Saturday, September 30, 2006

Richard Clarke on the way forward in the world....

From the New York Times:

Op-Ed Contributor
Blinded by Hindsight
Published: October 1, 2006

FIVE years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, three years after the 9/11 commission report, and just weeks before a national election, the issues of what happened before those attacks have resurfaced. Suddenly, we are again witnessing heated disputes about such insignificant issues as whether the Clinton administration prepared a draft “strategy” or, alternatively, “a series of required decisions” about Al Qaeda for the incoming Bush administration.

This spectacle was set off by a partisan rewriting of history billed as a television docudrama and shown on the anniversary of the attack. Mr. Clinton, justifiably, denounced the untruths about his administration’s record.

But the effect of his comments was to send the nation’s attention in the wrong direction — toward an argument over the minutiae of what happened a decade ago rather than on an intelligent debate of what to do now. What followed was as predictable as it was unfortunate: talk shows, Web sites and others responded with a heated, partisan exchange of accusations of who did what when.

For most Americans the history is clear and well told in the 9/11 commission report: Almost 3,000 people were killed. In the years before that terrible day, the Clinton administration prevented some attacks and tried to destroy Al Qaeda and its leadership, but was unable to do so, in part because the institutional bureaucracy did not believe the magnitude of the threat.
As for the Bush administration, it deferred action on Al Qaeda until after 9/11, and then took a number of steps in response, including invading Iraq, but was also unable to destroy Al Qaeda or its leaders.

In short, both administrations failed.

All the finger-pointing and hunting for scapegoats last week won’t rectify those failures, or help us avoid future ones. Fortunately, unlike too many of our political leaders and pundits, most Americans are far more concerned about what we are doing now in the name of fighting terrorism than about petty partisan bickering about the past.

The greatest problem we face is that while the 9/11 attacks should have united us as a nation — and for a while they did — such unity has badly eroded. To recreate that national purpose, we need to understand why the erosion occurred.

First and most obviously, the invasion and occupation of Iraq shattered the post-9/11 American consensus. The ham-handed attempts to erroneously link Iraq with the Qaeda attacks destroyed the government’s credibility with much of the country. That needed trust was undermined further last week in a National Intelligence Estimate that showed that our soldiers’ sacrifices have not weakened the terrorist movement.

A broad consensus in America on Iraq may now be impossible. President Bush could, however, move in that direction by admitting there is a serious problem with the current strategy and taking advice from a bipartisan group of respected experts to recommend a way forward that concentrates on protecting such basic national interests as preventing Iraq from continuing to be an anarchic failed state where terrorists can train. The Iraq Study Group, created at the urging of Congress in March and led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton, might perform that service.

A second erosive factor was what appeared to many as the administration’s willingness to use 9/11 as an excuse to strengthen presidential power and erode fundamental American civil liberties. Particularly troublesome to me, as someone who was at the nexus of the government’s intelligence networks for many years, was the National Security Agency’s illegal wiretapping of phones in the United States without a warrant, and also the abandoning of our treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions by engaging in “alternative interrogation techniques” at the C.I.A.’s secret prisons.

This is not to say our holdover intelligence rules are adequate. Congress refused to give the Clinton administration the broadened terrorism wiretapping and surveillance authority it sought, but is now swinging to the other extreme of being willing to do away with effective judicial supervision of surveillance in the United States. It should be possible to devise a system that permits needed surveillance of the vast traffic in voice and e-mail messages, but requires judicial involvement before information is disseminated and periodic Congressional oversight to prevent abuse.

Third, and perhaps most disruptive to national unity on terrorism, is a widespread sense that some in government have been waving the bloody shirt — scaring voters with the hobgoblin of Al Qaeda to reap political advantage.

If we are going to defeat the enemy, we must learn again to discuss our differences about Iraq and terrorism in civil and analytical terms. We must reject the use of fear and terrorism to divide America for political advantage. And we must not let ourselves get trapped in pointless, partisan debates that result only in having the past obscure the future.

Richard A. Clarke, the former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, is the author of “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.”


Pelosi asks for investigation...Repubs boo her...

From .firstdraft via Indy-Weblogs:

By: John Amato on Saturday, September 30th, 2006 at 5:30 AM - PDT

Boehner objects because he hasn’t seen the resolution. Hmmm. Might it be because your hands are a bit filthy regarding the Foley Sex scandal cover-up?

Video-WMP QT-later

The clerk reads the resolution calling for an ethics investigation into Foley - Republicans boo Nancy when she asks for a recorded vote. With a huge sex scandal brewing–they boo Nancy. I think they should take a long look in the mirror.



From The Nation via :

Revolt of the Generals
By Richard J. Whalen
The Nation
Thursday 28 September 2006

A revolt is brewing among our retired Army and Marine generals. This rebellion - quiet and nonconfrontational, but remarkable nonetheless - comes not because their beloved forces are bearing the brunt of ground combat in Iraq but because the retirees see the US adventure in Mesopotamia as another Vietnam-like, strategically failed war, and they blame the errant, arrogant civilian leadership at the Pentagon. The dissenters include two generals who led combat troops in Iraq: Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack Jr., who commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, and Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who led the First Infantry Division (the "Big Red One"). These men recently sacrificed their careers by retiring and joining the public protest.

In late September Batiste, along with two other retired senior officers, spoke out about these failures at a Washington Democratic policy hearing, with Batiste saying Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was "not a competent wartime leader" who made "dismal strategic decisions" that "resulted in the unnecessary deaths of American servicemen and women, our allies and the good people of Iraq." Rumsfeld, he said, "dismissed honest dissent" and "did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war."

This kind of protest among senior military retirees during wartime is unprecedented in American history - and it is also deeply worrisome. The retired officers opposing the war and demanding Rumsfeld's ouster represent a new political force, and therefore a potentially powerful factor in the future of our democracy. The former generals' growing lobby could acquire a unique veto power in the future by publicly opposing reckless civilian warmaking in advance.

No one should be surprised by the antiwar dissent emerging among those who have commanded our legions on the fringes of the US military empire. After more than sixty-five years of increasingly centralized and secret presidential warmaking, we have concentrated ultimate civilian authority in fewer and fewer hands. Some of these leaders have been proved by events to be incompetent.

I speak regularly to retired generals, former intelligence officers and former Pentagon officials and aides, all of whom remain close to their active-duty friends and protégés. These well-informed seniors tell me that whatever the original US objective was in Iraq, our understrength forces and flawed strategy have failed, and that we cannot repair this failure by remaining there indefinitely. Fundamental changes are needed, and senior officers are prepared to make them. According to my sources, some active-duty officers are working behind the scenes to end the war and are preparing for the inevitable US withdrawal. "The only question is whether a war serves the national interest," declares a retired three-star general. "Iraq does not."

How widespread is antiwar feeling among the retired and active-duty senior military? And does it extend into the younger active-duty officer corps? These are unanswerable questions. The soldiers who defend our democracy on the battlefield fight within military, and therefore nondemocratic, organizations. They are sworn to uphold the Constitution and obey orders. Traditionally, they debate only on the "inside."

Earlier this year, Gen. George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq, drafted a highly classified briefing plan that was leaked to the New York Times in June. It called for sharply reducing US troop levels in Iraq from the current fourteen combat brigades to a half-dozen or so by late December 2007. The plan contained a great many caveats, and events soon rendered it obsolete. Now General Casey says the Iraqi security forces may be ready to take the lead role in twelve to eighteen months, but he says nothing about troop withdrawals.

Casey's leaked plan revealed the thinking of some of today's top-level officers. These senior military men believe that our forces will have to win the potentially decisive battle for Baghdad before the United States can leave. In August the Army announced an urgent transfer of American forces from insecure western Iraq to the capital in preparation for that coming battle. The move barely doubled the number of troops in Baghdad, to only 14,000 GIs spread over a sprawling metropolis with a population exceeding 7 million.

On August 3 the commander of US forces in the Middle East, Gen. John Abizaid, the universally respected, Arabic-speaking warrior-scholar who knows Iraq intimately, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that worsening Iraqi sectarian violence, especially in Baghdad, "could move [Iraq] towards civil war." In private, senior officers openly refer to civil war, and have indicated that the Army would depart in such circumstances to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

The dissenting retired generals are bent on making Iraq this nation's last strategically failed war - that is, one doggedly waged by civilian officials largely to avoid personal accountability for their bad decisions. A failed war causes mounting human and other costs, damaging or entirely destroying the national interest it was supposed to serve.

Let me interject a personal note. At the height of the Vietnam War, between 1966 and 1968, I was a conservative Republican in my early 30s on the campaign staff of the likely next President, Richard Nixon. What I heard from junior officers returning from Vietnam convinced me that US military involvement there should give way to diplomacy. We no longer had a coherent political objective, and were fighting only to avoid admitting defeat. I wrote Nixon's secret plan for "ending the war and winning the peace," a rhetorical screen for striking a summit deal with the Soviet Union, followed by a historic opening to China that would allow us to extricate ourselves from what we belatedly recognized was an anti-Chinese Indochina.

After I left Nixon's staff in August 1968, I helped end the draft. In 1969-70, I co-wrote and edited the Report of the President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force. Our blockbuster proposal to end the draft combined political expediency and libertarian idealism. Our staff's numbers crunchers calculated that if we raised enlisted men's pay scales, retention rates among the sons of lower- to middle-income families would stay high enough to create a de facto all-volunteer Army. So why not take credit for acting on principle? Nixon's domestic adviser Martin Anderson pushed it, the private computers of consultant Alan Greenspan (who would go on to become chair of the Federal Reserve System) confirmed it and I delivered the text that the commission accepted. Nixon, for once, enjoyed the media's acclaim. The draft was swiftly abolished.

