July 31, 2005

Bush To The USA: $%&* You!

It happened a couple of days ago, so you'd think it would have been news by now, right? Bush gave the press the finger, (or the bird, or whatever you wanna call it: my kids call it "the rude finger") live on MSNBC:

Now take a deep breath and just imagine if Clinton had ever done that!

Of course, the White House spin machine is distorting reality faster than the news can spread. David Almacy, from the White House communications office (looks like Almacy is first in line for Scott McLellan's job), immediately called David Avaroisi at AmericaBlog to "clarify" that Bush was actually, and definitely, giving the thumbs up sign. Thumbs up sign? That's a helll of a long thumb!

Of course, the White House know Bush flipped the press, just as you and I do. But their trick is to get people debating about whether it was really a finger or a thumb, or which finger it might have been, rather than having a debate on the real issue here.

And the real issue is that this Bush White House has so much disrespect for ordinary Americans (and let's not even talk about the rest of the world!) that they stonewall and lie to the press day after day.
Time To Promote Scott McLellan?

Bush isn't the only one feeling the pressure from the press (is that a pun?)

Here's Scott McLellan responding to questions about the Bush finger:
"I was there with him, and I'm just not going to -- I'm not going to dignify that with a response. I mean, I haven't seen the video that you're talking about, but I know the way the president acts. And if someone is misportraying it, that's unfortunate."
And the next day:
Clearly, if you look at it and if you were there, you would recognize that the President was giving a thumbs-up. Someone in the media had asked something to the effect of, how does it look on the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and the President gave the thumbs-up.

I don't know how someone is trying to divine my inner thoughts, but despite some of the back and forth that we engage in today and other times, even with people like David -- (laughter) -- I have great respect for the job that you all do. And you all -- you all know the way I deal with you all and I know the way the President acts. And that's -- it's just preposterous to make that kind of suggestion.
McLellan's position as White House Press Secretary is becoming increasingly untenable, as his press gaggles become more and more absurd. He's now been pressured into lying to protect John Bolton. From Think Progress:
At today’s White House press briefing, Scott McClellan was asked about the inaccurate information Bolton provided to the Senate:
QUESTION:…Is the president concerned about the apparent error on Mr. Bolton’s questionnaire to the Senate in which he said that he had not been questioned in a federal investigation in the preceding five years when now it has been revealed that, in fact, he was at least interviewed in the context of the inspector general’s CIA investigation of the uranium potential sale from Niger to Iraq?

MCCLELLAN: I think the State Department addressed that last night, and it was John Bolton who pointed that out.
Actually, that’s completely wrong. It was Sen. Joe Biden who pointed out that Bolton provided inaccurate information to the Senate in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday afternoon. It wasn’t until several hours later that John Bolton fessed up through a State Department spokesperson.
In spite of all that, it still looks like Bush wants Bolton at the UN before he heads off to Crawford again for his August break (damn, he's been working SO hard...). Here's McLellan again:
"It's important that we get our permanent representative in place. This is a critical time and it's important to continue moving forward on comprehensive reform."
So no talk of a recess appointment till someone better can be found, this is a "permanent" position designed to enable "comprehensive reform" of the UN. Funny, you woulda thought the White House was the place that needed comprehensive reform, wouldn't you?

And just why is it a "critical" time right now? Because all the neo-con mess of lies is unravelling fast, Bush's approval ratings are plummeting down the S-bend, and this could be the last chance for the neo-cons to enact their long-held fantasies (or at least grab enough power to ensure they will have another go later).

But McLellan's position as the public portal between the reality and the fantasy is becoming unsustainable. As one commenter at ThinkProgress said:
If the press had any cajones they would boycott these press briefing on the grounds that Scotty has no credibility left and they would refuse to cover the White Briefings until he was gone and another more credible press secrtary was in place.
Given a new Press Secretary, would the press back off again? I think so - there is a tradition in Washington that you give a new guy a break in this position. Replacing McLellan would give Rove and Cheney some breathing space.

But who would take up the poisoned chalice? It would have to be someone without any sense of shame, capable of disseminating the bizarro Bush world with not just a straight face, but all the earnest zeal of a true believer...

Unfortunately, there are all too many already working in the White House who meet the description.
Here's To You, Leonard A. Clark

Leonard A. Clark is a kindergarten teacher (and wannabe politician) who joined the Arizona National Guard. Now stationed just outside Baghdad, he has been keeping a blog which is highly critical of the US occupation. Now he has been busted down a rank by the US Military, docked over $1600 in pay and sentenced to "45 days restriction and 45 days of extra duty" (the restriction and extra duty are suspended, for now at least).

What's worse, his blog has been closed down and all former posts removed.
In a post on his site July 5, Clark responded to questions about a report that he is being investigated for his writings: “Folks, I have decided to write you this email in response to those who are wondering in their own views why I am apparently violating the ‘rules.’ Since I don't have much time here is the gist of it: I believe American soldiers (my brothers and sisters) are being killed needlessy [sic] over here in this lie we call ‘the Occupation of Iraq.’"
Remind me again what we are fighting for in Iraq?

In solidarity with Leonard, I am republishing some of his posts below. I urge other bloggers to do the same. Let's turn Leonard's one small voice into a roar or anger across the blogosphere!

July 5th, 2005
Thank you!

Thank you all so much for you outpouring of support and even for those of you who want me dead, just remember this: I am a damned liberal who goes out ‘the wire’ almost every day in a gunner’s turret or driving a Humvee while many of your friends who call me a traitor sit at home enjoying a Democratic America. You will not silence me, just as the Nazis did not silence those they tried to slaughter.

I will do my best to comply with the aburd rules being used against me, but I can already tell you that I am like the man who who is told he will get a fair judge, jury, and trial and then be hung tommorrow. It doesn’t matter the military leadership is under pressure to shut me up. I have been told I cannot talk about politics, etc. because they know I could win if I get back home alive, so therefore I believe in my heart that I am not going over the top when I say they will do ANYTHING to silence me.

I most of all want to see my beautiful wife and daughter again, along with the beautiful United States of America, but if I need to be sacrificed so that no more children will go fatherless or motherless or that a widow will no longer scream in agony over learning of her loved one’s death, then so be it. My heart is heavy because I have a daughter who would grow up without a father if I am killed and a wife will be without her husband, but I will leave this great matter in the ALMIGHTY’s hands.

Please, remember that I will do my best to express my free opinions as an American citizen and let you know about this continued madness the Occupation of Iraq. Please, if they silence me do not forget my words – if we can save just one more life then this will have been all worth it, for the cause is just and the reward is the renewal of the human spirit in the face of tyranny.

I now consider myself on the verge of becoming a prisoner for my political views and my conscientous views.
Not One More American Soldier No Mas !
Si Se Puede ! Yes, We Can !

Written by Leonard A. Clark (the damned liberal who patrols the mean streets of Iraq every day).
Civilian title: Public Schools’ Kindergarten teacher

July 5th, 2005
The evil of the mind is conquered by the goodness of the heart

Folks, I have decided to write you this email in response to those who are wondering in their own views why I am apparently violating the “rules”. Since I don’t have much time here is the gist of it: I believe American soldiers (my brothers and sisters) are being killed needlessy over here in this lie we call the “Occupation of Iraq”. To me it is a great offense to the laws of humanity to have American soldiers die needlessly in a place far from their native home when this evil practice could be stopped. When should a person, a human being if you will, speak out ? Well, for me these fellow soldiers are my loved ones, and if I were ever going to speak out about anything it would be to save the lives of those I love. To have human beings sacrifice their lives for a lie is a violation of their human rights, and so there you have it – I believe that not only are my human rights being violated but those of my fellow soldiers as well.

To me it is no different than knowing that people are being murdered and that a fellow human being has the supreme moral obligation to prevent these murders from taking place. These are not the actions that an unreasonable person would take but to the contrary – ones that a very reasonable and humane person would take.

I know now in my gut that I have angered and scared very poweful people. Now, I know that I will probably pay the price but I am a human being first, and to me it is then condoning a war crime to stand by and let what I am seeing with my own eyes and other soldiers’ eyes take place over here in Iraq. I am being threatened for these reasons that I have stated: the evil that is in the minds of men being conquered by the good that is in the hearts.

