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Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 30, 2004

 
Guantanamo Warden to Oversee U.S. Iraq Prison Rules


Boy, that's a relief. Well, except for this :

"One of the five Britons recently returned to the UK from Guantanamo Bay has claimed that he was subjected to cruel and sadistic treatment by US authorities.

Jamal al Harith, from Manchester, told the Daily Mirror today that detainees of Camp X-Ray and Camp Delta had to face frequent beatings, prolonged periods of isolation and traumatic psychological torture.

The 37-year-old was held at Guantanamo Bay for just over two years after coalition forces brought about the fall of the Taleban regime in Afghanistan. The divorced father-of-three said that the behaviour of prison guards was a deliberate affront to Islam and exacted to offend and terrorise the detainees.

Jamal told the Daily Mirror: 'The whole point of Guantanamo was to get to you psychologically. The beatings were not as nearly as bad as the psychological torture - bruises heal after a week - but the other stuff stays with you.'

Mr al Harith said that religious practises were often disrupted or even banned in order to punish and antagonise prisoners.

The most extreme of these claims centres around how guards would bring prostitutes into the camp to pose naked in front of prisoners, who were used to veiled women, and counter to Islamic practice.
He said: 'It was a profoundly disturbing experience for these men. They would refuse to speak about what had happened. It would take perhaps four weeks for them to tell a friend - and we would shout it out around the whole block"


Hey, at least they didn't force the prisoners themselves to pose naked and simulate fellatio for the camera. That we know of, anyway.

When I read this account last March, I thought it was bullshit. It seemed so nuts, especially the psycho-sexual sadism. But, since pictures prove that it happened at Abu Graib prison under the Americans and we now have pictures of it happening in southern Iraq under the British, I'm inclined to think this sick behavior might just be happening in Gitmo, too. There is either a common illness or a common method to their madness.

On the other hand, Colin "My Lai Cover-Up" Powell assured us that it was impossible:

"We have watched Guantanamo Bay very carefully knowing of the interest of a number of nations, including the United Kingdom, and knowing that we have responsibilities under the Geneva Convention and because we are Americans, we don't abuse people who are in our care."

Mr Powell said it was "not in the American tradition to treat people in that manner".


There you have it.




 
Coalition Of The Chilling

Britian probes torture claims in Iraq:

"I am aware of the allegations which have been made today of the abuse of prisoners by British soldiers in Iraq,' Britain's most senior army officer, General Sir Michael Jackson said, referring to pictures published in the Daily Mirror.

'All allegations are already under investigation.'

US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have today condemned disturbing pictures showing the reported abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers at a prison west of Baghdad.

In a fresh blow to the image of the US-led coalition, new pictures to be published in Saturday's Daily Mirror show British soldiers apparently beating a detainee, a suspected thief, with rifle butts, and urinating on him.

According to the newspaper, the prisoner was allegedly threatened with execution during an eight-hour ordeal, which left him bleeding and vomiting, with a broken jaw and smashed teeth.

The Daily Mirror said it was given the pictures by serving soldiers from the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, who were horrified at the act depicted and concerned that 'rogue elements' in the army were undermining attempts to win the hearts and minds of local people in British-administered southern Iraq.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the soldiers told the paper that the unnamed captive, against whom no charges were brought, was driven away and dumped from the back of a moving vehicle after his ordeal.

It was not known whether he survived, the newspaper said."


URINATED ON: A British soldier urinates on an Iraqi prisoner in a vile display of abuse. The captive was beaten and hurled from a moving truck. Army chiefs are investigating.


The brutality of the repression - the death and torture camps, the barbaric prisons for political opponents, the routine beatings for anyone or their families suspected of disloyalty are well documented.

Just last week, someone slandering Saddam was tied to a lamp post in a street in Baghdad, his tongue cut out, mutilated and left to bleed to death, as a warning to others.

I recall a few weeks ago talking to an Iraqi exile and saying to her that I understood how grim it must be under the lash of Saddam.

"But you don't", she replied. "You cannot. You do not know what it is like to live in perpetual fear."

And she is right. We take our freedom for granted. But imagine not to be able to speak or discuss or debate or even question the society you live in. To see friends and family taken away and never daring to complain. To suffer the humility of failing courage in face of pitiless terror. That is how the Iraqi people live. Leave Saddam in place and that is how they will continue to live.
Tony Blair 3/18/03




 
Martin Luther Bush

Atrios and Josh Marshall note this new Orwell Jr talking point about critics of the Iraq war being racists because they don't believe that "brown people" can govern themselves.

There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern.


I don't know what color "our" skin is, but I'm sure the other "people in the world" are relieved to know that the U.S. president, at least, thinks that people whose skins are a different color than white can self-govern. It's just a little embarrassing that he has the mind of a 12 year old and actually thinks it's such a huge insight that the leader of a multi-racial, pluralistic society believes such a thing. What's next? Is he going to announce that he doesn't agree with all those people in the world who think that slavery is good?

But, he is right about one thing. There are people who think this way. And they are the same people who persist in believing that Iraq and al-Qaeda were in cahoots on 9/11. And it's not just Iraq, apparently:

Hey, Hosni [Mubarek, of Egypt]...until Arabs attacked us, most Americans' feelings about y'all were pretty neutral. Now that you b*st*rds have invaded us and spilled the blood of our innocent brothers and sisters on our own soil, you'll be finding out soon what destruction your hatred will bring upon those cesspools you call countries.

Taliban, Saddam, Next???

---

I do hate Arabs as well!
I feel pity for a people who let some self-appointed cult leaders do their thinking for them. A mind is a terrible thing to waste!

---

What Islamists of any persuasion don't seem to get, their days are numbered. No more Madrasa's, No more Bin Laden, no more oil money, no more 72 virgins, no more religious spider holes, no more Islam.

---

If they don't like it they need to renounce Islam or renounce their American citizenship and move back to an Arab country, so Americans don't have to worry about them. They will be much safer. If another 9/11 kind of a terror attack happens, I'm afraid some Americans might start shooting Arabs out of fear for the safety of their families.


Yes. It would appear that some people don't believe that those of "brown skin" should be self-governing. They are the same ones who don't think those of brown skin should be allowed to vote. In fact, they are the same people who have a pronounced affection for brown shirts --- the racist base of the Republican Party who look old Georgie right in the eye and see into his soul. No matter what happy horseshit he spews about self-governing brown people, they know he's one of them.




 
The Line

"Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America. I didn't like it one bit," Mr. Bush said.


Was I supposed to be horrified by the report of Iraqi prisoners being positioned in "pornographic" positions and humiliated by American soldiers? I was not. During your report, all I could think of was the murder, torture, maiming, burning and beheading of innocent civilians, women and children included, carried out by terrorists and supporters of Saddam Hussein. At least these men were men of war.

They had to pose for pornographic pictures? So what. We cannot imagine sitting at home on our couches the horrors our soldiers must face every day. Why not focus your attention on the unfair practices of our enemy?
--Sally Ainsley


Woman soldier points at genitals of hooded and naked Iraqis


The little bit I have read about, it seems to me that it is being completely blown out of proportion," said Roger Krueger, who served in Vietnam and is the chapter's president. "When a person is in combat, they have to do whatever they have to do to stay alive."


Two US troops pose with Iraqi prisoners piled on top of each other.

I'm sure there is more than one side of the story":, and we don't know all the facts,' said Robert Hutcheson, a Cumberland resident and Allegany County commissioner. 'In my mind, this is no blemish on their record.


Iraqi PoWs are forced to parade before their jeering captors


America has some good things to offer the world. Our Bill Of Rights may be the biggest advance in modern political history. We have tended to embrace progress, however painful, with more enthusiasm than many other hide bound cultures.

But, the character of our people is just as bad and good as any other. When Crusader Codpiece lectures the world about the justice of our cause being based upon our "goodness" he proves his simplemindedness once again.

These sickening pictures taken by some Americans and the pathetic rationalizing words of some other Americans show once again that the line between good and evil is not drawn between "America" and "the enemy." It is drawn
inside the heart of every human being.





 
Rub It In

TBOGG told me:

Via Southpaw, we see that a Left Coaster commentor had the line of the day about President Senor Wences' Fist appearance before the 9/11 commission.

'Whenever Kerry publicly demands debates with George, he should be sure to insist that Cheney can't come.'"


This is a great idea, but the punch line is exactly backward.

