Friday, February 16, 2007


"I’m skeptical of anything that has Bill of Rights tacked on to it.”

"I’m skeptical of anything that has Bill of Rights tacked on to it.”
-Michelle Malkin, 2/16/07.

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American Enterprise Institute: The Root of Bush’s Right-Wing Ideology

Today, President Bush delivered a speech on Afghanistan at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. AEI and the Bush administration are deeply entwined, something Bush admitted during his speech. “I admire AEI a lot,” Bush said. “After all, I have been consistently borrowing some of your best people. More than 20 AEI scholars have worked in my administration.

Below are a few examples of the people and ideas that AEI has shared — or tried to share — with the Bush White House over recent years:

– Escalation. President Bush’s escalation plan is based on a report by AEI scholar Frederick Kagan. CNN reporter Suzanne Malveaux said of AEI’s influence on Iraq policy: “One conservative policy group that has the president’s ear and is influencing his thinking is the American Enterprise Institute.”

– The Cheneys. Dick Cheney served as AEI Senior Fellow from 1993-1995, and his wife Lynn currently serves as Senior Fellow studying education and children. “Both Lynne and I have a long history with the American Enterprise Institute, and we value the association,” Vice President Cheney said in 2005.

– Bomb Iran.We must bomb Iran,” AEI Resident Scholar Joshua Muravchik wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. Muravchik called for an “air campaign against Tehran’s nuclear facilities”

– Richard Perle. Perle has been at AEI since 1987, and currently serves as a Resident Fellow. A leading neoconservative, Perle was a fierce proponent of regime change in Iraq. He served as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board from 2001 to 2003.

– John Bolton. Served as Senior Vice President of AEI before coming to the Bush administration. Bolton currently serves as a Senior Fellow at AEI. “There is no such thing as the United Nations,” Bolton said. “If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”

– Climate change inaction. AEI offered $10,000 to climate change deniers to speak out against the recent IPCC climate change study.

– Karl Zinsmeister. Worked for 12 years at the American Enterprise magazine. He became Bush’s top domestic policy adviser, but only after he admitted to padding his resume.

– Social Security privatization. AEI has long been a vocal supporter of Social Security privatization.

– Greg Mankiw. A visiting scholar at AEI, Mankiw served as Bush’s chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 to 2005. In 2004, Mankiw said the outsourcing of U.S. jobs overseas was “probably a plus for the economy in the long run.”

– John Yoo. Currently a visiting scholar for AEI, and a former deputy assistant attorney general in the office of legal counsel of the Department of Justice. Yoo authored the infamous torture memo that argued interrogation techniques only constituted torture if they are “equivalent in intensity to…organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

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Thursday, February 15, 2007


Getting It Right on Iran

by L C Johnson

The truth about the Iranian threat is that the Bush Administration is not telling the real truth. Like any effective propagandist President Bush is using a kernel of truth and, with the help of many in the media, laying the foundation for another war. Only this time it will likely be a war of retaliation rather than one of pre-emption.

The kernel of truth is that Iranian intelligence agents are active in Iraq and are working with a variety of Shia militia and groups. What Bush cleverly omits in his litany is the fact that Iran has been present in Iraq since the early days of the U.S. invasion in March of 2003. Bush and his generals also are ignoring the fact that Sunni insurgents, not Iranian backed Shia militia, have been those responsible for the vast majority of U.S. casualties in Iraq.

You do not have to accept my word or my numbers. Go to (and while you are there leave a donation for these deserving folks) and count for yourselves. According to the U.S. officials who briefed reporters in Baghdad last Sunday, Iranian explosives figured in the deaths of 170 U.S. soldiers and the wounding of 620 since June of 2004. However, total coalition casualties during that same period are 2,265 dead and 17,788 wounded. For the math challenged among you that means Iran is linked to less than 8% of the fatalities and less than 4% of the wounded.

The conclusion is very simple. Iran is not responsible for most U.S. casualties, whether from explosives, small arms fire, or thrown rocks. Now it gets interesting.

Who is our main enemy and who is responsible for the vast majority of U.S. casualties? Sunni insurgent groups--ranging from Al Qaeda jihadist to angry Baathists.

Iran for its part has shied away from encouraging or supporting widespread attacks against U.S. forces because the United States is perceived as helping the Shia consolidate power in Iraq and acknowledged for concentrating its firepower on the Sunnis. Remember Fallujah? Tall Afar? How about Al Anbar? What about Zarqawi?

With Zarqawi dead and buried the Bush Administration has christened Moqtada al Sadr as its latest villain. But this is another lie. Moqtada al Sadr is the least Iran friendly of the various Shia clerics. Moqtada is no friend of the United States but he is first and foremost an Iraqi nationalist. He is not an Iranian toady. That distinction goes to Mr. Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim. Remember him? He's the guy who was sitting with George Bush for a photo op in the Oval Office in December.

So let me see if I have this straight. The Iraqi Shia cleric closest to the Iranians, who are responsible for killing some of our soldiers, gets an invite to the White House for a grip and grin. Meanwhile the Iraqi Shia cleric least favorably disposed to Iran becomes our new public enemy and now has sought refuge in Iran. Great! Rather than drive a big wedge between Iran and al Sadr we give him a reason to reach out to Tehran.

