Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Another broken promise to the military (Next they'll start calling up folks from the VA hospitals....)
The Army is preparing to notify about 5,600 retired and discharged soldiers who are not members of the National Guard or Reserve that they will be involuntarily recalled to active duty for possible service in Iraq or Afghanistan, Army officials said Tuesday.,1,2110171.story?coll=la-headlines-nation
For the first time since Operation Desert Storm, the Army plans to announce this week an involuntary mobilization of thousands of troops from the Individual Ready Reserve, the latest signal that the service is struggling to bolster ranks stretched thin by the global war on terrorism...........In most cases, the Pentagon created the holes when it took soldiers with critical skills in short supply - such as civil affairs, intelligence, vehicle maintenance and truck driving - out of their units and shifted them to military units needed for more urgent deployments since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.......Now the bill for this system of "robbing Peter to pay Paul," as one defense official put it, has come due.;ei=5090&%2338;partner=rssuserland
Amid Congressional concerns that the military is stretched too thin, the Army is preparing to take advantage of a rarely used wartime program that allows it to recall soldiers who have left the service and did not join the reserves.....The decision was immediately cited by members of Congress as more evidence that the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and, more broadly, for the global campaign against terrorism, have left the Army unable to fulfill all its missions.......Proposals to expand the Army already are being debated in Congress, where some lawmakers have described the large reserve mobilizations and other unusual steps to fill the rosters in Iraq and Afghanistan as an unofficial draft.

And in Iraq....
Reality Intrudes on Promises in Rebuilding of Iraq
More than a year into an aid effort that American officials likened to the Marshall Plan, occupation authorities acknowledge that fewer than 140 of 2,300 promised construction projects are under way. Only three months after L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator who departed Monday, pledged that 50,000 Iraqis would find jobs at construction sites before the formal transfer of sovereignty, fewer than 20,000 local workers are employed.......At the same time, an economy that is supposed to become a beacon of free enterprise remains warped by central controls and huge subsidies for energy and food, leaving politically explosive policy choices for the fledgling Iraqi government.......

Interesting new murmurings: "It's all Cheney's fault" (Bush, like Reagan, just an amiable doofus who has been ill-served by his lieutenants)
There is a new meme developing that must be crushed before it turns into a full-fledged mindstorm and that is the notion of Shrub as victim. Under this formulation, our president is a likeable doofus who has been misserved by those around him, especially Dick Cheney.

By playing on the insecurities of an inexperienced leader, Mr. Cheney has managed to change W. from a sunny, open, bipartisan, uniter-not-a-divider, non-nation-builder into a crabby, secretive, partisan, divider-not-a-uniter, inept imperialist.......

Today, few doubt that the Bush administration's postwar planning was disastrous. Insiders' books, congressional testimony, and recent investigative reporting indicate that the miscalculations resulted from a toxic combination of ideology, terrorism, and an incurious president who allowed Vice President Dick Cheney and his allies to implement their unrealistic policies.......
The lead of Dana Priest's latest article in the Washington Post says that the CIA has stopped using "extraordinary interrogation techniques." The bigger news, however, might be a few paragraphs down:

The suspension is the latest fallout from the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and is related to the White House decision, announced Tuesday, to review and rewrite sections of an Aug. 1, 2002, Justice Department opinion on interrogations that said torture might be justified in some cases....... Although the White House repudiated the memo Tuesday as the work of a small group of lawyers at the Justice Department, administration officials now confirm it was vetted by a larger number of officials, including lawyers at the National Security Council, the White House counsel's office and Vice President Cheney's office.

It's remarkable how Dick Cheney's name keeps coming up in these contexts, isn't it? Seems like something of a bad apple to me.
Dick Cheney occupies an unprecedented position in American history. There has never been such a powerful vice president. There has never been anyone other than a president as powerful as Cheney......Cheney hides his influence behind a low public profile.......Cheney also shields his clout behind President Bush's determination to show that he himself is in charge. At times, Bush has even pointed a finger at his own chest and praised his own ''tough decisions," while Cheney stands quietly in the wings.......In recent weeks, however, the astonishing range of Cheney's influence has been on display in virtually every controversy involving the administration. The chain of events drew Cheney out of the shadows even before he created a ruckus by lobbing an obscenity at his slightly thinner twin, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont......First came the 9/11 Commission reports showing Cheney's take-command attitude on Sept. 11, 2001, ordering the shootdown of any hijacked plane......Cheney claims that he got Bush's approval for the shootdown order, but notes taken at the time made no reference to it, and the commission found discrepancies in the accounts of those present......Then came the commission's rejection of ''collaboration" between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. This trope was one of the pillars of the case Cheney built for war in Iraq, and the administration can't afford to lose it. Cheney reasserted the link, hinting he had more information but not providing any.......Since the vice president's influence is already embedded in the administration through his numerous friends appointed to high positions -- including his mentor, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld -- Cheney's character and motivations ought to be fair game for the media as the campaign heats up. So should efforts to connect the dots on his unusual ascent.........It began with a move that was, in retrospect, perfectly illustrative of his approach to power: Charged with heading the committee to choose Bush's running mate, Cheney quietly shifted his voter registration from Texas (the presidential nominee's state, and thus ineligible) to Wyoming and appointed himself to the job.......

Amiable doofus? If the shoe fits....
President Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq and insisted most of Europe backed the move during a tense interview Thursday on Irish television.......When Coleman said most Irish people thought the world was more dangerous today than before the Iraq invasion, Bush disagreed and responded, "What was it like Sept. 11th, 2001?" .....Bush was asked whether he was satisfied with the level of political, economic and military support coming from European nations in Iraq......."First of all, most of Europe supported the decision in Iraq. Really what you're talking about is France, isn't it? And they didn't agree with my decision......"

[Right, "most of Europe" (except France). Well, he says he doesn't read the newspapers, so maybe this is what Condi et al. were telling him.....]

An administration at war with itself

It's stunning to think that there are people who think that Bush Co. hasn't been ruthless ENOUGH
You can file the of Mussolini's rise under "H" for Hegel, the idea that extreme movements always beget extreme counter forces. It was the far left, by relentlessly chipping away at the foundations of Italian life, that gave birth and power to the far right--as it did a decade on when Hitler rode nearly the same path under similar circumstances....... This is what seems most pertinent today, as "activist" groups like and demagogues like Michael Moore and angry men like Al Gore and George Soros rail so irrationally against.....the president...........Either this November or in four years, George W. Bush is going to be turned out of office; even the judge agrees with that. Someday, though, a populace provoked by the left's constant fire-breathing may look for a dragon slayer who won't go quite so easily.

So . . . we may not like George W. Bush but if we don't lay off with the complaining soon enough the right's going to come up with a leader who's not afraid to pour some castor oil down our throats to shut us up? What kind of an argument is this supposed to be? And this isn't the first time I've found conservatives "warning" liberals to stop making so much trouble or else something nasty might happen to our nice little democracy.

