Saturday, January 21, 2006

Right-wing smears and Reagan puffery.

This blogger thinks he.she has the goods on Senator Hillary Clinton. The breathless headline reads, Hillary Bashes Bush While Banking Iranian Donations! and sites this release from one of those websites that is famous for being having less credibility then the National Enquirer:
Senator Clinton has accused President Bush of downplaying the threat from Iran while she has been accepting money from supporters of the Iranian regime.

Wealthy businessmen Hassan Nemazee and Faraj Aalaei are associated with the American Iranian Council, a pro-regime anti-sanctions group. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Namazee has contributed $4,000 to Clinton's reelection while Aalaei has given $1,000.

The press describes their lobby this way "the American-Iranian Council [AIC], a pro-regime lobbying group trying to get Congress and the Bush administration to lift the trade embargo on Iran." (Insight, 3/25/04)

Hillary Clinton is also raising money from Gati Kashani, another figure linked with the Mullahs.

On its website, the Iranian American PAC noted, "On Friday June 3rd, Iranian American friends of the Hillary Clinton Senate re-election campaign hosted a fundraising event in honor of Senator Clinton. The event took place at the home of Gita (pictured on the left) and Behzad Kashani in Los Altos Hills, California."

"Wealthy businessmen Hassan Nemazee" ? In the 2000 election cycle gave $2,000.00 to KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R) FOR SENATE COMMITTEE,
In the 2000 election cycle gave $1,000.00 to ROBB FOR THE SENATE (R)
Faraj Aalaei gave $1,000.00 in the 2003 to the Republican GOLI AMERI FOR CONGRESS 2004, in 2003 Aalaei gave $500.00 to the NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE,

"Gita (pictured on the left) and Behzad Kashani in Los Altos Hills, California." - Kashan in 2000 gave $1,000.00 to GORDON SMITH (R) FOR US SENATE 2002 INC

Well you get the idea. This blogger and the quasi-news web site are implying some kind of quid pro quo about the donations that Senator Clinton received. If merely attending a fund raiser was proof of votes for legislation or favoritism certainly Republicans have more to answer for then Democrats. In addition, when did politicians of any stripe start doing a tthourough background check on each and every contributor. It just doesn't past the smell test that Senator Clinton, or Hutchison for that matter would knowingly accept money from an organization that support the most radical elements within Iran. I would say come on guys you're getting a little lazy about the perpetual right-smear campaign, but they've always floated half baked propaganda like this. It makes their base happy, they've read some garbage that fits perfectly into what they want to believe, and the facts are just a nuisance.

The Reagan De-evolution, it seems that some right-wing bloggers are celebrating something that never was. As far as his legacy, look around, Republicans control all three branches and government is bigger, more intrusive, and more incompetent then its ever been. We have a budget deficit that is actually a record breaker. But back to the so-called Reagan leagcy...Reagan: Media Myth and Reality
Reagan's fervent support for right-wing governments in Central America was one of the defining foreign policies of his administration, and the fact that death squads associated with those governments murdered tens of thousands of civilians surely must be included in any reckoning of Reagan's successes and failures.

But a search of major U.S. newspapers in the Nexis news database turns up the phrase "death squad" only five times in connection with Reagan in the days following his death--twice in commentaries (Philadelphia Inquirer , 6/6/04; Chicago Tribune , 6/8/04) and twice in letters to the editor (San Francisco Chronicle , 6/8/04; L.A. Times , 6/8/04). Only one news article found in the search (L.A. Times , 6/6/04) considered the death squads an important enough part of Reagan's legacy to be worth mentioning. The three broadcast networks, CNN and Fox didn't mention death squads at all, according to Nexis. Nor were any references found in the transcripts of the broadcast networks to the fact that Reagan's policy of supporting Islamicist insurgents against the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan led to the rise of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Reagan Didn't End the Cold War
George F. Kennan agrees. The former US ambassador to the Soviet Union, and father of the theory of "containment" of the same country, asserts that "the suggestion that any United States administration had the power to influence decisively the course of a tremendous domestic political upheaval in another great country on another side of the globe is simply childish." He contends that the extreme militarization of American policy strengthened hard-liners in the Soviet Union. "Thus the general effect of Cold War extremism was to delay rather than hasten the great change that overtook the Soviet Union."