In the coming weeks the friction points with Iran are likely to increase. If U.S. forces escalate operations against Iranian interests and Iranian personnel they will retaliate. They may not accept the Old Testament as their basis of faith but they certainly believe in an "eye for an eye". The Iranians take blood feuds seriously and will retaliate against us. Even events not directly tied to us will be viewed by Tehran thru the lens of the looming U.S. threat and we are likely to be blamed. Yesterday, for example, a group of Iranian Revolutionary Guards were killed in a terrorist bombing near the border of Afghanistan. The Iranians, using Bush-style analysis, will probably conclude that this was a U.S. backed action. I anticipate they will become more bold in their retaliation.

As the U.S. versus Iran tit-for-tat intensifies new U.S. casualties will fuel the war fever among the American people and support for "decisive" action against Iran will grow. Most members of Congress, fearful of being labled as going soft on the Iranian mullahs, more likely than not will fall into line and will back President Bush as he starts a new crusade against the Iranian regime. Unfortunately for America these events will probably produce a deeper, more deadly quagmire that will compound the horror already underway in Iraq. Instead of battling primarily Sunni insurgents we will get to add Shia and Iranians to the mix. And how does that serve our national interest?

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The Half-Hour News Hour on Fox

The Half-Hour News Hour,” a right-leaning version of the Daily Show, debuts this Sunday on Fox News. The first episode guest-stars Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter as the President and Vice President.

In case you don't find it funny, here is a reminder of how to appreciate right-wing humor from The Punisher's 2006 post here at the Ob Report.

Right Wing Humor, It's funny when people die.

I have to admit, I’ve never understood Right Wing Humor. I just didn’t get it and I often don’t find it funny.

For example, the Running Joke among conservatives this week is that they would rather go hunting with Dick Cheney, than ride in a car with Ted Kennedy.

I have to admit, I didn’t think it was funny. You see, the joke is a reference to a car accident in which a woman in the car with Ted Kennedy died. And the more I thought about it the more I realized the Republicans think death is funny. It’s funny when people die. There’s the joke.

Once I realized this simple truth it became much easier to understand Republican Humor. For example when Ann Coulter said of Arab Nations, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”, I finally understood the joke. You see, killing people is funny. It’s funny when people die.

Coulter also said “We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' crème brulée." She followed the statement by saying, "That's just a joke, for you in the media." See, it’s just a joke. Funny. I get it now. It’s funny when people die.

And after I figured that out it was so much funnier to listen to new CNN host Glenn Beck when he said, “I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore.” You see that is comedy folks. It’s not that the guy telling the jokes isn’t funny, it’s that you just don’t “get it.” You see, in a Republican World, It’s funny when people die.

So armed with my new found understanding of what Republicans consider funny, I’ve decided to try my hand at writing jokes like them. Here we go:

I’d rather go hunting with Dick Cheney, than ride in a car with Laura Bush. You see why it’s funny? Laura Bush killed a guy in a car accident when she was 17. It’s funny when people die.

I’d rather go hunting with Dick Cheney, than be an intern for Joe Scarborough. Joe’s intern died mysteriously in his office in 2001. It’s funny when people die.

I’d rather go hunting with Dick Cheney, than be a U.S. soldier in Iraq. Ha, Ha, Ha. It's funny because 3000+ soldiers have died in Iraq. Now there’s Republican Humor on a grand scale. It's funny when people die.

I’d rather go hunting with Dick Cheney, than be a coal miner during the Bush Administration. You see why it’s funny? It’s funny because Bush cut enforcement of mine safety regulations and appointed people to investigate violations who think corporate profits are more important than mine safety. And coal miners died. You see, it’s funny when people die.

I’d rather go hunting with Dick Cheney, than be a poor person in New Orleans during a Hurricane with George Bush as President. Again, with Bush appointing political hacks to important government positions instead of competent people with experience, people died. Again, it’s funny when people die.

You see, armed with my new found understanding of Right Wing Humor, I can now laugh it off when Ann Coulter says, “When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty,” Coulter said in an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too. Otherwise they will turn out to be outright traitors.” You see, it’s funny when people die.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Ex-aide says Rice misled U.S. Congress on Iran

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice misled the U.S. Congress when she said last week that she had not seen a 2003 Iranian proposal for talks with the United States, a former senior government official said on Wednesday.

Flynt Leverett, who worked on the National Security Council when it was headed by Rice, likened the proposal to the 1972 U.S. opening to China. He said he was confident it was seen by Rice and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell but "the administration rejected the overture."

Speaking at a conference on Capitol Hill, Leverett said "this was a serious proposal, a serious effort" by Iran to lay out a comprehensive agenda for U.S.-Iranian rapprochement.

"The Bush administration up to and including Secretary Rice is misleading Congress and the American public about the Iran proposal," he said.

Testifying before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee last week, Rice told lawmakers who asked about Leverett's previous public comments and writings on the Iranian proposal: "I don't know what Flynt Leverett's talking about."

She faulted him for not telling her, "We have a proposal from Iran and we really ought to take it."

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack said: "What she said is she has no recollection of having seen it. She has said that repeatedly." he said the accusation that she had misled Congress was "just absolutely 100 percent false."

Leverett and others have represented the proposal as a missed opportunity that could have defused tensions with Iran which have grown to the point that the U.S. administration has been forced to deny it plans military action against Tehran.

