Monday, October 31, 2005

Deadly Irresponsibility - US Had No Staffing Plan to Rebuild Iraq

This degree of incompetency and destructive, even deadly, irresponsibility is hard to imagine...and then again, sadly, it's not of the Bush Administration. From Financial Times, via Common Dreams....
US ‘Had No Policy’ in Place to Rebuild Iraq by Stephanie Kirchgaessner

The US government had “no comprehensive policy or regulatory guidelines” in place for staffing the management of postwar Iraq, according to the top government watchdog overseeing the country’s reconstruction.

The lack of planning had plagued reconstruction since the US-led invasion, and been exacerbated by a “general lack of co-ordination” between US government agencies charged with the rebuilding of Iraq, said Stuart Bowen, the special inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction, in a report released on Sunday.

His 110-page quarterly report, delivered to Congress at the weekend, has underscored how a “reconstruction gap” is emerging that threatens to leave many projects planned by the US on the drawing board.

“Nearly two years ago, the US developed a reconstruction plan that specified a target number of projects that would be executed using the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund.

“That number was revised downward [last year]. Now it appears that the actual number of projects completed will be even lower,” Mr Bowen says in his report.

Increasing security costs were “the most salient” reason behind the shortfall, he concluded.
While 93 per cent of the nearly $30bn (€25bn, £17bn) the US has appropriated for reconstruction has been committed to programmes and projects, more than 25 per cent of the funds have been spent on security costs related to the insurgency.

The largest expected increase in costs to complete planned projects had occurred in the Project and Contracting Office (PCO), which manages projects in the oil, electrical, security and water sectors and has been allocated $4.6bn in reconstruction funds.

While in most sectors PCO data indicated that project costs would not exceed initial estimates, Mr Bowen found that oil sector-related costs had been under-estimated by about $790m.

Conflicting data also showed “possible funding anomalies”, because although the PCO reported that more than 85 per cent of oil projects were on or ahead of schedule, other data showed that the cost of completing the tasks was increasing beyond initial estimates.

The report said a separate agency given the job of assisting the Iraqi government in training and equipping security forces – a job for which it was allocated $835m – had spent 14 per cent more than originally estimated.

The special inspector-general also highlighted a stark increase in non-military deaths in connection to Iraq’s reconstruction. The number of non-Iraqi contractor deaths from all countries rose to 412 for the period of March 2003 to September 2005. That compared to 120 deaths up until September last year.

While the most successful post-conflict reconstruction effort in US history – the reconstruction of Japan and Germany following the second world war – began being planned in the months after the US entered the war, Mr Bowen found that “systematic planning” for the post-hostilities period in Iraq was “insufficient in both scope and implementation”.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Scott Ritter - US Duped Into Iraq War

From Scott Ritter, a complex man who always has something intriguing and revealing to add to the conversation about Iraq. Scott's a former chief U.N. weapons inspector who participated in 52 missions in Iraq, 14 of which he led.

Indicting America by Scott Ritter (from
Common Dreams)

The indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald provides the most cogent and visible evidence to date of the criminal mindset that exists inside the Bush administration regarding the decision to invade Iraq.

The indictment is linked to Libby's involvement in illegally revealing the identity of a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame, in violation of U.S. law, and the resultant conspiracy to deny and cover up the fact that this crime had in fact taken place. But the real crime committed here is the deception leading to war carried out by the Bush administration, in particular the activities of the vice president, Dick Cheney, and his chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby, which is why they felt they needed to go after former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Plame.

The outing of Plame was just the tip of this criminal enterprise. The specific charge - making false statements to a grand jury - is in fact the best indicator of the true nature of the crimes committed by Libby and, by extension, the Bush administration.

Acting at the behest of the vice president, Libby was a key figure behind inserting dubious and unverified intelligence data alleging the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction into the public arena, either by leaking this information to reporters such as The New York Times' Judith Miller, or by having it referenced in high-profile speeches such as the president's 2003 State of the Union Address or Colin Powell's now-infamous presentation to the Security Council in February 2003.

