Friday, November 18, 2005

Media Whores

Bad Reporter uncovers Woodward's source.
Drip, Drip, Drip

First, the stories about US Forces using White Phosphorus in Fallujah were "not true," then the official position became "only for illumination," then it was "only when routing insurgent from foxholes..."

Now, it's "ok, yeah, we used it pretty much whenever and wherever." But we didn't mean to kill civilians:

The US military on Wednesday acknowledged it might have killed civilians in the Iraqi city of Falluja with white phosphorus munitions during the battle against insurgents a year ago.

The Pentagon insisted civilians had not been targeted, however, and that it had avoided unnecessary casualties by evacuating the city before the offensive.

Well, that should warm over any hearts and minds straddling the fence over there, no?

Riverbend has a couple of posts up about the military using WP--her latest suggests the story about Iraqi prisoner abuse--by other Iraqis this time--might in part be a planned leak to divert attention from the Fallujah admission. According to her, local torture centers have been known to locals for some time--again, that can't inspire much confidence in the ability of US forces to impose any semblence of order.

But that hardly matters to the wingnuts...
Emphasis on "Estate"

Hullabaloo has an excellent post and series of links (including this) that serves to remind us of just how swift a current we're paddling against these days:

If politicians and the press want to know why they get no respect from the people, this is why. They openly defend dirty politics, pooh-pooh our outrage against it, and then expect us to look up to them...

The elite press corps see the Nixonian dirty politics that have completely distorted our political discourse over the last 30 years as social currency. Swift-boating and McCain's black daughter and Linda Trip's tapes and Al Gore's suits are entertainment to them and the dissemination of this entertainment buys them access for what they think are their "serious" stories. We are told to just "get over" partisan impeachments, stolen elections and even lying about nuclear weapons.

Richard Cohen and his ilk believed that dirty politics are what Washington "does" the way that Hollywood makes movies or Detroit makes cars while the rest of us rubes maintained the strange belief that Washington is supposed to serve the people. That's the heart of this crisis in journalism. The elite press corps have completely missed the biggest political story of the last quarter century because they were having so much fun laughing and cavorting with their Republican sources that they failed to see that a powerful, criminal political machine was built upon the "trivial" acts of character assassination they found so amusing.

Definitely check out the entire post if you've got the time. The additional link is also worth a look--to summarize, Greenwald notes the irony of WaPo reporters in a tizzy about the leaking of an internal discussion board and the mounting of what is, for all practical purposes, a defense of a journalistic equivalent of "executive privilege" (note: I've mentioned this before, but I'll note again that my first real understanding of the term "executive privilege came from something written by Hunter Thompson--paraphrasing here, he considered it the last vestige of "divine right of kings" in US politics, and rightly condemned it).

They've got to have the conscience of a hammerhead shark just to be able to look at themselves in the mirror each morning.
When Chickenhawks Attack...

They buy television time:

The Republican National Committee will begin broadcasting television ads in key markets nationally this weekend that suggest Sen. Harry Reid is "playing partisan politics" with the war in Iraq.

The 60-second ads are part of a national campaign by the RNC to push back against increasingly vocal criticism from Democrats about the Bush administration's policy in Iraq.

The ad, which RNC sources said will air in Las Vegas, provides Reid's office number and tells viewers to call the Nevada senator and "tell him to stop playing partisan politics and stand behind our troops."

Hmmm...the administration lied about intelligence, deliberately scheduled a vote to coincide with the 2002 off-year election, forced out weapons inspectors in Iraq who might put a damper on the WMD snipe hunt, didn't bother to provide adequate vehicle or body armor for soldiers on the ground, and STILL hasn't articulated a plan beyond what they've got, i.e., Operation Bleed the Military Dry...and they're worried about "politics"?

Reid has his own response:

"Instead of giving our troops a plan for success or answering the serious questions of the American people, they've decided to start up the Rove/Cheney attack machine," Reid said Thursday on the Senate floor. "We're at war. We need a commander in chief, not a campaigner in chief. We need leadership from the White House, not more white-washing of the very serious issues confronting us in Iraq."

TPM has more on the only fight you'll ever see chickenhawks engage in, as does Mark Schmitt.

When the going gets tough--chickenhawks squawk.
Chalabi: Man of Letters

From Tom Burka:

Chalabi Appointed Adjunct Professor of White House Ethics Course
Cheney Said To Have Had Influence In Pick

Ahmed Chalabi was appointed to teach the White House's newly required ethics course, where he will instruct high level White House officials on maintaining the appearance of ethical conduct. (Two other candidates for the position, G. Gordon Liddy and I. Lewis Libby were unavailable, citing scheduling conflicts.)

Chalabi will use the course to develop a curriculum that he will later teach at the Cheney School of Government, a new school affiliated with Heritage Foundation and built using money the current Vice President has siphoned from the public trough.

Among the topics expected to offered at the Cheney School will be Advanced Up-is-Down-ism, Mechanics of Legal Fund Management, Co-Opting Big Media, and Bilateral Elocution. Chalabi is planning to helm two courses: Treason for Dummies and Intermediate Treachery.

Donald Rumsfeld will be teaching a course called "Bullet Points: How to Boil Down the Most Complex Situation into a Simple, Misleading, and Inaccurate Litany," and Paul Wolfowitz will teach "The Joy of Empire Building".

Cheney said that President Bush will not be teaching a course at the new school, but has instead applied to be the first student. "His application is under review," said Cheney, "but I must say, he doesn't seem to have any real aptitude for it."

Wonder if they'll have a seminar on questioning the patriotism of political opponents.
Better Late than Never

I missed this Juan Cole post when it came out Wednesday--but linked over upon seeing a reference from Needlenose.

While I don't hold out much hope Dennis Prager will be enlightened by Cole's response to his op-ed (it seems fools like Prager achieve their positions BECAUSE of their ignorance), the essay is worth reading. While you're there, you might want to also take a look at a previous post (linked) noting that Muslims aren't silent at all when it comes to condemning acts of terror--although this isn't exactly front page news in the west (maybe because it doesn't fit the paradigm?).

If ignorance is bliss, Dennis Prager is on Cloud Nine.
Afghanistan: The Other Shrub Clusterfuck

How does Team Bush define success in Afghanistan? Is it measured by the increased production of opium? Or by the ever shrinking areas under "control?":

"(It was) an enemy that demonstrated that they could react very well, (were) extremely resolute and fought to the last man," Capt. Paul Toolan, an operations officer for the Desert Eagles, said during a recent video-teleconference briefing in Fort Bragg, N.C., from battalion headquarters in Kandahar.

The briefing was a candid assessment of the enemy the battalion finds on its fourth Afghan tour. Toolan and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Donald Bolduc, said that as teams of Green Berets and Afghan army troops have moved into Taliban sanctuaries this year, they have faced a reinvigorated adversary...

