Friday, September 29, 2006

Funeral for a friend, American liberty

Let us pause for a moment of silence in mourning our dear nation. Once the home of the brave and land of the free, "liberty and justice for all" was subverted by a cold-hearted nullification delivered by our own representatives. Congressional culprits willingly enabled an ambitious Machiavellian president to eviscerate our democracy.

Yesterday was the dark day, a historic moment of enormity. The detainee bill, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (S. 3930), passed in the Senate and America went rushing off a cliff with a thrust of an evil hand:

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system [in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld] that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators [Graham, McCain, and Warner] announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies.

Mr. Bush and his Administration have officially been granted immunity for past and future war crimes.

Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men [and women] captured in error.

NYTimes summarizes the bill's flaws, which are evil and anti-American:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

Unbelievable! But sadly true. Politically...

There [was] not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate [seemed] to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

Yes, the filibuster would have been the proper response but with the Republican noise machines working 24/7 to paint Democrats as soft on terror, to have done so would have served up an opportunity to lose the election in November. And nothing is more important now. Democrats must win. The NYTimes concluded:

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

America has been squeezed by the grip of a totalitarian cabal and most citizens haven't realized the dark shadow that has crept from sea to shining sea and transformed America, The Beautiful into a an ugly, evil twin cloned from the test tube of Big Daddy Bush. No one is safe from jackbooted thugs under King FUBAR's rule. No one:

..."The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights." Similarly, [law professor] Lederman explains: "this [subsection (iI) of the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant"] means that if the Pentagon says you're an unlawful enemy combatant -- using whatever criteria they wish -- then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to "hostilities" at all."

This last point means that even if there [had been] a habeas corpus right inserted back into the legislation... it wouldn't matter much, if at all, because the law [authorizes] your detention simply based on the DoD's decree that you are an enemy combatant, regardless of whether it was accurate or not. This is basically the legalization of the Jose Padilla treatment -- empowering the President to throw people into black holes with little or no recourse, based solely on his say-so.

"Innocent until proven guilty" is no more. DoD can falsely accuse anyone of us as a terrorist, an accomplice, or a conspirator, law enforcement can arrest and detain us indefinitely, and there will be nothing anyone can do about it---no attorney, no judge, no one--as you rot in a detention camp while tortured by a sick psycho "interrogator." Sounds like Nazi Germany or the former Soviet Union, doesn't it? The potentiality exists. The law not only targets terrorists, but with these new powers, Bushian commandos can play dirty tricks with liberals, antiwar protesters, Administration critics, with anyone they deem an "enemy." God help you if you are an American Muslim. What has already occurred and what will happen next is a tragedy. Any one of us can disappear when the Pentagon alone determines who is an enemy combatant. Do you trust our present government to prudently execute the law fairly? I don't. We have no evidence of fairness emanating from the executive branch.

Sen. Russ Feingold from his speech in opposition to the bill from yesterday:

Under this legislation, some individuals, at the designation of the executive branch alone, could be picked up, even in the United States, and held indefinitely without trial and without any access whatsoever to the courts. They would not be able to call upon the laws of our great nation to challenge their detention because they would have been put outside the reach of the law.

Sen. Hillary Clinton:

The implications are far reaching for our national security interests abroad; the rights of Americans at home, our reputation in the world; and the safety of our troops.

Sen. Barak Obama:

...We’ve already had reports from the CIA and various generals over the last few years saying that many of the detainees at Guantanamo shouldn’t have been there – as one U.S. commander of Guantanamo told the Wall Street Journal, “Sometimes, we just didn’t get the right folks.” And we all know about the recent case of the Canadian man who was suspected of terrorist connections, detained in New York, sent to Syria, and tortured, only to find out later that it was all a case of mistaken identity and poor information.

And yet, in the future, people like this may never have a chance to prove their innocence. And they may remain locked away forever.

Glenn Greenwald adds a bottom-line footnote to this black moment in U.S. history:

Nonetheless, it is fair to say, given how lopsided this vote was (both in the House and the Senate), that the Republicans are the party of torture, indefinite and unreviewable detention powers, and limitless presidential power, even over U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. By contrast, Democrats have opposed these tyrannical, un-American and truly dangerous measures. Even if Democrats didn't oppose them as vociferously as they could have and should have, this is still a meaningful and, at this point, critically important contrast.

As for Bush's dutiful Republican lieutenants, they have joined the ranks of Good Germans and will live in infamy for slitting the throat of American liberty. Although Tristero issued dire warnings against Democrats and added more flesh than the NYTimes editorial to which he linked, patriots must vote for Democrats if we have any hope of resurrecting freedom and the rule of law.

FOR THE RECORD: Who did not vote for the bill? The list:

NAYs ---34
Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Chafee (R-RI)
Clinton (D-NY)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Wyden (D-OR)
Not Voting - 1 Snowe (R-ME)

If you click the above link, you can also see who voted for the bill. All of the "yea" voters, IMO, have behaved like spineless traitors or right-wing authoritarian storm troopers. The Democratic Party must remove the liberal turncoats who voted for this bill or suffer an unrelenting harangue from the left blogosphere for years to come. Jay Rockefeller, you are a target. Lieberman, you proved you are a Republican. Landrieu, I am ashamed of you. We will work to put these cowards and Republican Lites out of office and I, for one, will not give the Democrats a penny until these liberal defectors are gone.

UPDATE: I found a few typos and updated the text. Also, I agree with Tristero's post, This Ain't Yer Grandpa's Democracy. Yup.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Boing! Boing!

A spring popped out of the evil clown's head. How did he manage (what sexist hired this sexist?) to grab a microphone:

SAVAGE: I have more respect for a crack dealer than I do for some of these politicians. They're up front about it. I have more respect for a prostitute than I do for most senators. You take an average prostitute, let's say, in a city. Probably they're more reliable and more honest than most U.S. senators wearing a dress. More insanity...
Are women who work for the Talk Radio Network all doormats? Why haven't they filed EEOC complaints against management who hired this sexist Michael Savage clown? As Genet regularly points out, if Savage had used racial smears, I would daresay an uproar would erupt. Rush Limbaugh resigned from ESPN over his controversial racial remarks about Donovan McNabb. But bashing women, who complains? No big deal, right?

I wonder if Savage would howl if someone were to spew that the average prostitute is "more reliable and more honest than most [American Jews] wearing a [yarmulke]." That's equally offensive, over the top, and out of line in a civilized democracy, IMO. Just ask Mel Gibson. I endorse Savage's First Amendment rights but doesn't his sexist commentary merit unemployment? I don't know exactly when it became acceptable in America to reward sick perverted hate speech with a radio show gig. Common decency and respect for people has plummeted on conservative air waves--a place that perhaps will offer a job opportunity for George Macaca Allen. Or coming soon: Rev. Fred Phelps. Has radio always been sexist? Yeah, probably, but vitriolic?

Send Michael Savage and his evil clown act to a venue of his own making. White supremacists congregate, share racial smears, and they don't get arrested. That's the privilege of living in a democratic society. It's also a right to seek redress in a court of law. How many women are required to file a class action lawsuit? Any attorneys out there? I'm all for free speech and for being held accountable for the consequences of free speech. Savage's rants represent destructive sexism and he deserves mockery and vilification. I would think that women have a potential civil action of intentional infliction of emotional distress worth pursuing if not on principle alone. Thinking out loud here. But enough is enough. You can't advertise cigarettes but you can promote discrimination and hatred. What a topsy-turvy world.

BTW, how do "most U.S. senators" wear a dress? Boinnnng!

