Kerry's Boxing!

"If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they're crazy," he said. "No Democrat will be bullied by an administration that has a cut-and-run policy in Afghanistan and a stand-still-and-lose strategy in Iraq."
Good answer, Senator. Of course, it would have been nicer if you had not butchered that joke in the first place, but his response has been appropriately forceful.


High Courts, Gays, and Elections

Why, oh why, would they come out with this ruling now? Couldn't they have put that off for a couple of weeks?

Thanks to Glenn Greenwald's explanation, I know the answer to that question is: "No."

Waterboarding? Not So Fast!

Cheney makes his views about waterboarding clear:
Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Of course, this represents the first acknowledgement that the U.S. uses techniques that everyone else in the world defines as torture. In fact, we prosecuted Nazis for waterboarding their prisoners, so our current practices are hard to defend. There are consequences for these actions.

Incidentally, the disclosure came as Cheney spoke with the only type of person he gives interviews to: sychophantish right wing radio talkshow hosts. What a tower of courage "Five-Deferments" Cheney is. I've always wondered at this strategy, personally. One of the most fun things about listening to conservative talk radio is when a caller, posessing even more radical views than the host himself usually espouses, encourages the host to heights of bigotry and facism not normally attained. It's a positive feedback thing, borne from the tribal desire to agree with those inside your group, and it can escalate things noticeably. That Cheney fell prey to the same thing and made an admission he hadn't intended to is not debateable.

But then they can't take the heat of their own opinions. Sad, really.
U.S. President George W. Bush said Friday the United States does not torture prisoners, commenting after U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney embraced the suggestion that a dunk in water might be useful to get terrorist suspects to talk.

Human rights groups complained that Cheney’s words amounted to an endorsement of a torture technique known as “water boarding,” in which the victim believes he is about to drown. The White House insisted Cheney was not talking about water boarding but would not explain what he meant.

Less than two weeks before midterm congressional elections, the White House was put on the defensive as news of Cheney’s remark spread. Bush was asked about it at a White House photo opportunity with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Presidential spokesman Tony Snow was pelted with questions at two briefings with reporters.

So, despite the fact that Cheney clearly was referring to waterboarding, they have to issue denials. They have to try to walk it back. To do otherwise would remove all the grey from the issue, and the international community would be able to call us torturers without us being able to contest the point. It would be devastating, so they're forced to make fools of themselves by denying Cheney's own words.


More on Benchmarks for Iraq

More analysis of the new Benchmark talk-talk from the White House.

The text of President Bush's news conference yesterday ran to nearly 10,000 words, but what may have been more significant were the things he did not say.

The president talked repeatedly about "benchmarks" for progress in Iraq, using that word 13 times. But he did not discuss the consequences of the Iraqi government missing those targets. Such a question, he said, was "hypothetical."

Puh-lease. This is complete bull. You can't call them benchmarks if there are no repercussions for failing to meet them. The whole charade is just that - designed to cushion the blow of Iraq for the midterms. Once again, we have political expediency over sound policy. Par for the course.

Ford hits back

In response to the recent attacks on Harold Ford, a Congressman running for Senate in Tennessee who apparently has the gall to be attracted to women:
Mr. Ford told his audience here, and elsewhere in recent days, that the attacks were simply a sign of desperation, a sign the Republicans have nothing else to say. He added, “You know your opponent is scared when his main opposition against you is, ‘My opponent likes girls.’ ” The audience erupted in laughter.
In the post-Foley days of the GOP, this quip draws blood.

Sanctions on Iran

So, Russia appears to be rejecting our proposal for sanctions on Iran for continuing their enrichment activities. This was obvious enough that even I could predict it. In the Iranian's defense, they aren't doing anything that violates their international obligations. They're playing by the rules. We just don't like it, for good reason.
Russia on Thursday rejected a draft UN resolution put forward by European powers targeting Iran's nuclear programme, saying the proposed measures did not advance objectives agreed on earlier by major world powers.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the resolution put forward on Wednesday by Britain, France and Germany would not be effective in containing Iran's programme and contradicted the consensus reached by the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany.

"I think that in this respect the draft resolution that has been presented clearly does not further the objectives that the six powers agreed on earlier," Lavrov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

Those goals, Lavrov said, are preventing proliferation of sensitive technology without the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, while also keeping open all necessary channels of communication with Iran.

The foreign ministry's deputy head, Sergei Kislyak, said separately that Russia was "carefully studying" the draft resolution. However, a "long negotiating process is required" to find a mutually acceptable decision, he was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Since they didn't take our incentive package just to make us feel better about ourselves, their enrichment activities must be continuing apace. From our perspective this will only get worse, but as long as Iran plays by the rules, we will be hard pressed to gather a coalition to enact harsh sanctions, or confront them militarily. We just don't have the legitimacy.

More Bad Blood

Happy Days in Iraq:
With less than two weeks to go before critical midterm elections in the United States, Maliki accused U.S. officials of election-year grandstanding, saying that deadlines were not logical and were "the result of elections taking place right now that do not involve us."

In a conference call with reporters, two senior Democratic members of the Senate Armed Services Committee focused on Maliki's statements on the Bush administration benchmarks.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the panel, said, "I think the page we are on differs and is rewritten day to day to try to get past the elections here."

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a West Point graduate who just returned from Iraq, said Maliki's comment "deliberately repudiates what the president's saying." He called it "disheartening" but said it "might be a function of politics of Iraq as much as a function of politics of the United States. But it does not appear they're even at the level of how to talk about the problem."

Maliki's comments followed a deadly early-morning military raid in Sadr City, a teeming Shiite slum in eastern Baghdad with more than 2 million residents loyal to the charismatic anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The aim of the operation was to capture the leader of a Shiite death squad, according to a U.S. military statement. It was unclear whether the target was among the casualties.

Sadr heads a large Shiite political party that is a key member of Maliki's government. He also heads a powerful militia, the Mahdi Army, that has fought several prolonged battles against American troops. U.S. officials, Sunni Arabs and independent observers say that the Mahdi Army is a driving force behind death squads that have slaughtered thousands of Sunnis and that Maliki's government has done little to halt the attacks or disarm the group.

Although a U.S. military statement on the operation did not mention the Mahdi Army or Sadr by name, the implication that the target was a member of the militia was unmistakable.

Iraqi army special forces, supported by U.S. advisers, "conducted a raid authorized by the Government of Iraq . . . to capture a top illegal armed group commander directing widespread death-squad activity throughout eastern Baghdad," the statement said. It also said Iraqi forces came under fire during the raid and "requested support from Coalition aircraft, which used precision gunfire only to eliminate the enemy threat."

Later, the U.S. military expanded the operation and raided a local mosque, based on "credible intelligence indicating that criminals involved in the kidnapping of a U.S. Soldier" were hiding there, according to a military statement. The soldier, an Iraqi-American who was abducted from a relative's home on Monday while visiting family on an unauthorized leave, was not found.

The military statement said that a total of 10 people were killed during the operations and 13 people were detained, including 10 "suspected death squad members." Caldwell said that several people had been held "for possible connection with or knowledge of this kidnapping," but gave few other details.

At his news conference, Maliki distanced himself from the raid, saying his government would "ask for clarification about what has happened in Sadr City" and "review the issue with the multinational forces so that it will not be repeated."

Maliki and Bush are getting along great these days, huh? Let's hope he understands that without our continued support, he'll probably end up hanging from a tree somewhere. He needs to make politically difficult decisions to fight the surge of militias in his country. Unfortunately for us, those decisions might not just be "politically difficult," since he very much depends on the support of Sadr for his continued "governance." They may, in fact, be "politically impossible decisions."