Last year, the fighting was less frequent and generally lasted only as long as it took to call in air support. The situation is different now.

Two days after the seven-hour fight at Qal'eh-ye Gaz, Special Forces entered the village of Sayhcow in Uruzgan province. The Taliban had cleared it of women and children, raised a flag and dug in for the assault...

The adversary faced this year by the Desert Eagles and other American units fighting in Afghanistan has defied military predictions that the Taliban and al-Qaeda were fading.

"It's absolutely true that the insurgency has become more effective and the insurgency has moved into more areas," says Peter Tomsen, a former special envoy who helped organize the anti-Soviet Afghan resistance in the 1980s.

According to the Desert Eagles:

• The insurgency never intended to disrupt Afghan parliamentary elections in September. The plan was to conserve military resources and wait for U.S. and Western allies to withdraw. "They had to deceive us that the elections were successful," Toolan said, "that we would be duped into a false sense of victory and leave earlier, so that they would have that ripe environment to move into open guerrilla warfare."

• Candidates linked to the insurgency ran for parliament seats. "We took United Nations candidate lists and we took a list of (insurgent) targets, and we overlaid those," Toolan said. "There were matches."

Early election results show three prominent members of the ousted Taliban regime — former commander Abdul Salaam Rocketi, former provincial governor Mawlawi Mohammed Islam Mohammadi and former senior security official Hanif Shah Al-Hussein — were elected to parliament...

Seth Jones, a political scientist with Rand Corp. who specializes in Afghanistan, says, "The issue is not that they're going to be successful today or tomorrow or even next year, but that in time, the United States and other major powers ... just do not have the political will to stay.

Easy for Seth to say--he's not getting shot at halfway around the world.

In addition to the drag caused by the quagmire in Iraq, there really is no American connection to Central Asia. That was the case twenty years ago, when our now enemies were our erstwhile allies (funny how things can change so quickly), and that's the case now.

Blowback ain't just a bitch--it's a damn tragedy. A tragedy brought about by short-sighted thinking on the part of leadership then--thanks for nothing, Team Reagan--and now.
Merry Christmas--or Should We Say Happy Holidays?

From the good people of FEMA, a special holiday message for folks who lost everything in the hurricane--you're on your own:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency moved Tuesday to nudge victims of Hurricane Katrina toward self-sufficiency, announcing that it would cut off financing for most of the 60,000 families in government-paid hotel and motel rooms by the end of this month.

Nudge, eh? More like the housing equivalent of a Friday afternoon downsizing:

Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on a House panel that oversees housing issues related to the hurricane, said FEMA was not giving the families enough warning.

"Two weeks' notice is outrageous," Mr. Frank said. "These are not people who can easily find alternative accommodations."

The agency has also notified state and local governments that it plans to end financing on March 1 for a program, set up in about two dozen cities, through which apartments have been rented on behalf of storm victims. Houston alone has issued 39,500 vouchers for evacuee families, costing the federal government more than $100 million.

WIIIAI put it best:

FEMA will stop paying for the housing of Katrina victims on December 1, because December 25 would have been too unsubtle even for them.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

On Rewriting History

I doubt Shrubleroy has more than a rudimentary understanding of the terms "rewriting" or "revisionist" history, despite his semi-regular use of it (last year it was part of the standard stump speech--hmmm, stump is about right).

Anyway, Knight-Ritter reminds the administration it might want to rethink adding it to the latest campaign, considering their own tendencies:

ASSERTION: In a Veterans Day speech last Friday, Bush said that Iraq war "critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs."

CONTEXT: Bush is correct in saying that a commission he appointed, chaired by Judge Laurence Silberman and former Sen. Charles Robb, D-Va., found no evidence of "politicization" of the intelligence community's assessments concerning Iraq's reported weapons of mass destruction programs.

But neither that report nor others looked at how the White House characterized the intelligence it had when selling its plan for war to the world and whether administration officials exaggerated the threat. That's supposed to be the topic of a second phase of study by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers, and all of us were agreed that was not part of our inquiry," Silberman said when he released the panel's findings in March...

ASSERTION: In his speech, Bush noted that "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate - who had access to the same intelligence - voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."

CONTEXT: This isn't true.

The Congress didn't have access to the President's Daily Brief, a top-secret compendium of intelligence on the most pressing national security issues that was sent to the president every morning by former CIA Director George Tenet.

As for prewar intelligence on Iraq, senior administration officials had access to other information and sources that weren't available to lawmakers...

ASSERTION: In his Veterans Day address, Bush said that "intelligence agencies around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein."

CONTEXT: Bush is correct in saying that many intelligence agencies, particularly in Europe, believed that Saddam was hiding some weapons of mass destruction capabilities - not necessarily weapons. But they didn't agree with other U.S. assessments about Saddam. Few, with the exception of Great Britain, argued that Iraq was an imminent threat, or that it had any link to Islamic terrorism, much less the Sept. 11 attacks...

ASSERTION: Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, told reporters last Thursday that the Clinton administration and Congress perceived Saddam as a threat based on some of the same intelligence used by the Bush administration.

"Congress, in 1998 authorized, in fact, the use of force based on that intelligence," Hadley said.

And Rumsfeld, in briefing reporters Tuesday, seemed to link President Clinton's signing of the act to his decision to order four days of U.S. bombing of suspected weapons sites and military facilities in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq.

CONTEXT: Congress did pass the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which stated U.S. support for regime change in Iraq and provided up to $97 million in overt military and humanitarian aid to opposition groups in Iraq.

But it didn't authorize the use of U.S. force against Iraq.

In launching his attacks, Bush is revealing a lot about his inner, weak-kneed, desperate-to-not-be-left-alone-in-the-cold wimp. A major meltdown is definitely on the way--some of y'all may have seen a link from Atrios or AmericaBlog to the subscription only Moonie Times piece suggesting as much--well, true or not, I'll bet Bush thoroughly embarasses himself and/or the nation in the next year to year and a's not gonna be pretty.

And if the truth ever DOES get out about how he and Big Time lied their way to, he's gonna make the Franklin Pierce or James Buchanan administrations look positively heroic.
"From Nixon's Nemesis to Cheney's Savior"

Geez, another concluding line used as a title--here's the Cockburn/St. Clair take on Woodward--you've gotta love the following line:

Woodward's highly flattering treatment of Bush in Plan of Attack and Bush at War (Washington's retort to the Harry Potter series)...

What a tangled web is woven in Washington...
"It is Time to Bring Them Home"

Murtha is correct, and no amount of bloviating by Shrub, Big Time, or Kim Granger can change reality--reality catching up all-too-rapidly for the reality ignoring administration. The GOP's ONLY concern is declining poll numbers; soldiers on their third or fourth tour in the combat zone have far more significant concerns.

