May 31, 2007
Richard Nixon, Supporting The Troops
As surely as the sun rises in the east, those who shriek the loudest about how much they Luv America have contempt for other Americans. Here's more from The Final Days:
Almost from the beginning, Kissinger had secretly had all his telephone calls, including those with the President, monitored and transcribed...
Nixon was often on the phone with Kissinger for fifteen minutes or longer. The President was repetitive, sometimes taking minutes to come to a point, or he might suddenly shift to another topic...
During one call, the President drunkenly related to Dr. Kissinger the Vietnam policy of his friend Bebe Robozo...
During another call, Kissinger mentioned the number of American casualties in a major battle in Vietnam. "Oh, screw 'em," said Nixon.
An interesting thing about this is that if it were about a Democratic president, it would be famous. Every schoolchild would learn about the hatred that Democrats secretly harbor in their hearts for our Brave Men In Uniform. In every presidential debate the Democrat would be asked how they could possibly convince the country they weren't like their damnable predecessor. But since Nixon was a Republican, it's dropped out of history entirely. (I can find only one reference to it online.)
AND: This appears later in the book:
In Haig's presence, Kissinger referred pointedly to military men as "dumb, stupid animals to be used" as pawns for foreign policy.
Again, imagine a Democratic administration was getting frequent advice from a former Democratic Secretary of State who'd said this. You'd be able to hear the screaming from cable news on Neptune.
Better Or Worse Than Talking To Pictures?
From a column today by Georgie Anne Geyer:
...by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness.
Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."
Here's the famous "crazy" section from The Final Days by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein:
On the Sequoia trip the night before, [Nixon's son-in-law Edward] Cox said, the President had made it clear he was not going to quit...
Cox sounded distraught. He was worried about the President's mental health. The President was not sleeping, and he had been drinking. The man couldn't take it much longer, Cox said. The President had been acting irrationally...
"The President..." Cox began. His voice rose momentarily. "The President was up walking the halls last night, talking to pictures of former Presidents—giving speeches and talking to the pictures on the wall."
May 30, 2007
Fine Work By The New Yorker's Factesque-Checkers
The newest issue of the New Yorker has a long piece by Jeffrey Goldberg about the future of the Republican party. At one point Goldberg goes to the White House to interview Karl Rove, who appears surprisingly optimistic:
“There are two or three societal trends that are driving us in an increasingly deep center-right posture,” [Rove] said. “One of them is the power of the computer chip. Do you know how many people’s principal source of income is eBay? Seven hundred thousand.” He went on, “So the power of the computer has made it possible for people to gain greater control over their lives. It’s given people a greater chance to run their own business, become a sole proprietor or an entrepreneur. As a result, it has made us more market-oriented, and that equals making you more center-right in your politics.”
Ebay is the primary source of income for seven hundred thousand people? That sounds implausible. And it is:
Entrepreneurs in record numbers are setting up shop on eBay, according to a new survey conducted for eBay by ACNielsen International Research, a leading research firm. More than 724,000 Americans report that eBay is their primary or secondary source of income.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess far more of these 724,000 Americans use eBay as a secondary source of income rather than a primary one. If the ratio's 75/25, that makes 181,000 people whose primary source of income is eBay. Hard to spin that into a tale of impending Republican ascendancy.
This is what drives me nigh unto madness about this country's media. Journalists theoretically should be skeptical of what anyone says. They certainly should be skeptical of things that sound implausible. They certainly absolutely should be skeptical of implausible things political operatives say. They certainly absolutely definitely should be skeptical of implausible things political operatives use as a basis for an entire narrative that's flattering to the operative. They certainly absolutely definitely always always always should be skeptical of implausible things political operatives say when those political operatives have a history of STARTING GIGANTIC WARS BASED ON LIES.
Not Jeffrey Goldberg and the New Yorker, though. If Karl Rove tells them something, they rush it into print without asking a single question.
Good Internet Things
• John Conyers endorses impeachment efforts, but doesn't commit to doing anything himself
• Haans Petruschke has made the dangerous move from blurff commentator to active blurfffer.
• IOZ steals the thoughts out of my brain:
Now imagine you're a kid, a product of the American public school system, a good student--perhaps even an excellent one--but by no means the rare auto-didactic type who goes off to read history on his own...it's not just that you lack a meaningful counternarrative to recieved history; you don't even know the received history.
• Dennis Perrin is funny:
The United States and Iran traded accusations Monday about responsibility for violence in Iraq, but agreed that the goal there should be a stable, democratic country at peace with its neighbors. And if that's not possible, both sides said they'd accept an oil producing hell on earth.
May 29, 2007
The More Things Don't Change, The More They Stay Exactly The Same
Eric Alterman says:
When a lost driver ask a pedestrian for directions, only to find out later the destination in question was actually hundreds of miles from the place the pedestrian said it would be, the driver usually knows better than to go back for more advice. Fortunately for the employment status of the punditocracy, a similar standard does not appear to operate with regard to the American news media and matters of war and peace.
This sounds like it was written yesterday. But in fact that's from Alterman's book Sound and Fury, which came out in 1992. (He's specifically talking about the punditocracy's predictions regarding Gorbachev.)
Our Leaders: Thank God They're Completely Different From Saddam Hussein
Pat Lang, speaking on May 7th:
LANG: [A]t the strategic level one of the main functions of intelligence production, analysis production, is to reduce policy options from the level of fantasy, to that of extreme reality. In order for that to work, the intelligence function has to have—its products have to be respected, and they have to be given due weight by policy-makers, the decision-makers, as to what you're actually going to do...
But in fact, a problem arose in this Administration...I get to associate with a lot of young fellows who were big-time staffers in the first term of the Bush Administration, and now, a lot have returned to academia, and I listened to what they say. And one of things that's very noticeable here, that amongst these guys, there is almost universally a great disdain for the functioning of intelligence. As far as they're concerned, what the function of the intelligence community, is to gather raw information, repeat it to them, so that they apply to it their understanding of history, and what the nature of history is, and where it's going, so as to say what the meaning of that information is... really, what you need to do is you feed the stuff up—give us the raw data, and we'll tell you what it means, we'll tell you what it means in every case.
And that is a terrible corruption of the process of decision-making in foreign policy, I think. Because if you do that, and you no longer have an independent brake on the fantasies and the option generation of the decision-makers, of their staffs—nobody tells them, this is a crock...
Saddam Hussein speaking to his minions in fall, 1990 (from the Iraqi Perspectives Project):
HUSSEIN: America is a complicated country. Understanding it requires a politician's alertness that is beyond the intelligence community. Actually I forbade the intelligence outfits from deducing from press and political analysis anything about America. I told them that [this] was not their specialty, because these organizations, when they are unable to find hard facts, start deducing from newspapers, which is what I already know. I said I don't want either intelligence organization [IIS or GMID] to give me analysis—that is my specialty...we agree to continue on that basis...which is what I used with the Iranians, some of it out of deduction and some of it through invention and connecting the dots, all without having hard evidence.
What Will The Swimming Pool At Our Gigantic New Iraq Embassy Look Like?
Tom Engelhardt has done something no one else has: track down the architects who are building our $600 million new "embassy" in Baghdad. Not only do they have a website, they've put up their sketches of what it's going to look like.
For more details, see the article: "The Colossus of Baghdad: Wonders of the Imperial World"
May 28, 2007
Paul Wolfowitz Finally Achieves Negative Self-Awareness
Here's Paul Wolfowitz's explanation today of why he was forced to resign:
''I think it tells us more about the media than about the bank and I'll leave it at that,'' he told the British Broadcasting Corp. ''People were reacting to a whole string of inaccurate statements and by the time we got to anything approximating accuracy the passions were around the bend.''
Yes, it's awful when such things happen.
EARLIER: Dick Cheney on Larry King:
CHENEY: I think there's a special obligation on major news organizations, when they're dealing with what can sometimes be life-and-death matters, to get it right.
The Guns Of March
Memorial Day began as a day to commemorate soldiers killed on both sides in the Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to honor soldiers killed in all U.S. wars.
Speaking of World War I, this is from The Guns of August:
In August , sitting at a cafe in Aachen, a German scientist said to the American journalist Irwin Cobb: "We Germans are the most industrious, the most earnest, the best educated race in Europe. Russia stands for reaction, England for selfishness and perfidy, France for decadence, Germany for progress. German Kultur will enlighten the world and after this war there will never be another..."
Talk of this kind for years before the war had not increased friendliness for Germany. "We often got on the world's nerves," admitted Bethmann-Hollweg, by frequently proclaiming Germany's right to lead the world. This, he explained, was interpreted as lust for world domination but was really a "boyish and unbalanced ebullience."
The world somehow failed to see it that way. There was a stridency in the German tone that conveyed more menace than ebullience.
Happy Memorial Day!
