Wednesday, February 28, 2007


It’s good to see someone say it so clearly: Bush’s “surge” can’t fix the war, save the war, or win the war. It’s a “change” that allows them to buy time by saying we have to let the new policy work, hoping to run out the clock until the end of their term. But the war in Iraq has ALREADY been lost
[Peter Galbraith] Bush's strategy is the polar opposite of that proposed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton in their Iraq Study Group report. Where they recommended the withdrawal of combat troops, Bush announced an escalation. Where they urged a diplomatic opening to Iran and Syria, Bush issued threats.

Bush's plan is laden with ironies. Four years ago, military and diplomatic professionals warned that the US was embarking on a war with insufficient troops and inadequate planning. President Bush never listened to this advice, choosing to rely on the neoconservative appointees who assured him that victory in Iraq would be easy.

In devising his new strategy, Bush again turned to the neoconservatives. The so-called surge strategy is the brainchild of Frederick Kagan, a military historian at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute who has never been to Iraq. And once again, President Bush dismissed the views of his military advisers. General George Casey and General John Abizaid, the commanders in the field, doubted that additional troops would make any difference in Iraq. They were replaced by surge advocates . . .

In his speech and in interviews that followed, Bush said he would take responsibility for the mistakes made in the Iraq war. But when asked if he owed the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job of providing security after the invasion, he quickly deflected the responsibility to the Iraqis . . . Bush's obliviousness to his own failure contributed to the overwhelmingly negative public and congressional reaction to his plan. . . .

President Bush's plan has no chance of actually working. At this late stage, 21,500 additional troops cannot make a difference. US troops are ill prepared to do the policing that is needed to secure Baghdad. They lack police training, knowledge of the city, and requisite Arabic skills. The Iraqi troops meant to assist the effort are primarily Kurdish peshmerga from two brigades nominally part of the Iraqi army. These troops will have the same problems as the Americans, including an inability to communicate in Arabic.

Bush's strategy assumes that Iraq's Shiite-led government can become a force for national unity and that Iraqi security forces can, once trained, be neutral guarantors of public safety. There is no convincing basis for either proposition. The Bush administration's inability to grasp the realities of Iraq is, in no small measure, owing to its unwillingness to acknowledge that Iraq is in the middle of a civil war.

As everyone except Bush seems to understand, Iraq's Shiite-led government has no intention of transforming itself into an inclusive government of national unity . . .

Bush's strategy depends on the Iraqi police and army eventually taking over from US forces. Somehow the President imagines that Iraq's army and police are exempt from the country's sectarian and ethnic divisions. In reality, both the army and police are as polarized as the country itself. US training will not make these forces neutral guarantors of public security but will make them more effective killers in Iraq's civil war. . . .

At best, Bush's new strategy will be a costly postponement of the day of reckoning with failure. But it is also a reckless escalation of the military mission in Iraq that could leave US forces fighting a powerful new enemy with only marginally more troops than are now engaged in fighting the Sunni insurgency. The strategy also risks extending Iraq's civil war to the hitherto peaceful Kurdish regions, with no corresponding gain for security in the Arab parts of the country. . . .

So far, the Kurds have largely sat out Iraq's civil war. . . But Bush's plan could change that. . . .

George W. Bush has said he will leave the problem of Iraq to the president elected in 2008. Rather than acknowledge failure in Iraq—and by extension a failed presidency—Bush has chosen to postpone the day of reckoning. It is a decision that will cost many American and Iraqi lives, will leave the United States weaker, and will prolong the decline in American prestige abroad caused by the mismanaged Iraq war. And it will not change the truth that the President so desperately wishes to escape: George W. Bush launched and lost America's Iraq war.

So, what’s the good news?
Top U.S. intelligence officials told a Senate committee today that Iran is likely to develop a nuclear weapon by the early to middle part of the next decade and that security and political trends in Iraq are moving in the wrong direction, with Iraqi leaders facing nearly impossible challenges in curbing sectarian violence that has become "self-sustaining."

Delivering the intelligence community's annual threat assessment at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the officials also painted a grim picture of developments in Afghanistan and in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border, where they said a resurgent Taliban is gearing up for a spring offensive and the al-Qaeda terrorist network continues plotting to kill large numbers of Americans. . .

George Bush’s clearly has a deep grasp of the complexity of these difficulties. Here’s his solution
“Just win, baby.”

Is the “regional conference” with Iran and Syria anything to get excited about?


Probably not:

Condoleezza Rice gained a little win in North Korea – but in general, she’s been relegated to the task of legitimating Bush’s policies more than shaping them


Stay away from the historical analogies, Condi. They just don’t work for you


Here’s an historical analogy: Our “Desaparecidos”


This shouldn’t surprise us AT ALL
[USAT] Rushed by President Bush's decision to reinforce Baghdad with thousands more U.S. troops, two Army combat brigades are skipping their usual session at the Army's premier training range in California and instead are making final preparations at their home bases.

Some in Congress and others outside the Army are beginning to question the switch, which is not widely known. They wonder whether it means the Army is cutting corners in preparing soldiers for combat, since they are forgoing training in a desert setting that was designed specially to prepare them for the challenges of Iraq. . . .

The bombing near VP Cheney in Afghanistan. Since his visit was a hush-hush secret, how did the Taliban find out about it? Not good

The Iranian weapons story isn’t holding up very well
[Josh Marshall] It turns out this makeshift factory in Iraq was making those super-IEDs that we were told could only be made in Iran. And the parts the Iraqis were using to make the bombs? Shipped from factories from around the Middle East, but not Iran. . .


Joe Lieberman thinks we’re being too suspicious about the Bush gang, their motives, and their uses of intelligence. Nope, can’t see any reason why we should be suspicious
[Think Progress] Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) said today that he is upset that critics have been questioning the administration’s intelligence on Iran, calling the reaction “unwarranted.” Lieberman said the “danger point” learned from the criticism is that the media and politicians reacted with “suspicion.” “I wouldn’t start with suspicion,” Lieberman said. . .

[Steve Benen] Lieberman has it exactly backwards. For one thing, the administration, by its own admission, already experienced one of the greatest intelligence failures in American history in the lead-up to the war in Iraq. Now the same administration officials are coming forward with even more dubious claims about Iraq’s next door neighbor. Lieberman not only wants us to suspend doubt, he wants the intelligence community to be even more aggressive in jumping to conclusions.

Lieberman has been awake and in the country the last four years, hasn’t he? . . . [read on]

A double dose of Baghdad Bob today
Q How was the suicide bomber able to get within range of the base where Vice President Cheney was?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. . .

