Saturday, August 30, 2003

If you read nothing else this weekend, read this. Best get a beer or two and settle in because this concise and full look at the failure of US diplomacy leading up to The War runs 10 pages:
The lack of coordination between the State and Defense Departments was a further problem. American diplomats emphasized the wmd argument because that allowed war to be justified in terms of Iraqi violations of mandatory UN resolutions. Meanwhile, Defense Department officials too often played up the al Qaeda link, which did not resonate anywhere outside the United States.

In fact, Rumsfeld's frequent public appearances harmed rather than helped his country's case in the court of world opinion. His blunt language may have won him a few laughs in domestic settings, but his every gaffe and insult was greeted with disgust throughout Europe. Public diplomacy is supposed to persuade, not infuriate. German officials still cannot forgive Rumsfeld's rhetorical lumping together of Germany with countries such as Cuba on the grounds that all refused to support the war. Overcoming Germany's postwar pacifism would not have been easy in the best of circumstances, but challenging Germany's core democratic values by comparing it to dictatorships only caused its diplomats to dig in their heels.

Rumsfeld's reputed disdain for NATO, the UN, and any force other than the American military rendered him particularly unsuitable to pushing Washington's case in Europe. Yet, to the dismay of many American and British officials alike, he persisted throughout the crisis in accepting interview requests and maintaining the highest possible profile. The most candid quote of the whole failed diplomatic effort came from Spain's normally reticent prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, a crucial Bush ally, who broke precedent by complaining that in order to build a coalition, "we need a lot of Powell and not much of Rumsfeld."

Even Rumsfeld, however, cannot be blamed for the diplomatic disaster in Turkey, where parliament voted on March 1 to block the deployment of U.S. troops and thereby prevented them from opening a northern front against Saddam. Fault for that debacle lies with the whole Bush administration. Despite their professed admiration for Turkish democracy, American diplomats were just not prepared to deal with the inexperienced and rowdy Turkish legislature. Moreover, almost nothing was done to try and turn around the Turkish public, which staunchly opposed the war. Instead, the Turkish press ran frequent reports of bullying by and insults from U.S. officials, as well as their attempts to bluff Turkey with phony deadlines. At the beginning of the crisis, Wolfowitz boasted that Turkish support for the deployment of American troops was "assured." But when things began to get dicey, rather than insisting that Powell travel to Ankara to persuade key Turkish legislators one by one, both the Pentagon and the State Department relied on the Turkish military to assure a victory. Given that the measure ultimately lost by a mere handful of votes, it seems obvious that providing some personal care and attention would have made the difference. But the Bush administration failed to do this. The subsequent Turkish vote not only undercut U.S. military operations, but also emboldened smaller countries to stand up to U.S. pressure on the Security Council.

American diplomats have since lamented the fact that no serious public diplomacy strategy existed to persuade key foreign publics or at least reduce opposition. It is hard to overstate how important this failure was. Crucial votes were lost in democratic countries such as Chile and Mexico. No matter how close their personal ties to Bush were, Presidents Ricardo Lagos and Vicente Fox simply could not sell a matter of war and peace to their constituents by saying that they did not want to upset the White House or risk trade retaliation. Similarly, had public opinion not been so overwhelmingly antiwar in France and throughout Europe, it seems fair to assume that even Chirac's opposition would not have been so rigid.

The problem, in sum, was that the United States did not approach its prewar diplomacy with a coherent and comprehensive strategy. Although the use of decisive and overwhelming military force may have been his signature at the Pentagon, Powell did not convince the Bush administration to adopt a similar approach to diplomacy. Perhaps that was because Cheney and Rumsfeld would not support such a strategy. Or perhaps the administration as a whole just did not think securing international legitimacy for the war was particularly important. Whether the reason was incompetence or ideology, however, Washington's failure to maintain diplomatic consistency on its justification for war, to synchronize force and diplomacy, to plan for partial compliance by Iraq, to lay the groundwork for a second resolution, and to win over international opinion constituted a diplomatic defeat of the highest order for American foreign policy.

A different view of Howard Dean:
Aside from what I had read and heard over the years, I didn't know much about Dean when I arrived in Vermont this winter to become a reporter in the state capital. And while I knew (or thought I did, anyway) what it takes for politicians to be successful, I really was quite unaware of the manual for political survival in Vermont.

I assumed, like many flatlanders (the state's not-so-affectionate name for non-natives), that Vermont was left-leaning and that Dean was its liberal standard-bearer. After all, wasn't this the state that had adopted equal rights for same-sex couples? And hadn't Dean supported that measure?

I can't claim to be an insider yet -- my grandchildren, if they're born here, probably won't be able to shed the "flatlander" label -- but I have watched with some amusement as members of the national media have come scouring the Green Mountains in search of the "real" Howard Dean. I think many have left with a distorted picture of the state and its politics.

Everybody knows that Chemical Ali ordered the gassing of the Kurds back in 1988, right? I mean, the press and the WH has been telling us that for ages, so it MUST be true.

Well, maybe not:
MECHANICSBURG, Pa. - It was no surprise that President Bush, lacking smoking-gun evidence of Iraq`s weapons programs, used his State of the Union address to re-emphasize the moral case for an invasion: "The dictator who is assembling the world`s most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages, leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or disfigured."

The accusation that Iraq has used chemical weapons against its citizens is a familiar part of the debate. The piece of hard evidence most frequently brought up concerns the gassing of Iraqi Kurds at the town of Halabja in March 1988, near the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. President Bush himself has cited Iraq`s "gassing its own people," specifically at Halabja, as a reason to topple Saddam Hussein.

But the truth is, all we know for certain is that Kurds were bombarded with poison gas that day at Halabja. We cannot say with any certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds. This is not the only distortion in the Halabja story.

I am in a position to know because, as the Central Intelligence Agency`s senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and as a professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000, I was privy to much of the classified material that flowed through Washington having to do with the Persian Gulf. In addition, I headed a 1991 Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war against the United States; the classified version of the report went into great detail on the Halabja affair.

This much about the gassing at Halabja we undoubtedly know: it came about in the course of a battle between Iraqis and Iranians. Iraq used chemical weapons to try to kill Iranians who had seized the town, which is in northern Iraq not far from the Iranian border. The Kurdish civilians who died had the misfortune to be caught up in that exchange. But they were not Iraq`s main target.

And the story gets murkier: immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.

The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds` bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent - that is, a cyanide-based gas - which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.

These facts have long been in the public domain but, extraordinarily, as often as the Halabja affair is cited, they are rarely mentioned. A much-discussed article in The New Yorker last March did not make reference to the Defense Intelligence Agency report or consider that Iranian gas might have killed the Kurds. On the rare occasions the report is brought up, there is usually speculation, with no proof, that it was skewed out of American political favoritism toward Iraq in its war against Iran.
Here's a nice story about how the CIA ripped off the Bank of Baghdad in the days before the invasion:
The CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) are accused by International Currency Review, the London-based journal, of mounting a joint ultra-secret operation to electronically remove an estimated $10 billion out of the Iraqi Central Bank hours before the start of Persian Gulf War II. The whereabouts of the money is not known.

“We believe it is in a secret CIA fund which will be used to mount further special services operations, such as tracking down Saddam Hussein,” said the Review’s publisher, Christopher Story.

Story is a former financial advisor to Lady Thatcher when she was Britain’s prime minister. In the past 10 years, he has testified before several congressional committees dealing with financial scandals.

DIA coordinates all intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is headquartered in the Pentagon.

The report is titled “The Great Robbery of the Central Bank of Iraq.” It has been sent to finance ministers of leading nations, the World Bank, the Bank of England and heads of all other major banks.

The report is bound to cause huge embarrassment to President Bush after he signed an executive order on March 23, ordering a worldwide hunt for the hidden assets of Saddam Hussein and his family.

The Review claims that using skilled hackers recruited by the DIA and key Iraqi bank officials who had been bribed to provide secret access codes to the Central Bank’s accounts for Saddam Hussein and his family, the money was transferred out of the bank in a high-tech operation. me the money and doesn't that belong to the Iraqi people? Or have we forgotten about them already......
LOL well it sure looks like the USA will be throwing $$$ away by the handfull over in I-Rak, if this story from a Baghdad blogger is true:
Yesterday, I read how it was going to take up to $90 billion to rebuild Iraq. Bremer was shooting out numbers about how much it was going to cost to replace buildings and bridges and electricity, etc.

Listen to this little anecdote. One of my cousins works in a prominent engineering company in Baghdad- we’ll call the company H. This company is well-known for designing and building bridges all over Iraq. My cousin, a structural engineer, is a bridge freak. He spends hours talking about pillars and trusses and steel structures to anyone who’ll listen.

