Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hundreds die as US military steps up operations in Iraq

By James Cogan
30 January 2007

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The US military is stepping up its attacks on both Sunni and Shiite opponents of the occupation of Iraq as the Bush administration’s plan for an increase in US troop numbers and an offensive in Baghdad is put into motion.

American and Iraqi government troops are continuing the bloody operation launched at the beginning of the year to seize the Haifa Street district of Iraq’s capital from Sunni guerillas. The compact area of offices and housing along the Tigris River, just several kilometres from the Green Zone headquarters of the US occupation and the Iraqi puppet government, has been a centre of resistance since the March 2003 invasion.

Intense fighting took place last Wednesday during “Operation Tomahawk Strike 11”—an assault aimed at clearing insurgents from residential areas adjacent to Haifa Street. As was the case earlier this month, American troops called in air strikes and helicopter gunships against guerilla positions in the once densely populated streets. More than 30 fighters were allegedly killed and 35 arrested.

There was no report on civilian causalities. Adnan Dulaimi, however, a leading Sunni parliamentarian, denounced the operation as a “barbaric” attack on an area “filled with poor people and lower-class families”. A resident told the Los Angeles Times: “What kind of security plan is this? They are destroying us, pounding an area less than one square kilometre with mortars, and shells from helicopters and their tanks.” Most of the district’s inhabitants are reported to have fled their homes, adding to the country’s estimated 1.7 million internally displaced persons.

The attack on Haifa Street is part of a sweeping operation authored by the new American commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, to try to wrest control of Baghdad from an array of anti-US opponents. To do so, he requested extra forces. An additional 17,500 US troops will be deployed to the city over the next few months, as well as two or three brigades of ethnic Kurdish troops from northern Iraq.

Bush’s national security advisor Stephen Hadley argued in yesterday’s Washington Post that there was no alternative. Headlined “Baghdad is key,” the op-ed comment declared: “Any plan that limits our ability to reinforce our troops in the field is a plan for failure—and could hand Baghdad to terrorists and extremists before legitimate Iraqi forces are ready to take over the fight. That is an outcome the president simply could not accept.”

The first 3,200 American reinforcements—a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division—arrived in the capital over the weekend.

For the first time, the US military intends to move in force into Sadr City, the Shiite working class district of two million people in eastern Baghdad, and attempt to destroy the Mahdi Army militia formed in 2003 by followers of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The prospect is looming of bitter and protracted urban warfare between the occupation forces and the thousands-strong militia. Civilian casualties will be considerable.

Top US officers have denounced the Mahdi Army as “the greatest threat” to the occupation. It is recruited from among the urban working class and poor, who are overwhelmingly opposed to the US presence and the Bush administration’s perspective of opening up Iraq’s oil resources to transnational corporations. The militiamen are also hostile to US threats of aggression against Iran. Even though the Sadrist leaders are desperately seeking to avoid a confrontation, it is by no means certain that they could prevent Mahdi Army fighters from attacking US troops within Iraq if Iran were attacked.

The official US pretext for the crackdown is the claim that Mahdi Army fighters are responsible for the killing of Sunni Arabs in Baghdad in what is an escalating sectarian war. The initial stages of US operations to disarm and break-up the militia are well underway. Last week the US military announced that raids over the past 45 days had led to the arrest of 600 Mahdi Army militiamen and five key leaders. Among them is Abdel Hadi al-Daraji, one of Sadr’s main lieutenants, who was seized by American troops and detained on murder allegations.

Despite the targeting of their own supporters, Sadrist parliamentarians, who make up a key faction of the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, voted over the weekend to support the Baghdad security plan. Sadr has made no public statements condemning the offensive or the arrests. On January 19, he told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica he had moved his family into safe houses and was not calling for resistance.

The London-based Sunday Times reported on the weekend that some leading militia commanders have left the country. Other media reports indicate that sections of the Mahdi Army have gone to ground and hidden their weapons. The US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad warned earlier this month there was a danger the militiamen were “lying low, avoiding conflict now in order to fight another day”.

More militant factions of the Mahdi Army are likely to bitterly resist any US entry into Sadr City, regardless of Sadr’s stance. An article in the New York Times on January 18 indicated that the Sadrist leadership was becoming discredited in the eyes of some supporters. The article commented: “Iraqis who live in the neighbourhoods where the Mahdi Army is strong say the primary motivation for avoiding full-scale confrontation with the Americans is money. Members have grown rich on political channels of financing from Iran as well as from Iraqi government ministries, the residents say, and the militiamen do not want to fight the Americans directly for fear of losing their new found status.”

Disaffection among Shiites with the clerical and political establishment is already widespread. While the elites have been hoisted to political power and gained economic privileges from the US occupation, millions of ordinary people face catastrophic living conditions, police state repression and a fratricidal civil war between Iraq’s religious and ethnic groups.

Events over the past several days near the southern city of Najaf are one indication of the growing disaffection of sections of the Shiite masses with the Shiite parties that dominate the Iraqi government

On Sunday, Iraqi government troops, supported by US tanks, helicopter gunships and jet-fighters, carried out a bloody massacre of adherents of the “Soldiers of Heaven,” a small Shiite sect that had taken control of several villages close to Najaf. Between 200 and 300 members of the organisation were slaughtered and hundreds more were reportedly wounded and captured. Women and children are believed to be among those killed.

The fighting against the Soldiers of Heaven was the most intense in southern Iraq since the end of a Mahdi Army uprising in 2004. In the course of the battle, two American pilots were killed when their helicopter was shot down.

The sect was allegedly plotting to assassinate the top Shiite clerics in Iraq, including grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and seize control of the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf—the most important shrine of the Shiite faith. The conspiracy was timed to coincide with the Ashura festival, during which thousands of Shiite believers march from Najaf to the nearby city of Karbala. The killing of the clerical hierarchy was apparently intended to trigger a generalised Shiite uprising against both the US occupation and its puppet government in Baghdad.

Najaf’s deputy-governor told the New York Times that the Soldiers of Heaven had attracted “naïve people” to its ranks with doomsday declarations that the Imam Mahdi had returned. In Shiite theology, the Mahdi—a Shiite leader who disappeared in the ninth century—will return in a time of great evil and bring peace and justice to the world. If people are being attracted to such beliefs, however, it is one reflection of the widespread hostility to the US occupation, its Iraqi supporters and the nightmare it has created.

The 24 hours of fighting against the Soldiers of Heaven point to the type of the carnage that can be expected when US troops try to root out and destroy the Shiite militias in the warren-like and densely populated streets of eastern Baghdad. The surge of troops ordered by the Bush administration will inevitably lead to a sharp escalation in both Iraqi and American casualties.

See Also:
Iraq's colonial occupier, the US, denounces "foreign meddling"
[30 January 2007]
Is this a trend?
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Something unusual happened recently in Washington: A crackpot,
right-wing journal circulated a crude smear against two Democratic
presidential candidates, and the mainstream news media quickly and
thoroughly debunked it. It seemed a hopeful sign that professionalism
may return to the national political press. But let’s not get carried
away. Here’s what happened., a Web site describing itself
as “America’s premier weekly Internet news magazine,” published an
anonymously written, anonymously sourced article claiming that Sen.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign had dug up dirt on Sen. Barrack Obama.
Specifically, Clinton operatives had supposedly learned that, contrary
to his best-selling autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope,” the Illinois
senator attended a Muslim fundamentalist religious school (a madrassa)
as a child in Indonesia.

