The End of Arrogance…NOT.
The welcome end of a Pissant and an international joke, more likely. The opening paragraphs from an article in Der Spiegel:
There are days when all it takes is a single speech to illustrate the decline of a world power. A face can speak volumes, as can the speaker’s tone of voice, the speech itself or the audience’s reaction. Kings and queens have clung to the past before and humiliated themselves in public, but this time it was merely a United States president.
Or what is left of him.
George W. Bush has grown old, erratic and rosy in the eight years of his presidency. Little remains of his combativeness or his enthusiasm for physical fitness. On this sunny Tuesday morning in New York, even his hair seemed messy and unkempt, his blue suit a little baggy around the shoulders, as Bush stepped onto the stage, for the eighth time, at the United Nations General Assembly.
He talked about terrorism and terrorist regimes, and about governments that allegedly support terror. He failed to notice that the delegates sitting in front of and below him were shaking their heads, smiling and whispering, or if he did notice, he was no longer capable of reacting. The US president gave a speech similar to the ones he gave in 2004 and 2007, mentioning the word “terror” 32 times in 22 minutes. At the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations, George W. Bush was the only one still talking about terror and not about the topic that currently has the rest of the world’s attention.
“Absurd, absurd, absurd,” said one German diplomat. A French woman called him “yesterday’s man” over coffee on the East River. There is another way to put it, too: Bush was a laughing stock in the gray corridors of the UN.
The American president has always had enemies in these hallways and offices at the UN building on First Avenue in Manhattan. The Iranians and Syrians despise the eternal American-Israeli coalition, while many others are tired of Bush’s Americans telling the world about the blessings of deregulated markets and establishing rules “that only apply to others,” says the diplomat from Berlin.
But the ridicule was a new thing. It marked the end of respect.
Right, like the Little Pissant ever earned or deserved anything but contempt, derision, and ridicule from the get-go. Good freakin’ riddance.
The Real Sarah Palin
JUNEAU, Alaska, By Nick Jans — I sat on the bank of the Kobuk River in northwest arctic Alaska on a mid-September morning. Upstream somewhere, wolves were howling — their chorus filling the silence, close enough that I could hear the aspiration at the end of each wavering call. Behind me, the slate-gray heave of the Brooks Range spilled off toward the north, the shapes of some peaks so familiar I’ve seen them in my sleep. The nearest highway lay 250 miles away. This is the Alaska where I spent half my life, and the only place that’s ever felt like home — the land of Eskimo villages, waves of migrating caribou and seemingly limitless space.
Though I was beyond the reach of the Internet and cellphones, and life was filled with rutting bull moose, incandescent autumn light and fresh grizzly tracks, I knew that thousands of miles to the south, the rest of the country was getting a crash course on our governor, Sarah Palin — someone who believes that climate change isn’t our fault; is dead set against a woman’s right to choose; has supported creationism in the schools; and was prayed over by a visiting minister at her church to shield her against witchcraft.
How was I to explain to all my lower 48 friends and writing colleagues how such a person could have been elected to lead our state — let alone been chosen to possibly become vice-president? Truth be told, I was as startled as anyone when I heard the news. At first I thought the McCain campaign’s announcement was some sort of bad joke.
In the broadest sense, Palin is a poseur. Alaska is too large and culturally diverse (it’s only a bit smaller than the entire lower 48 east of the Mississippi, and once was divided into four time zones) to be summed up by some abstract, romanticized notion. And even if it could be, it sure wouldn’t be symbolized by Palin. “The typical Alaskan? She couldn’t be farther from it,” says Alaska House Minority Leader Beth Kertulla.
Still, Palin is a genuine Alaskan — of a kind. The kind that flowed north in the wake of the ’70s oil boom, Bible Belt politics and attitudes under arm, and transformed this state from a free-thinking, independent bastion of genuine libertarianism and individuality into a reactionary fundamentalist enclave with dollar signs in its eyes and an all-for-me mentality.
Palin’s Alaska is embodied in Wasilla, a blue-collar, sharp-elbowed town of burgeoning big box stores, suburban subdivisions, evangelical pocket churches and car dealerships morphing across the landscape, outward from Anchorage, the state’s urban epicenter. She has lived in Wasilla practically all her life, and even now resides there, the first Alaska executive to eschew the white-pillared mansion in Juneau, down on the Southeast Panhandle.
Folks in the Mat-Su Valley, as the area is known, overwhelmingly support their favorite daughter’s policies — including a state-sanctioned program where private pilots chase down and kill wolves from small aircraft, and another that favors oil drilling offshore in the arctic sea ice and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. These same voters forage at McDonald’s and Safeway in their hunter camouflage, and make regular wilderness forays up and down the state’s limited highway grid with ATVs, snowmobiles and airboats in tow behind their oversize trucks. Sometimes I imagine I can hear the roar echoing across the state, all the way to the upper Kobuk, where easements for the highways of tomorrow are already staked out across the tundra.
Like many Alaskans, I resent Palin’s claims that she speaks for all of us, and cringe when she tosses off her stump speech line, “Well, up in Alaska, we….” Not only did I not vote for her, she represents the antithesis of the Alaska I love. As mayor, she helped shape Wasilla into the chaotic, poorly planned strip mall that it is; as governor, she’s promoted that same headlong drive toward development and despoilment on a grand scale, while paying lip service to her love of the place.
As for that frontierswoman shtick, take another look at that hairpiece-augmented beehive and those stiletto heels. Coming from a college-educated family, living in a half-million-dollar view home, basking in a net worth of $1.25 million, and having owned 40-some registered motorized vehicles in the past two decades (including 17 snowmobiles and a plane) hardly qualifies Palin and her clan as the quintessential Joe Six-Pack family unit — though the adulation from that quarter shows the Palins must be fulfilling some sort of role-model fantasy.