The Iraq War only confirms the wisdom of the nation's commitment to the all-volunteer armed forces. A draft would merely prolong the Iraq agony, not avoid defeat. More than 2,700 GIs killed and more than 20,000 wounded, along with tens of thousands of dead and wounded Iraqis, are enough to carry on the nation's conscience.

Some of the officers from the first generation of the volunteer Army, now mostly retired, are speaking out and influencing their active-duty colleagues. Retired Lieut. Gen. William Odom calls the Iraq War "the worst strategic mistake in the history of the United States" and draws a grim parallel with the Vietnam War. He says that US strategy in Iraq, as in Vietnam, has served almost exclusively the interests of our enemies. He says that our objectives in Vietnam passed through three phases leading to defeat. These were: (1) 1961-65, "containing" China; (2) 1965-68, obsession with US tactics, leading to "Americanization" of the war; and (3) 1968-75, phony diplomacy and self-deluding "Vietnamization." Iraq has now completed two similar phases and is entering the third, says Odom, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. In March he wrote in the newsletter of Harvard's Nieman Foundation:

Will Phase Three in Iraq end with U.S. helicopters flying out of Baghdad's Green Zone? It all sounds so familiar. The difference lies in the consequences. Vietnam did not have the devastating effects on U.S. power that Iraq is already having. On this point, those who deny the Vietnam-Iraq analogy are probably right. They are wrong, however, in believing that staying the course will have any result other than making the damage to U.S. power far greater than would changing course and making an orderly withdrawal.... But even in its differences, Vietnam can be instructive about Iraq. Once the U.S. position in Vietnam collapsed, Washington was free to reverse the negative trends it faced in NATO and U.S.-Soviet military balance, in the world economy, in its international image, and in other areas. Only by getting out of Iraq can the United States possibly gain sufficient international support to design a new strategy for limiting the burgeoning growth of anti-Western forces it has unleashed....

The fact that so many retired generals are speaking out against the war and against Rumsfeld, and are doing so at such forums as New York's prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, reflects the depth and intensity of the military's dissent. Traditional discipline and career-protecting reticence prompt many disillusioned field-grade officers (majors and above) to keep silent. These are "the Carlisle elite," who attend the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and from whose ranks are selected the generals and top leaders of tomorrow.

The military's senior active-duty leadership will not openly revolt. "We're not the French generals in Algeria," says Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton. "But we damned well know that the Iraq War we've won militarily is being lost politically." The well-read retired Marine Lieut. Gen. Gregory Newbold wrote in a Time magazine essay: "I retired from the military four months before the [March 2003] invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy." Newbold calls the Iraq War "unnecessary" and says the civilians who launched the war acted with "a casualness and swagger" that are "the special province" of those who have never smelled death on a battlefield.

When civilian Pentagon officials bungled the long, dishonorable endgame of the Vietnam War, disciplined senior soldiers kept silent. After that war ended in US defeat and humiliation, a flood of firsthand military accounts of the war appeared. Embittered generals and other officers, like future general Colin Powell, vowed it would never happen again.

Today, a retired major general privately asserts: "For our generation, Iraq will be Vietnam with the volume turned way up. Three decades ago, the retired generals who are now speaking out against the Iraq War were junior officers in Vietnam. The seniors who trained and mentored us, and who became generals but who kept silent, did not speak out after retirement against Vietnam." Now, even before the Iraq War has ended, generals have shed their uniforms and begun publicly to fight back against Rumsfeld's bullying and a new generation of Pentagon civilians' bloodstained mistakes. These former generals despise Rumsfeld, with several, like Batiste, describing him as totally dismissive of their views. They recall repeatedly trying to warn Rumsfeld before the Iraq invasion that the US forces he was planning to deploy were barely half the 400,000 they said were needed.

Rumsfeld publicly humiliated all who dissented, beginning with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, who was virtually dismissed the day he honestly gave his views to Congress. Rumsfeld's deputy, neoconservative ideologue Paul Wolfowitz, listened respectfully before rejecting the generals' advice. As the Iraqi insurgency grew, the generals found Rumsfeld "completely unable and unwilling to understand the collapse of security in Iraq," says Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, now retired. The severely understrength US forces have never been able to provide adequate security. Once Iraqi civilians lost their trust and confidence in America's protection, the war was lost politically. As General Newbold says: "Our opposition to Rumsfeld is all about his accountability for getting Iraq wrong from day one."

Bureaucratic accountability comes hard and very slowly. According to a stark consensus of global terrorism trends by America's sixteen separate espionage agencies, the US invasion and occupation of Iraq "helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and [expand] the overall terrorist threat." This highly classified National Intelligence Estimate is, according to the New York Times, "the first report since the war began to present a comprehensive picture" of global terrorism trends.

There's blame enough to go around. In his recently published bestseller Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, Thomas Ricks, the Washington Post's senior Pentagon correspondent, offers a devastating, heavily documented indictment of almost incredible civilian and military shortsightedness and incompetence, such as the foolish decisions that encouraged the Iraqi insurgency. "When we disbanded the Iraqi Army, we created a significant part of the Iraqi insurgency," explains Col. Paul Hughes, whose advice to retain the army was rejected. Before he retired he told Ricks, "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we will lose strategically." The most critical political-strategic decisions about post-Saddam Iraq's future were made by deeply mistaken civilian officials in Washington and in the Green Zone by our "viceroy," Paul Bremer, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The senior military dissenters will not rest until they indict the mistakes of Rumsfeld and his principal civilian aides at Congressional hearings. The military always plays this game of accountability for keeps. Should the Democrats gain control of a Congressional chamber in the November midterms, televised Capitol Hill hearings in 2007 will feature military protagonists speaking of "betrayal" and "tragically wasted sacrifices." The retired generals believe nothing would be gained, and much would be lost, by keeping the truth about Iraq from the families of America's dead and wounded.

Says retired two-star General Eaton: "The repeated rotations of Army Reservists and National Guardsmen are hollowing out the US ground forces. This whole thing in Iraq is going to fall off a cliff.... Yet we have a moral obligation to see this thing [the Iraqi occupation] through. If we fail, it will cause America grave problems for several decades to come." These earnest, if contradictory, sentiments echo what some conflicted US military officers told me thirty-five years ago, as Vietnam was being abandoned. After President Nixon's Watergate disgrace and resignation, a fed-up American public and a heavily Democratic-controlled Congress finally pulled the plug on our Saigon ally, allowing South Vietnam to fall.

Over the past year, the United States has pressed into service newly trained Iraqi army, police and security forces, replacing elements of the 140,000-plus US troops. But the Iraqi forces lack everything from body armor to tanks and helicopters. Major General Eaton, who in 2003-04 was in charge of training Iraqi security forces, says the United States needs another five years to train the Iraqi army, and as much as another decade to train and equip an effective Iraqi police force.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a hero in the 1991 Gulf War who visited Iraq and Kuwait this past spring, writes in an unpublished report: "We need to better equip the Iraqi Army with a capability to deter foreign attack and to have a leveraged advantage over the Shia militias and the insurgents they must continue to confront. The resources we are now planning to provide are inadequate by an order of magnitude or more. The cost of a coherent development of the Iraqi security forces is the ticket out of Iraq - and the avoidance of the constant drain of huge U.S. resources on a monthly basis."

Thus, the crucial "Iraqification" process has barely begun and is mostly still self-deception. New York Times Iraq correspondent Dexter Filkins reports that Baghdad has become "a markedly more dangerous place" over the past year. This undercuts "the central premise of the American project here: that Iraqi forces can be trained and equipped to secure their own country, allowing the Americans to go home," a replay of the failed Vietnamization scenario.

The retired generals' revolt may be inspired by their apprehension over a wider Mideast conflict spreading to potentially nuclear Iran, writes former Pentagon planner and now antiwar critic Karen Kwiatkowski, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and a razor-sharp PhD. Writing in, she speculates that the generals are trying to get rid of Rumsfeld now to head off a conflict with Iran. The Bush Administration reportedly has contingency plans to bomb Iran's UN-disapproved nuclear sites. Some underemployed Navy and Air Force officers are lobbying to strike Iran, but the overstretched ground combat forces overwhelmingly oppose it as the worst of all possible wars. She writes: "If Rumsfeld retires, we will not 'do' Iran under Bush 43." Such concern over Tehran is well founded. According to Kwiatkowski and retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner, American Special Forces are already secretly inside Iran, identifying potential targets for future air strikes. The Iranians are of course aware of their uninvited visitors.

The obvious diplomatic recourse is for the Bush Administration to talk to Tehran about our pending exit from Iraq, but the White House refused to do so until late September, when the Bush family's longtime political fixer, former Secretary of State James Baker, entered the picture as a deal-maker. Baker is co-chair, with retired Indiana Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton, of the Congressionally created Iraq Study Group (ISG), which is due to issue a comprehensive report on US options in Iraq after the November elections. After a four-day visit to Iraq, Baker, Hamilton and the eight other members of the bipartisan task force returned to Washington with an obvious recommendation: Start talking to Tehran. After receiving President Bush's immediate approval, Baker invited an unidentified "high representative" of the Iranian government, as well as Syria's foreign minister, to meet with the ISG. Baker realizes the leverage is largely on Iran's side of the table.

