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Tony Blair and His Big Lie of Omission

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“A Journey: My Political Life” (Tony Blair)

David Corn of Mother Jones wants to know why Tony Blair’s new memoir leaves out a meeting with George Bush right before the start of the Iraq War boondoggle. Probably because Blair is aware that public discussion of such a meeting might be next conducted in Nuremberg.1

In his new (self-serving, of course) memoir, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair praises George W. Bush as a man of “genuine integrity and as much political courage as any leader I have ever met.” Yet Blair leaves out of the 700-page tome any mention of a meeting he had with Bush in which the US president proposed a plan to trigger the Iraq war through outright deceit.

… Yet Blair devotes a serious chunk to defending his decision to partner up with Bush for the Iraq war. “I can’t regret the decision to go to war,” he writes. “…I can say that never did I guess the nightmare that unfolded.” He adds, “I have often reflected as to whether I was wrong. I ask you to reflect as to whether I may have been right.”

(click to continue reading Tony Blair’s Big Lie of Omission | Mother Jones.)

Achilles Last Stand

And the meeting that Blair skips over wasn’t just about the best kind of tea to accompany crumpets and clotted cream…

But there’s no reference to the meeting Blair held with Bush in the Oval Office on January 31, 2003, less than two months before the war would be launched.

During that conversation, Blair told Bush that he needed a second UN resolution that explicitly authorized military action against Iraq, having promised his Labour Party that he would seek one. Blair explained that the resolution—or, at least, an attempt to obtain the resolution—was necessary political cover for him and, according to a memo written by a Blair aide documenting the meeting, “international cover, especially with the Arabs.” Bush agreed to try to twist arms at the UN, but he informed Blair that he had already selected a tentative start date for the war: March 10. (Ultimately, there would be no such UN resolution.)

But more than politics was discussed. According to the memo, Bush and Blair each said they doubted any weapons of mass destruction would soon be discovered by the UN inspectors then searching for such arms in Iraq. With no WMDs, it could be harder to win support for the war. But Bush had an idea—or two.

The memo notes that Bush raised the notion of provoking a confrontation with Saddam Hussein. “The US was thinking,” the memo said, “of flying US reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach” of UN resolutions. A retaliatory attack would then be fully justified; the war could begin. Bush also discussed producing some “defector who could give a public presentation about Saddam’s WMD.” At this meeting, the two men also agreed that it was unlikely that “internecine warfare” would break out between “different religious and ethnic groups” after an invasion of Iraq.

This memo was a startling revelation. Here was the US president hinting at mounting a giant con game to start a war: creating a phony incident to grease the path to an invasion. The memo—portions of which were published in the New York Times and in Philippe Sands’ Lawless World—does not record Blair objecting to this potential subterfuge. (I have read the entire memo.)

Blair could provide a tremendous service to historians (and the citizens of England and the United States) by offering an accurate, eyewitness account of what transpired in the Oval Office that day. What did Blair think of a US president hinting at such trickery to kick-start a war? Did he take Bush’s notion seriously? Did Bush propose any other unconventional ideas? Yet by engaging in Soviet-style revisionism—don’t recognize an inconvenient historical event—Blair doesn’t have to answer these questions. Nor does he have to defend his apparent silence in response to Bush’s suggestion that they cheat their way to an invasion. Nor does Blair have to reconcile his description of Bush—a man of integrity—with the documented record (created by Blair’s own aide). By ignoring this conversation, Blair demonstrates that this book—despite his passionate claims—is not a good-faith and candid accounting of all the trials and tribulations he underwent as the United States and England headed to war.

And then there is this reaction:

A Facebook group entitled ‘Subversively move Tony Blair’s memoirs to the crime section in book shops’ gained more than 1,000 members inside a day. The group’s creator, Euan Booth, said the idea was non-violent direct action against a man he described as “our generation’s greatest war criminal”. His idea found support on Twitter, with a Viz Top Tips tweet suggesting: “Brighten up your day by moving at least one of Tony Blair’s books to the crime section in your local book shop.”

(click to continue reading Tony Blair’s autobiography becomes crime book after Facebook and Twitter campaign | Metro.co.uk.)

More than 10,000 have joined at this moment. The group’s mission statement:

Description:
Be part of a literary movement. Literally.

Subversively move Tony Blair’s memoirs to the crime section in book shops

Make bookshops think twice about where they categorise our generations greatest war criminal.

Go on….do it. 

