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Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Phony

I think this article in Salon is exactly right. It's certainly a description of Commander Codpiece that's come up over and over again in conversations I've had with Democrats.

Rep. Dick Gephardt made his best and perhaps his only significant contribution to defeating George Bush in 2004 last month, when he derided the president's "bring 'em on" challenge to Iraqi attacks on American forces. "Enough of the phony macho rhetoric," Gephardt shot back. The Missouri Democrat's line was more than just padded flight-suit envy. His jibe hints at the strategy that could put a Democrat back in the White House: convincing Americans that Bush is a phony.

The Democrats can only win if they succeed in undermining the president's greatest strength: his credibility as a decisive and authentic wartime leader. The problem is that in such uncertain times many Americans instinctively can't and don't want to believe that George Bush is screwing them. Until the Democrats change how voters view Bush the man, and then link that to a broader critique of his administration, the Democrats will have a hard time punching through.


The core problem with the current Democratic strategy is that a piecemeal, issue-by-issue attack on the policies of the administration will not resonate while Bush retains the esteem and even admiration of many ordinary Americans. And a contest based on issues will only get harder as Bush moves from shoring up his base to moderating his image in the lead-up to next fall. Expect the policy lines to blur amid a renewed focus on domestic issues and a revival of the language and imagery of compassionate conservatism.

The Democrats' greatest danger is to run an issues-based campaign that becomes a ritualized liberal/conservative slanging match. Progressives who are flabbergasted at the audacity of Bush's agenda seem to think that simply communicating Bush's policy failures is enough. But this approach will play straight into Karl Rove's chubby hands and trap Democrats in the defensive, dithering posture that has defined them since the Bush presidency began.

So no matter how bad Bush's actual record may be, Democrats simply can't count on fighting the upcoming election on substantive policy grounds alone.

This is an ongoing problem for Democrats. We are earnest and sincere but every time we open our mouths it's about our 10 point "program" and why is it better. Even my eyes glaze over.

We'd better figure out how to take this personality driven politics to the Republicans.

Besides, Bush IS a phony--- he's a phony Texan, a phony businessman, a phony politician, a phony flyboy, a phony compassionate conservative, and a phony regular guy. He's actually a phony president. Nobody believes, deep down, that he's calling the shots.

The only thing authentic about him is his nasty temper and loyalty to big business.

Do We Sense A Pattern?

The CIA objected to claims in the British government's September dossier on Iraq's banned weapons programme, the issue at the heart of the Kelly affair, it was revealed yesterday.

It appears that among the CIA's objections was the much-trumpeted claim that Iraqi forces could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so.


Yesterday, the FO revealed that the CIA was given a draft of the government's dossier on September 11 last year, the same day Alastair Campbell, the prime minister's communications director, saw it, according to evidence given to the Commons committee.

The committee asked the FO what "reservations and comments" the CIA had expressed about the September dossier in addition to the Niger uranium story. The FO replied: "The CIA made a number of comments". It declined to be specific but added: "The JIC chairman incorporated or rejected them as he judged fit."

How, then, do we explain this, from Dana Milbank’s piece in the W. Post from July 20th?

The claim, which has since been discredited, was made twice by President Bush, in a September Rose Garden appearance after meeting with lawmakers and in a Saturday radio address the same week. Bush attributed the claim to the British government, but in a "Global Message" issued Sept. 26 and still on the White House Web site, the White House claimed, without attribution, that Iraq "could launch a biological or chemical attack 45 minutes after the order is given."


The White House embraced the claim, from a British dossier on Iraq, at the same time it began to promote the dossier's disputed claim that Iraq sought uranium in Africa.

Bush administration officials last week said the CIA was not consulted about the claim. A senior White House official did not dispute that account, saying presidential remarks such as radio addresses are typically "circulated at the staff level" within the White House only.

But, the CIA was consulted and told the British government that it was false. Unfortunately, they apparently forgot to tell the White House because two weeks later the president made the claim in a Rose Garden appearance on September 26th, and in his radio address two days later.

Lucky for him, he was very careful, just as with the uranium issue, to attribute it to the British government so nobody can say he was technically lying. Whew!

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's quite amazing that they made more than one wild claim based upon British intelligence that it later turned out our CIA had already rejected. What are the odds of that happening?

At the very least you'd think that since they knew that elements of the dossier were "dodgy" at least since September 28th (or they would have continued to use the "sexy" 45 minute claim) they'd be extra careful about repeating other claims from that document without making sure the CIA had no objections.

Yet, even with memos flying from the CIA director about the African uranium claim, the NSC didn't put 2 and 2 together and conclude that maybe --- just like the "sexed up" 45 minute fantasy that they were forced to give up back in September --- it might be prudent to stop repeating it.

Talk about bad luck.

It would be very interesting to find out what other claims in the "dodgy dossier" the CIA objected to back in September 2002.

The Rule of Law Cast Adrift

Kofi Annan asks the right questions:

Suggesting that some world leaders at the coming General Assembly should set aside time for basic discussions on these issues, he said, "if we are going to make preventive action, or war, part of our response to these new threats, what are the rules?"

"Who decides?" he added. "Under what circumstances? Did what happened in Iraq constitute an exception? A precedent others can exploit? What are the rules?"

In effect, three months after President Bush warned that the United Nations might become irrelevant, the secretary general turned a traditional midsummer news conference into a stump speech on the value of international institutions in general and the United Nations in particular.

At one point, recalling the bitter dismissals of the United Nations last winter, he said, with a bare hint of satisfaction, "I did warn those who were bashing the U.N. that they had to be careful because they may need the U.N. soon."

The answer to Annan's questions are obvious and should be shared with the American citizenry. They are akin to language in the Bush vs Gore decision.

The doctrine of preventive war is limited to circumstances that George W. Bush sets forth, for the problem of allowing other nations to use the same rationale generally presents many complexities.

Bush decides, under whatever circumstances he wants. Iraq is not an exception, others may NOT exploit the precedent and the rules are what we say they are.

I don't think that most people are comfortable with the idea that the US isn't playing by any agreed upon rules. We like to see ourselves as good citizens and responsible world leaders. I doubt that many have any clue that the Bush administration has caused an international crisis with its unilateral foreign policy that observes no discernible rule of law.

And, I do not believe that Americans want to bear the cost of Bush's military adventurism all alone, whether they favor any particular war or not. The Democrats need to make the case for multi-lateralism by hammering the fact that Bush's go-it-alone stubbornness means that we pay the entire cost ourselves, in lives as well as money --- not to mention the less quantifiable costs in credibility, cooperation and prestige.

Blinded By Faith

Today, one of my favorite blogs,TAPPED says:

One gets the sense that, rather than Bush administration officials regarding the war on terrorism as something new under the sun -- something that might require them to think and act differently and rearrange their priorities -- they regarded it as an excuse to do everything they had already wanted to do.

This is a very important point. During the 2003 run-up to the invasion (and even before, on Eschaton) I wrote about the intellectual inflexibility of the neconservative claque. From January 5th:

It is true that Iraq could get nukes and Saddam could extort the entire western world by withholding oil and driving up the price. So could other countries, for that matter. No matter who managed to do this, it would not be a pretty picture. But, even Kenneth Pollack, who is held up as the authority on the necessity of invading Iraq, argues that while Saddam will have to be deposed, it is not so immediate a threat that we could not wait long enough to mitigate some of the potentially dangerous repercussions and plan for our long term responsibilities in the region before taking action.

Confronting Saddam could have waited because what is not waiting is the simmering anti-American bloodlust that is sweeping the Middle East, particularly in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Invading Iraq on a thin pretext (which is what is going to happen because this war is already timed for American convenience and nothing else) is possibly going to set off a chain of events that could have been avoided if we handled the situation with a little more sophistication and finesse instead of fulfilling some long held neocon wet dream. And that is the real problem.

The Wolfowitz/Perle school never took terrorism seriously when it was becoming a threat on the world stage and they don't take it seriously now. The influential CSP issued only 2 reports since the 1998 embassy bombing about the threat of terrorism until 9/11. The PNAC has been wringing their hands about Iraq and pushing for missile defense for years, but terrorism was hardly even on the radar screen. They are about China, Iraq, North Korea, Russia, Israel, US "benevolent" hegemony and missile defense. Period. Anything else will be subsumed under what they believe is the real agenda.

As with the ever changing justifications for the tax cuts for their rich friends, Bush and his foreign policy mavens are so blinkered and myopic and that they pursue their preordained agenda no matter what the current situation. They seem completely incapable of exercising any flexibility in light of changing circumstances. They just find a way to use the changing circumstances to justify what they plan to do anyway.

This is very dangerous. Bush, with his stupid bellicose posturing has created a needless crisis in Asia by challenging a cornered and neurotically proud despot in North Korea into a nuclear standoff. He has escalated the problem with Iraq to one of immediate danger, when it was a medium term threat at worst, and by conflating it with Al Qaeda and Muslim fundamentalism, for no good reason other than political expediency, he has made it a cause for a whole lot of disaffected people in the Mideast and Indian subcontinent to rally to.

It goes on to discuss how much this all has to do with their childlike devotion to the fantasy of missile defense.

It should be clear by now, with all we know about the bogus justifications for invading and occupying Iraq, that the Bush administration does not care about terrorism and is wedded to grandiose unilateralist ideas that were formulated during the cold war and desperately need to be re-evaluated.

This should be the basis for the Democratic critique of Bush's foreign policy. The world is changing. The neocons refuse to see it.

