Kristol shows his complete inability to empathise with this woman's pain. He simply responds with the usual tosh.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Kristol shows his complete inability to empathise with this woman's pain. He simply responds with the usual tosh.
There is growing criticism of Stephen Hadley and his search for a new war czar by some who see the new war czar role as one that Hadley himself should be fulfilling and his search to appoint someone else as merely an attempt to shift the blame for a war that is going southwards.
It's hard to argue with this logic. After all, why has this role been identified as critical four years into the war? Why wasn't this seen as critical earlier?
“Steve Hadley is an intelligent, capable guy, but I don’t think this reflects very well on him,” said David J. Rothkopf, author of “Running the World,” a book about the National Security Council. “I wouldn’t even call it a Hail Mary pass. It’s kind of a desperation move.”
Mr. Rothkopf sees the new position as “a tactic to separate the national security adviser from Iraq” — a way to save Mr. Hadley’s reputation. Ivo Daalder, a former Clinton administration official who is co-writing a book on national security advisers, said the proposal “raises profound questions” about Mr. Hadley’s “ability to put heads together and make sure that the president’s wishes are in fact his commands.”
There is going to be a lot of this in the months to come as the Bushites seek people to blame for their failed war strategy and I'm not remotely surprised that there hasn't been a rush of applicants to have this particular noose tied around their necks.
Mr. Hadley is one of Mr. Bush’s closest advisers. He is the first person the president sees in the Oval Office each morning and a constant, sober presence on international trips. Yet he is so relentlessly low-profile that it is difficult to get a fix on his views. Even his admirers have a hard time assessing his performance.
“I’m a big fan of Steve Hadley,” said Kurt Campbell, founder of the Center for New American Security, an independent research organization in Washington. “Whether he’s in the right job, and whether it’s too difficult, I’m not really sure.”
Indeed, with Tenet taking to the airwaves to protest over how he was made a scapegoat for the Iraq invasion and the lack of WMD, there are enough reminders for everyone about how ruthless this administration are in finding other people to blame for their own inadequacies.
The party of personal responsibility only ever adhere to that principle when they are applying it to other people, when it comes to their own failings they are always swift to move the focus on to others.
For what other excuse could there be for Hadley outsourcing his own job?
Indeed, which is why it looks like, and is, merely a blame game.
With Mr. Rumsfeld gone and Mr. Bush taking a more assertive role in managing the war, people inside and outside the White House say the balance of power has shifted, and Mr. Hadley has emerged as more of a force. As Fred Kagan, a military historian who is considered the co-author of the troop buildup strategy, said, “I get the sense of a guy who is trying to do his job at a very difficult time and is actually being allowed to do it for the first time.”
That is one reason the war czar proposal has left some in Washington scratching their heads. At a recent press conference, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates described it this way: “This is what Steve Hadley would do if Steve Hadley had the time.”
But Mr. Daalder, who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, was mystified. “If Hadley doesn’t have time for this,” he asked, “what does he have time for? Our policy toward Nicaragua?”
Click title for full article.
The only real wonder after the debacle of the Lebanon war is that Ehud Olmert has managed to hold on for so long. He went to war supposedly to rescue two captured soldiers which somehow morphed into the destruction of Hizbullah. Needless to say he achieved neither and caused billions of dollars of damage to Beirut and killed tens of thousands of innocent Lebanese in a campaign that almost destroyed Israel's reputation as a superpower in the Middle East.
Now the media are leaking that a new report into what went wrong is going to lay the blame at Olmert's doorstep.
This really can't be surprising to anyone who followed the campaign. Olmert appeared to be attempting to be more ruthless than Sharon, without the cold military objective that accounted for most of that old war criminal's actions. As a result his campaign in Lebanon was cruel and pointless, lacking any identifiable military purpose. It really was a war crime, a needless attack on innocent people, and the clearest example of collective punishment that I ever expect to see in my lifetime.
And the dropping of cluster bombs on civilian areas in the last few days of that war would, in any fair world where law and order operated out with of political power, have resulted in him standing in the dock in the Hague.
As things stand, we have to be content with a report that may force him to resign. Of course, all the signs are that he's not going to go easily.
Sources said he had no intention of quitting or dodging responsibility. He would go on trying to persuade Israelis that he had made the right decisions. They have refused to be convinced. A poll published yesterday in the Ma'ariv daily newspaper found only 2.3 per cent of voters supporting his premiership. More than 20 per cent thought that Theodor Herzl, the father of political Zionism who died in 1904, would do it better.When you're premiership is supported by a mere 2.3% of the public you are starting to make Dick Cheney look popular.
Already the Kadima Party are distancing themselves from him.
Members of Mr Olmert's Kadima, a centrist party founded by Ariel Sharon 18 months ago, began to speculate on how and when he might be replaced. "Kadima is not Olmert," one of them warned, "and he will not take it down with him."Olmert can struggle to hold on for as long as he wants but it appears clear that his days have been numbered since the end of that disastrous Lebanon campaign. As I say, the real marvel is that he has managed to hold on as long as he has done.