Ask Oprah To Also Visit The West Bank And Gaza
Oprah Winfrey will be arriving in Israel for a solidarity visit in the near future, the queen of American talk shows announced Monday during an event at Manhattan's Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
In the event, Winfrey was honored by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity for her contribution to promoting humanitarian issues.
Wiesel called on Winfrey to visit Israel, where "the major war against terror is currently taking place."
In her speech, Winfrey said she sympathized with the suffering of the people of Israel, and that she intended to accept Wiesel's invitation and come with him to Israel.
Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Gillerman, who attended the event, said that a visit of a figure with such influence on the international media could help bring an end to the indifference towards the terror threat faced by Israelis.
In the abstract, of course, there's nothing wrong with Oprah visiting Israel. Moreover, as strongly as I disagree with Wiesel in this area, I give anyone who lived through what he did a free pass to be as crazy as they wish.
But. If there's one thing confused America doesn't need, it's Oprah giving them a one-sided presentation of this issue. In particular we better hope the Oprah Army doesn't learn Israel is where "the major war against terror is currently taking place."
So, peace groups in Israel are asking everyone to take a minute and write to Oprah to ask her to also visit the West Bank and Gaza...and then pass it along to as many friends as possible. Here's what I said:
Dear Ms. Winfrey,
I'm writing to ask you to please visit the West Bank and/or Gaza as well as Israel during your upcoming trip to the area.
I commend you for your sympathy with the suffering of regular Israelis. However, it's important to remember the even greater suffering of regular Palestinians. I urge you to use your program to give a platform to the many people on both sides who wish to live together in peace.
(Thanks to Dennis for telling me about this.)
May 26, 2007
I've been looking through The Italian Letter by Peter Eiser and Knut Royce. There's some amazing stuff in it about Alan Foley, the head of the CIA's Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC). WINPAC led the CIA's analysis of Iraq's purported WMD, and so Foley is at the very center of what happened.
But what's even more amazing is how little attention the material about Foley has gotten. The book came out several months ago, but according to Google, the below sections have appeared nowhere online.
Here's what Foley believed before the war (p. 125):
There were strong indications that Foley all along was toeing a line he did not believe. Several days after Bush's State of the Union speech, Foley briefed student officers at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, DC. After the briefing, Melvin Goodman, who had retired from the CIA and was then on the university's faculty, brought Foley into the secure communications area of the Fort McNair compound. Goodman thanked Foley for addressing the students and asked him what weapons of mass destruction he believed would be found after the invasion. "Not much, if anything," Goodman recalled that Foley responded. Foley declined to be interviewed for this book.
So why, then, would WINPAC report that Iraq had WMD? Here's the answer (p. 119):
One day in December 2002, Foley called his senior production managers to his office. He had a clear message for the men and women who controlled the output of the center's analysts: "If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so." The directive was not quite an order to cook the books, but it was a strong suggestion that cherry-picking and slanting not only would be tolerated, but might even be rewarded.
Interestingly, this event has appeared in other books, although not with Foley's name attached. This is from Pretext for War by James Bamford:
...within a few months [after the September 11 attacks], for many [at the CIA] the morale once again began to drop through the floor as they began getting pressure to come up with Saddam Hussein's fingerprints on 9/11 and Al Qaeda.
One of those who felt the pressure was a DO case officer who spent years running agents overseas, but who had been reassigned to the unit charged with finding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq... According to the official, the group never found any indications of WMD in Iraq. "Where I was working, I never saw anything—no one else there did either," the person said.
Nevertheless, there was a great deal of pressure to find a reason to go to war with Iraq. And the pressure was not just subtle; it was blatant. At one point in January 2003, the person's boss called a meeting and gave them their marching orders. "And he said, 'You know what—if Bush wants to go to war, it's your job to give him a reason to do so'... He said it at the weekly office meeting. And I just remember saying, 'This is something that the American public, if they ever knew, would be outraged'...He said it to about fifty people. And it's funny because everyone still talks about that — 'Remember when [he] said that.'"
And this appears in Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy by Lindsay Moran:
During my short tenure in Iraqi Operations, I met one woman who had covered Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program for more than a decade. She admitted to me, unequivocally, that the CIA had no definitive evidence whatsoever that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed WMD, or that Iraq presented anything close to an imminent threat to the United States. Another CIA analyst, whose opinion I’d solicited about the connection between Al-Qa’ida and Iraq, looked at me almost shamefacedly, shrugged, and said, "They both have the letter q?" And a colleague who worked in the office covering Iraqi counterproliferation reported to me that her mealy-mouthed pen pusher of a boss had gathered together his minions and announced, "Let’s face it. The president wants us to go to war, and our job is to give him a reason to do it."
Any serious congressional strategy to end this war would include nationally televised hearings about this and all the other lies that got us into Iraq. The seriousness of the Democrats can be judged by such hearings' non-existence.
Let's Ignore The Lyndon LaRouche Part Here
No Quarter has the transcript from a May 7th event in Washington with Larry Johnson, Larry Wilkerson, Pat Lang and the authors of The Italian Letter. Apparently the transcript first appeared in the LaRouchite publication "Executive Intelligence Review," but it sounds reasonable, and I think we can work on the assumption it's accurate. (For instance, there are no references to the Queen of England controlling the drug trade.)
It's all worth reading. But here's what particularly struck me, starting with one of the authors of The Italian Letter:
KNUT ROYCE: We devote at least a chapter, and probably more than that, because WINPAC was such a key player in the bogus information that came out. We devote at least a chapter, and actually more than that, to WINPAC, and the head of WINPAC at the time, Alan Foley...
However, he told Mel [Goodman], before the war started—Mel asked him: "So, what do you think we're going to find in Iraq?" And Foley said, "Little, if anything, of weapons of mass destruction."
Later there's some blog triumphalism, and more about what happened, from Larry Johnson:
JOHNSON: And in January of 2003, I put together a paper—this was in my pre-blog days. I'm convinced, if I'd known more about blogs then, and there were more blogs active, we might have stopped the war. But, I wrote this paper. It was detailing Iraq's involvement, or lack thereof, in terrorism...
In May of 2003, I got a note from one of my former colleagues in the CIA. A senior person. And this person said, "the books were cooked." And I went, "Uh oh." And so at that point, I started looking back, and pushing into other areas, and it became clear, that this was a deception that was being carried out on the people of the United States.
Colin Powell's right hand man Larry Wilkerson on America's political system:
WILKERSON: Our political process, not just the Federal bureaucracy, but our political process is broken. And somehow, we as Americans have allowed that to happen. And I don't know what you think about it, but I'm damned mad about it, and I'm doing everything I can, across the country, to tell people that I believe this; to tell them how I think the Federal bureaucracy needs to be repaired—including the Congress of the United States; its committee relationship with the Executive branch is absurd, it's an anachronism. The Congress needs to be reformed, the Executive branch needs to be reformed.
But the big problem we're confronted with is going to come to bear again, very shortly: it's this insane process where you have less than 50% of Americans electing our President. And if you think about that, that means one in four, actually elect him or her. And this insane process of primaries, and factions, as Washington called it—not parties; he called it "factions"—who go out there and appeal to their extremes, and are successful in doing so! We have to do something about that, and the only people who can do something about that, are us.
(Thanks to mistah charley for mentioning this.)
May 25, 2007
I've Been Warned About A Lot Of Things
Q Mr. President, a new Senate report this morning contends that your administration was warned before the war that by invading Iraq you would actually give Iran and al Qaeda a golden opportunity to expand their influence, the kind of influence you were talking about with al Qaeda yesterday, and with Iran this morning. Why did you ignore those warnings, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Ed, going into Iraq we were warned about a lot of things, some of which happened, some of which didn't happen.
A few days ago I decided to fill up my bathtub with highly-flammable acetone, store three tons of white phosophorus in my dining room, and turn on all the burners on my stove. I was warned about a lot of things:
• my house could explode
• my five children might die
• my neighbors' homes could catch on fire
• the dry brush on the nearby hill might ignite into a major, out-of-control blaze
Some of these happened, and some of them didn't. Yes, my house did explode. And my neighbors' homes all burned down. But the larger blaze was put out by several hundred state firefighters—and only three of my children died!
It's really incredible that these carping critics are bringing up the "warnings" now, when so many of them have been proven wrong.
How Horrible People Live With Themselves
This is interesting:
Mark Fabiani, who as White House special counsel played a key role in defending the Clintons, said [Hillary] was "so tortured by the way she's been treated that she would do anything to get out of the situation. . . . And if that involved not being fully forthcoming, she herself would say, 'I have a reason for not being forthcoming.' " Her logic, he said, was: "If we do this, they're going to do this to me. If we say this, then they're going to say this. You know, [expletive] 'em, let's just not do that."
