September 30, 2006

It's Really Uncanny How Christopher Hitchens Manages To Be Right About Absolutely Everything

Christopher Hitchens:

Fukuyama's essay betrays a secret academic wish to be living in "normal" times once more, times that will "restore the authority of foreign policy 'realists' in the tradition of Henry Kissinger." Fat chance, Francis! Kissinger is moribund...

More Hitchens:

TCR: Let's talk about your journey, if you will, on the Iraq question, which has a lot to do with the Kurdish struggle and your support for it.

HITCHENS: ...If you wanted to see a Kurdish person go from relative composure to peeing green, the easiest way to do it is to mention the name Kissinger.

From Bob Woodward's new book State of Denial:

A powerful, largely invisible influence on Bush's Iraq policy was former secretary of state Kissinger.

"Of the outside people that I talk to in this job," Vice President Cheney told me in the summer of 2005, "I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than I talk to anybody else. He just comes by and, I guess at least once a month, Scooter and I sit down with him." (Scooter is I. Lewis Libby, then Cheney's chief of staff.)

The president met privately with Kissinger every couple of months, making him the most regular and frequent outside adviser to Bush on foreign affairs...

Victory had to be the goal, he told all... Don't give an inch, or else the media, the Congress and the American culture of avoiding hardship will walk you back.

Gonzales Moves Past Doublespeak Into Triplespeak And Possibly Quadruplespeak

Here's Alberto Gonzales speaking yesterday at "A Conference on the State of the Judiciary" at Georgetown Law School (pdf):

A proper sense of judicial humility requires judges to keep in mind the institutional limitations of the judiciary and the duties expressly assigned by the Constitution to the more politically accountable branches. The Constitution, for example, clearly makes the President the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, and assigns other important war powers to the Congress. The Supreme Court has long recognized, moreover, the Executive's pre-eminent role in foreign affairs. The Constitution, by contrast, provides the Courts with relatively few tools to superintend military and foreign policy decisions, especially during war time.

Now, here's Gonzales testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee last February 6th:

GONZALES: There was not a war declaration, either in connection with Al Qaeda or in Iraq.

And here's what he said to the committee on July 18th:

GONZALES: [T]here’s been no declaration of war...there’s been no declaration of war here.

I've long been confused by the weird insistence of Gonzales that "Oh my god we're at war which means everyone must give all power to the preznit! Also, let me emphasize that there's definitely no way never been a declaration of war!" I finally ended up writing an article explaining why he says this, which will be in the November/December issue of Mother Jones.

September 29, 2006

Yet More Again From Hubris Additionally

Here's more from Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. Something like this apparently appears in Bob Woodward's new book as well.

As Hubris recounts it, one night after Kay had arrived in Iraq on his fruitness fruitless WMD hunt, he was woken up in the middle of the night with a message from Cheney's office. They'd sent him:

...a highly sensitive communications intercept that had captured a snippet of conversation between two unidentified people. Cheney's aides were reading raw transcripts straight from the National Security Agency. And a Cheney staffer who had gotten hold of this piece of unanalyzed intelligence thought that it contained a reference to a WMD storage site in Iraq, even though the captured exchange didn't specifically mention weapons. What made this intercept most promising was that it had come with geographic coordinates for one of the unidentified persons...The next morning, [Kay's] analysts checked the coordinates and discovered they referred to a site in the Bekka Valley in Lebanon—not anywhere in Iraq. This was no lead...[j]ust as Cheney and Libby had done before the war, the vice president's aides were rummaging through top secret, unprocessed intelligence in the hope of discovering what everyone else in the U.S. government had missed.

...The signals intercept was not the only intelligence tip Cheney's office urgently passed on to Kay. On another occasion, the vice president's aides sent a message to Kay and the ISG: check out this overhead photograph. It showed what looked like the opening of a tunnel on the side of a hill in Iraq. This could be where the WMD were hidden, Cheney's office said—in caves.

When Kay and several of his analysts took a look at the photo, they burst out laughing. They knew exactly what was in the picture. It was a common practice for local farmers to use bulldozers to dig trenches into the sides of hills. Because the water table was fairly high, these trenches would fill with water and become sources of drinking water for cows..."Anyone who has spent any time on the ground in Iraq immediately would recognize these as cuts that the local population made to get to ground water for their animals," Kay said later. "We reported back that we had looked at it and it was not what you thought it was. There was no point humiliating them."

Here's a rule about governments that will never steer you wrong: whenever people claim to be hard-headed realists with no illusions (in contrast to their weak-willed, fuzzy-minded opponents), you can be sure they are dangerous lunatics living in a fantasy world.

Bill Clinton Courageously Waits A Mere Eight Years To Tell Truth

Here's a Bill Clinton quote from the recent New Yorker article about him by David Remnick:

The [Bush] Administration did not shoot straight on the nuclear issue or on Saddam's supposed ties to Al Qaeda prior to 9/11... I personally never saw any intelligence on the Al Qaeda connection or the nuclear issue, except that he had some people in labs fooling around with it.

Huh. That's interesting.

Below I've quoted a few things Clinton was saying during the 1998 bombing of Iraq in Operation Desert Fox. But just for fun, I've added a few sentences. See if you can spot which ones!

December 16, 1998

CLINTON: Good evening. Earlier today I ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors... Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.

Though let me clear about one thing: I've personally never seen any intelligence on the nuclear issue, except that Saddam has some people in labs fooling around with it.

