Friday, August 31, 2007

Is Michael Chertoff a Perjurer?

Another recent article, this time from Salon, and this time about the man rumored to be Bush's next pick for Attorney General:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will leave office Sept. 17 with a reputation for being untruthful. During his repeated appearances before Congress earlier this year to explain the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, Gonzales answered "I don't recall" or some variation as many as 70 times at a sitting. When his replacement comes to Capitol Hill for confirmation, lawmakers hope they will hear nothing but the truth.

But one of the men most often mentioned as his replacement may have some of the same trouble with the truth. Since rumors of Gonzales' departure surfaced last week, speculation about his successor has centered on Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Just as Gonzales, under oath before Congress, failed to recall whether there was dissension within the Bush administration over a controversial war-on-terror-related policy, so Michael Chertoff seems to have suffered a similar lapse of memory while under oath before Congress when pressed on a different terror-related policy. Gonzales pleaded ignorance of a rift within the administration over warrantless wiretapping; Chertoff has denied knowledge of interrogation techniques that are tantamount to torture, despite regular attendance by his top aides at meetings on the subject.

"If Mr. Chertoff is nominated, the Senate needs to ask him some very tough questions about what he knew about the abuses at Guantánamo," said Hina Shamsi from Human Rights First.

Business is Booming in Afghanistan. The Opium Business.

A recent article in the Guardian that I didn't have time to link:
Britain's drug policy in Afghanistan's Helmand province lay in tatters yesterday as the UN declared a "frightening" explosion in opium production across the country, led by Taliban-backed farmers in the volatile south. Opium production soared by 34% to 8,200 tonnes, accounting for 93% of world supply and most of the heroin sold in Britain and Europe, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported.

The record crop was fuelled by Helmand, where, despite the deployment of 7,000 British soldiers and millions of pounds in development spending, opium cultivation surged by 48%.

The sprawling and violent province is now the world's single largest source of illegal drugs - greater than coca from Colombia, cannabis from Morocco or heroin from Burma, countries with populations up to 20 times greater.

Former Head Of Brit Army: US "intellectually bankrupt" on Iraq

The former head of the British Army has attacked US postwar policy, calling it "intellectually bankrupt".

General Sir Mike Jackson, who headed the army during the war in Iraq, described as "nonsensical" the claim by the former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that US forces "don't do nation-building". He has also hit back at suggestions that British forces had failed in Basra.

Mr Rumsfeld was "one of the most responsible for the current situation in Iraq," Gen Jackson says in his autobiography, Soldier. He describes Washington's approach to fighting global terrorism as "inadequate" for relying on military power over diplomacy and nation-building.

Arnold's Priorities.

San Francisco Chronicle:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave hefty pay raises on Friday to his top aides including a 23 percent raise for his chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, whose annual salary has been boosted to $175,000.

The raises, which are retroactive to July 1, came a week after Schwarzenegger used his power of line-item veto to slash $703 million in the state's new spending plan that included cutting a $55 million program to help homeless adults who are mentally ill.


Los Angeles Times:
Bombings, sectarian slayings and other violence related to the war killed at least 1,773 Iraqi civilians in August, the second month in a row that civilian deaths have risen, according to government figures obtained Friday.

In July, the civilian death toll was 1,753, and in June it was 1,227. The numbers are based on morgue, hospital and police records and come from officials in the ministries of Health, Defense and the Interior. The statistics appear to indicate that President Bush's increase in troops this year has done little to rein in civilian bloodshed, despite U.S. military statements to the contrary.

Military officials have said the security plan is showing progress because the number of attacks on civilians has decreased and sectarian killings have dropped. The security plan, which began in February, has put an additional 28,500 U.S. troops in Baghdad and other trouble spots.
And also in the Los Angeles Times:
A cholera outbreak in northern Iraq, where thousands of people have sought refuge from sectarian violence, is overwhelming hospitals and has killed up to 10 people, health officials said Friday.

The cities of Sulaymaniya and Kirkuk have been affected by the outbreak, which is seen as the latest example of the deterioration of living conditions and displacement caused by the ongoing conflict. At least 1,773 Iraqi civilians died in war-related violence in August, according to Iraqi government statistics released Friday, the third consecutive month in which civilian deaths rose despite the recent American troop build up.

Cholera, a potentially lethal waterborne disease, has struck more than 80 people in the two cities, which are about 100 miles apart, said Claire Hajaj of UNICEF . She said five deaths had been confirmed as cholera and another five deaths were suspected cholera cases.

Earlier this year, aid agencies warned of the potential for a cholera outbreak as Iraq, its infrastructure shattered by war and neglect, entered the blazing summer months. Cholera tends to appear in the summer because of the heightened need for water. With water treatment plants in disrepair because of age and war-related damage, and often unable to function because of power shortages, the likelihood of exposure to contaminated water increases.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When humanity prevails.

It's not often that genuinely good news comes out of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Today, there is some. It's small, but it's huge.

As the Associated Press reports:
Palestinian police rescued an Israeli soldier Monday after he mistakenly drove into this West Bank town and was surrounded by a mob that later burned his car. Israel praised the rescue as a sign of the growing strength of Palestinian moderates.
It's more than that. It has nothing to do with moderation or extremism, it has to do with humanity.

One of the reasons people hate I/P blogging is that they're often mere shitfests about who did what horrible thing to whom. I have no use for such diaries. I've said it many times: the two sides are at war, and when there is a war, people do horrible things to each other. Blaming one side or the other, or wanting to punish one side or the other, accomplishes nothing. Broadcasting every atrocity only fans the flames of hatred. As long as there is a war, there will be atrocities. That's a given.

The only issue that matters is how we can help foster peace. The only way to foster peace is to stop exacerbating the hatred, to stop fueling the justifiable paranoia that permeates both populations, and to try to understand that both sides have been severely traumatized- by each other, by their own failed leaders, by the U.S. and Europe, by other Arab and Muslim nations, and by the wider world. The Israeli and Palestinian people have been but pawns in much larger geopolitical machinations, and what they need is compassion, understanding, and a chance to move forward. That's why I love this little story.
The rescue was a sharp contrast to seven years ago when two Israeli army reservists strayed into the West Bank city of Ramallah. They were captured by Palestinian police, who took them to a police station. A mob stormed the station and killed the two, throwing one body from a second story window as news photographers took pictures.

That incident, known to shocked Israelis as "the lynching," set the tone for violence and suspicion that has continued ever since.
Exactly right. When people outside the world of politics behave with such inhumanity, it speaks to the degree to which they have been dehumanized. Today's story says something else. These Palestinian cops could have easily turned away. They could have seen the Israeli soldier as a uniformed enemy who deserved whatever horrible fate befell him. They didn't. They saw him as a human being.

It is the common humanity of the Israelis and the Palestinians that has been bludgeoned. It is only the common humanity of the Israelis and the Palestinians that can save them. It's not about politics, it's about people. Today, one Israeli soldier is safe with the people he loves. Today, a group of Palestinian police officers are heroes. With all the horror pervading that region and the world, it's worth recognizing and celebrating such heroes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bad Puppet! Bad! Bad!

The Iraqi prime minister declared today that his country could "find friends elsewhere" after the US president, George Bush, said there was "frustration" with his government's slow progress.

Nuri al-Maliki hit back after both Mr Bush and the US ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, bluntly said the Iraqi government had to do more to end sectarian bloodshed and accommodate Sunni rivals in power.