Q What does this attack say about the strength of the Taliban in Afghanistan?

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure it says anything. . .

Q Tony, no matter who was responsible for this, to what extent does it underscore the very reason that the Vice President was sent there to begin with?

MR. SNOW: I'm not sure -- again, it's -- I don't think -- Peter, I don't know. It's an interesting -- again, the Vice President was there to consult with allies in the war on terror. . .
Q You said this morning that you hadn't had a chance to talk to with the Vice President or his people about what he said to General Musharraf. Have you been briefed on that?

MR. SNOW: Well, actually, what I said, too, is that the precise nature of his comments and the tenor of comments to the President would be the sort of things that would be confidential. . .

Q Do you think that General Musharraf is keeping his commitments to go after the Taliban --

MR. SNOW: I'd frame it in a different way, he is doing --

Q Well --

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not sure how exactly one would -- the question, "keeping commitments," it is not something where he lays out goals and timetables . . .

Q Tony, results matter . . .

Q . . . There's been a deal that Musharraf made with some of the tribal leaders there. Why doesn't the United States military, in concert with its allies, if it thinks that al Qaeda is reconstituting, take direct military action?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, I would leave that -- I would let military officials answer a question like that.

Q But why -- I'm sorry, just one more. Why dance around so much on this issue when you're certainly not doing anything to knock down the idea that this administration, this White House, is sending a tough message to the Musharraf government today, correct?

MR. SNOW: Well, no, I just -- I'll let others characterize. We have not been saying it's a tough message. . .

Q Does the President feel that President Musharraf has been aggressive enough in living up to the commitments that he made?

MR. SNOW: Again, I think -- Jim, you act as if -- a question like that seems to presume that everything is predictable . . .

Q But the question --

MR. SNOW: No, the question -- I'm sorry, then I'll let you go back at me. I think the appropriate question is, is he doing what he can . . .

Q The question is, is the President satisfied?

MR. SNOW: The President -- as long as you have terrorists at large in the world, the President is not going to be satisfied. And I daresay President Musharraf is not satisfied.

Q The question is, Dick Cheney --

MR. SNOW: What you're trying to do -- I'm not going to answer a question --

Q I have a very simple question; there's no trick question to this. The Vice President was in Pakistan, he was meeting with President Musharraf. There are media reports that he was saying, expressing the administration's dissatisfaction with the way that President Musharraf has conducted incursions or overseen the border regions. Is that the message that the Vice President was delivering?

MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to try to convey precisely what the Vice President said. . .

Q But you give out report cards on Mr. Maliki all the time.

MR. SNOW: Well, no, quite often you guys will ask us, are you satisfied with X, Y, and Z, and we talk about how we're working with them. . . .

Q Can you talk about the aid . . .

MR. SNOW: No, I'm not going to speculate about that, nor am I going to talk about the tone, tenor, or precise content of what the Vice President had to say to President Musharraf. . . .

Q Tony, you seem to make a differentiation between what Musharraf is doing in going after al Qaeda and the Taliban. Do you think he has done more in going after the al Qaeda than he has in going after Taliban? Which is more difficult --

MR. SNOW: I can't -- Martha, that's a much better for you to pose to military authorities or intelligence authorities.

Q No, it isn't, Tony.

MR. SNOW: No, it is.

Q You keep saying this to me. I know you love to kind of blow me off by saying that, but you said it. I didn't say it; you said he's going after al Qaeda. Going after Taliban is a much more difficult problem for Musharraf, given the political situation there.

MR. SNOW: No, I think, again, if you take a look at what I just referred to -- and I'm not blowing you off, and this is not an attempt to dismiss the question. . .

Q How about this, Tony -- the deal that President Musharraf signed with the tribal leaders last year, did that lead to a strengthening of al Qaeda? Did it do the opposite that we wanted it to?

MR. SNOW: Hard to say. . .

The Bush gang is still doing all it can to keep the “Plan B” emergency contraception out of the hands of women

The Republicans decide to keep Alishtari’s money (of course)


The Dems just can’t figure out how to frame their Iraq war bill – and it seems to be getting worse. . .;_ylt=AsqxzL6jd2Qf4Wn.lIlo_vWs0NUE

Opposition to the war IS the mainstream view. So why do we keep hearing about the “antiwar left”?

You don’t think those US Attorney firings are suspicious?
The Congressional Research Service report indicates that between 1981 and 2006 a total of 464 U.S. Attorneys received Senate confirmation, of which only two were known to have been fired and only three forced to resign. In all five instances clear breaches of conduct sparked the dismissals. . . .

John Solomon, Washington Post, is everyone’s favorite whipping boy for his breathless, under-researched “scandal” stories about Democrats. Here’s his latest

Yeah, but who’s counting?
[Atrios] It's been almost two months since [Fox News] updated their list of American troops killed in Iraq.

The New Republic, once a venerable forum of political reporting and analysis, has fallen on hard times under Martin Peretz. Publishing an article calling for the acquittal of Scooter Libby won’t help them with their dwindling readership, I expect

Steel Cage Death Match: Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann. Fun

Bonus item: Tin foil hat time: there’s a conspiracy afoot, people, and the WEATHER CHANNEL is part of 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.***

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Quote of the day
[Josh Marshall] "The reason our mission in Iraq has proven to be so disastrous and corrupt is very simple -- the advocates and architects of that war are completely corrupt, inept, and deceitful." The words are Glenn Greenwald's. And though many others have said the same thing in slightly different words, it bears repeating again and again. The corruption and ineptitude aren't unfortunate add-ons to the effort. They're at the heart of it. It's a stain like original sin. And the same goes for the democratizing element of the mission. Even among critics of the war, it's often accepted as granted that a key aim of this effort was democratization -- only that it was botched, like so much else, or that the aim of democracy, in a crunch, plays second fiddle to other priorities. Not true. The key architects of the policy don't believe in democracy or the rule of law. The whole invasion was based on contrary principles. And the aim can't be achieved because those anti-democratic principles are written into the DNA of the occupation, even as secondary figures have and continue to labor to build democracy in the country.

Why Al Qaeda is winning
[Josh Marshall] Okay, it seems we need more updates on why Dick Cheney is too dangerously incompetent to have in any position of authority, let alone the vice presidency. You'll see for instance that this morning Cheney showed up in Islamabad warning President Musharraf that al Qaeda is "regrouping" along the Pakistani border. Musharraf must be a little confused since, didn't we sign off on the armistice his government signed with the jihadists and their protectors just a few months ago?