Murtha is also correct in noting the public is "way ahead of us," "us" presumably being pigs at the District's virtually limitless trough--and not just those in direct government employ--Digby's closing paragraph is worth citing in its entirety:

Woodward, like Broder and Sally and Richard Cohen and Cokie and the rest of the moribund DC establishment, are obsessed with the social and personal activities of their King (and their own relationships to him) and have absolutely no interest or insight into the corrupt, depraved, malevolent political force the Republican Washington establishment has become. (It's hardball politics!) As long as they are getting their due deference and nobody's slip is showing, they are more than happy to keep any behavior that the unwashed masses might find unpalatable under wraps-- things like war or institutionalized character assassination. The only scandals worth reporting are "too many marts" and "trashing the place"--behaviors that imply the courtier's social mores are unimportant. Tsk tsk tsk.

The disconnect between those at the trough and those in the trenches--and their loved ones in fly-over country--couldn't be more profound.

Funny enough, disconnect used to be a GOP talking point--I recall their derisive use of the term "inside the beltway". Guess they really were just envious.

But I digress. The point is that the wheels have not merely blown off--that happened quite some time ago, well before Mission Accomplished--but the motor's making funny noises, the brakes don't work, there's not even enough money for gasoline...and the driver can barely speak in complete sentences, much less figure out how to either repair things or even slow down/stop before the impending wreck. And it's not like Big Time is really any different--hell, he was the one telling Shrub to floor it in the first place.

And that's just the political situation over here. Over THERE, in the hot zone, as it were, things are TRULY a Big Time (pun intended) mess. No wonder Team Bush--and their minions/synchophants--are behaving like a pack of cornered hyenas. Hat tip to Oyster--again.


The old chestnut has been hauled out in public again: if you do not support the war, if you do not support Bush, you are betraying our troops and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. It's an oldie but a goodie. It is worthwhile, in the face of this resurgent nonsense, to take a long, hard look at what "aid and comfort" really is.

George W. Bush's decision to invade and occupy Iraq - and it was his decision, as he made clear when he said it was "perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war" in his ham-fisted Veterans Day speech last week - has done more to increase the fortunes of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden than any war critic ever could.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq has created a rallying point for extremists all across the Muslim world, and has given them a marvelous opportunity to refine their murderous craft by constructing bombs that kill American soldiers and Iraqi civilians every single day. There were no al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq before this occupation. Now, there are lots of them, and they are getting plenty of practice.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq allowed Osama "bin Dead and Alive" Laden to slip the noose set for him in Afghanistan. We had him cornered up there in the mountains near the Pakistani border, but our best troops and equipment were pulled out and sent to Iraq instead. Maybe Osama is already dead - like his friend Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has been reported killed approximately four hundred and thirteen times, only to constantly resurface as the mastermind of a dozen bombings and attacks - and maybe not. The fact that he was never captured, tried and convicted for his crimes, the fact that he may still be out there, is a boon to those who have flocked to his banner. Aid and comfort indeed.

The decision to allow the torture of detainees in Iraq - a decision that came directly from both Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, according to former administration outsider Lawrence Wilkerson - gave the world the horrific images of Abu Ghraib. When those photographs hit the Arab street, they provided inspiration for thousands of people in Iraq and elsewhere to give their lives to the idea that killing American soldiers is a nifty and necessary thing to do. It was the best recruitment drive for al Qaeda that could have ever been conceived.

And there are more photographs to come.

The decision to invade Iraq has made the world less safe. Look at the wreckage left behind by the bombing of those hotels in Jordan last week. The perpetrators were not hardened al Qaeda veterans who learned to fight in the Hindu Kush by killing Russians on behalf of the Reagan administration. The perpetrators were all Iraqis. Mr. Bush's misbegotten adventure in Iraq has left the nest, and is spreading out into the wider world.

I'm sure Murtha also is aware of this. So too, is the American public.
A Dick, By Any Other Name, is Still a Dick

Call him Richard, Big Time, whatever--don't make no difference:

Mr Cheney called Democrats "opportunists" who were peddling "cynical and pernicious falsehoods" to gain political advantage while American soldiers died in Iraq.

"The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone - but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history," he said.

No, Dick--YOU'RE the one with no backbone, no principles, no morals--and, as the saying goes, I was about to write "no convictions," but that could change, real soon.

You're also a liar, just like Scooter.

Note: TPM is working on a more comprehensive list of outright lies, lies of omission, exaggerations, implications, etc., made by Team Bush in the runup to Mission Flight-Suit Photo-Op.

Consider: with all the dirt they're flinging, it's interesting that they apparently concede the underlying circumstances--Iraq is a gigantic clusterfuck. Game over, and THEY lost, which explains their zeal. Supposedly defeat is an orphan, but the latest Rovian game is to at least cast some doubt as to paternity. Sorry--this one is pure Team Bush DNA, a perfect match to the exclusion of all others.

And the voters know it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

(All) The pResident's Man

I've been digesting all the material from the big blogs about Bob Woodward's admission that he too was on the receiving end of the "tip" outing Valerie Plame. And, as I'm sure most folks stopping here know by now, Bob, (aside: he has by far and away THE most incredibly annoying midwestern nasal accent I've ever heard, and having lived in the midwest for ten years I have at least a passing familiarity with such things)--anyway, Bob's been spinning like a Battling Top for some time now, insisting the Plame scandal was much ado about nothing. Or maybe it was like "a third-rate burglary" at, say, a political party's national headquarters. Or maybe it was just like what everyone else does, except they got caught.

Or--maybe Bob's forgotten what being a journalist is like, having had a good sized taste of life at high altitude. And maybe he's forgotten that political corruption--even when your friends are doing it--is still a crime, particularly when it involves not just sliming someone (bad enough), but when it results in UNDERMINING a significant policy aim--limiting the proliferation of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

Bob also had either a big time case of brainlock--or flat out lied--recently when he apparently insisted the leak caused "no damage" at the CIA. The truth is no declassified report has been made public--and the Agency isn't talking about what is or isn't behind the curtain.

This is really sad, for all sorts of reasons, some big and some small. Since the big guys are looking at the big stuff, I'll narrow the focus here and mention that All the President's Men was an eye-opener when I first read it some thirty years ago (even as a kid I was kind of a political junkie--ATPM and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail both got on my reading list at an early age--believe it or not, I checked the latter out from the Iberia Parish Public Library). Anyway, Woodward and Bernstein's volume was an enormous influence on me. I was aware of Watergate as a child, but didn't really get it--this changed after reading the book. I also began to really pore over any newspaper I could get my hands on and considered journalism a noble profession, one to possibly look into (obviously that didn't work out, although it's possible residual influence might have inspired my humble blog). Additionally, it made me develop a strong aversion to the cynical aspects of politics.