According to Insight, financed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification
Church, which also sponsors The Washington Times, there was reason to
suspect Obama of being an Islamic “Manchurian Candidate,” i.e., a
brainwashed religious fanatic programmed to undermine the U.S. from
within. E-mail messages stressing Obama’s middle name, “Hussein,” have
long circulated among the fruitcake right.

“Although Indonesia is regarded as a moderate Muslim state,” Insight
claimed, “the U. S. intelligence community has determined that today
most of these schools are financed by the Saudi Arabian government and
they teach a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims....
The sources said the opponents are searching for evidence that Mr. Obama
is still a Muslim or has ties to Islam.”

Maestro, cue the ominous soundtrack. It was a rare two-fer, planting
suspicion against Obama while blaming Clinton. How these things have
normally gone ever since one of Bill Clinton’s White House aides, Sidney
Blumenthal, was mocked by all the clever Beltway pundits for accurately
describing how the far right scandal machine works is like this: An
unfounded, imaginary or wildly exaggerated charge first appears
somewhere like The Drudge Report, the London Telegraph or one of the
smutty British tabloids. Next it’s amplified by Rupert Murdoch’s New
York Post, The Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and FOX
News. Eventually, ABC News and/or CNN may air it, often with a
“reportedly” or an “allegedly” added to salve the journalistic
consciences of reporters who have no earthly idea if the allegation is
true, half-true or sheer fiction. Ultimately, it becomes fodder for New
York Times or Washington Post editorial columns, then gets masticated by
chummy celebrity pundits on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” All this is published
without ever having passed the who, what, when, where and why standards
applied to, say, baseball trades on the sports page.

(Blumenthal was himself the subject of a false wife-beating smear, which
he short-circuited with a libel suit.)

Actually, the whole process became more streamlined during Clinton’s
second term, as Kenneth Starr’s leakomatic prosecutors hinted at
nonexistent evidence for Hillary Clinton’s pending indictment directly
to major metropolitan newspapers and TV networks. But that’s another
story, one I’ve told elsewhere.

Say what you will about liberal bias. From the day The New York Times
bought into the Whitewater hoax during the 1992 campaign until it
finally unraveled after the Republicans’ failed impeachment of President
Clinton, what amazed me as a provincial journalist unaccustomed to
Washington ways was that, once the scandal machinery got fully engaged,
mere facts stood very little chance of influencing the story line.

Writing for, Jamison Foser notes a 1997 Insight smear
claiming that Clinton was auctioning burial plots in Arlington National
Cemetery to the highest bidder. Despite no factual support and not a
single named source, that one zipped from right-wing radio to The
Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today
and CNN before the White House proved it false.

But not this time. For reasons best known to themselves, several news
organizations probed the Insight smear of Obama. Although Limbaugh and
FOX News went big with the allegation, CNN and ABC News each dispatched
correspondents to the Jakarta school that Obama attended at age 6. What
they found was a normal, coeducational public school with students of
several religions in attendance.

During the Jan. 22 broadcast of CNN’s “The Situation Room,” host Wolf
Blitzer congratulated his own network.

“As rumors swirl,” he said, “we’re actually on the scene doing serious
journalism in Indonesia. We’re finding out the facts.”

On his CNN program, “Reliable Sources,” Washington Post media critic
Howard Kurtz, one of the straighter shooters, pointedly criticized
Murdoch’s New York Post and FOX News for running the story.

Over the past 15 years, both Clintons, Al Gore, John Kerry and, most
recently, former Ambassador Joe Wilson have been the objects of multiple
unfounded, rightwing smear campaigns that arguably have determined the
course of American politics as mainstream journalists apparently have
often collaborated and at other times gazed thoughtfully off into
ambient air.

Could a return to responsible journalism become the latest Washington
trend? Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Delusional (really!) Cheney

Daffy Does Doom
By Maureen Dowd


01/27/07 "New York Times" -- -- Dick Durbin went to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to denounce the vice president as “delusional.”

It was shocking, and Senator Durbin should be ashamed of himself.

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.

Only someone with an inspired alienation from reality could, under the guise of exorcising the trauma of Vietnam, replicate the trauma of Vietnam.

You must have a real talent for derangement to stay wrong every step of the way, to remain in complete denial about Iraq’s civil war, to have a total misunderstanding of Arab culture, to be completely oblivious to the American mood and to be absolutely blind to how democracy works.

In a democracy, when you run a campaign that panders to homophobia by attacking gay marriage and then your lesbian daughter writes a book about politics and decides to have a baby with her partner, you cannot tell Wolf Blitzer he’s “out of line” when he gingerly raises the hypocrisy of your position.

Mr. Cheney acts more like a member of the James gang than the Jefferson gang. Asked by Wolf what would happen if the Senate passed a resolution critical of The Surge, Scary Cheney rumbled, “It won’t stop us.”

Such an exercise in democracy, he noted, would be “detrimental from the standpoint of the troops.”

Americans learned an important lesson from Vietnam about supporting the troops even when they did not support the war. From media organizations to Hollywood celebrities and lawmakers on both sides, everyone backs our troops.

It is W. and Vice who learned no lessons from Vietnam, probably because they worked so hard to avoid going. They rush into a war halfway around the world for no reason and with no foresight about the culture or the inevitable insurgency, and then assert that any criticism of their fumbling management of Iraq and Afghanistan is tantamount to criticizing the troops. Quel demagoguery.

“Bottom line,” Vice told Wolf, “is that we’ve had enormous successes, and we will continue to have enormous successes.” The biggest threat, he said, is that Americans may not “have the stomach for the fight.”

He should stop casting aspersions on the American stomach. We’ve had the stomach for more than 3,000 American deaths in a war sold as a cakewalk.

If W. were not so obsessed with being seen as tough, Mr. Cheney could not influence him with such tripe.

They are perpetually guided by the wrong part of the body. They are consumed by the fear of looking as if they don’t have guts, when they should be compelled by the desire to look as if they have brains.

After offering Congress an olive branch in the State of the Union, the president resumed mindless swaggering. Asked yesterday why he was ratcheting up despite the resolutions, W. replied, “In that I’m the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster.” (Or preordained it.)

The reality of Iraq, as The Times’s brilliant John Burns described it to Charlie Rose this week, is that a messy endgame could be far worse than Vietnam, leading to “a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we’re seeing now,” and a “wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world’s flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there’s complete chaos in the region?”

Mr. Cheney has turned his perversity into foreign policy.

He assumes that the more people think he’s crazy, the saner he must be. In Dr. No’s nutty world-view, anti-Americanism is a compliment. The proof that America is right is that everyone thinks it isn’t.

He sees himself as a prophet in the wilderness because he thinks anyone in the wilderness must be a prophet.

