Executive Summary: Iraqi Perspective: Project Saddam and Terrorism, Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents

Talking Points Memo linked to this report from ABC about the Bush administration is trying to deflect attention away from a new report that directly contradicts administration claims and the ensuing right-wing echo pre-Iraq occupation that there were operational links between Saddam and al-Qaeda.

ABC News’ Jonathan Karl Reports: The Bush Administration apparently does not want a U.S. military study that found no direct connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda to get any attention.  This morning, the Pentagon cancelled plans to send out a press release announcing the report’s release and will no longer make the report available online.

The report was to be posted on the Joint Forces Command website this afternoon, followed by a background briefing with the authors.  No more.  The report will be made available only to those who ask for it, and it will be sent via U.S. mail from Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

It won’t be emailed to reporters and it won’t be posted online.

Asked why the report would not be posted online and could not be emailed, the spokesman for Joint Forces Command said: “We’re making the report available to anyone who wishes to have it, and we’ll send it out via CD in the mail.”

Another Pentagon official said initial press reports on the study made it “too politically sensitive.”

Some people said they were having problems downloading the Executive Summary so I thought I’d post it. If you try and get it from ABC it does take a minute or so to start even on a quick connection. I imagine that eventually the full report will find its way on-line. Saddam did use terrorism, but the report concluded that his primary targets were Iraqis in Iraq and living outside the country, not Americans or Israelis. ABC brings up what should be embarrassing quotes,

On June 18, 2004 the Washington Post quoted President George W. Bush as saying: “The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda,” Bush said.

“We know he’s out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization,” Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC’s Meet The Press March 16, 2003.

Whether people that have been so shameless in their selling of a counter productive war will actually feel embarrassed is another matter.

saddam-and-terrorism-redaction-sum-extract.pdf

Sex trumps serious news everytime

The Eliot Spitzer scandal has been a boon to network news. A well known Democrat and sex. Much easier to wrap their little minds around and spend hours getting to the bottom of a juicy tabloidish tale then other issues that have a genuine impact on the nation. Fox might be a little torn as they can’t devote as much time to the latest missing attractive blond woman. What goes on in the minds of men like Spitzer is beyond me. he knew what prostitution was, Foes of Sex Trade Are Stung by the Fall of an Ally 

As New York’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer had broken up prostitution rings before, but this 2004 case took on a special urgency for him. Prosecuting an international sex tourism business based in Queens, he listened to the entreaties of women’s advocates long frustrated by state laws that fell short of dealing with a sex trade expanding rapidly across borders.

And with his typical zeal, he embraced their push for new legislation, including a novel idea at its heart: Go after the men who seek out prostitutes.

It was a question of supply and demand, they all agreed. And one effective way to suppress the demand was to raise the penalties for patronizing a prostitute. In his first months as governor last year, Mr. Spitzer signed the bill into law.

I’ve always had my doubts about the psychology of self-destruction where people set themselves up for a fall, but Spitzer has made me reconsider. Laura Schlessinger was on the Today Show blaming Spitzer’s wife. leave it to the wing-nuts to add some perverse angle to the story.

If the morning newstainment goes as I predict there is likely to be little if any coverage of actual news such as this, NSA’s Domestic Spying Grows As Agency Sweeps Up Data 

Largely missing from the public discussion is the role of the highly secretive NSA in analyzing that data, collected through little-known arrangements that can blur the lines between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Supporters say the NSA is serving as a key bulwark against foreign terrorists and that it would be reckless to constrain the agency’s mission. The NSA says it is scrupulously following all applicable laws and that it keeps Congress fully informed of its activities.

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called “transactional” data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA’s own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge’s approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA’s enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world’s main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

The effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called “black programs” whose existence is undisclosed, the current and former officials say. Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach. Among them, current and former intelligence officials say, is a longstanding Treasury Department program to collect individual financial data including wire transfers and credit-card transactions.

Which as Wired surmises is simply a resurrection of “Total Information Awareness”. It also puts to rest Bush’s assertion that his program was directed at specific targets consistant with the Fourth Amendment,

Bush said the program was narrowly designed and used “consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution.” He said it is used only to intercept the international communications of people inside the United States who have been determined to have “a clear link” to al-Qaida or related terrorist organizations.

