Monday, June 30, 2008

What General Wesley Clark Said About Senator John McCain

Let's get the truth squad out and call a spade a spade.

This past Sunday, General Clark answered one of Bob Schieffer's leading questions thusly,
Because in the matters of national security policy making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents, and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in Air- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, 'I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it-publicly?'
This evening, Clark issued a statement not, clarifying, amending or withdrawing his statement, but reiterating it:
There are many important issues in this Presidential election, clearly one of the most important issues is national security and keeping the American people safe. In my opinion, protecting the American people is the most important duty of our next President. I have made comments in the past about John McCain's service and I want to reiterate them in order be crystal clear. As I have said before I honor John McCain's service as a prisoner of war and a Vietnam Veteran. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. I would never dishonor the service of someone who chose to wear the uniform for our nation.

John McCain is running his campaign on his experience and how his experience would benefit him and our nation as President. That experience shows courage and commitment to our country - but it doesn't include executive experience wrestling with national policy or go-to-war decisions. And in this area his judgment has been flawed - he not only supported going into a war we didn't have to fight in Iraq, but has time and again undervalued other, non-military elements of national power that must be used effectively to protect America But as an American and former military officer I will not back down if I believe someone doesn't have sound judgment when it comes to our nation's most critical issues.
I think anybody who serves in uniform who serves their country in wartime and has gone through the hardships like John McCain should be honored for their character and courage. I think people look for character and courage in their pres, but I don't think you' have to have been at war to have shown character and courage. I think you can see that in other candidates. I think you can see that in Barack Obama's life.
Iraq Veteran Jon Soltz agrees with Vietnam veteran General Clark. Facts, Soltz says, are facts:
  • Senator McCain's service and experience, both as a POW and as a Senator apparently hasn't infused him with a dose of good judgment.

  • Senator McCain's experience hasn't led him to realize that the war in Iraq and it's continuance has empowered and emboldened Iran, and destabilized the region.

  • Senator McCain's experience hasn't caused him to recognize that we're losing ground in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden is still out there, plotting.

  • Senator McCain's experience didn't lead him to support the 21st Century GI Bill -- he opposed it. It didn't even make him feel the need to get back to Washington to vote on this -- one of the most important veterans' bills this Congress. He twice skipped votes on the GI Bill, to fundraise.

  • Senator McCain's experience didn't help him empathize with troops are overstretched and overdeployed, when he voted against the bipartisan Webb-Hagel "Dwell Time Amendment," which would have given troops as much time at home as in the field.
Lt. General Robert G. Gard Jr. (USA, Ret.) agrees with Soltz:
As a retired military officer and a soldier who served his country for over thirty years, I can tell you that there's nothing in what Wes Clark said with which I disagree. He has not only stated the facts, he knows something about them. John McCain was a prisoner of war, an officer who served as a squadron commander, and has been and is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. John McCain can put his service to country up against anyone's. But General Clark has served also -- and with great courage: he was wounded four times in Vietnam -- and like John McCain, he has met and seen the enemy.

..... being a prisoner of the Vietnamese and serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee does not automatically qualify one for the position of Commander-in-Chief -- understanding risks, gauging your opponents and being held accountable does. We must end this glib obeisance to sacrifice and ask deeper questions: is a man who sings "bomb, bomb, bomb ... bomb, bomb Iran" a man who understands risks? Is a man who says that we must keep our troops in Iraq until we achieve an ill-defined "victory" really know how to gauge America's opponents. If we want to hold people accountable, then let's stand behind my friend Wes Clark -- and hold John McCain accountable for what he's said.
General Wesley Clark, patriot and war hero, can take the full measure of the GOP's straw man candidate, John McCain. That's why the Republicans are desperate to disqualify Clark as a possible Vice-Presidential candidate.

But Progressives are standing up for the man who will stand up to John McCain. Here's a petition to Thank General Clark for His Straight Talk & Tell Him To Not Back Down. I have signed it, and so should all Progressives.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Chuck Hagel is (Again) Republican-of-the Week

'Politics, when all is said and done, is a business of belief and enthusiasm. Hope energizes, doubt destroys. Hopelessness is not our heritage.'
- Hugh Sidey
Retiring Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel is my selection for Republican-of-the-Week. Sort of, anyways.

Below is the text of his speech entitled "Memo to the Candidates" which Hagel delivered yesterday at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution. Either Senator Hagel or some sort of hidden editorial hand caused lengthy excerpts from his speech to be published in the Huffington Post.

Some I liked; some I didn't like. Below, are my own excerpts and edits:

..... Elections are about course corrections, and Americans are in a serious mood to change the direction of their country. According to the most recent Washington Post-ABC Poll, eighty-four percent of Americans believe America is headed in the wrong direction.....

The next president and his team will have a unique opportunity to capture domestic and international support unlike any time since September 11, 2001. I believe that America and the world will follow an honest, competent and accountable American president .....

America continues to spend billions of dollars a week stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has resulted in an undermining of our influence and interests in these regions and the world, as well as draining a tremendous amount of resources, attention and leadership away from our other national priorities.

