Monday, May 31, 2004

The World War II Memorial

As alluded to earlier, Madame Cura and I joined Father and Mother Cura and attended the World War II Memorial dedication and related events in and around the Mall in Washington DC this weekend.

It was a moving experience. Old men and women, many in wheel chairs, some with oxygen tanks, moving -- slowly -- around the Mall, hoping to see buddies who are probably long gone and certainly no longer recognizable some 60 years later. At the dedication ceremony itself, it was remarkable to see how many 70 and 80 year olds who could still fit in the Marine dress blues or Eisenhower jackets they wore in their 20s and 30s. Ramrod straight backs.

But most of all, the sense of community and the sense of humor these guys -- and their long-suffering wives -- showed was a reminder of how self-conscious and self-absorbed are the generations that have followed. It was a marked contrast with the other big event that was to occur in the Capitol over the weekend -- the Rolling Thunder motorcycle...whatever for Vietnam vets/POW/MIA -- who basically took over the Mall pretty much as soon as the WWII events were over...even the DC police disappeared in the face of these vaguely menacing guys (and their women) and their really, really loud machines. Of course, I had to remind myself, the Hells Angels first formed early in the post-WWII years. In the late forties and fifties, the returning Vets weren't all the saintly codgers ambling from Swing Dance to the Reunion tents we find today.

The dedication ceremony itself had moments of real emotion, such as when Taps was played and the Vets saluted or held their caps over their hearts, remembering -- or trying to -- comrades lost both during the war and the many years sense.

And there were many light hearted moments, such as when Bob Dole -- who certainly received the loudest and most sincere applause of the day -- spoke. Looking out over the enormous audience filling the Mall, he asked, "Where were these crowds when I was running?"

And, of course, after receiving applause that was neither tepid nor rousing, Bush spoke. Not badly, I admit, but it occurred to me that FDR, in his many addresses to the nation asked from his countrymen enormous sacrifice, but spoke optimistically. GWB, in contrast, speaks of the "War on Terror" only in the most pessimistic terms, but asks for no sacrifice other than from those already in service.

There seemed to be two kinds of vets at the events this weekend. Guys like my father, who were happy to be there, but had basically moved on since the war ended and could barely remember much besides the painful discomfort of basic training, advanced training in the case of my father, and the miserable cold of Europe in the winter of '44 ("How could you dig fox holes in the frozen ground?" "When they're shooting at you, you dig."), and other guys -- usually wearing full VFW regalia -- who seemed to remember the most minute details. A typical exchange:

"What branch were you in?"

"The army; 82nd Airborne."

"Airborne! What company?"


"What battalion?"


"Yeah, battalion?"

"Hell, I don't remember."

I suggested to the Old Man that the reason some of these other guy's memories were so clear is that they have spent the last 60 years sitting around VFW halls every Friday, recounting their past heroism. Father Cura hasn't been to a VFW "Fish Fry" since the mid-50s.

But even in the case of my father, for whom the past isn't only dead, it's buried, for the first time in my life he began talking about the war. I think for a lot of these guys, it has taken more than half a century to begin to speak -- even in the most vague terms -- about what they saw over there in Europe or the Pacific. That, in and of itself, was worth the price of admission.

Anyway. It's about time. These guys deserved this weekend.

Memorial Day Sentiment

Heard repeatedly on the Mall throughout the weekend's WWII Memorial festivities this weekend:

(Irving Kahal / Sammy Fain)

Bing recorded "I'll Be Seeing You" Feb. 17, 1944. It entered the charts two months later, where it stayed for 24 weeks, topping the charts for 4 weeks.

I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces all day through
In that small café, the park across the way
The children's carousel, the chestnut trees, the wishing well

I'll be seeing you in every lovely summer's day
In everything that's light and gay
I'll always think of you that way
I'll find you in the mornin' sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon
But I'll be seeing you

------ instrumental break ------

I'll find you in the mornin' sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon
But I'll be seeing you

One of the many moving touches found this weekend during the WWII Memorial dedication events in Washington.

What's wrong with this picture?

"I ordered first a substantial increase in the training and equipment of South Vietnamese forces. . . . The primary mission of our troops is to enable the South Vietnamese forces to assume the full responsibility for the security of South Vietnam."

President Richard M. Nixon, on his Vietnamization policy, Nov. 3, 1969.

"Eventually [Iraqi forces] must be the primary defenders of Iraqi security, as American and coalition forces are withdrawn. . . . At my direction, and with the support of Iraqi authorities, we are accelerating our program to help train Iraqis to defend their country."

President George W. Bush, U.S. Army War College speech, May 24, 2004.

Colbert King suggests we watch Bush's pledge closely.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Henry, we hardly new ya (hardly).

I can't wait to dig into these.

I'll be taking advantage of $2+ gas prices to scream down the turnpike to visit the belly of the beast this weekend and attend the dedication of the World War II Memorial, honoring the 400,000 US dead from that epic conflict. So, posts may be few and far between.

I'll be back on Memorial Day, thinking of the 778 combat deaths, so far, from Iraq. And thinking about the rest of the troops battling in that moral inferno, where the good can be brought low along with the bad.

Happy holiday.

The Federal Reserve Chairman of the Bush administration

This explains quite a bit.

The picture of Greenspan scouring the Bush administration for details on global developments fits with his public image as a man with a voracious appetite for economic information. He is well known for immersing himself in obscure economic measures and dispatching Fed staff to canvass businesses about their plans.

But Greenspan's methods clearly changed after Bush took office. The Fed records show that Greenspan has called on the White House Council of Economic Advisers about as often during Bush's years as he did in the four years of President Clinton's second term. However the number of appointments with other White House officials jumped sharply with the new administration, from an average of three per year from 1996 through 2000, to 44 per year in 2001 through 2003. The chairman has already made 12 such visits in the first three months of this year, the latest data available.

The chairman has met with Vice President Cheney at least 17 times since early January 2001; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, 11 times; Rice, 12 times; Card, six times; Powell, once; Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, twice; and Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, once, according to the Fed's copies of Greenspan's schedule.

Greenspan had at least four official appointments with Cheney and one with Rumsfeld before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to the Fed records.

Many economists have wondered why Greenspan, early in the first year of the Bush administration, would betray eight years of devotion to fiscal responsibility to suddenly embrace Bush's massive tax cuts. And then, after he had suggested it might be a good idea to tie those original cuts to the effect on the deficit, he turns around a few years later and supports -- in the face of a huge, growing deficit -- making those tax cuts permanent.

It's certainly a relief that the mystery has been cleared up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The NY Times reports that WMD not found in Iraq

Well, it has taken long enough, but the Times has finally admitted that they, like the Bush administration were duped.

Over the last year this newspaper has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq's weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves.


Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.

Interestingly, they refer to "reporters" in the plural. In fact, most of the focus has been on Judith Miller, who not only was duped, but was aggressive in defending her easily duped reporting methods, acting as stenographer to any source the administration or the Iraqi National Congress threw her way. Jack Shafer provides much of the background.

But it is also true, as the Times "correction" concludes, that reporters do sometimes get the story wrong. It is then the paper's responsibility to be just as aggressive in correcting those mistakes, getting the story right just as prominently as they were in posting the mistaken article.

The Times has long been too intent on "rushing scoops into the paper." After all, they aren't in a circulation war with The New York Post.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Book reports

Nicholas Lemann on "Big Russ," which sounds as exciting and life-affirming as his graduation address.

Just after the September 11th attacks, Russert bags an interview at Camp David with Cheney. Beforehand, naturally, he calls Big Russ for advice, and it is “Just let him talk. Let him help get us through this.” Bingo: “Dad was so right. Without his advice, I would have focused mostly on the future, on our response to terrorism.” Instead, though we now know that planning for the war in Iraq was already under way, he had Cheney reminisce about 9/11. On the drive home, he checks back in with Big Russ. “That was great. Thank you,” he says. A year later, with war plainly on the horizon, Russert gets another interview with Cheney. The Vice-President’s manner—gruff, plainspoken, and perpetually alert to the world’s manifold perils—could have been custom-designed to have a positive effect on Big Russ’s son. I’m going to put an excerpt from the interview up on the screen, just to show you the distinctly respectful tone that Cheney brings out in Russert:

cheney: This just isn’t a guy who’s now back trying once again to build nuclear weapons. It’s the fact that we’ve also seen him in these other areas, in chemicals, but also especially in biological weapons, increase his capacity to produce and deliver these weapons upon, upon his enemies.
russert: But if he ever did that, would we not wipe him off the face of the Earth?
cheney: Who did the anthrax attack last fall, Tim? We don’t know.
russert: Could it have been Saddam?
cheney: I don’t know. I don’t know who did it. I’m not here today to speculate on or to suggest that he did. My point is that it’s the nature of terrorist attacks of these unconventional warfare methods, that it’s very hard sometimes to identify who’s responsible.