The war of words capped another bleak day for the US military in Iraq which saw 14 soldiers die in a helicopter crash blamed on mechanical failure.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Terrorism Index: Damning Expert Report On Bush

This is why, even in purely political terms, the Democrats need not capitulate to Bush and the Republicans on anything. Foreign Policy and the Center for American Progress conducted a survey on national security issues. They call it The Terrorism Index.
Surveying more than 100 of America’s top foreign-policy experts—Republicans and Democrats alike—the FOREIGN POLICY/Center for American Progress Terrorism Index is the only comprehensive, nonpartisan effort to mine the highest echelons of the nation’s foreign-policy establishment for its assessment of how the United States is fighting the war on terror. First released in July 2006, and again last February, the index attempts to draw definitive conclusions about the war’s priorities, policies, and progress. Its participants include people who have served as secretary of state, national security advisor, senior White House aides, top commanders in the U.S. military, seasoned intelligence professionals, and distinguished academics. Eighty percent of the experts have served in the U.S. government—including more than half in the Executive Branch, 32 percent in the military, and 21 percent in the intelligence community.
How bad is it?
Nearly every foreign policy of the U.S. government—from domestic surveillance activities and the detention of terrorist suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to U.S. energy policies and efforts in the Middle East peace process—was sharply criticized by the experts. More than 6 in 10 experts, for instance, believe U.S. energy policies are negatively affecting the country’s national security. The experts were similarly critical of the CIA’s rendition of terrorist suspects to countries known to torture prisoners and the Pentagon’s policy of trying detainees before military tribunals.

No effort of the U.S. government was more harshly criticized, however, than the war in Iraq. In fact, that conflict appears to be the root cause of the experts’ pessimism about the state of national security. Nearly all—92 percent—of the index’s experts said the war in Iraq negatively affects U.S. national security, an increase of 5 percentage points from a year ago. Negative perceptions of the war in Iraq are shared across the political spectrum, with 84 percent of those who describe themselves as conservative taking a dim view of the war’s impact. More than half of the experts now oppose the White House’s decision to “surge” additional troops into Baghdad, a remarkable 22 percentage-point increase from just six months ago. Almost 7 in 10 now support a drawdown and redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq.
The report is broken down into sections, and I will give you just a taste of each.

The Failing Surge
More than half say the surge is having a negative impact on U.S. national security, up 22 percentage points from just six months ago. This sentiment was shared across party lines, with 64 percent of conservative experts saying the surge is having either a negative impact or no impact at all.
They rate the handling of the war as a 2.9 on a scale of 10.

A Perfect Nightmare
A perfect terrorist storm may be brewing in Pakistan. When asked to choose the nation that is most likely to become the next al Qaeda stronghold, more experts chose Pakistan than any other country, including Iraq. Osama bin Laden reportedly remains at large along Pakistan’s mountainous border with Afghanistan, where al Qaeda is also regrouping...
No surprise to anyone paying attention. Bush has been a complete disaster in the region that actually produced the September 11 terrorists. Most of whom, including Osama bin Forgotten, remain at large.

Will the enemy follow us home?
Only 12 percent believe that terrorist attacks would occur in the United States as a direct result of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.
Given the frequent use of this dishonest excuse for continuing the war, I will repeat this quote:
Only 12 percent believe that terrorist attacks would occur in the United States as a direct result of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.
Did you get that?
Only 12 percent believe that terrorist attacks would occur in the United States as a direct result of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.
The Next Front
Nearly half said that Jordan is the neighbor most likely to experience a spillover of violence from Iraq—more than twice as many who pinpointed any other country.
Interesting. They point out that most people assume Saudi Arabia or Turkey would be the most likely countries to suffer from a spillover effect. The experts say it would be this relatively moderate, and critically important, ally.

Deciphering the chatter.

The report then compares the rhetoric from the leading 2008 presidential candidates and the report's conclusions. None fare well. It says much about the disastrous impact of political posturing as opposed to calm expert analysis.

No love from Russia.
When asked to choose the U.S. ally that least serves U.S. interests, 34 percent chose Russia, far ahead of complicated friends such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
To anyone following the Putin regime, this, too, is no surprise In this amateur's opinion, his opposition to our policies is sometimes correct; but both his domestic and foreign policies are increasingly frightening.

Overall, the conclusion is one I keep repeating, and which we need to help the Congressional Democrats promote: the best defense for America's national security is to oppose the disastrous policies of Bush and the Republicans.

Please read the report.

The Troggs- Love Is All Around

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Science Daily:
University of Colorado at Boulder researchers are now forecasting a 92 percent chance that the 2007 September minimum extent of sea ice across the Arctic region will set an all-time record low.

CU-Boulder researchers are monitoring dwindling sea ice in the Arctic. (Credit: Photo by James Maslanik, CU-Boulder)

The researchers, who forecast in April a 33 percent chance the September minimum of sea ice would set a new record, dramatically revised their prediction following a rapid disintegration of sea ice during July, said Research Associate Sheldon Drobot of CU-Boulder's Colorado Center for Astrodynamics.

"During the first week in July, the Arctic sea ice started to disappear at rates we had never seen before," said Drobot, who leads CCAR's Arctic Regional Ice Forecasting System group in CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department.

"We have been seeing a sharp decline in thicker, multi-year ice that has survived more than one melt season," said CCAR Research Associate James Maslanik. "This has been replaced in many areas by a thin, first-year layer of ice as well as by younger, thinner types of multi-year ice. The thinner ice just does not have the mass to withstand the effects of warming climate."

"Near Total Collapse"

Washington Post:
In a report to be released next week, the Fund for Peace calls for the "managed" breakup of Iraq into three separate states with their own governments and representatives to the United Nations, but continued economic cooperation in a larger entity modeled on the European Union.

Prospects of Iraqi leaders being able to establish a multiethnic democracy are now "fanciful," the nonpartisan Washington think tank says in its report, "A Way Out: The Union of Iraqi States." Based on data tracked monthly since before the U.S. invasion, the report authored by Fund for Peace President Pauline Baker concludes that Iraq is now "near total collapse."

"While there may be pockets of improvement from the 'surge,' these are transitory and limited achievements that are about four years too late. . . . Rather than fight fragmentation, it would be better to manage the trend with a view toward establishing an entirely new political order," the report says.

The report is one of several official and unofficial Iraq assessments coming over the next month, culminating with the Bush administration's own much-awaited evaluation of Iraq's security and political progress due Sept. 15.
We know what the White House will say: just one more Friedman Unit, and we'll get those flowers we were promised.


Los Angeles Times:
Missiles and mortars struck areas of Baghdad and central Iraq on Saturday where violence and civilian deaths had decreased in recent weeks, raising concerns that insurgents were adapting their strategy to get around an increase in U.S. troops.

At least 14 Iraqis were killed, including seven in a mortar barrage aimed at a Shiite residential area north of Baghdad in the town of Khalis. Car bombs killed four people in Kirkuk, where a policeman was shot to death earlier in the day, and two were killed in a missile attack on a farming village near Ramadi.

The Ramadi attack unleashed panic in an area that had been relatively peaceful in recent weeks, said Juma Salim, a 62-year-old farmer who claimed that the presence of U.S. troops provoked the violence.

Just To Be Clear

Just because there is absolutely no justification for going to war against them, that doesn't mean we should pretend Iran's current regime is anything less than a horror show.

Iran has hanged up to 30 people in the past month amid a clampdown prompted by alleged US-backed plots to topple the regime, The Observer can reveal.

Many executions have been carried out in public in an apparent bid to create a climate of intimidation while sending out uncompromising signals to the West. Opposition sources say at least three of the dead were political activists, contradicting government insistence that it is targeting 'thugs' and dangerous criminals. The executions have coincided with a crackdown on student activists and academics accused of trying to foment a 'soft revolution' with US support.

Arnold. Still Sucking.

San Francisco Chronicle:
The new chair of the California Air Resources Board owns stocks in several oil, coal and utility firms, some of which are likely to be affected by rules the agency implements as part of the state's groundbreaking law to fight global warming, The Chronicle has learned.

Mary Nichols' stock holdings include shares in oil giants Chevron Corp., BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as a stake in a Bermuda tanker company that transports crude oil, according to economic interest statements she filed this week.

She also owns stock in the world's largest coal company, Peabody Energy Corp., along with utilities including Edison International, whose subsidiary, Southern California Edison, serves most of the Southern California electricity market.

In total, she and her attorney husband, John Daum, who represents Exxon in the ongoing Exxon Valdez oil-spill case, have a financial stake in 13 energy-related firms in a diversified stock portfolio that contains 84 companies, according to statements she filed on Aug. 14 with the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bush's Supreme Failure: The Taliban Have Prevailed

The war in Afghanistan has not officially ended, but the effective end happened a couple days ago. A short Washington Post article reported on the just-concluded talks between Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf, and various tribal leaders. There was talk about confronting extremism. There was also this:
The tribal meeting's closing statement said that a 50-man team of prominent leaders from both countries would hold regular meetings and work to "expedite the ongoing process of dialogue for peace and reconciliation with the opposition," a reference to the Taliban.

