Dedicated to seeking out the misinformation of the right wing machine.
Main Entry: 1lib·er·al
1. Liberal -- Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
2. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
The centerpiece of Edwards's campaign is his anti-poverty efforts; he presents himself as a dedicated messenger for the cause, and he likes expensive haircuts, bought a gimungous house, etc. etc. His credibility as a messenger comes into question when he spends money ostentatiously. (The haircut was inadvertently billed to the campaign, a spokesman later said).
There is a difference in the political reality: fairly or unfairly, a healthy chunk of the national political press corps doesn't like John Edwards.
Fairly or unfairly, there's also a difference in narrative timing: when the first quarter ended, the press was trying to bury Edwards. It's not so much interested in burying Romney right now -- many reporters think he's the Republican frontrunner.
I honestly don't quite know what to say. Plenty of effort has already been expended reminding people that you don't have to be poor to advocate for the poor --- and that historically some of the most ardent advocates were quite wealthy. The press corps really needs to examine whether they truly believe that the rich are required to be selfish jackasses who care about nothing but the stock market and tax cuts and only poor people can care about poverty. Perhaps that's a country they want to live in, but most of the rest of us aren't so keen on it.
But that's not the part of this post that's startling. Ambinder says right out that "fairly or unfairly" the press can't stand John Edwards and so they are going to bury him. This is, of course, not unprecedented since we saw what they did to Al Gore for the same reason. The matter-of-factness of his statement still made my head spin a little, but I appreciate the candor. At least we now know what we are dealing with. (And there is no question about whether it's fair. It most certainly isn't.)
Now, I am not especially surprised that the press corps doesn't like John Edwards. Many of these people probably didn't like guys like him in high school either and one thing we know about the political press corps is that they have never matured beyond the 11th grade. (See: chilean bass stupidity.) But I have to ask, once again, just who in the hell these people think they are and why they think they are allowed to pick our candidates for us based upon their own "feelings" about them? I don't recall electing them to anything. (But, hey, maybe we should just poll the kewl kidz and find out which candidate they "like, totally, like" and we can cancel the election and save a lot of time and money.)
This is exactly this kind of thing that makes people like me laugh when I get lectured by professional journalists about "objectivity" and "ethics." At least I put my political biases up front. These phonies hide behind a veil of journalistic conventions so they can exercise their psychologically stunted desire to stick it to the BMOC, or the dork or whoever these catty little gossips want to skewer for their own pleasure that day. Please, please, no more hand-wringing sanctimony from reporters about the undisciplined, unethical blogosphere. Their glass houses are lying in shards all around their feet.
Each time they've pulled this puerile nonsense in the last few years, it's resulted in a mess that's going to take even more years to unravel. And they learned nothing, apparently, since they are doing exactly the same thing in this election. If the press really wants to know why they are held in lower esteem than hitmen and health insurance claims adjusters, this is it.
We're Not Wanted In Iraq. Where's Georgie's Exit Strategy?
Insurgents form political front to plan for US pullout Leaders of Iraqi groups say attacks will go on until Americans leave
Seumas Milne in Damascus Thursday July 19, 2007 The Guardian
Insurgents from the 1920 Revolution Brigades training at Beiji, north of Baghdad.
Seven of the most important Sunni-led insurgent organisations fighting the US occupation in Iraq have agreed to form a public political alliance with the aim of preparing for negotiations in advance of an American withdrawal, their leaders have told the Guardian.
In their first interview with the western media since the US-British invasion of 2003, leaders of three of the insurgent groups - responsible for thousands of attacks against US and Iraqi armed forces and police - said they would continue their armed resistance until all foreign troops were withdrawn from Iraq, and denounced al-Qaida for sectarian killings and suicide bombings against civilians.
Speaking in Damascus, the spokesmen for the three groups - the 1920 Revolution Brigades, Ansar al-Sunna and Iraqi Hamas - said they planned to hold a congress to launch a united front and appealed to Arab governments, other governments and the UN to help them establish a permanent political presence outside Iraq.
Abu Ahmad, spokesman for Iraqi Hamas said: "Peaceful resistance will not end the occupation. The US made clear it intended to stay for many decades. Now it is a common view in the resistance that they will start to withdraw within a year. "
The move represents a dramatic change of strategy for the mainstream Iraqi insurgency, whose leadership has remained shadowy and has largely restricted communication with the world to brief statements on the internet and Arabic media.
The last three months have been the bloodiest for US forces, with 331 deaths and 2,029 wounded, as the 28,000-strong "surge" in troop numbers exposes them to more attacks.
Leaders of the three groups, who did not use their real names in the interview, said the new front, which brings together the main Sunni-based armed organisations except al-Qaida and the Ba'athists, had agreed the main planks of a joint political programme, including a commitment to free Iraq from foreign troops, rejection of cooperation with parties involved in political institutions set up under the occupation and a declaration that decisions and agreements made by the US occupation and Iraqi government are null and void.
The aim of the alliance - which includes a range of Islamist and nationalist-leaning groups and is planned to be called the Political Office for the Iraqi Resistance - is to link up with other anti-occupation groups in Iraq to negotiate with the Americans in anticipation of an early US withdrawal. The programme envisages a temporary technocratic government to run the country during a transition period until free elections can be held.
The insurgent groups deny support from any foreign government, including Syria, but claim they have been offered and rejected funding and arms from Iran. They say they have been under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Turkey to unite. "We are the only resistance movement in modern history which has received no help or support from any other country," Abdallah Suleiman Omary, head of the political department of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, told the Guardian. "The reason is we are fighting America."
All three Sunni-based resistance leaders say they are acutely aware of the threat posed by sectarian division to the future of Iraq and emphasised the importance of working with Shia groups - but rejected any link with the Shia militia and parties because of their participation in the political institutions set up by the Americans and their role in sectarian killings.
Abd al-Rahman al-Zubeidy, political spokesman of Ansar al-Sunna, a salafist (purist Islamic) group with a particularly violent reputation in Iraq, said his organisation had split over relations with al-Qaida, whose members were mostly Iraqi, but its leaders largely foreigners.
"Resistance isn't just about killing Americans without aims or goals. Our people have come to hate al-Qaida, which gives the impression to the outside world that the resistance in Iraq are terrorists. We are against indiscriminate killing, fighting should be concentrated only on the enemy," he said. He added: "A great gap has opened up between Sunni and Shia under the occupation and al-Qaida has contributed to that."
Wayne White, of Washington's Middle East Institute and a former expert adviser to the Iraq Study Group, said it was unclear, given the diversity within the Sunni Arab insurgency, what influence the new grouping would have on the ground.
He added: "This does reveal that despite the widening cooperation on the part of some Sunni Arab insurgent groups with US forces against al-Qaida in recent months, such cooperation could prove very shortlived if the US does not make clear that it has a credible exit strategy.
"With the very real potential for a more full-blown civil war breaking out in the wake of a substantial reduction of the US military presence in Iraq, Shia and Kurds appreciate that the increased ability of Sunni Arabs to organise politically and assemble in larger armed formations as a result of such cooperation could confront them with a considerably more formidable challenge as time goes on."
A JUDGE SHOULD AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL ACTIVITIES
A. A judge should respect and comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
B. A judge should not allow family, social, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge should not lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of others; nor convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge should not testify voluntarily as a character witness.
C. A judge should not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin.
3. This Code governs the conduct of United States Circuit Judges, District Judges, Court of International Trade Judges, Court of Federal Claims Judges, Bankruptcy Judges, and Magistrate Judges. In addition, certain provisions of this Code apply to special masters and commissioners as indicated in the "Compliance" section.
Judge Bates as District Court Judge dismissed the GAO’s efforts to learn with whom Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force Conferred. Judge Bates spent two years working for Kenneth Starr and the Independent Counsel's office during the investigation into President Bill Clinton, specifically Deputy Independent Counsel under Ken Starr from September 1995 until leaving in March 1997. Judge Bates was appointed to the court by George W. Bush.
Now Judge Bates has dismissed the Plame Lawsuit. Anyone Smell an appearance of impropriety?
WASHINGTON — Former CIA operative Valerie Plame lost a lawsuit Thursday that demanded money from Bush administration officials whom she blamed for leaking her agency identity.
Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had accused Vice President Dick Cheney and others of conspiring to disclose her identity in 2003. Plame said that violated her privacy rights and was illegal retribution for her husband's criticism of the administration.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds and said he would not express an opinion on the constitutional arguments.
