Saturday, October 18, 2003
Sick, wounded U.S. troops held in squalor

The National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers' living conditions are so substandard, and the medical care so poor, that many of them believe the Army is trying push them out with reduced benefits for their ailments. One document shown to UPI states that no more doctor appointments are available from Oct. 14 through Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day.

"I have loved the Army. I have served the Army faithfully and I have done everything the Army has asked me to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Willie Buckels, a truck master with the 296th Transportation Company. Buckels served in the Army Reserves for 27 years, including Operation Iraqi Freedom and the first Gulf War. "Now my whole idea about the U.S. Army has changed. I am treated like a third-class citizen."

Since getting back from Iraq in May, Buckels, 52, has been trying to get doctors to find out why he has intense pain in the side of his abdomen since doubling over in pain there.

After waiting since May for a diagnosis, Buckels has accepted 20 percent of his benefits for bad knees and is going home to his family in Mississippi. "They have not found out what my side is doing yet, but they are still trying," Buckels said.

One month after President Bush greeted soldiers at Fort Stewart -- home of the famed Third Infantry Division -- as heroes on their return from Iraq, approximately 600 sick or injured members of the Army Reserves and National Guard are warehoused in rows of spare, steamy and dark cement barracks in a sandy field, waiting for doctors to treat their wounds or illnesses.

The Reserve and National Guard soldiers are on what the Army calls "medical hold," while the Army decides how sick or disabled they are and what benefits -- if any -- they should get as a result.

Some of the soldiers said they have waited six hours a day for an appointment without seeing a doctor. Others described waiting weeks or months without getting a diagnosis or proper treatment.

The soldiers said professional active duty personnel are getting better treatment while troops who serve in the National Guard or Army Reserve are left to wallow in medical hold.

"It is not an Army of One. It is the Army of two -- Army and Reserves," said one soldier who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which she developed a serious heart condition and strange skin ailment.


Aside from his pesky pseudo-apocolyptic zeal, the biggest thing that Rumsfeld was supposed to bring to the table as Secretary of Defense was a major restructuring and modernization of our armed forces. One can't help but smirk at the incongruity of simultaneously streamlining the armed forces and engaging in multiple unilateral wars while eschewing international assistance. But that's a pretty pissed-off smirk, considering that the results are abusive towards the people forced to serve as pawns in this ridiculous chess game.

Some of the biggest losers in our nascent tax-cut empire are going to be the boatload of veterans that it produces. Stars and Stripes recently found that less than half of the active-duty soldiers in Iraq plan to re-enlist:

A broad survey of U.S. troops in Iraq by a Pentagon-funded newspaper found that half of those questioned described their unit's morale as low and their training as insufficient, and said they do not plan to reenlist.

The survey, conducted by the Stars and Stripes newspaper, also recorded about a third of the respondents complaining that their mission lacks clear definition and characterizing the war in Iraq as of little or no value. Fully 40 percent said the jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training.


I saw a trailer tonight for the Jessica Lynch movie, and there was an audible collective wretch throughout the theater.

There's a kid who lives across the street from me who I hang out with from time to time. He's 20 years old, he's not in school, and he's not rich at all. He works hard and all he's smart and rather wise for his age, I think. I wonder how long it's going to be before they start drafting people like him.
Friday, October 17, 2003
Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin May be an Idiot

“Well, is he [bin Laden] the enemy? Next slide. Or is this man [Saddam] the enemy? The enemy is none of these people I have showed you here. The enemy is a spiritual enemy. He’s called the principality of darkness. The enemy is a guy called Satan.”

Why are terrorists out to destroy the United States? Boykin said: “They’re after us because we’re a Christian nation.”

During a January church speech in Daytona, Fla., Boykin recalled a Muslim fighter in Somalia who bragged on television the Americans would never get him because his God, Allah, would protect him: “Well, you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”

The Somali was captured, and Boykin said he told the man: “Mr. Atto, you underestimated our God.”...


Well, I guess we're fighting fire with fire. It's smart, really, when you think about it. If we're going to catch the fundamentalist psychos, we need to think like fundamentalist psychos. That's why Boykin is such a valuable part of the operation.

And, the punchline:

Boykin tells NBC News that, given his new assignment, he is curtailing such speeches in the future. He says, “I don’t want … to be misconstrued. I don’t want to come across as a right-wing radical.”

