Crazed wingers hoping Osama bin Laden can save America
... by attacking us, preferably with a "major weapon." Seriously. You know, when you get called out by people at the Free Republic and Little Green Footballs, you know you're on the wrong track. Here's crazy Glenn Beck and his Fox News guest, former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit (seriously...) and self-described "lifelong Republican," Michael Sheuer, who appears to have been driven mad by the revocation of Bush-era rendition, torture and domestic spying policies. (And note how Beck does his best to channel Osama's thoughts):
Well, if you insist ... Shah's son positions himself for restoration
Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former dictator of Iran, cries freedom
What does a guy who left Iran when he was 14, lives in Maryland, and whose father was the dictator deposed in the 1979 revolution have to do with the "green revolution" in Iran? Well ... in a word ... nothing. A glance at TIME's list (or anyone else's) of the top ten players in the Iranian political system doesn't even reveal his name. But that hasn't stopped former "Crown Prince" Reza Pahlavi from talking ... and talking ... and talking ... revolution. And he's weeping about it too. It's almost like he's positioning himself on the side of the uprising in order to be "available" to be restored to the throne ... should the Iranian people cry out for his return, of course. (ahem)
Did you catch Pahlavi playing the Iran expert on CNN this morning? It's hard to believe he knows any more about what's going on in his former country than you or I. What about his tear-filled speech at the National Press Club, in which he clutched a picture of Neda, the young woman who has come to symbolize the rebellion, and declared that she is like his own child (if for instance, his child was an Iranian woman who wasn't related to the last guy to order his military police to mow people down in the streets of Tehran...) During his speech, the Crown Prince spoke Big:
Bear in mind that for the great majority of Iranians born after the Islamic Revolution, the unfolding events are the most significant transforming experiences of their collective memory. The courage of their convictions gives hope for peace and democracy in the most troubling region of the world. On the other hand, their defeat will encourage extremism from the shores of the Levant, to the energy jugular of the world. At the very least it will threaten regional tranquility and global economic recovery through fears of terrorism, slowdown of globalization and steeply higher energy prices. At worst, fanatical tyrants - who know that the future is against them - may end their present course on their terms: a nuclear holocaust.
Wow ... a nuclear holocaust? Hadn't heard that before from the Iran analysts who have actually crossed the border into that country in the last 30 years... And Pahlavi's doomsaying wouldn't have aaaaaanything to do with his ties to the nihilist American neoconservative movement that up until about a minute ago was seeking an excuse to, in the words of one of their political people "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" ... would it??? Perhaps the most important sentence in Pahlavi's green serenade was "Iranians born after the Islamic Revolution." Said revolution is kind of a sore spot for our friend Reza. As Dana Milbank appropriately snarks:
Yesterday, the 48-year-old son of a dictator was merely voicing his hopes that what his countrymen have begun over the last 10 days will become a revolution. "However, I often don't use the word 'revolution,' because I think revolution has a very negative connotation in everybody's collective memory."
Particularly Pahlavi's. His family had lived a life of great extravagance until Ayatollah Khomenei deposed the shah in 1979, a year after Jimmy Carter hailed the monarch as "an island of stability." Even yesterday, the former crown prince was defensive about those days. "They had orders not to hit -- fire on people," he said of his father's troops, who, whatever their orders, managed to kill thousands.
Ah, the good old days. And of course, being a patriot, Pahlavi is only too happy to serve his country by restoring them. More Milbank:
Whatever the Iranian demonstrators are seeking, there is little evidence from their Twitter feeds that they are seeking the restoration of the monarchy -- and Pahlavi, who was a teenager getting flight training in Texas during the Islamic revolution, was shrewd enough not to propose it. "This is not about restitution of an institution," he said. But should a democratic Iran "choose to have me play a more prominent role," he added, "let that be their choice."
Yes, of course. "Their choice." And as to the potential nuclear holocaust that will ensue if the revolution he is most decidedly NOT a part of fail?
Luckily, Pahlavi had a solution: himself. While he said repeatedly that he is not running for any office, he also spoke of his "supporters" and even his "platform" of human rights for his homeland.
"People support me because of the very fact that we are talking the same language: freedom, democracy, human rights," the shah's son said. "I'm not demanding people to support me today because of me. I'm demanding people to support me so that I can best serve them achieve what their goal is, which is achieve freedom."
Pahlavi does have his supporters: about 500 of them ... in Los Angeles. Plus this guy in London. And coincidentally, the last time he stepped into the spotlight was back in 2001, following the September 11 terror attacks, as ordinary Iranians took to the streets to declare their love for America, causing Pahlavi to step forward and ... surprise! ... offer himself as a potential future leader of Iran. From 2001:
Despite his cold-generated cough, the prince spoke enthusiastically for almost two hours, about his vision of Iran and the progress of his campaign for democracy in Iran, whicj he discussed in an interview with the Middle East last year.
Commenting on what his mother Empress Farah Pahlavi, told London Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat two days earlier - that her son wants to return and serve his country like any ordinary citizen- the Shah in exile sys the important thing is that the people of Iran are given the right to chose how they wish to be governed. Whether the future for Iran involves a republic or constitutional monarchy, is not the issue at this time, he says. The first aim shold be for the wishes of the Iranian people to be recorded in a free and fair election.
"My mission in life, from the day I started 21 years ago, remains the same, " said the man who most Iranian liberals in exile, as well as an increasing number of Iranians at home, consider him to be the hope of salvation from what many describe as its current nightmare.
He outlines his vision for a comprehensive strategy to give Iranian people freedom of choice and real democracy, in his book, " Winds of Change: the Future of Democracy in Iran" published feb 2002 in Washington by Regency Publishing Inc., which he dedicated to the memory of all Iran's fallen heroes and patriots.
" My goal is to reach a stage when the Iranian people can go to a national referendum and vote their conscience and vote for their future. That day, the day the Iranians go to the polls, is the end of my mission in life. What they want to do afterwards is entirely up to them and I stand ready to serve them in whatever capacity that they see fit. "
In his 1946 book, Millspaugh provides an indication of the prevailing terror practiced by Reza Shah. Millspaugh states that Reza Shah "had imprisoned thousands and killed hundreds, some of the latter by his own hand." As the consequence of the terror, "Fear settled upon the people. No one knew whom to trust; and none dared to protest of criticize. ... Evidence also appeared abundant and pitifully convincing, that he (shah's) terror operating on a timid and sensitive people had shaken nerves and unbalanced minds. Moreover, he let loose a spirit of violence that lent sinister implications to the mercurial temperament of the people, the disunity of the country, and the disorganization and weakness of the government."
State Department records provide a vivid account of hte reign of terror inflicted on the people of Iran between 1921 and 1951. for twenty ears, the country was a complete and brutal military dictatorship. Parliament became a rubber stamp and complete censorship was imposed. Iran's newspapers and their editors were early victims of the dictatorship. The suppression of newspapers, the physical violence (specially the savage beatings administered by Reza Khan himself), and even the murder of recalcitrant editors are described in the records. There are many instances of arrest and subsequent disappearance of opponents, including numerous members of the ulema, the most notable that of Seyed Hassad Modarres. the arrests and extrajudicial killings of political personalities are described in detail in the American records...
One morning soon after his arrival, the new secret police, called Savak, organized a crude maneuver to impress upon him the terms of his incarceration. A gang of thugs turned up in front of his home, and they began shouting violent anti-Mossadegh slogans. At their head was none other than the gang leader Shaban the Brainless, who had become on e of the regime's favorite enforcers. Fora time the mob seemed ready to storm the house. It retreated after one of Mossadegh's grandsons fired several rifle shots into the air from inside. Several minutes later two Savak officers arrived and asked to see the prisoner. They carried a letter for him to sign. It was a request that Savak agents be assigned to protect him. Mossadegh, who understood the realities of power, signed it without protest. Within an hour Savak agents took up posts outside and inside the walled complex where he lived. their standing orders, which did not change for the rest of Mossadegh's life, were to allow no one other than relatives and a few close friends to visit him.
In the weeks following the coup, most of Mossadegh's cabinet ministers and prominent supporters were arrested. Some were later released without charge. Others served prison terms after being convicted of various offenses. Six hundred military officers loyal to Mossadegh were also arrested, and about sixty of them were shot. So were several student leaders at Tehran University. Tudeh and the National Front were banned, and their most prominent supporters were either imprisoned or killed.
Hussein Fatemi, who had been Mossadegh's foreign minister, was the most prominent figure singled out for exemplary punishment. Fatemi was a zealous antimonarchist, and during the turbulent days of August 1953 he had attacked the Shah, whom he called "the Baghdad fugitive," with special venom. .... In one speech, he addressed the absent monarch: "O traitor Shah, you shameless person, you have completed the criminal history of the Pahlavi regime! The people want revenge. They want to drag you from behind your desk to the gallows." Now that the tables were turned, the Sha had his chance, and he did not miss it. Just as he had promised Kermit Roosevelt, he arranged for Fatemi to be summarily tried, convicted of treason, and executed.
Fatemi had once compared the Shah to a snake "who bites mortally when the opportunity presents itself." In the end he was among those who suffered the deadly bite. Becasue of his fate, and also because he was the only member of Mossadegh's inner circle who was a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, his memory is honored in Iran today. One of the main boulevards in Tehran is Dr. Hussein Fatemi Avenue.
George Will says it all: neocon Obama critics wrong on Iran
You're seeing the split again: neocon nuts versus actual conservatives, this time on the issue of Iran, in the persons of realists like Dick Lugar, old school ex-regime changers like (the awful) Henry Kissinger, and paleocons like Pat Buchanan and on Sunday, George Will.
What these guys seem to have in common is that they were part of the Nixon crowd -- people who in general are skeptical (if not downright disdainful) of neoconservatism and its interventionist, Wilsonian bent (not to mention the fact that the same neocons who are now screeching for Obama to help the demonstrators were rooting for Ahmadinejad to win the election...) Buchanan and others (including Zbigniew Brzezinksi) see the neocons hovering around the Iran situation, looking for an opening for military intervention. They've seen that movie before and don't want to catch another viewing. By the way Brzezinksi has to have had the quote of the weekend, when he appeared on the best of the Sunday shows, "Fareed Zakaria GPS," and conflated the right wing Iranian regime and our own neocons:
In Iran, we have two different forces at work. You have those who are for more democracy but who are also nationalistic and you have those who are supporting the regime who in many respects are ... very similar to our Neocons. They are Manichean, they look at the world as divided into Good and Evil and many of them see America as the personification of Evil...
[Obama] has struck exactly the right note. He's offering moral sympathy, he's identifying himself morally and historically with what is happening in Iran but he's not engaging himself politically, he's not interfering, because that would turn out badly and it could be exploited by the Neocons in Iran to crush the revolution ...
Meanwhile, the White House is reportedly getting frustrated with the lack of credit Obama is getting for the Cairo speech, which undoubtedly inspired reform-minded Iranians, at least according to Chuck Todd.
Asked if he aspired to return to Iran as shah and restore the monarchy, Pahlavi said it would be premature to answer. "The only thing that I'm concerned with -- which is my agenda, my political agenda -- is to end up with a secular parliamentary, democratic system," Pahlavi said.
Such a system could take the form of a parliamentary monarchy such as in Sweden or Japan, he said. "I'm not fighting for any job right now. This is not about me," Pahlavi added.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali-Khamenei delivered Friday prayers, along with a crushing blow to the reformist movement. From Reuters:
Iran's Khamenei demands halt to election protests
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday demanded an end to street protests that have shaken the country since the disputed presidential election a week ago and said any bloodshed would be their leaders' fault.
(Editors' note: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.)
He defended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the rightful winner of the vote and denied any possibility that it had been rigged, as Ahmadinejad's opponents have alleged.
"If there is any bloodshed, leaders of the protests will be held directly responsible," Khamenei said in his first address to the nation since the upheaval began.
"The result of the election comes from the ballot box, not from the street," the white-bearded cleric told huge crowds thronging Tehran University and surrounding streets for Friday prayers. "Today the Iranian nation needs calm."
Supporters of runner-up Mirhossein Mousavi have called another rally on Saturday. If they proceed in defiance of Khamenei's explicit warning, they risk a severe response from security forces, which have so far not tried to prevent mass demonstrations. ...
At the sermon's end, Khamenei began lamenting his physical condition and weeping, a move which made the throngs of dignitaries and Basiji militiamen gathered before him weep in response. Observers said Khamenei's gesture, similar to one he made during the height of 1999 student protests, was a call for his loyalists to crack down on the demonstrators.
"Our vote is written in blood, and we gave it to the leader," roared the huge crowd, which flowed out of the Tehran University venue and into the streets outside.
Khamenei blamed Western media and officials for stirring unrest by exploiting internal political differences over the election results. Such allegations have been running for days on state television. Khamenei singled out the U.S., mocking America's concern for human rights issues in Iran, noting that secretary of State Hillary Clinton's husband was president when federal forces stormed the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Scores of people died after a fire ravaged the compound.
"Do you even believe in human rights?" he said, criticizing the U.S. for its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its support for Israel.
"The followers of the Davidian sect were staging a sit-in protest in a house," he said. "The authorities asked them to come out. The Davidians refused. More than 80 men, women and children were burned alive in this house."
He called the British "the most evil" of the Western governments, most likely for launching the highly influential BBC Persian satellite news channel months before the vote. Iranian channels have jammed the channel's signal. "Please see the hungry wolves in ambush gradually removing their masks of diplomacy and showing their true faces," he said. "Today, senior diplomats of some Western countries, who addressed us diplomatically up until today, have now removed their masks. They are showing their true faces." [BTW the British are not amused...]
"American officials remarks about human rights and limitations on people are not acceptable because they have no idea about human rights after what they have done in Afghanistan and Iran and other parts of the world. We do not need advice over human rights from them."
Of the opposition, Khameini said:
Without naming the three losing candidates who have challenged the election results, he ordered them to "open their eyes" and see behind the demonstrations "the enemy hands working, the hungry wolves waiting in ambush".
He added, with distinct menace: "Those politicians who somehow have influence on people should be very careful about their behaviour if they act in an extremist manner...This extremism will reach a sensitive level which they will not be able to contain. They will be responsible for the blood, violence and chaos."
Mr Khamenei also blamed the deaths, violence and vandalism of the past week on "ill-wishers, mercenaries and elements working for the espionage machines of Zionism and western powers".
So what will the opposition do now? If Mousavi goes ahead with planned protests, it's hard to imagine he won't be hauled off to jail. If the people go into the streets, one wonders whether the security forces will show their sympathy, or brutality. And while Americans, Europeans and much of the world may be rooting for the Green Revolution, only the neocons appear ready to see their blood shed in the effort.
This morning on MSNBC's very own mini Fox News Channel (also known as "Morning Joe,") Zbigniev Brzezinski and Pat Buchanan laid it out as plainly as I've heard it said. Both men agreed that there is an element in the U.S., which, apart from simply using the Iran situation to score political points against President Obama, wants to see blood running in the streets of Tehran so that they will have an excuse to say "see? we can't negotiate with Iran. I guess we'll have to bomb them and take out their nuclear capability." As Buchanan pointed out, that's why the neocons wanted Ahmadinejad to win, and why they, and Bibi Netanyahu's hard right government in Israel, is rooting for the forces of doom to prevail in Iran (a take explained thoroughly and succinctly in the Asia Times. Today's must-read.) The thirst for further Middle East "conquest" has even brought old Paul Wolfowitz out of the woodwork, packing completely asymmetrical comparisons between Iran and both the Philippines and the old Soviet Union, neither of which were theocratic republics steeped in an ancient Persian culture, at least the last time I checked... Wolfowitz's WaPo op-ed is helpful, however, in reminding us that he was indeed one of the nut-case neocons that Ronald Reagan thankfully ignored throughout much of his presidency, otherwise we would probably have wound up at war with the U.S.S.R ... President Obama should heed the late Mr. Reagan, and ignore the neocons, too.
Meanwhile, Democrats will likely cave in to the GOP's silly politicking on Iran's protests.
And now some video:
From "Morning Joe" (yech...) the smart take of Richard Engel:
He's gone from colorless insider to political rock star — a graying, bearded veteran of the Islamic regime who now stands at the forefront of a youth-driven movement fighting for change.
Despite his newfound fame, Mir Hossein Mousavi still works out of his old office at the Iranian Art Academy and lives in the same unassuming brick home in a middle-class district of Tehran as before, according to an aide.
Only now, he travels with armed guards provided by the very government he is challenging. ...
Pat Buchanan does it again, answering the neocon warmongering gobbledygook with a good, sensible column on the president's response to Iran in Town Hall. His opening:
The Obama policy of extending an open hand to Iran is working and ought not be abandoned because of the grim events in Tehran.
For the Iranian theocracy has just administered a body blow to its legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian people and the world.
Before Saturday, the regime could credibly posture as defender of the nation, defiant in the face of the threats from Israel, faithful to the cause of the Palestinians, standing firm for Iran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful nuclear power.
Today, the regime, including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is under a cloud of suspicion that they are but another gang of corrupt politicians who brazenly stole a presidential election to keep themselves and their clerical cronies in power.
..paradoxically, it seems that from Israel's point of view the victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actually preferable. Not only because "better the devil you know," but because the victory of the pro-reform candidate will paste an attractive mask on the face of Iranian nuclear ambitions...
... Ahmadinejad, with his Holocaust denial and his long series of provocations, drew most of the attention, but apparently had less influence on the nuclear program. There are even senior members of the Israeli defense establishment who share the public stance of former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, who claimed that the Iranian president's behavior, perceived in the West as quasi-lunatic, advanced Israel's security interests.
