Thursday, July 31, 2003
This short paper, by Srdja Trifkovic, compares the tenets of Straussian neoconservatism with those of National Socialism and the old Stalinist left--and makes a couple of salient points. Ultimately, it seems likely that comparison to the Nazi's is unlikely to ever yield to productive or concilliatory conversation. That being said, I must admit that I share (what I perceive as) Trifkovic's opinion that it is more important to educate people about the neocons than to try to engage the movement itself.

I'm writing an essay right now (which I hope will go up here soon) that mirrors a couple of Trifkovic's main points: mainly that the actionable warning signs for the emergence of authoritarian government of any stripe are cultural, and not neccessarilly just the words or actions of the ruling elite.

I hope that in reading the Trifkovic people are able to see something beyond a knee-jerk "Bush is a Nazi! Bah!" The piece that I am working on is meant to focus on whether the juggernaut neoconservative nationalist philosophy will actually be impeded by any lasting political fallout from recent events. Trifkovic would say no, and I fear that I would agree with her.

Either this philosophy is on borrowed time or this nation is.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
One of the best little bits of web satire that I have seen recently.
The Transportation Security Administration today announced simultaneously that
1. There is an elevated risk of hijackings, and
2. They are cutting funding and manpower from the air marshall program.

No need to editorialize on that one, really. Again, financially as well as temporally, this administration is making clear its commitment to ideology and imperial adventure over actual national security matters.
George W. Bush -- With Us or Against US?

Ked Adelman points out, in his Tech Central Station editorial, that we already know the Saudis are "against us."

Bush officials explain how cooperative the Saudi government was during the Iraq war and sundry oil crises. I'll grant them part of such claims. Yes, what else could Saudis do with oil but sell it on the world market? Saudis make nothing of value. Moreover, they've spent themselves into such staggering hock as to make inconceivable any oil boycott or embargo.

Granting us over-flight rights during the Iraq war - which, by the way, removed the #1 threat to Saudi Arabia itself - pales in comparison to granting them (the Islamic fanatics) funds for terrorism. Why doesn't such a straight-talking administration talk straight about this problem? Or at least not "classify" the information the congressional commission carefully gathered? We have a right to know whether Saudi Arabia is "with us or against us."

We know they're "against us" on values. Saudi Arabia ranks rock bottom on civil or political freedom. According to the non-partisan Freedom House, it looms in a lower circle of government hell along with North Korea, Iran, Syria, and the like.

They're sure "against us" on honesty. It's ranked by Transparency International and other such respected NGOs as one of the most corrupt regimes anywhere.

They're obviously "against us" on religious freedom and tolerance. Christians cannot hold a Mass or a church service anywhere in Saudi Arabia. Even carrying a Bible into the country or handing out Christian literature are grounds for deportation or arrest. Saudi anti-Semitism is downright sickening.


As I am writing, George W. Bush is taking the podium for only his 11th press conference since his presidency began. He has begun his address by talking about how much he is looking forward to his imminent trip to his Texas ranch. He is praising the soldiers in Iraq, and smirking about the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein. What he is not bringing up--of his own accord, I'm sure he'll be asked--is his refusal yesterday to release the redacted portions of the Congressional 9/11 report that finger the Saud family.

Senator Chuck Schumer was blunt:
"The administration's stubborn refusal to declassify documents is business as usual — coddling and covering up for the Saudis."

Let's forget about Saudi Arabia. We know--and have known for years--that they are ruled by an antidemocratic and repressive monarchic family. Their reserves of oil have prevented the development of any productive economic sectors, and the people are kept in squalor while the princes live it up on the world's dime. We know now that members of that family helped support and pay for the September 11th attacks. It is not difficult to reach the objective conclusion that Saudi Arabia is "against us."

What about George Bush? It was an easy conclusion for many, up to this point, that Bush was at worst a pawn of a powerful ideology. I for one, despite numerous questions about his deciusion making, have never really doubted his earnestness as much as the ends to which he applies it. But this is bullshit. Not every single Senator from a relevant committee has spoken out against Bush's refusal to declassify, but none have spoken in Bush's defense. Not a one.

Back to the press conference. He is now getting questions about the redacted report, and only serving up platitude. "We must win the War on Terror. We can not give the enemy an opportunity."

You are the fucking enemy, Duhbya. Self interest and personal connections are trumping what was only an ignorrant and simple ethic to begin with. Even if the cost is a sacrifice of long-term credibility, it is important to initiate impeachment proceedings--or at least an independent investigation--against Bush in order to get him under oath and before Congress.

To be a bit less vulgar, who do you trust more, a dozen Senators from both parties and respected retired intelligence officials or the Saudi Royal family? Bush has cast his vote, and soon enough we can all cast ours.

NSC-member Condi Rice was defended by Bush... "She's a fabulous person and America is lucky to have her service. Period." Ugh. He's like a redneck mafia don. Cornpone Corleone.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
America is a religion

This editorial in the Guardian takes an abstract look at recent fundamental shifts in American policy, as well as the recurring explanations of "intelligence" failures offered by the White House.

Few people believe that the resistance in that country is being coordinated by Saddam Hussein and his noxious family, or that it will come to an end when those people are killed. But the few appear to include the military and civilian command of the United States armed forces. For the hundredth time since the US invaded Iraq, the predictions made by those with access to intelligence have proved less reliable than the predictions made by those without. And, for the hundredth time, the inaccuracy of the official forecasts has been blamed on "intelligence failures".

The explanation is wearing a little thin. Are we really expected to believe that the members of the US security services are the only people who cannot see that many Iraqis wish to rid themselves of the US army as fervently as they wished to rid themselves of Saddam Hussein? What is lacking in the Pentagon and the White House is not intelligence (or not, at any rate, of the kind we are considering here), but receptivity. Theirs is not a failure of information, but a failure of ideology.


Any inquiry into the power of ideology--and the current ideology of power--is welcome here. This Guardian piece hits on a central theme that echos throughout every institution in this meaner, tougher America: American exceptionalism. Far from being committed to process and principle, our current ruling elite has adopted a Machiavellian "the ends justify the means" mindest.
The White House has decided once and for all not to declassify any of the redacted 28-page section of the 9/11 report, despite insistence by a growing bipartisan group of legislators and other parties who participated in putting together the report. Even the Saudi foreign minister wanted the report to be public!

Bush's White House has again put political expediency ahead of national security. The "War on Terrorism," with all its trimmings, is largely a contrived and cynical political game, but the fact remains that Americans are vulnerable to massive attack from non-state actors. The comments of Bob Graham, Richard Shelby and others seem to indicate that a state is involved as well, but instead of coming forward with the information that the public--especially the families of past and future victims--needs, Bush is sitting on it in an attempt to quell inconvenient consequences. This should sound familiar by now.
This breaking CBS News article details an odd bubblingd juxtaposition: while intelligence services are warning of additional hijacking plots by al Qaeda, the Department of Homeland Security has decided to lay off 3,000 more airport screeners.

You know, maybe these al Qaeda guys could be slowed down if we cut off their funding and logistical support from countries such as _____ ______. Too bad that _____ ______ is being protected by the redaction of the sections of the 9/11 report detailing their ______ __ ____ _________. What a bunch of ________.
The Pentagon has cancelled its plans for a Geopolitcal Futures Market, only one day after making their intentions public brought criticism from Congress and the public. Heh.
The Boston Globe is running a rather laudatory story about the Howard Dean campaign's newly toned fundraising muscle. It quotes campiagn manager Joe Trippi:

''I keep reading people saying things like, `I don't know if he can sustain this,' or, `Do they have a product,' but we don't know where those blind quotes are coming from,'' Trippi said.

The campaign manager said the message extends to the core of Dean's populist message.

Cheney ''does it with people who get plaques for raising $100,000. (Dean's supporters) are regular people -- students, retirees -- who give $50,'' Trippi said. ''If George Bush is running against that, it's not a left-wing thing or a right-wing thing, but people participating in their democracy. People don't want to believe that about us, but we'll just keep talking about it -- and proving it -- until they do.''


Trippi's populist gamble seems to be paying off so far, and maybe we shouldn't be so surprised. When less than half the population votes, it is probably fair to suggest that people feel alienated from the political process, but the Dean campaign is playing to that sentiment perfectly, by emphasizing his populist message over any dogma or ideology. The Globe also notes a strong reason to believe that Dean's fundraising momentum will not slow up:

Each of the vice president's donors gave $2,000, the maximum allowed for an individual during the primaries, but the average donation for Dean by that hour -- $52 -- meant his campaign could go back and seek additional money from most of the contributors as his primary campaign continues.


When Randy Batten distilled his thoughts about the war against Iraq into a single phrase, "KILL EM ALL," and then displayed it on the marquee outside his bar, he knew it would cause a stir. That's what he wanted.

"I don't mind the attention," he said, standing outside the doorway of the 1896 Club. "Nine-tenths of my customers agreed. And new people stopped in to tell me how much they liked it."


