Friday, August 31, 2007

Texas Governor Spares Death Row Inmate Hours Before Scheduled Lethal Injection

It seems very rare that there is good news to report, so it's nice to be able to post this. Kenneth Foster was due to be killed simply for being the driver when Michael LaHood was murdered, despite having no idea that the murder was going to take place.

The Governor of Texas today spared his life.

"Today is a good day," family members told loved ones over the phone. "He's off death row."

From outside the state prison in Huntsville, his family reached out to other relatives and friends around the country. "I'm happy, I can call Nydesha , I can call his daughter and tell her they're not going to kill daddy tonight," said Tasha Foster, Kenneth's wife. "He's going to a different prison, you can finally hug your daddy, because she ain't never hugged her daddy."

Obama on Rebuilding New Orleans, Two Years Later

When this disaster struck New Orleans I was arguing on the newsgroups, and was stunned at how quickly Bush supporters turned against the people of New Orleans and sought to make them responsible for the disaster which had befallen them. "Why didn't they leave?" and questions of that ilk were all designed to subtly - and not so subtly - imply that they were somehow to blame for their fate.

Obama says it all here. What the US does, or does not do, in New Orleans will say what kind of nation the US is.

George Bush, meet John Major

Ewen MacAskill has a very good article in Guardian Comment this morning in which he compares the demise of the Bush administration with the demise of the Major administration in the UK.

Major had made a speech that would prove to be his government's undoing. He had claimed that his government was going to go "back to basics", which the press chose to see as a moral clarion call. Against that moral clarion call it was easy to highlight every sexual scandal and the "cash for questions" affair as a legitimate line of newspaper inquiry in order to show the level of hypocrisy between Major's moral stance and the seedy government that he actually led.

To be fair, Major probably didn't mean what the press chose to construe from his "back to basics" speech, but it nevertheless became the standard against which his government's behaviour was measured. Bush, however, went considerably further than Major; promising to "restore honor and dignity to the White House."

I'm sure Bush was simply having a dig at Clinton and promising that he wouldn't be caught with his trousers down in the Oval Office, but it was, nevertheless, a large claim and one that he was asking that his government be measured against.

Like Major, the Bush administration are finding it very hard to live up to the standards that they have set themselves.

There is a strong parallel between that period and what is happening to the Republican party in America now. The party of family values, the one allied to the Christian right, the one unwilling to countenance gay marriage, is now facing scandal after scandal, financial as well as sexual. Last year it was Mark Foley and Jack Abramoff. This year a growing list that includes senators David Vitter and now Larry Craig. And, like their British counterparts, American journalists, especially television one, are revelling in it.

George Bush and the Republican party, like Major and the Conservatives, are only vulnerable to these scandals because of more fundamental weaknesses. Major lost public confidence after the Black Wednesday economic disaster and the party in-fighting over Europe. Bush has lost it over Iraq and Hurricane Katrina.

With Major, the scandals became an avalanche; and by the time his government faced the electorate, his "back to basics" claim had rendered his government a laughing stock and had given Labour an unassailable lead in the polls.

Bush appears to be floundering on very similar ground to that on which Major came adrift. Like Major, Bush has claimed to represent Christian family values, and it is against those values that he has asked for his government to be measured. Indeed, by calling for a ban of "gay marriages" Bush has played the homophobic card in a much stronger way than Major would ever have dared to play it in the UK.

Because of Bush's stance vis a vis gay marriage, he has given a nod to the more extreme elements of his party that, whilst the party insists that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality and that it is only on the subject of marriage that Republicans oppose the gay lifestyle, there is nevertheless an undertone which suggests that this is a lifestyle that the party - for religious and moral reasons - disapproves of.

Indeed, the Idaho Family Values Association have gone as far as to call for a purge:
The Party, in the wake of the Mark Foley incident in particular, can no longer straddle the fence on the issue of homosexual behavior. Even setting Senator Craig's situation aside, the Party should regard participation in the self-destructive homosexual lifestyle as incompatible with public service on behalf of the GOP.
The Idaho Family Values Association are only calling for the administration to publicly state what it has hitherto only hinted at. That it strongly disapproves of homosexuality.

Now I'm actually quite sure that most members of the Bush administration couldn't give two hoots about a person's sexual orientation. However, by aligning themselves with the more extreme elements of the Christian right, they have made every sexual peccadillo - especially gay ones - dynamite under their own house.

It reminds me of the words of John F Kennedy in his inaugural address: "those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside."

The sexual scandals currently rocking the Bush administration are, like the scandals that shook Major's government, especially powerful because of the stances that both administration's took.

When Major's government collapsed, the Tory party collapsed with it, and they have never really recovered. Bush's administration is showing similar fault lines. If the Democratic party had any real balls they would hold firm to their own beliefs, refuse to cow to any Republican standard of morality or patriotism, and push the whole seedy house down. For, like the Major government, Bush's moral stance is a lie. One needs only to hold a mirror up to it, to destroy it.

Each and every subsequent scandal will reveal the chasm between the Christian values Bush claims to espouse and the government which he actually leads. And, therein, lies the potential for the Republican downfall.

Click title for full article.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The US arrest of Iranians

Incidents like this lead any sentient person to question just how reliable US intelligence actually is.

God's Warriors

This looks like a fascinating programme. I wish I could find the whole thing to post.

Gods Warriors and the Settlements

"God's Warriors": The Right's "Supreme Vision"

Immigrants put public services under pressure, says Cameron

David Cameron's greatest success so far in leading the Tory party has been his complete and total lack of anything that one could describe as a policy. He immediately, upon assuming the leadership of the party, put all Tory policies out for a review which he promised would be revealed before the election.

This has enabled him to peddle around on his bike talking about a greener Earth without ever saying what he intends to do to achieve this goal. The overall aim of this has been to dispel the Tory party's image as the "nasty party".

And this appeared to be a working strategy as long as Blair was in power. However, with a new Labour leadership enjoying a surge in the polls there have been calls within the Tory party for Cameron's head. So Cameron has responded. And what issue has he zoomed in on to reassure the Tory party faithful that he is still the man to lead them?


Interviewed on BBC2's Newsnight programme last night, Mr Cameron said politicians had to combine "a careful use of language" on immigration with "tough and rigorous action". He accused Labour of combining, "loose, inflammatory language" with "weak, ineffective action".

He said: "It is about the pressure on schools, the pressure on hospitals, the pressure on housing."

In a wide-ranging 45-minute interview, the Tory leader insisted his party had "fire in its belly" despite falling behind Labour in the opinion polls and was ready for a general election.

For all his playing the role of a new kind of Tory leader one should never forget that Cameron was behind Michael Howard's disgraceful election campaign where many of us thought he played the race card. And it is interesting that, at the first sign of trouble amongst the ranks, that Cameron should have decided that immigration is the way to unite his party.

Swinging his party back on to more traditional Conservative territory, the Tory leader said the number of people arriving in Britain over a decade of Labour government had been "too high".

The "huge numbers" had placed "too great a burden" on public services, which were creaking under the pressure.

"There are benefits from immigration and I want Britain to capture the benefits from that immigration," he said on BBC2's Newsnight.

