Saturday, October 22, 2005

Finally some truth

Someone in the Bush administration has finally admitted the truth.

During testimony before the Senate Foreign relations Committee on Oct 20th, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finally told the truth. She admitted that it was always the Bush administration’s intention to redesign the Middle East after the 9/11 attacks. She said that 9/11 merely exposed a “deep malignancy that had been growing” in the region for a long time. The Iraq war is a part of the much larger plan to change the political character of Middle Eastern countries and the mindset of the peoples living in them.

On the Oct 16th edition of Meet The Press, Condi made a similar statement:
“But the fact of the matter is that when we were attacked on September 11, we had a choice to make. We could decide that the proximate cause was al-Qaeda and the people who flew those planes into buildings and, therefore, we would go after al-Qaeda and perhaps after the Taliban and then our work would be done and we would try to defend ourselves.

Or we could take a bolder approach, which was to say that we had to go after the root causes of the kind of terrorism that was produced there, and that meant a different kind of Middle East.”

So basically Condi is admitting that the Bush administration had ulterior motives in invading Iraq. No surprise there. The only one to question her about that statement was Barbara Boxer saying that changing the mindset of the Middle East was not given as a rationale for war by President Bush. Something I want to know is why was Boxer the only one to speak up on this issue? Wasn’t Condi admitting that Bush misled the country on his reasons for invading?

Something else to note is the fact that remaking the Middle East was on the table long before 9/11. Just look up the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), whose former members include current members of the Bush administration. 9/11 didn’t expose anything; it was merely an excuse for them to implement their pre-existing agenda of controlling the hearts and minds of the world, by force if necessary.

And keeping in line with remaking the Middle East, Condi was also peppered with questions regarding the possibility of future military action in the region, most notably against Syria or Iran. She refused to rule out expansion of the Iraq war into neighboring countries. When asked whether President Bush would seek authorization from Congress for the use of military force outside of Iraq’s borders, Condi had this to say “I don’t want to try and circumscribe presidential war powers. I think you’ll understand fully that the president retains those powers in the war on terrorism and in the war in Iraq.”

Apparently Condi, nor anyone else in the Bush cadre for that matter, has bothered to read the US Constitution. Or maybe they just skimmed over the part about how only Congress has the power to declare war. Maybe they felt that part would “circumscribe” the President’s unimpeded global war.

Condi’s remarks just illustrate the true intentions of the Bush/PNAC cartel.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Helen Vs. Scotty

Press Secretary Scott McClellan has been having a rough week. Twice he has been asked tough questions by White House Reporter Helen Thomas. The first incident occurred on Oct. 13th.

Here is the transcript of the incident:
Thomas: What does the President mean by "total victory" -- that we will never leave Iraq until we have "total victory"? What does that mean?

McClellan: Free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East, because a free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a major blow to the ambitions --

Thomas: If they ask us to leave, then we'll leave?

McClellan: I'm trying to respond. A free and democratic Iraq in the heart of the broader Middle East will be a major blow to the ambitions of al Qaeda and their terrorist associates. They want to establish or impose their rule over the broader Middle East -- we saw that in the Zawahiri letter that was released earlier this week by the intelligence community.

Thomas: They also know we invaded Iraq.

McClellan: Well, Helen, the President recognizes that we are engaged in a global war on terrorism. And when you're engaged in a war, it's not always pleasant, and it's certainly a last resort. But when you engage in a war, you take the fight to the enemy, you go on the offense. And that's exactly what we are doing. We are fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here. September 11th taught us --

Thomas: It has nothing to do with -- Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

McClellan: Well, you have a very different view of the war on terrorism, and I'm sure you're opposed to the broader war on terrorism. The President recognizes this requires a comprehensive strategy, and that this is a broad war, that it is not a law enforcement matter.

Notice how quickly Scotty accused Thomas of being “soft” on terror simply because she had the audacity to point out the reality that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 (a reality some what different from the Bush version). This is pure Bush style of addressing the issues, when faced with tough questions you either a) accuse the questioner of being sympathetic to the enemy or b) leave the question unanswered and take the opportunity to regurgitate the same rhetoric you have been peddling for the last 2 ½ years. But what else do you expect from a White House that hasn’t been held accountable for its actions?

Something else that was lost in the exchange was the question: If they ask us to leave, then we’ll leave? That is a good question, and one that hasn’t really been addressed by the mainstream media. According a Zogby poll taken right before the January elections, 69% of Shiites and 82% of Sunni’s favored a “near-term” withdrawal of US troops and an end to the occupation. Surveys done for the Coalition Provisional Authority in June 2004 showed that a 55 % majority "would feel safer if US troops left immediately."