Bates dismissed the case against all defendants: Cheney, White House political adviser Karl Rove, former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
US District Judge John Bates said Mr Cheney and the other officials had a right to respond to criticism.
Plame's lawyers said from the beginning the suit would be a difficult case to make. Public officials normally are immune from such suits filed in connection with their jobs. Plame's identity was revealed in a syndicated newspaper column in 2003, shortly after Wilson began criticizing the administration's march to war in Iraq.
Armitage and Rove were the sources for that article, which touched off a lengthy leak investigation. Nobody was charged with leaking but Libby was convicted of lying and obstruction the investigation. Bush commuted Libby's 2 1/2-year prison term before the former aide served any time.
"This just dragged on the character assassination that had gone on for years," said Alex Bourelly, one of Libby's lawyers. "To have the case dismissed is a big relief." Plame and Wilson pledged to appeal.
"This case is not just about what top government officials did to Valerie and me." Wilson said in a statement. "We brought this suit because we strongly believe that politicizing intelligence ultimately serves only to undermine the security of our nation." Though Bates said the case raised "important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials," he said there was no legal basis for the suit.
Lawyers have said courts traditionally are reluctant to wade into these types of cases, particularly when Congress has established other resolutions. In this case, Bates said, Congress passed the Privacy Act to cover many of Plame's claims. Courts have held that the Privacy Act cannot be used to hold government officials personally liable for damages in court.
Bates also sided with administration officials who said they were acting within their job duties.Plame had argued that what they did was illegal and outside the scope of their government jobs.
"The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory," Bates wrote. "But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism, such as that levied by Mr. Wilson against the Bush administration's handling of prewar foreign intelligence, by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level Executive Branch officials," Bates said.
Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said Rove was pleased to have the case behind him. "The risk of being liable for personal damages is not something anybody takes lightly," Luskin said.
Bates, a former Whitewater prosecutor, was appointed to the bench in 2001 by Bush.
# posted by The Punisher @ Friday, July 20, 2007 0 comments
We're Fighting Them Over There, So We Don't Have To Fight Them Over Here. If you say this, you're a fucking idiot.
George Bush's Jihad Recruitment Drive
For some reason, I recall a contest in New York magazine 31 years ago asking for Predictable Headlines of 1976, and the one that made me laugh was "Ghetto Residents Apathetic about Bicentennial". I thought of this recently when I saw a headline "Doctor Accused in Glasgow Attack Described as Loner Angry about Iraq War." Isn't it pathetic that what strikes us as utterly predictable still eludes President Daydream Believer?
A common right-wing talking point is that we weren't in Iraq on 9/11 and they still attacked us. Yes, but this "war" is a numbers game: before we invaded Iraq, how many young Muslim men were ready to join up for a suicide mission against the west? Some, but my guess is, not very many. But now? My guess is very many. The exact opposite of what the president says is true: because we're there, this shit is going to follow us home. You could probably make up a chart with incidents and images on one side, and the number of terrorist recruits on the other. The abuses at Abu Graib: 25,478 Muslim men decide to strap on the suicide belt. Pictures of Saddam getting probed after he was captured: 962 vow jihad on America. Hidatha: 6,089 more. Of course, I'm making these numbers up, and we'll never know what the real numbers are, but every time I see on the news pictures of our "surge" -- that is, pictures of American troops knocking some Iraqi's door in, women wailing, men blindfolded on the ground while an infidel writes on their neck in magic marker -- I think, yep, there's another X amount of really, really pissed off Muslims who are going to do something about it.
The other thing I hear on the news -- that I realized I wasn't really hearing, and which most of us I think do not hear -- is the names we give to the people we're fighting over there. You hear that American troops killed so many "terrorists" or "insurgents" or "gunmen," or sometimes, just "the enemy." But in Anbar, for example, we're now fighting alongside Sunnis who recently were trying to kill us. So they were "terrorists" or "insurgents" or the "enemy", but now I guess they're not. Whew.
What a mindless clusterfuck. Hard to believe someone could make this funny. But I will, Saturday night, on my new live stand up special on HBO at 10 eastern. I know that's a shameless plug, but what other kind is there?
# posted by The Punisher @ Friday, July 20, 2007 0 comments
War Criminal Undersecretary Edelman claims Hillary Clintion's questioning the Pentagon "emboldens" the enemy.
Apparently the NeoCon Planning and Execution of the War in Iraq and the fact that Al Qaeda now has a save haven in Iraq when it did NOT while Saddam was in Power isn't to blame for "emboldening the enemy." Apparently it's Hillary Clinton questioning the Pentagon that is "emboldening the enemy." NeoCons are War Criminals and Delusional.
Here's Keith Olbermann's take:
# posted by The Punisher @ Friday, July 20, 2007 0 comments
On July 13, 2007, I visited Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where the bodies of American soldiers killed in Iraq were freshly interred. Afterwards, I headed across the street to the Sheraton National Hotel, owned by right-wing Korean cult leader Sun Myung-Moon, to meet some of the war's most fervent supporters at the College Republican National Convention.
In conversations with at least twenty College Republicans about the war in Iraq, I listened as they lip-synched discredited cant about "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." Many of the young GOP cadres I met described the so-called "war on terror" as nothing less than the cause of their time.
Yet when I asked these College Repulicans why they were not participating in this historical cause, they immediately went into contortions. Asthma. Bad knees from playing catcher in high school. "Medical reasons." "It's not for me." These were some of the excuses College Republicans offered for why they could not fight them "over there." Like the current Republican leaders who skipped out on Vietnam, the GOP's next generation would rather cheerlead from the sidelines for the war in Iraq while other, less privileged young men and women fight and die.
Along with videographer Thomas Shomaker, I captured a vivid portrait of the hypocritical mentality of the next generation of Republican leaders. See for yourself.
# posted by The Punisher @ Thursday, July 19, 2007 0 comments
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
5 Years Later. Remember How the Right Cheered On the Iraq War? I reprint this about once a year.
'The Final Word Is Hooray!' Remembering the Iraq War's Pollyanna pundits
Weeks after the invasion of Iraq began, Fox News Channel host Brit Hume delivered a scathing speech critiquing the media's supposedly pessimistic assessment of the Iraq War.
"The majority of the American media who were in a position to comment upon the progress of the war in the early going, and even after that, got it wrong," Hume complained in the April 2003 speech (Richmond Times Dispatch, 4/25/04). "They didn't get it just a little wrong. They got it completely wrong."
Hume was perhaps correct--but almost entirely in the opposite sense. Days or weeks into the war, commentators and reporters made premature declarations of victory, offered predictions about lasting political effects and called on the critics of the war to apologize. Three years later, the Iraq War grinds on at the cost of at least tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.
Around the same time as Hume's speech, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas declared (4/16/03): "All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent. Otherwise, they will return to us in another situation where their expertise will be acknowledged, or taken for granted, but their credibility will be lacking."
Gathered here are some of the most notable media comments from the early days of the Iraq War.