"But I think the levels of migration we've seen... have put too great a burden on public services. It needs to be better controlled.''

What's really interesting is what Cameron actually plans to do about this "burden" on British society. He has assured us that he will not be sending any immigrants home nor will he renegotiating any accession agreements with European countries, such as Poland, which already exist.

A Conservative government would push for "transitional periods" before people from future EU entrant nations could come and live and work in Britain.

In other words, he wouldn't actually do very much. But he gets the headline and he pleases the base.

He then hit other Conservative talking points:

Seeking to maintain the momentum last night, he strongly defended his plans to encourage marriage through the tax system.

He denied that this was a "bribe'' to existing and future married couples, saying Britain needed a "culture change" to encourage couples to stay together - something that would strengthen society.

If couples need financial incentives to stay together then I would counter that their relationship is probably not very strong anyway. And Cameron's argument that children benefit from being brought up in an environment in which they are raised by both parents appears to assume that the relationship between both the parents is a good one. I would argue that just as much harm can be done to a child who is brought up by parents in an abusive relationship.

But that's a side issue, the main point is that Cameron, for all his talk of dragging the Tory party towards the centre of British politics, has actually settled on the same tired nonsense that this country has rejected at the last three elections.

Dear God, he even managed to bang the drum about law and order.

He denied Labour charges that he was moving his party to the Right on immigration and crime.

"I've been very consistent on this issue of crime. We need strong families, we need youth clubs, we need things to divert people away from crime, strong schools. That is the context to crime.

"But when people break the law, I am a Conservative, I've always been a Conservative.

"I believe in tough punishment. I worked for Michael Howard, for heaven's sake, who put through some very tough changes to the criminal justice system."

Yes, you did, David. Thank you for reminding us. Although I think that sentence was for the consumption of those old ladies with the blue hair rinses at the Tory party conference who think the country went to the dogs when they stopped allowing birching.

With one interview Cameron has shored up his base... and probably lost himself the next election.

Click title for full article.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The US is fighting the Iraqi Government.

It's a sign of how fucked up this war is becoming. The US are now fighting the very government that their war put into power.

WARE: Yes, well, General Ray Odierno very much has his finger on the pulse of this war, and his assessment is entirely correct.

Yes, there has been some stabilization, some spectacular examples, like in al-Anbar province. Yes, it’s forced changes in the type of violence that we’re seeing here.

But Iraqi innocents are still dying in their hundreds and thousands every month. And what we’re failing to address is how we're achieving these successes in bringing down the violence is by cutting a deal with the tribes, the Baathists and the Sunni insurgents. It’s by creating Sunni militias to counteract the government’s own militias and the Iranian-backed militias. That’s bound to have long-term consequences.

In many ways, part of what’s being achieved is because America is turning somewhat, despite its rhetoric, against this government, fostering Sunni militias, questioning the role of this government, questioning whether it can actually perform.

Miliband: We will decide when UK troops leave Iraq

And now even David Miliband, Blair's political soul mate, is stating that British withdrawal from Iraq will not be done according to an American timetable.

Asked on BBC Radio 4 whether what was decided in relation to Baghdad by President George Bush would not affect British decisions, Mr Miliband said: "Absolutely. Our decisions about Basra are about the situation on the ground in Basra, not the situation on the ground in Baghdad." He said British forces had "very clear objectives that Iraq should be run by the Iraqis".

The split between the British and the American positions on this conflict is becoming more obvious by the day, with the Americans threatening to have to send troops to Basra in the event of a British withdrawal and with American commanders talking of British defeat in an attempt to force the Brits to adhere to an American inspired timetable.

The American threats appear to be having no effect. The British message remains exactly the same.

At a time of their choosing, the British forces will hand over to the Iraqis and the US can do whatever they like.

Brown continues to make noises to reassure the Americans:

The Prime Minister's spokesman said UK operations would be conducted in "close consultation with our allies" but said Britain had to take decisions based on the situation on the ground in Iraq, and those facing Basra and Baghdad were different.

However, it is clear that he is drawing a distinction between the situation the Americans face in Baghdad and the situation the Brits face in Basra.

Bush is losing his final ally. Berlusconi, gone. Aznar, gone. Blair, gone.

And now Brown's ministers are hinting that they are preparing to pack up and go home.

Bush will soon be all alone in a war of choice that he should never have entered into. Had Blair remained in office, there would be no question of the UK withdrawing from the Iraq war. Therein lies Bush's problem. His timetable for this war - or his lack of any concrete plan for victory - appears to have completely ignored parliamentary realities. Government's change. And so do their priorities.

And a war that has destroyed one British Prime Minister is unlikely to be supported by his successor.

Brown is now looking for a polite way to say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Click title for full article.

Bush threatens to confront Iran over alleged support for Iraqi insurgents

Bush is ramping up the rhetoric against Iran.

"Iran has long been a source of trouble in the region," he said." Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust."

The blunt terms in which Mr Bush portrayed the Iranian threat, and his threat of military confrontation with Tehran involving US troops based in Iraq, elevated the tense standoff between Washington and Tehran to a new level.

The speech also contained the implicit desire on Mr Bush's part for regime change, calling for "an Iran whose government is accountable to its people, instead of to leaders who promote terror and pursue the technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons".

However, in a sign of the weakness of the American position vis a vis the Middle East, Ahmadinejad has given his response, and it was a bold one.

Mr Ahmadinejad said US influence in the region was collapsing so fast that a power vacuum would soon be created. "Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap," he said.

Though the Iranian president said he backed the leadership of the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, and welcomed the involvement of Saudi Arabia, his offer to occupy the space the Americans might leave behind is unlikely to cool emotions in Washington.

Ahmadinejad is a hot head, and he may come to regret those words, which are sure to enrage the Cheney's of this world and tempt them, in their extreme impotence, to hit out through air strikes.

But it is a sign of the loss of US power in the region since the botched invasion that Ahmadinejad feels he can shrug off such US threats.
He (Amadinejad) went on to deride the possibility of the US pursuing military action in Iran, saying it was in no position to do so.
The more Bush is cornered, with even Republicans starting to turn against his war in Iraq, the more I worry about what he is going to do next.

Mr Bush's bullish talk of his determination to "take the fight to the enemy" in the carefully choreographed setting of a veterans' convention in Reno, Nevada, was the second of a two-part appeal by him to shore up public support for his flagging strategy on Iraq. In the first speech, made last week, he invoked Vietnam to argue that quitting Iraq now could put the lives of millions of innocent civilians at risk.

Mr Bush yesterday vowed to persevere with his controversial military policy in Iraq, insisting that political and security progress was being made, despite a rising tide of dissent even from high up within his Republican party.

"Our strategy is this: every day we work to protect the American people. We will fight them over there so that we don't have to fight them in the United States of America," he said.

The idea that Sunni and Shia insurgents would cross an ocean to fight on US soil is absurd on it's face and is a further indication of the corner Bush now finds himself in.

However, as support for the Iraq war hemorrhages away - even amongst Republicans - Bush is moving towards ever more extreme positions. Dear God, he's even invoked Vietnam, suggesting that the US were wrong to disengage from that war.

And now he is focusing his attention on Iran, making ever more threatening noises.

