Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Allowed: viewing the war dead
For the first time in 18 years, the Pentagon allowed the media to cover the return of a fallen soldier.

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posted by JReid @ 10:30 AM  
Monday, February 23, 2009
Binyam goes home
The return of a Binyam Mohamed, a four-year Gitmo detainee, to Great Britain raises new questions about the Bush-era "war on terror," and the complicity of the U.K. in what are by all accounts illegal detentions in an American gulag. From the Guardian:

Senior MPs said they intended to pursue ministers and officials over what they knew of his ill-treatment and why Britain helped the CIA interrogate him.

In a statement released shortly after he arrived in a US Gulfstream jet at RAF Northolt in west London, Mohamed said: "For myself, the very worst moment came when I realised in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence."

Once inside the terminal building he met his sister for the fist time in more than seven years and in the most emotionally charged moment of the day they both cried and hugged.

Mohamed, a British resident, was released after several hours of questioning by police and immigration officials and was last night being looked after by his legal team.

Clive Stafford Smith, his lawyer, spoke of a "fantastic day" after the long campaign to free his client, who spent weeks on hunger strike being force-fed at Guantánamo and looked "incredibly skinny and very emaciated". Binyam was "extraordinarily grateful to be back in Britain", said Stafford Smith, who said he had "zero doubt" Britain was complicit in his client's ill-treatment.

"Britain knew he was being abused and left him," he said, referring to his secret abduction to Morocco where Mohamed says he was tortured. The lawyer also said his client was subjected to "very serious abuse" in Guantánamo.

Stafford Smith said that while his family was not vindictive they wanted the truth to be known. Mohamed hoped to be allowed to remain in the UK. "What we in Britain need to do is to make up for some of the things in the past and if the British government was, as I contend, deeply involved in the torture that Binyam had to go through, the least we can do is offer him his homeland," Stafford Smith said.


The Guardian Editorial team tackles the potential damage to U.S.-U.K. relations.

The Beeb reports on U.S. Defense Department plans to "ease conditions" at Gitmo.

And the Independent delves deeper into Binyam's claims that he was the victim of "Medieval torture" at Guantanamo.

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posted by JReid @ 11:26 PM  
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Lift the ban
The Obama Pentagon mulls over the Bush-era rules on hiding our war dead.

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posted by JReid @ 8:40 AM  
Monday, April 21, 2008
The propagandists
I'm not sure how much of a bombshell it is that the military analysts paraded constantly on television in the lead up to, and during, the war in Iraq, were there to promote and propagandize the conflict. As far back as 2003, I had discussed creating an online backgrounder on analysts like Gen. Wayne Downing, who was part of the planning for the war, and other retired generals who a quick Google search would reveal were members of various pro-war think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute (think about that one for a second -- a group pushing for war, devoted to "enterprise" -- not a long leap.)

Still, it's good that the NYT is making the facts plain, for those who didn't Google their analysts, to see. From Sunday's report:
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

Kenneth Allard, a former NBC military analyst who has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, said the campaign amounted to a sophisticated information operation. “This was a coherent, active policy,” he said.

As conditions in Iraq deteriorated, Mr. Allard recalled, he saw a yawning gap between what analysts were told in private briefings and what subsequent inquiries and books later revealed.

“Night and day,” Mr. Allard said, “I felt we’d been hosed.”
When I did a Knight journalism fellowship at the University of Maryland in December 2003 for editorial writers, we were given the same sort of treatment. We were given briefings by top Pentagon officials, including Douglas Feith, Stephen Cambone, etc., and those briefings were clearly designed to present the administration's view in a way that might reflect in our editorial writing. For about half of our group, it just made us more cynical, and more skeptical.

