Tuesday, April 13, 2004
He Must Be Defeated
The Teacher's Aid in Chief lectures the American people as if they are just as stupid as he is. As usual, he filibusters with his puerile incoherent blather, going on and on and on not making any sense, projecting arrogance and ignorance in equal measure.
I am deeply ashamed to be American right now.
digby 4/13/2004 06:14:00 PM
Has there ever been a more blatantly partisan Attorney General than the Crisco Kid? This testimony today was contemptuous, dishonest and disturbingly inappropriate. In any other administration someone who acted out as he did today would be fired:
Attorney General John Ashcroft strongly defended the Bush administration and himself today before the 9/11 commission, laying the blame for intelligence failures prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks squarely on the presidency of Bill Clinton.
Mr. Ashcroft said Al Qaeda was able to plan and carry out the attacks that killed some 3,000 people in large part because of policies of the Clinton administration and its deliberate neglect of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's computer technology.
Mr. Ashcroft said that to the contrary, he personally went to the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, on March 7, 2001, and urged her to scuttle what he characterized as an ineffective policy of the Clinton administration specifying that Mr. bin Laden had to be captured, and only in a way that lawyers would approve.
"Even if they could have penetrated bin Laden's training camp, they would have needed a battery of attorneys to approve the capture," Mr. Ashcroft said sarcastically.
Mr. Ashcroft said that he wanted "decisive, lethal action" and had told Ms. Rice, "We should find and kill bin Laden."
The attorney general sounded almost contemptuous as he spoke of a "legal wall" put into effect in 1995 to separate criminal investigators from intelligence agents in an effort to safeguard individual rights.
I'm afraid that Mr Ashcroft has a strange understanding of his job description. It was not his responsibility to tell the administration that he "wanted decisive, lethal action" overseas. It was his responsibility to deal with terrorism threats in the United States, a responsibility he failed miserably to meet.
I believe that he lied outright today when he denied (under oath) that he told Picker that he didn't want to hear about terrorism anymore.
BEN-VENISTE: And according to the statement that our staff took from you, you said that you would start each meeting discussing either counterterrorism or counterintelligence. At the same time the threat level was going up and was very high. Mr. Watson had come to you and said that the CIA was very concerned that there would be an attack. You said that you told the attorney general this fact repeatedly in these meetings. Is that correct?
PICKARD: I told him at least on two occasions.
BEN-VENISTE: And you told the staff according to this statement that Mr. Ashcroft told you that he did not want to hear about this anymore. Is that correct?
PICKARD: That is correct.
"First of all, Acting Director Pickard and I had more than two meetings," Mr. Ashcroft said evenly. "We had regular meetings."
And far from turning away from briefings on terrorism, Mr. Ashcroft said, "I care greatly about the safety and security of the American people and was very interested in terrorism, and specifically interrogated him about threats to the American people, and domestic threats in particular."
All of his actions indicate that he didn't want to hear about terrorism. I'll be expecting some harsh words from Senator Catkiller on the floor of the Senate tomorrow. Words like perjury and "letter of resignation."
Yeah, I know. And people in hell want icewater.
digby 4/13/2004 05:56:00 PM
A couple of other questions I'd like to see raised in Junior's thrid prime time news conference:
1) Three months ago you proposed an ambitious multi-billion plan to send a mission to Mars and establish a permanent base on the moon in the next few years to harvest materials to process into rocket fuel and breathable air. How much of a priority will you place on this initiative in a second Bush administration?
2) There is no mention in your speeches of your immigration proposal announced this January, allowing large numbers of foreign guest workers to temporarily work legally in the United States. Do you plan to put the muscle of the White House behind the legislation proposals sponsored by Senators McCain and Hagel this session?
digby 4/13/2004 10:14:00 AM
E.J Dionne quotes Bush at a fund raiser last week saying: "We stand for a culture of responsibility in America. We're changing the culture of this country from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you got a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture in which each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life."
I heard that fundraising speech (dutifully shown in its entirely live on CNN) and I too was struck by the unbelievable irony of his statement. It's actually beyond ironic. It's deluded.
In my fantasy America a reporter would repeat those lines to Bush tonight and then ask him if he thinks there are any problems --- from 9/11 failures to the economy to Iraq --- for which he bears any responsibility.
But, I'm sure that is impossible. Instead, we will hear the "journalists" ask him something like "how soon will you be able to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq?" at which point he'll filibuster incoherently for half an hour blathering on about good 'n evul 'n thugs 'n caves 'n smoken 'em out. Then he'll tell a reporter how ugly he is and everyone willl laugh uproariously at his comedic genius and go home.
digby 4/13/2004 09:32:00 AM
Ahmad At The Helm
I said the other day that I didn't know how to fix the problem in Iraq, but I do know that a good first step would be to uncermoniously dump that charlatan opportunist Ahmad Chalabi. According to this Cheney and Wolfowitz are as committed to him as ever:
Why did they do it? It seemed a safe bet to the civilian echelon policymakers at the Department of Defense when they approved Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer's fateful decision to close down the newspaper of Muqtada al-Sadr and to arrest an aide to the young firebrand Shiite cleric. Even after Shiite Iraq had erupted into fury over the moves on Saturday, April 3, top-level Pentagon policymakers were privately still convinced it was all a storm in a teacup.
A small event on Sunday, April 4, the very day after the move against al-Sadr prompted the revolt, provides the missing piece to the puzzle. For that was when the CPA announced the name of Iraq's putative new defense minister for the post-June 30 government. His name is Ali Allawi and he is a loyal, close associate of Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress. More, he is Chalabi's nephew.
There is no way that the move against al-Sadr was undertaken without Chalabi's prior knowledge and explicit approval. Instead, given the extraordinary degree to which the Pentagon policymakers and Vice President Dick Cheney continue to privately disparage the far more accurate, sober and reliable professional assessments of the U.S. Army's own tactical military intelligence in Iraq, it appears clear that, yet again, Chalabi was the tail that wagged the dog. He could have been expected to urge the move on al-Sadr in the first place.
The benefit to him is obvious. Chalabi believes -- as do his still-worshipful Pentagon backers -- that he has the blessing of supposedly moderate Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the mainstream chief religious authority of the Iraqi Shiites, to take power on July 1 with the force of 110,000 U.S. soldiers and their automatic weapons behind him.
However, just as the neocons lead President Bush by the nose, and Chalabi leads them by the nose, Sistani and the Iranians have been leading him by the nose.
Sistani's policy toward the CPA and Chalabi has been no different from the way he survived as an ayatollah all those years under Saddam Hussein, which was no mean feat. Sistani is playing a cautious waiting game and avoiding the ire of those who currently are top dog in Baghdad. He will drop Chalabi -- and the United States -- at the drop of a hat as soon it becomes clear that they cannot run or tame Iraq.
The myth of Iraqization of this war is now dead. The Pentagon masterminds remain determined to push Chalabi through as prime minister and absolute ruler of Iraq de facto on July 1. GOP heavyweights have even been assured around Washington that hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks from U.S. companies to Chalabi to do business in Iraq will be used for a good cause: to spread democracy in -- read, destabilize -- neighboring Saudi Arabia and Iran.
digby 4/13/2004 08:28:00 AM
Monday, April 12, 2004
Kos and Susan are asking: "Why is Kerry running?"
Obviously, there are many reasons any person runs for president having to do with ego and accident. After observing him for a while, I think John Kerry is responding to the call in the 30 year political civil war with the Republicans. He understands that they have become dangerously radical and that it's time to break their hold on power. He knows this territory.
In that sense, I confess I'm surprised that liberals aren't taking more heart in the fact that John Kerry is a card carrying fighting Massachusetts liberal. We should be thrilled that somebody as liberal as Kerry has got a chance to be president. Because let's not kid ourselves, anybody more liberal than John Kerry is unelectable. The last non-southerner was JFK (with the younger JFK sitting on the left):
He's not a crook, he's not lazy, he's not stupid. He's very accomplished, he's highly experienced and he's got good instincts. But, I'm convinced that the most important character traits in a successful President at this point in history are resiliance and cunning; even if we win the election, politics are going to remain a bloodsport. The Republicans aren't going to fade away. This battle is ongoing and we must have someone who can withstand a punch and come back. It is going to be very, very difficult to govern. I think Kerry is running not because he's "electable," but because he's one of the few Democrats of his generation who has spent his life preparing to govern in the face of a radical political opposition. The job is not for the fainthearted.
But, even if you don't believe that any of that is tue, I think it is safe to say that the Democratic nominee for president is always going to be running to one degree or another:
To protect and defend the citizens of the United States.
To preserve the separation of church and state
To safeguard the right to choose.
To provide a decent safety net
To encourage progressive taxation
To protect the environment
To advance civil liberties and civil rights
To govern transparently
To provide opportunity
To promote equality
To advance progress
To preserve the American way of Life
These are good reasons to feel ok about voting for John Kerry. The other side has very different ideas.
