Friday, September 24, 2004
In his effort to claim he is the strongest candidate on national security, President Bush has lately been speaking a lot about how he is doing everything possible to track down terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - the man thought to be responsible for escalating attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq. But according to NBC News, it was Bush who in 2002 and 2003 rejected three plans to strike and neutralize Zarqawi because he believed a successful strike would undermine the public case for targeting Saddam Hussein.
As NBC News reported, "Long before the war, the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself - but never pulled the trigger." In June 2002, the Pentagon drafted plans to attack a camp Zarqawi was at with cruise missiles and airstrikes. The plan was killed by the White House. Four months later, as Zarqawi planned to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe, the Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, yet "the White House again killed it." In January 2003, the Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the White House killed it.
According to NBC, "Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi's operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam."
Zarqawi is thought to be at least indirectly responsible for hundreds of U.S. casualties. Just yesterday, Zarqawi's terrorist group beheaded an American civilian in Baghdad.
So let's see. Osama bin Laden, who killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11, got away because he's not important any more. Zarqawi, who is responsible for much of the recent Iraqi violence and most of the beheadings, got away because capturing him would have undercut Bush's case for war against Saddam. And now Saddam, who neither attacked nor threatened us or anyone else, is safely in US custody, as terrorists pour into Iraq. How does all this make America safer?
The allegation is the basis of a new Bush campaign TV ad that shows the Democratic senator from Massachusetts windsurfing to the strains of a Strauss waltz as a narrator intones: "Kerry voted for the Iraq war, opposed it, supported it and now opposes it again."
Yet an examination of Kerry's words in more than 200 speeches and statements, comments during candidate forums and answers to reporters' questions does not support the accusation.
"Congressional action on this resolution is not the end of our national debate on how best to disarm Iraq," Kerry said on the eve of the vote. "Nor does it mean we have exhausted all of our peaceful options to achieve this goal."
Republicans ridicule such distinctions and use Kerry's vote as the basis for their assertion that Kerry once favored the war.
"He voted for it," said Republican national chairman Ed Gillespie when asked Wednesday to back the charge that Kerry supported the war. "Look at the coverage at the time, it was pretty clear what was going on."
Yet in the fall of 2002, several months before the air strikes on Baghdad began, Bush himself insisted the vote was not the same as a declaration of war but instead gave him the hand he needed to negotiate the peace.
"If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force," Bush said in September 2002. "It's a chance for Congress to say, 'we support the administration's ability to keep the peace.' That's what this is all about."
I think we know by now what it was actually all about.
"Three months into its new mission," The New York Times reported, "the military command in charge of training and equipping Iraqi security forces has fewer than half of its permanent headquarters personnel in place."
At the root of this folly is a continuing refusal to face uncomfortable facts. Confronted with a bleak C.I.A. assessment of the Iraq situation - one that matches the judgment of just about every independent expert - Mr. Bush's response is that "they were just guessing." "In many ways," Mr. Cordesman writes, "the administration's senior spokesmen still seem to live in a fantasyland."
Fantasyland extended to the Rose Garden yesterday, where Mr. Bush said polls asking Iraqis whether their nation was on the right track were more positive than similar polls asking Americans about their outlook - and he seemed to consider that a good sign.
Where is Mr. Bush taking us? As the reality of Iraq gets worse, his explanations of our goals get ever vaguer. "The security of our world," Mr. Bush told the U.N., "is found in the advancing rights of mankind."
He doesn't really believe that. After all, he continues to praise Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, even as Mr. Putin strangles democratic institutions. The subtext of Mr. Bush's bombast is that because he can't bring himself to admit a mistake, he refuses to give up on his effort to turn Iraq into a docile client state - an effort that is doomed unless he can figure out a way to come up with a few hundred thousand more troops.
We don't have to go there. American policy shouldn't be dictated by Mr. Bush's infallibility complex; our first priority must be our own security. And in Iraq, that means setting realistic goals.
Realistic goals are not a specialty of this administration.
As he explained in his autobiography, A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House:
"My inclination was to support the government and the war until proven wrong, and that only came later, as I realized we could not explain the mission, had no exit strategy, and did not seem to be fighting to win."
How is it that he ultimately came to see the fiasco in Vietnam so clearly but remains so blind to the frighteningly similar realities of his own war in Iraq? Mr. Bush cannot explain our mission in Iraq and has nothing resembling an exit strategy, and his troops - hobbled by shortages of personnel and by potentially fatal American and Iraqi political considerations - are certainly not fighting to win.
