Saturday, May 15


Atrios directs us to USA Today founder Al Neuharth asking:

Should cowboy Bush ride into the sunset?

As a former combat infantryman in World War II, I've always believed we must fully support our troops. Reluctantly, I now believe the best way to support troops in Iraq is to bring them home, starting with the "hand-over" on June 30.

Only a carefully planned withdrawal can clean up the biggest military mess miscreated in the Oval Office and miscarried by the Pentagon in my 80-year lifetime. In Journalese, the traditional five Ws of Who, What, When, Where, Why:

Who? George W. Bush.

What? His cowboy culture. Ride fast and alone or with just a few buddies. Shoot first. Ask questions later.

When? After 9/11. Bush bravely took on a necessary fight against terrorists who attacked us. But then he diverted his attention to an unrelated and unnecessary "pre-emptive" war.

Where? Iraq. He led us astray by falsely claiming Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that threatened us. After the "Mission Accomplished" boast in May 2003, he put our troops in new jeopardy by taunting terrorists from other countries with his "Bring 'em on!" challenge last July 2. His anything-goes-against-the-bad-guys attitude and his total lack of postwar planning helped prompt the ongoing prison-abuse embarrassments and brutal retaliations.

Why? Because he believes he can be re-elected as a tough-talking, self-proclaimed "War President."

If Bush were REALLY a cowboy, he'd have learned some Cowboy wisdom:

When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.

There's more ways to skin a cat than stickin' his head in a boot jack and jerkin' on his tail.

If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' someone else's dog around.

There never was a horse that couldn't be rode; there never was a man that couldn't be throwed.

When you throw your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.

Coolness and a steady nerve will always beat simple quickness. Take yer time and you'll only need to pull the trigger once.

The cowboy who exaggerates too much soon finds that everyone else has left the campfire.


THIS, via The Smirking Chimp is an excellent analysis of the different approaches to decision-making taken by Bush and Kerry. The intro:

Election 2004 may boil down to a choice between an incumbent president who thinks too little and a challenger who is criticized for thinking too much.
George W. Bush trusts his "gut" over intellect when making decisions. "His instincts are almost his second religion," author Bob Woodward noted in Bush at War. And once Bush has decided what to do, his aides assemble arguments to support or sell the decision, even if that requires hyping, slanting or distorting information.
By contrast, Sen. John Kerry absorbs the facts first, pondering questions from as many angles as possible before coming to conclusions that are often qualified and nuanced, an approach that opens him to criticism that he equivocates or will "flip-flop" on issues.

It is this difference in decision-making styles that rests at the center of Election 2004 - the difference between Bush the believer vs. Kerry the thinker.

Read the whole thing.


I am reminded by Demagogue in his latest post that the Wall Street Journal as well as countless other media outlets have been mischaracterizing remarks John Kerry recently made on the Don Imus show.

"John Kerry could be our next president, so like everyone else we're eager for clues to what his government would look like. One revealing indication came this week when the Massachusetts Senator floated the names of four possible Defense secretaries: GOP Senators John McCain and John Warner, Democratic Senator Cark Levin, and former Clinton Defense Secretary Bill Perry."

I happened to be listening to the I-man that morning, and that's not at all what John Kerry said. Kerry was speaking about the argument that Don Rumsfeld shouldn't resign or be fired because we're in the middle of a war and can't afford to be without a Secretary of Defense. Kerry said that was nonsense, that there are quite a few qualified people who could step right into the role, SUCH AS McCain, Warner, Levin and Perry. He wasn't talking about his own potential nominees at all.


WAYYYYY back before the media finally woke up to the story about "senior administration official(s)" revealing the name of CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame as payback to her husband Ambassador Joe Wilson for his truth-telling about the Niger uranium lie in the President's State of the Union address, I told a friend that that would be the scandal that would bring Bush down. It's still under investigation. No doubt the investigation won't be completed until after the November election. Certainly no one has paid a penalty for this illegal and traitorous act (using George H.W. Bush's own words). Except Mr. and Mrs. Wilson and the network she had built up to help control the proliferation of WMD.

When the administration's own David Kay at last reported that there were no WMD in Iraq and that our intelligence was woefully incorrect, I thought, okay, the public won't like it that we've just gone to war for, basically, no reason, or at least not the reason we were sold. But no one has paid any penalty for that, either.

Then when the truth came out about the administration's misleading the Congress about the real projected costs of the Medicare prescription benefit bill, I thought, "This will do it." The story has, for all intents and purposes, died, and no one has lost a job over it.

