January 31, 2007

Bush Is An Asshole. Believe It.

I have never used language like that in over three years of blogging on this site. But there is still a common misconception that Bush might somehow be a well-meaning fool who has just stumbled (through no fault of his own) into a very difficult situation. That is total crap, and it's time we all dropped the meme.

Consider this as definitive proof. Faced with a global disaster which would have repercussions for generations to come, Bush opted for secretive manipulation of intelligence and active suppression of those who spoke out.

This is from the Financial Times, via MSNBC:
The Bush administration has routinely suppressed or ­distorted communication of climate change science to the public, a climate specialist at Nasa's Goddard Institute said on Tuesday.

The accusation, before the chief oversight committee in the House of Representatives, was reinforced by claims by Democratic lawmakers that the White House was withholding documents proving that Philip Cooney, a former Bush administration official who now works as a lobbyist for ExxonMobil, regularly edited climate reports for political reasons.
Here is the Guardian version:
At a hearing of Congress, scientists and advocacy groups described a campaign by the White House to remove references to global warming from scientific reports and limit public mention of the topic to avoid pressure on an administration opposed to mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions.

Such pressure extended even to the use of the words "global warming" or "climate change", said a report released yesterday by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Government Accountability Project. The report said nearly half of climate scientists at government agencies had been advised against using those terms.

Yesterday's hearings, overseen by the new Democratic chair of the House committee on oversight and government reform, Congressman Henry Waxman, follow years of complaints by scientists that the Bush administration was seeking to put its own spin on scientific research at government agencies. They also complain of a reduction in funding for climate research since the 1990s.

The committee was warned that the campaign by the Bush administration discouraged free academic inquiry. "If you know what you are writing has to go through a White House clearance before it is to be published, people start writing for the class," said Rick Piltz, a former senior associate at the US Climate Change Science Programme. "An anticipatory kind of self-censorship sets in." ...

In the survey of 1,600 government scientists by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 46% had been warned against using terms like global warming in speech or in their reports. The scientists interviewed were working at seven government agencies, from Nasa to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Forty-three percent of respondents said their published work had been revised in ways that altered the meaning of scientific findings. Some 38% said they had direct knowledge of cases where scientific information on climate was stripped from websites and printed reports.
Tell me, what could be worse than this? You have evidence before you that the entire world is facing a major crisis and you suppress it because...?

Because the people who have most to lose from the truth are the same people who put you into office.

There is no excuse for this. Say what you will about Iraq and a thousand and one other Bush policy blunders. This one surely caps them all. We are talking about the long-term future of the entire planet. Get your head around it.

Bush is an asshole.

Believe it.

And now, I want you to imagine this...

You wake up one day and read the news. Bush has been arrested a few months ago and is now facing a public trial. But that is not even the main focus of your attention. It is not even the main focus of the global media's front page headlines, because it goes without saying (by then) that everyone involved with the corrupt Bush/Cheney administration must be severely punished for a multitude of sins.

What is really important (by then) is undoing all the damage that has been done. And that is what you, and the global media, and the world, are focussed on.

Imagine that.

And now...?

Go and make it happen.
The Price: Iraq Withdrawal In A Nutshell

Good analysis from Ken Lovell:
In a nutshell, we have to accept that as the aggressors in an unjust war, which we have lost, we have to pay a hefty price...

The consequences of us quitting Iraq will largely depend upon the manner of our going. If we do it with some concocted sham ‘victory’ story, or if we do it snarling and spitting, condemning the Iraqis as ungrateful scum and vowing “We’ll be back” as the last plane leaves the runway, then we may well sow the seeds of future conflict more or less as Bush has predicted...

We need to quit Iraq as part of a general admission that our foreign policy and our whole attitude towards other nations has been wrong-headed for years.
It sounds bad, but it is actually a very healthy realisation! Who dares spin it as such? Perhaps - dare we dream? - Barack Obama:
The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date that is consistent with the expectation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
Is it time to assassinate him yet?

UPDATE: Aussie Bob provides some realism:
Meanwhile (heartbreaking to watch) babies die in front of the cameras for lack of vitamin K. The sight of the father trying out different cardboard boxes to see which one fitted his 4 weel old daughter’s dead body will remain with me forever. His son, the daughter’s twin brother, died the next day. Just awful.

Contrast this with the unashamed (and boastfully proud) Bush supporter who was given the job of running the new Iraqi Health Department. A big, fat, toad of a man who had eyes almost as dead looking as Ruddock’s, as he obfuscated, made excuses and, in the end, claimed to have been a great success in his appointment.

I’m not sure that even pulling the troops out and putting the relief workers in will work, not as long as Bush and his cronies are in power. They’re 100% on the take, and I could see no reason to believe they’ll change their attitudes.

And the Iraqi oil industry is about to be handed over to them, pretty-well lock, stock and two greasy barrels. This is a deal being done between Iraqi government bureaucrats who live in Washington and London (not for them the dusty roads of the home country) and Texas oil companies. When the negotiations are over it is expected to be rubber-stamped by the Iraqi Parliament (or you know what will happen to them).

There is no justice in Iraq, and there is almost no desire for it among the occupiers. It’s not a matter, as Invig suggests, of the American carpetbaggers eventually getting it right. That have gotten it right. what’s happening seems to be exactly what’s desired: to return Iraq to Third World status and rape its economy as the object of the exercise.

In short, I don’t think the Yanks will ever “get it right” and start doing good in Iraq. That’s not the plan at all. The plan is to make themselves rich while Iraqi babies expire for ten cents worth of vitamins in a humidicrib held together - literally - with old, dirty Band aids.

And we are part of it. From AWB to the present day, we in Australia are in it up to our necks.
Joshua Micah Marshall:
I don't know about you but sometimes I feel like we're in this eerie afterburn of our four long years of disaster. The public has rendered its verdict. Every thinking person has rendered their verdict. But the administration is still going on more or less as though nothing's happened. Serious thinking in Washington of The Note variety is still on a sort of mental autopilot. The story's over. All the real arguments are settled. But as of yet the car is still in drive rather than reverse.

Like the line says, first do no harm. And for the United States as a country, right now, that means doing everything constitutionally, legally and politically possible to limit the president's and even more Vice President Cheney's free hand to shape and execute American foreign policy. Sift it all out and it's that simple. Stop them from doing any more damage. All the rest is commentary and elaboration.
"Get Me Out Of Here"

David Hicks writes a letter explaining why he did not want to see an unnamed Australian official who arrived at Guantanamo unannounced this morning:
"I don't want to see you," Hicks wrote in the letter to the visiting Australian official.

"I am afraid to speak to you."

Hicks, who also wrote he is "not well", then detailed in the letter how he had been punished previously for speaking to Australian embassy officials.

The Adelaide man also alleges an American recently impersonated an Australian official.

"Only last week an American impersonated an Australian embassy official by claiming he was 'from the Australian embassy in Washington'," Hicks wrote.

"This deteriorates my trust even further.

"In the past I have been punished for speaking to you.

"I am not well, I am not OK and yet you have not done anything for me and the Australian Government keeps saying I'm fine and in an acceptable situation.

"To speak with you and tell you the truth and reality of my situation 'once again' would only risk further punishments.

"You are not here for me but on behalf of the Australian Government who are leaving me here.

"If you want to do something for me then get me out of here."
Judy Miller Takes The Stand

Firedoglake is doing a damn fine job of following proceedings from within the courtroom.

Miller testimony contradicts Libby story:
Libby, then Vice President
Dick Cheney's chief of staff, told the
FBI and a grand jury that he thought he was hearing
Valerie Plame's CIA job for the first time from NBC's Tim Russert on July 10, 2003.

Five government officials, including ex-White House press secretary
Ari Fleischer, also have testified that they discussed Plame and her CIA job with Libby before July 10.