If that were the case few Americans would have a problem, but it looks as though we’re all assumed guilty until proven innocent. So Bush has been given multiple opportunities to be truthful, to display some sembalance of honor and chosen not to.

Study Discounts Hussein, Al-Qaeda Link 

An examination of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents, audio and video records collected by U.S. forces since the March 2003 invasion has concluded that there is “no smoking gun” supporting the Bush administration’s prewar assertion of an “operational relationship” between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terrorist network, sources familiar with the study said.

This can’t be true, that Republican paragon of integrity, one Richard Cheney, the Vice_president of the U.S. assured us that there were links between Al-Qaeda and Iraq, Cheney claims al Qaeda link to Hussein

“There’s overwhelming evidence there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government,” Cheney said in an interview on National Public Radio.

Cheney and Bush probably do fight. They sit in the Whitehouse sandbox arguing over who gets the red sand bucket or the little yellow dump truck, Bush’s tortured veto

We do not torture,” President Bush insists, yet that assurance is accompanied by an unspoken “but.” In vetoing legislation that would require CIA interrogators to abide by the same humanitarian standards imposed on their counterparts in the U.S. military, Bush again has drowned out his denials with an ominous silence about just what “enhanced” interrogation tactics he considers appropriate.

In a shameful Saturday radio address justifying his veto, Bush argued that CIA interrogators can’t be confined to techniques allowed by the Army Field Manual “because the manual is publicly available and easily accessible on the Internet.” So, of course, are the Geneva Convention and the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibit “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.” By the president’s logic, acceptance of the humanitarian standards included in those documents also deprives the United States of the element of surprise.

Bush has been playing a dangerous game, forswearing torture while making the argument that suspected terrorists must be made to give up their secrets at any cost. In his radio address, he claimed that the CIA interrogation program pried loose information that helped avert a series of terrorist attacks, including one in Los Angeles. If the stakes are that high and the alternatives futile, why not torture?

The best answer to that question was offered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2005. Calling terrorists “the quintessence of evil,” McCain insisted that “it’s not about them; it’s about us. This battle we’re in is about the things we stand for and believe in and practice. And that is an observance of human rights, no matter how terrible our adversaries may be.”

Alas, the man who spoke those words before he became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee voted against the legislation Bush vetoed. But McCain was as right in 2005 as he is wrong now.

So lets see there are terrorists that are going to stop being terrorists because the CIA might capture and torture them. Seems unlikely. Or maybe there are terrorists that will up the pace of terrorism because the CIA has switched to the standards laid out in the AFM. Doesn’t make any more sense then the babbling one would here from a brain dead yak, but Bush and his supporters are Republicans and dammit they are serious about fighting terrorism.

Facts are stubborn things

The Reaction’s take on the Eliot Spitzer business, Hypocrisy and moralism: The fall of Eliot Spitzer and the rise of the double standard

Is Spitzer a hypocrite? Yes. That much is clear. But, as I wrote in a comment to my post linked above, what bothers me is that he is being treated differently than Republicans (and conservatives generally) who find themselves in similar situations. What they do is deny, then un-deny, then find God and repent (sincerely or not), and express contrition (genuine or not), then blitz the media seeking forgiveness, looking and sounding pathetic and forlorn, then go on with their careers, all forgiven, all forgotten. And what about someone like Gingrich? While Bill Clinton was being persecuted by Republicans, Gingrich among them, he was engaging in rather inappropriate behaviour, at least from the perspective of the moralists. And did Gingrich suffer for it? Hardly. And he is not alone.

