Sunday, December 31, 2006


In Iraq, across the Middle East, and around the world, reactions to Saddam’s execution are far from ecstatic
The execution of Saddam Hussein is drawing a mixed reaction in the Arab world, where many people believe the former Iraqi leader committed many crimes, but question the fairness of his trial. The timing of his execution has also drawn criticism, coming on the first day of one of the most important Muslim holidays. . .
From some initial editorials, many Kurds seem none too pleased with Saddam's execution. . . .
With violence killing hundreds every week, Iraqis have other worries. Even celebrations in Shi'ite cities and Baghdad's Sadr City slum were brief and fairly restrained. . . .
[AP] U.S. troops cheered as news of Saddam's execution appeared on television at the mess hall at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in eastern Baghdad. But some soldiers expressed doubt that Saddam's death would be a significant turning point for Iraq.

"First it was weapons of mass destruction. Then when there were none, it was that we had to find Saddam. We did that, but then it was that we had to put him on trial," said Spc. Thomas Sheck, 25, who is on his second tour in Iraq. "So now, what will be the next story they tell us to keep us over here?"

[Atrios] Don't trouble your beautiful mind, Spc. Sheck. No one knows why we invaded Iraq, and no one really knows why we're staying. Just stay safe.


Don’t choke on the irony
[Glenn Greenwald] President Bush today hailed the critical importance of fair trials and the rule of law . . . . in Iraq . . . [read on!]
At one end of a converted trailer in the American military detention center here, a graying Pakistani businessman sat shackled before a review board of uniformed officers, pleading for his freedom. . . The prisoner had seen just a brief summary of what officials said was a thick dossier of intelligence linking him to Al Qaeda. He had not seen his own legal papers since they were taken away in an unrelated investigation. He has lawyers working on his behalf in Washington, London and Pakistan, but here his only assistance came from an Army lieutenant colonel, who stumbled as he read the prisoner’s handwritten statement.

As the hearing concluded, the detainee, who cannot be identified publicly under military rules, had a question. He is a citizen of Pakistan, he noted. He was arrested on a business trip to Thailand. On what authority or charges was he even being held?

“That question,” a Marine colonel presiding over the panel answered, “is outside the limits of what this board is permitted to consider.”

Under a law passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in October, this double-wide trailer may be as close to a courtroom as most Guantánamo prisoners ever get. The law prohibits them from challenging their detention or treatment by writs of habeas corpus in the federal courts. Instead, they may only petition a single federal appeals court to examine whether the review boards followed the military’s own procedures in reviewing their status as “enemy combatants.”

But an examination of the Guantánamo review boards by The New York Times suggests that they have often fallen short, not only as a source of due process for the hundreds of men held here, but also as a forum to resolve questions about what the detainees have done and the threats they may pose. . . . [read on]

Dubya: finishing the work his daddy left incomplete
"The sacrifice has been worth it," Bush said at a year-end news conference nine days before the execution. A few moments later, he added: "I haven't questioned whether or not it was right to take Saddam Hussein out." He stopped himself. "I mean, I've questioned it -- I've come to the conclusion that it was the right decision." . . .
When Mr. Hussein was captured, the president said: “Good riddance, the world is better off without you.” But he dismissed suggestions that a family grudge played a role in shaping his Iraq policy or influenced his decision to go to war. “My personal views,” he said, “aren’t important in this matter.”

But Mr. Buchanan, a longtime observer of the Bush political family in Texas, said that these were no ordinary archenemies and that setting aside personal views entirely seemed impossible. . . .
[David Kurtz] I'm still sorting through the post-hanging detritus this morning, but this passage from the New York Times, which Greg highlighted over at EC, captures the entire Iraq debacle:

Before the hanging was carried out in Baghdad, Mr. Bush went to sleep here at his ranch and was not roused when the news came.

And so it goes. . . .

This probably should stand as the definitive, final word on Saddam’s trial and hanging
[Matt Yglesias] I wasn't really focused on this issue because it seems obvious that, on the one hand, Saddam Hussein is a monster who the world will be well rid of and, on the other hand, that convicting and executing Saddam won't change anything that matters in Iraq or in the world. It is, however, actually worth noting a few things about this case. One, as Spencer notes in its zeal to avoid an international tribunal (Bush hates international law), we organized a total farce of a trial and wound up creating a kangaroo court to try a guilty man.

Second, Saddam was charged with the wrong crime. When you think "Saddam Hussein and crimes against humanity" your thoughts naturally turn to Halabja/Anfal. Prosecuting that case, however, raised awkward questions about Don Rumsfeld's meet-and-greet with Saddam Hussein . . .

The purpose of said visit, as people might recall were the American press not to have its head in the sand, was largely to reassure Saddam that the Reagan administration's public condemnation of Iraqi chemical weapons use against the Iranian military and Kurdish insurgents was not something Baghdad should take especially seriously. The State Department would condemn, but special envoy Rumsfeld was around to cut deals.

At any rate, as a result of Saddam's pending execution, prosecutions for further crimes, including matters related to Anfal, are now deemed unnecessary, and Rumsfeld and the rest of the Reagan national security team can escape scrutiny.

This, in turn, raises questions about the legal precedent being set by the case. Saddam is being executed for the specific charge of killing 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail in retaliation for a July 8, 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam. Saddam's legal team argued that given the state of war existing at the time between Iraq and Iran this fell under the purview of sound counterinsurgency strategy and said argument was rejected.

Fair enough, but compare this to, say, Fallujah. Thirteen civilians were killed when American soldiers opened fire on protesters. This led, in turn, to the murder and mutilation of four contractors employed by the US military. This led to a retaliatory military strike on the town by US and Iraqi government forces that local doctors claimed killed over 600 people. The Iraqi health ministry disputes that, arguing that "only" 271 civilians died in the attack, during which "more than half" of the city's homes were destroyed.

The exact same as what happened at Dujail? No. A completely different sort of thing? Also no. But if Dujail is worth a death sentence, then what's Fallujah worth? Five years? Ten? I don't really know. How about the people tortured to death after the Bush administration's decision to ignore international and domestic law regarding detentions and interrogations?

Which is all just to say that the Bush administration has every reason to seek to undermine international human rights law and the concept of international tribunals.


A new conventional wisdom starts to take root in Washington: were losing in Iraq because we haven’t been brutal and ruthless ENOUGH (well, gee, fellas, it’s not too late to start now. . . .)
[Jeff Goldstein] Let them, for one brief moment, bracket their partisan aggressions and reflect on what the US and its allies have done in removing this butcher from power—which, contrary to received wisdom, has made Iraq a far better place, if only for the moment potentially.

[Scott Lemieux] And as the year ends, I will reflect on and celebrate the fact that I made a trillion dollars this year, if only for the moment potentially. . .

This is what passes for good news these days
[AP] Despite concerns about a spike in unrest, Saturday's violence was not unusually high for Iraq. . .

The military reported the deaths of six more American troops...

[David Kurtz] December becomes the deadliest month of 2006 for U.S. troops, with 108 killed. . . . ]

In Baghdad, 12 bodies bearing signs of torture were also found in various parts of the city...

Two car bombs detonated one after another in a religiously mixed neighborhood of northwest Baghdad, killing 37 civilians and wounding 76...

Another 31 people died and 58 were injured when a bomb planted on a minibus exploded in a fish market...
[Stuart Varney, Fox News] “Well, let me put out something positive about Iraq, if I may for a second. Look, we took the fight to the enemy. We divided the enemy. The enemy is now fighting itself. America’s interest is surely being well-preserved and well-protected. We are in a fact, in a way, winning and preserving our interests.”

[Steve Benen] Silly me, I didn’t think anyone in this country could possibly perceive of the Iraqi civil war as a good thing. I stand corrected.