Upon reflection I think I failed to make clear the fact that I believe that right now the Democrats are essentially the conservative party, which means as great an emphasis on preservation as progress. This comes as a result of the two party system that places us in contrast to the radical Republican paarty which seeks to overturn the New Deal and dissolve the international order of the last 50 years. By necessity, our candidates are not going to be able to run on as progressive a platform as many of us might wish. One has to take into consideration the nature of the opposition and the character of the body politic when framing a case.
Kerry is not a reformer as Dean was perceived to be, nor is he a champion of a particular constituency as Gephardt was. But, perhaps at a time like this it is more helpful to judge the candidate by the quality of his enemies than his friends. His career has been about fighting bad guys, from Vietnam to Dick Nixon to BCCI.
In light of that, I believe Kerry is running for the simple reason that this time and place requires somebody who has the experience and character to keep the country secure while fighting back a rabid political opposition at home and a series of difficult threats overseas. His life has uniquely prepared him for this political moment.
For a similar perspective read Soldier For Peace in todays Salon.
digby 4/12/2004 10:19:00 PM
Sr. Comedy Correspondent
Gawd, how I hate pretentious, boring people telling me what's funny and what isn't:
To be honest, I was never a huge fan of Stewart's humor, which he custom-crafts for a mostly college-age audience. "The Daily Show"'s intention of showing clips from the news in order to mock the conventional coverage of the news and get to the bottom of what's really going on in the world always seemed to me too dependent on the thing it derided--the comic equivalent of covering an old song. Stewart's deflate-the-talking-heads shtick consists too much of sarcastic jibes at the Pompous or Deceitful Public Figure, at the Underlying Reality of Self-Interest; it's more like throwing fruit than making jokes.
Stewart can be funny when he's not playing his new role as comique engage, though it's strange that he can't mimic or do accents--he's the only American comic I've ever heard who can't do a British accent. My Korean grocer can do a British accent. Most peculiar is that he keeps using the identical outrageous-silly voice Johnny Carson patented decades ago. Maybe someone should give him a nudge. But the really discouraging thing is that nowadays, Stewart seems to consider it more important to be a good citizen than a funny fellow. According to the newspapers, a substantial number of younger viewers actually get their news from "The Daily Show." So for some time now, Stewart doesn't just want to skewer the conventional news and the mendacious politicians. He wants to clarify the news, and to educate his audience.
Yeah, well, it's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it.
The result is that Stewart weighs down his jokes with a kind of Government 101 knowingness. He's not just funny about politics, you see, he's savvy about the way the system works, and he's going to help us through the maze. In Washington, "you have to cut through the partisan gridlock just to get to the bureaucratic logjam." Stop, you're killing me.
Methinks that journalist, TV critic and all around pompous ass Lee Siegel just doesn't get the joke. But that's not surprising. He is, after all, the punch line.
digby 4/12/2004 08:55:00 AM
I said it before and I'll say it again, Howard Dean is the guy to make the case against Nader. He understands that you can't take anything for granted. He's got my gratitude.
digby 4/12/2004 12:33:00 AM
Sunday, April 11, 2004
Q Mr. President, could you tell us, did you see the presidential -- the President's Daily Brief from August of '01 as a warning --
THE PRESIDENT: Did I see it? Of course I saw it; I asked for it.
Q No, no, I'm sorry -- did you see it as a warning of hijackers? And how did you respond to that?
THE PRESIDENT: My response was exactly like then as it is today, that I asked for the Central Intelligence Agency to give me an update on any terrorist threats. And the PDB was no indication of a terrorist threat. There was not a time and place of an attack. It said Osama bin Laden had designs on America. Well, I knew that. What I wanted to know was, is there anything specifically going to take place in America that we needed to react to?
As you might recall, there was some specific threats for overseas that we reacted to. And as the President, I wanted to know whether there was anything, any actionable intelligence. And I looked at the August 6th briefing, I was satisfied that some of the matters were being looked into. But that PDB said nothing about an attack on America. It talked about intentions, about somebody who hated America -- well, we knew that.
Q Just to follow up on that, Mr. President. There was, in that PDB, specific information about activity that may speak to a larger battle plan, even if it wasn't specific. So I wonder if you could say what specifically was done, and do you think your administration should have done anything more?
THE PRESIDENT: David, look, let me just say it again: Had I known there was going to be an attack on America, I would have moved mountains to stop the attack. I would have done everything I can. My job is to protect the American people. And I asked the intelligence agency to analyze the data to tell me whether or not we faced a threat internally, like they thought we had faced a threat in other parts of the world. That's what the PDB request was. And had there been actionable intelligence, we would have moved on it.
I'm not exactly sure what you're referring to in the PDB, but if you're referring to the fact that the FBI was investigating things, that's great, that's what we expect the FBI to do.
Q Wasn't that current threat information? That wasn't historical, that was ongoing.
THE PRESIDENT: Right, and had they found something, they would have reported it to me. That's -- we were doing precisely what the American people expects us to do: run down every lead, look at every scintilla of intelligence, and follow up on it. But there was -- again, I can't say it as plainly as this: Had I known, we would have acted. Of course we would have acted. Any administration would have acted. The previous administration would have acted. That's our job.
Q Are you satisfied, though, that each agency was doing everything it should have been doing?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's what the 9/11 Commission should look into, and I hope it does. It's an important part of the assignment of the 9/11 Commission. And I look forward to their recommendations, a full analysis of what took place. I am satisfied that I never saw any intelligence that indicated there was going to be an attack on America -- at a time and a place, an attack. Of course we knew that America was hated by Osama bin Laden. That was obvious. The question was, who was going to attack us, when and where, and with what. And you might recall the hijacking that was referred to in the PDB. It was not a hijacking of an airplane to fly into a building, it was hijacking of airplanes in order to free somebody that was being held as a prisoner in the United States.
"I am very aware of the cameras," [Bush] recalled later. "I'm trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I'm sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children's story and I realise I'm the Commander in Chief and the country has just come under attack."
Update: Skippy has some questions for the Teacher's Aid In Chief.
digby 4/11/2004 06:22:00 PM
What, Charles Manson Turned Them Down?
Tim at The Road To Surfdom notes that the good news is they don't seem likely to appoint Paul Wolfowitz as Ambassador to Iraq. The bad news is that the new name being floated is a war criminal:
In Washington, two U.S. officials said John Negroponte, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is expected to be the first U.S. ambassador to post-Saddam Iraq.
One of the officials said Negroponte, a favorite of Secretary of State Colin Powell, (wtf?) has been asked whether he would take the job. But no imminent announcement is expected from the White House, because President Bush and his aides do not want to turn U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer into a lame duck.
If nominated and confirmed, Negroponte would oversee what is expected to be one of the largest U.S. embassies in the world. He has held numerous top posts before, including ambassador to Honduras during the Reagan administration's covert war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
That's certainly true. He has tons of experience with the kinds of "harsh measures" that the hawks now believe are going to be called for. What this article fails to mention is that:
...Negroponte -- ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985 -- was doing his best to make sure that news of torture, disappearances and killings by the U.S.-trained Honduran military didn't make it back to Congress or the American people, where it might discourage funding for the covert wars.
More than $1 billion in U.S. taxpayer money flowed to the Honduran military during the 1980s. The country served as the primary U.S. base for waging its clandestine wars against communism -- specifically in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. The CIA trained and financed a Honduran army unit known as Battalion 316, which kidnapped and tortured hundreds of people. Negroponte denied knowing of the human rights violations though the abuses were widely publicized in the Honduran press. A CIA document declassified in 1998 and made available by the nonprofit National Security Archive, acknowledged that the Honduran military had committed abuses which were politically motivated and officially sanctioned.
"The focus of my efforts were in shoring up Honduras's own defenses," Negroponte said in a 1999 CNN interview. "So we worked on building up their military, and building their self-confidence. ... We served as a sort of rear area, if you will, on a modest scale for the efforts in El Salvador." Some 75,000 Salvadorans died in the civil war in that country.
Just a cursory look at the record shows that Negropont is being much too "modest."
Negroponte supervised the creation of the El Aguacate air base, where the US trained Nicaraguan Contras and which critics say was used as a secret detention and torture center during the 1980s. In August 2001, excavations at the base discovered 185 corpses, including two Americans, who are thought to have been killed and buried at the site.
Records also show that a special intelligence unit of the Honduran armed forces, Battalion 3-16, trained by the CIA and Argentine military, kidnaped, tortured and killed hundreds of people, including US missionaries. Critics charge that Negroponte knew about these human rights violations and yet continued to collaborate with the Honduran military while lying to Congress.
In May 1982, a nun, Sister Laetitia Bordes, who had worked for ten years in El Salvador, went on a fact-finding delegation to Honduras to investigate the whereabouts of thirty Salvadoran nuns and women of faith who fled to Honduras in 1981 after Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination. Negroponte claimed the embassy knew nothing. But in a 1996 interview with the Baltimore Sun, Negroponte's predecessor, Jack Binns, said that a group of Salvadorans, among whom were the women Bordes had been looking for, were captured on April 22, 1981, and savagely tortured by the DNI, the Honduran Secret Police, and then later thrown out of helicopters alive.