An expert on Shiite Islam, Professor Vali Nasr of the Naval Postgraduate School, sees a glaring missed opportunity the ISG could help seize. He suggested in the July-August Foreign Affairs that "Iran will actively seek stability in Iraq only when it no longer benefits from controlled chaos there, that is, when it no longer feels threatened by the United States' presence. Iran's long-term interests are not inherently at odds with those of the United States; it is current U.S. policy toward Iran that has set the countries' respective Iraq policies on a collision course."

General McCaffrey warns that "U.S. public diplomacy and rhetoric about confronting Iranian nuclear weapons development is scaring neighbors in the Gulf. Our Mideast allies believe correctly that they are ill equipped to deal with Iranian strikes to close the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. They do not think they can handle politically or militarily a terrorist threat nested in their domestic Shia populations."

The recent war in Lebanon has only made the prospect of war with Iran more problematic. As Richard Armitage, the astute onetime Navy SEAL and former Deputy Secretary of State, told reporter Seymour Hersh: "When the Israel Defense Forces, the most dominant military force in the region, can't pacify little Lebanon [population: 4 million], you should think twice about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of 70 million."

McCaffrey's report raises the possibility that US forces will have to fight their way out of Iraq. He says, "A U.S. military confrontation with Iran could result in [the radical Islamic Mahdi Army's] attacking our forces in Baghdad or along our 400-mile line of communications out of Iraq to the sea." The Bush Administration needs Iranian cooperation for the eventual safe exit of our troops, as General McCaffrey advises. This assumes that the Iranians will not risk World War III by trying to entrap our hostage Army in a humiliating Dunkirk-in-the-desert. After successful negotiations, the United States should be able to withdraw via the southern exit route leading through Kuwait to the Persian Gulf and the blue waters beyond.

Once we get our troops safely out, a newly elected, post-2008 administration in Washington may be able to begin reassembling America's scattered global allies to address the region's problems anew, next time multilaterally, and through diplomacy rather than pre-emptive unilateral military force.

America is a uniquely favored nation that redefines itself in each generation. But we have had a lifetime of embracing one democratic global war, and numerous presidentially inspired, politicized and secret smaller wars that have turned out badly. Sixty-five years after Pearl Harbor, we owe it to the past three generations to resume the debate on our national identity, suspended on December 7, 1941, and foreshortened on September 11, 2001.

In the post-cold war era, we have severely cut back our military manpower, reducing the regular Army to only 480,000 troops, but we have not cut back fantastically expensive Air Force weapons systems or the somewhat more useful but still gold-plated Navy. Nor have we redefined our strategic goals to fit realistically within reduced budgets. We have "paid" for the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by borrowing heavily from foreign dollar-holders, such as China, that are awash in trade surpluses, and have left debt service to future US generations.

A key argument in the ex-generals' indictment is this undeniable fact: Our armed forces are too small to police and reorder the world and intervene almost blindly, as we have in Iraq. That invasion acted out the world-changing daydreams of pro-Israel neoconservative policy intellectuals like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and others who gained warmaking power and influence atop the Pentagon but who evidently never asked themselves, Suppose we're wrong? What happens then? Sober, realistic Israelis privately fear the neocons' "friendship," and where it has led America, more than any Arab enemies. In the inevitable post-Iraq War tsunami of US political recrimination, such Israelis foresee Christian Zionist evangelicals, whose lobbying muscle in Congress was decisive in the run-up to the Iraq War, attempting to scapegoat the high-profile neocons and endangering Israel's all-important security ties to the United States.

Growing public disgust and frustration with the Iraq War has begun to arouse a self-defeating desire to retreat into isolationism. Rather, the United States should revive the traditional but recently neglected realistic approach to foreign policy, as the ISG is starting to do, and it should begin with a renewed multilateral approach to peacemaking in the Middle East.


Friday, September 29, 2006

ALERT NOTICE!!!! Help needed...

From Information Clearing House:

NOTE: Does anyone have information regarding Riverbend - Iraqi girl blog: Baghdad Burning:

Her blog has not been updated since Aug 5th and many of us who admire her are worried about her safety. If you have information regarding her well being please email me at


Here is the truth of the matter...

From :

In Case I Disappear
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t Perspective
Friday 29 September 2006

I have been told a thousand times at least, in the years I have spent reporting on the astonishing and repugnant abuses, lies and failures of the Bush administration, to watch my back. "Be careful," people always tell me. "These people are capable of anything. Stay off small planes, make sure you aren't being followed." A running joke between my mother and me is that she has a "safe room" set up for me in her cabin in the woods, in the event I have to flee because of something I wrote or said.

I always laughed and shook my head whenever I heard this stuff. Extreme paranoia wrapped in the tinfoil of conspiracy, I thought. This is still America, and these Bush fools will soon pass into history, I thought. I am a citizen, and the First Amendment hasn't yet been red-lined, I thought.

Matters are different now.

It seems, perhaps, that the people who warned me were not so paranoid. It seems, perhaps, that I was not paranoid enough. Legislation passed by the Republican House and Senate, legislation now marching up to the Republican White House for signature, has shattered a number of bedrock legal protections for suspects, prisoners, and pretty much anyone else George W. Bush deems to be an enemy.

So much of this legislation is wretched on the surface. Habeas corpus has been suspended for detainees suspected of terrorism or of aiding terrorism, so the Magna Carta-era rule that a person can face his accusers is now gone. Once a suspect has been thrown into prison, he does not have the right to a trial by his peers. Suspects cannot even stand in representation of themselves, another ancient protection, but must accept a military lawyer as their defender.

Illegally-obtained evidence can be used against suspects, whether that illegal evidence was gathered abroad or right here at home. To my way of thinking, this pretty much eradicates our security in persons, houses, papers, and effects, as stated in the Fourth Amendment, against illegal searches and seizures.

Speaking of collecting evidence, the torture of suspects and detainees has been broadly protected by this new legislation. While it tries to delineate what is and is not acceptable treatment of detainees, in the end, it gives George W. Bush the final word on what constitutes torture. US officials who use cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment to extract information from detainees are now shielded from prosecution.

It was two Supreme Court decisions, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that compelled the creation of this legislation. The Hamdi decision held that a prisoner has the right of habeas corpus, and can challenge his detention before an impartial judge. The Hamdan decision held that the military commissions set up to try detainees violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.

In short, the Supreme Court wiped out virtually every legal argument the Bush administration put forth to defend its extraordinary and dangerous behavior. The passage of this legislation came after a scramble by Republicans to paper over the torture and murder of a number of detainees. As columnist Molly Ivins wrote on Wednesday, "Of the over 700 prisoners sent to Gitmo, only 10 have ever been formally charged with anything. Among other things, this bill is a CYA for torture of the innocent that has already taken place."

It seems almost certain that, at some point, the Supreme Court will hear a case to challenge the legality of this legislation, but even this is questionable. If a detainee is not allowed access to a fair trial or to the evidence against him, how can he bring a legal challenge to a court? The legislation, in anticipation of court challenges like Hamdi and Hamdan, even includes severe restrictions on judicial review over the legislation itself.

The Republicans in Congress have managed, at the behest of Mr. Bush, to draft a bill that all but erases the judicial branch of the government. Time will tell whether this aspect, along with all the others, will withstand legal challenges. If such a challenge comes, it will take time, and meanwhile there is this bill. All of the above is deplorable on its face, indefensible in a nation that prides itself on Constitutional rights, protections and the rule of law.

Underneath all this, however, is where the paranoia sets in.

Underneath all this is the definition of "enemy combatant" that has been established by this legislation. An "enemy combatant" is now no longer just someone captured "during an armed conflict" against our forces. Thanks to this legislation, George W. Bush is now able to designate as an "enemy combatant" anyone who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States."

Consider that language a moment. "Purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" is in the eye of the beholder, and this administration has proven itself to be astonishingly impatient with criticism of any kind. The broad powers given to Bush by this legislation allow him to capture, indefinitely detain, and refuse a hearing to any American citizen who speaks out against Iraq or any other part of the so-called "War on Terror."

If you write a letter to the editor attacking Bush, you could be deemed as purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States. If you organize or join a public demonstration against Iraq, or against the administration, the same designation could befall you. One dark-comedy aspect of the legislation is that senators or House members who publicly disagree with Bush, criticize him, or organize investigations into his dealings could be placed under the same designation. In effect, Congress just gave Bush the power to lock them up.

By writing this essay, I could be deemed an "enemy combatant." It's that simple, and very soon, it will be the law. I always laughed when people told me to be careful. I'm not laughing anymore.

In case I disappear, remember this. America is an idea, a dream, and that is all. We have borders and armies and citizens and commerce and industry, but all this merely makes us like every other nation on this Earth. What separates us is the idea, the simple idea, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our organizing principles. We can think as we please, speak as we please, write as we please, worship as we please, go where we please. We are protected from the kinds of tyranny that inspired our creation as a nation in the first place.

That was the idea. That was the dream. It may all be over now, but once upon a time, it existed. No good idea ever truly dies. The dream was here, and so was I, and so were you.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.


Torturer Gonzales warns judges to not interfere...

From AP via Sacrament Bee:

Gonzales cautions judges on interfering
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, Associated Press Writer
Last Updated 10:08 am PDT Friday, September 29, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is defending President Bush's anti-terrorism tactics in multiple court battles, said Friday that federal judges should not substitute their personal views for the president's judgments in wartime.

