From the 2000 Vice-Presidential Debate, between Senator Joe Lieberman and former Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney. The moderator was CNN’s Bernard Shaw:

MODERATOR: This question is for you, Mr. Secretary. If Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein were found to be developing weapons of mass destruction, Governor Bush has said he would, quote, “Take him out.” Would you agree with such a deadly policy?

CHENEY: We might have no other choice. We’ll have to see if that happens. The thing about Iraq, of course, was at the end of the war we had pretty well decimated their military. We had put them back in the box, so to speak. We had a strong international coalition raid against them, effective economic sanctions, and an inspection regime was in place under the U.N. and it was able to do a good job of stripping out the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction, the work he had been doing that had not been destroyed during the war in biological and chemical agents, as well as a nuclear program. Unfortunately now we find ourselves in a situation where that started to fray on us, where the coalition now no longer is tied tightly together. Recently the United Arab Emirates have reopened diplomatic relations with Baghdad. The Russians and French are flying commercial airliners back into Baghdad and thumbing their nose at the international sanctions regime. We’re in a situation today where our posture with Iraq is weaker than it was at the end of the war. It’s unfortunate. I also think it’s unfortunate we find ourselves in a position where we don’t know for sure what might be transpiring inside Iraq. I certainly hope he’s not regenerating that kind of capability, but if he were, if in fact Saddam Hussein were taking steps to try to rebuild nuclear capability or weapons of mass destruction, you would have to give very serious consideration to military action to — to stop that activity. I don’t think you can afford to have a man like Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons in the Middle East.


LIEBERMAN: It would, of course, be a very serious situation if we had evidence, credible evidence, that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction. I must say, I don’t think a political campaign is the occasion to declare exactly what we would do in that case. I think that’s a matter of such critical national security importance that it ought to be left to the Commander in Chief, leaders of the military, Secretary of State to make that kind of decision without the heat of a political campaign. The fact is that we will not enjoy real stability in the Middle East until Saddam Hussein is gone. The Gulf War was a great victory. And incidentally, Al Gore and I were two of the ten Democrats in the Senate who crossed party lines to support President Bush and Secretary Cheney in that war. We’re proud we did that. The war did not end with a total victory. Saddam Hussein remained there. As a result, we have had almost ten years now of instability. We have continued to operate almost all of this time military action to enforce a no-fly zone. We have been struggling with Saddam about the inspectors. We’re doing everything we can to get the inspectors back in there. But in the end there’s not going to be peace until he goes. And that’s why I was proud to co-sponsor the Iraq Liberation Act with Senator Trent Lott where I have kept in touch with the Iraqi opposition, broad base. We met with them earlier this year. We are supporting them in their efforts and will continue to support them until the Iraqi people rise up and do what the people of Serbia have done in the last few days, get rid of a despot. We’ll welcome you back into the family of nations where you belong.

Less Than Zero

Bob Harris has written a book on his experiences as a Jeopardy! champion called Prisoner of Trebekistan, which I — only having made it through the screening process up to the point of getting called to go to LA a couple of times now — enjoyed.

Currently, he’s down in Antigua for the Cricket World Cup, and he posted a photo that should bring a chuckle — and some terror — into the heart of many a multimedia developer.

Spying On Bicyclists, Actors, And the Sexy

I’ve had a couple of responses to my Sunday post about the New York Times report that NYPD officers conducted undercover operations in Oregon prior to the 2004 RNC convention that wondered what the big deal was. Weren’t they just collecting information on crazies intending to shut down NYC?

NYT reporter Jim Dwyer — who filed that story — wrote articles more than a year ago about some of the tactics used by the NYPD, particularly as they related to bicycle protests like Critical Mass. Linked to the print story are three video reports narrated by Dwyer (see the “Multimedia” section at left for “Video”).

The first video shows three undercover officers who appear at various events, including a memorial ride for a cyclist killed in an accident that had a grand total of fifteen attendees.

The second video describes a case where the multi-million dollar police helicopter with infrared imaging cameras spent four minutes watching a couple get it on at night on the patio of a music executive’s rooftop apartment rather than monitoring the bike ride on the streets far below.