Leverett said he deserved an apology from Rice for calling his competence into question.

He said he had left the National Security Council, which advises the president on security issues, in March 2003 before the Iranian proposal was received. He returned to the CIA where he previously worked and soon after that left government.

Hence, he wasn't in a position to made this case directly to Rice, nor was it his responsibility, he said.

But among other things, Leverett said that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a discussion about the Iranian proposal, told him he "couldn't sell it at the White House." This was evidence it had been discussed there, he said.

The proposal was transmitted to the White House in May 2003 by the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, who represented U.S. interests there. Washington has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

According to a copy of the proposal posted on the Washington Post Web site and cited by Leverett, it contains considerable detail about approaching issues of central interest to the United States and Iran.

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This is officially our 2000th post here at the Obfuscation Report. Thank you for your support.

We promise to continue to scour the web for stories that help tell the true story of media manipulation and right wing lies.

Again, thank you for your support.

Hugs and Kisses,

The Punisher

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More Right Wing Misinformation: Using Fabricated Abraham Lincoln Quote, Right Wingers try to squelch debate on Iraq.

'Wash Times' Columnist Uses Fabricated Abraham Lincoln Quote

By E&P Staff

Published: February 14, 2007 9:00 AM ET
NEW YORK The drive by some political and military figures -- and pundits -- to paint those who oppose the war in Iraq as traitors or at least not supporting the troops has hit another low, with a Washington Times columnist trumpeting an incendiary quote from Abraham Lincoln shown to be a fabrication last year.

Frank Gaffney, Jr. opened his latest column with this: "Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged." — President Abraham Lincoln.

He continues: "It is, of course, unimaginable that the penalties proposed by one of our most admired presidents for the crime of dividing America in the face of the enemy would be contemplated — let alone applied — today. Still, as the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate engage in interminable debate about resolutions whose effects can only be to 'damage morale and undermine the military' while emboldening our enemies, it is time to reflect on what constitutes inappropriate behavior in time of war."

One problem: Lincoln never said it.

Brooks Jackson at, the Annenberg Public Policy Center group, studied the sudden appearance of the quote last August. Why? He had found that his Web search "brought up more than 18,000 references to it."

He reported: "Supporters of President Bush and the war in Iraq often quote Abraham Lincoln as saying members of Congress who act to damage military morale in wartime 'are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.'

"Republican candidate Diana Irey used the 'quote' recently in her campaign against Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, and it has appeared thousands of times on the Internet, in newspaper articles and letters to the editor, and in Republican speeches.

"But Lincoln never said that. The conservative author who touched off the misquotation frenzy, J. Michael Waller, concedes that the words are his, not Lincoln's. Waller says he never meant to put quote marks around them, and blames an editor [at the magazine Insight] for the mistake and the failure to correct it. We also note other serious historical errors in the Waller article containing the bogus quote."

Jackson later provided this update: "Candidate Irey retracted the quote and apologized hours after this article appeared."

Waller wrote to Jackson concerning the 2003 article: "Oddly, you are the first to question me about this. I'm surprised it has been repeated as often as you say. My editors at the time didn't think it was necessary to run a correction in the following issue of the magazine, and to my knowledge we received no public comment."

Gaffney is a regular columnist at the Washington Times.

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Consider This....


Pay No Attention To The Downed Helicopters Behind The Curtain

Stage magicians are successful because they fool the audience's eyes with sleight-of-hand. They offer wild motions, or flames, or bursts of smoke from one hand; while pulling a card out of their sleeve with the other. Attention is focused on the active hand, so the prestidigitation of the other is not even noticed.

While much of the media obsesses over President Bush's assertions that Iran is responsible for advanced IED weapons moving into Iraq, everyone seems to be missing the hidden card up the sleeve. For in the past few weeks, there has been evidence of a much more sophisticated type of weapon being used successfully against U.S. troops in Iraq -- but with the media and the public focused on Iran, it is largely being ignored.

We have lost more helicopters in Iraq during the past three weeks than during any period of the war. Details are sketchy, but we've lost either six or seven helicopters in the past few weeks (sources disagree on the total number, and on how many of these were military choppers and how many were civilian contractors). Nobody seems to be sure if this is due to: (a) new tactics by insurgents with conventional weapons (heavy machine guns); (b) insurgents getting new weapons such as shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (SAMs, or MANPADs); or (c) just a statistical anomaly.

I looked for details on these helicopter downings, from military sources (I figured I'd go to the horse's mouth), but they are confused and contradictory at best. Here are relevant articles from Army Times, Stars & Stripes, and a U.S. Army site called From civilian news sources, here are articles from the San Francisco Chronicle, and Bloomberg.

The most striking of these downings was a CH-46 "Sea Knight" double-rotor helicopter which went down last week. The military initially reported that it went down due to "mechanical failure," but then a video surfaced on the internet which clearly shows a missile of some type which strikes the helicopter from behind, causing an explosion. The video tracks the smoking helicopter all the way to the ground. Faced with this evidence, the military still stuck to their "malfunction" script, which could be summed up as: "Who are you going to believe: the Pentagon, or your lying eyes?" Finally, they admitted just yesterday that it indeed had probably been shot down.

[Note: YouTube has already removed other copies of this video, so the video link may not work for long.]