Earlier Tuesday, the jury saw notes Libby took on or about June 12 that indicated Cheney himself told Libby then that the war critic's wife worked at the CIA.

January 30, 2007

Here Comes That constitutional Showdown That Has Been Looming For Six Years

I think I had a premonition on this one...

I was browsing the presidential "Executive Orders" at whitehouse.gov today, and then, a few hours later...

Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation.

UPDATE: Paul Keil explains what's going on in simple terms:
That's right, each agency (like, for instance, the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration) will now have a politically appointed babysitter to make sure that regulations aren't too onerous for corporations. In fact, the directive ensures that regulation is the absolute last resort: "in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify 'the specific market failure' or problem that justifies government intervention."

"Business groups welcomed the executive order," the Times notes, in a terrific understatement.
And from the TPM comments, an even more succinct explanation:
Hitler did this. He installed an officer in every agency to monitor party loyalty. It was called the Gestapo.
Yup. And this is called Fascism.
And I Was Like, "Oh My Gawd...!"

Strange language from Ari Fleischer:
Earlier in the spring, he had insisted that President Bush stood behind 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union address about Iraq's efforts to buy uranium in Niger.

But higher level officials he didn't name began suggesting it might be a problem to defend that statement.

"I had been told to be careful not to stand by the 16 words, that the ground might be shifting on that," Fleischer said. "You can't say yes. You can't say no. At that briefing, I basically punted. I said yes and no."
In Aussie slang, "punting" means gambling. But I assume Fleischer could be using the US gridiron slang of kicking the ball upfield? Either way, it doesn't sound very professional, does it? And how's this for histrionics?
He testified that neither Libby nor Bartlett gave him any reason to believe that Plame's employment was classified.

"I never in my wildest dreams thought this information would be classified," he said.

Fleischer, who left the White House in mid-July 2003, said that in September, about 2 1/2 months after his conversation with the reporters, he saw a news account that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate a possibly illegal leak of a covert CIA officer's identity.

"I was absolutely horrified to know I had played a role," Fleischer said. "I thought, 'Oh my God. Did I play a role in somehow outing a CIA officer. . . . Did I just do something that I could be in big trouble for.' "
Meet the CIA's New Baghdad Station Chief. It's not good: he's a torture-mongering Bush stooge incompetent.

January 29, 2007

'They're all forced to listen to us':
The movement of 9/11 sceptics has had an astonishing success in sowing doubt across the US. Recent polls suggest more than a third of Americans believe that either the official version of events never happened, or that US officials knew the attacks were imminent, but did nothing to stop them.

That's an impressive statistic in itself. Now look at the success Loose Change has had. Google Video acts as a portal for the movie, where you can also see the running tally of the number of times it has been viewed since last August. As I write, it stands at 4,048,990. By the time you read this, it will have risen considerably higher. On top of that, the movie was shown on television to up to 50 million people in 12 countries on September 11 last year; 100,000 DVDs have been sold and 50,000 more given away free. Then there are many more who have watched the film but are never counted, as a result of the active encouragement the film-makers give their supporters to burn the movie and distribute it to their friends. Avery says 100 million people - "easy" - have seen it. That may be an exaggeration, but it's fair to say that something extraordinary is going on...

And so to the message. The Twin Towers in New York didn't fall as a direct result of the planes hitting them and the fire that ensued; they were brought them down in a series of controlled explosions. George Bush's brother, Marvin, sat on the board of a company that insured the towers.

"I think what happened to the World Trade Centre was simple enough," Avery says in the film. "It was brought down in a carefully planned controlled demolition. It was a psychological attack on the American people and it was pulled off with military precision."

Flight 77, which supposedly flew into the Pentagon, could not have flown at that speed without going into a tailspin. There is no sign of any parts of an aeroplane in footage of the crash site, and the building looked as though it had been hit by a missile. Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld was safe on the other side of the Pentagon.

Flight 93, said to have come down in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, never did crash there. Instead it landed in Cleveland airport shortly after the airport had been evacuated. The emotive phone calls by the so-called passengers to their relatives before they "died" were staged.

There are several flaws in the argument. The list of those who would have to have been party to the plot is implausibly long for it to have remained secret, from Bush himself to Rumsfeld and Cheney and the FBI and Pentagon ... and on and on. Much of the supporting evidence in the film was taken in the first minutes and hours after the attacks, when confusion reigned. And George Bush may be a disastrous and dishonest president, but would he be capable of such a monstrous act?
Errr...???!!! This is a guy who watches hald a million Iraqis die without blinking, who sends US soldiers out to die for the sake of his dented ego.

Besides which, I very much doubt Dubya Bush was in on the plan, although I suspect the reason he froze like a dummy with his My Pet Goat book is that he knew a few things other people didn't, and he was trying to put it together in his head just in case he went and said the wrong thing.

See the Loose Change website for more.

January 27, 2007

The Game Is Up

I haven't visited Daily Kos for some time. But a return visit just now convinced me of something: the game is up for the Bush regime. It's time they started looking for an exit strategy. And I'm not talking about Iraq. I don't think Bush can last another two years.

Kos today is a radically different site to what it was two years ago, and the stories being discussed are totally different too. Sure, the Dems got power, so you would expect some change. But there is a LOT going on in that world.

Personally, I stopped visiting Kos because I got tired of listening to people who think the Dems are necessarily going to fix everything and make it all better. They won't. But that's neither here nor there.

The thing is, what's happening at Kos is just a taste of what is going on across Bush's USA today. A lot of people are pissed off and want to see real change.

I will be watching today's protests with interest.

UPDATE: Bush hit's an all-time low of 30% at Newsweek following his SOTU speech:
The president's
approval ratings are at their lowest point in the poll's history—30
percent—and more than half the country (58 percent) say they wish the
Bush presidency were simply over
, a sentiment that is almost unanimous
among Democrats (86 percent), and is shared by a clear majority (59
percent) of independents and even one in five (21 percent)
Republicans. Half (49 percent) of all registered voters would rather
see a Democrat elected president in 2008, compared to just 28 percent
who'd prefer the GOP to remain in the White House.
Protest photos here, breaking WaPo story here, Reuters story here.

UPDATE 2: The protests were not big enough. There should have been a million out there. Maybe Bush will scrape through yet.

Where were YOU?
Bushworld: Far Worse Than Nixon

Carl Bernstein can't bear it:
After a long explanation of how the American system "worked," eventually, with Watergate, Bernstein said:

"In the case George W. Bush, the American system has obviously failed -- tragically -- about which we can talk more in a minute. But imagine the difference in our worldview today, had the institutions -- particularly of government -- done their job to ensure that a mendacious and dangerous president (as has since been proven many times over, beyond mere assertion) be restrained in a war that has killed thousands of American soldiers, brought turmoil to the lives of millions, and constrained the goodwill towards the United States in much of the world."

Later, asked if the Nixon administration was unique in hiring disreputable characters, he replied: "Until the Bush-43 administration, I had believed that the Nixon presidency was sui generis in modern American history in terms of your question...

"In terms of small-bore (but dangerous) characters like Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy with their schemes, I doubt that any presidency approaches the criminality of the Nixon White House. But the Watergate conspiracy--to undermine the constitution and use illegal methods to hurt Nixon's political opponents and even undermine the electoral system--was supervised by those at the very top.

"In the current administration we have seen from the President down -- especially Vice President Cheney, Attorney General Gonzales, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld -- a willingness to ignore the great constitutional history of the United States -- to suspend, really, many of the constitutional guarantees that have made us a nation apart, with real freedoms unknown elsewhere, unrestricted by short-term political objectives of our leaders.

"Then there are the Geneva conventions: Who would have dreamed that, in our lifetime, our leaders would permit their flagrant abuse, would authorize torture, 'renditions' to foreign-torture chambers, suspension of habeus corpus, illegal surveillance of our own citizens....