Cheney and Libby were behind the decision to mislead Congress, in particular the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's investigation into the reasons why the U.S. intelligence community had gotten it so wrong about Iraqi WMD capabilities. (Contrary to the much-hyped case made by the Bush administration in justifying the decision to invade Iraq, no WMD were found in Iraq, and the CIA subsequently acknowledged that all Iraqi WMD had been destroyed by the summer of 1991).

To Cheney and Libby, Joseph Wilson had committed the ultimate sin when he publicly challenged President Bush's case for war with Iraq by exposing the fraudulent nature of the administration's very public claims that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium "yellowcake" from Niger.

If true, the "yellowcake" story would have bolstered the president and vice president's assertions that Iraq had resurrected its nuclear weapons program, thus legitimizing the case for war. But the reality is that the "yellowcake" claim, like all of the Cheney- and Libby-peddled intelligence, was specious, in this case derived from forged documents.

Wilson's exposure of this fraud was seen not only as an act of betrayal, but also rightly recognized as a threat to the entire charade that was the Bush administration's fabricated case for war. If left unchallenged, Wilson's claims could have initiated a process that would have unraveled the entire fabric of deception and lies woven by Cheney, Libby and the Bush administration about the non-existent Iraqi WMD threat. As far as Cheney and Libby were concerned, truth was the enemy, and truth-tellers were to be attacked and destroyed.

And now the lies have come home to roost. But the indictment of Libby must not be the final punctuation in this tragic tale of lies and deception. Instead, it should serve as a much-needed boost for Congress, the media and ultimately the American people to carry out a massive re-examination of the totality of the processes that took place in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

The lies of Cheney, Libby and the Bush administration regarding Iraqi WMD did not take place in a vacuum. Congressional checks and balances, especially in the form of relevant oversight committees, were non-existent; the few hearings held served as little more than sham hearings designed to amplify a case for war that was accepted at face value, without question, despite the fact that all involved knew the supporting evidence was either non-existent or paper-thin.

The fourth estate was likewise reduced to little more than a propagandistic extension of the White House and Pentagon, losing any claim to journalistic integrity through its slavish parroting, without question, of anything that painted Saddam Hussein's regime in a negative light, especially when it came to the issue of retained WMD.

At the receiving end of this tangled web of lies and incompetence are the American people. Having been duped into a war that has to date cost the lives of over 2,000 members of the armed forces (not to mention hundreds of our coalition partners and tens of thousands of Iraqis), the question now is how the citizenry of the world's most powerful representative democracy will respond.

Void of a major backlash on the part of the American people in response to the deliberate falsification and deceit that has transpired regarding Iraq and the now-debunked case for war, the Libby indictment may prove to be little more than an exercise in damage control.

Already senior Republican officials, such as Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, are calling the Libby indictment a mere "technicality." Right-wing pundits refer to the indictment as the "criminalization of politics," as if lying one's way into an illegal war of aggression is somehow akin to politics as usual.

If the American people go along with such blatant attempts at obscuring the reality of the criminal conspiracy that has been committed, then it is perhaps time we finally lay to rest this experiment we call American democracy.

At the very minimum, Congress should be compelled into action. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and in particular its two senior senators, Pat Robertson, R-Kan., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va, should not only complete their investigation into how the Bush administration used (or misused) intelligence to formulate Iraq policy, but also re-open its initial report into the so-called "intelligence failure" regarding the flawed WMD assessments, with the intent to indict any and all who conspired to keep relevant information from, or made false statements to, that committee during the conduct of its original investigation.

There must be a wider investigation into the totality of the criminal conspiracy undertaken by the Bush administration to defraud Congress and the American people about the issue of war with Iraq, and in particular the case used to justify the invasion of that country.

The crime that was committed goes far beyond the outing of a rogue diplomat's CIA-affiliated spouse, as serious as that charge may be. The deliberate and systematic manner in which the Bush administration, from the president on down, peddled misleading, distorted and fabricated information to Congress and the American people represents a frontal assault on the very system of government the United States of America proclaims to champion.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

US May Have Dozens of Detention Centers for Torture

When will the American people rise up and actively proclaim "Stop this insanity. American neither stands for nor condones evil, dictatorial brutality" ?