As the situation in Iraq moves from bad to worse, the president, based on his public comments, seems to be edging further and further from reality. This is disturbing, to say the least. The news from Iraq is filled with reports of kidnappings and beheadings, of people pleading desperately for their lives, of American soldiers being ambushed and killed, of clusters of Iraqis being blown to pieces by suicide bombers, and of the prospects for a credible election in January tumbling toward nil.
This is scary. With Americans, Iraqis and others dying horribly in the long dark night of this American-led war, the world needs more from the president of the United States than the fool's gold of his empty utterances.
[Bush] wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to.
Yet this president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much. This president and his supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing - to take power, to remain in power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their friends.
A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children. He is the president who does not feel. He does not feel for the families of the dead, he does not feel for the 35 million of us who live in poverty, he does not feel for the 40 percent who cannot afford health insurance, he does not feel for the miners whose lungs are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills - it is amazing for how many people in this country this president does not feel.
But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is relieving the wealthiest 1 percent of the population of their tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing the quality of air in coal mines to save the coal miners' jobs, and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a-half benefits for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising them into the professional class.
And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.
How much is enough? How many lies are enough for you to say no more? How many times will you allow this administration to ignore the lies they spread to sell us this war to begin with? Bush is fond of saying, “well isn’t the world better off without Saddam Hussein?” No, Mr. President, that is NOT the point.
How much is enough? How much more money must be made by the Halliburtons of the world before you stand up and tell the war profiteers to pack their bags? They held a conference to discuss strategies about how to make the most money in Iraq! They now are using our troops as meat-shields, requiring them to accompany Halliburton truck drivers around Iraq. How much is enough for you?
How much is enough? How much more of this “war president” refusing to talk honestly about his avoidance of war when he was younger will you allow? The younger man that was George Bush was supposed to report to a Guard Unit in Alabama but those who were there are on record as saying he never showed up. He signed a “statement of understanding” that he would sign up with a Guard Unit in Massachusetts when he went off to school. He couldn’t even do that. Guard rules dictated that he should have been punished by an active recall to duty. It never happened. Now, the White House will try and tell us that he did not have to sign up with a guard unit in Massachusetts. I guess it comes down to what the definition of “statement of understanding” is.
I do not want to hear about fantasy stories of typefaces and whether the typewriters in 1973 could have had superscripts. I want this president for ONCE during his reign to actually answer the damn question. Answer why he refuses to go to ONE soldier’s funeral. How much of this cowardice is enough for you?
I've had a bellyful, myself.
For clarification, France had no hesitation in helping in the war in Afghanistan and Mr. Chirac was one of the first world leaders to visit with Mr. Bush, and visit Ground Zero in New York following the attack three years ago. Those who opposed the U.S. preemptive attack on Iraq did so because weapons of mass destruction were not found and the inspectors still had time to look.
Mr. Bush could not, would not wait, and lied to the U.N., lied to the American people, claiming that he had to attack Iraq "immediately or else." All under the Bush-Cheney presumption that Iraq was also tied to the events of 9-11, which no one else in the world believed to be true.
And of course, it is not true. Iraq is now a base for religious extremists and violence, a mess, in short. More U.S. casualties lie ahead, and the brave American soldiers are dying for Mr. Bush's lies. Sorry, but Mr. Chirac and the others who opposed the war on Iraq were right.
At the top of my personal hit parade of Bush Distortions is a statement the president made over and over, notably during his speech at the Republican National Convention. “If you say the heart and soul of America is found in Hollywood,” Bush said to loud cheers, “I’m afraid you are not the candidate of conservative values.”
Bush has repeated variations of that sentiment so often that I bet you didn’t know that Kerry never said that the heart and soul of America is found in Hollywood.
What Kerry actually said, after a fund-raiser in which a group of stars performed on his behalf (and, yes, during which some of them said distasteful things about Bush), was this: “Every performer tonight, in their own way, either verbally or through their music, through their lyrics, have conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country.”
And by the way, Kerry didn’t even make those comments in Hollywood. The fund-raiser was held in New York City.
Bush has gotten away with crap like this his whole life long. Why stop now?
I thought it was an interesting coincidence that a state with questionable presidential election results would be pummeled by hurricanes just before the next election. Then I thought it was an interesting coincidence that the storms spared Miami, who voted for Gore in 2000. Just out of curiosity, I overlaid two maps: one of the tracks of the hurricanes of 2004, and one of the election results of 2000.
This is no longer an interesting coincidence. It is an unmistakable message from God. I hope everyone is listening.
[Check out the graphic here.]
