Friday, March 30, 2007

Veto or Not, it Should Go Down Like This...

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

The next couple of weeks will see a lot of political posturing, chest-thumping by The Decider, a lot of bloviating by self-important “experts”, much finger pointing, accusations by both Democrats and republicans about who is or is not supporting the troops and comparisons to the 1995 government standoff between Clinton and the new republican Congress.

I see two roads here – and up until the other night, I really thought there would be one road. Either road could get very interesting and could play out real well, or real poorly for our troops and our newly elected majority in Congress. The two roads? A Bush veto and a Bush non-veto with signing statement (hat tip to Ben Masel for convincing me that a Bush veto is not necessarily a foregone conclusion). For purposes of this diary, I will assume that the withdrawal timeline stays in the final bill.

There are also two other things in play here that shouldn’t go unaddressed. First, there is the “pork element” of the bill – much of this was included when the “do-nothing” republican Congress punted nine spending bills in the last days of their session. I haven’t gone through this supplemental bill in detail, but some around here have mentioned that a lot of the “pork” is from these bills that were punted. Needless to say, this should be a main talking point to counter the “this bill includes money for peanut storage” meme and should not get lost in the debate.

The other thing at issue here is that these are funds that are not included in the overall budget process and thereby paints an artificially rosy picture of the Bush budgets. Yes, this has been done for the past few years and it is not the Democratic Congress’ fault. But it is another thing that should make its way into the discourse about the funding. If Bush isn’t even honest enough to fund his own war in the general budget, then how serious is he about getting the troops what they need?

Anyway, I digress….

Back to the bill. I’ll pick the easier road first. Let’s say that there is sufficient pressure on Bush and he ultimately decides not to veto and to take the money. You can bet that he would just issue another of his hundreds of signing statements indicating that he will interpret the withdrawal deadline as he sees fit (read: ignore it outright). This would actually be the best case scenario for the troops and the Democrats, and We the People for that matter.

Why? Because I am betting that around 85%+ of the population in the US haven’t even heard of a signing statement – let alone how many hundreds of laws he has disregarded – even as he is signing them amid much pomp. This country will soon find out what John Dean has been saying for quite some time now. The country will find out in a “smack in the face” manner – that Bush not only has used this to nullify hundreds of laws that appeared to get his “Decider™ Seal of Approval” but that he is willing to do it in a way that will go against what the troops want, what Congress wants regarding the continued occupation of Iraq, and more importantly what most of America wants.

A signing statement here will be political suicide – it could be the one that wakes America up to the fact that there is a madman who will stop at nothing to keep his power and “get his way”, and could either send republicans to scatter like rats off the sinking ship that is USS Dubya (even more than they are now) or it could lead to veto proof majorities come 2008.


The veto route is more interesting, because it pits Bush against Congress – including Congressional republicans. Judging by the latest “comparison to something completely irrelevant”, you would think that this would be akin to the government shutdown of 1995. Except that is isn’t even close. There will be no shutdown of the government. There will be no issue of people not getting paid. There will be no issue of parks closing, of social security checks maybe not going out. Oh yeah, Clinton was a great politician – Bush….not so much.

If Bush vetoes, then Congress has a few options here – most of which would be good for the Democrats and the troops.

Option 1 – pass the same bill again

They can re-pass the same bill and have him veto it again (or have McConnell lead a filibuster effort). This would be the start of a real game of chicken, and regardless of whether the Democrats are in the right, I don’t know that enough of them are willing to do this and risk the onslaught of “leaving our troops in the field with no equipment” that they will be subjected to. Right, wrong or other, this is the same battle that they just went through to get the House bill passed. Personally, I don’t know that this is the most likely outcome.

Option 2 – pass a clean bill AND a timeline/readiness bill

They can also pass a “clean” bill in conjunction with another binding bill regarding readiness, real strict benchmarks and a withdrawal timeline. This would be two separate bills, and I would only be in support of this if the funding came after the other bill was passed. This would involve a lot of political maneuvering, and could incorporate parts of Murtha’s bill, the Webb/Hagel language and some language from the current bills that passed the House and Senate.<.p>

I am not sure that this would work, even though there would be two clean bills. Clearly Bush would veto the timeline/readiness bill and he would get his funding, so this would be nothing more than a political statement to get everyone on record as far as timelines (already done) and readiness. This is my least favorite option.

Option 3 – pass a more restrictive bill

This one I don’t see happening right now. As much as I would like to, and as much as the Democrats may have the public on their side, I don’t know if they would even have the votes to pass this. There is the “we have Bush’s nuts in a sling, so we should keep squeezing” aspect of it, but the issue of not funding our troops (as indicated in Option 1) would still be here, and may be too much for some at this point.

Option 4 – pass a bill to fund over a shorter period of time

This one – as spelled out so nicely yesterday by Geekesque is actually one that I think has the best chance. Hell, this could be a “clean” bill initially (for 3 months?) and Bush can’t whine about not supporting the troops. Then, Option 2 can kick in, and elements of the Murtha bill, the Webb/Hagel amendment and other language (Iraqi benchmark provisions that are already not being met) can be made into a bill that will not fund the troops without these provisions being met. Of course, this “2nd bill” would have to have teeth – binding, strict and no future funding unless these criteria are met.

This one may be the best chance of accomplishing the overall goal of getting our troops out in a reasonable manner, funding them while they are there, squeezing Bush enough to make anything else not even feasible for him (remember, even if he is a stubborn prick, there is the little matter of Saudi Arabia telling him to go scratch) and making this palatable to the American people.


Remember – America wants us out of Iraq. But they don’t want a careless and precipitous withdrawal either. Polls show that they want troops out by early 2008. Not, as much as we want them out earlier, by mid 2007. In two short months, the Democrats in Congress have drastically shifted the playing field regarding Iraq. You can’t turn around a ship this size (especially one as damaged as this one) immediately. But major (even though we may not think so) things have happened.

The debate has shifted to “when are we getting out” from “how much more will we throw into Iraq”. Bills in Congress reflect withdrawal timelines – VETO THREAT OR NOT. These are big victories – not even close to the biggest victory, and too little for many.

But as one of our fellow kossack’s handle suggests, you can only eat an elephant “one bite at a time”.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A complete unmitigated failure

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

Yes, this can be referring to pretty much anything that this Administration has put its hands on, but here, I am talking about Iraq. In general but also with respect to the escalation, the civil war and the smackdown that the rest of the Middle East is now “officially” giving the US.

The “surge is working” canard should just be forcefully and flat out rejected as an egregious lie. The truth is, nothing is working, and nothing that our military does will work in any remotely substantial manner. The troops are in the crossfire in a bloody mess of a tit-for-tat civil war bordering on genocide. We know that the streets of Iraq are so filled with violence that you can’t walk down them safely. There was no plan for post invasion. The “let’s just wing it” approach has failed for four years. This “new packaged with a bow” approach of an ill-thought out escalation is still “just winging it”.

It has failed numerous times. And it is failing now. This shouldn’t be measured in troop deaths (constant for the past few months), other casualties (also constant), civilian deaths (these are up significantly), attacks (also up significantly) but even if you do measure it that way – it is still a failure.

Or, you can measure it by restoration of services (not happening), how safe it is to walk the streets (not safe), spreading of violence (getting worse), restoration of the economy and businesses (not happening either), and the types of attacks which are occurring (more deadly). All of these also indicate a complete failure.

Chlorine trucks are being blown up in a new wave of more deadly attacks. Any benchmarks that have been outlines have failed to be met. There is a growing movement towards forcing an end to our participation and inflaming of this ongoing nightmare. The Saudi’s won’t stand for it. Iran and Syria won’t stand for it (regardless of how “we” feel about them – they are the countries that border Iraq, whether we like it or not). The UK already knows that Afghanistan is the “fight that they should be fighting” and have committed to redeploy troops there from Iraq.

This is not progress. This is failure:

Shiite militants and police enraged by deadly truck bombings went on a shooting rampage against Sunnis in a northwestern Iraqi city Wednesday, killing as many as 70 men execution-style and prompting fears that sectarian violence was spreading outside the capital.