Now, brought to our attention by Mark Kleiman, THIS, if it doesn't bring down the Bushies at last and for good, will just prove what I desperately DON'T want to believe -- that a goodly portion of the American public just plain doesn't want to think for themselves and prefers a lazy, selfish, venal, good-old-boy to lead them because he doesn't challenge their hearts, minds or consciences. If the mainstream media doesn't get all over this story, and if Congress doesn't call for immediate hearings, I give up.

The second news story that heaves more burdens on the president comes from an NBC News broadcast by Jim Miklaszewski on March 2. Apparently, Bush had three opportunities, long before the war, to destroy a terrorist camp in northern Iraq run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al-Qaida associate who recently cut off the head of Nicholas Berg. But the White House decided not to carry out the attack because, as the story puts it:

"[T]he administration feared [that] destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam."

The implications of this are more shocking, in their way, than the news from Abu Ghraib. Bush promoted the invasion of Iraq as a vital battle in the war on terrorism, a continuation of our response to 9/11. Here was a chance to wipe out a high-ranking terrorist. And Bush didn't take advantage of it because doing so might also wipe out a rationale for invasion.

The story gets worse in its details. As far back as June 2002, U.S. intelligence reported that Zarqawi had set up a weapons lab at Kirma in northern Iraq that was capable of producing ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon drew up an attack plan involving cruise missiles and smart bombs. The White House turned it down. In October 2002, intelligence reported that Zarqawi was preparing to use his bio-weapons in Europe. The Pentagon drew up another attack plan. The White House again demurred. In January 2003, police in London arrested terrorist suspects connected to the camp. The Pentagon devised another attack plan. Again, the White House killed the plan, not Zarqawi.

When the war finally started in March, the camp was attacked early on. But by that time, Zarqawi and his followers had departed.

This camp was in the Kurdish enclave of Iraq. The U.S. military had been mounting airstrikes against various targets throughout Iraq—mainly air-defense sites—for the previous few years. It would not have been a major escalation to destroy this camp, especially after the war against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. The Kurds, whose autonomy had been shielded by U.S. air power since the end of the 1991 war, wouldn't have minded and could even have helped.

But the problem, from Bush's perspective, was that this was the only tangible evidence of terrorists in Iraq. Colin Powell even showed the location of the camp on a map during his famous Feb. 5 briefing at the U.N. Security Council. The camp was in an area of Iraq that Saddam didn't control. But never mind, it was something. To wipe it out ahead of time might lead some people—in Congress, the United Nations, and the American public—to conclude that Saddam's links to terrorists were finished, that maybe the war wasn't necessary. So Bush let it be.

In the two years since the Pentagon's first attack plan, Zarqawi has been linked not just to Berg's execution but, according to NBC, 700 other killings in Iraq. If Bush had carried out that attack back in June 2002, the killings might not have happened. More: The case for war (as the White House feared) might not have seemed so compelling. Indeed, the war itself might not have happened.

One ambiguity does remain. The NBC story reported that "the White House" declined to carry out the airstrikes. Who was "the White House"? If it wasn't George W. Bush—if it was, say, Dick Cheney—then we crash into a very different conclusion: not that Bush was directly culpable, but that he was more out of touch than his most cynical critics have imagined. It's a tossup which is more disturbing: a president who passes up the chance to kill a top-level enemy in the war on terrorism for the sake of pursuing a reckless diversion in Iraq—or a president who leaves a government's most profound decision, the choice of war or peace, to his aides.

Friday, May 14


Via Daily KOS, compare the Republical Party Platform of 2000 to Bush's record the past almost-four years:

"The arrogance, inconsistency, and unreliability of the administration's diplomacy have undermined American alliances, alienated friends, and emboldened our adversaries." [ed. this is referring to Clinton's administration]

"Gerrymandered congressional districts are an affront to democracy and an insult to the voters. We oppose that and any other attempt to rig the electoral process."

"Nor should the intelligence community be made the scapegoat for political misjudgments. A Republican administration working with the Congress will respect the needs and quiet sacrifices of these public servants as it strengthens America's intelligence and counter-intelligence capabilities and reorients them toward the dangers of the future."

The rest is here. It's a real laugh riot (if you have a sick sense of humor). Otherwise, it's just too too sad...One thing's for use, if Kerry is a flip-flopper, George is a stand-it-on-its-head-er.


"I, like a bunch of people here and including my brothers, who are in Afghanistan right now, are on our second tours already within two years. I volunteered to come back over here because it's my duty to serve, but a lot of people don't get a chance to say hey, I'm ready to come back. Is there a plan for stability?"

"We have 20th-century industrial-age planning tools in terms of force management," said Rumsfeld. "They're making major efforts to improve them and they're getting better, but they're far from perfect."

So that explains the poor Pentagon planning for this war and the post-war period -- our planning tools are from the "20th century" -- circa 1933...