Nor should one forget that George Bush enthusiastically supported this dumb campaign, a campaign that he was, in fact, dumb enough to want to expand to include Iran and Syria. Olmert was, at least, wise enough to ignore neo-con calls for expansion. The pity of these calls for resignation coming now is that most people have forgotten just how involved George Bush and the neo-cons were in this disaster.
Indeed, they were so involved that -at the height of the fighting and when it became obvious that Israel were about to lose the campaign - William Kristol broke from the ranks to declare that Israel's wars were America's wars and demanded that the US fight alongside her Middle Eastern ally, destroying any notion of the US as an "honest broker", a term that most of us had long thought of as a bad joke anyway.
The shame is that, almost a year later, most people have forgotten just how clearly involved the neo-cons were in this dumb and illegal campaign. So, should Olmert fall, his fall will appear unconnected to Bush and his cronies, a feat that has only been achieved with the passage of time and memory loss. For Bush and his neo-con buddies were in this up to their eyeballs.
Olmert deserves a much harsher fate than the one that awaits him. He should count himself very lucky if the only punishment he receives for his war crimes is that he is forced to resign.
Tzipi Livni, the Foreign Minister and now the most favoured candidate to succeed Mr Olmert, was keeping a low profile, although her friends have hinted that she is ready to take over when the time is right.
Other ministers were cautious, fearing that they would also be held to account. Mr Olmert's aides have reminded them that they voted unanimously to go to war. Meir Sheetrit, the Housing Minister, said: "I have seen enough governments eulogised prematurely. It's too early."
Yossi Verter, the political correspondent for the liberal daily Ha'aretz, said that Mr Olmert's future would be decided by the people in the street. "Not the politicians, not even the media, will decide the Prime Minister's fate," he wrote.
"The bereaved families will speak their mind; so will the reservists. They will try to topple the government, or at least remove the Prime Minister."
Personally, I would accord him a much more severe punishment. Wanton destruction is a war crime. Collective punishment is a war crime.
And this man indulged in both.
Click title for full article.
Posted by Kel at 7:48 AM
Sunday, April 29, 2007
It's simply astonishing to look back at the way these thugs sold this war. Kristol called Iraq, "The most dangerous terrorist state in the world" whilst Perle assured viewers that "We will be greeted as liberators". Why does anyone continue to listen to these dreadful blowhards?
Posted by Kel at 10:12 AM
Prince Bandar has been such a stalwart of the Bush administrations that he has earned himself the nickname Bandar Bush, however, there are now noises coming from Washington that he may have outlived his usefulness.
Bush administration officials have been scratching their heads over steps taken by Prince Bandar’s uncle, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, that have surprised them by going against the American playbook, after receiving assurances to the contrary from Prince Bandar during secret trips he made to Washington.
For instance, in February, King Abdullah effectively torpedoed plans by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for a high-profile peace summit meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, by brokering a power-sharing agreement with Mr. Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas that did not require Hamas to recognize Israel or forswear violence. The Americans had believed, after discussions with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis were on board with the strategy of isolating Hamas.
American officials also believed, again after speaking with Prince Bandar, that the Saudis might agree to direct engagement with Israel as part of a broad American plan to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. King Abdullah countermanded that plan.
Most bitingly, during a speech before Arab heads of state in Riyadh three weeks ago, the king condemned the American invasion of Iraq as “an illegal foreign occupation.” The Bush administration, caught off guard, was infuriated, and administration officials have found Prince Bandar hard to reach since.
The Bush administration are said to be puzzled by these latest developments, apparently unaware of the geographic position of Saudi Arabia and the general unrest throughout the region that the instability of the Iraq war is causing.
Bush may famously ignore opinion polls, but other leaders do so at their peril, and King Abdullah is probably very aware of how much damage his perceived closeness to the United States is doing to his popularity. Especially at a time when the US is not only occupying Iraq but is also making not too subtle references towards regime change in Iran.
It's been interesting to watch the Bush administration's total inability to do diplomacy. It stems from an almost chronic lack of understanding of what a partner needs in order to please their home audience whilst assisting the US in any way they can.
Tony Blair has often been left out to dry by this bunch and some of their actions in Pakistan have, at times, looked as if they don't care whether Musharraf's regime stands or falls. The Bush regime's myopic world view and total lack of empathy to another person's political plight has rendered them simply appalling allies.
And yet, when a country in the Middle East starts to distance itself from them they react with puzzlement. "What could we possibly have done wrong?"
Of course, almost unreported in the US press but thankfully recorded in Bob Woodward's book, "State of Denial", the reason is one that has already been explained to President Bush by Prince Bandar:
At one point Bandar even carried a message to Bush from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia which stated, "What pained the Crown Prince more is the continuance of American ignorance of Israel upholding policies as if a drop of Jewish blood is equal to a thousand Palestinian lives.Since that warning there has been a patching up between the two country's but essentially the Bush regime have made little genuine effort in addressing the Israeli-Palestine question; indeed, the last six years have been amongst the most inactive in living memory.
He went as far as to say, "Therefore the Crown Prince will not communicate in any form, type or shape with you, and Saudi Arabia will take all it's political, economic and security decisions based on how it sees it's own interest in the region without taking into account American interests anymore because it is obvious that the United States has taken a strategic decision adopting Sharon's policies."