To borrow one of his many dismissive words, it’s hogwash.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bush State of the Union

Friday, January 26, 2007

Winter Robin

Winter Robin
Originally uploaded by AJ Franklin.
We're seeing Robins early here in Texas this year. I took this picture on January 17th!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

After Stephen Colbert’s performance in 2006: White House press corps learns its lesson

By David Walsh
25 January 2007

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The decision by the White House Correspondents’ Association to invite impersonator Rich Little to provide entertainment at its annual dinner in April captures something essential about the American media.

Last year’s event was dominated by the appearance of comic Stephen Colbert, who skewered George W. Bush and his administration, as well as the Washington press corps. The latter, along with the White House, was not amused. Initially, the media attempted to conceal Colbert’s comments from the public. His monologue received no mention from the New York Times in its first article and the Washington Post buried his commentary, leaving out the most pointed jokes. The performance only became widely known through a video that appeared on the Internet, which was downloaded millions of times within the first 48 hours.

At the dinner, Colbert, assuming his persona of a right-wing buffoon, ironically mocked Bush. Referring to the president, seated only a few feet to his right, he declaimed: “We’re not so different, he and I. We get it. We’re not brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We’re not members of the factinista. We go straight from the gut, right sir?”

And: “I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound—with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.” The comic rejected the claims of those who were suggesting that a personnel shakeup at the White House was merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!”

Colbert reserved one of his sharpest barbs for the White House press corps itself, whose leading lights were in attendance: “Over the last five years you people were so good—over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.

“But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works: the president makes decisions. He’s the Decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you’ve got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know—fiction!”

Having learned its lesson, the spineless White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) decided to avoid controversy in 2007 by inviting the 68-year-old Little, whose impersonation of Richard Nixon in the early 1970s represented the height of his contribution to political humor.

Little dropped out of the limelight some time in the 1980s. He lives in Las Vegas and continues to tour his act. His schedule for January and February includes shows at the Suncoast Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas; the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, California; the North Iowa Community Auditorium in Mason City, Iowa; Youkey Theatre at the Lakeland Center, Lakeland, Florida; the Cumberland County Civic Center Crown Theatre in Fayetteville, North Carolina; and the Central Auditorium in Findlay, Ohio.

On January 17, the Las Vegas Review-Journal ran an article on Little’s appearance at the correspondents’ dinner. It noted that Little wouldn’t “be mentioning Iraq or ratings when he addresses the White House Correspondents’ Dinner April 21. Little said organizers of the event made it clear they don’t want a repeat of last year’s controversial appearance by Stephen Colbert, whose searing satire of President Bush and the White House press corps fell flat and apparently touched too many nerves. ‘They got a lot of letters,’ Little said Tuesday. ‘I won’t even mention the word “Iraq.”’ Little, who hasn’t been to the White House since he was a favorite of the Reagan administration, said he’ll stick with his usual schtick—the impersonations of the past six presidents. ‘They don’t want anyone knocking the president. He’s really over the coals right now, and he’s worried about his legacy,’ added Little, a longtime Las Vegas resident.”

Steve Scully, a producer at C-Span and the current WHCA president, denied putting pressure on Little: “I cannot be more clear that we never mentioned Iraq, we never gave him any guidelines. The only thing we told him is that we want to follow the policy of the Gridiron Dinner, which is ‘singe, don’t burn.’”

After Little denied having even made the remarks to the Las Vegas newspaper, its reporter commented: “Let’s go to the replay. Early in the interview, Little said, ‘I won’t even mention the word Iraq. It’s not appropriate. You just want to be entertaining.... I won’t do anything close to over the line.’ He added, ‘They said, from ...,’ he paused, without finishing the sentence. ‘They thought my approach was more appropriate for their kind of thing. They don’t want Bill Maher or a comedian who’s going to be biting and perhaps knock the president in any way.’”

In an interview with the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi, Little made the same point: “One of the reasons they picked me is because I’m not controversial.... They did get some flak about the guy they had last year. I don’t think they wanted someone political or controversial again.”

Little seems a safe choice. On his personal web site, he includes an extended and heartfelt tribute to the late Ronald Reagan, which includes these gems: “He was unlike any celebrity I have ever known. When talking with him, you became unaware of the fact that you were talking with the President of the United States. The quickest way to become Ronald Reagan’s friend was to tell him a great joke. He would then come right back at you with a joke of his own. You could then tell him another joke, and he’d have another story to tell you. This could go on endlessly, even if there was a war on. ...

“He was nice to everyone and always appeared interested in anything you had to say. I think he was a great President because everyone liked him, even if they were opposed to his politics.... I will miss Ronald Reagan ... to me he was a lovable grandfather.”

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times noted in a recent column that Little “was a guest on a radio show I hosted about 10 years ago, and even then, after he ran through about a dozen voices, I finally had to say, ‘Can you imitate anybody’s who’s alive?’ Mr. Little was not amused.”

Exemplifying the American media’s spirit of self-censorship and all-round philistinism, Scully remarked to the press, “My approach is to try to make it [the annual dinner] a comfortable venue that is enjoyable, funny and interesting.... But you don’t want to offend anyone.” According to Editor & Publisher, he “contends that Colbert’s appearance was a success and played no part in the choice of Little. ‘I think some of the criticism of Colbert was overblown,’ he said. ‘We didn’t hear anything from the White House.’ ... Scully added that getting the hottest, hippest entertainer is not always the best thing for the Washington crowd, whose participants span many different decades. ‘There are some people who think if you don’t know Stephen Colbert, you don’t get his brand of humor,’ Scully said. ‘You want someone who appeals to the [right-wing columnist] Bob Novaks and the bloggers of the world.’” In another comment, Scully suggested that the correspondents didn’t want to make Bush a “political piñata.”

No one with a brain in his or her head will believe that the WHCA didn’t hear from the White House about Colbert’s performance, directly or indirectly. Bush was obviously livid, as was his wife. One top Bush aide was quoted as saying, “Colbert crossed the line.” Several aides and supporters walked out before the comic had finished.

Ron Hutcheson, a McClatchy Newspapers reporter and former correspondents’ association president, acknowledged that Colbert’s impact had played a role in the choice of Little. “It is certainly a safe choice, which might be nice,” he said. “My personal feeling is that this [the selection of Little] is about ENOUGH.... We don’t need to have a blogfest and a partisan slugfest after the dinner. We don’t need that.”

What can one say? The media and political establishment is impervious to the sentiments of the population. The war in Iraq is a disaster, the administration’s policies have been rejected by the population, Bush is widely despised. Colbert spoke for millions last year, telling the president of the United States what a scoundrel he was.

The media, on the other hand, lives and breathes in Bush’s universe. They felt Colbert had been too harsh, unfair, bullying.

In the case of the White House correspondents, they literally breathe the same air. These are individuals who fly on Air Force One, who joke around with Bush and his cohorts, whose careers depend on their ability to be intimate with the president. They may be Republicans or Democrats, it hardly matters, but they are part of Washington’s well-heeled, incestuous in-crowd.

In addition to Scully, who worked as a teenager on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign, the WHCA includes among its officers Ann Compton of ABC News (she serves as the organization’s vice president). Her official biography reveals that Compton “is now covering a sixth President for ABC News in a career that has taken her to the White House, Capitol Hill and through seven presidential campaigns. She is the National correspondent for ABC News Radio, based [in] Washington, DC. On September 11, 2001, Ms. Compton was the only broadcast reporter allowed to remain onboard Air Force One during the dramatic hours when President Bush was unable to return to Washington.”

