Friday, April 06, 2007

Did McCain get Iraqis killed?

Remember John McCain's little stroll through a Baghdad market last week?

BAGHDAD, April 1 (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain toured a Baghdad market on Sunday and said afterwards the American people were not being told the "good news" about the war in Iraq.

McCain, a strong supporter of President George W. Bush's plan to send nearly 30,000 more troops as part of his new strategy in Iraq, said the media had a responsibility to report both the positive and the negative in the four-year-old war that is growing increasingly unpopular in the United States.

Reporters in Iraq say they don't show good news because the terrorists then kill the people they report on. And sure enough, I saw this item today in a news recap from Iraq.

The latest massacre of Iraqi children came as 21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital. The victims came from the Baghdad market visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress.

So did McCain get 21 people killed for a photo-op? If this news gets any play, and it is likely to given the flap over his statements, he will be accused of negligence at least.

How much responsibility does he bear, and how does this bear on his presidential aspirations?


If there's more, it's here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Clinton Says Bush Has No Authority ‘To Do Anything With Respect to Iran.’ Too bad she is wrong.

In an interview with Think Progress, Senator Hillary Clinton said:

Well, I think that the President should not assume that he has any authority to do anything with respect to Iran. He needs to come to the Congress, and neither the resolution regarding Afghanistan or Iraq give him authority to take offensive action.

That's tough talk, but not founded in law. The section of the US Code that is known as the War Powers Resolution limits the President's ability to initiate hostilities thusly:

(c) Presidential executive power as Commander-in-Chief; limitation

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to

(1) a declaration of war,

(2) specific statutory authorization, or

(3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.

And in fact, the administration recently tried to make the case than Iran is attacking our troops:

The long-awaited Baghdad briefing had plenty of props. There were two tables stacked with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, a PowerPoint slide show and, perhaps most importantly, a particularly nasty weapon known as an EFP, or explosively formed penetrator.

A trio of American military officials led the show. Their mission: rolling out the administration’s case that Iran is supporting attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

While this didn't play well, and the administration backed off of its claims, the charge has been laid and can be repeated often enough to give the President cause to start bombing Iran. While each charge may be discredited later, the bombs will have already fallen. Besides, the Iranians are undeniably meddling in Iraq, lending plausibility to the allegations.

This highlights the problems Congress faces in preventing an attack on Iran. By design of the Framers, the Executive is able to act more quickly than the Legislature. Most of the time this is a good thing, but when a President wants a war, he tends to get it. As a rule, Congress can only react to his policies.

Which brings us back to Senator Clinton. More than any other member of Congress, she should understand this reality. After all, as First Lady, she was party to military interventions in Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, none of which were authorized by Congress, all of which were deemed legal.

I bring this up not simply to bash Ms. Clinton for this contradiction, but to raise an important question about her as a Presidential candidate.

She puts forth a more hawkish countenance than her Democratic rivals, refusing to call her 1992 vote on the Iraq authorization of force a mistake, and not ruling out the use of force against Iran. As we should know by now, a President's view of Executive war making power is of vital importance to the nation's welfare.

So which is it for Hillary: the philosophy of Congressional participation she advocates now, or the unilateral interventionism of her husband's presidency?

How about the other Presidential candidates? What are their views?

Shouldn't we know this before we vote?

If there's more, it's here.

Old Gimlet Eye rides again - The Plot To Seize The White House

As I write this, I have on my desk a copy of Jules Archer's classic account of the 1930's fascist conspiracy, allegedly backed by prominent corporate leaders, to overthrow FDR and prevent the enactment of his New Deal.

Out of print since shortly after the hardback edition was published in 1973, this amazing book is available again for a reasonable price. The hardback edition is quite scarce and sells for hundreds of dollars. Rumor has it that the DuPont family, implicated in the plot, bought and destroyed many copies.

I read this book years ago, and found it to be a quick, engrossing read. Not only does it succinctly outline the events of the day, providing concrete evidence that not all Americans support our form of government, but it provides a biography of an American original - the hero of this true story, Smedley Darlington Butler.

Known as "Old Gimlet Eye" to his troops, the two time Medal of Honor awardee was the pride of the Marine Corps, and a combat tested leader who commanded from the front lines. He served from 1898 to 1931, in Cuba during the war with Spain, China during Boxer Rebellion, Honduras, Nicaragua, Veracruz, Haiti, France in WWI, and back to China in the late 1920's. He was even loaned to the city of Philadelphia in 1924, at the behest of President Calvin Coolidge, serving as Director of Public Safety to fight rampant corruption and racketeering.