UPDATE Sept. 29: Absolutely sick! And certifiable insane:
On the September 27 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage asserted that an employee of The Washington Times charged with soliciting a 13 year-old girl for sex over the Internet "should get a reward that it wasn't a boy. I actually was thrilled to see it was only a girl." He then added: "I mean, there is still a normal pervert out there. It's hard to believe." Savage also claimed that there is an "obsession with child molestation" in "the American media," which is engaging in a "new witch hunt" against child molesters because "they don't have the guts to take on radical Islam."
The previous day, on the September 26 edition of The Savage Nation, Savage vowed "not to use the word 'gay' anymore," but to replace it with "hedonist," which he claimed better describes "the lifestyle of the homosexual." Later in the broadcast, Savage declared that "the gay community won't let you see the children dying" of diseases such as "leukemia," because they "tell you that their disease is the only disease that's permissible to be shown in the media." Savage then added: "I mean, AIDS is a horrible disease, but it isn't the only disease." . . .
Boinnnng! Boinnnng!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Give 'em hell, Hill'

Democrats should take a hint:

The war of words between the Bush administration and the Clintons intensified on Tuesday as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested that her husband would have reacted differently as president if he had heard the same warnings about Osama bin Laden’s plans that President Bush had access to before 9/11.

In unusually blunt terms, Senator Clinton questioned the current administration’s response to an intelligence briefing President Bush received about a month before the 9/11 attacks. It mentioned that Al Qaeda was intent on striking the United States using hijacked planes.

“I’m certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States,’ he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team,” she said during an appearance on Capitol Hill.

The comments by Senator Clinton ratcheted up an already bitter exchange of charges between the Bush and Clinton camps over how the two administrations responded to the threat posed by Al Qaeda before the attacks, which occurred nearly eight months into the Bush presidency.

In her remarks, Senator Clinton also suggested that Bill Clinton’s animated defense of his own national security record as president, delivered only a few days earlier, provided a powerful example for Democrats, whom Republicans have sought to portray in recent national elections as too weak to lead the country in such perilous times.

“I think my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take these attacks,” she said.

[...]

“President Clinton saw the warnings and took action,’’ [Hillary's spokesperson] Mr. Reines said. “President Bush saw the warnings and took no action.’’

For Senator Clinton, who is considered a possible contender for the presidency in 2008, her comments on Tuesday were unusually personal in tone. But Howard Wolfson, one of her chief advisers, made it clear that Senator Clinton would be taking an increasingly aggressive posture to thwart any Republican attempts to cast Democrats as timid on national defense this election season.

“She is not going to allow her party, her husband or herself to get Swift-boated,” he said, referring to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that attacked the Vietnam War record of Senator John Kerry when he was the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 2004. “Democrats have to stand up and go toe to toe with Republicans on national security.”

You betcha. Y'all bring it on now and more of it. And while you at it, don't forget wacky doodle Falwell needs to apologize. He wasn't respectful of Hillary or of women by implying the ol' women are evil and the reason for original sin routine. Unconscious patriarchal puke. Bleh!



NOTE: Image of Hillary Clinton
is from her book, Living History,
available at Amazon.com. Worth reading.

Refried Rice

As previously noted, Ms. Mushroom Cloud doesn't exactly tell the truth:

A memo received by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shortly after becoming National Security Advisor in 2001 directly contradicts statements she made to reporters yesterday, RAW STORY has learned.
"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda," Rice told a reporter for the New York Post on Monday. "Big pieces were missing," Rice added, "like an approach to Pakistan that might work, because without Pakistan you weren't going to get Afghanistan."
Rice made the comments in response to claims made Sunday by former President Bill Clinton, who argued that his administration had done more than the current one to address the al Qaeda problem before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She stopped short of calling the former president a liar.
However, RAW STORY has found that just five days after President George W. Bush was sworn into office, a memo from counter-terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke to Rice included the 2000 document, "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al-Qida: Status and Prospects." This document devotes over 2 of its 13 pages of material to specifically addressing strategies for securing Pakistan's cooperation in airstrikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Pakistan obstacle
The strategy document includes "three levers" that the United States had started applying to Pakistan as far back as 1990. Sanctions, political and economic methods of persuasion are all offered as having been somewhat successful.
Other portions of the passages relating to Pakistan – marked as "operational details" – have been redacted from the declassified memo at the CIA's request.
The document also explores broader strategic approaches, such as a "need to keep in mind that Pakistan has been most willing to cooperate with us on terrorism when its role is invisible or at least plausibly deniable to the powerful Islamist right wing."
But Clarke also made it clear that the Clinton Administration recognized the problem that Pakistan posed in mounting a more sweeping campaign against bin Laden: "Overt action against bin Laden, who is a hero especially in the Pushtun-ethnic border areas near Afghanistan," Clarke speculated in late 2000, "would be so unpopular as to threaten Musharraf's government." The plan notes that, after the attack on the USS Cole, Pakistan had forbidden the United States from again violating its airspace to attack bin Laden in Afghanistan.
The memo sent by Clarke to Rice, to which the Clinton-era document was attached, also urges action on Pakistan relating to al Qaeda. "First [to be addressed,]" wrote Clarke in a list of pending issues relating to al Qaeda, is "what the administration says to the Taliban and Pakistan about ending al Qida sanctuary in Afghanistan. We are separately proposing early, strong messages on both."
RawStory has the actual document posted online beyond the excerpt above. Read it for yourself here.

Hat tip to Tristero at Digby's Hullabaloo.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Three women create art and equality

By Guest Columnist Genet

Women's history is extraordinary. It is an adventure into creativity, and we should never take it for granted. Within living memory, women were considered so trivial that no research was really being done on their accomplishments. We may think things have changed, but if you carefully examine academic content these days, or even the T.V. news, you'll find men routinely dominating as always. Gloria Steinem once said that news about women in other countries is largely non-existent in the mainstream media, amazing as that sounds.

It is important that women recognize the contributions of women of the past and that we fully understand how creative living arrangements can be the fuel of incredible lives.

I look to the past for inspiration, because I know how cleverly women have navigated all the obstacles that men and patriarchal women have tossed in the way of not only straight women's achievement, but also lesbian self-determination.

I found a gem! It's a book called, The Red Rose Girls: An Uncommon Story of Art and Love, by Alice A. Carter. Jessie Willcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Violet Oakley were three extraordinary artists, all born in the late 19th century. They met at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the nation's oldest art institution.

All three became internationally famous illustrators and muralists. You can see examples of their incredible paintings throughout this fascinating book.

They made the decision to live as committed sisters on a wonderful estate, where they painted, and created an alternative to heterosexual society. A fourth woman, Henrietta Cozens, was not an artist, but she managed the household, freeing the other three women to create uninterrupted.

What makes this story so wonderful is that is reveals 19th and early 20th century lesbians as pioneers in every way for women of that era. They not only were brilliant artists, whose work graced the covers of Harper's and Colliers, but they were also the first women to break into art academies of that era. They studied under Howard Pyle and Thomas Eakins, and landed commissions that paid them amazing sums of money for that era. All three were economically self-supporting to the extent that they were able to support a fourth woman in their household.

It is the economic collaboration that most inspires and intrigues me, because all lesbians would flourish if we had more arrangements like this. Economic collaboration is something that is hard for lesbians to do. I've often advocated women banding together to buy property rather than renting apartments. In this day and age, we would do well to suspect the white picket fence heterosexual model of relationship.

The photos of the women in the book are extraordinary in that they reveal the power of lesbian love, friendship and achievement. These photos of women together are very rare in American history and the women themselves lived happily in this 19th century world of the Boston Marriage. It wasn't until the early 20th century that society started to frown on lesbian relationships. Women growing economic independence started to seriously threaten patriarchy.

Circumstances caused the group to separate, one woman married a man, and another drifted away. They maintained their greatness, painting murals in state capitals, illustrating children's books that are still in print, and they traveled and lived a creative life. But their artistic power diminished and they somehow failed to move forward into the 20th century. This bond of lesbian sisterhood was a creative ingredient as well as an engine of productivity for all of them.