"But perhaps worst, has been the lying and mendacity of the president and his men and women--in the reasons they cited for going to war, their conduct of the war, their attempts to smear their political opponents.

"Nixon and his men lied and abused the constitution to horrible effect, but they were stopped.

"The Bush Administration -- especially its top officials named above and others familiar to most Americans -- was not stopped, and has done far greater damage."
Hi, My Name Is Nancy

And I'm here to help:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Ca., visiting Baghdad on Friday in her new capacity as House speaker, that he would like to see 50,000 U.S. troops leave by the end of the year, Iraqi officials said.

Pelosi’s primary concern in meeting Maliki appeared to be to determine how soon he thought the U.S. could withdraw its soldiers from Iraq, said Ali al-Dabbagh, the prime minister’s spokesman.

Pelosi – a critic of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq – told the prime minister that she and fellow Democrats are eager to see a prompt transition of authority, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

“The prime minister assured them that they could speed up the withdrawal of the troops if the equipment and training of the national forces could be speeded up,” Dabbagh said Friday night in an interview.
The same article has news of a disturbing new trend in Iraq which shows just how badly the USA is already losing: US soldiers are being execcuted through the back of the head.
The U.S. military, reversing earlier statements, acknowledged Friday that four of five soldiers killed Jan. 20 had first been abducted before being executed. The abductions followed a brazen attack on a government building in the southern city of Karbala.

The military’s statement Friday, issued following the release of an Associated Press story on the attack, provides this account of the Karbala killings:

The assailants traveled in at least five sport utility vehicles and wore what looked like U.S. military uniforms, which allowed them to approach the building without raising suspicion. The militants, who were armed with U.S.-type weapons, attacked a group of American soldiers inside with grenades and rifles. One U.S. soldier was killed.

The assailants captured four others. Several miles away, the convoy drew the suspicion of Iraqi police at a checkpoint, who followed the vehicles. The pursuit prompted the attackers to abandon five sport utility vehicles before they escaped.

Iraqi police found the bodies of two American soldiers handcuffed together in the back of one of the trucks; both had been shot in the head. Another soldier, also shot, was found dead on the ground. A fourth soldier, who also had been shot in the head, died en route to a hospital.
(PS: The military lied about the whole episode).

The same fate befell the crew of a US Blackhawk helicopter recently: they survived the crash but were found with bullets to the back of the head. How long before they are found with electric drill holes in their knees and craniums, like so many other Iraqi corpses?
Bush: 'I'm the Decision-Maker':
Asked why he was going ahead with his plan without congressional support, Bush said, "One of the things I've found in Congress is that most people recognize that failure would be a disaster for the United States. And, in that I'm the decision-maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster."
Bush: 'I'm the Decision-Maker'/a>:
Asked why he was going ahead with his plan without congressional support, Bush said, "One of the things I've found in Congress is that most people recognize that failure would be a disaster for the United States. And, in that I'm the decision-maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster."

January 26, 2007

Aide testifies: Cheney helped effort to discredit Wilson

Los Angeles Times has the story:
She described the reaction inside the administration as questions began to be raised, starting in May 2003. At that time, The New York Times described the Wilson trip to Niger but did not name him. The article said the administration had engaged in a "campaign of wholesale deceit" and suggested that Cheney was directly involved.

Martin said that Libby asked her to call the then-chief public affairs officer at the CIA, William Harlow, to find out about the trip by the then-mysterious former envoy.

"So I was saying, 'Who sent him? Who is this guy?' " Martin testified. "I remember Bill Harlow saying his name was Joe Wilson, he was a charge in Baghdad, and his wife works over here." Martin said she promptly went to see Cheney and Libby with the news.
Remember, Libby initially said he learned Plame's identity from journalists. Libby's "blame-the-White-House" defence is not looking good. And it looks to me like Fitzgerald's greatest accomplishment could turn out to be his success in turning people within the close-knit Cheney camp against one another. I mean, an aide like Martin would not have dared testify against her bosses two years ago.

I'm looking forward to some speculation from Murray Waas about how the Libby trial reflects a split between Bush and Cheney, and what substance lies behind that.

Impeach the lot of them!

January 25, 2007

The Western Front

This story from CBS News captures the bizarre sense of distance between a home in the USA and a far-off soldier in Afghanistan:
"We're just so excited that we survived our first year," said Jennifer McIver, wife of soldier Nicholas McIver. "And I'm sure we'll have many more to go, but it's nice to know that there was an end of it. There was an end."

But these families had not yet been told.

A brigade of the division — about 3,500 soldiers — is having its one year tour of duty extended, and some of these soldiers will have to go back to Afghanistan.

The Taliban is staging a comeback and more troops are needed for what is expected to be a spring of heavy fighting.
"A heavy spring" - it sounds like a Napoleonic campaign, doesn't it? And maybe it is.

Afghanistan is sounding a whole lot like Iraq these days:
But more troops in Afghanistan will not solve what U.S. officials say is the larger problem: the ability of the Taliban and al Qaeda to operate in the tribal areas of Pakistan, recruiting, training and planning cross- border operations.

"The attacks at this time of the year are up about 200 percent," says Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of the Combined Forces Command in Afghanistan.

Former CIA analyst Lisa Curtis says there is a growing frustration on Washington over the failure of Pakistan's President Musharraf to crack down on the tribal areas.
If and when the USA ever leaves Iraq, very similar problems will be long overdue for scrutiny in Afghanistan.
Cheney 'Deeply Involved' In CIA Leak.

WaPo calls bullshit on Bush's SOTU speech. Here's just a small sample from an excellent take-down by Glenn Kessler:
In fact, many of the countries that Bush considers "moderate" -- such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- are autocratic dictatorships rated among the worst of the "not free" nations by the nonpartisan Freedom House. Their Freedom House ratings are virtually indistinguishable from Cuba, Belarus and Burma, which Bush last night listed as nations in desperate need of freedom.
Bravo. About bloody time.
Planet Cheney: A Strange, Angry Place

Another one of those "I don't think anybody..." lines, this time from the Big Dick:
If you had asked shortly after 9/11 what the odds were that we could go better than five years without another attack on the homeland, I don't think anybody would have been willing to take that bet.
Cheney goes on to say that if Saddam were still in power, he would be engaged in a nuclear arms race with Iran! He says Saddam was "not being contained", he had undermined "the entire sanctions regime", and he "retained the capability to produce [weapons of mass destruction] in the future".

And yet, as Wolf Blitzer points out, Cheney himself said repeatedly throughout the 90's that Saddam was contained.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: If he were still there today, we'd have a terrible situation. Today, instead --

Q But there is a terrible situation.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, there is not. There is not. There's problems, ongoing problems...
This little quote is also interesting:
I think we underestimated the extent to which 30 years of Saddam's rule had really hammered the population, especially the Shia population, into submissiveness. It was very hard for them to stand up and take responsibility in part because anybody who had done that in the past had had their heads chopped off.
That's the only "blunder" Cheney is willing to concede. And he positively bristles with anger at any suggestion of criticism:
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Just think for a minute -- and think for a minute, Wolf, in terms of what policy is being suggested here. What you're recommending, or at least what you seem to believe the right course is, is to bail out --

Q I'm just asking questions.

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: No, you're not asking questions.

Q Yes, I am. I'm just asking --

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Implicit -- implicit -- implicit in the critics --

Q -- your critics are --

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Implicit in what the critics are suggesting, I think, is an obligation to say, well, here's what we need to do, or we're not going to do anything else. We're going to accept defeat. Defeat is not an answer.
Cheney refuses to discuss an attack on Iran, or the Libby case, or criticism of him from John McCain, or GOP Presidential candidates, or even his daughter's pregnancy. I think Wolf pissed him off. How's this for snappy:
Q Do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good President?