Palin can claim to know Alaska; the fact is, she’s seen only a minuscule fraction of it — and that doesn’t include Little Diomede Island, the one place in Alaska where you actually can see Russia. So she can ride an ATV and shoot guns. Set her down in the bush on her own and I bet we’d discover she’s about as adept at butchering a moose and building a fire at 40 below zero as she is at discussing Supreme Court decisions. And that mountain-woman act is only the tip of a hollow iceberg.
Palin, and by extension, the McCain campaign, has hijacked our state for political purposes, much to the chagrin of the tens of thousands of Alaskans who loathe what she stands for. Her much-touted popularity among residents has eroded over the past six weeks to somewhere in the mid-60s — not exactly what you’d expect in support of a home girl making a White House run.
There are no doubt a variety of reasons for this decline, but many Alaskans are embarrassed — not just by her, but for our state and for ourselves. What’s with the smug posturing, recently adopted fake Minnesota accent, and that gosh-darn-it hockey mom pitch? Maybe it plays well in Peoria (and presumably Duluth), but it’s all an act. “She’s definitely put on a new persona since she’s been a vice-presidential candidate,” says Kertulla, who has worked closely with Palin for the past 18 months. “I don’t even recognize her.”
Affectations aside, there’s plenty about Palin we Alaskans do recognize, and all too well. She’s already proven to us that her promises of transparent government, attendant to the will of the people, are bear pucky. We know about her private e-mail accounts and her systematic obstruction of the Alaska Legislature’s investigation of the so-called Troopergate scandal. But let’s turn to her environmental record, where a similar pattern of obfuscation continues.
First, Palin pushed hard, along with sport hunting and guiding interests, to help defeat a ballot initiative that would have stopped the state’s current aerial wolf control program, which had been criticized by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council for flawed science. Now her administration has pointedly refused to respond to repeated public information requests (I’m one of the petitioners, and a potential litigant), regarding the apparently illegal killing of 14 wolf pups at their dens on the Alaska Peninsula this spring by state personnel, including two high-level Department of Fish and Game administrators. A biologist at the scene admitted to an independent wolf scientist that the 6-week-old pups were held down and shot in the head, one by one. This inhumane practice, known as “denning,” has been illegal for 40 years. But a simple request for information on the details of this operation, including to what extent the governor was involved in the decision, has resulted in a typical Palinesque roadblock and a string of untruths.
Our I-love-Alaska governor was also instrumental in defeating a ballot initiative to stop development of a gargantuan open-pit mine incongruously known as Pebble near the headwaters of the most productive salmon watershed in the state, Bristol Bay. The current mine design calls for building the world’s largest earthen dam to hold back an enormous lake of toxic waste — this in a known earthquake zone. Crazy stuff, yet Palin openly opposed the initiative, in lock step with international mining corporations that invested millions of dollars in a misinformation campaign.
But Palin’s certified anti-environmental whopper is her lawsuit against the Bush administration (of all outfits) for listing polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. She claimed Alaska’s own experts had completed a review of the federal data and concluded that the listing was uncalled for. The truth was, state biologists had come to the opposite conclusion. But that report was never released, and her researchers had a gag clamped on them. Palin simply didn’t want anything to get in the way of offshore oil drilling in moving pack ice — where there is no way to contain, let alone clean up, catastrophic spills.
Whenever science or rules get in Palin’s way, she blows them off. Says homesteader Mark Richards, co-founder of the Alaska Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (a moderate conservation group), “Palin, like Governor Murkowski before her, is part and parcel of the good-ol-boy network that says, ‘Alaska is open for business.’”
Want to talk to Sarah? As governor, she has been accessible only on her carefully chosen terms, a trend we’re now witnessing on the national stage. And how about those Katie Couric moments when she drifts just a skosh off a well-rehearsed script? Are those a recent phenomenon, brought on by all this new information, pressure and the liberal-gotcha media? Nah. She’s been spouting “political gibberish” (to quote gubernatorial opponent Andrew Halcro) since she arrived on the Alaska scene. Yet somehow she continues to get away with it.
In the end, Palin’s attempt to cash in on the Eau d’Alaska mystique as she supports its destruction sickens those of us who do love this land, not for what it will be some day, after the roads and mines and pipelines and cities and malls are all in, but for what it is now. What we see before us is the soul of an ambitious, ruthless, Parks Highway hillbilly — a woman who represents the Alaska you probably never want to meet, and the one we wish never existed. That said, we’re all too willing to take her back. The alternative is just too damn frightening.
The failure of Bush policy
Excerpts from Andrew Bacevich at TomDispatch.com, via Salon [corrections of The Pissant’s title my own, not Bacevich’s]:
The events of the past seven years have yielded a definitive judgment on the strategy that the Bush administration conceived in the wake of 9/11 to wage its so-called global war on terror. That strategy has failed, massively and irrevocably. To acknowledge that failure is to confront an urgent national priority: to scrap the Bush approach in favor of a new national security strategy that is realistic and sustainable—a task that, alas, neither of the presidential candidates seems able to recognize or willing to take up.
On Sept. 30, 2001, Pissant Bush received from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld a memorandum outlining U.S. objectives in the war on terror. Drafted by Rumsfeld’s chief strategist, Douglas Feith, the memo declared expansively: “If the war does not significantly change the world’s political map, the U.S. will not achieve its aim.” That aim, as Feith explained in a subsequent missive to his boss, was to “transform the Middle East and the broader world of Islam generally.”
When it came to implementation, the imperative of the moment was to think big. Just days after 9/11, Rumsfeld was charging his subordinates to devise a plan of action that had “three, four, five moves behind it.” By December 2001, the Pentagon had persuaded itself that the first move—into Afghanistan—had met success. The Bush administration wasted little time in pocketing its ostensible victory. Attention quickly shifted to the second move, seen by insiders as holding the key to ultimate success: Iraq.