Though the arms-race spending undoubtedly damaged the fabric of the Soviet civilian economy and society even more than it did in the United States, this had been going on for 40 years by the time Mikhail Gorbachev came to power without the slightest hint of impending doom. Gorbachev's close adviser, Aleksandr Yakovlev, when asked whether the Reagan administration's higher military spending, combined with its "Evil Empire" rhetoric, forced the Soviet Union into a more conciliatory position, responded:

It played no role. None. I can tell you that with the fullest responsibility. Gorbachev and I were ready for changes in our policy regardless of whether the American president was Reagan, or Kennedy, or someone even more liberal. It was clear that our military spending was enormous and we had to reduce it.

Reagan's War
Peter Robinson: No, no, no, this is off the cuff actually. He's answering a question about the end of the Cold War--the former president describes a celebration he had attended to mark the 10th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. I'm quoting him now, "Margaret Thatcher got up, she said is everybody clear on one thing, Reagan and I won the Cold War." The Yale audience convulses in laughter. Evidently that's automatically funny at Yale. Bush continues, " and I'm saying to myself, here's a lot of guys that were in prison, here's a lot of guys right here at this table, including Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel and it wasn't as simple as that one person ended the Cold War." In other words, you've got Havel, you got Lech Walesa placing pressure on the Soviets. You've got the Pope who visits Poland in 1979 and 3 million Poles turn out to greet him and that's s a year before Ronald Reagan even declares for the presidency. So what happened in Eastern Europe, Bart?

Barton Bernstein: Well, let me back up because I think Mike is saying something very important, that is, in the Soviet Union, the Gorbachev phenomenon or the Gorbachev implementation does loosen things and it has the unforeseen, but I think now we can understand, quality of propelling a movement toward implosion and demise. It would have been equally plausible for someone else to have been chosen I think in '84 or '85 who with a hard line might well have propelled things. I mean Mike and I would disagree and he, in all fairness is a Russian Soviet specialist and I'm not, I would say that the Soviet Union probably would have imploded within a handful of years under another kind of regime.

Imagine building a house for six months and you go out to lunch one day. When you get back, Reagan is nailing in one nail. Reagan puts down the hammer, looks around at a gathering crowd and procliams -look at the house I buildt-. Reagan might very well have had a pleasant, likeable personality, but look behind the curtain of his "legacy" and you see a guy that took credit for what others did, took credit for the lucky breaks of the historical tide, and just took or was given credit for things he had little to do with. I'm not sure that in their pursuit of a political saint to patronize, that the far right isn't just blowing up Regan's memory into a garish cartoon.

Jeff Huber at Pen and Sword has a report up on the criminal negligence at the heart of the whole body armor fiasco...Point Blank War Profits
The history of the Point Blank Interceptor OTV body armor vest and the company that manufactures it is a shameful tale of the state of war profiteering in the Rumsfeld age.

The Interceptor OTV is the body armor jacket recently revealed by Defense Watch to have been identified by a U.S. Marine Corps forensics report as being responsible for the deaths of "as many as 42 percent of Marines who died from isolated torso injuries."

If you haven't reached your outrage quota this week, you will after you read the rest of this story.

Are we at the zenith of Bush powers or Bush panic

Another take on Bush's unlimited powers and his council of bitches at the DoJ, "Zenith of his powers"
warrants for domestic eavesdropping is supereceded by President's right to act "at the zenith of his powers" and that Congress gave the President this right in October 2001, in the heated days after the 9/11 attacks, when it authorized the president to use military force against al Qaeda. Apparently, by "military force" it meant evesdropping and by "al Qaeda" it meant U.S. civilians.

This argument, though, is unlikely to flow the stem of criticism. The New York Times quotes Robert Reinstein, Dean of the law school at Temple University, who said there's a broad consensus among legal scholars and security experts that the eavesdropping program is "a pretty straightforward case where the president is acting illegally."

