Tear Down That Wall!

January 24, 2008 at 10:16 am | Posted in America, Israel | Leave a comment


(courtesy of Newsweek and Abid Katib / Getty Images)

I don’t think that Israel and America realize how badly they are losing the PR battle against the Palestinians and their allies. The more they squeeze Gaza, the more Israel and America lose. It’s a real damn shame, isn’t it?

Why America Tortures Its Detainees

December 16, 2007 at 4:29 pm | Posted in America, Torture | 1 Comment

As the evidence continues to come out in dribs and drabs, we learn more and more that indeed the Bush administration ordered the torture of detainees by the CIA.

So now the process can be fully diagrammed, and the cast of characters is stunning. The torture system involves the operations division of the CIA on the implementation side. They rely heavily on contractors, it seems, in torturing people. And a special role is apparently played by a couple of psychologists. (Time used to be that healthcare professionals had an oath. It started “first, do no harm.” But, just like the Bible and the Constitution, that’s so pre-9/11. And with the American Psychological Association providing full cover, what’s the worry.)

We know that the Justice Department is right in the thick of it. Who precisely? The answer is most likely the Office of Legal Counsel—which has now emerged as what George Orwell called the “Ministry of Love” (remember: in Nineteen Eighty-Four that’s the ministry that picked and approved torture practices). But it doesn’t end with the opinion lawyers. The National Security Division is also in the thick of things, apparently. Alberto Gonzales, before he became attorney general, played station master for the initial series of torture memos. Once he landed at Justice, he kept a close watch on all torture issues and lied to Congress about it. With the attorney general’s office staking out a close interest in torture, it’s unlikely that others in the Department would have substituted their judgment for his. Thus the ball would seem to be squarely in Michael Mukasey’s court.

And finally the White House. David Addington, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley—these are all name we can now link directly to the torture system. Not just as a matter of theory. As a matter of practical application. They decided who would be tortured and how. And John B. Bellinger III, the man who keeps making a laughing-stock of himself with speeches on international law (as, for instance, when he tells us he can’t raise a legal objection to the idea of the Iranians waterboarding some captured American airman), who was legal counsel at NSC and continues now to hold that role with Condi Rice at State. He constantly issued assurances “off the record” to human rights groups and bar groups that we certainly don’t torture. And now it’s reasonably clear that he was right in the thick of the torture approval process all along.

This resurrects the process of official cruelty under the Stuart monarchs in seventeenth century England. Persons accused of state crimes very frequently were interrogated with the use of specific techniques, including the rack, the thumbscrew, and waterboarding. King James I personally described the process in The Kings Booke (1606). He would, on the advice of his officers, “approve no new torture,” but he would certainly avail himself of the existing practices. In ascending order of severity they were: thumbscrews, the rack and waterboarding. That’s right. Waterboarding was considered the most severe of the official forms of torture. Worse than the rack and thumbscrews.

So what’s the rationale? What makes war supporters and torture supporters sleep at night? What justification do they use to rest their hearts? Kevin Drum shares a letter from a reader on the reason why, the rationale behind accepting torture:

I want our side to win. Or maybe more accurately, I don’t want our side to lose….As with any other form of violence, motivation is everything. A cop shooting a murderer is not the same as a murderer shooting an innocent victim, although both use guns, and at the end, someone is bleeding and dying.

You’d be amazed at how many people find these things nearly equivalent. A leftist I know sees no difference between a Palestinian child dying from a stray Israeli bullet during a firefight, and an Israeli child dying when a Palestinian terrorist puts the barrel of a gun to the kid’s forehead and blows his brains across the back wall of the child’s bedroom. In his two-dimensional perception, the only important factor is that both resulted in a dead child. Avoiding true moral analysis and motivations allows him to skirt the concept of “evil,” a term which makes many liberals intensely uncomfortable.

John Kiriakou said that waterboarding a terrorist stopped dozens of attacks. Dozens. Not attacks on military targets, but attacks on innocent non-combatants.

That was the motivation.

The terrorists who torture and kill our prisoners (never something as benign as waterboarding) don’t do it because they need information to save innocent people. They do it because they like it, because they want to hurt or kill someone.

At some point you have to decide if a known terrorist having a very bad day (after which he goes back to a hot meal and a cot) is more of a moral problem than allowing a terrorist to blow up a building full of people.

Yes, it’s good if we do it, when it’s for the right reasons. So far, it’s been for the right reasons. And no, it isn’t good when it’s done to us, for the reasons it has been done to us. Get back to me when some enemy tortures one of our soldiers in order to save innocent lives.

Got it?

But as some commentators said:

Behind the argument for torture is pretty straight up utilitarianism.
If somehow magically, you could know for ABSOLUTELY certain that torture of one person would save millions of lives, then you would do it. I know I would do it. I assume anyone that doesn’t follow an infantile version of Kant would do it.
The problem is that we will never know for certain that torture saves lives, and we can never trust the information we get from torture, and torture has so many morally corrupting side effects that go along with it, that in the end, the utilitarian calculus for routinized torture just isn’t worth it.

And:

I understand his argument, and it scares me. Simply: we are good, therefore we can kill and torture. They are evil, therefore their torturing and killing are evil. Two problems: 1)”they” make exactly the same argument. 2) If we kill and torture, are we not therefore evil?

We are good because we DON’T torture. If we begin torturing our detainees, we lose the status of being GOOD. We turn EVIL, and become the enemy of the GOOD.