He should say:

"I've challenged George Bush to weekly debates, mano a mano, and he's refused. Now, I understand the president doesn't like to face tough questions all by himself. So, if he needs to bring Dick Cheney with him that's ok by me."

Like all glass jawed bullies, Crusader Codpiece is sensitive about that kind of thing. Rub It In His Face.



Thursday, April 29, 2004

 
If Those Walls Could Talk

Bush said it was important for him and Cheney to appear together so that commission members could "see our body language... how we work together."


What kind of body language could possibly give that information? I mean, we all know that the Oval Office has seen some hot action, but somehow the thought of Junior and Unka Dick revealing their work style through their body language brings some very disturbing visions to mind. Does Dubya reach out and grab Cheney's hand from time to time and give it a little pat? Does Dick rub Junior's back lovingly during stressful moments? Ruffle his hair? Give his earlobe a little nip?

Maybe so:

"There was some laughter from time to time. The president is a bit of a tease," Mr Thompson told the Associated Press news agency.

"There were no tense moments. I thought the president gave a five-star performance. I wish the American people could have seen it."


No thanks. If I wanted to see that I'd just download "Bigtime Dick's Tease" from Ooohlala Video. Bigger production values.




 
Moving Heaven And Earth

More Agents Track Castro Than Bin Laden

The Treasury Department agency entrusted with blocking the financial resources of terrorists told Congress that at the end of last year it had just four full-time employees dedicated to investigating Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein wealth while nearly two dozen were working on Cuban embargo violations.


Hello?

There is something seriously wrong on this side of the equation in the WOT and it would be a good issue for Kerry to exploit, I think. For reasons we can only speculate upon, the Bush administration and the Republican Party are totally unwilling to do what is necessary to block the funding of terrorists.

Toss out habeus corpus like a piece of rotting garbage, flush due process down the toilet, use the Patriot Act to try to bring Laurie Mylroie's fevered wet dreams to life --- but Gawd help us, we will never let the Stalinist jackbooted thugs invade the sanctity of private banking transactions.


 
WWBD?

The best writer in America has some good advice for John Kerry:


Kerry has not been anywhere near quick enough on his feet so far. I mean, honestly, here's the president talking about having a high father -- as opposed to a lowdown brother, which would be Neil. (Back in the steamer trunk, Neilsie!) Here's the president's favorite policy hot-cha gal comparing abortion-rights demonstrators to terrorists. (Ten Minutes From Normal, indeed. And several miles beyond its sister city, Sane.) These are very big fish in extremely small barrels here.

I know part of the problem: Kerry has brought aboard some career hacks from the commonwealth, God save it. Some of these guys worked for Michael Dukakis back in 1988, and they're only now getting back in the game because it's taken them 14 years to get back those parts of their respective anatomies that were still lodged between Jim Baker's teeth. Nice to see these guys back at the helm of another campaign. It's like spotting Captain Joe Hazelwood a pitcher of martinis and another oil tanker.

What is abundantly clear is that Kerry's hired the wrong guys from Massachusetts. There's only one man, only one true leader, who's fit for the kind of battle in which Kerry has found himself.

His name is Belichick. Bill Belichick.

Quite simply, we here in Massachusetts believe in Bill, who has led us out of the wilderness and through two Super Bowls. We believe in Bill with a constant faith that makes Tim LaHaye read like Jacqueline Susann. Our devotion is whole. It is complete. In Bill we trust.

[...]

Admittedly, Bill's politics are a bit of a mystery. He's a Wesleyan man, so he's got that small, New England, liberal-arts-college thing going for him. In addition, Belichick has hinted more than once that he's a Democrat, and Rush Limbaugh once called the Patriots "socialists," because they were introduced as a team before the Super Bowl in 2002. And he's a Bon Jovi fan, which can mean anything at all. But he's driven and focused, and he's coldly maniacal about winning. That's all that's needed for the moment.

Do I overstate? In a political culture in which Fred Barnes is a thinker and Tom Brokaw a historian? Please. It's time for John Kerry's campaign to join the faithful. We, too, follow our higher father. I suggest it's time for the junior senator to adopt the first public expression of faith shared by all New England since the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, beginning our long historical march toward jobs our uncles can get for us on the county-road crews.

WWBD?

What Would Bill Do?




 
Finally!

Yglesias on TAPPED points out the obvious fact that the DNC should be blastfaxing to every mediamoron in the Washington, who up to now have not said word one about this obvious discrepancy:

"If we had something to hide, we wouldn't have met with them in the first place," he said.


Back in the real world of course, Bush did refuse to meet with the commission, only to back down in the face of public pressure. Then he refused to meet for more than one hour and, again, he wound up backing down in the face of public pressure. Finally, he agreed to let the commission ask their questions, but only on the dual condition that Cheney be at his side and that no transcript of the meeting be released. That doesn't sound at all like the pattern of behavior of a president who's trying to hide something. Why, it's been "unprecedented cooperation" from the get-go. And we all remember how eager Condoleezza Rice was to testify. . . .


I've had the cable news on all morning and not one member of the "press" has noted this bullshit. It's spoonfeeding time, Terry.



 
Calling The Mighty Casio

We knew that Bush "embellished" his National Guard Service. And we knew that he "embellished" his business achievements. Today, Bad Attitudes tells us that Bush even "embellished" his pathetic beersoaked college athletic career (not to mention that he just makes shit up about what classes he took.)

Obviously, swing voters cannot be persuaded of Junior's total inadequacy by exposing the fact that he lied and bumbled his way into a war and has driven the country into bankruptcy to benefit his rich friends. The Big Lie technique works much too well. The campaign must be run on likeability and proxy "character" issues because that seems to be how people make political decisions in this country.

John Kerry is not particularly warm and cuddly by infotainment standards, so we can only hope for a draw on that one. But, Bush has been remarkably immune to the kind of trivial character questions that plague all Democrats, mostly because of the wingnuts's phony hysteria every time anybody goes near that stuff.

The blogosphere, Air America, Stern and Stewart are the places to make this stand. Bush failed up his entire life. Now he's reinventing his past. It's our job to belittle him for it at every opportunity.

Let the word go forth.

Update:

Tina Brown on trivia (and she knows whereof she speaks) and why it works:


"I'm from the suburbs," he announced, "and I'm voting for Bush."

All eyes turned to him. "It might seem odd that a savvy New Yorker like me is voting for a guy in a cowboy hat," he went on, as he recklessly doled out ice cream to a network anchor, "but what we want is stability. This Kerry guy -- he's all over the place."

Huh? Stability? What about all the mayhem in Iraq? His intervention immediately brought the table back from a troubled analysis of American options in Iraq to how the medals debacle is affecting perceptions of Kerry. It was as if the waiter was a plant from the Bush campaign, diverting attention at a critical moment, just as he was supposed to.

The Republican attack machine -- again -- has made the right calculation: Hit 'em with trivia. Bait the hook with the absurd "issue" of whether it was medals or ribbons that Kerry hurled over the wall when he was a 27-year-old hothead. Then watch the media bite -- they'll do it every time -- and let Kerry rise to it and blow it. Presto, a thrice-wounded, decorated war hero running against a president who went missing from the National Guard is suddenly muddying up his own record on the morning talk shows. Shades of 2000, when Bush jokily bowled oranges down the aisle of his campaign plane while Gore argued about whether he did or didn't say he invented the Internet.

[...]

"When I watch Kerry trying to swat away the issue of ribbons and medals I see Karl as the Oz figure all over again," Slater told me on the phone. "Rove's technique is always to go for a candidate's strength, not his weakness. In Texas, when Bush was running against Governor Ann Richards, her strength was her tolerance, her inclusiveness. She had brought a lot of women and minorities into government. So suddenly in conservative East Texas there was a whispering campaign about why she had hired so many lesbians and homosexuals. It's the same with Kerry. The war record is his strength -- so instead of leaving it alone, Rove just goes right at it."

It's spooky to see it working, both in the polls and anecdotally. In the past 10 days, Democrats in New York have been distracted for the first time from focusing their wrath on Bush to dumping it on Kerry. Even among heavy donors there has been a wave of buyer's remorse.


I think the Kerry campaign should do exactly what Rove does. Go after Bush's "strengths" --- honest, courageous, means what he says. I know it's distasteful, but so is Armageddon, which is definitely on the menu if Crusader Codpiece gets a legitimate term in office. Fight the Right on their hypocritical, chickenshit, mama's boy flaccidity in the face of real challenge. Little George reading goat stories and running around the country like a scared little boy on 9/11 is a good place to start.