And Michael Kinsley on the Bobo's new book, "On Paradise Drive."

These riffs will not win prizes for internal consistency. In the Fry! discussion, there are detours into the culture of frequent flier points and the obsession with upgrades, among other topics. These are hilarious, but Brooks seems to forget his premise that Fry! is about monomania. That hardly matters if he's not trying to be serious. But he is trying to be serious, at least sometimes. He says he wants to rescue American civilization from the charge that it is shallow, and his main argument against that charge is that seemingly shallow behavior like shopping for the perfect barbecue or marketing the perfect French fry is actually a deeply spiritual quest, on a continuum with those of the Pilgrims arriving from the east and the pioneers heading west. We're certainly not going to buy that notion if the author himself can be distracted from it whenever the possibility of a good joke floats by.


Phil Carter has a new home.

He also has two excellent posts today. The first analyzes Bush's speach with a fair-mindedness that's typical of the site.

The second is a reflection on a gut-wrenching story [subscription required] of the heroism and loss of Marine Cpl Jason Dunham, who died after trying to save his fellow marines.

Howard Stern, lonely warrior

Well, not so lonely, but I was amazed to find that his website has become defeat George Bush dot com.

June 30th hand-over of power

The sad thing about the pitiful speech was that the audience was a pretty smart one, one that already knows Bush & Co's tactics in the "war on terror" have been a failure and war in Iraq a "distraction."

The "101st Fighting Keyboarders," as Atrios calls them, hear what they want to hear.

My own sense of what was new was the clear and emphatic declaration that the transfer of sovereignty June 30 will be real. That's critical - and critical to deliver. I also liked the way the president unapologetically linked what we are doing in Iraq with the broader war on terror. Critics like to believe that Saddam was somehow utterly unconnected to broader terror, had no potential to enable it, and was too secular to cooperate with al Qaeda. They're wrong on all counts. In the wake of 9/11, a Saddam-Zarqawi alliance would have been a terrible threat. Now we have a Baathist-Zarqawi insurgency.

Little Roy Cohn is a bit crazed. The "transfer of sovereignty June 30 will be real?" When an "interim government" can not pass laws or control security forces? When a grossly inadequate occupation force of 138,000 US troops will be on the ground (facing attack and, subsequently, retaliating)? I am not of the cut and run brigade, but let's be real and stop using words like sovereignty to describe what we're handing the Iraqis on June 30.

And Bush's continued equation of Saddam and al Qaeda is simply wrong, both factually and policy-wise. Under Saddam, Zarqawi operated in the no-fly/no-drive zone of northern Iraq. In fact, at any time before the war, U.S. special forces, predator drones, a cruise missile, or even the Kurds, could have taken him and his thugs out. Bush didn't give the order, since he was a useful faux argument for invasion. The policy implications of that are scary.

No, in a speech that even Republicans thought would suggest a mid-course correction or two, Bush proved he's resolute and steadfast. Resolutely stupid and steadfastly ignorant.

As one historian noted, Lincoln was resolute in saving the Union. But if he hadn't understood the initial problems and fired McClellan, there would still be slave auctions in Savannah.

Sad day for baseball fans

Doug Pappas has died, at 43. He was the scourge of Bud Selig, smart enough to read baseball's financial statements (few and far between as they have been) and clear enough a writer to help the rest of us understand them. His exploration of the cost a marginal team has to pay to win was the basis for the influential, Moneyball.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Blowing smoke at the UN

Is it me, or is the latest resolution ridiculous? It has all the appearences of being a not very sly effort on the part of Bush and Blair to cover their political backsides. The timing is interesting as well, coming on the same day that Bush is to deliver a speech laying out his plans for Iraq (I can't wait to hear them). Certainly one of the items he will now point to is that the US and Britian have gone to the UN with a resolution proposing an interim government in Iraq and turning much of the reconstruction over to the UN.

See, he'll say, we've got a plan in place to work with the UN to get us out of Mess-o-potamia.

Trouble is, there is simply no way the other members on the Security Council are going to accept this; or they will accept it grudgingly, not wanting to be branded as opposition to Iraqi "sovereignty." It seems unlikely that they will they accept a UN force under the "unified command" of the US.

Reaffirms the authorization for the multinational force under unified command established under resolution 1511 (2003) and having regard to the letter referred to in preambular paragraph 10 above, decides that the multinational force shall have authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq including by preventing and deterring terrorism, so that inter alia the United Nations can fulfill its role in assisting the Iraqi people as outlined in paragraph five above and the Iraqi people can implement freely and without intimidation the timetable and program for the political process and benefit from reconstruction and rehabilitation activities...

We've lost enough of our troops, now is the time for some new targets.

Requests Member States and international and regional security organizations to contribute assistance to the multinational force, including military forces, to help meet the needs of the Iraqi people for security and stability, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, and to support the efforts of UNAM...

Oh, yeah, and help us pay for this mess, as well.

Welcomes the commitment of creditors, including those of the Paris Club, to identify ways to reduce substantially Iraq's sovereign debt, urges the international financial institutions and bilateral donors to take immediate steps to provide their full range of loans and other financial assistance to Iraq, recognizes, that the Interim Government of Iraq has the authority to conclude and implement such agreements as may be necessary in this regard and requests creditors, institutions and donors to work as a priority on these matters with the Interim Government of Iraq...

And the best line,

Decides to remain actively seized of this matter.

So George Bush, and the average US voter, can stop being "actively seized of this matter."

Lying about the call "centre"

The RNC is denying the outsourcing story. As MaxSpeak points out, the GOP didn't do the outsourcing, a vendor did, so...the RNC lied about it anyway.

Just a habit with these guys, I guess.

Is the Unification Church a recruiting center for civilian contractors in Iraq?

How bizarre is this?

"Mr. Nakhla's resume, posted on a Web site for the Unification Church, does not show that he held any sort of previous job that would have given him a security clearance, although his job in Iraq was to translate as interrogators tried to extract sensitive information from detainees."

I had heard that the CPA was making a lot of hires to work in Iraq whose only qualification was their involvement with conservative groups, such as the Heritage Foundation. After all, for the Bush administration, only the like-minded are listened to.

But the moonies?

Wrong war, wrong time, wrong strategy

Or so said General Zinnin, on "60 Minutes" last night.

“There has been poor strategic thinking in this,” says Zinni. “There has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground. And to think that we are going to ‘stay the course,’ the course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it's been a failure.”

What most infuriatedd Zinni was the fact that "no heads have rolled."

And Brad DeLong asks, if Bush is really planning an overhaul of his cabinet for his "seconod term," why not overhaul it now? If it's a failure, will waiting another six months improve anything?

As Al Swearengen, Ian McShane's character in Deadwood, said the other night, "Ad fucking hoc."

While you were out

David Sanger on the irony that is the administration's North Korea "policy."

The discovery that North Korea may have supplied uranium to Libya poses an immediate challenge to the White House: while President Bush is preoccupied on the other side of the world, an economically desperate nation may be engaging in exactly the kind of nuclear proliferation that the president says he went to war in Iraq to halt.

The administration argues that the decision to invade Iraq instead of taking military action against North Korea was based on facility rather than necessity: we invaded Iraq because we could.

Further, according to the administration, North Korea poses a less immediate threat (than an Iraq which, it turns out, had no nuclear capability), because North Korea is so dirt poor. Which means, they won't develop and sell nuclear materials. Right.

"I admit there appears to be more than a little irony here," said one senior administration official, when asked how what he thought Mr. Bush might have said in public if Saddam Hussein - instead of Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader - had been suspected of shipping raw material for nuclear weapons to a country like Libya. "But Iraq was a different problem, in a different place, and we had viable military options," he continued. In North Korea, he said, Mr. Bush has virtually none. Indeed, the problems and the threats are different, even though Mr. Hussein's Iraq was lumped with North Korea as part of the "axis of evil" that President Bush cited in 2002.

Even hawks within the administration - a group led by Vice President Dick Cheney, who said on a trip to Asia last month that "time is not necessarily on our side" - see no major risk that North Korea will lash out at its neighbors or the United States.