In early 1984, two American mercenaries, Thomas Posey and Dana Parker, contacted Negroponte, stating they wanted to supply arms to the Contras after the U.S. Congress had banned further military aid. Documents show that Negroponte brought the two with a contact in the Honduran armed forces The operation was exposed nine months later, at which point the Reagan administration denied any US involvement, despite Negroponte's participation in the scheme. Other documents uncovered a plan of Negroponte and then-Vice President George H. W. Bush to funnel Contra aid money through the Honduran government.
During his tenure as US ambassador to Honduras, Binns, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter, made numerous complaints about human rights abuses by the Honduran military and he claimed he fully briefed Negroponte on the situation before leaving the post. When the Reagan administration came to power, Binns was replaced by Negroponte, who has consistently denied having knowledge of any wrongdoing. Later, the Honduras Commission on Human Rights accused Negroponte himself of human rights violations.
Speaking of Negroponte and other senior US officials, an ex-Honduran congressman, Efrain Diaz, told the Baltimore Sun, which in 1995 published an extensive investigation of US activities in Honduras:
Their attitude was one of tolerance and silence. They needed Honduras to loan its territory more than they were concerned about innocent people being killed.
The Suns's investigation found that the CIA and US embassy knew of numerous abuses but continued to support Battalion 3-16 and ensured that the embassy's annual human rights report did not contain the full story.
Is this the right man for the job, or what? Saddam would be proud to know that we were considering sending in a man who understands the unpleasant "necessities" required to lead Iraq --- torture, kidnapping and mass graves. If John Negropont becomes the ambassador, we will be making sure that Saddam's legacy lives on. And, I think we can safely put to bed any more protestations about freedom, democracy and "liberation."
digby 4/11/2004 04:33:00 PM
Sending A Message
Several American and Iraqi officials now regard Bremer's move to close the newspaper as a profound miscalculation based on poor intelligence and inaccurate assumptions. Foremost among the errors, the officials said, was the lack of a military strategy to deal with Sadr if he chose to fight back, as he did.
as with the campaign against Sadr, the military plan to quell Fallujah appears to have been based on faulty assumptions. Instead of disgorging the insurgents, many residents rallied to support them by joining the fight against the Marines. People in other cities, including Shiites who used to regard Fallujah's residents as the hillbillies of Iraq, rushed to donate blood and money. Sunnis in Fallujah and elsewhere in central Iraq who had deemed Sadr a troublemaker began to laud him as a hero.
All of a sudden, Bremer had not just a two-front war on his hands, but one in which each side was drawing strength from the other.
Does anyone in this administration ever make a decision based upon sound intelligence and accurate assumptions? Do they even try to obtain them? And, they have never planned anything beyond the next morning or developed a fall back strategy in case something goes wrong.
The military began to assemble plans to go after Sadr, an initiative that was blessed by Bremer and the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz also favored taking action against Sadr, a senior military officer at the Pentagon said.
But the overall commander for the Middle East at the U.S. Central Command, Gen. John P. Abizaid, was hesitant to move on Sadr out of concern that arresting or killing him would simply elevate his stature, the officer said. Moderate Shiite clerics also advised the occupation authority against an arrest.
Well, Abazaid is the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, speaks fluent Arabic and has an understanding of the people and the region. Thank goodness nobody listens to him. Wolfowitz is the guy with the great track record, after all:
When Bremer ordered the shutdown of al-Hawza, there was no intention to use force to apprehend Sadr or leaders of his militia, according to occupation authority officials familiar with the decision.
One U.S. official said there was not even a fully developed backup plan for military action in case Sadr opted to react violently. The official noted that when the decision was made, there were very few U.S. troops in Sadr's strongholds south of Baghdad. That area has been under the jurisdiction of multinational military divisions that had failed to move aggressively against the cleric's militia.
The newspaper closure was intended "to send another signal to Sadr, just like telling him about the arrest warrant," the official said. "In hindsight, it was a huge mistake. The best-case scenario was that he would ignore it, like the earlier threat, or that he would capitulate. The worst case was that he would lash back. But we weren't ready for that.
At the time, occupation authority officials figured that Sadr had between 3,000 and 6,000 militiamen, only 2,000 of whom were armed fighters -- a figure that turned out to be a vast underestimate. "We were relying on the most optimistic predictions possible," the official said.
Officials in Washington familiar with the deliberations of both the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff said they knew of no high-level meetings before the closure of Sadr's paper in which either group reviewed military plans girding for a possible violent backlash.
But the officials said that the decision to move against Sadr was fully supported by senior Bush administration officials. And while top officials may not have been familiar with military details, one senior administration official said that Washington had repeatedly advised Bremer and U.S. commanders in Iraq to ensure they were prepared for trouble if they went after Sadr.
"Every time we talked with Baghdad about taking any action against Sadr, we always talked about the need to have proper preparations in place to deal with a violent reaction," the official said.
Looks like Bremer's being cut loose. No wonder he looked like he'd ben hit between the eyes with a 2x4 this morning on Press the Meat.
Senor said the decision to move against Sadr in late March was prompted by "a real trend in the ramping-up of very inciteful, highly provocative rhetoric" from Sadr "that was directed at promoting violence against Americans during a very emotional time."
"We believe we had a responsibility to address it head-on," he said. "We had a concern that if he was left unchecked, Americans could wind up getting killed."
That certainly worked out well.
I think Americans have to give some serious thought to this entire concept of "sending a message." From abstinence education to "shock and awe" this method of governance almost seems designed to invoke the law of unintended consequences. Perhaps it's time to think about real policies based upon sound information and contingency plans.
The messages we are sending --- hubris, incompetence and ignorance --- are toxic. And it's going to get increasingly dangerous to you and me personally. Anti-Americanism isn't necessarily directed at "the American people" at this point. However, if we give this administration another term that is going to change. Right now, most people understand that the majority of Americans did not vote for this man. But, the rest of the world will hold us responsible if we elect him legitimately in spite of what we now know about him. That, after all, is the message that Democracy sends.
digby 4/11/2004 10:50:00 AM
Saturday, April 10, 2004
PBDing His Pants
William Schneider on CNN just said that the memo is very damaging to the president. He said that basically the only thing they didn't know in advance was the date the attacks were to take place.
First Bush lost Fineman. Now he's lost Schneider.
digby 4/10/2004 03:39:00 PM
Kevin at catch.com finds Instapundit sinking to a new low. Novak and Coulter must be so pleased.
digby 4/10/2004 03:10:00 PM
A Madame Zoya Foreign Policy
Via Roger Ailes I found this remarkable example of total incoherence on the Right:
Fighting terrorism as well as rogue dictators requires a policy of pre-emption. During the 1930s, there should have been a pre-emptive strike on Nazi Germany. If Britain and France had the guts to do that, 60 million lives lost in World War II might have been spared. After World War II, when we held a monopoly on nuclear weapons, we should have told the Soviet Union that if it started making nuclear weapons we'd bomb its facilities. We would have avoided Soviet adventurism and trillions of dollars fighting a Cold War. Today, we should give axis-of-evil member North Korea notice to destroy its nuclear weapons or we'll do it for them.
Well, it would be nice if our intelligence services could find their way out of a paper bag and provide us with, you know, real information about threats before we go around blowing shit up, but why sweat the small stuff?
I do like this new crystal ball theory of history, though. Just think, if France and Britain had pre-emptively "struck" Germany they could have prevented WWII. If we had pre-emptively "struck" the Soviets we could have prevented the Cold War. And presumably if the British had pre-emptively invaded France they could have prevented the Napoleonic Wars, too. But, I have to suppose that by "strike" he means some kind of magical incantation that paralyzes the population, because otherwise he's talking about starting wars and that usually means that those who are "struck," strike back. Which also means that unless you are willing to nuke the population or occupy it with an iron hand indefinitely, a war is going to result when somebody strikes. He apparently thinks that's fine it's just best if we do the starting.
But, not to worry. I think he also believes that the world will be so impressed by our ability to accurately foretell who is and isn't a threat that they'll just take our word for it and capitulate before we are forced to get really ugly. America is omnipotent and the sooner everybody gets with the program the safer they'll all be. That's what our great success in Iraq is all about. And it's working beautifully.
digby 4/10/2004 01:13:00 PM
Let Us Pray
Apparently, we should not be overly upset about the casualties in Iraq because there haven't been as many as in World War II.
One of Instapundit's readers says:
About 2,500 young men from the Allied nations died on June 6, 1944. 12,000 Americans died in three months' fighting for Okinawa. While some members of the press (Fox included) might consider themselves honoring the fallen by referring to 12 heroes as "heavy casualties," they in fact have done a disservice to the concept of sacrifice and a nation's endurance of it in war. Andrew Sullivan asked us to pray for the Marines in Fallujah; I think we ought to start a prayer with "Dear Lord, please lead members of the press to a doggoned history book. Or Google."