Fix Iraq and moves three, four and five promised to come easily. Writing in the Weekly Standard, William Kristol and Robert Kagan got it exactly right: “The Pissant’s vision will, in the coming months, either be launched successfully in Iraq, or it will die in Iraq.”
The point cannot be emphasized too strongly: Saddam Hussein’s (nonexistent) weapons of mass destruction and his (imaginary) ties to al-Qaida never constituted the real reason for invading Iraq—any more than the imperative of defending Russian “peacekeepers” in South Ossetia explains the Kremlin’s decision to invade Georgia.
Iraq merely offered a convenient place from which to launch a much larger and infinitely more ambitious project. [...]
In either case—whether the strategy of transformation aimed at dominion or democratization—today, seven years after it was conceived, we can assess exactly what it has produced. The answer is clear: next to nothing, apart from squandering vast resources and exacerbating the slide toward debt and dependency that poses a greater strategic threat to the United States than Osama bin Laden ever did.
In point of fact, hardly had the Pentagon commenced its second move, its invasion of Iraq, when the entire strategy began to unravel. In Iraq, Pissant’s vision of regional transformation did die, much as Kagan and Kristol had feared. [...]
John McCain says that he’ll keep U.S. combat troops in Iraq for as long as it takes…
The United States will not change the world’s political map in the ways top administration officials once dreamed of. There will be no earthquake that shakes up the Middle East—unless the growing clout of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas in recent years qualifies as that earthquake. Given the Pentagon’s existing commitments, there will be no threats of “you’re next,” either—at least none that will worry our adversaries, as the Russians have neatly demonstrated. Nor will there be a wave of democratic reform—even Rice has ceased her prattling on that score. Islam will remain stubbornly resistant to change, except on terms of its own choosing. We will not change the way “they” live.
In a book that he coauthored during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, Kristol confidently declared, “The mission begins in Baghdad, but it does not end there.” In fact, the Bush administration’s strategy of transformation has ended. It has failed miserably. The sooner we face up to that failure, the sooner we can get about repairing the damage.
McLiar campaign shows Palin is wholly unprepared and untrustworthy
E.J. Dionne writes:
John McCain’s campaign acknowledged this weekend that Sarah Palin is unprepared to be vice president or president of the United States.
Of course, McCain’s people said no such thing. But their actions told you all you needed to know.
McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden all subjected themselves to tough questioning on the regular Sunday news programs. Palin was the only no-show. And it’s not just the Sunday interviews. She has not opened herself to any serious questioning since McCain picked her to be next in line for the presidency.
McCain’s advisers clearly don’t trust Palin to answer questions about policy and don’t want her to answer many of the questions that have been raised about her tenure as governor of Alaska.
Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, gave the game away when he said on “Fox News Sunday” that she would not meet with reporters until they showed a willingness to treat her “with some level of respect and deference.”
Deference? That’s a word used in monarchies or aristocracies. Democracies don’t give “deference” to politicians. When have McCain, Obama, Biden or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton asked for deference?
A few hours later came the announcement that Palin would grant an interview to ABC News’s Charlie Gibson. Recall that Gibson was the co-host of an ABC News debate last April during which Obama faced a relentless pounding. Here’s hoping that a sense of fairness will lead Gibson to be comparably tough on Palin this week. If he treats her more deferentially than he did Obama, we will know that McCain’s war on the media is working.
From the moment Palin was picked, reporters immediately began to ask questions, a lot of them. Because she was so little known outside Alaska, her views on many issues, particularly foreign policy, are a mystery. Voters also need to know how McCain went about reaching what will probably be the most important decision he makes during this campaign.
A week ago, Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times cited McCain sources questioning “how thoroughly Mr. McCain had examined her background before putting her on the Republican presidential ticket.” She reported that Palin had been selected “with more haste than McCain advisers initially described.” (She also mistakenly reported that Palin belonged to the Alaskan Independence Party. It was her husband, Todd, who had been a member.)
McCain’s people trashed Bumiller, saying she had opted to “make up her own version of events.” Steve Schmidt, McCain’s chief strategist, said the Times had written “an absolute work of fiction” about the vetting process while Karl Rove told his Fox News viewers that the Times “got it wrong.”
It turned out that the McCain side misled journalists. Bumiller was right about the vetting. The lesson is that McCain’s counselors are not interested in fair treatment, and they are certainly not interested in the truth.
If the media cave to McCain’s pressure, it will be the third time this decade that conservative attacks led reporters to tilt to the right.
During the 2000 battle over Florida, Al Gore’s perfectly defensible efforts to win a hand recount ran into a buzz saw of criticism from nonpartisan commentators, many of whom urged Gore to withdraw “gracefully.” In the buildup to the Iraq war, the Bush administration and its supporters savaged the patriotism of many who raised questions about its strategy and its plans. Now, McCain hopes Palin will skate through the next two months without any real scrutiny or questioning.
It is hugely unfortunate that the first big story about Palin - other than questions raised about whether she fired the head of the Alaska state police for refusing to dismiss her former brother-in-law - concerned her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy. It’s not just that Bristol Palin should be left alone, but also that the intense interest in this story gave McCain’s bullies an excuse to push aside legitimate questions about Palin’s record and knowledge.
Of course, Palin’s handlers are being hypocritical: They want to focus on her family life and her identity as a hockey mom when doing so helps them and to push aside any story that mars this perfect picture. Conservatives are always against identity politics until they are for it.
Nonetheless, what matters is not Palin’s personal life but whether she is prepared to assume the presidency if called upon. The actions of McCain’s lieutenants suggest that they know the answer. And they are doing everything they can to keep the media from finding it.