The Electability Game

In response to a post by Leah over at Eschaton and subsequent discussion of “electability” in the comments thread, a reader named Jennifer Kenney writes something that I think is insightful and worth reiterating.

This is all so ridiculous, to debate electability on the basis of policy positions. Most people - especially most people who are not policy wonks - make decisions with their guts. They like something or don't based on its innate attractiveness, not on a careful weighing of evidence.

If this were not the case, would anyone truly think that Bush was an asset to our national security? Would he have gotten close enough to steal the election? Would the Dems be thinking about running anybody other than Hillary? Would I ever have thought I was "so in love" with that guy who was "just between jobs right now"? No, no, and Whoa Nelly! People aren't such rational creatures.

The question isn't whether Kerry (or anybody else) has the stance on the issues to beat Dean, the question is whether anybody else has the energy and rhetoric to beat him. Most folks aren't aware of him (or that the primary races have even started). When they become aware of him, they'll decide whether or not they like him from their guts, not their heads, and once they make that decision they'll fill in all the logical policy blanks to justify that decision. That's electability.

She’s right. Political junkies and partisans care about issues. Everybody else votes on a gut feeling or tribal identification. The politicians’ job, among other things, is to project an image and an aura that accurately captures who he is and reassures voters that he can do the job. If the politician is astute about the mood and the direction of the country, he will be able to emphasize those personal qualities that people subconsciously believe is needed at that particular time. (Biography and resume count, too. People use them as short hand.)

The post modern nature of the media makes this more important than ever. Narratives are strangely constructed and often left dangling as the herd rushes off in different directions. Truth and reality are presented as relative to which party you belong to --- facts are nothing more than spin points to be debated by the candidate or his “critics.” You can't blame people for relying more and more on their instincts to guide their political choices. It's almost impossible for a busy person to sort out the facts and the truth about any candidate.

As much as it pains me to say it, because I thought he was a good man, Al Gore’s biggest failure as a candidate wasn’t a bad strategy and it wasn’t a lack of passion. It was a stilted and uncomfortable speaking style. It is tremendously unfair, but it is the truth. I can’t tell you how many airheaded Democratic voters I spoke to who complained about his personality. He won anyway, to be sure, but it was in spite of that handicap. Most people voted their pocketbooks and if you recall, back in 2000 this country felt invincible.

Bush, on the other hand, did as well as he did because his family name represented staid, waspy, traditional conservatism at a time when a lot of people had come to believe that the most important part of the President’s job was to project an image of rectitude. (Peace and prosperity tend to make the task of governing look easy.) His faux Texan affectations helped to deliver the south, but his policy positions and grasp of the issues was non-existent and nobody expected him to have them. He was chosen for his brand name appeal.

Interestingly, they have spent the last 3 years re-branding him as their former rival, John McCain -- the straight talking war hero.

I don’t suggest that the Democrats adopt such a cynical approach. But, we are being luddites if we don’t recognize and consciously adapt to the modern political reality. Politics are now inextricably linked to entertainment values as much as civic tradition. Maybe on some level it always has been. We ignore that at our peril.

FYI: On VH1’s top 200 Pop Icons, Bill Clinton comes in at number 18 and John F Kennedy at 32.

The two most popular Democratic presidents of the last 40 years are considered Pop Icons. The coolest people are always Democrats. We can do this.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

0 for 25

Fareed Zakaria wrote something interesting in the June 16th issue of Newsweek. I was aware of this, but now that we know the WMD threat was at best, wildly overstated, it really bears some examination.

For decades some conservatives, including many who now wield great influence, have had a tendency to vastly exaggerate the threat posed by tyrannical regimes.

It all started with the now famous "Team B" exercise. During the early 1970s, hard-line conservatives pilloried the CIA for being soft on the Soviets. As a result, CIA Director George Bush agreed to allow a team of outside experts to look at the intelligence and come to their own conclusions. Team B--which included Paul Wolfowitz--produced a scathing report, claiming that the Soviet threat had been badly underestimated.

In retrospect, Team B's conclusions were wildly off the mark. Describing the Soviet Union, in 1976, as having “a large and expanding Gross National Product,” it predicted that it would modernize and expand its military at an awesome pace. For example, it predicted that the Backfire bomber "probably will be produced in substantial numbers, with perhaps 500 aircraft off the line by early 1984." In fact, the Soviets had 235 in 1984.

The reality was that even the CIA’s own estimates--savaged as too low by Team B--were, in retrospect, gross exaggerations. In 1989, the CIA published an internal review of its threat assessments from 1974 to 1986 and came to the conclusion that every year it had "substantially overestimated" the Soviet threat along all dimensions. For example, in 1975 the CIA forecast that within 10 years the Soviet Union would replace 90 percent of its long-range bombers and missiles. In fact, by 1985, the Soviet Union had been able to replace less than 60 percent of them.

He does not mention that they also never admit they were wrong. Their worldview is set in stone and they are actually a bit paranoid.

Which leads me to this op-ed from today in the NY Times by Lawrence Korb, former deputy defense secretary under Reagan who questions the reasoning behind moving American bases from Germany to eastern Europe:

Since moving to new bases would not save money or improve our strategic flexibility, there must be another motive.

If the neoconservatives had ever changed course even once over the past 40 years, I might be able to buy that it was Rummy’s pique at “old Europe.” But, they have never let facts on the ground alter their plans or their total faith in their original analysis. It’s really quite easy to see why Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld are moving our troops from Germany for no good reason.

It’s because they are planning to defend Eastern Europe from Russia.

I kid you not.

We’ve gone from “Dr Strangelove” to “The Russians Are Coming”

Just read Wolfowitz’s 10 Commandments…er… The Defense Planning Guidance, 1992. From the NY Times

Senior Defense Department officials have said the document will be issued by Defense Secretary Cheney this month. According to a Feb. 18 memorandum from Mr. Wolfowitz’s deputy, Dale A. Vesser, the policy guidance will be issued with a set of “illustrative” scenarios for possible future foreign conflicts that might draw United States military forces into combat.

These scenarios, issued separately to the military services on Feb. 4, were detailed in a New York Times article last month. They postulated regional wars against Iraq and North Korea, as well as a Russian assault on Lithuania and smaller military contingencies that United States forces might confront in the future.


The draft states that with the elimination of United States short-range nuclear weapons in Europe and similar weapons at sea, the United States should not contemplate any withdrawal of its nuclear-strike aircraft based in Europe and, in the event of a resurgent threat from Russia, “we should plan to defend against such a threat” farther forward on the territories of Eastern Europe “should there be an Alliance decision to do so.”

Nothing must stand in the way of the Master Plan.

And they are always wrong about everything.

The Name's Chalabi...Ahmed Chalabi

I’ve been meaning to write once again about our good friend in Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi. He is such an interesting fellow and continues to be the favorite talking head of the “New Iraq” on cable television. It seems as if hardly a day goes by that I don’t see him speaking on behalf of Iraqis everywhere.

Slate’s Jack Shafer, who has nailed the intrepid embed Judith Miller to the proverbial wall, reports in this and other articles how reliant Ms Miller was on the ever so helpful Ahmed when she wrote her breathless accounts of the vast arsenal of unconventional weapons everyone knew for a fact were in Iraq. But then, Chalabi has been helpful with the vaunted “strong, solid” Iraqi intelligence for years.

According to the Association of Former Intelligence Officers’ May Report:

With Iraq conquered and Saddam Hussein's regime deposed, U.S. and Iraqi sources have now provided an account of the unsuccessful strategy of deposing Saddam by a coup d'etat during the 1990's, an effort reportedly known within CIA by the cryptonum "DBACHILLES" . The failed coup efforts carry some important lessons. They show that Iraqi intelligence penetrated the Iraqi exile-based operations. And they illustrate the damage caused by a long-running feud between Iraqi exile groups and their patrons in Washington. A media-based report follows.


Complicating the CIA's coup planning was a similar effort in northern Iraq by Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. A CIA officer named Bob Baer was dispatched in January 1995 to coordinate the various covert efforts, but they only got more tangled. Chalabi launched his coup attempt in March 1995, but it was unsuccessful and Baer was summoned home to Washington. Chalabi was convinced that the military-coup plan had been compromised and traveled to Washington in March 1996 to see the new CIA director, John Deutch, and his deputy, George Tenet. He told them the Iraqis had captured an Egyptian courier who was carrying an Inmarsat satellite phone to Shawani's sons in Baghdad.

When the CIA officials seemed unconvinced, for their own good reasons, Chalabi then went to his friend Richard Perle, a prominent neoconservative. Perle is said to have called Tenet and urged that an outside committee review the Iraq situation. But the coup planning went ahead. DBACHILLES succeeded in reaching a number of senior Iraqi military officers, but was compromised and collapsed in a blood bath in June 1996.

The Iraqis began arresting the coup plotters on June 26. At least 200 officers were seized and more than 80 were executed, including Shawani's sons. Top CIA officials reportedly blamed Chalabi for exposing the plot, and the recrimination has persisted ever since.

As a follow-on to the coup plotting, in the run-up to, and during the invasion, both Alawi and Shawani played important roles in the US/UK effort to encourage Iraqi officers to surrender or defect. It did not quite work out that way. The Iraqi military did not defect or surrender, they just went home. (Jonkers) (Wash Post, 16 May 2003, page A29 //David Ignatius)

Interesting, but ancient history, right?

Fast forward to The Saq of Iraq, April 27, 2003.


Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi said Sunday that he has "specific information" about links between the terror group al-Qaeda and the Iraqi intelligence service Mukhabarat.

"We have specific information about visits that leaders of al-Qaeda made to Iraq in as late as 2000, and the requests for large amounts of cash," Chalabi said.

Chalabi, who heads up the US-backed Iraqi National Congress (INC), an organization that opposed Saddam Hussein's ousted regime, added that he could not elaborate "because we want to chase down specifically the information so there will be an actionable case for international authorities -- specifically the United States."

Chalabi's comments came in response to a question about a report in Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper that secret Iraqi intelligence documents found in Baghdad have provided the first evidence of a direct link between Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and Saddam Hussein's regime.


But, lo and behold:

Iraqi "intelligence documents" likely planted. April 29, 2003


The problem with these documents is that they are being provided by the U.S. military to a few reporters working for a very suspect newspaper, London's Daily Telegraph (affectionately known as the Daily Torygraph" by those who understand the paper's right-wing slant). The Telegraph's April 27 Sunday edition reported that its correspondent in Baghdad, Inigo Gilmore, had been invited into the intelligence headquarters by U.S. troops and miraculously "found" amid the rubble a document indicating that Iraq invited Osama bin Laden to visit Iraq in March 1998.

Gilmore also reported that the CIA had been through the building several times before he found the document. Gilmore added that the CIA must have "missed" the document in their prior searches, an astounding claim since the CIA must have been intimately familiar with the building from their previous intelligence links with the Mukhabarat dating from the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Moreover, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, including Britain's MI-6, have refuted claims of a link between bin Laden and Iraq.

And, what a coincidence...

Secret Baath files may help Chalabi settle old scores May 8 2003

Ahmad Chalabi, the exiled financier promoted by the Pentagon as a leader of postwar Iraq, claims to have obtained 25 tonnes of intelligence documents detailing Saddam Hussein's relationship with foreign governments and Arab leaders.
The files, seized by supporters of his Iraqi National Congress (INC) from Baath party offices and secret police stations, may fuel a fresh round of recriminations and score-settling as politicians meeting in Baghdad struggle to agree the terms of an interim administration.

In interviews with Abu Dhabi television and Newsweek magazine, Chalabi has already threatened to use the papers to damage the Jordanian royal family and the Al-Jazeera television organisation, with which he has had long-running disputes.

The INC offices in London said that some of the documents may be published, but other Iraqi political groups, and the British Foreign Office, called for the files to be returned to the authorities.

The papers were collected from abandoned buildings used by Saddam's Special Security Organisation (SSO) and the Mukhabarat intelligence service, from Baath party offices, and from the Iraqi army.

Oh yes, this makes a lot of sense:

AFTER THE WAR: INTELLIGENCE; U.S. Said to Seek Help of Ex-Iraqi Spies on Iran
July 22, 2003

Baghdad -- Relying on the help of an Iraqi political party, the United States has moved to resurrect parts of Iraq's once-feared intelligence service, with the branch that monitors Iran among the top priorities, former Iraqi agents and politicians say.

The Iraqi National Congress, which is led by Ahmad Chalabi, the longtime exile who is now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, says its senior officials have met with senior members of the so-called Iran and Turkey branch of the Mukhabarat, or Iraqi intelligence, over the past several weeks. The party has received documents from the intelligence officers and recruited them into a reconstituted version of the unit, said Abdulaziz Kubaisi, the Iraqi National Congress official responsible for the recruiting effort.

American officials, he said, are fully informed about what the party is doing. Iraqi intelligence officers who have been asked to rejoin the branch contend that the United States is orchestrating the effort.

"As far as what we do, we are sending back information to the Pentagon, to people who are responsible," Kubaisi said. "They know the nature of what we're doing. There is coordination. We have representatives of (U.S. Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld (at the Congress)."

But some Middle East experts said trying to revive the branch before a sovereign government is in place and working through a political party could backfire.

"This sets a bad precedent because you don't have a government in place, and because Chalabi's party is a minority and doesn't represent the majority of Iraqis," said Edward Walker, former ambassador to Egypt and Israel under former President George Bush and now president of the Middle East Institute, "I think it will be highly controversial to rebuild the intelligence arm when there are so many unresolved questions about Iraqi intelligence from before."

The effort to reach out to former Iraqi intelligence officials also appears hard to harmonize with the American drive to "de-Baathify" Iraqi society, given the prominence of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein in his government.

A senior American official said concern about Iran was driving some of the discussion about moving quickly to re-establish an intelligence service. The official said the United States recognized that Iraq had a good intelligence apparatus focused on Iran because activities in the neighboring country might affect Iraqi security at home.

People close to the Iran branch said the Americans had also expressed interest in reviving the intelligence service's Syria branch.

So, recent accounts by the CIA and Iraqis show that Iraqi intelligence infiltrated the exile groups during the 90’s. And, Ahmed Chalabi is suspected of compromising a CIA backed coup in 1995, which is one of the reasons that he’s so mistrusted in intelligence circles today. He tried to implicate one of the Iraqi CIA assets who later went on to help the US in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He has been revealed as the main source for what seems to be the er…”highly exaggerated” claims of WMD, to the NY Times and one presumes, his pals in the Pentagon.

He is dropped into Iraq by the Pentagon while the war is still going on and finds himself alone in the headquarters of the Iraqi intelligence service turning up all kinds of documents that tie Saddam to al Qaeda and other Arab states like his enemies in Jordan (where he was convicted of fraud.)

Now, he is reported to be “resurrecting” the Iraqi Intelligence branch dealing with Iran and possibly Syria even though he is only the head of a nominal political party in Iraq.

I don’t know about you, but it sure seems like Ahmed Chalabi has a rather unusual and focused interest in the Iraqi intelligence apparatus for a guy who hadn’t lived in Iraq for more than 40 years and who is suspected by the CIA of causing at least 80 friendly Iraqi deaths by exposing a coup plot he was not involved in.

This man’s relationship to the top policy makers in the Pentagon needs to be looked at much more closely.

There is something very wrong with this picture.

And, just to illustrate what a true man of the Iraqi people he is, the NY Times reported on July 17th:

A delegation from Iraq's new Governing Council, scheduled to leave Baghdad for New York, suffered a last minute defection by Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress.

Aides to Mr. Chalabi said there were several reasons for his cancelation. Prominent among them was the transport aircraft provided by the American military, which was not equipped with seats. The delegates were to be strapped onto benches for a flight to Abu Dhabi, an interim destination that also did not meet with Mr. Chalabi's approval.

In addition to his discontent over the seating arrangements, Mr. Chalabi was reported by his aides to be unhappy that Adnan Pachachi, a 80-year-old former diplomat, had been designated chairman of the delegation in a voice vote while Mr. Chalabi was not present. Mr. Pachachi and Mr. Chalabi are rivals of sorts for leadership on the Governing Council.

A Cunning Plan

If CNN is right and Diane Feinstein is a hairsbreath away from entering the Governor's race, then we are probably one step closer to turning our democratic traditions into history. Ok. Fine.

So, let's play hardball.

Feinstein wins the governorship ... and appoints Gray Davis to her Senate seat.


Absolutely Fabulous

Unintended honest answer alert:

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Building sort of on that idea, it's impossible to deny that the world is a better place in the region, certainly a better place without Saddam Hussein. But there's a sense here in this country, and a feeling around the world, that the U.S. has lost credibility by building the case for Iraq upon sometimes flimsy or, some people have complained, non-existent evidence.

And, I'm just wondering, sir, why did you choose to take the world to war in that way?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, look, in my line of work, it's always best to produce results. And I understand that.

Didn't Tony Soprano say that in the first season? Maybe not. It just sounds so like him.

Now, on with the usual incomprehensible gibberish:

The -- for a while the questions were, could you conceivably achieve a military victory in Iraq? You know, the dust storms have slowed you down. And I was a patient man because I realized that we would be successful in achieving our military objective.

Now, of course, the question is, will Iraq ever be free, and will it be peaceful? And I believe it will. I remind some of my friends that it took us a while to go from the Articles of Confederation to the United States Constitution. Even our own experiment with democracy didn't happen overnight. I never have expected Thomas Jefferson to emerge in Iraq in a 90-day period.

And so, this is going to take time. And the world will see what I mean when I say, a free Iraq will help peace in the Middle East, and a free Iraq will be important for changing the attitudes of the people in the Middle East. A free Iraq will show what is possible in a world that needs freedom, in a part of the world that needs freedom.

Let me finish for a minute, John, please. Just getting warmed up. I'm kind of finding my feet. (Laughter.)

Saddam Hussein was a threat. The United Nations viewed him as a threat. That's why they passed 12 resolutions. Predecessors of mine viewed him as a threat. We gathered a lot of intelligence. That intelligence was good, sound intelligence on which I made a decision.

Here comes the real Junior. Snotty, puerile and spoiled:

And in order to placate the critics and the cynics about intentions of the United States, we need to produce evidence. And I fully understand that.

And I'm confident that our search will yield that which I strongly believe, that Saddam had a weapons program. I want to remind you, he actually used his weapons program on his own people at one point in time, which is pretty tangible evidence. But I'm confident history will prove the decision we made to be the right decision.

Hold on for a second. You're through. John.

I just described to you that there is a threat to the United States. And I also said, we're doing a better job of sharing intelligence and collecting data so we're able to find -- able to anticipate. And what we really don't want to do, it doesn't make sense to me -- seem like to me is to reveal those sources and methods.