Speaking of which...this is a scenario everyone has pondered and rejected as "even these people wouldn't go so far" (or would they?)
The government needs to establish guidelines for canceling or rescheduling elections if terrorists strike the United States again, says the chairman of a new federal voting commission........Such guidelines do not currently exist, said DeForest B. Soaries, head of the voting panel.......Soaries was appointed to the federal Election Assistance Commission last year by President Bush. Soaries said he wrote to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in April to raise the concerns

The "new democracy in Iraq": now Allawi can rule the way Bush Co. wished they could
In the days leading up to his departure, Bremer "issued a raft of edicts" in an effort to "exert U.S. control over the country after the transfer of political authority." Specifically, Bremer empowered a seven-member appointed commission "to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support."
Iraq's interim government yesterday said it was considering reviving emergency martial law powers from the Saddam Hussein era to combat a wave of violence that has killed nearly 200 people and paralyzed oil exports.......Malik Dohan al-Hassan, justice minister in the caretaker Iraqi government, said authorities may resort to "exceptional" laws imposed by the former dictator after it takes power on June 30......Defense Minister Hazem Shalan al-Khuzaei and Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib also warned that the new government may impose martial law.......Such a move would be welcome by Col. Haydar Abdul Rasool, an officer in the fledgling Iraqi Civil Defense Corps....."Right now we can only open fire on people if they threaten us," the burly commander of 1,300 soldiers said in an interview. "We should have more freedom to act. We must have more brutal laws. The American laws are weak laws." ........Mr. al-Khuzaei, the defense minister, vowed this week that his government would track down insurgents "from house to house and from street to street, by all means available."........."We will cut off the hands of those people; we will cut their necks if it is necessary to do so," he told reporters.
The "new Iraq" looks a lot like the "old Iraq," doesn't it?.......Now the real bloodshed will begin......Despite Allawi's offer of amnesty to resistance fighters, it's likely that the new "prime minister" will launch the kind of bloody crackdown that even U.S. forces could not have initiated. "Prime Minister Allawi, as head of a sovereign government, may decide he has to take tough measures to deal with a brutal cold-blooded killer," said President Bush yesterday, signaling that the new regime in Baghdad will start to look pretty brutal itself. That statement indicates that the White House will wash its hands of the coming bloodbath by Allawi and Co., making sure that the world gets the message that from now on civil war in Iraq is in Iraqi hands, and Iraqis are to blame.
From Allawi's press conference today:

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, what are the procedures that your government is going to take to deal with the security situation? Are you going to declare a state of emergency or emergency law?

PM ALLAWI: I want questions to be related to this subject [of the Saddam trial]. We will talk and tell you about those procedures later. Maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow......

So, what will the media call US troops in Iraq if they are no longer an "occupying force"?

But frankly, all most people care about now is, "when will our troops come home and stop getting blown up?" (and the answers are not good for Bush Co.)

Second thoughts - well, sort of -- among some war supporters (and some pretzel logic)
Had the defeat of Saddam's armed forces resulted in a general Iraqi acceptance of the outcome, no doubt the anti-war coalition would have spluttered out, to be remembered only as a footnote to events........What has sustained the anti-war coalition, and allowed it to become influentially dominant, is the rise of resistance within Iraq to the Anglo-US presence. The war itself cost the lives of fewer than 100 US servicemen, but in the aftermath 600 have been killed, either in ambushes and car bombings or in gunfights with insurgents in the "Sunni Triangle".

Please: take a second to read that again. Follow the logic. If everything had gone just about perfectly, the anti-war movement would no longer be heard from. The only thing that has "sustained" the anti-war coalition is that everything hasn't gone well. In other words, the only thing that has "sustained" the anti-war coalition is....................that they were right!......The rest of the article goes on to explain how those dratted neo-cons failed to understand the situation they were getting into, failed to plan properly for the post-war, badly underestimated the strength of the insurgency, and made a number of overtly bad decisions......So there you have it: if you pointed out all this before the war, argued that the neo-conservatives were on a ideologically inspired power-trip likely to end in tears, and if you urged, therefore, that the invasion not take place......then you were nothing but a whining member of the anti-war coalition, beneath contempt...... However, if you were clever enough to be like John Keegan and urge the war to go ahead anyway, in the absence of the aforementioned planning, thus actually creating the mess that everyone--including you--can now plainly see, then you are a wise fellow who can safely stand back and complain that the "neo-cons" didn't plan things well enough.....Unbelievable.
Gen. George C. Marshall began planning the postwar occupation of Germany two years before D-Day. This administration was fumbling for a plan two months before the invasion. Who can read Bob Woodward's ''Plan of Attack'' and not find his jaw dropping at the fact that from the very beginning, in late 2001, none of the civilian leadership, not Rice, not Powell, not Tenet, not the president, asked where the plan for the occupation phase was? Who can't feel that U.S. captains, majors and lieutenants were betrayed by the Beltway wars between State and Defense? Who can't feel rage that victorious armies stood by and watched for a month while Iraq was looted bare?......Someone like me who supported the war on human rights grounds has nowhere to hide: we didn't suppose the administration was particularly nice, but we did assume it would be competent. There isn't much excuse for its incompetence, but equally, there isn't much excuse for our naivete either....

For Ignatieff to say that there is "no excuse" for his assumption that the Bush administration was competent is not satisfactory: Ignatieff needs to tell us what chain of thought could possibly have led him to the assumption that the Bush administration was competent.....

On the timing of Saddam's "trial"

["Trial," right. Just don't ask any questions about events prior to 1992]

The growing prospect of a major electoral bath for the GOP?
Rep. Jay Inslee knows about political tidal waves, because one of them almost sank his political career.....Inslee, who now represents a suburban Seattle district, was tossed out of Congress from another district in the 1994 Republican sweep. "When you see a tidal wave go over your head about 35 feet high," Inslee says, "you notice it."......But he came back to the House in 1998, and now what he's seeing "is the same tidal wave moving in the opposite direction. . . . There's a passion out there." And the passion, Inslee says, is running against George W. Bush....... True, party loyalists often see what they want to see.........But having spent much of the past three weeks on the road, visiting eight cities in the Northeast, the Midwest, the South and the West Coast, I sense the same passion Inslee does on the anti-Bush side.........Individuals who never before made a campaign contribution are opening their checkbooks to Kerry and the Democrats.............And, perhaps most significant, moderate and moderately conservative Republicans are showing little enthusiasm for Bush........"I've never seen a time with so many Republicans expressing consternation about their party and a willingness to support the other party," said Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat whose district, in Washington's southwest corner, went for Bush four years ago.

The power of "unified government"
A deep rift in the Republican Party has left Congress unable to pass a budget this year, raising the probability that, for the third time in three decades, lawmakers will not agree on a detailed blueprint for government spending and tax policy....The budget meltdown was triggered by a feud between conservative Republicans who favor continuing to cut taxes in the face of record budget deficits and GOP moderates who are pushing for curbs on tax cuts and are reluctant to slash spending. Even a face-saving effort in the House to impose federal spending curbs blew up just after midnight Friday.....

Another GOP "Christian" hypocrite
When Ralph Reed was the boyish director of the Christian Coalition, he made opposition to gambling a major plank in his "family values" agenda, calling gambling "a cancer on the American body politic".......But now, a broad federal investigation into lobbying abuses connected to gambling on Indian reservations has unearthed evidence that Reed has been surreptitiously working for an Indian tribe with a large casino it sought to protect--and that Reed was paid with funds laundered through two firms to try to keep his lucrative involvement secret. Reed has always operated behind the scenes, and apparently he didn't want to risk becoming a humbled hypocrite like his right-wing cohorts William Bennett and Rush Limbaugh.