The Rightie blogs and pundits can babble to their black heart’s content that just gives everyone the opportunity to bring up the laughable self-righteous hypocrisy of the party of Mark Foley(R-FL) and his penchant for teenage boys, Brian J. Doyle (deputy press secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) and his cravings for teenage girls or Conservative minister Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals and his prostitution and drug problems. The list literally goes on and go. Should someone of Spitzer’s stature and marital status be running around with prostitutes. Probably not a good idea. Unlike Republicans such as Newt Gingrich as the Reaction pointed out, Spitzer’s political career is probably over. Firedoglake among others suggests that its fishy that the Feds should have gotten involved in a simple prostitution case. Jane raises some very good questions. Still at the end of the day Spitzer is an adult and very experienced public official who made a decision to engage in certain activities knowing full well the personal and political consequences. Like most Americans he knows we’re capable of being a nation of puritanical hypocrites, better that he was brought down now then when he was running for the Senate or up for a presidential appointment. If their were dirty tricks involved the dirty tricksters inadvertently did Democrats a favor by getting rid of some dead weight.

Republican wannabe journalist Michelle Malkin demotrates her poor reading comprehension and math skills. Michelle also has a message for the troops: if you get sick from the nasty water supplied by KBR, suck it up. Oh and as usual she loves you more then the Democrats.

Speaking of journalists,

Thomas Ricks, the military reporter for The Washington Post (and author of a fine book about the war, aptly titled “Fiasco”), spoke volumes when he explained his paper’s failures in the ramp-up to the war in 2003 by saying, “There was an attitude among editors: Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all the contrary stuff?” His colleague Karen DeYoung put it in even more appalling terms: “We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power.” Walter Isaacson, who headed CNN when the war began, later informed Bill Moyers that “big people in corporations were calling up” when the network showed civilian casualties, declaring, “You’re being anti-American here.” Bob Simon, the CBS correspondent, told Moyers that covering the marketing of the war was so “explosive” that he felt he should “keep it, in a way, almost light — if that doesn’t seem ridiculous.”

While most of the reporters in Iraq recovered from their early rah-rah “we are taking Baghdad” coverage to produce years of tough-minded and valuable work (to the extent that it was possible amid the horrid violence), their counterparts on the home front often fell down on the job.

As long as most people get their news from TV – the corporate media at its newstainment best, where they are more like celebrities with multi-million dollar contracts we’ll continue to get news that is run through the filter of how it affects the ratings. Which in turn affects network revenue which the so-called journalist depend on to continue their plush lifestyles. Its possible to make a good salary and still do hard hitting journalism, but as the numerous examples laid out in this article show it does seem that many have compromised their integrity for money and ratings ( or circulation). The Bob Simon antidote reflects another influence, the network fear of right-wing hate mail. That’s part of the job. If networks do not want to pursue stories and present the facts for fear they piss off some wing-nut maybe they should drop the pretense of doing news at all.

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence” ~ John Adams

John Singer Sargent: Madame X, A Man Seated by a Stream, Boat with The Golden Sail, Robert Louis Stevenson

Madame X (1884) by John Singer Sargent (January 12, 1856 – April 14, 1925)

The original portrait which is currently in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is an imposing seven feet tall. Difficult to imagine today, but when this painting was first exhibited at the Salon in Paris in 1884 it was considered somewhat scandalous. The pose and the plunging neckline combined with the sensuality projected by the model were thought shocking. It was Singer’s personal favorite and probably his most well known work.

A Man Seated by a Stream, Val d’Aosta, Purtud (1907?) One of Sargent’s watercolors.

Boat with The Golden Sail, San Vigilio (1913) Oil on canvas. Sargent was born in Florence, Italy of American parents. While he made extended trips to the U.S. he was an avid traveler.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1885?) Sargent painted several portraits of Stevenson ( the author of Treasure Island). The one that included Stevenson’s wife is probably the most well known. Stevenson was thought of as a little eccentric, he was tall and angular, kept his hair a little longer then was thought appropriate for a gentleman of the time and usually had a cigarette in his hand. Since Stevenson’s books were and are considered so accessible the portrait made for an interesting contrast with the public’s perception of what they thought Stevenson was like.

believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace

This story mat not be so much manifest media bias as creeping bias that the writer isn’t aware of. An example of how Conservatives and the Bushies have framed the public debate, Bush’s Veto of Bill on C.I.A. Tactics Affirms His Legacy