We cannot escape the reality that Iraq and Afghanistan will remain centers of gravity grave concern for U.S. foreign policy. The United States has today over one hundred and ninety thousand troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan...a number unlikely to change significantly by January 20th. And we continue to take more and more American casualties in both wars...losing ten Americans in Iraq over the last three days. The most dangerous area of the world...representing the most significant U.S. national security not Iraq but the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the Government Accountability Office has concluded in separate reports in the last two weeks, we still lack relevant, long-term strategies to achieve sustainable security and stability in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
. . . . .
America's long-term security interests are directly connected to alliances, coalitions, international institutions and our standing in the world .... The next President will have to reintroduce America to the world in order to regain its trust in our purpose as well as our power.

International institutions are more important now than at any time in modern history .... Working through international institutions and alliances ... as imperfect as they are ... to build broad, diplomatic consensus may be difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating but they are the best options ... and smartest approaches to sustainable and effective strategic outcomes. The alternative of unilateral action is no substitute, and undermines our influence and further isolates us in an interconnected world.

.....The United State must pay particular attention to three key relationships - China, India and Russia. America's relationships with each of these three countries will continue to be comprehensive, including areas of agreement and disagreement. We cannot, however, allow these relationships to be dominated and shaped by our differences ... or we risk creating dynamics that can quickly get beyond our control and move down a dangerous and irreversible path. We must define these relationships on our common interests.

The United States must enhance its initiative in support of Israel-Palestinian negotiations. We should make clear our support for direct Israel-Syria and Israel-Lebanon negotiations ....

We should take the initiative to re-engage Syria by returning the U.S. Ambassador to Damascus ..... The United States should open a new strategic direction in U.S.-Iran relations by seeking direct, comprehensive and unconditional talks with the Government of Iran, including opening a U.S. Interest Section embassy in Tehran ..... Engagement is not appeasement. Diplomacy is not appeasement. Great nations engage. Powerful nations must be the adults in world affairs. Anything less will result in disastrous, useless, preventable global conflict.

America's occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is not a 'win-lose' proposition. That is an inaccurate context for our objectives and policies ..... As CSIS President and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. John Hamre recently wrote,
Iraqis genuinely want us to leave, and the only issue in question is when and how quickly...what we now need is realism about Iraq. We haven't failed, but winning won't fit any traditional definition of success.
The next President will need to pursue a responsible phased troop withdrawal from Iraq that will slowly...steadily...but surely bring to an end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Senators McCain and Obama must conduct their campaigns with the recognition that their ability to lead is being shaped each day of their campaigns .....The day after the election, the hard work will begin for one of these men Barack Obama. He will need to gather around him the best people in America to utilize all of the tools of an American leader in order to unify our country and govern ... If they rise he rises to the magnitude of the moment, when America and the world needs them need him most...and engage in a presidential campaign that strengthens our nation, enhances our image, inspires mankind, and makes us proud...then they will have been found worthy of the honor and responsibility bestowed upon them by the citizens of our great country.

Chuck Hagel has miles to go before he sleeps. He has yet to acknowledge that his old service buddy from Vietnam War days is not part of the answer in our long day's night known as Iraqnam.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reporters Say Networks Have Put Iraq on the Back Burner

Why is that?

According the NYT, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, Andrew Tyndall, has compiled data that demonstrates that coverage of Iraq has been “massively scaled back this year.” Tyndall discloses that in all of 2007, the big three devoted 1,157 minutes to Iraq. But, halfway into 2008, the coverage of Iraq is a miniscule 181 weekday minutes:
  • The “CBS Evening News” - 51 minutes
  • ABC’s “World News” - 55 minutes
  • “NBC Nightly News” - 74 minutes
Keep in mind that the average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.

CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed. CBS cutbacks are the most extensive to date in Baghdad. However many journalists have shared varying levels of frustration about placing war stories onto newscasts.

On “The Daily Show,” chief foreign correspondent for CBS News, Lara Logan echoed the comments of other journalists when she said that many Americans seem uninterested 'in the war' now. Terry McCarthy, an ABC News correspondent in Baghdad. said that when he is in the United States, bringing up Baghdad at a dinner party “is like a conversation killer.”

Why is that?

It shouldn't be such a big mystery. The late George Carlin said that America loves war:The big problem is, obviously, is that we are no longer at war in Iraq. We are occupying Iraq. And Americans hate being the occupying power. It reminds them of the reason for which America's armed forces were originally formed: to wage an insurrection and defeat British occupation of our colonies.

It's a national embarrassment to be caught in the headlights of major network exposure as an unwelcomed occupier of foreign lands. The less we see of the devastation we have caused in Iraq, the better we can follow the fake news. Every one at every dinner party much rather talk about the price of gas, which is a unifying complaint. Or, we can agreeably agree to disagree about our politics - not so with Iraq's politics about which we know next to nothing. Frank Rich, writing Now That We've 'Won,' Let's Come Home, says,
If you follow the nation's op-ed pages and the presidential campaign, Iraq seems as contentious an issue as Vietnam was in 1968. But in the country itself, Cindy vs. Michelle, not Shiites vs. Sunnis, is the hotter battle. This isn't the press's fault, and it isn't the public's fault. It's merely the way things are.
Like I said, my fellow Americans love a war, but hate an occupation. If you won't take it from me, take it from George Carlin.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Good News & Bad News!

Bad News First!

I won't have as much time to blog in the near future. (Actually, that might be good news to some readers!)