Thursday, September 23, 2004
How many more 19-, 20- and 21-year-olds must die before we are willing to demand that the president be more forthcoming? Any modicum of critical thinking reveals that America has strayed from its raison d'etre.
It is easy to declare, as the president often does on the campaign trail, "The world is a safer place with Saddam Hussein in jail," but recent reports and actions on the ground contradict that notion.
The president was wrong about weapons of mass destruction; Iraq's threat to the United States; links between Saddam and al-Qaida; the reliability of Ahmed Chalabi; that Iraqi oil would pay for the war; the number of troops required to provide stability; and that we would be greeted as liberators.
In fact, the only thing that the president has been right about is the evil of Saddam Hussein. Did we need over 1,000 American casualties to figure that one out?
Yet, the response from supporters of the war is, "What is John Kerry's plan?"
How can we debate Kerry's plan, or lack thereof, when we have a president that is not forthcoming about reality? Given the circumstances created by this administration, Kerry, like the president, has few options that do not include a sustained American presence in Iraq, little support from European allies and further loss of life.
[Byron Williams writes a weekly political/social commentary at Byronspeaks.com.]
Here is a recent New York Times headline of an article describing a George Bush stump speech in Michigan: Bush describes Kerry's health care plan as a 'government takeover.' The San Francisco Chronicle republished the very same piece, except its headline read: Bush blasts Kerry's 'enormous price tag' for health care.
What's wrong with this picture?
To begin with, an unsuspecting reader might be led to think – mistakenly, at that – that John Kerry's health care proposals amount to nothing less than the creation of a socialized national health care system.
Then there is the more alarming fact that both of these headlines help further President Bush's partisan slams against John Kerry. These influential media outlets lent credibility to George Bush's false claims by using the same language – or to be more accurate, 'frames' – of the White House spin machine.
By repeating, verbatim, these frames in the context of objective news reporting, big media ends up serving the agenda of those it claims to cover without bias.
The end result is a further degradation of journalistic standards of fairness and an increasingly misinformed public – and therefore, the erosion of the informed choices required to ensure a healthy democracy.
And all the while, the Limbaughs and the Hannities complain about the "liberal media".
It could be a big order.
Bush's claims of steady progress toward Iraqi democracy, made in his speech Tuesday to the United Nations and again Wednesday on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, are undermined by images of beheadings of American hostages, more suicide bombings and fierce fighting.
Undermined? Try "destroyed". I don't see how this "everything's fine in Iraq" approach can be a winner for Bush.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Meanwhile, if I may borrow from Maureen Dowd, Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist and author of the just released Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk, here’s the view from Bushworld:
Donald Rumsfeld, at a press conference the other day, attributed the dramatic spike in attacks against U.S. troops as a sign that the insurgents were becoming desperate because they saw that the U.S. installed government was succeeding and democracy was taking root in Iraq. Wait a minute. That’s what Bush told us last year.
Bush, during every one of his campaign stops, has declared we are defeating the terrorists “there” so we do not have to fight them on the streets of America. He has never explained how doing battle with Iraqis fighting on their own turf is somehow making us safer on our own streets. Despite the chaos in Iraq, Bush insists that democracy is taking root there. And he continues to declare that “America is safer” because of the war in Iraq. Naturally, Bush and Cheney never fail to tie the quagmire in Iraq to the 9/11 attacks even though the 9/11 Commission and all legitimate intelligence long ago discredited that notion.
Dick Cheney, in the nastiest example of fear-fanning demagoguery since Zell Miller did his Cotton Mather imitation at the Republican love/hate fest in New York, declared that voting for John Kerry will make America less safe because it will result in terrorist attacks on the homeland. In other words, vote for us or die.
Now for the really scary part. National opinion polls continue to show that most Americans have bought into Bushworld. They really believe that, despite the most disastrous intelligence failures in American history, Bush has made the country safer from terrorism and that he is better suited than John Kerry to fight the war on terror, whatever that is. They really believe that, in spite of all empirical evidence to the contrary readily available in most newspapers (except those owned by Rupert Murdoch) and on most network news programs (except those owned by Rupert Murdoch).
I love the Rumsfeld quote (which was indeed also said by Bush, a year ago) where he says that the increase in the number and sophistication of insurgent attacks shows that they are "desperate", and therefore that we are winning. This simply makes no sense. If there were instead fewer insurgent attacks, wouldn't he say we were winning then, too?
US President George W Bush, determined to put an optimistic face on deadly conditions in Iraq, said on Tuesday that the CIA was just guessing when it said the war-racked country was in danger of slipping into civil war.
