Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bush Preserved Zarqawi's Weapons Lab to Justify American Invasion of Iraq

Before the invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi's presence was discovered and closely followed by U.S. Intelligence.

But nothing was done about it. In fact, Zarqawi's installation was Protected by the Bush Administration.

In an 5-Apr-07 interview with Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney boasted about this:
...remember Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist, al Qaeda affiliate; ran a training camp in Afghanistan for al Qaeda, then migrated -- after we went into Afghanistan and shut him down there, he went to Baghdad, took up residence there before we ever launched into Iraq; organized the al Qaeda operations inside Iraq before we even arrived on the scene, and then, of course, led the charge for Iraq until we killed him last June.... This is al Qaeda operating in Iraq. And as I say, they were present before we invaded Iraq.
NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger. From NBC's Chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski's March 2, 2004 article Avoiding Attacking Suspected Terrorist Mastermind:
In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaeda had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack the camp with cruise missiles and air-strikes and sent it to the White House, where, according to U.S. government sources, the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council...Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe. The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it...In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq...The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it .... the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
The Miklaszewski article, which cited unnamed sources, was confirmed in a 30-Apr-06 ABC TV interview with Mike Scheuer, who in 2002 was head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit.
Almost every day we sent a package to the White House that had overhead imagery of the house he [Zarqawi] was staying in. It was a terrorist training camp . . . experimenting with ricin and anthrax . . . any collateral damage there would have been terrorists.
This should be remembered as part of the history of Busheney's betrayal of America's trust.
Diary by Sarge in Seattle

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Flip-Flopping on Capital Punishment: How I came to Love Rose Bird (Posthumously!)

How I would love to be on Zacharia Moussaoui's Jury!

In my life, my attitudes toward capital punishment have gone through several changes. This was an issue everyone tends to have a definite position on. I used to like to take a position that was fun and easily defended. Aren't those the best? Well, I enjoyed it anyway.

I vaguely remember back in the days of the movement, when the fate of Caryl Chessman (R.I.P. 1960) was at stake. Was that his name? The so-called 'red light bandit'? My position was that I was against capital punishment because there was always a mathematical chance that the state would be executing the wrong person. The possibility that the wrong man or woman would be executed from an error was, I thought, an surmountable objection to capital punishment.

Later, more worldy wise to the fact that there are such 'things' as homo-scumbags walking the earth in the guise of homo-sapiens, I changed. I was all for capital punishment. So much so, I wanted to know where to apply to become an executioner. I was in favor of charging any one who killed using a gun while in the commission of any crime, whether it was rape, or holding up a liquor store.

Cruel and Usual Punishment was my motto in these, my red-neck, West-Texas days.

I hated to see murderers sentenced to prison, and then become serial killers in prison. Once you sentence some one until old age, what more can you do to a repeat homicidal killer? "Whatever became of prisons as 'correctional facilities'?", I was fond of asking with a rhetorical sneer. We needed to make prisons safe, again, I would argue. As it was, inmates were forced to form or join gangs of racial identity out of a need to obtain some degree of personal safety in the social chaos of prison.

If convicted killers could count on a systematic process: quick and speedy trials, an automatic death sentence and quick and speedy execution, we could save the society a lot of anguish, the victims a lot of lingering pain, and our prisons a lot of the expense of warehousing useless homo-scumbags. Prisons could become civilizing correctional institutions again. They could revert back to less crowded reservations for salvageable human beings who had gone astray to some limited extent, without having done any permanent damage such as having taken a human life.

What changed my mind 10-15 years ago? Well, I didn't get 'religion', for sure. Or contract a case of touchy-feely liberal moralism.

What was it? Well, I'll tell you.

The major thing that changed me was the experience of sitting on a few juries. That experience taught me that our judicial non-system was peopled by at least two classifications of suspect people: jurors and lawyers.

In my experience, jurors tend to be the least qualified to pass on anything as crucial as the guilt or innocence of a human sitting before them. Jurors tend to be the ex-employed, under-employed, unemployed, or the unemployable. Oh, there were a few professional types who stuck out in the jury room: people with brief cases or lap-tops, or hard-bound books. But these were quickly siphoned off and dismissed by prosecution or defense attorneys "without cause". Actually, you could tell without sitting through a trial which side thought he/she had the weakest case by which attorney threw out the teachers, university professors, etc. And, of course, some of these super-employed and super-employable candidates for juries were among those who begged off of the potentially serious and longer trials; the skills they might have brought to the table of deliberation were too critical for society to waste in jury rooms.

So the juries – the ones I managed to lie myself on to anyway – were left with highly malleable, suggestible and stupid people who could be manipulated in one direction or another by three or four stronger jurors. I know because I was able to manipulate them. After sitting on two juries and being dismissed from countless other juries, I concluded that what we have is a judicial non-system.

In criminal trial-by-jury cases, verdicts are arbitrary to a large degree. Doesn't mean we should do a way with them, of course. Just means that we would be even worse off if we went to some other alternative non-system.

Now the lawyers. I won't say much against lawyers because I have two of them in my family. But what really pissed me off to a huge extent was this sub-sub-sub-speciality within the profession of criminal law which quickly grew from a cottage-industry level to an industrial strength level. And that's the professional clique which refers to itself as Jury Consultants. (Throw in a few psychologists, one of which I have in my family also.) These sub-species of the legal profession occupied themselves with research on prospective and actual jurors. Demographic research, I guess you would call it. Questioning prospective jurors. I'm not talking voir dire. I'm talking written surveys, up to 50 pages and possibly more. I'm talking post-trial interviews of jurors.
"What organizations do you belong to?"
"What magazines do you subscribe to?"

Stuff like that. Why should I, as a juror, be called to fill something like that out? It's like taking an exam on my personal life for Chrissakes! Standing up and leaning against a wall? What a fooking imposition!* Who's on trial here, anyway?

This perversion of duly diligent voir dire distorted the principal of trial by peers. This process of having specialized lawyers select the jury for both sides (usually just for especially well-heeled defendants) totally distorted the justice system, by gaming it, IMHO.

So, for these two reasons, I came to see that the jury system wasn't up to processing cases where people's lives were at stake; that such a system could not hand out systemically consistent, automatic death sentences, impartially and 'across the board'.

But there is always a third reason, isn't there?

The third reason which caused me to turn against the death penalty was the economic one. It was no longer 'fun' to provoke my liberal pals by blustering support for something that had become financially unsustainable.

Over the years, capital punishment opponents have conducted a "war of attrition" against the death penalty, jacking up the cost and greatly prolonging appeals with the intent of making the process too expensive to keep up. Because of bleeding heart liberals, society has been increasingly forced to give up the death penalty; just because of actions by those who have been ratcheting up the costs.

Chief among whom was the infamous California Chief Justice Rose Bird (R.I.P. 2000). California renewed its death penalty statute 1976 and And Bird became Chief Justice in 1977. During her reign, Bird single-handedly attempted to derail California's death penalty statute, and in 61 decisions of the State Supreme Court she was able to get a majority of Associate justices to vote with her to overrule it. She would protest, that

I feel strongly about the sanctity of life, and I have argued against the death penalty. But I believe as an individual justice I can make a determination based on issues and not on preconceived notions.
That is what she said, but it was a lie. Her rulings and decisions were quixotically contorted, but always, always, in behalf of the worthless scumbags whose miserable lives she saved for old age. I recall I was so glad to be able to join millions of Californians and vote for her recall in 1986, I could have just shit.

But it turns out that society pays hugely for the institution of the death penalty, especially here in California. We maintain the physical apparatus of state executions and a parallel legal apparatus that almost guarantees that executions are rarely carried out. Tax-payers pay big for both sides.

California condemns many murderers, but few are ever executed. The state's voters retain a great willingness to hand out death sentences; California as a state is one of the more hesitant among the 38 capital punishment states to actually put a convict to death like the scumbag he probably is. California has 640 inmates on death row, about 20% of the nation's total. But the state has accounted for only 1% of the nation's executions — or 11 deaths — since 1978, when the death penalty was restored.