Even false empty talk of “victory” misses, well, just about everything.. These are the words of Fareed Zakaria – not the bastion of liberalism and left wing media. This is failure:
To speak of victory in Iraq might sound like a cruel joke. This is a nation that is now devastated, where 2 million people have fled, another 2 million are internal refugees, militias run large parts of the country and the government sanctions religious repression, ethnic cleansing and vigilante violence. What does "victory" mean in such circumstances?

Benchmarks are being missed – nearly all of the benchmarks are being missed. Benchmarks that even Bush himself has touted as necessary. From the Zakaria article linked above:
Just before the referendum on Iraq's Constitution in October 2005, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad brokered a deal that secured Sunni participation in exchange for the Iraqi government's promising to set up a committee to amend the Constitution to incorporate Sunni concerns later. This was to have been done four months after the formation of Iraq's elected government—in other words, by September 2006. Nothing has happened. When he took office, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced plans for an ambitious program of national reconciliation. Nothing has happened.

In January, after persistent inquiries from Sen. Carl Levin, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote to Levin setting out the benchmarks and timeline that the Iraqi government had signed off on. They included new election laws, the scheduling of provincial elections, laws on investment and oil-revenue sharing, the disbanding of militias, the reversal of de-Baathification and the granting of amnesty. In supporting the surge, Sen. John McCain also listed these goals as crucial to progress. But none of them has taken place. The revenue-sharing law has passed the cabinet but not yet moved through Parliament. The Los Angeles Times reported in February that Baghdad had abandoned plans to reverse de-Baathification. It quoted a U.S. official who said that the reform, far from advancing as promised, was "moving backward" and was "almost dead in the water." The amnesty law also appears moribund.


There are less formal benchmarks that are also not being met. Maliki was to have reshuffled his cabinet to remove members who actively fomented civil war. That has not happened. The government was to finally start spending money in Sunni areas. That has not happened. Militias were to be demobilized. Instead, one of their most notorious leaders has been released from prison and publicly embraced by Maliki.

Not happened. Not happened. Not going to happen. Dead in the water. Moving backwards. These are the words of someone who was in favor of invading Iraq initially.

The most recent issue of Newsweek is absolutely heartwrenching and chilling. Nearly fully dedicated to Iraq, it publishes a number of letters, journal entries and instant message exchanges between soldiers and their loved ones. What makes this even more chilling is that every single letter and entry is from someone who has been killed in action. People as young as 18 and as old as their 50s. The letters are segregated by year, and 2006 is the most telling of them all. While this is a must-read, it will really make you stop and think about just how much was ruined – wasted – both here and in Iraq by this complete unmitigated failure.

There are a few notes that I wanted to share. Notes that show that our soldiers – you know the ones who us liberals are undermining – are much smarter than Bush thinks or cares to give credit for.

Army Capt. Jason Hamill

March 5, [2006] Baghdad

Yeah, s--t's been pretty crazy. Locals have been out of control because the Golden (Shia) Mosque was blown up. [ ... ] There is going to have to be a civil war. It has to happen. If it happens while we're here, so what. Our stance is we're not going to get involved. We'll pull back and overwatch.

March 2006 and he is already talking about a civil war. AND that the US stance is to not get involved. He died in November 2006 – one day before he was supposed to go home.

Army Maj. Michael Mundell

Sept. 1, [2006] Fallujah

The question has been asked, by many of you, what [this place] is like. Try to imagine this: If you go out in your front yard, take a weapon with you and stare REAL careful at all the neighbors' houses. One of them may be on the roof, trying to snipe you. Also, don't stay out too long—someone down the road just might lob a few mortars at you, or drive by and fire some machine guns, or perhaps shoot an RPG rocket. So, if you are outside, be armed and know where the closest cover is—all the time. If you get in your car to go to the grocery, you can never ever go by yourself—you gotta have at least two cars and at least three people in each one. And make sure that at least one of your passengers is a medic. [ ... ]

The very second you leave the driveway, everything that is not immediately recognizable is dangerous. Is that a trash bag? An empty box? Or is it a command-detonated bomb. [ ... ] Never let any other car get close to you—EVER. Check them out closely. Is it another grocery-bound traveler? Or a car bomb. Maybe they have a machine gun sticking out the back. If they get too close, wave a flag at them, shoot a flare at them, honk the horn and blink your lights. If they don't move, or keep driving at you, you kill them. Period. Because if none of that works, they are certainly going to try to kill you. That is what it's like here.

That was around six months ago. That is what it is like for someone that can’t leave their own house, let alone do something as mundane as going to the grocery store. That is failure.

Mundell again

Sept. 14, [2006] Fallujah

Audrey once asked me what the attitude of the troops is over here, about the war, about the President and so on. I have to say, it's pretty darn cynical. You can't see what we see every day (like today, dead kids [killed by an IED]) and not get a little cynical about it all. High-minded political phrases sound pretty hollow out here. Our standard joke is "we are doing (whatever it is) as our part in the global war on anti-terrorism." This isn't to say that any of us doubt that we are doing the right thing—we don't.It's just that things look a lot different down here at the point of "W"'s spear. The ones at home rattling the loudest saber aren't here helping load dead kids into an ambulance. WE are. And that just sucks, I gotta tell you.

This 47 year old America hater was killed on January 5, 2007 by an IED.

Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Lee Paulsen

Oct. 2, [2006] Tarmiya

Remember when I told ya that as the forces swept through Baghdad the bad guys would move to the surrounding areas? Well, guess what. They're here. For the last two weeks, the camp has been mortared daily. We lost one of our CA [civil affairs] teams to a roadside bomb. I'm really getting pissed off. [ ... ] You have to hand it to the U.S. Army, though. We're training the best terrorists in the world. We drive around passing out money and building things, and the enemy practices their bomb-planting skills. Sometimes they hit, sometimes they miss. They're getting really good, though.

This 53 year old terrorist supporter was killed two weeks later.


The Beatles have an excellent and underrated song called Hey Bulldog. One of the lines in that song is most appropriate here and is as follows:

Some kind of solitude is measured out in you

You think you know me but you haven't got a clue

Nowhere is this more evident than the approach taken in Iraq – historically by this administration and even more so over the past few weeks and months. There is much solitude as many allies and nearly everyone else except a few “true believers” (even some Congressional republicans) are bailing or turning their backs on Bush and his stubbornness. As for what is going on in Iraq and the least horrible alternative? Well, to quote John Lennon – they think they know but they haven’t got a clue.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dear Bush: Suck It. Love, Senate Republicans

Front paged at Booman Tribune. Recommended at Daily Kos.

A few days ago, my dear friend, thereisnospoon, wrote a most excellent diary declaring, “The big loser today? Senate Republicans”. Now, as much as I love his writing, I must say that he got this one a teensy bit off.

Don’t be mistaken. Spoon is pretty much right. The big loser that day was the Senate republicans. But they somehow turned this misfortune into a big ole’ “Fuck you” to Dear Leader – in the process, making themselves only the 2nd biggest loser in the Iraq supplemental bill that has been debated and voted on in both the House and the Senate over the past 7 days.

The Senate republicans may be a lot of things. But they are not overly stupid - especially now that Cat Killer, MD George Allen and Rick Santorum (warning: gross) are out of the Senate. And Mitch McConnell may be a grade a douchebag, but if he was Majority Leader instead of “Fristie”, then the republicans would never have lost the Senate.

They know that this occupation is an unmitigated disaster. They know that we all know it too. Some of them don’t agree at all (so, for argument’s sake, fuck ‘em – they don’t matter). Some of them kind of agree, but either don’t think their base agrees or they still think that “victory” is achievable. Some of them think that “enough is enough already, and, you know what else, Bush is a real stubborn motherfucker who doesn’t know what he is doing and is going to take down our party for a generation.”

And there are enough of those on the republican side in the Senate, and they decided to toss their miserable bag of shit called “Iraq” back in Bush’s hands and run away, screaming “no backsies”. Bush, being “The Decider™” that he is, said that he will veto anything that has a withdrawal timeline. The very same withdrawal timeline that more than 70% of our own troops favored A FULL YEAR AGO. The very same withdrawal timeline that the Iraqis are in favor of. The very same withdrawal timeline that most of We the People are in favor of.

