Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Appointing U.S. Attorneys -- Then and After Reauthorization

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Posted in ePluribus Media Journal. Recommended at Daily Kos. Linked at Raw Story

Adam Lambert (clammyc)

for ePluribus Media

Crossposted on the ePluribus Media Journal

Note: As part of the ePluribus Media researchers diving into the details around the U.S. Attorneys resigning and being replaced (see Gonzales Seven), it became important to step back and look at how U.S. Attorneys were traditionally selected, how they and their offices were organized, and what exactly did the USA PATRIOT IMPROVEMENT AND REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2005 change. Clammyc's article below provides that background.

The news over the past few weeks regarding Alberto Gonzales and the resignations and replacements of US Attorneys has generated much attention. The reasons are certainly numerous: the timing of Scooter Libby's trial, the ties that the replacements have to the Bush administration, the questions surrounding the abrupt nature of the resignations and the inevitable comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre back in 1973.

Until recently (as with many actions regarding political and governmental appointments), there was a general process that was followed when a candidate is suggested, nominated, appointed and confirmed as a U.S. Attorney. Both the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch are involved in this process.


There are 93 US Attorneys (including Puerto Rico and Guam), with each Attorney representing a "district." Obviously, some states have more than one district while some states have only one district. The following basic information is from the US Department of Justice's web site (emphasis added):

United States Attorneys are appointed by, and serve at the discretion of, the President of the United States, with advice and consent of the United States Senate.

United States Attorneys conduct most of the trial work in which the United States is a party. The United States Attorneys have three statutory responsibilities under Title 28, Section 547 of the United States Code:

  • the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the Federal government;

  • the prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party; and

  • the collection of debts owed the Federal government which are administratively uncollectible.

Each United States Attorney exercises wide discretion in the use of his/her resources to further the priorities of the local jurisdictions and needs of their communities. United States Attorneys have been delegated full authority and control in the areas of personnel management, financial management, and procurement.

Note the bolded part about "advice and consent of the United States Senate" as we will get back to that later.

Each office has Assistant District Attorneys and support staff. This size will vary, based largely on the district and the volume of work. The US Attorney's office in the District of Columbia is the largest, with over 350 Assistant US Attorneys and a similar amount of support personnel. A smaller office such as Idaho has only about 59 employees, with 25 Assistant United States Attorneys. While there is a specific process for appointing US Attorneys, the Assistant District Attorneys are largely civil service positions. Ostensibly, the Attorney General has the authority to appoint Assistant U.S. Attorneys, but that authority has also " been delegated to the Director, Office of Attorney Personnel Management. Authority."

According to the US Code (Title 28, Chapter 35, Section 541), the US Attorney's term is a four year term, with the US Attorney continuing to serve after the four-year term until a successor is appointed and qualifies.

The Appointment Process

Generally speaking, U.S. Attorneys are recommended by Senators and Representatives in their home state, nominated by the President and then after background checks, presented to the Senate for approval.

That was the process, until the recent language in the reauthorization of the PATRIOT ACT in 2006 changed it. According to the US Code (Title 28, Chapter 35, Section 546), the following applies:

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), the Attorney General may appoint a United States attorney for the district in which the office of United States attorney is vacant.

(b) The Attorney General shall not appoint as United States attorney a person to whose appointment by the President to that office the Senate refused to give advice and consent.

(c) A person appointed as United States attorney under this section may serve until the earlier of:

(1) the qualification of a United States attorney for such district

appointed by the President under section 541 of this title; or

(2) the expiration of 120 days after appointment by the Attorney

General under this section.

(d) If an appointment expires under subsection (c)(2), the district court for such district may appoint a United States attorney to serve until the vacancy is filled. The order of appointment by the court shall be filed with the clerk of the court.

This will be important later as well.

One thing that is consistent -- the President needs the 'advice and consent' of the Senate (kind of like the 'upperdown vote').

So Why is the PATRIOT ACT Reauthorization Important?

In March of 2006, President Bush signed USA PATRIOT IMPROVEMENT AND REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2005. In addition to all of the other contents of this Act, it amended Subsection (c) of Section 546 (the original law is noted above) and eliminated Subsection (d) in its entirety.

Section 502 of HR 109-333 is the relevant section and is reproduced below:

Section 546 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by striking subsections (c) and (d) and inserting the following new subsection:

(c) A person appointed as United States attorney under this section may serve until the qualification of a United States Attorney for such district appointed by the President under section 541 of this title.

So, basically, what happened here is that (1) the 120 day 'interim' rule was eliminated, and (2) the matter was taken completely out of the hands of the district court. Not only that, but the effect here is that any 'interim' US Attorney can by appointed and can theoretically serve until the end of the appointing President' s term. Additionally, the Attorney General now has the power to appoint an 'interim' US Attorney who can serve, in the immediate case, until the end of 2008.

What this does, in effect, is allow the Attorney General to appoint anyone so long as the appointee was not previously submitted and refused by the Senate. Once again, the powers of the Legislative Branch are being stripped from the process and shifted to the Executive Branch. Further, this is currently being questioned as potentially unconstitutional in that it is delegating the authority to make such appointments from the President (under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution) to the Attorney General.

While it is important to see the relationship between the 'interim' US Attorneys who have been appointed, as well as to uncover any and all reasons why an unusual number of US Attorneys abruptly resigned, we shouldn't forget the process behind this. The importance of this Administration's consolidation of power in all areas -- including the power to investigate without fear of retribution -- should not be ignored.

In fact, it should be highlighted as another in a long line of, at a minimum, potential abuses of power that this Executive Branch has committed over the past six years.

ePluribus Media Researchers, Contributors and Fact Checkers: gles, clammyc, cho, standingup and roxy... with hat tips to the guys on Kos who gave some background... DC Pol Sci, aloyshakaramozov, MarketTrustee, and Carolita

If you like what ePMedia's been doing with research, reviews and interviews, please consider donating to help with our efforts.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Act now or it WILL be your problem come 2009.

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing

Not that I can say that I blame her for her comments and for coming around, but it looks like we are hearing a new tone from now-official Democratic Presidential candidate and current Senator Hillary Clinton with respect to Iraq. Campaigning in Iowa over the weekend (and as reported in many news outlets), Senator Clinton had the following comments regarding Bush, the troops and an exit strategy:
It would be ”the height of irresponsibility” to pass the war along to the next commander in chief, she said.

This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy,” the Democratic senator from New York said her in initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.

We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office” in January 2009, the former first lady said.

Well, yeah – if you don’t want to possibly have your Presidency bogged down with and tied up by an occupation that the American public and many of our troops soured on long ago.

Granted, out of the nine Democrats who have either officially or unofficially announced their intent to seek the 2008 nomination (Clark and Gore not included in this total), some of them can’t do more than continue to speak out against this occupation, and in favor of an exit strategy. Of course, they can develop a potential exit strategy or work with those who can help move the debate from an “if” to a “how soon” when it comes to bringing our troops home.

But for others, like Senators Dodd, Biden, Clinton, Obama as well as Representative Kucinich, there is more that can be done in order to bring this disaster to a conclusion. Not only will the campaigns and candidacies be judged by what actions were taken to not only avoid a continued escalation in Iraq, but also by what was done to prevent any military confrontation with Iran or Syria.

Additionally, it is pretty likely that the candidate who has actually taken bold action and demonstrated leadership will be the one who has a significant advantage come primary time.

So, call this the pre-campaign; a time where actions will not only dictate the success of presidential aspirations but also to show the country (and Democratic party) what you are really all about. We love to hear the tough words. We love to see the respective House and Senate committees meet and call administration officials such as Rice or Gonzalez on their lies and ill intent.

But make no mistake, and it couldn’t be any clearer: The public wants out of Iraq. And out well before it would impact the next President. The public doesn’t want to see troops dying for another two years. They are sick of this continued lack of direction and leadership. They are sick of the lies. They are sick of the continued wasting of hundreds of billions of dollars. They are sick of it all.

We already know that Bush doesn’t care what Congress has to say:

Speaking in a television interview last [week] on CBS's 60 Minutes, Mr Bush struck a defiant note: "They [Congress] could try to stop me from doing it. But – I made my decision, and we're going forward," he said, dismissing growing congressional opposition to his plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

We also know the contempt that Cheney continues to show for Congress and the American people, as well as his intentions for Iraq:
"And Congress obviously has to support the effort through the power of the purse. So they've got a role to play, and we certainly recognize that. But you also cannot run a war by committee."


