A Closer Look at Guantanamo Bay

Lawrence Wilkerson, guest blogging at The Washington Note, has a must read article on Guantanamo Bay. The entire article is well worth reading. Here are just his first two points:

The first of these is the utter incompetence of the battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the early stages of the U.S. operations there. Simply stated, no meaningful attempt at discrimination was made in-country by competent officials, civilian or military, as to who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation.

This was a factor of having too few troops in the combat zone, of the troops and civilians who were there having too few people trained and skilled in such vetting, and of the incredible pressure coming down from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others to “just get the bastards to the interrogators”.

It did not help that poor U.S. policies such as bounty-hunting, a weak understanding of cultural tendencies, and an utter disregard for the fundamentals of jurisprudence prevailed as well (no blame in the latter realm should accrue to combat soldiers as this it not their bailiwick anyway).

The second dimension that is largely unreported is that several in the U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.

But to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called Global War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers. They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim that everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released. I am very sorry to say that I believe there were uniformed military who aided and abetted these falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces.

In addition to discussing what was wrong about Guantanamo Bay, Wilkerson also addresses many of the objections to closing the prison. This includes debunking objections raised by Dick Cheney.

Bush Administration Considered More Extensive Suppression of Civil Liberties to Fight Terrorism

Newsweek  reports on recently released memos showing that the Bush administration was considering far more extensive violations of civil liberties after the 9/11 attacks than we have  experienced:

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Justice Department secretly gave the green light for the U.S. military to attack apartment buildings and office complexes inside the United States, deploy high-tech surveillance against U.S. citizens and potentially suspend First Amendment freedom-of-the-press rights in order to combat the terror threat, according to a memo released Monday.

Many of the actions discussed in the Oct. 23, 2001, memo to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s chief lawyer, William Haynes, were never actually taken.

But the memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel—along with others made public for the first time Monday—illustrates with new details the extraordinary post-9/11 powers asserted by Bush administration lawyers. Those assertions ultimately led to such controversial policies as allowing the waterboarding of terror suspects and permitting warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens—steps that remain the subject of ongoing investigations by Congress and the Justice Department. The memo was co-written by John Yoo, at the time a deputy attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel. Yoo, now a professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, has emerged as one of the central figures in those ongoing investigations.

In perhaps the most surprising assertion, the Oct. 23, 2001, memo suggested the president could even suspend press freedoms if he concluded it was necessary to wage the war on terror. “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully,” Yoo wrote in the memo entitled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activity Within the United States.”

This claim was viewed as so extreme that it was essentially (and secretly) revoked—but not until October of last year, seven years after the memo was written and with barely three and a half months left in the Bush administration…

On Jan. 15, 2009—with only five days left before Bush left office—Bradbury also rescinded three other legal memos written during the president’s first term that claimed broad powers to unilaterally suspend treaties, bypass restrictions on domestic surveillance and take other actions to combat terrorism without the approval of Congress. Bradbury said in a separate legal memo that the claims made in these earlier memos were based on unsound legal reasoning and should not be viewed as “authoritative.” But he offered no explanation for why he waited until the waning days of Bush’s presidency to withdraw them.

The most controversial, and best known, of Yoo’s legal opinions was his Aug. 1, 2002, memo that effectively approved the president’s right to disregard a federal law banning torture in ordering the interrogation of terror suspects. An accompanying (and still unreleased) memo from the same day approved the CIA’s authority to use “waterboarding” (or simulated drowning) against terror suspects.

On September 11, 2001 our country and our way of life were subjected to a terrorist attack. The Bush administration let down the nation, and the values we were founded upon, by so quickly being willing to ignore these values. While many of these extraordinary powers were never used, those who support our system of government should have immediately rejected these ideas, as opposed to waiting until the final days of their administration to rescind them.

George Bush took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Instead this was considered to be optional after September 11.

