completed utility distribution systems, and installed mobile aircraft arresting systems. In less than two months in 1990, Al Kharj changed from a base without buildings and only a ramp and runways, to one with tents to support dining halls, hangars, a hospital, electric power generators, and services for an expanded population of Air Force personnel. Al Kharj was ready for aircraft early in January 1991, and by the beginning of the war was home to 4,900 Air Force personnel.
That massive building effort cannot have gone unnoticed by the recalcitrant Saudi named Osama Bin Laden, who was already smarting from the kingdom of his birth, that his family had devoted its working life to, had turned to the infidels to defend Saudi and Kuwaiti soil, rather than turning to the Jihadis who had expelled the mighty Soviet army from Afghanistan.
When the Clinton administration came into power, and with the tense cease fire remaining with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the building inside the Saudi kingdom only expanded. by 1995, al-Qaida, or other militant groups being labeled al-Qaida by the U.S. government for housekeeping (and easy messaging) purposes, decided to attack. More from GlobalSecurity:
Attacks on the Office of the Program Manager/Saudi Arabia National Guard (OPM/SANG) in November 1995 and on the Khobar Towers living compound in June 1996 forever changed the way in which the Armed Forces will regard terrorism in the Persian Gulf. Both bombings also served to prove that regional security dynamics can have an impact on US forces deployed in the area. To deter and prevent hostile acts, air activities were moved from King Abd Al-Aziz air base in Dhahran and Riyadh air base to a compound inside a much larger tightly secured, 80-square-mile Royal Saudi Air Force Prince Sultan Air Base adjacent to the city of Al Kharj, south of Riyadh. The rationale for this shift was to move forces from populated areas, where perpetrators of terrorist acts could easily disappear, to locales where space and terrain could be used to advantage.
The expansion of the U.S. and British presence in Saudi Arabia accelerated after that, and the expansion of Prince Sultan Air Base ramped up, such that:
Living conditions for troops at Prince Sultan Air Base took a step forward in late 1998 with the acceptance of the new Friendly Forces Housing Complex, roughly two miles from Prince Sultan Air Base. The new 4,257-bed facility took nearly two years to build and became home in early 1999 to more than 4,000 US, British and French coalition forces involved with Operation Southern Watch. The new housing facility is similar to a college dormitory complex featuring permanent structures and some comforts of home such as shared television and living areas in each apartment. It also has three community dining halls, a gymnasium, recreation center, library, pool and probably the most important feature to the troops -- a lot more privacy. Built at a cost of approximately $112 million by the host government, the housing complex remains the property of the Saudi government but is primarily run and maintained by US forces. Security of the complex is also the responsibility of coalition security forces. The first forces to move in was the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing already at Prince Sultan.
On 22 June 1999 Prince Sultan Ibn Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General, laid the foundation stone for the Prince Sultan Health Center in Al-Kharj. Prince Sultan had donated a total of SR 22 million (U.S. $ 5.87 million) to this project. Prince Sultan also unveiled plaques commemorating the opening of the Prince Sultan Air Base, and marking the completion of the residential complexes and educational facilities, for which Prince Sultan laid the foundation stones a little under two years previously. The project of the Air Base was first conceived in the late 1980s, and had involved ten contractors and total funding of over SR 4 billion (U.S. $ 1.07 billion).
With all that contract money changing hands, and the thousands of U.S. and British troops now living quite well inside the Kingdom, where 30 percent unemployment among the non-royal is a day-to-day fact of life, Bin Laden is said to have made the decision to escalate the war against America. The countdown to 9/11 had begun.
Now all of that assumes that you believe the official timeline and story regarding Bin Laden's designs on the World Trade Center. If you do, then it follows that al-Qaida -- or a loosely defined groups of al-Qaida affiliated entities -- continually ratcheted up the war, attacking the World Trade Center in 1993, two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, and the World Trade Center again in 2001. Also during that time, a group called Saudi Hizbollah attacked the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, which at the time was housing military personnel near the headquarters of the Saudi state oil company Aramco (coincidentally, I'm sure). [that the commonality with the other Hizbollah isn't really meaningful, since the name Hizbollah or "Hezbollah" simply translates to "part of God."]
So are we at war in Iraq because of all this? Well, yes and no. Iraq's government had no ties to al-Qaida, which the writer of the Hutchinson essay inherently acknowledges: the al-Qaida beef had nothing to do with America's war against Saddam -- the Saudis, and al-Qaida, both hated Saddam. It had to do with American troops "defiling" Saudi soil to defend Saudi interests aganst Saddam. So it makes no sense to argue that we're fighting an al-Qaida that is on the same side as the Ba'athist apostate Saddam Hussein.
However, there are some al-Qaida elements in Iraq. They represent the smallest, but among the most lethal, components of the insurgency. And what are they fighting for? They're fighting to destabilize the Shiite government and majority, which we unleashed after deposing Saddam. But they appear to want to upend the Ba'athist insurgents, too, setting both sides against one another in a bloody civil war, the result of which, I suppose from al-Qaida's point of view, will be an ungovernable country that cannot be permanently occupied, wait for it, by the infidel Americans and British. So the al-Qaida portion of the war in Iraq is much more about us than it is about Saddam.
So what keeps al-Qaida fighting? Well, it could be that one thing is the fact that their bloody, decade-plus long struggle against the United States has yielded at least one success: On April 29, 2003, the Bush administration announced that it would yield to one of Osama Bin Laden's central demands, by pulling American forces out of the sprawling, hydra-like complex built in the aftermath of his father's aborted war against Saddam: Prince Sultan Air Base.