April 30, 2007

Condoleezza Rice Demonstrates How She Made It To The Top

From a new biography of Condoleezza Rice:

...Rice was drawn to Bush. "First of all, I thought he was wonderful to be around," she recalled, sitting on the couch in her State Department office. "He was warm and funny and easy to be around. I thought he had just an incredibly inquisitive mind...You could barely finish an explanation before he was digging into it."

Huh. Well, I guess when you've spent years saying things that are 178% the opposite of reality, there's no reason not to up the percentage to 180%.

Still, the amount of self-degredationdegradation you have to engage in to get to these positions is really something. For other examples of this type of humiliating lickspittlery, involving Richard Holbrooke and Douglas Feith, see here.

George Tenet "Explains" The Downing Street Memo

From George Tenet's new book, p. 310:

In the spring of 2005 some documents dating back to July 2002 were leaked to the British press. The documents, which came to be known as "the Downing Street Memo," reported on a "perceptible shift" in the attitude in Washington, saying that military action was now seen as "inevitable." One memo records "C," the designation the Brits use for the head of the British Secret Secret Intelligence Service, as saying that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Sir Richard later told me that he had been misquoted. He reviewed the draft document, objecting to the word "fixed" in particular, and corrected it to reflect the truth of the matter. He said that upon returning to London in July of 2002, he expressed the view, based on his conversations, that the war in Iraq was going to happen. He believed that the momentum driving it was not really about WMD but rather about bigger issues, such as changing the politics of the Middle East.

Dearlove recalled that he had a polite but significant, disagreement with Scooter Libby, who was trying to convince him that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qa'ida. Dearlove's strongly held view, based on his own service's reporting, was that any contacts between the two had come to nothing and that there was no formal relationship. He believed that the crowd around the vice president was playing fast and loose with the evidence. In his view, it was never about "fixing" the intelligence itself but rather about the undisciplined manner in which the intelligence was being used.

It all makes sense now! Richard Dearlove was misquoted, and corrected it in the final draft. But the British government never released the final draft, because...well, it's not clear, but I assume because they're shy and rather than speaking up would prefer to have a massive, incredibly damning falsehood be entered into history for all eternity. Furthermore, the Bush administration would never ask about this and certainly would never press the British to declassify the exculpatory draft. They're very shy too.

Finally, don't ever believe that "playing fast and loose with the evidence" is the same thing as "fixing" intelligence. Those are two totally different things and you should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking that.

Hillary In '08!

The Washington Post has run a long profile of Mark Penn, the "chief strategist" for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and her campaign manager in all but name. It's full of horrifying information. For instance, Penn is CEO of Burson-Marsteller, and plans to continue being CEO during the campaign. This is impressive, since usually these people like to wash the blood off their hands before appearing in public.

But this was my favorite part of the story, and the reason why I've caught Hillarymania:

In their $5 million Georgetown mansion, Penn and his wife, Nancy Jacobson, a former staff member for Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) who is now a fundraiser with the Clinton campaign, run something of a salon for like-minded friends. They recently threw a book party for Jeffrey Goldberg, the New Yorker writer...

And what are the foreign policy views of this like-minded friend of Hillary's campaign manager? Here's Jeffrey Goldberg on October 3, 2002:

There is not sufficient space...for me to refute some of the arguments made in Slate over the past week against intervention, arguments made, I have noticed, by people with limited experience in the Middle East (Their lack of experience causes them to reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected)...

The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.

Elsewhere in the Post story, we learn that "Penn's theory of the 2008 race has always been that after two tumultuous terms under Bush, the electorate will want change -- but not too much change."

Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!

Now I See

Accounts of the Bush administration always speak of the "close bond" shared by George Bush and George Tenet.

With Tenet's appearances surrounding his new book, we can finally see why: he and Bush both possess a love of taking personal responsibility, particularly when it involves giving clear, concise answers to tough questions:

TIME: How come the CIA trusted the source, codenamed Curveball, who turned out to be a fabricator? How does that happen? Did you know even who he was?

TENET: Well, I didn't know his name, no. I mean, I know a lot about Curveball. So, you know, we're working throughout this period. We're trying to get direct access to him, and we can't have direct access to him? But so you've got this, you know, indirect access, analysts doing the validation, lots of what he was saying made sense? The implication, of course, as you look at this, is this an organization in some sort of meltdown or something? Well, no, because the whole ethos of the place is report what you've got. If it's not good news, when someone says fabricate in our business, you push it up, you stop the train. At the end of the day, we could have saved a lot of pain in the estimate. We could have saved the Secretary of State a whole lot of pain.

To be sure he had answered the question precisely, Tenet then added: "Fufffffffffffffffffffeeeefffffffffff."

April 29, 2007

Here's Where Michael Scheuer And I Part Ways

Michael Scheuer, the CIA's former main bin Laden guy, in an interesting character. He combines a left-wing analysis of al Qaeda's motivations with a right-wing willingness to kill! kill! kill!*

So I'm very much with him on the first part. Not so much when he says things like this, in a new attack on George Tenet:

[Tenet] may have been the ideal CIA leader for Clinton and Bush -- denigrating good intelligence to sate the former's cowardly pacifism and accepting bad intelligence to please the latter's Wilsonian militarism.

I guess Clinton's pacifism was a special type—the type that, for instance, involves dropping 2,000 cluster bombs containing 300,000 bomblets on Serbia.

Of course, that may be what Scheuer meant. Given that U.S. presidents generally range from minor war criminals to extremely major war criminals, he was probably grading Clinton on a curve. (In any case, I didn't realize pacifism was something that could be "sated." Only the blood from a thousand decomissioned F-16s could sate his lust for principled non-violence.)

*From Scheuer's book Imperial Hubris:

To secure as much of our way of life as possible, we will have to use military force in the way Americans used it on the fields of Virginia and Georgia, in France and on Pacific isalnds, and from skies over Tokyo and Dresden. Progress will be measured by the pace of killing and, yes, by body counts. Not the fatuous body counts of Vietnam, but precise counts that will run to extremely large numbers. The piles of dead will include as many or more civilians as combatants because our enemies wear no uniforms.

Killing large numbers is not enough to defeat our Muslim foes. With killing must come a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure. Roads and irrigation systems; bridges, power plants, and crops in the field; fertilizer plants and grain mills--all these and more will need to be destroyed to deny the enemy its support base. Land mines, moreover, will be massively reintroduced to seal borders and mountain passes too long, high, or numerous to close with US soldiers. As noted, such actions will yield large civilian casualties, displaced populations, and refugee flows. Again, this sort of bloody mindedness is neither admirable nor desirable, but it will remain America's only option so long as she stands by her failed policies toward the Muslim world.

April 28, 2007

Elsewhere, In Funniness

Please give a warm welcome to Dick Voetberg, appearing every second of the day and night at TheDirk.com. You may also wish to peruse a bit of his standup.

Technology-Aided Comedy

More from Mike, now with significant technological advances. Be sure to watch to the end.

No Wonder He's So Popular

Lee Hamilton, former Democratic congressman from Indiana, is always called upon when the government needs a fancy commission. He was Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission and the Co-Chairman of the Iraq Study Group.

From Secrecy & Privilege by Robert Parry:

[Oliver] North's operation was hidden from Congress and even some senior members of the Reagan-Bush administration. In 1985, I wrote the first story mentioning the secret activities of North...

By mid-1986, [Brian] Barger and I had pieced together a great deal about North's contra supply operation in Central America, but the Reagan-Bush administration kept denying that North's network existed. One of our stories that had cited 24 sources finally prompted an investigation by the House Intelligence Committee, then headed by Representative Lee Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat with an assiduously maintained reputation for moderation. In August 1986, Hamilton and committee members — including Republican Representatives Dick Cheney and Henry Hyde — met with North in the White House Situation Room. They asked the Marine lieutenant colonel if there was truth to the contra supply allegations. North and his superiors denied the story. That was good enough for Hamilton and the other committee members who agreed that there was no need for further investigation.

After the meeting, a Democratic staff aide called me. "Your story didn't check out," the aide said. "Congressman Hamilton had the choice of accepting the word of honorable men or the word of your sources. It wasn't a close call."