The whole article can be found here.


William Odom, a retired general and former member of the National Security Council who is now at the Hudson Institute, a conservative thinktank, reflects a wide swath of opinion in the upper ranks of the military. "It was never in our interest to go into Iraq," he told me. It is a "diversion" from the war on terrorism; the rationale for the Iraq war (finding WMD) is "phoney"; the US army is overstretched and being driven "into the ground"; and the prospect of building a democracy is "zero". In Iraqi politics, he says, "legitimacy is going to be tied to expelling us. Wisdom in military affairs dictates withdrawal in this situation. We can't afford to fail, that's mindless. The issue is how we stop failing more. I am arguing a strategic decision."

One high-level military strategist told me that Rumsfeld is "detested", and that "if there's a sentiment in the army it is: Support Our Troops, Impeach Rumsfeld".

The rest of the story is here.


Former President Jimmy Carter reports on the findings of a November 2003 Carter meeting of leaders of human rights and democracy movements from 41 nations, sponsored by the United Nations and the Carter Center:

U.S. policies are giving license to abusive governments and even established democracies to stamp out legitimate dissent and reverse decades of progress toward freedom, with many leaders retreating from previous human rights commitments...Equally disturbing are reports that in some countries the U.S. government has pushed regressive counterterrorism laws, based on the USA Patriot Act, that undermine democratic principles and the rule of law...The United States must regain its status as the champion of freedom and human rights.


The New York Times is reporting that an investigation into whether the changes in rules for interrogations contributed to the abuse of prisoners is now at the center of the widening scandal:

Three officials familiar with the methods approved for Guantánamo said they appeared to be more restrictive than those promulgated for Iraq. At Guantánamo, methods like extended isolation and putting detainees into "stress positions" require approval from senior Pentagon officials; in Iraq, they need only that of the task force commander.[emphasis mine]
According to information from a classified interview with the senior military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib prison, General Miller's recommendations prompted a shift in the interrogation and detention procedures there. Military intelligence officers were given greater authority in the prison, and military police guards were asked to help gather information about the detainees.

The Bush administration has been repeating ad nauseum that the Geneva Convention rules were suspended for Guantanamo because it was there that Al Qaeda terrorists were being held, and Qaeda operatives are STATELESS. Yet interrogation methods there required higher-up approvals than in Iraq, where detainees were either suspected insurgents (Iraqi people fighting for their own country), suspected foreign fighters, or totally innocent. I suppose you could call the Iraqis stateless too, now that we're there -- there is no Iraqi government, ergo there is no Iraqi state. Wait for the Bushies to make THAT argument in their defense.

But then, Rumsfeld doesn't think they need defending.

Thursday, May 13


Iraqis condemn beheading.


Corrente has a great summary and commentary on "So who really killed Nick Berg?" Scroll down to "More Official Elevator Music from MSNBC." Seems there's some doubt whether or not Al Quaeda was involved in the beheading of American civilian Nick Berg and whether Abu Musab Zarqawi was the actual murderer.

In addition, discussion in the blogosphere about the murder, which raises some other intriguing questions, has reached Aljazeera.


Just watched the horrific video of Nick Berg being executed by beheading. You can find it here at Salon (subscription required or you can watch a commercial for a free day's access).

The video begins with Berg dressed in an American-like orange prison jumpsuit, sitting in a chair, then switches to him bound hands and feet, sitting on the floor (crude edit between shots). Five terrorists stand behind him, with the center man reading a long diatribe in Arabic. About 4:30 into the video the horror begins. Though the video is fuzzy at this point, you can clearly see Nick knocked to his side on the floor, as one of the men takes a large knife and seems to strike him in the back of the neck with it. There is a lot of screaming, I can't tell if it's Nick or for how long, because some of the screaming is obviously the terrorists chanting at the top of their lungs. The really awful thing that I hadn't heard anyone describe is that it seems to take a minute for them to saw completely around his head before it is severed and held up for display in a grisly John-the-Baptist-Herod-and-Salome kind of thing. Because you can't see if Nick's eyes are open you are not sure if he is unconscious or dead after the first blow or if he endured some of that sawing before he mercifully passed away.

[A couple of odd notes struck me. The first blood-curdling screams come before they knock Nick to the floor, while he's still sitting there stolidly. But the scream sounds identical to the ones we hear as they begin to behead him. So did he ever scream at all, or is there some other explanation? There's a crude edit just before they knock him to the floor. What was the purpose for that? And when the man with the knife holds Berg's head up for the camera, not a solitary drop of blood drips from it...and he holds it up for some time.]