What Joe Said (Re Dick Cheney)

There’s really nothing here beyond what I’ve already said about Bush and Cheney in response to their incompetence on handling terrorism while in office, but it is worth repeating now that Cheney has opened his mouth again on a topic he is both ignorant about. Once again Cheney shows he is far more concerned with playing politics than doing what is in the national interest.  Joe Klein wrote:

Let’s leave aside the fact that if Dick Cheney and his alleged boss had been more vigilant–if they had listened to the Clinton appointees like Sandy Berger who warned about Al Qaeda, if they had paid attention to their own intelligence reports (notably the one on August 6, 2001)–the September 11 attacks might never have happened. Actually, I can’t leave that aside…but in any case, it is sleazy in the extreme for Cheney to predict another terrorist attack. For several reasons:

1. Some sort of terrorist attack is likely, eventually, no matter who is President.

2. Cheney has done here what the Bush Administration did throughout: he has politicized terror. If another attack happens, it’s Obama’s fault. Disgraceful… and ungrateful, since it’s only Obama’s mercy that stands between Cheney and a really serious war crimes investigation. Which leads to…

3. The means that Cheney has supported to combat terror in the past, especially “enhanced” interogation techniques, are quite probably illegal. He is criticizing the Obama administration for not being willing to defy international law.

4. Cheney’s track record of mismanagement in Iraq and Afghanistan–his sponsorship of Donald Rumsfeld, the worst Secretary of Defense in US history– disqualifies him from having any credible say on the security policies of his successor.

This is a man who should either be (a) scorned or (b) ignored.

Klein’s choices of (a) and (b) are our best realistic hope, but ideally the choice would be (c) tried for war crimes.

An Election Over John McCain’s Character

As I wrote earlier, the dishonest shown by John McCain should become a major issue of the campaign as people who campaign dishonestly are likely to govern dishonestly. Such views are coming from many sources beyond those I quoted previously. Andrew Sullivan, who at one time liked McCain and had hopes of an honest debate on the issues, now questions McCain’s integrity:

So far, he has let us all down. My guess is he will continue to do so. And that decision, for my part, ends whatever respect I once had for him. On core moral issues, where this man knew what the right thing was, and had to pick between good and evil, he chose evil. When he knew that George W. Bush’s war in Iraq was a fiasco and catastrophe, and before Donald Rumsfeld quit, McCain endorsed George W. Bush against his fellow Vietnam vet, John Kerry in 2004. By that decision, McCain lost any credibility that he can ever put country first. He put party first and his own career first ahead of what he knew was best for the country.

And when the Senate and House voted overwhelmingly to condemn and end the torture regime of Bush and Cheney in 2006, McCain again had a clear choice between good and evil, and chose evil.

He capitulated and enshrined torture as the policy of the United States, by allowing the CIA to use techniques as bad as and worse than the torture inflicted on him in Vietnam…

And when he had the chance to engage in a real and substantive debate against the most talented politician of the next generation in a fall campaign where vital issues are at stake, what did McCain do? He began his general campaign with a series of grotesque, trivial and absurd MTV-style attacks on Obama’s virtues and implied disgusting things about his opponent’s patriotism…

Yes, McCain made a decision that revealed many appalling things about him. In the end, his final concern is not national security. No one who cares about national security would pick as vice-president someone who knows nothing about it as his replacement. No one who cares about this country’s safety would gamble the security of the world on a total unknown because she polled well with the Christianist base. No person who truly believed that the surge was integral to this country’s national security would pick as his veep candidate a woman who, so far as we can tell anything, opposed it at the time.

McCain has demonstrated in the last two months that he does not have the character to be president of the United States. And that is why it is more important than ever to ensure that Barack Obama is the next president. The alternative is now unthinkable. And McCain – no one else – has proved it.

The manner in which McCain has conducted himself in this campaign has come as a shock to many as even his opponents expect far better from him. In the one rare case where he really has embraced the views of those opposing him he has hired the same Rove operatives who smeared him in 2000 to do the same to his opponent this year. Unfortunately his record on working with others in recent years is not so good on matters of policy.