For that matter, it’s good to know that, when necessary, Fox News can find guest “news personalities” who are even less connected to reality than the network’s usual line-up. That, in and of itself, is an impressive feat.

Can you imagine if Fox News was a person’s only outlet for news and analysis?

Meanwhile. . . .
[Richard Clarke] As the president contemplates sending even more U.S. forces into the Iraqi sinkhole, he should consider not only the thousands of fatalities, the tens of thousands of casualties and the hundreds of billions of dollars already lost. He must also weigh the opportunity cost of taking his national security barons off all the other critical problems they should be addressing -- problems whose windows of opportunity are slamming shut, unheard over the wail of Baghdad sirens. . . .

Nope, nothing unusual here
The Justice Department is investigating whether the director of a multibillion-dollar oil-trading program at the Interior Department has been paid as a consultant for oil companies hoping for contracts. . . .


Now that the Democrats have the whip hand in Congress, suddenly all the chin-pullers are praising the virtues of bipartisanship (while under Republican control all we heard about – with admiration – was their “party discipline” and cold effectiveness in forcing their agenda through)

Atrios: a taxonomy of annoying political types

Sunday talk show line-ups
FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D).

THIS WEEK (ABC): Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) and his wife, Elizabeth Edwards.

NEWSMAKERS (C-SPAN): Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

FACE THE NATION (CBS): James Cannon, Gerald R. Ford biographer, and retired Army Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr., Ford White House chief of staff.

MEET THE PRESS (NBC): Presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

LATE EDITION (CNN): Sens. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.); Iraqi diplomat Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi; Shibley Telhami, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Vali Nasr, Naval Postgraduate School professor; former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski; former defense secretary William Cohen; and Laith Kubba, former Iraqi government spokesman.

Bonus item: Listen, laugh (thanks to Wally F. for the link)

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Saturday, December 30, 2006


It’s official: Saddam’s dead
[Josh Marshall] This thing is a sham, of a piece with the whole corrupt, disastrous sham that the war and occupation have been. Bush administration officials are the ones who leak the news about the time of the execution. One key reason we know Saddam's about to be executed is that he's about to be transferred from US to Iraqi custody, which tells you a lot. And, of course, the verdict in his trial gets timed to coincide with the US elections.

This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur -- phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us. . . . [read on!]
[Josh Marshall] [Reuters, December 29th] The White House declined to comment on the timing. . . . "That is a matter for the Iraqi people, we are observers to that process. They are a sovereign government and they will make their own decisions regarding carrying out justice," spokesman Scott Stanzel said in Crawford, Texas.

[AP, December 29th] An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saddam would be executed before 6 a.m. Saturday, or 10 p.m. Friday EST. . . . The time was agreed upon during a meeting Friday between U.S. and Iraqi officials, said the adviser, who declined to be quoted by name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
[Matt Yglesias] The deed is done. Sad to see even something as justice for a major-league war criminal rendered tawdry by this administration. Here's a report on the infamous Anfal Campaign that Saddam wasn't tried for in order to spare Donald Rumsfeld embarrassment.
[Juan Cole] Top Ten Ways the US Enabled Saddam Hussein . . .

Ethnic cleansing in Baghdad

Eh, who cares what THEY think?
The American military, once a staunch supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war, has grown increasingly pessimistic about chances for victory.

For the first time, more troops disapprove of the president's handling of the war than approve of it, according to the 2006 Military Times Poll.

When the military was feeling most optimistic about the war — in 2004 — 83% of poll respondents thought success in Iraq was likely. This year, that number has shrunk to 50%.

Only 35% of the military members polled this year said they approve of the way Bush is handling the war, and 42% said they disapprove . . .

Condi Rice: history will not be kind . . . .
With Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice having two years under her belt, now’s a good time to step back and consider her overall job performance. David Millikin makes the case that Rice has “few diplomatic successes to show for her efforts and fewer signs she plans to change course to improve the record.” . . .


Joe Lieberman moves, if possible, even further in the direction of neo-con apologist and warmonger. Could he really be lining up for a run on McCain’s ticket?
[BarbinMD] In an op-ed appearing in today's Washington Post, Joe Lieberman manages to hit every talking point from the Bush administration to support the escalation of the war in Iraq. From invoking September 11th, to denying the reality of civil war, to "victory in Iraq," he doesn't miss a beat. Rarely has such delusional, disingenuous flag-waving been seen outside of a White House press conference. . .


The Republicans: what do they stand for?
[Devilstower] Smaller government! That's it. Republicans have always stood for smaller government that promotes that good American "rugged individualism." . . .

Okay, maybe not. But fiscal responsibility. That's always been a Republican issue. . . .

So money's not their thing. Thank goodness they know how to manage the military. . . .

Well, if nothing else, you can always count on Republicans to be tough on crime. . . . [read it all!]

Bad news for three Republicans

The sharks are eating each other

The Democrats look to be shaping up a very aggressive agenda
Democrats postpone exercise of newfound power as the capital pauses to remember Ford, but on Thursday, when Congress is sworn in, House and Senate Democrats begin approving package to curb special interests’ sway by banning gifts and travel paid for by lobbyists. . . .
We are impressed and encouraged that incoming Democratic Senate and House leaders have served notice that legislating will be a full-time job for Members of Congress beginning next year, not just an activity undertaken as a break from campaigning. . . .
[Steve Benen] When the Military Commissions Act, which among other things suspended habeas corpus for suspected terrorists, went to the Senate floor in September, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) noted, “Surely as we are standing here, if this bill is passed and habeas corpus is stricken, we’ll be back on this floor again” after the courts reject the legislation.

We may not have to wait that long. Earlier this month, we saw the first inkling that the MCA might be revisited in 2007, but it now appears almost certain that the law will be re-examined by the new Democratic Senate. . . .

Will the House Dems block the results of the Florida 13th vote?

Bonus item: Quote of the day
[CNN White House correspondent Ed ] HENRY: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we're going to get him. Still don't have him. I know you are saying there's successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That's a failure.

[Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Frances Fragos] TOWNSEND: Well, I'm not sure -- it's a success that hasn't occurred yet. I don't know that I view that as a failure.

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Friday, December 29, 2006


Matt Yglesias nails it
Roughly speaking, the fixed point of the president's thinking is an unwillingness to admit that the venture has failed. For a long time the best way to do that was to simply deny that there was a problem. Political strategy for the midterms, however, dictated that the president had to acknowledge the public's concerns about the war and concede that things weren't going well. At that point, simply staying the course doesn't work anymore. But de-escalating would be an admission of failure, so the only option is to choose escalation. Thus, the idea of an escalation starts getting pushed and we start reading things in the paper like "Top military officials have said that they are open to sending more U.S. troops to Iraq if there is a specific strategic mission for them." Consider the process here. It's not that the president has some policy initiative in mind whose operational requirements dictate a surge in force levels. Rather, locked in the prison of his own denial he came to the conclusion that he should back an escalation, prompting the current search for a mission.
[Josh Marshall] To put it simply, the presidential is neither psychologically nor politically capable of leaving Iraq. The 2006 election made it clear the current course can't be sustained politically. Even his own party won't back it. That leaves escalation as the only alternative. All that's left is a rationale for doing so. And that's what the president is now working on.

That doesn't mean that in theory there couldn't be a good argument for escalation, only that whatever it is, it has nothing to do with why the president is in favor of escalation. Because if it did he would have called for it at some point over the last three years. And he didn't. . .
[AJ] One of the most frustrating things about all this talk of escalation is that the debate is over whether or not we should add more troops instead of what mission the troops will ostensibly be attempting. It's not, "Will 30,000 more troops be able to accomplish Mission X," but rather "Will 30,000 troops improve the situation" or quell the violence or some such thing. Haven't we all recognized that the current strategy in Iraq is failing? Hasn't just about everybody admitted that, including the two-years-behind-everything pundit class? And if so, how has the conversation gone from changing strategy to changing how many young men and women are on the ground trying to implement that failed strategy?

