Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We'll always have Nüremberg

Busy working on a lengthy piece. In the meantime, if the NSA is listening, a reminder to the hawks in the White House foreign policy chop shop. Remember this?
from the Nüremberg Principles

Principle VI

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
(b) War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

(c) Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connexion with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Monday, February 26, 2007

See More Hersh

Handing the presidency to these people was like giving a loaded handgun to an infant.

No surprises in Seymour Hersh's latest in the current issue of The New Yorker.

The administration is trying to prop up the Shiite Maliki government in Iraq against Iraqi Sunni radicals who account for the bulk of the attacks on U.S. troops. Winning in Iraq means killing Sunni radicals.

By invading Iraq, dissolving the Iraqi army, and installing a Shiite government in Baghdad the Bush administration has improved Iran's influence in the region. Shiite Iran is, naturally, supports the new Shiite government in Iraq.

Meanwhile, to undermine Shiite influence and the emergence of a "Shiite crescent" led by Iran, the administration is working with the Saudis, "spreading the money around as much as we can,” according to a former senior intelligence official and the U.S. government consultant. In the process, "we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like. It’s a very high-risk venture.”

Hersh quotes Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations:
“The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis”—Sunni extremists who view Shiites as apostates. “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.”
So according to the Hersh article, an administration that cannot walk and chew gum at the same time is propping up Iraqi Shiites who hate us. The Iranians are propping up Iraqi Shiites who hate us. And behind the scenes, the U.S. and the Saudis are working to undermine the Shiites by funding Sunni radicals who also hate us (but hate Shiites too). The Saudis did something like this in Afghanistan, financing young Saudi ex-pat fighters -- Sunni radicals -- and building Islamic madrasas and training camps on the Afghan border to support the struggle against the Russian infidels, eventually breeding radical groups like al-Qaeda.

Makes perfect sense. Pass the Kool Aid, please.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

ETA: Estimated Threat from al-Qaeda?

"Extremist Threat Assessment" is the name of the secret British intelligence report the Telegraph of London outlines on Sunday.
The terrorist threat facing Britain from home-grown al-Qaeda agents is higher than at any time since the September 11 attacks in 2001, secret intelligence documents reveal.


The document, which has been circulated across Whitehall to MI5, Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorist Command, the Home Office, the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence, also reveals that al-Qaeda has grown into a world-wide organisation with a foothold in virtually every Muslim country in North Africa, the Middle East and central Asia.

(emphasis mine)
I misunderstood. When George and Tony talked about fighting the global war on terror (GWOT), I didn't know they meant to both create a global terrorist movement and fight it too.

I know job security is not what it once was, but figured that in government service at least you were secure enough that you didn't need to create the problem your job description says you're there to solve.

But the good news in England is at least someobody in government will tell you the truth (off the record, of course):
A senior political source said the picture painted by the document was "particularly bleak and unlikely to improve for several years".

He said: "The Security Services have constantly warned that the task of countering Islamist terrorism is a daunting one. There will be more attacks in Britain."
And they can't even vote for Democrats.

Friday, February 23, 2007

But if you’re strong and good

Presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards appeared alongside Rep. Heath Shuler at an event in an Asheville, NC home this afternoon. Maybe fifty people. Informal, though nearly all the men wore ties. Edwards did not. And I did not remember to take notes.

This was the third time I’ve met him. Edwards just keeps getting better. A mutual friend who has known him “longer than Elizabeth” said he’s obviously more comfortable these days. We’re seeing more of what he’s really like, she thinks.

One national campaign under his belt already, John Edwards in 2007 is not as flavor of the week as Barack Obama is (or as Edwards -- another one-term senator -- once was himself), but seems more grounded in what he believes and more certain of what he wants to do if given the chance to be president.

Edwards has been doing his presidential homework these last couple of years. He was relaxed. He spoke about the underlying political divisions behind the Sunni/Shiite strife in Iraq. The Maliki government must make the tough political decision to work towards reconciliation or there will be no stability in Iraq. No matter how many troops we put at risk on the streets of Baghdad propping him up and paying for Iraqi discord with American blood. The Iranians and the Syrians have an interest in a stable Iraq, and we should engage them in the process.

As the sole superpower, Edwards explained, people look to us to ensure stability in a violent world. The U.S. must reclaim its leadership role. What we’ve seen in the last six years is that power alone doesn’t make a country a leader. If anything, power alone breeds distrust. But if you’re strong and good, people will respect you, listen to you, and follow you. That’s leadership.

He was on his message, of course, and there was nothing new: universal health care coverage, energy transformation, conservation, and leading the world in addressing global warming. Edwards said calmly that it’s time for Americans to be patriotic about something other than war.

Maybe it was just the living room setting, but it didn’t feel like a speech. It felt like something he believes. And it was refreshing to hear a politician speak who doesn’t sound as if he’s trying to sell you something.