April 27, 2007

April 26, 2007

Finally, A Little Bit Of Truth

Here's Peter Beinart, being interviewed on the Moyers documentary:

...the argument in the fall of 2002 was not mostly about the facts, it was about a whole series of ideas about what would happen if we invaded.

It might have been nice if Pe-Nart had mentioned, when he was going on TV in fall, 2002, that what he was saying "was not mostly about the facts."

How About It, Oprah?

On the Bill Moyers documentary last night, he pointed out that Oprah Winfrey did a show about Iraq on October 9, 2002. Her two guests were Judith Miller and Kenneth Pollack. They said things like this:

MILLER: The US intelligence community believes that Saddam Hussein has deadly stocks of anthrax, of botulinium toxin, which is one of the most virulent poisons known to man.

POLLACK: And what we know for a fact from a number of defectors who've come out of Iraq over the years is that Saddam Hussein is absolutely determined to acquire nuclear weapons and is building them as fast as he can.

Has she had them back on to explain how they got things so completely wrong? No.

That's interesting, because when James Frey turned out to have made things up for his book A Million Little Pieces, she made him come back on so she could shame him in front of America:

OPRAH: James Frey is here and I have to say it is difficult for me to talk to you because I feel really duped. But more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of readers. I think it's such a gift to have millions of people to read your work and that bothers me greatly.

Pretty strong language, which Frey certainly deserved. But he didn't actually help start a catastrophic war.

So, I think progressive organizations should get together and ask Oprah to invite Miller and Pollack back on the show...along with someone like Scott Ritter or Glen Rangwala. I think it would be quite an enlightening program.

(Thanks to Sam Husseini for pointing out the Frey parallel.)

When Metaphors Go Awry

Joe Lieberman:

[Al Qaeda's] aim in Iraq isn't to get a seat at the political table; it wants to blow up the table -- along with everyone seated at it.

That sentence, in earlier drafts:

• Al Qaeda's aim in Iraq isn't to get a piece of the political pie; it wants to blow up the pie -- along with everyone eating it.

• Al Qaeda's aim in Iraq isn't to be a contestant on a level playing field; it wants to blow up the field -- along with all the other players and referees and goalposts.

• Al Qaeda's aim in Iraq isn't to be one of the colors in the Iraqi political rainbow; it wants to blow up the rainbow -- along with everyone looking at it.

Am I The Only One Here Who Feels For Tim Russert?

On Bill Moyers' show tonight about the pre-war performance of the press on the WMD story, Tim Russert defended himself by saying:

...there were concerns expressed by other government officials. And to this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them.

It seems easy to make fun of Russert here, given that he's the Washington Bureau Chief for NBC. But the fact is Russert doesn't have a phone that makes outgoing calls. It's unfortunate, but NBC simply can't afford it. Russert's job there is to show up at 9 am, and wait until somebody calls him and tells him what's going on. He tries to sit by the phone all day, because if he misses a call, he has to wait until they call him back.

Also, keep in mind that these "other government officials" to which he refers are sealed in a titanium vault at the center of the earth. So how exactly would Russert get access to them? I'd like to see you try it, big shot.

Recently, In Funny

From Mike:

More here.

April 24, 2007

Amazing Statement Of Congressional Impotence By Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller

Charles Davis, a freelance reporter, briefly interviewed Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) last Wednesday. Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, made this startling statement about how the U.S. government really functions:

ROCKEFELLER: Don't you understand the way Intelligence works? Do you think that because I'm Chairman of the Intelligence Committee that I just say I want it, and they give it to me? They control it. All of it. All of it. All the time. I only get, and my committee only gets, what they want to give me.


Below is the background to what they were talking about—which is truly a matter of war and peace and life and death for millions of people. Included is a transcript and mp3 of the entire Davis/Rockefeller exchange.

• • •

Last month Seymour Hersh reported this:

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

The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process...

American military and special-operations teams have escalated their activities in Iran to gather intelligence and, according to a Pentagon consultant on terrorism and the former senior intelligence official, have also crossed the border in pursuit of Iranian operatives from Iraq.

More recently, ABC reported the U.S. has "secretly encouraged and advised" an organization of Pakistanis operating inside Iran called Jundullah. Jundullah has "taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials." According to one of the experts quoted by ABC, Jundullah has been "executing them on camera." However:

U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "finding" as well as congressional oversight.

Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states.

You'd think—as Tom Engelhardt has written—that this screams out for further investigation. After all, this kind of activity could easily lead to war with Iran by accident. It could also easily lead to war on purpose: recall that Bush gave the CIA the go ahead to plan attacks within Iraq in order to create a pretext for war there. And Hersh quotes Flynt Leverett, formerly part of Bush's National Security Council staff, as saying "The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.”

Yet there's been essentially no follow up from the elite US media. It took Charles Davis, who apparently graduated from college less than a year ago, to ask the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee the most basic questions imaginable. Here's his exchange with Rockefeller in its entirety, which is worth listening to to hear Rockefeller's tone of voice and moments of hesitation:

DAVIS: I wonder if you've heard some of these news reports that the Bush administration is backing extremist groups in Pakistan to launch attacks against Iran? Are you familiar with those news reports?

ROCKEFELLER: I've seen no intelligence that would verify that.

DAVIS: Reports quote administration officials as saying this is going on and it's being done in a way to avoid oversight of the Intelligence Committee. Is there any way—

ROCKEFELLER: They'll go to any lengths to do that, as we've seen in the last two days [during hearings on FISA].

DAVIS: Is there anything you could do in your position as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee to find answers about this, if it is in fact going on?

ROCKEFELLER: Don't you understand the way Intelligence works? Do you think that because I'm Chairman of the Intelligence Committee that I just say I want it, and they give it to me? They control it. All of it. All of it. All the time. I only get, and my committee only gets, what they want to give me.

DAVIS: Is there any way someone, maybe not you, they can somehow press the administration to find something—if they're doing something that may be illegal—

ROCKEFELLER: I don't know that. I don't know that. I deal with Intelligence. That's it. They tend to avoid us.

DAVIS: Well, what do you think about these allegations?

ROCKEFELLER: I'm not—I don't comment on allegations. I can't. I can't afford to.

DAVIS: Okay. Thank you.

It's clear Jay Rockefeller isn't going to be an inspiring leader on this. If you're Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (and have a personal net worth of at least $82 million), it's not actually the case there's nothing you can do when the government of the United States is running secret operations all over the Middle East that may blow up into a massive new war. (Of course, you might believe that's the case, if like most Democratic politicians you've trained yourself into learned helplessness.)

Certainly the only way Rockefeller and people like him will act is if they receive enough encouragement and pressure. That's not going to come from anyone in our unbelievably decadent political class—they're all too busy in the vomitorium. But it could come from regular people, if we get our act together.

We'll see. In the meantime, congratulations to Charles Davis for his excellent work.

Get Well Soon!

According to Dennis Kucinich's congressional website, he postponed his planned introduction of articles of impeachment for Dick Cheney today due to reports of Cheney undergoing a medical procedure this morning. But it sounds like it was basically a checkup, so hopefully things will be back for on tomorrow.

UPDATE: The press conference is on for 5 pm today, mere moments from now.

April 23, 2007

Kucinich To Introduce Articles Of Impeachment For Cheney Tomorrow

From Dennis Kucinich's press secretary:

Congressman Kucinich Will Hold Press Conference to Announce Introduction of Articles of Impeachment Relating To Vice President Richard Cheney

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will hold a news conference tomorrow afternoon to announce the introduction of articles of impeachment relating to the Vice President of the United States Richard B. Cheney.

Where: Cannon Terrace (intersection of Independence Avenue and New Jersey Avenue)
When: Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Time: 12 p.m.

I think we can expect more news about this soon.

Hi! I'm An Angry, Confused Monkey, And I'd Like To Express My Opinion!

I've been watching a new documentary based on Norman Solomon's book War Made Easy. I found the brief section below—which shows D-list wingnut Craig Minnick appearing on Fox to attack John Murtha—particularly enjoyable/terrifying.