[NB: I said this a week or so ago. Bush feels he HAS to do something dramatic, and he won’t reduce the number of troops, so there isn’t any choice: increasing the troops is “doing something dramatic.” But with no specified mission, there is no determinate criterion for how long they will need to be there or what will constitute “success” – aside from the usual mantra of creating an Iraq government capable of sustaining itself, blah, blah, blah. What, EXACTLY, these additional troops might do to hasten that objective remains an open question. And so while this “temporary increase” is unlikely to serve any concrete purpose, there will be no basis for bringing them home – hence, it won’t in fact be temporary]

[Greg Mitchell] There are several problems with this, of course. For one thing, who is to say, in advance, that this will actually prove to be a mere “surge” of troops versus a long-term buildup? What is the time limit for a “surge” to recede before it seems semi-permanent? A few months, as the White House has suggested? Or a year or more, as some of its outside backers demand, saying anything less would be futile?

Then there’s this: How many troops would indicate a mere “surge” versus a “large buildup”? Would 30,000 or less qualify for surge, but 40,000 or more represent a “large buildup”? . . .

One other little problem: new Defense Sect’y – and former ISG member – Robert Gates is reportedly against the increase. He has certainly heard the generals say they will only support it in the context of a clearly stated mission and purpose. Will he be heeded, or brushed aside?
With President Bush leaning toward sending more soldiers to pacify Iraq, his defense secretary is privately opposing the buildup.

According to two administration officials who asked not to be named, Robert Gates expressed his skepticism about a troop surge in Iraq on his first day on the job, December 18, at a Pentagon meeting with civilians who oversee the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines. . . .


After that WH-inspired flurry of “troops support the surge” stories last week, someone . . . . gee . . . . actually asked the troops themselves
[AP] Many of the American soldiers trying to quell sectarian killings in Baghdad don't appear to be looking for reinforcements. They say a surge in troop levels some people are calling for is a bad idea. . . .[read on]

Well, now everyone can see how open the Bush gang actually is toward hearing a range of opposing views on their Iraq policy
[Matt Yglesias] I don't know when Scott Stanzel started working as a White House spokesman, but his rejoinder to Joe Biden's anti-escalation views doesn't make much sense: "I would hope that Senator Biden would wait to hear what the president has to say before announcing what he's opposed to." So while the Decider dithers none of us are allowed to offer our opinions about what he should do? I suppose it would be convenient for the White House message team if things worked that way.
[Atrios] According to the White House, no one is allowed to comment on hypothetical plans for Iraq until the Decider has Decided. . . .

Did anybody see this?
[Atrios] Bush just gave a brief talk which consisted mostly of his usually blather, but he almost seemed frightened. It was weird.

[NB: This makes me wonder. The Boy King has finally backed himself into a corner in which, if this last-ditch effort fails, there are no more rabbits to pull out of the hat: either we slog through a quagmire for the remainder of his administration; or he admits he was wrong and agrees to a troop withdrawal; or things get worse (yes, they could get much, much worse) – and he will have no one left to blame. If the ISG accomplished nothing else, they seem to have given Bush a glimpse of the likely aftermath of his folly: a judgment of historic failure even from his natural allies. Yes, he should be frightened]

Is his support for troop escalation in Iraq hurting John McCain? (one can only hope)

Joe Lieberman almost lets the cat out of the bag
[Daniel Politi] Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut writes an op-ed piece for the Post today where he explains why he thinks more troops need to be sent to Iraq. "More U.S. forces might not be a guarantee of success in this fight, but they are certainly its prerequisite." Lieberman never specifies how many more troops are needed but he does insist "the war is winnable." The senator also emphasizes these extra troops must come with a "new military, political, and economic strategy" in order to be successful.

Iraqi troop readiness – just around the corner, right? Right? Uh, hello?
[Bob Johnson] There is no Iraqi army. And the police forces are even worse. . . .

A reporter returns to Baghdad
[Hannah Allam] When I was last here in 2005, it took guts and guards, but you could still travel to most anywhere in the capital. Now, there are few true neighborhoods left. They're mostly just cordoned-off enclaves in various stages of deadly sectarian cleansing. Moving trucks piled high with furniture weave through traffic, evidence of an unfolding humanitarian crisis involving hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced Iraqis. . . . [read on!]

Former President Gerald Ford questions Bush policy. Therefore, Ford – must – be – destroyed. . .
[Bill Bennett – a prince, ain’t he?] Since "decency" seems to be the watchword of the day and the consensus modifier for Jerry Ford (a view with which I generally concur), may I nevertheless be permitted to ask this: just how decent, how courageous, is what Jerry Ford did with Bob Woodward? . . .

The new lie: former Presidents never criticize current ones (I guess it’s different when Republicans do it to Democrats)

Why Ford REALLY pardoned Nixon
[WP] "I looked upon him as my personal friend. And I always treasured our relationship. And I had no hesitancy about granting the pardon, because I felt that we had this relationship and that I didn't want to see my real friend have the stigma." . . . [read on]

More on Bush’s tipping point

The Goofus Files
I fully understand it's important to have both Republicans and Democrats understanding the importance of this mission. . . . [read on]

An homage to Billmon

Bonus item: We’re lucky they’re so dumb

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Has anyone asked yet, if “the surge” is temporary, and not a permanent escalation, how long will it last?
[Fred Kagan] Reports on the Bush administration's efforts to craft a new strategy in Iraq often use the term "surge" but rarely define it. Estimates of the number of troops to be added in Baghdad range from fewer than 10,000 to more than 30,000. Some "surges" would last a few months, others a few years.

We need to cut through the confusion. Bringing security to Baghdad -- the essential precondition for political compromise, national reconciliation and economic development -- is possible only with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops lasting 18 months or so. Any other option is likely to fail. . . .
[Atrios] Frederick Kagan wants to send a lot of other people to go fight his war for an even longer time . . .
[John Podhoretz] "The key here is time. A 'temporary' troop surge will be a disaster." . . .


The Democrats seem to have decided how to deal with Bush’s war escalation proposal,0,2689647.story
After years of playing a marginal role in the Iraq war, congressional Democrats plan to move quickly next month to assert more control and undercut any White House effort to increase troop levels.

As President Bush prepares to outline his plan for Iraq in a major speech in the next few weeks, Democratic leaders will counter with weeks of oversight hearings, summoning military officers, administration officials and foreign policy experts to Capitol Hill.

The Democratic plans put Congress on a collision course with Bush over the direction of the nearly 4-year-old war. And they signal a new phase in a war that had been directed almost exclusively by the White House with little dissent from the GOP-controlled Capitol. . . .
At today's press gaggle in Crawford, Texas, Scott Stanzel, pinch-hitting for White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. . . Asked about the president's reaction to Sen. Joseph Biden's outright rejection of Bush's rumored plan to escalate the conflict in Iraq by sending 30,000 or more new troops there, Stanzel replied, "Well, I hope that Senator Biden would wait to hear what the President has to say before announcing what he's opposed to. President Bush will talk soon to our troops, to the American people and to the Iraqi people about the new way forward in Iraq that will lead to a democratic and unified country that can sustain, govern, and defend itself.

"So the President has been listening to a lot of different people, whether it's on Capitol Hill, whether it's members of the Iraq Study Group, whether it's talking with the Iraqis directly, and he appreciates the input. But certainly in terms of Senator Biden, we would hope that he, too, would also wait to hear what the President has to say before announcing his opposition."

Bad war = good politics?
[Greg Sargent] Sit down, everyone. I think I've found what is far and away the most perfect example of "no-matter-how-bad-it-gets-it's-helpful-to-Bush" punditry ever produced anywhere. . . .

