Monday, June 30, 2008

Preparing the Battlefield

BocaGuy: The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh reports on how the Bush Administration has stepped up covert operations against Iran

Seymour Hersh
New Yorker
June 29, 2008
Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country's religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of "high-value targets" in the President's war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.

Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees--the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.

Read Hersh's full report here.

Copyright © 2008 CondéNet. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

If Terrorists Rock the Vote in 2008

Frank Rich
Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
June 29, 2008

DON’T fault Charles Black, the John McCain adviser, for publicly stating his honest belief that a domestic terrorist attack would be “a big advantage” for their campaign and that Benazir Bhutto’s assassination had “helped” Mr. McCain win the New Hampshire primary. His real sin is that he didn’t come completely clean on his strategic thinking.

In private, he is surely gaming this out further, George Carlin-style. What would be the optimum timing, from the campaign’s perspective, for this terrorist attack — before or after the convention? Would the attack be most useful if it took place in a red state, blue state or swing state? How much would it “help” if the next assassinated foreign leader had a higher name recognition in American households than Benazir Bhutto?

Unlike Hillary Clinton’s rumination about the Bobby Kennedy assassination or Barack Obama’s soliloquy about voters clinging to guns and faith, Mr. Black’s remarks were not an improvisational mishap. He gave his quotes on the record to Fortune magazine. He did so without thinking twice because he was merely saying what much of Washington believes. Terrorism is the one major issue where Mr. McCain soundly vanquishes his Democratic opponent in the polls. Since 2002, it’s been a Beltway axiom akin to E=mc2 that Bomb in American City=G.O.P. Landslide.

That equation was the creation of Karl Rove. Among the only durable legacies of the Bush presidency are the twin fears that Mr. Rove relentlessly pushed on his client’s behalf: fear of terrorism and fear of gays. But these pillars are disintegrating too. They’re propped up mainly by political operatives like Mr. Black and their journalistic camp followers — the last Washington insiders who are still in Mr. Rove’s sway and are still refighting the last political war.

That the old Rove mojo still commands any respect is rather amazing given how blindsided he was by 2006. Two weeks before that year’s midterms, he condescendingly lectured an NPR interviewer about how he devoured “68 polls a week” — not a mere 67, mind you — and predicted unequivocally that Election Day would yield “a Republican Senate and a Republican House.” These nights you can still find Mr. Rove hawking his numbers as he peddles similar G.O.P. happy talk to credulous bloviators at Fox News.

But let’s put ourselves in Mr. Black’s shoes and try out the Rove playbook at home — though not in front of the children — by thinking the unthinkable. If a terrorist bomb did detonate in an American city before Election Day, would that automatically be to the Republican ticket’s benefit?

Not necessarily. Some might instead ask why the Bush White House didn’t replace Michael Chertoff as secretary of homeland security after a House report condemned his bungling of Katrina. The man didn’t know what was happening in the New Orleans Convention Center even when it was broadcast on national television.

Next, voters might take a hard look at the antiterrorism warriors of the McCain campaign (and of a potential McCain administration). This is the band of advisers and surrogates that surfaced to attack Mr. Obama two weeks ago for being “naïve” and “delusional” and guilty of a “Sept. 10th mind-set” after he had the gall to agree with the Supreme Court decision on Gitmo detainees. The McCain team’s track record is hardly sterling. It might make America more vulnerable to terrorist attack, not less, were it in power.

Take — please! — the McCain foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann. He was the executive director of the so-called Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, formed in 2002 (with Mr. McCain on board) to gin up the war that diverted American resources from fighting those who attacked us on 9/11 to invading a nation that did not. Thanks to that strategic blunder, a 2008 Qaeda attack could well originate from Pakistan or Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden’s progeny, liberated by our liberation of Iraq, have been regrouping ever since. On Friday the Pentagon declared that the Taliban has once more “coalesced into a resilient insurgency.” Attacks in eastern Afghanistan are up 40 percent from this time last year, according to the American commander of NATO forces in the region.

Another dubious McCain terror expert is the former C.I.A. director James Woolsey. He (like Charles Black) was a cheerleader for Ahmad Chalabi, the exiled Iraqi leader who helped promote phony Iraqi W.M.D. intelligence in 2002 and who is persona non grata to American officials in Iraq today because of his ties to Iran. Mr. Woolsey, who accuses Mr. Obama of harboring “extremely dangerous” views on terrorism, has demonstrated his own expertise by supporting crackpot theories linking Iraq to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On 9/11 and 9/12 he circulated on the three major networks to float the idea that Saddam rather than bin Laden might have ordered the attacks. ... ( more )

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company 

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Edwards standard and John McCain

Jamison Foser
Media Matters
June 27, 2008

During John Edwards' campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, media regularly treated his personal wealth as a key to assessing his policy proposals -- a standard that is not being applied to John McCain.

It often seemed as though the news media was incapable of running a story about Edwards' anti-poverty proposals without noting his own wealth. The Washington Post, for example, ran a 203-word blurb about Edwards' eight-state poverty tour, opening it with a 28-word reminder of the candidate's fortune: "John Edwards is battling back the 'three H's' that have dogged his campaign -- expensive haircuts, a lavish new house and a stint working for a hedge fund".

That was nothing new for the Post, which spent much of 2007 in an apparent bid to become the nation's leading source of haircut journalism (four separate articles in the paper's December 11, 2007, edition mentioned the Edwards haircut, many months after it first made "news.") A later article about the poverty tour reported in the fourth paragraph: "Edwards urged reporters to 'please stay focused on the stories we heard' from the workers, rather than the candidate." Paragraphs five, six, and seven then dwelled on "a series of controversies that cast doubt on the image he has cultivated as a millionaire lawyer who as the son of a millworker understands the plight of those with less than he has."