The reason I liked it is because Minnick's performance is so close to actual grunting and hooting. Yes, he's using "words," but he can't bring them together to form a coherent sentence. You can still understand what he means, but you can also understand what a monkey means when it looks angry and confused and tells you: grunt hoot grunt hoot hoot!

As an angry, confused monkey myself, I empathize with Minnick. But on the other hand, you really don't want him and me and the six billion other angry, confused monkeys on this planet to have access to nuclear weapons.

MINNICK: As a veteran, I consider it my duty to defend those who defend America against repeated public attacks by a politician who cares nothing more than political and personal gain than the welfare of our fellow Americans on the battlefield! [Applause]

Right on!

April 22, 2007

What People Don't Get Is That This Is The Good Kind Of Holocaust Denial

As pointed out in this excellent LA Times column by Matt Welch, this Tuesday the 24th is Armenian Remembrance Day. As per usual, the U.S. government will express its regrets about all those sad things that happened to Armenians during World War I, but will refuse to call it "genocide."

For instance, here's Condoleezza Rice last month:

At a subcommittee hearing of a House Appropriations Committee on the 2008 budget, Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and sponsor of an Armenian genocide resolution pending in the House of Representatives, asked Rice if she had "any doubt in her mind" that the Armenian killings constituted genocide.

"I think that these historical circumstances require a very detailed and sober look from historians," Rice said. "And what we've encouraged the Turks and the Armenians to do is to have joint historical commissions that can look at this, to have efforts to examine their past, and in examining their past to get over their past."

Hey, a government official calling for a commission to establish what really happened during the murky past! Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah:

Ahmadinejad announced the conference would set up a "fact-finding commission" to determine whether the Holocaust happened or not. The commission will "help end a 60-year-old dispute," he said.

April 21, 2007

Seung-Hui Cho Reveals WMD Found In Iraq!!!

The article by Melanie Phillips mentioned below is based upon the claims of a "civilian federal agent" named Dave Gaubatz. Gaubatz turns out to be "Director of Intelligence and Counter-terrorism Studies" of a group called the "Society for National Existence," or SANE.

Below is a little sample of SANE's website. As you read it, keep in mind that Gaubatz's "theories" on Iraqi WMD have been promoted by Powerline, Glenn Reynolds, Pajamas Media, and Michelle Malkin's website. (Malkin's site says Gaubatz "seems credible.")

Over to you, "SANE":

National Existence is political order experienced by men of the nation as a Rise to Being. Its opposite is a replacement of political order experienced by men, women, children and slaves as a Fall from Being. This Redirection in the experience of the Terms of Being (Self, Society, G-d and World) results in the collapse of Self into Society and all into World. The goal, wittingly or otherwise: a World State.

SANE opposes this Redirection and its manifestations: chants of Racism, Democracy, Equal Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Animal Rights, and the always growing list of what is the Single Concept: Certainty/Uncertainty = Science/Open Society = World. To understand this reciprocal and how it affects a convergence of factors bent on the destruction of National Existence is to be SANE.

SANE is the first step back into the Present. And it is this step "back" to National Existence that will secure the present and protect the future.

Turn in next week when this long, rambling manifesto is mailed to NBC after a spree killing.

Yes, They Can Always Get Crazier

Do not miss Glenn Greenwald's post about the latest eruption of psychosis from America's right. It turns out, according to an article by British hack Melanie Phillips in the Spectator, that IRAQ HAD WMD ALL ALONG! And this is being covered up by FORCES AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS!!1!

Read Greenwald's post for the horrifying details, including how it's been embraced by the biggest conservative blurves here. I'll just mention my favorite part, which comes from something Philips posted on her website:

...at Russian insistence, Saddam agreed to sell or transfer his CW/BW stockpiles to other Arab states in the weeks and months before the war.

Yes...you can see how this would happen. When faced with attack by a far more powerful foe, countries always attempt to give away their weapons. This is a pattern that's repeated itself throughout history.

And it's not just the WMD! My sources have informed me that just before the war:

• At Brazil's insistence, Saddam agreed to give away Iraq's artillery

• At Malaysia's insistence, Saddam agreed to give away Iraq's rifles

• At Burkina Faso's insistence, Saddam agreed to give away Iraq's forks

But as always, this bombshell is being covered up by FORCES AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS!!1!

April 20, 2007

Saddam Was Bluffing! We Know This Because "Saddam Never Talked Openly About Bluffing"

In comments here, Justin refers to an August, 2003 AP story which claimed Saddam had bluffed about Iraq's weapons programs so he wouldn't look weak, and wonders why this shouldn't be taken seriously.

A long, long, long answer is below. It is only for fanatics.

• • •

When it became clear in summer 2003 that Iraq had nothing, the Bush administration, the CIA and their flunkies were anxious to find ways to exculpate themselves. They came up with a bunch of different, often contradictory storylines. For instance:

• Saddam didn't have anything, but was going to restart his WMD programs the second our backs were turned
• Saddam was deceived by his underlings into thinking he had WMD
• Saddam pretended to have WMD in order to bluff regime outsiders
• Saddam pretended to have WMD because he liked everyone to look at him as leader of the Arabs

If you glance at the various government reports on Iraq, you'll see they all assert that one or more of these theories is correct. But if you actually read them carefully, you see the evidence they provide for their assertions is weak to nonexistent. In fact, they bear an uncanny resemblance to the pre-war case that Iraq had WMD.

This is true for the idea that Iraq was just waiting to restart WMD production as soon as sanctions were lifted. The CIA Duelfer report makes this claim strongly at the very beginning. But the only evidence the body of the report provides is that several regime figures "thought" Saddam would probably try to do that. But then the report also says they never actually heard him say that, nor did the regime take any measures to plan for this. Meanwhile, the report provides several instances of Saddam saying directly to subordinates that Iraq would give up even any aspirations to WMD if the UN followed through on pledges for a WMD-free mideast. (According to the UN resolutions, Iraq's disarmament was purportedly a first step toward this.)

So what's the actual truth about what Saddam planned to do if sanctions were lifted? There's no way to know for sure, because we'll never get to see all the interviews with regime figures, and we'll certainly never have a chance to question them independently, particularly the ones who are dead. But given the government's propensity to cherry pick whatever there is that makes them look good, and ignore whatever doesn't, the rational way to proceed is simply to look at what the Saddam regime did. And what it did to prepare to restart its WMD programs was...nothing.

The same holds true for the bluffing issue. The article Justin references is here. It describes a "close aide to Saddam Hussein" who says Iraq ran a "disinformation campaign" because "Saddam remained convinced that an ambiguous stance about the status of Iraq's weapons programs would deter an American attack." Okay. Except...other reports say Saddam was convinced that the US knew for certain that Iraq had nothing. And this guy says "it was common knowledge among the leadership" that Iraq had nothing...while other reports claim otherwise. And most importantly, what was this "disinformation campaign"? As far as I'm aware, no one has ever described a single thing Iraq did to deceive the world that they still had WMD. Instead, they screamed for twelve years that they had nothing, including during the years 1991-95 when they actually were hiding something.

Now, here's the section from the Duelfer report that deals with the "bluffing" issue. The bolds are mine:

WMD Possession—Real or Imagined—Acts as a Deterrent

The Iran-Iraq war and the ongoing suppression of internal unrest taught Saddam the importance of WMD to the dominance and survival of the Regime. Following the destruction of much of the Iraqi WMD infrastructure during Desert Storm, however, the threats to the Regime remained; especially his perception of the overarching danger from Iran. In order to counter these threats, Saddam continued with his public posture of retaining the WMD capability. This led to a difficult balancing act between the need to disarm to achieve sanctions relief while at the same time retaining a strategic deterrent. The Regime never resolved the contradiction inherent in this approach. Ultimately, foreign perceptions of these tensions contributed to the destruction of the Regime.

* Saddam never discussed using deception as a policy, but he used to say privately that the “better part of war was deceiving,” according to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid. He stated that Saddam wanted to avoid appearing weak and did not reveal he was deceiving the world about the presence of WMD.
* The UN’s inconclusive assessment of Iraq’s possession of WMD, in Saddam’s view, gave pause to Iran. Saddam was concerned that the UN inspection process would expose Iraq’s vulnerability, thereby magnifying the effect of Iran’s own capability. Saddam compared the analogy of a warrior striking the wrist of another, with the potential effect of the UN inspection process. He clarified by saying that, despite the strength of the arm, striking the wrist or elbow can be a more decisive blow to incapacitate the entire arm; knowledge of your opponents’ weaknesses is a weapon in itself.

Saddam’s Prioritization of Getting Out From Under Sanctions

Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 led to the imposition of comprehensive and mandatory trade and financial sanctions under UNSCR 661 of 6 August 1990. These sanctions remained in place after the military ceasefire on 28 February 1991. The “Political Ceasefire” incorporated in UNSCR 687 of 3 April 1991 explicitly linked Iraq’s WMD disarmament to Iraq’s right to resume oil exports. Withdrawal of wider sanctions was made dependent on this step.

Saddam continually underestimated the economic consequences of his actions. His belief that sanctions would prove ineffective led him to conclude he could avoid WMD disarmament. (Saddam may have been encouraged in this belief by a miss-appreciation of the relative effectiveness of sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa.) As early as 1992, however, Saddam began to form a more sober impression of the power of sanctions and their deleterious effect on Iraq.

The compounding economic, military, and infrastructure damage caused by sanctions—not to mention their effect on internal opinion in Iraq—focused Saddam by the mid-90s on the need to lift sanctions before any thought of resuming WMD development could be entertained. Saddam’s proximate objective was therefore lifting sanctions, but efforts had to be compatible with preservation of Regime security.

While it appears that Iraq, by the mid-1990s, was essentially free of militarily significant WMD stocks, Saddam’s perceived requirement to bluff about WMD capabilities made it too dangerous to clearly reveal this to the international community, especially Iran. Barring a direct approach to fulfillment of the requirements of 687, Iraq was left with an end-run strategy focusing on the de facto elimination of sanctions rather than the formal and open Security Council process.

* In the late 1990s, Saddam realized he had no WMD capabilities but his ego prevented him from publicly acknowledging that the Iraqi WMD program was ineffective, according to the former Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Humam ‘Abd-al-Khaliq ‘Abd-al-Ghafur. He added that Saddam never talked openly about bluffing in regard to WMD.

As you see, the report does here exactly what it does elsewhere about the question of the regime's post-sanction plans -- lots of huffing and puffing, no actual evidence.

Saddam continued with his public posture of retaining the WMD capability

This posture consisted of...what, exactly? Screaming for twelve years that Iraq didn't have anything?

Saddam never discussed using deception as a policy, but he used to say privately that the “better part of war was deceiving,” according to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid

So...Al Majid told the US that he thought this was Saddam's strategy, but Saddam never actually said this.

The UN’s inconclusive assessment of Iraq’s possession of WMD, in Saddam’s view, gave pause to Iran

According to whom? Saddam? Probably not, since we just heard "Saddam never discussed using deception as a policy." A regime figure like Al Majid, guessing about things Saddam never said? We don't know, because the report doesn't deign to tell us, and certainly doesn't provide any direct quotes. And in any case, it makes no sense. Iraq wasn't trying to get sanctions lifted without getting a clean bill of health from UNSCOM. It was constantly trying to get a clean bill of health so that sanctions would be lifted.

And indeed, most of the problems in getting that clean bill of health arose because of acts by Iraqi WMD scientists the regime didn't know about. In 1991, "Dr. Germ" was ordered to destroy the anthrax she'd produced, but did it near one of Saddam's palaces, and so would never tell UNSCOM where she'd done it because she didn't want Saddam to find out. Meanwhile, Mahdi Obeidi hid materials and documents that UNSCOM was looking for, unbeknownst to the regime.

Saddam’s perceived requirement to bluff about WMD capabilities

Again: note that it was the "perceived" requirement, not explicit. Nor is any mention given to actions that were taken according to this requirement.

He added that Saddam never talked openly about bluffing in regard to WMD.

Again: regime figures are guessing at Saddam's motivations. In this case, the guess had to do with his ego rather than a desire to bluff.

And that's it. As I say, this is all reminiscent of the pre-war case for Iraq having WMD -- tons of conjecture, based on very little, that creates a flattering story line...but no hard evidence.

Now, perhaps there's more to this tale. According to a recent story about George Tenet's forthcoming book, Tenet will offer "a gripping narration of the run-up to the war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was an unusual foe: Never before had a rogue nation tried so hard to convince the world that it had WMD.”

Uh huh. Well, based on previous experience, and the very strong motivation Tenet has to bend the truth here, I'm not going to give Tenet the benefit of the doubt. But who knows?

How America's Political Class Manages To Be Wrong About Absolutely Everything

You'd think that after getting absolutely everything wrong about Iraq's purported WMD, America's political class would be be a little more careful on this subject in the future. You would be wrong.

Here's William Saletan, writing in Slate:

When you can wipe out thousands of Kurds in a chemical weapons attack, people are understandably reluctant to wave a .22 at you. Saddam even faked a nuclear arsenal, at fatal cost to himself, to intimidate his enemies.

No. No. No No No No No No No No No No No.

This never happened. It's a fairy tale. It's a fairy tale just like all the stories about Iraq's terrifying WMD were fairy tales—fairy tales made up just so America's political class could do what they wanted to do anyway, while still feeling good about themselves. Yet William Saletan writes this fairy tale, Slate publishes it with no one there realizing it's wrong, and people read it and believe it. Tune in next week for our next war, for which this fairy tale will somehow provide the rationale.

Humanity is doomed.

April 19, 2007

Here's Hoping We Don't Neglect Our Security On Mars

Talking Points Memo has done a little video interview with John Kerry. Here's Kerry at around 2:40:

KERRY: [John McCain] is dead wrong when he says there is no Plan B...Plan B is our plan is our plan, that in fact leverages success to the degree that you can. And it is more supportive of the troops. It's a better plan in terms of America's security in the region.

The great thing about American politics is the agreement, across the political spectrum, that we get to determine what's best for "America's security" in places 6,000 miles away. I look forward to the day when a prominent liberal Iranian politician talks about North America and "Iran's security in the region."

PREVIOUSLY: Back in 2004, David Kay explained:

Look, Saddam was delusional. He had a lot of intent. He wanted to be Saladin the Great, of the Middle East yet again. He wanted to put Iraq in a preeminent position to remove the US from the region.

That bastard! Next thing you know, someone will try to remove America from Saturn!

A Spree Killer's Long, Rambling Manifesto

Cho Seung-Hui, in the video mailed to NBC:

"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today...You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.''

George Bush, three days before the invasion of Iraq:

"Tomorrow is the day that we will determine whether or not diplomacy can work...You see, the decision is [Saddam's] to make. And it's been his to make all along as to whether or not there's the use of the military. He got to decide...these are his decisions to make."

April 18, 2007


You know, back when I was boy, when people went on massive killing sprees their pre-spree writings were not available online to everyone on earth within 48 hours.

Anyway, over at Dennis' new blurgh home: "The Play's Not The Thing"

Rick Perlstein Blorpt

Rick Perlstein, author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus and the soon-to-published followup Nixonland, now has a bluicg.

Every good person in America will read it. Whether this means you is a decision you'll have to make for yourself.

April 17, 2007

New Dennis Perrin Home

Due to continuing Google glitches, Dennis Perrin has pulled up stakes and moved to http://dennisperrin.blogspot.com. Please adjust your bookmarks and rss subscriptions accordingly. At least for now, old posts will remain archived at Red State Son.

The Thing You Have To Understand About Iranians Is They Have Two Legs

Jim Hoagland has some important insights to share with us about Iranians:

Iran is after all a place where reality usually comes not in words but in meaningful details that underlie -- and often belie -- the words. Fooling foreigners and adversaries is an ancient Persian art form. Saying exactly what you mean is a crude and dangerous way to talk, or to negotiate.

One thing I've learned in my time on earth is that whenever someone says "What you have to understand about [some group] is that they're [some description]," the description always applies to all humans everywhere.

• What you have to understand about the Persians is that for them fooling foreigners is an ancient art form

• What you have to understand about the Danes is that they get really angry when you punch them

• What you have to understand about the Koreans is they try to eat food every day

• What you have to understand about the Americans is they breathe oxygen


April 16, 2007

My Thought Of The Day

Humans are a hard species to get behind.