Bad war = bad politics
[Kos] Regardless of efforts by Bush and McCain to escalate the war in Iraq, there's a growing contingent of Republican legislators who fear that the continued (and escalated) mess in Iraq may create catastrophic losses in 2008. . . .


For every impossible problem that official Washington faces, there is a blue-ribbon panel, and for every panel there is a predictable life cycle, which the Iraq Study Group has so far followed to a fault.

First, the unrealistic expectations, fueled by feverish news coverage, including speculation and leaks about just what might be proposed. Next, the report’s grand unveiling, complete with White House photo op . . . And then, inevitably, the letdown.

Remember, for example, the Social Security commission of 2001? Neither do most Americans. The question now is whether a similar demise awaits the report of the Iraq Study Group — impeccably researched, comprehensive, bipartisan and having no legal authority beyond that of friendly advice. . . .

The same geopolitical big thinkers who brought you the Wonderful War in Iraq are busily at work on their sequel, the Wonderful War in Iran

Where is it written that you can’t call the President a liar?
[Eleanor Clift] In the spirit of holding our political leaders accountable, this year-end review will tabulate the worst lies told by Bush and company . . . [read on!]

The kind of people they are: multiple editions
[Steve Benen] National Review’s Cliff May published this comment today from an unnamed Marine in Iraq.

[M]orale among our guys is very high. They not only believe that they are winning, but that they are winning decisively. They are stunned and dismayed by what they see in the American press, whom they almost universally view as against them. The embedded reporters are despised and distrusted. They are inflicting casualties at a rate of 20-1 and then see shit like “Are we losing in Iraq” on TV and the print media. For the most part, they are satisfied with their equipment, food and leadership. Bottom line though, and they all say this, is that there are not enough guys there to drive the final stake through the heart of the insurgency, primarily because there aren’t enough troops in-theater to shut down the borders with Iran and Syria.

In other words, here’s a Marine who, coincidentally, is repeating the exact talking points approved by the White House and supporters of the war. Sure, the Marine’s reported perspective seems completely at odds with everything we know about the crisis — indeed, it even conflicts with some of the president’s own concessions last week — but the National Review was fortunate enough to hear from a soldier willing to tell the magazine what Cliff May wanted to hear.

Except, there’s a catch. The nearly identical text from May’s NR post was part of a widely disseminated email from over a year ago. Worse, there were slight deviations in the original text in 2005, which made it difficult to confirm its authenticity.

As Justin Rood put it, “Despite a civil war and mounting body counts on all sides, the National Review folks can still find good news coming out of Iraq. Too bad it’s over a year old and of questionable provenance.” . . .
[Ann Althouse] A key question -- with an unknowable answer -- is: How many Americans would have died in post-9/11 attacks if we had not chosen the path of fighting back?

[Scott Lemieux] Well, the answer is indeed unknowable, but given that Iraq had no substantial connection to Anti-American terrorism and posed no security threat whatsoever to the United States, the overwhelmingly likely answer is "zero." Whatever Iraq was, it wasn't "fighting back" against the Islamic radicals who actually attacked New York. . . .[read on]
[Digby] I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying watching Bob Dole drone on about how civility is broken down in Washington since the good old days when he and Jer were on the campaign trail. This is the same Bob Dole who was known as "the Prince of Darkness" back in the day --- the guy who was chosen for the GOP ticket in 1976 to pander to the rabid right and who said in the VP debate, "I figured it up the other day: If we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans . . .”

Even after the “desperately needed” bill was rushed through Congress to give Bush’s Gitmo tribunal system some superficial legitimacy, they still only plan to charge a small fraction of the prisoners there. But they need a new $125 million courthouse to do it!

The updated and revised list of government data, reports, etc. the Bush gang never wants to see the light of day

House Democrats have said they will treat the GOP minority more respectfully than the Republicans treated them. Is this a good idea?

No, I’m not buying the hagiographies of Gerald Ford. I remember the reaction when he pardoned Richard Nixon . . .
[Bob Woodward] Ford had been in office only a month. The pardon came as a surprise -- to Congress and the public -- and it unleashed a wave of outrage and suspicion. Had there been a deal between Nixon and Ford promising a pardon in exchange for Nixon's resignation? . . .
Gallup has put out a blurb noting that Gerald Ford was apparently one of the least popular presidents of the post-WW2 era . . .

[Atrios] We are told again and again that what they nation needed was "to heal." That "the turmoil" needed to be over. That it was necessary to move on.

But these are the Wise Old Men talking, not of the country but of their beloved Washington. The turmoil was in their city, not in the country. While they speak as if they know what's best for us, in truth they simply know what's best for them. . . .

Ford’s secret interviews
[Joe in DC] The former President did an embargoed interview with Bob Woodward back in July of 2004. The Post also has the audio of the interviews on the website. Ford was none too happy with Bush and his former staffers, Cheney and Rummy, about Iraq. . . .

[Helvidius] The buzz is that after leaving office in 1977, President Gerald Ford gave an interview to a weekly news magazine that was not to be released until he died. According to those who remember it, the speculation at the time was that there might be some revelations in it. . . .

We are all vegans now?
[John Aravosis] Bush's FDA may approve meat and milk from cloned animals this week . . .

[ABC] If FDA approval goes through, the question is how and whether cloned meat and milk will be clearly marked so consumers know what they're buying. Experts say that may be unlikely.

"It's very possible that these products will end up on the grocery store shelves without any specific label identifying them as having come from cloned animals," said Michael Fernandez, executive director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology.

The NRA’s agitprop (thanks to Steve Benen for the link)

Looks like Billmon, who has taken brief sabbaticals before, is hanging up his blog for good. Well, I for one will miss him greatly – he’s one of the reasons I started blogging myself

Bonus item: “Laughing Liberally” – don’t . . . miss . . . it!

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


So much for the idea that the spike in Iraq violence in October and November was just intended to influence the U.S. elections, and not a trend
Seven more American service members have been killed in Iraq, the U.S. military reported Tuesday. It is the second deadliest month of the year for troops. . . .

What are we fighting for?
A military action against a police station in the southern city of Basra found prisoners being held in conditions that a British military spokesman, Major Charlie Burbridge, described as "appalling."

More than 100 men were crowded into a single cell, about 9 meters by 12 meters, or 30 feet by 40 feet, he said, with two open toilets, two sinks and just a few blankets spread over the concrete floor.

A significant number showed signs of torture. Some had crushed hands and feet, Burbridge said, while others had cigarette and electrical burns and a significant number had gunshot wounds to their legs and knees. . .

The fetid dungeon was another example of abuses by the Iraqi security forces. The discovery highlighted the continuing struggle to combat the infiltration of the police and army by militias and criminal elements . . . .


Can Bush meet public expectations with his much-anticipated “New and Improved Plan for Victory. . . errr. . . . Success . . . uh. . . Acceptable Defeat in Iraq”?

“The Surge”: more trouble for Bush’s escalation plans
[TAP] Currently there are no active or reserve Army combat units outside of Iraq and Afghanistan that are rated as "combat ready." To ensure that troops fighting in Iraq have the equipment they need, units rotating out of Iraq have been leaving behind their equipment for units taking their place. The units that return home are so depleted that the Marines have been referring to this phase as the "post-deployment death spiral." . . . . [read on]

[Miss Laura] Plans to increase troops in Iraq also come against the backdrop of further American fatalities in that country, bringing the number to 90 for December, with Iraqi fatalities also continuing at a high rate. But what would this accomplish? Would briefly "surging" 30,000 more troops into Iraq produce the "victory" that Bush seems to require at any cost? . . . . They can't even go into part of Baghdad and we're supposed to believe that a proportionately tiny increase in troop levels is going to do anything more than put more American soldiers in harm's way, when too many already are? . . .

