Saturday, November 19, 2005


Democracy Breakin': Ohio's Electric Boogaloo

by Brad Friedman

The Corporate Mainstream Media may not give a damn about our democracy. Neither might the bulk of our politicians on both the Left and Right side of the aisle. But clearly the citizens do, and even at least one rightwing blogger who has recently seen at least some of the light...

The response to our article on the "staggeringly impossible" results of last week's election in Ohio on several Election Reform initiatives which would have struck deep into the heart of far-right Republican Ohio Sec. of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has been notable to say the least.

We felt the report was notable enough that we decided to cross-post it both at BRAD BLOG and at HuffPo where—though it was never added to the front page as a "featured blog"—it has already received an extraordinary 93 comments as of this posting.

To give you an idea of what that story documented, here are the numbers from just one of the four Election Reform initiatives which all ended up failing by numbers which defy reasonable explanation when compared to the historically accurate Columbus Dispatch poll completed and published just days before the Election in the Buckeye state:

ISSUE 3 (Revise campaign contribution limits) PRE-POLLING: 61% Yes, 25% No, 14% Undecided FINAL RESULT: 33% Yes, 66% No

The results on that issue alone was so far askew that it was enough to give the usually dubious Mark Blumenthal of Mystery Pollster pause enough to comment, "These results had MP seriously wondering whether the pollsters or election officials had mistakenly transposed 'yes' and 'no' in their tables."

See the original post for a comparison of Polling vs Final Results for all of the initatives, but suffice to say while the one above was the most inexplicably out-of-whack, the others, with the exception of Issue 1 -- which was the only one supported by Ohio's Republican Governor and on which the Dispatch poll was virtually right on the money on "Yes" voters—all of the initiative Final Results bring the entire election machinery in Ohio once again under deservedly fresh scrutiny.

(We'll remind you that Ohio's results in the '04 Presidential Election squeeker, where just 6 votes for Kerry instead of Bush at each precinct would have changed the entire result for the nation. And also that the results from that election remain completely suspect, largely uncounted, and never recounted according to state law even while several elections officials have either been indicted or remain under investigation for their role in gaming that fiasco...the one in the state which gave Bush enough electoral votes to claim the Presidency).

The original report we filed, discussed an article by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman of the Free Press in Columbus where they've been detailing an extraordinary amount of the election chicanery and "irregularities" under the iron-fisted rule of Blackwell, the Ohio elections arbiter and Bush/Cheney '04 Co-Chair in a state which is currently a snakepit of Republican machinery and out-and-out corruption.

Amongst the comments at both BRAD BLOG and HuffPo where the blog item was posted, a few, as expected, have knee-jerked that it must have been the Columbus Dispatch polling that was wrong, rather than the Final Results reported by the State which added brand-spankin' new, and wholly unaccountable, unrecountable, untransparent, and undemocratic Electronic Voting Machines for the first time in this election to 44 of its 88 counties. Machines which use secret software on which voters are asked to trust—but not verify—that their votes will be recorded accurately...or at all.

In addition to those 44 counties (41 of them using the same machines by Diebold, Inc. that the Republican Sec. of State in California recently decertified for their 20% failure rate), several other counties already use Electronic Voting Machines, and nearly all of them use electronic tabulating machines of one brand or another to count those votes.

We spoke yesterday to Fitrakis about the Dispatch poll's "historic accuracy" (which he described as "legendary" in our phone call) and about the various wingnuts who predictably presume the polling, instead of the election results, were wrong.

Fitrakis commented himself on The BRAD BLOG in response to some of folks who he suspects are part of a "deliberate campaign" to spread enough disinformation to put an end to the entire discussion. If so, we will work hard to ensure that they fail at that. Here's the bulk of Fitrakis' response, from which he also pulls information from some of noted-pollster Blumenthal's posts on the matter:

Fact: The Dispatch has always used a mailed-in ballot poll. It was completed on Thursday Nov. 3, just prior to Election Day. The Dispatch poll is so accurate at least two academic studies have been published in Public Opinion Quarterly (POQ). The first paper documents that the Dispatch mail-in poll between 1980-1984 was far more accurate than telephone polling. The study showed the Dispatch error rate at only 1.6 percentage points versus phone error rates of 5%. A companion study published in POQ in 2000 dealt specifically with the question of statewide referenda. A quote from the study: "The average error for the Dispatch forecast of these referenda was 5.4 percentage points, compared to 7.2 percentage points for the telephone surveys."

The academic study concluded that the Dispatch's mail survey outperformed telephone surveys for both referenda and candidate's races.

The fact that the Dispatch was nearly 30 points off in predicting the "YES" vote on Issue 3, which reduced campaign contributions from $10,000 to $2,000, has nothing to do with their widely-respected polling technique. Their astonishingly inaccurate poll can best be explained by the introduction of brand new private partisan company-controlled e-voting machines using secret source code in 44 Ohio counties and the chaos that resulted from untrained election workers being totally reliant on Diebold technicians for results.

People need to look at the recent AP story that describes the massive breakdown at the polling places and the Board of Elections wherever these new e-voting machines were introduced.

Bob Fitrakis,
Free Press Editor
Ph.D. Political Science

We still wait for the Dispatch to investigate the matter themselves. It is, after all their credibility at stake. At least if they wish for anybody to ever take one of their polls seriously again.

In the meantime, Mystery Pollster Blumenthal—who had pooh-poohed the concerns many of us have about the historically accurate Exit Poll descrepancy with the Final Results in last year's Presidential Election, where they were accurate virtually everywhere...except in the key swing states -- has again decided that it must be the polls that are wrong, never the Election Results:

the venerable Columbus Dispatch mail-in poll, which after decades of outperforming conventional telephone surveys turned in one of the more spectacularly inaccurate performances in recent memory.

While Blumenthal extols the accuracy of the Dispatch polling over the years, whose methodology has been honed for decades, he again takes for granted that results counted on newly invented and programmed voting machines, verified and double-checked for accuracy by nobody, should be trusted instead. That, despite U.S. Homeland Security warnings from just prior to last year's election verifying that Diebold's central vote tabulators are hackable by just a single malicious user, and the non-partisan GAO Report, released barely a month ago after a year-long investigation, which showed that Electronic Voting Machines are not secure, not properly certified and indeed confirming that "[C]oncerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."

Hello?! Earth to AP...NY Times...Reuters...WaPo...Anybody out there in Corporate Mainstream Medialand...[thump, thump]...Is this thing on?

But not all is lost. Perhaps the message is getting out despite ostriches like Blumenthal, and democracy haters like those commenters who would do anything to try and discredit those who might put forward information which gives doubt to the legitmacy of elections like those which handed George W. Bush the "Presidency" and showed that Ohio voters are actually crazy about the terrific way that elections are being run in their state!

While readers who follow our work closely know that we have never personally made the charge that Bush stole the '04 election, we have documented for months a mountain of evidence to suggest that it was quite likely stolen for him by somebody, or at least contained enough screaming, troubling and unexplained "irregularities" to put the entire election wholly into doubt.

So with that in mind, we are delighted to see that John Cole, the proprietor of the far-Right leaning blog "Baloon Juice" has displayed enough intellectual honesty and courage in a post yesterday to at least concur that "While none of this means that it actually happened, it certainly means vote manipulation with electronic voting machines could happen and could have happened."

Right. If Cole's pride requires he avoid out-and-out acknowledging the mountain of documented problems with our recent elections (he had previously pounded relentless on those of us who had been making these points), we're okay with that. However, he arrived at his conclusion, we'll take it:
"Electronic voting needs to go the way of the Edsel," said Cole, "if enough of the electorate thinks the vote has been manipulated...that in and of itself does a great deal of damage and should be avoided at all cost."

Thank you. That is no small news from a rightwing blogger who regularly refers to those who question such matters as "moonbats" and "tin foil hat wearers." So in that spirit, we congratulate "wingnut" Cole for understanding at least what is at stake here.

Cole says he is currently reading Mark Crispin Miller's FOOLED AGAIN: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them). So perhaps it's because Cole has bothered to actually educate himself on some of these matters—unlike most of his rightwing brethren—that he goes on to add about the damage done to our democracy if only due to the growing perception that something is going horribly awry.

I generally am of the belief that in government, if the truth is on your side, perceptions should take a back seat. This is not one of those cases.

It certainly isn't. And even Cole's commenters seem to be finally seeing the light now that they've been given the permission by one of their own.

All of which leads us once again to dust off one of our oft-used phrase: This isn't a matter of Right versus Left, it's a matter of Right versus Wrong.

And furthermore, in hopes that you might help to spread this article, and others like it, far and wide—while the entirety of the Corporate Mainstream Media still refuses to mention even one word about that GAO Report or last years' Homeland Security Warning about Diebold or just about anything else on these matters: Be the Media...cuz someone's got to!