December 18, 1998

CLINTON: So we had to act. Saddam simply must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors of the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.

Still, let me emphasize something so no one gets the wrong impression: I've personally never seen any intelligence on the nuclear issue, except that he has some people in labs fooling around with it.

December 19, 1998

CLINTON: I believe our action in Iraq clearly is in America's interest. Never again can we allow Saddam Hussein to develop nuclear weapons, poison gas, biological weapons, or missiles to deliver them.

Having said that, I feel in matters of life and death the president owes America the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And the truth is I've personally never seen any intelligence on the nuclear issue, except that he has some people in labs fooling around with it.

BONUS: Here's Kenneth Pollack's February 21, 2003 New York Times op-ed:

[In 1995], the international agency was so certain that it had eradicated the Iraqi nuclear program that it wanted to end aggressive inspections in favor of passive "monitoring." Then a slew of defectors came out of Iraq...These defectors reported that outside pressure had not only failed to eradicate the nuclear program, it was bigger and more cleverly spread out and concealed than anyone had imagined it to be...

Then another batch of important defectors escaped to Europe and told Western intelligence services that after the inspectors left Iraq in 1998, Saddam Hussein had started a crash program to build a nuclear weapon and that the Iraqis had devised methods to hide the effort.

Thank god Bill Clinton wrote a letter to the NY Times the next day saying "Don't believe a word Pollack says. I personally never saw any intelligence on the nuclear issue, except that Saddam had some people in labs fooling around with it." If he hadn't, we might have made a terrible mistake and invaded Iraq!

September 28, 2006

Don't Have Power, Don't Have Money, Still Have Words

Chris Floyd:

Who are these people? Who are these useless hanks of bone and fat that call themselves Senators of the United States? Let’s call them what they really are, let’s speak the truth about what they’ve done today with their votes on the bill to enshrine Bush's gulag of torture and endless detention into American law.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Sold our liberty to keep their coddled, corrupt backsides squatting in the Beltway gravy a little longer.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Cowards and slaves, giving up our most ancient freedoms to a dull-eyed, dim-witted pipsqueak and his cohort of bagmen, cranks and degenerate toadies...

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Traitors to the nation, filthy time-servers and bootlickers, turning America into a rogue state, an open champion of torture, repression and terror.

Who are they? The murderers of democracy.
Threw our freedom on the ground and raped it, beat it, shot it, stuck their knives into it and set it on fire.

More. My favorite part is "their coddled, corrupt backsides squatting in the Beltway gravy," but it's all good.

September 27, 2006

Time To Make Your Reservations On The Shuttle To Mars

Glenn Greenwald, Hilzoy and especially Digby have already said most of what there is to say about this part of the declassified Key Judgments of the terrorism NIE:

Anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age.

But it's worth saying it again: this is REALLY REALLY REALLY weird and alarming, particularly in conjunction with the latest draft (pdf) of the Geneva Conventions/War Crimes bill. Here's one of its definitions of what makes someone an "unlawful enemy combatant":

(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant

Note being a U.S. citizen doesn't prevent you from becoming an "unlawful enemy combatant." Note also that you don't have to do anything affecting the U.S., just a "co-belligerent"—which is defined as:

any State or armed force joining and directly engaged with the United States in hostilities or directly supporting hostilities against a common enemy.

When you put all this together, I doubt there's anyone on earth who, if the U.S. government wanted, couldn't become an unlawful enemy combatant. Including you.

• you gave money to Greenpeace, and then they staged a die-in at a polluting Japanese military facility? Unlawful enemy combatant

• you wrote letters in support of Christian Peacemaker Teams which then tried to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank? Unlawful enemy combatant

• you traveled to the World Social Forum, which organized demonstrations against the World Bank, which caused "economic damage" to the G-8? Unlawful enemy combatant

This is precisely, exactly, 100% the kind of the law that authoritarian governments have had on their books throughout history as they merrily tortured and killed their own citizens. Now it's coming to the U.S. It's no joke.

AGAIN: Go read Digby, Glenn Greenwald and Hilzoy.

AND: Before we board the rocket off this planet, we must all read the Top 176 Star Wars Lines Improved By Replacing A Word With "Pants" (via)

The Uniquely American Combination Of Puritanism And Ultraviolence

I don't watch much football, because I can't get over the fact I'm not a starting wide receiver for the Washington Redskins. It just makes me too mad to watch these impostors suit up in what's rightfully MY uniform. Also, they keep losing.

But Dennis Perrin still turns on the TV, ensorcled by the glory and horror that is American sports:

As I've aged and broadened my political and cultural understanding, I see what American football really is -- a fascist game for the authoritarian-minded who believe they're in love with war. As I've noted here before, sports radio really pushes this mindset, encouraging listeners to be grunting, cliché-spouting nationalist assholes, which many listeners happily become. It's easy, takes little thinking, and makes them feel part of some mystical warrior tribe. And also means that politically, they are utter reactionaries, chewing on Old Glory as their pupils dilate and spin like pinwheels. I hear this everyday. Why, you ask? I love sports. Pitiful, but true.

The boy, on the other hand, isn't as enamored of the games as is his old man. He likes basketball to a degree, and will soon be in a hoops camp at school. He certainly has the height, as he's one of the tallest kids in his class. But he doesn't have the crazy competitive heart... The boy hates confrontation, is a gentle soul, and prefers laughter to producing agony in others. In a sane country, this would be perfect and beautiful. In present-day America, it's an invitation to get bashed...

