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»  February 27, 2007


Outsourcing: In an article at TPM Muckraker on the raid that found explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) -- not imported whole from Iran but being built on the spot from parts elsewhere in the Middle East -- the point was raised that the copper liners needed to create the EFPs might themselves have been purchased on the open market. In comments, one wag -- named "bob" -- suggested a source.


»  February 26, 2007


Nine More Years: Some people have expressed some consternation that now the Democrats have been in office for a couple of months, no major effort has begun to end the war, and that Joe Lieberman -- who was given committee positions even as an Independent in order to keep him "on board" with the Democratic caucus -- is not only planning to torpedo amendments that would cut off funding for aspects of the Iraq war but might just switch parties.

What's the surprise? That Lieberman's had a hard-on for Iraq and a number of other Democrats -- including most of the 2008 flock -- have been right there along with him? Is that supposed to be news?

Lieberman Frustrated By Allies' Reluctance To Back Iraq Strike
By John Bisney/CNN

WASHINGTON (Feb. 13 [1998]) -- A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee says he is puzzled and frustrated about the lack of support from allies and Iraq's Arab neighbors for a U.S. military strike against Saddam Hussein.

by James Ridgeway
November 21 - 27, 2001

Opportunist Dems Call for War on Iraq
Hawks on the Left

Capitol Hill's loudest voice for bombing Iraq? That would be Al Gore's old running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman. The Connecticut pol heads a caucus of war-hawk Dems. Some of them are eyeing the 2004 presidential campaign, hoping to use the issue of Iraq to outflank Bush and look like a bunch of tough guys.

Lieberman argues the U.S. must be "unflinching in our determination" to "target Iraq as part of the war against terrorism." Lieberman wants to push Bush into declaring it's U.S. policy to remove Saddam Hussein. "He is not just a thorn in our sides, he is a threat to American lives," he said between fundraisers in New Hampshire earlier this month. "If we give him a chance and don't defeat him, he will truly attack us before long."

Other Dems, backed by the conservative Democratic Leadership Council, want Bush to expand his war against terrorism. They don't go as far as Lieberman, but Senator Joseph Biden, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Massachusetts senator John Kerry, a Vietnam vet, have been calling for a wider effort. Kerry would move to dump Saddam if Iraq were discovered to be behind chemical and biological attacks. Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey also is counted among this group.

During House debate, New York's Gary Ackerman argued after the terrorist attacks that as long as Hussein remained in power, the world would be at risk. "Attacking Iraq depends on whether we have evidence of its participation on September 11," he told the Voice. "But if there are strong indications that Saddam Hussein had something to do with it, I would agree a thousand percent, and we should do whatever we have to do and blow the shit out of them."

The Democratic leadership hasn't just been covering for this guy for nine years. They've been letting him run point so long they've gotten themselves out of sight of safe ground. They distrust the people who told them not to go that way so much that they won't take the safe route back; they're just crouched down out in the minefield the Republicans laid for themselves, hoping that waves of child soldiers will clear a path away from the dirty hippies.


»  February 18, 2007


Why Did I Oppose the War?: At Daily Kos and elsewhere, in discussions about the incomprehensible decisions by presumably smart and well-informed people like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Edwards to support the Iraq war resolution, I've written that some of the administration claims had been so patently false that it was obvious to me they were lying their asses off.

When I've explained how I reached my own conclusions, several people have responded that hindsight was easy, and that, in pre-blog 2002, they just weren't going to believe that I knew what I said I knew without proof.

This was the text of my Daily Kos post and the results of a poll I ran there.

As things ratchet up to the 2008 election, and pieces like Kos's Clinton diary re-raise the Iraq war resolution vote, commenters like myself who have said we didn't believe the case laid out by Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, and others about Iraq's WMDs, links to al Qaeda, and the imminent threat to the United States have received a number of responses from people who -- like Clinton, Edwards, Kerry, and others -- were apparently gullible enough to believe all of those things, and who demand "proof" that we really thought the Bush administration was lying back in 2002 and 2003.

You can point out that most of the Congressional Democrats voted against the AUMF and therefore did not view Iraq as a threat. You can say that most of our allies -- including people who sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 -- didn't see Iraq as enough of a threat to join in the venture.

You can mention that uranium and plutonium processing for even a single nuke takes enormous amounts of space and electricity and produces radioactive waste (see Hanford, Rocky Flats, Oak Ridge) that are very difficult to hide. You can laugh at the idea that a country with no aerospace industry was being touted as having weaponized drones that had a far longer range than the US-built Predator. You can point to pre-war articles by people who said that the administration's evidence of WMD were fabrications.