President Bush on Saturday further cemented his legacy of fighting for strong executive powers, using his veto to shut down a Congressional effort to limit the Central Intelligence Agency’s latitude to subject terrorism suspects to harsh interrogation techniques. (emphasis mine)

Its is difficult to see how torturing someone could be described as being “strong”. Whether its an innocent taxi driver or someone caught in the act once a subject is arrested he has been removed from the battle field. They’re under guard by people well trained in the use of restraint. They are usually moved in handcuffs and leg shackles. They can be man handles easily enough, it takes very little in the way of what most people would think of as strength or courage to subject these subjects to torture. Torture is a base act not an act of strength. Bush would make a great right-wing radio shock jock, his and Cheney’s favorite propaganda toll is the simplistic, frequently false and usually unsupported assertion,

“The fact that we have not been attacked over the past six and a half years is not a matter of chance,” Mr. Bush said in his radio remarks, echoing comments he made Thursday at a ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. “We have no higher responsibility than stopping terrorist attacks,” he added. “And this is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe.”

Little noted in the media and as of today has gone without comment from the pundit crowd. Bush thinks his highest responsibility to not to carry out his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”, but to stop terrorist attacks. Bush asserts that terror attacks have been stopped and could have only been stopped by torture, but offers no proof and since he has lied about everything from the National Intelligent Estimate to domestic surveillance to his promise to punish those responsible for leaking a covert CIA operatives name we’re once again asked to just trust him.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, disputed that assertion on Saturday. “As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have heard nothing to suggest that information obtained from enhanced interrogation techniques has prevented an imminent terrorist attack,” he said in a statement.

Like many people I’ve been disappointed by Senator Rockefeller’s desire to grant Bush his request for telecom immunity, but he is has also been a very consistent critic of the administration’s refusal to cooperate with Senate oversight of national intelligence matters. Without said oversight there is little difference between Bush and the way the old KGB operated under the USSR.

Republican presidential nominee to be McCain is on record of being against torture before he was for it. More Straight Talk From John McCain

    The mistreatment of prisoners harms us more than our enemies.

In my view, to make someone believe that you are killing him by drowning is no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank. I believe that it is torture, very exquisite torture.

To carve out legal exemptions to this basic principle of human rights risks opening the door to abuse as a matter of course, rather than a standard violated truly in extremis .

Many of my comrades were subjected to very cruel, very inhumane and degrading treatment, a few of them unto death. But every one of us–every single one of us–knew and took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies, that we were better than them, that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or approving such mistreatment of them. That faith was indispensable not only to our survival, but to our attempts to return home with honor. For without our honor, our homecoming would have had little value to us.

Now McCain is pro torture because he can’t get the wing-nut vote without tossing out some scrapes of raw meat. Another example of McCain the straight shooting maverick.

Bush’s democracy building continues its usual track, Double bombing kills at least 54 in Baghdad. That sound you heard was everyone at The National Review packing their bags to move to the neocon paradise of the Middle-East or to enlist so that current deployments are shorter or maybe none of the above.

If Bush or a Whitehouse spokesperson’s lips are moving they’re lying,  Court Order Sought in E-Mail Controversy

A private group told a federal court that the Bush administration made apparently false and misleading statements in court about the White House e-mail controversy.

The group asked the judge on Thursday to demand an explanation regarding alleged inconsistencies between testimony at a congressional hearing last week and what the White House told a federal court in January.

“This evidence demonstrates defendants’ blatant disregard for the truth and the processes of this court,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy in court papers.

CREW wants the judge to compel the Executive Office of the President to explain why it should not be held in contempt of court.

The Bushies will simply claim they are trying to protect and expand executive power. Another way of saying that they see the presidency not as an executive office of a three branched government, but as a despot who is answerable to no one.

“Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity, quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace.” ~ Benito Mussolini

stunning ethical breach that cries out for an immediate investigation

If you don’t let me stay up all night and watch TV I’ll hold my breath until I die. If you don’t let me eat all the cake I want I’ll never clean my room again. If you don’t let me torture when, where and how I see fit you’re all going to die. All equally absurd and childish statements, but that is where we are as a nation. Bush to Veto Bill Banning Waterboarding

The White House says President Bush will veto legislation on Saturday that would have barred the CIA from using waterboarding — a technique that simulates drowning — and other harsh interrogation methods on terror suspects.