So what to do about it? Beside the impeachment option, Congress is considering a special counsel investigation. But David Baron has another idea, pass a law allowing people to challenge the wiretapping on the grounds that it has a "chilling affect" on free speech.

While this are people on both sides of the political aisle that know darn well Bush is acting far beyond any powers inherent in the presidency or any powers granted by Congress, we all know by now what a rusty slow moving wheel that is. I'm probably alone in this but I don't see the NSA as the bad guys per se. The NSA is directed to do whatever it does by the President and his National Security advisor, so in that sense its too bad that suing them directly may be what is required to get a the Senate bench warmers off their duffs. This is example number 1,856 of how certain conservatives are hypocrites about big government.
If Democrats don't make this an election issue in 2006 they deserve to be the minority party. The NSA scandal is just as much a part of the culture of corruption as Abranmoff, Delay and Frist.

I am actually of the school of thought that BushCo may not be all that bright, but they are clever. maybe I'm wrong about that. Inherently Dangerous

"Let me be as clear as I can be: President Bush believes if al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interests to know who they're calling and why," said Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser.

Well, let me be as clear as I can be. I agree completely with that statement. It also has absolutely nothing to do with this controversy.

J.D. Henderson is not just correct, he points us to the very real possibility that these guys are in way over their heads. They thought they could play the fear and national security card again, their detractors would wink and it would all go away. Only its turning out to be a team of detractors that in some cases have been defenders in the past. The fact that they actually issued something in writing might speak to a little panic, that they are not on the sound legal ground that they claim to be on.

It looks like Chris Matthews may be mentally ill.

I'm not sure that John Gibson is even as good as Benedict Arnold.
What a thundering idiot, to believe the voices of the terrorists. What an incompetent boob, to read the marketed proposed "truce" as an actual one. As if the motives, goals, and propaganda of these most evil of men were not already well known, well understood -- still, here we have the thickest-of-thick Fox News walking into it with both feet, embracing it with open arms, writing the very scripts and blustering with the same words that the message itself was intended to provoke.

John Gibson believes this latest bin Laden love note to the rationales of terrorism was an earnest plea to Americans? Then he is as stupid as he is venal, if such a thing is even within the realms of possibility.

John and his clones are very much about tearing down the fabric of American values. Its not enough to disagree with political foes, they feel the compulsion to demonize, and while doing so betray themselves as the true demons of American culture and politics.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Adminstrations legal wrangling was wrong the first time and this time

Bush has actually put out a paper rendering of the same failed arguments that they used from the bully pulpit the first time round to justify their weird spin on the NSA scandal. Administration Lays Out Legal Case for Wiretapping Program
In a 42-page white paper, the Justice Department expanded on its past arguments in laying out the legal rationale for why the N.S.A. program does not violate federal wiretap law and why the president is the nation's "sole organ" for foreign affairs.

Only the president of a Gulag is the "sole organ" for foreign affairs. Papers from the Justice Department, whose top administrators are political appointees are hardly an objective judge of what's legal and what isn't when it comes to a Whitehouse that has been so dragonian in its ideological disipline.
But the Bush administration appears undeterred by the criticism. In its white paper, it turned time and again to the congressional authorization of Sept. 14, 2001, even though the Congressional Research Service study was particularly skeptical of this line of defense.

Report Rebuts Bush on Spying Domestic Action's Legality Challenged
The 44-page report said that Bush probably cannot claim the broad presidential powers he has relied upon as authority to order the secret monitoring of calls made by U.S. citizens since the fall of 2001. Congress expressly intended for the government to seek warrants from a special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before engaging in such surveillance when it passed legislation creating the court in 1978, the CRS report said.

The report also concluded that Bush's assertion that Congress authorized such eavesdropping to detect and fight terrorists does not appear to be supported by the special resolution that Congress approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which focused on authorizing the president to use military force.