"The CIA laid out several scenarios. It said that life could be lousy, life could be OK, life could be better. And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like," Bush told reporters during a picture-taking session with Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
In October 2002, a National Intelligence Estimate argued that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and helped the administration justify its decision to go to war. Large stockpiles of such weapons have not been found.
How strange that Bush didn't realize that they were "just guessing" back then. And how comical to hear Iyad Allawi repeating the American right-wing talking points. That's a good boy!
On September 2 a federal judge in Detroit threw out the only jury conviction the Justice Department has obtained on a terrorism charge since 9/11. In October 2001, shortly after the men were initially arrested, Attorney General John Ashcroft heralded the case in a national press conference as evidence of the success of his anti-terror campaign. The indictment alleged that the defendants were associated with Al Qaeda and planning terrorist attacks.
But Ashcroft held no news conference in September when the case was dismissed, nor did he offer any apologies to the defendants who had spent nearly three years in jail. That wouldn't be good for his boss's campaign, which rests on the "war on terrorism." Here, as in Iraq, Bush's war is not going as well as he pretends.
The Detroit case was extremely weak from the outset. The government could never specify exactly what terrorist activity was allegedly being planned and never offered any evidence linking the defendants to Al Qaeda. Its case consisted almost entirely of a pair of sketches and a videotape, described by an FBI agent as "casing materials" for a terrorist plot, and the testimony of a witness of highly dubious reliability seeking a generous plea deal. It now turns out that the prosecution failed to disclose to the defense evidence that other government experts did not consider the sketches and videotape to be terrorist casing materials at all and that the government's key witness had admitted to lying.
Until that reversal, the Detroit case had marked the only terrorist conviction obtained from the Justice Department's detention of more than 5,000 foreign nationals in antiterrorism sweeps since 9/11. So Ashcroft's record is 0 for 5,000. When the Attorney General was locking these men up in the immediate wake of the attacks, he held almost daily press conferences to announce how many "suspected terrorists" had been detained. No press conference has been forthcoming to announce that exactly none of them have turned out to be actual terrorists.
What a collection of fools we have running our country.
Representative democracy is based on conditional trust, but once that trust is broken, it is foolhardy to continue to grind the broken shards into the body politic. Few of us wanted to believe that our President would lie to us. In my opinion he has and he still is. Is he simultaneously deluding himself? Perhaps. If so, all the worse.
Recent polling leads me to fear that the people of this country, blinded by a yearning for everything to be “okay” in these times of trouble, are in denial, ably fostered by President George W. Bush’s insistent and simplistic reiteration of untruths.
Everything is not okay.
Bush is fundamentally misleading this country and it goes far beyond the normal dissembling, oversimplification, and grandiosity that we have, unfortunately, come to expect and even accept from politicians.
The Bush administration led us into war in Iraq and garnered our support for it by hiding its true motivations. When weapons of mass destruction were not found, they then had to offer a different but plausible rationale for their actions. Indeed, they have presented a multitude of justifications, ranging from soup to nuts. Taken as a whole, they are far from convincing.
The Republicans refer to the war in Iraq as “not having to fight the terrorists here at home” despite the utter lack of any evidence that this will prove to be true. Sounds nice, though, doesn’t it?
According to George Bush, the war in Iraq was justified because of Iraq’s “ties” to terrorism - yet all investigating committees and most experts say there were no such ties, other than in the overheated imaginations of Bush and his cohorts.
The focus on Iraq has diverted attention and resources from homeland defense. We are no safer now. We are less safe. We are not draining the swamp. We are filling it.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Although most Americans remember that Harry Truman was Franklin D. Roosevelt's Vice President when Roosevelt died in 1945 (making Truman President), Roosevelt had two previous Vice Presidents - John N. Garner (1933-1941) and Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945). In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, "write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?"
Vice President Wallace's answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.
"The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."
In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word "fascist" - the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)
As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
Golly, that sure sounds familiar.
President Bush delivered his campaign stump speech in yet another venue yesterday, the United Nations, as he again attempted to defend the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- this time to the international body he'd said would become little more than a debating society if it failed to follow his call to war in Iraq.
Bush repeated his theme that salvation and stability for the Middle East could be accomplished by outside powers imposing democracy at the point of a gun. He said Afghanistan and Iraq "will be a model for the broader Middle East."
In a familiar effort to justify the U.S.-led war against Iraq, the president tried to have it both ways on the role of the United Nations. "The Security Council promised serious consequences for his (Saddam Hussein's) defiance. And the commitments we make must have meaning," he said. "When we say serious consequences, for the sake of peace there must be serious consequences."