Musharraf, after returning to Pakistan, said the committee should "engage warring forces in Afghanistan to bring the terrorism and extremism to an end." Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the past had also encouraged dialogue with Taliban fighters to persuade them to support the government.
Reconciliation with the Taliban. You remember them. Al Qaeda's protectors. Bin Laden's protectors. Apparently, all will be forgiven.

This came as the New York Times reported, Sunday, that experts now admit Bush lost any chance of defeating the Taliban when he diverted resources to Iraq:
At critical moments in the fight for Afghanistan, the Bush administration diverted scarce intelligence and reconstruction resources to Iraq, including elite C.I.A. teams and Special Forces units involved in the search for terrorists. As sophisticated Predator drone spy planes rolled off assembly lines in the United States, they were shipped to Iraq, undercutting the search for Taliban and terrorist leaders, according to senior military and intelligence officials.
In April, Karzai admitted to having held peace talks with the Taliban. At the end of June, Musharraf was warned that the Taliban and other extremists were growing so powerful that they might end up engulfing his country. And the Los Angeles Times reported that, despite Pakistan's efforts to fight them, the Taliban have only been growing stronger, and spreading their influence. But this meeting made it clear: the Taliban have been redeemed. Because the Bush Administration failed to finish the job of bringing them to justice, they are now being brought into the fold, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Because of Bush Administration failures, Bin Laden is still on the loose. Because of Bush Administration failures, Al Qaeda is growing stronger. And now, those failures are complete.

The media may spin the tough talk about Karzai and Musharraf confronting terrorists and extremists, but don't be fooled. The Taliban are the extremists. They enabled the terrorists. Because we failed to defeat them, Afghanistan and Pakistan are being forced to reconcile with them. It's over. There will be no justice for the September 11 attacks. Bush let the terrorists get away. Bush let them prevail.

Quick Note

Posting will be intermittent, for another week or so. I do have some stuff, but I won't be consistent.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Government officials have secretly briefed ministers that Britain has no hope of getting remotely near the new European Union renewable energy target that Tony Blair signed up to in the spring - and have suggested that they find ways of wriggling out of it.

In contrast to the government's claims to be leading the world on climate change, officials within the former Department of Trade and Industry have admitted that under current policies Britain would miss the EU's 2020 target of 20% energy from renewables by a long way. And their suggestion that "statistical interpretations of the target" be used rather than new ways to reach it has infuriated environmentalists.

An internal briefing paper for ministers, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, reveals that officials at the department, now the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, think the best the UK could hope for is 9% of energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar or hydro by 2020.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

And Even Worse

Los Angeles Times:
As Pakistani forces press ahead with their most concerted campaign in years against Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the dry, jagged hills of Pakistan's tribal belt, the insurgents have moved to establish new footholds in remote corners of the Texas-sized region along the border with Afghanistan.

The Islamic militants are seeking to spread their influence in areas previously untouched by fighting and are in some cases facilitating new alliances between outside groups and local insurgents, observers and officials say.

The insurgents are also increasingly employing heavy weapons and have made several brazen frontal attacks on army outposts that differed significantly from hit-and-run guerrilla-style skirmishes of the recent past.

"They've become better organized, more disciplined and more capable of mounting big attacks," said Rahimullah Yusufzai, an analyst based here in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, which abuts the tribal belt.


Los Angeles Times:
Al Qaeda-allied militants holed up in a volatile southeastern Baghdad neighborhood were believed responsible for an ambush that killed five U.S. soldiers scouring the capital for bomb-building sites, a spokesman for American-led forces said Sunday.

After a sniper's bullet felled a soldier Saturday in the Arab Jabour district, his fellow troops from Task Force Marne rushed the house from which the shot was fired, said the spokesman, Janah Hammoud.As they did, an explosion from apressure-activated blast killed four more soldiers and injured four others.

Since the Pentagon stepped up its offensive against Al Qaeda in Iraq and other militant groups with the addition of 28,500 troops this year, casualties have mounted, as has the complexity of attacks on U.S. patrols.

The Observer: "Fatigue cripples US army in Iraq"

Sunday's Observer has a story titled:
Fatigue cripples US army in Iraq
Those crazy Brits obviously don't understand that we're supposed to be spinning the war as a success, in anticipation of the September call for another Friedman Unit.
Exhaustion and combat stress are besieging US troops in Iraq as they battle with a new type of warfare. Some even rely on Red Bull to get through the day. As desertions and absences increase, the military is struggling to cope with the crisis .
Overworked, denied normal breaks between rotations, and sent back again and again and again. As Stacy Bannerman wrote, five months ago, in Foreign Policy in Focus:
Pentagon statistics reveal that the suicide rate for U.S. troops who have served in Iraq is double what it was in peacetime.

Soldiers who have served -- or are serving -- in Iraq are killing themselves at higher percentages than in any other war where such figures have been tracked. According to a report recently released by the Defense Manpower Data Center, suicide accounted for over 25 percent of all noncombat Army deaths in Iraq in 2006. One of the reasons for "the higher suicide rate in Iraq [is] the higher percentage of reserve troops," said military analyst James F. Dunnigan.
And as the Guardian article elucidates:
A whole army is exhausted and worn out. You see the young soldiers washed up like driftwood at Baghdad's international airport, waiting to go on leave or returning to their units, sleeping on their body armour on floors and in the dust.

Where once the war in Iraq was defined in conversations with these men by untenable ideas - bringing democracy or defeating al-Qaeda - these days the war in Iraq is defined by different ways of expressing the idea of being weary. It is a theme that is endlessly reiterated as you travel around Iraq. 'The army is worn out. We are just keeping people in theatre who are exhausted,' says a soldier working for the US army public affairs office who is supposed to be telling me how well things have been going since the 'surge' in Baghdad began.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that the once again vacationing Commander Guy sees things differently:
President Bush, presiding over a nation dispirited by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on Saturday cast both conflicts in terms of "encouraging news." In stating his case, the president emphasized enemy deaths.
Sure. Body counts. Just like Vietnam. Because if we kill everyone in the country, we're bound to win. Eventually. Maybe.

It must be nice to see things in such a rosy light. The rosy light of Maine in August. While halfway around the world people are being murdered and maimed, every day, on your behalf.

How Bush Blew Two Wars At Once

New York Times:
Statements from the White House, including from the president, in support of Afghanistan were resolute, but behind them was a halting, sometimes reluctant commitment to solving Afghanistan’s myriad problems, according to dozens of interviews in the United States, at NATO headquarters in Brussels and in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

At critical moments in the fight for Afghanistan, the Bush administration diverted scarce intelligence and reconstruction resources to Iraq, including elite C.I.A. teams and Special Forces units involved in the search for terrorists. As sophisticated Predator spy planes rolled off assembly lines in the United States, they were shipped to Iraq, undercutting the search for Taliban and terrorist leaders, according to senior military and intelligence officials.

As defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld claimed credit for toppling the Taliban with light, fast forces. But in a move that foreshadowed America’s trouble in Iraq, he failed to anticipate the need for more forces after the old government was gone, and blocked an early proposal from Colin L. Powell, then the secretary of state, and Mr. Karzai, the administration’s handpicked president, for a large international force. As the situation deteriorated, Mr. Rumsfeld and other administration officials reversed course and cajoled European allies into sending troops.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Problem

New York Times:
Even as they call for an end to the war and pledge to bring the troops home, the Democratic presidential candidates are setting out positions that could leave the United States engaged in Iraq for years.

John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, would keep troops in the country to intervene in an Iraqi genocide and be prepared for military action if violence spills into other countries. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York would leave residual forces to fight terrorism and to stabilize the Kurdish region in the north. And Senator Barack Obama of Illinois would leave a military presence of as-yet unspecified size in Iraq to provide security for American personnel, fight terrorism and train Iraqis.