I can already see this to a degree in some of his jockier classmates... the beefy, dopey boys who taunt my son and exclude him from playground games often wear Michigan garb, bought by parents devoted to the greater Wolverine tribe. So this poisonous shit is taught early and with open eyes. In seven or eight years, these kids will be eligible to fight, die and be maimed in the imperial wars that will still be waged, doubtless with terrorist blowback serving as the endless pretext. It's tragic to see those boys conditioned for what awaits them, assuming they'll march unthinking toward such a savage fate. Perhaps in time they'll get past the tribal mindset that limits them. My son would be happy to help, I'm sure.


POST TITLE: Courtesy of my friend Rob.

September 26, 2006

Gosh, The March Of Time Sure Has Rendered I.F. Stone Completely Irrelevant

On their show last night about I.F. Stone featuring Billmon, Radio Open Source played this snippet (at about 33:25) from a tape of Stone speaking during Vietnam:

Now, governments lie. But they don't like to lie literally, because a literal, flat, obvious lie tends to be caught.

So what they do is, they become masters of the disingenuous statement, of phrasing something in such a way that the honest, normal, unwary reader gets one impression, what he's supposed to get.

Then three months later he discovers it's not true and goes back to complain. And they say, well, that's not what we said -- look at it carefully. And you look at it carefully and sure enough, it was really doubletalk and didn't say exactly what they said.

Yes, the world has changed completely since then. How embarrassing for all of Stone's admirers that his insights about politics have proven as evanescent as the morning dew.

September 25, 2006

The Voice Of Billmon

Billmon is going to be on the radio tonight:

I'm supposed to be on a program called Open Source Radio this evening talking about one of my personal heroes -- the late, great independent journalist I.F. ("Izzy") Stone...

Open Source's host, Chris Lyndon, tells me tonight's guests will include former Washington Post reporter Myra MacPherson, who just published a biography of Izzy, and former Washington Post national editor (and Stone intern) Peter Osnos, who's edited a new compilation of Izzy's articles, The Best of I.F. Stone...

MacPherson and Osnos are supposed to discuss Izzy's life and times, then I'll come on for a few minutes and bloviate about Izzy and the blogisphere -- i.e. are bloggers the true and legitimate heirs to Stone's stubborn independence, or just a feral pack of blogfascists in search of a few cheap thrills?...

Anyway, if you want to listen in, here's a list of public radio stations that carry the program. The podcast link is on the same page (itunes required).

I'm genuinely curious to hear what Billmon sounds like. What I think would be great is if everyone listens and it's clear he's actually Joe Lieberman, filling an anonymous blog with all the razor-sharp progressive political analysis his handlers won't let him say out loud.

A Question For Tony Snow

Dear White House reporters,

Here's a question you might ask Tony Snow at one of those little get-togethers you have:

Tony, as you know, Dan Bartlett said back in July, 2003 that President Bush didn't read all of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq before he took the country to war.

In the five months since it's been completed, has the president read all of the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism?

Let me know if you find out the answer.

your friend,

September 24, 2006

Democrats' Ineptitude Harshly Criticized by Washington Generals

The Republican Party may be run by loathsome, contemptible hatemongers who cynically manipulate America's basest instincts, but you've got to give them this: they do good work. By contrast, the Democrats seem to be led by people who couldn't successfully organize an elementary school bake sale.

For instance, take this appearance by Bush on CNN today:

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk a little bit about Iraq. Because this is a huge, huge issue, as you know, for the American public, a lot of concern that perhaps they are on the verge of a civil war...

BUSH: Yes, you see — you see it on TV, and that's the power of an enemy that is willing to kill innocent people. But there's also an unbelievable will and resiliency by the Iraqi people… Admittedly, it seems like a decade ago. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma because there is — my point is, there's a strong will for democracy.

If Democrats were like Republicans, there would be ads like this running in all fifty states by noon tomorrow:

[sad piano music]

[holding picture of son in uniform]
This is my son James.


I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq...


James was killed in Iraq last year.


BUSH: will look like just a comma.


My son was not a comma. He had a wife and a son and parents who loved him.


[at Correspondents Dinner]
Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere!

[audience laughs]


Now James is dead because of a war based on lies.


[at Correspondents Dinner]
No, no weapons over there!

[audience laughs]


A war that's made all of President Bush's corrupt buddies rich.

SUPER: Headlines—"Halliburton gets billions in contracts," "Lockheed CEO payout in millions"

Please vote this November, and send George Bush a message.


Mr. President, in your speeches now you rarely talk or mention Osama bin Laden.

I truly am not that concerned about him.

SUPER: "Vote to send a message. Vote for change. Vote Democratic."

• • •

Meanwhile, on whatever the Democratic equivalent of Fox News would be, there would already be splashy graphics and theme music for "Comma-gate." It would be the sole topic of conversation on the channel for the next month, with the Democratic Chris Wallace mournfully asking guests "Should the president resign?"

Fortunately for Bush, however, he is up against actually-existing Democrats, who will get themselves organized to the point that Barney Frank will mention this once in an interview on a 300-watt radio station in Louisville.