But the really, really, good news is that I'm ahead of both
Barack Obama and John McCain. Way ahead.

I've selected my running mate! And she's a woman!
Well, actually she's a girl! A dark-eyed beauty!

Catherine Ballou

As in Cat Ballou! But do not try nicknaming her as "Cat". It's Ballou or 'Blue' for short!

We rescued Ballou yesterday from a shelter in 100+ degrees!

Doberman Pinschers come in black & tans, reds, fawns, and blues. Ballou is a blue.

Ballou will finish my beer whenever it gets warm, so I'll always have an excuse to open a fresh one! She's also taken over on the George W. Bush chew-toy where
RedOct left off.

Her age is estimated at approximately six months, so we're fixing her birthday on the day that RedOct left us. He would approve.

I asked him.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Today in the House Judiciary Committee

Follow-Up Questions will be asked and answered.

What a novel idea!

Scott McClellan will face tough questioning from the few Republicans who show up at the hearings House Judiciary Committee today. One of the Republicans expected to show up is Texan Lamar Smith. On the Progressive side, we will have Floridian Robert Wexler (my nominee to keynote the Democratic National Convention.) After years of top-level Bush Administration officials ignoring the committee's subpoenas and refusing to testify, McClellan's willingness to talk signals a special occasion to Wexler:
Scott McClellan made some remarkably significant comments and revelations in his book regarding the truthfulness of the Bush Administration, and under oath, we'll have an opportunity to examine those revelations.

So far, the administration, by and large, has thumbed its nose at Congress. This is, I think, the first and best opportunity the public has had to get a glimpse of the degree of the abuse of power that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have foisted on the American people.

The evidence he provides should be expounded upon and I think Mr. Rove should be brought before the committee. And I don‘t think we should simply stop at issuing contempt citations. I believe we should go further.

The White House has abused the executive privilege process before on many occasions. It's a very difficult argument to make here. I mean, Mr. McClellan has written a book for the whole world to see. Any expectation of privilege or privacy with respect to Mr. McClellan seems to have been long waived. I think it would be a farce if that was attempted.

One of the most interesting parts of what will happen will be not only the questions of the Democrats, but I think it'll be interesting to hear the questions of the Republicans. Some Republicans both on the committee and off the committee may choose to seek to undermine Mr. McClellan's credibility.

I think there will be some people who will possibly take some of Mr. McClellan's testimony and try to insert (it) in the articles of impeachment. I think we have an obligation to follow the evidence one way or the other.
Stay tuned.

It's (Republican) Friday, You Bastards

And, as Randi Rhodes used to say on Fridays,
It's time to bounce our boobies!

That's probably my subconcious reason for having picked Friday as the one day of the week where we celebrate a few good Republicans.

The only problem is, I don't consider this week's selection either a boob or a booby. In fact, he's just a Bob!

Meet Bob Kelleher from Montana!

Kelleher won the Republican (June 3, 2008) primary for the U.S. Senate.
Despite a history of running as a Democrat and a Green several years ago, Big Bob got 'er done as a GOP-er in a crowded field and is an the official Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from the state of Montana. As can be seen by the results, he won by a 'fur piece'.

His slogan is
Working For Montanans, Not Lobbyists
Kelleher is an 85-year-old attorney with some downright unconventional views. Major planks/complaints in his campaign are:
  • wants a “nonviolent revolution” to overthrow the foundation of American government.

  • favors enormous, FDR-style government work programs to reduce poverty.

  • he wants to nationalize the American oil and gas industries.

  • supports government-run, socialized medicine.
He has little nice to say about President Bush or former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot.

Understandably, Big Bob is a pariah to the Montana State Republican Party, who can be counted on for alloting Kelleher less than $1.00 for his campaign funds.

Why has he been able to get as far as he has? What does this mean?

Is the world, as we have come to know it, changing?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Better than Impeachment!

Branding Bush as the Defeat Chimp before he leaves the White House!

Few themes have I pounded on in these pages more than the idea that we are and have been in occupation mode in Iraq. We 'won' the war - Gulf War II - when Bush launched his unprovoked and unnecessary invasion of Iraq and toppled its dictator, Saddam Hussein. But then Bush elected to stay in Iraq, following our successful blitzkrieg, following the conclusion of major military operations, which Bush called 'shockandawe'; and we even stayed after the capture and killing of Hussein and sons. Nevertheless, we have persisted in calling our presence in Iraq, a war.

I understand why Bush wants to prolong the myth of the 'Iraq war': he has always lusted after the mantels worn by Churchill and Roosevelt. Bush is a wannabe war-time leader. It simply won't do for him just to preside over an occupation. He needs a vanity war. Perpetuating this myth of being a war-time president, allows him to pretend that he is pursuing "Victory". Everyone understands this fraudulent spell which he has been able to cobble together and cast upon the nation. What's more difficult for me to understand is why the loyal opposition, including much of the Democratic Party and even some of my closest blogging friends, have swallowed this toxic fiction.

It is a fatal attraction, this attachment that Americans have to waging wars. We have a war on illiteracy; a war on crime; a war on drugs; a war on poverty; a cultural war; a war on Christmas; even a War of Words. Whenever we are faced with a challenge in which failure is unthinkable, we have to dub it a war. Thus, it's not an accident that we use a three-letter, mono-syllabic word to describe our Iraqi misadventure; it is by design. Bush wants his war because he knows Americans do not like to settle for anything other than victory.