Frank Rich on the McLiar-Apallin’ Pairing
From Truthout, Frank Rich on the McLiar-Apallin’ odd-couple pairing:
[...] McCain’s address, though largely a repetitive slew of stump-speech lines and worn G.O.P. orthodoxy, reminded us of what we once liked about the guy: his aspirations to bipartisanship, his heroic service in Vietnam, his twinkle. He took his (often inaccurate) swipes at Obama, but, in winning contrast to Palin and Rudy Giuliani, he wasn’t smug or nasty.
The only problem, of course, is that the entire thing was a sham.
As is nakedly evident, the speech’s central argument, that the 72-year-old McCain will magically morph into a powerful change agent as president, is a non sequitur. In his 26 years in Washington, most of it with a Republican in the White House and roughly half of it with Republicans in charge of Congress, he was better at lecturing his party about reform than leading a reform movement. G.O.P. corruption and governmental dysfunction only grew. So did his cynical flip-flops on the most destructive policies of the president who remained nameless Thursday night. (In the G.O.P., Bush love is now the second most popular love that dare not speak its name.)
Even more fraudulent, if that’s possible, is the contrast between McCain’s platonic presentation of his personal code of honor and the man he has become. He always puts his country first, he told us: ‘I’ve been called a maverick.’ If there was any doubt that that McCain has fled, confirmation arrived with his last-minute embrace of Sarah Palin.
We still don’t know a lot about Palin except that she’s better at delivering a speech than McCain and that she defends her own pregnant daughter’s right to privacy even as she would have the government intrude to police the reproductive choices of all other women. Most of the rest of the biography supplied by her and the McCain camp is fiction.
She didn’t say ‘no thanks’ to the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ until after Congress had already abandoned it but given Alaska a blank check for $223 million in taxpayers’ money anyway. Far from rejecting federal pork, she hired lobbyists to secure her town a disproportionate share of earmarks ($1,000 per resident in 2002, 20 times the per capita average in other states). Though McCain claimed ‘she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities,’ she has never issued a single command as head of the Alaska National Guard. As for her ‘executive experience’ as mayor, she told her hometown paper in Wasilla, Alaska, in 1996, the year of her election: ‘It’s not rocket science. It’s $6 million and 53 employees.’ Her much-advertised crusade against officials abusing their office is now compromised by a bipartisan ethics investigation into charges that she did the same.
How long before we learn she never shot a moose?
Given the actuarial odds that could make Palin our 45th president, it would be helpful to know who this mystery woman actually is. Meanwhile, two eternal axioms of our politics remain in place. Americans vote for the top of the ticket, not the bottom. And in judging the top of the ticket, voters look first at the candidates’ maiden executive decision, their selection of running mates. Whatever we do and don’t know about Palin’s character at this point, there is no ambiguity in what her ascent tells us about McCain’s character and potential presidency.
He wanted to choose the pro-abortion-rights Joe Lieberman as his vice president. If he were still a true maverick, he would have done so. But instead he chose partisanship and politics over country. ‘God only made one John McCain, and he is his own man,’ said the shafted Lieberman in his own tedious convention speech last week. What a pathetic dupe. McCain is now the man of James Dobson and Tony Perkins. The ‘no surrender’ warrior surrendered to the agents of intolerance not just by dumping his pal for Palin but by moving so far to the right on abortion that even Cindy McCain seemed unaware of his radical shift when being interviewed by Katie Couric last week.
That ideological sellout, unfortunately, was not the worst leadership trait the last-minute vice presidential pick revealed about McCain. His speed-dating of Palin reaffirmed a more dangerous personality tic that has dogged his entire career. His decision-making process is impetuous and, in its Bush-like preference for gut instinct over facts, potentially reckless.
As The New York Times reported last Tuesday, Palin was sloppily vetted, at best. McCain operatives and some of their press surrogates responded to this revelation by trying to discredit The Times article. After all, The Washington Post had cited McCain aides (including his campaign manager, Rick Davis) last weekend to assure us that Palin had a ‘full vetting process.’ She had been subjected to ‘an F.B.I. background check,’ we were told, and ‘the McCain camp had reviewed everything it could find on her.’
The Times had it right. The McCain campaign’s claims of a ‘full vetting process’ for Palin were as much a lie as the biographical details they’ve invented for her. There was no F.B.I. background check. The Times found no evidence that a McCain representative spoke to anyone in the State Legislature or business community. Nor did anyone talk to the fired state public safety commissioner at the center of the Palin ethics investigation. No McCain researcher even bothered to consult the relevant back issues of the Wasilla paper. Apparently when McCain said in June that his vice presidential vetting process was basically ’a Google,’ he wasn’t joking.
This is a roll of the dice beyond even Bill Clinton’s imagination. ‘Often my haste is a mistake,’ McCain conceded in his 2002 memoir, ‘but I live with the consequences without complaint.’ Well, maybe it’s fine if he wants to live with the consequences, but what about his country? Should the unexamined Palin prove unfit to serve at the pinnacle of American power, it will be too late for the rest of us to complain.
We’ve already seen where such visceral decision-making by McCain can lead. In October 2001, he speculated that Saddam Hussein might have been behind the anthrax attacks in America. That same month he out-Cheneyed Cheney in his repeated public insistence that Iraq had a role in 9/11 - even after both American and foreign intelligence services found that unlikely. He was similarly rash in his reading of the supposed evidence of Saddam’s W.M.D. and in his estimate of the number of troops needed to occupy Iraq. (McCain told MSNBC in late 2001 that we could do with
fewer than 100,000.) It wasn’t until months after ‘Mission Accomplished’ that he called for more American forces to be tossed into the bloodbath. The whole fiasco might have been prevented had he listened to those like Gen. Eric Shinseki who faulted the Rumsfeld war plan from the start.