As May was drawing to a close, his manager told him that someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn’t too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses (mumblings about soil composition and water depth, expansion joints and girders) and came up with a number they tentatively put forward- $300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc.

Let’s pretend my cousin is a dolt. Let’s pretend he hasn’t been working with bridges for over 17 years. Let’s pretend he didn’t work on replacing at least 20 of the 133 bridges damaged during the first Gulf War. Let’s pretend he’s wrong and the cost of rebuilding this bridge is four times the number they estimated- let’s pretend it will actually cost $1,200,000. Let’s just use our imagination.

A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around- brace yourselves- $50,000,000 !!
When Chimpy and the boys lose Colbert King, they've lost a lot:
I've come to discover -- belatedly some might say -- that the Bush administration is great at changing the subject when it comes to Iraq. Pro-administration revisionists would now have us think that the March invasion was really, truly, cross-their-hearts-and-hope-to-die all about liberating Iraqis from a tyrannical regime and bringing democracy to that country and its Arab neighbors.


That's not what Powell told the world. There wasn't a word in his speech about transforming the Arab world. Powell's message was all about the dangers we faced and how time was a wastin.' "The gravity of this moment is matched by the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world," he told the United Nations. Weapons of mass destruction "are real and present dangers to the region and the world."

He described a frightening future unless the world acted quickly. "Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few months or years is not an option," Powell said. And he left no doubt that the United States had the goods on Iraq. "Every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid evidence."

So where are the "real and present dangers?" The administration's failure to produce the goods is deeply troubling, especially for those of us who bought what Powell was selling.

Am I now off the reservation? Not yet. But if at the moment Powell can't put his hands on those weapons, it sure would be helpful if he and his administration colleagues produced for public viewing the sources of his vaunted intelligence on making the case for a U.S.-British preemptive strike. For starters, I have in mind:

• Proof that Hussein's late son, Qusay, issued an order directing the removal of all prohibited weapons from Hussein's palaces.

• Evidence that Hussein directly participated in efforts to prevent interviews with Iraqi scientists.

• Public appearances by: first, the Iraqi chemical engineer who allegedly witnessed a biological agent production run and saw an accident at a production site in 1998; second, the Iraqi civil engineer knowledgeable about the biological agent program who confirmed the existence of transportable facilities moving in trailers; third, the human source who corroborated the movement of chemical weapons in May 2002; fourth, the eyewitness who saw prisoners being experimented on to perfect biological or chemical weapons; fifth, the sources that said a missile brigade outside Baghdad was disbursing warheads containing biological warfare agents to various locations in western Iraq.

Here's something I've suspected for a long time. Republicans are inept:
I could make this into another column about this administration's mendacity; Lord knows there's fodder aplenty. But that point has been made. People are used to hearing liberals talk about how evil the administration is, and those who agree already agree while those who don't probably won't be persuaded.

But there's another argument about this administration, and about the Republican Party in general, that needs to be made, because this argument can alter presumptions about the two parties that have existed for at least a generation and can change the way the parties are seen well into the future. And it is this: The Republicans are total incompetents.

Republicans, at least since the 1980 election, have gotten lots of mileage out of billing themselves as the party of competence. They knew how to deal with the Russkies. They understood a budget. They knew how to crack down on the crooks and hoodlums. They understood the bottom line, and they knew what was right for America. The Democrats, meanwhile, were supposedly more interested in their dainty little social-engineering schemes than in success. Lots of people bought all of this, and of course there was a little bit of truth to it -- then. But the labels stuck hard. Democrats still have to take dramatic steps to prove their competence while Republicans are presumed -- by the mainstream media, anyway -- to possess it until they demonstrate otherwise.

Well, guess what? They've demonstrated otherwise. No one -- no one -- can name a single front on which today's Republicans have shown even the simplest competence. They don't know how to manage an economy. They sure don't know how to balance a budget. They have no idea how to create jobs (though they do have a pretty strong sense of how to make them disappear). Their domestic-security measures have consisted of the usual emphasis on show over substance, first stealing a Democratic idea (the Department of Homeland Security) and then underfunding the result in some crucial respects -- a mistake for which I pray we never pay a price.

They don't understand the Bill of Rights, and their shills in the media obviously don't understand the relationship between the First Amendment and trademark law, as Blah-Blah O'Reilly's laughable lawsuit against the great Al Franken shows. They've done nothing to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, and have, if anything, done damage to those resources. They've done nothing for the minorities Mr. Compassionate Conservative was supposedly courting in 2000, his speeches to the NAACP and the like transcribed by a tremulous media.

And now, it turns out, they don't know how to do the one thing they've spent 50 years convincing Americans that they and only they know how to do: fight a war. The war in Afghanistan is hardly won (did you notice the firefight the other day that left 14 dead?). And the war in Iraq is a fiasco that is fast becoming a huge political problem, worrying middle-of-the-road voters (who have figured out now that maybe alienating the rest of the world wasn't such a great idea after all) and exposing ideological fissures on the right (go read William Kristol and Robert Kagan's editorial in the current Weekly Standard, where they call for more troop strength and take several amusing implicit swipes as Donald Rumsfeld).


Thursday, August 21, 2003

I've been a big fan of Jude Wanniski for a while now, and his Memo on the Margin column is one of my daily reads. Today's edition concerns an estimate from an insider in Iraq of the total number of civilian casualties since the war started in March. It's not surprising that Chimpy doesn't want to talk about this:
After more than five weeks of intensive and thorough investigations carried out by hundreds of our party’s cadre, which included all villages, towns, cities and some of the desert areas etc. affected by the aggression (with exception of the Kurdish area), and also by interviewing hundreds of undertakers, hospitals officials and ordinary people in these places, the figure of civilians killed since the beginning of the invasion came to 37,137. This figure does not include militia, para-military or Saddam’s Fiday’een.

The breakdown of the total number of civilians killed during the invasion of Iraq is as follows (Please note that the names underneath represent that of 14 Governorates, excluding Iraqi Kurdistan):

Baghdad 6103
Mosul 2009
Basrah 6734
Nasiriyah 3581
Diwaniyah 1567
Kut 2494
Hillah 3552
Karbala (including Najaf) 2263
Samawah 659
Amarah 2741
Ramadi 2172
Kerkuk 861
Diyalah 604
Tikrit 1797

Pretty depressing stuff........

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Go read Archy. He's got good stuff....
"W. Hoca" over at The Big Picnic gives us the scoop on how the new, improved VICTORY Act gets it's name:
Hello, Big Picnic readers. I first became a household name after coming up with the USA PATRIOT act (Uniting and Strenghtening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) and I still think it's some of my best work. Today, however, I'm happy introduce my latest project, the VICTORY act. It all started one day when John (or Att. Gen. Ashcroft I should say) and I were talking. He said to me, "Ine Jesus, on þy ylcan gere worhte se foresprecena here geweorc, Lorde." And I replied, of course I'll come up with a new acronym, John!

Inside- See How It Transpires

A common question I get is, shouldn't an acronym describe what it's naming? Not necessarily! The 2003 Acronym Committee for Responsibility in Objectively Naming Your Motions rule book states in sec. A, paragraph iii: Properly utilized acronyms either accurately describe what they are naming, or cleverly describe the opposite so as to confuse and conceal [emphasis added]. Obviously, this second approach is what we are going for, since I can't very well name John's laws the OPPRESION act (Onerously Probing People in a Really Excruciatingly Snoopy and Invasively Omnipotent Nature) could I?
I am starting to get the feeling that the Left has turned a corner of some kind. I see more and more people who are openly questioning the direction this country is headed under the Bushies, and that includes a number of my very Conservative clients. I read quotes from Joe Conason's Big Lies and can't help but feel things might change:
The most basic liberal values are political equality and economic opportunity. Liberals uphold democracy as the only form of government that derives legitimacy from the consent of the governed, and they regard the freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights as essential to the expression of popular consent. Their commitment to an expanding democracy is what drives liberal advocacy on behalf of women, minorities, gays, immigrants, and other traditionally disenfranchised groups.

Liberals value the dynamism and creativity of democratic capitalism, but they also believe in strong, active government to protect the interests of society. They understand that markets function best when properly regulated, and they also know that unchecked concentrations of private power encourage environmental pollution, financial fraud, and labor exploitation. Liberals see a broad social interest in ensuring real opportunities and decent standards of living for everyone, while requiring basic responsibility from everyone.

