Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Fox invited Republicans to come on and defend Gonzales, Chris Mathews states, "We had no takers."
I don't have much time to post anything today as I am running for a flight. I will note this though. As Bush fell over himself to cover Gordon Brown in compliments:
George Bush had no shortage of epithets for the new partner in his special relationship. Gordon Brown was a humorous Scot, not a dour one, a problem solver with the same sense of morality. He was a principled man who wanted to get something done. He was a man who saw a glass half full, not half empty, and when it came to battling terrorism and providing leadership, "he gets it". It was notable that Brown did not return them. Indeed, Brown went as far as to label the talks as "full and frank discussions" - diplomatic code for some disagreements.
Brown has also made clear that a British withdrawal from Iraq will be done according to the opinion of British commanders on the ground and that a British withdrawal could take place even if that left the Americans in Iraq and appeared as a split in the coalition.
However, President Bush acknowledged that a British withdrawal could take place while the US remained in Iraq because, he said, decisions would be "results-orientated". He said America could be there for "a long time". He added that America's next moves would be decided after a report in September by General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, on the "surge" of US troops in the Baghdad region.There was also a notable difference in the way the pair of them described terrorism:
By calling terrorism "a crime" Brown is appealing to the sections of the Labour party - people like myself - who do not believe that the war on terror is actually a war. Terrorists are criminals who should be dealt with as criminals, one exalts them beyond anything they deserve when one declares "war" on them.
The two leaders also had to paper over their different approaches on how to respond to terrorism. While maintaining a united front, Mr Brown told President Bush that the fight could not be won by military might alone, and called for a "Cold War-style" propaganda battle in the Muslim world.
Deliberately avoiding the phrase "war on terror," Mr Brown said: "Terrorism is not a cause but a crime - a crime against humanity." In contrast, the President spoke of "this war against extremists and radicals". But he said of Mr Brown: "There is no doubt in my mind that he understands the stakes in the struggle."
Of course, Brown is playing all this down as it is important that Britain's relationship with the US is preserved, but the signals are all there that the relationship between Brown and Bush will not be the cosy affair that Bush enjoyed with Blair.
In Guardian comments it was reported like this:
As presidential compliments rained down on Mr Brown's head, it began to emerge that the prime minister had got what he wanted. His ministerial frontrunners had established a useful sense of ambiguity, the possibility that a relationship that had been joined at the hip might eventually be severed. Mr Brown then arrives and secures a working relationship, free of sycophancy. The White House characterised the hints of a tougher British partner as "white noise", saying it was not what British ministers said that mattered, but what they did. But the overall effect of this carefully calibrated operation has been to pull the clothes over to Britain's side of the bed.So, however Brown has been received in Washington, his visit has greatly pleased his own party for the subtle changes he has made to the relationship.
Most Americans will have no idea of how embarrassing Blair's sycophancy was for us to watch. The "Yo Blair!" moment being one of almost national humiliation.
So it's very nice to see a British Prime Minister go to Washington and not act as if he's the commander of the American aircraft carrier, known as the UK, reporting for duty.
Click title for full article.
Monday, July 30, 2007
President Bush's political strategy at home is an implicit if unintended admission of the failure of his military strategy in Iraq and toward terrorism generally. Betrayal is his theme, delivered in his speeches, embroidered by his officials and trumpeted by the brass band of neoconservative publicists. The foundation for his stab-in-the-back theory was laid in the beginning.Click title for source.
"Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists," Bush said in his joint address to Congress nine days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And in the weeks that followed he repeated variations of his formula, reducing it to "for or against us in the war on terrorism." At the Charleston, S.C., Air Force Base on Tuesday, Bush resumed his repudiated habit of conflating threats, suggesting a connection between 9/11 and the Iraq war, and intensified his blaming of domestic critics for the shortcomings of his policy. His story line depends upon omitting his own part in the calamity. "The facts are," insisted Bush to his captive audience, "that al-Qaida terrorists killed Americans on 9/11, they're fighting us in Iraq and across the world, and they are plotting to kill Americans here at home again."
But how did it happen that al-Qaida in Iraq, sworn enemy of Saddam Hussein and his secularism, operating in isolation prior to 9/11, though almost certainly with the connivance and protection of Kurdish leader and current Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, has come to thrive under the U.S. occupation? And since AQI represents perhaps 1 percent or less of the insurgent strength, how can it be depicted as the main foe, capable of seizing state power? The other Sunni insurgent groups increasingly view it as an impediment to their own ambitions and have marked it for elimination. Rather than address these problematic complexities, Bush points the finger of blame at U.S. senators who dare to question his policy. "Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of al-Qaida in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat."
Bush's accusation of betrayal anticipates the September report of Gen. David Petraeus on the progress of the "surge" in Iraq. The absence of victory inspires a search for an enemy within. Bush's stab-in-the-back theory is the latest corollary to the old policy that military force will create political success. Bush is a vulgar Maoist: "Political power comes from the barrel of a gun," said Chairman Mao. But the surge is simply an endlessly repetitive reaction to the failure of the purely military. Somehow, in the political vacuum, additional U.S. troops are supposed to quell the civil war, compel the sects and factions to lie down like lambs, and destroy AQI. U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker last week begged that the Iraqi government not be held accountable for meeting political benchmarks, none of which have been realized; and at the same time he requested exit visas for his Iraqi staff, who obviously have no confidence in the Bush policy and do not wish to leave via the embassy roof. Crocker's actions speak louder than his words -- and louder than Bush's.
Bush, however, clings to the rhetoric of conventional warfare, of "victory" and "retreat." The collapsed Iraqi state, proliferation of sectarian warfare and murderous strife even among Shiite militias bewilder him; clear-cut dichotomies are more comforting, producing deeper confusion. The friend of his enemy is his friend; the enemy of his enemy is not his friend. Meanwhile, Bush seeks to displace responsibility for the potentially dire consequences of his policy on others.