In California, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, goes to great lengths to minimize the possibility of error, and builds in a lot of delays. One reason for the extra costs is that capital cases require a jury trial for sentencing after guilt has been determined in the first trial. There are long appeal processes, and specific number of post-conviction hearings in state and federal courts. Typically, capital cases have four times as many pre trial motions, more investigators, more expert testimony, and much more exhaustive jury selection. Because of the long appeals process, the delay between sentencing and execution in California averages nearly 20 years.

Attorneys 'game the system' with the issues of sexually abused childhoods, mental retardation and other proven tactics designed to prolong the delays in the process from conviction to execution.

The population on death row grays more than in the general prison population. According to Department of Corrections statistics, 180 death row inmates are older than 50; 42 are older than 60. A common joke is death row inmates are most likely to die of old age.

So I cave. Capital punishment (arguing about it) isn't fun any more. It's as mundane as taxes.

Don't mend, amend, or blend capital punishment. End it. Save money and let the miserable perps kill themselves off in the endless boredom of their life terms.

Our late great Chief Justice? We should observe an annual Rose Bird day. The old bitch was right in the end, God bless her. I'm on her side.

Finally, before turning to Zacarias Moussaoui, let me relate a news story which moved me greatly.

Alejandro Avila was sentenced to death for the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion. Orange County Superior Court Judge William R. Froeberg told the courtroom that with his crimes, Avila, 30, "has forfeited his right to live."

But IMHO, the stiffer sentence was pronounced moments before by Samantha's mother, Erin Runnion, who rescinded her earlier request for capital punishment:

Everything in me wants to hurt you in every possible way. But when I'm very honest with myself, what I want more than anything is for you to feel remorse.

The night you took my baby and hurt her and scared her and crushed her until her heart stopped. The crime is incomprehensible...I know she looked at you with those amazing, sparkling brown eyes and you still wanted to kill her. I don't understand it. I never will.

In choosing to destroy Samantha's life, you chose to waste your life to satisfy a selfish and sick desire. You are a disgrace to the human race. You don't deserve a place in my family's history.
And then, the 'killer':

I want you to disappear into the abyss of a lifetime in prison where no one will remember you, no one will pray for you and no one will care when you die.
Now that's justice.

That's what a jihadist fears more than anything: denial of all chances of martyrdom. Such a sentence would not only be perfect justice for Zacharia Moussaoui, it would be a palpable deterrent for his aspirant copycats.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The League of Extraordinarily ‘Disgruntled’ Ex-Employees

It’s not a feature movie, but a documentary with a growing cast of distinguished public servants.

No one has lost a job over the intelligence failures that led to 9/11 or the invasion & occupation of Iraq that was trumped up and velcroed to 9/11. The reason is that firing someone will only induce him/her to speak up and tell the truth. There is safety in numbers, and those numbers are growing daily. Now, more than before, whistle-blowers have less reason to fear that the Karl Rove machine will call out the dogs of personal destruction. Also, there is a growing awareness of the veracity of the critics’ messages.

Richard Clarke has stayed in the news is because he does not stand alone; he has joined a long and prestigious line of people who have come forward to bear witness against this White House. Eventually, the numbers in this League of Extraordinarily Disgruntled Ex-Employees will reach a critical mass.

Paul O'Neill: Former (fired) Treasury Secretary for George W. Bush. O'Neill was afforded a position on the National Security Council because of his job as Treasury Secretary, and sat in on the Iraq invasion planning sessions which were taking place months before the attacks of September 11. Along with Ron Suskind, O’Neill has published his memoirs The Price of Loyalty. O’Neil & Susskind document Bush’s obsession about getting Iraq from the first week of the administration:
It was all about finding a way to do it,…That was the tone of it. The president saying 'Go find me a way to do this….From the very first instance, it was about Iraq,….It was about what we can do to change this regime. Day one, these things were laid and sealed.
Richard Armitage: Ex-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on the disappointments of the first Bush term.
I'm disappointed that Iraq hasn't turned out better. And that we weren't able to move forward more meaningfully in the Middle East peace process... The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot.
The late Robin Cook: Culminating a career that began in 1974 with his election as a Member of Parliament, Robin Cook served as Foreign Secretary 1997-2001, and as Leader of the House of Commons, 2001-2003. On the evening before Parliament voted on the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq (18 March 2003), he resigned from Tony Blair's cabinet, saying in part:
Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner - not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the Security Council. To end up in such diplomatic weakness is a serious reverse. . . . . Only a year ago, we and the United States were part of a coalition against terrorism that was wider and more diverse than I would ever have imagined possible.

History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition. Yet tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened: the European Union is divided; the Security Council is in stalemate. Those are heavy casualties of a war in which a shot has yet to be fired. What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops. . . . . I intend to join those tomorrow night who will vote against military action now. It is for that reason, and for that reason alone, and with a heavy heart, that I resign from the government.
Carne Ross: Britain’s Iraq expert and first secretary in Britain’s delegation to the United Nations, involved in the initial preparation of Blair’s dossier on weapons, before the war resigned last week (15-Oct-04). He quit only recently because he was due to return to the Foreign Office from the UN where he had been serving as head of conflict resolution. Ross declined to expand on why he resigned, saying he had been advised he might face legal action if he did so. All he would say to The Independent was
I had lost trust in a Government that I believe did not tell the whole truth about the alleged threat posed by Iraq before the war. . . .I am happy to confirm that I resigned because of the war, but I cannot comment further.
Richard A. Clarke: has worked for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, serving as counterterrorism chief for the last two—apologized to the families of 9-11 victims for his failures in fighting al-Qaeda. In testimony before the Commission he slammed the Bush administration for paying insufficient attention to the terrorist threat in the summer of 2001. His new book, Against All Enemies, makes similar points at greater length. Clarke argues (page 246): that the war diverted resources from the hunt for Bin Laden in Afghanistan and riled up potential al-Qaeda recruits:
It was as if Usama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long range mind control of George Bush, chanting 'invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq.'
David Kay served as the IAEA/UNSCOM Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector, leading numerous inspections into Iraq following the end of the Gulf War to determine Iraqi nuclear weapons production capability. During the Bush II administration, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency appointed Dr. David Kay to lead that search and direct the activities of the 1,400 hundred member Iraq Survey Group, the hunting for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. David Kay resigned from the CIA in January 2004. Currently Dr. David Kay is a Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies with a concentration on counterterrorism and weapons proliferation. In an interview on 18-Jul-04, Dr. Kay said:
What really happened for the analysts is they had two levels of evidence. Anything that would confirm WMD in Iraq – very little scrutiny. Anything that showed Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, had a much higher gate to pass because if it were true, all of US policy towards Iraq would have fallen asunder. . . . I think what you have in both the Senate Report and in the Butler Commission Report is a disturbing merger of the lines between intelligence, whose real role was to speak truth to power, and power whose real role is to influence the public to do the course of action that they’ve decided upon. That line blurred and blurred on both sides of the Atlantic with regard to Iraq. . . . I think the Prime Minister as I would say the US President should have been able to tell before the war that the evidence did not exit for drawing the conclusion that Iraq presented a clear, present and imminent threat on the basis of existing weapons of mass destruction. . . . That was not something that required a war and inspectors like myself going in if you’d fairly interpreted the evidence that existed. WMD was only one and I think in their mind, not really the most important one. And so the doubts about the evidence on weapons of mass destruction was not as serious to them as it seemed to be to the rest of the world . . . If you hold that everyone is responsible, therefore no one is responsible, you don’t reform the system. You just go and wait for the disaster to occur next time . . . The politicians, the political leaders had their conclusions ready and they looked for evidence to support it and the civil servants’ error was to give it to them and allow their evidence to go forward without the caveats and the question marks they should have had.