The neocon crazy train rides again: Gaffney plays 'Hardball'
If you missed the performance on "Hardball" tonight by the almost comically paranoid Frank Gaffney (the man whose life is apparently devoted to tilting at Muslim windmills) you missed a treat like few others. David Shuster filled in admirably for Chris Matthews, and the only thing missing was that look of utter consternation that Chris tends to get on his face whenever a neocon speaks. Gaffney, who has created an entire organization to fight ... wait for it ... sharia law (which isn't being implemented in the U.S. ... yet) claimed, with all due seriousness, that:
1. The U.S. should have shot down that failed North Korean long-range missile launch, possibly restarting the Korean War and causing the annihilation of tens of thousands of South Koreans in the process. It's a thought echoed by the purportedly legit wing of the neocon press.
3. Dick Cheney (of whome Gaffney declared himself a "member of the fan club" is right about the country being less safe, and we'll be even worse off if the Obama administration dismantles our super secret missile shooter-downer ... rays!!
I think I've figured it out. The neocons, who also said Saddam Hussein had developed wooden, pilotless drones that could deliver chemical weapons over the U.S., (and that he, not Tim McVeigh, blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma) and who insisted that Ronald Reagan go to war with the Soviet Union which was going to nuke us into last week ... even as that country was busy collapsing ... are not only insane, and constantly in need of a Boogeyman to go to war with (I mean for other people to go to war with ... they don't DO fighting, themselves... too busy thinking up crazy stuff...) they're living in a warped, Twilight Zone episode of "The Jetsons," in which Mr. Spacely isn't just mean, he's trying to kill you, and make you submit to Sharia law...
Watch the segment, and pay close attention to the incredulous look on fellow panelist David Corn's face:
Poor Bill Kristol. Having embarrassed himself as an error-prone New York Times columnist, he's now reduced to doing his schtick on Fox News and posting snipey blogs on the WaPo. His beef with Obama? He didn't mention Kristol's favorite subject in the non-SOTU speech last night, and that subject is WAR, WAR, BEAUTIFUL, GLORIOUS WAR!!!!!!!
Contrast the praise for Palin with the back of the hand given to the lamentable Harriet Miers. Nominated to the Supreme Court by George W. Bush, she encountered fierce resistance from, of all people, conservatives. They questioned her ideological fervor and wondered about her legal acumen. "There is a gaping disproportion between the stakes associated with this vacancy and the stature of the person nominated to fill it," wrote a certain Kristol in the Weekly Standard. As luck would have it, he was right.
But why such keen objectivity regarding Miers and not Palin, for whom the phrase "gaping disproportion" would seem to have been coined? The answer is obvious. It is not "the stature of the person nominated" that matters, it is the person's ideology. Miers not only had questionable credentials but questionable ideological purity as well -- what the National Review called "the substance and the muddle of her views." Palin is a down-the-line rightie, so her inexperience, her lack of interest in foreign affairs, her numbing provincialism and her gifts for fabrication (Can we go over that "bridge to nowhere" routine again?) do not trouble her ideological handlers. Let her get into office. They will govern.
Aha. There's the rub.
Like George W. Bush: Sarah Palin is seen by the neoconservative coterie as the simple-Simon (or is that Simone...) faux populist rube whom they hope to set up as the popular vessel through which they will govern. She mollifies the "crazies" (the religious right, the rural right, and the more self-determined fiscal right,) and they get to keep foisting their Middle East think-tankery on a hapless public. The payoff to the fiscons is that they get to loot the Treasury and hoard the money through obscene tax cuts for the rich. Sadly, the religious right and the rural "real American" Limbaugh listeners get nothing but jingoistic cheerleading, empty promises (I'm sure the GOP is gonna get right on that federal banning of gay marriage and abortion thing... any minute now...) and frightening tales of shotgun confiscation and scary brown people lurking at the Mall of the Americas! to keep them in line...) As for Sarah, in the neocons' estimation, like George, they need only flatter her and promote her and suppress opposition to her within the Republican Party, and it's a go. In that sense, it is she, and not John McCain (the neocons' original candidate in 2000 and again this year) who truly is Bush II.
Why do the neocons love John McCain? Because he was always one of them, long before George W. Bush knew where to find Iraq on a map. Bill Kristol and the other neocons were McCainiacs back in 2000, before most of us were aware of their existence. They jumped to Dubya only after McCain lost South Carolina, and seemed doomed to lose the primary. Through Dick Cheney, they took over Bush's presidency, shaping it into what Palin hasn't yet figured out: the Bush doctrine. Now, via the HuffPo and the London Telegraph, word that it is happening again: the neocon crowd is grooming Sarah Palin to be their new George W. Bush...
The WaPo reveals that Sarah Palin is being tutored in foreign policy by the same coterie of neocons who brought us the Iraq War:
ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 4 -- Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman is among several national security experts helping brief Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin on foreign policy issues as she prepares to hit the campaign trail while cramming for a debate with her Democratic opponent, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), in less than a month, according to officials from Sen. John McCain's campaign.
Lieberman, who was the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee but is now an independent, has helped introduce Palin to officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the leading pro-Israel lobby. In a meeting Tuesday, the day before she delivered her prime-time address at the Republican National Convention here, Palin assured the group of her strong support for Israel, of her desire to see the United States move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and of her opposition to Iran's aspirations to become a nuclear power, according to sources familiar with the meeting. ...
So who else is on the team?
The McCain campaign has tapped Stephen E. Biegun, the national security adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), to be Palin's principal foreign policy adviser. Campaign aides said Biegun, who is currently a vice president of Ford, is not serving as Palin's tutor but is merely briefing her on details of key issues in a way that is similar to what other candidates are receiving.
"The attempt is not to turn her into a professor of foreign policy but trying to get her up to speed on all the nuances of foreign policy issues that are hot and John's positions," said John Lehman, a former Navy secretary who is one of McCain's advisers. "She's surprised everybody at how current she is on Middle East issues. She doesn't pretend to be a foreign policy expert, but neither is she somebody who hasn't thought about the issues."
Bushies Come to Palin's Aid Michael Isikoff By Michael Isikoff
The McCain team has hastily assembled a team of former Bush White House aides to tutor the vice-presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on foreign-policy issues, to write her speeches and to begin preparing her for her all-important Oct. 2 debate against Sen. Joe Biden.
Steve Biegun, who once served as the No. 3 National Security Council official under Condoleezza Rice at the White House, has been hired as chief foreign-policy adviser to the Alaska governor, campaign officials told NEWSWEEK. After taking leave from his job as vice president for international affairs at Ford Motor Co. last Friday, Biegun flew to St. Paul and, together with McCain’s foreign-policy guru Randy Schuenemann, began briefings for Palin on national-security issues—an area where her resume is conspicuously thin.
Matt Scully, a former Bush White House speechwriter who helped draft some of the major foreign-policy addresses during the president’s first term, is working on Palin’s acceptance speech to the convention Wednesday night.
Mark Wallace, a former lawyer for the Bush 2000 campaign who served in a variety of administration jobs including chief counsel at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and deputy ambassador to the United Nations, has been put in charge of “prep” for the debate against Biden.
Wallace’s wife, Nicolle Wallace, the former White House communications director, has taken over the same job for Palin.
Tucker Eskew, another senior Bush White House communications aide, is serving as senior counselor to Palin’s operation.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former chief economist at the Council of Economic Advisers who has been serving as top economics guru for the McCain campaign, has moved over to serve as Palin’s chief domestic-policy adviser.
More irony: Charles Krauthammer in the WaPo today says he knows what Vlad Putin's REAL objective is in Georgia:
His objectives are clear. They go beyond detaching South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia and absorbing them into Russia. They go beyond destroying the Georgian army, leaving the country at Russia's mercy.
The real objective is the Finlandization of Georgia through the removal of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his replacement by a Russian puppet.
Which explains Putin stopping the Russian army (for now) short of Tbilisi. What everyone overlooks in the cease-fire terms is that all future steps -- troop withdrawals, territorial arrangements, peacekeeping forces -- will have to be negotiated between Russia and Georgia. But Russia says it will not talk to Saakashvili. Thus regime change becomes the first requirement for any movement on any front. This will be Putin's refrain in the coming days. He is counting on Europe to pressure Saakashvili to resign and/or flee to "give peace a chance."
Huh??? Since when does Krauthammer not like regime change? And of course, if there's a neocon in the room, there's gonna be talk of oil:
The Finlandization of Georgia would give Russia control of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is the only significant westbound route for Caspian Sea oil and gas that does not go through Russia. Pipelines are the economic lifelines of such former Soviet republics as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that live off energy exports. Moscow would become master of the Caspian basin.
Subduing Georgia has an additional effect. It warns Russia's former Baltic and East European satellites what happens if you get too close to the West. It is the first step to reestablishing Russian hegemony in the region.
So what does Krauthammer want to do? Only dissolve the G8, bar Russia from entering the World Trade Organization, suspend the NATO-Russian alliance and ... Jimmy Carter fans will love this one ... boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics. Yes, you heard it right. He wants to boycott the Olympics.
Yeah, that should show Puty-Put.
Krauthammer is also making news for calling Bush's "lingering in Beijing, yucking it up with the U.S. beach volleyball team" a "mini-Katrina moment." Aside from that, his column is little more than the usual neocon sputter. But it's fully of irony, and we love that!
UPDATE: Yet another one for the irony file ... also writing in the Post today, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili casts the imperative for Western military rescue of Georgia in strangely familiar terms...
The historical parallels are stark: Russia's war on Georgia echoes events in Finland in 1939, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Perhaps this is why so many Eastern European countries, which suffered under Soviet occupation, have voiced their support for us.
Russia's authoritarian leaders see us as a threat because Georgia is a free country whose people have elected to integrate into the Euro-Atlantic community. This offends Russia's rulers. They do not want their nation or even its borders contaminated by democratic ideas.
Translation: they hate us for our freedoms ...
This war threatens not only Georgia but security and liberty around the world. If the international community fails to take a resolute stand, it will have sounded the death knell for the spread of freedom and democracy everywhere.
Georgia's only fault in this crisis is its wish to be an independent, free and democratic country. What would Western nations do if they were punished for the same aspiration?
I have staked my country's fate on the West's rhetoric about democracy and liberty. As Georgians come under attack, we must ask: If the West is not with us, who is it with? If the line is not drawn now, when will it be drawn? We cannot allow Georgia to become the first victim of a new world order as imagined by Moscow.
Sounds a lot like George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war. The biggest irony of all, however, is that had Bush not invaded a sovereign country his damned self, and had he not dragged America's military, and our reputation, through the mud, the U.S. might have been freer to come to Georgia's aid in a more substantive way (though I doubt we'd be going to war with Russia in any event.) Still, the biggest reason Georgia will get little more than food and good wishes from America, is one Iraq War -- the same war the neocons demanded.
Hey Scheunemann, it's Georgia calling ... they want their $800,000 back
Exactly what did the nation of Georgia expect in return for the $800,000 they paid to Randy Scheunemann's two-man lobbying firm over the last couple of years? And did they renew the contract this spring, for $200,000, expecting that they were buying a guaranteed U.S. response to any belligerence by Russia, as if they were already in NATO? The Washington Post bombshell about Schenemann's lucrative Georgian lobbying deal was explained brilliantly tonight on "Countdown":
Sen. John McCain's top foreign policy adviser prepped his boss for an April 17 phone call with the president of Georgia and then helped the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prepare a strong statement of support for the fledgling republic.
The day of the call, a lobbying firm partly owned by the adviser, Randy Scheunemann, signed a $200,000 contract to continue providing strategic advice to the Georgian government in Washington.
The McCain campaign said Georgia's lobbying contract with Orion Strategies had no bearing on the candidate's decision to speak with President Mikheil Saakashvili and did not influence his statement. "The Embassy of Georgia requested the call," said campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.
But ethics experts have raised concerns about former lobbyists for foreign governments providing advice to presidential candidates about those same countries. "The question is, who is the client? Is the adviser loyal to income from a foreign client, or is he loyal to the candidate he is working for now?" said James Thurber, a lobbying expert at American University. "It's dangerous if you're getting advice from people who are very close to countries on one side or another of a conflict."
At the time of McCain's call, Scheunemann had formally ceased his own lobbying work for Georgia, according to federal disclosure reports. But he was still part of Orion Strategies, which had only two lobbyists, himself and Mike Mitchell.
Scheunemann remained with the firm for another month, until May 15, when the McCain campaign imposed a tough new anti-lobbyist policy and he was required to separate himself from the company.
Besides being a lobbyists for a foreign government while he was both lobbying Sen. McCain and then working for him, it turns out Scheunemann also ... um ... sucks at his job:
As a private lobbyist trying to influence lawmakers and Bush administration staffers, Scheunemann at times relied on his access to McCain in his work for foreign clients on Capitol Hill. He and his partner reported 71 phone conversations and meetings with McCain and his top advisers since 2004 on behalf of foreign clients, including Georgia, according to forms they filed with the Justice Department.
The contacts often focused on Georgia's aspirations to join NATO and on legislative proposals, including a measure co-sponsored by McCain that supported Georgia's position on South Ossetia, one of the Georgian regions taken over by Russia this weekend.
Another measure lobbied by Orion and co-sponsored by McCain, the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2006, would have authorized a $10 million grant for Georgia.
Too bad Georgia's invasion of the break-away province of South Ossetia and Russia's military rout of their Army after they killed peacekeeping troops, along with the pretty darned clear fact that the Bush administration has NOOOOOO intention of taking military action to defend Georgia has made the possibility of Georgia being let into NATO about ... um ... zilch. They are getting humanitarian aid, though, which is nice. I think one of the ships carrying supplies is scheduled to get there in a month.
Apparently, Georgia's president, Mr. Shakaasvili, didn't get the memo, however. He was on CNN today rebuking McCian, as you saw in the Olbermann clip, for not matching his "we are all Georgian's now" schtick with "action." You mean like ... military action??? ... oh, dude, I'm sorry. How much did you pay that Scheunemman guy again?
For months while McCain's presidential campaign was gearing up, Scheunemann held dual roles, advising the candidate on foreign policy while working as Georgia's lobbyist. Between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, the campaign paid Scheunemann nearly $70,000 to provide foreign policy advice. During the same period, the government of Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees.
Since 2004, Orion has collected $800,000 from the government of Georgia.
Damn, I sure hate it. I don't suppose you have a receipt for where Randy told you the U.S. would stand by its new ally come what may against Russian aggression ... do you?
Meanwhile, the neocons at the corner are probably a little disappointed that McCain stumbled and bumbled his way through a major walk-back from his Russo belligerence today, saying he "didn't want to re-start the Cold War." And presto! They've uncovered proof that Georgia may have seen it coming, which would put them one up on the vacationing through the crisis Condi Rice... Sez the Corner:
Here's an interesting Radio Free Europe story from 2006 (my emphasis added):
EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee in Brussels today that during a recent phone conversation, Saakashvili had confessed to "tremendous worry" about the possible consequences that ongoing UN-sponsored Kosovo status talks could have for Georgia...Solana indicated that he, too, considers it possible that independence for Kosovo could have a negative effect on Georgia's territorial integrity, acknowledging it would set a "precedent."
In other words, though the Corner folks apparently missed it in their zeal to back-slap Bill Clinton's foreign policy more than a decade later, independence for Kosovo prompted the ethnic Russians in South Ossetia to give it a go themselves, causing ... wait for it ... the Georgian army to invade South Ossetia, killing some peace keepers in the process. And while Russia looks like the ogre here, I think Barack Obama turns out to be the grown0up by noting that both sides committed aggressive acts, rather than implying that the U.S. should act like Georgia is already a member of NATO and go to war on their behalf. In fact, the very idea of putting Georgia in NATO looks suicidal, given the present situation and the ongoing Georgian internal conflict over not one, but TWO ethnic Russian provinces. Russia and Georgia have both behaved badly, it seems clear to anyone who isn't a neocon or a complete right wing hack. The difference is, only one side of the Ruso-Georgian conflict had a United States Senator's chief foreign policy adviser on the payroll.
UPDATE: McCain is sending his wing-men, the comedy act of Lieberman and Lindsey, to Georgia to ... um ... reassure them that they should still pay Scheunemann because he's a good neocon??? According to the New York Times:
BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — Senator John McCain turned aside questions today about whether Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, had strayed over the political line yesterday when he said that Senator Barack Obama had shown inexperience in his initial response to the war between Russia and Georgia.
And he tried to tamp down earlier charges from the Obama camp that he was responding to the Russian crisis with a belligerence that could only make the situation worse. He said he was taking a hard line on Russia but wasn’t trying to “reignite the Cold War.”
It was all part of a continuing effort by the McCain campaign to seize on the events overseas to appear presidential and in command on the world stage while at the same time not appearing to be political. At several points today, he emphasized that he had visited Georgia many times and was familiar with the players.
He also said he was sending Mr. Lieberman, of Connecticut, and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, to Georgia, as both stood beside him at a flag-bedecked news conference here. All three are members of the Senate Armed Services committee.
... At a fund-raiser in Teaneck, N.J., on Tuesday, Mr. Lieberman had criticized a statement from Mr. Obama, the likely Democratic nominee, about the war in Georgia.
“As the Russians move into Georgia as aggressors, and if you read the statements from the beginning, from Senator McCain and Senator Obama, one had a kind of moral neutrality to it,” Mr. Lieberman said Tuesday. “That comes, I think, from inexperience.” He added that Mr. McCain’s statement was “strong and clear” and showed he was ready to be commander in chief from day one.