And Democrats have got to stop internalizing all this GOP propaganda. IT'S NOT TRUE. Kerry is not a waffler; his 30+ public career simply has depth and complexity unlike the simpleminded fratboy's coddled sinecures. Nor are Democrats a bunch of godless assholes who hate religion, and neither are the various constituencies of our party constantly "mau-mauing" to the party's detriment.

This is self-hatred, not constructive self-criticism and we are nothing but big fat losers if we don't stop using GOP propaganda points. If there is one single positive step all Democrats could take today to ensure a fighting chance in this election I submit it would be a promise to never, EVER use the same words to describe each other as the professional GOP smear machine uses to attack us. That simple pledge could go a long way toward keeping us straight on what this fight is really all about.

A good rule of thumb is to temper your argument with a fellow Democrat when you realize that someone overhearing it could mistake you for Rush Limbaugh or a FOXNews "analyst," if they didn't know any better. It's a very disconcerting feeling. I know. I've done it. It's a big mistake.




 
Misunderstanding


... how do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? I'll tell you how I respond: I'm amazed. I'm amazed that there is such misunderstanding of what our country is about, that people would hate us. I am, I am -- like most Americans, I just can't believe it. Because I know how good we are, and we've go to do a better job of making our case. ---- GWB 10/11/01


A photo from TV shows an Iraqi prisoner with a hood over his head, standing on a box and with wires connected to his hands. Photo: Sky News

United States soldiers at a prison outside Baghdad have been accused of forcing Iraqi prisoners into acts of sexual humiliation and other abuses.

The charges, first announced by the military in March, were documented by photographs taken by guards in the prison.

Some of the photographs, and descriptions of others, were broadcast in the US on Wednesday by a CBS television news program and were verified by military officials.

Of the six people reported in March to be facing preliminary charges, three have been recommended for courts martial.

The program reported that poorly trained US reservists were forcing Iraqis to conduct simulated sexual acts in order to break down their will before they were turned over to others for interrogation.

In one photograph naked Iraq prisoners stand in a human pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in English.

In another, a prisoner stands on a box, his head covered, wires attached to his body. The news show said that, according to the army, he had been told that if he fell off the box he would be electrocuted. Other photographs show male prisoners positioned to simulate sex with each other.

"The pictures show Americans, men and women, in military uniforms, posing with naked Iraqi prisoners," a transcript said.

"And in most of the pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing, pointing or giving the camera a thumbs-up."

The program's producers said the army also had photographs showing a detainee with wires attached to his genitals and another that showed a dog attacking a prisoner.

The photographs were taken inside Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad, where US forces have been holding hundreds of Iraqis.


---


The Abu Ghurayb (pronounced ah-boo GRAYB), [Abu Ghraib] prison is located approximately 20 miles west of Baghdad is where Saddam Kamal (who was head of the Special Security Organization) oversaw the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners. The prison was under the control of the Directorate of General Security (DGS) also known as the Amn al-Amm.

As many as 4000 prisoners were executed at Abu Ghraib Prison in 1984. At least 122 male prisoners were executed at Abu Ghraib prison in February/ March 2000. A further 23 political prisoners were executed there in October 2001.



Finally, the attitude of the Iraqis toward the American people -- it's an interesting question. They're really pleased we got rid of Saddam Hussein. And you can understand why. This is a guy who was a torturer, a killer, a maimer; there's mass graves. I mean, he was a horrible individual that really shocked the country in many ways, shocked it into a kind of -- a fear of making decisions toward liberty. That's what we've seen recently. Some citizens are fearful of stepping up --- GWB 4/13/04



Full story from 60 Minutes II, here.

Update:

Rule of law or men?


Hundreds of Fayli (Shi'a) Kurds and other citizens of Iranian origin, who had disappeared in the early 1980's during the Iran-Iraq war, reportedly were being held incommunicado at the Abu Ghurayb prison. Such persons have been detained without charge for close to 2 decades in extremely harsh conditions.


Yesterday, George W. Bush argued that he has the same power right here in America. The opposing counsel had this to say about that:

...when you take his argument at core, it is: "Trust us." And who's saying, "trust us"? The executive branch. And why do we have the great writ?

We have the great writ because we didn't trust the executive branch when we founded this government. That's why the government saying "trust us" is no excuse for taking away and driving a truck through the right of habeas corpus and the Fifth Amendment that "no man shall be deprived of liberty except upon due process of law." We have a small problem here. One citizen -- we're not talking about thousands -- one citizen caught up in a problem in Afghanistan. Is it better to give him rights, or is it better to start a new dawn of saying there are circumstances where you can't file a writ of habeas corpus, and there are circumstances where you can't get due process? I think not.

I would urge the court not to go down that road. I would urge the court to find that citizens can only be detained by law. And here there is no law. If there is any law at all, it is the executive's own secret definition of whatever "enemy combatant" is. And don't fool yourselves into thinking that that means somebody coming off a battlefield, because they've used it in Chicago, they've used it in New York, and they've used it in Indiana.


But, we're good and they're evil. We have nothing to worry about.




Wednesday, April 28, 2004

 
Los Angeles Times Orwellian Web Headline Of The Day

"U.S. Committed to Fallouja Talks"

By Tony Perry, Patrick J. McDonnell, Daryl Strickland 9:53 a.m.

Hours after spectacular firefight, several blasts ring out in the city as U.S. planes attack"



Tuesday, April 27, 2004

 
There Are "Terrorists" And Then There Are Terrorists

Via Orcinus I find that a real live, rock 'em sock 'em terrorist/assassin was arrested by pure luck last week:

Police came upon Breit after an anonymous caller reported a gunshot going off in his apartment Sunday night.

When officers arrived, Breit told them, "I screwed up."

He explained he accidentally shot off his AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifle in his home, blowing a hole through his door frame.

Breit agreed to a search of his house and car, according to the complaint.

The search turned up several hundred rounds of ammunition, components for pipe bombs, shotguns, more than 700 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, a cannon fuse and a recipe for dynamite.

The search also turned up a list of federal officials, political and public figures with the word "marked," next to the names. Breit told agents it meant "marked to die," because the people were liberal, opposed to gun rights or opposed to the current government.

Police also found a note that reads: "I will die for my cause, for it is just. I won't put my hands up and surrender -- I will not rest till I purge these United States from the treasonist (sic) parasites."


What the Sun-Times story neglects to tell readers is that it appears that nearly the entirety of his targets were Democrats and liberals. That information comes from a news release from the Brady Campaign:

Federal agents say they recovered seven guns, more than 1,300 rounds of ammunition, pipe bomb making components and other explosives, a list of government officials and political and public figures with the word "marked" written next to them, and a written plan for 15 heavily armed men to kill 1,500 people at a Democratic presidential meeting.

Breit's library included The Turner Diaries, the anti-government cult novel that inspired Timothy McVeigh, and Guns, Freedom and Terrorism, the book authored by National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, investigators said.


[...]

Information about this case is nowhere to be found at the Web sites of either the FBI or the Justice Department -- though of course, both carry voluminous reports discussing threats from international terrorists. And of course, the FBI has a full phalanx of reportage on various aspects of "eco-terrorism," which is currently the agency's prime domestic-terrorism focus


Hey, this guy is nothing like an eco-terrorist. He was just planning to do what many would consider a good deed, fighting the good fight, respecting the culture of life and all that. It's not like he's out of the mainstream or anything:

You know, there are two wars going on in the world right now. There's the United States war against international terrorism and there is the Democrat Party war against George W. Bush.


The good news is that the government is ruthlessly running down the terrorists who are a real danger. Like this evil web-master:

Not long after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a group of Muslim students led by a Saudi Arabian doctoral candidate held a candlelight vigil in the small college town of Moscow, Idaho, and condemned the attacks as an affront to Islam.

Today, that graduate student, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, is on trial in a heavily guarded courtroom here, accused of plotting to aid and to maintain Islamic Web sites that promote jihad.

As a Web master to several Islamic organizations, Mr. Hussayen helped to maintain Internet sites with links to groups that praised suicide bombings in Chechnya and in Israel. But he himself does not hold those views, his lawyers said. His role was like that of a technical editor, they said, arguing that he could not be held criminally liable for what others wrote.

Civil libertarians say the case poses a landmark test of what people can do or whom they can associate with in the age of terror alerts. It is one of the few times anyone has been prosecuted under language in the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, which makes it a crime to provide "expert guidance or assistance" to groups deemed terrorist.