The country is broke; American military officials say it can barely afford the jet fuel to give its fighter pilots time to train. Iraq, too, was in desperate economic straits, but it at least had oil revenue, skimmed from the United Nations oil-for-food program, and active trade. North Korea is literally starving; millions have died of malnutrition

Having mismanaged the Middle East through over-aggressive tactics, they mismanage Asia by ignoring the obvious dangers there. Once again, hope is their plan.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Rumsfeld gets to the heart of the matter

He bans camera phones in Iraq.

Rumsfeld certainly "gets it," doesn't he?

Zinni on "60 Minutes" tonight pretty clearly would disagree with that.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

New tape of Rumsfeld "authentic," says security experts

Is this our alternate reality?

"Seneca once said, 'To be feared is to fear: No one has been able to strike terror into others and at the same time enjoy peace of mind,'" Cheney said. "If we want these terrorists to fear the U.S., we as a people need to be filled with fear. Expect to see more heavily armed, uniformed officers, both at home and abroad."

But how " alternate" is it?

Chris Hitchens wakes up

Well, not really.

Richard Perle, agent of the Iranians?

Unbelievable. To think of Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, et al, duped by agents of the Iranian government, would be a sweet thing, except that it now begins to appear that we are at war in Iraq because of said agents' disinformation.

Jordan's King Abdullah fueled the U.S. move against Iraqi leader Ahmed Chalabi by providing bombshell intelligence that his group was spying for Iran, The Post has learned.

An explosive dossier that the Jordanian monarch recently brought with him to White House sessions with President Bush detailed Mafia-style extortion rackets and secret information on U.S. military operations being passed to Iran, diplomats said.

Talking Points Memo writes extensively of the revelations flooding in of Chalabi's ties to Iran. Some of these charges aren't exactly new, but they have apparently been confirmed, leading to Chalabi's abrupt change of status in the White House.

But something else is going on here, as TPM concludes.


We are witnessing a remarkable era in the history of the Republic. As Iraq grows ever more chaotic, so too does our government.

Update at 6:37pm:


\Ter`gi*ver*sa"tion\, n. [L. tergiversario: cf. F. tergiversation.] 1. The act of tergiversating; a shifting; shift; subterfuge; evasion.

Writing is to be preferred before verbal conferences, as being freer from passions and tergiversations. --Abp. Bramhall.

2. Fickleness of conduct; inconstancy; change.

The colonel, after all his tergiversations, lost his life in the king's service. --Clarendon.

Friday, May 21, 2004

60 Minutes' Parade of Bush admirers continues

General Zini is next, and it should be about as amusing as Clarke was.

President Bush is transforming the Middle East

By turning it into a powder keg. And the fuse is getting shorter and shorter.

Juan Cole also does a blistering takedown of Andrew Sullivan and others on the right who, when faced with criticism of the U.S. military's current activity in Iraq, attack the critic's "moral compass."

Truth in advertising: Sullivan attacked me on his weblog Thursday as having lost all "moral compass" because I dared to point out that the US Department of Defense and its allies are now killing Marsh Arabs around Kut, Amara and Majar al-Kabir--the very Marsh Arabs Mr. Wolfowitz said he was invading Iraq to protect from Saddam, who also used to kill them. In those days they were called the Iraqi Hizbullah. Many of them now are allied with Muqtada al-Sadr. There is an enormous difference in scale between what Saddam did to them and what the Coalition has done since the beginning of April. But it is early days, after all. And in issues of ethics and hypocrisy, scale is less important than principle.

I take it as a compliment that the Right is so afraid of this observation (the recent fate of the Marsh Arabs is not being discussed anyplace but the much-maligned Guardian) that they feel it necessary to resort to character assassination ("unreliable," "no moral compass") in my regard, in hopes of marginalizing me quick before the observation gains traction.

"Saving" the Iraqi Shiites was maybe the last rationale for their war that hadn't been discredited. Since April 2 they haven't been saving them any more. They have been killing them.

It's worth a read if for no other reason than it is a reminder of the bludgeon used by many on the "pro-war" side to silence critics in the run up to this war.

Speaking of a bludgeon. Here's another example (if we needed one) that the writers on the Wall St. Journal's editorial page either do not read or believe what's written in their own newspaper.

Reporters David S. Cloud, Gary Fields and Farnaz Fassihi write:

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile once strongly backed by some Bush administration officials, may have passed classified information on the American occupation of Iraq to the government of Iran, officials said.

Recent intelligence, including communications intercepts, suggest Mr. Chalabi, who serves on the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, provided contacts in Tehran with details of U.S. security operations and political plans, the officials said.

The claims appear to be part of a mushrooming number of investigations of Mr. Chalabi and his political party, the Iraqi National Congress. Senior coalition officials said Thursday that an Iraqi judge had issued an arrest warrant for seven of Mr. Chalabi's employees on charges of corruption, kidnapping, torture, car theft and misuse of government property for personal purposes. Iraqi police Thursday joined by personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, raided Mr. Chalabi's Baghdad house and political party headquarters.

"Is there reason to think he provided sensitive information to Iran?" a U.S. official said. "That's absolutely true."

Meanwhile, in "Review and Outlook," an editorial entitled "The Chalabi Treatments" begins thusly:

Someday we hope U.S. officials will explain to us how in scarcely a year they managed to turn one of our closest allies in ousting Saddam Hussein into an opponent of American purposes. We're referring to Ahmed Chalabi, the member of the Iraqi Governing Council whose home and office were raided by coalition forces yesterday in Baghdad.

A coalition spokesman said the raid wasn't aimed at either Mr. Chalabi or his political organization, the Iraqi National Congress. Instead, U.S. sources say the police were looking for evidence as part of an Iraqi-led fraud probe into Iraqis connected to the Ministry of Finance that Mr. Chalabi has supervised as a member of the Iraqi Governing Council. We suspect that distinction will be lost on most Iraqi news reports.

For his part, Mr. Chalabi blamed a political vendetta inspired by U.S. regent L. Paul Bremer. And he claimed the police were hunting for records related to the U.N.'s corrupt Oil for Food Program that he's been investigating. His ties with the coalition are now "non-existent," the businessman and former exile added.

We don't know enough of the facts to take sides. But we certainly think Mr. Chalabi deserves the benefit of the doubt, especially in light of his treatment by many U.S. officials over the past year. Some reporters still refer to him as the Pentagon's "favorite" to rule Iraq. If that's true we'd hate to see what happens to a non-favorite.

He's been vilified repeatedly in background quotes by U.S. "sources," especially by State Department and CIA officials who won't forgive him for opposing their status quo views of Saddam and the Mideast. Far from being anointed as Iraq's version of Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, Mr. Chalabi was named by Mr. Bremer as just one of 25 members to the unwieldy Governing Council.

Outsourcing begins at home -- the Bush/Cheney call "centre"

Dovetailing nicely with the source of their campaign gear, until recently RNC fund raising was done via a call "centre" in Noida, India. The contract was cancelled recently, in part because of new sensitivity on the part of Republicans to the outsourcing debate. But there's more:

But the million-dollar question is why was the contract called off? Insiders say the growing resentment in the US audiences against outsourcing to India and strong reactions from Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry were at the root of capping the contract. The anti-outsourcing lobby within the Republicans also had a hand in ending the contract, insiders divulged. But according to HCL sources one consideration was non-viability in the last few months after having covered most voters from the RNC database.

The RNC has run out of people to call?

Donald Rumsfeld and Lou Pinella

Both are having bad seasons and both respond in similar fashion.

The case for Kerry/McCain

Five years of torture in a North Vietnam POW camp wasn't enough, Ignatius seems to imply, McCain should endure another huge sacrifice and join the Kerry ticket.

In normal times, people would accept McCain's response to joining Kerry: "I have totally ruled it out." But these aren't normal times, and McCain's response is unworthy. Simply put, the country needs him. The logic of a Kerry-McCain ticket isn't to win an election but to provide leadership for a divided country at war.

Well, I'd like to see it win an election.

Billionaires for Bush

Come the Convention, it's going to be very difficult telling the difference between the real thing and the satirical version.

The again, the GOP is practically beyond parody.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The emperor visits the Roman Senate

So, Commander Codpiece deigned to visit Republican lawmakers today. He did not take questions, though, no give and take even with his own party.

He gave a 30 minute speech. Under a banner that proclaimed, "Mission Getting Ugly," the Post report did not say.

Josuah Marshall notes the condescension Bush showed to the inhabitants of the cradle of civilization, saying it was time to "take the training wheels off" the fledgling democracy.

But the condescension he showed to his GOP colleagues is just as obvious. And they lap it up.