Really? (And why does Lieberman sound so much like Hillary Clinton circa March???) On the contrary, Joe, I honestly don't see why anyone continues to take John McCain seriously on foreign policy. He seems completely oblivious to the fact that his grand standing against Russia has only one possible consequence: making both himself, and the U.S. look silly, since he cannot hope to back up his tough talk with action since 1) he is not the president of the United States, 2) he and Lieberman helped cook up a ridiculous war in Iraq that's draining our troop strength and 3) nobody in their right mind in the U.S. wants to go to war with Russia (and there I exclude the neocons, Lieberman included, who are insane, and I INCLUDE one George W. Bush. Even HE's not that stupid. In fact, Bush has already ruled out a military response, which ... and this is the big one ... Vlad Putin and his puppet president KNOW ... and told the Georgians point blank that all that previous talk about standing with them was all crap: all they're getting is humanitarian aid.
BTW check out this series of wiggles by the Bush administration today, about that aid:
Saakashvili also caused an uproar when he said that Bush's pledge of humanitarian aid meant the U.S. military would take control of "Georgian ports and airports." The Pentagon swiftly contradicted his statement, and Saakashvili did not repeat it during a subsequent television appearance.
But the administration appeared to be sending mixed signals with its aid shipments, pointedly using military planes and ships and warning Russia not to block sea, air or land transport routes, while insisting it had no plans to intervene militarily.
"This is not an attempt to put military assets in closer proximity to inject U.S. forces into this conflict," a senior defense official said.
An Air Force C-17 cargo plane with medical supplies, shelters and bedding, dispatched from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., landed yesterday in Tbilisi. Onboard was what the Pentagon called a 12-man "assessment team," which will stay in Georgia to act as liaison. Some team members had served in the country as part of more than 140 U.S. military and contract civilian trainers who previously worked with the Georgian military.
U.S. officials denied reports in the semi-official Russian media that U.S. advisers have been working with Georgian combat troops. On Monday, the U.S. military transported about 2,000 Georgian troops home from duty as part of the multinational force in Iraq.
Now our reticent Cowboy in Chief doesn't even want to own up to training Georgian troops, and damned sure doesn't want the Russians to feel that we're placing troops along their southwestern border ... WHICH IS WHERE GEORGIA IS... Why?
Think Cuban missile crisis. In other words, if we deploy military assets essentially along the Russian border in order to "help" a breakaway former Soviet republic that is hanging onto two ethnic Russian provinces against their will, and thus interfering with Russia's sphere of influence AND threatening them militarily? Cuban ... missile ... crisis. Which of course, would be fine by the neocons, because they're crazy (and Georgia has oil pipelines.) But the rest of us who are NOT crazy? Not so much.
And, we're supposed to trust John McCain with the button?
And what's this I hear about Joe's friends the Israelis joining with the Bush administration to train Georgian troops (apparently not very well...)? Could that be another reason why the neocons are so hopped up on Georgia, because it has become a sphere of influence for the Israelis, with lots of oil, right next to Israeli-U.S. ally Turkey, to boot? Just a thought...
Meanwhile, Steve Clemons at TWN speculates on the neocons' plans to purge McCain's foreign policy team of the taint of realism, by exporting Collin Powell.
The end of American influence? Plus, the neocons new, old crusade
George Bush at the Olympics, says he and Vlad Putin have a "good relationship" and he was "firm with him"on Georgia. Perhaps someone should have been firm with Dubya about the proper direction of the American flag...
According to BBC News, Russia has ended its military operations in Georgia. (Background on the conflict here.) However, the current situation in Georgia is as clear a demonstration as any in recent history of America's waning influence in the world. Watching George W. Bush cavorting around Beijing with U.S. Olympic athletes was kind of funny for a while, but against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Georgia, and Bush's absolute impotence in the face of it, it's actually downright embarassing. UPDATE: Georgian officials are disputing that Russian military attacks have ended in South Ossetia. And there are charges of ethnic cleansing being thrown around.
I haven't posted much about the Georgia situation because I wanted to dig into it first on my own, and know what's actually going on. The political back and forth in the U.S., the silly spectacle of John McCain pretending to give ultimatums to Russia that a) he has no authority to deliver because hello? he isn't president ... (where's Dana Milbank with a "hubris" column when you need him) and b) the U.S. doesn't have the available troops to do anything to Russia even if we wanted to (leading to the possibility of the Russians throwing down the perennial classic, "you and what Army?" Besides, the fact that McCain's neocon chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, was up until recently a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government puts his comments in a less than glowing context. (Not to mention his inability to accept the notion of context coming out of the mouth of one Barack Obama.)
So much about the Russia-Georgia mess speaks of America's inability to influence events:
If Washington’s diplomacy with Russia should have had one thing going for it, it is that Bush has an expert on the job. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a Soviet (a.k.a. Russia) specialist from way back. But so busy has Rice been with global diplomacy that she appears to have dropped the ball entirely on Georgia. Or so one might infer from the past few days in which President Bush appeared caught by surprise, tied up watching Olympic basketball and swimming in Beijing, while Russia got down to the business of bombing and shooting its way into Georgia — a U.S. ally which not so long ago Bush was praising for its Rose Revolution, thanking for its troop contributions in Iraq, and trying to usher into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
2) Bush: all hat, no cattle. While I hate to agree with the neocon nutjobs, the sight of Dubya hanging with his good friend, Prime Minister Putin on the Olympic sidelines looked downright silly while back in Washington, his government was issuing stern sounding warnings to Putin's hand-picked president, Mr. Medvedev, while Putin did all the big talking. (Bush is finally back from his Beijing vacation, and is issuing even sterner sounding warnings. And reportedly, while at the opening ceremonies, he gave Putie-Put a good talking to. Well, that should do it...) The fact is, Bush hasn't got any leverage over Russia, and can't do anything more than he is doing: talking. His own policies, including in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, are partly to blame. Russia is richer than it was when he arrived, thanks to the skyrocketing oil prices that he and Cheney helped engineer, and Putin feels freer to act, knowing that the U.S. is as bogged down in Mesopotamia as the Soviets once were in Afghanistan.
3) The U.S. seemed so taken aback by the events in Georgia, you've got to wonder what they're smoking. The U.S. has been pouring military aid into the former Soviet satellite (much of it through GOP-patented privatization) ever since they agreed to join the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. They had the third largest troop contingent still remaining there, but Georgian troops now face being airlifted out of Iraq by the U.S. military, so they can return to their own war zone. That airlift coming at U.S. taxpayer expense. By flexing military muscle right on Russia's doorstep, you've got to believe that the U.S. and Georgia should have expected a response from the likes of Putin ... sorry, Medvedev, who's really "in charge" nowadays ... and if you believe that... As Dmitri Simes, president of The Nixon Center, guest posts on TWN, the Bushies aren't the only ones who were caught flat footed. Count the Georgian government in, too:
It is remarkable, but probably inevitable, that so many in Washington have reacted with surprise and outrage to Russia's response to President Mikheil Saakashvili's attempt to reestablish Georgian control over South Ossetia by force.
Some of the angriest statements come from those inside and outside the Bush administration who contributed, I assume unwittingly, to making this crisis happen. And like post-WMD justifications for the invasion of Iraq, the people demanding the toughest action against Russia are focused on Russia's lack of democracy and heavy-handed conduct, particularly in its own neighborhood, and away from how the confrontation actually unfolded. Likewise, just as in the case of Saddam Hussein, these same people accuse anyone who points out that things are not exactly black and white, and that the U.S. government may have its own share of responsibility for the crisis, of siding with aggressive tyrants - in this case, in the Kremlin.
Yet many both outside and even inside the Bush administration predicted that the U.S. decision to champion Kosovo independence without Serbian consent would lead Moscow to become more assertive in establishing its presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Kremlin made abundantly clear that it would view Kosovo's independence without Serbian consent and a U.N. Security Council mandate as a precedent for the two Georgian de facto independent enclaves. Furthermore, while President Saakashvili was making obvious his ambition to reconquer Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Moscow was both publicly and privately warning that Georgia's use of force to reestablish control of the two regions would meet a tough Russian reaction, including, if needed, air strikes against Georgia proper.
So it would be interesting to know what President Saakashvili was thinking when, on Thursday night, after days of relatively low-level shelling around the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali (which both South Ossetians and Georgians blamed on each other), and literally hours after he announced on state-controlled TV the cessation of hostilities, he ordered a full-scale assault on Tskhinvali. And mind you, the assault could only succeed if the Georgian units went right through the battalion of Russian troops serving as international peacekeepers according to agreements signed by Tbilisi itself in the 1990s.
Under the circumstances, the Russian forces had three choices: to surrender, to run away, or to fight. And fight they did - particularly because many of the Russian soldiers were in fact South Ossetians with families and friends in Tskhinvali under Georgian air, tank, and artillery attacks. Saakashvili was reckless to count on proceeding with a blitzkrieg in South Ossetia without a Russian counterattack.
4) The Georgian situation proves, if there remained any doubt, that the neoconservative movement is a cult of insane people. They would dearly love to revive their Reagan-era drive for a U.S. war against the former Soviet bad guys. (In fact, it was Ronald Reagan's refusal to fire up the nukes and take the Soviets out that ultimately drove the neocons away from him. and into their PNAC think tanks.) No sooner did the guns start blazing in Georgia than the Hitler analogies and calls for war started streaming from the keyboards of war cultists like Bill Kristol and the aforementioned Mr. Kagan. But as Rossett's column goes on to lament, the cons have lost control of their White House cowboy to the evil one world government of the U.N.
For the democratic world, there will be no easy recovery from the chilling spectacle of Georgia’s 2,000 or so troops pulling out of Iraq to go join their own country’s desperate defense. The message so far is that America will ferry them home, but while Georgia rallied to the defense of freedom in Iraq, none of Georgia’s erstwhile allies will risk taking up arms to help the Georgians against a Russian onslaught.
The damage in many dimensions is already enormous. As historian and former State Department official Robert Kagan wrote in an incisive article in Monday’s Washington Post, “Historians will come to view August 8, 2008, as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell” — though for far less promising reasons. Kagan notes, correctly, that the issue is not how, exactly, this war in Georgia began, but that the true mistake of Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili, “was to be president of a small, mostly democratic and adamantly pro-Western nation on the border of Putin’s Russia.”
China’s Communist rulers, while basking in the glow of their Olympics bash, are surely checking the tea leaves for what this might presage about U.S. support for another U.S. ally: the democratic Republic of China on Taiwan. If the U.S. will not stand up to North Korea, will not stand up to Iran, will not stand up to Russia, then where will the U.S. stand up? What are the real rules of this New World Order?
And Rossett reveals, if anyone had remaining doubt, that the neocons have gone home, quitting their second choice, Mr. Bush, for their first love, John McCain:
Apart from Afghanistan and Iraq, the main rule right now seems to be that while anti-democratic bullies do the shooting, everyone else does a lot of talking and resolving. The UN Security Council meets, repeatedly. The European parliament ponders. Presumptive Republic nominee John McCain at least has the gumption and insight to point out that Russia’s actions threaten not only Georgia, but some of Russia’s other neighbors, such as Ukraine, “for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values.” Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama calls for more diplomacy, aid, and not just a U.N. resolution but also a U.N. mediator — despite the massive evidence that U.N. mediators can’t even protect the dissident monks of Burma or the opposition in Zimbabwe, let alone a small country trying to fight off single-handed an invasion by the Russian army.
Ironically, the neocons cheered when Condi Rice succeeded the hated Colin Powell at State. Now, color the cons disappointed:
President Bush, lapsed cowboy and former global top cop, dispatches his envoys to talk, and talk — and talk about talking some more. America’s ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad told the U.N. Security Council on Sunday that Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had told Secretary of State Rice that Georgia’s elected President Mikhail Saakasvhivili “must go.” Khalilzad informed the Security Council that this is “unacceptable” and “this Council must act decisively to reaffirm the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.” This is a phrase that satisfies the U.N. brand of etiquette, but it stops no bombs or bullets.
Bush, upon his return from Beijing to Washington, having failed to stop the Russian invasion of Georgia by declaring himself “deeply concerned,” issued a tougher statement in the Rose Garden: That by invading a neighboring state and threatening to overthrow its elected government, Russia has committed an action that is “unacceptable in the 21st century.”
Oh really? While declaring this invasion “unacceptable,” the global community of the 21st century seems prepared to accept it in spades. While Russian guns close in on Tbilisi, even the basic diplomatic penalties are not yet fully on the table, for whatever they might be worth. By all means, let’s see the G-8 expel Russia, if the will can be found to do even that much. By all means, let the U.N. Security Council engage in the farce of discussing reprimands and maybe even sanctions for Russia — which happens to be both a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, and one of the world’s most adept and experienced sanctions violators.
5) It's the oil, stupid. A clip from John McCain's bellicose statement yesterday tell us what McCain thinks this is really all about:
"The implications of Russian actions go beyond their threat to the territorial integrity and independence of a democratic Georgia. Russia is using violence against Georgia, in part, to intimidate other neighbors such as Ukraine for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values. As such, the fate of Georgia should be of grave concern to Americans and all people who welcomed the end of a divided of Europe, and the independence of former Soviet republics. The international response to this crisis will determine how Russia manages its relationships with other neighbors. We have other important strategic interests at stake in Georgia, especially the continued flow of oil through the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which Russia attempted to bomb in recent days; the operation of a critical communication and trade route from Georgia through Azerbaijan and Central Asia; and the integrity an d influence of NATO, whose members reaffirmed last April the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Georgia.
Well, that and giving McCain's neocon friends another war. ... As Joe Klein points out:
With Word War IV--Norman Podhoretz's ridiculous oversell of the struggle against jihadi extremism--on a slow burn for the moment, Kagan et al are showing renewed interest in the golden oldies of enemies, Russia and China. This larval neo-crusade has influenced the campaign of John McCain, with his comic book proposal for a League of Democracies and his untenable proposal to kick the Russians out of the G8.
To be sure, Russia's assault on Georgia is an outrage. We should use all the diplomatic leverage we have (not all that much, truthfully) to end this invasion, and--as Richard Holbrooke and Ronald Asmus argue in this more reasonable take--help Georgia to recover when it's over. And, to be sure, neither Russia nor China are going to be our good buddies, as many of us hoped in the afterglow of the fall of communism. They will be a significant diplomat challenge.
But it is important, yet again, to call out the endless neoconservative search for new enemies, mini-Hitlers. It is the product of an abstract over-intellectualizing of the world, the classic defect of ideologues. It is, as we have seen the last eight years, a dangerous way to behave internationally. And it has severely damaged our moral authority in the world...I mean, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, after Abu Ghraib, after our blithe rubbishing of the Geneva Accords, why should anyone listen to us when we criticize the Russians for their aggression in the Caucasus?
Indeed. Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias calls out more neocon alarmists on the warpath here.
Check out this "secret history of the war over oil in Iraq." It's a fascinating presentation of the tug of war between the neocons who used to run George W. Bush's government, and the James Baker-led "realists" who literally represented the interests of Big Oil in U.S. foreign policy, and who attended those secret energy policy meetings organized by Dick Cheney (who apparently has favored both sides at different points in history, according to the author, investigative journalist Greg Palast.)
The bottom line: the Bush administration sought the invasion of Iraq from the time they stepped into office, and initially drafted a plan, in secret meetings with oil industry giants, and including "the late" Ken Lay, which included staging a coup to replace the inconvenient dictator of Iraq with an oil industry favorite, and maintaining the nationalized Iraqi oil industry under the control of U.S. and European firms. After 9/11, the neocons rolled out their own, alternative plan: to privatize Iraqi oil and use direct control over oil output to cut the throat of OPEC. The "secret history" outlines how the "realists" eventually came roaring back, scuttling the neocons plans and maintaining Iraq's state-run oil system, under American control, of course, including direct viceroyship by former U.S. oil executives, who were tapped to run Iraq's oil ministries, and boosting oil prices through the roof in the process. In the end, the U.S. sided with OPEC, including the Saudis and the Iranians, to let everyone get fat off U.S. leverage over Iraqi oil.
In a hotel room in Brussels, the chief executives of the world’s top oil companies unrolled a huge map of the Middle East, drew a fat, red line around Iraq and signed their names to it.
The map, the red line, the secret signatures. It explains this war. It explains this week’s rocketing of the price of oil to $134 a barrel.
It happened on July 31, 1928, but the bill came due now.
Barack Obama knows this. Or, just as important, those crafting his policies seem to know this. Same for Hillary Clinton’s team. There could be no more vital difference between the Republican and Democratic candidacies. And you won’t learn a thing about it on the news from the Fox-holes.
Let me explain.
In 1928, oil company chieftains (from Anglo-Persian Oil, now British Petroleum, from Standard Oil, now Exxon, and their Continental counterparts) were faced with a crisis: falling prices due to rising supplies of oil; the same crisis faced by their successors during the Clinton years, when oil traded at $22 a barrel.
The solution then, as now: stop the flow of oil, squeeze the market, raise the price. The method: put a red line around Iraq and declare that virtually all the oil under its sands would remain there, untapped. Their plan: choke supply, raise prices rise, boost profits. That was the program for 1928. For 2003. For 2008.