I feel safer just knowing this computer geek is behind bars. He may not actually believe in everything that appears on that web-site, but he ought to be a little bit more careful about the company he keeps.

Yet, I worry that a fine upstanding gun-owner like Mr Breit could be persecuted just for "screwing up" and firing off his AK-47 inside his home, bringing the jack-booted thugs of the Federal Gestapo to his door. It's not like he actually offed a bunch of Democrats or anything. You can't blame a guy for dreaming.

I'm just glad that a patriot like John Ashcroft is in charge of these things. He knows how to set the right priorities.



 
Let Freedom Ring

Our quest -- our quest for freedom -- our quest for freedom is around the world. Good foreign policy is a foreign policy that insists upon freedom in our own neighborhood. Good foreign policy is a policy that insists upon freedom in parts of the world where there's hatred and the lack of hope. That's why I will continue to work, so long as I'm President, for a vision of peace based upon the cornerstone of free societies. And we will succeed. George W. Bush


Headlines on FoxNews at 12 noon, Tuesady, April 27, 2004:


Police Clash With Terror Suspects in Damascus

Fallujah Shaken by Intense Blasts, Gunfire

Marines engaged in door-to-door fighting in Fallujah; U.S. troops kill 64 gunmen during heavy battle in Najaf

Related Stories

Iraqi to U.N.: We Want 'Complete Sovereignty'
Kidnappers Threaten to Kill Italians in
Blair: Britain Has Sufficient Troops in Iraq
Fight Goes Door-to-Door




Friday, April 23, 2004

 
What Does Perle Want From Chalabi?

Via Kevin, I find this question from Juan Cole about our good friend Ahmad:

It would be really interesting to know the list of secret promises Chalabi has given Perle (and presumably the Israelis through Perle) that would explain this Neocon fervor for the man.


The question rang a bell for me and I recalled that I had written about this very thing a little over a year ago in this post in which I discussed at great lengths the delusions already being perpetrated in the name of "demahcracy." I excerped a very interesting Washington Post article that contained this little gem:


In public comments last month, Perle suggested that installing Chalabi in power in Baghdad would alleviate any Muslim fears of U.S. imperialist aims. It would also improve the chances for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Perle said, because "Chalabi and his people have confirmed that they want a real peace process, and that they would recognize the state of Israel."


It all comes back to "Clean Break."



 
Myth Takes

On TAPPED today, Matt talks about Victor Davis Hansen's lame assertion that left wing arguments about the war are "myths." In his usual convincing fashion, Matt demolishes Hansen's tired wingnut defense that while the WMD issue was put forth perhaps "erroneously" it doesn't matter because there were other good reasons for invading. And anyway, when everything comes up roses it won't matter why we did it. Matt gets to the meat of the matter and brings up the related fact that the repeated assertions of "grave and gathering" danger made majorities of the public believe until this day in what has been proven to be a complete falsehood about Saddam's WMD and ties to terrorists. He says:

I've written previously, these false beliefs correlate highly with support for the war. Now there's a case to be made that the president's done the right thing here. I can imagine an argument that the American people are just too unsophisticated to grasp the needs of American grand strategy and that, therefore, they need to be tricked into doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. But if that's the case you want to make, you need to produce an argument. Just deriding liberal arguments as myths when they are, in fact, perfectly accurate doesn't cut it.


I can imagine that argument, too, particularly coming from a bunch of phony Straussians. But it would be more than a little bit contrary to Crusader Codpiece's happy talk about liberating the Iraqi people and in total contradiction to the self-righteous Republican oratory about their commitment to freedom and democracy. Let's be clear about the real "myths" at play here.

If you look closely at the last few years you have no choice but to believe that Republicans think democracy itself is a myth. For instance, there was that little matter of impeachment over a private sexual matter -- a manipulation of the constitution to overturn the public will, to which the public, thankfully, registered its displeasure in midterm elections and polls. Not two years later there was the bizarre sight of Republicans in Florida professing that arbitrary deadlines and the mere possibility of human error were more important than the principle of making sure that all votes were duly counted --- even by judges who are charged with matters of life and death every day. Now we see Republicans slyly admitting that the public needs to be tricked into doing the right thing rather than being told the truth and being allowed to make their wishes known. It's been clear for quite a while to anyone paying attention that the GOP "reverence" for the principles of freedom and democracy is strictly a marketing device.

And this may present a little problem for Junior's Freedom Crusade because even though some Americans may be, shall we say, "biased" enough to believe that all Arab bad guys must be in cahoots and trying to kill us, I doubt that either Americans or Iraqis are gullible enough to believe that "freedom and democracy" can possibly mean this:

The Bush administration's plans for a new caretaker government in Iraq would place severe limits on its sovereignty, including only partial command over its armed forces and no authority to enact new laws, administration officials said Thursday.

[...]

The arrangement would be, I think as we are doing today, that we would do our very best to consult with that interim government and take their views into account," said Marc Grossman, under secretary of state for political affairs. But he added that American commanders will "have the right, and the power, and the obligation" to decide.


Sure, you can call a foreign military occupation "freedom" and you can say that "democracy" is a caretaker government or a handpicked governing council, but that doesn't make it so. What it does do is make a mockery of the very values we are supposedly trying to impart. A good number of Americans see it, most of the rest of the world sees it and the Iraqi people definitely see it. At this point it might be better part to have Junior just shut the hell up. His mindless blathering just draws attention to our government's rank hypocrisy.






Thursday, April 22, 2004

 
The Enemy Within


History is going to show that a nutcase by the name of Laurie Mylroie and a group of equally nutty followers, including the Vice President and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, led the United States into a war on the basis of a daffy conspiracy theory.

The proposal, pressed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, called for President George W. Bush to declare Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as an enemy combatant in the war on terror. This would have allowed Yousef to be transferred from his cell at the U.S. Bureau of Prison’s “supermax” penitentiary in Florence, Colo., to a U.S. military installation.

Wolfowitz contended that U.S. military interrogators—unencumbered by the presence of Yousef’s defense lawyer—might be able to get the inmate to confess what he and the lawyer have steadfastly denied: that he was actually an Iraqi intelligence agent dispatched by Saddam to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 as revenge for the first Persian Gulf War.

The previously unreported Wolfowitz proposal—and the high-level consideration it got within the Justice Department—sheds new light on the Bush administration’s willingness to expand its use of enemy-combatant declarations inside the United States beyond the three alleged terrorists, two of them American citizens, who have already been designated by the White House.



Actually believing this nonsensical conspiracy theory about Ramsi Youssef, and attempting to change 200 years of legal precedent in order to prove it, would be the equivalent of Bill Clinton using Oliver Stone's JFK as the basis for prosecuting the remaining members of the Johnson administration for the assassination of Kennedy.

There is no greater reason to get rid of Bush than to put this little Mylroie/Wolfowitz freakshow back in its little Lyndon Larouche conspiracy corner.


 
RIP

The Memory Hole Photos of Military Coffins (Casualties From Iraq) at Dover Air Force Base


While the Republicans are trying to distract everyone with spooky tales of the boogey man, we all must remember that Americans are already dying every single day in a useless, goddamned war. Again.




 
They're Comin' Ta Git Yah!

House OKs Speedy Elections if Attacked

Get out your gas masks. And I don't mean because of an impending bio weapon attack. I'm talking about the impending Republican gasbag attack.

The Mighty Wurlitzer is pumping up the volume and I'm sure the media are panting and groaning with anticipation of another RNC generated spin cycle.

Critics of the 45-day election plan said it was both too short a time for some states to prepare for elections and too long to leave Congress in a paralyzed state. Several warned of a martial law condition, with the executive branch taking over legislative authorities such as declaring war during the 45 days that Congress is unable to function.


"A catastrophe that could prevent whole states from being represented for 45 days is at the heart of the concern," said Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., another backer of amending the Constitution.



Run for your lives!

Hearings were also scheduled on the issue of incapacitation, or how to define when a member who is still alive is unable to carry out his congressional duties, possibly because of a biological or chemical attack.


As our Dear Leader once sagely inquired, "what's the difference?"




 
Truth "Available Soon"

Susan reports the shocking news that the Bush administration lies about absolutely everything.


Six months have passed since the Phoenix reported that the US Census Bureau’s latest income and poverty reports contained significant errors (see "The Politics of Poverty," News and Features, October 10, 2003). The reworked numbers, which will show that median after-tax household income declined far more in 2002 than the bureau reported, have been ready since January, according to sources in the agency. All that remained was to work out a "release strategy," according to one manager in the Housing and Household Economics Statistics Division. A follow-up call in March to find out when the new numbers would be made public yielded this information from Dan Weinberg, chief of the division: the bureau still needs to establish a "release strategy." It’s starting to look an awful lot like the "release strategy" is to not release the new numbers at all.