A third video shows a yellow-haired man over several days during the beginning of the RNC convention. In one episode, he appears to be arrested for no reason and hustled away, which leads to people yelling at the police and two of them getting arrested. Except that the yellow-haired man isn’t actually arrested. Or even cuffed, as can be seen on close-ups of video shot at the scene.

These are just the cases where the NYPD’s been caught. On video tape. This kind of surveillance, provocation, and abuse of power is pretty much guaranteed not to catch terrorists. Unless the terrorists are having sex at night in swanky Manhattan penthouses.

I’ve sent a letter to Mayor Tom Potter asking whether the NYPD had the Police Bureau’s sanction to conduct undercover operations in Portland during 2003 and 2004 and whether Mayor Vera Katz authorized them. I’d suggest that if you only want to limit the agencies you’re spied on to the Portland Police, the FBI, and Willamette Week, that you do the same.

BTW: Where the hell is the Oregonian on this? New York cops working undercover in Oregon? Don’t they read the papers?

Intolerating Willamette Week

You can spot the first mistake Willamette Week reporter James Pitkin made in the subtitle to his article: “The Anti-Protester: WW tests the limits of Portland’s tolerance by sending a reporter posed as a war supporter to last week’s antiwar rally.”

Pitkin posed as a war supporter to “see what happens to those who don’t parrot the popular line” in “a town that claims to believe in free speech.” That was his second mistake.

First off, being willing to protest the war in Iraq doesn’t make you some sort of all-welcoming, accepting lump. There are a sizable number of Iraq war veterans involved in anti-war protests across the country at this point, as well as veterans of previous wars and other eras. I don’t think they’re necessarily non-combative by nature.

Veterans (and families of dead soldiers like Casey Sheehan and Pat Tillman) aside, participating in non-violent protest doesn’t mean someone’s tolerant — I’m certainly not — or peaceful. I’m rather angry about the stupidity of people who’ve supported the war. I’d be happy to yell at an idiot like Pitkin even if he was just playing the part. Hell, I’d be happy to yell at him for playing the part.

Because (second) Pitkin makes the same assumption as people like Rush Limbaugh that “free speech” means uncontested speech. Like Limbaugh, Pitkin assumes that he should be able to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to whomever he wants, without consequence. Someone arguing with them or calling them names in response to their free speech is seen not as an exercise of someone else’s free speech but as an abridgment of their own.

That’s not what free speech means, though. You’d think that a reporter would know better. Antiwar protestors certainly do. If Pitkin’s as thin-skinned as he seems to be, perhaps he should find a different line of work, although he’d fit in well with pundits on the right who can dish it out but can’t take it.

UPDATE: I do have to wonder what Pitkin — ostensibly a wordsmith of some sort — thinks the term “protest” means. In most references, it’s a synonym for dissent, complaint, objection, and disapproval. How unaware of the meaning of a common English word do you have to be to wander into a crowd of people expressing dissent and disapproval and expect them to accept you without criticism?

NYC Police Spied On Oregon Anti-Bush Activists

The story from today’s New York Times starts out bad:

For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.

As you’re reading along, you start to think about some of the pockets of anti-Bush sentiment, say, places that have been called “Little Beirut” by the Bushies since the days of George H.W, and sure enough, there it is in the eleventh paragraph:

Police records indicate that in addition to sharing information with other police departments, New York undercover officers were active themselves in at least 15 places outside New York — including California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montreal, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. — and in Europe.

Assuming that the NYC cops weren’t sussing out the administration’s detractors in Pendleton or Medford, it’s natural to wonder if they were “active” in Portland. And then to question whether this intelligence work was done with the knowledge and assistance of the Portland Police Bureau and then-Mayor Vera Katz.

UPDATE: b!x noticed this in the early edition on Saturday.

From Richmond to Baghdad

Another week, another letter to the editors of the Oregonian that I expect will never see the light of day. Which is a shame, because today — Day 1,458: three days before the fourth anniversary of the invasion — is the day that the war in Iraq reaches yet another milestone: it’s lasted as long as the American Civil War.

The American Civil War had origins dating back to before the establishment of the United States, but the war itself is generally acknowledged as having begun with the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The Confederacy formally surrendered almost exactly four years later, when Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee met at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

March 16, 2007 marks the day when the war in Iraq has lasted as long as the American Civil War.