Realizing that he was behind, McCain decided to do anything necessary to attempt to win, regardless of how dishonest. Josh Marshall writes:

All politicians stretch the truth, massage it into the best fit with their message. But, let’s face it, John McCain is running a campaign almost entirely based on straight up lies. Not just exaggerations or half truths but the sort of straight up, up-is-down mind-blowers we’ve become so accustomed to from the current occupants of the White House. And today McCain comes out with this rancid, race-baiting ad based on another lie. Willie Horton looks mild by comparison. (And remember, President George H.W. Bush never ran the Willie Horton ad himself. It was an outside group. He wasn’t willing to degrade himself that far.) As TPM Reader JM said below, at least Horton actually was released on a furlough. This is ugly stuff. And this is an ugly person. There’s clearly no level of sleaze this guy won’t stoop to to win this election.

And let’s be frank. He might win it. This is clearly a testing time for Obama supporters. But I want to return to a point I made a few years ago during the Social Security battle with President Bush. Winning and losing is never fully in one’s control — not in politics or in life. What is always within our control is how we fight and bear up under pressure. It’s easy to get twisted up in your head about strategy and message and optics. But what is already apparent is that John McCain is running the sleaziest, most dishonest and race-baiting campaign of our lifetimes. So let’s stopped being shocked and awed by every new example of it. It is undignified. What can we do? We’ve got a dangerously reckless contender for the presidency and a vice presidential candidate who distinguished her self by abuse of office even on the comparatively small political stage of Alaska. They’ve both embraced a level of dishonesty that disqualifies them for high office. Democrats owe it to the country to make clear who these people are. No apologies or excuses. If Democrats can say at the end of this campaign that they made clear exactly how and why these two are unfit for high office they can be satisfied they served their country.

It was originally the McCain campaign which decided the campaign would not be about issues. While Democrats should not forget the issues, as they have the facts on their side in any such debate, this is a case where we should give the Republicans what they want. Let this race be about John McCain’s character, as he has provided plenty of evidence that he is not fit to be president. He cannot excuse every unethical act and every lie forever on having once been a POW.

The Significance of Obama’s Lead

Clintonistas and right wingers (there I go being redundant again) have been trying to minimize Obama’s political accomplishments by claiming he isn’t leading McCain by as many points as he should. Frank Rich puts Obama’s lead in perspective:

It seems almost churlish to look at some actual facts. No presidential candidate was breaking the 50 percent mark in mid-August polls in 2004 or 2000. Obama’s average lead of three to four points is marginally larger than both John Kerry’s and Al Gore’s leads then (each was winning by one point in Gallup surveys). Obama is also ahead of Ronald Reagan in mid-August 1980 (40 percent to Jimmy Carter’s 46). At Pollster.com, which aggregates polls and gauges the electoral count, Obama as of Friday stood at 284 electoral votes, McCain at 169. That means McCain could win all 85 electoral votes in current toss-up states and still lose the election.

Yet surely, we keep hearing, Obama should be running away with the thing. Even Michael Dukakis was beating the first George Bush by 17 percentage points in the summer of 1988. Of course, were Obama ahead by 17 points today, the same prognosticators now fussing over his narrow lead would be predicting that the arrogant and presumptuous Obama was destined to squander that landslide on vacation and tank just like his hapless predecessor.

The truth is we have no idea what will happen in November. But for the sake of argument, let’s posit that one thread of the Obama-is-doomed scenario is right: His lead should be huge in a year when the G.O.P. is in such disrepute that at least eight of the party’s own senatorial incumbents are skipping their own convention, the fail-safe way to avoid being caught near the Larry Craig Memorial Men’s Room at the Twin Cities airport.

So why isn’t Obama romping? The obvious answer — and both the excessively genteel Obama campaign and a too-compliant press bear responsibility for it — is that the public doesn’t know who on earth John McCain is. The most revealing poll this month by far is the Pew Research Center survey finding that 48 percent of Americans feel they’re “hearing too much” about Obama. Pew found that only 26 percent feel that way about McCain, and that nearly 4 in 10 Americans feel they hear too little about him. It’s past time for that pressing educational need to be met.

