Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chimpy goes bananas:

W. is getting all Chimpy on us again. Yesterday, he let loose on Colin Powell for his "flawed logic" in the letter he wrote on Thursday saying that W.'s plan to gut Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions would lead the world to "doubt the moral basis" for the war on terror and "put our troops at risk." W. said, "If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic." Of course, compassion and decency is all about jamming a wet cloth down someone's throat until they think they're drowning. Mom, apple pie and electric shocks; it's all right there in the constitution.

W. clearly has some fuzzy logic issues of his own, because at the same time he was saying that if North Korea and Iran used the same rules he was proposing "the world would be better." So, the world would be better off if the North Koreans tortured one of our soldiers and put him to death based on secret evidence and torture? What?

The best part about W.'s little tirade was his threat to stop torturing terrorist suspects. Peter Baker writes that Chimpy "repeated 11 times in the course of an hour that intelligence officials would not 'go forward' with their interrogation program, unless Congress doesn't obey his order to "clarify" the Geneva Conventions. Chimpy says, "Congress has got a decision to make: Do you want the program to go forward or not? I strongly recommend that this program go forward in order for us to be able to protect America."

And by "strongly recommend," he means McCain might be reliving the Henoi Hitlon years again real soon if he doesn't knuckle under.

OBL's phone: the myth lives on.

Some of you might know that I'm an avid writer and reader of LTTEs, just look at my letters in the link to the right. (The more recent ones are in this blog) Now, today I read a fairy reasonable letter about the whole "path to 9/11" thing in the Inquirer. What struck me most was this part:

"Sometimes, one sentence in a book carries more impact than drama actors can. The book [the 9/11 commission report] says: 'Worst of all, al-Qaeda's senior leadership had stopped using a particular means of communication . . . after a leak in the Washington Times.' Is this what our Founding Fathers had in mind by freedom of the press?"

Although I love the idea of OBL reading the Reverend Moon's Washington Times, this story about OBL and his Satellite phone is simply untrue. I can't believe this is in the 9/11 Commission Report. In the past few days there has been a lot of back and forth about "The Path to 9/11" and all its bogus fictionalizations, but this is ridiculous. When I saw the part of the mocumentary where this came up, I assumed they were just rehashing old lies, not ripping it right out of the pages of the 9/11 report!

The WaPo exposed this whole thing last December. This supposed leak happened in 1998 but there were other reports about his phone as far back as 1996 . . . "and the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time. The second time a news organization reported on the satellite phone, the source was bin Laden himself. Causal effects are hard to prove, but other factors could have persuaded bin Laden to turn off his satellite phone in August 1998. A day earlier, the United States had fired dozens of cruise missiles at his training camps, missing him by hours."

Case closed.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Light at end of tunnel or a train?

Has the Congress finally woken up? Are they, at long last, going to show some backbone and say 'no' to W.?

The WaPo reports:

"A Senate committee rebuffed the personal entreaties of President Bush yesterday, rejecting his proposed strategies for interrogating and trying enemy combatants and approving alternative legislation that he has strenuously."

Republicans John McCain, Lindsay Graham, John Warner and Susan Collins joined all the Democrats on the Committee in a 15-9 vote to say 'enough is enough.' I hope that's what they said, anyway. Although this proposal seems to be a vast improvement over what the White House wants -- unhindered torturing and kangaroo courts -- there is still a long way to go; especially, when it comes to rejiggering the War Crimes Act to retroactively immunize CIA interrogators from prosecution for using W.'s "alternative interrogation practices," in secret CIA prisons.

While everyone has their eyes on the secret evidence and testimony obtained by coercion, there's still the issue of watering down Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. You know, that quaint "bloodless legal principle," that is too vague to figure out. Instead of prohibiting all techniques that would perpetrate "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment," the administration's bill would take language from McCain's Detainee Treatment Act that bans only those techniques which "shocks the conscience." (Talk about vague!)

For their part, this new legislation McCain & Co. is working on would, they say, help CIA interrogators by refining the War Crime Act to enumerate the precise interrogation techniques that would be illegal. There is some fear that those left out would implicitly make them legal. This may be a very tricky way of giving W. what he wants. W. has said he would "resist any bill" that doesn't provide legal protection for CIA interrogators -- who are busy buying up insurance policies in case they get sued -- so this noxious provision might wind up being what makes or breaks the deal.