"It appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations here," the authors of the CRS report wrote. The administration's legal justification "does not seem to be . . . well-grounded," they said.

The reincarnation of Jefferson Davis states,
The document cites copious case law, the President's inherent Constitutional authority under Article II, and a FISA exemption granted by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

It also makes the argument that if FISA is shown to conflict with the President's Article II Powers, then FISA is unconstitutional.

That the FISA Laws have neen in effect since the seventies without any constitutional challenge, that President Clinton worked with Congress in 1995 to change the law with little resistence. There is the AUMF argument again, yet says that the president doesn't even need the AUMF if he thinks the nation is at risk. It a matter of record that it was not Congress's intention to grant Bush or any president open ended powers of surveillance, Power We Didn't Grant

If the stories in the media over the past week are accurate, the president has exercised authority that I do not believe is granted to him in the Constitution, and that I know is not granted to him in the law that I helped negotiate with his counsel and that Congress approved in the days after Sept. 11. For that reason, the president should explain the specific legal justification for his authorization of these actions, Congress should fully investigate these actions and the president's justification for them, and the administration should cooperate fully with that investigation.

The rightie blogs seem to have a habit of obfucasting the facts when it comes to examining the Whitehouse's justication for breaking the law. To say that, as the current incarnation of Jefferson Davis has said that FISA are unconstitutional begs acouple common sense questions. is it the case that the administration can just break any law that it believes in its heart of hearts is unconstitutional without seeking input from the Congress or Supreme Court. At this point no one thinks so except the Whitehouse and a very partisan attorney general. Even the FISA courts allow for appeals of its decisions up to the Supreme Court. Additionally, the fact that Bush was using the exploiting the electronic capabilities of the NSA pre-9-11, Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11 , making the use of the AUMF a weak rationalization after the fact.

Another self assigned defender of all things Bush runs with, Department of Justice: Warrantless Wiretaps Legal . Maybe they speak a langauge other then English on Planet Bush.............. Powerline and Dictators
A couple of weeks after everyone else discussed the case, it seems that John at Powerline finally got around to reading Youngstown Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952) -- not that his failure to read it earlier stopped him from pedantically opining that Bush's NSA surveillance was perfectly legal. The Supreme Court in Youngstown held that President Truman -- faced with a steel worker's strike which would severely undermine America's war effort in Korea -- could not constitutionally seize the nation's steel factories and force them to produce steel, because Congress had refused to give him that authority and the President has no right to act contrary to Congressional intent.

There is no legal precedent for Bush's over-reach of executive power. His apologists have blog after blog, pundit after pundit not just failed to make the legal case, but have failed to be honest. To all those that had hoped one day to have just one honest debate about an issue have been handed another defeat by the Right, honesty and facts have become the enemy of the right-wing zealots. Apparently they are just following examples set by their leader: Was the President lying then or now ?

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap," Mr. Bush said in Buffalo, "a wiretap requires a court order."

This has become the modus operandi of Bush and his surrogates, do the nefarious deed, then grasp for thin straws of justification later.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

If Bush thinks skirting the law will protect us, then explain 9-11

Hear no, see no, but speaking of legality
From NYT, Report Questions Legality of Briefings on Surveillance
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 - A legal analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concludes that the Bush administration's limited briefings for Congress on the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping without warrants are "inconsistent with the law."

[ ]..The Congressional Research Service memorandum, sent to the Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, explores the requirement in the National Security Act of 1947 that the committees be kept "fully and currently informed" of intelligence activities. It notes that the law specifically allows notification of "covert actions" to the Gang of Eight, but says the security agency's program does not appear to be a covert action program.

As a result, the memorandum says, limiting the briefings to just eight members of Congress "would appear to be inconsistent with the law."