"Iraq Is All but Won; Now What?" (Los Angeles Times headline, 4/10/03)
"Now that the combat phase of the war in Iraq is officially over, what begins is a debate throughout the entire U.S. government over America's unrivaled power and how best to use it." (CBS reporter Joie Chen, 5/4/03)
"Congress returns to Washington this week to a world very different from the one members left two weeks ago. The war in Iraq is essentially over and domestic issues are regaining attention." (NPR's Bob Edwards, 4/28/03)
"Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces swift and relatively bloodless victory. The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered skeptics' complaints." (Fox News Channel's Tony Snow, 4/13/03)
"The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper Westside liberals, and a few people here in Washington." (Charles Krauthammer, Inside Washington, WUSA-TV, 4/19/03)
"We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back." (Newsweek's Howard Fineman--MSNBC, 5/7/03)
"We're all neo-cons now." (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)
"The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war." (Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03)
"Oh, it was breathtaking. I mean I was almost starting to think that we had become inured to everything that we'd seen of this war over the past three weeks; all this sort of saturation. And finally, when we saw that it was such a just true, genuine expression. It was reminiscent, I think, of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And just sort of that pure emotional expression, not choreographed, not stage-managed, the way so many things these days seem to be. Really breathtaking." (Washington Post reporter Ceci Connolly, appearing on Fox News Channel on 4/9/03, discussing the pulling down of a Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad, an event later revealed to have been a U.S. military PSYOPS operation--Los Angeles Times, 7/3/04)
"The war winds down, politics heats up.... Picture perfect. Part Spider-Man, part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan. The president seizes the moment on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific." (PBS's Gwen Ifill, 5/2/03, on George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech)
"We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits." (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 5/1/03)
"He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star, and one of the guys." (CNN's Lou Dobbs, on Bush's 'Mission Accomplished' speech, 5/1/03)
Neutralizing the Opposition
"Why don't the damn Democrats give the president his day? He won today. He did well today." (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)
"What's he going to talk about a year from now, the fact that the war went too well and it's over? I mean, don't these things sort of lose their--Isn't there a fresh date on some of these debate points?" (MSNBC's Chris Matthews, speaking about Howard Dean--4/9/03)
"If image is everything, how can the Democratic presidential hopefuls compete with a president fresh from a war victory?" (CNN's Judy Woodruff, 5/5/03)
"It is amazing how thorough the victory in Iraq really was in the broadest context..... And the silence, I think, is that it's clear that nobody can do anything about it. There isn't anybody who can stop him. The Democrats can't oppose--cannot oppose him politically." (Washington Post reporter Jeff Birnbaum-- Fox News Channel, 5/2/03)
Nagging the "Naysayers"
"Now that the war in Iraq is all but over, should the people in Hollywood who opposed the president admit they were wrong?" (Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes, 4/25/03)
"I doubt that the journalists at the New York Times and NPR or at ABC or at CNN are going to ever admit just how wrong their negative pronouncements were over the past four weeks." (MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/9/03)
"I'm waiting to hear the words 'I was wrong' from some of the world's most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types.... I just wonder, who's going to be the first elitist to show the character to say: 'Hey, America, guess what? I was wrong'? Maybe the White House will get an apology, first, from the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. Now, Ms. Dowd mocked the morality of this war....
"Do you all remember Scott Ritter, you know, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector who played chief stooge for Saddam Hussein? Well, Mr. Ritter actually told a French radio network that -- quote, 'The United States is going to leave Baghdad with its tail between its legs, defeated.' Sorry, Scott. I think you've been chasing the wrong tail, again.
"Maybe disgraced commentators and politicians alike, like Daschle, Jimmy Carter, Dennis Kucinich, and all those others, will step forward tonight and show the content of their character by simply admitting what we know already: that their wartime predictions were arrogant, they were misguided and they were dead wrong. Maybe, just maybe, these self-anointed critics will learn from their mistakes. But I doubt it. After all, we don't call them 'elitists' for nothing." (MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 4/10/03)
"Over the next couple of weeks when we find the chemical weapons this guy was amassing, the fact that this war was attacked by the left and so the right was so vindicated, I think, really means that the left is going to have to hang its head for three or four more years." (Fox News Channel's Dick Morris, 4/9/03)
"This has been a tough war for commentators on the American left. To hope for defeat meant cheering for Saddam Hussein. To hope for victory meant cheering for President Bush. The toppling of Mr. Hussein, or at least a statue of him, has made their arguments even harder to defend. Liberal writers for ideologically driven magazines like The Nation and for less overtly political ones like The New Yorker did not predict a defeat, but the terrible consequences many warned of have not happened. Now liberal commentators must address the victory at hand and confront an ascendant conservative juggernaut that asserts United States might can set the world right." (New York Times reporter David Carr, 4/16/03)
"Well, the hot story of the week is victory.... The Tommy Franks-Don Rumsfeld battle plan, war plan, worked brilliantly, a three-week war with mercifully few American deaths or Iraqi civilian deaths.... There is a lot of work yet to do, but all the naysayers have been humiliated so far.... The final word on this is, hooray." (Fox News Channel's Morton Kondracke, 4/12/03)
"Some journalists, in my judgment, just can't stand success, especially a few liberal columnists and newspapers and a few Arab reporters." (CNN's Lou Dobbs, 4/14/03)
"Sean Penn is at it again. The Hollywood star takes out a full-page ad out in the New York Times bashing George Bush. Apparently he still hasn't figured out we won the war." (MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, 5/30/03)
"This will be no war -- there will be a fairly brief and ruthless military intervention.... The president will give an order. [The attack] will be rapid, accurate and dazzling.... It will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation. And I say, bring it on." (Christopher Hitchens, in a 1/28/03 debate-- cited in the Observer, 3/30/03)
"I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week. Are you willing to take that wager?" (Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 1/29/03)
"It won't take weeks. You know that, professor. Our military machine will crush Iraq in a matter of days and there's no question that it will." (Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 2/10/03)
"There's no way. There's absolutely no way. They may bomb for a matter of weeks, try to soften them up as they did in Afghanistan. But once the United States and Britain unleash, it's maybe hours. They're going to fold like that." (Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 2/10/03)
"He [Saddam Hussein] actually thought that he could stop us and win the debate worldwide. But he didn't--he didn't bargain on a two- or three week war. I actually thought it would be less than two weeks." (NBC reporter Fred Francis, Chris Matthews Show, 4/13/03)
Weapons of Mass Destruction
NPR's Mara Liasson: Where there was a debate about whether or not Iraq had these weapons of mass destruction and whether we can find it...
Brit Hume: No, there wasn't. Nobody seriously argued that he didn't have them beforehand. Nobody. (Fox News Channel, April 6, 2003)
"Speaking to the U.N. Security Council last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell made so strong a case that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is in material breach of U.N. resolutions that only the duped, the dumb and the desperate could ignore it." (Cal Thomas, syndicated column, 2/12/03)
"Saddam could decide to take Baghdad with him. One Arab intelligence officer interviewed by Newsweek spoke of 'the green mushroom' over Baghdad--the modern-day caliph bidding a grotesque bio-chem farewell to the land of the living alongside thousands of his subjects as well as his enemies. Saddam wants to be remembered. He has the means and the demonic imagination. It is up to U.S. armed forces to stop him before he can achieve notoriety for all time." (Newsweek, 3/17/03)
"Chris, more than anything else, real vindication for the administration. One, credible evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Two, you know what? There were a lot of terrorists here, really bad guys. I saw them." (MSNBC reporter Bob Arnot, 4/9/03)
"Even in the flush of triumph, doubts will be raised. Where are the supplies of germs and poison gas and plans for nukes to justify pre-emption? (Freed scientists will lead us to caches no inspectors could find.) What about remaining danger from Baathist torturers and war criminals forming pockets of resistance and plotting vengeance? (Their death wish is our command.)" (New York Times' William Safire, 4/10/03)
This advisory mistakenly included an out-of-context quote from William Raspberry’s April 14, 2003 Washington Post column. FAIR's advisory inaccurately presented Raspberry’s column as an example of overly optimistic pundit commentary about the invasion of Iraq. Contrary to FAIR’s presentation, Raspberry’s column called attention to and rejected the same sort of premature triumphalism and marginalization of critics that was the subject of FAIR's media advisory. FAIR should have presented the Raspberry column as an exceptional example of a media figure challenging the conventional wisdom early in the Iraq War.
FAIR sincerely regrets the error and offers an apology to William Raspberry and to our readers.
Also in the advisory, the Tony Snow item originally dated 4/27/03 has been corrected to 4/13/03.
# posted by The Punisher @ Wednesday, July 18, 2007 0 comments
Standing firmly in the slow quicksand of public disapproval and impending electoral defeat, the WINOs, the Waverers in Name Only, voted with their president this morning, blocking passage of the Levin/Reed amendment to the Defense Authorization.
By a vote of 52-47, with 60 "yea" votes required, Republicans filibustered the Levin-Reed amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, thus keeping it from going to an up-or-down vote and effectively killing the measure. Republicans Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Susan Collins (R-ME) voted with the Democrats.
Lugar and Domenici knew well before the night of debate started that they would oppose any serious effort to change course in Iraq. And Voinovich who got all that great press a few days ago for telling CNN that Bush had screwed up the war?
Meanwhile, Voinovich -- another allegedly "wavering" Senator -- had this to say about Democratic efforts to vote on Reed-Levin: "You wonder if they are more interested in politics than dealing with the substance of this."