All of these events raise serious questions, but they are being given short shrift in the media, drowned out by this weekend's dog-and-pony "anonymous" briefing about Iran supplying weapons to Iraq fighters. The timing of this briefing raises even more questions.

Normally I pride myself when writing on offering not only solid logical conclusions to my arguments, but also possible solutions to problems I have identified. Sadly, this is not possible in this column. I offer nothing more than wild speculation, due mostly to lack of solid information. I cannot draw conclusions without being lumped in with the conspiracy theorists, but I feel I must pose the following questions. Make of them what you will, or (if you like) put together your own conspiracy theory to fit the facts.

(*) None of the cited articles says whether the downed helicopters were attacked by Sunni or Shi'ite forces. I assume, from the scant information given (mostly the locations of the attacks), that most of the attacks were by Sunni insurgents.

(*) Iran is a Shi'ite theocracy.

(*) Iran would not logically send arms to Sunni insurgents, as it would be against their interests. It'd be like Lincoln sending Gatling guns to Richmond at the height of the Civil War.

(*) No mention was made during this weekend's "anonymous" briefing of surface-to-air missiles of any type being provided by Iran to Iraqi groups.

(*) So if Sunni insurgents are suddenly shooting down helicopters with SAMs, where are they getting them from? If these are old stocks of Russian weapons from pre-Saddam days, why haven't they been used previously with such effectiveness? Why hold them back until four years into the war? The logical conclusion is that these are new weapons, and will continue to be used very effectively against U.S. helicopters in the near future. Time will tell on this one, so watch the news for the next few months to see how many helicopters are being shot down, and at what rate. And whether the Pentagon admits they were "shot down" or not (too many "mechanical failures" in too short a period would be a red flag, obviously).

(*) If the weapons aren't old stocks, and are being funneled to the Iraqi Sunnis, where are they coming from? Iraq doesn't manufacture these weapons, and the safe assumption is that they are Russian weapons (since the U.S. government is probably not selling Stinger missiles to Iraqi Sunnis), so where are they coming from? The only tentative guesses in the articles cited earlier are either Syria or Iran... but Iran can probably be written off, as the only person to suggest this was General "As drug czar I can make up facts out of thin air" Barry McCaffrey -- who clearly doesn't know what he's talking about... and hasn't for some time now.

(*) If they are Russian weapons, where are the fragments and other evidence? Or is it truly a nightmare -- do those fragments have U.S. markings on them?

(*) These SAM weapons aren't cheap. They cost thousands of dollars each. What large Sunni-run country in the region with lots of oil money to spend would have an interest in arming Iraqi Sunnis against Americans with expensive and effective weapons? Saudi Arabia, perchance?

(*) Why (other than the war going badly and the Bush administration wanting to distract everyone by threatening Iran) was the briefing on Iranian involvement in Iraq put together so hurriedly, and why was it given the weekend after the video surfaced of the CH-46 being shot down? Perhaps to shunt aside too many questions about too many downed helicopters in Iraq?

(*) The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan's turning point into abject failure (for the Soviets) happened when we started supplying the mujahadeen with Stinger missiles to shoot down the dreaded Soviet Hind helicopters. Is the Bush administration afraid the same thing could be happening in Iraq? American public support for the war is waning fast, and if we start losing two or three helos a week, the public is going to start loudly demanding troop withdrawal (even more loudly than they are now). Is this why the Iranian smokescreen is being touted right now as a distraction?

(*) Why isn't the mainstream media asking more questions about these facts and speculations?

Like I said, lots of questions... but very few answers at this point. Feel free to draw your own conclusions, and look for this story to grow slowly in the next few months until it just can't be ignored anymore.

For now, I just can't get out of my head the image of the Mighty Oz, belching smoke and fire about Iranian IEDs, while strenuously objecting: "Pay no attention to those downed helicopters behind the curtain! The Great and Mighty Oz has spoken! Iran is the one supplying weapons to the Iraqis!"

I sure hope I'm wrong about all this....

[Note for regular readers: My 1/31/07 column, "How Congress Will Stop The War In Iraq" was prominently featured on the prestigious National Journal's daily web roundup "The Hotline" recently, just under Markos Moulitsas' piece. Thanks, Hotline!]


Republican Strategy on Iraq Debate: Distract and Dissemble. Republicans are fucking cowards.

Leaked Letter Reveals GOP Strategy: Talk About Anything But Escalation

So this explains a lot. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office has obtained a letter that GOP Reps. John Shadegg and Peter Hoekstra sent out to House GOP colleagues about escalation. The letter gives GOP members pointers on how they should approach the battle over it on the House floor this week.

Hoyer's office has now posted the letter on his Web site, and it lays bare the GOP's strategy for dealing with debate over the House's anti-escalation resolution and reveals just how worried party leaders are about having a genuine discussion about the "surge." The letter says:

We are writing to urge you not to debate the Democratic Iraq resolution on their terms, but rather on ours.

Democrats want to force us to focus on defending the surge, making the case that it will work and explaining why the President's new Iraq policy is different from prior efforts and therefore justified.

We urge you to instead broaden the debate to the threat posed to Americans, the world, and all "unbelievers" by radical Islamists. We would further urge you to join us in educating the American people about the views of radical Islamists and the consequences of not defeating radical Islam in Iraq.

