Tuesday, May 25, 2004

US intelligence fears Iran duped hawks into Iraq war

excerpt-[An urgent investigation has been launched in Washington into whether Iran played a role in manipulating the US into the Iraq war by passing on bogus intelligence through Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, it emerged yesterday.
Some intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the hawks in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighbour, and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq.

According to a US intelligence official, the CIA has hard evidence that Mr Chalabi and his intelligence chief, Aras Karim Habib, passed US secrets to Tehran, and that Mr Habib has been a paid Iranian agent for several years, involved in passing intelligence in both directions.

The CIA has asked the FBI to investigate Mr Chalabi's contacts in the Pentagon to discover how the INC acquired sensitive information that ended up in Iranian hands.

The implications are far-reaching. Mr Chalabi and Mr Habib were the channels for much of the intelligence on Iraqi weapons on which Washington built its case for war.

"It's pretty clear that Iranians had us for breakfast, lunch and dinner," said an intelligence source in Washington yesterday. "Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the US for several years through Chalabi."

Larry Johnson, a former senior counter-terrorist official at the state department, said: "When the story ultimately comes out we'll see that Iran has run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history. They persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy."]

Did Somebody Say War?

excerpt-[President Bush fell off his bike and hurt himself during a 17-mile excursion at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Saturday. Nothing serious. A few cuts and bruises. He was wearing a bike helmet and a mouth guard, and he was able to climb back on his bike and finish his ride.

A little later he left the ranch and went to Austin for a graduation party for his daughter Jenna. And then it was on to New Haven, where daughter Barbara will graduate today from Yale. Except for the bicycle mishap, it sounded like a very pleasant weekend.

Meanwhile, there's a war on. Yet another U.S. soldier was killed near Falluja yesterday. You remember Falluja. That's the rebellious city that the Marines gave up on and turned over to the control of officers from the very same Baathist army that we invaded Iraq to defeat.

It's impossible to think about Iraq without stumbling over these kinds of absurdities. How do you get a logical foothold on a war that was nurtured from the beginning on absurd premises? You can't. Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11. The invasion of Iraq was not part of the war on terror. We had no business launching this war. Now we're left with the tragic absurdity of a clueless president riding his bicycle in Texas while Americans in Iraq are going up in flames.]

Monday, May 24, 2004

Wall Street Firms Funnel Millions to Bush (washingtonpost.com)

excerpt[At Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., a suggestion from chief executive E. Stanley O'Neal is not to be taken lightly.

O'Neal eliminated 24,000 jobs, froze pay and steadily pushed out competitors for executive power, including colleagues who had championed his rise up the corporate ladder. "Ruthless," O'Neal has reportedly told colleagues, "isn't always bad."

So it came as no surprise that when O'Neal sent letters to senior executives at Merrill Lynch in early June asking them to contribute to President Bush's reelection campaign, the response was prompt and generous.

Between June 12 and June 30 of last year, the Bush-Cheney campaign was inundated with 157 checks from Merrill Lynch executives and at least 20 from their spouses; 140 checks were for the maximum allowed by law: $2,000.

Total take generated by the O'Neal letter: $279,750 in less than three weeks. When that total is combined with the rest of the money contributed to Bush by employees during the current election cycle, Merrill Lynch personnel have given $459,050, according to Dwight Morris & Associates, which studies political money.

The money flowing from Merrill Lynch employees is part of a $12.14 million tidal wave of cash to the Bush campaign from the finance and insurance sectors.

Wall Street has stepped up to the plate in support of Bush, and Bush has sponsored legislation producing billions of dollars in revenue on Wall Street.

Capital gains and dividend tax cuts have encouraged substantial asset shifting by investors -- transactions producing commissions for securities firms. In addition, in 2001, Bush secured a gradual repeal of the estate tax, allowing the accumulation of investment wealth without fear of large tax liability for heirs.

The 10-year revenue loss from the elimination of the estate tax will be $133.2 billion, according to Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation. The revenue losses from the dividend and capital gains cuts will be $125.3 billion through 2010, according to the committee.