Afterwards, I mentioned to my friend the “slick lawyer” image Edwards will have to overcome to persuade many voters. I’ve met more than a few with a visceral distrust for him: a doctor who hates him for litigating malpractice cases, and blames him for her malpractice insurance rates; a mother who believes (has been told) that his rags-to-riches personal history is a sham. Neither has met him, or wants to. He’s a lawyer. Always a lawyer when seen at a distance.

A friend once said about Bruce Springsteen, “Don’t buy his records. You have to see him in concert. If you see him live you’ll get it.” He was right.

And that is John Edwards’ challenge, getting those who don’t buy his record to come to see him live or watch him on TV. Activists and policy wonks look at a candidate’s positions. Normal Americans want to know about the man. Communicating the man, convincing a national jury, a national audience, that’s the trick.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Who would Jesus nuke?

On Ed Schultz's radio show Tuesday, a woman -- Wanda -- in one breath (timestamp 6:05 here) identified herself as a Christian who didn’t believe in killing, and in the next said her remedy for Iran’s fiery president Ahmadinejad was, “… I’d nuke him. I’m telling you. I’m hard right.”

Just not hard Christian.

She claimed not to want to take innocent life. (We have excellent guidance control technology, she said, for knocking out the people we need to knock out.) But insisted that Ahmadinejad should die –- and anyone close to him, presumably –- because “he’s a bully.”

That’s it? He's a bully?

No. We’ve been hit by terrorists since 1971, she said. Iraq may not have had anything to do with September 11th, but attacking Iraq was justified. They were involved in terrorism, even if not directed at us.

“Iraq is right smack in the middle of people that hate us. And Iraq hated us too. I mean, look at … Saddam had a price on George I’s head, so I mean you know that they … given the chance they will strike out at us at any opportunity.”


Iran too. You know, THEM.

Two thousand years and Christianity has come to this. As another caller responded on Wednesday, "Who would Jesus nuke?"

In Wanda's new American century, fear is not an option. Two hundred and thirty years of American idealism has come to this:
You’re scary? You don't like us? You’re dead. THEY are dead. Whoever THEY are. Whatever country THEY are. Anyone not like me who I find threatening … or potentially threatening … and who says scary things I don’t like. And is disrespectful to the United States in public before a microphone.

Whether or not THEY have the means, the motive, or the opportunity to act on whatever I think THEY plan to do to about it ... someday.
The first thing we do, let's kill all the frighteners.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Recovering our humanity

The Way Way Off-Topic Blog

Yesterday morning my wife said she was on the verge of tears when Craig Ferguson of "The Late Late Show" on CBS Monday night explained why he wouldn't be making jokes about Britney Spears' weekend. According to AP, an unsteady Spears "grabbed an electrical shaver at a Los Angeles salon and shaved her head bald Friday night," as paparazzi shot photos through the window.

Ferguson explained (watch the video here) that he was "starting to feel uncomfortable about making fun of these people. And for me, comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it. It should be about always attacking the powerful people - attacking the politicians, and the Trumps, and the blowhards -- going after them. We shouldn't be attacking the vulnerable," like Spears or Anna Nicole Smith, who recently died at 39, leaving behind an infant daughter.

"And here is why, here is exactly why," he added. "This weekend she was checking in, out of rehab, shaving head, getting tattoos. This Sunday I was 15 years sober. And I looked at her weekend -- and I looked at my weekend -- and I thought I’d rather have my weekend.

"What she is going through reminds me of, this is an anniversary so you start to think about, where I was when I was doing that 15 years ago.It reminds me of when I was living like that. Now I’m not saying Britney is alcoholic, I don’t know what she is -- alcoholic or not -- but she clearly needs help."

Thank you, Craig Ferguson, for reminding us -- no, for showing us -- how much of our humanity we've lost.

It's been a long, slow slide, and it has slipped away like our youth, unnoticed.

To this day I remember an afternoon television talk show in black and white (at least at our house). Judy Garland -- Dorothy -- was hosting, and clearly a wreck, lolling this way and that, slurring her words. It wasn't funny. It was upsetting. She died not long after of a drug overdose at forty-seven.

I remember the game show "Queen for a Day," where host Jack Bailey would award a washing machine to the woman with the most sympathetic hard luck story, as measured by the "applause-o-meter." Back in the day, that was innocent fun.

Today we enjoy watching people make fools of themselves during "American Idol" auditions, or eating revolting morsels on "Fear Factor", or making public spectacles of their families on "Trading Spouses". And there’s tabloid TV and the supermarket tabloids if we want to keep up with Britney’s breakdowns.

My journalism instructor once said reading about Hollywood stars’ hardships wasn’t without merit. It was cathartic. It allowed people to put their own troubles in perspective. And while it wasn’t great writing, at least they were reading. That opinion too seems to come from a very different time.

Catastrophes such as 9/11 still tear at our hearts, reminding us in the suffering of people like ourselves how fragile our lives are and of our shared humanity. But the less like us we perceive THEY are -- ethnically, geographically, theologically, economically -– the easier it has become in this century to mock THEM as fools and losers, or to fear THEM as enemies. To hate THEM. To kill THEM.