Not to mention, by the way, that this supplemental bill needs to PASS in order for Bush and the republicans to not be branded as troop haters and defeatists. Knowing that Bush would show his hand real early on with his most charming trait – chest thumping, all of the heat was off the Senate republicans. They didn’t have to be put on the hotseat – even if they voted against the bill. Remember, if Kerry “voted to fund the war before he voted against it”, then surely, a republican that votes for withdrawal might as well be a flip flopping, terrorist loving, God-hating faggot.

Why is this? Well, quite simply, if this doesn’t pass, then there is no 120 brazillian dollars for continuing George and Dick’s bogus journey.

The republicans could have made a huge deal about this. Hell, they make a huge deal about everything – even when they were able to do everything without any consequences or anyone else even knowing. They could have fought this bill and stomped up and down and tried to make the Democrats blink. They could have made a big stink about “not wanting to tell the terrorists when they can come out and kill again”.

But they didn’t.

They hung Bush – “dear leader” - their leader out to dry. Twisting in the wind. Basically, by not giving him cover here, the message is, in no uncertain terms, “you can’t keep fucking us over like this anymore. If you want your funding, then you gotta figure a way out.”

Maybe the US attorney scandal was the last straw. Maybe it was the Libby verdict. Maybe it was the incompetence around Hurricane Katrina. Maybe it was not firing Rumsfeld before the election. Maybe it is for any of a large number of other reasons that I could rattle off if I had more time.

Frankly, I don’t really care what the last straw was. Bush is isolated more and more. This is the beginning of the end of the Iraq occupation. It won’t be a pretty exit, but it wouldn’t be much different if it happened in 6 months, 12 months or 60 months from now. It isn’t as soon as we want.

But, here is the most important thing – certainly in the long term and even in the mid term: in two short months since Congress convened, there is a bill regarding Iraq that has passed BOTH the House and Senate that calls for major redeployment and withdrawal within a year or so. There will be more funding for veteran’s benefits.

It couldn’t have happened without We the People.

It couldn’t have happened without Speaker Pelosi.

It couldn’t have happened without John Murtha, Lynne Woolsley, Jim Webb and hundreds of other Democrats in Congress.

But it also couldn’t have happened without some Senate republicans. Which is very bad news for Bush’s plans for Iraq domination. And very good for the rest of us.

It’s your move, Mr. Decider.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Lowering the bar to "egregiously illegal"

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

Last night, after watching a rerun of the morning’s Meet The Press where both David Iglesias and John McKay tore Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a new one over their firings, my wife turned to me and said “you know, it’s like this administration is pissing all over the very foundation of this country” (yet another reason why my wife is the most awesome person ever).

And it dawned on me that the real intent and underlying theme of this administration was not only that (or as I liked to say “wipe their collective ass with the Constitution), but to push things so far past the point of right vs. wrong, or even upholding their oaths of office, but more so to the point where if it isn’t so egregiously illegal that they can actually be hauled off to prison for it then it is ok.

That is how far things have devolved. That is the bar being used to judge the actions of this administration. By the mainstream media. By the wingnuts. By the talking meatsticks. And even by us here – it is not nearly enough that the Attorney General most probably lied to Congress under oath or even that he most definitely lied to reporters (which certainly is way past the point of an ethical lapse which should be grounds for disbarment).

It is not nearly enough that administration officials at the highest levels of government leaked classified information as revenge for calling bullshit. It is not nearly enough that the President knew about this and still did nothing to those who were involved. It is not nearly enough that an Executive Order was issued related to the ability of the Vice President to declassify information whenever and however he wants right before the leak.

It is not nearly enough that evidence was ignored or manufactured or twisted in order to hoodwink the world into the biggest and most deadly disaster in decades. It is not nearly enough for these officials to flout their oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

It is not nearly enough to ignore all warnings about an impending hurricane and then ignore all calls for help – leaving the entire Gulf Coast to deteriorate. It is not nearly enough to change the laws in a sneaky manner in order to “legally” be able to fire US attorneys and replace them with partisan hacks. Especially when only 10 of the 468 prior US attorneys to leave office did so involuntarily (and those were for egregious cause).

It isn’t nearly enough to retroactively change laws to make it ok to use formerly illegal methods to spy on Americans. It isn’t nearly enough to act against the interest of Americans with respect to healthcare, social security, tax laws, education or the environment. It isn’t nearly enough to use government money for paid propaganda. Or “faith based initiatives”. Or to strong arm NASA, or other agencies to change the conclusions and reports of scientists and other experts to fit a preconceived agenda.

It isn’t enough to lie. It isn’t enough to do something that is clearly unethical and quite probably illegal. No, it must be so illegal that even all of the retroactive law changes and covering up STILL can’t hide the illegality of the acts. It must be SO bad that the discussion isn’t whether the perpetrators did something that clearly warrants them to resign or be removed from office in shame.

No, the bar has been lowered and the debate has shifted to such an unconscionable threshold. It doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong. It doesn’t matter if it is unethical. It doesn’t matter if there were lies or coverups. What matters is whether it is so bad that even Congressional subpoenas will be fought all the way to the Supreme Court.

Just being a lying fucking scumbag who doesn’t deserve to be in office isn’t enough anymore. Not even enough to be the START of a conversation. Sadly, the conversation isn’t about whether obstruction of justice is likely a major reason for the US attorney firings, the subsequent lies and coverups.

“Yeah, it was horrible and unethical, but it wasn’t illegal”. You know what? It probably was illegal. And shame on those who think that this is the new bar of what we should hold our “elected” officials to.

Meet the new boss? Same as the old boss...

Cross posted at ePluribus Media Journal. Recommended at Daily Kos

With current speculation rampant about an imminent departure (either by resignation or being asked to step down) of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, it would only be appropriate to provide relevant information about those mentioned as a possible replacement.

Some mentioned as early candidates include current administration officials as well as other long-term former government officials. And even though it may be premature to speculate on the next Attorney General, it is not too soon to compile a "dossier" on people perceived as frontrunners to replace Gonzales as Attorney General.

Snapshots of five of the individuals whose names have been mentioned so far -- 1) Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, (2) SEC Chairman Chris Cox, (3) White House anti-terrorism advisor Francis Fragos Townsend, (4) former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and (5) former Solicitor General Theodore Olsen -- begin below.

1. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff:

As far as credentials go, Chertoff has a strong resume. Per his bio on the White House website:

Chertoff formerly served as United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Secretary Chertoff was previously confirmed by the Senate to serve in the Bush Administration as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice. As Assistant Attorney General, he helped trace the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the al-Qaida network, and worked to increase information sharing within the FBI and with state and local officials.


Prior to that, Chertoff spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor, including service as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. As United States Attorney, Chertoff investigated and prosecuted several significant cases of political corruption, organized crime, and corporate fraud.

Despite the White House's glowing resume, however, there are some issues surrounding Chertoff that can not be ignored. For starters, as head of Homeland Security, he was ultimately responsible for the lack of planning with respect to Hurricane Katrina. Even though, in 2001, FEMA declared a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast one of the three most likely catastrophes, Chertoff admitted there was no plan for dealing with this scenario and that it was not anticipated by government planners. Indeed, his overall handling of the response to Hurricane Katrina was roundly criticized.

Chertoff was also heavily criticized for the handling of foreign nationals in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. After the attacks, Chertoff, in his capacity as an assistant attorney general, was responsible for some controversial immigration rules as they related to the "War on Terror" :

As an assistant attorney general in the months after the attacks, Chertoff helped oversee the detention of 762 foreign nationals for immigration violations; none of them was charged with terrorism-related crimes. A subsequent report by the Justice Department's inspector general determined that Justice's "no bond" policy for the detainees -- a tactic whose legality was questioned at the time by immigration officials -- led to lengthy delays in releasing them from prison, where some faced "a pattern of physical and verbal abuse."

2. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox:

Cox is the current SEC Chairman, who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on July 29, 2005. Prior to his appointment to the SEC, Cox served in the House of Representatives (chairing numerous committees), and spent two years as Senior Associate Counsel to President Reagan. His academic credentials are impressive as well:

In 1977, Chairman Cox simultaneously received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was an Editor of the Harvard Law Review. He received a B.A. from the University of Southern California in 1973, graduating magna cum laude after pursuing an accelerated three-year course.