Bush has said the bill would harm the government’s ability to prevent future attacks. Supporters of the legislation argue that it preserves the United States’ right to collect critical intelligence while boosting the country’s moral standing abroad.

The Whitehouse reply is like the kid on the verge of a temper tantrum because there is the possibility that someone might put boundaries on their behavior – “”The bill would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror, the CIA program to detain and question key terrorist leaders and operatives,”. It would do no such thing, but when has respect for that long lost quality of character called honesty ever stopped the Bush Whitehouse from babbling lies like there was a shortage and they were doing their best to make up for the lack of lies in our political discourse. What does this bill do, it simply limits the CIA’s interrogation techniques to those spelled out in the Army Field manual; the procedures of which no one has suggested be changed. In other words limits that are good enough for our military, but lack for Bush’s vision of what the CIA should be. A vision that has an eerie similarity to the old Soviet KGB.

We’re not big on history in America, not really. Unka Karl Rove was right about two observations he made ( though he was not the first), the general public has a memory that is about two weeks long and it didn’t happen if it wasn’t on TV. Since the old communist Soviet Union broke up officially in 1991 some may not remember that it was the ultimate surveillance state. Since America’s Conservatives tend to think that the surveillance state is the best answer to keeping America safe one assumes that they look back on the old USSR with some nostalgia. As is usually the case with Conservatives and the remembrance of things past the old USSR was hardly a great place to live, it was not safe as much as it was oppressive. Yet while the USSR was a great example of how not to govern its people the Right is trying its damndest, with little resistance from Democrats to bring Soviet style oppressive surveillance to America,  The Banality of the Surveillance State

As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.
Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information. . . .

“Anonymity has been important since the Federalist Papers were written under pseudonyms,” [EFF Senior Staff Lawyer Kurt] Opsahl said. “The government has tremendous power: the police power, the ability to arrest, to detain, to take away rights. Tying together that someone has spoken out on an issue with their identity is a far more dangerous thing if it is the government that is trying to tie it together.”

“There is something fundamentally different from the government having information about you than private parties,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to give people the choice between taking advantage of modern communication tools and sacrificing their privacy. It’s just another ‘trust us, we’re the government,” he said.

The Bush administration announces that we better change our definition of “privacy” — no more anonymity from our own government. That seems like a significant announcement, and it thus received no attention. I wonder if a single television news or cable show mentioned it.

Equally significant: the administration says that we have no chance of keeping information about what we do from the Government, and instead, our only hope is that oversight and safeguards prevent abuse. That’s the same administration which then demands that Congress provide it more and more spying powers without oversight or safeguards, and the Congress continuously complies. By their own premises, there are no safeguards against abuse of the virtually limitless reach of the Surveillance State.

What can I say Glenn, as Unka Karl said it wasn’t on the TeeVee so it don’t count. Even if it was Wolfe Blitzer would probably give twenty minutes to a Whitehouse sycophant to explain that we’d all better start shopping for coffins if we don’t just “trust” the government to do whatever it wants to protect us from a guy that lives in caves and moves like a ghost.

“stunning ethical breach that cries out for an immediate investigation.” ~ Congressman John Conyers on Karl Rove-John Ashcroft conversations about covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson

Blue World wallpaper 

There never was a good war or a bad peace

For those addicted to election coverage good times. For the rest of us there’s digging for stories. This one got past me and I’m betting I’m not the only one, Halting Illegal Spying on Americans

During an astounding press conference on February 28, 2008, President Bush was jarred by the veteran and habitually-reserved CBS correspondent, Bill Plante, who asked point blank: “I know it’s unintended to spy on Americans, but in the collection process information about everybody gets swept up and then it gets sorted. So if Americans don’t have any recourse, are you just telling them when it comes to their privacy to suck it up?”