More to the point, last week Cheney claimed that Nancy Pelosi's position on Iraq would validate al Qaeda since al Qaeda's goal in Iraq is to show that our will can be broken. Reed Hundt chimed in and pointed out that it's far more likely that al Qaeda's goal is to bait us into ridiculous and unwinnable wars that will sap our military strength and financial power.

Now, as it happens, in response to Reed's post, commenter Tom Hilton flagged this passage from the article James Fallows wrote last year in which he wrote ...

Documents captured after 9/11 showed that bin Laden hoped to provoke the United States into an invasion and occupation that would entail all the complications that have arisen in Iraq. His only error was to think that the place where Americans would get stuck would be Afghanistan.

Bin Laden also hoped that such an entrapment would drain the United States financially. Many al-Qaeda documents refer to the importance of sapping American economic strength as a step toward reducing America’s ability to throw its weight around in the Middle East.

In other words, the actual intelligence we have about what al Qaeda wants -- not the usual stuff Dick Cheney makes up or gets from Ahmed Chalabi or his butler or whoever -- suggests we're playing right into their hands.

How many American deaths is this goof responsible for? And who in this country has done more to advance the al Qaeda agenda and make the US more vulnerable to attack?

More failures:

Let’s see, Cheney’s overseas, threatening Iran and bullying Pakistan. I guess this is all they have left
[Digby] US Vice-President Dick Cheney has raised the possibility of military action to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. . . .
Just hours after Vice President Dick Cheney delivered a stiff private message to President Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan, the Pakistani government lashed out today with a series of statements insisting that “Pakistan does not accept dictation from any side or any source.” . . .


Here’s what’s interesting: Cheney finds it convenient to use the DEMOCRATS’ growing impatience as his leverage – the same Democrats he accuses of treason for daring to question their policies
[NYT] "Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced trip to Pakistan on Monday to deliver what officials in Washington described as an unusually tough message Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces become far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda."

[DM] This is Dick Cheney. The hardest of hardcore Republican terror scaremongers. Of all those who have tarred Democrats as weak on terror, nobody's done it like Dick. Cheney wasn't playing the good cop or bad cop role before. He simply wasn't walking the beat. This is a tacit acknowledgement that the Democratic Congress is more serious about fighting Al Qaeda than the White House. He's essentially saying, "look, we've let you slide on this, because, well, you know us..." Other things were more important.

Dick Cheney has acknowledged that the Democratic Congress is more intent than the White House on hunting down Al Qaeda operatives.


Do they have ANY plan for Pakistan?

Making friends everywhere
[Sunday Mail] U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney insisted [Australian] Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd be sworn to secrecy about the details of their meeting before their talks in Sydney on Friday.

According to senior Labor sources, Mr Cheney would not meet Mr Rudd until the conditions of secrecy had been met. . .

This is the new emerging theme: Cheney isn’t the wise elder statesman who provides gravitas and a steady hand to Dubya’s foreign policy – he’s the hot-headed extremist who has been wrong at every turn and whose hand is in every major Bush failure
[Jim Fallows] Even if all those things were true, there could be no less effective spokesman for American concern or for the interests of international order than Cheney. This is the man who has refused to answer to his own public for — well, for anything. For his insistence that everything has gone just as planned in Iraq. For his claim before the war that “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” For his claim after the war that the Iraqi insurgency was in its “last throes.” For his role, as described in prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s closing statement, as the central, unindicted malefactor in the Scooter Libby case. Even for shooting his friend in the face. . . .

Dick Cheney, the man who is accountable for nothing, is the person who will tell other countries what is “consistent” with a peaceful image in the world? . . . [read on!]
[Kevin Drum] It's hard to remember now, but during the first few years of the Bush administration Dick Cheney was widely viewed as a wise old man, the steady hand at the Bush tiller. As we've been reminded repeatedly in the past few weeks, that conventional wisdom is laughable now . . . [read on]
[Josh Marsall] This so deserves a contest. Because there are so many possibilities.

Send us your entry for the most idiotic, dishonest or just plain ridiculously wrong quote from our vice president, Dick Cheney. You can go all the way back to January 2001. . . .

The coming constitutional conflict(s)
[Kagro X] As we move ever closer to the inevitable Constitutional showdown between Congress and the Bush "administration," it becomes increasingly important that we understand to what lengths this gang will go to claim the "right" to do as they please.

When Condoleezza Rice declared on Sunday that the president would defy legislative constraints on the war in Iraq, she was reiterating a belief held throughout this "administration" that the president is unconstrained and unconstrainable by both the courts and Congress in his conduct.

I pointed you to John Yoo's explanation of this bizarre interpretation of the Constitution yesterday. Today, it's time to examine some of Darth Dick Cheney's views on the matter.

The relevance of Cheney's long-held views on executive power have been ably illustrated in profiles such as Frontline's "The Dark Side", and The New Yorker's profile of his longtime aide, David Addington. But with each passing day, Americans grow more and more frustrated with the manner in which the "administration" exercises the powers it imagines itself to have. . . .
SEYMOUR HERSH, "NEW YORKER" MAGAZINE: We have been pumping money, a great deal of money, without Congressional authority, without any Congressional oversight. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia is putting up some of this money for covert operations in many areas of the Middle East where we think that the -- we want to stop the Shiite spread or the Shiite influence.

FOREMAN: The accusation is this -- to keep Iran, the big Shiite power, under control, money is being secretly funneled to groups who oppose Iran. Those groups would certainly include Sunnis, even though Sunni insurgents have been the major opponents to U.S. forces in Iraq and al Qaeda is Sunni. . . .

One member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, wants a hearing on it.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The suggestion in the article that the administration is planning various covert activities in the Middle East without telling the Congress is extremely troubling.

FOREMAN: The U.S. government can fund groups overseas, as long as it follows certain procedures.

BRUCE RIEDEL, FMR. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL AIDE: It has to get a presidential finding. That is, a piece of paper in which the president certifies that this is in the national interest. And that finding has to be notified to the Congress of the United States.

FOREMAN: All of this can be kind of difficult to follow from time to time, but it comes down to a simple accusation. Is the U.S. covertly giving money to people to oppose Iran? And in doing so, possibly giving money to the U.S.'s own enemies?
[Fubar quotes from 1984] Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally. . . .
[Josh Marshall] As you've probably seen, there's been a flurry of articles over the last week about Vice President Cheney, possible plans for war against Iran and murmurs from within the upper echelons of the US armed forces of possible resignations if the White House opts for that new adventure. But beyond all the scary predications and wild tales, Kevin Drum and Andrew Sullivan have picked out the real nugget: Cheney and the rest of the crew at the White House can't even seem to get clear on what side they're on or even what war it is they're fighting.