Brian Sheridan: Pentagon's top counterterrorism official, its assistant secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict under Clinton. Incoming Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld never arranged a briefing from Sheridan. Colin Powell did. Powell took the unusual step during the transition of asking to meet with the CSG, the senior counterterrorism officers from NSC, State, Defense, CIA, FBI and the military. He wanted to see them interact, respond to each other's statements. When they all agreed at the importance of the Al Qaeda threat, Powell was obviously surprised at the unanimity & took detailed notes. Brian Sheridan, Assistant Secretary of Defense who wasn't fired until after 9-11, summed it up:
General Powell, I will be leaving when the administration changes. I am the only political appointee in the room. All these guys are career professionals. So let me give you one piece of advice, untainted by any personal interest. Keep this interagency team together and make al-Qaida your No. 1 priority. We may all squabble about tactics and we may call each other assholes from time to time, but this is the best interagency team I have ever seen and they all want to get al-Qaida. They're comin' after us and we gotta get them first.
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni: For years Zinni said he cautioned U.S. officials that an Iraq without Saddam Hussein would likely be more dangerous to U.S. interests than one with him because of the ethnic and religious clashes that would be unleashed. Known as the "Warrior Diplomat," Zinni is not a peace activist by nature or training, having led troops in Vietnam, commanded rescue operations in Somalia and directed strikes against Iraq and al Qaeda. Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni (a Marine for 39 years) and the former commander of the U.S. Central Command. wondered aloud how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could be caught off guard by the chaos in Iraq that has killed nearly 100 Americans in recent weeks and led to his announcement that 20,000 U.S. troops would be staying there instead of returning home as planned.
I'm surprised that he is surprised because there was a lot of us who were telling him that it was going to be thus. Anyone could know the problems they were going to see. How could they not?. . . .I think that some heads should roll over Iraq. I think the president got some bad advice. , , , We're betting on the U.N., who we blew off and ridiculed during the run-up to the war. Now we're back with hat in hand. It would be funny if not for the lives lost. . . . .I've been called a traitor and a turncoat for mentioning these things.
Tom Maertens: National Security Council director for nuclear non-proliferation for both the Clinton and Bush White House. Colleague of Clarke’s for 15 months in the White House, under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Subsequently, He moved to the U.S. State Department as deputy coordinator for counterterrorism, and worked with Clarke and his staff before and after 9/11.
The Bush administration did ignore the threat of terrorism. It was focused on tax cuts, building a ballistic missile system, withdrawing from the ABM Treaty and rejecting the Kyoto Protocol. Clarke's gutsy insider recounting of events related to 9/11 is an important public service. From my perspective, the Bush administration has practiced the most cynical, opportunistic form of politics I witnessed in my 28 years in government: hijacking legitimate American outrage and patriotism over 9/11 to conduct a pre-ordained war against Saddam Hussein….I personally believe that Clarke was one of the most effective government officials I have ever worked with — most effective, but not the most loved. Unfortunately, he suffered the fate of Cassandra: He was able to foresee the future but not convince his leaders of the threat.
Donald Kerrick: A three-star General who served as deputy National Security Advisor under Clinton, and stayed for his last four months in the service in the Bush White House. According to a report by Sidney Blumenthal from March 25, Kerrick wrote Stephen Hadley, his replacement in the White House, a two-page memo. Kerrick told Blumenthal. Hadley has since become a White House front man in the attacks against Rickard Clarke. He sent a memo to the NSC's new leadership on "things you need to pay attention to." He wrote about Al Qaeda: "We are going to be struck again." But he never heard back.
I don't think it was above the waterline. They were gambling nothing would happen,… [my memo] It was classified [and] said they needed to pay attention to al-Qaida and counterterrorism. I said we were going to be struck again. We didn't know where or when. They never once asked me a question nor did I see them having a serious discussion about it. They didn't feel it was an imminent threat the way the Clinton administration did. Hadley did not respond to my memo. I know he had it. I agree with Dick that they saw those problems through an Iraqi prism. But the evidence wasn't there.
Gen. Henry H. Shelton: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until Oct. 1, 2001.
There are other serious threats out there in addition to that posed by ballistic missiles. We know, for example, that there are adversaries with chemical and biological weapons that can attack the United States today. They could do it with a brief case B by infiltrating our territory across our shores or through our airports.[Under Bush administration antiterrorism was moved] farther to the back burner The squeaky wheel was Dick Clarke, but he wasn't at the top of their priority list, so the lights went out for a few months. Rumsfeld's attitude was this terrorism thing was out there, but it didn't happen today, so maybe it belonged lower on the list.
Greg Thielmann: Former Director of the Office of Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Issues in the State Department. Thielmann, like Ambassador Wilson, was involved in investigating whether the Niger uranium claims had any merit. Thielmann told Newsweek at the beginning of June 2003 that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research had concluded the documents used to support the Niger uranium claims were "garbage." In fact, they were crude forgeries. Thielmann was stunned to see Bush use the claims in his State of the Union address eleven months after the charge had been dispensed with as nonsense. "When I saw that, it really blew me away," Thielmann told Newsweek. He watched Bush use the claim and said, "Not that stupid piece of garbage. My thought was, how did that get into the speech?"
From my perspective as a former mid-level official in the U.S. intelligence community and the Department of State, I believe the Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq. Some of the fault lies with the performance of the intelligence community, but most of it lies with the way senior officials misused the information they were provided.
Karen Kwiatkowski: Lt. Colonel in the Air Force and a career Pentagon officer. Kwiatkowski worked in the office of Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, and worked specifically with the Office of Special Plans. Kwiatkowski's own words tell her story:
From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies. I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president.
Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador and career diplomat who received lavish praise from the first President Bush for his work in Iraq before the first Gulf War. Wilson was the man dispatched in February 2002 to Niger to see if charges that Iraq was seeking uranium from that nation to make nuclear bombs had any merit. He investigated, returned, and informed the CIA, the State Department, the office of the National Security Advisor and the office of Vice President Cheney that the charges were without merit. Eleven months later, George W. Bush used the Niger uranium claim in his State of the Union address to scare the cheese out of everyone, despite the fact that the claim had been irrefutably debunked. Wilson went public, exposing this central bit of evidence to support the Iraq invasion as the lie it was. A few days later, Wilson's wife came under attack from the White House, whose agents used press proxies to destroy her career in the CIA as a warning to Wilson and anyone else who might come forward. For the record, Wilson's wife was a deep-cover agent running a network which worked to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. The irony is palpable.
Now understanding that they would come after me, I didn’t feel that I had anything personally to worry about. After all, the former President Bush had called me an American hero and had written me any number of laudatory handwritten letters. What did shock me and I think shocks most Americans was what this administration decided when they couldn’t discredit me to their satisfaction.