Bonus item: Bush's REALLY DUMB campaign ad

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


You didn't really believe him, did you?
President Bush said that he had never sanctioned any torture techniques, as the White House sought to quell questions about the interrogation of military prisoners......"Look, let me make very clear the position of my government and our country," Bush said Tuesday in the Oval Office......"We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture."

It didn't even take a week for this lie to be unravelled
An August 2002 memo by the Justice Department that concluded interrogators could use extreme techniques on detainees in the war on terror helped provide an after-the-fact legal basis for harsh procedures used by the C.I.A. on high-level leaders of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials......The full text of the memo was made public by the White House on Tuesday without explanation about why it was written or whether its standards were applied.......The memo suggested that the president could authorize a wide array of coercive interrogation methods in the campaign against terrorism without violating international treaties or the federal torture law. It did not specify any particular procedures but suggested there were few limits short of causing the death of a prisoner.
The CIA has suspended the use of extraordinary interrogation techniques approved by the White House pending a review by Justice Department and other administration lawyers, intelligence officials said......The "enhanced interrogation techniques," as the CIA calls them, include feigned drowning and refusal of pain medication for injuries. The tactics have been used to elicit intelligence from al Qaeda leaders such as Abu Zubaida and Khalid Sheik Mohammed......."Everything's on hold," said a former senior CIA official aware of the agency's decision. "The whole thing has been stopped until we sort out whether we are sure we're on legal ground."
The Justice Department spelled out specific interrogation methods that the CIA could use against top al-Qaeda members in a still-classified August 2002 legal memo, issued as the spy agency pressed terrorism suspects about possible strikes on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, current and former Justice officials said......CIA officials had demanded specific guidance for handling "high-value al-Qaeda captives," said a former Justice official who worked on the memo. The techniques discussed were "aggressive" but "lawful," the former official said. A current Justice official who knows the memo's contents said it specifically authorized the CIA to use "waterboarding," in which a prisoner is made to believe he is suffocating....The memo has not been made public in the ongoing investigations of abuse of prisoners by military and intelligence officials. Because the document is classified, the former and current Justice officials spoke on condition of anonymity. The memo is far more detailed and explicit than another August 2002 document generated by Justice's Office of Legal Counsel concerning U.S. obligations under anti-torture law. That document has been made public.
One of the minor mysteries troubling lawyers who care about such things was why the Bybee memo was such a lousy piece of craft. The OLC is traditionally drawn from the elite of the profession, even if its head sometimes has to pass an ideological litmus test. One would expect an advisory memo on a major issue like torture to at least present both sides....One plausible explanation for these mysteries appears now on the New York Times web site and will presumably be in tomorrow's paper: the Bybee memo was not written in a vacuum, nor (perhaps) due to some order from on high motivated by a desire to squeeze more info from detainees who were not coughing up the locations of weapons of mass destruction. No, what the NYT suggests is that the memo was written after the CIA had already done something - presumably excessive - to one of the detainees. Thus, it seems likely the White House was scrambling to find some legal cover for abuses that had already happened.....

This is pretty devastating, from any humane standpoint -- and it would have come out eventually. But the typical WH move: drop it during the week when everyone is distracted by the "transfer of power" in Iraq. Oh, and on that subject....;ei=5090&%2338;partner=rssuserland
American aides and Iraqi officials said they had moved up the date of the ceremony, and held it in near secrecy, to foil the timing of any terrorist attacks that might be in the works. After more than a week's discussion, the decision was made only on Sunday, an American official said, after Iyad Allawi, the new Iraqi prime minister, indicated he was prepared to take charge......But even now, it is unclear how much control his government will exercise, particularly over the 160,000 troops from the United States, Britain and other countries that will remain here, or even over Iraq's own army and police forces
The formal occupation of Iraq came to an ignominious end yesterday with a furtive ceremony, held two days early to foil insurgent attacks, and a swift airborne exit for the chief administrator. In reality, the occupation will continue under another name, most likely until a hostile Iraqi populace demands that we leave. But it's already worth asking why things went so wrong.......The Iraq venture may have been doomed from the start - but we'll never know for sure because the Bush administration made such a mess of the occupation. Future historians will view it as a case study of how not to run a country......
It is hard to interpret this move as anything but a precipitous flight. It is just speculation on my part, but I suspect that the Americans must have developed intelligence that there might be a major strike on the Coalition Provisional Headquarters on Wednesday if a formal ceremony were held to mark a transfer of sovereignty. Since the US military is so weak in Iraq and appears to have poor intelligence on the guerrilla insurgency, the Bush administration could not take the chance that a major bombing or other attack would mar the ceremony. .....This entire exercise is a publicity stunt and has almost no substance to it. Gwen Ifill said on US television on Sunday that she had talked to Condaleeza Rice, and that her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration.

A stunning rebuke from the SC against the Imperial Presidency argument
"A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens," wrote Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. "Whatever power the United States Constitution envisions for the Executive in its exchanges with other nations or with enemy organizations in times of conflict, it most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake."
Liberal or conservative mattered little in the ultimate outcome. The court roundly rejected the president's assertion that, in time of war, he can order the "potentially indefinite detention of individuals who claim to be wholly innocent of wrongdoing," to quote the court's opinion in the case of foreign prisoners held at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In fact, the administration's claim to such power over U.S. citizens produced an opinion signed by perhaps the court's most conservative justice, Antonin Scalia, and possibly its most liberal, John Paul Stevens.....Only Justice Clarence Thomas embraced the administration's positions without reservation, referring in a dissenting opinion to "the breadth of the President's authority to detain enemy combatants, an authority that includes making virtually conclusive factual findings" that the Supreme Court is powerless to "second-guess."


Cheney's recent.....uh......indiscretion. OK. by now everyone knows about his using the F-word in public. But what is more interesting is his response and the secondary analysis of what this suggests about the Bush admin state of mind
Vice President Cheney today acknowledged that he had a bitter exchange on the Senate floor with a senior Democratic senator, in which Cheney uttered a big-time obscenity, but said he had no regrets and that he "felt better after I had done it.".......Later in the interview, Cheney added, laughing, that "a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue."........ Nice model he's setting for the kids there. But then again, I'm sure this kind of bravado will appeal to the Fox News set, who see this kind of thing as an example of an appealing kind of toughness in Republicans -- and as a sign of moral lassitude in everybody else.

[Originally, Cheney said only that he "probably" used it, which goes to show how unable he is to acknowledge even a direct fact put to him:]
We are all up in arms right now, it seems, about Vice President Dick Cheney, and the fact that Cheney told one of the more irenic of Democratic senators to "f--k off" in a brief exchange on the Senate floor last Tuesday because the senator in question, Pat Leahy (Democrat of Vermont) had earlier had the temerity to raise questions about lucrative no-bid Iraqi contracts secured by his former employer Halliburton....[I]t's entertaining to watch avatars of dignity, good order and responsibility like Bill Frist and the folks over at the White House call Cheney's antics good clean fun and politics as usual......But for those who have few good things to say about the vice-president, I think, the correct response is less outrage than the sort of grim (or perhaps not so grim) satisfaction one feels when a malign character unwittingly reveals himself to a larger audience. Because even if Cheney "felt better" after his outburst, this wasn't a show of strength but one of desperation or, perhaps, impatient impotence..........Who is Dick Cheney? What do we know of him? None of us like being questioned or critized. But in him the disinclination runs particularly deep. He prefers to act in secrecy and is a man to whom government transparency has all the allure that a shaft of sunlight has to a vampire. When challenged, violence seems always to be his preferred method of response, that of first resort --- often a literal sort on the world stage, but with bureaucratic (viz. Plame) and what we might call verbal violence at home. By verbal violence I mean specifically tough talk and threats meant to frighten people away from challenging him further, to knock them on their heels. Even this new case -- saying Leahy et al. had it coming -- is but another example. When that doesn't work, he gets sloppy.......Cheney et al. can see all sorts of bad business coming down the pike in the next few months -- much of it already on the public radar screen, some of it still clogged up no doubt in back channels, newsrooms and new rounds of dirty-tricksterism. It seems clearly to be getting to them.
Do you get the sense things are a little tense at the White House these days?.......Let's see........On Tuesday, right on the Senate floor, Vice President Cheney snarled obscenely at a Democratic senator........We can only imagine what it was like in the Oval Office yesterday morning when President Bush -- attended only by his new private lawyer -- faced 70 minutes of questions from prosecutors about the outing of a CIA operative.........But not long after that meeting, Bush got downright snippy with an Irish TV reporter when she tried to move him beyond his stock answers.