What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president’s response to Katrina; he fought the “agents of intolerance” of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.

With the exception of McCain’s imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.

McCain never called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired and didn’t start criticizing the war plan until late August 2003, nearly four months after “Mission Accomplished.” By then the growing insurgency was undeniable. On the day Hurricane Katrina hit, McCain laughed it up with the oblivious president at a birthday photo-op in Arizona. McCain didn’t get to New Orleans for another six months and didn’t sharply express public criticism of the Bush response to the calamity until this April, when he traveled to the Gulf Coast in desperate search of election-year pageantry surrounding him with black extras.

McCain long ago embraced the right’s agents of intolerance, even spending months courting the Rev. John Hagee, whose fringe views about Roman Catholics and the Holocaust were known to anyone who can use the Internet. (Once the McCain campaign discovered YouTube, it ditched Hagee.) On Monday McCain is scheduled to appear at an Atlanta fund-raiser being promoted by Ralph Reed, who is not only the former aide de camp to one of the agents of intolerance McCain once vilified (Pat Robertson) but is also the former Abramoff acolyte showcased in McCain’s own Senate investigation of Indian casino lobbying.

Though the McCain campaign announced a new no-lobbyists policy three months after The Washington Post’s February report that lobbyists were “essentially running” the whole operation, the fact remains that McCain’s top officials and fund-raisers have past financial ties to nearly every domestic and foreign flashpoint, from Fannie Mae to Blackwater to Ahmad Chalabi to the government of Georgia. No sooner does McCain flip-flop on oil drilling than a bevy of Hess Oil family members and executives, not to mention a lowly Hess office manager and his wife, each give a maximum $28,500 to the Republican Party.

While reporters at The Post and The New York Times have been vetting McCain, many others give him a free pass. Their default cliché is to present him as the Old Faithful everyone already knows. They routinely salute his “independence,” his “maverick image” and his “renegade reputation” — as the hackneyed script was reiterated by Karl Rove in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column last week. At Talking Points Memo, the essential blog vigilantly pursuing the McCain revelations often ignored elsewhere, Josh Marshall accurately observes that the Republican candidate is “graded on a curve.”

Most Americans still don’t know, as Marshall writes, that on the campaign trail “McCain frequently forgets key elements of policies, gets countries’ names wrong, forgets things he’s said only hours or days before and is frequently just confused.” Most Americans still don’t know it is precisely for this reason that the McCain campaign has now shut down the press’s previously unfettered access to the candidate on the Straight Talk Express.

Rich has even more to say but I think this makes the point. Obama already has a lead, and McCain risks falling further as voters get a closer look at him. There is no need for Obama to fire all his ammunition at McCain yet. With any luck he will self-destruct on his own, and possibly look even worse in the debates against Obama than Bush looked against Kerry, if that is even possible. Obama can afford to take the high road now and maintain a small but significant lead. He can always finish McCain off in October, when it really matters, if McCain is even still in contention at that point.

SciFi Friday Comics Edition: Batman, A Gay Captain America, and Supergirl Gives Up Being a Slut

With The Dark Night breaking former box office records, and with Comic Con going on this week, I will devote this week’s installment of SciFi Friday (delay until Sunday) to comics related stories.

Batman has no superpowers and therefore of all the major comic superheroes it might be most plausible for Batman toe exist. Scientific American has an an interview what it would take for someone to train to become Batman.

What’s most plausible about portrayals of Batman’s skills?
You could train somebody to be a tremendous athlete  and to have a significant martial arts background, and also to use some of the gear that he has, which requires a lot of physical prowess. Most of what you see there is feasible to the extent that somebody could be trained to that extreme. We’re seeing that kind of thing in less than a month in the Olympics.

What’s less realistic?
A great example is in the movies where Batman is fighting multiple opponents and all of a sudden he’s taking on 10 people. If you just estimate how fast somebody could punch and kick, and how many times you could hit one person in a second, you wind up with numbers like five or six. This doesn’t mean you could fight four or five people. But it’s also hard for four or five people to simultaneously attack somebody, because they get in each other’s way. More realistic is a couple of attackers.