Sonster's Spandex

Google has locked Dennis out of Blogger. So I'm posting this for him here until they let him back into his blurrf home. As you'll see, it's like the Harper's Index...sort of.

• • •

Percentage of Americans who can't spell "Iraq" even if it's spelled out on paper for them: 23

Percentage of Americans who can't spell "Iraq" even if they've been given a CD that tells them in a very slow and deliberate manner how to spell "Iraq" over and over again, and they have a week to listen to the CD: 17

Percentage of Americans who think that beheading is a form of oral sex: 29

Estimated percentage of Americans who masturbate while operating heavy machinery: 37

Number of cow assholes in every can of beef vegetable soup: 2

Number of human assholes at a Tim McGraw concert: 3,577

Percentage of liberal bloggers who would actually eat shit if the Democratic Party asked them to for the sake of winning elections: 42

Percentage of conservative bloggers who would fellate a syphilitic chimpanzee if it would make more people respect the American flag: 66

Number of rodeo clowns who reported having "anger management" problems in 1983: 19

Number in 2002: 51

Chance that a person will encounter a leprechaun while digging for worms: 1 in 2,892,673

Chance that a person will encounter Paris Hilton while having anonymous sex: 1 in 5

Average monthly cost to keep from learning anything new: $73

Estimated annual cost of not knowing how much it costs per month to keep from learning anything new: $347

Number of Americans who reported being raped by an angel in 2004: 482

Number of angels who denied raping Americans in 2004: 271

Number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop: 3

A Question For Rudy Giuliani

From Eric Alterman's book What Liberal Media:

On [the December 23, 2001, edition of] "Meet the Press," Tim Russert inquired of first lady Laura Bush whether she thought her husband had become president due to divine intervention. To her everlasting credit, Laura Bush declined to credit the Almighty with inspiring the likes of Katherine Harris's and Antonin Scalia's anti-democratic escapades. But Russert persisted, and his other guests, Rudy Giuliani and Theodore Cardinal McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington, took the bait. The former mayor responded, "I do think, Mrs. Bush, that there was some divine guidance in the president being elected"

I hope at some point during the 2008 campaign, someone will ask Guiliani: "Given that you believe George Bush became president due to divine intervention, can we also assume you believe God hates America?"

Beyond that, I've always enjoyed the idea that while God did have the power to make Bush president in 2000, He didn't have the power to get Bush the most votes.

April 15, 2007

Ehud Barak Explores New Frontiers In Being A Dickhead

A few weeks ago I pointed to this ugly sentiment expressed by Benny Morris and Ehud Barak in 2002:

Arafat's credentials as a serial liar are impressive...To Western audiences Arafat usually affirms his interest in peace or "the peace of the braves" (a Palestinian baseball team?), as he puts it.

So according to Morris and Barak, "peace of the brave" is just some incomprehensible dumbass phrase that liars use.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Ehud Barak, in 1999:

I am truly excited to see if there is a possibility of concluding a "Peace of the Brave" with Syria.

Better 50 Years Late Than Never

You have to give the U.S. media this: they can be ABSOLUTELY TENACIOUS in investigating misbehavior by the U.S. government. As long as it happened fifty years ago:

Six years after declaring the U.S. killing of Korean War refugees at No Gun Ri was "not deliberate," the Army has acknowledged it found but did not divulge that a high-level document said the U.S. military had a policy of shooting approaching civilians in South Korea.

The document, a letter from the U.S. ambassador in South Korea to the State Department in Washington, is dated the day in 1950 when U.S. troops began the No Gun Ri shootings, in which survivors said hundreds, mostly women and children, were killed...

The killings remained hidden from history until an AP report in 1999 cited a dozen ex-soldiers who corroborated the Korean survivors' accounts, prompting the Pentagon to open its inquiry after years of dismissing the allegations.

I'm not joking at all here. Fifty years seems to be the minimum time before the U.S. media can deliver a dispassionate, uncompromised, thorough report on government actions. Thus, we're only now allowed to hear in detail about No Gun Ri, the 1953 overthrow of the Iranian government, the 1954 overthrow of the Guatemalan government, etc.

So watch out, Bush administration—the U.S. media is going to TAKE YOU DOWN! Starting circa 2051!

(Thanks to Donald Johnson for the encouragement)

April 14, 2007

Paul Wolfowitz: Liar, Not Idiot

After all the folderol about whether members of the Bush administration were lying about Iraq's non-existent WMD or just morons, my conclusion is: the smarter ones were lying, while the stupider ones believed what they said.

Paul Wolfowitz was one of the smarter ones. So it's interesting to go back and look at an article published about him on September 22, 2002:

Soldiers tend to cock an eyebrow when civilians who have not known combat talk confidently about the coming conquest, but the closest thing to an open challenge this day [at a mid-2002 appearance by Wolfowitz at Fort Leavenworth] comes during Wolfowitz's session with the majors -- from a British officer who raises a hand and asks about Scott Ritter, the former U.N. weapons inspector. Ritter has been in London arguing that Iraq's destructive capability is already neutralized. So where is the threat worth spending American blood?

An exasperated look crosses Wolfowitz's wide, boyish face; Ritter's comments are ''simply amazing,'' he says. Then he stops himself. He acknowledges that Ritter knows something about Iraq and concedes that Saddam has probably not been able to rebuild his nuclear program, not yet.

Here's Dick Cheney on September 20, 2002, two days earlier:

"We now have irrefutable evidence that [Saddam] has once again set up and reconstituted his program to take uranium, to enrich it to sufficiently high grade, so that it will function as the base material as a nuclear weapon."

Now, compare this to Wolfowitz's famous "sea of oil" comment from May 31, 2003, after the invasion when no WMD had turned up:

REPORTER: ...North Korea is being taken more seriously because it has become a nuclear power by its own admission, whether or not that's true, and that the lesson that people will have is that in the case of Iraq it became imperative to confront Iraq militarily because it had banned weapons systems and posed a danger to the region. In the case of North Korea, which has nuclear weapons as well as other banned weapons of mass destruction, apparently it is imperative not to confront, to persuade and to essentially maintain a regime that is just as appalling as the Iraqi regime in place, for the sake of the stability of the region. To other countries of the world this is a very mixed message to be sending out...

WOLFOWITZ: Look, the primarily difference -- to put it a little too simply -- between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil...The problems in both cases have some similarities but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances which are very different.

So I'm pretty sure Wolfowitz's pre-war view was this: Iraq may or may not have WMD. But due to Iraq's oil wealth, they will eventually be able to build them, and—also due to their oil wealth—we'll never have much leverage on them short of invasion. So it's better to do it now.

Depending on the crowd you run with, that's a halfway defensible argument. Certainly it's far more persuasive than the Bush administration's sledgehammer propaganda line. However, it's also much more difficult to use to whip up war fever, at least if you believe Americans are a bunch of half-witted ten year-olds who need you to protect them.

So I suspect Wolfowitz decided just to go along with the propaganda—some deception of Americans was required to make necessary things happen. Moreover, he likely realized many of his superiors and co-workers were idiots who really believed all the crap they were saying, and it would be extremely impolitic and counterproductive to contradict them.

Wolfowitz essentially admitted to this when he cited Truman's Secretary of State Dean Acheson in a 2004 article by Walter Russell Mead:

When I ask him about where the administration is headed, he goes back to the late 1940s and to Democrats like George Marshall and Dean Acheson who laid the foundations of what became the bipartisan consensus for the cold war. He reminds me that Acheson decided to be "clearer than truth" in explaining the communist menace to the American people.

Acheson said this in his memoir Present at the Creation, in reference to the famous 1950 secret Cold War memo NSC-68. Note how Acheson writes of the need to deceive both regular Americans and the rest of the government:

The purpose of NSC-68 was to so bludgeon the mass mind of "top government" that not only could the President make a decision but that the decision could be carried out...

The paper began with a statement of the conflicting aims and purposes of the two superpowers: the priority given by the Soviet rulers to the Kremlin design, world domination, contrasted with the American aim, an environment in which free societies could exist and flourish. Throughout 1950, I went about the country preaching this premise of NSC-68.