As first reported by the Phoenix last fall, the bureau used erroneous marginal tax rates in calculating 2001 data. As a result, the reports released last September falsely claimed that median after-tax household income remained stable in 2002, when in fact it dropped significantly — probably about 1.5 percent. The Census Bureau conceded the error and promised to redo the figures.

Since then, the words "Available Soon!" have adorned the Web page where the after-tax figures should be (ferret.bls.census.gov/macro/032003/rdcall/toc.htm). Meanwhile, the original report, containing incorrect data, is still available from the bureau’s main page — as are the September press release and briefing documents that tout the false numbers as evidence that things are not so bad. The bureau has known that this is not true for six months, and has had the corrected data in hand for at least three.

This would hardly be the first time that, given a choice between an upbeat falsehood and a dour truth, the Bush administration embraced the comfortable lie.


In other news, George W. Bush won the Nobel Peace Prize for smiting evil doers everywhere and bringing freedom to the world. You can look it up.



 
Another Whiff 'o Freedom

Via Kelley Kramer:

A military contractor has fired Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker whose photograph of flag-draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers was published in Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times.

Silicio was let go yesterday for violating U.S. government and company regulations, said William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft, the contractor that employed Silicio at Kuwait International Airport.

[...]

Pentagon officials yesterday said the government's policy defers to the sensitivities of bereaved families. "We've made sure that all of the installations who are involved with the transfer of remains were aware that we do not allow any media coverage of any of the stops until (the casket) reaches its final destination," said Cynthia Colin, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Maytag also fired David Landry, a co-worker who recently wed Silicio.

Silicio said she never sought to put herself in the public spotlight. Instead, she said, she hoped the publication of the photo would help families of fallen soldiers understand the care and devotion that civilians and military crews dedicate to the task of returning the soldiers home.



Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of democracy. I love democracy, don't you?


 
Framing Fear

Bush warned the editors that the United States "is a battlefield in the war on terror" and said he can understand public fears of a terrorist attack before the November election. "This is a hard country to defend," he said. "Our intelligence is good. It's just never perfect, is the problem. We are disrupting some cells here in America. We're chasing people down. But it is a -- we've got a big country."

On Tuesday evening, Bush told Republican congressional leaders during a meeting at the White House that it was all but certain that terrorists would attempt a major attack on the United States before the election, according to a congressional aide. The leaders were struck by Bush's definitiveness and gravity, the aide said.

Still, Bush told the editors, the administration is "making good progress in the defense of America."


Condi said similar things the other day, as well. So, what's the deal? Are they hearing some of that famous "chatter" or is this some kind of election year gambit?

Since they lie by reflex, it's hard to tell, and while I am this close to believing the absolute worst about these people, I haven't yet concluded that they are capable of controlling a massive enough conspiracy to actively allow another terrorist attack for political purposes. So, I expect that this is just Framing The WOT for Dummies.

First and foremost they want to ratchet up the fear level so that everyone will gather around their hero Boy George. For whatever reason they believe that people trust him to keep the babies safe. I doubt that, but I agree that it is a default position for those who aren't paying much attention or are not very bright. Terrorist-attack-scary-president-bullhorn-bombs-safe.

Secondly, this frames the election in case there actually is an escalation of terrorism and I don't think it matters all that much if it's on American soil. After their blatently phony partisan reading of the Spanish election it's clear that the Republicans are going to say that voting for anyone other than George W. Bush is rewarding terrorism. Osama hates Bush, therefore we must love Bush or be accused of appeasing Osama. Nice and Neat. And if Kerry allows any daylight between himself and Bush on national security, he's "cutting and running," and appeasing the terrorists, too.

But, I think this fear mongering is an opportunity. I say go right in his face and hammer him for saying that the mighty USA can't protect itself from a bunch of pissant terrorists. (It's logical, of course, that we can't protect ourselves against all possibilities, but since the Republicans successfully tossed logic down the garbage disposal for the last four years, I see no reason why we should allow them to dredge it out now.) Our purpose is to get this dangerous incompetent out of the White House.

If we do get hit before the election, we've been innoculated because we said he wasn't adequately protecting America. Time for a change. If we don't get hit, Bush doesn't get the credit because he's already admitted that he doesn't think the country can be protected. Its dumb luck.

"This is a hard country to defend?" That's defeatist talk, boy. But it's no wonder, coming from the man who vacationed through the month of August before the first terrorist attacks while the entire intelligence community was running around with its hair on fire. Looks like you still haven't learned from from your mistakes. You've had almost three years to shore up our defenses, the treasury is almost bankrupted and now you whine to us that the country is a battlefield but it's really big so you can't protect it?

You refused to figure out what went wrong the first time until the widows of the dead insisted; you wasted months before you agreed to a new department of Homeland Security and you still haven't funded it; you decided to fight a foreign war based on bad intelligence and phony claims of grave danger, tying down our troops in Iraq when they could be catching the terrorists overseas and protecting us here at home. (In case you forgot, that's what the National Guard is supposed to do, flyboy.)

Now you tell us the terrorists are planning to attack us again and there's not much you can do about it?


It's time for a new president who'll put the safety of the American people first.





Wednesday, April 21, 2004

 
Compare and Contrast

Intelligent, mature and rich in educational backround and experience.

vs

major strength is his ability to work with others. He makes a welcome addition to any group or team effort.

---

He utilizes the English language expertly, both orally and in writing. He is an alert and active original thinker with great potential...

vs.

a good representative of the military ... in the business world.

---
[He] constantly reviewed tactics and lessons learned in...operations and applied his experience at every opportunity

vs

I have personally observed his participation and without exception, his performance has been noteworthy.

---

The detachment of this officer will be a definite loss to the service. He is the dedicated type that we should retain and it is hoped that he will be of further perhaps earlier greater service to his country, which is his aim in life at this time

vs

[This officer] has not been observed at this unit during the period of report.


Read the whole thing at The American Street



Tuesday, April 20, 2004

 
Who's On First?

Pressed on how Iraq would assume sovereignty amid weeks of spiraling violence, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called June 30th "just one step in a process," and not "a magical date" in which the U.S.-led occupation will shift responsibilities to a new Iraqi government.

But at a news conference last Friday with British prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said of the June 30 handover:

"One of the essential commitments we've made to the Iraqi people is this: They will control their own country. No citizen of America or Britain would want the government of their nation in the hands of others and neither do the Iraqis. This is why the June 30th date for the transfer of sovereignty will be kept."






 
Crisco Drippings

This is obviously one of those days designed to make me feel like I'm not completely going crazy. (I'm grateful for this because I have a terrible cold and I feel like driving my car into a guard rail to end the misery.) But, glory of all glories, the Washington Post has published an editorial taking Attorney General Ashcroft to task for his disgraceful testimony last week.

IN HIS TESTIMONY last week before the Sept. 11 commission, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft loosed a remarkable attack on Jamie S. Gorelick, a commission member who served as deputy attorney general during part of the Clinton administration. The "single greatest structural cause for the September 11th problem," Ashcroft said, "was the wall that segregated or separated criminal investigators and intelligence agents," and the "basic architecture for the wall . . . was contained in a classified memorandum" from 1995 -- which Mr. Ashcroft had conveniently declassified for the hearing. "Full disclosure," he said, "compels me to inform you that the author of this memorandum is a member of the commission" -- that is, Ms. Gorelick. Mr. Ashcroft's allegations, which triggered criticism and demands for her resignation from prominent Republicans, are grossly unfair.

[...]

Pretending that such a deep-seated institutional problem was Ms. Gorelick's single-handed creation should have been beneath the attorney general.



It wasn't all that much commented upon as far as I can tell, but it truly was one of the most shocking performances by an Attorney General I have ever seen. As I wrote in my mildmannered piece entitled Consummate Prick:

Has there ever been a more blatantly partisan Attorney General than the Crisco Kid? This testimony today was contemptuous, dishonest and disturbingly inappropriate.


I also haven't heard anything from Senator Kill Bill yet about citing Thomas Pickard for perjury:


BEN-VENISTE: And you told the staff according to this statement that Mr. Ashcroft told you that he did not want to hear about this [terrorism] anymore. Is that correct?

PICKARD: That is correct.