In other words, McCain’s hasty vetting of Palin was all too reminiscent of his grave dereliction of due diligence on the war. He has been no less hasty in implying that we might somehow ride to the military rescue of Georgia (’Today, we are all Georgians‘) or in reaffirming as late as December 2007 that the crumbling anti-democratic regime of Pervez Musharraf deserved ’the benefit of the doubt‘ even as it was enabling the resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. McCain’s blanket endorsement of Bush administration policy in Pakistan could have consequences for years to come.
‘This election is not about issues’ so much as the candidates’ images, said the McCain campaign manager, Davis, in one of the season’s most notable pronouncements. Going into the Republican convention, we thought we knew what he meant: the McCain strategy is about tearing down Obama. But last week made clear that the McCain campaign will be equally ruthless about deflecting attention from its own candidate’s deterioration.
What was most striking about McCain’s acceptance speech is that it had almost nothing in common with the strident right-wing convention that preceded it. We were pointedly given a rerun of McCain 2000 - cobbled together from scraps of the old Straight Talk repertory. The ensuing tedium was in all likelihood intentional. It’s in the campaign’s interest that we nod off and assume McCain is unchanged in 2008.
That’s why the Palin choice was brilliant politics - not because it rallied the G.O.P.’s shrinking religious-right base. America loves nothing more than a new celebrity face, and the talking heads marched in lock step last week to proclaim her a star. Palin is a high-energy distraction from the top of the ticket, even if the provenance of her stardom is in itself a reflection of exactly what’s frightening about the top of the ticket.
By hurling charges of sexism and elitism at any easily cowed journalist who raises a question about Palin, McCain operatives are hoping to ensure that whatever happened in Alaska with Sarah Palin stays in Alaska. Given how little vetting McCain himself has received this year - and that only 58 days remain until Nov. 4 - they just might pull it off.
Censorship at the EPA
EPA Tells Its Staff: Don’t Answer Watchdogs’ Queries
The Environmental Protection Agency has told its staff not to answer questions from the agency’s internal watchdog, news reporters or the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, according an internal memo that an environmental group released Monday.
The June 16 memo to the staff of the EPA’s enforcement division told them that if they’re contacted by the EPA inspector general’s office, an independent internal watchdog that monitors the agency, or by the Government Accountability Office, the investigators who work for Congress, they’re to forward the call or e-mail to a designated person.
“Please do not respond to questions or make any statements,” it adds. The memo sets down the same procedure, with different contact people, for queries from reporters.
EPA spokeswoman Roxanne Smith wouldn’t say whether any specific incident triggered the memo, but said it was consistent with existing policies and intended to coordinate responses.
John Walke, a former EPA air pollution attorney, said the inspector general’s office ordinarily has unfettered access to agency employees so they can speak candidly and anonymously.
The memo appeared as the Senate Environment and Judiciary committees are trying to get EPA to release information about its global warming policies, and after EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson declined to testify this week before the two committees.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said last week that he was instructing the EPA inspector general’s office to investigate whether there was any wrongdoing in failing to cooperate with Congress.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility obtained the memo and released it to reporters.
“The intent was to control any unscripted release of information to an investigator or to a reporter,” said Jeff Ruch, the director of the environmental group. “We’re not sure what the specific triggering event was, but there’s so much chum in the water that they were certainly biting at something.”
The EPA’s Smith said that Robbi Farrell, the chief of staff of the enforcement division, sent the memo to managers in her office “to ensure consistency and coordination” among staffers who respond to the inspector general and the congressional investigators. It will help with “tracking and record-keeping obligations,” Smith said in a statement.
Smith also said the procedure was developed in part as a response to a 2007 inspector general report about follow-ups on audits at EPA. That report, however, didn’t critique EPA staff members’ contacts with reporters and investigators.
“There is nothing in the procedure that restricts conversation between enforcement staff, the press, GAO and the IG and the procedure is consistent with existing policies,” Smith’s statement said.
But Walke, who worked for the EPA as an attorney from 1997 to 2000 and now works for the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “If the agency has advance notice of who they want to talk to and about what, it allows them to do spin control and manage the damage fallout.”
The EPA inspector general’s office conducts audits, evaluations and investigations of the EPA and its contractors “to promote economy and efficiency and to prevent and detect fraud, waste and abuse,” its Web site says.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has criticized Johnson for not testifying about alleged White House interference with the EPA. Boxer has called on Johnson to release a finding the EPA prepared and sent to the White House in December that found global warming endangers the public welfare.
“Stephen Johnson is turning the EPA into a secretive, dangerous ally of polluters, instead of a leader in the effort to protect the health and safety of the American people,” Boxer said in a statement Monday in response to reports about the memo.
A copy of the memo as released by PEER:
/US 06/16/2008 11:22 AM
Subject PLEASE REMIND STAFF re: RESPONDING TO GAO, IG AND PRESS
Please remind your staff at your next staff meeting of the following policies and procedures.
1. If you are contacted by a reporter, please forward the call or email to Laura Gentile and Roxanne Smith, cc Robbi. Please do not respond to questions or make any statements.
2. If you are contacted directly by the IG’s office or GAO requesting information of any kind, please forward their call or email to Gwen Spriggs, cc Robbi. Please do not respond to questions or make any statements.
Thanks very much for your continued attention to these important procedures.
10 things you should know about John McCain
John McCain is not who the mindless, fawning Washington press corps make him out to be.