[More on that Irish reporter story:]

Enjoying this? Here's more,9565,658285,00.html
The Vulcans-a campaign 2000 nickname for George W. Bush's hawkish national security team-went Krakatoa last week. Dick Cheney erupted on the Senate floor, deploying the F word against Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, who had been belaboring the Vice President over the no-bid deals that Cheney's old company, Halliburton, had scored in Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz suffered a meltdown in a House Armed Services Committee hearing, blasting the press for "sitting in Baghdad" and "printing rumors." (He later apologized.) And the White House was forced to acknowledge that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had approved, at least for a while, the use of dogs, nudity, stress positions-that is, torture-against enemy combatants. Indeed, Rumsfeld, who works at a stand-up desk, indicated a desire for at least one more strenuous stress position: "I stand 8-10 hours a day," he scrawled on a memo. "Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"......Presumably the Secretary of Defense doesn't do his standing naked, continuously, in the middle of the night, surrounded by hostile guards and attack dogs. But then, Rumsfeld's blustery testosteronics are at the heart of what has gone wrong with the Bush foreign policy-and last week the assorted temper tantrums appeared to be a leading indicator of a gathering summer storm confronting this presidency..........The torture investigation is one of four major defensive battles the Administration is facing. In the weeks to come, the White House will also have to deal with the 9/11 commission's final report, the congressional investigations into the CIA's bungled assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and a special prosecutor's hunt for the White House leakers who blew the cover of CIA secret operative Valerie Plame. Not only is the Administration defending itself against the Democrats, the investigators and the media. Two other serious, surreptitious-and quite possibly unprecedented-battles are going on: the intelligence community is at war with the White House, and the uniformed military is at war with the civilian leadership of the Pentagon.
One thing you've got to say for Dick Cheney: No one will ever again dismiss the vice presidency as a pitcher of warm spit. Mr. Major League Potty Mouth has shown that, with obsequiousness to the president and obtuseness to the facts, a vice president can run the world. Right into the ground....... This week, it's not just Democrats who are questioning whether Vice is losing it. Now, even some in the White House are saying it's bizarre that he chose a class photo-op on the Senate floor to suggest that Senator Patrick Leahy do something that you won't even find described in Bill Clinton's "My Life.".....While Democratic lawmakers delayed final passage of a defense spending bill so they could mingle with Michael Moore, the once sweat-free Bushies were acting jangly.........First Vice chewed out The Times for accurately reporting that the 9/11 commission said there was no collaborative relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Then Paul Wolfowitz called the reporters risking their lives in Iraq craven rumormongers. Then came Mr. Cheney's F-word........Finally, President Bush got agitated when an Irish TV interviewer said most of the Irish found the world more dangerous now than before the Iraq invasion. "First of all, most of Europe supported the decision in Iraq," Mr. Bush declared. (It's all in how you define "Europe.")........Mr. Cheney profanely laced into Mr. Leahy for criticizing Halliburton's getting no-bid contracts......."I felt better afterwards," he told Neil Cavuto during a no-bid interview with Fox News. Hey, if it feels good, Dick, do it.

Other good cracks: Bush is even losing Wall Street support
The Wall Street Journal reports that not every Wall Streeter wants President Bush to win re-election. "Though George W. Bush has been a decidedly pro-business president, a few cracks are surfacing in what had been a solid wall of business support."....."Those small cracks, some stemming from dismay with record budget deficits, others from fears that his foreign policies are clouding the global business climate, have grown wide enough for Sen. John Kerry to launch a behind-the-scenes effort to woo business executives......"The upshot is a mostly quiet but significant struggle over business's allegiance. For Mr. Kerry, last week's endorsement by onetime corporate icon Lee Iacocca, the former Chrysler Corp. chairman, was only the first of what his campaign promises will be more such staged appearances with business leaders. Mr. Kerry already had won backing from Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett and Apple Computer's Steve Jobs." ... Among Kerry supporters is Eric Best, a managing director at Morgan Stanley, who says Mr. Bush's tax cuts go too far at the expense of mounting deficits. "I was raised as a fiscal conservative, and I think his fiscal policy is scary," he says.

A good summary of Bush's oh-so-very-bad year (and it will probably still get much worse)

Our "good friends" the they're not....yes, they they're not....
Jacques Chirac bluntly told George Bush to mind his own business yesterday when the US president urged European leaders to give Turkey a firm date for starting EU membership talks later this year.........Ignoring the determined effort to celebrate improved transatlantic relations after the Iraq crisis, the French president publicly rebuked Mr Bush at Nato's Istanbul summit for calling for special treatment for the Turks........Mr Bush, he complained, "not only went too far but went on to territory which is not his own".......He added: "It's as if I was advising the US on how they should manage their relations with Mexico."

Remember that bogus Niger/yellow-cake memo that started the whole Plame affair?
[From the Financial Times] The fake documents were handed to an Italian journalist working for the Italian magazine Panorama by a businessman in October 2002. According to a senior official with detailed knowledge of the case, this businessman had been dismissed from the Italian armed forces for dishonourable conduct 25 years earlier.....The businessman, referred to by a pseudonym in the Panorama article, had previously tried to sell the documents to several intelligence services, according to a western intelligence officer........It was later established that he had a record of extortion and deception and had been convicted by a Rome court in 1985 and later arrested at least twice.........He did not return telephone calls yesterday, and is understood to be planning to reveal selected aspects of his story to a US television channel.

[NOW it gets interesting....]
According to the Financial Times article, that business man is likely himself the forger of the documents and he has a long history of bad acts which, they say, discredit him as a source of information. That last tidbit plays a key part in the FT story because, in their words, the provider of the documents is "understood to be planning to reveal selected aspects of his story to a US television channel."

That's what the FT says......I hear something different.......In fact, I know something different.

My colleagues and I have reported on this matter extensively, spoken to key players involved in the drama, and put together a detailed picture of what happened. And that picture looks remarkably different from this account which is out today -- specifically on the matter of the origins of those forged documents and who was involved......I cannot begin to describe how much I would like to say more than that. And at some later point in some later post I will do my best to explain the hows and whys of why I can't. But, for the moment, I can't.