Why hasn’t this gotten any attention in the mainstream media? Mainly due to the fact that because the corporate media had a hand in “hyping” the case for war, to report now that a majority of Iraqis favor our withdrawal would likely cause the remaining support to crumble. Incidentally, ratings would probably suffer as well.

Round Two

Helen went toe-to-toe with Scotty again in an Oct 18th press briefing:
Thomas: Dispatches from Iraq said that yesterday we killed 70 people in Iraq, near Ramadi, including 18 children. I want to know what the President thinks of that.

McClellan: Well, first of all, I think you need to talk to the military, because the military --

Thomas: No, I'm talking here.

McClellan: Yes, and as I'm responding to you, the military has said otherwise at this point. Now, the military has review mechanisms in place and when there are questions raised, they look into those matters, and so that's something that, obviously, they will look into. But, beyond that, you'd have to talk to the military about where that stands. Now --

Thomas: Eighteen children --

McClellan: -- in terms of our United States military, our military goes out of the way not to target --

Thomas: Why were 18 children killed?

McClellan: Our military goes out of the way not to target innocent civilians.

Thomas: I'm not saying they were targeted --

McClellan: Our military goes out of the way to target the enemy, and to --

Thomas: Why did they say 18 children?

McClellan: -- bring to justice the terrorists and those who are seeking to prevent democracy from taking hold, through violent means, to justice. And that's what our military does. And they do --

Thomas: Seventy people were killed by an air strike.

McClellan: Helen, please let me respond, because I think it's important to point this out when you're bringing up a question like this. We fully support our men and women in uniform. They're doing an outstanding job to defend our freedoms and to help the Iraqi people move forward on a free --

Thomas: I'm not saying -- I'm saying why did they kill 70 people?

McClellan: -- to move forward on a free and peaceful future. I think everybody in this room would like me to have the opportunity to be able to talk to you about this question. And you're assuming things that people have different recollections about right now, or have characterized very differently. And that's why I said the military has review mechanisms in place, when situations like this arise, and they look into those matters. That's why you need to talk to the military, to see where that stands.

Thomas: Are the figures wrong in all the newspapers?

McClellan: The military is looking into the matter, Helen. I don't have any more information at this point.

Reporter: If I could follow on Helen's question, though. Whatever the facts of this particular situation are, war is an inexact business, and children do get killed. And what I think she's asking is for a response from the President about children who may have been killed as a result of American action.

McClellan: Look, I don't want to assume, because this is an incident that's being looked into.

Reporter: I'm not assuming. I'm not assuming.

McClellan: And I want to also make the point -- and I think you can go back and look at this -- yes, war is always the last resort. It's not something that's pleasant. But it is a decision that sometimes the Commander-in-Chief has to make in order to protect the American people. And he made the decision that we were going to go on the offensive in this global war on terrorism that we're engaged in, and that's exactly what we're doing, and that we're going to work to spread freedom and democracy in a part of the world that is in need of hope. And you have to recognize the struggle that we're engaged in.

And there are people in Iraq, terrorists, who recognized how high the stakes are, and they're seeking to do everything they can to stop the democratic process from advancing. And there are attacks carried out on some of our troops. And when those attacks are carried out on our troops, you have others that respond to that. And we appreciate all that our men and women in uniform are doing when it comes to defending our freedoms abroad.

Now, in terms of any innocent people being killed, we mourn the loss of any innocent life that is lost. We have seen that the terrorists have no regard for innocent human life. That's the difference between the enemy and between those in the civilized world who are committed to spreading freedom and peace. We target the enemy; they target innocent civilians. And there's a stark contrast in how we go about waging this war on terrorism. They carry out cowardly acts against innocent civilians. We go after those who seek to do harm to those innocent civilians.

Yet another attempt to evade the tough questions. Even after repeated tries, Scotty couldn’t defer the question of this incident onto the military. So finally he decided to use the opportunity to praise the military and their efforts to spread freedom and peace. Yet again he mentioned we are on the offense in a war of last resort, fighting the enemies of democracy (I see a pattern here, is Scotty reading from the same script?) He talked about how we are better than them because we don’t intentionally target civilians. Note to Scotty: all because we don’t intentionally target civilians doesn’t make them any less dead. He talked about the distinction between us and them. Unfortunately, with incidents such as these, that distinction becomes somewhat blurred.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: "What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the name of liberty and democracy?"