Cox also spent eight years (1978 - 1986) with the law firm Latham & Watkins, where he specialized in venture capital and corporate finance.

In September 2006, Cox testified before Congress with respect to the stock option backdating scandal, and discussed how he has worked towards tightening up the laws with respect to executive compensation issues. However, as reported recently by Forbes, he has backtracked:

On the Friday before Christmas, when not a creature was stirring, not even the press, Cox stepped back from his mission of making executive compensation disclosure more complete.

With scarcely a comment period, he decided to let stock options be reported as isolated expenses in the current audit year. Total compensation to the individual executive is once again a number to be painstakingly summed up from various footnotes and other small-print entries.

Cox thus gave a humongous holiday present to the business community, which had lobbied hard to de-emphasize compensation totals because they tend to look, well, bad.

The biggest question about Cox in his position as SEC Chairman is that he is "too business friendly," although that is less of a commentary on his qualifications than it is on his political leanings. However, when it comes to his qualifications for Attorney General, it would appear that, while Cox has a pretty impressive resume, its focus is more on business, venture capital and finance, rather than on issues of justice and law enforcement which one would assume are more typically the realm of Atttorney Generals.

3. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Frances Fragos Townsend:

Townsend spent a number of years as a prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice prior to her appointment as Homeland Security Advisor in May 2004. According to her official bio:

Ms. Townsend came to the White House from the U. S. Coast Guard, where she had served as Assistant Commandant for Intelligence. Prior to that, Ms. Townsend spent 13 years at the U. S. Department of Justice in a variety of senior positions, her last assignment as Counsel to the Attorney General for Intelligence Policy. Ms. Townsend began her prosecutorial career in 1985, serving as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, New York.

Townsend also served under Rudy Giuliani in the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, and worked under Janet Reno in the Clinton administration. While she has a long list of experience that makes her qualified to be Attorney General, her career has had its share of controversy. As noted in the US News article linked above, she came under fire in her capacity as head of the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) on two related issues -- enforcement of the FISA laws regarding wiretaps (prior to 9/11) and the impact that this may have had on the attacks themselves:

Many FBI agents say Townsend was crucial in obtaining FISA wiretaps, especially during the period of heightened terrorism concerns around the new millennium. But many prosecutors felt that Townsend was less than helpful in making sure the FBI shared wiretap data with lawyers at Main Justice when there was evidence of criminal activity. Townsend believed that the FISA court and its chief judge at the time, Royce Lamberth, would refuse to approve search warrants and wiretaps if they believed too much information sharing was going on and if prosecutors were controlling or directing the intelligence-gathering efforts. One knowledgeable source backs her up and says Townsend "cared very much about following procedures." But others suspect an ulterior motive. Some Justice Department prosecutors felt Townsend wanted to keep the wall up because it kept prosecutors out of national security investigations, leaving more authority in the hands of Townsend and friendly bureau agents.

Whatever the case, there were serious consequences. Both the Government Accountability Office and the 9/11 commission have blamed OIPR in part for the government's intelligence failures before the terrorist attacks. Sources say that OIPR's narrow interpretation of FISA led to misunderstandings and overly cautious behavior by the FBI. As a result, in July and August of 2001, FBI intelligence analysts prohibited their own criminal-case agents from searching for two men on the government's terrorist watch list who they knew had entered the United States. The men later proved to be two of the 19 hijackers. The 9/11 commission said OIPR had become the "sole gatekeeper" of FISA intelligence by arguing that "its position reflected the concerns" of Judge Lamberth. "The office threatened that if it could not regulate the flow of information to criminal prosecutors, it would no longer present the FBI's warrant requests to the FISA court," the report said. "The information flow withered."

4. Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson:

In 2005, Thompson was mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee before the appointment of Samuel Alito. Currently, Thompson serves in the private sector as Senior Vice President Government Affairs, General Counsel and Secretary for PepsiCo. He is a close friend of Justice Clarence Thomas (he was also a witness and advisor for Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings), and was the Deputy Attorney General under John Ashcroft until 2004, when he left the Justice Department for a position with the Brookings Institute before moving on to his position with PepsiCo.

According to the Washington Post article cited above, Thompson handled prosecution of both anti-terrorism and corporate crimes:

In addition to his daily involvement in the department's stepped-up efforts to uncover terrorist threats, Thompson has also headed the corporate crime task force pursuing prosecutions against industry giants including Enron Corp., Worldcom Inc. and HealthSouth Corp.

Thompson had two stints with and was a partner in the Atlanta law firm of King & Spalding, specializing in civil and criminal litigation. According to his bio on the Brookings website, he also served as U.S. Attorney in Georgia:

Thompson, appointed by President Bush, was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2001. As deputy attorney general, he spearheaded the administration's Corporate Fraud Task Force, created in July 2002 as part of an effort to prevent corporate scandals and restore investor confidence in the marketplace. Immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Thompson served as chairman of the president's National Security Coordination Council, which was charged with assessing vulnerabilities in the nation's private, governmental, and industrial sectors.

Before going to the Justice Department, Thompson was a partner at the Atlanta law firm King and Spalding, where he specialized in civil and criminal litigation. In 1982, he was appointed by President Reagan to serve as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. During his four years as U.S. attorney, Thompson directed the Southeastern Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and served on the attorney general's Economic Crime Council.

Out of all of the possible names being floated as a potential replacement, it would seem as if Thompson has the most qualifications and the least controversy.

5. Former Solicitor General Theodore Olson:

According to his bio from the Department of Justice:

Mr. Olson served President Reagan as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel from 1981 to 1984. Before being named to that post, he was a partner in the Los Angeles office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he practiced constitutional, media, commercial and appellate litigation. After completing his service as Assistant Attorney General, Mr. Olson returned to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, in its Washington, D.C. office, engaging in the practice of constitutional and appellate law and general litigation, and served as Partner-in-Charge of that office, on the firm's Executive and Management Committees and as co-chair of the firm's Appellate and Constitutional Law Practice Group.

Olson also argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court, including the one he may be remembered for the most: Bush v. Gore in 2000. He also argued Cheney v. US regarding the disclosure of information related to Cheney's energy commission. Olson has been repeatedly linked with highly partisan issues and if nominated, his confirmation hearings would certainly be tenuous. When he was nominated for Solicitor General, a vote was held up by the Senate Judiciary Committee due to questions surrounding his involvement (and his responses regarding) the Arkansas Project, which was a $2.4 million project financed by Richard Scaife in the American Spectator to "dig up dirt on President Clinton."

According to a former publisher of American Spectator, Olson was not forthcoming with the Senate regarding his involvement in the Arkansas Project:

Ronald Burr confirmed to a friend and advisor that Olson was centrally involved in the Arkansas Project -- and led the charge to fire him after Burr demanded an audit.


Olson has adamantly asserted that he in no way played any part in managing the operation, and has claimed not to have heard about it until late in its life span, though he has been inconsistent in his answers about when he first learned of the project.

Now, on the day that Republicans are forcing a vote on Olson's confirmation, a friend and advisor to Ronald Burr, the deposed publisher of the American Spectator who once called for an internal "fraud audit" of the Arkansas Project, has written a letter faxed to Salon, [reprinted below]. According to previous reports in Salon, Olson was reported to have negotiated Burr's $350,000 severance package, which included "a provision that bars Burr from ever publicly discussing the circumstances surrounding his removal." Lemley says he played the role of "counselor and advisor to Ron during the events that led to his release by the American Spectator after thirty years of service." Lemley claims he learned from Burr that Olson knew of the Arkansas Project "if not in name then in its actions from the start, and Ted Olson led the charge to fire Ron Burr, the only executive at the American Spectator who had sought a forensic audit of the Arkansas Project."

Olsen's involvement was further confirmed by an investigation by Murray Waas:

An investigation by Murray Waas revealed that Olson "provided legal advice to both the American Spectator and the Arkansas Project," in addition to serving on the boards of four conservative political groups funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, the reclusive Pittsburgh billionaire who has funded and has ties to many prominent right-wing groups, including the Federalist Society, which has served as a veritable breeding ground for Bush's judiciary appointments. Both Olson and his then-colleague John Mintz at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher advised the Arkansas Project from its inception in 1993. "Olson is somebody who Scaife would trust to see that nothing went wrong and that his money would not be wasted," a source told Waas at the time.

