Jul 31, 2007

A Sidebar on the Failed UK Terrorist Attacks

UPDATE I (August 1, 2007) below

Catching up on some days old emails and notes this morning, I ran across a piece in the Associated Press published on July 27, 2007 regarding the case of the Indian doctor, Mohamed Haneef, who had been held in Australia on charges of terrorism after the botched terror attempts in London and Glasgow last month. He faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted. His offense? He gave the SIM card from his cell phone to his cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, the brother of the terrorist who allegedly set himself ablaze in one of the incidents.

The UK police have charged that Sabeel Ahmed, the cousin of the doctor, withheld information about an act of terror. That is to say, apparently he knew his brother was going to commit the crime, but did nothing to prevent it. Fair enough. That’s definitely a crime, brother or no.

What has happened to his cousin the doctor is
of interest, though. According to the AP reporter, Dennis Passa, the top Australian prosecutor has dropped the charges because of insufficient evidence and two major errors: first, the UK police said the SIM card was found in the terror vehicle. This was incorrect. The card had been found in the cousin’s apartment in Liverpool, nearly 200 miles away. The second charge was that the doctor had lived with the brothers in Liverpool before moving to Australia. This too was false, according to the prosecutor. The three had only "spent time together."

The doctor insisted he did not know of the bombing plot and had given the SIM card to his cousin to use to save money. The doctor had been apprehended when he attempted to leave Australia for India to visit his family after the birth of a daughter. Australian immigration officials held him in custody after voiding his visa based on “character information” provided by the Federal Police.

In an update I heard yesterday the Australian government has apparently deported the doctor to India over the weekend. I heard an interview with him yesterday morning. He said he did not want an apology for himself from the Australian government but did hope that they would apologize to the Indian people.

Now I find this of interest on a couple of points: first, Australia is very tough on terrorism and very cooperative with the United States. However, it appears that cool thinking can still occur in the land down under. You get a good sense of justice doing its work there. Second, the good doctor must be thanking his lucky stars that he had not decided to emigrate to the USA. I don’t think I have to tell you that chances are he would have been branded as an enemy combatant and tossed into a black hole for some “enhanced interrogation techniques.” In short, the current state of US justice in matters like this would be to find him guilty until hell freezes over. Good luck in finding an attorney to represent himself.

By deporting him the Australian government proved its toughness on terrorists, I am sure. And of course, don't you just have that little scream at the back of your mind--but what if, what if? We have all passed through the looking glass by now into the land that used to be the United States but now is something else that we are getting used to. I would like to think that justice has surely been served by dropping the charges against the doctor, but how can you let it go entirely? What I suppress in myself out of reliance on the justice system, I am sure a very conservative--and very fearful--American would take to the other extreme: “But we can never know! There’s still the chance that he was involved. Throw the sumbitch in jail and throw away the key!”

When we think in that way, just for an instant, we put our fingers on the core of fearfulness that has been forged in the collective psyche of the American citizenry since 9/11. I resist it, but I am not immune to it. It’s the eminence grise’s “1% doctrine” as Ron Suskind defined it: “even if there is just a one per cent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty. . . . Justified or not, fact-based or not, "our response” is what matters. As to ‘evidence,’ the bar was set so low the word itself almost didn’t apply.” (Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine [New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006], p. 62.).

Today British soldiers are finally pulling out of Northern Ireland as reinforcements for the Northern Ireland police. During the Troubles, for many years, the Irish people had to deal with terror and criminality. People in countries all over the world--Columbia, Nicaragua, Algeria, Egypt, Guatemala, South Africa, Israel, the Occupied Territories, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, East Timor, Cambodia-- just to name a few--have been forced to live with and to learn how to deal with criminal acts of terror. Until we learn to live with the possibility of deadly risk in our world, to practice foresight, and truly to prepare for criminals and their criminal acts, and for how to deal with them legitimately, we will always let our fear get the better of us.

As we fall into the mental trap of the one per cent doctrine, we will always see WMDs in every turban and burka and perpetuate our patterns of hate and fear, of requiring that we ourselves are innocent until proven guilty but insisting that “they” are guilty until proved innocent–if we decide to allow “them” to attempt to prove it. As a result, we will always deny those “others” the same rights and respect we desire for ourselves. In the end of course, evidence does matter, probability and credibility do matter, and justice needs to be extended to everyone, even to the guilty criminals who have committed terrorist acts. However, branding every suspect an "enemy combatant," resorting to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or to rendition in a hidden brig, and not examining the evidence--well, these are the paving stones on the driveway to madness. They are responses as far away from freedom and justice as we can go.