Dozens of Abu Ghraibs by Gustavo Capdevila (from
InterPress Service via Common Dreams)

U.S. human rights groups have denounced before the U.N. Human Rights Committee that there are perhaps dozens of secret detention centres around the world where Washington is holding an unknown number of prisoners as part of its "war on terror". This week in Geneva, the Committee began to examine the United States' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, particularly with regard to its anti-terrorism activities.

There are locations you know about, like Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram in Afghanistan, but there are other locations which you know exist, but you don't know exactly how many or where they are.

On Monday, the members of the Committee, made up of 18 independent experts with recognised competence in the field of human rights, heard presentations from U.S. non-governmental organisations that accuse Washington of grave rights violations.

Priti Patel, an attorney and representative of the New-York based group Human Rights First, reported to the Committee members on the secret detention centres for individuals allegedly linked to terrorism. "There are locations you know about, like Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram in Afghanistan," commented Patel, "but there are other locations which you know exist, but you don't know exactly how many or where they are."

According to Patel, these are transient facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan that are close to conflict zones, but move around, to wherever the United States decides. "There are around 20 of them in Afghanistan, but you don't know how many people are being held there, and you don't know how they are being treated," Patel told IPS.

"And then there is the worst case scenario, which is you don't know even their location," she added. For example, Patel remarked, "we don't know if people have been held in Diego Garcia (a small island in the Indian Ocean, home to a U.S. military base), but we have enough credible reports to make us believe it."

And while the United States refuses to deny or confirm the existence of these secret detention centres, "we know that at least 36 people have been held in secret locations," she stressed.

Monday's meeting with U.S. human rights organisations coincided with the announcement that although the United States had been late in presenting its second and third periodic reports to this specialised U.N. body, the reports were finally received last week.

The latest U.S. government report to the Human Rights Committee has yet to be made public, but civil society activists said that in addition to a general overview of compliance with the International Covenant, it also contains responses to specific questions formulated by the Committee with respect to allegations of abuse in the context of anti-terror activities.

Over recent years, the Committee has called on Washington to submit overdue reports and also to explain the consequences of the provisions adopted by the United States as part of these activities.

The Committee has expressed particular concern over the implications of the Patriot Act, passed in October 2001 as one of the first anti-terrorism measures adopted by the United States after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington that same year, which claimed some 3,000 lives.

Civil society sources said that in a letter that accompanied the presentation of the report, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, Kevin E. Moley, specified that the document also contained references to the United States' application of the Patriot Act.

Moley also noted that as a matter of courtesy, the report was accompanied by a separate description of the individuals currently in the custody of the U.S. armed forces, captured during operations against the Taliban Afghan Islamic extremist movement and the Al Qaida terrorist network, as well as those captured during the invasion, war and occupation of Iraq since March 2003.

This issue was one of the primary concerns expressed to the United States by the Committee, as well as the central theme of the presentations made by U.S. human rights groups to the Committee members.

Monique Beadle of the World Organisation for Human Rights USA told IPS that the activists had expressed their concerns to the Committee about U.S. non-compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but placed particular emphasis on the situation of detainees, especially those who are held in places where torture is practiced.

Beadle referred to the specific case of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a U.S. citizen who was in Saudi Arabia for religious studies when he was arrested by Saudi authorities under the direction of the United States.

He was detained incommunicado without charge for 18 months in a Saudi prison, where "he was subjected to all kinds of evil treatment," said Beadle "There are scars on his back from the torture he was subjected to," she reported.

Beadle's organisation filed a habeus corpus on his behalf in the District of Columbia. "The judge in the case recognised that if we could show that the U.S. was playing a role in the custody and detention of Mr Abu Ali, it could be held accountable."

The judge's decision "was quite embarrassing for the U.S. government," she noted. Without charges ever being laid in Saudi Arabia, Abu Ali was transferred to the United States, where he remains in custody, accused by the U.S. government of association with alleged terrorists.