Their Pre-Raphaelite sensibilities are amazing to see. Elizabeth Shippen Green was greatly inspired by William Penn's dream of a new world and each woman lived an inner and inspired life. Green was a devoted follower of Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science.

What can we learn about this extraordinary trio of the past? We can see that under the right circumstances, lesbian sensibility can fuel creativity and financial independence. You can see the power of poetry and the arts carrying each woman forward, and it is well worth the time to examine what these women did.

Their artistic downfall was modernism, which they never understood, and the world gradually forgot them. This book ensures that this extraordinary history of lesbian achievement will not be forgotten, and the power of lesbian friendship in a creative context, can be an example to us in the 21st century.

IMAGES, top to bottom:

  • The Red Rose Girls book cover from Amazon.com
  • Mother and Child, by Jessie Willcox Smith, 1908. Collection of Jane Sperry Eisenstat.
  • An exhibition poster from Auction House Records.
  • Photo of Elizabeth Shippen Green, Violet Oakley, Jessie Wilcox Smith and Henrietta Cozens
  • Self-Portrait: The Artist in Mourning for Her Father, 1900, by Violet Oakley
  • Student and Teacher on Horseback, 1902, by Elizabeth Shippen Green
The last three images are from NPR. Also at the NPR link, listen to the The Red Rose Girls segment by Linda Wertheimer and explore the photo gallery.

Fried Rice

Always the disinformation enabler:

This morning, in the Fox-owned New York Post, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reacts angrily to President Clinton’s criticisms of how the Bush administration approached the terrorist threat during their first eight months in office. (The Post headlines the article “Rice Boils Over Bubba“) An excerpt:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday accused Bill Clinton of making “flatly false” claims that the Bush administration didn’t lift a finger to stop terrorism before the 9/11 attacks.
… “What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years,” Rice added.
The 9/11 Commission Report contradicts Rice’s claims. On December 4, 1998, for example, the Clinton administration received a President’s Daily Brief entitled “Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks.” Here’s how the Clinton administration reacted, according to the 9/11 Commission report:
The same day, [Counterterrorism Czar Richard] Clarke convened a meeting of his CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] to discuss both the hijacking concern and the antiaircraft missile threat. To address the hijacking warning, the group agreed that New York airports should go to maximum security starting that weekend. They agreed to boost security at other East coast airports. The CIA agreed to distribute versions of the report to the FBI and FAA to pass to the New York Police Department and the airlines. The FAA issued a security directive on December 8, with specific requirements for more intensive air carrier screening of passengers and more oversight of the screening process, at all three New York area airports. [pg. 128-30]
Read about the Bush Administration's lack of action on the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S.” at ThinkProgress. A night and day difference between Bush and Clinton responses, that's for sure, although Condi won't (or can't) admit it. But, the 9/11 Commission didn't include testimony from the CIA briefer who flew to see Bush in Crawford and George's reaction, "All right. You've covered your ass, now." I wonder why?

I expect very little truth-telling from WOTPP like Ms. Mushroom Cloud, Condi Rice.

Also, ThinkProgress published a flashback of Republican Wag the Dog attacks against Clinton when Bill was "so obsessed" with Bin Laden. Yeah, they really said it.

And Media Matters details more Faux News chicanery about Clinton's record. Bow-wow.

Oversight by the minority

Conservatives such as Senate majority whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY) denounced yesterday's ad hoc congressional hearing held on the Iraq War by Senate Democrats along with a GOP House member, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) who accepted the invitation extended to all Republicans. McConnell called the hearing a political "stunt." The reflexive Republican criticism is unsurprising:

"Whether you are Democrat or Republican, for or against the war, oversight is an important congressional function ... and we've had virtually none of it,'' Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said at Monday's hearing.

[...]

"I think Republicans should be holding hearings like this on pre-war intelligence,'' Republican Rep. Jones said. "To hold hearings is not to say we'll pull out tomorrow. It's to understand what we should have done as policymakers.''

Bush's rubber-stamp Republicans abdicated their congressional duties to provide oversight of the WH and they don't want the truth of their irresponsibility to come to light.

WaPo's Dana Milbank reported on the hearings (with emphasis):

Maj. Gen. John Batiste, the former commander of the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, had complained loudly about the handling of the Iraq war since he retired 11 months ago -- but no one invited him to present his views to Congress.

"I find that outrageous," the general said. "I have a sense for what I'm talking about."

Yesterday, Batiste got his moment -- sort of. Shunned by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Batiste and two other retired officers spoke before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, a rump group with little legislative clout but access to a proper Senate hearing room. And Batiste made up for lost time.

When you're the minority party and the Republicans don't furnish oversight of the Bush Administration, what do you do? Just go along? Ignore the voices of military experts such as Batiste? That's what has gotten us into the mess we currently face in Iraq. Why Bush hasn't fired Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, remains a mystery:

"Donald Rumsfeld is not a competent wartime leader," said Batiste, wearing a pinstripe suit, calling himself a "lifelong Republican" and bearing a slight resemblance to Oliver North. "He surrounds himself with like-minded and compliant subordinates who do not grasp the importance of the principles of war, the complexities of Iraq or the human dimension of warfare. . . . Bottom line: His plan allowed the insurgency to take root and metastasize to where it is today."

Further, Batiste charged, Rumsfeld "reduced force levels to unacceptable levels, micromanaged the war" and created an environment where U.S. troops "are doing unconscionable things."

"Our world is much less safe today than it was on September 11," Batiste said, echoing the administration's newly leaked intelligence estimate.

Batiste, who retired in protest rather than accept a three-star promotion, was a persuasive witness...

How can Batiste not be a credible witness? And why has his voice been muzzled? Other generals also testified and the news they shared as military commanders presented a disheartening outlook:

"We must mobilize our country for a protracted challenge," Batiste warned.

"We better be planning for at least a minimum of a decade or longer," contributed retired Marine Col. Thomas Hammes.

"We are, conservatively, 60,000 soldiers short," added retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of building the Iraqi Security Forces.

That last remark caused [Chuck] Schumer to shake his head, indicating he was not so sure. And, indeed, the retired officers' recommendations were off-message for the Democrats. Six of the seven Democrats at the hearing supported legislation calling for the start of a troop withdrawal from Iraq this year. One, Richard Durbin (Ill.), voted for the pullout to be mostly complete by next summer.

I wouldn't expect military generals to offer a complete geo-political solution to the Iraq debacle. Their expertise is war. Unfortunately, John Kerry who campaigned for a higher commitment of troops and and international diplomacy in Iraq during his 2004 presidential run wasn't elected and the opportunity to avert the escalating insurgency now in progress has passed. Instead, we got George and with him, Rummy. US presence in Iraq now counterproductive, requires less might, more Iraqi troop training, and more diplomacy in the region to involve countries that benefit from success in Iraq. With its oil reserves, Iraq is an international concern. Yes, long-term, US forces must remain in the region but a phased redeployment on the fringes as John Murtha recommended makes more sense in tamping down resentment of American occupation: 80% of Iraqis want us out. Iraq reconstruction marred by the Administration's bone-headed incompetence must also be rectified. Democrats can do this. Republicans who have ignited global disdain for American foreign policies can't.

But on balance, the retired officers' strong words about the war's conduct outweighed their calls for a greater commitment to Iraq. "Secretary Rumsfeld built his team by systematically removing dissension," Batiste said. "At one point, he threatened to fire the next person who talked about the need for a postwar plan."

Rumsfeld "has tried and continues to fight this war on the cheap," Eaton added. "The Army is in terrible shape, and the Marines aren't much better."

"It is time for him to provide the nation the last in a long series of services and step down," Hammes said coolly.