Q Why?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Because she's a Democrat.
TPMmuckraker has the full interview.

January 24, 2007

False Assumptions On Planet Bush

I posted my original thoughts (below) on the SOTUS as I read through the speech. But looking over it again, I am struck by how many of Bush's sentences simply do not make any real sense at all. He throws out shallow generalisations and false assumptions so often that your mind becomes numb to them.

He has been doing it for years, of course, but this speech was so packed tight with misconceptions (or lies) that it stands as a showcase of pure fantasy.

Just take a look at all the following quotes. Every one is deserving of closer scrutiny.
Yet one question has surely been settled — that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy. From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense...

Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite...

The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. But whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent, they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans ... kill democracy in the Middle East ... and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale...

This war is more than a clash of arms — it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our Nation is in the balance. To prevail, we must remove the conditions that inspire blind hatred, and drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and come to kill us. What every terrorist fears most is human freedom — societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience, and live by their hopes instead of their resentments. Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance...

On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle...

We are carrying out a new strategy in Iraq...

We did not drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq...

If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country — and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens … new recruits … new resources … and an even greater determination to harm America. To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September 11 and invite tragedy. And ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East … to succeed in Iraq … and to spare the American people from this danger...

Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others...

We have a diplomatic strategy that is rallying the world to join in the fight against extremism...

American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy...

This is a decent and honorable country...

the State of our Union is strong...

our cause in the world is right.
This "volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps" idea sounds pretty scary too, IMHO. An armed and trained domestic army of wingnuts, eager for "a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time"? Sounds like the first step towards a Republican militia. And that's ON TOP OF his plans to expand the military and throw more money at Iraq.

Bush is a war president all right. And Bush's USA is a dangerously war-loving nation, with an economy that is dangerously dependent on the war machine, and a foreign policy dangerously dependent on sticks, not carrots.

This man must be removed from office. The USA must plot a new course and show the world a new face.

PS: Best headline so far is from SMH:
Give war a chance: Bush
And WaPo makes a good point:
Yet his approach contrasted with the last two presidents to address an opposition Congress after their parties lost midterm elections. Ronald Reagan conceded "serious mistakes" in 1987, as did Bill Clinton in 1995. Clinton moved to the middle so conspicuously that the opposition leader who gave the official response noted that he "sounded pretty Republican." Although Bush acknowledged two weeks ago that "mistakes have been made" in Iraq, he appeared unchastened last night and took no responsibility for his party's defeat or errors in office.
Be sure to read Juan Cole's excellent rebuttal too.

Eschaton has the full SOTUS. Here are a few bits I noticed, and thoughts along the way:
In all of this, much is asked of us. We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies — and the wisdom to face them together...

[blah blah blah lots of stuff about initiatives that will probably never get through Congress, so who cares?]

For too long our Nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists — who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments … raise the price of oil … and do great harm to our economy.

It is in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply — and the way forward is through technology... Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we have done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years — thereby cutting our total imports by the equivalent of 3/4 of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.

To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory Fuels Standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 — this is nearly 5 times the current target. At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks — and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

Achieving these ambitious goals will dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but will not eliminate it. So as we continue to diversify our fuel supply, we must also step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways. And to further protect America against severe disruptions to our oil supply, I ask Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Ooooh, yes! Dick's Big Oil Buddies are going to love that one! So on the one hand he is asking the USA to cut their dependency on oil, on the other hand he wants to double the strategic reserve. Who says this administration doesn't make contingency plans, eh?

Now for the obligatory 9/11 reference:
Five years have come and gone since we saw the scenes and felt the sorrow that terrorists can cause. We have had time to take stock of our situation. We have added many critical protections to guard the homeland. We know with certainty that the horrors of that September morning were just a glimpse of what the terrorists intend for us — unless we stop them.

With the distance of time, we find ourselves debating the causes of conflict and the course we have followed. Such debates are essential when a great democracy faces great questions. Yet one question has surely been settled — that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy.
Err, George? One more time: the people who attacked the USA on 9/11 were NOT from Iraq. M'kay?
Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen. We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented — but here is some of what we do know...
I always tell my parole officer, "Don't get stressed about all the bad things I have done, think about all the bad things I could have done but didn't do!"
The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world. And so long as that is the case, America is still a Nation at war. [ie: forever]

In the minds of the terrorists, this war began well before September 11, and will not end until their radical vision is fulfilled. And these past 5 years have given us a much clearer view of the nature of this enemy. Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite.
What??? Did he just declare war on Sunnis?
In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran...
OK, so now he's at war with the Shiites as well, and Iran by proxy.
The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. But whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent, they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans … kill democracy in the Middle East … and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.
Gosh, they sound like evil aliens, don't they?!
Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates, reformers, and brave voices for democracy. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity.
But George, those people are all Sunnis and Shiites! And they want your soldiers out of their country, by the way. So if you respect the democratic wishes of free people... err???

Bush then gives a revisionist history of last year's war in Lebanon. In his version, Israel is not even involved. It's not even mentioned!
This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.

We are carrying out a new strategy in Iraq — a plan that demands more from Iraq’s elected government, and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law [whose rules? whose law?], respects the rights of its people [what rights?], provides them security [against whom?], and is an ally in the war on terror [what "war on terror"?].
If i had been watching this on TV, this would be about the point where I switch off or flick channels in disgust.
If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by
Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country — and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.
Remind me again, George - who got us into this mess?
This is where matters stand tonight, in the here and now. I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you have made. We went into this largely united — in our assumptions, and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq — and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field — and those on their way.

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others.
Yeah, the US military-industrial complex will never die. Let's throw them even more money, and even more lives:
Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next 5 years. A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them.
Bush then moves on to feelgood issues like tackling the military regime in Burma and ending global poverty, as if anything is going to come of such waffle from this man. Then he nods to a few hand-picked propaganda stooges in the gallery. Then it's a rather defensive-sounding sign-off:
This is a decent and honorable country — and resilient, too. We have been through a lot together. We have met challenges and faced dangers, and we know that more lie ahead. Yet we can go forward with confidence — because the State of our Union is strong … our cause in the world is right … and tonight that cause goes on.

Thank you.
No Pardon For Libby?

Speculation from Josh Marshall:
The key is that Libby has decided to base his defense in large part on an attack on the White House -- specifically on Karl Rove, almost certainly on other top advisors and conceiveably even on the president himself. The logical inference from that decision is that Libby and his lawyers have decided that President Bush will not pardon their client.

Why the White House would have decided that or why they would have chosen to make that decision clear to Libby is a bit hard to fathom. But it's hard to figure why Libby would have gone so hard against Rove if he thought a pardon were still in the offing? Thoughts?

In a narrow political sense, Rove's guilt wouldn't exculpate Libby. And taking the rap for other guilty parties wouldn't absolve him either. Perhaps they're angling for some sort of politically-tinged jury nullification.
I have been thinking the same thing.

There was talk last year of an irreconcilable split between Bush and Cheney, even rumours that they were barely speaking to one another. This was around the time that Bush petulantly whined: "I'm the decider!"

I thought I noticed a shift in his talking style at that point: he tried to cut through some of the usual B.S. but just ended up making more gaffes and sounding even more stupid. Look at the Harriet Myers nomination. Seemed to me by then he had dropped his minders and was basically going solo.

Then came the November mid-term elections, for which Bush blamed Rove ("I was obviously working harder than he was"). Bush doesn't need to face another election, so maybe he thinks he finally doesn't have any more use for Rove.

Reminds me of a scene from The Jerk:
I don't need Rove! I don't need Cheney either. Or Rummy, or Libby, or anyone!!!

Except Condi, of course.

And Barney.