This reminds me of a scene in James Michener's Caravans, which I read many years ago and have since reread over the years about five times. It's a novel about post-WWII Afghanistan and has been influential in my thinking about that country and region ever since. In the scene to which I refer, an Afghan who fancies that he has been dishonored or robbed or something (I don't remember the offense) takes an ancient bayonet and saws his victim's head off in a public meeting spot until the head is severed. The people of the town accepted this as a just resolution to the conflict between the two men; in fact, the murderer waltzed off with his victim's possessions, which included the man's young male lover.

The reactions of the young American foreign service official watching as Michener describes it is pretty much what I felt -- horrified revulsion; realization that this is a region of the world with a totally different cultural context from ours and very different mores; and a feeling of "what in the world are we doing here?" I don't know if I'm the only one, but I didn't get angry or furious so much as suffering a feeling of profound despair.

I'll be praying for Nick Berg's family...and my prayers will include my hope that his family never sees his horrific end.


A must-read: Harsh CIA Methods Cited in Top Interrogations.

I think it's time that we recognize that the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other prison facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan were not merely attempts to gain intelligence to help us win the "War on Terror," but acts of revenge and anger, and possibly fear reactions, against a perceived enemy. Certainly at Guantanamo and some of our "secret facilities" where some truly wicked Al Qaeda terrorists have been stashed, the urgent nature of the interrogations is understandable. However, experts in counterterrorism and intelligence have made the case against torture as an effective interrogation tool (scroll to bottom). The reason is obvious: if you're being tortured, you're likely to say anything you think your captor wants you to say, true or not, wasting valuable time and resources as our intelligence agencies try to validate and follow up on that bogus information. That's time and resources that could be used to pursue real villains. Haven't we had enough of failed intelligence efforts? Isn't it almost univerally accepted that 9/11 was at least partially a result of poor information, badly coordinated?

So why the bloodthirsty rantings of the right wing -- such as Sen. Inhofe, >Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North, Ann Coulter, and the majority of their listeners/callers, who are calling for a "jihad" against all Muslims, Iraqis, Afghans, and just about anyone who resists US power and authority anywhere else in the world? Suddenly any Iraqi who looks at us wrong is a thug and a terrorist, despite the International Committee of the Red Cross estimating that 75-90% of our detainees in Iraq are innocents picked up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Don't the wingers WANT to win the war? How will catching, imprisoning, and torturing the WRONG PEOPLE make us safer?

Last night I heard Mike Gallagher on the ratio asserting to a caller that the beheading of Nick Berg by an Al Qaeda-affiliated group proves the connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq. When the caller pointed out that the only known connection to Iraq pre-war was the fact that top bin Laden lieutenant Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi sometimes took refuge in the Kurdish terroritories of Iraq NOT controlled by Saddam Hussein, Gallagher replied that he wasn't trying to connect SADDAM with Al Qaeda, but IRAQ. So now the entire country is our enemy? The country that some 750 American soldiers have died to LIBERATE? And now all Iraqis are fair game? The same ones President Bush is always talking about as good, decent people who have suffered and will welcome the freedom we offer them as soon as they learn to appreciate us the way they ought to? Didn't the president repeatedly emphasize that our fight is with Saddam Hussein's regime and not with the Iraqi people?

It is clear from accounts of testimony by the accused soldiers and others that many, perhaps a majority, of our military people still believe that the Iraqis were associated with the horrors of 9/11. They have swallowed the implications of our Commander-in-Chief and his minions that a blow against Iraq is a blow against terrorism -- and some of them don't distinguish between "good Iraqis" and "bad Iraqis." I understand the human desire for payback; so does every American who's ever been criminally victimized. But if we're going to seek revenge, God help us, at least let's get the right guys. And for all our sakes, let's do it in the American way. If the world doesn't look up to us anymore as a beacon of freedom AND JUSTICE, what success can we hope to have influencing the world?

Oops. I think I've stumbled upon the answer...the Bushies don't particularly WANT to influence the world -- they want to own it and run it.

Call for regime change at home

I don't know how Bush can hold on to the votes of moderate Republicans when their icons, one by one, are waking up to his miserable record. George Will, Aaron Brown, and now Tom Friedman:

There is something even more important to the Bush crowd than getting Iraq right, and that's getting re-elected and staying loyal to the conservative base to do so. It has always been more important for the Bush folks to defeat liberals at home than Baathists abroad. That's why they spent more time studying U.S. polls than Iraqi history. That is why, I'll bet, Karl Rove has had more sway over this war than Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Bill Burns. Mr. Burns knew only what would play in the Middle East. Mr. Rove knew what would play in the Middle West.