[...]

The questioners skillfully directed the witnesses toward past failures rather than their expansive prescriptions for the future. A notable exception was the relatively hawkish Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), who, as the last questioner, invited the officers to comment on the effect of a specific withdrawal date.

"The result will be a civil war of some magnitude that will turn into a regional mess," Batiste said without hesitation.

To avoid that regional mess, we need more than just Bush's failed policies. We must internationalize the nation-building work to deliver political solutions to a region negatively affected by a destabilized Iraq. That's not possible with Rummy running military operations and a do-nothing Republican Congress that permits an incompetent Commander-in-Chief to run amok.

A chorus of military commanders have called for the defense secretary's resignation:

  • Army General John Riggs

  • Lieutenant-General Greg Newbold, former director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff

  • Major-General Paul Eaton, who oversaw the training of Iraqi troops in 2003-04

  • Marine General Anthony Zinni

  • Major General John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-05

  • Major General Charles H. Swannack, Jr., who led the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq in 2004

  • Marine General Paul Van Ripper, who "retired before Rumsfeld took office, but is currently engaged in war games with two branches of the military

ThinkProgress offers more on generals united in criticism of Rumsfeld.

DailyKos links to Batiste's earlier condemnation of US torture policies. A must-see CNN video of his remarks here.

What I want to know is why won't President Bush ask Rumsfeld to resign? Something isn't right and I suspect Bush's pigheaded loyalty to one of the remaining neocon PNACers--the cabal that pressed for the invasion of Iraq--trumps what's best for the nation. But don't expect the Republicans in Congress to get to the bottom of it. They don't do oversight. The revealed truth might end political careers.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Arianna on Bill Clinton

Arianna's right:

All of Bill Clinton's tireless "bipartisanship" has been of no benefit to him, of no benefit to the country, and has only benefited George Bush and the right-wing.
[...]
The people who tried to hound him out of office haven't changed much, though they do now control both houses of Congress and the White House. Back then, he seemed to think fighting them was worthwhile. Now that he's got his back up again, maybe he'll rejoin the battle. Nov. 7 is only six and a half weeks away. And nothing less than oversight of the fanatics of the White House is at stake.
Indeed, the stakes are high, higher than any election I have witnessed in my lifetime. John Amato at Crooks and Liars summed up a power point:
[Clinton is] a terrific speaker and thinker with tremendous clout, but the time for diplomacy is over. This administration is incorporating torture into the fabric of our country and I think Chris Wallace’s partisan attempt to knock Bill has reminded him of just that.
I hope so 'cause our nation's future depends on the November elections. We need the all the big dogs we can summon.

Conservative hit jobs

I remember vividly how conservative attack mutts hounded Clinton during his presidency. They snarled and bared their teeth over Whitewater, Travelgate, "wag the dog," Jones v. Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. When George W. Bush swept into office, most of media transformed into toothless lapdogs, a shift I witnessed from inside a news organization. So when Clinton called yesterday's Chris Wallace interview a "conservative hit job," I cheered Bill's impassioned counterattack and his righteous takedown of unfair and imbalanced right-wing propaganda. 'Twas beautiful, inspiring, and long overdue.

What's extremely odoriferous since 9/11 have been conservative attempts to blame Clinton for not having done enough to get Bin Laden. Yet during his presidential term when he ordered counterterrorism efforts, the attack mutts barked, "Wag the dog!" The BBCNews described 1998 as the year of Bill and Monica, the same year Clinton ordered military strikes against terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. As the BBCNews reported:

Reaction in the US itself was split between politicians backing the president and those suggesting that the timing might have been related to Mr Clinton's continuing problems in the Monica Lewinsky affair.
The Brits were polite. Right-wing extremist Mona Charen, not so much. In 1999, Charen recalled the 1998 bombing of Khartoum, Sudan:
But the fact remains that Bill Clinton seems to have launched an unprovoked attack against a country with which we are at peace merely to distract attention from his legal and political embarrassments at home. As Christopher Hitchens put it in "No One Left to Lie to," his acidic summation of the Clinton presidency: "Why not give (Sudan) a warning or notice of, say, one day to open the plant to inspection? A factory making deadly gas cannot be folded like a tent and stealthily moved away."....This president is a disgrace of monumental proportions. Who but he could get the United States into a posture of less probity than Sudan?
Ha! Had it been President Bush who had ordered military strikes on Sudan, wanna bet Mona would have criticized George to perhaps "distract attention" from his low approval ratings? Not on your life. Now read the condemnation of Clinton by Hitchens, Sept. 23, 1998, on the Sudanese bombing:
Clinton needed to look "presidential" for a day. He may even have needed a vacation from his family vacation. In any event, he acted with caprice and brutality and with a complete disregard for international law, and perhaps counted on the indifference of the press and public to a negligible society like that of Sudan, and killed wogs to save his own lousy Hyde...
The "Hyde" reference is to Republican congressman, Henry Hyde, who lead the Clinton impeachment in the House. Funny how conservatives do not describe Bush as acting with "caprice and brutality" for invading Iraq and slaughtering tens of thousands of civilians.

Now fast forward to a more recent bit of nasty over Clinton and Bin Laden. Right-wing Captain's Quarters, Aug. 16, 2005:
Would this be the same Bill Clinton who sobbed to New York Magazine this week that he wished that the FBI could have told him for sure that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda attacked the USS Cole in 2000? Well, the State Department certainly told him that Osama likely masterminded Khobar Towers, and told him to stop bin Laden from digging into some of the most difficult terrain in which to get him later. Let's also not forget that the FBI told him that bin Laden backed the dual bombings of our African embassies in 1998. What stopped him from going after bin Laden then, except by shooting a few missiles at a training camp?
See, there's that disinformation and derogative attitude that Clinton referred to in his Faux News interview. Fact is, the FBI didn't confirm who was behind the USS Cole attack until 2001 when Bush was Commander-in-Chief. What did Bush do? Nothing until 9/11. CQ must have sourced its post from Faux News, which concluded its report with flecks of wingnut spittle:
"[Administration officials] were very well aware of bin Laden and they were also well aware that Al Qaeda may use commercial airliners as weapons," in the late 1990s, said Patterson, the author of "Dereliction of Duty." But "it was always treated as a law enforcement issue," he added.
"I think President Clinton really failed to grasp the threat ...President Clinton met with Monica Lewinksy many more times than with his FBI or CIA director."
Adding negative wingnuttia that's completely un-factchecked is typical conservatard propaganda. One thing certain: if awareness that AQ planned to use airliners as "weapons" existed in the 1990s, then Bush, if he were a top-notch national security president, would have known it too. What's his excuse? The Aug. 6, 2001, PDB, Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S., definitely informed Bush of "preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks." What did incurious George do to defend America? He told the "unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch... All right. You've covered your ass, now," and resumed his vacation in Crawford. Amazingly, attack mutts hardly whimpered over this disastrous national security lapse.