But unless you can come up with some "proof' that you personally thought the administration was lying about Iraq, those people will say you're engaged in "self-flattery".

If that's the case, I guess I'm going to need a new reason for having opposed the Iraq war back in 2002. I thought for the past five years that it was because the little bit I knew about science and electronics and computers and international politics led me to the conclusion that the claims of the administration were bogus, but if people don't believe me, then I have to turn to the dKos community to provide me with some reason more palatable once those recollections are shoved down the memory hole.

Please help.


»  February 17, 2007


Surging Like It's 1968: An excerpt from Grassroots: The Autobiography of George McGovern. On 31 March 1968, President Lyndon Johnson made the surprise announcement that he was withdrawing from the Democratic presidential primary after ekeing out a narrow 49%-42% victory over Sen. Eugene McCarthy, the anti-war candidate, earlier in the month:

Johnson's announcement came in the context of three factors. He was about to be defeated by Gene McCarthy in the April second Wisconsin primary--with Kennedy and McCarthy preparing to challenge him in the other primaries all the way to the Chicago convention. Second, his new Secretary of Defense, Clark Clifford, had concluded that the war in Vietnam was not headed for victory. General Westmoreland was requesting at least 200,000 additional troops beyond the half million already there--with no assurance that this would turn the tide. In any event, all indications were that neither congressional nor public opinion would sustain such a major escalation. Third, Johnson viewed the gathering racial tensions and antiwar protests with deep concern, knowing that they jeopardized his presidential authority and his capacity to govern.


»  February 15, 2007


Return to Return on Investment: An elite group with ties to the highest leadership of a nation -- we'll call it A -- supplies arms to people in country B, knowing that those arms would be used against country C, a country that country A just hates.

This description might be A) Iran, B) Iraq, and C) the United States. Certainly, that was the impression George W. Bush gave in his Valentine's Day presidential press conference, when he said (he gave one of his trademarked self-congratulatory chuckles at the end of this quote, emphasis added):

THE PRESIDENT: What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did.

But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?

But you could just as easily swap those country assignments around: A) the United States, B) Iran, C) Iraq.

Travel back in time to the mid-1980s. Ronald Reagan is president. Lt. Col. Oliver North and his secretary Fawn Hall are operating out of a National Security Council office in the White House. The Iran-Iraq war is raging. More than 1,000 TOW anti-tank missiles and a variety of other arms and military parts were sold to Iran, at first through Israel, then directly.

When the plan was exposed, pressure from Congress forced Reagan to appoint former Senator John Tower (R-TX) to head a commission in late 1986. Reagan -- who had been politely labelled since his first years in office by Calvin Trillin as "disengaged" -- used a "poor memory" defense. Vice President George H. W. Bush claimed he was "out of the loop" publicly, although he admitted more knowledge of the sales and shipments to the FBI.

Or, let's just for the sake of argument, use a couple of different countries: A) the United States, B) Afghanistan, C) the Soviet Union.

In 1979, after the Soviets moved into the neighboring country of Afghanistan to prop up a Communist coup that had seized power the year before, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski convinced President Jimmy Carter that it would be a great idea to draw the Soviets into a "Vietnam trap" by supplying arms to the mujahadeen and getting Moscow bogged down in a war zone on their own border that they couldn't ignore. Carter and Brzezinski rarely get credit for their scheme, though, because they denied any involvement in the matter, getting so far up their high horses that they cancelled the US's participation in the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. After Carter lost to Reagan (something I think the killjoy effect of not letting the athletes go to the Olympics had a hand in), Reagan got to make the aid overt and get the glory (along with Rambo III).

So yeah, it is kind of bad when weapons from country A start showing up and their leaders deny all knowledge, say they forgot, or claim nobody ever tells them -- the former head of the CIA -- anything.

Maybe it's the Quds Force -- although I don't think any actual proof of that has been shown -- and maybe the Iranian leadership in part or toto knows about it, but I have to wonder if they're not telling the truth. If I controlled the factories where the weapons were made, I'd leave off the serial numbers or change them to incriminate someone else.

And there's another possibility, which comes to mind after Russian President and former KGB man Vladimir Putin's speech about the US overstepping our boundaries. I suspect the man has a long memory; better than either Bush, Reagan, or Scooter Libby. Nor would I be suprised if a lot of his old buddies do, too. Buddies who might have lost friends and family in Afghanistan. People who blame the US for bringing down the Soviet empire, either rightly or wrongly. As I pointed out a year and a half ago, I'm not going to be too shocked if, in a few years, we finally find out that the fake documents that led to the Iraq war and the idea that the Iranians are sponsoring attacks on US soldiers weren't egged on by Russian intelligence operatives looking to get a little payback.