Leonard Clark
soon to be a prisoner of conscience

P.S. If I am cut off with communications with my wife and daughter
please tell my friends to tell them that I will always love them
and to trust in GOD.
Kevin Spidel, a friend of Leonard’s, also has some MP3's from Leonard here.

July 30, 2005

Bolton Lied

Or to use BushSpeak:
"When Mr. Bolton completed his form during the Senate confirmation process he did not recall being interviewed by the State Department inspector general. Therefore his form as submitted was inaccurate in this regard and he will correct the form," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
Seems Bush still plans to send him to the UN. Meanwhile....

Miller Embedded in Iraq: With Prejudice!

Arianna has shocking details of Judith Miller's embedded stint in Iraq with MET Alpha:
Foer cites military and New York Times sources as saying that Miller's assignment [to the unit searching for WMDs in Iraq] was so sensitive that Don Rumsfeld himself signed off on it. Once embedded, Miller acted as much more than a reporter. Kurtz quotes one military officer as saying that the MET Alpha unit became a "Judith Miller team." Another officer said that Miller "came in with a plan. She was leading them... She ended up almost hijacking the mission." A third officer, a senior staffer of the 75th Exploitation Task Force, of which MET Alpha was a part, put it this way: "It's impossible to exaggerate the impact she had on the mission of this unit, and not for the better."

What did Miller do to create such an impression? According to Kurtz, she wasn't afraid to throw her weight around, threatening to write critical stories and complain to her friends in very high places if things didn't go her way. "Judith," said an Army officer, "was always issuing threats of either going to the New York Times or to the secretary of defense. There was nothing veiled about that threat."

In one specific instance, she used her friendship with Major General David Petraeus to force a lower ranking officer to reverse an order she was unhappy about. (Can we stop for a moment and take the full measure of how unbelievable this whole thing is?)

Miller also had a special, ten-year relationship with Ahmed Chalabi, which led to the MET Alpha unit, which had no special training in interrogation or intelligence, being given custody of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Sultan. Miller was even allowed to sit in on the initial questioning of Sultan -- a turn of events that didn't go down well with some Pentagon officials.

Miller apparently ended up developing an especially close relationship with Chief Warrant Officer Richard Gonzalez, the leader of the MET Alpha unit. Along with puffing him up in some of her dispatches -- once describing his "meeting tonight with Mr. Chalabi to discuss nonproliferation issues" -- Miller took the unusual step of taking part in the ceremony where Gonzalez was promoted, actually pinning his new rank to his uniform (has the bizarreness of all this hit you yet?).
Answers, please.

July 29, 2005

Cherie Blair v Tony Blair :: War On Civil Rights v War On Terror.
Dodgy Deals R US

A few hair-raising bills in the US House of Reps and Senate, which are now really scraping the bottom of the morality barrel.

First of all, the House yesterday passed Bush's latest Energy Bill. It's window-dressed as a green-friendly, alternative-fuel-source kinda intitiative, but the guts of the whole thing is a whopping bonus for the big energy companies which Dick Cheney loves so dearly: $US14.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives over 10 years.

It's not as if these guys actually need this money. For example, this just in from Reuters:
Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, posted a 32 percent rise in quarterly profit on Thursday, pushed up by a relentless surge in crude oil prices and strong refining margins.
Secondly, and even more scandalously, the House yesterday voted to join the controversial Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The bill only just passed, by 217 votes to 215.

But Charles Taylor (R-NC) says his NO vote was not counted by the voting machines! Coming on the heels of the Diebold voting scandals, this raises the question of whether the US House and Senate have dodgy voting sytems that are being manipulated in favour of the GOP pro-business agenda.

Josh Marshall and the TPM Cafe are on the case...

Meanwhile, in the US Senate, increasing opposition to the War In Iraq prompted a batch of Senators (including Republicans) to try to impose a series of amendments on the latest defense bill, which called for another whopping $450 billion in funds (how many people does that kill?). Refusing to accept the amendments, and having already threatened a PResidential veto, the GOP simply pulled the bill off the table and replaced it with a bill to grant gun manufacturers wide-ranging immunity from any lawsuits arising from criminal acts in which their weapons are used. Worse yet, they argued that the new gun bill had to be passed "to support our troops", lest the poor gun manufacturers go broke.

We couldn't have that, could we?

July 28, 2005

Khalid Jarrar of the Tell Me a Secret blog is back home again...
From Gitmo To Abu Ghraib To This...

The US training of Iraqi police is obviously going along just swimmingly.

Remind me again, why did we have to get rid of Saddam Hussein?
Jessica Simpson goes to Iraq and is shocked - shocked! - to discover that she has been used as a PR tool:
"It was unbelievable. They didn't show a lot of what really went on with the enemy attacks and the shelling. There was so much stuff that went on and somehow the tapes got mysteriously misplaced."
Exporting Bush's Iraq Mistakes To Africa

This story tells you everything you need to know about the Bush government's obstinate stupidity, their money-making links to the US military-industrial complex, and why most people in the world now see the USA as the biggest single threat to their future: U.S. Pushes Anti-Terrorism in Africa.

That's right. Instead of spending $500 million (and much, much more) on addressing chronic African issues of famine, poverty, disease and lack of education, the US government is spending the money arming and training soldiers across Africa for the War On Ahem! This dunderheaded approach means the USA is preparing to do everything wrong in Africa that they have already done wrong in Iraq. Not suprisingly, many of the alleged "terrorists" spreading into Africa are now coming from Iraq!
The thrust into Africa is vital to head off an infiltration by international terrorist groups, according to senior U.S. military, Pentagon and State Department officials. The groups are recruiting hundreds of members in Africa and Europe, attacking local governments and Western interests, and profiting from tribal smuggling routes to obtain arms, cash and hideouts, they say. Meanwhile, small groups of Islamic radicals are moving into Africa from Iraq, where Africans make up about a quarter of the foreign fighters, the officials say.

Foreshadowing a new phase in the war against terrorism, the Pentagon plan is to mobilize Africans to fight and preempt militant groups while only selectively using U.S. troops, who are already taxed by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in mustering African forces, the U.S. military confronts not only a highly elusive enemy across a vast, desolate terrain but also the competing agendas of authoritarian African governments and corrupt and chaotic militaries on the ground.
The article includes a description of US foces training military recruits in Chad. Substitute "Iraq" for "Chad" and you could be reading any one of dozens of descriptions of the USA's fruitless (and mostly PR-focussed) efforts to train Iraqi forces for the semi-mystical "handover".
GREAT NEWS!!! The War On Terror Is Over!!!

Well, kind of. From the London Telegraph via SMH:
Washington: The "war on terror", the resonant catchphrase of the Bush Administration for the past four years, is to be discreetly phased out in favour of more nuanced language.

The re-branding is part of what America's critics will say is a long overdue acknowledgement by the Pentagon of the complexity of the challenge of combating al-Qaeda.

"As the struggle evolves some of the language will evolve as well," a senior Administration official said.

Officials are instead favouring the rather less snappy phrase "struggle against violent extremism" as the Administration puts increased stress on longer-term initiatives - diplomatic, economic and educational - to defeat terrorism.

The phrase "war on terror" was "very simple, easy, concise", the official said. "The definition lends itself to images of those in uniform combating extremism and terrorists, but the struggle is broader than that."

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, said this week that he "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution".

The solution was "more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military", he said.
Well, who would ever have guessed that you cannot deploy the most powerful military force in history to defeat a noun, a method or a tactic (the exact target of the war has never been too clear)?

It looks like the "War on Terror" will go the same way as the "War on Drugs" (haven't heard that one for a while either, have we?).

So what will the new catch-phrase wording be? My own favourite: "The War on Ahem"???

Or maybe a more honest approach: "The War On Furrinerrs"? "War On Abroad"?

Or maybe it's time to drop the whole "war" thing altogether and take a more hands-on approach: "Love George Or Go To Gitmo"? "US Empire Today - Or Else"?

Let me know your thoughts - winner gets a free year's subscription to this blog!