Another WHCA officer, its treasurer, is Jennifer Loven of Associated Press. Her husband, Roger Ballentine, was a senior adviser to the John Kerry campaign in 2004 and is currently president of Green Strategies Inc, an environmental lobbying firm. Ballentine was a senior member of the Clinton White House staff, serving as chairman of the White House Climate Change Task Force and deputy assistant to the president for Environmental Initiatives. Prior to being named deputy assistant to the president, Ballentine was special assistant to the president for Legislative Affairs, where he focused on energy and environment issues.

WHCA secretary Peter Maer of “CBS News”, according to the network’s biography, “has covered the White House since 1986.... A frequent flyer on Air Force One, Maer has traveled to nearly 40 countries and every State of the Union with Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.”

WHCA board member Steve Holland of Reuters was cited in a USA Today article in 2001 on Bush’s “Western White House” in Crawford, Texas. “Holland, who started covering the White House when Bush’s father was in charge, is wistful when he recalls cooler summer sojourns in Kennebunkport, Maine. ‘If only he had his father’s preference for vacation spots,’ Holland says. Despite fond memories of Kennebunkport and President Bill Clinton’s trips to chic Jackson Hole, Wyo. ... and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Holland says he’s content at the Western White House.”

It comes as no surprise that these people were made unhappy by the performance of Colbert, who committed the fatal error of telling certain elementary, indisputable truths about the Bush administration, truths which the mass media knows but never repeats. By their ridiculous actions, the members of the White House press corps only confirm the point the comic was making about their toadying. Indeed, by bending over backward so far with their choice of the anodyne, Reagan-loving, all-but-forgotten Little, the White House correspondents have demonstrated their subservience and cowardice more graphically than Colbert could possibly have done.

See Also:
Bush, US media respond to Stephen Colbert’s comic assault: “We are not amused”
[5 May 2006]
Following his attack on satirist Stephen Colbert
Columnist Richard Cohen denounces his critics

[11 May 2006]

Has Bush learned anything yet?
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, January 24, 2007

For several reasons, the most salient historical fact of the 20th
century has been lost on most Americans. Oddly, it’s one our
revolutionary forebears would have been quicker to recognize: The age of
colonial empires is over. Short of a willingness to massacre hundreds of
thousands of defenseless civilians from the air, better armed and
technologically superior foreign powers can no longer dictate terms to
any but the most obscure and impoverished Third World countries. It’s no
accident that the beginning of the end of European gunboat diplomacy
coincided with the invention of radio, spreading news and nationalist
propaganda cheaply and fast. Satellite TV and the Internet have made
communication universal, instantaneous and “interactive,” enabling
leaders as different as Nelson Mandela and Osama bin Laden to influence
millions. The advantages of the Internet for fomenting and coordinating
rebellions and conspiracies are obvious. The techniques of guerrilla
warfare, perfected in nationalistic uprisings from Dublin in 1916 to
Baghdad in 2007, pushed the French out of Algeria and Vietnam, the U. S.
out of Vietnam, and the Russians out of Afghanistan. Cheap, portable,
easily concealed weapons like the AK-47, rocket-propelled grenades and
shoulder-fired anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles, not to mention
remote-controlled IEDs—improvised explosive devices—have made
controlling subject populations too brutal and costly for advanced
democracies to tolerate.

The methods used by bloody-minded conquerors such as the ancient Romans,
the Ottoman Turks and the Nazis—exterminating whole villages anywhere
the occupier’s soldiers encountered resistance—are simply not acceptable
to contemporary democracies, thank heaven. Local rebellions were met
with what we’d now call genocide.

“They make a wasteland and call it peace,” Tacitus reported a Scottish
clan chieftain bitterly observing on the Roman Empire’s farthest

Once subdued and secure, subject populations could be seduced by
innovations like sanitary water systems and dependable roads, luxuries
the U. S. has yet to provide throughout much of Iraq. If American
soldiers speaking no Arabic and practicing non-Islamic religions ever
had any chance to win over the “hearts and minds” of Iraqis, that chance
was lost in the stupefying chaos following the fall of Baghdad. The time
for a troop surge, not of 20,000 but 20 times that number, at minimum,
would have been four years ago, in early 2003. George W. Bush’s
escalation is too little too late.

By now, polls show huge majorities of Iraqis siding with their own sect
and clan and against all others—particularly the American conquerors.
(If anything, the reluctance of Iraqis to confess their loyalties to
strangers amidst a sectarian civil war probably understates that
hatred.) Those majorities certainly include Iraqi soldiers and
policemen, outwardly loyal to the government by day, covertly devoted to
sectarian militias by night.

Pretty much as most Americans would be in the unimaginable circumstance
of the U.S. being occupied by an army of Arabic-speaking Muslims.

Asked by CBS’ Scott Pelley on “60 Minutes” if he thought he owed the
Iraqi people an apology for failing to provide security after the
invasion, Bush was characteristically defiant.

“Not at all,” he said. “I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated
that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American
people a huge debt of gratitude.... I mean, the people understand that
we’ve endured great sacrifice to help them. That’s the problem here in
America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s
significant enough in Iraq.”

To anybody but a Bush True Believer, it’s a statement astonishing in its
moral blindness. Yet Bush does know his base. Partly because the U.S.
rise to hyperpower status, to use the French term, coincided with the
collapse of European empires in Asia and Africa, followed by the long
twilight struggle against the Soviet Union, itself an overextended
empire, many Americans see themselves as an exception to history. We
make a wasteland and call it democracy.

But here’s the problem: Most of those same Americans never wanted an
empire to begin with. Most can no more distinguish between Eye-raq and
Eye-ran than Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Until quite recently, most never
heard of Sunnis and Shiites. They’re instinctive isolationists, who’d
agree with President John Quincy Adams’ advice that that the U.S. “not
go abroad in search of monsters to slay.” Only 9/11 and the Bush
administration’s stunningly dishonest campaign to blame Saddam Hussein
while conjuring imaginary mushroom clouds convinced them to back
“nation-building” in the Middle East. Only an equally hysterical
propaganda campaign could convince even Bush’s dwindling base to back
the neo-conservatives’ mad imperialist fantasy of bombarding Iran—no
army currently being available to conquer Persia. There are signs of
such a campaign getting under way in the usual places, but active
resistance in Congress and not much indication the public’s listening.
So has the Iraq debacle taught this president anything at all? That
could be the determining question.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I quit! You can too ;-))

QuitMeter Counter courtesy of

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bush's Grand Canyon--Same Age as Noah's Ark. Really>

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Salvation Army to Evict 300 Old Ladies From its property?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Crackhead Bush and Iran

U.S. ill-prepared for another war
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007

During the propaganda campaign preceding the invasion of Iraq, it was
still possible to delude oneself about the Bush administration’s
integrity, competence and respect for democratic institutions. Even a
skeptic of White House claims about Iraq’s arsenal of weapons of mass
destruction like me thought it made sense to vote the president
authority to use military force if Saddam Hussein refused U.N. weapons
inspections. The issue needed to be resolved. This time, there’s no
kidding ourselves. Judging by his recent address to the nation,
President Bush’s intentions could not be more ominous. To secure his
place in history, apparently The Decider intends not only to “surge”
troop levels in Iraq, but also to launch an unprovoked attack upon
neighboring Iran. That this would be a strategic blunder on a par with
Napoleon’s (or Adolf Hitler’s ) invasion of Russia deters him not.
Instead of negotiating with the Persians, as the Iraq Study Group
advised, Bush evidently means to bomb them to smithereens. Along with
the Israeli extreme right, the same neo-conservative fantasists who sold
Bush on “regime change” in Iraq have clamored for the U. S. to make war
on Iran. They see their last hope expiring with Bush’s political power,
so they’ve amped the rhetoric.

