Thursday, May 31, 2007

George W. Bush, John C. Calhoun, Cindy Sheehan and Me

On my part, all I can bring to the table is shaky memory and lack of historical references.

But I can (sort-of) remember an item from an American history text I had in college. Of course, this text was lost to me in the process of jettisoning portions of my library every time in my life I have moved. Nevertheless I remember this passage as if I had just read it yesterday.

It was mentioned by my forgotten historian in his treatment of John C. Calhoun's stormy political career. (Calhoun was the 7th Vice President of the US.) I just looked him up in Wikipedia which describes him thusly:
Calhoun was a major inspiration to the secessionists who created the short-lived Confederate States of America. Nicknamed the "cast-steel man" for his staunch determination to defend the causes in which he believed, Calhoun pushed the theory of nullification, a states' rights theory under which states could declare null and void any federal law they deemed to be unconstitutional. He was an outspoken proponent of the institution of slavery, which he defended as a "positive good" rather than as a necessary evil. His rhetorical defense of slavery was partially responsible for escalating Southern threats of secession in the face of mounting abolitionist sentiment in the South.
Calhoun expired a full decade before our American Civil War erupted.

Anyway, here is the incident which has stuck in my mind. One of Calhoun's many blood-enemies (was he an ally of Daniel Webster or was it William Lloyd Garrison?) once made a speech in which he uttered these indelible and unforgettable (for my memory anyways) words:
God damn John Calhoun.
God damn John Calhoun.
God Damn anyone who does not stay up all night damning John Calhoun.
That sums up my feeling about George Bush.

Of course, I don't want to hate George Bush. He could be a decent enough fellow living around the corner from me (but not next door). Hell, half the guys I drink with on each Wednesday night are probably closet George Bush's.

I just don't like what he has singled-handedly done to my country in terms of inflicting lasting damage to its military forces, constitutional procedures, economic wealth, and international esteem and prestige. I have detailed his offensive, incompetent and vile policies elsewhere in these pages.

And like Cindy Sheehan, who has personally given up so much, much, much more than I have to resist this War-Starter's administration, I do not hate those Americans who voted and didn't stop voting for Bush and his Weimar Republican supporters. . . . I guess I don't hate them.

I do try to reach out to a few of them every day. But I'm not getting much back in return.

I will not hate them. But I won't promise not to excoriate them every goddamned chance I get.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The United States Embassy in Baghdad

Our $600,000,000 Iraq War Memorial?

One year ago last week, I published this image:
Now it looks like this:

It's on budget at $592,000,000.

According to the architects, Berger Devine Yaeger, Inc.,
. . .this self-contained compound will include the embassy itself, residences for the ambassador and staff, PX, commissary, cinema, retail and shopping, restaurants, schools, fire station and supporting facilities such as power generation, water purification system, telecommunications, and waste water treatment facilities. In total, the 104 acre compound will include over twenty buildings including one classified secure structure and housing for over 380 families.

Of course, with a 30% increase in staffing size since Congress approved the project two years ago, it is now estimated that being "represented" in Baghdad will cost a staggering $1.2 billion per year to run. 1,000 officials assigned to it and a supporting staff (from food service workers to Marine guards and private security contractors) of several thousand more.

Is this the Iraq-Nam War Memorial Americans would choose if they knew about it?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day - 2007

Arlington West this morning:
Along the fine line dividing the beach from the green, you can pick out an array of 3,000 miniature crosses in the process of being erected. Their Stars and Stripes have not yet been attached. There should be 3,454 crosses (our KIA's in Iraq are surging - another 20 in the last three days), but the city elders put their foot down and has limited each Sunday's memorial display to 3,000. Nevertheless, Americans will not stop counting.
(Click to enlarge.)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Chatham Report is a Sadrist Screed

And that's okay by me! I'm down with that!!

What has provoked this sudden impulse for reviewing my thinking is actually having sat down and reading the much-ballyhooed Chatham House Report on Iraq-Nam. At once I recognized the inchoate thoughts which had been causing me to sleep-walk through too many posts in these pages.

The following observations are intended only as my personal spin on the Chatham Report. Readers are invited to follow the above link to check me for misrepresenting the thrust of this white paper.

It's extremely important how well both houses of Congress, Republicans (hopefully) and Democrats, succeed in reining in the most recklessly militaristic administration in our history. But our ineffectual occupation of Iraq will not be directly influenced by tight-fisted congressional micro-managing. If this occupation is materially and adversely effected in the next 18 months, it will be because of developments on the ground in Iraq - and not so much by surging troops as by insurgent politics.

The current trend in Iraq is that civilian deaths in Baghdad are down; civilian deaths elsewhere are on the rise; American casualties are on the rise; Shia militias have gone underground.

Strategic thinking in the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, and the Military Central Command is watching, analyzing and scoring the wrong game in the Iraqi bowl. This multiple disconnect is forcing failure upon American efforts because it encourages us to work at cross purposes.

1. This is an occupation that the American Military machine has been assigned, and not a war. The adversary is not a foreign power but an array of violent, restless, native, and nationalist forces. The Anglo-American coalition long ago established that it wields the dominant armed force throughout Iraq; but it has been equally well-established that our occupation force is insufficient. Iraqi insurgents can strike at coalition forces only tangentially, through car bombs, improvised explosive devices, snipers, ambushes, and occasion mortars. But, Iraqis (separately and together) have devised a way of reducing the credibility of the occupation - through a proxy civil war(s) of terrorism. Not strong enough to uproot our coalition forces, armed sectarian elements, defined by their overlapping religious, klan, or militia loyalties, have demonstrated the inefficacy of the occupation by massive bloodletting and destruction of infra-structure. As long as their mutual self-destruction continues, Iraqis can prove that we Americans have failed to attain the most rudimentary goal of any occupation: to establish and maintain order. Without order, no facade of legitimacy can be attained. Not only that, but it only gets worse. Each Iraqi fatality (1) recruits additional fighters from the victim's klan and (2) deflects a large part of the blame upon the occupation forces for either permitting or encouraging the violence.

