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Archive for May 31st, 2008

By- Suzie-Q @ 8:00 PM MST

Obama keeps the pressure on McCain, says ‘we’ve seen this movie before’

Let no one say the Obama campaign is unwilling to take advantage of opportunities that avail themselves.

Last night, Barack Obama hammered John McCain for his bogus claim that U.S. forces in Iraq have been “drawn down to pre-surge levels.” Today, Obama keeps the pressure on:

“We all misspeak sometimes. I’ve done it myself. So on such a basic, factual error, you’d think that Senator McCain would just admit that he made a mistake and move on. But he couldn’t do that. Instead, he dug in. And the disturbing thing is that we’ve seen this movie before — a leader who pursues the wrong course, who is unwilling to change course, who ignores the evidence. Now, just like George Bush, John McCain refused to admit that he made a mistake. And that’s exactly the kind of leadership that we’ve had through more than five years of fighting a war that should’ve never been authorized, and should’ve never been waged.

“We don’t need more leaders who can’t admit they’ve made a mistake, even when it’s about something as fundamental as how many young Americans are serving in harm’s way.”

Excellent. McCain’s remarks underscored a discomforting ignorance, but McCain’s refusal to acknowledge his error points to something akin to a Bush-like character flaw.

You can almost hear McCain’s righteous indignation for having even been asked to explain why he’s wrong. “But I’m John McCain. I can’t be wrong about the troops. Don’t you understand?

As Atrios put it, “He is McCain, so he is good and moral and right and correct and anything else is unpossible.”

In the bigger picture, I can’t help but love the fact that Obama’s team is playing for keeps here. The whole situation sounds like the traditional dynamic turned upside down — a candidate gets a key detail about the military wrong, the opposing side pounces, the candidate begins to parse the meaning of the words to insist technical accuracy (which doesn’t actually apply), and the opposing side treats the whole mess as a gift-wrapped present.

But in this case, it’s the Dem who’s on the offensive.

Greg Sargent concluded:

It’s clear that McCain’s campaign misplayed this one. He could simply have said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I misspoke. I meant to say we’re in the process of drawing down to pre-surge levels. Sorry. Now can we get back to the issues?”

But instead, the McCain camp tried to turn this into a debate about “verb tenses” — the sort of error more often committed by Dems, and more often exploited by Republicans. Who knows how big an impact this will have, but the fact that Obama camp isn’t letting up on this will cheer Dems wondering how aggressive the Obama team will be in the general.

For the longest time, I heard a lot of speculation about Obama being “too nice.” He wouldn’t “mix it up” enough; his style of politics was overly committed to staying “above the fray.” (How many times did we hear the line about Obama finding it “too hot” in the kitchen?)

When it came to the intra-party fight for the Democratic nomination, Obama didn’t engage in the kind of aggressive tactics we usually think of in relation to a political street fight. For the better part of the year, he didn’t have to — he was winning.

But since the Indiana/North Carolina primaries, as Obama began to shift away from Clinton and towards McCain, we’ve seen a Democratic campaign that hasn’t hesitated to hit the Republican nominee as hard as possible, as often as possible.

I half expect the McCain campaign to start asking, “Whatever happened to the politics of hope?”

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anthony @ 22:45 BST

(Updates at bottom: McClellan tells CNN he’d ‘be happy’ to testify; Perino suggests White House could block)

Nick Juliano | therawstory | Friday May 30, 2008

Lawyers working for the House Judiciary Committee are meeting with former White House spokesman Scott McClellan regarding the explosive revelations contained in his new tell-all memoir, and the committee’s chairman says he may renew hearings on the administration’s leak of a CIA officer’s identity now that new details have been published.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said he was bothered by the accounts in What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, McClellan’s just-published memoir.

“I find Mr. McClellan’s revelations about attempts to cover-up the Valerie Plame leak extremely troubling,” the Judiciary chairman said in a statement released Friday. “Particularly disturbing is McClellan’s assertion that he was specifically directed by Andy Card to ‘vouch’ for Scooter Libby after the investigation had begun, which, if true, could amount to obstruction of justice beyond that for which Mr. Libby has already been convicted.