It's actually an interesting article [click on rednecks above], and it makes me recall a marquee that I saw right after the war in Afghanistan began: God Bless America BBQ Pork Sandwiches. Here's an article with more hilarious pictures.
Monday, July 28, 2003
Check out the delightful "Cost of War" counter. If you go to their site, you can compare monies spent on the Iraq war with budgets for social services and education.
Prince Saud al-Faisal (himself a personal friend of the Bush family since at least the time of the first Gulf War) is flying to Washington to meet with George W Bush, presumably to discuss the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks. Bush still has not spoken publicly about the reasons for keeping sections of the 9/11 report which are alleged to contain reference to Saudi involvement secret, despite mounting pressure from the public and Congress.

What conclusions are left to be drawn? If, as is claimed by both the White House press liasons and the Saudi government, the "redacted" portions exonerate the Saudis, it is difficult to understand why they must be kept classified. But even Republicans like Porter Goss--who himself had participated in commission stonewalling at one point--are adamant that the report pins a singificant portion of the blame on Riyadh.

The Bush administration gambled early in its tenure by adopting a tone and modus operandi of secrecy, and they won. Public rallying around 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq allowed this lack of transparency to continue to look reasonable to the public. Fortune is not likely to shine on them again. Bush and Rove ought to know as well as anyone how powerful and galvanizing the events of that tragic day were, because the public hasn't forgotten. Bush's free pass effectively ended when it became clear that he was covering up for his friends in the family Saud, and it is too late to right the ship now.

But throwing Bush and Cheney overboard won't instantly deliver answers. It is fair to wonder what Bush knows now--and what he knew then--and it is only just and to be expected that we will demand he tell. I have never thought that a Bush impeachment seemed remotely possible or even advisable, but at this point I think that political expediency and convenience have been trumped by the need to get the President and Vice President under oath and in front of Congress before they lose the 2004 election. As for that possibility, I say it gets stronger each day that moderate and archconservative members of the GOP come closer to the end realization that their party's prodigal son is covering up for one the most vicious crimes in the history of humanity.
Check this out.

I'm rather torn, as to what to think of this idea. Essentially, it is a market-like game in which experts predict foreign policy outcomes and international events, but the Pentagon is dressing it up as somthing else entirely. If played with fake money, by academics and policy experts, the "game" could prove very useful. But, if self-interested people are playing for real money, isn't even the slightest possibility of manipulation of world events to fix the game something oninous enough to be avoided at all costs?

I'm all for novel approaches to problem solving, and game theory has proven valuable in mapping out a lot of the murkier areas of economics, but this idea seems flawed. First, this seems based on the model of futures markets, which are famous for not actually giving us useful predictive data. Second, if you look at the most significant events in history, I wonder if any of them would have even been listed on such an exchange ahead of time. Pearl Harbor? 9/11? The Reformation? The Assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand?

If DARPA is going to pour money into unconventional attempts at predicting history (which would be much better than the stuff that they usually fund), why not cellular automota? It seems that CA would do a better job of representing the randomness and lack of definition that raelly signposts history. Plus, it could conceivably thrust Steven Wolfram and Stephen Hawking into these sort of Dr. Strangelove roles, and that would be fantastic.

Possible end of the world scenario:
"Damn it! Why didn't I put any money on 'giant comet'? I'm even a loser at Endtimes Bingo!"
The Howard Dean campaign's latest fundraising challenge has met with unexpected success. As I mentioned earlier, in response to a bigwig-driven fundraising appearance by Cheney today--expected to net $250,000--the Dean campaign wanted to see if they could match that number in grassroots contributions. As of now, they have taken in almost $500,000 from over 8,000 individuals.

I convinced (well, it wasn't hard) my coworker in the next cubicle to donate a few bucks, and we talked about how that exact scene was probably playing out all over the US right now. Dean's campaign is getting an A+ right about now, mixing populism with innovative fundraising (not the likeliest of marriages). Dean has found a way to harness your anger at being ripped off, and get you to give them money as a solution. Counterintuitive, difficult, brilliant. Personally, I'm as interested in the success of the campaign as in Dean himself.

Dean also had a $3 a plate turkey-sandwich fundraiser, and that kicks ass.
Sen. Chuck Schumer is also pressuring the White House to turn up the heat on Saudi Arabia. Schumer sent this letter to the White House:

via Oliver Willis
Dear President Bush,

I write to respectfully request that you convince the Saudi Arabian government to hand Omar al-Bayoumi over to United States law enforcement officials for questioning as a material witness to the September 11th attacks.

Although a previous FBI investigation of al-Bayoumi conducted before 9-11 did not bear fruit, new information that has come to light in the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 that clearly suggests that he was closely connected to the perpetrators of the attack. Evidence now indicates that al-Bayoumi also had connections to the Saudi government and even al Qaeda.

According to the recently released report, al-Bayoumi was an intimate associate of 9-11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi and provided them with financial assistance. The FBI has indicated that al-Bayoumi was first introduced to the two hijackers in early 2000 at a restaurant in a “somewhat suspicious meeting” immediately after a closed-door consultation with Saudi officials at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles. Since September 11th, the FBI has learned that al-Bayoumi also had connections to individuals associated with al-Qaeda.

Further evidence also suggests that al-Bayoumi had other intimate connections to the Saudi government. One of the FBI’s best sources in San Diego – the city where al-Bayoumi lived – named al-Bayoumi as an intelligence officer for Saudi Arabia or another foreign power while news reports indicate that al-Bayoumi was at one time employed by the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation.

Despite this evidence identifying him as a central figure in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the hijackers, however, no American law enforcement official has questioned al-Bayoumi directly because he left the Untied States before September 11th to return to Saudi Arabia. Given the revelations of the Joint Inquiry’s report, it is obvious that there are many important questions about Saudi Arabia’s connections to 9-11 that only al-Bayoumi can answer.

I respectfully urge you to do all that is in your power to convince the Saudis to hand over al-Bayoumi to the FBI so that the unanswered questions surrounding 9–11 can be resolved.

Sincerely,
Charles Schumer
U.S. Senator


The transgenerational friendships between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family have been well-documented, especially in Bob Woodward's The Commanders. Now, the White House--yes, the same one that trumpets absolutist nationalism and commitment to national security--is going out of its way to protect the role played by the Saudis in financing the 9/11 attacks. Now, it is even clear that a key accomplice to the attacks is living in Saudi and that the administration is doing nothing to push for his extradition to US or international authorities.

The administration that now refuses to pursue arguably the greatest criminals in American history is the same one that villified the French for criticizing our war efforts. The underlying message is that you can kill 3,000 American cvilians if you want, so long as you don't question our right to kill 6,000 unrelated civilians under the cover of grief. That many Americans feel a deep hatred for France while still supporting a President who is complicit in the cover-up of the very crime that gave his presidency meaning is perhaps the bleakest example of cognative dissonance that we have seen in our lifetimes.

Forget politics for a minute, and think about the big-picture ramifications of this: Bush, in refusing to prosecute those really responsible for 9/11 and instead choosing to wage war on unrelated nations under the guise of revenge while coddling those who funded the murder of 3,000 innocent people in one morning, is making clear the central folly of the War on Terror: it is an idea given support by its disengenuous co-option of an unrelated emotion. Our pipeline-buiding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have done nothing to make the US safer, nor have Ashcroft's dalliances into my library records. Once Americans realize that not only Iraq, but also the entire war footing, is manufactured and politicized their support will dry up.
This weekend two more Republican Senators spoke out about the excessive and counterproductive secrecy of the Bush White House. Richard Shelby blasted the 9/11 report, saying that still-classified portions of the report were kept secret in order to protect relations with a foreign country (gee, I wonder if he could be talking about Saudi Arabia).

Dick Lugar, heretofore an unabashed supporter of all things W, is criticizing the administration for failing to be honest and forthright with Congress and the public about the financial costs of the occupation of Iraq.

As has been said before, it isn't really possible to distinguish between ass-covering and legitimate disgust on the behalf of Republican lawmakers and officials, but both are likely at play for Lugar and Shelby. As the flames of scandal and America's Iraqi hangover continue to engulf the White House, there are fewer and fewer people who wish to stand beside it.
Two U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq

A total of 243 U.S. troops have been killed since the Iraq war began in March.

Interesting that the Washington Times is actually running the number of real casualties. Most newspapers only discuss the combat deaths, as if these folks would be drowning in Iraqi rivers and crashing Humvees if they had stayed home. 5 sodliers died this weekend, and now there are at least a dozen attacks on occupation troops each day. Now that most Americans are starting to wake up to the fact that the Iraq war was prosecuted through dishonest means and underhanded intentions, the daily reports of casualties aren't so easilly swept under that rug.

Maybe soon we can also come to grips with the fact that our forces have killed over 6,000 Iraqi civillians. 9/11 is often cited as a reason for going to war in Iraq (as illogical and baseless as that may be), so it may be time to notice that twice as many Iraqi civilians have died in our war than Americans died that day.