Neoconservative publicists spread the calumnies that critics of Bush's policy are against the troops and that these critics will be responsible for genocide if they and not Bush are followed. William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard -- whose July 15 article in the Washington Post, "Why Bush Will Be a Winner," Bush has recommended to his White House staff -- has published a new piece in the latest issue of his magazine, "They Don't Really Support the Troops." "Having turned against a war that some of them supported, the left is now turning against the troops they claim still to support," he writes. His combination of nuance and crudity is ideologically deft. By pointing out that "some of them supported" the war at the start, his intention is not to draw distinctions but to lump all critics together as now undifferentiated and discreditable -- "the left." Then he ascribed a common motive: fear that Bush will succeed and a hatred of the soldiers. "They sense that history is progressing away from them -- that these soldiers, fighting courageously in a just cause, could still win the war, that they are proud of their service, and that they will be future leaders of this country." But this is not enough for Kristol. "The left slanders them. We support them. More than that, we admire them." Slander?
Jonah Goldberg, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, writes in an article Tuesday that "liberals" are the ones responsible for a coming "genocide" in Iraq. "But if genocide unfolds in Iraq after American troops depart, it would be hard to argue that we weren't at least partly to blame. Yes, the mass murder would have more immediate authors than the United States of America, but we would undeniably be responsible, at least in part, for giving a green light to genocide." Having initially adopted a vague "we," he quickly dispenses with this rhetorical strategy, blaming "liberals" and one person in particular for "mass murder." Barack Obama "offers precisely that green light," he writes.
On July 16, the Associated Press reported on a letter from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman to Sen. Hillary Clinton, condemning her for deigning to request in her capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee information on Pentagon contingency plans for withdrawal. "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia," Edelman replied. Even asking about such plans aids and abets the enemy, tantamount to treason. Edelman added the suggestion of a massacre if we "abandon" the "allies," and said its responsibility would fall on those who raised questions.
In response to a letter from Sen. Clinton, asking if Edelman's statement "accurately characterizes your views as Secretary of Defense," Robert Gates in effect repudiated it. "I have long been a staunch advocate of congressional oversight, first at the CIA and now at the Defense Department," he wrote on July 20. "I have said on several occasions in recent months that I believe that congressional debate on Iraq has been constructive and appropriate. I had not seen Senator Clinton's reply to Ambassador Edelman's letter until today."
Gates' note is extraordinary not only for its open acknowledgment of a breach with his undersecretary but also for its revelation that he was unaware of Edelman's vitriolic letter. Edelman is a longtime neoconservative with deep ties to Dick Cheney. Like John Bolton, who served as a counterintelligence agent for Cheney when he was undersecretary of state under Colin Powell, Edelman does not truly serve his immediate superior in the chain of command. His ultimate allegiance is pledged to an ideological network. Given the incendiary nature of his letter to a Democratic presidential candidate, which could only be conceived and interpreted as supremely political, it's hard to imagine that as seasoned an operator as Edelman would act entirely on his own. But if he did not brief and receive approval from Gates -- and Gates has gone out of his way to distance himself from any involvement -- then whom did Edelman discuss his letter with before he sent it?
Edelman is a rare Foreign Service officer long aligned with neoconservatives. As he explained in his letter of April 21 to Judge Reggie Walton requesting clemency in sentencing for I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, he has known Libby, "a deeply dedicated public servant," for 26 years. Edelman first served with Libby, he wrote, during the Reagan administration, followed by service as Libby's deputy in the Defense Department during the elder Bush's administration, under Secretary of Defense Cheney, and most recently as Libby's deputy on Cheney's staff.
Edelman, in fact, was the first person on Cheney's staff to sound the alarm against former ambassador Joseph Wilson after reading the May 6, 2003, column by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times that described Wilson but did not name him. Edelman urged Libby to leak information to rebut Wilson's disclosure that it was a request from the vice president's office that initiated his mission to Niger in search of the phantom yellowcake uranium Bush claimed Saddam was purchasing -- a major rationale for the Iraq war.
This year, Edelman leapt to the defense of the prewar disinformation campaign operated out of the Pentagon through a small unit called the Office of Special Plans and run by Edelman's predecessor in his current post, the neoconservative Douglas Feith. When the Defense Department's inspector general, Thomas Gimble, issued a report in February calling Feith's operation "inappropriate" and urging that new controls be established to prevent officials from conducting rogue "intelligence activities," Edelman countered with a heated 52-page memo calling the I.G. "egregious," charging that he "does not have special expertise" on an issue that is "fraught with policy and political dimensions." Edelman's blast succeeded in forcing the I.G. to drop his recommendations and, as Newsweek reported, "shows how current and former Cheney aides still wield their clout throughout the government."
The degree to which Edelman has been rewarded for his ideological affinities is apparent not only in his appointments but also in monetary emoluments. According to State Department records, in 2005 and 2006, he received Senior Foreign Service performance awards of $10,000 and $12,500, respectively, both standard for someone of his rank. However, in June of this year he received a Presidential Rank Award of $40,953, an amount described as "amazing" by a former senior State Department professional who has administered such awards. Indeed, the Office of Personnel Management cautions against granting Presidential Rank Awards for appointments requiring Senate confirmation and for those in their positions for less than three years. Gates signed off on this award, but Cheney loomed as Edelman's sponsor, having personally reviewed his performance evaluations from 2001 to 2003.
In addition to the accusations of betrayal involving aiding "enemy propaganda," stabbing our troops in the back just as they are about to succeed, and acting as the architects of genocide, neoconservatives also argue that if only their initial advice had been followed in installing their favorite exile, Ahmed Chalabi, as leader of Iraq, none of the subsequent problems would have occurred. Thus it would all have been a "cakewalk" as projected, if not for the occupation, for which they were not responsible. The only error the neoconservatives admit is not being vigilant against compromise and insisting on the seamless political correctness of their plan, such as it was.