At issue, of course, is not the legitimacy of the Security Council's promise of serious consequences for Iraq's non-compliance but the United States' usurpation of the decision to impose those consequences.
As U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said prior to Bush's address, "Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it, and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it."
Despite Bush's invasion of Iraq in what Annan now calls an illegal war, the president said yesterday that U.N. members must "do more" to help in Iraq.
"Each of us alone can only do so much," Bush said. "Together we can accomplish so much more."
It seems that Bush doesn't "do irony" either. What an embarrassment he is.
Inside dusty, barricaded camps around Iraq, groups of American troops in between missions are gathering around screens to view an unlikely choice from the US box office: "Fahrenheit 9-11," Michael Moore's controversial documentary attacking the commander-in-chief.
"Everyone's watching it," says a Marine corporal at an outpost in Ramadi that is mortared by insurgents daily. "It's shaping a lot of people's image of Bush."
The film's prevalence is one sign of a discernible countercurrent among US troops in Iraq - those who blame President Bush for entangling them in what they see as a misguided war.
"There's no clear definition of why we came here," says Army Spc. Nathan Swink, of Quincy, Ill. "First they said they have WMD and nuclear weapons, then it was to get Saddam Hussein out of office, and then to rebuild Iraq. I want to fight for my nation and for my family, to protect the United States against enemies foreign and domestic, not to protect Iraqi civilians or deal with Sadr's militia," he said.
If you want to protect America from domestic enemies, volunteer for the Kerry campaign!
Bush could end this [National Guard] story now so we could get to the real issues of 2004. It would require only that the president take an hour or so with reporters to make clear what he did and did not do in the Guard. He may have had good reasons for ducking that physical exam. Surely he can explain the gaps in his service and tell us honestly whether any pull was used to get him into the Guard.
But a guy who is supposed to be so frank and direct turns remarkably Clintonian where the National Guard issue is concerned. "I met my requirements and was honorably discharged" is Bush's stock answer, which does old Bill proud. And am I the only person exasperated by a double standard that treated everything Bill Clinton ever did in his life ("I didn't inhale") as fair game but now insists that we shouldn't sully ourselves with any inconvenient questions about Bush's past?
I'm as weary as you are that our politics veer away from what matters - Iraq, terrorism, health care, jobs - and get sidetracked into personal issues manufactured by political consultants and ideological zealots. But the Bush campaign has made clear it wants this election to focus on character and leadership. If character is the issue, the president's life, past and present, matters just as much as John Kerry's.
Dan Rather has answered his critics. Now it is Bush's turn.
Dan said "I'm sorry". What will George say?
John Kerry joked about the president's tax cut proposals as he unveiled his "Top Ten" list on the "Late Show with David Letterman."
Kerry's "Top Ten Bush Tax Proposals" were:
10. No estate tax for families with at least two U.S. presidents.
Once staunch allies and supporters of President Bush, many influential Saudi Arabians - whose nation the president's father, George H.W. Bush, protected from Saddam Hussein during the 1990-91 Gulf War - view the prospect of Bush's reelection as "catastrophic." Indeed, on a trip to the desert kingdom earlier this month, I was hard-pressed to find anyone, at any level of society, in Saudi Arabia who speaks positively of President Bush, or looks favorably on the prospect of another four years of the Bush administration in the White House.
Many fear that a Bush victory in November would only mean more turmoil and violence in the Middle East. They point to the "failed policies" of the Bush administration as cause for their concern: the apparent descent into civil war in Iraq, the stalemate in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute (and the administration's pro-Israeli tilt), the alienation of the Arab and Islamic world, and the rising tension from U.S. accusations about Iran and Syria concerning their nuclear weapons programs and support of terrorism. Saudis also worry about a suggestion by U.S. neoconservatives inside the Bush administration calling for the breakup of the Saudi kingdom into two or three smaller states.
When a Bush alienates the Saudis, you know we're off track.
Every day, many more Iraqis die. Innocent citizens - men, women, children, mothers, grandmothers - journalists slaughtered live on Arab television - blown up by suicide bombers who never attacked or even existed before the U.S. occupation. Blown up by U.S. assault helicopters firing missiles into crowds. Killed for their own liberation, for democracy, for what?
And Americans are constantly dying too - now over 1,000 dead soldiers and counting. Add that to the more than 12,000 Iraqis, and George W. Bush has accomplished quite something in his presidential tenure. How many thousands more will die for his lies?