I guess Woodward went in the other direction. Now, it's not like I don't understand ambition, and to make it in DC you've got to have access (and writing best sellers is a hell of a lot better living than working the city beat). But watching someone you admired at one time crash so spectacularly is a little sad--even if I'd given up on the guy some time ago.

Of course, it's not like Woodward will be forced to the poorhouse, or even lose much access to the corridors of power (or, if he DOES lose access, he can always hit the lecture circuit--just like Judith Miller undoubtedly will). No, his "punishment" will be public humiliation, albeit with the salve of a tidy fortune in his bank account. I guess I just wish he'd have remembered how he got there...
Just Plain Pathetic

As part of my recent move, the cable company gave me the slightly upgraded service for a month or so--probably to let me see what I'm missing/hook me into signing up for more teevee. Thanks to this, I was treated to what Keith Olbermann rightly described as "sucks,"--an effort in Shrub worship from a musical group (using the term musical loosely) called The Right Brothers.

The yowling my cat makes at four in the morning is more melodious.

But to each their own, I guess. However, in light of Oyster's discovery of a very special (as in short-bus special) quote from the dauphin promising to increase wetlands by "three million"--that's right, "three million"--I'm wondering when he or The Brothers will proudly announce that their special (see above) sound is achieved because they "go to eleven--one louder."

One Louder--and Three Million
Update: Oh, to have an encore appearance from Leonard Pinth Garnell for proper framing:
Memorable Quotes

* "Stunningly bad!"
* "Monumentally ill-advised!"
* "Perfectly awful!"
* "Couldn't be worse!"
* "Exquisitely awful!"
* "Astonishingly ill-chosen!"
* "Really bit the big one!"

From Crooks and Liars:

NABLUS, West Bank (AP) -- The father of a Palestinian boy shot dead by Israeli soldiers said Monday he believes his son's spirit is alive in "every Israeli" after donating the boy's organs to Israelis waiting for transplants.

Ismail Khatib said he was extremely proud of his decision, even if some corners of Palestinian society might be upset with him.

"No one can tell me what to do," he said. "I feel very good that my son's organs are helping six Israelis. ... I feel that my son has entered the heart of every Israeli."

Khatib's son Ahmed, 12, was shot Thursday while Israeli troops conducted a raid in Jenin. The soldiers said the boy was carrying a toy rifle and they mistook him for a militant.

Spc. Willy Pete

What a difference a week makes:

The Pentagon on Wednesday acknowledged using incendiary white-phosphorus munitions in a 2004 counterinsurgency offensive in the Iraqi city of Falluja, but defended their use as legal.

That's one giant step backwards from the flat out denials issued last week after an Italian televison station reported use of the chemical. Now the story line is they only use the stuff for illumination...and routing out "terrorists" from foxholes.

I guess the logical follow up would be: how did the military determine who was or wasn't a terrorist? Let's hope the answer wasn't something like "they're breathing."

More here, including a primer on the term "shake 'n bake" for British readers. Speaking of Britain, they've now admitted use of the substance too, although for more limited uses.

Still, as the Scotsman article points out, it's more than a little disengenous to invade on the pretext that Hussein had--and was willing to use--chemical weapons, only to do the same yourself. And does anyone doubt that, had quantities of Willy Pete been found in Iraq, it would've been touted as the smoking gun to justify the invasion?

Finally, at the very bottom of the Reuter's article, there's a highly qualified denial from Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman about the chemical's use on civilians:

"We don't target any civilians with any of our weapons. And to suggest that U.S. forces were targeting civilians with these weapons would simply be wrong," Whitman said.

Again, no explanation of how the term "civilian" is defined, nor does he make any mention of whether or not civilians were caught in the various crossfires--a virtual certainty given the nature of urban combat.

What a goddamned, totally unnecessary tragedy.
Compassionate Conservatism

Again crediting YRHT who posted both of these earlier--on the one hand, another wink and nod to oil industry executives...yes, those oil industry executives...this time it was (probably) Ted Stevens, professional asshole, who insisted they NOT be sworn in during testimony last week on Capitol Hill, probably because their subsequent lies about not meeting with Big Time would have had the inconvenient consequence of setting them up on a perjury rap:

A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress...

In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

But special perks for companies that added $20 billion dollars on the asset side of the ledger is business as usual...while, at the OTHER end of the economic ladder, unpleasantries like prompt, dignified handling of loved ones' remains is just too much of a chore. Besides, it's not like they were donors to the party anyway:

Dozens of families have returned to what is left of their homes and found, lying amidst the mold and the wreckage, a body, forgotten, abandoned. Maybe it's their mother or their grandmother, sometimes even their missing child.

It really is old-fashioned values after all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Storm Clouds on the Horizon

YRHT found a story in my local paper featuring Mike Tidwell's lament that

"No truly charismatic grassroots leader has emerged and, when you look at really successful campaigns for social change anywhere in this country throughout our history, it has always involved serious grassroots organizing."

Tidwell also has harsh words for those in charge:

"The same way all those people were abandoned on the I-10 overpass in the days after Katrina, abandoned at the convention center and abandoned at the Superdome, you are all being abandoned on a larger, more permanent scale because this government either doesn't get it or doesn't care."

Sorry I missed this story (red-faced here in Red Stick). Thanks for pointing it out, Oyster.

Staying on topic for once, today's Times features a story and series of graphics about the Gret Stet's embattled coast that's worth a look--along with this article that should put to rest any criticism about rebuilding NOLA. Hell, I doubt there's a place on earth that ISN'T a potential disaster waiting to happen...
Building Middle East Democracy

Our Iraqi allies must've taken the Abu Ghraib lesson to heart:

Up to 200 malnourished Iraqi detainees bearing signs of torture have been found in a secret prison in the basement of a Government building in Baghdad.

The discovery of the prisoners came after American troops surrounded and took control of an Interior Ministry building in the Jadriya neighbourhood of the capital on Sunday night.

When American forces arrived at the facility, officials there told them there were 40 detainees being held. As they moved through the building they discovered at least 200 prisoners, mostly Sunni Arabs and many in very poor health. The Americans had apparently been tipped off to the prison’s existence by relatives of those being detained.

Official announcement of the discovery came just a day after damning United Nations report into the brutal conditions and lack of access to legal counsel in Iraq’s overcrowded jails. The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq expressed concerns about the large number of detainees and suggested that Iraqi police and special forces had abused the human rights of suspects during security sweeps.

But the discovery of an apparently illegal detention centre has raised even more questions over the behaviour of the security forces being primed to take over duties from a withdrawing coalition force.