And to forget THEY are people.

Thanks again, Craig.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Incompetent, but ...

This morning's L. A. Times online includes screen grabs from Al-Alam Iranian Arabic-language satellite channel. The photos purport to show that materials made in the USA were used in last week's bus bombing in the Sistan-Baluchistan region of Iran along the border with Pakistan.
TEHRAN — Bullet cartridges bearing a U.S. insignia and English lettering were among the weaponry seized last week from Sunni militants suspected of killing 11 members of Shiite-dominated Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, Iranian officials said Sunday.

A photo of the cartridge box, along with an array of other ammunition, was published by Iranian newspapers and news agencies.
Okay. It's been hard to find much the Bush administration has done successfully in their GWOT. And there's clearly no love lost between the Bush administration and Tehran. But leaving a box of 7.62x39 cartridges labeled "Made in USA" at the scene of the crime is either 1) a for-domestic-consumption ploy by the Iranians to hype anti-American sentiment, or 2) the Bush administration rubbing this attack in Tehran's nose to provoke an attack on US Persian Gulf forces to precipitate a new neocon-promoted war, or 3) proof that globalization has succeeded beyond free-traders' wildest dreams.

As much as I'd not be surprised if 2 were true, I vote for both 1 and 3. Click on this link, please. You can buy these cartridges in most any gun store in the U.S., and in bulk at most any gun show. Even the Bush administration is not this un-subtle.

Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner at The Left Coaster concurs:
Even if the United States were behind the operation, it is unlikely the Iranians would find weapons and materials that would be identifiable as American. US organizations that are involved in covert operations are very good about not leaving signatures that can be traced.

That is even more of a concern. The Iranians are choosing to make an issue.
Apparently. The Jerusalem Post reports that:
A Sunni Muslim militant group called Jundallah, or God's Brigade, which has been blamed for past attacks on Iranian troops, had claimed responsibility for Wednesday's bombing when a car bomb blew up a bus carrying Revolutionary Guardsmen, killing 11, in Zahedan.

Iran has accused the United States of backing militants to destabilize the country. Tensions between Teheran and Washington are growing over allegations of Iranian involvement in attacks on US troops in Iraq, and over Iran's controversial nuclear activities.
The Jerusalem Post quotes an Islamic Republic News Agency (INRA) story and an unnamed official as saying "the attacks were part of U.S. plans to provoke ethnic and religious violence in Iran."

One of the suspects arrested for the attacks quickly confessed and was just as quickly executed, INRA reports today.

Brush up on your Farsi.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A case study in dishonesty

It is a case study in dishonesty and deception, the runup to the Iraq invasion. Fortunately, the public seems be having little of the Bush administration's reprise of its Iraq strategy now focussing on Iran.

Scooter Libby awaits closing arguments in his perjury trial over his part in the Plame affair. Douglas Feith and his Office of Special Plans has been discredited. Richard Perle and other prominant war promoters quoted in Vanity Fair have already abandoned Bush's ship of state, hoping to avoid culpability for the Iraq debacle and to live to make war another day. And Iraq War architect and World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz? He has holes in his socks.

The Vulcans never believed their own propaganda. It was merely a means to an end. They tossed aside each succesive justification for war as soon as it was debunked or lost traction in the twenty-four hour news cycle. Watching the president go through pro-war talking points is like watching a football fan go through a plate of chicken wings at the sports bar during Monday Night Football. Bearing little meat, each bone is tossed onto the empty plate as soon as it's stripped, then it's on to the next. When he runs out, he points to the pile of bare intelligence "bones" and says, "See!"

How many justifications for Iraq have there been? How many measures of victory?

There still remain some unshakeable believers, though, too feverish of faith or desperate to snatch their charred reputations from the prye they have ignited in Iraq to admit their errors. Or like their leader, too addicted to the big gamble to cut their losses and go home without doubling-down one last time.

Count former assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan, Frank Gaffney, among them. His Tuesday editorial in the Washington Times (taken down today) reprised the war critic as traitor theme. It opened with this quote:
"Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged." — President Abraham Lincoln.
That Lincoln never said it is no reason not to use it to sell the product. If discovered, there are more lies where that came from and brand new news cycles to dominate with any half-truth or falsehood that gets the job done. It's just, when you need somebody to back up your lie -- and George Washington we know never did -- what winger can resist using Lincoln?

Editor and Publisher quotes Brooks Jackson of on the popularity of this particular quote which appeared last August. E&P found over 18,000 references to it in its Web search.
He reported: "Supporters of President Bush and the war in Iraq often quote Abraham Lincoln as saying members of Congress who act to damage military morale in wartime 'are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.'

"Republican candidate Diana Irey used the 'quote' recently in her campaign against Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, and it has appeared thousands of times on the Internet, in newspaper articles and letters to the editor, and in Republican speeches.