Those who regard such ideals as naive today should remember that America in the 20th century was built on liberal policy, from the Progressive Era through the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the GI Bill, and the Great Society. The modern economy -- a private enterprise system that relies on government safeguards against depression and extreme poverty -- is the legacy of liberal leadership, from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. (And more recently Bill Clinton, who erased Republican deficits that were sending the economy into a spiral of recession and began to pay down the national debt.) Liberal policies made America the freest, wealthiest, most successful and most powerful nation in human history. Conservatism in power always threatens to undo that national progress, and is almost always frustrated by the innate decency and democratic instincts of the American people.

Those are great words and as we wake up from our National Nap those words and ideas are going to resonate like nobody's business. The Left is pissed and we are starting to hear the rumble:
There was a party on the second day for Clinton at the Aspen version of Nobu, and then, later that evening, a discussion between Clinton and President Kagame, hosted by the William Morris Agency, at Whiskey Rocks Bar in the St. Regis Hotel (Michael Eisner, the Disney CEO, while not a conference attendee, slipped into the room).

This turned out to be the pivotal moment of the conference—even the primal one. When Clinton took questions, a young man from a technology company who identified himself as chairman of Bush-Cheney 2004 in California said he was offended by Clinton’s partisanship. To which Clinton, without hesitation, and with some kind of predatory gleam in his eye, said, “Good!” From there, Clinton went on, with emotion and anger, at a level seemingly foreign to most everyone here, to rip to shreds the motives, values, and legitimacy of the Republicans.

It was all anyone could talk about the next day. People seemed genuinely taken aback (some people kept offering that since it was late at night, in a bar, it didn’t quite count) that one of their own might have violated the accepted codes of lofty liberal behavior. There was a little current of fear at the sudden recognition that testosterone could fuel politics. It was a shock, apparently, that we might be this close to real feelings. That politics could actually be personal.
Hidden amongst the obvious scandals of Chimpy and The Boys lies this bombshell waiting for somebody in the mainstream to hit with a big hammer:
Taken collectively, what these officials describe and what is already on the public record suggests the existence of a disciplined network of zealous, like-minded individuals. Centered in Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith's office and around Richard Perle in the Defense Policy Board in the Pentagon, this exclusive group of officials operates under the aegis of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney.

This network includes high-level political appointees, such as Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who are scattered around several other key bureaucracies, notably in the State Department, the NSC staff and, most importantly, in Cheney's office.

Cheney, of course, has a direct link to Bush (and all the heads of agencies), while his powerful chief of staff and national security adviser, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, also enjoys exceptional access and influence. Indeed, the two men's frequent visits (as well as those of another DPB member, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich) to CIA headquarters before the Iraq war have been cited by retired and anonymous intelligence officers as having actively intimidated analysts who disagreed with the more sensational assessments about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda produced by Feith's office.

Oliver North and his cohorts used the proceeds to sustain the Nicaraguan contras -- U.S.-sponsored rebels fighting Managua's left-wing government -- in defiance of both a congressional ban and of official U.S. policy as enunciated by the State Department and President Ronald Reagan. It was never clear whether Reagan understood, let alone approved, the operation. As with Reagan, in this case, too, it is difficult to determine whether Bush -- or even his NSC director, Condoleezza Rice -- fully understands, let alone approves, of what the hawks are doing.

There was some hint of a parallel policy apparatus dating back just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It was known early on, for example, that the Pentagon leadership, without notice to the State Department, the NSC or the CIA, convened its advisory DPB, headed by Richard Perle, to discuss attacking Iraq within days of the attacks. The three agencies were also kept in the dark about a mission undertaken immediately afterward by former CIA director and DPB member James Woolsey to London to gather intelligence about possible links between Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, a move that suggested that the CIA or the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) could not be trusted.

While Woolsey's trip recalls the more benign shenanigans of the Iran-Contra crowd, consider some of the more recent press reports.

Item One: Iran-Contra alumnus and close Perle associate Michael Ledeen has renewed ties with his old acquaintance, Manichur Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms merchant who became the key link between the NSC's Oliver North, the operational head of Iran-Contra, and the so-called "moderates" in the Islamic Republic. But to what end?

It appears that certain elements in the Pentagon leadership, specifically Douglas Feith, are trying to sabotage sensitive talks between Teheran and the State Department to promote cooperation over Al Qaeda and other pressing issues affecting Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon clique thinks Ledeen's old friend Ghorbanifar can help, according to Newsday, which reported August 8 that two of Feith's senior aides -- without notice to the other agencies -- have held several meetings with the Iranian, whom the CIA has long considered "an intelligence fabricator and nuisance."

Go read the rest of this one.
Jim Hightower gives us "idiots" a little pep talk today:
Be an involved citizen? Forget about it, Jake. Don't waste your time. Get a job, keep your head down, play the lottery, don't be different, take a pill, watch "reality TV," buy things, play it safe, live vicariously, don't make waves, pre-pay your funeral. Oh, and on those big questions -- such as economic fairness, going to war, "rebalancing" that liberty/security equation, and the shrinking of democracy itself -- don't hurt your little gray cells by focusing on them, for there's not a lot you can do about them, we know more than you do, and don't worry... we'll take care of you. Go about your business -- be a good idiot.

The Opposite Of Courage Is Not Cowardice, It's Conformity.

Come on, America, that's not us! Don't let BushCo, the Wobblycrats and the Kleptocrats steal our country and trivialize We The People as being nothing more substantial than passive consumers who can even be made to cower in duct-taped "safe rooms" whenever the governing authorities shout "Code Orange!" out their windows (how pathetic is that?).

America wasn't built by conformists, but by mutineers -- we're a big, brawling, boisterous, bucking people, and now is our time!

Our democracy is being dismantled right in front of our eyes -- not by crazed foreign terrorists, but by our own ruling elites. This is a crucial moment when America desperately needs you and me to stand as full citizens, asserting the bold and proud radicalism of America's democratic ideals.

It's deja vu all over again. The Asia Times has a very good analysis about how our involvement in Iraq looks a whole lot like our experience in Vietnam, with the depressingly same outcome:
Iraq now is already like Vietnam after the 1968 Tet Offensive. The Americans could have left Vietnam any time - but this would have meant to lose face, in an Asian sense, and to admit defeat: ultimately, this is what happened when that last helicopter abandoned the US Embassy in Saigon in April 1975. Even if they had any intention of doing it, which they don't, the White House and the Pentagon - although they have declared victory - simply cannot leave Iraq. They know that as soon as the US leaves, a democratically elected, Shi'ite-dominated, anti-American Iraqi government will come into power - as an anti-American communist government took over Vietnam. If the US remains in Iraq for "years" - as the Pentagon would have it - there's only one question: how many body bags does it take for the US public to demand a withdrawal?

The Iraqi resistance's attacks are being conducted by small, mostly well-trained groups who generally manage to escape without losses. They follow classic Giap thought: to demoralize American soldiers and at the same time increase the already unbearable distress suffered by the population, thus nourishing resentment against the occupying power. Asia Times Online has learned of many former high-ranking army officials - now unemployed - who have been called to join the resistance: they answer that sooner or later they will "if the Americans continue to humiliate us". Others are financing small guerrilla groups to the tune of thousands of dollars. The reward for someone launching a rocket against an US fighting vehicle is about US$350 - enough for many to buy what is now the rage in Baghdad's at least partly free market: a color TV with satellite dish.

In Vietnam, the resistance was organized by the Party. In Iraq, it is organized by the tribes. Tribal chiefs - practically all of them loyal to Saddam - are about to reach the deadline of the "grace period" that they conceded to the Americans. The resistance can count either on former Ba'ath Party and army officials, as well as on unemployed youngsters following the appeal of Sunni clerics, their own tribal chiefs and, more broadly, Arab patriotism.

The resistance can potentially count on almost 600,000 individuals who have been demobilized by the American proconsular regime. With more than 20 years of war, virtually all the male population in Iraq has been militarized. More than 7 million weapons were distributed by Saddam Hussein's regime. Millions of rockets and mortars were abandoned when the regime collapsed. Organized armed struggle in Iraq - in the Giap sense - may still be in its infancy, but the results are increasingly devastating. The "popular war" is getting bolder: surface-to-air missiles launched against military transport planes; sabotage of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline. US Central Command admits there may be as many as 25 attacks a day.