(...unless she's married to Joe Wilson.)

The Rice competence issue seems to have become an embarrassment to Junior, but for an unexpected reason. It's obvious to me that here he's barely containing his rage that people are questioning his personal involvement in the process by presuming that Condi makes decisions rather than him.

Considering he now claims that he alone is responsible for war and peace and that he personally analysed the intelligence, I think we can take the gloves off and start placing blame where it belongs. He basically said today to Bring Em On:

Q Mr. President, you often speak about the need for accountability in many areas. I wonder then, why is Dr. Condoleezza Rice not being held accountable for the statement that your own White House has acknowledged was a mistake in your State of the Union address regarding Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium? And also, do you take personal responsibility for that inaccuracy?

THE PRESIDENT: I take personal responsibility for everything I say, of course. Absolutely. I also take responsibility for making decisions on war and peace. And I analyzed a thorough body of intelligence -- good, solid, sound intelligence -- that led me to come to the conclusion that it was necessary to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

We gave the world a chance to do it. We had -- remember there's -- again, I don't want to get repetitive here, but it's important to remind everybody that there was 12 resolutions that came out of the United Nations because others recognized the threat of Saddam Hussein. Twelve times the United Nations Security Council passed resolutions in recognition of the threat that he posed. And the difference was, is that some were not willing to act on those resolutions. We were -- along with a lot of other countries -- because he posed a threat.

Dr. Condoleezza Rice is an honest, fabulous person. And America is lucky to have her service. Period.

Oh yes. We're lucky to have someone who says things like:

How can you use the name Hitler and the name of the president of the US in the same sentence? Particularly how can a German, given the devotion of the US in the liberation of Germany from Hitler?'

In addition to being honest and fabulous, Dr. Rice has quite a grasp of history, too.

I just love this next part. Asked about his gluttonous fundraising, he can't help but brag --- then quickly side-steps to some befuddled talking points about al Qaeda and the economy before making the observation that his fundraising prowess is a "barometer" of his electoral success. The codpiece swells with pride:

Q Yes, sir. And with 15 fundraisers scheduled between -- for the summer months, do you worry about the perception that you're unduly attentive to the interests of people who can afford to spend $2,000 to see you?

THE PRESIDENT: Michael, I think American people, now that they've realized I'm going to seek reelection, expect me to seek reelection. They expect me to actually do what candidates do. And so, you're right, I'll be spending some time going out and asking the American people to support me. But most of my time, as I say in my speeches -- as I'm sure you've been bored to tears listening to -- is that there is a time for politics, and that's going to be later on. I've got a lot to do. And I will continue doing my job. And my job will be to work to make America more secure.

Steve asked a question about this al Qaeda possible attack. Every day I am reminded that our nation is still vulnerable. Every day I'm reminded about what 9/11 means to America. That's a lesson, by the way, I'll never forget, the lesson of 9/11, because -- and I remember right after 9/11 saying that this will be a different kind of war, but it's a war, and sometimes there will be action, and sometimes there won't, but we're still threatened. And I see that almost every day, Mike. And therefore, that is a major part of my job.

And the other part of my job that I talked about is the economic security of the American people. And I spend a lot of time on the economy, going out and talking to the American people about the economy, and will continue to do so.

But, no, listen, since I've made the decision to run, of course, I'm going to do what candidates do. And we're having pretty good success, which is -- it's kind of an interesting barometer, early barometer, about the support we're garnering.

Keil, Jeanne, and then Larry. Keil. Stretch. Super Stretch.

Allriiiight! Deke rules, dude. He pulls this kibbutzing throughout the press conference --- even when they're talking about death and carnage. This, apparently,is what they meant by honor and dignity.

The following starts out like typical spin and then turns into a bizarre (and incredibly dumb) digression about discussing "thorny issues" like the definition of "check points" with Ariel Sharon, attitude and body language in a garden and the transparent Palestinian finance minister's web site. If you didn't know who was talking, you'd think he was 10 years old:

Q Mr. President, you've been involved now in the Mideast peace process, and have certainly learned firsthand how developments like creation of a fence can complicate progress. Based on that, when you stood there about a year ago and proposed your road map, you spoke about a Palestinian state in 2005. Do you think that goal is still realistic, or is it likely to slide just because it's so hard to make headway?

THE PRESIDENT: I do think it's realistic. I also know when we start sliding goals, it makes progress less realistic. Absolutely, I think it's realistic. And I think we're making pretty good progress in a short period of time.

I'm impressed by Prime Minister Abbas' vision of a peaceful Palestinian state. I believe him when he says that we must rout out terror in order for a Palestinian state to exist. I believe he's true. I think Mr. Dahlan, his Security Chief, also recognizes that.

And we've got to help those two leaders in a couple of ways to realize that vision of a peaceful Palestinian state. One is to provide help and strategy to Mr. Dahlan so that he can lead Palestinian security forces to the dismantlement of bomb-making factories, rocket-making factories, inside Gaza and the West Bank. That's going to be a very important part of earning the confidence of the world, for that matter. We've also got to recognize that there are things that can happen on the ground that will strengthen Mr. Abbas' hand, relative to the competition, moving -- for example, movement throughout the country.

So I spent time talking to Prime Minister Sharon yesterday about checkpoints. We discussed the difference between a checkpoint for security purposes, and a checkpoint that might be there that's -- that isn't -- there for inconvenience purposes. Let me put it to you that.

We talked about all the thorny issues. But the most important thing is that we now have an interlocutor in Mr. Abbas who is committed to peace, and who believes in the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

One of the most interesting visits I've had on this issue took place in the Oval Office there with the Finance Minister of the Palestinian Authority. I was pleased to discover that he -- I think he received a degree from the University of Texas, which gave me even more confidence when he spoke. But he is a -- he talked about how a free state, free country, will flourish when the Palestinians are just given a chance.

See, he believes in the Palestinian people to the point where he's willing to take risk for peace. As I understand it, he's put the Palestinian budget on the web page. That's -- that's what we call transparency in the diplomatic world. It means that he's willing to show the finances to make it clear they're not stealing money -- is another way to put it. That's a positive development, Larry.

So I -- what I first look at is attitudes. I also believe Prime Minister Sharon is committed to a peaceful Palestinian state. He's committed because he understands that I will in no way compromise the security of the Israeli people, or the Palestinian people, for that matter, to terror; that he knows when I say we're willing to fight terror, we mean it, because we proved it.

I thought it was interesting yesterday, by the way, that he spoke clearly about Iraq and the importance of Iraq in terms of Middle Eastern peace, as well. And I believe he's right on that. I believe that a free Iraq will make it easier to achieve peace in that part of the world. I also know that we've got to get others in the neighborhood to continue to remind certain countries that it will be frowned upon if they destabilize the process.

The stated objective of Iran is the destruction of Israel, for example. And we've got to work in a collective way with other nations to remind Iran that they shouldn't develop a nuclear weapon. It's going to require more than one voice saying that, however. It's going to require a collective effort of the Europeans, for example, to recognize the true threat of an armed Iran to achieving peace in the Middle East. And -- but I'm pleased by the attitudes.

You know, when I was in Aqaba, I don't know if you remember, but I asked Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas to go outside. I wanted to watch the body language, first and foremost, just to make sure we weren't fooling ourselves, that when leaders commit to being able to work with each, you can get a pretty good sense of that commitment.

What was also interesting on the outside meeting -- I mean, it was a very cordial discussion, and there was the desire for these leaders to talk. And they have talked since the Aqaba meeting, and that's a positive development. But what was also interesting, as Condi reported to me later, to watch the discussions between the different -- both Cabinets. And we were watching carefully to determine if there's the will for peace. We have found a person who has got the will to work for peace. And that's Prime Minister Abbas.

We'll work through the issues that are nettlesome. And there will be some big issues that come along. But the first thing that has to happen is the Palestinian people have got to realize there's hope in a free society. And if they choose the leader that is most likely to -- choose to back the leader that is most likely to deliver that hope.

But, this discussion of the Iranian diaspora and some TV broadcast from LA really takes the yellowcake. He is literally talking nonsense:

I -- all options remain on the table. I believe that the best way to deal with the Iranians at this point in time is to convince others to join us in a clear declaration that the development of a nuclear weapon is not in their interests. I believe a free Iraq will affect the lives of Iranians. I want to thank the diaspora here in the United States, particularly in L.A. -- which reminds me, my last question is going to Ed. And -- so you can prepare for it, Ed. We've got a lot of our fellow citizens who are in e-mail contact, phone contact with people who live throughout Iran. And I want to thank them for that.

Interestingly enough, there's a TV station that I think has been -- people have read about that is broadcast out of L.A. by one of our citizens. He's -- he or she has footed the bill. It's widely watched. The people of Iran are interested in freedom, and we stand by their side. We stand on the side of those who are desperate for freedom in Iran. We understand their frustrations in living in a society that is totalitarian in nature. And now is the time for the world to come together, Ron, to send a clear message.


This is the most powerful man in the world.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Who Me?

"The Internet may be giving angry, protest-oriented activists the rope they need to hang the party," wrote Randolph Court in the DLC's bimonthly newsletter, The New Democrat Blueprint.

I sure wish that the Republicans had believed that about talk radio because then we’d hold both houses of congress, the presidency and the courts today.