Today's News That's Fit to Print

from Booman:

by susanhu
Sat Nov 19th, 2005 at 11:10:13 AM EDT

While the House wastes its and the American people's time, let's go deeper. Here's some news that's fit to print:

The best op-eds today are not so much about last night's embarrassing shouting and parliamentary trickery in the House (WaPo and NYT), but about the deeper issues behind Bush's maniacal rush into the Iraq war, the administration's countless lies and manipulation of both intelligence and the CIA, and Bush's utter incompetence in administering a war.

Today's best include "White House plays chicken with a war hero," written by the Boston Globe's Derrick Z. Jackson and Prof. Juan Cole's "Straw Man Resolution in Congress: Joking around with the Lives of the Troops," posted at his blog.

And tomorrow's WaPo carries a must-read op-ed by former Florida senator Bob Graham who was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence "during the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and the run-up to the Iraq war."

The president's attacks are outrageous. Yes, more than 100 Democrats voted to authorize him to take the nation to war. Most of them, though, like their Republican colleagues, did so in the legitimate belief that the president and his administration were truthful in their statements that Saddam Hussein was a gathering menace -- that if Hussein was not disarmed, the smoking gun would become a mushroom cloud.

The president has undermined trust. No longer will the members of Congress be entitled to accept his veracity. Caveat emptor has become the word. Every member of Congress is on his or her own to determine the truth.

Below, some of the meatiest sections of these important writings:

Congress was lied to and boxed in by Bush. From Derrick Jackson's column:

In a 2002 press briefing, former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz termed the support of politicians like Murtha for the Pentagon as ''wonderful." In the 2004 vice presidential debate, incumbent Dick Cheney said, ''One of my strongest allies in Congress when I was secretary of defense was Jack Murtha."

For all those shows of patriotism, Murtha was skeptical about the rush to invade Iraq in 2003 of Iraq even though he voted to give President Bush the authorization to go to war. He publicly said Bush beat the war drums before building an international coalition. Murtha said he had not seen anything in intelligence reports that indicated an imminent threat. Murtha said Bush ''has put the country in such a box. He can say, 'You'll undercut me if you don't vote for this resolution.' "

Writes Bob Graham in tomorrow's WaPo:

As chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and the run-up to the Iraq war, I probably had as much access to the intelligence on which the war was predicated as any other member of Congress.

I, too, presumed the president was being truthful -- until a series of events undercut that confidence.

In February 2002, after a briefing on the status of the war in Afghanistan, the commanding officer, Gen. Tommy Franks, told me the war was being compromised as specialized personnel and equipment were being shifted from Afghanistan to prepare for the war in Iraq -- a war more than a year away. Even at this early date, the White House was signaling that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was of such urgency that it had priority over the crushing of al Qaeda. ...

Graham then describes his concerted efforts to learn more about the reliability of our intelligence and to obtain reports from the CIA.

Graham was shocked to discover that, inside Iraq, the U.S. had no "operative responsible to the United States" and that "[m]ost of the alleged intelligence came from Iraqi exiles or third countries, all of which had an interest in the United States' removing Hussein, by force if necessary."

This is just stunning. I'm reading Bob Baer's book and he describes in detail how he was trained to go to other countries and develop reliable agents. The U.S. had NO OPERATIVE in Iraq? That's Intelligence 101!

In "What I Knew Before the Invasion," Graham urges:

The American people needed to know these reservations, and I requested that an unclassified, public version of the NIE be prepared. On Oct. 4, Tenet presented a 25-page document titled "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs." It represented an unqualified case that Hussein possessed them, avoided a discussion of whether he had the will to use them and omitted the dissenting opinions contained in the classified version. Its conclusions, such as "If Baghdad acquired sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year," underscored the White House's claim that exactly such material was being provided from Africa to Iraq.

From my advantaged position, I had earlier concluded that a war with Iraq would be a distraction from the successful and expeditious completion of our aims in Afghanistan. Now I had come to question whether the White House was telling the truth -- or even had an interest in knowing the truth.

On Oct. 11, I voted no on the resolution to give the president authority to go to war against Iraq. I was able to apply caveat emptor. Most of my colleagues could not.

The writer is a former Democratic senator from Florida. He is currently a fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.

Juan Cole analyzes Murtha's proposal compared to the fraudulent rseolution brought to the House last night by the GOP, and concludes:

Well, this stupid resolution is not what Murtha was saying, and the vote on it is meaningless. It is worse than meaningless. It is political clowning.

Indeed, given the GIs being blown up on a daily basis, the Republican phony resolution was the equivalent of trying to do a stand-up comedy routine at the funeral of someone's beloved son who had died at age 20.

I don't think the American people will find it amusing. We'll see in 2006 whether they did.

"I don't think the American people will find it amusing. We'll see in 2006 whether they did."

I hope so.

Last night was an embarrassment. We need to keep going back to what the experts -- such as Sen. Bob Graham and Rep. John Murtha -- saw early on as the administration did its sales job on the American people and an easily duped media.

Let's make sure that in 2006, the American people know all about the lies they were told, and that stunts don't dominate the news.


Tim Russert's main guest tomorrow on NBC's Meet the Press (local air times) is Rep John Murtha (D-Pa), the ranking member, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. (All other guests are experts on avian flu.) (MTP Podcast)


Bush's defense of torture

I know a man who tortures his dog. He ties the dog to a board, tilts the board downward, smothers the dog's face with a cloth, and then soaks the cloth with water. The terrified creature feels as if it is drowning, but because its lungs remain higher than its mouth, it doesn't. This man told me he did this to his dog seventeen times last month.

In fact, I don't actually know such a man, but I do know men who approve of such acts, as long as the victims are human beings rather than dogs. This is the official position of the Bush administration on the interrogation technique known as "water-boarding." According to the Pentagon, water-boarding has been employed "regularly" as a "control measure" at the Guantanamo Bay internment camp. One prisoner was subjected to water-boarding seventeen times in a month.

The Pentagon report also reveals that this prisoner was kept awake for 18-20 hours for 48 out of 54 consecutive days, that he was forced to wear bras and thongs on his head, that he was prevented from praying, that he was forced to crawl around on a dog lead and perform tricks, that he was told his mother and sister were whores, and that he was subjected to extensive body cavity searches despite having spent 160 days in solitary confinement.

All of these techniques have been approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Administration lawyers take the position that none of this is "inhumane," that none of it constitutes "torture," and that it is all legal under the Geneva Conventions. Their position logically requires the conclusion that it would be lawful to subject American prisoners of war to the same treatment.

Sen. John McCain disagrees and has sponsored a bill that would ban such practices. As a POW, McCain was tortured by his North Vietnamese captors, so his opinion on the matter carries more weight than that of, say, Vice President Cheney, who carefully avoided military service by procuring four draft deferments during the Vietnam War, and who is now the administration's most enthusiastic proponent of torture.

McCain's bill passed the Senate by a 90-9 vote, but President Bush is threatening to make it the first piece of legislation he has ever vetoed. "Anything we do is within the law," Bush explained last week. "We do not torture." (Orwell: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.")

The Wall Street Journal agrees and describes water-boarding as "merely a psychological technique designed to break a detainee." In an astounding editorial, one of the nation's leading newspapers claims that banning torture - excuse me, a "psychological technique" - would "telegraph to every terrorist in the world that he has absolutely nothing to fear from silence should he fall into U.S. hands."

It takes a special brand of idiocy to argue that people who are eager to blow themselves up in the pursuit of a delusional martyrdom are going to be deterred by the official position of the American government regarding the interrogation of prisoners. The Journal also argues that banning torture may lead to a "mass-casualty attack." This is a phony concern, because interrogators who genuinely believe they are in such a desperate situation aren't going to pay attention to the rules anyway.

What legalizing torture really does is to ensure it becomes routine. (The government has already admitted that at least five prisoners have been tortured to death.) Bush's defense of torture comes down to a single argument: that atrocious acts are permissible in the pursuit of sufficiently important ends. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden would agree.


Torture's evil lure

Boston Globe Editorial:

November 19, 2005

AMERICAN MORAL values should not become collateral casualties of the war on terror. That's what's at stake as the House considers Senator John McCain's amendment to ban torture by the US military and intelligence agencies.

Torture is anathema in any civilized society. It should not be necessary to ban it, and yet McCain's amendment is overdue. Ever since Sept. 11, and the administration decision to explore ''the dark side"-- Vice President Cheney's phrase -- reports have mushroomed about the abuse of detainees.

Mention of that phrase brings to mind Darth Vader, the ''Star Wars" character corrupted by the negative side of the life-affirming force. President Bush, Cheney, the Defense Department, and the CIA have likewise been emboldened by the authority the nation gave them following the attacks. The administration decided in 2002 that anything goes, short of organ failure.

The techniques used by American interrogators include water-boarding, in which a prisoner is tricked into thinking he is about to drown. They aren't quite as bad as those practiced in medieval times, but they can cause death, as happened at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq last year when, as reported in The New Yorker, a prisoner stopped breathing after his head was covered with a plastic bag and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose.