These Sunni Iraqi mujahideen - the counterparts of the Sunni Afghan mujahideen now fighting the anti-American jihad in Afghanistan - can count on the active complicity of the local population, just like in Vietnam. It's all becoming a "popular war" in the sense that people in any given neighborhood will know who organized an attack, but obviously they won't tell the invaders about it. But what about Saddam's tapes inciting a jihad against the Americans? Saddam is no Ho Chi Minh - a legitimate leader of a national-liberation struggle. There is not a lot of Saddam nostalgia in Iraq. And former army officials are not nostalgic either - or over-optimistic, for that matter, about the success of the guerrillas. They know that the Iraqi people once again will be the greatest victims - as the Americans are obsessed with their own, not the Iraqi people's, security. But these former officials are ready to join the resistance anyway.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

This should give everybody a reason NOT to be afraid of FIGHTING the Bushies:
No military induction board in its right mind would allow a man so sick to serve. Yet Kennedy used all of his family's considerable influence to pull as many strings as possible in order to get him into the Navy, and into the fight that was World War II. Powerful friends were pressured, and favors were called in, so John Kennedy could serve his country when it needed him. He could have stayed home; his health, arguably, dictated that he should have stayed home. He didn't. He fought for the ability to fight, and came in the end to serve with distinction.

Who does this bring to mind today?

It brings to my mind two groups as different and distinctive as night and day. The members of the Bush administration, of course, leap immediately to mind. Virtually all of the heavies in that crew moved heaven and earth to avoid military service in Vietnam. Dick Cheney "had other priorities," as did Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Andrew Card, John Ashcroft and several others. Some, like George W. Bush himself, had the same kind of powerful family connections that Kennedy enjoyed, and used them to stay as far away from the fight as possible.

These are the fellows who are now in the business of making you afraid. Fear is their growth stock, and they use the dividends to make war. These men, who never came within 16,000 miles of a combat situation in their entire lives, now use combat as the sole principle of American diplomacy around the world. The only way they are able to get away with this is by selling fear on the home front. They are quite good at it.

These men got their war in Iraq by making you afraid of September 11. They sold the fear that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved, that he had connections to al Qaeda, that he had all these terrible weapons lying around that would surely, surely come to find you. These men used September 11 against you, deliberately and convincingly. If you think you're not a sucker for this, go take a look around your house. Do you have any plastic sheeting and duct tape stashed away somewhere? I thought so.

The comparisons deserve to be borne out. Kennedy used his influence to be able to serve. Bush and company used their influence to avoid service. Kennedy faced real weapons of mass destruction in Cuba, and used diplomacy and the United Nations to defeat the threat. Bush and company faced forged, faked, non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and gave diplomacy the back of their hand in the push for war. Kennedy said, "I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men." Bush said, "Bring `em on."


Some might say this group is not indicative of the average veteran. Woody Powell, national administrator for VFP, has a different perspective. "Each time we have this convention," said Powell, "veterans come from all over who have never heard of us. They just walk in. At some point, I always find these vets sitting and weeping. They tell me they feel like they have finally come home, that they have finally found people who understand."

These are men and women who have known fear, true fear, the fear with the big teeth and roaring snarl that rips the skin from your body before reducing you to ash. What they see happening in America today, the manner in which their government is actively trying to terrify the populace for their own purposes, disgusts them. They stand against it without fear.

Understand that the difference between these two groups - the Bush crew, and the men and women of the VFP - is the difference between what America is, and what America should be. Consider the experiences, the motivations, the actions, the sacrifices. Decide whether you want to spend your life afraid, or whether you will overcome that fear to reach the greatest victory of your life. Decide where you stand.


Monday, August 18, 2003

OK then. Where do we start getting our country back? How about right here:
A bruising confrontation with the right wing on behalf of our military personnel will lead seamlessly into what should be the overriding theme of the Democratic campaign in 2004: whose interests does the government exist to serve? The allegation that Republicans have harmed the troops for personal gain is a viable charge because it taps into the widespread perception that conservatives lack compassion. Once the public understands what the GOP has done to war veterans, that knowledge can be used as a credible link to more conventional issues that will expose to voters the true nature of Republican governance:

“Just as the Republicans have stabbed our heroes in the back in order to enrich themselves, they have done the same thing to our children on education…”

“Just as the Republicans have stabbed our heroes in the back in order to enrich themselves, they have done the same thing to the elderly on health care…”

“Just as the Republicans have stabbed our heroes in the back in order to enrich themselves, they have done the same thing to the middle class on taxes...”

Repetition is the key. Democrats must constantly reinforce the message that Republican politicians are helping themselves at the expense of everyone else. The theme must be ruthlessly pounded home: “If they are so immoral that they steal from our heroes, what makes you think they aren’t stealing from you? Here is the evidence that they are.”

We should take it all away from them. The patriotism issue. The morality issue. The fiscal responsibility issue. They never should have owned these issues, and now the average citizen can be shown which priority was really at the top of the Republican agenda in 2003: sending our kids off to die while picking their pockets.

The Democratic Party should be scouring the countryside for evidence of veterans who are suffering as a result of the vile actions of the GOP. It should be collecting factual and anecdotal ammunition to be used in emotionally powerful commercials that will enlighten voters to the nefarious behavior of the heartless bastards who have a hammerlock on the federal government. This tactic will horrify the wobblies in the Democratic Leadership Council, but the alternative is to spend four more years watching impotently as Republicans continue to abuse the people who risk their lives defending America.

There are endless opportunities for effective campaign commercials that will connect with swing voters on a gut level:

“Our Republican Senator voted for cuts in military medical benefits that will prevent this Purple Heart winner from seeing his doctor. Then – forty-eight hours later – the Senator gave himself a tax cut. This is his expensive new foreign watch. And this is the broken wheelchair of an American war hero. After losing his legs while defending this country, our hero has earned the right to be provided with basic medical care. Instead, the money has been allocated by the Senator to provide fancy jewelry to himself. Government is about putting America first; unfortunately, the Senator does not share the patriotic values that are so precious to the rest of us. On Election Day, side with the people who defend our nation. Side with America. Vote Democratic.”

When crafting strategy, an essential consideration is how the opponent will respond. Conservatives are phenomenally bad at playing defense, in part because they lack practice, and in part because paranoid people react very poorly to being criticized. Let the jingoists again haul out the “Anyone who disagrees with me is unpatriotic” canard. This issue is tailor-made to cram that cynical argument right back down their dishonest throats:

“Is it unpatriotic to support the troops? Or is it unpatriotic to stuff your wallets with the troops’ medical money?”

“Is it unpatriotic to want our soldiers to have access to good medical care? Or is it unpatriotic to steal from them so that you Republican politicians can reward yourselves?”

“Our brave young men and women have made great sacrifices for our beloved country – some have made the ultimate sacrifice. When the choice was either supporting the troops or cutting taxes for politicians, Democratic members of Congress were willing to sacrifice their tax cuts in favor of providing medical care to our soldiers. What sacrifices are you Republican office holders willing to make? Other than lining your own pockets, what sacrifices are you willing to make?”

George W. Bush and Tom DeLay have as much combat experience as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, yet they have been allowed to get away with posturing as though they were the Special Forces who captured Baghdad. By showing greater allegiance to their extremist ideology than to their country, the chicken hawks have brazenly betrayed the real military heroes of the United States while smearing anyone who objected. Their behavior is so deceitfully cruel and provocative that it transcends the typical amorality of politics. These swaggering bullies are just begging for a beating, and it is time to accommodate them.

Let's all get on the Road to Ruin DLC Express! Al From has well and truly lost his mind:
As strong as President Bush seems today, he's not invincible. But there's only one way any Democratic candidate can defeat him in 2004. That's by asserting a clear sense of national purpose — by getting the big things right and by convincing Americans that he can provide our country better leadership than Bush can.

But there are any number of strategies that won't work for Democrats.

That's right, Al. And one of those strategies we don't want to follow is the one you espouse every time you open your mouth....
Democrats won't win a fund-raising contest with Bush. The president is likely to break all fund-raising records — and no Democrat will be able to come even close. The Democratic candidate needs to raise enough money to get his message across, but to try to match the president is to pursue a fool's errand.

So, what you're saying is that we should work just hard enough to get slaughtered in 2004. It's a good plan. I LOVE this plan...
Democrats won't win by polarizing the debate. Bush is a staunch conservative, not the moderate he claimed to be in the 2000 campaign. But Democrats who believe the way to counter his conservatism is by moving left to sharpen the contrast — to offer, in the words of failed presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, "a choice, not an echo" — are wrong.

Sorry, Al. We really would like a choice this time and not an "echo" of the 2000 and 2002 elections...
Democrats won't win by pandering to narrow interest or constituency groups. Resisting the demands of such groups is hard. That's why Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe was right to try to put the kibosh on candidate forums sponsored by organized pressure groups before they cause more damage than they already have.