Some in Congress, including Republicans, have criticized the Bush administration for not keeping Congress abreast of the cost of the Iraq war and reconstruction, the abuse of Iraqi detainees and the transfer of power.
But Allen said there was no dissent in the room.

"None that I heard," Allen said. Bush was interrupted by applause "probably dozens of times, and several standing ovations," he said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., flashed two thumbs up as he left. "It was a pep talk for Republicans," he said. "He laid out a pretty strong case for staying the course in Iraq."

McCain said the president did not mention in any detail the prison abuse scandal in Iraq, nor did he take questions on that or any other topic. "Nothing you haven't heard before," McCain said.


McCain gets a lesson in courage

Dennis Hastert says the darndest things.

Hastert's statement, combining the sacrifice of wounded soldiers with the need to make tax cuts for the rich permanent and new tax cuts easier to push through Congress, shows -- in addition to a contempt for logic -- an intellectual dishonesty that is really at the heart of why Bush and his henchmen in the House are driving us down a path that is unsustainable.

Everything is subsumed to an idealogical commitment to "starving the beast" -- eliminating funding for government -- and Republicans who defy that commitment have their patriotism impugned.

A similar dynamic is going on with the so-called war on terror. Reasonable discourse is simply not permitted. Ask a question about means and the response is to point at the flag.

That's why our fiscal situation is dire, as is our situation in Iraq.

Drop the Chalabi!

Every day in Iraq brings a new surprise. Now we've gone from wanting to install Chalabi to power in Iraq and paying his firm more than $300 grand a month to raiding his "ornate Chinese-style mansion"?

Excuse my conspiracy theory, but doesn't this have the potential for actually increasing Chalabi's credibility among Iraqis? Sounds like something Paul Bremer would stumble into.

Gay marriage: a slippery slope to petaphelia

In curious irony, Morman Mitt, governor of Mass., had the shameful audacity to invoke a 1913 state law banning out-of-state interracial couples from marrying in order to prevent out-of-state gay couples from marrying. How repulsive.

I think I speak for beleaguered heterosexual couples everywhere in saying that thank goodness there are patriots like Mitt Romney willing to debase himself by invoking a law from a shameful era in the state's history, and George Bush who is willing to be known as the president who first wanted an amendment to the Constitution actually limiting one group of people's civil rights.

Dahlia Lithwick is willing to walk down the slippery slope.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

George Bush, CEO of the United States

There have been a number of very good posts by other bloggers lately, discussing the pros and cons of George Bush as the first MBA president. And as this WSJ article [sorry, subscription required] makes clear, the cons lately are outweighing the pros by a pretty wide margin.

What strikes me, in reading the article, is that as light is shed on the inner workings of the Bush administration how similar it appears to be to the C-suite at such fine corporations as Enron, Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom, etc.

Officials who have worked with Mr. Bush as governor and president say his administration is striking for its internal discipline. There is little debate at cabinet meetings or other private councils, which mainly serve as forums that let Mr. Bush restate his goals and hear each official's report, according to past participants. Leaks and public disagreements aren't tolerated. His circle of advisers is small, and he isn't a "walk around" manager who tries to canvass opinions from a variety of officials.

"Organizational leadership is one of the strengths of the nation's first MBA president," presidential scholar Fred Greenstein recently wrote in a new Bush chapter to his book, "The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Clinton."

But now he qualifies that praise. "It's clearly not a team that's humming very well," Mr. Greenstein says. He gives some of the blame to a "flawed deliberative style" that has placed an incurious delegator among soul mates.

Indeed, recent events have provoked management expert Warren Bennis at the University of Southern California to write a Bush critique he has tentatively titled "It's Not (All) About Rumsfeld," a reference to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In it, he criticizes "the president's failure to create a culture of candor within his administration -- one that forces his subordinates to tell him what he must know, not what they think he wants to hear."

In a number of interviews, Bush watchers, including many Republicans, cite other problems the administration has weathered that reflect some of the same management shortcomings. Among them are the use of bad intelligence to detail the case on Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction and Mr. Bush's subsequent resistance to calls for an independent investigation of prewar intelligence. The list also includes the administration's withholding from Congress an analyst's projection that the Medicare prescription-drug benefit would cost far more than the $400 billion over 10 years that Mr. Bush had cited during debate on the benefit.

"A continuing problem for the administration is that they fail to adapt after their initial policy assumptions turn out to be false," says Roger Cressey, who served on the National Security Council staff under the current administration and President Clinton. "There is a stubbornness not to admit mistakes or show weakness, which is a clear reflection of the president's management style."


Bush watchers, including supporters, see the pitfalls of the Bush dynamic at play in aspects of the prison-abuse scandal. Observers in both parties say his "Don't Mess with Texas" rhetoric -- used to enunciate war goals such as "smoke 'em out" and "bring 'em on" -- clearly has influenced some of those on the ground in Iraq.

Mr. Bush, along with Mr. Rumsfeld, early on in the war on terror declared the U.S. wouldn't be formally bound by the Geneva Conventions on treatment of suspected al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan and designated them "unlawful combatants." Critics say the decision, while it didn't apply to Iraqi prisoners, sent a broader signal of disdain for humanitarian codes.

And it still isn't clear just what Mr. Bush knew of the reports of abuses in Iraqi prisons that at this point go back more than a year. Mr. Greenstein, in his updated book, recalls that as governor Mr. Bush neither read a report on a bonfire that killed a number of state university students nor an executive summary. As for the photos that sparked the prisoner-abuse furor, neither Mr. Rumsfeld nor Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers told Mr. Bush of them before they were broadcast by CBS -- even though Gen. Myers had already persuaded CBS to wait two weeks before airing them.

For a long while, executives at Enron and the rest were able to outrun events. Their stock price remained high, profits appeared to be growing, they were able to bully or silence analysts who questioned their business models or their expenses. But, eventually, events caught up. The stock price falls, uncovering shaky accounting, complacent auditor suddenly gets cold feet, etc.

I think we're seeing that now. Bush and his "executives" have been running this country on (perhaps literally) a wing and a prayer, and now they find they're running out of runway. Iraq is spiralling out of control, disgruntled former (and current) cabinet members are squealing, the auditors (Congress) are getting squeamish, and the previously fawning press are no longer hailing Bush as Hero CEO.

Bush's business model is wacked. Hopefully, voters are taking notice.

Unprogressive tax policy

I guess I'm no longer shocked by this plan to extend the income limits of the child tax credit to the wealthy, while doing nothing for the working poor. I've simply gotten used to the gradual chipping away (and in some cases, blasting away) at the very notion of a progressive income tax system.

Republicans in Congress continue their long time plan to "starve the beast" that is the federal government (even while troops in Iraq are insufficiently supplied with body armour and armoured vehicles) and Democrats stand meekly by. And the voters reward this. Polls show most Americans are uninformed on how the tax system has been tilted in favor of the rich while the disadvantaged pay an increasingly disproportionate amount of their money back to the government through payroll taxes and sales taxes, particularly the absurd amount taxed on cigarettes.

It often feels like the start of the 20th Century, when monied interests firmly controlled the government, cartels controlled commerce, and the poor were effectively disenfranchised.

Safire's sarin moment

Safire is desperate. He now finds that a single shell -- which the Defense Dept. itself is downplaying -- is evidence of a cache of WMD and worthy of an "I told you so."

TPM has more.

Spelling out the Bush administration's deceit

The Times, so often a stenographer for the administration, saw fit today to actually walk the paper's readers throughBush & Co.'s habit of lying...about everything.

Like many of its predecessors, the Bush White House has used the machinery of government to promote the re-election of the president by awarding federal grants to strategically important states. But in a twist this election season, many administration officials are taking credit for spreading largess through programs that President Bush tried to eliminate or to cut sharply.

For example, Justice Department officials recently announced that they were awarding $47 million to scores of local law enforcement agencies for the hiring of police officers. Mr. Bush had just proposed cutting the budget for the program, known as Community Oriented Policing Services, by 87 percent, to $97 million next year, from $756 million.

The administration has been particularly energetic in publicizing health programs, even ones that had been scheduled for cuts or elimination.