These positions and those of some rivals suggest that the Democratic bumper-sticker message of a quick end to the conflict — however much it appeals to primary voters — oversimplifies the problems likely to be inherited by the next commander in chief. Antiwar advocates have raised little challenge to such positions by Democrats.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico stands apart, having suggested that he would even leave some military equipment behind to expedite the troop withdrawal. In a forum at a gathering of bloggers last week, he declared: “I have a one-point plan to get out of Iraq: Get out! Get out!”
The article points out that Joe Biden wants to temporarily split Iraq in three. That might not be a bad idea. Long term. It's certainly better than the idea of staying there, long term.


Associated Press:
A powerful roadside bomb on Saturday killed the governor and police chief of a southern province that has seen fierce internal fighting between Shiite factions, officials said.

The bomb struck a convoy carrying the Khalil Jalil Hamza, the governor of the Qadisiyah province, and the provincial police chief home from a funeral service for a tribal sheik at about 5 p.m., army Brig. Gen. Othman al-Farood said.

Hamza and the police chief, Maj. Gen. Khalid Hassan, were killed, along with their driver and a body guard who were in the same SUV, according to al-Farood, the commander of the Iraqi army division in charge of the area.

The Racist Politics of Rudolph Giuliani

The cover story of the current edition of Harper's is a long, scathing essay (avaliable online, but firewalled, here) by Kevin Baker, titled:
A FATE WORSE THAN BUSH Rudolph Giuliani and the politics of personality
The entire article is a must-read, right from the opening paragraphs:
Rudolph Giuliani has, by far, the most dubious known personal history of any major presidential candidate in American history, what with his three marriages and his open affairs and his almost total estrangement from his grown children, not to mention the startling frequency with which he finds excuses to dress in women's clothing. Many of his fellow Republicans despise him for his support of gay rights and abortion rights and immigrants, for the confiscatory gun laws he enforced while mayor of New York City, and for having a personality that is irreducibly New York. Richard Viguerie, the venerable rightwing mail-order guru, threatened to travel around the country campaigning against Giuliani were he to win the nomination. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention asserted that "the mayor's position on abortion couldn't be more repugnant to pro-lifers." Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said simply that he "cannot, and will not, vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008. It is an irrevocable decision."
The article then goes on to discuss the enduring political importance of New York, as the nation's financial, cultural and multi-cultural center, always defining the cutting edge, even as significant segments of its population subsist at risk of falling off the economic cliff. The Clintons are discussed for having pioneered the modern version of post-ideological politics, while Giuliani is discussed as their Republican counterpoint; but, despite having been a McGovern Democrat in 1972, and despite having three times managed to get exemptions from the Vietnam draft:
(T)here is an important difference between the Democrats and Giuliani's twenty-first-century Republicans, and it revolves around the man himself. In the new politics, the candidate is everything. The post-ideological party distinguishes itself from its rivals not through any particular program or deep moral conviction so much as by the character and the charisma of its particular leader-its Sarkozy, or its Berlusconi, or its Clinton-and by its brand-selling strategies. Giuliani would like to add his own name to that list and he may well succeed, for the "brand" with which he is indelibly linked in the American mind is "strength."
Yes, another "strong" chickenhawk. But even worse, Baker describes Giuliani as having learned a very disturbing lesson from his political youth:
He watched the winning side in the 1972 election and internalized a strategy that was honed by the likes of George Wallace, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan over the course of nearly two decades. That strategy can best be described as a sort of "anti-populism," a worldview in which the well-off are continually beset by the poor, the privileged by the disinherited, the white by the black. The remarkable accomplishment of Giuliani was how he was able to use this narrative of disorder to gain power in New York.
In 1989, the respected crime-fighting U.S. Attorney Giuliani lost a close election to Democrat David Dinkins, who became New York's first ever African-American Mayor. Four years later, New York's reputation as an ungovernable city played in Giuliani's favor. The corporate media's continual stereotyping of New York as a city in crisis had long since become a morality play, with soft liberalism seen as the coddling culprit. There was one little problem with that stereotype:
It is undeniable that New York had many real problems that could not simply be wished away. Its Tammany ward heelers were too often replaced by fake liberals who continued the old corruption while spewing a lot of revolutionary doggerel. But there is also considerable evidence that most of the city's problems had started to abate well before Rudolph Giuliani took power in 1993. Dinkins, the city's first African-American mayor, signed into law a tax surcharge that put six thousand more police officers on the streets. He also hired a pair of dynamic new leaders, Ray Kelly as police commissioner and William Bratton as head of New York's transit police. During Dinkins's term the city's murder rate fell by 13.7 percent, robbery fell by 14.6 percent, burglary fell by 17.6 percent, and auto theft fell by 23.8 percent. The city's crime rate dropped in all seven FBI major-felony categories for the first time in nearly four decades.

Similarly, the notorious porn shops and movie houses along 42nd Street that Giuliani would later claim to have closed himself had in fact already been shuttered as the city began the transformation of Times Square into a Disney fantasia. Indeed, the last graffiti-covered subway car had been taken off the line in 1989, under Mayor Ed Koch. Even the "squeegee men"-homeless individuals who wiped the windshields of cars against the owners' wishes and then hassled them for payment, and whom Giuliani would make the emblem of New York's perpetual disorder-had been removed from the streets by the time Giuliani took the oath of office on January 1, 1994.

Thus nearly every major accomplishment that Giuliani points to today either had already been achieved or was well on the way to being achieved by the time he became mayor.
But, as is so often the case, with the modern Republicans, when the reality doesn't comport with political needs, a new, false "reality" must be constructed.
To accept the notion that the city's decline was not a moral lesson-that its leadership was no worse and often better than it had been in the past; that it was hampered by recognizable economic and social problems, most of which it had endured before and which were now being largely solved or ameliorated-would be to return the 1993 campaign to the plane of definable reality, a place where Giuliani could not win.
So, Giuliani did what he had to do. He played the politics of racial division. Baker refers back to a 1993 New York Times Magazine article, by Todd S. Purdum, who wrote:
On the stump, Giuliani often says that "No one group can have all their agenda," implying but never saying that Dinkins has favored blacks. When Giuliani criticized Dinkins's recent budget plan by saying that the Mayor, an honors graduate in math at Howard University, did not seem to be good with numbers, some Dinkins backers said they smelled a racial slur. After the police rally, the Mayor's campaign manager, Bill Lynch, likened Giuliani to David Duke. Giuliani routinely refers to the violent convulsions between blacks and Hasidic Jews in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn -- in which black protesters ran amok for three days in 1991 before a police crackdown -- as a "pogrom," the word associated with Czarist purges of Jews.
And Purdum also discussed Giuliani's infamous speech to a racially charged policemen's rally, on a night when hundreds of angry cops had degenerated into a lawless angry mob:
AMONG THE MANY BLUNDERS for which Giuliani has become known, none stands out more than his appearance last September at a rally of raucous, beer drinking, overwhelmingly white police officers near City Hall. Before Giuliani arrived, hundreds of officers knocked down wooden barricades and stormed the steps of the building, ignoring orders from the department's top uniformed commander, who is black, to move away. A handful carried signs deriding Dinkins with racial slurs ("Dump the washroom attendant!").

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association called the demonstration to protest Dinkins's lack of support on a host of issues. Perhaps the most prominent grievances were the Mayor's backing of an all-civilian board to review complaints of police misconduct and his reflexive burst of sympathy for the family of a Dominican man (who turned out to be a drug dealer) who was killed in a struggle with the police. On a platform about a block west of City Hall, Giuliani ticked off several Dinkins policies, dismissing them with the same barnyard expletive that the Mayor had used weeks earlier in response to an officer's complaint that the Mayor had failed to support the police. Meantime, a block to the east of City Hall, hundreds of cops swarmed over the Brooklyn Bridge and blocked traffic -- an inexcusable breach of conduct of which Giuliani was unaware.

It is a testament to Giuliani's political tin ear that he drove away from the rally telling an aide he had hit "a grand slam." Only later, when television news reports juxtaposed clips of his speech with the lawless behavior in a sequence that implied causation, did it dawn on him that there was a problem.
Purdum also refers to a 1991 Legislative Correspondents Association roast in Albany, when Giuliani fell on his face for making racist jokes about Asians. That speech had been written by Roger Ailes- the same Roger Ailes who now heads Faux News. And you can bet their coverage of Giuliani's campaign will be, as ever, fair and balanced.