The Next Move By Edwards: I completely agree with the decision by the John Edwards presidential campaign to disavow themselves of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, who the Catholic League's Bill Donohue denounced as anti-Catholic.

As Edwards himself said before their resignations:

It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people.
To address those deficiencies, I'd like to suggest that the replacement for Marcotte and McEwan be The Rude Pundit.


»  February 13, 2007


Logic Fails Me: Now, if I was a top Iranian official determined to send explosives across the border to Iraq, and I didn't want to have them tracked back to my country, and I controlled the factories and production lines, I might tell them not to put serial numbers on the damn things, no matter what the "international standards for arms" were.

And I really think it takes a lot of gall for people who were claiming four years ago that Iraq was on the verge of building a nuclear bomb and world-spanning drones that there's "no evidence" the kind of precise machining needed for the components of "explosively formed penetrators" has ever been done in Iraq.

A lot of people who are now claiming the Iraq war was a bad idea or poorly executed are still hot on the idea that Iran's taking on the US military. Here's a quote from last March:

"I think the evidence is strong that the Iranian government is making these IEDs, and the Iranian government is sending them across the border and they are killing U.S. troops once they get there," says Richard Clarke, former White House counterterrorism chief and an ABC News consultant. "I think it's very hard to escape the conclusion that, in all probability, the Iranian government is knowingly killing U.S. troops."


»  February 12, 2007


DK Diary Rescue: My Daily Kos cross-post of Saturday's "Forgetting Cambodia" was picked as the first of last night's Diary Rescue choices by Rippen Kitten and SusanG.


»  February 11, 2007


David Reinhard: Immune to Reality: David Reinhard -- not surprisingly -- leaps to the defense of prosecutors in a column about the Pearl District drug dealers my letter to the editor yesterday addressed.

He feints, at first, expressing surprise that the three young men got immunity in exchange for testimony against the guy who stole half a pound of marijuana from them at gunpoint, but then assures the reader this sort of thing happens all the time, and that prosecutors assured him "they got no deal" because of their background or social class. This was my response:

In his column about the Pearl District drug dealers, David Reinhard writes that prosecutors told him they forced immunity on the teens in order to get them to testify against the man who robbed them of half a pound of marijuana. The robber's car was seen fleeing the crime. The teenager's cell phones were found in his possession. Was the testimony of all three drug dealers needed to convict him? Or should immunity have been given to one of the teens, who could have provided testimony on both the robbery and the dealing charges against the others? This wasn't a possession case where someone had a couple of joints for personal use.

Mr. Reinhard facetiously asks if the police should have been set upon the customers of the dealers or if he was just being "old-fashioned." The real question -- as I pointed out in my letter of last week -- was "What about the suppliers?"

Maybe it's just not mentioned in the article, but was part of the immunity deal providing information about who'd been providing the thousands of dollars of marijuana the kids had been selling? Or was that door just left closed.

With immunity, are the guys just assumed to stop dealing? A criminal conviction would usually be followed by probation.

Did the police search the condo and the houses of the other kids to see if there were more drugs? You'd think that if they'd search Damon Stoudamire's house they would.

As for the assertion that race and class needed to be pointed out to the prosecutors in order for them to play a role in the case, Mr. Reinhard has to be stoned to make that assertion. The robbery happened in the Pearl District. The condo owner -- and father of one of the teens -- served on a board appointed by the governor. Prosecutors aren't idiots. They know who's who in the city, and they can make judgments about which battles to fight and which ones to lay down without having to be threatened or wheedled. For Mr. Reinhard to pretend otherwise is simply disingenuous and gullible.

Really. A columnist from the state's largest newspaper asked the prosecutors if they'd been prejudicial in their handling of the case and they said "No! We'd never, ever, do that sort of thing." I'm sure if they had, they would have confessed under Reinhard's withering gaze.


»  February 10, 2007


Bill Donohue of the Catholic League Buys Ad Space:

Uhhh, Catholic League, if you're concerned about foul-mouthed bloggers, I'm not sure Eschaton is where you want your ad dollars. Someone in media buying has gone off their meds.



Forgetting Cambodia: Cambodia's back in the news lately, as an analogy for the expansion of the Iraq war into Iran. It's not completely accurate: Cambodia in 1969 was a country with a population far smaller than Vietnam's; Iran is not only geographically larger than Iraq, it's population is nearly three times Iraq's.

In my mind this weekend, that theme's colliding with the bizarre attack on Elie Wiesel, by someone who appears to have been planning to "deprogram" Wiesel into admitting the Holocaust never happened.