The Senate unanimously approved the McCain amendment to the defense appropriations bill last month. Yet it is stuck in the House because of administration objections. ''We do not torture," said Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, in a television interview this week. So is he in favor of the amendment? ''The president has an obligation . . . to do what we need to do to protect the people of the United States." He added a hypothetical question: ''What happens if, on September 7th of 2001, we had gotten one of the hijackers . . . ?"

This is a difficult dilemma, McCain acknowledged in a Newsweek article. McCain, a victim of torture in Vietnam, concluded that in this one instance, Americans might tolerate mistreatment, but this far-fetched hypothesis should not determine policy.

Torture empowers the most barbaric tendencies of human nature. It erodes support for the United States in the very societies the administration is trying to win to its side in the war on terror.

And there's one other reason to oppose it, as explained by McCain in an anecdote from his captivity. He was being tortured, he said, to disclose the names of other fliers in his Navy squadron. To stop the pain, he revealed the names -- of the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers. Torture, more often than not, produces lies, instead of accurate information. It should have no place in this long twilight war.


American Torture Techniques Revealed

WASHINGTON, (AFP) - CIA agents have revealed details of six interrogation tactics approved by top brass for use at secret CIA jails in Asia and Eastern Europe, ABC News reported.

The techniques have lead to questionable confessions and the death of one man since March 2002, the network said, after interviewing current and former CIA officials.

Former CIA officer Bob Baer told ABC the techniques amounted to "bad interrogation. I mean, you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture's bad enough."

CIA sources speaking on condition of anonymity described six techniques: "Attention Grab, Attention Slap, Belly Slap, Long Time Standing, Cold Cell, Water Boarding."

The six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," as sources called them, were used on a dozen top Al-Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe, ABC said.

In "Belly Slap," interrogators deliver "a hard open-handed slap to the stomach" intended to cause pain but not internal injury.

In "Long Time Standing," prisoners are forced to stand handcuffed and shackled for more than 40 hours.

In "The Cold Cell" a prisoner is made to stand naked in a cell kept near 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) and is continually doused with cold water.

Water Boarding brings results within seconds, the sources said. A prisoner is tied onto a board with his feet higher than his head, and his face is wrapped in cellophane. When water is poured over him, he begins to gag and begs to confess, sources told ABC.

"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," John Sifton of Human Rights Watch told ABC.

After investigating the claims, the network asked CIA officials for comment, but they "would neither confirm nor deny the accounts. They simply declined to comment," ABC said.

Earlier this month, CIA inspector general John Helgerson said techniques used by the agency appeared to violate the international Convention Against Torture, according to current and former officials who described the report to The New York Times.

The report listed 10 techniques authorized in early 2002 that went beyond those used by the US military on prisoners of war.


GOP Reverses History and Wins Vietnam War!!!

from Dailykos:

Fri Nov 18, 2005 at 11:18:01 PM PDT

Folks, something truly dramatic has taken place over the last couple of days--it's something that dwarfs anything (outside of Plamegate) that we've dealt with for months.

I think we all need to step back, take a breath, and realize what we are seeing here, because it's historic and deeply powerful. What is happening will go farther than anything else in showing just how extremist and fanatical the Republicans really are, and will disgust moderate voters.

The GOP is becoming COMPLETELY unglued. Now, I know we say that every week here on Kos, but this is the real deal.

It's now transparent that the GOP thinks it can reverse the history of the Vietnam War as surely as it thinks it can reverse the 60's Revolution.

Do you remember all the times that we here on dKos and Democrats in congress compared the war in Iraq to the Vietnam war? Do you remember how many times we were pooh-poohed by our own political allies--and called foolish traitors by those on the right wing?

I sure do. I remember it very well.

Well, my friends, now it's the GOP making the comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam AND THEY THINK IT HELPS THEIR CASE!

Many here may remember my much recommended diary "We've defended you five years for this moment", in which I make the case that the entire right-wing coalition has been based on resentful, conservative baby-boomers trying to undo the 1960's. Everything in politics today--and I do mean just about everything--is the playing out of this same boomer vs. boomer dynamic. Kerry vs. Bush, the Swift Boat Vets, Abortion, Race, the whole thing. Just a rehash of the 60's and early 70's, every last bit of it.

Well, this is the same shit, different day, and only slightly different topic.

You see, most of us here believe the Vietnam War was the Wrong War, and was ALWAYS a completely unwinnable war. I happen to think that we have most of the country on our side about that one, as it seems fairly obvious.

But we underestimate the potency of what is known in German as Dolschstosslegende, or, as we say in English, the "Stab-in-the-Back Legend." To quote from Wikipedia,

The Dolchstoßlegende or Dolchstosslegende, (German "dagger-thrust legend", often translated in English as "stab-in-the-back legend") refers to a social mythos and persecution-propaganda and belief among bitter post-World War I German nationalists, that lay blame for the loss of the war upon non-Germans and non-nationalists.

Many Germans who supported, fought in, or had otherwise known people lost in the enormously costly war, believed the causes for the German/Austrian involvement in the war were justified. They had hoped it would bring a restoration of past glory and a unified German nation-state. Instead, the war caused the deaths of 1,770,000 German soldiers and 760,000 German civilians, devastated the economy, and brought losses in both territory and national sovereignty.

Conservatives, nationalists and ex-military leaders sought others to blame. The common scapegoats were Weimar Republic politicians, socialists, communists, and "international Jewry" -- a term referring to Jews with a perceived excess of wealth and influence. These "November criminals", nationalists alleged, had "stabbed them in the back" on the "home front," by either criticizing the cause of German nationalism, or by simply not being zealous-enough supporters of it. In essence the accusation was that the accused committed treason against the benevolent and righteous common cause.

Due to the highly potent imagery of a "stab in the back", and the common perception amongst political conservatives that politically hostile homefronts defeat otherwise winnable wars, the stab in the back legend is a common legend in a number of modern societies. In particular, the stab in the back legend is often used by conservatives to explain the defeat of the United States in the Vietnam war. In the context of the US involvement in the Vietnam War the stab in the back legend is part of the Vietnam Syndrome complex.

And folks, the Legend is on high display.

Allow me to give you a few delightful quotes from our friends over at

America was stabbed in the back by the POT* By: francisurquhart

Vietnam was lost as a result of a stab in the back. The war was won on the ground. Had the state of affairs as of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords been allowed to continue, there would still be a free South Vietnam today - and there would have been no Cambodian genocide.
South Vietnam was defeated because the Democrats stabbed our ally, and by extention all patriotic Americans, in the back, causing our defeat - which was their aim dating back to the moment when the McGovernite left took over the party.
*POT = Party of Treason

Or here's another wonderful post, from an (appropriately named) blogger named nazgul12:

Now, I will admit that this is basically a grandiose experiment. There are a lot of things that can go wrong. Should the Democrats regain power, they may betray our Iraqi allies as they once did our South Vietnamese allies. Most liberals like to forget that South Vietnam held on it's own for 3 years after American troops had pulled out. The country only fell when Democrats in Congress pulled all funding that was being used to support our allies. Something similar might happen in Iraq. It is conceivable that we would pull out of Iraq but give monetary support to the government. The Democrats, not willing to give Bush a good legacy, might do the same thing they did when they wanted to prevent Nixon from having any sort of positive legacy.

No, I'm not cherrypicking these. This is literally what these people think. And it gets a lot worse if you venture into Little Green Footballs or Freeperland.

But it's not just bloggers. Oh no. See a selection from this piece by none other than David Horowitz:

The leftward slide of the Democratic Party, which has made it an uncertain trumpet in matters of war and peace, may be said to have begun with the McGovern presidential campaign of 1972, whose slogan was "American come home" - as though America was the problem and not the aggression of the Communist bloc. The McGovern campaign drew in the rank and file of the anti-Vietnam Left, much like the anti-Cold War Henry Wallace Progressive Party campaign of 1948 and the Howard Dean anti-Iraq campaign of 2004. McGovern himself was a veteran of the Wallace campaign and, virtually all the leaders of the anti-Iraq movement, including most of the Democratic Party leaders who supported it, are veterans of the anti-Vietnam campaign.

And now it's GOP Congressmen, folks.

That's right, GOP Rep. Johnson, in his speech tonight in the anti-Murtha political stunt vote, came out and started talking about how the "peaceniks" wanted to cut and run and leave our troops hanging out to dry just like they did in Vietnam.

And you know what the sickest thing about all of this is?

When all is said and done, the Iraq war is all about aging boomers debating while young men and Iraqis fight and die.

There is only one real dynamic going on in the GOP at this point. Nobody believes there were WMDs now if they ever did. Nobody really thinks it's about terrorism. Nobody really thinks it's even about Saving Face--after all, there's not really much face left to save.

No, my friends. Let me tell you what this war is about now, for those in the GOP:

This war is about proving all those mean, nasty hippies in the 60's and 70's that they were WRONG about Vietnam...and by God we're going to KEEP our troops in there as long as it takes to prove it!

Just like the abortion debate is about sexual control, and proving those nasty hippies wrong.

Just like the global warming debate is about anti-envirowhackotreehuggers, and proving those nasty hippies wrong.