2. With no hope of legitimacy or adequate force, our mis-leaders are delusional if they imagine being afforded the luxury of pursuing their goals which originally motivated them to invade Iraq.
  1. The construction of an open society governed by a parliamentary system of government (Malicki is the seed?).
  2. Grabbing the Iraqi's oil (80% to international corporations for 30 years?).
  3. Using Iraq as a nation-sized bivouac to replace Saudi Arabia (a jumping-off place against Iran?).
Iraq is no longer greater than the sum of its three parts.

Another box is needed in which Iraqi complexities can be organized. Here, I think, the Chatham Report is extremely instructive:
The governments of the US and the UK, and the wider international community, continue to struggle with their analysis of Iraq, in particular of the country's political and social structures. This analytical failing has led to the pursuit of strategies that suit ideal depictions of how Iraq should look, but are often unrepresentative of the current situation. Different strategies are required which build upon an understanding of the . . . realities:
Chatham says those realities are:
  • Regional powers have a greater capacity than either the US or the UK to influence events in Iraq. This arises from a historical legacy of social interaction and religious association that exists irrespective of modern international state boundaries.
  • The social fabric of Iraq has been torn apart.
  • There is not 'one' civil war, nor 'one' insurgency, but several civil wars and insurgencies between different communities and organizations; there is also a range of actors seeking to undermine, overthrow or take control of the Iraqi government.
  • Iraqi nationalisms exist, but one distinct 'Iraqi' nationalism does not. Iraq has fractured into regions dominated by sectarian, ethnic or tribal political groupings that have gained further strength from their control of informal local economies.
  • Al-Qaeda has a very real presence in Iraq that has spread to the major cities of the centre and north of the country . . . .
  • Regional powers have a greater capacity than either the US or the UK to influence events in Iraq. This arises from a historical legacy of social interaction and religious association that exists irrespective of modern international state boundaries.
  • The Iraqi government is not able to exert authority evenly or effectively over the country. Across huge swathes of territory, it is largely irrelevant in terms of ordering social, economic, and political life. At best, it is merely one of several 'state-like actors' that now exist in Iraq.
  • The Iraqi government is not able to exert authority evenly or effectively over the country. Across huge swathes of territory, it is largely irrelevant in terms of ordering social, economic, and political life. At best, it is merely one of several 'state-like actors' that now exist in Iraq.
In the face of these multi-tier complexities, consider the cross-purposes with which Bush and Cheney have taxed our brave and professional armed forces:
  • Ending sectarian, political and criminal violence.
  • Winning even temporary acceptance and legitimacy of the occupation forces.
  • Establishing a parliamentary government in Baghdad.
  • Getting the Baghdad government to rule over all of Iraq.
  • Educating Iraqis in the rudimentary principles of federalism.
  • Rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure so that its economy can be restored and basic needs of nutrition, shelter, utilities, transportation and employment are attainable for Iraqis.
  • Getting the Oil out of (from) Iraq.
  • Keeping Iran from getting its grubby hands on our Iraq.
  • Using Iraq as flypaper with which to draw al Qaeda jihadists from other targets, so that Iraq can become/remain the central front in a war on terror.
These goals are laudable but require efforts which are mutually incompatible. Even the first of these - establishing order - appears insurmountable. A key observation from Chatham:
While it is clear that Iraq is racked by conflicts, there remains considerable confusion regarding the causes and who is involved. . . . In some ways, trying to determine the causes of these conflicts is now merely an academic exercise. A more practical view is to recognize that these conflicts represent a struggle for political power, being waged in different places between a range of actors and at a variety of levels. . . . The existence of so many cross-cutting conflicts - some of which involve state forces - makes it exceptionally difficult to promote some form of security normalization without becoming implicated in one or more of the conflicts.
In view of the catastrophic costs and risks of our continued muddling and mucking around in Iraq-mire, I submit that a severe restructuring of our operational goals is mandated, as follows:
The main goal and only indispensable goal is to separate al Qaeda elements from all Iraqi political forces, all of which are hostile to us.

The way to do this is to:
  • Acknowledge that the "elected" government in Baghdad has limited reach and functionality and will always be limited in terms of legitimacy, due to its identification with our Occupation; as such, this puppet government is only one political element in Iraq.
  • Acknowledge that there are other promising indigenous political forces opposed to the Malicki government and our occupation.
  • Acknowledge that these nationalist elements hostile to us need survive, and prevail; instead of suppressing them, we should be accommodating and nourishing them.
  • Acknowledge that the most conspicuous among them is Muqtada al-Sadr and his Jaish al-Mahdi army.
  • Acknowledge that what Iraq needs most is order, and that authoritarian rule has historically proven more expeditious in pacification than democratic government.
  • Acknowledge that the only way for us to establish a working relationship with these future Iraq re-building blocks of power - which are hostile to us and which we label as 'insurgents' - is to convince them the occupation is only temporary.
  • Acknowledge that the only way to so convince them of our intention to quit Iraq is to announce a measurable time-table for withdrawal and to stick to it.
Muqtada al-Sadr is back in down! He's inviting us to leave Iraq-Nam. We should accept his invitation.

Moqtada Sadr's Back in Town!

We should be relieved, but without showing it!

Moqtada Sadr, resurfaced in Iraq for the first time in months at Friday prayers, and said his followers would co-operate with Sunnis against US occupation.

Iraq's vice-president, Tarek al-Hashemi, described Mr Sadr as the "number one... the most influential leader" and said he would welcome a new approach to Sunni-Shia relations.