Again and again, year after year, the world price of oil has been boosted artificially by keeping a tight limit on Iraq’s oil output. Methods varied. The 1928 “Redline” agreement held, in various forms, for over three decades. It was replaced in 1959 by quotas imposed by President Eisenhower. Then Saudi Arabia and OPEC kept Iraq, capable of producing over 6 million barrels a day, capped at half that, given an export quota equal to Iran’s lower output.
In 1991, output was again limited, this time by a new red line: B-52 bombings by Bush Senior’s air force. Then came the Oil Embargo followed by the “Food for Oil” program. Not much food for them, not much oil for us.
In 2002, after Bush Junior took power, the top ten oil companies took in a nice $31 billion in profits. But then, a miracle fell from the sky. Or, more precisely, the 101st Airborne landed. Bush declared, “Bring’m on!” and, as the dogs of war chewed up the world’s second largest source of oil, crude doubled in two years to an astonishing $40 a barrel and those same oil companies saw their profits triple to $87 billion.
In response, Senators Obama and Clinton propose something wrongly called a “windfall” profits tax on oil. But oil industry profits didn’t blow in on a breeze. It is war, not wind, that fills their coffers. The beastly leap in prices is nothing but war profiteering, hiking prices to take cruel advantage of oil fields shut by bullets and blood.
I wish to hell the Democrats would call their plan what it is: A war profiteering tax. War is profitable business – if you’re an oil man. But somehow, the public pays the price, at the pump and at the funerals, and the oil companies reap the benefits.
Indeed, the recent engorgement in oil prices and profits goes right back to the Bush-McCain “surge.” The Iraq government attack on a Basra militia was really nothing more than Baghdad’s leaping into a gang war over control of Iraq’s Southern oil fields and oil-loading docks. Moqtada al-Sadr’s gangsters and the government-sponsored greedsters of SCIRI (the Supreme Council For Islamic Revolution In Iraq) are battling over an estimated $5 billion a year in oil shipment kickbacks, theft and protection fees.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the surge-backed civil warring has cut Iraq’s exports by up to a million barrels a day. And that translates to slashing OPEC excess crude capacity by nearly half.
Result: ka-BOOM in oil prices and ka-ZOOM in oil profits. For 2007, Exxon recorded the highest annual profit, $40.6 billion, of any enterprise since the building of the pyramids. And that was BEFORE the war surge and price surge to over $100 a barrel.
Actually, during the second quarter of 2008, the profits swelled to an even higher $51,5 billion for the six biggest OilCos -- the highest EVER. Meanwhile, John McCain's flip-flop on oil drilling, and his almost obsessive promotion of "the surge," which again, is keeping oil profits high, has paid huge dividends for him:
Campaign contributions from oil industry executives to Sen. John McCain rose dramatically in the last half of June, after the senator from Arizona made a high-profile split with environmentalists and reversed his position on the federal ban on offshore drilling.
Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.1 million to McCain last month - three-quarters of which came after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the ban - compared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May.
McCain delivered the speech before heading to Texas for a series of fund-raisers with energy industry executives, and the day after the speech he raised $1.3 million at a private luncheon and reception at the San Antonio Country Club, according to local news accounts.
"The timing was significant," said David Donnelly, the national campaigns director of the Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonpartisan campaign finance reform group that conducted the analysis of McCain's oil industry contributions. "This is a case study of how a candidate can change a policy position in the interest of raising money."
What's interesting, is that McCain has surrounded himself with the neocons, including Joe Lieberman, whose oil policy lost out in Bush and Cheney's Iraq. Does that mean that as president, he would return to their "Plan A" for the country: privatizing its oil fields and attempting to cut OPEC out of the picture? With McCain's belligerence toward OPEC-member Iran, and the neocons' hatred for all things Arab, it's an important question, which the media unfortunately will never ask.
SIDEBAR: I think it's clear to most people who are not aparatchiks of the GOP that what we're seeing in Iraq is the future of global resource wars -- a push for direct corporate control over entire governments, whether it's Dole in Latin America or Big Oil in LatAm, Africa and the Middle East, complete with private or government armies to maintain corporate interests. It may sound far fetched, but that's what's happening today, in Iraq, Colombia and elsewhere (the Bushies tried to make it happen in Venezuela, too, and would love to do so in Iran.) Americans aren't vigilant enough to ask questions, and the national security state is growing so quickly here, without much opposition from a public that's become accustomed to the existence of cameras and "reality show" surreal lives, that perhaps in the near future, many, if not most, will be unable -- or afraid -- to do so. (Those who do pay attention are frequently written off as paranoids or kooks, or even "un-American" by those on the right.) |
I'm not a huge fan of Joe Klein -- I think he tends to give the right much more credit than it deserves, including one John McCain. However, he is right about the neoconservative movement, and apparently, he doesn't care who knows it:
I have now been called antisemitic and intellectually unstable and a whole bunch of other silly things by the folks over at the Commentary blog. They want Time Magazine to fire or silence me. This is happening because I said something that is palpably true, but unspoken in polite society: There is a small group of Jewish neoconservatives who unsuccessfully tried to get Benjamin Netanyahu to attack Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, and then successfully helped provide the intellectual rationale for George Bush to do it in 2003. Their motivations involve a confused conflation of what they think are Israel's best interests with those of the United States. They are now leading the charge for war with Iran.
Happily, these people represent a very small sliver of the Jewish population in this country. Unhappily, their views have had an impact in the highest reaches of the Bush Administration--and seem to have an influence on John McCain's campaign as well. Happily, the Bush Administration seems more interested in talking to the Iranians than in launching on them--and, according to my Israeli friends, the Israelis are not going to do anything foolish, either. I remain proud of my Jewish heritage, a strong supporter of Israel and a realist about the slim chance of finding some common ground with the Iranians. But I am not willing to grant these ideologues the anonymity they seek.
To echo one of the commenters on the TIME thread: who are you, and what have you done with Joe Klein?
Richard Perle, the "Dr. Evil" of neoconservatism, is now an official war profiteer
"No new group of war millionaires shall come into being in this nation as a result of the struggles abroad. The American people will not relish the idea of any American citizen growing rich and fat in an emergency of blood and slaughter and human suffering." -- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, May 26, 1940
What's a neocon to do after invading Iraq turns out to be an f**ing stupid idea, your presidupe is almost out of office, your Darth Vader veep can't run because, well, he scares people, and most of the world has figured out that entire belief system is idiotic and dangerous?
(Wall Street Journal) Influential former Pentagon official Richard Perle has been exploring going into the oil business in Iraq and Kazakhstan, according to people with knowledge of the matter and documents outlining possible deals.
Mr. Perle, one of a group of security experts who began pushing the case for toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein about a decade ago, has been discussing a possible deal with officials of northern Iraq's Kurdistan regional government, including its Washington envoy, according to these people and the documents.
It would involve a tract called K18, near the Kurdish city of Erbil, according to documents describing the plan.
In March 2003, weeks after the invasion of Iraq, war architect Richard Perle resigned from his position on the Defense Policy Board in an attempt to “defuse a controversy over charges he stood to profit from the war in Iraq.” But that hasn’t stopped Perle from continuing to seek profit from the war. Citing documents and people close to the negotiations, the Wall Street Journal reports today that Perle “has been exploring going into the oil business in Iraq and Kazakhstan. One of the oil tracts, near the Kurdish city of Erbil, “is estimated to hold 150 million or more barrels of oil, would potentially be operated by Houston-based Endeavour International”
Perle also “has explored obtaining an oil concession in Kazakhstan in tandem with a northern Iraq deal,” the Journal adds. Perle denied the reports, stating, “I am not involved in any consortium…nor am I ‘framing plans for a consortium.’” But a spokesman for Qubat Talabani, the Kurdish government’s delegate in the U.S. who deals with “investment information,” “confirmed that the envoy had been approached by Mr. Perle.”
Well good for you, Evil One. And here's a peek at Endeavor's board. (According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Board Chairman Bill Transier and his wife are recent donors to Oil Gal Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Vice Chairman John Seitz has given quite a bit of money to Andarko Petroleum's PAC, and also in the past to Phil Gramm and big contributions to the RNC, not surprising given their industry and location... )
Meanwhile, other neocons have found employment with their old friend John McCain, an early backer of Ahmad Chalabi, and with Joe Lieberman, an advocate, dating back to the 1990s, of invading Iraq. One of them is Randy Scheunemann, who TPM Muckraker describes this way:
Over the weekend, The New York Timesnoted that some of John McCain's foreign policy advisers from the "realist" camp are uneasy with the amount of influence enjoyed by neoconservatives like Randy Scheunemann, who's been serving as McCain's chief foreign policy aide and spokesman.
And what has he gotten so wrong? (Shortened. Read the full post at the TPMM site)
As a top aide to then-Senate GOP leader Trent Lott, Scheunemann helped draft -- and acted as a driving force behind -- the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act (ILA), which essentially made "regime change" the official Iraq policy of the US. ...
Scheunemann was a board member of Bill Kristol's Project for a New American Century, which played a major role in agitating for the war. Scheunemann signed Kristol's influential letter to President Bush, sent nine days after 9/11, which asserted that failing to respond to the Al Qaeda attack by going after Saddam would "constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism." Scheunemann also served as a "consultant" to Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon while it was planning the war. And in late 2002, Scheunemann, with administration approval, founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), an advocacy group with the explicit goal of whipping up pro-war sentiment across the country.
Scheunemann also played a key role in lining up support for the invasion from the "Vilnius Ten," a group of former Soviet bloc countries seeking to gain entry to NATO, some of whom Scheunemann has worked as a paid lobbyist on behalf of. With his partner Bruce Jackson, a Lockheed Martin executive, Scheunemann reportedly gave assurances to the Ten that backing the invasion would help their chances for NATO membership. ...
In the invasion's aftermath, Scheunemann's judgment proved no more effective. He argued vociferously against giving the UN a significant role in stabilizing Iraq. ...
Still other neocons, like Charles Krauthammer, continue to find refuge on the op-ed pages of the New York Times and on Fox News, where their desperate ravings about Barack Obama can be read and heard by millions.
Curious about what's going on with the other neocons who conned Dubya into invading Iraq? ThinkP has you covered here.
The Secretary of State, who is one of the few people with the President's ear, has shown the door to Vice-President Dick Cheney's cabal of war-hungry advisers. Ms Rice was able to declare yesterday that the administration's decision to break with past policy proves that there is international unity in opposing Iran's nuclear programme. "The point that we're making is the United States is firmly behind this diplomacy, firmly behind and unified with our allies and hopefully the Iranians will take that message," Ms Rice said.
Mr Bush's decision to send the number three in the State Department, William Burns, to attend talks with Iran in Geneva at the weekend caused howls of outrage that were heard all the way from the State Department's sanctuary of Foggy Bottom to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. A parallel initiative to reopen the interest's section of the American embassy in Tehran, which would be the first return of a diplomatic presence on Iranian territory since 1979, has also received a cool response from neo-conservatives.
"This is a complete capitulation on the whole idea of suspending enrichment," said Mr Bush's former UN envoy, John Bolton. "Just when the administration has no more U-turns to pull, it does another."
Ms. Rice is described in the article as a "prime mover" behind the disastrous Iraq invasion, but her change of direction has pushed her man Bush in a new direction, one in which she appears to be steering the ship:
The breakthrough, if that is what it turns out to be, that persuaded Mr Bush that it was time to end the 30-year boycott of high-level diplomatic contacts with Iran, came from the simple act of Ms Rice signing her name to a joint letter offering sweeter terms to Tehran than it had seen before.
The very act of putting her name to a package of incentives presented in Tehran last month persuaded the Iranian authorities that there was movement that would allow them to proclaim victory over the US, while ending their nuclear programme.
When he saw Ms Rice's signature on the document, Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, was visibly stunned, according to those present at the meeting. He formally responded to the offer with a letter addressed to Ms Rice and the EU's foreign policy envoy, Javier Solana, as well as foreign ministers of the five other countries at the talks.
His letter skirted around the hot-button issue of Iran's uranium enrichment programme, but it contained an olive branch of an offer to "find common ground through logical and constructive actions", according to reports.
But the piece also makes it clear who the real ship's captain in the Bush administration is:
Before approaching the President with a plan to avoid war in the last six months of his presidency, Ms Rice had to persuade Mr Cheney, chief among those described as the "Vulcans" of his administration. She made her pitch at a meeting that included Mr Cheney, Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, Joshua Bolton, the White House Chief of Staff, and Mr Burns, who is heading to Geneva at the weekend to take part in the "one time only deal".
Scary. Read the entire article for a nice recounting of Condi's greatest hits, including her assertion that "no one could have anticipated planes flying into buildings..."
Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States." -- Joe Lieberman, August, 2002
"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." -- From a letter signed by Joe Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara A. Milulski, Tom Daschle, & John Kerry among others on October 9, 1998
“The so-called Duelfer Report, which a lot of people read to say there were no weapons of mass destruction - concluded that Saddam continued to have very low level of chemical and biological programs. ... [Saddam] was trying to break out of the U.N. sanctions by going back into rapid redevelopment of chemical and biological and probably nuclear [weapons]. -- Joe Lieberman in interview with ABC Radio host Sean Hannity, November 30, 2005
"I have no regrets [that the U.S. toppled Saddam.] ... I think we can finish are job there, and as part of it - really transform the Arab-Islamic world." -- from the same Hannity interview
Lieberman and McCain have had long friendship with then Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi, who drummed up bogus WMD claims and helped lead the United States into war, going all the way back to 1991.
It’s worth remembering that it was Lieberman, along with Trent Lott, who led the effort in the Senate to fund Chalabi and the Iraq National Congress through passage of the Iraqi Liberation Act in 1998, and it was Lieberman and McCain who served as the two “honorary co-chairmen” of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), the elite group that was put together by the administration and Chalabi’s pals at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), to lobby for invading Iraq in the fall of 2002.
That post prompted me to do a Google search of "Joe Lieberman, Ahmad Chalabi," which turned up this detailed post on the Cooperative Research History Commons site. We'll pick things up after swindler-turned-liar-turned Iranian spy Ahmad Chalabi's failed 1995 coup attempt, against Saddam Hussein, which was first backed, and then abandoned, by the CIA (a message delivered by now-author Robert Baer.) The scheme was supposed to sweep Chalabi into power in Iraq, his family having been ejected from the country in the late 1950s. A year later, Chalabi moved from sipping tea in London to sipping coffee in D.C., where he made nice with neocon "intellectuals," a live-in lobbyists named Francis Brooke, and members of Congress -- mostly Republicans, including Trent Lott and John McCain, but also some Democrats, including former Sen. Bob Kerrey, and a certain now-former Democrat named Joseph Lieberman.
More from the Commons:
Ahmed Chalabi and Francis Brooke find allies in the US Senate’s Republican leadership. They provide the Republicans with details about the events surrounding the INC-CIA’s 1995 failed plot against Saddam Hussein (see March 1995) and Iraq’s subsequent incursion into Kurdish territory (see August 1996) which the Republican senators use against the Clinton White House and the CIA. “Clinton gave us a huge opportunity,” Brooke later recalls. “We took a Republican Congress and pitted it against a Democratic White House. We really hurt and embarrassed the president.” The Republican leadership in Congress, he acknowledges, “didn’t care that much about the ammunition. They just wanted to beat up the president.” Senior Republican senators, according to Brooke, are “very receptive, right away” to Chalabi and Brooke’s information, and Chalabi is soon on a first-name basis with 30 members of Congress, including senators Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, and Newt Gingrich. [Alternet, 21 May 2004.')" New Yorker, 7 June 2004.)
Then in May, 1998, the Project for a New American Century, which has formed to advance the neoconservative worldview in Washington, sends a letter addressed to Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich, calling on them to pressure the White House to change U.S. policy toward Iraq:
... The letter argues that the Clinton administration has capitulated to Saddam Hussein and calls on the two legislators to lead Congress to “establish and maintain a strong US military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect [US] vital interests in the Gulf—and, if necessary, to help removed Saddam from power.” [Century, 5/29/1998]
On September 1998, the PNAC got their way in Congress, as the Iraq Liberation Act was introduced, first in the House as HR 4655, and then, on September 29th, in the Senate. The Act clears the way for Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to receive more than $17 million to gather information about the Saddam Hussein regime (almost all of which will be a) shared with members of the U.S. media including the New York Times' Judith Miller, and b) flat out wrong, made up, or otherwise completely useless.
Those who were surprised by Lieberman's determination to stay in the Senate at all costs, and his zeal to back John McCain, even if it costs him his chairmanship and seniority in the Senate, should take a close look at this history. Joe Lieberman isn't backing John McCain simply because they are friends. He is backing John McCain because the Iraq policy that McCain promises to continue indefinitely isn't just the project of a "new century," it isn't just a project of the neocons (of which Lieberman is clearly one); it isn't even just a policy of the Bush administration. It's a McCain-Lieberman policy, which they helped to craft, to germinate, and to push into both the congressional and executive branches.
In short, John McCain and Joe Lieberman are fighting this election in order to continue their war.
Take action: Visit LiebermanMustGo.com to sign the petition calling on the Senate Democratic leadership to strip Lieberman of his committee chairmanship.
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.
While grabbing links for the previous post, I noticed something that hadn't caught my attention before, for some reason. I knew that Jeb Bush was an original signer of the Project for a New American Century's "statement of principles," back in 1999, but there's another name on the list that I hadn't taken note of before: Dan Quayle, the dim-witted former vice president under George Bush I. How did his name get on the list of something called a "think" tank? He was probably asked to sign on by his former chief of staff, Bill Kristol, who co-founded the PNAC with fellow McCain adviser Robert Kagan.