When Edwards exited the race, the Post noted "Edwards's focus on the poor was muddied by tales of his personal good fortune. News stories told of his $400 haircuts, of an ostentatious North Carolina home and of his work for a hedge fund."

The Post certainly wasn't alone. Journalists of all stripes agreed: it was important to discuss Edwards' personal wealth in reporting and assessing his policy proposals. Many explained this belief by claiming that Edwards' proposals to reduce poverty and help the middle class were hypocritical, given his own wealth. This was transparent nonsense; that simply isn't what it means to be hypocritical. But the transparency of the nonsense didn't make it any less common. Others conceded that it wasn't hypocritical to be wealthy while advocating policies to help the non-wealthy, but argued that it was poor "optics." Whatever the reason, there was broad consensus in the media that Edwards' personal wealth should be part of discussions of his policy positions.

But the media doesn't apply that standard to John McCain.

Last week, the Center for American Progress Action Fund released a new report by Michael Ettlinger estimating that under McCain's tax plan, he and his wife, Cindy, would save $373,429. That's nearly $400,000 -- per year, not over the course of their lifetimes. (Under Barack Obama's plan, the McCains would save less than $6,000. The Obamas would save nearly $50,000 under McCain's plan, and slightly more than $6,000 under Obama's plan own plan.)

By the standards the media applied to Edwards, the fact that McCain supports tax policies that would save him and his wife nearly $400,000 a year -- and require massive cuts to public services to pay for those tax breaks -- should surely be news. Unlike the media's focus on Edwards' wealth, which did nothing to help voters understand the substance of his proposals, McCain's potential savings under his tax plan actually would help illustrate how much the wealthy would benefit from the plan.

At the very least, McCain would seem to have the dreaded "optics" problem ascribed to Edwards. With voters jittery about the economy and a crushing budget deficit, what could be worse "optics" than a wealthy candidate proposing massive tax cuts for his wife and himself?

Surely, then, The Washington Post, having obsessed over Edwards' wealth, has noted Ettlinger's findings in its reports about McCain's tax plans, right?


On June 21, two days after the report's release, the Post ran a front-page article about the candidates' tax and budget policies: "Republican John McCain vows to double the exemption for dependents and slash the corporate income tax. ... McCain has proposed even bigger tax reductions [than Obama], including an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, permanent limits on the AMT and a 10 percent reduction in the corporate tax rate." The Post didn't mention how much the McCains would save under his tax proposals. It didn't so much as hint at their massive personal wealth. And in more than 1,300 words, the Post didn't include a single word about the income distribution of McCain's proposals.

On The Chris Matthews Show, Matthews aired a clip of McCain attacking Obama's tax plan -- but didn't point out that McCain and his wife would save more than $360,000 less under Obama's plan than under his own. Like The Washington Post, neither Matthews nor any of his guests made even passing mention of McCain's personal wealth. (Matthews on Edwards last year: "John Edwards, that dude with the hot-ticket haircuts, now wants the rest of us to cool it on expensive cars.")

Again, this isn't unique to the Post and Matthews. The Ettlinger estimate was completely ignored by the news media. Beyond that report, I don't remember ever seeing a major-media report about John McCain's tax policies noting that, due to his wealth, he would fare quite well under his own proposals. And in a couple hours of Nexis searches, I haven't been able to find one.

Perversely, it seems the conventional wisdom among the media is that it's more acceptable for a wealthy politician to propose policies that help the wealthy than policies that benefit the middle class and the poor.

 © 2007 Media Matters for America

Friday, June 27, 2008

FearWatch '08: The McCain Campaign Takes Feargasm Advice From Bill Kristol

Bob Cesca
The Huffington Post
June 27, 2008

Holy crap on a stick. Bill Kristol -- who has been so wrong so often that he was somehow rewarded with a job at the New York Times -- might have actually been right about something political. For once. Back on February 17 on the self-satirical FOX News Sunday program, Kristol made a prediction:

KRISTOL: the end of the day it'll be McCain against Obama in a national security election. The Democrats can say Nancy Pelosi's fond of quoting Franklin Roosevelt, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." We do have something to fear but fear itself. We have terrorists to fear and we have people who want to kill Americans to fear. And people who totally want to destabilize the Middle East to fear. And I think that's a pretty good argument for McCain to make against Obama.

In addition to being one of the most grotesque examples of a far-right feargasm, and also ignoring the fact that the Bush administration has destabilized the Middle East, Kristol had the audacity to both poo-poo the anti-fear message of President Roosevelt, while also managing, in that process, to suggest that terrorism is more worthy of our collective fear than was the Great Depression. To that argument, thanks to Kristol and the policies of the Bush administration, we might yet be able to form an accurate, modern comparison between these "threats" as we grow dangerously close to revisiting the Depression while simultaneously fighting terrorism. Heckuva job!

And so, remarkably enough, Kristol appears to have been exactly right with his prediction that the general election would revolve around fear. But how can this be? He was wrong on Iraq; he was wrong about the surge; he was wrong about the success of the Bush administration. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The secret behind this magic trick is that it wasn't a prediction at all, but rather a recommendation to the Republicans and the McBush campaign, and they simply and inexplicably chose to accept Kristol's twisted advice. (Shh! Evidently, the McBushes don't know about Kristol's spotless record of wrongness. So let's keep this between us.)