Speaking in the city of Kufa, Sadr blamed foreign troops for Iraq's problems, and said Sunnis and Shias alike should oppose their continued presence in the country. In a characteristically fiery sermon in Kufa, Mr Sadr led the 6,000 worshippers in the mosque in chanting:
No, no for Satan. No, no for America. No, no for the occupation. No, no for Israel.

I say to our Sunni brothers in Iraq that we are brothers and the occupier divided us in order to weaken the Iraqi people.

In unity is strength, and in division weakness. We say to them, welcome at any time.

I am ready to cooperate with them at all levels. This is my hand I stretch out to them - in so doing, I seek only God's satisfaction.

We want a united and democratic Iraq that does not follow the occupation's agenda.

We signed with them a pledge charter which we hope will be the nucleus of future agreements with other brothers, whether Sunni, Kurdish or otherwise.
This thug, a demagogue in our eyes, is a demigod in the eyes of the Shiia. But he can't be less credible than our own demagogue-in-chief. He's a genuine Iraqi re-building block. Not the answer but part of the answer. Let's be sure we aren't the ones who kill this would-be golden goose!

Friday, May 25, 2007

When You're Tired of Lying...

You have to try crying!

Warning! Sensitive material follows!

Excuse me. I have to go now. . . . and puke.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

George Bush's Flypaper = Slow Bleed for America

Endless This Occupation of Iraq!

There's a natural segue from Paul Wolfowitz into the subject of George Bush's Flypaper strategy.

Remember? It was Wolfowitz who disclosed to Vanity Fair in May 2003 that for 'bureaucratic' reasons, the war-starters actually had great difficulties deciding among the top three, basically different, rationales for invading Iraq:
. . . .there have always been three fundamental concerns. One was weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. . . we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason. . . . .
Once there, the war-starters decided that we couldn't just leave because minimal regime-change - deposing a dictator - was not enough. Long story, short: three rationales for occupation emerged:
  1. Protection of oil resources. This talking point was not mentioned much because it was sensitive and subject to untidy and potentially damaging interpretations. Even though it was transparent to most observors, Bush and Cheney couldn't use petroleum openly as a rationale for occupation of Iraq for the same reason they couldn't name their invasion 'Operation Iraqi Liberation' (OIL): it was too. . . . well, demeaning, polarizing and revealing: Bush and Cheney weren't content acquiring our oil under other peoples' sand the old fashioned way (through purchase)
  2. The need to create and nourish democracies, wherever possible, because democracies are trendy and never attack each other (just other and weaker states). This was talked up wildly and uncritically as America's mission. 'Nation-building' was extremely altruistic, at least in the eyes of the war-starters, anyway. But nation-building lacked one crucial ingredient: fear. If and when the occupation started to go bad or became expensive in terms of blood and treasure (way beyond their wildest expectations), there had to be some fearfulness attached to any notions of ending occupation.
  3. The "Flypaper strategy' , which offers the false choice of fighting terrorists 'over there' in Iraq than 'here' at home in New York, was improvised as a rationale because it brought with it fear and trepidation.
Soon after the Anglo-American occupational force discovered that they weren't ever going to be greeted as liberators, the Flypaper concept was fabricated to justify suppression of Iraqi popular resistance. Andrew Sullivan, writing in The Sunday Times is the first pundit I know of who discovered Flypaper embedded in a September 2003 briefing by U.S. Army Gen. Ricardo 'Torture' Sanchez, (then commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq). Iraq. Sanchez said, what I would call a terrorist magnet, where America, being present here in Iraq, creates a target of opportunity... But this is exactly where we want to fight them. . . . This will prevent the American people from having to go through their attacks back in the United States.
Later, Flypaper would be one of George Bush's favorite refrains. Take an example dated August 21, 2005:
Our troops know that they're fighting in Iraq . . . . They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war. . . .
And as recently as 10-April-07, speaking to the American Legionnaires in Fairfax VA Bush laid it on thick:
We want to defeat them there, so we don't have to face them here. . . . .The best way to defeat the enemy is to find them overseas and bring them to justice so they will not hurt the folks here at home. . . . What's interesting and different about this war is that the enemy would follow us here. . . . It's in our pursue the enemy overseas so we don't have to face them here.
I want to point out that nothing close to Flypaper was ever envisioned for our troops going into Iraq. We were supposed to be fighting the jihadists in Afghanistan. Remember way back when? And, of course, no one thought of asking Iraqis ahead of time if we could lay out on our flypaper in their sun.

This cynical use of our highly-valued service men and women as bait seems not to be a problem for the dwindling number of Bush supporters. Listen to Dick Morris on a recent show of Hannity and Colmes, forthrightly claiming that we need to keep U.S. troops in Iraq so that terrorists don’t come to the United States:
I think that withdrawal from Iraq — it obviously gives al Qaeda a huge victory. Huge victory. On the other hand, if we stay in Iraq, it gives them the opportunity to kill more Americans, which they really like.

One of the things, though, that I think the antiwar crowd has not considered is that, if we’re putting the Americans right within their arms’ reach, they don’t have to come to Wall Street to kill Americans. They don’t have to knock down the trade center. They can do it around the corner, and convenience is a big factor when you’re a terrorist.
Of course this Flypaper strategy is only a prescription for mutual attrition: will Al Qaeda flesh and will power last longer than Americans'? It is clear that it will. Al Qaeda jihadists arrive at the so-called front at a fraction of the costs, time, and logistics that its American adversary takes. Flypaper's premise is that there is a finite number of jihadist to recruited. In fact, each Sunni Iraqi killed generates multiple anti-American recruits from his klan. In a sense, it's not 'flypaper.' We're running a cadillac state-of-the-art, on-the-job training camp for terrorists.