The worst President in the history of the United States is looking for a way out of the corner into which he has pinned himself. All reasonable people should be very nervous at this point.

There's no knowing what he's going to do now...

Click title for full article.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New blow to Bush as attorney general resigns

I don't have much time to post today, although I couldn't ignore the news that Alberto Gonzales has finally quit his post as US Attorney General. Supporters of Bush say that one of his faults is an excessive loyalty towards his staff, citing the holding on to Rumsfeld way past the point where he served the administration in any useful capacity. I have a slightly harsher view of this, and think that Bush is pigheaded and simply refuses to admit when the game is up.

Gonzales's recent performances in front of the Congressional committee were simply disgraceful lessons in obfuscation, and for the President to applaud this behaviour by stating that no-one had proven that Gonzales had actually committed a crime, was a low point even for this President.

What Bush was applauding was an Attorney General who claimed to have the memory loss of an Alzheimer's sufferer in a performance that even Republicans found unconvincing, leading them to call for his resignation.

Against this torrent of abuse, Bush hoped to hold firm and to continue to employ a liar and suspected perjurer as the country's top law officer.

Gonzales has finally given in to the inevitable, although he has made no statement that explains why he has, at this time, decided enough is enough.

What is clear though, as Gonzales's departure leaves Cheney the only original member of Bush's administration still standing, is how few people remain in the administration to defend Bush's unique interpretation of his powers as a war time President. This is an interpretation that many feel was crafted in the Vice President's office.

Indeed, many feel that it was Gonzales's attempt to defend an intellectual position that was not his own that aided his fall.

“He was not the intellectual father of those positions, but he shaped and articulated them at the White House, and he continued to take a very strong position on executive power as attorney general,” said Daniel Marcus, a professor of constitutional law at American University who was a top official at the Justice Department under President Bill Clinton.

It was Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser, David S. Addington, who, by most accounts, provided the intellectual framework for building up the power of an executive branch that they believed had been badly weakened by restrictions imposed after Vietnam and Watergate. They pushed for a radical rewriting of American policies on such critical issues as surveillance and detention of terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks, with virtually no oversight or input from Congress or the courts.

Now, Gonzales's resignation will do nothing to undermine the administration's determination to continue to assert that the President holds these unprecedented powers, but his fall hardly strengthens the President's position if only through the simple fact that one of the people who attempted to articulate the administration's argument has been forced to fall on his sword.

David R. Gergen, professor of public service at Harvard University and an adviser to Presidents Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Ronald Reagan and Clinton, said Mr. Gonzales “will be remembered as riding shotgun with Dick Cheney on the expansion of presidential power.”

Mr. Gergen and other legal analysts and former government officials said Mr. Gonzales came to stand for the government-by-fiat approach adopted by the Bush White House after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Cheney survives in Washington because he is a political animal who well understands the ways of the Beltway. One always got the feeling that Gonzales was attempting to fit in with this crowd and that he did not fully share or truly understand their passions. This led him into trouble.

“You can’t just change government through strong-willed policy,” said Stanley Brand, an ethics lawyer in Washington and a former House Democratic counsel. “People who ride into Washington on a high horse of ideology or ignorance are inevitably headed toward a blow-up.”

With Gonzales it was a strange mixture of ignorance and someone else's ideology which led to his downfall.

Now, a severely weakened Bush must face the gruelling task of forcing through a successor. No doubt Bush will, as he always does, choose an ideologue uniquely unsuited for the position. Appointment to top positions simply to rile the opposition appears to be a trait of this administration, by which I'm thinking of the astonishing appointment of John Bolton to United Nations, so I do think we can expect more of the same.

However, there is no reason for the Democrats to play dead and allow Bush to make such an appointment by accusing them of endangering the country at a time of war or some such nonsense.

Yet another of Bush's appointments has proven himself to be spectacularly unsuited to the task that the President asked him to carry out.

The Commander in Chief has shown too many times that his judgment is fatally flawed and that he has a tendency to promote friends to top positions based solely on his closeness to them rather than any actual talent they may possess. I'm thinking specifically about his appointment of Michael D Brown - You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie - who brought all his skills and experience as the Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association to the oversight of FEMA with predictable consequences.

With the resignation of Bush's latest friend, appointments based on such friendships should now be rendered a thing of the past.

The Democrats must now carry out their constitutional duty, and ensure that the next person that Bush proposes is actually fit for the job.

Click title for full article.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Countdown: Worst Person August 26, 2007

I'm glad that Olbermann is as appalled by Limbaugh's insane remarks as I was. As Keith points out, Limbaugh is simply nuts...

Iraq body count running at double pace

The "surge" in Iraq may have had some success in bringing down the levels of violence in Baghdad, but the overall death toll from sectarian attacks in Iraq is now double what it was a year ago.

Some of the recent bloodshed appears the result of militant fighters drifting into parts of northern Iraq, where they have fled after U.S.-led offensives. Baghdad, however, still accounts for slightly more than half of all war-related killings — the same percentage as a year ago, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.

The tallies and trends offer a sobering snapshot after an additional 30,000 U.S. troops began campaigns in February to regain control of the Baghdad area. It also highlights one of the major themes expected in next month's Iraq progress report to Congress: some military headway, but extremist factions are far from broken.

In street-level terms, it means life for average Iraqis appears to be even more perilous and unpredictable.

For those arguing that the surge is working the figures do not make easy reading:

• Iraq is suffering about double the number of war-related deaths throughout the country compared with last year — an average daily toll of 33 in 2006, and 62 so far this year.

Nearly 1,000 more people have been killed in violence across Iraq in the first eight months of this year than in all of 2006. So far this year, about 14,800 people have died in war-related attacks and sectarian murders. AP reporting accounted for 13,811 deaths in 2006. The United Nations and other sources placed the 2006 toll far higher.

• Baghdad has gone from representing 76 percent of all civilian and police war-related deaths in Iraq in January to 52 percent in July, bringing it back to the same spot it was roughly a year ago.

_According to the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, the number of displaced Iraqis has more than doubled since the start of the year, from 447,337 on Jan. 1 to 1.14 million on July 31.

The figures appear to validate initial fears that the "surge" would merely displace the violence in Iraq to the northern territories. Last year 22% of the killings occurred in the northern provinces, this year it accounts for 35% of the killings.

Nora Bensahel, a military analyst at the Rand Corp., said that northern Iraq had become increasingly destabilized over the past few months.

The insurgents have made a "concerted effort to concentrate attacks in other parts of the country," Bensahel said, in part to escape the increased U.S. troop presence in Baghdad and in part to give the impression that no place in Iraq is safe.

Mostly, she said, the insurgents have shifted their focus to the Baghdad suburbs, but they are particularly keen to undermine the notion that northern Iraq is a "success story" for Washington and its key Iraqi partners — including the Kurds who have maintained a near-autonomous state in the north since the early 1990s.

Staging attacks in the north "has a symbolic effect," she said.

This is a problem I have always had when I listen to the pro-war supporters telling me that the situation is improving in Iraq. Their conclusions appear always to be based on subjective analysis and are rarely backed by concrete figures.

This is the problem I have with US politicians being led around Iraq by the US army and then returning and letting us know what they "have seen". Such views are always subjective and proof of progress should surely be reflected in the actual figures coming out of Iraq.