As for the 9/11 Commission report excluding the State Dept. information, what nefarious Clinton conspiracy coerced the bipartisan commission to taint its findings? Perhaps the situation was a bit more complicated than the simple-minded and illiterate can fathom. The State Department memo (PDF) dated July 18, 1996, clearly states:
Bin Laden and his associates -- particularly Saudi Sunni "mujahidin" -- remain suspects in both the November 1995 OPM/SANG bombing and the Khobar Towers attack. We cannot confirm his involvement in either bombing.
Michael Scheuer who headed the CIA's Bin Laden unit shed light on the memo and the agency's response in the NYTimes, Aug. 17, 2005:
"The analytical side of the State Department had it exactly right - that's genius analysis," he said in an interview when told of the declassified documents. But Mr. Scheuer, who wrote a book in 2004 titled "Imperial Hubris," under the pseudonym "Anonymous," that was highly critical of American counterterrorism strategies, said many officials in the C.I.A.'s operational side thought they would have a better chance to kill Mr. bin Laden in Afghanistan than they did in Sudan because the Sudan government protected him.
Had this scenario happened during Bush's first term, the Republican noise machine would have spun it as a CIA failure (we heard that one on missing WMDs in Iraq), not a failure of President Bush. Tenet would have shouldered the blame, Bush would have given him a medal, and the media would have moved on to shark attacks and missing white women stories. See the anti-Clinton media bias? I certainly have. So have others:
When questioned on the timing of a possible Iraqi invasion a year after 9/11 and before the November midterm elections, a Bush spokesman took the opportunity to once again slander our former president: "It's a sad day when President Bush is held to a standard of irresponsibility that Bill Clinton set," suggesting that Clinton used air strikes in Sudan to distract the country from his Monica Lewinsky ordeal in 1998. "Just because Clinton did it doesn't mean Bush would." (The Weekly Standard, 12 Aug 2002)
Whoa, hold on there! President Clinton's missile strikes in August of 1998 didn't just attack a factory making poison VX gas in the Sudan, it also, as the spokesman neglected to point out, destroyed training camps in Afghanistan used by Bin Laden... THE Bin Laden, public enemy number one, the man that Bush wanted "Dead or Alive" etc. etc.
As for Clinton's timing, the strikes occurred within two weeks of the Al Qaeda bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
That however didn't stop Republican Rep. Dan Coats from opining that "there's a cloud of doubt [about the timing]" and Sen. Arlen Specter that "there is an obvious issue [as to] the diversionary motive involved . . . [he is doing] something presidential to try to focus attention away from his own personal problems."
Nor did right wing blow-hards like Rush Limbaugh, Joseph Farha, or George F. Will keep their aspersions to themselves. Will wrote in the September 4, 1998 Newsweek, "now that [Clinton] is desperate to change the subject from the consequences of his glandular life, he admonishes the nation that it is time to turn to serious things... Clinton deserved public skepticism about his motives in ordering attacks against terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan."
In these accusations, the right wing was joined by the terror-supporting President of the Sudan Omar Hassan al Bashir, who said the U.S. attack was designed to overshadow the Monica Lewinsky scandal. (Newsweek, 31 Aug. 98)
While any reasonable American would now recognize the prescient wisdom in taking the fight to Bin Laden three years before his successful attack left 3,000 dead at the World Trade Center last September, the Bush White House can only heap scorn and derision on the former president over that huge national distraction of an illicit affair, an affair that the right-wing exposed and exploited (using your tax dollars) all the way to impeachment hearings.
One can only wonder how much progress could have been made against the real threats to our country if Clinton had been supported instead of hounded and hobbled by political hate-mongers bent on his destruction.
At any rate, since Republicans impugned Mr. Clinton's "timing" of the missile strikes, they certainly can't complain now when the rest of us question Mr. Bush's motives for picking a fight with Iraq in the middle of a corporate crime-wave and double-dip recession.
Now back to Aug. 21, 1998, NYTimes, U.S. Cruise Missiles Strike Sudan and Afghan Targets Tied to Terrorist Network:
But while the Republican leadership rallied to support the raids, some members of Congress reacted suspiciously, noting that the action followed by three days Clinton's acknowledgment to the public and a grand jury of his relationship with former intern Monica Lewinsky....
... House Speaker Newt Gingrich expressed firm support, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, said, "Our response appears to be appropriate and just."
Others were more critical. Accusing Clinton of "lies and deceit and manipulations and deceptions," Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said the president's record "raises into doubt everything he does and everything he says, and maybe even everything he doesn't do and doesn't say."
I could go on with numerous examples for what could be a book for the more ambitiously inclined, but to touch on many of the conservative smears repeated against Clinton, Andrew Sullivan served up an intellectually-dishonest piece of tripe in 2002, While Clinton Diddled. Nice title, yes? A funny thing happened to Andrew on the way to skewering Clinton. Author of Big Lies and Salon.com columnist, Joe Conason, a truly competent political mind who can grasp the difference between fact and fiction, took Sully and his fellow Clinton-haters to the woodshed:
When terrorists first tried to take down the World Trade Center with a truck bomb in February 1993, there was no organized outcry of recrimination against George Herbert Walker Bush, who had left the Oval Office a scant six weeks earlier. Nobody sought political advantage by blaming Bush for the intelligence failures that had allowed the terrorist perpetrators to conspire undetected for more than three years.
And no liberal commentator attempted to pronounce that former president guilty of "criminal negligence" [as Sullivan did of Clinton] based on the sort of fabrications and falsehoods deployed since Sept. 11, here and elsewhere, against Bill Clinton. Yet recently, opportunistic critics have mounted a false indictment of Clinton, attempted to erase his administration's extensive record of action against terrorism and smeared him by suggesting he should have prevented the tragedy of Sept. 11.
To expect fairness and forbearance from these critics would be foolish at this late date. For them, indicting Clinton remains the most compelling obsession of all....
...as Andrew Sullivan's readers can attest. Nearly every day he eagerly promotes the slurring and sliming of Clinton, shooting first and checking later. Sullivan's Salon essay ("While Clinton Diddled") arraigning Clinton, in which he pugnaciously introduces himself as presenting "the facts" and challenges the rest of us to "deal with them," continues this sorry pattern. He distorts and misuses the few facts he selects for his polemic. He presumes that his readers are too ignorant and lazy to check for themselves.
Sullivan's favorite method is to attach his wacky accusations to reporting and quotes from reputable sources, appropriating their authority for his false interpretations. Supposedly citing the New York Times and the Washington Post, Sullivan asserts that Clinton "got his warning about Islamist terrorism very early on" in the first World Trade Center bombing, because "the investigation found links to Osama bin Laden." He adds that "the State Department confirmed" bin Laden's complicity in the killing of American soldiers in Somalia.
Sullivan thereby implies that Clinton should have acted against bin Laden immediately, when in fact nobody knew about the Saudi millionaire's alleged involvement with the WTC bombing or the Mogadishu murders until at least three years later. In 1993, U.S. authorities were scarcely aware of bin Laden's existence, and al-Qaida had not yet been formed. Conservative journalists, such as the New Republic's Fred Barnes, were then suggesting that the likeliest perpetrator of the World Trade Center bombing was Iran. Even now, hard evidence linking bin Laden to those earlier events remains scarce.
Perhaps the most sensational charge against Clinton to emerge in the months since Sept. 11 is the dubious claim that he somehow let an offer from Sudan to turn over bin Laden slip through his fingers. Sullivan blatantly misrepresents a definitive article that appeared in the Washington Post on Oct. 3, 2001, on this topic. "The Sudanese government offered to hand over bin Laden to the United States," Sullivan writes. "Astonishingly, the Clinton administration turned the offer down." But that phony accusation is exploded by the very first sentence of the Post article, which says only that Sudan offered to "arrest Osama bin Laden and place him in Saudi custody."
Specifically, the Post reported that during secret negotiations in 1996 between American officials and Sudan defense minister Elfatih Erwa, "The [Khartoum] government was prepared to place [bin Laden] in custody and hand him over, though to whom was ambiguous. In one formulation, Erwa said Sudan would consider any legitimate proffer of criminal charges against the accused terrorist. Saudi Arabia, he said, was the most logical destination." The Post then detailed efforts by the White House and the State Department to induce the Saudis to accept custody of bin Laden, which the authorities in Riyadh adamantly refused.
Nowhere does the Post's carefully worded story state that Sudan agreed to "hand bin Laden over to the United States" -- because that never happened, except perhaps in Sullivan's imagination.
Still referring to the same Post article, Sullivan complains that the Clinton administration "didn't even use the negotiations with the Sudanese to disable bin Laden's financial assets in the Sudan." But as the Post reported, the U.S. ambassador to Sudan pointedly inquired whether those assets would remain under bin Laden's control after his expulsion. He got no reply from Sudan's foreign minister, and within a few days after his query, the Saudi terror chief departed for Afghanistan.
The Sudanese have always had their own agenda, by the way, which Sullivan doesn't think worth mentioning. They promised to cooperate against terrorism only if the United States ended economic sanctions imposed to punish their genocidal campaign of murder and enslavement against black Christians.
"There were meetings between U.S. and Sudanese officials, including in New York, involving senior counter-terrorism officials, where [Sudanese envoys] would hint that they had great stuff if we lifted sanctions," says a former NSC official with direct knowledge of those events. Other former administration officials have publicly confirmed this account. (And imagine the howling protest from pundits like Sullivan if the Clinton White House had suddenly turned "soft" on Sudan.) But neither the FBI nor the CIA believed that Khartoum was providing anything valuable on bin Laden or al-Qaida.
Sullivan refers to other alleged foreign "offers" to arrest or track bin Laden, but there appears to be little substance to those stories beyond mere speculation. As if he knows what he's talking about, he complains that "it is astonishing that more effort wasn't made to clinch the deals." But of course he knows nothing more than what he read in the London Sunday Times's murky account. What's truly astonishing is that he plays the useful idiot in a Sudanese disinformation gambit, with which Khartoum hopes to win friends in the Bush White House.
While Clinton never got bin Laden, Sullivan cannot honestly fault him for lack of zeal. In 1998, he authorized an intensive, ongoing campaign to destroy al-Qaida and seize or assassinate bin Laden by signing a secret National Security Decision Directive to that effect.