The latest personage to take up this neoconservative argument is none other than Cheney himself. "I think we should have probably gone with the provisional government of Iraqis," he says. "I think the Coalition Provisional Authority was a mistake." The vice president's remark appears in a new, authorized biography, "Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President," by Stephen F. Hayes, the Weekly Standard writer best known for his effort to bolster the case for a link between al-Qaida and Saddam before the invasion of Iraq and for defending Cheney's pressure on the intelligence community to put its imprimatur on such views.
"I always felt that he was an ally," Hayes quotes an obviously perplexed L. Paul Bremer, who served as the head of the CPA. Bremer ought to have grounds for being confused by Cheney's odd comment. According to his 2005 memoir, "My Year in Iraq," he was first contacted to serve by Scooter Libby and Paul Wolfowitz, the neoconservative deputy secretary of defense. Cheney had already blocked State Department participation in the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the CPA's predecessor organization. The CIA had flown Chalabi, a principal source of the false intelligence used to justify the war, later a self-proclaimed "hero in error," from his base in Iran to Iraq with several hundred of his "Free Iraqi Fighting Forces." (Chalabi was long on the payroll of the Iranian intelligence service.) Chalabi and his forces eagerly led the looting of Iraqi ministries. His advice to disband the Iraqi army and fire Baath Party members that ran the government bureaucracies was accepted by Wolfowitz and Feith -- and ratified by Bremer.
In his account, Bremer writes that the Principals Committee meeting of the National Security Council that gave Bremer his marching orders decided that the Iraqi exiles were too weak and unrepresentative to establish authority in the country. Bremer cites his notes from that meeting: "Here's the vice president ... 'We're not at a point where representative Iraqi leaders can come forward. They're still too scared. We need a strategy on the ground for the postwar situation we actually have and not the one we wish we had.' This didn't sound like an open endorsement of the exiles."
Cheney's seeming confession of error is little more than belated historical revisionism to obscure his own part in the fiasco. It is his first step toward walking away from responsibility through self-denial, not least about the reality that the Iranians played him and the neoconservatives as stooges.
Cheney prides himself on his skill as a hidden-hand master manipulator of politics through control of bureaucracies. Hayes' hagiography is a shabby, tendentious work, of the sort that used to be produced in the Soviet Union, impossible to grasp without independent knowledge or access to samizdat. Nonetheless, there are a few shiny objects that can be retrieved from this dump.
Cheney granted Hayes a series of interviews that provide insight into the development of his cynical politics, his view of unaccountable executive power and his penchant for secrecy. One can almost hear Cheney chuckle as he tells his Boswell how the credulous Washington press corps got him wrong all these years, to his everlasting advantage. "The press never looked at my voting record" as a congressman, he says. "They thought I was all warm and fuzzy and they never looked to see."
Cheney also reveals how as President Gerald Ford's chief of staff he learned to undermine and destroy Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, the last unabashed moderate Republican in the White House. Cheney described how he would put "sand in the gears," claiming "we'll staff it out," to kill Rockefeller's projects. Cheney gloats over humiliating Rockefeller at the 1976 Republican Convention, where during Rockefeller's last moment on the public stage, giving the nomination speech for his successor, the microphone suddenly went dead. Cheney recalls that Rockefeller blamed him and that they had "shouting matches." Yet Cheney doesn't deny the accusation. Instead, he snickers. "You've got to watch vice presidents. They're a sinister crowd."
Hayes also recounts Cheney's confrontation with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the floor of the Senate on June 21, 2004, when, having heard of Leahy's critical comments about Halliburton's contracts in Iraq, he told him, "Go fuck yourself." Hayes quotes a "fishing buddy" of Cheney's, Merritt Benson, recalling that afterward Cheney told him of his regret: "You never, ever let those people get to you. Or then they win." Of course, Cheney was paraphrasing Richard Nixon, the first president he served, who said on the day he resigned his office, "Always remember that others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself."
But that Nixon citation is not the end of Cheney's reflections on what he calls "the F-bomb." "It was out of character from my standpoint, I suppose," he confesses. "But what can you say ... It was heartfelt." Cheney unleashed is Nixon without regrets. If it feels good, do it -- and it feels so good to drop the bomb.
The timing is pointed and obviously significant. At a time when Gates and Rice are flying into the region to offer to bolster Saudi Arabia's defence, Zalmay Khalilzad - the US ambassador to the United Nations - has accused Saudi Arabia of undermining the US efforts in Iraq.
This is what I mean when I say that the Bush regime no longer have a plan. It is obvious from Khalizad's remarks that the Bush regime hope that by bolstering Saudi Arabia's defences against an emerging Iranian regional superpower, that they can somehow persuade Saudi Arabia - a Sunni country - to back the Maliki Shi'ia government of Iraq.
Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said an opinion column he wrote for The New York Times this month accusing U.S. allies of pursuing destabilizing policies toward Iraq referred in part to Saudi Arabia.
"Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries are not doing all they can to help us in Iraq," he said Sunday. "At times, some of them are not only not helping, but they are doing things that is undermining the effort to make progress."
U.S. officials have stepped up public criticism of Saudi Arabia but remain cautious in dealing with a crucial ally in the region.
On their trip, Rice and Gates are expected to ask Saudi King Abdullah for greater cooperation in Iraq. The United States says it will push for forgiving millions in Iraqi debt dating to the Saddam Hussein era and security help for the government of Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.It's very strange that whenever American politicians stray into this region they seem to forget that the leaders that they are dealing with also have the opinions of their particular Arab street to consider. American politicians always seem to consider that their interests are paramount and appear genuinely puzzled when others fail to share their viewpoint.
The notion that King Abdullah can back a Shi'ia government which is engaged in civil war against it's Sunni citizens is bonkers, and yet that really is Bush's new "big plan".