I'm certain this is the psychology of all the world's horrible people when they lie about the horrible things they've done. It's easy for them to justify it to themselves, because even the worst of the worst have been treated unfairly in some way. Certainly Hillary Clinton has been. Much of the criticism of Dick Cheney has been inaccurate. (For instance, Joe Wilson stated his report on Niger must have made its way into Cheney's hands, but it appears this never happened.) And the U.S. made up all kinds of stories about Saddam Hussein.
So if you were to visit the inside of Clinton, Cheney and Saddam's heads, I'm sure you'd find an eternal highlight reel showing all the lies that have been told about them. The reel would end with an admonition from one part of their brain to another not to give their lying opponents any ammunition by telling the truth about bad things they really have done.
May 24, 2007
New Cheney Plan To Start War With Iran?
Steve Clemons sez:
There is a race currently underway between different flanks of the administration to determine the future course of US-Iran policy.
On one flank are the diplomats, and on the other is Vice President Cheney's team and acolytes -- who populate quite a wide swath throughout the American national security bureaucracy...
The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).
This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf -- which just became significantly larger -- as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.
Clinton & Obama On The Environment
Writer and activist Glenn Hurowitz has written an interesting piece in the Politico about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's behavior on some environmental issues. The Clinton incident is minor but telling:
Clinton's moment of truth came in 2005, when executives at the International Paper mill in upstate Ticonderoga, N.Y., were pressing to cut costs by burning old tires to provide power for their operations. Tires are one of the most toxic fuels known to man...
Whereas the Obama stuff is major and horrible:
Exhibit A is Obama's enthusiastic support for "coal to liquid" technology, which allows auto fuel to be squeezed out of coal...
So why would he support it? What's more, why did he vote for other anti-environment policies, such as President Bush's 2005 energy bill, which funnels more than $27 billion in taxpayer subsidies to big polluters?
In other Clinton news, check out this campaign video of hers. Generally I can't watch any politicians, including ones I vote for. Their presentation is always so glaringly false and/or incompetent it makes me want to gouge out my eyes and pour molten silver in my ears.
But god help me, I actually found her funny and charming here. I had to imagine the smell of burning tires to snap out of it.
Scooter Libby: Persecuted In So Many Different Ways
Looking through an old Esquire article about the Bush administration from October, 2004, I noticed this section about Scooter Libby:
With the battered air of someone who knows it won't do any good, Scooter reminds me of all the terrible things that war critics predicted but that didn't happen in Iraq: the siege of Baghdad that was going to turn into a new Battle of Stalingrad with thousands of U.S. combat deaths, the civil war between Kurds and Arabs, the millions of refugees, the collapse of moderate governments around the Arab world, the rush of Shiite Iraqis into the arms of the Iranian mullahs. All of it predicted, none of it happened—but none of it matters now. The failure to find WMD and the president's proclamation of "Mission Accomplished" on the USS Abraham Lincoln have forever marked neocon Iraq policy as a "miscalculation."
Yes, I well remember the way war critics not only predicted that all these things would happen, but would all happen within eighteen months of an invasion. Sure, four years after the war began many of these things have happened, and all of them might. But they didn't happen by October, 2004, and that really shows how unfairly neoconservatives have been treated.
May 23, 2007
A Short History Of Presidential Rhetoric
"If we quit Vietnam, tomorrow we'll be fighting in Hawaii, and next week we'll have to fight in San Francisco."
"Now, many critics compare the battle in Iraq to the situation we faced in Vietnam. There are many differences between the two conflicts, but one stands out above all: The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland. The enemy in Iraq does. Nine-eleven taught us that to protect the American people, we must fight the terrorists where they live so that we don't have to fight them where we live."
—President George W. Bush, May 23, 2007
"The Solar Wars have been compared to Iraq and Vietnam. However, there's one key difference: we could leave Vietnam and Iraq and the enemy would not follow us home. But if we do not defeat the Space Ark Colonists on Jupiter, soon we will be fighting them on Mars. Then we shall be fighting them in the upper ionosphere. And then on Gaia herself."
—President Xerxes Poponopolus, January 22, 2041
Bush Authorizes New Covert Action Against Iran
The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert "black" operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, say President Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions.
ALSO: Don't read the comments on the ABC website if you tend to get depressed about the human condition.
Scott Horton of Antiwar.com radio was nice enough to have me on a few weeks ago to talk about George Tenet's book. I was on a cell phone and thought I was hard to understand, but I'm told it turned out fine. So if you want to hear 60 minutes of discussion about Tenet, including many aspects of his doofus nature never even mentioned here, here you go.
May 22, 2007
More Success For Ralph Peters And His Map Of Death
Last year the Armed Forces Journal (which is actually a private rather than government publication) published a crazy article by Ralph Peters. In the article, Peters advocated redrawing the borders of the entire middle east. The new countries would all be based on various ethnicities, because, Peters said, "ethnic cleansing works."
The map and more details are available in an earlier post, here. As I then suggested, this map was likely to be perceived in the mideast as a guide to credible, real U.S. intentions...even though Ralph Peters is seen here as a right wing nutjob, and almost no one in America has ever heard of him or his map. That's because the crazy right wings in every country like to seize upon the crazy pipe dreams of other crazy right wings, and publicize them as the credible, real intentions of other groups. We do it here when Bush talks about bin Laden's scheme to establish a giant caliphate.
Anyway, I'm pleased to report that Peters map has scored a huge success. This is from a recent article about Iran by a former prominent official from France's DGSE (their CIA):
In its June 2006 issue, the American Armed Forces Journal (A.F.J.) published an article entitled "Blood Borders" by Ralph Peters, illustrated with precise maps recommending redividing the Middle East along ethnic community boundaries . Though this was not widely noticed in the West, the article was examined under a magnifying glass in the countries concerned and in particular in Iran...
In the view of Iranian officials, this journal reflects the main options of the Pentagon and consequently of the White House.
Read the piece for more. As you'll see, Iran's nutjobs and our nutjobs are working hard to kill all of us.
Chalmers Johnson: "Evil Empire: Is Imperial Liquidation Possible for America?"
Tom Engelhardt: "Close Your Eyes: The Graduation Speech I'll Never Give"
Frida Berrigan: "We're # 1!: A Nation of Firsts Arms the World"
The Path To Peace
I'd never seen this Moshe Dayan quote before. It's in a book review in the New Yorker:
The Israeli leadership could not conceive of itself as anything less than benign, and even persuaded itself that a subjugated Arab population would come to appreciate its overlords. “The situation between us,” Dayan creepily informed the Palestinian poet Fadwa Tuqan, “is like the complex relationship between a Bedouin man and the young girl he has taken against her wishes. But when their children are born, they will see the man as their father and the woman as their mother. The initial act will mean nothing to them. You, the Palestinians, as a nation, do not want us today, but we will change your attitude by imposing our presence upon you.”
The weird thing about the Palestinians is they don't respond well when people occupying their land explicitly compare the situation to rape. History shows that all other national groups do.
AND: Extra sensitivity points go to Dayan for referring not just to a man, but to a "Bedouin man." I hope Fadwa Tuqan appreciated Dayan putting it in terms Tuqan could understand.
May 21, 2007
You've probably already seen the Salt Lake City Tribune article about the alleged MySpace page of Laura Schlessinger's son Deryk, a paratrooper in Afghanistan:
The MySpace page, publicly available until Friday when it disappeared from the Internet, included cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation; photographs of soldiers with guns in their mouths; a photograph of a bound and blindfolded detainee captioned "My Sweet Little Habib"; accounts of illicit drug use; and a blog entry headlined by a series of obscenities and racial epithets.
I only find that mildly interesting. But what I find extremely compelling is the Army's suggestion that this actually is the creation of Osama bin Laden:
Army spokesman Robert Tallman [said] "it may be possible that our enemies are actually behind this.
"Our enemies are adaptive, technologically sophisticated, and truly understand the importance of the information battlespace," Tallman continued. "Sadly, they will use that space to promulgate and disseminate untrue propaganda."
I think I speak for everyone when I say that, if Al Qaeda's propaganda arm has the time and sophistication to create a fake-but-believable MySpace page for Laura Schlessinger's son, we're going to lose this thing. I suggest that we surrender immediately, and I for one welcome our new salafist overlords.
Lots Of Things
• Arthur Silber: "And Don't Say a Goddamned Word"
• Here's an interesting review by Ian Garrick Mason of a George Kennan biography.
• In perhaps the most shocking development of my life, Cliff Kinkaid of Accuracy in Media has written something accurate and honest. As with so many other shocking events of recent days, this is due to Ron Paul.
• Alec "Not the Actor" Baldwin explains that "when you do anything, you let the terrorists win."
• Robert Parry explains how Reverend Moon bailed out Jerry Falwell and Liberty University, at the same time Moon was calling America "Satan's harvest."
May 19, 2007
Now That's Vibrant!