The Indian doctor no doubt will have to seek his fortunes in his home country now, or maybe in another country, but at least the Australians had the good sense to weigh the evidence and decide that it was overstated or perhaps even arbitrarily presented.

UPDATE I (August 1, 2007): The doctor had his Australian work visa cancelled, but he still wants to return to his job in Queensland, even though he has been offered a position in his home state in India. From the Sacramento Bee:
[The Australian Immigration Minister] said Saturday he would not reverse the decision to cancel the visa, despite mounting calls in Australia for the doctor to be allowed back to work.

The Gold Coast Hospital said Haneef's job was waiting for him if he regains the visa. Peter Beattie, premier of Queensland state where Haneef has lived and worked for almost a year, said the junior doctor should now be allowed to get on with his life. "We have to be careful when dealing with potential terrorism threats that we don't leave the Australian way of life by the wayside," Beattie said Friday. Leading Australian newspapers on Saturday called for Haneef's visa to be returned.

Sydney's The Saturday Daily Telegraph said Haneef "appears - on the evidence heard so far - to be guilty only of having some very black sheep in the family."
I find that quote from the premier of Queensland quite refreshing: "We have to be careful when dealing with potential terrorism threats that we don't leave the Australian way of life by the wayside." If it represents the Australian attitude, we could stand a large dose of it here. Mitt Romney, Trudi Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Tom Tancredo, why don't you sign this guy on as a consultant?

Jul 30, 2007

No End in Sight--the movie

If you see one movie this month, go to see No End in Sight by Charles Ferguson. Take your Republican friends of you have them. For an interview with the Director, go to Salon.com

It is based on in-depth interviews with many Republican establishment personages and gives the information that they, probably out of respect for their professional status, personal judgments, and political position were unable to give to us all during the first few years of the war. I am sure that the Republican establishment will regard it as a hatchet job, but there is so much truth telling going on here--the really commonsense and practical approach to the Iraqi mess--that you cannot fail to be convinced that the movie gets close to establishing the truth of the situation. But don't see the movie without reading the interview with Ferguson, which establishes a great context for the movie and for his credentials.

Certainly, for your Republican friends, it will probably raise the underside of their loyalty--the nagging questions that they must have had when they saw things go from bad to worse, especially when we reached the point where this war in Iraq lasted longer than WW2 lasted for America's involvement. In a modest effort to avoid our parochialism, WW2 in Europe lasted from September 1, 1939 (when Germany invaded Poland) to May 8, 1945 (VE Day).

Jul 24, 2007

Jonah Goldberg redux in the Los Angeles Times

Jonah Goldberg, one of the trio of second-rate conservative voices that the Los Angeles Times management foisted upon us last year, has again done one of his attacks on “liberal hypocrisy,” by cherry picking a line from a Democratic personage–in this case Barack Obama’s remarks reported by the Associated Press the other day.

Goldberg Starts off his column with the assertion that “Barack Obama says preventing genocide isn't a good enough reason to stay in Iraq.” Then he quotes the July 20th AP story by Philip Elliot, which was headlined “Obama: Don't Stay in Iraq Over Genocide.”

Here’s the AP quote Goldberg uses:
"By that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now -- where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife -- which we haven't done," he told the Associated Press. "We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven't done. Those of us who care about Darfur don't think it would be a good idea."
Goldberg tries to make a connection between the Darfur situation and “the potential genocide” to come in Iraq in order to show how Obama has done a typical hypocritical move, and by asserting that “ Liberals used to be the ones who argued that sending U.S. troops abroad was a small price to pay to stop genocide; now they argue that genocide is a small price to pay to bring U.S. troops home.”

Forget the rhetorical balance of that sentence. Creating a catchy phrase is one sure way of making the distortion memorable. Unfortunately that’s not what Obama said or meant, and by writing this Goldberg only shows how much he wants to distort Obama's views. It is clear that Obama was making a very logical point that appears to elude Goldberg: that staying in Iraq merely to prevent genocide is not
sufficient reason for staying at all. The “300,000" figure was obviously meant to underscore the absurdity of the thinking. And it did.

Further, Obama is quite conscious of the fact that withdrawing precipitously from Iraq may increase the violence, and indeed even the AP article makes that clear: “Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, said it's likely there would be increased bloodshed if U.S. forces left Iraq.” It seems to me that all of the Democratic and Republican candidates are saying the same thing, not to mention the vast majority of the rest of Congress, the punditocracy, and all of the administration.

Of course, it might be too much of an intellectual challenge for Goldberg to establish a context of Obama's remarks, or to point out that he called for diplomacy along with the withdrawal. But of course, Goldberg actually might have to
think about what Obama is saying if he paid attention to what Obama said. Let’s look at the AP story a bit further to show how Goldberg is twisting context to fit his argument.

First, he refers to Bill Clinton’s misleading statements on his–Clinton’s-- administration not being aware of the genocide in Rwanda, when clearly the phrase had been used in administration discussions, based on 2004 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents. This is a red herring. Goldberg is trying to smear Obama with Clinton’s misleading statements, merely because they are of the same political party. The Clinton false statement has nothing to do with Obama’s.

Second, Goldberg further mentions that Obama called for military intervention in Darfur two years ago and refers to another
Times columnist, Niall Ferguson, to back him up, picking up on the charge made by Republicans that Obama is “flip-flopping.” But in the AP piece, Obama clearly indicates he is against unsanctioned US deployment of troops in Darfur, which does not necessarily mean that African Union, UN, or NATO troops (perhaps including US troops under NATO or UN command), shouldn’t assist in Darfur: "We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven't done,” said Obama. “Those of us who care about Darfur don't think it would be a good idea," he said. Obama were contradicting his position.

Yet, Goldberg fails to mention Obama’s comment. Of course: he doesn’t have much of a point if he shows that he understands what Obama said. Or perhaps--and it wouldn't surprise me, since Goldberg has done it before and will continue to do so--he just decided to ignore the rest of the information and run with the AP headline and a selected quote, then extrapolate to the point of misrepresentation.

Last, and here is where Goldberg reveals his partisan intentions, who has established that increased violence in Iraq after an American retreat would in fact result in “genocide”? Who’s creating this idea to start with?

Certainly the current level of internecine violence, whether arising from insurgents versus collaborators, family or tribal feuds, sectarian, intra-sectarian, jihadist impulses, or, as much as I do not want to say it, but must, gratuitous American violence against civilians or–that ugly euphemism–collateral damage, has been fierce and violent. What accounts for the sudden eruption into worse violence if deaths cause by Americans are taken out of the equation? You know, most of the American press and the administration have never given credence to the two surveys conducted under the Johns-Hopkins School of Public Health auspices and published in The Lancet, though both studies had been shown to be based on solid statistical research methods. In fact, they are the same survey methods employed by the United Nations in making estimates of deaths in Rwanda and Darfur for the conditions we have called “genocide.”

Why should the American withdrawal be the magic ingredient that turns the internal violence of occupation, insurgency, guerrilla tactics and what is essentially a civil war into “genocide?” If anywhere from 100,000 to 1,000,000 (maybe more) Iraqis (including women, children, infants, non-combatants) have already been killed in the Iraq War, over and above normal death rates, why is it that the term “genocide” is being used now to refer to the violence that may or may not occur after the US withdraws?

Goldberg quotes a new study from the Brookings Institution predicting a “humanitarian nightmare" in which we should expect "hundreds of thousands (conceivably even millions) of people to die." (As if we don’t already have an humanitarian nightmare as the result of our illegal invasion.) He quotes reporter Johns Burns of the New York Times in an interview on Charlie Rose: "It seems to me incontrovertible that the most likely outcome of an American withdrawal any time soon would be cataclysmic violence, and I find that to be widely agreed among Iraqis, including Iraqis who widely opposed the invasion."

What he doesn't write, however, is that for over two years now, a vast majority of the Iraqi people have wanted the US out of the country and continue to regard our presence as the major cause of the violence.

Neither of Goldberg’s expert opinions uses the word “genocide.” (And one would assume that, had he
found the word "genocide" used by either the Brookings Institute or John Burns, Goldberg would have leaped on the quote and used it.)

Who's coming up with the word "genocide"? Well, it is the AP headline writer and editor trying to be critical of Obama, and then Jonah Goldberg taking the headline as his convenient springboard into distortion; they are the ones who use the word “genocide” in order to get some emotional play, in order to score the cheap point that Obama is apparently "soft" on genocide, making a "liberal flip."

Now, I am not a big fan of Obama or any of the leading Democratic contenders. But after studying this matter, I can see, even despite the critical slanted presentation of the AP article and the critical opinion piece of Goldberg, that Obama has a practicality and consistency that one can appreciate.