"Dear Lord, please lead Instapundit's readers to the chapter on WWII in which it says that Germany declared war on the US, overran most of Europe and invaded Russia and may they read the part where it shows the US was attacked by Japan. After that perhaps they could be led to Google to find out how many casualties were suffered over all in WWII in countries from one end of the globe to the other. May you then remind them that the war we fought then was one of survival, not one of choice based upon lies, bad information and optimistic scenarios --- and that the lesson of that war was that wars of aggression would never again be sanctioned by the civilized world. Until now.
Finally, Dear Lord, may you hand them each an apple and an orange and explain to them the difference. Amen."
digby 4/10/2004 11:54:00 AM
Why Do You Hate Civilization So Much?
Thank goodness we finally have somebody dispassionately assessing the situation in Iraq and telling it like it is. You see, when David Brooks isn't scarfing up mini meals at Red Lobster, our intrepid war correspondent is bravely chatting to people who are "familiar with the region" and they fill him in on the real skinny in Iraq. It's a coupla opportunistic thugs and some ungrateful punks trying to take advantage of our goodness, that's all. Lucky for us our leaders are resolved and bold while being cool, bold and resolved:
Most important, leadership in the U.S. is for once cool and resolved. This week I spoke with leading Democrats and Republicans and found a virtual consensus. We're going to keep the June 30 handover deadline. We're going to raise troop levels if necessary. We're going to wait for the holy period to end and crush Sadr. As Joe Lieberman put it, a military offensive will alienate Iraqis, but "the greater risk is [Sadr] will grow into something malevolent." As Charles Hill, the legendary foreign service officer who now teaches at Yale, observed, "I've been pleasantly surprised by the boldness and resolve."
Nonetheless, yesterday's defections from the Iraqi Governing Council show that populist pressure on the good guys is getting intense. Maybe it is time to pause, to let passions cool, to let the democrats marshal their forces. If people like Sistani are forced to declare war on the U.S., the gates of hell will open up.
Over the long run, though, the task is unavoidable. Sadr is an enemy of civilization. The terrorists are enemies of civilization. They must be defeated.
Nevah Give Up, Nevah Give In, nevah, nevah, nevah!
(Oh, sorry about that. I just got carried away with Field Marshall Brooks's gripping call to arms for a minute.)
So, Sadr is an enemy of civilization, now, not just the US. (Or have the two words become synonymous?) Jeez, you used to have to commit genocide or gas your own people or mastermind a huge terrorist act to be an enemy of civilization. Now all you have to do is incite a couple of days of violence in Iraq. If that's the new definition I have a feeling that the list of enemies of civilization is going to get mighty unwieldy.
These people are going to be liberated, goddamit, whether they like it or not! Civilization depends on it.
I'm aware that Sadr is a fundamentalist extremist in the mode of the Taliban. He is the last person anyone would want to see in power. But, it is not helpful to simplify this problem by saying that we are dealing with "thugs" or to unnecessarily inflate it to a clash of civilizations.
The problem in Iraq is political. We are witnessing the entirely predictable struggle for power that the US refused to admit would happen and for which they refused to prepare. Our bedfellows, from the likes of Chalabi on the one hand to Bahr Ul Iloom on the other, illustrate that we had no principles in choosing the new leaders of Iraq and the result is that the hothead we marginalized is making use of the anti-Americanism that predictably resulted from a badly run occupation. Kill Sadr tomorrow and he'll be replaced by somebody just like him. Meanwhile the IGC is coming apart at the seams.
This isn't a clash of civilizations. It's the beginning of another civil war that the US finds itself in the middle of because of a feckless foreign policy. I'm beginning to think that the chickenhawks are simply reliving their youth. Once again they are sitting comfortably at home, cheering from the sidelines, willfully misinterpreting the facts while others die for the cause they support. These are the good old days.
digby 4/10/2004 02:38:00 AM
A Beautiful Vacant Mind
President Bush's August 2001 briefing on terrorism threats, described largely as a historical document, included information from three months earlier that al-Qaida was trying to send operatives into the United States for an explosives attack, according to several people who have seen the memo.
The so-called presidential daily briefing, or PDB, delivered to Bush on Aug. 6, 2001 – a month before the Sept. 11 attacks – said there were various reports that Osama bin Laden had wanted to strike inside the United States as early as 1997 and continuing into the spring of 2001, the sources told The Associated Press.
The sources said the presidential memo included a series of bullet items that brought Bush through a history of mostly uncorroborated intelligence that cited al-Qaida's interest in hijacking planes to win the release of Islamic extremists who had been arrested in 1998 and 1999 as well as the travelings of suspected al-Qaida operatives, include some U.S. citizens, in and out of the United States. It suggested al-Qaida might have a support system in place on U.S. soil, the sources said.
The document also included FBI analytical judgments that some al-Qaida activities were consistent with preparation for airline hijackings or other types of attacks, some members of the commission looking into the Sept. 11 attacks said earlier this week.
The second-to-last bullet told the president that there were numerous – at least 70 – terror-related investigations under way by the FBI in 2001 involving matters or people on U.S. soil, the sources said.
And the final bullet told the president of a recent intelligence report indicating al-Qaida operatives were trying to get inside the United States to carry out an attack with explosives, the sources said. There was no specifics about the timing or target, the sources said.
This finally explains why just 5 weeks later, one day after the attacks, Bush dragged Richard Clarke into a room and insisted he investigate Iraq's possible involvement. You wouldn't have wanted him to go off half cocked and blame the wrong guy...
digby 4/10/2004 01:50:00 AM
Friday, April 09, 2004
Number One With A Bullet
If anyone still doubts that politics has left the realm of reality and entered the world of show business, I would suggest that they tune into "Hardball" where television critic Tom Shales is critiquing Condi Rice's "performance" yesterday. He rated the hearings for drama and suspense and reviewed the various exchanges between the commissioners and Condi as dramatic scenes and sequences.
Personally, I didn't think there was enough sex and violence in that show. Thankfully there was the gory Iraq footage of bloodied marines and iraqi civilians later in the day to sate my bloodlust. It's almost as good as Survivor. And that footage of the Japanese hostages is just super. "Will they be rescued or will the bad guys burn them alive?" Stay tuned....
As for sex, I'm just glad that President Clinton testified in secret immediately after Condi, so we can assume that some press ho will report a breathless account of his "testimony" at some point (they always do.) All I can say is those commissioners emerged later in the day looking downright limp with satisfaction:
HAMILTON: Well, it was fascinating, absolutely fascinating. And I think every commissioner would agree with that. He was exceedingly generous with his time, very candid in his discussions of even the most delicate kinds of relationships ... I think the commissioners were all favorably impressed, both Republican and Democrat, and very appreciative of the amount of time that he gave to us.
KEAN: And he was just totally frank -- totally frank, totally honest, and forthcoming... he said, "I'll stay just as long as you all want me to."
Oooh La La. A 240 minute man.
I can hardly wait for Ashcroft's testimony next week. Maybe he'll share some of the naughty bits about the porn investigations and sing a chorus or two of "Let The Ego Soar."
I love Show Biz.
digby 4/09/2004 04:58:00 PM
Follow The Money
As if there wasn't enough trouble already, Sean-Paul has an interesting item this morning about the shaky state of Iraq's finances:
Ahead of a deadline for the transfer of power, the Coalition Provisional Authority’s reporting of Iraqi finances falls short of international standards of accounting and transparency, said a report by the Open Society Institute’s Iraq Revenue Watch project. The report, Opening the Books: Transparent Budgeting for Iraq, urges the CPA and the Iraqi Governing Council to make further improvements in accordance with these standards before a new Iraqi government is elected in 2005.
Iraq’s 2004 budget, produced by the CPA and Iraq’s Ministries of Finance and Planning, is the country’s first full-year financial plan since Saddam Hussein’s removal. However, it lacks key information about state-owned enterprises, financing for sub-national governments, and contingencies that pose significant risks to Iraq’s public purse. There is no contingency planning for what Iraq will do if oil prices fall or exports are disrupted, if hostilities resume, or foreign aid fails to materialize
Well, convicted felon Ahmad Chalabi's crony Kamil Mubdir al-Kaylani is the minister of finance and his nephew, Ali'Alawi, is the Minister of Trade, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.
However, since Ken Lay was unavailable, the CPA installed right wing nut and GOP hack David M. Nummy as the senior advisor to the treasury so it can be asumed that all of the safeguards and transparency we have come to expect from the Bush administration are being employed in the new Iraqi economy. There's nothing to worry about.
digby 4/09/2004 08:39:00 AM
Fool Me Once...