Here's Kenneth Pollack in The Threatening Storm:
We are at a fork in the road of our policy toward Iraq, and the path we choose to take will have enormous repercussions. We are part of the world's most vibrant democracy...it is critical that we engage in a comprehensive and informed public debate and make a choice that the American people can strongly support.
When one of Deborah Mayer's elementary school students asked her on the eve of the Iraq war whether she would ever take part in a peace march, the veteran teacher recalls answering, "I honk for peace."
Soon afterward, Mayer lost her job and her home in Indiana. She was out of work for nearly three years. And when she complained to federal courts that her free-speech rights had been violated, the courts replied, essentially, that as a public school teacher she didn't have any.
If Kenneth Pollack ever asks my opinion about how he got everything so wrong, I will point him to the "world's most vibrant democracy" sentence, and say, "That was your mistake right there."
Ron Paul Discussed On The View
Apparently Ron Paul has ripped a hole in the fabric of reality, and we've fallen through into another dimension in which U.S. foreign policy is debated on national daytime television.
Pretty amazing. I like this universe much more than the old one.
No Exciting Secrets
I accept I may be the only person on earth interested in this. But here's more from George Tenet's book:
We had started giving George W. Bush intelligence briefings even before he was officially designated president-elect...
We sent some of our top analysts down to Austin in late November to establish contact and bring the governor up to speed in case he were about to become commander-in-chief. The governor scared our briefers one morning when he said after one session, "Well, I assume I will start seeing the good stuff when I become president." We were not sure what his expectations were, but he was already seeing "the good stuff."
I remember talking to various government types before the invasion of Iraq, and expressing doubt that Saddam actually had any TERRIFYING WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION!! I'd point out there was no actual public information indicating this. And there was lots of public information indicating Iraq had nothing.
Some of the government types would acknowledge this was true—about the public information. But, they would tell me, if only you knew what we know! You would understand if only you had access to our EXCITING TOP-SECRET SECRETS!!1!
Of course, there were no exciting top secret secrets. And really, there never are. The sad but true reality is that you can find out essentially everything important by reading newspapers and books.
Life is very difficult.
May 18, 2007
More Ron Paul
Here's Ron Paul in New Hampshire in February. It's shocking to hear an American politician (mostly) tell the truth. And note the applause he gets.
Bernard Chazelle, Public Enemy Number One
As we know, it is against the law for informed commentary about other countries to appear in the United States. Bernard Chazelle has just broken this law. Even worse, it's about France.
May 17, 2007
If I Didn't Know Better, I'd Think This Gigantic Grey Creature With The Tusks Here In The Room With Us Is An Elephant
It's well worth reading this post by Tony Karon at Rootless Cosmopolitan: "Palestinian Pinochet Making His Move?" Be sure to check out all the links as well.
Few Americans are even aware of the Palestinian mini-civil war going on now in Gaza. Fewer still know this civil war is to a large degree the conscious creation of the Bush administration—and specifically of America's old friend Elliot Abrams. Here's an article with some details:
Deputy National Security Advisor, Elliott Abrams — who Newsweek recently described as “the last neocon standing” — has had it about for some months now that the U.S. is not only not interested in dealing with Hamas, it is working to ensure its failure. In the immediate aftermath of the Hamas elections, last January, Abrams greeted a group of Palestinian businessmen in his White House office with talk of a “hard coup” against the newly-elected Hamas government — the violent overthrow of their leadership with arms supplied by the United States...
Over the last twelve months, the United States has supplied guns, ammunition and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank.
You know, when prominent neoconservatives talk about "hard coups" to overturn Palestinian elections, or hint at their regret the military didn't stage a coup in Turkey, it almost makes me think their purported concern for democracy is complete bullshit.
Fortunately, we know that's not that case, because no one ever broaches this possibility in the US media.
STAY TUNED: For endless debate in the Washington Post about whether the neoconservative worldview is flawed because they naively luv democracy too much.
How Congress Can Stop An Attack On Iran
That is, assuming they want to. Here's a piece of mine about this in Mother Jones:
What would a serious congressional strategy to block a war with Iran look like? Constitutional scholars and congressional staff agree there's no one magic answer. The alarming truth is that 220 years after the adoption of the Constitution, there are few settled answers about what legal powers the executive branch possesses to start a war. But there are several steps Congress could take to make a war with Iran politically very difficult for the White House...
The limiting factor on a determined president is not whether an attack is "legal." Rather, it is how high a political cost he's willing to pay.
I found it hard to get my mind around this, but it's true. If the executive branch is determined to do something, it's extremely difficult for the legislative branch to stop it merely with laws.
For instance, take the spying program about which James Comey just testified. Congress has written clear laws about what domestic surveillance the executive branch can and cannot carry out. And it's the Justice Department's job to interpret such laws for the executive branch. But when the Justice Department told the White House that what they were doing was illegal, the White House didn't say, "Oh! Well, we'll definitely stop then." Instead, they decided to keep on doing it. They only modified the program when all the top Justice Department officials threatened to resign.
In other words, it wasn't the law that stopped them by itself, but the political damage they would have suffered from all the resignations. If they'd been willing to suffer that damage, the White House could have let everyone quit and then hire replacements who'd come up with some theory about why the spying program was legal.
So Congress should pass laws forbidding Bush from attacking Iran—but that by itself isn't enough. They need to use all the tools they have to create a climate in which the political cost to the Bush administration of starting a war would be excruciatingly high. Those tools are what the article is about.
Speaking of laws, Congress is voting today on the DeFazio-Paul-Hinchey-Lee amendment to the defense authorization bill. This amendment tells Bush he can't attack Iran without congressional permission. If you think war with Iran is a bad idea, call the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202 224-3121 and ask your representative to support it.
Nope, the vote happened last night, and the amendment failed 136-288. Never trust the word of twelve year-old Capitol Hill staffers. Interestingly, Pelosi isn't listed there at all.
MORE: Emailers tell me the Speaker of the House generally doesn't participate in votes like this. Don't ask me why.
May 16, 2007
There's almost no new information in George Tenet's book. But he does come up with an internal CIA email that I don't think has ever been published. It was sent on August 30, 2001 from one CIA analyst to another assigned as a liaison to the FBI. It's about the FBI's failure to ask for a warrant to search the belongings of Zacarias Moussaoui:
Please excuse my obvious frustration in this case. I am highly concerned that this is not paid the amount of attention it deserves. I do not want to be responsible when they [sic] surface again as members [sic] of a suicide terrorist op...I want an answer from a named FBI group chief for the record on these questions...several of which I have been asking since a week and a half ago. It is critical that a paper trail be established and clear. If this guy is let go, two years from now he will be talking to a control tower while aiming a 747 at the White House.
Or as Condoleezza Rice put it: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would...try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."
In fairness to Rice, though, the planes hijacked on 9/11 weren't 747s. Advantage: Condoleezza!
Right On, Ron Paul
A mere five and a half years after the 9/11 attacks, CNN has allowed someone to say on air why they happened. Here's Ron Paul being asked by Wolf Blitzer about his altercation last night with Giuliani:
It's too bad Paul claimed Saddam Hussein was pretending to have nuclear weapons, but I guess you can't have everything.
"Falwell And Me"
Most of us only knew Jerry Falwell's amazing lies from a distance, but Jeff Cohen had some experience with them up close and personal.
Also, Dennis has dug up the famous Hustler parody about Falwell. It's actually pretty funny (scroll down).
May 15, 2007
The one thing scarier than the idea the world is controlled by evil supergeniuses is that the world is barely controlled by anyone. And the people who do have some influence are not master manipulators. In fact, they're pretty dim--and, incredibly enough, actually believe all the crap they say. For instance, here's Haim Saban:
"I used to be a real leftist. I remember Arik Sharon coming here, to my house, a few months before Camp David, when he was still leader of the opposition. He told me there would be no deal because Arafat would not sign. I told myself that there was nothing to be done -- these right-wingers were simply insane. I had no doubt that there would be a deal and the problems would be resolved. History proved that Sharon was right and I was wrong. In matters relating to security, that moved me to the right. Very far to the right."
Haim Saban is a billionaire. (He made his money from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.) Now he has enormous political influence. As he mentions in this interview, he's good buddies with the Clintons. And he's the guy who paid for the Saban Center for Mideast Policy at the Brookings Institution. Kenneth "Has Made a Few Minor Errors" Pollack is its Research Director.
In any case, Saban demonstrates so much confusion and ignorance here you hardly know what to say. Maybe the place to start would be to ask how many "real leftists" are billionaires who hang out with Ariel Sharon.
AND: Be sure to read his description of his interactions with the Clintons. One thing I've never understood is why more politicians don't support campaign finance reform. You'd think they'd care most about the boot-licking their jobs currently entail.
The Internet Has Room For All Kinds Of Human Expression
Not, uh, SFW.
Yes, those are giant cucumbers and teddy bears on fire.
I would welcome information from anyone who knows something about the creative team behind this.