Since all the objections to the way that the current executive in the Whitehouse has handled the ordering of domestic spying rest on a reading of the law it can hardly be said that Bush has been found guilty by lynch mob, only that as like any possible illegal activity a reading of the law indicates that it is likely that Bush has broken laws enacted by Congress and which has sworn to uphold. That in itself is not a presumption of guilt anymore then the arrest of a street thug where the police have strong reason to believe that this thug has broken the law. Whether the police are correct in their assumption rests with the courts and whether Bush is guilty of any wrong doing should rest with a special prosecutor. We can't assume that Bush has done nothing wrong based on the legal arguments of Alberto Gonzales since there is a very obvious conflict of interests.

The argument that what Bush is doing is necessary in order to protect America is really two issues. The first is that Democrats in particular are flatly against domestic spying or that its a purely partisan issue; this is a strawman argument. The issue is warrantless searches. Democrats and some conservatives want Bush to respect the law and follow procedures as set forth by current law, the National Security Act of 1947, FISA law, and the Patriot Act. Some of the extreme right have made the argument that Bush must break the law as its too cumbersome to comply with. That is both a dangerous and comical argument. They are in fact making the case that if you find current FEC regulations cumbersome, drug laws a nuisance, tax laws unfair; well go ahead and break them and we'll sort it all out later. The second part of the issue is that it was necessary after 9-11 for Bush to break the law in order to respond quickly to any threat. The Patriot Act in fact said that Bush could do electronic surveillance for fifteen days after a declaration of war ( in this case the famous AUMF if we consider that a war declaration) and after that he had 72 hours to do all the domestic
surveillance he wanted. Surely three days is enough time to come up with some plausible reason to continue surveillance. It does turn out that Bush and the NSA were doing vast data mining of all electronic communications pre-9-11 and obviously it didn't stop 9-11, Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11
The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

The NSA's vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups.

In its "Transition 2001" report, the NSA said that the ever-changing world of global communication means that "American communication and targeted adversary communication will coexist."

"Make no mistake, NSA can and will perform its missions consistent with the Fourth Amendment and all applicable laws," the document says.

However, it adds that "senior leadership must understand that the NSA's mission will demand a 'powerful, permanent presence' on global telecommunications networks that host both 'protected' communications of Americans and the communications of adversaries the agency wants to target."

What had long been understood to be protocol in the event that the NSA spied on average Americans was that the agency would black out the identities of those individuals or immediately destroy the information.

But according to people who worked at the NSA as encryption specialists during this time, that's not what happened. On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration, these sources said, which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law.<

and even after 9-11 the vast quantity of the data proved to be less then useful, Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 - In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.

But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans' international communications and conducting computer searches of phone and Internet traffic. Some F.B.I. officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans' privacy.

As the bureau was running down those leads, its director, Robert S. Mueller III, raised concerns about the legal rationale for a program of eavesdropping without warrants, one government official said. Mr. Mueller asked senior administration officials about "whether the program had a proper legal foundation," but deferred to Justice Department legal opinions, the official said.

President Bush has characterized the eavesdropping program as a "vital tool" against terrorism; Vice President Dick Cheney has said it has saved "thousands of lives."

But the results of the program look very different to some officials charged with tracking terrorism in the United States. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.

"We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed," said one former F.B.I. official, who was aware of the program and the data it generated for the bureau. "After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration."

Rather then helping to find terrorists Bush is creating a Boy Who Cried Wolf environment and doing so by giving short shift to the rule of law. At the very least we need an independent prosecutor and a Senate investigation to sort things out so that the president's powers as CIC can be clearified to him, so that Congress can reassert its role in the intelligence community, and whether actions such as censure should be taken against Bush.

Update: Feds want Google search records
``Google is not a party to this lawsuit, and the demand for the information is overreaching,'' Wong said.

The government argues that it needs the information as it prepares to once again defend the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act in a federal court in Pennsylvania. The law was struck down in 2004 because it was too broad and could prevent adults from accessing legal porn sites.

However, the Supreme Court invited the government to either come up with a less drastic version of the law or go to trial to prove that the statute does not violate the First Amendment and is the only viable way to combat child porn.