There's also the question of court review of whatever law eventually comes out of this. The Bush bill says in the introduction that, "the act makes clear that the Geneva Conventions are not a source of judicially enforceable individual rights." In other words, the Supreme Court would be legislated out of the process. This is similar to Graham's infamous amendment prohibiting Gitmo detainees from challenging their detention in the future. (The House is even trying to make those cases still pending illegal.) I don't know where this provision stands in this new Senate version, but I'm not holding my breath that it'll be taken out.

See, I'm not buying this idea that McCain and Graham are the moderates here. Remember that, because the Democrats are scurrying for their rat holes on this issue --too afraid to appear soft on terrorism -- this fight is going on between the radical right wing and the merely extreme right wing of the Republican Party. It really shows you far to the radical right of the political spectrum this country has gone, when Lindsay Graham -- a leading inquisitor of the Clinton impeachment -- is looking like a moderate. Let's keep in mind, too, that McCain is running for president and he needs his party's lunatic fringe behind him to get the nomination. He's not going to risk his political future, if it really comes down to it, to uphold the rights of people who planned the 9/11 attacks.

If McCain and Graham do prevail in holding the line in the Senate (i.e. at least curbing the more noxious elements of Bush's bill), there's no telling what will happen in conference committee with the House. The House, typically, already has their rubber stamps out and all they need to know from Cheney is how hard to stamp (don't expect any miracles there). And in the unlikely event that a McCain-Graham-Warner version of the law survives and makes it to W.'s desk, what's going to stop him from simply crossing out all the parts he doesn't like with a signing statement?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

All roads to heven lead through Tehran:

An update from 8/26

The WaPo reports:

"U.N. inspectors investigating Iran's nuclear program angrily complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran's capabilities, calling parts of the document 'outrageous and dishonest' and offering evidence to refute its central claims. Officials of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency said in a letter that the report contained some 'erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements.'"

Who the hell is going to listen to these Saddam lovers! Remember when Mohamed ElBaradei said Iraq probably didn't have WMD right before the invasion? Dick "straight shooter" Cheney set him straight alright. He told Tim Russert on March 26 2003:

"I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq’s concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past."

So, who are you going to listen to?

As I've said before, regardless of how the negotiations go with Iran, W. and Co. are ready to go after Iran. 'But wouldn't they have to do something like this with the public behind them,' you ask? How could they launch another war without destroying themselves politically?

First of all, Bush & Co. are finished after the 06' midterms, so they have nothing to lose. Joseph Cirincione told Terry Gross on Aug. 30, that from what he's been hearing; the administration thinks they've lost the American people already, so they might as well go ahead and do the right thing.

This is the type of situations countries get into when they have a sonomulent press, a disengaged electorate and a rubber stamp Congress. These guys have probably decided they might as well just throw the dice and maybe this time they'll get lucky. If they screw up again, they'll just turn the war on the American people if they dare to punish them. Anyone for a third term for W.? And just in case things go really wrong, there's always an all expenses paid trip to heaven for W. & Co.

Remember, Sy Hersh wrote that W. has a "messianic" belief that his legacy, such as it is, depends on "saving" Iran. He must do "what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Send Bush a message in November:

George W. Bush said on Tuesday night that he is often asked, "why we are in Iraq [if] Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat . . . Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take."

Explain to me again, what was that "clear threat." What risk was posed to the United States by a fourth rate military with an annual military budget of less than a tenth of that of the Pentagon's? I think the president and his men owe the American people more than one paragraph of explanation for why he thinks we need to continue to referee a sectarian nightmare in Iraq for generations to come. Especially now, after all the reasons this administration came up with for getting us into this mess have been proven to be false.

In the president's world view, Iraq is the "central front" in his so-called "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century." If this is so, then why hasn't he reinstated the draft? Why hasn't he put into the fight the full strength and power of the United States military? Since the war began in 2003, there haven't been more than 150,000 troops in Iraq at any given time. The number now stands at some 138,000, and these numbers are being maintained by preventing units that have already been there for over a year from leaving. There are soldiers who are going back to Iraq for their third tours, and yet all the president asks of the American people is that they keep shopping.