"This is an existential conflict," Cheney said. "It is the kind of conflict that's going to drive our policy and our government for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years. We have to prevail and we have to have the stomach for the fight long term."

I’ll put it much simpler. They. don’t. give. a. rat’s. ass. what. anyone. else. wants.

There is not one but two proposals in Congress that deal specifically with an exit strategy. There will likely be another proposal in the Senate that will deal specifically with the continued funding of this occupation.

Nonbinding resolutions are nice. A censure resolution would be better.

But the administration has basically dared Congress to try and stop them from taking a disastrous plan and moving it forward at warp speed. The American public wants action. The administration is not going to stop unless they are stopped. It is your job to stop them.

If you don’t stop them now, one of you will have your presidency overrun with figuring out an exit strategy – only then the situation will be much bloodier and much more difficult to extract our troops from.

That is, if the American people would even want to elect a Democratic president who didn’t take enough action to stop this disaster of an occupation when they could have.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Just do it.

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing

No matter where you look, finding a way to end this illegal occupation of Iraq is on people’s minds. Hell, this is one of the main reasons why the Democrats retook both houses of Congress back in November. I’ll also point out that since then, the negative view of Bush and what is going on in Iraq has solidified from a majority or mandate to what can certainly be deemed as an overwhelming majority.

And with all of that, we are finally hearing some more emboldened talk from our Democratic Congress as they start to find their voice, and start to understand that the public isn’t buying statements like this one from new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. And even republican Senators are coming to their senses about the whole “opposing escalation is emboldening the enemy” line of crap.

So I am now pleading to Congress, republicans and Democrats alike – the talk is great, but the entire country (and world for that matter) is watching, waiting, hoping for some serious action. We are all behind you. Take the next steps.

To take a page from Nike if you will - Just Do It.

68% of Americans oppose this escalation:

Less than two weeks after President Bush unveiled his plan to increase troop levels in Iraq, a 68-percent majority of Americans strongly (45 percent) or moderately (23 percent) oppose Bush's "surge" strategy

Not only that, but only 24% of Americans polled approve of how Bush is handling Iraq, and only 30% approve of his performance in general. These are strong trends – not aberrations, and will only continue to get stronger.

There is a historic opportunity to take steps in order to move away from continued chaos and destruction – for Iraqis, for our troops, for the Middle East as a whole. The Iraqi government is REACHING OUT TO DEMOCRATS in order to make progress. Per today’s LA Times:

Government officials said they had generally found the Democratic position on handing over security to Iraqi forces sooner rather than later closer to theirs. Almost all agree on Democratic Party initiatives, squashed when Republicans controlled Congress, to prevent the building of permanent U.S. bases here. They note news reports of Democrats acknowledging the suffering of the Iraqi population.

"I see that the Democratic ideas are more related to reality," said Ammar Tuma, a lawmaker who serves in Maliki's ruling Shiite coalition. "They talk about the real problems that the Iraqis are facing every day."

Don’t be afraid of what Sean Hannity says. Don’t listen to what the other talking meatsticks say. Forget about Tony Snow’s hysterical lies and ranting. They are signs of desperation as their ability to con the American public is waning fast.

Even triangulating Presidential hopefuls are starting to sing a different tune. This is for you, Senator Clinton – you are finally admitting regret at your initial vote to authorize this invasion and occupation:

Clinton said, as she has since last month, that she would not have voted for the resolution had she known that the Bush administration’s justifications for the war would be proven to be unfounded.


“I’ve taken responsibility for my vote. But there are no do-overs in life. I wish there were,” she told the group.

Ahhhhhh, but while there are no “do-overs in life” and there are no do-overs in war, there are ways to make amends. We know that Bush and Cheney have all but dared Congress to stop him from escalating this occupation – a move against the wishes of the Iraq Study Group, his own Joint Chiefs of Staff, many members of Congress, the American people, the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. There is no reason to think that talking about an exit strategy and taking strong action towards putting an end to this occupation will not be met with overwhelming support.

Hell, we just saw close to 100,000 people take to the streets of DC with more demonstrations around the country. Even active military members and Iraq veterans were marching in protest:

Tassi McKee, from Bastrop, La., who said she was a staff sergeant in the Air Force, was among a small contingent of about 20 active-duty service members who turned out. “I believe this has become a civil war, and we are being hurt and making matters worse by staying in the middle of it,” Sergeant McKee said.


Dressed in the olive green, military-issued flight jacket that he said he wore during the invasion of Iraq while serving as a Marine sergeant, Jack Teller, 26, said he joined a caravan from Greenville, N.C., because he felt that it was his duty.
“I don’t like wearing the jacket because it reminds me that I participated in an immoral and illegal war,” said Mr. Teller, who had “Iraq Veterans Against the War” stenciled on the back of his jacket. “But it’s important to make a political statement.”

Fernando Braga, a 24-year-old Bronx native who is a member of the Army National Guard, said that he was skeptical of the war before it started. Mr. Braga said his views hardened into opposition while he served in Iraq from March 2004 through January 2005.

“My own commander told us when we arrived that if we thought we were there for any reason other than oil then we had another think coming,” he said. “I realized even commanding officers were against it but following orders.”

As were military personnel’s spouses:
"My husband deployed last June to Iraq," she said. "He is an Army infantry officer currently patrolling the streets of Baghdad. And I just have to say I'm sick of attending the funerals of my friends. I have seen the weeping majors. I have seen the weeping colonels. I am sick of the death."

“I am sick of the death”. “Even commanding officers were against it”. “We are making matters worse”. Very strong words from people who are most directly impacted.

There is an opportunity before Congress to do the right thing. A very brave Senator (and one who was right all along, I may add) is introducing legislation that will directly lead to putting this occupation to an end:

Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, says today he will soon introduce legislation to cut off funding for the war. He was speaking at a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington.

Feingold blasted his colleagues for not doing enough to stand up to the White House.

Last year, Rep. Murtha introduced legislation to redeploy forces from Iraq. And more recently, Rep. Woolsey introduced legislation that would refocus on an exit strategy from Iraq. Just a few days ago, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki met with House Speaker Pelosi with respect to withdrawing 50,000 troops by year end:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), visiting Baghdad on Friday in her new capacity as House speaker, that he would like to see 50,000 U.S. troops leave by the end of the year, Iraqi officials said.
Pelosi's primary concern in meeting Maliki appeared to be to determine how soon he thought the United States could withdraw its soldiers from Iraq, said Ali Dabbagh, the prime minister's spokesman.

Support is building. We are hearing lots of good things so far. But they are first steps. Don’t be afraid to call for an exit strategy every chance you get. Make the American public proud. As a side bonus, it will solidify a Democratic majority for years to come. Say it loud. Say it again and again. Take the ball and run with it. We all want out of Iraq. The time is right to take action.

Just do it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Big Oil strikes (black) gold in Iraq. $3 billion worth.

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

And there it is. Once again.

As if there wasn’t enough reason to make you disgusted about the trillions of our dollars and tens of thousands of lives (at a minimum) wasted in Iraq, ExxonMobil and Chevron are (quietly) negotiating with Iraq on a $3 Billion deal for one of them to build a petrochemical plant.

So while a debate continues to rage about whether we should send more troops (which are already being sent) or whether we should keep the same troop levels – as opposed to debating the best and most appropriate exit strategy, those “poor oil companies” are now looking to loot the Iraqi government in addition to the US government.

Iraq is in negotiations with Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. to build a new $3 billion petrochemical facility, and is in talks with several other Western companies over industrial projects.

In an interview Thursday, Iraq's minister for industry and minerals Fowzi Hariri said the discussions with Chevron and Exxon began this week in Washington and are at an early stage.

"It will be one or the other company for this new facility, not both," he said. "We're hoping to have a (Memorandum of Understanding) in place by about July."

Of course, it bears reminding just who has a Chevron oil tanker named after her, or which “retired CEO” was recently appointed to be a prominent “decider” of America’s future energy policies.

But this new deal, which so far the discussions are “preliminary”, arises from Iraq’s Foreign Investment Law (warning, .pdf) which was passed late last year. Some of the highlights of this law are below:

On October 10, Iraq adopted an investment law that offers an accommodating regulatory environment for U.S. business. The law will take effect once published in the Official Gazette. Although various actions must be taken before Iraq’s new investment regime is fully functional, there are several noteworthy features of the recently-approved law:

- All investors enjoy equal treatment under the law without regard to nationality (Art. 10);

- Iraqi workers receive priority in hiring, but investors may hire non-Iraqi workers if Iraqi workers do not have the necessary qualifications (Art. 12);

- Investors who obtain investment licenses from the National Commission on Investment are entitled to additional benefits. These benefits include:

- For investors in specific areas, an exemption from taxes and fees for a period of ten years from the date commercial operations begin (Article 15.1); and

- An exemption from fees, for a period of three years from the time an investment license is granted, for assets imported for the purposes of an investment project (Art. 17.1); and

- The law prescribes clear procedures for obtaining an investment license (Art. 19-20).