No, the politics on this one was all on the side of the WINOs, who are doing their best to strike the posture of being mavericks on Iraq, of breaking with an unpopular president and forcing him to change. They got a whole lot of free press out of the deal, with the media just eating up the idea of Republicans abandoning the president. Of course, the traditional media is pretty easy to fool. We'll probably continue to see stories highlighting the tough talk of the WINOs. Will we see stories about how they're action belie their "tough" talk, how they have obstructed any real change of policy in Iraq?
Seeing their intransigence in supporting their president over supporting the troops, can anyone really believe that something so magical will have happened by September to change their minds? No, they'll just kick that can a little further down the road. But they have done one critical thing in their actions during this debate. They have fully taken on the mantle of responsibility for the Iraq debacle. It now belongs entirely to them.
# posted by David @ Wednesday, July 18, 2007 0 comments
I'm a bit confused as to your position on Iraq and your "wait and see" attitude hoping that you'll get better news in September.
Here's a few things to remember.
1. There has already been a concensus that there will be no Military Solution in Iraq.
2. The only solution to the violence in Iraq will be Political.
3. The Iraqi Parliament is taking the month of August Off because it's hot.
4. If the Iraqi Parliament will be gone for a month, the political situation is Iraq won't change before September.
5. So what the fuck are you waiting for? What's going to be different in September? Why is no one asking them these questions?
# posted by The Punisher @ Wednesday, July 18, 2007 0 comments
Mitch McConnell and Republicans Favor Waiting Until September to Vote on Iraq.
Democrats Steer All-Night Iraq Debate DAVID ESPO July 17, 2007
WASHINGTON — Democrats steered the Senate through an attention-grabbing, all-night session Tuesday to dramatize opposition to the Iraq war but conceded they were unlikely to gain the votes needed to advance troop withdrawal legislation blocked by Republicans.
"Our enemies aren't threatened by talk-a-thons, and our troops deserve better than publicity stunts," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.
McConnell and many other Republicans favor waiting until September before considering any changes to the Bush administration's current policy. They have vowed to block a final vote on the Democrats' attempt to require a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days.
"We have no alternative except to keep them in session to explain their obstruction," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
He planned several votes on a motion to instruct Senate Sergeant-at-arms Terrance Gainer to "request the attendance of absent senators," in an effort to keep members near the chamber. On the first vote, senators rejected the measure 47-44. Several more tallies were expected early Wednesday morning.
So far, the legislation has drawn the support of three Republicans, Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
With a test vote set for Wednesday _ capping a day and night of debate _ Democratic officials conceded they were likely to get 52 or 53 votes at most. That's well short of the 60 needed to force a final vote on the measure.
While the issue was momentous _ a war now in its fifth year costing more than 3,600 U.S. troops their lives _ the proceedings were thick with politics.
MoveOn.org, the anti-war group, announced plans for more than 130 events around the country to coincide with the Senate debate, part of an effort to pressure Republicans into allowing a final vote on the legislation. A candlelight vigil and rally across the street from the Capitol was prominent among them, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., attending.
Inside the Capitol, the session shaped up as the Senate's first all-nighter since 2003. Then, as now, the Senate staff wheeled about a dozen cots into a room near the chamber for any lawmakers needing them.
But the political roles were reversed. Four years ago, Republicans demanded votes on Bush's judicial nominees, and Democrats filibustered to avoid certain confirmation of several conservative appointees.
Then, Reid labeled the Republican-led all night-session a "circus," while other Democrats stoutly defended their right to set a 60-vote threshold for confirmation.
And then, McConnell talked critically of "unprecedented filibusters of President Bush's nominees" by Democrats, while other Republicans said they simply wanted an "up or down vote" on judicial appointments.
"Will the all-night session change any votes? I hope so," Reid said at midafternoon, pointedly stopping well short of a prediction that it would.
The maneuvering occurred as the Senate debated a broad defense bill that includes a pay raise for the troops, revised regulations for detaining suspects in the war on terror and an increase in the size of the Army and Marines.
Several officials said Reid might set the bill aside for weeks or months without completing it if, as expected, Republicans blocked a final vote on the withdrawal proposal.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Hagel took issue with fellow Republicans who said Bush's decision to increase troop strength, begun in January, deserves more time to work. "We must change our policy in Iraq," he said.
Smith and Snowe appeared with Democratic supporters of the legislation at a news conference.
"We are at the crossroads of hope and reality, and the time has come to address reality," said Snowe, who said the Iraqi government was guilty of "serial intransigence" when it came to trying to solve the country's political problems.
Smith, who is seeking re-election next year, said that Iraqis appeared focused on "revenge, not reconciliation" and that the administration needed to change its approach. "The American mission is to make sure that Iraq doesn't fall into the hands of al-Qaida," he said, rather than referee a civil war.
The legislation would require a troop withdrawal to begin within 120 days, to be completed by April 2008. The measure envisions leaving an undetermined number of troops behind, their mission limited to counterterrorism against al-Qaida and other groups, protecting U.S. assets and training Iraqi troops.
There are currently an estimated 158,000 U.S. personnel in Iraq, and supporters of the legislation have repeatedly declined to estimate how large a residual force they envision. "We're not going to get into numbers, because it changes the subject," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. The subject, he said, was focusing attention on Republican blocking tactics. Levin is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a leading sponsor of the measure along with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
While most Republicans have resisted the withdrawal bill, unhappiness with Bush's policy has been growing within the GOP ranks.
Sens. John Warner of Virginia and Richard Lugar of Indiana, two senior Republicans with long experience in military and foreign policy, last week proposed legislation to require Bush to submit a new strategy by Oct. 16. It would focus on protecting Iraqi borders, targeting terrorists, protecting U.S. assets and training Iraqi forces.
In addition, at least six Republicans support a bipartisan measure that would set a goal of beginning a troop withdrawal in early 2008.
In the complex political environment of the Senate, neither of those two measures seems likely to gain much traction in the next few weeks.
Democratic leaders oppose them as too weak to force a change in Bush's policy. Administration allies are determined to block any measure that contemplates a change in policy before September.
# posted by The Punisher @ Wednesday, July 18, 2007 0 comments
Somebody Please Explain to Me again... What Has The Bush Administration Accomplished?
July 18, 2007 New York Times Six Years Later, the Same Threat
WASHINGTON, July 17 — Nearly six years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives expended in the name of the war on terror pose a single, insistent question: Are we safer?
On Tuesday, in a dark and strikingly candid two pages, the nation’s intelligence agencies offered an implicit answer, and it was not encouraging. In many respects, the National Intelligence Estimate suggests, the threat of terrorist violence against the United States is growing worse, fueled by the Iraq war and spreading Islamic extremism.
The conclusions were not new, echoing the private comments of government officials and independent experts for many months. But the stark declassified summary contrasted sharply with the more positive emphasis of President Bush and his top aides for years: that two-thirds of Al Qaeda’s leadership had been killed or captured; that the Iraq invasion would reduce the terrorist menace; and that the United States had its enemies “on the run,” as Mr. Bush has frequently put it.
After years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq and targeted killings in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, the major threat to the United States has the same name and the same basic look as in 2001: Al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri, plotting attacks from mountain hide-outs near the Afghan-Pakistani border.
The headline on the intelligence estimate, said Daniel L. Byman, a former intelligence officer and the director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, might just as well have been the same as on the now famous presidential brief of Aug. 6, 2001: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”
The new estimate does cite some gains; known plots against the United States have been disrupted, it says, thanks to increased vigilance and countermeasures.
But the new estimate takes note of sources of worry that have arisen only since 2001. The Iraq war has spawned Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as the “most visible and capable affiliate” of the original terrorist group, inspiring jihadists around the world and drawing money and recruits to their cause. The explosion of radical Internet sites has created self-generating cells of would-be terrorists in many Western countries. Lebanese Hezbollah, rarely considered likely to attack in the United States, now “may be more likely to consider” doing just that in response to a perceived threat from American forces to itself or its sponsor, Iran.
And if there had been progress after 9/11 in isolating and immobilizing Al Qaeda’s leaders in the tribal areas of Pakistan, some of it has come apart in the past year, with Pakistani troops abandoning patrols in North Waziristan and allowing greater freedom of movement to Al Qaeda’s core.
All told, despite the absence of any new attack on American soil since 2001, the conclusion that Al Qaeda “will continue to enhance its capabilities” to attack the United States suggests some miscalculation in the administration’s basic formula against terrorism: that attacking the jihadists overseas would protect the homeland.