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fear Factor

The Bush administration is having a tough time as of late. Public support for the Iraq war has reached the lowest levels ever. More then half of respondents to recent polls now think going into Iraq was a mistake. And only 32% approve of the way Bush is handling the war.

So what does Bush do? Does he admit we made a mistake and try to rectify it? Nope. He decides to try the tactic that worked so well for him in the past: Fear.

For those who may have missed it, the drumbeat of terror started early the first week of October. Senior White Houses aides reported, “a quick exit for US troops could sow a deadly harvest of future terror attacks on US soil.” Vice President Cheney reiterated that theory by cautioning that Iraq would become a staging ground for future terror attacks on the US should troops withdraw too early. Bush parroted this assessment at a Tuesday press conference in his usual style of grammatical incorrectness: “We also got [sic] to continue to make sure we meet our obligations to prevent further terrorist attacks. Iraq is part of the global war on terror.”

Bush’s “major” speech.

On Thursday of that week, Bush made what the administration said was a “major” speech from the National Endowment for Democracy. This speech was thought to be a chance for Bush to lay out a clear exit strategy for Iraq and start to bring our troops home. Sadly that is not what Bush used the speech for.

The speech contained pretty much the same rhetoric that Bush and company have been spouting for the last five years. Little of what was said was really new, aside from the “revelation” that the US had foiled at least 10 terror plots during 2002-2004 (more on this later). One wonders why he made the speech at all. But there was a reason. This speech was carefully crafted to do several things, not the least of which was to allay concerns over the situation in Iraq.

First the speech was designed to re-inject terror into the American psyche. Rather then talk about the realities in Iraq, Bush opted to wax philosophically about terror. He spoke of how the extremists are no longer content with just attacking us, now they are bent on ruling the world. He says that they want to control Iraq in order to enslave whole nations, to establish a “radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.” Bush even resurrected Bin Laden (when was the last time you heard him mention Osama?).

Then there were those “foiled” terror plots.

There has been some debate on this issue. The sketchy details given by the White House make it hard to judge how serious the plots really were. Some plots seemed to have never moved into the actual planning phase. That begs the question: Can the US claim it “foiled” a plot if it never makes past the theoretical stage? Also suspect is the timing of these revelations. Why wasn’t the public informed then? The answer to that is simple: politics. The administration sat on this info until it was needed. Not to inform the public of continuing threats but to try to give a much needed boost to the President's diminishing approval ratings. One wonders if, perhaps at some future point when the President’s ratings continue to slide toward the negative, the Bush administration will trot out Osama in chains to bolster Dubya’s image.

Bush even brought up the specter of a since dead and buried enemy: communism. This just shows the desperate measures to which the President will stoop to in order to pray on the fears of the public. And if nothing else, it was one more “ism” to add to list of “isms” Bush cited in his speech.

Something else I find contemptible about Bush’s speech, aside from the fear-mongering, was Bush’s refusal of accountability for our actions. He contends that no action by our government or its allies, now or in the past, ever contributed to the actions of our enemies, ever. According to Bush, neither our presence in Saudi Arabia nor Lebanon nor Israel’s presence in the West Bank ever had anything to do with any terrorist attacks anywhere.

Bush makes this claim despite a Pentagon report released late last year that suggests otherwise.
'Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.'

You also must consider who has been the principal victims of recent terror attacks: Australians in Bali, Britons in London, Spaniards in Madrid, Egyptians in Sinai, and Israeli's in Tel Aviv. All of these places have one thing in common. They are US allies or client states that are currently involved in military actions in the Middle East.

All because invading Iraq didn’t anger the American people (at least not initially) doesn’t mean that no one was angered by it. To claim that the US and its allies are above reproach for any of our actions only solidifies the stereotype that we are an arrogant, self-serving, hypocritical nation.

Bush also used the speech to once again dismiss calls for withdrawal.
"Some observers also claim that America would be better off by cutting our losses and leaving Iraq now…It's a dangerous illusion refuted with a simple question: Would the United States and other free nations be more safe or less safe with Zarqawi and bin Laden in control of Iraq, its people and its resources?"

While the prospect of Bin Laden and Zarqawi taking control of Iraq is a scary one, Bush continuously fails to point out that he help create that scenario.

In "The Universe According to Bush", the US went to Iraq to combat Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network (one of no less then 27 rationales for war according to a study conducted by a University of Illinois student in 2004).