Several attempts were made on bin Laden's life, aside from the famous cruise missile launches that summer, which Sullivan and other Republicans reflexively denounced as an attempt to deflect attention from the Lewinsky scandal.
Yup, Sullivan and his comrades in the con-apparatchiki smeared Clinton for wagging the dog. However...
(It never seems to occur to them that they are smearing not only Clinton, but also ranking intelligence and military officers, such as Gen. Anthony Zinni, [later] President Bush's Mideast envoy, who encouraged the president to take that shot in the dark.)
In 1999, the CIA organized a Pakistani commando unit to enter Afghanistan on a mission to capture or kill bin Laden. That operation was aborted when Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized the Pakistani government from Nawaz Sharif, the more cooperative civilian prime minister. A year later, the Saudi terrorist leader was reportedly almost killed in a rocket-grenade attack on his convoy; the missiles hit the wrong truck.
Simultaneously, the White House tried to persuade or coerce the Taliban regime into expelling bin Laden from their country. Clinton signed an executive order freezing $254 million in Taliban assets in the United States, while the State Department kept the Taliban internationally isolated. But as we have learned since last September, there was nothing the United States could have done, short of full-scale military action, to separate al-Qaida from the Taliban. And there was no guarantee that such action would lead to the apprehension of bin Laden, as we have also discovered lately.
Sullivan charges that "Clinton did little that was effective" and "simply refused to do anything serious about the threat." But his bogus "chronology" ignores nearly everything that the Clinton administration did or tried to do.
Following the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the new president sent stringent anti-terrorism legislation to Congress as part of his first crime bill, including new deportation powers and a federal death penalty for terrorists. The passage of portions of that legislation many months later was the last time he would enjoy real cooperation against terrorism from congressional conservatives. When he sought to expand those protections in 1995 after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, he was frustrated by a coalition of civil libertarians and anti-government conservatives, who argued that his "overreaction" posed a threat to constitutional rights.
No anti-terrorism legislation reached Clinton's desk until more than a year later. Thanks to an increasingly obstreperous Republican majority on both sides of the Capitol, law enforcement officials were denied new authority for roving wiretaps and new powers to monitor money laundering that Clinton had requested. All that would have to wait until after Sept. 11.
Back then, Sullivan was among those who accused Clinton of having "shredded civil liberties in the war on terrorism," a concern that no longer seems to disturb him. His memory of the actual legislation is pretty dim, anyway. He wrongly claims that the administration's 1996 bill "focused on domestic terrorism" rather than "dealing with the real threat" from al-Qaida. Among that bill's most controversial provisions were new powers to turn away suspect immigrants, swifter deportation procedures and a new deportation court that can view secret evidence.
Recalcitrant Republicans, led by then-Senator John Ashcroft, later defeated another potentially crucial White House initiative. Along with computer-industry lobbyists, they rejected proposals to tighten controls on encryption software and to ensure that law enforcement officials could crack the kind of coded messages found on the laptop owned by Ramzi Yusef, the man who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Intelligence experts believe that encrypted computer links were probably used by the Sept. 11 plotters and their masters in al-Qaida. Some Democrats, no doubt swayed like their GOP colleagues by the generosity of industry lobbyists, joined the Republicans to deny this important tool to law enforcement.
The Clinton administration's attempts to improve airport security were similarly obstructed in Congress. The Gore commission urged U.S. air carriers to screen all passengers with computerized profiling systems, to upgrade poorly trained private security personnel and to install high-tech baggage-screening equipment. But action on key measures was stalled by lawmakers at the behest of airline lobbyists, and ultimately by the sluggish bureaucracy at the Federal Aviation Administration. Key senators on the Senate Aviation Subcommittee shot down mandated changes recommended by the White House and instead urged "further study." (Eight of the nine Republicans on the subcommittee had received contributions from the major airlines.)
While Clinton and Gore certainly share responsibility for failing to push Congress and their own bureaucrats harder, the aviation industry could rely on conservative ideologues and PAC contributions to stymie burdensome reforms.
Among those attacking the Gore Commission recommendations, incidentally, was the New Republic, which noted that "two billion dollars a year to guard against terrorism and sabotage" would amount to "a cost per life saved of well over $300 million." The cost of such libertarian dogma must now be measured in thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.
Even before the Gore Commission report, the Clinton administration had moved to place bomb-detection equipment in major airports and to upgrade background checks on airport personnel. Unfortunately, as Samuel Skinner, former transportation secretary in the first Bush administration, told an interviewer in 1996: "[T]he airlines decided it was not in their short-term best interest to pay for these services from their own pocket, so they made a concerted effort to make sure that [they] didn't have to pay for this and didn't have to charge passengers for it." Also unfortunately, congressional Republicans had repealed a tax on airline tickets that would have financed high-tech improvements in baggage screening and passenger security.
How come little has been reported about how the Republican-led Congress stonewalled Clinton's efforts in the war on terra?
Among the most egregious was Senator Phil Gramm, who blocked an administration bill to close loopholes that let terrorist groups launder money through offshore banks. The Texas Republican denounced that legislation, [later] belatedly endorsed by the Bush White House as necessary to dismantle al-Qaida, as "totalitarian."
The typical partisan reaction to Clinton's counterterror proposals was enunciated in 1996 by Rep. David McIntosh, who insisted on steering the debate back to a phony White House scandal. "We find it very troubling that you're asking us for additional authority to wiretap innocent Americans," declared McIntosh, "when you have failed to explain to the American people why you abuse their civil liberties by having FBI files brought into the White House."
Ha! And Bush's warrantless wiretapping program barely gets a rolled eyeball from Republicans today. Civil liberties be damned in a post-9/11 world. But giving Clinton the "tools" he needed to avert a homeland attack would have required putting Americans ahead of partisan politics.
Harassing the White House was the overriding aim of congressional Republicans throughout the Clinton era, and not only after January 1998 as Sullivan implies. Terrorism and other serious national problems were of relatively little concern to the national GOP leadership. Looking back now, knowing what we know, the greatest scandal of that naive period was its pointlessly destructive scandal-mongering.
Nevertheless, while politicians and pundits fanned the scandal frenzy, Clinton and his appointees tried to prepare for the serious threats they anticipated. After Oklahoma City, they began a nationwide initiative to improve home-front security that continued to grow until Clinton left the White House.
Conason itemizes increases in federal spending on counterterrorism: $12 billion during 1996 to 2001. The FBI's counterterrorism budget spiked "from $78 million in 1996 to $609 million in 2000, tripling the number of agents assigned to such activities and creating a new counterterrorism center at the bureau's Washington headquarters."
Besides strengthening law enforcement, the Clinton administration sponsored a series of wide-ranging simulations that brought together local, state and federal officials to determine how government would respond if terrorists attacked with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Clinton himself was reportedly obsessed with the potential threat of anthrax and other bio-weapons.
That is why, by the time he left office, scores of those planning exercises were taking place annually across the country. Spending on "domestic preparedness" programs rose from $42.6 million in 1997 to more than $1.2 billion in 2000. The foresight represented by those appropriations has given his administration's successors an important head start.
Several months before Clinton left office, the federal Centers for Disease Control issued a $343 million contract for 40 million doses of smallpox vaccine, as part of a wide-ranging research and development program of defense against biological weapons. The Clinton administration also established a new stockpile of drugs, vaccines and medical supplies for use solely in national emergencies. On Sept. 11, the first shipments from those warehouses went out in trucks headed for New York City, under orders from Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. How fortunate for Thompson and the rest of us that someone had thought ahead.
None of this means that Clinton's record is free of blemish. Could he have done more to reform the intelligence and law enforcement bureaucracy? Should he have spent even more money, with greater wisdom, on homeland security? Was he distracted by domestic concerns and scandals, including the Lewinsky affair he so stupidly brought on himself?
Yes, but such observations are only of historical interest at this point. And meanwhile, that history should also include successes Clinton had in fighting terrorism, which his critics never mention.
On Clinton's watch, the CIA instituted a special al-Qaida unit that thwarted several deadly conspiracies, including a scheme to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on Millennium Eve, and plots to bomb the Holland and Lincoln tunnels in New York as well as the United Nations building. Timely intelligence also prevented a deadly assault on the Israeli embassy in Washington. As early as 1996 -- as reported by the Post and other publications -- the State Department and the CIA began to neutralize dozens of terrorist cells overseas through prosecutions, extraditions and executions quietly undertaken by allies on every continent, from Albania to the Philippines.
Clinton was focused on thwarting terrorism, and as he asserted during his Faux News interview, he was criticized for being obsessed with Bin Laden:
A month before Clinton left office -- and nine months before the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- those successful operations were praised by the nation's most experienced diplomats in this field, including conservatives. "Overall, I give them very high marks," said Robert Oakley, who served as ambassador for counterterrorism in the Reagan State Department, to a reporter for the Washington Post. "The only major criticism I have is the obsession with Osama, which has made him stronger." Paul Bremer, who also held the same post under Reagan and later was chosen by congressional leaders to chair the National Commission on Terrorism, disagreed slightly with his colleague. Bremer told the Post he believed that the Clinton administration had "correctly focused on bin Laden."
But to give Clinton any credit would scarcely serve his critics, who have more sinister and explicitly political aims.
To that end, the conservative double standard will remain in force, attack mutts will salivate on cue, and growl at shadows. Today I heard a CNN talking head question whether Clinton actually "planned" to use the Wallace interview to stage a defense of his record. And conservatives say the media have a liberal bias. Bollocks!