“I guess we have to fight them over here even though we’re fighting them over there,” said Steven Simon, a terrorism expert who served in the Clinton administration and is the co-author of “The Next Attack.”
Democrats proclaimed the document a “devastating indictment” of Bush administration policies, in the words of Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate. The document’s pessimism was striking; it may reflect a determination of the intelligence agencies, accused of skewing some reports to back the president’s Iraq invasion plans in 2003, to make clear that their findings have not been tailored to suit the White House this time around.
But Max Boot, a security analyst who has generally supported the president, said the estimate “cuts both ways” politically. Even if some administration policies have been ineffective or have backfired, the estimate also concludes that Al Qaeda will probably try to capitalize on the network built up by its affiliate in Iraq, lending some support to the argument that a rapid exit from Iraq might prove dangerous for American security, said Mr. Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “War Made New.”
“It makes clear that the threat from Al Qaeda in Iraq is not just to Iraqis — it’s to the U.S. homeland as well,” he said.
The new assessment in some respects harks back to a National Intelligence Estimate in July 1995, which predicted terrorist attacks in the United States, specifying Wall Street, the White House and the Capitol as potential targets. It described “a worldwide network of training facilities and safe havens.”
An update of that N.I.E. in 1997 was the last such assessment issued before Sept. 11, a gap that the 9/11 commission decried in its review of the attacks. A new estimate earlier in 2001, as the spy agencies’ alarm about a possible attack increased, might have better focused government efforts to detect a plot, the commission argued in its report.
An estimate of the global terrorist threat last September described the emergence of the Iraq war as a “cause célèbre” for jihadists around the world. But that document also highlighted American actions it said had “seriously damaged the leadership of Al Qaeda and disrupted its operations.”
The bleak new assessment relegates almost to an aside those achievements, saying that Al Qaeda’s ability to attack is “constrained” and that the United States is now seen as a “harder target.” And it does not emphasize the absence of successful new strikes against the United States, a development that few security experts would have dared predict in late 2001.
The dreary judgment reflected in the new estimate emerged in part from Britain’s discovery in August 2006 of a major plot to take down trans-Atlantic airliners, said Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University, who has studied terrorism for three decades. Mr. Hoffman said that there were indications that Qaeda leaders may have had a role in the plot, adding, “It became impossible to ignore Al Qaeda’s evolution and resilience.”
But the same plot underscored one of the notable bright spots for the United States: jihadist sentiment has so far turned out to hold little attraction for American Muslims, by contrast with those in Europe generally and the United Kingdom in particular, with its large population of South Asian immigrants.
# posted by The Punisher @ Wednesday, July 18, 2007 0 comments
# posted by The Punisher @ Wednesday, July 18, 2007 0 comments
Monday, July 16, 2007
How much hotter do you suppose it is if you are a wearing a helmet, full body armor, carrying ammunition and walking foot patrols through Baghdad?
***************************************************** ***************************************************** Bob Schieffer's Walter Cronkite Moment
I am still not sure that I believe it: The Iraqi parliament is going on vacation during the month of August.
The White House offers the lame excuse that, after all, Baghdad is hot in August – sometimes 130 degrees.
May I ask a follow-up?
How much hotter do you suppose it is if you are a wearing a helmet, full body armor, carrying ammunition and walking foot patrols through Baghdad?
The last I heard, that is how American troops are spending their August in Iraq.
For me, this does it.
God help the Iraqi people because there is not much America can do to help a government that leaves Americans dying in the streets while the parliament escapes to cooler climes. Does this mean we should pull out immediately?
No. A sudden withdrawal could set the entire region aflame. The truth is there are no good options left. But from here on, we need to put aside the dream of building a democracy in Iraq and focus solely on what is in our national interest.
It won't be pretty, but for all our good intentions, about all we can do now is try to contain this mess, pull our troops back from the middle of this civil war, and concentrate instead on the terrorist threat that this country faces around the world. As for what kind of government Iraq needs, let their parliament figure it out. They can get right on it when the Baghdad weather turns cooler. - Bob Schieffer July 15, 2007
39 year ago Walter Cronkite led the charge. Here are the important excerpts from his history making broadcast:
"We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds." ... "For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate." ... To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion . . . it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could." - Walter Cronkite, February 27, 1968
As always he signed off with "That's the way it is".
And in an acknowledgment of reality Lyndon Johnson said following Cronkite's historic broadcast:
"If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."
Congrats to Bob Schieffer...
"That's the way it is".
# posted by The Punisher @ Monday, July 16, 2007 2 comments
Sunni extremists from Saudi Arabia make up half the foreign fighters in Iraq, many suicide bombers, a U.S. official says.
By Ned Parker Times Staff Writer
July 15, 2007
BAGHDAD — Although Bush administration officials have frequently lashed out at Syria and Iran, accusing it of helping insurgents and militias here, the largest number of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq come from a third neighbor, Saudi Arabia, according to a senior U.S. military officer and Iraqi lawmakers.
About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.
Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency.
He said 50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis.
The situation has left the U.S. military in the awkward position of battling an enemy whose top source of foreign fighters is a key ally that at best has not been able to prevent its citizens from undertaking bloody attacks in Iraq, and at worst shares complicity in sending extremists to commit attacks against U.S. forces, Iraqi civilians and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
The problem casts a spotlight on the tangled web of alliances and enmities that underlie the political relations between Muslim nations and the U.S.
In the 1980s, the Saudi intelligence service sponsored Sunni Muslim fighters for the U.S.-backed Afghan mujahedin battling Soviet troops in Afghanistan. At the time, Saudi intelligence cultivated another man helping the Afghan fighters, Osama bin Laden, the future leader of Al Qaeda who would one day turn against the Saudi royal family and mastermind the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Indeed, Saudi Arabia has long been a source of a good portion of the money and manpower for Al Qaeda: 15 of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks were Saudi.
Now, a group that calls itself Al Qaeda in Iraq is the greatest short-term threat to Iraq's security, U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner said Wednesday.
The group, one of several Sunni Muslim insurgent groups operating in Baghdad and beyond, relies on foreigners to carry out suicide attacks because Iraqis are less likely to undertake such strikes, which the movement hopes will provoke sectarian violence, Bergner said. Despite its name, the extent of the group's links to Bin Laden's network, based along the Afghan-Pakistani frontier, is unclear.
The Saudi government does not dispute that some of its youths are ending up as suicide bombers in Iraq, but says it has done everything it can to stop the bloodshed.
"Saudis are actually being misused. Someone is helping them come to Iraq. Someone is helping them inside Iraq. Someone is recruiting them to be suicide bombers. We have no idea who these people are. We aren't getting any formal information from the Iraqi government," said Gen. Mansour Turki, spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry.
"If we get good feedback from the Iraqi government about Saudis being arrested in Iraq, probably we can help," he said.
Defenders of Saudi Arabia pointed out that it has sought to control its lengthy border with Iraq and has fought a bruising domestic war against Al Qaeda since Sept. 11.
"To suggest they've done nothing to stem the flow of people into Iraq is wrong," said a U.S. intelligence official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "People do get across that border. You can always ask, 'Could more be done?' But what are they supposed to do, post a guard every 15 or 20 paces?"
Others contend that Saudi Arabia is allowing fighters sympathetic to Al Qaeda to go to Iraq so they won't create havoc at home.
Iraqi Shiite lawmaker Sami Askari, an advisor to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, accused Saudi officials of a deliberate policy to sow chaos in Baghdad.
"The fact of the matter is that Saudi Arabia has strong intelligence resources, and it would be hard to think that they are not aware of what is going on," he said.
Askari also alleged that imams at Saudi mosques call for jihad, or holy war, against Iraq's Shiites and that the government had funded groups causing unrest in Iraq's largely Shiite south. Sunni extremists regard Shiites as unbelievers.
Other Iraqi officials said that though they believed Saudi Arabia, a Sunni fundamentalist regime, had no interest in helping Shiite-ruled Iraq, it was not helping militants either. But some Iraqi Shiite leaders say the Saudi royal family sees the Baghdad government as a proxy for its regional rival, Shiite-ruled Iran, and wants to unseat it.
With its own border with Iraq largely closed, Saudi fighters take what is now an established route by bus or plane to Syria, where they meet handlers who help them cross into Iraq's western deserts, the senior U.S. military officer said.