And this chair...
Here it comes...
Topping the agenda will be energy policy, with Mr Bush calling for a 20% cut in petrol consumption by 2017.

In excerpts released ahead of the speech - which Mr Bush is due to deliver at 0200GMT - the president describes the war on terror as a "generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others".

He proposes to set up an advisory council on the war on terror, made up of bipartisan leaders in Congress.

"We will show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory," he says.

January 23, 2007

The Real Story

The Huffington Post finally catches up.
Bush Pysically Assaulted!!!

Man arrested.
New Tales Of Yankee Power

Updated lyrics to Dylan's old classic:
Señor, Señor, do you know where the USA is headin'?
Tehran or Armageddon?
Seems like we've been down this road before.
Can you tell us the truth please, Señor?

Señor, Señor, do you know where Cheney's hidin'?
How long can Bush keep lyin'?
How long before he shows Snowjob out the door?
Is Iraq's new Oil Law signed yet, Señor?

There's a wicked war still wagin' on that aircraft carrier deck,
There's a microphone still hanging down from around your neck.
There's a press corps still waitin' on the White House lawn
Where the lies about the Iraq War were all still-born.

Señor, Señor, are they circling their wagons,
Citing WMDs and dragons?
Can't stand the hypocrisy anymore.
Can you tell me who's resigning soon, Señor?

Well, the last thing I remember before the White House reeled
Was that roomful of neocons bogged down in a foreign field.
An ex-President from the Carlyle Group with a strange skull ring
Said, "Son, this ain't a cocaine trip now, it's the real thing."

Señor, Señor, you know their heads are as thick as leather.
Well take a minute, pull yourself together.
Come on now, pick yourself up off the floor...
We're ready when you are, Señor.

Señor, Señor, what was written in those cables?
Show us the figures in those tables.
These lies don't make sense to us no more.
What the hell are you waiting for, Señor?
PS: Can anyone explain why I still haven't seen Neil Young's Living With War album in Australian stores?

The other day I was wondering what Bush would have to talk about in his big speech today. The folks at TPM have also been wondering. Well, now we know...

ABC News: Details Emerge About Possible Terror Threat:
Mimicking the hijackers who executed the Sept. 11 attacks, insurgents reportedly tied to al Qaeda in Iraq considered using student visas to slip terrorists into the United States to orchestrate a new attack on American soil.

Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently testified that documents captured by coalition forces during a raid of a safe house believed to house Iraqi members of al Qaeda six months ago "revealed [AQI] was planning terrorist operations in the U.S."

At the time, Maples offered little additional insight into the possible terror plot. ABC News, however, has learned new details of what remains a classified incident that has been dealt with at the highest levels of government.
Six months ago. Highest levels.

Leaked today.

Think he'll use it?


PS: Speaking of the SoU, what's with the latest NIE on Iraq?
They were too busy rolling out what they're calling a new Iraq policy to prepare the NIE which should inform creation of that new policy. That tells you everything you need to know about the surge.

January 22, 2007

So... Watcha Doing Saturday?

David Swanson is looking for some support:
Our opening drive is January 27th in Washington, D.C. If you are not there you are letting down the team. If you are not there you will feel shame when your grandchildren ask you about your life. If you are not there you are not in solidarity with the people of the world who do not know what Americans think because not enough of us are there. Get up! There are no excuses. No, not even that one. No, not that noble one. Not that personal one. Not that strategic one. NO excuses. You need to be in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, January 27th. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts you could just go buy a trophy and put it on your television. You've got to EARN IT, my friends. You've got to get your ass to Washington, D.C., this Saturday, or you can join the other team. We don't need you. We'll win without you. Have a nice glass of oil with your steak. Or come and eat and march and sing and share and laugh with us as we turn this world on its axis.

We're going to march past the U.S. Capitol, and it's surrounded by Capitol Police, but they are on our team and they know we're marching for them too. We're marching to tell Congress what it has to do. But we're also going to march past Fox News, and this is where we throw a screen pass and go long. We're going to hit Fox News with a protest so loud that deep within their studios a guest will seize his throat and some truth will come out. We're going to rock the opposition's two key players, Fox News and the U.S. Senate, to the ground. We're going to demand an end to this war now:
And then we're really going to start.
George Puts the Surge Back in Insurgency

MichaelMoore.com is the place to go to for a case study in the art of writing headlines like the one above.
Impeach Alberto Gonzales

A new approach from Democrats.com:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the nation's top law enforcement official, has authorized war crimes, dismissed the Geneva Conventions, redefined torture to allow most types of torture, helped establish military commissions that deny defendants the right to a fair trial, claimed the U.S. Constitution does not provide the right to habeas corpus, and defended violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

This week, leading bloggers inspired by John Dean proposed impeaching Gonzales as the first step towards impeaching Bush and Cheney.

Urge your Representatives to Impeach Alberto Gonzales!

This WaPo story doesn't pull any punches:
He never seriously considered beginning to withdraw U.S. forces, as urged by newly elected Democratic congressional leaders and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. And he had grown skeptical of his own military commanders, who were telling him no more troops were needed.

So Bush relied on his own judgment that the best answer was to try once again to snuff out the sectarian violence in Baghdad, even at the risk of putting U.S. soldiers into a crossfire between Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias. When his generals resisted sending more troops, he seemed irritated. When they finally agreed to go along with the plan, he doubled the number of troops they requested.

It was a signature moment for a president who seems uninfluenced by the electorate on Iraq and headed for a showdown with the new Democratic Congress. Presented with an opportunity to pull back, Bush instead chose to extend and, in some ways, deepen his commitment, gambling that more time and a new plan will finally bring success to the troubled U.S. military mission.

"The guy who is most committed to winning and finding a way to win is the president. He always has been; he's the only reason we are still in this fight," said Frederick W. Kagan, a military historian at the American Enterprise Institute whose advice to send more troops has been closely monitored by senior administration policymakers.
And in case you thought the al-Maliki government was NOT a US puppet, here's how it works:
Firing up a PowerPoint presentation, Maliki and his national security adviser proposed that U.S. troops withdraw to the outskirts of Baghdad and let Iraqis take over security in the strife-torn capital. Maliki said he did not want any more U.S. troops at all, just more authority.

The president listened intently to the unexpected proposal at their Nov. 30 meeting, according to accounts from several administration officials. Bush seemed impressed that Maliki had taken the initiative, but it did not take him long to reject the idea.

By the time Bush returned to Washington, the plan had already been picked through by his military commanders. At a meeting in the White House's Roosevelt Room, the president flatly told his advisers that the Maliki plan was not going to work.
WaPo says Bush "concluded that the Iraqis were not up to the task and that Baghdad would collapse into chaos". But the truth is that Bush does not trust the Iraqis, any of them, and the US government it never going to give them enough weaponry to survive without US military assistance. If they did, there would be no more excuses for staying in the country.

January 21, 2007

Sound Bites

Another Bush lie:
"Americans are fortunate to have the best health care system in the world."
Maybe if you weren't spending $8.4 billion a month in Iraq...

And don't expect the Democrats to fix that problem. Here's Pelosi:
Democrats will never cut off funding for our troops when they are in harm's way, but we will hold the president accountable. He has to answer for his war. He has dug a hole so deep he can't even see the light on this. It's a tragedy. It's a stark blunder.

January 20, 2007

Impeach Cheney, Arrest Rumsfeld

So now we learn that Dick Cheney personally rebuffed a package of concessions from Iran in 2003:
Tehran proposed ending support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups and helping to stabilise Iraq following the US-led invasion...

One of the then Secretary of State Colin Powell's top aides told the BBC the state department was keen on the plan - but was over-ruled.

"We thought it was a very propitious moment to do that," Lawrence Wilkerson told Newsnight.

