Monday, September 24, 2007

Back -Talk: Here Comes Success

No More Dirty Tricks

Friday, September 21, 2007

Welcome Back, Keith Olbermann!

KO's special comment last night after returning to work following an emergency appendectomy last Friday:

‘Your hypocrisy is so vast’, a special comment by Keith Olbermann:
So the President, behaving a little bit more than usual, like we would all interrupt him while he was watching his favorite cartoons on the DVR, stepped before the press conference microphone and after side-stepping most of the substantive issues like the Israeli raid on Syria, in condescending and infuriating fashion, produced a big political finish that indicates, certainly, that if it wasn’t already – the annual Republican witch-hunting season is underway.

“I thought the ad was disgusting. I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. Military.”

“And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad.

“And that leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like or more afraid of irritating them, than they are of irritating the United States military.”

“That was a sorry deal.”

First off, it’s “Democrat-ic” party.

You keep pretending you’re not a politician, so stop using words your party made up. Show a little respect.

Secondly, you could say this seriously after the advertising/mugging of Senator Max Cleland? After the swift-boating of John Kerry?

(h/t to Susie Madrak for video link, video & transcript also at Crooks and Liars)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ranked #1 in Disgusted with George Bush

In the tradition of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo's posts on how people reach his blog and its ranking among various searches,

I'm ranked #1 (and #2) on Yahoo Search for "disgusted with george bush":

Shorter Top News Stories

Shorter John McCain on the Webb Amendment, "Suck it up!":
You are all wimps! No one specified a minimum time for my deployment while in a POW camp for 7 years.

Shorter George Bush press conference, "I'm the Grader! Nelson Mandela was murdered by Saddam Hussein":
'F' to Congress for wanting health insurance for children. 'A' for me when I veto it. 'B' for me in Econ 101 (up from the 'C' actually received in college). 'A' for me for tax cuts and being fiscally responsible (for turning a budget surplus into massive deficit and adding $4 trillion to the National Debt). 'F' for me in history and foreign affairs with Mandela is dead statement.

Shorter 24-hour cycle cable "news":
Nothing from Paris, Lindsey in rehab, Britney is fat, LOOK THE OJ SIDESHOW IS BACK!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

LOL: James Wolcott on Romney vs. Thompson

Future President of Petticoat Junction Seeks Florida Fun:
Thompson's somewhat lackadaisacal lope is a smart counterfoil to Mitt Romney's executive-vampire zeal and glinty opportunism--maybe it takes a real fake to show up a fake fake. Thompson at least seems to be composed of organic material; Romney is pure vinyl exterior down to the empty core.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Headlines We Like: Bush Resigns

United States President Steps Down* (via LA Times):
George W. Bush, whose administration was marred by scandal, cites dwindling support.

By DinStL, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 12, 2007

President George Bush announced today that he would quit his office, saying he lacked the necessary support to pursue the agenda that drove his political career.

Bush, 61, had vowed as recently as Monday to carry on as President, despite the crushing defeat delivered to his governing Republican Party in elections for control of Congress in November.

But with his support in polls stuck at 30% or lower and the opposition signaling it would obstruct his plans to govern in defiance of the will of the public, Bush faced the prospect of trying to lead with ever-diminishing influence. "The people need a leader whom they can support and trust," Bush said today in a nationally televised news conference.

The trigger for his resignation was the awareness that he would not be able to renew an illegal and unconstitutional anti-terrorism law that allowed the Executive Branch warrantless surveillance of American citizens. The opposition Democratic Party, which now controls Congress, had promised to block any extension of the law, a crippling blow to a President who had repeatedly broken his pledge to the commitment of preserving civil liberties.

"The United States needs a new leader to fight against terrorism," Bush said.
*If only this article was not about Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. <sigh>

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

6th Anniversary

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Americans not Buying Bush's Selling of the Surge

President Bush has repeatedly criticized anti-surge and war opponents with projection of his own politicizing of the Iraq War:
Another new arrival in the West Wing set up a rapid-response PR unit hard-wired into Petraeus's shop. Ed Gillespie, the new presidential counselor, organized daily conference calls at 7:45 a.m. and again late in the afternoon between the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the U.S. Embassy and military in Baghdad to map out ways of selling the surge.