He suggested it was here that Saudi Arabia could do more, by implementing rigorous travel screenings for young Saudi males. Iraqi officials agreed.
"Are the Saudis using all means possible? Of course not…. And we think they need to do more, as does Syria, as does Iran, as does Jordan," the senior officer said. An estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters cross into Iraq each month, according to the U.S. military.
"It needs to be addressed by the government of Iraq head on. They have every right to stand up to a country like Saudi Arabia and say, 'Hey, you are killing thousands of people by allowing your young jihadists to come here and associate themselves with an illegal worldwide network called Al Qaeda."
Both the White House and State Department declined to comment for this article.
Turki, the Saudi spokesman, defended the right of his citizens to travel without restriction.
"If you leave Saudi Arabia and go to other places and find somebody who drags them to Iraq, that is a problem we can't do anything about," Turki said. He added that security officials could stop people from leaving the kingdom only if they had information on them.
U.S. officials had not shared with Iraqi officials information gleaned from Saudi detainees, but this has started to change, said an Iraqi source, who asked not to be identified. For example, U.S. officials provided information about Saudi fighters and suicide bombers to Iraqi security officials who traveled to Saudi Arabia last week.
Iraqi advisor Askari asserted that Vice President Dick Cheney, in a visit to Saudi Arabia in May, pressured officials to crack down on militant traffic to Iraq. But that message has not yet produced results, Askari said.
The close relationship between the U.S. and oil-rich Saudi Arabia has become increasingly difficult.
Saudi leaders in early February undercut U.S. diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute by brokering, in Mecca, an agreement to form a Fatah-Hamas "unity" government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And King Abdullah took Americans by surprise by declaring at an Arab League gathering that the U.S. presence in Iraq was illegitimate.
U.S. officials remain sensitive about the relationship. Asked why U.S. officials in Iraq had not publicly criticized Saudi Arabia the way they had Iran or Syria, the senior military officer said, "Ask the State Department. This is a political juggernaut."
Last week when U.S. military spokesman Bergner declared Al Qaeda in Iraq the country's No. 1 threat, he released a profile of a thwarted suicide bomber, but said he had not received clearance to reveal his nationality. The bomber was a Saudi national, the senior military officer said Saturday.
Would-be suicide bomber
The fighter, a young college graduate whose mother was a teacher and father a professor, had been recruited in a mosque to join Al Qaeda in Iraq. He was given money for a bus ticket and a phone number to call in Syria to contact a handler who would smuggle him into Iraq.
Once the young Saudi made it in, he was under the care of Iraqis who gave him his final training and indoctrination. At the very last minute, the bomber decided he didn't want to blow himself up. He was supposed to have been one of two truck bombers on a bridge outside Ramadi. When the first truck exploded, he panicked and chose not to trigger his own detonator, and Iraqi police arrested him.
Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliate groups number anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 individuals, the senior U.S. military officer said. Iraqis make up the majority of members, facilitating attacks, indoctrinating, fighting, but generally not blowing themselves up. Iraqis account for roughly 10% of suicide bombers, according to the U.S. military.
The Iraq war has been an amazing success, global warming is just a myth – and as for Guantanamo Bay, it's practically a holiday camp... The annual cruise organised by the 'National Review', mouthpiece of right-wing America, is a parallel universe populated by straight-talking, gun-toting, God-fearing Republicans.
By Johann Hari
Published: 13 July 2007
I am standing waist-deep in the Pacific Ocean, both chilling and burning, indulging in the polite chit-chat beloved by vacationing Americans. A sweet elderly lady from Los Angeles is sitting on the rocks nearby, telling me dreamily about her son. "Is he your only child?" I ask. "Yes," she says. "Do you have a child back in England?" she asks. No, I say. Her face darkens. "You'd better start," she says. "The Muslims are breeding. Soon, they'll have the whole of Europe."
I am getting used to these moments – when gentle holiday geniality bleeds into... what? I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old Californian designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, " Of course, we need to execute some of these people," I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. " Then things'll change."
I am travelling on a bright white cruise ship with two restaurants, five bars, a casino – and 500 readers of the National Review. Here, the Iraq war has been "an amazing success". Global warming is not happening. The solitary black person claims, "If the Ku Klux Klan supports equal rights, then God bless them." And I have nowhere to run.
From time to time, National Review – the bible of American conservatism – organises a cruise for its readers. I paid $1,200 to join them. The rules I imposed on myself were simple: If any of the conservative cruisers asked who I was, I answered honestly, telling them I was a journalist. Mostly, I just tried to blend in – and find out what American conservatives say when they think the rest of us aren't listening.
I. From sweet to suicide bomber
I arrive at the dockside in San Diego on Saturday afternoon and stare up at the Oosterdam, our home for the next seven days. Filipino boat hands are loading trunks into the hull and wealthy white folk are gliding onto its polished boards with pale sun parasols dangling off their arms.
The Reviewers have been told to gather for a cocktail reception on the Lido, near the very top of the ship. I arrive to find a tableau from Gone With the Wind, washed in a thousand shades of grey. Southern belles – aged and pinched – are flirting with old conservative warriors. The etiquette here is different from anything I have ever seen. It takes me 15 minutes to realise what is wrong with this scene. There are no big hugs, no warm kisses. This is a place of starchy handshakes. Men approach each other with stiffened spines, puffed-out chests and crunching handshakes. Women are greeted with a single kiss on the cheek. Anything more would be French.
I adjust and stiffly greet the first man I see. He is a judge, with the craggy self-important charm that slowly consumes any judge. He is from Canada, he declares (a little more apologetically), and is the founding president of "Canadians Against Suicide Bombing". Would there be many members of "Canadians for Suicide Bombing?" I ask. Dismayed, he suggests that yes, there would.
A bell rings somewhere, and we are all beckoned to dinner. We have been assigned random seats, which will change each night. We will, the publicity pack promises, each dine with at least one National Review speaker during our trip.
To my left, I find a middle-aged Floridian with a neat beard. To my right are two elderly New Yorkers who look and sound like late-era Dorothy Parkers, minus the alcohol poisoning. They live on Park Avenue, they explain in precise Northern tones. "You must live near the UN building," the Floridian says to one of the New York ladies after the entree is served. Yes, she responds, shaking her head wearily. "They should suicide-bomb that place," he says. They all chuckle gently. How did that happen? How do you go from sweet to suicide-bomb in six seconds?
The conversation ebbs back to friendly chit-chat. So, you're a European, one of the Park Avenue ladies says, before offering witty commentaries on the cities she's visited. Her companion adds, "I went to Paris, and it was so lovely." Her face darkens: "But then you think – it's surrounded by Muslims." The first lady nods: "They're out there, and they're coming." Emboldened, the bearded Floridian wags a finger and says, "Down the line, we're not going to bail out the French again." He mimes picking up a phone and shouts into it, "I can't hear you, Jacques! What's that? The Muslims are doing what to you? I can't hear you!"
Now that this barrier has been broken – everyone agrees the Muslims are devouring the French, and everyone agrees it's funny – the usual suspects are quickly rounded up. Jimmy Carter is "almost a traitor". John McCain is "crazy" because of "all that torture". One of the Park Avenue ladies declares that she gets on her knees every day to " thank God for Fox News". As the wine reaches the Floridian, he announces, "This cruise is the best money I ever spent."
They rush through the Rush-list of liberals who hate America, who want her to fail, and I ask them – why are liberals like this? What's their motivation? They stutter to a halt and there is a long, puzzled silence. " It's a good question," one of them, Martha, says finally. I have asked them to peer into the minds of cartoons and they are suddenly, reluctantly confronted with the hollowness of their creation. "There have always been intellectuals who want to tell people how to live," Martha adds, to an almost visible sense of relief. That's it – the intellectuals! They are not like us. Dave changes the subject, to wash away this moment of cognitive dissonance. "The liberals don't believe in the constitution. They don't believe in what the founders wanted – a strong executive," he announces, to nods. A Filipino waiter offers him a top-up of his wine, and he mock-whispers to me, "They all look the same! Can you tell them apart?" I stare out to sea. How long would it take me to drown?