Ashcroft denied he ever said that. Somebody's lyin' under oath.




 
Junior Mint


President-elect Bush asked some practical questions about how things worked, but he did not offer or hint at his desires.

The Joint Chiefs' staff had placed a peppermint at each place. Bush unwrapped his and popped it into his mouth. Later he eyed Cohen's mint and flashed a pantomime query, Do you want that? Cohen signaled no, so Bush reached over and took it. Near the end of the hour-and-a-quarter briefing, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, noticed Bush eyeing his mint, so he passed it over.


Mmmmm. Candy.




 
Pushn' Polls

Josh and Atrios discuss the new polls showing Kerry falling behind even though Bush has had the worst couple of weeks of his presidency. Quite rightly, Democrats are asking, "what will it take?" Both bloggers ponder the idea that this is because "the president gains as national security and war issues become more salient, even if they are becoming more salient because of what seem to be objectively bad news about his policies."

I think this is essentially correct. People associate war leadership with Bush and when the war is in the news some still feel a rally 'round the president effect. But more importantly, I think it is because John Kerry was becoming a cipher. Without him out there offering a strong rhetorical counter argument, people who don't pay attention to the details get the impression that he's not offering any alternative.

I said a couple of weeks ago:

It's one thing for Kerry to allow Bush to swing in the wind on the pre-9/11 stuff. Let the widows and the whistleblowers take that on. The less partisanship the better. But, Iraq is something else entirely.

Iraq is a crisis and an ongoing problem and it isn't enough for it to be seen blowing up on television. Kerry has got to convince people that Bush is the problem and that he can fix it. Instead, he's acting clueless and disengaged.



A lot of my readers commented that he shouldn't allow himself to get caught up in a specific plan and that his best bet was to lie low. I agree that he needn't offer a specific plan, but I disagreed that he should lie low. I believe that he needs to offer some hot, critical rhetoric about Bush's mistakes and that he should simply say, over and over again, that Bush can't solve the problem because Bush is the problem. I suggested he say (among other things):

"...this crisis untimately requires a political solution and George W. Bush has run out of political options. A new president and a fresh start are what's required to fix this problem. Only then can we rebuild the trust of our allies and go back to the drawing board with all the parties and set a proper course for a free and democratic Iraq."



Not that I have any illusions that his people are reading this blog, but I was nonetheless I gratified to hear him on Russert and quoted in USA Today saying:

More U.S. troops and a new president could be needed to win international support for U.S. efforts in postwar Iraq, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Sunday.The Massachusetts senator said President Bush has created a "quandary" for the nation by failing to develop a broad coalition to fight the war, to secure Iraq and to let countries that didn't fight participate in rebuilding.

"It may well be that we need a new president, a breath of fresh air, to re-establish our credibility with the rest of the world" and bring other countries into Iraq, Kerry said on NBC's Meet the Press.


If Kerry doesn't make it clear that Bush is the problem, there are enough people out there who are likely to do a rally round the flag bit to swing the election. Saying "I've got a plan" every five seconds isn't going to get the job done. It's about framing the election in terms of Junior's mistakes, which considering the news of the last few weeks shouldn't be all that difficult. And it has to be done with the kind of rhetoric that makes the media focus on Kerry.

Up to now, Kerry's people have been convinced that it wasn't his responsibility:

A Kerry spokesman told Salon on Thursday that it's incumbent on Bush -- not Kerry -- to address the crisis in Iraq. "What has the president said about this?" the Kerry spokesman asked. "He needs to explain what his policy is, what his plan is to address what's going on right now. But he's been down on his ranch in Crawford. The spotlight isn't on John Kerry. The spotlight needs to be on Bush. He's the president, and he's the person who has carved out these policies."



That was the problem. The spotlight is on Bush and unless Kerry sticks his neck out a little bit, Americans don't even know he exists on the issue. People don't have to know what he's going to do in detail --- in fact they don't want to listen to it. But, they must be convinced that Bush has screwed up the War on Terror and that he is now the greatest impediment to fixing it before they will be persuaded to abandon the president in "wartime." It's Kerry's job to make that case and then to persuade them that his experience, his philosophy and his leadership qualities make him the better man to get that job done. The Kerry campaign made a mistake in assuming that the press could do that for them. It appears they are changing course now. We'll see if the polls improve.

Update:

Mistah Kurtz's column explains some of the problem:

When President Bush delivered a routine stump speech to a group of New Mexico homeowners on March 26, CNN and Fox News each carried his appearance for 35 minutes, and MSNBC for 33 minutes.

When John Kerry gave what was billed as a major address on national security at George Washington University on March 17, he was knocked off the screen by a large explosion in Baghdad. CNN and Fox each dropped Kerry (who had been reduced to small box) after three minutes, and MSNBC never picked him up. But as the Iraq coverage continued, all three networks carried Vice President Cheney in California attacking Kerry as weak on national security -- Fox for 28 minutes, MSNBC for 23 and CNN for 13.

In the daily battle for airtime, Bush has drawn more than three times as much live cable coverage as his Democratic challenger, yet another example of the advantages of incumbency.

A review by The Washington Post, using a video monitoring service, finds that the cable news networks have covered more Bush events and stayed with them longer. From March 3, the day after the senator clinched the nomination, through Friday, they have devoted 12 hours and 11 minutes to live appearances by Bush -- including Tuesday's prime-time news conference, which was also carried by NBC, CBS and ABC. Kerry's live cable coverage during this period: 3 hours 47 minutes.

Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt calls the coverage "a testament to who's making news. . . . We think being on the cable news programs is very important because people who follow politics and cover politics keep a close eye on their TVs during the day."

[...]


MSNBC Vice President Mark Effron says that "we take more of President Bush when he's acting in his legitimate role as president of the United States." Yet even "if he's in a plant talking about the economy, for our world, that's news." Kerry, says Effron, "hasn't exactly been out there grandstanding and making a lot of news." But most of these appearances generate newspaper stories.


Politics is TV with the sound turned off. For many Americans, if you aren't on TV, you don't exist.







 
Extension Chord

Via Catch.com, this e-mail (excerpted) from the wife of a soldier in Iraq. She describes how her husband's company was literally waiting at the airport to leave for home when their tour was abruptly extended. Her husband briefly stayed behind but the rest of his unit was ambushed on their way back and one of the soldiers was killed:

This extension was a death sentence for that poor soldier. This extension cost three children their father. And it will cost much more. And now, to touchstone: My husband signed up so that he could go to college. If we would have forseen this, there is no way that he would have put his name on that dotted line. He has missed the birth of his third child.....he could die out there. He's supposed to be sitting safe in Kuwait right now, but instead, he's in a tent because their barracks were taken over by 1st Cavalry soldiers who went in to replace them. They haven't got enough food right now, because there are too many soldiers on that base, and DoD was too short sighted to think that they might end up needing more troops. All their stuff is out to sea at the time being, so they are just sitting ducks waiting for their equipment to come back. This is a fiasco and a logistical nightmare. DoD and Rummy have been denying that there is a troop shortage for MONTHS! General Shinseki predicted this and was forced to retire. In November, Senator McCain called for at least 15,000 more troops. Well, shucks, seems they were right after all.


This is why grunts in the military coin phrases like FUBAR, although this ranks right up there with the FUBARest civilian brass in history. Rummy simply refused to entertain the idea that his RMA, electronic battlefield, third wave wet dream wasn't working. Now, the shit comes down and you've got troops being extended at the very last minute and they don't even have enough food.

I heard McCain on the radio yesterday saying something about mistakes are always made in battle and yadda, yadda, yadda. He cited McArthur's gloriously successful Inchon landing maneuver which was followed by his absurd calculation that the Chinese wouldn't push back into the south as an example of a major achievement followed by a major mistake. Of course, he fails to mention that McArthur followed up that major mistake by insisting that we should start WWIII, and got fired for it, so I'm not sure how much water that argument holds. In any case, we are reaching a point where somebody needs to be fired. For my money, if you want to take care of the ongoing FUBAR problem, that somebody should be George W. Bush.




Monday, April 19, 2004

 
You Can Believe Me or You Can Believe Your Lyin' Eyes

Michael Tomasky gets to the point. It's really very simple:

My overwhelming reaction to the 60 Minutes segment on Bob Woodward's new book and the reports and leaks about the book over the weekend is that Woodward's account shows a man who just doesn't have the intellectual capacity to do this job. This may not strike some readers as a newsflash, I know, but Woodward does shed some new light on the question. Bush took this country in a radically new foreign-policy direction without really thinking through the consequences of his actions; without reckoning in a serious way with the question "What if we're wrong?"; without seeking the input of aides who might have disagreed or painted a more complex picture than the one he wanted painted for him. It's a profoundly irresponsible way to govern.