Just like racial equality and Katrina is about proving those nasty hippies wrong--in addition to racism.

Which is why they have to compare John Murtha to Michael Moore--not because of any serious connection between them, or because Michael Moore is wrong--no, it's because Michael Moore reminds them of a dirty, nasty hippie, and Murtha's speech reminds them of the Vietnam debate.

This war in Iraq is about REVERSING HISTORY, no less than the culture wars are about REVERSING HISTORY. The Culture Wars are a means of erasing the 60's revolution--and the Iraq War is a way of refighting and winning Vietnam.

All we are doing is fighting Vietnam again by proxy. We are watching old men who had too much of a stick up their ass to join in the incredible social movements of that time--and have hated all those who participated ever since--attempt to get every last dig in that they can, and reverse history.

We are watching the likes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who never fought in that goddamn war but wish we had just sent enough of them OTHER boys there to die until we won--dig in their heels and insist on sending as many boys to die as it takes to prove those nasty war-protesters like John Fucking Kerry wrong--even if some of those protesters were vets themselves. Or especially so--since they weren't smart or elite enough to stay out of the actual fighting.

Because that's what this is about: reversing the 60's, just like I said in my previous diary.

These people literally believe that they can redeem the defeat we suffered in Vietnam--that they blame on liberals anyway--by proving that we will win if we just "stay the course."

It's pure ideology at this point--all of it. It's just boomer on boomer, round and round and round and round...

Meanwhile, five more of our boys died on Wednesday. And over 90 more Iraqis were killed in a suicide bomb yesterday.

But don't worry, GOP boomers: I'm sure that Rambo will come in and win Iraq for you the way he did Vietnam.

Friday, November 18, 2005


More Republican Obfuscation

Fri Nov 18, 2005 at 02:32:20 PM PDT

Spot the differences between the two versions of the "Murtha resolution".

Murtha's resolution:

Whereas Congress and the American People have not been shown clear, measurable progress toward establishment of stable and improving security in Iraq or of a stable and improving economy in Iraq, both of which are essential to "promote the emergence of a democratic government";

Whereas additional stabilization in Iraq by U, S. military forces cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U S. troops, which in turn cannot be achieved without a military draft;

Whereas more than $277 billion has been appropriated by the United States Congress to prosecute U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan;

Whereas, as of the drafting of this resolution, 2,079 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom;

Whereas U.S. forces have become the target of the insurgency,

Whereas, according to recent polls, over 80% of the Iraqi people want U.S. forces out of Iraq;

Whereas polls also indicate that 45% of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified;

Whereas, due to the foregoing, Congress finds it evident that continuing U.S. military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the people of Iraq, or the Persian Gulf Region, which were cited in Public Law 107-243 as justification for undertaking such action;

Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That:

Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.

Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region.

Section 3 The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.

And here's the GOP "rewrite":

The GOP version:


Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that
the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces
in Iraq be terminated immediately.


US Didn't Use Phosphorus Bombs on Civilians Because It Called All Civilians Insurgents

by Dave Lindorff Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005 at 8:34 AM
Caught in a lie when it initially denied using phosphorus bombs in the assault on Fallujah, the Pentagon had to concede it used the weapons. It fell back on the claim that it only used the incendiary defices on militants, not civilians--but then, in that assault, the Pentagon trapped all males in the city, considering them all insurgents.

Now that the Iraqi government has been forced to investigate the US military's criminal use of phosphorus incendiary bombs during the November 2004 assault on Fallujah, it is important to note how slippery the Pentagon is being about its claim not to have used this dreadful weapon against "civilians."

As I wrote during the assault (see the November 13 article on the 2004 Archive page of my website) two years ago, before the assault began on this city of 300,000, the US military ringed the doomed city. Civilians were ordered to leave, but US troops turned back all men and boys of "fighting age,"--a term that was not defined, but that reportedly was set at 14!--trapping them in what itself was a war crime (civilians must be allowed to flee a war zone under the Geneva Conventions).

So in other words, all adult and adolescent males in the city of Fallujah were considered by the US military to be "insurgents," not "civilians." Ergo, if they were bombed with phosphorus weapons, it wasn't a case of bombing civilians.

This grim history, so reminiscent of the way the Nazis herded jews into villages in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union before leveling the entire village, gives the lie to the latest effort to dodge a charge of war crimes in Iraq.

For other stories by Lindorff, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .


White Phosphorus, Caged Lions, Peeling Skin

by James Ridgeway
November 16th, 2005 10:03 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Increasingly, the U.S. is facing charges of war crimes in Iraq. In the most recent horrifying accusations of prisoner torture, the U.S. is accused of standing by while the Iraqi occupation government permitted the excruciating torture of prisoners in a secret jail. These charges have been known since April. Neither the Iraqis nor the Americans did anything about them. All this took place during a period where President Bush was insisting the war was going well, and when Vice President Cheney was lobbying behind the scenes to keep the CIA free to carry out torture in secret prisons abroad. Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni politician, is quoted by the Boston Globe as saying the Interior Ministry detention center has been infiltrated by Shiite militia. "Some Iraqis are having their heads opened with drills, then their bodies are thrown in the streets," he claimed. "This shows that the United States should stop these acts since it is the force that occupies Iraq.’’

In addition to the ongoing controversy over torture of detainees at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prison, the newest instances include:

  • The apparent torture, including acts that left skin peeling from the body, of 173 mostly Sunni prisoners held in a secret prison by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government's Interior Ministry jail, led to a formal investigation by the Iraqi government, and the prisoners rescue by U.S. soldiers. Charges of these tortures have been made known since April, but neither the U.S. nor its Iraqi-backed regime, have done anything about them.
  • The deliberate, confirmed use of chemical weapons in the form of white phosphorusagainst civilians in Falluja last year. An Italian documentary features eyewitnesses, including American military personnel who participated in them, to back up the charges. The Pentagon has admitted use of the weapons. The U.S. is not a signatory to a treaty banning their use.
  • An announced investigation by the army into charges U.S. forces put prisoners into cages with lions in 2003. Charges have been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First. Two Iraqi businessmen say they were taken to lion cages on the grounds of the presidential palace, forced to enter the cages, and were pulled back only as the lions approached. Rumsfeld called these accusations "far-fetched."
  • Meanwhile Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reiterated the administration’s support for the Iraqi security forces—the same forces responsible for the cruel treatment of prisoners. "We must be careful not to give terrorists the false hope that if they can simply hold on long enough, that they can outlast us,’’ he said. And Rumsfeld went after Democrats and Republicans who are now criticizing the administration for misleading the country into war, claiming these same politicians stood behind Bush and the government on charging Saddam had weapons of mass destruction before the war began.

    "People who are willing to risk their lives [in the military] need to know the truth," Rumsfeld said. "They need to understand that they are there based on decisions that were made in good faith by responsible people."

    The AP reported that Manfred Nowak, a special United Nations investigator on torture, renewed calls for an independent probe into the allegations:

    "That torture is still practiced in Iraq after Saddam Hussein, that is no secret," Nowak said a telephone interview from Vienna, Austria. "It is shocking, but on the other hand, we have received allegations of these secret places in Iraq already for quite a long time.


    It's sinking! Chief Rat on the SS WHIG strapping on his life vest

    Wrestling With History

    Sometimes you have to fight the war you have, not the war you wish you had

    By David Von Drehle

    Sunday, November 13, 2005; Page W12

    If only he could show us the memo.

    "It's still classified, I suppose?" says Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, looking toward his assistant.

    "It's still classified," Lawrence DiRita replies, "along with a lot of the underlying planning."

    Rumsfeld nods, apparently disappointed. He is interested in sharing the memo because the memo, as he outlines it, demonstrates that his critics are utterly mistaken. He did not dash heedless and underprepared into Iraq. Rumsfeld foresaw the things that could go wrong -- and not just foresaw them, but wrote them up in a classically Rumsfeldian list, one brisk bullet point after another, 29 potential pitfalls in all. Then he distributed the memo at the highest levels, fed it into the super-secret planning process and personally walked the president through the warnings.

    "It would have been probably October of '02, and the war was March, I think," of the following year, Rumsfeld explains. "I sat down, and I said, 'What are all the things that one has to anticipate could be a problem?' And circulated it and read it to the president -- sent it to the president. Gave it to the people in the department, and they planned against those things. And all of the likely and unlikely things that one could imagine are listed there. It was just on the off-chance we'd end up having a conflict. We didn't know at that stage."

    Some might quibble with Rumsfeld's description of the historical moment. At the time he wrote the memo, dated October 15, 2002, Congress had recently voted to give President Bush complete authority to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. A White House spokesman had just confirmed that invasion plans were on Bush's desk -- detailed plans, we now know, which Rumsfeld had been shaping and hammering and editing for much of the previous year.

    In other words, there was far more than an "off-chance" of conflict. All that remained to be done was for the president to reach his official decision. The train was loaded, its doors were shut, and it was ready to leave the station.