Giuliani's 1993 campaign slogan- "One Standard, One City"- played on the old racist canard that social services are a gift to African-Americans, a particularly insidious implication to those New Yorkers who subconsciously- or consicously- feared or resented their first African-American mayor. He distracted voters from the actual statistics that suggested Mayor Dinkins might actually have been having a successful administration, by referring to the ineffable term "quality of life." What mattered was not that things were improving, but that people continued to fear that they weren't. Yes, even before Karl Rove's minions invented politically timed terror alerts, Rudolph Giuliani already understood how to prey on people's irrational fears.

This cynical political strategy was particularly effective in skimming off the votes of white liberals. They already believed Giuliani a tough, but fair prosecutor, because, as U.S. Attorney, he'd made a habit of concocting dramatic photo-ops, when he arrested white-collar criminals. As Baker points out, howeber, for of his most publicized convictions were later overturned on appeal. In political terms, that wouldn't have much mattered. People had seen the pictures and television coverage. Successful appeals rarely generate the same coverage. The victims of these wrongful prosecutions were but fodder for Giuliani's political ambitions.

That the corporate media played right along is no surprise. Lingering racial tensions and a few well-publicized incidents was all that was needed. Giuliani's tough talk, and subtle wording, calcined a siege mentality. Writers such as Time Magazine's Janice C. Simpson, New York Magazine's John Taylor, and the Washington Post's Richard Cohen were among those catapulting the propaganda that, despite the actual crime statistics, New York was an increasingly dangerous place to live, under Mayor Dinkins. A poll showed that the big lie was working. Fifty-eight percent of New Yorkers felt less safe than they had in 1989. Clearly, having an African-American mayor was tearing the city apart, but for the worst possible reason: prejudice and stereotyping.
It could no longer be maintained that crime, or unemployment, or any other problem facing New York was due to this or that objective cause, which might yield some practical solution. New York's plight had become one big moral parable, about a culture of permissiveness, fostered by a black mayor, on behalf of his black constituents.
Giuliani was narrowly elected, making particular gains among Liberal Manhattan women who voted on the issue of crime. As it had for Richard Nixon, a generation earlier, the politics of racism had worked. But this "Southern Strategy" was successfully executed in one of America's most liberal cities!

As mayor, Baker points out, Giuliani accomplished nothing significant:
He presented no sweeping vision of his city's future, built no great public buildings, instituted no real
reforms, and in fact made no meaningful effort to restructure New York along either liberal or conservative
He was fortunate enough to serve as mayor at a time when the Dow Jones index nearly tripled in value. New York was buzzing, but Giuliani had nothing to do with it. Crime rates continued to fall, as they had under Dinkins, and as they did throughout the country, during the Clinton era. Giuliani credited to a new computerized crime fighting system that was instituted by William Bratton, the police commissioner hired by Dinkins. When Bratton began to share in the credit, Giuliani fired him.
Meanwhile, police response time actually increased by 24 percent in his first term, and the percentage of felony arrests leading to an indictment dropped by almost one third. The city's public schools, a perennial source of despair, continued to decay, while Giuliani forced out three different chancellors over various trivial disagreements. He removed 600,000 New Yorkers from the welfare rolls, with methods that the courts repeatedly struck down as illegal and arbitrary....

What Giuliani relied upon to rule were regular authoritarian gestures. He screamed at reporters during press conferences and ranted at callers to his radio show; tried to cut off city funding for a nonprofit AIDS hospice that had dared to criticize him; attempted to censor controversial an; and exuberantly picked fights with unpopular out-of-towners, such as Yassir Arafat, or the entire state of Virginia, which had balked at accepting New York's garbage.

Race never went away either. Without quite saying so, Giuliani made it clear that white people would no longer be on the defensive in his city.
And black people would have no defense against the raging violence of white cops.

First, let's recall the unspeakable assault on Abner Louima.

As Pulitzer Prize winner Mike McAlary wrote, in the New York Daily News:
It all started early Saturday morning after a party in a club near the corner of Glenwood Road and Flatbush Ave. As the club emptied out, a fight broke out between two women. "I didn't know the women," said Louima, a 30-year-old Haitian immigrant. "I was there with my brother and my cousin."
A fight started, between two women Louima didn't know. Cops appeared. They began spewing racist trash talk.
"A cop said to shut up. I didn't think he was talking to me. He pushed me to the ground and handcuffed my hands. Two cops put me in their patrol car and drove me to the corner of Glenwood and Nostrand. There was another car there. They kicked and beat me with their radios. They were yelling, 'You people can't even talk English, I am going to teach you to respect a cop.' None of the cops had their nametags on. They put me back in the car and drove me to the corner of Glenwood and Bedford. They met two other cops and beat me again. This time in the legs, too."
Louima was taken to a station house:
"My pants were down at my ankles, in full view of the other cops. They walked me over to the bathroom and closed the door. There were two cops. One said, 'You niggers have to learn to respect police officers.' The other one said, 'If you yell or make any noise, I will kill you.' Then one held me and the other one stuck the plunger up my behind. He pulled it out and shoved it in my mouth, broke my teeth and said, 'That's your s--t, nigger.' Later, when they called the ambulance, the cop told me, 'If you ever tell anyone . . . I will kill you and your family.' "
As the New York Times reported:
Mr. Giuliani, who was running for re-election, was eloquent in his disgust. “These charges are shocking to any decent human being,” he said.

He created a task force to examine police-community relations, and invited adversaries to join. But Mr. Giuliani swamped his Democratic opponent that November. When his task force released a report the next March, Mr. Giuliani belittled its findings as “making very little sense.”

He endorsed just one suggestion, to change a deputy commissioner’s title. “We can change it from ‘affairs’ to ‘relations,’ ” Mr. Giuliani said.
Lip service, with no action taken to address the root cause of the violence. Giuliani's refusal to confront the institutional failures would have even more devastating results.

In 1992, came the horrible murder of Amadou Diallo. As Salon explained:
Diallo, a native of Guinea, was gunned down in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building by four New York police officers just after midnight on Feb. 4. He had been unarmed, yet officers unloaded 41 bullets at him, hitting him 19 times.
Giuliani, of course, defended his police force. As Wayne Barrett wrote, in the,barrett,4254,5.html Village Voice:
Yet, since the slaying of Amadou Diallo almost a month ago, the mayor has been dumping phony numbers on us about the restraint of his police force almost daily, even taking them on a traveling show to Washington last week, and the media has just let him talk. Not a word of context. Not a contrary digit.
And I urge you to read the entire article, as it does provide context. And statistics.

A subsequent federal investigation determined that New York's cops were guilty of racial profiling. Giuliani, as usual, preferred to misidentify the true victims. As the New York Times reported:
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani angrily defended the New York Police Department yesterday against a federal finding of racial profiling, saying a Justice Department investigation into police tactics was politically motivated and based on flawed analysis of stop-and-search statistics.

In a blistering attack on what he said was the methodology used in the inquiry that federal prosecutors began after the shooting of Amadou Diallo in 1999, the mayor insisted that the police generally arrested people identified by victims of the crimes -- and that a majority of those would be minority residents.
The inquiry was made by the Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan and the Bronx.
And then, there was the case of Patrick Dorismond. From Salon:
Some background: Early last Thursday, Dorismond, a Haitian-American, was shot and killed in Midtown Manhattan after an apparent struggle with undercover police who were finishing up a night of marijuana busts. One officer allegedly approached Dorismond, who worked as a security guard, and asked him if he had some marijuana. The request apparently enraged Dorismond, a scuffle ensued and in a matter of seconds he was shot and killed by one of the other officers.

Giuliani quickly ordered the police department to distribute Dorismond's arrest history -- which included convictions for disorderly conduct and a previously sealed record of an arrest when he was 13 years old. Dorismond, Giuliani explained to a Fox News Sunday audience, may not have been "an altar boy."