To win the Civil War, the Union Army not only had to protect the nation’s capitol — just across the Potomac from Confederate Virginia — but it had to attack and control a territory four times the size of Iraq. Technologically, the two forces were virtually evenly matched: cannons, rifles, wagons, horses.

The outcome of the war was no foregone conclusion. The Union army suffered massive defeats in the early years and incredible losses even in its victories. President Lincoln took his responsibility seriously. He knew that if the war was to be won, it had to be won expeditiously, and he removed a string of commanders he felt moved too slowly before finding Grant.

Aside from their fictions about why it was necessary to invade Iraq, the Bush administration has never shown the same willingness to commit to their own supposed goal. From the failure to send enough troops to keep the peace after the initial invasion to the lack of equipment to the recent revelations about conditions for wounded soldiers, the entire affair has been run in a lackadaisical manner. Those who advocated the war in both political parties never contemplated that they needed to do anything beyond sending some soldiers to Iraq and dropping some bombs. They’ve wanted to run the war on the cheap because then not as many people get upset about all of the dead soldiers or the rationing, or the conscription. Instead, we get tax cuts for the rich and obscene profits for private firms doing what military conscripts used to do, like heavy construction and running mess halls.

In four years, a much smaller United States of America was able to defeat the Confederate States of America. In an even shorter period of time, the United States built hundreds of ships, thousands of tanks and planes, and sent troops to the Pacific, North Africa, Asia, and Europe to help defeat the Axis powers in World War II.

The administration has had four years of failure in Iraq. It’s time for the American people to realize that the administration simply had no idea what they were getting into and no idea of what they are now doing.

Bob Dole, P.I.

Despite a reputation for the occassional humorous mal mot and a willingness to lash out at even Republicans he feels have done him wrong, former Sen. Bob Dole has always been a faithful hewer of the party line, which was one of the reasons he was chairman of the Republican National Committee during the 1972 Nixon re-election campaign.

So as I heard about Dole’s appointment to be co-chair of the commission to look into the conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital this past week, I thought of the response he had back in the days of Watergate, and just how seriously he treated that political scandal. If you watch this report from Walter Cronkite (which I first saw at, Dole’s little part comes in about two minutes into the video, but here’s my transcript of his words:

I think this is a despicable act. There’s nothing the Democrat [sic] National Committee has that I want. A lot of unpaid bills that, uh, we don’t need to photograph those. And I really can’t understand why anyone would do this. I just can’t comprehend. In fact I read the story, I thought, uh, myself, uh, it’s rather fruitless…I don’t…even if they succeeded I could see no point in it. The Democrats are ready for their convention, uh, they’re gonna be gone in July in Miami. I just couldn’t put together any reasons for anyone wanting to do this.

Uhhh, Bob, spying on political enemies?

Explanation Not Apology

David Sarasohn at the Oregonian is a surprisingly liberal voice to see regularly in a major paper. He’s been a frequent contributor to The Nation, usually on the issue of hunger in America, and makes a startlingly sane contrast to many of the in-house and syndicated editorials. Still, a couple of weeks back he wrote about how people who had been against the Iraq war didn’t seem to want to cut Hillary Clinton a break, despite her acknowledgement that she shouldn’t have trusted George Bush.

Since they haven’t run my letter in the past couple of weeks, I think they’re probably not going to.

To the Editor:

David Sarasohn is mistaken when he says that people who disagreed with Senator Hillary Clinton want an apology from her to confirm their “rightness.” An apology or admission of mistake is, as Mr. Sarasohn suggests, worthless.

What the American public deserves from Senator Clinton is an explanation of why she was in the minority of Democratic members of Congress who were gullible enough to be taken in by the administration’s phony claims of weapons of mass destruction or, if she wasn’t convinced by those arguments, why she approved of the Iraq war resolution regardless.

Sixty percent of the Democratic members of the House and Senate did not accept the administration’s case on Iraqi WMDs. Five of the nine Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence — who presumably had as much access as anyone in the legislative branch of government to classified data on Iraq — voted against the resolution. That group included Senator Ron Wyden.