UPDATE: Michael Moore has beaten me to it! Top suggestions to his comp include:

Terror War ('War On's Don't Work)
Renewable Enemy Program (my favourite)
The Neo-Crusades
War for a Terrorist-Free Lifestyle
The War with Radical Reality
Cowboys & Evil-Doers
Global Struggle Against Real Baaaaaaaad Vibrations
Big Dubya's Demolition Derby (Available in Hi-Definition to most residents of Iraq)
Islamic Bacon

Moore suggests you send your favourite suggestion to the Pentagon!
The Wages Of Sin

Halliburton announced on Friday that its KBR division, responsible for carrying out Pentagon contracts, experienced a 284 percent increase in operating profits during the second quarter of this year.
Despite the scandals that plague KBR's military contracts, the Pentagon awarded $70 million in "award" fees to the company, along with four ratings of "excellent" and two ratings of "very good" for the troop logistics work under the Army's LOGCAP contract.

The Pentagon has provided preferential treatment to Halliburton on a number of occasions, including the concealment from the public of critical reports by military auditors.

Audits conducted by the Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency determined that KBR had $1 billion in "questioned" expenses (i.e. expenses which military auditors consider "unreasonable") and $442 million in "unsupported" expenses (i.e. expenses which military auditors have determined contain no receipt or any explanation on how the expenses were disbursed).

But the top Pentagon brass ignored these audits and rewarded KBR's work anyway.
Of course, that ingominous profit is only what we are seeing on paper. Think Progress has details of a massive $1.5 billion GIVEAWAY from Tom DeLay to Halliburton and another company called Sugar Land, Texas. According to a letter from Rep. Hencry Waxman:
The provision was inserted into the energy legislation after the conference was closed, so members of the conference committee had no opportunity to consider or reject this measure...

The subtitle appears to steer the administration of 75% of the $1.5 billion fund to a private consortium located in the district of Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Ordinarily, a large fund like this would be administered directly by the government.
This is big. Is Tom "Teflon" DeLay trying to help out Rove by taking the media spotlight for a while?
Robert Novak Talks About Karl Rove: "I can't tell anything I ever talked to Karl Rove about, because I don't think I ever talked to him about any subject even the time of day, on the record."
Who's your Daddy, George?

A new bi-partisan(*) report by a Council on Foreign Relations task force says the USA has failed in post-war Iraq. And it points the finger of blame directly at - guess who? - Donald Rumsfeld and his neo-conservative colleagues.
The critical miscalculation of Iraq war-planning was that the stabilisation and reconstruction mission would require no more forces than the invasion itself.
As we all know, it was Rummy and his ideologically-stoned buddies who proudly boasted that half a dozen US marines armed with hi-tech pea-shooters could take (and hold) all of Iraq in half a day. Or something like that. And anyone who said otherwise was ridiculed, or sacked, or both.

And that's not all:
The report said US President George W Bush still had not made the changes in policy and government structure needed to respond to future post-conflict situations and said this should be a top foreign policy priority.
In other words, Bush & Co are still living in Neo-con La La Land.

* I say this was a bi-partisan report, but the GOP was represented by Brent Scowcroft, a man who is closely associated with the administration of George H. W. Bush (aka "Daddy"). Like Bush Senior, Scowcroft opposed the invasion of Iraq. It's therefore more than likely that this report bears the fingerprints of Bush Snr. A key quote from Scowcroft, warning agains the invasion:
I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a cauldron and destroy the War on Terror.

July 27, 2005

Former CIA Spokesman: Novak Lied

Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei have produced another very well-researched article at WaPo, Prosecutor In CIA Leak Case Casting A Wide Net. They have obviously interviewed several top figures in the case, including Joe Wilson and former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.

The article makes it look extremely likely that Novak knew Plame was undercover and yet - despite repeated warnings - he went ahead and published her name anyway. In other words, Novak should be locked up in the same cell as Rove. Here is the key passage:
In a strange twist in the investigation, the grand jury -- acting on a tip from Wilson -- has questioned a person who approached Novak on Pennsylvania Avenue on July 8, 2003, six days before his column appeared in The Post and other publications, Wilson said in an interview. The person, whom Wilson declined to identify to The Post, asked Novak about the "yellow cake" uranium matter and then about Wilson, Wilson said. He first revealed that conversation in a book he wrote last year. In the book, he said that he tried to reach Novak on July 8, and that they finally connected on July 10. In that conversation, Wilson said that he did not confirm his wife worked for the CIA but that Novak told him he had obtained the information from a "CIA source."

Novak told the person that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA as a specialist in weapons of mass destruction and had arranged her husband's trip to Niger, Wilson said. Unknown to Novak, the person was a friend of Wilson and reported the conversation to him, Wilson said.

Novak and his attorney, James Hamilton, have declined to discuss the investigation, as has Fitzgerald.

Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified.

In a column published Oct. 1, 2003, Novak wrote that the CIA official he spoke to "asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause 'difficulties' if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name."
Hmmn. A CIA official contacts you about a story and repeatedly tells you not to publish an agent's name. And you don't imagine you might be about to blow her cover? Really? Tell that one to the jury, Novak.

The article also highlights the fact that this Fitzgerald case is no longer just about Plame and Wilson. After all, the 16-word Niger scam was just one of many instances where "facts were being fixed around the intelligence". Fitzgerald is looking at the big picture, asking CIA officials about the inside politics when Bush officials (including CIA head Tenet) started pressuring the Agency to take the blame for the Niger fabrication.

We already know that Tenet told Bush the discovery of WMDs in Iraq was a "slam dunk" certainty. We also know he pressured his officials to take the blame for the neocon's mistakes, then fell on his sword and retired when a scapegoat was needed (although everyone was too polite to report his resignation that way). Now we also know he is being questioned by Fitzgerald. Another cell for this stooge, I think.

And then there is Judith Miller. Pincus and VandeHei make it clear that she remains a key part of the probe:
Fitzgerald has said in court that he had completed most of his investigation at a time when he was pressing for New York Times reporter Judith Miller to testify about any conversations she had with a specific administration official about Plame during the week before Plame's identity was revealed.

Miller, who never wrote a story about the matter, is in jail for refusing to comply with a court order to testify. Court records show Fitzgerald is seeking information about communications she had with the Bush official between July 6 and July 13, 2003, when the White House was attempting to discredit Wilson and his allegations.

Fitzgerald appears to believe that Miller's conversations may help him get to the bottom of the leak and the damage-control campaign undertaken by senior Bush officials that week...

Miller's role remains one of many mysteries in the leak probe. It is unclear whom, if anyone, she spoke to about Plame, and why she emerged as a central figure in the probe despite never having written a story about the case.
Given the importance of this case, Miller's refusal to testify is criminal, and she deserves her jail cell.

As Josh Marshall says, we are looking at a cobweb of lies, "the falsity of which has remained somehow unspeakable in high political debate despite all their transparency." The Rove-Cheney machine launched twin attacks on Wilson and the CIA, despite the fact that both Wilson and the CIA were RIGHT about the Niger nukes fiasco!
And all of this, of course, meant to cover up the big lie -- the administration's knowing use of bogus WMD reports to convince the country to go to war.
Let's hope this Fitzgerald fellow has big cojones. If he is going to come out with the whole sordid tale of Bush & Co's WMD lies, he is going to need them.
Hey, Turd Blossom!

Doonesbury cartoon creator Gary Trudeau defends his 'Turd Blossom' reference to Karl Rove in Editor and Publisher:
"I felt that [President] Bush's nickname for Rove was illuminating. 'Turd blossom' has so many connotations, none of them flattering. It's a small masterpiece of nastiness.
The strip was pulled or (worse yet) edited by many newspaper editors across the country, many of whom presumably did not know that Turd Blossom really is the nickname Bush gave to Rove a long time ago. See the strip at Slate today.

The nickname comes from a real blossoming flower in Texas, which springs up in cow manure "turds". Bush says Rove is the only guy who can make shit smell like flowers, and he himself is living proof of that.

The funniest thing to me about the strip was the idea that George "No Brain" Bush would call Rove into his office in such a way, rather than vice versa. Wonder if Trudeau will now broach the subject of Rove's extra-marital affair (see below)...?

