Reality Check on Iraq
On Wednesday, President Bush will deliver an address at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, in which, he is “expected to herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces.” The speech appears to be an effort by the Bush administration to lay the groundwork for potentially large withdrawals of troops in 2006 and 2007.
While Bush and critics of his Iraq policy may agree that a drawdown could be the proper action to take, they differ in one key respect — the rationale for why such a withdrawal is necessary. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) recently argued that pulling out of Iraq is necessary because “the war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion.” Bush, on the other hand, is trying to suggest that a drawdown is the fruits of “good progress” being made in Iraq.
A review of the situation on the ground in Iraq demonstrates clearly that things are getting worse, not better.
See the list.
War on Christmas?
Matthew Yglesias writes at TAPPED that Bill O'Reilly, as usual, has the facts backwards when he claims that a purported "war" on Christmas "is all part of the secular progressive agenda ... to get Christianity and spirituality and Judaism out of the public square." In a rant noted at Media Matters, O'Reilly added: "[B]ecause if you look at what happened in Western Europe and Canada, if you can get religion out, then you can pass secular progressive programs, like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage, because the objection to those things is religious-based, usually."
O'Reilly has this backwards. Your truly immoral, Godless countries are mostly in northern Europe where Christianity hasn't been driven out of the public square at all. Instead, places like the Netherlands, Norway, etc. all actually have established state churches. Southern Europe is less decadent, but the Catholic church over there enjoys a kind of quasi-official status that no religion has in the United States. It's here in socially conservative, highly religious America that we have the least church-state entanglement.
The truth of the matter, of course, is that there is no liberal war on Christmas ...
If anything, it's the corporations that have taken Christ out of Christmas.
Mercenaries post 'trophy video' of shootings
From the Sunday Telegraph (UK):
A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.
The video, which was originally posted on a website frequented by ex-employees of the London-based AEGIS security firm, is now available at Bareknucklepolitics.com. It is even set to music: "Mystery Train," by Elvis Presley.
Hunter at DailyKos notes:
And so the circle -- or spiral -- continues. For those with short memories, it was the alleged misconduct of armed contractors in Iraq that led to the killing and public display of four of them, hanging from a bridge... which led to two separate massive retaliatory assaults against Fallujah... which led to a widespread backlash in Iraq... which led to, among other things, a widened insurgency... which contributed to a situation in Iraq in which armed contractors are necessary for protection of private clients... which led to the alleged misconduct of several of them...
Which leads to what, I wonder?
Oh, I remember. Now comes the part where reporting civilian deaths is anti-American, because the Iraqis themselves really can't figure out that this crap is going on until they see it in British and American newspapers. Because they don't know when their own relatives have been killed until some paragon of American soldierness posts trophy pictures of them in exchange for Internet porn, or some dumbass "security contractor" sets it to music and puts it on their website.
God help us. And I mean that literally.
Heck of a job in Iraq, Dubya
From the London Observer:
Human rights abuses in Iraq are now as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein and are even in danger of eclipsing his record, according to the country's first Prime Minister after the fall of Saddam's regime.
'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.'
In a damning and wide-ranging indictment of Iraq's escalating human rights catastrophe, Allawi accused fellow Shias in the government of being responsible for death squads and secret torture centres. The brutality of elements in the new security forces rivals that of Saddam's secret police, he said.
Allawi, who was a strong ally of the US-led coalition forces and was prime minister until this April, made his remarks as further hints emerged yesterday that President George Bush is planning to withdraw up to 40,000 US troops from the country next year, when Iraqi forces will be capable of taking over.
Allawi's bleak assessment is likely to undermine any attempt to suggest that conditions in Iraq are markedly improving.
'We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated,' he added. 'A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations. We are even witnessing Sharia courts based on Islamic law that are trying people and executing them.' ...
Of course Bush had to be talked out of bombing a TV network in an allied country
The White House has dismissed as "outlandish" reports that originated with a London tabloid that claimed George W. Bush had to be talked out of bombing a TV network in the friendly Arab nation of Qatar, but the report gained credibility from a British government's order that prohibits the Daily Mirror from publishing any other details from a transcript of the meeting and the prosecution of those who leaked the document.