Thanks for the heads up, Al. I promise to no longer pander to the DLC, a narrow interest group....
Finally, Democrats won't win without strengthening their appeal to what President Clinton called the "forgotten middle class." In the 2000 and 2002 elections, Democrats won only the votes of high-school dropouts and the educational elite (voters with postgraduate degrees). They lost the huge mass of voters of educational levels in between. Over the long haul, that's an unsustainable alliance, because high-school drop- outs and postgraduates have very different demographics and very different views on cultural issues.

So, I guess what you're saying is that the DLC is a failure because it appeals to only high-school dropouts and the educational elite. What about drug addicts? Don't they vote Democratic too?
For 2004, that requires common sense and realism, not rocket science. It means dedicating a presidency to fighting the war on terrorism and keeping our country safe. It also means building a strong, growing 21st-century economy that expands opportunity, creates jobs again, raises incomes and secures retirement — all the things Bush has failed to do. A candidate with a progressive agenda to achieve those goals will have a real chance to send Bush into early retirement.

In the first debate among Democratic presidential contenders this spring, Sen. Joe Lieberman argued: "I am the one Democrat who can match George Bush in the areas where many think he's strong — defense and moral values — and beat him where he's weak — on the economy and his divisive right-wing social agenda."

Whether Lieberman has the chance to prove that will be decided by the primary voters. But the formula he has laid out for taking on the president is exactly the right one for a Democrat to follow.

Sorry, Al. If the Dems are headed over the cliff I would prefer this guy:

and not this guy

doing the driving.


Friday, August 15, 2003

Fun fun fun with Photoshop. I found this FAIR AND BALANCED re-touched picture of the Battle of the Campaign Buses over at Dohiyi Mir and it made me laugh:

John Edwards really needs to go back to the Senate......
I wonder whether anybody has bothered to ask the monkeys how they feel about this FAIR AND BALANCED story:
BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) -- A nationwide shortage of rhesus macaque monkeys is hampering efforts to create cures from new information such as the human genome sequence, organ transplant techniques, and the use of stem cells to replace diseased of damaged tissue, scientists say.

The 15-pound monkeys have long been laboratory favorites because of their physiological similarity to humans. But increased demand caused by public health crises from AIDS to the threat of bioterrorism have led to shortage that's slowed research and has scientists paying up to $10,000 per animal.

"The promise for improving health and quality of life in people is tremendous with this new information, but it all needs to be evaluated in animals before we start doing it in people," Dr. Joseph Kemnitz, director of the National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, told The Boston Globe. "People are just unable to perform the research that they intended to do."


Thursday, August 14, 2003

YAY! Scientists have discovered a FAIR AND BALANCED way to kill people more effectively. We don't need no stinking nukes...
An exotic kind of nuclear explosive being developed by the US Department of Defense could blur the critical distinction between conventional and nuclear weapons. The work has also raised fears that weapons based on this technology could trigger the next arms race.

The explosive works by stimulating the release of energy from the nuclei of certain elements but does not involve nuclear fission or fusion. The energy, emitted as gamma radiation, is thousands of times greater than that from conventional chemical explosives.

The technology has already been included in the Department of Defense's Militarily Critical Technologies List, which says: "Such extraordinary energy density has the potential to revolutionise all aspects of warfare."

Scientists have known for many years that the nuclei of some elements, such as hafnium, can exist in a high-energy state, or nuclear isomer, that slowly decays to a low-energy state by emitting gamma rays. For example, hafnium-178m2, the excited, isomeric form of hafnium-178, has a half-life of 31 years.

The possibility that this process could be explosive was discovered when Carl Collins and colleagues at the University of Texas at Dallas demonstrated that they could artificially trigger the decay of the hafnium isomer by bombarding it with low-energy X-rays (New Scientist print edition, 3 July 1999). The experiment released 60 times as much energy as was put in, and in theory a much greater energy release could be achieved.

Democracy in Iraq? This FAIR AND BALANCED report says the CIA had doubts of whether that was going to be possible in matter what we did:
WASHINGTON -- US intelligence officials cautioned the National Security Council before the Iraq war that the American plan to build democracy on the ashes of Saddam Hussein's regime -- as a model for the rest of the region -- was so audacious that, in the words of one CIA report in March, it could ultimately prove "impossible."

That assessment ran counter to what the Bush administration was saying at the time as it sought to build support for the war. President Bush said a democratic Iraq would lead to more liberalized, representative governments, where terrorists would find less popular support, and the Muslim world would be friendlier to the United States. "A new regime in Iraq would serve as an inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region," he said on Feb. 26.

The question of how quickly, and easily, the United States could establish democracy in Iraq was the key to a larger concern about how long US troops would be required to stay there, and how many would be needed to maintain security. The administration offered few assessments of its own but dismissed predictions by the army chief of staff of a lengthy occupation by hundreds of thousands of troops.

Now, frustration among Iraqis about a lack of stability and the slow pace of reconstruction -- and new evidence that Islamic militants are slipping into Iraq to take up arms against the Americans -- are leading the administration to lengthen its plans to keep troops in Iraq for up to four years. And the Pentagon is moving to lower expectations for a shift to democracy, suggesting that a liberal democracy is an ideal worth fighting for, but acknowledging the difficulty of creating one.

"The question isn't whether it is feasible, but is it worth a try," Lieutenant Colonel James Cassella, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday.

The intelligence community's doubts were fully aired to top Bush administration officials in the months before the war in multiple classified reports. The National Intelligence Council, which represents the consensus view of American spy agencies, reported to top policy makers at the start of the year that "what the administration was saying was a rosy picture," said a senior intelligence official who read the report and asked not to be named. "The report's conclusions were totally opposite."

It's just like being in a fantasy world in the Bush Admin as this FAIR AND BALANCED slam shows:
Someday, in the months ahead, there may be an Iraq where a smoothly run American occupation authority has dealt devastating setbacks to terrorism, brought security to most of the country, improved infrastructure and basic services, and elicited encouraging signs of democracy, economic renewal and cultural rebirth. Unfortunately, right now that Iraq exists only in the pages of the implausibly upbeat 100-day progress report recently issued by the White House.

In Iraq today, American soldiers die, electricity shortages lead to rioting, and the threat of terrorism against civilians must be taken increasingly seriously. The biggest problems have been airbrushed out of the White House report, making it read more like a Bush campaign flier than a realistic accounting to the American people. There have, of course, been positive accomplishments, but making a success of Iraq will require much time, many billions of dollars and real sacrifices. Pretending otherwise risks future public disillusionment.

ABC has a FAIR AND BALANCED account of the events leading up to the arrest of the leader of the plot to smuggle a shoulder-fired missile into the US:
Aug. 13— Administration officials are leaving out key facts and exaggerating the significance of the alleged plot to smuggle a shoulder-launched missile into the United States, law enforcement officials told ABCNEWS. They say there's a lot less than meets the eye.

The accused ringleader, British national Hemant Lakhani, appeared today in federal court in Newark, N.J., and was ordered held without bond on charges of attempting to provide material support and material resources to terrorists and acting as an arms broker without a license.

Outside the courtroom, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie called Lakhani an ally of terrorists who want to kill Americans.

"He, on many occasions, in recorded conversations, referred to Americans as 'bastards' [and] Osama bin Laden as a hero," said Christie.

But what he did not say was just how much of the alleged missile plot was a government setup from start to finish.

For example, Lakhani had no contacts in Russia to buy the missiles before the sting and had no known criminal record for arms dealing, officials told ABCNEWS.

"Here we have a sting operation on some kind of small operator … who's bought one weapon when actually, on the gray and black market, hundreds of such weapons charge hands," said military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer.

Court documents show much of the case is based on the government's key cooperating witness, an informant seeking lenient treatment on federal drug charges, officials told ABCNEWS. He was the first person who led the government to Lakhani.

Fear not! This FAIR AND BALANCED story tells us why we have been made to fear, well, everything. I know it's hard to believe, but we've been had...repeatedly:
The deputies of the Bush Terror Posse -- Donald Rumsfeld, Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft -- are conducting a deliberate campaign to frighten us. One facet of the campaign has, over the last 18 months, persuaded large portions of the population to rush to the stores for water, food, plastic sheeting and, of course, duct tape. The threats of impending danger are on record for the future, the administration seems to be saying. When something happens, you won't be able to say we didn't warn you.

This is just the latest and most egregious step in a fear campaign designed to prepare Americans to do whatever the administration wants us to do.