¿Que Benchmark?!

What's this I hear about Bush proposing benchmarks for the Iraqi Government? Isn't that effectively a cut-and-run position, since it's more-or-less what the Democrats have been recommending for over a year? I mean, sure, they aren't identical proposals, since under Bush's plan there are no consequences if the benchmarks aren't met. But it still has to be a move in the right direction, right?

Well, it turns out that Maliki gives us the bird:

"I affirm that this government represents the will of the people and no one has the right to impose a timetable on it," Maliki said Wednesday at a nationally televised news conference. "The Americans have the right to review their policies, but we do not believe in a timetables."

With less than two weeks to go before critical midterm elections in the United States, Maliki accused U.S. officials of election-year grandstanding, saying that deadlines were not logical and were "the result of elections taking place right now that do not involve us."

So there, Americans. Let that be a lesson to you. When we handed over sovereignty, they took it seriously. Who'd have thunk it?

Snark aside, it really is a problem for us. If leaving=losing, then we are at the whim of these people going forward. If they don't have the political stones to do what is necessary to bring stability, then, under Bush, we are entirely at their whims and mercy. Talk about mission creep - we don't have any control over the mission objectives at all anymore.


Diebold Source Stolen and My Boiling Rage

From Slashdot, we have momentous news on the BlackBox Voting scourge:
Doc Ruby writes to tell us about an article in the Baltimore (MD) Sun, reporting that someone sent a package to a former legislator containing what appears to be Diebold source code. From the article: "Diebold Election Systems Inc. expressed alarm and state election officials contacted the FBI yesterday after a former legislator received an anonymous package containing what appears to be the computer code that ran Maryland's polls in 2004... The availability of the code — the written instructions that tell the machines what to do — is important because some computer scientists worry that the machines are vulnerable to malicious and virtually undetectable vote-switching software. An examination of the instructions would enable technology experts to identify flaws, but Diebold says the code is proprietary and does not allow public scrutiny of it."

Maryland's primary elections last month were ruined by procedural and tech problems. Maryland used Diebold machines, even though its Republican governor "lost faith" in them as early as February this year, with months to do something about it before Maryland relied on them in their elections.

The Diebold code was secret, and was used in 2002 even though illegally uncertified — even by private analysts under nondisclosure. Now that it's being "opened by force," the first concern from Diebold, the government, and the media is that it could be further exploited by crackers. What if the voting software were open from the beginning, so its security relied only on hard secrets (like passwords and keys), not mere obscurity, which can be destroyed by "leaks" like the one reported by the Sun? The system's reliability would be known, and probably more secure after thorough public review. How much damage does secret source code employed in public service have to cause before we require it to be opened before we buy it, before we base our government on it?
I'm not one to encourage industrial espionage, but this is the very mechanism of our Democracy we're talking about, so I don't feel conflicted. Voting is the core aspect of our Democratic Republic - in fact, it's what makes it a Democratic Republic. Why on earth do we have to trust a corporation with the life of our Republic? Why do we have to TRUST anyone?! Where are the patriots in this country! Where are the men and women in the long tradition of American radicalism that say "NO! I will not entrust my rights to my fellow man!" Human nature does not change!

The entire POINT of America is that we are a land of inalienable rights - not granted by government, but granted by our shared humanity and only guaranteed by government. Instead, we've become a land of snivelling cowards, begging for our inalienable human rights to be abridged in order to approach a phantom "safety" that, by definition, will never arrive. We have forsaken our heritage, and we are all besmirched by the shame of that cowardice.

If we have a revolution again in this country, we need only one manifesto: the discarded Constitution that I love so dearly.

(pause) I really don't get angry easily. Very few things in life have made me yell. But I love this country - the Great Republic - and I can feel the rage boiling inside me when I see how we are changing its fundamental character. If you attached an electromagnet to Jefferson's corpse, the rate at which he is spinning in his grave could power the eastern seaboard.

What Civil War?

For those who continue to insist that, because there are no pitched battles, what we're seeing in Iraq is not a civil war, but rather "sectarian violence," we have the following from Forbes:
Rival Shiite militiamen battled near the ancient city of Babylon on Saturday until American forces and helicopters rushed to separate the combatants.

Gunfights broke out in Hamza al-Gharbi, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, after a bomb exploded near the offices of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party that sponsors the Badr Brigades militia.

The party's supporters accused members of the Madhi Army headed by the radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr of being behind the blast, Police Capt. Muthana Khalid Ali said. He said Iraqi army and police called for reinforcements and backup from American forces, who imposed a curfew. There was no immediate confirmation of U.S. involvement from a military spokesmen.
Nope. No Civil war there. And we're definitely not "in the middle of a civil war," as the Democrats say, because we're using helicopters. Technically, we're above a civil war. That's totally different.


Sadr Captures Amarah

Via the NY Times:
Shiite Militia Seizes Control of Iraqi City
The Shiite militia run by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr seized total control of the southern Iraqi city of Amarah on Friday in one of the boldest acts of defiance yet by one of the country's powerful, unofficial armies, witnesses and police said.
The Mahdi Army fighters stormed three main police stations Friday morning, planting explosives that flattened the buildings, residents said.
Now that's how you fight The Man.

Options for Iraq

From the NY Times on the status of the War in Iraq:
Bush Faces a Battery of Ugly Choices on War
The acknowledgment by the United States Army spokesman in Iraq that the latest plan to secure Baghdad has faltered leaves President Bush with some of the ugliest choices he has yet faced in the war.

He can once again order a rearrangement of American forces inside the country, as he did in August, when American commanders declared that newly trained Iraqi forces would “clear and hold” neighborhoods with backup support from redeployed American forces. That strategy collapsed within a month, frequently forcing the Americans to take the lead, making them prime targets.

There is no assurance, though, that another redeployment of those forces will reduce the casualty rate, which has been unusually high in recent weeks, senior military and administration officials say. The toll comes just before midterm elections, in which even many of his own party have given up arguing that progress is being made or that the killing will soon slow.

Or Mr. Bush can reassess the strategy itself, perhaps listening to those advisers — including some members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, the advisory commission charged with coming up with new strategies for Iraq — who say that he needs to redefine the “victory” that he again on Thursday declared was his goal.

One official providing advice to the president noted on Thursday that while Mr. Bush still insists his goal is an Iraq that “can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself,” he has already dropped most references to creating a flourishing democracy in the heart of the Middle East.
It goes on in that depressing vein. The verdict, in a nutshell: "“The Iraq situation is not winnable in any real sense of the word ‘winnable,’ ” Richard N. Haass, the former chief of the policy planning operations in the State Department during Mr. Bush’s first term, told reporters on Thursday." In other words, the Victory we were promised is unattainable. Bush has lost America another war. What a national embarrasment.

GOP Splintering on Iraq

From the LA Times:
GOP's Solidarity on War Is Cracking
On the campaign trail, 'stay the course' is a nonstarter, even among Bush's staunchest allies.

Public anxiety over the Iraq war, already reflected in polls and demands from some Democrats to withdraw U.S. troops, is now prompting calls for change from some unlikely quarters: Republican congressional candidates.

Across the country, GOP candidates are breaking with the White House over how long troops should remain in Iraq and who should lead the war effort.