This is just such a great article from The Gadflyer that you've just got to read it in its entirety. Here's an excerpt:

The Wafer Watch Continues

Kerry goes to church, and reporters see controversy. Bush doesn't, and no one says anything.

by Amy Sullivan, Contributing Editor

"Kerry Takes Communion on Mother's Day" was the headline on a recent AP story about John Kerry's Sunday doings, followed by the lede: "Democrat John Kerry attended Mother's Day Mass on Sunday and took communion although some Roman Catholic leaders say he should not receive it because his abortion-rights stance violates church teachings."

Missing once again was the accompanying story that begins, "Republicans George Pataki and Tom Ridge attended Mother's Day Mass on Sunday and took communion although some Roman Catholic leaders say pro-choice politicians should not receive it because their stance violates church teachings."

Also no word on whether George W. Bush attended church over the weekend.

Frankly, I don't give a hoot if Bush goes to church. Anyone who has spent much time with an assortment of religious people knows that frequent church attendance doesn't necessarily make you a good person and that plenty of highly moral people never attend church. But if reporters are going to spill plenty of ink each and every Sunday on the church activities of one candidate, then they had better do the same for his opponent. Particularly if that opponent has staked much of his domestic agenda on the argument that civil society -- and particularly religious congregations -- holds the key to solving social problems. I think it's perfectly relevant and fair to ask why a man with such firm convictions about the power of religious congregations doesn't belong to a congregation himself.
Fellowship is an incredibly important part of being a Christian. It's part of the reason why, even as I moved through various denominations on my way from recovering Baptist to newly-minted Episcopalian, I could never be satisfied with a simply private faith between me and God. The implied – and often explicit – responsibility for each other that undergirds congregational life is at the heart of Bush's faith-based policy agenda. If reporters are going to do everything short of inspect John Kerry's molars for evidence of any unswallowed Host, the least they can do is devote one article to the church life of our most vocally religious president.

Wednesday, May 12


This will break your heart:

On 7th March, 2004, just three weeks before the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, an 'enemies' list of anti-war groups and individuals was posted on the Free Republic forum.

It began: "Here you are, FReepers. Here is the enemy."

The list had been copied from publicly available endorsements of a call to action for an imminent anniversary antiwar protest on 20th March, 2004. The protest was being organized under the banner of the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism).

Among those listed as having endorsed the call to action was this entry: "Michael S. Berg, Teacher, Prometheus Methods Tower Service, Inc."

That's Nick Berg's father, Michael who acts as business manager for his son in their family radio communications firm, Prometheus Methods Tower Service.

Both father and son cared deeply about Iraq. But they were on opposite sides of opinion on the occupation --though you would never know that from reading the New York Times.

Michael was ardently antiwar, whereas his Bush-supporting son was in favor of the war to the extent that he had already visited Iraq seeking to help with rebuilding efforts.

Just seven days after "Michael Berg" and "Prometheus Methods Tower Service" had come up on that Iraq war 'enemies' list, his son Nick Berg returned to Iraq under the business name of Prometheus Methods Tower Service.

The scene was set for tragically mistaken suspicions --which were to end in the horrifying death of an honorable and blameless American. A humanitarian who had traveled several times to Third World countries --such as Ghana, to teach villagers construction techniques.


ROME - The scandal of prisoner abuses by U.S. soldiers in Iraq (news - web sites) has dealt a bigger blow to the United States than the Sept. 11 attacks, the Vatican (news - web sites) foreign minister told an Italian newspaper.

In an interview published Wednesday in the Rome daily La Repubblica, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo described the abuses as "a tragic episode in the relationship with Islam" and said the scandal would fuel hatred for the West and for Christianity.

"The torture? A more serious blow to the United States than Sept. 11. Except that the blow was not inflicted by terrorists but by Americans against themselves," Lajolo was quoted as saying in La Repubblica.

Lajolo said that "intelligent people in Arab countries understand that in a democracy such episodes are not hidden and are punished ... Still the vast mass of people — under the influence of Arab media — cannot but feel aversion and hate for the West growing inside themselves."

The link is here.


I'm finally settled on my recommendation for John Kerry's running mate: Wesley Clark. The world is looking awfully scary as a result of nearly four years of Smirk and Chaingang, and ordinary people are beginning to look freaked-out. It's time for "grownups" to take over, and I can't think of anyone more reassuring to the public in general than Gen. Clark. He's the whole package -- and one of the few (if not the only one) who might have a decent chance of turning this Iraq/Afghanistan/War on Terra thing around. Plus, he should appeal to the military chain of command, at least those who have been speaking out recently (albeit anonymously) against the Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney/Myers non-plan.

Via Mark Kleiman, we link to Broken Engagement in the Washington Monthly. It's subtitled, "The strategy that won the Cold War could help bring democracy to the Middle East-- if only the Bush hawks understood it."

More about General Clark later...