Let me, however, offer a hypothetical that might help make sense of all this.......Let's say that certain individuals or organizations are responsible for some rather unfortunate misdeeds. And let's further postulate that such hypothetical individuals or organizations find out that some folks are on to them, that a story is in the works -- perhaps more than one -- and that it's coming right at them. Those individuals or organizations -- as shorthand, let's call them 'the bad actors' -- might well start trying to fight back, trying to gin up an alternative storyline to exculpate themselves and inculpate others. If that story made its way into the news, at a minimum, it might help the bad actors muddy the waters for when the real story comes out. You can see how such a regrettable turn of events might come to pass.

This is of course only a hypothetical. But I thought it might provide a clarifying context......So read the FT article. But also keep your ears open. It is, I'm quite confident, not the last word you'll hear on this story.
When trying to identify the perpetrator of a crime, one looks for two things: means, and motive. What do we think the motive is of those sources who would seek to discredit the testimony of an individual who is prepared to tell the story of where he got some forged documents? The motive would seem to be: to intimidate that individual, in order to prevent him from telling his story, and by extension, to attempt to prevent the truth from getting out. Who would want to prevent the truth from getting out? Those who have something to fear from the true story getting out, it seems to me. In other words, those who have knowledge of the crime....... It looks to be a summer of many interesting revelations.

"Bush's Worst Foreign Policy Disaster" (hint: it's not Iraq)

OK, Bush's OTHER Worst Foreign Policy Disaster (it IS Iraq)
The occupation of Iraq has increasingly undermined, and in some cases discredited, the core tenets of President Bush's foreign policy, according to a wide range of Republican and Democratic analysts and U.S. officials........When the war began 15 months ago, the president's Iraq policy rested on four broad principles: The United States should act preemptively to prevent strikes on U.S. targets. Washington should be willing to act unilaterally, alone or with a select coalition, when the United Nations or allies balk. Iraq was the next cornerstone in the global war on terrorism. And Baghdad's transformation into a new democracy would spark regionwide change..........But these central planks of Bush doctrine have been tainted by spiraling violence, limited reconstruction, failure to find weapons of mass destruction or prove Iraq's ties to al Qaeda, and mounting Arab disillusionment with U.S. leadership........."Of the four principles, three have failed, and the fourth -- democracy promotion -- is hanging by a sliver," said Geoffrey Kemp, a National Security Council staff member in the Reagan administration and now director of regional strategic programs at the Nixon Center........The president has "walked away from unilateralism. We're not going to do another preemptive strike anytime soon, certainly not in Iran or North Korea. And it looks like terrorism is getting worse, not better, especially in critical countries like Saudi Arabia," Kemp said.......As a result, Bush doctrine could become the biggest casualty of U.S. intervention in Iraq, which is entering a new phase this week as the United States prepares to hand over power to the new Iraqi government......Setbacks in Iraq have had a visible impact on policy, forcing shifts or reassessments. The United States has returned to the United Nations to solve its political problems in Iraq. It has appealed to NATO for help on security. It is also relying on diplomacy, with allies, to deal with every other hot spot.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

PBD will be on break for a few days while I am away from Internet access. The next issue will be available on Tuesday, June 29. Today's posting is the last until then.


Bush Co. "drops" request to UN to have US soldiers immune from World Court (dropped, of course, because in light of the torture scandals there was NO WAY the Security Council would have approved it).
In a stunning defeat for the U.S., it has withdrawn its resolution seeking immunity for American peacekeepers from prosecution for war crimes......


But in Iraq (the new "sovereign" Iraq), US unilaterally declares its soldiers immune from prosecution
The Bush administration has decided to take the unusual step of bestowing on its own troops and personnel immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts for killing Iraqis or destroying local property after the occupation ends and political power is transferred to an interim Iraqi government, U.S. officials said.......The administration is taking the step in an effort to prevent the new Iraqi government from having to grant a blanket waiver as one of its first acts, which could undermine its credibility just as it assumes power. But U.S. officials said Washington's act could also create the impression that the United States is not turning over full sovereignty -- and giving itself special privileges........The issue of immunity for U.S. troops is among the most contentious in the Islamic world, where it has galvanized public opinion against the United States in the past. A similar grant of immunity to U.S. troops in Iran during the Johnson administration in the 1960s led to the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who used the issue to charge that the shah had sold out the Iranian people.

A look into Bush's soul and being
President Bush said that he had never sanctioned any torture techniques, as the White House sought to quell questions about the interrogation of military prisoners......"Look, let me make very clear the position of my government and our country," Bush said Tuesday in the Oval Office......"We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being."
First, let's make this very clear. It is our government. I use of first person singular to describe a government is one of this President's worst and most telling behavioristics. Second, while it's nice that Bush says he does not condone torture (although the religious imagry is less impressive), it's really not the point. Neither is our soul or our being. (Incidentally, first person singular is far more appropriate when discussing souls and/or beings).

What matters here are our laws. What the President should be saying is that we do not torture prisoners because we have signed treaties and adhere to a set of laws that render such behavior illegal. This is where the memos that have been released are the most interesting. What we see is an administration questioning to what extent the laws apply to them.

Should we torture prisoners? Should we torture Saddam himself or those who plan terrorist attacks? Is torture an effective means to gather accurate information?.... These questions may be open to debate. The question of whether or not a Chief Executive of "his" nation is above the law is not......Souls, beings and personal condoning are fine for places of worship or the family dinner table. But at the highest levels of government, it's simply got to be about the law.

What the document release didn't include
[T]oday's coverage makes it clear that there are still a host of unresolved issues. Among them:

・ Does President Bush still believe, as his 2002 memo said, that he has "the authority under the Constitution" to deny protections of the Geneva Conventions to some combatants?

・ The memos describe Pentagon prohibitions against torture. But do the distinctions drawn between forceful interrogation tactics and torture meet the common-sense test? And what rules did the White House set for the CIA?

・ Did the White House set a tone that led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib?

・ What was the president's involvement in the deliberations on torture, beyond putting his name at the bottom of that one memo?

・ And the debate within the administration, as illustrated most clearly by memos from the Justice Department, continued to rage long after Bush's memo. So how long did the issue of torture remain in play?
The released documents stop in April 2003 and do not cover practices at Abu Ghraib and other military prisons in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said. Even so, they show that in December, 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved the use of techniques, such as the use of guard dogs to instill fear in detainees, stripping detainees nude, and the use of painful stress positions, that violate the law. Rumsfeld later rescinded his approval of these techniques on Guantanamo detainees, yet they later featured prominently in the abuses at Abu Ghraib.....Human Rights Watch calls for "an independent investigation, not a selective self-investigation." In addition, it wants the administration to release everything, "including the 2003 memoranda from Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior U.S. military officer in Iraq authorizing coercive interrogation techniques there," and documents relating to CIA interrogation practices.
After having the Office of Legal Counsel write a memo explaining that torture isn't really torture, and that even if it is, the laws don't apply to the president, but in case they do, here's a whole bunch of ways to break the law and get away with it, too, and then refusing the release the memo to Congress without any legal authority, the White House has decided to release it after all and note that maybe this whole thing wasn't such a good idea in the first place. ......

The administration's line on this is still filled with impenetrable ambiguities. "Bush has not authorized any interrogations that would employ methods outside the law, [an official said] said." The whole point of the memo, however, was to define as legal certain things that are not, in fact, legal. It didn't say, "go break the law," it said, "if you do this you won't be breaking the law." So when they say they're not employing methods outside the law, we need to know which law they're talking about -- the real ones, or the ones their lawyers have made up.