How long would Bruce Wayne have to train to become Batman?
In some of the timelines you see in the comics, the backstory is he goes away for five years—some it’s three to five years, or eight years, or 12 years. In terms of the physical changes (strength and conditioning), that’s happening fairly quickly. We’re talking three to five years. In terms of the physical skills to be able to defend himself against all these opponents all the time, I would benchmark that at 10 to 12 years. Probably the most reality-based representation of Batman and his training was in Batman Begins.

Why such a long training time?
Batman can’t really afford to lose. Losing means death—or at least not being able to be Batman anymore. But another benchmark is having enough skill and experience to defend himself without killing anyone. Because that’s part of his credo. It would be much easier to fight somebody if you could incapacitate them with extreme force. Punching somebody in the throat could be a lethal blow. That’s pretty easy to do.

But if you’re thinking about something that doesn’t result in lethal force, that’s more tricky. It’s really hard for people to get their heads around, I think. To be that good, to not actually lethally injure anyone, requires an extremely high level of skill that would take maybe 15 to 18 years to accumulate.

There have been a number of political articles on Batman recently. The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed on What Bush and Batman Have in Common.

Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society — in which people sometimes make the wrong choices — and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

“The Dark Knight,” then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year’s “300,” “The Dark Knight” is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

Spencer Ackerman sees the movie as reflecting Dick Cheney’s policies:

Insofar as it’s possible to view an action movie that had the biggest three-day-opening in cinematic history as a comment on the current national-security debate, “The Dark Knight” weighs in strongly on the side of the Bush administration. Confronting the Joker, a nihilistic enemy whose motives are both unexplained and beside the point, the Batman faces his biggest dilemma yet: whether to abuse his power in order to save Gotham City. Again and again in the movie, the Batman’s moral hand-wringing results in the deaths of innocents. Only by becoming like the monster he must vanquish can Batman secure a victory that even he understands is Pyrrhic.

Batman, the film’s hero, played by Christian Bale, sees this as a morally devastating paradox. Dick Cheney and his ideological allies in the Bush administration, however, clearly view this as a righteous challenge. Cheney, Addington, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and others can go to to this sixth Batman movie to see, in the Joker, as played by Heath Ledger, a perfect reflection of their view of Al Qaeda. He presents an enemy unbounded by any scruple; striking out for no rational reason; hell-bent on causing civilization-threatening destruction, and emboldened by any adversaries’ restraint.

Such views show the problem with conservative thinking. George Bush is not Batman and al Qaeda is not The Joker. Comic book superheroes can break the law and ignore principles such as due process. Political leaders cannot.

Cogitamus takes a different viewpoint from the idea of Batman representing conservative views:

Cheney and his supporters are wrong because if you watch the film, it becomes clear that even if we were faced with a Joker-style supervillain, he’s fundamentally not the problem — Dent correctly diagnoses him as a wild dog set loose by others. The Gotham system is the problem, where mobsters and police pick sides based on the day of the week and their mutual enemies, when a psychopathic avenger like Two-Face finds himself executing police or mobsters based on the flip of a coin, and when the nominal forces of order are fundamentally impotent because that’s how everyone wants it, all we can say is that Gotham feels awfully Westphalian.  The solution is not more disorder (more extreme vigilanteism) but better law and order…

If you really wanted to read these films as a reflection of international politics (Is America Batman?) I think you have a dismal road ahead of you. Batman begins to realize that what Gotham needs is not a caped crusader, but a functioning law enforcement system. He begins seriously considering retiring the rubber PJs as Gotham’s police and prosecutors become more effective. The lesson here is not exactly kind to the idea that breaking the laws of war and ignoring the expressed opinion of the UN Security Council is going to lead to greater peace and stability.

Moreover, if you read Gordon’s “escalation” dialogue from the first film in the context of international politics, I think it’s clear you have to say that 9/11 was only possible because of preceding American actions across the globe. That is, if you actually think America is Batman, than you have to concede that Bin Laden/Joker is at least partially the creation of the US government.