It also sparked memories of the behaviour of security forces under Saddam Hussein who routinely arrested and tortured prisoners at a variety of secret prisons and detention centres around the city, many of which were not discovered until after his regime fell.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Prime Minister, announced today that there would be an investigation into allegations that Interior Ministry officials had tortured detainees held in the basement prison in connection with the ongoing mostly Sunni insurgency.

"I was informed that there were 173 detainees held at an Interior Ministry prison and they appear to be malnourished." Mr Jaafari told a press conference. "There is also some talk that they were subjected to some kind of torture."...

The Interior Ministry, controlled by Shia Muslims, has been repeatedly accused of using its security forces to detain, torture and kill hundreds of Sunnis simply because of their religious affiliation.

Many of its officials are members of Shia militia forces like the Badr Brigade recently tied to anti-British violence in the south. Police sources said they believed that the Jadriya facility was being run by the Badr brigade as their own personal militia jail.

American officials have been encouraging Sunni Arabs to take part in next month’s parliamentary elections in hopes that a strong turnout by the disaffected minority could help ease sectarian tensions, calm the insurgency and speed the day when foreign troops could go home.

But the discovery of the jail once again throws up more questions about the suitability of Iraqi forces to take on the task of fighting the insurgency while respecting suspects’ human rights.

On a brighter note (sarcasm alert), thanks to the hard work of Lindsay Graham and 48 other Senators--including Landrieu and Vitter--"our" Iraqi forces won't have to worry about sissy provisions like habeas corpus...
Chicken Soup for Big Time's Soul

I picture Dick checking the HAL ticker--nitro pills close at hand--and allowing himself a small chuckle.

This is subscription only, so I'll try to cite pretty liberally--or you can sit through an ad and view the Salon article yourself--a double dose of cynicism from folks raking up the profits of death and destruction. Not only do they take work away from NOLA'ns, they don't bother to pay the illegals the DO truck in:

[Arnulfo] Martinez, 16, speaks no English; his mother tongue is Zapotec. He had left the cornfields of Oaxaca, Mexico, four weeks earlier for the promise that he would make $8 an hour, plus room and board, while working for a subcontractor of KBR, a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton that was awarded a major contract by the Bush administration for disaster relief work. The job was helping to clean up a Gulf Coast naval base in the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina. "I was cleaning up the base, picking up branches and doing other work," Martinez said, speaking to me in broken Spanish.

Even if the Oaxacan teenager had understood Bush when he urged Americans that day to "help somebody find shelter or help somebody find food," he couldn't have known that he'd soon need similar help himself. But three weeks after arriving at the naval base from Texas, Martinez's boss, Karen Tovar, a job broker from North Carolina who hired workers for a KBR subcontractor called United Disaster Relief, booted him from the base and left him homeless, hungry and without money.

"They gave us two meals a day and sometimes only one," Martinez said.

He says that Tovar "kicked us off the base," forcing him and other cleanup workers--many of them Mexican and undocumented -- to sleep on the streets of New Orleans. According to Martinez, they were not paid for three weeks of work. An immigrant rights group recently filed complaints with the Department of Labor on behalf of Martinez and 73 other workers allegedly owed more than $56,000 by Tovar. Tovar claims that she let the workers go because she was not paid by her own bosses at United Disaster Relief. In turn, UDR manager Zachary Johnson, who declined to be interviewed for this story, told the Washington Post on Nov. 4 that his company had not been paid by KBR for two months...

Right after Katrina barreled through the Gulf Coast, the Bush administration relaxed labor standards, creating conditions for rampant abuse, according to union leaders and civil rights advocates. Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires employers to pay "prevailing wages" for labor used to fulfill government contracts. The administration also waived the requirement for contractors rebuilding the Gulf Coast to provide valid I-9 employment eligibility forms completed by their workers. These moves allowed Halliburton/KBR and its subcontractors to hire undocumented workers and pay them meager wages (regardless of what wages the workers may have otherwise been promised). The two policies have recently been reversed in the face of sharp political pressure: Bush reinstated the Davis-Bacon Act on Nov. 3, while the Department of Homeland Security reinstated the I-9 requirements in late October, noting that it would once again "exercise prosecutorial discretion" of employers in violation "on a case-by-case basis." But critics say Bush's policies have already allowed extensive profiteering beneath layers of legal and political cover.

Halliburton/KBR, which enjoys an array of federal contracts in the United States, Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has long drawn criticism for its proximity to Vice President Dick Cheney, formerly Halliburton's CEO. Halliburton/KBR spokesperson Melissa Norcross declined to respond directly to allegations about undocumented workers in the Gulf. "In performing work for the U.S. government, KBR uses its government-approved procurement system to source and retain qualified subcontractors," she said in an e-mail. "KBR's subcontractors are required to comply with all applicable labor laws and provisions when performing this work."

Victoria Cintra is the Gulf Coast outreach organizer for Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, which recently partnered with relief agency Oxfam America to help immigrant workers displaced by Katrina. She says KBR is exposing undocumented workers like Martinez to unethical and illegal treatment, even though they are supposed to be paid with federal Katrina-recovery dollars to clean and rebuild high-security facilities like the one President Bush recently visited. Cintra is one of several people fighting to recover the wages owed the workers: She drives her beat-up, chocolate-colored car across the swamps, damaged roads and broken bridges of the Gulf Coast to track down contractors and subcontractors. With yellow legal pad in hand, she and other advocates document abuses taking place at Belle Chasse, the Naval Construction Battalion Center at the Seabee naval base in Gulfport, Miss., and other military installations.

I was with Cintra when she received phone calls from several Latino workers who complained they were denied, under threat of deportation, the right to leave the base at Belle Chasse. Cintra also took me along on visits to squalid trailer parks -- like the one at Arlington Heights in Gulfport -- where up to 19 unpaid, unfed and undocumented KBR site workers inhabited a single trailer for $70 per person, per week. Workers there and on the bases complained of suffering from diarrhea, sprained ankles, cuts and bruises, and other injuries sustained on the KBR sites -- where they received no medical assistance, despite being close to medical facilities on the same bases they were cleaning and helping rebuild.

Cintra and other critics say there's been no accountability from the corporate leaders who signed on the dotted line when they were awarded multimillion-dollar Department of Defense contracts. "The workers may be hired by the subcontractors," Cintra says, "but KBR is ultimately responsible."...

Halliburton/KBR is the general contractor with overarching responsibility for the federal cleanup contracts covering Katrina-damaged naval bases. Even so, there is an utter lack of transparency with the process -- and that invites malfeasance, says James Hale, a vice president of the Laborers' International Union of North America. "To my knowledge, not one member of Congress has been able to get their hands on a copy of a contract that was handed out to Halliburton or others," Hale says. "There is no central registry of Katrina contracts available. No data on the jobs or scope of the work." Hale says that his union's legislative staff has pressed members of Congress for more information; apparently the legislators were told that they could not get copies of the contracts because of "national security" concerns.