Where Are They,Damn It!

Following up my post below, in reading today's NY Times description of the disagreement between general Taguba and Stephen Cambone yesterday at the hearings, I was reminded of something. First, here's the relevant excerpt from the Times:

[Taguba] told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it had been against the Army's doctrine for another Army general to recommend last summer that military guards 'set the conditions' to help Army intelligence officers extract information from prisoners. He also said an order last November from the top American officer in Iraq effectively put the prison guards under the command of the intelligence unit there. But the civilian official, Stephen A. Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, contradicted the general. He said that the military police and the military intelligence unit at the prison needed to work closely to gain as much intelligence as possible from Iraqi prisoners to prevent attacks against American soldiers. Mr. Cambone also said that General Taguba misinterpreted the November order, which he said only put the intelligence unit in charge of the prison facility, not of the military police guards.
Many of you will recall the following passage from Time Magazine last July:

Meeting last month at a sweltering U.S. base outside Doha, Qatar, with his top Iraq commanders, President Bush skipped quickly past the niceties and went straight to his chief political obsession: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Turning to his Baghdad proconsul, Paul Bremer, Bush asked, 'Are you in charge of finding WMD?' Bremer said no, he was not. Bush then put the same question to his military commander, General Tommy Franks. But Franks said it wasn't his job either. A little exasperated, Bush asked, So who is in charge of finding WMD? After aides conferred for a moment, someone volunteered the name of Stephen Cambone, a littleknown deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, back in Washington. Pause. 'Who?' Bush asked.
This is pure speculation, but it is worth looking into what those interrogators were after in Abu Ghraib. Cambone framed it yesterday as "trying to prevent attacks against American soldiers.," which, I supose, you could interpret in a number of ways. But, if the focus was finding the non-existent WMD, then you'd have to ask whether the man whose "chief political obsession" was finding them gave the order to take off the gloves.


From Demagogue: Lines of Attack

I hope the Republican hacks keep attacking Teresa Heinz Kerry as being a wealthy snob out of touch with the American people and, in doing so, start pointing to this

Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Sen. John F. Kerry, said Tuesday that she had income of $5.1 million in 2003, more than 10 times what her husband earned but well below what many outsiders had expected.
I also hope that they then turn around and attack her for this

Heinz Kerry paid $587,000 in federal income tax, which represents 11.5% of her total income, a rate that is significantly lower than her husband's or President Bush's. And then I hope that the Kerry campaign attacks Bush for this

Since much of her income came from dividends, Heinz Kerry benefited from a tax cut on dividends sponsored by Bush. If they want to try and paint her as some wealthy socialite who doesn't pay her share of taxes, they are free to do so. But they'll have to explain why Bush's tax cuts are designed to benefit these sorts of people the most.

This morning I listened to Laura Ingraham as she distinguished us Democrat "elitists" from "average Americans." I'd love to know what Laura's income and taxes were last year...and I'd love to see someone do an analysis of Republic officeholders' incomes as opposed to Democrats'. I think we know who'd come out on top. Now if you compared education or IQs, maybe you'd have a reason to call us "elitist."

KERRY ON IMUS...and missing the unemployment benefits extension bill...

Loved John Kerry on Don Imus this morning, with one exception (scroll down). He declared that it was a bogus argument that to replace Don Rumsfeld would hurt the war effort, and named several credible possibilities.

Kerry also showed some humor when the I-man asked him who he was going to pick as a running mate. Kerry replied (not a literal transcript, just my very good memory), "Well Don, I'd consider you if [your wife]Deirdre will release her tax returns." And "Whenever I think of better health care and the elderly, I think of you Don."

Lots of people are having a cow today because Kerry skipped a Senate vote yesterday that went 59-40 in favor of extending unemployment benefits, one shy of the 60 votes needed. When Imus chided him for that, Kerry scoffed, "No way were the Republicans going to allow that to pass, Don. When they do, I'll be there."

Let's put aside whether or not Kerry is right about that -- and he probably is. He's got to get a grip on what perception can do, especially in an election year. I can see right now (and it doesn't take much imagination in view of the instant media coverage of his no-show) a Bush/Cheney 2004 ad showing what a "hypocrite" Kerry is for championing workers and those whose jobs have been lost and then skipping a crucial vote that could have given them some immediate relief.


That headline, while a pun, isn't meant to be funny. The beheading of American civilian Nick Berg in Iraq is an atrocity, and tragically it probably won't be the last of its kind during the "War on Terror" as long as the Bush administration governs.

Salon points out that a few thoughtful right-wingers think some heads should roll in the Bush administration for its failed foreign policies.

And don't forget that "...long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger."