NON VIOLENT DIRECT ACTION

Please invite your friends to do it too!

 

Footnotes:
  1. Well, we could hope anyway – war crimes don’t expire, look at the trouble Kissinger has traveling in the civilized world []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 8th, 2010 at 6:38 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Bush Tax Cuts for 120,000 select taxpayers

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Yikes. And yet the Deficit Hawks are still arguing about deficit reduction being so damn important that the unemployed should lose their benefits

Heading East - Polapan Blue

I gather that some people are claiming that my numbers in Monday’s column were wrong. They weren’t.

The Tax Policy Center estimates (pdf) say that the budget cost of making all the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to only the middle class cuts, is $680 billion over the next decade. It also says that 55 percent of the benefit flows to 120,000 taxpayers. That’s $374 billion divided by 120,000; TPC expresses it as a per year gain of $310,000, but it is more than $3 million per member of the top .1% over the course of the decade.

(click to continue reading Yes, $3 Million – Paul Krugman Blog – NYTimes.com.)

Legal Tender

and from the original column published 8-23-2010:

What’s at stake here? According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it: the policy center’s estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he’s going to get the majority of that group’s tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few — the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year — would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.

How can this kind of giveaway be justified at a time when politicians claim to care about budget deficits? Well, history is repeating itself. The original campaign for the Bush tax cuts relied on deception and dishonesty. In fact, my first suspicions that we were being misled into invading Iraq were based on the resemblance between the campaign for war and the campaign for tax cuts the previous year. And sure enough, that same trademark deception and dishonesty is being deployed on behalf of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

So, for example, we’re told that it’s all about helping small business; but only a tiny fraction of small-business owners would receive any tax break at all. And how many small-business owners do you know making several million a year?

Or we’re told that it’s about helping the economy recover. But it’s hard to think of a less cost-effective way to help the economy than giving money to people who already have plenty, and aren’t likely to spend a windfall.

No, this has nothing to do with sound economic policy. Instead, as I said, it’s about a dysfunctional and corrupt political culture, in which Congress won’t take action to revive the economy, pleads poverty when it comes to protecting the jobs of schoolteachers and firefighters, but declares cost no object when it comes to sparing the already wealthy even the slightest financial inconvenience.

So far, the Obama administration is standing firm against this outrage. Let’s hope that it prevails in its fight. Otherwise, it will be hard not to lose all faith in America’s future.

(click to continue reading Paul Krugman- Bush Tax Cuts – Now That’s Rich – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 24th, 2010 at 7:36 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Bush Defense Dept lost most of Iraqi oil revenue

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Oh come on!1 Why aren’t these criminals in jail? Realistically, how do you lose such massive amounts of money?

Continuing to Talk

The Defense Department is unable to properly account for $8.7 billion out of $9.1 billion in Iraqi oil revenue entrusted to it between 2004 and 2007, according to a newly released audit that underscores a pattern of poor record-keeping during the war.

Of that amount, the military failed to provide any records at all for $2.6 billion in purported reconstruction expenditure, says the report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which is responsible for monitoring U.S. spending in Iraq. The rest of the money was not properly deposited in special accounts as required under Treasury Department rules, making it difficult to trace how it was spent.

Though there is no apparent evidence of fraud, the improper accounting practices add to the pattern of mismanagement, reckless spending and, in some instances, corruption uncovered by the agency since 2004, when it was created to oversee the total of $53 billion in U.S. taxpayer money appropriated by Congress for the reconstruction effort.

No apparent evidence of fraud? Simple accounting errors?

First, let’s look at those numbers in the proper context. With lots of zeros. $8,700,000,000. Out of $9,100,000,000. Missing. Gone. Poof.

Now, let’s do the math. $8,700,000,000 divided by $9,100,000,000. That comes to 0.9560. Or 95.6%. Missing. Of the Iraqi oil revenue entrusted to the Defense Department between 2004 and 2007. Which would be during the Bush-Cheney administration. Which would be mostly during the tenure of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.

(click to continue reading Daily Kos: Bush DoD lost $8,700,000,000 in Iraqi oil revenue.)

That is a lot of fracking money to be “unaccounted” for, no?

And just to say it again, because I had the same reaction as Laurence Lewis of Daily Kos: No evidence of fraud? Really? Really?

Footnotes:
  1. in my best Gob Bluth voice []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 27th, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with , ,

Gale Norton Loves Her Some Sex, Meth and Oil

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Gale Norton, former Bush Pioneer,1 has no regrets about the shambles she left behind in her wake, before she joined Royal Dutch Shell.