The move prompted a firestorm of criticism from local African-American officials and activists (and even some normally tepid Democrats) revolted by the mayor's latest attack. Democratic State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver yesterday announced a committee would probe the propriety of the release of the sealed juvenile-court records.
Giuliani's response? From the New York Times:
Pressed to respond to charges that he is demonizing the victim, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani yesterday intensified his criticism of Patrick Dorismond, the unarmed man killed on Thursday by an undercover police officer, suggesting that his ''pattern of behavior'' and his actions the night of the shooting had contributed to his death.

The mayor also confirmed that he had authorized the release of Mr. Dorismond's arrest record immediately after the shooting, citing the public's ''right to know.''
And nevermind that releasing a juvenile police file is actually against the law. Beyond that, read the words of Manhattan borough president C. Virginia Fields :
''It is totally ridiculous and absurd for him in some way to attempt to justify the killing of this young man by saying he had a record,'' Ms. Fields said of the mayor. ''When you shoot a person, they are obviously not wearing a badge that shows their past criminal record.'' She added, ''It shows a lack of sensitivity and caring.''
Exactly. Dorismond wasn't shot because he had a record. There was another reason. And Rudolph Giuliani never demonstrated any interest in acknowledging or addressing that reason.

Baker goes on to discuss Giuliani's ceaselessly insensitive tough-guy posturing, from putting police snipers on the roof of City Hall during a commemoration for the victim of AIDS, to hovering police helicopters over Harlem when an inflammatory black nationalist held a rally there. On his radio call-in show, he often resorted to bullying. Combined with his personal problems, the result of Giuliani's belligerence saw his popularity tumbling, and he was on the verge of leaving office too unpopular to have any likely political future. And then came the September 11 attacks.

I don't need to address all Giuliani's failures that made the September 11 attacks so much more devastating than they otherwise would have been. MissLaura already wrote about it, today, and also referenced this superb Wayne Barrett article in the Village Voice. The International Association of Firefighters also has this heartbreaking website.

Baker also mentions Giuliani's long unflagging support for disgraced disgraced former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and he also goes into more detail about Giuliani's hellish world-view, and the determindely militant posturing it has caused him to favor. I urge you all to find the article and read it. As Baker concludes:
As repugnant as George W. Bush's brand of social conservatism has been, it is not ideology that is at the heart of his administration's failure but his personality, for in the post-ideological world the politics of personality is all that remains. The worst excesses of the Bush regime have stemmed directly from its leader's character-that is, its rampant cronyism; its arrogance and egotism; its peremptory, bullying tone and methods; its refusal to brook criticism from within or without; its frighteningly authoritarian impulses; its need to create enemies as a means of governing; its impulsiveness and naivete: its outright contempt for the law; and its truly staggering ability to substitute its own versions of what it wishes the world to be for any recognition of objective reality. Judging from his record in gaining and holding power, there is no reason to believe that Rudolph Giuliani's presidency would be substantially different.
Is Giuliani actually a racist, or is it all about political pandering? It's hard to know what's in a man's head and heart. What we do know is that his actual beliefs don't matter. What matters is that he pursues the politics of racism when it serves his ends. The means speak for themselves. Would a President Giuliani continue to target African-Americans, when he needed to score political points? No doubt. But he's already targeting another minority group.

As Joe Conason just wrote, for Salon:
The Republicans most likely to win their party's presidential nomination constantly use language that is meant to inflame anger against Muslims for political advantage.

During the last Republican debate, on Aug. 5, Rudolph Giuliani eagerly provided an example of this syndrome when he attacked the Democratic presidential candidates for failing to describe terrorism as Islamic. "During four Democratic debates," he complained, "not a single Democratic candidate said the word [sic] 'Islamic terrorism.' Now, that is taking political correctness to extremes."
To him, the absence of that phrase in their speeches, no matter how tough their stance against terror, proved that Democrats are guilty of "weakness and appeasement." The other Republicans, again except for Paul, agreed -- although as John Dickerson of Slate has pointed out, that phrase is also assiduously avoided by the Bush White House.

There is an obvious reason not to say "Islamic terror," which stupidly suggests that terror is indeed Islamic, as the ideologists of al-Qaida would argue. There is also an obvious reason to say that same phrase -- if you believe that we are careening toward a war of civilizations and your aim is to inflame
Of one thing we can be certain: if Rudolph Giuliani ever becomes president, both this nation and the entire world will, indeed, be inflamed.

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Monday, August 6, 2007

Nobody Wants To Support The Little Boy's Next War

New York Times:
President George W. Bush and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan found much to agree on during their two-day summit here, with one major exception: the role of Iran in Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai characterized Iran as “a helper and a solution” in a CNN television interview broadcast on Sunday. But when the two men greeted reporters here today, Mr. Bush pointedly disagreed with Mr. Karzai’s assessment, saying, “I would be very cautious about whether the Iranian influence in Afghanistan is a positive force.”


New York Times:
A suicide bomber killed at least 28 people, including at least 19 children, by blowing up his truck this morning in a Shiite area of Tal Afar, a city in northwestern Iraq that was hailed by President Bush in March 2006 as a success story for American forces.

A Truly Staggering Level of Incompetence

Washington Post:
The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a new government report, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

The author of the report from the Government Accountability Office says U.S. military officials do not know what happened to 30 percent of the weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces from 2004 through early this year as part of an effort to train and equip the troops. The highest previous estimate of unaccounted-for weapons was 14,000, in a report issued last year by the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Iraqi police said on Sunday they had found 60 decomposed bodies dumped in thick grass in Baquba, north of Baghdad.

Laugh or cry?

At Daily Kos, diarist blueness has a terrific post. Go read.


The Steinerner Saal of Schloss Nymphenburg, the Seventeenth Century Elector's Palace. The palace is mostly Baroque, with Rococo flourishes, such as these decorations by François de Cuvilliés and Johann Baptist Zimmermann.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Democrats: Stop Being Defensive on Security and Defense, Part 1

The capitulation on the FISA bill is only the latest manifestation of Democrats being ruled by political fear rather than pragmatics and sound policy. This clearly wasn't about fear of terrorism; it was about fear of a political backlash. Beyond the obvious absurdity of being afraid to confront one of the most unpopular "presidents" ever, there is something much more insidiously dangerous at play. This is about a stereotype that has kept Democrats on their political heels for decades: Democrats are weak on defense, soft on national security, the "mommy" party, focused on nurturing and comforting, but not much use when a strong "daddy" is needed. If we're working to shatter such asinine sexual stereotypes, it's time we also shattered this partisan one.

The facts speak for themselves. I've been hammering on this issue for some time, and this is part of the reason why. If Democrats can, as they should, claim the mantle as the party of national security and defense, the Republicans will be without any issue on which to fall back. Beyond that, Democrats will not have to be so reflexively defensive, blustering about their own toughness, while enabling those who want to shred the Constitution and destroy what makes this nation great, supposedly in order to save it.

This will probably be a three-part series, because there is just too much evidence to compile. The three parts will be as follows:

1) The Bush Administration's narrow ideological focus, negligence, and just plain incompetence, enabled the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This is not about Conspiracy Theories, it's about easily demonstrable facts, that are already on record, even in the corporate media. For the purposes of this series, the only thing that matters about Bush and September 11 is that he could have prevented it. For the purposes of this series, it is not about conscious complicity, it is about ineptitude.

2) Bush is undermining our national security from without, by making the United States more hated, around the world, which is emboldening and facilitating terrorists.

3) Bush is undermining our national security from within, by destroying our military.

So, let's begin by looking at the evidence, and reviewing some facts about the Bush Administration's inattention to screaming warnings, before the September 11 attacks. Bush's political strength was built on the media's hyperventilating support, after September 11; but even though they have since reported his failures before September 11, those latter reports have not been sufficiently publicized to overcome that ridiculously inaccurate image they originally helped create.