As the London Independent notes:
On Tuesday, the Daily Mirror reported that Mr Bush had told Mr Blair in April last year that he wanted to bomb the studios of al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language satellite channel which has consistently challenged the White House line on Iraq.
With its Arab cameramen and reporters, al-Jazeera, based in the Gulf state of Qatar, has been able to go where embedded Western reporters dare not. At the time of the White House meeting, it was broadcasting bloody footage from within Fallujah, then under assault by US forces. Added to the channel's role as the outlet for statements by Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants, and its coverage of on-camera executions of Western hostages by al-Qa'ida followers, it was not surprising that Mr Bush might have been angry with al-Jazeera.
According to the Mirror, Mr Blair dissuaded the President from any attack on the TV station. It reported conflicting views on whether Mr Bush might have been joking or not - even if he had been prepared to disregard the international outrage it would have caused, Qatar is a key Middle East base for the Americans - although it is possible that he was suggesting a clandestine bombing.
Even this trumpeted exclusive might not have resonated for long. But in a move unprecedented since Labour came to office in 1997, the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, warned newspapers that they would be breaching the Official Secrets Act (OSA) if they published the contents of the document at the centre of the prosecution against Keogh and O'Connor. The Mirror's editor, Richard Wallace, complained: "We made No 10 fully aware of the intention to publish and were given 'no comment', officially or unofficially. Suddenly, 24 hours later, we are threatened under section 5 [of the OSA]."
What did they have to hide?
The answer to that appears to reflect the degree to which Tony Blair is still haunted by the Iraq war. The attack on Fallujah, which was at its height when he met George Bush, epitomises many of the most serious concerns about that war.
In response to the lynching of four American security contractors, US forces were ordered to "clean out" Fallujah, over the protests of the Marine commander on the ground, who argued that months of painstaking efforts to win hearts and minds would be destroyed.
"The decision was political, not military," said Toby Dodge of Queen Mary College, London University, who went to Downing Street with other Iraq experts before the war to warn Mr Blair of the perils of an invasion. "It was taken in the Oval Office."
But after three weeks of heavy fighting, and correspondingly high casualties, the White House lost its nerve. The Marines, who lost 600 men, believed they were on the point of seizing the town when they were ordered to hand over to an "Iraqi brigade" commanded by a general from the Saddam era, which promptly yielded control back to the insurgents.
In the midst of this disaster, the Prime Minister was at the White House. That Britain was concerned about the conduct of the fighting was revealed in a leaked Foreign Office memo the following month. This said: "Heavy-handed US military tactics in Fallujah and Najaf, some weeks ago, have fuelled both Sunni and Shia opposition to the coalition, and lost us much public support inside Iraq."
The US press reported the White House's denials of the Daily Mirror report and then largely dropped the story. Aljazeera noted that the alleged threat by Bush also "casts fresh doubt on [US] claims that other attacks on Aljazeera were accidents," as the Mirror reported.
In November 2001, Aljazeera's office in Kabul was destroyed by a US missile. US officials said they believed the target was a "terrorist" site and did not know it was Aljazeera's office.
In April 2003, an Aljazeera journalist, Tariq Ayub, died when its Baghdad office was struck during a US bombing campaign.
Aljazeera said Nov. 22 that if the Mirror's report was true, it would "cast serious doubts in regard to the US administration's version of previous incidents involving Aljazeera's journalists and offices."
Once again, we have to read the British press, which operates without the protection of anything approaching a First Amendment, to find out what our president is up to.
More Republican mob ties
Josh Marshall writes:
You know that when the casino boat line SunCruz was owned by Jack Abramoff and Adam Kidan, the company paid the men who blew away SunCruz founder Gus Boulis.