He said the Constitution makes the president commander in chief and the Supreme Court has long recognized the president's pre-eminent role in foreign affairs. "The Constitution, by contrast, provides the courts with relatively few tools to superintend military and foreign policy decisions, especially during wartime," the attorney general told a conference on the judiciary at Georgetown University Law Center.

"Judges must resist the temptation to supplement those tools based on their own personal views about the wisdom of the policies under review," Gonzales said.

And he said the independence of federal judges, who are appointed for life, "has never meant, and should never mean, that judges or their decisions should be immune" from public criticism.

"Respectfully, when courts issue decisions that overturn long-standing traditions or policies without proper support in text or precedent, they cannot - and should not - be shielded from criticism," Gonzales said. "A proper sense of judicial humility requires judges to keep in mind the institutional limitations of the judiciary and the duties expressly assigned by the Constitution to the more politically accountable branches."

His audience included legal scholars and judges, including Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the Bush administration's most reliable supporters on the Supreme Court.

The attorney general did not refer to any specific case or decision but only to wartime, military and foreign affairs cases in general.

Gonzales has sent Justice Department lawyers into federal courts from coast to coast defending Bush's detention of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, his plans to try some of them before military tribunals and his use of the National Security Agency to wiretap Americans without court warrants when they communicate with suspected terrorists abroad.

Over administration objections, the Supreme Court ordered that detainees could challenge aspects of their imprisonment in federal courts and overturned Bush's plans for military tribunals, forcing Bush to ask Congress to approve a new version of the panels.

A handful of federal district judges either ordered an end to the warrantless wiretapping or agreed to hear court challenges to it. Opponents of the plan argue the NSA program violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act's requirement that the government get a warrant from a court that meets in secret before wiretapping Americans to gain intelligence information.

The administration contends that despite the statute's language, the president has inherent authority from the Constitution to order such eavesdropping without court permission. Justice lawyers also have argued that the challenges to the NSA program should be thrown out of court because trials would expose state secrets. Most of the judges' rulings and proceedings have been stayed pending appeal.

Gonzales also said he thought more states should move away from having judges stand in partisan elections to keep their seats. Gonzales himself as a Texas Supreme Court justice "had to raise enough money to run print ads and place television spots around the state in order to retain my seat."

In such contested elections, "most of the contributions come from lawyers and law firms, many of whom have had, or will have, cases before the court," Gonzales said. "The appearance of a conflict of interest is difficult to dismiss."

He noted favorably that some states have adopted other ways of picking judges, including merit selection and appointment with simple up-or-down retention elections rather than contested campaigns. With polls showing many voters think judges can be swayed by campaign contributions, Gonzales said, "If Americans come to believe that judges are simply politicians, or their decisions can be purchased for a price, state judicial systems will be undermined."


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dems who voted "yea" on torture...

From US Gov :

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 109th Congress - 2nd Session
as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate
Vote Summary
Question: On Passage of the Bill (S. 3930 As Amended )
Vote Number:
Vote Date:
September 28, 2006, 06:37 PM
Required For Majority:
Vote Result:
Bill Passed
Measure Number:
S. 3930
Measure Title:
A bill to authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war, and for other purposes.
Vote Counts:
Not Voting
Vote Summary
By Senator Name
By Vote Position
By Home State
Alphabetical by Senator Name
Akaka (D-HI), Nay Alexander (R-TN), Yea Allard (R-CO), Yea Allen (R-VA), Yea Baucus (D-MT), Nay Bayh (D-IN), Nay Bennett (R-UT), Yea Biden (D-DE), Nay Bingaman (D-NM), Nay Bond (R-MO), Yea Boxer (D-CA), Nay Brownback (R-KS), Yea Bunning (R-KY), Yea Burns (R-MT), Yea Burr (R-NC), Yea Byrd (D-WV), Nay Cantwell (D-WA), Nay Carper (D-DE), Yea Chafee (R-RI), Nay Chambliss (R-GA), Yea Clinton (D-NY), Nay Coburn (R-OK), Yea Cochran (R-MS), Yea Coleman (R-MN), Yea Collins (R-ME), Yea Conrad (D-ND), Nay Cornyn (R-TX), Yea Craig (R-ID), Yea Crapo (R-ID), Yea Dayton (D-MN), Nay DeMint (R-SC), Yea DeWine (R-OH), Yea Dodd (D-CT), Nay Dole (R-NC), Yea
Domenici (R-NM), Yea Dorgan (D-ND), Nay Durbin (D-IL), Nay Ensign (R-NV), Yea Enzi (R-WY), Yea Feingold (D-WI), Nay Feinstein (D-CA), Nay Frist (R-TN), Yea Graham (R-SC), Yea Grassley (R-IA), Yea Gregg (R-NH), Yea Hagel (R-NE), Yea Harkin (D-IA), Nay Hatch (R-UT), Yea Hutchison (R-TX), Yea Inhofe (R-OK), Yea Inouye (D-HI), Nay Isakson (R-GA), Yea Jeffords (I-VT), Nay Johnson (D-SD), Yea Kennedy (D-MA), Nay Kerry (D-MA), Nay Kohl (D-WI), Nay Kyl (R-AZ), Yea Landrieu (D-LA), Yea Lautenberg (D-NJ), Yea Leahy (D-VT), Nay Levin (D-MI), Nay Lieberman (D-CT), Yea Lincoln (D-AR), Nay Lott (R-MS), Yea Lugar (R-IN), Yea Martinez (R-FL), Yea McCain (R-AZ), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Yea Menendez (D-NJ), Yea Mikulski (D-MD), Nay Murkowski (R-AK), Yea Murray (D-WA), Nay Nelson (D-FL), Yea Nelson (D-NE), Yea Obama (D-IL), Nay Pryor (D-AR), Yea Reed (D-RI), Nay Reid (D-NV), Nay Roberts (R-KS), Yea Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea Salazar (D-CO), Yea Santorum (R-PA), Yea Sarbanes (D-MD), Nay Schumer (D-NY), Nay Sessions (R-AL), Yea Shelby (R-AL), Yea Smith (R-OR), Yea Snowe (R-ME), Not Voting Specter (R-PA), Yea Stabenow (D-MI), Yea Stevens (R-AK), Yea Sununu (R-NH), Yea Talent (R-MO), Yea Thomas (R-WY), Yea Thune (R-SD), Yea Vitter (R-LA), Yea Voinovich (R-OH), Yea Warner (R-VA), Yea Wyden (D-OR), Nay
Vote Summary
By Senator Name
By Vote Position
By Home State
Grouped By Vote Position
YEAs ---65
Alexander (R-TN)Allard (R-CO)Allen (R-VA)Bennett (R-UT)Bond (R-MO)Brownback (R-KS)Bunning (R-KY)Burns (R-MT)Burr (R-NC)Carper (D-DE)Chambliss (R-GA)Coburn (R-OK)Cochran (R-MS)Coleman (R-MN)Collins (R-ME)Cornyn (R-TX)Craig (R-ID)Crapo (R-ID)DeMint (R-SC)DeWine (R-OH)Dole (R-NC)Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)Enzi (R-WY)Frist (R-TN)Graham (R-SC)Grassley (R-IA)Gregg (R-NH)Hagel (R-NE)Hatch (R-UT)Hutchison (R-TX)Inhofe (R-OK)Isakson (R-GA)Johnson (D-SD)Kyl (R-AZ)Landrieu (D-LA)Lautenberg (D-NJ)Lieberman (D-CT)Lott (R-MS)Lugar (R-IN)Martinez (R-FL)McCain (R-AZ)McConnell (R-KY)Menendez (D-NJ)
Murkowski (R-AK)Nelson (D-FL)Nelson (D-NE)Pryor (D-AR)Roberts (R-KS)Rockefeller (D-WV)Salazar (D-CO)Santorum (R-PA)Sessions (R-AL)Shelby (R-AL)Smith (R-OR)Specter (R-PA)Stabenow (D-MI)Stevens (R-AK)Sununu (R-NH)Talent (R-MO)Thomas (R-WY)Thune (R-SD)Vitter (R-LA)Voinovich (R-OH)Warner (R-VA)
NAYs ---34
Akaka (D-HI)Baucus (D-MT)Bayh (D-IN)Biden (D-DE)Bingaman (D-NM)Boxer (D-CA)Byrd (D-WV)Cantwell (D-WA)Chafee (R-RI)Clinton (D-NY)Conrad (D-ND)Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)Dorgan (D-ND)Durbin (D-IL)Feingold (D-WI)Feinstein (D-CA)Harkin (D-IA)Inouye (D-HI)Jeffords (I-VT)Kennedy (D-MA)Kerry (D-MA)Kohl (D-WI)Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)Lincoln (D-AR)Mikulski (D-MD)Murray (D-WA)Obama (D-IL)Reed (D-RI)Reid (D-NV)Sarbanes (D-MD)Schumer (D-NY)Wyden (D-OR)
Not Voting - 1
Snowe (R-ME)
Vote Summary
By Senator Name
By Vote Position
By Home State
Grouped by Home State
Sessions (R-AL), Yea
Shelby (R-AL), Yea
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Stevens (R-AK), Yea
Kyl (R-AZ), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Yea
Lincoln (D-AR), Nay
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Boxer (D-CA), Nay
Feinstein (D-CA), Nay
Allard (R-CO), Yea
Salazar (D-CO), Yea
Dodd (D-CT), Nay
Lieberman (D-CT), Yea
Biden (D-DE), Nay
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Martinez (R-FL), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Yea
Isakson (R-GA), Yea
Akaka (D-HI), Nay
Inouye (D-HI), Nay
Craig (R-ID), Yea
Crapo (R-ID), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Nay
Obama (D-IL), Nay
Bayh (D-IN), Nay
Lugar (R-IN), Yea
Grassley (R-IA), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Nay
Brownback (R-KS), Yea
Roberts (R-KS), Yea
Bunning (R-KY), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Yea
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Snowe (R-ME), Not Voting
Mikulski (D-MD), Nay
Sarbanes (D-MD), Nay
Kennedy (D-MA), Nay
Kerry (D-MA), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Nay
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Coleman (R-MN), Yea
Dayton (D-MN), Nay
Cochran (R-MS), Yea
Lott (R-MS), Yea
Bond (R-MO), Yea
Talent (R-MO), Yea
Baucus (D-MT), Nay
Burns (R-MT), Yea
Hagel (R-NE), Yea
Nelson (D-NE), Yea
Ensign (R-NV), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Nay
New Hampshire:
Gregg (R-NH), Yea
Sununu (R-NH), Yea
New Jersey:
Lautenberg (D-NJ), Yea
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
New Mexico:
Bingaman (D-NM), Nay
Domenici (R-NM), Yea
New York:
Clinton (D-NY), Nay
Schumer (D-NY), Nay
North Carolina:
Burr (R-NC), Yea
Dole (R-NC), Yea
North Dakota:
Conrad (D-ND), Nay
Dorgan (D-ND), Nay
DeWine (R-OH), Yea
Voinovich (R-OH), Yea
Coburn (R-OK), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Yea
Smith (R-OR), Yea
Wyden (D-OR), Nay
Santorum (R-PA), Yea
Specter (R-PA), Yea
Rhode Island:
Chafee (R-RI), Nay
Reed (D-RI), Nay
South Carolina:
DeMint (R-SC), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Yea
South Dakota:
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Yea
Alexander (R-TN), Yea
Frist (R-TN), Yea
Cornyn (R-TX), Yea
Hutchison (R-TX), Yea
Bennett (R-UT), Yea
Hatch (R-UT), Yea
Jeffords (I-VT), Nay
Leahy (D-VT), Nay
Allen (R-VA), Yea
Warner (R-VA), Yea
Cantwell (D-WA), Nay
Murray (D-WA), Nay
West Virginia:
Byrd (D-WV), Nay
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Feingold (D-WI), Nay
Kohl (D-WI), Nay
Enzi (R-WY), Yea
Thomas (R-WY), Yea
Vote Summary
By Senator Name
By Vote Position
By Home State