R.I.P. Waffles

As you probably know, The Editors' young cat Waffles was attacked by a dog on Tuesday. Since then I've been compulsively reloading The Poorman to see if there were any Waffles updates. Sometime last night the very sad news was posted that Waffles' injuries were too extensive and he had to be put to sleep. I hope anyone who's gotten enjoyment from The Editors' relentless funniness will be able to stop by today and leave their condolences.

Please Give A Warm Welcome To Lots Of Light Blue

I've made a few changes in an attempt to reduce the eye-strain this site's design was causing for many. Please let me know if you think this is an improvement or a disastrous deterioration.

September 23, 2006

Bush Kicks Sanity's Motherfucking Ass

Here's yet more from Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn. According to Hubris, this exchange took place during a May 1, 2002 meeting between Bush, Ari Fleischer, and Adam Levine (who worked for Fleischer):

As Fleischer recounted [an exchange with Helen Thomas about Saddam Hussein] for the president, Bush's mood changed, according to Levine. He grew grim and determined—steely. Out of nowhere, he unleashed a stream of expletives.

"Did you tell her I don't like motherfuckers who gas their own people?" the president snapped.

"Did you tell her I don't like assholes who lie to the world?"

"Did you tell her I'm going to kick his sorry motherfucking ass all over the Mideast?"

If I were teaching a course called "Insane World Leaders: 1945-2006," I'd devote at least two classes to this. There's a lot you could say about it, but my favorite parts are:

1. Bush's belief he somehow was personally "going to kick [Saddam's] sorry motherfucking ass." I guess I missed the part where Bush parachuted into Iraq and went mano-y-mano with Saddam and bested him in a round of Extreme Kickboxing.

Speaking of which, before the war Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan picked up on Bush's weirdly personal animus and suggested that he and Saddam fight a duel. "In this way," he said, "we are saving the American and Iraqi people." The White House scoffed at this preposterous notion. I suspect this was because Bush is so incredibly manly it wouldn't be a fair fight.

2. Bush, Fleischer and Levine were meeting to discuss an upcoming History Channel interview of Bush about similarities between him and Reagan. According to Hubris, on a pre-brief memo Bush had scrawled such phrases as "moral clarity."

I assume it was this moral clarity that led Reagan to help motherfuckers gas their own people. Reagan's moral clarity also led him to "lie to the world" and claim the Soviet Union was using chemical weapons in Afghanistan—at exactly the same moment he was assisting Saddam do it in Iraq.

After discussing this, my class would take a short break so we could all lie down and try to come to terms with the fact this planet is run by motherfucking lunatics.

September 22, 2006

O My Beloved People, How I Loathe You And All Your Kind

More from Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn:

[In 1995,] John Mcguire, the CIA specialist in paramilitary operations, was dispatched to the Kuridish region to figure out what had gone wrong [with a coup attempt against Saddam] — and what Chalabi was doing with the agency's money. Chalabi, he discovered, was living out of a large house with a fleet of luxury cars in the driveway...When Maguire went to the INC's CIA-funded newspaper office, he found two men working there but no newspaper...The entire Chalabi effort, Maguire concluded, was a sham. In January 1996, an indignant Maguire confronted Chalabi in a meeting in London and demanded an accounting of the agency's funds...Chalabi, caught off guard, accused the CIA officer of being impossible to deal with and "thinking like an Arab."

I'm not sure what "thinking like an Arab" entails. Maybe it means "thinking like someone who does not enjoy being ripped off by Ahmad Chalabi."

In any case, Maguire's story rings true. Back in 2003, Cambridge's Glen Rangwala visited Chalabi's Baghdad headquarters — located, appropriately enough, in the former "hunting club" of Udai Hussein. Glen reported that it was "bizarre," with "waiters bringing you free cocktails under (Udai's) elaborate chandeliers, whilst an INC goon tells you about how stupid Arabs are."

As I've noted previously, hatred and contempt for the people they want to lead seems to be a standard feature in leaders. The weird thing is they do this while constantly shrieking about how much they luv! luv! luv! their country.

For instance, you generally can only truly love America if you hate other Americans. Likewise, those who like other Americans always turn out to hate America.

September 20, 2006

It's Lies All The Way Down

Here's a famous anecdote, as told in Stephen Hawking's book A Brief History of Time:

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the Earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.

At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise."

The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?"

"You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down."

This is also the Bush administration strategy: no matter how deeply you inquire, you find that each lie is balanced on top of yet another lie. It's lies all the way down.

For instance, here's John Bolton yesterday on CNN:

BLITZER: But you understand why some people are skeptical of the Bush administration's stance given the failures on the weapons of mass destruction intelligence leading up to the Iraq war?...

BOLTON: Well I think our intelligence could get much better, let's put it that way. But don't forget, intelligence was wrong about Saddam Hussein in 1990, '91 too when they didn't think they were close to developing a nuclear weapon, where the IAEA had no proof, but where after that war, we learned a lot about what Saddam Hussein was up to.

This particular tale has been repeated ad nauseum, by Dick Cheney and many others, for years. We had to believe in 2003 the CIA was underestimating things on Iraq! they said. Just look what happened before the Gulf War!

Okay. Let's go back and check what people were saying before the Gulf War about what the intelligence showed. Here's Dick Cheney, then Defense Secretary, on Face the Nation on November 25, 1990:

CHENEY: ...nobody can put a specific timetable on it. There are a lot of estimates. They range through--worst case assumption, a matter of a year or less to having some kind of a crude device, to one to five to ten years in terms of having a deliverable weapon. The experts are all over the lot. What we do know is, he's doing everything he can to acquire the capability.