Like other neoconservatives Frank Gaffney Jr. and Elliott Abrams, Kristol worked for hawkish Democratic Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson. But by 1976, he became a Republican. he served as chief of staff to Education Secretary William Bennett during the Reagan administration and chief of staff to former Vice President Dan Quayle during the George H. W. Bush presidency.
And let's not forget who Elliot Abrams is:
In 1991, Abrams pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress about the Iran-Contra affair. President George H. W. Bush pardoned him in 1992. In 1980, he married Rachel Decter, daughter of neocon veterans Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter.
I think it's safe to say that Junior isn't the only Bush who has found himself in the thrall of the neoconservatives. They have hovered around all three Bushes. George was just the one who implemented their policies in the most screwed up fashion. You could argue that the Iran-Contra affair was a neocon project, and if you believe Ronald Reagan's contemporaneous denials (he did beat back the neocons as long as he could -- they would have had him go to war with the U.S.S.R.) that operation may have emerged from the vice president's office. Bush I went to war against Saddam on the dubious provocation of Kuwait, which makes you wonder what noises were coming out of his vice president's office, where Kristol was probably Quayle's brain, in much the way Rove was for Dubya. And now we have Iraq War II.
Makes you wonder... clearly, these guys are effective at influencing the powerful. Makes you shudder all over again just thinking about a McCain presidency...
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.
William Kristol, one of the few remaining dregs of the neoconservative flotsam, issues a plea to actual conservatives, radio flunkie conservatives, "brown scare" conservatives (a/k/a "deportistas,") social conservatives (a/k/a non-believers in "eevolootion"), GWOT jihadi conservatives (a/k/a "light brown scare" conservatives) and tax cut junkies (a/k/a "actual conservatives"): Don't turn your back on John McCain, or the terrorists win in Iraq... again ...
in·cred·i·ble /adjective 1. so extraordinary as to seem impossible: incredible speed. 2. not credible; hard to believe; unbelievable: The plot of the book is incredible.
Today, George W. Bush managed to hit both definitions out of the park.
In a morning news conference, he attempted to convince people who are not high or completely insane, that he only found out about a three-month old intelligence estimate telling HIM, and his administration, that Iran has no nukes, and hasn't even tried to develop nukes for four years ... last week. Here's Dubya sparring with NBC reporter David Gregory:
DAVID GREGORY: Mr. President, thank you. I'd like to follow on that. When you talked about Iraq, you and others in the administration talked about a mushroom cloud; then there were no WMD in Iraq. When it came to Iran, you said in October, on October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III, when months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in '03 had already come to light to this administration. So can't you be accused of hyping this threat? And don't you worry that that undermines U.S. credibility?
THE PRESIDENT: David, I don't want to contradict an august reporter such as yourself, but I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze. Why would you take time to analyze new information? One, you want to make sure it's not disinformation. You want to make sure the piece of intelligence you have is real. And secondly, they want to make sure they understand the intelligence they gathered: If they think it's real, then what does it mean? And it wasn't until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.
NSA advisor Stephen Hadley backed Bush up on that ludicrous notion. in his own news conference, but no serious person can believe that the Director of National Intelligence went into the West Wing, warned the president that there was a major intelligence briefing coming down the pike, and the president didn't bother to ask ... "so what does it say?"
The neocons have been dusting off their plans for a brand new war, this time on Iran, for more than a year. And between Bush and Cheney, it's hard to tell which one wants to bomb Iran more desperately. Well I think it's growing increasingly clear that when he made that statement, either he, or his advisors, knew that there was no "if" -- because Iran wasn't seeking said weapons.
So is Bush chastened? Uh ... no. More from the presser:
Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. The NIE says that Iran had a hidden -- a covert nuclear weapons program. That's what it said. What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program? And the best way to ensure that the world is peaceful in the future is for the international community to continue to work together to say to the Iranians, we're going to isolate you. However, there is a better way forward for the Iranians.
Are you kidding me??? Iran is dangerous because "what's to say they won't start a weapons program sometime, who knows when?" What are they gonna do, kill us with bad intentions? ... Give us the evil eye?? ... Talk to us sternly???
Earth to Dubya: Iran is not a threat to us because of nuclear weapons! Just like Iraq wasn't! And Bush added that we tried diplomacy and Iran responsded by electing Ahmadinejad. Well, dubya, remember that long, rambling letter Ahmadinejad sent you, seeking negotiations? Hell, remember calling Iran a member of the "axis of evil" in January 2002??? Are you still on cocaine?????
I think they call this the "credibility gap."
An speaking of "incredible" ... you're not gonna believe the National Review's take on the Iran has no nukes revelation: in a nutshell, the Crazies are declaring Iraq a smashing success because apparently, the war in 2003 single-handedly stopped the Iran bomb. But aren't the guys at NRO the one's who've been braying about Iran's nuclear ambitions for the the last four years? Are they now prepared to admit that they've been dead wrong all the time? Hm?
The Bush administration cannot take military action against Iran during its remaining time in office, or credibly threaten to do so, unless it is in response to an extremely provocative Iranian action. A military strike against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities was always fraught with risk. For the Bush administration, that option is now gone.
Neither, however, will the administration make further progress in winning international support for tighter sanctions on Iran. Fear of American military action was always the primary reason Europeans pressured Tehran. Fear of an imminent Iranian bomb was secondary. Bringing Europeans together in support of serious sanctions was difficult before the NIE. Now it is impossible.
Leading the way is Michael Ledeen, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute with a long track record in the Iran policy area, from the Iran-contra affair in the Reagan administration to meetings with Iranian dissidents living abroad that surprised George Tenet, who was then the director of central intelligence, in 2002.
Mr. Ledeen’s first critique — published on his blog under the title “The Great Intelligence Scam” — dismissed the new intelligence estimate as “policy advocacy masquerading as serious intelligence.” The document is riddled with “blatant unprofessionalism,” he says...
The Democrats uniformly criticized Bush's rhetoric toward Iran, but former North Carolina senator John Edwards said Clinton's September vote for a resolution urging the administration to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization amounted to agreement with Bush's worldview on terrorism.
Clinton said her vote was aimed at encouraging diplomacy and deterring the administration from using military force against the Iranians. She sharply objected to Edwards's characterization of the vote.
"I understand politics, and I understand making outlandish political charges, but this really goes way too far," Clinton responded. "Having designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, we've actually seen some changes in their behavior."
Rudy with his pal and supporter Sean Hannity on Fox News, the network run by Roger Ailes -- who is also an advisor to ... Rudy's campaign
They say you're known by the company you keep. Here's a bit of the company Rudy Giuliani has been keeping:
1. "Vulture" capitalists:
As ABC News' Brian Ross reports, leaders of the Congo are blasting a key financial backer of the Giuliani presidential campaign for his rape of African economies.
The African Republic of Congo has launched a lobbying and PR blitz in Washington, D.C., targeting "vulture" investors who buy up third-world debt cheaply and then apply legal muscle to force them to pay, according to the Washington, D.C. newspaper The Hill.
One such investor is Paul Singer, they say, whose $8 billion hedge fund controls an investment group which owns $118 million in Congolese debt -- and wants to collect.
Singer and his employees have given more than $180,000 to Giuliani's campaign this year, according to the Los Angeles Times. And as chairman of Giuliani's fundraising in the Northeast, Singer has helped raise over $10 million for the former New York mayor's presidential bid, the paper reported in September.
ABC News has been hitting it out of the park, and this time they've dropped the bomb on Giuliani's latest hire for his disreputable consulting firm (which he's still working for, despite a pledge to walk away to avoid conflicts of interest during his campaign): a defrocked priest accused of molesting teenage boys. The former priest, Alan Placa (pictured with Rudy and his mistress third wife Judith here, was the best man at Rudy's marriage to his first cousin, and performed Rudy's second marriage, to Donna Hanover (the woman Rudy later dumped via TV press conference so he could marry the mistress.) Wonder if Tim Russert will ever get all red faced and ask Rudy about Placa in a presidential debate...?
3. Hugo Chavez
Through another of his business interests, Bracewell & Giuliani, Rudy has been a paid lobbyist for Citgo Petroleum Corp., the oil and gas company that's wholly owned by the government of Venezuela, which is of course, run by dictator in training Hugo Chavez. (Note to Dick Cheney, Chavez hasn't gotten around to running Peru...)
Rudy is officially no longer standing by his crimie friend, former New York police chief Bernard Kerik, ... but he definitely is keeping an eye on him. From a recent story in the New York Post:
October 22, 2007 -- Rudy Giuliani's law partner has been told to monitor the criminal probe of disgraced ex-NYPD boss Bernard Kerik, which threatens to muddy up the former mayor's bid to become president.
As part of his sensitive assignment, Marc Mukasey has thwarted Kerik's lawyer from interviewing witnesses who might help his defense, sources told The Post yesterday.
5. Michael Mukasey
The probable next attorney general of the United States, who like Rudy is ambivalent on torture (no, actually not like Rudy. Rudy is pretty definitely pro-torture...) is an old Giuliani pal. From the same New York Post article:
Mukasey is the son of former federal Judge Michael Mukasey, a longtime Giuliani friend nominated by President Bush to become the next U.S. attorney general. Michael Mukasey is awaiting Senate confirmation.
Marc Mukasey's task to keep an eye on Kerik's criminal investigation shows Giuliani's concern with how the legal fate of his former NYPD and correction commissioner could affect his presidential campaign, sources said.
A source familiar with the Kerik probe said Mukasey's role in monitoring the Kerik case is "obviously trying to distance Giuliani from all [the allegations about Kerik], although obviously it all occurred on Giuliani's watch."
And the refusal to make witnesses linked to Giuliani and his consulting firm available to Kerik's lawyer underscores the frayed relationship between the once-close friends. Those witnesses are people who have spoken to prosecutors and a grand jury investigating Kerik.
"Once there was this sense [in the Giuliani camp] of 'Bernie's a great guy,' even after he became embroiled in scandal," a source said. "Now, Mukasey's taking a different approach with him."
6. The Neocons
Rudy is being advised by the same cadre of crackpot neocons who bedazzled George W. Bush, including neocon don Norman Podhoretz, who today, is probably somewhere praying to God for a U.S. war with Iran. Even some right wingers are raising the alarm on Rudy's neoconservative leanings, which appear to be deep:
...what's left of the neocon movement does seem to be converging around the Giuliani campaign, to some degree, because he embraces their common themes: a willingness to use military power, a tendency to group all radical Islamist groups together as a common enemy, strong support for Israel and an aggressive posture toward Iran. "He's positioning himself as the neo-neocon," jokes Richard Holbrooke, a top foreign-policy adviser to Hillary Clinton.
Among the core consultants surrounding Giuliani: Martin Kramer, who has led an attack on U.S. Middle Eastern scholars since 9/11 for being soft on terrorism; Stephen Rosen, a hawkish professor at Harvard who advocates major new spending on defense and is close to prominent neoconservative Bill Kristol; former Wisconsin senator Bob Kasten, who often sided with the neocons during the Reagan era and was an untiring supporter of aid to Israel, and Daniel Pipes, who has advocated for the racial profiling of Muslim Americans. (He's argued that the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was not the moral offense it's been portrayed as, though he doesn't say Muslims should suffer the same.)
Some traditional conservatives are wary of the Giuliani team. "Clearly it is a rather one-sided group of people," says Dimitri Simes of the Nixon Center, a Washington think tank. "Their foreign-policy manifesto seems to be 'We're right, we're powerful, and just make my day.' He's out-Bushing Bush." ...
7. Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes used to make a living as an advisor to Republican politicians, including candidates named Nixon, Reagan and Bush, but theoretically, he is now busy being a "news man," running the "news" network he founded -- the Fox "News" Channel. He and Rudy have been friends for decades, with Rudy having presided over Ailes' wedding (not to a cousin, or to my knowledge, to a mistress...) and Giuliani is the name of another former candidate that Ailes has advised. So far, Rudy has benefited from the friendship with more face time on Fox than any other candidate.
8. NAFTA truckers
Among Rudy's questionable business ventures is his law firm Bracewell & Giuliani's exclusive deal to represent a company called Cintra, the Spanish firm providing the financial backing to build party of the infamous NAFTA superhighway.
9. Race baiters
Giuliani's media team (the official part, not Roger Ailes,) includes the consulting firm Scott Howell & Company -- the same folks who made the race-baiting "Call me!" ad against African-American Senate candidate Harold Ford of Tennessee. This one's a no-brainer for Rudy, who has, shall we say, issues with Black people.
and last but not least...
10. Dick Cheney
Asked recently what he'd look for in a vice president, Rudy had an especially disturbing answer:
I would want a vice president who was a partner. Someone who was in on everything that was going on, so that that person could take over if, God forbid, something happened. […]
How do you pick a vice president? … I think Vice President Cheney and President Bush’s pick of Vice President Cheney is a good example of picking someone who is qualified to be president of the United States. That is number one — it’s paramount.
Memo to Rudy: Dubya didn't pick Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney did.
Canadian prof Francois Furstenberg writes a brilliant op-ed on the origins of terrorism, and the Jacobins of the French Revolution -- the progenitors of today's modern-day Jacobins, the neoconservatives. A few highlights:
The Jacobins shared a defining ideological feature. They divided the world between pro- and anti-Revolutionaries — the defenders of liberty versus its enemies. The French Revolution, as they understood it, was the great event that would determine whether liberty was to prevail on the planet or whether the world would fall back into tyranny and despotism.
The stakes could not be higher, and on these matters there could be no nuance or hesitation. One was either for the Revolution or for tyranny. ...
... Confronted by a monarchical Europe united in opposition to revolutionary France — old Europe, they might have called it — the Jacobins rooted out domestic political dissent. It was the beginning of the period that would become infamous as the Terror. ...
...Among the Jacobins’ greatest triumphs was their ability to appropriate the rhetoric of patriotism — Le Patriote Français was the title of Brissot’s newspaper — and to promote their political program through a tightly coordinated network of newspapers, political hacks, pamphleteers and political clubs. ...
... Insisting that their partisan views were identical to the national will, believing that only they could save France from apocalyptic destruction, Jacobins could not conceive of legitimate dissent. Political opponents were treasonous, stabbing France and the Revolution in the back.
To defend the nation from its enemies, Jacobins expanded the government’s police powers at the expense of civil liberties, endowing the state with the power to detain, interrogate and imprison suspects without due process. Policies like the mass warrantless searches undertaken in 1792 — “domicilary visits,” they were called — were justified, according to Georges Danton, the Jacobin leader, “when the homeland is in danger.” ... If the French Terror had a slogan, it was that attributed to the great orator Louis de Saint-Just: “No liberty for the enemies of liberty.” Saint-Just’s pithy phrase (like President Bush’s variant, “We must not let foreign enemies use the forums of liberty to destroy liberty itself”) could serve as the very antithesis of the Western liberal tradition.
On this principle, the Terror demonized its political opponents, imprisoned suspected enemies without trial and eventually sent thousands to the guillotine. All of these actions emerged from the Jacobin worldview that the enemies of liberty deserved no rights.
Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term “terrorist” has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hate freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to “Islamofascism.”
A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur.
Brilliantly done. One could draw many of the same parallels between todays angry wngers and the authoritarian Bolsheviks who founded the Soviet Union. ... Anyway, read the entire article here.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some Democratic lawmakers questioned on Wednesday whether a new Bush administration request for $88 million to fit "bunker-busting" bombs to B-2 stealth bombers was part of preparations for an attack on Iran.
The proposal was included as part of a nearly $200 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Bush administration sent to Capitol Hill on Monday.
The request included $87.8 million for further development of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, a conventional bomb designed to destroy hardened or deeply buried targets.
Many of Iran's nuclear development facilities are believed to be underground. The United States accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear bomb while Tehran insists its nuclear program is only for power generation.
A Bush administration summary said the request was needed for "development of a Massive Ordnance Penetrator for the B-2 aircraft in response to an urgent operational need from theater commanders," but gave no details.
"My assumption is that it is Iran, because you wouldn't use them in Iraq, and I don't know where you would use them in Afghanistan, it doesn't have any weapons facilities underground that we know of," said Rep. Jim Moran, a Virginia Democrat who is on the House defense spending committee and intends to argue against the request.
"I suppose you could try to bomb out a cave (in Afghanistan), but that seems like taking a sledgehammer to a tack. A little excessive," Moran said in a phone interview.
Another Democrat, Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, said the bunker-buster request worried him because of the rising tide of criticism of Iran coming from the Bush administration. Last week, Bush warned that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War Three.
"The drumbeats of war are beating again, this time against Iran and we have to step in while there is still time," McDermott said through a spokesman.
But will the Dems step in before Bush uses their prior votes -- Hillary's included -- as an excuse to pull the trigger? Signs point to no. The Dems clearly lack the political will to confront the administration, even in its weakened state, and they have proved to be woefully inadequate at countering the political gamesmanship (and Stepford-like loyalty to the president) of their Republican counterparts. The neocons and their robotic operatives on Capitol Hill are still carrying the day, and beating the Dems at every punch. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid should be ashamed of the way they have conducted themselves thus far.
The optimist in me (which at this stage is a very junior operative) still holds out hopd for some show of sanity -- perhaps from within the military itself, or maybe even from Bob Gates -- to stop this train before it leaves the station, and a president with nothing left to lose decides to lose one more for his dwindling, war-crazed, paronoid delusional base.