Just one book...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


A blogger's WAITER RANT, an insider's look at a waiter's life at an upscale New York area restaurant, promising to do for the front of house what Anthony Bourdain did for the kitchen, to Eleanor Birne at John Murray, at auction, by James Gill at PFD, on behalf of Farley Chase at the Waxman Literary Agency (UK/Commonwealth).


Parson's Corp in CA a TOTAL DISGRACE!!!

From Washington Post via :

Heralded Iraq Police Academy a "Disaster"
By Amit R. Paley
The Washington Post
Thursday 28 September 2006

Baghdad - A $75 million project to build the largest police academy in Iraq has been so grossly mismanaged that the campus now poses health risks to recruits and might need to be partially demolished, US investigators have found.

The Baghdad Police College, hailed as crucial to U.S. efforts to prepare Iraqis to take control of the country's security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine rained from the ceilings in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground and cracked apart. Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed "the rain forest."

"This is the most essential civil security project in the country - and it's a failure," said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an independent office created by Congress. "The Baghdad police academy is a disaster."

Bowen's office plans to release a 21-page report Thursday detailing the most alarming problems with the facility.

Even in a $21 billion reconstruction effort that has been marred by cases of corruption and fraud, failures in training and housing Iraq's security forces are particularly significant because of their effect on what the U.S. military has called its primary mission here: to prepare Iraqi police and soldiers so that Americans can depart.

Federal investigators said the inspector general's findings raise serious questions about whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has failed to exercise effective oversight over the Baghdad Police College or reconstruction programs across Iraq, despite charging taxpayers management fees of at least 4.5 percent of total project costs. The Corps of Engineers said Wednesday that it has initiated a wide-ranging investigation of the police academy project.

The report serves as the latest indictment of Parsons Corp., the U.S. construction giant that was awarded about $1 billion for a variety of reconstruction projects across Iraq. After chronicling previous Parsons failures to properly build health clinics, prisons and hospitals, Bowen said he now plans to conduct an audit of every Parsons project.

"The truth needs to be told about what we didn't get for our dollar from Parsons," Bowen said.

A spokeswoman for Parsons said the company had not seen the inspector general's report.

The Coalition Provisional Authority hired Parsons in 2004 to transform the Baghdad Police College, a ramshackle collection of 1930s buildings, into a modern facility whose training capacity would expand from 1,500 recruits to at least 4,000. The contract called for the firm to remake the campus by building, among other things, eight three-story student barracks, classroom buildings and a central laundry facility.

As top U.S. military commanders declared 2006 "the year of the police," in an acknowledgment of their critical role in allowing for any withdrawal of American troops, officials highlighted the Baghdad Police College as one of their success stories.

"This facility has definitely been a top priority," Lt. Col. Joel Holtrop of the Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division Project and Contracting Office said in a July news release. "It's a very exciting time as the cadets move into the new structures."

Complaints about the new facilities, however, began pouring in two weeks after the recruits arrived at the end of May, a Corps of Engineers official said.

The most serious problem was substandard plumbing that caused waste from toilets on the second and third floors to cascade throughout the building. A light fixture in one room stopped working because it was filled with urine and fecal matter. The waste threatened the integrity of load-bearing slabs, federal investigators concluded.

"When we walked down the halls, the Iraqis came running up and said, 'Please help us. Please do something about this,' " Bowen recalled.

Phillip A. Galeoto, director of the Baghdad Police College, wrote an Aug. 16 memo that catalogued at least 20 problems: shower and bathroom fixtures that leaked from the first day of occupancy, concrete and tile floors that heaved more than two inches off the ground, water rushing down hallways and stairwells because of improper slopes or drains in bathrooms, classroom buildings with foundation problems that caused structures to sink.

Galeoto noted that one entire building and five floors in others had to be shuttered for repairs, limiting the capacity of the college by up to 800 recruits. His memo, too, pointed out that the urine and feces flowed throughout the building and, sometimes, onto occupants of the barracks.

"This is not a complete list," he wrote, but rather a snapshot of "issues we are confronted with on a daily basis (as recent as the last hour) by the incomplete and/or poor work left behind by these builders."

The Parsons contract, which eventually totaled at least $75 million, was terminated May 31 "due to cost overruns, schedule slippage, and sub-standard quality," according to a Sept. 4 internal military memo. But rather than fire the Pasadena, Calif.-based company for cause, the contract was halted for "the government's convenience."

Col. Michael Herman - deputy commander of the Gulf Region Division of the Corps of Engineers, which was supposed to oversee the project - said the Iraqi subcontractors hired by Parsons were being forced to fix the building problems as part of their warranty work, at no cost to taxpayers. He said four of the eight barracks have been repaired.

The U.S. military initially agreed to take a Washington Post reporter on a tour of the facility Wednesday to examine the construction issues, but the trip was postponed Tuesday night. Federal investigators who visited the academy last week, though, expressed concerns about the structural integrity of the buildings and worries that fecal residue could cause a typhoid outbreak or other health crisis.

"They may have to demolish everything they built," said Robert DeShurley, a senior engineer with the inspector general's office. "The buildings are falling down as they sit."

Herman said that he doubted that was the case but that he plans to hire an architecture and engineering firm to examine the facility. He also plans to investigate concerns raised by the inspector general's office that the Army Corps of Engineers did not properly respond to construction problems highlighted in quality-control reports.

Inside the inspector general's office in Baghdad on a recent blistering afternoon, several federal investigators expressed amazement that such construction blunders could be concentrated in one project. Even in Iraq, they said, failure on this magnitude is unusual. When asked how the problems at the police college compared with other projects they had inspected, the answers came swiftly.

"This is significant," said Jon E. Novak, a senior adviser in the office.

"It's catastrophic," DeShurley added.

Bowen said: "It's the worst."


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Navy SEAL officer on terrorism....

From pages 53 and 54 of WARRIOR SOUL: THE MEMOIR OF A NAVY SEAL, published by Ballentine Books in 2004, authored by Chuck Pfarrer. Mr. Pfarrer, veteran of much combat, spent eight years as an Officer in the Navy SEALs. What he learned about terrorism is well worth reading:

"Terrorism, we were taught, was a tactic, a facet of a greater purpose, not a strategy or an end in itself. Terrorism is warfare waged by the powerless against the innocent. It is in the nature of asymetrical conflict that terrorist acts are provocations, whether the deed is a hand grenade in a market square or the destruction of the World Trade Center. The acts are outrageous, bloody, and violent because they are meant to shock. Terrorists' acts are to be seen as armed propaganda, pinpricks intended to resonate far beyond their military significance. Every act of terror is intended to have poilitical consequences. In every case, calculated atrocities extract a disproportionate response from the oppressor. The enemy has different names: Yankee Imperialist, Neocolonialist, Capitalist Exploiter, Infidel, or Great Satan. We were reminded that the Perennial Foe was us. Terrorism, the instructors drilled into us, must always be examined in the context of politics; Trotsky said it best: "Terrorism is political theater."