The Flypaper rationale for endless occupation of Iraq has spawned a corollary which Richard Clark has dubbed Bush's puppy dog theory of terrorism:
He keeps saying that terrorists will "follow us home" like lost dogs. This will only happen, however, he says, if we "lose" in Iraq. . . . . The President must believe that terrorists are playing by some odd rules of chivalry. Would this be the "only one slaughter ground at a time" rule of terrorism?
In the real fact-based world, as Clark says, nothing about our being "over there" in any way prevents terrorists from coming here. But that doesn't stop John McCain from robo-mouthing,
We lose this war and come home, they'll follow us home.
This self-generating slaughterhouse we are running in Iraq cannot be stanched by surging occupation troops in Baghdad or purging puppet politicians in the Green Zone. Flypaper is a formula for squandering more lives and more treasure until the Constitutional term of Bush and Cheney expires on 01.20.09.

Is this what the American people are resolved to accept?

Only in His Own Mind Is there Any Uncertainty to George Bush's Legacy

But I have a question I've been waiting to ask him, anyways.

First, I need to set the context:

Exhibit one is Bush in the Rose Garden with Tony Blair:
This may not interest you, but I'll tell you anyway -- I read three histories on George Washington last year. It's interesting to me that they're still analyzing the presidency of our first President. And my attitude is, if they're still analyzing 1, 43 doesn't need to worry about it. (Laughter.) I'm not going to be around to see the final history written on my administration.
Exhibits two and three: the 39th President trashing Bush and Blair. First, Jimmy Carter on Bush:
The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.

We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered. But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies.

I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.
And Carter wanted to set the Brits clear on the outgoing first poodle:
Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient. . . . One of the defenses of the Bush administration... has been, okay, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us.

So I think the combination of Bush and Blair giving their support to this tragedy in Iraq has strengthened the effort and has made the opposition less effective and prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted. . . . caused deep schisms on a global basis. . . .
And now the question:

Mr. President, from the perspective of your having read three biographies of America's first president last summer, I wonder if you have speculated about whether or not centuries after your own death,
  • long after we have erected an Iraqi war veterans' memorial (yet to be designed)

  • long after we have funded the medical costs of permanently disabled veterans in the aftermath of this unneccessary invasion and occupation (yet to be established),

  • long after our children have finished paying back the trillion $ costs of your Iraqi invasion (yet to be totalled),
will historians regard the 43rd President as still being the worst president in American history?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Happy Wolfowitz Day, Everyone!

Grace Under Fire!

Two years ago, in happier times at the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz reflected on leadership (March 17, 2005) :
....the importance of leadership and what it consists of: not lecturing and posturing and demanding, but demonstrating that your friends will be protected and taken care of, that your enemies will be punished, and that those who refuse to support you will regret having done so.
Xavier Coll, head of human resources at the World Bank, provided investigators with his notes of a meeting with Mr Wolfowitz last year.

In March last year, when a mention of Ms Riza's secondment outside the bank to avoid rules about partners was first published in the magazine US News & World Report, an angry Mr Wolfowitz accused Mr Coll of leaking the information. According to Coll's notes:
'At the end of the conversation Mr Wolfowitz became increasingly agitated and said that he was 'tired of people ... attacking him' and 'you should get your friends to stop it'. Mr Wolfowitz said, 'If they fuck me or Shaha, I have enough on them to fuck them too'," naming several senior bank staff he felt were vulnerable."
Now where do you think this unindicted war criminal will alight next?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Members of Alberto Gonzales' Harvard Law School Class Love Him

But they love the law and their country more.

So much so that they wrote him a letter. And paid the Washington Post to publish it to make sure he could recall having received it:

Click to read.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Do You Think Putin Will Buy This Missile Defense Idea?

Some one please reassure me that this idea of a Missile Defense Shield in Poland is a rational foreign policy gambit on the part of the Cheney-Bush administration.

I want to believe it is. Really, I do. But I have to fess up to not being able to suspend my disbelief on this concept.

In the first place, I've never been a believer in the anti-missile defense project, other than as it functions as a myth deterring attackers. In other words, being able to shoot someone's bullet down out of the sky with your own bullet is not as important as getting other people to believe that you can. I haven't done any research on this, but I think the plausibility of anti-ballistic missile defense has always been a uniquely American obsession. As I recall, the subject of Condi Rice's speech, scheduled for 11-Sept-2001 but never presented or released, was on Star Wars. (Life is what happens when great plans are interrupted.)

This morning the BBC is carrying a story that Condi Rice is carrying someone's coals to Moscow to the effect that the U.S.-proposed missile shield in Poland is necessary to protect Europe from missile attacks from the Middle East? I thought she came into government a specialist in Russian studies. Right? Can she - of all people - believe that she can find Russians stupid enough to fall for this line? The Poles don't, for sure. Neither do the Slovaks. They differ on the issue, but their discussion is all about Russo-European tensions.

So, in desperation I have to ask, is this not just another distortion of rational U.S. foreign policy, spinning off as a derivative of our predicament in I-Rock and I-Ruin? Tell me it ain't so?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Impeachment! Use It!! or Lose It!!!

Enough with the alibies for inaction! Sometimes you just have to say, WTF!