That takes strategic incoherence into truly uncharted territory. . .

More from Seymour Hersh
BLITZER: And joining us now from Cairo, Sy Hersh. . . Based on all your reporting, how far along are U.S. military plans for a war with Iran?

SEYMOUR HERSH, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE: Well, of course, they're very far along. They have been studying this forever. They're constantly redesigning, retooling, but right now, as I wrote, look, it's pretty obvious what's going on.

In the last month or so, the president has been talking more and more about cross-border attacks and more and more about Iranian interference in threatening American lives. So it's not surprising they would fine-tune the targeting to after suspected training sites, et cetera, across the border and inside Iran. That's just normal, I think.

BLITZER: And you write that already, some special operations forces, some U.S. intelligence forces have crossed the line and have gone into Iran. Is that right?

HERSH: Oh, yes, that's been happening for months. There's been a lot of very aggressive cross-border activity. It's more than just casual. There has been a lot of jumping over the border, chasing bad guys, or people we think are bad guys. That's been going on quite a bit.

BLITZER: Here is what another line you write about division within the Bush administration over these plans. You say this: "The former senior intelligence official said that the current contingency plans allow for an attack order this spring.

"He added, however, that senior officers on the Joint Chiefs were counting on the White House as not being foolish enough to do this in the face of Iraq and the problems it would give the Republicans in 2008."

Talk a little bit about the divisions you see happening within the administration.

HERSH: Well, I don't think there's any question but much of the senior military leadership do not think it's the wise thing to do. Of course, if the president orders it, it will happen. But they are very skeptical. . . .

BLITZER: The Pentagon on Friday released a statement, even before your article was released, saying this: "The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran. To suggest anything to the contrary is simply wrong, misleading and mischievous.

"The United States has been very clear with respect to its concerns regarding specific Iranian government activities. The president has repeatedly stated publicly that this country is going to work with allies in the region to address those concerns through diplomatic efforts."

And this is what the new defense secretary, Robert Gates, said on February 15th. Listen to this.


DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT M. GATES: We are not, you know, for the umpteenth time, we are not looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran. We are not planning a war with Iran.


BLITZER: All right, what do you say?

HERSH: Well, I guess Mr. Cheney, the vice president, didn't get that message, because the other day, in Australia, he once again publicly renewed the fact that all options are on the table and pretty much made another strong threat against the Iranians.

It's very possible, Wolf, that some of this is simply games being played by the administration that is simply designed to increase the political pressure on Iran, to jack it up. And a lot of this may be agitprop, propaganda.

But inside the military, they are planning very seriously, at the president's request, to attack Iran. And as I wrote in the article, one of the assignments they'd been given, contingency assignments -- there is no operational order, no order to hit anything -- but one of the contingency assignments would enable the president to at 2:00 in the afternoon say, "I want to hit," and within 24 hours, targets would be struck -- a 24-hour package.

Shut UP!
[Laura Bush] Many parts of Iraq are stable now. But, uh, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day that discourages everyone. . . .

Two VP’s have a close call

Breaking the military
Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won't be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.

The assessment, done by the nation's top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate. . . .

Senate to review Walter Reed scandal

Joe Galloway, one of the most respected military journalists in this country, has had enough (thanks to Manny and AG for the link)
There’s a great deal more to supporting our troops than sticking a $2 yellow ribbon magnet made in China on your SUV. There’s a great deal more to it than making "Support Our Troops" a phrase that every politician feels obliged to utter in every speech, no matter how banal the topic or craven the purpose.

This week, we were treated to new revelations of just how fraudulent and shallow and meaningless "Support Our Troops" is on the lips of those in charge of spending the half a trillion dollars of taxpayer's money that the Pentagon eats every year.

The Washington Post published a probe, complete with photographs, revealing that for every in-patient who's getting the best medical treatment that money can buy at the main hospital at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, there are out-patients warehoused in quarters unfit for human habitation . . .

Our shame
[Digby] I have been remiss in failing to highlight this series of interviews with lawyers and others who are involved with Guantanamo and other issues pertaining to the military commissions over at The Talking Dog. He's talked to a variety of people who offer great insight into the miscarriage of justice and moral blight that is our system of military detentions in the Great GWOT. I recently read them all again as a piece and the big picture that emerges is just horrifying . . .

Joe Lieberman, sanctimonious phony, calls for a “truce in the political war” over Iraq. Given the fact that he has been a key player in making that political war more nasty and vicious, that’s hard to stomach – but worse, isn’t it convenient that now that the popularity of the war is at low tide, and they can’t use it to bash their opponents any more, they suddenly want a truce?
[Thers] The trouble with politics, they argue, is that people disagree. Their brilliant solution to this problem is to agree on everything, thus ending all disagreement. Shazam! It is truly a wonder that nobody has ever thought of this before.

But this is more complicated than Atrios and Kos suggest: yes, people overwhelmingly oppose the war and want the Dems to force an end to it, but they ALSO are uneasy with anything that looks like it’s undermining the troops – and any tough bill against the war will be spun as pulling the rug out from under our brave men and women over there. Schizophrenic? Well, there you go
Republicans want to continue the war and Democrats want to end it. It's that simple.

Any other debate is about what the best method to get George Bush to end the war is. I think even now too many Democrats are a bit stupid about the political reality - people hate George Bush and people hate the war - and are scared they're going to be painted as traitors by the wingnut noise machine. . . .

Make it partisan. The Republicans are. Let them have their war.

More b.s. from Lieberman
[Glenn Greenwald] Lieberman has stood up today to assure us that we now have a great, brand new strategy in Iraq, that the fundamental problems with our prior tactics have been fixed, and that it is therefore our duty as Americans (still) to keep our mouths shut and be led to Victory . . .

This is rank deceit of the lowest order. Lieberman wrote almost exactly the same Op-Ed, on the same Wall St. Journal page, more than a year ago. Whereas today he is pretending that the problem has been one of insufficient troop strength and a lack of a coherent military strategy, he said exactly the opposite in his November, 2005 Op-Ed. Back then, he assured Americans that we did have an effective strategy for preserving order and also had a sufficient military force, and not only that, he insisted that we were succeeding in our mission to bring security to Baghdad and that conditions in Iraq were rapidly improving . . .

So whereas Lieberman is claiming now that everything is different today because we had no real strategy before for ensuring security, it was Lieberman himself who promised Americans in 2005 that we did have exactly such a strategy and that it was working so well that "we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007." . . .