What his defenders will continue to call his "idealism" -- the belief that God put him in the Oval Office to spread liberty's bounty across the globe and so on -- is in fact a rather shocking shallowness. It's fine and indeed admirable for a world leader to speak this way, to aspire to greatness and fairness for his nation and for the world; Tony Blair did so in the run-up to the war, and his pro-war speeches were considerably more convincing than Bush's. But clearly, Bush actually believes this and looks at global geopolitics this way. This, too, might be fine, if it were balanced by more hard-headed and skeptical assessments, but Bush seems to have embraced it as a totalizing explanation. And as such, it has barred other interpretations of world events at the door.

Even this might be fine, if the consequences had not been so tragic. But once Bush transformed himself in his mind into God's messenger of liberty, things like the State Department's multi-volume report on post-war Iraq -- a report that predicted many of the tragedies that have come to pass -- became irrelevant. What was the research of mere mortals next to the fiery inscriptions of God, emblazoned across his welcoming mind?

And so hundreds are dead today who didn't need to die, because the possibility of their deaths was not supposed to be part of the great plan and therefore was not contemplated in its mandated fullness. There exists no acceptable definition of "idealism" by which the above qualifies as such. Neither is it quite malevolence. Dick Cheney is malevolent, all right, but he's not the president, at least officially; not the one making the final call. It is incompetence. It is shallowness. To put it more colloquially, it?s trying to wish something true; we've all done it in our private lives, so we all know how irresponsible it is.

And it's happening because the guy in charge doesn't know any better. Our first impression was, catastrophically, right.


Yessiree. But to listen to bespectacled, waspy, Episcopalean beltway insider Fred "Nascar" Barnes, this is wrong because "real Americans" like him don't need no stinkin' Kissingerian nuance.

I'll leave it to the inimitable Charles Pierce to retort:

One of the reactions to C-Plus Augustus's prime-time blithering that makes me truly angry is the notion that only elitist Blue Staters expect the president to get from a subject to an object without breaking an ankle, but that the good plain-spoken average American doesn't cotton to such book-larnin', consarn it.

What a huge steaming crock of beans. One of the nice things about being a sportswriter is that you actually get to see a lot of the country and you get to meet a lot of its people, many of them living in places that people like David Brooks and the Crazy Dolphin Queen visit only in their smug condescension. I have seen the sun rise over the Piedmont and I have seen it set over the Mississippi Delta. I know the way Puget Sound looks on a clear morning, and the way the snow blows straight up off the surface of Lake Superior on a cold afternoon. I know how the Ohio sounds, and how it sounds different from how the Fox River sounds. I have played bingo in Wisconsin and I have played poker in Reno and I have gambled on horses in the sweet breezes of Keeneland. I've seen Tracy Chapman in a subway, and Muddy Waters on a midway, and Bob Dylan at Bally's Grand on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. I have seen Michael Jordan play. I have been around.

Don't tell me what this country and its people think -- and, especially, don't be using that "We" thing to do it. Don't tell me that, as a nation, we can't distinguish courage from stubbornness, philosophy from platitudes, and an empty suit from a full one. Don't tell me we prize simplicity when you really mean we prize the simple. Don't tell me about my country and my countrymen, you smarmy, honorarium-fattened, makeup-encrusted hyenas. Don't you freaking dare. I been there.

And, by the way, all of her Beltway Heather pals should note that Peggy Noonan this week intimated that asking the president of the United States what in the hell he's doing makes you less of a real American. Go on. Go on the shows with her again, and know the contempt she feels for your craft. Then, go home and break every damn mirror you own.


It is foolish for Democrats to buy into the notion that it is too dangerous to question Bush's competence to do this job. That is blatent GOP propaganda designed to cow us into discarding a potent argument. The vast majority of American people don't follow politics to the extent that we junkies do and they don't care all that much about the details. But they are remarkably good at cutting through the bullshit when it's right in front of them.

Throughout the 90's the Republicans cried wolf on average of once or twice a week. Clinton was the anti-christ. A corrupt, murdering, philandering communist was running the country. When he was finally caught with his pants down (literally), the American people were fascinated but unmoved. His approval rating remained strong even through impeachment procedings. And that, of course, is what saved him.
And it was because they believed what they saw with their own eyes --- a competent president caught in an entertaining political spectacle that didn't affect their lives.

Bush is dumb. People can see that with their own eyes, too, and Fred Barnes knows it. That's the real subtext of that whole "the grown-ups are back in charge," nonsense. Most people thought that Bush was a middle of the road fella who would listen to his Dad if anything big came up and would calm the partisan waters. After all that wild sex with Clinton he was supposed to be the cigarette in the afterglow. But, they knew he was dumb. Times were so good that quite a few people didn't think it mattered all that much who was president.

After 9/11, people wanted to believe that Bush had risen to the occasion because it was too frightening to think otherwise. The GOP successfully framed criticism as lack of patriotism. And, as with Clinton's TV soap opera, the press liked the big budget war movie. So, for a short time Bush was seen as bold, resolute, strong, decisive, whatever. Unfortunately for him, he then made the huge mistake of selling a war on a demonstrably false premise. They can try to ignore that big fat GOP elephant in the middle of the room, but it isn't going away. There are no weapons of mass destruction and Bush is babbling about turkey farms and mustard gas. He can't testify before the 9/11 commission without Vice President Gepetto. Republicans are writing tell all books about his failures even before his first term is finished. Everyone is being reminded that he never was very bright.

Now, candidates and their surrogates can't go around saying that too obviously because people will begin to feel sorry for him. But, they should be constantly talking about the complexity of the problems we face. They should discuss what leadership really is and tie it in to experience, maturity, trust and brains.

And the rest of us should use humor to hammer the point home. I'll never forget Jon Stewert's countdown of the biggest stories of 2000. The top story of the year was Florida, naturally. We'd been watching footage from the state for one reason or another for the entire 12 months. He ran down the story of the recount and the supreme court decision and then said something like "and at the center of the storm that was Florida this year was one small frightened little boy." At which point he showed a picture of George W. Bush.

It was obvious then and it's obvious now that Bush is in over his head. And Fred Barnes's protestations to the contrary are as phony as Bush senior chomping on that bag of pork rinds.




Sunday, April 18, 2004

 
Fools Rush In

The media reports of smiling Iraqis leading inspectors around, opening up buildings and saying, "See, there's nothing here," infuriated Bush, who then would read intelligence reports showing the Iraqis were moving and concealing things. It wasn't clear what was being moved, but it looked to Bush as if Hussein was about to fool the world again. It looked as if the inspections effort was not sufficiently aggressive, would take months or longer, and was likely doomed to fail.


George W. Bush, Master and Commander of the Royal order of the Codpiece had sworn that you could fool him once, but fool him twice ... won't get fooled again. And Saddam was trying to fool him.

As we all know, this is total crap because VP Gepetto had told GWB that he was going to war over a year before. The president rather endearingly thought he was making a decision that had long ago been made. He's so cute when he's confused.

You can't exactly blame the lil' guy, though. Condi Rice, obviously suffering from a late night of single gal Pinot Grigios with Gwen Ifill, groaned this pile of nonsense when Junior asked her if we should go to war:

"Yes," she said. "Because it isn't American credibility on the line, it is the credibility of everybody that this gangster can yet again beat the international system." As important as credibility was, she said, "Credibility should never drive you to do something you shouldn't do." But this was much bigger, she advised, something that should be done. "To let this threat in this part of the world play volleyball with the international community this way will come back to haunt us someday. That is the reason to do it."


It isn't about American credibility it's about international credibility. Credibility shouldn't drive you to do something you shouldn't do, but if you don't do this international credibility will suffer so you should do it.

This answer explains why Condi's was the only opinion he sought. His poor head ached for days after that one.

He knew what Vice President Cheney thought, and he decided not to ask Secretary of State Colin L. Powell or Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"I could tell what they thought," the president recalled. "I didn't need to ask them their opinion about Saddam Hussein. If you were sitting where I sit, you could be pretty clear. I think we've got an environment where people feel free to express themselves."


Well, sort of:

In all the discussions, meetings, chats and back-and-forth, in Powell's grueling duels with Rumsfeld and Defense, the president had never once asked Powell, Would you do this? What's your overall advice? The bottom line?