Here’s how they plan to expand the U.S. military: recruit more foreigners (i.e., non-U.S. citizens). No, I’m not kidding. This would be the most unpopular idea since Dubai Ports World
[Boston Globe] The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of noncitizens in the ranks -- including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and putting more immigrants on a faster track to US citizenship if they volunteer . . .

[Steve Benen] Let me get this straight: The Pentagon is open to having people who aren't American citizens serve in the military, but they're not open to having well-trained, patriotic, law-abiding Americans serve, if they happen to be gay.


More signs of recruiting desperation
[John Aravosis] I'm sorry, but the new US military TV ads strike me as extremely offensive. They involve kids talking to a parent and explaining to that parent why the kid shouldn't go to college, but rather, should go join the military.

Excuse me, but in what universe does the US government, or anyone else for that matter, try to convince our kids NOT to go to college? And spare me the "the commercial says they can go AFTER they finish their military service. Yes, they can, if they're still alive and not one of the growing number of US troops suffering from post-tramautic stress disorder. . . .

One of the legacies of Bush’s pre-war lies is that his defenders have been put in the position of defending the notion that, once you decide war is “necessary,” anything you have to do to justify it in the public mind becomes fair game. Now they’re doing it with Iran. . . .
[Matthew Yglesias] I don't want to ruin anyone's post-Christmas day of recovery, but this Glenn Reynolds post is really distressing. Some Iranian officials come to Iraq, get themselves taken prisoner by the American military, and Reynolds sees this as a convenient pretext for the United States to launch a war with Iran. But what's the pretext? And why should we be looking for excuses to start a war with Iran?

The American military said Tuesday that it had credible evidence linking Iranians and their Iraqi associates, detained here in raids last week, to criminal activities, including attacks against American forces. . . .

Just another coincidence, I’m sure
[RP] Last we heard was just before the elections, now comes this news, out of the blue that Saddam has to be sentenced within the next 30 days. Would it not then put it right before the state of the union address so that the Commander-in-chief and after all the surge in negative discussion from the announcement about a surge in troops. Is the surge even to stem the violence backlash from the sentencing. I am not wiling to overlook any conspiracy theory by this corrupt bunch.

[NB: Well, he was SENTENCED just before the election. Nice timing, but it didn’t help. Now he has to be EXECUTED within 30 days. And, yes, expect something horrific in retaliation]

Here’s what THEY expect
President Bush "is bracing for what could be an onslaught of investigations by the new Democratic-led Congress by hiring lawyers to fill key White House posts and preparing to play defense on countless document requests and possible subpoenas," according to the Baltimore Sun.

"Bush is moving quickly to fill vacancies within his stable of lawyers, though White House officials say there are no plans to drastically expand the legal staff to deal with a flood of oversight."

Robo-calls: scourge of the electoral season, and a significant source of mischief. Looks like the Dems will do something about them
New poll: two-thirds of registered voters got a robo call this past election.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) says a bill making harrassing robo calls a crime will be among the first 10 bills he introduces in the next Senate.
In the wake of massive robocalling by the GOP and pro-GOP groups during the midterm elections, three more states have joined Missouri in considering legislation to ban robocalls to people on state Do Not Call lists.
Nebraska to investigate robocalls. . . .
DC lobbying giant Dutko Worldwide behind election robocalls. . . .

Are we finally going to see a decent national health care plan?

Part Two of Anonymous Liberal’s program for more honesty in politics (good luck)

The political year in review (and quite a year it was)

Digby asks an interesting question: What was the tipping point that started the downward shift in public attitudes toward Bush? There are so many choices: Katrina, Social Security, Abramoff, etc.


Theocracy watch (Democratic edition): trying to pull evangelicals into the party – but at what cost?
[Steve Benen] The NYT has a fascinating piece today on Democratic strategist Mara Vanderslice, and her 2-year-old consulting firm, Common Good Strategies, which aims to help the Democratic Party and its candidates appeal to theologically conservative voters. . . .

[NYT] In an interview, she said she told candidates not to use the phrase “separation of church and state,” which does not appear in the Constitution’s clauses forbidding the establishment or protecting the exercise of religion.

“That language says to people that you don’t want there to be a role for religion in our public life,” Ms. Vanderslice said. “But 80 percent of the public is religious, and I think most people are eager for that kind of debate.”


Bonus item: Judicial temperament?
[St Louis Post-Dispatch] Chapter 1 of Circuit Judge Robert H. Dierker Jr.’s book, “The Tyranny of Tolerance: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault,” has circulated via e-mail since last month and been widely read in legal circles, lawyers and judges say.

The sentiments expressed in that chapter, which frequently uses the term “femifascists” and is titled “The Cloud Cuckooland of Radical Feminism,” have already prompted a complaint with the state body that can reprimand or remove judges.

Other judges and lawyers have said that Dierker may have violated a state rule against a judge using his or her position for personal profit. One judge said it would be surprising if Dierker was not removed, calling the book “professional suicide.” . . . .

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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Juan Cole: Top Ten Myths about Iraq
Myth number one is that the United States "can still win" in Iraq. . . .

Myth number Eleven (thank to Atrios for the link)
[Tom Donelson] Every bit of strategy that is being discussed is based on the idea that we are losing. The Democratic opposition is based on the idea that we are losing. The media mantra is that we are losing. What if we are not?

In my December 10th entry, I observed that the Iraqi economy is doing quite well. . . One meaning of all of this is that we may not be losing after all. If most of the country is prospering and Iraqis are forming new businesses, then can we assume that overall, we are indeed winning? . . .

[NB: Uh, Tom, when the Sect’y of Defense and even Bush himself are forced to admit that we are not winning, you can be sure we are NOT winning. But in typical wingnut fashion, any bad news MUST be a fabrication of the liberal media.]

Building a bigger Army and Marines won’t be as easy as it sounds,1,5202562.story
By raising incentives and bonus money, adding recruiters and continuing to increase the military advertising budget, the Army should be able to sign up an extra 10,000 people a year within the current all-volunteer system, according to many military experts. But they add that an extra 10,000 soldiers would cost at least $1.2 billion extra annually. . . .

Supporters of the volunteer force say it is of much higher quality than that of the draft era, which ended in 1973. Critics, however, suggest that the Army already has lowered its standards to meet recruiting goals and would have to lower them even more to meet a larger goal.

Since the beginning of the Iraq war, the number of recruits with high school diplomas has fallen sharply . . .

Honest budgeting – what a concept!
Top lawmakers are pressing President George W. Bush to stop using a "shadow budget" to fund the Iraq war and instead list the expected costs in the 2008 spending plan he is set to unveil early next year.

Total war spending may reach $170 billion for the 2007 fiscal year that ends September 30, a record. . . .

[NB: And, of course, blowing his phony claims about “deficit reduction” out of the water just in time for the 2008 election]

Investigation into fraudulent Katrina spending: $1 billion, and counting

Poor George
President Bush marched into his year-end news conference last week with the usual zip in his step. As always, he professed little worry about his legacy or the polls. As always, he said the United States would win in Iraq. The nation might despair, but not Mr. Bush; his presidential armor seemed firmly intact.

Yet a longtime friend of Mr. Bush’s recently spotted a tiny crack in that armor. . .
Immediately after the beating his party took in November, President Bush indicated that he had received the message that voters wanted change, and that he would serve some up fast. He ousted his defense secretary, announced a full-scale review of his war plan and contritely agreed with critics that progress in Iraq was not happening “well enough, fast enough.”

But in the last two weeks, the critics and even some allies say, they have seen a reversal. Mr. Bush has shrugged off suggestions by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that he enlist the help of Iran and Syria in the effort to stabilize Iraq. Countering suggestions that he begin thinking of bringing troops home, he has engaged in deliberations over whether to send more. And he has adjusted the voters’ message away from Iraq, saying on Wednesday, “I thought the election said they want to see more bipartisan cooperation.” . . .