Atrios points out that it's a little bit cheeky of some people to preface their criticisms of the current situation in Iraq with "as a war supporter" since that designation automatically makes their judgment suspect:
One should not have to have been "pro-war" to be a critic of what's going on. I'm tired of people prefacing their criticisms with phrases like "as someone who supported this war..." Well, you were wrong. Why should we listen to you now?
Plenty of us knew that this neocon claque was going to screw this thing up and said so at the time. Suddenly realizing that Bush is incompetent and that his advisors are living in a dream world is a year late and 200 billion dollars short.
digby 4/09/2004 07:39:00 AM
Here's an interesting tid bit from my left brain
One of Rice's answers today caught my attention. She was excusing why the Bush administration hadn't acted on what she considered a "vague" threat:
...when you cannot tell people where a hijacking might occur under what circumstances I can tell you that I think the best antidote to what happened in that regard would have been many years before to think about what you could do, for instance, to harden cockpits. That would have made a difference. We weren't going to harden cockpits in the three months that we had a threat spike. [emphasis added]]
After 9/11, it took the airlines fewer than three months to strengthen the cockpits by adding bars to the doors and other measures. In fact, it took them one month. Airlines were told to do something to secure cockpit doors in early October 2001 and the Transportation Secretary announced on November 9 that all airlines had completed this task.
Granted, it's unlikely that they would have undertaken this job based upon vague threats, but it certainly was possible to achieve it if they had. And, today we found out that Norm Mineta didn't even know there was a threat spike.
I realize that the airline industry was dragged into fixing those doors kicking and screaming and short of catastrophe they were unwilling to budge. Regardless, it's a bit rich that Condi thinks that previous administrations should have done this, but not hers. Sadly for all of us, 9/11 happened on her watch, not theirs, and she was the one getting the highjacking warnings and had the head of CIA and her counterterorism chief running around screaming bloody murder.
Being a wholly owned subsidiary of US Industry made the Bush administration more able to accomplish this task than the previous one. Like Nixon and China, Bush should have been the guy to force the industry to bite the bullet. And it certainly makes you wonder why Condi and Company still haven't done anything about this:
Even though small commercial aircraft are more likely to be lost in a shoulder-fired missile attack, two of the jet aircraft most familiar to American travelers have proven surprisingly vulnerable: Of the five Boeing 727s and 737s that have been hit by shoulder-launched missiles, three have been shot down, and in one of them 130 people died just after takeoff in Angola.
Despite the demonstrated risk that these missiles pose, no meaningful changes have been made to commercial aircraft design or flight operations to reduce it. While the president and other officials travel on aircraft equipped with countermeasures systems that protect them against a missile attack, most Americans do not. "The threats are real and the countermeasures exist," a retired government anti-terrorism expert told Salon, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Some of us are perplexed as to why a greater sense of urgency hasn't been demonstrated in securing our airspace."
digby 4/09/2004 12:52:00 AM
Thursday, April 08, 2004
This has been bugging the hell out of me as well. It's one thing for Kerry to allow Bush to swing in the wind on the pre-9/11 stuff. Let the widows and the whistleblowers take that on. The less partisanship the better. But, Iraq is something else entirely.
Iraq is a crisis and an ongoing problem and it isn't enough for it to be seen blowing up on television. Kerry has got to convince people that Bush is the problem and that he can fix it. Instead, he's acting clueless and disengaged.
I sincerely hope that they are not planning to re-run the 2002 midterm campaign because we will lose again. A tie goes to the codpiece. You can't ignore national security. Not only is it a more glamorous subject for the news media to cover, it is also a clearer demonstration of presidential leadership. With a war going on, a presidential candidate simply has to meet it head on or look like a sissy even if the other guy is self-destructing.
The Salon article linked above says:
A Kerry spokesman told Salon on Thursday that it's incumbent on Bush -- not Kerry -- to address the crisis in Iraq. "What has the president said about this?" the Kerry spokesman asked. "He needs to explain what his policy is, what his plan is to address what's going on right now. But he's been down on his ranch in Crawford. The spotlight isn't on John Kerry. The spotlight needs to be on Bush. He's the president, and he's the person who has carved out these policies."
Bullshit. The spotlight may "need" to be on Bush, but Americans want to know what the alternative thinks is the problem and what he thinks needs to be done. This is a total pussy response and it is simply not good enough. And it isn't just the campaign flack. Check out Kerry himself on Judy Woodruff yesterday, and note how she used his dramatic line from his congressional testimony against him. It was a terrible moment:
WOODRUFF: ...Well, as we know, the would-be presumed Democratic nominee for president, Senator John Kerry, has often criticized the Bush administration for what he says is a unilateral approach in Iraq. I spoke with Senator Kerry just a little while ago and I started by asking for his reaction to Bush advisers who say they are already doing much of what Kerry advocates and that his criticism amounts to what they call phony politics.
KERRY: They're doing it in such a frankly, inept way, Judy, that they're not really inviting anybody sufficiently to the table. People don't want to go to work for Paul Bremer and the provisional authority. What you need to do is have a transfer of authority for the reconstruction and for the transformation of the government to a legitimate international entity. Every day that goes by that this administration has refused to do it has complicated the doing of it. They, in fact, have made it much harder to accomplish what could have been accomplished and should have been accomplished a long time ago. I refuse to accept that logic from them, and I laid out this plan months ago. They're trying to do it through the backdoor, through almost through the keyhole rather than openly coming forward and acknowledging they need help.
WOODRUFF: So Senator...
KERRY: The Arab countries have an interest...
WOODRUFF: What exactly right now would you do differently?
KERRY: Right now, what I would do differently is, I mean, look, I'm not the president, and I didn't create this mess so I don't want to acknowledge a mistake that I haven't made. The president needs to step up and acknowledge that there are difficulties and that the world needs to be involved and they need to reverse their policy that countries that were not involved in supporting us are not going to be part of the reconstruction.
I mean, that's a terrible message to send to countries. They need to go to the world and say we're not going to have an American authority that is -- creating this new government. We're going to have an international authority that will help develop the new government and absent a legitimate effort to globalize this presence, they're going to continue to have the very problems they have today.
This was predictable, and there are many of us who have said that this is exactly the kind of thing that will happen absent a legitimate kind of international presence.
WOODRUFF: Senator, you said it was a mistake, not your mistake, but you called it a mistake and also said you wouldn't cut and run. You've acknowledged there may need to be more troops. If there were a President Kerry, he might have to send in more troops. I want to ask you the question you asked during the Vietnam war. How do you ask a man and today that would be a man or a woman, to be the last to die for a mistake?
KERRY: Well, the mistake that I'm talking about, Judy, is not the effort to fight and have -- not the effort to have a stable Iraq. The mistake is in the way that they are going about it. So I would change the way you're going about it. I mean again and again, I have said, I laid out with great specificity months ago the steps that they should have taken, and I believe that those people who have been in touch with people in the international community know there is a different and better way to put together an effort that could legitimize a government in Iraq. If we insist on doing this through our provisional government authority, if we insist on being totally in control the way we are today, we're going to having an impossible time legitimately bringing people to the table.
Just shoot me now. This is going to be a long campaign.
Why can't he say, "I'm not sure what George W. Bush could do to help the situation other than delay the June 30th date until after the election so that another president can be elected to replace him. Because the problem, Judy, is that nobody in the world believes a thing George W. Bush says anymore and that includes the Iraqis.
If I were in office, we wouldn't be in the mess because I would never make it a policy to unnecessarily alienate the entire world. Nor would I trust those who only feed me optimistic scenarios. I would never allow our military to operate at anything less than the levels that are needed to achieve the mission, and I would listen to the military experts, not unqualified ideologues like Newt Gingrich, when making those decisions.
I'm afraid, Judy, that George W. Bush has gotten himself into a mess that he cannot resolve because of his previous actions. I trust our military to hang on and do the fine work that they always do. They will do what is necessary to ensure that the country is secure in the short term. But this crisis untimately requires a political solution and George W. Bush has run out of political options. A new president and a fresh start is what's required to fix this problem. Only then can rebuild the trust of our allies and go back to the drawing board with all the parties and set a proper course for a free and democratic Iraq."
I'm sure he and others can come up with better langauge. But, the message is that the problem is George W. Bush. When he is replaced a whole range of options become available that are now foreclosed because of the world's mistrust of his intelligence, his motives, his integrity and his ability.
Or he could ignore it and keep talking about the budget deficit while CNN is showing marines getting picked off by the dozens, live and in color. That looks to me like the campaign equivalent of Junior reading that story about the goat to the second graders while the WTC was collapsing. It doesn't show leadership. And that's the theme of this election.
digby 4/08/2004 10:41:00 PM
Looking For Trouble
According to this article, "Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army militia are filled with young volunteers eager to fight the US-led occupation forces."
Outside, hundreds of young men chanting "Allahu Akbar," or God is the Greatest, listened to another cleric shouting vows to fight the occupation from the rooftop.
A Mehdi Army spokesman, Amer al-Husseini, said the militia had orders to stay calm, but warned that "after they bombarded our headquarters and prayer room with Apache helicopters and tanks, we are ready to resume combat until the last drop of our blood."