I've always wondered about the type of people who could believe that hugely destructive events were entirely fictious or had far less of an impact than they did. The people who deny the Holocaust, those who play down the impact of hundreds of years of slavery and racism, anyone who thinks it's easy to lift your family out of poverty, the list goes on. And those are major, societal issues. What about the people who deny the democracy-corroding effect of the lawless governments we've had under the administrations of Nixon, Reagan, and both George Bushes?

That's why I was stunned when I heard the final story on this week's edition of On the Media from WNYC. Reporter Megan Williams's "You Must Remember This" is a report on how -- just 30 years after the killing fields of Pol Pot -- many members of the generations born since the Khmer Rouge regime's worst excesses don't believe the stories their elders tell them. They don't understand how it could have happened. More than a quarter of the population is estimated (conservatively) to have died in the last half of the 1970s. The countryside is still littered with landmines. According to the report, though, the history's not taught in schools. And most of the leaders were allowed to live out their lives with no real accountability.

I can't vouch for the veracity of the story, which is also reporting on a program in Cambodia to teach students about the killing fields era. It certainly ties in well with the ability of nations to forget the horrors they inflict on others but who would have thought it applied to a forgetting of the history of the damage inflicted on your own country, and your own family?



Once In a Blue Moon: The main reason I started this blog was because I got sick of writing letters to the Oregonian (and elsewhere, but mostly the Oregonian) that never saw the light of day. Before most people had email, I think the volume of letters to the editor was smaller. On top of that, I think I might have had a little name recognition for a few years after my short-lived book review magazine. Most of the time, I don't even bother, and just post here.

Sometimes a local story triggers a letter though, like last week's article about teenage drug dealers in the Pearl District getting an immunity deal to testify against a guy who'd stolen a half-pound of marijuana from them. After a week, I'd actually given up on them running the letter, and missed it this morning until Barbara's sister Marie pointed it out.


»  February 6, 2007


Hard Time: I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the viewing of One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern, a movie that won the Best Documentary award at the Sarasota Film Festival.

Technically, the movie -- consisting largely of stock, news footage from McGovern's life, and interviews with a number of people involved with the 1972 campaign as well as the Senator himself -- is quite good. It seems aimed at people who aren't that familiar with McGovern which -- considering that most everyone under the age of 55 wasn't old enough to vote for him -- isn't necessarily a bad thing. But it has a number of jarring elements used to "illustrate" points -- like some gratuitous footage of Muhammad Ali first winning then getting knocked out in a ring -- that are about as subtle as -- well -- a boxing glove hitting your nose.

Given the access filmmaker Stephen Vittoria had to people like Howard Zinn, Gary Hart, Warren Beatty, Gloria Steinem, and McGovern, it's a shame that the connecting tissue of the film is so ham-handed.

Frank Mankiewicz from 'One Bright Shining Moment: The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern'

Still, there are some excellent gems in the interviews, like this one at the end of the film from Frank Mankiewicz, McGovern's '72 political director and son of Orson Welles's Citizen Kane screenplay collaborator, which contrasts the people involved on each side:

We just lost an election. None of us went to jail. Most of the other guys went to jail. Did time. Hard time.


»  February 3, 2007


Bill Kristol Throws Down The White Mitten to Gordon Smith: William Kristol on the perfidy of Republicans -- including Gordon Smith -- who dare utter a word against the war he's nurtured for a decade:

In any case, Republican senators up for reelection in 2008 might remember this: The American political system has primaries as well as general elections. In 1978 and 1980, as Reagan conservatives took over the party from détente-establishment types, Reaganite challengers ousted incumbent GOP senators in New Jersey and New York. Surely there are victory-oriented Republicans who might step forward today in Nebraska, Virginia, Oregon, and Maine--and, if necessary, in Tennessee, Minnesota, and New Hampshire--to seek to vindicate the honor, and brighten the future, of the party of Reagan.
Oh, I can only hope.



Sometimes You Just Need An English Major To Help Out: From a press briefing Friday with National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley (emphasis mine):

QUESTION: Is this a civil war?

HADLEY: I will tell you what this NIE says.

QUESTION: I want to know why you avoid…

HADLEY: The intelligence — because it’s not an adequate description of the situation we find ourselves, as the intelligence community says. The intelligence community judges the term civil war does not adequately capture the complexities of the conflict in Iraq. And what we’re doing is saying, if you’re going to run policy and if you’re going to explain it to the American people, we need to get across the complexities of the situation we face in Iraq and what is our strategy to deal with that. And simple labels don’t do that. We’re going to try and force everybody to get into the facts.

I've got a word that adequately captures the complexities of the conflict in Iraq, and I didn't even need to look it up: CHAOS.