After retiring at the rank of Major General, he was a popular public speaker and veteran's advocate, foiled the aforementioned plot, and wrote a forgotten polemic on war profiteering, the prescient War is a Racket.

I don't know if, after all these years, a new printing will propel this piece of history to wider circulation or not, but I feel it is a story we as Americans dare not forget. Rather, we should spread far and wide the story of Old Gimlet Eye and the debt of gratitude we owe his memory.

I also posted this at E.ThePeople for increased Googlage.


If there's more, it's here.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Spooky - The decline of George W. Bush

I've been around long enough to experience the slow decline of aging, but the following video about President Bush (hat tip to Andrew Sullivan), is somewhat alarming.

There could be any number of reasons, and I agree with Sullivan that pre-senile dementia isn't the likeliest. But I have to admit his public speaking has gone seriously downhill. I remember a while back replaying his speech to Congress after 9/11 on the White House website, and being struck how much better he spoke then, but I wrote it off as good preparation for a speech he cared deeply about.

It's well known that the Presidency wears on Presidents, and in times of trouble the toll is greater. Consider Abraham Lincoln in May of 1860 and then in April of 1865. There are plenty of other examples in the historical record.

I know that many of the President's detractors will seize upon this as evidence of the deterioration of an alcoholic or the result of youthful drug abuse, and call more loudly for his removal. I expect that his defenders will respond with stinging denunciations of the left's blind hatred and unpatriotic fervor. Such is the state of the partisan divide today.

As usual the partisans miss the point, arguing starboard versus port while the ship sinks.

As the President goes, so goes the nation. It's in all of our best interests for the President to do well! If Mr. Bush is merely distracted by the pressures of his office, and it only manifests itself in his formal speeches, it's one thing. But if he is diminished mentally, to the point of negatively affecting his decision making, it is a great concern.

Remember, this is the man who can order the launch of nuclear missiles, among many other decisions that profoundly impact our collective welfare.

How good do you feel about the President's decisions lately?


If there's more, it's here.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

From CBS News Baghdad reporter: Help.

I don't know Lara Logan, but I am passing on her letter and a link to her report from Haifa Street in Baghdad. If ever there was a symbol of the elusiveness of progress in Iraq, Haifa Street is it.

From: lara logan
Subject: help

The story below only appeared on our CBS website and was not aired on CBS. It is a story that is largely being ignored, even though this is taking place every single day in central Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located.

Our crew had to be pulled out because we got a call saying they were about to be killed, and on their way out, a civilian man was shot dead in front of them as they ran.

I would be very grateful if any of you have a chance to watch this story and pass the link on to as many people you know as possible. It should be seen. And people should know about this.

If anyone has time to send a comment to CBS – about the story – not about my request, then that would help highlight that people are interested and this is not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore.

Many, many thanks.

I watched this video & I don't see why it wasn't fit for the evening news. However, I don't watch TV news, so I don't know what the normal fare is.

You can watch it here.

What do you think? Is this too much, or necessary viewing as Ms. Logan contends?


A controversy has arisen over the footage of fallen Iraqi soldiers in Logan's report. This footage was also used in an Al Qaeda propaganda video. Of course, CBS denies that the Al Qaeda video was the source of Logan's footage.

I can't get too excited by this, since the Logan's video source does nothing to discredit the views presented, or the implications of her story.


If there's more, it's here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bill Moyers at the National Conference for Media Reform

Check it out. The two parts total about an hour, but it's worth the time.

Part 1.

Part 2.

When I hear Moyers talk about the dangers of media consolidation, I am reminded of how the juntas of yesteryear always seized the television, radio, and newspapers first.


If there's more, it's here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What's in a name?

How we label our problems plays a big part in how we deal with them.

A while back I read that the USDA decided to quit reporting the state of American well being in terms of hunger, preferring "low food security" as a more precise label.

The U.S. government has vowed that Americans will never be hungry again. But they may experience "very low food security."

Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans' access to food, and it has consistently used the word "hunger" to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. But not this year.

Mark Nord, the lead author of the report, said "hungry" is "not a scientifically accurate term for the specific phenomenon being measured in the food security survey." Nord, a USDA sociologist, said, "We don't have a measure of that condition."

The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans -- 35 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times. Beginning this year, the USDA has determined "very low food security" to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group.

Charitably assuming this isn't more spin, how will such a neutral term motivate anyone to tackle the problem? I can relate to hunger, everyone can. But "low food security" is just too abstract to move most people. If the USDA wants to eliminate hunger in the United States, and they say they do, why aren't they making more of an effort to claim a bigger share of the public's attention?