I wonder how conservatives who oppose gays in the military will take this story. Slice of SciFi reports that a gay actor might get the role of Captain America:

At the San Diego Comic Con actor John Barrowman, the man behind that famous WWI army coat in BBC’s hit show “Torchwood,” was asked if he has been approached for the role of that other famous Captain. Sitting in on a Torchwood panel Barrowman, after much persuasion, finally admitted that he has been in substantive talks to portray the famous Captain for the May 2011film “The First Avenger: Captain America.”

Star Trek fans are anxious to see how J.J. Abrams reboots Star Trek. The first glimpse of the reimagined Star Trek universe will be seen in the comics. Newsarama.com reports that IDW publishing will “present an epic tale that leads into the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek movie due next summer. Abrams and screenwriter Roberto Orci will contribute to the comic book story, too.”

At Comic Con the creators of Action Comics, Superman, and Supergirl pledged to return these stories to their former glory. I09 reports:

Superman writer James Robinson admitted that part of that effort will include making sure that characters like Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen will return to the versions everyone knows, instead of superpowered giant turtles fighting evil gods: “The [supporting] characters have lost their way a bit,” he said, before saying that Jimmy Olsen should be the third most important character in a Superman comic, after Superman and Lois. Johns agreed, and added that there are also plans afoot to use Lois more often: “If Superman married her, she’s gotta be the coolest woman in the world.”

The most important revelation from the panel may have come from new Supergirl writer Sterling Gates. When asked whether he will bring a more consistent characterisation to the Maid of Steel after an erratic few years where she’s been portrayed as confused, evil, stupid, slutty and almost continually unheroic, he said that he saw her as one of the strongest characters DC Comics has, and feels that she’s been mishandled recently. “Can we officially say that she’s not a slut?” Johns asked, to the applause of the audience. So, now you know: Supergirl isn’t a slut.

Supergirl apparently changed a lot since I last saw her in a comic decades ago. So she became a super-slut. Maybe I’ll have to check and see what I missed

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment on Bush’s Great Sacrifice



Above is the video of Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment following George Bush’s claim that he gave up golf to honor the soldiers killed in Iraq. Full transcript is below the fold.


Report on Iraq Cites Faulty Assumptions And Inability to Replace Saddam With Stable Entity

McClatchy reports on this report from the National Defense University which calls the Iraq war “a major debacle.” They write that, “The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins, a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.”

The report said that the United States has suffered serious political costs, with its standing in the world seriously diminished. Moreover, operations in Iraq have diverted “manpower, materiel and the attention of decision-makers” from “all other efforts in the war on terror” and severely strained the U.S. armed forces.

“Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there (in Iraq) were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East,” the report continued.

The addition of 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq last year to halt the country’s descent into all-out civil war has improved security, but not enough to ensure that the country emerges as a stable democracy at peace with its neighbors, the report said.

“Despite impressive progress in security, the outcome of the war is in doubt,” said the report. “Strong majorities of both Iraqis and Americans favor some sort of U.S. withdrawal. Intelligence analysts, however, remind us that the only thing worse than an Iraq with an American army may be an Iraq after a rapid withdrawal of that army.”

“For many analysts (including this one), Iraq remains a ‘must win,’ but for many others, despite obvious progress under General David Petraeus and the surge, it now looks like a ‘can’t win.'”

Donald Rumsfeld receives much of the blame, but mistakes by others in the Bush administration are noted:

Compounding the problem was a series of faulty assumptions made by Bush’s top aides, among them an expectation fed by Iraqi exiles that Iraqis would be grateful to America for liberating them from Saddam’s dictatorship. The administration also expected that “Iraq without Saddam could manage and fund its own reconstruction.”

The report also singles out the Bush administration’s national security apparatus and implicitly President Bush and both of his national security advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, saying that “senior national security officials exhibited in many instances an imperious attitude, exerting power and pressure where diplomacy and bargaining might have had a better effect.”