Let's face it. Clinton's factual and fiery counterattack calling media and right-wing propaganda into account is more of what Democrats must do to win elections. Bring. It. On.

UPDATE: More Wag the Dog and conservative hit jobs against Clinton.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Clinton faults neocons for inaction on Bin Laden

It's about time:

Former president Bill Clinton angrily defended his administration's counterterrorism record during a Fox News interview to be aired today, while accusing "President Bush's neocons" and other Republicans of ignoring Osama bin Laden until the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
[...]
Clinton said he authorized the CIA to kill bin Laden, and even "contracted with people to kill him." He also said he had a plan to attack Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban and hunt for bin Laden after the attack on the USS Cole, but the CIA and FBI refused to certify that bin Laden was responsible, and Uzbekistan refused to allow the United States to set up a base. By contrast, Clinton said the Bush administration's neoconservatives "had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months," believing he had been "too obsessed with bin Laden."
"At least I tried," Clinton said. "That's the difference [between] me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try. I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, [Richard] Clarke, who got demoted."
Bill is right. Bush and the Republicans weren't too worried about terrorism until 9/11. And from the latest National Intelligence Estimate report, King FUBAR and his clown troupe administration have managed to increase terrorism as a result of the Iraq War debacle.

When the Fox News lapdog nipped at Clinton over Somalia, Bill cleared the air:
Clinton : There is not a living soul in the world who thought Osama bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk down or was paying any attention to it, or even knew al-Qaeda was a going concern in October '93.
Wallace : I understand.
Clinton : No, no, wait. Don't tell me that -- you asked why didn't I do more to bin Laden, there was not a living soul, all the people who now criticize me wanted to leave the next day. You brought this up, so you get an answer. But you -- secondly,
Wallace : -- Bin Laden says, but it showed the weakness of the United States.
Clinton : Bin Laden may have said it -- but it would have shown the weakness if we left right away. But he wasn't involved in that, that's just a bunch of bull. That was about Mohamed Aideed, a Muslim warlord, murdering 22 Pakistani Muslim troops. We were all there on a humanitarian mission; we had no mission, none, to establish a certain kind of Somali government or keep anybody out. He was not a religious fanatic --
Wallace : Mr. President --
Clinton : -- there was no al-Qaeda --
Wallace : With respect, if I may, instead of going through '93 and --
Clinton : No, no -- you asked it. You brought it up.
Wallace, a 30-year broadcast veteran who worked at NBC and ABC before Fox, is not usually considered part of the network's conservative commentariat, but Clinton accused him of doing "Fox's bidding" by preparing a "conservative hit job."
He attacked Wallace for failing to ask Bush administration officials why Clarke was demoted from his counterterrorism job: "Tell the truth, Chris. Tell the truth, Chris. Did you ever ask that?" He also complained that Wallace had lured him to the interview "under false pretences," but when Wallace offered to discuss his climate change project, he replied: "No, I want to finish this now."
And so he did, attacking President Bush for focusing on Iraq instead of Afghanistan, urging Americans to read Clarke's book and accusing Republicans of "a serious disinformation campaign" to blame the Clinton administration for losing bin Laden.
"I got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since," Clinton said. "And if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. . . . You got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever, but I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it, but I did try and I did everything I thought I responsibly could."
I am sick of Republicans completely ignoring the fact that they hounded, investigated, and impeached the wrong president. Talk about screwed-up priorities!