Various Items

December 15, 2007 at 6:52 am | Posted in America, American politics, Barry Bonds, baseball, Bush Administration, CIA, Civil War, Congress, conservatives, corruption, Democrats, Ethiopia, Foreign Policy, George W Bush, Iran, Iraq, Israel, King George, Middle East, mukasey, Musharraf, Pakistan, Peace, Republicans, secret combinations, Somalia, Terrorism, Thoughts, War, World Events | Leave a comment

There are a few items in the news today that I feel are important.

Justice Department Seeks Delay in CIA Tapes

Surprise, surprise. The Bush Administration Justice Department does not wish for Congress to really know what was going on at the CIA when they destroyed evidence. What do you think, Mr. Chuck Shumer? Ms. Diane Feinstein? Was Mukasey worth this? Did you really think he would allow you into the deepest darkest corners of the Bush administration? Serious, high crimes have been committed by the Bush administration, ordered from Bush himself. Do you really think he would let you in?

Do Congressional Democrats realize just how frustrating they have been at allowing the Bush administration and the minority Republicans to thrash them so many times? Do Congressional Democrats realize just how frustrating it is for citizens to see them capitulate at the mere THREAT of filibuster. LET THEM FILIBUSTER ALREADY! Let them do it guys! Let’s see Republicans talk themselves to death! Let them truly be obstructionist. Why do you give them such political victories, by both giving in to their demands without making them sweat for it, and letting them take the public relations coup?

I think we need new Democratic leadership. Y’all are cowards. Yes, you Mr. Harry Reid. Yes you, Ms. Nancy Pelosi. What do Bush and the Republicans have on you? Why do you bend over for them? STOP IT!

Musharraf Lifts Pakistan’s State of Emergency.

Heh, one wonders why. Let’s see, the reason given for the state of emergency two months ago was a threat to the state of Pakistan by Al-Qaeda. Now that the state of emergency was removed, can anyone point to any reduced threat from Al-Qaeda? Any evidence? Are they still a threat to Pakistan? Hmmm.

Maybe the real reason had to do with Pakistan’s Supreme Court, which was about to rule against Musharraf. Let’s see. Musharraf declares emergency, martial law, basically. He removes justices from the Supreme Court he didn’t like, and places ones on there that would rule in his favor. He arrests some thousands of lawyers—a true threat to the viability of the state, no doubt—-but, well…nothing really drastic done against the stated threat, Al-Qaeda. Huh.

So, who, besides Musharraf, can even consider the upcoming elections as anything but fair?

Ethiopians said to push civilians into rebel war.

This piece of news is important because Ethiopia entered into Somalia at our request. We again farmed out what we should have done to someone else. Now that someone else, in this case, Ethiopia, is stretched too thin. Because many of its troops are in Somalia, Ethiopia does not have enough to deal with the rebels in a really dry region between Somalia and Eritrea. This is bad because it is undermining the strength of a fairly stable country on Africa’s horn. Meanwhile, over in Somalia, the Islamic militants increase their power.

Huh, I wonder if Bush will pull a Bush senior move and send soldiers into Somalia just before he gets out of office forcing his Democratic successor to handle his mess.

Sealed off by Israel, Gaza a beggar state

I don’t get Israel. I don’t think they realize the enormity of the problem in Gaza, and that by continuing to starve them out, it will only be worse for them. 1.5 million people is a hell of a lot of people. I’m sure Israel would love it for them not to be there anymore, but there is no way for that to happen.

It is really sad. A peace conference photo-op was done at Annapolis just a few weeks ago, but notably absent are the conflicting parties. Where was Hamas? Where was Hesbollah? Where was Iran? Interestingly, where was Iraq? How can you make peace with your enemy if you do not invite them to a peace conference?

Voters offer mixed responses on Clemens’ HOF chances

On baseball here. The Mitchell Report has certainly increased baseball talk, here in mid-winter. I’ll be fascinated to see what happens in the Spring. But I wanted to quote from Ray Ratto, who is quoted in this piece. I think he makes some very interesting points in regards to baseball, the Hall of Fame, numbers, and more importantly, the business itself.

“I would vote for Bonds on the first ballot, as I would vote for Clemens, because the Hall of Fame isn’t church,” Ratto said. “It’s the history of baseball, and this is part of the history of baseball. I can assure you that Bud Selig will be voted into the Hall of Fame, and he is the commissioner whose name will be linked with the steroid era by first ignoring it, then profiting from it, and finally blaming others for it.

“I know that Cap Anson is in the Hall of Fame, and he was instrumental in the creation of the color line, which is way worse than PEDs. So this discussion ends up being an excuse for people with no institutional memory or understanding to claim a moral superiority they’re not really equipped to display.”

I always liked Ray Ratto. I grew up in the Bay Area and read his opinions frequently. I think he says it best here. Firstly that the Hall of Fame already includes cheaters, as well as racists and womanizers. It isn’t church. We don’t need to deify these players.

More important is his point about how the business of baseball profited from these past 12 years of steroid and human growth hormone abuse. I remember seeing a comment from a reader on CNN.com who said that Barry Bonds was being used. This commentator wrote when Barry was indicted by the grand jury on perjury. Barry Bonds may be done playing baseball for good. But that is a point rarely made.