Even some of President Bush's staunchest allies in solidly Republican states are publicly questioning the administration's war policies, while others are scrambling to find new ways to talk about Iraq in the face of rising voter frustration over management of the war.
That's what we like to hear. It's about time that Congress Critters acknowledged that, since we aren't currently on a course to win, a new direction is required. Now, once they look around at the options available and see there aren't any, they'll be forced to come around to a redeployment strategy, since nobody in their right mind would advocate a draft. We can move our troops to Kurdistan to protect against aggressiveness from Turkey and Iran, and to Afghanistan to deny the Taliban its continued resurgence.

I still expect the bulk of the migration to occur after the elections, but I will admit that having so many Republicans distancing themselves before the midterms is a surprise. I suppose that even I, wrapped in my America-Hating Pessimism, thought the conditions in Iraq wouldn't get this bad this quickly. I should have remembered the perenial October Surprise that Ramadan represents.

Here's an example of a prominent Republican running scared from Iraq questions. This is Tom Kean, Jr., who is running for U.S. Senate in New Jersey. It's quite the remarkable video clip, wherein he wont answer questions about Iraq, steadfastly refusing to do anything but repeat the same talking points about "looking forward."


How'd I miss this one?:
A day after George Bush conceded for the first time that America may have reached the equivalent of a Tet offensive in Iraq, the Pentagon yesterday admitted defeat in its strategy of securing Baghdad.
Bush is referencing Tet? Bush? What's going on here? He must be taking the Limbaugh line - that the Tet Offensive was a huge military victory for America, and that it was only those sodomites in the liberal media that turned it into a PR coup for the bad guys, no doubt because they lay awake at night thinking up new ways to fulfill their fondest hopes for the deaths of U.S. servicemen.

So, is this some official pronouncement? Because, with the reality-based interpretation, on the internets it would be phrased thusly: "We are teh big lose."


Iraq's Violent Spike

The verdict on the Baghdad security initiative is in:
The American military’s stepped-up campaign to staunch unrelenting bloodshed in the capital under an ambitious new security plan that was unveiled in August has failed to reduce the violence, a military spokesman said today.

Instead, attacks have actually jumped more than 20 percent over the first three weeks of the holy month of Ramadan, compared to the previous three weeks, said Gen. William Caldwell, the military’s chief spokesman in Iraq.

In an unusually gloomy assessment, General Caldwell called the spike in attacks “disheartening” and added that the American military was “working closely with the government of Iraq to determine how to best refocus our efforts.”

So, digging trenches around Baghdad didn't work, huh? Too bad... I thought we had the winning strategy there.



Below, when I said that Baghdad was getting a scant 5 hours of electricity a day, it seems my numbers were out of date:

Make it 2 hours.


"Managed Withdrawal"

Via Crooks and Liars, we have a CBS report on the contents of the upcoming Iraq Study Group recommendations. Go watch the video.

According to the report, it looks like Baker's group will be recommending a "Managed Withdrawal," because victory of the type we were assured is now beyond our grasp. By "Managed Withdrawal," they mean a gradual draw down of troops according to a timeline, thereby requiring the Iraqis to step up on that same timeline. As in the case of the Iraqi elections, everyone performs better when there are deadlines to be met and responsibilities for which to be held accountable. Furthermore, as the Head of the British Army said just recently, our troops fuel the violence in the area while simultaneously being totally undermanned and under-equipped to accomplish the "victory" we had been assured will be ours.

I'm sure that only my incredibly keen mind could pick up on this subtlety, but "Managed Withdrawal" sounds suspiciously like "Phased Redeployment," or "Phased Withdrawal." In other words, this is exactly what the Democrats have been advocating for over a year. Only our Commander-in-Chief's steadfastness has stood in the way, and thank god for it! Without his resolve - not to be confused with the desire to retain power - think about how many American lives and dollars could have been saved during that period, and that would have been playing directly into the terrorists' hands!

Snark aside, finally the consensus view of reality is coming around to what us clear-eyed Democrats have seen for months and years. No one can call us Defeatocrats anymore. We are, from now on, acknowledged prescient future-seers. I'm sure Karl Rove will update his party's rhetoric to reflect that fact.


Reconstruction Funds Disappear

Reconstruction? You mean Reconstructed.

Close behind U.S. tanks and troops, America's big builders invaded Iraq three years ago. Now the reconstruction funds are drying up and they're pulling out, leaving completed projects and unfulfilled plans in the hands of an Iraqi government unprepared to manage either.

The Oct. 1 start of the U.S. government's 2007 fiscal year signaled an end to U.S. aid for new reconstruction in Iraq.

"We're really focusing now on helping Iraqis do this themselves in the future," said Daniel Speckhard, reconstruction chief at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Many Iraqi government ministries aren't able yet to pick up where the Americans leave off, he said: "They're very bad at sustainment in terms of programs and projects."

In 2003, Congress committed almost $22 billion to a three-year program to help Iraq climb back from the devastation of war, the looting that followed and years of neglect under U.N. economic sanctions and Saddam Hussein's rule.
Of that $22 billion, $6 billion had to be diverted to security costs, and much of the rest was wasted on "bureaucracy, corruption, incapacity and the spending of money on unimportant projects." $9 billion went "unaccounted for," which the conservatives out there will quickly remind you doesn't necessarily mean that it was stolen, but instead only means that we lost the receipts. Heaven forbid we have hearings on such a thing. The terrorists might take that oversight as a sign of weakness - that America doesn't have the will to throw billions of dollars into a black hole just to spite Osama. Thank god we've got President Bush to remain steadfast in the face of such rampant, terrorist-loving corruption.

So, even though the capital of the oil-rich country is only getting 5 hours of electricity a day, our job is done. Since we broke it, we own it, and we've done the Iraqis proud...

You know, our responsibility to the Iraqis was the one thing that made me support the war after the invasion. But we have failed the Iraqi people on almost every front, and now we are giving up entirely. The cessation of reconstruction funds is an attempt to cut our losses, so why are our troops still there? Why is the money more important to save than our soldier's lives?

No doubt, after the election we will see a change in the national debate about Iraq. Republicans will abandon the effort in droves, and a withdrawal timetable will be set based on Baker's Iraq Study Group. If this is the reality, why wait until after the elections? How many noble Americans must die so that God's Own Party can hold on to power?


Which was the Greater Threat?

Q: In 2002, which was the greater threat to America, North Korea or Iraq?
Clinton's Agreed Framework was unraveling. The light-water reactors, it was clear, were never going to be built. Normalization of relations was another non-starter. The CIA got wind that North Korea may have been acquiring centrifuges for enriching uranium since the late 1990s, most likely from Pakistan. By September 2002, the conclusion was inescapable. It was debatable whether this literally violated the Agreed Framework, which dealt with the manufacturing of plutonium, but it was a sneaky end run and a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

On Oct. 4, Kelly flew to Pyongyang to confront North Korean officials with the evidence. The North Koreans admitted it was true. For almost two weeks, the Bush administration kept this meeting a secret. The U.S. Senate was debating a resolution to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq. The public rationale for war was that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. If it was known that North Korea was also making WMDs--and nuclear weapons, at that--it would have muddied the debate over Iraq. Some would have wondered whether Iraq was the more compelling danger--or asked why Bush saw a need for war against Iraq but not against North Korea. The Senate passed the Iraqi war resolution on Oct. 11. The Bush administration publicly revealed what it had known for weeks about North Korea's enriched-uranium program on Oct. 17.