Let’s review. Friend of the Libby defense Victoria Toensing publishes a tendentious anti-Fitzgerald editorial given prominent play in the Washington Post. The WP ombudsperson says, no problem, the jury has been told to ignore the media so they won’t see it – and now. . . .
A juror in the perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, was dismissed from the panel today after acknowledging that she had had outside contact with information related to the case. . . .

[NB: Was it the same editorial? We don’t know that, yet. But what if it was?]
[Jane Hamsher] The juror who was dismissed was the art curator who wouldn't wear red on Valentine's day. Wells is reportedly quite happy with the results, and we hear Mr. Fitzgerald came as close to losing that poker face as he has — he was evidently quite pissed.

CW has it that things are going to be a bit nutty from hereon in. . .


Bush approval drops to 38% -- in the South!

Putting Bush on the couch (again)

The Goofus Files

Theocracy watch: more from Henry Jordan
“This nation was founded to worship, honor and glorify Jesus Christ, not Mohammed, not Buddha,” Jordan said. . . [read on!]

Fox “News”
[Tim Grieve] Think the wall-to-wall coverage of Anna Nicole Smith is a little obscene, especially when, you know, there's a war going on? If you do, then you're a "snob." Or so sayeth Fox's John Gibson, who declares that journalists who wish the media focused more on Iraq and less on Smith are guilty of telling Smith-starved viewers, "I'm better than you."

More from the Book of Knowledge

Bonus item: Cartoon of the day

***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, February 26, 2007


Familiar indications that Iran is on the Bush gang’s target screen. But, if you can believe it, it’s even worse than that. Another must-read from Sy Hersh:
[Seymour Hersh] In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coƶperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. . . .

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. “We haven’t got any of this,” he said. “We ask for anything going on, and they say there’s nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, ‘We’re going to get back to you.’ It’s so frustrating.”

The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. . .

The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.

The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.” . . .

The U.S. military also has arrested and interrogated hundreds of Iranians in Iraq. “The word went out last August for the military to snatch as many Iranians in Iraq as they can,” a former senior intelligence official said. “They had five hundred locked up at one time. We’re working these guys and getting information from them. The White House goal is to build a case that the Iranians have been fomenting the insurgency and they’ve been doing it all along—that Iran is, in fact, supporting the killing of Americans.” The Pentagon consultant confirmed that hundreds of Iranians have been captured by American forces in recent months. But he told me that that total includes many Iranian humanitarian and aid workers who “get scooped up and released in a short time,” after they have been interrogated.

“We are not planning for a war with Iran,” Robert Gates, the new Defense Secretary, announced on February 2nd, and yet the atmosphere of confrontation has deepened. . . . [read it all]
[Digby] After you watch a presidential administration for a while you begin to see shifts in policy or different phases of the old ones by the way the officials all speak. In the case of the Bush administration, it's remarkably easy because they robotically and fanatically follow talking points. They are, as we've seen many times, more concerned with marketing than substance and place a very high premium on properly "rolling out their product."

So, when president Bush used the phrase "protect our troops" followed by everyone from Gates to Rice, my antennae were way up; it was obvious that it was a potential cassus belli for an attack on Iran. . . .
[David Kurtz] In the "been there, done that" category comes news today about the faulty intelligence the U.S. has been providing to the IAEA about Iran's nuclear program. . .

[NB: Short version: the Saudis are running our Middle East policy, and we’re covertly backing Sunni jihadists linked to Al Qaeda, because they help us against Hezbollah]


From the folks who brought us Iran-Contra
New Yorker columnist Sy Hersh says the “single most explosive” element of his latest article involves an effort by the Bush administration to stem the growth of Shiite influence in the Middle East (specifically the Iranian government and Hezbollah in Lebanon) by funding violent Sunni groups.

Hersh says the U.S. has been “pumping money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority, without any congressional oversight” for covert operations in the Middle East where it wants to “stop the Shiite spread or the Shiite influence.” Hersh says these funds have ended up in the hands of “three Sunni jihadist groups” who are “connected to al Qaeda” but “want to take on Hezbollah.”

Hersh summed up his scoop in stark terms: “We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11.”
[New Yorker] The Bush Administration’s reliance on clandestine operations that have not been reported to Congress and its dealings with intermediaries with questionable agendas have recalled, for some in Washington, an earlier chapter in history. Two decades ago, the Reagan Administration attempted to fund the Nicaraguan contras illegally, with the help of secret arms sales to Iran. Saudi money was involved in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, and a few of the players back then—notably Prince Bandar and Elliott Abrams—are involved in today’s dealings.

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.

I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)

The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because “he believes he can influence the government in a positive way.” . . . .

“This goes back to Iran-Contra,” a former National Security Council aide told me. “And much of what they’re doing is to keep the agency out of it.” He said that Congress was not being briefed on the full extent of the U.S.-Saudi operations. And, he said, “The C.I.A. is asking, ‘What’s going on?’ They’re concerned, because they think it’s amateur hour.” . . .

More madness
A female suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives and ball bearings blew herself up at a Baghdad university today, killing at least 40 people, and strewing fingers, pens, purses and bloody textbooks all over the ground.

The blast, at a campus of Mustansiriya University, was one of several bombs and explosions to hit Baghdad, making today one of the worst days of violence since Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki announced a new security crackdown.

An hour after the blast, a new challenge emerged for the prime minister and the Baghdad security plan he has helped devise and has repeatedly called a success.

The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr condemned the security plan in a signed statement, declaring that it had no hope of success as long as American troops were involved. Read aloud to 1,000 shouting supporters in Sadr City, the large Shiite area near the site of the university blast, the statement called on Iraqi security forces to stop cooperating with the United States military. . .
[David Kurtz] This morning's headlines are about a suicide bomber killing more than 30 people near a college in Baghdad. But you can't get a sense of the mind-numbing insanity of the situation until you read this post written by one of the Iraqis on McClatchy Newspaper's staff in Baghdad, presumably before today's bombing, who fears constantly for his daughter, a college student, who like her classmates is a sitting duck during midterm exams.
[New Straits Times] An exhausted Iraqi President Jalal Talabani fell ill on Sunday at the end of another day of mayhem in strife-torn Baghdad that saw at least 40 people die in a suicide attack. The 74-year-old president flew to Jordan from the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah for medical tests after he was overcome by the unrelenting pressure of recent work, his office said.
[Juan Cole] The Arabic press generally saw the bombing as a significant setback to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's security plan. . . .