"What this indicated is that the U.S. had control over his custody at all times, because at the last moment, when it was no longer convenient for him to be held in Saudi Arabia, it was very easy for them to bring him over," Beadle remarked.

Beadle also referred to the practice of transferring prisoners to countries like Egypt or Syria, where they will likely be subjected to torture.

"It is well known by the U.S military that Egypt and Syria are places where detainees are tortured, and in fact they use this knowledge to their advantage in questioning other detainees," she noted.

Beadle described the process by which detainees in Guantánamo are put in sensory deprivation and then on a plane, which flies around for several hours and lands back in Guantánamo, although the detainees are made to believe that they have been taken to Egypt. "The guards tell them in Arabic, welcome to Egypt. If you don't participate in this interrogation, we are going to torture you," she explained.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee will take the denunciations made by these non-governmental organisations into account when it studies the report submitted by the United States, most likely during its session here next July.

The Committee is currently holding its last session of the year, which will wrap up Nov. 3. The first session next year will take place in March at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The report presented by the United States will not be distributed by the U.N. until it has been translated into all of the U.N. working languages, which could take at least three months. Nevertheless, the civil society groups believe that the U.S. State Department will post the report on its website in the coming days.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Someone Bill Moyers-Like for President?

Not sure I agree that extraordinary journalist and writer Bill Moyers should be President, but this article makes some excellent, well-taken points.

Howard Dean, read up and stop obsessing about your Merlot Democrats.
10 Reasons Bill Moyers Should Be President by Scott Beckman, from Common Dreams....

For many years I have reached out and tried unsuccessfully to bridge the differences between Democrats and myself despite the fact that these efforts have never resulted in anything more than dashed political hopes. My simple plea has been for Democrats to earn my vote-and most of America's-by standing on a people-centered platform and selecting a world-class Presidential candidate to champion it.

I simply disagree with my friends who say that superior leadership doesn't make a difference. Therefore, in the face of their constant discouragement, I have continued to reflect on what the leadership I can support would look like and who in the Democratic Party might embody it. At this moment in time, I've concluded that it is found in the person of Mr. Bill Moyers.

1. Mr. Moyers has a genuine, civil, positive, hopeful courage of conviction that we the people can and will serve our own common good if we are properly informed and use the tools of our great democracy wisely. His passion for our country is rooted in a deep understanding, respect for, and unswerving adherence to the bedrock values and principles our Founding Fathers left us for us to preserve.

2. Mr. Moyers has a profound vision about how the United States of America can be unified again by the fullest exercise of self-government by we the people around our basic commitments to simple, commonly accepted all-American values and policies such as equality of opportunity and caring for your neighbor and telling the truth.

3. Mr. Moyers is a fearless advocate. He is unafraid to say that many politicians are simply the shills of selfish, greedy corporate interests; that false prophets are heretics; and that powerful media and lobby groups are peddling corruption.

4. Mr. Moyers espouses and upholds very high standards of professional ethics and personal integrity.

5. Mr. Moyers brings significant hands-on White House experience to bear on his thinking about America's future.

6. Mr. Moyers lifetime of public service as an honest political journalist has earned him national esteem and the respect of millions of people.

7. Mr. Moyers talks openly and comfortably about the role spiritual values play in his progressive outlook without abusing or disrespecting the line that is supposed to separate religious belief and political thought in America.

8. He is an exceptionally smart person. He has a truly impressive command of the facts underlying the fundamental connection that exists between progressive policies and electoral results. Further, he has demonstrated a unique ability to think ahead of the curve and craft and manage creative, state-of-the-art, successful enterprises, including ones that involve media planning.

9. He is a mesmerizing public speaker and a superb debater.

10. Mr. Moyers understandsand expresses the view that the perfection of our union will require new and perhaps unprecedented sacrifices by all of us. He would be a captain who bravely acknowledges the turbulent waters roiling all about and inspires us to do the right things needed to safely sail through them.