I can't answer those questions charitably. I can say that any effort to stamp out hunger would require money from the Federal pot, and a lot of projects dip into that pot. Either taxes would have to be raised, or some other federal program would have to be cut.

I can't help but note that "low food security" is less likely to incite the People to insist on such action, and I also can't help noticing how much of our federal budget goes to arms and the war, as well as to subsidies to large corporations.

Are we spending too much on guns, and too little on butter?

What if those people with low housing security, whom we call homeless, were called refugees instead? Would the People decide we should pass on some new warships or fighter jets to solve the problem?

Of course, we call torture "harsh interrogation techniques", and kidnapping "rendition" as we travel our fearful path from the attacks of 9/11. It's a harsh new world that demands we recognize and combat the threat of militant Islam, which killed almost 3,000 Americans on that day. The headlines pound these facts home on a daily basis.

But there are no headlines riveting our attention on a deadlier enemy, one that claims 3,000 American lives every two days - cancer. We hear plenty of news of people who "fight" cancer or "lose the battle" with cancer. "Cancer survivor" is a common appellation in the public discourse. I think almost every American knows someone who has, or has had, this disease.

One in three people will have cancer in their lives, but have you ever seen a headline screaming "epidemic"? If we started using that word, what would happen?

Hunger, refugees, epidemic. They are just names.

So why don't our "leaders" use them?


If there's more, it's here.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Only in Washington - the neocons are in the saddle again!

It looks like the President is going to increase troop levels in Iraq, employing the so called "surge" option. Isn't it funny - not "ha ha" funny but "what the fuck?" funny - how an election result widely seen as a vote to end the war is leading to an escalation of the war?

Only in Washington!

It's been something to watch the post election full court press for more troops from the American Enterprise Institute, The Weekly Standard, and good old John McCain and Joe Lieberman. I even heard one of the AEI guys take a beating from George McGovern and Dennis Kucinich on Democracy Now!, which is an unabashedly anti-war advocate. AEI has been showing powerpoints to policy makers, and they want escalation really bad!

This was actually commented on by the LA Times, in an article by Peter Spiegel entitled Old guard back on Iraq policy. It's a good read, names names, and is the first time I've seen a major US newspaper point out the singers in the pro-war choir. While anybody who is interested can find this stuff out on the internet, it isn't usually emphasized in the mainstream print media, and so the majority of Americans probably don't know the names William Kristol, Frederick Kagan, or Jack Keane.

What's really amazing is that these are the same people who pushed so hard to invade Iraq in the first place. Yep, here are the neocons speaking out again, which is not surprising. Some of these folks have been pushing war with Iraq and reshaping the Middle East since 1997, with the inception of the (notorious in some circles) Project for a New American Century. The thing that gets me is that anybody listens to them.

Only in Washington would these discredited hacks get a hearing.

So I got curious about where these people get their money, since they are so relentless. Peter Spiegel didn't know about AEI, but he told me the Weekly Standard is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Yeah, that Rupert Murdoch - the Fox News guy. I discovered that retired General Jack Keane, an equity consultant, is also on the board of directors for General Dynamics and owns a few thousand shares of stock in the world's 6th largest defense company.

Peter Spiegel has met some of these people and thinks they are sincere in their support of the war and have no ulterior financial motive. I'm inclined to agree, but I also know that some corporations have profited handsomely from the opportunities the Iraq war has presented. Did they spend any money to create those opportunities? I think that question should be fair game.

AEI's financial reports show that they received $73 million in donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations in 2003, 2004, and 2005. That's 84% of their revenue, and where it comes from is mostly not public knowledge. I don't know about AEI, but where I work we give big customers special treatment.

I'm not much on conspiracy theories, and I don't see a conspiracy here, but I'm a big fan of full disclosure. If someone wants to hawk war, that's their right. But the public should know if they get money from defense contractors, oil companies, or some other concern that stands to profit.

For those of you who do like conspiracy theories, try this on for size. If you want to write letters to the war hawks to complain, here are their addresses:

The American Enterprise Institute
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036

The Weekly Standard
1150 17th Street, NW
Suite 505
Washington, DC 20036

Project for the New American Century
1150 17th Street, NW
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20036

Only in Washington!


I'm not the only wondering why these people have any credibility left. Glenn Greenwald has a column in The American Conservative, called Selective Amnesia, that addresses this phenomenon:

Yet there seems to be no accountability for these pro-war pundits. On the contrary, they continue to pose as wise, responsible experts and have suffered no lost credibility, prominence, or influence. They have accomplished this feat largely by evading responsibility for their prior opinions, pretending that they were right all along or, in the most extreme cases, denying that they ever supported the war.


If there's more, it's here.