The task of a public officer seeking to explain and gain support for a major policy is not that of the writer of a doctoral thesis. Qualification must give way to simplicity of statement, nicety and nuance to bluntness, almost brutality, in carrying home a point...In the State Department we used to discuss how much time that mythical "average American citizen" put in each day listening, reading and arguing about the world outside his own country. Assuming a man or woman with a fair education, a family, and a job in or out of the house, it seemed to us that ten minutes a day would be a high average. If this were anywhere near right, points to be understandable had to be clear. If we made our points clearer than truth, we did not differ from most other educators and could hardly do otherwise.

Yes, when Americans are dolts, and your government colleagues are dolts, yet you have a world to run, you "could hardly do otherwise" than lie and lie and lie some more. As with Dean Acheson, so too with Paul Wolfowitz.

BONUS: The creation of NSC-68 was supervised by Paul Nitze. As Acheson wrote, NSC-68 explains that the "Fundamental Purpose of the United States" is freedom and puppies for everyone, while the "Fundamental Purpose of the Soviet Union" was to enslave all mankind.

Wolfowitz later became a Nitze protege. Later still, in 1992 while at the Defense Department, he wrote the famous "Defense Planning Guidance" document. It explained that, given the collapse of the Soviet Union, America had to...run the world.

Hey, humanity—PSYCH!!!

Hey, What's Going On Inside Richard Cohen's Fantasy World This Week?


Richard Cohen, today:

Washington is relentlessly middle class...


According to a 2003 report on the Census Bureau website, four of the eight wealthiest counties in America are Washington suburbs:

Median Household Income (In 2003 Inflation-adjusted Dollars)

1. Somerset County, NJ $89,289
2. Howard County, MD $88,555
3. Prince William County, VA $82,926
4. Morris County, NJ $82,025
5. Fairfax County, VA $80,753
6. Nassau County, NY $80,647
7. Santa Clara County, CA $76,544
8. Montgomery County, MD $76,439

More recently, the Washington Post reported:

The three most prosperous large counties in the United States are in the Washington suburbs, according to census figures released yesterday, which show that the region has the second-highest income and the least poverty of any major metropolitan area in the country.

Of course, you can understand how Richard Cohen could get this wrong, since he has neither internet access nor a subscription to the Washington Post.

PREVIOUSLY, IN SIMILIAR FANTASY WORLDS: Joseph Lieberman explains, "Being a Senator, I haven't gone much beyond the middle class."

April 13, 2007

America's Most Weirdly-Shaped State Does It Again

As a Maryland native, I'm pleased to see that my people have enacted the first state-wide living wage legislation. Right on, Maryland.

Other excellent things about Maryland in addition to its living-wage laws:

• It's unquestionably America's most strangely-shaped state

• After Virginia came up with its slogan "Virginia is for Lovers," we parodied them by adopting the slogan "Maryland is for Crabs"

• Signs at the border reading "Maryland Welcomes You: Please Drive Gently"

• State flower is the attractive Black-Eyed Susan

• Unofficial state chant: "Maryland! O Maryland! We are tiny and very peculiar looking!"

I hope there are other Maryland natives out there who can add more.

Some Day My Prince Will Come/With A Long, Self-Justifying, Whiny Memoir

If you've read articles about Paul Wolfowitz in the past few years, they all have sections like this from his recent New Yorker profile, in which he speaks of what he hopes to do "some day" once he's no longer president of the World Bank:

"I can't start saying things that draw me into what is a major debate about Iraq policy," he said when I asked him whether he still thought that invading Iraq had been a good idea. "There's a lot in the record out there that I hope to correct some day, because I've been mischaracterized fairly often...but this isn't the time for me to do that...it would be totally disorientating for this institution if my views became a subject of major discussion right now."

According to Steve Clemons, this "some day" of which Wolfowitz speaks so wistfully may arrive in the next 24 hours. It's unclear how accurate Clemons' information is, but when you're World Bank president and the Financial Times is calling for your resignation, things can't be good.

AND: From Global Class War by Jeff Faux:

The examples of personal corruption at the top that are occasionally exposed are usually small-time—tickets to a Super Bowl game, a job for a mistress, a paid-for trip worth a few thousand dollars. Why, asks the citizen, would someone jeopardize their career for such small amounts? The answer of course is that if they thought about, they would not. People of power and influence live in a world of class perquisites. They have been taking tickets, jobs for mistresses, and free trips for decades. This last one, where they got caught, is usually just a piece of bad luck. They drift over the line so often that they don't really think about it.

In a sense I feel bad for Wolfowitz. He's been a faithful errand-boy for the world's richest people his entire career, providing their various rape-and-pillage schemes with an intellectual veneer they could never come up with themselves. During these decades he must have witnessed scenes of decadence and corruption that would make Caligula blush. Yet when he tries to imitate his patrons on one-millionth the scale, his career is ruined. Life is so unfair!

April 12, 2007

Still Sad

If you're feeling bereft at the Kurt Vonnegut-less eternity that stretches before us, Dennis has some great video of him. I also recommend this post by Poputonian at Digby's, which links to prevous Vonnegut-themed posts here and here.

April 11, 2007

Current Mood


From Cat's Cradle:

Hazel's obsession with Hoosiers around the world was a textbook example of a false karass, of a seeming team that was meaningless in terms of the ways God gets things done, a textbook example of what Bokonon calls a granfalloon. Other examples of granfalloons are the Communist party, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Electric Company, the International Order of Odd Fellows—and any nation, anytime, anywhere.

As Bokonon invites us to sing along with him:

If you wish to study a granfalloon,
Just remove the skin of a toy balloon

John McCain Being Held Back By Wussy U.S. Generals

Wow, I'd missed this:

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain said he would have taken his tour of an Iraqi market last week even if he had not been accompanied by heavily armed U.S. soldiers.

McCain said he would have walked through a central Baghdad market without the military protection, but the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, had recommended the armed escort.

"I'm not notorious for being nervous about going anywhere," said McCain. "I'll gladly go almost anywhere in the world, under any circumstances, but I did respond and do what Gen. Petraeus asked me to do."

Other things John McCain wanted to do, but that wuss General Petraeus stopped him from trying:

1. Defeat entire Iraq insurgency, armed only with a bolo knife

2. Walk naked through Baghdad, wearing Arabic sign reading, "Dear kidnappers: My family is incredibly wealthy and loves to pay ransoms"

3. Die and be reincarnated as an Iraqi


McCain said he talked to many Iraqis in the market who told him that, while they still worried about a sniper operating there, they felt as though things were getting better.

I'm pleased to see McCain understands human nature so well. If there's one thing we know about people, it's that if you ask them questions when you're surrounded by 100 heavily armed men with Apache gunships hovering overhead, they will always tell you the unvarnished truth.

April 10, 2007

Apparently The Fifties Were Just Like People Say

While it's been zipping around online for years, I've only now learned about a book from the fifties called On Becoming a Woman. It's full of important information on this delicate subject, such as:

The practice of masturbation lowers a young woman's regard for her reproductive organs.

That is so, so true.

The author, Harold Shryock, M.A, M.D., is also full of intriguing anecdotes like this:

My wife and I were once guests in a girls' dormitory. The dean in charge of this dormitory told us it had been rumored among her girls that two of their group had developed this homosexual type of attraction for each other. As a result of the rumor, practically all the girls were panic-stricken. Whether the rumor about the two girls was true, I do not know. But the panic resulting from the rumor was very real, and it required considerable tact by the one in charge of the dormitory to convince the group of girls that no tragedy was about to occur.

It's this kind of thing that makes you understand how Vietnam happened.

A FAQ for the book is here.


April 09, 2007

Newsbreaks 4.09.07

Mike on the White House Easter Egg Roll, always fertile ground for comedy:

More here.

People, I Can Keep Repeating This As Long As It Takes

Brad DeLong writes:

Why wouldn't the American press corps in Washington cover the Bush administration properly for its first five years? I really do not know.