Powell apparently followed Bandar out of the Oval Office, cornering him saying, "What the fuck are you doing? You're putting the fear of God into everybody here. You scared the shit out of everybody!"
To which Bandar replied, "I don't give a damn what you feel. We are scared ourselves."
And the Bushites are puzzled as to why a country in the Middle East might be plotting a separate course from their own?
Blair and Musharraf discovered to their political cost just how toxic a friendship with Bush can be. King Abdullah appears to be deciding that the cost is, for him, simply too much to bear.
So now we'll listen to those brainiacs inside the beltway lamenting the failure of Prince Bandar, and all the while ignoring the fact that the failure emanated from inside the Bush White House.
Friendships are two way streets. That is something that the neo-cons, with their over-preening arrogance, have simply never understood. Within the next month, Blair will be gone, and you can bet your house that Brown will not foster the same kind of relationship with the US that Blair did. It would simply be political suicide for him to do so. So now the US is starting to lose two of it's most faithful allies. The UK and Saudi Arabia.
That's a feat of such staggering incompetence that I would have thought even Bush couldn't be dumb enough to pull off. But, once again, he's managed to surprise us all by being even more incompetent than we presumed.
Click title for full article.
For years the right wing press have condemned the media for failing to tell the good news stories that they insist have been emanating from Iraq. Now it transpires that many of those "good news stories" were simply mirages.
Nor were these abandoned projects limited to any single area of the country, but rather were found to be widespread and included projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.
In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.
The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.
What's most crucial here is that the rebuilding programmes were supposed to work side by side with the pacification of the violence in order to build a new Iraq.
At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.
At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.
The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.
The reasons these projects are failing is very simple.
The problems with the generators were seemingly minor: missing batteries, a failure to maintain adequate oil levels in the engines, fuel lines that had been pilfered or broken. That kind of neglect is typical of rebuilding programs in developing countries when local nationals are not closely involved in planning efforts, said Rick Barton, co-director of the postconflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research organization in Washington.
“What ultimately makes any project sustainable is local ownership from the beginning in designing the project, establishing the priorities,” Mr. Barton said. “If you don’t have those elements it’s an extension of colonialism and generally it’s resented.”
Mr. Barton, who has closely monitored reconstruction efforts in Iraq and other countries, said the American rebuilding program had too often created that resentment by imposing projects on Iraqis or relying solely on the advice of a local tribal chief or some “self-appointed representative” of local Iraqis.
Only last month, Brig. Gen. Michael Walsh, commander of the Gulf Region Division of the Army Corps, chastised the press saying, “what you don’t see are the successes in the reconstruction program, how reconstruction is making a difference in the lives of everyday Iraqi people.”
And this has been a constant theme of the Bush administration, that there is - somewhere - a good news Iraq story that the press are failing to pass on to the rest of us. These findings render that claim hollow, like most of the good news claims the right wing insist are emanating from Iraq.
And when this miserable adventure fails, as it will, these same people will scurry about looking for others to blame. Four years into this misadventure, four years in which every possible way in which one could measure success - number of civilians killed, numbers of US soldiers killed and the violence in Iraq generally - have all pointed to miserable defeat, have been dismissed by Bush supporters as a sign of the desperation of the insurgency and a further indication that success actually lies just over the next hill.
And now we find that they are actually pouring money into a huge pit. Their projects are simply lying abandoned. Even the ones that they previously touted as great successes.
The whole project has been a miserable failure and the people who supported it should be filled with the deepest shame, were such an emotion even within their grasp.
They have destroyed Iraq, they have broken it into it's disparate pieces and now they simply don't know what to do next. So they continue to insist that they must do something - surge - anything, other than admit to the sheer catastrophic scale of their failure.
Click title for full article.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
The lies that led to this war. And they knew they were lies when they told them...
These people should be jailed. JAILED.
Bush's lies have killed more people than Saddam ever did. And he KNEW he was lying; as did Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of them...
Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.
I know I'm a couple of weeks behind the loop on this one, but I simply had to post this.
Craig Ferguson talks about the shallow culture that leads us to mock people like Britney Spears rather than the pompous asses that actually deserve our ridicule. I haven't seen enough of his show to know if this is typical, but if it is, I'm not surprised that the Emmy's sat up and took notice.
The brilliant Jon Stewart on why Gonzales behaviour before the Senate Judiciary Committee was actually reminiscent of a Mafioso getting nicked for the first time, and that's why Bush was so pleased with him. He didn't squeal...
It's actually a brilliant analysis and it fits these thugs perfectly....
Posted by Kel at 7:39 PM
The latest suggestion from team Bush causes considerable disquiet - except for the person from Texas!
This is hysterical. A disgruntled Republican has made this video and posted it on YouTube to protest over Giuliani's positioning on same sex partnerships. I've long believed that Conservative's are simply people who try to stop history's advancements. If one looks at the right's achieved by most minority groups over the past hundred years, they have all been achieved despite conservative protests. The last century, in terms of black, gay and women's rights, was most certainly a liberal one.
In the UK, even the Tories have had to abandon their traditional gay bashing rhetoric to have any chance of being elected. Why are Republicans so far behind modernity?
It is simply astonishing to me that there are still people on the planet for whom this news might be regarded as controversial or even as news, but from arguments that I have within the comments section here I know that such people still exist.