Back to the generals. Some of them were obvious plants from the start. Take the late (and legendary) Gen. Wayne Downing, in December, 2001, the Washington post wrote of him:
Wayne Downing is the most famous terrorism fighter you've never heard of. Less than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, he shelved his semi-retirement to coordinate the nation's far-flung campaign "to detect, disrupt and destroy global terrorist organizations and those who support them," as the White House put it. He has the president's ear -- but whatever he's saying is not for public consumption. Even the size of his staff has been deemed a national security secret.

As a young Ranger, Downing, now 61, learned to stalk the enemy at night and capture rattlesnakes for food. In 34 years he rose through the ranks to command all special operations troops, including the clandestine Delta Force commandos whose close-quarter tactics are vital in places like Afghanistan. Battle-tested in Vietnam, Panama and the Persian Gulf, Downing is revered among the elite soldiers who call themselves "the quiet professionals."

He reports to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. He has more experience with terrorism than either of them. His unwieldy title is national director and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. Those who admire Downing would suggest a more concise one: the president's secret weapon.

"They brought him in because he knows how to get things done," says L. Paul Bremer, the State Department's ambassador at large for counterterrorism during the Reagan administration. "The bureaucracy very often needs a very good kick in the pants. He's going to have to crack some heads together."
And this:
But for brief periods he has ventured into the limelight, usually to sound the alarm about terrorism. Since leaving the Army in 1996, he has served on task forces investigating how terrorists operate and urging heightened security.

"They and their state sponsors have begun an undeclared war on the United States," he wrote in an August 1996 review of the truck-bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 and wounded hundreds more. "They must be seen as 'soldiers' employing different means of achieving their political and military goals. They wear uniforms we cannot recognize and use tactics that we find repugnant and cowardly . . . Fanatics will be prepared to sacrifice their lives to achieve their goals."

Downing also war-gamed a scenario that exposed America's vulnerability to chemical and biological attacks. It foresaw terrorists releasing chemical agents with crop-dusting planes. Carl Stiner, a fellow retired general, recalled that he and Downing delivered their findings to the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 1997.

On Sept. 12, 2001, Downing was on ABC, explaining to viewers of "Nightline" the notion of "asymmetric" warfare: These foes, though small in number, knew exactly how to exploit the weaknesses of the strongest nation on Earth. "The paradigm has changed," he said. "And this isn't going to be over in a month or two months or six months. But this may well take years."

ABC quickly signed him up as an on-air consultant. These days Downing wears his gray hair slightly longer than when he was a West Point plebe; on camera he looked a bit uncomfortable, his neck tightly cinched in a button-down shirt. But his authority was obvious.

"We're going to find out where they are," he said of the perpetrators. "And then we're going to go get them."

It was no saber-rattling act. He made it sound like his destiny.

Downing once was courted for the job of White House drug czar, but friends say he felt that was an unwinnable war. He later vowed he wouldn't return to the government unless there were a national emergency. He preferred to stay in Colorado, enjoying the fishing and skiing, the time with his wife and grandkids. He also had enough land for four hefty Labradors.

But on Oct. 9, he reenlisted for public service, leaving the army of TV talking heads and giving up his seat on the board of an Australian high-tech weapons firm, Metal Storm, which boasts of inventing a gun that can fire a million rounds a minute. And he put aside another of his passions: serving as military adviser to a group of Iraqi dissidents who have been hoping for years to depose dictator Saddam Hussein.

He was no longer interested in media attention. He spoke for a minute and a half at the news conference announcing his White House post before concluding, "It's going to be a tough fight, but we will prevail. Thank you very much."

Then he exited to the shadows.
Downing, and another MSNBC favorite, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, also sat on the board of an organization called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which pushed for the invasion of that country prior to the war. Other familiar names from that group: Deocon Richard Woolsey and the Dark Lord himself, Richard Perle, along with two elected officials who served as honorary co-chairs: Joe Lieberman and John McCain...

Back to Sunday's NYT piece:
Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.

“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”

Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks’ own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: “I think our analysts — properly armed — can push back in that arena.”

The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.