II. "We're doing an excellent job killing them."
The Vista Lounge is a Vegas-style showroom, with glistening gold edges and the desperate optimism of an ageing Cha-Cha girl. Today, the scenery has been cleared away – "I always sit at the front in these shows to see if the girls are really pretty and on this ship they are ug-lee," I hear a Reviewer mutter – and our performers are the assorted purveyors of conservative show tunes, from Podhoretz to Steyn. The first of the trip's seminars is a discussion intended to exhume the conservative corpse and discover its cause of death on the black, black night of 7 November, 2006, when the treacherous Democrats took control of the US Congress.
There is something strange about this discussion, and it takes me a few moments to realise exactly what it is. All the tropes that conservatives usually deny in public – that Iraq is another Vietnam, that Bush is fighting a class war on behalf of the rich – are embraced on this shining ship in the middle of the ocean. Yes, they concede, we are fighting another Vietnam; and this time we won't let the weak-kneed liberals lose it. "It's customary to say we lost the Vietnam war, but who's 'we'?" the writer Dinesh D'Souza asks angrily. "The left won by demanding America's humiliation." On this ship, there are no Viet Cong, no three million dead. There is only liberal treachery. Yes, D'Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, "of course" Republican politics is "about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers."
The panel nods, but it doesn't want to stray from Iraq. Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan's one-time nominee to the Supreme Court, mumbles from beneath low-hanging jowls: "The coverage of this war is unbelievable. Even Fox News is unbelievable. You'd think we're the only ones dying. Enemy casualties aren't covered. We're doing an excellent job killing them."
Then, with a judder, the panel runs momentarily aground. Rich Lowry, the preppy, handsome 38-year-old editor of National Review, says, "The American public isn't concluding we're losing in Iraq for any irrational reason. They're looking at the cold, hard facts." The Vista Lounge is, as one, perplexed. Lowry continues, "I wish it was true that, because we're a superpower, we can't lose. But it's not."
No one argues with him. They just look away, in the same manner that people avoid glancing at a crazy person yelling at a bus stop. Then they return to hyperbole and accusations of treachery against people like their editor. The ageing historian Bernard Lewis – who was deputed to stiffen Dick Cheney's spine in the run-up to the war – declares, "The election in the US is being seen by [the bin Ladenists] as a victory on a par with the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should be prepared for whatever comes next." This is why the guests paid up to $6,000. This is what they came for. They give him a wheezing, stooping ovation and break for coffee.
A fracture-line in the lumbering certainty of American conservatism is opening right before my eyes. Following the break, Norman Podhoretz and William Buckley – two of the grand old men of the Grand Old Party – begin to feud. Podhoretz will not stop speaking – "I have lots of ex-friends on the left; it looks like I'm going to have some ex-friends on the right, too," he rants –and Buckley says to the chair, " Just take the mike, there's no other way." He says it with a smile, but with heavy eyes.
Podhoretz and Buckley now inhabit opposite poles of post-September 11 American conservatism, and they stare at wholly different Iraqs. Podhoretz is the Brooklyn-born, street-fighting kid who travelled through a long phase of left-liberalism to a pugilistic belief in America's power to redeem the world, one bomb at a time. Today, he is a bristling grey ball of aggression, here to declare that the Iraq war has been "an amazing success." He waves his fist and declaims: "There were WMD, and they were shipped to Syria ... This picture of a country in total chaos with no security is false. It has been a triumph. It couldn't have gone better." He wants more wars, and fast. He is "certain" Bush will bomb Iran, and " thank God" for that.
Buckley is an urbane old reactionary, drunk on doubts. He founded the National Review in 1955 – when conservatism was viewed in polite society as a mental affliction – and he has always been sceptical of appeals to " the people," preferring the eternal top-down certainties of Catholicism. He united with Podhoretz in mutual hatred of Godless Communism, but, slouching into his eighties, he possesses a world view that is ill-suited for the fight to bring democracy to the Muslim world. He was a ghostly presence on the cruise at first, appearing only briefly to shake a few hands. But now he has emerged, and he is fighting.
"Aren't you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?" Buckley snaps at Podhoretz. He has just explained that he supported the war reluctantly, because Dick Cheney convinced him Saddam Hussein had WMD primed to be fired. "No," Podhoretz replies. "As I say, they were shipped to Syria. During Gulf War I, the entire Iraqi air force was hidden in the deserts in Iran." He says he is "heartbroken" by this " rise of defeatism on the right." He adds, apropos of nothing, "There was nobody better than Don Rumsfeld. This defeatist talk only contributes to the impression we are losing, when I think we're winning." The audience cheers Podhoretz. The nuanced doubts of Bill Buckley leave them confused. Doesn't he sound like the liberal media? Later, over dinner, a tablemate from Denver calls Buckley "a coward". His wife nods and says, " Buckley's an old man," tapping her head with her finger to suggest dementia.
I decide to track down Buckley and Podhoretz separately and ask them for interviews. Buckley is sitting forlornly in his cabin, scribbling in a notebook. In 2005, at an event celebrating National Review's 50th birthday, President Bush described today's American conservatives as "Bill's children". I ask him if he feels like a parent whose kids grew up to be serial killers. He smiles slightly, and his blue eyes appear to twinkle. Then he sighs, "The answer is no. Because what animated the conservative core for 40 years was the Soviet menace, plus the rise of dogmatic socialism. That's pretty well gone."
This does not feel like an optimistic defence of his brood, but it's a theme he returns to repeatedly: the great battles of his life are already won. Still, he ruminates over what his old friend Ronald Reagan would have made of Iraq. "I think the prudent Reagan would have figured here, and the prudent Reagan would have shunned a commitment of the kind that we are now engaged in... I think he would have attempted to find some sort of assurance that any exposure by the United States would be exposure to a challenge the dimensions of which we could predict." Lest liberals be too eager to adopt the Gipper as one of their own, Buckley agrees approvingly that Reagan's approach would have been to "find a local strongman" to rule Iraq.
A few floors away, Podhoretz tells me he is losing his voice, "which will make some people very happy". Then he croaks out the standard-issue Wolfowitz line about how, after September 11, the United States had to introduce democracy to the Middle East in order to change the political culture that produced the mass murderers. For somebody who declares democracy to be his goal, he is remarkably blasé about the fact that 80 per cent of Iraqis want US troops to leave their country, according to the latest polls. "I don't much care," he says, batting the question away. He goes on to insist that "nobody was tortured in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo" and that Bush is "a hero". He is, like most people on this cruise, certain the administration will attack Iran.
Podhoretz excitedly talks himself into a beautiful web of words, vindicating his every position. He fumes at Buckley, George Will and the other apostate conservatives who refuse to see sense. He announces victory. And for a moment, here in the Mexican breeze, it is as though a thousand miles away Baghdad is not bleeding. He starts hacking and coughing painfully. I offer to go to the ship infirmary and get him some throat sweets, and – locked in eternal fighter-mode – he looks thrown, as though this is an especially cunning punch. Is this random act of kindness designed to imbalance him? " I'm fine," he says, glancing contemptuously at the Bill Buckley book I am carrying. "I'll keep on shouting through the soreness."
III. The Ghosts of Conservatism Past
The ghosts of Conservatism past are wandering this ship. From the pool, I see John O'Sullivan, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher. And one morning on the deck I discover Kenneth Starr, looking like he has stepped out of a long-forgotten 1990s news bulletin waving Monica's stained blue dress. His face is round and unlined, like an immense, contented baby. As I stare at him, all my repressed bewilderment rises, and I ask – Mr Starr, do you feel ashamed that, as Osama bin Laden plotted to murder American citizens, you brought the American government to a stand-still over a few consensual blow jobs? Do you ever lie awake at night wondering if a few more memos on national security would have reached the President's desk if he wasn't spending half his time dealing with your sexual McCarthyism?
He smiles through his teeth and – in his soft somnambulant voice – says in perfect legalese, "I am entirely at rest with the process. The House of Representatives worked its will, the Senate worked its will, the Chief Justice of the United States presided. The constitutional process worked admirably."
It's an oddly meek defence, and the more I challenge him, the more legalistic he becomes. Every answer is a variant on "it's not my fault" . First, he says Clinton should have settled early on in Jones vs Clinton. Then he blames Jimmy Carter. "This critique really should be addressed to the now-departed, moribund independent counsel provisions. The Ethics and Government [provisions] ushered in during President Carter's administration has an extraordinarily low threshold for launching a special prosecutor..."