"But Lincoln never said that. The conservative author who touched off the misquotation frenzy, J. Michael Waller, concedes that the words are his, not Lincoln's. Waller says he never meant to put quote marks around them, and blames an editor [at the magazine Insight] for the mistake and the failure to correct it. We also note other serious historical errors in the Waller article containing the bogus quote."
Honest people making honest mistakes? Perhaps. And perhaps not. Phony quotes get around quickly in the Internet age, and are often established truths by the time they are debunked. The problem is, anyone caring about truth and accuracy can just as quickly establish via the Internet the veracity of questionable quotes from such notables as Lincoln or Churchill (another right-wing favorite).

But why bother? Facts have such a way of messing up good propaganda.

In reply to Gaffney, Queequeg went looking in the Library of Congress -- not right wing blogs or Moonie newspapers -- for real Lincoln quotes and found some from Lincoln's time in Congress, during a House debate over the Mexican War. Queequeg finds
Lincoln brought up three issues, all of which are found in the debate over the occupation of Iraq: funding of the occupation, deception about the reason for war, and predictions about the ease and brevity of the fighting. On all three issues, today's Democrats echo Lincoln's arguments.
[h/t Digby]

Thus, they won't be widely linked by Bush supporters:
"As to the mode of terminating the war, and securing peace, the President is equally wandering and indefinite. First, it is to be done by a more vigorous prosecution of the war in the vital parts of the enemy's country; and, after apparently talking himself tired on this point, the President drops down into a half despairing tone, and tells us that "with a people distracted and divided by contending factions, and a government subject to constant changes, by successive revolutions, the continued success of our arms may fail to secure a satisfactory peace." Then he suggests the propriety of wheedling the Mexican people to desert the counsels of their own leaders, and trusting in our protection to set up a government from which we can secure a satisfactory peace; telling us that "this may become the only mode of obtaining such a peace." But soon he falls into doubt of this too; and then drops back on to the already half abandoned ground of "more vigorous prosecution." All this shows that the President is, in no wise, satisfied with his own positions. … His mind, tasked beyond its power, is running hither and thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no position on which it can settle down and be at ease.

"Again, it is a singular omission in this message that it nowhere intimates when the President expects the the war to terminate. … As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show there is not something about his conscience more painful than all his mental perplexity!"
Or this, from a letter to William H. Herndon, February 15, 1848:
"Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him,--'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent: I see it, if you don't.'

"The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us."
None of this has any effect on supporters joined to the president at the hip. We've lost count of how many different reasons they've put forward for why they embarked on this fiasco.

But they are creative. Give them that. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama came up with one this week few of us had heard before. TPM reports:
We invaded Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from being able to say that he'd won the 1991 Gulf War.
Seriously. They'll break a hundred reasons yet.

Friday, February 16, 2007

"Explosively formed penetrators" of Mass Destruction

The case the Bush White House is building against Iran based on EFPs ("explosively formed penetrators") hit an IED today. Supposedly, according to the NY Times report, "the manufacture of the key metal components required sophisticated machinery, raw material and expertise that American intelligence agencies do not believe can be found in Iraq."

Andrew Cockburn, writing in an L.A. Times op-ed suggests otherwise:
PRESIDENT BUSH HAS now definitively stated that bombs known as explosively formed penetrators — EFPs, which have proved especially deadly for U.S. troops in Iraq — are made in Iran and exported to Iraq. But in November, U.S. troops raiding a Baghdad machine shop came across a pile of copper disks, 5 inches in diameter, stamped out as part of what was clearly an ongoing order. This ominous discovery, unreported until now, makes it clear that Iraqi insurgents have no need to rely on Iran as the source of EFPs.

The truth is that EFPs are simple to make for anyone who knows how to do it. Far from a sophisticated assembly operation that might require state supervision, all that is required is one of those disks, some high-powered explosive (which is easy to procure in Iraq) and a container, such as a piece of pipe. I asked a Pentagon analyst specializing in such devices how much each one would cost to make. "Twenty bucks," he answered after a brief calculation. "Thirty at most."
Clearly, it will take a multi-billion dollar nuclear strike against Iran to end the threat posed by Baghdad machine shops.

When did these devices stop being called "shaped charges"? Did SCs just not have that right ring and cadence for the Mighty Wurlitzer?

While you're at it

House passes resolution rebuking the president on Iraq

Whew. One nonbinding resolution down, and here's another.

Apparently, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) has been introducing this resolution since 2003.
110th U.S. Congress (2007-2008)
H. Res. 23: Disavowing the doctrine of preemption


1st Session

H. RES. 23
Disavowing the doctrine of preemption.


January 4, 2007

Ms. LEE submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


Disavowing the doctrine of preemption.