10 things you should know about John McCain:
- John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has “evolved,” yet he’s continued to oppose key civil rights laws.1
- According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain “will make Cheney look like Gandhi.”2
- His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded Bush for vetoing that ban.3
- McCain opposes a woman’s right to choose. He said, “I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned.”4
- The Children’s Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children’s health care bill last year, then defended Bush’s veto of the bill.5
- He’s one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a “second job” and skip their vacations.6
- Many of McCain’s fellow Republican senators say he’s too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He’s erratic. He’s hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”7
- McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.8
- McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his “spiritual guide,” Rod Parsley, believes America’s founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a “false religion.” McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church “the Antichrist” and a “false cult.”9
- He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0—yes, zero—from the League of Conservation Voters last year.10
1. “The Complicated History of John McCain and MLK Day,” ABC News, April 3, 2008
“McCain Facts,” ColorOfChange.org, April 4, 2008
2. “McCain More Hawkish Than Bush on Russia, China, Iraq,” Bloomberg News, March 12, 2008
“Buchanan: John McCain ‘Will Make Cheney Look Like Gandhi,’” ThinkProgress, February 6, 2008
3. “McCain Sides With Bush On Torture Again, Supports Veto Of Anti-Waterboarding Bill,” ThinkProgress, February 20, 2008
4. “McCain says Roe v. Wade should be overturned,” MSNBC, February 18, 2007
5. “2007 Children’s Defense Fund Action Council Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard,” February 2008
“McCain: Bush right to veto kids health insurance expansion,” CNN, October 3, 2007
6. “Beer Executive Could Be Next First Lady,” Associated Press, April 3, 2008
“McCain Says Bank Bailout Should End `Systemic Risk,’” Bloomberg News, March 25, 2008
7. “Will McCain’s Temper Be a Liability?,” Associated Press, February 16, 2008
“Famed McCain temper is tamed,” Boston Globe, January 27, 2008
8. “Black Claims McCain’s Campaign Is Above Lobbyist Influence: ‘I Don’t Know What The Criticism Is,’” ThinkProgress, April 2, 2008
“McCain’s Lobbyist Friends Rally ‘Round Their Man,” ABC News, January 29, 2008
9. “McCain’s Spiritual Guide: Destroy Islam,” Mother Jones Magazine, March 12, 2008
“Will McCain Specifically ‘Repudiate’ Hagee’s Anti-Gay Comments?,” ThinkProgress, March 12, 2008
“McCain ‘Very Honored’ By Support Of Pastor Preaching ‘End-Time Confrontation With Iran,’” ThinkProgress, February 28, 2008
10. “John McCain Gets a Zero Rating for His Environmental Record,” Sierra Club, February 28, 2008
A Short but Complete Summary of the Bush Administration
Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
More Stunning Ignorance from Petulant King George the Idiot
Still stunning after all these years. From ThinkProgress:
In private meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week, Newsweek reports that Bush disowned the U.S. intelligence community’s judgments:
But in private conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, the president all but disowned the document, said a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his six-nation trip to the Mideast. "He told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE’s] conclusions don’t reflect his own views" about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity.
Olbermann: “Neocon Job”
By Keith Olbermann
Thursday 06 December 2007 — Full text of Keith’s Special Comment
Finally, as promised, a Special Comment about the president’s cataclysmic deception about Iran.
There are few choices more terrifying than the one Mr. Bush has left us with tonight.
We have either a president who is too dishonest to restrain himself from invoking World War Three about Iran at least six weeks after he had to have known that the analogy would be fantastic, irresponsible hyperbole - or we have a president too transcendently stupid not to have asked - at what now appears to have been a series of opportunities to do so - whether the fairy tales he either created or was fed, were still even remotely plausible.
A pathological presidential liar, or an idiot-in-chief. It is the nightmare scenario of political science fiction: A critical juncture in our history and, contained in either answer, a president manifestly unfit to serve, and behind him in the vice presidency: an unapologetic war-monger who has long been seeing a world visible only to himself.
After Ms. Perino’s announcement from the White House late last night, the timeline is inescapable and clear.
In August the president was told by his hand-picked Major Domo of intelligence Mike McConnell, a flinty, high-strung-looking, worrying-warrior who will always see more clouds than silver linings, that what “everybody thought” about Iran might be, in essence, crap.
Yet on October 17th the President said of Iran and its president Ahmadinejad:
“I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War Three, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon.”
And as he said that, Mr. Bush knew that at bare minimum there was a strong chance that his rhetoric was nothing more than words with which to scare the Iranians.
Or was it, Sir, to scare the Americans?
Does Iran not really fit into the equation here? Have you just scribbled it into the fill-in-the-blank on the same template you used, to scare us about Iraq?
In August, any commander-in-chief still able-minded or uncorrupted or both, Sir, would have invoked the quality the job most requires: mental flexibility.
A bright man, or an honest man, would have realized no later than the McConnell briefing that the only true danger about Iran was the damage that could be done by an unhinged, irrational Chicken Little of a president, shooting his mouth off, backed up by only his own hysteria and his own delusions of omniscience.
Not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. Bush.
The Chicken Little of presidents is the one, Sir, that you see in the mirror.
And the mind reels at the thought of a vice president fully briefed on the revised Intel as long as two weeks ago - briefed on the fact that Iran abandoned its pursuit of this imminent threat four years ago - who never bothered to mention it to his boss.
It is nearly forgotten today, but throughout much of Ronald Reagan’s presidency it was widely believed that he was little more than a front-man for some never-viewed, behind-the-scenes, string-puller.
Today, as evidenced by this latest remarkable, historic malfeasance, it is inescapable, that Dick Cheney is either this president’s evil ventriloquist, or he thinks he is.
What servant of any of the 42 previous presidents could possibly withhold information of this urgency and gravity, and wind up back at his desk the next morning, instead of winding up before a Congressional investigation - or a criminal one?
Mr. Bush - if you can still hear us - if you did not previously agree to this scenario in which Dick Cheney is the actual detective and you’re Remington Steele - you must disenthrall yourself: Mr. Cheney has usurped your constitutional powers, cut you out of the information loop, and led you down the path to an unprecedented presidency in which the facts are optional, the Intel is valued less than the hunch, and the assistant runs the store.
The problem is, Sir, your assistant is robbing you - and your country - blind.