"Fear... [is] a pretty good argument for McCain to make against Obama," Kristol said back in February. Four months later, that's the argument from the McCain campaign: the tired, inaccurate message that only McCain and the He-Man Republicans are capable of keeping Americans safe from the evildoers. But it's not just the Republicans who are taking this "fear argument" advice. It's also some of the very serious villagers in the corporate media. More on that later.

This week's political news, meanwhile, was dominated by the fear mongering remarks of Senator McCain's chief strategist, the Washington lobbyist Charlie Black. For the record:

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an "unfortunate event," says Black. "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us." As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black.

Irrespective of his subsequent apology, Black most certainly appears to agree with Kristol that both fear and terrorism are good for the Republicans. Well sure. I would imagine that the Republicans will take what they can get at this point. So until their calculation about the political advantages of a terrorist attack on American soil comes to fruition or not, they're using the next best thing: the constant warnings that Senator McCain, who didn't know that al-Qaeda is composed of Sunnis, is the only candidate who can keep us safe from the evildoers.

Senator McCain's non-rejection rejection was typically baffling.

"I cannot imagine why [Black] would say it. It's not true. I've worked tirelessly since 9/11 to prevent another attack on the United States of America."

The corporate media, by-in-large, passed this off as a rejection of Black's suggestion that terrorism was good for the campaign. Wrong. Senator McCain didn't appear to be outraged by the context of Black's remarks at all. Instead, the Senator was more appalled at the notion that there could ever possibly be another attack given the awesome McBush anti-terrorism record.

"It's not true," Senator McCain said, implying "it's not true" that there will be another attack. Did you catch that? Senator McCain predicted that there won't be any more attacks on American soil. The terrorist threat is over! Awesome. So can we bring our soldiers home and stop wasting trillions on an overblown and misguided war on terrorism, Senator?

Nah, unfortunately this isn't what Senator McCain meant to imply at all. In reality, it was another hamfisted and abbreviated version of the classic McBush Republican Mobius Loop: "if we stay on the offense, the terrorists lose, but if we stop the war, then the terrorists win so we have to keep fighting forever and ever."

In other words, Senator McCain denounced Black's fear mongering by employing more fear mongering. I've been fighting the terrorists, so vote for me or else.

"We have terrorists to fear... And I think that's a pretty good argument for McCain," Kristol said. Advice submitted; advice taken. And even though Senator McCain didn't truly denounce Black and, instead, basically supported the lobbyist's awful statements, the very serious cable news people are giving Senator McCain a pass on this thing.


Because the very serious commentariat agrees with all of it. All week long we've been hearing on television that what Black said was the truth. That Black's statement made sense. A terrorist attack would help Senator McCain win in November. All true, including the more dangerous subtext of Black's statement that terrorists might have the ability to influence our elections. The lobbyist's only mistake, they said, was that he actually said it out loud.

Not surprising, though, from a realm in which professional broadcasters repeatedly mix up the names "Senator Barack Obama" and "Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden." Not surprising when an on-going topic of televised political conversation revolves around how Senator Obama is "exotic" and "foreign." Both areas only serve to incite fear among racists, dittoheads and the easily-influenced simple folk who believe every forwarded e-mail they receive. (I'm seriously going into business selling robot insurance and monorails to some of these hooples.)

Each of these smears feed the national security issue -- in other words, the notion that if Senator Obama is somehow similar to the scary, exotic Muslim types, then he's going to be weak on terrorism. And as long as there is terrorism, the Republicans win. That's the so-called "truth" of Kristol, McCain, Black and the corporate media at large.

The truth is that the McBush Republicans have only incited more terrorism. For argument's sake, put aside the evaluations of the liberally biased intelligence community. By the accounting of the racist, far-right website Islam: The Religion of Peace, there have been 11,326 deadly terrorist attacks since September 11. 11,326 deadly attacks on the McBush watch, which seems to indicate...hmm... that the policy of invasion, occupation, torture and destabilization has only incited more attacks. I can't imagine how this national security argument helps the McCain campaign in the slightest -- especially if the actual truth is told about the disastrous McBush war on terror.

So... Mr. Kristol? This "good argument" thing? Wrong again, chief.

Copyright © 2008, Inc.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Return of the Neocons

James Risen
The Washington Independent
Thursday 19 June 2008

Bush hawks aggressively working to rewrite accepted Iraq war history.

    Ever since the Rumsfeld era at the Pentagon ended abruptly in the aftermath of the Democratic victory in the 2006 mid-term elections, the civilian hawks who ruled the Defense Dept. during the early years of the Iraq war have remained largely silent. They have not engaged publicly even as their culpability for the Iraq war's myriad failures has congealed into accepted wisdom.

    But for the Pentagon troika most identified with Iraq - former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith - silence has not equaled happiness. It certainly has not meant acceptance of their fate at the hands of the many journalists, former generals and assorted ex-members of the Bush administration who have taken to the cable talk fests and the nation's media outlets to reject and denounce them. Nor does it mean they walk the aisles at Barnes & Noble with equanimity while scanning shelves filled with books that lay the fault for George W. Bush's failed presidency at their doorstep.

    This anti-Pentagon historical narrative is straightforward and seems well established: Wolfowitz and Feith ran a neoconservative frat house while an arrogant, fiddling Rumsfeld roared against anyone who dared try to bring him the truth.