And then there's this: the noises out of Russia are nearly as bellicose as those coming out of Dick Cheney's pharyngeal motor cortex. From the Asia Times:
... The barely reported highlight of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran for the Caspian Sea summit last week was a key face-to-face meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
A high-level diplomatic source in Tehran tells Asia Times Online that essentially Putin and the Supreme Leader have agreed on a plan to nullify the George W Bush administration's relentless drive towards launching a preemptive attack, perhaps a tactical nuclear strike, against Iran. An American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia. ...
There's also news in that same report that Putin may be working on a plan to temporarily have Tehran halt its nuclear program in exchange for a Russian push to kill U.N. sanctions, eventually allowing Iran's program to resume. That would be good news. But my sinking feeling is that Washington is hurtling toward war, because Cheney and his neocons fear that the next president cannot be trusted to do it (unless they can guarantee a Giuliani win, in which case the same neocons will continue to be in charge.) If that happens, Russia is in something of a "heads we win, tails you lose" position. An attack would drive up oil prices, as Uri Kasparov explained on "60 Minutes," enriching oil-soaked Russia. And an attack would dirve Iran deeper into the embrace of the KGB-led Russian government, strengthening Putin's hand in the now Iran-centric Middle East.
If on the other hand, Russia is able to forestall an attack, Iran's debt to Moscow grows deep, and Putin's influence grows anyway. Either way, it's unlikely that the Bushies have much of a clue as to what they will unleash with even an air attack on Iran.
After all, foreward planning isn't their strong suit. Their strong suit is bombing Muslims.
Back to the planning. TIME reports that the real target of the new U.S. sanctions against Iran might be the European businesses and governments that continue to have deep economic ties with Tehran, and that:
the new measures may actually signal a splintering of the international consensus pressuring Tehran to curb its nuclear program.
The teeth in the new measures derives from the fact that they target anyone who is doing business with those Iranian institutions and individuals. And that means doing business with Iran at all, because as Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson put it, the IRGC "is so deeply entrenched in Iran's economy and commercial enterprises, it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran, you are doing business with [the Guard]." Administration officials told the New York Times that a key purpose of the new measures was "to persuade foreign governments and financial institutions to cut ties with Iranian businesses and individuals."
The move comes amid U.S. frustration at its failure to elicit sufficient support for new U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, and at the slow progress of efforts to persuade European countries and institutions that do business with Iran to voluntarily desist. Some of Iran's biggest European trading partners, such as Italy and Germany, oppose unilateral sanctions, warning that if their companies were to withdraw from Iran, they would simply be replaced by competitors from Russia and China. But to the extent that the latest U.S. moves are used to pressure third-country governments, banks and corporations doing business with Iran, they will be perceived as Washington using its muscle in the international financial system to impose its own Iran policy on others. And resentment may not be the only consequence. China, for example, would be unlikely to accept any U.S. effort to stop any of its corporations from doing important business with Iran, and could threaten economic countermeasures to deter such action. ...
Again, failure to foresee the consequences.
While the U.S. call to ratchet up economic pressure on Iran is strongly backed by Britain and France, Russia and China have both warned against taking unilateral measures outside of the U.N. Italy and Germany, Iran's largest European trading partners, have also opposed moves to pressure Iran outside of the U.N. Security Council. The move suggests the U.S. may be reverting to a "coalition of the willing" model for dealing with Iran. Yet the case Washington makes for escalating sanctions — the claim that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and that shutting down its uranium-enrichment program is a matter of urgency to prevent it attaining the know-how to build a bomb — is not the international consensus. Russia's President Vladimir Putin last week visited Tehran, and made clear that Russia sees no evidence that Iran is actually pursuing nuclear weapons — contradicting the U.S. charge that the civilian nuclear technologies Iran seeks will give it the means eventually to build such weapons.
Meanwhile, Bush is pressing forward knowing that Congress doesn't have the cojones to stand in his way, should he and his neocons choose war to grab the resources ... I mean "alter the behavior" of Iran.
Sy Hersh reports that the Bush administration may have shifted their game plan, from bombing the hell out of Iran's nuclear facilities, as the neocons dream he shall ... to bombing the hell out of the Iranian Revlutionary Guard, who Joe Lieberman just had his friends in the Senate label a terrorist group. How convenient...
Meanwhile, Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, hates all Iranians ... no, really, she hates them ALL... (maybe they're the ones who messed up her face...)
On his blog for the Atlantic Monthly, Andrew Sullivan writes today:
Bill Kristol knows that the current strategy in Iraq will not work as it was designed to do. He's not crazy. The chances of national reconciliation in Iraq have gone backward, not forward, this past year, and the U.S.'s empowerment of anti-Shiite propaganda in Anbar will only isolate Maliki further. The best that can happen is an indefinite occupation of a dismembered Iraq to slow down genocide and make ethnic cleansing more orderly. But even that is a very risky proposition. And the events of last week mean that the Republican party now owns the Iraq occupation more exclusively and deeply than they ever had - and indeed intend to maintain it for another decade.
So what to do? Remember that Kristol's loyalty to the Republicans often trumps national security. How else to explain his support for the GOP last November, even though a Republican victory would have prevented the surge in the first place and kept Rumsfeld in the Pentagon? One option: Change the subject by launching wars against Syria and Iran, and so polarize the country that the choice is framed as: MoveOn or America? That's much better than having, you know, an actual debate about the merits of the war in Iraq and the war against Islamist terror. On that, Republicans lose. If the war is far wider and more terrifying, if the enemies can be multiplied and amplified, then the dynamic plays to the advantage of the GOP. It's for us or against us again.
Remember it doesn't matter to the current Bush Republicans if they cannot persuade a majority of thie necessity of extending the war to Iran and Syria. They have dropped attempting to persuade a majority on the war. They are concerned only with shoring up their own party, which can enable them to launch new wars before the current presidency ends. ...
That being the case, Sullivan reports, via Kristol, that the president must now move to put down potential rebellions against his policy from within the military, from generals who may be "jealous of Petraeus" (whatever that means -- could one possibly be jealous of the military man placed in the service of presidential P.R.?) or who otherwise oppose Bush on the subject of expanding the war to Syria and Iran, in order to prevent them from underminig the neocon project in Iraq.
But not all of the military is in need of "putting down."
THE United States Air Force has set up a highly confidential strategic planning group tasked with “fighting the next war” as tensions rise with Iran.
Project Checkmate, a successor to the group that planned the 1991 Gulf War’s air campaign, was quietly reestablished at the Pentagon in June.
It reports directly to General Michael Moseley, the US Air Force chief, and consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defence and cyberspace experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Detailed contingency planning for a possible attack on Iran has been carried out for more than two years by Centcom (US central command), according to defence sources.
Checkmate’s job is to add a dash of brilliance to Air Force thinking by countering the military’s tendency to “fight the last war” and by providing innovative strategies for warfighting and assessing future needs for air, space and cyberwarfare.
It is led by Brigadier-General Lawrence “Stutz” Stutzriem, who is considered one of the brightest air force generals. He is assisted by Dr Lani Kass, a former Israeli military officer and expert on cyberwarfare.
The Israeli connection is alarming, given the myriad signals that the U.S. policy in Iran is heavily influenced by the desires of the Likud government -- which badly wants President Bush to rid Israel of its chief enemies: Iran and Syria, before Mr. Bush leaves office, Saddam Hussein already having been taken care of.
It's not just those on the left who fear that Mr. Bush will launch yet another war on his way out the door. Pat Buchanan and other true conservatives believe as much as well, as do leading journalists like Seymour Hersh.
The question remains, however, whether Congress will sit still for yet another war, and whether Senate Democrats can successfully stop neocons and deocons like Joe Lieberman, from aiding the Bush administration in forcing upon this country a foreign policy that is not in the best interests of the United States.
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...!"
They want Americans to be in lock step behind George W. Bush so desperately, they're actually wishing for another 9/11-style attack on the United States. Unbefreakinglievable. These wackos need to get into a time machine and go back to the Soviet Union, from whence their sick, leader-worshipping, fear-obsessed ideology came.
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:
Wow. "Hardball" stand-in David Shuster just bitch slapped Iraq war-o-phile and Scooter Libby defender Fouad Ajami over the latter's ridiculous comparison of Scootie-pie to the U.S. troops fighting, dying, bleeding, losing limbs and coming home permantly disabled from the war in Iraq. It was a thing of beauty, as Shuster cut up every lame argument Adjani tried to make, then brought in Paul Reikhoff to tag team the squirmy little weasel from the troops' point of view. After that, Shuster utterly dismantled that kook Dan Burton who tried so hard to take down President Clinton, but apparently hasn't learned the difference between an acquittal on perjury and obstruction and a conviction. The poor old cooter seems to still be salivating for the blood of Bill, but he can't wrap his addled mind around Libby's having been found guilty, but not punished for his criminal behavior. What a show. What a couple of maroons! Damn. Chris Matthews had better watch his back. There's a new big dog at MSNBC.... The video is here or get the link here. I'll post the transcript as soon as it's available. It's a thing of beauty...
For more classic Shuster smack-down, check out Youtube... first victim: Libby pal Tucker Carlson.
By the way, to understand why so many people are outraged by Ajami's idiocy, here's the crux of what he wrote in the Wall Street Journal last month:
In "The Soldier's Creed," there is a particularly compelling principle: "I will never leave a fallen comrade." This is a cherished belief, and it has been so since soldiers and chroniclers and philosophers thought about wars and great, common endeavors. Across time and space, cultures, each in its own way, have given voice to this most basic of beliefs. They have done it, we know, to give heart to those who embark on a common mission, to give them confidence that they will not be given up under duress. A process that yields up Scooter Libby to a zealous prosecutor is justice gone awry.
So Scooter is akin to our troops fighting in Iraq? Really? I hope Mr. Ajami doesn't really believe that, because such a belief is an insult not only to the troops in Iraq, but to anyone who has ever worn the uniform, which, by the way, includes neither Libby nor the boss he nearly went to prison to protect. Just thought I'd mention that. Oh, and by the by, in addition to being a recalcitrant and rather delusional neocon, Ajami is a Lebanese Shiite, which would make him likely quite pleased with the new government of Iraq, such as it is.
Ajami also wrote this:
This case has been, from the start, about the Iraq war and its legitimacy. Judge Walton came to it late; before him were laid bare the technical and narrowly legalistic matters of it. But you possess a greater knowledge of this case, a keen sense of the man caught up in this storm, and of the great contest and tensions that swirl around the Iraq war. To Scooter's detractors, and yours, it was the "sin" of that devoted public servant that he believed in the nobility of this war, that he did not trim his sails, and that he didn't duck when the war lost its luster.
Funny ... I thought it was about the outing of a covert CIA operative by her own government. Funny, that.
So who gets pardoned and commuted by George W. Bush? Well we already know about Scooter, but who else has felt the warm glow of Dubya's compassion? The list includes just a handful of commutations, and 113 pardons to convicts who have already served their sentences. Among the lucky, five bootleggers or moonshiners, several tax cheats, mortgage and other fraudsters and white collar criminals, a couple of high caste-sounding folk convicted of cocaine or marijuana possession (like Harper James Finucan, convicted of weed possession in 1980 and James Edward Reed, convicted of the same thing in 1975) and two men: William Grover Frye and Devin Timothy Kruse, both convicted of going AWOL during the Vietnam War ... now that's one crime Dubya can really relate to.
As for commutations, in addition to Scooter, Bush has commuted the following sentences:
Geraldine Gordon (1989 distribution of phencyclidine) (sentenced to 20 years plus 10 years supervised release; sentence commuted after 15 years, term of supervised release left intact)
Bobby Mac Berry (1997 conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, money laundering) (sentenced to 9 years imprisonment plus 5 years supervised release; sentence reduced to 6 and a half years, terms of supervised release left intact)
Phillip Anthony Emmert (1992 conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine) (sentenced to 21 years and 10 months plus 5 years supervised release; sentence reduced Feb. 21, 1996; sentence commuted to 15 years and 1 month plus 5 years supervised release)
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald issued the following statement about the commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence:
“We fully recognize that the Constitution provides that commutation decisions are a matter of presidential prerogative and we do not comment on the exercise of that prerogative.
We comment only on the statement in which the President termed the sentence imposed by the judge as “excessive.” The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.
Although the President’s decision eliminates Mr. Libby’s sentence of imprisonment, Mr. Libby remains convicted by a jury of serious felonies, and we will continue to seek to preserve those convictions through the appeals process.”
In early August 1999, then Presidential candidate Governor George W. Bush mocked Karla Tucker's plea for clemency during an interview with Talk Magazine. Bush mentioned that he had watched Larry King's interview with Karla Tucker from Texas Death Row.
"I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it," Bush told the magazine. "I watched his interview with (Tucker), though. He asked her real difficult questions, like, `What would you say to Governor Bush?' "
The Talk reporter asked how she answered. " `Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, `don't kill me,' " according to the magazine.
George W. Bush has a mixed record when it comes to commuting prison sentences, and so far, it seems that the advantage goes to middle aged men who reveal classified information to reporters. Here's the scorecard so far, from both his term as governor and his one and a half terms as president of the United States:
Mentally ill 62-year-old great-grandmothers accused of killing their abusive husbands: zero
Born again Christian female death row inmates whose pleas for clemency are supported by the Pope: zero (mocking snarkery included free of charge!)
Men who disclose the identity of covert CIA agents at the behest of the vice president and who then come down with a curious case of amnesia that conveniently protects that vice president from prosecution: one!!! ... or is that ... two...?
Ensconced in his family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, President Bush today played the sneak thief -- commuting Scooter Libby's prison sentence, after a federal appeals court (which included a judge who had a hand in appointing Kenneth Starr back in the bad old days of the anti-Clinton coup attempt by the Republican Congress,) denied Scooter's request to stay out of jail pending his appeal. Many analysts had thought Bush would wait until the end of his term, or even until after the November 2008 elections to do what most of us believed he would do -- pardon Libby outright. Instead, Bush surprised everyone by splitting the difference -- upholding Libby's conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges but keeping his, or rather Dick's, boy out of the slammer (he won't do the 2 1/2 years, but he will still have to pay the $250,000 fine, which should quickly be taken care of by his neocon friends -- and Fred Thompson... and his felony conviction remains in tact, meaning he'll probably lose his law license.) The White House issued the following statement -- which amounts to "on the one hand, on the other hand" -- on Bush's behalf:
The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today rejected Lewis Libby's request to remain free on bail while pursuing his appeals for the serious convictions of perjury and obstruction of justice. As a result, Mr. Libby will be required to turn himself over to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his prison sentence.
I have said throughout this process that it would not be appropriate to comment or intervene in this case until Mr. Libby's appeals have been exhausted. But with the denial of bail being upheld and incarceration imminent, I believe it is now important to react to that decision.
From the very beginning of the investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame's name, I made it clear to the White House staff and anyone serving in my administration that I expected full cooperation with the Justice Department. Dozens of White House staff and administration officials dutifully cooperated.
After the investigation was under way, the Justice Department appointed United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald as a Special Counsel in charge of the case. Mr. Fitzgerald is a highly qualified, professional prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities as charged.
This case has generated significant commentary and debate. Critics of the investigation have argued that a special counsel should not have been appointed, nor should the investigation have been pursued after the Justice Department learned who leaked Ms. Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak.
Furthermore, the critics point out that neither Mr. Libby nor anyone else has been charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, which were the original subjects of the investigation. Finally, critics say the punishment does not fit the crime:
Mr. Libby was a first-time offender with years of exceptional public service and was handed a harsh sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury.
Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public
trust, he must be held accountable. They say that had Mr. Libby only told
the truth, he would have never been indicted in the first place.
Both critics and defenders of this investigation have made important
points. I have made my own evaluation. In preparing for the decision I
am announcing today, I have carefully weighed these arguments and the circumstances surrounding this case.
Mr. Libby was sentenced to thirty months of prison, two years of probation, and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.
I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.
My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.
The Constitution gives the President the power of clemency to be used when he deems it to be warranted. It is my judgment that a commutation of the prison term in Mr. Libby's case is an appropriate exercise of this power.
Jeff Toobin just called this "a complete departure from what is usually done. Scooter Libby is getting something that millions of prisoners would die for."
Toobin also added that Libby was sentence precisely within the federal sentencing guidelines for obstruction of justice convictions, so Bush is free to have the opinion that the sentence was excessive, but he is not accurate. At the same time, Bush's decision is irrevocable in that he has the power to do it, and there are no appeals. Case closed, game over.
Democrats are sure to be furious about this, but I wonder whether right wingers will be satisfied either, given that their wunderkind remains a felon in the eyes of the law. Bush did not wipe his slate clean.
Update: Republican reactions are starting to roll in...
Mark Levin, at the start of his show, expressed his regret that the president didn't all-out pardon Libby, but stressed on his listeners that the president will get attacked by the Left for the commutation and he deserves support for doing as much as he did.
RedStater Mark I had been whingeing for a pardon for federal inmate number: 28301-016 since the federal appeals court denied his request to stay out of the slammer, and now, for Mark, vindication ... sort of, since it's kind of hard to tell if the Staters are happy with the less-than-pardon.
On another note, Paris Hilton should be pissed. When her sentence was commuted, it was as if the world was going to end, and now this.
Update 2: Ambassador Joe Wilson just told CNN that the president's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence was shameful, and said, pointedly, "Scooter Libby is a traitor." Now Joe DiGenova is attempting to clean it up for Scooter.
"This decision to commute the sentence of a man who compromised our national security cements the legacy of an Administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division, one that has consistently placed itself and its ideology above the law. This is exactly the kind of politics we must change so we can begin restoring the American people's faith in a government that puts the country's progress ahead of the bitter partisanship of recent years."