Again, we studied the masters. We absorbed selected passages by Marx, Lenin, and Mao on the dyamics and political utility of terrorism. Middle Eastern terrorist organizations were investigated, including Black September and the Palestine Liberation Organization in all its aliases and guises. We examined several European terrorist organizations, all of them then thriving: Bader Meinhof, the Red Army Faction, The Basque ETZ, and the Italian Red Brigades. Each, we were told, was either under the operational control of the Soviet KGB or had links for logistical support. Why would the KGB back such nihilistic and obviously criminal gangs? Orthodox Marxism taught that violence was the only legitimate mechanism of political change. And this dictum had permeated the world's struggles of liberation. In geographical areas of strategic interest, wars of liberation were proxy struggles between East and West, one puppet fighting another, and it was all about power. This was the Great Game. If we understood that, we would understand the process.

Having been made familiar with the causes and types of revolution, we were introduced to the triad of their remedy: tactical action, psychological warfare, and civil affairs. These ongoing and overlapping spheres translated roughly to : kick their asses; convince the world you're doing wonderful things, and quietly right the political and economic wrongs that sent the guerrillas into the hills in the first place. These processes would later coalesce into a term and methodology called "nation building."

Nation building, BushCo swore, was something he wasn't about to get into, didn't believe in. And sure enough, he and his cronies have not. Consider Afghanistan and Iraq...we're talking about the plan for what came after the invasion here...that part of the Generals' plan that caused Rumsfeld to warn...the next person that mentioned it to him would be fired. At this time, 16 of the Nation's Intelligence Agencies have produced National Intelligence Estimates that declare what BushCo has done with the attack on Iraq is simply to increase many times over the number of terrorists operating and made this nation LESS SAFE. Too bad he wasn't sent to class to study with the Navy SEAL officers. He might have learned something.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

France, Germany, Russia...the limits...

From Strategic Forecasting Inc:

The Triple Alliance's Limits
By Peter Zeihan

French President Jacques Chirac met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on Sept. 22 before being joined the next day by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Three years ago, the meeting of the three powers would have signaled a nightmare scenario for U.S. foreign policy.

How times change.

If anything, the meeting might have been hostile, as the logic for the trilateral alliance that once existed has failed. Though the three obviously still have much to discuss, their relations now are of little more significance than those between nations of similar standing.

The Triumvirate

In the early days of the Iraq war, a diplomatic alliance spearheaded by Chirac, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Putin regularly met, consulted and spoke out against the United States' Iraq effort. The three formed a powerful diplomatic force rooted in friendly personal relationships and a worldview of a Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis that could stand on its own as a global power. The primary goal of this alliance was to counter and, if possible, contain American power. Solid geopolitical reasons underpinned this strategy in Paris, Berlin and Moscow. Paris has long played second fiddle to the respective global hegemon of the day, whether Hapsburg Spain, Imperial Britain or Imperial and then Nazi Germany. Currently, that hegemon is the United States. Thus, France, in particular the France of Charles de Gaulle of which Chirac sees himself as the custodian, naturally seeks an alliance capable of countering the global power of the day.

Germany's logic under Schroeder was different. Germany had been divided and occupied by the Cold War superpowers for two generations, and had the idea beaten into it that Germany could not have a foreign policy (and certainly not a security policy) independent from or hostile to Europe. Within that limited envelope, Germany for the most part chose to be the European Union's yes-man and pocketbook.

But after Germany's 1990 reunification, Berlin began to think of itself as a country again, and under Schroeder it started developing a foreign policy within the confines of its internationally imposed envelope. If Germany would be allowed to think of itself as European, then Germany should -- in Schroeder's mind -- treat European sovereignty with the same respect and care a normal state would reserve for its own sovereignty. A partnership with Chirac's view of Europe -- which envisaged Europe as a global, if French-led, power -- was a natural fit.

Putin's logic also was different. During the Cold War, Moscow did everything under the sun to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States, believing (probably correctly) that so long as the West remained united, it could wait out and ultimately overpower the Soviet Union. A divided West, however, would be much more susceptible to Soviet economic, political and/or military power. This view re-emerged after the heady days of the early 1990s, when it (briefly and inaccurately) seemed Washington and Moscow were going to become best pals. As American power waxed and Russian power waned, Russia under Putin was forced to confront the uncomfortable revelation that if Russia were ever going to be secure, it had to have a European friend -- and a powerful one. The logical choice was Germany, which, in addition to being the closest major European state, boasted the largest economy, and as Schroeder was discovering, a rather malleable foreign policy. Schroeder was already cozy with Chirac, so Putin made the duet a trio.

And thus the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis was born.

Ungrateful Dissenters, Meddlesome Americans, French Relics

And it immediately ran into trouble. The first and most critical flaw in the trilateral relationship was that, though speaking on behalf of France, Germany and Russia, made for powerful rhetoric, the trio presumed to speak as if it represented the entire swathe of European and former Soviet states. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, etc. in fact only have one thing in common, aside from their location on the European continent: In the past 200 years, all of them have either been at war with or occupied by France, Germany and Russia. Even for states such as Norway or Greece, which strongly opposed Washington's Iraq policies, the idea that Paris, Berlin and Moscow could speak for them without even consulting them grated. And for those that relied on U.S. military power to guarantee their independence -- particularly the "new" European states of Central Europe -- the very thought the triumvirate could speak for them was perceived as somewhere between horrifying and comic.

Beyond internal European opposition, the Americans did not feel too hot about a grouping that in theory contained allies that were in fact actively working to undermine its policies. Luckily for the United States, certain things were fairly firmly hardwired into the international system, giving Washington a great deal of inertia that the triumvirate was simply unable to dislodge. The U.S. dollar's dominance meant that even energy trade between Russia and France was dollar-denominated. And France and Germany's budget shortfalls meant neither state was willing to underwrite the expense of setting up an alternative international system. A triumvirate effort to repeal the European Union's Chinese arms embargo that would have ended most American-European defense technology sharing -- something that ensured that other European states would bring down the idea -- similarly failed to get off the ground. Such a deal would have put weapons in the hands of the authors of the Tiananmen massacre, something all German political parties -- even Schroeder's Social Democratic Party, though not Schroeder himself -- opposed.

In time, however, it was France that proved to be the alliance's undoing. In May 2004, Europhilic France -- not the Euroskeptic United Kingdom -- defeated the European constitution. Chirac's worldview -- and, by extension, Schroeder's and Putin's as well -- required a Paris able to stand on the European platform (perhaps sharing that platform with trusted partners that knew enough not to block the spotlight) and use Europe's strength to influence the globe.

Without the unifying effect of a common constitution, however, the European Union remains hobbled by a decision-making structure that allows individual states to veto policies on issues of critical importance, such as how to label cheese. That national veto also exists for less-interesting topics, ranging from tax and judicial to foreign and military policies. Suddenly, the political and economic assumptions upon which the triumvirate was built had been sabotaged by none other than one of its own members.

Since that decision, the rest of the world has been readjusting. Though Paris, Berlin and Moscow were certainly at the forefront of the ideal of a world in which the United States did not dictate policy, they were hardly the only ones with a stake. Secondary powers the world over -- Brazil, China and India come to mind -- also fancied the idea of a world in which they might form regional groupings perhaps able to counter American hegemony. But strategic planners in all of these states have long realized that a multipolar system is only possible with opposing political and economic poles. That means a multipolar world would require an economically vibrant, politically distinct and organizationally coherent Europe. When the constitution died -- and sporadic European rhetoric to the contrary, the constitution is dead -- that idea, and thus the multipolar dream, died with it too. The past 16 months have seen the rest of the world unconsciously coming to grips with this reality.

Some states, such as India, have decided to experiment (albeit warily) with a sort of alignment with the United States rather than to attempt to play (nonexistent) poles off each other. Others, such as Brazil, are viewing their own backyard in a new light, as years of mindless commitment to an anti-American system rooted in the ideal of multipolarity has begun to generate undesirable effects (in Brasilia's thinking) in Venezuela and Bolivia. And so the flaws in the Chirac-Schroeder-Putin triumvirate's thinking have led to the triumvirate's faltering -- as did Schroeder's electoral ejection in September 2005.

His replacement, Angela Merkel, cleaves to a worldview shaped by her background in the former East Germany. For Merkel, American influence is not necessarily a negative, and more important, her ideological envelope for German policy is far wider. Whereas Schroeder operated under the constraints the West imposed on Germany after World War II -- constraints that nearly all West Germans consider justified -- Merkel and most East Germans consider similar restraints imposed by the Soviet Union illegitimate. This freed up German foreign policy to espouse and advocate German national interests independent of Europe, empowering Berlin to craft a foreign policy free from French hip-attachment. For example, within the European Union, Germany has gone from an engine for greater integration to a force arguing as vehemently as Denmark and the United Kingdom for the preservation of national vetoes in key decision-making processes.

And of course, Schroeder's once-sturdy French conjoined twin, Jacques Chirac, is not as dependable as before. Chirac's term expires in May 2007, and barring an unexpected resurgence in his fortunes, the French third of the triumvirate will also vanish. That is because while Chirac's foreign policy is indeed rooted in geography, that geography is not of today, but of the de Gaulle era. After World War II, France found itself in a miniaturized Europe composed of only France, the Low Countries and occupied Germany and Italy. The United Kingdom was nursing its wounds and wanted little to do with the mainland, Spain was languishing in Franco-imposed isolation and the Soviet advance had completely cut off the eastern half of the Continent. For the first time in more than 1,000 years of French history, no major European powers were scheming, maneuvering or marching to halt a French rise.