    Neoconservatives - a loose association of pundits, politicians and analysts who put a right-wing spin on American exceptionalism and coupled that with an embrace of the doctrine of pre-emptive war - began pushing for regime change in Iraq in the 1990s. Wolfowitz and Feith brought this desire to oust Saddam Hussein with them when they joined the Bush administration.

    After 9/11, neoconservatives inside and outside the administration argued for war; Washington must act because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and might share them with terrorists. Inside the government, Rumsfeld, not a neoconservative himself, embraced and advanced these arguments, following the lead of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Perhaps Rumsfeld also sensed that the war in Afghanistan had been too quick and remote to serve as a true demonstration of U.S. power in the Middle East.

    And so, during the critical 18 months between the Sept. 11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith were united at the forefront of the administration's march to war.

    Five years later, 4,000 young Americans have died. No Pentagon leaders have been so thoroughly repudiated since the days of Robert McNamara and the Vietnam War.

    When the Iraq war was young, and they were at the height of their power, few men in America seemed less concerned by or more disdainful of their public critics. The image created by a compilation of Rumsfeld's most famous quotations, words that will surely appear in the first paragraphs of his obituary - "stuff happens," "democracy is messy," "You go to war with the Army you have" - is of a man too busy and important to do anything other than casually mock the little people getting in his way.

    Perhaps being out of power makes one more susceptible to the slings and arrows; perhaps at night they wake with visions of a future in which some young filmmaker comes to them with a request to remake "The Fog of War." For whatever reason, it is clear that the incoming fire from the left, right and center has finally gotten to be too much. Feith, in particular, is now willing to reveal how much it all has hurt.

    "You wind up having the first, second and third drafts of history shaped by the first set of leaks," Feith lamented. "You can imagine, from my point of view, that is grim to see."

    Now, the Rumsfeld team is starting to fight back. Rumsfeld recently announced that he is writing his memoirs, while Feith's account, "War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism," came out this spring.

    In a series of lengthy interviews over several weeks, Feith explicitly stated that his objective in writing his book was to start the process of altering the accepted history of the Iraq war, to adjust the Rumsfeld team's place in history. He wants to change the narrative - before it is too late.

    Feith sees his book as nothing less than the opening salvo in what he and many of his allies hope will be a major and prolonged campaign by Bush administration hawks to develop a new school of revisionist history of the early 21st century, in which they will be heroes, rather than the villains. They see this fight for historical dominance as the last battle of the war in Iraq.

    How far this devolves into the "stabbed in the back" school of history remains to be seen. But the outlines are already clear.

    Feith argues that the Pentagon team's historical standing has been victimized by its unilateral disarmament in the leak and access wars of the Bush administration, even as their foes at the State Dept. and the Central Intelligence Agency whispered to the press about the evil men at the Pentagon. Rumsfeld so hated leaks and leakers, Feith says, that the Pentagon team allowed themselves to be Swiftboated by the forces under Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and CIA Director George Tenet.

    "It caused enormous damage to me personally," Feith said. "I wasn't in a position to contradict false and damaging things said about me."

    And yet, he added, top State and CIA officials were too cowardly to raise any objections to the war during White House meetings.

    Feith does not view this as journalists did at the time - which was that many in the Bush administration were reluctant to criticize Iraq policy out of fear of retribution from a powerful vice president and an intimidating secretary of defense. He sees hypocrites who went along with the war, who told the president to his face that they supported his policies, but then through bureaucratic petulance made sure that critical decisions were never made, that paralysis was the order of the day. Meanwhile, they sought to convince friends outside the administration that they were not really allied with the neoconservatives.

    "What I find interesting is that they chose to not take on the strategic questions in the Situation Room when they had a chance," says Feith. "If Powell or Tenet, or somebody like that, wanted more meetings, more debates, they could have had them."

    Instead, State and CIA sulked and pouted and refused to collaborate, effectively sabotaging post-war planning, Feith says. The best-laid plans for Iraq's political reconstruction put forth by the Pentagon were left stillborn in a confused inter-agency process in the weeks leading up to the invasion, he argues; and no one, certainly not National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, ever tried to bring order out of the bureaucratic chaos.

    Yet it is Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith who were left holding the bag for the failures in Iraq, while pretty much everyone else seems to have skated from the judgment of history, Feith seethes. "The now-standard story portrays the president and his supporters in the administration as militaristic and reckless, closed-minded and ideological, thoughtless at best and even dishonest - and hell bent on war with Iraq from the administration's inception," he writes in his book. It is a false narrative, he writes, that "has swept the field."

    Other top officials from Rumsfeld's inner circle agree that the truth is far more complex and has yet to come out. "The pundits have it pretty much wrong about Rumsfeld," said retired Air Force Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the joint chiefs during Rumsfeld's tenure, who is now also writing his memoirs. "I think they have it 85 percent wrong. Not many people who have written about Rumsfeld have worked with him and been in the room. I don't think anybody has captured it yet."

    Wolfowitz is pleased that the counter-offensive has begun, noting that he believes that Feith, through his book, finally, "explodes some of the myths that have become conventional wisdom." Wolfowitz added, "it's a beginning point," for a serious discussion.

    As the first out of the gate with a book, Feith is setting the tone for the Pentagon counter-campaign. He begins by recognizing the need to tackle big, damning issues head on. So he focuses on what he describes as the most damaging lie - that the Pentagon team was trying to anoint Ahmed Chalabi as ruler of Iraq.

    "I'm putting out a bold challenge - I have gone through the documents, senior level Pentagon documents, and I can't find any documents supporting the extremely important conspiracy charge that we were plotting to anoint Chalabi," said Feith. "It is frustrating to me to deal with these canards, because no senior person at the Pentagon was proposing that."