Los Angeles Times does not do well by its readers to continue to publish Goldberg. His opinions are slyly distorted and too selective to have credibility. It’s about time the LAT gave him his pink slip and recruited one of their better and more reliable writers for the opinion page. How about Tim Rutten? Or, heaven forfend, as someone used to say, bring back Robert Scheer.

Jul 19, 2007

The Contra-Iran Affair

I am not hopeful tonight. Three US carrier groups are off the coast of Iran.

Talk of an attack is increasing. Rumor has it that in a shouting match at the White House a few weeks ago, the
eminence grise (Richard Cheney) reasserted himself and took over the reins on the Contra-Iran campaign, pushing the Secretary of State aside in her wussy attempts to establish a dialogue with Iran.

Now that Tony Blair has departed the Prime Ministry, Joe Lieberman is vying for the title of Bush's lapdog and keeps insisting that we should attack Iran. I watched the testimony this morning of Dennis Ross before the House Foreign Relations Committee, and you can hear the hackneyed phrases pile one upon the other, all of them setting up Iran as a target.

No one, it seems, has even the moral courage to speak temperately about the situation. It is again a clear attempt to portray Iran as "deserving" of attack--and of course, since the Democrats did not have the courage to oppose the Administration's theory of unilateral warfare when it counted, back in 2002-03, well, what's another aggressive illegal war (wink wink nod nod)?

Of course, Iran is playing a game of chicken as well, by making aggressively stupid statements, so you can't really defend their position, even though they have the right to develop their uranium enrichment program under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. (Lest you think I am defending Iran, I'm not. The NPT by all accounts of the experts I have read, has a very serious conceptual flaw in forbidding the production of nuclear weapons while at the same time encouraging "peaceful" enrichment, and Iran has apparently been less than transparent in submitting to oversight.)

The other day the Senate voted 97-0 in favor of a resolution warning Iran that it "would be held accountable for its role in attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq." The motion was presented in such a way that if any Senator opposed the resolution he or she would have been branded a traitor. What else can you do but vote for it?

Of course we should hold Iran responsible--but by the same token we should also hold Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia responsible. No condemnation of Saudi Arabia involvement will be put to the vote, I can assure you, just as we haven't done a damn thing to the Saudis for the obvious large majority of the 9/11 terrorists who sprung from Saudi Arabia's loins.

And I have noticed in the past three weeks the increasing assertions by the Administration that Iran is responsible for killing our troops in Iraq. It first started with the insistence last winter that the IEDs in use are so complex that only Iran could supply them. This, despite the fact that expert military technicians know that the basic technology for the effective shaped charges is relatively simple (shaped charges have been known about since the beginning of the 20th Century and were used in World War I), and that Iraqis themselves are quite capable of creating the copper disks to shape the explosion and make it more effective. Do we really think that the Iraqis are "dumb Arabs" incapable of fighting skillfully? Do we really think that the insurgency doesn't possess weaponry and explosives from the arsenals we forgot to properly secure on our drive to Baghdad, or others which were hidden away in anticipation of an insurgency? I think that a considerable part of the hold Iran accountable for weapons technology argument, in addition to a constant pressure to justify an attack on Iran, is also supported by a deep and abiding racisim--a form of orientalism--which regards Arabs as savage people who do not have the intelligence of Westerners, who could not possibly have enough intelligence to fashion booby traps. Left out of the equation, of course, is the stupidity of our military strategy of continuing to send troops out in their less than adequately armored humvees.

The recent revelations that a large majority of captives in Iraq are Saudi Arabians, points to a very significant fact that the Administration does not like to admit: support for the Sunni resistance against American troops is provided by Saudi Arabia. Finally, perhaps most significantly, you will note the insistence in the speeches everyone makes on the Iraqi war that Al Quaeda is the primary enemy. As Herr Goebbels once said, repeat a lie enough and it will be believed. I have even heard assertions that Iran--which is hated by Al Quaeda and hates them as well--is
supporting al Quaeda in Iraq! The US General named Bergner is insisting that "Our intelligence reveals that senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity." Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner posting before going to Iraq was on the National Security Council staff as "Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq." (Hey, let's put one of our good guys in there to control the flow of information. The spectre of Karl Rove flits by again.)

Bergner said a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative, Ali Mussa Dakdouk, was captured March 20 in southern Iraq. Bergner said Dakdouk served for 24 years in Hezbollah and was "working in Iraq as a surrogate for the Iranian Quds force."

For some good perspective on the whole issue of Al Quaeda in the mess, look at a blogger called Old Hickory --where he reviews a very recent paper by the Intelligence analyst Anthony Cordesman called "Iraq's Sunni Insurgents: Looking Beyond Al Qa'ida." The fact of the matter is that we really do not know exact intelligence about the various insurgency groups, but that at best Al-Quaeda in Iraq is probably no more than 15% of the insurgency." I have seen other estimates put it as low as 5%. Yet George W. Bush talks about Al Qa'ida as if it were the primary enemy in Iraq.

To hear others in the Administration and the chicken hawks talk, they are the largest and most dominant. Cordesman's study is interesting for another reason: when you look at his summary of the information about all of the insurgency groups, what comes out clearly is their total opposition to the occupation of Iraq by the United States and their intention to get the U.S. out of the country as quickly as they can.

Again, in my thinking, it comes down to the fact that we invaded Iraq illegally and we should properly withdraw.

Don't bite or even nibble on the propaganda popcorn, folks, the President is in his bubble and he will go to his grave thinking that the folks who brought us 9/11 brought all the evil into the world, are out to rape you and yours and make you into slaves for their Islamic state. It's the return of the repressed: the President's nightmare is the inverse image of history. Don't play the game. Focus on what needs to be done and get this country back on track.

Jul 12, 2007

Time to give the exit orders

I am in a moment of reflection after reading that the House of Representatives just passed a bill calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq within the next 120 days. I just got a bulletin on this from the Sacramento Bee, whose editorial pages can be perceptive at times. I am sure that more will be written on this in the next few days. Interestingly enough, it appears that Dennis Kucinich and some "blue dog" democrats voted against it.

I think now that the pressure on the president is growing. The violence in Iraq, no matter what our decider-in-chief says, is continuing at a fierce level; we are relying more and more on air strikes to bring some semblance of control; our casualty rate is increasing; and even the supposedly safe Green Zone is being attacked--though you never hear about it--almost daily. The rape of the oil resources--honestly, the only good metaphor to use for the bald-faced acquisition of power over the only future source of wealth of Iraq--in the form of the Petroleum Bill is being stalled in the Iraqi Parliament, and funny business is beginning to go on to manipulate the votes.

The petroleum bill was drafted by the US in consultation with the big oil companies, and was one of the only recommendations from the Iraq Study Group that was picked up wholeheartedly by the guys in black. and that is why the following excerpt is most appropriate. My thanks to Information Clearing House for providing tonight this excerpt from John Locke's
The Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690):

"That the aggressor, who puts himself into the state of war with another, and unjustly invades another man's right, can, by such an unjust war, never come to have a right over the conquered, will be easily agreed by all men, who will not think that robbers and pirates have a right of empire over whomsoever they have force enough to master, or that men are bound by promises which unlawful force extorts from them.
Should a robber break into my house, and, with a dagger at my throat, make me seal deeds to convey my estate to him, would this give him any title? Just such a title by his sword has an unjust conqueror who forces me into submission. The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown or some petty villain.
The title of the offender and the number of his followers make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs, because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession which should punish offenders." John Locke - 1632-1704
Read those paragraphs carefully, because they make the point as strongly as can be made about our attempts to secure control of the second largest known oil reserve. No matter what our motives for invading and occupying Iraq--even if you rely only upon the last desperate moral contortions of the defenders of the war, that Saddam was a tyrant and had to be "taken out"--even if you use only that argument and nothing else, the invasion still falls under the category of a war of aggression, and therefore is illegal under the laws of the United States as well as International Law

We are too big for the "weak hands of justice in this world," at this point, but perhaps over the next few years, we will attempt to repair the damage to basic principles of justice, give up
our efforts to aggrandize what is not ours, stop our major contribution of the destruction of Iraq, and finally come to accept our place as a good citizen of the world. I am not very optimistic, but I certainly can contemplate the idea of hope.

Just in case . . .

you were wondering about getting out of Iraq, why not read this account from someone who just returned? It's Dahr Jamail, the American unimbedded journalist, now back home. One of the true heroes of American journalism. Read it and remember.

Or perhaps you would like to hear some of the voices you won't find in the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times or the Washington Post and certainly not in National Review or The Weekly Standard. So check out Amy Goodman's program from this morning and get some sense of what servicemen can go through to bear witness.
These are the soldiers who have the courage to understand and speak out. These are the kind of fellows that we always hope that we would have enough courage to be.