"We will never let anyone arrest our leader Moqtada Sadr," he added, alluding a coalition arrest warrant for the firebrand in connection with the murder of a rival cleric after Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime was ousted last April.
Following several days of clashes with the US-led occupation forces across the country during which the Mehdi Army seized police stations and government offices, the coalition has vowed to destroy the militia.
"We will attack to destroy the Mehdi Army. Our offensive operations will be deliberate, they will be precise, and they will be powerful and they will succeed," said Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.
Sadr, who is only in his early 30s and whose father and great-uncle were killed by Saddam's regime, formed the Mehdi Army last summer after the US-led military coalition invaded Iraq (news - web sites).
A steady flow of new volunteers have been presenting themselves to mosques and Sadr offices in defiance of the coalition's ban on militias.
Its ranks are largely composed of desperate and unemployed young men from poor Shiite areas -- notably Baghdad's teeming Sadr City which switched its name from Saddam City after the fall of the deposed regime to honor the firebrand's slain father.
Many are also from southern Shiite cities which suffered brutal repression at the hands of Saddam's Sunni Muslim-dominated regime.
The militiamen often wear black pants and shirts, as well as green headbands symbolizing Islam. They are fiercely attached to Sadr's guidance and his family's lineage of revered clerics.
Their recent fierce battles with the coalition revealed they mostly have access to light weapons, including assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns.
"We have light weapons, but our most lethal weapon is our faith in God. Nothing can defeat God's will," said one militiaman, Ali Hussein.
"We started new training last week. But we don't really need to train the new recruits. Saddam had built a militarized society over decades. So we were trained by the best killer," he said.
Let's hope that this does not become a fraternity of aimless young men because there are a huge number of them in Iraq. The demographics of Iraq are not heartening:
Iraq is a young country: Sixty-six percent of Iraqis 15 and up are under age 35, compared with 36 percent of Americans age 15 and up.
digby 4/08/2004 03:14:00 PM
Drip, Drip Drip
After today's revelation that Condi and Andy didn't follow up with the FBI after the July "domestic threat" meeting, next week's testimony by Louis Freeh, Thomas Pickard and John Ashcroft should be much more interesting. The commission obviously has homed in on a serious weakness:
Commission officials said their evidence showed that Mr. Ashcroft had taken little interest in counterterrorism before Sept. 11 and, days before the attacks, had rejected pleas from senior F.B.I. officials for more money for counterterrorism even as intelligence agencies warned of an imminent, possibly catastrophic, terrorist attack.
They said the commission may make public a series of internal memorandums written by Thomas J. Pickard, who was the F.B.I. acting director in the summer of 2001, criticizing what he perceived to be Mr. Ashcroft's disinterest in counterterrorism. Mr. Pickard, who did not return phone calls seeking comment, is also expected to testify next week.
But, of course, there were those structural problems, so nothing could have been done.
Important Correction: Fixed controversial typo.
digby 4/08/2004 09:43:00 AM
Swatting That Bug In His Ear
I don't know if anyone got this subtle point in Condi's testimony, but it appears that there were structural impediments in the US government that meant that no one could have prevented 9/11. She did everything possible, but the structural problems meant nothing could be done. Because of the structural problems. If they had known that the terrorists were going to attack Washington and new York, they would have moved heaven and earth to stop them. But, there were these structural problems. So there was nothing they could do.
Oh and also, the August PDB was not a "warning" it was an "historical assessment." So, even though this "historical assessment" entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" was undertaken during the very time that George Tenet was running through the White House with his hair on fire about an impending terrorist attack, there was no reason to be alarmed. The president wanted to stop swatting flies, so they put this little bug in his ear. It was no big deal.
If only Richard Clarke had tried to "buck her up" before his September 4th memo (in which he raised the spectre of hundreds of dead Americans) about how the bureaucracy would fight implementing the terrorism policy. Maybe then she would have been more aware of how to deal with the national security bureaucracy. But then, that whole "shaking the trees" thing is bs, so probably not.
Besides, the Clinton administration should have fixed the structural problems and locked up the cockpit doors long before the Bush administration came into office. They couldn't possibly have done anything about all that in only 233 days. They had tax cuts and missile defense to take care of.
Update: For those who didn't know previously about the title of the August 6th memo, here's a copy of the article in the Washington Post from Common Dreams, dated May 18, 2002.
digby 4/08/2004 09:00:00 AM
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Be All That You Can Be
Read this fascinating combat account by a female American soldier in Iraq this week The Alamo is over-rated as a tourist attraction, dammit
I can’t even grasp that we lived through it. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.
What makes it worse was that we kept trying to get reinforcements and air cover and evac, and eventually we had to do it ourselves. We called up around 1500 because it became apparent that we weren’t going to get out, requesting air cover. We thought it would be over by 1700. By then, though, we realized something else was going on---darkness falls at seven. We heard that the whole province was under control, and that Sadr’s representatives had offered a cease fire while they negotiated. No other government building in the province was not under his control. Our little force, outmanned and outgunned, held him off for better than twenty hours, and then slipped out under his nose. He wanted to keep us there, be his bargaining chips while he tightened his fist around the province. And that fucking governor went along with it. We eventually found out the governor was contacting the command and telling them, no, no Evac behind our backs. He wanted US Marines dropped off and the civilians put in the helicopters while they secured his villa and offices. His own people were running around trying to arrange Evac, and kept counter-manding him. Then he’d go on the air and countermand them. I kept overhearing conversations I wasn’t supposed to hear.
I can’t describe what it’s like. You’re wearing twenty pounds of gear in helmet and vest, and the sound the bombs make screeching in seems not so much audible as it sensory. You feel it first. You know what sound a bullet makes going through the air? SWWWWWiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssssssssssssshhhhh. It seems to burrow through the air with an odd slowness, as if it were greasy and that makes it slip through the air. If I were 11 Bravo, I’d have earned my combat infantrymen’s badge, except of course the fact that I’m a woman means I don’t get stuff like that. The way the Army has it set up, it doesn’t matter if you do the job, if you’re a woman----you’re not supposed to do it, so you don’t get acknowledgement if you do.
We didn’t sleep last night. The cease fire lasted seven hours. The attack resumed at one AM with RPGs and machine guns opening up on us from across the other bank of the river. We kept calling to Higher for Air Support, for Evac, for reinforcements. They’d say, “Sure, they’re on their way…” Twenty minutes later, we’d find out--not be told---that in fact they weren’t. This happened about eight times. During the time they weren’t reinforcing us, the enemy mined the bridge that’s the sole way out of there with IEDs. Then Higher ordered us to Evac our way across that bridge. It was explained to them over and over that the bridge was mined. They’d listen, then issue the order again.
This must be that hi-tech third wave electronic battlefield that Rummy and Newtie are so proud of. I didn't know it was faith-based, too.
Read the whole thing. It'll blow your mind.
digby 4/07/2004 10:30:00 PM
Another Insider Comes Forward
In tonight's Salon, Sidney Blumenthal reveals yet another national security staffer, Flynt Leverett, who quit the Bush administration in disgust --- this time over the feckless middle east peace process. It is clear that Condi Rice is, quite simply, incompetent. But, Blumenthal doesn't lay it all on her:
The story of the Middle East debacle, like that of the pre-9/11 terrorism fiasco, reveals the inner workings of Bush's White House: The president, aggressive and manipulated, ignorant of his own policies and their consequences, negligent; the secretary of state, prideful, a man of misplaced gratitude, constantly in retreat; the vice president as Richelieu, secretive, conniving, at the head of a neoconservative cabal, the power behind the throne; the national security advisor, seemingly open and even vulnerable, posing as the honest broker, but deceitful and derelict, an underhanded lightweight.
Sounds right to me.
More here: U.S. Terrorism Policy Spawns Steady Staff Exodus
digby 4/07/2004 09:28:00 PM
A Good First Step
Who could have ever predicted that members of the Shi'a majority would rebel like this? They hated Saddam and would surely be grateful that the US had liberated them. Yet, there were some little clues. Even during the exciting early days of the liberation, days when George W. Bush was so proud of his accomplishment --- "I love the stories about people saying, 'Isn't it wonderful to be able to express our religion, the Shia religion, on a pilgrimage...' --- there were some signs of trouble:
KARBALA, April 23, 2003 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) - Huge crowds of ecstatic Shiites surging through the holy city of Karbala on Wednesday, April 23, chanted slogans against a U.S.-imposed government in the second day of such protests coinciding with a major pilgrimage.
"No to an American government, no to Chalabi," the Shiites shouted, referring to Ahmad Chalabi, the pro-U.S. leader of the Iraqi National Congress, who has returned to Iraq after decades of exile with eyes on power.