Regardless of which numbers one finds most compelling, the bottom line is that the neoconservative doctrine of "shoot first, plan the occupation later" is proving a deadly one for people of many nationalities, and an ineffective one in terms of national security.
I just gave money to a political campaign for the first time in my life. Howard Dean has a fundraising challenge going on today, and its premise is very interesting: Dick Cheney has a campaign fundraising event this evening, during which he will collect $250,000 for a few-minute speech. The Dean campaign--and presumably manager Joe Trippi--came up with the idea to show that grassroots fundraising actually can keep pace with special interests. They started this particular drive this weekend, and have raised almost $300,000 as of now (~10:00 am EST), depsite the fact that most contributors were expected to wait until today to match up with Cheney's appearance.


At this point, I', sure there are many signing up with the Dean campaign who are more interested in the campaign itself than in Howard Dean. I know that's the case with me: I would rather see a candidate with whom I have less than perfect ideological overlap actually win with a smart, populist campaign than see someone else lose.

Trippi's mastery and improvisation with online campaigning has been spot-on thus far. Everything that he touches seems to turn to gold. Dean's really is the best-run grassroots campaign in our lifetimes (isn't it?). The most impressive thing about this bout of fundraising is that more than 5,000 people donated taht $300,000. I only had $25, the minimum, but I'm sure that there are a enough other people in my situation who have never given to a campaign that together we count as the same as one industry lobby or multimillionaire.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Steven Colbert's analysis of the California recall race from the Daily Show. One word: Side-splitting. [Real video]
Bush loses ground in polls

A Zogby poll released today shows that when asked if George Bush deserves re-election, only 46 percent of Americans said yes and a narrow majority, 47 percent, said it is time for someone new.

These poll numbers look good--especially when balanced with the press' newfound willingness to confront the vulnerabilities of Diebold's electronic voting systems.
Salon's Michells Goldberg, on the growing Reublican resistance to Bush's irresponsible adoption of neoconservatism (click the elephant):



Philip Gold, a former Georgetown University professor who worked on Steve Forbes' presidential run, says that when he talks to conservatives about the direction of America under President George W. Bush, he senses a clammy, middle-of-the-night kind of fear. "I am getting more and more a sense across the board of enormous apprehension," he says. "There's this whole 3 a.m. sense of, 'What are we doing?'

"Between this recession that ended statistically but not in real life, and all the little lies or fabrications and falsehoods in Iraq and elsewhere that are starting to add up to one big problem, there's so much diffuse anxiety right now," he says.


Most of the jingoist broadcast media that supported the war is laying low right now, while print outlets (OK, really just the Washington Post) and the web are carrying the day in terms of investigative reporting (not that this Salon piece is particularly investigative).
The Saudi cover-up

Saddam Hussein never got it. He didn't realize that personal schmoozing in Washington and spreading lots of money around to former and soon-to-be U.S. government officials were the keys to realizing his geopolitical ambitions. He, in short, never learned the Saudi lesson.
Saturday, July 26, 2003
Insiders suggest Condoleezza Rice could leave

The proverbial buck continues its unfettered ascent through the Bush administration, with USNews' "inside sources" hinting that Condi Rice may be the next to self-impale. As Josh Marshall points out, this domino effect is unlikely to stop until it reaches the Vice President.

Suddenly, referendum and direct democracy don't look so cool...

Former Senator Max Cleland was on Bill Moyers' NOW last night. Cleland, a disabled Vietnam vet and member of the independent 9/11 investigation that is now getting underway, was furious about the roadblocks faced by nthe inquiry.

CLELAND: Let's talk about that here. This commission was formed about mid-December, the 9/11 Commission. We were supposed to use the joint inquiry report as a launching pad to get into this issue of not only fixing the intelligence community, but moving beyond, and getting into what is the al Qaeda all about? What is this terrorist global network that we're fighting? A new kind of war and all that.

Well, the independent, bi-partisan commission, hello, didn't even get the stuff 'til a few weeks ago.

I'm saying that's deliberate. I am saying that the delay in relating this information to the American public out of a hearing… series of hearings, that several members of Congress knew eight or ten months ago, including Bob Graham and others, that was deliberately slow walked… the 9/11 Commission was deliberately slow walked, because the Administration's policy was, and its priority was, we're gonna take Saddam Hussein out.


...I tell you what makes me mad. Is when I see the names of those youngsters that are being killed out there every day. I say, "God help us." I've been there. I've seen this movie before.

It was 35 years ago. I was one of those young 21-year-old, 22, 23-year-old guys. Young Lieutenant, hard charger, volunteer. First Air Cavalry Division. Airborne, all this kind of stuff. Hoo-wah, hoo-wah, hoo-wah.

And we got great young soldiers. And I've been at Bethesda and Walter Reade, and I've seen their legs blown off. And I've seen their eyes gone. And that's what bothers me.


Classified Section of Sept. 11 Report Faults Saudi Ruler



The 28-page section of the report was deleted from the nearly 900-page declassified version released on Thursday by a joint committee of the House and Senate intelligence committees. The chapter focuses on the role foreign governments played in the hijackings, but centers almost entirely on Saudi Arabia, the people who saw the section said.

The Bush administration's refusal to allow the committee to disclose the contents of the chapter has stirred resentment in Congress, where some lawmakers have said the administration's desire to protect the ruling Saudi family had prevented the American public from learning crucial facts about the attacks.
I missed this voter fraud article in the NYT a couple of days ago. Maybe the major media will begin to pay attention.
Three U.S. Soliders Killed Guarding Iraqi Children's Hospital

The layout of this page is jingoistic and tasteless. FOX "News" is attempting to use the graphic photos of Uday and Qusay Hussein as some sort of patriotic trophy, and as an advertising tool. But for that to be done on the same page as a story that details the deaths of three more soldiers is insanely distasteful. No to mention that any hope of the reader leaving this article thinking about its headline is pissed away in the nth retelling of the "whoo-hoo! We killed Saddam's boys!" story.

Nonetheless, it appears as if the guerilla campaign is growing, depsite the welcome deaths of the Husseins.

Friday, July 25, 2003
Check it out, a bunch of progressive Californians (presumably) have set up a site to attempt to draft Arianna Huffington into the anarchic political fracasse set to break out following the Gray Davis recall.

This is going to be crazy, and the next governor of California could be elected by like 25% of the people. Someone call Ayn Rand; I think she'd be turned-on by the complete breakdown in meaning and order.

In any case, the Draft Huffington crowd has one very salient point: a progressive victory is actually possible in this race. There will be virtually no formal campaigning, multiple Republicans, one possible Terminator, and no Democrats (despite the large Democratic majority in CA). If they can take advantage of the immediacy in oragnization afforded by the web, things could get interesting.
Terrorist Scum! America will be free from your evildoing for 2 1/2 years!

The Bush administration, long chided for its negative "with us or against us" view towards dissent, has implemented a new strategy for dealing with protesters, though the fine print is still being worked out.
TPM's Josh Marshall notes a bizarre shucking-and-jiving of a Washington Post article today--one which originally had a headline declaring that James Baker was about to take over in Iraq.

Something worth knowing happened here.
Fantastic threads on Metafilter and MetaJournalism about the (non)story about illegal White House retribution against Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador who was sent to Niger by Dick Cheney.

Why isn't the press jumping all over this?

It turns out that Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife, is a covert CIA operative. Well, was covert, until Robert Novak outed her in a recent column--citing high-level administration officials as his sources.

Andrew in Minnesota e-mailed me last night and suggested that the Plame/Novak story would be a good test for the first "Smart Scandal." After thinking about it for a while today, and then seeing those two posts on community blogs that I know tend to have an informed readership, I realized that Andrew's probably right.

But I'm also reminded of the similarities between this idea and the idea behind MetaJournalism. Or maybe that site is just another resource?

In any case, something needs to be done to bring this grossly mafia-esque goon treatment of a diplomat that was regarded by HW Bush as a loyal and competent public servant.

So let's strap on the powdered wigs and kick some ass! (um, any ideas?)
A friend just steered me toward this link to the declassified portions of the NIE report that the White House released earlier this week. This comprehensive review of intelligence is published each year by the CIA, DIA, State Department, and DOD collaboratively. The inclusion in this document of allegations against Iraq's weapons programs was supposed to quell the political firestorm surrouding the President's staff.

But, as was noted in the press immediately following the release of these documents, the NIE also contained unequivocal caveats about these claims placed by the CIA and the State Department. Essentially, the civillian businessmen and, defense contractors and oil barons in the DOD made one claim (with no supporting evidence), and everyone within the military , intelligence, and diplomatic complexes with any experience or credibility strongly disagreed. That brings us to the present situation, in which those few war profiteers and ideologues who really wanted this war from the beginning have picked a fight with the CIA, and are learning quickly exactly how stupid that was.
The story about Diebold's election machines is, for whatever random reason, blowing up right now. The security flaws and dependence on unsecure software inherent in the deisgn of the voting machines that many precincts are making mandatory were first reported a couple of weeks ago in the New Zealand press, but the American press is only jumping on the story today.