The headline of this article - taken from Yahoo - states a greater and more inarguable truth than any amount of politicians telling us what they have seen.

Click title for full article.

Maliki accuses US politicians of meddling in Iraq

Maliki has come out fighting after a series of attacks on him from various US politicians and has stated that Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic contender for the US presidency, and the Democratic senator Carl Levin should "come to their senses".

The bald assertion by Mr Maliki that US politicians are behaving like colonial overlords is the latest in a series of bad-tempered exchanges between officials from both countries.

"There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin," Mr Maliki said. "They should come to their senses."
Maliki has been under increasing pressure, especially since Allawi employed one of the US's most powerful GOP lobbying firms to tout himself as the best man to lead Iraq. The lobbying firm has been using Philip Zelikow, former counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a series of interviews to undermine Maliki and insinuate that the Bush administration are considering replacing Maliki.
I can confidently guess that our government is quietly speculating about a lot of different options knowing how much concern Iraqis have about their leadership.
Of course, what Zelikow is not saying - whilst he claims to be talking about the concerns of the Iraqi people - is that he is being paid by a firm that represents Allawi and that it is in Allawi's best interests that Zelikow runs down the leadership of Maliki.

As Bush has also let it be known that he is disappointed in Maliki's leadership, notably because of his forging of a friendship with Iraq's neighbour, Iran, Maliki has struck out claiming that Iraq can find other friends apart from the US, an obvious reference to Iran.

So it's fair to say that relations between the US and the Iraqi regime are as frosty as they have ever been since the invasion.
The Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said the Baghdad regime was "still pretty much a disaster" but cautioned: "It's a democratically elected government and I don't think we can dictate to them." Meanwhile, senators from both parties, returning from a visit to Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, concluded that the Shia prime minister had been "a huge disappointment".
Of course, what's interesting about all these politicians who took part in the horse and pony show of being dragged around Iraq by the US army, and being shown only what the army wanted them to see, is that they have all returned praising the "surge" and condemning Maliki.

And, since Allawi joined the US's most powerful lobbying firm, this cry has become almost universal.

Mr Maliki has been angered by a series of statements from across the US political spectrum which have queried his ability improve the situation. President Bush angered him by saying he was "frustrated" that political goals were not being met. Ambassador Crocker, speaking more like a pro-consul than a diplomat, said the lack of movement was "highly disappointing".

Allawi has recently resigned from the Iraqi government and is no doubt making his play for the role of Prime Minister ahead of the soon to be published report by General David Petraeus. Allawi hopes that Petraeus will portray the surge as working and the Iraqi government as failing. To this end Allawi has already publicly stated that the problems in Iraq are all the fault of Maliki and not the fault of the US government.

So, Maliki's possible replacement has payed the money and made all the right noises. The only problem is that Maliki is preparing for a fight.

The question now for Bush is: to coup or not to coup?


It's really interesting to watch the access to the US media Allawi is getting since he hired a lobbying firm. He appeared with Wolf Blitzer last night and stated:

Ayad Allawi said Sunday he will soon return to Baghdad to "reverse the course in Iraq."

Speaking from Amman, Jordan, Allawi told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," that al-Maliki leads a government loyal to Iran and Shiite interests.

Allawi accused the prime minister of "supporting militias to take the rule of law in their hands."

At a time when the US is arming Sunni militias, Allawi clearly has no sense of irony.

Click title for full article.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Surge in Bushco Propaganda Denies Reality on the Ground


The same nutcases that lied to get the US to invade Iraq are now playing the exact same tune regarding Iran. And, of course, Fox is leading the way...

US 'will not stop' British pull-out at Basra Palace

If this report is correct then Brown is wasting no time in putting a great distance between himself and the previous policies of Blair.

The Independent is reporting that British troops are to be pulled from Basra Palace - a position that the US are keen for us not to give up because it allows them to watch Iran - and that the withdrawal will take place, "within days or weeks".

Senior government sources confirmed yesterday that this decision will not be "swayed by domestic political considerations" – including relations with the US.

Defence ministry insiders confirmed last night that Britain plans to stick to its timetable to pull out of its stronghold at Basra Palace "within days or weeks", despite misgivings from US military and government figures that local Iraqi forces are not ready to take control.

US commanders in Baghdad want Britain to delay the pull-out of 500 British troops, fearing the Iraqi security services are not sufficiently well trained or equipped to control lawlessness.

But in frank discussions between British and American military commanders on the ground, Britain has made it clear it believes the Iraqis are perfectly capable of taking over as early as next week.

The very fact that they are referring to discussions between British and American commanders as "frank" gives some indication of how badly the coalition is now starting to fracture.

Relations with the US over British tactics in Basra have been strained since Jack Keane, a retired US general who has just returned from Iraq, said that the British were more focused on training Iraqi troops than keeping control of "deteriorating security".

He compared the situation in Basra to "almost gangland warfare", provoking an angry response from the Army spokesman in Basra, who said the UK was giving the Iraqis "space" to take the lead in policing the city.

This open warfare between British and US commanders is an indication of the level of anger felt by both sides. The US have been throwing around claims that the British have been "defeated" in Basra as a way of making the Brits stay and conform to an American timetable, which basically states that no-one leaves Iraq until President Bush can pass this whole dreary mess on to his successor.

Gordon Brown, having seen what conducting British foreign policy to an American timetable did to the Premiership of Tony Blair, was always unlikely to play the game the way Bush would have liked.

However, Brown has recently been advised by British commanders that he should withdraw British troops from Iraq "without delay" as Britain can achieve "nothing more" in that country.

It would appear that by removing British troops to the airport, Brown is taking the first steps towards removing them entirely.

Click title for full article.

Limbaugh claims Dems' interest in Darfur is securing black "voting bloc"

From Media Matters:

On his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that Democrats "want to get us out of Iraq, but they can't wait to get us into Darfur." He continued: "There are two reasons. What color is the skin of the people in Darfur? It's black. And who do the Democrats really need to keep voting for them? If they lose a significant percentage of this voting bloc, they're in trouble." A caller responded, "The black population," to which Limbaugh said, "Right."
He then goes on to lambaste the fact that "liberals" wanted to bring down the white government of South Africa and that they backed "Mandela, who was bankrolled by Communists".
"So you go into Darfur and you go into South Africa, you get rid of the white government there. You put sanctions on them. You stand behind Nelson Mandela -- who was bankrolled by communists for a time, had the support of certain communist leaders. You go to Ethiopia. You do the same thing."

Limbaugh added: "Clinton sent the U.S. military off to Bosnia. No U.S. national interest at stake. The liberals will use the military as a 'meals on wheels' program. They'll send them out to help with tsunami victims. But you put the military -- you put the military in a position of defending U.S. national interest, and that's when Democrats and the liberals oppose it."

Incredibly, whilst defending the invasion of Iraq, he goes on to state that, "Darfur is not attacking us, Darfur has not said they want to attack us."

The notion that any US or UN intervention into Darfur would take the form of "an attack" is simply taken as a given, but is quite breathtaking that he points out that Darfur is not attacking the US whilst defending the invasion of Iraq, another country that did not attack the United States and whose invasion Limbaugh utterly backs.