Somebody close to the president of the United States decided that in order to defend Bush’s political agenda, that individual or individuals would violate the national security of the country and expose my wife’s name and her profession. . . . .That was absolutely unexpected, that this government would take a national security asset off the table, working in an area that is of primordial importance to the national security of the United States—the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction into the hands of rogue states and non-state actors. Yet for some reason, either because they wanted to discourage other people from stepping forward and telling the truth, or out of simple revenge, as was reported in The Washington Post, this government decided that it would go ahead and take that national security asset off the table.
Michael Scheuer, a 22-year veteran of the CIA, wrote "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror" (Brassey's Inc., 2004) under the pseudonym Anonymous:
I cannot state these facts more clearly, and I fiercely deny the accusations that I am a disgruntled former employee. I am, however, a disgruntled American — one who decided that being a good citizen was no longer compatible with being a good member of the CIA's Senior Intelligence Service. . . .The 9/11 commission report documents most of the occasions on which senior U.S. bureaucrats and policymakers had the chance to attack Bin Laden in 1998-1999. It is mystifying that the American public has not been outraged over these missed opportunities. . . . .Clarke had the duty to apologize for the government's ineffectiveness as regards terrorism, but I reject his intimation that the clandestine service failed the nation. . . . .I must add that I was never charged with deciding whether to act against Bin Laden. That decision properly belongs solely to senior White House officials. However, as a now-private American citizen, it is my right to question their judgment; I am entitled to know why the protection of Americans — most selfishly, my own children and grandchildren — was not the top priority of the senior officials who refused to act on the opportunities to attack Bin Laden provided by the clandestine service. . . . .At day's end, it may be worth pausing the intelligence reform process long enough to determine what role personal failure, bureaucratic warfare — which the Department of Defense continues waging today — and a lack of moral courage played in getting the United States to 9/11. Lacking this accounting, the debate over intelligence reform will, I believe, simply lock into place a bureaucratic mind-set that believes intelligence is never "good enough" to take a risk to protect the lives of Americans.
Maj. Isaiah Wilson III: who served as an official historian of the campaign and later as a war planner in Iraq. During the period in question, from April to June 2003, Wilson was a researcher for the Army's Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group. Then, from July 2003 to March 2004, he was the chief war planner for the 101st Airborne Division, which was stationed in northern Iraq.
There was no adequate operational plan for stability operations and support operations. . .In the two to three months of ambiguous transition, U.S. forces slowly lost the momentum and the initiative . . . gained over an off-balanced enemy. The United States, its Army and its coalition of the willing have been playing catch-up ever since. [Because of] stunted learning and a reluctance to adapt. . . . the 'western coalition' failed, and continues to fail, to see Operation Iraqi Freedom in its fullness. . . . Reluctance in even defining the situation . . . is perhaps the most telling indicator of a collective cognitive dissidence on part of the U.S. Army to recognize a war of rebellion, a people's war, even when they were fighting it . . . .perhaps in peril of losing the 'war,' even after supposedly winning it. The scarcity of available 'combat power' . . . greatly complicated the situation. . . This overly simplistic conception of the 'war' led to a cascading undercutting of the war effort: too few troops, too little coordination with civilian and governmental/non-governmental agencies . . . and too little allotted time to achieve 'success'.
Richard Armitage:The outgoing Deputy Secretary of State to his best friend and boss Colin Powell. According to Bob Woodward's account of the period leading up to the war in Iraq, Armitage was one of the members of the Bush administration urging the greatest caution in going in to Iraq:
The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot.
John Brown: former Foreign Service officer who resigned in protest against the invasion of Iraq, is affiliated with Georgetown University.
If there's one thing the sad history of recent years has amply demonstrated, it's that the Bush White House is profoundly uninterested in ideas (even the superficial ones promulgated by the neocons). What concerns Dubya and his entourage is not thought, but power. They pick up and drop "ideas" at the tip of a hat, abandoning them when they no longer suit their narrow interests of the moment. (The ever-changing "justifications" for the war in Iraq are a perfect illustration of this attitude). The Bushies are short-term and savvy tacticians par excellence, with essentially one long-term plan, rudimentary but focused: Republican -- as they interpret Lincoln's party -- domination of the United States for years to come.
John Brady Kiesling: A career diplomat who has served in United States embassies from Tel Aviv to Casablanca to Yerevan:
When I faxed my resignation letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell on February 25, the United States government was on the verge of its most costly foreign policy blunder since the war in Vietnam. The primary goal the president had announced, protecting the American people from terrorism, could not be achieved through war with Iraq. The goal of establishing democracy in Iraq was one the United States had, alas, no effective legitimacy to achieve. The costs of our attainable goal — cleansing Iraq of a genuinely monstrous Saddam Hussein and his likely arsenal — had been concealed from the American people and their elected representatives for an excellent reason: As two previous presidents had recognized, the material, moral, human, and political costs would be so great as to cancel out the probable benefit.
Mary Wright: the second highest-ranking diplomat at the US embassy in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, resigns from her post after serving 15 years at the State Department. Wright's letter of resignation (19-Mar-03):
In our press military action now, we have created deep chasms in the international community and in important international organizations. Our policies have alienated many of our allies and created ill will in much of the world.... I feel obligated morally and professionally to set out my very deep and firm concerns on these policies and to resign from government service as I cannot defend or implement them.... I believe the administration's policies are making the world a more dangerous, not a safer place.... This preemptive attack policy will ... provide justification for individuals and groups to ‘preemptively attack’ America and American citizens.
John J. DiIulio: Renowned academic, New Democrat policy innovator, and former head of the Administration's faith-based organizations initiative, was interviewed by Esquire for an article about the Bush White House. In addition to the interview, he also supplied Esquire with a five-page memo about his experiences in the Administration.
What was needed… was more policy-relevant information, discussion, and deliberation. . . .In eight months, I heard many, many staff discussions, but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues. There were, truth be told, only a couple of people in the West Wing who worried at all about policy substance and analysis, and they were even more overworked than the stereotypical, non-stop, 20-hour-a-day White House staff. Every modern presidency moves on the fly, but, on social policy and related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking—discussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were talking Medicare; near-instant shifts from discussing any actual policy pros and cons to discussing political communications, media strategy, et cetera. Even quite junior staff would sometimes hear quite senior staff pooh-pooh any need to dig deeper for pertinent information on a given issue. . . . This gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis—staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible. . . .Some are inclined to blame the high political-to-policy ratios of this administration on Karl Rove. . . . some staff members, senior and junior, are awed and cowed by Karl's real or perceived powers. . . . They self-censor lots for fear of upsetting him. . . . Karl is enormously powerful, maybe the single most powerful person in the modern, post-Hoover era ever to occupy a political advisor post near the Oval Office.
General Greg Newbold, the Pentagon's top operations officer, voiced his objections internally and then retired, in part out of opposition to the war. Here, for the first time, Newbold goes public with a full-throated critique.

Newbold is not opposed to war.
I would gladly have traded my general's stars for a captain's bars to lead our troops into Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda.... I don't accept the stated rationale for invading Iraq....

In 1971, the rock group The Who released the antiwar anthem Won't Get Fooled Again. To most in my generation, the song conveyed a sense of betrayal by the nation's leaders, who had led our country into a costly and unnecessary war in Vietnam. To those of us who were truly counterculture--who became career members of the military during those rough times--the song conveyed a very different message. To us, its lyrics evoked a feeling that we must never again stand by quietly while those ignorant of and casual about war lead us into another one and then mismanage the conduct of it. Never again, we thought, would our military's senior leaders remain silent as American troops were marched off to an ill-considered engagement. It's 35 years later, and the judgment is in: the Who had it wrong. We have been fooled again.

From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.

I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice.

With the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership, I offer a challenge to those still in uniform: a leader's responsibility is to give voice to those who can't--or don't have the opportunity to--speak. Enlisted members of the armed forces swear their oath to those appointed over them; an officer swears an oath not to a person but to the Constitution. The distinction is important.

.... I will admit my own prejudice: my deep affection and respect are for those who volunteer to serve our nation and therefore shoulder, in those thin ranks, the nation's most sacred obligation of citizenship. To those of you who don't know, our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.

.... What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results.

Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another. Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction. A few of the most senior officers actually supported the logic for war. Others were simply intimidated, while still others must have believed that the principle of obedience does not allow for respectful dissent. The consequence of the military's quiescence was that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war, while pursuing the real enemy, al-Qaeda, became a secondary effort.
Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA’s Europe division, revealed that in the fall of 2002, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others were told by CIA Director George Tenet that Iraq’s foreign minister — who agreed to act as a spy for the United States — had reported that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction program.
They were enthusiastic because they said they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis.

He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

No doubt in my mind at all...The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.
60 Minutes (23-Apr-06)

Originally Published on April Fools' Day 2004,
and updated Constantly!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bridging the Troubled Waters Between Vietnam and Iraq?

Applying Half-Assed Ruminations About History and Historical Analogies...

Historical analogies deserve a certain skepticism. They represent the artifice of simplifications intended to deepen our understanding of events which are unfolding before our eyes, as -maybe - we imagine future historians will explain our present to our progeny. In order to highlight certain threads of history, they are defensible as long as we remember they are simplifications, and not at all to be considered above suspicion.

In fact, simplistic historical analogies can become quite malevolent in their effects on policy.

Consider, for example, the meticulously careful and conservative lessons drawn by George Kennan as he drafted his doctrine of Containment of the Soviet Union. He was drawing from the disastrous consequences of the Munich syndrome - appeasement of totalitarian states in Europe. His writing served Truman and subsequent American presidents well as they negotiated through the years of the Cold War.

Contrast Kennan's craft with the misconceptions of Dean Rusk and the rest of JFK's "Best and the Brightest" as they greedily snatched up the reins dropped by the French in South East Asia. Vietnam looked like a repeat of Korea. (However, the Sigman Rhee (George Washington) of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, was ensconced in the North).

And, as I thought at the time, Rusk's State Department even thought Vietnam looked a little like the pre-Franco Spanish Civil War in the 30's [into which Hitler had dipped his hands], and needed to be bolstered up, else it fall like the dominoes of Eastern Europe under Nazism. (Are you beginning to get the sense of how historical analogies can jerk you around?)