John C. Garrett is a retired Army colonel and unpaid analyst for Fox News TV and radio. He is also a lobbyist at Patton Boggs who helps firms win Pentagon contracts, including in Iraq. In promotional materials, he states that as a military analyst he “is privy to weekly access and briefings with the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other high level policy makers in the administration.” One client told investors that Mr. Garrett’s special access and decades of experience helped him “to know in advance — and in detail — how best to meet the needs” of the Defense Department and other agencies.

In interviews Mr. Garrett said there was an inevitable overlap between his dual roles. He said he had gotten “information you just otherwise would not get,” from the briefings and three Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq. He also acknowledged using this access and information to identify opportunities for clients. “You can’t help but look for that,” he said, adding, “If you know a capability that would fill a niche or need, you try to fill it. “That’s good for everybody.”

At the same time, in e-mail messages to the Pentagon, Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive with his television and radio commentary. “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay,” he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to describe the surge strategy in Iraq.

Conversely, the administration has demonstrated that there is a price for sustained criticism, many analysts said. “You’ll lose all access,” Dr. McCausland said.
And the person behind much of the campaign, is none other than Torie Clarke, now a TV analyst in her own right:
By early 2002, detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion was under way, yet an obstacle loomed. Many Americans, polls showed, were uneasy about invading a country with no clear connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.

Torie Clarke, the former public relations executive who oversaw the Pentagon’s dealings with the analysts as assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, had come to her job with distinct ideas about achieving what she called “information dominance.” In a spin-saturated news culture, she argued, opinion is swayed most by voices perceived as authoritative and utterly independent.

And so even before Sept. 11, she built a system within the Pentagon to recruit “key influentials” — movers and shakers from all walks who with the proper ministrations might be counted on to generate support for Mr. Rumsfeld’s priorities.

In the months after Sept. 11, as every network rushed to retain its own all-star squad of retired military officers, Ms. Clarke and her staff sensed a new opportunity. To Ms. Clarke’s team, the military analysts were the ultimate “key influential” — authoritative, most of them decorated war heroes, all reaching mass audiences.

The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of them ideologically in sync with the administration’s neoconservative brain trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large budget increases to pay for an Iraq war.

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posted by JReid @ 8:29 AM  
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Wars, and rumors of war
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.
Read the full text here (do a search on the page for 3017 to jump right to it). One wonders if a major branch of the military establishment of a sovereign country has ever been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.

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.

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posted by JReid @ 9:24 PM  
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thank you, Pentagon idiot guy
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.”

On Monday, Clinton received a “biting reply” from Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman, who told Clinton that that “public discussion” of withdrawal is inappropriate:

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:

Forbes: Clinton Hits Back at Pentagon Official
MSNBC: Pentagon angers Clinton on Iraq
The Hill: Clinton, Kerry demand Iraq contingency plan

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posted by JReid @ 1:48 PM  
Monday, June 04, 2007
What are we fighting for?
Why is the military going after Adam Kokesh? From RawStory:

A veteran of the Iraq war is accusing the military of trying to stifle the freedom of speech he volunteered to fight to protect.

After serving his country in Iraq, former Marine Sgt. Adam Kokesh grew disillusioned with US involvement there and became an anti-war activist. He participated in demonstrations around Washington, including Operation First Casualty, which was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War in March.

Kokesh's anti-war activity and his correspondence with Marine investigators has rankled the military enough that it is working to revoke the veteran's "honorable discharge" designation. Kokesh will appear before a military hearing in Kansas City, Mo., Monday to fight the military's attempt to change his discharge status to "other than honorable."
As Kokesh explained on CNN last Thursday:

"This was a very unique demonstration. It was called Operation First Casualty. And it's called that because the first casualty of war is the truth. And the purpose of this was to bring a small part of the truth of the occupation of Iraq home to the American people. And we did that by simulating a combat patrol through the streets of Washington, D.C. We did it again just this past weekend in New York City. And we had civilians who were playing occupied people. ... We treat them as a combat patrol in Iraq might treat Iraqi civilians."
But the military objected to the protesters, including Kokesh, wearing their real uniforms. More on the protest here. Kokesh's blog is here.