Olson was also involved in the legal representation of an oil tycoon who was suspiciously pardoned at the end of George H.W. Bush's administration:

The elder Bush delivered a few highly questionable pardons well before his last days in office. The very first of his presidency went to Armand Hammer, the legendary oilman best known for his relationships with Soviet leaders dating back to Lenin. In an investigation that grew out of Watergate, Hammer had pleaded guilty in 1975 to laundering $54,000 in illicit contributions to Nixon's reelection war chest. By the summer of 1989, when Bush gave Hammer what he wanted, the aging chief of Occidental Petroleum had been pestering government officials on his own behalf for several years.

Considering his original offense, it was ironic that Hammer won what he called the "vindication" of a presidential pardon only months after he poured well over $100,000 into Republican Party coffers, and another $100,000 into the accounts of the Bush-Quayle Inaugural committee.


At the time, Hammer's pardon made news, partly because his request had been turned down by President Reagan several months earlier. But nobody seemed to notice the nexus between the oilman's generosity to Bush and the new president's mercy upon Hammer.


Another intriguing fact went almost unnoticed back then, too. Hammer's team of attorneys included not only a close friend of Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, but also a very close friend of Bush's new White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, whose job included passing on pardon requests to the president. The Gray pal hired to help Hammer was a former Reagan Justice Department official named Theodore B. Olson.

Clearly, Olson would be the one candidate whose past would be most subject to scrutiny if he is nominated as a replacement for Attorney General Gonzales. In fact, his nomination may not even pass the confirmation process, given the long history of questionable actions and his track record with the Republican Party.

Even with all of the speculation and calls for resignation or the ouster of Attorney General Gonzales, this is unlikely to be resolved in the short term. Since the White House and Congress have been squaring off on every issue - from Iraq to the US Attorney firings to Executive Privilege claims and many other matters, and given the history between Gonzales and President Bush, we may not see Gonzales resign or be fired unless he is facing impeachment and conviction. However, in light of the fact that a number of people are being mentioned as future candidates for Attorney General, it behooves us to find out a bit more about these potential candidates.

About the Author: Adam Lambert is a tax consultant living and working in the New York City area. Blogging under the name “clammyc," he has researched and written extensively on issues involving Iraq, the Bush administration and the “war on terror.”

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avahome, standingup, Aaron Barlow, cho, kfred & roxy

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Madame Speaker - You are doing a great job

Recommended at Daily Kos

I must say that I wasn’t initially convinced that Speaker Pelosi would be able to do as good a job as we needed her (or any Speaker of the House at this point in time) to do. Not necessarily as much of her skills, but more because of the political climate and so many hot button issues. Oh yeah, and the “herd of cats” analogy that we have seen and heard about the Democrats in Congress....

But damn, she (and the Democrats in general) were dealt a pretty bad hand, even with the electoral landslide in November and she has played it to near perfection. From the legislation of the “First 100 hours”, to the latest vote on Iraq funding/withdrawal date, she is really doing a job that I would never EVER want, and one that deserves some major props.

On this latest bill, yes, it isn’t the best bill – in fact it leaves much to be desired. But what is the alternative? There is now way that, despite all of our yelling and screaming, our troops will be withdrawn or redeployed from Iraq immediately. Which sucks, but it is the reality. The Democrats can only do so much with a pretty much nonexistent majority in the Senate and a little-room-for-error majority in the House. They also, as Major Danby pointed out last night have conflicting issues and constituents to deal with.

Further, as I said a few weeks back, I think the Democrats are being as smart as possible here, despite the fact that I want the troops out yesterday. And as I said earlier, this is not a perfect bill – not even close. But what it does accomplish is a few things:

It sets a deadline for getting the majority of troops out. Yes, it is nonbinding, and yes, even if Bush were to not veto it (he will veto it), he would probably issue a signing statement about the parts he doesn’t like. But that isn’t the point. The American public wants the troops out. And they are starting to get pissed at the Democrats for not doing enough to get them out - even though it is relatively unreasonable to expect more in two months. NOTE: I am not saying that this is fair, but that is reality.

It eliminates the “Democrats aren’t supporting the troops” crap. Of course, this will still be repeated by Bush and the talking meatsticks on the right. But they will say this anyway. Fact is, the Democrats are (despite whether we say they are funding the occupation and continuing the occupation or not) not leaving the troops “on the battlefield without bullets”, NO MATTER WHAT BUSH SAYS. This, to the republicans, should be a very reasonable bill.

It makes the Democrats look good and Bush/the republicans look bad in the “headlines battle”. I expect to hear a number of “headlines don’t mean shit when our troops are still dying” comments. And yes, that is true. But what is the alternative at this point? The republicans aren’t getting us out of Iraq. And they never will. But just take a look at the headlines on the main pages of CNN, Yahoo and MSNBC. Hell, even the Fox News headline says “Bush Vows to Veto Bill to Withdraw U.S. Troops From Iraq by Fall 2008”.

Who do you think that the American people are going to side with here?

If Bush vetoes this bill, there is no funding. He will, in essence be the one that is stranding the troops without funding or an exit strategy. And every republican that whines about this will be doing the same. I wouldn’t think that the Democrats are going to draft another bill that is more palatable to the republicans and Bush. This is the funding bill. Elections have consequences, right?

The Democrats passed an imperfect bill. But they passed a bill that will enable them to look reasonable and look strong. It is another step in the right direction – not the giant leap that we all want, but ANOTHER step. And next week there will be another step. And then another.

We want more – but as Mick Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need”.

Right now, this is what we need. Nice job, madame Speaker.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sorry, but Rove and Miers are NOT going to testify under oath

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

I’m not saying that it is right or wrong, but there is enough out there that I can say with some level of confidence that we will not be seeing Karl Rove OR Harriet Miers testify to Congress under oath. And probably not at all, for that matter. Ultimately, it may not matter much as there is likely so much more damning and damaging information as is. Additionally, while it would be nice to see them “get what they deserve”, they really aren’t integral to any criminal part of the US Attorney issue.

Is the whole thing sleazy? Of course. Is it illegal? So far, no but that remains to be seen. The uproar against Gonzales has been mainly political and in the terms of abusing his authority and the Executive Branch. Should the US Attorneys be apolitical once they are appointed? Of course – and some of the ones who were fired are even indicating this. Was it handled poorly? Absolutely. But none of that is really illegal.

All that being said, what is illegal is lying to Congress – which is certainly what it appears like Gonzales did. If you want him impeached – THAT is the way to go.

Now, I am certainly not thinking that this White House isn’t hiding a lot about this matter. I’ve written three fairly in depth stories for ePluribus Media on various aspects of this scandal. And while Bush’s comment about this being a partisan fishing expedition is pretty laughable, it is difficult to see exactly what the desired endgame is by calling on Rove and Miers to testify. My best guess is obstruction of justice in holding up or blocking any investigations, and if that is the case, I am not sure that Rove or Miers will help or hinder an investigation down that road.

However, that isn’t really why I am writing this – I am looking more at WHY they won’t testify as opposed to the underlying issues, documents, and possible crimes (I will say that the fired attorneys will most likely provide enough information regarding whether any “obstruction of justice” charges would be warranted with or without Rove and Miers).

It all obviously goes to the matter of Executive Privilege. And the question is – will Congress fight the Administration all the way to the Supreme Court (only to run out the clock and possibly lose in this case anyway), or will they focus on all other areas of this case and determine whether charges can be brought or if this will truly become yet another slimy but political matter. The upshot if it remaining political is that it will damage the republicans – the downside is that it pisses off the American public because Congress was spending too much time on this as opposed to getting us out of Iraq and promoting policies that are good for We the People.

Whether this technically should even fall under executive privilege is a question in and of itself – but will likely be resolved through negotiations or in court. As far as basic background, the latest TIME has a brief summary:

Generally speaking, executive privilege is the president's right to withhold certain information from Congress, the courts and most anyone else, even in the face of a subpoena. It's a conditional privilege, meaning it can be overridden in some circumstances, such as when the president is the target of a criminal investigation. That's why President Nixon famously lost his 1974 struggle in the U.S. Supreme Court to keep the Watergate tapes private. But the courts are typically deferential to the privilege, presuming that it holds unless someone can prove an overwhelming interest in obtaining the information.