Back to CNN: Jeff Toobin is now debating Joe DiGenova, making the point that Bush's commutation of the sentence was highly unusual, it having not gone through the normal procedure, and having completely bypassed the Department of Justice. Then again, why pass by there, their chief is Bush's butler...
Update 3: Hillary Clinton's reaction to the Scooter commutation:
"Today's decision is yet another example that this Administration simply considers itself above the law. This case arose from the Administration's politicization of national security intelligence and its efforts to punish those who spoke out against its policies. Four years into the Iraq war, Americans are still living with the consequences of this White House's efforts to quell dissent. This commutation sends the clear signal that in this Administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice."
Rudy Giuliani, former federal prosecutor and apparently, newly minted believer in obstruction fo justice, perjury and lying to the FBI, had this to say:
"After evaluating the facts, the President came to a reasonable decision and I believe the decision was correct."
"While for a long time I have urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the president's decision. This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life." — Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.
Did I mention that Thompson is a contributor to Scooter's defense fund? Means he'll be one of the sops paying Scootie-Scoot's fine.
Meanwhile, the New York Times explains the difference between a commutation and a full pardon here.
The WaPo's Fred Hiatt does a nice ulogy for the many ills wrought by George W. Bush:
As the Bush presidency implodes, some of its worst policies mercifully will go, too -- including, we can hope, the torture and unregulated detention of alleged enemy fighters that have so discredited the country throughout the world.
But valuable strands of policy also may end up strewn in the wreckage, victims (in varying combinations) of President Bush's ineptitude, inconstancy and unpopularity. Among these are what Bush called compassionate conservatism, now moribund; American promotion of democracy abroad, now flailing; and accountability in elementary and high school education, losing ground as it approaches a major test in Congress.
Bush most likely lost his last chance to weave compassion into domestic policy last week when he could not persuade his party to put people ahead of fences in immigration reform. And while a shard of compassionate conservatism survives in his foreign-aid budgets and support for AIDS patients in Africa, these will come under increasing pressure from the fiscal squeeze that Bush has designed.
Overall, in fact, compassionate conservatism was an early casualty of Bush's fiscal policy, which tilted the tax code toward the wealthy at a time of rising inequality, forced the government to devote increasing sums to pay interest on the national debt and ensured that less and less would be available for social programs for the vulnerable.
Unlike compassionate conservatism, democracy promotion was of no interest to Bush when he ran for president. He embraced the idea after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But he has had little success: Iraq and Afghanistan remain at war, tentative gains for democracy in the Mideast have been reversed, and autocracies in the former Soviet Union, China, Iran and elsewhere are emboldened. Not surprisingly, polls show increasing skepticism about democracy promotion, particularly among Democratic voters.
In fact, democracy was not the primary goal of U.S. invasions in Afghanistan or Iraq, and elsewhere Bush has not matched strategy or consistency to his soaring rhetoric. Two leading political scientists, Francis Fukuyama and Michael McFaul, argue in a recent paper for the Stanley Foundation (" Should Democracy Be Promoted or Demoted?") that the policy could be carried out far more intelligently.
The promotion of freedom has long been a tenet of American foreign policy, they write, and should remain so: "No country in the world has benefited more from the worldwide advance of democracy than the United States." This isn't a question for the military -- force "is the rarest used and least effective way to promote democratic change abroad," Fukuyama and McFaul argue -- but of setting priorities, reorienting the bureaucracy and enlisting allies.
But they worry that Bush's failures will instead lead the next administration to give up on the idea. "The tragic result" of the mismatch between rhetoric and results, they write, is that "Americans are starting to view this goal as no longer desirable or attainable."
Hiatt makes a good point that the spreading of Democracy has been given a bad name by the Bushies (including Fukuyama, who was for using force to spread democracy before he was against it,) and it would be a shame if it was abandoned altogether by subsequent American presidents. A shame, yes, but also a constitutional imperative, since spreading democracy around the world is NOT the job of the American president, nor some tenet of manifest destiny that is to be revived in the American spirit. Americans are not the world's policeman, nor are we the world's daddy. Promoting democracy is one thing, spreading it is quite another. The preamble to the United States Constitution reads:
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty..."
Endism" has been a favorite neoconservative theme over the years: every once in a while the neocons announce the death of some commonly assumed idea that the rest of us take for granted– during the 1950s, for example, they wrote the obituary of ideology itself, proclaiming that their own self-satisfied complacency was the apotheosis of human achievement. In the early 1990s, we heard all about the purported "End of History," similar to "the end of ideology," except extended to the four corners of the earth. No one thought it at all unusual or alarming when Irving Kristol welcomed Hegel and his contemporary doppelgänger into the pages of The National Interest, at the time the leading neocon theoretical journal devoted to foreign policy. More recently we have seen the implicit endism energizing the post-9/11 ideology of the official conservative movement, which has ended its long-standing defense of the Constitution, narrowly constructed, against the modern liberal "expansionist," or loose constructionist, view, which likens the original intent of the Framers to the primitive thoughts of Neanderthal man and avers that the Constitution and its meaning are always "evolving."
The rise of the surveillance state, the repeal of habeas corpus, the consolidation of a police-state apparatus that spies on Americans and foreigners at will – these post-9/11 assaults on constitutional government in America have all been adopted as holy writ by a thoroughly neoconized "conservative" movement, which these days is just an adjunct of the GOP. The Goldwater-fusionist devotion to decentralized power, the genuine fear of Big Government, the libertarian disdain for officialdom and its inherent inefficiencies have all been thrown overboard and a state-and-leader-worshipping cult of power installed in their place. As the favorite slogan of these post-9/11 Bizarro-cons puts it: Everything has changed. Including what used to be called "conservatism," which morphed rapidly into an inverted funhouse-mirror image of itself.
The neocons have been consistently wrong in their "endism," although this sorry record hasn't punctured their intellectual pretensions. The Grand Consensus of the 1950s, which saw the welfare-warfare state as the culmination and endpoint of Western civilization, was soon wrecked on the rocky shores of the 1960s, which gave birth to a popular rebellion against an unpopular foreign war and a thoroughgoing exposure and rejection of the government's war on domestic dissent.
The termination of History, announced by Francis Fukuyama in his famous 1992 essay, proved even more problematic, what with 9/11 and the subsequent Middle Eastern wars that promise to preoccupy us for decades to come. Instead of blending into the bureaucratic grayness of the Universal Homogenous State – as Fukuyama's inspiration, the philosopher Alexandre Kojève, characterized the "final form of human government" – the waters are roiled by powerful currents of nationalism and religiosity that threaten to unleash a global conflagration.
The implied end of constitutional government in America, as a matter of supposed necessity, may have been yet another case of premature burial. There are now powerful dissents coming from conservatives, including this pledge to uphold the Bill of Rights and "restore the Constitution's checks and balances as enshrined by the Founders," issued to all the GOP presidential candidates by a panel of right-wing leaders. Add to this the excitement generated among the younger set by the Ron Paul campaign – which is to antiwar conservatives what the Eugene McCarthy effort to take the White House was to an earlier generation of antiwar activists – and we have the makings of a full-scale rebellion on the Right. What Lew Rockwell calls "red-state fascism" is facing a significant challenge from within the conservative movement.
Having sacrificed everything – their devotion to less government, their traditionally prudent temperament, their general distrust of power – in order to follow the neocons off the Iraqi cliff, the ostensibly "conservative" wing of the Republican Party faces an electoral catastrophe. There is, consequently, a "surge" of skepticism in GOP ranks as the administration tries to tamp down Republican voices of protest in the Senate. The GOP caucus was supposed to be giving the White House until September, when Gen. David Petraeus is slated to give his much-vaunted progress report, but they aren't waiting to jump ship. First in the water is Sen. Richard Lugar, the GOP's foreign policy maven:
Ding Dong, is neoconservatism dead? I wouldn't count on it, but the political movement to implement it around the world, and to strip us here at home of the constitutional protections that would prevent that implementation, have been seriously damaged by the incompetence of the Bush administration.
You knew Dick Cheney waas a bad guy, but who knew he was a fourth branch of government unto himself? From NBC News:
Vice President Cheney's office has refused to comply with an executive order governing the handling of classified information for the past four years and recently tried to abolish the office that sought to enforce those rules, according to documents released by a congressional committee yesterday.
Since 2003, the vice president's staff has not cooperated with an office at the National Archives and Records Administration charged with making sure the executive branch protects classified information. Cheney aides have not filed reports on their possession of classified data and at one point blocked an inspection of their office. After the Archives office pressed the matter, the documents say, Cheney's staff this year proposed eliminating it.
The dispute centers on a relatively obscure process but underscores a wider struggle waged in the past 6 1/2 years over Cheney's penchant for secrecy. Since becoming vice president, he has fought attempts to peer into the inner workings of his office, shielding an array of information such as the industry executives who advised his energy task force, details about his privately funded travel and Secret Service logs showing who visits his official residence.
The aggressive efforts to protect the operations of his staff have usually pitted Cheney against lawmakers, interest groups or media organizations, sometimes going all the way to the Supreme Court. But the fight about classified information regulation indicates that the vice president has resisted oversight even by other parts of the Bush administration. Cheney's office argued that it is exempt from the rules in this case because it is not strictly an executive agency. ...
"The Oversight Committee has learned that over the objections of the National Archives, you exempted the Office of the Vice President from the presidential executive order that establishes a uniform, government-wide system for safeguarding classified national security information," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Committee's chairman, wrote in a letter to Cheney. "Your decision to exempt your office from the President's order is problematic because it could place national security secrets at risk. It is also hard to understand given the history of security breaches involving officials in your office."
... "Your position was that your office 'does not believe it is included in the definition of 'agency' as set forth in the Order' and 'does not consider itself an 'entity within the executive branch' that comes into the possession of classified information,'" a National Archives official claims Cheney chief of staff David Addington wrote to him.
Full documents available here. The National Archives has requested a Justice Department investigation, but so far, surprise surprise, Alberto Gonzales has not even replied. Furthermore:
In 2004, the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office, a 25-member agency responsible for securing classified information, decided to conduct an on-site inspection of Cheney's office to see how sensitive material was handled. The vice president's staff, according to a letter Waxman sent Cheney, blocked the inspection.
After the Chicago Tribune reported last year that Cheney failed to report classification data, the Federation of American Scientists filed a complaint. J. William Leonard, director of the Archives' oversight office, sent two letters to Cheney's chief of staff, David S. Addington, requesting compliance with the executive order but received no replies. Leonard then wrote Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in January asking him to render a legal ruling on whether the vice president is violating the order. Gonzales has not replied.
In an interview yesterday, Steven Aftergood, who directs the federation's Project on Governmental Secrecy, said the dispute concerns "a very narrow bit of information" but indicated a broader disregard for following the same rules as the rest of the executive branch. "By refusing to comply with these trivial instructions, the vice president undermines the integrity of the executive order," he said. "If it can be violated with impunity on a trivial point, then it can also be violated on more important matters."
And lets go it one better ... er ... worse: what does Dick do with an agency that's bothering him? He tries to eliminate it:
For four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has resisted routine oversight of his office’s handling of classified information, and when the National Archives unit that monitors classification in the executive branch objected, the vice president’s office suggested abolishing the oversight unit, according to documents released yesterday by a Democratic congressman.
The Information Security Oversight Office, a unit of the National Archives, appealed the issue to the Justice Department, which has not yet ruled on the matter.
Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, disclosed Mr. Cheney’s effort to shut down the oversight office. Mr. Waxman, who has had a leading role in the stepped-up efforts by Democrats to investigate the Bush administration, outlined the matter in an eight-page letter sent Thursday to the vice president and posted, along with other documentation, on the committee’s Web site.
Officials at the National Archives and the Justice Department confirmed the basic chronology of events cited in Mr. Waxman’s letter.
The letter said that after repeatedly refusing to comply with a routine annual request from the archives for data on his staff’s classification of internal documents, the vice president’s office in 2004 blocked an on-site inspection of records that other agencies of the executive branch regularly go through.
But the National Archives is an executive branch department headed by a presidential appointee, and it is assigned to collect the data on classified documents under a presidential executive order. Its Information Security Oversight Office is the archives division that oversees classification and declassification.
“I know the vice president wants to operate with unprecedented secrecy,” Mr. Waxman said in an interview. “But this is absurd. This order is designed to keep classified information safe. His argument is really that he’s not part of the executive branch, so he doesn’t have to comply.”...
And of course, if any administration department -- or non-department as the Cheney case may be -- should be careful about how it handles secrets, it's the office of the vice president:
Mr. Waxman asserted in his letter and the interview that Mr. Cheney’s office should take the efforts of the National Archives especially seriously because it has had problems protecting secrets.
He noted that I. Lewis Libby Jr., the vice president’s former chief of staff, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to a grand jury and the F.B.I. during an investigation of the leak of classified information — the secret status of Valerie Wilson, the wife of a Bush administration critic, as a Central Intelligence Agency officer.
Mr. Waxman added that in May 2006, a former aide in Mr. Cheney’s office, Leandro Aragoncillo, pleaded guilty to passing classified information to plotters trying to overthrow the president of the Philippines.
“Your office may have the worst record in the executive branch for safeguarding classified information,” Mr. Waxman wrote to Mr. Cheney. ...
The president of the United States has an outlaw on his hands. Dick Cheney has pushed George W. Bush around from the time he named himself vice president, filled his purported boss' administration with his own neocon accolytes, and then bullied this president into starting an unnecessary war. It's arguable that it is Cheney who primarily is responsible for pushing the administration to remain in Iraq, unless you buy the theory that Bushie has been thoroughly indoctrinated by now, and needs no further flattering or cajoling into the throes of neoconservatism. But now, Mr. Cheney has become a rogue operator, conducting his own foreign policy, his own domestic secrecy operation, and now, naming himself a separate branch of government.
George W. Bush's presidency is already lost. But he can recover his manhood by finally sidelining Dick Cheney.
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.
WASHINGTON - Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case.
He also gets a $250,000 fine, this stemming from his obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case that led to the outing of covert agent Valerie Plame and her high level operation to uncover WMD programs in the Middle East -- you know, that unimportant case the righties don't think matters...
Related: The die-hards mount an "heroic" campaign to hide from the inconvenient facts... CBS, please to reiterate the obvious: Plame ... covert ... Libby ... guilty.
Let the frog marching begin...
Update: Apparently, the letters vouching for his integrity sought by the Libby faction before his sentencing didn't work. Libby got one from Henry Kissinger, but pointedly, not from the man he's going to prison to save from justice: Dick Cheney. Instead, Cheney's office issued the following warm(ish) statement:
"Scooter has dedicated much of his life to public service at the State Department, the Department of Defense and the White House. In each of these assignments he has served the nation tirelessly and with great distinction. I relied on him heavily in my capacity as Secretary of Defense and as Vice President. I have always considered him to be a man of the highest intellect, judgment and personal integrity -- a man fully committed to protecting the vital security interests of the United States and its citizens. Scooter is also a friend, and on a personal level Lynne and I remain deeply saddened by this tragedy and its effect on his wife, Harriet, and their young children. The defense has indicated it plans to appeal the conviction in the case. Speaking as friends, we hope that our system will return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man."
Facing 2 and a half years, if I were Scooter, I would immediately begin cooperating with the special counsel and tell every goddamned thing I know about Cheney. The way of the Bushes is to let others swing, while they walk away (unless those "others" are Bush pals from Texas...) Dick Cheney was the target of the probe that Libby helped to thwart. He is culpable for feeding Libby the information he used to help destroy Valerie Plame's cover and then urging him to go ahead and blow it (hell, Dick even set up the meetings with reporters.) He pushed, or at best, allowed, Libby to lie to the FBI in order to save his own skin.
If Libby continues to protect the vice president, he is not just a felon, he's a damned fool.
Neocon wackos frequently invoke the anti-Democrat cudgel that "Democrats fail to understand the war on terror because they don't get that it's a war." or, in the words of the less-than-great Daniel Pipes back in January 2004:
Nearly all the Democratic presidential contenders as well as other heavyweight Democrats have spoken out against the war on terror, preferring it to be a police action against terror.
Since 2001, the U.S. has engaged in the neocons' long-desired "war" to end the threat of terror, fighting militarily on two major fronts: Afghanistan and Iraq, and on several smaller ones, with military actions in Colombia, Somalia, and by proxy, in Lebanon. The results? Terror attacks around the world haven't declined, they've increased:
On a global scale: terrorist activity and violence has grown worse, not better since 11 September 2001. Average levels of terrorist violence that would have been considered extreme in the period prior to 9/11 have become the norm in the years since. And there is no sign that this trend is abating. This much is evident from a review of the terrorism incident database maintained by the Rand Corporation for the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), which is funded by the US Department of Homeland Security. Surveying incidents for the period January 1998 through 11 August 2006 shows that:
- The rate of terrorism fatalities for the 59 month period following 11 September 2001 is 250 percent that of the 44.5 month period preceding and including the 9/11 attacks. This figure has been adjusted to account for the different length of the two periods and it implies an increase in average monthly fatalities of 150 percent. (Only in January 1998 did the database begin to include both national and international terrorism incidents.)
- The rate of terrorist incidents for the post-9/11 period is 268 percent that of the period prior to and including 11 September 2001. This implies a 167 percent increase in what might be called the average monthly rate of incidents.