Dissing the internet’s power to organize and communicate says so much about these guys that I’d written them off even before I read about their latest bone-headed useful idiocy:

“Penn said his polling indicates that since Clinton left office in 2001, more Americans believe Democrats are the party of big government and higher taxes and he said Bush's handling of the war on terrorism has opened up a huge gap with Democrats on who is more trusted on issues of national security.”

Yah think? But, what would anyone expect average Americans to think if all they ever see or hear are Republicans --- who hold all three branches of government and therefore dominate the media? (I won’t even go into the frenzy of Bush worship the country was forced to swallow after 9/11.)

This is the reason we have election campaigns, for gawds sake --- so that there will be a debate and that the people might be educated about what the party out of power has to say. Who knows, they could even learn something important and their opinions could...change!

If all we have to do is measure public opinion a year and a half before the election and assume that these views are written in stone, I hate to remind old Al From, but Bill Clinton wouldn’t have even gotten close to being elected because George HW Bush had a 90% approval rating and Ross Perot was just a Texas freak show.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), the DLC chairman, warned that the party is "at risk of being taken over by the far left." The choice for Democrats, Bayh said, is, "Do we want to vent or do we want to govern?"

Gosh, what a thrill. After reading that brilliant quote, I got to see Bayh and Sean Hannity give each other big slurpy blow jobs right on television – so enthusiastically that even Alan Comes weakly piped up to say that Sean might endorse Ev if he decided to run. They all agreed wholeheartedly that the problem with the Democrats is that they just don't support President Codpiece heartily enough.

But, you know, I’m just a little bit skeptical of campaign advice from the likes of Sean Hannity. Call me crazy, but I don’t think he has the best interest of the Democratic party in mind. You'd think that Evan would wonder about that, too...

It seems that by the DLC’s calculation, the “far left” doesn’t consist of Green party members or anti-globalization protestors or radical groups like Earth First and Peta. According to them, middle aged, middle class Democrats like me who enthusiastically backed charter DLC favorite sons Clinton and Gore in 3 successive presidential elections, supported the wars in Kosovo and in Afghanistan, aren’t fond of bureaucrats whether they work for government or the corporations, respect the need to curb long term deficit spending and come down on the side of the CATO institute as much as the ACLU when it comes to civil liberties…are now “far left.”

(Uh…Viva Che!)

This is a terrible misconception and one that will indeed “hang the party” because these guys are not only out of touch with their own party, they are obviously delusional about the opposition. They don’t recognize that the political landscape has completely changed since 1985 when the DLC was created and 1992 when it reached its zenith of power. In 2004 it is losing its relevance to many Democrats, not because of a difference in policy but because it has failed to recognize that while they have not changed, the Republican Party has undergone a complete metamorphosis. They do not seem to understand that when the competition completely changes strategy, you must be prepared to change strategy as well.

The Republican Party of George W. Bush is fundamentally different than the Party of George H.W. Bush. They are playing a form of political hardball that is completely unresponsive to the cooperative, consensus style politics that characterizes the DLC. They will not budge on policy and when it comes to tactics they are knife wielding thugs.

Dean’s early success isn’t about liberal spending programs and “far left” hatred for Junior. It’s about opening your eyes and seeing what is right in front of your face --- a dangerously radical Republican party that simply will not compromise or deal fairly.

The DLC is still saying exactly what they said back in 1985, (which should be terribly embarrassing because it indicates that they have failed spectacularly to change the party’s image.) The truth is that they succeeded quite well at first, but the result was a GOP that saw the Democrats moving their way and seized the opportunity to move the goalposts ever further to the right and also become more aggressive and hostile. They did not meet us in the middle, guys, they just kept on going in the direction they wanted to go anyway.

And they lost all compunction about tarring the opposition with outright lies and character assassination.

The fact is that it does not matter if our candidate actually supported the war in Iraq or not. If John Kerry is the nominee rather than Howard Dean, do they actually believe that the Republicans will not find a way to portray him as soft on national security? Please.

It. Does. Not. Matter. What. We. Actually. Do.

We could sign on to a 0% tax rate for millionaires, repeal of Social Security, prison terms for homosexuality and oil rigs in the middle of San Francisco Bay and they would still say we are liberal, tax and spend, tree hugging, treasonous pacifists because it is in their interest to do so. Until we stop tugging our forelocks and sniveling around like beaten dogs, thereby validating their lies, they will be believed by a fair number of Americans. People who turn the other cheek when they are being unfairly and relentlessly attacked are either saints or pussies ... and the DLC aren’t saints.

The way to change the Republican propaganda-created perception that the Democratic Party is a bunch of namby pamby, liberal, pacifist big spenders is to FIGHT BACK.

We should attack the other side with righteous indignation and illuminate for the American people the fact that George W. Bush’s GOP is radical and out of touch with America’s values. (This also has the virtue of being true.) In the hands of a skilled politician this can be done without sounding “shrill” or “hysterical”, but rather strong, reassuring and commonsensical.

Many Americans have a feeling that something is going badly wrong. The media is confusing and sensational. It’s difficult to cut through the muddy and garbled ever-changing story to get a clear sense of what exactly is causing this discomfort. The Republicans are very effective at offering a comforting narrative of strength and tradition.

But, it is the job of the Democrats to rightly identify the source of this existential unease as emanating directly from the White House and the man whom everybody knows, deep in their heart, was not qualified for the job. The Dems need to be unequivocal in their opposition to this presidency, because there is not even one small identifiable aspect of it that is in keeping with traditional Democratic values (despite Evan Bayh’s evident nostalgia for the ever so successful foreign policy of Lyndon Johnson). The working, taxpaying, regular folk of the “far left,” notwithstanding, if the Democrat can articulate this case with passion and authority, he might be able to show a few of the mushy middle that the real crazies these days are on the right --- which is the truth.

Most importantly, they need to articulate the difference between the parties, not the similarities. By attacking the Bush administration’s radical and mendacious agenda, while promoting the Democratic policies of engaged multilateralism and support for international institutions, as well as common sense tax and social spending policies and respect for civil liberties, I think it’s entirely possible that many Americans will see things our way.

Politicians, after all, are not only supposed to figure out what the people want and give it to them. They are supposed to convince the people that they want what the politicians have to give.

The Republicans have managed to persuade large numbers of middle class people that the rich not only have no obligation to ensure the continuation of the stable, decent society that enables their wealth, but that the average working stiff does. If they can do that, then surely we Democrats can educate Americans to the fact that allowing Bush and his ivory tower, think-tank radicals to turn this country into an Imperial banana republic is likely to result in a reduction in their standard of living.

The DLC has losttouch with the zeitgeist. They are as irrelevant today as the SDS.

Buh Bayh.

Monday, July 28, 2003

You Idiots

You liberal Saddamites are just too much. You squeal like a bunch of little girls that our Commander In Chief declared "Mission Accomplished" yet at least one of our soldiers are getting picked off every day since then. You people are so stupid. When our Leader personally landed that huge airplane on that little, bitty strip on the USS Lincoln, defying almost certain death and moistening the gussets of Republicans everywhere, he wasn't saying that the entire Mission was accomplished.

Dr Wolfowitz finally made that clear to the treasonous Russert yesterday:

MR. RUSSERT: Let me go back to May 1. And this was the scene on the USS Lincoln. President Bush arrived on it. And as he is walking to the podium, you see that banner, “Mission Accomplished.” Since that date, 400 U.S. soldiers have been wounded or injured, 107 killed, 48 from hostile fire. Was the president too premature in suggesting that the mission in Iraq has been accomplished?

DR. WOLFOWITZ: Look, the mission for those Navy pilots, and it was a magnificent mission, was accomplished, because, as the president said, major combat operations were over...

See? That "Mission Accomplished" banner was just for the Navy pilots.

You Democrat traitors are just trying to make General Bush look bad when it was obvious to ANYBODY that his picture perfect landing on the carrier was just a private moment of tribute to the pilots who won the great Iraqi naval victory. Typically you liberals spin it make it look like he was saying that the whole mission was accomplished, when you certainly knew that if he was talking about ground operations he would have parachuted into the center of Baghdad.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Straight Shooter

I keep reading about how the reason for war was “multicausal” and therefore, we should not be too upset that the weapons of mass destruction haven’t turned up. It was just one of many reasons and since the other reasons are good, this really isn’t that big of a deal.

But, really folks, the weapons issue wasn’t just one of many rationales. It was the Big Kahuna of rationales, so much so that they changed their objective from “regime change” to “disarmament.”

In his only formal press conference on March 6, Bush used the word disarm or disarmament 45 times.

Read the following opening statement from that press conference and then ask yourself why, in light of the fact that no weapons have been found, that people might just be thinking that he misled them about the reasons for war. There may have been multiple causes, but the one the president talked about that night was pretty obviously the threat Saddam presented to the United States with his weapons of mass destruction. And, he said it over and over and over again.

There certainly were other reasons for invading. But to excuse Bush because the underlying reasons may have been reasonable when he repeatedly made the case that the war was about dealing with a threat to the people of the United States is simply outrageous. To do this just one year after 9/11 in order to get the country to unknowingly acquiesce to a risky and expensive long term restructuring of the middle east, based upon nothing more than theoretical think tank models is unconscionable.

Bush did not just emphasize the WMD threat. He unequivocally presented it as the casus belli:

BUSH: Good evening. I'm pleased to take your questions tonight and to discuss with the American people the serious matters facing our country and the world.