Last December, Israeli cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman, a West Bank
“settler” who emigrated from Russia in 1978, told The New York Times
that “the Iranian problem [is] the biggest threat facing the Jewish
people since the Second World War.” (Lieberman also advocates revamping
citizenship laws to eliminate most Israeli Arabs.)

Stung by Israel’s bloody, inconclusive war with Iranian-supported
Hezbollah militias in southern Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has
compared Iran with Nazi Germany. Two weeks before Bush’s speech, Sen.
Joe Lieberman wrote a very peculiar Washington Post op-ed arguing, “If
Iraq descends into full-scale civil war, it will be a tremendous
battlefield victory for al-Qaeda and Iran.”

At the time, pairing these two mortal enemies appeared entirely bizarre.
Hadn’t Lieberman noticed Shiite and Sunni death squads butchering each
other in Iraq? Then Bush adopted the same rhetoric, aimed at blurring
the distinction exactly as he’d conflated 9/11 and Saddam.

Declaring that Iran was providing “material support” to Iraq’s
insurgents, Bush vowed to “interrupt the flow of support from Iran and
Syria... and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and
training to our enemies in Iraq.” He also announced that he was adding
an aircraft-carrier battle group to naval forces already patrolling the
Persian Gulf and equipping them with Patriot anti-missile batteries
useless against Iraqi insurgents. The next day, U.S. soldiers raided an
Iranian consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan, arresting diplomats and
confiscating computers.

Like an earlier raid on the compound of Shiite cleric Abdul Azia
al-Hakim (soon after his White House visit), the raid was conducted
without the knowledge of Iraq’s government, which promptly demanded the
Iranians’ release.

In a coordinated blitz reminiscent of October 2002’s crackpot warnings
of Saddam’s “mushroom clouds,” the selfsame White House spokesmen—Condi
Rice, Dick Cheney and national security adviser Stephen Hadley—hit the
TV talk show circuit. Exactly as it was once Saddam, Saddam, Saddam,
suddenly it was Iran, Iran, Iran.

It’s merely bitter irony that the Iraqi dictator’s last words were to
curse the “devil-worshipping Persians.” If the U. S. didn’t want Iranian
influence inside Iraq to increase, it shouldn’t have invaded at all,
much less supervised elections sure to empower Shiite religious-based
parties. (Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki himself spent years in Iranian
exile.) It’s too late now for Bush to scapegoat the Persians for
incoherent U.S. policy.

Evidence of Iranian misdeeds is laughably thin. Unnamed American
officials charge Iran with providing “infrared triggering devices” for
roadside bombs. People, that’s a TV remote.

But getting sucked into one of these tit-for-tat debates about
technicalitiesaluminum tubes, yellowcake uranium, etc. —is precisely
what these warmongering loons want. Let’s stick to the big picture: Yes,
Iran has an authoritarian religious government. Yes, like virtually
every Muslim country, it’s unfriendly to Israel. President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad’s promotion of a Holocaust-deniers convention in Tehran made
him resemble a Persian George Wallace. He also lost support in recent
elections and has no authority over Iran’s military whatsoever. The
Iranian “threat” exists mainly in the fevered minds of
neo-conservatives. Persians generally mistrust Arabs and despise
al-Qa’ida. Iran made several attempts to help the U.S. in Afghanistan
after 9/11. It hasn’t launched an aggressive war for centuries. But even
if you think I’m wrong about all that, do yourself a favor and spend
five minutes scrutinizing a world map. Iran’s population is three times
larger than Iraq’s. Its land area is twice Texas’ and five times Iraq’s.
It has a more cohesive, nationalistic population, and a mountainous
landscape. It’s precisely halfway around the world. Even if war with
Iran were inevitable, the U. S. is in no shape to fight it. This
crackpot scheme must be prevented by any legitimate political means.

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." : Texas Governor George W. Bush, April 9, 1999, on the US intervention in Kosovo
Majority will have its way
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Game definitely on. With Democrats assuming control of Congress, the
pieces are in place for a struggle that could redefine American politics
for a generation or longer. Personally, I’ve always opposed impeaching
President Bush. After the Republicans’ ludicrous attempts to remove Bill
Clinton, for Democrats to normalize the practice by appearing to
retaliate in kind could only inflame partisanship, boosting TV and radio
shout-fest ratings at the expense of weakening the Constitution.
Although polls show slight majorities favoring impeachment, the votes
just aren’t there. Even so, it’s not hard to imagine how it could
happen. Because to allow an arrogant, arguably delusional president and
his shrinking band of ideologically driven aides to double-down in Iraq,
gambling the “lives and sacred honor” of American soldiers to save face
in a misbegotten war also would do incalculable harm to the idea of
self-government. To remove Bush, however, Republicans would have to take
the lead. As Bush is currently wrecking the GOP everywhere but the Deep
South, chances may not be as remote as they seem. The cult of
personality surrounding the White House has broken down. Last November,
American voters delivered as clear a verdict on Iraq as an off year
electorate can possibly render. No Democratic incumbent lost anywhere.
Yet Bush acts as if it never happened.

For three years after the administration forced Gen. Eric Shinseki into
retirement for testifying that a far larger force would be needed to
occupy Iraq than Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld planned, the White
House insisted that the U. S. had precisely the right mix of soldiers in
place, that victory was imminent and that Bush never failed to heed his
brilliant generals in Baghdad.

Only after Rummy got fired did we learn that he’d himself proposed “an
accelerated drawdown of U.S. bases” in Iraq in 2007. Instead, more than
3,000 American lives into the war, Bush dumped him and cashiered the
brilliant generals, also apparently for opposing escalation.

He’s chosen Gen. David Petraeus, the author of the Army’s manual on
counterinsurgency, to replace them. True, Petraeus’ 101st Airborne
troops did a better job pacifying the locals in Mosul in 2003 than other
U. S. forces. But his second job there involved training the Iraqi army
and police forces, an unqualified disaster.

Some conservatives argue desperately that a “surge” of 20,000 troops
will save the situation. Writing in The Washington Post, former NATO
Supreme Commander (and Democratic presidential candidate ) Wesley Clark
sets them straight: “We’ve never had enough troops in Iraq. In Kosovo,
we had 40,000 troops for a population of 2 million. That ratio would
call for at least 500,000 troops in Iraq; adding 20,000 now seems too
little, too late. Further, U.S. troops so far have lacked the language
skills, cultural awareness and political legitimacy to ensure that areas
‘cleared’ can be ‘held.’”