UPDATE: Doonesbury does it again today, suggesting that "Turd Blossom's" failures could be rewarded with... a promotion! Trudeau nearly got it right: fact is, Rove and his fellow conspirators (including Libby and Card) are getting a pay rise instead.
Karl Rove's Affair

The Rove-Plame affair takes a new twist, with news that Karl "Family Values" Rove (married with a teenage son) has been having a real, long-time affair with lobbyist Karen Johnson, a never-married, forty-something GOP loyalist from Austin, Texas. Radar Online quotes one Texas reporter saying:
I've heard the stories, but I would never write about Karl and Karen. If you want to keep your job as a reporter in Texas, you make believe you don't see them together.
Now Kos has just finished interviewing "a long-time Texas political writer in Austin who says that Rove is absolutely having an affair with Karen".

I'm not one to sling mud unnecessarily, but isn't it funny how the people most likely to push their "values" on others are always the most likely to be hypocritical scum? Rove and his minions recently "outed" a gay reporter who dared write about the flagging morale of American troops in Iraq. I'd say that makes him "fair game".
It's The Occupation(s), Stupid

"These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America's founding fathers."
- Ronald Regan while introducing the Mujahideen leaders to media on the White house lawns.

By now I am sure you have all read (not?) Patrick Cockburn's explosive article in the UK Independent, This War is no longer Winnable. Among other things well worth reading, Cockburn states:
The findings of an investigation, to be published soon, into 300 young Saudis, caught and interrogated by Saudi intelligence on their way to Iraq to fight or blow themselves up, shows that very few had any previous contact with al-Qa'ida or any other terrorist organization previous to 2003. It was the invasion of Iraq which prompted their decision to die.

Some 36 Saudis who did blow themselves up in Iraq did so for similar reasons, according to the same study, commissioned by the Saudi government and carried out by a US-trained Saudi researcher, Nawaf Obaid, who was given permission to speak to Saudi intelligence officers. A separate Israeli study of 154 foreign fighters in Iraq, carried out by the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Israel, also concluded that almost all had been radicalized by Iraq alone.
Of course, you will also have read (not?) a recent New York Times article, Al Qaeda's Smart Bombs, by Robert Pape, a man who has documented every case of suicide bombing between 1980 and 2004. Pape says:
Al Qaeda is today less a product of Islamic fundamentalism than of a simple strategic goal: to compel the United States and its Western allies to withdraw combat forces from the Arabian Peninsula and other Muslim countries.

... the overwhelming majority of attackers are citizens of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries in which the United States has stationed combat troops since 1990.
Now Mike Whitney has put together an excellent piece, citing the above two articles while refuting the "hate-mongering" ideology of the US right-wing. Whitney also provides a much-ignored key quote from bin Laden himself:
"We fight because we are free men who don't sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our nation. Just as you lay waste to our nation, so shall we lay waste to yours.... Your security is in your own hands. And every state that doesn't play with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security."

- Osama Bin Laden, Al Jazeera 11-01-04
The right-wingers, of course, say that this is nonsense. They say there is no negotiating with terrorists. They say Muslim fanatics want to install a caliphate system across the Middle East, subjugating millions to barbaric laws. And there is some truth in this, of course.

The problem is that the West's violent hypocrisy is doing nothing to stop that radical agenda from spreading. Instead, as the studies quoted by Cockburn and Pape prove, our elected leaders' unpopular, violent, illegal occupations of Arab lands are helping to promote bin Laden's agenda and spread it, even into Western countries.

Yet still we have people like Donald Rumsfeld insisting that any connection linking the recent terrorist attacks in Britain and Egypt to the US-led war in Iraq is "ridiculous". As Lew Rockwell eloquently points out today, such blatant denial of reality is itself not only ridiculous, but also dangerous:
Liberal Democratic party leader Charles Kennedy made the obvious observation when he remarked: "Those, like President Bush and Tony Blair, who have sought to link Iraq with the so-called 'war on terror' can hardly be surprised when members of the public draw the same link when acts of terrorism occur here in the United Kingdom."

... However, to admit that his actions precipitated the events would be a repudiation of Tony Blair’s entire post 9-11 career. So, naturally, he did what comes naturally to every politician. He ignored reality...

Let’s deny all the evidence. Like the repeated claims by Al-Qaeda and it’s imitators that they are acting to frustrate and repulse the decades long Anglo-American imperialism in the Arab world and now the installation of a new Anglo-American condominium over the Muslim world under the cover of "democratically-elected" puppet regimes to deflect widespread and rising hostility to their allied military despots and domestic sympathizers. Let’s ignore cause and effect and continue to insist on illogical and perverted explanations that purely by coincidence, I’m sure, continue to justify continued imperialism and it’s expansion into new lands in the futile search for a military solution to a political tactic...

Did the IRA commit their bombings, including an attack on Downing Street itself, because they hated the English way of life and English values or did they hate the government’s policy of occupying Northern Ireland? Could it be that just as one earlier occupation of a neighboring land produced terror on British soil, another occupation of a distant land has produced terror again.

I suspect Tony Blair is fully aware of how his policies have brought terror to Londoners, and disaster to Iraq, but such is the contempt for humanity and honesty by politicians in general and Tony Blair in particular, who has a long career behind him of deceit, that he refuses to acknowledge his complicity in this enormous crime he has committed in partnership with his confederate in state terror George W. Bush. Their joint project of bringing (Western managed) "democracy" to the brown-skinned peoples of the Earth riding a wave of aerial bombs is an insult to any pretence of morality.
Despite all the endless, frenzied, fear-generating, headline-grabbing 24/7 terrorist hoopla, our leaders' so-called "War On Terror" is achieving the exact opposite of its stated aims.

Whatever moral justification the West may once have claimed for its violent, self-interested adventurism has now been lost in the bloodied sands of Iraq, the torture rooms of Guantanamo Bay and the cash-soaked coffers of Halliburton Inc. Beyond morality, there is no longer even logic to what we are doing.

As Whitney says:
The source of the problem is not in the heart of Islam but in the sanctuaries of the American plutocracy, where fantasists who never held a rifle dreamt of leading the nation to war. Their muddled vision has now produced the greatest wave of terror the world has ever seen.
The real problem, as Whitney concludes, is not the "cancer in their midst", but the cancer in ours. We have become worse than the beast we once created, then set out to destroy.

UPDATE: The 7.30 Report has a new interview with Robert Pape here.

July 26, 2005

Like I said, it's been quiet. So you'd think the media would have space to devote to 320 events around the USA marking the third anniversary of the Downing Street Minutes. This SFGate coverage, for example, ridiculed the protesters as small-L liberals and "Bush bashers"...
Such a harmonic convergence of activism could almost be dubbed "liberal bliss" day -- if everyone weren't so fighting mad.
Strap yourselves in, folks. It's gonna be a long drive...

Read more reports from around the United States and Europe here.
Rove Polls Poorly

...by 34% to 25%, Americans have an unfavorable view of Rove; 25% have never heard of him. Seen by many as Bush's most powerful White House adviser, Rove has been in the news lately because of an investigation into whether administration officials illegally leaked the name of a CIA operative to reporters.

The controversy hasn't gripped the public's attention. Just half of those surveyed say they are following the story closely; one in five aren't following it at all.

Even so, 25% think Rove broke the law in the case. An additional 37% suspect that he did something unethical but not illegal. Just 15% say they think he didn't do anything seriously wrong.

Those surveyed are split almost evenly, 40%-39%, over whether Bush should fire him. By 49% to 31%, a plurality says he should resign.
John Pilger: "Blair brought home to this country his and Bush's illegal, unprovoked and blood-soaked adventure in the Middle East. Were it not for his epic irresponsibility, the Londoners who died in the Tube and on the No 30 bus almost certainly would be alive today... To paraphrase perhaps the only challenging question put to Blair on the eve of the invasion, it is now surely beyond all doubt that the man is unfit to be prime minister. "
Tom the Dancing Bug tackles the Rove controversy.
PlameGate: Rove Takes Control of the Story?

I was wondering how long this would take. I mean, it's been pretty quiet, hasn't it? Scotty McLellan's stone-walling (today's focal point: the "12-hour" question) has almost become boring, as the novelty of reporters actually asking hard questions wears off. Fitzgerald is keeping quite, letting all the bloggers and big-mouthed politicians slow-feed him fresh information and new twists.

Not surprisingly, Karl Rove is depriving the story of oxygen.

But meanwhile, where is the other part of the old Bush-Rove fall-back scheme? You know, the knuckle-duster part...