I like to eat paste

Gale Norton, former President George W. Bush’s first Secretary of the Interior, ran the department during the time when its Minerals Management Service was guilty of some of its worst excesses—including holding cocaine and meth-fueled sex and oil parties. But that didn’t stop Norton from taking to Capitol Hill Tuesday to defend the “hardworking and professional men and women of the Minerals Management Service.”

Norton was one of two Bush-era Interior secretaries who testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday morning, the first time representatives from the previous administration have been put on the hot-seat about the regulatory miscues that may have led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Current Secretary Ken Salazar joined Norton (who served in the role from January 2001 to March 2006) and Dirk Kempthorne (June 2006 to January 2009) before the panel.

In her opening statement, Norton accused critics of the Interior Department of vilifying the Minerals Management Service (now renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement). “There has been a great deal of media attention to the ethics of MMS. It pains me to see the vilification of MMS and its employees. I want to speak in defense of the vast majority of hardworking and professional men and women of the Minerals Management Service,” said Norton in her prepared opening statement.

Now, it was under Norton’s watch that many of the porn, meth, and oil parties took place at the MMS’ Lake Charles, La. office. Oh, and the sex, oil, and cocaine parties at the Lakewood, Colorado office. And Norton, who went to work for Shell Oil shortly after leaving office, has been the subject of a Department of Justice criminal investigation into whether she illegally used her position at DOI to benefit the company that would hire her soon thereafter

(click to continue reading Bush Official on Sex, Meth and Oil: What’s the Big Deal? | Mother Jones.)

Jerkstore

Footnotes:
  1. well, probably, too lazy to look her up []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 21st, 2010 at 2:27 pm

War Criminals without Conscience

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Damn it, these assholes need to serve time for the war criminals they are. Bush, Cheney Rumsfeld and all their minions of doom, ensuring that several generations of Iraqis and Afghanis and Muslims hate the US, and by proxy, all Americans.

Haymarket Riot Memorial

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld covered up that hundreds of innocent men were sent to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp because they feared that releasing them would harm the push for war in Iraq and the broader War on Terror, according to a new document obtained by The Times.

The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”.

… Colonel Wilkerson, a long-time critic of the Bush Administration’s approach to counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq, claimed that the majority of detainees — children as young as 12 and men as old as 93, he said — never saw a US soldier when they were captured. He said that many were turned over by Afghans and Pakistanis for up to $5,000. Little or no evidence was produced as to why they had been taken.

He also claimed that one reason Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld did not want the innocent detainees released was because “the detention efforts would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were”. This was “not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at DoD [Mr Rumsfeld at the Defence Department]”.

Referring to Mr Cheney, Colonel Wilkerson, who served 31 years in the US Army, asserted: “He had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantánamo detainees were innocent … If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”

He alleged that for Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld “innocent people languishing in Guantánamo for years was justified by the broader War on Terror and the small number of terrorists who were responsible for the September 11 attacks”.

[Click to continue reading George W. Bush ‘knew Guantánamo prisoners were innocent’ – Times Online ]

These Bushites have no conscience, no remorse, they should stand trial at The Hague. All they cared about was winning elections, and raping and pillaging the world was just incidental damage to them.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 10th, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Bush team and David Headley

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If you ask me, another sign of Bush Administration incompetence. What the frack was the TSA doing in all these years? If my luggage got searched over a dozen times, and I was set aside for special screening nearly as frequently, how come David Hadley didn’t get the same attention? Either he did, and the TSA was too incompetent to notice he was a person of interest or he didn’t, which defeats the whole purpose of screening passengers at O’Hare. Right?

Do All Photographers Need a Warrant?

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An American charged with helping plan the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, moved effortlessly between the United States, Pakistan and India for nearly seven years, training at a militant camp in Pakistan on five occasions, according to a plea agreement released by the Justice Department last week.
Related

The odyssey of David C. Headley, 49, included scouting targets in several cities in India and meeting with a senior operative of Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas. These and other new details of Mr. Headley’s activities, contained in the plea agreement, raise troubling questions about how an American citizen could travel for so long undetected from his home base in Chicago to well-established terrorist training camps in Pakistan.