Still, if you scroll down the google results linked above, there is a clear dearth of mainstream American media outlets picking up on the story. It seems odd that people from the UK and New Zealand would have more interest in the corruption of American democracy than do Americans.

Read the New Zealand story (not that there is anything wrong with the others). It is extremely sound--logically and in terms of the data and evidence presented. I have been fooled a htousand times before into thinking that American press would focus on a given subject, but I can think of no topic more important thatn the subjugation of the voting process.
TPM's Josh Marshall parses Steven Hadley's most recent press conference and uses it to give Condi Rice's statements denying knowledge of the forged uranium data context:

Question: But as of memo number two, certainly Dr. Rice was aware of the concerns, the CIA --

Hadley: What we know is, again, a copy of the memo comes to the Situation Room, it's sent to Dr. Rice, it's sent -- and that's it. You know, I can't tell you she read it. I can't even tell you she received it. But in some sense, it doesn't matter. Memo sent, we're on notice.

Steve Hadley
White House Q&A
July 22nd, 2003


"We did not know at the time--no one knew at the time, in our circles--maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the Agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery."

Condi Rice
Meet the Press
June 8th, 2003


Speaks for itself doesn't it?


Again, as I and many others have said over and over since this scandal began, the cover-up is worse than the crime. Those few conservatives who have been openly critical of the Bush administration's tactics in defending these allegations (i.e. those who supported the war and are confused by their handling of the scandal, not those who differ on ideological grounds) have noted that the administration would do well to be forthright with the press and public, to claim responsibility for their actions, and to try to move forward.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it willfully ignores the fact that there are definite reasons that Bush's inner circle is not being direct with people. And at this point, it's too late for them, as enough lies have already been issued forth as cover for transgressions past. Their only hope is to keep coming up with bigger and bigger lies.
Of all the numerous facts and figures presented in the new 9/11 report, there is one particular "Strategic Finding" that I feel merits immediate attention. Don't you feel so much safer after reading the following:

13. Finding: [_________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________].

Ah, that just clears everything right up.

Thursday, July 24, 2003
Here it is.

The much-anticipated Congressional Reports: Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001. A little light summer reading.

Aside from the portions that someone doesn't want us to see, and their alleged implication of the Saudi Government's role in the attacks, this report promises to contain much interesting information. What remains to be seen, though, is if all of that has already been leaked to the press.
Three more troops we killed in the occupation of Iraq yesterday, but the Pentagon plans to send "fresh" soldiers over to replace them.
Upon his return from a recent visit to Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz admitted that the Pentagon made a number of mistakes and misjudgments leading up to the war in Iraq. He did not , however, acknowledge that the biggest mistake was having foreign and military policy drawn up by Wolfowitz and his friends, but what did you expect, really. Generally, he speaks of the potential overstretch of American forces in the country. Of the rationale that Wolfowitz provides for the mistakes (he is apparently not aware of the fact that his neoconservative junta no longer gets a free pass from the press) one sticks out as the most digengenuous:

"I believe this will go down as the first guerrilla tactic in history in which contract killings, killings for hire, going out and soliciting young men for $500 to take a shot at an American, was the principal tactic employed," he said.


Granted, I can't think of another war which involved mercenaries hired to fight against Americans, but this is harldy the birth of mercenary warfare. The Pentagon themselves cited Hussein'd alleged cash payments the families of suicide bombers as a reason for invasion. And perhaps Wolfowitz has never heard of the Contras. Or for that matter the American revolution, with its professional Hessian soldiers and "subcontracted" French soldiers.

The neoconservatism movement has always been obtusely ahistorical. A decision to boldly pursue and imperial agenda can only be made--in this day and age--by someone willfully ignorant of the facts and consequences of Eurpoean colonialism, and Wolfowitz' statements demonstrate just how willful that ignorance is. It's been the same story for years: they come to the table with conclusions, and scramble to find supporting data. In theory, that is a horribly backwards way to make any decision. And in practice, as we learn by seeing an American soldier die every day in Iraq, it is criminal.
28-pages have been blacked-out of today's 9/11 report. Apparently, those pages detail the numerous connections between 9/11 hijackers and a known Saudi government agent who was in the US at the time of the attacks, as well as the multiple Saudi channels opf funding.

“They are protecting a foreign government,” charged Sen. Bob Graham, who oversaw the inquiry.

This would be an absurd thing to lie about, for Graham, that is, so assuming that he is not it's an absolute shame that the only member of Congress who has seen this report and wants to communicate its alarming truth is runnign for President. Not that there's anything wrong with runnign for President, but it would be nice if maybe some other Congresspeople expressed interest in the fact that our government is trying to cover for those respoinsible for the greatest-ever attack on Americans.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
There has never been any evidence--or even rationale--presented to fortify George Bush's repeated allegations of links between Iraq and al Qaeda, but it was still believed by a majority of Americans. It appears as if that myth will be put to bed tomorrow when the 9/11 investigation publishes its public report.

Despite the expected blacking-out of juicy parts, the 800-page tome ought to be pretty interesting to read.
This is absolutely amazing:

In five hourse today, MoveOn raised $225,000 to buy air time for its "misleader" commercial. Five hours! Hopefully, their success will attract as much attention as did news of the ad itself, and they can make enough to buy commerical spots in a significant number of markets.

Give these people $5! The web is quickly emerging as the single most salient tool of political organizing. It is odd to simultaneously feel like you are outnumbered and outspent and that you control the momentum.

Advantage Rabble Rousers.
This is Bill Moyers' set of media consolidation resources. It's a really good page that points inquiry in a number of different directions.
It is rare to see any votes on Capitol Hill that are remotely nonpartisan these days, much less one that is alomst completely unanimous (unless it is about pre-emptive war or massive surrenders of civil liberties. Those issues Congress can agree on). Thus the elation and surprise today when the House voted 400-21 to overturn Michael Powell's FCC deregulation ruling. 400 to 21.

The FCC's pro-corporate ruling seemed set in stone, despite widespread and unanimous public opposition, until the House vote today. Michael Powell himself said "the Congress reflects in a better way than this body the will of the American people." I guess he was right.


Bush to Veto House Vote


Nevermind.
Bush (or his spokesperson Scott McClellan, anyway, I doubt we'll be seeing Bush answer any questions anytime soon) took to the podium today to defend Steven Hadley again. Hadley is the top advisor to National Security Advisor Rice, and has recently taken the blame for the administration's failure to heed CIA warnings about using forged evidence and dishonest talking points when selling the war in Iraq.

''Steve Hadley is someone with great experience and expertise and the president has great confidence in the job he's doing,'' White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

Let's look at that confidence vote in the context of Hadley's version of the ever-shifting narrative used ot explain the White House's actions. If Hadley is such a proficient advisor, then his claim that the memo itself was lost (hilarious) are a bit dubious. Bush would have us believe that everyone who works for him knew exactly what they were doing over the past few months. On this issue, the President and I agree.

''Now might be a good time for the president to hold a press conference simply to answer all these questions,'' Daschle said.

Yeah, dream on, Tom.

Summaries and text of legislation on the floor in the House and Senate designed to overturn the FCC's most recent deregulation decision.
Misleader.org has been launched by MoveOn. Check out its extensive list of Congressional supporters.

This article that I linked to earlier discusses the impact of MoveOn on contemporary politics. It is impressive that they remain relevant and dynamic. The responsiveness of online PAC's is so much faster and more interactive than with traditional activist organizations, and MoveOn is using that to harness the public's growing concern.
Remeber last week when columnist Robert Novak--acting on tips from "senior administration officials--"outed" Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as an undercover CIA agent? It seemed to be just another in the administration's campaign of smear tactics against those in intelligence agencies who have dared to speak out about the Executive's recent abuses. But the outrage about this dangerous and petty manuever has spread from intelligence circles, and now an official probe into the matter may be started.

Democrats yesterday denounced the alleged disclosure by administration officials of the identity of an undercover CIA officer, and members of both parties indicated a congressional investigation is likely.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), an Intelligence Committee member, said it plans to investigate who revealed the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, who is married to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. In a move that sparked the current controversy over allegations that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Niger, Wilson revealed two weeks ago that he had warned the Bush administration the reports were unfounded.


It is a shame that the reaction to this gross abuse of power--which is likely to endanger Plame as well as her contacts abroad--seems to be so partisan. Republican Porter Goss is on the relevant committee, and while he is far from outspoken, he did cryptically acknowledge that such transgressions are the "kind of thing" that they investigate.
GOP Warns TV Stations Not to Air Ad Alleging Bush Mislead the Nation Over Iraq

The White House is now threatening broadcsat media outlets in markets that may show the new commercial, made by the Democratic National Committee, which calls Bush a misleader. The letter ironically speaks of the importance of keeping the airwaves free of dishonest rhetoric:

“Such obligations must be taken seriously. This letter puts you on notice that the information contained in the above-cited advertisement is false and misleading; therefore, you are obligated to refrain from airing this advertisement.”