But instead, SE Asia turned out to be quite different than SE Europe, huh? It turned out that to the local inhabitants (never consulted), totalitarianism wasn't such a big deal as was nationalism. Had that thought struck Rusk, might he have not seen the French Indo-Chinese syndrome as a variant of the French-Algeria syndrome? But Rusk was an errant heir, driven to see that JFK inherited Saigon from the French, and that LBJ inherited the same from JFK. Had not Indochina been so polarized with such a bloodletting, Ho could have emerged as an Asian Tito: communist, but non-aligned. (Actually, he did.)

By now, you can tell where I'm going with this.

Since Bush announced his mission accomplished there has been too much spilled ink and torn paper about similarities and dissimilarities between Vietnam and Iraq not to insert a caveat at this point: this is a working paper and I fully intend to accommodate, by editing, some of the comment it attracts. With that said, here goes:

  1. Casus Belli: LBJ’s decision to augment a detachment of American advisors in Vietnam with troops was the result of a fraudulent allegation that the Vietnamese Navy had attacked an American destroyer in the Gulf of Tomkin. As we learned later through the Downing Street Memo, GWB attempted something of the same nature: painting American war planes with U.N. insignia and sending them over Iraq in sorties designed to draw anti-aircraft fire. In the end, Bush and Cheney stampeded our country into war in the post-9/11 hysteria and on the pretense that Saddam’s dictatorship had weapons of mass destruction and was associated with al Qaeda.

  2. Origins: In Vietnam, JFK and LBJ serially inherited a half-completed war of national liberation against the French and turned it into a sectional (north-south) Vietnamese civil war, while all the time managing to call it a case of international aggression. In Iraq, GWB impulsively re-ignited a half-completed war (halted a dozen years prior) with a cold-blooded invasion, followed by an unplanned occupation resulting in a civil war, the warnings of which had been ignored.

  3. Legitimacy of War Time Presidents: Presidents with dubious personal mandates waged both bloody fiascoes. LBJ became president by way of assassination, GWB by way of a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court after having lost the popular vote to an opponent vastly more qualified.

  4. Length: The Vietnam war lasted twice as long as the Iraq war, but the latter quagmire is still counting days, months, and years.

  5. Escalations: The Vietnam war escalated in terms of external air strikes against North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; GWB's adventure has threatened/is threatening to spillover into Syria and Iran.

  6. Regional Instabilities: Nixon’s politically destabilizing of Cambodia resulted in the Khmer Rouge and genocide. In Iraq, a separatist Kurdistan could result in ethnic cleansing battles with the Turks.

  7. Dominoes: Vietnam was basically sold as a domino, which had to be held up else others in South East Asia, would fall. The Iraq misadventure metamorphosed in terms of mission creep. It was originally sold as a war to prevent an attack of weapons of mass destruction, which were often undefined. Its mission crept up to include al Qaeda, regime-change, a democratization of Iraq, and a domino process throughout the Middle East. So, in Vietnam, the domino theorizing initiated the project; in the latter case of Iraq, domino-izing was thrown in when other casus belli proved to be too leaky to hold water.

  8. KIA's & MIA's: The death toll in Iraq remains well short of Vietnam's numbers. The wounded-in-action statistics of both wars were marked by 'improvements' in the technology of emergency medical care: more soldiers survived with critical, life modifying wounds. This means that one of the hidden costs of Iraq will be the continuing costs of lifetime medical care, psychological trauma and occupational support of veterans.

  9. Draft/No Draft: There's no draft at this point in Iraquagmire. The Vietnam effort required drafting of an increasingly reluctant civilian military, susceptible to declining morale and political support. In Iraq, the invasion was carried out by a professional military that was supplemented by hired mercenaries in the subsequent occupation. In the latter case, the military has been able to reduce desertion rates to a trickle by offering the carrot of benefits rather than the stick of incarceration. However, also in the case of the case of Iraq, the need for boots on the ground has required the mis-use of personnel for ground combat: the elevation of the National Guard units; the use of support personnel for ground combat; and the stop-loss process of overuse of certain personnel.

  10. Combat: In Vietnam, our opponents were known colloquially as the Vietcong, but were indistinguishable from the People's Army of Viet-Nam (PAVN). Warfare was initially asymmetrical guerilla-counter guerilla warfare and evolved towards the use of air power and armor on both sides. Our enemy was a single ideology-driven nationalist group operating from a known secure base. They were supported by two members of the nuclear club (who weren't themselves that friendly.) Our Iraqi adversaries are multiple and shadowy: insurgents, terrorists and street criminals sponsored by Baathist 'dead-enders', foreign terrorist 'beheaders', and indigenous militias with no secure terriorial sanctuary. Warfare has evolved from the conventional battle between two standing, formally structured militaries to entirely an asymmetrical insurgency-counterinsurgency hostility in which pitched battles are rare. Whether our adversaries have possession of secure bases of operations is not a settled issue: Shiite militias (not united among themselves) are said to be supported from Iran, a future nuclear power; Sunni insurgents are suspected to be supported through patrons throughout the Middle East, traversing through Syria and Jordan.

  11. Terrain: The United States had to resort to napalm and Agent Orange to deal with the concealment their jungle offered the VC. In Iraq, the mere scent of white phosphorous in a dramatically more urban theater was spontaneously and universally condemned. Also, it has been argued that the urban warfare in Iraq has rendered the maintenance and repair of national infrastructures a larger issue than it was in South Vietnam. However, in both cases, infrastructure and economies suffered greatly. The net effect was that America had to destroy these theaters in order to save them.

  12. Guns and Butter on the Home Front: During LBJ’s presidency we had an attempt to unify the country through the War on Poverty and the Great Society; nowadays, we have the 'Compassionate Conservatives' waging a war against the middle class through wartime tax relief for the rich.

  13. Opposition: In the case of Vietnam, protests increased as the war went on. The Iraqi war was the first war in which the largest protests occurred before the American invasion which had been telegraphed for a year or more.

  14. Loyalist Reaction to Dissent: The same phraseology has been used in both cases: there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and the need to see it through and settle for nothing less than complete victory and more fighting and sacrifice and winning hearts and minds. These expressions give us more than twinges of deja vue.

  15. The Vietnam-Iraqi Syndrome(s): In both cases, the double-edged sword of a historical blame game is played. The military blames their civilian leadership for sending troops to their deaths without deploying sufficient forces at the same time micro-managing them from afar. The other side of the syndrome is the liberal democratic complaint: don’t send our servicemen out into foreign lands unless you are prepared for us to talk about what they are doing and why they are there.
There you have it: a working list of the comparisons of the Two Vietnams or of the Two Iraqs, however you want to think of it. They are not identical, but definitely they are the fraternal twins of American self-delusion.

Update (21-May-06): I have just fallen upon comments of a historian who has lived through both 'twins'. From his blog, History Unfolding, here are David Kaiser's 'money' conclusions:
What got me thinking, however, as one old enough to remember these events vividly, was the obvious, deep division between the leadership of the Administration on the one hand and the Congress and opinion leaders on the other. After the very heavy fighting of 1968 (which was not confined to the Tet offensive, but continued through the year), the bulk of Americans had concluded that we were not going to achieve our original objectives. Nixon had not. And so began a tradition that has persisted, off and on, for 36 years: that of an Administration more or less secretly pursuing a policy in which the American public does not believe, because it has convinced itself that such a policy is necessary and dissenters are simply playing politics, showing naivete, or working against their own country.