Whereas President Bush has declared in a variety of documents and fora that the United States has the right to unilaterally exercise military action, including preemptive nuclear strikes, against nations that have not attacked the United States, creating what has been termed the `doctrine of preemption';

Whereas the doctrine of preemption contemplates initiating warfare against a nation that might not pose an imminent threat of harm to the United States and far exceeds the commonly understood view, set out in the Charter of the United Nations and recognized in international and United States law, that nations enjoy the right of self-defense, and that such self-defense might include undertaking military action to prevent an imminent attack;

Whereas the doctrine of preemption represents a radical departure from the official position of the United States since the adoption of the Charter of the United Nations;

Whereas the doctrine of preemption threatens to set a dangerous precedent that might then be cited by other countries, including other nuclear powers, to justify preemptive military action against perceived threats;

Whereas United States policy has long recognized the value to our national security of advancing the respect for and adherence to the international rule of law;

Whereas actions that diminish the international consensus on normative legal behavior and leave open the prospect that nations will readily resort to military force outside of those normative boundaries increase international instability and undercut the national security interests of the United States;

Whereas the doctrine of preemption contradicts the Charter of the United Nations to which the United States is a signatory, which, as a result of its ratification by the United States, is incorporated into United States law, and which reads, in part, `All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations' (Article 2, section 4);

Whereas the Charter of the United Nations, while disallowing preventive war, does not preclude military actions of self-defense, reading in part, `Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security' (Article 51); and

Whereas under the United States Constitution, the President, as Commander in Chief, possesses the authority to use military force to protect the United States from attack or imminent attack: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That--
(1) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States possesses the inherent right to defend itself against imminent or actual attack, as codified in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the traditions of international law, but that right does not extend to undertaking military action in the absence of such an imminent or actual attack; and

(2) the House of Representatives disavows the doctrine of preemption because it poses a threat to international law and to the national security interests of the United States.
Now something with some teeth, please.

[h/t Digby]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"the soft bigotry of low - and lowering - expectations"

Tom Schaller speaks volumes in today's Baltimore Sun about the shallowness and "moral cowardice" that has run amuck in Washington, and in Iraq:
According to the latest Gallup survey, Republican self-identification has declined nationally and in almost every American state. Why? The short answer is that President Bush's war of choice in Iraq has destroyed the partisan brand Republicans spent the past four decades building.

That brand was based upon four pillars: that Republicans are more trustworthy on defense and military issues; that they know when and where markets can replace or improve government; that they are more competent administrators of those functions government can't privatize; and, finally, that their public philosophy is imbued with moral authority. The war demolished all four claims.
Read on.

[h/t Digby]

Now here's a lowly state senator with real moral courage, Sen. Eric Oemig, showing them how it's done.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Praying this is all some Iran psyop

It's not like the White House has to work to convince Ahmadinejad and the world that our president and vice-president are nuts, but are they all Katherine Harris crazy? Just when you think you've heard it all:

On Monday, the same White House that believes tax cuts cure the common cold slammed carpooling as ineffective and said, according to Reuters, that "a better solution would be to build new highways and charge drivers fees to use them."
"If a roadway is priced -- that is, if drivers have to pay a fee to access a particular road -- then congestion can be avoided by adjusting the price up or down at different times of day to reflect changes in demand for its use," the White House said. "Road space is allocated to drivers who most highly value a reliable and unimpaired commute."
Dear God, I'm living in a Woody Allen movie...

Hear me. I am your new president.

From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish.


In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half hour.

Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check.

Got Dramamine®?

Voting against the nonbinding resolution against the Iraq escalation is voting to stay the course on the war we didn't start (Boehner 3:44). The Iranians started it.

Yes, they're serious.

Brush up on your Farsi.

[h/t TPM]

Monday, February 12, 2007

Next stop Russia?

The cover story in the Economist is "Next stop Iran?" The world is watching as the Bush administration keeps up it drumbeat against Iran now. The Economist speculates about a "Wagnerian exit" for the Bush presidency.

Yesterday's L.A. Times reported on Russian president Vladimir Putin smackdown of the Bush administration, accusing it of (LAT paraphrase) "attempting to create a world in which it was free to ignore international law and impose its economic, political and military will."

(Wonder what Putin saw when he looked into Bush's soul?)
"We are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper-use of military force in international relations," Putin said. "One country, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way."


Participants said that, coming after a conciliatory opening speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin's comments were widely resented by the hosts. One German questioner jokingly told Putin that he hoped the president had not set off "another world war."
Well at least we wouldn't have started it.

Today the Associated Press has more on the drumbeat:
BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.S. military officials on Sunday accused the highest levels of the Iranian leadership of arming Shiite militants in Iraq with sophisticated armor-piercing roadside bombs that have killed more than 170 troops from the American-led coalition.
Gosh! Hope President Bush doesn't find out who manufactures all those Russian-made AK-47s, RPGs and grenades.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Nobody's talking about" invading Iran

"All the moves being made over the last few weeks are consistent with what you would do if you were going to do an air strike. We have to throw away the notion the US could not do it because it is too tied up in Iraq. It is an air operation."