Stunned by the question, Bush delivered a condescending non-sequiter: “I wouldn’t put it that way, if I were you – in public. You’ve been around long enough.” (The President never disputed Plante’s premise that everyone’s information is vacuumed up by the government.)

Visibly angry, the President blamed everything on his favorite target – trial lawyers: “You cannot expect phone companies to participate if they feel like they’re going to be sued… class-action plaintiffs attorneys, you know – I don’t want to try to get inside their head; I suspect they see, you know, a financial gravy train – are trying to sue these companies. It’s unfair. It is patently unfair.”

Always willing to go to the mat to defend helpless phone giants, President Bush neglected to mention that the original lawsuits were brought by public interest lawyers like us and the ACLU, not class-action lawyers. This is only one of a series of untruths told by the Bush Administration about the largest domestic spying program in American history. Not least, as reported in this paper in January, the Bush administration took steps to monitor the calls of American citizens before 9/11, not after, as the administration has repeatedly asserted.

Even after the election in 2004 as much as I would have liked to see Bush impeached I bought into the theory that maybe it was best for Democrats to concentrate on its agenda of reform. Now it looks like the worse thing that Congress has done the last three years is not move toward drafting articles of impeachment. Remember the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. The Supreme Court decided that the President in time of war ( and Korea was certainly a more urgent conflict then Iraq) did not have unlimited powers of authority. Bush at least tacitly seized telecom facilities beginning before 9-11 to begin domestic spying. For Congress not to act decisively now is to allow the real possibility of legal precedent where the Supreme Court notes in a future case that since Congress did not act there was an implied view that under the circumstances as the president saw them, even if very subjectively that Congress and any plaintiffs have little ground to stand on to stop a repetition of the same actions by another president short of specific legislation to prevent such actions. Which in turn must be Constitutional. As we’ve seen presidents are capable of over reaction and rather then having a Congress that insists on taking its proper roll in reigning in presidential over reach we have a Congress that is afraid of being called weak on national security.

Has Iraq been worth it – Iraq’s Three Civil Wars   

So, what are the three wars? There’s a war for Basra in the deep south. This is a port city on the Shatt al-Arab. It’s the body of water where the Tigris and the Euphrates come together, and they flow together, then out to the Persian Gulf. In the old days, it was a major port, Al Basrah, because the ships could come up the Shatt al-Arab from the Persian Gulf. Now they’ll stop instead at a smaller port named Umm Qasr near to Basra, and this is how you get things in and out of Iraq.

[  ]…Then, there’s a war for Baghdad. This is the one that Americans tend to know about because the U.S. troops are in Baghdad, and so it’s being fought all around our guys, and we are drawn into it from time to time. The American public, when it thinks about this war, mainly thinks about attacks on U.S. troops, which are part of that war because the U.S. troops were seen by the Sunni Arabs as adjuncts to the Shiite paramilitaries, and they have really functioned that way. Most American observers of Iraq wouldn’t say that the U.S. is an enabler of the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps paramilitaries of these Shiite fundamentalist parties, but you could make the case that, functionally speaking, that’s how it’s worked out. The U.S. has mainly taken on the remnants of the Ba’ath party, the Salafi jihadis, and other Sunni groups, and has tried to disarm them, tried to kill them, and has opened a space for the Shiite paramilitaries to claim territory and engage in ethnic cleansing and gain territory and power.

[  ]…And finally, as if all that weren’t enough, there is a war in the north for control of Kirkuk, which used to be called by Saddam “Ta’mim Province”. Kirkuk Province has the city of Kirkuk in it and very productive oil fields, in the old days at least. Kirkuk is not part of the Kurdistan Regional Authority, which was created by melding three northern provinces together into a super province; however, the Kurdistan Regional Authority wishes to annex Kirkuk to the authority.