Oh yeah, that's the stuff.
Truth From these Podia

This is a pretty hefty PDF file, but well worth the download. Sam Gardiner, a retired US Air Force colonel, has put together an exhaustive account of the flimsy case for the Iraq war--from the perspective of a career military man (and hardly an antiwar knee-jerker, one would assume).

Gardiner had been working on a report with Mark Fineman of the LA Times, but when Fineman died while on assignment in Iraq, Gardiner decided to write up his findings himself. This guy is hardly a gifted writer, but he provides another excellent example of the fact that the most truthful (and toothful) criticism of the Bush Doctrine and its larger implications has come from inside the military and intelligence communities. If nothing else, that ought to give us an idea of the historic seriousness of the shit we have all just stepped in: these are the same people who were largely silent about Iran-Contra, the nastiness in Central America in the 1980's, and who even knows what else.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Bush orders officials to stop the leaks


This is positively the funniest news article I have ever read:

Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used.

That's not a joke. It's a real story.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Officer was the one behind 500 letters

It turns out the there were 500 fake letters sent to American newspapers:

An Army battalion commander has taken responsibility for a public-relations campaign that sent hundreds of identical letters to hometown newspapers promoting his soldiers' rebuilding efforts in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo said he wanted to highlight his unit's work and "share that pride with people back home."

Army officials revealed Tuesday that 500 identical form letters were sent to newspapers across the country with different signatures. They said the mass mailing was the wrong way of getting the message out, but they didn't know whether the commander would be disciplined.
Monday, October 13, 2003
Senators Say Bush Needs to Take Control

Initially, my apologies for linking to an article with such a prominent picture of John Kerry's smug mug. That said, even Republican Dick Lugar is criticizing the President's Iraq policy, and his larger inability to act as the leader in his own administration.

A key Republican lawmaker urged President Bush yesterday to take control of his fractious foreign policy team and plans for Iraq's reconstruction, as one Democrat deepened his criticism of the administration's arguments for going to war.

"The president has to be president," Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "That means the president over the vice president, and over these secretaries" of state and defense. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice "cannot carry that burden alone."


This comes at an especially bad time for the White House, as having a top Republican speak out is damaging to the underlying goal of their new PR campaign: to portray all policy criticism as pure partisanship. And the timing just makes Lugar's point all the more self-evidently clear, as the administration has given us a PR offensive instead of a substantive policy change.
Sunday, October 12, 2003
Busted! (dumbasses)

Many soldiers, same letter

War spam, anyone?

Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.
And all the letters are the same.

A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Rock," in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash.


The timing of this lazy viral PR campaign couldn't be any more convenient, coming on the heels of the administration's announcement of their own public relations campaign.

Pathetic.

You might remember from a few months ago when a different letter was making similar rounds, decalring that "George W. Bush has demonstrated genuine leadership."

It's obvious to anyone that the internet provides new opportunities for communication and political activism, but the Bush administration doesn't seem to understand that it also opens up an entire new kind of accountability. It's harder to spin shit in black and white, and well-nigh impossile to explain away the occurence of such obvious astroturf.
Friday, October 10, 2003
Painkiller addiction forces Limbaugh into rehab

Intellectually and rhetorically, I couldn't have any less respect for Rush Limbaugh, and when I heard of his painkiller addiction and the ongoing investigation surrounding his illegal drug purchase, I was ready for him to start dishing out blame: the liberal media, his publicity-hound maid, the French.

I was shocked to read Limbaugh's statement today. Now this is a guy that has said some awful things about drug addicts, so it seemed a no-brainer that he would try to spin this until he was as dizzy as an, um, OxyContin addict. But to give credit where credit is due, Rush did no such thing:

"You know I have always tried to be honest with you and open about my life. So I need to tell you today that part of what you have heard and read is correct. I am addicted to prescription pain medication.
I first started taking prescription painkillers some years ago when my doctor prescribed them to treat post surgical pain following spinal surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery was unsuccessful and I continued to have severe pain in my lower back and also in my neck due to herniated discs. I am still experiencing that pain. Rather than opt for additional surgery for these conditions, I chose to treat the pain with prescribed medication. This medication turned out to be highly addictive.

Over the past several years I have tried to break my dependence on pain pills and, in fact, twice checked myself into medical facilities in an attempt to do so. I have recently agreed with my physician about the next steps.

Immediately following this broadcast, I am checking myself into a treatment center for the next 30 days to once and for all break the hold this highly addictive medication has on me. The show will continue during this time, of course, with an array of guest hosts you have come to know and respect.

I am not making any excuses. You know, over the years athletes and celebrities have emerged from treatment centers to great fanfare and praise for conquering great demons.