House Republican leader, Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, summed up the American position perfectly when he stated:
"But on these issues regarding Saudi Arabia, we have a bigger problem in the House all the time, because of the disappointments with the Saudis, who have traditionally been good friends of ours, who have been allies in the region, but continually seem to not understand the situation we're in right now," Blunt said.That cuts two ways, of course. It equally appears that the United States have simply no idea of how unpopular their intervention into Iraq has played in a Sunni country like Saudi Arabia. According to a 2006 poll 49% of Saudi Arabians want the US to withdraw with only 4% wanting the US to stay until Iraq is stable and only 7% wanting the US to stay until asked to leave by the Iraqi government. The poll also reveals that 49% of Saudis believe the threat of terrorism has increased since the invasion of Iraq with only 2% believing it has decreased. That's an overwhelming amount of resistance.
And now the US are sailing into Saudi Arabia and asking King Abdullah to commit political suicide.
Nor can one say that the Saudis didn't make their opposition to this war clear from the outset. Before the war the Saudi Foreign Minister made it very clear that US bases in Saudi Arabia could not be used for any attack on Iraq, even if the US managed to get the famed second UN resolution. Indeed, Prince Saud al-Faisal made it very clear to President Bush that, in his opinion, Bush would be "solving one problem and creating five more" if he removed Saddam Hussein by force.
Bush did not listen. And now Rice and Gates are asking Abdullah to go against everything he has previously stated and aid them in the war that Saudi Arabia advised them not to fight.
The worry for Saudi Arabians is that the 15-20% of Iraqis who are Sunnis will be massacred in any forthcoming civil war, it was this worry which caused them to advise against US intervention to forcibly remove Saddam.
Nor are Rice and Gates arriving with an offer that is anywhere near secure. The Israelis have made their opposition to this arms deal very well known and some Democrats are already talking of introducing legislation to prevent it from going ahead.
It is in the middle of this poisonous atmosphere that Bush hopes to gain Saudi approval and backing for a war which they have always opposed.
Two House Democrats, Reps. Anthony Weiner and Jerrold Nadler of New York, said Sunday they would introduce legislation to block the Saudi arms deal.
"We need to send a crystal clear message to the Saudi Arabian government that their tacit approval of terrorism can't go unpunished," Weiner said at a news conference in New York. "Saudi Arabia should not get an ounce of military support from the U.S. until they unequivocally denounced terrorism and take tangible steps to prevent it."
Weiner and Nadler noted that that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001 were Saudi citizens.
I've said it before, the Bushites simply don't have a plan anymore, they certainly don't have one that makes any kind of sense.
They were warned not to take the lid off of this particular box, but - in their arrogance - they took it off anyway. Now they are demanding that everyone else helps them to put the lid back on. It's mindboggling.
Click title for full article.
It's very, very rarely that I watch the TV news and smile at any item which features Iraq. And yet, last night, as the news spread that the Iraqi national team had won the Asian cup final 1-0, I couldn't help but grin at the sight of Iraqis of all religions celebrating this historic victory.
It's so long since these people had anything approaching good news and so rare to see Iraqis put aside their religious differences and simply celebrate as Iraqis that one couldn't help but be swept up in the whole thing.
"This is not just about football... this is more important than that," Iraq's Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira told a news conference.
"This has brought great happiness to a whole country. This is not about a team, this is about human beings."
The sight of people swarming out of bars and jumping up and down in the streets allowed one, for the briefest of moments, to forget what we have inflicted on these people.
However, this morning reality knocked on the door with the news that the Iraqi team captain will not be returning to the war torn country and is asking that the Americans leave.
"I don't want the Iraqi people to be angry with me," he said. But, "If I go back with the team, anybody could kill me or try to hurt me.Iraq celebrated last night, even though the celebrations had to be held in a country under a vehicle curfew to avoid a repeat of the car bombing which killed fifty after Iraq's semi-final victory, but celebrate they did.
"One of my closest friends, they (the authorities) came to arrest him, and for one year neither me nor his family knew where he is."
The Sunni Muslim Iraqi captain — who like the rest of the team wore a black arm band to remember the dozens killed by carbombers following the side's semifinal victory over South Korea on Wednesday — said the American presence in his homeland was a "problem."
"I want America to go out," he said. "Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but out. I wish the American people didn't invade Iraq and hopefully it will be over soon."
So, for one brief night, Iraqis celebrated again the simple fact that they were Iraqis.
"Our gallant youths fulfilled their vows to their country and people," said Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki in a televised speech after the game. "They were able to portray Iraq beautifully, in all its shades, and bring a smile of hope to their people. They are a stark contrast to those who lurk in dark corners to plant death and sorrow among the innocent."
Patriotic music filled the airwaves. Children with their faces painted red, black and green, the colors of the Iraqi flag, pelted their neighbors with candies. Families made plans to slaughter sheep or chickens for feasts. Vendors sold out of the T-shirt that emphasizes unity over sectarianism with the slogan, "I am Iraqi."
Even the country's politicians managed to set aside their squabbles as they crammed onto sofas to watch in the living room of Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh's elegant villa in the capital's Green Zone compound. There were enough cabinet ministers to make a quorum, and a handful of senior American and British diplomats joined them in cheering on the home team.
In marshy southern villages, mountainous northern towns and the battle-scarred neighborhoods of the capital, elated Iraqis pumped bullets into the air in defiance of government and clerical bans on celebratory gunfire.
In Baghdad, a few daring celebrants broke the curfew and piled into beat-up cars to cruise until the police stopped them. Others skirted the 14-hour ban on vehicles by roaming the streets on bicycles and scooters festooned with huge banners.
In many homes, Iraqis gasped as their TV sets showed scenes that were unimaginable only a month ago: Kurds raised the Iraqi flag in their mostly autonomous northern region, men stripped off their shirts and ran half-naked in southern holy cities, women who usually stay indoors for protection stayed out past sunset.
"I can't describe my feelings because I've never had such a great feeling," said Qusai Hadi, 31, from Basra, a largely Shiite Muslim city in southern Iraq. "Those players planted happiness in every Iraqi's heart. I wish I could kiss them, one by one . . . . I hope this happiness lasts forever."Don't we all Hadi, don't we all....