This has been an important week on two fronts — on our war against terror. First, thanks to the hard work of American and Pakistani officials, we captured the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks against our nation. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed conceived and planned the hijackings and directed the actions of the hijackers. We believe his capture will further disrupt the terror network and their planning for additional attacks.

Second, we have arrived at an important moment in confronting the threat posed to our nation and to peace by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of terror.

In New York tomorrow, the United Nations Security Council will receive an update from the chief weapons inspector. The world needs him to answer a single question: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally disarmed as required by Resolution 1441 or has it not?

Iraq's dictator has made a public show of producing and destroying a few missiles, missiles that violate the restrictions set out more than 10 years ago.

Yet our intelligence shows that even as he is destroying these few missiles, he has ordered the continued production of the very same type of missiles.

Iraqi operatives continue to hide biological and chemical agents to avoid detection by inspectors.

In some cases, these materials have been moved to different locations every 12 to 24 hours or placed in vehicles that are in residential neighborhoods.

We know from multiple intelligence sources that Iraqi weapons scientists continue to be threatened with harm should they cooperate with U.N. inspectors.

Scientists are required by Iraqi intelligence to wear concealed recording devices during interviews, and hotels where interviews take place are bugged by the regime.

These are not the actions of a regime that is disarming. These are the actions of a regime engaged in a willful charade. These are the actions of a regime that systematically and deliberately is defying the world.

If the Iraqi regime were disarming, we would know it because we would see it. Iraq's weapons would be presented to inspectors and the world would witness their destruction.

Instead, with the world demanding disarmament, and more than 200,000 troops positioned near his country, Saddam Hussein's response is to produce a few weapons for show, while he hides the rest and builds even more.

Inspection teams do not need more time or more personnel. All they need is what they have never received, the full cooperation of the Iraqi regime.

Token gestures are not acceptable. The only acceptable outcome is the one already defined by a unanimous vote of the Security Council: total disarmament.

Great Britain, Spain and the United States have introduced a new resolution stating that Iraq has failed to meet the requirements of Resolution 1441. Saddam Hussein is not disarming. This is a fact. It cannot be denied.

Saddam Hussein has a long history of reckless aggression and terrible crimes. He possess weapons of terror. He provides funding and training and safe haven to terrorists, terrorists who would willing use weapons of mass destruction against America and other peace-loving countries.

Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people and to all free people.

If the world fails to confront the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, refusing to use force even as a last resort, free nations would assume... unacceptable risks.

The attacks of Sept.11, 2001, show what the enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what terrorists or terrorist states could do with weapons of mass destruction.

We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise. I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons.

In the event of conflict, America also accepts our responsibility to protect innocent lives in every way possible.

We will bring food and medicine to the Iraqi people. We will help that nation to build a just government after decades of brutal dictatorship.

The form and leadership of that government is for the Iraqi people to choose. Anything they choose will be better than the misery and torture and murder they have known under Saddam Hussein.

Across the world and in every part of America people of good will are hoping and praying for peace. Our goal is peace for our nation, for our friends and allies, for the people of the Middle East.

People of good will must also recognize that allowing a dangerous dictator to defy the world and harbor weapons of mass murder and terror is not peace at all, it is pretense.

The cause of peace will be advanced only when the terrorists lose a wealthy patron and protector, and when the dictator is fully and finally disarmed.

Tonight I thank the men and women of our armed services and their families.

I know their deployment so far from home is causing hardship for many military families. Our nation is deeply grateful to all who serve in uniform.

Gosh. I wonder where anyone could have gotten the idea that Saddam's cache of weapons of mass destruction was the reason we were preparing to invade?

Enemies, A Love Story

I imagine that some "conservative" supporters of the recall (and other vaunted examples of California's penchant for direct democracy) would be quite surprised to find that their pet cause is actually a major tenet of Karl Marx's concept of perfect socialist democracy.

In 1871 he wrote favorably about The Paris Commune in his book called The Civil War In France, particularly noting its provisions relating to recalling politicians.

He called for the establishment of radically democratic (directly participatory) form of government within which the delegates would be held acountable to their voters by the right to recall at will. He also called for frequent elections because ‘instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people ... (p.289)’.

As with so many things, the modern "Republican" radicals are using their lifelong enemies' rhetoric and tactics in service of the rich. You've just got to hand it to old Grover...


Vaara found a copy of Vladimir Ilyich Norquist's key talking points for 2004.

Intellectual Consistency

Wow. This is a shocker. 96 Republican scholors, lawyers and former government officials believe that impeachment is a constitutional duty when the president uses narrow sophistries and linguistic maneuverings to escape the constitutional rules applicable to him. They argue that popularity should be no impediment to impeachment --- indeed the constitution was written in order that popular presidents might be impeached. Has the worm finally turned?

The fundamental tenet by which a free society lives is the rule of law. When the President defies the constitutional rules applicable to him, there must be no escape by narrow sophistries and linguistic maneuvering. The framers devised a mechanism for removing from office any person who violates both his oath of office and his constitutional duties. That mechanism must be respected and used if we are to remain a free and law-abiding nation. The impeachment inquiry must not be defeated by partisan politics and public opinion polls. The Constitution was made in order to remove some subjects from decision by momentary popular sentiment. Impeachment is as much a part of the Constitution as the First Amendment. In fulfilling their constitutional duties, neither the courts nor Congress should be deflected by public opinion polls. If we would not allow polls to silence unpopular speech, neither must we allow polls to excuse and ratify impeachable offenses. Should the House and the Senate shirk their responsibilities, they will establish a precedent for lawless government. That would be both unconscionable and dangerous.

Oh sorry. This was written in 1998 and concerned lying about personal sexual matters. Certainly, using linguistic maneuvering and narrow sophistries to excuse misleading the country into believing they were under serious threat from a foreign nation and using that bogus threat as a rationale for invading and occupying that nation is completely acceptable.

never mind...

Many thanks to the terrific Seeing The Forest for the link.

Oh Sweet Mystery Of Life

You must read the farmer's romantic fairy tale about the "grinning albino Monacle snake" --- the Ann of Coulter, over on Eschaton. It will bring a tear to the eye and a song to the heart.

Friday, July 25, 2003

We Don't Need No Stinking NIE

It's very interesting to see the administration quoting at length from the vaunted NIE as if it were a sacred rune. On September 12, 2002, the president went to the UN and proclaimed:

Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program -- weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons


Delegates to the General Assembly, we have been more than patient. We've tried sanctions. We've tried the carrot of oil for food, and the stick of coalition military strikes. But Saddam Hussein has defied all these efforts and continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one. We owe it to all our citizens to do everything in our power to prevent that day from coming.

Just 2 days before, however, on the Senate floor, Dick Durbin said:

As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I am deeply concerned that the intelligence community has not completed the most basic document which is asked of them before the United States makes such a critical life-or-death decision.

It is within the power of the Director of the CIA, George Tenet, to order a national intelligence estimate, known as an NIE. National intelligence estimates bring together all the agencies of the Federal Government involved in intelligence, sits them down, and collects and coordinate all of their information to reach the best possible conclusion he can come up with.

I was stunned to learn last week that we have not produced a national intelligence estimate showing the current state of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What is incredible, with all of the statements made by members of this administration about those weapons, is the fact that the intelligence community has not been brought together...

Time and again since then as we looked back on last year, we have said we have to be better prepared, with better communications and better coordination of information from outside the country and inside, and bring it all together so we can make the best decision.When we are talking about a possible invasion of Iraq and a war against Iraq, why haven't we really created the most basic document that we have the power to create in this Government--the national intelligence estimate--so we know exactly what we may be up against in Iraq? It has not been done.

So one was prepared. Apparently, only because Dick Durbin explicitly asked for it:

This morning, I handed a letter to the deputy to Director Tenet asking that he give it to the Director personally, asking that they move as quickly as possible to establish and create this national intelligence estimate. Once it is established, Ithink we should meet on Capitol Hill--the Senate and the House Intelligence Committees. We should have classified hearing on things that can't be discussed publicly about this NIE, and then a public hearing as well to share with the American people, without compromising in any way the safety and security of the United States, as much information as we possibly can about the current state of affairs in Iraq.

Two days later, Bush was proclaiming to the UN, quite without reservation, that (amongst other things) Saddam would be able to make a bomb within a year if he could obtain fissile material.

So, the NIE is not exactly the best evidence for why the administration believed that Iraq was a serious threat because the NIE didn't exist until a Democrat specifically requested it. The administration was quite "convinced" of Iraq's WMD threat long before it was produced. So convinced, apparently, that they didn't feel the need to produce one themselves before they launched their Iraq invasion marketing plan last September.

Durbin said they needed to show their evidence before the congress voted. It would appear that this NIE was designed specifically for the purpose of convincing wavering Senators and may explain why they included such absurdities as the Niger yellowcake nonsense as well as why Condi didn't bother to read it. Clearly, it was not a document the administration believed was important for their own purposes.

Correction: In the post below, I state that you cannot vote for a replacement if you do not vote for the recall. This is incorrect. You can vote against the recall and also vote for Issa or whomever.

Also, think about one other thing. Davis cannot be on this ballot. But, in order for him to retain his legally obtained office, more than 50% of the voters in this election must vote against the recall. The replacement, however, can win with a plurality. So, in effect, 49% of the voters could vote for Davis by voting against the recall, yet Darrell Issa could actually become the governor with only 33% of the vote.

This is the democracy we want to export all around the world?