    Rumsfeld never pretended there was anything off-chancy about the timing of the memo when he discussed it with Bob Woodward, who wrote about the document in his authoritative history of Iraq war preparations, Plan of Attack. In that account, Rumsfeld portrayed the memo as a warning blast, an attempt to do "everything humanly possible to prepare" Bush for the awful responsibility that had settled onto his presidential shoulders -- and his shoulders alone. For there comes a point when even the secretary of defense must realize that "it's not your decision or even your recommendation," Rumsfeld reflected with Woodward. By which he meant the Iraq war wasn't Don Rumsfeld's decision or recommendation.

    As if to underline the point, Rumsfeld also told Woodward that he couldn't recall a moment, in all the months of planning for the war, when Bush asked whether his defense secretary favored the invasion. Nor did Rumsfeld ever volunteer his opinion. ("There's no question in anyone's mind but I agreed with the president's approach," he added.) So what was in the memo? Dire scenarios ranging from disasters that did not happen, such as chemical warfare and house-to-house combat with Saddam's troops in Baghdad, to bad things that have indeed come to pass, such as ethnic strife among Iraq's religious factions and the successful exploitation of the war as a public relations vehicle for the enemies of the United States.

    Rumsfeld raises the subject of this memo near the end of an interview in his spacious Pentagon office. Outside the tinted blast-proof windows and across the Potomac, a brutal summer sun bakes the domes and cornices of Washington, but Rumsfeld is wearing a fleece vest over his shirtsleeves. He often finds his office chilly. Rumsfeld appears relaxed, charming, expansive. It seems awfully helpful of him to want to share a classified memo written expressly for the president of the United States, who was wrestling with his awesome power to wage war.

    But then you wonder: Why did Rumsfeld write that memo, at that moment, and why is he flagging it now?

    If the point of the memo was to nudge George W. Bush's hand from the throttle of the engine, to halt the train of events at the last moment, then it was too little too late. Rumsfeld would have known this after 40 years inside the sanctums of government. Plans have a way of gathering momentum as surely as boulders running downhill. One of "Rumsfeld's Rules," the booklet of maxims and tenets he has coined and updated through his lifetime in management, notes that "it is easier to get into something than to get out of it." The time to stop an idea is before it gets moving.

    And if his purpose was to spur adequate thinking and preparation for the complexity of the Iraq mission, he failed. Military experts and strategic thinkers differ over whether the insurgency in Iraq can be quelled and a legitimate government stabilized on a timeline and a budget that the American people will support. Will it turn out to be "the greatest strategic disaster in our history," as retired Army Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, the Army's chief of intelligence and director of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration, recently asserted? Or will it someday be seen as "a hard struggle" toward an eventual victory, albeit a struggle through "the crucible with the blood and the dust and the gore," as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers said in his final congressional testimony in September before retiring? Myers acknowledged that "we've made lots of mistakes along the way." But, he said, that was because "we are trying to do in Iraq what has never been done before."

    But there is broad agreement now that if the United States salvages a victory in Iraq, it will come in spite of the initial war planning, not because of it. Rumsfeld's own advisory think tank, the Defense Science Board, took a long look at this issue last year and concluded that the architects of the Iraq war -- led by Rumsfeld -- lacked necessary knowledge of Iraq and its people, and that they failed to factor in well-known lessons of history.

    "It is clear that Americans who waged the war and who have attempted to mold the aftermath have had no clear idea of the framework that has molded the personalities and attitudes of Iraqis," the board declared in a report bearing the official seal of the Department of Defense. "It might help if Americans and their leaders were to show less arrogance and more understanding of themselves and their place in history. Perhaps more than any other people, Americans display a consistent amnesia concerning their own past, as well as the history of those around them."

    Maybe Rumsfeld's memo was written not just for its moment, but also for the future, as proof that he remained sober even in an atmosphere of neoconservative enthusiasm for the war. Although classified, the memo keeps surfacing in this context, always putting a little distance between Rumsfeld and the audacious gamble in Iraq. Five weeks before the invasion, as others were promising a cakewalk, Rumsfeld and his memo surfaced in the New York Times. It surfaced again with Woodward. And now here it is again.

    This subtle distancing explains why the memo has joined other actions and inactions, statements and omissions as evidence, for some of the Iraq war's strongest supporters, that the man atop the Pentagon, despite his bravura, may not have had his whole heart in this war.

    The idea may not be immediately obvious to Americans at their dinner tables -- that Donald Rumsfeld, the chesty, confident, competent "Rumstud" of the Iraq invasion briefing room, has held something back from the war effort. He was, after all, the public face of "shock and awe." He seemed to thrive on the glare, the pressure, the workload of war, at his desk daily by 6:30 a.m. and dictating his notorious "snowflake" memos -- the waves of questions and orders and ruminations that swirl through Rumsfeld's Pentagon like a blizzard -- long into the night. He dominated news briefings and congressional hearings like a tank rolling through small-arms fire, and he gloried in the hand-wringing of weaker souls. Behind the scenes, Rumsfeld and his civilian staff bulldozed skeptical generals and smashed rival bureaucracies in the planning and execution of the invasion.

    So when William Kristol, editor of the neoconservative magazine the Weekly Standard and a leading proponent of the Iraq war, charged Rumsfeld with insufficient commitment in August, Rumsfeld's assistant fired back with confidence. "Kristol thinks that he senses the 'inescapable whiff of weakness and defeatism' in the leadership of the Pentagon," DiRita wrote. "This is nonsense."

    But Kristol remains unpersuaded. "I don't think he ever really had his heart in it," he says. And this is interesting, because one of the main reasons why antiwar critics have included Rumsfeld among the fervent forces behind the war is that he signed a letter in 1998 calling for the ouster of Saddam Hussein -- a letter written by Kristol. "He had nothing to do with making it happen," Kristol says of Rumsfeld. "We just faxed it to him, as one of the usual suspects, and a few days later they faxed back his signature."

    The crux of the complaint against the secretary is this: Whenever Rumsfeld has faced a choice between doing more in Iraq or doing less, he has done less. When, during the pre-invasion planning, the State Department sent a team of Iraq experts to the Pentagon to help prepare a major reconstruction effort for the aftermath, Rumsfeld turned some of them away. As a result, "there was simply no plan, other than humanitarian assistance and a few other things like protection of oil and so forth, with regard to postwar Iraq. There was no plan," retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell, explained in a recent speech.

    When Army generals called for more troops to occupy the soon-to-be-leaderless country, Rumsfeld pushed for fewer. He cut the time for training National Guard units, including the ones that wound up photographing themselves with naked prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. (He twice offered his resignation when the prison scandal broke. Bush declined.) He blessed plans to begin pulling the invasion force out of Iraq almost as quickly as it went in.

    The thread running through all these decisions is Rumsfeld's steady resistance to a long, troop-intensive effort in Iraq. A big part of his job, he explained that day in his office, is to "balance" the resources being poured into Iraq against necessary investments in a transformed, high-tech military force of the future. When senators tell Rumsfeld, as they did again in September, that the United States should have enough troops on the border between Iraq and Syria to cut off the flow of money and manpower to the anti-U.S. insurgency, one can imagine the secretary running through the math. Today's highly skilled volunteer troops don't come as cheaply as the draft-age cannon fodder of wars gone by. With pay, training and benefits, each soldier or Marine sent to secure that border would mean an annual debit of up to $100,000 in defense budgets for years to come. Ten thousand soldiers equals $1 billion. Not counting their guns, ammo, food, uniforms, armor, vehicles.

    Which may be why Rumsfeld's military, as of late September, had assigned just 1,000 Marines to cover the western half of the 376-mile border with Syria. Picture five major college marching bands stretched over the distance between Washington and Trenton, N.J.

    Doubts about Rumsfeld's priorities have been widespread in Iraq almost from the beginning. Soldiers wondered why they were doing heavy-armor fighting in unarmored trucks. Commanders scratched their heads when Rumsfeld insisted, at a Pentagon news briefing in 2003, that the ongoing war outside their windows wasn't "anything like a guerrilla war or an organized resistance." Kurdish leaders, concerned about a Pentagon cut-and-run, declined to disband their ethnic militias. "They say, 'Put a permanent U.S. base up here and we'll be glad to,'" one Kurdish representative explains.

    Such questions took root in Washington a bit later, however. A turning point came in September 2004, with a pair of columns written by the well-sourced conservative Robert Novak. Many pro-war insiders believed that Rumsfeld was the origin of Novak's startling declaration that "inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is a strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying, Ready or not, here we go." Bush quickly shot down the trial balloon, but Novak stood fast, pointedly boasting in a follow-up piece that Rumsfeld had not repudiated the original column.