"Obligated to refrain?" That sounds like a threat. The kind of hubris that would motivate a threat against the free press of the US, while it would be shocking in any other context, is standard fare for the Bush administration.
I've done some more thinking about "smart scandals," an idea I had a few days ago. I'm writing up a newer version, with a little more detail, that I think accounts for the issues that other people raised by commenting here or emailing me. I'll probably put it up here tonight or tomorrow.
Melinda from pealeaf.com has parsed and reviewed [scroll down for more] several different articles about neoconservatism, which she began after a conversation here. The synopses are really brief, but a good starting point, and it's nice to see a sort of aggregate distillation of the talking points of neoconservatism taken from different sources.
Antiwar Groups Say Public Ire Over Iraq Claims Is Increasing

Maybe all that organizing we did will come in handy. Not that surprising, really, but nice to see it reported in the major media.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Rep. John J. Duncan can be added to the growing group of Republicans who question the war in Iraq.

Some, like Pat Roberts, will no doubt continue to claim that the growing scandal is partisan politicking.
The transcript of last week's NOW with Bill Moyers has been posted.

This week he had a min-panel with Simon Schama and Niall Ferguson, both British historians who now live in the US. THe topic was American empire, and Americans' attitudes toward the notion. These guys are pretty funny for a couple of historians that write books about the British empire. They are also spot-on on two accounts:

FERGUSON:To be honest, I think this whole media storm in Britain is a storm about the wrong question. It's a storm about the past. Whereas the real issue, the issue we should be pressing both Blair and Bush about, is the future of Iraq.

If you think that you can transform Iraq, which has been reduced to the status of a sub-Saharan African economy by Saddam Hussein's tyranny, if you can restore that to not only functioning free market economics, but to democracy, in a time frame that nobody seems to regard as being more than four years, and at the early stages of this campaign, was supposed to happen within 12 months, you are fantasizing.


MOYERS: It took you guys how long to fail?

FERGUSON: Well, we've spent 40 years trying…40 years trying to transform Iraq. After the first World War until finally, you withdrew your support for our position in the late 1950s.

Now how many Americans seriously think they're going to be in Baghdad in the year 2043? Not one, I would venture to suggest.

MOYERS: You're saying we're in denial?

SCHAMA: Yes.

FERGUSON: You're in denial about the extent of the project that you've undertaken.

MOYERS: Can't afford this, or we won't afford it?

SCHAMA: America, as we've both said, is in terrible denial about what the time scale, the costs. You can't have run this kind of empire of political change on a kind of, you know, Wal-Mart basis. You can't… a tax cut empire is an oxymoron.

The political players and culture of the United States must come to grips with the reality of the new role into which our recent actions places us. Iraq is, for all intents and purposes, a colony in the old imperial sense. Viceroy Bremer in no way represents the people of Iraq, yet he rules them at the behest of superpower thousands of miles away. Colonialism--and neocolonialism, if that's what this is--is more than a nasty concept: it's a national project. I costs lives and money it changes who you are as a people.

Hell, there may be a significant number of people who would think that a more direct and assertive American empire would be a great idea. Regardless of the answer at which we arrive, though, it is still a question that must be asked. Schama, for his part, doesn't see the US populace signing on to any sort of openly discussed imperial ambitions:

SCHAMA: I just find it inconceivable that actually if properly and honestly and truthfully and comprehensively educated about what this imperial burden means, it could ever be sold to the American electorate. There's something about Jeffersonian America, something about deep America in the heartlands, that does not want to be in that imperial position.

MOYERS: But we're a business society now. And business exists to spread, to grow. We're a commercial society. Doesn't that make a difference? When…

SCHAMA: Kellogg, Brown and Root cannot build a… It can build a road, it cannot build a democracy.
Josh Marshall's take on the resignation of Steven Hadley.

The buck keeps getting passed upward.

Marshall points at that as recently as a week ago, the aministration was still claiming that the CIA had not alerted them to the forged Niger documents. That lie didn't hold up for long. Sometimes a lie starts out as a misstatement, or a mistake, but in backpedalling you can make it snowball into an elaborate series of lies. The cover-up is worse than the crime. The crime, in this case, was ignorance of and malice towards the integrity of US intelligence mechanisms. The cover-up, however, has yet to really get off the ground.

Each round of lies just fans the flames all the more. It is obvious, at this point, that Condi Rice was directly, unambiguously lying when she said that maybe someone "in the bowels of the agency" knew the truth. Dr. Rice can not be long for this administration.

The best part of today's fallout is that George W. Bush--from the Texas vacation ranch that he will begin calling home in January of 2005--today expressed his confidence in Hadley. So when it was Tenet's fault, Bush had confidence in him. Now that it is Hadley's fault, Bush has confidence in Hadley. When Rice has to step down, I'm sure he'll express his confidence in her. I don't doubt that he is being honest about all the confidence he has in the crooks and ideologues with which he has surrounded himself. That's the problem.
The Neoliberal Take on the Middle East
By Ronald D. Asmus and Kenneth M. Pollack

The most valid refrain of those criticizing the current paralysis of the American left is that there is never enough numeration of alternative platforms to go along with our chicken little rhetoric. This is especially true given the Democratic party's lack of a cogent mantra or talking point, and perhaos most so as regards national security.

I respect Kenneth Pollack, because he admitted that he was wrong about Iraq. He made a judgment, wrote a book, and didn't bullshit or run away when he was proven wrong. It also seems that, with this article, he is stepping up and presenting concrete foreign policy proposals. I am rather disappointed in myself for still having this problem with him:

The word "neoliberalism" is taken. It already means something, and it ain't what you want it to. Why don't you just call your theory "bread" or "Buddhism?" It just seems odd that Pollack--and Thomas Friedman, who has used the redefined word as well--can't be bothered to come up with their own terms. Or is it like "queer?" Are we taking back the word neoliberalism?

My buffoonery aside, it is an interesting article, and Pollack is beginnig to give voice to what a number of people are already thinking: that unconditional openness toward social justice is the best long-term offensive one can make against non-state national security threats.
Bush the Believer

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen asks if George Bush is the Iraq war's "useful idiot," and whether Bush himself may actually be the last person in the US that believes that Saddam was linked to al Qaeda and that he had a viable nuclear program. Cohen's choice of terms is apropos, as "useful idiots" were those who Vladimir Lenin found most helpful due to their ability to swallow the entire communist party. It is appropriate that the neoconservatives--themselves steeped in the Leninist dogma of permanent revolution--would also require such an idiot.

Now Bush stands abandoned by events. No weapons of mass destruction. No nuclear program. No links to al Qaeda. His judgment and his competence are being questioned -- his honesty as well. But the president is no liar. More likely, he is merely an uncritical man who believed what he was told. Lenin knew the type.
I like to check out a little Rush Limbaugh every now and again. It is always refreshing to remind myself that the neoconservative intellectuals who currently dominate American policymaking can't remain in league with the illogic-slinging AM-radio rube and his legions of dittoheads (a group who, brilliantly, chose a nomenclature which bespeaks their lack of desire to arrive at their own conclusions) forever. At some point, either Rush's ilk or he neocons themselves will recongnize the irreconcilable rift beween Rush and Nordquist's antigovernment, social conservative platform, and Wolfowitz's Trotskyite Straussianism.

I recently heard Bush's success attributed to Rove's grafting of the "neoconservative head" onto the "Christian conservative" body. The natural cleavage between the two ought to re-emerge, but until then, we get to digest Rush's disgusting defenses of Bush's war.

This one is nice.

Essentially, Rush argues, who gives a shit if the war kills a couple of Americans every day? More than that die in car wrecks. A few dead today, a few dead tomorrow, no big deal. It would matter, Rush correctly declares, only if the President's approval rating suffered too much. And of course, for good measure, Limbaugh makes the always important point that this is all the fault of the liberal media (though he is less than clear as to what is the fault of the liberal media, we can surely assume that something is). I'm sure that will console the grieving families.

The moderates and fringe voters who have been choking down this guy's pap for the last 10 years or so may start to seek a different venue for "truth," as the disconnect between an open-ended war, unfettered expansion of the federal government and the principles of conservatism that attracted them in the first place becomes painfully clear.
Casualties of victory

"I knew my boy would come home in a box," she says. "I knew he would, but I never shared it with anyone." The unspeakable grief that gnaws at Ann every moment -- "I feel robbed by my son's death" -- is mixed with a bitter anger over the fact that she believes Micheal died for an unworthy cause.

"This war's political bullshit," Ann says, with fury in her voice. "It's all about oil and land. I think we should pack up the rest of the soldiers, bring 'em home, build a fence around the United States and fuck everybody who ain't American. Let 'em fight amongst their damn selves and let's take care of our own."


Salon is apparently beginning a running series of articles focusing on those who have been killed in Iraq since President Bush declared the war "over" in May. This is the first installment.
Monday, July 21, 2003
The Washington Post is reporting that the White House also failed to get CIA approval for Bush's claims that Hussein could strike with WMD within 45 minutes. Eh, what's another lie? Furthermore, this allegation was based on British intelligence that had been discredited by, of all people, David Kelly.