-- Colonel Sam Gardiner in The Guardian
An article by Craig Unger in the March 2007 Vanity Fair reinforces that view:
... a series of recent moves by the military have lent credence to widespread reports that the U.S. is secretly preparing for a massive air attack against Iran. (No one is suggesting a ground invasion.)
No, nobody's talking about an invasion. What a silly idea. But if the hair is standing up on the back of your neck, if you've got an eerie sense of deja vu, if it seems like you've seen this movie before, you're not alone:
"It is absolutely parallel," says Philip Giraldi, a former C.I.A. counterterrorism specialist. "They're using the same dance steps—demonize the bad guys, the pretext of diplomacy, keep out of negotiations, use proxies. It is Iraq redux."
You may still remember President Bush's October 2002 Cincinnati speech about Saddam Hussein's little shop of horrors: "mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas," Saddam's "growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons," and "the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

AEI must have been near climax over that speech. Thank goodness Bush saved the Nigerian yellowcake uranium and the mobile bioweapons labs for his February 2003 Sweeps Week blitz.

As with Iraq, so again with Iran. This time it's WMDs and IEDs. According to the latest "intelligence" regurgitated by the New York Times, Iran is supplying Iraqi insurgents with "explosively formed penetrators” (something newer and bluer to excite the boys at AEI):
According to American intelligence, Iran has excelled in developing this type of bomb, and has provided similar technology to Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon. The manufacture of the key metal components required sophisticated machinery, raw material and expertise that American intelligence agencies do not believe can be found in Iraq. In addition, some components of the bombs have been found with Iranian factory markings from 2006.
Is it possible once again that the intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy? The Defense Department's Inspector General's office suggested this week that that is what happened with Iraq via the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans:
Acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the office headed by former Pentagon policy chief Douglas J. Feith took "inappropriate" actions in advancing conclusions on al-Qaida connections not backed up by the nation's intelligence agencies.
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and company set up OSP to "stovepipe" selected raw Iraq intelligence directly to the Office of the Vice-President to help sell the Iraq invasion. And yes, that's the same Doug Feith who in 1996 signed onto an Israeli-American think tank paper, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." Described by Vanity Fair as "a playbook for U.S.-Israeli foreign policy during the Bush-Cheney era," it advocates "reestablishing the principle of preemption, rather than retaliation alone" as a means of creating a "New Middle East." It's the same Doug Feith described by OSP veteran (victim?) Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski as "a case study in how not to run a large organization." She resigned after watching the OSP turn career military intelligence analysts into propagandists for Bush's preventive war.

If a new war with Iran is indeed in the offing, this time Mr. Bush won't have Prime Minister Tony Blair to hold down his flank as he pencils in a date for when the bombing begins. He'll have to arrange his diplomatic strategy around the military planning by himself -- with a little help from the Office of the Vice-President.

"I've heard from sources at the Pentagon that their impression is that the White House has made a decision that war is going to happen," Philip Giraldi told Vanity Fair.

Again, he means Iran, not Iraq. 2007, not 2003.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Primal Forces

I’m reading Bill Scher’s Wait! Don’t Move to Canada! In his chapter on the culture wars, Scher writes about how Democrats should tackle the public’s paradoxical opinions regarding same-sex relationships. Mitigating any backlash is tactically important, Scher believes. But advocating incremental change compromises the principle that “a truly representative government cannot discriminate against some of its people …”


But it got me thinking about polls that show the public generally supports civil unions, but people become reticent when asked if they support gay marriage. Civil unions, fine. Gay marriage? Uh, we’re not so sure. Why?

It’s more than just moral or social discomfort with homosexuality. As it has for millennia, marriage means a man and woman taking each other as mates. Marriage is the culmination of the human courtship ritual. To suggest changing marriage – even in a well-intended effort to expand the concept to include same-sex couples – is threatening because it radically changes one of the basic relationships by which humans self-identify.

It’s primal. Not something so easily reasoned away or dismissed with a wave.

I’m reminded of an incident from the Baptist university I attended.

My professor in Russian history was explaining a schism that had threatened to tear apart the Russian Orthodox church. The controversy? Over which side of the altar the priest should read the gospels from.

He saw us looking at each other in disbelief.

“I know,” he said, shaking his head. “This doesn’t sound like such a big deal to you. But just imagine the reaction if somebody got up at the Southern Baptist Convention and suggested that we change the way we spell the Savior’s name to the way most of them pronounce it.”

He turned to the blackboard, grabbed a piece of chalk, and wrote in large letters:

J       E       E       Z       U       S

He slashed an underline below it and turned back to the class. We had already broken into laughter. The professor raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders in a wry question.

He’d made his point.

Marriage, too, will not change so easily.

As Arthur Jensen said, “YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature.”

Words mean something. A cat is not a dog because we call it Fido, or because it may be politically expedient to call it a dog. Marriage, no matter what we may want it to mean, is fixed through countless generations of history as meaning something other than a same-sex relationship. That's why the American people have less problem accepting a civil union than a gay marriage, which, whatever it is, isn't marriage as most people understand it.