From the start of the Bush plan, the White House communications office had been blitzing an e-mail list of as many as 5,000 journalists, lawmakers, lobbyists, conservative bloggers, military groups and others with talking points or rebuttals of criticism. Between Jan. 10 and last week, the office put out 94 such documents in various categories -- "Myths/Facts" or "Setting the Record Straight" to take issue with negative news articles, and "In Case You Missed It" to distribute positive articles or speeches.

Gillespie arranged several presidential speeches to make strategic arguments, such as comparing Iraq to Vietnam or warning of Iranian interference. When critics assailed Bush for overstating ties between al-Qaeda and the group called al-Qaeda in Iraq, Gillespie organized a Bush speech to make his case.

Americans not buying it with Wide Skepticism Ahead of Assessment:
Most Americans think this week's report from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus will exaggerate progress in Iraq, and few expect it to result in a major shift in President Bush's policy. But despite skepticism about the Petraeus testimony and majority support for a U.S. troop reduction in Iraq, there has also been a slight increase in the number who see the situation there as improving.

The findings, from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, underscore the depth of public antipathy toward the Iraq war, the doubts about the administration's policies and the limited confidence in the Iraqi government to meet its commitments to restore civil order.

Fifty-eight percent, a new high, said they want to decrease the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. And most of those who advocated a troop reduction said they want the drawdown to begin either right away or by the end of the year. A majority, 55 percent, supported legislation that would set a deadline of next spring for the withdrawal of American combat forces. That figure is unchanged from July.
The public's baseline judgment on the war is little changed -- more than six in 10 said the war is not worth fighting, a sentiment that has been a majority view for nearly three years.

But though the public assessment of progress in Iraq remains largely negative, most expected Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, to express a rosier view when he begins his congressional testimony tomorrow. Only about four in 10 said they expect the general to give an accurate accounting of the situation in Iraq. A majority, 53 percent, said they think his report will try to make the situation in Iraq look better than it really is.

Glenn Greenwald explains how it is The DC Establishment versus American public opinion:
The Washington Establishment has spent the last several months glorifying Gen. David Petraeus, imposing the consensus that The Surge is Succeeding, and most importantly of all, ensuring that President Bush will not be compelled to withdraw troops from Iraq for the remainder of his presidency. The P.R. campaign to persuade the country that the Surge is Succeeding has been as intense and potent as any P.R. campaign since the one that justified the invasion itself. While this campaign has worked wonders with our gullible media stars and Democratic Congressional leadership, it has failed completely with the American people.

Ever since the Surge was announced (and allowed) back in January, Conventional Beltway Media Wisdom continuously insisted that September was going to be the Dramatic Month of Reckoning, when droves of fair-minded and election-fearing Republicans finally abandoned the President and compelled an end to the war. But the opposite has occurred.

Democratic Congressional leaders -- due either to illusory fears of political repercussions and/or a desire that the war continue -- seem more supportive than ever of the ongoing occupation (or at least more unwilling than ever to stop it). They are going to do nothing to mandate meaningful troop withdrawal. Most Republicans are hiding behind the shiny badges of Gen. Petraeus and his typically sunny claims about Progress in Iraq, and they, too, are as unified as ever that we cannot end our occupation.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

In September, 2002, CIA Told Bush No WMD in Iraq

In a revelation which should surprise no one, Sidney Blumenthal informs us in his latest article that Bush knew Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, but "Bush dismissed as worthless this information" because "Bush wanted to hear what he wanted to hear":
On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD.

On April 23, 2006, CBS's "60 Minutes" interviewed Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief of clandestine operations for Europe, who disclosed that the agency had received documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri, Saddam's foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD. "We continued to validate him the whole way through," said Drumheller. "The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy."

Now two former senior CIA officers have confirmed Drumheller's account to me and provided the background to the story of how the information that might have stopped the invasion of Iraq was twisted in order to justify it. They described what Tenet said to Bush about the lack of WMD, and how Bush responded, and noted that Tenet never shared Sabri's intelligence with then Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to the former officers, the intelligence was also never shared with the senior military planning the invasion, which required U.S. soldiers to receive medical shots against the ill effects of WMD and to wear protective uniforms in the desert.
On the eve of Sabri's appearance at the United Nations in September 2002 to present Saddam's case, the officer in charge of this operation met in New York with a "cutout" who had debriefed Sabri for the CIA. Then the officer flew to Washington, where he met with CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, who was "excited" about the report. Nonetheless, McLaughlin expressed his reservations. He said that Sabri's information was at odds with "our best source." That source was code-named "Curveball," later exposed as a fabricator, con man and former Iraqi taxi driver posing as a chemical engineer.

