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Archive for January 11th, 2007

Very ominous: possible war

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From The Washington Note:

Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

The bare outlines of that order may have appeared in President Bush’s Address to the Nation last night outlining his new course on Iraq:

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq. We’re also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence-sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

Adding fuel to the speculation is that U.S. forces today raided an Iranian Consulate in Arbil, Iraq and detained five Iranian staff members. Given that Iran showed little deference to the political sanctity of the US Embassy in Tehran 29 years ago, it would be ironic for Iran to hyperventilate much about the raid.

But what is disconcerting is that some are speculating that Bush has decided to heat up military engagement with Iran and Syria — taking possible action within their borders, not just within Iraq.

Some are suggesting that the Consulate raid may have been designed to try and prompt a military response from Iran — to generate a casus belli for further American action.

If this is the case, the debate about adding four brigades to Iraq is pathetic. The situation will get even hotter than it now is, worsening the American position and exposing the fact that to fight Iran both within the borders of Iraq and into Iranian territory, there are not enough troops in the theatre.

Bush may really have pushed the escalation pedal more than any of us realize.

— Steve Clemons

UPDATE: This exchange today in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee between Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden and Senator Chuck Hagel with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is full of non-denial denials and evasive answers to Biden’s query about the President’s ability to authorize military operations against forces within Iran and Syria:

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Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2007 at 8:30 pm

Why is CNN so uninformed?

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A good question from AmericaBlog:

Per CNN’s correspondent, Jamie McIntyre, moments ago, speaking about the efficacy of Bush’s proposal to add another 20,000 troops to Iraq:

“And it won’t be hard to tell – if violence drops, the plan is working.”

In fact, that statement is patently untrue. As our own AJ, a former Defense Intelligence analyst working on Iraq, explained just yesterday:

“[The surge] happens to coincide with the time of the year when violence traditionally wanes significantly, so unless the increase is a colossal failure (i.e., actually manages to reverse the usual trend of decreased attacks), we won’t even know if it worked until summer/fall ’07…. by launching this escalation at a time of year during which violence traditionally ebbs anyway, the decrease in violence may create the false impression that the new surge strategy is working (post hoc ergo propter hoc).

Why does a blogger know this fact, but CNN’s top national security correspondent doesn’t?

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2007 at 8:25 pm

That Condi!

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In spite of the spirited defense offered earlier of Condi Rice as Secretary of State, her abilities apparently do not extend to running the Department of State. From Robert Novak, a strong conservative:

Members of the Senate intelligence committee, Republicans and Democrats alike, were alarmed last week that John Negroponte was leaving as director of national intelligence after less than two years to become deputy secretary of state. By way of explanation, he informed one Republican senator that he did not want to make the switch but that the White House had prevailed on him to do so.

Just how career diplomat Negroponte came to be the new intelligence czar in the first place is puzzling. But to pull him out just as his on-the-job training was completed reflects a panicky desire to fill the deputy secretary post, which had been unfilled for an unprecedented six months. Five other key State Department positions are either vacant or are soon to be vacant.

Republicans in Congress who do not want to be quoted tell me that the State Department under Condoleezza Rice is a mess. This comes at a time when the U.S. global position is precarious. While attention is focused on Iraq, American diplomacy is being tested worldwide — in Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Korea and Sudan. The judgment by thoughtful Republicans is that Rice has failed to manage that endeavor.

More at the link.

UPDATE: Maybe this is why things are such a mess:

It’s bad policy to speculate on what you’ll do if a plan fails when you’re trying to make a plan work.”

— Condoleezza Rice, quoted in The Washington Post, speaking at today’s hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

So Condi thinks having a Plan B is actually a bad policy. News to me, but goes a long way toward explaining the many dismal failures of the Bush Administration.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2007 at 4:36 pm

Harry Reid, acting bad

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This is a terrible way to start.