A pretty sweet deal, or at least the potential to be pretty sweet for the US firms. And there was concern early on that Iraqi businesses would suffer from this law:
The new investment law, expected to be issued in Iraq soon, has led to differences of opinion in economic and political quarters. It is feared that the law will interfere with the country's sovereignty and harm the private sector, which is unable to hold its own against foreign competitors.

The law will be discussed in the Iraqi parliament during the next two months, and is expected to be approved by the end of the year.

The new law includes allowing non-Iraqi investors to have 100 per cent ownership of companies, untaxed profit transfers and 40-year rent leases. The only area exempted is the natural resource sector, which includes oil and energy.


Rida Blaibel, President of the Iraqi Businessmen Association told Gulf News the private sector in Iraq will be seriously threatened if the law comes into effect.

Yes, I italicized the portion that exempts the oil and energy industry – I do so because Article 29 of the actual law only exempts investment in oil and gas extraction and production. Therefore, it would appear that this deal would be covered under the Law, since a basic explanation of what the “petrochemical” definition and end products are doesn’t cover oil and gas extraction and production (if I am mistaken here, please let me know and I will revise).

Of course, the fact that everyone is “on an even playing field” would seem to be good for companies that want to make the investment. However, in a situation where Iraqi unemployment is at the levels it is at, and the private sector is close to nonexistent, this could be a way to at least temporarily favor Iraqi businesses and help get the country back on the right foot – even to a small degree.

Of course, we remember the little provision in the Iraq Study Group report that pushed for the privatization of the oil industry. So, with the way that things have gone since Cheney’s secret energy commission included a map of the Iraqi oil fields and the proposed location of the “superbases” in Iraq – you don’t need to be a genius to see the many ways that the Big Oil companies are looking to get their meaty paws on that Iraqi money.

And while our troops continue to kill and die for lies and greed, the vultures are looking to raid the world’s coffers even further:

Dow Chemical's contract could be $40 million to $50 million, the minister added.


While in the United States, the minister also held talks with the U.S. Geological Survey about performing a nationwide survey of Iraq's potential mineral base.


Hariri plans to have discussions with General Electric Corp. over possible power turbine contracts and with General Motors Corp. over contracts for service vehicles, such as fire trucks and ambulances. The latter contract would be worth $80 million or less.

Over the next several years, the minister said Iraq would look to privatize all of state-owned industry, which number around 60 companies

Is there no end to their greed? Is there any question as to why the US is not trusted in any corner of the world? Is there any wonder why the US is being squeezed out of every other meaningful international alliance?

Is there any end to this embarrassment and nightmare?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Throw the "nook-you-luhr opshun" back in their faces

Make no mistake – the republican party is reeling. And down. Way down. And this is the time when the Democrats should kick them and kick them hard.

thereisnospoon has a diary up right now that discusses one of Reid’s possible avenues with respect to the minimum wage bill that was passed in the House and is facing opposition from republican Senators who had no problem giving away hundreds of millions of dollars just a few short months ago to their corporate cronies. The same republicans who used every underhanded tactic in the book, and when they ran out of tactics, they wrote another book of underhanded tactics.

Like the granddaddy of them all – the “nuclear option” (for those who can spell and speak, unlike Dear Leader).

Of course, I am not advocating that the Democrats actually threaten to use the nuclear option with respect to a piece of legislation that has an incredibly high level of support. But, this is the time where the Democratic majority, a majority that nearly 70% had “high hopes” for - and that was before the 110th Congress even was called into session and the House passed its 100 hour agenda, should use this advantage to bludgeon the republicans and make them look the damn fools that they have been for the past six years.

But, there should be more than a gentle reminder of the times when the republican controlled Senate threatened to destroy centuries old traditions and protocol in order to ram through the approval of some of the most extremist activist judges ever to see the confirmation process.

The threats that were thrown out every time the Democratic minority wanted to stand on principal against some of the most lopsided and egregious pieces of legislation – legislation whose primary beneficiaries were the “haves and the have mores”, or as The Decider liked to call them, “my base”.

The whining about “upperdown votes” (unless of course that same base didn’t want the nominee to get said upperdown vote) and how the Democrats wouldn’t let legislation or nominees just get their fair chance – as Americans would want it.

So, throw it back in their weasely faces. Let’s hear the following:”I find it quite interesting how the republicans were so keen on getting an up-or-down vote when they were in the majority. A chance for the full Senate to vote on political nominees whose records were among the most controversial of any nominees ever submitted, or a chance for a policy that was so egregious in its bias towards this country’s most wealthy. But when it comes to a policy that is supported by over 80% of the American people – a policy that would help raise families out of the extreme poverty level, these same republicans would rather play the same political games that they railed against when they were in the majority.

Make the republicans eat those words. Make them explain why they can’t see fit to give the poorest of the working poor their “upperdown vote”. Mock them. Humiliate them. Make them trip over their words as they try to explain why they are not letting “the will of the people” come to a fair vote.

It isn’t just about passing legislation. It is about building a Democratic majority for years to come. It is about exposing these lying hypocrites to the world at every opportunity. For showing the American public the vermin who set this country back decades.

It is about “winning the hearts and minds” of the American people, and gaining their trust again. It is about showing what a strong majority party is willing to do in order to stand up for We the People and to make sure that petty games won’t hold up progress.

It is time to go on the offensive – both legislatively and rhetorically.

Why Lieberman helps and strengthens the netroots long-term

Front paged at Booman Tribune

Yes, he is a complete disaster. Yes, we saw this coming. Yes, he isn’t really a Democrat, so his craziness (or senile ramblings) don’t necessarily reflect on the Democratic Party or their positions. And yes, we could very easily use this as an “I told you so” towards the Democratic leadership and the Senators who refused to support its own party’s candidate for Senate after the netroots put Lamont over the top in the Connecticut primary.

But the long term picture here is that our warnings of his lies and promises which we all knew would be broken, our pointing out of his hypocrisy and pettiness during his campaign, our support for victorious candidates such as Webb and Tester – are all coming to fruition now. Not that this is a good thing necessarily as it relates to “the Lieberman problem” that the Democrats face as Rove and Lieberman’s republican masters come cashing in their IOU’s for getting Lieberman elected in the first place.

What Lieberman’s antics, out of the mainstream sound bytes, willingness to be an extremist on the very issues that are near and dear to not only the country but the Democratic party as a whole only serve to reinforce our strength and confirm what we can do to steer this country back toward the right path.

No, I am not talking out of my ass. Hear me out.

Remember Senator Schumer’s diary from right after the election? The one where he said the following:

On behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, I want to personally thank the DailyKos community -- and the entire netroots -- for your support, energy, and hard work during this election. Together, we have achieved a historic victory. The tireless efforts of the blogosphere helped propel us over the top in states like Virginia and Montana - the very seats that captured the Senate majority.

There is no question that the outcome of this election proves what we can accomplish when we work together. Your early advocacy for candidates like Jon Tester and Jim Webb raised their national profile and their financial base, paving the way to coordinated efforts that led to victory. This was a devastating one-two punch that can be repeated across the country in 2008.

And yesterday, Bowers had this post from the DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen which included a memo that outlines the strategy for 2008. This memo includes the following passage (also noted by Markos on the front page yesterday):
The support of net-roots organizations was key to Democrats success in 2006. Frontline members will be required to build an aggressive online operation with the goal of acquiring 30,000 e-mail addresses by November 2008.

The point here is that we, the netroots, made the “powers that be” sit up and take notice. Our support of candidates such as Tester and Webb were directly responsible for not only winning back the Senate in a most improbable fashion, but also to effectively end the career of a racist, shallow dumbass “good ole boy” who was an early frontrunner for the republican presidential nomination. And this is being recognized.

So how does this all relate to Lieberman? Well, don’t think that many Congressional Democrats aren’t at least thinking to themselves that it would be much better to have a Senator like Ned Lamont – a man who would not block any meaningful oversight or investigation into the negligence of this administration regarding Hurricane Katrina. Certainly, after news surfaced (true or not) that “Brownie” spilled the beans on Bush’s comment about “rubbing Blanco’s nose in” the mess, death and destruction that was wreaked by the Hurricane, this decision by Lieberman resonates even louder.

