Friday, November 11


One of the most despicable things about BushCo policies are the way they aretearing us apart.

Coming on the eve of a holiday more commonly associated with parades and quiet remembrance, the arrests were made at a 6 p.m. showdown at Veterans Memorial Park, when protesters -- a mixture of veterans and non-veterans -- delivered on their threat to rip up 2,000 white flags placed there to commemorate America's war dead in Iraq.

"I'm saddened that it has come to this, but I have a responsibility to maintain public safety," said Police Chief John Morris, a Vietnam veteran. "Veterans don't behave like that. These people don't have a right to destroy other people's property. Legitimate veterans' organizations don't commit civil disobedience. Veterans died to allow freedom to exist -- whether we like the message or not. "

I'm reminded of the 1968 presidential campaign, when at a Nixon rally a teenager held up a sign that read, "Bring us together." The nation was being torn asunder by the Vietnam conflict, much like the national unity that existed subsequent to 9/11 has been destroyed by the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In my years on this earth I have observed that wars have divided the American people more than any other issue or event (although racism vs. the civil rights movement ranks right up there). When I say "wars" I refer to wars of choice, or "prevention" as opposed to a war truly thrust upon us by an attack upon our territory such as WWII. What politicians seldom seem to understand (or maybe, terribly, they do) is that once emotions are exploited and exploded by such divisions, it is very difficult and takes years for the American psyche to heal.

Where is the candidate who can heal us, now that veterans and their families have been pitted against one another?

It can only be a veteran, I would think, someone whom both sides can believe understands and sympathizes with their pain. Maybe it's time for a Wesley Clark presidency after all.

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TomDispatch reminds us of other veterans:

Nick Turse has created the beginnings of a "wall" to quite a different legion of the fallen; in this case, the governmental casualties of Bush administration follies, those men and women who were honorable or steadfast enough in their government duties that they found themselves with little alternative but to resign in protest, quit, or simply be pushed off the cliff by cronies of this administration. Here are the first 42 names of those we thought might be put on such a wall (and brief descriptions of their fates).

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Jerry Springer threw out a good line today. It went something like, "On Intelligent Design, what's to teach? After you've said God created everything, what more is there to say except, 'Read the Bible'?"



In the face of all the evidence that indicates that torture of prisoners is injurious to our image and values, is an ineffective and even counterproductive interrogation technique, and damages those who inflict it as well as their victims, what can we conclude about Dick Cheney's continued support of it? I guess he just likes the fantasy of himself as James Bond, or maybe he just gets off on the control thing. Either way, it says an awful lot about the character of the man...and it bears a marked resemblance to sadism.

Robert Baer, a former CIA covert officer who worked in Iraq and elsewhere, said he recently spent time in an Israeli prison, talking with detainees from the radical Palestinian groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas for a British documentary about suicide bombers.

The Israelis, Baer said, have learned that they can gain valuable information by establishing personal relationships with the inmates and gaining their trust.

"They found that torture, abusive tactics, made things overall worse for them politically," Baer said. "The Israelis are friendly with their prisoners. They play cards with them and allow them to contact their families. They are getting in their minds to determine what makes up a suicide bomber."
But intelligence officers said that torture, or tactics just short of it, rarely produced good information, and were more likely to produce bad information.

Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of operations and analysis in the CIA Counterterrorist Center, said detainees would say virtually anything to end their torment.

Baer agreed, citing intelligence reports from Arab security services that yielded useless information. "The Saudis and Egyptians torture people all the time, but I have yet to see anything that helped us on the jihad movement and (Osama bin Laden's deputy Ayman al) Zawahri," he said.

Ibn Sheikh al Libi, an al-Qaida training camp commander who was captured, was a principal source of the Bush administration's prewar claim that Iraq had provided chemical weapons training to bin Laden's network. He was subjected to aggressive interrogation techniques - and the information on Iraq and al-Qaida turned out to have been invented.

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My dad, a retired Air Force officer, always told me I could remember Armistice Day in this way: "Armistice was declared at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month." That was the "Great War," before we knew enough to count them; later it became known as WWI, and Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day.