A: Obviously, Iraq. If you said North Korea was the bigger threat, then clearly you have forgotten the lessons of September 11. We were invading Iraq to rid Saddam of shadowy , putative weapons of mass destruction, and everyone knows that mysterious weapons people might have are more dangerous than ones you know people possess. After all, knowing is half the battle...

By the way, if not wanting to "muddle the debate over Iraq" seems like a familiar construction, that was the justification we used not to kill Zarqawi in the months before the invasion. Think about how many Iraqi civilians and American servicemen died because of these decisions.

To have so much on one man's conscience... So many rust colored stains. It must be a truly terrible burden.

The History of the Nork's Nukes

This, from Obsidian Wings, is the best, most comprehensive view of the North Korea problem I've yet read. Check it out if you want a full history, from the late 1980's onwards.

"Listen in on Terrorists..."

The primary defense the Administration and its defenders have used to rationalize the commission of years of violations of federal criminal laws is that typical calls made by average Americans are not monitored. "We aren't listening in on your call to Grandma Tilly in Philadelphia," the line went. "We're only listening in on terrorists, so the Democrats that oppose our violation of law only feel that way because they don't want to listen to terrorists' phone calls." Despicable logic, I know, even if it were true.

Unfortunately, it is not true that only "terrorists" are being spied on - or, at least, not for any sane definition of "terrorists." The ACLU has just received documents proving that the Defense Department has declared all sorts of political opponents "potential terrorists," and therefore deserving of clandestine, unlawful surveillance.

Internal military documents released Thursday provided new details about the Defense Department's collection of information on demonstrations nationwide last year by students, Quakers and others opposed to the Iraq war.

The documents, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, show, for instance, that military officials labeled as "potential terrorist activity" events like a "Stop the War Now" rally in Akron, Ohio, in March 2005.

The Defense Department acknowledged last year that its analysts had maintained records on war protests in an internal database past the 90 days its guidelines allowed, and even after it was determined there was no threat.


A document first disclosed last December by NBC News showed that the military had maintained a database, known as Talon, containing information about more than 1,500 "suspicious incidents" around the country in 2004 and 2005. Dozens of alerts on antiwar meetings and peaceful protests appear to have remained in the database even after analysts had decided that they posed no threat to military bases or personnel.

Quakers, huh? Quakers are a threat to America? I believe the pacifism more or less precludes them being a threat to anyone, unless you equate dissent with threat. Oh wait... Democrats are routinely called traitors because they oppose Bush's pointless war. So, if the Quakers' dissent is a threat worthy of having their constitutional rights suspended, how can the Democrats expect their rights to be respected?

How can you be such a baby, to be threatened by words? Don't most people move past that hurdle in middle school? Why are conservatives so afraid?

Blair Agrees with Dannatt

It sounds like Tony Blair really got himself painted into a corner here:

Britain's top soldier was vindicated as Tony Blair was forced to claim he agreed with every word of his devastating assessment of British policy in Iraq.

After a remarkable day in politics, Sir Richard Dannatt appeared safe in his job despite having made a series of unprecedented criticisms of Government policy.


While the Ministry of Defence insisted he had wanted to expand on his remarks, some saw echoes of the department's treatment of weapons scientist Dr David Kelly, who was forced to make a televised appearance before a Commons committee and later committed suicide.

But if Labour's spin doctors had hoped Sir Richard would use his TV and radio appearances to appear contrite and backtrack on his remarks, they were disappointed.

While Sir Richard denied a "chasm" with the Government, he proceeded to make a further series of provocative statements.

He suggested troops should come home within two years, a flat contradiction of Mr Blair's insistence that they will stay "as long as it takes".

And he warned that keeping them in Iraq any longer could "break" the Army.

His remarks and were a serious blow for an already weakened Mr Blair, who is desperate not to be remembered chiefly for chaos in Iraq.

By yesterday evening, it had become apparent to Downing Street that they had been outmanoeuvred and an isolated and humbled Prime Minister broke off from talks on the future of Northern Ireland to offer the General his full support.

"What he is saying about wanting the British forces out of Iraq is precisely the same as we're all saying," Mr Blair claimed.

"Our strategy is to withdraw from Iraq when the job is done."

Mr Blair insisted Sir Richard was "plainly not" saying that troops should be withdrawn from Iraq now.

Mr Blair said when Sir Richard talked about the troops' presence exacerbating problems in Iraq, he was "absolutely right".

"I've said the same myself, in circumstances where the Iraqis are ready to take over control of areas and we're still there," he claimed.

But in places like Basra, the presence of British troops was still "absolutely necessary", he insisted.

But the Prime Minister was facing growing calls from his own MPs - increasingly exasperated by his refusal to make way for Gordon Brown - to set out a clear exit strategy.

And check out the headlines from these supplemental stories about Sir Dannatt: Friends say controversial Army General is honest and has 'no political agenda'; or, An honest Army man who spoke for his men. From a political perspective, that's not how you want your opponent cast - as an honest man just trying to protect his troops from the machinations of the political class. Ouch. Here in America, we'd start hearing rumors about his possible gayitude within hours: "Did you know that he's a bachelor?" What rank amateurs those Brits are. Don't they know that you never agree with your detractors, no matter how valid their points?

Sir Richard and Tony Blair's Iraq Policy

Sir Richard Dannatt, the incoming head of the British Army, unloaded two barrels of truth on Tony Blair's Iraq policy. Here in America even retired Generals are told to keep their mouth shut. If a sitting member of the Joint Chiefs came out with this kind of statement, we'd be subjected to hours of shouting about a "military coup" usurping the power of the executive.
General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the army, dropped a political bombshell last night by saying that Britain must withdraw from Iraq "soon" or risk serious consequences for Iraqi and British society.

In a blistering attack on Tony Blair's foreign policy, Gen Dannatt said the continuing military presence in Iraq was jeopardising British security and interests around the world.

"I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them," he said in comments that met with admiration from anti-war campaigners and disbelief in some parts of Westminster.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Gen Dannatt, who became chief of the general staff in August, said we should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems".

He added: "We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear.

"As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren't invited ... by those in Iraq at the time. The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in.

"Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance." He added that planning for the postwar phase was "poor" and the aim of imposing a liberal democracy in Iraq had been over-ambitious. He was more optimistic that "we can get it right in Afghanistan."

That's quite the condemnation, and you'd have to be blind not to see the similarity with the Democratic Party's position.


A Federal Iraq

There was a vote in the Iraqi Parliament this Wednesday that has, as its consequence, a fully federalized Iraq, with regional control of militias and resources.

If you remember, the Sunnis only voted to ratify the constitution because of a last minute deal by our Ambassador to forestall the formation of these regional states. Needless to say, the Sunnis aren't taking it well:
Sunni politicians accused Shiite lawmakers Thursday of using dirty tricks to push through a new law on federalism, a landmark measure that will transform Iraq by allowing Shiites to form a self-rule mini-state in the south.

The dispute reflects the deep controversy over federalism, which top leaders of
Iraq's majority Shiites support but which Sunnis deeply oppose, fearing it will tear the country to pieces and further fuel sectarian violence.

The passage of the bill has deepened feelings among some Sunni Arabs that their voices are being ignored in the political process, where Shiite parties dominate the government and parliament.
In fact, the Sunnis were so opposed that they boycotted the vote, attempting to bar action by lack of a quorum.
The boycott delayed the vote for several hours as supporters tried to convince the boycotters to attend and scrambled to make quorum — 138 of the 275 lawmakers. The session was closed to the public, and after repeated counts it was announced that 140 lawmakers were in attendance. The measure was passed unanimously by a show of hands, with no count of the vote.