I Guess He Wasn't Kidding
In 2000, Paul Wolfowitz wrote an article in which he explained that leadership consists of "demonstrating that your friends will be protected and taken care of, that your enemies will be punished, and that those who refuse to support you will live to regret having done so."
Sounding more like a cast member of the Sopranos than an international leader, in testimony by one key witness Mr Wolfowitz declares: "If they fuck with me or Shaha, I have enough on them to fuck them too."
Meanwhile, NPR is informing us Wolfowitz is a "soft-spoken idealist."
May 14, 2007
The Family That Blurfs Together
Nan Bauer has a touching Mother's Day post for her mom.
Meanwhile, her husband Dennis is defending our great nation from the menace of their elderly, jihadist neighbor.
Also, don't miss the video of a 23 year-old Steve Martin that Dennis dug up, here (scroll down).
This appears in George Tenet's new book. I assume the Defense Department had some reason for printing up a batch of these in English...though I'm not sure what it might be.
In any case, if I were Tenet, I would have gone with the Arabic version.
May 13, 2007
Michael Schwartz: "The Struggle over Iraqi Oil: Eyes Eternally on the Prize"
Nir Rosen On Iraq's Refugees
Don't miss the NY Times Magazine cover story by Nir Rosen, aka World's Bravest Person, on the gigantic Iraq refugee crisis. As the article reports, about four million Iraqis have fled their homes. That's 15% of Iraq's population; the equivalent in the US would be 45 million people.
It's really something to live in a country so powerful we can rip another nation to shreds like this and barely notice. Hey, what time is the Golden State-Jazz game on?
Of course, at the top of the US government it's not ignorance. It's total indifference:
“What I find most disturbing,” [Kenneth] Bacon [president of Refugees International] went on to say, “is that there seems to be no recognition of the problem by the president or top White House officials.” But John Bolton, who was undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in the Bush administration, and later ambassador to the United Nations, offers one explanation for this lack of recognition: it is not a crisis, and it was not triggered by American action. The refugees, he said, have “absolutely nothing to do with our overthrow of Saddam.
“Our obligation,” he told me this month at his office in the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, “was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don’t think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war"...
When I read John Bolton’s comments to Paula Dobriansky — the undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs — and her colleague Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, they mainly agreed with him.
Or as George Bush put it in January, "I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude."
May 12, 2007
Tenet Produces Most Jaw-Droppingly Stupid Paragraph In Human History
In George Tenet's new book, he touches on the 1998 incident where the CIA failed to predict India's underground nuclear tests. A former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, David Jeremiah, headed a commission to examine how this happened.
One major conclusion of the Jeremiah report was that both the US intelligence and policy communities had an underlying mind-set that Indian government officials would behave as ours behaved. We did not sufficiently accept that Indian politicians might do what they had openly promised—conduct a nuclear test, as the incoming ruling party had said it would. The lesson learned is that sometimes intentions do not reside in secret—they are out there all to see and hear. What we believe to be implausible often has nothing to do with how a foreign culture might act. We would learn this in a different way years later with regard to Iraq. We thought it implausible that someone like Saddam would risk the destruction of his regime over noncompliance with UN resolutions. What we did not account for was the mind-set never to show weakness in a very dangerous neighborhood—particularly in regard to a growing Iranian military capability. Relying on secrets by themselves, divorced from deep knowledge of cultural mind-sets and history, will take you only so far.
I don't think my jaw had ever literally dropped before I read this.
There is so much extraordinary human dumbness in it I'm going to have to rest a while before getting into it.
Great Moments In Total Obliviousness
In George Tenet's new book, he tells the story of the hunt for Aimal Kasi. Kasi was a Pakistani man who shot and killed several people at the CIA entrance in 1993. He escaped back to Pakistan, but four years later the CIA captured him.
Kasi was returned to the US, and Tenet describes a celebration at the CIA:
...there was an outpouring of respect, pride, and gratitude, not to mention hugs and tears. As the crowd filed out at the end of the ceremony, Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" boomed out of the auditorium's speaker system.
Huh. That's a bit weird, given that "Born in the USA" is a obviously a harsh criticism of US foreign policy and America generally. I wonder if Tenet has any awareness of this at all? Let's look at the next sentence of the book—maybe he'll address it there!
After his capture, Kasi said he had conducted the shootings because he was upset with US [foreign] policy...
Uh, I guess not.
EARLIER: George Will famously wrote in 1984 that "Born in the USA" was a "grand, cheerful affirmation" of America. Eric Alterman later commented that it's "a 'grand, cheerful affirmation' of American life in much the same way that Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago is a grand, cheerful affirmation of the Stalinist penal code."
May 11, 2007
I Like This Joke
And finally, the White House is continuing its search for a “War Czar,” to oversee the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pretty soon, they’ll have to take out a classified ad. “WANTED: Beltway insider to manage ill-conceived, underfunded, unpopular war. Military background a plus. Must fit over Dick Cheney’s hand.”
Further Strategic Insights From George Tenet
From Tenet's new book, p. 14:
During the 1990s, the conventional wisdom was that we had won the cold war and it was time to reap the peace dividend. Not only was that assumption wrong—the war was simply evolving from state-run to stateless armies and from intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to nuclear manpacks and anthrax vials—but the supposed "peace dividend" was devastating to the spy business...
Yes—the conventional wisdom is that the North won the Civil War. But in fact the war was simply evolving...INTO WORLD WAR ONE!!!!
Tenet Produces Another Meaningless Cloud of Words
While George Tenet may be weak in some areas, he is quite skilled in others: for instance, blathering on and on and on without actually saying anything. For instance, see here. And here's another example, from NPR yesterday:
NPR: Why was that [that the pre-war UN inspections found nothing] disregarded?
TENET: Well, it's not disregarded. First of all, the inspections regimes themselves had eroded considerably over the course of time. We didn't have anytime anywhere access. We were limited to sites that we had previously visited. Nobody believed we were going to find things at sites the Iraqis had previously declared to the UN. So, tell me something we don't know. The question ultimately is, if you believed as we believed, that he was deceived and hiding, where is this stuff? Okay? So, it's not a question of not factoring it in. It's not a question of -- you know, having a terrible -- I thought we had a pretty good relationship with the UN and supporting them. But that's not how Iraq worked, Mary Louise.
To the degree it's possible to tease any meaning out of this—e.g., that UNMOVIC wasn't allowed to go wherever they wanted—it is of course complete bullshit. But mostly it's just white noise.
Gates Breaks World Record For Stupid Metaphors
...it's important to defend this country on the extremists' 10-yard line and not on our 10-yard line.
Yes, this situation is very much like a football game. For instance, like in football, it exists on a small field with strictly-defined boundaries. And if a player illegally crosses the line of scrimmage, there are referees who will penalize their team.
ALSO: It makes me very sad Gates was not born in the Soviet Union. Then he could have gotten the opportunity to use a similar metaphor to explain the occupation of Eastern Europe.
May 10, 2007
Gates: We Will Have Troops In Iraq Forever
The Bush administration has repeatedly refused to pledge America won't establish permanent military bases in Iraq. There's a good reason for that: we don't ever plan to leave.
Robert Gates essentially came out and said this at a news conference yesterday, comparing our policy in Iraq to that of containment during the Cold War. This gives us a good idea of the time frame the Bush administration is thinking of: the Cold War lasted forty-five years. Moreover, fifteen years after it ended, we still have troops in Germany and Japan. This is equivalent to American troops still being stationed in Iraq (with no end in sight) in 2065.
Q This morning you talked about achieving a bipartisan agreement about troop levels in Iraq...
SEC. GATES: My formative experience in Washington was an unwritten bipartisan consensus through nine successive presidencies on how to deal with the Soviet Union through a policy of containment...on that fundamental strategy there was broad bipartisan agreement. There was never anything written down about it, and I don't think that there needs to -- well, I'm not talking about some kind of summit where everybody sits down and signs up and says this is the strategy for Iraq going forward, but I think rather a broad, bipartisan agreement that on two points:
First of all, that it's important to defend this country on the extremists' 10-yard line and not on our 10-yard line. That has big implications in terms of how our forces are deployed, the kind of forces we buy, the kinds of relationships we have internationally because it means we're over there trying to deal with the problem, not over here.
The other part of it is that in a country that's been through the problems that Iraq has had, the fact that there is probably -- assuming we have some kind of a long-term strategic agreement or security agreement with the Iraqi government that acknowledges their sovereignty and so on but still provides the assistance of some level of U.S. troops in Iraq for a protracted period of time, whether that's 25,000 troops or what that number is -- I have no idea. In terms of intelligence help and logistics, air support, who knows what it might be -- it would have to be worked out with the Iraqis. But in terms of providing a stabilizing presence, particularly given the behavior and attitudes of Iran on the eastern border, the Syrians on the northern and western borders and the overall instability in the region, my view is -- my personal view is this would be a stabilizing -- have a stabilizing effect, and I think it's something that we need to talk about. Obviously, it's a matter of where the Iraqi government has a big say as well.