White House and Pentagon officials, and particularly Vice President Cheney, were determined to attack Iraq from the first days of the Bush administration, long before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and repeatedly stretched available intelligence to build support for the war, according to a new book by former CIA director George J. Tenet.Although Tenet does not question the threat Saddam Hussein posed or the sincerity of administration beliefs, he recounts numerous efforts by aides to Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to insert "crap" into public justifications for the war. Tenet also describes an ongoing fear within the intelligence community of the administration's willingness to "mischaracterize complex intelligence information."
There are a number of Bush devotees who still believe that Bush and his cohorts were somehow misled by the intelligence - which Bush and Co sincerely believed - and that they and every other intelligence agency in the world believed that Saddam represented a threat. This ignores the fact that no other intelligence agency in the world - with the exception of dear Tony - regarded this threat as serious enough to warrant an invasion, or even serious enough to grant UN permission for the US and UK to invade on their own with no risk whatsoever to the troops of other country's.
And, of course, the implication that other country's shared the intelligence that the US and UK shared on Iraq implies that there was even such a thing as intelligence on Iraq. Robin Cook, who had once been British Foreign Secretary and had therefore seen all our available intelligence on Iraq, quit the government in protest over the impending war because he had seen nothing that implied that Iraq had the WMD that Bush and Blair were claiming.
Indeed, he made the position clear when he spoke before the foreign affairs select committee inquiry.
Mr Cook cast doubt on both dossiers of evidence against the Iraqi leader, revealing that "Iraq was an appallingly difficult intelligence target to break".The truth is that there was almost no intelligence to speak of regarding Iraq. Indeed, even Blair, despite having labelled the intelligence "extensive, detailed and authoritative" before the war, admitted afterwards that it was actually "sporadic and patchy".
So Tenet's revelations that Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney were vastly overselling their case should come as a surprise to no-one.
And yet, they still have their believers. Despite voluminous evidence to the contrary they continue to insist that Bush and Co somehow acted in good faith and were thwarted by faulty intelligence that they sincerely believed in. This ignores almost everything that these people engaged in before this war began.
Cheney continues, even now, to insist on facts that are known to be untrue. He continues to repeat allegations that have been proven to be false. And yet he keeps saying them.
A speech by Cheney in August 2002 "went well beyond what our analysis could support," Tenet writes. The speech charged, among other things, that Hussein had restarted his nuclear program and would "acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon . . . perhaps within a year." Caught off-guard by the remarks, which had not been cleared by the CIA, Tenet says he considered confronting the vice president on the subject but did not.
"Would that have changed his future approach?" he asks. "I doubt it but I should not have let silence imply an agreement." Policymakers, he writes, "have a right to their own opinions, but not their own set of facts."
If he continues to take this course of action even though the facts have now been long established, how can anyone doubt that he attempted to create his own reality devoid of facts before the war?
These people were always intent on invading Iraq and set out to find evidence that supported a decision that had already been taken. This led them to accept anything that supported invasion and to dismiss anything that stood in it's way.
So the Iraq war was not a failure of intelligence, it was a deliberate misuse of intelligence by a group of ideologues who were long predisposed to invade. And after the invasion proved their presumptions false they simply set out to blame others for them arriving at conclusions that their own warped ideology had led them to.
It's quite one of the most shameful periods in American history. Future generations will look back at the Bush period in office and shudder. In this way his Presidency might actually have a value. If only that people will be able to look back at an America that suspended Habeas Corpus, detained prisoners without trial and engaged in torture and say: Never again.
That may very well be the Bush legacy. A mistake never to be repeated. It's actually the best legacy he can hope for.
Click title for full article.
While warning Congress not to test his will by sending him another bill that includes a withdrawal date, President Bush said: “I invite the leaders of the House and the Senate, both parties, to come down, you know, soon after my veto so we can discuss a way forward.” He later issued an official invitation for Congressional leaders to meet at the White House on Wednesday.This seems a wise move on his part. The more he has pushed this confrontation, the more the public have sided with the Dems on this issue.
Harry Reid, who has always sought a negotiated end to this dilemma, reacted favourably:
“We are legislators,” said Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, speaking to reporters in New York where members of his party gathered yesterday for their annual policy retreat. “We understand legislation is the art of compromise, consensus building. We are willing to sit down and talk with the president, but we have certain things we believe to be important to the country. I’m sure he does too.”Further noises from the White House confirmed this:
“We’re entering a different phase in which I think the statements have been made, the votes have been cast,” said Dan Bartlett, the counselor to Mr. Bush, “and while the president still has the responsibility to veto this bill, today’s statement demonstrates that he’s looking beyond the veto to how we can get the funding to our troops.”The Republicans are proposing accepting a bill which includes benchmarks for the Iraqi administration as long as those benchmarks are "advisory and nonbinding", which almost defeats the purpose of adding benchmarks in the first place. What's the point of making a threat if you also guarantee not to carry it out?
Republicans say that tying benchmarks to consequences is “a little more divisive”.
Mr. Reid offered little hint yesterday of Democrats’ post-veto strategy. But he said they had an obligation to the American people, the troops and their families, “recognizing we are the difference between changing course and not changing course.”There will obviously have to be some give and take next week. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out.