Of course, even more important is the wanton undercutting of the Democrats’ message (which is echoed by nearly 75% of Americans) about (1) not escalating the occupation in Iraq, (2) coming up with a meaningful exit strategy for our troops and (3) opening up dialogue with Iran and Syria in order to come up with a regional plan for dealing with the disaster that is Iraq.

Do you really think that the same Democrats that gave Lieberman a standing ovation upon his return to the Senate are happy with comments such as this:

I believe that America is a mighty enough nation that we should never fear to talk to anyone. But anyone who believes that Iran and Syria really want to help us to succeed in Iraq, I just is missing the reality. Asking Iran and Syria to help us succeed in Iraq is like your local fire department asking a couple of arsonists to help put out the fire. These people are flaming the fire. They are the extremists. They are supporting terrorists in Iraq, in Lebanon and of course in the Palestinian areas.

Do you think that these Democrats are happy to see a republican Senator take the lead on blasting the administration on Iraq? Yes, I am sure that they are happy that there are those who are taking a stand. But wouldn’t one more Democratic senator in their corner be much better than this “independent democrat” who has outlived his usefulness to Democrats at least six years ago?

What about a quote like this:

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) asked Army Lt. Gen. David H . Petraeus during his confirmation hearing yesterday if Senate resolutions condemning White House Iraq policy "would give the enemy some comfort."

Petraeus agreed they would, saying, "That's correct, sir."

Of course, there is also the little matter of his appearance with Senator McCain at the AEI supporting the escalation in Iraq.

There are so many more comments and instances. And yet, we are not even a month into the new Congressional term.

The facts are pretty evident. Lieberman, at a minimum, is a liar who broke his campaign promises. He is undermining the Democrats’ message on one of the most important issues facing our country. His comments aren’t only keeping a completely unnecessary debate about “more troops or status quo” alive at the expense of a debate about “how is the best way to leave Iraq”. They are divisive, out of the mainstream and extreme. They are stronger words than many of the original neocons are using. They are dangerous to our democracy and our country.

But they serve as a primary example of “what could have been” had the Democratic party actually supported the nominee that its’ party wanted as Senator in Connecticut. Lieberman would be an afterthought. The anti-war message would be stronger. The netroots would be directly responsible for THREE Senators – all in favor of ending this illegal occupation in Iraq. All who would support an investigation into the negligence of this administration with respect to Katrina. And none of whom would carry the water of the most despicable administration ever to occupy the highest levels of our government.

The contrast between Lamont and Lieberman couldn’t be more clear. And I would think that, while they won’t admit it, many Congressional Democrats are secretly kicking themselves for enabling this monster to be re-elected.

Which will only reinforce what the netroots can do, and the power that we have to get the right people elected in the future.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Note to gasbags - Maliki isn't the problem

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

The ability of this administration, as well as the talking (and writing) meatsticks who are of the “pass the buck at all costs” or “blame everyone else” mentality never ceases to amaze me. And now, after an illegal invasion and failed occupation which contained so many unfathomably huge tactical and logistical mistakes as well as monumental lies and dismissals of the harsh reality, here we are with a brand spanking new scapegoat: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The new cover of Newsweek proclaims “The Maliki Problem” and the corresponding article lays the blame for the current mess in Iraq – from the civil war to the political support that he and al-Sadr share to who Maliki chooses as his commander of Iraqi forces. And there are quotes from people close to the administration, opinion by the Newsweek “experts” as well as republican officials in Congress, all bemoaning and blaming Maliki for what has now been nearly four years of a long string of uninterrupted errors.

But this is the same tired finger pointing, regardless of whether Maliki is “doing all that he can” ignores many simple facts. He was put into a situation where there is no “best case scenario”. And his country’s fate is still dictated largely by the decisions made by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bremer and people who had little to no understanding of Iraq’s history or the Middle East in general.

Of course, we have seen this all before. Remember Iyad Allawi? Remember how Bush praised him back in 2004?:

Bush called Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi a strong leader who "has always been an Iraqi patriot."

And what happened with him? Well, there was the carefully orchestrated high profile visit to the US just over a month before the US election in 2004 where he proclaimed everything A-OK in Iraq, only to return to Iraq and deliver the truth to his own people:
And let’s not forget Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi – who told us here in America, during his recent visit, just how wonderfully ducky everything was turning out in Iraq, only to return home and deliver a speech to his own assembly (when he was reading his OWN script, for a change, rather than that from his White House handlers) about how grim and sobering conditions really are. All of these amped up the volume on just how bad the war is going.

So, what says Allawi now?
The former Prime Minister painted a bleak picture of Iraq, telling me “we are approaching very fast the point of no return.” He went further to say that “I think martial law is required”…and he candidly told me “I pray to God that we don’t lose, because the other alternative is going to be the prevalence of extremism and terrorism.” He described his country as “moving into [a] more lawless state of affairs.”


Allawi agreed with many Americans when he told me, “I think what is needed, really, is a complete reappraisal of the strategy” in Iraq, by the United States, by Iraq, by Iraq’s neighbors and by the international community. He described the region as “boiling really throughout” and “slipping into more chaos” and he emphasized the need for international talks. Allawi thinks that solving the problems in Iraq is going to take “a political settlement…rather than a military settlement.”

I’ll take this time to point out yet again that while Maliki is not in favor of increased US troops in Iraq, he has helped Bush out by not publicly opposing it. I’ll also take this moment to point out that if the Iraq government is legitimate and independent of US control, then the decisions made to elect their leaders, and the decisions made by such elected leaders are matters for the Iraqi people, whether we like it or not.

The things about Maliki and Iraq that none of the so-called experts seem to are, shall we say, quite numerous. When it was warned by so many parties that Iraq could very likely descend into civil war such warnings were ignored. These warnings were well before Maliki took over as Prime Minister. When hundreds of thousands less troops were sent into Iraq initially because Paul Wolfowitz was given more credence than our own Generals, that was before Maliki took over.

When Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army without consulting the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that was before Maliki took over. When the Shia shrine in Samarra was bombed in February 2006 kicking the civil war into high gear, that too was months before Maliki took over. And when the death squads started appearing in Iraq back in 2005, that too was before Maliki took over.

But it isn’t all “before Maliki took over” either. As long as this administration is hell bent on keeping and increasing US troop presence in Iraq, Maliki’s hands are tied. And his fate is tied to the biggest loser of an administration the world has seen in my lifetime. Back in late November, Bush praised Maliki’s strength:

George Bush today praised Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, as a "strong leader" and said the US would be in Iraq "so long as the government wants us there".

And while there are many instances where Bush or this administration has praised Maliki, at the same time they are stabbing him in the back. Take the Newsweek article cited above:
According to one participant, conservative Sen. Craig Thomas of Wyoming, many of the GOP senators expressed doubts that America could depend on Maliki. They cited the Shiite leader's failure to quell the sectarian violence that contributed to the deaths of more than 34,000 Iraqis in 2006, according to the United Nations, as well as nearly 600 U.S. soldiers since he took over in May. "The president expressed doubts, too," says Thomas.

Oh, so the US policy (or lack thereof), the willful ignoring of warnings or advice from the real experts at every step of the way and the responsibility that comes with these decisions are somehow the new Prime Minster’s fault? The same Prime Minister who is politically aligned with (and likely owes his life to) the man who Bush and his fellow backstabbers want Maliki to send the full force of the Iraqi army after? No offense, but are these people on crack?

Yet, this chorus is joined by Senator Voinovich:

"So much of our future in that place is in the hands of Maliki," says one Republican doubter, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, who doesn't think the Iraqi prime minister is up to the challenge. He also worries that Maliki wants to turn Iraq into "a Shiite theocracy like they have in Iran."

It could also be that Maliki isn’t taking kindly to the words of our Secretary of State, and is turning the “your words are emboldening terrorists” line back on this administration:
Al-Maliki, whose relationship with the United States is strained, was especially upset about Rice's comment last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when she said that al-Maliki's government is working on "borrowed time."

"Such statements give moral boosts to the terrorists and push them towards making an extra effort and making them believe that they have defeated the American administration, but I can tell you that they haven't defeated the Iraqi government," he said during a meeting with a handful of reporters.

Of course, the fact that Maliki is as close to al-Sadr as he is would lead you to think that if anyone can negotiate with al-Sadr, bring him more in line politically and try to control the violence of his militia – it would be Maliki. And you would think that this is fairly obvious and that regardless of the long string of errors by this administration which have caused this caustic situation in Iraq, that Maliki would be someone that would be needed to be treated just a wee bit better. Even with his warts, he is the best shot that Iraq currently has to not fall into a situation of complete genocide.