Philadelphia journalist Dave Lindorff is coauthor along with Barbara Olshansky, of The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office. He has a diary up on the Daily Kos today in which he says of the impeachment power, basically - use it or lose it:
Congress has an obligation to defend the Constitution against attack. If it fails in its duty, then it should at least have the decency to give a proper burial to the impeachment clause that the Founders gave them to use for that purpose.
Lindorff details five spurious anti-impeachment arguments floating around:
  1. Impeachment would be a diversion from Democrats’ main goals of ending the Iraq War, and passing important legislation.
  2. Impeachment is divisive.
  3. The public opposes impeachment.
  4. Impeaching Bush would mean making Cheney president
  5. The president’s crimes and abuses of power need to be proven before any impeachment bill.
Follow the DKos link given above to see how Lindorff dispatches these aliblis for inaction. The only one I present here is Lindorff's answer to #5 (above):
This is completely backwards. An impeachment bill can be filed by any member of Congress who believes the president has violated the Constitution. At that point, it is up to the House Judiciary Committee to consider the bill’s merits and decide whether to ask the full House to authorize impeachment hearings. It is at an impeachment hearing where investigations should proceed. After all, only after the Judiciary Committee votes out an impeachment article can the full House consider whether to actually impeach. Calling for investigations before an impeachment hearing is like asking for an investigation before a grand jury investigation. It’s redundant, simply a dodge.
There are currently five sponsors to Rep. Dennis Kucinich's bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney (H Res. 333) for lying about Iraq WMDs, lying about a link between Hussein and Al Qaeda, and for illegally threatening to invade Iran:
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich
  • Rep. Albert Russell Wynn (D-MD)
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky
  • Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO)
  • Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA)
OK, Okay, I fibbed a little. My own Congresswoman Capps is not yet a sponsor, but I'm so determined that she be among the next ten that I commit to calling her office every day until she signs herself up for reals. I'm going to keep it simple and be making only two points:
  1. Jefferson and Madison had people like Bush and Cheney in mind when they placed the impeachment clause in the Constitution.
  2. Our war occupation in Iraq cannot be ended until at least one of the two war-starters-in-chief is chased out of office.
Dave Lindorff also suggests that chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), also be similarly pestered with a demand that hearings on the Kucinich bill (H Res. 333) be scheduled.

And now for my public service announcement:
The main number for the House switchboard is (202) 225-3121.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Senator Robert Byrd -vs- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Question Asked. And Answered?
The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq of October 2, 2002 reads,

Today, in the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, the following exchange occurred.

Senator Robert Byrd:
Since the government of Iraq that is referred to in the resolution no longer exists, having been replaced by a democratically elected one, do you agree that this authorization no longer applies to the ongoing conflict in Iraq?
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:
I think the honest answer, Senator Byrd, is that I don’t know the answer to that question.
Senator Byrd:
That’s really honest. Therefore, if you don’t know the answer, how does it apply if you don’t know the answer?
If You had Googled according to the title of this thread an hour ago, as I did, you would have found this exchange only in the Army Times. That tells me the troops are not disinterested in the answer to this question.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Understanding Al Qaeda

The wisdom of Bruce Riedel.

One of the biggest risks I bear as a C-Span junkie is joining a program in progress. Invariably I hit a stimulating discussion when the moderator is apologizing for having "time for only two or three more questions". And that's what happened when I tuned in to a discussion at the Woodrow Wilson International Center this morning. There were three or four scholars behind the mic in front of the cameras; only one was fielding the remaining questions. I was transfixed. As soon as I got home, you know I had to Google him.

I had never heard of Bruce Riedel before, but he wasn't hard to find. He's Senior Fellow, of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Foreign Policy Studies. His resume? Not too shabby:
Special Advisor, NATO, Brussels, Belgium (2003-2006); Member, Royal College of Defense Studies, London, UK (2002-2003); Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs, National Security Council (2001-2002); Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs, National Security Council (1997-2001); Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs, Office of the Secretary of Defense (1995-1997); National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asian Affairs, National Intelligence Council (1993-1995); Director for Gulf and South Asia Affairs, National Security Council (1991-1993); Deputy Chief Persian Gulf Task Force, Central Intelligence Agency (1990-1991); Various assignments, Central Intelligence Agency (1977-1990)

Department of State Meritorious Honor Award, 2006; Distinguished Intelligence Medal, 2001; Secretary of Defense Distinguished Service Medal, 1997; Intelligence Medal of Merit, 1991.
Since I have no way of capturing the transcripts of this morning C-Span's broadcast, (But you can watch & listen!) I'll just parse his comments from the first Google hit I scored:
The al Qaeda organization sees Iran as one of its great enemies. This was because al Qaeda - a very strict Sunni Islamist organization - views Iran's Shia faith as apostasy.

What al Qaeda in Iraq now most fears is not the continuing deployment of American forces. They've come to the conclusion we're going to leave, whether it's in 2008 or 2009.

The terrorists' key concern is what comes afterwards and specifically the worry that Iraq will be very Shia-dominated and very closely aligned with Iran.

So they've openly talked about the advisability of getting their two great enemies to go to war with each other in the hopes that they will take each other out.

Al Qaeda would especially like a full-scale U.S. invasion and occupation of Iran, which would presumably oust the Shi'ite regime in Tehran, further antagonize Muslims worldwide and expand al Qaeda's battlefield against the United States.

The biggest danger is that al Qaeda will deliberately provoke a war with a 'false-flag' operation - say, a terrorist attack carried out in a way that would make it appear as though it were Iran's doing.

The United States should be extremely wary of such deception.In the event of an attack, accurately assigning blame will require very careful intelligence work.

In the ultimate world of al Qaeda, they envision freeing the Muslim world of Western influence and forcing Western powers out - and by that, they also mean Israel, which they see as the ultimate example of Western intrusion into the Muslim world.

During 2002, we had al Qaeda on the ropes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We should have relentlessly gone after the al Qaeda leadership. We should have put unremitting pressure on the Pakistanis to do everything they could, and we should have sourced, funded and manned the effort in Afghanistan to finish the job.

Instead, we made a mistake, a decision to go after a war in Iraq that we didn't need to fight, which diverted resources and created a cause celebre that al Qaeda has exploited quite effectively.
These are excerpts, but you get the drift. Follow the link provided above and see what I missed! If you are short on time, skip ahead to the Q & A!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Supporting the Troops???

How about a moment of critical thinking?
Peter N. Kirstein is professor of history at Saint Xavier University and a member of Historians Against the War. Two months ago, few noticed that Kirstein blew a hole in the fog of Bush's war occupation when he wrote on the History News Network,
It would appear that if the 110th Congress wishes to end the carnage and the crime that is Iraq, it would have to cease funding future military operations. This would take political courage because of the never ending myth that supporting the war is required in order to support the troops. Of course, military conflicts are not fought for the troops but for alleged war aims that purportedly serve the national interest. Whether those war aims are just or not, wars are never fought to benefit the combatants, who suffer and sacrifice greatly in a conflict, but for some other constituency.