Click title for full article.
Prince Harry will be a prime kidnap target for insurgents in Iraq, a commander in the Mahdi army, the Shia militia loyal to the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, has told the Guardian.This reveals the idiocy of employing royals within the military. You would be as well simply painting a bullseye on the bugger's back.
"One of our aims is to capture Harry, we have people inside the British bases to inform us on when he will arrive," claimed Abu Mujtaba, who commands a unit of around 50 men active in the Mahdi army in Basra.
In comments denounced by British defence sources as "blatant propaganda", Abu Mujtaba told the Guardian: "We have a special unit that would work to track him down, with informants inside the bases.
"Not only us, the Mahdi army, that will try to capture him, but every person who hates the British and the Americans will try to get him, all the mujahideens in Iraq, the al-Qaida, the Iranians all will try to get him."
Abu Mujtaba continued: "For me he is just a British soldier and he should be killed if comes to Iraq, but let's be realistic, we can kill hundreds of British soldiers before forcing them to withdraw - like what's happening with Americans now - but Harry is a bigger catch and we will force the British to come on their knees and talk to us."
Not only that, but every other soldier who serves within his regiment will be in more danger than they would otherwise be because Harry is amongst them.
The behaviour of the royals has had to change as they attempt to find some justification for their exalted position in a modern world and they have somehow alighted upon: "we're just like the rest of you, except you have to bow before us whenever we meet."
It is this attempt to be one of the people - and simultaneously above the people - that has led to the bizarre notion that Harry should serve his country by going to Iraq. I can see the PR value of what they are proposing, but the risk to other people serving beside him renders the whole exercise futile.
Figureheads, and lets face it royals really have no function other than that, should remain figureheads. The minute they head into the trenches to prove they are just like the rest of us they are actually more of a hindrance than a help.
And, as an aside, I notice that the Iraqis have little faith in this army that we have trained and armed:
A senior Iraqi defence ministry official said that militias could overrun Basra relatively easily because they had successfully infiltrated local security forces. "When the Brits formed these forces they depended on these militias for lists of recruits," he said.Oh, that's just dinky. We've armed the militias and given them Iraqi uniforms. "Tally-ho! Harry, lead the way, I promise you it's going to be pucker!"
Click title for full article.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Robert Greenwald has a new project:
In honor of all those who have been killed, whose lives have been destroyed in this terrible war of choice, we have been working hard on a short film that will not let that horrific day go unnoticed.
Watch the film and spread it far and wide.
We've also got a contest going looking for what SHOULD have been on the "mission accomplished" banner. Submit your banner and the winning one will be on car bumpers all over the country! (You'll get some cool stuff too) For more details, and to enter, click here.
Gravel doesn't have a chance in Hell, but it's interesting to hear someone simply tell the truth. Even the big hitters like Obama seem to feel that they have to play the "Nothing's off the table with regard to Iran" card.
George Tenet is producing a new book on Monday called “At the Center of the Storm” in which he claims that there was "never any serious debate" in the White House as to whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States.
“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” Mr. Tenet writes in a devastating judgement that is likely to be debated for many years. Nor, he adds, “was there ever a significant discussion” about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion.He is also scathing about Vice President Cheney and alleges that, although he did say the famous "slam dunk" remark, that this had very little to do with the administration's final decision to go to war. He also baldly states that the White House tried to blame the CIA when the WMD failed to materialise.
He describes a White House in which a handful of Pentagon officials, including Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith were determined to go to war with Iraq from as early as 2001. This is, of course, totally consistent with the neo-con policy that was pushed by the Project for a New American Century, which many members of the Bush administration were adherents to.
Mr. Tenet described with sarcasm watching an episode of “Meet the Press” last September in which Mr. Cheney twice referred to Mr. Tenet’s “slam dunk” remark as the basis for the decision to go to war.
“I remember watching and thinking, ‘As if you needed me to say ‘slam dunk’ to convince you to go to war with Iraq,’ ” Mr. Tenet writes.
As violence in Iraq spiraled beginning in late 2003, Mr. Tenet writes, “rather than acknowledge responsibility, the administration’s message was: Don’t blame us. George Tenet and the C.I.A. got us into this mess.”
Mr. Tenet takes blame for the flawed 2002 National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq’s weapons programs, calling the episode “one of the lowest moments of my seven-year tenure.” He expresses regret that the document was not more nuanced, but says there was no doubt in his mind at the time that Saddam Hussein possessed unconventional weapons. “In retrospect, we got it wrong partly because the truth was so implausible,” he writes.
As we all know, Cheney has continued to peddle these remarkable lies for the past four years, no matter how many times he is told that they are untrue.
Mr. Tenet describes helping to kill a planned speech by Mr. Cheney on the eve of the invasion because its claims of links between Al Qaeda and Iraq went “way beyond what the intelligence shows.”
“Mr. President, we cannot support the speech and it should not be given,” Mr. Tenet wrote that he told Mr. Bush. Mr. Cheney never delivered the remarks.
Tenet also describes how his relationship with the administration was "changed forever" by the attempts of Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, to pin the blame on to Tenet for the inclusion of the famous sixteen words in the State of the Union address.