Right from the start, the Bush Administration was warned of the dangers of terrorism and al Qaeda, and right from the start, they ignored it. As Joe Conason wrote, for
Salon, in August 2003:
Departing National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and the National Security Council's counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, who was held over by Bush, gave Condoleezza Rice a series of urgent briefings on terrorism during the presidential transition in January 2001. "You're going to spend more time during your four years on terrorism generally and al-Qaida specifically than any issue," Berger told his successor. Clarke delivered similar emphatic briefings to Vice President Cheney and to Stephen Hadley, Rice's deputy. But the supposedly competent national security managers in the new administration, including Rice, Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were too preoccupied with other matters (such as national missile defense) to pay heed to the most serious threat since the end of the Cold War.
As CNN reported, in 2004:
President Bush's former counterterrorism chief (Richard Clarke) testified Wednesday that the administration did not consider terrorism an urgent priority before the September 11, 2001, attacks, despite his repeated warnings about Osama bin Laden's terror network.
In fact, the Administration ended or ignored President Clinton's counterterrorism efforts. From the Associated Press, in June 2003:
Though Predator drones spotted Osama bin Laden as many as three times in late 2000, the Bush administration did not fly the unmanned planes over Afghanistan during its first eight months and was still refining a plan to use one armed with missiles to kill the al-Qaida leader when Sept. 11 unfolded, current and former U.S. officials say.
Of course, President Clinton had appointed a commission to study terrorism. Led by former Democratic Senator Gary Hart and former Republican Senator Warren Rudman, the commission made its final report shortly after Bush took office. As Jake Tapper reported, in Salon, the day after September 11:
Bush administration officials told former Sens. Gary Hart, D-Colo., and Warren Rudman, R-N.H., that they preferred instead to put aside the recommendations issued in the January report by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. Instead, the White House announced in May that it would have Vice President Dick Cheney study the potential problem of domestic terrorism -- which the bipartisan group had already spent two and a half years studying -- while assigning responsibility for dealing with the issue to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, headed by former Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh.
As the Washington Post reported, in January 2002:
Bush said that day that Cheney would direct a government-wide review on managing the consequences of a domestic attack, and "I will periodically chair a meeting of the National Security Council to review these efforts." Neither Cheney's review nor Bush's took place.
Bush and his top aides had higher priorities – above all, ballistic missile defense.
In April 2001, Judy Woodruff reported,on CNN that the Bush Administration thought it was wrong to even focus on Osama bin Laden:
The State Department officially released its annual terrorism report just a little more than an hour ago, but unlike last year, there's no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. A senior State Department official tells CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden and "personalizing terrorism."
Because, in the post-Cold War world, nothing could have possibly been more important. And, of course, "missile defense" would have worked wonders in stopping a gang of terrorists armed with boxcutters.

As Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate, in April 2004, that disastrous summer of 2001 had been replete with warnings:
Throughout that summer, we now well know, Tenet, Richard Clarke, and several other officials were running around with their "hair on fire," warning that al-Qaida was about to unleash a monumental attack. On Aug. 6, Bush was given the now-famous President's Daily Brief (by one of Tenet's underlings), warning that this attack might take place "inside the United States." For the previous few years—as Philip Zelikow, the commission's staff director, revealed this morning—the CIA had issued several warnings that terrorists might fly commercial airplanes into buildings or cities.
Even Joe Klein reported on the Administration's incompetence. As he wrote for Time Magazine:
And now, with Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial, and subsequent Washington Post reports, we've been reminded that CIA Director George Tenet warned Rice on July 10, 2001, that "the system was blinking red," meaning that there could be "multiple, simultaneous" al-Qaeda attacks on U.S. interests in the coming weeks or months.
And then, of course, there was the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief, which Bush received while on a month-long vacation. CNN has the transcript. The title, alone, should have been enough:
Bin Laden determined to strike in US.
As Ron Suskind wrote, in his book The One Percent Doctrine, Bush's response to that day's CIA briefer was the following:
All right. You've covered your ass, now.
And the ignorance and incompetence continued, literally right up to the day of the attack.

As Newsweek reported:
At the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld wanted to revamp the military and push his pet project, NMD. Rumsfeld vetoed a request to divert $800 million from missile defense into counterterrorism.
And, according to that January, 2002 Washington Post article:
That threat came Sept. 9.
Not to be outdone, Attorney General John Ashcroft demonstrated his own incompetence, just a day later- a day before the attacks. According to the New York Times:
In his final budget request for the fiscal year 2003 submitted on Sept. 10 to the budget director, Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the attorney general called for spending increases in 68 programs, none of which directly involved counterterrorism. Upgrading the F.B.I.'s computer system, one of the areas in which he sought an increase, is relevant to combating terrorism, though Mr. Ashcroft did not defend it on that ground.

But in his Sept. 10 submission to the budget office, Mr. Ashcroft did not endorse F.B.I. requests for $58 million for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts and 54 additional translators.

Mr. Ashcroft proposed cuts in 14 programs. One proposed $65 million cut was for a program that gives state and local counterterrorism grants for equipment, including radios and decontamination suits and training to localities for counterterrorism preparedness.
That 2002 Washington Post article also lists the following facts:

*President Clinton kept submarines and gunships with cruise missile capabilities covertly deployed "on six-hour alert near Afghanistan's borders." Bush did not.

*Despite having twice warned the Taliban that they would be held accountable for any al Qaeda attacks, when Cheney was briefed, on February 9, 2001, that al Qaeda had carried out the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, Bush did nothing.

*In the spring of 2001, CIA officers made a first-hand assessment of Afghan rebel commander Ahmed Shah Massoud's forces, and although they concluded those forces were in worse shape than they had been the previous summer, they only gave Massoud money and small amounts of supplies; they were not authorized to help Massoud's combat capability against the Taliban.

*Bush did not speak to the public about the threat of terrorism, except to promote "missile defense": "At least three times he mentioned "terrorist threats that face us" to explain the need to discard the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty."

*Interagency disputes "left the administration without a position on legislative initiatives to combat money laundering. And until the summer, Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill suspended U.S. participation in allied efforts to penetrate offshore banking havens, whose secrecy protects the cash flows of drug traffickers, tax evaders and terrorists."

Add it all up, and there is only one conclusion: we didn't need a police state, we didn't need a "Patriot Act", and we didn't need unfettered domestic spying to prevent the September 11 attacks. We only needed an administration that was paying attention. Instead, we had one that was so dogmatic and ideological that it was obsessed with worthless boondoggle gifts to the military industrial complex- like "missile defense", while all around them sirens were screaming about an impending attack.

Any other administration would have been forced from office, for this alone. It's too late for that to happen for this, but it's not too late for Democrats to begin reframing the now standard presumptions about Bush, Republicans, and national security. The worst terrorist attack in U.S. history happened during a Republican administration. It happened because that Republican administration ignored abundant evidence that it was going to happen. The Republicans are not the party of national security and defense, and it's time for the Democrats to start making that clear. Not by assisting their every abuse of power, but by simply repeating the facts, over and over and over. And by offering a better way.


A thriving Greek colony in central Italy was founded in the Seventh Century BCE. The Temple of Apollo is from around 450 BCE, while the Temple of Hera, in the background, is about a century older.

Friday, August 3, 2007


Associated Press:
he Senate, in a high-stakes showdown over national security, voted late Friday to temporarily give President Bush expanded authority to eavesdrop on suspected foreign terrorists without court warrants.

The House, meanwhile, rejected a Democratic version of the bill.

Democratic leaders there were working on a plan to bring up the Senate-passed measure and vote on it Saturday in response to Bush's demand that Congress give him expanded powers before leaving for vacation this weekend.
It's essentially the version Bush wanted.

Spies "R" Us

Washington Post:
A federal intelligence court judge earlier this year secretly declared a key element of the Bush administration's wiretapping efforts illegal, according to a lawmaker and government sources, providing a previously unstated rationale for fevered efforts by congressional lawmakers this week to expand the president's spying powers.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) disclosed elements of the court's decision in remarks Tuesday to Fox News as he was promoting the administration-backed wiretapping legislation. Boehner has denied revealing classified information, but two government officials privy to the details confirmed that his remarks concerned classified information.
The administration breaks the law. So, what should we do about it? Change the law. It's good to be the king.

Associated Press:
President Bush said Friday that Congress must stay in session until it approves legislation modernizing a U.S. law governing eavesdropping on foreigners.