But alas, we are not dealing with people who can see the forest for the trees. Or even see the trees for that matter.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Psssst...Bin Laden isn't in Iran either

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

I figure that since Bush and his crew are ratcheting up action to prepare for war with Iran, despite the fact that just about everyone in the entire world is against it, we should at least do what we can to make sure that something doesn’t happen while we are all looking the other way (i.e., at Iraq or Afghanistan or anything else this crew has screwed up, for example). And while we are at it, I will point out that while Bin Laden is most certainly not in Iraq or Iran, he is also not in Italy, India, Illinois or Indonesia (just in case Georgie is stuck on those places that start with the letter “I”).

While we are at it, Iran also had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, and they are actually doing a whole lot more than we are hearing - and CERTAINLY a whole lot more than the US is – to rein in its’ crazy President. The scary thing here is the parallels (as pointed out so well by fellow kossacks Modulator and xxdr zombiexx yesterday) between Bush and Ahmadinejad, as well as the American people and the Iranian people.

Frankly, this whole “state sponsor of terrorism” meme is just as stupid and should be called exactly what it is. Forgetting about the US history before 2000, what can we say about a country that invades another country based on false pretenses, and uses banned chemical weapons in firebombing a city, has a Secretary of Defense who was personally involved in torture, has its’ top attorney calling international treaties “quaint”, is involved in sending “suspects” to other countries for interrogation and torture (I can go on and on and on) and is threatening civil liberties at home for its citizens and threatening to bomb every other country that looks at them funny?

As much as we may hate to admit it, our government, or the leaders at the highest levels of government, are sponsors of terrorism.

What about the whole “Iran is a bad bad country” and doesn’t want to work with us? Well, we already know how Iran reached out to the US in 2003 as well as in 2001 and 2002. Not to mention that Ahmadinejad – for all that he has done to rattle cages, also reached out to Bush in 2006 (while it was a bit strange, it was still reaching out). And what was our response each time?

Nope. Sorry. Piss off. Screw you.

And this smokescreen has already seeped into the public mind. Take this LTE that was printed in yesterday’s Bergen Record (emphasis mine):

On behalf of many Americans and Iraqis I would like to propose a possible solution to the slaughter of our troops and innocent Iraqis.

We know that Iran and Syria are responsible for sending countless insurgents, weapons and bombs across their borders. Well, enough is enough.

I suggest that we give Iran and Syria 30 days' notice to discontinue their murderous activities. After that deadline, for every bomb that goes off killing innocents or our troops or for every kidnapping and slaughtering of civilians, for every incident, we immediately bomb one of their government buildings, military instillations or bomb-making facilities.

Only then they will realize that there will be huge penalties to continue their action. Tit for tat. Maybe then the people of these countries will persuade their governments to back off.

EXCUSE ME??? Give them 30 days and then bomb them for each act of violence in Iraq? That will end the violence? This drivel is worth printing in a relatively major newspaper?

There is mounting and vast evidence that that overwhelming majority of Iran’s leadership does not want a military confrontation. Ditto for the Iranian population, the American population, our leaders in Congress, much of our military leadership and the world at large. And, despite Ahmadinejad’s chest thumping, the fact that Iran may be looking to build a nuclear weapons program does NOT make them an imminent threat to the US.

technopolitical made an excellent observation yesterday about Iran and the escalation in Iraq. Could it be that the escalation – a move that is so profoundly stupid beyond even the craziest of crazy ideas – is merely a distraction and smokescreen from the buildup and war plans for Iran?

Could it be that Bush and the extremists who are dictating our foreign policy have everyone talking about the shiny object in their left hand while they are somewhat subtly waging war with their right?

It very well may not be the case. But it very well may be. And we should remind everyone that Iran is like Iraq was in a couple of ways – and a couple of ways only.

Neither had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Neither is a direct and imminent threat to the US.

And Bin Laden isn’t in either country.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Iran's not stupid. You'd think that was kind of important?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media. Recommended at Daily Kos

You know, lost in the whole US planning on opening up a big old can pf WhoopAss™ on Iran news is a fact that is pretty important, but is relegated to the back burner in a way that resembles the hiding of facts about Iraq a few short years ago.

That little nugget? Iran’s real leaders don’t want this “little nuclear issue” to screw over their nation and lead them to any military conflict.

“Well, duh!” you might think, but the maneuverings behind the scenes in Iran and the political kneecapping of Ahmadinejad over the past few months by many in his own country has gotten scant press here as Bush and Cheney try to single-handedly bring on Armageddon themselves. And don’t you think that the American people, who are already overwhelmingly in support of TALKS with Iran would want to know the truth about the basic politics of Iran’s nuclear program?

At least word is finally trickling out about Iran’s overtures to the US in 2003. Although there was some smartass whose name escapes me who talked in detail about this back in June 2006...

But the significant events that have occurred in Iran since December have really crippled Ahmadinejad politically to a large degree – think of it as something similar to what happened here in November but with an extra layer or two of power. For starters, there was the Iran election back in December which turned out to be a somewhat surprising rebuke of Ahmadinejad:

But it represented the first time the public has weighed in on Mr. Ahmadinejad's stormy presidency since he took office in June 2005. The results, if the trend holds, could pressure Mr. Ahmadinejad to change at least his tone and focus more on high unemployment and other economic problems. Full official results are expected today.


" Mr. Ahmadinejad's list has suffered a decisive defeat nationwide," said the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest reformist party. "It is a big no to the government's authoritarian and inefficient methods."

Around two weeks ago, in a diary I did, there was mention of finger pointing regarding the UN Sanctions:
Reformist former President Mohammad Khatami suspended Iran's nuclear work for more than two years in an effort to build confidence and avoid confrontation with the West, but Ahmadinejad's government resumed uranium enrichment in February last year.

"The only way to pass the crisis is to build confidence...but a holding Holocaust conference and financing the Hamas government creates mistrust and tension," Noureddin Pirmoazzen, the spokesman of parliament's reformist faction, told Reuters.

And as we are being treated to reports of how “defiant” Iran’s leader is being regarding UN sanctions (funny how when it is “them” it is being defiant but when it is “us” it is being “strong and resolute”...), there is widespread concern in Iran about Ahmadinejad and how his days “may be numbered”. For starters (and there are many sources from outside the US not linked here due to space), there is this report from Thursday about the open revolt among the leadership:
Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has suffered a potentially fatal blow to his authority after the country's supreme leader gave an apparent green light for parliamentarians to attack his economic policies.

In an unprecedented rebuke, 150 MPs signed a letter blaming Ahmadinejad for raging inflation and high unemployment and criticizing his government's failure to deliver the budget on time. They also condemned him for embarking on a tour of Latin America - from which he was due to return yesterday - at a time of mounting crisis.

One by one – more and more leaders – conservatives AND reformists – are speaking out against the embattled President. Just like another country with a psychopath for a President, I guess. All in the past week, there is news of saner heads speaking out. An OpEd in today’s LA Times states:
The clock may be ticking on Iran's fiery president: Many pragmatic and traditional conservatives, such as former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, who is the secretary of the Council of Guardians, were critical of Ahmadinejad's management of Iran's economic and foreign policies before U.S. military forces recently detained members of the Revolutionary Guard and Iranian intelligence agents in Irbil, Iraq. This incident, coupled with the U.N. Security Council's imposition of sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to abandon its nuclear program, has reportedly prompted 50 parliamentary members to sign a letter calling on Ahmadinejad to appear before parliament to explain himself. There have also been reports that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has given a green light to parliament to criticize the president's performance. Coupled with the country's deteriorating economy, these developments could push Ahmadinejad's opponents to replace him with a less doctrinaire politician.

And while this follows articles in The International Herald Tribune, as well as Reuters (UK) and a small article from last week by the Associated Press mention the rampant criticism by those on all sides of the political spectrum in Iran. Hell, even an OpEd out of Israel mentions this theory:
The Iranian regime is indeed driven by messianic religious ideology and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set on bringing about Israel's destruction. And yes, Iran is seeking to achieve nuclear capability and is trying to fool the world. And yes, the Islamic republic supports Hizbullah with weapons, know-how, training and funds. But however severe this may be, it does not attest to his intent to use nuclear weapons against Israel.


The Iranians have always displayed political wisdom and a realistic understanding of the limits of power. Moreover, besides Israel and Turkey, Iran is the closest to being a democratic country in the Middle East. Iran is not an absolute dictatorship, and its rulers are also subjected to the rule of law.