Executive privilege usually applies to White House deliberations, on the theory that the president needs candid and confidential advice from his staff. The Supreme Court acknowledged that need as early as 1803, in Marbury v. Madison. But the privilege also protects national security matters, especially when they involve military and foreign affairs, and has the very practical effect of allowing the administration to keep things like the names of spies and informers and the progress of delicate negotiations secret.

On the other hand, the latest US News and World Report (hardly a “liberal rag”) says the following:
But University of Richmond constitutional law scholar Carl Tobias believes that, in fact, Fielding, in this latest round at least, has been rather stingy.

“One could argue that you give as little as you can in the opening overture," says Tobias. "But it doesn't seem fair to talk about that as a reasonable offer. There just isn't much there." Indeed, says Marcus, the U.S. attorney firings is not a strong case for refusing to allow testimony, because it involves communications between White House lawyers and Justice Department staff, and not the president.

"While it's true that personnel decisions by the president are sensitive matters in which he needs confidential advice," says Marcus, "the current situation does not on its face involve advice to the president. So I don't see how testimony by the officials raises significant privilege issues."

While Tony Snow and Bush have both said how it is pretty much unprecedented for Presidential advisors to testify before Congress, a Congressional Research Service report from 2004 lists those Presidential advisors who HAVE testified (surprise – there are over 30 Clinton advisors who have testified more than 40 times).

It is obvious that Bush, as stubborn as he has been, will try to push the boundaries as far as he can to begin with. That, in and of itself, is ample reason to think that he will do everything possible to stall or not have Rove and Miers testify. Additionally, a 1999 CRS Report discusses Executive Privilege and cites a case In re Sealed Case from the Clinton era. The interesting part here is that it appears that the court determined that Executive Privilege applies to direct decision making by the President, except in cases where there is government misconduct:

At the outset, the court's opinion carefully distinguishes between the "presidential communications privilege" and the "deliberative process privilege." Both, the court observed, are executive privileges designed to protect the confidentiality of executive branch decision making. But the deliberative process privilege applies to executive branch officials generally, is a common law privilege which requires a lower threshold of need to be overcome, and "disappears altogether when there is any reason to believe government misconduct has occurred."

On the other hand, the court explained, the presidential communications privilege is rooted in "constitutional separation of powers principles and the President's unique constitutional role" and applies only to "direct decision making by the President."

The privilege may be overcome only by a substantial showing that "the subpoenaed materials likely contain important evidence" and that "the evidence is not available with due diligence elsewhere."

The presidential privilege applies to all documents in their entirety and covers final and post-decisional materials as well as pre-deliberative ones.

The crux here is obviously twofold – (1) was there government misconduct? and (2) were there direct decisions made by the President here?

The answer to (1) seems like a “yes” but still remains to be seen as far as whether any misconduct rises to the level of a “slam dunk” in overcoming the assertion. The answer to (2) also seems to be “yes”, as indicated by Josh Marshall:

The issue here is why these US Attorneys were fired and the fact that the White House intended to replace them with US Attorneys not confirmed by the senate. We now have abundant evidence that they were fired for not sufficiently politicizing their offices, for not indicting enough Democrats on bogus charges or for too aggressively going after Republicans. (Remember, Carol Lam is still the big story here.) We also now know that the top leadership of the Justice Department lied both to the public and to Congress about why the firing took place. As an added bonus we know the whole plan was hatched at the White House with the direct involvement of the president.

From this, I can make the following conclusions:

  • Bush has and will continue to dig his heels in on Rove and Miers;

  • It appears that he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on;

  • It doesn’t seem to matter much – as there appears to be ample evidence (with more to come) that would implicate those who may have committed crimes;

  • Gonzales still lied to Congress under oath – which is the biggest story here;

  • The Patriot Act provision that got this all kicked off to begin with was reversed – and even if it is vetoed, it will likely be overruled by Congress;

  • Obstruction of justice charges seem like the only “legal” recourse to be taken here (other than perjury); and

  • He will still try to take this all the way to the Supreme Court, which, even if he loses, will run out the clock on Rove and Miers testifying

But as much as I would like to see them testify under oath, I think there is enough smoke and fire that any crimes committed will come out anyway.

Sorry to rain on anyone’s parade who was hoping to see those 2 testify, but I just don’t see how it will ever happen. Or if it is really necessary anyway.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States"

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

Never in my lifetime have such important words rang so hollow. The words uttered while the President of the United States is sworn into office. The oath that he (or she) is expected, nay, required to follow. Yet, from the very beginning of this administration, these words have been made a mockery by Bush and his office.

On this latest matter – we are told that there is no need for officials who have lied about leaking classified national security information and were involved in the blowing off of the “bin Laden Presidential Daily Briefing” to testify under oath (or to have any record of the “interviews”.

But if there is nothing to hide, then what is the big deal, right? After all, wasn’t that the right wing meme about the warrantless wiretapping by the Executive Branch (which, by the way, was ruled unconstitutional).

Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Words that have held this country together. Words that indicate exactly what should be protected and defended. Not cronies. Not Big Oil. Not “party over country”. And certainly not the lying liars and war criminals who occupy the Executive Branch. The Preamble? Torn to shreds in so many ways that if it wasn’t so dangerous it would be laughable. The first amendment? Free speech zones will take care of that.

With respect to the US Attorney firings, the changing of the laws under the Patriot Act reauthorization regarding appointing interim US attorneys allowed the Attorney General to make appointments that arise during recess period in violation of Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution.

In using the phrase “a href=,9171,386961-2,00.html> My most important job is to protect America”, the Executive Branch has gone FAR out of its way to do just the opposite. Look at the Military Commissions Act of 2006 for more parts of the Constitution that were subverted in the name of “protecting America”.

Having one of the members of the Executive Branch (and one of the highest level officials in the Vice President’s office) convicted on perjury and obstructing justice certainly isn’t protecting the Constitution. Politicizing the Executive Branch and the Department of Justice - firing prosecutors for not bringing charges against Democrats, or for investigating republicans in the Executive and Legislative Branches, or for not pursuing voter fraud charges when there was no evidence of voter fraud. All in the name of “preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution, right?

Installing extremist judges who are so far outside of the mainstream that they would make Ghengis Khan look like a liberal. When Justice Department officials indicate that the firings were for not following Bush administration policy goals - even though US attorneys are supposed to be apolitical in their capacity as US attorney.

Issuing hundreds of “signing statements” that are meant to subvert the laws passed by Congress (as outlined in Article 1 of the Constitution).

Hell, even the way that this administration came into power in the first place was pretty much against the Constitution. I guess we can cross off Amendments 15, 19 and 24. This, of course can even be tied back to the US Attorney firings, as Tim Griffin, the replacement for Bud Cummins was involved in a “caging” scheme that was designed to disenfranchise minority voters who also happened to be serving overseas in Iraq, which would never have happened without the twisted and falsified evidence that the Executive Branch used to invade in the first place.

The list goes on and on and on. Executive Orders that allow the Vice President to declassify information whenever he (or she) sees fit. Which also just happened to be a few short months before a major selective “declassification” related to classified CIA information about Iraq, Iran and nuclear weapons.

Blanket ability to classify whoever the Executive Branch wants as an “enemy combatant” and deny them the rights under the Constitution. With no evidence or charges against them. Detaining US citizens indefinitely without charges. And many many many other instances that we probably don’t even know about yet.

Where does it end? Our Constitution has stood up and prevailed when challenged in the past. There are so many abuses by so many departments within the Executive Branch that it could take years to undo, untangle and investigate them all. Even in this latest instance, there is a gap in the documents provided from mid-November to early December - the critical period in which the firings were discussed.

It is time to fulfill that pledge to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. The President took that oath. The members of Congress took that oath as well. If the President won’t fulfill his oath and continues to obstruct justice, then it is up to the House and the Senate to uphold theirs.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Osama hearts republicans

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing

Imagine that you were being told that someone (or a group of “someones”) are very bad and have done horrible things to you and those who think like you. And imagine that, despite some actions that you and your immediate followers have taken against those “someones”, they haven’t really done much to hurt you or your followers in the past.