. . . . Engaged citizens would do well to remember Vietnam, when a Congress decided that the national interest and the international community would benefit from an end to the war. Such is the time now, when militarists need to be challenged, super-patriots need to be confronted and a president needs to be stopped in the prosecution of the Iraq War Occupation.
Supporting the troops has come to mean relieving the Commander-Guy of his command.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

It's Not When to End the Iraq Occupation, But How

Would Neo-NeoConsevativism equal realpolitik?
Francis Fukuyama is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the author of "America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy."

Fukuyama has, in the past, been considered neoconservative. I think he was a founding member of the infamous Project for the New American Century (PNAC). He is also an author of a PNAC letter to Bush after 9-11, calling for regime change in Baghdad "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack(s)" on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Before the first year of Bush's illegal, un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (IUULUIUOI) was up, Fukuyama began to have second and third thoughts. According to Wikipedia,
he drifted from the neoconservative agenda, which he felt had become overly militaristic and based on muscular, unilateral armed intervention to further democratization within authoritarian regimes (particularly in the Middle East). By late 2003, when it became apparent that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was failing, Fukuyama withdrew his support and called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense. He said that he would vote against Bush in the 2004 election and said Bush made some major mistakes:
  1. The threat of radical Islam to the US was overestimated.
  2. The Bush administration didn't foresee the fierce negative reaction to its benevolent hegemony.
  3. From the very beginning it showed a negative attitude towards the United Nations and other international organizations and didn't see that this would increase anti-Americanism in other countries.
  4. The Bush administration misjudged what was needed to bring peace in Iraq and was overly optimistic about the success with which social engineering of Western values could be applied to Iraq and the Middle East in general.
In the Los Angeles Times this morning, Fukuyama writes that it is no longer a question of if or when the U.S. leaves Iraq, but how. He takes note that there already have been nodes presenting us with opportunities to disengage from occupation:
In more than four years of war, there have been countless turning points at which we were led to expect decisive political progress in Iraq:
  • the capture of Saddam Hussein (December 2003);

  • the turnover of sovereignty (June 2004);

  • elections for the constituent assembly (January 2005); elections to ratify the constitution (August 2005);

  • elections for the Iraqi parliament (December 2005).
Fukuyama thinks that in excusing ourselves from Bush's legacy of a perpetual occupation of Iraq, we will be worse off than we were in Vietnam:
The situation today is in some ways much worse than the one faced by President Nixon in Vietnam 35 years ago. At that time, South Vietnam had an army with a paper strength of 1 million men that, despite its problems, was able hold on for three years after the U.S. withdrew its ground forces. The South Vietnamese army provided Henry Kissinger with his "decent interval" between the U.S. withdrawal and South Vietnam's collapse. . . . Nothing like that exists or will exist in Iraq for the politically meaningful future. . . . Serious training of Iraqi forces started late and never received adequate funding or top-level attention, despite the fact that Petraeus was at the helm of the training effort in recent years. The South Vietnamese army may have been nothing to write home about in 1972, but we are extremely unlikely to have an Iraqi equivalent by the end of 2007.
Fukuyama argues that the dynamics of the occupation vs insurgency vs sectarian civil war is not going to be materially improved by surging. He says the debate should change from surging vs withdrawal to how to withdraw:
. . . .about how to draw down our forces in a way that minimizes the costs that will inevitably accompany our loss of control.

The questions we need to address include:
  1. How do we reconfigure our forces to provide advice, training and support, rather than engaging in combat?
  2. How we can withdraw safely without a serious Iraqi army to cover our retreat?
  3. How will we dismantle enormous bases like Camp Liberty or Camp Victory and protect the diminishing numbers of U.S. troops in the country?
  4. Do we trust the Iraqi military and police sufficiently to turn over our equipment to them?
  5. How do we protect the lives of those who collaborated with us? The images of South Vietnamese allies hanging to the skid pads of U.S. helicopters departing Saigon should be burned into our memories.
  6. And what if the weak Iraqi government we leave behind falls or other political crises occur when we have fewer U.S. troops to respond?
  7. Can we work with proxies, resources or arms supplies to shape outcomes?
In terms of regional adjustments in international politics, Fukuyama says things are not necessarily as grim as they were in Vietnam:
As we draw down, the civil war is likely to intensify, and the focus of our efforts will have to shift to containing it within Iraq's borders. Preventing intervention by outside forces will become an even more urgent priority.

On the other hand, it is not necessarily the case that the situation will spiral out of control. Although the situation is graver in some ways than Vietnam, in others it is better. Although we have no equivalent to a South Vietnamese army, the enemy has no equivalent of the North Vietnamese army. It is hard to see any of the small factions struggling for power in different parts of the country emerging as a dominant force throughout Iraq.
Neo-Neo-Conservative Fukuyama ends on a realpolitik note:
The presence of U.S. forces has itself been a spur to terrorist recruitment, but as it becomes clear that we are on our way out, it will be easier for Iraqi nationalists to turn against the foreign jihadists (as they have already begun to do in Al Anbar province).

An intensifying civil war will be a tragedy for Iraq, but it is not the worst outcome from a U.S. standpoint to have a number of bitterly anti-American groups duking it out among themselves.

Civil wars eventually come to an end when one side wins (unlikely, in this case) or when the parties exhaust themselves and drop their maximalist aims.
As I have said before, we have to think outside of Bush and Cheney's box before we can dig our way out of their tunnel.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Kent State (4-May-70), Remembered

Four decades ago, America was at war with itself over its misconceived intervention in a sectional civil war far from its shores.