Barry Bonds was indeed used. Bud Selig was silent because Barry Bonds brought in money. Look at just this last year’s revenue, over $6 billion dollars, according to sources. $6 billion dollars. That’s almost as good as America’s most popular sport—where enhancement drugs are also abused—football. On what did those baseball owners profit? On juiced up players of course. How much revenue did the San Francisco Giants get from the year 2000-2007? Shall we look at what profit Peter Magowan made during that time? How about Steinbrenner and the Yankees?

Baseball millionaire owners profited from their players getting juiced. And who gets blamed now? The players of course. Rape them for all they’ve got and then throw them to the trash compactor when you’re through with them. Who is the public face of the San Francisco Giants? Barry Bonds of course. Who is the money behind the San Francisco Giants? Peter Magowan. Who will pay for the juiced player? Barry Bonds of course. Who will profit from the juiced player? Peter Magowan.

Remember that.

Mitchell Report can’t be good for baseball’s short term business

Read for yourself:

George Mitchell’s steroids report hasn’t just rocked the game of baseball. It figures to shake the business of baseball, too.

As an industry, MLB has been even hotter than Josh Beckett in October. It posted record revenues of $6 billion this year. Baseball has more than doubled its take of a decade ago and is closing fast on the NFL as the top-grossing league in sports.

The Mitchell Report, though, could jeopardize that run. Maybe Commissioner Bud Selig just couldn’t stand too much prosperity. He ordered up the Mitchell Report and re-focused attention on a problem that, in many fans’ eyes, had faded as a concern.

Just remember who profited on baseball’s steroids. Not the players who get the fans’ wrath. Oh no. People like Bud Selig. I wish we had our priorities straight, here in America.

We Fear The World Around Us

December 14, 2007 at 9:18 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Torture | Leave a comment

It is so nice to see someone else say this.

Ever since the attacks, the United States has felt threatened and under siege and determined to carve out maximum room to maneuver. But where Americans have seen defensive behavior, the rest of the world has looked on and seen the most powerful nation in human history acting like a caged animal, lashing out at any and every constraint on its actions.

At the heart of this behavior is fear. Americans have become scared of the new world that is emerging around them. As long as this atmosphere of fear envelops U.S. politics, it will surely produce very similar results abroad.

When we are fearful, that’s when we turn to immoral acts, such as torture, for example. We feel so threatened by the world around us that we justify breaking our OWN laws just so we can feel more secure. Unfortunately, this all-encompassing search for security will be our greatest downfall.

American War Hawks, Wrong on Iraq, Wrong on Iran

December 11, 2007 at 9:01 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, corruption, Iran, Iraq, War | 12 Comments

They were wrong about Iraq. So they shifted their target to Iran. Now that the NIE has proven them wrong, I wonder who the next target will be. Will they turn on Saudi Arabia, where most of our “real” enemies come from? Will they pick lowly Yemen? We’ve got (or had) a bunch of Yemenis in Guantanamo Bay prison. Maybe Algeria if Islamic insurgents overthrow the military government. We know they won’t shift away from the Middle East. They’re too addicted to the oil. In any case, TalkingPointsMemo created a nice little tribute to America’s warmongers.

The Face of an American Torturer

December 10, 2007 at 9:56 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Torture | Leave a comment

Take a good look America.

This is an American torturer. This is a war criminal. He admitted it on tape. He tortured a man, and he knew it was torture, and he knew it was wrong. But he did it anyway, because, as he says, he could not forgive himself if another attack were to have occurred and he could have stopped it, the old ticking-time-bomb justification. It is what he uses so he can sleep at night. The trouble for this torturer is that he tortured an insane man. Kevin Drum quotes from Ron Suskin’s book:

The guy is insane, certifiable, split personality,” [Dan] Coleman told a top official at FBI after a few days reviewing the Zubaydah haul….There was almost nothing “operational” in his portfolio. That was handled by the management team. He wasn’t one of them….”He was like a travel agent, the guy who booked your flights….He was expendable, you know, the greeter….Joe Louis in the lobby of Caesar’s Palace, shaking hands.”

….According to CIA sources, he was water-boarded….He was beaten….He was repeatedly threatened….His medication was withheld. He was bombarded with deafening, continuous noise and harsh lights.

….Under this duress, Zubaydah told them that shopping malls were targeted by al Qaeda….Zubaydah said banks — yes, banks — were a priority….And also supermarkets — al Qaeda was planning to blow up crowded supermarkets, several at one time. People would stop shopping. The nation’s economy would be crippled. And the water system — a target, too. Nuclear plants, naturally. And apartment buildings.

Thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each flavor of target. Of course, if you multiplied by ten, there still wouldn’t be enough public servants in America to surround and secure the supermarkets. Or the banks. But they tried.

Kevin Drum then adds:

Sometime later, Zubaydah finally provided some actionable intelligence: the name of Jose Padilla and the news that “Mukhtar,” a code name that had popped up multiple times on NSA sigint, was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But that information didn’t come because Zubaydah had been tortured. It came only after a CIA interrogator slipped under Zubaydah’s skin by convincing him, with the help of some ideas from the Koran, that Zubaydah was predestined to cooperate with them

Imagine that. Being nice to them works. Huh…

The Bumbling Condoleezza Rice in Non-Action

November 25, 2007 at 9:29 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, condoleezza rice, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Peace, War | 2 Comments

Elizabeth Bumiller is writing a biography about Condoleezza Rice and released an excerpt to the New York Times highlighting an aspect of Ms. Rice’s…well, non-action over the last seven years on peace between Israel and Palestinians. Ms. Bumiller perfectly highlights that Ms. Rice was at the forefront of all the bad decisions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also points out that Ms. Rice pushed Israel to not be so harsh on the Palestinians just before the war in Iraq. After all, we can’t have our coalition be severely hampered by a sideshow.