If war is ever just and I tend to think there are Just Wars there has to be some defining criteria. Is this war necessary to defend the nation, will it save more lives then it takes. Unlike WW II which the Right loves to use for an analogy much to their detriment in debating points, Saddam was a thug, but as we saw in the first few weeks in Iraq the military that Bill Clinton left for George Bush was far too well equipped and trained for the “Elite Republican Guard”  to put up much of a battle with. Unlike Nazi Germany that in its time had one of the most formidable military machines ever amassed in Europe and had the support of the majority of the German people. Saddam had no Navy, a barely existent Air Force and half the population hated him. He wasn’t more then he appeared, a despot that the CIA helped bring to power was a domestic menace more then an international one. So he was removed. Not a sound moral choice given that if Saddam’s Iraq was one kind of hell and it was replaced with one of the neocon’s making.  Bush used American lives like unearned equity or maybe more like money he got from dad and fettered away so that he could take a relatively stable country run by a thug and turn it into a front for three civil wars. No wonder that College Republicans aren’t falling all over themselves to join in the fight that Bush and Cheney keep saying is the “front on the war on terror”. Its not a front of a moral war to protect America, its a debacle that has come to define Republican visions of national security, more about bedbugs then real threats. If it were not for all the deaths, the wounds, the maimed veterans and the Iraqi refugees it would be a mildly funny Hollywood satire like Wag The Dog.

There never was a good war or a bad peace. ~ Benjamin Franklin

People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes

Gene Callahan writing at Lew Rockwell has noticed how the neocons like to use history and their deterministic view of history to justify the continued occupation of Iraq and their not unconnected failures in Afghanistan. In The Lessons of History Callahan might go to far the other way almost asserting there is little to be learned from history, but he makes a very cogent observation about how right-wing historians like Victor David Hanson,

Because history is a world of detailed, specific events, the idea of ‘general laws’ of history is self-contradictory. Of course, historical actors should be understood as obeying the general laws independently derived by other disciplines, such as the law of gravity or the law of diminishing marginal returns. But history itself can generate no such laws, since they would involve abstracting away all of the details of events, in other words, abstracting away the very subject matter of history.

England’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is a favorite whipping boy and is frequently used to flog those that do not oppose fighting terrorist, but do oppose the bizarre idea that terrorism as an entity can be defeated by occupying Iraq. Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement in 1938. The neocon argument is the lesson learned is that Chamberlain “appeased” Hitler. That is pur3e supposition on their part. There is no way to tell what would have happened if other courses of action had been taken. England by most accounts was not ready for a war in 1938, suppose Chamberlain had not signed the Munich Agreement and Hitler started the Blitz of London in 1938 instead of 1940. Would England have been able to have survived. I don’t know the answer to my supposition about how things would have been in that scenario anymore then those like Hansen that continue to make shrill claims of “appeasement” at every opportunity. One thing that the historical determinist all do and Hanson in particular is claim that war is inevitable and even desirable, Callahan nails it succinctly,

But for Hanson, it seems, besides never starting quite soon enough, no war ever lasts quite long enough. (After all, the end of a war results in those tedious periods we call “peace.”)

There is a lesson or two to be learned from Hitler to be sure. One is to not blindly follow eliminatists like Hanson and his frat boy hero in the Whitehouse.

* Hanson among others have also claimed that the reason we’re not “winning” in Iraq is because we’re not using enough force consistently on a large scale and we’re too squeamish about civilian casualties. While that is certainly the not the problem in Iraq the German bombing of London during the Blitz and for years afterward show that even when an aggressor is ruthless when it comes to killing civilians it not only doesn’t work, but can make the nation under such attacks become even more determined to prevail. While that is an interpretation of history it is as valid as anything the Right has offered up in tenuous war analogies.

Bush officials: Congress irrelevant on Iraq

The Bush administration says the 2002 congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq gives it the authority to conduct combat operations in Iraq and negotiate far-reaching agreements with the current Iraqi government without consulting Congress.

[ ]…The Bush administration also feels it does not need to seek the authorization of Congress to ratify two pending agreements with Iraq: a “Strategic Framework” that would govern “normalized” relations with the U.S., and a Status of Forces Agreement that would govern the “authorities and protections” of U.S. troops in Iraq past Dec. 31, the expiration of a U.N. resolution that the administration says authorizes their presence.