Iranian politics have a sophisticated mechanism of balances and restraints to curb the power of its leaders. Iranian President Ahmadinejad is not the state's sovereign. He is obliged to adhere to the rule of the supreme leader (currently Ali Khamenei), and he too is elected by the Assembly of Experts, a group of religious clerics elected through national elections.


Despite these arguments (recently raised by Bernard Lewis) regarding messianic extremism – namely that they would be wiling to sacrifice themselves in the process - the Iranians have no intention of bringing about the total destruction of Iran by their own volition, particularly at the dawn of a new age and at the reappearance of the Imam Mahdi.

So with two countries that have its an extremist leader who is under fire from all sides, who just lost a major election and is dramatically weakened in his poor domestic and foreign policy decisions – two countries with more similarities than we would think – shouldn’t the big story be about how these two leaders can talk all they want but their other political leaders overwhelmingly want to change the course and rhetoric?

Isn’t that just a bit more important than the deadly game of “chicken” that the two extremist leaders are playing? Wouldn’t that give the saner heads a better chance to prevail?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Going All in With a 2-7 Off Suit

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term, or Texas Hold ‘Em in general, all you need to know is that this is bad. Very bad. And beyond dumb. In fact, so dumb that if your friends were watching you do this, one would invariably slap you in the back of the head and tell you that you have had one two many. Then, you would have been mocked mercilessly every time you made a big decision for the rest of your life.

Only here, it isn’t funny at all. It is dangerous and is needlessly risking thousands of lives. A fool’s bet.

What am I talking about? Well, not only the disastrous decision to escalate the occupation of Iraq with a sadly low number of additional targets, er, troops, but also this latest monumental miscalculation of a “mission” just the other day.

Seems noble enough from today’s CBS News article linked above:

U.S. and Iraqi forces swooped into a mosque complex in east Baghdad on Friday and detained a top aide to radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the latest in a series of operations aimed at eviscerating the leadership of the Mahdi Army militia.

And while there are many reasons why going after al-Sadr and his militia is dangerous, shortsighted and stupid, this is the real life event that will bring “shit, meet fan” to a whole new level.

Let’s start with the next sentence of that CBS News article:

The raid drew immediate criticism from the Iraqi government, which complained it had not been consulted. An aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who owes his job as Iraqi leader to al-Sadr's backing, said the operation was not part of a coming joint U.S.-Iraq security drive.


"There was no coordination with the Iraqi political leadership and this arrest was not part of the new security plan," Sadiq al-Rikabi, the al-Maliki adviser, told Al-Arabiya television. "Coordination with the Iraqi political leadership is needed before conducting such operations that draw popular reactions."

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is calling bullshit on this “mission”. And if you remember one of the cornerstones of the escalation plan was for greater cooperation from Iraqi’s government. So what is this – at BEST, this is a message from the Iraqi government that they will cooperate “eventually”. More likely, the fact that Maliki was against this escalation to begin with shows just how much of a chance this failure of a plan has from Maliki’s perspective.

But what is even more important here is that the backlash was immediate and widespread. The Chicago Sun-Times blared the headline US seizure of al-Sadr has Iraqis steamed. The Edmonton Sun’s headline read Al-Sadr’s aide’s capture draws fire. The Melbourne Herald Sun’s headline was US seizes Sadr aide in Iraq.

In other news, al-Sadr’s militia is indicating that it is “under siege” due to the lack of protection by Maliki. But the real money quote is glossed over in the article – and is passed off as good news:

Their account of an organization now fighting for its very existence could represent a tactical and propaganda feint, but there was mounting evidence the militia is increasingly off balance and has ordered its gunmen to melt back into the population. To avoid capture, commanders report no longer using cell phones and fighters are removing their black uniforms and hiding their weapons during the day.

Hmmmm… they are melting back into the general population in anticipation of a “short term” escalation and focus by US troops. Sounds like a question raised by a certain smartass just last month:
My other issue is less strategic than it is dealing with the disconnect between this and setting a timetable for withdrawal. We have heard many indicate that if we set a timetable for withdrawal, then the insurgents will just wait us out until we withdraw. Regardless of whether I agree with this line of thought, the same question would apply to a temporary surge.

Why wouldn't al Sadr or any of the other insurgent groups, militias or terrorists who are in Iraq just wait until the surge is over and the 20,000 - 50,000 troops are redeployed from Iraq before continuing their violence against each other and our remaining troops?

And so it goes.

To explain the biggest disconnect from reality here, and what makes this such a bonehead decision, I’ll go back to my hold ‘em analogy. While Bush, Cheney, McCain and Lieberman have just gone all in with a 2-7 off suit, al-Sadr is already looking at an Ace high flush on the flop.

Maliki owes his entire existence and position to al-Sadr. There is no way in hell that he is going to turn his smaller, less loyal, less trained “official Iraqi Army™” against the man who holds Maliki’s life and fate in his hands. Not only that, but al-Sadr’s current militia will probably, to a large degree, become the beginnings of whatever the ultimate and future Iraqi forces and army will look like. Maliki isn’t the most powerful man in Iraq – we all know that. Al-Sadr, however – has a large following politically, has a strong message of getting the US out of Iraq and holds the indirect sway of (as his militia is getting too large from him to even keep control over) thousands of fighters dedicated to his causes.

Al-Sadr will have to be dealt with – and I don’t mean in the “wild west” way. He is a force in Iraq. He is one of the biggest voices in the government. He controls the Prime Minister for crissakes.

But here is the worst part - if the Prime Minister doesn’t want to go up against him, or to have his own army go up against al-Sadr, then why should the US troops do it? If the Iraqi government is truly independent, then who are we to go against their wishes?

If al-Sadr and his militia are to be a part of the future Iraqi government, it will be so. Regardless of what Bush, Cheney, Lieberman or McCain want. The Iraqis want us out. We have no further purpose being there. Not in the middle of a civil war where the only thing that all sides agree on is that they don’t want us there. The Prime Minister doesn’t support the further escalation.

And just as this crew has gambled recklessly from the opening hand, they now are down to their final stack, and immediately went “all in” with the worst hand possible.

It is over. Even more over than it was when we all first knew it was over. It is time to step away from the table and go home. A viable and internationally supported exit strategy is the only thing that should be discussed at this point.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"Look Out, Radioactive Man..."

Front paged at Booman Tribune

Last night, I did something that I rarely do – watch part of Leslie Blitzer’s Situation Room, as well as Countdown and Scarborough Country. Not for any reason other than I was waiting for the missus to come home from work and wanted to see what the talking meatsticks (Olbermann excluded from “meatstick” definition) had to say about the bi-partisan showdown with the Administration regarding Iraq.

That being said, who knew that one of my favorite non-recurring Simpsons characters would be played in real time by none other than The Decider, the Boy-King himself? But, jeez – not only were the stories slanted against Bush and his plan but the tone was, dare I say, a bit derisive. On Iraq. On relations with Congress. On the “warnings” the administration was getting from prominent republicans. On the “backtracking” (whether it truly was or not) regarding warrantless wiretapping.

And today, from Maliki regarding the situation in Iraq as well as the retired generals who are joining the chorus of those who are criticizing the escalation plan.

On cue – republicans, commentators, “experts” and anyone that can read the writing on the wall is doing as much as possible to run screaming and try to cleanse themselves of the foul stench of this administration. And while it is great to see, we must not let the fact that the elected officials were the rubber stamp for over six years. And we must also be careful to let those meatsticks know that while we appreciate them waking up from their six plus year slumber, they are NOT going to escape and shed their accountability for promoting the very policies that (1) we correctly warned them about initially and (2) got this country into the mess that it is in to begin with.

All that being said, just look at how poisonous this administration has become – which will cripple its ability to push many of its horrific domestic agenda items, especially in light of the good press that the new Congress is getting for passing some good bills and for working together in a bi-partisan manner (and don’t think that this won’t help the Democrats in the future if they can frame this as the Democratic congressional majority fostering an end to the partisan divide in Congress.

First, from Leslie’s show on CNN:

Blitzer: On Capitol Hill, more and more Republicans as Dana just noted are breaking ranks with the president on his plan for troop buildup. Some are billing it as a full-scale revolt against an unpopular commander in chief and an unpopular war.


Brian Todd: Based on our research and conversations with senators and their aides, CNN counts eight Republican senators as firmly against the president's new plan. Five who indicate they're leaning against it. And two who have not embraced it.