In addition, the administration has proposed creation of tax-free "Lifetime Savings Accounts" that, if approved, would result in a major shift from savings accounts to investment accounts managed by Wall Street companies.

O'Neal is one of nine Wall Street "Rangers" -- each one has raised at least $200,000 for the Bush campaign. In addition, five other executives of prominent securities firms have raised at least $100,000 each to qualify as Bush "Pioneers."

The O'Neal-generated cash is a record for such a short time period, according to Morris and other campaign finance experts.]

Sunday, May 23, 2004

"In Iraq, the Job Opportunity of a Lifetime
Managing a $13 Billion Budget With No Experience"

excerpt[BAGHDAD -- It was after nightfall when they finally found their offices at Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace -- 11 jet-lagged, sweaty, idealistic volunteers who had come to help Iraq along the road to democracy.

When the U.S. government went looking for people to help rebuild Iraq, they had responded to the call. They supported the war effort and President Bush. Many had strong Republican credentials. They were in their twenties or early thirties and had no foreign service experience. On that first day, Oct. 1, they knew so little about how things worked that they waited hours at the airport for a ride that was never coming. They finally discovered the shuttle bus out of the airport but got off at the wrong stop.
They had been hired to perform a low-level task: collecting and organizing statistics, surveys and wish lists from the Iraqi ministries for a report that would be presented to potential donors at the end of the month. But as suicide bombs and rocket attacks became almost daily occurrences, more and more senior staffers defected. In short order, six of the new young hires found themselves managing the country's $13 billion budget, making decisions affecting millions of Iraqis.
The CPA was designed to be a grand experiment in nation-building, a body of experts who would be Iraq's guide for transforming itself into a model for democracy in the Middle East. Unlike previous reconstruction efforts, it was to be manned by civilians -- advisers on politics, law, medicine, transportation, agronomy and other key areas. They were supposed to be experts, but many of the younger hires who filled the CPA's hallways were longer on enthusiasm than on expertise.

L. Paul Bremer, Iraq's top civil administrator, may have been the public face of the CPA, but it is these rank-and-file workers who defined the occupation at the ground level. This account of the budget team's time in Baghdad is drawn from direct observation and interviews with more than three dozen civilian and military members of the occupation government]

o apparently the rebuilding of Iraq is just an unaired version of The Neoconservative Apprentice. Wonderful to hear that our tax dollars are going to pay six figure salaries to people who amount to little more than camp councelors.How do we ever expect to build a democracy over there if this is who's running the show?

Friday, May 21, 2004

Eric Idle sings it how it is!

(thank you to Atrios for the heads up )

The McCain Choice (washingtonpost.com)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Hostilities force Bush into deep hole

excerpt["I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss," General Joseph Hoar, a former commander in chief of US central command, told the Senate foreign relations committee.

The apocalyptic language is becoming increasingly common here among normally moderate and cautious politicians and observers.

Larry Diamond, an analyst at the conservative Hoover Institution, said: "I think it's clear that the United States now faces a perilous situation in Iraq.

"We have failed to come anywhere near meeting the post-war expectations of Iraqis for security and post-war reconstruction.

"There is only one word for a situation in which you cannot win and you cannot withdraw - quagmire." ]

(Thanx to Atrios for pointing me to the only source of honest unbiased reporting on America's war in Iraq-The Guardian, UK)

Monday, May 17, 2004

MSNBC - The Roots of Torture

excerpt[...NEWSWEEK has learned that U.S. soldiers and CIA operatives could be accused of war crimes. Among the possible charges: homicide involving deaths during interrogations. "The photos clearly demonstrate to me the level of prisoner abuse and mistreatment went far beyond what I expected, and certainly involved more than six or seven MPs," said GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former military prosecutor. He added: "It seems to have been planned."]