Perhaps the president feared the answer. Perhaps Powell feared giving it. It would, after all, have been an opportunity to say he disagreed. But they had not reached that core question, and Powell would not push. He would not intrude on that most private of presidential space -- where a president made decisions of war and peace -- unless he was invited. He had not been invited.

Bush's meeting with Powell lasted 12 minutes. "It was a very cordial conversation," the president recalled. "It wasn't a long conversation," he noted. "There wasn't much debate: It looks like we're headed to war."

The president stated emphatically that though he had asked Powell to be with him and support him in a war, "I didn't need his permission."


He's so wonderfully masterful, isn't he? Especially for someone with his cognitive handicaps. It reminds me of Junior's quote in Woodward's BlowJob Part I:

"I'm the commander. See, I don't have to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."


He didn't need to ask Powell for his opinion because he knew his opinion and anyway he didn't agree with it. Why bother listening to him go on and on and be so, like totally boring? Cheney and Rumsfeld were both telling him he should do it so there was no reason to ask them. They made him feel like a man. However, he did have to ask one other very, very important and highly experienced person her opinion on the matter:

"I asked Karen," the president recalled. "She said if you go to war, exhaust all opportunities to achieve [regime change] peacefully. And she was right. She actually captured my own sentiments."


It's pretty clear that Junior has no sentiments until he talks to Karen to find out what they are.

The only people Junior explicitly asked for opinions on whether to go to war with Iraq were Condi Rice and Karen Hughes. Both women told him he should do it --- Condi babbling something confused about playing international volleyball and Karen basically telling him to look both ways before crossing the street.

Meanwhile Vice President Richelieu sits in the corner saying nothing except a well timed "Saddam's toast" to our Secretary of Oil, Prince Bandar --- who is informed of our decision to go to war before anybody tells the Secretary of State.

Oh, sorry. Bush had informed one other person over the holidays:

The president also informed Karl Rove, his chief political strategist, of his decision over the holidays. Rove had gone to Crawford to brief Bush on the confidential plan for Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. While Laura Bush sat reading a book, Rove gave a PowerPoint presentation on the campaign's strategy, themes and timetable.

Opening his laptop, he displayed for Bush in bold letters on a dark blue background:

PERSONA:

Strong Leader

Bold Action

Big Ideas

Peace in World

More Compassionate America

Cares About People Like Me

Leads a Strong Team




I don't think even Shakespeare could do this farce justice.






Saturday, April 17, 2004

 
Onward Christian Soldiers

In two interviews with Woodward in December, Bush minimized the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction, expressed no doubts about his decision to invade Iraq, and enunciated an activist role for the United States based on it being "the beacon for freedom in the world."

"I believe we have a duty to free people," Bush told Woodward. "I would hope we wouldn't have to do it militarily, but we have a duty."

The president described praying as he walked outside the Oval Office after giving the order to begin combat operations against Iraq, and the powerful role his religious belief played throughout that time.

"Going into this period, I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will. ... I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible. And then, of course, I pray for personal strength and for forgiveness."

The president told Woodward that "I am prepared to risk my presidency to do what I think is right. I was going to act. And if it could cost the presidency, I fully realized that. But I felt so strongly that it was the right thing to do that I was prepared to do so."


Wow, that's quite a sacrifice. And hey, if it costs many thousands of other people their lives he's prepared to do that too.

Asked by Woodward how history would judge the war, Bush replied: "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead."


Maybe sooner than we think.

An unelected simpleton feels strongly that he has a duty to free the world so the mightiest nation on earth has no choice but to do as he says.

Are freedom and democracy great, or what?





 
Comforting

David Brooks admits that he has always been wrong about everything, but he's sure that in 20 years he will be right about something.






Friday, April 16, 2004

 
Freedom Crusade

Both TAPPED and the Political Animal praised Ron Klain's admonition against making mock of President Bush's invocation of religion in his press conference the other night. I think it's probably true that his statement about the "Almighty" giving the gift of freedom to every human being is inspiring to many Americans and shouldn't be laughed at. . However, Klain also seems to imply that the use of the term "unalienable" rights in the Declaration of Independence somehow justifies what appears to be a new global moral crusade to "bring freedom" to the world:

Rather than laughing at the president's invocation of the notion of natural rights to justify his policies in Iraq, Democrats should make it abundantly clear that they share the president's view that all humans are created free and are entitled to enjoy the benefit of that innate freedom. After all, wasn't the idea of an "unalienable" right to liberty put into writing in 1776 by the father of the Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson? And more recently, haven't these been the ideals that Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Gore pursued around the world -- often with great derision from conservatives?

Instead of belittling the president's reliance on the Almighty, Democrats should make clear that we share the president's goals but think that his methods have been deeply flawed. The mission may be from above, but the planning has been from someplace else.


I don't belittle his reliance on the Almighty, but straying from that to a messianic message of "spreading freedom" is quite obviously translating into the belief that the United States may use this as a pretext to invade countries irrespective of international law and civilized behavior. That kind of "liberation" is a goal I most vehemently do not share because the truth of the matter is that the United States is not imbued by the Almighty with omnipotence or any special claim to goodness and wisdom. Our crime statistics our justice system our poverty rate and any number of other serious flaws in our society prove this.

Freedom is a wonderful thing and I'm all for it, but I am a long way from being convinced that the United States of America is the best of all possible free worlds and I am deeply concerned by the idea that we are empowering leaders to take the position that we are so spectacularly superior to all other nations that it is an unalloyed good thing to "free" people around the world, including little children, even if it kills them. The price for this kind of liberation for many an individual is extremely high. It is very, very arrogant to assume that people are willing to pay it.

This is one good reason to have international institutions and a requirement for consensus before nations can go willy nilly "liberating" others. What we may see as "liberation" is oppression and exploitation to someone else, even within the US itself. We are not equipped either morally or intellectually to take this task upon ourselves. We simply do not have all the answers and Thomas Jefferson would be the first to admit that.

This is some dangerous shit, people. This is the kind of thing that makes people start humming "Ride Of The Valkyries," and talking about Ubermenschen. I thought the shop worn myth of American Exceptionalism was disturbing but the "American Freedom Crusade" scares the hell out of me.






 
Bush and Blair Transcript

Q: Mr. President, some of your critics are saying that it's a political ploy by you to stand firm to this June 30th deadline, especially that you don't have an Iraqi organization to transfer power over to. What do you say to that? And what organization would you like to see transferred power over to - both of you, if you could answer that?


BUSH: The important thing to know is that if you look into an Iraqi soul you will see someone who doesn't know what time it is. See, you have to remember these people come from a place where if you cut 'n run you wind up raped in a grave, gassed and maimed and they can't forget that so we have to be tough and stay the course. That's why I will lead a coalition of the willing and I WILL disarm Saddam Hussein.

You have to understand that we don't know what fear is because we are free. And we love freedom and being free and we want everybody to be free so they can love freedom everywhere where there can be freedom and people can be free. See, that means they'll have hope. When they think we might cut 'n run and not stay the course time goes by very slowly because you think there will be maiming and torture and killing and mass graves and gassing and then you won't know what freedom is because you won't be free like we are free and everyone else should be free. That's why we will smoke 'em out o' their caves, where the evil doers hide in spider holes hating freedom.

We are great countries because we believe that freedom is for everybody not just us so we will make everybody in the world free so the world will be a better place of peace and hope.

We will show these Iraqis that because they have been tortured and maimed and raped and gassed in massive rooms with their own people that what it takes to be civilized is a document we call the TAR. It's a fantastic historic opportunity for them to learn how to protect tough minorities. I told the Iraqis we are giving them the freedom to be civilized and I meant it.

And the Palestinians have a fantastic opportunity for freedom at this historic moment, too, because they will have a solid foundation of big institutions instead of people just like us. They will live in security measures of peace and freedom. That means folks need to view it as a historic moment so the Palestinian state can live in peace with its neighbors. It's a moment we've got to seize. Because final discussion will become a lot plainer once there's a peaceful state full of hope and freedom. See, you have to understand that we think it's possible because possible is what we think it is. If the Palestinians find peace and hope and the neighbors of the Palestinians will support the emergence of hope and peace in a peaceful state of hope it will be a fantastic opportunity to love their neighbors like they'd love to loved themselves.

This is a momentous, historic seizure. But, I don't want to put words in the Prime Minister's mouth:

BLAIR: Fuck. me.






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