Against a surge escalation of that war into Cambodia, announced on 30-Apr-1970 by Richard Nixon, demonstrations arose throughout the United States. Hundreds of universities, colleges, high schools, and even middle schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of eight million students. On this date at Kent State 37 years ago, four students became the peace movement's KIA's when the Ohio State National Guard opened fire on a peaceful demonstration.
The significance of this historical moment contains a poignant truths applicable to our nation's current struggle to resolve Iraq-Nam. 100's of bloggers are blogging on this, this morning. I direct readers to Kestrel9000's post on GreenMountainDaily and crosspost on the Daily Kos. My only contribution will be to note the comment on DKos by Taraka Das who references Nixon's Silent Majority speech and then writes,
He says immediate withdrawal from Vietnam would cause chaos. He says immediate withdrawal from Vietnam would allow the enemy to wait us out. He says that the South Vietnamese Army is being trained and is fighting alongside American forces. He says that South Vietnam will eventually assume full responsibility for their security. He says that progress is being made. He says that Vietnam is part of a global struggle.

He said that in November of 1969.

As we all know, America withdrew from Vietnam four years later, and less than two years after that, the puppet government in South Vietnam fell. And the American and Vietnamese deaths and crippling injuries WERE IN VAIN.

Vietnam was fighting to unite it's people under one, self-determined government, not fighting a global battle for communism.

THAT is the lesson of Vietnam. THAT is the reason Nixon's strategy didn't work.

But Bush thinks it will work, this time. He didn't risk his own ass fighting under that strategy. Cheney didn't even put on a uniform and pretend to be a soldier, when Vietnam was going on. But these two sure supported Nixon and his war. And they have been hangin' out with the crowd that claimed that liberals lost the Vietnam War, forcing soldiers to fight with one hand tied behind their back. Who was the author of that LIE? Ronald Reagan, their hero. Another guy who never went to war.

If they only stuck it out in Vietnam! Like, forever! And presumably, killed all the Vietnamese!

It is time to put this Vietnam fantasy front and center. It is time to put the hypocrisy and lies out in the open til the stink becomes unbearable for these cowards. Do you think they KNOW they are sticking Nixon's strategy right in our faces?

I think they know. I think in their arrogance, stubborn ignorance and brutal petulance, they want to make this strategy "victorious." We are feeding human beings into a slaughterhouse built with the delusional fantasies of these corrupt little men.
In deference to Kestrel's great post, comments on this thread will be closed until tonight. For now, I hope my readers will follow the link to The DailyKos and read Kestrel's post and accompanying comments there.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

George Tenet Slammed and Dunked

Moment of Truth
Just More Sellout?
Let's tell, let's everybody tell the truth," said our country's former Director of Central Intelligence during his interview on Sunday night's 60 Minutes. But George Tenet is over 5 1/2 years late and still seems to suffer from a terrible case of selective memory that even a $4 million book contract can't remedy.

The bulk of the job of refuting and correcting Tenet's story will have to come from former CIA and other intelligence insiders who knew him and the whole of his situation better. (See "An Open Letter to George Tenet and Michael Scheuer's op-ed "Tenet Tries to Shift Blame. Don't Buy It.") I also have a little first-hand experience that contradicts what Tenet has pulled out to explain the post 9/11 need to torture.

In the interview, 60 Minutes reporter Scott Pelley, to his credit, asked Tenet over and over about his authorizing torture. The CIA's so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" that Tenet signed off on are said to include sleep deprivation, extreme cold and water boarding which causes a severe gag reflex, as water is continuously poured over the face. Tenet admitted losing sleep over his role in authorizing such "new territory" but refused to call it torture saying he didn't want to "engage in a semantic debate" with Pelley. (You know, trying to figure out what the meaning of the word "is" is or whether water boarding is torture, those type of semantic debates.) Anyway in the midst of their semantic debate, Tenet launched into an explanation of the "tension" he was under:

The context is it's post-9/11. I've got reports of nuclear weapons in New York City, apartment buildings that are gonna be blown up, planes that are gonna fly into airports all over again. Plot lines that I don't know - I don't know what's going on inside the United States. And I'm struggling to find out where the next disaster is going to occur. Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through. The palpable fear that we felt on the basis of the fact that there was so much we did not know . . . 'Cause these are people that will never, ever, ever tell you a thing. These are people who know who's responsible for the next terrorist attack. These are hardened people that would kill you and me 30 seconds after they got out of wherever they were being held and wouldn't blink an eyelash. . . . You can sit there after, you can sit there five years later, and have this debate with me, all I'm asking you to do, walk a mile in my shoes when I'm dealing with these realities.
One little problem,
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the person Tenet is discussing and who reportedly was water boarded, was not arrested until March 1, 2003, eighteen months after 9/11. His arrest and torture was post 9/11 like it will always be post 9/11. The actual context was that by March 2003, the bulk of our troops had already been diverted away from the war against Al Qaeda and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Our troops were already poised on Iraq's borders, awaiting Bush's order to commence the invasion of a country which didn't even have ties to Al Qaeda terrorism. That's the context of the actual "tension" under which Tenet signed off on torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others. When former Attorney General Ashcroft was questioned about the "post 9-11 round-up" of innocents in New York City--after the Department of Justice's Inspector General found that hundreds of innocent people had been improperly detained for 6 to 9 months--AG Ashcroft similarly refused to apologize "for protecting the American people." But at least AG Ashcroft's explanation fit better timing-wise with the confusion and fear that existed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 than the context Tenet said existed 18 months afterward.

It must also be remembered that we already had one actual 9/11 terrorist suspect, Zacarias Moussaoui, in custody over three weeks before 9/11. And George Tenet was briefed on the facts of the investigation surrounding his detention in August 2001 with a powerpoint entitled something like "Fundamentalist Learns to Fly." At the time, DCI Tenet inexplicably took no action and did not even seek to confer with the Acting FBI Director about the case. But Tenet IS reported to have immediately linked Moussaoui to the Al Qaeda attack on 9/11 as soon as he was informed at breakfast of planes flying into the World Trade Center.