The larger problem is the same one that confounded Petraeus’ efforts to
train Iraqi forces. As a nation, Iraq scarcely existed in 2003 when the
U.S. invaded. Since then it’s disintegrated into sheer, bloody chaos,
with tribal and sectarian loyalties overwhelming all others. The
transformation of Saddam Hussein’s execution into a sectarian snuff film
ought to teach Americans all they need to know about the government
we’ve installed there.

Mere reality, however, has never made an impression on the Bush White
House. What’s more significant is that Clark, valedictorian of his West
Point class, after all, no longer looks like a maverick. The president’s
political support is melting like the polar ice cap. And it’s not merely
pundits like the Post’s George Will and Charles Krauthammer and The New
York Times’ David Brooks who’ve pronounced themselves appalled. ABC News
recently polled the members of the 2002 U.S. Senate that voted 77-23 to
authorize Bush to use force in Iraq. Knowing what they know now, they’d
oppose the war 57-43—a 34-vote swing.

Writing in Human Events, right-wing icon Oliver North argues, “Sending
more U.S. combat troops [to Iraq] is simply sending more targets.”
Recently back from Baghdad, North says contrary to Sens. John McCain and
Holy Joe Lieberman, “[n]ot one of the soldiers, sailors, airmen,
Guardsmen or Marines I interviewed told me that they wanted more U.S.
boots on the ground. In fact, nearly all expressed just the opposite:
‘We don’t need more American troops, we need more Iraqi troops.’” Fat
chance. Even more ominous for Republicans not named Bush was a recent
Military Times poll. Since 2004, active-duty service members calling
themselves Republicans dropped 14 percent (from 60 to 46 percent )
seemingly in direct response to Iraq. Thirty-five percent think Bush has
handled the war competently; 75 percent think the military’s dangerously
overstressed. Predicting the future is folly. History, however, teaches
that when strong majorities of Americans want something, our political
system finds a way to give it to them.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Will Your Local TV Station Carry the Democratic Response to Bush?

I called the local TV stations and had a tepid response to the question, "Will your station carry the Democratic response to the Bush speech on Wednesday night. Although none of them could say for sure, they all said "that's how it usually goes."

Please call your local stations and get them to commit to carry the Democratic response to Bush's ambush politics and "surge" escalation mistake which is compounding the death and destruction he has heaped upon the nation.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Dahr Jamail:

Execution Memories Refuse To Go Away

*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

*BAGHDAD, Jan. 5 (IPS) - The footage of the execution of Saddam Hussein
has generated controversy in Iraq that is refusing to die down.*

Footage of Saddam's last moments, taken by an onlooker with a mobile
phone, shows the former dictator appearing calm and composed while
dealing with taunts from witnesses below him. The audio reveals several
men praising the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Mohammed Bakr al-Sadr,
founder of the Shia Dawa Party, who was killed by Saddam in 1980.

"Peace be upon Muhammad and his followers," shouted someone near the
person who filmed the events. "Curse his enemies and make victorious his
son Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada." These chants are commonly used by
members of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia..

There has been a huge international backlash to the footage. In India
millions of Muslims demonstrated against the execution being carried out
during the sacred festival of Eid.

Across Iraq, Shias seem mostly pleased. "Of course things will be better
now that Saddam is dead," Saed Abdul-Hussain, a cleric from the Shia
dominated city Najaf told IPS in Baghdad. "It is like hitting the snake
on the head and I hope his followers will hand over their weapons and
accept the fact that they lost."

But few believe that Saddam was inspiring the armed resistance.

"Who is Saddam and why would he affect anything after his death," a
55-year-old teacher from Fallujah told IPS. "The idea of his leading the
resistance from jail is too ridiculous for a sane man to believe. We
know that Mujahideen (holy warriors) are the only ones who will kick the
occupation out of the country."

Others believe unity between Iraqis is the only answer to the occupation.

"Saddam was terminated the day he was captured by occupation forces,"
Salah al-Dulaimy from Ramadi told IPS. "Things will continue to be as
bad as they are for both Iraqis and Americans because nothing has really
changed. A president who was removed from power four years ago is just
an ordinary man although the way he was executed and the timing of the
execution was a blessing to so many Iraqis, who realised the necessity
of being united no matter what religion and sect they belong to."

Facing broadening criticism over release of the mobile phone footage,
the Iraqi government arrested a guard accused of filming the execution.
Iraqi officials said on Wednesday that the execution chamber was
infiltrated by outsiders bent on inflaming sectarian tensions.

"Whoever leaked this video meant to harm national reconciliation and
drive a wedge between Shias and Sunnis," National Security Adviser
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, who was among 20 officials and other witnesses
present at the execution at dawn last Saturday told reporters.

Rubaie later insisted that there was nothing improper about the shouting
from the crowd, or the fact that executioners and officials danced
around Saddam's body. "This is the tradition of the Iraqis, when they do
something, they dance around the body and they express their feelings,"
he said in an interview to CNN.

A senior Interior Ministry official told reporters that the hanging was
supposed to be carried out by hangmen employed by the Interior Ministry
but that "militias" had managed to infiltrate the executioners' team.

The airing of the footage has further damaged the government of
embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and possibilities of
reconciliation between political and sectarian groups in Iraq.

On Thursday the Iraqi government postponed the hanging of two of Saddam
Hussein's companions. Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikrit, Saddam's half brother
and former intelligence chief, along with Awad Ahmed al-Bandar, head of
Saddam's revolutionary court, were to have been hanged Thursday.

A senior official from Maliki's office told a reporter that the
executions were postponed "due to international pressure."

U.S. Presidential press secretary Tony Snow, formerly of Fox News,
dismissed calls to join international condemnation of Saddam Hussein's
execution. "The government is investigating the conduct of some people
within the chamber and I think we'll leave it at that," Snow told
reporters. "But the one thing you got to keep in mind is that you got

The U.S. military claims it had no control over the events at the
execution, despite handing Saddam over to Iraqi authorities just minutes
before the footage was taken. The U.S. military then transported the
body to Tikrit where it was later buried.

Many Iraqis simply want the bloodshed and chaos that has engulfed their
country to end.

"I just pray to Allah to stop the bleeding that started when those
strangers came into our country," 65-year-old Ahmed Alwan from Baghdad
told IPS. "There is no future for us to think about under such a mess,
and killing Saddam will just add more hatred between Iraqis, especially
with the savage comments that appeared on the video."

Most Iraqis seem skeptical of the current U.S.-backed Iraqi government,
which has been unable to restore even basic services, let alone security.

"Our government thought they could fool us again by killing the man,"
30-year-old grocer Atwan in the Hurriya district of Baghdad told IPS.
"We have had enough and what we demand is a real change, or else we will
take another course regardless of what our religious and political
leaders tell us. What we want is a better life and real brotherhood
between Iraqis."

(Ali al-Fadhily is our Baghdad correspondent. Dahr Jamail is our
specialist writer who has spent eight months reporting from inside Iraq
and has been covering the Middle East for several years.)

Washington Post Slams Bush Lie in Editorial

A Heckuva Claim
Mr. Bush is oblivious to the consequences of his tax cuts.