Here it is, courtesy of Kos. You might at first be happy to hear that Congress plans to scrutinize Plame-related issues. But wait a minute, they are not going to investigate how numerous top White House officials disclosed a US agent's identity - they are going to try to introduce new legislation making it harder for anyone to leak any information to the media. See how clever that is? You pretend to be cracking down on the person(s) who leaked Plame's identity, while actually you are building a new wall of non-accountability around the Bush White House gang. Any future whistle-lowers will be labelled criminals and locked up.

And that's not all. Pat Roberts, head of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, will simultaneously be putting the heat on both the CIA and Fitzgerald himself.

The question is, will the media take the bait and duly report these high-falutin' talking-head gab-fests? Will the public tolerate even more Fascist laws coming out of the US Senate? And can Rove keep the lid on the Fitzgerald enquiry for another three years?

I think the reason why Bush and Rove have recently come under so much pressure is that they started jailing reporters. That was enough for journos to start confronting their own editors (most of whom used to be journos once themselves) and getting more agressively anti-Bush with their stories. Not surprisingly, given Bush's abysmal poll figures, the public has been lapping it up.

Can Rove put the media back in their pro-GOP box and swing the story back to where it was? Or have the anti-Bush floodgates opened for good?
Sounds like the new Iraqi Constitution (the main reason we had those elections way back in January) is going great... NOT!
I have received yesterday an initial document of a draft constitution. I am astonished. I don't know who wrote it...
Juan Cole says "the fix is in and that backroom deals have already produced the final text. The committee, and the charade of including the Sunni Arabs, is just window dressing."
Bush's Innocent Casualties

It's not only innocent Brazilian electricians who are being killed. From the LA Times, another indication of how reckless, dangerous and unaccountable the US forces in Iraq have become:
Three men in an unmarked sedan pulled up near the headquarters of the national police major crimes unit. The two passengers, wearing traditional Arab dishdasha gowns, stepped from the car.

At the same moment, a U.S. military convoy emerged from an underpass. Apparently believing the men were staging an ambush, the Americans fired, killing one passenger and wounding the other. The sedan's driver was hit in the head by two bullet fragments.

The soldiers drove on without stopping.

This kind of shooting is far from rare in Baghdad, but the driver of the car was no ordinary casualty. He was Iraqi police Brig. Gen. Majeed Farraji, chief of the major crimes unit...

July 25, 2005

BushWorld: An Assault On Your Intelligence

From terrorism to economics to global warming to the globalization of pro-US "Democratic" voting systems, George W. Bush's administration has become a non-stop war on our own much-battered intelligences. Like many others, I have written about this many times before. And yet it seems like all the arguments are going around and around and around and still getting us nowhere.

For example, reading through Smirky's today. Rosa Brooks of the LA Times reveals (again) the war on terror's dirty little secret:
Terrorism is here to stay, though our leaders don't like to admit it. That's because terrorism is a method, not a movement.
Well, d'oh! The press sure missed that one, didn't they? Or more pure frustration from Milton Bass of the Berkshire Eagle
The situation is so ironic, so utterly beyond reasonable comprehension that the Democrats are unable to present a reasonable alternative to the political situation... There are so many absurdities connected to the administration of George W. Bush that you wouldn't believe them if they were presented in a novel or movie plot. The only possible reaction of a rational person is banging one's head against a wall or sitting back and letting the world go by...
Then over to Josh Marshall, who points out (again) that the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Pat Roberts (R) of Kansas, is a hack, a shame to his office, who has turned the Intel Committee into an arm of Karl Rove's political operation:
Note that there are no congressional investigations into the origin of the Niger forgeries, the outing of Valerie Plame, and countless other scandals and mysteries large and small. (Remember, after the 2004 election, Roberts announced that there's now not enough time for the investigation into possible political manipulation of Iraqi WMD intel, which he promised prior to the election.)

But now there will be congressional hearings into whether the CIA does a good enough job at protecting the 'cover' of its agents in its Directorate of Operations...

Those who are so Bush-true as to hypothesize that the CIA made a knowingly fraudulent referral would have to contend with the fact that the Bush Justice Department and then later Patrick Fitzgerald both concluded that the referral was a valid one.

The only other possibility -- one which I've referred to jokingly in the past -- is to argue that she wasn't covert enough. That is to say, maybe she was covert to the CIA. But she really wasn't covert up to the standards of say, Bill Safire or Tucker Carlson or Bill O'Reilly.

And this, understand, is the premise of the new Roberts' hearings. Was she really covert enough? ...

The only reason Chairman Roberts now wants hearings into this question is that it might generate more fodder for excuse-making for those who will climb any mountain and ford any stream to avoid holding any of the president's lieutenants to account.
Rove knows that control of both the Senate and the House, plus a compliant press, gives him the perfect noise-making machine.
Four Horsemen of the Terrorist Apocalypse

Most people who have lived in the UK will know that Matthew Parris is a very widely respected, highly articulate journalist. Today he names the four powers who are behind the al-Qaeda conspiracy:
There is an unwitting conspiracy between four separate powers to represent the worldwide al-Qaeda network as fiendishly clever, powerfully effective and deeply involved in the London bombings.

First, the news media. Al-Qaeda is a “narrative” and a gripping one. Everybody loves a mystery story. Everybody loves a thriller. Everybody needs a plot. All journalists have an in-built tendency to make links between things and find unifying forces at work. A series of random and unrelated facts makes for a shapeless account. Report without implicit explanation is baffling and finally boring. No British journalist I know would invent or consciously distort a report in order to exaggerate the involvement of al-Qaeda; but most of us are drawn to explanations that, well, explain.

Secondly, the Government. I would not be so rude or stupid as to suggest that ministers take any sort of satisfaction from terrorist atrocities. But leadership is made easier if there is a visible, tangible threat; and easier still if it can be represented as completely alien. Us v Them is the narrative a politician is most at home with. The BBC’s The Power of Nightmares made an important point: fear silences opposition, and governments walk tallest when an external threat can be identified and they can lead us against it. “Evil” is a more convenient opponent than stupidity, inadequacy and human dysfunction. We hold our leaders’ hands a little more tightly in the dark.

Thirdly, the security services. The police, British Intelligence, and our counter-terrorism apparatus, are all flattered in their work by headlines that suggest that the enemy is formidable, incredibly sophisticated and hard to catch. Any failure on the part of our security services to detect in advance or prevent a terrorist outrage, or to catch the terrorists afterwards, is easily explained if the terrorist movement is widely agreed to be fiendishly clever and well organised. It is not flattering to a counter-terrorism chief to suggest that his quarry is a muppet. The tale of a police mastermind calls for a criminal mastermind, too.

Finally, of course, the terrorist himself. A reputation for fearsomeness and sophistication is nothing but a boon not only to his self-esteem, but also to his efforts to recruit others to his cause. Never think that speeches about the wickedness and cruelty of al-Qaeda do other than burnish the legend.

From a certain point of view, the journalist, the politician, the police chief and the terrorist can be seen as locked in a macabre waltz of the mind, no less distorting for being unconscious. We should not to join that dance.
Qui custodiat custos?

When Alberto Gonzales was first informed of the Fitzgerald enquiry, he was still serving as Bush's top White House counsel. Gonzales spent 12 hours rifling through the evidence before he informed other members of staff to prepare for the enquiry. Frank Rich suggests the potential criminality of such an act could be the reason Gonzales was not nominated for the Supreme Court post:
As White House counsel, he was the one first notified that the Justice Department, at the request of the C.I.A., had opened an investigation into the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife. That notification came at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003, but it took Mr. Gonzales 12 more hours to inform the White House staff that it must "preserve all materials" relevant to the investigation. This 12-hour delay, he has said, was sanctioned by the Justice Department, but since the department was then run by John Ashcroft, a Bush loyalist who refused to recuse himself from the Plame case, inquiring Senate Democrats would examine this 12-hour delay as closely as an 18½-minute tape gap. "Every good prosecutor knows that any delay could give a culprit time to destroy the evidence," said Senator Charles Schumer, correctly, back when the missing 12 hours was first revealed almost two years ago.
Asked to explain, Gonzales claims:
he had been given permission by the Justice Department to hold off overnight if he saw fit, which he did. But he did tell one man that night: Chief of Staff Andrew Card.
So that's Bush insider John Ashcroft giving Bush insider Gonzales the green light for a potentially criminal act, and the only other person in the know was Bush insider Andrew Card. Qui custodiat custos, eh?