    As head of the largest Iraqi exile group operating in the West in the years before the invasion, Chalabi had gained prominence through his success at convincing key political leaders in Washington and London of the rightness of ousting Saddam. Yet he had also won powerful enemies, notably at the CIA, where officers who worked with Chalabi had concluded that he was a liar and a crook. During the run-up to the 2003 invasion, Chalabi's group, the Iraqi National Congress, began to force-feed Washington many Iraqi "defectors," who claimed to have information about Saddam's supposed weapons of mass destruction. His information found its way through the Pentagon right to the president, and was crucial in bolstering the public case for war.

    But Chalabi's star began to fall when it turned out that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that his defectors had been feeding disinformation to the U.S. intelligence community. The Americans broke with him in 2004, when the CIA and the National Security Agency alleged that he had told Iran that the United States had broken their codes.

    His relations with the Bush administration have run hot and cold since. But it is now clear that the men who ran the Pentagon at the time of the invasion are eager to disown Chalabi.

    That is easier said than done. Feith recognizes that the notion the Pentagon wanted Chalabi to rule Iraq is not only accepted as fact today, it was conventional wisdom within large swaths of the Bush administration during the run-up to the war. And the impression that Pentagon neoconservatives were pushing a huckster destroyed the Rumsfeld team's ability to gain acceptance of its post-war plans throughout the administration, he argues.

    "The view that we were doing that was enormously important in influencing policy at the time," Feith said, "because the State Department and CIA opposed a series of specific measures that were designed to facilitate the political transition and general reconstruction of Iraq because they saw them all through their particular prism of antagonism to Chalabi. Every time we denied that we were trying to anoint Chalabi, people at State or CIA would say that was just part of the cover-up of our conspiracy."

    Feith adds that the Pentagon leadership was actually agnostic about Chalabi. "We didn't think of ourselves as pro-Chalabi," Feith insisted, "but we didn't think of ourselves as anti-Chalabi, either."

    Rather than simply pushing to anoint Chalabi, Feith says his office developed a formal plan for political reorganization built around an entity to be known as the Iraq Interim Authority. The plan - abandoned by the White House in the immediate aftermath of the invasion - called for a temporary government that would include U.S. officials, leading Iraqi exiles and Iraqis who had remained in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule. Chalabi was to be among the exiles playing a leading role, but Feith insists that no one in the Pentagon leadership ever sought to impose Chalabi as the leader.

     He says that the Chalabi conspiracy charge can be disproven by the fact that the two men sent to run the post-war reconstruction - former general Jay Garner, followed by former ambassador L. Paul Bremer - were never given orders to anoint Chalabi. "If they were not told to favor Chalabi, then there couldn't have been a conspiracy," Feith said. "Then there was no drive shaft connecting the engine to the wheels."

    Both Garner and Bremer said in interviews that they were never given directions by the Pentagon to anoint Chalabi. Garner, briefly in charge of reconstruction in Iraq after the invasion, said, "I heard Rumsfeld say several times I have no candidate," for ruler of Iraq. "I never saw any inclination he was pushing Chalabi."

    Garner observed that "Feith, I think, was a friend of Chalabi. And he took me through the positives and negatives of the exiles and candidates, but he never told me to appoint Chalabi. It never happened that he said, 'Make Ahmed the premier.' But he respected him. He told me that he, Perle (Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board for Rumsfeld) and Wolfowitz had met frequently with Chalabi in the past to discuss the freedom of Iraq."

    "For me, I don't like Chalabi," Garner volunteered. "He and I instantly disliked each other. He's a crook, a man who can't be trusted."

    Bremer added, "Nobody ever said to me the plan was for Chalabi to have the job. Nobody ever told me to put Chalabi in power."

    In an interview from Baghdad, Chalabi also insisted, "I know of no discussion at all between me and the Pentagon or any one in the U.S. government and anyone close to me, to install me in any capacity in Iraq." He complained that "the adversaries of Feith and Wolfowitz seemed to fear that I would emerge as a leader in post-war Iraq, and so they had an ABC doctrine - 'Anybody But Chalabi.'"

    But while Feith sees this as solid evidence dispelling the Chalabi conspiracy charge, his legion of critics from the Bush administration remain unconvinced. They say these arguments - no orders to Garner and Bremer, no Pentagon documents supporting Chalabi's ascension - are only used by Feith as part of a legalistic effort to obscure what happened.

    "Do you really think they would have written it down?" asked one former senior administration official.

    The critics say that, to varying degrees, Wolfowitz and Feith at the Pentagon, Cheney at the White House, and Perle on the outside all promoted Chalabi before the war. But, they were unable to convince either Rumsfeld or, more important, Bush.

    "Bush was very clear," said one former top administration official, critical of the neoconservatives, "he said, I will not put my thumb on the scales. He wasn't going to favor one guy."

    And no matter how badly Wolfowitz, Feith and the others might have wanted Chalabi, they didn't have the power to install him.

    Perle, perhaps Chalabi's most vocal and influential patron in Washington at the time of the invasion, said in an interview that he believes that the fact that Rumsfeld was never a Chalabi supporter was critical - since that meant the Pentagon was not going to push him on Bush.

    "Rumsfeld's view was that the cream will rise to the surface," recalled Perle. "He did not want to get into the business of picking leaders for Iraq, although I don't think he ever thought that meant Iraq would be leaderless. But Rumsfeld never fought for Chalabi. The idea that he was the Pentagon's boy is wrong. One person made decisions at the DOD, and that was Don Rumsfeld. Those people who kept saying the Pentagon's policy was Chalabi didn't understand how DOD worked."