Saturday, January 6, 2007; A16

PRESIDENT BUSH wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday that "it is also a fact that our tax cuts have fueled robust economic growth and record revenues." The claim about fueling record revenue is flat wrong, and it is shocking that the president should persist in making such errors. After all, tax cuts are the central plank of his domestic policy. How can he fail to understand the basic facts about them?

This is not just our opinion. Harvard's N. Gregory Mankiw, an economic conservative who served as chairman of Mr. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, has tested the hypothesis on which Mr. Bush's claim is based: He looked at the extent to which tax cuts stimulate extra growth and the extent to which that growth generates extra tax revenue that offsets the initial loss of revenue from the tax cut. Mr. Mankiw's conclusion: Even over the long term, once you've allowed all of the extra growth to feed through into extra revenue, cuts in capital taxes juice the economy enough to recoup half of the lost revenue, and cuts in income taxes deliver a boost that recoups 17 percent of the lost revenue. So a $100 billion cut in taxes on capital widens the budget deficit by $50 billion, and a $100 billion cut in income taxes widens the budget deficit by $83 billion.

If Mr. Bush does not believe Mr. Mankiw, perhaps he may believe the Congressional Budget Office. In a period when it was run by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, another economic conservative who worked in Mr. Bush's White House, the CBO estimated the extent to which a 10 percent reduction in personal taxes might pay for itself. On the most optimistic assumptions it could muster, the CBO found that tax cuts would stimulate enough economic growth to replace 22 percent of lost revenue in the first five years and 32 percent in the second five. On pessimistic assumptions, the growth effects of tax cuts did nothing to offset revenue loss.

If Mr. Bush believes neither Mr. Mankiw nor the Congressional Budget Office, he should at least respect his own Treasury. Prodded by the White House, Treasury economists have calculated how much extra growth would result from making the Bush tax cuts permanent. They have concluded that economic output would rise by about 0.5 percent in the first six years and by an additional 0.2 percent in the "long term." Since the federal government collects around 18 percent of gross domestic product in taxes, enlarging GDP by 0.7 percent would result in extra tax revenue equivalent to 0.13 percent of GDP. That would offset less than a tenth of the revenue that would be lost because of the tax cuts.

Mr. Bush's op-ed included nice statements about bipartisan cooperation. But the Democrats would be more likely to cooperate with the president if he stopped making things up.

Can We Let Intelligence Officials Lie With Impunity?”

By Ray McGovern and W. Patrick Lang

01/05/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- Lies have consequences . All those who helped President George W. Bush launch a war of aggression—termed by Nuremberg “the supreme international crime”—have blood on their hands and must be held accountable. This includes corrupt intelligence officials. Otherwise, look for them to perform the same service in facilitating war on Iran.

“They should have been shot,” said former State Department intelligence director, Carl Ford, referring to ex-CIA director George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin, for their “fundamentally dishonest” cooking of intelligence to please the White House. Ford was alluding to “intelligence” on the menacing but non-existent mobile biological weapons laboratories in Iraq.

Ford was angry that Tenet and McLaughlin persisted in portraying the labs as real several months after they had been duly warned that they existed only in the imagination of intelligence analysts who, in their own eagerness to please, had glommed onto second-hand tales told by a con-man appropriately dubbed “Curveball.” In fact, Tenet and McLaughlin had been warned about Curveball long before they let then-Secretary of State Colin Powell shame himself, and the rest of us, by peddling Curveball’s wares at the U.N. Security Council on February 5, 2003.

After the war began, those same analysts, still “leaning forward,” misrepresented a tractor-trailer found in Iraq outfitted with industrial equipment as one of the mobile bio-labs. Former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay, then working for NBC News, obliged by pointing out the equipment “where the biological process took place... Literally, there is nothing else for which it could be used.”

George Tenet knows a good man when he sees him. A few weeks later he hired Kay to lead the Pentagon-created Iraq Survey Group in the famous search to find other (equally non-existent, it turned out) “weapons of mass destruction.” (Eventually Kay, a scientist given to empirical evidence more than faith-based intelligence, became the skunk at the picnic when, in January 2004, he insisted on telling senators the truth: “We were almost all wrong—and I certainly include myself here.” But that came later.)

On May 28, 2003, CIA’s intrepid analysts cooked up a fraudulent six-page report claiming that the trailer discovered earlier in May was proof they had been right about Iraq’s “bio-weapons labs.” They then performed what could be called a “night-time requisition,” getting the only Defense Intelligence Agency analyst sympathetic to their position to provide DIA “coordination,” (which was subsequently withdrawn by DIA). On May 29, President George W. Bush, visiting Poland, proudly announced on Polish TV, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction.”

When the State Department's Intelligence and Research (INR) analysts realized that this was not some kind of Polish joke, they “went ballistic,” according to Ford, who immediately warned Colin Powell that there was a problem. Tenet must have learned of this quickly, for he called Ford on the carpet, literally, the following day. No shrinking violet, Ford held his ground. He told Tenet and McLaughlin, “That report is one of the worst intelligence assessments I’ve ever read.”

This vignette—and several like it—are found in Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, who say Ford is still angry over the fraudulent paper. Ford told the authors:

It was clear that they [Tenet and McLaughlin] had been personally involved in the preparation of the report... It wasn’t just that it was wrong. They lied.

This, of course, was just one episode in the long drama of deliberate perversion of intelligence to grease the skids for justifying the invasion of Iraq—the most serious foreign policy blunder in our nation’s 230-year history.

“Hubris,” the overweening arrogance that brought down many a protagonist of the Greek tragedies, is an aptly-chosen title for the revealing Isikoff/Corn study. Some of the ground they cover is familiar to us Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), who well before the war started chronicling the Bush administration’s lies. What makes the book different is its cumulative impact—the detailed, first-hand accounts of lie and cover-up, lie and cover-up, ad nauseam .

Protagonists need a supporting cast. And many of the dramatis personae were intelligence analysts—former colleagues of mine. The question lingers: How could they allow themselves to be seduced into enlisting in the meretricious march to mayhem in Iraq? Much of the answer (and much of the reason this misguided war is allowed to continue) lies in the fact that those planning and facilitating the war in Iraq are not fighting it. Unlike Vietnam, no one “important” is being asked to put life and limb at risk; nor, generally speaking, are their children. Interestingly, most of our troops come from towns with populations of less than 10,000.

Theirs Not To Reason Why

Into the valley of death rode the 3,000. “U.S. Toll in Iraq Reaches 3,000” screamed The Washington Post ’s lead story on New Year’s Day, which included the Pentagon’s count of more than 22,000 troops injured. As is known, the Pentagon does not count dead Iraqis, but reputable estimates put that number at about 650,000. As we pass this sad milestone, it behooves us to pause and consider the enormity of what has been allowed to happen—and how to prevent it from happening again. The House and Senate Intelligence committees in the new Congress need to reinstitute genuine oversight, including a close look at why so many intelligence officers cooperated in the dishonesty leading to war. We owe that to the 25,000, not to mention the 650,000.