Now it turns out they also had the company pay the National Republican Congressional Committee (the House GOP election committee) $10,000 on behalf of Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH). That was in exchange for Ney's putting anti-Boulis remarks in the congressional record that helped Abramoff and Kidan pressure Boulis to sell them SunCruz.
The guy who helped arrange Ney's anti-Boulis-trash-talking and the later pay-off was none other than Mike Scanlon, who later did public relations work for SunCruz, in addition to going into the Indian gaming bilking biz with SunCruz owner Abramoff.
Scanlon is the guy who just agreed to testify against, well ... everybody in the Abramoff cases.
Complicated? Hey, don't blame us! We didn't tell them to go out and live an Elmore Leonard novel.
Pentagon expands domestic spying
As Democratic Veteran notes, "Welcome to Germany, 1933."
From the Washington Post:
The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.
The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts -- including protecting military facilities from attack -- to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage. ...
The proposals, and other Pentagon steps aimed at improving its ability to analyze counterterrorism intelligence collected inside the United States, have drawn complaints from civil liberties advocates and a few members of Congress, who say the Defense Department's push into domestic collection is proceeding with little scrutiny by the Congress or the public.
"We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without even a [congressional] hearing," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a recent interview.
It's Not the 'Bill of Suggestions'
Tom Tomorrow avers:
The NY Times got this one exactly right:
The Padilla case was supposed to be an example of why the administration needs to suspend prisoners’ rights when it comes to the war on terror. It turned out to be the opposite. If Mr. Padilla was seriously planning a “dirty bomb” attack, he can never be held accountable for it in court because the illegal conditions under which he has been held will make it impossible to do that. If he was only an inept fellow traveler in the terrorist community, he is excellent proof that the government is fallible and needs the normal checks of the judicial system. And, of course, if he is innocent, he was the victim of a terrible injustice.
The same is true of the hundreds of other men held at Guantánamo Bay and in the C.I.A.’s secret prisons. This is hardly what Americans have had in mind hearing Mr. Bush’s constant assurances since Sept. 11, 2001, that he will bring terrorists to justice.
I’ve been writing about Padilla since the case initally appeared on the radar. I never understood how anyone, regardless of political affiliation, could blithely shrug off the fact that an American citizen was being stripped of his constitutional rights on the say-so of the President. As one of the ACLU people I met in Seattle over the weekend noted, it’s called the Bill of Rights –not the Bill of Suggestions .
Anyone who pays the least attention to, you know, facts , understands that this country has gone off the rails and is skidding rapidly toward an unknown destination. And anyone who bothers to dig a little deeper understands that the administration ostensibly in charge of our safety is deeply dysfunctional (just read the first forty or fifty pages of George Packer’s Assassin’s Gate if you have any doubt of this). I don’t know how anyone, at this point, can still believe that this administration could be trusted to manage the local Kwikee Mart, let alone the future of our country.
Still, there are some reassuring indications lately that Americans are not completely oblivious.
We have set up a new page that compiles editorials from The Progressive Populist for the past year. Of course, you can find editorials and samples of other articles from past years at our back issues page.
The Story of Thanksgiving
MaxSpeak provides the historical perspective.
Which corporations have been naughty and which have been nice?
Jordan Barab at NathanNewman.org notes that Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, has created Job Tracker, which puts an enormous amount of valuable workplace-related information at the fingertips of anyone with a web browser. By inputting a zip code or state, you can find vital information about companies and how they treat their workers: OSHA citations (when, for what, how much), layoffs, exporting jobs and violating labor laws. It even has each company's OSHA injury and illness rate, and whether the rates were high enough to earn a letter from OSHA warning them that they're on the targeted inspection list. You can also search by company name and by industry.
Oil execs lied to Congress
As Kos noted:
No wonder Republicans refused to swear in the oil execs who testified before a Senate committee last week.
[The Washington Post reported]
A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.
Why do you suppose oil company executive would lie about that? Even though they cannot be prosecuted for perjury, lying to a congressional committee is still a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. What did they talk about that would be worth denying the fact that they had even talked?
Bodies left to rot in N.O.