Here's how it works: Throw a hundred claims against the wall and poll every night to see what sticks. Leak stories that are later discredited. Get a graduate student's dissertation and plagiarize it. Lift paragraphs from a war-industry magazine. Every so often, raise the danger level to code "yellow" or "orange." Give the people a rest. Then start all over again. Mix it all up and put an official seal on it. Now it seems true, despite the skepticism of intelligence professionals.

We have been inundated with fables, lies and half-truths. Remember the 33 pounds of "weapons-grade uranium" being smuggled in a taxi from Turkey to Iraq? A few days later, it turned out to be about 3 ounces of nonradioactive metal. And then there is smallpox: The administration is encouraging vaccinations, but it's only in parentheses that it adds that there is "no imminent threat" of a smallpox attack. There is no clear reason for this focus on smallpox, except to ratchet up the level of anxiety.

Our leaders have worked hard to keep the anxiety level up so that the public will forget about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda (who were they again?). Instead, in Iraq, we focused on an impaired dictator of a country with a deteriorated infrastructure and a destroyed economy.

This kind of tactic was described by Hermann Goering, who said at the Nuremberg trials, "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

If the world was FAIR AND BALANCED we wouldn't be cutting benefits to our soldiers and their fams:
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of its 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are already contending with guerrilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120-degree-plus heat.

Unless Congress and President Bush take quick action when Congress returns after Labor Day, the uniformed Americans in Iraq and the 9,000 in Afghanistan will lose a pay increase approved last April of $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" and $150 a month in "family separation allowances."

The Defense Department supports the cuts, saying its budget can't sustain the higher payments amid a host of other priorities. But the proposed cuts have stirred anger among military families and veterans' groups and even prompted an editorial attack in the Army Times, a weekly newspaper for military personnel and their families that is seldom so outspoken.

Congress made the April pay increases retroactive to Oct. 1, 2002, but they are set to expire when the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30 unless Congress votes to keep them as part of its annual defense appropriations legislation.

Imminent danger pay, given to Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force members in combat zones, was raised to $225 from $150 a month. The family separation allowance, which goes to help military families pay rent, child care or other expenses while soldiers are away, was raised from $100 a month to $250.

Last month, the Pentagon sent Congress an interim budget report saying the extra $225 monthly for the two pay categories was costing about $25 million more a month, or $300 million for a full year. In its "appeals package" laying out its requests for cuts in pending congressional spending legislation, Pentagon officials recommended returning to the old, lower rates of special pay and said military experts would study the question of combat pay in coming months.

Even on vacation it's possible to get a FAIR AND BALANCED report on the misadventures of Chimpy and his Pals:
Ah, this is the life. To be on vacation near the ocean, sunning on the beach by day, and, by night, hearing Hardball's Chris Matthews, of all people, repeatedly liken Bush to Ted Baxter, the obtuse anchorman on the old "Mary Tyler Moore Show." As I eat fried calamari and striped bass, I get to see Matthews, hardly a friend of progressives, hammer Team Bush over their serial lying about weapons of mass destruction and yellowcake. Was Bush such a clueless puppet, sputters Matthews, that he simply read whatever Cheney or Rumsfeld put in front of him and told him to sell to the nation? Why, I must be in Margaritaville.

Since Team Bush came to power, those of us lucky enough to have the time and money to go on vacation have tried to escape from, or forget, however briefly, the totalitarian and imperialistic schemes of our in-house American Taliban. Nonetheless, it was difficult to shake the sense of doom unleashed by the forces of darkness, and some of us spent previous vacations looking longingly at maps of Canada, fantasizing about where to move. A supine media reinforced our sense that we were exiles in our own land.

But this summer, the worm is turning. The inside story of how and why so many in the press have finally begun to ask hard questions remains to be told. But cracks in the edifice are everywhere. And while, understandably, we on the left are prone to seeing the political glass as always half empty – or less – it is summer, things are falling apart for Team Bush, and we need to appreciate that, for now, the glass is starting to look half full.

Howard Dean takes the lead as this FAIR AND BALANCED poll report shows:
ATLANTA, Aug. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- For the first time, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is leading the Democratic field for the 2004 presidential elections, according to a new tracking poll taken by InsiderAdvantage in conjunction with MWI Research.

Of respondents who said they plan to vote next year for someone other than President Bush, 15.6 percent indicated they would vote for Dean. This nearly doubles his percentage of 8.6 from the previous month's poll.

The poll was conducted August 6-9. It sampled 500 Americans and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

"This is an amazing change of circumstances," said Matt Towery, a Creators Syndicate columnist and co-founder of InsiderAdvantage. "Since the inception of our cumulative polling on this race, Joe Lieberman had led the Democratic field of candidates, usually by a comfortable margin. But Dean's powerful Internet-based campaign, coupled with the sudden burst of publicity he has received from the national media, has catapulted him to the front of the pack."


Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Thanks to Billmon for the photoshop...
A Nobel Prize winning economist is speaking out about how the Bushies handleing of the USA economy isn't FAIR AND BALANCED. In fact, he calls it pretty much a disaster......
SPIEGEL ONLINE reached George A. Akerlof, co-winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in economics, on the phone while he was vacationing in New England. Following are excerpts of the conversation:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And secondly, you disagree with giving tax relief primarily to wealthier Americans. The GOP argues that those voters deserve it for working hard.

AKERLOF: The rich don't need the money and are a lot less likely to spend it - they will primarily increase their savings. Remember that wealthier families have done extremely well in the US in the past twenty years, whereas poorer ones have done quite badly. So the redistributive effects of this administration's tax policy are going in the exactly wrong direction. The worst and most indefensible of those cuts are those in dividend taxation - this overwhelmingly helps very wealthy people.


SPIEGEL ONLINE: When campaigning for an even-larger tax cut earlier this year, Mr. Bush promised that it would create 1.4 million jobs. Was that reasonable?

AKERLOF: The tax cut will have some positive impact on job creation, although, as I mentioned, there is very little bang for the buck. There are very negative long-term consequences. The administration, when speaking about the budget, has unrealistically failed to take into account a very large number of important items. As of March 2003, the CBO estimated that the surplus for the next decade would approximately reach one trillion dollars. But this projection assumes, among other questionable things, that spending until 2013 is going to be constant in real dollar terms. That has never been the case. And with the current tax cuts, a realistic estimate would be a deficit in excess of six trillion.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the government's just bad at doing the correct math?

AKERLOF: There is a systematic reason. The government is not really telling the truth to the American people. Past administrations from the time of Alexander Hamilton have on the average run responsible budgetary policies. What we have here is a form of looting.


SPIEGEL ONLINE: It seems that the current administration has politicized you in an unprecedented way. During the course of this year, you have, with other academics, signed two public declarations of protest - one against the tax cuts, the other against waging unilateral preventive war on Iraq.

AKERLOF: I think this is the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history. It has engaged in extraordinarily irresponsible policies not only in foreign and economic but also in social and environmental policy. This is not normal government policy. Now is the time for people to engage in civil disobedience.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Of what kind?

AKERLOF: I don't know yet. But I think it's time to protest - as much as possible.

Got a problem with the information you're getting from the CIA? Seems like one of the people who gave Chimpy the info he wanted to hear got an extra special bonus. This FAIR AND BALANCED account spells it out:
WASHINGTON – A former Energy Department intelligence chief who agreed with the White House claim that Iraq had reconstituted its defunct nuclear-arms program was awarded a total of $20,500 in bonuses during the build-up to the war, WorldNetDaily has learned.

Thomas Rider, as acting director of Energy's intelligence office, overruled senior intelligence officers on his staff in voting for the position at a National Foreign Intelligence Board meeting at CIA headquarters last September.

His officers argued at a pre-briefing at Energy headquarters that there was no hard evidence to support the alarming Iraq nuclear charge, and asked to join State Department's dissenting opinion, Energy officials say.

Rider ordered them to "shut up and sit down," according to sources familiar with the meeting.

As a result, State was the intelligence community's lone dissenter in the key National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, something the Bush administration is quick to remind critics of its prewar intelligence. So far no banned weapons have been found in Iraq to confirm its charges.

The secret 90-page report, prepared Oct. 1, was rushed to sway members of Congress ahead of a key vote on granting the White House war-making authority. It also formed the underlying evidence for the White House's decision to go to war.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham gave Rider a $13,000 performance bonus after the NIE report was released and just before the war, department sources say. He had received an additional $7,500 before the report.

"That's a hell of a lot of money for an intelligence director who had no experience or background in intelligence, and who'd only been running the office for nine months," said one source who requested anonymity. "Something's fishy."