One of the main Sunni parties, however, accused the Shiites of fudging the numbers, saying quorum had not been reached.

"The session was confused and turbulent. They claimed they met the quorum but they did not. There were no more than 126 lawmakers," said Mohammed al-Daimi, spokesman for the National Dialogue Council.

"We will raise an appeal against the process and seek an investigation into the vote," al-Daimi said.
A voice vote? With no recorded count? On such an important issue? Who do these people think they are, Republicans? They've got a hundred years or so of comity to put in before they can get away with slimyness like that.
But critics fear that any steps toward federalism now could wreck Sunnis' faith in the political process and push them toward violence, if they feel that is the only way to stop what they see as the dismemberment of Iraq.

"This resolution is a catastrophe for Iraq ... (It) will push Iraqis to kill each other instead of reconciling with each other," said the Dialogue Front's leader Saleh al-Mutlaq.<div style="visibility: hidden;">
"There will be disputes over resources, wealth and borders between provinces," he said.
Federalization will give the main constituents, the Sunni and Shiite, something to fight for - a homeland, of sorts. Maybe, after a few months or years of bloody militia-facilitated segregation, this will result in a calmer Iraq, but not without a lot of violence and displacement in the process. Needless to say, this development does not help our strategic goal of decreasing terrorism directed against America.

As similar as this sounds to Joe Biden's Partition Plan, there are key differences. Most importantly, Biden's plan includes enforced sharing between the resource rich Kurdish and Shiite regions and the poor Sunni west. But even in his formulation, if you give the Sunnis an area "all their own," it will almost certainly lead to resource conflicts and increased sectarian violence. They'd have to start suckling at that sweet oil-teat pretty damn quick to have a chance of forestalling or preventing the otherwise inevitable violence.


Bush's Presser on North Korean Nukes

I'm watching Bush's press conference, and amongst the many interesting topics, the North Korean nuclear test deserves the most play. In defense of his patented "Stand By and Do Nothing while the Norks get Nukes" strategy, he keeps referencing the September 2005 "Joint Statement" Agreement which the "North Korean's abandoned."
And frankly I was quite optimistic that we had succeeded last September when we had this joint statement which... you [in the press] adequately covered. And yet he walked away from it. He decided well maybe his word doesn't mean anything.
But Bush only pays attention to Article 1 of the September Agreement. No heed is paid to Article 2, which stipulates nonaggression against the North Korean regime, food and economic aid, and an increased normalization of relations between the US, Japan, and North Korea. Needless to say, by declaring North Korea a criminal regime and instituting sanctions, only 2 months after the agreement was signed, North Korea feels that America violated this Second Accord - before the North Korean's broke Article 1 by continuing their nuclear program. They have a legitimate claim that we violated that agreement, giving them rhetorical cover for this obvious act of provocation. It is one more instance that illustrates this Administration's constant attempt to steer situation towards crisis and conflagration. A wise strategy, indeed, since within every crisis is "opportunity." Excuse me while I gag on the cliche. How much of Bush's "opportunity" can the world take?

He also reiterates that he considers "all options available" to him in response to questions about the possible use of military force. Please. There is no prospect for military action against North Korea. We are not in the business of starting fights we know we will lose. Plus, with air power - the only option even the most feverish of war supporters consider - what do we hit? What target? The last time the North's nuclear stockpile was in one place was back when they gave us the bird in 2003.

Ha! President Bush just said, "We don't shift our goals." Yes... even when Iran and North Korea march their programs forward, were warned again and again that there is a red line they cannot cross, our goals do no shift. The remaining members of the Axis of Evil were warned that pursuing nuclear weapons "was unacceptable to America." Yet, have they slowed? Have there been the dire consequences for their actions that our leaders have threatened? How is the current round of rhetoric any different than the others? Why should their fear it? Line after line has been crossed, and we are entirely powerless to put bite to our bark.

We look like impotent fools, thanks to Bush's failed policy. But then again, at least we aren't trying to "negotiate with evil"... we're just letting "evil" walk all over us.

For those Who Insist...

For those who insist that the whole Foley thing is some sort of Democratic October Surprise, here's a run down of the timing of things. This buttresses another story of CREW having the e-mails and turning them over to the FBI back in July?

The timing of the e-mails' release appears to be more of a coincidence than an "October surprise," designed to affect the outcome of the elections. It took more than a year for the e-mails to be published because one publication after another decided not to print them.

The one media outlet that did, ABC News, took them public in late September only because the lead reporter, Brian Ross, had put the story on hold for more than a month as he pursued stories commemorating the anniversaries of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

"There was never a plan to undermine the GOP or to destroy Hastert personally, as the speaker has vaingloriously suggested," Ken Silverstein, Washington editor for Harper's, said on the magazine's Web site yesterday. "I know this with absolute certainty because Harper's was offered the story almost five months ago."

Silverstein said his source was a "Democratic operative," the same source that had provided the e-mail exchanges to the St. Petersburg Times in November 2005. Both the magazine and the paper declined to publish a story. But the source "was not working in concert with the national Democratic Party," Silverstein added. "This person was genuinely disgusted by Foley's behavior, amazed that other publications had declined to publish stories about the emails, and concerned that Foley might still be seeking contact with pages."

A second source emerged, however, just last month, peddling the e-mails to several other publications, including The Post. And Ross of ABC News has stressed that his initial source was a Republican.
The next step is to watch this Daily Show clip about the Republicans blaming the Democrats.

That should wrap Foley up for me. Hastert should resign, but the fact that he wont actually helps perpetuate the scandal and "suck the oxygen" out of the Republican's election messaging.

The Nork's Nukes and Clinton's Agreed Framework

Condi Rice... what a dishonest woman.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday defended the Bush administration's refusal to hold bilateral talks with North Korea in the face of Pyongyang's claim of a successful nuclear test. She told CNN the Clinton administration tried that approach in the 1990s and it had failed.

Josh Marshall:

"Failure" =1994-2002 -- Era of Clinton 'Agreed Framework': No plutonium production. All existing plutonium under international inspection. No bomb.

"Success" = 2002-2006 -- Bush Policy Era: Active plutonium production. No international inspections of plutonium stocks. Nuclear warhead detonated.

Face it. They ditched an imperfect but working policy. They replaced it with nothing. Now North Korea is a nuclear state.

Facts hurt. So do nukes.

The Problem with War

Via the WaPo, it looks like the 83% of us Americans that think Bush isn't being honest when he talks about Iraq were right.
A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred. ... It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. ... Of the total 655,000 estimated "excess deaths," 601,000 resulted from violence and the rest from disease and other causes, according to the study. This is about 500 unexpected violent deaths per day throughout the country.
In a normal war, deaths are a strategic advantage. They serve to dishearten the population and decrease the infrastructure available to support the enemy army. Look at our behavior in World War II for a panoply of examples. In the setting of that Great War, the bombing of Dresden or Hiroshima and the hundreds of thousands of civilians deaths that were the consequence was an easy strategic decision. By killing so many, we shortened the war and saved the lives of many of our fighting men. The men that decided to inflict those heinous civilian deaths get nothing but cheers from me.

Iraq, though, isn't a normal war. We were never fighting to stop the march of Saddam's armies across the region. We aren't even fighting to disarm Saddam of bona fide threats to America. Iraq is a war built on a bed of sand. It is a war without a cause, so we have fallen back on the only cause available to us: improving the life of Iraqi citizens and thereby replacing a caged adversary with a fledgling friend. The rationale behind the war flips the strategic advantage of high death tolls into a complete negative.