Then we get to the best part. This is where Ms. Rice shows how inept, how ignorant, and how much of a bumbling fool she really is in regards to the Middle East.

When Ms. Rice became secretary of state in the second term, she told Mr. Bush in a long conversation at Camp David the weekend after the 2004 election that her priority would have to be progress in the Middle East. It was a turning point in more ways than one; Mr. Arafat died a few days later. Although Ms. Rice said in an interview that she had set no conditions when she took the job, her aides said that she had known that her relationship with the president would give her far greater influence to push an agenda, including peacemaking in the Middle East, than Mr. Powell’s.

You’d think that would be enough, but, well…

Accordingly, Ms. Rice spent much of 2005 working on the Gaza withdrawal that she thought would contribute to stability. Instead, it was seen as so emboldening the radicals that in early 2006 Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian elections over Mr. Abbas and his governing party, Fatah.

If one paid close attention to what was happening in Israel/Palestine from 2001-2006, one would have surmised that Israel was purposefully pushing Palestinians toward radicalism. For instance, a suicide bomber would blow himself and ten people up in Haifa. Hamas or Islamic Jihad would claim responsibility. What was Israel’s reaction? Why, they would bomb a Fatah police station! What? Huh? Now, why the hell would they do that, when Fatah was trying to rein in groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Why would Israel purposefully undermine the very organization that could lead Palestinians toward moderation and possibly peace? See, bombing a Fatah police station sends a particular message to Palestinians. The message is: Israelis don’t really want peace. Stick with the extremists. They are your only hope of survival against the Israelis.

Enter the bumbling Ms. Rice. She continued this foolish stupid policy, completely ignored Arafat and Fatah, and tried to get Abbas elected and in power. But then when Abbas did win, she offered him nothing. This sent another message to Palestinians. The same one: Israel and the West don’t want peace. Stick with the extremists. They are your only hope of survival against the Israelis and the West. See, by raising up Abbas, and then short-shrifting him, Ms. Rice set up the following event:

Ms. Rice, who had heralded the election as a symbol of the new stirrings of democracy in the Middle East, was so blindsided by the victory that she was startled when she saw a crawl of words on her television screen while exercising on her elliptical trainer the morning after the election: “In wake of Hamas victory, Palestinian cabinet resigns.”

“I thought, ‘Well, that’s not right,’” Ms. Rice recalled. When the crawl continued, she got off the elliptical trainer and called the State Department.

“I said, ‘What happened in the Palestinian elections?’” Ms. Rice recalled. “And they said, ‘Oh, Hamas won.’ And I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, Hamas won?’

She and the Israelis under Sharon set the stage for Hamas to win and then she is surprised that they won. Either she is acting or she is a complete bumbling ignorant fool. I’m going with the latter.

It then gets even worse. Hezbollah, in Lebanon, in a brazen attack, kills several Israeli soldiers and captures two. This set off a wild summer in 2006. What did Ms. Rice do that summer?

Ms. Rice’s credibility was further damaged when she delayed calling for a cease-fire as Israel plunged into a two-front war in Lebanon and Gaza that summer. By the end of 2006, with the peace efforts in shambles and the administration’s time running out, Ms. Rice began to pick up the pieces.

Ms. Bumiller, as a biographer, is being kind to Ms. Rice. She does not mention Ms. Rice’s most unfortunate words:

But I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante. I think it would be a mistake.

What we’re seeing here, in a sense, is the growing — the birth pangs of a new Middle East.

RICE: And whatever we do, we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one.

The birth pangs of a new Middle East?

This is how ignorant and lame Ms. Rice is on the Middle East. Not only was she wrong about Hamas, not only was she wrong about Hezbollah, but both have increased their positions of strength and influence since she got “involved.” Israel lost its aura of invincibility by “losing” to a ragtag group of terrorists. Oh and Israel still has yet to get back its two soldiers.

Just keep all this in mind when Ms. Rice attempts any future “talks on peace” in the Middle East. She is more worried right now about her “legacy” than actually about making peace in the Middle East.

If she truly would want to make peace in the Middle East, her first visit as of right now, should be to Tehran.

Ms. Rice Makes It Too Easy

October 13, 2007 at 6:23 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, condoleezza rice, Congress, corruption, Russia | Leave a comment

she says, about Russia:

“In any country, if you don’t have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development,” Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

“I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin White House. I have told the Russians Americans that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma Congress,” said Rice, referring to the Russian American parliament.

Who disagrees?

General Petraeus Failed to Convince Americans

September 18, 2007 at 12:31 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, corruption, Iraq, Military, secret combinations, violence, War, War on Terror | 2 Comments

A new poll is out and it shows an INCREASE of Americans wanting out of Iraq. This poll comes AFTER General Petraeus’ testimony last week to Congress. It seems the good general failed to convince Americans that indeed things are improving in Iraq.

A word of advice, General. If you are going to try to convince someone, it is best to stick to the truth, and not obfuscate. It is also wise, if you offer statistics, to reveal just how you got to those statistics. Let the truth be your master, and follow it to whatever end, not to the end you desire. It will never go there.