In honor of my dear departed dad and my Air Force nurse sister, my veteran granddads, precious father-in-law and numerous uncles, and all the other honored veterans in my family who are gone but not forgotten, as well as my fighter jock brother and those many others in our military family (almost exclusively Air Force) who served well and honorably and are still with's Before You Go.

Listen with a tissue or two.


Terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni, author of Insurgent Iraq, thinks so:

Al-Zarqawi's scope before the Iraq war, she continued, did not extend past corrupt Arab regimes, particularly Jordan's. Between 2000 and early 2002, he operated the training camp in Herat with Taliban funds; the fighters bound for Jordan. After the fall of the Taliban, he fled to Iraqi Kurdistan and set up shop.

In 2001, Kurdish officials enlightened the United States about the uninvited Jordanian, said Napoleoni. Jordanian officials, who had still unsolved terrorist attacks, were eager to implicate al-Zarqawi, she claimed. The little-known militant instantly had fingerprints on most major terrorist attacks after Sept. 11, 2001. He was depicted in Powell's speech as a key player in the al-Qaida network.

By perpetuating a "terrifying myth" of al-Zarqawi, the author said, "The United States, Kurds, and Jordanians all won ... but jihad gained momentum," after in-group dissension and U.S. coalition operations had left the core of al-Qaida crippled.

In her article, Napoleoni says, "[Zarqawi] had finally managed to grasp bin Laden's definition of the faraway enemy, the United States." Adding that, "Its presence in Iraq as an occupying power made it clear to him that the United States was as important a target as any of the Arab regimes he had grown to hate.

"... The myth constructed around him is at the root of his transformation into a political leader. With bin Laden trapped somewhere in Afghanistan and Pakistan, al-Zarqawi fast became the new symbolic leader in the fight against America and a manager for whoever was looking to be part of that struggle," she wrote.


John Edwards is sounding more and more like a viable Democratic presidential candidate for president in 2008. On his most vulnerable issue (for me and many progressives), he appears to have learned his lesson -- the Iraq War was a mistake, he admits, and Hillary is wrong-headed in advocating increased troop levels to "finish the job." On his signature issue, the "two Americas," events such as Katrina may have conspired to help him in that they raised the consciousness, and conscience, of the American people.

Lesson One: Stop thinking small. "I think in our effort to be elected, we've become minimalists, tinkering around the edges--Our tax cut is better than yours, or, We'll give you smaller class sizes," he says. "That's not what the country wants. We've got to give the American people something big and important to be unified by. Republicans use big things to divide America. I think we can use big things to unite America."

Chief among those "big things," clearly, is an all-out effort to conquer poverty.
Which brings us to Lesson Two: Democrats can't afford to keep ceding the "values vote." Here again, Edwards sees his antipoverty crusade as a step in the right direction. "In a country of our wealth, to have 37 million people living in poverty? It's a huge moral issue," he says. "There's a hunger in this country for a sense of national community, that we're not in this thing by ourselves. There's been a long period of selfish thinking. I think there's a great opportunity for us to be about a big, moral cause that's bigger than people's own self-interest."
Steve Jarding, the rural strategist who set fundraising records running Edwards's PAC in 2002 before leaving the campaign in frustration, thinks his moral spin on the "two Americas" message has real potential in Middle America. "Let's face it: There are millions of families sitting down at the table tonight, parents working two or three jobs and struggling to survive. Are they sitting there saying, Thank God two gay people aren't getting married? or, I'm so glad the girl down the street can't get an abortion? That's not what's tearing their families apart. If Edwards will stand up and tell them that, he could change the turf."

Lesson Three is also about changing the turf: Democrats, who've now lost every state in the nation's largest region in two straight elections, have to take their message south.
Edwards says his New America Initiative will address the middle-class squeeze as well as poverty. But he thinks the key to Southern votes involves something that transcends policy positions. "These are the kinds of people that respond to strength and leadership," he says. "They want leaders who have the backbone to stand up for something. We're not Republicans. When we try to be some lighter version of what we are, which is what happens over and over, it's devastating to Democrats. Why would they choose us?"

