Saturday, December 09, 2006

Inviting the terrorists in

President Bush promulgates many fallacies to the American people but the greatest fallacy of all of them must be his "we'll fight the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here" adage. Every time he or one of his mouthpieces uses it in the media, it's like the elephant in the room. How can these "journalists" not call out the president on that line every time?

First of all, we're already fighting them here, even though we're also fighting them over there at the same time. Secondly, if a terrorist really wanted to take the fight to us in our homeland, why would he go to Iraq where he'll face nothing but the most battle-hardened American troops on the alert for terrorists? He could instead come straight through our vast unprotected ports to our own soil where millions of lax Americans are in huge groups in unhardened locations to fight us.

The Iraq Study Group Report says that in Iraq, "most attacks on Americans still come from the Sunni Arab insurgency." They are "former elements of the Saddam Hussein regime, disaffected Sunni Arab Iraqis, and common criminals," not terrorists. It goes on to say "most wish to restore Sunni Arab rule in the country. Some aim at winning local power and control."

Al Q'aeda, on the other hand, is just a "small portion of the violence in Iraq." Even at that, al Q'aeda in Iraq is now run by Iraqis, for the most part, and composed of Sunni Arabs. The Iraq Study Group found that "al Qaeda's goals include instigating a wider sectarian war between Iraq's Sunni and Shia, and driving the United States out of Iraq." These are not terrorists that would suddenly pack up and leave their homes in Iraq and come to a land as foreign to them as the USA is just because American troops leave Iraq -- driving the troops out of Iraq is precisely the stated goal of the insurgency.

Bush's foreign policy is, in fact, creating the opposite effect of fighting terrorism. The Iraq war has actually caused an increase in global terrorism. Meanwhile, thousands of miles of our remote borders are wide open to anyone who wants to cross them, it has been demonstrated that the Department of Homeland Security is very vulnerable to and unprepared for a major terrorist attack, and our National Guard is not protecting us on American soil because they're deployed in Iraq. Sadly, fighting "terrorists" in Iraq is actually exposing us to a greater risk of being attacked by them here in our homeland.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Something to think about?

An email is being forwarded around the Internet with the Subject "Something to think about?" What is this thought-provoking content? Supposedly, the email was started by one Pam Foster of Pamela Foster and Associates in Atlanta. It is purportedly a letter to a family member serving in Iraq. Here is Foster's rant:
Are we fighting a war on terror or aren't we? Was it or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on September 11, 2001?

Were people from all over the world, mostly Americans, not brutally murdered that day, in downtown Manhattan , across the Potomac from our nation's capitol and in a field in Pennsylvania ?

Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a horrible, burning or crushing death that day, or didn't they?

And I'm supposed to care that a copy of the Koran was "desecrated" when an overworked American soldier kicked it or got it wet? Well, I don't. I don't care at all.

I'll start caring when Osama bin Laden turns himself in and repents for incinerating all those innocent people on 9/11.

I'll care about the Koran when the fanatics in the Middle East start caring about the Holy Bible, the mere possession of which is a crime in Saudi Arabia .

I'll care when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi tells the world he is sorry for hacking off Nick Berg's head while Berg screamed through his gurgling slashed throat.

I'll care when the cowardly so-called "insurgents" in Iraq come out and fight like men instead of disrespecting their own religion by hiding in mosques.

I'll care when the mindless zealots who blow themselves up in search of nirvana care about the innocent children within range of their suicide bombs.

I'll care when the American media stops pretending that their First Amendment liberties are somehow derived from international law instead of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights.

In the meantime, when I hear a story about a brave marine roughing up an Iraqi terrorist to obtain information, know this: I don't care.

When I see a fuzzy photo of a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners who have been humiliated in what amounts to a college-hazing incident, rest assured that I don't care.

When I see a wounded terrorist get shot in the head when he is told not to move because he might be booby-trapped, you can take it to the bank that I don't care.

When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran and a prayer mat, and fed "special" food that is paid for by my tax dollars, is complaining that his holy book is being "mishandled," you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts that I don't care.

And oh, by the way, I've noticed that sometimes it's spelled "Koran" and other times "Quran." Well, Jimmy Crack Corn and ---- you guessed it - - - I don't care ! ! ! ! !
As the Subject asks, I thought about it. I thought that I could understand Foster sending a letter like that to a son stationed in Afghanistan. However, it makes no sense in the context of him being in Iraq. I guess Foster didn't hear that his commander in chief himself admitted, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th." Perhaps she didn't know that before Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq:

  • Iraq was a secular nation. Concerned about the threat to his control over her, Hussein suppressed Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq.
  • Hussein had no substantive involvement with al Q'aeda. Usama bin Laden considered Hussein to be an infidel because of his secularism.
  • Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. Tied down by international forces, Iraq posed no imminent threat to its immediate neighbors, let alone the USA.
  • There was no terrorism in Iraq. Other than the abuses Hussein perpetrated over his own people, there was no security threat to Iraqis.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The laming of the duck

One of the risks of exercising too hard is that it can actually make the person exercising lame. President Bush is now finding that he has exercised his executive powers too hard. Recent judicial activity is making Bush's executive powers more and more lame.

US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor has validated that the NSA surveillance program (which includes secretly eavesdropping over US citizens on American soil) authorized by Bush is a shameful act. In ruling that the program violates US citizens' privacy and free-speech rights and illegally skirts review by the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, she wrote, "There are no hereditary kings in America, and no powers not created by the Constitution."

Even Representative Jane Harman (self-proclaimed Democrat and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee), long a supporter of the Iraq war, the USA PATRIOT Act, and the NSA spy program, is having a change of heart. Blasting the administration for refusing to provide legal opinions and authorizations for its wiretap program, interrogations policy, and detentions of accused terrorists, Harman said Friday that, "The administration has too often operated under vague legal guidelines, pursuant to secret legal opinions generated by few and vetted by almost none."

Speaking of detentions of accused terrorists, a lawsuit filed by two Brooklyn detainees hopes to hold federal law enforcement authorities responsible for their open-ended, "hold-until-cleared" policy for detainees is moving forward in the federal courts in New York. Top administration officials were denied their request to have the case dismissed. In another case, the federal government agreed last week to pay $2-million to settle a lawsuit filed by an Oregon attorney who was arrested and jailed for two weeks in 2004 after the FBI erroneously linked him to a terrorist attack in Spain.

Also last week, a Los Angeles federal judge has ruled that key portions of a presidential order blocking financial assistance to terrorist groups are unconstitutional. The judge ruled that two provisions of an executive order signed just days after the 9/11 attack are too vague because they allow the president to unilaterally designate organizations as terrorist groups and broadly prohibit association with such groups.

Fortunately for Americans' liberties, the judiciary is beginning to lame Bush's excessive executive powers. Let's hope for the sake of the principles upon which this country was founded that this trend continues.

What Americans believe

Americans believe*:
  • There is a civil war in Iraq now.
  • With regard to Iraq, the US government should set a timetable for withdrawal.
  • It was a mistake to take military action against Iraq in the first place.
  • It is a good thing that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will be stepping down.
  • The nomination of Robert Gates, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), by President Bush to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense will make no difference to the situation in Iraq.
*Harris Interactive poll, 11/20/2006

Bush disagreeing with his Marines

The commander in chief apparently only believes in one way communication. The message he's sending down is directly contradicted by the message being sent up by his troops.

In a speech Bush gave in Latvia last week, he said "I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," speaking about his war in Iraq. He went on to say, "We can accept nothing less than victory."

Apparently, Bush did not read a classified Marine Corps intelligence report released in August. The report stated "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that US and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar," a Sunni dominated province in Iraq where the insurgency is at its strongest.

Yes, Bush made his speech three months after the report was released. But things did not improve in the time that transpired. The day before Bush's speech, a senior US intelligence official said, "The fundamental questions of lack of control, growth of the insurgency and criminality" remain the same.

Let's review: Bush insists that he will not pull the troops from Iraq and that he will only accept victory there. Meanwhile, his Marines say they are not capable of militarily defeating the insurgency. These opposing perspectives cannot be reconciled in spite of the fact that Bush claims he takes his cue on the Iraq war from the leaders in the battlefield.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

American and Iraqi leaders disagree

When president Bush was recently in Vietnam, while discussing the prospects for peace in Iraq, he said, "We'll succeed unless we quit." However, even the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, disagreed with Bush when he stated today that politicians must realize "there are no winners or losers in this battle."

The American commander in chief sees his troops as the key to success in Iraq. Bush was asked at a press conference the day after the recent election about withdrawing the troops from Iraq. He maintained that he was "committed to victory" before he would redeploy the troops. Yet, prime minister al-Maliki concedes that America's military presence is not the solution to create peace in his country. Referring to it as a "political crisis," al-Maliki said the current violence in Iraq would only be resolved by politicians.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What a difference a year makes

In October 2005, Iraqis were celebrating their purple fingers. In response to the election in Iraq, president Bush said:
"We're making progress toward peace. We're making progress toward an ally that will join us in the war on terror, that will prevent al Qaeda from establishing safe haven in Iraq, and a country that will serve as an example for others who aspire to live in freedom."
It was quite a rosy picture he painted of the prospects for the Iraqi people.

A year has now passed. That's enough time to assess the accuracy of Bush's predictions. It seems clear now that they were far off target.

The UN reported the number of Iraqi civilians that were killed in October 2006. It was 3,709, the highest tally since the beginning of the war. Considering that 101 Iraqi civilians were killed today, and recent counts have been as high or higher, November is well on track to surpass October's count.

The killings are not the only staggering numbers. The UN also reported that Iraqi civilians are leaving the country at a rate of 100,000 per year. Since the beginning of the war, 1.6-million Iraqis have fled their homeland.

The favored targets of insurgents are journalists, physicians, professors, politicians and the like. How Iraq could become "a country that will serve as an example for others who aspire to live in freedom" without professionals such as these, Bush has failed to say. It's also unclear how the Iraqi children can go on to replace them considering that many of their schools failed to open in September.

The jury is still out on whether or not Iraq will become that safe haven for al Q'aeda that Bush was convinced it would not become. Nonetheless, the fact that the majority of civilian killings are caused by sectarian violence rather than terrorist attacks is little consolation to the Iraqi people. Meanwhile, a Defense Department official said that the force in Iraq could be increased by 20,000 troops or more over the next few months to quell the growing violence.

Sadly, the state of affairs in Iraq has not turned out to be anything like what Bush described a year ago. Worse yet, for those who say it's only because more time is needed for the peaceful democracy to develop, all indications are that Iraq is headed in the opposite direction.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bipartisanism begins

My friend Dan Stanton is having fun with graphics again. I'll let his graphic speak for itself.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Something smells fishy in the world's seafood supplies

You're sailing along on a clear day while the sun is setting. You look out over the ocean and everything looks beautiful. But underneath the swells, all is not well.

Last week the Science journal released an article by Boris Worm of Dalhousie University. It reports that if current trends continue, the populations of most seafoods will collapse by 2048. By collapse, Worm means that the populations will be so decimated that they will be insufficient to sustain harvesting. In fact, the catch of 29 percent of the seafood species humans consume have already crashed by ninety percent.

This does not bode well for humans. Seafood is high in protein, and is an excellent source of omega oils essential to normal growth in young children. Furthermore, more than a billion people -- many of whom are poor -- rely on seafood as their primary source of protein. And let's face it: seafood is just plain delicious.

The primary source of this problem is the loss of ocean biodiversity caused by humans. Worm's study found that the increasing pace of diversity loss threatens the "ecosystems services" that many human populations depend on for survival. An example of a practice that is highly destructive to biodiversity in the deep ocean is bottom-trawling. Fortunately, international effort is being made to curb bottom-trawling, but this is just one of many ways humans are contributing to the loss of seafood harvests.

Another contributor is the increase in "dead zones" scattered around our planet's oceans. A dead zone is a large area in the ocean devoid of oxygen that leads to the widespread death of animals that cannot swim or crawl away from it. For example, in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a dead zone the size of New Jersey that forms each April and lasts through the summer. It is caused by agricultural and urban runoff and wastewater treatment.

Fortunately, it's not too late to reverse the impending loss of our seafood populations if we act now. Worm's study found compelling evidence that ecosystems can recover if action is taken to protect them. But we have to act soon and it will take coordinated international efforts. Some areas will need to be protected from fishing altogether. Additionally, commercial fisheries will need to be provided with incentives to fish any given species only to the extent where a sufficient population remain in any given area to sustain the reproduction of that species so the biodiversity is not lost.

Obviously, this is contrary to the short term financial interests of the fisheries. To address this might mean the implementation of unpopular programs like governmental regulations or subsidies to fisheries. However, such actions could not be as unpopular as humans no longer having seafood on the table would be.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thinly-veiled ethnocentrism or pragmatism?

Last week, Ginnnah Muhammad wore a niqab -- a scarf and veil that cover her head and face, leaving only the eyes visible -- during a court hearing near Detroit. District judge Paul Paruk dismissed the small claims court case filed by the Islamic woman after she refused to remove her veil when she testified. Is the judge being ethnocentric or is he just being pragmatic?

This case is reminiscent of the Sultaana Freeman case from 2003. Freeman lost her Florida driver license after she refused to remove her veil, or hijab, for a photo. She sued the state for violating a Florida statute that says the government "shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion," a law drawn from the Establishment Clause. Are the respective governments denying these woment their right to free expression of religion?

The Department of Motor Vehicles is not preventing Freeman from exercising her religious beliefs. She is free to wear her hijab all she likes both at home and in public. She's also free to choose not to have a driver license (as a Muslim woman, most fundamentalists would say the Koran prohibits her from driving anyway). The DMV is simply insisting that the ID issued by the state be able to IDentify the holder. The state even offered to make an accommodation whereby, according to the assistant attorney general:
"The practice has been to ask the men to leave the room. They lift the veil, we take the picture, they get the license, and they put it in their pocketbook and nobody sees it again. We don't care. We just have to have the picture."
The same principle applies to Muhammad. She is free to wear her niqab any time she wants to in private and just about anytime in public. Of course, she was even free to wear her niqab in court. Like Freeman, Muhammad is also free to choose not to bring her law suit. Paruk simply refused to accept her testimony if she refused to show him her face while she gave it.

At first blush, this might seem arbitrary of the judge. However, Paruk's job includes judging the truthfulness of testimony brought before his bench and, in order to do so, "you need to identify the witness and you need to look at the witness and watch how they testify." A law may abridge a fundamental right such as freedom of speech when it is in furtherance of the safety or welfare of the public. It is in the public's welfare for a judge to be able to judge the truthfulness of testimony and it's in the interest of the safety of the public for an officer of the law to be able to positively identify a resident by his or her ID.

Does the law agree? In Freeman's case, circuit judge Janet C. Thorpe upheld Paruk's decision. Thorpe found that Freeman did not prove that "the photo requirement itself substantially burdens her right to free exercise of religion." Thorpe went on to explain:
"Although the court acknowledges that plaintiff herself most likely poses no threat to national security, there likely are people who would be willing to use a ruling permitting the wearing of full-face cloaks in driver's license photos by pretending to ascribe to religious beliefs in order to carry out activities that would threaten lives."
The Establishment Clause does not apply in the Muhammad case either, in this Progressive's opinion. Neither of these cases are about freedom of religion, nor are they about discriminating against the practice of a foreign ethnicity. They are about the government being pragmatic in the protection of the safety and welfare of the public.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The big 'O'

Bush claimed that Hussein possessed WMDs to justify invading Iraq. After the WMDs never materialized, Bush gave liberating the Iraqi people as his excuse. Later the reason for invading Iraq became to spread democracy across the Middle East.

For some reason, Bush couldn't seem to bring himself to utter the 'O' word. Of all Bush's justifications du jour, none of them included invading Iraq for her oil, even though she sat on the second largest oil reserves on the planet. This was quite unexpected considering Bush was a failed oil man and his VP was a successful CEO in the oil services industry.

Last week, things changed. Bush suddenly became fixated on oil during his press conference in the Rose Garden. It seemed he couldn't stop saying the 'O' word.

In his opening statements, Bush recognized the large oil reserves in Iraq. He said, "We can't tolerate a new terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, with large oil reserves that could be used to fund its radical ambitions." Of course, he has also made it clear that the USA will be occupying Iraq for the duration of his term in office. Maybe he hopes he can one day use the reserves to fund his radical ambitions.

Later, he claimed that the "ideological caliphate" in Iraq "want to control oil resources." He never explained what interest Moslems "that use religion to achieve objectives" would have in oil. Perhaps Bush was just reflecting his own desire to control oil resources.

Finally, Bush broached the concept of "radical forms" having "the capacity to use oil as an economic weapon." However, the Iraqi petroleum infrastructure is so degraded it cannot even supply Iraq with petroleum products, let alone fund the war in Iraq as originally proposed by the administration. Bush did not elaborate on how this impotent industry in Iraq could be an economic weapon. It could have simply been wishful thinking on Bush's part to use it as an economic weapon himself.

Bush has denied the accusations that he invaded Iraq for her oil for years now. It appears that denying himself for so long left him helpless, after finally allowing himself to speak of oil, from being caught up in the throes of the big 'O.'

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bush cabal given advance warning of 9/11 attack

Secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, was the national security advisor before the 9/11 attack. Regarding being notified in a meeting with George Tenet (then director of central intelligence) of an impending al Q'aeda attack on an American target two months before 9/11/2001, Rice had this to say: "What I'm quite certain of is that it was not a meeting in which I was told that there was an impending attack and I refused to respond." It's interesting that she could be so certain about "the supposed meeting" of which she claimed to have no recollection.

It turns out that Tenet and his counterterrorism deputy, J. Cofer Black, were so concerned about an impending al Q'aeda attack that they demanded an emergency meeting at the White House with Rice. Could it be that the meeting just slipped Rice's memory because the risk was understated? According to an intelligence official who helped prepare the briefing and PowerPoint presentation that accompanied the meeting, it was a "10 on a scale of 1 to 10" that "connected the dots" in earlier intelligence reports to present a stark warning that al Q'aeda was poised to strike again.

The national security advisor clearly had a problem discriminating the importance of an inconsequential report from a report with a title such as, oh, I don't know ... "Bin Laden determined to strike in US." However, she was not the only one notified of the impending attack. It turns out that defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former attorney general John Ashcroft received the same CIA briefing. After the fact, Tenet also told the 9/11 Commission about the meeting, although for some strange reason it was not reported in The 9/11 Commission Report.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Sixteen US intelligence units produced a classified report that the Iraq war has actually caused an increase in global terrorism. This breaking news has been all over the media for four days now. So why did I wait so long to write about it in The Progressive Zone? Because it's really old news that I wrote about more than a year ago.

That's right: while Bush has been waging his war in Iraq, global terrorism has gone from bad to worse. Bush's own State Department reports for a number of years that the incidence of terrorism has escalated exponentially under Bush's war against it to an all-time high last year.

This is old news across the Pond too. Back in 2002, Chatham House and Economic and Social Research Council launched a five-year New Security Challenges Programme (NSC). The NSC released a paper last year that said the Iraq war had actually boosted al Q'aeda. It went on to say that UK involvement in operations against Osama bin Laden's network had also raised the risk of attack in the British homeland.

So, yes, this is important news to be aware of ... at least if you're concerned about your safety. But you should have been telling your congressman about it long before it "broke."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pre 9/11: Powell and Rice Say Iraq NOT a Threat

Powell: "He [Hussein] has not developed any significant capabilities with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."

Rice: "We are able to keep on him [Hussein]. His military forces have not been rebuilt."

watch quotes | digg video

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

McCain faults administration on Iraq

Republican Sen. John McCain, a staunch defender of the Iraq war, on Tuesday faulted the Bush administration for misleading Americans into believing the conflict would be "some kind of day at the beach." Bush's rush to war, and misrepresentation of the situation on the ground, has led to thousands of unnecessary US casualties.

read more | digg story

Monday, August 21, 2006

A concerted campaign of deceit

Everyone remembers a statement here and a statement there made by president Bush and members of his administration regarding the threat Iraq supposedly posed to America before we invaded her. Thinking of these statements in isolation, it's easy to write them off as simple misstatements or misunderstandings. It's more difficult to call them outright lies.

However, congress's committee on government reform released a report called Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq. The report is a "comprehensive examination of the statements made by the five Administration officials most responsible for providing public information and shaping public opinion on Iraq." It chronicles what clearly was a concerted campaign of deceit perpetrated by the administration against the American people to justify Bush's desire to invade Iraq.

Iraq on the Record identifies that five officials, president George Bush, vice president Richard Cheney, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of state Colin Powell, and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, made misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq in 125 public appearances. The report and an accompanying database identify 237 specific misleading statements by the five officials. They were all made in the year preceding the invasion and during a short period following it.

The campaign started on March 17, 2002, when Cheney said what we now know to be an outright lie: "We know they have biological and chemical weapons." The report documents the lies through January 22, 2004, when Cheney said, "there's overwhelming evidence that there
was a connection between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government."

Bush himself participated in the campaign. In fact, on October 7, 2002, three days before the congressional votes on the Iraqi war resolution, President Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, with eleven misleading statements, the most by any of the five officials in a single appearance. Bush's biggest whopper had to have been his statement in the January 28, 2003, State of the Union address that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

To grasp the scope of the campaign, Americans should read Iraq on the Record so they can get a real sense of the sheer volume of lies and deception. It lists not only the statements by Bush and Cheney, but also those by Powell, Rice and, of course, Rumsfeld -- probably the most forked-tongued member of the administration.

After that, America should juxtapose the report with the following dialogue between Bush and a Cox News reporter today:

BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

QUESTION: What did Iraq have to do with it?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

QUESTION: The attack on the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing, except it's part of -- and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody's ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Taking the Lebanese side

I've had a hard time finding sound justification for condemning Israel's current defensive action in Lebanon. While I find the loss of innocent lives in Lebanon a tragedy, I consider it equally tragic when Hezbollah indiscriminately bombs civilian population centers in Israel, killing unsuspecting women and children. To paint Israel as the "bad guy" in this conflict simply because they are killing more Lebanese people than Hezbollah is killing Israelis is to discount innocent human life. Who's to say that X lives are move valuable than Y lives? Therefore, I do not begrudge the tactics Israel has chosen to defend herself. The best defense is a good offense, I say.

That said, after all the fallacious and biased reasons I've heard warranting the claim that Israel is in the wrong which have left me unconvinced, I've finally found one person who makes a sound case for denouncing Israel. It comes as no surprise to me that it is George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, that does so. He first caught my ear when I heard him speaking truth to power before the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Later I discovered him denouncing the Iraq War when he accused Christopher Hitchens of being prepared to "fight to the last drop of other people's blood." What a profound way to portray chicken-hawks like Hitchens!

Earlier this week I found Galloway on Sky News being interviewed by Anna Botting. As one would expect from an outlet like Sky News, Murdock's British version of FOX News, Botting took a conspicuously unbalanced pro-Zionist position during the interview. Nonetheless, in spite of the host's decidedly advantageous control over the interview and her position contrary to Galloway's, he still managed to thoroughly dominate the debate and leave Botting embarrassingly incapable of making her point.

Galloway's main point was that the media views the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict through a zoom lens, focusing only on the past four weeks. He claims that there is decades of history in the Middle East which is much more damning of Israel than what has transpired since Hezbollah kidnapped the two Israeli soldiers and bombed northern Israel just a few weeks ago. Granted, Galloway unconvincingly claimed that Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization -- there are plenty of grounds to demonstrate to the contrary (in the interest of focus, I'll save that for another blog). However, the bulk of his responses to Botting made a sound case that Israel is in the wrong regarding the current conflict.

Personally, I'm not ready to condemn Israel in this regard. Nonetheless, Galloway has certainly opened my eyes to a perspective that I did not have before. I'm not going to try to make Galloway's case here because I could never write as eloquently as he speaks. Instead, I'm going to recommend viewing his interview, whether you would be swayed by Galloway or not, if for nothing else than to be better informed about the Lebanese viewpoint when you defend Israel's action the next time you debate it.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Not just his John Hancock

It's not a surprise that president Bush lasted almost six years into his presidency before he vetoed a bill. He has no need to veto a bill, even if he disagrees with it. Instead, he simply writes a statement with his signature on the bills that he doesn't like that says, in effect, he'll ignore the law when he decides he wants to. He cites executive authority as his grounds for being above the law.

For example, H.R. 2863 had McCain's amendment which prohibited American troops from committing torture. When Bush signed this Department of Defense, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, he added statements like:
The Supreme Court of the United States has stated that the President's authority to classify and control access to information bearing on the national security flows from the Constitution and does not depend upon a legislative grant of authority ... The executive branch shall construe Title X not to create a private right of action ... Because the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and take care that the laws be faithfully executed cannot be made by law subject to a requirement to consult with congressional committees or to involve them in executive decision-making, the executive branch shall construe the provision to require only notification.
These and other clauses in his signing statement are just fancy words that say Bush considers himself above the law and will ignore it when he sees fit. Bush did not explain why he wanted to be exempt from the prohibition against torture since he says in no uncertain terms that, "We do not torture." Regardless, this is not an isolated incident. Bush used similar statements when he recently signed H.R. 4939. In fact, he has challenged more than 750 laws in more than 100 signing statements.

America is tiring of this. Last month, an American Bar Association task force recommended that Congress pass legislation providing for some sort of judicial review of the signing statements. Senator Arlan Specter has responded. He said on the floor of the Senate, "We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will ... authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional."

It's about time. Congress has abdicated their authority to this president for too long. If congress doesn't wrest the legislative branch's supposedly equal power back from the executive branch soon, they'll lose so much power that they'll never be able to.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Terror detainees protected by the Bush administration

President Bush said in no uncertain terms of the detainees in American custody that, "We do not torture." Considering the unambiguously humane manner in which they must be treated, it's unclear why the attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez, feels it necessary to ask Republican congressmen to write new law. He's asking them to write legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. Why would they need protection from prosecution if they do not torture?

Perhaps it's not torture the administration is concerned about. The War Crimes Act of 1996 actually permits capital punishment if US-held detainees die in custody. That could be particularly bad for some members of the Third Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. A sergeant from the brigade said he had witnessed a deliberate plot by his fellow soldiers to kill three handcuffed Iraqis and a cover-up in which one soldier cut another to bolster their story. The squad leader threatened to kill anyone who talked. The three detainees were shot and killed by the soldiers. Apparently, Gonzalez thinks troops committing brutal acts such as these will need protection from prosecution when they have their day in court.

Meanwhile, the White House is also busy making their recommendations on how to conduct detainees' days in court when they are prosecuted for terror. Under these recommendations, hearsay evidence would be allowed unless it was deemed to be unreliable. Defendants also would be barred from their own trials if it were necessary to protect national security. Since it would not be permissible to implement these recommendations under the more defendant-friendly courts martial system, the administration is recommending that enemy combatants be tried under the more stringent military tribunal system. The Bush administration clearly feels that people suspected of terror do not warrant the same legal rights as those suspected of murder.

Apparently, Bush is so confident that detainees captured by those under his command are treated with the greatest fairness and care that there's no need for them to have the basic human rights that the US Constitution provides people being tried in a court of law. He's somehow convinced that the detainees are terrorists even though they have not been tried in a court of law or permitted to present any evidence that might show that they did not commit the crimes of which they're accused (if any charges have been levied at all).

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mutiny in the CIA

President Bush is losing control of his own administration. Never mind that he is the chief executive at the top of the chain of command of all administrative agencies. He is now being undermined from the highest ranks of the CIA.

Republican congressman and chairman of the House intelligence committee, Peter Hoekstra, wrote a private letter to Bush on May 18. In it, he expressed concerns that the CIA deputy director, Stephen Kappes, engaged in a leak offensive to undermine the president's administration. He went on to say that Stephen Kappes was part of a "a strong and well-positioned group within the agency" that "intentionally undermined the administration and its policies."

This dissidence is well deserved and it should come as no surprise. After all, once you start connecting the dots, it becomes clear that nothing has caused greater damage to the CIA's integrity and reputation than Bush's envoy, Dick Cheney.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Two out of three branches of government agree that Bush is wrong

Although the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is part of the Republican-dominated legislative branch of government, it's still critical of the leader of the Republican party. Earlier this week, the GAO released a report regarding rebuilding Iraq. The GAO found that the Bush administration's planning efforts for stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq fall short in at least three key areas:
  1. It only partially identifies which U.S. agencies are responsible for implementing key aspects of the strategy or resolving conflicts among the many implementing agencies.
  2. It does not fully address how U.S. goals and objectives will be integrated with those of the Iraqi government and the international community, and it does not detail the Iraqi government's anticipated contribution to its future security and reconstruction needs.
  3. It only partially identifies the current and future costs of U.S. involvement in Iraq, including the costs of maintaining U.S. military operations, building Iraqi government capacity at the provincial and national level, and rebuilding critical infrastructure.
Releasing the report to a House subcommittee, David M. Walker, the U.S. comptroller general, told the congressmen that President Bush did not give proper consideration to conditions on the ground and said the administration is not demanding accountability for the $1.5-billion per week that the United States spends in Iraq.

That same day, Bush was touting a projected deficit of $296-billion. However, the White House's own Office of Management and Budget (OMB) projects a deficit of $423-billion. For 2007, it still expects a $354-billion deficit. Perhaps Bush should consult his own budget office before spouting numbers. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal reports that economic policy experts believe that the Bush tax cuts aren't going to create enough growth either to solve the nation's long-term fiscal challenges or to erase what is still a significant budget deficit.

Before we look at the Supreme Court's finding that Bush's tribunals violate not only the Geneva Convention, but also U.S. military rules, let's stop here. After all, it's no fun if the title of the post doesn't sound a little like TV commercials we see promoting consumer products. It would have been too unbelievable had we heard "three out of three dentists surveyed choose..."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Be afraid, be very afraid!

After bouncing from yellow to orange to yellow to orange to yellow countless times, Bush's Homeland Security Advisory System on the threat level no longer terrorizes Americans as he intended it to do. As his primary tool for keeping Americans in line with his agenda, Bush constantly has to find new tactics to frighten America. His latest is to have foiled bomb plots "leaked" to the press.

Today's story is about a disrupted plot by eight terrorists to blow up a commuter train tunnel connecting New Jersey and Manhattan. After painting this scary story as "what we believe was the real deal" by FBI assistant director Mark Mershon, he put America at ease by assuring us that US authorities had collaborated with foreign ones to break up the attack before it occurred. So just how well developed was the plan and how real was the danger?

Mershon conceded that the plot was in its preliminary stages. He said, "They were about to go to a phase where they would attempt to surveil targets, establish a regimen of attack and acquire the resources necessary to effectuate the attacks." When you analyze the statement, you realize that means the terrorists had not even begun to even attempt surveillance of the tunnel. In fact, none of the suspects had ever even been to the United States. What Mershon really said was that the terrorists had not even formulated a systematic plan of attack or acquired the materiel and equipment needed to execute the non-existent plan. What the plot boiled down to was nothing more than some extremists brainstorming by email some outlandish ideas of how they might try to hurt America. Considering how much Bush has driven foreigners to hate America, this sort of thing must go on countless times every day around the world.

We found out more about this when New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly was interviewed on the News Hour today. He validated the fact that the plot was nothing more than transmissions on the Internet and:
"...was still very much in the planning phase. Nothing of an operational nature had gone forward. They had not obtained, again, to the best of our knowledge, the means to go forward with actually executing this plan."
How dangerous are these terrorists really? Even though their whereabouts are known, other than their "ringleader," the other seven are simply "being observed" rather than captured. This should come as no surprise considering how tenuous any credible connection with al Qaeda or other known terrorist organizations elsewhere in the world is. Kelly admitted that such connections are yet "to be determined" (i.e. not established). Regardless, he went on to say that "al Qaeda is, in many ways, a -- you know, a philosophy or an inspiration these days. It's not the -- you know, a tightly-knit organization that perhaps it once was."

This plot was just the second in a series. A couple of weeks ago, federal agents captured the "Miami Seven" -- a group of homeless religious fundamentalists living in a warehouse. They were accused of plotting to bomb Chicago's 110-story Sears Tower and wage other attacks inside the United States. However, like the plot broken up today, FBI deputy director John Pistole admitted it was "more aspirational than operational." That's quite the understatement. Anyone who watched CNN's interview of member Brother Corey on television could see that this troupe is sadly lacking in the capability of fully rational thinking.

So be afraid, America, be very afraid! Thank Bush's administration for their crack detective work to intercept these grave threats to our safety. As long as Bush keeps you terrorized, he holds on to the last shred of undeserved credibility in his arsenal.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Lie deja vu

It seems that I was writing the same thing just last week. I was blogging about our Republican legislators perpetuating lies regarding Iraq. However, this week there's a slight twist: the lie being perpetuated this time is that there are WMDs in Iraq.

FOX News was proud to report Hundreds of WMDs Found in Iraq. They quote senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) as saying "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons." Referring to a declassified National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) report, representative Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) was also quoted: "This says weapons have been discovered, more weapons exist and they state that Iraq was not a WMD-free zone, that there are continuing threats from the materials that are or may still be in Iraq."

What are the "WMDs" these congressmen refer to? They are approximately 500 shells, canisters, and munitions that contain degraded mustard gas or sarin nerve agent. Sounds pretty scary! Surely they must be the elusive WMDs that secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld said are "in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

Not exactly. It turns out the munitions pre-date the Gulf War of 1991. After Iraq's war against Iran, they buried the munitions near the border of Iran since they no longer needed them. They were subsequently seemingly either abandoned or forgotten there by Saddam Hussein. The chemical weapons are so degraded by time that a senior Defense Department official stated that they are not in usable condition.

Intelligence officials from three different agencies told reporters that the NGIC report was substantially the same as a 2004 report by a team of American weapons inspectors led by Charles A. Duelfer that concluded Hussein was not in possession of significant stocks of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons at the time of the US-led invasion. The intelligence agents went on to say that Hoekstra had actually pressured them to declassify the report on June 15 and 19.

Could it be a coincidence that he gave the DNI, John Negroponte, just 48 hours to declassify the NGIC report a couple of days prior to the debate about the Iraq war to be had on the floor of the Senate? On his Countdown show, Keith Olbermann suggests it was not. His guests make the claim that Santorum's reelection campaign is in serious trouble, so he is using the report to justify his support of the Iraq war to his constituency.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th."

Those are the exact words babbled by president Bush almost three years ago. Although ineptly worded, that was one of the few times when Bush spoke truthfully on the topic. The 9/11 Commission Report made that assessment incontrovertible.

Yet here we are in 2006 and the GOP is still trying to perpetuate the lie that Iraq played a role in the attack of 9/11/2001. Although Bush has made countless deceptive statements intended to associate Saddam Hussein with 9/11 in the minds of the American people, congressional investigations and reports have since completely debunked any relationship whatsoever between Iraq and al Qaeda ... prior to Bush's invasion of the country. Nonetheless, the House Republicans returned to this campaign of deception just last week.

The House majority leader John Boehner distributed a confidential messaging memo to House Republican members for the floor debate on Iraq. In it, Boehner makes a half dozen references to 9/11 and almost a dozen to terror. The memo is replete with statements clearly intended to recreate the false tie between Iraq and 9/11 in the people's House like:
  • "It is imperative during this debate that we re-examine the conditions that required the United States to take military action in Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
  • "The attacks we witnessed that day serve as a reminder of the dangers we face as a nation in a post-9/11 world.
  • "In a post-9/11 world, we could no longer allow despots and dictators like the Taliban and Saddam Hussein to ignore international sanctions and resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council.
  • "As Republicans who supported military action against Saddam Hussein and terrorists around the globe...
  • "In a post-9/11 world, do we confront dangerous regimes and the threat of terrorism with strength and resolve...?"
Even the title of the memo, "Floor Debate on Iraq and the Global War on Terror," tries to make a fallacious connection. Global terrorism will not be defeated in Iraq and Bush will not protect Americans from it by leaving America exposed in the homeland. Bush's claim that we've made the decision to defeat the terrorists in Iraq "so we don't have to face them here at home" is a non sequitur. Does anyone really believe that every terrorist intent on doing harm to Americans is going to make their attack on us in Iraq? And how does the war in Iraq protect Americans from home-grown terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, and Eric Rudolph.

It's long past time for the GOP to give up on the campaign of deceit intended to make the American people think Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. If they insist on perpetuating lies about the war in Iraq, they should at least be intellectually honest and return to the original excuse for invading Iraq: that Hussein had WMDs.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

War profiteer or liar?

Vice president Dick Cheney was formerly the CEO of Halliburton and still receives compensation from the company. Could that have anything to do with the fact that Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) received an almost $7-billion no-bid contract (before the US even invaded) to clean up Iraq from the damage done by invading the country? After all, KBR is a subsidiary of Halliburton, so one would expect Cheney to see financial gain by such a contract. Furthermore, Cheney was clearly in a position to influence the granting of the contract.

According to Chuck Dominy, Halliburton's vice president for government affairs, nothing could be further from the truth. When asked that question on 60 Minutes in 2003, Dominy responded, "Zero, I will guarantee you that. Absolutely zero impact." Cheney himself also says he had nothing to do with the Army Corp's decision to give the no bid contract to Halliburton. That's pretty unambiguous. Case closed, right?

Wrong! Judicial Watch obtained an email from March 5, 2003, that quotes a Pentagon official saying about the KBR contract, "We anticipate no issue; since action has been coordinated w VP's office." Another newly released email from an Army Corps of Engineer official said, "I am copying you on this crap since I honestly believe the competitive procurement will never happen."

How is it that Cheney could have had "absolutely zero impact" on the KBR contract if it was "coordinated w VP's office"? It's clearly a contradiction demonstrating yet again that Cheney used the war in Iraq as a vehicle for him to profit personally. It also shows that Cheney knows how to dissemble better than Bush does. So the answer to my first question is: C. All of the above.

Friday, June 09, 2006

With friends like that...

Former FEMA director Michael Brown was widely criticized for FEMA's fault-ridden response to the hurricane Katrina disaster. Yet in spite of his failures, president Bush told him "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

At first blush, it seems strange to commend someone for dismal performance. However, an email leaked by Brownie himself sheds new light on what Bush really meant. Brown actually was doing a good job -- but not at responding to the disaster. He was doing a good job of taking a beating.

The email with the subject "You and the President," written by a staffer of the Executive Office of the President ( to Brown shortly after the disaster, said:
I did hear of one reference to you, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. I wasn't there, but I heard someone commented that the press was sure beating up on Mike Brown, to which the President replied "I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff." Congratulations on doing a great job of diverting hostile fire away from the leader.
That's right: instead of accepting responsibility for the failures of his administration himself, the chief executive let a lowly scapegoat take the heat! Although Bush is widely considered to be someone who rewards loyalty, he rewarded Brown by letting him be scoffed and derided by most of his fellow Americans for Bush's own shortcomings as a leader. With a patron like that, who needs detractors?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The fish rots from the head

American troops have established a well-deserved reputation for defending the USA with honor. Americans owe their troops a debt of gratitude for their service. This blogger has great respect for our troops doing their duty, even when their commander in chief leads them into an illegitimate war of choice against Iraq.

It is not our troops' place to question their orders. They must act with discipline to ensure the safety of all Americans when their leadership calls on them to defend our country. Therefore, I must be clear that I lay a large part of the blame for the loathsome developments I recount here squarely at the feet of president George W. Bush.

It seems that Bush's corrupt fascism is beginning to rot the lower ranks of the military. In the latest incident, the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines deliberately killed some thirty Iraqi civilians in cold blood. While searching Haditha for insurgents who had planted a roadside bomb that killed a member of their unit, they sprayed a house full of innocent locals, including women and children, with bullets. One young girl lost all eight members of her family in the attack and only survived herself by playing dead after witnessing her father shot down while answering the door.

Such incidents could be expected considering that the US military is sending troops with serious psychological problems into Iraq and is keeping soldiers in combat even after superiors have been alerted to suicide warnings and other signs of mental illness. Only one of every 300 troops see a mental health professional before being deployed to Iraq even though congress ordered the military to assess the mental health of all troops. Once there, many troops on potent antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are commanded into combat while they are mentally unstable. All this because their commander in chief has taxed the manpower of the military to the limits with his unnecessary war in Iraq.

Amnesty International released its annual report last week. It should come as no surprise that it contained a scathing indictment of Washington's human rights record. It condemned the military's detainment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan without a trial. It referred to the CIA-run secret prisons as a policy of "disappearances." Because of Bush's executive actions like adding torture to the military's toolbox, the USA has the disgrace of being lumped in with countries like China, North Korea, and Russia in Amnesty International's report.

With Bush leading the military, be prepared to hear more reports of heinous acts by our troops. Although the great majority of our troops will serve with honor, sadly, some of them will be influenced by the rotten example of their commander in chief and do things to disgrace their brothers in arms.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

And then there were two

America doesn't care that the architect of the warrantless wiretapping program against American citizens, General Michael Hayden, is in hearings to be confirmed as the CIA director. America wants to know who will be the next American Idol.

I love watching the American Idol auditions. There are few things more amusing than watching people who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, but think they're the next Carrie Underwood or Ruben Studdard, screech a song for Simon to flame. But I usually lose interest and tune out shortly after the season gets to Hollywood. This season, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I've been following the show all the way to the bitter end.

So Tuesday night, like millions of other Americans, I was watching the show. Elliott Yamin was sharp for much of his performance -- and, no, I'm not referring to the way he was dressed. I'm referring to the notes he was hitting. That's why it came as no surprise to me that Elliott was eliminated last night. The only surprise was that it was so close. He's a fairly skilled vocalist but his vibrato is way overdone. Plus, his performance is too mechanical and lifeless.

Katharine McPhee & Taylor Hicks are also skilled vocalists but what they have going for them that Elliot didn't is that they're also talented performers. I have to agree with Simon that Katharine's rendition of Over the Rainbow was the best performance of the season. But I disagree with him that Taylor's rendition of Dancing in the Dark was only okay -- I thought he sang it better than The Boss does. Anyway, I picked Taylor to win since the first show in Hollywood. Who do you think will win?

I'm a big fan of Simon Cowell. He's quite entertaining in spite of looking like he's perpetually perturbed. Everyone boos him but he's the judge who gives the most honest, accurate, and useful feedback. Paula Abdul, on the other hand, would not have a harder time recognizing a musical scale if she were deaf -- she thinks everyone's great no matter how far out of key they are. Is it just my imagination or does she have rum in her Coke cup? It seems to me that she starts out most shows relatively lucid but is usually hammered by the last twenty minutes.

Well, I guess we won't find out who will be the next American Idol until next week. But I invite you to make your prognostication. Post a Comment and tell me who you think will win and why. While you're at it, share with me what you think of the judges.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Gimme a break!

As a hard-working, middle-class, single renter with no children, I have not qualified for the bulk of the tax breaks that Bush has carved out for the rich these past few years. My tax burden is pretty much the same now as it was when Clinton was in office -- actually, it's probably higher because my income has gone up a bit since then. Those of you who have enjoyed the good fortune of tax cuts courtesy of president Bush, don't make the mistake of thinking that they have in any way been distributed evenly among American taxpayers.

Now the Democrats are proposing some tax breaks. Again: I'm spurned! Senator Wyden and representative Blumenauer, both Democrats from Oregon, are introducing bills in their respective houses of congress which would give commuters who ride bikes to work between $40 and $100 per month in tax breaks.

I'll be the first to say that it's a good idea to ride a bike to work -- especially in these days of skyrocketing gas prices. In fact, I used to ride my bike 150 to 200 miles a week just to stay fit. That's less than the miles I commute every week for work. I love riding a bike!

However, now that I'm quadriplegic, it's simply not feasible for me to ride a bike to work. Even if it were possible to fix a wheelchair lift to a tandem bicycle, I'm certain the federal government would not provide me with someone to pedal it for me. Of course, that last statement was silly but there's a serious point behind it. The federal government must, by law, make all programs and services they provide equally accessible to citizens with disabilities. That includes tax breaks.

So here we are in times of record deficits and out-of-control government spending with the government trying to give Americans yet another tax break. Unfortunately, I would not get to participate in this one either. As long as the government is handing them out, I wish at least once they'd give me a tax break!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

From bad to worse

Have the failures of the Bush administration become so commonplace that they don't even make the major news nowadays? A year ago, I wrote about the war president Bush loses. No, not the Iraq war -- the war on terror.

Earlier reports by the State Department showed that terrorism had reached its highest point in decades. That was a colossal failure considering Bush had been waging his war against it for a couple of years. Surely things could not get worse, right?

As incredible as it seems, they have. The latest report shows that terrorism has reached an all-time high. In 2005, more than 10,000 terrorist attacks occurred for the first time ever. Bush's war on terror is only making things worse.

Don't buy his story that the fact that there hasn't been a terrorist attack on American soil for over four years shows that we're safer. After all, we had not been attacked on our soil for twice as long before the 9/11 attack. Although the first attempt to take down a World Trade Center tower in 1993 didn't bring it down, it did kill six people. More importantly, it showed that terrorists have been intent on attacking us on our shores for much longer than the eight "safe" years before 9/11.

It's clear that America was much safer from terrorism under president Clinton than it is now.

Friday, April 14, 2006

General disapproval

There has been general disapproval of President Bush lately. No, that's not a reference to his approval rating dropping into the low-30s. The Commander in Chief's generals have been publicly disapproving of his administration, of late.

Although he supported Bush for president in 2000, it's not news that General Anthony Zinni has been highly critical of him invading Iraq. Even before the invasion, General Eric Shinseki publicly disagreed with Rumsfeld plans for war in Iraq. However, these generals' brothers in arms have begun coming out of the woodwork the past week, expressing their own discontent for the Iraq war.

On Sunday, Time magazine published an essay called Why Iraq Was a Mistake. Written by General Greg Newbold, the essay expresses outrage at Secretary Condoleezza Rice's statement that the military has made thousands of tactical errors. The General was the Pentagon's top operations officer. His contention was that the errors were not tactical -- they were strategic, made at the very top by Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. His harsh words included:
What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions -- or bury the results.
On Wednesday, General John Batiste joined the chorus of criticism. The General commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. Interviewed on the Today show, Batiste said that the administration's conduct of the war violated fundamental military principles. His position is that, "We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork." He also made it clear that the timing of so many generals speaking out against the war now is not a coordinated campaign.

The latest general to speak out was the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq near the beginning of the war. General Charles Swannack Jr. even went so far as to lay the blame for the detainee abuse scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison right at the feet of Secretary Rumsfeld. The General called for Rumsfeld's ouster in a CNN interview.

There is clearly widespread disapproval of the war in Iraq among the leadership of the military fighting the war. As you would expect, most of those still in active duty are keeping quiet with their opposition. Like good soldiers, after privately expressing their disagreement, they salute and follow orders in the end. However, many are becoming so disillusioned with the war that they're retiring and speaking out.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It's official: George W. Bush is a liar

lie: to present false information with the intention of deceiving
The Progressive Zone is full of posts flat out calling president George W. Bush a liar. I regularly correspond with a circle of friends about political matters. As you might expect, I have also referred to Bush as a liar a number of times in those email discussions.

When I do, a friend of mine always responds that it's unfair to call the president a liar. It's not that my friend is a Bush supporter -- he concedes that many inaccuracies have come from the administration. My friend just believes that I cannot be sure that the president's deception was intentional.

Of course, I respond by saying that my friend is just not connecting the dots. There's a mountain of evidence that Bush is a liar. But even I have to concede that all that evidence was circumstantial. There was no smoking gun, so to speak -- until recently.

The Washington Post reports today that the Pentagon sponsored a secret fact-finding mission to Iraq
in early 2003. The mission was to investigate two trailers captured by US troops shortly after the invasion of Iraq that Bush claimed were "biological laboratories" and "weapons of mass destruction." The pentagon sent a technical team on this mission to validate that claim so Bush would be vindicated for the war.

The mission yielded a 122-page report that was quickly stamped "secret." The technical team reported conclusively that the trailers were not intended to manufacture biological weapons. Even though they had communicated their unanimous findings to Washington before the aforementioned statement by Bush, the administration continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories for almost a year. This is unequivocally a lie on the part of the president.

That wasn't the first smoking gun. During a discussion on the USA PATRIOT Act in 2004, Bush told America:
"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
There's no way this statement can be reconciled with Bush's now infamous NSA espionage program. Of course, Bush now claims he approved of the NSA spying on US citizens without a court order because it protected the American people. He asserts that the NSA only conducts warrantless wiretaps on conversations held by international terrorists. But that still directly contradicts his 2004 statement. Regardless, the latest news out just this month is the real picture of the scope of Bush's espionage program. It turns out that the NSA is doing wholesale spying on communications where both parties are domestically-based Americans.

No matter what contortion of logic you make, there's no way that either of these two statements by Bush could be construed as unintentionally misleading. These are unquestionably bald-faced lies.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The scope of Bush's espionage program

In 2004 during a discusion on the USA PATRIOT Act, president George W. Bush told America:
"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
After making that assurance, it must have been incredibly difficult for Bush to have to belie his word and approve the NSA to spy on American citizens. The mitigating factor was that the espionage was also being conducted over foreign terrorists. Therefore, even though he promised to get a court order before doing so, he decided that national security trumped his reputation for honesty. Any American chatting with al Qaeda operatives overseas deserves to be spied on anyway.

That said, Bush would never approve of spying on a phone call or email without a warrant when both parties in the communication are Americans, would he? Who better to ask than Bush's attorney general, Alberto Gonzalez. It turns out that Gonzalez was asked about that very issue during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Friday. His response: "I'm not going to rule it out" that Bush could order warrantless wiretaps on telephone calls occurring solely within the US. Apparently, Gonzalez must have missed Bush's statement referred to above and was simply misinformed.

The best way to get to the bottom of this is to consider the wires that could be tapped. Let's look at the public statement made by former AT&T technician, Mark Klein, last week. He states that at the beginning of 2003, the NSA tapped in to AT&T's Internet backbone. From five different American cities, the NSA began "conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the internet -- whether that be peoples' e-mail, web surfing or any other data." Based on his technological knowledge of the AT&T network, Klein does not believe that the NSA's spying program is limited to foreign communications.

How can we reconcile this new information with the statement Bush made in 2004? I'm afraid no amount of double-talk, diversion, and spin could possibly explain that away.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Talking out of both sides of the mouth

Everyone surprised by "Scooter" Libby's testimony to the Grand Jury please stand up. Now that everyone is seated, let's discuss the implications of that testimony. Libby claims that "the President specifically had authorized" him to disclose information in the (previously classified) National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to Judith Miller.

When the president authorizes disclosure of information, it is no longer classified. Does that exonerate the president of criminal activity? Perhaps it does on this one matter. However, it does not exonerate the president of extreme hypocrisy. Don't forget Bush's statement in September 2003: "if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

With this clear stance against leaks from the White House, Bush should be declaring mea culpa and apologizing to the American people. Of course, after five years with this administration, America knows better. Instead, Bush trotted out his official liar, Scott McClellan, to hold a press briefing.

True to form, he diverted blame to those making "irresponsible and unfounded accusations ... against the administration, suggesting that we had manipulated or misused that intelligence." McClellan stated that declassifying the NIE "was very much in the public interest." That's right, he's claiming that disclosing sensitive intelligence to the press is the right way to combat public debate about the administration's shaping of intelligence to justify invading Iraq.

Under Bush logic, exposing a sensitive NIE to the press is the right way to respond to certain facets of the public discovering his perpetration of fraud against the American people. Yet, when someone in his administration leaks the existence of NSA espionage of American's phone lines and email that he approved, Bush claims that national security was put at risk, as if al Qaeda operatives would never have otherwise suspected that intelligence agents might be eavesdropping on their communications.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Leaving America exposed

It's well known that president George W. Bush is not much of a learned person. However, this week Bush exposed just how ignorant he is, particularly regarding geography. He clearly doesn't know where America is. Last Thursday, he published the The National Security Strategy. In his letter to his fellow Americans, Bush claimed the purpose of the strategy is "to protect the security of the American people." However, a close look at the strategy reveals that it leaves America entirely unprotected.

In his hunt for America to protect the security of her people, Bush's strategy traverses almost the entire planet. It's no secret that a major part of his strategy to protect the security of the American people is to send most of our security forces to Iraq so he can exhaust hundreds of billions of dollars worth (and the lives of 2600 troops so far) of protective resources on the opposite side of the planet. He also considers Afghanistan a logical outpost to protect Americans. The strategy also mentions Syria and Iran as possible locations to defend America. The list of foreign lands where we need to secure America's safety could go on and on were it to include all those Bush identifies in his strategy.

Ironically, his strategy hardly recognizes the United States. Although a reasonable person would consider the homeland as the best place to defend the American people from attack, Bush's strategy makes no mention of our ports, where millions of containers enter this country unchecked every day. It does not address our borders, where millions of foreigners cross into our country unchecked every year. The strategy does not include aviation, the instrument of the last catastrophic attack against the American people. It does not mention protecting us from terrorist cells now on our own soil, even though one of the most deadly terrorist attacks ever perpetrated inside our borders was executed by natural-born American citizens in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Instead, Bush's strategy to secure the American people is to expend our security resources just about everywhere but America. An objective analysis of the effectiveness of Bush's strategy shows that it has been an abysmal failure in the past. Yet, he continues to pursue it. Someone needs to turn Bush around and tell him that the American people are here in the United States.

Friday, February 17, 2006

American liberties reach a new low

It was a bad day for liberty in the US yesterday. It's hard to think of any other single day in American history during which more liberties were dashed. Sadly, Americans have become so calloused to having their freedom eroded away that hardly a peep was heard. Here are the liberties that were lost Thursday.

The USA PATRIOT Act has been eroding liberties for years now. Fortunately, some of the most controversial sections of the Act had a sunset provision to be retired at the end of 2005 (although Congress agreed to extend it a short time for them to consider whether or not to make those sections permanent instead). To prevent this from happening, Senator Feingold (D - Wis.) proposed amendments to the Act. They included an amendment that would set an expiration of provisions regarding National Security Letters in four years. Sadly, the Senate voted 93 to 3 against Feingold's amendment yesterday. This sets up the provisions most intrusive on our liberties to almost certainly be made permanent by Senate vote in the near future.

The abuses of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are well documented. What is not well documented is how people's freedoms are being robbed there. There are nearly 600 detainees who have been held there for about three years without being accused of a crime, permitted a trial, or allowed legal representation. All this in spite of the fact that they have not been proven to have any connection to terrorism. They will be held there indefinitely and there is no intent for the Bush administration to give them their day in court. Some of them are American citizens.

The U.N. is reporting that the United States is violating the basic human rights of the detainees, including a ban on torture, arbitrary detention, and the right to a fair trial. The U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Anna, said that "Sooner or later there will be a need to close Guantanamo and it will be up to the government to decide and hopefully to do it as soon as possible." True to form, the Bush administration dismisses the report and yesterday refused to close its prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. It proves it has no qualms about perpetuating the eradication of basic liberties in the name of its losing war on terrorism.

The latest news about the abuse of Americans' freedom is the president's program to spy on private phone conversations with American citizens on domestic soil without a warrant. The more news that is released, the more is learned about the lengths to which our basic right to privacy derived from the fourth amendment of the Bill of Rights is violated. Not the slightest deterred, the administration vows to continue this program, even with opponents on both the left and the right. Unfortunately, the Senate has joined the ranks of invertebrates. Yesterday, they voted to stop the hearings into laws broken in the past so they could look at changing the law in the future instead (as if that would somehow make past illegal activity okay).

This sudden rash of freedom-robbing activity yesterday is unprecedented. Even with the slow erosion of liberty under the Bush administration for the past few years, this latest news shows that America's liberties have reached a new low.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Above the law

President George W. Bush has made it very apparent that he considers himself above the law. There are no lack of examples that are now well known by the American people ... at least, those who are not sticking their heads in the sand to avoid cognitive dissonance.

Those who have researched the details of the facts surrounding the gathering of intelligence about WMD in Iraq know that the president actively conducted a campaign of deceit against the American people. He believed that the law did not apply to actions he had to take to get buy-in for the invasion of Iraq. Of course, the president wouldn't have let the American people stop him from deposing Saddam Hussein anyway. The Downing Street Memo showed us that the Iraq War was a foregone conclusion. It is irrefutable evidence that the president had decided before July 23, 2002, that he was going to invade Iraq, even though the US Constitution says he must first get the authorization of congress.

It's not just American law which the president thumbs his nose at. The Geneva Conventions are international treaties that forbid torture. Although the US is party to these laws, its military force and intelligence agencies have been exposed as returning to the use of torture under the command of president Bush.

The latest news which serves as another example of the president acting as if he were above the law is only public because of a leak. The president has ordered the NSA to conduct electronic surveillance of communication with thousands of American citizens without a court order. Although the program, which spies on both telephone calls and email, has been ongoing for the past four years, the president has not requested a subpoena from a FISA court to approve the action to this day. Clearly, the president believes he is not subject to Amendment IV of the Bill of Rights.

However, there is an even more sinister way in which the president thinks he is above the law which few Americans know about. It turns out that during his first term, the president scribed an unprecedented 108 signing statements when executing legislation. Signing statements are addenda written by the president to bills passed by congress. However, the statements give the terms and conditions of the bill which the president desires. In other words, while the legislature thinks he's signing their bill into law, the president is actually writing and executing his own law.

For example, congress recently passed a defense appropriation bill with an amendment that forbids torture. It was the amendment sponsored by Senator John McCain which the president and vice president Dick Cheney vigorously fought to defeat. However, after congress passed the appropriation bill anyway, the president would look bad vetoing it because it would mean not providing funding to the war he started. The president's solution was to add his own signing statement to the bill. The statement, written in convoluted legaleze so the average American would not understand it, said basically that the president is not subject to the bill and would disobey the law as he sees fit.

The president obviously considers himself above the law. Unfortunately, his signing statements demonstrate that he also considers himself the author of the law. Hopefully, the Supreme Court won't support one of his signing statements in the future to establish legal precedence for this impunity.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The hearing no one hears

Congressman John Conyers held a hearing yesterday into president Bush's warrantless domestic spy program. Sadly, not a word about the hearing was heard in the mainstream media. Granted, the hearing was relegated to the basement of the Rayburn building during a congressional recess when you'd think that plenty of hearing rooms would be available. However, that alone should have been provocative enough to get traction in the media because of the manner in which the hearing got its "unofficial" status.

Conyers is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, the committee which is obligated to investigate when the executive ignores the law. As such, Conyers appealed to congressman James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the committee, to initiate investigation of Bush's espionage program. Unfortunately, albeit not surprisingly, Sensenbrenner has not scheduled one.

Sensenbrenner is a Republican and, like the rest of his GOP cohort in the House, he protects the president from exposure to anything that brings his administration into question, regardless of what impeachable offenses the president commits. Just as when Sensenbrenner refused to call hearings to investigate whether the president deceived the nation to go to war in Iraq, even after the Downing Street Memo became public, Conyers was denied an official hearing room to conduct his investigations. And just as in those hearings, not a single Republican congressman showed up at yesterday's hearing.

They weren't the only no-shows. Conyers also invited attorney general Alberto Gonzales to the hearing but neither he nor anyone else from the administration attended. You would think that Bush supporters would want to attend the hearing. After all, if the accusations against him were truly spurious, as Bush would have you believe, they would be easy to expose as such. However, the truth is more likely that no Republicans attended because they have no ammunition with which to defend Bush. Consequently, the hearing will likely be dismissed as a partisan affair.

Nonetheless, you can still hear it thanks to C-Span. If you have RealPlayer installed on your PC, you can hear the entirety of yesterday's hearing at (the same URI as in the first hyperlink at the top of this post to the blog):