Enough – I see another, more intriguing ghost. Ward Connerly is the only black person in the National Review posse, a 67-year-old Louisiana-born businessman, best known for leading conservative campaigns against affirmative action for black people. Earlier, I heard him saying the Republican Party has been "too preoccupied with... not ticking off the blacks", and a cooing white couple wandered away smiling, "If he can say it, we can say it." What must it be like to be a black man shilling for a magazine that declared at the height of the civil rights movement that black people "tend to revert to savagery", and should be given the vote only "when they stop eating each other"?
I drag him into the bar, where he declines alcohol. He tells me plainly about his childhood – his mother died when he was four, and he was raised by his grandparents – but he never really becomes animated until I ask him if it is true he once said, "If the KKK supports equal rights, then God bless them." He leans forward, his palms open. There are, he says, " those who condemn the Klan based on their past without seeing the human side of it, because they don't want to be in the wrong, politically correct camp, you know... Members of the Ku Klux Klan are human beings, American citizens – they go to a place to eat, nobody asks them 'Are you a Klansmember?', before we serve you here. They go to buy groceries, nobody asks, 'Are you a Klansmember?' They go to vote for Governor, nobody asks 'Do you know that that person is a Klansmember?' Only in the context of race do they ask that. And I'm supposed to instantly say, 'Oh my God, they are Klansmen? Geez, I don't want their support.'"
This empathy for Klansmen first bubbled into the public domain this year when Connerly was leading an anti-affirmative action campaign in Michigan. The KKK came out in support of him – and he didn't decline it. I ask if he really thinks it is possible the KKK made this move because they have become converted to the cause of racial equality. "I think that the reasoning that a Klan member goes through is – blacks are getting benefits that I'm not getting. It's reverse discrimination. To me it's all discrimination. But the Klansmen is going through the reasoning that this is benefiting blacks, they are getting things that I don't get... A white man doesn't have a chance in this country."
He becomes incredibly impassioned imagining how they feel, ventriloquising them with a shaking fist – "The Mexicans are getting these benefits, the coloureds or niggers, whatever they are saying, are getting these benefits, and I as a white man am losing my country."
But when I ask him to empathise with the black victims of Hurricane Katrina, he offers none of this vim. No, all Katrina showed was "the dysfunctionality that is evident in many black neighbourhoods," he says flatly, and that has to be "tackled by black people, not the government. " Ward, do you ever worry you are siding with people who would have denied you a vote – or would hang you by a rope from a tree?
"I don't gather strength from what others think – no at all," he says. "Whether they are in favour or opposed. I can walk down these halls and, say, a hundred people say, 'Oh we just adore you', and I'll be polite and I'll say 'thank you', but it doesn't register or have any effect on me." There is a gaggle of Reviewers waiting to tell him how refreshing it is to "finally" hear a black person "speaking like this". I leave him to their white, white garlands.
IV. "You're going to get fascists rising up, aren't you? Why hasn't that happened already?"
The nautical counter-revolution has docked in the perfectly-yellow sands of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, and the Reviewers are clambering overboard into the Latino world they want to wall off behind a thousand-mile fence. They carry notebooks from the scribblings they made during the seminar teaching them "How To Shop in Mexico". Over breakfast, I forgot myself and said I was considering setting out to find a local street kid who would show me round the barrios – the real Mexico. They gaped. "Do you want to die?" one asked.
The Reviewers confine their Mexican jaunt to covered markets and walled-off private fortresses like the private Nikki Beach. Here, as ever, they want Mexico to be a dispenser of cheap consumer goods and lush sands – not a place populated by (uck) Mexicans. Dinesh D'Souza announced as we entered Mexican seas what he calls "D'Souza's law of immigration": " The quality of an immigrant is inversely proportional to the distance travelled to get to the United States."
In other words: Latinos suck.
I return for dinner with my special National Review guest: Kate O'Beirne. She's an impossibly tall blonde with the voice of a 1930s screwball star and the arguments of a 1890s Victorian patriarch. She inveighs against feminism and "women who make the world worse" in quick quips.
As I enter the onboard restaurant she is sitting among adoring Reviewers with her husband Jim, who announces that he is Donald Rumsfeld's personnel director. "People keep asking what I'm doing here, with him being fired and all," he says. "But the cruise has been arranged for a long time."
The familiar routine of the dinners – first the getting-to-know-you chit-chat, then some light conversational fascism – is accelerating. Tonight there is explicit praise for a fascist dictator before the entree has arrived. I drop into the conversation the news that there are moves in Germany to have Donald Rumsfeld extradited to face torture charges.
A red-faced man who looks like an egg with a moustache glued on grumbles, " If the Germans think they can take responsibility for the world, I don't care about German courts. Bomb them." I begin to witter on about the Pinochet precedent, and Kate snaps, "Treating Don Rumsfeld like Pinochet is disgusting." Egg Man pounds his fist on the table: " Treating Pinochet like that is disgusting. Pinochet is a hero. He saved Chile."
"Exactly," adds Jim. "And he privatised social security."
The table nods solemnly and then they march into the conversation – the billion-strong swarm of swarthy Muslims who are poised to take over the world. Jim leans forward and says, "When I see these football supporters from England, I think – these guys aren't going to be told by PC elites to be nice to Muslims. You're going to get fascists rising up, aren't you? Why isn't that happening already?" Before I can answer, he is conquering the Middle East from his table, from behind a crème brûlée.
"The civilised countries should invade all the oil-owning places in the Middle East and run them properly. We won't take the money ourselves, but we'll manage it so the money isn't going to terrorists."
The idea that Europe is being "taken over" by Muslims is the unifying theme of this cruise. Some people go on singles cruises. Some go on ballroom dancing cruises. This is the "The Muslims Are Coming" cruise – drinks included. Because everyone thinks it. Everyone knows it. Everyone dreams it. And the man responsible is sitting only a few tables down: Mark Steyn.
He is wearing sunglasses on top of his head and a bright, bright shirt that fits the image of the disk jockey he once was. Sitting in this sea of grey, it has an odd effect – he looks like a pimp inexplicably hanging out with the apostles of colostomy conservatism.
Steyn's thesis in his new book, America Alone, is simple: The "European races" i.e., white people – "are too self-absorbed to breed," but the Muslims are multiplying quickly. The inevitable result will be " large-scale evacuation operations circa 2015" as Europe is ceded to al Qaeda and "Greater France remorselessly evolve[s] into Greater Bosnia."
He offers a light smearing of dubious demographic figures – he needs to turn 20 million European Muslims into more than 150 million in nine years, which is a lot of humping.
But facts, figures, and doubt are not on the itinerary of this cruise. With one or two exceptions, the passengers discuss "the Muslims" as a homogenous, sharia-seeking block – already with near-total control of Europe. Over the week, I am asked nine times – I counted – when I am fleeing Europe's encroaching Muslim population for the safety of the United States of America.
At one of the seminars, a panelist says anti-Americanism comes from both directions in a grasping pincer movement – "The Muslims condemn us for being decadent; the Europeans condemn us for not being decadent enough." Midge Decter, Norman Podhoretz's wife, yells, "The Muslims are right, the Europeans are wrong!" And, instantly, Jay Nordlinger, National Review's managing editor and the panel's chair, says, " I'm afraid a lot of the Europeans are Muslim, Midge."
The audience cheers. Somebody shouts, "You tell 'em, Jay!" He tells 'em. Decter tells 'em. Steyn tells 'em.
On this cruise, everyone tells 'em – and, thanks to my European passport, tells me.
V. From cruise to cruise missiles?
I am back in the docks of San Diego watching these tireless champions of the overdog filter past and say their starchy, formal goodbyes. As Bernard Lewis disappears onto the horizon, I wonder about the connections between this cruise and the cruise missiles fired half a world away.
I spot the old lady from the sea looking for her suitcase, and stop to tell her I may have found a solution to her political worries about both Muslims and stem-cells.
"Couldn't they just do experiments on Muslim stem-cells?" I ask. " Hey – that's a great idea!" she laughs, and vanishes. Hillary-Ann stops to say she is definitely going on the next National Review cruise, to Alaska. "Perfect!" I yell, finally losing my mind.
"You can drill it as you go!" She puts her arms around me and says very sweetly, "We need you on every cruise."
As I turn my back on the ship for the last time, the Judge I met on my first night places his arm affectionately on my shoulder. "We have written off Britain to the Muslims," he says. "Come to America."