Even if we didn't give a rats-ass about the Iraqi people, we are still fighting a War on Terror - which, if the concept is to make any sense at all, has to have as its goal the decrease of terrorism directed against Americans. These high death tolls are exactly the problem with using "War" to fight the War on Terror. Think of the families of those 655,000 people, and imagine what they think of us. It isn't difficult. As I've said before, they feel exactly as we did on the morning of 9/11.

To decrease the amount of terrorism via "War" is impossible, unless you harbor genocidal aspirations. It is this kind of leadership which guarantees further attacks on Americans, and guarantees our utter failure in the Global War on Terror.


17% Believe Bush on Iraq

The brutal truth:

The public's view of Iraq is as dark as it's been since the war began in 2003: two-thirds said it is going somewhat or very badly, while only 3 percent said the war was going very well. Two-thirds said they disapprove of how President Bush is handling Iraq [...]

Mr. Bush clearly faces constraints as he seeks to address the public concerns about Iraq that have shrouded this midterm election: 83 percent of respondents thought that Mr. Bush was either hiding something or mostly lying when he discussed how the war in Iraq was going.

17% believe that Bush is telling the truth when he discusses the War in Iraq. Those are the numbers I've been waiting to see.


North Korea's Fizzle

This shouldn't be too much of a surprise for a first test, but it is embarrassing for the Norks all the same:
France increased its estimate of the blast Monday in North Korea to 1 kiloton or less, but experts still have not confirmed that the explosion was nuclear.
Xavier Clement of France's Atomic Energy Commission estimated the blast at "about or less than a kiloton."
And, should you scoff at the Frenchyness of my sourcing, Jane's Weekly must be right up your alley:
Although details are tentative, initial and unconfirmed South Korean reports indicate that the test was a fission device with a yield of .55 kT. By comparison the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima yielded approximately 12.5 kT. The figure of .55 kT, however, seems too low given the 4.2 register on the Richter scale. This could suggest - depending upon the geological make-up of the test site - a yield of 2-12 kT. If, however, the lower yield is correct, it would suggest that the test had been a "pre- or post-detonation" event (ie a failure), as it had been anticipated that North Korea's first nuclear test would have a significantly higher yield.
.55 kT? That's a small explosion. There have been non-nuclear explosions as big as 2-5 kilotons, I believe. So, either the North Korean scientists are quite skilled in their enrichment process and lens shaping, or the weapon fizzled. They may have achieved a limited fission event, but if it went off without a hitch they should have hit around 10 kilotons.

If it were a full, to-spec fission explosion, then the amount of nuclear material used would be much lower than is usual for a first attempt. The less fissile material, the tighter a space you have to compress it into in order to achieve a critical mass, and thereby a self-sustaining nuclear reaction. Compressing the fissile material is accomplished by first creating a very homogeneous and precise starting sphere, then compressing it quickly and evenly from all sides with high explosives - the exact kind stolen from the Al Qaqaa weapons facilities in Iraq after the invasion, in fact. There is very little chance the North Koreans are skilled enough to achieve such a feat on their first attempt.

Fareed Calls it Quits

Fareed Zakaria is a man who I have always respected, even as I disagreed with him about the wisdom of invading Iraq. In this Newsweek piece, he is once again acting as the weather vane of a broader tide:

It is time to call an end to the tests, the six-month trials, the waiting and watching, and to recognize that the Iraqi government has failed. It is also time to face the terrible reality that America's mission in Iraq has substantially failed.

More waiting is unlikely to turn things around, nor will more troops.....Nor will new American policies help. The reason that the Democrats seem to lack good, concrete suggestions on Iraq is that the Bush administration has actually been pursuing more-sensible policies for more than a year now, trying vainly to reverse many of its errors. But what might well have worked in 2003 is too little, too late in 2006.

After the '06 elections, we are going to see a mass exodus of support from the current Bush Adminsitration policy in Iraq. By December, a new course will be charted, regardless of who holds the majorities in the Congress.

Fareed was a supporter of the war in Iraq and a proponent of our continued responsibility there. I was an opponent of the war, but felt that "since we broke we, we own it," and had a responsibility to the Iraqi people. It became clear during 2004-2005 that we lacked both the will and the competence to win the conflict, at which point taking the targets off our soldiers became the only responsible course left to us. I'm glad that Fareed's finally come around. Maybe he'll come home to the Democratic Party, like Powell and Limbaugh.

Bush's North Korea Failure

From the 2002 State of the Union:
Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th. But we know their true nature. North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens. . . .

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic. . . .

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.
And yet, "stand[ing] by as peril draws closer and closer" is exactly what President Bush has done. Now we live in a world with a nuclear armed North Korea, and we have President Bush to thank.

Via Glenn Greenwald:
Independent of all of that, we have plainly created an incentive system where every rational leader -- not crazed, Hitleresque, world-domination-seeking leaders -- but every rational leader, would assess that it is in his country's interest to acquire a nuclear capability. Of the three "axis of evil" members, the one which was, by far, the weakest militarily was the one we invaded and shattered. But with the strongest of the three, North Korea, we have proceeded very gingerly, issuing plainly empty threats and bellicose rhetoric but doing little else.

The message we have sent with our foreign policy is clear -- if you are a militarily weak nation, we may invade you or bomb you at will, but if you arm yourselves or, better still, acquire nuclear capability, we will not. That has become the incentive scheme produced by having the world's only superpower announce to the world that it has the right to preemptively invade other countries.
I have been saying that for years. Go read the whole thing... it's only ten paragraphs or so.

North Korea's Nuclear Test

"I love the Financial Times. The financial papers actually tell the truth." That's one of Chomsky's common refrains. It makes sense, since, if you're making decisions that will make or lose money, you need to be dealing with the most faithful representation of reality you can come by.

Here, the Financial Times tells it like it is:
North Korea's probable test of a nuclear weapon on Monday has triggered the second nuclear crisis in 13 years on the Korean peninsula.

In 1993, North Korea announced it would pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, leaving it free to divert nuclear material from its energy reactors to make a nuclear weapon and setting off a round of crisis diplomacy led by the Clinton administration. The result was the so-called agreed framework, which - in return for supplies of fuel oil to North Korea - froze most aspects of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme for the rest of the decade.

The agreed framework was in effect consigned to history when the Bush administration came to power in 2001. The new administration argued that although the road to a plutonium-based nuclear bomb had been frozen, the North Koreans were cheating by attempting to develop a uranium-based bomb that was not explicitly addressed by the agreement.

That five years later, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon will be widely interpreted as a sign of the failure of the tougher approach favoured by the Bush team.

North Korea told the Security Council that it tested a weapon over the weekend. It must have been an underground test, which means every advanced nation on the earth heard the rumble. It's not exactly a claim the North Koreans can fake.


Nice Messaging

I know that Condi's visit to Iraq was supposed to change the storyline on Iraq. You know how the narrative was supposed to go: "The Bush Administration is changing course in Iraq by putting vastly increased pressure on the Iraqi government to make the hard choices." Instead, her plane had to circle for 45 minutes because the airport - the second most secure spot in Baghdad outside the Greenzone - was being shelled. Then she had to talk to President Talibani in the dark because the power went out. This is the same week that 21 G.I.s were killed - a rate as high as we have seen since the invasion.