[Click to continue reading American Terror Suspect Traveled Unimpeded – NYTimes.com]

Not until Obama’s people took office did authorities even bother to track Headley:

The visit in February 2009 may finally have put Mr. Headley on the radar of the American authorities, who started tracking him in the late spring of last year, Mr. Riedel said. Mr. Kashmiri is considered to be one of Al Qaeda’s most dangerous commanders. The Long War Journal, a Web site that specializes in reports on militancy, says he is a former member of Pakistan’s elite commando Special Services Group, though Pakistani intelligence officials deny that. He was the target of a drone attack last September. After initial reports that he was killed, it appears that he survived, according to Pakistani officials and militants.

I know the ineffectualness of the Bush appointees is a bit of a cliché, but come on. Yellow alerts? Remove your shoes? What was the point exactly? Oh yeah, keeping ‘Murica safe.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 26th, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

A curious whitewashing history of the CIA

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“Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack” (Marc A. Thiessen)

Marc Thiessen, a liar? Really? Would have never guessed that someone as obnoxiously a Bush sycophant and bully as Marc Thiessen would also have trouble with truth1

Jane Mayer reads Thiessen’s “book” so we don’t have to bother

Thiessen’s book, whose subtitle is “How the C.I.A. Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack,” offers a relentless defense of the Bush Administration’s interrogation policies, which, according to many critics, sanctioned torture and yielded no appreciable intelligence benefit. In addition, Thiessen attacks the Obama Administration for having banned techniques such as waterboarding. “Americans could die as a result,” he writes.

Yet Thiessen is better at conveying fear than at relaying the facts. His account of the foiled Heathrow plot, for example, is “completely and utterly wrong,” according to Peter Clarke, who was the head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism branch in 2006. “The deduction that what was being planned was an attack against airliners was entirely based upon intelligence gathered in the U.K.,” Clarke said, adding that Thiessen’s “version of events is simply not recognized by those who were intimately involved in the airlines investigation in 2006.” Nor did Scotland Yard need to be told about the perils of terrorists using liquid explosives. The bombers who attacked London’s public-transportation system in 2005, Clarke pointed out, “used exactly the same materials.”

Thiessen’s claim about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed looks equally shaky. The Bush interrogation program hardly discovered the Philippine airlines plot: in 1995, police in Manila stopped it from proceeding and, later, confiscated a computer filled with incriminating details. By 2003, when Mohammed was detained, hundreds of news reports about the plot had been published. If Mohammed provided the C.I.A. with critical new clues—details unknown to the Philippine police, or anyone else—Thiessen doesn’t supply the evidence.

Peter Bergen, a terrorism expert who is writing a history of the Bush Administration’s “war on terror,” told me that the Heathrow plot “was disrupted by a combination of British intelligence, Pakistani intelligence, and Scotland Yard.” He noted that authorities in London had “literally wired the suspects’ bomb factory for sound and video.” It was “a classic law-enforcement and intelligence success,” Bergen said, and “had nothing to do with waterboarding or with Guantánamo detainees.”

[Click to continue reading A curious history of the C.I.A. : The New Yorker]

Torture doesn’t work, in other words, despite what such Republican propaganda as the Fox television drama 24 would have you believe. Smart people in the intelligence community already know this, only sadists like Dick Cheney and Marc Thiessen cling to their guns and iron maidens.

Entrance optional

Well worth reading the entire book report, you’ll probably learn a thing or two that Mr. Thiessen would rather you not know.

Footnotes:
  1. sarcasm, if you can’t hear my tone of voice over the internet tubes []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 22nd, 2010 at 8:10 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Iraq War Triumphalism Ignores Dead Civilians

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David Corn counters the Iraq-War-was-a-Success-Chest-Thumpers who recently have crawled out of the wreckage of the Bush (mal)Administration to blather on the Sunday talk show circuit. By what metric was this voluntary and unnecessary war a successes?

Memorials

But, of course, the ultimate outcome of the Iraq war — whatever the results of the latest election — remains unknown. And we can continue to debate whether Bush was justified in launching the war, whether he bamboozled the public about the threat Saddam Hussein supposedly posed, and whether Bush’s late surge did help nudge Iraq in a better (or less worse) direction. (It does take chutzpah to hail the Bush administration for the surge, after this crew spent years screwing up in Iraq.) Yet what is galling is the frequent absence from these discussions of a central fact: tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Iraqis are dead because of the war, and millions have been displaced, driven out of their homes and out of their country. …

In the United States, debates about the war often cover the obvious costs: U.S. military casualties (4,380), taxpayer money ($711 billion), and opportunities missed (Afghanistan). What often goes unmentioned is the high cost that was imposed upon the Iraqi people. Have you seen George W. Bush or Dick Cheney ever directly talk about the thousands who died and the millions who had to flee?