Scoutprime notes that six weeks after the state called off a house-by-house search of the mainly-black Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, people are returning to their homes and the homes of their parents and grandparents to find dead bodies.
You watch on TV the news that your mother's city has been destroyed by this latest disaster. For days you wait to hear from her. Days pass into weeks but still no word. Your hope of finding her alive fades. Frantically you call everyone in government but to no avail. You tell yourself to let the rescuers do their job. You await word from the morgue but it does not come. You hear they are backed up so you wait. Two months later you are allowed to go to her home. Hoping to retrieve what you can..... documents, the precious family photos, you enter her home only to find your mother's decomposing body in her living room. You stumble out and fall to your knees in anguish asking.... "Why, How could she have been left like this?"
This would never happen in America you say? It is.
On Oct. 3 the search for bodies in NOLA was called off despite the knowledge that bodies remained in unsearched homes in NOLA's 9th Ward ( see previous post ) The plan was for people to call 911 if they found a body despite the fact that people were not even allowed into the 9th ward. On October 12th, parts of the 9th Ward were opened for a "look and leave." The death toll rose as bodies were found. And the lower 9th ward, perhaps the most devastated area of NOLA, will not open to residents until December. ...
After a link to a CNN report, Scout Prime concludes:
It is a disgrace that this is happening in America. This is the country that took great pains to recover every little bit of human remains at Ground Zero after 9/11. Now we won't even bother to search homes in which we know bodies remain. This is not a matter of time or resources. The authorities simply chose not to take the time or allocate the resources to Do the Right Thing.
And more disgraceful is they are getting away with it. I have seen no reports of this other than 2 on CNN. Yet given the dozens of links and comments from my previous post I know people do care and were shocked to learn of this.
It is time to DEMAND of your representatives that the government fulfill the most basic of duties and search the Lower 9th Ward before December. No more families should have to go through the horror of finding their loved ones abandoned and decomposing in their homes.
Call your representatives today.
(Enter your zip code and click through for your reps phone number)
Tell them in America you expect that No Body Will Be Left Behind.
Additionally demand that FEMA stop quibbling over who will pay for DNA testing and begin that testing now so the 636 bodies that remain in the morgue may be identified and returned to their families for burial.
Don't let them set this precedent. It could be your mother some day.
Dem fatcats whine about Dean
DailyKos comments on a Washington Post hit piece on DNC Chairman Howard Dean that depicts Dean as a poor fundraiser. Kos notes that Dean has cut the RNC's traditional 3-1 advantage (or more) in fundraising to a 2-1 advantage and raised $11 million more than former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe raised in 2003. Dean also has invested seriously in building up state parties, putting DNC staffers in 38 states, and will be staffed out in all 50 states by the end of the year.
So what's the source of all the kvetching? The big donors are upset that Dean hasn't kissed enough ass.
As some see it, Dean's larger problem is with the care and feeding of wealthy contributors, people capable of giving the maximum $26,700 allowed annually under federal law. Bob Farmer, a past DNC finance chairman, said that "where the chairman can make an impact is with the big donors and the big fundraisers."
Dean does not enjoy long relationships with these people and remains uncomfortable asking for a significant contribution after just meeting a donor, said party operatives familiar with his style. One high-dollar donor in the Washington area said the outreach by Dean has been woeful: "The only explanation I can fathom for the virtual total lack of quality communications is they are still in the process of figuring things out in terms of who their major donor list is."
What, did this high-dollar donor lose the address to the DNC? What a whiny sack of s**t.
High dollar donors who care about the party and the nation should be able to give without getting wined and dined by Dean. Long term, that is where the Democratic Party needs to go -- funded by small dollar donors and supplemented by big donors who have their priorities in the right place.
Again, Dean has already surpassed McAuliffe's vaunted presidential-cycle numbers. Period. And they'll only get better. Dean has started rebuilding the state parties -- something DC Democrats could care less about (considering they never bothered trying to do it before).
And as to establishment and DLC fears that Dean would be an electoral disaster for Dems? Two words:
2005 elections. 'Nuff said.