The Buck Stops Where? - Stop blaming your henchmen, Mr. President. By Fred Kaplan

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 14, 2004

America's military coupby Sidney Blumenthal

"Donald Rumsfeld has a new war on his hands - the US officer corps has turned on the government"

Troops Get a Chance to Question Rumsfeld

[excerpt-"Moments after Donald H. Rumsfeld said how much more "fun" it was to be questioned by the troops in Baghdad than the critics in Washington, the troops in the Iraqi capital hit the defense secretary with a barrage of serious, probing and sometimes personal inquiries, some of which, he confessed, he just could not answer. "

Thursday, May 13, 2004

I must once again affirm my undying love and devotion to John Stewart for getting Bill Kristol to utter the words "..and that's why Bush will lose." I may be slightly misquoting, and I'm definately taking the quote out of context, but what I'm sure I just saw was Bill Kristol on the ropes looking somewhat bewildered and defeated. It was awesome!! Smooches John Stewart!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The 1,000 Fighting Styles of Rumsfeld!

Josh Marshall does a far more excellent job of expressing the outrage I feel than my blustering rage ever could-

Josh's post from yesterday-"As I said earlier today, I don't think I can remember a more shameful spectacle in the United States Congress, in my living memory, than the comments
today of James Inhofe, the junior senator from Oklahoma. Clearly, it is part of the RNC talking points now to shift the brunt of the media storm from the abuses themselves to the political storm they've created. But no one that I saw at least rose more naturally to the effort than this man. No one else's heart seemed so matched to the deed, with his snarls at "humanitarian do-gooders" (i.e., the Red Cross) trying to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

America's greatest moments in the last century came when she tempered power with right and toughened, or sharpened, the edges of right with power -- World War II, then the post-war settlement that framed the Cold War are the clearest, though certainly not the only, examples.

But here you have Jim Inhofe lumbering out of his cave and on to the stage, arguing that we can do whatever we want because we're America. Inhofe's America is one that is glutted on pretension, cut free from all its moral ballast, and hungry to sit atop a world run only by violence. Lady Liberty gets left with fifty bucks, a sneer, a black eye, and the room to herself for the couple hours left before check out.

Yet there was a much brighter side to these hearings on Tuesday. For all the dishonor Inhofe brought on them, I was struck by how much of this is being carried by Republicans -- in particular, John McCain, John Warner and, perhaps most strikingly, Lindsey Graham.

Graham has become some mix of the star and the conscience of these proceedings because of his specialized knowledge as an Air Force JAG and his ability to see that this goes beyond partisan politics, threatening as it does not only America's honor, but (in a way someone like Inhofe could probably never understand) also her power.

Graham got it exactly right today when he said: "When you are the good guys, you've got to act like the good guys."

Another way to put this might be to say that being the good guys is about what you do, not who you are. That's a truth that the architects of this war, in subtler but I suspect more damaging ways, frequently failed to understand.

-- Josh Marshall"

(there's a link to Josh's blog, "Talking Points Memo", to the left on the links bar. I read it almost every day and recommend it as regular reading to anyone who needs a cerebral take on the mess we're in)

The New York Times > Opinion > The Abu Ghraib Spin

[excerpt-he administration and its Republican allies appear to have settled on a way to deflect attention from the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib: accuse Democrats and the news media of overreacting, then pile all of the remaining responsibility onto officers in the battlefield, far away from President Bush and his political team. That cynical approach was on display yesterday morning in the second Abu Ghraib hearing in the Senate, a body that finally seemed to be assuming its responsibility for overseeing the executive branch after a year of silently watching the bungled Iraq occupation.

The senators called one witness for the morning session, the courageous and forthright Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who ran the Army's major investigation into Abu Ghraib. But the Defense Department also sent Stephen Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, to upstage him. Mr. Cambone read an opening statement that said Donald Rumsfeld was deeply committed to the Geneva Conventions protecting the rights of prisoners, that everyone knew it and that any deviation had to come from "the command level." A few Republican senators loyally followed the script, like Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who offered the astounding comment that he was "more outraged by the outrage" than by the treatment of prisoners. After all, he said, they were probably guilty of something.]