In any case, unfortunately nothing has changed. We’re on to the next Friedman Unit, and the next real conversation will be six months from now. At that time, we will hear from many quarters that we need to continue for another six months, because those next six months will be ‘crucial’ to the war effort. After that, a year from now, we will meet again, and discuss again the need to continue for at least six more months, because those next six months will be ‘crucial’ to the war effort. After that, a year and a half from now, we will meet again, and discuss again the need to continue for at least six more months, because those next six months will be ‘crucial’ to the war effort. After that, two years from now, we will meet again, and discuss again the need to continue for at least six more months, because those next six months will be ‘crucial’ to the war effort. After that, two and a half years from now, we will meet again, and discuss again the need to continue for at least six more months, because those next six months will be ‘crucial’ to the war effort.

And so it goes.

You get the picture yet, America?

You Will Be Bamboozled This Week, America

September 9, 2007 at 3:04 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, corruption, Iraq, Military, Republicans, Revising History, secret combinations, United Nations, violence, War, War on Terror, World Events | 14 Comments

Let’s just be clear about all the obfuscation you will be hearing, all the muddying of the waters that you will hear this week from General Petraeus and Ambassador Corker. They are Bush loyalists, and will not tell you the truth.

First off is this little nugget in one report out today:

For two hours, President Bush listened to contrasting visions of the U.S. future in Iraq. Gen. David H. Petraeus dominated the conversation by video link from Baghdad, making the case to keep as many troops as long as possible to cement any security progress. Adm. William J. Fallon, his superior, argued instead for accepting more risks in Iraq, officials said, in order to have enough forces available to confront other potential threats in the region.

The polite discussion in the White House Situation Room a week ago masked a sharper clash over the U.S. venture in Iraq, one that has been building since Fallon, chief of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations, sent a rear admiral to Baghdad this summer to gather information. Soon afterward, officials said, Fallon began developing plans to redefine the U.S. mission and radically draw down troops.

One of those plans, according to a Centcom officer, involved slashing U.S. combat forces in Iraq by three-quarters by 2010.

They’re not planning at all to withdraw, or even reduce the size of our forces in Iraq before 2010. They’re in this for the long haul, whether you like it or not, America. Will you stand for this? They won’t care if a Democrat is in power in 2009. They’ll press on the lie to ensure more Americans are over in Iraq to die for…well, we’re not quite sure what. Some “victory” whatever the hell that means.

The second comes from this fascinating report about a UN report supposed to come out now. But notice what is going on:

The United Nations has delayed the release of a quarterly report on human rights in Iraq to avoid criticizing Washington and Baghdad while they are seeking to rally congressional and international support for the war effort, according to U.N. officials.

The move follows a request by Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, to Ashraf Qazi, the United Nations’ top envoy in Baghdad, saying Iraq needs “several weeks” to study the report, according to an account by a senior U.N. official. The delay will effectively postpone debate over the United Nations’ view of Iraq’s sectarian violence — and U.S. and Iraqi efforts to combat it — until after Crocker and Gen. David H. Petraeus deliver a crucial assessment of conditions in Iraq to Congress this week.

A draft of the U.N. report, which was completed last month, focuses primarily on violence committed by Iraqi militias and insurgents, according to U.N. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. But it also documents abuses by U.S. and Iraqi forces during more than four months of the U.S.-backed military buildup in Baghdad. It faults Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, saying it lacks commitment to improving its rights record.

Gee, why would we want to avoid criticizing Washington and Baghdad while they’re trying to build support? Shouldn’t we know the full picture as they are trying to build support? Why hide? Doesn’t the truth set you free?

So just know America. You will be bamboozled.

Oh, and the political positioning by Republicans now is all about 2012. They’re pretty certain to lose 2008 to the Democrats and are trying to position the war so whatever Democratic leader starts in 2009 has a losing war to end, thereby creating the perfect opportunity for Republicans to come back in 2012 as the “saviors” of America from those dastardly liberals.

On Iraq, Scrap It and Let’s Start Over

August 31, 2007 at 5:35 am | Posted in America, American politics, conservatives, Iraq, Military, Republicans, secret combinations | Leave a comment

That’s what one panel says we should do about Iraq and the police.

The commission, headed by Gen. James L. Jones, the former top United States commander in Europe, concludes that the rampant sectarianism that has existed since the formation of the police force requires that its current units “be scrapped” and reshaped into a smaller, more elite organization, according to one senior official familiar with the findings. The recommendation is that “we should start over,” the official said.

….However, a new attempt to disband an Iraqi force would also be risky, given the armed backlash that followed the American decision to dissolve the Iraqi Army soon after the invasion of 2003.

As Kevin Drum notes:

This is becoming a comedy of the absurd. Scrap the Iraqi police force? Start over from scratch? Is this a joke? Even if we could do it, it means (a) putting 26,000 armed and pissed off Iraqis back on the street, (b) running the country without a police force until a new one is recruited and trained, and (c) spending two or three years building a replacement. And that’s the good news. The bad news is that there’s no reason to think the shiny new police force would be any better than the old one. It didn’t improve after all our efforts in 2006, after all. The unpleasant truth is that there’s a reason the police force acts essentially as an extension of the Shiite militias — namely that that’s exactly how the Shiite government wants it — and no reason to think that’s going to change anytime in the near future.

So let’s take stock. Pretty much everyone has lost confidence in Nouri al-Maliki, though there’s no replacement in sight who seems like a better bet. The police force is so corrupt that the best advice the Jones commission can offer is to disband it completely and start over from scratch. And the Iraqi army, after three years of intensive training designed by one Gen. David Petraeus, has a grand total of six battalions capable of operating on their own.