The al-Maliki government may in any case be collapsing. alleges in Arabic that fair numbers of cabinet ministers and parliamentarians have fled abroad, going AWOL with no permission. It says that a couple of weeks ago a web site published a list of 360 names of Iraqi officials that the US military is determined to detain, without any permission from the Iraqi government. The list contained both Sunni and Shiite names, and those listed are accused either of administrative corruption or of ties to death squads. Many of those who went abroad were on the list. Personally, I can't understand on what grounds US troops can arrest elected Iraqi officials. Force majeure? In any case, you can't run a government if dozens of its officials are living in Amman and Jordan . . .

Sound familiar?
[Reuters] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday Iran should not show weakness . . . "If we show weakness in front of the enemy the expectations will increase but if we stand against them, because of this resistance, they will retreat” . . . [read on!]

NOW what?
[Daniel Politi] The New York Times leads with word from senior administration officials that President Bush has decided to send "an unusually tough message" to the president of Pakistan. Bush will warn Gen. Pervez Musharraf that Congress could cut aid if Pakistan doesn't start to pursue Al Qaeda operatives more aggressively. . . .

The administration decided a tough warning to Pakistan's president is in order because previous promises to get tough on terrorists have not materialized and Al Qaeda continues to get stronger and more prominent in the country. But as the NYT makes clear, despite any tough words, the administration knows it can't push its luck with Musharraf because it can't risk seeing his government fail. It is this concern for the stability of Musharafff's government that has led officials to decide that unilaterally striking the training camps in Pakistan would not be a good idea.

Despite their renewed calls for “bipartisanship,” the Bush gang’s basic m.o. remains the same: any questioning of their policies is micromanaging the war and undermining the Commander in Chief’s authority

Will the Dems do it?
MR. RUSSERT: What are you going to do?

SEN. LEVIN: Hopefully, we’re going to come up with a resolution which is going to modify, in effect, the previous resolution, which was very broad, told the president that he had authority to do basically whatever he wanted to in Iraq, and to come up with wording which would modify that broad resolution and broad authority so that we would be in a supporting role, rather than in a combat role, in Iraq. Things have changed in Iraq. We don’t believe that it’s going to be possible to remove all of our troops from Iraq because there’s going to be a limited purpose that they’re going to need to serve, including a training, continued training of the Iraqi army, support for logistics in the Iraqi army, a counterterrorism purpose or a mission because there’s about 5,000 al-Qaida in Iraq. So we want to—we want to transform, or we want to modify that earlier resolution to more limited purpose. That is our goal. We hope to pick up some Republicans; we don’t know if we will. But the final drafting is going on this weekend. . .

MR. RUSSERT: But if Congress passes this and says, OK, most U.S. troops out of Iraq by 2008, and the president says, “I’m sorry, I disagree,” and he just ignores you, what happens?

SEN. LEVIN: Well, then we have a constitutional battle on our hands because this is a binding resolution. Remember, our resolution, which you had up on the screen there, authorizing the president to go to war, something that he surely welcomed, he doesn’t have much standing, if we can get this passed, to say that our modified resolution, which has a more limited mission, is not effective. It would be very difficult, I think, for him to sustain that position given the fact that he has relied so heavily on our resolution authorizing him to go to war in the first place. . .

MR. RUSSERT: Aren’t you tying the hands of the commander in chief?

SEN. LEVIN: Well, we hope to put a cap on the number of troops. If I had my way, I would cap them. Of course, if I had my way, we never would have gone there to begin with. But, of course, we’re trying to tie the hands of the president and his policy. We’re trying to change the policy. And if someone wants to call that tying the hands instead of changing the policy, yeah, the president needs a check and a balance. This president hasn’t had one, hasn’t listened to others, including his top military commanders, and it’s about time he did.

Will Bush ignore it?

Criminal neglect
On NBC’s Meet the Press today, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) argued that the Senate Armed Services Committee did not conduct oversight of the treatment at military facilities in recent years because “they did not want to embarrass the President.” . . .

“How the U.S. is Failing its War Veterans”

“Support Our Troops” – the last refuge of scoundrels

Sooner or later, the Justice Dept is going to have to answer on those US Attorney firings – you can smell the stench from here

The Off the Record Club

“Dusty” Foggo, indicted CIA official, plans to hide behind classified documents (thanks to Josh Marshall for the link)

The White House is scrubbing its web site of embarrassing quotes and interviews – but the Internet remembers all (thanks to Buzzflash for the link)

Avedon Carol piles on the Washington Post’s ombudsperson – who deserves it

The Book of Knowledge
[Matt Yglesias] The Conservapedia really is a priceless work. It's too bad that the open source model threatens to someday undermine this crucial cultural artifact. One amusing endeavor is to stroll through the pages for various Founding Father types. You'll see that the sole preoccupation of the entries about such men as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson is assessing the extent of their Christian faith and trying to make the best available case that the person in question did, indeed, subscribe to religious views that a 21st Century American Evangelical would find congenial . . .

Theocracy watch, part 1: The Council for National Policy

Theocracy watch, part 2: I think Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, fairly or not, is going to be a big problem for him with the Christian Right. But THIS is a bum criticism: his ANCESTORS were polygamists?

Joe Conason: “It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush”

Bonus item: The first and only time Shaquille O’Neal will ever appear in PBD
Shaquille O'Neal, on being an All-Star starter after playing just 10 games:

"I'm like President Bush. You may not like me, you may not respect me, but you voted me in."

[NB: Well, not really, in Bush's case]

Extra bonus item: the line of the night, from the Oscars
In her opening monologue, DeGeneres pointed out Jennifer Hudson, nominated for a best-supporting-actress award for Dreamgirls, noting that she was on American Idol and "America didn't vote for her, and here she is with an Academy Award nomination. Al Gore is here. America did vote for him. Very complicated."

***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, February 25, 2007


Watch carefully. When critics predict that Bush’s war policies will fail, we are told that they “want to see the US defeated.” When those policies DO fail, we are told that it was because the predictions weakened national resolve and undermined the troops. When critics say, “we told you so,” and seek accountability, we are told that they are dwelling on the past when the point should be to focus on the future. Support for Bush’s war is what Karl Popper called an unfalsifiable thesis.

The latest version: when the Dems put forth a nonbinding resolution to try to stop the war, and Republicans oppose it, this shows that the Dems are simply playing politics to force the Republicans onto the record in support of Bush’s war. When they try to put forth more substantive bills that actually do try to stop the war, we are told that they are playing politics by putting up bills that they know the Republicans will filibuster – so why bother doing it?