Given that such an atmosphere of non-accountablity has now spread right across the highest levels of both government and the judiciary, what are the chances that those who deliberately leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame will ever be punished? Far more likely, even assuming a case can be proven by Fitzgerald et al, is the scenario painted by Buzzflash today: a Bush White House pardon for all involved. And of course, this has all happened before:

Dubya's administration is packed heavy with people involved in Iran-Contra, and Contra terrorists who ripped innocent people's tongues out of their throats are still heroes of the US right. There was no real accountability then, and today we are seeing the consequences.

It's this lack of accountability which allows our so-called leaders to get away with the most gob-smacking hypocrisy. As Charlie Reese says:
President Bush and Great Britain's Tony Blair react so angrily when someone suggests that terrorist attacks are a response to American and British foreign policy. If they are a response, then obviously the attacks are the fault of the policy-makers.

So, to avoid any share of responsibility whatsoever, both Bush and Blair propagate the line that terrorists are complete nut cases acting purely irrationally because of crazy hatred of our wealth and freedom. This is particularly clever political propaganda since it asserts that we are hated, not for our faults, but for our very virtues.

July 24, 2005

If He Was Running, He Must Have Been Guilty

He half-tripped, was half-pushed to the floor. The policeman nearest to me had the black automatic pistol in his left hand, he held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him...
"For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets."
Are You Too Sick Of This Yet?

Henry Waxman lists 11 separate incidents where Plame's CIA identity appears to have been leaked. Can you imagine if Fitzgerald's inquiry nails Rove, Condi, Libby, and the whole damn lot of them, including Miller?

Meanwhile, again from Hunter, it seems the sodomizing of detained children is unduly infringing on the president's fight against terrorists.
...on one hand, the Bush administration is frantically blocking the release of the photographic proof of the most horrific war crimes committed in U.S. military-run prisons.

On the other hand, the Bush administration is simultaneously threatening to veto any attempts by McCain, Graham or others to establish even rudimentary rules banning such torture -- or even investigating the torture already documented.
Hunter links to these former reports from NBC/Boston Herald:
The unreleased images show American soldiers beating one prisoner almost to death, apparently raping a female prisoner, acting inappropriately with a dead body, and taping Iraqi guards raping young boys, according to NBC News.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the scandal is "going to get worse" and warned that the most "disturbing" revelations haven't yet been made public.

"The American public needs to understand, we're talking about rape and murder here," he said. "We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience; we're talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges."
And Seymour Hersh:
The women were passing messages saying "Please come and kill me, because of what's happened". Basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys/children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. The worst about all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking.

July 23, 2005

Staying On The Case

Still on the Plame Case, the WP looks at criticism of Bush today from top CIA officials. Josh Marhsall , the NYT and others are throwing the spotlight on John Bolton, while Justin Raimondo reminds readers "you heard it here first" at antiwar.com. Hunter at Kos is all over it:
Steve Clemons has verified that John Bolton was one of Judith Miller's regular sources on WMD issues, and that MSNBC stands by its story that Bolton gave testimony to the grand jury about the State Department memo in question...

This is, to use the most calm and soothing phrase possible in such circumstances, extremely f---ing bad for the administration.
The Post also has a good report on the conflicting stories to date:
· White House chief political strategist Karl Rove reportedly told the grand jury that he first learned of Valerie Plame's identity from columnist Robert Novak -- but Novak's version of the story is that Rove already knew about her when the two spoke.

· Rove didn't mention his conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to investigators at first and then said it was primarily about welfare reform. But Cooper has testified that the topic of welfare reform didn't came up.

· Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby apparently told prosecutors he first heard about Plame from NBC's Tim Russert, but Russert has testified that he neither offered nor received information about Plame in his conversation with Libby.

· And former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer apparently told prosecutors that he never saw a classified State Department memo that disclosed Plame's identity, but another former official reportedly saw him perusing it on Air Force One.
Still in the blogosphere, Juan Cole's blog today perfectly illustrates Israel's two-faced policy on the so-called roadmap. While Condi Rice is cheerleading the West Bank pullout, Sharon is promising settlers that he was going to unilaterally annex even more Palestinian land, along with the holy city of Jerusalem, permanently.
During a visit to the West Bank settlement of Ariel yesterday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that in the future an expanded Ariel would be an integral part of Israel.

"I reiterate and clarify that this bloc is one of the most important. It will forever be part of the State of Israel. There is no other thought and no other direction of thinking.

"I came here today to see how the city can be expanded and the bloc strengthened, as I do and shall do in the other blocs. This bloc will forever be an inseparable part of the State of Israel, territorially contiguous with the State of Israel like the other blocs," he said.
Err, just remind me again - why do they hate us?

Top of the weekend reading list is Juan Cole's analysis of Iraq's cozy new relationship with Iran:
Iraq's new government has been trumpeted by the Bush administration as a close friend and a model for democracy in the region. In contrast, Bush calls Iran part of an axis of evil and dismisses its elections and government as illegitimate. So the Bush administration cannot have been filled with joy when Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and eight high-powered cabinet ministers paid an extremely friendly visit to Tehran this week.

The two governments went into a tizzy of wheeling and dealing of a sort not seen since Texas oil millionaires found out about Saudi Arabia. Oil pipelines, port access, pilgrimage, trade, security, military assistance, were all on the table in Tehran. All the sorts of contracts and deals that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney had imagined for Halliburton, and that the Pentagon neoconservatives had hoped for Israel, were heading instead due east.

Jaafari's visit was a blow to the Bush administration's strategic vision, but a sweet triumph for political Shiism. In the dark days of 1982, Tehran was swarming with Iraqi Shiite expatriates who had been forced to flee Saddam Hussein's death decree against them. They had been forced abroad, to a country with which Iraq was then at war. Ayatollah Khomeini, the newly installed theocrat of Iran, pressured the expatriates to form an umbrella organization, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which he hoped would eventually take over Iraq. Among its members were Jaafari and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. On Jan. 30, 2005, Khomeini's dream finally came true, courtesy of the Bush administration, when the Supreme Council and the Dawa Party won the Iraqi elections...

More than two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it is difficult to see what real benefits have accrued to the United States from the Iraq war, though a handful of corporations have benefited marginally. In contrast, Iran is the big winner. The Shiites of Iraq increasingly realize they need Iranian backing to defeat the Sunni guerrillas and put the Iraqi economy right, a task the Americans have proved unable to accomplish. And Iran will still be Iraq's neighbor long after the fickle American political class has switched its focus to some other global hot spot.
As a follow-up article, Larry Diamond's ongoing dialogue with Dan Senor makes interesting reading:
Dan, why has the administration repeatedly skirted this issue of long-term bases? Will you address it in closing this dialogue? What are we in Iraq for: to build democracy—which requires not only freedom but order, and thus a dramatic reduction of this violence—or to secure the long-term projection of American military power from Iraqi soil, which most Iraqis will not accept?
And Russ Baker has what I think is a very good analysis of the Judith Miller dilemma.

July 22, 2005

Meanwhile, Back In Australia...

Just as the Geneva Convention suddenly became "quaint", Australia's legal system has suddenly become very "19th century".

Poor fellow, my country...

And what exactly are these "values" that we are fighting so hard to protect?
Well, What Did You Expect?

Looks like John G. Roberts, President Bush's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, will not get such an easy ride after all. Seems he provided legal advice to Jeb Bush "at his own expense" to help Dubya win the disputed 2000 elections. He is also close friends with lawyer Dean Colson, who was best man at Roberts' wedding. Click the story link for more info.

There's a lot of talk about how this Supreme Court pick has been designed to take the steam out of the Rove-Plame scandal. Well, maybe so, but I suspect the scandal may have run its course for now in any case, and we might have to wait for Fitzgerald to start talking. Bush has hoisted his petard and it's probably going to keep flapping in the wind till (and if) Fitzgerald rips it down.

That is, unless anyone has any more leaks to share...?