Showing he can be every bit as bullying to advance a bad idea, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) held open a vote on his watered down earmark reform legislation today in order to round up enough votes to push it through.

Part of the Senate’s ethics reform bill deals with earmarks — lawmakers’ often abused practice of inserting items in legislation to direct funds to special interests (a la Duke Cunningham). According to current rules, lawmakers can attach earmarks anonymously, a state of affairs inviting abuse. Reform efforts have sought to change that. Republicans and good government types have criticized Reid’s version of earmark reform legislation, which is weaker than the version passed by House Democrats, saying that it doesn’t go near far enough in terms of disclosure.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) offered an amendment today that mirrored the tougher legislation passed by House Democrats.

According to Craig Holman of Public Citizen, Reid’s version, if it had been applied to earmarks as part of legislation passed last year, would have disclosed the sponsor of only approximately 500 earmarks. DeMint’s amendment would have forced sponsors to be known of roughly 12,000.

“DeMint’s version is considerably tougher,” Holman told me, noting that both Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who co-sponsored the bill, are “on the appropriations committee and haven’t really believed in strong earmark reform propoals in the first place.”

But Democrats sought to block DeMint’s amendment, with an effort led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). They failed, due mostly to nine Democrats, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and freshmen Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jim Webb (D-VA), who crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). Here’s the roll call tally.

But instead of then passing DeMint’s amendment, as would normally occur in the Senate, the Democratic leadership held the vote open, a move that Senate Republicans called unprecedented, and reminiscent of tactics used by the GOP-controlled House that voters just booted.

Reid, according (sub. req.) to CQ’s Martin Kady, was “clearly embarassed” by the state of affairs:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was clearly embarrassed by the situation.“I’ve told my friend, Senator DeMint…. This amendment he’s offered is going to take a little more time,” he said.He said “sometime we’ll have an opportunity to vote on the amendment. I hope it’s rejected.”

From the floor, Reid tried to paint his proposal as tougher than DeMint’s:

Reid insisted the language in the underlying bill that had been negotiated by him and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “was very carefully vetted by weeks of work by our respective staff. It’s stronger in various ways than the DeMint amendment.”He cited definitions of targeted tax provision as an example, saying DeMint’s version would require disclosure of fewer such provisions than the underlying bill.

He said the Senate version of the earmark disclosure requirement “is better than the House version.” He urged DeMint to back off.

Meanwhile, DeMint invoked a comparison to how House Republicans strong-armed passage of 2003’s Medicare bill:

DeMint said the Senate under its new leadership was behaving like the GOP-controlled House, which held open a 2003 vote on the Medicare prescription drug bill for three hours until leaders could shift enough votes to prevail.“We’re back here re-voting something after some arms have been twisted,” DeMint said. “We won this vote fair and square, and it’s going to happen to all of you,” he warned his colleagues who were being urged to switch their votes and kill his amendment.

The vote on ethics reform will apparently continue tomorrow, with no resolution yet on the battle between DeMint’s and Reid’s version of the legislation. Stay tuned.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2007 at 4:32 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

We’re going to war with Iran

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At least, if Bush has his way. Read Glenn Greenwald’s column today. All the signs are there, and there’s a crescendo of vituperation and preparation. And Bush will do it.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2007 at 3:25 pm

Warbloggers and the damage they do

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Morton Mintz has it right:

Journalists who criticize the mainstream press in hopes of making it better do so in the belief that, as Bill Moyers once put it, “the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are inseparable.” From that belief flows a corollary: Commentators and bloggers who attack the mainstream press malignly, carelessly, and, on commercial television and radio, profitably, degrade the democracy from which their shabby, fake journalism is also inseparable.

This is hardly a new insight, but now Eric Boehlert has given it a new lease on life with “Michelle Malkin’s credibility, R.I.P.,” an exposé of “the right-wing warbloggers.”