Then again, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here, the obvious thing I pick out in this picture is her enthusiastic smile, so things must be getting better, right?

Oh yeah, that's a shiny place, alright. It's doing so well that President Purple Tie doesn't even need a flak jacket!

Unitary Executive = Ignore the Congress and the Courts

Libertarian leaning Republicans can't bring themselves to believe what I tell them about the "Unitary Executive" theory of presidential power to which this Administration adheres, but the fact is that this theory informs all of the excesses and arrogation of power that Bush has enacted. If laws get in the way of this theory, they are broken, plain and simple. It reduces our Rule of Law Republic to tatters - not worth the paper on which the hallowed Constitution is written.

The President continues signing laws publicly and with fanfare, and then, in a dark room away from the cameras, he signs his own special version of the law - the only one he'll obey - that doesn't bear any resemblance to will of Congress. Separation of Powers be damned.
President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department’s reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.

But Bush, in a signing statement attached to the agency’s 2007 spending bill, said he will interpret that section “in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch.”
The facets of the American governmental system that the President is questioning through his theory - that the Congress has any right whatsoever to regulate his execution of executive branch powers - have been well decided. The Supreme Court affirmed that Congress does have the power to regulate the discharge of Constitutional duties, even during wartime, back in the 1950's. You'd think the plain language of the Constitution would have been enough:
Article 1, Section 8
The Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

Article 2, Section 1
Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Article 2, Section 3
He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; ... he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed...
Hell, Hamdan v Rumsfeld reaffirmed that the Congress has the power to regulate the Executive just months ago, and yet we still are subjected to this march of Executive Power. It amounts to a violation of Bush's oath, an affront to the Constitution, and an assault on traditions that have made this the Land of the Free.

Ultimately, the 60% of Republicans that still support these programs do so only because we have a Republican President. They "Trust" him. But they, God's Own Party, should know that human nature hasn't changed. From the time of the Bible on, power has corrupted. Our Founding Fathers understood that:
In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.
You just can't beat Jefferson. How can the Republican Party have drifted so far from our core political values? I suspect the answer is that they are terribly afraid, and so can't miss an opportunity to sacrifice liberty for a phantom "security" that will never arrive.

E-mail to a Friend

I was thinking about what you said today as you were heading for the escalators - that the Democrats favor the terrorists over Americans. I've been thinking about that off and on while I research this Data Center project late into the night, and I just get angrier and angrier that people hold that position. I felt 9/11 like the death of 3000 brothers and sisters, and the pain has not diminished in the intervening years. For me, it was and is very real, and changed entirely the way I think. To say that the Democrats are on the side of the terrorists is to start a fight. A literal, nose-bloodying fight, my friend, for you are impugning my love for my fellow American - my brothers and sisters; my fathers and mothers.

So, in the interest of restoring my ability to be civil to you, I'd like the opportunity to try to make you understand my personal commitment to the war on terror, which should, for a smart man like you, serve to convince you that neither I, nor therefore the Democrats are interested in "coddling" or "protecting" the terrorists. I wrote the following last May, in response to exactly the mindset you apparently have. Try to read it with an open mind - it is the best mirror of the contents of my soul that I could manage. I know you will be able to understand.
...What pushed me to think of myself as a Democrat was the way we executed the War on Terror. The unfinished job in Afghanistan hurt me. I felt like I was physically mourning the life we allowed Bin Laden to continue living. I wanted the big gets. I wanted Mullah Omar. I wanted Al-Zawahiri . I wanted them killed, or even better, brought to the dock in American courts, so the world could see the sagacious exercise of Justice. Instead, no such news arrived. Even then, it was clear that we held back for some reason. 15,000 troops in Afghanistan? To capture the most hated villains in American history? Fewer boots on the ground than police in New York City? For the love of god, why would we pursue with such daintiness?

The fog surrounding the answer started clearing soon after the Afghanistan conflict cooled - we needed those troops for Iraq. As we started banging the war drums about Iraq, I read everything I could get my hands on, and unlike Afghanistan, there was some dissent about pursuing "the terrorists" to Iraq. There were no Al Qaeda operating in the Saddam controlled portions of Iraq, I learned. To me, it was automatically apparent that no American would be on the side of Al Qaeda - outside the normal collection of the literally insane. No American could have watched the murder of our brothers and sisters and not felt the same rage and sorrow that I did. So when dissent began, I listened, considered, and came to the conclusion that Iraq was no threat to us and was in no way responsible for 9/11. I didn't conclude that the anti-war types must have been objectively on the side of Al Qaeda. Luckily for me, I opposed the Iraq War from the start. Thank god.

There was a second reason I opposed the Iraq War. I hesitate to even state it, since it is so painfully obvious. If the goal of the War on Terror is to decrease the amount of terrorism directed against Americans, then it's unforgivably immoral and strategically myopic to pursue that goal by bombing the living hell out of people that have nothing to do with terrorism directed against Americans. To paraphrase one of the greats: It's like ordering a pizza and getting a free walrus. Even if the walrus were excellent, I mean truly exemplary, I'm really not in the market for it and it's not why I ordered the pizza. Similarly, no matter what rationale the administration stated or how "fun" and well executed the war would be, ultimately, wars of choice work against the main goal of the war on terror - protecting me and mine. Imagine how you would you react if your father was scattered around the block because of no fault of his own. I know how I would react: exactly the same way I did on the morning of September 11th. I felt Hatred, Rage, and a desire for Revenge so deep it took on a color. And that was for the murder of people I had never even met! Increasing the number of people who feel that way towards America only makes my family less safe.

The response on the Republican side, as I referenced earlier, was to question whether the opponents of the war in Iraq loved the terrorists more than the United States of America. Whether we were labeled Pro-Al-Qaeda, Pro-Saddam, traitors, cowards, or just "on the wrong side," the rhetoric didn't match the reality I was living since we all want to see the terrorists dead. I wondered how the Republicans could possibly believe the things they said about us, and that lead down a road of thinking similar to the one Glenn Greenwald has outlined repeatedly. Combined with their attitudes towards science, it was clear that the modern Republican party wasn't interested in rational thinking, or real debate. It seemed that they had been out of power so long that now that they had their chance, no liberally-biased facts would get in their way of ensuring a successful presidency. To them, that meant brooking no dissent, never wavering in their religious support, and being seen as Commander-in-Chief via the Iraq War. The government that enabled was one of desires fulfilled over empiricism applied. They wanted war, so they got one, and forever alienated me.
At this point, please watch this take on 9/11.

And this take on Bush's recent attacks on Democrats.

So don't say that Democrats favor the side of Terrorists again. Do not pretend that the Republicans, who have INCREASED the terrorist threat to America (according to 16 US intelligence agencies), gotten 2700 U.S. servicemen killed, and incurred 21,000 serious military casualties in the process, are somehow the more "serious" party for defending America. How dare you? We are not the enemy.

The bipartisanship after 9/11 faded and this poison atmosphere began when the President and the Republicans took the votes on the DHS (the Democrat's idea) and the Iraq War and used them to paint Democrats as traitors. What would the nation be like now, if the President had chosen a different course? Chosen to build on that unique unity and accomplish things, rather than using our shared pain as a political sledgehammer against the Democrats, who have always wanted to find and kill the terrorists even when President Bush said he didn't think they were "that important..." The Democrats, who have steadfastly supported the troops through this ineptly executed war even as Condi Rice blamed the Administration's failures on the Military's "thousands of tactical errors in Iraq". If President Bush had taken that different course, how cold would Osama's body be?