The always FAIR AND BALANCED Salam Pax has a few choice words about how-the-hell things are going in Our New Colony:
Listen to Bremer talk about improvements in the electrical situation while Basra is rioting. I just didn't believe my eyes when I saw the images from Basra. I am guessing that the reason we didn't have electricity for a whole day in Baghdad is because they wanted to patch things up in Basra. Two days of riots and about eight Iraqis injured. At least the Coalition forces didn't call the rioters "Saddam loyalists", at least there is some acknowledgment that these are people who are upset with the way the occupation forces are mismanaging the country. And it is getting out of hand. Baghdad, Basra, Nasiriyah all going up in one day and Baqubah being added to the list of cities not really under control.

I went to a press conference where our new one-month-president [the coalition provisional authority has a rotating chairman] was telling us about what they were up to. The press guy, at the request of the conference, was telling journalists that the instantaneous translation thingy has two channels; channel one for Arabic, channel two for English. I would like to add another channel: channel three for the truth. It keeps repeating one phrase: "We have no power, we have to get it approved by the Americans, we are puppets and the strings are too tight." I feel sorry for the guys on the council, some of them are actually very good and honest people and they have been put in a very difficult situation.

As usual, getting into these press bashes is an event in itself. You have to be there an hour early, you get searched a thousand times and, of course, as an Iraqi I get treated like shit. I have no idea why the American soldiers at the entrance to the convention centre [where the CPA press operation is] are so offensive towards Iraqis while they can be so nice to anyone with a foreign passport. I have to be the Zen master when the soldier at the gate gets condescending. The reporters of Iraq Today were not allowed to get to the press conference and they went ballistic. "This is my friggin' government, what do you mean I can't get in?" My sentiments exactly. Keep this image in your head: an American officer stopping you, an Iraqi, from attending the press conference your government is holding.

A government study gives us a peek inside the brain of the Smirking Chimp. Here's a FAIR AND BALANCED story concerning said study:
A study funded by the US government has concluded that conservatism can be explained psychologically as a set of neuroses rooted in "fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity".

As if that was not enough to get Republican blood boiling, the report's four authors linked Hitler, Mussolini, Ronald Reagan and the rightwing talkshow host, Rush Limbaugh, arguing they all suffered from the same affliction.

All of them "preached a return to an idealised past and condoned inequality".

Republicans are demanding to know why the psychologists behind the report, Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition, received $1.2m in public funds for their research from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The authors also peer into the psyche of President George Bush, who turns out to be a textbook case. The telltale signs are his preference for moral certainty and frequently expressed dislike of nuance.

"This intolerance of ambiguity can lead people to cling to the familiar, to arrive at premature conclusions, and to impose simplistic cliches and stereotypes," the authors argue in the Psychological Bulletin.

One of the psychologists behind the study, Jack Glaser, said the aversion to shades of grey and the need for "closure" could explain the fact that the Bush administration ignored intelligence that contradicted its beliefs about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The so-called September Surprise from David Kay sounds like a dud to me. But, in this FAIR AND BALANCED account from The Guardian he lays out some of what we can expect:
The former UN inspector hired by the Bush administration to find evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction will claim in a report next month that Iraqi forces were ordered to fire chemical shells at invading coalition troops, according to US reports.
But David Kay, who heads the 1,400-strong Iraq Survey Group, has admitted he has found no trace of the weapons themselves, and cannot explain why they were never used.

One possibility is that the orders were part of an elaborate bluff, in the hope that they would be intercepted by the US and deter an attack.

According to US officials, all the Iraqi scientists now in custody have insisted that Saddam's arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons was destroyed years before the Iraqi invasion.

The Boston Globe reported that Mr Kay, who was hired by the CIA in June to direct the search, had made the claim in a classified briefing to two Senate committees.

The newspaper quoted officials who had seen a summary of his report as saying that Republican Guard commanders had been ordered to launch chemical-filled shells at troops.

"They have found evidence that an order was given," a senior intelligence official said, adding there was no explanation of why the weapons were not used.


Monday, August 11, 2003

Life is good today. I found out that I'm not the only fish in the Bend, Oregon pond. Reach out and touch the beautifully realized Utterly Boring.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

In our hearts we always knew this:
This article is based on interviews with analysts and policymakers inside and outside the U.S. government, and access to internal documents and technical evidence not previously made public.

The new information indicates a pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates -- in public and behind the scenes -- made allegations depicting Iraq's nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support. On occasion administration advocates withheld evidence that did not conform to their views. The White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which it had previously relied:

• Bush and others often alleged that President Hussein held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, but did not disclose that the known work of the scientists was largely benign. Iraq's three top gas centrifuge experts, for example, ran a copper factory, an operation to extract graphite from oil and a mechanical engineering design center at Rashidiya.

• The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of October 2002 cited new construction at facilities once associated with Iraq's nuclear program, but analysts had no reliable information at the time about what was happening under the roofs. By February, a month before the war, U.S. government specialists on the ground in Iraq had seen for themselves that there were no forbidden activities at the sites.

• Gas centrifuge experts consulted by the U.S. government said repeatedly for more than a year that the aluminum tubes were not suitable or intended for uranium enrichment. By December 2002, the experts said new evidence had further undermined the government's assertion. The Bush administration portrayed the scientists as a minority and emphasized that the experts did not describe the centrifuge theory as impossible.

• In the weeks and months following Joe's Vienna briefing, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and others continued to describe the use of such tubes for rockets as an implausible hypothesis, even after U.S. analysts collected and photographed in Iraq a virtually identical tube marked with the logo of the Medusa's Italian manufacturer and the words, in English, "81mm rocket."

• The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud" into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to "educate the public" about the threat from Hussein, as a participant put it.


Saturday, August 09, 2003

If you read nothing else this weekend, read this:
The first of August saw a very interesting article published in the Washington Post. The title was, "US Shifts Rhetoric On its Goals in Iraq." The story quotes an unnamed administration source - I will bet you all the money in my wallet that this "source" was a man named Richard Perle - who outlined the newest reasons for our war over there. "That goal is to see the spread of our values," said this aide, "and to understand that our values and our security are inextricably linked."

Our values. That's an interesting concept coming from a member of this administration. We make much of the greatness and high moral standing of the United States of America, and there is much to be proud of. The advertising, however, has lately failed completely to match up with the product.

Is it part of our value system to remain on a permanent war footing since World War II, shunting money desperately needed for human services and education into a military machine whose very size and expense demands the fighting of wars to justify its existence?

Is it part of our value system to lie to the American people, to lie deeply and broadly and with no shame at all, about why we fight in Iraq?

Is it part of our value system to sacrifice nearly three hundred American soldiers on the altar of those lies, to sacrifice thousands and thousands and thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq on the altar of those lies?

Is it part of our value system to use the horror of September 11 to terrify the American people into an unnecessary war, into the ruination of their civil rights, into the annihilation of the Constitution?

Is it part of our value system to use that terrible day against those American people who felt most personally the awful blow of that attack?

Is striking first part of our value system?

Is living in fear part of our value system?

It is not part of my value system. It never will be.

This new justification for our war in Iraq is yet another lie, an accent in a symphony of lies. The values this administration represents play no part in the common morality of the American people, play no part in the legal and constitutional system we adore and defend. One of the worst things ever to happen to this country was allowing the people within this administration to use words like "freedom" and "justice" and "democracy" and "patriotism," for those good and noble words become the foulest of lies when passing their lips.

For the record, the justification for war on Iraq was:

The procurement by Iraq of uranium from Niger for use in a nuclear weapons program, plus 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents - 500 tons, for those without calculators, is one million pounds - almost 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents, several mobile biological weapons labs, and connections between the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda that led directly to the attacks of September 11.

None of these weapons have been found. The mobile weapons labs - termed "Winnebagoes of Death" by Colin Powell - turned out to be weather balloon platforms sold to Iraq by the British in the 1980s. The infamous Iraq-al Qaeda connection has been shot to pieces by the recently released September 11 report. And the Niger uranium claim was based upon forgeries so laughable that America stands embarrassed and ashamed before the judgment of the world. This is all featured on the White House's website on a page called 'Disarming Saddam.' The Niger claims, specifically, have yet to be removed.

Lies. Lies. All lies.

Read it all. Yell and scream. Get involved in changing this country back to one we can all be proud of.
Oooooo let's not worry about the consequences of nuclear proliferation and start building a new class of smaller, better nukes!
This week, ten minutes by car south of Omaha, Neb., the United States Strategic Command is holding a little-advertised meeting at which the Bush administration is to solidify its plans for acquiring a new generation of nuclear arms. Topping the wish list are weapons meant to penetrate deep into the earth to destroy enemy bunkers. The Pentagon believes that more than 70 nations, big and small, now have some 1,400 underground command posts and sites for ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

Determined to fight fire with fire, the Defense Department wants bomb makers to develop a class of relatively small nuclear arms — ranging from a fraction the size of the Hiroshima bomb to several times as large — that could pierce rock and reinforced concrete and turn strongholds into radioactive dust.