The warbloggers and such long-time anti-journalists as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck (just hired by ABC News to be a “regular commentator” on “Good Morning, America”) are powerful influences on the electorate. So, at least implicitly, Boehlert’s article raises a question: Why haven’t the New York Times, the Washington Post and other mainstream news organizations done the kind of documented reporting about this crowd that he did?

Here’s the top of his piece, posted Jan. 8 on Media Matters:

It’s time for warbloggers to find a new conspiracy theory to promote because their most recent one, which involved accusing the Associated Press of manufacturing a source in Iraq and colluding with the insurgents, blew up in their faces. But don’t look for detailed corrections, let alone heartfelt apologies. Being a warblogger means not having to say you’re sorry.

I’ve written extensively about this controversy because I think it perfectly captures the right-wing warbloggers and their never-ending goal to undermine the press. Not with thoughtful, factual analysis – which is always welcome – but by feverishly trying to undercut news reports that might pose a problem for President Bush’s war in Iraq and by shifting attention onto the media. They want to simultaneously create confusion about facts, while undermining news consumers’ confidence in the mainstream news media.

Indeed, warbloggers want to have it both ways. They want to be seen as tenacious press critics, thoroughly scrutinizing the media’s work and doing democracy a favor. But in reality they can’t control their naked disdain for progressives, not to mention their consuming hatred of the “liberal media.” It’s a combination that routinely prompts them to launch dim-witted crusades built around flimsy, what-if conspiracy theories.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2007 at 3:17 pm

Posted in GOP, Media

Eric Alterman discusses the sin of good judgment

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From The Nation. Being right amounts to being wrong, in the eyes of many:

The Bush/Cheney war in Iraq has proven to be even more catastrophic than those who had the good sense to oppose it could have predicted. It has killed Americans and Iraqis, destroyed a functioning, albeit unfree nation, increased the threat of terrorism, destabilized the region, empowered our enemies—particularly Iran and Syria—inspired hatred of the United States across the globe and will ultimately cost American taxpayers upwards of a trillion dollars. It is, almost certainly, as Al Gore has noted, “the worst strategic mistake in the entire history of the United States.”

The problem the war creates for the punditocracy and the rest of the political establishment is twofold. First, the leaders they backed have not only been wildly incompetent but also impervious to reality. Offered a face-saving exit by the Baker Commission, Bush, Cheney & Co. prefer instead to double down on disaster. Second, there is the problem of the pundits’ individual reputations. If William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Lawrence Kaplan and David Brooks et al. are so smart, why were they so wrong about something so crucial? And why, given their sorry records, do they and their editors still think anybody ought to keep listening to them? At the very least, those they misled are entitled to an explanation.

Even those who have offered up their mea culpas have often sought refuge in what The American Prospect’s Sam Rosenfeld and Matt Yglesias have aptly termed “The Incompetence Dodge.” Almost all the most prominent prowar neocons featured in Vanity Fair’s recent report, for example, blamed the Bush Administration for failing to execute its beautiful war plans more efficiently.

Accompanying this tactic has been a corollary effort to smear the liberals who got it right rather than renounce the calumny that was heaped on their heads during the run-up to the invasion (from “pacifist” and “isolationist” to “anti-American” and even “pro-terrorist”). I first noticed this tendency when, in June 2005, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times’s extraordinarily influential foreign affairs columnist whose analysis of the war proved completely misguided, accused liberals of “deep down” wanting America to fail in Iraq “because, with a few exceptions…they thought the war was wrong.” He presented no supporting evidence and named no names. More recently, Time’s McCarthyite columnist Joe Klein explained that in “listening to leftists…it’s easy to assume that they are rooting for an American failure.” Andrew Sullivan has opined that antiwar liberals were “objectively pro-Saddam.” Slate editor Jacob Weisberg dismissed those whose analysis proved correct as “the isolationist left,” as if idiotic wars were the only means this great country has to engage the rest of the world.

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Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2007 at 3:02 pm

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