Mike Allen: There's losing this large number of senators and as many as 50 or 60 Republicans in the House. That's a shocking number, something this White House has never had to cope with.


Ken Rudin, NPR Political Director: These lawmakers know that George W. Bush can't save them in 2008. Only their instincts, political instincts can save them. And their instincts may tell them that the war is not something to rely on.

There was more. A lot more. Wolfie and Chuck Hagel discussing how bad the President’s Iraq policy is. Blitzer and Richard Clarke talking about better answers with respect to Iraq. Blitzer and Ed Henry (from CNN) talking about the reversal on FISA.

While we would expect the normal excellent showing from Keith Olbermann, there was a lot of thinly veiled contempt from Scarborough throughout the entire program. It kicked off with a bang:

But first, tonight there is open rebellion within Mr. Bush‘s own party, the same party that‘s provided the president almost unanimous support for the past six years. But no more. This Republican Party is now in open revolt.

The republican party is in open revolt. Those are seven sweet words to hear, regardless of whose mouth is uttering them. And from Joan Walsh of
But the other thing that‘s extraordinary to me—you know, Tony Snow tried again today to insinuate that people who are opposing the troop surge run the risk of being painted as anti-troop. And I really think we should mark the end of that war, the war of words over this war. It is no longer unpatriotic or anti-troops to be questioning this president‘s strategy.And so I think there‘s a really new way of doing business in Washington, and it is the end of the imperial presidency, absolutely.

Even Scarborough had Josh Gerstein from the Center for American Progress on to discuss Snow’s comment, and Congressman Joe let Gerstein shred Snow and Bush on this without even offering up any dissent. Pat Buchanan then talks about getting to the point where Congress will actually cut off funding (and not in a negative way – hint: it isn’t just yet).

But the money quote was from Scarborough himself – not only laying into the ridiculousness that is the proposed escalation or calling the “war a lost cause” but talking about when he first thought so.

Well, I just—to be honest with you, I don‘t know how 20,000 troops are going to stop a Sunni terrorist from walking into a university, pulling a cord on his vest and blowing up 70 people, or somebody ramming an automobile past a barricade and blowing up—I just—I don‘t think so.


Joan, I think—I think it‘s a lost cause, Joan, and I if somebody asked me today when I thought that this war was a lost cause, I thought it was when we had the bombing of the mosque, which, of course, really created al Sadr‘s power base. And suddenly, instead of having 60 percent of the Shi‘ites for us and 20 percent of Kurds for us, we had the Shi‘ites turn on us. So now we‘ve got—instead of 80 percent of the people glad we‘re over there, now we‘ve got an overwhelming majority opposed to us.

There was more but you get the point. This president and his administration has become radioactive – not just to crazy extremist lib’ruls like us, but to members of his own party as well as many of the mouthpieces who propped them up in the first place.

This very well may save us from bombing Iran or help get us to a meaningful exit strategy on Iraq. And it very well may be a giant boost to the Democratic party agenda – no only for the next two years but also for future years if the Democrats can prove that they can reach across the aisle and “play well in the sandbox”.

Who would have thought that Bush would end up being somewhat of a uniter?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Now those damn, um, troops don't support the troops

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

You know, I’ve had it just up to here with those tree hugging, terrorist supporting, lib’rul, hippie, blame America first, chickenhawk, er, troops?

Yup, brave republican (and CFL) “victory-supporters”, it is now our own troops (in addition to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the generals on the ground, the Iraqi Prime Minister and government, 70%+ of Americans and a great majority of Congress) who are questioning the direction and “winability” of the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam (yes, that applies to the escalation, but it certainly also applies to the current occupation).

Yes, our own troops. Calling for a withdrawal. Or questioning whether the US can “win this war” and what “winning” even means.

Of course, they shouldn’t ask new republican Senator Joe Lieberman (cause, let’s just call it like it is). But Lieberman can tell them that there is no timeframe for victory, so they shouldn’t worry.

Over the past couple of days, I have been relatively hopeful not only that this little failed experiment of world domination by neoconservatives and their cronies has officially jumped the shark but also that there is a glimmer of hope that the entire Middle East isn’t going to implode and that sanity will prevail. There is overwhelming protest, from every article to every news story, to every news web site, blog community and in discussions everywhere that this shit has to stop.

And this week, there has been a very high number of instances where the troops are actually speaking out against this occupation – and not only in terms of the future direction, but the entire underlying purpose and goal of the occupation. Needless to say, this is huge, regardless of whether it is a small, mid-level or large percentage of our troops. It is the fact that they are being vocal about this. As are their families, friends and communities.

A google search of “military”, “speak”, “against” and “Iraq” yielded nearly 4,000 news category hits with a good number dealing with troops not giving the Boy King the warm and fuzzies.

Just look at some of these quotes from the troops:

"It's hard to tell what's right here anymore," said Case Dewinkel, a 23-year-old Army specialist from Madison, Wis.


"There are a lot of reasons why we're here, but they're complex. This isn't a war like they used to be, like in World War II when there was good and evil and the direction was clear," Dewinkel said, scuffling his feet on the muddy schoolhouse floor. Rain poured outside.


"It's hard to tell who the good guys are," Dewinkel said.

”It’s hard to tell who the good guys are”. Nearly two months ago, I wrote a diary titled “We’re...being shot at by both sides” which portrays a similar line of thinking. That is because they are stuck in the middle of people that want to kill each other and there are no “good guys” or “bad guys”. Just “guys” that are really pissed at each other, at the troops who are there, at the prospect of no job and no future.

Or even those troops who still believe that a withdrawal isn’t a viable option?

Maj. Web Wright, 39, an Annapolis, Md., native also assigned to the 2nd Brigade.


"I don't want to see what we've done go to waste," he said. "What's the solution then? If we pull the troops out, who fills that void?"

Wright said he worries that it is difficult to define what victory would mean in Iraq.

"I've spent two years here, and I want to see us win," he said. "I don't want to rush to get it over with. The problem is, what's a win here, in this a counterinsurgency fight?"

I guess when you never lay out any goals other than “delivering freedom” and “promoting democracy”, it’s tough for the ones who you send off to kill and die for your greed, lies and monumental lack of planning.

And what about those troops who feel so strongly that they signed and delivered a petition to a sitting Congressman?:

Sgt. Jabbar Magruder of Los Angeles, a member of the Army National Guard who served about a year in Iraq beginning in late 2004, was recently promoted and respects the military but does not believe in the war because he believes the United States presence in Iraq is only making things worse.

"I cannot allow my fellow serviceman to continue to have to fight in Iraq when it's in no way winnable," Magruder said. "This might come at a great moral cost to me, but I'm willing to do that so they may be able to come home."

Or this active duty Sgt.:
Sgt. Liam Madden, 22, an active-duty Marine and Iraq war veteran, said the petition had about 1,000 signatures, about 70 percent of which are active-duty military, while the rest are reservists or members of the National Guard.

"We will not be silent while thousands die," Madden told reporters. "If the war is to end, there needs to be a movement from within the military that is heard from."

Now, pardon me for thinking this is a wee bit, shall we say out of the ordinary? Active military members presenting petitions to “end this war”.

And just what does this petition say?:

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of American military forces and bases from Iraq.

"Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home."

Why, oh why do our troops hate America?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

In defense of censure

Disclaimer: The following diary, in no way diminishes my burning desire to see George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their ilk thrown out of office as quickly as possible. It does, however, reflect the political and actual reality that, timing-wise, especially relative to the urgency of stopping their disastrous and destructive policies immediately, impeachment proceedings are not going to start this month and most likely next month, regardless of how much we want it to be so.

That all being said, and to reiterate that it is the policies of escalation in Iraq, baiting (to say the least) of Iran and Syria, the stunningly (even for them) arrogant “fuck you” to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, top generals in Iraq, the American public, Iraqis and their “democratically elected” government, the Iraqi Prime Minister, many top Middle East officials and the vast majority of Congress (including many prominent members of their own party), the further looting of our treasury, the willful neglect of We the People and many many other reasons (legal, illegal or suspected illegal) that the remainder of this Presidency must be cut off at the knees.


Suffice to say, the process of impeachment isn’t going to do this. At least not nearly quickly enough. Therefore, this Administration needs to be made truly irrelevant and hamstrung effective immediately – so that it can not continue to bait Iran and Syria, or continue its unchecked escalation of an illegal-to-begin-with occupation against the will of Congress and the American people that voted for drastic change just a few short months ago.