Angry yet?
John Roberts: Even some fierce critics of the war feel it's far too early, that the troop increase should at least be given a chance.

Michael O'Hanlon: It seems to me the logical thing is to wait 4 to 6 months, and use that 4 to 6 months to evaluate that surge, and then to develop some plan B proposals. . . .
[Atrios] I think, probably, people have mostly come around to my way of thinking. Leaving is losing. The Bush administration will not leave Iraq unless they are forced, at best, and at worst will leave their successor with a regional war with Iran and who knows who else.

Still, the Elite Consensus by the Wise Men of Washington is that we need to give it another chance, and then another, and then another. In other words, it's a good thing that Bush isn't leaving.

So we've (The Wise Men) gone from thinking Bush will leave Iraq at some point and that's a good thing to thinking that Bush will not leave Iraq at some point and that's a good thing. I'm not sure that's progress, but at least we understand that Bush isn't leaving.

When we get attacked by Al Qaeda, will people remember this sequence of events?
[Bush, September 17, 2001] Osama bin Laden is the "prime suspect" in last Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and the United States wants to capture him, President Bush said Monday.

Speaking with reporters after a Pentagon briefing on plans to call up reserve troops, Bush offered some of his most blunt language to date when he was asked if he wanted bin Laden dead.

"I want justice," Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.'" . . . "We're going to find those evildoers, those barbaric people who attacked our country, and we're going to hold them accountable," Bush said.
[Bush, March 13, 2002] Terror is bigger than one person. And he's just -- he's a person who's now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed. . . . So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you. . .
[Bush, October 13, 2004] Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations. . .
[February 18, 2007] Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border . . . American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. . . .
[February 24, 2007] The Army's highest-ranking officer said Friday that he was unsure whether the U.S. military would capture or kill Osama bin Laden, adding, "I don't know that it's all that important, frankly."

"So we get him, and then what?" asked Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the outgoing Army chief of staff, at a Rotary Club of Fort Worth luncheon. "There's a temporary feeling of goodness, but in the long run, we may make him bigger than he is today.

"He's hiding, and he knows we're looking for him. We know he's not particularly effective. I'm not sure there's that great of a return" on capturing or killing bin Laden.

[Joe Sudbay] Bush and Cheney only invoke Bin Laden and al Qaeda for their own warped political purposes. Just this week, Dick Cheney had the audacity to bring up al Qaeda in yet another partisan political attack on Democrats. What a fraud. If Bush and Cheney had done their jobs, al Qaeda wouldn't be a force anymore. Instead, the Bush Administration has enabled and emboldened the terror network. . .
[Frank Rich] [T]he entire debate about the Iraq “surge” is as much a sideshow as Britney’s scalp. More troops in Baghdad are irrelevant to what’s going down in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The surge supporters who accuse the Iraq war’s critics of emboldening the enemy are trying to deflect attention from their own complicity in losing a bigger battle: the one against the enemy that actually did attack us on 9/11. Who lost Iraq? is but a distraction from the more damning question, Who is losing the war on terrorism?

The record so far suggests that this White House has done so twice. The first defeat, of course, began in early December 2001, when we lost Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. . . .

That mistake — dropping the ball on Al Qaeda — was compounded last fall when Mr. Bush committed his second major blunder in the war on terror. The occasion was the September revelation that our supposed ally, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, had negotiated a “truce” with the Taliban in North Waziristan, a tribal region in his country at the Afghanistan border. This truce was actually a retreat by Pakistan, which even released Qaeda prisoners in its custody. Yet the Bush White House denied any of this was happening. “This deal is not at all with the Taliban,” the president said, claiming that “this is against the Taliban, actually.” When Dana Priest and Ann Scott Tyson of The Washington Post reported that same month that the bin Laden trail was “stone cold” and had been since Mr. Bush diverted special operations troops from that hunt to Iraq in 2003, the White House branded the story flat wrong. “We’re on the hunt,” Mr. Bush said. “We’ll get him.”

They just don’t learn, do they?
In Diyala, the vast province northeast of Baghdad where Sunnis and Shiites are battling for primacy with mortars and nighttime abductions, the U.S. government has contracted the job of promoting democracy to a Pakistani citizen who has never lived or worked in a democracy.

The management of reconstruction projects in the province has been assigned to a Border Patrol commander with no reconstruction experience. The task of communicating with the embassy in Baghdad has been handed off to a man with no background in drafting diplomatic cables. The post of agriculture adviser has gone unfilled because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided just one of the six farming experts the State Department asked for a year ago. . . .


A very good question
[Mark Kleiman] Our Ambassador to Iraq apologizes for the detention of the son of the largest Shi'a political party, on his way back from Iran with weapons. The President of Iraq demands that the soldiers be punished. Our military spokesman says the troops were just doing their job.

Would it be too much to ask for our Ambassador in Iraq and our military spokespeople there to get their stories straight? And would it be unreasonable to ask the President of Iraq, on behalf of whose government we are currently sending another 20,000 people into harm's way, to help calm things down rather than stirring them up?

Dick Cheney: the Iraq war a “remarkable achievement”;_ylt=AgXv6HVHVyNFXUyOC8FPOzvMWM0F
Vice President Dick Cheney, in a series of blunt and sometimes biting statements during a visit to Asia, defended the Iraq war, attacked administration critics at home and warned that the U.S. would confront potential adversaries abroad.

[In] a series of public appearances and media interviews, Cheney's tone was typically feisty. . . Answering growing criticism in the U.S. and Australia, he defended the Iraq war as a "remarkable achievement" in one speech, and dismissed suggestions his influence in Washington is waning. . .
[Jimmy Carter] "If you go back and see what Vice President Cheney has said for the last three or four years concerning Iraq, his batting average is abysmally low," Carter says of Cheney in an interview with George Stephanopoulos that will be shown on ABC News' This Week.

"He hasn't been right on hardly anything, in his prediction of what was going to happen . . . He's just been almost completely wrong on just about everything he's said." . . .
[David Kurtz] We all know intuitively that Dick Cheney is delusional when he says that the British partial withdrawal in southern Iraq is a sign of success in stabilizing the region; but, for a more concrete sense of how badly the British have failed and how cowardly Tony Blair has become, you can't do better than Patrick Cockburn's piece yesterday in The Independent. . . .
[Mark Kleiman] Is Dick Cheney "delusional"? Decide for yourself.

Here's what happened: Prime Minister Tony Blair today announced the first large-scale withdrawal of British troops from Iraq . . .

Here's what Cheney said about it:

"Well, I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," Cheney told ABC News' Jonathan Karl. . .