Nor does he appear to approve of Bush's new surge policy:
He also expresses skepticism about whether the increase in troops in Iraq will prove successful. “It may have worked more than three years ago,” he wrote. “My fear is that sectarian violence in Iraq has taken on a life of its own and that U.S. forces are becoming more and more irrelevant to the management of that violence.”He also appears to be backing the claims of many other participants in the Bush White House that terrorism was a low priority for Bush prior to 9-11.
Personally, I think this is too little, too late. Tenet could have, more than any other person in the world, put a spanner in the works had he not agreed to allow the limited intelligence the US had to be presented to the public in the misleading way that it was, and he could certainly have been more vocal about the way the administration was seeking to link Saddam to 9-11 in the public's mind.
He contends that the urgent appeals of the C.I.A. on terrorism received a lukewarm reception at the Bush White House through most of 2001.
“The bureaucracy moved slowly,” and only after the Sept. 11 attacks was the C.I.A. given the counterterrorism powers it had requested earlier in the year.
I can understand his anger that the Bushies tried to make him and the CIA carry the can for the whole debacle that is the Iraq war, but - to be fair - he didn't make that very hard for them. After all, he was the head of the CIA and he did sit behind Colin Powell gravely nodding as he read that pile of bull to the UN.
As head of the CIA it was Tenet's job to be sceptical. Instead, he appeared to fall over himself in an attempt to give the administration what it wanted.
It may be very unfair, but I find my judgement is much harsher when it comes to people like Powell and Tenet who caved in to these ideologues. I suppose this is because I have never had a modicum of respect for most of this administration and those two came across as straight hitters, which made their conversion to the dark side all the more unforgivable.
Nor do Tenet's regrets stretch as far as the people now being tortured in US detention centres.
Mr. Tenet gives a vigorous defense of the C.I.A.’s program to hold captured Qaeda members in secret overseas jails and to question them with harsh techniques, which he does not explicitly describe.The American dream doesn't fall apart when dark people like Dick Cheney do the kind of dark deeds that is their hallmark. It falls apart when good people like Powell and Tenet find themselves embracing Cheney's manifesto's heartlessness.
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With the veto coming, some Democrats argue that the bill should simply be stripped of the timelines that have drawn Mr. Bush’s ire and sent back with the benchmarks and troop readiness rules intact. Others say Congress has made its antiwar statement and should now give the president the money without conditions.
Another wing, including House Democrats who are influential on military policy, prefers providing money for the troops for a few months while keeping pressure on the White House through other Pentagon-related legislation. Still others want to turn the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group into law.
Each alternative carries its own risk because Democratic leaders might not be able to muster the votes for passage of an alternate bill because a substantial bloc of Democrats opposes providing more money without some demand for a withdrawal.
Opinion polls yesterday showed that 55% of Americans now believe that the Iraq war is lost, saying that they now feel victory is no longer possible. A pitiful 22% believe that America is moving in the right direction with a whopping 66% saying that the country is moving in the wrong direction. These are the worst figures for fifteen years. Nor does there appear to be any support for Bush's "surge" or any belief that the "surge" is turning things around in Iraq. 49% think things in Iraq have become worse in the last three months with only a tiny 12% sharing Bush's optimism that the surge is working. Worse for the White House, 56% favour the Democratic solution of pulling out the troops whilst 37% favour Bush's plan to give things more time.
Bush has always said that a President can't run a country on opinion polls, but he has also said that the public will punish the Democrats if they oppose his plans and fail to support the troops on the battlefield; on that he appears to be totally wrong.
The public have aligned themselves strongly behind the Democratic position on this and it would appear that support for this war is now haemorrhaging.
Nor are these results unique to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
Recent public opinion polls show the Democrats, with a push for a timeline for leaving Iraq, have struck a chord. A New York Times-CBS News poll found that those surveyed favored a timeline for withdrawal in 2008 by a wide margin, 64 percent to 32 percent. The poll of 1,052 people conducted April 20-24 also found public support for Congress to have the final say on troop levels in Iraq, 57 percent to 35 percent.
“Eighty days after President Bush submitted his troop funding bill, the Senate has now joined the House in passing defeatist legislation that insists on a date for surrender, micromanages our commanders and generals in combat zones from 6,000 miles away, and adds billions of dollars in unrelated spending to the fighting on the ground,” said Dana Perino, the administration spokeswoman.The joke here is that the commanders and generals on the ground have always been micromanaged from the White House. We should not forget that Army Gen. John P. Abizaid opposed more troops being sent to Iraq for Bush's surge and that he had to be replaced. So much for not micromanaging the war from 6,000 miles away.
Nor did he only replace Abizaid, he also had to remove General George Casey for the same reason. He opposed the troop increase. Why is that not micromanaging the war from 6,000 miles away?
Bush has long pretended that he is allowing the generals to run the Iraq war but this is only true as long as they agree with him, as soon as they don't agree with his latest shift in policy they have to go.
Nor should we forget that this Bush administration have only arrived where they are now because they micromanaged the war - even before the invasion - and insisted that they knew better than the generals how many troops would be needed to carry out the invasion and occupation.
Paul Wolfowitz said that general Shinseki's comments that a couple of hundred thousand troops would be needed to stabilise Iraq after the invasion were "wildly off the mark". I wonder if Wolfowitz, with the chaos that is now swirling through Iraq, would ever have the courtesy to admit that Shinseki was right and he was wrong.