They are said to be great role models and examples for others. Well, I am no role model. I refuse to let anyone think I am doing something great here, when there are people you never hear about, who face long odds and never resort to such escapes.

They are the role models. I am no victim and do not portray myself as such. I take full responsibility for my problem.

At the present time, the authorities are conducting an investigation, and I have been asked to limit my public comments until this investigation is complete. So I will only say that the stories you have read and heard contain inaccuracies and distortions, which I will clear up when I am free to speak about them.

I deeply appreciate all your support over this last tumultuous week. It has sustained me. I ask now for your prayers. I look forward to resuming our excursion into broadcast excellence together."


It's easy to join in the public schaudenfraude over this matter, but here's to hoping that this experience teaches Mr. Limbaugh something about human weakness and about his own fallibility. As much as I can't stand the guy, I do hope he gets his life back together and when he goes back to his radio show he brings a newfound ability to reserve judgments on the plights of others.

Good luck, Rush. I honestly wish you well, you fucking blowhard.
McClellan's non-Denial Denial

TPM has been following the White House's official statements of late, and is pointing out their abject refusal to actually deny the specific charges. When asked is Libby, Abrams, or Rove were involved in exposing Plame, McClellan will only answer crytpitcally. Today, when confronted directly and asked to anwer the question directly, be basically refused. He always adds the qualifier "were not involved in the leak of classified information," refusing to specifically say that anyone denies being involved in outing Plame as an undercover agent.

Let's pretend that McClellan is being honest, and that he really means to specifically deny this shit but is just physiologically unable to speak plainly, being a White House PR guy and all. Who else has he spoekn with? Are we to assume that the President has had no knowledge at all of these meetings, and is thus being honest when he says he has "no idea" who was behind this retaliation? And if so, why would the President fail to excercise any leadership--or even curiosity--whatsoever?

When the Novak column came out, Bush had the chance to demonstrate his commitment to our national security by tracking down the criminals personally and immediately. But instead, they have decided to try to play this scandal as some sort of back-handed political opportunity to squelch leaks of information, and in so doing this White House has thouroughly Watergated itself. In the interest of efficient corruption, it seems an obvious assumption that Bush was kept out of the know when this outing took place (it only makes sense to keep up the denibaility), but when he says he has "no idea" right now he is either lying or incompetent.
MoveOn.org: Affidavit Campaign

President Bush told the press on Tuesday that he doesn't "have any idea" whether the senior administration officials who blew a CIA operative's cover will ever be found. But if he just asked his staff to sign a legally binding affidavit confirming that they weren't involved, and referred anyone who wouldn't to the FBI, it's possible he could flush out the perpetrators in a day. To date, the President hasn't even discussed this matter with his staff.

We've already done the President's homework for him by writing the affidavit. Now let's show him how easy it is for innocent people to legally declare their innocence. You can sign the affidavit and send it to the President in under a minute by filling out the form:


While this is kind of funny, it also points out the futility of expecting this President to make the right choice when he inhabits a web of self-interest. But he's in charge, and obviously a little dumbfounded by the task of finding the criminals in his own administration, so let's help him out.
Thursday, October 09, 2003
Josh Marshall Parses Bob Novak's Parsing of Bob Novak

Really, he does. Novak has backpedalled since the publication of his July 14 column which outed the wife of ambassador Joseph Wilson as an undercover CIA agent, claiming that he didn't know at the time that Mrs. Wilson (or Mrs. Plame, if you're a member of a foreign intelligence service trying to track her down and kill her with the help of the Bush administration) was undercover:

Now, since the story blew up a week and a half ago, Novak has been telling people that this reference was just some sort of slip-up, that in this case he meant ‘operative’ only in the generic sense of a ‘hack’ or a ‘fixer.’ On Meet the Press Novak said he uses “the word too much [and] if somebody did a Nexus search of my columns, they'd find an overuse of ‘operative.’”

Well, Novak does seem to use the word operative a lot. But as one of my readers pointed out to me this evening, ‘operative’ can mean all sorts of things in different contexts. The question is how Novak uses it in this particular context. Following up on my reader’s suggestion I did a Nexis search to see all the times Novak used the phrases “CIA operative” or “agency operative.”

This was a quick search. But I came up with six examples. And in each case Novak used the phrase to refer to someone working in a clandestine capacity.