Yet Senator Clinton voted for the resolution, as did Senator John Edwards, who claimed in a New Yorker interview last month that he wasn’t fooled by the administration; he relied on information from his position on the Intelligence committee as well as “former Clinton Administration people.” None of which explains what convinced him or Senator Clinton to vote differently from most of their colleagues. None of which explains why they made the wrong decision.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that, as a November 2001 Village Voice article pointed out, members of the Democratic Leadership Council — of which Senators Clinton, Edwards, Lieberman, Biden, and Kerry were all members — might have been politically positioning themselves to the right of President Bush by advocating for a war in Iraq as much as a year before the Iraq war resolution.

Senator Clinton is running for a position in which she will be forced to make the type of decisions she made on Iraq over and over again. She and the other Democratic candidates who voted for the Iraq war resolution will need to be able to evaluate intelligence reports and present their case to Congress and the American people. Most of her Democratic colleagues didn’t make the mistake she did on Iraq. How can anyone trust her not to make the same kind of error in judgment — either as a Senator or as President — unless she’s capable of realizing it was a mistake and the reason she was taken in when so many others were not?

Twenty Years, Two Thousand Days

In an Opinion section article (“Smells like Iran-Contra, only 20 years later”) that, inexplicably, isn’t online as of Sunday, Oregonian managing editor Stephen Engelberg marks the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s admission of responsibility for the Iran-contra scandal.

Engelberg covered Iran-contra for the New York Times, and lays out the story succinctly, drawing parallels between National Security Council staffer Oliver North’s operation that sold arms to Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran in secret to free American hostages in Lebanon. After receiving a report from a special review board headed by former Sen. John Tower and including former Sec. of State Edmund Muskie and ex-national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, Reagan said in his televised address:

I undertook the original Iran initiative in order to develop relations with those who might assume leadership in a post-Khomeini government. It’s clear from the Board’s report, however, that I let my personal concern for the hostages spill over into the geo-political strategy of reaching out to Iran. I asked so many questions about the hostages’ welfare that I didn’t ask enough about the specifics of the total Iran plan.

Those specifics included enormous markups, some of which went to to Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer with ties to North and Michael Ledeen, one of the architects of the current war in Iraq. Other profits went to another pet project of Reagan’s, which had been specifically banned by an amendment he, himself, had signed: the funding of the contras, who were fighting the Communist government of Nicaragua.

Engelberg notes: “The Iranians, who had ties to the Lebanese groups, astutely played the Americans, arranging the release of only one hostage for each shipment of weapons they bought.” And what did they buy? One month it was 1,000 BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles. One month. Back in November of 1986, Reagan had claimed that all of the weapons sold “could easily fit into a single cargo plane.”

In one of those odd coincidences of historical numerology, today is also the 2,000th day of The Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism War on Terror that began with the terrorist attacks on 9/11. In one dozen days, the war in Iraq will have lasted as long as the American Civil War.

Civility and the Dirty Hippies. It Never Changes.

It may not be particularly helpful in the conflict over appropriate language in civil discourse to have someone on your side nicknamed Dr Gonzo, but I was in the bookstore this afternoon and saw a discounted copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in America. I picked it up and opened it at random and saw this on page 194:


Upon receiving Thompson’s complaint about the CBS Morning News being taken off the air, an annoyed Allen wrote back, taking issue with his foul language and rude asides. It was not the type of reply Thompson was expecting.

July 10, 1969
Woody Creek, CO

Dave Allen
Assistant General Manager
Grand Junction, CO

Dear Mr. Allen…
  Thanks for your letter of July 7. I was particularly struck by the fact that you “take exception to the profanities utilized in (my) letter” . . . and to that I can only say Fuck Off.
  I take exception to 99% of the cheap goddamn garbage you put on the air. Your scheduling is a monument to everything rotten in America . . . and you have the gall to sit there and call my July 3 letter “profane.” You ignorant freak; from now on I’ll address you on your own level.
  You’re a fine example of the kind of waterhead who has crippled the whole television medium. If you think my letter was profane, you should take a look at the Real World sometime–the world you tried to censor when you cut CBS News.
  But it’s still out there, old sport, and it’s closing in. Did you really think you could check out of reality by fleeing Pennsylvania? Why don’t you send Gunsmoke‘s Marshal Dillon out to arrest me for my profanity?

Hunter S. Thompson