Elvin Jones, drummer for Coltrane's quartet

Elvin Jones, one of the greatest drummers of all time, has died.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

From liberators to war crimes tribunals in a few short months

I have accused the Bush administration of much that is venal, nefarious, stupid [insert your adjective here], but I have generally not gone quite as far as some of my blogging colleagues by making criminal charges against Bush & Co. But Newsweek's exposure of White House counsel Gonzales memorandum recommending sloughing off the "quaint" niceties of the Geneva Convention -- and Bush's apparent approval of that recommendation -- takes the game to an entirely new level. While first arguing that "a new paradigm" is required in fighting the war on terror, Gonzalez goes much further, arguing that they have to drop the conventions or else -- in an odd bit of logic -- members of the military as well as members of the current administration could be subject to war crimes investigations in a subsequent administration.

Gonzales also argued that dropping Geneva would allow the president to "preserve his flexibility" in the war on terror. His reasoning? That U.S. officials might otherwise be subject to war-crimes prosecutions under the Geneva Conventions. Gonzales said he feared "prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges" based on a 1996 U.S. law that bars "war crimes," which were defined to include "any grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions. As to arguments that U.S. soldiers might suffer abuses themselves if Washington did not observe the conventions, Gonzales argued wishfully to Bush that "your policy of providing humane treatment to enemy detainees gives us the credibility to insist on like treatment for our soldiers."

As Fred Kaplan writes in Slate, this puts the scandal of Abu Ghraib at the very welcome mat outside the Oval Office. While I don't accuse Bush of authorization the activities in Abu Ghraib, not only did he and Rumsfeld permit a climate where such abuses appeared to be condoned, they clearly were aware that the climate they were creating could lead to actions that violate the War Crimes Act.

Via Andrew Sullivan, Mark Bowden weighs in on Abu Ghraib.

The Bush Administration has tried to walk a dangerous line in these matters. The President has spoken out against torture, but his equivocations on the terms of the Geneva Convention suggest that he perceives wiggle room between ideal and practice. There are reports that Administration lawyers quietly drafted a series of secret legal opinions last year that codified the "aggressive" methods of interrogation permitted at U.S. detention facilities?which, if true, effectively authorized in advance the use of coercion.

Perhaps the most disturbing evidence of this mindset was Donald Rumsfeld's long initial silence on the Abu Ghraib photos. His failure to alert the President or congressional leaders before the photos became public?and he knew they were going to become public?leads one to conclude that he didn't think they were a very big deal. If so, this reveals him to be astonishingly tone-deaf, or worse. Maybe he simply wasn't shocked.

Now, there is a silver lining. Alberto Gonzales won't likely be a candidate for Chief Justice.

Representative Hunter doesn't quite "get it," does he?

I think the Senate Armed Services Committee is now in too-deep to try to bury the story, but the wingnuts in the House will stoop at nothing.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee harshly criticized his Senate counterparts Tuesday, accusing them of "basically driving the story" of the Iraq prison abuse and pulling officials out of Iraq to testify.

"I think they have given now probably more publicity to what six people did in the Abu Ghraib prison at 2:30 in the morning than the invasion of Normandy," Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said on C-SPAN.

While other Republicans have also raised concerns that the prison abuse controversy is diverting attention from the war, the criticism by a House chairman was unusual.

It's curious how Rep. Hunter has chosen to spend his time on some of the weightier issues of our times.

Staying the course in Iraq...right into the ditch

Bill Kristol, on the Daily Show last week, openly stated that Bush "drove us into a ditch." He was laughing as he said it, but that's the most pointed critique of Bush by a conservative I've yet seen.

And he's right, as underscored by this post from Joshua Marshall, an e-mail from a retired military intelligence officer now working as a security contractor in Iraq.

He describes the U.S. Army, an institution he loves, as dysfuntional now, 1968-style.

The course is, depressingly, no longer stayable. But as Krugman writes today, when we declare victory and get out of Iraq, we will have lost prestige, but avoided ruin.

I also think Josh is right, here, in suggesting that Kerry let the fight come to him now and let events spin on their own.

Our Iraq Moment: This is the Donner Party!

David Brooks seems to think we'll be alright as soon as we get over our sissified squeamishness and get to work doing what must be done.

"The guides who aided and fleeced the pioneers who moved West were struck by how clueless many of them were about the wilderness they were entering. Their diaries show that many thought they could establish genteel New England-style villages in short order. They leapt before they looked, faced the shock of reality, adapted and cobbled together something unexpected."

And got used to the taste of human flesh in some cases.

Correction: In a recent post, I stated that a group of senior JAG officers visited the ACLU office in New York to ask for help in investigating charges that the DoD was systematically violating prisoners' rights in Iraq. That was incorrect. They visited the New York Bar Association's committee on international human rights.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Wafer Wars, Wafergate, Whatever

The Eucharist follies continue in the pages of the New York Times. It bothers me that the story, by Mindy Sink, does not even mention John Kerry by name, when that is certainly the subtext of the story (and the only thing making this, remotely, "news). And, more curious and disturbing still, abortion, stem cell research, and euthanasia are all mentioned as potential reasons for withholding communion from Catholic politicians, but a couple of other biggies are not, specifically, support for the death penalty (and I'm not talking estate taxes here, just to be clear) and a certain war in the Tigris and Euphrates region.

I've gotten so used to the Times hackneyed coverage of irrelevant issues on the campaign trail that I wasn't even going to mention it, but then I came across two smart postings on the subject by Amy Sullivan, here, and in response to her critics, here.

Another deserter from the War on Drugs

Well, well, now even Russia has a more rational drug policy than the U.S.

American exceptionalism no longer so exceptional

Exactly right.

Can we get our country back now?

Pentagon non-denies New Yorker story

Um, huh?

In a statement on Saturday, the Pentagon described that article as "outlandish" and "filled with error."

"No responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses as witnessed in the recent photos and videos," it said.

That is a classic non-denial denial. Or, as Josh Marshall calls it, "splutter."

In a related story, Phil Carter explains why the Bush administration's penchant for torture will undermine the criminal prosecution of terrorists, forcing us to limit our options to a strictly martial one.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Only if Uma Thurman can play the title character

Tarantino wants to remake "Casino Royale."

Side note: I hear the latest slang among urban school girls is to " go all Uma on" other kids they want to get even with.

The Pentagon ordered the sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners

I knew that Rumsfeld, with the blessings of Rice, Cheney, and Bush, created a lawless atmosphere that laid the conditions for the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

It did not occur to me that Rumsfeld had authorized the selfsame abuse.

According to yet another stunning report from Sy Hersh in The New Yorker, the abuse was part of an extension of a secret intelligence program designed to get information from Taliban and al Qaeda agents in Afghanistan. But as frustration built during the growing insurgency in Iraq, Rumsfeld put Stephan Cambone, who had virtually no experience with military intelligence, in charge of the program and focused on prisoners in Iraqi jails.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon's operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld's long-standing desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

It is an astonishing story and one that must force Bush to dump Rumsfeld and much of the Pentagon's senior civilian leadership, along with some other uniformed leaders whose names have become familiar in recent months. Indeed, what a cast of characters:

Cambone was a strong advocate for war against Iraq. He shared Rumsfeld's disdain for the analysis and assessments proffered by the C.I.A., viewing them as too cautious, and chafed, as did Rumsfeld, at the C.I.A.'s inability, before the Iraq war, to state conclusively that Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction. Cambone's military assistant, Army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, was also controversial. Last fall, he generated unwanted headlines after it was reported that, in a speech at an Oregon church, he equated the Muslim world with Satan.

The hubris mixed with short-sightedness of these guys has been truly spectacular. As Rumsfeld's "dead enders" and "foreign terrorists" had grown into a full blown anti-occupation insurgency, Cambone made the decision to "get tough" with Iraqi prisoners, and he brought General Miller, who had been running Guantanamo Bay, over to Iraq. Miller's recommendation was to begin using techniques in Iraq that had been successful at G. Bay, including sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, and prolonged "stress positions."

As troubling as those techniques are in practice, prior to Iraq they were practiced by trained personnel who knew where "the red lines were." Expanding them to Iraq -- and the much wider regular army establishment -- could not help but lead to disaster.

Cambone then made another crucial decision, the former intelligence official told me: not only would he bring the sap's rules into the prisons; he would bring some of the Army military-intelligence officers working inside the Iraqi prisons under sap auspices. "So here are fundamentally good soldiers -- military-intelligence guys -- being told that no rules apply," the former official, who has extensive knowledge of the special-access programs, added. "And, as far as they're concerned, this is a covert operation, and it's to be kept within Defense Department channels."

The military-police prison guards, the former official said, included "recycled hillbillies from Cumberland, Maryland."? He was referring to members of the 372nd Military Police Company. Seven members of the company are now facing charges for their role in the abuse at Abu Ghraib. "How are these guys from Cumberland going to know anything? The Army Reserve doesn't know what it's doing."