I don't think I'm allowed to excerpt entire entries from TPM, so check out the meat-and-potatoes content on the link. Each time Novak comes up with a new wacky theory to account for the astronomically unlikely possibility that he didn't know he was doing to administration's dirty work by destroying the career of a person with three decades of service to the government, the clearer his goon status becomes.

As slimy as Novak has become in recent weeks--and as tempting as it is to forget his role altogether (as the statute that was violated clearly exempts journalists)--his spin is a crucial part of the foundation of plausible deniability being laid down by the entire Bush administration. And from the looks of it, they're going to have a hard time if tehy don't get some better lies than Novak is peddling.

But the really bottom line of this story is, and has been for months, that the president could end the scandal immediately. In five minutes he could demand the resignation of whoever broke the law and pissed on the principle of national security. He could ask each senior administration official point-blank. He could "restore honor and integrity," as was his campaign promise. But he is doing none of this, and he's made it abundantly clear that he doesn't care to.
Clark to Return Money He Made From Speeches

Wesley Clark proves his political outsider credibility by not knowing how the hell to follow election laws.

In at least three paid appearances at universities since announcing his candidacy, Clark discussed his presidential campaign and criticized President Bush's Iraq policy. Corporations, unions and universities are prohibited from paying for campaign-related appearances for presidential candidates. The Federal Election Commission considers such payments the same as contributions to the candidate. Several FEC experts said Clark may have violated the election law by talking too much about his campaign and accepting money for the speeches. Clark was paid $30,000 or more for each appearance.

Yikes.
To the cronies go the spoils

A sort of mini-index of war profiteers. Again, for an online magazine Salon leaves something to be desired in the "creating resources that actually utilize the web" department, but the information is good.

The also discuss New Bridge Strategies, a company whose founding was met with some fanfare during my blog hiatus:

Late in September, the Washington newspaper The Hill reported that some of the president's closest political allies had created a new firm, New Bridge Strategies, whose main goal is to help corporations "evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq." The company, which is headed by Joe Allbaugh, Bush's chief of staff in Texas and his campaign manager in 2000, was not exactly hard to find -- it has a Web site that boasts of its intimate ties to government officials: "New Bridge Strategies principals have years of public policy experience," the site says. The company's directors "have held positions in the Reagan Administration and both Bush Administrations and are particularly well suited to working with international agencies in the executive branch, Department of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the American rebuilding apparatus and establishing early links to Congress." Other New Bridge partners include Ed Rogers, vice chairman of the lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, and a close political aide to George H.W. Bush; and Lanny Griffith, also at Barbour Griffith, who served in several positions in Bush senior's White House, including as Southern political director in the 1988 campaign.

I find the honesty with which these guys are exploiting bloodshed and bandying about their crony connections to be refreshing, though it is does elicit the rather rare urge to see Dwight Eisenhower come back to life and kick some Miltary Insustrial Complex ass.
The hacky sac intifada

While growing up, Kates enjoyed trips to the public library to check out her favorite books. Sbaihat, on the other hand, spent much of his childhood playing a strange version of hide-and-seek with Israeli soldiers -- they tried to throw him in jail, he tried to throw rocks at their heads.

Kates' father is a truck driver, her mother is a bank teller and her brother is a U.S. marshal. Sbaihat's father and uncles have all done time in Israeli prisons for civil unrest, and his religious Muslim mother will only leave the house if wearing a scarf on her head.

Both Kates and Sbaihat are college students in America. But only one of them is a radical pro-Palestinian activist who says that Israel has no right to exist. Only one of them advocates Palestinian resistance "by any means necessary" to liberate all of the land "from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea," land currently under the control of "Israeli oppressors."


This is a really intersting read from Salon, contrasting moderate Arab college students in the US with the (mostly) radical white kids who have taken up their cause. The primary distinction the piece draws is one of rhetorical tactics: the Arab kids tend to be more oriented toward solution-brokering, and framing the issues in terms chosen to generate the most mass appeal possible, and the American-born students are more likely to rely on bold unequivocal pronouncements about Israel having no right to exist.

While there is a certain amount of the piece--not to mention to the general tone--dedicated to wry mockery of the viewpoints of the American-born kids, I ultimately got something positive from the article. Sbaihat sums up the reason that those students born in the occupied territories are more concerned with problem sovling than with absolutes:

"I definitely view the Palestinian cause as more of a personal issue than one of international justice and human rights."