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Returned last night from my trip to Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, and Raleigh-Durham, and now I'm home for good until after the New Year. I'll be catching up on the news and posting as usual starting tonight.

One interesting result from my trip: I've talked to numerous staunch Republicans who are simply fed up with Bush and his policies. The bad news is they have no intention of voting Democrat. But if their sentiments keep them away from the polls in 2006, that still bodes well for Democrats making serious inroads in Congress and statehouses.

Sunday, November 6


All American Kid

Popular but not plastic. Athletic but not a jock. Smart but not a brain.

You were well rounded and well liked in high school.

Well, kind of true, but not entirely.

I WAS popular (Homecoming Queen candidate, Student Council, Senior Class Secretary, etc.) but not plastic -- I was a member of the "cool kids" but I was also a champion debater and liked to hang around with the nerdy brains. I also sang in a folk group and a rock group.

I was KIND OF athletic (I was too small but I was feisty) but I've always been a sports nut (of my parents' four daughters, I was my daddy's boy). What other woman purchases ESPN game plan so she can watch 12 college football games in a day? (Just kidding, I only actually watched four yesterday --)

I wasn't particularly smart, but I WAS a brain -- National Merit Scholarship finalist, three academic college scholarships, mid-1400's on my SATs.

I was also a national cast member of "Up With People" the summer before my senior year and a known "rebel," openly advocating civil rights in my Southern hometown and opposing the VietNam War -- my dad's advice to me as I went off to college was, "If you're in a demonstration and they take pictures, cover your face so your mother won't be embarrassed."

Yep, I was an all-American kid.

You can take the quiz here. Hat tip to Suburban Guerrilla.

It wasn't as much fun as the Desperate Housewives quiz. I'm Lynette, no matter how many times I take it (the questions are different every time). You know, the frazzled executive mother of four. I'm a frazzled executive mother of five, so what else would I be?

Interestingly, everyone I know who's taken this quiz (including guys), with one exception, has turned out to be "Susan." That's eight people, six women, two men. The exception was one Gabriella. No Brees so far.


Fascinating article about a journalist's invitation to lunch with Rummy and assorted Pentagon bigwigs. Clearly, Rummy was doing damage control, but the insights are priceless.

Rumsfeld told me: ``My dad was over-age but volunteered for the Navy. A year later he was the deck officer on an aircraft carrier fighting the war in the Pacific.''

On the way out the defense secretary said, in parting: ``I want you to know that I love soldiers, and I care about soldiers. All of us here do.''

Then why do our forces in Iraq still lack adequate armor? We can allow Halliburton to waste billions of our tax money but we can't afford to properly equip our fighting men and women?



Interesting. On the Chris Matthews Show just now, Chris posed the question to his panel (after a long discussion of Dubya's filial problems with his father), "Does George W. Bush now regret he didn't follow his father's advice about going to war with Iraq?"

The panel of Howard Fineman, Sam Donaldson, Katty Kay, etc. was unanimous: No. "Too stubborn" was the verdict.
Chris responded, "Whew. That's (troubling, scary, something like that)."

(Incidentally, Sam Donaldson predicted that Tim Kane will beat Jerry Kilgore for Governor of Virginia because of terrible, negative, violent campaign ads.)

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Bush lied, and people died.

A top member of Al Qaeda in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Al Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to newly declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document.

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

The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi’s credibility. Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi’s information as “credible’’ evidence that Iraq was training Al 8Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons.

Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that “we’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases.’’
Mr. Libi was not alone among intelligence sources later determined to have been fabricating accounts. Among others, an Iraqi exile whose code name was Curveball was the primary source for what proved to be false information about Iraq and mobile biological weapons labs. And American military officials cultivated ties with Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group, who has been accused of feeding the Pentagon misleading information in urging war.
In an interview on Friday, Mr. Levin also called attention to a portion of the D.I.A. report that expressed skepticism about the idea of close collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda, an idea that was never substantiated by American intelligence but was a pillar of the administration’s prewar claims.

“Saddam’s regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements,’’ the D.I.A. report said in one of two declassified paragraphs. “Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control.’’

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