It strikes me that the administration's (continued) conflating of the attacks of September 11 and the war in Iraq continues to have not unexpected negative consequences. Not only is it bitterly frustrating that young men and women are fighting and, often, dying under the mistaken impression that they are getting payback for 9-11. But now we know that it also has lead to structural problems in the military, where techniques used by a small group of special forces units, hunting high value Islamic fascists, were adapted by the regular army adriversustrated cab drivers in Iraq.

And then there's the neocons' obsession with sex.

The government consultant said that there may have been a serious goal, in the beginning, behind the sexual humiliation and the posed photographs. It was thought that some prisoners would do anything --including spying on their associates -- to avoid dissemination of the shameful photos to family and friends. The government consultant said, "I was told that the purpose of the photographs was to create an army of informants, people you could insert back in the population." The idea was that they would be motivated by fear of exposure, and gather information about pending insurgency action, the consultant said. If so, it wasn't effective; the insurgency continued to grow.

"This shit has been brewing for months," the Pentagon consultant who has dealt with saps told me. "You don't keep prisoners naked in their cell and then let them get bitten by dogs. This is sick." The consultant explained that he and his colleagues, all of whom had served for years on active duty in the military, had been appalled by the misuse of Army guard dogs inside Abu Ghraib. "We don't raise kids to do things like that. When you go after Mullah Omar, that's one thing. But when you give the authority to kids who don't know the rules, that?s another."

Things have been drawing to this point for some time with even the Pentagon's JAGs going to the ACLU in New York to bring the human rights abuses ordered by the Pentagon's leadership to light.

It's going to be very interesting to see how the Republican controlled House and Senate will respond to these latest charges. There seems to be growing unease on The Hill with the Administration's imperial attitude towards Congressional oversight. And Senator McCain is a force to be reckoned with.

Sy Hersh's story must be read to be believed.

Smarty Jones, the Philadelphia Story continues

He wins the Preakness by 12 lengths. Remarkable.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Hidden in plain site: North Korea's weapons of mass destruction and Bush's inaction

"The pattern of decision making that led to this debacle--as described to me in recent interviews with key former administration officials who participated in the events--will sound familiar to anyone who has watched Bush and his cabinet in action. It is a pattern of wishful thinking, blinding moral outrage, willful ignorance of foreign cultures, a naive faith in American triumphalism, a contempt for the messy compromises of diplomacy, and a knee-jerk refusal to do anything the way the Clinton administration did it."

Sound familiar? Well, we ain't just talking about Iraq. Frd Kaplan has brings to light a well known story, but one in which the details of just how badly the Bush administration has screwed up weren't clear to me.

"Conservatives today portray Bush's unwillingness to negotiate with Kim as a virtue that will make the world safer, and Clinton's '94 framework as something that rewarded evil and therefore undermined our security. But the simple fact is that if Clinton hadn't signed it, North Korea could have built dozens of nuclear bombs by now--to store as a deterrent, rattle as weapons of intimidation, sell to the highest bidder for much-needed hard currency, or all three. And if steps aren't taken to ward North Korea off its current course, Kim Jong-il could build dozens of bombs over the next few years. This is why, ultimately, Bush's no-negotiations policy is not merely puzzling but irresponsible. Kim may be playing the nuclear card as a bargaining chip, but if the United States declines to bargain, he will gladly keep his chips and stack them high.

"The worry isn't merely that this strange, totalitarian power will have nuclear weapons--it's also what other powers may do as a result. If North Korea gets a handful or more of atom bombs, many believe that Japan will drop its historical restraints and build atom bombs, too, as a deterrent. A nuclear Japan could galvanize China to restart its long-dormant nuclear weapons program. China's buildup could trigger escalation by India, which would compel Pakistan to match warhead for warhead. All Asia could find itself embroiled in a nuclear arms race."

Mess-o-potamia, the environment, North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Wow. What a legacy the Miserable Failure is creating. But of course, that would be history, and Bush doesn't read anything but the sports page.

Using Army dogs as weapons

One of the many disturbing details unearthed by Seymour Hersh, here, in his second report on systemic abuse of prisoners in Iraq, is the use of dogs to terrorize prisoners.

One of the new photographs shows a young soldier, wearing a dark jacket over his uniform and smiling into the camera, in the corridor of the jail. In the background are two Army dog handlers, in full camouflage combat gear, restraining two German shepherds. The dogs are barking at a man who is partly obscured from the camera’s view by the smiling soldier. Another image shows that the man, an Iraqi prisoner, is naked. His hands are clasped behind his neck and he is leaning against the door to a cell, contorted with terror, as the dogs bark a few feet away. Other photographs show the dogs straining at their leashes and snarling at the prisoner. In another, taken a few minutes later, the Iraqi is lying on the ground, writhing in pain, with a soldier sitting on top of him, knee pressed to his back. Blood is streaming from the inmate’s leg. Another photograph is a closeup of the naked prisoner, from his waist to his ankles, lying on the floor. On his right thigh is what appears to be a bite or a deep scratch. There is another, larger wound on his left leg, covered in blood.

But if other reports are true, then dogs are being used to terrorize "civilians" in Iraq and not just prisoners.

There is at least one other report of violence involving American soldiers, an Army dog, and Iraqi citizens, but it was not in Abu Ghraib. Cliff Kindy, a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, a church-supported group that has been monitoring the situation in Iraq, told me that last November G.I.s unleashed a military dog on a group of civilians during a sweep in Ramadi, about thirty miles west of Fallujah. At first, Kindy told me, “the soldiers went house to house, and arrested thirty people.” (One of them was Saad al-Khashab, an attorney with the Organization for Human Rights in Iraq, who told Kindy about the incident.) While the thirty detainees were being handcuffed and laid on the ground, a firefight broke out nearby; when it ended, the Iraqis were shoved into a house. Khashab told Kindy that the American soldiers then “turned the dog loose inside the house, and several people were bitten.” (The Defense Department said that it was unable to comment about the incident before The New Yorker went to press.)

When I asked retired Major General Charles Hines, who was commandant of the Army’s military-police school during a twenty-eight-year career in military law enforcement, about these reports, he reacted with dismay. “Turning a dog loose in a room of people? Loosing dogs on prisoners of war? I’ve never heard of it, and it would never have been tolerated,” Hines said. He added that trained police dogs have long been a presence in Army prisons, where they are used for sniffing out narcotics and other contraband among the prisoners, and, occasionally, for riot control. But, he said, “I would never have authorized it for interrogating or coercing prisoners. If I had, I’d have been put in jail or kicked out of the Army.”

According to reported testimony from one of the Abu Ghraib guards, superiors didn't order the mistreatement of prisoners. But the use of dogs, not only in the prison, but, allegedly, in terrorizing civilians during raids of their homes does suggest something "systemic." Are dogs being used because soldiers are under the common impression that Muslims believe dogs are "unclean?"

This practice may not be an officially sanctioned "psy-ops" tactic, but it may be one that is being permitted in the ranks as a way to "soften up," not just prisoners but the general occupied population.

Madness. Is anyone in charge of our forces in Iraq?

Oedipus Rex

From Hendrk Hertzberg's review of Woodward's latest, in the May 10 issue of The New Yorker (sorry, can't find a link).

The most astounding passage in "Plan of Attack" comes in the epilogue, when Woodward is recounting one of his tape-recorded interviews with the President:

I asked about his father in this way: "Here is the one living human being who's held this office who had to make a decision to go to war. And it would not be credible if you did not at some point ask him, "What are the ingredients of doing this right? Or what's your thought, this is what I'm facing."

"If it wouldn't be credible," Bush replied, "I guess I better make up an answer."

Bush struggles to remember a "poignant moment" with his father. He comes up empty. "I can't remember a moment where I said to myself, maybe he can help me make the decision," he says. "I'm trying to remember," he says. "I don't remember," he says. "I could ask him and see if he remembers something," he says. And finally:

"The discussions would be more on the tactics. How are we doing, How are you doing with the Brits? He is following the news now. And I am briefing him on what I see. You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to."

Bush's talk of a higher father is one of the reasons that the Bush-Cheney campaign (like the John Kerry campaign) has recommended "Plan of Attack" to its suppoerters. That kind of talk, after all, is sure to please the base. But if the son is capable of so thoughtlessly blurting out, in effect, that his earthly father is week -- that the boy is determined, at long last, to show his dad a thing or two -- then there may be something stranger and darker at the root of our present difficulties than a noble effort to change the world.