- A fair portion of the increased activity is related to the war in Iraq -- but not all. Removing Iraq from the picture shows an increase in the average monthly rate of terrorism fatalities of more than 10 percent for the post-9/11 period. The increase in the rate of incidents not counting Iraq is 75 percent.
In other words, if the aim of Pipes' "war" is to make the world safe from terrorism, like World War I "made the world safe for democracy," it has utterly failed. And then there are Iraq and Afghanistan, which have become, respectively, a killing field and a violent narco-state, thanks again to the neocons' anti-terror war machine.
Meanwhile, as terrorism and Islamic militantcy have metastasized into Western Europe and the Western Hemisphere, including the U.S., what has been the most effective at stopping what are mostly amateurish or unrealizable terror plots, by Tim McVeigh types who heppen to derive their militantcy from anti-U.S. sentiments based on "jihadism" rather than from anger over Waco or Ruby Ridge? Not illegal NSA wiretapping or illegal Pentagon spying on American citizens ... not the constitutional outrages of the Patriot Act and "breaking down the wall between law enforcement and the intelligence agencies" as Pipes and others have called for ... nope.
It's been good old fashioned law enforcement -- starting with the lowly criminal informant.
Exhibit A: the recent plot against JFK airport by Caribbean nationals and U.S. citizens of West Indian descent. WNBC reports:
The question was simple: "Would you like to die as a martyr?" The putative terrorist unhesitatingly replied yes -- there was no greater way to die in Islam.
The right answer put the man in the midst of a terrorist plot conceived as more devastating than the 9/11 attacks. He was soon making surveillance trips around John F. Kennedy International Airport -- the "chicken farm," as the planners dubbed their target -- and visiting the Trinidad compound of a radical Muslim group.
On Saturday, the insider -- a twice-convicted drug dealer -- was revealed as a government informant whose surreptitious work undermined a plot to destroy the Queens airport by exploding a jet fuel pipeline. The case demonstrated the growing importance of informants in the war on terrorism, particularly as smaller radical groups become more aggressive ...
...The four Muslim men accused in the JFK plot didn't turn to Pakistan, Iran or Afghanistan for support after targeting the airport, home to an average 1,000 daily flights and 45 million passengers annually.
Instead, according to a federal complaint, the informant and defendants Kareem Ibrahim and Defreitas visited a compound belonging to the Jamaat al Muslimeen, a radical Muslim group based in Trinidad. When Defreitas discussed his radical "brothers" with the informant, he made it clear they were not Arabs, but from Trinidad and Guyana.
The complaint also made clear how deeply the informant had infiltrated the small band of would-be terrorists. While Defreitas, a retired JFK airport cargo worker, made four reconnaissance missions to the airport with the informant, federal authorities captured each one on audio and video equipment.
Sounds more like an episode of "The Shield" than of "Band of Brothers."
Last year, informants played a major role in two other terror cases. In June 2006, an informant posing as an al-Qaida operative helped bring down a plot to blow up the Sears Tower. Five of the seven men arrested in that alleged terrorist group were U.S. citizens.
And in May 2006, an NYPD informant's testimony led to the conviction of a man plotting to blow up the busy Herald Square subway station in midtown Manhattan.
Stipulating that the Liberty City Seven -- the Sears Tower plotters -- didn't even have shoes, let alone explosives -- these cases do point out that in our society, as in any, there are disgruntled, criminally minded people, whose outlet for anger ultimately turns destructive and violent. In the present age, many of them turn to jihadism to find meaning for themselves and to feel important, and their criminal intent is best broken up by good old fashioned law enforcement.
Ditto in Britain, where the 7/7 plotters were sussed out by security videos and beat police.
The war on terror, as John Edwards has said, is a bumper sticker -- and a convenient one at that, as it's allowed the military industry and private contract firms to make a killing off the blood of our military personnel, and at the expense of the infrastructure and people of Iraq. But beyond their naked profits, the "war on terror" has gotten us nothing.
Given the choice, I'm with the police action. It comes with all sorts of goodies, like warrants and oversight, it doesn't infringe on my Constitutional right to privacy, and most important, it doesn't have to be run by George W. Bush and his incompetent friends. The closest we get to trouble is those tainted, Alberto Gonzales U.S. attorneys, who I'm sure will be prosecuting suspicious looking hobos by the time we get to the election, in order to help Alberto's party stay in the White House...
During the Paul Wolfowitz/World Bank scandal, relating to his gifting his then-girlfriend Shaha Reza with a plum job in contravention to the rules, the media left out one little detail: namely, that Mr. Wolfowitz was and is still married, and not to Ms. Reza. What's more, as Wayne Madsen reports:
There is more disturbing news that WMR has received about Wolfowitz after he was named Deputy Defense Secretary in early 2001. Our sources have told us that after Wolfowitz became Deputy Defense Secretary under Donald Rumsfeld, his wife, Clare Selgin, wrote a letter to President George W. Bush to inform him that her husband had been carrying on an affair with Shaha Riza while he was Dean of the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and that it was continuing while Wolfowitz was serving as the Pentagon's number two man. However, our sources claim that Bush never saw the letter. It was allegedly intercepted by Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff and close Wolfowitz friend, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
While some might consider Mrs. Selgin's letter to have been the product of a bitter wife, she was acting responsibly in informing the President that as the number two man at the Pentagon with the highest level security clearances, her husband was subject to potential blackmail. However, Libby, who saw fit to compromise the identity of a covert CIA agent and her non-official cover firm, did not worry about national security implications while he served as Cheney's National Security Adviser.
The cavalier Wolfowitz continued his relationship with Shaha Riza after taking over the reins at the World Bank, a major factor in his ouster. However, our World Bank sources have revealed that the team of neo-con advisers and staff that Wolfowitz brought with him into the bank engaged in improper activities while on official overseas business for the World Bank. One senior adviser to Wolfowitz was caught in repeated compromising positions with young women in Latin America and Southeast Asia and it is said that his trips to both regions were merely "sex tours" designed as official business. Wolfowitz personally signed off on these types of trips for his coterie of cronies and advisers.
And just to put the coda on the ick factor of all of this, allow me once again to post a picture of the Wolf in question:
The man considered by many to have been the intellectual architect of the Iraq war -- and the failed occupation (so few troops, such poor projections...) is reportedly negotiating a graceful exit from the World Bank, that would allow him to "save face" as he steps down for hooking up his girlfriend.
George Tenet on MTP this morning demonstrated the fine art of utterly evading responsibility for one's own failures. Even moreso than his belligerent '60 Minutes' interview, Tenet used his full hour with Tim Russert to put forward the stunning case that he did everything humanly possible to make clear to the administration that the facts didn't support a case for Iraq being involved in 911, and that he was not an enabler of the Cheney wing's push to war. Tenet has this interesting quirk of using "we" when answering questions about failures by the CIA to "get the intelligence right" on Iraq, forgetting that the "we" in question -- career CIA analysts and professionals -- weren't responsible for conveying key judgments on intelligence to the White House, and for correcting the White House when it publicly misused intelligence: he was. He was the top political appointee at the CIA, and therefore, if intelligence judgments were twisted by the administration, "we" weren't responsible -- George Tenet was. Tenet only used "I" during his chat with Russert when trying to convince the listener that much was done right in the run-up to both the war and 9/11.
Tenet is so utterly unbelievable, that he is actually losing the swearing match with dark pre-war provocateur Richard Perle over what Perle actually said to him on September 12 or 15, depending on whether Perle was at his French chalet or stalking the halls of the West Wing whipsering Saddam Hussein's name into everyone's ears. My tendency is to call them both liars -- Tenet is wrong on the date, which comports with his apparent history of politically feuled, sycophantic incompetence. But Perle is lying when he claims he never tried to pin 9/11 on Saddam. Perle had been badgering politicians to overthrow Saddam since the Clinton administration, after all. And then there's the matter of that letter... written to President Bush on September 20, 2001, and signed by Perle and other neocons, which stated:
[E]ven if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.
So Perle, too, is a rat attempting to jump ship on the Iraq invasion, as he did this past week with his friend Wolf Blitzer on CNN.
... That's how a Republican Senator described Alberto Gonzales' embarassing performance yesterday in defense of his conduct in the U.S. attorney firings.
Gonzales managed to unite 18 of the 19 members of the Senate Judiciary committee, with only Orrin "Please make me the next attorney general" Hatch coming to his defense. One Republican lawmaker, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, even called for him to face the same penalty that the eight U.S. attorneys faced: firing. White House insiders are talking, telling CNN and other news outlets that Gonzels didn't do himself any favors, even as the official WH line is that they "fully support" Gonzo. Right.
Two words: he's toast. From CNN:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White House insiders tell CNN that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales hurt himself during testimony before a Senate committee Thursday on the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
The sources, involved in administration discussions about Gonzales, told White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux that two senior level White House aides who heard the testimony described Gonzales as "going down in flames," "not doing himself any favors," and "predictable."
"Everyone's putting their best public face on," one source said, "but everyone is discouraged. Everyone is disappointed."
Still, there's no word on whether some elder statesman can go to the president and convince him to push Alberto out the door. If his own moral compass doesn't kick in, and I seriously doubt that the has much of a moral compass (torture, spying on Americans, other forms of enabling and hackery...) the Congress may have to remove him through impeachment.
Oh, you thought Don Imus was the only prime candidate for unemployment 'round here? Well just try Alberto Gonzales, who now has to contend with some strangely missing emails ... and Paul Wolfowitz, who apparently is too stupid to just get someone else to hire his girlfriend... Now here's the fun part: I'll just let you guess which of the two Bush cronies this statement applies to:
The White House, however, expressed confidence in the embattled bank president.
Oh, OK I'll just tell you:
"Of course President Wolfowitz has our full confidence," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "His leadership is helping the bank accomplish its mission of raising living standards for poor people throughout the world. In dealing with this issue, he has taken full responsibility and is working with the executive board to resolve it."
I guess that means Old Wolfie is toast.
Back to those missing emails. The NY Times reports:
WASHINGTON, April 12 —The White House said today that it might be missing e-mails relating to the firing of eight United States attorneys, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill gave themselves the authority to subpoena more government documents and testimony linked to the controversy.
“It can’t be ruled out,” Scott Stanzel, the deputy White House press secretary, told reporters this morning when asked if some of the missing e-mails included those related to the dismissals.
At the same time, the Senate Judiciary Committee empowered its chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, to serve subpoenas for documents that may explain the firings, and to compel testimony from Scott Jennings, a deputy political director in the White House whose e-mails, on a Republican National Committee account, have set off a separate inquiry into the use of political e-mail accounts for official government business.
On the Senate floor, Mr. Leahy was skeptical that the e-mails are indeed missing. “You can’t erase e-mails, not today,” he said. “They’ve gone through too many servers.”
Mr. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who just turned 67, is considered one of the more computer-savvy members of Congress, despite having grown up in the era of typewriters.
Much to the dismay of rational foreign policy thinkers everywhere, the recalcitrant neocons have not gone away. In fact, they're not a bit sorry for the mess they've made of George W. Bush's presidency, let alone Iraq. But why? One reason: it's who they are. It's helpful to remember that behind every good neocon, is a major oil company, much the way the primo neocon think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (the key backer of, and the organization that rents space to, the PNAC folks), is funded in large measure by Exxon Mobile. The neocons are useful intellectuals laboring, whether knowingly or unknowlingly, to give frame and meaning to a policy that really amounts to resource plunder on a grand, grand scale.
Chris Wallace ... wait a minute ... you mean THAT Chris Wallace ?????? actually pauses for a moment from his normal role as Fox News' most skilled pretend neutral journalist, to actually behave like a neutral journalist... debunking the claims of innocence of one Douglas Feith, who insisted on an earlier program that, but of course he never claimed Iraq's Saddam Hussein had an operational link with al-Qaida! When a Fox News host is calling out the neocons, you KNOW the world is slowly coming to an end.
If you ever doubted that President Bush has licked every last droplet out of the neocon Kool-Aid pitcher, you need look no further than the rumblings about his ISG-spurning, soon-to-be unveiled plan for carving out "a way forward" in Iraq. It reads like a post from "pick your right wing blog," or like a William Kristol column from the Weekly Standard.
According to Kristol and others who are following the goings-on inside Bush's palace of delusion in Washington, not only does Bush plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq (permanently, Kristol hopes, escalating the war with a focus on Baghdad, he also plans to shake off the last vestiges of his supposed conservatism by embracing an expensive "New Deal" for Iraq, pouring lard and Karo syrup onto the $663 billion Iraq boondoggle to the tune of another $10 billion (for now), probably with more to come. From the Times of London:
THE White House is expected to announce a reconstruction package for Iraq as part of a plan for a “surge” of up to 30,000 troops into Baghdad when President George W Bush unveils America’s new strategy next month. Bush is being urged to give up to $10 billion (£5.1 billion) to Iraq as part of a “New Deal” that would create work for unemployed Iraqis, following the model of President Franklin D Roosevelt during the 1930s depression.
No word on who, if anyone, will provide oversight over the spending of these fresh funds.
Bush has reportedly cowed the squishy Joint Chiefs once again, and led by the punk-ass JCS chief, Bill Casey, they are going along with Bush's escalation plan. It's all about forcing some elusive "victory," apparently at any cost. And how ironic that Bush would embrace a Rooseveltian strategy, given his family's historic distaste for FDR... oh, and then there's the small fact that Iraq's primary issue isn't an economic depression. Their economic problems are but one outgrowth of an ongoing and bloody civil war unleashed by us. FDR responded to a domestic economic crisis and a war abroad. Bush has collapsed the two into one inside Iraq, which is now the official laboratory of the bruised but unbowed neocons.
Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House and a member of the defence policy board advising the Pentagon, is calling for a cross between the New Deal and the post-second world war Marshall Plan that would “mop up every young Iraqi male who is unemployed”. He said it would be “as big a strategic step towards victory as whether you have more troops or fewer troops”.
Gingrich believes his position as a staunch conservative could help to sell the reconstruction package to sceptical Republicans who argue that Iraq has already cost too money. The Pentagon this month requested an extra $100 billion from Congress as an emergency supplement to the 2007 military budget, bringing the total to $663 billion.
So how much is Iraq worth to you? Are you prepared to watch your country spend a trillion dollars on the war, plus jobs for every accounted for Iraqi male, while your job is by no means secured here at home? The Jobs for Iraqis plan, married to the new, bigger, kick down Iraqi doors project is what it's increasingly looking like Bush will go with in 2007. God help us all. This fool is going to both bankrupt us, and destroy any last vestiges of our superpower status.
Anybody remember the Roman Empire? I don't think it ended well...
"Though it's tempting to think that adding troops for a little while would solve the problem, this is a seductive and dangerous road. It's the same vague reasoning that led to sending hundreds of thousands of troops to Vietnam. ..." -- From the editorial board of USA Today
The latest gambit: send Bob Gates to Iraq to "bypass the filter" of the uniformed military leadership, and ask the troops what they want. Well that in the hell do you think they want? They want back-up, meaning more troops. So will this be Bush's way of using the soldiers as a prop, yet again, in order to create an excuse to turn "I listen to the generals" into this year's "read my lips, no new taxes?" Righto. More from that USAT editorial:
So far, there's not much specificity beyond "more troops in Baghdad." Where in a city of 5 million would they go? Which warring groups would they fight? How would this be different from what's not working? This is the most pointed criticism of the surge idea, and the president acknowledged it at a news conference Wednesday, saying he would only approve a "specific mission." The fact that he couldn't immediately articulate one suggests the surge is an idea in search of credibility, not a strategy developed to solve a defined problem.
Assuming the short-term goal is to stabilize Baghdad, which the administration has labeled the definitive battleground, the next question is whether that is achievable. U.S. and Iraqi forces have been trying to pacify the capital since summer by massing forces there, but an unusually downbeat Pentagon report revealed this week that "Operation Together Forward" seems only to have intensified the violence. The report notes that the effort to control the violence in Baghdad worked at first, but that the insurgents adapted and violence surged again in September. One factor: Iraqi police tipped insurgents to raids by U.S. and Iraqi troops, allowing the bad guys to melt away. ...
... Bush likes to say he listens to his commanders about troop levels, and two of the nation's wisest combat veterans — former secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. John Abizaid, the outgoing top U.S. commander in the Middle East — have advised against surging U.S. troops.
Sending more troops to Iraq would have been a good idea in 2003 to stabilize the country after Saddam Hussein was toppled. Today, it has the scent of doubling down on a losing bet, a desperate option seized upon because the cost of others is so high.
Promoters of the more-troops option Bush is considering include Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and neoconservative think tanks that supported the war and are frustrated with its failures. Those supporters should ask themselves one more question: Would they want their own children "surged" into a chaotic environment with such an ill-defined mission and limited prospects of success?
My guess would be they would not.
The bottom line is, everybody knows that the Iraq war is lost and over, except for President Bush and a last remnant of his wack-job followers. Oh, and Joe Lieberman and John McCain. How pathetic. Even Reagan Republicans like Joe Scarborough have begun to describe the president as dangerously isolated and almost delusional in his determination to "stay the course." What is it going to take? How many lives is this president willing to waste in his vain pursuit of "victory" in Iraq? Dude, there IS no victory to be had in Iraq. They're not fighting us, they're fighting each other, and we're in the way.
It's time to leave Iraq.
And if I were the Democrats in Congress, I would prevent Bush's vain little troop surge the old fashioned way: by refusing to pay for it. The Dems should tell the president: we will fund only ongoing battlefield necessities for existing forces (including necessary troop rotation), but won't give you a dime for a single soldier more. Period.