By chance this past weekend I hit upon C-SPAN2's BookTV interview of Jonathan Steele. He is the author of
Defeat: Why America and Britain Lost Iraq. During the interview, he pimped his recent column on the Huffington Post which made me think I've been pushing and pulling a Sisyphean load up the wrong mountain.

I've always argued that, unlike wars, you can't win or lose in occupations: you can only end them. Not so, Steele argues. Bush has overcome all the odds and managed to lose an occupation. Moreover, he argues, the Democrats need to brand Bush with that defeat while he is still in office.

Below, I have excerpted (and tuned up!) the conclusion of Steele's essay, Why the Democrats Should Use the "Defeat" Word now!

Better therefore to get the "defeat" word on the table now, in 2008. Make a pre-emptive strike this year, while the Republicans still control the White House. They are the ones who took the U.S. into a doomed occupation of Iraq. They are the people who deserve to take the blame.

Defeat is a powerful word, and no country or person likes to use it. Even to mention it invites the charge of being unpatriotic. So it is no accident that in Washington, critics of the war occupation prefer the F-words -- failure, fiasco, and folly. But the decision to stay in Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein was worse than that. It was bound to lead to defeat. The U.S. did not lose on the battlefield, but every political goal that the Bush administration set for itself has been thwarted. So the verdict on the U.S. adventure has to be "military stalemate, political defeat."
  1. Bush sought to justify the occupation as a vital element in the war on terror. Yet al Qaeda is now implanted in Iraq where it never was before, and thousands of new jihadi recruits are getting valuable training and experience in provoking death and destruction. That is Defeat number one.

  2. Bush wanted to mount a demonstration of overwhelming U.S. power in the region so as to reduce Iran's influence. Instead, he put U.S. troops into a quagmire that has already cost 4,000 4,101 lives and helped to install a Shia Islamist government in Baghdad that has close links to Tehran. That is Defeat number two.

  3. Bush and the neo-cons wanted to turn Iraq into a secular pro-Western democracy that would be a model for other Arab states. Iraq has become a humanitarian catastrophe that no sane nation or people would wish to copy. Defeat number three.

  4. Finally, by toppling Saddam Hussein Bush hoped to enhance the feelings of sympathy, respect, and solidarity which many people around the world expressed for the United States after 9/11. Instead, by occupying Iraq and denying it genuine sovereignty, he has undermined America's image and reputation, not just in the Middle East but in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Defeat number four.
The Republicans should not be allowed to escape the blame. It is not the U.S. forces and the American people who have been defeated, though they have had to bear the costs of Bush's disastrous decisions. As the country's official opposition, the Democrats should have the political courage to use the D-word and pin on it on those who led the country into political defeat.

The Democrats control both Houses of Congress. Why don't the chairpeople of the relevant committees call hearings this spring and fall to call administration officials to account for what has gone wrong? Label the hearings "The Lessons of Defeat" or "The Reasons for Defeat", and get Bush's past and present people -- the Wolfowitzes, the Feiths, the Rumsfelds, the Cards, the Roves, and all the others -- to explain why they did no analysis of the political consequences within Iraq and the region of occupying the country.
  • Did any official prepare pre-war option papers that assessed the Iraqi mood, or were the assurances from Cheney and Wolfowitz that the troops would be met with flowers simply propaganda?

  • Why did the intelligence community not recognize the strength of political Islam in Iraq, or foresee that the forces that would inherit the post-Saddam vacuum would not be the secular pro-Western exiles who paraded through Washington before the war?

  • Why did Bush's advisers not realize that jihadi militants would flood Iraq if the United States stayed too long?

  • How could Bush imagine that the U.S. and Britain -- the two countries with the longest recent history of intervention in the Middle East and the Gulf -- could send troops to occupy an Arab country on an open-ended basis and not meet Iraqi suspicion, resentment, and opposition?
Blunders made by the Coalition Provisional Authority -- disbanding the Iraqi army, dissolving the Baath party, failing to stop the looting -- are not the main problem. The very concept of occupation was doomed. Once Saddam was toppled, Iraqis should have been given control of their own country.

Of course the Democrats are divided on Iraq .... Some support Obama. Some think the "surge" is working. Others doubt it. But the best way to forge party unity is to hold hearings on the recent past. Otherwise Bush may get away with his absurd claims of looming victory.

Holding such hearings would also help to focus the presidential campaign on Iraq as an issue. After five years of war it seems absurd to think the Republicans can mount a better case than those who want to end it. Can a candidate who suggests keeping US troops in Iraq for another hundred years (with 4,000 dead in the last five years, that means condemning another 80,000 to death over a century) and who thinks Iran is training al Qaeda really convince Americans he understands security issues? Iraq is the Republicans' weakest link. Are the Democrats really unable to exploit it? Iraq needs to be at the center of the Democrats' campaign. Holding Congressional hearings over a series of weeks is the best way to lift the Iraq debate above the level of sound bites, and keep the public spotlight on what went wrong, and why.