Now the fact that the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act was a bipartisan bill, which passed unanimously, is almost an irrelevance amongst the amount of dangerous crap that this man is spewing.

He really appears to think that Liberals were wrong to support Nelson Mandela. He actually appears to be saying that it was wrong to oppose the white government of Apartheid South Africa. I mean these are arguments which any rational person would imagine were long ago settled, and yet Rush Limbaugh still appears to be on the wrong side of them. Not only that, but these are not even views that he is handing out to very close friends in the privacy of his own home, this nutcase is on national radio spewing this crap.

Nor is this nonsense limited merely to Limbaugh. It is well known that Dick Cheney infamously voted against Mandela being released from prison, a vote that I have always assumed that he must regret and probably be embarrassed by. After all, next to Gandhi you have just registered a vote against one of the most important and influential figures of the 20th Century.

Is Cheney embarrassed? Not for a millisecond:
Yet Republican vice presidential candidate Cheney still defends his vote, saying on ABC's ``This Week'' that ``the ANC was then viewed as a terrorist organization. . I don't have any problems at all with the vote I cast 20 years ago.''
So Limbaugh is actually being no more extreme here than the Vice President of the United States. They actually lament the fall of Apartheid South Africa and the glorification of the "terrorist" Mandela.

They actually think the only reason that Liberals might want to intervene in Darfur is because it might help with the black vote at home. The notion that there might be a moral reason for intervention is swept aside as the US should only ever intervene when US "national interests" are at stake. Morality is to be replaced by crass selfishness.

The caller explains - and Limbaugh agrees - as to what those "national interests" consist of:

CALLER: Right. Terrorists have attacked us and our oil supply comes from, you know, Iraq and Iran and the Middle East, and yet that's not worth defending.

LIMBAUGH: Right. That's exactly right. You've got it. You've got it. Now you just have to believe your own instincts from here on out.

We actually owe Limbaugh a debt of gratitude. Few people are as open about the selfishness of the Republican philosophy as he is. But here, he lays it bare. Only intervene when it suits your "national interests", which usually means oil. Any other intervention, including Bosnia and Tsunami victims, is simply a Liberal ploy to shore up the black vote.

And, as I have said, he wasn't whispering this quietly, knowing that his words were shameful; he was on national radio proudly stating his views.

Click title for full report.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Allawi's Bloc Quits Iraqi Government

Allawi is making his move to oust Maliki as Iraqi Prime Minister and has today let it be known that his Iraqi National List (INL) are withdrawing their members from the government.

Allawi recently wrote a column for the Washington Post in which he - rather helpfully from the Bush administration's viewpoint - heaped all the blame for the mess in Iraq on to the shoulders of Maliki and went out of his way to exonerate the Americans.

Let me be clear. Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government, not with the United States.
At this point Bush and his cronies started braying publicly about Maliki and how his time was running out. In a piece entitled, "How our seedy, corrupt Washington establishment operates", Glenn Greenwald yesterday spelt out the entire sleazy process:

In a solid piece of reporting, CNN yesterday disclosed that the most powerful GOP lobbying firm, run founded by former GOP Party Chair and current Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and staffed by key former Bush national security officials, is being paid by Allawi to coordinate these anti-Maliki, pro-Allawi efforts:

A powerhouse Republican lobbying firm with close ties to the White House has begun a public campaign to undermine the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, CNN has confirmed. . . .

A senior Bush administration official told CNN the White House is aware of the lobbying campaign by Barbour Griffith & Rogers because the firm is "blasting e-mails all over town" criticizing al-Maliki and promoting the firm's client, former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, as an alternative to the current Iraqi leader. . . .

Allawi hires the most powerful GOP firm in the country, with former top Bush officials as partners, and almost immediately, the key Op-Ed pages of our nation's newspapers open up to him and all of official Washington, beginning with the President, changes course. Suddenly, key figures in both parties begin calling for Maliki to be replaced.
So Allawi has let it be known to Bush that he is his man, he is the guy who will give Washington what they want, including I presume their thieving Iraq Oil Law, and he has hired the most powerful GOP firm in the US to get his message across.

Greenwald points out the deception that is being performed here, with Philip Zelikow, former counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, running around Washington, being quoted as an Iraq expert, whilst failing to reveal that he is actually being paid by Allawi to run down Maliki and is concealing this fact from the public.
Reporter Martha Raddatz narrated the story which began (via LEXIS): "today, for the first time, President Bush said Maliki could be replaced." The story then flashed to Michael O'Hanlon, who said: "I think Mr. Bush made a very significant change in his policy today. He made it clear that his support for al-Maliki is on very thin ice."

Shortly thereafter, Raddatz said: "The former counselor to Secretary of State Rice says a plan B is now likely being considered," and then showed Zelikow -- identified on-screen only as a "Former Counselor to the State Department" -- who said:

I can confidently guess that our government is quietly speculating about a lot of different options knowing how much concern Iraqis have about their leadership.
So, Zelikow is claiming that Iraqis are concerned about their leadership, when in actual fact he is being paid to express the "expert" opinion that he is espousing by the man who has just today resigned from the Iraqi government and who is letting it be known to anyone who would listen that the Americans are not to blame for the shambles that is Iraq today.

So that's the backstory to the headline that "Allawi's Bloc Quits Iraqi Government". Only time will tell if Allawi is able to pull off this act of political skulduggery, aided and abetted by former members of the Bush administration, but Maliki just the other day has let it be known that he is not going to back down without a fight.

Maliki has stated that he can find friends elsewhere, by which he is obviously implying Iran, so the stakes between Maliki, Allawi and Bush simply couldn't be higher. Allawi has today rolled the dice....

What comes next promises to be very interesting.

Click title for full article.

Historian: Bush use of quote 'perverse'

When making his bizarre Vietnam war analogy with the war in Iraq the other day, President Bush quoted professor John Dower and highlighted comments he made regarding Japan after WWII. The inference from Bush was that Dower believed that there was a link between those who criticised the Iraq war effort and those who opposed the democratisation of Japan.

The only problem is that Dower is on record as stating that there is no correlation between the two conflicts and he is furious that Bush has misquoted him in this way.

Bush stated:

“An interesting observation, one historian put it, ‘Had these erstwhile experts’ — he was talking about people criticizing the efforts to help Japan realize the blessings of a free society — he said, ‘Had these erstwhile experts had their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage.’ ”
However, Dower has hit back stating:
“They [war supporters] keep on doing this,” said MIT professor John Dower. “They keep on hitting it and hitting it and hitting it and it’s always more and more implausible, strange and in a fantasy world. They’re desperately groping for a historical analogy, and their uses of history are really perverse.” “I have always said as a historian that the use of Japan [in arguing for the likelihood of successfully bringing democracy to Iraq] is a misuse of history,” he said when notified of the Bush quote.
Indeed, Dower has produced an article subtitled "Don't Expect Democracy in Iraq", which renders him a very strange choice of academic for Bush to quote.