Stepping back, though, the really important thing is this: The administration wrote this opinion, and then sought -- quite stridently -- to keep it secret. Only when faced with a public outcry are they willing to back away from the doctrine it entailed. If the White House had had its way, the public would never have heard a word of any of this, and the memo would never have been disavowed. And, of course, we don't know what other secret memos may be lurking around somewhere. What's more, as Michael Froomkin points out it's not clear from this that the administration has disavowed the expansive view of presidential power that underlay the original torture memos -- the new position seems to be that Bush could order torture if he wanted to, but he just isn't doing it.

Author of the discredited torture memo now an Appeals Court judge (we had this before, but it's worth a repeat now)
The Justice Department attempted to dissociate itself from an August 2002 memo condoning the torture of prisoners. But it didn't dissociate itself from the memo's author, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee. As TPM reader Hope P. reminded me, George W. Bush nominated Bybee as a judge on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Seventeen Democrats, citing Bybee's opposition to gay rights and his highly restrictive views of the First Amendment, opposed his nomination, but he was confirmed by the Repbulican Senate in March 2003. This man, who advocated that the United States ignore international law--and some might say, commit war crimes--now holds a lifetime appointment on the federal bench.
Former colleagues say the judge, whose chambers are in Las Vegas, is a serious, soft-spoken, reflective man. They say it is difficult to reconcile his discussion of torture in clinical, dispassionate detail with his background. A former legal academic, Judge Bybee told Meridian, a Mormon magazine, last year that he hoped to be remembered for his probity......"I would like my headstone to read, `He always tried to do the right thing,' " Judge Bybee said.

[Uh, Judge Bybee? I hate to tell you, but....]

Another judge-to-be?
Although the White House this week repudiated a Justice Department opinion that torture might be legally defensible, Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II in 2003 forced the Pentagon working group to use it as its legal guidepost. He did so over objections from the top lawyers of every military service, who found the legal judgments to be extreme and wrong-headed.......

[More on his nomination:]

Bush's reach out to North Korea: you would call it "hypocrisy" if terms like that even applied any longer...
WASHINGTON, June 22 - President Bush has authorized a team of American negotiators to offer North Korea, in talks in Beijing on Thursday, a new but highly conditional set of incentives to give up its nuclear weapons programs the way Libya did late last year, according to senior administration officials.....The proposal would be the first significant, detailed overture to North Korea since Mr. Bush took office three years ago........

Good thing we didn't do this three years ago! That would have been appeasement!

Bush's Rwanda - will we ever learn?

Bush's home-grown terrorist

Juan Cole's hilarious tutorial on the Shakir/Shakir fiasco (I guess it helps when you actually KNOW Arabic and regional nomenclatures, which some of those DoD "experts" clearly don't)

The truth about those Saudi flights


The best and the brightest in Iraq: an interesting case study in the ironies of "cronyism"
[Michael] Fleischer was in the Foreign Service for four years after college in the 1970s, serving in Washington and Africa. He also worked briefly on Capitol Hill and received a Harvard MBA.....He said that from his Foreign Service stint, he was already acquainted with Paul Bremer, the presidential envoy who heads the CPA......With an assist from his brother, Ari, who "got my resume to Bremer," Fleischer landed interviews that led to his appointment......

Among Fleischer's key tasks was training more Iraqi businessmen in the ways of U.S.-style procurement so they can land part of the $18.4 billion in reconstruction aid the U.S. has earmarked for Iraq......Competitive bidding "is a new world for the Iraqis," Fleischer said. Under Saddam Hussein, "it was all done by cronies. The only paradigm they know is cronyism. We are teaching them that there is an alternative system with built-in checks and built-in review."

Will we ever hear the Sybel Edmonds story?

GOP manipulates vote timing so that Kerry can't support veteran's benefits (classy guys, aren't they?)

GOP involved with Nader campaign in Arizona?

More insight into the "soul and being" of the GOP (from Clinton's book)
I was genuinely confused by the mainstream press coverage of Whitewater...One day, after one of our budget meetings in October, I asked Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming to stay a moment to talk. Simpson was a conservative Republican, but we had a pretty good relationship because of the friendship we had in common with his governor, Mike Sullivan. I asked Alan if he thought Hillary and I had done anything wrong in Whitewater. 'Of course not,' he said. 'That's not what this is about. This is about making the public think you did something wrong. Anybody who looked at the evidence would see that you didn't.' Simpson laughed at how willing the 'elitist' press was to swallow anything negative about small, rural places like Wyoming or Arkansas and made an interesting observation: 'You know, before you were elected, we Republicans believed the press was liberal. Now we have a more sophisticated view. They are liberal in a way. Most of them voted for you, but they think more like your right-wing critics do, and that's much more important.' When I asked him to explain, he said, 'Democrats like you and Sullivan get into government to help people. The right-wing extremists don't think government can do much to improve on human nature, but they like power. So does the press. And since you're President, they both get power the same way, by hurting you.'

And still more on how the GOP operates - you think these guys don't understand hardball?
"Democratic lobbyists are giving House Republican aides and lawmakers closely held information about the voting intentions of congressional Democrats in exchange for access to private meetings with GOP officials on Capitol Hill," The Hill reports......"For House Republican whips, the inside information on Democratic voting strategies can yield a crucial awareness of what the ultimate vote count on the floor might be."


GOP condemns 527's, tries to get them thrown out in court, fails, then decides to try to start their own, fails, and now decides on a new strategy
"In a major shift in fundraising strategy, President Bush's finance team has begun asking wealthy Republicans to cut checks as large as $1 million to GOP state parties in key election battlegrounds rather than steering their funds to independent groups created in recent months to support Republican candidates this fall," Roll Call reports.

Bonus item: Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly lying? LYING?! How can that be?
More puzzling, though, was Limbaugh's apparent decision to fabricate a story involving Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Discussing American Forces Radio during his June 18 program, Limbaugh told listeners, "He [Stevens] sent me a fax today with a revised [Harkin] amendment. They've gone in and they fixed the amendment. They -- they've watered this thing down. Whatever the Harkin amendment was, it now doesn't mention my name."
During his appearance last night on "the Factor," Bill O'Reilly asked John Podesta for "one example where I smeared somebody." Podesta noted that O'Reilly compared Al Franken to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. O'Reilly -- displaying his notorious command for the facts -- denied it, saying "I did not refer to him [Al Franken] as Joseph Goebbels, that was Michael Moore." O'Reilly accused Podesta of misstating "what I said." Apparently, O'Reilly is having a little trouble with his short term memory. On his June 10 show, O'Reilly said "Joseph Goebbels was the Minister of Propaganda for the Nazi regime and whose very famous quote was, 'If you tell a lie long enough, it becomes the truth'...And that's what Stuart Smalley [O'Reilly refers to Al Franken as Stuart Smalley, Franken's played on Saturday Night Live], and Michael Moore and all of these guys do."

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


(But we could. If we wanted to.)

WH document dump on torture policies settles nothing
This evening the White House released the text of an order signed by President Bush on Feb. 7, 2002, regarding the treatment of al-Qaida and Taliban detainees......This Bush order applies to the Afghanistan Taliban, and to alleged al-Qaida members in Iraq and worldwide; it says they don't have rights, but doesn't say that they should be tortured; rather it says they should be treated "humanely" and that they should be given Geneva-like privileges when not too inconvenient to do so.