    Asked whether he thought Feith and Wolfowitz would have installed Chalabi if they had been in charge, Perle said: "Early on, they would have supported a government-in-exile and the INC [the Iraqi National Congress, Chalabi's group] would certainly have been at the center of it. And to do it right there would have had to have been a transparent process.... They certainly thought that Chalabi was, if not the most competent Iraqi, at least in the top two or three."

    But Chalabi was not installed, and a U.S. occupation, through Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority, was launched instead.

    An anti-American insurgency followed, and now, five bloody years later, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith are just beginning their long struggle for historical redemption.


    James Risen is an investigative reporter for The New York Times and the author of "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration." He won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, for his pieces about government surveillance programs.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Crist ditching his scruples for McCain's favor

The Miami Herald
June 22, 2008

And now it's time to play, ''Who is the real Charlie Crist''? Does the man have any conviction aside from the fervent need to be loved by John McCain?

Florida's governor (he's still Florida's governor, right?) seems to have misplaced his gravitas. He's against offshore oil drilling. He's for offshore oil drilling. He's -- wait -- McCain's now changed his mind? No problem. Whatever the man says, that's what Crist believes.

Give us a break. Say this for Jeb Bush: He steadfastly opposed drilling off Florida's coast, big corporate interests be damned. He didn't waver, didn't pander, and Lesser Bro in D.C. respected it.

Crist? He wants to be vice president so badly, he'd sell the state up the Loxahatchee and back with McCain grinning in the canoe behind him like a crazed Mr. Watson.


Last week, President George W. Bush joined presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in proposing that the ban on drilling along the coasts be lifted. McCain wants to lift the federal moratorium and then let states decide what to do along their coasts. The whole thing is shameless election-year posturing that only a dunce would fall for.

As if drilling for oil off Florida's coast could actually solve the country's humongous energy problem. I mean, we invaded Iraq, and all we have to show for it is a lousy $4.25 at the pump. Who really believes a few oil rigs off Fort Walton Beach will help anything?

It's like Hillary Clinton's silly ''gas-tax holiday,'' a proposal premised on the idea that the country's serious long-term energy problems can be cured by helping people drive more. Thank God these people aren't doctors -- they'd treat a massive hemorrhage with a 500-page promise to give out free Band-Aids.

To be fair to Crist, McCain seems to inspire Flip-Flop Syndrome in anyone who comes within 30 feet of him.

Maybe it's contagious. As a senator, McCain voted against a package that would have funded much-needed Everglades restoration. Then, as presidential hopeful, he showed up in the Everglades to make like the big environmentalist.

When The Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard called him out on this hypocrisy, McCain said that he'd voted against the package only because it included unworthy projects.

Two people forgave him -- one was his mom and the other was Mario Diaz-Balart. Diaz-Balart had been a passionate advocate for the restoration money and -- like the rest of Florida's Republican representatives -- had supported the funding package.

But then McCain activated his force field and Diaz-Balart's jaw suddenly went slack: ''In hindsight,'' he told The Miami Herald, ''I was wrong and he was right.'' He was right . . . he was right . . . he was right.


Now it's Crist's turn to babble like a fool for McCain.

Contrast two different responses to McCain's boneheaded idea, as quoted by The Associated Press.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Republican governor of California: ``I will do everything in my power to fight the federal government on this issue and prevent any new offshore drilling.''

Crist: 'I think that not having that moratorium, blanket moratorium, and letting states' rights be recognized, if you will, certainly is appropriate.''

You tell 'em, Charlie. Really, enough is enough. Mr. McCain, you've had your fun. Now it's time to please release the governor's brain.

Copyright 1996-2008 The Miami Herald Media Company

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Now That We’ve ‘Won,’ Let’s Come Home

Frank Rich
Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
June 22, 2008

THE Iraq war’s defenders like to bash the press for pushing the bad news and ignoring the good. Maybe they’ll be happy to hear that the bad news doesn’t rate anymore. When a bomb killed at least 51 Iraqis at a Baghdad market on Tuesday, ending an extended run of relative calm, only one of the three network newscasts (NBC’s) even bothered to mention it.

The only problem is that no news from Iraq isn’t good news — it’s no news. The night of the Baghdad bombing the CBS war correspondent Lara Logan appeared as Jon Stewart’s guest on “The Daily Show” to lament the vanishing television coverage and the even steeper falloff in viewer interest. “Tell me the last time you saw the body of a dead American soldier,” she said. After pointing out that more soldiers died in Afghanistan than Iraq last month, she asked, “Who’s paying attention to that?”

Her question was rhetorical, but there is an answer: Virtually no one. If you follow the nation’s op-ed pages and the presidential campaign, Iraq seems as contentious an issue as Vietnam was in 1968. But in the country itself, Cindy vs. Michelle, not Shiites vs. Sunnis, is the hotter battle. This isn’t the press’s fault, and it isn’t the public’s fault. It’s merely the way things are.

In America, the war has been a settled issue since early 2007. No matter what has happened in Iraq since then, no matter what anyone on any side of the Iraq debate has had to say about it, polls have consistently found that a majority of Americans judge the war a mistake and want out. For that majority, the war is over except for finalizing the withdrawal details. They’ve moved on without waiting for the results of Election Day 2008 or sampling the latest hectoring ad from

Perhaps if Americans had been asked for shared sacrifice at the war’s inception, including a draft, they would be in 1968-ish turmoil now. But they weren’t, and they aren’t. In 2008, the Vietnam analogy doesn’t hold. The center does.