The debate should not be about the surge or its details. This debate should not even be about the Iraq war to date, mistakes that have been made, or whether we can, or cannot, win militarily. If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose.

Yep, so the advice here is this: GOPers shouldn't allow themselves to be lured into a "debate" about the single most important policy question facing us right now, because they might lose. Never mind how all this might impact the troops who actually have to go to Iraq. Healthy priorities, huh?

Also amusing is the letter's assertion that "Democrats want to force us to focus on defending the surge." Now why on earth would Dems want Republicans to justify a policy that will directly impact tens of thousands of people and their families? How unreasonable!

Wouldn't you know it, but during the House debate today many GOPers did indeed "broaden the debate" to the threat posed by "radical Islamists." Say this for your House Republicans: They're good at following orders.

Update: More from Think Progress.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Extremist Bush supporter calls for murder of scientists

by Glenn Greenwald at Salon

Whenever you think that Bush followers cannot get any more depraved in what they advocate, they always prove you wrong. This is what University of Tennessee Law Professor and right-wing blogger Glenn Reynolds said today about claims by the administration that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents (claims which, needless to say, he blindly believes):
This has been obvious for a long time anyway, and I don't understand why the Bush Administration has been so slow to respond. Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists, supporting the simmering insurgencies within Iran, putting the mullahs' expat business interests out of business, etc.

Basically, stepping on the Iranians' toes hard enough to make them reconsider their not-so-covert war against us in Iraq. And we should have been doing this since the summer 2003. But as far as I can tell, we've done nothing along these lines.

Just think about how extremist and deranged that is. We are not even at war with Iran. Congress has not declared war or authorized military force against that country. Yet Reynolds thinks that the Bush administration, unilaterally, should send people to murder Iranian scientists and religious leaders -- just pick out whichever ones we don't like and slaughter them. No charges. No trial. No accountability. Just roving death squads deployed and commanded by our Leader, slaughtering whomever he wants dead.

To get a sense for how profoundly violative of our political and military traditions such proposals are, one can review this comprehensive report on the history of American law and foreign assassinations, authored by Nathan Canestaro, a member of the Afghanistan Task Force of the CIA (he also, ironically enough, graduated University of Tennessee School of Law). Every U.S. President since Gerald Ford -- including Ronald Reagan -- has either issued or left standing an Executive Order which expressly provides:

No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.
Every administration, Democratic and Republican, have agreed that creating death squads and engaging in extra-judicial assassinations is so repugnant to our political values and so destructive to our moral credibility around the world that an absolute ban is necessary -- including at the height of the Cold War, as we battled the "evil empire" which had thousands of nuclear-tipped warheads pointed at numerous American cities.

As Canestaro notes, it was the U.S. which was the first country to formulate a legal code of military conduct for use by soldiers in wartime, and the first Order on assassinations was issued by Abraham Lincoln (General Order 100) in the midst of the Civil War. It provided:

The law of war does not allow proclaiming either an individual belonging to the hostile army, or a citizen, or a subject of the hostile government, an outlaw, who may be slain without trial by any captor, any more than the modern law of peace allows such international outlawry; on the contrary, it abhors such outrage. The sternest retaliation should follow the murder committed in consequence of such proclamation, made by whatever authority. Civilized nations look with horror upon offers of rewards for the assassination of enemies as relapses into barbarism.
Consistent with American tradition, international treaties, with virtual unanimity, deplore extra-judicial assassinations as the tools of savages and barbarians.

And what is most striking is that these anti-assassination prohibitions apply (a) to wartime and (b) even to foreign leaders of nations who are at war. But here, Reynolds is actually advocating that we murder scientists and religious figures who are "radical," whatever that might happen to mean in the unchecked mind of George Bush.

If we are to be a country that now sends death squads into nations with whom we are not at war to slaughter civilians -- scientists and religious figures -- what don't we do? American credibility in the world has fallen to literally unimaginable depths over the last six years, but it is critical to remember that with a President never to face the electorate again, many Bush supporters -- and certainly the White House itself -- are headed in the direction of increasingly extremist and bloodthirsty measures. And it is hard to overstate what a complete disregard they have -- really an intense contempt -- for the values that have long defined this country.

UPDATE: Evangelical Bush supporter and talk radio host Hugh Hewitt also favors Leader-ordered murders of Iranian civilians, as he chimes in to praise Reynolds' proposal. When it comes to killing in the Middle East and unrestrained power vested in the President, there is literally no limit -- none -- as to what this strain of Bush supporter will advocate. Their sole dissatisfaction with the President, as Reynolds says, is that he has been far too restrained in his approach to Muslim countries and Muslims generally.

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How Republicans and "Conservatives" SUPPORT the Troops.


By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press WriterMon Feb 12, 2:00 PM ET

The Bush administration plans to cut funding for veterans' health care two years from now — even as badly wounded troops returning from Iraq could overwhelm the system.

Bush is using the cuts, critics say, to help fulfill his pledge to balance the budget by 2012.

After an increase sought for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing rapidly — by more than 10 percent in many years — White House budget documents assume consecutive cutbacks in 2009 and 2010 and a freeze thereafter.

The proposed cuts are unrealistic in light of recent VA budget trends — its medical care budget has risen every year for two decades and 83 percent in the six years since Bush took office — sowing suspicion that the White House is simply making them up to make its long-term deficit figures look better.