"But as soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the Vice-President's office, the old mantra of 'We don't talk to evil'... reasserted itself."

Observers say the Iranian offer as outlined nearly four years ago corresponds pretty closely to what Washington is demanding from Tehran now.
Here's Juan Cole's reaction:
Cheney is the most fascistic high official in US government in history. He recently implied that al-Qaeda is glad that the Democrats won the mid-term elections, as his way of trying to create the impression that anyone who disagrees with him is a terrorist-loving traitor. But it is Cheney who is the traitor, with his office having betrayed Valerie to the Iranians (and everyone else in the world).

Fascism depends on the creation of straw man enemies said to be dire threats to the Homeland. Iran is a poor weak third world country and poses no threat to the US. It hasn't aggressively invaded another country for over a century. But Cheney needs Iran to substitute for the old Soviet Union, otherwise how could he get you to agree to let him listen in on your telephone calls without a warrant, or let him torture people?

Cheney is the much bigger threat to the integrity of the US constitution than any foreign force. He should be impeached.
And here's why Rummy should be arrested:
The Pentagon has hidden at least $1.4 billion in other agencies' accounts instead of returning unspent money to the U.S. Treasury, the Defense Department's internal watchdog told Congress Wednesday.

Thomas Gimble, the Pentagon's acting inspector general, said Pentagon offices between 2002 and 2005 used the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Interior Department "to 'park' or 'bank' funds that were expiring."

GSA and Interior then spent the money on Pentagon contracts, circumventing the law, Gimble said.
Rule of law. Remember?

January 19, 2007

Comedian Warned Not To Tease Bush

How bloody pathetic.
A Short History Of The Bush Administration

This analysis from Jane Smiley sounds about right:
[W]hat I think happened is that when the Bush/Scowcroft/Baker faction decided to use Little George as their presidential poster boy to expand their Middle-East-based wealth and power, they didn't reckon with Cheney and Rumsfeld. They thought their boy would be personable and easy to control.

The key moment was when Cheney went looking for a vice-presidential candidate and found himself. Once they had given him the opening and he had publicly used it to aggrandize himself and his agenda, B/S/B realized that for the sake of party solidarity, they had to live with it. When Baker engineered the coup that was Florida (and I do think one of the "perks" Bush offered as a candidate was that Florida was guaranteed ahead of time by Jeb and K. Harris), I think that B/S/B and C/R found themselves in an uneasy alliance -- goals were the same, but temperaments were different. Right there at the pivot was Little George.

It's pretty clear that Little George requires a constant stream of flattery and cajolery to keep him going, and this was to be supplied by Harriet Miers, Karen Hughes, and Condi Rice...

At the same time, Little George has a hard time with bad news, so he was never going be told the truth -- he can't take the truth, as Jack Nicholson might say. This is evident in the famous 9/11 film of Bush reading about his pet goat when he gets news of the WTC...

But he did get a feel, just a little feel, right after the attacks, of what it might be like to lead the nation. He got a feel and he liked it, and for the purposes of the neocons, it was a good feel and it gave them something to build on in their plan to overcome the cautious side of his nature, represented by B/S/B...

How do you build yourself a madman? Well, first you flatter him, and then you try never to make him angry, and then you feed him ideas that flatter him even more by making him seem to himself sentimentally visionary and powerful and righteous. You appeal to his already evident mean streak and his hot temper by reminding him all the time that he has enemies, and you cultivate his religious side so that the sense of righteous victimization inherent in extreme religion comes out...

So, here he is, Little George, caught between the devil (Cheney) and the deep blue sea (fifty-some years of being infantilized by B/S/B). Cheney and Rumsfeld, aided by Rice and Miers and Hughes, convince him that his masculinity will only be enhanced by doing all the masculine things he missed out on over the years, especially making war. And Gerson gives his war a virtuous, godly gloss.

And Gerson's words come out of his mouth so often that he believes them and thinks they are his. In the meantime, Karl Rove continues to think that he is the maestro, playing Little George (and his base and the rest of the nation) like his own personal piano...

Little George isn't the same guy he was in 2000, the guy described by Gail Sheehy in her Vanity Fair profile -- hyper-competitive and dyslexic, prone to cheat at games, always swinging between screwing up and making up, hating criticism and disagreement, careless of others but often charming. He is no longer the guy who the Republicans thought they could control (unlike, say, McCain).

The small pathologies of Bush the candidate have, thanks to the purposes of the neocons and the religious right, been enhanced and upgraded. We have a bona fide madman now, who thinks of himself in a grandiose way as single-handedly turning the tide of history. Some of his Frankensteins have bailed, some haven't dared to, and others still seem to believe. His actions and his orders, especially about Iran, seem to be telling us that he will stop at nothing to prove his dominance. The elder Bush(es), Scrowcroft, Baker, and their friends, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gerson, and the neocons have made the monster and in the process endangered the country, the Constitution, and the world, not to mention the sanity of wretches like Jose Padilla.
A new T-shirt slogan from TPMCafe:
I hated Bush before it was cool.
So Bush is due to make his big State Of The Union speech next Tuesday. With his Iraq War "surge" totally rejected by nearly everyone, what else has he got to talk about? Apparently he will be focussing on the environment.
I Am Speechless: America, WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON???

This is way, way beyond ridiculous:
The Pentagon has drafted a manual for upcoming detainee trials that would allow suspected terrorists to be convicted on hearsay evidence and coerced testimony and imprisoned or put to death.

According to a copy of the manual obtained by The Associated Press, a terror suspect's defense lawyer cannot reveal classified evidence in the person's defense until the government has a chance to review it.

The manual, sent to Capitol Hill on Thursday and scheduled to be released later by the Pentagon, is intended to track a law passed last fall by Congress restoring
President Bush's plans to have special military commissions try terror-war prisoners. Those commissions had been struck down earlier in the year by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, people like David Hicks remain in Gitmo waiting for this interminable legal farce to end. And our government here in Australia still has the gall to pretend that - after more than five years! - they are still waiting for due legal process in the USA to be carried out.

I am just speechless this time. The only good thing that can be said about this Pentagon itiative is that, at this stage anyway, it is just a draft. But it clearly indicates that there is no good will at all on the Pentagon's part when it comes to working within the established legal framework. And given the Bush administration's continued and wholehearted identification with such illegal, unethical manouevering, that means that the USA is tantamount to an outlaw state.

Think about it, folks. If any other nation on the globe proposed such laws, they would be facing sanctions and international isolation.

This is where we are at.
Libby Trial Farce

Marty Kaplan is obviously NOT on the jury:
Q: Do you have feelings or opinions about the Bush Administration or any of its policies or actions, whether positive or negative, that might affect your ability to give a former member of the Bush Administration a fair trial?

A: You mean, feelings like, it really pisses me off that they broke the law by wiretapping without FISA warrants, and then attacked the reporters who told us about it, and said Democrats were wussy traitors for opposing it, and now Gonzales is flip-flopping because Senate Democrats finally have subpoena power - you mean feelings like that?

Q: Your honor?

Judge: The juror is excused.

Q: Would the fact that former or present members of the Bush Administration will be witnesses in the case impair your ability to be a totally fair and impartial juror?

A: Well, when I found out this week that the Justice Department is firing federal prosecutors who're going after corrupt Republicans in Congress, and that they're putting in new prosecutors, like Karl Rove's oppo research attack dog, who don't have to be confirmed, thanks to a secret loophole in the Patriot Act, I didn't think that was totally fair and impartial.

J: The juror is excused.

Q: Would you have any difficulty fairly judging the believability of former or present members of the Bush Administration?

A: Like, when I read in the news that Interior Department officials lied about undercharging oil companies for billions of dollars' worth of leases, or when I saw that there actually were all these pictures of Bush and Jack Abramoff after all -- do you mean, would that have any bearing on my ability to be a fair judge of the believability of Administration officials?