Sunday, July 29, 2007
There is ample reason to impeach Cheney.
Dick Cheney continues to publicly state things which the DIA and CIA say are not true. He talks of links between Saddam and al-Qaeda which have been proven to be false and yet he keeps repeating them. What else should one do with such a person?"
"It is such a blatant misleading of the United States, its people, to prepare them, to position them, to, in fact, make them enthusiastic or feel that it's justified to go to war with Iraq," said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the committee's vice chairman. "That kind of public manipulation I don't know has any precedent in American history.""
And all of it has actually been discussed on the floor of the Senate.
Hat Tip to Blogger Round Table.
“The Americans then gave birth to the idea of a new empire, world leadership by a single power, and what followed?” Gorbachev asked reporters at a news conference in Moscow.
“What has followed are unilateral actions, what has followed are wars, what has followed is ignoring the U.N. Security Council, ignoring international law and ignoring the will of the people, even the American people.”
Gorbachev has hit the nail on the head. The people surrounding Bush, indeed the entire neo-con concept, is built on arrogance rather than intellect. Fat smucks like Dick Cheney and Richard Perle - aided by buffoons like Rumsfeld - thought they could build an American empire and even boasted about it on their infantile web sites promising to promote American values abroad and to act unilaterally:
“When I look at today’s world I have a worrying feeling about the growth of world disorder,” he said.
“I don’t think the current president of the United States and his administration will be able to change the situation as it is developing now — it is very dangerous,” he said.
The history of the 20th century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire. The history of this century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership.Now, with their country embroiled in an unwinnable war of choice in Iraq, most of them have scuttled under the bed claiming they would have "liberated" Iraq, but not in the way that the administration have done so. These supposed men of action and honour have succeeded in showing only that they don't have enough backbone to admit that they were flat wrong and they are now attempting to distance themselves from what they have done and push all the blame towards Bush:
"At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible," Perle told Vanity Fair magazine.Of course this is Perle at his most disingenuous, after all there was a day when he delighted in the fact that Bush could be manipulated:
Richard Perle, foreign policy adviser: "The first time I met Bush 43 … two things became clear. One, he didn't know very much. The other was that he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn't know very much."So it would be wrong to lay the entire blame for the debacle at Bush's door, though a fair chunk of it is deservedly on his doorstep. However, the entire neo-con reason for choosing Bush was that he was not very smart and, if Cheney chose himself as Vice President - which he duly did - then they would be able to manipulate Bush to carry out the insane plans they had always nurtured at the Project for a New American Century and other right wing nuthouses.
Now, six years into the plan, they have revealed only that their belief that they could bludgeon the world into an image to their liking is a deeply flawed one. And, as we now witness them scrambling around the Middle East attempting to bribe other countries into supporting their failed venture, it is becoming clear to one and all that these guys really don't know what they are doing.
Indeed, rather than build an empire, they will leave the US in eighteen months severely weaker than she was when they took office. Before Bush came to power there were many people who thought that the US could act wherever it chose militarily with impunity. After Bush has stumbled in Iraq of all bloody places - a country which had already been weakened to the point of collapse by twelve years of punitive sanctions - the gloss of American military supremacy has lost it's glitter.
Likewise, her greatest ally, Israel, has never looked weaker in the Middle East since losing a war with Hizbullah. And, again, Israel lost this war after Bush and Co. insisted that she go further and further into a war that appeared to have no purpose. It certainly had a war aim - the destruction of Hizbullah - that was appallingly far fetched. Quite how Israel would be able to destroy Hizbullah - who they had not managed to destroy during all the years that they had occupied that country - was a point which was never debated. Like so many neo-con policies, a wish is stated and they then all behave as if the very fact that they have stated their wish will bring it into existence.
Bush and Co. will never see the world in those terms; indeed, they dismiss such thoughts as Kissinger diplomacy, preferring to still believe that raw power and threats will eventually get them what they want. It is to this end that they cannot bring themselves to admit that their foray into Iraq has been an unqualified disaster, for to admit that would be to admit that their whole concept for government has been a failure.
“It is a massive strategic mistake: no single centre can command the entire world, no one,” he said. “Current America has made so many mistakes.”
He said the U.S. administration was apparently unable to adapt to a swiftly changing world and had ignored — or was unable to see — the rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China as economic heavyweights.
Click title for full article.
Cindy Sheehan on why the Democrats care more about getting a Dem into the White House in 2008 than they care about ending the Iraq war, and how they refuse to impeach Bush and Cheney.
Hat tip to John at The Largest Minority.
Or go directly to Davis Fleetwood's site by clicking here.
Gordon Brown is sending signals ahead of his visit with George Bush at Camp David that "all is well" between the US and Britain and that there will be no difference between his relationship with Bush and the one that Bush enjoyed with Tony Blair.
"It is in the British interest that the relationship with the United States is our single most important bilateral relationship."Now, whilst the above is inarguably true, only a moron would believe that Brown is not determined to change the relationship which, more than any other, destroyed the premiership of Tony Blair.
Indeed, Brown has got off to a flying start with the British public precisely because of the subtle changes in policy he has brought about and the myriad of ways that he has signalled that this is a new government with a new set of priorities.
The relationship with the United States is, obviously, the most important one that any British Prime Minister has and Brown is not going to blow it, but neither is he going to ever put himself in any position where he could be labelled "Bush's poodle". The idea of Bush greeting the gruff Brown with the words, "Yo, Brown" is simply unthinkable.
It is to this end that Brown intends to fly to the UN immediately after his first meeting with Bush to signal to the rank and file of his party that, whilst we recognise the importance of the United States, we also recognise the importance of multilateralism in solving the world's problems.
So, whilst Brown is busy sending signals to Bush that all is well in the Special Relationship, he is also sending subtle signals to his own party of the difference in his relationship with Bush and that of his predecessor.