I support all the troops who are still alive and that's why I want the troops brought home now. They were sent off to fight an unjust, illegal war and as good soldiers do, they followed their orders. But the war has always been illegal, and now, as predicted, it has wrought more damage, terror, and destruction than Saddam Hussein in his worst moments, while being punished by American and British sanctions, could have wrought. It has produced even more terrorists than ever before and put all of us at risk.

The idea that we must fight them "over there" to keep from fighting them "here" is one of the most morally corrupt ideas ever given expression. Even people against the war can utter it with no sense of irony. (On a smaller scale, of course, it's the usual American response to the waste, pollution, and destruction that plutocrats, pathocrats, and oligarchs always fail to include in their corrupt calculations of the price of capitalism: it's known as NIMBY.) The problem is, it's always the people on the short end of the economic stick that get to bear the consequences.

And so even though I did not support the decision to invade and occupy Iraq illegally, I understand that the terrorists will always be gunning for us. But when I hear the glib formula of "We have to fight them in Iraq so we don't fight them in New Jersey" I am revulsed. The arrogance of that thought, and the stupidity, the inanity, with which it is so readily uttered are beyond the bounds of decency. Yet it slithers almost every day from the brain to the lips of that spineless and addle-headed fool in the White House and from his insidious, venal, corrupt and traitorous puppeteer, Dick Cheney, as if it were the most profound insight into the heart of darkness. What corruption. The darkness accumulates within them.

We not only should be preparing to thwart the
terrorists that we have created and encouraged, we should be talking about making meaningful reparations to the people of Iraq, and we surely should be figuring out how to take care of the traumatized soldiers once we bring them home.
Well, here is the latest update on the Libby pardon matter. Now remember, despite what the charter member idiot voices belonging to the Defenders of Libby insist, the investigation came about because the CIA had one of its covert agents outed in violation of the law, filed A CRIMINAL COMPLAINT, with the FBI to investigate. In other words, this was serious stuff. John Ashcroft recused himself, and as a result, his Assistant AG, James Comey, appointed a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. (These last three guys, as you well know, are nice conservative Republican appointees, but to the Defenders of Libby are of course, rabid far-left communists, tools of the New York Times. Aren't they? They're not? Holy Simoleons!)

So today we now have the final piece of the puzzle:

Updated: 9:47 a.m. PT July 12, 2007 WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush on Thursday acknowledged publicly for the first time that someone in his administration likely leaked the name of a CIA operative, although he also said he hopes the controversy over his decision to spare prison for a former White House aide has "run its course."
So the great decider has decided that the leak did occur in the White House, that he will not punish the leaker with the jail time, that the member of the Administration who was convicted for lying to the FBI, for perjury, and for obstruction of justice--and thereby obscured the full investigation-- in a fair trial, sentenced by a conservative Bush-appointed judge, whose sentence was determined to be enforceable by a panel of three judges (one Reagan appointee, one Clinton, one Bush); the Great Decider, who even admitted that the verdict was not in question, now wants to move on.

I ask you, if that is not corruption and cynicism of the highest order, what is? As always, when the white collar criminals get away with something, it's time to move on. When you get caught smoking a joint, watch out, because the Attorney General wants to impose tough sentencing, don't you know.

According to the Gallup/USA Today poll of July 6-8, 2007, two-thirds of the public thinks Bush should not have intervened at all. Here’s the fifth question:

From what you have heard or read, do you think President Bush was right to commute Libby's sentence, do you think he should have gone further and granted him a full pardon, or do you think he should not have intervened at all on Libby's behalf?
Right to commute sentence 13%
Should have granted full pardon 6%
Should not have intervened at all 66 %
No opinion 15%

Note how those approving the commutation or calling for a full pardon are just slightly more than the per cent that approve Dick Cheney. It still stinks. Well, this one drops onto the floor among the turnings.

Jul 4, 2007

More on Scooter Libby's Commutation

Glenn Greenwald writes at Salon.com in an essay on the Libby matter what I think are touchstone words:

What kind of country do we expect to have when we have a ruling Washington class that believes that they and their fellow members of the Beltway elite constitute a separate class, one that resides above and beyond the law? That is plainly what they believe. And we now have exactly the country that one would expect would emerge from a political culture shaped by such a deeply insulated, corrupt and barren royal court.