    West Point military historian Frederick Kagan soon published a scathing assessment of Rumsfeld's war leadership. A supporter of the decision to invade Iraq, Kagan was appalled that Rumsfeld had not shifted his fabled intensity from visions of future warfare to the burgeoning war of today. "The secretary of defense simply chose to prioritize preparing America's military for future conventional conflict rather than for the current mission," Kagan wrote in Kristol's magazine. "In no previous American war has the chief of the military administration refused to focus on the war at hand." Defenders rose to Rumsfeld's side. The venerable conservative magazine National Review, while critical of Rumsfeld for underestimating the "magnitude of the task that rebuilding and occupying Iraq would present," opened its pages to rebuttals of Kristol's neocon journal. Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution chalked up America's troubles in Iraq to the huge cuts in active-duty troops that were begun by the first President Bush and continued under President Clinton. "In reality, [Rumsfeld] has carefully allotted troops in Iraq because he has few to spare elsewhere -- and all for reasons beyond his control," Hanson argued.

    Others praised Rumsfeld's creativity in squeezing the most from existing troop levels by moving uniformed soldiers and officers out of jobs that civilians could fill instead. Some writers and politicians who could find little to praise in Rumsfeld's handling of post-invasion Iraq nevertheless hailed his willingness to cut outmoded weapons programs and shift forces away from Cold War bases.

    "Mr. Rumsfeld, standing on his remarkable record of achievement, is far too effective a defense secretary for any serious student of recent American history to think that he should be replaced," former House speaker Newt Gingrich summed up in the Baltimore Sun.

    The man himself seems impervious to these storms. As Rumsfeld reflected on his eventful tenure from an armchair near his big desk last summer, the most striking thing about him was how upbeat he appeared to be. Public support for the Iraq war was plunging. Criticism of him was spreading among the military brass and through Congress. Learned essays were circulating through war colleges and think tanks describing an Army near the breaking point under the pressure of the war -- equipment wearing out 15 times faster than anticipated, the divorce rate among officers tripled. Yet Rumsfeld radiated good cheer as he described his invigorating tussles with a Pentagon bureaucracy that is, by his reckoning, not much advanced beyond inkwells and steam.

    His staff reflects that sunny superiority. "The ramparts of Washington are littered with the bleached bones of people who said Donald Rumsfeld was not going to survive," DiRita says happily. Rumsfeld's serenity comes from a distinctive blend of freshness and age. DiRita describes his boss as thirsty for new knowledge and also supremely confident in himself, able to make tough decisions without fretting or second-guessing. "He is always looking forward. He has a sense of himself, and the president likes that," the assistant says. "When you know who you are, you're pretty comfortable with the scrutiny that comes from public service."

    At 73, Rumsfeld is the oldest person ever to run the Pentagon, having also been the youngest when he was appointed for his first tour in 1975. Yet, apart from a slight hearing loss that can seem to wax or wane depending on whether he likes what he is hearing, he bears little sign of age. His back is straight, eyes are clear, body is lean, mind is sharp, and he enjoys whipping much younger men in his afternoon squash matches. Only two secretaries of defense have served longer -- Robert McNamara in the 1960s and Caspar Weinberger in the 1980s -- and Rumsfeld shows no sign of flagging.

    If only he could have had the war he wanted, instead of the war he got. Rumsfeld hoped and intended that Iraq would be a proving ground for his theories about a new era of warfare -- fast, light, "agile," high-tech and overwhelming. Instead, Iraq is an old-fashioned war, hot and dusty, of foot soldiers, fortified camps, checkpoints and armor. Rumsfeld stubbornly clung to his hope even after most others had faced reality. The CIA concluded by June 2003, two months after the liberation of Baghdad, that the United States was facing a "classic insurgency," but Rumsfeld specifically denied it until he was publicly corrected by his able commander, Army Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid.

    Perhaps this is understandable, because the implications of the insurgency -- namely, a long, expensive military and political commitment -- were potentially ruinous for Rumsfeld's larger, futuristic agenda. But the reluctance of the man at the top of the Pentagon to come to grips with the reality on the ground had an impact, according to retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who surveyed Iraq last summer and reported on his findings to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    McCaffrey did not mention the secretary of defense by name in his report. But his terse, grim recounting of America's first 22 months in Iraq led directly to Rumsfeld's door.

    "The enterprise was badly launched," McCaffrey wrote. The U.S. invasion "left a nation without an operational State." Rumsfeld's "overwhelmed, under-resourced" appointees were feckless in filling that void. Mistakes were made with alacrity, but effective corrections seemed to take forever. A year passed before the United States began serious and effective training of new security forces for Iraq -- indeed, the United States transferred sovereignty to a provisional Iraqi government in June 2004 without any competent Iraqi military or police units to defend that government. In the meantime, Iraq devolved into "a weak state of warring factions."

    No student of history should have been surprised by the insurgency. For centuries, guerrilla tactics have been the preferred strategy of the outgunned and outsoldiered, because insurgency offers a way of winning a war without having to conquer a superior army. Like mosquitoes ruining a picnic, insurgents patiently sap the superior army's will to hold a city, province or country. Kalev Sepp, a retired Special Operations officer and adviser to U.S. commanders in Iraq, published an influential essay last spring in Military Review, an official Army publication, in which he identified more than 50 insurgencies around the world during the past century, ranging from the second Boer War in South Africa to the Hukbalahap Rebellion in the Philippines to the ongoing Russian campaign in Chechnya. Other writers have traced the history of insurgency to the Roman Empire.

    After much wheel-spinning, lessons drawn from those examples are finally shaping the U.S. approach in Iraq. "We've crafted a strategy for success in Iraq based on historical lessons [and] counterinsurgency principles," Iraq commander Gen. George Casey recently testified before Congress. This strategy, Casey said, calls for an effort more political than military, precisely the sort of "nation-building" once scorned by Rumsfeld and Bush. The goal is to "enable the Iraqis to take charge of their future." Ordinary Iraqis won't fully turn against the insurgents until they can rely on a competent government to meet basic human needs -- for safety, economic opportunity, reliable infrastructure and so on.

    Counterinsurgency is a matter of turning on the air conditioning and keeping it on. Of guaranteeing Iraqis that they can take a government job without fear that their children will be kidnapped as punishment. It is a question not just of sweeping the insurgents from Samarra or Fallujah or Ramadi, but of keeping such cities safe for the long run. The average counterinsurgency effort lasts nine years, Casey informed Congress, "and there's no reason that we should believe that the insurgency in Iraq will take any less time to deal with."

    McCaffrey concluded after his visit that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have indeed landed on the right strategy and are finally making progress. Credit, he said, belongs to the "superb" senior generals who took over after the chaotic first months, and to the soldiers and Marines comprising "the most competent and battle-wise force in our nation's history." His silence concerning civilian leadership of the Pentagon spoke volumes.

    Rumsfeld's support continues to dwindle. He has alienated a fair percentage of America's officer corps, though few of them will say so on the record. The boss pays meticulous attention to the selection and promotion of new generals, "constantly scanning the bench: who's coming up," says his assistant, DiRita. Focusing on personnel is a way of putting his lasting stamp on military culture, Rumsfeld believes. It also has the effect of reminding officers that he is watching them carefully.

    Nevertheless, the brass has ways of making itself heard. Opinions are expressed to trusted friends, retired comrades, veteran reporters. The tone of that feedback has become so negative that even some pro-Rumsfeld analysts now doubt his effectiveness. Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Reagan-era Pentagon official, is a good example: In his Pittsburgh Post-Gazette column, Kelly recently called for Rumsfeld to resign, even though in many ways he "has been a terrific secretary of defense . . . Army officers think Rumsfeld has it in for them," Kelly wrote. "I don't think that is true. But when a perception is as widespread as this one is, it becomes a reality."

    Another well-connected conservative, Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, once regarded Rumsfeld as "the most persuasive proponent of the Bush Administration's muscular approach to global security." Now: "From the disarray of 9/11 to the decay of the Western alliance to the debacle of the Iraq occupation to the disorg-anized oversight of Pentagon procurement, Rumsfeld has served the president badly."

    Then there's Congress. The secretary has always had a prickly relationship with Congress, which he and most defense analysts regard as too protective of obsolete military bases and big-ticket weapons. When Rumsfeld returned to the Pentagon in 2001 after 24 years away, he was shocked to see the extent of congressional nitpicking and micromanaging. "The number of congressional staffers [devoted to Pentagon issues] had doubled from something like 8,000 to . . . something like 16,000," he marveled. Those staffers demand hundreds of annual reports on a stupefying array of topics, he complained, many of marginal value. "There's so many hands on the steering wheel."

    Rumsfeld did a bad job of masking his feelings. As his friend of more than 40 years, Nixon-era defense secretary Melvin Laird, complained recently in Foreign Affairs magazine, Rumsfeld's "overconfident and self-assured style on every issue . . . did not play well with Congress." He warned that this "sour relationship on Capitol Hill could doom the whole [Iraq] effort."

    Lately, though, the Republican-controlled Congress has gone past pestering to near repudiation of the secretary. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, recently returned from Iraq dismayed by the sorry state of the country's infrastructure, 2 1/2 years and an ocean of money after the U.S. arrival. He concluded that "the secretary of defense . . . was not, in my judgment, showing the strength and decisiveness that is needed at this time."

    As a further rebuke, Warner joined most of the Senate Republicans and all of the Democrats in approving an amendment, 90-to-9, that would require clear rules for the treatment of enemy prisoners under Rumsfeld's jurisdiction.