“I believe this issue may require closer examination so I have instructed my counsels to begin discussions with Mr. McClellan to determine whether a hearing is necessary and to secure his possible cooperation.”

Judiciary Committee member Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) already has called for McClellan to testify under oath about his book.

In the book, McClellan suggests that vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and former Bush confidant Karl Rove may have privately discussed their involvement in the Plame scandal as the Justice Department was beginning its investigation. Both men released information about the former covert agent to reporters in attempt to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who was criticizing the White House’s faulty intelligence about Iraq’s weapons programs.

Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice before President Bush commuted his sentence. Rove avoided any official sanctions for his involvement in the leak. After resigning his White House post, he’s gone on to be a commentator for Fox News, columnist for Newsweek and freelance political operative. (more…)

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By- Suzie-Q @ 8:00 AM MST

24 Former U.S. Attorneys Say Congress Can Subpoena White House

By Andrew Tilghman – May 30, 2008, 2:26PM

In the legal standoff between Congress and the White House, a group of 24 former federal prosecutors is siding with Congress.

The attorneys joined in a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that Congress should be allowed to issue subpoenas to White House aides to investigate political influence at the Department of Justice.

AP reports:

The list of former U.S. attorneys who filed the documents in U.S. District Court includes David C. Iglesias, who says he was fired as New Mexico’s top prosecutor for political reasons. The prosecutors said that, without congressional oversight, presidents would be free to meddle in prosecutorial decisions.”If permitted to enforce its subpoenas for documents and testimony, Congress has a unique ability to address improper partisan influence in the prosecutorial process,” the former prosecutors wrote. “No other institution will fill the vacuum if Congress is unable to investigate and respond to this evil.”

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We like your Tony Blair!

anthony@ 14:28 BST

It was a priceless moment — one that I would savour for years to come.

The statement, “Tony Blair…is normally immensely popular in the US for his support for President George W Bush’s ‘war on terror’”, contained in the Daily Mail article, Tony Blair is barracked over Iraq by students at Yale University, which I posted on this blog earlier this week, reminds me of a conversation I had with some middle-aged New Yorkers some time ago in the summer of 2004.

I had arrived in America for the first time at Boston’s Logan Airport a few days earlier and had booked straight away (once I’d found my way to Boston’s Huntington Avenue having totally lost my bearings in Boston’s new underground road system) into the YMCA. I had spent the next few days touring Boston harbor, Cambridge, Groton, the prep school out in the wilds of Massachusetts where FDR was educated (the hero of a novel I’m writing is educated there), Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Newport (RI) (to visit the mansions), and New Haven.

My holiday had been planned with military-style precision, rooms in youth hostels or YMCAs in the major cities I stayed in (Boston, New York, and Washington) and a vehicle from Alamos (a nice comfy Buick Century as it turned out), being booked weeks beforehand over the net, and staying in motels when on the road between places.

But my drive from New Haven to New York had not been so planned. I had simply picked my car up in the multi-story car park in New Haven, having visited Yale campus, the Stirling library, and YLS, and driven on down Highway 95 towards New York, “simply hoping for the best”, as my driving instructor of yore had often put it.

As the multi-story tower blocks of New Rochelle came into view, indicating that I was approaching the fabled city, I realized I hadn’t the faintest idea of how to actually get to the West Side YMCA, which is situated at 5 West 63rd St. New York, NY 10023, and decided to drive off at the next exit and found out.

I parked beside a bar on a marina in view of Throgs Neck Bridge and asked the bar lady how to get to my destination.

Throgs Neck Bridge

She didn’t know, but introduced me to some middle aged men sitting around a table on the veranda outside. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was talking to genuine New Yorkers.

“Do you know where you are?” one of them asked me.

I didn’t.

“You’re in the Bronx.”