For instance, when Brown states that our relationship was "founded on our common values of liberty, opportunity and the dignity of the individual", the British Labour Party hears a subtle admonishment of torture.
And when Brown states that the relationship between the US and the UK "can become stronger in the years ahead", his own party mutters under it's breath, "When a Democrat is returned to the White House".
Brown plays a much more subtle game than the one Blair employed and Bush will find him totally affable, yet Brown will never cosy in with Bush the way Blair did.
For example, the White House are said to be annoyed that Brown has appointed Lord Malloch-Brown, the former deputy general secretary of the UN and an opponent of the Iraq war, as Foreign Office minister. Malloch-Brown was recently quoted as saying that the Brown government and the Bush regime would not be "joined at the hip". Brown has denied this whilst keeping Malloch-Brown exactly where he is, despite the White House's feelings about him. Blair is said to have replaced Jack Straw because of American objections over his comments vis a vis Iran, so Brown - by keeping Malloch-Brown in place - is letting British parliamentarians know that he chooses his own cabinet and that the Bush administration does not have an effective veto.
One major difference between Brown's relationship with Bush and Blair's will be brought about by political reality. Blair faced a President who could have been, and indeed was, in office for eight years. Brown faces a lame duck. Bush's power is waning whilst Brown's is in it's infancy, so their relationship will reflect that reality.
So the Special Relationship will change for the last eighteen months of Bush's premiership, despite any noises that Brown makes whilst at Camp David.
Click title for full article.
There's an interview in today's Observer newspaper with an Iraqi who was a key source of information for MI5 regarding Abu Qatada, the Muslim cleric accused of being Osama bin Laden's 'ambassador in Europe', and the man who British resident Bisher al-Rawi, the interviewee, helped them to track.
Bisher al-Rawi spent four years in American custody - when he was sent to both Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay - before being released without charge.
The stories of how Americans treat their prisoners are now so routine as to be part of a pattern that anyone who ever reads a newspaper will recognise. In fact, they are so recognisable that it simply becomes impossible for anyone to argue that this behaviour is not now routine American policy. Indeed, in recent books "The Torture Papers: the road to Abu Ghraib", and "Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib and the war on terror" the authors argue that torture is now an official American policy.
He was abducted and stripped naked by US agents, clad in nappies, a tracksuit and shackles, blindfolded and forced to wear ear mufflers, then strapped to a stretcher on board a plane bound for a CIA 'black site' jail near Kabul in Afghanistan.He was taken on to the jail at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
'All the way through that flight I was on the verge of screaming,' al-Rawi said. 'At last we landed, I thought, thank God it's over. But it wasn't - it was just a refuelling stop in Cairo. There were hours still to go ... My back was so painful, the handcuffs were so tight. All the time they kept me on my back. Once, I managed to wriggle a tiny bit, just shifted my weight to one side. Then I felt someone hit my hand. Even this was forbidden.'
He was thrown into the CIA's 'Dark Prison,' deprived of all light 24 hours a day in temperatures so low that ice formed on his food and water. He was taken to Guantanamo in March 2003 and released after being cleared of any involvement in terrorism by a tribunal.
A report by Parliament's intelligence and security committee last week disclosed that the British handed al-Rawi over to the Americans, despite suspicion that this may lead to him being tortured, because he did not possess a British passport. As he held an Iraqi passport, Blair's government decided he was the responsibility of Iraq, where he had fled from as a teenager after his father was tortured by Saddam Hussein. However, the British government's complicity in his arrest and subsequent torture goes way beyond simply washing their hands of him and saying that he is the responsibility of Iraq.
The Torture Papers provides a blow-by-blow account of how the US adopted torture as a standard policy after the events of 11 September 2001. A few days after the attacks, the deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo wrote a memo in which he reasoned that because Afghanistan under the Taliban was a "failed state" and because al-Qaeda was not a state, the Geneva Conventions were applicable neither to the Taliban nor to Qaeda operatives, given that the conventions dealt only with "states" (Yoo presumably meant "successful" states).
A couple of months later, President George W Bush decided that the "quaint" conventions did not apply to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. All of them, he declared, were "unlawful combatants". Numerous other memos, collected in The Torture Papers and Torture and Truth, show that the president thought his powers were over and above international law. He was not answerable even to Congress. As one memo insists, Congress "may no more regulate the president's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants, than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield". In other words, the president of the United States is a law unto himself.
"Military necessity", argued Bush and his advisers, dictates that no method of interrogation be ruled out. It is legal and necessary for torture to be "part of the process". Only Colin Powell, the US secretary of state at that time, opposed these callous arguments.
The road from Afghanistan to Iraq's prisons was a slippery one. By the time the photographs of the atrocities at Abu Ghraib became public, torture had become routine.
MI5 have claimed that they could not have known that al-Rawi could be the victim of torture, despite a report by Amnesty International eight months earlier which described prisoners being treated in the exact same way as al-Rawi was eventually treated.
The report confirmed that al-Rawi, 39, was only held after MI5 sent the CIA a telegram, stating he was an 'Islamic extremist' who had a timer for an improvised bomb in his luggage. In reality, before al-Rawi left London, police confirmed the device was a battery charger from Argos.
The committee accepted MI5's claim, given in secret testimony, that it had not wanted the Americans to arrest him, in November 2002, concluding the incident had damaged US-UK relations.
But al-Rawi alleged that the CIA told him they had been given the contents of his own MI5 file - information he had given his handlers freely when he was working as their source. He said an MI5 lawyer had given him 'cast iron' assurances that anything he told them would be treated in the strictest confidence and, if he ever got into trouble, MI5 would do everything in its power to help him.
When al-Rawi was in Guantanamo, he asked the American authorities to find his former MI5 handlers so they would corroborate his story but, because he did not know their surnames, MI5 said it could not assist.