    This scolding of the administration was sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- which only underlined how irritated many senators have become. A high-profile bill that might advance the fortunes of McCain? There are few things conservative Republicans dislike more.

    Rumsfeld, apparently, is one.

    Why Rumsfeld, one of the smartest, most energetic and most forceful men to serve as secretary of defense, has reached this point is one of the deep riddles of today's Washington. The search for an explanation unfolds through scores of essays and articles, thousands of pages of briefing transcripts and congressional testimony, reams of Pentagon documents and hours of interviews with Rumsfeld watchers inside and outside the military. Few of these interviews could be conducted on the record, because Rumsfeld continues to exert significant control over promotions of those in uniform, and wields influence over Department of Defense contracts with the institutions that employ many outside experts.

    Moreover, the war in Iraq has been intensely politicized, to the point that a number of people who agreed to discuss Rumsfeld would not speak on the record because they worried that their assessments would be attacked as politically motivated.

    This inquiry also included, at an early stage, an interview with Rumsfeld, in which he was asked to sum up, in general terms, his broad agenda of the past five years. At the end of that conversation, he smiled and said, "Ask me something harder." But repeated requests for a second meeting to pose specific follow-up questions were unavailing. An e-mail containing specific questions was sent to DiRita last month, but neither he nor Rumsfeld responded.

    So, return to the beginning: Iraq was not Rumsfeld's decision, nor did he ever formally recommend the invasion. It is not "Rumsfeld's war." His assistant is emphatic on this point. "No. It is America's war," DiRita says.

    When Bush drew a bead on Iraq late in 2001, as U.S. forces and allies were taking control of Afghanistan, Rumsfeld was already deeply involved in two wars much closer to home. One was his campaign to remake the Pentagon for the 21st century. The other was a bureaucratic battle with then-Secretary of State Powell. It is impossible to understand Rumsfeld's approach to Iraq outside the context of these earlier, ongoing fights.

    First, the war with Colin Powell.

    The bitter lawsuits over the 2000 presidential election left Bush under enormous pressure as he chose his first Cabinet. Time was short and the country divided. Bush turned to Powell, a figure so broadly popular that he had been approached about running for vice president by both the Republicans and the Democrats. Powell had foreign policy acumen, military experience and the assurance that comes from years in command -- all areas in which Bush could use a boost.

    Still, Powell's prominence and his

    politics "raised anxieties" among some important members of the president's inner circle, as journalist James Mann explained in Rise of the Vulcans, his intellectual history of the Bush national security team. The general angered conservatives by favoring affirmative action and abortion rights. And he worried hawks with his Powell Doctrine for war-fighting -- it was much too cautious, they felt.

    One of those conservative hawks was Vice President Cheney, whose differences with Powell went back a decade to the first Gulf War. Then, Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Cheney was secretary of defense. Powell tried an end run around Cheney to appeal directly to President George H.W. Bush not to wage war against Iraq. When Cheney discovered Powell's maneuver, he ordered the general to "stick to military matters." Still, Powell succeeded in shaping the Gulf War

    strategy according to his principles of decisive force and a clear postwar exit strategy.

    This political and personal baggage carried into the new Bush administration. "The overriding dynamic of the Bush foreign policy team," Mann wrote, was an "intense, continuing desire . . . to limit the power and influence of Colin Powell." Job One was to cut off Powell's sway at the Pentagon, an institution he knew as intimately as anyone in government. Cheney and Bush turned to Rumsfeld, Cheney's longtime mentor and pal. Their partnership went back to the Nixon administration, when a young Don Rumsfeld gave an even younger Dick Cheney his first job in the executive branch.

    Few men of the past half-century were better suited to intramural bureaucratic combat than Rumsfeld. As a Princeton wrestling champion in the 1950s, his specialty was taking down opponents, an art rooted in quickness, leverage and a ruthless eye for vulnerabilities. He translated these skills to politics and quickly made his reputation on them.

    The story has been told many times. How in 1962, after a stint as a Navy fighter pilot, Rumsfeld was elected to Congress at age 30 from suburban Chicago and almost immediately helped organize a coup to oust the veteran House Republican leader, replacing him with genial Gerald R. Ford of Michigan.

    How Richard M. Nixon noticed the tough young man and recruited him to run an anti-poverty program. How from that unlikely post, Rumsfeld picked a fight with Nixon's foreign policy guru, Henry A. Kissinger, arguing that Kissinger was too slow to pull out of Vietnam. How Ford found himself president after Nixon's disgrace and called Rumsfeld before he called anyone else. How Rumsfeld, as Ford's chief of staff, pulled off a "Halloween massacre" that finally reduced Kissinger's power over foreign policy, while installing Rumsfeld as the nation's youngest-ever secretary of defense (and moved Cheney up a step, too, making him the youngest White House chief of staff).

    How Rumsfeld also orchestrated the dumping of Kissinger's original patron, Nelson A. Rockefeller, as Ford's 1976 running mate.

    Fred Ikle, a pillar of the conservative defense establishment, paused a moment when asked to sum up Rumsfeld's style. "Let me put it this way," he said at last, "I would not like to be on the opposite side of an interagency clash from him."

    Rumsfeld clashed with Powell almost immediately after Bush was inaugurated in 2001. The issue was China. Powell was quoted characterizing the United States and China as friends, even as Rumsfeld was framing his first major strategic document, the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, around the idea of China as a rising threat. Asked about the dispute at the time, Rumsfeld made a joke at Powell's expense. They agreed on "everything," Rumsfeld said, "except those few cases where Colin is still learning."

    The laughter stopped as the Iraq invasion approached. According to Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff at the State Department, a "cabal" of Rumsfeld and Cheney "flummoxed the process" of planning the war. They carried their ideas in "secret" directly to Bush for decisions; meanwhile Rumsfeld authorized his staff to "tell the State Department to go screw itself in a closet somewhere."

    Anything Powell favored, the Defense Department opposed. Powell suggested more allies; Rumsfeld announced he was ready to go it alone. Powell favored a larger force; Rumsfeld weeded out troops unit by unit. Ultimately, the invasion was a repudiation of the Powell Doctrine in U.S. military affairs. The force deployed was light and lethal -- but not, history has clearly shown, the master of all contingencies. Nor was there a clear exit strategy, merely the hope of garlands and easy reconstruction -- a point war critics have often made and Rumsfeld has never rebutted in detail.

    As for Rumsfeld's war on the military culture, Bush fired the first shot in January 2001. Standing alongside his new defense secretary, Bush promised that Rumsfeld would "challenge the status quo inside the Pentagon." This formulation appealed to Rumsfeld, who had spent the quarter-century since his first Pentagon tour in private business, making a fortune by shaking up under-performing companies.

    Diving in, he found his marching orders in a speech given by candidate Bush at the Citadel in 1999, calling for a "transformation" of the great but lumbering U.S. military. The Cold War force was built around big foreign bases and heavy weapons "platforms," such as tank columns and aircraft carriers. With the Cold War over, Bush said, America should use the chance to "skip a generation" of weaponry and tactics to seize the future of warfare ahead of everyone else. A transformed military would be lightly armored, rapidly deployable, invisible to radar, guided by satellites. It would fight with Special Operations troops and futuristic "systems" of weaponry, robots alongside soldiers, all linked by computers. This force would be unmatchable in combat, Bush predicted, but it should not be used for the sort of "nation-building" that characterized Pentagon deployments to Haiti and the Balkans under Clinton.

    Little of this was entirely new. Since Vietnam, Pentagon leaders -- including the younger Rumsfeld -- had been searching for more efficient, less entangling, ways to project U.S. power. Even the Army, perhaps the most hidebound of the services, had begun a complete reorganization to make itself easier to deploy. "Some things had been done since the end of the Cold War," Rumsfeld conceded in the interview.

    But the Pentagon is the world's biggest, richest bureaucracy, with an annual budget larger than the entire economies of all but about a dozen nations -- bigger than Switzerland or Sweden. The leviathan managed to shrug off most deep and lasting changes. Thus, when Rumsfeld took office in 2001, he recalled, "we were located pretty much where we had been located, geographically, around the world. We still had the same processes and systems and approaches."

    Some of the most important changes on Rumsfeld's menu were also the toughest, because of the entrenched interests involved. Weapons programs and bases provide jobs in nearly every congressional district. Republican or Democrat doesn't matter when it comes time to protect those jobs, so the programs and the bases endure even after the strategy behind them has expired. Some defense secretaries quail before this status quo, but not Rumsfeld. Shortly after taking office, he began questioning continued funding for the Crusader supercannon, an artillery piece designed to destroy Soviet tank columns that no longer existed, and the Comanche helicopter, another Cold War relic. Such efforts made him a hero in the military think tanks but earned him a lot of enemies on the Hill. By late summer 2001, Washington was buzzing with rumors that Rumsfeld would soon resign.

    Then came September 11.