The civilians in the White House have always contended that they knew better than the generals on the ground which is why the Iraq war is in the state that it is in, so it's beyond irony for Bush and Co to accuse the Democrats of "micromanaging the war from 6,000 miles away".
I have no idea what the Democrats will do if Bush vetoes the bill and I'm not sure the Democrats do either. But they should not be swayed by arguments that the public will punish them for opposing this White House, and they certainly should pay no attention to charges that they are attempting to "micromanage the war from 6,000 miles away" from a man who has been doing that very thing with disastrous consequences for the past four years.
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Thursday, April 26, 2007
It's fascinating to witness the myriad of ways that either serving or former UK Generals have sought to distance themselves from British politicians and their decision to invade Iraq.
Major General Richard Shirreff has said that British forces have been underfunded for the last ten years - the precise time that Labour has been in power - and warned that the covenant between the UK and its service personnel was "seriously out of kilter".
General the Lord Guthrie in his first interview since quitting as Chief of the Defence Staff has described Britain's campaign in Afghanistan as "cuckoo".
General Sir Richard Dannatt has argued that our presence in Iraq is actually making the situation worse and that we should leave "soon".
I can think of no other campaign in which the army have been in almost open revolt with the British government.
And now, today, Major General Julian Thompson - a veteran of the Falklands war - asks us not to forget why our soldiers are dying, and reminds us:
The Iraq war is unpopular, but our forces are there because they were ordered to go there. They know they have friends, even relations, who oppose the war, and some of them have reservations themselves. Yet they go off quietly to serve and do their duty. Some of them come back injured. Some of them die.He admits that the war is unpopular but points out that the soldiers "were ordered to go there" and that "some of them have reservations themselves." This is far cry from the claims of John McCain that American troops are enthusiastic about the campaign. Perhaps the British troops are simply more cynical than their American counterparts, although I suspect that McCain is simply using the troops to bolster his argument. I would certainly accept the claims of a British General concerning troop morale before that of a man seeking Presidential office on the back of a failing military campaign.
He then delivers the same message the Democrats have been arguing for the past couple of years:
Because of Iraq we took our eye off Afghanistan, and that is why we are back in Afghanistan now.Now, of course, the Republicans have long argued that this is not the case. Indeed, they have sought to portray Iraq as the natural progression from Afghanistan in the War on Terror. Here, General Thompson makes quite clear that by ignoring Afghanistan in the rush to invade Iraq, a situation has been created in which we are having to fight portions of the Afghanistan war all over again.
He then makes sure that we are under no illusion about who the army blames for the predicament that they now find themselves in.
Iraq raises all kinds of moral questions as well as questions about how public policy is decided. Questions must be asked, and are being asked, about why Iraq is the mess that it is now. How did our leaders make so many mistakes?I can't think of another war where a British General would so openly criticise the leadership in a national newspaper. However, Iraq has become such a disaster that a British General speaking in this way is almost taken for granted. For him to pretend, as the Bush administration do, that success is simply around the next corner would be greeted in this country as almost delusional behaviour.
He ends by asking that the British public continue to support our troops, whilst pointing out that in order to do so one need not even support the war.
I think the General sums up the liberal stance on this conflict perfectly. Of course, we all support the troops, and we support them whilst being appalled at the situation into which our government's sent them.
The public may well be fed up with what is going on in Iraq. But it would be a great shame if we forget what our forces are facing out there on a daily basis. Taking an interest in them does not mean supporting the war. It means acknowledging that they are there in our name.
Many on the right have sought to portray supporting the war and supporting the troops as if they are one and the same, wrapping themselves in the flag whilst sending young men and women to die. Telling themselves they are being brave whilst they watch a war from the comfort of their front rooms.
I am very glad that a British General has stepped up to make the distinction. One can support the troops whilst not supporting the war and still be a patriot.
As the General says, "They are there in our name." And that's why many of us are looking for sensible ways to bring them home.
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Keith Olbermann delivered a blistering counter-attack to Rudy Giuliani's insane declaration that America will almost certainly suffer another 9/11 under Democratic leadership - but not under Republican. Not only does KO point out the obvious, about who prevented what on 9/11, but he digs deeper into Rudy's abysmal record as Republican mayor.
There's a wonderful article by Naomi Wolf in the Guardian this week, which examines the recent military coup in Thailand and the shopping list of freedoms that the regime removed in order to dismantle democracy.
Wolf argues that, although the Thai regime were improvising as they went along, they were essentially following a blueprint that has been set down by fascists over the centuries.
Wolf further argues that, because Americans are born under freedom, they have a very hard time ever imagining those freedoms being removed from them, which actually makes them strangely susceptible to that very thing.
It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.She then sets out the ten steps that a fascist dictator would have to take in order to essentially suspend democracy.
After the horrendous events of 9-11 Bush declared an open ended war, what Orwell referred to as "perpetual war". It is a war which has no easily defined conclusion. It is not, for example, like the Falklands war, where the planting of a flag in Port Stanley tells us that our objective has been achieved. This war is without any obvious conclusion, and this is deliberately so. Only by declaring a war so amorphous could Bush so easily have segued from the pursuit of al-Qaeda to the invasion of Iraq.