In Federalist No. 70, Alexander Hamilton described the defining power of the King which made the British monarchy intolerably corrupt: "In England, the king is a perpetual magistrate; and it is a maxim which has obtained for the sake of the public peace, that he is unaccountable for his administration, and his person sacred." Thomas Paine proclaimed in Common Sense "that so far as we approve of monarch, that in America THE LAW IS KING." But little effort is required to see how far removed we now are from those basic principles.
If you don't know Greenwald's work, go to it via the link to the right----->

Or you might start with a wonderful piece he did on the failure of the Media to do investigation and fact checking of the most basic stories. I have argued with a few of my friends over the past years--and it was one reason why I went to Memphis in January for the conference on the Media--that truth has not been and still is not given to us by most of American journalists and broadcasters. They are lazy and understaffed, slavish to the whims of their corporate owners, and cannot be bothered with checking government statements. They are indeed merely regurgitating government press releases like the drones out of Orwell's
1984 in the "Ministry of Truth. "

Reading his piece you will at least see the deep connection between the stories we are given by our major news sources and what used to be called the Global War on Terror (GWOT), the term that is no longer being used by the current administration, given that it has been burned so indelibly into our consciousness there is no more need for it. But as soon as you see the word "Al Qaeda" you unquestioningly accept it as truth, and shiver, and throw out all other important concerns out of deep fearfulness.

Read Greenwald's essay on War Reporting if you do nothing else this week, and put a little independence into your mind. His piece is priceless if for no other reason than the excerpt from David Halberstam's commencement speech at the Columbia School of Journalism on this past May 18.

Happy Fourth of July! Honk if you love Justice.

Jul 3, 2007

The Smell was so Terrible, I had to Write a Letter

Well, I can't help but post this letter to Adam Schiff, my Democratic Congress critter. Perhaps you might want to write to yours as well, and you can certainly steal the letter if you want.

July 3, 2007

Dear Congressman Schiff:

I need not tell you the details about the President's commutation of I. Lewis Libby's sentence. I am sure that as a former assistant U. S. Attorney you are well aware of the details. I also assume that your anger--as was so evident in your questions during the shameful testimony on the hearings on the Department of Justice--is probably in high gear once again.

May I review some salient facts? First, from the start of his trial, Libby's defense counsel made the case that he was a "fall guy" for others. Who else could these be but the Vice President or members of the White House staff, perhaps even the President himself?

Second, Prosecutor Fitzgerald has clearly stated that as a result of Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice, a "cloud" hangs over the office of the Vice President.

Third, the perjury obstructed an investigation into possible treasonous actions with the further irony that the CIA operative was involved in work on containing weapons of mass destruction.

Fourth, the President's commutation clearly allows Libby to maintain his Fifth Amendment rights and thereby continue to obstruct the truth. No one doubts the President's power to commute or pardon, but if this commutation was granted to guard against criminal investigation, or to obscure prior criminal or abuse of power activities, that commutation clearly falls under the definition, in my view, no matter how imprecise the Constitutional language, of "high crimes and misdemeanors."

For this reason I urge you to support the efforts of your colleague, Representative Kucinich, in his bill to impeach the Vice President. I also ask that you lobby the other members of the California Congressional delegation and especially the Speaker of the House to begin studying the possibility of impeaching both the President and the Vice President. I do not believe that Speaker Pelosi has any but the most political motives in play and has lost her sense of Constitutional responsibility.

This abuse of the Constitution has been steady and relentless over the past six and a half years. Please help lead the members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, in defending the Constitution with the tools that it provides.

Sincerely yours,


Doesn't this feel like a "last straw" moment? I think it was a CNN or Keith Olberman/MSNBC clip, perhaps, that indicated that 71% of Americans thought that Libby ought to serve his time?
Unfortunately, the 29% includes many of the Plutocrats and Oligarch who run the show. Now that the commutation has been issued, at least 60% of the American public is against it.

So, don't forget to "Honk for Impeachment" on this Fourth of July if you see anyone holding up the signs. To get on the email mailing list, go to

Notes on the latest abomination

Well you read it here first: I predict that one of George W. Bush’s last acts as President of the United States will be to pardon poor “poor baby” Scooter Libby.

By commuting the prison sentence yesterday, Bush allows Scooter to use the Fifth Amendment as a defense if Congress subpoenas him. That means of course that he won't spill the beans on the story he perjured himself over. Bush today said, "As to the future, I rule nothing in and nothing out," according to the Associated Press. And you read it first here, the reason Bush will pardon him is so poor Scooter will be able to earn a living for his family, and so must be allowed to practice law or return to being the good public servant.

[This Postscript on 7-12-07 regarding this paragraph. There is some great commentary from Hunter at Daily Kos : (http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/7/4/13229/49416). Hunter essentially details how the cover up will play itself out. Good piece.]
At least today we can still call him a convicted felon.