Some American analysts to whom I have been making this case in Washington in recent days say the strategy may be too risky in domestic political terms because defeat is such an explosive concept. Yet they also concede that the Republicans will have no compunction about using the D-word if the Democrats regain the White House. On balance, therefore, it looks best to seize the moment now. In 2009, for the Republicans to accuse the Democrats of defeat in Iraq would be pure political spin. In 2008, for the Democrats to accuse the Republicans of defeat is a charge that carries the weight of irrefutable evidence. The fingerprints on the Iraq disaster belong to Bush and those who worked with him.

Sounds like a fucking good idea to me! Barry and Wesley, are you listening?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day 2008

Also known as Tim Russert Day.

Took an extended day off. Looked at Dobies who needed rescue. Played board and card games with my sons. Watched the U.S. National team beat Barbados 8-0. Great seats! Exhausted.

But Russert's passing has effected me profoundly. I have yet to take stock. I may be restructuring my time and priorities....

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hillary Clinton and the GOP: Absorbing Loss

"A sign of wisdom is
learning how
to absorb your losses

without feeling defeated."

-Hoyt Wilhelm

The Permanent Concession of H.R.C.

I'm fed up to here with recriminations against Hillary Clinton's concession. Was it not quite the right tone? Was it two days too late? Two weeks late? Was it too much about her and not enough about the now non-presumptive Democratic nominee? Balderdash!

No one takes a loss harder than a political candidate, especially at the presidential level. Reference the testimony of McGovern and Mondale, for example: the sadness of what might have been lingers for decades. Not to mention candidates' guilt and remorse towards their supporters all those
hours of organizing, fund-raising, contributing, and pandering suddenly comes to nothing. At one pivotal moment - the fish-or-cut-bait moment - the candidate recognizes that the untold sacrifice of others, in terms of hours and dollars, is being flushed down her political toilet.

She feels responsible for the fate of her supporters. And, in turn, it is her supporters who, especially, have ill-prepared her for this moment. They have been her most sustaining advocates. They have been the wind beneath her wings. They have promised her that victory is just ahead, in the next round of primaries. The psychology of political campaigns and candidates requires this obeisance to optimism. Toujours l'audace! As the precipice approaches, her cadre knows, but none dare speak of it. The candidate -- having been protected and shielded by her surrogates for so long and from so much of the 'negatives'-- is the last to realize that the loss is hers to bear. Great is the fall from expecting first place to accepting last place.

Because there is no second place. Let's forgive her for hoping for that one, too. Serving as vice-president is, or was, Hillary's only remaining path to reach the White House. In four or eight more years she will be just one more prominent senator with a deal-breaking track record. There are many well-seasoned senators who might make good presidents, but they certainly don't make successful candidates. The carnage of defeated senatorial aspirants for the White House abounds.

So Hillary, as burnt toast, is busted and disgusted. She gets my sympathy, not out of need, but because she has earned it.

The Temporary Concession of the G.O.P.

The king-makers of the Republican Party have thrown in the towel. As the Party of Busheney, Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Bernie Kerik, Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham, Halliburton, Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, (The litany goes on.) They are burnt (French) toast. The veteran party financiers see the writing on the wall and smell the smoke in the air. Contributions are limited because they want to keep their powder dry. Why else do you think Lieberman is taking so long to switch his party alignment? Because the stench and the slime of formally being Republican is too much, even for him. (He's biding his time for a year or two.)

As far as the GOP is concerned, all their primary was about was which stiff were they going to stand up to 'take one for the team'. And, as it turned out, it was to be the stiffest of the stiffs - John McCain. This guy is practically embalmed.

This year's nomination is very much in character with the party's choice in 1996. Bob Dole was not a credible candidate against a popular Bill Clinton. Like McCain today, Dole was just a decorated Grand Ol' Patriot whom the Grand Old Party could stand up and perform as a flag-bearer for its base. McCain, like Dole before him, is basically a flag pole. (Think of the Alamo.) When McCain, like Dole before him, manages to complete a sentence, he cannot remember how he started the sentence.

But there is an ominous quality to John McCain's deliberately inept candidacy. The inner circles of the GOP's power brokers and financiers are well aware that McCain wears a 'kick-me' sign on the seat of his pants. They approve of his candidacy because not only is he Bob Dole II, but because he can also be George Bush III. It's okay with these in-the-know insiders that McCain can't keep Shiia straight from the Sunnis or al-Qaeda separate from the Hezbolla. It's not a problem for them that this old bubble head talks about vetoing beer instead of bills. Whether he's full of Schlitz or Coors, it's immaterial for these oligarchs. McCain has accepted and internalized the hand dealt to him.
I'd rather lose an election than lose a war.
All they care about is that he goes down with guns blazing, chanting bomb-bomb-bomb Iran. As a standard bearer, the flag he's expected to carry is Busheney's coat-of-arms. That's one with the three III's:
Israel, Iraq, Iran
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
McCain is wearing a bullseye on his back. Why else would he still be pitching to 'the base' after he has clinched the nomination? The Party elders are confident McCain will give them all they ask: Johnny Mac will leave his mark as a defeated, always-faithful, stay-the-course, under-tax and over-spend kind of guy. Why?

Because if the Neo-Con pyramid can hold its place in the sand, unchanged for another 222 days, than the party symbolized by the elephant can return in four or eight short years and pick a reasonably younger, more articulate and charismatic candidate who can ask, "Who lost Iraq?" It will be the future version of a very old Republican template who lost China. It's a variation of the even older der Dolchstosslegende.