On July 26th, the president signed an executive order which could potentially call 35,000 Marines of the Individual Ready Reserve back to active duty. These are people who have already gone beyond the call of duty to their country, who are now being asked to put their lives on hold for perhaps years to come. And it's all because this president and his party in control of Congress don't have the courage to deal with the consequences of their high sounding rhetoric. If the president doesn't have the moral fortitude to carry through with the hard choices that have to be made, then the American people must, at the ballot box in November.

We owe it to all those who are being asked to sacrifice again and again to perpetuate the mistakes of the likes of Dick Cheney who said just this Sunday that, "If we had it to do over, we'd do exactly the same thing."

Fallujah III and Ramadi II?

Whatever happened to Fallujah anyway? Remember, last November everyone was all bent out fo shape about an Itlaian TV report that said the US had used White Phosphorous on civilians during the previous year's all out assault?

Since then, there has been very little coming out of Fallujah. After the US got done leveling about two thirds of the city of 300,000, they went about cutting it off from the rest of the country with check points, road blocks and a ban on all vehicles entering or leaving. Biometric ID cards were issued to every citizen and supossedly Fallujah was then secure for rebuilding. Since then, not much rebuilding has gone on because, in part, the Shiite-led government decided they didn't want to waste money reconstructing the epicenter of the Sunni insurgency.

The US military has moved on to Ramadi, the captial of Anbar province, where the US Marines have fought the insurgency to a standstill over the past year or so. According to the AP today, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, a senior commander in Anbar, says the marines have been "stifling" the insurgency but don't have enough troops to really defeat them. But as far as the job they're there to do, train the Iraqi police, he's got enough he says, about 30,000. So we're A-Okay as far as training the police, but as far as really getting after the insurgents -- not so much.

This is a very old story. Just a few months ago there was a big push in Ramadi to seal of the city and get a handle on the situation, but to no avail. In Feb. of 2005 the Marines have tried this, too, and it didn't work. The idea that you can't bomb your way to democracy seems to be getting through.

The WaPo reported earlier this week that:

"The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there."

This may be a hopeful sign that a change in strategy is coming -- or not:

Dahr Jamail reports in Asia Times Online that, "After enduring two major assaults, Fallujah, a key city in the western province al-Anbar, is under threat from US forces again." Jamail quotes a Fallujah resident, Ahmed Dhahy, who says, "They destroyed our city twice and they are threatening us a third time. They want us to do their job for them and turn in those who target them."

Jamail writes that:

Dhahy says, "'Last week, the Americans used loudspeakers on the backs of their tanks and Humvees to threaten us.' Residents said the US forces warned of a 'large military operation' if fighters were not handed over. A US military spokesman in Baghdad said he had no reports of such action. . . 'The Iraqi resistance has not stopped for a single day despite the huge US Army activities,' a city police captain said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 'The wise men of the city explained to US officials that it is impossible to stop the resistance by military operations, but it seems the Americans prefer to do it the hard way.'"

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Path to Fantasy:

So, I did get to see a little bit of "the Path to 9/11" last might, between commercial breaks during the Giants/Colts game. I just happened upon the scene where Ahmad Shah Massoud is leading the CIA guys down to OBL's camp.

The portrayal of Massoud was very flattering I thought, which is odd because, though he may have been our bastard, he was a bastard nonetheless. Lest we forget, Massoud was an Afghan warlord responsible for atrocities during the civil war there. HRW issued a report in 2005 entitled: "Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Legacy of Impunity," which accuses Massoud of carrying out the infamous "Afshar Massacre."

In any case, as far as I know the US never came that close to capturing or killing OBL. This must be one of the dramaic fictionalizations so much in the news about this mocumentary. I think this scene was really about the attampt to bomb OBL while he was at his Afghan hunting retreat. The attack wasn't called off not because Sandy Berger was a wimp, but because members of United Arab Emerites where there visiting him and the US didn't want to take the chance of killing any of them. [Cooperative Research]

And, did they really have all those real-time video conferencing hook ups in 1999? I mean, the FBI just spent $160,000 million on a computer system that still can't seach "flight" and "school" at the same time.
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