Or as the Project for a New American Century put it in September, 2000:
Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Saddam provided the pretext for our being there. But we're planning to stay long, long after he's gone.
George Tenet Not World's Most Self-Aware Person
From George Tenet's new book, p. 12:
In many ways, I am my father's son. He was a very trusting man, loath to say anything bad about anyone...Dad believed in inclusiveness. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
MICHAEL (to Pentangeli): This used to be my father's old study -- it's changed...
My father taught me many things here -- he taught me in this room. He taught me -- keep your friends close but your enemies closer. Now, if Hyman Roth sees that I interceded in this thing, and the Rosato brothers failed him, he's gonna think his relationship with me is still good.
1. Tenet appears to have completely misunderstood the meaning of this saying, which doesn't actually have to do with being nice to people.
2. It's a little weird to say your dad taught you this, given that most people associate it with Michael Corleone saying his mob boss father taught it to him.
Tony Blair, England's Most American Leader
Here's John Cleese in Life and How to Survive It:
CLEESE: ...even Americans who are successful are under a tremendous pressure to appear endlessly optimistic and upbeat. A New York friend in advertising tells me that there is only one acceptable response to the question, "How are you?" It is: "Never better!" Anything less is considered defeatist, and the first sign of inevitable decline...
Perhaps that's why it didn't attract any notice when Bill Clinton claimed during his election campaign that, with the right changes, American could 'become the greatest country in the world, forever." Can you imagine a European leader saying that?
Here's Tony Blair, today:
This country is a blessed country. The British are special. The world knows it, we know it, this is the greatest country on earth.
Apparently England stole our title! I guess America didn't make the right changes.
Congress Not Told Of "Significant Covert Action"
So it seems the House Intelligence Committee may have a little more self-respect than the Senate Intelligence Committee under Jay Rockefeller. Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists points out this section of the House version of the 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act:
The Committee was dismayed at a recent incident wherein the Intelligence Community failed to inform the Congress of a significant covert action activity. This failure to notify Congress constitutes a violation of the National Security Act of 1947. Despite agency explanations that the failure was inadvertent, the Committee is deeply troubled over the fact that such an oversight could occur, whether intentionally or inadvertently.
The Committee firmly believes that scrupulous transparency between the Intelligence Community and this Committee is an absolute necessity on matters related to covert action. The Committee intends this audit and reporting requirement to act as a further check against the risk of insufficient notification, whether deliberate or inadvertent.
Obviously this likely involves Iran. And given its tremendous importance, we can count on the U.S. media never looking into it.
OR: Anon points out this might plausibly be about Ethiopia/Somalia
May 09, 2007
Moveon Impeachment Poll
Much to my surprise, Moveon is polling members on whether they believe Congress should impeach Bush. Of course, they're doing this so quietly that almost no members seem to know about it. Go here and speak up, and then spread the word. If Moveon's members strongly come out in favor of impeachment, it would change a lot of political calculations in Congress.
May 08, 2007
Neverending Hackery: A Feature, Not A Bug
Many working-level journalists bent over backwards not to be tagged as "liberal" because they knew that most senior editors and network executives tilted conservative. At the Associated Press, for instance, AP's general manager Keith Fuller, the company's top news executive, was known to share many of the Reagan-Bush political views...
"As we look back on the turbulent Sixties, we shudder with the memory of a time that seemed to tear at the very sinews of this country," Fuller said in a speech on January 28, 1982 in Worcester, Massachusetts. "While our soldiers were dying in old Indochina, our young people, at least some of them, were chanting familiar communist slogans on the campuses around this nation...Popular entertainers of that day were openly supporting a communist regime, denouncing the American position and a propaganda barrage was loosed in places like France and Britain and Scandinavia, Italy, Greece, all carefully financed and orchestrated by the USSR...
"A nation is saying, 'We don't really believe that criminal rights should take precedence over the rights of victims. We don't believe that the union of Adam and Bruce is really the same as Adam and Eve in the eyes of Creation. We don't believe people should cash welfare checks and spend them on booze and narcotics. We don't don't really believe that a simple prayer or a pledge of allegiance is against the national interest in the classroom. We're sick of your social engineering. We're fed up with your tolerance of crime, drugs and pornography. But most of all, we're sick of your self-perpetuating, burdening bureaucracy weighing ever more heavily on our backs."
Though Fuller presented his commentary as analysis, rank-and-file AP journalists understood that his litany of complaints represented his personal opinions...reporters knew that in the murky world of mixed or uncertain evidence, they couldn't expect much support if the White House lodged a complaint or if conservative pressure groups went on the attack.
Parry later worked at Newsweek, and broke the first stories about Iran-contra. He describes what happened then in another book, Lost History:
How quickly the investigative space was closing down hit home to me on March 10, 1987. I had been asked to attend a dinner at the home of bureau chief Evan Thomas in an exclusive neighborhood in northwest Washington. The guests that night were retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who was one of three members of the Tower Commission [set up by Reagan to investigate Iran-contra], and Rep. Dick Cheney, R-Wyo., who was the ranking House Republican on the congressional Iran-contra committee.
At the table also were some of Newsweek's top executives and a few of us lowly correspondents. As the catered dinner progressed and a tuxedoed waiter kept the wine glasses full, the guests were politely questioned. Scowcroft, a studious-looking man, fidgeted as if he wanted to get something off his chest. "Maybe I shouldn't say this but," he began with a slight hesitation. He then continued, "If I were advising Admiral Poindexter and he had told the president about the diversion, I would advise him to say that he hadn't."
I quietly put down my fork. Not fully cognizant of the etiquette of these affairs, I asked with undisguised amazement in my voice: "General, you're not suggesting that the admiral should commit perjury, are you?" My question was greeted with an embarrassed silence around the table.
Scowcroft hesitated as if contemplating his answer. But Newsweek editor Maynard Parker came to his rescue, tut-tutting my impertinence. "Sometimes," Maynard boomed, "you have to do what's good for the country." From around the table, a chorus of guffaws ended the uncomfortable moment. Scowcroft never answered my question.
Curse you, liberal media!
Now might be a good time to go donate to Parry's Consortium News.
The Iranian government may be about to execute a 20 year-old woman named Delara Darabi for murdering a relative when she was 17. Her wikipedia page states:
According to Delara the murder of her father's female cousin was committed by the 19 year old boyfriend that she was in love with. Delara Darabi initially confessed to the murder, but soon retracted her confession. She claims that Amir Hossein asked her to admit responsibility for the murder to protect him from execution, believing that as she was under the age of 18, she could not be sentenced to death.
The Iranian government is a signatory to two international treaties that forbid them from executing anyone for crimes committed under the age of 18.
Things you can do:
1. Learn more at Save Delara
2. Sign a petition calling on the Iranian government to commute her death sentence, here. The petition currently has 13,000 signatures. The Iranian government previously relented on the death sentence for another minor, Nazanin Fateh, when a similar petition received 350,000 signatures.
3. Participate in Amnesty International's worldwide appeal for Darabi.
(Thanks to Jonathan Versen for news about this.)
God damn Digby is a great writer.
The only thing I'd add is that Chait's type of "liberalism" is class-based: it exists only among upper-middle class professionals. The only hope for America is if such people begin to identify (as they rationally should) with the people below them in the pyramid, rather than those above. It's a long shot, but certainly the people running America seem determined to push professionals far enough into a corner that they might.
So Karl Rove Is An "Agnostic"
A few days ago I wondered whether Christopher Hitchens had accurately described Karl Rove as "not a believer." The answer seems to be yes. Christopher Schipper sends along this transcript of Wayne Slater on Fresh Air last September, talking about The Architect, his book about Rove:
SLATER: You know, I remember seeing Ralph Reed in Texas when Rove tried to bring him on board back in about 1998...Ralph Reed is an Evangelical Christian who was successful in bringing Evangelical Christians around for political ends. Karl Rove is just the opposite. He is, in fact, an agnostic. He has told--he told a friend in high school that he grew up in a largely a-religious household. He told a friend at the University of Texas, where some years ago he was teaching, that he would like to be a believer but he's an agnostic and he couldn't be otherwise. So Rove's approach has always been not that religion and the values of religion ought to have a place in our public policy, which is the message that he sent. Rove's approach is that Christians are a marvelously effective voter delivery system that can be rallied, motivated, energized, and delivered for the political candidate of your choice.
GROSS: Are you confident that Karl Rove would still consider himself an agnostic?