Q: Your honor?

J: Next prospective juror, please.

Q: Do you have any feelings or opinions about Vice President Cheney, whether positive or negative, that might affect your ability to be fair in this case or that might affect your ability to fairly judge Vice President Cheney's believability?

A: Lemme see. He said Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda, which he wasn't, and that Iraq was behind 9/11, which it wasn't, and then he said he never said that, which he had, and then he said it again. He said we'd be welcomed as liberators, which we weren't, and that the war wouldn't cost us anything, which it did, and that Halliburton --

J: The juror is excused.

Q: Several witnesses who will testify in this case are members of the news media. Would any of you have any difficulty fairly judging the believability of a person who is a member of the news media?

A: Hmmm. Like, a member of the news media who'd give Scooter Libby anonymity so he could leak a bogus National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq's WMD that relied on double agents like Chalabi and lying drunks like that informer, Curveball? Or the believability of a member of the news media who'd tell Karl Rove what kind of questions the Special Prosecutor was asking, or who'd talk about the case on TV without revealing his own role in it, or who'd --

J: Thank you. Excused.

Q: Juror candidate #73, have you ever participated in any type of anti-crime activity, such as a neighborhood watch?

A: Does reading Murray Waas's columns in National Journal count as an anti-crime activity?

J: Excused.

Q: Juror #82, have you ever participated in any efforts to either increase or lessen the punishment of individuals who are convicted of criminal offenses?

A: Well, when the Iraqis decapitated Saddam's half-brother, I told my wife I thought that was going a little too far.

Q: Juror #91, have you, close friends, or close relatives ever been the victim of a crime, a witness to a crime, or someone charged with a crime, regardless of what may have happened in the case?

A: I think my nephew may have downloaded a talk-radio hate speech clip from YouTube that Disney didn't want him to...

Q: Juror #107, do you have any religious, moral or philosophical beliefs that would affect your ability to sit as a juror in a criminal case and be fair and impartial to both the government and the defendant?

A: Let me put it this way. My parents taught me to tell the truth, and that if I did something wrong, I was going to be punished for it, and that no one was above the law. Is that the kind of belief you mean?

Q: Your honor?

J: Excused.

Q: I anticipate there will be a fair amount of news and other media coverage about this case. One of the things you will have to do if you are selected as a juror in this case is to avoid all contact with the news or other media coverage in this case. Therefore, throughout the trial, if you are a member of the jury, you will not be able to read the newspaper before it is screened by court staff and you will have to avoid watching or listening to the news and any other media programs. Is there anyone who thinks they would be unable to do these things if you were selected as a juror?

A: You mean, like, give up O'Reilly?

Q: No objection, your honor.
UPDATE: Patrick Fitzgerald puts his foot down:
The prosecutor took a more aggressive stance and jury selection slowed so much in the
CIA leak trial Thursday that the judge postponed opening statements until next Tuesday.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald successfully objected to the way defense lawyers for former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were questioning prospective jurors. The lawyers had been asking for their opinions of top Bush administration officials and whether the officials lied to push the nation into the
Iraq war.

"The jury will not be asked to render a verdict on the war or what they think of the war," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald also changed his own questioning to put Libby's attorneys, Theodore Wells and William Jeffress, more on the defensive...

He objected that defense lawyers were telling jurors the "case is about politics and the war" instead of just about Libby's alleged lies about his conversations with reporters regarding Plame. Wells quickly agreed to say instead that the war and administration candor about it were "background issues."

From then on, Fitzgerald began asking jurors right off the bat whether they could put aside personal views on the war or the administration and rule solely on evidence introduced at trial. Questioning after Fitzgerald, the defense then was forced to ask jurors what their opinions of the war were and see if they were willing to reverse themselves on whether those views would bias them.

Before that, defense lawyers had been the first to mention the war. They then asked jurors if there was any potential their views might bias them. Fitzgerald had been forced to come back and ask if they would try to put those aside.

January 18, 2007

The Silver Surfer Is Coming!

Trust me on this one, OK?

Check out the trailer.
Libby Trial Day Two

A former Washington Post reporter who wrote a book on spying and lived near someone who could be a key witness in the case was approved as a potential juror in the CIA leak case Wednesday.
Sounds like a plant in the jury room, if you ask me.
The former journalist who spent nearly an hour on the stand during the second day of jury selection lives near NBC "Meet the Press" anchor Tim Russert and knew or had connections to several key witnesses in the case. He once worked under Post reporter Bob Woodward and had followed the case in the news.

He was even friends with an attorney who played touch football with Libby — "He's got a great arm," the potential juror remarked.

Despite his connections to the witnesses, he said he did not have preconceived opinions about the case.

"I'm very skeptical about pretty much everything I hear until I see it backed up," he said.
Me too, mate. Me too.
Iraqi Leader: Bush Is On Borrowed Time

The Times:
Nouri al-Maliki said the insurgency had been bloodier and prolonged because Washington had refused to part with equipment. If it released the necessary arms, US forces could “drastically” cut their numbers in three to six months, he told The Times.

In a sign of the tense relations with Washington, he chided the US for suggesting his Government was living on “borrowed time”. Such criticism boosted Iraq’s extremists, he said, and was more a reflection of “some kind of crisis situation” in Washington after the Republicans’ midterm election losses...

Asked how long Iraq would require US troops, Mr al-Maliki said: “If we succeed in implementing the agreement between us to speed up the equipping and providing weapons to our military forces, I think that within three to six months our need for American troops will dramatically go down. That is on condition that there are real, strong efforts to support our military forces and equipping and arming them.” ...

“Certain officials are going through a crisis. Secretary Rice is expressing her own point of view if she thinks that the Government is on borrowed time, whether it is borrowed time for the Iraqi Government or American Administration.”
100 Hours

So how is Pelosi's House agenda going? Here are the items passed so far:
_make the government negotiate for lower Medicare prescription drug prices. It passed last Friday.

_expand federally funded stem cell research. It passed Jan. 11.

_raise the federal minimum wage. It passed Jan. 10.

_seek to bolster terrorism-fighting efforts. It passed Jan. 9.

_change rules governing ethics, lobbying and the budget. These changes were passed on Jan. 4-5.
And the "final piece" due to pass today:
- energy legislation that imposes billions in fees, taxes and royalties on oil and gas companies and uses the money to promote renewable fuels.
A good start, perhaps (the ethics bill is severely watered down), but surely just a start.

Meanwhile the Democrat Presidential hopefuls' posturing on the Iraq War is quite obscene.

UPDATE: Those items above may have passed the House, but they face a more difficult time in the Senate.
Who says ordinary Americans are not making sacrifices for the Iraq War? Here's Bush:
“They sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible image of violence on TV every night.” Bush explained that “the psychology of the country…is somewhat down because of this war.”
Think Progress has the video.
Gonzales: Judges Can't Handle The Truth

America, you have a Republic... if you can keep it:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says federal judges are unqualified to make rulings affecting national security policy, ramping up his criticism of how they handle terrorism cases.

In remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday, Gonzales says judges generally should defer to the will of the president and Congress when deciding national security cases. He also raps jurists who “apply an activist philosophy that stretches the law to suit policy preferences.”

The text of the speech, scheduled for delivery at the American Enterprise Institute, was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. It outlines, in part, what qualities the Bush administration looks for when selecting candidates for the federal bench.

“We want to determine whether he understands the inherent limits that make an unelected judiciary inferior to Congress or the president in making policy judgments,” Gonzales says in the prepared speech. “That, for example, a judge will never be in the best position to know what is in the national security interests of our country.” ...

Judges who “apply an activist philosophy that stretches the law to suit policy preferences, they actually reduce the credibility and authority of the judiciary,” Gonzales says. “In so doing, they undermine the rule of law that strengthens our democracy.”
Are YOU In The Talon Database?