Assuming that, while this person may have some reasons that you consider valid, you don’t have too strongly of an opinion since these “someones” haven’t really done anything to directly impact you in such a way that you would kill or die for.

Now, let’s say that in order to further this person’s cause, he and his followers committed a tremendously heinous act that caused tremendous outrage in the international community as well as an outpouring of support for those “someones” who you were told were very very bad. And, let’s also assume that in response to this, many of the same people who were being told about how bad these “someones” are were actually trying to help them defeat that very cause that you were being told was “noble”.

There wouldn’t be much support overall for this cause, and those “someones” would be looked upon as victims – with pity, support and with solidarity by much of the world. And suddenly, that cause would have a lot fewer followers, and that individual (or individuals) who were saying how “bad” those “someones” were would descend into irrelevancy pretty quickly.

Unless those “someones” twisted the truth, manufactured reasons, lied and strongarmed their way into attacking the loud and annoying kid a few towns over who, while a menace to some around him, was never really a direct threat. And then let’s say that those “someones” were responsible for finding ways to torture that annoying kid. And all of his friends.

THEN, I would think that more people would think that those “someones” really aren’t such great people after all.

So here we are, four years into an occupation of Iraq, a country that most definitively did NOT have a connection to 9/11, most definitively did NOT have a connection to al Qaeda (in fact it was just reported that “al Qaeda in Iraq” is more of a threat to our troops there and not much of a threat to us here in the US.) And, four years in, it has pretty much been established that all of the reasons and evidence that was given was, at best, blatantly falsified.

And here we are, four years in, with Democrats trying (albeit not as hard as some of us may want) to find a way out of this disaster, only to have the obstructionist republicans shut down debate or votes on ending this occupation. There is a country which is now in the middle of a horrific civil war created and implemented by the republican and neoconservative policies. There is a country that now has a substantial percentage of its’ population approving of attacks on US forces.

There is a country where entire cities have been turned into chaotic war zones – where a continuation of republican policies and pig-headedness have led to substantially increased and more sophisticated attacks on US troops, and millions of people displaced. There is a country that has rampant unemployment, a lack of electricity and clean water. There is a country who had one of its cities bombed with illegal chemical weapons as ordered and approved by the republican commander-in-chief and the rubber stamp republican Congress.

The worst thing that could happen to al Qaeda’s cause would have been for the US led-international coalition destroyed them and eliminated their financing back in 2002. The best thing that could have happened to al Qaeda’s (and Islamic extremists) cause is what is happening in Iraq. To continue the misguided occupation of Iraq, ordering the killing of any Iraqi that defends his or her home IN THEIR OWN HOME (besides doing a great disservice to our troops) is the best recruiting tool that Osama could have asked for.

And for those who are too busy calling Democrats or those of us who are sane enough to realize how much this continued occupation is accomplishing exactly the opposite of what its’ “stated intent” can do one of two things: (1) shut the fuck up, and (2) get your own ass to Iraq.

But let’s have no illusions here – it is those who are in support of continuing this occupation, and those who speak in terms of “winning” without having the faintest idea of what “winning” is anyway, if it were even possible are the ones who are doing the most to help spread the hatred for the US and its failed policies of world domination.

It is those who scream the loudest about others “supporting the terrorists” whose actions and words are, as I said in occams hatchet’s diary last week “Osama’s wet dream”. He couldn’t have scripted a better recruiting tool than the republicans and the cheerleaders for the continued occupation of Iraq.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Crappy Anniversary - 4 years in Iraq by the numbers

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing

Over the weekend, I posted a three part series as a detailed (and heavily annotated) account of the many lies and falsified evidence that got us into this mess in Iraq in the first place. And all throughout these past four years, we have heard lie upon lie and unreasonably or unsupported rosy assessments related to how much progress has been made. Or how "freedom is on the march". Or how "the mission is being accomplished".

Or whatever other crap is flung at the American people, Congress and the Iraqis. But here is just a small sampling of some cold hard statistics relating to just how "swimmingly" things are going in Iraq. Some you have probably heard or already knew, but some may be new.

3,217 US troops killed in Iraq since the invasion began. 216 US troops killed so far this year alone. Over 800 US troops killed in each full year since 2004. 1,065 US troops killed since the Iraqi general elections in December 2005. 3 months since March 2005 with less than 50 US troop deaths (including one month with 50). 2.38 AVERAGE number of US troops killed EVERY DAY since the beginning of the invasion.

32,544 US troops injured since the start of the invasion. These are "official" numbers and are likely underreported. 6,300 Iraqi police/security force deaths since 2003. 65,000 estimated Iraqis killed since 2003, although some estimates put the total at over 100,000 AS FAR BACK AS 2004.

Over 2.3 million Iraqis who have fled the country since 2003. This includes much of their professional class and approximately 40% of its middle class. 750,000 internally displaced Iraqi civilians (not including those who have fled the country) as of 2007 - per latest Brookings report linked below.

$409 billion cost for the Iraq occupation to date. 263,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who are expected to need medical treatment by the VA next year. $1.5 billion and $2.7 billion needed in emergency funding for VA services in 2005 and 2006 due to Bush budget shortfalls. 26% increase in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans over the next year. $800,000,000 CUT to the VA budget from fiscal year 2008 to fiscal year 2009. 0% increase to the VA budget for 2010 - 2012.

550 insurgent attacks during the five month period from August 29, 2005 - January 20, 2006. 520 insurgent attacks during the five month period from June 29, 2004 - November 26, 2004. 180 - 185 DAILY insurgent attacks during November and December 2006.

The following numbers are from last week's Brookings study:

932 US troops under the age of 22 who have been killed in Iraq.

732 US troops between the ages of 22-24 who have been killed in Iraq.

745 US troops between the ages of 25-30 who have been killed in Iraq.

316 US troops between the ages of 30-35 who have been killed in Iraq.

366 US troops over the age of 35 who have been killed in Iraq.

30 is the lowest number of "multiple fatality bombings" in any month since January 2006. At least 30-40 kidnappings per day (although this number is likely vastly underreported). 20,000 "dead enders" who are estimated to comprise the insurgency - this has been a relatively constant number since the middle of 2004, and is likely increasing over recent months.

14,000 "coalition forces" (other than US) in Iraq. This doesn't include the UK forces that will be redeploying to Afghanistan, and is a 30% decrease since last May. 85% increase in weekly attacks on coalition forces since May 2006.

9.6 average hours of electricity per day in the entire country. 5.7 average hours of electricity per day in Baghdad (pre-invasion was 16-24 hours per day). 25% - 40% estimated unemployment rate in Iraq. 50% inflation rate in Iraq for 2006. 12,000 estimated physicians who have left Iraq since 2003 (nearly 36% of the pre-invasion total). 59% of Iraqis rate the current economic situation as "poor". Another 26% rate it as "fair". 75% of Iraqis rate the security situation as "poor". 87% of Iraqis approve of a timeline for US troop withdrawal.

Some other numbers not necessarily from the Brookings report:

22% of Iraqi water treatment plants rehabilitated. 37% of Iraqi homes connected to sewer systems. 25% of Iraqi children who suffered from chronic malnutrition as of May 2006.

58% of Americans want a withdrawal by 2008. Nearly half of Americans would like the occupation defunded by Congress. $10.1 billion in revenues for Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root for 2005. This is a 100% increase from 2002. $7.1 billion and $5.4 billion in Iraq-related revenues for KBR during 2004 and 2005, respectively.

$8 billion in Iraq contracts for Halliburton in 2003. $2.4 billion in a NO-BID deal for Bechtel to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure. $8 - $12 billion in missing and unaccounted for cash in Iraq.

And two final ones, both of which are zeroes: Zero "missions accomplished" and no end in sight.

What a great four years it has been……

Sunday, March 18, 2007

4 years in Iraq - how we got there (part 3)

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

This is Part 3 in my weekend series “4 years in Iraq – how we got there”. In case you missed Part 1 and/or Part 2, I have linked them here. I am doing this in response to a “challenge”/request by Dood Abides on Thursday in anticipation of the fourth anniversary of this disaster we created in Iraq.