What a convenient time for a suicide.
Bush stonewalling will bring on probe

The Boston Globe's Thomas Oliphant writes:

Not a month ago, as the frustration about ''missing'' Iraqi chemical and biological weapons was evolving into suspicions about phony nuclear weapons information, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas, a Republican, was a willing stonewaller. In helping to block hearings into prewar intelligence, Roberts declared there was no evidence of misdeeds and that holding hearings would merely imply there was.

Last week, he was singing an entirely different tune, vowing that ''we will take this where it leads us; we'll let the chips fall where they may.'' That includes the White House - accountings from Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice are going to be difficult to evade.

Roberts's switch follows the expressions of other Republicans whose independence is a matter of record - especially John McCain and Foreign Relations Committee big shots Richard Lugar and Chuck Hagel. In any congressional investigation the first confirming bits of political validity are provided by an administration's fellow party members. That is now occurring.


Oliphant may be a bit ahead of himself with this line of reasoning. His standard--that an investigation has no teeth until the subject's fellow partisans are actively involved--is sound enough. It certainly holds given today's political reality: a GOP-controlled House. But to assume that a poltician means exactly what they say is an excercise in naivete, so why should Roberts' "switch" be an exception? If the chips do indeed fall where they damned-well ought to, Oliphant's reading of Roberts may prove to be spot on.

One thing is for sure, there have been Republicans that have demonstrated integrity thus far. McCain and Paul obviously come to mind. But to take a principled stand--regardless of the principle--is an entirely different matter than slinking away from a freshly stinking colleague. At some point integrity becomes saving your ass. Soon enough there will be those abandoning the sinking neoconservative ship who will try to claim that they chose to come ashore for the sun, the sand, and the fiscal conservatism. They will be lying, of course. When Bush's War Party sinks, it could take half of the Republican party (Roberts, John Warner, Gingrich, Leiberman) with it.
Smart Scandals

The idea of the smart mob--wherein people quickly coordinate online and gather in the real world--is one of the odder cultural memes to spring forth from the prominence of blogging in a "wired" world. Another is the idea of collaborative online journalism, which essentially involves having a gegrpahically diverse community of people in place to dissect or gather news based on individual advantages of location or access.

I have had the idea recently to integrate aspects of both into another, unique process: the Smart Scandal. Essentially, for a Smart Scandal to work, it will require a network of participants who display a certain amount of savvy for researching web resources, and who are willing to invest bursts of time and effort.

It would unfold like this:
1. Using a mainstream press story as a "trigger," one person can more or less declare the beginning of the Smart Scandal. The time is chosen based on a link between the mainstream media article and the issue intended to be explored and illuminated by the Smart Scandal. So, in the case of PNAC (for example), a good time to kick off might be when some famous reporter or even television show runs a piece that brings up PNAC and related issues.
2. Those who are prepared to participate in the Smart Scandal immediately begin pooling reasources and links, always with an emphasis on primary-source information.
3. While avoiding editorializing, these disparate pieces of information should be fitted together with respect to some sort of narrative.
4. All particpants begin contacting their local media outlets and elected representatives with the growing collection of links and articles, urging them to report on the issue at hand.

Clearly, the process would be a little more complex than that, and I don't know if it would be better as a real-time, event-oriented project or as an ongoing effort to exert pressure, but with the attention that new forms of political organization on the web gather, the former might be better for the sake of sheer spectacle. I don't know how common it is for local media outlets to actually respond to the requests of its consumers, but pressure can't hurt, and any small success would only breed more interest and possbility.

Much of the way that the news media functions seems to be related to momentum. A typical letter-writing or email campaign always seems contrived, and can fail to have any impact if its efforts are prolonged and spread out. This idea would allow people to seize on timely opportunities, little niches for interest in an issue that may not last long, but are an open door nonetheless, if you can figure out how to squeeze through it. We are all seeing how the web is changing the relationship that people have with information--and with those who shill it for profit. Smart Scandals are an attempt to insert some agency into a process that thus far has been simply a phenomenon.

I also suspect that even if this idea is a complete wash, it's still similar enough to what many of us do in our spare time to warrant giving it a go.

--

Please comment/brainstorm here if you have any input on this, especially critical/negative input or suggestions.
This blog takes both a personal and respectful approach to honoring those whose lives have been taken in the early stages of Wolfowitz and Cheney's "Total War," simply posting personal anecdotes and information about soldiers who have been killed in Iraq. The more you scroll down, and the more you see a tiny glimpse of each person's life, the easier it is to come close to comprehending that these are 232 real people, people who had families and quirks and goals and hisotories. They're not just grunts; they're not mercenaries; they're not warrior-rubes. They are political pawns and they are victims.

This blog catalogues letters home from those serving in Iraq:

Dad, I'm just not the same anymore. It's difficult to explain how this hell changes the heart and changes a person so drastically. But I just hope and pray you will be able to understand I'm just not the little girl everyone once knew so well. This experience makes a person grow up real QUICK!

It is important that we keep a human face on those being abused by the Executive Branch, and not lump the pawns in with the king. These men and women signed up to defend their homeland, not to make the world safe for radical ideology. Hopefully, those who have not lost their lives will be able to come home reasonably soon--or at least be given an honest assessment as to when they can.
It looks like we can add Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska (of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) to the growing list of elected Republicans who are are joining with Senators Graham, Levin, Rockefeller and McCain to press forward with the inquiry into the lies contained in the State of the Union address.

"To just throw George Tenet's body from the train and say, 'That takes care of the problem,' I don't think is the way to do this," Hagel said.

Hagel pointed to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney as part of the process that led to Bush including the report in the annual presidential address.
Even Ashcroft's own DOJ inquiry into PATRIOT ACT abuses has turned up evidence of at least 34 credible civil rights violations. He said in a press conference here in Portland this weekend that there is no tension between security and freedom, because "we are securing freedom." OK, John, doubletalk is certainly the best way to ease mounting fears of an Orwellian police state.
Talkin Points Memo takes a look at the big-picture implications of the Iraq intelligence fiasco.
I've been talking a lot about Raymond McGovern lately. His impromptu watchdog group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity has been publishing open letters to the President, and generally giving a voice to this disenfranchised generation of Intelligence gatherers and analysts. That voice gota bit louder this weekend, as CBS News' Jim Acosta [text, w/video link on page] sat down with McGovern.

"Never before in my 40 years of experience in this town has intelligence been used in so cynical and so orchestrated a way."
'Weekend Warriors' No More
National Guard's Expanded Role in Iraq Combines Risky Duties, Long Deployment

The Dishonesty Of the President By Bob Graham

The administration of George W. Bush is looking more and more like a bait-and-switch operation. Much like a profiteer who advertises a too-good-to-be-true deal to lure customers into his store, this White House is willing to shade and manipulate information to sell its policies to the American people and our allies around the world.

Graham has been displaying some newfound cojones of late, coming somehwere between implying and declaring that the abuse of military and intelligence institutions by the Bush team warrant impeachment.

Graham said the issues facing Bush are "a more serious transgression of Presidential power" than the "serious personal consensual act" that led to former President Bill Clinton's impeachment by the House in December 1998. He was acquitted by the Senate the following year.

"This is a case in which someone has committed actions that took America to war, that put American men and women's lives at risk," Graham said after unveiling an economic plan at Page Belting Co. factory.

"I think this is clearly more serious" than Clinton's actions, Graham said. "This goes more to the responsibilities and the acts of the President as opposed to personal consensual relationships. And there can't be anything more serious than going to war, and if, in fact, we went to war under false pretenses, that is a very serious charge. But it's academic because this House of Representatives is not going impeach George W. Bush."
Sunday, July 20, 2003
A well-written Eleanor Clift editorial from Newsweek/MSNBC, Bush’s Lifeline
Blair can articulate the policy that got us into Iraq and make it sound both noble and realistic


In making the case that increased international focus on the smooth stylings of Tony Blair can help to articulate the emergence of cogent narrative with which Bush can confront America's rising suspicions about this spring's odious and surreal war March, Clift deftly spells out the nascent political quagmire in which Bush's entire administration has become entangled:

The political firestorm engulfing Blair and now Bush is not about yellowcake and Niger. It’s about a press and a public having second thoughts about a war allegedly fought to disarm Iraq that has uncovered no WMDS, and that is taking on the look of a quagmire. The discredited assertion about the Iraqis seeking uranium from Africa is emblematic of the salesmanship used to build political support and take the country into a war of choice...

Bush’s stature is diminished. His lawyerly defense of the Niger statement, that it was a mistake to include but it’s technically correct, chipped away at the moral clarity that is the basis of his popularity. Independent pollster John Zogby shared preliminary numbers with me Thursday evening that show the toll that the souring situation in Iraq combined with the weakened economy is taking on Bush. His re-elect number is 46 percent yes, 48 percent no. His personal favorable rating is 56.5 percent, unfavorable 42 percent. “That’s what’s buttressing him; that’s the only thing he has going for him,” says Zogby. Voters like and trust Bush for now, but how long will their patience last?