I'm glad Clinton defended his record. Compared to Bush, he's a much better president, and that's an understatement. And I doubt that 9/11 would have happened on President Gore's watch. In May, I posted:
I know, I know. The GOP faithful will indignantly retort... but, but, there have been. No Terrorist. Attacks. On. American. Soil. Since. 9/11! Yes, dear hearts, poor wittle Bushbots miss the point that maybe there would have been. No. 9/11. If. Bush had taken the "bin Laden cell in New York" and "preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks" written about in the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB, Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S., seriously. Had Bush fulfilled his duties as Commander-in-Chief with as much passion as his compulsion to clear brush on his ranch and exerted leadership over men whose "hair was on fire," men like Gen. Hayden and women like Condi Rice, prodding them to shake the trees and make 'em shed terrorists like falling fruit, maybe Bush would have succeeded in averting the 9/11 attacks.
As Richard Clarke reiterated:
“If we had had that kind of process in the summer of 2001 that we had in December '99, where the national security adviser was every day in the White House asking the FBI director and the attorney general and the secretary of defense, ‘Go back to your building, find out all that you can’ ... maybe the information that was in the FBI would have shaken loose.”
“We had Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the United States; he used military force, and they stopped. We had Iranian-sponsored terrorism against the United States; he used covert action against them, and they stopped,” Clarke told Russert.
“We had al-Qaida attempts to blow up things in the United States during the millennium period, attempts to blow up embassies around the world, attempts to take over Bosnia during the jihad in Bosnia. And all of those attempts were thwarted.”
“Now, that doesn't mean that [Clinton] did everything he should have done, but the president of the United States was active on these issues in the Clinton administration. The president of the United States was not active on these issues prior to 9/11 in the Bush administration,” Clarke said.
Exactly. Of course, now that Bush has focused on terrorism, he made it worse by invading Iraq rather than finishing the job in Afghanistan, a country now in jeopardy with a growing insurgency of the Taliban.

One thing I trust about Clinton: He did all that he could to protect America. But Bush? Not. Even. Close.

UPDATE: Holy cow! I'm watching the Clinton-Wallace interview. I must say I admire Clinton for his passion. The press has treated him unfairly and given Bush a free ride. I couldn't agree more. The bias has been troubling. Full transcript courtesy ThinkProgress, a must-read. More later.

Iraq War worsens terror threat, part II

WaPo weighs in on the National Intelligence Estimate I posted previously:

The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded.
A 30-page National Intelligence Estimate completed in April cites the "centrality" of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position, according to officials familiar with the classified document.
[...]
"Together with our coalition partners," Bush said in an address earlier this month to the Military Officers Association of America, "we've removed terrorist sanctuaries, disrupted their finances, killed and captured key operatives, broken up terrorist cells in America and other nations, and stopped new attacks before they're carried out. We're on the offense against the terrorists on every battlefront, and we'll accept nothing less than complete victory."
But the battlefronts intelligence analysts depict are far more impenetrable and difficult, if not impossible, to combat with the standard tools of warfare.
Although intelligence officials agree that the United States has seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qaeda and disrupted its ability to plan and direct major operations, radical Islamic networks have spread and decentralized.
Many of the new cells, the NIE concludes, have no connection to any central structure and arose independently. The members of the cells communicate only among themselves and derive their inspiration, ideology and tactics from the more than 5,000 radical Islamic Web sites. They spread the message that the Iraq war is a Western attempt to conquer Islam by first occupying Iraq and establishing a permanent presence in the Middle East.
[...]
The latest terrorism assessment paints a portrait of a global war in which Iraq is less the central front of actual combat than a unifying battle cry for disparate extremist groups and even individuals. "It is just those kinetic actions that lead to the radicalization of others," a senior counterterrorism official said earlier this summer. "Surgical strikes? Nothing is surgical about military operations. They tend to have impacts, affects."
That description contrasts with Bush's emphasis this month on offensive military action in Iraq and elsewhere as the United States' principal road to victory in the global war.
"Many Americans . . . ask the same question five years after 9/11," he said in a speech in Atlanta earlier this month. "The answer is yes. America is safer. We are safer because we have taken action to protect the homeland. We are safer because we are on the offensive against our enemies overseas. We're safer because of the skill and sacrifice of the brave Americans who defend our people."
But "a really big hole" in the U.S. strategy, a second counterterrorism official said, "is that we focus on the terrorists and very little on how they are created. If you looked at all the resources of the U.S. government, we spent 85, 90 percent on current terrorists, not on how people are radicalized."
Republicans only know how to blow things up. They don't do nuance. The right-wing would characterize that "really big hole" in strategy as appeasing the terrorists. Fools don't know how to make peace. Heck, they don't know how to protect America so why listen to the GOP spiel. Bush says, "America is safer." A question for George: Where do you stash your booze? Happy talk comes from something and it isn't reality.

Iraq War worsens terror threat

I've written before that the Iraq War has worsened terrorism when 87% of the Terrorism Index' bipartisan experts said the war had hurt our national security, not alleviated it despite the misleading edicts of crazy King FUBAR and the propaganda of the GOP.

The Sunday NYTimes confirms the harsh reality with a new National Intelligence Estimate:

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.
The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.
An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.
The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.
More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.
[...]
National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue, and are approved by John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence. Their conclusions are based on analysis of raw intelligence collected by all of the spy agencies.
[...]
Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, and some policy makers argued that the intelligence estimate should be more focused on specific steps to mitigate the terror threat. It is unclear whether the final draft of the intelligence estimate criticizes individual policies of the United States, but intelligence officials involved in preparing the document said its conclusions were not softened or massaged for political purposes.
Frederick Jones, a White House spokesman, said the White House “played no role in drafting or reviewing the judgments expressed in the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism.” The estimate’s judgments confirm some predictions of a National Intelligence Council report completed in January 2003, two months before the Iraq invasion. That report stated that the approaching war had the potential to increase support for political Islam worldwide and could increase support for some terrorist objectives.
Documents released by the White House timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks emphasized the successes that the United States had made in dismantling the top tier of Al Qaeda.
“Since the Sept. 11 attacks, America and its allies are safer, but we are not yet safe,” concludes one, a report titled “9/11 Five Years Later: Success and Challenges.” “We have done much to degrade Al Qaeda and its affiliates and to undercut the perceived legitimacy of terrorism.”
That document makes only passing mention of the impact the Iraq war has had on the global jihad movement. “The ongoing fight for freedom in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry,” it states.
The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies.”
On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee released a more ominous report about the terrorist threat. That assessment, based entirely on unclassified documents, details a growing jihad movement and says, “Al Qaeda leaders wait patiently for the right opportunity to attack.”
[...]
The estimate concludes that the radical Islamic movement has expanded from a core of Qaeda operatives and affiliated groups to include a new class of “self-generating” cells inspired by Al Qaeda’s leadership but without any direct connection to Osama bin Laden or his top lieutenants.
[...]
In early 2005, the National Intelligence Council released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership.
[...]
“New jihadist networks and cells, sometimes united by little more than their anti-Western agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge,” said Gen. Michael V. Hayden, during a speech in San Antonio in April, the month that the new estimate was completed. “If this trend continues, threats to the U.S. at home and abroad will become more diverse and that could lead to increasing attacks worldwide,” said the general, who was then Mr. Negroponte’s top deputy and is now director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
For more than two years, there has been tension between the Bush administration and American spy agencies over the violence in Iraq and the prospects for a stable democracy in the country. Some intelligence officials have said the White House has consistently presented a more optimistic picture of the situation in Iraq than justified by intelligence reports from the field.
[...]
The broad judgments of the new intelligence estimate are consistent with assessments of global terrorist threats by American allies and independent terrorism experts.
The panel investigating the London terrorist bombings of July 2005 reported in May that the leaders of Britain’s domestic and international intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, “emphasized to the committee the growing scale of the Islamist terrorist threat.”
More recently, the Council on Global Terrorism, an independent research group of respected terrorism experts, assigned a grade of “D+” to United States efforts over the past five years to combat Islamic extremism. The council concluded that “there is every sign that radicalization in the Muslim world is spreading rather than shrinking.”
Republicans sure know how to lie about and exaggerate their national security expertise. I agree with Glenn that this report alone ought to dictate the outcome of the election:
If I were shaping the Democrats' election strategy, I would create a television commercial where someone reads the [first] four paragraphs -- from a new report in the NYT today -- and then I would air it over and over and over every single day as much as possible until November 7.
Let me repeat the crux of the NIE report in the NYTimes...

The overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse.

The Bush Doctrine has spread terrorism, not diminished the threat.