Walter Pincus:
A Defense Department database devoted to gathering information on potential threats to military facilities and personnel, known as Talon, had 13,000 entries as of a year ago -- including 2,821 reports involving American citizens, according to an internal Pentagon memo to be released today by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Pentagon memo says an examination of the system led to the deletion of 1,131 reports involving Americans, 186 of which dealt with "anti-military protests or demonstrations in the U.S."

Titled "Review of the TALON Reporting System," the four-page memo produced in February 2006 summarizes some interim results from an inquiry ordered by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld after disclosure in December 2005 that the system had collected and circulated data on anti-military protests and other peaceful demonstrations.

The released memo, one of a series of Talon documents made public over the past year by the ACLU under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, said that the deleted reports did not meet a 2003 Defense Department requirement that they have some foreign terrorist connection or relate to what was believed to be "a force protection threat."

The number of deleted reports far exceeds the estimate provided to The Washington Post just over a year ago by senior officials of Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the Defense Department agency that manages the Talon program.

January 17, 2007

Can Anyone Stop this War?
The only ones who can stop this war now are the troops themselves. After all, it is the troops who are bringing death and destruction to Iraq, not Bush and the writers at National Review. If they stop, the war will stop.
If and when Bush's "surge" fails, the Saudis will send troops into Iraq.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal made no effort to mask his skepticism Tuesday about President Bush’s proposal to send 21,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq to stem sectarian fighting.

“We agree with the full objectives set by the new plan,” Saud said at a joint news conference in Riyadh with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is traveling in the region selling Bush’s plan. “We are hoping these objectives can be accomplished, but the means are not in our hands. They are in the hands of the Iraqis themselves.”
This is bad. If the Saudis did that, the Iranians would probably do the same, and turkey might do the same as well. So effectively a partitioned Sunni-Shiite-Kurdish Iraq would be consumed by Sunni-Shiite-Kurdish neighbours. I wonder what Juan Cole will have to say about this (he knows the area better than me, so on issues like this I keep my thoughts to myself and trust a proven expert who does not pander to the powers-that-be).
I Say A Little Prayer For You

Jane Hamsher, author of the excellent Firedoglake blog, is battling breast cancer.
I have posted some new on the Iraq Oil Law at Riding The Juggernaut. From now on, I will be posting anything related to the Bush administration here, and anything more global/generic there (plus Oz politics at Howard Out). It's a little tricky establishing the lines of demarcation, so bear with me. Any thoughts or suggestions, let me know.
Where We're At

A good wrap-up from Reuters:
The White House said on Tuesday a planned congressional resolution against President George W Bush's US troop increase in Iraq could send a signal to the world that America is divided on the war.

Bush's "new way forward" for Iraq unveiled last week has faced heavy criticism from Democrats and scepticism - if not outright opposition - from many in the president's own Republican party.

Plans are underway in both the House of Representatives and Senate for non-binding resolutions rejecting Bush's plans to send 21,500 more US troops to Iraq to help secure Baghdad and the restive Anbar province.

"Does this send a signal that the United States is divided on the key element of success in Iraq?" White House spokesman Tony Snow said lawmakers needed to ask themselves.

The goal for Democratic leaders of both houses will be to attract as many Republicans as possible. A large defection could make Bush look isolated politically.

But some Bush critics on Capitol Hill think a non-binding vote is not enough. One Democrat with presidential ambitions, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, told reporters that he will unveil a bill on Wednesday capping US troops in Iraq at the current level of about 130,000, unless Congress approves more.

"It seems to me the American public wants something more than an expression of opposition. They'd like to see you do something about it," Dodd said outside the Senate.

Bush pushed his plan in his second television interview in three days, and planned another pitch as part of his State of the Union speech next Tuesday.

Speaking on PBS' Newshour, Bush said a UN report that 34,000 Iraqis were killed violently last year meant that "we better help this government stop the sectarian violence".

Bush acknowledged he gets frustrated on the issue of Iraq "because I understand the consequences of failure."

"If I didn't believe we could keep the egg from fully cracking, I wouldn't ask 21,000 kids - additional kids - to go into Iraq to reinforce those troops that are there," he said.

He has an uphill battle in convincing Americans. A new poll by the Pew Research Center said 61 per cent of Americans opposed his plan, while 31 per cent favoured it.

And the Bush administration was set to draw more criticism on Wednesday from former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. who served under ex-President Clinton. She was expected to tell a House committee that Bush's troop increase was more of a prayer than a policy.

While most Republicans supported Bush's initiative, Democrats overwhelmingly opposed it, and a solid majority of Democrats, 62 per cent, said Congress should try to block it by withholding funding for the additional troops, the poll found.

Snow said a negative vote in Congress could send a bad signal to US troops fighting in Iraq. He said a debate on the subject was welcome but that those opposing Bush's policy should offer an alternative plan.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said he believed the House would pass a resolution expressing disapproval of the president's troop increase, but said the Senate was going to move first.

Senate Democratic leaders hope to get the resolution introduced this week so the debate can take place next week.

Several active duty soldiers announced they were handing to Congress a petition with over 1,000 signatures of members of the military, calling for the United States to promptly withdraw its forces and bases from Iraq.

The war was "unjustified, unwinnable and unconscionable" declared 22-year-old Liam Madden, a sergeant in the US Marines based at Quantico, Virginia.

Meanwhile some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee attacked the administration's record on Iraqi refugees, especially those whose lives were threatened because they worked for American forces in Iraq.

Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said that last year the United States admitted only 202 Iraqi refugees. "A special immigrant visa for US military Iraqi and Afghan translators currently has a six-year waiting list. We can do better than that," he said.
Former Condi Stooge: We Are Losing The GWOT

Shocking stuff from The Carpetbagger Report:
Henry Crumpton isn’t a household name, but he has a pretty important job: he’s the Coordinator for Counterterrorism for the State Department. Crumpton recently announced his resignation, and with about two weeks left before stepping down, he apparently feels less compelled to stick to the party line.
An ex-CIA operative, Crumpton told NEWSWEEK that a worldwide surge in Islamic radicalism has worsened recently, increasing the number of potential terrorists and setting back U.S. efforts in the terror war. “Certainly, we haven’t made any progress,” said Crumpton. “In fact, we’ve lost ground.” He cites Iraq as a factor; the war has fueled resentment against the United States. (emphasis added)

Crumpton noted some successes, such as improved joint efforts with foreign governments and a weakening of Al Qaeda’s leadership structure. But he warned of future attacks. “We don’t want to acknowledge we’re going to get hit again in the homeland, but we are,” he said. “That’s a hard, ugly fact. But it’s going to happen.”
Demonstrating the kind of commitment to counterterrorism for which the Bush White House is famous, Crumpton, a career CIA agent who led the agency’s campaign in Afghanistan after 9/11, will be a civilian in two weeks — and no one has been nominated to replace him in the key counterterrorism position.
I remember when Bush was riding high on the popularity stakes and his top-rating issues were Iraq and Terrorism. What else has he got?
A few interesting stories from the BBC...

Firstly, Israel's top military chief resigns following the disastrous attack on Lebanon:
Our correspondent says that now that the military chief has fallen on his sword, the spotlight is likely to shift back to the civilian leadership...

The Israeli army lost 116 soldiers. Forty-three Israeli civilians were also killed by more than 4,000 Hezbollah rocket attacks.

About 1,000 Lebanese were killed in the conflict, mostly civilians in Israel's vast bombardment of the county and land invasion in the south.
Another story points out that Condi Rice has visited the Mid-East three times without every achieving anything like a breakthrough:
The last time Israelis and Palestinians were involved in a peace process was in 2000.
That would be just before Bush came to power. Quelle surprise.


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