That's the whole point in this election year for Republicans. It's not to win it. It's to play it out. It's street theater. The clips from their cell phones will be collected and aggregated in a couple of years for the next cycle. These Republican PNAC types have the long term in mind.

That's the difference between The Hillary Clinton and John McCain campaigns: Hillary wanted the brass ring and expected to win it; Johnny Mac doesn't expect to win it and is just enjoying the ride.

What are the implications? In this immediate time frame, the most critically important judgment that a presidential nominee can make is exercising his choice of a running mate. Historically, this has most frequently shown a need to 'balance' the ticket. What I am saying, is that, going forward, Obama should ask himself who can best help him govern. If he chooses well, voters will find his ticket to be exquisitely in balance.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rendering Rendition

I fear you speak upon the rack
Where men enforced,
Do speak anything.

(William Shakespeare,
The Merchant of Venice)

We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows of the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion.
(Dick Cheney 16-Sep-01)

I finally got around to seeing this film, via NetFlix this weekend. Not exactly a great date movie, Trophy Wife and I agreed. But we both felt ennobled for having taken it up. It was part of our civic duty as Americans, I think we agreed.

Looking around the Internet afterwards was instructive. Conservative bloggers mentioned an aversion to even considering seeing it, much less admitting to having watched it, and even much less demonstrating a willingness to write much about it. And, it more or less received a ho-hum from liberal bloggers. One blogospheric observation sticks in my mind: the blogger noted that the shelves at his local video store were always overstocked with Rendition.

My good friends, the McKiernans, at Cinema Square were good enough to re-float their old review of Rendition from their archives. They wrote,
Critics seem to be crowing about Rendition's obvious, overbearing liberal outrage. On the contrary, it is the limp, procedural nature of the narrative that keeps the film from soaring. It is, in fact, not outraged enough. It is really a run-of-the-mill thriller with an overly-complicated structure…..
Which I think is a more or less just verdict on the substance of the film. I leave the issue of cinematic art - achieved or unachieved - to J & K McKiernan.

I needed to see this film because I have not written one word in these pages about Guantánamo. I needed a reason to get out of my chair and say something, but I guess I'll take that up in a comment below. However, I have always have been against torture. I have written about it here, here and especially here. My fellow Americans are against torture, too, I'm sure. Deep down, in the dead of night, they are. They know their government tortures and wish it didn't. Most feel they really don't need to know more about it or become engaged in the issue.

That is the reason that the movie has not been a barn-burner. I don't feel that the end product is a reflection on the cinematic skill of the producer-director team, as do the McKiernans. I believe that the public's response to the film is a reflection of the irresponsibility and cowardice of my fellow Americans. They simply won't play with the hand of cards that their criminal government has dealt them.
The fact of the matter is that this movie goes as far as it dares in abrasively irritating our American complacency and self-satisfaction. National, profit-driven film distributors would not risk releasing any film which might stab and twist a stiletto into flesh of our collective conscience.

Compared to what attentive readers of the Internet understand of rendition, Rendition-the-movie renders only torture-lite. Witholding visual pain-inflicting details for those who might yet see this film (recommended), there were a few exchanges which mainstream Americans would do well to absorb.

For instance, Jake Gyllenhaal's character (a young CIA analyst assigned to observe rendition rendered by a 3rd world Torquemada) apologizes to Meryl Streep's character (a CIA superior with a frozen Condi Rice smile),
This is my first torture.
Without skipping a beat, Streep responds
The United States does not torture. It saves lives.
So, lesson #1 for us Americans is no one's being tortured - but torturing these people saves other people's lives. Yigal Naor's character (the master Muslim torturer, Abasi), explains his philosophy and rational to Gyllenhall:
The work we do is sacred.

Beat your woman every day. If you don't know why - she does.
To which Gyllenhall responds by quoting Shakespeare (see heading) and,
In all the years you've been doing this, how often can you say that we've produced truly legitimate intelligence? Once? Twice? Ten times? Give me a statistic; give me a number. Give me a pie chart, I love pie charts. Anything, anything that outweighs the fact that if you torture one person you create ten, a hundred, a thousand new enemies.
In this film, we learn that the Clinton administration first coined the euphemism "extraordinary rendition" to describe American government-sanctioned kidnappings. That's the first known use of the word 'rendition' in this sense. It's not clear to me if 'extraordinary' implies a concession that this violates American Constitutional law and/or the Geneva Conventions, or whether it implies that such rendering is to be out-sourced from the U.S. in an extra-territorial sense.

And, here's where I draw a line. Capture, kidnapping, internment, and indefinite custody of suspected terrorists is one preventive measure which could have been understood in the wake of 9-11. I'm saying that I find thinkable a long-term, potentially indefinite, preventive detention of terror suspects without criminal charges or trial. But this would be a clean, hygienic, comfortable confinement. This type of preventive detention system would not be "off the books" and would be subject to unannounced Red Cross inspections. Obviously, such a system would be expensive to maintain. So extremely expensive that it would be self-limiting.