1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a "war footing"; we were in a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation". There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda notes, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space - the globe itself is the battlefield. "This time," Fein says, "there will be no defined end."
From there we know that Bush and Co would have really liked to expand their war into Iran and Syria, another two country's with no link to 9-11. The point of the open war is that Bush can continually claim for himself the power's of a war time President and challenge the patriotism of any who question him. But one must remember that declaring an open ended war was a chosen response. It was not necessary that Bush did this.
He could have decided to track down al-Qaeda, but he didn't. He decided to wage war against terrorism. By casting his net this wide he granted himself an astonishing amount of leeway.
At first we are told the people being sent to such a terrible place are "the worst of the worst". Eventually, of course, Americans will learn that even their own citizens are capable of being thrown into such legal limbo, as in the case of Jose Padilla, confirmed by President Bush as an "enemy combatant". There are many on the right who take comfort from the fact that American courts have at least ensured that Padilla must face a military tribunal, but even this is not without precedent.
2. Create a gulag
Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place.
Gulags in history tend to metastasise, becoming ever larger and more secretive, ever more deadly and formalised. We know from first-hand accounts, photographs, videos and government documents that people, innocent and guilty, have been tortured in the US-run prisons we are aware of and those we can't investigate adequately.
But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don't generally identify. It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: "First they came for the Jews." Most Americans don't understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.
The establishment of military tribunals that deny prisoners due process tends to come early on in a fascist shift. Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals. On April 24 1934, the Nazis, too, set up the People's Court, which also bypassed the judicial system: prisoners were held indefinitely, often in isolation, and tortured, without being charged with offences, and were subjected to show trials.It's very hard when one looks at the tribunal currently being held to come the conclusion that these are anything other than show trials.
I have been writing recently about the unprecedented power that this militia army enjoys in Iraq, where it roams free from any chance of prosecution, but after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Bush employed these militia armies on American soil. They were reported to have fired at unarmed civilians in that city.
3. Develop a thug caste
When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.
The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution.
All surveillance programmes are always to protect the citizen from foreign intervention according to the regime that installs it. The real function of the programme is to discourage dissent and create the fear that one must be careful as one is constantly being watched.
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China - in every closed society - secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.
In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.
5. Harass citizens' groups
The fifth thing you do is related to step four - you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.
Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents".Whilst all this is going on, the definition of terrorism is slowly expanded to include one's political opponents. In a recent change in US law, animal rights activists have been labelled, "terrorists". Yesterday on the radio I heard John Reid refer to hackers as "electronic terrorists". This is what happens, the term expands until it includes anyone who offers any opposition.
What kind of person could find themselves on such a list in the US? "Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela's government - after Venezuela's president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens."
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a "list" of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.
But how would one get on to such a list? Professor Walter F Murphy, emeritus of Princeton University, was stopped as he tried to board a plane "because I was on the Terrorist Watch list".
So speaking out against Bush's violations of the Constitution is enough to have one included on a terrorist watch list.
"Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee.
"I explained," said Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution."
"That'll do it," the man said.
There is a long record of the Bush regime and their supporters of having certain academics removed from their posts because their thinking and teachings were not "co-ordinated" as Goebbels might have put it. We have also recently witnessed the firing of 8 US Attorney's for failing to carry out the wishes of the regime.
7. Target key individuals
Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.
Then of course, there are the cases where the US has actually shot and killed reporters in Iraq and, of course, we have the US attack on Al Jazeera television.
8. Control the press
Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s - all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.
Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy - a form of retaliation that ended her career.
And, as we witnessed only yesterday, there is the almost constant planting of false news stories in the media causing a sort of muddying of the waters, where one becomes unsure of what is true or false, which eventually lessens the citizens demands for accountability.
What's scary about this is just how keen Bush's supporters have been to label any form of dissent as treason. The most ridiculous example having happened only the other day, when Tom Delay accused Harry Reid of treason for daring to say that the Iraq war was lost.
9. Dissent equals treason
Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.
One must never forget that Bush has granted himself the power to label any American citizen an enemy combatant; the definition of which he, and he alone, gets to define.
I've condensed Wolf's article as much as I could and recommend you read the whole thing by clicking on the title. She concludes:
10. Suspend the rule of law
The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.
Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."
What is undeniable though is that Bush has carried out every action that one would normally associate with the early days of a fascist regime, he has granted himself the same kind of powers and he has done so with Republicans and their supporters applauding him every step of the way and attacking the patriotism of anyone who objects.
Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.
Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.
It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."
Sitting on the other side of an ocean it is very hard to equate the US of 2007 with the US that Bush took over in 2001. The United States of 2001 was not one that anyone on the planet associated with torture and secret detention centres. That was simply unthinkable. Likewise, the suspension of Habeas Corpus was something that I would have imagined Americans would have revolted over rather than idly sitting by whilst these fundamental freedoms were removed.
The only thing that gives me any form of comfort is that the American people had the good sense to elect the Democrats in the November mid term elections and restore a system of checks and balances which the Republicans had been criminally negligent in upholding.
However, that is but a finger in the sea wall with regard to what has been lost.
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