The current leadership of the Democratic Party is timid, off-message, and strategically bankrupt. Therefore, I submit this recommendation for a change in leadership to the people for your consideration before your hopes for the Democratic Party are crushed again before they've even had the chance to form.

In a recent speech, Mr. Moyers challenged his audience to become more active in the practice of democracy by telling a joke about an Irishman who in coming upon a fight outside a bar asked, "Is this a private fight or can anyone join in?"

What a wonderful question. Bill Moyers is one of the very few Americans in public life who I can honestly say has earned my complete trust and my allegiance should he choose to accept it. If he were to run for President, I'd join what would become the people's movement to win back our country under the Democratic banner.

Scott Beckman is Development Director for the Northern Pueblos Housing Authority in Santa Fe, NM. )

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Dickensian Tale of Today: The US Poor Freeze in Winter

Imagine the richest country in the history of the world letting its poor freeze, possibly to death, in the cold winds of winter. It sounds like a miserly, horrid tale out of Charles Dickens' time.

Sadly, it's today, and it's the United States. The rich get richer, fatter and cozier, and the poor starve and freeze.
A New York Times editorial today......Washington's Cold Shoulder

The weather is turning cold, and home heating fuel is increasingly unaffordable. The Energy Department recently reported that households should expect to pay 48 percent more this year for natural gas, on average, and nearly a third more for oil and propane - assuming a "normal" winter and no further supply disruptions like Katrina.

In and of themselves, those increases will be too much for an estimated seven million low-income Americans, including old people, disabled people and families with children. On top of gasoline prices that are already high and wages that are stagnating, the rising cost of heating fuel is bound to be devastating.

Yet Congress is balking at approving an additional $3 billion in federal heating subsidies that would help meet the coming need. (Lawmakers allocated $2 billion to the subsidy program last summer, before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita sent prices soaring.)

Earlier this month, and again on Thursday, measures in the Senate to provide the extra funds were defeated, largely by a bloc of Republican lawmakers, though with each vote, a handful of Republicans voted in favor and a few Democrats voted against.

At the same time, Republican majorities in Congress are unrelenting in their drive to pass $70 billion in new tax cuts this fall, most of them for wealthy investors, and $35 billion in spending cuts, most in programs that benefit the poor.

With Congress's priorities so obviously skewed, the best chance for adequate heating subsidies this winter lies with President Bush. Advocates for the poor are hoping that Mr. Bush will ask for the additional money in a future hurricane-related emergency spending request to Congress. But so far, Mr. Bush has not said whether he will ask for more heating aid, and, if so, when or how much.

This sad lack of urgency is seen elsewhere in the administration as well. Asked at a news conference earlier this month whether the administration would support bolstered subsidies for low-income families and the elderly, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman suggested that everyone just wait and see. "I can't respond to that," he said, "other than by saying we're going to do our very best, first, to see what we can accomplish by the reduction in demand for energy."

That's unacceptable. Heating subsidies are not a conservation issue. Vulnerable people need to keep the heat on to keep from getting sick, or worse. Such subsidies help everyone by maintaining public health and safety, ensuring that others don't become ill and spread illness, or resort to hazardous means of heating that can cause fires.

Heating aid for the needy is also a matter of common decency, which ordinary Americans are entirely capable of, though not, so far, their elected leaders.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Illegal Immigration and the Gospels

Lately, I've been reading and listening to many others on the hot-potato topic of illegal immigration....attempting to open my eyes, ears and heart to be able to understand both sides.

I'm a native-born Southern Californian and I make my home just south of downtown Los Angeles, the city with the second largest Mexican population in the world. My family has experienced overcrowding in schools, hospital emergency rooms and local court rooms. We have our English language regarded as foreign (or incomprehensible) in many parts of our area. We hear rumors of a Mexican Mafia and drug deals, violence and shootings. We're innundated with messages of the inconvenience, the economic loss and the broad-brush ethnic stereotypes of immigration.

But I've never understood the other side. And truthfully, I'm unclear on what the Bible says about illegal immigration. So I'm presently reading...listening.....dialoging...and writing what will be a major article at my site.