Indeed, Dower went as far as to say of the democratisation of Japan:
The problem is that few if any of the ingredients that made this success possible are present—or would be present—in the case of Iraq. The lessons we can draw from the occupation of Japan all become warnings where Iraq is concerned.
A spokesman for President Bush has stated that Bush only quoted Dower in relation to his views regarding Japan, which is really pushing the bounds of plausibility as no-one who heard the speech could be in any doubt that Bush was using the analogy to further the argument that the US should remain in Iraq.

And so the war supporters are reduced to this. Using quotes from people who are on record as opposing the war and who have already dismissed publicly the very argument that Bush is attempting to espouse.
“Whoever pulled that quote out for him [Bush] is very clever,” Dower said, acknowledging that “if you listen to the experts prior to the invasion of Japan, they all said that Japan can’t become democratic.”

But there are major differences, Dower said. “I’m not being misquoted, but I’m being misrepresented.”

“In the case of Iraq,” Dower said, “the administration went in there without any of the kind of preparation, thoughtfulness, understanding of the country they were going into that did exist when we went into Japan. Even if the so-called experts said we couldn’t do it, there were years of mid-level planning and discussions before they went in. They were prepared. They laid out a very clear agenda at an early date.”
I thought at the time that the speech was an error, but to now find that it was selectively quoting people out of context really does imply that Bush is scraping the bottom of the barrel to make an cogent argument for his war.

Click title for full article.

US surge sees 600,000 more Iraqis abandon home

There have been many arguments over the degree to which the US surge in Iraq is succeeding, but there is one area in which Iraqi humanitarian groups say there is no dispute, and that is the amount of Iraqis fleeing their homes since the surge began.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Organisation said the total number of internally displaced has jumped from 499,000 to 1.1 million since extra US forces arrived with the aim of making the country more secure. The UN-run International Organisation for Migration says the numbers fleeing fighting in Baghdad grew by a factor of 20 in the same period.

These damning statistics reveal that despite much- trumpeted security improvements in certain areas, the level of murderous violence has not declined. The studies reveal that the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes ­ not intending to return ­ is far higher than before the US surge.

The flight is especially marked in religiously mixed areas of central Iraq, with Shia refugees heading south and Sunnis towards the west and north of the country.

Calling it the worst human displacement in Iraq's modern history, a report by the UN migration office suggests that the fierce fighting that has followed the arrival of new US troops is partly responsible.

Whilst politicians argue over the number of Iraqis killed, the scale of Iraqi displacement is largely ignored. Ethnic cleansing is now rampant in parts of Iraq, which is strange considering how harmonious the country was under the rule of Saddam. One can only presume that his iron fist rule kept such tensions from spilling over and that, once the invasion took the lid off the box, this cancer spread throughout Iraqi society.
The UN found that 63 per cent of the Iraqis fled their neighbourhoods because of threats to their lives. More than 25 per cent said they fled after being thrown out of their homes at gunpoint.
I've said it until I am blue in the face, but this is the greatest failing of the Bush Iraqi invasion plan. The primary task of any occupying army is to restore order. Without order, society itself collapses. The worrying signs that the US did not understand this prerequisite to occupation came when Rumsfeld dismissed the looting shortly after the invasion with his infamous phrase, "Freedom's messy".

Freedom, of course, is not messy. Anarchy is messy. By sending too few troops to secure the streets, Rumsfeld lost the war in the first few weeks of the campaign. The US have never recovered from this early mistake and resistance to them has only grown as time has gone on.

In such a disordered environment ethnic cleaning, the very thing we invaded Kosovo to stop, has now taken grip in Iraq. Indeed, it has taken grip to such an extent that one must wonder whether or not there will even be a country called Iraq when this nightmare is finally over.

A damning new assessment was recently delivered by all 15 US intelligence agencies calling the improvements obtained by the surge "modest".
Written by the CIA, it concluded that the government in Baghdad was "unable to govern effectively" and "will become more precarious" in the next six to 12 months, with little hope of reaching accommodation among political factions.
However, the surge appears to be causing a huge increase in the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes and vowing never to return.

This is the hidden human cost of this conflict; the lost homes, the displacement, the suspicion which now exists between former neighbours. It will take decades to ever undo the damage that has been done to Iraqi society, if - indeed - the damage can ever be undone.

And this is being done to a people that Bush set out to "liberate". He should be jailed for what he has done.

Click title for full article.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Jon Stewart: Oh, My God, we're going back into Vietnam!

Bush's Bid for a Death Penalty Fast Track

For a man who claims to be so concerned with the sanctity of human life, President Bush has overseen the execution of a remarkable number of people. In his eight years as Governor of Texas he sent 152 prisoners to their deaths, a record that has never been matched before or since.

Now he'd really like to kill more people and for the whole process to be fast-tracked.

The US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales -- Mr Bush's top legal adviser during the spree of executions in Texas in the 1990s -- is putting finishing touches to regulations, inspired by recent anti-terrorism legislation, that would allow states to turn to the Justice Department, instead of the federal courts, as a key arbiter in deciding whether prisoners live or die.

In some instances, prisoners would have significantly less time to file federal appeals, and the appeals courts significantly less time to respond. On the question of whether defendants received adequate representation at trial -- a key issue in many cases, especially in southern states with no formal public defender system -- the Attorney General would be the sole decision-maker.

Since Mr Gonzales is a prosecutor, not a judge, and since he has a track record of favouring death in almost every capital case brought before him, the regulations would, in effect, remove a crucial safety net for prisoners who feel they have been wrongly convicted.

Elisabeth Semel, a death penalty specialist at the University of California law school in Berkeley, said the intention of the proposed regulation was clear: "
To make it more difficult for people who have been sentenced to death in state courts, including those sentenced without adequate representation and resources, to avoid being executed."
The fact that the US still employs the death penalty places her amongst some strange bedfellows for a world leader. There is no other industrialised nation which continues with this barbaric practice. Russia is alone among the biggies in keeping the death penalty on the books, although it is more than ten years since the Russian's actually executed anyone; and she did - on 28 February 1996 - make a commitment to the European Union that she would abolish this practice completely.

Here is the company the US finds herself in:
And here is the list of nations who have outlawed the death penalty for all crimes:
Even Micronesia no longer continue this barbaric practice which Bush, rather than consider banishing, is actually attempting to speed up and kill people quicker with less chance of an appeal. By introducing these regulations Bush will make it harder for a wrongfully convicted person to have their appeal properly heard. And it's not as if the US has never come across a person on death row who shouldn't be there...
Kenny Richey, a Scot who has been on Ohio's death row for close to 20 years, is still alive -- and, it appears, on the verge of having his sentence quashed -- because of the intervention of a federal appeals court on his behalf.

Four years ago, a Missouri man, Joe Amrine, was released after 17 years on death row after the collapse of all evidence that led to his conviction for a jail murder.
The state argued, with a straight face, that even the establishment of innocence was not a reason to stop his execution, because nothing had been procedurally incorrect about his original trial. Again, it was a federal appeals court that weighed in on Amrine's behalf.

They actually argued that an innocent man should go to his death because nothing had been procedurally incorrect about his original trial.

I find the fact that the US still allows the death penalty to be carried out to be one of the strangest things about the world's leading superpower. It is natural to expect that the world's leading power would be amongst the world's most civilised nations and yet the US finds itself alongside regimes like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan when it comes to this issue.