There’s no precise number of the Iraqi civilians who lost their lives due to the war. In August 2008, a Congressional Research Service report surveyed the various estimates. It noted that a World Health Organization study covering the first three years of the war had placed the civilian death toll at 151,999. A Brookings Institution study put the number at 113,616 for the first five years. Whatever the figure, it’s a lot — and this doesn’t include Iraqis who were physically or mentally injured and did not die. In per capita terms, the equivalent death figure for the United States would be over a million people. And war-related deaths are far from over in Iraq. Last month, the civilian death toll jumped to 211 people from 135 in January.

[Click to continue reading Iraq War Triumphalism Ignores a Key Matter: Dead Civilians — Politics Daily]

It isn’t too late to hold war crime trials in the Hague, is it?

Written by Seth Anderson

March 15th, 2010 at 11:43 am

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with , , , ,

Bush Interference Seen in Blackwater Inquiry

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Criminals and thugs. That is the description future historians will often use to describe members of the Bush Administration.

An official at the United States Embassy in Iraq has told federal prosecutors that he believes that State Department officials sought to block any serious investigation of the 2007 shooting episode in which Blackwater Worldwide security guards were accused of murdering 17 Iraqi civilians, according to court testimony made public on Tuesday.

David Farrington, a State Department security agent in the American Embassy at the time of the shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, told prosecutors that some of his colleagues were handling evidence in a way they hoped would help the Blackwater guards avoid punishment for a crime that drew headlines and raised tensions between American and Iraqi officials.

[Click to continue reading Interference Seen in Blackwater Inquiry – NYTimes.com]

and if you don’t have the mental stamina to click the link1


“Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army [Revised and Updated]” (Jeremy Scahill)

In a closed-door hearing, they also contended that they had evidence that, in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, there had been a concerted effort to make the case go away, both by Blackwater and by at least some embassy officials.

In fact, prosecutors were told that the embassy had never conducted any significant investigation of any of the numerous shooting episodes in Iraq involving Blackwater before the Nisour Square case, according to the documents.

In his October testimony, Mr. Kohl described how the Justice Department had “serious concerns” about obstruction of justice in the case. He also said prosecutors briefed Kenneth Wainstein, then an assistant attorney general, on evidence of obstruction by Blackwater management.

Mr. Kohl disclosed that prosecutors had discovered that five Blackwater guards who were on the convoy involved in the Nisour Square shootings reported to Blackwater management what they had seen. One guard, he said, described it as “murder in cold blood.” Mr. Kohl said that Blackwater management never reported these statements by the guards to the State Department.

He said that prosecutors informed senior Justice Department officials as early as 2007 that they were investigating whether Blackwater managers “manipulated” the official statements made by the guards to the State Department.

But he testified that prosecutors also had evidence of embassy officials thwarting the inquiry. In addition to the testimony of Mr. Farrington, Mr. Kohl said that United States military officials had told prosecutors that they witnessed State Department investigators “badgering” Iraqi witnesses

and I’d add, scum, to the description of Bushies cited above. Rule of Law, hah. Murderers for hire. Hessians were at least conscripted soldiers, not necessarily believers in the Divine Mission of their masters.

Footnotes:
  1. really, you should []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 2nd, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Michael Chertoff is Not to be Trusted

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Michael Chertoff is Not to be Trusted, part 564

It Pays to Play

WHEN The Times interviewed Michael Chertoff about airport security after the underwear bomber tried to blow up a passenger jet on Christmas Day, he said full-body scanners should be deployed at airports. Chertoff, the former secretary of homeland security, did not volunteer that he is a consultant to a company that makes such equipment, and though they spoke to him twice, reporters never asked if he had a financial stake in the matter.

Chertoff, who championed full-body scanners as head of the Department of Homeland Security, long before he went into private business, said it was no secret that he had become a consultant to corporate clients through the Chertoff Group, a risk-management firm he formed in March. He said that when two Times reporters, Eric Liptonand John Schwartz, called and the subject turned to scanners, it was up to them to ask whether he had ties to that industry. “I always answer when I’m asked,” he said. “But I don’t think it is my obligation to put myself in the head of a reporter” to decide what the reporter needs to know.