But detention is different from torture. Torture destroys the moral fiber of the practitioners and ennobles and martyrs the victims. I am convinced that its wide spread use by the French during their Algerian 'troubles' was corrosive to their professional army and would have led to a post-World War II Fascism, but for the intervention of Charles de Gaulle.

Potentially it can take a similar toll upon our democracy. And here is the crux of the import of this movie and its premise. If it weren't for the fact that Busheney exploited 9-11 to the hilt, and exercised a dogmatic contempt for the constitutionally derived rule of law and human rights, there would have been no reason for this film

Moreover, torture does not create actionable intelligence; rather, it mobilizes and motivates enemies. Both the U.S. Army's Counterinsurgency (COIN) Manual and the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) state that progress in asymmetrical warfare lies in reducing the replenishment of enemies, by dividing the terrorist from the mainstream Muslim audiences in play. Torture recruits terrorists.
Only indiscriminate bombing, in my opinion, is more effective in replenishing the ranks of our enemies.

In a healthy America, there should be a widespread outrage against both of these dysfunctional and self-defeating policies. Films like Rendition should be filling seats in theaters and emptying out shelves in video stores.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's Not All About Hillary Anymore

It's now more about Chelsea and Her Generation
I sat down to watch Hillary's big speech this morning feeling angry that she had waited so many days to deliver her very necessary concession speech. Why necessary? To let the public know that she had (finally) seen reality: that Obama has won, fair and square, the right to be the Democratic Presidential Nominee who will run against McCain.

When it was clear that she would arrive more than thirty minutes late, I felt irritated. Given her Tuesday evening performance, I was already anxious that her trumpeted "endorsement" of Obama would be half-hearted, and that the speech would be devoted more to self-congratulatory rhetoric and continuing distortions of the truth than to a convincing and ringing endorsement of Obama.

Imagine my shock when, early on in her speech, I found myself moved to tears. Those heartfelt tears fell, in part, because I, too, am a woman who understands that she is deeply indebted to all those suffragettes who so courageously and pro-actively marched and spoke out against the denial of equal rights for all women. I am a woman who appreciates that those courageous actions eventually obtained, for all women, the right to vote and to have more choices in decisions profoundly affecting our lives.

I listened with a growing appreciation for each of the differing, but essential, sections which make up her speech. She began and concluded by thanking her supporters and family, and spoke about (some of ) what motivated her in seeking to become our nation's first female president. She allowed herself some self-congratulatory comments, but, to her credit, she avoided repeating the untrue statement that she had received more votes than any other candidate. And, she included a few sentences devoted to rehabilitating Bill's legacy, while making the case for electing Obama. But, throughout the speech and with ever increasing conviction, intensity, and passion, she pledged her support for Obama. And, she convincingly and urgently invited her supporters to join with her in accomplishing the hard work necessary to assure that Obama is elected.

In the end, she delivered a speech that was all that it needed to be. It has helped to assuage a bit of my anger at her for the hostile, hurtful, and unnecessarily destructive attacks she increasingly made upon Obama during this far too long campaign. She did give a truly awesome speech - and I thank her for that. I don't believe she has transformed herself from the narcissistic, ambition-driven person that she revealed herself to be throughout this campaign, but I respect and appreciate that her endorsement of Obama was strong, convincing, and believable!

Finally, I want to acknowledge that I recognize that for Hillary to arrive at a place, emotionally, where she could deliver this gem of a speech, had to be an enormously painful and difficult journey. I find myself wondering if she was enabled to find the emotional space needed to deliver today's speech by picturing Chelsea as that first female president to inhabit the Oval Office. Such wonderings aside, I think that Hillary's speech demonstrates that she could be a terrific running mate...but...Sadly, I remain concerned about how sincerely supportive she and Bill could/would prove to be over the long haul of a national campaign and throughout the eight years of an Obama Presidency, which I so hope our country will get to enjoy.

I wish I could want to see her as the perfect choice to be Obama's running mate. Regrettably, I cannot.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Discussing Barack's Vice-President: Points of Agreement

Reprising the Roles of Teddy Kennedy and Dick Cheney
In a 'telephone conference' with two friendly bloggers last night, I was apprised of a different future for Hillary Rodham Clinton:

The Ted Kennedy Role.

Teddy tried for the Presidency in 1980, trying to unseat the sitting President, Jimmy Carter. As I recall, Teddy never conceded until the party's convention. It was, I am assured, a bitter loss for him to absorb - not being able to aspire to the highest office in the land as did his two brothers.

In the wake of his defeat, Teddy doubled-down and got to work being the best darn Senator he could be. As a legislator and a voice, Kennedy was without parallel. He is now known as the Lion of the Senate.

Likewise, Hillary: not being able to reprise Bubba's presidential record is a bitter pill to swallow. She was certainly qualified. And the only Chappaquiddick in her closet would be husband Bill. Actually, that's kind of an insurmountable obstacle, IMO. But Hillary could reprise Teddy and graciously become the Lioness of the Senate. I really do not see another future for her, unless she'll accept eventual elevation to the SCOTUS.

Without a vice-presidential nomination this year, there is really no path to the White House for Hillary. Four or more years in the Senate will make her just one more Senator in a crowd of Senators with mixed track records.