"If the contracts handed out to these primary contractors are opaque, then the contracts being let to the subcontractors are just plain invisible," Hale says. "There is simply no ability to ascertain or monitor the contractor-subcontractor relationships. This is an open invitation for exploitation, fraud and abuse."

Congress has heard a number of complaints recently about Halliburton/KBR's hiring practices, including the alleged exploitation of Filipino, Sri Lankan, Nepalese and other immigrant workers paid low wages on military installations in Iraq. And KBR subcontractor BE&K was a focus of Senate hearings in October, for the firing of 75 local Belle Chasse workers who said that they were replaced by "unskilled, out-of-state, out-of-country" workers earning $8 to $14 for work that typically paid $22 an hour.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has been an outspoken critic of the use of undocumented workers at Belle Chasse and on other Katrina cleanup jobs, said in a recent statement, "It is a downright shame that any contractor would use this tragedy as an opportunity to line its pockets by breaking the law and hiring a low-skilled, low-wage and undocumented work force."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is also against the practice, citing its "serious social ramifications." As he told Salon, it devastates "local workers who have been hit twice, because they lost their homes."

Seventeen-year-old Simitrio Martinez (no relation to Arnulfo) is another one of the dozens of workers originally hired by Tovar, the North Carolina job broker working under KBR. "They were going to pay seven dollars an hour, and the food was going to be free, and rent, but they gave us nothing," says the thin Zapotec teenager. Simitrio spent nearly a month at the Seabee base. "They weren't feeding us. We ate cookies for five days. Cookies, nothing else," he says...

Another KBR subcontractor, Alabama-based BE&K, says it is not responsible for keeping track of the workers. BE&K spokesperson Susan Wasley said, "I can't say that we require our subcontractors' employees to produce documentation for us, because that's what our subcontractor as employer has to do. That's his responsibility."

At the bottom of the KBR subcontracting pyramid are job brokers like Tovar and Gregorio Gonzalez, who helped hire laborers for Florida-based On Site Services, another subcontractor that reportedly failed to pay wages owed to workers in the Gulf Coast. The job brokers find workers by placing ads in Spanish-language newspapers like La Subasta and El Dia in Houston; the ads typically promise room, board and pay in the range of $1,200 a week. Job brokers also run television ads on Spanish-language stations like Univision. And they attend job fairs in places like Fresno, Calif.

Not all subcontractors refuse to discuss their links to KBR. Luis Sevilla is pretty open about it if you can get to the crowded hangar on the restricted premises of the Seabee naval base where he and his crew sleep and work. Sevilla put together crews for KBR subcontractors to remove asbestos and do other construction work; his workers told me they are paid and treated well. Asked about the people who own the R.V. with a "KBR" logo outside the hangar where his workers crowd into small tents, Sevilla says, "They contract with many, many companies." Interviews with members of Sevilla's crew revealed a number of undocumented workers.

Despite the evidence of undocumented workers cleaning up after Katrina, Halliburton/KBR maintains that it runs its operations within the bounds of the law. "KBR operates under a rigorous Code of Business Conduct that outlines legal and ethical behaviors that all employees and subcontractors are expected to follow in every aspect of their work," spokesperson Norcross said by e-mail. (She did not respond to several requests for a phone interview.) "We do not tolerate any exceptions to this Code at any level of our company."

Standing in spitting distance of the KBR-branded R.V., which is parked as if it were guarding the hangar, Jose Ruiz of Nicaragua knows that his role in the Katrina cleanup is anonymous at best. "I don't have any papers, kind of like in that song by Sting -- 'I'm an illegal alien,'" says Ruiz, who lived in the United States for many years before arriving to work for Sevilla at the Seabee base. "That's the way it is."

Why am I not surprised that Big Time used to sit at the top of the Halliburton slag heap?
Three (Evil) Stooges

Not Moe, Larry, and Curley, but Ahmad, Rummy, and Dick:

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, once embraced and then shunned by the Bush administration, held talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Monday but the Pentagon did not allow television cameras to record the event.

He also held a private meeting at the White House with Vice President Dick Cheney after his 45 minutes of talks with Rumsfeld, but Cheney's office would not provide details.

Chalabi's trip to Washington has angered Iraq war critics who have denounced the visit of the man most associated with discredited prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Democratic lawmakers have demanded to know why Chalabi was meeting top U.S. officials after allegations he had passed American secrets to Iran and they urged congressional committees to subpoena him for testimony.

Last week Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Chalabi but did not appear publicly with him, underscoring the political sensitivity of the meeting.

A senior U.S. defense official said Rumsfeld and Chalabi discussed the importance of protecting Iraq's oil and electric power grids from insurgent attacks and improving intelligence-gathering by U.S.-led military forces in Iraq.

The Pentagon did not allow television cameras to record Chalabi's arrival. His visit to Washington ahead of Iraqi elections next month comes amid a bitter U.S. debate over President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and Bush's conduct of the war in which more than 2,060 Americans have died.

No cameras--that speaks volumes.

Another thing: Cheney can't make time to attend even one of the roughly 2,060 or so military funerals held since Operation Desert Quagmire commenced. But he'll spend time with the convicted felon who helped him lie his way into it.
Teflon Deficit

Sorry, Shrubusto. The shit is starting to stick. If this was a trial, the jury would be averting their eyes:

To avoid having to account for his administration's misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He's tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He's tried to pass the buck and blame the C.I.A. Lately, he's gone on the attack, accusing Democrats in Congress of aiding the terrorists.

Yesterday in Alaska, Mr. Bush trotted out the same tedious deflection on Iraq that he usually attempts when his back is against the wall: he claims that questioning his actions three years ago is a betrayal of the troops in battle today.

It all amounts to one energetic effort at avoidance. But like the W.M.D. reports that started the whole thing, the only problem is that none of it has been true.


President George W. Bush has suddenly shifted rhetoric on the war in Iraq. Until recently, the administration's line was basically, "Everything we are saying and doing is right." It was a line that held him in good stead, especially with his base, which admired his constancy above all else. Now, though, as his policies are failing and even his base has begun to abandon him, a new line is being trotted out: "Yes, we were wrong about some things, but everybody else was wrong, too, so get over it."...

Intelligence estimates are unwieldy documents, often studded with dissenting footnotes. Legislators and analysts with limited security clearances have often thought they had "access to intelligence," but unless they could see the footnotes, they didn't.