BuzzFlash interviews terrorism expert Jessica Stern:

After reading "Terror in the Name of God," it becomes even clearer to us that Bush's only dubious accomplishment is the implementation of policies that create more terrorism, not less. That's because, based on Stern's analysis of religious-based terrorism, Bush responds to terrorism exactly as terrorists would want him to, thus playing into their hands.
BuzzFlash: One of the key things that comes across in your book is the complexity of terrorism. The war on terrorism is being waged almost purely as a military campaign. Yet the way your book is structured indicates the grievances that give rise to a religious terrorist are complex and varying -- humiliation, demographics, history, territory. Any individual terrorist may have one or a combination of these. And then you say, on page 283 of your book, that the terrorism we are fighting is a seductive idea, not a military target. Terrorist leaders tell young men that the reason they feel humiliated personally and culturally is that international institutions are exploiting them, and that in many cases, although not exclusively, the enemy is modernity.

Given that it’s a seductive idea and not a military target, how do we respond? You do come to some suggestions at the end, but currently we’re being told by the Bush administration that it’s virtually purely a military response.

Jessica Stern: I don’t mean that there aren’t some military targets. There are some important military targets. For example, I think it was important to destroy al-Qaeda’s headquarters in Afghanistan. But that is just a short-term measure. Over the long term, what should trouble us more than anything is what is coming out of the Pew polls, showing that the level of antipathy to the United States is continuing to go up, especially after the Iraq war, especially in the Islamic world, but not exclusively in the Islamic world.

In one of the Pew polls -- not the last one, but I think the one before that -- there was a finding that a number of Islamic-majority countries, more people have confidence in bin Laden as a leader than in President Bush. The word was confidence, not faith. To me, that is an extraordinary vulnerability. If I were advising the President, I would see that as a very significant threat to U.S. national security because, as Mao said, terrorists swim in a sea of ordinary people who are their supporters and provide logistic support. Terrorists need that support. And when there’s so much hatred toward the United States, they’re going to get that support. And they’re going to be more successful also at recruiting.

So I think what’s most important is that we try to undermine the false idea that the al-Qaeda movement is promoting that the U.S. is out to humiliate the Islamic world. There’s no military target there; indeed, military responses largely feed into that false idea. When military action is necessary, I think it ought to be as covert as possible. And I think we ought to be focusing on penetrating the groups more than killing operatives.


Harold Meyerson:

Back when he was running for president, in 2000, Sen. John McCain routinely referred to Bill Clinton's handling of world affairs as a "feckless photo-op foreign policy." Four years later, Clinton's foreign policy seems fairly filled with feck when contrasted with his successor's.
But then, at the White House and at the highest (that is, civilian) levels of the Pentagon, every assumption about the occupation was rooted in fantasy. And on that topic and its role in the affairs of the occupiers and the occupied, I defer to Ireland's great poet, William Butler Yeats. "We fed the heart on fantasy," he wrote, "the heart grew brutal on the fare."


Steven Pearlstein:

...over the years I've noticed that companies that get into trouble, or lose their edge, have many of the same characteristics at the top: an overemphasis on hierarchy and orderliness; a penchant for secrecy and keeping decisions closely held; an instinct to discount information or dismiss views that don't comport with the company line; a habit of pronouncing rather than engaging intellectually with those outside the inner circle; an unhealthy arrogance and sense of entitlement.

When something goes wrong, the all-too-typical corporate response is to downplay its importance or bury it in bureaucratic processes. And if that doesn't work, the next line of defense is to pin it all on a few "bad apples" and move aggressively to "put the issue behind us," without ever really admitting serious error.

That should sound familiar to anyone who has watched Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and John Snow on C-SPAN, or read Paul O'Neill's account of his ill-fated attempts to warn of the budgetary fallout from a second tax cut, or heard what Richard Clarke told the 9/11 commission about warnings of terrorist attacks that fell on deaf ears. It also describes to a T the process by which the administration has dealt with Iraq, from the original decision to go to war to the handling of the prison scandal.

Here's a little test: You are president of the United States and revelations about abuse of Iraqi prisoners has created the biggest crisis since Sept. 11, inflaming the Arab world, undercutting support at home and undermining our moral authority in the world. How do you spend the weekend?

If you answered "spend it at Camp David as planned, then drop in at the Pentagon on Monday to praise the defense secretary for doing a superb job," you just flunked, along with George W. Bush.
The Bush team likes to crow that it brought disciplined, private-sector management to government. But as Joshua Marshall wrote last year in the Washington Monthly, theirs turns out to be a largely discredited, old-economy management style -- one better suited for the cartel-like oil, drug and railroad industries they came from than the messy, fast-changing realities facing the government of the United States.