SMITH: The worst case scenario, that year or less, could involve a time period in which American and other troops are deployed nearby.

Cheney: Well, this is so--again, I don't want to overemphasize what capability he would have during that period of time... but again, we're talking about a relatively brief period of time here. One way or another, within a few years, Saddam Hussein is likely to acquire nuclear weapons.

What did we learn after the Gulf War? We learned that what Cheney said was exactly right. If the sanctions imposed on Iraq in August, 1990 after the invasion of Kuwait had been lifted (a very big if), Iraq was probably 2-3 years away from enriching enough uranium to build a crude nuclear weapon. It was also possible, though not certain, that Iraq's crash program started after the Kuwait invasion could have secretly diverted enriched uranium from its legitimate IAEA-supervised energy program to build a weapon by the end of 1992. In any case it would then have taken several more years to create weapons that were "deliverable"—i.e., by missile. (A good summary of the situation can be found here.)

It is true the CIA and the rest of the world were surprised by some aspects of the Iraqi nuclear program—specifically one method Iraq was using to enrich uranium which was so difficult and technologically outdated no one had considered they'd try it. But that wouldn't have changed much about the speed with which they could have built a bomb.

And there's much more to this story. Under Bolton's lie about what was known in 1991 is another lie: we couldn't possibly have been in the dark about the Iraqi nuclear program. The U.S. knew it was quite serious because we knew (and concealed from the IAEA) that Saudi Arabia had given Iraq billions of dollars for their nuclear program. And I'm sure there are more lies under that. Lies all the way down.

September 18, 2006

Whiny Ass Titty Baby Colin Powell Now Comes With 75% More Whininess

From Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn:

It rankled Powell that his U.N. presentation had come to be considered a pivotal event on the path to war: "It's annoying to me. Everyone focuses on my presentation...Well the same goddamn case was presented to the U.S. Senate and the Congress and they voted for [Bush's Iraq] resolution...Why aren't they outraged? They're the ones who are supposed to do oversight. The same case was presented to the president. Why isn't the president outraged? It's always, 'Gee, Powell, you made this speech to the U.N.'"

Beyond the general mopery—I do one little presentation in front of the entire world at the U.N. calling for war that turns out to be 100% false and suddenly everyone's pointing fingers at me!—I enjoy the implication that Powell is in fact outraged by what happened.

I guess this burning outrage he feels has manifested itself by him (1) never saying anything in public about it unless asked and (2) taking no actions of any kind. He's so unbelievably outraged that he hasn't even bothered to find out the names of the people he claims are responsible:

POWELL: George Tenet did not sit there for five days with me, misleading me... He believed what he was giving to me was accurate. The intelligence system did not work well. There was some people in the intelligence community who knew at that time that some of these sources were not good and shouldn't be relied upon, and they didn't speak up. That devastated me.

WALTERS: Want to name names?

POWELL: I don't have the names. These are not senior people but these are people who were aware that some of these sources should not be considered reliable. And they were aware that we were putting this information in the believing.

For a detailed look back at what exactly Powell's subordinates were telling him at the time, go here.

September 17, 2006

Permission Slips

After a brief 48-hour hiatus, this website seems to be allowing new posts (and comments) again.


Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier this week, you told a group of journalists that you thought the idea of sending special forces to Pakistan to hunt down bin Laden was a strategy that would not work...recently you've also described bin Laden as a sort of modern day Hitler or Mussolini. And I'm wondering why, if you can explain why you think it's a bad idea to send more resources to hunt down bin Laden, wherever he is?

THE PRESIDENT: Pakistan is a sovereign nation. In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we've got to be invited by the government of Pakistan.

Man, I hope no one tells President Bush or Vice President Cheney about this! They'd be really mad!

2004 State of the Union Address:

BUSH: America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.

Two months later:

CHENEY: The United States will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.

September 15, 2006

Hey, Paul Wolfowitz, Gimme Five!

More from Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn:

In October 2001, [Wayne] Downing, [Paul] Wolfowitz, and other proponents of a war with Iraq thought they had yet more ammunition for the case against Saddam. A series of deadly anthrax-laced letters had been sent to the Capitol Hill offices of Senator Daschle and Senator Patrick Leahy and to several newsrooms. Mylroie asserted that Saddam was behind the mailings. An early forensic test of the anthrax letters (which was later disputed) appeared to show that the anthrax spores were highly refined and "weaponized." To the Iraq hawks, the news was electric. "This is definitely Saddam!" Downing shouted to several White House aides. One of these aides later recalled overhearing Downing excitedly sharing the news over the phone with Wolfowitz and Feith. "I had the feeling they were high-five-ing each other," the White House official said.

"I had the feeling they were high-five-ing each other." By a wonderful coincidence, "five" is also the number of people killed by the anthrax:

Robert Stevens
Kathy Nguyen
Ottilie Lundgren
Thomas Morris Jr.
Joseph Curseen.

How happy they would have been to know their deaths would be the cause of celebration in the halls of power.

And how lovely that after Wolfowitz & co. found they couldn't use the murder of their fellow Americans to start a war, they lost all interest in who actually HAD killed them.

If you can think of any jokes about this, I encourage you to share them. I got nothing.