Is it just me, or aren't we supposed to be fighting for "freedom" in Iraq, and doesn't the military defend our freedoms at home, including the right to protest? Hm???

The VFW has now weighed in on Kokesh's plight. From ThinkP:

“The nation’s largest combat veterans group on Friday urged the military to ‘exercise a little common sense’ and call off its investigation of Iraq war veterans who wore their uniforms during war protests. ‘Trying to hush up and punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic right we’re trying to instill in Iraq is not what we’re all about,’ said Gary Kurpius, national commander of the 2.4-million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars.”
I'm going to reach out to Kokesh this afternoon, and hopefully have him on the radio show this week. I believe there are hearings scheduled in his case today.

Update: Sgt. Kokesh has already rejected a Pentagon-offered plea bargain. And CBS News asks, is Adam Kokesh the new Cindy Sheehan? I'd like to see the wingers attack him, given that he is a Marine and a veteran of the Iraq war...

Update 2: NewsBusters gives it a whirl.

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posted by JReid @ 7:25 AM  
Friday, March 30, 2007
The great Tillman lie
The Bush administration has told so many lies, and twisted so much of government and military pursuit and well, everything, to cynical political ends, that it's almost hard to be shocked anymore. But the Pat Tillman cover up stands out, both because of its cynicism -- the administration used Tillman's service, and his death in Afghanistan, to promote the utterly corrupted war in Iraq -- and its brazenness. Now, it turns out President Bush was probably briefed about the true cause of the former NFL star's death, at least a month before the Pentagon admitted the truth about his friendly fire death to his family. Do these people have ANY shame? From the AP:
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Just seven days after Pat Tillman's death, a top general warned there were strong indications that it was friendly fire and President Bush might embarrass himself if he said the NFL star-turned-soldier died in an ambush, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. ...

...In a memo sent to a four-star general a week after Tillman's April 22, 2004, death, then-Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that it was "highly possible" the Army Ranger was killed by friendly fire. McChrystal made it clear his warning should be conveyed to the president.

"I felt that it was essential that you received this information as soon as we detected it in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our country's leaders which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death become public," McChrystal wrote on April 29, 2004, to Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command.

White House spokesman Blain Rethmeier said Friday that a review of records turned up no indication that the president had received McChrystal's warning. Bush made no reference to the way Tillman died in a speech delivered two days after the memo was written. But Rethmeier emphasized that the president often pays tribute to fallen soldiers without mentioning the exact circumstances of their deaths.

The family was not told until May 29, 2004, what really happened. In the intervening weeks, the military continued to say Tillman died under enemy fire, and even awarded him the Silver Star, which is given for heroic battlefield action.
Ultimately, Pat Tillman was valued by the Bush administration more for his propaganda value than for his service. The same could be said for Jessica Lynch, whose falsified tale of heroism was also used to bolster the war.

What a sad commentary on the party that supposedly cares so much for the men and women of the armed forces, but which apparently only really cares about exploiting and misusing them.

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posted by JReid @ 8:59 PM  
Monday, February 19, 2007
The shameful treatment of our veterans
... the Congress, the Pentagon and the Bush administration should be ashamed. Unfortunately, most of the aforementioned appear to be incapable of shame.

Update: But wait ... there's more. Courtesy of ThinkProgress and Americablog (who has apparently moved on from the Snickers episode to more pressing matters):
“‘Are you telling me that I can’t go to the ceremony ’cause I’m an amputee?‘” asked David Thomas, an Iraq war veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. Thomas was told he could not wear shorts to attend a ceremony with President Bush because the media would be there, and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row. David responded, “I’m not ashamed of what I did, and y’all shouldn’t be neither.” When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it. John Aravosis tracks other cases of disgraceful treatment toward veterans.
Well you know, an amputee Iraq war veteran wouldn't exactly be good p.r. for the president or the war... nasty reminder of the downside, you know...