This war in Iraq, where Bush declared "Mission accomplished" 16 months ago, is a nightmare. With this unjustified, "miscalculated" war, he has actively recruited and created more terrorists in Iraq and abroad. He has turned his back on the global threat of al-Qaida, and he has turned his back on America. Iraqi opposition to and hatred of Americans grow while Bush and Weinstein spew partisan rhetoric. Contrary to Weinstein's conclusion, the world is not a safer place.
One last thing: it was not "our" decision to go to war. "We" did not go to war. Bush misled us into war. He lied to the world. He lied to you, and he keeps lying every day while innocent Iraqis and Americans continue to die.
President Bush might say it was a slip of the tongue when he confused the names of two terrorists in a campaign speech yesterday in New Hampshire. Still, he's made the same misstatement at least 10 times before.
During remarks in Derry, N.H., Bush said the late terrorist Abu Nidal killed Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old Jewish American who was tossed, along with his wheelchair, off the hijacked cruise liner Achille Lauro in 1985.
"Do you remember Abu Nidal?" Bush asked the crowd. "He's the guy that killed Leon Klinghoffer. Leon Klinghoffer was murdered because of his religion. Abu Nidal was in Baghdad, as was his organization."
He repeated the mistake last evening at a campaign event in New York City: "Abu Nidal was a cold-blooded terrorist killer who killed Leon Klinghoffer."
Actually, it was Abul Abbas, the leader of a violent Palestinian group, who killed Klinghoffer. The White House had no comment on the mix-up.
I guess it doesn't matter which terrorist is which when your plan is to kill them all.
Monday, September 20, 2004
The thing that rankles me most about George W. Bush these days is the way he lies to our troops.
When you're in that American-made cesspool called Iraq, and you've been told your tour of duty ends on April 12, it's an out-and-out breach of contract to be suddenly told you can't go home until September.
I use the April 12 date because that's the day the family on television said they expected their reservist son home.
His remains were shipped home in a box after he was killed on April 29.
That's bad enough, but then Bush has the temerity to accuse critics of his war of damaging troop morale.
That must be his macabre idea of a joke. What could possibly be more damaging to morale than to be told you're going home and then have your tour of duty extended?
What could be more damaging to the morale of the surviving troops than to see their buddy killed after his official go-home date?
A good percentage of our troops in Iraq today are victims of Bush's bait-and-switch tactics. We like to boast of our all-volunteer military, but there's nothing voluntary about being yanked away from your family and your job months or years after you thought you had completed your military obligation.
Yet, that's what's happening.
Welcome to New America.
[Bush commercial spokesman] Jay Moccia is full of crap. Under Kerry's plan--essentially tax cuts for businesses who voluntarily provide catastrophic health insurance to their workers - there will be no Washington "control" of "your doctor." The Kerry proposal is not, as Bush has said, a government "takeover" of health care. It is a government handout. One can argue that taxpayers should not subsidize health insurance for Americans who do not have it. But that is not how Bush is attacking the plan. Instead, he is - and I do get tired of saying this - lying. As for that $1.5 trillion price tag, this ten-year estimate comes from Bush's pals at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The Kerry camp puts the tab at closer to $600 billion over ten years (which could be less than what the Iraq war ends up costing the United States.)
Good ol' Jay is also fibbing when he says Kerry wants "to raise your taxes." Unless, of course, Jay is only addressing people who make over $200,000. Kerry has said a gadzillion times that his economic plan calls for suspending the Bush tax cuts for the above-$200,000 set and for preserving tax cuts for the rest of taxpayers.
The disconnect between Bush's charges and reality are well-known to political reporters covering the campaign, and Bush's misrepresentation of Kerry's health care proposal has received a dollop of media coverage. But why is this not front-page material - the president purposefully telling untruths about a rather significant matter? (I'd like to see one conservative or Republican defend Bush's claim that Kerry is pushing a government "takeover" of the health care - and do so without pointing a finger at something the Kerry campaign has done wrong.) Isn't this as important as, say, a television news show being snookered and broadcasting documents that may be fake? Or am I just too old-fashioned?
You're thinking of the old America. You know, before everything changed.
The fiscal recklessness of the Bush administration's economic policies, if you can dignify them with that name, presents a greater danger to the American people than terrorists.
Terrorism can always take a few individual lives, but a financial collapse can ruin the lives of millions. The Bush people have taken the country from a projected surplus of trillions of dollars to a projected deficit of trillions.
That multitrillion-dollar debt, coupled with the already enormous corporate and personal debt levels, represents a clear danger to the future of this country. The postwar generations don't know what an economic depression is, but their grandparents could tell them it makes our little recessions seem like boom times.