Granted, Zarqawi's Al Qaeda affliated group, Ansar Al-Islam, was in Iraq prior to the US invasion. But they were in the northern No Fly Zone, an area that was largely outside of government control. By toppling the regime, the US in fact expanded Zarqawi’s area of operations.

Bush’s argument that we must stay in Iraq to stop the spread of terrorism belies the fact that the war has in fact contributed to it. From the current head of the CIA, Porter Goss:
“The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists. Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraq conflict to recruit new, anti-U.S. jihadists."

By focusing on removing Saddam from power, the US has in a sense, helped Al-Qaeda move from the foothills of Afghanistan to the streets of Iraq. There is a consensus in the intelligence community that Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the primary training ground for global jihadists. That was not the case before the invasion and to suggest otherwise is to ignore the current reality that is taking place there.

Now don’t get me wrong, Saddam was a bad man. No one is denying that fact. He and his regime ruled their citizenry with an iron, and often bloody fist. But we did have something in common, that is, the fear of militant Islam. Saddam was a passionate secularist. Many of the more brutal acts of his regime were carried out against Islamic militants and the governments supporting them. The US secretly supported Saddam during his war with Iran because we feared militant Islam more. It is also the reason the US left Saddam in power after liberating Kuwait in the first Gulf War.

So what does Bush Jr. do? He makes the case to remove the only safeguard against militant Islam taking hold in Iraq. Way to go G.W.

The address also sought to “hype up” the threat posed by foreign fighters in Iraq. To hear Bush tell it, all members of the Iraqi insurgency are foreign terrorists. But recent intelligence assessments say that less then 10% of the insurgency is comprised of foreign jihadists. So really, for the most part, we aren’t fighting “militant jihadists” as Bush and company would have you believe but rather pissed off Iraqi’s.

Senior civilian commanders like to focus on the role of foreign fighters for several reasons. First is media attention. Homegrown insurgents prefer to use small arms and roadside bombs targeted specifically at occupation forces. Suicide bombings targeted at both the military and civilians are the tactic of choice for the jihadists. The spectacular nature of these incidents garners more media attention then small arms clashes with US troops. Second, it is much easier to blame foreign fighters then to develop better counterinsurgency strategies.

There is also a political aspect. By blurring the distinction between foreign fighters and indigenous insurgents, Bush can continue to make the claim that Iraq is now the front lines in the war on terror.

As Senate Minority Whip, Dick Durbin says in response to the address: "I believe the president has offered America a false choice between resolve and retreat. The real choice is between the strategy of accountability and more vague generalities. We must move beyond the policies of fear to a forceful commitment to protect the United States and its values.”

Fear and terror have been the tools of the trade for the Bush administration for the last five years. Chances are, as long as they continue to work for them, they will continue to exploit the fears of the American public. This “major” speech is just the latest desperate act of a failed President to scare America. Luckily more and more Americans are wising up if the recent polls are any indication.

Update: A letter reportedly from Ayman Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda's second in command, to Zarqawi was recently intercepted. The letter seems to downplay the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, as well as their ambitions for Iraq that were discussed in Bush’s Oct. 6 address.

The "Zawahiri" letter expresses concerns that an American withdrawal from Iraq would have serious consequences for their goals. They worry that once the US withdraws it may prompt the "mujahedeen" to "lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal." They see withdrawal as a set back in their goal to establish an Islamic "caliphate", something far less expansive then the regional empire Bush spoke of in his speech.

The letter also seems to indicate that Al-Qaeda is strapped for cash. It asks their operatives in Iraq to send $100,000 to help hedge cash shortages. Also addressed in the letter were concerns over the videotaped beheadings of Western captives and the targeting of Shiites by suicide bombers. Zawahiri scolds Zarqawi for declaring a war on Shiites, fearing a backlash from locals.

Indeed, the current make up of the insurgency suggests a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” mentality. Sunni’s, who are thought to make up most of the insurgency, tolerate the foreign jihadists only because they are fighting against US occupation forces. If troops were to withdraw, it is quite possible the Sunni’s would turn on and expel the jihadists.

Yet Bush continues to argue for staying the course. I think Al-Qaeda’s leaders would agree with that strategy.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Al Qaeda Crushed?

That was the chyron on a segment of Fox & Friends this morning. They were discussing the possibility that the recent quake in Pakistan may in fact have been a good thing. They tossed out the idea that this quake may have killed some Al Qaeda operatives, perhaps even Bin Laden himself, in the process.