"Either the administration is willingly proposing massive cuts in VA health care," said Rep. Chet Edwards (news, bio, voting record) of Texas, chairman of the panel overseeing the VA's budget. "Or its promise of a balanced budget by 2012 is based on completely unrealistic assumptions."

Edwards said that a more realistic estimate of veterans costs is $16 billion higher than the Bush estimate for 2012.

In fact, even the White House doesn't seem serious about the numbers. It says the long-term budget numbers don't represent actual administration policies. Similar cuts assumed in earlier budgets have been reversed.

The veterans cuts, said White House budget office spokesman Sean Kevelighan, "don't reflect any policy decisions. We'll revisit them when we do the (future) budgets."

The number of veterans coming into the VA health care system has been rising by about 5 percent a year as the number of people returning from Iraq with illnesses or injuries keep rising. Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans represent almost 5 percent of the VA's patient caseload, and many are returning from battle with grievous injuries requiring costly care, such as traumatic brain injuries.

All told, the VA expects to treat about 5.8 million patients next year, including 263,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House budget office, however, assumes that the veterans' medical services budget — up 83 percent since Bush took office and winning a big increase in Bush's proposed 2008 budget — can absorb a 2 percent cut the following year and remain essentially frozen for three years in a row after that.

"It's implausible," Sen. Patty Murray (news, bio, voting record), D-Wash., said of the budget projections.

The White House made virtually identical assumptions last year — a big increase in the first year of the budget and cuts for every year thereafter to veterans medical care. Now, the White House estimate for 2008 is more than $4 billion higher than Bush figured last year.

And the VA has been known to get short-term estimates wrong as well. Two years ago, Congress had to pass an emergency $1.5 billion infusion for veterans health programs for 2005 and added $2.7 billion to Bush's request for 2006. The VA underestimated the number of veterans, including those from Iraq and Afghanistan, who were seeking care, as well as the cost of treatment and long-term care.

The budget for hospital and medical care for veterans is funded for the current year at $35.6 billion, and would rise to $39.6 billion in 2008 under Bush's budget. That's about 9 percent. But the budget faces a cut to $38.8 billion in 2009 and would hover around that level through 2012.

The cuts come even as the number of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is expected to increase 26 percent next year.

In Bush's proposal to balance the budget by 2012, he's assuming that spending on domestic agency operating budgets will increase by about 1 percent each year.

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This is what happens when you cut funding for Veterans Care.

Told to wait, a Marine dies; VA care in spotlight after Iraq war veteran's suicide.

By Charles M. Sennott, Globe Staff | February 11, 2007

STEWART, Minn. -- It took two years of hell to convince him, but finally Jonathan Schulze was ready.

On the morning of Jan. 11, Jonathan, an Iraq war veteran with two Purple Hearts, neatly packed his US Marine Corps duffel bag with his sharply creased clothes, a framed photo of his new baby girl, and a leather-bound Bible and headed out from the family farm for a 75-mile drive to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Cloud, Minn.

Family and friends had convinced him at last that the devastating mental wounds he brought home from war, wounds that triggered severe depression, violent outbursts, and eventually an uncontrollable desire to kill himself, could not be drowned in alcohol or treated with the array of antianxiety drugs he'd been prescribed.

And so, with his father and stepmother at his side, he confessed to an intake counselor that he was suicidal. He wanted to be admitted to a psychiatric ward.

But, instead, he was told that the clinician who prescreened cases like his was unavailable. Go home and wait for a phone call tomorrow, the counselor said, as Marianne Schulze, his stepmother, describes it.

When a clinical social worker called the next day, Jonathan, 25, told again of his suicidal thoughts and other symptoms. And then, with his stepmother listening in, he learned that he was 26th on the waiting list for one of the 12 beds in the center's ward for post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers.

Four days later, on Jan. 16, he wrapped a household extension cord around his neck, tied it to a beam in the basement, and hanged himself.

In life, Jonathan Schulze didn't get nearly what he needed. But in death, this tough and troubled Marine may help get something critical done.

The apparent failure of the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer him timely and necessary care has electrified the debate on the blogs and websites that connect an increasingly networked and angry veterans community. It has triggered an internal investigation by the VA into how a serviceman with such obvious symptoms faced a wait for hospital care.

And it is being cited by veterans' advocates and their allies in Congress as a searing symbol of a system that they say is vastly unprepared and under funded to handle the onslaught of 1.5 million veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who are returning home, an estimated one in five of them with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. One in three Iraq war veterans is seeking mental health services, according to a report by an Army panel of experts last year.

The death of Jonathan also raises questions, among veterans and in Washington, about how far the military culture still has to go in dealing with the stigma often attached to cases of mental illness. Marines, especially, just aren't supposed to cry out for help.

"My feeling is no veteran should be turned away, and definitely not a veteran who is openly saying he needs help and that he feels like taking his life," said Jonathan 's father, James, who is a Vietnam War veteran and comes from a family with a long tradition of military service.

"My son did his duty, he risked his life for his country, and he came home a broken person. And then the VA failed in its duty to care for him," he said, sitting in the family home in front of a coffee table transformed into a shrine for his son, with framed photos and, folded in a neat triangle, the flag that draped his coffin.