So how much thought did Bush give to the 152 people who he sent to their deaths?
According to official memos, Governor Bush would give the green light to executions based on no more than a half-hour briefing from Mr Gonzales. Mr Gonzales, in turn, often omitted mitigating evidence.
Thankfully, I will never be in the position where I have to decide whether or not someone lives or dies; but, if I were, I'd want more than half an hour to gather all the relevant facts and I would certainly want to hear the mitigating evidence.

Bush once again seeks to take power from the courts and place it in the hands of the executive with Gonzales alone being the person who decides who lives and who dies.

The very fact that this habitual liar continues to serve as the US Attorney General is surreal enough, but to put such an immoral person in charge as the sole arbiter for someone's life or death is simply obscene.

To put such power in the hands of the Attorney General rather than the federal appeals court is scandalous at any time. But to do so whilst Gonzales occupies the office simply beggars belief. A suspected perjurer will now decide who lives and who dies.

You couldn't make this shit up...

Click title for full article.

The Censuring of Anti-War Sentiment

Democracy in the US, Bush style:

Why am I not surprised?

Republican senator urges Bush to start Iraq exit by Christmas

Republican senator John Warner has called on President Bush to start bringing troops back home by Christmas as a new report by US intelligence agencies was published, which offered bleak hope of the US achieving any progress in Iraq in the next twelve months.

Mr Warner, who has recently returned from Iraq and is widely respected by his Republican colleagues, went much further than in June when he first broke ranks with Mr Bush over the war. After a meeting with White House aides, he told reporters: "We simply cannot, as a nation, stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action."

He spoke shortly after the national intelligence estimate, the consensus view of the CIA and 15 other American intelligence agencies, published their latest assessment of Iraq.

They predicted that the prospects for the Iraqi government are "precarious", and expressed fears of a surprise attack in that country in the next few weeks comparable to the 1968 Tet offensive that threatened to overwhelm American forces in Vietnam.

An American defence official, briefing journalists ahead of publication, said US forces are braced for "a mini-Tet". He predicted that the attack could be timed to maximise political pressure on President Bush, when the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, goes to Congress next month to provide an up-to-date assessment of progress.

In contrast with regular press statements from the Pentagon about inflicting casualties on al-Qaida in Iraq, the national intelligence report said the militant group, which has concentrated on "spectacular" attacks, remained strong enough to conduct further high-profile operations.

The 10-page summary, Prospects for Iraq's Stability, is the first such report since January, when Mr Bush announced his "surge" strategy, in which he sent an extra 30,000 US troops to Iraq. The report said gains had been modest: "There have been measurable, but uneven, improvements in Iraq's security situation [since January]." It added: "We assess, to the extent that coalition forces continue to conduct robust counter-insurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi security forces, that Iraq's security will continue to improve modestly during the next 6-12 months, but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance."

So for all Bush and the other right wingers blather about the success of "the surge", the actual achievements produced remain "modest". The US continues to run up a down escalator, expending a lot of resources but achieving very little. It is against this reality that Warner is saying that enough is enough.

Indications of just how much Bush is losing control over events in Iraq are manifest.

For example, I have always said that Bush would replace Maliki should he appear to be unable to pass the Oil Law, and Bush recently gave hints that Maliki's days were numbered. However, even Maliki now appears to be slipping free of Bush's noose. His response to Bush's threats to remove him are a further indication of how the US is losing control of the script when it comes to Iraqi politics:
Mr Maliki, on a visit to Syria, had said he could turn to friends elsewhere if the US ditched him - almost certainly a reference to Iran.
Now, even the US puppet regime is biting back, refusing to accept Washington's mandate over Iraqi affairs. Bush's immediate reaction was not to go on the offensive, but to withdraw, praising Maliki publicly. This is telling. It is a further indication of how much control the Bush administration have lost over events in Iraq.

And, as the Bush regime seeks to isolate Iran by arming it's neighbours, the largely Shia government of Iraq are unlikely to sing to an American song sheet, rendering the whole Iraqi operation pointless.

It remains to be seen whether the Bush administration still have sufficient sway over Maliki's government to force through their Oil Law, but Maliki's most recent reaction to Bush's threats do not bode well.

If the US cannot control the puppet regime, then surely even more Republicans will soon join Warner in asking what the US presence in Iraq is actually achieving.

Click title for full article.

Putin says U.S. wants to dominate world

Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched his harshest criticism yet of the Bush administration, claiming that the US is attempting to force it's will on the entire world.

Attacking the concept of a "unipolar" world in which the United States was the sole superpower, he said: "What is a unipolar world? No matter how we beautify this term it means one single center of power, one single center of force and one single master."

"It has nothing in common with democracy because that is the opinion of the majority taking into account the minority opinion," he told the gathering of top security and defense officials.

"People are always teaching us democracy but the people who teach us democracy don't want to learn it themselves."

I think Putin raises a very valid point. Often, in the comments section of this site, I am told that Americans "don't care" or "couldn't care less" about matters which concern Europeans.

Indeed, there is a strange dichotomy raised by an American state that claims to be interested in exporting democracy whilst, simultaneously, ignoring the UN; the ultimate expression of global democracy.

Surely any state that supports the democratic ideal would - as a matter of course - be interested in the opinions of the majority of citizens? Putin's point is that the US - whilst claiming to be exporting democratic ideals - has very little interest in what most of the planet thinks about what it doing. Indeed, it is led by a President who seeks to make a virtue out of the fact that he pays little attention to opinion polls; polls which express the opinion of the majority.

The attitude of Bush and Cheney - certainly from the way they seek to bypass their own Congress - is that, once elected, the President is, in effect, a dictator for his remaining term in office; he is "The Decider" and the rest of the governmental apparatus is there simply to facilitate his decisions.

This is the "reclaiming of Presidential powers" that Cheney thinks was lost after the Watergate scandal, a scandal which grew out of a President believing that he was the law and that it naturally followed that anything he did could not be illegal. Which is surely the best definition one could ever come up with for a dictatorship; a place where the opinion of one person held sway over all other opinion. A place where the laws that apply to all of us do not apply to the leader; who is deemed, as a matter of course, to be above the law.

In the US today we have a President who has publicly admitted to committing a federal crime - to wiretapping US citizens outside of FISA - and yet nothing has been done to censure him. No attempt has been made to bring him back within the law. Indeed, the Democrats have, shamefully, acquiesced in making his illegality legal.

It is against this backdrop that Putin raises the question of where this US definition of "democracy" is leading us. What kind of world is being fashioned by a US that gives itself the right to attack non-nuclear powers with nuclear weapons if it sees fit? What kind of world is being fashioned by a US that allows itself to develop a new range of "bunker busting" nuclear weapons, whilst demanding that the rest of the planet, especially Iran and North Korea, abide by the NNPT?

The democratic ideal is a fine one. Indeed, the Bush administration claim to be so fond of it that they wish to export it throughout the Middle East. However, as Putin rightly points out, that ideal has - at it's heart - the belief that the opinion of the majority should ultimately hold sway.

The Bush philosophy appears to state that the rest of the world should acquiesce to US superiority, that the laws which govern the rest of the planet do not apply to the US itself. This is manifested in the US's attitude towards the NNPT, Guantanamo Bay, and a host of other issues. It is the antithesis of the democratic ideal, and it is the dichotomy at the heart of Bush's supposed love of democracy.