Chertoff did tell NPR and CNN interviewers when they asked.

Lipton and Schwartz agreed that they should have asked Chertoff, but both expressed disappointment that he did not volunteer obviously germane information. Bob Steele, a professor at DePauw University and a journalism values scholar at the Poynter Institute, said, “I believe a source does have an affirmative obligation to reveal any competing loyalties, even if the source isn’t sure they create a direct conflict of interest.”

Interestingly, Chertoff wrote an Op-Ed article for The Washington Post, published New Year’s Day, that carried a one-sentence biography divulging that his clients included a scanner manufacturer — a note he said he volunteered. “If I’m affirmatively getting out there,” he said, as opposed to being called by a reporter, “I make it my business to disclose.” That’s a distinction I don’t buy. What difference does it make whether a source seeks a forum or a reporter happens to call? Knowing Washington’s culture of revolving doors and news spin, the Times reporters should have asked the obvious question. But if Chertoff had a connection he thought the public needed to know in one instance, he should have made it clear in the others.

[Click to continue reading The Public Editor – The Sources’ Stake in the News – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com]

How about stop pretending political hacks like Chertoff even have anything relevant to add to the conversation in the first place? Start by assuming they always have a conflict of interest, and that’s why they agreed to be quoted.

The NYT appended the following mushy Editor’s Note below their Chertoff story:

Editors’ Note: January 15, 2010

Articles on Dec. 28, 29 and 30, about the apparent bombing attempt on a flight to Detroit, discussed the use of full-body scanners for airport security. They cited Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of homeland security, as supporting wider use of the scanners. Mr. Chertoff has confirmed in several recent interviews that a manufacturer of the devices is a client of his consulting company. That connection should have been noted in the articles.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 17th, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

Bin Laden was within US reach in 2001

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A Senate report with an agenda? Of course, doesn’t mean the facts are not true. The Afghanistan conflict would be quite different if Bush and Rumsfield weren’t so hell-bent to attack Iraq.

Messages from Above

Osama bin Laden was unquestionably within reach of US troops in the mountains of Tora Bora when military leaders made the costly decision not to pursue him with massive force, a Senate report says.

The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture Bin Laden when he was at his most vulnerable, in December 2001, has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of one man. The al-Qaida leader’s escape laid the foundation for today’s reinvigorated Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan, it says.

Staff of the Senate foreign relations committee’s Democratic majority prepared the report [pdf] at the request of the chairman, John Kerry, as Barack Obama prepares to increase US troop numbers in Afghanistan.

Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, has long argued that the Bush administration missed a chance to attack the al-Qaida leader and his deputies when they were holed up in the mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan three months after the September 11 attacks.

[Click to continue reading Bin Laden was within US reach in 2001, says Senate report | World news | guardian.co.uk ]

Specifically, the Committee On Foreign Relations of the US Senate spends 49 pages documenting how this puzzling decision was a policy blunder with long-term consequences:

More pointedly, it seeks to affix a measure of blame for the state of the war today on military leaders under George Bush, specifically Donald Rumsfeld, as defence secretary, and his senior military commander, Tommy Franks.

“Removing the al-Qaida leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat,” the report says. “But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed Bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide. The failure to finish the job represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international terrorism.”

Mountain Goats Herbert

From pages 12-13 of the report:

On November 21, 2001, President Bush put his arm on Defense Secretary Rumsfeld as they were leaving a National Security Council meeting at the White House. ‘‘I need to see you,’’ the president said. It was 72 days after the 9/11 attacks and just a week after the fall of Kabul. But Bush already had new plans.

According to Bob Woodward’s book, Plan of Attack, the president said to Rumsfeld: ‘‘What kind of a war plan do you have for Iraq? How do you feel about the war plan for Iraq?’’ Then the president told Woodward he recalled saying: ‘‘Let’s get started on this. And get Tommy Franks looking at what it would take to protect America by removing Saddam Hussein if we have to.’’ Back at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld convened a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draft a message for Franks asking for a new assessment of a war with Iraq. The existing operations plan had been created in 1998 and it hinged on assembling the kind of massive international coalition used in Desert Storm in 1991.

In his memoir, American General, Franks later described getting the November 21 telephone call from Rumsfeld relaying the president’s orders while he was sitting in his office at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Franks and one of his aides were working on air support for the Afghan units being assembled to push into the mountains surrounding Tora Bora. Rumsfeld said the president wanted options for war with Iraq. Franks said the existing plan was out of date and that a new one should include lessons about precision weapons and the use of special operations forces learned in Afghanistan.