And here's what the experts say:

The partial British military withdrawal from southern Iraq announced by Tony Blair this week follows political and military failure, and is not because of any improvement in local security.

Is Israel planning to attack Iran? Or are we?
[Reuters] Despite the Bush administration's insistence it has no plans to go to war with Iran, a Pentagon panel has been created to plan a bombing attack that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President George W. Bush, The New Yorker magazine reported in its latest issue.

The special planning group was established within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months, according to an unidentified former U.S. intelligence official cited in the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the March 4 issue.

The panel initially focused on destroying Iran's nuclear facilities and on regime change but has more recently been directed to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq, according to an Air Force adviser and a Pentagon consultant, who were not identified.

The consultant and a former senior intelligence official both said that U.S. military and special-operations teams had crossed the border from Iraq into Iran in pursuit of Iranian operatives, according to the article. . . .

From the London Times:
Some of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources. . . .

An invaluable resource:

Betraying the troops
[Joe Sudbay] Never, ever should anyone in the Bush Administration be allowed to utter the phrase "we support the troops." This week, we saw just how the Bush Administration has neglected and abused the troops who were injured in the Bush-led war. The Washington Post series on Walter Reed has exposed the brutal treatment experienced by injured U.S. soldiers and their families at the hands of the Bush-led government that sent them to war. Unfortunately, Walter Reed, the flagship medical facility in the Army, is just the tip of the iceberg. . . .


More abuse for the National Guard

The US agrees to take in Iraqi refugees from the civil war, which is a good thing. But you can guess what comes next

Wow! An inspiring Supreme Court decision (unfortunately it’s from Canada, not the US)
“The overarching principle of fundamental justice that applies here is this: before the state can detain people for significant periods of time, it must accord them a fair judicial process” . . .

Grounds for dismissal?
Internal Justice Department performance reports for six of the eight United States attorneys who have been dismissed in recent months rated them “well regarded,” “capable” or “very competent,” a review of the evaluations shows. . .

The Christian Right isn’t happy with ANY of the Republican candidates for President, and that’s good news for the rest of us


Whoa John, you’re gonna have a hard time living this one down
[NYT] So some guy stands up after John McCain’s luncheon speech here yesterday to a group of business types and asks him a question.

“I’ve seen in the press where in your run for the presidency, you’ve been sucking up to the religious right,” the man said, adding: “I was just wondering how soon do you predict a Republican candidate for president will start sucking up to the old Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party?”

Mr. McCain listened with his eyes downcast, then looked the man in the eye, smiled and replied: “I’m probably going to get in trouble, but what’s wrong with sucking up to everybody?” . . .

Mitch McConnell (R-KY): we haven’t hammered him too much lately, but just wait. . .

The L word
[Jamison Foser] You might want to make sure you're sitting down for this one.

This week, the Republican National Committee distributed materials attacking Democratic presidential candidates for such sins as ... liberalism. Hillary Clinton, for example, is described as a "lifelong liberal." John Edwards is a "liberal," as is Barack Obama. And Chris Dodd.

Shocking, isn't it?

Strangely, some journalists apparently thought the RNC criticizing Democratic presidential candidates was unusual and surprising enough to merit a news story.

At ABC, for example, the RNC hit pieces were touted in The Note -- before they were even "released" . . .

Think about that for a second: ABC's The Note touted and quoted advance excerpts of ... talking points. Advance excerpts of ... "what amounts to rhetorical framing." Stop the presses!

David Brooks plays “Make a Wish” on Iraq, and Mark Shields make him look like a fool

When will the press catch on that it’s not the “antiwar left” any more – it’s an antiwar NATION?

Will the Dems try to resuscitate the Fairness Doctrine? Why it matters

Interesting. Why Democrats should give up trying to gain Republican voters
[Chris Bowers] All of this is just scratching the surface. There is simply no empirical evidence from the past forty years that Democrats have the ability to shift a statistically significant number of Republican identifiers during a national election. Democratic margins among both Independent identifiers and Democratic identifiers have proven to be both far more variable and quite statistically significant. . .

[NB: Bowers has a point, but by his own numbers the percentage of GOP gains ranges from 13% for Clinton in 1996, to 6% for John Kerry in 2004. Those are big differences, since every 1% GOP vote gained is also a 1% GOP lost for the Republican candidate (i.e. a 2% gap). Given the current trend of extremely close national elections – even a percent or two can make the difference.]

The Dems are struggling to settle on a consensus plan on Iraq. Murtha’s option seems DOA. Personally, I like Biden's approach: we never authorized you for THIS. Let's have that debate

Gag me
Mary Matalin, for example, sent a fundraising letter on behalf of Libby’s Legal Defense Trust in which she tells the reader, “This loyal soldier in the War on Terror doesn’t have to go at it alone.” . . . [read on]

WILL Cheney be indicted?

More evidence that the Washington Post ombudsperson needs an ombudsperson: she sees no problem with running a prominent editorial, authored by a Republican activist and friend of the Libby defense team, featuring a MUG SHOT of Patrick Fitzgerald, on the eve of jury deliberations
This wasn't tampering. The judge has instructed jurors to stay away from news reports. . . .

Conservapedia gives us what might become a new regular feature: “The Book of Knowledge”
[Scott Lemieux] I'm particularly partial to

"[Nineteen-Eighty-Four] is a utopian book because it talks about a place where everyone is watched over by Big Brother." . . .

I like the entry on "judicial activism":

There are two major types of judicial activism practiced in the United States' court system:

1. Liberal judges striking down laws that uphold core conservative American values
2. Liberal judges refusing to strike down laws that subvert core conservative American values

The most famous example of this is Roe v. Wade. Other examples include Brown v Board of Education[1] and Loving v Virginia[2] which stripped state control over education and marriage, respectively, putting it in the hands of the federal government. . . .
Unicorn: The existence of unicorns is controversial. Secular opinion is that they are mythical. However, they are referred to in the Bible nine times, which provides an unimpeachable de facto argument for their once having been in existence. . . .

Sunday talk show line-ups
FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D).

THIS WEEK (ABC): Rice and former president Jimmy Carter.

NEWSMAKERS (C-SPAN): U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

FACE THE NATION (CBS): California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.).

MEET THE PRESS (NBC): Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.).

LATE EDITION (CNN): Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Reps. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie and former secretaries of state Madeleine K. Albright and Henry Kissinger.

Bonus item: Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said something truly idiotic yesterday – then shows that she hasn’t learned Rule #1 about saying something stupid: don’t make it worse

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