Something they failed to point out, however, was that while the quake may have killed some Al Qaeda fighters, it also killed tens of thousands of innocent people along with it.

To even be discussing this issue while people are still buried under the rumble is revolting. We should be focused on providing aid to these people, not pondering the possibility this quake may have done our work for us and "crushed a few Al Qaeda".

It's no wonder the rest of the world hates us.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Friday, October 14, 2005

A "conversation" with the troops

President Bush held a Q&A session with US troops currently in Tikrit via teleconference. It was billed as conversation between the troops and their commander-in-chief. Sadly, the media wasn’t buying it. The Associated Press called attention to the obviously staged nature of the event. Answers to the President’s questions seemed choreographed to give an upbeat view of the situation in Iraq in line with the White House goals.

This is yet another shameless attempt by the Bush administration at political spin. The troops answers were so well scripted, it might have well have been Bush talking to himself. And the worse part is they are using our troops to further their political objectives. Press Secretary Scott McClellan said that while Thursday’s event was coordinated, it was merely to help with technical challenges that may arise such as delays in the satellite feed. He stated that the soldiers were expressing their own opinions. Yea right. More then likely there was a PAO (Public Affairs Officer) standing menacingly off camera to make sure the troops didn’t stray too far from the party line.

And just by coincidence one of the soldiers, Capt. Lombardo, just happened to be in New York City in Nov. 2001 when President Bush attended an event recognizing soldiers for their rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. She also said that the troops began their fight against terrorism after Sept. 11 and were proud to continue the fight in Iraq (pure propaganda if I ever heard it). Bush even joked, “I thought you looked familiar.” Some coincidence.

In addition, as they say in the real estate business: location, location, location. In an obvious stab at former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the troops were broadcasting from Tikrit, birthplace of the deposed dictator.

Paul Rieckhoff, director of the New York-based Operation Truth, an advocacy group for U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan brought up a good point in the AP article regarding this event. Five out of the ten soldiers involved were officers. In the article, Rieckhoff states, "If he wants the real opinions of the troops, he can't do it in a nationally televised teleconference. He needs to be talking to the boots on the ground and that's not a bunch of captains."

Then there was the token Iraqi soldier in attendance. He was positively gushing in his praise of Bush, “Thank you very much for everything. I like you." Makes you wonder if they had to take away his “Help Me” sign before cameras rolled.

This is a disrespectful misuse of our military. Perhaps if Bush and company had put as much effort into the planning of post-war Iraq, he wouldn’t need to have these “conversations”.

Note: One positive aspect to come out of this is the fact that the media (or at least AP) has finally gotten a whiff of the BS that Bush is shoveling and has decided to tell the American people about it.

Update 10/15/05: More news about this so called “conversation”. Turns out that Capt. Lombardo, the “grunt” who talked about 9/11 and the progress being made in Iraq, is in fact a military spokeswoman for the US Army. So it would seem she was really the Pentagon's leading lady in this highly scripted political farce.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)

Polling For Impeachment

Some good news…

In a recent Ipsos poll, the question of whether Congress should consider impeaching President Bush if he did indeed lie about his reasons for going to war with Iraq was included. Some 50% of the 1,001 adults surveyed agreed. With his overall job approval rating falling to the lowest levels of his presidency, the findings of this survey are a bad sign for Bush.

The Iraq war has not gone well for Ole G.W. Support for the war has declined sharply since June. The fact that half of the respondents agree that impeachment is warranted shows that the number of Americans who believe Bush lied about the war has increased (a Zogby poll conducted in June showed 42% favored impeachment).

And now the bad news…

Unfortunately for the American public, the mainstream media has all but ignored this topic. Some suggest this is due to the fact that no one in Congress has called for impeachment hearings (I guess it's more newsworthy to interview a member of Congress then actually get the opinion of the people directly). The media already accepts that Bush lied. Why else, when the Downing Street Memo came to light, so many editors and pundits said it was “old news”.

Yet even though they except that Bush lied us into war, they refuse to even suggest holding him accountable for his actions. Their complicity in helping to "catapult the propaganda" is no doubt another reason they shy away from the subject.

Bush has been given a free pass by the mainstream media ever since 9/11. A lot of folks (especially those in the Bush administration) like to say that “9/11 changed everything”. The only thing 9/11 did was give Bush an excuse to do whatever he wants; from waging a war of aggression to shredding the Constitution.

(Originally posted on Yahoo360)