Since the end of WWII, the US has led the world. Under Bush, it seeks to rule. Those are very different things, and Putin may very well attract approbation from Lieberman and others for pointing this out, but his point is valid.

No country has the right to state that international law does not apply to them. In repeatedly doing so, Bush undermines the very ideals which he claims to aspire to.

Click title for full article.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

America To The Rescue!

Jon Stewart takes apart the sheer insanity that is US interference in the Middle East. Each generation appears to choose new allies, which directly contradicts all that has gone before. With one exception: Israel. The US's only true friend in the Middle East. I have only one question: Before the formation of Israel, did the US have any enemies in the Middle East?

Don't know much about history

Special VIETNAM Edition

Whilst on this theme, there's a very good article by Matthew Yglesias in today's Guardian Comment section. Click the title to read the whole thing.

All this, however, was but the appetizer for a shocking embrace of a historically illiterate account of the Vietnam war. "One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens," Bush said "whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields.'" While it is of course true that people died in South Vietnam following American withdrawal, millions died during the United States' years of military involvement as well, a great many killed by the American military at enormous expense and with no end in sight. The killing fields of Pol Pot's Cambodia, meanwhile, were if anything more a consequence of America's destabilization of the region than of America's departure.

Unenlightening as Bush's analogies may be, they do serve as an interesting sign of the times. For years, war-supporters derided any efforts to draw parallels between Iraq and Vietnam as unwarranted, now they're eager to draw them. The reason, most likely, is that while the hawks lost the war in Vietnam and eventually even lost the debate over the war, they believe themselves to have eventually won the larger political battle as Ronald Reagan embraced Bush-style revisionist accounts of the war in southeast Asia as part of his march to the White House in 1980.

For months now, many conservatives have been fundamentally positioning themselves for the post-war era, readying the arguments that will blame the failure of the venture in Iraq on its opponents rather than its architects. That Bush himself has chosen to join them is, perhaps, on some level the clearest reflection of the reality that the president knows perfectly well that the war is unwinnable, and blame-shifting now the best hope for saving his historical legacy.

As The Young Turks argue, perhaps Bush embracing the Vietnam defence is the best indication yet that Rove really was Bush's brain. For, as far as defences go, this is a suicidal gear shift.

Vietnam War through The Things They Carried

Special VIETNAM Edition

As Bush regrets the US's early withdrawal from Vietnam, let's remember just what that conflict was actually like.

Bush Administration Comparing Iraq to Vietnam

Special VIETNAM Edition

Bush Compares Iraq to Vietnam

Special VIETNAM Edition

I have noticed, in recent weeks, a tendency amongst war supporters to prepare the Vietnam defence, the argument that the US would have eventually prevailed had not the cowardly Liberals forced them to retreat. The implication being that a similar mistake is about to be committed in Iraq, where victory - as in Vietnam according to right wing fantasy - lies just across the next hill.

Well, now the theme has been picked up by President Bush, invoking Vietnam for the first time, as a reason why the US must now stay involved in the Iraq conflict. Although, he chose a different route from the others who have reached for this analogy:

"One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 'reeducation camps' and 'killing fields,' " Bush told a receptive audience at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention.

Of course, terrible things did happen once the Americans withdrew, however, it is arguable whether or not those things were any more terrible than the napalming carried out by the nation which was withdrawing.

It is true that tens of thousands of Vietnamese were killed, and hundreds of thousands exiled to "re-education" camps, by a triumphant Communist government after Saigon fell in 1975. But by the early 1970s as the worst American bombing was raging, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were being killed, and millions being exiled from their homes—carnage that came to a dead stop once the war ended. As cruel as the Communist consolidation of power was, ending the war entailed an obvious net saving of lives, and if it were saving lives conservatives actually cared about—instead of scoring ideological points—this should be obvious.

That's the first point. The second: America's war aim—standing up an anti-Communist democratic government in Saigon absent an American military occupation—was impossible. President Nixon admitted this privately all the time, even while he was simultaneously publicly claiming he was negotiating to achieve exactly that. The point has finally become so obvious that now even conservatives admit it. Though conservatives still haven't brought themselves to admit the more fundamental point: Nixon was right. Indeed, sickeningly, after more visits and better contacts in-country than any American politician, he had been saying we couldn't win in Vietnam privately since 1966, as Len Garment disarmingly acknowledged in his memoir.

Nor did Bush give any credible reasons for believing that, had the US remained in Vietnam for a further - say, five years - that those same atrocities would not have taken place once the US eventually left. Indeed, Bush's analogy was useful, but not for any of the reasons that he supposed.

As with Vietnam, leaving a conflict can always result in more death and destruction, but this is why declaring war is such a monumental decision and this is why wars of choice are to be at all times avoided unless there is absolutely no alternative. Bush sought with this speech to move the responsibility for what happens after withdrawal to the shoulders of those who want the war to end. He is avoiding a much more glaringly obvious point. The responsibility for every single death in this war is his. He began this war and he did so based on lies. He also did so against another country that had not attacked the USA. His argument that things might get worse if we leave, avoids the more important question of who got us here in the first place.

Opponents of the war, like myself, would never have advocated that the invasion take place, so it seems churlish to attempt to make us responsible for anything that happens after a US withdrawal.

But the Vietnam analogy holds. America remained in Vietnam long after many US politicians had privately come to the conclusion that the war could not be won. This resulted only in the deaths of thousands of young Americans and hundreds and thousands of Vietnamese; it did not, in any way, change the carnage that reigned once the US withdrew.

Nor, and again the analogy works - but not in the way Bush imagines - did the US withdrawal from Vietnam set off the consequences that war proponents at the time envisaged. Then, we were told that a domino effect would grip South East Asia, and that country after country would fall to the communists. It simply didn't happen. Indeed, apart from South Vietnam the only country's which turned Communist were Laos and Cambodia, both of which saw the Vietnam war spill across their borders.

Now, we have Bush threaten that "we fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here." This is a simply ludicrous claim which conflates Iraqi insurgents fighting to remove a foreign enemy from their country with al Qaeda, and implies that they all share the same outlook and ideology.

There is no doubt that al Qaeda would like to attack the US within it's own borders, but they represent a tiny fraction of the forces that the US face in Iraq, and the implication that the rest of the people the US are battling in Iraq would cross the ocean in boats and planes to fight on US soil is simply ludicrous on it's face, and the final indication of how bereft the war supporters are of an actual argument.

The American withdrawal from Vietnam took place after it became obvious to one and all that the battle could not be won. Bush's logic appears to be that they should have remained there indefinitely to avoid the consequences of withdrawal. It perfectly sums up his mindset. Never admit defeat. Never withdraw.

There will be horrible consequences when the US withdraws from Iraq, just as their were terrible consequences when the US withdrew from Vietnam.

Bush is attempting to stave off the day when he has to face up to the consequences of his own actions. He wishes to push those terrible consequences onto another President's shoulders.

But those terrible consequences remain his responsibility. After all, he is - as he likes to remind us - "The Decider". And the terrible decision to invade Iraq, was his, and his alone.

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