“Have you heard of the Bronx?”

I had.

“That’s Throg Neck Bridge, over there. Drugs Neck Bridge, they call it.”

The conversation turned to politics.

“We like your Tony Blair,” one of them said. (more…)

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The Book They’re All Talking About!

anthony @ 12:06 BST

Even before it was published (May 27, 2008), Pat Buchanan’s book, Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, set the cat amongst the pigeons, not least because of John Lukacs review, “Necessary Evil”, which appeared, somewhat incongruously, in the June 2, 2008 [sic] issue (presumably online), sometime late last May, of The American Conservative. As an anti-anti-communist, who considers Nationalism to have been the supreme evil of the 20th century, Lukacs, whom Geoffrey Wheatcroft, a more considered judge of Churchill’s achievements, describes as “preeminent among intellectually respectable Churchillians”, has always idolized Churchill, who fought against that most extreme form of 20th-century Nationalism, Nazism, and made common cause with Uncle Joe Stalin.

On May 25, Buchanan posted an excerpt from his book, titled, “Man of the Century”, on Taki’s Magazine. He begins:

As the twentieth century ended, a debate ensued over who had been its greatest man. The Weekly Standard nominee was Churchill. Not only was he Man of the Century, said scholar Harry Jaffa, he was the Man of Many Centuries. To Kissinger he was “the quintessential hero.” A BBC poll of a million people in 2002 found that Britons considered Churchill the “greatest Briton of all time.”

As a Briton, I well remember the poll, tho’ I didn’t take part in it.

Buchanan goes on to examine whether Churchill really deserves that accolade and concludes that “Churchill succeeded magnificently as a war leader”, but “failed as a statesman”: “He had been a great man—at the cost of his country’s greatness.”

He also says of his own country, which has ceased to be a republic and has become a fast-declining empire: “There is hardly a blunder of the British Empire we have not replicated.”

Two days later, Buchanan posted a second article, “How the West Lost the World”, on Takimag, in which he outlines the series of British “blunders” which led to the Second World War.

Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, is one of a number of books on the subject reviewed by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in his review, “Churchill and His Myths” (a possible allusion to Churchill’s phrase, “Hitler and all his works”), which appeared on the same day in The New York review of Books, the others being John Lukacs’ own Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning, Lynne Olson’s Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England, about the Tory rebels who voted against Chamberlain in 1940, and Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, which Lukacs has denounced, unsurprisingly, as “a bad book”.

Wheatcroft writes:

In the best sentence in her book, about the Suez adventure of 1956, [Olson] writes, “Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, the lessons of Munich and appeasement were wrongly applied to a later international crisis.” Likewise, having rightly observed that “there has arisen among America’s elite a Churchill cult,” Patrick Buchanan devotes a chapter, “Man of the Century,” to denouncing the cult, and the man. He not only looks askance at Churchill’s saying in September 1943 that “to achieve the extirpation of Nazi tyranny there are no lengths of violence to which we will not go”; he chastises the administration of George Bush the Younger—who installed a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office—for having emulated “every folly of imperial Britain in her plunge from power,” and having drawn every wrong lesson from Churchill’s career. There is by now an entire book to be written about the way that “Munich,” “appeasement,” and “Churchill” have been ritually invoked, from Suez to Vietnam to Iraq, so often in false analogy, and so often with calamitous results.

Pat Buchanan himself appeared on CNN’s Situation Room to discuss his book with Wolf Blitzer, an appearance which was written up in an article, “Pat Buchanan Blames Britain for Holocaust”, by Jason Linkins on the Huffington Post, and which he peppered with ad hominem attacks:

He also appeared with Lester Holt on the Today Show:

Man of the Century
How the West Lost the World

(more…)

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The last Briton in Guantanamo faces death penalty

anthony @ 09:30 BST

Yesterday, I saw the above headline in The Independent newspaper. “Probably just another British Asian working for Muslim Aid or some other such-like charity, being rounded up in eastern Pakistan and brought back to Gitmo for a showtrial to keep alive people’s fears of ‘terrorism’”, I thought. “Is Gordon Brown going to do anything to reverse this travesty of justice?”