Maybe January 19, 2009 (the current office holder’s last day in office) will go down in the annals of our history as “Janteeth”, d’ya think maybe? (“Juneteenth” is the 19th of June, 1865 when the slaves in Texas finally found out they officially had been emancipated on January 1 of 1863 and that the war between the states was over. It's an official Texas state holiday. It's so familiar. Texas slaveholders, partisans, guerillas, and government a month after Lee surrenders not letting on, not telling the truth.)

Poor Scooter and his fambly, says Dubya, they don’t need to suffer, the thirty-month sentence was so so excessive. And all the while the Bush Department of Justice is pushing Congress for the imposition of mandatory minimums. Guess what Scooter received? Why yes, a mandatory minimum for perjury and obstruction of justice. (Fearless Leader says he respected the verdict, remember.)

[Postscript of 7-4-07: My mistake, and a bad one. I have done further checking on the sentencing, and have found that the recommended minimums were much less. Here's some summary from USA Today:

Libby qualifies for a lighter sentence than the 15 to 21 months recommended by federal sentencing guidelines, says the U.S. district court's probation office. The office, which filed its recommendations in court papers, cites Libby's public service, damage already done to his career and the fact he was not charged with or convicted of the "underlying crime" for which he was investigated. . . . . Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald recommended a harsher sentence for Libby: between 30 and 37 months. Libby, Fitzgerald says, "corrupted a truth-seeking process" by lying "repeatedly and blatantly" to FBI agents and grand jurors about his role in revealing Plame's CIA affiliation. The fact Libby was a high-ranking government official — chief of staff to Vice President Cheney — merits more, not less, punishment, Fitzgerald wrote.
Sorry for the error.]
And the sentence came from a conservative law and order Bush appointee, Judge Reggie Walton, who was following the guidelines for the mandatory minimums. Appropriately, Judge Walton is keeping his silence. But I can imagine what he’s saying in private.

Let’s not forget that Libby had been prosecuted by a Republican-appointed Assistant Prosecutor. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald disputed Bush's assertion that the prison term was excessive. Libby was sentenced under the same laws as other criminals, Fitzgerald said. "It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals."

The Reagan appointee on the three-judge panel, David Sentelle, said the sentence should be carried out immediately. Interesting. The second judge, David Tatel, was appointed by Clinton and is considered liberal, and the third judge, Karen Henderson, was appointed by Dubya. Henderson is a “balanced jurist, not partisan in any way,” according to Christopher Banks, a lawyer and a professor of political science at Kent State. Banks, according to the New York Sun, has studied the political leanings of the court, and further, told the Sun's reporter that “the political impact of the case is likely to be less of a factor than the court's unreceptive attitude to most appeals by criminal defendants. The judges ‘tend to be very deferential especially in criminal matters, unless there's an egregious error,' the professor said.”

So with that background, one can only come to the conclusion that the fair and balanced panel thought that Libby should serve his time as a convicted felon. Of course, the idiot wing of the Plutocracy will laud the commutation, and outdo themselves looking to praise The Decider. (As someone commented, The Republican candidates figure that it’s a bullet they dodged now before getting into the oval office. Whew, breathes Trudi Giuliani.) Cowards and scoundrels, all of 'em.

Oh that’s right, Fred Thompson, TV star from
Law and Order, about to throw his conservative hat into the Republican ring, was on Scooter’s defense committee. What a paragon and partisan of justice he is!

What I really want to know is how does James Carville lives with himself these days? Mary Matalin, his wife, is working on that defense committee. It’s a long way from Carville’s
Had Enough? and Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future, which he wrote with Paul Begala. But then, you can even see Carville’s signature on the letter his wife wrote in support of the Scooter, in which she described how Scooter’s fate was traumatizing their children. (http://www.blogger.com/www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/%20years/2007/0605071libby10.html).

It’s enough to gag a maggot, as a favorite someone of mine used to say.

So I would imagine Scooter won’t even have to worry about coming up with the fine for a quarter of a million dollars. (Perhaps a legal scholar can tell me if Scooter gets the money back when he is pardoned?) They’ll find a way, I am sure, and probably with retroactive interest so that we taxpayers foot the bill. Them that’s got shall get and the rich are very different from you and me.

All my conservative friends thought—and probably still do think--that Republicans stood for Law and Order. (See Republican Patrick Fitzgerald’s quote above.)

The stench, my god, the stench!