To support the desecration of the Constitution, of our cherished laws, is to accomplish what the terrorists have no power to do - destroy the very thing that has made America great. If anyone is unpatriotic, it is the President, and it is you, for lying to the American people about whose side the loyal opposition is on.


P.S. You know why my conversations with Boortz are more civil than those with you? Because Neal will not countenance the view that the Democrats are on the terrorist's side - that they are traitors. He is a civil man, so we can disagree civilly.


Only Anger Left

First it was funny, then not, and now it just makes me shout.

Click the image for the full resolution version, wherein both Denny Hastert and Mark Foley are declared Democrats. Unbelievable.

Fordham Resigns, Shivs Hastert

NRCC Chair Thomas Reynolds has been consistently trying to pin blame for his involvement in Predatorgate on Denny Hastert, and it ratcheted up another notch yesterday. Reynolds' chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, the man who tried to cut a deal with ABC to quash this story before it began, resigned yesterday. The Reynolds camp knew that one lowly chief of staff wouldn't be scapegoat enough to sate this scandal, so Fordham continued the effort to implicate Hastert while he was leaving:
A longtime chief of staff to disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., approached House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office more than three years ago, repeatedly imploring senior Republicans to help stop Foley's advances toward teenage male pages, the staff member said Wednesday.

The account by Kirk Fordham, who resigned Wednesday from his job with another senior lawmaker, pushed back to 2003 or earlier the time when Hastert's staff reportedly became aware of Foley's questionable behavior concerning teenagers who work on Capitol Hill. It raised new questions about Hastert's assertions that senior GOP leaders were aware only of "over-friendly'' e-mails from 2005 that they say did not raise alarm bells when they came to light this year.

"The fact is, even prior to the existence of the Foley e-mail exchanges, I had more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest levels of the House of Representatives, asking them to intervene when I was informed of Mr. Foley's inappropriate behavior,'' said Fordham, who was Foley's chief of staff for 10 years.

Some one should check the bus for damage. It's undercarriage has been taking a beating this week.

Hastert's office shot back:

Hastert's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, said in a statement, "What Kirk Fordham said did not happen.'' The speaker's office also said the entire matter has been referred to the House ethics committee, "and we fully expect that the bipartisan panel will do what it needs to do to investigate this matter and protect the integrity of the House.''

Fordham is the fourth person to indicate that Hastert or his staff was warned about Foley's questionable behavior months or years before the six-term lawmaker resigned Friday...
I would add that Fordham is the fourth Republican person to indicate that Hastert knew about this for at least a year. How can Hastert survive this? It'll be an amazing act of stubbornness if he pulls it out past this Friday. Regardless of whether we take the House, Hastert isn't Speaker next term.


Limbaugh Joins the Democrats?

That title just made me vomit in my mouth, but it sure appears accurate. Rush is advocating redeployment, which, I believe, has been a mainstay of the Democratic position on Iraq for over a year. I believe it's been characterized as "cutting and running," but I'm fairly sure that given Rush's corporeal corpulence, he isn't capable of running, so he's immune to that criticism.

…We're trying to build a democracy; these people are going to have to learn to defend it; they can only do that by failing and dusting themselves off. The irony here that Lowry points out is that that is what the Democrats are saying, "Get out of there and let the Iraqis have this," yet they hate him. Their hate is irrational. It's not based on substance and strategy. Looking at the Woodward book, I have a strategery, folks. I think there's two things we can do in Iraq. Let me run them by you and see what you think. The first thing is that we pull back out of Baghdad, and we position along the Syrian, Jordan and Iranian borders, and we say to the Iraqis:

"We're going to stop anybody coming across these borders. No more help from Iran. No more from Syria. No more from Jordan. Nobody's getting into this country. If we have to, we'll go 20 miles inland in each of these countries to make sure nobody gets through, but this is on you. We will make sure nobody else gets in. Now, you go in there (the Iraqis) and you clear out Baghdad. You do it once and for all, and then we're out." The second strategy is, "You don't want to go for that?" We say to the Iraqis, "All right, here's what we're going to do. We're going to take everybody we got and we're going to bring 'em into Baghdad and we're going to do search-and-destroy and we're going to take out anything that looks like an insurgent and we're going to take out anything that looks like a sympathizer, a terrorist or whatever, we're going to clean this place out — and then it's up to you."

Those are two things that are… Well, they're think pieces. I'm just thinking about this. But they both center on the fact that the Iraqis are going to have to at some point take care of all this. We'll either take care of it in Baghdad for them and we'll clear the place out and leave it up to them, or we'll go back to the borders and we'll make sure nobody is getting in there, and: "You clear out who's there. We'll go to Turkey, wherever we have to go to keep people from getting in, but it's up to you guys to wipe them out." Give them those two options. In either example, it is Shock and Awe of one form or another.
There you have it. Redeploy our troops out of the danger zones, onto the desolate borders of Iraq where they wont have a huge target painted on their back. I think it's a pretty good idea, actually. But then again, I thought it was a good idea when the Democrats proposed it over a year ago.

I welcomed Powell into the Party's big tent, but Rush Limbaugh either has to stand outside in the rain, or endure some hazing before being allowed entry. It might still be worth it, though, Rush. I promise the hazing wont be worse than average fraternity pranks.

(via the estimable Crooks and Liars)

Powell Joins the Democrats Again!

Once again, Colin Powell is advocating the Democratic position on a matter of national security. This time, Powell is bashing the "stay the course" position in Iraq:

“Only the Iraqi people can resolve this,” Powell said.

U.S. troops have to stay in Iraq for “some time,” he said. “But there is a limit to the patience of the American people.”

…In Iraq, “staying the course isn’t good enough because a course has to have an end,” Powell said.

I welcome Secretary Powell into the Democratic Party. Come home, Colin. You can be damned sure the Democrats will have more respsect for the lives and prestige of the military than these Republicans have had the last 6 years.

Not Funny Anymore

Early in the morning this stuff is funny. By mid afternoon, it's starting to feel like a concerted effort. If anyone ever asserts Fox News' "fairness," just point to these.

Start the Day with a Laugh!

This had me roaring with laughter about a minute ago:

I mean, sure, it's a clear danger to the core metaphysical value of a shared reality, but isn't is just precious all the same? And I thought the made-up Fox News story in 2004 about Kerry getting the manicure was blatant. This is even funnier.


Boehner the Gymnast

No, I'm not implying that I want to see Boehner do a pommel horse routine in a leotard. What can I say? It just comes with the heterosexuality. Instead, the title refers to Boehner's unmatched flipping ability.

Republican Majority Leader Boehner has had what we call an "evolving position" on whether or not he told Hastert of the problem with Foley. First, he said:
House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of some "contact" between Foley and a 16-year-old page. Boehner said he told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and that Hastert assured him "we're taking care of it."
Then it became:
Boehner later contacted The Post and said he could not remember whether he talked to Hastert.
Then there was the categorical denial:
Boehner strongly denied media reports late Friday night that he had informed Hastert of the allegations, saying "That is not true."
And now, via TPMMuckraker, Boehner has come full circle:
Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) this morning switched his position on the leader's culpability, telling a radio interviewer, "I believe I talked to the Speaker and he told me it had been taken care of."


Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), head of the House GOP's political arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, has also implicated Hastert. "I did what most people would do in a workplace," Reynolds said at a press conference last night, “I heard something, I took it to my supervisor.”
And Hastert's sphere continues to slide. I don't see how this get's Boehner off the hook, though.