Recall Madness

I'm actually a bit surprised that Kevin is even considering voting for the recall, because while the scheduled recall election is a done deal, the result is far from certain. The vote is whether to recall Davis. Only if you vote for the recall are you allowed to vote for Davis' replacement. If Kevin decides that this is a good opportunity to replace Davis with someone more to his liking then his vote will count as a support of the recall process as much as a vote for Dick Riordan. That seems to me to be a huge mistake and one that overlooks the much bigger issues at stake.

This unprecedented recall election is not actually about Davis vs. Issa/Schwartzenegger/Simon or somebody better. It's about whether it is acceptable that some rich guy finances a petition drive (with paid signature gatherers) in order to overturn an undisputed legal election so that he might get himself (or somebody else) elected with far fewer votes instead. It's of a piece with some other nasty political shenannigans we've seen recently --- like impeachment over a blowjob, refusing to count legal votes in Florida and redistricting whenever you get enough votes to do it. These things are chipping away at our system in ways that can potentially cause disaster in the not too distant future. When you start screwing with the actual levers of democracy --- the predictablity of elections, the integrity of the electoral system and a universal acceptance of the results, you have a big problem on your hands.

This is not the theoretical "oh what's the use" kind of common griping about how politics are making people apathetic. This is the actual, literal manipulation of the electoral system. The principle that "the guy who gets the most votes wins the office for a set term" is really becoming subject to debate.

And as for Davis, it behooves everybody to remember that (regular) elections are about choosing between the candidates who are offered. If you remember that, you should also remember who the Republicans offered the people of California in the last two elections -- Dan Lundgren and Bill Simon. Given those choices again today, can any Democrat say that we shouldn't have voted for Davis? Should the GOP be allowed to rectify their mistake (and not incidentally bypass their own hardline right wing) by basically just calling for a new election for no other reason than that they can?

Now, many Democrats argue that the Democratic Party shouldn't have nominated Davis either, but that is very easy to say in retrospect. I'm sure all parties regret nominating a politician who becomes unpopular. But at this point in history, it's almost suicidal to sanction throwing out the certified results of any undisputed and orderly election process in favor of street corner petition appeals to emotion. Because if anyone thinks that this will be an isolated incident, not to be repeated, they are not paying attention to recent history. After all, the GOP had no problem impeaching a popular President and if the rules of the Senate had only required that a plurality vote could have replaced him with a Republican, you can be sure they would have convicted and removed him as fast as you can say Trent Lott.

This recall in California is just the most recent example of GOP power politics in action and it is only logical to assume that they will be emboldened to continue in this vein (and that the Democrats will have no choice but to join in) if the people reward this type of manipulation merely because, in this instance, the guy who won the last election has a low approval rating.

(And, by the way, Governors all over the country are showing low approval ratings, particularly second termers who are being blamed for the economic woes of their states. It can't all be because Gray Davis is creepy. Clearly, something bigger is happening. Throwing away the principle of scheduled elections on the dubious notion that somebody could do better in this environment doesn't seem to me to be a very good trade-off.)

If this recall succeeds, it will be very hard to put the genie back in the bottle. It is always possible to gather 12% of those who voted in the last election to sign such a petition because there was always a losing candidate in the previous election whose supporters could be persuaded to sign up for a mulligan.

If it succeeds, therefore, I've decided that I will sign up on the very first day to work for the Committee to Recall Darryl Issa/Arnold Schwartzenegger/Bill Simon or whoever because it will be obvious that this is a situation that requires both parties to suffer from the loophole for it to be closed (as with the independent counsel law which stood until both parties paid the price for its unconstitutional, undemocratic lack of accountability.) We will have no choice but to literally illustrate for the people of California why this concept is costly and absurd and why it is necessary to have regularly scheduled elections and honor the results of the returns short of criminal behavior.

(And, don't ever think that Gray Davis will walk quietly into the sunset. Whether you like him or hate him, it is indisputable that he is one of the toughest, streetfighting politicians in the country. He will hit back with everything he has.)

It seems to me that democracy, like most everything else in life, depends more upon the good will and honorable intentions of the people than explicit laws and official prohibitions. If we truly begin to believe that politics are nothing more than a partisan zero sum game, in which no overarching philosophical view of the democratic process rules our decisions --- and if winning at all cost, whether through loopholes in the law or parsing of the legal meaning of election statutes becomes standard operating procedure, then we are basically giving up the idea of citizenship and a non-partisan electoral process. This is not what we need in this era of post modern media manipulation and big money influence.

All we citizens really have is the franchise. If we continue to let them do end runs around election results, we will wake up one morning and find that it no longer means anything.

*(Here is a nice rundown of the California Recall Law. One thing that really fries me is that you don't have to already be registered to vote in order to vote for the recall --- you can register up to 15 days before the election. This means that even though I voted in the last election like a good citizen, somebody who didn't even bother to register, much less vote, can come in and overturn the results less than a year later. This is the kind of thing that makes even a political junkie like me wonder if it really makes any difference if I vote at all.)

Legendary Miscalculation

Updating my post from yesterday, can I just say what a useless exercise the disseminiation of these pictures was, except to the extent that it gave the cable news shows some tabloid blood 'n gore to fixate upon on the day the 9/11 report was released? In fact, it may have just made everything appear more suspicious. The Washington Post reports:

U.S. military official said "facial reconstruction" was used to repair wounds, particularly to the face of the elder son Uday, which had disfigured the bodies shown originally to the public in photographs taken by soldiers after the battle.

An uncharacteristic beard on the body of Qusay, seen in those U.S. pictures, had been shaved off, leaving a mustache.

Inside the tent, U.S. officials said it was standard practice to use morticians putty to prepare bodies for viewing and was not intended to fool the Iraqi people.

But while it may be common in the United States, the move is unheard of in the Arab world. That could affect Washington's efforts to quash Iraqi conspiracy theories that the bodies are not in fact those of the once powerful and hated sons of Saddam, who is believed to be still in hiding in Iraq.

U.S. officials have already played down the importance of visually identifying the men, saying their dental and medical records positively identified the brothers. Four top Saddam aides have also made positive identification, they say.

"You can make anyone look like anyone else," one U.S. official said, insisting the medical evidence was compelling.

I am pretty much convinced that the bodies were them. And, even it they weren't, I don't suppose it makes a whole lot of difference in the long run.

But, there is an ongoing problem with the way the Bush administration handles things like this. They do not seem to realize that by making such a huge deal out of these individuals they are creating folk heroes amongst the very young men who would do us harm. You do not have to have a doctorate in psychology to recognize that by personalizing all of these dangers, whether it is bin Laden as "the evil one", Saddam's sons, the psychopathic playboys, or Saddam himself as an omnipotent tyrant who is a threat to the entire world, they are actually recruiting for their cause and building a mythic image for the enemy. (You may have noticed that they are doing this again. Just as with bin Laden and Saddam, Junior's statements about Liberia have focused almost entirely on Charles Taylor.)

Far better to be dry, straightforward and impersonal rather than succumb to the rather puerile temptation to characterize threats and potential dangers as being embodied by particular persons. The danger for us in doing that should be obvious by now.

If we kill them and start crowing to the rooftops about it, we provoke suspicion that our "special effects" experts have phonied up the proof because we appear to be so desperate to prove what we say. And, once the idea sets in that we didn't actually kill them, their legend becomes even bigger. And, whether the legend consists of terrible cruelty and ruthlessness or one of idealistic revolutionary leadership, it's a huge mistake to think that just because we say these guys are dead that they lose their power.

And, that is a yellowcakewalk compared to dealing with the heroic status of a man the president of the United States personally declared to be "Wanted: Dead or Alive," and who remains at large almost 2 years and 2 wars later. Added to his legend as the man who singlehandedly led the Mujahadeen to defeat the Soviet Empire, amongst disaffected Muslim youth, this man is now a superhero.

There is probably nothing we can do about the rumors and flights of fancy that surround the disappearance of powerful enemies. But, surely it isn't very smart to build up their legend ourselves unless we can be very, very sure that we will be able to capture them alive, thereby proving irrefutably to their followers and the world that they are nothing more than simple human beings who have no special power and who cannot run from justice. Since we cannot guarantee such a thing, it would be far more prudent to focus on the movement/government/ideology than on the particular leader. Then, if we were able to capture them alive, we could use the forum of a world court to prove not only the evil of the perpetrator, but their essential weakness and impotence as well.

If they wind up dead and we shrug it off as just another enemy eliminated, at least we aren't adding to the rumor mill by wildly pumping our fists like it's a huge victory, thereby giving our enemies a reason to fuel the conspiracy theories.

I have the feeling that if grownups truly were in charge, we wouldn't be seeing spectacles like that which we witnessed yesterday. The constant rhetorical high fiving by the administration, especially the President, is as shallow and meaningless as a street corner pick-up game of basketball. Lotsa bravado, not much talent.

These people do not know the meaning of "playing it cool."

Thursday, July 24, 2003


Is it just me, or could these pictures be anybody? Certainly, the reporters on CNN, even on the defense dept. beat, didn't have a clue which son the pictures were supposed to represent when they came over the wire. They dutifully reported the identity when told, however, as if it had been obvious all along. Wolf Blitzer made the identification himself based upon Uday's "trademark short haircut." There's an unimpeachable identification for you.

Clearly, the reason the administration declined to release the photos at first was not because of their great sensitivity to our delicate feelings. It was because they were likely to raise more questions than they answered.

And again, a bigger problem for us generally is that the new US reputation for hyping, spinning and lying on important matters of national security, intelligence and military matters makes it a little bit difficult to persuade people that they should just take our word for it.