It would appear that our "enemies" have been plotting against us for some time. And, to this day, Chalabi sticks in the Shiites' craw. His seat in the governing council is one of the seats allocated to the Shiite majority:
The composition of the Governing Council may reflect the Shia majority status for the first time ever in Iraq, but for some it does not reflect the representation. "There is an attempt to distort the truth about the Shia in order to deprive them of their rightful role," says Sheikh Qais Al-Khazali, who runs an office for the Al-Sadr movement in Sadr City. "The Americans are not giving a chance to the true representatives of the Shia. Instead they bring people who claim to represent the Shia, like Ahmed Chalabi. He‘s a crook who‘s stolen from the bank in Jordan."
Josh Marshall reminds us today that Ahmad's nephew Salem is in charge of setting up the war crimes tribunal. And, Ahmad has another nephew, Ali 'Alawi, who is the new Minister of Trade. And, then there's Kamil Mubdir al-Kaylani, the Minister of Finance and Banking who's a pal of Chalabi and was installed at his urging. No doubt there are more examples of Chalabi's cronyism.
And the fact that the interloper Chalabi takes up one of the 13 Shi'a slots on the Governing Council is a real problem. Via Susan at Suburban Guerilla, I found this post from Riverbend, inside iraq, in which she points out that the marginalizing of Sadr seemed a little bit capricious, considering who else the CPR was willing to deal with:
[Sadr was]just as willing to ingratiate himself to Bremer as Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom. The only difference is that he wasn't given the opportunity, so now he's a revolutionary. Apparently, someone didn't give Bremer the memo about how when you pander to one extremist, you have to pander to them all. Hearing Abdul Aziz Al-Hakeem and Bahr Ul Iloom claim that Al-Sadr is a threat to security and stability brings about visions of the teapot and the kettle.
But, you see, we had to keep Ahmad happy and Ahmad is not well liked by the Sadr faction.
I don't know what the hell to do about the mess we are in in Iraq. It's truly beyond my ken. But, I can think of one thing that might make an immediate difference.
Get rid of that parasite Ahmad Chalabi and his band of cronies right this minute. Do it before it becomes a demand. Do it as a gesture of solidarity with all these ordinary Iraqis who see this opportunist for the scam artist he really is. It's a first step.
digby 4/07/2004 03:35:00 PM
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
The Last Frontier
Paul Waldman has an interesting article in The Gadflyer on faithbased missile defense.
But this administration, the entire Republican Party, and healthy numbers of Democrats are still gripped by the idea that we can erect a missile defense "shield," a big dome sitting atop the United States that keeps us safe from all who would do us harm. The Bush administration has requested an increase of 20% in the missile defense budget for next year, to over $10 billion. The eventual cost of missile defense is hard to predict, but given that Bush wants to spend over $50 billion in the next five years alone, it's reasonable to conclude that the total cost of the program from this point forward will easily exceed $100 billion and perhaps $200 billion. Although it's difficult to precisely calculate what we've spent since the 1980s, reasonable estimates climb toward $100 billion, which has bought us…well, nothing.
It seems inexplicable that these people would continue with this quixotic obsession year after year knowing that it will not work. Except as a form of welfare for engineers, it's hard to understand.
Unless it's really about R&D for space-based weapons. Then it makes a little more sense.
This is another little program in the Revolution in Military Affairs and the Third Wave crapola that Rummy and the Wohlstetter crowd have been obsessing about for years (and which has shown such spectacular success here on planet earth.)
Rumsfeld personally has a vested belief in weaponized space and the National Missile Defense system, having headed the commission that in 1999 helped to persuade the Clinton Administration to push ahead with missile defense. His staff's long-range projections envision threats not from Europe, where the Army is heavily positioned, but from Asia—possible conflicts in which Navy missiles and Air Force precision bombs would be the preferred assets.
This fantasy of a "shield" is phony. As former arms control negotiator Jonathan Dean and Jonathan Granoff of the Global Security Institute wrote back in 2001:
The rushed deployment of a costly and almost certainly unworkable national missile defense system makes no sense. But it does make sense if the underlying motive is to use the missile defense issue as grounds for moving to the weaponization of space and ultimately to its domination.
Repeated UN resolutions calling for the prevention of space weaponization have been nearly unanimous and without any no votes. Recognizing this fact, the United States, backed by only two small client states, has dared only to abstain. The community of nations will not tolerate one country's dominance of a weaponized space. Political and ultimately military challenges will certainly be mounted to contest U.S. dominance.
Not only is this very bad for our security, it contradicts our identity as a nation. Our country was founded in response to the actions of an over-reaching, hegemonic empire. In placing weapons over everyone on the planet, the United States is in peril of over-reaching itself.
Remember. These people are always wrong about everything. They are Austin Powers, not James Bond. Gawd help us.
digby 4/06/2004 09:36:00 PM
President Bush has a penchant for dishing out good-natured insults, and usually the victim laughs along. But Sammie Briery didn't seem much amused when Bush fired one at her Tuesday.
Bush was wrapping up a town hall-style appearance at South Arkansas Community College when he let the jest fly. It was a mother joke, a blonde joke and an insult all in one.
"You and my mother go to the same hair-dye person," Bush said to Briery, whose blondish bob bore little resemblance to Barbara Bush's shock of white hair.
The audience in the gymnasium laughed, and Briery smiled, but replied firmly: "President Bush, I'm a natural blonde."
"Oh, yes," Bush agreed.
"I'm just a natural blonde," she repeated.
"I couldn't help myself, sorry," Bush shrugged.
With that, Bush moved quickly to end the session. He turned to Bob Watson, superintendent of the El Dorado Public Schools who had opened the meeting by inadvertently insulting Bush.
"Governor excuse me, President," Watson said.
Bush muttered, "How quickly they forget."
When Watson offered to shake Bush's hand, the president shot back: "Just don't hug me."
Whaddaya think? Prescription drugs?
Commenter Evan writes:
This story comes on top of the "who are you talking to?" business, where he got snippy with a reporter who called him "Sir" instead of "Mr. President".
And then there's the one Atrios posted, about how cutlery wasn't allowed at his fundraising luncheon because the sound might interrupt his speech.
And a couple of weeks ago, there was that business about paving a footpath at a park he was visiting because the President's feet aren't supposed to touch dirt.
At this point, would it actuallly *surprise* anybody if he started wearing epaulets and sleeping in an oxygen tent?
Don't forget the codpiece.
digby 4/06/2004 05:54:00 PM
I have noticed a new proclivity among the press to call the Iraqi insurgency "the enemy." No doubt the military sees them as such since they are exchanging gunfire. And, perhaps the CPA and the US government see see them as "the enemy" too. It's strange, though. I thought "the enemy" was Saddam Hussein and his Sunni "bitter enders." But, the pictures I saw of the 4 corpses being defiled in Fallujah showed that many of the perpetrators were children. Are they bitter enders, too? Are they "the enemy?"
Now we are calling Sadr and his militia "the enemy," too. Fred Barnes is saying on Fox that the military has to "take out" the bad guys in Fallujah and Ramadi as well as "take out" Sadr and his followers before the June 30 takeover. Presumably, "taking out" means things like this:
U.S. warplanes firing rockets razed four houses in Fallujah late Tuesday, witnesses said. A doctor said 26 Iraqis, including women and children, were killed and 30 injured in the air-strike. The rockets destroyed the houses in two neighborhoods in the city after nightfall, the witnesses said.
Coalition troops opened fire on thousands of supporters of Shiite Muslim radical leader Moqtada Sadr headed towards the headquarters of the Spanish-led Plus Ultra Brigade on the outskirts of this Shiite holy city, an AFP correspondent witnessed.
Italian troops clashed with Shi'ite militiamen in the southern Iraq town of Nassiriya today in gunfights that killed around 15 Iraqis and wounded 12 Italians, the Italian military and coalition sources said.
The clashes began shortly after (0530 hrs IST) when members of a militia loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr fired on Italian forces as they began operations to restore public order after two days of violent unrest.
Major Simone Schiavone, a spokesman for the Italian military in Iraq, said Italian forces returned fire, engaging in several extended gunbattles in the middle of the town.
Witnesses said several civilians were killed and wounded in the crossfire. Four Italian military vehicles were set alight and 12 Italian troops, out of a force of around 500 involved in the operation, were lightly wounded, Schiavone said
And then there's this:
l British officials said they had fought 18 skirmishes in a second day of clashes in Amarah near the Iranian border. Twelve Iraqis have been killed in two days of fighting, hospital officials were quoted as saying.
All those enemies (and all that "collateral damage") from one end of Iraq to the other actually means, as a lighthearted George W. Bush laughingly explained to the press yesterday, "Well, I think there's -- my judgment is, is that the closer we come to the deadline, the more likely it is people will challenge our will. In other words, it provides a convenient excuse to attack."
Sunni and Shi'ite residents of two Baghdad suburbs, once fierce enemies, said overnight they had put their differences aside to unite in their fight to oust the US occupying force from Iraq.