There is some grey area here, but the president does not have unfettered power to sign off on agreements with foreign government. Could you imagine the Right’s reaction if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama made such a claim, Article. II. – The Executive Branch, Section 2 – Civilian Power over Military, Cabinet, Pardon Power, Appointments

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers…

Advice and consent means exactly that, but then we’re dealing with Conservatives that think presidents, at least when they hold that office have king like powers.

CNN might lose their ratings gains if they continue to be a pale imitation of Rabid Fox News, Glenn Beck Watch: ‘Is Obama The Anti-Christ?’

Yea, verily, last night, Glenn Beck hosted anti-Catholic bigot/fervent John McCain supporter John Hagee. And lo, there was a sound that arose from deep in Beck’s wordhole. And those sounds formed a question that sounded out across the airwaves unto disbelieving ears. That question: “Is Barack Obama the anti-Christ.”

We are not making this up. Glenn Beck, serious newsman, needed to find out if Barack Obama was the Devourer of Worlds, Son of Harlots, Bearer of the Mark of the Beast. John Hagee had to be thrilled by the question: somehow, Beck managed to make Hagee look reasonable

In what world is it OK to ask such a question. It is not an issue of free speech Beck can say whatever he likes.Its a question of sanity and values.  Is George Bush the anti-Christ? Is Rush Limbaugh the anti-Christ? I don’t hear the same begging questions directed at the Right on CNN by a more moderate pundit. It could be because CNN doesn’t provide a forum for moderates.

People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes. ~
Abigail Van Buren

Ships and Navigation wallpaper, Majestic Mountains wallpaper

Ships and Navigation wallpaper 

Majestic Mountains wallpaper 

FISA Fight The nation’s editorial boards weigh in 

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

According the American Civil Liberties Union, the president could have extended the act until Congress could figure out how to hammer out a palatable version of the FISA bill. But, says Timothy Sparapani, senior legislative counsel, on the ACLU’s Web site, “The president continues to misrepresent the situation with FISA. Fear mongering and making unsubstantiated claims of lost intelligence does not help Congress reach a resolution.”

No, but it might force Congress’ hand, nonetheless, into passing a version of the bill that has everything Bush wants.

He’s already threatened to veto anything less. But what of those who feel the government is violating their privacy?

“Suck it up,” said the president of the United States, the same guy who led the charge into Iraq to, you guessed it, protect our freedoms.

We’d like to take this opportunity to remind the House that we’d like to see less sucking up and more standing up, please.

The Houston Chronicle:

What this dispute is really about is shielding telecoms from any responsibility for enabling surveillance of customers that might have violated their constitutional rights to privacy.

It’s understandable that Bush would want to prevent court scrutiny of a potentially illegal spying program that operated outside the law for so long. But the administration is putting the protection of corporations and partisan posturing above the constitutional rights of the American people.

The San Jose Mercury News and The Philadelphia Daily News also weighed in with similar concerns tinted with understandable consternation that the legislative branch is failing to fulfill its responsibilities. The issue is only in a round about way about telecom immunity. It is more and more evident it is about Bush undermining any oversight of administration activities. A lawyer at Emptywheel with some experience with telecom legal departments thinks the telecoms are already covered, that Bush and Cheney are the only ones that are making an issue of immunity. In another post at Kos that probably went unnoticed with all the election coverage pouring in georgia10 notes,

    Instead of battling, Sen. Rockefeller decided it was more productive to join forces, his aides said. He agreed with the administration that a new surveillance law should give phone companies some type of immunity from lawsuits because they participated in “good faith.”

Psst.  Mr. Rockefeller?  Sorry to break the news to you, but that “Senator” title you have? It doesn’t mean “Judge.”

So that leaves us with a question. Is it possible that any retroactive immunity that Congress passes will in fact be unconstitutional and challenged as such. I’m not aware at this writing that Congress could pass legislation that made a possible crime legal retroactively.

Jonah Goldberg isn’t only not convincing liberals of his new take on political divisions and reality for that matter. Glenn Beck and Fox News both reach into their rhetorical epitaphs for Democrats and come up with a revival of the McCarthy era with “communists”.