I do think that a valid end is served by framing this-or-that regional flap in terms of international human rights: this consistent single standard was always supposed to be the hallmark of internationalism, right? But one is also forced to wonder whether the Israelis and the Palestinians would still be so far from a lasting peace without the "help" of so many outside parties. Of course, it would be pretty difficult to make the case that human rights groups have complicated the situation half as much as the governments of the US and various illiberal Arab states have (or even as much as the settlement-funding dollars flowing in fram radical Christian fundamentalists in the US).

Egypt's air-conditioned Islam

This article from Metafilter, reminds us that radical fundamentalist Islam is a modern political phenomenon--arguably even more so than the far-right Likkud party--not to mention one that likely doesn't reflect that real day-to-day views of most people in the region.

I know that it takes a remarkably narrow focus to turn two unrelated Israel/Palestinian article into a commerical for a presidential candidate, but the above sentiments remind me of how far the US has to go toward being a useful participant in the Middle East. Howard Dean states that we needed to be "even-handed" and "honest"--nothing more than that, nothing along the lines of pro-this or anti-that--and was scorned from all possible angles. So I say that's let them solve their own problems, not because of cynicism or ostrich syndrome, but because I'm sure they'd do better without our influence.
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Kerry accuses Dean of liking the Yankees

Now the campaign has gotten dirty. You can say someone hates Medicare, or loves Hitler, or ran a secret drug and murder ring in Arkansas, but to insinuate that someone is a Yankees fan is beyond hte pale. For shame, John Kerry. For shame!
Jim Marcinkowski, ex-CIA Agent, on the Plame Affair

Josh Marshall, who has been all over this story from the beginning, notes the words of yet another irate former operative who appeared on Paula Zahn's CNN show.

ZAHN: Mr. Marcinkowski, help us understand what this means to an agent in the field, particularly a covert one. Do they now view their government as a threat?
MARCINKOWSKI: Certainly, the act itself has been an unprecedented act. This is not the leak, as usual from Washington, of classified information. And that should not be condoned. However, this is the leak of an identification of an intelligence agent of the United States. So the fact that it's unprecedented sends a ripple effect throughout the intelligence community and drastically affects national security throughout -- throughout the world, and the United States in particular.

As an operations officer on scene in a country, the effects of this are that anyone who knows you or did know you now will look at your mosaic. They will look at the people you've come in contact with. They will suspect those people, be they official contacts or innocent contacts. They will suspect those persons of being intelligence agents. They could be subject to interrogation, imprisonment and even death, depending on the regime that you may be operating under.

There's also ramifications for CIA morale. I'm not naive enough to say this is having a huge impact, but certainly, it contributes to a decline in morale when you know that your own government can identify you as a clandestine operator. Certainly, there's going to be a reluctance on the part of foreign nationals that may want to help the United States in these trying times. They're going to be reluctant to serve and help us with information, based on the fact that their identification may be revealed by the government.


The ranks of pissed-off ex-members of the intelligence ranks continue to swell. The right wing is fighting like mad to spin this scandal away--calling it purely political, further trying to discredit and intimidate the Wilsons--but they are missing a very central point: the CIA invented spin. By trying to paint anyone reacting to the exposure as a partisan Democrat the right appears to be laboring under the assumption that this is actually the case. I would imagine that we can rest assured that this belief will bite them in the ass. Hmmm... Bob Novak and Karl Rove vs. the an institution that can topple governments, cause individuals to disappear, and virtually created psy-ops? I know who my money would be on.
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Study: Wrong impressions helped support Iraq war

I saw this a few days ago, before my self-imposed blogging exile ended.

A majority of Americans have held at least one of three mistaken impressions about the U.S.-led war in Iraq, according to a new study released Thursday, and those misperceptions contributed to much of the popular support for the war.

This, in and of itself, isn't such a profound insight. When you successfully lied your way to war, it can be assumed that you fooled some people. What is interesting, are the trends detailed in their graphic: how "out-of-the-know" one is seems to bear a direct relationship with the identity of their primary information source. Interesting.

The 5pm Deadline is approaching, but the White House doesn't care. The White House--expected to turn in all documents relevant to the Justice Department investigation of the Plame affair--has instead decided that a team of lawyers ought to spend two weeks determining which evidence can be used against their clients.

That's nice. I wonder if Jeffrey Dahmer was allowed to decide which torsoes could be subpeonaed?
Novak Leak Column Has Familiar Sound

Dana Millbank's piece from today's Post has me wondering exactly where one draws the line between two events being analogous or being part of pattern:

Let's review: Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak gets a leak of classified information from foreign-policy hardliners. The column he writes causes a huge embarrassment for the Republican White House and moderates throughout the administration. Capitol Hill erupts with protests about the leak.