SLATER: I know that he felt that way two years ago. I don't know of any reason to think that he has changed that view. He certainly hasn't told me that he has. It's certainly possible. I think the evidence and the history is that he remains something of an agnostic, though he sees the Christians, and not just Christians but also orthodox Jews, to some extent, as a valuable voter source. With Rove, it's about winning. With Karl Rove, it's how can you put together a team and a constituency or a cluster of constituencies that delivers you 50 percent plus one of the vote? And that's what it's all about.
Thank you, world, for validating my world view!
May 07, 2007
Ho-Hum, Yet More Evidence Of Covert Action Inside Iran
From the new Atlantic article about Condoleezza Rice:
Rice and her colleagues in the administration decided to embark on a daring and risky third course: a coordinated campaign, directed with the help of the intelligence services of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. While the “get tough” crew favored direct military action against Iran, the administration chose a more subtle mix of diplomatic and economic pressure, large-scale military exercises, psychological warfare, and covert operations. The bill for the covert part of this activity, which has involved funding sectarian political movements and paramilitary groups in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, is said to amount to more than $300 million. It is being paid by Saudi Arabia and other concerned Gulf states, for whom the combination of a hasty American withdrawal from Iraq and a nuclear-armed Iran means trouble...
Sources in the United States and the Middle East familiar with the covert side of the American-led effort to “push back” Iran...pointed to an upsurge in antigovernment guerrilla activity inside Iran, including a bomb in Zahedan, the economic center of the province of Baluchistan, that killed 11 soldiers in the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on February 14; the mysterious death of the Iranian scientist Ardashir Hosseinpour, who worked on uranium enrichment at the Isfahan nuclear facility; and the defection of a high-ranking Iranian general named Ali Asgari, a former deputy minister of defense who was also the Revolutionary Guard officer responsible for training and supplying Hezbollah during its war against the Israelis in southern Lebanon in the 1980s. Iran’s oil infrastructure may be another likely target. “People focus altogether on the nuclear facilities and how difficult they would be to take out,” former Secretary of State George Shultz told me in his office at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “But it’s not difficult for somebody to sabotage those refineries.”
Hey, let's ask Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, what he's doing about these massively illegal actions that could easily lead to war...accidently or on purpose. Jay?
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.
Oh! Sorry, I didn't realize that as a senior U.S. senator with an $82 million personal fortune, you were completely powerless—so much so that you can't even find out things that someone writing an article for the Atlantic can. Carry on.
Message: U.S. Government Still Mind-Numbingly Cynical
The Atlantic just published a 26,000,000-word long article about Condoleezza Rice. At one point it mentions U.S. attempts to push Palestinian society into civil war (sub. req.):
In the fall of 2005, as part of a new push for democracy in the Middle East, Rice insisted that legislative elections be held in the Palestinian territories...To Rice’s surprise, the elections in January 2006 were won by Hamas...
Eager to reverse the results of the election, Rice decided on a new plan of action that resulted in fighting in the streets of Gaza between Hamas and Fatah gunmen. The plan, which she developed after speaking to President Bush, was to put pressure on the Hamas government by providing the Palestinian security forces loyal to Abbas with training, intelligence, and large shipments of supplies and new weapons, paid for by the United States and by Saudi Arabia. The hope was that Hamas, faced with a well-armed, well-trained force of Fatah fighters, might be cowed into moderating its positions or relinquishing the power it had won through elections. Alternatively, Hamas might be pressured into an escalating series of gun battles, in which case Abbas, as head of the Palestinian security forces, would have an excuse to crush Hamas by force...
Hamas won the clashes, which left more than 140 Palestinians dead, and the Hamas government remained in power.
A few pages later, the author describes following Rice on her recent trip to Jerusalem:
I find a copy of Friday’s State Department Rapid Response sheet lying on the ground. “Message: Americans do not want to see Palestinians killing Palestinians. Palestinians should be living in peace among themselves and with Israel,” the document instructs, quoting Rice.
And indeed, that's exactly what Rice said in a February interview with Al Arabiya.
Message: Condoleezza Rice most loathsomely unctuous human being on earth.
May 06, 2007
May 05, 2007
These 1979 Doonesbury strips on David Halberstam are fantastic.
Pure Intellectual Inquiry
As Jonathan Chait has explained in the New Republic, blogs are overflowing with propaganda. By contrast, the New Republic is interested only in pure intellectual inquiry.
May 04, 2007
Still Irritated By Jonathan Chait
Let's take a look again at this section from Jonathan Chait's netroots article:
[P]ropaganda should not be confused with intellectual inquiry. Propagandists do not follow their logic wherever it may lead them; they are not interested in originality...
The implication, of course, is that intellectually honest political thinkers (like Jonathan Chait!) are interested in originality.
But here's the thing: politics, when you strip away the layers of bullshit, is not much more complicated than tic tac toe. It always has been and always will be a struggle between the many and the few. The few in every society have perhaps four strategies for controlling the many, which they've been using in various combinations for the past 10,000 years.
Thus, being "original" about politics is about as possible as being "original" about tic tac toe.
However, you can pretend it's possible to be original. For instance, you can write: the Xs shouldn't choose the upper right hand corner, even though the Os need only that space to win. That's the old way of thinking! Instead, the Xs should use a bold, fresh strategy and go for the lower left corner!"
Then all your friends congratulate you for your contrarianism. Then the Os win again. Then you go home, dazzled by your own originality. And then you live the rest of your life, never seeming to notice that the magazine which pays for your mortgage and your children's food is owned by a consortium of Os.
PLUS, A LITTLE MORE CHAIT:
During the 2000 campaign, the two of us [Grover Norquist and Chait] were making small talk before we were set to debate, and he offered that the event would be clarifying for his team as well as for my team. I replied that, while I certainly have strong opinions, I wasn't working for any "team." Norquist smiled at me in a slightly condescending way and said, "Sometimes, we're on a team and we don't realize it."
Yes, Chait is surely on no one's team. True, there are some unsophisticated clowns who say this kind of stuff:
To me then it appears that there have been differences of opinion, and party differences, from the establishment of governments to the present day, and on the same question which now divides our country, that these will continue through all future times: that everyone takes his side in favor of the many, or of the few…nothing new can be added by you or me to what has been said by others, and will be said in every age.
But frankly, crude propagandists like that just don't understand politics like Jonathan Chait.
I Can Get Mad About Anything
Right now I'm mad at Matthew Yglesias for writing this:
...the objection that deficits "place an unfair financial burden on future generations" doesn't make a ton of sense. Think about an individual taking out a large loan for some reason or other -- a mortgage to buy a house, say. This may be a prudent investment, or it may be a foolish one. Whether or not the loan amounts to an "unfair financial burden" on future versions of yourself isn't an additional issue on top of the issue of how well your investment performs.
It's similar with deficits. If moderate levels of deficit spending allow us to finance growth-enhancing public sector investments, then there's no burden at all being placed on future generations.
The problem here is that—even as Yglasias tries to defend deficit spending—he's using a horrendously wrong metaphor. It doesn't match reality at all.
Conservatives often say things like: Just as families cannot borrow money to spend beyond their means forever, neither can America. We must not pass on this awful government debt to our children!
This sounds good, until you think about it for one second. Then you realize it's extremely stupid. Here's why:
When the government borrows money, it's not like a family borrowing money from a bank. It's like one member of a family borrowing money from another family member.
Thus, government borrowing doesn't place a burden on future generations. While every bond sold is a liability for one part of the "family," it's an ASSET for another part. For future generations of Americans overall, government debt is a complete wash.
In other words, the conservative homily cited above makes exactly as much sense as saying: Just as families should make sound investments for their future by buying bonds, so should America. We must issue lots of government bonds so we can pass this wealth onto our children!
Yglesias writes about America as though we're an individual rather than a family, but the problem is the same. Government borrowing is not like "an individual taking out a large loan." It's like an individual taking out a loan from themselves.
And this bad metaphor leads to a lot of bad thinking. Imagine two families:
In family #1, a sister borrows money from her brother to make sure her kids have enough to eat, get vaccinations, and can go to good schools. Twenty years later, the family overall is not in debt, and the grown children are healthy and educated.
In family #2, a sister is continually told she must not borrow money from her brother. So she doesn't, cutting back on her children's food, vaccinations, and education. Twenty years later, the overall debt position of family #2 is exactly the same as family #1. But the grown children are sickly and can't read or write.
Thus, by eliminating deficits, family #2 not only hasn't accomplished anything—they've actually made themselves worse off.
(Of course, the real world is more complex than this. One important exception to my preferred metaphor is when countries borrow from other countries. Then it really IS like a family borrowing from a bank. And it's true the U.S. government is doing a lot of this right now.)
As I mentioned, there's a line in a recent Noam Chomsky conversation with evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers that perfectly described the genesis and motivations of this website. Racrecir is the first person who came up with it:
TRIVERS: We find repeatedly now—in wasps, in birds and in monkeys—that when organisms realize they're being deceived, they get pissed off. And they often attack the deceiver. Especially if the deceiver is over-representing him or herself. If you're under-representing and showing yourself as having less dominance than you really have, you're not attacked. And the ones that do attack you are precisely those whose dominance status you are attempting to expropriate or mimic.