For instance, in the late 1950s, many senators thought President Dwight Eisenhower was either a knave or a fool for denying the existence of a "missile gap." U.S. Air Force Intelligence estimates—leaked to the press and supplied to the Air Force's allies on Capitol Hill—indicated that the Soviet Union would have at least 500 intercontinental ballistic missiles by 1962, far more than the U.S. arsenal. What the "missile gap" hawks didn't know—and Eisenhower did—was that the Central Intelligence Agency had recently acquired new evidence indicating that the Soviets couldn't possibly have more than 50 ICBMs by then—fewer than we would. (As it turned out, photoreconnaissance satellites, which were secretly launched in 1960, revealed that even that number was too high; the Soviets had only a couple of dozen ICBMs.)

So, yes, nearly everyone thought Saddam was building WMDs, just as everyone back in the late '50s thought Nikita Khrushchev was building hundreds of ICBMs. In Saddam's case, many of us outsiders (I include myself among them) figured he'd had biological and chemical weapons before; producing such weapons isn't rocket science; U.N. inspectors had been booted out of Iraq a few years earlier; why wouldn't he have them now?

What we didn't know—and what the Democrats in Congress didn't know either—was that many insiders did have reasons to conclude otherwise. There is also now much reason to believe that top officials—especially Vice President Dick Cheney and the undersecretaries surrounding Donald Rumsfeld in the Pentagon—worked hard to keep those conclusions trapped inside.

President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said today that the arguments over how and why the war began are irrelevant. "We need to put this debate behind us," he said. But the truth is, no debate could be more relevant now. As the war in Iraq enters yet another crucial phase—with elections scheduled next month and Congress finally taking up the issue of whether to send more troops or start pulling them out—we need to know whether the people running the executive branch can be trusted, and the sad truth is that they cannot be.

When stressed, it's normal for people to revert to a comfort zone. Shrub's no different, and it's enlightening to see--opt for extreme partisan slime...and run away. He's done one or the other his whole life.

Unfortunately, the country will suffer for his incompetence.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Check out Schroeder's latest posting of post-Katrina photos, and take time to go to his main page, which has a number of superb posts/links (and, ahem, a link to a previous post by your's truly. Muchas gracias).

The storm might be out of the national headlines, but that doesn't mean things are anywhere close to normal.
Senate: Who the Hell is Habeas Corpus?

Hat tip to ReddHedd at Firedoglake.

Last week, I'm sure anyone stopping by saw elsewhere the Senate voted to suspend habeas corpus for GWOT detainees (actually, I prefer WIIIAI label--the war against terror, or TWAT). So, who are all the evil ones doomed to cages at Camp Echo? Well, no doubt some are vicious individuals--but others are victims caught up in a Kafkaesque situation:

Adel is innocent. I don't mean he claims to be. I mean the military says so. It held a secret tribunal and ruled that he is not al Qaeda, not Taliban, not a terrorist. The whole thing was a mistake: The Pentagon paid $5,000 to a bounty hunter, and it got taken.

The military people reached this conclusion, and they wrote it down on a memo, and then they classified the memo and Adel went from the hearing room back to his prison cell. He is a prisoner today, eight months later. And these facts would still be a secret but for one thing: habeas corpus.

Only habeas corpus got Adel a chance to tell a federal judge what had happened. Only habeas corpus revealed that it wasn't just Adel who was innocent -- it was Abu Bakker and Ahmet and Ayoub and Zakerjain and Sadiq -- all Guantanamo "terrorists" whom the military has found innocent...

Adel lives in a small fenced compound 8,000 miles from his home and family. The Defense Department says it is trying to arrange for a country to take him -- some country other than his native communist China, where Muslims like Adel are routinely tortured. It has been saying this for more than two years. But the rest of the world is not rushing to aid the Bush administration, and meanwhile Adel is about to pass his fourth anniversary in a U.S. prison.

He has no visitors save his lawyers. He has no news in his native language, Uighur. He cannot speak to his wife, his children, his parents. When I first met him on July 15, in a grim place they call Camp Echo, his leg was chained to the floor. I brought photographs of his children to another visit, but I had to take them away again. They were "contraband," and he was forbidden to receive them from me.

In a wiser past, we tried Nazi war criminals in the sunlight. Summing up for the prosecution at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson said that "the future will never have to ask, with misgiving: 'What could the Nazis have said in their favor?' History will know that whatever could be said, they were allowed to say. . . . The extraordinary fairness of these hearings is an attribute of our strength."

The world has never doubted the judgment at Nuremberg. But no one will trust the work of these secret tribunals.

Mistakes are made: There will always be Adels. That's where courts come in. They are slow, but they are not beholden to the defense secretary, and in the end they get it right. They know the good guys from the bad guys. Take away the courts and everyone's a bad guy.

The secretary of defense chained Adel, took him to Cuba, imprisoned him and sends teams of lawyers to fight any effort to get his case heard. Now the Senate has voted to lock down his only hope, the courts, and to throw away the key forever. Before they do this, I have a last request on his behalf. I make it to the 49 senators who voted for this amendment.

I'm back in Cuba today, maybe for the last time. Come down and join me. Sen. Graham, Sen. Kyl -- come meet the sleepy-eyed young man with the shy smile and the gentle manner. Afterward, as you look up at the bright stars over Cuba, remembering what you've seen in Camp Echo, see whether the word "terrorist" comes quite so readily to your lips. See whether the urge to abolish judicial review rests easy on your mind, or whether your heart begins to ache, as mine does, for the country I thought I knew.

It used to be 'better ten guilty [people] go free than one innocent be imprisoned.' Now, we're allowing our paranoia to run hogwild by caging those we KNOW did nothing--and add a big helping of torture, despite knowing it's not merely morally reprehensible, but ineffective.

Not With a Bang, But a Whimper Speech to the Troops

So, it looks like Shrubusto's Friday rerun/lame attempt to foist some of the blame for Operation Desert Quagmire on the Democrats fell apart as rapidly as a 1988 Yugo...although that didn't stop the pundit class or the Dems themselves from conceding a central tenet from the latest set of GOP lies: that the 2002 vote in Congress was solely a "war" vote. Too bad for the GOP that such an assertion can be easily checked and too bad for the Dems that they seem to be afflicted with the same short-term memory loss as those on the other side of the aisle:

The resolution requires Bush to declare to Congress either before or within 48 hours after beginning military action that diplomatic efforts to enforce the U.N. resolutions have failed.

Bush also must certify that action against Iraq would not hinder efforts to pursue the al Qaeda terrorist network that attacked New York and Washington last year. And it requires the administration to report to Congress on the progress of any war with Iraq every 60 days.

"Enforcement of UN resolutions" is NOT the same as a blanket authorization to attack Iraq. And I think it's pretty clear that the war HAS hindered efforts to pursue al Qaeda affiliated terrorists.

Juan Cole has more on another aspect of Team Bush lying--the deliberate misrepresentation of intelligence, lies of commission and lies of omission (the latter goes a long way in explaining the wording of the 2002 resolution)--here's a sample:

This lie by omission was repeated over and over again by Bush and his cronies:

"Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda."
- Bush in January 2003 State of the Union address.