‘‘Okay, Tom,’’ Rumsfeld said, according to Franks. ‘‘Please dust it off and get back to me next week.’’

Franks described his reaction to Rumsfeld’s orders this way: ‘‘Son of a bitch. No rest for the weary.’’

For critics of the Bush administration’s commitment to Afghanistan, the shift in focus just as Franks and his senior aides were literally working on plans for the attacks on Tora Bora represents a dramatic turning point that allowed a sustained victory in Afghanistan to slip through our fingers. Almost immediately, intelligence and military planning resources were transferred to begin planning on the next war in Iraq. Though Fury, Berntsen and others in the field did not know what was happening back at CentCom, the drain in resources and shift in attention would affect them and the future course of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.

Written by Seth Anderson

November 29th, 2009 at 6:34 am

Posted in politics

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Reading Around on November 3rd through November 4th

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A few interesting links collected November 3rd through November 4th:

  • Fluidr / photos and videos sorted randomly – A random assortment of my photos (via Chicago Sage)
  • The Paranoid Style in American Politics – Harper’s Magazine, November 1964, pp. 77-86.It had been around a long time before the Radical Right discovered it—and its targets have ranged from “the international bankers” to Masons, Jesuits, and munitions makers.
  • Authoritarians, pt 2: the Problem Broadly Outlined | Cogitations – How is it that Bush and Cheney could take us to war in Iraq with constantly shifting rationales, unleash the NSA to spy on the country at large, and with the aid of foot soldiers like John Yoo cobble together shoddy legal findings as flimsy justification for torture and other abuses of executive power?

Written by swanksalot

November 4th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

George Bush is Insane

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Any politician who is this fanatical should not be allowed to be near nuclear weapons, for all of our sakes.

Getchyer Kitschhere

James A. Haught reports:

Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.

Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a major European ally, asked for French troops to join American soldiers in attacking Iraq as a mission from God.

Now out of office, Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

This bizarre episode occurred while the White House was assembling its “coalition of the willing” to unleash the Iraq invasion. Chirac says he was boggled by Bush’s call and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.”

After the 2003 call, the puzzled French leader didn’t comply with Bush’s request. Instead, his staff asked Thomas Romer, a theologian at the University of Lausanne, to analyze the weird appeal. Dr. Romer explained that the Old Testament book of Ezekiel contains two chapters (38 and 39) in which God rages against Gog and Magog, sinister and mysterious forces menacing Israel. Jehovah vows to smite them savagely, to “turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws,” and slaughter them ruthlessly. In the New Testament, the mystical book of Revelation envisions Gog and Magog gathering nations for battle, “and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”

In 2007, Dr. Romer recounted Bush’s strange behavior in Lausanne University’s review, Allez Savoir. A French-language Swiss newspaper, Le Matin Dimanche, printed a sarcastic account titled: “When President George W. Bush Saw the Prophesies of the Bible Coming to Pass.” France’s La Liberte likewise spoofed it under the headline “A Small Scoop on Bush, Chirac, God, Gog and Magog.” But other news media missed the amazing report.

Subsequently, ex-President Chirac confirmed the nutty event in a long interview with French journalist Jean-Claude Maurice, who tells the tale in his new book, Si Vous le Répétez, Je Démentirai (If You Repeat it, I Will Deny), released in March by the publisher Plon.

[Click to continue reading Council for Secular Humanism : A French Revelation, or The Burning Bush]

Scary stuff.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 6th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Posted in politics

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Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

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“Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army [Revised and Updated]” (Jeremy Scahill)

Whoa, explosive allegations about Bush’s favorite crusader/military and drug-war contractor, Erik Prince.

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into the country on Prince’s private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.

These allegations, and a series of other charges, are contained in sworn affidavits, given under penalty of perjury, filed late at night on August 3 in the Eastern District of Virginia as part of a seventy-page motion by lawyers for Iraqi civilians suing Blackwater for alleged war crimes and other misconduct.

[Click to continue reading Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder]

Walk On By

Dennis Kucinich weighed in:

Briefed on the substance of these allegations by The Nation, Congressman Dennis Kucinich replied, “If these allegations are true, Blackwater has been a criminal enterprise defrauding taxpayers and murdering innocent civilians.” Kucinich is on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and has been investigating Prince and Blackwater since 2004.