Since I am sure this will get some heated comments, I will repeat something that I have repeated countless times already – this does not, in any way, shape or form, advocate that the Democrats and republicans in Congress not hold as many hearings as they can, vigorously investigate everything they can, continue to pass laws which may or may not get vetoed but would promote their values towards We the People and if we are so very lucky, have enough evidence to impeach and convict their sorry asses.

So why censure? Why, should Congress do this if (1) it is more “symbolic”, (2) is has no “real” repercussions, (3) won’t throw their asses out of office and (4) they won’t listen to anyway?

Well, for a number of reasons.

For starters, here is the wikipedia (I know, not the best source but it was better than the alternatives) entry.

Censure in the United States is a congressional procedure for reprimanding the President of the United States, a member of Congress or Judge for inappropriate behaviour. News and other media often use the term "censure" incorrectly, confusing their viewers. When used to condemn the President, however, it serves merely as a condemnation and has no direct effect on the validity of presidency.

Unlike impeachment, there is no “basis” per se, in the Constitution for censure. However, unlike impeachment (or conviction), there is no requirement that it be for “high crimes and misdemeanors” (at least for the Executive Branch).

Escalating this occupation and baiting Iran and Syria when well over 70% of the American public (and Congress) is against it isn’t an impeachable offense. But it is highly inappropriate. Also, the process of bringing a motion to censure the President is not a long process, unlike impeachment proceedings. With such an overwhelming majority of the public against this policy, a censure motion would be palatable to many republicans who want to go on record as opposed to these actions but would not vote to impeach or convict.

Although not as important, it would also be palatable to the talking meatsticks who, with the sudden discovery of the beginnings of a spine, would talk this up as an excellent idea. It would certainly not (other than to extreme kool aid drinkers) be framed as a petty partisan action, as sadly turned out to be the case with what was actually a brilliant move by Senator Feingold last year.

It would have support. LOTS of support. Immediately. And immediate is what we want to do here. Sure, they may still try to continue to do the power grab that they have been doing since, well, since 1998 if not longer. But, it will send an immediate and overwhelming message to this administration, the American people, the Iraqis, the rest of the Middle East, our current but dwindling allies and our troops that we are not, as a country, insane like our Executive branch is.

It would, for the Democrats, force republicans (and Lieberman) to go on record as supporting what can only be described as the most dangerous foreign policy blunder since Vietnam. If republicans (or Lieberman) can’t even rebuke the administration in this manner, then it dooms them for 2008 and beyond (like McCain).

It has only happened to a President once before (and was subsequently overturned) so this is not something that would be taken lightly by Congress or by the public (here and around the world). It would send a strong bi-partisan signal that enough is enough. And it would send that message quickly, not in a matter of months.

And most of all, it would cripple this administration’s agenda swiftly, and (for you “impeach right fucking now” folks out there) could be a catalyst for quickly shifting opinion towards impeachment being “popular” (time constraints considered). It would shift the playing field decisively, regardless of whether Cheney or Bush thinks that Congress and the American peoples’ will matters or not.

As our Vice President would say, “it’s a no-brainer”.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The beginning of the end of the Iraq occupation

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos.

Since I am a glutton for punishment and obviously didn’t get enough this weekend, I will be so bold as to provide my observations here that this showdown between Bush, Cheney, Lieberman and McCain and the rest of the entire world is the beginning of the end of this disastrous occupation of Iraq. The question is no longer “if” but “when” and “how”.

And before you skip down to the comment section to rip me a new one, please allow me to explain. We were already at a point in November where there was enough of a movement for some sort of redeployment or plan for an exit strategy from Iraq. So much so that this was one of the bigger reasons why the republicans were booted from their majority in Congress. Over the past few months, there has been a growing dissatisfaction over the occupation itself, as well as the ever increasing bloodshed, and the handling of this occupation by the administration (last polls were around 70% dissatisfaction).

Now, with the new Congress in session and pretty much only the four people noted above in favor of escalation, and the increasingly scary rhetoric about more war with Iran or Syria, Bush and the neocons’ have overreached to the point where there is not only a near-unified Democratic party front against an escalation (and threats of a Constitutional crisis) but more and more republicans who are seeing this as quite possibly the last chance for them to keep this administration from ruining their party for decades to come.

Call me optimistic. Call me shortsighted. But I think there is reason to be. The public is fed up with the death and destruction. The public is fed up with the lies. In diary after diary, there are accounts of republican family members and friends saying “enough is enough already”. In newspapers all around the country (as well as around the world) there is pretty much unanimous opposition to the folly that is Bush’s “new way forward”.

And the articles are far from kind or even “fair and balanced”. Take this AP article that I read on my way into work today:

President Becoming Increasingly Isolated

President Bush once said he was determined to stick with the Iraq war even if his wife and his dog were the only ones left at his side.

It's moving in that direction.


"He is as isolated as a president can be," said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Boston University.


Likewise, Zelizer said the now-open revolt of increasing numbers in Bush's own party could be "very dangerous" for the president.

It makes it much more difficult for Bush to get support during the final two years of his presidency, increases the likelihood his policies will be seen by history as a mistake and puts his party in a very difficult position leading up to 2008, Zelizer said.

As I said above, republicans care about power. Getting it, and holding onto it. Don’t think that they don’t (privately if not publicly) blame Bush and this administration for their losses in November. And don’t think that they won’t do everything possible to disavow their rubber stamp support of the administration’s policies to not only try and save face, but also to keep their own careers.

As for the troops who have been sent to kill and die for these lies aren’t all that thrilled either, as we have seen a number of stories about the pain and anger for families as well as the servicemen and women who are being deployed or whose tours are (yet again) being extended. BarbinMD has a good roundup of the reaction by a number of troops who are either already in Iraq to Bush’s latest catastrophic mistake.

The farce that is the “Democrats don’t have another credible plan” meme is completely out the window and has been exposed for the disgrace that it is as well. Not only did SusanG tear right through this one yesterday, but articles like yesterday’s Washington Post’s Opposition to Iraq Plan Leaves Bush Isolated and today’s USA Today article titled Bush, Cheney Say Congressional Opposition Won’t Halt Troop Buildup are very important for a few reasons.

First, note that the USA Today article says “Congressional opposition” as opposed to “Democratic opposition”. A small but very big difference here as the discussion has shifted from partisan divide to bi-partisan resistance. The Washington Post article also points out Democratic alternative plans on Iraq:

The bipartisan opposition to President Bush's troop-increase plan has proved more intense than his advisers hoped and has left them scrambling to find support, but the White House is banking on the assumption that it can execute its "new way forward" in Iraq before Congress can derail it.


"We recognize that many members of Congress are skeptical," Bush said in his radio address yesterday, adding: "Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully. But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible."

Many Democrats, in fact, have proposed alternatives centered around pulling out troops, an idea Bush flatly rejects. So hopes for a bipartisan consensus after Democrats captured Congress in the November midterm elections have evaporated, and Bush appears more isolated than ever.

I’ll also point out the little nugget that the Iraq Study Group Report spent the past five weeks on the NY Times bestseller list. So the public is well aware of “other plans”.

As many of these articles are from the AP, they are in newspapers all across the country as well as around the world (as you can see from this google search). Just look at the headlines:

Belfast Telegraph:Bush faces mutiny over extra troops for Iraq

The Telegraph (India)White House isolated on Iraq blueprint – more troops a mistake

NY Times: Newly in the minority, GOP shows signs of division on Iraq and domestic policies

Coshocton Tribune (Ohio) Fallacies in “new” Iraq plan

Guardian (UK): Bush Refuses to Waiver on Iraq Troop Plan

Seattle Times: Congress can’t stop buildup, Bush says

LA Times:Bush insists Congress can’t halt troop buildup

While this is not a major publication, I do respect the Center for Research on Globalization: Bush’s New Plan: More troops, more death, more – and wider – war.

And while there are so many more, I’ll end with my favorite headline from today: Independent Online, South Africa: My thick hide insulates me, says Bush

This escalation may or may not happen – it is pretty likely to happen in some form, at least initially. But make no mistake – this is the beginning of the end to this occupation. Nobody else believes that there are “no other credible plans”. Nobody else wants us to NOT negotiate with Iran and Syria. Nobody else wants us to bomb Iran. And nobody else wants this disgrace of an occupation to continue, let alone escalate.

Most Democrats have been against this for a while. More and more republicans are seeing the occupation and escalation tied to their future political survival and prospects. And the writing is more than on the wall. This is the beginning of the end of this occupation. It may take more time than we would like, but it will start to come to an end. There will soon be talk of phased withdrawal or redeployments. Of an exit strategy.

Mark my words.