Well, at least he listens to Laura.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

I'ts not Rumsfeld's job to resign, it's Bush's to fire him

That seems to be where Fred Kaplan is going.

On Dec. 15, 1993, not quite a year into President Bill Clinton's first term, his secretary of defense, Les Aspin, announced that he would resign. Two months earlier, 18 U.S. Rangers had died, some of them brutally, in the disastrous "Black Hawk Down" raid on Mogadishu. A month before that, the Rangers' commander in Somalia had asked the Pentagon for armored vehicles. Aspin rejected the request. In the raid's aftermath, many blamed Aspin's denial for the Americans' deaths.

Some controversy remains over whether Aspin—who died a year and a half later from heart problems at age 56—deserved to be the fall guy; but it's an irrelevant debate. The key point is that Aspin lost the president's confidence. Once that happens, for whatever reason, the Cabinet officer in question needs to be replaced.

Outrage at the outrage continues

Marc Racicot and Ed Gillespie are outraged, outraged I tell you that Kerry would dare to criticize the truly remarkable job Bush & Co. are doing in Iraq.

"Pressed repeatedly during his conference call to explain why discussion of the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq was inappropriate - particularly when Republicans have made the war in Iraq a central campaign issue - Mr. Racicot said linking the prison scandal to fund-raising crossed a line..."

Uh, what line would that be? The line set when Bush used actors to portray firefighters bringing bodies out of the wreckage of the World Trade Center? Or maybe when Commander Codpiece stood in front of a banner proclaiming, "mission accomplished?" Or was it when the fool said of the rising insurgency a year ago, "Bring em on?"

"Rick Davis, a Republican strategist who managed Senator John McCain's campaign against Mr. Bush for their party's presidential nomination in 2000, said the flap reflected a common campaign tactic: 'attack the attacker.'

"'I'm sure they're just flailing,' Mr. Davis said of Mr. Racicot and other Bush backers. 'I'm sure they're trying to do whatever they can from a political perspective to put their finger in the dike, and either change the subject or make the people who are attacking them the issue.'"

Liberty bombs

Gosh, I thought we were looking for WMD; no, scratch that. Oh, yeah, creating a dominoe effect of democracy in the middle east; well, that may be delayed. Oh, shit. I forget why we're there, but these guys seem to know what must be done. Instead of leveling with the people of the middle east, let's just level them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The actions of a few rogue journalists

Atrios links to a transcription of a bit from last night's Daily Show that is absolutely spot on.


The rift between the uniformed military and the civilians in the Pentagon flared right out in the open yesterday.

Taguba, who understands a little something about torture as his father was brutalized as a prisoner of the Japanese in WWII, also understands that by flouting the principles of the Geneva Convention -- and then, when the obvious happens, denying any such flouting -- we weaken those conventions. And as the world's policemen, U.S. troops may suffer by that weakness.

Per Talking Points Memo, even the Washington Post editorial board, not usually an entity willing to point a finger at the Bush administration and exclaim, "J'accuse," has done so.

Mr. Cambone made no attempt to reconcile his claim of U.S. adherence to international law with the actual procedures his office has helped to promulgate. Instead he insisted that the crimes at Abu Ghraib -- which, though they went beyond the established practices, were based on the same principles -- were the responsibility of the guards and their commanders, and not the intelligence-gathering system. In this he was contradicted by the witness sitting next to him, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who repeated the conclusion of his own investigation: that the practices were introduced by intelligence interrogators who were improperly placed in command of the guards.

These contradictions go to the heart of this scandal and its impact. The sickening abuse of Iraqi prisoners will do incalculable damage to American foreign policy no matter how the administration responds. But if President Bush and his senior officials would acknowledge their complicity in playing fast and loose with international law and would pledge to change course, they might begin to find a way out of the mess. Instead, they hope to escape from this scandal without altering or even admitting the improper and illegal policies that lie at its core. It is a vain hope, and Congress should insist on a different response.

Oh, but of course, I forgot. The real scandal is not the abuse, but that 60 Minutes II ran with the pictures.

Kaus and Goldberg's argument that there was no need to show the pictures and that a description of what's in them would have been enough, flies in the face of reason as well as Rumsfeld's own testimony on Friday. When asked why he hadn't raised an alarm over the growing scandal in January, when the investigation began, he replied, it wasn't until he'd seen the pictures that he understood the full horror of what had occurred.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

More than we needed to know.

That got Limbaugh thinking and making some lurid confessions: "If you look at these pictures, you cannot deny that there are elements of homoeroticism …I've seen things like this on American websites. You can find these if you have the passwords to these various porn sites, you can see things like this. And [Hughes'] point was maybe these kids—the soldiers, the guards, whoever, who are of a certain age group, who've grown up with access to this are simply acting out what they've seen on these websites or something, just for the fun of it, or maybe other reasons."

Oh, my.

And, oh, my.

A sickening vortex

We seem to now be in a desperate whirlpool of violence in which both sides seem unable to stop elements from their side from doing their best to aid the recruitment efforts of the other side. Elements of our military intelligence insist on "softening up" detainees and untrained GIs take trophy pictures. Monsters of the insurgency behead American contractors. We inflame the worst passions of the occupied, leading to atrocities which in turn inflame the worst passions of the Right wingnuts, leading to Fallujahs.

After the initial wave of nausea and despair, this paragraph struck me:

"Mr. Berg's mother told The A.P. that her son had been in Iraq from December to February seeking work rebuilding the country's infrastructure. After a short stay back home, she said, he returned to Iraq in March. He later told them that he had been jailed by Iraqi officials after being stopped at a checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul before he could return home, as planned, on March 30."

Hmmm. Iraqi officials? And Mosul is in Northern Iraq, near Kurdistan but farther, I thought, than most of the insurgency violence.

There are some good signals out there. See? There's one now. Did you see it?

"The top U.S. commander in the war also said he strongly disagrees with the view that the United States is heading toward defeat in Iraq. 'We are not losing, militarily,' Army Gen. John Abizaid said in an interview Friday. He said that the U.S. military is winning tactically. But he stopped short of being as positive about the overall trend. Rather, he said, 'strategically, I think there are opportunities.'

"The prisoner abuse scandal and the continuing car bombings and U.S. casualties "create the image of a military that's not being effective in the counterinsurgency," he said. But in reality, 'the truth of the matter is . . . there are some good signals out there.'"

Phil Carter has more, and decidedly less confident (if that's the word for Abizaid's statement -- "some good signals," indeed) comments from military leaders in Iraq.

Staying the course is no longer an option, I fear.

"We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum."

It may be time for John Kerry to ask, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq." And for a series of lies no less damnable than Tonkin Gulf.

Stop making sense!

It's still too soon to declare the Iraq mission a failure. Some of the best reporting out of Iraq suggests that many Iraqis have stared into the abyss of what their country could become and have decided to work with renewed vigor toward the democracy that both we and they want.

Nonetheless, it's not too early to begin thinking about what was clearly an intellectual failure. There was, above all, a failure to understand the consequences of our power. There was a failure to anticipate the response our power would have on the people we sought to liberate. They resent us for our power and at the same time expect us to be capable of everything. There was a failure to understand the effect our power would have on other people around the world. We were so sure we were using our might for noble purposes, we assumed that sooner or later, everybody else would see that as well. Far from being blinded by greed, we were blinded by idealism.

David Brooks still accepts that it the war was driven by Bush's idealism. Brooks may have been blinded by idealism, but the administration was blinded by hubris, arrogance, an inability to even consider worst case scenarios even when they were handed to them, and an unwillingness to level with the American people -- and certainly the Iraqis -- what the war was going to cost in terms of blood and treasure. Among other things.

But Bush has clearly lost Brooks. Brooks' prescription -- to let a "million flowers of democracy bloom" -- is not one Bremer is willing to swallow or else we wouldn't have the Sadr brigade in the news every day.

And Brooks isn't the only one turning on the administration.

"The first axiom is: When there is no penalty for failure, failures proliferate. Leave aside the question of who or what failed before Sept. 11, 2001. But who lost his or her job because the president's 2003 State of the Union address gave currency to a fraud -- the story of Iraq's attempting to buy uranium in Niger? Or because the primary and only sufficient reason for waging preemptive war -- weapons of mass destruction -- was largely spurious? Or because postwar planning, from failure to anticipate the initial looting to today's insufficient force levels, has been botched? Failures are multiplying because of choices for which no one seems accountable."