The order accepts the Royalist theory of Presidential power, but says it declines to apply it: "I accept the legal conclusion of the attorney general and the Department of Justice that I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time."

The key command: "As a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.".....

[Given what we have learned about these people, I consider that carefully worded exception big enough to drive a truck through]

Note also what's not there. For example, nothing in this memo seems directed to the CIA, just to the military. I wonder if there's a separate order for the CIA with more flexibility? ......It's also important to keep the confusing timeline straight. The OLC torture memo was delivered in August 2002, i.e. several months after this order. Thus, it is clear that this command, in Feb. 2002, to be "humane" was not the last word on the subject in the minds of all policy makers, including the President's closest advisors such as his Legal Counsel. And we know that the Walker Group was still chewing on the torture question in March 2003, although we don't know what if anything came of it...... In short, we don't know if this memo was ever countermanded, or amended, whether it applied to the CIA, or indeed what if anything ultimately resulted from subsequent advice to Bush that he could allow great physical pain to be applied during questioning of detainees......
President Bush's aides yesterday disavowed an internal Justice Department opinion that torturing terrorism suspects might be legally defensible, saying it had created the false impression that the government was claiming authority to use interrogation techniques barred by international law...... Responding to pressure from Congress and outrage around the world, officials at the White House and the Justice Department derided the August 2002 legal memo on aggressive interrogation tactics, calling parts of it overbroad and irrelevant and saying it would be rewritten.

In a highly unusual repudiation of its department's own work, a senior Justice official and two other high-ranking lawyers said that all legal advice rendered by the department's Office of Legal Counsel on the subject of interrogations will be reviewed.

As part of a public relations offensive, the administration also declassified and released hundreds of pages of internal documents that it said demonstrated that Bush had never authorized torture against detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In doing so, the administration revealed details of the interrogation tactics being used on prisoners, an extraordinary disclosure for an administration that has argued that the release of such information would help the enemy.......

In the White House briefing, the aides took the extraordinary step of publicly questioning advice provided by top administration lawyers, with Gonzales saying that the internal administration debate included "unnecessary, over-broad discussions."..........A Justice Department official said yesterday that the administration planned to scrap a provision in it opining that interrogators who torture al Qaeda or Taliban captives could be exempt from prosecution under the president's powers as commander in chief.......Gonzales...acknowledged that some of the conclusions were "controversial" and "subject to misinterpretation."

The documents that were released and the White House briefing focused on military interrogations and left many questions unanswered. Gonzales refused to comment on techniques used by the CIA, beyond saying that they "are lawful and do not constitute torture." He also would not discuss the president's involvement in the deliberations.

[In other words: they still haven't released everything pertinent to the issue. Apparently, most of the top Al Qaeda suspects are under the control of the CIA, not the military.],1,3750842.story?coll=la-home-headlines
Critics said Tuesday that the newly released documents still do not give the public a full picture of how the administration decided what was the right treatment for enemy captives or how the policies were carried out......Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the document release a "self-serving selection" and said "much more remains held back and hidden away from public view."

And this intriguing tidbit about Rumsfeld's involvement,1,3750842.story?coll=la-home-headlines
In the fall of 2002, military authorities were becoming concerned that they were not getting enough information out of Guantanamo Bay and asked Rumsfeld for permission to step-up their techniques. Rumsfeld was advised of three escalating categories of techniques that could be used......The third category called for harsher measures. Detainees could be exposed to cold weather and cold water. Wet towels could placed over them along with dripping water to make them think they were going to be suffocated.......Some prisoners could be convinced they were going to die, and that family members also would be killed if they did not cooperate. The category also called for the "use of mild, noninjurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing.

Rumsfeld approved only the "use of mild, noninjurious physical contact."

The policy was in effect for six weeks at Guantanamo Bay. On Jan. 15, 2003, Rumsfeld rescinded his directive. He gave no reason for his decision, but did say that if intelligence officers wanted to step up techniques against individual detainees in the future, "you should forward that request to me" and it should include a "thorough justification.".....The materials released Tuesday do not state whether any such requests were made or approved.

[If he only approved "mild, noninjurious physical contact," then what happened that made him rescind this order? More:]

Ashcroft still faces criticism that he dismissed terror concerns pre-9/11
The 9/11 commission is busy writing its final report, but is still investigating critical facts, including the conduct of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. NBC News has learned that the commission has interviewed two FBI officials who contradict sworn testimony by Ashcroft, about whether he brushed off terrorism warnings in the summer of 2001......At issue is a July 5, 2001, meeting between Ashcroft and acting FBI Director Tom Pickard. That month, the threat of an al-Qaida attack was so high, the White House summoned the FBI and domestic agencies, and warned them to be on alert......Yet, Pickard testified to the 9/11 commission that when he tried to brief Ashcroft just a week later, on July 12, about the terror threat inside the United States, he got the brush-off......."Mr. Ashcroft told you that he did not want to hear about this anymore," Democratic commission member Richard Ben-Veniste asked on April 13. "Is that correct?"....."That is correct," Pickard replied.....Testifying under oath the same day, Ashcroft categorically denied the allegation, saying, "I did never speak to him saying that I didn't want to hear about terrorism.".....However, another senior FBI official tells NBC News he vividly recalls Pickard returning from the meeting that day furious that Ashcroft had cut short the terrorism briefing. This official, now retired, has talked to the 9/11 commission......NBC News has learned that commission investigators also tracked down another FBI witness at the meeting that day, Ruben Garcia, head of the Criminal Division at that time. Several sources familiar with the investigation say Garcia confirmed to the commission that Ashcroft did indeed dismiss Pickard's warnings about al-Qaida.

Redactions to Senate Intelligence Committee report erase Cheney's central role in prewar intelligence "stove-piping",8599,655889,00.html

Torture and abuse in Afghanistan: the untold story

At Guantanamo, in the days following Gen. Geoffrey Miller's arrival with his new methods, prisoner suicide attempts soared

Part Three of the WP series on what went wrong in Iraq
The nascent political institutions designed to replace the U.S. administration of Iraq are beset by challenges to their popular legitimacy and effectiveness, and by grave risks to Iraqis who have joined the experiment in representative government. As Iraqis prepare for their country to regain sovereignty, it is uncertain how much their political future will be shaped by the $700 million program in democracy-building that has been at the core of the U.S. occupation.......Inside the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority, which will dissolve with the handover on June 30, some officials express doubts that Iraq's political system will conform to the American blueprints. "Will this develop the way we hope it will?" a CPA official involved in promoting democracy said. "Probably not."......

Council members said they envisioned a democracy different from what they have read about the United States, suggesting that many of the concepts Americans have been preaching here have not been accepted. For instance, many said that a separation between religion and the state makes little sense in Iraq.......Men on the council said they supported allowing women to vote and hold elective office, but several scoffed at the notion of giving women the same personal freedoms they enjoy outside the Arab world......
US Has Lost War for Hearts and Minds in Iraq......