Senate nixes habeas corpus
Jeanne d'Arc notes at This Modern World that the Senate on Nov. 10 voted 49-42 to strip Guantánamo detainees of their right to challenge their detentions in US courts.
It’s really frustrating that in addition to Lindsey Graham, who sponsored the amendment, and who previously seemed to understand that throwing away your country’s values in the name of protecting your country is neither decent nor wise, we lost several Republicans who had been on our side, including Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and even John McCain. (It’s not even surprising that Joe Lieberman also voted against the Constitution.)
But don’t despair yet. This was a 49-42 vote, and basic rights are still salvageable. Senator Bingaman will be introducing a substitute amendment next week that removes the part of Graham’s amendment that bans prisoners from challenging their incarceration. We only need to peel off a few votes. Call your senators again, and if they’re among the more crucial votes ...
See a list of senators here.
This is urgent. If this amendment goes through, we’re handing the government power to throw anyone into prison for any reason. This would be a frightening power to give to anyone, under any circumstances, but today it isn’t a theoretical threat. They’ve already abused this power. We’ve seen completely innocent people murdered while in military detention. Many prisoners at Guantánamo were guilty of nothing more than being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Some were sold into detention . And as hilzoy points out over at Obsidian Wings , we continue to hold prisoners at Guantánamo even after we know that they are not enemy combatants. If Lindsey Graham’s atrocity goes through, those perfectly innocent people will have no means of challenging their status, no means of escape.
Bush blasts rewrite of war history, but he's the prime suspect
George W. Bush uses Veterans' Day to criticize Democrats and critics of the invasion of Iraq. "It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the war began,'' Bush said in a Veterans Day speech today to military families at Tobyhanna Army Depot near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. "More than 100 Democrats in the House and Senate who had access to the same intelligence voted to remove Saddam Hussein from power,'' the president said (according to Bloomberg News).
Atrios puts up a record of the rewrite.
Atrios also comments on recent statements of National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley that Democrats had the same intelligence as the White House because parts of the National Intelligence Estimate had been made public.
Right, and the parts of the NIE which weren't made public were the parts which suggested that the parts which were made public were full of s**t.
Any talking head who overlooks this fact to try to claim that "Democrats had the same intelligence as Republicans" is just completely full of s**t. They only the had the bits that made their case, not the bits which took away from it.
Agonist states the obvious: The president is a liar when he says Democrats in Congress had the same intelligence reports as the White House.
WMDs found in Iraq ...
Unfortunately, it was US that used phosphorus bombs on civilian population in Fallujah, according to Italian TV.
A US veteran of the Iraq war told RAI News correspondent Sigfrido Ranucci US forces used white phosphorus, called "Willy Pete" in military slang, in Fallujah. "Phosphorus burns the human body on contact -- it even melts it right down to the bone," he said.
See Information Clearinghouse translation of report from the Italian daily La Repubblica.
See reports in the London Independent and the BBC. Apparently there's not much interest in the US corporate media but widespread interest in the international press, including al Jazeera.
The US government denies phosphorus was used on enemy fighters, although it was used "very sparingly" for illumination purposes. But the Independent noted, "photographs, videos and interviews with American soldiers who took part in the Fallujah attack [provide] graphic proof that phosphorus shells were widely deployed in the city as a weapon."
The BBC notes that the US is not a signatory of the international treaty prohibiting the use of white phosphorus devices and other incendiary weapons against civilians.
Maxspeak (who has a link to an English-language version of the video) comments:
I ain't sayin' it's true. Somebody should investigate. Maybe we could have one of them "congress" things. A body of elected legislators who will constitute a separate branch of government, independent of the Executive. What a concept.
Then maybe we will have to invade ourselves and pull Dick Cheney out of a spider-hole.
When Presidents Could Speak
"Bill in Portland" at Daily Kos reminds us that 73 years ago today, New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president. See some of FDR's choice quotes:
"A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward."
"The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government."
"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little."
"We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we now know that it is bad economics."