Im not sure what George Wills' point is -- should Rummy stay or should he go, now? But he too offers up a prescription -- fire someone, already -- that Commander Codpiece is certainly not going to fill.

Kevin Drum has more on some of the more intellecutally honest partisans on the right.

Bad apples

Billmon gives a sigh of partial relief as he realizes the majority of Americans are not, in fact, raving fascists.

Well, Sen. Inhofe, notwithstanding.

But, as this story points out, what the Int'l Red Cross points to as "systemic abuse" in Abu Ghraib could very well be occurring throughout the world in the vast but secret network of military and CIA prisons and holding pens.

"The number of people who have been detained in the Arab world for the sake of America is much more than in Guantanamo Bay. Really, thousands," said Najeeb Nuaimi, a former justice minister of Qatar who is representing the families of dozens of prisoners.

The largely hidden array includes three systems that only rarely overlap: the Pentagon-run network of prisons, jails and holding facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere; small and secret CIA-run facilities where top al Qaeda and other figures are kept; and interrogation rooms of foreign intelligence services -- some with documented records of torture -- to which the U.S. government delivers or "renders" mid- or low-level terrorism suspects for questioning.

All told, more than 9,000 people are held by U.S. authorities overseas, according to Pentagon figures and estimates by intelligence experts, the vast majority under military control. The detainees have no conventional legal rights: no access to a lawyer; no chance for an impartial hearing; and, at least in the case of prisoners held in cellblock 1A at Abu Ghraib, no apparent guarantee of humane treatment accorded prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions or civilians in U.S. jails.

That doesn't even include the over one thousand Muslim and arab men in this country detained for up to a year following Sept. 11 2001 who were then, in many cases, deported for minor infractions or visa problems.

The Bush administration, using the Justice Dept., the military, and the CIA seems hell bent on turning the world into a Petri dish of ideal conditions for incubating hatred of the U.S.

Feeling safer?

Monday, May 10, 2004

Put a fork in him

Via Atrios, Michael Bérubé gets the last word on Joe Lieberman's pandermoniousness (pandering + sanctimony, ok?).

McCain's perspective

"Despite what some might think, the senator insists he was not reminded of his own experience, more than three decades ago, when he saw the photographs of naked Iraqi prisoners, images he calls "so horrific it defies my imagination." But asked to compare the two situations, he offered a quick and revealing rejoinder: "I was never subjected to sexual humiliation and degradation."

"Rick Davis, who ran Mr. McCain's campaign for the presidency in 2000, was struck by that comparison. 'He said, `You know, I was tortured, but I was never humiliated.' To me, torture is humiliation. I guess he saw it in a different light. Only someone who has been there would understand the difference.'"

And this will only get worse. And, since this is the Bush administration, it will get worse in drips and drabs. Well -- a predictions -- the pressure builds until they release everying* late on the Friday night prior to Memorial Day.

*Everything except the "videotapes" we keep hearing about; those will wait until the night before the July 4th holiday, just to underscore the administrations brilliant sense of irony.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Reaping what we have sowed

The past predicts the future.

"The corrections experts say that some of the worst abuses have occurred in Texas, whose prisons were under a federal consent decree during much of the time President Bush was governor because of crowding and violence by guards against inmates. Judge William Wayne Justice of Federal District Court imposed the decree after finding that guards were allowing inmate gang leaders to buy and sell other inmates as slaves for sex.

"The experts also point out that the man who directed the reopening of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq last year and trained the guards there resigned under pressure as director of the Utah Department of Corrections in 1997 after an inmate died while shackled to a restraining chair for 16 hours. The inmate, who suffered from schizophrenia, was kept naked the whole time.

"The Utah official, Lane McCotter, later became an executive of a private prison company, one of whose jails was under investigation by the Justice Department when he was sent to Iraq as part of a team of prison officials, judges, prosecutors and police chiefs picked by Attorney General John Ashcroft to rebuild the country's criminal justice system."

Oh, and David Brooks seems to be reconsidering. At least that's what I think he's getting at.

"We've got to acknowledge first that the old debates are obsolete. I wish the U.S could still go off, after Iraq, at the head of "coalitions of the willing" to spread democracy around the world. But the brutal fact is that the events of the past year have discredited that approach. Nor is the U.N. a viable alternative. A body dominated by dictatorships is never going to promote democratic values. For decades, the U.N. has failed as an effective world power.

"We've got to reboot. We've got to come up with a global alliance of democracies to embody democratic ideals, harness U.S. military power and house a permanent nation-building apparatus, filled with people who actually possess expertise on how to do this job.

"From the looting of the Iraqi National Museum to Abu Ghraib, this has been a horrible year. The cause is still just, but to keep it moving forward, we have to reinvent the enterprise."

Brooks sounds like he's up to his up to his chin in the Big Muddy of his mind.

It is time to "reboot." Here's someone with some ideas on the subjet that are a whole lot less hand-wringingly vague.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Don King to be named Sect'y of Defense, a source close to the president did not say

Under the column "Beggaring Belief." Preznit Bush, who has a tendency to use hype and manufactured facts to build support for his wars, tax cuts, etc., and to regularly and crudely rip off the non-wealthy American taxpayer, has hooked up with Don King, who has a tendency to use hype and manufactured confrontations at weigh-ins to build interest in boxing matches, and who regularly and crudely rips off his "clients."

Oh yeah, and he's killed a couple of guys, and he probably is attached at the hip to organized crime. Gotta dig those gangstas over at the RNC.

Rumsfeld's hair not on fire

I couldn't listen to the Senate Armed Services grilling of Rumsfeld, but Phil Carter did. McCain is scathing. Carter also comments on Lieberman's ridiculousness, basically, that nobody apologized for 9-11, so we should be excused a little brutality now and then.

Is it not beyond belief that Rumfeld still hasn't read the Taguba report? I mean, even I have. What the hell is wrong with the guy? How did he prepare for today's testimony?

Carter also wonders why the Pentagon would choose now to put Taguba under a bureaucratic rock.

And the Wall St. Journal reports that the Red Cross delivered to the Bush administration a report on abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in February.

"The February report, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, presents a portrait of prisoner treatment in Iraq that is at odds with statements by administration officials that abuse wasn't condoned by military commanders and was limited to a handful of low-ranking soldiers.

"Instead, the report says, information gathered by the ICRC 'suggested the use of ill-treatment against persons deprived of their liberty went beyond exceptional cases and might be considered a practice tolerated by' coalition forces."

And I thought there were two Democrats in the Senate from CT

I haven't seen the transcripts, but based on the comments in reaction to this post, Lieberman said something monumentally stupid during the Rummy hearings today. So bad, in fact, that Josh has fallen out of love. More to come. In the meantime, isn't there a Democrat who can run for Lieberman's seat? He has begun echoing Bush's claims to justify his support for the war. It was WMD. No, it was for democracy in Iraq. No, it's because the American people are just stupid enough to believe that Saddam ='d 9-11.

Shameful posturing and pandering.

I can't believe I voted for the guy for both the Senate and Veepee in 2000.

When good crusades go bad

While the MPs at Abu Ghraib are detained and prosecuted by an embarassed and ass-covering military, we still aren't hearing anything about the military intelligency guys who, reportedly, encouraged the weird sadism that went on in the prison.

Josh Marshall reminds us who is leading military intelligence in Iraq. Jerry Boyd. Remember him?

"He's the one who got in trouble last year for describing his battle with a Muslim Somali warlord by saying 'I knew that my God was bigger than his God. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol', saying President Bush was chosen by God, and generally that the war on terror is an apocalyptic struggle between Christianity and Satan."

Coincidence? The dehumanizing behavior of the guards at the prison, including now famous Lynndie England holding a dog leash attached to the neck of a naked Iraqi, is a pretty clear indication that the guards see the Iraqis as somewhat well below the level of human beings. While that goes on in all wars, it has to be exacerbated when the "other side" is of a different race or, in the case of Iraq, a very different culture marked primarily by a very different religion. A very different religion whose God is merely "an idol."

This whole thing just smells worse and worse.

Oh, and since it is required that all blogs predict the fate of Don Rumsfeld...I've predicted his demise for so long that it is clear he isn't going anywhere. To fire Rumsfeld, or even to accept his resignation, would enrage Bush's base who adore Rummy.

Besides, it's not Rumsfeld's fault. It is the fault of the dangerous fool in the White House who has permitted his Vice-President, Attorney General, and Sect'y of Defense to create an atmosphere of extra-constitutional lawlessness.

That said, isn't it time to shed a little light on what is going on at Guantanamo Bay?
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