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posted by JReid @ 9:08 PM  
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Quick take headlines, Wednesday
Slavery? This guy says "get over it..."

Cue the doomsday clock ...

Iran reportedly shoots down a U.S. spy drone... hm ... I wonder what Jack Bauer would do in this situation ... and who would he torture...?

The Pentagon's leading advocate for a Soviet-style government apologizes for calling on U.S. corporations to boycott law firms who provide pro bono counsel to Gitmo detainees.

And you want a surge? How about Afghanistan? Seems Bob Gates is considering it.

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posted by JReid @ 12:13 PM  
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Did you hear the one about the Iranians who bought U.S. Army gear at a Pentagon surplus sale?
Another Bush administration oopsie to know and love... complete with fighter jets and missiles, too!

Oh, and while we're on the subject of Iran, seems Mr. Ahmadinejad sat himself down and wrote a letter to the Saudi king...

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posted by JReid @ 8:05 PM  
They intimidated lawyers in the U.S.S.R., too...
A Pentagon lawyer steps in it, hard.
A senior Defense Department official who broke with Pentagon policy on whether it's honorable for private lawyers to provide no-charge services to Guantánamo captives drew new condemnation Tuesday and even calls for his dismissal.

Charles ''Cully'' Stimson, deputy assistant secretary for defense for detainee affairs, has sparked a firestorm of anger, from Capitol Hill to America's law schools to even conservative quarters.

He told a Washington, D.C., Beltway radio station last week that American corporations should boycott leading U.S. law firms that provide pro-bono service at the prison camps in the remote U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

On Tuesday, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania condemned Stimson's remarks on the floor of the Senate, where he until recently served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

''When lawyers undertake the representation of individuals in unpopular causes, they are entitled to praise, not criticism,'' said Specter, echoing an earlier condemnation by the new committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Stimson had used the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the offshore detention center to offer up -- live, on the radio -- a list of prestigious law firms whose attorneys are providing pro-bono legal representation to captives at the U.S. Navy Base.

He called it ''shocking'' and said corporate leaders should choose between those firms and others whose attorneys do not offer free-of-charge services to some of the 395 men and teens held in Cuba as so-called enemy combatants.

As of Tuesday, nearly 140 law school deans had signed an Internet petition -- which can be found at -- declaring themselves ''appalled'' by the remarks of a fellow lawyer.

''In a free and democratic society, government officials should not encourage intimidation of or retaliation against lawyers who are fulfilling their pro bono obligations,'' the petition said.

Those who signed included Harold Hongju Koh of Yale Law School, Elena Kagen of Harvard Law School and Dennis O. Lynch of the University of Miami's School of Law. ...
And that ain't all...
The Pentagon's senior spokesman, Bryan Whitman, on Friday night distanced the Defense Department from Stimson's remarks, saying they ``do not represent the views of the Defense Department or the thinking of its leadership.''

Now some critics are calling for the dismissal of Stimson, 43, a former federal prosecutor who is the second Bush administration appointee to run a specially created division known as Detainee Affairs.

''I believe the man should be fired,'' wrote David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union lobby, in a guest column in The Hill newspaper in Washington.

He called Stimson's remarks ``a blatant attempt to threaten the law firms providing the representation to back off and urging their corporate clients to seek representation elsewhere if the firms fail to do so.''

Keene also said he believed most Guantánamo captives were guilty of something.

Yet, he wrote, ``Without lawyers, the innocent as well as the guilty might end up behind bars and our jails and prisons might come to resemble the hellholes depicted in some old movies showing Southern prisons of the '40s and '50s.''...
And that's just the conservatives... More approbrium of the bloggy sort here.

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posted by JReid @ 7:43 PM  
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