These three parts also happen to make up the first chapter in the book I am writing about this administrations misleading and mishandling its “war on terror”. Part 1 looked at the foundation that was laid for invading Iraq prior to this administration took office. Part 2 highlighted the falsified aluminum tubes and yellowcake uranium evidence and propaganda war levied by the administration.

Part 3 will outline then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council, as well as dissect then-candidate Bush’s comments (referenced in Part 1) about when he felt it would be appropriate to use military force as it relates to Iraq.

Powell’s UN Security Council Presentation

The issues surrounding then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 are more important than the presentation itself, and just as important as the other manufactured evidence. Of all the evidence cited and all the speeches given by the Bush administration regarding Iraq’s weapons and the threat it posed to the United States, none carried more weight than Powell’s speech before the UN Security Council did in making the case for a military incursion into Iraq.

However, even Powell wasn’t too convinced about some of the information in his presentation. Even Donald Rumsfeld admitted by June 2003 that the “stockpiles” of chemical weapons that Powell talked about in his presentation may have been destroyed months earlier.

US News & World Report reported that the initial meetings to discuss Powell’s presentation had quite a bit of dissent. Libby laid out a number of charges that Powell could use that, in the words of one senior official who was in the meeting “was over the top and…[full of] unsubstantiated assertions”:

Vice President Cheney's office played a major role in the secret debates and pressed for the toughest critique of Saddam's regime, administration officials say. The first draft of Powell's speech was written by Cheney's staff and the National Security Council. Days before the team first gathered at the CIA, a group of officials assembled in the White House Situation Room to hear Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, lay out an indictment of the Iraqi regime--"a Chinese menu" of charges, one participant recalls, that Powell might use in his U.N. speech. Not everyone in the administration was impressed, however. "It was over the top and ran the gamut from al Qaeda to human rights to weapons of mass destruction," says a senior official. "They were unsubstantiated assertions, in my view."

After much deliberation and the elimination of a significant amount of information from the initial drafts and proposals, Powell made his presentation a few days later. Immediately after the presentation, countries were divided over the content and the course of action. While the UK stood with the US (despite the Downing Street Memo), China, France and Germany all were in favor of diplomatic acts as opposed to military action.

As it turns out, China, France and Germany were right. The following year, Powell admitted that information in his presentation may have been wrong. Specifically, Powell was referring to the mobile trailers that were indicative of Iraq’s biological weapons programs. However, this was the only piece of evidence offered by Powell with respect to such programs.

Additionally, a high level al Qaeda official was identified as giving false statements about links to Iraq as far back as 2002. The Bush administration was warned in a 2002 report that the informant was providing false information, however the administration still used such information as “proof”:

The document, an intelligence report from February 2002, said it was probable that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, "was intentionally misleading the debriefers" in making claims about Iraqi support for Al Qaeda's work with illicit weapons.

The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi's credibility. Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi's information as "credible" evidence that Iraq was training Al Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.

The doubts about the “mobile labs” were further confirmed by a CIA report issued in late 2004. Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group and the man who advised the CIA Director with respect to Iraqi’s weapons, issued a 1,200+ page report that had several startling conclusions. While it indicated that Saddam was trying to cheat the UN sanctions and had the intention to resume a weapons program once the sanctions were lifted, he knew that this was not likely to come in the short to mid term.

However, the report did indicate that Saddam did not possess stockpiles of banned weapons and was not reconstituting these programs at the time of the US invasion. It indicated that Iraq destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpiles in 1991. It further indicated there was no evidence that Saddam had plans for a bio-weapons program or was conducting a bio-weapons program after 1996. Additionally, it found that there was no evidence of a reconstituted nuclear weapons program since it abandoned such program in 1991 after the first Gulf War (warning:.pdf).

The background as to the depth of deception was confirmed even further in early 2006 by Powell’s former Chief of Staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson. In an interview with David Brancaccio of PBS, Wilkerson blasted the administration for quashing dissent within the intelligence community, for cherry picking the intelligence that it felt supported the case for invading Iraq and for ignoring intelligence that questioned the validity of certain claims and evidence. He found it hard to believe that Vice President Cheney was not “exerting undue influence” over the CIA. He felt that he and Powell were participants in a hoax on the American people and that they were, by and large, duped by the administration and certain intelligence officials over the validity of “evidence”. And he felt that Cheney and Rumsfeld were “hijacking the intelligence decision making process”.

Bush’s comments in 2000 regarding the use of military force

Now, let’s refer back to then-candidate Bush’s comments in his debate with Al Gore, and the five criteria that would need to be present for him to use military force:

Well, if it's in our vital national interest, and that means whether our territory is threatened or people could be harmed, whether or not the alliances are -- our defense alliances are threatened, whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force. Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear. Whether or not it was a clear understanding as to what the mission would be. Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to win. Whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing and well-equipped. And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy.

Let’s break this down and see just how many (hint: the answer is none) actually did apply to Iraq:

Was it in our vital national interest and were we or our friends in the Middle East threatened by Saddam?

Well, President Bush admitted that Saddam Hussein had no connection with the September 11 attacks. We know from Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger and the subsequent investigation of the leak of his wife’s classified position as a covert agent that Iraq was no imminent threat.

Was the mission clear?

“Rid Saddam of WMDs”, right? But then the mission became “rid Saddam of WMDs, end his support for terrorism and free the Iraqi people”. And then, that mission was accomplished – and announced to the world on May 3, 2003:

I delivered good news to the men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: their mission is complete and major combat operations in Iraq have ended. Our coalition is now engaged in securing and reconstructing that country. The United States and our allies have prevailed.

Shortly thereafter, the mission became “to develop a free Iraq” which then became “train the Iraqi troops” which led to “a political process moving forward in Iraq and the Iraqis capable of defending themselves”. Many “missions” – all before the summer of 2005.

Prepared and trained to win.

Well, the overwhelming majority of our Armed Forces are extremely well trained and certainly were prepared for those situations and missions that they were trained for. Each branch of the military obviously has its area of specialty – whether it be the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. Broken down further, the National Guard is extremely well trained and would be prepared for a national incident or disaster – say a powerful hurricane that was, for days, on course to hit the Gulf Coast.

Of course, when those very National Guard units are stretched so thin due to 90% of them having served in Iraq or Afghanistan that it impacts their ability to react to national disasters, well that isn’t their fault.

High morale and high standing and well equipped?

There are many instances where the current administration’s actions had a negative impact on troop morale. Additionally, it is extremely well documented that American troops in Iraq were not well equipped (in fact, this is a large part of another chapter that I have written entitiled “Supporting the Troops”). From outdated armor and equipment to lack of tools, weapons and supplies. From “stop-loss” to multiple tours of duty to cuts in medical benefits for those who either returned with post-traumatic stress disorder or were wounded in combat to the horrific conditions at Walter Reed, the examples are numerous.

An exit strategy?

Well, considering that President Bush indicated in March 2006 that the decision to withdraw troops would be left for future presidents, I’m not really sure that qualifies either.

Like I said above – a perfect 5 for5 in terms of not fulfilling ANY of the terms and conditions that Bush himself said would be a requirement in order for him to send troops into harm’s way.

Overall conclusion – Parts 1, 2 and 3

After reading the information (in all three parts of this series) relating to the Office of Special Plans, the comments by military generals and colonels, various US and foreign intelligence agencies, the PNAC, former Bush administration officials and after taking a logical and honest look at the information provided and reported by so many different outlets (including a number of conservative publications), it is difficult to say that the Bush administration was acting in good faith. Good faith with the American people, good faith with our allies in the UK, good faith with Congress, the United Nations, and even other intelligence and governmental officials who did not share their opinions and motives.

When peeling back all of the layers, and untangling all of the threads, we are left with a picture of an administration that at a minimum, appeared to have a policy set before (or at the latest, shortly after) taking office. An administration that was going to implement this strategy regardless of what it was saying to Congress and the world community. An administration that gambled on questionable intelligence and evidence, only to lose that gamble.

Unfortunately, thousands of lives were lost and forever changed as a result of that gamble as well.

That is what we should be focusing on tomorrow, as the fourth anniversary of this unmitigated disaster will be “celebrated” by the mainstream press.