The New York Times > National > From a Strange Encounter With Iraqi Police to Fatal Capture

This is an article about the death of, and tribute to the life of Nick Berg, the Westchester, PA man who was found beheaded by terrorists in Iraq this week. Whenever I hear the reports of fatalities come in from Iraq, wheather they be military or civilian, American, or Iraqi, it brings me to tears. (no, I'm not being dramatic) This one I heard about as breaking news on my local CBS station. (I live right down the road from Westchester) These days everything is political. The look on that anchorwoman's face was 100% personal. Every death that comes out of this war is personal. We have to remember that if we're to chart a course of action in this situation that makes any sense. I only pray that our leaders are as deeply affected by the daily tragedy of this war as I am. But until I see some sincere evidence of that it will remain, for me, a senseless tragic, mistake.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Ok-in other news millions of people on unemployment will not have their jobless benefits extended since the bill that was to provide such an extension failed by one vote in the senate-why you may ask-because of republican legislation tacked onto the bill providing billions in tax relief to large corporations. Gee-are these the same corporations who didn't pay any taxes last year-whew, that relief can't come soon enough I suppose. Only a republican could tack corporate tax relief onto a social program extension. It's an all in one example of how F'ed up the economy is and why.

I swear to God, if I hear one more Republican on TV intimating that the abuses at Abu Gahrib weren't that bad when you consider what Saddam did or how things are in third world countries I'm going to freak out. We are America assholes!!! We're supposed to hold ourselves to a higher standard!!!And for Tucker Carlson to say that People in the Middle East are used to this kind of thing and the only people outraged are Americans (fed this outrage by the media no doubt)makes me sick. I have to end this post now because something else is pissing me off and I hate to cover two subjects in a single post, so on to the next one...

White House to impose sanctions on Syria

[excerpt-"WASHINGTON - President Bush will order economic sanctions against Syria this week for supporting terrorism and not doing enough to prevent militant fighters from entering neighboring Iraq, congressional and administration sources said Monday.

The sanctions, which the White House will impose as early as Tuesday, are being ordered because the administration believes Syria has aggravated tensions in the Middle East by supporting militant groups.

“We have talked previously about our concerns when it comes to Syria’s continued development of weapons of mass destruction, when it comes to their support for terrorism and when it comes to their failure to adequately police its border with Iraq,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said."]

Welcome to the next phase of the War on Terror.....I feel a draft.


[excerpt]-["Just trust us, John Ashcroft said, as he demanded that Congress pass the Patriot Act, no questions asked. After two and a half years, during which he arrested and secretly detained more than a thousand people, Mr. Ashcroft has yet to convict any actual terrorists.
Just trust us, George Bush said, as he insisted that Iraq, which hadn't attacked us and posed no obvious threat, was the place to go in the war on terror. When we got there, we found no weapons of mass destruction and no new evidence of links to Al Qaeda.

Just trust us, Paul Bremer said, as he took over in Iraq. What is the legal basis for Mr. Bremer's authority? You may imagine that the Coalition Provisional Authority is an arm of the government, subject to U.S. law. But it turns out that no law or presidential directive has ever established the authority's status. Mr. Bremer, as far as we can tell, answers to nobody except Mr. Bush, which makes Iraq a sort of personal fief. In that fief, there has been nothing that Americans would recognize as the rule of law.
Just trust us, Donald Rumsfeld said early in 2002, when he declared that "enemy combatants" — a term that turned out to mean anyone, including American citizens, the administration chose to so designate — don't have rights under the Geneva Convention. Now people around the world talk of an "American gulag," and Seymour Hersh is exposing My Lai all over again."]

Paul Krugman has written another great column-I strongly reccommend you read the whole thing.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Dissension Grows In Senior Ranks On War Strategy (washingtonpost.com)
[excerpt]-Deep divisions are emerging at the top of the U.S. military over the course of the occupation of Iraq, with some senior officers beginning to say that the United States faces the prospect of casualties for years without achieving its goal of establishing a free and democratic Iraq.
Their major worry is that the United States is prevailing militarily but failing to win the support of the Iraqi people. That view is far from universal, but it is spreading and being voiced publicly for the first time.
Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Reports: Disney tries to stop release of Moore film - May. 5, 2004

Sunday, May 02, 2004

MSNBC - Bill Maher on American politics: �good marketing, stupid people�

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