Democrats warn — and some Republicans privately say they fear — that Mr. Bush is in for a dousing of cold water when he returns from his ranch in Crawford, Tex., in the new year to face a new, Democratic-controlled Congress ready to try out its muscle. His recent moves have already caused a fair degree of crankiness among his newly empowered governing partners. . . .

It seems we’re getting these stories almost on a daily basis now
The Justice Department is building a massive database . . . .

Curt Weldon's (R-PA) crazy “Able Danger” conspiracy theory gets the burial it deserves,0,3149507.story
The Senate Intelligence Committee has rejected as untrue one of the most disturbing claims about the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes — a congressman's contention that a team of military analysts identified Mohamed Atta or other hijackers before the attacks . . . The conclusion contradicts assertions by Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) and a few military officers that U.S. national security officials ignored startling intelligence available in early 2001 that might have helped to prevent the attacks. . . .


Think Piece of the Day
The Paradox at the Heart of Modern Politics
[Anonymous Liberal] As a political junkie and a litigator who works primarily with large corporate clients, I’ve come to appreciate that there is a fundamental disconnect between the assumptions that underlie the prevailing approach to and coverage of political issues in this country and the assumptions that drive our policies in virtually every other context. . . .

Bonus item: Steve Benen gives out his Christmas list

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Monday, December 25, 2006


While waiting for the seven-year-old to come downstairs. . .

Ethnic cleansing in Baghdad (is there another word for it?)
[NYT] As the United States debates what to do in Iraq, this country’s Shiite majority has been moving toward its own solution: making the capital its own.

Large portions of Baghdad have become Shiite in recent months, as militias press their fight against Sunni militants deeper into the heart of the capital, displacing thousands of Sunni residents. At least 10 neighborhoods that a year ago were mixed Sunni and Shiite are now almost entirely Shiite, according to residents, American and Iraqi military commanders and local officials. . .

Where does this lead? U.S. holding Iranian prisoners
The Bush administration made no public announcement of the politically delicate seizure of the Iranians, though in response to specific questions the White House confirmed Sunday that the Iranians were in custody.
[Daniel Politi] The actual significance of these seizures is unclear as no one tells the paper what kind of proof exists that these Iranians carried out, or were planning on carrying out, attacks.

What does seem clear though, is that Iraqi government officials aren't too happy with the situation, especially at a time when they're trying to talk with Iran regarding security matters. Some contend that it could all be related to the U.S. trying to make a point of how direct talks with Iran would be ineffective. Naturally, U.S. officials deny there is any relation. Regardless, it appears to be the first time Iranian citizens are being held under these suspicions, and some U.S. officials admit this could finally help prove their long-held assertions that Iran is somehow involved with the violence in Iraq. . .

There’s been a difficulty in getting any Republicans to speak on the record concerning Bush’s new war escalation. Well, that’s about to change
[O]ne veteran Republican congressman says he is "highly skeptical" that a surge will have any real effect on the ground. Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), who won re-election after a hard-fought campaign, was surprisingly candid in an interview with the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette . . .

Paul Wolfowitz, you might recall, was one of the main architects of the Iraq War, and the Grand Vision of Middle East Transformation that motivated it. Wolfie is gone now, off to the World Bank to do more good for humanity. But now that his war has gone to sh-t, you might think he has some explaining to do. Yes, you might . . .,0,486708.story
[Sonni Efron] [T]oday, as the policies he put in place come crashing down, Wolfowitz is nowhere to be found — at least not at the Pentagon. In fact, he left in 2005 to become president of the World Bank, where he has been busy trying to save Africa. . .

What is particularly disturbing is that Wolfowitz is visibly delighting in his role as one of the world's highest-profile (publicly funded) philanthropists — while saying barely a word about the catastrophe in Iraq. . .

I invited Wolfowitz to comment, telling us his views on Iraq or the problem of democracy in the radicalized Middle East. He declined, but e-mailed this response: "I'm not a U.S. official any more and unfortunately not a private citizen either. I work for 184 countries that expect me to do the job at the World Bank. I would like nothing better than to be able to get involved in this debate [over Iraq]. I would particularly like to be able to clear the record of some of the garbage about myself personally, but if I start doing that, the people I work for would say, 'You are not doing your job, you are getting mixed up in something that is a distraction from the message that we would like you to deliver.' I have spoken to heads of 11 African countries, I have spoken to ordinary people, I have spoken to civil society groups; none of them care about my role in Iraq, they care about what I do in the World Bank."

More on whether Bush is going to try to claim bipartisan BLAME for the war, now that it’s going so badly – when he and his people were very careful not to share any CREDIT with the Democrats when it was going relatively well

Give a kid a hammer. . .
[Devilstower] There's nothing the Bush administration likes more than slipping out embarrassing documents on a Friday, with hopes that they'll be forgotten by Monday. And what better Friday for burying reports than the Friday before Christmas?

Among the documents hustled out this week is a report on the Secure Flight program. This was a program that allowed creation of "profiles" of travelers so that trusted folks could be hustled along, while suspected terrorists could be quickly stopped. . . [T]he program has been challenged repeatedly over privacy concerns. It includes not only the few fields directly input by DHS, but also links to data held in commercial databases maintained by Acxiom, Insight America and Qsent. This data included everything from purchasing patterns to Social Security nmbers. Data which DHS promised would be very closely held.

That promise turned out to be untrue. . . .

This program was already found to be in violation of privacy laws in a report issued last year, but the DHS seems to have responded by collecting more and spreading it further. Having promised that it would not create portfolios on Americans, the DHS next step was to create. . . portfolios on Americans. Naturally, there is no means for anyone to view or correct the information in this profile.

Paired with the report on Secure Flight was another on the now thankfully defunct, "MATRIX" system. . .

Among the tidbits in this report is the news that, although MATRIX was sold as a system for locating terrorists, over 97% of investigations that were launched by the program had nothing to do with terrorism.

Just wait until the new Congress starts looking into the Bush gang’s military spending and procurement practices
The Defense Department paid two procurement operations at the Department of the Interior to arrange for Pentagon purchases totaling $1.7 billion that resulted in excessive fees and tens of millions of dollars in waste, documents show.

Defense turned to Interior, which manages federal lands and resources, in an effort to speed up its contracting. Interior is one of several government agencies allowed to manage contracts for other agencies in exchange for a fee.

But the arrangement between Interior and Defense "routinely violated rules designed to protect U.S. Government interests," according to draft audit documents obtained by The Washington Post.

More than half of the contracts examined were awarded without competition or without checks to determine that the prices were reasonable, according to the audits by the inspectors general for Defense (DOD) and Interior (DOI). Ninety-two percent of the work reviewed was awarded without verifying that the contractors' cost estimates were accurate; 96 percent was inadequately monitored. . .

Good for him: Lindsey Graham (R-SC) lays it on Virgil Goode (R-VA)
“I don't think that's the appropriate line for a congressman to take when it comes time for another congressman to take the oath. Why would you swear allegiance to a document outside your faith? In our legal system, people can take the oath in a variety of ways.

Religious diversity is a strength, not a weakness in this country.

We need immigration reform, but not for the reasons that Mr. Goode cited. What would happen in this country if a Christian were elected in Lebanon and he had to swear allegiance to the Koran when it came time for them to take office? There would be an outcry in this country.

So I embrace religious diversity. I welcome this new member of Congress. I'm glad he's swearing allegiance to a document that is consistent with his faith. . .

[T]he statements by Virgil Goode do not represent the best of who we are as a nation. . . .”