Sound familiar? Actually, this occurred in December 1975. Novak, with his late partner Rowland Evans, got the classified leak -- that President Gerald R. Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were ready to make concessions to the Soviet Union to save the SALT II treaty. Donald H. Rumsfeld, then, as now, the secretary of defense, intervened to block Kissinger.

The main leak suspect: Richard Perle, then an influential aide to Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-Wash.) and now a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and a confidant of neoconservatives in the Bush administration. The account was described in a 1977 article in The Washington Post, noting Perle's "special access" to Evans and Novak.


Millbank does go on to note that there is nothing to suggest that Perle is connected to the current leak fiasco, but we can be sure that a couple of his homeboys are.

The Center for American Progress, which is a new think tank that I've got to learn more about, dug around Novak's past columns and found this absolute nugget:

Will the columnist reveal his sources? Here, too, there is a precedent in Novak's writings.

In July 2001, Novak revealed that newly accused spy Robert P. Hanssen was his primary source for a column a few years earlier about an FBI agent who resigned after refusing a demand from Attorney General Janet Reno for names of secret sources in China. He wrote: "Disclosing confidential sources is unthinkable for a reporter seeking to probe behind the scenes in official Washington, but the circumstances here are obviously extraordinary."


So for all Novak's talk of the sacredness of confidentiality (not that protecting sources isn't important,), we know two things:

1. He doesn't consider protection of sources to be absolute so much as to have a high threshhold.
2. Exposing a prior source has not hurt his ability to continue getting juicy classified information.

Number one just further bolsters that case that Novak is too much of a shit-talker to be taken seriously as a reporter, and the paradox at the center of number two is easilly accounted for: the hardliners who talk to Novak off-the-record are just interested in using his monkey ass anyway.
76 Days

You know, sometimes when a story unfolds over the course of weeks and months, as opposed to during a single brilliant event, it is easy to get a skewed perspective of what has gone down and how it all fits together. It's important to try to see the big picture even as it is occuring, but that big picture must be gleaned and cobbled together from drtails. 76 Days passed between Robert Novak's initial story leaking the name of an undercover CIA agent--published on July 14--and October 1. Blogger Brian Flemming has provided a detailed day-by-day accounting of President Bush's leadership on this matter. Check out the link to see if President Bush's inaction on the matter is getting blown out of proportion by the liberal press.
Monday, October 06, 2003
In very bizarre breaking news, our next military draft will be conducted by the free market. Somewhere Milton Friedman is pleasuring himself.

Pentagon Plan Would Convert 10,000 Military Jobs to Civilians

The Defense Department hopes to shift about 10,000 jobs performed by the military to civilians in the coming fiscal year, if Congress approves and money can be found to finance the conversions.

Top Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, have told Congress that shifting jobs to civilians would free up military personnel for the war against terrorism and the reconstruction of Iraq.

The proposal to replace military personnel with civilians is part of the Pentagon's plan to revamp the pay and personnel rules for about 746,000 civil service employees at the Defense Department. The Pentagon plan, called the "national security personnel system," was included by the House in the fiscal 2004 defense authorization bill. The measure has stalled, primarily because of contentious provisions unrelated to job conversions.


And, out of curiosity, I wonder if those gentlemen would venture a guess as to exactly which companies would be getting those contracts. What was that Rummy? Oh, I thought so.

Let's back up for a second. Suppose that Rumsfeld's larger plan for restructuring the military--the stuff in Rebuilding America's Defenses that isn't ideological pap--is right on. Wouldn't these guys care enough about that transition to at least pretend not to be completely wrapped up in self-interest? Believing the PNAC cabal is like not being alarmed by a missionary who makes a little coin on the side selling liquor to the natives.
24 hours from now this man will be placed in charge of the world's 5th largest economy:



Fortunately, the campaign to recall his time-travelling cyborg ass will begin about 15 minutes after the inauguration. And I've got my recall candidate:



Democracy may well be overrated. The neoconservatives are right: we don't have the ability to fucking rule ourselves for shit. Henceforth I am deferring all of my major decisions to either Paul Wolfowitz or Jean-Claude van Damme.
Graham Quits as Democratic Candidate (washingtonpost.com)

Graham hasn't run the best of campaigns, but he has done a decent job of using the extra press brought on by his presidential bid to draw attention to the Joint Congressional 9/11 report, among other things. I predict that this won't be the last we hear of Graham: he seems a possible running mate for someone, or at least a possible cabinet appointment.