Moussaoui was not tortured however. Nor were "enhanced interrogation techniques" ever used on him. In fact FBI agents could not even get permission to attempt a plain interview of Moussaoui which permission I asked for on 9/11/01 and again on 9/12/01. I tried to argue with the Acting United States Attorney as well as with Department of Justice attorneys that the "public safety exception" to the Miranda rule pertained, not of course to engage in any "enhanced techniques" that might coerce a confession or produce unreliable information but just to circumvent the prophylactic component of the Miranda Rule so that he might be questioned about other Al Qaeda plans to hijack planes or attack U.S. citizens. But they all said no, there was no emergency. I argued harder on the morning of 9/12/01 when the full scope of what had happened was more apparent. This caused DOJ attorneys to discuss the situation a little longer than the U.S. Attorney had the day before, but I was ultimately told that whatever emergency had existed, it was over. We were so flabbergasted about the fact we were told no public safety emergency existed just hours after the attacks that my boss advised me to document it in a memo which became the first document in the legal subfile of the FBI's "Penttbom" case.

Nothing changed after Moussaoui's laptop and personal effects were searched revealing the fact that he had collected data on cropdusting and wind patterns and establishing his connections to the 9-11 masterminds. In early July 2002, when Moussaoui was making overtures that he WANTED to talk and was still the only 9-11 terrorist in custody--it would be months more before the real masterminds of the attack, either Ramzi Binalshibh or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were arrested--I called to both Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff's office as well as to FBI Director Mueller's office to renew the request to attempt a plain interview of Moussaoui. (At the time Chertoff, as head of the Justice Department's criminal division and one of the chief architects of the Bush Administration's legal strategies in the War on Terror, supervised the prosecution's case against Moussaoui. Chertoff also reportedly advised the Central Intelligence Agency on the outer limits of legality in coercive interrogation sessions.) I talked to assistants for both Chertoff and Mueller, trying to impress on them the need to interview Moussaoui, someone who would likely know of plans for a second strike. I pointed to the suspicious nature of the cropdusting information found (which of course they were well aware of) and argued we needed to find out more about that to possibly prevent future attacks. But by that time Moussaoui had been charged with the death penalty and I deduced that AG Ashcroft would not allow any potential for bargaining leverage to be injected into the case.

And so it rang hollow when these same officials, including Tenet, would constantly say they were doing everything in their power to prevent another terrorist attack, when they said in early 2003 that's why we needed, of all things, to launch a brand new pre-emptive invasion of Iraq; when I had been told there was no "public safety emergency" on the day of the attacks; and when it seemed that death penalty considerations outweighed the need to find out information about possible second strikes. It rang hollow then and it still rings hollow when Tenet pulls it out to try to explain that's why we needed to begin torturing people.

In contrast to what Tenet stated about the efficacy of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques," it's also worth repeating that the considered wisdom of expert FBI investigators is that torture doesn't work to produce reliable, timely information. Interviewing, on the other hand, is more likely to produce solid information. One of the FBI's most experienced agents in Al Qaeda terrorism and one of the few Arabic speaking ones has made this same point in discussing prior successful investigations of Al Qaeda operatives.

There are certainly other questions that arise if Tenet's description of "the palpable fear that we felt (post 9/11) on the basis of the fact that there was so much we did not know" did in fact drive his signing off--and presumably the new Director of Central Intelligence's continued signing off--on the use of torture and other illegal actions. For starters, if we allow that "palpable fear" to eliminate due process, we are opening ourselves up to real mistakes. For how do we even know we are torturing true terrorists? The use of torture or "taking the gloves off" was first suggested with regard to those swept up in the post 9-11 detentions who were later shown to be innocent. Already at least two individuals who were victims of the CIA's "extraordinary renditions" and who were subsequently tortured, Khalid El Masri and Maher Arar, have turned out innocent. CIA operatives have been or are to be indicted in both Germany and Italy for violating these allied countries' laws.

It's certainly safe to say that reversing the terrible mistakes of Bush, his neo-con ideologues and those like Tenet who knuckled under to their pressure, is going to require a lot more "truth" than George Tenet was willing to provide for $4 million and a presidential medal of freedom.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Happy Victory-in-Iraq-Day (VID)

Today used to be known as May Day.

On the fourth anniversary of George Bush having announced his mission accomplished, is it possible to say anything new or newsy? I mean, as I look back through the earlier pages of The Vigil and Sozadee, I have been blogging a helluva long time about America's greatest self-inflicted debacle in its short history. At this point, if my standards for myself are to say something entirely fresh and novel, I might as well end my VID post at this point. On the other hand...

I could just summarize how far we have come: how far George Bush has brought us since that fateful day when he 'changed everything' for us: March 20, 2003. At great risk of being repetitive, then, I'll make just three points.
  1. The "war" Bush started has now outlasted World War II by 156 days. War is in quotes, because we have not been in war all that time. Our dear leader announced four years ago today that the mission, which he had set for himself before even before becoming a nominated presidential candidate, had been accomplished:
    Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. (Applause.) And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country . . . . The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.
    Bush had declared a victorious end to the war he had illegally started and the beginning of a new (and, as it turned out, largely unplanned) mission of occupation. Others have disputed with me whether the war is really over, but it's been my argument that it surely is. It certainly is; it is as long as our current band of misleaders who so declared it remain in power. In so doing, Bush assigned the greatest fighting machine in world history to occupation duty, committing military malpractice.
  2. Thanks to this illegal un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (IUULUIUOI), we can say that Bush has inflicted more harm on the United States of America than Osama bin Laden has.
  3. Finally, having won what Bush called the 'Battle of Iraq', there can be no question of losing in Iraq. Occupations are not won or lost, they are ended.
It's time.