The good news for Democrats — and the big opportunity for Barack Obama — is that John McCain and the war’s last cheerleaders don’t recognize that immutable reality. They’re so barricaded in their own Vietnam bunker that they think the country is too. It’s their constant and often shrill refrain that if only those peacenik McGovern Democrats and the “liberal media” acknowledged that violence is down in Iraq — as indeed it is, substantially — voters will want to press on to “victory” and not “surrender.” And therefore go for Mr. McCain.

One neocon pundit, Charles Krauthammer, summed up this alternative-reality mind-set in a recent column piously commanding Mr. McCain to “make the election about Iraq” because “everything is changed,” and “we are winning on every front.” The war, he wrote, can be “the central winning plank of his campaign.” (Italics his.)

This hyperventilating wasn’t necessary, because this is what Mr. McCain is already trying to do. His first general election ad, boosted by a large media buy in swing states this month, was all about war. It invoked his Vietnam heroism and tried to have it both ways on Iraq by at once presenting Mr. McCain as a stay-the-course warrior and taking a (timid) swipe at President Bush. “Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war,” Mr. McCain said in his voice-over. That unnamed fool would be our cowboy president, who in March told American troops how he envied their “in some ways romantic” task of “confronting danger.” 

But reminding voters of his identification with Iraq, no matter how he spins it, pays no political dividends to Mr. McCain. People just don’t want to hear about it. Last week, the first polls conducted in Pennsylvania and Ohio since the ad began running there found him well behind in both states.

The G.O.P.’s badgering of Mr. Obama about the war is also backfiring. In sync with Mr. McCain, the Republican National Committee unveiled an online clock — “Track How Long Since Obama Was in Iraq!” — only to have Mr. Obama call the bluff by announcing that he will go to both Afghanistan and Iraq before the election. Unless he takes along his own Lieberman-like Jiminy Cricket to whisper factual corrections into his ear, this trip is likely to enhance his stature as a potential commander in chief.  ... ( more )

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company 

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Vlad Rudy Has Returned from the Fear Mongering Netherworld

BocaGuy: We watched Rudy "a noun, a verb, and 9/11" Giuliani and whole city mgmt team wander aimlessly on streets of lower Manhattan, with no place to go, as Rudy managed to place emergency center right inside of terrorists' most coveted target - the WTC. Thought he was dead after the republican primaries.

Bob Cesca
The Huffington Post
June 18, 2008

While Senator Obama helps flooding victims in Iowa, and counsels hard-working college students who are having trouble managing their growing tuition debt, the McCain campaign, meanwhile, has cracked open the seal on their emergency Feargasm Lock Box and unleashed a terrible mythological force.

With a blinding white light, a loud bang and a puff of wig powder, he's emerged from the netherworld of Republican politics like a hunched, creepy, bulbous-foreheaded genie -- shamelessly rattling off his "Very Best Of" compilation of fear mongering slogans -- most of which include those two words (September 11th) without which he would have no power whatsoever on the national stage. 

Vlad Rudy Giuliani has re-emerged. And he's trying to frighten Americans into voting for a Republican presidential candidate again.

In addition to a prepared statement that resurrects the antiquated "pre-9/11 mindset" talking point from the 2004 Bush campaign, Vlad Rudy participated in a conference call today in which he made the forthcoming remark -- a comment so misguided in its inaccuracy and so cynical in its exploitative reasoning that it ought to be etched into a cement tablet and placed in a gutter in lower Manhattan, allowing future generations of Americans to spit upon it.

Before we reveal the offending quote, Vlad Rudy's remarks in the conference call began with the usual repetitious fear mongering:

"The reality is there seems to be more concern about the rights of terrorists, or alleged terrorists, than the rights that the American people have to safety and security," Rudy said. "I do not understand why, at a time we're facing this terrorist threat, we want to create new rights that didn't exist before for people alleged to be involved in terrorist activities or alleged to be enemy combatants."

For those of you keeping score, he said the word "terrorist(s)" four times in just two short sentences which I think is a record -- even for him. Huzzah, Rudy! (Using the same word four times in two back-to-back sentences is really difficult without sounding moronic and awkward. Try it now with the word "pants." It's hard, isn't it?)

So this first section was ridiculous, but not necessarily over-the-top offensive. The truly offensive words and implications were reserved for this line:

"It is fair to say that Osama Bin Laden would be given new rights that nobody ever had before."

Oh would he, Mr. Giuliani? To somehow imply -- to merely speculate in form of two logical fallacies within a single sentence (a straw-man argument and an appeal to fear) -- that the U.S. Supreme Court, the Democratic Party and Senator Obama would afford the world's most wanted man special human rights manages to entirely overlook the very real fact that the party you, Vlad, support, and the elected officials you, Vlad, endorse have utterly failed to capture Bin Laden in the first place. And the way Bin Laden's name is so callously and easily invoked as a means of scoring far-right political points makes his on-going freedom appear way too suspiciously convenient.

Bin Laden's freedom.

That bit of truth speaks volumes about the failed policies of Vlad Rudy's Republican Party. Since the beginning of time, one of the most precious rights any living creature can possess is simply the right to be... free. And free Bin Laden remains; recording new tapes and massaging hair dye into his beard while lurking in various safe houses along the western border of Pakistan. Free.