Across the country, there are stories of veterans suffering with combat stress and PTSD, who are struggling to find help at VA facilities to deal with the problems they face, according to Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs for the Washington-based Veterans for America, an advocacy group.

"Sadly, there are a lot of Jonathan Schulzes out there," said Robinson, a veteran of the Gulf War who investigates cases all over the country of service members suffering from mental illness and other injuries who are struggling to get the care they deserve.

A plea for help
Jonathan's case has prompted the US Department of Veterans Affairs , with 235,000 employees at a network of medical centers for servicemen and women, to launch an ongoing internal investigation into the details surrounding Jonathan's death, according to Phil Budahn , a VA spokesman in Washington.

But beyond that, Budahn could say little. All patient files are confidential, he said, declining comment on any of the specifics of Jonathan's case.

But VA officials have released 400 pages of documents on the case to the Schulze family. One document from that file showed that the VA clinical social worker, Daniel Ludderman, with whom Jonathan spoke by phone on Jan. 12 did not indicate in his notes that Jonathan had expressed suicidal thoughts.

A VA spokesman told local news organizations that there were emergency beds available in a psychiatric hold unit throughout January. But the VA has not responded to questions about why, if that was the case, Jonathan was not placed in one. Another looming question in the VA investigation is why there are only 12 beds for in-patient PTSD treatment in Minnesota. That number has remained unchanged for a decade, former state VA officials say, even as the nation has engaged in two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, in the past five years.

James and Marianne insist they both heard Jonathan clearly state that he was suicidal on Jan. 11. Marianne says she heard it again when Jonathan was speaking with the VA's Ludderman on the phone the next day.

James believes the VA response thus far indicates that officials are worried more about protecting the VA's image than in meeting the overwhelming need for more and better PTSD counseling for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I heard what Jon said. They can doctor the records all they want; it is not going to change what I heard," he said.

Major Cynthia Rasmussen, who worked for 18 years as a psychiatric nurse at the VA and who now runs the Army Reserve Combat Operational Stress Control Program at Minnesota's Fort Snelling, said, "Jonathan's case is classic and classically tragic."

Rasmussen said that there are many excellent programs and treatment centers within the VA, but that effective delivery of service is spotty and inconsistent and that problems of poor communication between the military and the VA are thwarting attempts by service providers to treat those veterans who need help.

"That is what happened to Jonathan, and there are just hundreds of cases like this across the country. We are seeing them every day," she added.

Descent into mental illness

Behind the stark details of the case is a more complex and nuanced picture of Jonathan's descent into mental illness.

He arrived home last fall after a hellish tour of duty with Second Battalion, Fourth Marines in the Ramadi/Fallujah area of Iraq, where fighting was particularly intense in the spring of 2004. In letters home, Jonathan had described the combat deaths of 16 men he called friends. He himself was wounded by shrapnel twice.

In his neat grammar-school cursive, Jonathan described the death and danger that confronted his unit daily. He made it very clear: He was terrified.

"My heart is filled with sadness. And I ask God why," he wrote on May 13, 2004, the day after two close friends were killed. "I pray so much and ask God to keep me out of harm's way and get me back in one piece."

One of his fellow Marines in the Fallujah area was 25-year-old Eric Satersmoen, who knew Jonathan from local bars in the Minneapolis area where Jonathan had worked as a bouncer. They traded news about mutual friends and the Vikings and the Minnesota Wild hockey team, and they vowed to stay in touch when they got back home.

When they did return, in the winter of 2005, they found they shared some other things: persistent nightmares, sleeplessness, anxiety, anger, and a tendency to use alcohol to numb themselves to all that.

But their experiences diverged in a critical way that underscores how the VA system sometimes succeeds and why it so often falls devastatingly short -- right from the moment demobilized troops get ready to go home.

Returning Marines and soldiers are routinely asked to fill out a form in which they are told to self-evaluate their own mental health on a questionnaire about nightmares, anxiety, aggression, and suicidal thoughts.

The military says the forms are a way to highlight problems early. But veterans advocates say that all too often servicemen, eager to reunite with family and friends, give the forms short shrift . They simply check "no" to every question because they do not want to be delayed at the base with mental health appointments.

That's what Jonathan told friends and family he did. And that's also what his close friend Eric had done after his first tour, but was determined not to repeat this second time around.

This time he knew he had a problem. He checked "yes" to the boxes that asked about nightmares, anxiety, and violent outbursts. He was given a schedule of appointments and began to enter a long process of counseling that has allowed him to slowly heal and eventually to have in-patient treatment at the Minneapolis VA where he was given a bed in the PTSD ward.

Jonathan, meanwhile, returned home for 30 days' leave. His family immediately saw that he was depressed and anxious. They heard him thrashing and yelling in his sleep. He was not the big, fun-loving young man he was before he went off to war, they said.

The family doctor, William Phillips, saw him and wrote a report that Jonathan appeared to be suffering classic symptoms of PTS D . He prescribed Valium and encouraged Jonathan to seek help when he returned to Camp Pendleton.

"I told him that when I came home from Vietnam, I just closed up and hardened my shell. It hurt me in life. I was a pole cat to live with, and I wanted to be sure he didn't make the same mistake," said his father.