Via Eschaton I see that the decision to kill the sons outright (rather than make a serious effort to capture them) is beginning to see some criticism. This operation seems to me to be the very thing that Rummy's vaunted fast moving Special Forces are designed to do. Apparently, some of the Special Forces guys agree:

“The whole operation was a cockup,” said a British intelligence officer. “There was no need to go after four lightly armed men with such overwhelming firepower. They would have been much more useful alive.”


“Bollocks,” said one former Special Forces soldier. “A SWAT team could have taken them. It didn’t need a company.” ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Infight to the Finish

CIA vs NSC vs State vs AEI vs ...

Powell Backs U.S. Role to Aid Liberia

The secretary [Colin Powell] acknowledged that American involvement would be primarily on a humanitarian basis, but he said action was necessary to avoid another catastrophe comparable to the carnage in Rwanda.

"In Liberia, if you ask the question, `What is our strategic, vital interest?' it would be hard to define in that way," he told the newspaper. "But we do have an interest in making sure that West Africa doesn't simply come apart. We do have an interest in showing the people of Africa that we can support efforts to stabilize a tragic situation as we work with others to bring relief to people — people who are desperately in need."

The secretary expressed regret that the administration had failed to agree quickly on a strategy with Liberia's neighbors to stabilize the country.

Looks like our Harvard MBA-CEO-failed-at-every-business-he-ever-tried Prez is having a little bit of trouble reining in his unruly adminstration. For some unknown reason competing factions seem to be under the impression that their boss doesn't have a clear vision of his own and is, therefore, subject to manipulation.

How embarrassing.

Gentlemen, start your livers!

I'd like to propose a toast to Mr. Joshua Green whose article in the Washington Monthly called "The Bookie of Virtue" led to a record 2 months of William Bennett-free media.

The Heart Of The Matter

Josh Marshall has a great post up today that shoots straight to the heart of the Iraq situation and finally asks the right question.

If it wasn't the WMD and it wasn't the al Qaeda connection (and we can be absolutely sure in light of the situation in Liberia --- a country founded by Americans --- that it really wasn't about "liberating the Iraqi people") then why in the hell did we do it?

The Grand Strategy

Marshall says that it was about putting American troops on the ground in large numbers in the mideast in order to "bring to a head the country's simmering conflict with its enemies in the region, and kick off a democratic transformation of the region which would over time dissipate the root causes of anti-American terrorism and violence: autocracy, poverty and fanaticism."

This tracks with the basic PNAC doctrine and, more explicitly, with the Thomas Friedman "drain the swamp and a thousand flowers will bloom" theory. And, to a large extent, I agree. But, it ignores a couple of things that I think are awfully relevant and change the picture to some degree.

Rumsfeld convened the Defense Policy Board for a series of meetings shortly after 9/11. That board, headed by Richard Perle, reports to Deputy Defense Secretary Douglas Feith (of the infamous 2nd guessers intelligence team) and it wasn't long after that James Woolsey was dispatched to find evidence of connections between al Qaeda and Iraq.

This is important to bring into the picture because of the history of Perle and Feith (among others) and the document they wrote for Benjamin Netanyahu in 1995. This, according to Ambassador Joseph Wilson (as nicely reported by Uggabugga in this post) is the basis upon which the strategy was formed. It is hard to believe that it did not have some influence considering the fact that the people involved in writing it were intimately involved in the Bush administration planning --- and that so much of it has been done or publicly contemplated by hardline neocons in the administration like John Bolton. *see note

The desire to provide for Israel's security is certainly not a bad thing in and of itself. And, according to the "Clean Break" document, the long term goal is for Israel to eventually find itself in a position of such strength that it will no longer need the US to be so intimately involved in its security . (It must be noted, however, that the document does call into question whether Perle and Feith et al have the best interests of the US at heart by suggesting that Israel is being unfairly manipulated by US policy. One is tempted to call these fellows "blame America firsters" and call their patriotism into question, particularly since they hold such high positions in the US government and wield such influence over the intellectuals in the neocon movement. But, I'll resist this temptation for the time being.)

But, what is most interesting about this document is the clear concept, which Marshall does not discuss but is quite obviously part of the Grand Mideast Strategy, is the idea that the Israeli Palestinian problem will be solved by the removal of unfriendly arab regimes, beginning with Iraq, rather than any "peace process" or "road map." Acknowledging that the region will continue to simmer until this problem is resolved (and that instability and continued violence against Israelis is likely to continue) the Neocon claque has actually been quite open in their belief that the road to mid-east peace goes through Baghdad, Damascus, Tehran, Tripoli and possibly others. And this belief, although separate, converges with those whom Marshall discusses as believing that radical Islamic terrorism will also continue until the region is stabilized by ridding it of "rogue" states and "failed" states.

I'm not sure how important this Israeli security question is, other than to say that it's likely to cause a lot of misunderstanding of the type that compells me to set forth the disclaimer that I am a supporter of Israel, in the main, and have no anti-semitic ax to gind in bringing this up. The real question, it seems to me, is whether this strategy is realistic and whether it is likely to succeed.

I have serious doubts about the efficacy of American occupation in Iraq as a tool to bring stability to the region. I think the outcome of our current policy will make terrorism more, rather than less, likely considering the nature of asymetric warfare. (Jonathan Swift has some lessons about Giants and foreign entanglements, I believe.)

As for the fantasy of a reverse domino effect and democracy blooming throughout the desert once the arabs see the wonders of Iraqi democracy well...it simply doesn't merit serious consideration. No responsible leader should ever be allowed to get away with such a pollyanna view of the future and put lives of his countrymen on the line in service of it.
And, as much as I think that the think-tank ivory tower elite of the GOP are completely out of touch with reality, I find it hard to believe that even the most starry-eyed of them actually believe it. Thomas Friedman is the only one who seems to have truly bought into the Romantic Crusade version of mid-east strategy. It is obvious to me that the Neocon intellectuals believe that force and violence are the only way to bring about a stable middle east and if it takes US troops marching into every single capital in the region, so be it.

They also believed, by the way, that the only way to end the cold war was through force and violence. Before this country buys into their simplitically satisfying worldview of bloodlust and power, it would do for people to research these guys' track records. Their predictions and assessments of the past will not exactly inspire confidence in their prescience or their analytical abilities. And it simply cannot be stated too often, apparently, that the plans that are currently being put into action were formulated long before global terrorism was seen as a threat and until 9/11 there was virtually no connection between the PNAC/AEI cabal's insistence on remaking the middle east and any kind of threat from terrorists. It is fundamentally dishonest to attach the arguments outlined in the Bush Doctrine (Defense Policy review) with terrorism, since it was cribbed almost verbatic from the PNAC statement of 1997 and Wolfowitz's draft DPR from 1992.

When Rumsfeld said that everything was viewed differently through the prism of 9/11, he fails to explain how anything changed except to accelerate plans to invade Iraq. If what we are told is correct, it seems certain that the Bush administration did not even take one day to look through that prism and consider whether the old plans might actually exacerbate the problem of terrorism.

This is a serious criticism of the Grand Strategy that was addressed by the CIA in the recently released NIE and completely ignored by the administration. It is fundamental to understanding why these people felt the need to lie about the urgency to overthrow Saddam.

If the argument centered upon whether "remaking the middle east" through military action and bellicose threats would work, there is a cogent case to be made that it would not. And, that case begins with our own intelligence analysis of the probably effects of invasion and tests the theoretical pie-in-the-sky naivete of the "I think I can" intellectuals at the Pentagon.


In addition, Marshall dismisses the idea that this is about oil, and he is right in the picayune sense that it's only about providing Dick Cheney's owners with more money or about boosting Chevron and BP's profits. It is a much larger strategic issue than that.

The US uses at least 25% of the world's oil. Even if we substantially reduced our consumption with an intelligent approach to automobile milegage standards and alternative fuels, it is likely that we will continue to be the world's largest consumer for some time and, more importantly, our economy requires that we have access to cheap oil far into the future. There are, of course, other ways of dealing with this problem than putting American troops in the region from whence it comes, but it appears that this administration has opted for control of one of the largest oil reserves in the world as a way of balancing OPEC (and Russia's potential) hold on the world oil supply. This is the new Great Game and explains the desire for Empire better than anything else. It's about resources, just as it's always been.

I read that this may be the main reason for Bush's photo-op trip to Africa --- aside from the obvious political ones. There is a desire to put American bases on the continent, ostensibly to combat terrorism, but more likely to protect certain abundant oil fields. This may explain why he was, strangely, accompanied by a large group of oil executives on this trip. I would expect to see action in Latin America and Indonesia in the near term, although it is likely that it will be dealt with with "private contractor" military.

The War On Terrorism is now inextricably connected to America's gluttonous thirst for oil. When historians in the next century review the era, I have little doubt that the global strategy of a Pax Americana will be seen as largely a desire to protect and defend the United States' access to cheap oil.

The question is whether or not the world has changed to the extent that such old fashioned concepts as Empire or even a post modern concept of "virtual" colonialism are workable.

I have very serious doubts.

* It is interesting that Netanyahu has been apppointed to an economic post in the cabinet and apparently is rapidly bringing to fruition many of the "economic reforms" urged in the Clean Break document. As John Kerry said about Iraq before the war, "If you want regime change in Iraq, send in the Bush economic team. They'll bring the country to its knees." Gawd help the Israelis.