Supporters of the war are arguing that McClatchy’s article misrepresents the report. Small Wars Journal states they received a comment from Joseph Collins claiming that the article distorts his research. He presents this as a summary of his findings:

This study examines how the United States chose to go to war in Iraq, how its decision-making process functioned, and what can be done to improve that process. The central finding of this study is that U.S. efforts in Iraq were hobbled by a set of faulty assumptions, a flawed planning effort, and a continuing inability to create security conditions in Iraq that could have fostered meaningful advances in stabilization, reconstruction, and governance. With the best of intentions, the United States toppled a vile, dangerous regime but has been unable to replace it with a stable entity. Even allowing for progress under the Surge, the study insists that mistakes in the Iraq operation cry out in the mid- to long-term for improvements in the U.S. decision-making and policy execution systems.

The study recommends the development of a national planning charter, improving the qualifications of national security planners, streamlining policy execution in the field, improving military education, strengthening the Department of State and USAID, and reviewing the tangled legal authorities for complex contingencies. The study ends with a plea to improve alliance relations and to exercise caution in deciding to go to war.

While not as strong as McClatchy’s article, this summary continues to support the views of many of us who opposed the war, feel it was mishandled from the start, and do not believe that the Bush administration can achieve a military solution.

Obama Responds to Clinton’s Claims of Experience on Foreign Policy

Barack Obama has responded forcibly to Clinton’s claims of having experience at handling a foreign policy crisis. Many of the points are similar to those noted in previous posts here, such as this one from last Friday. Obama looks at several of the examples given of Clinton’s foreign policy experience and notes, “There is no reason to believe, however, that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff. She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis. As far as the record shows, Senator Clinton never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue – not at 3 AM or at any other time of day.”

The full text of the memo is under the fold.


Rove Rewrites History to Deny How Bush Played Politics With War


Maybe Karl Rove thought that he could get away with such a blatant lie around Thanksgiving as fewer people would be around to do any fact checking. Fortunately Think Progress caught him and presented the evidence to dispute him. One of the major complaints about George Bush is that after 9/11, when Democrats were behind him in wanting to go after those responsible for the attack and take legitimate action to prevent future attacks, the Bush administration decided to play politics instead. They used the 9/11 attack to justify many of their pre-9/11 goals, including the restrictions in civil liberties in the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq. They also took advantage of the attacks to paint those who disagreed with their agenda as being unpatriotic and unwilling to defend the country even though the opposition to their policies was based upon the belief that they were counterproductive to American interests. Events played out to prove that those who opposed the war were right.

One of the ways that the Bush administration played politics was in scheduling the Iraq War Resolution prior to the 2002 elections with little time for serious consideration of the intelligence. Appearing on The Charlie Rose Show, Karl Rove claimed that the Bush administration was opposed to holding the vote just prior to the elections. In reality, it was the Democrats who opposed the timing but the Bush administration insisted upon it:

Rove’s claim is utterly dishonest and flat-out false. In Sept. 2002, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) asked President Bush to delay the vote on the Iraq war:

“I asked directly if we could delay this so we could depoliticize it. I said: ‘Mr. President, I know this is urgent, but why the rush? Why do we have to do this now?’ He looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: ‘We just have to do this now.’”

While some Democrats — particularly Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO) — were arguing that it was “imperative” that Congress vote immediately to authorize war, had the White House wanted to delay the vote until after the 2002 elections, they would have found a great deal of support. Here’s what a few key leaders were saying at the time:

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL): “It would be a severe mistake for us to vote on Iraq with as little information as we have. This would be a rash and hasty decision.”

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA): “I do not believe the decision should be made in the frenzy of an election year.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “I know of no information that the threat is so imminent from Iraq” that Congress cannot wait until January to vote on a resolution.

But Karl Rove and President Bush weren’t interested in delaying the vote. Rather, the administration actively politicized it. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “Delaying a vote in Congress would send the wrong message.” President Bush explicitly told Congress to “get the issue done as quickly as possible.”