Bush’s job performance in the Zogby poll is 53 percent with 47 percent negative. Zogby cautions that these numbers are preliminary, but he expects the trend to hold. “He’s falling like a rock,” he says. Pitted against a Democrat, Bush comes in at 47.5 percent; the Democrat at 43 percent. The right track/wrong track numbers, always a key indicator, are also problematic for Bush with 49 percent saying the country is on the right track and 46 percent saying it isn’t.

The new commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, concedes that American soldiers are embroiled in a guerilla war with yearlong deployments and no end in sight, harkening back to Vietnam. Critics inside and outside the administration warned of the difficulty of imposing democracy in Iraq, but Bush plunged in anyway. Neocon advocates of military action said it was “immoral” to keep U.S. troops hunkered down in Kuwait for an extended period of time while United Nations inspectors did their job. How much more moral is it to keep them in Iraq where they get shot in the head in the markets of Baghdad?

Whoever wrote the 16 offending words in Bush’s State of the Union speech, the responsibility belongs to Bush alone. He gave the speech.
Military leadership, on up to Rumsfeld and Bush, have made a point of writing off the Iraqi resistance as being composed of remnants of Saddam's Sunni inner-circle. Like most every yarn spun by the Bush administration in the last several months, that is beginning to unravel. Sunni Muslims in the holy city of Najaf--long a hotbed of anti-Saddam sentiment--have threatened open revolt and popular uprising if the US occupation doesn't end immeidately. It is a foregone conclusion that, despite their lack of a coherent plan, Washington intends to keep troops in Iraq for months and years into the future.

I can't link to it, because it's a javascipt pop-up, but half-way down on the left side of the above page is video footage of the tense Najaf standoff.
And speaking of renegade conservatives, I was just reminded--while at pealeaf.com--about the bulk of recent and not-so-recent writing by Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul, mostly for the libertarian site antiwar.com about the strange and oft-ignored divergence of the Republican party over the last several years. It's not as if I would be a member if it were still here, but it is worth noting that the party of Eisenhower and Goldwater is long-since dead. Being a basic believer in the ideas of the New Deal and (perhaps to a lesser extent) the Great Society, I actually could understand the value that factionalized fiscal conservatism could play in providing a counter-balance and ensuring a deliberate and procedural approach to adminstration of the state. If any caricature of liberalism is possessing of a kernel of truth, it would be the observation that a strongly progressive society has a tendency to take on "social engineering" projects that may be counterproductive.

In any case, fiscal conservatism is as dead as the progressive movement, and Ron Paul is one of very few GOP members who notice. His latest two pieces have been particularly insightful:

We've Been Neo-Conned

What Happened to Conservatives?
Saturday, July 19, 2003
Republicans for Dean

Heh, kick ass.

The White House has released portions of a report that it claims absolves the President's inner circle of culpability in regards to the Niger hoodwink.

This is the worst dodge by the President thus far, as the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) itself had the suspect evidence forced into it. More to the point, this cop-out has been predicted and refued ahead of time by Ray McGovern. Essentially, Rice fought to have the forged evidence represented in the NIE, and now she is citing the NIE evidence of its validity. It kind of gives me a headache to think about that, but I'm pretty sure it's a load of bullshit. Correct me if I'm wrong, please.

McGovern's interview from a couple of days ago is increasingly relevant, and the White House's NIE defense feeds right into it. The NIE is the most important, well-researched, and respected report in American intelligence. Only the Director of Central Intelligence and the National Security Council have authority as to its contents, and there is ample evidence to suggest that the pressue exerted by Condi Rice and the rest of council (ultimately culminating in Robert Joseph's coercion of the CIA) on Tenet resulted in the inclusion of the evidence. The State Department insisted on the inclusion of a footnote declaring their categorical rejection of the uranium claims.
Seymour Hersh, as he always does, explains last month's amibguous battle in Syria--and its consequences--in explicit detail.
Friday, July 18, 2003
U.S. Syria raid killed 80

Remeber that "border skirmish" with Syria last month? Well, it was much larger than a "skirmish." 80 Syrians were killed, and the raid was also based on bogus intelligence. Furthermore, the fallout has destroyed out important intelligence relationship with Syria.

At this point, though, we have really trashed out intelligence relationship with everyone. Credibility can not be restored to the US' foreign policy with Bush/Cheney still in power.
The growing discontent of the military--from the top brass on down to the footsoldiers--has been well-documented in the American press of late. Too well, if you're Donald Rumsfeld. Soldiers who have spoken out about their abuse at the hands of the current administration that would use them as an ideological pawn are now meeting with retribution.

"It was the end of the world," said one officer Thursday. "It went all the way up to President Bush and back down again on top of us. At least six of us here will lose our careers."

First lesson for the troops, it seemed: Don't ever talk to the media "on the record" -- that is, with your name attached -- unless you're giving the sort of chin-forward, everything's-great message the Pentagon loves to hear.


Revenge and malice are the name of the game in our current government. As Joseph Wilson's wife was outed as a CIA agent following Wilson's refusal to lie about his 2002 Niger trip, and as he is being slandered in the press, so too will these soldiers experience a swift retribution for daring to speak the truth as they know it.
Better background on Robert Joseph, the latest in the ascending string of fallen Bush pawns.
Killing in the Name of Aesthetics

Let's veer away from the regular focus of this blog for a moment. A number of things are more important than politics,and among them is my dog, Lola. She's a well-behaved dog, and even though she goes off the leash a great deal, she is respectful of other people and listens to me. Of course, I always clean up after her.

I am talking about my dog because a group of zealous dog-haters (yes, I am aware of how stupid that sounds) have delacred war on Portlanders who take their dogs to public parks. They have launched a website, called leashyourdog.com, which hosts a gallery of photos of "offenders," which bears remarkable resemblance to the controversial Nuremberg Files site from a few years back, which posted photos of women's health professionals who worked in reproductive clinics. Many of those doctors and nurses were tracked down and killed before the administrators of the site were forced by teh DOJ to remove it.

It looks like the dog-haters are stepping up their emulation of "pro-life" fanatics: eight dogs have been fatally poisoned in Portland city parks in the last couple of weeks. These people have launched a campaign of finger-pointing and dog-killing because of something by which they are annoyed.

Well, I'm off to murder lousy urban drivers and any and all people that say "talk at ya later."

I'm not feeling so rational right now, because my rights as a citizen are being infringed upon by killers, and those killers are winning. Like it or not, the attention garnered by the 8 killings [and a warning, reported in the above CNN article, that they will begin poisoning dogs in another city park soon] is going to cause the pyschos' issue to be addressed. And seeing as how not only unleashed dogs eat things off the ground, all dog owners are now avoiding city parks, even those who go out of their way to respect leash laws (as I do when there are other people around).

So the underlying message here seems to be that killing defenseless animals is a productive means of advancing one's agenda. You know, I could see a little kid putting food from the ground in their mouth. I wonder if a couple of dead toddlers would be acceptable collateral damage? After all, if one is annoyed by dogs, that clearly trumps any and all notions of social resposibility.

For the record, my name is Patton Price, and I live in NE Portland. I walk my dog at Buckman Field, which is one of the targets of these vigilantes' surveillance. If you kill my dog, I will find out who you are and personally shit in your yard every morning until I die.

You probably think that is a joke.
Why A Special Prosecutor's Investigation Is Needed To Sort Out the Niger Uranium And Related WMDs Mess
By JOHN W. DEAN
While Tenet, Joseph, and probably even Rice seem poised to go down in flames over the yellowcake flap, at least they won't have it as bad as the British fall guys. Dr. David Kelly, a career civil servant who was referred to--even by those in Parliament who conducted the inquiry into his role--as the Labour Party's scapegoat for the Iraq affair, has been found dead in London.

A transcript of his testimony to Parliament can be found here. Kelly was noticeably shaken during his testimony, appearing overwhelmed at times. In that light, suicide is being considered by British authorities to be a likely cause of death.

I have no desire to speculate as to whether the suicide theory is true. If it indeed is, Kelly is nonetheless a casualty of the British version of the backpedalling we are experiencing here in the States. He was wrongly fingered by those in power, and forced to defend actions that he had not himself taken. Either way, it is clear that the pressue--of whatever sort--was just too much.
Sometimes I feel that instead of my own blog, I should just have a link to Salon. I doubt that many people read Salon on a daily basis, because of their subscription policy, and that's a shame. Their investigative reporting has been running circles around the broadcast media. With the meaty exceptions of the Washington Post, NPR, and the New York
Times, there is no other daily news source of actual reporting anymore.

Yesterday, Mark Follman conducted an interview with Ray McGovern, who sits on the steering committeee of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. In the interview, McGovern goes into detail about the credentials and accomplishments of his peers in VIPS, and then tears into the current state of intelligence politicization in the US. He also provides an analogy between Iraq and the Gulf of Tonkin, that is especially insightful due to the fact that McGovern worked in the Agency then.