France's first move? Begin to band its near abroad into the European Economic Community, the forerunner of today's European Union.

But the world of the de Gaulle era no longer exists. Not only did "Europe" expand to include major European powers such as Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom, but the Cold War's end introduced a host of new players that did not see eye to eye with France. Paris could orchestrate and perhaps even control a Europe of six, but in a Europe of (going on) 27, the best France can hope for is to avoid being drowned in euromush. Like the rest of the world's geography, France's geography changed.

But French foreign policy did not change with it.Future French presidents, whether Nicolas Sarkozy, Segolene Royal or some other figure, will have one critical characteristic separating them from the incumbent: They will not worship at the altar of de Gaulle. A leadership transition will not necessarily make France a fast friend of the United States, but it will result in a foreign policy more rooted in the geography of today rather than the geography of yesteryear.The implications are potentially devastating. De Gaulle's world was one in which the French could control Europe, and that security encouraged the ambition that created the European Union. Now, the French no longer believe that; the union is no longer something to be embraced without hesitation.

If France, the architect of and -- to large degree -- the engine behind European unification, were to reduce its support for the European project, and if Germany is increasingly looking out for its own national interests, why shouldn't Paris do the same?

Beyond the Triumvirate

Which leaves Russia's Putin all alone in the night.Unlike Chirac, Putin's polices are not airy dreams. Unlike Schroeder's, they are not about muscle flexing. Putin is quietly terrified his country and culture are in terminal decline; an alliance with France and Germany was one of the few things that might stave of that unfortunate fate. As such, Putin was the most desperate of the three to make the alliance work. But since he also has the most to lose if the alliance failed, Putin would naturally be the player to move away from the triumvirate the most quickly when he realized it was doomed.

And he has.

Part of Russian foreign policy during the triumvirate period was to treat its two friends as well as possible and to leave some of Russia's blunt policy tools, such as energy cutoffs and military rumbling, for countries less willing to want things Moscow's way. But with Schroeder gone (so much was his commitment to the triumvirate that he now works for Russia's state-energy firm Gazprom) and Chirac's star fading, Putin has no reason to cater to French and German interests aside from a desire to be polite.

And Russians have a reputation for brusqueness absent a reason to be polite.

Putin's new program is to look out for Russia's interests using traditional Russian methods that have not been directed against core Europe since Soviet times.

The January decision to slash natural gas exports to Ukraine in the full knowledge that the resultant shortages would be felt farther west (e.g., in France and Germany) was perhaps the first large-scale application of this new/old policy. And it demonstrated Russia's willingness to hurt its former allies in order to press home a critical point: Our problems are still your problems. In September, Russian state-owned Vneshtorgbank purchased 5 percent of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS). Shortly thereafter, Kremlin officials leaked that they intended to acquire a full blocking stake (typically 25 percent plus one share).

EADS, designed in order to empower Europe to compete head-to-head with U.S. aerospace and defense contractors, has been the baby of the Franco-German partnership going back a generation. Efforts to keep that baby in the family know no bounds, and the French in particular are rumored to be furious at the Russian intrusion. For Putin, French wrath is immaterial. A Russian grip on EADS not only will secure more Western technology for Moscow than Putin ever gathered as a KGB operative during the Cold War; it also will allow Putin legitimately to demand meetings with core European players -- up to and including the leadership of France, Germany and Spain -- at a moment's notice.

In September, the Russian Natural Resources Ministry revoked the license for Royal Dutch/Shell's Sakhalin-2 liquefied natural gas project and has threatened the same for Total's Kharyaga oil project on the mainland. Technically, both projects are protected by production-sharing agreements, but in Russia, the rule of law is hardly firm. The message is clear: Investment and partnership with European firms is all well and good, but it will occur on Russian terms. These include, among other things, a European commitment to spread the wealth and share technology liberally.

The Sept. 23 triumvirate meeting was a testament to the past power of the threesome -- the key word being past. No new initiatives were announced, no grand joint statements were released. The biggest news -- if it can be called that -- was the announcement that the three powers were forming a study group to examine the issue of Russian participation in EADS, and that some natural gas from a stalled Russian offshore project might go to Europe instead of the United States. The French Foreign Ministry, denied even the mildest assurance from Putin that Total would not be ejected from its Russian production-sharing agreement, was reduced to issuing a statement of hope that all would eventually work out.

Though this will not likely be the last trilateral summit of the three -- European meetings have a tendency to continue rescheduling themselves long after the meat of a relationship has rotted -- it clearly illustrates how the special relationship the powers once enjoyed has been relegated to history. Exposed to simple geography, rising strategic competition among the three is nearly a foregone conclusion. France and Germany will fight over, rather than cooperatively plan, the future of European unification. Germany and Russia will discover that overlapping economic interests in Central Europe are less a reason for common ground and more an issue of winner takes all. France, looking to wring the last bits of usefulness out of the European Union, will likely back a free trade deal with Ukraine -- something that will rankle Russian sensitivities.

The one player missing from this, of course, is the one player who will benefit the most from the triumvirate's demise: the United States. While Washington would likely greatly enjoy maneuvering Europe's various powers into more mutually antagonistic positions, the current administration will not be the one to take such steps. The Bush administration is simply too occupied with Iraq and the Iranian complications that go with it to take advantage of anyone. Until the White House can find more foreign policy bandwidth, it will be sitting this one out.Or at least, it will as long as the European powers allow it to. Traditionally, when European powers maneuver against each other, they tend to seek the assistance of an outside power, one that can serve as an ally to help them balance their threats. With Moscow, Paris, and Berlin no longer seeing eye to eye, one -- and perhaps all -- will ultimately seek out Washington's helping hand.

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Well, drinkers...I guess you're next....

The National Institute of Health, in their radio broadcast Health Minute, has just announced that their researchers have done a study that links drinking alcohol with causing cancer.

Sounds as though drinkers can now prepare to join smokers in being in disgrace. People such as Deborah Kelly of the American Lung Institute undoubtedly have counterparts who will, for your own good health and the good health and safety of others, hound you to say nothing about future suits against--oh, say the Jack Daniels people or the Coors people--to get money and more money to compensate for the medical costs of taking care of those dangerous drinkers. And of course, governments will have to tax drinks more heavily to "encourage" drinkers to quit.

What fun. Spare me from the righteous! What in the world will they do about taking wine at Communion in the Catholic Churches?!!!


1976: Bush sent to Christian gay conversion center....

From :

Sep. 26, 2006 -- According to individuals who investigated George W. Bush's stint in the 147th Fighter Group of the Texas Air National Guard (TANG), the GOP's top dirty tricksters, notably Karl Rove and Roger Stone, interceded to derail the investigation and, instead, have CBS focus on Bush's faxed, scanned, and Xeroxed original TANG records -- which were later hyped by the right-wing media as fakes.

The reason for the GOP's concern was that the investigation was getting dangerously close to exposing Bush's suspected homosexual activity with other members of his TANG unit. Given the times and culture of the early 1970s, investigators were surprised to discover Bush's frequent association with an abundant number of gays in the unit, which was nicknamed the "Champagne Unit." Bush's homosexuality is the bête noire of Bush's past for GOP political operatives, precisely because of the anti-gay stance of the Republican right and its Christian fundamentalist base.

In 1976, the Bush family sent George W. Bush to El Paso's Worthy Creations, a Christian gay conversion center. From that time on, Bush became a tool of the Christian right and a self-hating homosexual. The investigation of Bush's gay activities in the TANG unit would have unraveled Bush's new "straight" persona. The GOP went to battle stations to prevent Bush's past from being resurrected.

Bush's alleged homosexuality in college was hinted at in Kitty Kelley's massive biography of the Bush family, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, which was released at about the same time as CBS 60 Minutes was investigating Bush's National Guard stint. In the case of Kelley's book and the gay charge, the criticism came not from the GOP operatives but from their allies in the corporate media, including the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, who is married to a GOP operative. While Bush attended all-boys Andover prep school (nicknamed "bend over"), Bush, not able to make it as an athlete, instead became a male cheerleader.

At Yale, Bush, according to Kelley, had a "special relationship" (i.e., gay relationship) with Victor Ashe, his room mate and fellow cheerleader. Ashe, a former Mayor of Knoxville, is now Bush's ambassador to Poland. At the Delta Kappa Epsilon frat house, Bush became known as "a jock sniffer."


Demonize smokers...use FEAR & PANIC...

[Then drinkers, then the obese, then...]

From San Diego Union-Tribune:

County's anti-smoking zealotry is a real drag
September 25, 2006

I can't stand bullies, even if their cause is as pure as Sir Galahad's.

Just because you're a chivalric champion of clear air and pink lungs, that doesn't give you the divine right to crush your humbled opponent like a vile infectious bug.

Overzealous moral guardians are like football coaches who run up the score. Instead of running out the clock to spare the opposing team needless humiliation, they score and score and score.
That's how I see the crusaders who are racking up victory after victory against loathsome tobacco smokers. By now, the war is all but over, but the Cromwells won't be satisfied until every heathen smoker is extinguished.

In the past decade or two, smokers have been pushed to the far margins of social life. As a class, they are pariahs, untouchables, lepers. (That's why rebellious kids still love to smoke.)

I grant you, smokers are not angels. They damage themselves and can damage those with whom they come in contact. Their discarded butts are despicable litter, degrading the environment. In addition, they and their clothes often stink.