Theocracy watch: You probably saw the story on Bush’s pardons and commutations for seventeen lucky recipients. Well, fine, that’s something Presidents do. But a relative of mine knows about one of the cases, and the lucky recipient experienced a born-again conversion in prison. That got me wondering whether this was just another piece in Bush’s faith-based grand plan for outsourcing rehabilitation and other social services to religious organizations (and channeling millions in public dollars to them in the process). It’s certainly a great sales pitch when these services can point to successful pardons and early releases as a consequence of their ministrations. Then I started looking into the “Second Chance Act” . . . .
President Bush issued 16 pardons Thursday and commuted the sentence of an Iowa man convicted of drug charges. . .
The G.O.P., the party of Richard Nixon’s 1968 law-and-order campaign and the Willie Horton commercial, is beginning to embrace the idea that prisoners have not only souls that need saving but also flesh that needs caring for in this world. Increasingly, Republicans are talking about helping ex-prisoners find housing, drug treatment, mental-health counseling, job training and education. They’re also reconsidering some of the more punitive sentencing laws for drug possession. The members of this nascent movement include a number of politicians not previously known for their attention to prisoners’ rights. . . .

By some measures, the Second Chance Act is a small bill. It authorizes less than $100 million over two years to address a significant problem: about 700,000 ex-offenders (the population of a good-size American city) will leave prison in 2007 — and two-thirds of them are likely to be rearrested within three years. The bill would provide states with grants to develop model programs for prisoners returning to society. . . . The bill also provides money to faith-based organizations and other nonprofits for prisoner-mentoring programs. . . .

The Bill:
This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Second Chance Act of 2005: Community Safety Through Recidivism Prevention’’ . . .

Faith leaders and parishioners have a long history helping ex-offenders transform their lives. Through prison ministries and outreach in communities, churches and faith-based organizations have pioneered reentry services to prisoners and their families. . .

When evangelicals find out that some of their very own church leaders are gay, you might think it would cause them some cognitive dissonance about whether homosexuals are actually as terrible and dangerous as they believe them to be. But, wadda ya know – that’s not their reaction at all
[Digby] [S]ome conservative evangelicals have decided to deal with all the closeted homosexuality in their clergy by starting a homo-rehab program. . .

The thing I don't get about this is that these people are absolutely sure that homosexuality is a choice. But evangelical pastors are obviously not "choosing" to have a hidden gay life. They believe it's sinful and they hate themselves for it. They, of all people, would not "choose" such a thing. It must be such a strong, fundamental question of identity that they are unable to resist it. . . .

Eleanor Clift of Newsweek publishes a year-end list of Bush’s lies. But what it really represents is a year-end list of stories the press didn’t bother to look into rigorously enough

Plame developments
[AP] Two news organizations are asking a federal judge to unseal documents in the case of a CIA agent whose name was leaked, arguing that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald never needed the testimony of reporters who were threatened with jail time because he knew the source of the leak all along. ... Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has acknowledged being Novak's source ... He also said he told Fitzgerald about the conversation as soon as the investigation began. Lawyers for the news organizations [the AP and Dow Jones] said the public has the right to know why Fitzgerald testified that he needed the testimony of reporters to continue the investigation. The only way to know that, the lawyers argued, is to unseal Fitzgerald's affidavits and the court's full legal opinion on the issue.

Bonus item: The Washington Post ombudswoman (Deborah Howell) needs an ombudswoman. . . .
[BarbinMD] [A]pparently Deborah Howell thinks that, in the interest of an unbiased report on Deborah Howell, who better to write it than Deborah Howell?

So let's look at her review of her year by her. She begins by telling us that the most important part of her job is dealing with complaints and that most, "have been resolved satisfactorily or I have disagreed with the reader." Well, okay then. . . . [read on!]


***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Hmmm. . . . more on that much ballyhooed “shift” in the recommendations of the generals over Bush’s war escalation. Turns out, only General George Casey actually changed his line (maybe) – the “shift” was mainly a matter of ASKING DIFFERENT GENERALS
The LA Times reports today that "top U.S. military commanders in Iraq" are now in favor of a "surge" of troops to bolster Bush's failing Iraq strategy.

[NB: Not counting General Abizaid, the new Forgotten Man]

This comes a few days after the Washington Post reported that the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously oppose such an increase.

This apparent conflict in the military chain of command was resolved for LA Times readers with the help of the latest White House talking point. The Joint Chiefs are nothing more than one of Bush's many advisers . . .

General Flip-Flop?
Until recently, the top ground commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., has argued that sending more American forces into Baghdad and Anbar Province, the two most violent regions of Iraq, would increase the Iraqi dependency on Washington, and in the words of one senior official, “make this feel more like an occupation.” . . .
It was one year ago today that General George Casey, the commander of Multinational Forces in Iraq said . . . [read on]
It was unclear, however, whether Casey was genuinely supporting a buildup or simply restating privately what he has already said publicly. "I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea," if sending more troops would help achieve strategic objectives, he said at a Baghdad news conference with Gates last week. . . .

Josh Marshall cuts to the chase
This is a silly game we now seem ready to play. In theory at least, senior military commanders give frank advice to the commander-in-chief. But the president is their ultimate superior in the chain of command. They work for him. So they do what he says. Period. The only real alternative is principled resignation. But let's not get distracted from the main point. It seems clear that most of the Army brass oppose an expanded troop presence in Iraq. . .

The premise of this narrative is that the president is slowly persuading the generals of the logic of his position that we should escalate the conflict in Iraq by inserting however many tens of thousands of new troops into the country. But the premise is bogus because it is the duty of the three and four star generals to come around after the president does not accept their contrary opinions. He's in charge. They're not in charge. That is how we all want it to work -- though, admittedly, it is somewhat harder to stomach when the president is a stubborn, serial bumbler.

Perhaps Casey really is changing his mind. But having no choice about the matter has a way of greasing the cognitive skids. . .

Kevin Drum starts an argument: Should we support (or at least tolerate) Bush’s troop increase request, on the “give him more rope to hang himself with” theory?
Still, honesty compels me to say that I'm glad this is going to happen. I know this makes me a bad person with no concern for human life etc. etc. (feel free to expand on this sentiment in comments), but at some point we have to come to a conclusion on this stuff. Conservatives long ago convinced themselves against all evidence that we could have won in Vietnam if we'd only added more troops or used more napalm or nuked Hanoi or whatever, and they're going to do the same thing in Iraq unless we allow them to play this out the way they want. If they don't get to play the game their way, they'll spend the next couple of decades trying to persuade the American public that there was nothing wrong with the idea of invading Iraq at all. We just never put the necessary resources into it.

Well, screw that. There's nothing we can do to stop them anyway, so give 'em the resources they want. Let 'em fight the war the way they want. If it works -- and after all, stranger things have happened -- then I'll eat some crow. But if it doesn't, there's a chance that the country will actually learn something from this.

I wish it were otherwise. But it isn't.

Here’s what I said last week
[H]ere’s why blocking Bush’s request for more troops would backfire: It gives Bush the chance to construct himself as a victim of congressional interference, whereas now the X is squarely on his back; it changes the discussion from his Iraq war failures to whether the Dems are committed enough to national security; it changes the question about why Bush is overriding his own generals’ recommendations to whether this is “payback” by the Nancy Pelosi liberals; etc. Worst of all, when Iraq collapses, as it will, the right-wing narrative will be “we were doing okay until the gutless Democrats sold out our troops” (don’t think so? Read the Fred Barnes quote, above, again: “Only when Congress cut off funds to South Vietnam in 1974 were the North Vietnamese able to win.”)
[I]t seems clear to me that if there’s a call for more troops right now, even if it’s a bad idea, the Dems can’t start their new term by depriving the military of what they say they need. The key is, as Reid is doing, to make clear that it’s temporary – the numbers dictate it – and to couple “The Surge” with an INCREASED expectation of withdrawal to begin soon after

Some responses
[Atrios] I'm sympathetic to Kevin's thinking about this stuff, but it just doesn't work this way. . .
[Digby] There is no chance this is going to work, so I do not hold out even the smallest hope that this could be worthwhile in literal terms. It is purely to save face for George Bush. The American involvement in this war is over --- they're just delaying the inevitable until he can crawl back to Crawford and dump the whole disater in the next guy's lap.