McGovern also confirms that his sources were fingering Robert Jospeh and the NSC's fulcrum for the State of the Union speech before Tenet named him before Congress yesterday. A little background on the Joseph matter.

Thursday, July 17, 2003
It didn't take long for leaks to reveal the identity of the administration figure fingered by George Tenet as the person who fought to keep discredited assertions in the President's State of the Union Address.

It was... National Security Council Member Robert Joseph.

You can read some background on Joseph at the top of this older, unrelated article.

Minister of Information Press Secretary Scott McClellan (the new Ari Fleischer) dismissed thse revelations as partisan, political, and (a term that they ought to stop using, as it only increases the appearance of disconnected buffoonery) "revisionist history." Revisionist history? It only happened six months ago, and the whole god damned point is that we don't have an agreed-upon narrative as to what went down [i.e., a history].

NBC has previously reported that Joseph, the NSC official, and the CIA’s weapons proliferation director, Alan Foley, argued back and forth about whether the reference should have been in the speech. Sources have told the network that, after Foley objected to the first draft of the passage, Joseph came up with the suggestion of attributing it to the British, asking Foley if that would make it technically correct. Since the British were reporting it, Foley had to acknowledge that the passage was factually accurate, even though the CIA did not think the assertion was true, according to the sources.

Foley never consulted his superiors on the dispute, so Tenet never read or approved it, the sources said.

One senator who attended Wednesday’s Intelligence Committee hearing told NBC News that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed surprise when they learned that Tenet had not read the State of the Union speech and had not even heard of the controversy surrounding the 16 words until long after the speech had been delivered.

The CIA’s inspector general and the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board are investigating whether Foley should have consulted higher-ups and whether Joseph exerted undue influence, among other issues, the sources said.


McClellan has not even been on the job a week, and he is already being made to throw away his future career. George Tenet identified Jospeh before the Senate, which last time I checked had 100 members. That's 100 people who are probably as amazed as I am at the gall required for the most dishonest and manipulative administration in US history (move over, Hoover) to accuse the director of the CIA of being partisan or trying to rewrite history. 100 people who know that McClellan is full of shit, anyway.
The Nation has published article--written by conservative U of Chicago professor Bob Novak--accusing the Bush admitration of "outing" the CIA-agent wife of Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador sent to Niger by Dick Cheney to verify uranium claims. It has been Wilson's testimony and conversation with the press that have cemented the substance of this brewing scandal. It appears that, motivated by revenge, they revealed Mrs. Wilson's undercover status, thereby endangering her life.

The catch here is that doing so is a federal crime. The Bush administration is run like the mafia. If there is any question as to whether this offensive against Wilson is purely political, consider this quote, from the elder President Bush, commending Wilson for his service:

"Your courageous leadership during this period of great danger for American interests and American citizens has my admiration and respect. I salute, too, your skillful conduct of our tense dealings with the government of Iraq....The courage and tenacity you have exhibited throughout this ordeal prove that you are the right person for the job."

Not that W should be expected to follow his father's lead on all issues, but it seems unlikely that Bush and Co.'s complaints about the Wilsons are remotely legitimate. After all, it was Cheney who chose to dispatch him on the fact-seeking mission to Niger. Maybe he should have called it a "bullshit-seeking mission."

Lies and hubirs are only one part of the package that the American public are now seeing as historically odious. It all fits into a larger pattern of abuse of the military and intelligence agencies. This childish and illegal action will follow Bush around for the rest of his political career: about 18 months, or so.
Shit Hits Fan

Sen. Dick Durbin told ABC news that George Tenet has named names in his closed-door testimony this morning, inexplicably linking an administration official (who Durbin did not name to the press) to the allegations that the President's people strongarmed Intelligence into including the forged Iraq-Niger yellowcake link in the State of the Union address.

"He (Tenet) certainly told us who the person was who was insistent on putting this language in which the CIA knew to be incredible, this language about the uranium shipment from Africa," Durbin said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"And there was this negotiation between the White House and the CIA about just how far you could go and be close to the truth and unfortunately those sixteen words were included in the most important speech the president delivers in any given year," Durbin added.


The latest round of official polls showed Bush's approval rating dropping a stark 9% in two weeks. Impromptu (and less dependable, to be sure) polls this week show his support drying up rapidly. But at this point, as satisfying as it may be to those of use who have called a spade a spade since the dishonest rush to war to began, it is imperative that we avoid encapsulating the fallout from this situation entirely within the confines of a "blame game." It is natural to speculate as to who the "fall guy" will be, and likewise it is natural for one to try to determine which single individual should shoulder the blame.

It is dangerous for these tendencies to be allowed to entirely characterize our national response to the Executive branch's defrauding of the populace. The quest to divine individual agency for a given transgression, often branded as "conspiracy theory" can be a misleading and fruitless project. History shows us that conspiracies are rarely as commonplace as is the perception of conspiracies. To determine whether events were manipulated purposefully and with forethought will always require tha any amount of solid data be tempered with speculation about the intentions of others.

History also shows us that narrative does matter. Indeed, after speculation and politics are stripped away, narrative is almost all that history that has left. A sequence of events is what it is. This is especially important when looking at transgressions of a state or large organization, or any sort of corruption or dishonesty that can be described as systemic: when one discusses the inequities of global trade, and the economic system that leaves many of the world's poor without any assistance, one is unlikely to do so in terms of a group of shady characters in a dark room. No one would allege that racism was a conspiracy hatched by a few white people with the conscious goal of tarnishing our society long after emancipation and suffrage. Yet that racism is a messy and multifaceted social institution doesn't change the fact that it is worth addressing as a society.

When a problem is systemic, so too need be its solution. Where does the "blame game" lead us? We identify and purge the guilty party. Heads roll, etc. We personify our problems, and wrap them up in one individual. That speaks eerily of the large numbers of Americans who believed (without literal prompting form the administration, even) that Saddam Hussien was responsible for 9/11, and to simply turn this illogic on its head will get us nowhere. While, obviously, our leaders must be held accountable for their actions, and while maybe some heads ought to be rolling over the Iraq hoodwink, simply finding out who to fire is not going to address the root causes of our current mess.

Odd, that perhaps the 20th century's greatest critic of power can give us the tool to look past the urge to assign blame as our sole means of recourse. Michel Foucault's theory of the instrument effect can be invaluable to this process. Essentially, to paraphrase Foucault, intentions are irrelevant to history. What happens, happens, and a society can and should act based on only that. One needn't allege a conspiracy of the rich to note that access to resources and services is unequal for members of different economic classes, and one is only wasting their time trying to finger those responsible rather than searching for real, structural remedies.

Such is the case with the inquiry into the lies surrounding the Iraq war. What is the narrative at play? What do we know happened? We know that the Executive branch was given unprecedented and unconstitutional powers, and that they abused them. In the press, the story has centered around the abuses themselves, the lies, the forged evidence and the hubris. All of this misses the broader underlying problem: the granting of those new powers in the first place.

Step away from the politics and invective. What is the situation in Iraq right now, as it looks to one's eyes, not his mind or heart?

Today, Paul Bremer rules the country from Saddam's palace, while the Iraqi people sit in the dark without adequate water or electricity.

It is likely that Bremer never intended to become some sort of distant viceroy. Why would he want to? But Iraqis are nonetheless saddled with this scene.

The war deal was sealed not when Bush lied to the public, or when Rumsfeld or Rice lied to cover that up, but back in October, 2002, when Congress abdicated their duty to decide whether or not the nation waged war. It was sealed when the PATRIOT ACT and numerous executive orders created an environment of Executive secrecy never before seen in the US. Most importantly, it was sealed when we Americans--either because of a misleading press, our own laziness, or the incentive to forget provided by our nice $300 Bush tax cut checks--refused to stand up and fight, not even for what we know is "right" so much as for the systems that are intended to arbit what is right for us in the first place.

Bush's Iraqi adventure has turned into his own political Stalingrad not because of politics or policy, and not because he and his have spit on our ideals--it is our process that has been violated. American constitutional democracy is not about values, or ideas, or identity. It is about procedure. It is about the independence and integrity of our institutions. Checks and balances are not a feature of our system of government, they are our system of government. To piss that away in a fury of flag-waving and Fox News exclusive explosion footage is to not understand what makes this nation unique.

I see people right now, people who were vocally antiwar even long before the war began, acting pleased and gratified at current events, as if the pointless deaths of thousands are ever somthing to be happy to have been right about. By villainizing only individuals, and ignoring the bigger picture, we could become the equivalent of those who led themselves believe that Saddam planned the World Trade Center attacks, and that their security could be enhanced by the removal of his regime. Simply removing from power those who abused our new system of unchecked war declarations and evaporating transparency does nothing to prevent the monster from simply growing a new head.

It is our duty--and Congress' manifest mandate--to reinstate real oversight and real procedure. Our democracy's immune system is failing, and some of use are pattig ourselves on the back for kicking a cold.

If we look hard enough for the fall guy or the villain, we are likely to miss the one that we see in the mirror every morning.

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