I tell you all this because I want to share with you something I read today that spoke...actually, me. It's a fragment of an article by Dr. Daniel Groody, Associate Professor of Theology at Notre Dame University and a director at Notre Dame's Center for Latino Studies.
"\According to Judeo-Christian scriptures, immigration is not simply a sociologial fact, but also a theological event. God revealed His covenent to His people as they were in the process of immigrating.

This covenant was a gift and responsibility; it reflected God's goodness to them, but also called them to respond to newcomers in the same way Yahweh responded to them in their slavery: "So you too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt." (Deuteronomy 10:19)....

...we have created a society that values goods and money more than human beings and human rights, which contradicts the biblical narrative. The gospel vision challenges the prevailing consumerist mentality of American culture, which sees life as an endless accumulation of goods, even while the rest of the world suffers.

Jesus, in His life and ministry, went beyond borders of all sorts....clean/unclean, saintly/sinful, rich/poor...including those defined by authorities of His own day. In doing so, he called into being a community of magnanimity and generosity that would reflect God's unlimited love for all people.

He called people "blest" not when they have received the most, but when they have shared the most and needed the least. Christians distinguish themselves not by the quantity of their possessions, but the quality of the heart is measured by the extent to which one loves the least significant among us.

Many immigrants sit at America's door like Lazarus, hoping for scraps to fall from the US table of prosperity. They are seeking not simply charity, but justice. In Matthew, Jesus says, "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; a stranger and you welcomed me naked and you clothed me; ill and you cared for me; in prison and you visited me. "

The corollaries to the immigrant experience are striking. Hungry in their homelands, thirsty in the treacherous deserts they cross, naked after being robbed at gunpoint by bandido gangs, sick in hospitals from heat-related illnesses, imprisoned in immigration detention centers and, finally, if they make it across, estranged in a new land, they bear many of the marks of the crucified Christ in our world today."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bush Says God Told Him to Attack Iraq, Afghanistan

I've read this story several times, and figured it out. Bush is talking about the God of Oil and Gas.....not the Holy Trinity of Christianity.

Makes sense, then.

From the Agence France Presse, via Yahoo News....

US President George W. Bush allegedly said God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, a new BBC documentary will reveal, according to details.

Bush made the claim when he met Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and then foreign minister Nabil Shaath in June 2003, the ministers told the documentary series to be broadcast in Britain later this month.

The US leader also told them he had been ordered by God to create a Palestinian state, the ministers said.

Shaath, now the Palestinian information minister, said: " President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God.

'God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan'.'

"And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq...' And I did.

"'And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God I'm gonna do it'," said Shaath.

Abbas, who was also at the meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, recalled how the president told him: "I have a moral and religious obligation.

"So I will get you a Palestinian state."

A BBC spokesman said the content of the programme had been put to the White House but it had refused to comment on a private conversation.

The three-part series, "Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs", charts the attempts to bring peace to the Middle East, from former US president Bill Clinton's peace talks in 1999-2000 to Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza strip.

The programme speaks to presidents and prime ministers, their generals and ministers, about what happened behind closed doors as the peace talks failed and the intifada grew.
The series is due to be screened in Britain on October 10, 17 and 24.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tit for Tat? Miers Nomination for Bush / Cheney PlameGate Charges?

With Harry Reid lit up like a twinkling Christmas tree as he glowingly introduces Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers....

With George Bush grimacing like he swallowed a bowling ball....a big bowling he steps forward to rotely announce his choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor....

With pompous and cold Dick Cheney suddenly calling Rush Limbaugh's radio show to try to comfort Rush and his viewers that they should "trust me"on this nomination.....

With oh-so-clever and oh-so-connected George Stephanopoulos slyly working into his Sunday morning show...the day before Bush's announcement of his nominee....that Bush and Cheney were part of the illegal outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame....

With the legendary velvet-hammer hardball toughness of Harry Reid, former head of the Nevada Gaming Commission, who singlehandedly cleaned up Mob activity in Las Vegas....