Over the years I've been part of efforts to prevent child abuse and child porn is certainly a form of abuse, but this effort, like so much of this administrations efforts is just too scatter shot. Like the story above its most likely to generate thousands of false leads and use up manpower that could be put toward more focused methods.

from The RawStory, Gore responds to White House 'hypocrisy' comments
There are two problems with the Attorney General's effort to focus attention on the past instead of the present Administration's behavior. First, as others have thoroughly documented, his charges are factually wrong. Both before and after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 1995, the Clinton/Gore Administration complied fully and completely with the terms of the law.

Second, the Attorney General's attempt to cite a previous administration's activity as precedent for theirs - even though factually wrong - ironically demonstrates another reason why we must be so vigilant about their brazen disregard for the law. If unchecked, their behavior would serve as a precedent to encourage future presidents to claim these same powers, which many legal experts in both parties believe are clearly illegal.

The issue, simply put, is that for more than four years, the executive branch has been wiretapping many thousands of American citizens without warrants in direct contradiction of American law. It is clearly wrong and disrespectful to the American people to allow a close political associate of the president to be in charge of reviewing serious charges against him.

The country needs a full and independent investigation into the facts and legality of the present Administration's program."

Isn't that defense number two in the right-wing playbook, President Clinton did it so its OK that we do it. 99% percent of the time its its a stinking layer of lies on top of the ones that have already been told. Even when the Right passed off to Assrocket at Powerlies he fumbled the case for any legal reasons for Bush to sidestep the FISA court. Good for AL, they punch, you counter-punch harder. Right-wingers have the tendency to act like school yard bullies and when confronted tend to run off whining that the big bad liberals were mean to them.

Josh Marshall makes a very relavent connection between Dumya's incompetence and covetousness of power
...The point Gore makes in his speech that I think is most key is the connection between authoritarianism, official secrecy and incompetence.

The president's critics are always accusing him of law-breaking or unconstitutional acts and then also berating the incompetence of his governance. And it's often treated as, well ... he's power-hungry and incompetent to boot! Imagine that! The point though is that they are directly connected. Authoritarianism and secrecy breed incompetence; the two feed on each other. It's a vicious cycle. Governments with authoritarian tendencies point to what is in fact their own incompetence as the rationale for giving them yet more power. Katrina was a good example of this.

By way of Tapped
NSA WIRETAPPING UNEARTHS "CALLS TO PIZZA HUT." The New York Times is reporting that the NSA warrantless surveillance program has not, according to the FBI sources tasked with following up on the leads it generated, produced anything but a mound of dead-ends:

Vote for us or Pizza Hut will kill you school of reasons to break the law.

White House Silent on Abramoff Meetings
WASHINGTON - The White House is refusing to reveal details of tainted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's visits with
President Bush's staff.

Abramoff had "a few staff-level meetings" at the Bush White House, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday. But he would not say with whom Abramoff met, which interests he was representing or how he got access to the White House.

If Scotty grew a centimeter every time he obfuscated the facts for the plantation masters his head would have moon bumps by now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I read this article/interview a few months ago and kept meaning to post about it. Patrick Cockburn is a British journalist who has been to Iraq over fifty times since 1978. I think, though others are sure to disagree, that Cockburn gives a balanced look at life inside Iraq. the interview was done for the new left Review's Nov-Dec 2005 issue, so some specifics on the ground in Iraq have changed. THE OCCUPATION
When you returned, resistance had already started?

Yes, one of the surprises of the resistance is just how swiftly it developed. I think this has never quite been explained. The speed with which it took off was very striking. The Americans were starting to suffer casualties as early as June, within a couple of months of the invasion. Occupations often do lead to resistance against them, but it’s difficult to think of another example of it happening so quickly. After the British captured Baghdad in 1917, it took three years before the rebellion against them started. During the Second World War, the resistances in Europe or Southeast Asia all took much longer to get going than the present insurgency in Iraq.

You’ve observed life in Baghdad over a two-and-a-half-year period now. What have been the changes in the conditions of existence of most people there, from the middle class to the poor?