"Iraq has also provided Al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training."
- Bush in February 2003.

If he had said, "Khalid Shaikh Muhammad and Abu Zubaydah, the top al-Qaeda operatives in custody, deny that there was any operational cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaeda. But Ibn al-Shaikh al-Libi asserts that Saddam Hussein is training al-Qaeda in the use of chemical weapons. I asked our Defense Intelligence Agency about this, and they do not find al-Libi's allegations credible. I as president have tough choices to make. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I am inclined to believe al-Libi on this."

Then he would not have been lying to the public. But the way he did it was a lie. Some are saying that the evaluation of al-Libi by the DIA did not reach Bush and Cheney. That is not the DIA's fault. That is incompetence on Bush's and Cheney's parts. Why spend $44 billion a year on intelligence and not seek it?

The United States military captured much of the archive of the Baath ministry of the interior, which it turned over to Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress. That is where any document would be that mentioned al-Qaeda. It does not exist, or we would have seen it by now.

It was all a tissue of lies.

And TPM weighs in with a multipronged critique:

Chronicling the full measure of the Bush administration's mendacity with regards to the war is a difficult task -- not because of a dearth of evidence for it but because of its so many layers, all its multidimensionality. It's almost like one of those Russian egg novelties in which each layer opened reveals another layer beneath it. Hard as it may be, in the interests of getting Mr. Bush past the phases of denial and anger, let's just hit on some of the main themes.

1. Longstanding effort to convince the American people that Iraq maintained ties to al Qaida and may have played a role in 9/11. This was always just a plain old lie...

2. Repeated efforts to jam purported evidence about an Iraqi nuclear weapons program (the Niger canard) into major presidential speeches despite the fact the CIA believed the claim was not credible and tried to prevent the president from doing so...

3. Consistent and longstanding effort to elide the distinction between chem-bio-weapons (which are terrible but no immediate threat to American security) and nuclear weapons (which are)...

4. The fact that the administration's push for war wasn't even about WMD in the first place...

Beneath these top-line points of dishonesty, there were second order ones, to be sure -- claims that the entire war would cost a mere $50 billion, insistence that the whole operation could be managed by only a fraction of the number of troops most experts believed it would take. Of course, these may be categorized as willful self-deceptions or gross irresponsibiity. And thus they are properly assigned to different sections of the Bush-Iraq Lies and Deceptions (BILD) bestiary than the cynical exploitation of lies and attempts to confuse proper.

In the president's new angle that his critics are trying to 'rewrite history', those critics might want to point out that his charge would be more timely after he stopped putting so much effort into obstructing any independent inquiry that could allow an accurate first draft of the history to be written. In any case, he must sense now that he's blowing into a fierce wind. The judgment of history hangs over this guy like a sharp, heavy knife. His desperation betrays him. He knows it too.

Think Progress also pokes a big hole in another Team Bush trial balloon--the "but all the world thought so too"--while The Rude Pundit makes the case that "resistance is an agenda."

I bring all this up because over the next few weeks, if not through the mid-term elections, we'll be seeing more and more attacks on the part of the wingnuts. Most will be the same, days-old if not years-old, stale attempts to paint Democrats as "soft" on national security matters (Tim Russert did this yesterday while interviewing Howard Dean. I wish Dean would have reached over, ripped out Russert's still beating heart, handed it to him, and said something like, "Well, Tim, what do you think NOW?"). This morning on Air America I heard some anonymous 'nut make the same argument I've been hearing since 9/12/01--a mix of foolish bravado and incoherent paranoia: 9/11 changed everything, gotta get them before they get us, Saddam had us in his sites, etc. etc.

Sorry folks--9/11 changed NOTHING. We're STILL dangerously vulnerable to precisely the same sort of low-tech, below the radar suicide attack that happened on that day (indeed, we're just as vulnerable to the first POST-9/11 attack as before--hell, most people seem to have forgotten that there WAS an attack in the US after 9/11). Iraq, far from vindicating the ridiculous 'flypaper' theory, is now a mix and match of heavily armed local resistance and urban terrorist graduate school. Al Qaeda continues to exert its influence--or inspiration--depending on the location.

A REAL program to counter the 9/11 tragedy would first draw on some pre 9/11 SUCCESSES--like the fact that some FBI agents in the field had pieced together the outlines of a plot (at least one field agent even correctly surmised the target), like the fact that over the course of the summer, at least one PDB indicated the potential for attacks in the United States, like the fact that terrorists using planes as weapons was a subject of ONGOING consideration/concern, etc. etc. Unfortunately, the cabal in charge at the national level continues to put politics ahead of the national interest (hence, the outing of Valerie Plame, who was working to LIMIT THE SPREAD of unconventional weapons!). A REAL program to counter the 9/11 tragedy would look to DEFEND places like our ports (STILL a low-priority for Team Bush--perhaps they're HOPING for a repeat), a REAL program to counter the 9/11 tragedy would identify people abroad with whom we can work--the United States, for all its power, requires allies (e.g., that's WHY we deal with the otherwise odious Karimov...or Musharraf). A real program to counter the 9/11 tragedy would NOT publicize bogus terror alerts during a political campaign.

Blindly lashing out, which is the wingnut program, is worse than foolish. It's dangerous. When the 'nuts call for "getting the terrorists," it's important to note that THEY DON'T KNOW who the "terrorists" are, much less show any understanding of terrorism. To draw a rough analogy, it'd be like a doctor categorizing EVERYTHING as "sickness," drawing no distinction between a virus, a bacterial infection, cancer, pneumonia, or a broken bone. In the medical world, that kind of person would be called a "quack."

Demonizing Saddam Hussein wasn't exactly difficult: he IS a truly evil man. However, insisting on his overthrow in 2003 was about as useful as changing a car's air filter when the real problem is a serious oil leak. Team Bush and his minion of wingnuts can bark loud and long about the "threat" he posed--but they have NO evidence. There were NO weapons of mass destruction. The embargo ensured Iraq was unable to either purchase or manufacture chemical or biological agents--and on the ground inspections would have confirmed this--had the administration allowed them to continue. Instead, they insisted on the right to invade: because they put short-term political gain ahead of any long-term program for coming to grips with a very complicated part of the world. Now, neck deep--if not over their heads--in the shit, they're attempting to play more political games, while hoping no one notices the daily death toll overseas--and the total lack of any program here for dealing with things like the hurricane damage.

I for one will call them on their bullshit. And, while I'm not exactly enamored of the Democratic Party, I guess my attitude is sort of along the lines of "you support the alternative you have, not the one you want."

They can't be any worse than what we've got.
Busy a.m.

Little busy here after the three day weekend--back in a bit.