"With an effective earth penetrator, many buried targets could be attacked," the administration said in its Nuclear Posture Review, which it sent to Congress last year.

Welcome to the second nuclear age and the Bush administration's quiet responses to the age's perceived dangers.

While initiatives like pre-emptive war have gotten most of the headlines (understandably, given the invasion of Iraq and its shaky aftermath), the administration is hard at work on other ways to counteract the spread of weapons like nuclear arms. Federal and private experts agree that with the notable exception of North Korea, diplomacy and arms control, for now, have taken a back seat to muscle flexing.

For instance, as part of its missile defense program, on which nearly $8 billion is being spent this year, the administration is erecting a rudimentary system of ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California. By late next year, 10 interceptors are supposed to be ready to zap any warheads that North Korea might lob at the United States. Whether the system would work as advertised is open to doubt. But, then, so is whether North Korea could — or would — ever directly attack the United States.

Skeptics are more likely to think that North Korea has nuclear blackmail in mind, and that what the White House really is doing is an election-year bit of showing its determination, even as it moves toward negotiating with Pyongyang. Late last week, there were even signs that the North Koreans were beginning to consider a principal American demand — that they accede to talks not with the United States alone, but including other powers like China, Russia and Japan.

Still, while critics may berate the administration's plans and responses, the long-term dangers are considered real. Most alarming are the declared effort by North Korea to build a nuclear arsenal and a presumed effort by Iran. Experts talk of wide repercussions — of an atomic Iran inspiring nuclear ambitions in other Middle Eastern countries, and of North Korea prompting rapid proliferation in the Far East.

Japan is considered a likely flash point, despite its historic disdain for things nuclear after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nisohachi Hyodo, once seen as part of the lunatic fringe for promoting a plan by which Japan would quickly acquire nuclear arms, now has his own radio program on a major Tokyo station and is a popular speaker on college campuses.

And if Japan went nuclear, experts say, China might feel compelled to expand its own arsenal.

In your heart, you know he might...
Here's how we can save $10 billion a year with one stroke of a pen. Cancel SDI!
If the generals in charge of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency followed the wispiest trail of logic, they would have slashed the program and moved on to more promising pursuits long ago. This month brings yet another bit of news indicating not only that the program has scant chance of producing a workable missile-defense system, but that its managers know of its dim prospects.

The latest flash, from the Aug. 1 edition of the trade journal Defense News, is that the agency has suspended one of the program's most crucial components on the grounds that the technology it involves is "not mature enough" to fund.

The component is called the space-based kinetic-energy boost-phase interceptor, a name that sounds too esoteric to deserve notice (and, indeed, no mainstream paper seems to have picked up on the report of its suspension), but in fact the news is a bombshell.

The missile-defense program—for which President Bush is spending $9.1 billion next year alone, with steady increases planned in future years to infinity—envisions, ultimately, a three-layered system. The boost-phase interceptors will shoot down enemy missiles in the first three or four minutes after they've been launched, as they ascend through the atmosphere into the edge of outer space. The "midcourse-defense interceptors" will fire at the missiles during the 20 minutes that they arc across the heavens. The "terminal-defense interceptors" will shoot down the missiles that survive the earlier layers in their final minutes of flight, as they plunge back down to earth toward their targets.


In short, even the most apparently straightforward aspects of a missile-defense system are turning out to be hugely—perhaps insuperably—complex, expensive, and operationally dubious. And the APS doesn't even get into the issues of "battle management" (how to convey signals from the early warning sensors to the weapons, how to fire the weapons, how to determine whether the target was hit, and thus whether more weapons need to be fired). Nor, more seriously still, does it outline the complications of dealing with an enemy that's resourceful enough to fire more than one missile.

At what point does someone calculate that the whole project is so drenched in fantasy that it isn't worth the trouble of getting it started?

Today has been a day of very discouraging news. Starting with this:
John Bolton might be termed an old hand. The US under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, a Yale-educated lawyer, has held a string of senior posts in the state and justice departments. By any yardstick, he is an experienced if conservative-minded diplomat of some gravitas who, it must be assumed, knows what he is doing. But according to an official North Korean statement this week, Bolton is "human scum".

Even by Pyongyang's astringent rhetorical standards, this is strong stuff. It constituted a reply in kind to a stunningly splenetic tirade delivered by Bolton in Seoul three days earlier that amounted to a fierce, personal attack on Kim Jong-il.

North Korea's leader was a tyrannical despot and extortionist who "lives like royalty", Bolton said, while hundreds of thousands of his people were locked up and millions more endured a life of "hellish nightmare... scrounging the ground for food in abject poverty". For good measure, Bolton also attacked the UN for not facing up to its responsibilities - a familiar theme for students of the Iraq crisis.

The curious thing about this exchange is not so much its intensity as its timing. Bolton went nuclear, verbally speaking, only hours before North Korea finally acceded to longstanding US demands for multilateral talks on its nuclear arms ambitions. South Korean officials were relieved that the North had not used Bolton's broadside as an excuse for further prevarication. But like the rest of us, they were left wondering whether Bolton had launched a deliberate pre-emptive strike against the nascent diplomatic process.

This raises a key question, as America's twin confrontations with North Korea and Iran over nuclear arms accelerate towards a crunch in the next few weeks. In a nutshell, peaceful, internationally supportable, diplomatic solutions to both disputes are available. Their outlines may be clearly discerned; the mechanisms by which they can be achieved are more or less in place. But does the US actually want to cut a deal?

The ambiguities clouding US policy towards North Korea date back to the early days of the administration, when George Bush put a damper on former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of detente with the North. Since 9/11 and Bush's "axis of evil" speech, matters have just gone from bad to worse.

The planned talks in China, also involving South Korea, Japan and Russia, are viewed in the region and beyond as a crucial opportunity to arrest this apparently inexorable downward spiral. The UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, and others have suggested that North Korea might initially freeze its nuclear arms programmes in return for a sort of US non-aggression pact.

But such compromises may not suit the likes of Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith at the Pentagon, and other hardliners, including perhaps Bush himself - who has professed personal loathing for Pyongyang's communist leader. For them, it seems, nothing less than Kim's overthrow will ultimately suffice, although it may have to wait until a second Bush term.

A former US envoy, James Goodby, warns that Washington must beware of over-reaching itself. "Many in the Bush administration want regime change in North Korea and think that slow strangulation might do it," Goodby wrote in the New York Times. But security assurances and economic incentives were what was really needed. "Improving the lot of the North Korean people should be a fundamental aim."

Such common-sense advice risks being drowned out by the beat of Washington's ideological war drums. That discord will strain ties with US regional allies, encourage North Korean paranoia and miscalculation, and could yet shipwreck any talks on a reef of mutual distrust, bad faith and hidden agendas.

If that isn't bad enough, comes this shot from the Bushies:
Beijing — A senior Pentagon adviser has given details of a war strategy for invading North Korea and toppling its regime within 30 to 60 days, adding muscle to a lobbying campaign by U.S. hawks urging a pre-emptive military strike against Pyongyang's nuclear facilities.

Less than four months after the end of the Iraq war, the war drums in Washington have begun pounding again. A growing number of influential U.S. leaders are talking openly of military action against North Korea to destroy its nuclear-weapons program, and even those who prefer negotiations are warning of the mounting danger of war.

Some analysts predict that North Korea could test a nuclear warhead by the end of this year — an event that could cross the "red line" that would provoke a U.S. attack.

The tensions were heightened by a recent exchange of gunfire across the border between North Korean and South Korean soldiers. Talks between U.S. and North Korean officials are expected to be held in Beijing soon, but nobody is predicting an imminent diplomatic agreement, especially after North Korea denounced a U.S. negotiator as a "bloodsucker" and "human scum."

Military conflict in the Korean peninsula could trigger a catastrophe, not only because of the suspected presence of nuclear bombs in North Korea, but also because of the 11,000 North Korean artillery weapons along the border that could inflict death and destruction on millions of people in the South Korean capital, Seoul, which is within artillery range of the North's guns.

Former CIA director James Woolsey, a Pentagon adviser and close ally of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, gave the most explicit glimpse into the thinking of U.S. military planners this week when he revealed the details of a possible plan of attack against North Korea.

This is all heading to a very bad end.........