Not merely in monetary terms, Mr. Bush, but more importantly of the traditions and righteousness for which we have stood, at great risk, for centuries: Honesty, Law, Moral Force.
Mr. Cheney has helped, Sir, to make your Administration into the kind our ancestors saw in the 1860’s and 1870’s and 1880’s - the ones that abandoned Reconstruction, and sent this country marching backwards into the pit of American Apartheid.
Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland ...
Presidents who will be remembered only in a blur of failure, Mr. Bush.
Presidents who will be remembered only as functions of those who opposed them - the opponents whom history proved right.
Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland ... Bush.
Would that we could let this president off the hook by seeing him only as marionette or moron.
But a study of the mutation of his language about Iran proves that though he may not be very good at it, he is, himself, still a manipulative, Machiavellian, snake-oil salesman.
The Bushian etymology was tracked by Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post’s website.
It is staggering.
March 31st: “Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon ...”
June 5th: “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons ...”
June 19th: “Consequences to the Iranian government if they continue to pursue a nuclear weapon ...”
July 12th: “The same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons ...”
August 6th: “This is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon ...”
Notice a pattern?
Trying to develop, build or pursue a nuclear weapon.
Then, sometime between August 6th and August 9th, those terms are suddenly swapped out, so subtly that only in retrospect can we see that somebody has warned the president, not only that he has gone out too far on the limb of terror - but there may not even be a tree there ...
McConnell, or someone, must have briefed him then.
August 9th: “They have expressed their desire to be able to enrich uranium, which we believe is a step toward having a nuclear weapons program ...”
August 28th: “Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons ...”
October 4th: “You should not have the know-how on how to make a (nuclear) weapon ...”
October 17th: “Until they suspend and/or make it clear that they, that their statements aren’t real, yeah, I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon.”
Before August 9th, it’s: Trying to develop, build or pursue a nuclear weapon.
After August 9th, it’s: Desire, pursuit, want ... knowledge, technology, know-how to enrich uranium.
And we are to believe, Mr. Bush, that the National Intelligence Estimate this week talks of the Iranians suspending their nuclear weapons program in 2003 ...
And you talked of the Iranians suspending their nuclear weapons program on October 17th ...
And that’s just a coincidence?
And we are to believe, Mr. Bush, that nobody told you any of this until last week?
Your insistence that you were not briefed on the NIE until last week might be legally true - something like “what the definition of is is” - but with the subject matter being not interns but the threat of nuclear war.
Legally, it might save you from some war crimes trial ... but ethically, it is a lie.
It is indefensible.
You have been yelling threats into a phone for nearly four months, after the guy on the other end had already hung up.
You, Mr. Bush, are a bald-faced liar.
And more over, you have just revealed that John Bolton, and Norman Podhoretz, and the Wall Street Journal Editorial board, are also bald-faced liars.
We are to believe that the Intel community, or maybe the State Department, cooked the raw intelligence about Iran, falsely diminished the Iranian nuclear threat, to make you look bad?
And you proceeded to let them make you look bad?
You not only knew all of this about Iran, in early August ...
But you also knew ... it was ... accurate.
And instead of sharing this good news with the people you have obviously forgotten you represent ...
You merely fine-tuned your terrorizing of those people, to legally cover your own backside ...
While you filled the factual gap with sadistic visions of - as you phrased it on August 28th: a quote “nuclear holocaust” - and, as you phrased it on October 17th, quote: “World War Three.”
My comments, Mr. Bush, are often dismissed as simple repetitions of the phrase “George Bush has no business being president.”
Well, guess what?
Tonight: hanged by your own words ... convicted by your own deliberate lies ...
You, sir, have no business ... being president.
Good night, and good luck.
Bush’s old world disorder
Sidney Blumenthal writes in Salon:
Every aspect of Bush’s foreign policy has now collapsed. Every dream of neoconservatism has become a nightmare. Every doctrine has turned to dust. The influence of the United States has reached a nadir, its lowest point since before World War II, when the country was encased in isolationism.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose soul President Bush famously claimed to peer through, is scuttling arms control agreements and cutting his own deals with the Iranians. The Turkish army is poised to invade northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish militants that the Iraqi government and the U.S. allowed to roam freely. The resurgent Taliban, given a second life when Bush drained resources from Afghanistan for the invasion of Iraq, is besieging the countryside, straining the future of the Western alliance in the form of NATO. Pakistan, whose intelligence service and military contain elements that sponsor the Taliban and al-Qaida, remains an epicenter of terrorism. Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s imposition of martial law in Pakistan on Nov. 3 was his second coup, reinforcing his 1999 military takeover. Facing elections in January 2008 that seemed likely to repudiate him and an independent judiciary that refused to grant him extraordinary powers, he suspended constitutional rule. Toothless U.S. admonitions were easily ignored.
Gone are the days when the stern words of a senior U.S. official prevented rash action by an errant foreign leader and when the power of the U.S. served as a restraining force and promoted peaceful resolution of conflict. In the vacuum of the Bush catastrophe, nation-states pursue what they perceive to be their own interests as global conflicts proliferate. The backlash of preemptive war in Iraq gathers momentum in undermining U.S. power and prestige. The resignation last week of Bush’s close advisor, Karen Hughes, as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, whose mission was to restore the U.S. image in the world, signaled not only failure but also exhaustion. The administration’s ventriloquism act of casting words into the mouth of the president’s nominee for attorney general, former federal Judge Michael Mukasey, who would not declare waterboarding torture, demonstrated that Bush is less concerned with the crumbling of America’s reputation and moral authority than with preventing an attorney general from prosecuting members of his administration, including possibly him, for war crimes under U.S. law.