Being a country boy, I've always been suspicious of Wall Street financial gurus, but there is one area in which I at least respect them. That area is knowledge of high finance. And the really smart financiers are voicing genuine alarm at the direction the Bush administration is taking this country. Robert Rubin, President Clinton's Treasury secretary, and George Soros, the billionaire, are two. They are not academics who play games with computers; they are street-smart guys who learned from experience and made their fortunes in the toughest game in the world. Rubin, I should point out, is acting as an adviser to John Kerry.
Far from being the conservative he claims to be, President Bush has allowed discretionary spending to increase at a far greater rate than it did during the Clinton years. Bush has abandoned the pay-as-you-go principle and chosen to combine drastic tax cuts with fighting two wars. Lyndon Johnson tried the guns-and-butter route during the Vietnam War, and we paid for it with double-digit inflation and double-digit interest rates, followed by a severe recession. Bush is going the guns, butter and cream route, and the consequences will be bad, very bad.
Tell it to the cult members. Guess what? They don't care. "Bush is a straight shooter who means what he says, and he's against abortion and gay marriage." What more do you need?
Missing evidence of weapons of mass destruction aside, President Bush had one compelling justification for invading Iraq that his critics could not dispute: A free, democratic Iraq would be better than a violent, dangerous Iraq. That line of thinking has defined Bush's purpose in Iraq since the WMD rationale fell apart.
It's now fair to ask: Is the American-led occupation meeting the democracy-building objective? The answer was provided to the president last June in a report prepared by the CIA's National Intelligence Council and just made public. It is not encouraging. At best, Iraq's stability will remain as tenuous as it has been in recent months - a stability floating on a bloody undercurrent of gun battles, bombings, kidnappings and acts of terrorism. At worst, Iraq will devolve into civil war.
Bush has known of the National Intelligence Council's report since June. The situation in Iraq has only confirmed the assessment since. The disconnect between the reality on the ground and what Bush is telling the American public doesn't merely put in question Bush's credibility. It raises the disquieting possibility that Bush has lost sight of reality in Iraq, that his vaunted "ability to make a decision," as Vice President Dick Cheney describes it, has become more important than his ability to correct the wrong decision.
If Iraq is, as Bush claims, "the central front of the war on terror," that front is perilously close to "mission failure."
The entire Bush presidency has been a miserable failure.
Early in his administration, President George W. Bush moved to make sure that the family's personal, financial and political secrets, particularly his and his father's, remain sealed forever. After placing his records as governor of Texas in his father's presidential library, Bush signed an executive order on November 1, 2001, that blocks the release of all presidential documents. Until then, the National Archives had controlled the fate of White House documents, which automatically became public after 12 years. Under Bush's new rules, presidents now have the right to prevent the public from ever viewing their papers, even after they have died. Unless there is a successful court challenge, he will be able to bury the secrets of his father's direct involvement in the Iran-contra scandal as well as his own complicity in waging war on Iraq.
While I wrote this book, there were obstacles other than people's reluctance to talk and Bush family resistance. When I began digging for information, I ran into an extraordinary number of lost records, misplaced files and registers that had been mysteriously destroyed by fire over the years. Documents such as bankruptcy records are inexplicably missing from federal court files; other Bush business records that should be in the public domain have disappeared.
The Bushes are so invested in protecting their public image that they have even airbrushed their family tree. Any unpleasant fact that detracts from the family's wholesome appeal has been deleted. Two mentally retarded women aren't included; wives are omitted. These might seem like trivial details until you realise that in the Bush family, divorce, particularly more than one, is considered anathema.
Family values, you know.
Baghdad Bob, of course, was Saddam Hussein's minister of information, now immortalized on t-shirts, Web sites and even a DVD for his optimistic, if fanciful, statements about Iraq's triumph over the American infidels, right up to the point we toppled his boss's statue. Baghdad Bob, real name Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, somehow survived and at last report was happily working as an Arab TV commentator, sans trademark beret.
Maher's joke was funny because it got at an essential truth, even as he stretched it. But the next day, I got to thinking, what if that's not such an exaggeration after all?
Consider that in the past week violence flared at unprecedented levels all over Iraq; U.S. deaths there soared past the 1,000 mark with more killed than at any time in recent weeks; a declassified National Intelligence Estimate painted a dire picture of prospects in Iraq; and reports circulated that our military plans to mobilize more troops and launch bloody attacks (post-election) on insurgent strongholds. A leading GOP senator, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, said, "the worst thing we can do is hold ourselves hostage to some grand illusion that we're winning. Right now, we are not winning. Things are getting worse."