Something similar certainly seems to be happening today. President Bush and Secretary Rice remain totally committed to their idea of a democratic, pluralistic, relatively secular Iraq, despite the lack of any evidence that such an outcome is getting nearer. (It is not clear, on the other hand, that Vice President Cheney or Secretary Rumsfeld, the other major powers in the Administration, have ever cared much about the future of Iraq once Saddam was gone.) Realism in 1970 would have involved agreeing to a coalition government or acknowledged partition in South Vietnam, allowing the troops to come home, the American defense establishment to rebuild (clearly, based on the new documents, the main concern of Defense Secretary Laird), and the people of Vietnam at least to live in peace. A great deal of suffering might have been avoided, and it is possible that Communists would not have taken power in Laos (whose Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma told Nixon in the spring of 1970 that a coalition government was the answer in South Vietnam) or in Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge were not yet a significant factor. Realism today, in all probability, would involve recognizing that Iraq is almost certain to fracture into three parts, and trying to start negotiations to make that process as painless as possible. But within the Green Zone, the American authorities still seem committed to the vision of impartial security forces, disarmed militias, and law-abiding Iraqis. Events seem be happening on two entirely different planes. And it seems, as under Nixon, that no one can serve in the upper reaches of this Administration who does not officially believe in the happy ending to come. (A Washington Post article indicates that some American military officers are advocating partition, but they appear to be in a minority and do not yet include anyone of high rank. (See Washington Post)

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld apparently believed Saddam had to be eliminated, and did not much care about the consequences. Regime change--or rather, regime elimination--was the sum and substance of their policy. They seem to be, essentially, conventional military thinkers who are only intermittently interested in broader political trends. (Rumsfeld's leaked memo in 2003 or 2004, I believe, was one example of momentary interest.) And now they are fixated on Iran, which is more of a conventional threat than Iraq was. Nixon reacted to stalemate in Vietnam by opening a new front in Cambodia--one that ended even more disastrously--and deepening our involvement in Laos. When South Vietnam fell in 1975, Kissinger, now under Gerald Ford, reacted by trying to get the United States involved in a civil war in Angola to show we had not lost our will. If the Congress wants to stop an air campaign against Iran, it had better move pre-emptively to do so.
I'll digest this later!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Mike Gravel for President 2008

Alaska's Senator Mike Gravel Announces His Candidacy!
Mike Gravel, who represented Alaska as a maverick Democratic Senate from 1969 to 1981, has announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination with a press conference at the National Press Club.

As it happens, I just heard Senator Gravel on CSPAN, announcing his candidacy. On the strength of his record of public service, most especially his standing alone and tall during the Vietnam war, I declare this site, Gravel Country.

I remember now, only vaguely all the way back to 1971,
...during the struggle over the Pentagon Papers, the secret official study that detailed how missteps and manipulations by successive U.S. administrations and their agents had created the quagmire that was the Vietnam War.

Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst, provoked a national uproar when he put the report in the hands of the New York Times, which published portions of it in June of that year. The Justice Department moved to block further publication of information from the Pentagon Papers and to punish newspaper publishers who revealed the contents.

At that point, Gravel, a war critic, stepped in. The senator tried to read the contents of the study into the Senate record and to release them to the public, arguing that he had the authority to do so as a senator communicating with his constituents. He then sought to publish the papers in book form as The Senator Gravel Edition, The Pentagon Papers [Beacon Press].

When Justice Department went after the senator and his publisher, Gravel fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court. While lower courts expressed sympathy for the Gravel's stance, the high court rejected his claim that as a senator he had a right and a responsibility to share official documents with his constituents. Fortunately for Gravel, publicity surrounding the case was so damning to the administration's position that it finally backed off.
He's been on the right side of history all his life. Unlike 90% of other candidates, he's not going to change now that he's running.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Looking for Signs of a Bipartisan Sea Change on George W. Bush?

Keep your eye on Chuck Hagel.

Carl Bernstein, the anti-Woodword, has published a remarkable piece in Vanity Fair
, in which he calls for bipartisan hearings this year investigating the Bush presidency and asks the question, should Republicans on the Hill take the high road and save themselves come November?

Elsewhere, I have parsed Bernstein's piece, (albeit not too parsimoniously).

The mounting criticism of Rumsfeld from Republican politicians is directed at diverting blame from themselves for following, aiding and abetting Bush. Just as criticism from retired military is intended to divert blame away from the military which followed, aided and abetted Bush. Both want separation from Bush and by dramatically increasing degrees.

Those of us on the Progressive side are encouraged. We have welcomed signs of a sea change from GOP leaders on the un-provoked, unnecessary, unplanned, and largely unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq (UUULUIOI), on the incredibly mounting debts Bush has run up, and especially, finally, and penultimately on Bush himself.

Progressives want this 2006 election to be a referendum on impeachment: Congressional majorities are needed to hold oversight hearings and issue subpoenas. But nutcase saber-rattling and brinkmanship by the two demagogues, Ahmadinejad and Bush, make oversight much more urgent.

We need a Republican leader to stand up and tell Bush to stand down.

It's nice that George Will, Bob Barr, William Buckley, Bruce Bartlett, and Pat Buchanan all have a strong case of buyers' remorse.

What is needed to document a sea change on Bush himself is the same thing which is needed for a press/media event: it has to be a Republican office holder.

Richard Lugar came out this week or last for talks with Iran. That was nice, but Richard looks too nice and so gentle with his frozen smile. And hell will freeze over and Tehran will glow before chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter grows a pair.

We know where the Senator from Arizona is headed. At his advanced age, McCain wants so much to be President that he's willing to reinvent himself, courting the dixiecrats and the theocrats to grab at Bush's remnants. Why, he's even willing to out-Rumsfeld and out-Bush by calling for more troops and perhaps (by implication) a draft.

For those looking for historical parallels: LBJ had his obsequious vice-president, Hubert Horatio Humphrey; GWB has only his leader Cheney who's a dog who won't hunt (with others, anyway); so, it must fall to McCain to be the ultra-loyalist, entitlement candidate and reprise HHH.

But who's the other distinguished Vietnam Vet serving on the Republican side in the Senate? Who's that other GOP senator from a western state who has spoken out very critically on the UUULUIOI? And what does he have to lose by getting up out of his chair? Does he have a presidential chance against McCain's momentum?

I say he does have one chance. And I bet he's thinking about it.

If you're looking for a sea change, a tipping point, keep one eye on Chuck Hagel.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Retain Rumsfeld!!!

Don Rumsfeld Is More of an Asset as a Target than as an Alibi

Three retired generals have joined the chorus calling for the resignation or firing of Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld. It’s abundantly clear that some one should go, with all the mistakes that have been made. But so far no one has lost a job over the intelligence failures that led to 9/11 or the war that was trumped up and velcroed to 9/11. Those who 'have moved on' have received heck-of-a-job attaboys, if not Presidential Medals of Freedom. In fact, the only people the president and vice president have ousted or outed have been critics and spouses of critics.

Heads should have rolled along with the serial discarding of each of the reasons given for this unilateral and unprovoked invasion and occupation. First there was the faulty intelligence that cited existence of Iraq’s al Qaeda ties, possession of WMD, efforts to buy uranium. Despite the President's claims he got “darn good intelligence”, it was faulty beyond a shadow of a doubt, and no heads rolled for that; certainly not George “Slam Dunk” Tenet. All we were offered were finger-pointing “it was the other guy” alibis.

After the intelligence gap came the post-war planning gap. This was a bi-product of the strategic doctrine, contrived as early as 1996, that we could go into Iraq “lean and mean”, and achieve “shock and awe” with a smaller, modernized military machine. No one in the Administration would listen to those in and out of government who had negative things to say about the complexities occupation would bring; to do so would have increased the cost estimates of the entire operation and would have reduced chances of winning Congressional complicity in the campaign. The non-deliberate manner in which discussions and "debates" were conducted in the cabinet or Congress meant that no one in the system of checks and balances had a clue about what the administration was getting our military into.

This blithe confidence, epitomized by Rumsfeld, that Bush could run his war on the cheap has also seriously harmed the Army and the National Guard. The armed services are over-extended. Re-enlistment rates for both are down. Troops exquisitely trained for combat proved ill-suited for rebuilding infra-structure, policing and care of prisoners.

Rumsfeld also has direct and conspicuous responsibility for abuse of prisoners in Abu Gharib and GITMO, as a New York Times editorial pointed out two years ago:
The United States has been humiliated to a point where government officials could not release this year's international human rights report this week for fear of being scoffed at by the rest of the world. The reputation of its brave soldiers has been tarred, and the job of its diplomats made immeasurably harder because members of the American military tortured and humiliated Arab prisoners in ways guaranteed to inflame Muslim hearts everywhere. And this abuse was not an isolated event, as we know now and as Mr. Rumsfeld should have known, given the flood of complaints and reports directed to his office over the last year.