As I wrote on May 4, "As director of corporate marketing and strategic communications for a Fortune 250 company, I have worked with three different highly effective and successful CEOs over the past 15 years. I can tell you, they weren't passive and they READ every report they could get their hands on. They were always the MOST knowledgeable people in the company. Can you imagine a top-level CEO of a publicly held company making his quarterly conference call to financial analysts and NOT knowing the answer to any of their questions? The Board of Directors would have serious questions about their ability to lead the company, especially after the analysts lowered their stock price expectations on that basis. And believe me, the quality of company leadership has a great deal to do with the confidence the market has in the company. There may not be a lot of checks and balances in corporate America today, but there is still one that is effective -- the market's rating of the company. In Bush's case, I think the rating would have to be "sell" or at least "underperform."


Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:

The real reason that Mr. Kerry is making so little progress is that voters are now focused almost exclusively on the president. This is typical: as an election approaches, voters first decide whether the incumbent deserves re-election; only later do they think about whether it is worth taking a chance on the challenger. There is no reason to expect a one-to-one relationship between public disaffection with the incumbent and an immediate surge in public support for his challenger.
Should the voters' disillusionment with the current President Bush continue, they will evaluate John Kerry and decide whether he is worth a chance. But, as in the past, the focus at this stage is on the man in the White House — and given the events in Iraq, it is unlikely to come off him any time soon. Mr. Kerry's lack of progress should not, for now, be cause for concern to Democrats. Public opinion about Mr. Bush is the far more important barometer — and if it remains low, Mr. Kerry will have a chance to make his case.


The New York Times has a punchy editorial today about the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, placing the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of Bush and Rumsfeld.

Tuesday, May 11


The Stanford Prison Experiment


I know there's an enormous group now who view John Kerry's strategy as wimpish and that of a loser. They want him to come out swinging at Bush and, as I said in the previous post, "finish the job."

But I wonder if that might not backfire in a terrible way. Many of the well-meaning independents/moderates I speak with who usually vote with the Republicans but NOT ALWAYS (quite a few of them voted for Clinton in '92, but at least half didn't repeat in '96) are now beginning to think seriously about dumping Bush this November -- but they still have strong personal feelings in his favor, can't help seeing him as the "hero of 9/11." And of course, the fact that we live in Texas where nearly everybody, including liberals, loves to play cowboy sometimes, means that they also have a sneaking identification with him. If Kerry were "mean-spirited" (I don't think the man has it in him, so I'm referring to their perception), I worry that it might push them into "rescuing" George.

Sunday night our family watched the entire three-hour Survivor finale (another one of my guilty pleasures). Out of six of us watching, I was the only one who had ever seen an episode, but everyone got so into it they were all talking at once and we could hardly hear the show. It was amazing to me to see Boston Rob, the betrayer, ALMOST win the million dollars -- but it was more interesting to observe the way my family did a complete 360 about him, going from despising him during the actual playing of the game to siding with him when his apparently sincere apology was contrasted with the unforgiving attacks upon him (I thought they were right to attack and vote against him, but I'm always in favor of forgiveness -- it soothes the soul). That got me to thinking that if Kerry and the Democrats might be better served if we take the approach of "It's time for a change...Bush just hasn't delivered and is out of touch with how to serve the needs of Americans (security as well as economic)" rather than the "Bush is evil" meme. I'm not saying that we shouldn't point out Bush's crony connections, whether to the Saudis and the bin Laden family or to American corporate interests; but I'm doubting that we should betray our contempt for him and thus push those who identify with him (but worry about him) firmly into the Bush camp.

I don't know, maybe there aren't enough of these type voters to make this a sound strategy. I'd like to see someone else address it who knows more than I...


I loved this:

Best of the Blogs: "Just Wondering"
Okay, okay. I get Kerry's strategy. If you see a man who has just been run over by a crosstown bus there is no point in going over and punching him in the face. It just makes you look bad. But, what if the guy who has just been run over is a vampire? Wouldn't it be prudent to drive a stake through his heart just in case? posted by Jerry Bowles


Listened to Sean Hannity on the radio yesterday driving home from work. I distinctly heard him say that Jamie Gorelick was "single-handedly responsible for creating the wall between our" intelligence agencies. That story has been thoroughly discredited, but when did that ever stop Hannity, Rushbo or O'Lielly?

BTW, it made me sick to my stomach to hear John McCain tell Sean, "You're doing God's work." If one more Democrat suggests McCain as a running mate for Kerry, I may become moved to violence (e.g., throwing my laptop at the TV). Dear God (not an epithet, I pray a lot), please keep me from rash acts that only cost me and my family.

Mother's Day for Motherlode

Skipped blogging on Sunday and Monday due to Mother's Day and just being tired. Will pick up later.