And yet President Bush suggested all week that Iraq was firmly on the path to stability and democracy. On Friday he told a newspaper, "The Iraqis are defying the dire predictions of a lot of people by moving toward democracy....I'm pleased with the progress."
That's D.C. Dubya for you.
Sunday, September 19, 2004
The Bush character duplicates much of the Reagan mystique, with one notable difference; the emphasis on religion. The Bush chimera is one part "plain-speaking" cowpoke and one part "Tent-show preacher". This adjunct to the Reagan formula has inspired legions of loyal followers to profess their unflinching devotion to their new demigod. The incidentals concerning his dubious personal history (a unique mix of shady business deals, insider trading, arrests, alcohol abuse, unaccounted for absence in the National Guard, etc.) has done nothing to disrupt their unshakeable support for junior Bush.
The illusion of Bush's popularity has been, perhaps, the most difficult aspect to stage manage. Bush is unquestionably the most reviled public figure of our era. Even when he visited close friend and "ally" Tony Blair in England he was accompanied by an entourage of 4,000 secret service agents and an astonishing 18,000 Bobbies. His presence inspires a similar reaction wherever he goes. (The unprecedented outpouring of dissidence, that sent millions of people across the world into the streets prior to the Iraq war, attests to the overwhelming public revulsion to his policies.)
The White House illusionists have created an effective mask for disguising their rampant criminal activity. In manufacturing our "folk hero", "Bible wielding" President, Rove and Co. have produced a "cult of the personality" on American soil; a tradition that is favored among all autocratic governments to maintain their iron grip on power.
Willkommen in Deutschland!
The RNC strategy can be called "poisoning the well." Information need not be accurate - the goal is simply to sow doubt and confusion. Sling enough mud, and some of it is bound to stick. Thus: Kerry is a war hero? Then let’s sow doubt about his war record. Bush deserted from the National Guard? Then let’s sow doubt about the key documents. The Arctic is melting? Then let’s sow doubt about global warming. Poisoning the well is easy and effective, but unfortunately bad information drives out the good, and Americans are reduced to a Soviet-style helpless cynicism. There is no longer any standard of truth, since even the most accurate information can and will be countered by lies - and all but the most intelligent Americans end up hopelessly confused. "I don’t know what to think," says Joe Voter, which is exactly what the Republicans want, because now they can tell Joe exactly what to believe.
It sure pays to have a propaganda machine. For example, it is now part of the folk wisdom that Kerry is a flip-flopper. (Learning from experience means you’re weak and vacillating, but steadfast stupidity means you’re tough and strong.) A couple of months ago dailykos.com ran a brilliant list of Bush’s flip-flops, but this never made it into the mainstream, because the Democrats lack an effective propaganda machine.
This little matter of "truth" is a fascinating subject. As a onetime scientist, I will always believe that at some level, in many situations, there is indeed an objective "truth" - not in a metaphysical sense, but in terms of the most accurate information we have available to us at the time. Of course, we will always get better information as time goes on, and we are always free to modify our conclusions as we learn more about any situation.
Contrast this with the faith-based belief that there already exists a metaphysical or ideological "Truth." Mere facts that conflict with the "Truth" are either distorted or ignored. And so we end up with needless wars abroad, fascism at home, and a devastated planet. The accurate information is: Bush allowed 9/11 to happen and lied to get us into a war that makes the world radically more dangerous - but the "Truth" is, we are safer with him as president than Kerry that French flip-flopper. The possibilities are endless, if you have a propaganda machine that allows you to define whatever you want the "Truth" to be. Orwell would be impressed.
So would Satan.
The [British] Government came under renewed fire tonight after claims that Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned before the war in Iraq of the scale of the task that would face British and other coalition troops after Saddam Hussein was toppled.
Papers marked “Secret and Personal” detailing warnings from the Foreign Office to the premier were leaked to The Daily Telegraph.
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said: “If these documents are accurate they provide a devastating insight into the political run up to war in Iraq.
“They demonstrate that the Government agreed with the Bush administration on regime change in Iraq more than a year before military action was taken.
“The justifications offered on many occasions to Parliament and the public that the issue was one of WMD are shown to be a mechanism designed to get round the legal obstacles in international law against the removal of Saddam Hussein.
“The British Government has not come clean and been frank with the British people, either about regime change or the long term troop commitment which would result if Saddam was removed.
“It is hardly surprising that the Government has resisted any form of inquiry which would allow scrutiny of the actions of ministers or officials.”
Boy, does this sound familiar or what?