In other words, except for the fact that Iraq has a disfunctional government, a disfunctional police force, and a barely functional army, things are going great. I can’t wait to see how Crocker and Petraeus spin this into an argument for staying another four years.

So Let’s Talk About Vietnam in the Context of Iraq

August 24, 2007 at 6:12 am | Posted in America, American politics, Iraq, Vietnam | Leave a comment

Watch this video

Okay, President Bush. You opened the floodgates. You want to talk about Vietnam, let’s do it.

Bill Sali Is Against the Constitution of the United States of America

August 16, 2007 at 1:20 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Christianity, Congress, conservatives, corruption, Evangelicals, Mormon, Religion, Republicans, secret combinations | 1 Comment

Here is Article VI of the United States Constitution:

All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

And here is Congressman Representative Bill Sali:

“I think that Keith deserves a call from me — not necessarily because of what’s in my heart or in my mind, but because of how it’s been portrayed,” Sali said.

But Sali said he does think the country’s Founding Fathers created a government based on Christian principles and that the best course into the future is to follow those ideas.

The country’s creators fought for the “principles found in Scripture,” he said. “The dangerous part is straying from these principles.

“The idea that somehow we can move to multiculturalism and still remain the same — I think that’s a little dangerous, too,” he said. “From my standpoint, I believe the Founding Fathers were overwhelmingly Christian, and the God they were talking about is the God of the Bible.”

That is an explanation over these earlier comments:

We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes — and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

Clearly Mr. Sali is delusional and ignorant. I’m curious what conservative Mormons in Idaho who he represents think about him…

For example, here is a Founding Father who differed with Mr. Sali, some guy named Thomas Jefferson, who said:

The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.” The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

I’m gonna side with Thomas Jefferson on this one, personally.

Karl Rove Resigns

August 13, 2007 at 12:14 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, corruption, George W Bush, karl rove, King George, Republicans, secret combinations | Leave a comment

So Karl Rove will leave the White House at the end of August. Many are wondering why, what’s with the quick departure. Me, well, I believe that he is leaving in order to shield the White House from some very strong storms about to come from the numerous investigations into law-breaking that came out of Rove’s strategies, from politicizing US attorneys, to the Abramoff scandal, to the Hatch Act violations.

These of course, are still minor things. They are not the meat of the violations that the Bush administration has committed under the direction of Karl Rove. Let us not ever forget that the war in Iraq, while architected and dreamed up by Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, was used by Karl Rove as a political lever. He told Republicans in January of 2002 to use the impending war against Democrats. The 2004 election, strategized by Karl Rove, was all about the war. The May Mission Accomplished landing on the aircraft carrier in 2003 was all about the 2004 election. Starting the war in March of 2003 (and not waiting around until the summer, or late fall) was all about the 2004 election. The war in Iraq was all about getting Bush reelected and about creating a permanent Republican majority, Karl Rove’s wettest dream. Building on the false perception that Democrats were militarily weak, Rove and the Republicans pressed for the worst things of the war, just for political points. This is the legacy of Karl Rove. This is the legacy of George W. Bush. This is the legacy of these Republicans today.

The unfortunate part is that our media today is most complicit in this bamboozle. So Americans won’t get a clear picture of what is really going on. You have to look at sources outside of America to see things clearly. It is very unfortunate that it really has come to this, but this is the consequence of divisive politics.

F.U.B.A.R. in Iraq

August 8, 2007 at 10:26 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, corruption, Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, King George, Military, Republicans, secret combinations, War | 1 Comment

Michael Gordon writes another propaganda piece in the New York Times, unquestioningly passing along Bush’s false assertion about Iran being our greatest enemy, blah blah blah. Interestingly in his piece, while uncritically writing what the military wants us to hear—accusations that Iran is supplying the worst EFPs— Mr. Gordon probably unknowingly reveals a bit of a truth. See, Mr. Gordon and the Bush administration want us to believe that our greatest enemy in Iraq is Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. But Mr. Gordon writes:

Such bombs, which fire a semi-molten copper slug that can penetrate the armor on a Humvee and are among the deadliest weapons used against American forces, are used almost exclusively by Shiite militants.

and

While the group [al Qaeda] is seen by the American military as the most serious near-term threat, there are other signs that Shiite militias remain active. According to General Odierno, the day-to-day commander of American troops in Iraq, Shiite militants carried out 73 percent of the attacks that killed or wounded American troops in Baghdad in July.

Even though Shi’ite militias are attacking us at a greater rate, he can’t help himself and state what a threat Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is. Note that he states that Al-Qaeda is “seen by the American military as the most serious near-term threat,” even though “Shi’ite militants carried out 73 percent of the attacks” in July, which would seem quite “near term” frankly.

Worse, of course, is that Mr. Gordon does not even care to show what evidence the military has that proves that Iran is behind the EFPs, even though a previous raid in southern Iraq found a bomb-making factory that made those very EFPs that are killing Americans. In Iraq. Not Iran. Hmmmm…..

“Iraqi army soldiers swept into the city of Diwaniya early this morning to disrupt militia activity and return security and stability of the volatile city back to the government of Iraq,” the U.S. military said in a statement.

Bleichwehl said troops, facing scattered resistance, discovered a factory that produced “explosively formed penetrators” (EFPs), a particularly deadly type of explosive that can destroy a main battle tank and several weapons caches.