Of course, that's no reason not to keep the issue in the public eye. A lot of folks have got a lot to learn about all these Bush shennanigans. Via Kos, Rep. Waxman reminds us that tomorrow at 10am Eastern, Congressional Dems will be convening a panel to discuss the the national security implications of the Plame leak. Former CIA officials will be testifying.
52 Guantanamo detainees on hunger strike. They have already refused "at least nine meals". Joint Task Force Guantanamo calls it a "temporary effort" at protest.

July 21, 2005

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the memo made it clear that information about Wilson's wife was sensitive and should not be shared. Today's headline Washington Post article provides greater detail on the memo (from the same source? Powell?).
And the source really knows this memo (still has a copy, by the sounds of it).
Plame -- who is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson, in the memo -- is mentioned in the second paragraph of the three-page document...
This little bit of news seems to sum up the whole sorry business:
Almost all of the memo is devoted to describing why State Department intelligence experts did not believe claims that Saddam Hussein had in the recent past sought to purchase uranium from Niger. Only two sentences in the seven-sentence paragraph mention Wilson's wife.
Three pages of info. They ignore 99% of it and cherry-pcik exactly the intelligence they want... just so they can mis-use it!
Professional bookmakers are offering odds of 4-1 that Rove will be dismissed or resign. The odds that he will not be fired or resign are just 1-6.
What the John Howard is Garrison Keillor trying to do - blow smoke for the GOP?
A Fact's a Fact, Jack

Molly Ivins takes a look at Bush & Co's reality-twisting web of lies:
Joseph Wilson is merely one of the many people who provided one of the by now innumerable pieces of evidence that this administration lied about why we went to war in Iraq. When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill wrote that Bush planned to invade Iraq from the day he took office, the administration went after O'Neill. When Richard Clarke disclosed that the Bushies wanted to use Sept. 11 to go after Saddam Hussein from Sept. 12 on, they went after Clarke. They went after Gen. Zinni, they went after Gen. Shinseki and everyone else who opposed the folly or told the truth about it. After they got done lying about weapons of mass destruction and about connections to Al Qaeda, they switched to the stomach-churning pretense that we had done it all for democracy. Urp.

The trouble with piling lies on top of lies is that we can't even agree on facts anymore. I read the right-wing commentators, and it's not that we're not on the same page -- we're not even in the same library. They read the Downing Street memos and convince themselves they don't mean what they say. I really don't understand: Is it that hard to admit you're wrong when you're wrong? Is it that hard to admit that the invasion of Iraq has been a disaster? Isn't it self-evident?

If you support someone politically, you are not required to believe they are perfect. Did I think Bill Clinton had a sleazy affair while he was president? Yes. I just didn't care. I didn't think it had anything to do with the way he was running the country. You can't dismiss this. You can't not care about lies and war.
The Project on Defense Alternatives presents 400 days and out: A strategy for resolving the Iraq impasse.
Tariq Ali: "If the killing of innocent civilians in London is barbaric, and it is, how does one define the killing of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians? A viler barbarism."
Beyond The Plame Blame Game: Spotlight On Ledeen

Matthew Yglesias makes a good point which has been almost totally ignored.

The Niger uranium documents, which were the original reason Wilson was sent to Niger, have been proven to be crude forgeries with no basis in fact:
First and foremost, it's now clear that whatever Iraq may or may not have tried to do in 1999, it didn't actually get anywhere near building a nuclear bomb. Second, given the actual state of Iraq's nuclear program at the time, there's no reason to think uranium yellowcake would have been useful for doing anything, as Iraq had no capacity to transform it into a usable weapon. Third, the Iraq Survey Group, appointed by the president to review Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction programs stated last year that it had "not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991 or renewed indigenous production of such material." Fourth, the International Atomic Energy Agency responded to the Butler report by asking the British government to provide it with the non-forgery-based evidence for the story, which the Brits have failed to do. Indeed, it seems that the only British sources were the forgery, and reports from other intelligence services that were, in turn, based on the same forgery.

All that aside, no officials anywhere, including the authors of the Butler report, deny the basic point that the Niger uranium memo was forged.
So beyond the question of who leaked Plame's identity to the press, there lies the much more important question of who forged these documents and why?

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) asked the FBI to investigate this, after which they left this matter out of their reports. The FBI provided no further information, and did not even bother to interview Rocco Martino, a former Italian military-intelligence official who was reported (in the European media) to be the original source.

So who's responsible for these forgeries, and why did they create them, and why was the matter not investigated more extensively? Yglesias pulls his punches and leaves the question open.

But as Juan Cole has already noted, there is one person in the Bush-neocon administration (and remember, Bush is just the titular head of this cult) who has extensive links to the Italian military, and that is the neo-conservative thoroughbred, Michael Ledeen.

As Jack Dalton has previously noted, Michael Ledeen studied under Leo Strauss at Chicago Uni, as did Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Don Rumsfeld and other neo-cons. And as Jim Lobe has said, Strauss believed the world to be a place where "policy advisers may have to deceive their own publics and even their rulers in order to protect their countries".

More on Ledeen from Source Watch:
Ledeen was a Ronald Reagan appointee and is outspoken on U.S. foreign policy. He worked as a consultant to the National Security Council, Department of State (81-82), and Department of Defense (82-86).

* is a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
* is associated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies
* commenced service on the U.S.-China Commission in 2001.
* is a contributing editor to National Review Online
* is a contributor to Jewish World Review

Ledeen's daughter is Simone Ledeen, who went to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in October 2004 and ended up in a position of considerable responsibility.

Ledeen's books include Universal Fascism, which speaks favorably of fascism as a "revolutionary movement," and Gabrielle D'Annunzio, a glowing biography of the eccentric Italian fascist.
Like nearly everyone that matters in the Bush administration, Ledeen was involved in the Iran-Contra affair. He even wrote a book about it ("Perilous Statecraft: An Insider's Account of the Iran-Contra Affair"). The title of another (1996) Ledeen book virtually encapsulates the whole neo-con obsession: "Freedom Betrayed; How the United States Led a Global Domocratic Revolution, Won the Cold War, and Walked Away".

Now why is an admittedly pro-Fascist ideologue, who loudly advocates violence as the only means of real political change, in a position of such influence with the US government? You tell me.

Did Ledeen use his Italian military contacts to "generate" the forged Niger uranium documents? Did his neo-con colleagues like John Bolton relentlessly push for an investigation, despite intelligence dismissing them as forgeries? Did other neo-cons ensure the investigation into these forgeries was never followed up? Does the sun rise in the East every morning, or is that just a "reality-based" misconception?

P.S. I'd better whisper this last bit... Yes, Michael Ledeen is Jewish. But that's obviously got nothing to do with all this.

LATER: Amazing, really amazing. A single post like this is enough to bring some old friends back for a visit.

July 20, 2005

The First Transmission

I have just been elected President of the World.

(That's not completely true, of course, but - hey, look over there!)

As President, I have decided to end world hunger and poverty by redistributing wealth from richer countries to poorer ones. Any wealthy citizens who are not happy with this decision will have the option of moving to Texas.

I will provide universal free education and health care for all citizens on the planet, and all citizens of the world will be guaranteed equal rights under the law.

As of now, all international boundaries are disolved and all legal systems for these former nations are no longer valid. (That in itself is not entirely legal, of course, but - hey, is that a spider on your arm?!)

I will immediately put a stop to all wars by imprisoning those I deem responsible for them, and then destroying all weapons on the planet, including conventional, nuclear, biological and space-based systems.

Any persons found breaking my laws will be sent to Texas, which will be renamed "Guantanamo Bay: The Sequel" and converted to a penal settlement. A hundred-metre high concrete wall will be built around the entire state, with no entry or exit gates. Criminals will be dropped in by helicopter and left to fend for themselves. The wall will be surrounded by an electrified field, with devices emitting an ear-splitting noise to anyone who comes within 1,000 metres of it. At closer range (less than 100 metres) this frequency will cause total debilitation and permanent physical impairment.

Those most responsible for the current Iraq War - Bush, Blair, Howard, Rove, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Perle, Rice, Cheney, Murdoch and many, many others - will be offered an opportunity for public redemption. To avoid transportation to Texas (in orange jumpsuits) these criminals will be required to publicly atone for their misdeeds by:

(a) Disclosing all details of their lies,
(b) Confessing their misdeeds on public television,
(c) Giving all their money, property and other valuable items to the poor,
(d) Crawling around on their knees for the rest of their lives, with a sign on their butts that says "Kick Me - Hard", and
(e) becoming the full-time personal servants of Iraqis who have been disabled by US state-sponsored violence.