And as long as he's out there -- free -- he might as well be exploited as a spokesperson for the Republican Party and Senator McCain, mainly because their chief executive is too unpopular to fulfill that basic political duty. During the 2006 midterms, for example, "it's fair to say" (and also true) that Bin Laden's face appeared in more GOP ads than did President Bush's face. "It's fair to say" that the forthcoming general election will reflect the same backwards branding.

But what about these so-called "new" rights? Habeas corpus dates as far back as the 12th Century and the idea of due process of law dates back to the Magna Carta. So irrespective of what Rudy and Senator McCain suggest to those people who are ignorant enough to believe them, it's neither a "new right" nor a Get Out of Evildoer Jail Free card. Yet the Republicans are doing their very best to paint this Boumediene v. Bush ruling as if the Supreme Court has unilaterally awarded every Guantanamo detainee with a Willie Horton style weekend furlough, a new car and wad of folding money.

Sorry, but contrary to popular Republican mythology, not every prisoner at Guantanamo is a terrorist -- or, at least they weren't prior to being abducted. According to an investigative report published this week by the McClatchy news service:

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men -- and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds -- whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

Due process and the Great Writ are designed to prevent such atrocities -- atrocities which could all too easily be carried out against our citizens and our soldiers in this or some other future military engagement. But this war on terrorism is unique in the history of modern conflict in that it's been described as an endless war and therefore those detained at Guantanamo and elsewhere might have otherwise been deprived of due process for a non-specific length of time. This isn't the American Civil War which had a clearly defined victory scenario or endgame. This is George W. Bush's War on Terrorism. The self-described "long war." The endless war. James Madison described such a war as the most dreaded enemy of public liberty.

"War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few."

Senator Obama and the Democrats offer an alternative to the Bush Republican endless war and "the domination of the few." And, for that, they're conflated with Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists by fear mongers like Vlad Rudy Giuliani. More laughable is the fact that Senator Obama is being unfairly demonized for his lack of foreign policy experience by a man whose most recently held public office was that of mayor -- a mayor whose only connection with the war on terrorism (besides his political exploitation of it) is the fact that he ran around in the streets while the towers burned. ("It's only fair" to repeat specifically why was he running around like that. He mistakenly put his command center inside the World Trade Center -- after the towers had already been attacked once.)

This shockingly apocryphal outrage from Vlad Rudy and Senator McCain only serves to underscore the desperation of the Republican Party. After all, how will they win in November without using their best fear mongering tactics in the face of more sensible views... like this one:

"Try them or release them. I think the key to this is to move the judicial process forward so that these individuals will be brought to trial for any crime that they are accused of, rather than residing in [the] Guantanamo facility in perpetuity."

That was Senator McCain from June, 2005. Seriously. "Try them or release them," he said. Of course this version of Senator McCain has long since vanished. Now, the basic notion of a detainee finding out why he's been detained is an unacceptable freedom warranting outraged statements like, "The United States Supreme Court yesterday rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country." This from a man who, only three years ago, demanded that either they be tried or be summarily freed.

I suppose this is why Vlad Rudy has been unleashed. It'll take an army of vampiric, fear mongering hooples to successfully mask over Senator McCain's former, reasonable self.

Bob Cesca's Goddamn Awesome Blog! GO!

Copyright © 2008, Inc.

Pipe down, Cindy McCain

Joan Walsh
June 19,2008

Call me naive, but I was surprised to see Cindy McCain hit Michelle Obama a second time for Obama's oft-dissected remark, "For the first time in my life I am really proud of my country." McCain gave Obama a sly little dig in a campaign appearance back in February, but she hit her again directly in an interview with ABC News airing Thursday morning: "Everyone has their own experience. I don't know why she said what she said; all I know is that I have always been proud of my country."

Cindy, please. Nobody wants to see a future first lady catfight -- do they? I'd have expected Cindy McCain, of all people, to have more empathy for an aspiring first lady's first time in the searing national spotlight. In 2000, after all, McCain had to suffer a Bush-campaign-sponsored whisper campaign about her daughter Bridget (that she was actually her husband's illegitimate black love child), and about her own long-ago addiction to pain medication and subsequent legal troubles. I would have expected McCain to be at least as classy as Laura Bush, who publicly expressed sympathy about the way Obama's "proud" remark was being abused politically.

Meanwhile, the husbands are getting into the act, trading barbs for not coming to the defense of the other's spouse. I think Barack Obama is on higher ground here (although the chivalry sweepstakes is almost as irksome to me as the first lady catfight; fellas, these women can defend themselves). John McCain is ridiculously attacking Obama for not standing up for Cindy when the Democratic National Committee demanded she release more tax data. That's silly: Cindy McCain's taxes are fair game; her fortune is inextricably tied to John McCain's political fortunes. (Likewise, scrutinizing Michelle Obama's legal and advocacy career is entirely appropriate.)

But playing gotcha with each other's misunderstood campaign statements seems beneath both potential first ladies. Michelle Obama wins by not playing, and the McCain campaign looks desperate. It's true Michelle Obama may be one of Barack Obama's few seeming vulnerabilities; a recent Rasmussen poll found that while 48 percent of Americans polled have favorable views of her, a bizarrely high 42 percent have unfavorable views. But there's plenty of time for that to change. I'd urge the Obama camp to go light on the rhetoric of "makeovers" and product relaunches when the subject is Michelle Obama -- this otherwise flattering New York Times profile suffered from that tone. It leaves the impression there's something defective about Michelle Obama and risks turning her into New Coke.

Copyright ©2008 Salon Media Group, Inc.