That was in April of this year. But that doesn’t matter to Mr. Gordon and the Bush administration. They would rather have Americans believe that Iranians are the Great Satan, the dark that the light of America must consume, the evil that must be vanquished. Forget that over half the foreign fighters in Iraq come from our bestest of friends, the Saudis. Forget that Shi’ites in Iraq themselves are actually creating these EFPs.

Worse yet, we’re now funding Sunni insurgents we used to be fighting. And to top it off, 30% of our weapons that we gave to Iraqis have gone missing. Is there a more appropriate time to use the old FUBAR phrase than now to describe our mission in Iraq?

As Anonymous Liberal writes:

The administration would have us believe, particularly of late, that our primary enemy in Iraq is al Qaeda of Mesopotamia. But if 73% of attacks in Baghdad in July were carried out by Shiite militants, who are certainly not al Qaeda fighters, then that’s a major story, one that underscores just how unmanageable the situation in Iraq is.

We are simultaneously under attack by Sunni and Shiite militants, who, when not attacking us, are attacking each other. Both Sunni and Shiite militant groups are (apparently) being supplied, whether with official blessing or not, by sympathetic parties in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Some have suggested that we are in a proxy war with Iran. I think it’s far more accurate to say that we are stuck in the middle of a proxy war between Iran and its Sunni rivals.

Meanwhile, in order to root out al Qaeda, we’ve started arming the very Sunni militants we were previously fighting. And we continue to support a Shiite-led central government that is openly allied with Shiite militias who, when not ethnically cleansing Sunnis in the Baghdad area, are apparently blowing up our troops with Iranian-made bombs. There’s a word for this type of situation and it rhymes with fustercluck.

Indeed.

UPDATED: Matt Yglesias adds:

The administration is lying (for them not to be lying would be unprecedented) and Gordon is passing on what his sources tell him.

As a policy matter, looking at the Iranian support issue tends to highlights how pointless it is to get one’s hopes raised by such minor signs of progress as may or may not be thought to exist in Iraq. Iran is charged with supplying a bit more than 100 explosive-formed penetrator bombs to Iraqi militants per month. Iran is also a bit of a rinky-dink third world country. But even they clearly could be providing a lot more weaponry than that were they so inclined. Hezbollah’s armaments are, for example, much more sophisticated than that. If the Iranians ever were to reach the conclusion that the US were in danger of achieving its goals of creating a stable Iraq happy to play host to large US military installations and serve as an anti-Iranian bulwark in the region, Iran could easily step up its assistance and then you’re back to square one.

The issue here, then, really isn’t where, exactly, these EFPs come from and why. The issue is whether you think it serves US interests to try to reach an accommodation with Iran so they we can fight terrorism by trying to fight the al-Qaeda terrorists who want to come here and kill or, or whether you think it serves US interests to continue picking unprovoked fights with tangential adversaries. But before you pick what’s behind door number two, just keep in mind that a US-Iranian escalation cycle will certainly lead things to get much, much worse over the short and medium terms.

Mitt Romney on Why His Sons Are Not Serving in Iraq

August 8, 2007 at 2:06 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Iraq, Mit Romney, Mitt Romney, Republicans | 17 Comments

here you go:

“One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.”

So that it isn’t taken out of context, this was the question:

Question: “Hi, my name’s Rachel Griffiths, thank you so much for being here and asking for our comments. And I appreciate your recognizing the Iraq War veteran. My question is how many of your five sons are currently serving in the U.S. military and if none of them are, how do they plan to support this War on Terrorism by enlisting in our U.S. military?”

So it really isn’t taken out of context. The woman asked how his sons are planning to support the WOT by enlisting. Romney’s answer is that their support of this nation is by campaigning for him, because they think he would be a great president.

Can you say, OUT OF TOUCH!

The True Terrorists of America

August 5, 2007 at 9:02 am | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, corruption, George W Bush, Republicans, secret combinations, Terrorism, War, War on Terror | Leave a comment

Have you guys noticed how often the Republicans have said this past week that if Congress didn’t pass the FISA bill, terrorists would attack us? Note Mitch McConnel and Lamar Smith who say:

“Al-Qaida is not going on vacation this month,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “And we can’t either until we know we’ve done our duty to the American people.”

“I hope that there are no attacks before we are able to effectively update this important act,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

Then there is Trent Lott scaring up the whole town of Washington DC with this:

In light of the heightened threat, Congress can either amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or all of us can run screaming into the inferno.

Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) ominously advised Thursday that Congress needed to pass changes to terrorist surveillance laws before leaving for the August recess and warned that otherwise “the disaster could be on our doorstep.”

Further demonstrating his counterterrorism sagacity, when asked if people should leave Washington, D.C., during the month of August, Lott replied that “I think it would be good to leave town in August, and it would probably be good to stay out until September the 12th.” By contrast, a former Capitol Hill chief had the temerity to note that, according to U.S. intelligence analysis he’d been privvy to, “Americans tend to be much more oriented toward anniversaries and the jihadists seem to be less so. I’ve seen over the years where we concentrate on dates and the analysts say, ‘Don’t get wrapped up in dates because our terrorist jihadist enemies bide their time.'”