The same offer will apply to anyone found guilty of violent acts of terrorism.

That is all for now. Please return to your normal lives...
... They serve because they love this country and are committed to protecting it from threats from abroad and to defending the principles of liberty and freedom. They do not expect public acknowledgement for their work, but they do expect and deserve their government’s protection of their covert status.

For the good of our country, we ask you to please stand up for every man and woman who works for the U.S. intelligence community and help protect their ability to live their cover.

Sincerely yours,

ten former CIA analysts.
Biggest reason NOT to trust Supreme Court Nominee John Roberts: he was nominated by George W. Bush.
After three years, Jose Padilla finally gets his day in court.
More details on that Memo from WSJ.com. An insider who has seen it says Plame's confidentiality was clearly marked.
"I'll never forget the time I called my boss 'a drooling idiot.' "
Would this be a firing offence in Bush's White House? Apparently it's not totally illegal in certain states...

July 19, 2005

Tim Noah at Slate believes that Rove's email correspondence with Stephen Hadley suggests he must have known about Plame's status as an undercover CIA operative, increasing the likelihood that he committed a crime rather than a mere humungous moral breach.
USA Must Be Born Again

"It took us three-and-a-half years to be corrupted by the power."
So said John Ehrlichman, the man most directly responsible for Nixon's downfall, when Pete McCloskey visited him in a federal penitentiary.

There are a lot of parrallels between the Rove-Plame scandal and Watergate, or between the current Bush Administration and Nixon's team. In fact, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others were part of Nixon's team, as I've said before.

But what kept me awake last night was the thought that the Church Commision never really cleaned up the Watergate mess. Embarrassing issues like MK-ULTRA were swept under the carpet, with a general (i.e. bipartisan political) agreement that it would be "bad for America" if too much was told to the public.

And so now we have the same self-rightreous Cold War warriors, still clinging to power, still creating wars of convenience for their business contacts in the military-industrial complex.

Can Americans "handle the truth"? Is the USA capable of the massive criminal investigation that will be required to cleanse its hypothetical soul of the stain left by these immoral vermin?

The Rove-Plame scandal presents a good opportunity to make a start. Indeed, some speculate that the almighty GOP may be set set to implode under the building internal pressures, with over 50% of GOP voters now thinking the Bush team is covering up a scandal. This from Ted Rall:
"Republicans have become so obsessed with personal loyalty that they've forgotten that their first duty is to country, not party or friend. Unless they wake up soon and dump Bush, Republicans could be permanently discredited."
Nice dream?
Bushism Of The Year?

From the WP article and transcript of Bush's press conference yesterday:
The best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who's spending time investigating it.
Interesting to note, too, that the press laughed at Bush when he dragged out the "ongoing investigation" excuse.
Here's a thought. We are all staggered at the idea that Karl Rove and others in the Bush White House would blow the cover of a CIA operative. It's even harder to believe that they would blow the cover of an agent who was a specialist in the WMD field, since this was exactly the #1 danger facing America at the time. Right?

Wrong. Rove blew Plame's cover precisely because he knew that the WMD threat was really not all that serious.
CNN HEADLINE: How dumb do they think we are?
Just how dumb do the Bush people believe we are, that we would swallow, for even a nanosecond, the fabrication that Karl Rove's only motive in calling reporters was to discourage inaccurate stories? Do they really think we are that stupid?
Memo Madness

Further to my comments below, it's looking increasingly likely that the State Department Memos on board a White House flight to Africa are the original sources - or close to it - for the Plame identity leak. All of which casts the spotlight on the guy who used to do the Scott McLellan talk show (till he was laughed out of the room), Ari Fleischer.

Josh Marshall looks at two reports of the memo - one from the Times and one from Bloomberg - and asks:
"Does an assistant secretary of State send a document to the White House if he's trying to send it to the Secretary? Even if the Secretary is about to leave on a foreign trip with the president? Perhaps that's how it would be done. I don't know.

Secondly, where at State did the first memo originate [Bolton?]? Bloomberg seems clear that the second memo was prepared at INR, State's in-house intel bureau. But they're less clear on whether the first one came from there.

It's certainly possible that the difference between these two memos is little more than the difference between xeroxing it or slapping another date at the top. But as long as we're all blind men feeling one part of the elephant, let's try to cover as much of the animal as possible."
And Newseek today has a great cover story by Howard Fineman, brilliantly profiling Karl Rove's amoral "genius" and carefully re-creating the scene aboard that Air Force One flight. In the process, he drags another figure, Dan Bartlett, into the picture:
Technically, Rove was in charge of politics, not "communications." But, as he saw it, the two were one and the same — and he used his heavyweight status to push the message machine run by his Texas protegĂ© and friend, Dan Bartlett. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was sent out to trash the Wilson op-ed. "Zero, nada, nothing new here," he said. Then, on a long Bush trip to Africa, Fleischer and Bartlett prompted clusters of reporters to look into the bureaucratic origins of the Wilson trip...
There's also a thoughful aside, suggesting where people like Karl Rove come from in today's USA:
His dad walked out in 1969; in 1970, he learned that he and a brother had been fathered by someone other than the man he had called Dad. (Eleven years later, his mother committed suicide.)
Don't cry for me, Alabama...
White House Lies Are "Nothing Personal"

Your Democracy is being destroyed, innocent lies are being lost, billions of your taxpayer dollars are being wasted, the USA is going down the toilet but - hey! - it's nothing personal OK?

Here's the latest Scotty "Comical Ali" McLellan White House press pack transcript. Highlights include this question about Bush from veteran hack Helen Thomas:
What is his problem? Two years, and he can't call Rove in and find out what the hell is going on? I mean, why is it so difficult to find out the facts? It costs thousands, millions of dollars, two years, it tied up how many lawyers? All he's got to do is call him in.
The relentless pressure on McLellan prompted one reporter to ask him how he was holding up "on a personal, human" level:
Connie, this is nothing personal. Everybody is doing their job here, and I respect the job that you all are doing in this room. And I look forward to having a continuing constructive relationship with everybody in this room.
Maybe so, Scott - but who has any respect for the job YOU are doing these days? You may have a "relationship" with the press corps but this can hardly be called "constructive". In fact, "destructive" is far more appropriate, on far too many levels...

It's even destructive to the GOP and the Bush White House itself:
Skepticism about the administration's cooperation has jumped. As the initial investigation began in September 2003, nearly half the public, 47 percent, believed the White House was fully cooperating. That fell to 39 percent a few weeks later, and it's lower still, 25 percent, in this new ABC News poll.

This view is highly partisan; barely over a tenth of Democrats and just a quarter of independents think the White House is fully cooperating. That grows to 47 percent of Republicans -- much higher, but still under half in the president's own party.
Business is business, Scotty? Not when people are dying for your lies.
"Dick Cheney's Dick Cheney"

So now that Scooter Libby has been tied into the Rove-Plame scandal, who the $%#* is he?

According to Disinfopedia, Libby is officially an Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. He studied political science at Yale (Skull & Bones? anyone?) under a certain professor, Paul D.
Wolfowitz, who later offered him work as a lawyer. A hard-core neo-conservative, Libby is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Project for the New American Century and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (Homeland Defense).
Too Late, Baby, Now It's Too Late...

Is it too late to save America? Mike Whitney thinks so:
"The National Security Service, which is an autonomous, domestic spy-agency, signals a tectonic shift in the political landscape. The genesis of the Police State marks the end of American democracy; the final wooden stake to the heart of privacy, security and personal liberty. Bush's meteoric rise to power has been accompanied by a breakdown of traditional safeguards at every juncture; leaving the system vulnerable to incalculable damage. The message to citizens is clear; all of the institutions upon which democratic societies depend (the executive, the Congress, the Judiciary, the media, the military, and law enforcement) have withered beneath the Bush onslaught and been reduced to rubble. The entire system has been corrupted from top to bottom. America is a gaunt, skeletal figure; rattling around in its cage, ready to be blown over by the first brisk wind. Democracy is dead. "


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