On another blog, I recently took exception to a standard knock against Barack Obama as a presidential contender:
... Barack Obama is not as experienced in politics as his vanquished foes...
For the McCain campaign, as it was for the Clinton campaign, this was a common refrain, verging on a mantra. The journalists stenographers of the press and media have made it into a kind of mantra. But in fact, lack of experience is also the most un-examined or under-examined statement about modern American presidential politics: rarely do people ascend directly from significant Senatorial careers into the Presidency. Senators with long careers just do not make good candidates.

Jack Kennedy was the last sitting Senator to win a presidency. Lots have tried, but none have been anointed.

The fact that Obama has vanquished Clinton and will soon vanquish McCain is illustrative of this convention (the less Senatorial experience the better.) So, whenever you see this phrase quoted above, in whatever variation, you should recognize it as trite.

The Dick Cheney Role

However you can characterize this past eight years, you have to admit it has revolutionized the office of Vice-President. For that reason I have a decided preference for Obama to fill it with an elder-statesman type, who can offer the chief executive a respectable voice in areas of perceived weakness. (Not too elder, but somewhat elder.) General Wesley Clark has the attributes I think would benefit Obama's ticket. He's a member of the Clinton camp. He has won delegates in the presidential primary four years ago. His career in the military was long, unblemished and distinguished. As past commander of NATO, his ability to serve a president in strategic and diplomatic circles is unquestionable. And, his nomination would not deprive the Senate of a valuable member.

So, those are the points of agreement I reached last night.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Republicans of the Week

Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe

On Thursday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its long-awaited report on prewar Iraq intelligence. Its findings are damning. The report says President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney knowingly lied to Congress and the public about Iraq's weapons cache and the country's ties to al-Qaeda.

Two Republicans, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine, sided with Democrats in voting 10-5 for the release of the report's final phase during committee deliberation. Otherwise, the vote would obviously have been a completely partisan 8-7.

Hagel and Snowe offered a view different from the majority's in a joint statement:
We expect future administrations to learn from this comprehensive review and avoid making similar mistakes. While the process by which the committee drafted and approved the reports could have been significantly improved, their release is important, if long overdue.
The two reports were the final parts of the committee’s so-called “phase two” investigation of prewar intelligence on Iraq and related issues. The first phase of the inquiry, begun in the summer of 2003 and published in July 2004, identified grave faults in the Central Intelligence Agency’s analysis of the threat posed by Mr. Hussein.

The report about the Bush administration’s public statements does shed some new detail about the intelligence information available to policymakers as they built a case for war. In September 2002, for instance, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the Iraq problem cannot be solved by airstrikes alone” because Iraqi chemical and biological weapons were so deeply buried that they could not be penetrated by American bombs.

Two months later, however, the National Intelligence Council wrote an assessment for Mr. Rumsfeld concluding that the Iraqi underground weapons facilities identified by the intelligence
agencies “are vulnerable to conventional, precision-guided, penetrating munitions because they are not deeply buried.”

Here are the key points from the reports, according to a press release from Sen. Jay Rockefeller's office:
  • Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

  • Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

  • Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.

  • Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq's chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community's uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.

  • The Secretary of Defense's statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.

  • The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed.
This phase II portion of the Report could have easily been published in time for the 2004 and 2006 elections but was delayed by the Republican majority for obvious political reasons.

This Would Be Change I could Believe In

Unconditional support for occupation would not be a change, nor do I believe in it.

  • United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon deplores an Israeli settlement plan (4 June 2008) to construct new settlement housing units in the occupied east Jerusalem, which UN resolutions consider an 'occupied land'. Ki-Moon is talking about a new plan announced this week to build 800 housing units in the Israeli settlement of Abu Ghonaim hilltop in the occupied east Jerusalem, despite Palestinian-Israeli peace talks on final settlement agreement.

  • Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control: (5 June 2008): President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November. Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government. Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US boots on the ground.
We are well on our way to inheriting, from Busheney, our own West Bank and Gaza Strips on the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

This Is Our Time !!!

As well as it should be. But...
It will still be an uphill slog. Barack Obama is faced with a shot gun political wedding with Hillary Clinton. That promises to be a 'dream ticket'? Maybe. But, as David Gergen has said, that might end up like a blissful four-month honeymoon followed by a short, four-year marriage-from-hell. In the mean time, Barry will have to worry about keeping crazy Uncle Bubba away from daughters Sasha and Malia!

"Drop" Weapons

Two Quick Questions:

What happens when the world's best and most professional military machine gets assigned to a war occupation where we have no business, experience, linguistic or cultural affinity?

Who are the "al Qaeda", "al Qaeda types", "enemies", "extremists", "Iranian agents", "militants", "special groups", and "terrorists"?

They are Iraqis !
"Drop" weapons have been infused into chain of command's informal de facto rules of engagement.

The American public doesn't know. The American public doesn't want to know. The American public doesn't care.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Teddy In Surgery

A six hour procedure!

Senator Edward M. Kennedy is undergoing surgery for his malignant brain tumor at Duke University as I write this. Ted and his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, sailed in Hyannis Port Sunday morning and then flew to North Carolina Sunday afternoon. A hopeful prognosis indicates that in the weeks and months after the surgery, Kennedy will begin a regimen of radiation and chemotherapy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Smooth sailing, Senator!

Mya is not my kinda yacht, or my kinda sailing. But Teddy is my kinda Senator.