The truth is that the British government under Blair didn't care whether or not people like al-Rawi were being tortured, as Blair - like Bush - totally bought into the idea of a clash of civilisations and thought they had to do whatever was necessary to achieve victory. Of course, they told themselves that they weren't torturing people and even invented new descriptions of what they were doing to tell themselves that it wasn't actually torture. Orwell would have turned in his grave as they did somersaults with the English language to justify the unjustifiable.
Even the language used to describe torture has been cleansed of blood. Bush's advisers, firing off memo after memo, talk about "counter-resistance strategies"; these may be "cruel, inhuman and degrading", but they are "not torture". The Red Cross found that the Abu Ghraib prisoners had not been tortured but had simply suffered "ill-treatment". Sleep deprivation is "adjusting the sleeping times". Setting dogs on the detainees is "forced grooming". Shoving a pole up a victim's rectum is "butt stroking". Keeping prisoners in solitary confinement is "segregation". And the policy to send suspects to torture chambers located in various parts of Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba is "rendition".Indeed, the torture of prisoners became so routine at places like Abu Ghraib that people took pictures of it, such was it's "normality".
To all intents and purposes, these are holiday snaps. The perpetrators adopt familiar poses - smiling, laughing, pointing to the scenery, flirting with the camera. Like most holiday shots, they are taken in full view of others. The background activity in some indicates that the goings-on in the foreground are nothing out of the ordinary. When sent home, these photographs will join others from other holidays - all with the same smiling faces, announcing "I was there".So the story told by al-Rawi is not a new one, it is the same depressing tale we have heard a hundred times before. There will be many Bush supporters who will claim that these tales do not prove that the US is engaging in torture. I would merely counter that such support for current American policy enables it to continue and is further proof of how the war on terror has dehumanised all of us.
There was a day when tales of this kind would be emanating from third world dictatorships and we would all demand that our country desist from dealing with such savages. Today the tales emanate from the United States, the world's leading superpower, and there are people falling over themselves to either deny it is taking place or to provide justification for why it is necessary.
The stories that have come to light all tell the same story. Indeed, the details are so similar that it becomes impossible to buy that these acts are being committed by "bad apples". "Bad apples" would each come up with their own unique way to degrade people. It is the consistency of these stories that leads one to believe that we are witnessing an official policy.
Click title for full article.
Human Rights Watch: US Torture and Abuse of Detainees.
Each day brings more information about the appalling abuses inflicted upon men and women held by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. U.S. forces have used interrogation techniques including hooding, stripping detainees naked, subjecting them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light, and depriving them of sleep—in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This apparently routine infliction of pain, discomfort, and humiliation has expanded in all too many cases into vicious beatings, sexual degradation, sodomy, near drowning, and near asphyxiation. Detainees have died under questionable circumstances while incarcerated. This must end. Torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading practices should be as unthinkable as slavery.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Bush is doing a radio address tomorrow where he will discuss FISA. He plans to say the following:
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- also known as FISA -- provides a critical legal foundation that allows our intelligence community to collect this information while protecting the civil liberties of Americans. But this important law was written in 1978, and it addressed the technologies of that era. This law is badly out of date -- and Congress must act to modernize it.
Today we face sophisticated terrorists who use disposable cell phones and the Internet to communicate with each other, recruit operatives, and plan attacks on our country. Technologies like these were not available when FISA was passed nearly 30 years ago, and FISA has not kept up with new technological developments.That's simply a lie and he must know that this is a lie, because he himself said - when he was singing the praises of the Patriot Act - that:
We're dealing with terrorists who operate by highly sophisticated methods and technologies, some of which were not even available when our existing laws were written. The bill before me takes account of the new realities and dangers posed by modern terrorists. It will help law enforcement to identify, to dismantle, to disrupt, and to punish terrorists before they strike. . . .
Surveillance of communications is another essential tool to pursue and stop terrorists. The existing law was written in the era of rotary telephones. This new law I sign today will allow surveillance of all communications used by terrorists, including e-mails, the Internet, and cell phones. As of today, we'll be able to better meet the technological challenges posed by this proliferation of communications technology. . . .
Hat tip to Glenn Greenwald and The Anonymous Liberal.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has replied to Hillary Clinton's inquiry into whether there is a withdrawl plan for the troops in Iraq. Gen. Wesley Clark weighs in on the political games the Pentagon is playing, and on the retired three star general who is facing retribution on the Pat Tillman case.
I missed this a few months ago when it first went out. But, as Bush continues to claim executive privilege, it is interesting to hear Bruce Feith's thoughts on Bush's claims. Feith's main point, that no-one he has ever worked with in government has claimed to hold back from giving the President advice on the grounds that their discussion may one day become public, really does undermine Bush's argument.
There's simply no end to the Bush administration's bizarre attitude to the law. At a time when they are citing executive privilege to avoid any investigation into their own acts of alleged illegality, they seem to have found the time to issue a subpoena to Michael Moore for having the temerity to visit Cuba. Now, as both Leonardo di Caprio and Cameron Diaz have visited Cuba without causing the administration's heckles to rise, one can only presume that it was the fact that Moore's visit was politically embarrassing to them which has provoked this reaction. This administration really acts like spiteful children at times.
There's a report in today's Washington Post about US plans to increase weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. With massive increases in military aid packages to Israel and Egypt as well.
Why are they doing this?
U.S. officials said the common goal of the military aid packages and arms sales is to strengthen pro-Western countries against Iran at a time when the hard-line regime seeks to extend its power in the region.You'll notice that the article carries no proof that "the hard line regime seeks to extend it's power in the region", nor that it seeks to do so through a policy of invasion, which would be the main reason why Washington would want to increase the defence capability of so many of Iran's neighbours.
It's yet another attempt to portray Iran as a regional threat without Iran having to do a thing. There is no question that Iran has emerged as a regional superpower since the fall of Saddam, but then any first year Secondary school student familiar with history could have told the doughballs in the White House that this would have been the natural outcome of ousting Saddam. Indeed, it was exactly to prevent such an outcome that the US backed Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war and Henry Kissinger loudly lamented, "It's a shame that they can't both lose".