The neoconservative project is crashing. The “unipolar moment,” the post-Cold War unilateralist utopia imagined by neocon pundit Charles Krauthammer; “hegemony,” the ultimate goal projected by the September 2000 manifesto of the Project for the New American Century; an “empire” over lands that “today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets,” fantasized by neocon Max Boot in the Weekly Standard a month after Sept. 11, have instead produced unintended consequences of chaos and decline. Dick Cheney’s and Donald Rumsfeld’s presumption that successful war would instill fear leading to absolute obedience and the suppression of potential rivalries and serious threats—the “dangerous nation” thesis of neocon theorist Robert Kagan—has proved to be the greatest foreign policy miscalculation in U.S. history.
The quest for absolute power has not forged an “empire” but provoked ever-widening chaos. The neocons have been present at the creation, all right. But this “creation” is not another American century, in emulation of the post-World War II order fashioned by the so-called wise men, such as Secretary of State Dean Acheson, a consummate realist, who Condoleezza Rice continues to insist is her model. Squandering the immense influence of the U.S. in such a short period has required monumental effort. Now the fog of war clears. On the ruin of the neocons’ new world order emerges the old world disorder on steroids.
Musharraf’s coup spectacularly illustrates the Bush effect. His speech of Nov. 3, explaining his seizure of power, is among the most significant and revealing documents of this new era in its cynical exploitation of the American example. In his speech, Musharraf mocks and echoes Bush’s rhetoric. Tyranny, not freedom, is on the march. Musharraf appropriates the phrase “judicial activism,” the epithet hurled by American conservatives at liberal decisions of the courts since the Warren Court issued Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed segregation in schools, and makes it his own. This term—“judicial activism”—has no other source. It is certainly not a phrase that originated in Pakistan. “The judiciary has interfered: That’s the basic issue,” Musharraf said.
Indeed, under Bush, the administration has equated international law, the system of justice, and lawyers with terrorism. In the March 2005 National Defense Strategy, this conflation of enemies became official doctrine: “Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism.” Neoconservative lawyers, in and out of the administration, have strenuously argued that the efforts to restore the Geneva Conventions, place detainees within the judicial process and provide them with legal representation amount to what they denigrate as “lawfare”—a sneering reference to “welfare” and the idea that detainees are akin to the unworthy poor. Lawyers for detainees, meanwhile, are routinely insulted as “habeas lawyers,” as though they were agents of terrorists and that arguing for the restoration of habeas corpus proves complicity “objectively” with terrorists. Rather than cite these neoconservative talking points directly or invoke the authority of Bush, whose feeble protestations he brushed aside, Musharraf slyly quoted Abraham Lincoln, who suspended habeas corpus in Maryland and southern Indiana during the Civil War. (The U.S. Circuit Court of Maryland overturned his act. In 1866, the Supreme Court ruled in Ex parte Milligan that civilians could not be tried before military tribunals when civil courts were functioning.) In Musharraf’s version, Lincoln is his model, taking executive action in order to save the nation: “He broke laws, he violated the Constitution, he usurped arbitrary powers, he trampled individual liberties, his justification was necessity.” Musharraf, of course, as he suspends an election, leaves out the rest of Lincoln, not least the difficult election of 1864, which took place in the middle of the Civil War.
But where did Musharraf get his warped idea of Lincoln as dictator and America as an example of tyranny? Not quite from diligent study of American history. According to a 2002 interview with Ikram Sehgal, managing editor of the Defense Journal of Pakistan, Musharraf received this notion from his reading of Richard Nixon’s book “Leaders,” published in 1994, in which Nixon discusses Lincoln’s measures taken under extreme duress with ill-disguised admiration. Thus, for Musharraf, as for Cheney and Bush, Nixon’s vision of an imperial president lies at the root of their actions in creating an executive unbound by checks and balances, unaccountable to “judicial activism.” Since declaring a state of emergency, Musharraf has rounded up thousands of lawyers and shut down the courts, while halting offensive military action against terrorists. In the name of combating terrorism, even as parts of his government are in league with them, he launches an attack on those who profess democracy.
The Bush administration finds itself devoid of options. Neoconservatives are left, happily at least for some of them, to defend torture. They have no explanations for the implosion of Bush’s policies or suggestions for remedy. Self-examination is too painful and in any case unfamiliar. Bush regrets Musharraf’s martial law, yet tacitly accepts that the U.S. has no alternative but to support him in the war on terror that he is not fighting—and is using for his own political purposes. On the rubble of neoconservatism, the Bush administration has adopted “realism” by default, though not even as a gloss on its emptiness. Bush still clings to his high-flown rhetoric as if he’s warming up for his second inaugural address. But this is not rock-bottom; there is further to fall.
The War as We Saw It - New York Times
By BUDDHIKA JAYAMAHA, WESLEY D. SMITH, JEREMY ROEBUCK, OMAR MORA, EDWARD SANDMEIER, YANCE T. GRAY and JEREMY A. MURPHY
VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)
The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.
A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.
As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.
Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.
However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.
In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.
Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.
Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.
The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.
Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.
Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.
At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.
In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.
Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.
Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.
Impeachment Resources: A Look at the Impeachment Process
MyDD has a very interesting summary of characteristics of rightwing authoritarianism and its adherents. Be sure to scroll down and view the tables.
Romney and Giuliani willing to throw out your most basic right
[Cato Institute’s President, Ed] Crane asked if Romney believed the president should have the authority to arrest U.S. citizens with no review. Romney said he would want to hear the pros and cons from smart lawyers before he made up his mind. Crane said that he had asked Giuliani the same question a few weeks ago. The mayor said that he would want to use this authority infrequently.
Glen Greenwald has a few things to say about this and what it says about modern-day “Republicans”, summarizing with:
The next time journalists want to write about political extremism ... why not instead focus on the fact that Mitt Romeny is open to, and Rudy Giuliani explicitly favors, vesting themselves with the very powers that this country was founded in order to banish? One of our two major political parties believes that the U.S. President should have powers that not even the pre-Revolution British King possessed. Maybe that is worth some commentary and examination.