Not flattering to me, but there it is. And embarrassingly enough, I didn't wholly comprehend this about myself until reading the interview. As Trivers says, "we're aware of the fact that when we're watching something on stage, so to speak, we have a better view than the actors on the stage have."
Now, to be fair to me, the situation's more complex than this. My motivations are more nuanced than those of an enraged wasp. Nevertheless, I am an organism like other organisms.
Racrecir, if you want to claim your copy of Our Kampf, please email me a mailing address.
AND: A special Jury Appreciation Prize to Doug B for "I'm trying to understand these phenomena at the individual level and also put them together in groups, since at times institutions act like individuals in the way they practice internal self-deception."
May 03, 2007
WHO'S STEALING OUR BEES?
Mike asks this questions, and others:
The Overbrain Welcomes You
This Is Very Important
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
Sidney Blumenthal has now written something about this that—if true—is a giant bombshell:
Tenet's account of the July 20, 2002, meeting of CIA officials and British intelligence officers in Washington is misleading, according to a former high CIA official with firsthand knowledge, who described it to me as "total bullshit." That meeting was important as the basis of the subsequent briefing of Prime Minister Tony Blair that took place at Downing Street three days later, summarized in the famous so-called Downing Street memo. In the memo, Sir Richard Dearlove, chief of MI6, is quoted: "Military action was now seen as inevitable ... Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD." Even more ominously, Dearlove warned that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
Tenet writes that Dearlove told him he was misquoted and that Tenet "corrected it to reflect the truth of the matter." "Tenet doesn't say what the truth of the matter is," the former CIA officer told me. "Dearlove just didn't want to be blamed." Dearlove, the former CIA official emphatically insists, claiming direct knowledge, was accurately relating what Tenet had personally told him.
The former CIA official explains that the Washington meeting was an annual U.S.-U.K. event...After a daylong briefing in the director's conference room and private dining room, Tenet took Dearlove into his office. According to the CIA source, "That's where Dearlove asked where the intelligence was going, was it heading to war, did it matter what the intelligence was. Tenet said, that's the way things are heading, they are looking for intelligence to fit into this." Dearlove's "fix" was simply the British version of "fit." He was not misquoted; he was spot on.
You don't get much more momentous than the head of the CIA and MI6 discussing how the "intelligence" used to justify a war is being falsified.
Of course, it's difficult to judge the accuracy of this—not in the sense that Blumenthal might be making it up, but that it's hard to guess whether the CIA official had firsthand knowledge...and if not, how he/she knows it.
But figuring out that kind of thing is what Congressional committees are (theoretically) good for. It would be entertaining to see this person testify on live national television.
I'm Trying Not To Believe This, Because It Fits Too Perfectly Into My World View
This has been bouncing around the blurkosphere: according to Christopher Hitchens, Karl Rove is an atheist:
Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist?
HITCHENS: Well, I don’t talk that much to them—maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”
May 02, 2007
Best Chomsky Interview Ever
I just now came across a conversation from last year between Noam Chomsky and Robert Trivers, a well-known evolutionary biologist. They don't discuss many political specifics, but rather focus on the general phenomenon of deception and self-deception—and not just in humans. It's fascinating. Note in particular Chomsky's views about whether the Bush administration consciously lied about Iraq:
TRIVERS: So let me ask you, when you think about the leaders—let's say the present set of organisms that launched this dreadful Iraq misadventure—how important is their level of self-deception? We know they launched the whole thing in a swarm of lies, the evidence for which is too overwhelming to even need to be referred to now. My view is that their deception leads to self-deception very easily.
CHOMSKY: I agree, though I'm not sure they launched it with lies, and it's perfectly possible they believed it.
There's even a sentence in the interview which perfectly describes the genesis and motivations of this website. I will cheerfully send a free copy of Our Kampf to the first person who points this out.
UPDATE: There have been some good guesses, but no one has yet successfully read my mind. Hint: the answer is not flattering to me.
UPDATE 5/3 @ 2 p.m.: Still no correct answer. Really, it should be very easy for anyone who's here inside my head with me.
UPDATE 5/4 @ midnight: Racrecir Wins! Details here.
BREAKING NEWS: Iranian Revolutionary Guard Arming Iraqis!!!
This is from March, 2006:
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Iran of sending Revolutionary Guard forces into Iraq to make trouble, and warned Tehran it was "an error in judgement", AFP reported.
"They are currently putting people into Iraq to do things that are harmful to the future of Iraq..."
This is from last February:
President Bush said Wednesday that "a part of the Iranian government" is involved in sending deadly explosives into Iraq but acknowledged he didn't know whether top Iranian leaders were responsible.
"What we do know is that the Quds Force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq," Bush said at a White House news conference, referring to a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
This is from George Tenet's new book, p. 390-1
In the run-up to war, the United States had promised to deliver a large amount of weapons to the two main Kurdish factions in northern Iraq (the PUK and the KDP) so that they could effectively join in the coming fight. Obtaining the weapons was not a problem for us, but getting them there was another matter...
The Kurds were exasperated at the delay. "Where are the weapons you promised us?" they asked over and over again. We had no satisfactory answer. Finally, in 2003, about a month before the start of the war, Tom S., the head of our NILE team in Suleimaniya, was told by the local PUK representative, "Never mind." He was stunned to watch as trucks rolled up to a warehouse only fifty feet from his base and tons of weapons were delivered to the Kurds by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
EARLIER: Saddam and the U.S. agree on the terrorist Iranian snakes.
Jonathan Chait Engages In Original Intellectual Inquiry
You've probably seen the New Republic has published a long piece about blogtopia by Jonathan Chait, a senior editor there. It somehow manages to be intensely irritating while still vaguely laudatory about what the online world has accomplished. Here's my favorite part:
[P]ropaganda should not be confused with intellectual inquiry. Propagandists do not follow their logic wherever it may lead them; they are not interested in originality...
At the narrow level, the netroots take part in a great deal of demagoguery, name-calling, and dishonesty. Seen through a wider lens, however, they bring into closer balance the ideological vectors of propaganda in our public life.
Take the case of Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a slain soldier who camped out at Crawford, Texas, in August 2005, demanding to meet with President Bush. The press corps did not treat her as a serious story, and understandably so--there were many parents of fallen soldiers with strong views on Iraq, so why should hers hold such weight? But the netroots took hold of the Sheehan story, harping on it for days, and forced it onto the national agenda. This is the sort of thing conservatives have been doing for years. The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth deserved no special credibility, either, but, in 2004, the right-wing media apparatus elevated them onto the national stage. Was the veneration of Sheehan intellectually shabby? Without a doubt. Was it, considered as a whole, a bad thing? That is not so clear.
Yes, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Cindy Sheehan are exactly the same "sort of thing." Just compare:
• Swift Boat Veterans for Truth garnered attention by falsely claiming Kerry was "lying about his record" in Vietnam
• Cindy Sheehan garnered attention by falsely claiming her son is dead
Thank you, Jonathan Chait, for following your logic wherever it led you. It's this type of original intellectual inquiry that blogs—hampered as they are by their demagoguery and dishonesty—just can't touch.
May 01, 2007
Speaking Of Forgeries
So Henry Waxman is going to be delving more deeply into the uranium-from-Niger crap. But I don't think anyone knows anything at all about these other forgeries, described in George Tenet's new book, p. 356:
The Iraq-al-Qa'ida controversy continued, even after Saddam was long gone from power. Once U.S. forces reached Baghdad, they discovered—stacked where they could easily find them—purported Iraqi intelligence services documents that showed much tighter links between Saddam and Zarqawi and Saddam and al-Qa'ida. CIA analysts worked with the U.S. Secret Service to have the paper and ink checked and tried to verify the names and information in the documents. Time and again, documents that were supposedly produced in the early 1990s turned out to be forgeries. CIA officers interviewed Iraqi intelligence officers in Baghdad who also discounted the authenticity of the documents. It was obvious that someone was trying to mislead us. But these raw, unevaluated documents that painted a more nefarious picture of Iraq and al-Qa'ida continued to show up in the hands of senior administration officials without having gone through normal intelligence channels.
It might be nice if someone, you know, looked into this.
Two Different People So Nefariously Maligned
It's very sad:
Appearing before a committee of the bank’s board of directors and going on the attack after weeks of silence, Mr. Wolfowitz also charged that he had been the victim of “orchestrated leaks of false, misleading, incomplete and personal information” intended to “undermine my effectiveness as president.”
Somewhere in the afterworld, there's another "president" watching and saying: I too know how it feels to be the target of orchestrated, false leaks!
I like to believe that when Wolfowitz dies, he and Saddam will get a chance to compare notes on this. Also on who killed the most Iraqis.