“Blackwater is a law unto itself, both internationally and domestically. The question is why they operated with impunity. In addition to Blackwater, we should be questioning their patrons in the previous administration who funded and employed this organization. Blackwater wouldn’t exist without federal patronage; these allegations should be thoroughly investigated,” Kucinich said.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 4th, 2009 at 2:53 pm

John Yoo Says It Is Ok

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If I ever had plans to do anything illegal, like break a law that has been on the books since at least 18781, I’ll just get John Yoo to write a memo saying it is ok. Law, hunh, what is good for, absolutely nothing. I’ll say it again.2

Torture, Posse Comitatus, does anything else have your bloody fingerprints on it, Mr. Yoo?

The Fourth Amendment bans “unreasonable” searches and seizures without probable cause. And the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 generally prohibits the military from acting in a law enforcement capacity.

In the discussions, Mr. Cheney and others cited an Oct. 23, 2001, memorandum from the Justice Department that, using a broad interpretation of presidential authority, argued that the domestic use of the military against Al Qaeda would be legal because it served a national security, rather than a law enforcement, purpose.

“The president has ample constitutional and statutory authority to deploy the military against international or foreign terrorists operating within the United States,” the memorandum said.

The memorandum — written by the lawyers John C. Yoo and Robert J. Delahunty — was directed to Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, who had asked the department about a president’s authority to use the military to combat terrorist activities in the United States.

[Click to continue reading Bush Weighed Using Military in Arrests – NYTimes.com]

and then cite the memo right before doing the illegal act:

Those who advocated using the military to arrest the Lackawanna group had legal ammunition: the memorandum by Mr. Yoo and Mr. Delahunty.

The lawyers, in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, wrote that the Constitution, the courts and Congress had recognized a president’s authority “to take military actions, domestic as well as foreign, if he determines such actions to be necessary to respond to the terrorist attacks upon the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and before.”

The document added that the neither the Posse Comitatus Act nor the Fourth Amendment tied a president’s hands.

I certainly do not understand why Berkley employs this Yoo character, he is such a stain on the legal profession.

The Wikipedia entry for Posse Comitatus Act:

The Posse Comitatus Act is a United States federal law (18 U.S.C. § 1385) passed on June 18, 1878, after the end of Reconstruction, with the intention (in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807) of substantially limiting the powers of the federal government to use the military for law enforcement. The Act prohibits most members of the federal uniformed services (today the Army, Air Force, and State National Guard forces when such are called into federal service) from exercising nominally state law enforcement, police, or peace officer powers that maintain “law and order” on non-federal property (states and their counties and municipal divisions) within the United States.
The statute generally prohibits federal military personnel and units of the National Guard under federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. The Coast Guard is exempt from the Act during peacetime.

[Click to continue reading Posse Comitatus Act – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Seems clear enough. Except for John Yoo.

John Yoo and the so-called Torture memos, if you had forgotten the details:

You have to give John Yoo credit for chutzpah. The disgraced author of the so-called torture memo was back in the news last week, when the Obama administration released seven more secret opinions, all but one written in whole or in part by Yoo and fellow Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) lawyer Jay Bybee, arguing that the Bush administration had the right to override the Constitution as long as it claimed to be fighting a “war on terror.” Professor Yoo, who I am embarrassed to say holds a tenured position at the law school of my alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, was already known as the official who provided a legal fig leaf behind which the Bush administration tortured inmates at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. His legal misdeeds are widely known, but now they have been exposed chapter and verse. Among the new memos is one written in 2001 [8.3 Meg PDF], in which Yoo and co-author Robert J. Delahunty advised the U.S. that the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the Army to be used for law enforcement, and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, do not apply to domestic military operations undertaken during a “war on terror.”

In other words, bye-bye, Bill of Rights. This is a prescription for a police state, where not just the police but the Army can kick your door down without a warrant or probable cause, as long as the president says he’s fighting “terror.” If Barack Obama had solicited such an opinion from an obliging Justice Department lawyer because he wanted to sic the U.S. Army on a group of domestic terrorists, the right would be screaming about jackbooted federal thugs descending from black helicopters to haul off American citizens. Strangely, no conservatives have taken to the streets to warn us of the Big Government danger posed by this radical doctrine.

[Click to continue reading John Yoo Torture Memo | Salon ]

Footnotes:
  1. and arguably one of the reasons the United States broke away from Britain way back in 1776 []
  2. sung in one’s best Edwin Starr voice []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 25th, 2009 at 8:21 am