"All of Iraq is behind Moqtada al-Sadr, we are but one body, one people," declared Sheikh Raed al-Kazami, in charge of the radical Shi'ite cleric's offices at a mosque in the Shi'ite neighbourhood of Kazimiya, west of the Iraqi capital.
He spoke following three days of fierce clashes between militiamen loyal to Sadr that left at least 57 people dead and 236 wounded.
Al-Kazami said residents of the Sunni neighbourhood of Adhamiya, a stone's throw from Kazimiya, had offered their support, as had residents from Ramadi and Fallujah, west of Baghdad, as well as residents of the northern city of Mosul.
The Muslim cleric, surrounded by armed bodyguards, said some Sunnis had even offered to join Sadr's militia.
To prove his point he displayed about 100 men in the gardens of the mosque who were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and who stood ready to join the battle.
So the dream of a united Iraq may come to pass after all.
First they told us that we went into Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein, but there were no weapons. Then they said we went into Iraq because Saddam had worked with al Qaeda, but we have found no evidence of those ties. Finally, they insisted that the real reason we went into Iraq was to liberate the Iraqi people from their ruthless dictator. Now, Saddam is behind bars, his sons are dead and yet Iraqis from one end of the country to the other, Sunni and Shi'a alike, are "the enemies" that we must "take out."
How generous we are. How much we love freedom. Once we "take out" all those ungrateful Iraqis, I'm sure that Iraq will be the democratic paradise we all imagined it could be and the tyrannical dominoes of Arab nationalism and Islamic Radicalism will crash into one another in rapid succession.
Today Tony Blair said:
"Our response to this should not be to run away in fright or hide away, or think that we have got it all wrong," said Blair.
"Our response on the contrary should be to hold firm, because that's what the Iraqi people want."
Which Iraqi people? The freedom lovers or "the enemies?"
digby 4/06/2004 05:04:00 PM
Do you think it would be too much to ask that James Carville to do a little bit of homework before he goes on Crossfire and represents the Democrats against the lying sack of excrement that calls itself Robert Novak?
Today, Novak dutifully regurgitates the Wing-nut Times' claims that since the Clinton administration didn't use the words al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden more than a handful of times in its national security assessment paper at the end of the last term that they were just as irresponsible about terrorism as Junior and the Retreads.
It's all over the blogosphere this morning that the article ignores the fact that it did discuss terrorism in great detail throughout the document and even outlined possible military options.
Now, I don't expect James Carville to immerse himself in the blogosphere, but since this article appeared in the GOP House organ, you'd think it might occur to him to question it or at least have someone on his staff look into what appears to be a total contradiction of all we have learned about Clinton's priorities. It certainly should not come as a surprise that Cheney's bitch might bring it up.
This happens all the time with him. Novak or Tucker Carlson hit him right between the eyes with a piece of propaganda and all he does is sputter "I know you are but what am I" instead of having the information at hand to refute the nonsense.
digby 4/06/2004 01:33:00 PM
Atrios links today to this NY Times piece exposing Dick Cheney's long time love for high oil prices.
I'm happy to see the DNC finally doing some real oppo for a change and pushing it into the media with the same finesse the GOP has shown for the last 12 years. It turns out that Dick and Dubious have been for high oil prices much more recently than 1986. Here's hoping that this gets disseminated as well:
1999: World Oil Said Bush Would Be the Perfect Presidential Candidate to Deal With Low Oil Prices.
In 1999, World Oil wrote that Bush "would be well aware of the fact that oil prices have collapsed" and "would seem to be the perfect individual to lead the charge in doing something about the [low] price of oil." The editorial said one possibility was that Bush and his father could persuade the Middle East to hold production, increasing prices, and that if Bush was successful in increasing the price of oil, "he could parlay his actions into substantial contributions." [World Oil, 2/99]
1999: Cheney Praised OPEC Production Cuts That Raised Oil Prices.
According to the Associated Press in March 1999, "OPEC members agreed today to cut crude oil production by 2.1 million barrels a day and maintain lower levels of output for a full year starting April 1, oil ministers said. The group of 11 oil producing nations approved the cuts in an effort to strengthen prices and end a global oil glut." Then-Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney praised OPEC's decision. "I've been struck by the extent OPEC seems to have gotten its act together," said Cheney. [Dow Jones, 4/12/99; Mickey Kaus, Slate, 7/28/00; AP Online, 3/23/99]
digby 4/06/2004 12:51:00 PM
I was always somewhat confused by the comments of our brilliant National Security Advisor when she said:
"How can one mention Hitler and the U.S. president in the same sentence? And above all, how can such a comment come from the mouth of a German when one considers the sacrifices made by the United States when it acted to liberate the Germans from Hitler."
Seeing US involvement in WWII as a sacrifice made by the United States to "liberate the Germans from Hitler" always struck me as just a tad eccentric. That it came from one of the most powerful people in the government and one who considers herself a "Europeanist" certainly gave me pause. I worried that she might not be as smart as she should be.
Today, John O'Sullivan in the National Review articulates a view of the future of American involvement in Iraq that makes sense of Condi's statement. "Liberation," it appears, is a very malleable concept.
The most straightforward solution [to the security situation in Iraq] would be a draconian crackdown on all unrest --- curfews, house-to-house searches, firing on armed rioters, mass internment, widespread use of capital punishment for terrorists, and so on.
Western democracies only have the stomach for such harsh methods, however, when they believe they are fighting truly radical evil. The Allies in postwar Germany executed large numbers of German resisters because, among other reasons, Belsen and Dachau showed that Nazism was utterly bestial and the most brutal methods of suppressing it justified. Even so, the Allied occupation of Germany was before CNN, NGOs, and the "human-rights revolution." It is highly unlikely, even in the aftermath of Fallujah, that either the U.S. government would carry out --- or American public opinion support --- the execution of terrorists on a similar scale today.
That really is too bad. Some people might think that there is a tiny distinction between Germany, which invaded and occupied a huge portion of Europe, attacked Russia, declared war on the US, tried to exterminate all of Europe's Jews and created the bloodiest carnage in the history of the world --- and Iraq which we invaded and are occupying and which we ostensibly were liberating from a dictator whom we now have in custody. But they would be wrong. Obviously, the Iraqis are behaving just as badly as many of the Germans did when we liberated them from Hitler and they should, in a just world, be treated with the same iron hand.
If it weren't for the stupid American public, the liberal media and the idiotic "human rights revolution" we could do what is necessary to liberate the Iraqis by killing large numbers of them and thereby showing them what freedom is all about. But we can't.
Thank goodness O'Sullivan has a fallback position:
A second solution would be to establish order by bringing in massive numbers of U.S. and allied troops, imposing a regime of surveillance and supervision that is widespread and almost totalitarian but not brutal, using both human and technical intelligence to track down and remove the terrorists from society, and settling down to stay in Iraq for at least 30 years. In that way terrorist resistance might be administratively smothered over time. But since the U.S. has decided to reduce troop levels and hand over power to Iraqis in three months, this option has been foreclosed.
This would be the East German example, I guess. (Hey, when it came to occupying a country, the Soviets really knew how to keep a lid on trouble. Word to the wise.) Once again, the pussified US screwed the pooch because we don't know how handle a bunch of ingrates who fail to realize that we only care about their freedom. Otherwise we could create a totalitarian regime for them to live under for their own good. That is, after all, why we liberated them from Saddam, the totalitarian dictator.
But, we messed up and promised to turn over the country to the Iraqis themselves. What a mistake. So:
That leaves the third option --- which also happens to be the most practicable one in current circumstances --- namely, handing over power to a new Iraqi government and supporting it in its suppression of terrorism. A new Iraqi government will be in an improved version of the U.S. position a year ago.
It will be feared by its opponents; it will not have shown any psychological uncertainty in the face of "resistance;" and it will have the additional advantages of being (a) Iraqi, b) at least aspiringly democratic, and (c) knowledgeable about all sorts of local conditions. This combination will give it the legitimacy and the moral self-confidence to crack down on any unrest that either last-ditch Saddamites or foreign jihadists try to mount. And it may well conclude that it needs such weapons as the internment of suspected terrorists without trial to restore order and prevent a civil war.
Of course, U.S. troops will still be needed in force to support the new regime. Nor can Washington give a blank check endorsing any methods, however brutal, that it employs. Equally however, we should not seek to impose on Baghdad the kind of constitutional restraints that cripple American police in their everyday battles against conventional crime --- and that hobble Washington's responses today to the murder of Americans in Fallujah.
Ah. Now we're getting somewhere. We've had a little practice at supporting brutal puppet governments. This we know how to do. And the good thing is that we don't have to "cripple" the Iraqi government with all those unfortunate constitutional restraints that keep the US police from being able to shoot down suspected criminals or round them up and send them to jail indefinitely without a trial. Now that's what I call freedom.
Our Dear Leader himself said yesterday:
"We are being challenged in Iraq because there are people there that hate freedom."
Or was it "We are being challenged in Iraq because there are people here that hate freedom?" I'll have to check.
digby 4/06/2004 12:14:00 PM