One of the main reasons most Iraqis wanted to be rid of Saddam was the degradation of life because of the un sanctions against Iraq, which destroyed most of the economy, coming on top of the effects of the Gulf War in 1991 and the eight-year war with Iran. There was a widespread sense among Iraqis that they couldn’t take it any more—they wanted some form of normal life to return. I think it took about two months for them to realize that the American Occupation wasn’t going to deliver this. The electricity supply was poor from the start, and it stayed poor. Looting didn’t stop. At first, most Iraqis looked on the disasters at the time of the fall of Saddam as a sort of one-day or rather week-long wonder. Then they discovered it just rolled on—in fact it has never really come to a halt since. They began to realize that everything in life was now chronically insecure.

As great as visuals are, sometimes print fills in where the pictures or film leaves off. The evening broadcast news shows us lots of brown buildings, people walking, soldiers standing guard yet we're usually left with trying in put it all the context ourselves. Right-wing bloggers almost uniformly try to paint the Iraq narrative as a warm fuzzy picture of a successful liberation of a repressed people. Its not unfair to say that despite Saddam's brutal record, the hell of Saddam was traded for another kind of hell with a mix of military success and infrastructure failure. Iraq was not and will probably not be the last time that America and another nation has been failed the unwillingness of our political leaders to think outside of conventional approaches to solving the problems presented by despots. There were some ideas out there, like General Wesley Clarke's coercive containment, an approach that would have inflicted some hardship and probably casualties, but not to the degree we have seen in the last two years.
Just as the Kosovo campaign wasn't won by bombs and bullets alone, neither will we win the campaign on terror exclusively through the use of force. We have to deprive our adversaries of the incentive, the legitimacy, and the hope that they can ever succeed. As Napoleon himself reportedly said, "In war the moral is to the material as three is to one." In our understandable concern to take prompt and effective action, we must not lose sight of the larger, broader, less concrete, but ultimately more important, struggle over human values and beliefs.

This is so obvious one can't help but wonder why the neocons, who sold themsleves ( and are still selling) as the all mighty grand wizards of national security have, and continue to have such a strangle hold on the framing of Iraq, terrorism, and national security. While there may not be a common sense when it comes to dealing with terrorism, there is a smart appraoch and a dumb one. When will America get tired of the dumb appraoch and start asking for some answers from the neocons who sold America a foreign policy lemon.

First Contact (war story #2)
The first major action that I saw occurred on the early morning of April 8th. I say major action because a few days earlier, a lone RPG had been shot at a vehicle trailing mine in a convoy, but it was over so quickly, and without result, that it doesn’t warrant the title “first contact”. No, the first firefight I took part in occurred that morning around 3am or so, at the tale end of an IED sweep. IED is Army speak for improvised explosive device-- a roadside bomb planted by insurgents to disable vehicles and kill personnel.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Republican on his way to the Ethics Shop
Republicans have left themsleves with a big opening in their offensive line that is a result of both arrogance and and insincere i.e. image is everything embrace of values when its convenient. Democrats need to hold up the mirror and let the public see how deep it goes. Democratic Alchemy
In recent days, as the Jack Abramoff story has detonated in slow motion across official Washington, Dems have been debating ways of converting the muck of the GOP scandal into political gold. The short-term strategy appears to be twofold: Argue in unison that the GOP is the party of corruption, while aggressively countering GOP efforts to cast the scandal as bipartisan by hammering away at Abramoff’s exclusively Republican donations and spotlighting the GOP-built K Street Project machine.

[ ]...."The critical way to get people to see this on an individual level is to argue, 'This representative, because of his support for his party's leadership, no longer represents you."

Its not like they ever did, but the right-wing noise machine operates 24/7 trying to create the impression that Cons care about the average American and are the party of values. People that pay attention, and there are never enough of those have noticed that Republicans are the party of feeding hogs dressed up in swan suits.

These folks must not be real Christians, disagreeing with the Conartist Saviour Dubya Bush, Bishops Urge U.S. to Transition Out of Iraq
"Our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes for a responsible transition, leaving sooner than later," said Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Will we see the right-wing nuts of blogtopia call the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Al-Queda sympathizers and defeatniks.