That doesn't mean it shouldn't get a tax deduction or deserve inheritance rights.

This may take awhile. And new words to describe these relationships.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!"

In this week's New Yorker profile Jefferey Goldberg asks Sen. Joe Lieberman "if he thought that Democrats who voted for the resolution would truly be giving encouragement to the enemy."
“The enemy believes—Ahmadinejad has said this repeatedly—that we don’t have the will anymore for a long battle,” he said, referring to the President of Iran.
Over at Hullabaloo, Digby fires back:
Excuse me? I didn't know we were actually at war with Iran. But in Joe Lieberman's fevered imagination, this isn't even Cheney's silly formulation where withdrawing from Iraq will give al Qaeda reason to believe the US has no balls. In Lieberman's mind, we must not only prove to bin Laden that we have balls, we must prove it to all of our "enemies," especially Iran. (Man, I sure hope the Chinese don't start trash talking about our manhood or it really will be WWIII.)
U.S. foreign policy since Iraq as been reduced to the level of the schoolyard, where even the most ludicrous challenge must be met with resolve and defiance (and blood) lest one lose face. Next thing we know, Ahmadinejad (or bin Laden) will be challenging Bush to stick his tongue to a frozen flagpole.
Bush: Are you kidding? Stick my tongue to that stupid pole? That's dumb!
Ahmadinejad: That's 'cause you know it'll stick!
Bush: You're full of it!
Ahmadinejad: Oh yeah?
Bush: Yeah!
Ahmadinejad: Well I double-DOG-dare ya!
Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] NOW it was serious. A double-dog-dare. What else was there but a "triple dare ya"? And then, the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare.
Ahmadinejad: I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya!
Maybe that's why Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez pose such threats for the president. All three operate on the same level, one this White House is uniquely qualified to appreciate.

And Lieberman and the right's Greek chorus of fist-pumping, civilian enthusiasts for a misbegotten war.

Monday, February 05, 2007

You lost all your M.E. privileges. Deal?

Congress may have to vote to stop GWB from treating U.S. to a best two out of three war in Iran (and he hasn't won one yet). They're running the same play over again. The rhetoric is scarily familiar and it looks like America's having one of those dreams where you need to run from danger but can't seem to move.

Scott Ritter is suggesting a new Boland amendment (I remember the last one didn't work too well) and a revocation of AUMF. Even if it the White House tries to blow it off, it might give them enough pause to forestall any immediate action: time not being in the administration's favor.

In Atlantic, James Fallows urges Congress to speak immediately and say, "[War] with Iran is anathema to the interests of the United States and contrary to the will of its elected representatives." He explains:
If we could trust the Administration’s ability to judge America’s rational self-interest, there would be no need to constrain its threatening gestures toward Iran. Everyone would understand that this was part of the negotiation process; no one would worry that the Administration would finally take a step as self-destructive as beginning or inviting a war.
But no one can any longer trust the Administration to recognize and defend America’s rational self-interest — not when the President says he will carry out a policy even if opposed by everyone except his wife and dog, not when the Vice President refuses to concede any mistake or misjudgment in the handling of Iraq.
Defense analyst Thomas P.M. Barnett admits threats can have some utility, but:
The downside?

If it doesn't make sense to sit down with the Iranians to talk about Iraq because they sense our vulnerability there, then why should threats work?
As for an actual attack, Barnett too questions Bush's judgment:
... nothing would reawaken [Ahmadinejad's] dream to reignite revolutionary fervor among the masses better than a nasty air strike from the Great Satan. I can just see Al-Jazeera's video.


Sure, we could set the program back some time, but we'd never be quite sure exactly what our bombing accomplished.

That's the rub for Bush and every president who follows: Iran's far enough along in its well-bunkered nuclear program that the only way America can confidently take it out - absent the all-out invasion - is to employ nuclear weapons.


If Bush decides to bomb Iran conventionally, all we end up accomplishing is to: (1) strengthen the regime domestically; (2) encourage the mullahs to ramp up their proxies' violence in Iraq and elsewhere; and (3) confirm the worldview that having nukes is crucial to scaring off America's military interventions.

Too risky? Depends on how much you trust Bush's judgment now.
Writing in today's L.A. Times, Leonard Weiss, senior science fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, and Larry Diamond, senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution write:
What to do? Congress should not wait. It should hold hearings on Iran before the president orders a bombing attack on its nuclear facilities, or orders or supports a provocative act by the U.S. or an ally designed to get Iran to retaliate, and thus further raise war fever.


Those hearings should aim toward passage of a law preventing the expenditure of any funds for a military attack on Iran unless Congress has either declared war with that country or has otherwise authorized military action under the War Powers Act.

The law should be attached to an appropriations bill, making it difficult for the president to veto. If he simply claims that he is not bound by the restriction even if he signs it into law, and then orders an attack on Iran without congressional authorization for it, Congress should file a lawsuit and begin impeachment proceedings.