Cheney and Bush upturned decades of US policy in the region when they frog-marched into Iraq and it now appears that they did so without fully thinking the matter through.
Even their newly minted plan to militarily increase the power of Iran's neighbours highlights one glaring hole in their thinking: Israel. Since when has it been in Israel's interests to have all of it's Arab neighbours strengthened militarily? One can only imagine that this is the reason for the promised $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade to Israel and the increase to Egypt for remaining friends with Israel.
However, something else is going on here and it's something that we heard about briefly a couple of months ago. This is also part of the realignment which Rice spoke of, the decision by this administration to favour Sunni regimes over Shi'ia regimes in the Middle East as "centres of moderation".
This realignment came about because the Bush regime, and this really is almost impossible to believe, thought that a Shi'ite government in Iraq would provide a pro-American balance to the Sunni extremists.
They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.So what we are now witnessing is a doubling of the bet, with the US throwing money at Sunni allies with the purpose of, once again, portraying Iran as some menacing regional threat. I can't actually remember the last time Iran invaded a neighbour but it's got to be at least a couple of hundred years ago. And what makes this particular White House strategy so bizarre is that it is happening at a time when the US are facing a Sunni insurgency in Iraq - an insurgency, part of which the US has recently started arming to fight al Qaeda.
This is all actually part of a larger picture, no doubt dreamt up by Dick Cheney, of provoking some kind of reaction from Iran which could be used to justify a US strike on that country.
Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me [Seymour Hersh] that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.”Now, even though the Israelis would love nothing more than for the US to attack Iran, it's a very large gamble that the Bush administration are asking them to take. After all, the White House could arm Israel's neighbours to the teeth and Iran might not react at all. Which would hardly suit the Israelis.
So I suspect that Israel's many friends in Congress might examine these plans very carefully indeed.
One can only wonder how the arming of her Sunni neighbours and, indeed, the arming of components of the Iraqi Sunni insurgency itself goes down with Maliki's government. It can hardly be seen as a positive step. But then, I get the feeling that Cheney has his eyes on Iran and doing something about that before he leaves office, rather than worrying about the opinions of those ungrateful Iraqis.
In addition to promising an increase in American military aid to Israel, the Pentagon is seeking to ease Israel’s concerns over the proposed weapons sales to Saudi Arabia by asking the Saudis to accept restrictions on the range, size and location of the satellite-guided bombs, including a commitment not to store the weapons at air bases close to Israeli territory, the officials said.
The package and the possible steps to allay Israel’s concerns were described to Congress this week, in an effort by the administration to test the reaction on Capitol Hill before entering into final negotiations on the package with Saudi officials.
And to that end, he doesn't care who he's annoying. However, the whole thing does have more than a whiff of policy being created on the hoof, and it'll be very interesting to see how Congress reacts to this latest plan. I say this because of one line in an article in today's Ha'aretz newspaper:
Israel has worked to block the deal, which requires congressional approval.Watch this space.
Click title for full article.
Friday, July 27, 2007
I didn't realise when Anything They Say was kind enough to link to me when accepting his Thinking Blogger Award, that his link automatically made me the recipient of one. I am always honoured when someone I respect as much as Bhc has kind words to say about what I do over here.
I now have to link to five blog posts that made me think. I could, like many others, go for the obvious choices but, like Anything They Say, I think there are people out there doing sterling work who are sadly not getting anywhere near the recognition they deserve.
I won't list my five in any particular order, nor are the posts I am linking to necessarily their best ever. I have chosen the article in question because I think it is representative of the excellent output each of these blogs offer.
1. Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying. I have sometimes, rightly I suppose, been accused of employing passion rather than reason, a crime that one could not lay at Mash's door. His arguments are always well thought out, reasoned, and fascinating. In this particular article he argues why we need to save the Presidency from this particular President.
2. Jon Swift. I'll be stunned if I am the first person to nominate Jon Swift for such an award but I can find no trace on his blog of the award logo. This guy is hysterical, a faux conservative looking at the world as only he can. In this post he lists his top 50 Conservative Rock Songs.
3. Les Politiques. Sophia does sterling work over there. Her analysis of the Middle East is always thought provoking and passionate; a combination I find irresistible. Her knowledge of Lebanon and her take on the Israeli-Palestine dispute are always well worth reading and guaranteed to make you think.
4. The Largest Minority. A great selection of videos and observations on politics every day. John Harrison's site is a daily must visit. Makes you laugh and think. Can't be bad?
5. My Occupied Territory. It's the Middle East again, I'm afraid, but Moi has a great blog that easily mixes the political and the personal.
So, to the five listed above:
Congratulations, you won a !
Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. I thought it would be appropriate to include them with the meme.
The participation rules are simple:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).
Posted by Kel at 4:14 PM
If you want to fight back and become a “Fox Attacker”, sign up here.
We’re fighting back by identifying and calling all of FOX’s advertisers. All of them. Particularly local advertisers who probably have no idea the kind of hatred their money is supporting.We all know O'Reilly can throw shit, lets see if he can take it being thrown back at him. And when these guys bemoan the "hatred" of the left wing blog sites, I'm left wondering if they've ever had a look at Michelle Malkin or Little Green Footballs. Some of the comments on the latter site especially take one's breath away.
This is not a boycott. We are simply calling advertisers and informing them about FOX. And making Bill O’Reilly’s life a living hell.
I'm with Feingold, it's simply a ludicrous position that Pelsosi, Clinton and others are maintaining. They are saying that Bush's illegal and unprecendented claims of power shouldn't be challenged with impeachment proceedings. I've even heard arguments that impeaching Bush would only result in a Cheney presidency. Leaving aside the fact that 54% of Americans want Cheney impeached as well, surely whoever replaces Bush is a secondary issue to the principle that the President is not above the law?