His popularity in Florida is too good to pass up in what looks like a tight election.
Sunday, October 05, 2003
Wilson Says Leak Put Wife's Safety in Danger

In keeping with their "fuck you" posture, the US government has allegedly failed to provide any personal security for Valerie Plame following her being outed as a CIA operative.

So not only was her career destroyed--and a CIA-front business exposed and rendered permanently useless--but now the proper steps are not even being taken to ensure her safety. This, despite Republican Senator Chuck Hagel's insistence that "If there is the least possibility, most remote possibility, of her life being in danger, then the government owes that person protection and security."

Clearly, the same administration that decided that the need for political revenge trumped the need to protect covert ooperatives working in anti-proliferation is unlikely to properly protect that same conpromised person, nor is it likely to conduct any sort of creible investigation of it's own malfeasance.

All of the above makes a strong case for the Wilson's to file a civil suit. As John Dean notes here, a civil suit actually played a key role in the Watergate scandal which this current affair resembles more each day.

So let me share a bit of history with Ambassador Wilson and his wife. And, well aware that gratuitous advice is rightfully suspect, let me also offer them a suggestion -- drawn from some pages of Watergate history that till now I've only had occasion to discuss privately. Long before Congress became involved and a special prosecutor was appointed, Joe Califano, then general counsel to the Democratic National Committee and later a Cabinet officer, persuaded his Democratic colleagues to file a civil suit against the Nixon reelection committee. And that maneuver almost broke the Watergate coverup wide open. In seeking justice from the closed ranks of the Bush White House, Wilson and Plame should follow a similar strategy.
A Third Way

An informed editorial by two attorneys who formerly worked for independent counsels (during Iran-Contra). They contend that the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department has enough estimable independence to conduct a credible investigation wihtout the pifalls of an independent counsel.

Definitely worth considering. In any case, every day that this investigation is conducted by John Ashcroft is another day in which the investigation can't possibly be seen as being in good faith. Whether it is this "third" way or something else, there has to be some way.
Do We Really Want to Stop The Leaks?

Ted Gup writes in today's Post:

I am reminded of the card game "Hearts," in which one player may momentarily gloat as he passes off the dreaded Queen of Spades, only to discover that his opponent is "shooting the moon" -- winning all the points in the hand -- and that he has just unwittingly provided the one card his opponent needed for victory. So, in the current circumstance, Democrats may imagine momentary advantage by calling into question the integrity and character of some within the administration. But beyond that they may be inadvertently signing on to any and all future assaults on leaks of closely held material, declaring open season on those who talk to the press or the opposition, and threatening the vital trickle of information that somehow gets out of this administration. It seems clear that many Democrats are thinking that what goes around has finally come around, but, to twist another cliché, what's bad for the goose may be good for the gander. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Vice President Cheney will likely see past the current scandal to the political license it grants them in further managing the release of information and squelching opposition.

Ultimately, it would seem that Gup's thesis is that the spectre of which he warns--a concern which, in and of itself, is wholly valid--is so grave as to mean that the public and the press should elect not to press for accountability (otherwise known as the nailing of the hides of Karl Rove and Lewis Libby to the lobby walls in Langely) in the matter of a clear violation of law and compromise of national security. The piece is compelling in general, but I don't understand why the fact that the administration is going to spin this means that due process should not be done.

I understand Gup's worries about a sort of fissure in the symbiotic culture inhabited by the press and disgruntled government functionaries who reveal dirty secrets (and I don't mean that last bit perjoratively), but it would seem that a major reason that we have laws is so that every individual moral transgression does not get settled through wsubjective and dynamic cultural debate. Christ, they broke a law. Gup says they shouldn't be punished because they're just going to do something worse in the future. For a guy named Ted, his rationalizations sound a lot like those of a dutiful abused wife.

And this is all forgetting the fact that if Karl Rove and Lewis Libby really are the "two" leakers, someone else has to go down with them as well, as neither of them serve in roles that make them rightfully privy to classified information (actually, maybe Libby does?). In any case, I would like to see these chumps attempt some sort of clampdown without Rove to orchestrate it? His next dirty scheme may well involve sharpening a toothbrush handle or masking-taping a handle onto a shard of glass in order to protect his lunch.