Personally, I like and admire Rumsfeld. His slick confidence, flippant sarcasm, and articulate deviousness epitomizes and perfectly represents the Bush presidency. As a walking-talking symbol of the cabinet, he would be sorely missed.

With him gone, will GWB’s burdens be lightened? I think so. And also the burdens of many Republicans who are bent on stealing their re-election. Rumsfeld as a familiar and lingering liability of Bush is very unpopular among the military. Let's not lose this familiar face yet! He goes when his man George goes.

Two years ago when I last wrote against 86-ing Rummy, one of the arguments was that if he went, so would his lethal gang composed of Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle. But these lesser war criminals have already escaped the chickenhawk coop.

And that is really the crux. Retention of Rummy keeps the invalidation of the preventive war doctrine 'on the table'!

I want two more years of Rumsfeld. Like a rat who's leg is caught in a trap, Bush would like to chew it off if he could do it in the dark. We should not promote or facilitate such a sacrifice. As it is, Rummy serves us better as a chicken tied around the chickenhawk-in-chief's neck.

Maybe the termination of Donald Rumsfeld, as they say, would be 'a good start'. But we already have a good start on Bush. As long as Big Don's around, he enlarges the target; gone, he is an alibi.

Remember, it wasn’t - and isn't - just Don’s fault. The essential goal is termination of Bush, not Rumsfeld.

Addendum: (26 September 2006):

Today, Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste, Retired Colonel Paul Hammes, and Retired Major General, Paul Eaton spoke before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, a rump group with little legislative clout but access to a proper Senate hearing room. And Batiste made up for lost time.

General Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and served as a senior military assistant to former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, charged that Rumsfeld and others in the Bush administration
did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq.

If we had seriously laid out and considered the full range of requirements for the war in Iraq, we would likely have taken a different course of action that would have maintained a clear focus on our main effort in Afghanistan, not fueled Islamic fundamentalism across the globe, and not created more enemies than there were insurgents . . . . is not a competent wartime leader and surrounded himself with compliant subordinates.

Secretary Rumsfeld ignored 12 years of U.S. Central Command deliberate planning and strategy, dismissed honest dissent, and browbeat subordinates to build 'his plan,' which did not address the hard work to crush the insurgency, secure a post-Saddam Iraq, build the peace and set Iraq up for self-reliance . . . . refused to acknowledge and even ignored the potential for the insurgency. . . . At one point, he threatened to fire the next person who talked about the need for a post-war plan.

Secretary Rumsfeld's dismal strategic decisions resulted in the unnecessary deaths of American servicemen and women, our allies, and the good people of Iraq. He was responsible for America and her allies going to war with the wrong plan and a strategy that did not address the realities of fighting an insurgency.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Seymour Hersh's Blockbuster

Good investigatory reporting has an outside chance to make a difference.

It may be too much to say that it can change history; perhaps good and timely journalism has only a shot at nudging history.

Seymour Hersh has done that before with his historic breaking of the My Lai Massacre story in 1969, a Pulitzer Prize winner. His investigatory spotlight also lit up the Abu Ghraib prison story. His critics argue he has been more wrong than right. No one is right all of the time. But Hersh's track record is that some of the time, he has been very, very good in getting his story right. That should motivate us to focus on some of the highlights of his 7,000 word piece in the New Yorker.

  • Bush is ready to go to war to save Israel which has not yet been attacked and which can defend itself.
  • Bush has a messianic drive to save Iran from itself.
  • A preemptive attack on Iran will unify its disparate political elements.
  • Proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran may be only Bush's pretext for regime change.
  • We may already be at war with Iran if we have clandestine troops within its borders.
  • The use of tactical nuclear weapons for a preemptive war is a thinkable proposition for contemporary civilian war planners in the Pentagon. (Only a very few of my readers will remember how we debated with Herman Kahn in the 1960's the merits of his theory of tactical nuclear war.)
  • Ironically, one of the few brakes on this war mongering juggernaut (while Congress remains in GOP control) may come from the ranks of the professional military officer corps in the Pentagon.
  • In contemplating an air war to be waged against Iran, there does not seem to be any serious contingency planning for the most obvious repercussions: Iranian ground attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan; Hezbollah revivals on steroids throughout the Middle East; unification of the regional Shiites and Sunnis against us; dispersal of Iran's uranium outside her borders into the hands of whatever terrorists who get lucky.
If it is true that Bush and Cheney need a semi-conscious, semi-alert public and a comatose media in order to work their war-mongering machinations, Sy Hersh's blockbustering reporting might have nudged history a little by waking up both of them.

I submit that even if none of Hersh's nightmares materialize, he will not be discredited: not as long as there is a possibility that preemptive war was deterred or delayed by preemptive journalism.


Thursday, April 6, 2006

The No-Good-News-Reported-In-Iraq Paradox

What kind of logic is this?

How can people in one breath complain that there is not enough of the good news being reported in Iraq and say, in the very next breath, that it's just too unsafe for reporters to venture out of the Green Zone to report it?

I just don't get it.

I have forgotten my freshman course in logic. Is this a syllogism? Is it reductio ad absurdum?

Can someone help me out with this?

Iraq - Is the US media telling the truth?

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

The Perfectly Logical and Symmetrical Baseball League (PLASBL)

Major League Baseball isn't broken. But it's not perfect.

I’m not aspiring to higher office. I’ll just settle for succeeding Bud Selig as commissioner of baseball. This is my nine-point platform and I’m sticking to it.
  • Plank #1: Eliminate the designated hitter rule. This is long over due. Going back to sandlot baseball, every one had to take his (or her) turn at shagging balls in order to merit a turn at bat. “DH” baseball is just pseudo-baseball, quasi-baseball, crypto-baseball, proto-baseball, near-baseball, old-man or geriatric baseball. Real baseball means that each starter has an offensive as well as a defensive role to play. In real baseball, if some one gets 400 at bats, you know he has at least minimal skills with glove and arm. Real baseball saves starters' arms, provides more strategic drama to the game, gets more players into the game, and provides a built-in deterrent for the bean ball. Enough ink has already been spilled on this. If you want a platoon sport, settle for football or slo-pitch.

  • Plank # 2: Enforce the real strike zone. The strike zone is over the white of the plate, above the knees and below the arm pits, when the batter is in his normal hitting stance. The upper level of the strike zone is not determined by the catcher's head or shoulders. When umpires went to the inside protector, they started depending on the catcher for protection, at the expense of the optimal position. Thus, the zone has evolved into a wider, flattened area in which pitchers get calls on pitches inches off the outside corner. On the other hand they wouldn’t get the pitch above the belt called as a strike. There was no consistency. Pitches so far outside that no batter could reach them would go for strikes. Or, on the other hand, pitches in the legal zone would be called balls and the guy on the mound would be forced to throw one right down the middle. How many games were broken up by the pitcher surrendering to the umpires’ idiosyncrasies by watching his next pitch bang against the outside wall? How many innings were ended by pitches way off the plate which couldn’t be reached by the normal bat? The outside protectors might have been clumsier and maybe they don’t give you the same mobility. But I have had the experience of umping with both protectors, and I can say that with the outside protector you could work the top of the strike zone better and see the entire plate at a higher level. The dullest play in baseball is the unintentional walk, because it is mixed in with strikes. By calling the entire strike zone by the book, you won't see as many 3-and-1 and 3-and-2 counts on batters. Hitters, in other words, will gear themselves to be more aggressive on pitches coming in at chest level. Fewer walks mean more action and shorter games.

    Therefore, MLB should return to the use of outside protectors. Additionally, the use of computerized technology called QuesTec should be installed in all stadiums to grade and rate umpires’ compliance with baseball’s book definition of the strike zone.

  • Plank # 3: Restore the level of the pitching mound to 15 inches over the level of home plate. After the 1968 season it was lowered five inches to the detriment of drama of baseball. Now, with batters crowding the plate with all kinds of body armor, the balance of power must be restored with a more unlevel playing field.

  • Plank # 4: Adopt the aluminum bat. Somebody has published statistics about the amount of wood that goes into the construction of wooden bats, which is a highly consumable commodity, unique to major league baseball. It's an environmental and economic disaster. Aluminum bats are virtually indestructible.