The American Heritage Dictionary defines terrorism as such:

n. The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

One has to ask himself, just why would these Republican leaders use such threats of possible attacks to rush through a law without proper debate or even real consideration of the effects of the new law? It’s time to be quite frank. These Republican leaders are using terrorism to frighten Americans into submission. They use their favorite boogeyman, Al-Qaeda, to threaten Americans. Pass this law, or we just might be attacked, they claim. As if not passing this law means we will be attacked. Note the logic in that. It gives the feeling that Republicans can control this boogeyman, and can assure that we will not be attacked if this law is passed, but if this law is not passed, there is no guarantee that we will not be attacked. Does that sound familiar to anybody? Who else uses such threats? Anybody remember The Godfather Part II? What did that Italian mob boss try to do to Don Corleone? It’s called extortion. Wikipedia defines extortion as such:

Extortion is a criminal offense, which occurs when a person either obtains money, property or services from another through coercion or intimidation or threatens one with physical or reputational harm unless they are paid money or property. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime groups. The actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offense. Making a threat of violence or a lawsuit which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence or lawsuit is sufficient to commit the offense. The four simple words “pay up or else” are sufficient to constitute the crime of extortion. An extortionate threat made to another in jest is still extortion.

This commentator, I think says it best.

You know, when I hear people like Tom DeLay and other miscreants talking about how The Terrists are about to do something that could make Washington a really dangerous place to be if Democrats don’t instantly cave in and sign over whatever else Bush wants, it sounds to me like it’s not so much a warning as a threat. And therefore, I expect Democrats to stand right up and say, “Are you threatening us?”

Because constantly trying to terrify people with the threat of violence really is terrorism, and it’s not Al Qaeda that’s doing that to us right now.

So my next question would be: “Why would Al Qaeda want to launch a terrorist attack on America just in time to give a bomb-happy executive the opportunity to suspend the elections so he can take out half the Muslim world?”

I would just love to hear the Democratic leadership stand up and ask what the Republicans are up to when they start terror-threatening over legislation. They could say:

“I thought you said you were keeping us safe. If that’s true, why are you so sure we’re about to be attacked? Aren’t you planning to stop it? Are you saying you will refuse to ‘keep us safe’ if we don’t support your bills?”

Or they could say:

“My, it sure is convenient for you that Al Qaeda is always about to attack us right before you want us to vote for your bills that we haven’t even had time to read. Are they on your payroll or something?”

Indeed. It also is so surprising that in a country like ours these Republicans can actually get away with terrorism like they do. And our Democratic leaders really are pansies of the worst kind. Com’on guys get some balls! Bin Laden is probably taking notes from them on how to effectively terrorize a population to capitulate and do their will for them.

Are Americans Willing to Pay Higher Taxes For Better Bridges?

August 3, 2007 at 1:17 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Taxes | 8 Comments

After the incident in Minnesota, the issue of the aging of our bridges has come to the forefront of political talk. Apparently we have thousands of bridges that are either out of date or structurally unsound. To fix these bridges or replace them will cost millions (and maybe billions) of dollars. So here is a question for you all. Are you willing to pay higher taxes to fix these bridges?

The Best, Most Incisive Commentary On Iraq Yet

August 3, 2007 at 12:55 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Iraq | Leave a comment

Read this link, and then watch the following video:

Bush to Sell Weapons to Saudi Arabia Which Funds Sunni Insurgents in Iraq

July 27, 2007 at 11:31 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, corruption, Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq, Military, Saudi Arabia, secret combinations | 4 Comments

That’s basically the gist of what is going on right now.

The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq.

Yeah, that “counterproductive role in Iraq” is Saudis supporting and financing Sunni insurgents on a level far exceeding that of what Iran does with the Shi’ites. After all, most of the violence against Americans come from Sunnis. Remember the kind of relationship the Bush administration has with the Saudi Royal Family where the Saudi King can summon the Vice President of the United States! As Steve writes for Carpetbagger:

Dick Cheney was in Riyadh over the weekend, but the VP’s office, which is not exactly forthcoming on a regular basis, was unusually vague about this trip. According to what Cheney aides were willing to share, the Vice President traveled half-way around the world for a two-hour meeting with King Abdullah, then hoped on his plane and came home. A spokesperson for the VP’s office would only say that Cheney’s meeting covered a “wide range of issues.” Yeah, that’s helpful.

While the AP suggested that Cheney’s trip was part of a “U.S. diplomatic push to stem surging violence in Iraq,” the WaPo reported that that the push for the meeting came from the Saudis, not the other way around. (via Nico)

Saudi Arabia is so concerned about the damage that the conflict in Iraq is doing across the region that it basically summoned Vice President Cheney for talks over the weekend, according to U.S. officials and foreign diplomats.

Classic. No wonder Cheney and his aides wanted to keep this under wraps; it’s rather humiliating to have the Saudi Crown Prince “summon” our VP for a chat about how badly he’s screwing up the Middle East.

I’ve often wondered if there was any force on earth that could get Cheney to do something he doesn’t want to do. He’s not inclined to care about Congress, or follow U.S. law, or honor U.S. commitments, or negotiate, compromise, or cooperate with anyone.

But when “summoned” by King Abdullah, Cheney is on the plane. Good to know.

How much more evidence do you want, America, that the Bush administration is fake, that they have completely and utterly abrogated the oath they took to uphold the Constitution and protect America? Here they are selling advanced weaponry to the very country that strongly supports and aides Sunni insurgents who turn around and kill our soldiers? Where is the outrage akin to the outrage against Iran? Why are we outraged at Iran’s involvement in Iraq but not Saudi Arabia’s?

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