September 14, 2006

Leonard Downie Proudly Unveils Pitch-Perfect Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling Impression

Here's a story from page A17 of the Washington Post today, September 14, 2006:

Paper on Nuclear Aims Called Dishonest

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...

"This is like prewar Iraq all over again," said David Albright, a former nuclear inspector...

Here's a story from page A18 of the Washington Post exactly four years ago this week, on September 19, 2002:

Experts Question if Tubes Were Meant for Weapons Program

A key piece of evidence in the Bush administration's case against Iraq is being challenged in a report by independent experts who question whether thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes recently sought by Iraq were intended for a secret nuclear weapons program...

Here's the Washington Post's Iraq mea culpa from August 11, 2004:

Prewar Articles Questioning Threat Often Didn't Make Front Page

..."The paper was not front-paging stuff," said Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks. "Administration assertions were on the front page. Things that challenged the administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on Monday"...

In retrospect, said Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., "we were so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn't be a good idea to go to war and were questioning the administration's rationale. Not enough of those stories were put on the front page. That was a mistake on my part."

Here's the famous Dudley Moore-Peter Cook sketch "The Frog and Peach":

INTERVIEWER: Do you feel you've learnt by your mistakes here?

SIR ARTHUR STREEB-GREEBLING: I think I have, yes, and I think I can probably repeat them almost perfectly.

Edited for clarity.

September 13, 2006

James Baker Raises The Level Of Political Discourse

Some people think American political rhetoric is a complete sham—so transparently dishonest and illogical that it's clear the people who run this country believe we're blithering idiots. Fortunately, this is completely wrong. Just read this interview with Bush family consigliere and current head of the Iraq Study Group James Baker:

TEXAS MONTHLY: Do you look at the world right now—at Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Israel, Afghanistan, North Korea, at all the stuff we've come to accept as commonplace in the news—and think, "What happened? How did we get here?"

JAMES BAKER: There are a whole host of factors, but the idea that somehow the United States or the West was responsible for the rise of terrorism and what happened on 9/11 is ludicrous. Let me just remind you that in 1986, at the economic summit in Tokyo, the number one political issue on the agenda was the threat represented by terrorism.

Let's follow the logic here, because it's crystal clear and irrefutable:

1. In 1986, countries were concerned with terrorism.

2. This proves the United States can't be in any way responsible for the rise of terrorism.

3. Why? It's obvious: because in 1986, there was no United States.

Q.E. to the g-damned D.

(Interview via Robert Dreyfuss.)

Advantage, Tiny Revolution-O-Sphere!

A week ago I pointed out this passage from a New York Times story, in which they took an excursion into an alternate universe:

The possibility that Saddam Hussein might develop "weapons of mass destruction" and pass them to terrorists was the prime reason Mr. Bush gave in 2003 for ordering the invasion of Iraq.

Then the admirable humans of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting picked up on it. And enough people pestered the Times that FAIR got results:

After FAIR issued an action alert (9/8/06) pointing out the New York Times' revision of recent Iraq War history, the Times published a correction (9/12/06) on its website. The correction read:

"An article that appeared on for part of the day on Sept. 5 incorrectly described President Bush's statements about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs at the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Mr. Bush said it was Iraq's possession of those weapons that was the main justification for the invasion, not the possibility that the weapons could be developed."

Except, as FAIR points out, they got even this wrong:

FAIR is pleased that the Times corrected the record. The correction's characterization of the article as appearing "for part of the day on Sept. 5" is inaccurate; the article remained on the Times site in its uncorrected version even after the correction was published. A follow-up inquiry from FAIR alerted the Times to the error, and the article has now been removed from the website. The correction, too, has been removed, under the Times' curious policy of replacing its online corrections each day but providing no archive of the previous day's corrections--let alone those of the previous week or month.

Confused? So am I. What I believe happened was this:

1. The NY Times published this story online on September 5th.

2. For whatever reason, they published a different version, with other reporters, in the paper version on September 6th.

3. The paper version then appeared online.

4. FAIR pointed out the problems with the original version. The Times published the correction on their correction page, but didn't realize the original online-only version was still on the site until FAIR pointed it out.

5. They took the original version down, so now there's nothing there. It doesn't even appear in Nexis.

6. Being more than a day old, the correction no longer appears on their correction page, and old corrections aren't archived. So there's no evidence anywhere, on the NY Times site or in Nexis, that they made this mistake in the first place.

Still, I find it gratifying that our network of Lilliputians was able to make this happen. I also find it pathetic that we're so weak that I find this gratifying. But until recently we couldn't even do THIS. When you're wandering in the desert dying of thirst, even a glass of spit is welcome.

Judith Miller Is Exactly Who You Think She Is

This is from the new book Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn:

On the eve of war in Washington, journalists and others gathered at a cocktail party at the home of Philip Taubman, the Washington bureau chief of the New York Times...Judy Miller was one of several Times reporters there, and she seemed excited. Another journalist present asked if she was planning to head over to Iraq to cover the invasion. Miller, according to the other guest, could barely contain herself. "Are you kidding?" she asked. "I've been waiting for this war for ten years. I wouldn't miss it for the world!"

I see.

Miller got herself a special embedding deal with one of the military teams searching for banned weapons. She then immediately wrote one of the most notoriously stupid stories ever to appear in the New York Times. (It was about how she was allowed to look at from a distance—but not meet or interview—an Iraqi wearing a baseball cap who purportedly said (1) Iraq was bursting at the seams with WMD, (2) Saddam and Osama were Best Friends Forever, and (3) Saddam was jealous of George Bush because Bush is so handsome.)