This is where my worldview and that of Professor DeLong (and Bob Somerby, etc.) diverge. The question I'd ask is: why would the American press corps in Washington cover the Bush administration properly for its first five years? Given the institutional forces involved, there are many, powerful reasons they wouldn't, and a few, weak reasons they would. Thus the fact they didn't (and are still generally doing a horrible job) is no surprise to me. On the contrary, I would have been extremely surprised if they had.

Huge media corporations do not exist to cover the Bush administration properly. They exist to make as much profit as possible. Covering the Bush administration properly would have tended to reduce their profit. Hence, they didn't do it, and still won't.

PLEASE LOOK UP THE INDEX ENTRIES FOR: Santa Claus, There Is No and Is, Brian Lamb Tells It Like It


Larisa Alexandrovna at the Huffington Post:

I think that with the exception of a few real journalists and honest columnists in the MSM, the American media-industrial-political complex is a discredited, decadent, ugly thing to behold and, sadly for us, a real danger to democracy. They are a collective Faust, selling their very souls for access, power, money and anything that relates to those three commodities so important to the morally vacuous. They sell their souls, we pay the price, and they make a profit.

If I seem to be exaggerating in my absolute disgust over the state of our media, then you—dear reader—have not been paying attention or you simply don't care.

The most significant story in American politics is how the corporate media has moved from its standard historical hatred for progressives to hatred for regular centrist Democrats. (See Clinton, Bill; Gore, Al; and now Pelosi, Nancy.) Meanwhile, the Democrats still don't get it, even as CNN and the Washington Post beat the crap out of them every day, and refuse to fund competing media.

April 08, 2007

Tom DeLay Has Lots More To Say About Why Liberals Are Like Hitler

You may remember that in Tom DeLay's new book, he compares liberals to Hitler. Why? Because he was prosecuted for violating campaign finance laws. (If I understand the history correctly, this is precisely what Hitler did to his enemies.)

It turns out DeLay is eager to stand by and amplify on these remarks. Here he is being interviewed by David Goodman of the show "You Are Here" on Emerson's radio station WERS today:

Listen (mp3)

DELAY: I am so outraged by this whole criminalization of politics. It's not good enough to defeat somebody politically. It's not even good enough to vilify somebody publicly. They have to carpet bomb you with lies and made up scandals and false charges and indicting you on laws that don't exist. ... It's the same thing as I say in my book, that the Nazis used. When you use the big lie in order to gain and maintain power, it is immoral and it is outrageous...

It's the same process. It's the same criminalization of politics. it's the same oppression of people. It's the same destroy people in order to gain power. It may be six million Jews. it may be indicting somebody on laws that don't exist. But, it's the same philosophy and it's the same world view.

About Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria—which supports "the Hezbollah" and "the Hamas":

Listen (mp3)

DELAY: Well, it's pretty outrageous. I think she's about to become the Jane Fonda of the War on Terror. I'm just happy she didn't take pictures with missiles or IEDs...

It's just outrageous that the third ranking constitutional officer in the United States is meeting -- number one with the dictator of a terrorist state that is known to support the Hezbollah, the Hamas and people killing American soldiers. And the important thing is undermining and confusing the message to the Middle East and to the world as to where the American people stand. She doesn't speak for the American people. She speaks for her district in San Francisco and for her colleagues that put her in as speaker. I have never witnessed such a thing in the history of the United States where this has happened. It's incredible. It's outrageous.

DeLay on why "the left" isn't patriotic, and Democrats are helping to "kill more Americans":

Listen (mp3)

DELAY: I looked up the definition of patriotism. It's the love, support and defense of one's country. And it's the devotion to that love, support and defending one's country. And when someone is out aiding and abetting the enemy by telling them our strategy, by undermining our troops...by people standing at the bottom of the Pentagon calling it the chamber of death and that we export death and destruction and that we ought to destroy the Pentagon. That is not patriotism by definition.

GOODMAN: Were you referring there to an extent to the Democrats referring to withdrawl dates?...

DELAY: Yes. They are aiding and abetting the enemy by telling the enemy your strategy. Do you think the enemy's going to say well don't tell me that I don't want to know it so I can't. Yeah, when you tell them what you're going to do and you reveal what you are going to do and you send the message what you are going to do. They can design their strategy accordingly. And they can kill more Americans.

It's a very sad thing this man is no longer Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.

(Many thanks to David Goodman for sending this around.)

Toy Soldiers

Here's a video worth watching from Code Pink:

I approve of this, of course...though on the other hand, I'm uncomfortable with the use of people in the military as political footballs for any side. Partly this is because I think it's unfair to them, and partly because it plays into a weird fetishization of the military that helps make us a more militaristic society.

Happy Birthday, Weirdo

Today is the 70th birthday of Great American Weirdo Seymour Hersh. From the Writer's Almanac:

When asked what the secret is to being an investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh said, "I don't make deals, I don't party and drink with sources, and I don't play a game of leaks. I read, I listen, I squirrel information. It's fun."

(Thanks to my mother for pointing this out.)

A Plea For Sanity

Dear Progressive Blurrrgosphere,

I realize it's enjoyable to make fun of Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of the Washington Post, for publishing this column by Kathleen "Less Crazy Than Jeffrey Dahmer!" Parker. (If you haven't seen it already, Parker is arguing that we should make "common cause" with Iran's Ahmadinejad in keeping ladies out of the military.) And indeed, I've engaged in similar activity many times myself.

Still, we're in danger of missing what's important here. And what's important is not Fred Hiatt. Hiatt has his job because Donald Graham, the Post's publisher, likes what Hiatt does. If Hiatt woke up one day and suddenly decided to stop publishing the insane, it wouldn't be long before he was out of work, replaced by someone who was eager to run columns by lunatics.

In other words, the problem with the US media isn't all the non-reality-based editors and producers who hire the Kathleen Parkers and Tim Russerts and Sean Hannitys. It's the right-wing billionaires who hire those editors and producers. (Or if you really want to depart from acceptable discussion, the problem is an economic system that allows only right-wing billionaires to own newspapers and TV networks.)

So I come before you today with this plea: let's focus less on the sock puppets, and more on the hands.

April 06, 2007

Paul Wolfowitz Yearns For Democracy

The New Yorker ran a 12,000 word profile of Paul Wolfowitz this week. It begins and ends with discussions of Wolfowitz's history with Turkey, and in between spends 2,000 words describing it and a recent Wolfowitz visit there for the World Bank. Among other things, we learn that during this visit Wolfowitz was ferried around on a Turkish military helicopter, and is old friends with the prominent Turkish General Cevik Bir.

Given this, you might assume that somewhere in those 12,000 words the New Yorker could have found time to mention a famous May, 2003 interview with Wolfowitz and CNN Turk. As you read this, keep in mind (1) the U.S. had just invaded Iraq, but the Turkish parliament had voted not to allow the U.S. to use its territory; (2) Wolfowitz's longtime friendship with Turkish military figures; and (3) the Turkish military has overthrown the civilian government four times since 1960, most recently in 1997:

WOLFOWITZ: From a U.S.-Turkish point of view there is good news and bad news. The good news is that a majority of the parliament did vote to support us in the things that we asked for. The bad news is that because of the procedural issues that wasn't a big enough majority to get it done and that many of the institutions in Turkey that we think of as the traditional strong support is the alliance were not as forceful in leading in that direction.

CNN TURK: Which traditional alliance are you talking about?

WOLFOWITZ: Well I think you know which ones I mean but I think particularly the military. I think for whatever reason they did not play the strong leadership role on that issue that we would have expected...

I think it's perfectly appropriate, especially in your system, for the military to say it was in Turkey's interest to support the United States in that effort.

CNN TURK: Didn't they say that?

WOLFOWITZ: I don't know. My impression is they didn't say it with the kind of strength that would have made a difference.

Coincidentally enough, a few weeks later the head of the Turkish military was threatening to overthrow the government again.

None of this made it into the New Yorker article. But I suppose that's for the best, since that space was needed for this kind of passage about Wolfowitz's deep commitment to democracy:

Wolfowitz refused to talk about Iraq specifically, but he told me that he still believes in the vision of a moderate, democratic Middle East. "I think, in the longer view of things, there is a very powerful pull in the direction of participatory government," he said. "People discover that it's the path to prosperity. And, yes, there are some violent forces that don't want to see it happen..."