With the fact that the bomsbhell PlameGate leak story...a potentially impeachable crime for both Bush and Cheney...disappeared from public radar after Harriet Miers was nominated to fill the Supreme Court vancancy.....

With the exquisitely perfect sequence of these events, and the fact that it would explain the uncharacteristic reactions of Bush, Cheney and Reid...does make you wonder if they're connected?

It does me.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Karen Hughes Blunders and Embarrasses Abroad

Karen Hughes gives me the creeps. I thought it was just me...but apparently not.
From the Guardian-UK, via Common Dreams....

Bin Laden's Little Helper by Sidney Blumenthal

President Bush has no adviser more loyal and less self-serving than Karen Hughes. As governor of Texas, he trusted the former Dallas television reporter-turned-press secretary with the tending of his image and words. She was mother hen of his persona. In the White House, Hughes devoted heart and soul to Bush as his communications director until, suddenly, she returned home to Texas in 2002, citing her son's homesickness. There were reports that Karl Rove, jealous of power, had been sniping at her.

From her exile, Hughes produced Ten Minutes from Normal, a deeply uninteresting and unrevealing memoir. Long stretches of uninformative banality are broken by unselfconscious expressions of religiosity - accounts of how she inserted Psalms 23 and 27 into Bush's speeches after 9/11, the entire sermon she delivered aboard Air Force One on Palm Sunday. Hughes quotes the then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice: "I think Karen missed her calling. She can preach."

When two undersecretaries of state for public diplomacy resigned this year in frustration, in the face of the precipitous loss of US prestige around the globe, Bush found Hughes a new slot. She may be the most parochial person ever to hold a senior state department appointment, but the president has confidence she can rebrand the US.

This week, Hughes embarked on her first trip as undersecretary. Her initial statement resembled an elementary school presentation: "You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is, of course, the most populous Arab country... Saudi Arabia is our second stop; it's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites ... Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, and yet is proud of the saying that 'All are Turks'."

Hughes appeared as one of the pilgrims satirized by Mark Twain in his 1869 book Innocents Abroad, on his trip on the Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion. "None of us had ever been anywhere before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a wild novelty... We always took care to make it understood that we were Americans - Americans!"

Hughes's simple, sincere and unadorned language reveals the administration's inner mind. Her ideas on terrorism and its solution are straightforward. "Terrorists," she said, "their policies force young people, other people's daughters and sons, to strap on bombs and blow themselves up." That is: somehow, magically, these evil-doers coerce the young to commit suicide. If only they would understand us, the tensions would dissolve.

"Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives," she said. When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why Mr Bush mentions God in his speeches, Hughes asked him whether he was aware that "previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our constitution cites 'one nation under God'."
"Well, never mind," he said.

With these well-meaning arguments, Hughes has provided the exact proofs for Bin Laden's claims about American motives. "It is stunning to the extent Hughes is helping bin Laden," says Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has conducted extensive research into the motives of suicide terrorists and is the author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. "If you set out to help bin Laden," he says, "you could not have done it better than Hughes."

Pape's research debunks the view that suicide terrorism is the natural byproduct of Islamic fundamentalism or some "Islamo-fascist" ideological strain, independent of certain highly specific circumstances.

"Of the key conditions that lead to suicide terrorism in particular, there first must be the presence of foreign combat forces on the territory that the terrorists prize. The second condition is a religious difference between the combat forces and the local community. The religious difference matters in that it enables terrorist leaders to paint foreign forces as being driven by religious goals.

"If you read Osama's speeches, they begin with descriptions of the US occupation of the Arabian peninsula driven by our religious goals and that it is our religious purpose that must be confronted. That argument is incredibly powerful, not only to religious Muslims but also secular Muslims. Everything Hughes says makes their case."

The undersecretary's blundering tour of the Middle East might be the latest incarnation of Innocents Abroad. "The people stared at us everywhere, and we stared at them," Twain wrote. "We bore down on them with America's greatness until we crushed them."

But the stakes are rather different from those on the Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion. "It would be a folly," says Pape, "were it not so dangerous."