Here's what the U.S. government thought of her, according to Hubris:

Judy Miller "is probably the best ally we have out there in the media," Colonel Richard McPhee, the commander of the 75th Exploitation Task Force told one of the unit's public affairs officers, Sergeant Eugene Pomeroy, according to an email Pomeroy sent to a colleague.

And what does Miller have to say about that story today?

Asked about the baseball-cap story several years later, Miller told the authors of this book, "I won't talk about the baseball-cap guy."

Judith Miller was employed by the New York Times for twenty-eight years.

September 12, 2006

Looking On The Bright Side

I was sure I had something worth saying about yesterday. But every time I tried I became so sad and angry I couldn't get anywhere.

So today I'm going to use a gambit I call "looking on the bright side," and make a list of all the positive things I can say about fall, 2001.

• By noon on September 11, there was a line a block long outside the hospital near my apartment of people wanting to give blood. Eventually most hospitals in Manhattan started turning everyone away because they had all the blood they could conceivably need. (And this was at a time when they believed they'd have thousands of people wounded, rather than the handful there turned out to be.)

• By 3 p.m. I had email from two friends who'd begun organizing groups of New York non-Muslims to reach out to frightened local Muslims. This turned out to be less necessary than they anticipated, because New Yorkers generally were at the highest level of behavior I've ever witnessed in human beings. Still, there were lots of Muslim women who wore hijabs and were scared to go out unaccompanied, and it was useful to find people who could escort them to the grocery store, etc.

I've never loved a place more than I loved New York that month. There were lots of people in the rest of the U.S. baying for blood, but I never heard that expressed by a single New Yorker.

• For several days it felt like we must never laugh again. Fortunately that soon dissipated. The first joke I made was when I told Chadd Gindin that the World Trade Center should be rebuilt to look like a giant hand giving Osama bin Laden the finger. This clearly was on the minds of lots of people, as within a week someone had photoshopped this:

• On September 13th, Jerry Falwell learnedly explained:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians...the A.C.L.U., People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, "You helped this happen."

I'm not kidding when I say that when I heard this I seriously considered driving to Lynchburg, Virginia and smashing Falwell in the face with a crowbar. Thankfully Mike and I were able to transmute any anger into one of my favorite pieces we've ever written, "What Falwell Really Meant". It also got the most galvanic audience reaction we've ever received.

• Soon afterward Rob Weisberg came up with the idea of a pamphlet from the New York City tourism board, directed to terrorists, describing the many appealing vulnerabilities of America's other cities. Mike and I wrote this and sent it to friends, who were so horrified it's never seen the light of day. Still, I've rarely laughed harder than when we were working on it.

• Several months later, there were actual ads encouraging tourists to come back, starring various New York celebrities.

This allowed me to, for the only time in my life, feel affection for Henry Kissinger. I believe the Buddha would have approved.

September 11, 2006

Don Asmussen Is Funny

I'm just back from a brief vacation inside my own mind. While I catch up with backlogged work, please go here.

September 08, 2006

Any Symbolism Here Is Purely In Your Imagination

Would you like to raise money for a South Carolina Republican politician? By shooting doves? On September 11th?

Of course you would. And Chris Floyd will tell you how.

September 06, 2006

History's Unforgiving Murkiness

NY Times:

If free peoples do not heed the call of history, Mr. Bush said, "Fifty years from now, history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity"...

The possibility that Saddam Hussein might develop"weapons of mass destruction" and pass them to terrorists was the prime reason Mr. Bush gave in 2003 for ordering the invasion of Iraq.

Yeah...I don't know if there will be that much unforgiving clarity in fifty years, given that the New York Times can't remember what happened three and a half years ago.

September 05, 2006

Two Disney Movies, Two Titles Containing "9/11," Two Strangely Different Outcomes

Why is the U.S. media such an eternal catastrophe? My standard explanation is that 99% of the disaster can be explained by the fact the media is (mostly) giant corporations, required by law to make as much money as possible. No conspiracy is required.


ABC, after exploring all advertising avenues, has decided to show its upcoming two-part U.S. film, "The Path to 9/11," commercial-free when it airs next week...

In yet another surprise move, ABC has revealed it will also offer both parts of the film as a free online download at Apple's iTunes Music Store and stream the miniseries on its own Web site,

So..."The Path to 9/11" cost $30 million and was written and directed by conservative ideologues. Factually speaking, it's predictably craptastic. And yet Disney is glad to lose at least $30 million on it.

By contrast, this was Disney's treatment of another political movie -- one that eventually grossed over $200 million:

The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday...

A senior Disney executive elaborated that the company had the right to quash Miramax's distribution of films if it deemed their distribution to be against the interests of the company. The executive said Mr. Moore's film is deemed to be against Disney's interests not because of the company's business dealings with the government but because Disney caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore's film, which does not have a release date, could alienate many.

''It's not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle,'' this executive said.

So, right wing movie: Disney happily loses $30 million by running directly into a "highly charged partisan political battle."

Left-wing movie: Disney refuses to make gigantic amounts of money because they're so very scared they'll "alienate many."

It's not all about the money.