The next day, Sept. 18, Tenet briefed Bush on Sabri. "Tenet told me he briefed the president personally," said one of the former CIA officers. According to Tenet, Bush's response was to call the information "the same old thing." Bush insisted it was simply what Saddam wanted him to think. "The president had no interest in the intelligence," said the CIA officer. The other officer said, "Bush didn't give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up."

But the CIA officers working on the Sabri case kept collecting information. "We checked on everything he told us." French intelligence eavesdropped on his telephone conversations and shared them with the CIA. These taps "validated" Sabri's claims, according to one of the CIA officers. The officers brought this material to the attention of the newly formed Iraqi Operations Group within the CIA. But those in charge of the IOG were on a mission to prove that Saddam did have WMD and would not give credit to anything that came from the French. "They kept saying the French were trying to undermine the war," said one of the CIA officers.

The officers continued to insist on the significance of Sabri's information, but one of Tenet's deputies told them, "You haven't figured this out yet. This isn't about intelligence. It's about regime change."

The CIA officers on the case awaited the report they had submitted on Sabri to be circulated back to them, but they never received it. They learned later that a new report had been written. "It was written by someone in the agency, but unclear who or where, it was so tightly controlled. They knew what would please the White House. They knew what the king wanted," one of the officers told me.
On Sept. 8, 2006, three Republican senators on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- Orrin Hatch, Saxby Chambliss and Pat Roberts -- signed a letter attempting to counter Drumheller's revelation about Sabri on "60 Minutes": "All of the information about this case so far indicates that the information from this source was that Iraq did have WMD programs." The Republicans also quoted Tenet, who had testified before the committee in July 2006 that Drumheller had "mischaracterized" the intelligence. Still, Drumheller stuck to his guns, telling Reuters, "We have differing interpretations, and I think mine's right."

One of the former senior CIA officers told me that despite the certitude of the three Republican senators, the Senate committee never had the original memo on Sabri. "The committee never got that report," he said. "The material was hidden or lost, and because it was a restricted case, a lot of it was done in hard copy. The whole thing was fogged up, like Curveball."

While one Iraqi source told the CIA that there were no WMD, information that was true but distorted to prove the opposite, another Iraqi source was a fabricator whose lies were eagerly embraced. "The real tragedy is that they had a good source that they misused," said one of the former CIA officers. "The fact is there was nothing there, no threat. But Bush wanted to hear what he wanted to hear."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Krugman vs. Friedman: Not Very vs. Very Serious Person

Allow me to present the following contrast between the two New York Times columnists, Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman, to demonstrate the reason for Friedman's much more frequent appearances as a pundit on television.

Not Very Serious Person, Paul Krugman writes, Snow Job in the Desert:
In February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell, addressing the United Nations Security Council, claimed to have proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He did not, in fact, present any actual evidence, just pictures of buildings with big arrows pointing at them saying things like "Chemical Munitions Bunker." But many people in the political and media establishments swooned: they admired Mr. Powell, and because he said it, they believed it.

Mr. Powell's masters got the war they wanted, and it soon became apparent that none of his assertions had been true.
But, say the usual suspects, General Petraeus is a fine, upstanding officer who wouldn't participate in a campaign of deception -- apparently forgetting that they said the same thing about Mr. Powell.

First of all, General Petraeus is now identified with the surge; if it fails, he fails. He has every incentive to find a way to keep it going, in the hope that somehow he can pull off something he can call success.

And General Petraeus's history also suggests that he is much more of a political, and indeed partisan, animal than his press would have you believe. In particular, six weeks before the 2004 presidential election, General Petraeus published an op-ed article in The Washington Post in which he claimed -- wrongly, of course -- that there had been "tangible progress" in Iraq, and that "momentum has gathered in recent months."

Is it normal for serving military officers to publish articles just before an election that clearly help an incumbent's campaign? I don't think so.

So here we go again. It appears that many influential people in this country have learned nothing from the last five years. And those who cannot learn from history are, indeed, doomed to repeat it.

Very Serious Person, Thomas Friedman says, Suck On This: