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.