Prisoner of Trebekistan Now On Sale

Bob Harris' book Prisoner of Trebekistan is now in stores and on sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's.

The book's website is here, with the video section particularly recommended. Check out the glowing blurbs from Ira Glass, Joss Whedon, and Brad Rutter (top money-winner in Jeopardy! history).

As I've said before, if you buy this book and aren't completely satisfied, I will come to your house and give you your money back. Just keep in mind that I will then punch you—though this will be not out of anger, but simply to help you understand that the book's explanation of how violence helps you remember things was right all along.

It's fascinating even if you don't watch Jeopardy!...and needless to say, it makes a great gift for anyone who does. Buy! Buy! Buy! I just bought it myself, along with Hubris by David Corn and Michael Isikoff.

Where Condoleezza Rice Draws Inspiration


Secretary of State Rice compared the Iraq war with the American Civil War, telling a magazine that slavery might have lasted longer in this country if the North had decided to end the fight early.

"I'm sure there are people who thought it was a mistake to fight the Civil War to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves would hold," Rice said in the new issue of Essence magazine.

"I know there were people who said, 'Why don't we get out of this now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves?'" Rice said.

Given that Rice's academic specialty was the Soviet Union, she's undoubtedly familiar with George Kennan's famous "Long Telegram" on the Soviet Union in 1946:

[The Soviet Union] is seemingly inaccessible to considerations of reality in its basic reactions. For it, the vast fund of objective fact about human society is not...the measure against which outlook is constantly being tested and re-formed, but a grab bag from which individual items are selected arbitrarily and tendenciously to bolster an outlook already preconceived.

I guess Rice found this an inspiring vision of what the United States could, with her efforts, someday be.

September 02, 2006


I've been wondering: how did Dennis Perrin's debate in Tarrytown on the mideast go? Well...

The complexities, manias, and sorrows of the Middle East have driven many people insane, and in the years of debating and discussing this issue, I've encountered my share (though some would say that I, too, am nuts, and sometimes I feel that's true). But last Wednesday night, I hit the lunatic jackpot.

For instance: was [Sidney] Zion's turn, and I focused more on his tone rather than his exact words. Zion was loud, belligerent, and appeared to have a seething hatred of Arabs. He then dismissed Nada's "bullshit," and called her a stupid "little girl." Much of the audience booed him on this point, and Zion yelled right back at them...

It was then I noticed that Zion had a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch stashed under the table. In the moments when he wasn't bellowing, he poured himself drink after drink, getting more hammered as the night wore on. And of course the more hammered he got, the more abusive he became...

[A]n older man who said he was an Israeli from Haifa...took serious issue with Zion's raving. He followed up a point I'd made earlier about Israel's alliance with Christian Phalangists in southern Lebanon, and how this brutal occupation helped give rise to Hezbollah. ("Brutal?" Zion shouted at me. "Are you fucking crazy?!") The Israeli man noted that Lebanese Christian rightists were in league with the German Nazis during World War II, and how shameful it was for Israel to be associated with them. Zion was so loaded at this point that he thought the man called Israelis Nazis, which of course he hadn't. But reality meant nothing to Zion as he screamed at the man, "Fuck you Jew-boy!" As the man quietly returned to his seat, Zion kept yelling, "Don't you walk away from me, Jew-boy!", undeterred by the audience's open outrage.

And there's much, uh, more.

By the way, here's the description of Sidney Zion from his lecture agent's website:

You won't find a style that can match Sidney Zion's for wit, savvy, clarity, fearlessness and vision. So unique is his voice that aficionados don't need a byline to know who they're reading, the lead sentence tells them.

BONUS: Zion went to law school at Stutts!

September 01, 2006

Thank God No One In America Can Remember Anything About Anything Ever

Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday:

"But some seem not to have learned history's lessons...once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism."

George Bush yesterday:

The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century...As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before. They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be.

Where were both of these speeches given? At the national convention of the American Legion.

And what was the American Legion up to in the 1920s and 30s? Let's ask one of the greatest reporters of the 20th century, George Seldes:

In a interview in January 1923, Commander-in-Chief Alvin Owsley of the American Legion not only endorsed Mussolini and Fascism, but announced his readiness to do what the Duce did, that is, upset the democratic form of government, establish a reign of terror, maintain a dictatorship where the masses of people are deprived of all civil rights.

"If ever needed," he said, "the American Legion stands ready to protect our country's institutions and ideals as the Fascisti dealt with the destructionists who menaced Italy."

Asked whether that meant taking over the government, he replied:

"Exactly that...Do not forget that the Fascisti are to Italy what the American Legion is to the United States."

And who were those loathsome appeasers whom Donald Rumsfeld hates so much?

Prior to April, 1941, his journal now discloses, [Charles] Lindbergh was exceedingly active behind the scenes in generating antiwar sentiment. The flier worked intimately with Robert R. McCormick, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune; Robert Wood, board Chairman of Sears, Roebuck; former president Herbert Hoover, Henry Ford, Senator Harry F. Byrd of Virginia, Hanford MacNider [co-founder of the American Legion], Senator Burton K. wheeler of Montana and John T. Flynn, the economist.

Now, it should be said that even at the time there were contrary currents within the American Legion. Moreover, organizations don't have an immutable character, and they do some worthwhile things today. Nevertheless, the leadership remains genuinely reactionary...and given their history, speeches to them about standing up to fascism are strongly contraindicated.