As for the long term, it doesn't matter how spectacularly they fail, they will never admit it. We would have won "if only" no matter what actually happens. If only we'd put in more troops earlier, or more troops now, or reinstituted the draft or dropped some daisy cutters or whatever. These people live in a fantasy world in which they are always right but others are continuously conspiring to rob them of whatever they really need to prove it. In the long run, they will insist that the war could have been won if only the wimps hadn't lost their nerve. And they will persuade a fair number of people that this was true --- Americans don't like losers and don't like to think of themselves as losers. The paranoid strain will be happy to re-argue, re-litigate and re-write history down the road to say that America was betrayed from within. It's what they do.

There is some short term political gains to be had, however sick it is to think in these terms. . . .
[Matt Yglesias] I think it's good to see liberals worrying some about this long-term issue. I think Kevin's way of thinking about it, however, is a bit misguided. Irrespective of what objective events occur on the ground, there will be a revisionist movement to blame American failure in Iraq on a liberal stab-in-the-back. It's on us -- Kevin, me, anyone who writes about politics for a living, hell, anyone who reads about politics frequently -- to prevent this from becoming the conventional wisdom.
[Kevin Drum] As regular readers know, I'm unequivocally in favor of withdrawing from Iraq, but this morning I suggested that I'd be secretly happy to see a surge happen since it would deprive conservatives of an excuse to blame the Iraq fiasco on something other than the war itself (i.e., bad execution, liberal perfidy, media bias, etc.). Both Matt Yglesias and Atrios disagree because, they say, conservatives will blame the loss in Iraq on liberals no matter what happens.

Believe me, I've got no argument with that. There's no question that conservatives will try to hang our failure in Iraq around liberal peacenik necks, but that's not what's important. What's important is whether they succeed. Public opinion is key, and if they go ahead and do their surge, and it fails, it's going to make the conservative story a lot harder to tell. The public just isn't going to buy it.

Now, I might still be wrong about this. Maybe the public will buy it no matter what happens. But for what it's worth, my sentiment about this isn't driven by some hazy belief that conservatives will eventually see the light and start singing Kumbaya. Rather, it's based on two things: (a) George Bush is in charge and there's no real way for liberals to influence war strategy anyway, and (b) if the surge fails, the public will be less amenable to an eventual conservative stab-in-the-back narrative.

How they play it: the Bush gang gets their long-awaited Iran sanctions from the U.N. Security Council, then immediately says, “it’s not enough”

A look back: what Bush said about Clinton’s foreign policy in 2000 (today’s must-read – you won’t believe the ironies)
[Ivo Daalder] I was talking to a reporter the other day, arguing that while Bush inherited a lot of problems from Clinton, in each instance he had done everything possible to make things worse . . .

A look ahead: what to expect from Bush in 2007
On three key flash points -- North Korea, Iran and Sudan -- the Bush administration confronts the possibility that its current diplomatic approaches have reached the end of their effectiveness, forcing it to consider potentially riskier "Plan B" alternatives . . .

Pulling the party down with them
[Darksyde] It's good to see that in a few cases, some elements in the conservative caucus have become aware that the interests of George Bush and the GOP have become widely divergent. But if the Republican Party thinks that growing chasm between themselves and the electorate -- courtesy of the administration -- is of concern to the WH, they damn well better think again. . . .
[Joe] How many times have we heard Republicans say they're not playing the "blame game"? It was one of their mantras after Katrina. It is different, however, when they are blaming each other. And, that's what's happening now. The Associated Press has an article filled with GOP back-stabbing and blame gaming. George Bush and Liddy Dole bear the brunt of it. It's a fun holiday read. They all hate Bush and Dole now . . .


The White House takes a stand
[NYT] White House officials said they were aware that some Democrats and Muslims were urging President Bush to admonish Representative Virgil H. Goode Jr., Republican of Virginia, and Dennis Prager, the conservative commentator, for suggesting that the first Muslim elected to the House had no place in Congress.

“We’re aware of the situation,” said Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bush, “but no judgments have been made.”

[David Kurtz] I might quibble with The Times' characterization of Goode's remarks. He didn't just suggest Muslims have no place in Congress. He said they have no place in the United States.

Competence over connections? Has the Bush gang reached its limits in promoting underqualified cronies and relatives into senior positions?
[Al Kamen] The career diplomats at the State Department are celebrating a decision this week by the department's director general to overturn the assignment of an aide to Undersecretary Karen Hughes to a top job running the new Public Diplomacy Rapid Response office in Brussels. . .

More on the sudden resignation of the Saudi Ambassador

And Spellings is supposed to be one of the REASONABLE people in this gang
[Steve Benen] Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is a petty and mean-spirited person. I’m sure she’s in a good mood these days because it appears she has triumphed over an animated rabbit on PBS named Buster. . .

Coals to Newcastle: just another little lie
[Michael Froomkin] About as un-graciously as humanly possible, my Congressional representative has admitted that she's a liar, and that she slandered filmakers last week when she accused them of doctoring tape to put words in her mouth. . . .

The best move the Dems have made so far: blocking earmarks

The Democrats have a chance now to make the Florida 13th voting fiasco the poster child for e-voting reform

I know I’ve been a broken record on this, but why have news organizations stopped reporting exit polls? Afraid to cast doubt on e-voting results?

Theocracy watch: special Sunday Christmas Eve edition
[Digby] Here's another one of those creepy articles about religious zealots who are trying to blow up the world and bring on the bridegroom. Fine, whatever. There have always been end-of-the-worlders around.

But really, how do these nuts get to be so involved in the highest reaches of the US Government? . . .
[Steve Benen] On Thursday, we learned that Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) reportedly articulated a rather unique vision for resolving the crisis in the Middle East. According to an account in a local paper in Hayes’ hometown, the lawmaker said: “Stability in Iraq ultimately depends on spreading the message of Jesus Christ, the message of peace on earth, good will towards men. Everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the Savior.”

Yesterday, Hayes and his aides confirmed the accuracy of the quote, but said he’s been misconstrued.

After his speech, Hayes revised his comments. He said they were in “the context of spreading Christian principles rather than Christianity.”

His spokeswoman, Carolyn Hern, told The Source she did not attend the speech but that she has no reason to doubt the accuracy of Hayes’ initial quotes. She blamed Democrats for taking them out of context.

“It’s interesting how these bloggers can distort the news,” Hern said.

Yes, of course, it’s our fault. A right-wing lawmaker uses crusader-like comments such as “Everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the Savior,” Hayes and his office acknowledge the theocratic language, but bloggers “distort the news.” Huh?

Maybe Hayes can explain the “context” which would explain him saying, “Stability in Iraq ultimately depends on spreading the message of Jesus Christ.” I’m sure millions of people in the Middle East, who already question our intentions in the region, will love to hear Hayes explain the distinction he sees between “Christian principles” and “Christianity.”

Ddjango’s challenges for the Left

Oh, won’t Fox News have fun with this?
According to a report from ABC News’ Brian Ross, Ayman al Zawahri, al Qaeda’s No. 2 man, released a video tape that reportedly included messages for Democrats in the U.S. Apparently, the terrorist network wants credit for the results of the congressional elections. . . .

Wow. ABC edges out Fox News for most misinformation in 2006 (with a heavy, well-deserved emphasis on “Path to 9/11”)

Sunday talk show line-ups (fair and balanced, eh?)
• "Meet the Press": Rev. Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life"; Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham.

• "This Week": Sens. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C; U.N. Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-moon; former President Bush and his wife, Barbara.

• "Face the Nation": First lady Laura Bush.

• "CNN Late Edition”: Repeats of past interviews with President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others.

• "Fox News Sunday": Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney; Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl; Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham.

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