April 05, 2007

Today In Funny


More here.

Things To Read

• TomDispatch, featuring Noam Chomsky on "What if Iran Had Invaded Mexico?: Putting the Iran Crises in Context" and Elizabeth de la Vega on "Doin' the Karl Rove Dance"

• Matt "Secret Jesus" Taibbi interviewing Seymour Hersh:

TAIBBI: Did America learn anything from Vietnam? Was there a lesson in the way that war ended that could have prevented this war from starting?

HERSH: You mean learn from the past? America?

• Dennis Perrin with an honest perspective on nice liberals and the Weathermen.

We Must Stop Uppity Women From Ramming And Stripping Us

Sometimes the peculiar psycho-sexual obsessions of the Washington Post editorial page lie just beneath the surface. And sometimes they're right there on the surface:

Two weeks ago Ms. Pelosi rammed legislation through the House of Representatives that would strip Mr. Bush of his authority as commander in chief...

If you allow the uppity women (FROM SAN FRANCISCO) to ram things, and strip us, we will no longer have authority. And then, as Newt Gingrich fears, it will be the end of our ability to "show the planet that you're tiny and we're not."

(via via)

April 04, 2007


Rob Payne just left this quote in comments here:

"The hostility of those who have power toward those who can be called inferior because they are different—because they are others, the strangers—has been a historical constant. Indeed, at times it seems to be the dominant theme in human history."

--Lewis Hanke

I was pleasantly surprised to see that, because (1) Lewis Hanke was not so well-known to the general public that people quote him often, and (2) he was my grandfather. Even nicer is that—while I first assumed Rob must have known this, and that's why he brought it up—he tells me no, he just read it in a class he was taking and remembered it. And indeed I see that, while I did bring up my grandfather obliquely here once, I didn't mention his name.

In any case, if that quote makes you hungry for more from Lewis Hanke, you might want to check out his book All Mankind is One. And here's a long speech he gave in 1974:

If American historians are fully aware of their opportunities and responsibilities in the world today, they can exert a powerful influence by their teaching and research to the end that we are able to appreciate the history of other peoples without losing allegiance to our own. By studying the history of their own tribes and other tribes as well, historians should be in the forefront of all those who would seek to understand the common elements in all cultures.

BONUS: Other people who've quoted my grandfather? Dinesh D'Souza. We couldn't be prouder!

As Shocking As This Sounds, I Suspect Condoleezza Rice May Not Be 100% Honest

The Israel-Lebanon war lasted from July 12-August 14 last year. Recently the BBC reported this:

A former top American diplomat says the US deliberately resisted calls for a immediate ceasefire during the conflict in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Former ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the BBC that before any ceasefire Washington wanted Israel to eliminate Hezbollah's military capability.

Mr Bolton said an early ceasefire would have been "dangerous and misguided".

He said the US decided to join efforts to end the conflict only when it was clear Israel's campaign wasn't working...

Mr Bolton, a controversial and blunt-speaking figure, said he was "damned proud of what we did" to prevent an early ceasefire.

Here's what Condoleezza Rice wrote for the Washington Post on August 16 last year:

For the past month the United States has worked urgently to end the violence that Hezbollah and its sponsors have imposed on the people of Lebanon and Israel...

While the entire world has spent the past month working for peace, the Syrian and Iranian regimes have sought to prolong and intensify the war that Hezbollah started.

Fortunately, Nothing Is Real Unless It's On TV

Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon: "The Martin Luther King You Don’t See on TV"

I Appreciate Right-Wing Honesty

David Neiwert at Orcinus reprints an impressive letter from 1942 that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

...we took this country from the Indians, killed thousands of them, arbitrarily moved other thousands from their homes to far distant lands, and to this day have denied them the rights, duties and privileges of citizenship.

That's pretty enlightened for 1942, wouldn't you say? It sounds like Howard Zinn!

Except I've edited it slightly. Here's what the whole letter said:

If there be those who would say we can't do this [put Japanese-Americans in internment camps], let them remember that we took this country from the Indians, killed thousands of them, arbitrarily moved other thousands from their homes to far distant lands, and to this day have denied them the rights, duties and privileges of citizenship.

If we could do that to the Indians, we can do something about the Japs.

Let's do it now!

This is a common phenomenon when countries are doing horrible things. At such moments, nice liberals generally present a wholly false picture of their country's history, either because they're incredibly ignorant or just because they think it makes their argument stronger: "Our Great Nation has never [put minorities in internment camps/tortured people/launched aggressive wars/taken candy from a baby] before! We mustn't start now!" Meanwhile, interestingly enough, conservatives are often more honest. In normal times conservatives go into a frenzy if anyone mentions their Great Nation may not be flawless. But when new horrible things need to be done, they'll tell the truth about the past in response to the nice liberals' lies: "It's preposterous to say we've never [put minorities in internment camps/tortured people/launched aggressive wars/taken candy from a baby]. Of course we have! AND LET'S DO IT AGAIN NOW!"

One of my favorite examples of this is an August, 1982 speech by Menachem Begin, then Israel's Prime Minister, to the Israeli National Defense College. Begin's invasion of Lebanon had occurred just months before, and was being heavily criticized in Israel and elsewhere. Predictably enough, nice liberals were saying the invasion was something completely new in Israeli history—all of Israel's previous wars, including in 1956 and 1967, had been purely in self-defense.

Here's what Begin said about the Lebanon invasion (aka Peace for Galilee):

Operation Peace for Galilee is not a military operation resulting from the lack of an alternative. The terrorists did not threaten the existence of the State of Israel.

And was this war of choice something new in Israeli history? No, said Begin:

In November 1956 we had a choice. The reason for going to war then was the need to destroy the fedayeen, who did not represent a danger to the existence of the state...

In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.

We did not do this for lack of an alternative. We could have gone on waiting. We could have sent the army home. Who knows if there would have been an attack against us? There is no proof of it. There are several arguments to the contrary.

In other words: "It's preposterous to say we've never launched wars of choice before! Of course we have! AND LET'S DO IT AGAIN NOW!"

Amusingly, the nice liberals lying about Israel's past in order to criticize the invasion of Lebanon somehow all were supporters of Israel's Labor Party—which hated Begin's hard-right Likud. Feel free to draw any parallels you wish with George Bush, Iraq and the Democrats.

So this is why I say: I appreciate right-wing honesty.

THIS POST DEDICATED WITH AFFECTION TO: The worldviews of Donald Johnson, Nell, J. Alva, Dennis and Arthur.

April 03, 2007

Perhaps This Is What People Mean When They Send You Email Saying "Jesus Christ Retarded Operating"

I just learned via wikipedia that there's a place in Jerusalem between the Temple Mount and Mount Zion called the Valley of the Cheesemakers.

I assume this wasn't known to the members of Monty Python when they were writing the Sermon on the Mount scene in Life of Brian that depicts crowd members misunderstanding Jesus as saying "Blessed are the Cheesemakers." And the Sermon on the Mount supposedly took place far north of Jerusalem, near the Sea of Galilee. Still...

Jesus Christ Retarded Operating

That was the subject line of some spam I just received. The email itself didn't live up to its advance billing.

April 02, 2007

Today In Funniness

Particularly funny today:

More here.

Come Back, Shane And/Or Helena

Last week I mentioned a post by Arthur Silber. This generated some bickering in comments that made me unhappy for two reasons:

1. I believe most of the disagreement was based on misunderstandings on both sides. I hate seeing people expend energy based on misunderstandings.

2. Even if the disagreements were real and intractable, I disapprove of the general tone from all concerned. As Tom Paine said, moderation in principle is a vice, but moderation in temper is always a virtue. I think that squalid moronic scum-eating pig-mucker was onto something.

For more, see my comment there. I hope others will have more to say (there). I've closed comments to this post.

Posted at 10:55 AM

Josh Wolf Still In Jail

Saheli points out that Josh Wolf, the San Francisco journalist imprisoned for refusing to turn over videotapes of demonstrations to the federal government, is still in jail. At 223 days, his incarceration has now lasted longer than that of any journalist in U.S. history. As Saheli points out, there are suggestions about how you can get involved here.