There are enough jounralists who are in the know for one of them to write about it anonymously while all of them can plausibly deny that they know who did it. One of them needs to dash off a stream-of-consciousness Primary Colors so that whoever leaked Plame's name can at least be exposed to the public, if not to prosecution.
Saturday, October 04, 2003
The larger implications of the Justice Department investigation into the outing of Mrs. Wilson (as I have read she is called in her normal life) may well be that they shed light on the growing--but no doubt alredy established--dosconnect between the CIA and the Pentagon. A number of hardline conservatives, including Novak himself, say that this portends well for the administration. If I had even a shred of faith in the notion that we inhabit an objective reality, I would laugh my ass off at this contention.

But then I read stuff like this:
Rumors Rife on Tenet's Tenure

Don't get me wrong, to any estent that I am capable of opining on the skills of a journalist, Dana Priest is an unabashed ass kicker. I don't think that this story is skewed or inaccurate so much as I think that she was dispatched to report on a completely insane black-is-white culture which has come to dominate Washington.

The basic thrust of this story is that many in Congress--from both sides of the aisle, reportedly, though only Republicans are named--are increasingly disgusted by our inability to find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Like everyone else in the world, they have come to the conlusion that no such weapons existed, but--and here is where they divorce themselves from reality faster than Newt Gingrich dumps a terminally ill wife--they blam the CIA for the botched intelligence that took us to war.

The frightening thing is that this viewpoint apparently holds some currency. So let's get this straight: the CIA, in the leadup to the war, consistently questioned the independent analysis of the Pentagon's Office of Special Planning (to the extent of being mocked by Wolfowitz and Cheney). Eventually, the Pentagon people won and their Chalabified fake intell. taken from depositions by INC-supplied "weapons scientists" was taken as gospel. Now, the CIA is being blamed for conclusions which they fought against every step of the way? Don't people remember the Steven Hadley resignation from June? I thought that settled the matter of who forced what on whom.

Bullshit. In reading this story, and in the spirit of the LSAT logic games which still appear in my head when I sleep, I could not help but wish that people were required to provide diagrams of their logic when making such specious claims. One way or another, I don't give much of a shit if George Tenet gets fired. He is the head of the CIA, so I can accept that he's probably done something in his life for which he deserves to be punished. But if jettisoning Tenet is somehow seen as a safeguard aganst future politicization of intelligence, then I'm a monkey's uncle.
Obviously, the week that I took off from blogging was a week of pretty intense news, and I'm going to try to aggregate a lot of the back coverage on the Joseph Wilson story. There is enough out there from enough different sources to begin getting some perspective on what promises to be at least a huge scandal, if not a real turning point for this administration.

In that spirit:
Adviser to Bush's Father Redefines Himself as Wary Whistle-Blower

This is the first real bio-piece that I have seen on Joe Wilson--though his TPM interview is pretty detailed--and I'm inclined to buy its basic sentiment if only the New York Times certainly has no rela horse in this race one way or another. It's not as if they have done any important reporting on the Wilson story, or as if they have taken a strong editorial position one way or the other.

The dim, grainy photograph is not the best he has ever taken with a president, Joseph C. Wilson IV said, glancing at a picture of himself with President George H. W. Bush, taken in January 1991, two days before the start of the Persian Gulf war. But it is the most memorable.

The two men are caught midstride, heads bowed, walking through the White House Rose Garden, discussing the imminent military action, said Mr. Wilson, who was a senior diplomat in Baghdad at the time. "He was asking all the questions you would want a president to ask as we were contemplating war," he said. "All the human questions."

Now at the center of a political maelstrom over the current Bush administration's war in Iraq — one that has set off a Justice Department investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing by White House officials — Mr. Wilson harks back to those days with a measure of dismay.

"It gives me no pleasure whatsoever," he said of the current controversy, in an interview at his office on Friday. "It gives me great pain, in fact, because of that particular relationship, which I value, with the president's father."...

Mr. Wilson said he so respects the former president's international approach to foreign policy that when he wrote his first article questioning the current administration's developing Iraq strategy, which was published in The San Jose Mercury News in October 2002, he sent a copy to the former president. The senior Mr. Bush wrote him a brief reply, Mr. Wilson said. He refused to share the contents but said Mr. Bush's note had been "very positive."


A lengthy article, but pretty good for getting some background on Wilson himself, who appears to have a tenure of professional service to administrations of both parties.
Now the blogging will commence. The LSAT was a bizarre experience, moreso because I have no idea whatsoever how it went. I am completely without inkling. Now I have to find a professor willing to admit to past associations with me, and recommend that another institution of learning willingly allow me on their campus. And I thought the test was hard...

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