Then last night, on Newsnight, I was told that the same man had earphones attached to his head with the same music played for 24 hours and razor blades held close to his genitals… .

And Bush denies that the US uses torture!

The man now faces trial by a Military Commission. And Gitmo, not being on either US or Cuban territory, is not subject to the Geneva Conventions.

Tho’ MSM, “Auntie”, or “the Beeb”, as the BBC is affectionately known, does at least have the virtue of not belonging to Murdoch, or Berlusconi, or any other of the neocon media-moguls who make it their business to tell us what they want us to know and what to think. The BBC frequently airs programmes made by independent investigators which would never get shown on MSM in the US.

The video of the Newsnight piece I saw last night is not available on Youtube, but this one, in a similar vein and by the same presenter and posted on Youtube on April 27, 2008 gives an idea of what Newsnight is doing to expose the enormities of Gitmo.

And below the Newsnight piece, I post the Independent article.

Should the US be facing war crimes investigation? 1 of 2

According to BBC’s Newsnight, Lawyers working under the Bush administration fear they could be subject to a war crimes investigation and may have been left vulnerable to explain themselves to an international court much like the Nuremberg Trials.

Should the US be facing war crimes investigation? 2 of 2

After being held prisoner by the US for six years, inmate to be charged with terrorism offences despite protesting his innocence

Robert Verkaik, Law Editor | The Independent | Friday, 30 May 2008

A British resident who is facing the death penalty in Guantanamo Bay has made a final desperate plea to Gordon Brown to end his six-year ordeal and bring him home today.

In a letter delivered to Downing Street, Binyam Mohamed, the last Guantanamo inmate with the automatic right to British residency, calls on the Prime Minister to use his influence with President George Bush to stop an American military “kangaroo court” sending him to his death. (more…)

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Invitation to Steal: War Profiteering in Iraq

Sudhan @09:15 CET

William D. Hartung | Foreign Policy In Focus, May 28, 2008

[Note: This essay was drawn from FPIF's latest book, Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War, published by Paradigm Publishers.]

The heavy reliance on private contractors to do everything from serving meals and doing laundry to protecting oil pipelines and interrogating prisoners has been a major factor in the immense costs of the Iraq war. By one measure, there may be more employees of private firms and their subcontractors on the ground in Iraq than there are U.S. military personnel.

One of the main rationales for using private companies to carry out functions formerly done by uniformed military personnel – a practice that has been on the rise since then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney commissioned a study that led to the contracting out of all Army logistics work to Halliburton in the 1990s – was that it would save money. But in Iraq, the combination of greedy contractors and lax government oversight has resulted in exorbitant costs, many of them for projects that were never completed.

The first sign that something was terribly wrong with the contracting process for the war was the awarding of a no-bid, cost-plus contract to Halliburton, allegedly to pay the cost of putting out oil fires in Iraq. Rep. Henry Waxman started asking questions about the contract after he learned that it could be worth up to $7 billion over x years. He rightly questioned how a no-bid deal justified on the basis of potential short-term emergencies could have such a long duration at such a high price. Only then was it revealed that the contract also covered the task of operating Iraq’s oil infrastructure. Given the long-term nature of this larger task, Waxman argued that this aspect of the work be taken away from Halliburton and subjected to competitive bidding. It was several years before his recommendation was implemented, and even then Halliburton received what at least one potential competitor – Bechtel –viewed as an unfair advantage.

While few contracts matched the size of Halliburton’s oil deal, the use of cost-plus awards was widely emulated. A cost-plus award is virtually an invitation to pad costs, as profits are a percentage of funds spent – in other words, the more you spend, the more you make. This problem has been compounded by a lack of auditors to scrutinize these contacts. For example, in one zone of Iraq, only eight people were assigned to oversee contracts worth over $2.5 billion.

Continued . . .

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