It is, of course, possible that the president's truculent language and actions toward Iran are a bluff, an attempt to rein in its irresponsible behavior.

But the administration's mendacious and incompetent course of action in taking the nation to war with Iraq gives us no reason to provide the president with the benefit of any doubt. And stiffening economic sanctions — at a time when Iran's economy is ailing and the regime is losing popular support — offers a better and safer prospect of exerting leverage.
From the Jerusalem Post (sorry, the Sunday Times is having Internet issues):
Retired Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar and retired Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan said an attack "would have disastrous consequences for security in the region, coalition forces in Iraq and would further exacerbate regional and global tensions."
Not that is any concern of the Unitary Executive. Back in January, Tony Snow asserted that the president considers all his options open:
"The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way." --- Tony Snow, 01-08-7
I think by now George has lost all his M.E. privileges. Deal?

Friday, February 02, 2007


Paul at Alien & Sedition has a terrific three-part report on the National Review Institute's Conservative Summit held in Washington last weekend. A theme throughout the summit (as elsewhere) is that the GOP lost in 2006 because conservatives weren't conservative enough. Paul reports that Ramesh Ponnuru disagreed, saying conservatives
... cannot politically survive unless they provide policies that directly benefit people. So much of what conservatives propose is said to have the potential for indirectly benefiting ordinary folks, but the public good is never really the main idea ... Republicans lost, Ponnuru points out, because Americans don’t believe that conservative ideas benefit them.
At least, not those with incomes below six figures. Another quote that gives the flavor of Paul's writing:
Conservatives are funny people. Judging by my experience at the Summit, they’re people who’ll applaud wildly as speakers rail against the “liberal elites,” then turn to each other to discuss their houses in the Hamptons and what a shame it is that “our class” have to pay taxes to subsidize health care for all those poor people, who don’t even pay tax. (I’m serious – I overheard these conversations.) Similarly, they seem to have trouble squaring the circle they create among ideology, self-interest, and the notion that what they do politically maybe ought to actually help people besides themselves.
It's a worthwhile and eye-opening series. I recommend reading all three parts.

Other comments from the summit offer some insight into where a successful politics might be headed. Steven M. Warshawsky at the conservative American Thinker praised Laura Ingraham for recognizing that conservatives might want to rethink their focus on Americans as consumers. He makes this very savvy observation:
I think her conception of politics as, in essence, a battle for the hearts and minds of the American worker is far superior to the usual Republican emphasis on the American consumer, which focuses more on what people are able to do with their money than on how they earn their money. While each person in this country wears the hats of both worker and consumer, the two concepts are not identical. Most Americans think of themselves, indeed define themselves, in terms of where they work and how they earn a living, not where they shop and what they buy.
James Pethokoukis at US News also quotes Ingraham:
"The party that comes off as the party that represents the American worker best is the party that wins in 2008," she said, adding that the GOP will be relegated to the political wilderness if it goes back "to being the party of the elites."
That is, "back to the country club," as she says in Raising Kaine's expanded quote. He fires back, "The Republican Party won't be GOING BACK to the 'country club' because it never LEFT the country club."

Ingraham's conservative friends were clearly taken aback by Sen. Jim Webb's response to the Bush SOTU. [h/t Taylor Marsh] Webb seems to have impressed them more than he did me (I thought he was solid, but unexciting), and the response left Ingraham sounding a bit apprehensive.

In my congressional district, bringing Reagan Democrats back to the party was critical to our victory in November, and the GOP would be wise to heed the signs that they are indeed "coming home." Democrats need to welcome them back, take lessons from Webb, and work all the harder.

Some messengers at the Conservative Summit have read the signs, but it's not clear how many of their followers actually had ears to hear.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Leave No American Behind

If history remembers President Bush for anything besides Iraq, it might be for the No Child Left Behind education reforms. Bush advisers no doubt spent hours brainstorming that name. They crafted a title that would speak to Americans' aspirations for their children and for their country. They crafted a title that would make it difficult for political opponents to stand against it.

But if No Child Left Behind is an ideal both conservatives and liberals should eagerly get behind, then why not No Worker Left Behind? No Family Left behind? No American Left Behind?

That last one is something we teach our military. For Marines it is a code of honor: never leave a Marine behind.

So why -- if No Child Left Behind is responsible, and Leave No Marine Behind is taught by the government as honorable -- is an America where it's Every Man For Himself the apparent goal of conservative politics? Why is not the Marines' esprit de corps a model for public policy? Why is Leave No American Behind good enough for the Marines, but not good enough for you?

Certainly not because the Marines foster weakness? Or a governmental "nanny state"? Certainly not because the military is another hated "big government" program? The military is probably the single largest government program, held by classical conservatism to be one of the few essential and desirable functions of government.

It is a puzzlement, and a question Democrats should have a ready answer for as we do combat in the marketplace of ideas.

I invite your analyses and observations.