Start with Tenet and McLaughlin and include Alan Foley, the retired chief of CIA’s Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC) and devotee of imaginative intelligence on bio-labs, uranium from Niger, aluminum tubes and other artifices to justify an unnecessary war. Most of the suspects owe their meteoric careers in large measure to Defense Secretary Robert Gates who, as head of CIA analysis and later as CIA director, institutionalized the politicization of CIA analysis more than 20 years ago, mostly by moving malleable managers up the pay scale.

Another beneficiary of Gates is George Tenet who, as staff director of the Senate Intelligence committee in 1991, helped Gates overcome strong opposition to his confirmation as director. It is a safe bet that Gates returned the favor by recommending that Tenet be kept on as director when George W. Bush became president in 2001.

Gates learned well at the knee of his original mentor, William Casey, President Ronald Reagan’s CIA director. They and those that followed had remarkable success in perpetrating the dual crime of which, long ago, Socrates was accused: making the worse case appear the better and corrupting the youth. Thus, in September 2002 when Senate Intelligence committee Democrats Dick Durban and Bob Graham insisted on a National Intelligence Estimate on “weapons of mass destruction” before Congress voted for war, George Tenet found himself the ultimate beneficiary of Robert Gates’ finely tuned Geiger counter for corruptibility. The pliant managers promoted originally by Gates were happy to conjure up a formal estimate written to the specifications of their frequent visitor, Vice President Dick Cheney.

Those who tell consequential lies need to be held accountable. That includes, of course, Colin Powell. Congress needs to ask the former Secretary of State why he decided to disregard the objections of his own intelligence analysts and turned instead to faith-based intelligence for war. He has expressed regret for his scandalous performance at the U.N., but only because it put “a blot on my record.” I would like to see him try that out on Cindy Sheehan and 3,000 other bereaved mothers.

Powell and I grew up a mile from each other in the Bronx. There we had a word for his forte, which remains a ubiquitous scourge in Washington. It was both noun and verb: “brownnose.” And it has nothing to do with skin color. It was a familiar word before I learned “sycophant.” Webster’s provides this meaning: “To ingratiate oneself with, to curry favor with; from the implication that servility is equivalent to kissing the hinder parts of the person from whom advancement is sought.”

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D, Texas, put the effects of all this most succinctly in a floor speech last year:

This war was launched without an immediate threat to our families... Radical "know-it-all" ideologues here in Washington bent facts, distorted intelligence and perpetrated lies designed to mislead the American people into believing a third-rate thug had a hand in the 9/11 tragedy and was soon to unleash a mushroom cloud.

Much is being said today about honoring the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers. Perhaps the best way to do that is to find out who did the misleading and hold them to account before they do it again

Ray McGovern was an Army infantry/intelligence officer before his 27-year career as a CIA analyst. W. Patrick Lang, a retired Army colonel, served with Special Forces in Vietnam, as a professor at West Point and as Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East (DIA). Both are with Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

First published at

Friday, January 05, 2007

Rights threatened

Rights threatened
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Some people have art, others theater.

Along with millions of similarly uncultivated louts, I have ball games. To fans, sports offer a temporary refuge from the complicated muddle of everyday life. Lately, though, it’s become harder to tell the sports page from the rest of the newspaper. Largely due to money and TV celebrity, jocks now draw outsized personal scrutiny once reserved for Hollywood actors, Washington politicians, serial killers and girl singers who misplace their underpants. Mostly, it’s merely annoying to see sports commentators posing as moral arbiters, prosecutor, judge and jury. Then there’s the BALCO investigation in San Francisco, a media-driven probe of alleged steroid abuse by professional athletes that’s beginning to rival Kenneth Starr’s probe of the Very Naughty President for misplaced prosecutorial zeal and dangerous constitutional precedents.

Incredibly, this seemingly endless federal investigation, whose main purpose appears to be to prevent an unpopular baseball player from breaking a “hallowed” career home-run record, or, at minimum, depriving said slugger of public esteem accompanying the feat, now poses serious threats to the First and Fourth amendment rights of all Americans.

See, as long as anabolic steroid abuse was confined to obscure “sports” like bodybuilding and professional wrestling, nobody cared. If muscle-bound geeks wanted to bulk up while their testicles shriveled, that was their business. No sooner did prosecutors learn that customers of the now infamous Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative included big league baseball players, however, than a major scandal took shape.

Chief among the suspected steroid abusers is Barry Bonds, the “controversial” 41-year-old San Francisco Giants slugger who will probably break Henry Aaron’s record of 755 lifetime home runs next season, earning a reported $16 million whether federal prosecutors indict him for perjury or not. He is controversial mainly because he dislikes reporters and treats them rudely, a self-defeating way for a performer to act. It’s said that his father, Bobby Bonds, also a star Giants outfielder, and his godfather, Hall of Fame center-fielder Willie Mays, taught him contempt for the media.

Steroids or no steroids, Bonds is the deadliest power hitter in baseball. Unlike Mark McGwire, the Bunyanesque (and equally suspect) slugger whose single season home-run record he broke, Bonds also hits for average and sets records for intentional walks. Teams rarely pitch to him in clutch situations.

Hardly anybody believes Bonds’ testimony to the BALCO grand jury that he never knowingly took steroids, although his personal trainer could have doped him without his knowledge. We know exactly what he said because that transcript was leaked to San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, who reproduced it word-for-word in their book “Game of Shadows,” which also featured the bitter recriminations of Bonds’ ex-mistress.

Hence, the First Amendment threat. A federal judge found both reporters in contempt for refusing to disclose their sources. They face prison should their appeals fail. Even public figures like Bonds enjoy the protection of grand jury secrecy, preventing prosecutors from smearing persons they can’t indict. Numerous news organizations have filed briefs essentially demanding blanket amnesty for reporters, rendering those protections almost meaningless, so I’m betting the reporters end up doing time. The Pentagon Papers case this ain’t.

Which brings us to the far graver Fourth Amendment issue. See, back in 2003, when steroid use was neither against the rules of baseball, nor, in the case of the “nutritional supplement” McGwire admitted taking, against federal law, the Major League Baseball Players Association negotiated a one-time, confidential and anonymous drug test for diagnostic purposes. If more than 5 percent tested positive—8.7 percent did—they’d agree to the testing regimen now enforced.

Anxious to get evidence about 11 players, including Bonds, BALCO prosecutors subpoenaed their test results. Citing the confidentiality agreement, the MLBPA sought to quash the subpoena. (There are many legitimate reasons a player might test positive.) Prosecutors then got a search warrant from another judge who wasn’t told that the matter was already under litigation—to lawyers, the equivalent of a spitball.

In serving that warrant, the FBI seized computer files containing the test results of all 1,300 players in Major League Baseball, along with the National Hockey League and several other sports organizations. They cited the pretext that the computer lay in “plain view,” like a murder weapon found during a drug bust. Last week, a panel of the 9 th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the FBI could keep them, overruling a lower court which found that BALCO prosecutors had no probable cause for seizing the files and thus had violated the players’ Fourth Amendment privacy rights. The dissenting judge called the raid a false pretext to gain “confidential medical data about Major League Baseball players who were not under... particularized suspicion of criminal activity.” If the ruling stood, he wrote, no doctor’s office or hospital in the age of computerized records would be safe from crusading investigators seeking to protect the vaunted “integrity of the game” of baseball or eradicate sin.