In the last days before the handover, the CPA is rushing to spend billions of Iraqi oil revenues (which means the new govt won't have it to spend)
[T]he CPA has started spending about $2.5 billion in Iraqi oil revenue in order to compensate for bottlenecks--both bureaucratic and security-based--in spending the congressionally appropriated $18 billion, of which only $3.2 has actually been spent......Explains an occupation official:

Would we rather have been able to save the money and have a nice kitty? Sure. There's always a tension between putting money to work right away and having it available for a tough year next year. This is the way we resolved it.
United Nations-mandated auditors have sharply criticised the US occupation authority for the way it has spent more than $11bn in Iraqi oil revenues and say they have faced "resistance" from coalition officials.......In an interim report, obtained by the Financial Times, KPMG says the Development Fund for Iraq, which is managed by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority and channels oil revenue into reconstruction projects, is "open to fraudulent acts".......The auditors criticise the CPA's bookkeeping and warn: "The CPA does not have effective controls over the ministries' spending of their individually allocated budgets, whether the funds are direct from the CPA or via the ministry of finance."

U.S. to turn over "custody" (cough cough) of Hussein to Iraq
The United States plans to turn over legal, but not physical, custody of Saddam Hussein and some other prisoners to the Iraqi interim government soon after it takes over on June 30....The official said Saddam and other detainees handed over legally to the new government would then become "subject to Iraqi due process, including the right to speedy trial, the right to counsel and the right to have judicially issued arrest warrants in place to authorize continued detention." .....Salem Chalabi, a lawyer leading the work of the special tribunal, has said those convicted could face the death penalty if the interim government decides to restore it.

[Yes, in case you didn't already know it - THAT Chalabi's nephew]

Speaking of whom, Wolfowitz stands by his man (sort of),1280,-4233837,00.html
"Nothing in Iraq is black and white. I don't think I know of any figure we're dealing with who hasn't had in one way or another to compromise with the incredibly difficult circumstances of the last 35 years of that country's history,'' Wolfowitz said......"I am surprised that he seems to be the target, for many years, of particular animus from some parts of this government,'' Wolfowitz said. "But on the other hand, there are aspects of his recent behavior that are puzzling to me.'' He did not elaborate on what those activities were.

And what is exactly the iron-clad evidence the administration keeps citing as "proof" of a "link"? Even this weaker new formulation stands on pretty thin ground
The continuing FUD campaign over Iraq's ties to al-Qaeda is endlessly frustrating - and, frankly, probably not an argument that's winnable for liberals. There's just enough uncertainty about the whole thing that war opponents will never be able to produce a firm smoking gun showing that the administration is lying......But let's review the primary evidence anyway........
This reminds me of another insufficiently noted element in this saga, namely the tendency of certain folks out there on the right to spin grandiose tales of collaboration on the rather slender thread that Abu Zarqawi once got his leg amputated in Iraq. This was always a bit dubious -- Zarqawi typically operated in the part of Iraq that was outside of Saddam's control, he traveled under aliases as though he didn't want the Baath regime to know what he was doing, and his organization wasn't really a part of al-Qaeda anyway -- but more importantly, some of the videotapes we've seen over the past month have made it pretty clear that Zarqawi has two legs.

More coming out now on the Shakir/Shakir connection (which is shaping up into another argument between the DOD propaganda machine and the CIA intelligence crew)
Defenders of President Bush's charges that Saddam Hussein worked with al-Qaida have been citing what they say is new evidence that could help substantiate one of the administration's main justifications for invading Iraq.....They say the evidence is the name of a paramilitary officer in captured documents that appears identical to that of an Iraqi who met two Sept. 11 hijackers in Malaysia nearly two years before the attacks in New York and Washington.

But U.S. officials told Knight Ridder on Monday that U.S. intelligence experts were highly skeptical that the Iraqi officer had any connection to al-Qaida......On Sunday, John F. Lehman, a Republican member of the independent commission that's probing the attacks, cited the documents as "new intelligence" on Iraq's links with al-Qaida.

The U.S. officials said the lieutenant colonel's name is different from that of the man who met the hijackers in Malaysia. The man who met the hijackers wasn't in Iraq at the time the documents were dated and he's never been implicated in the Sept. 11 plot by any top al-Qaida operatives in American custody.....The officials said they were unsure why Lehman portrayed the documents as possible new intelligence on Iraq's links to al-Qaida. The documents have been cited by such staunch administration defenders as conservative author Stephen F. Hayes and The Wall Street Journal editorial page......

Lehman didn't return a telephone call to his office in New York. A spokesman for the commission said he couldn't answer questions about the intelligence Lehman cited Sunday.......

Some civilian officials in the Pentagon and other experts have suggested that the officer may have been the same person as Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, an Iraqi at the center of an unresolved subchapter of the Sept. 11 plot.....Some civilian Pentagon officials and other experts have cited Ahmad Hikmat Shakir as potential evidence of an Iraqi role in the Sept. 11 conspiracy......

But the U.S. officials who spoke to Knight Ridder on Monday said there were a number of reasons that intelligence analysts doubted that the officer was the same Iraqi who met the two Sept. 11 hijackers in Kuala Lumpur......

[,0,6059318.story?coll=ny-nationalnews-headlines: The CIA concluded "a long time ago" that an al-Qaida associate who met with two of the Sept. 11 hijackers in Malaysia was not an officer in Saddam Hussein's army]

......"It's very confusing, but it's not the same guy," one U.S. official said.

"Very confusing" to say the least. Laura Rozen and Spencer Ackerman straighten out the different names and players, below. But here is the question people keep missing: who gave Lehman this information (it clearly wasn't a connection he made on his own), and were these sources also deluded about the connection or using him to float a story they knew was trumped-up and bogus? And how do you think Lehman is feeling right now?

[Wonkette captures the wackiness of it all:]

How philosophy (!!!) helps Matt Yglesias decode the deceptions of Bush and Cheney
I studied philosophy in college, which I never thought would come in handy in any sort of professional pursuit. In the course of doing so, however, I did take several courses on the subject of semantics and studied Paul Grice's theory of "conversational implicature." As aptly summarized by Kent Bach, the point is this:

What a speaker implicates is distinct from what he says and from what his words imply........a speaker can say one thing and manage to mean something else or something more by exploiting the fact that he may be presumed to be cooperative, in particular, to be speaking truthfully, informatively, relevantly, and otherwise appropriately. The listener relies on this presumption to make a contextually driven inference from what the speaker says to what she means.


AP sues to get all Bush National Guard records (oh-oh)
[T]he lawsuit seeks access to a copy of Bush's microfilmed personnel file from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin......The White House says the government has already released all the records of Bush's military service.

[This is a revealing lie. We know they never released his medical files and other materials relevant to his suspension from flying -- so they are parsing "military service," and what they consider relevant to it, in the narrowest possible sense. I don't believe this is a fishing expedition: I think these records show something Bush hasn't told us about yet. Should be fun.]

Supreme Court decision on "patient bill of rights" a big headache for Bush

Bonus item: GOP operatives behind "grassroots" campaign to block theatres from showing "Fahrenheit 9-11"

And to all my Illinois friends and colleagues, you can STOP LAUGHING NOW
Now that the divorce papers of Jack Ryan -- the GOP's Senate candidate in Illinois -- have been unsealed, we can see what it is he didn't want out there:

Jeri Ryan said her then-husband took her on three "surprise trips" in the spring of 1998 to New Orleans, New York and Paris, during which he took her to sex clubs. She said she refused to go in the first and went into the second at his insistence......."It was a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling," she said in the court document, adding that her husband "wanted me to have sex with him there, with another couple watching. I refused."........She said on arriving at the third club, in Paris, "people were having sex everywhere. I cried. I was physically ill. [He] became very upset with me and said it was not a 'turn on' for me to cry."

[I think you can chalk this up now as a Democratic takeover of one Republican Senate seat]