  • Plank #5: Re-engineer the construction of baseballs to deaden them. This is a consequence of the previous innovation. As a matter of safety for pitchers and infielders some changes to the ball will be required to accommodate aluminum bats which are definitely more lively than wood.

  • Plank #6: Re-align divisions to emphasize regional rivalries and re-establish symmetry to league schedules. Back when we had two eight-team leagues we had perfect symmetry: during the season each team played every other team in its league 22 times, 11 home game and 11 on the road for a total of 154 games in the season. Perfect. The only negative was the lack of inter-league play. What if we could combine inter-league play, still retain perfect symmetry and build in a higher degree of drama as the season unfolds? Assume the following league alignment:
    • WESTERN LEAGUE: Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, Denver & Phoenix
    • SOUTHERN LEAGUE: Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Kansas City, Atlanta, Miami, Cincinnati & Tampa Bay
    • CENTRAL LEAGUE: Chicago (WS), Chicago (C), Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Detroit, & Indianapolis
    • EASTERN LEAGUE: New York (Y), New York (M) Montreal, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia Toronto & Washington DC
    Two teams have been added to bring each league up to eight teams. Assume the season schedule starts with inter-league play on 1 April. Each team would play every other team outside its league four times, two at home, and two on the road. That would come to 96 games bringing the calendar up to about the second week in July, just in time for mid-season all-star game. I think that works out pretty nicely, leaving details to be ironed out using days off for travel on one side of the equation and inserting a few double headers as necessary. After the All-Star game, assume the season resumes on 14 July (Bastille Day!). From this point on to the end of the season, only intra-league games are played. Each team plays every other team in its own league 10 times, five at home and five on the road. If the schedule ends on 30 September, there will ample time to get 70 intra league games in to make a total of 166 games in the season. Too bad it doesn’t work out to be somewhere between 154 and 162. It does mean the schedule contains more games than ever before in MLB history. But so what, really? Look what we get: after spring training, we get 96 games which certainly count in league standings; starting in mid July we get heightened competition within each league for the league championships. When the second half of the season starts, each team knows what it has to do vis-à-vis the other teams in its league, mano-a-mano. No alibis on extra-league competition. Plus, with my geographical alignments, the competition is regionalized, even localized! Hot!

  • Plank #7: Re-establish symmetry to league post-season play-offs. There hasn’t been symmetry since eight team National & American league champions faced off against each other in the World Series. End intra-league divisions. No more wild cards. Establish four leagues with an equal number of teams in each league. The first team to clinch a league championship plays host in a seven game series to the last team to clinch a championship; the second team to clinch its league similarly plays host to the third team to clinch. The winner of each series plays each other in the World Series. Perfect Symmetry!

  • Plank #8: No Reinstatement of liars, cheaters, gamblers and scumbags! Pete Rose should be reinstated into baseball, but only posthumously, and then inducted into the Hall of Fame. What he has done between the chalk lines is too big to permanently exclude his record from the Hall of Fame, and it would sure be incomplete without his records. But what he has done to Baseball outside the lines has been so potentially fatal, that he cannot be permitted to enjoy Hall of Fame status in his life time.

  • Plank #9: Legislate or dictate (using my “best interests of baseball” powers), over the protests of the Union, a policy of zero-tolerance of performance–enhancing drugs. This 3 strikes & you’re out policy shall not be retroactively enforced.
There you have it: Perfection is only a 9-step program.

Monday, April 3, 2006

REAL SECURITY: The Democratic Plan

A mix of old platitudes and promising nuances.

On 29 March, Democratic leaders across the country joined House and Senate Democrats and unveiled a comprehensive plan for providing the American people with real security.
The Democratic plan, entitled "Real Security: The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World, is supposed to outline a 'bold vision' for how Democrats will lead on National Security.

It's not too great on specifics, and there are some platitudes; but it does offer fresh thinking on the big issues facing Americans. These are my clips on the five general issues:

  • REAL SECURITY: The Democratic Plan to Protect and Restore Our Leadership in the World: ....To protect the American people, we will immediately implement the recommendations of the independent bipartisan 9/11 Commission and finally protect our ports and airports, our borders, mass transit systems, our chemical and nuclear power plants, and our food and water supplies from terrorist attack....After September 11, all Americans trusted President Bush to take the steps necessary to keep our country safe. Since then, inadequate planning and incompetent policies have failed to make Americans as safe as we should be.
    After September 11, all Americans trusted President Bush to take the steps necessary to keep our country safe. Since then, inadequate planning and incompetent policies have failed to make Americans as safe as we should be....
    Under President Bush and the Republican majority in Congress, the war in Iraq began with manipulated intelligence and no plan for success; our ports and other critical infrastructure remain vulnerable, while both soldiers in the field and first responders at home lack the basic equipment and resources they were promised. Both in the Persian Gulf and our own Gulf Coast, lucrative no-bid contracts have gone to companies such as Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown and Root, and others with friends in high places and records of cheating taxpayers...
  • 21st CENTURY MILITARY: To Ensure Unparalleled Military Strength and Honor our Troops, we will:
    ....Guarantee that our troops have the protective gear, equipment, and training they need and are never sent to war without accurate intelligence and a strategy for success.
    Enact a GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century that guarantees our troops -- active, reserve, and retired -- our veterans, and their families receive the pay, health care, mental health services, and other benefits they have earned and deserve.
    Strengthen the National Guard, in partnership with the nation's Governors, to ensure it is fully manned, equipped and available to meet missions at home...
  • WAR ON TERROR: To Defeat Terrorists and Stop the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, we will:
    Eliminate Osama Bin Laden, destroy terrorist networks like al Qaeda, finish the job in Afghanistan, and end the threat posed by the Taliban.
    Double the size of our Special Forces, increase our human intelligence capabilities, and ensure our intelligence is free from political pressure.
  • HOMELAND SECURITY: To Protect America from Terrorism and Natural Disasters, we will: Immediately implement the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission including securing national borders, ports, airports and mass transit systems.
    Screen 100 percent of containers and cargo bound for the U.S. in ships or airplanes at the point of origin and safeguard America's nuclear and chemical plants, and food and water supplies.
    Prevent outsourcing of critical components of our national security infrastructure -- such as ports, airports and mass transit -- to foreign interests that put America at risk.
  • IRAQ - To Honor the Sacrifice of Our Troops, we will:
    .... Hold the Bush Administration accountable for its manipulated pre-war intelligence, poor planning and contracting abuses that have placed our troops at greater risk and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.
  • ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: To Free America from Dependence on Foreign Oil, we will: (offer platitudes?)
This statement is what it is. It's a step toward finding a position on the anti-terrorsim and national security issues upon which all Democrats, excepting Joe Lieberman, can agree.
Its best feature is that paints Osama Bin Laden (about whom Bush rarely thinks anymore) back in the center of the bullseye and Afghanistan as the center ring. The primary issue should be the capture of the 9-11 mastermind, and the rebuilding of the nation-state which his Taliban hosts ruined.

Also on the top tier is the fundamental issue of homeland security: border, ports, airports, containers, and mass transit systems; repairing and securing our national infrastructure. That sort of things - all those which Bush has not been able to fund because of his ruinous war of choice in Iraq.

Although not in so many words the statement brand Bush's vanity war as an un-provoked, unnecessary, unplanned, under-funded and largely unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq (UUUULUIOI). This document squarely promises to make clear that this war to be the defining element in Bush's legacy:

Hold the Bush Administration accountable for its manipulated pre-war intelligence, poor planning and contracting abuses that have placed our troops at greater risk and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.

Other issues such as the GI Bill of Rights for the 21st Century anti-nuclear proliferation and energy diversification are platitudes; but these are useful because they highlight other Bush promises which have not been implemented by his one-party government in six years.

All in all, a good start.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Open Thread

April Fools has passed, so....

Couldn't start anything on April 1st, could I?

First things first: I'm hoping all my old and not so old friends and associates from Sozadee CA will accompany me into this new venue and resume the same Vigil we began more than two years ago.

Secondly, I want to discuss, perhaps on this thread, my reasons for making this particular change at this particular time. I don't have those thoughts together right at this moment. But, if I don't get to that in a few days, prompt me.

As it is appropriate that you prompt me and others, on a whole lot of things in here.