Anyone who defends smoking as a lifestyle choice is a sure-fire loser.

But that's the point.

Smoking is indefensible; therefore, it is all the more necessary to defend smokers from irrational harassment.

Just because you can ban smoking – in barrooms and on beaches – doesn't mean that you should press your advantage to the point where you're running up the score, demonstrating over and over that smokers are lesser life forms who shouldn't be allowed to pursue happiness.

In a 4-1 vote last week, the county Board of Supervisors paved the way for an ordinance prohibiting smoking in all county parks, campgrounds and open-space preserves.

The only supervisor to perceive the perversity of this prickly broad brush was Bill Horn, a conservative contrarian who isn't afraid to go against the slippery grain.

Consider this scene, featuring a colleague of mine:

A solitary fellow settles around a campsite at the William Heise County Park in Julian. Not quite the spitting (and coughing and retching) image of the Marlboro Man, but close enough for purposes of demonstration.

It's been a tough week. He made his deadlines. This is his precious time to chill out and flat-line.
It's chilly so he starts a fire in the ring. The smoke billows into the night air. He pops a beer and pulls out a smoke.

He has tried to quit dozens of times, but it just hasn't worked out. Someday.

Suddenly, a shaft of light comes boring through the forest. A ranger steps into the camp.
“Put out that cigarette!” the ranger orders.

The man complies with the order and puts up his hands.

As the fire continues to spew smoke, the ranger issues a citation for smoking.

Later, the sweating camper twists and turns in his tent, enduring the initial stages of withdrawal.

About 2 a.m., he packs up his gear and drives home, resolving never to return to a county park. Next time he has a need to commune with nature, he'll go to a state or federal park.
That is, until those natural sanctuaries are closed to him and his reviled kind.

Please, don't jump to a conclusion.

This isn't personal. There's no conflict of interest.

I'm not a smoker, haven't been for years. But I have a nose for hypocrisy, and this sun-burned schnoz is twitching over the budding county ban.

It's about fire safety, the supervisors were told. It's about littering, others said.
Well, there's a pretty strong law on the books against starting fires, intentionally or otherwise.

Look under “A” for “arson.”

There's a law against flipping butts. Look under “L” for “littering.”

Enforce those laws like rabid lions. I'll cheer like crazy.

But if there's one thing one can usually expect at a campground, it's plumes of smoke.

To ban smoking at a campsite, one's rented open-air home away from home, is sort of like outlawing humming at a rock concert.

If the supervisors wanted to show intelligence tempered by compassion, they would fashion an ordinance that strengthened penalties for littering (any kind of littering, including butts) while prohibiting smoking at well-traveled parks.

But in those areas where the whole idea is to get out and take a deep (or as deep as smoker's lungs will allow) breath, treat smokers like the fallible – or arguably disabled – human beings they are.

C'mon. It won't hurt to show a little mercy to these poor, handicapped folks. Give them a tiny break from the jihad against them.

You never know. They might be so grateful, they'll be more careful about holding onto their butts.

Logan Jenkins can be reached at (760) 737-7555 or by e-mail at


Monday, September 25, 2006

Clinton asked...and Wallace lied.....

From American Progress:


Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, former President Bill Clinton "vigorously defended his efforts to capture and kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden."

Host Chris Wallace attempted to falsely accuse Clinton of having given aid and comfort to bin Laden by withdrawing from Somalia six months after the downing of a Black Hawk in 1993, an incident which -- as Clinton noted -- had no connection to bin Laden.

Clinton set the record straight on the numerous times his administration tried to kill bin Laden. "That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t...I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke."

Clinton pressed Wallace on why he had never asked the Bush administration why it demoted Clarke.

Wallace claimed “we asked” and shot back, “Do you ever watch Fox News Sunday, sir?"

In fact, a Progress Report analysis found that, since 2001, Wallace has interviewed the top national security officials from the Bush administration — Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Hadley — 42 times. According to a Lexis-Nexis database search, he never asked any of them why Clarke was demoted, nor did he ask why they failed to respond to the USS Cole attack.

Days after it was revealed that President Bush had received a President's Daily Brief that said "Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S.," Wallace did not even bring it up in an interview with former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

(Watch the video of the Clinton interview HERE.)


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cheney's setting up to attack Iran....

From :

[an excerpt]

Here’s a topic I’d like to know more about.

As you may know, Vice President Cheney’s daughter Elizabeth is the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. She also has the title of “Coordinator for Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives.” Basically that means she’s in charge of democratizing the Middle East.

She has a budget of, I believe $75 million, for bringing about ‘regime change’ in Iran.

I also noticed this recent aside in The Nelson Report in which Chris Nelson wrote that his sources “say [Undersecretary of State Nick] Burns has been fighting an apparently losing battle with Undersecretary for non-proliferation Bob Joseph on a variety of issues, and that Vice President Cheney’s office seems to be sponsoring the hiring of exceptionally large numbers of political appointees, not career FSO’s, to staff the to-be-created Iran democracy projects to be run out of State.”

[just like Rummy's Office of Special Plans...the guys who cherry-picked intel favorable to BushCo going to war in Iraq]


Down at Juanita's dangerous beauty shop in Texas..

From :

Just check this out:

"Six months ago, the Texas Ethics Commission ruled that a politician in this state can receive checks, in this case worth $100,000, and report nothing more than the word "checks" on his disclosure form. Today the commission will decide whether the same ridiculous principle applies when someone gives a state official wads of cash.

Under a draft proposal before the commission, politicians would be able receive cash gifts worth any amount over $250 and report only a gift of unvalued "currency." Did they say "draft" proposal or "daft"?"

Click on that link above for all the dirty details!


Saturday, September 23, 2006

BushCo's outright failures....

From LA Times via :

Renouncing Bush's Failures Is a Start
By Todd Gitlin
The Los Angeles Times
Saturday 23 September 2006

The president's onetime lapdogs should also rethink the extremist ideology that got us here.

In recent months, Republicans have begun to discover that their leader is not the paragon they once thought he was.

Perhaps he is not a conservative at all but a deficit-mongering big-government advocate, a world-changing radical in disguise and a cultivator of global anti-Americanism. Perhaps, from Baghdad to Kabul to New Orleans, bungling is not the exception but the rule because he and his inner circle hold planning, the law, diplomacy and even reason in contempt.

Suddenly, Republicans as well as Democrats are urging the defenestration of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld - the Titanic chair-shifter's way of acknowledging a fiasco in Iraq. George Will savaged President Bush for a "triumph of unrealism." Embattled Connecticut Republican Rep. Christopher Shays lurched from "stay the course" to "phased withdrawal."

Just last month, conservative talk-show host Joe Scarborough asked, "Is Bush an Idiot?" In May, the popular right-wing KABC-AM (790) talk-show host Doug McIntyre declared: "I was wrong to have voted for George W. Bush…. I have been shocked repeatedly by a consistent litany of excuses, alibis, doubletalk, inaccuracies, bogus predictions and flat-out lies…. After five years of carefully watching George W. Bush, I've reached the conclusion he's either grossly incompetent or a hand-puppet for a gaggle of detached theorists with their own private view of how the world works. Or both."

Such reconsiderations are all to the good, and not only for the practical purpose of evacuating a sinking ship. The recantation mood is a sign of maturity.

But apologies, while worthy, are never enough. To help make right what has gone badly wrong, they also must lead to rethinking.

Because 1930s analogies are back in vogue, consider that it was incumbent upon conservatives who were dismayed by Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938 to inquire into the worldview that led him to appease Adolf Hitler. Likewise, as conservatives never cease to remind those on the left, it was perfectly reasonable to tell the Soviet Union's fellow travelers to examine the fantastical credulity with which they persuaded themselves to overlook the depredations of Lenin and Stalin. To learn from our greatest misconceptions is, of course, a prime reason we study history.

So what lessons should Bush's partisans take from his decline? Where did they go wrong when they were cheering Bush, excoriating his adversaries and devoutly assuring the rest of us that he was, as former presidential speechwriter David Frum put it in an unabashed double entendre, "the right man"?
They're obliged to have to figure it out on their own. But let me offer this for their consideration: The core of the Bush problem is an extremist worldview. Bush's aggressive go-it-alone attitude kicked in long before 9/11. "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists" was just an extension of Bush's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol (the international global warming agreement) and the International Criminal Court.

Under Bush, reality had to be bulldozed into submission. Whatever went wrong in Iraq or Afghanistan, questioning Bush's narrow understanding of the Islamist danger amounted to appeasement, cutting and running, pining for defeat. Whatever the economic conditions, the remedies were privatization, deregulation and tax cuts for plutocrats. On every front, foreign and domestic, liberals were to blame.

This attitude didn't stop with Bush alone, and it persists unaltered. Just recently, in this spirit, an e-mail from Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman warned that Democratic victories in the midterm elections would mean "government by the far left," "weaken[ing] America" thus: "Impeachment. Cutting and running from the war on terror. Key defense systems dismantled. Tax cuts repealed. Speaker Pelosi."

The logic of this paranoid worldview is a deep and awful thing to confront. But confronting it is a matter of intellectual honesty.

Today, it's morally mandatory, a matter of intellectual decency, that Bush's erstwhile partisans rethink both their credulity and their ideology and ask how they could for so long have overlooked what now strikes them as obvious. "Whoops, sorry about that" and "mistakes were made" - love that passive voice - won't do.
Todd Gitlin is a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University and the author, most recently, of The Intellectuals and the Flag.