After his 30 days' home leave, Jonathan returned to Pendleton for 90 days before his final discharge notice would be given. That was when he really went off the rails. He was drinking heavily and getting in violent confrontations at local bars off the base and even with his own Marines. He had nightmares of firefights in which comrades died and civilians were caught in the crossfire. He refused to admit he suffered mental problems

"Marines don't do weakness," said his older brother Travis, 27, a Marine who also joined up straight out of high school. Travis served in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 during the US-led military response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "That's the attitude, and Jon was caught up in that world," said Travis.

Jonathan was completely out of control. In the fall of 2004, he brutally beat a fellow Marine. He also threw a 200-pound potted tree through a plate glass window during a bar fight. He ended up spending one month in the brig. Military Police searched his locker and found steroids -- he was an obsessive body builder. He was busted in rank from lance corporal to private and given a "general" rather than an "honorable" discharge.

Drinking and self-loathing
These kinds of discharges are on the rise among returning veterans, particularly among those suffering from mental trauma who veer into violence and substance abuse, according to Lieutenant Colonel Colby Vokey, who supervises the legal defense of Marines at Camp Pendleton.

For Jonathan, the "general" discharge status meant that he was ineligible for GI Bill benefits, including assistance for college tuition, and it was technically up to the discretion of the VA whether he would receive medical treatment.

The VA did accept Jonathan for treatment of his shrapnel wounds and back pain. Eric, his Marine buddy, tried to help him get assistance for his mental health issues as well. They sometimes waited the entire day for appointments and group counseling.

Through it all, Jonathan never stopped drinking. Friends and family say that every night he drank his trusted Wild Turkey by the shot glass and one beer after another to chase it down. When he was tired, he drank "Jager-bombs," a mix of the potent German liqueur Jagermeister mixed with the energy drink Red Bull.

His friend Eric drank with him. It was not easy for either one of them when they talked about the war. Eric lost control sometimes, but nothing compared with the bouts of anger and depression and violence that he watched Jonathan go through. "Crazy Jonny," as he called him, was on a different path.

Jonathan was wracked with feelings of self-loathing about his demotion in rank, his tainted discharge, and what he felt was a failure on his part to save his friends, several of whom were killed right by his side in Iraq. The obsession with lifting and steroids, Eric believes, were an expression of low self-esteem.

"He just never could be big enough and bad enough . . . It was like he was going to drink and lift his way through the mess," Eric said.

Then at 8:35 p.m. on Jan. 16, Eric, who was in Florida on business, received a phone call from Jonathan, who was staying in an apartment in New Prague, Minn., that Eric owned and where he gave Jonathan a room.

Jonathan told Eric he was in the basement standing on a stool and tying a noose around his neck with an extension cord. A bottle of Captain Morgan rum, three-quarters' full, was at his side, and he was slurring .

"I tried to stall him by being nice, and then I tried getting mad at him, telling him he was taking the easy way out. I told him, 'What about your faith?' I was doing everything I could," said Eric.

"He said: ' The hell with it all, the Marines, the VA, the hell with religion. The hell with it all. I am doing it,' " said Eric.

Then, Eric said, he heard the phone fall to the floor.

A family mourns
Last week, it was 10 below zero with the windchill factor in the farming town of Stewart . Before his shift at a nearby dairy plant, Jonathan's father crunched through dry, drifting snow toward the St. Paul's Lutheran Church cemetery to visit his son's grave .

Dead flowers from the funeral and a small American flag that marked the grave were disappearing beneath the drifting snow.

"This never should have happened," said James, tears welling behind a pair of sunglasses.

"This country should have taken better care of one of its sons. They owed that to Jon."

Charles Sennott can be reached at

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Monday, February 12, 2007


In Your Face!

Grammy Recap:

  • Song Of The Year - Not Ready To Make Nice
  • Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal - Not Ready To Make Nice
  • Best Country Album - Taking The Long Way
  • Record Of The Year - Not Ready To Make Nice
  • Album Of The Year - Taking The Long Way
  • Rick Rubin - Taking The Long Way (Dixie Chicks) (A)

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Sunday, February 11, 2007


This Time They Plan To Do It Right

by Tristero at Hullabaloo

No, this time (meaning going to war with Iran, which very well could mean going to nuclear war with Iran, with your tax dollars being spent on a first strike), there'll be no ambiguous, mysterious meetings that didn't happen in Prague, but a clear-cut casus belli. This time, there'll be heaps of dead Americans killed unambiguously by The Evildoers which we'll splatter all over the news shows (tastefully cropped, of course, so that anyone who sees them won't start to wonder what on earth they were doing in harm's way in the first place).

And if those goddamm treacherous Iranians are too lazy to go out of their way to attack us for no good reason, well then, hell, we're just gonna help make it right easy for them:
They intend to be as provocative as possible and make the Iranians do something [America] would be forced to retaliate for,” says Hillary Mann, the administration’s former National Security Council director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs. …

A second Navy carrier group is steaming toward the Persian Gulf, and NEWSWEEK has learned that a third carrier will likely follow. Iran shot off a few missiles in those same tense waters last week, in a highly publicized test. With Americans and Iranians jousting on the chaotic battleground of Iraq, the chances of a small incident’s spiraling into a crisis are higher than they’ve been in years.
The time to shut down Bush's mad scheme to go to war with Iran is now. Call your Congresscritters and demand they act immediately to stop this insanity.

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