“So far the Democrats in Congress have not drafted a bill I can sign,” Bush said at FBI headquarters, where he was meeting with counterterror and homeland security officials. “We've worked hard and in good faith with the Democrats to find a solution, but we are not going to put our national security at risk. Time is short.”

The president, who has the power under the Constitution to keep Congress in session, said lawmakers cannot leave for their August recess this weekend as planned unless they “pass a bill that will give our intelligence community the tools they need to protect the United States.”

Earlier Friday, the White House offered an eleventh-hour accord to Democrats in the negotiations over the matter, saying it would agree to a court review of its foreign intelligence activities instead of leaving certification up to the attorney general and director of national intelligence.
Well, that's nice. Big olive branch, that. Especially given all that we now know about the partisan criminality of that attorney general.

More Extreme Weather

Almost 20 million people have been displaced as some of the worst floods for years have hit a wide swathe of northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Roads have been washed away and hundreds of villages have been cut off by swollen rivers.

A BBC correspondent in the Indian state of Assam says the air force is organising food drops, but they are nowhere near enough.
It's been raining for 20 days.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Threat of Ethics!

Associated Press:
The Senate sent President Bush a bill Thursday to make lawmakers pay for private plane rides and disclose more about their efforts to fund pet projects and raise money from lobbyists.

Some advocates called it the biggest advance in congressional ethics in decades, but Bush received it coolly. He has "serious concerns" about the measure and has not decided whether to sign it, said White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore.

Democrats, however, hailed the 83-14 Senate vote as proof they are fulfilling their 2006 campaign promise to crack down on lobbying abuses, which sent some lawmakers and a prominent lobbyist to prison. Like the House, the Senate passed the bill by a margin that would overcome a presidential veto, assuming no lawmakers switched sides.
Ethics would always be of serious concern to Bush.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


St. Séverin, a mostly Fourteenth Century Flamboyant Gothic church, on the Left Bank. The narrow street makes it hard to get a decent photo, but the flame-like design in the window typifies this late phase of Gothic architecture.


Associated Press:
The Pentagon accidentally sold to the public more than a thousand aircraft parts that could be used on the F-14 fighter jet -- a plane flown only by Iran -- after saying it had halted such sales, government investigators say.

In a report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, says the Defense Department has greatly improved security in its surplus sales program to prevent the improper selling of sensitive items.

However, GAO investigators found that roughly 1,400 parts that could be used on F-14 "Tomcat" fighter jets were sold to the public in February. That occurred after the Pentagon announced it had suspended sales of all parts that could be used on the Tomcat while it reviewed security concerns.
If only Iran flies that plane, you can be sure they got some of those parts. Now, if we took the Bush Administration lies about Iran at face value, we would have to conclude that Bush Administration ineptitude has us arming the enemy. Once again, even on their own terms, this Administration is a staggering failure.


Associated Press:
President Bush is expected to claim executive privilege to prevent two more White House aides from testifying before Congress about the firings of federal prosecutors.

Thursday is the deadline for Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, to provide testimony and documents related to the firings, under a subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Also subpoenaed was White House political aide J. Scott Jennings. The Justice Department included both men on e-mails about the firings and the administration's response to the congressional investigation.

White House Counsel Fred Fielding has consistently said that top presidential aides -- present and past -- are immune from subpoenas and has declared the documents sought off-limits under executive privilege.
The Divine Right of Kings.


New York Times:
Three bomb attacks in Baghdad today killed more than 65 people, as sectarian and militant violence continued to rage in Iraq.

The Shiite-led government that is trying to cope with the violence, meanwhile, suffered a political setback today, when the largest Sunni Arab political bloc in the parliament followed through on a threat to walk out of the coalition cabinet that is trying to unify the country.

One of the bombs detonated in Baghdad today was in a car outside a popular ice cream shop in the central district of Karrada. The explosion killed at least 15 people and injured more than 35. Another attack in the neighborhood last week killed 60.


Condoleezza Rice: The Real Ugly American

The BBC has an interesting little article about a statement made by Condoleezza Rice, during a stop in Ireland:
During a stop-over in Shannon, Ireland, Ms Rice told reporters: "There isn't a doubt, I think, that Iran constitutes the single most important, single-country challenge to... US interests in the Middle East and to the kind of Middle East that we want to see."
Now, any informed reader knows that Iran is not sending arms to Iraq, despite Bush Administration lies to the contrary. And any informed reader knows that Iran is now allowing IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities. And any informed reader would have to wonder why Iran is the focus, when the State Department, just last week, criticized Saudi Arabia for undermining the war effort in Iraq, just as the Administration prepared to sell the Saudis some $20 billion worth of weapons. But nevermind all that. What matters is what Rice said:
"There isn't a doubt, I think, that Iran constitutes the single most important, single-country challenge to... US interests in the Middle East and to the kind of Middle East that we want to see."
Taking a closer look at her wording, we see what, in a nutshell, defines Bush Administration foreign policy. Iran constitutes the greatest threat to the kind of Middle East that we want to see! Get it? Rice isn't saying anything about what might be best for the Middle East itself, for that's clearly of no concern. The only thing that matters is U.S. interests, and the Middle East that she wants to create- regardless if it's what people in the Middle East want to see created, or even if such a Middle East is even possible. Given what we know about the Bush Administration's absolute ignorance about the history and cultures of the Middle East- not to mention that there is a history, and that there are separate cultures- it's not likely that her vision for the Middle East even plausibly relates to what's known as reality. Condoleezza Rice has just made herself the personification of the arrogant Ugly American.

Of course, in the real Middle East, in a country called "Iraq", real people are suffering horribly from the disasters wrought by the Bush Administration's Ugly Americanism. The Guardian has this story:
The number of Iraqi children who are born underweight or suffer from malnutrition has increased sharply since the US-led invasion, according to a report by Oxfam and a network of about 80 aid agencies.

The report describes a nationwide catastrophe, with around 8 million Iraqis - almost a third of the population - in need of emergency aid. Many families have dropped out of the food rationing system because they have been displaced by fighting and sectarian conflict. Others suffer from the collapse in basic services caused by the exodus of doctors and hospital staff.

Although the security crisis forced Oxfam and other agencies to withdraw their foreign staff from Iraq to Jordan within a year of the invasion, many Iraqi non-governmental organisations still work in the country and receive supplies from abroad.
And the BBC reported, last week, that:
An international conference in Jordan on the more than two million Iraqi refugees uprooted by war has pledged to help them with their difficulties.

But it insisted the solution to the problem lay in their return home and that the Iraqi government was directly responsible for its displaced citizens.

The UN refugee agency, Unrwa, said some 50,000 more Iraqis were escaping the violence in their homeland each month.
Two million refugees. Eight million in need of emergency aid. Can we just now accept the reality that the Middle East the Bush Administration wants to see isn't much good for the actual human beings that actually live there? Can we just accept that it's actually an astonishing humanitarian disaster?

Of course, Rice has the answer for all the Middle East's problems: sell more weapons. As the Guardian reports:
The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, today said plans to sell billions of dollars of weapons to the Middle East would shore up friendly regimes against al-Qaida and Iran.

Ms Rice, who was visiting Egypt with the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, denied the arms sales were a move to ensure the support of states including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

"This is not an issue of quid pro quo," she said. "We are working with these states to fight back extremism. We all have the same interest in a stable Iraq that can defend itself ... and be unified."

More Domestic Spying?

Washington Post:
The Bush administration's chief intelligence official said yesterday that President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described.

The disclosure by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, appears to be the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005.

The Real Threat In Iraq

McClatchy Newspapers:
Despite President Bush's recent insistence that al Qaida in Iraq is the principal cause of this country's violence, senior American military officers here say Shiite Muslim militias are a bigger problem, and one that will persist even if al Qaida is defeated.

"The longer-term threat to Iraq is potentially the Shiite militias," one senior military officer said, echoing concerns that other American officials raised in recent interviews with McClatchy Newspapers.

Military officers hail the fact that violence is down as evidence that their campaign against al Qaida in Iraq is succeeding. But there's no sign of reconciliation between Sunni Muslims and Shiites, the rationale the Bush administration cites for increasing the number of U.S. troops in the country.