    Rumsfeld dazzled the public and his troops with his cool courage on that fateful morning. When American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, he rushed to the sound and shudder of the blast and began rescuing victims. Cheney later told a friend that this moment completely remade Rumsfeld in the eyes of the military, and Rumsfeld seized this second chance.

    "The war comes along," Rumsfeld recalled, "and a lot of people said you can't do both -- there's no way you can continue to transform that department and . . . deal with the war simultaneously . . . [But] the war gives an impetus to it, a sense of urgency. One of the things that big institutions need is a sense of urgency. They are so lethargic . . . Well, the war created such a sense of urgency that those things are getting fixed. And they're getting fixed . . . a whale of a lot faster than might otherwise be the case because there's a penalty for not fixing them fast."

    Buoyed by early successes of Special Ops forces and satellite-guided bombs in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld turned the run-up to Iraq into a transformation workshop. The Pentagon already had a plan for the possible toppling of Saddam Hussein; it was now taken from the shelf and completely remade under Rumsfeld's steady pressure. Generals and civilians involved in the process endured Rumsfeld's favorite management technique -- a brand of relentless interrogation known as "wirebrushing." Many grew frustrated at the fact that Rumsfeld always had a million questions -- but rarely said openly what he wanted or believed.

    Editing and badgering, Rumsfeld cut the troop strength in the invasion plan by more than half, and cut the deployment time by months. Instead of a bombing phase led by the Air Force and Navy, followed by a ground war phase of soldiers and Marines, the secretary pushed for a truly joint operation, all branches of the military working together on a blitz to Baghdad. The dream of America's defense secretaries for a half-century -- genuine cooperation among the military services -- came to life.

    Combining the audacity of Grant at Vicksburg with a degree of speed and precision never before seen on Earth, the invasion of Iraq "was the utter vindication of Rumsfeld's transformation," an impressed European diplomat said not long ago. "And," he added, "also its downfall." For there was a crack in this machinery that would be exposed if Iraq was not wrapped up quickly.

    Rumsfeld spoke of this internal flaw, briefly and elliptically, during the interview in his office. He was describing the Pentagon as an Industrial Age contraption of rattling "conveyor belts" onto which huge weapons purchases and fat plans are loaded months and even years before they will come to fruition. The belts clatter along, beyond human reach, until finally they dump their loads, whether or not America needs them anymore.

    "To have affected it, you had to have affected it five or six years ago -- or at least two or three years ago," Rumsfeld said of the system. So his mission, as he described it, was to get his hands into the machinery and start hauling resources off some belts so he could load new projects onto others. "I've had to reach in and grab all those conveyor belts and try to make them rationalize, one against another." This process of moving resources from belt to belt he calls "balancing risks." As in, the risk of not having a supercannon, compared with the risk of not spending enough money on satellites.

    This is where the problem of Iraq came in. Rumsfeld explained that he has had to "balance risks between a war plan -- an investment in something immediately -- and an investment in something in the future." This opened a small window into a very important section of his thinking. Bush recently compared the war in Iraq to World War II, which implies a total commitment. Without a doubt, from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, the war effort was the only military conveyor belt worth mentioning. By contrast, Rumsfeld has conceived of Iraq on a smaller scale, as just one of many hungry conveyor belts inside his Pentagon.

    He understood that as soon as the Iraq belt started rolling, it would carry resources away from his preferred investments in the future. So he speaks of his job as a matter of reaching onto that belt and pulling stuff off. "Balance" in this context is another word for "limit" -- limit the amount of money, troops, staff and materiel bound for Iraq. The war he wanted was a short one, involving a relatively small force that would start heading home as soon as Saddam was chased from his palaces. When Army generals urged him instead to load the Iraq conveyor belt with enough troops to fully occupy the country -- securing captured weapons depots, patrolling borders, ensuring order -- Rumsfeld saw the large fixed cost involved in recruiting and training thousands of new troops, a cost that would rattle down Pentagon belts for years to come. He tried to balance those risks of chaos against the conveyor belts that could otherwise be loaded with resources destined for future transformation.

    It was a gamble, and one he has stuck with through round after round of raised stakes. Of course, the irony is that the Iraq effort has been the opposite of cheap and short. Despite Rumsfeld's best efforts, it is a budget-buster, and one can almost hear the conveyor belts destined for his transformed tomorrow grinding to a halt, one by one.

    It is easier to get into something than to get out of it . . .

    Another of Rumsfeld's Rules is the reminder that staff members, no matter how senior, are not the president of the United States. This, too, is central to an understanding of Rumsfeld's relationship to the war in Iraq. He didn't tell the president what to do because that wasn't his job. Some decisions, such as the decision to go to war based on a certain set of assumptions and a particular set of plans, belong to the president alone. "George Bush deserves the credit or blame for the war," says Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution. "Rumsfeld gets the credit or blame for the execution."

    The next few months could shed a lot of light on the ratio of credit and blame. Progress toward victory would make the earlier mistakes seem smaller. Gen. Casey told Congress in September that the United States has entered a critical period for its counterinsurgency strategy. The tenuous political structure of Iraq will either begin to solidify around the new constitution and next month's parliamentary elections, or it will fall apart. Civil war could doom the attempt to raise and train an Iraqi army that represents all factions of the country. But if, step by step, ordinary Iraqis decide to reject the insurgency and drive out foreign jihadists, then violence should ebb. American public support for the war might rebound. Iraqi troops could take the place of Americans, and U.S. ground troops could start to come home.

    That's the hope.

    "But if this becomes the next Lebanon," O'Hanlon adds, with the United States withdrawing in haste, and a shattered country left behind, then Rumsfeld's "reputation will go down among the worst secretaries ever."

    And what about Rumsfeld's other wars? The first was a rout. Colin Powell has returned to private life, having been dropped, flipped and pinned in short order by the king of the bureaucratic wrestlers. It wasn't really a fair fight -- there was a tinge of World Wrestling Federation tag-teaming when Cheney joined Rumsfeld in pummeling Powell. But the former secretary of state is too much a loyal soldier to talk about it even now, Wilkerson, his former aide, explained.

    The verdict on Pentagon transformation may come in February, when Rumsfeld will become the first secretary of defense to publish two Quadrennial Defense Reviews. Congress has mandated these head-to-toe examinations of U.S. defense needs every four years since the early 1990s. Rumsfeld's first QDR was virtually finished on September 11, 2001, and so it barely reflected, in a hastily drafted introduction, the new war on terror.

    The new document will show how the hard reality of Iraq has altered Rumsfeld's original futuristic, China-focused vision. Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England is in charge of preparing the QDR, and in a recent interview he sketched a picture different from Rumsfeld's original signature ideas. Robots, computers, missile shields and orbiting lasers address threats that no longer seem as pressing. The someday menace of enemy missiles has faded compared with today's car bombs, suicide vests and that medieval remnant, beheadings.

    This time around, England said, attention will be given to various back-office reorganizations that will surely glaze the eyes of those who once thrilled to Rumstud. "The business practices, and acquisition process, and the personnel systems for human capital management," England listed. "That's of great interest to Secretary Rumsfeld and to me." Even among Demo-cratic defense experts, Rumsfeld gets a lot of credit for tackling these dull-but-important issues. Still, speeding up the hiring of Arabic speakers, or streamlining the process for acquiring the next-generation of bomb detectors -- while of great value -- is a far cry from changing the very nature of war.

    In that sense, perhaps the greatest transformation at the Pentagon during Rumsfeld's tenure will turn out to be the transformation of Donald Rumsfeld.

    Even so, Iraq still won't loom largest on Rumsfeld's horizon. As England, his deputy, put it: Iraq "is just a small part of a long war in many places."

    So finish there, with the "long war in many places"? How is that going?

    Gen. Abizaid, the senior officer in the Central Command -- which covers Iraq, Afghanistan and many other hot spots -- appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee not long ago. He said he saw progress in Iraq, but mostly wanted to talk about the "al Qaeda threat as the main threat that we face."

    "Its global reach and its ability to inflict damage should not be underestimated," Abizaid said. "This enemy seeks to acquire weapons of mass destruction and will certainly use such weapons if they obtain them . . . They experimented with anthrax in Afghanistan. They tried to develop crude chemical weapons in Afghanistan. They are always talking about how they might develop a radiological dispersal device. If they could buy or acquire a nuclear weapon, they would. This is not my guess, this is what they say. It's well known they want to do this, and they'll stop at nothing."

    Abizaid continued through a catalogue of fears both urgent and numbingly familiar. Neither journalists nor senators seemed to be paying rapt attention, and so there was little comment when the general reached his conclusion. Which was:

    A full four years after the destruction of the World Trade Center and the bombing of the Pentagon, America's national security apparatus is still not properly arranged for the fight against terrorism. "We are not yet organized to the extent that we need to be to fight this enemy," Abizaid said. "We have time to do that, but we need to seize the moment."

    Rumsfeld, seated with Abizaid at the witness table, might find in those words a mission worthy of his energy and passion. Iraq may have cost him his chance to remake the wars of the future. But there is still the unfinished job of getting ready for the war we're in right now.

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