Saturday, June 25

Franken Punks Hillary Basher Ed Klein

On his Friday Show, Air America Radio Host Al Franken faced off with the author of the new sordid Hillary Clinton "tell-all" book - The Truth About Hillary - and with the help of Salon Columnist Joe Conason, proceeded to systematically expose Klein's book as a pack of lies and distortions in a wonderful display of hard-nosed, but still polite, questioning:

In the book, Klein asserts that Bill Clinton raped Hillary in order to conceive Chelsa, and that Hillary herself has "lesbian tendencies". Some of the allegations have been so outrageous that many Conservatives have denouced the book as "over the top" in it's vicious attack on the character of Hillary Clinton.

Conservative columnist John Podhoretz on The Truth about Hillary,
"This is one of the most sordid volumes I've ever waded through. Thirty pages into it, I wanted to take a shower. Sixty pages into it, I wanted to be decontaminated. And 200 pages into it, I wanted someone to drive stakes through my eyes so I wouldn't have to suffer through another word."
Streaming audio of the broadcast: Part 1. | Part 2.

Read full transcript courtesy of Media Matters.

Some key highlights:

On the subject of Pat Moynohan and Hillary Clinton:

FRANKEN: Yeah. Okay, and on page 172 --


FRANKEN: This is a thing about [Sen. Daniel Patrick] Pat Moynihan [D-NY] and not being able to say her [Clinton's] name [during a press conference to announce her candidacy for the New York seat in the U.S. Senate from which Moynihan was retiring], and now let me quote the book and then I'll quote what...anyway, I'll just quote what you wrote:


"God, I almost forgot," he said, with a mischievous grin. "I'm here to say that I hope she will go all the way, I mean to go all the way with her. I think she's going to win. I think it's going to be wonderful for New York. For Moynihan, apparently, it was easier to say "she" than 'Hillary.'"

Now did you leave anything out there, in between the two sentences you quoted?

KLEIN: Are you reading from my book?


.... (Later)

FRANKEN: Well, this is what Moynihan said, and this is how he got into it. He said, "Now I have the great pleasure to welcome Mrs. Clinton to the farm and turn over the microphone to our candidate. Before you do, before I do... Oh, my God, I almost forgot. Yesterday Hillary Clinton established an exploratory committee as regards to her candidacy for the Senate, United States Senate from New York, a seat which I will vacate in a year and a half." And then you pick up with, "I'm here to say, I hope she will go all the way. I mean to go all the way with her. I think she's going to win. I think she's going to be wonderful for New York." So you leave out --

KLEIN: I left out an ellipsis.

CONASON: You did not.

FRANKEN: You didn't leave out an ellipsis. You deliberately left out the --

KLEIN: There's no --

CONASON: I know you don't have the book in front of you. How much would you like to bet there's no ellipsis on that page?

FRANKEN: No, he's saying that's what he left out.

KLEIN: That's what I'm saying, Joe.

CONASON: No, there's no ellipsis.

FRANKEN: No, he's saying he left it out.

KLEIN: I should have put in an ellipsis.

CONASON: Oh. And why would you have cut out the two references to her name and put in an ellipsis? That would have been equally dishonest.

FRANKEN: You know why? Because I -- here -- this is what I think, Ed, and you may take issue with this. I think you deliberately left it out because it would have hurt the sentence where you say, "For Moynihan it was easier to say 'she' than 'Hillary.' " I think that's why you left out the sentence that says, "Hillary."

KLEIN: Well I --

On the issue of FILEGATE

FRANKEN: OK. Ah, let's talk about the FBI files that you talk about, sort of what was called "Filegate." And you call it the "Purloined FBI Files," and you write about it on page 39.

KLEIN: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

FRANKEN: And later, in a Salon interview, you said, "Like Nixon, Hillary has used FBI files against her enemies."

KLEIN: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

FRANKEN: Now, you know that she was absolved of this by the Office of Independent Counsel.

KLEIN: Well, she may --

FRANKEN: I mean, shouldn't you have written about that? Shouldn't you have given that information to your readers?

KLEIN: It's still my -- it's still my belief and contention that Craig Livingstone was responsible for taking those files, and that he was operating under direct orders from Hillary.

CONASON: Do you know whose files those were? I mean, did you ever look at the names of the people whose files they were?

KLEIN: They were a lot of Republican activists --

CONASON: There were not, actually. They were not. Can -- name one Republican activist whose file was taken. One.

KLEIN: I couldn't do that 'cause I --

CONASON: You couldn't! 'Cause you haven't looked at the names! Did you ever look at the names?

KLEIN: No, I haven't.

CONASON: Okay. Ah, you've never looked at the names, but you know they're a lot of Republican activists. How would you know that if you've never looked at the names?

KLEIN: I've read it in The New York Times and other publications.

CONASON: Oh, no, you didn't. You did not. You did not.

FRANKEN: You know, Ed, the first --

CONASON: Because the people whose names were on that list were former White House employees. Most of them were people like gardeners and janitors and people like that. I've looked at every name on that list --

KLEIN: Former White House employees --

CONASON: That's correct.

On the issue of President Clinton's devestating HAIRCUT at LAX

FRANKEN: Okay. How about the, ah, LAX thing? The haircut that supposedly held up traffic at LAX.

KLEIN: Mm-hmmm [affirmative].

FRANKEN: Now you know that that's not true, right?

KLEIN: No, I don't know that's not true.

CONASON: Again because you didn't do any reporting. That was, that story was debunked at the time that it came out 12 years ago. You, you, I mean it's just astonishing to me --

KLEIN: What?

CONASON: -- how little work was put into this book --

KLEIN: Well, you know --

CONASON: -- in terms of trying to establish whether any of this stuff that you've written here is true!

KLEIN: So, you're saying, Joe, that the president did not hold up traffic --


KLEIN: -- at LAX?

CONASON: I'm saying that not only would I say that, but that's the established fact that's been reported after that story came out in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the FAA made it very clear that not one flight was held up as a result of that.

KLEIN: Well, Joe --

CONASON: And that was established a long time ago.

KLEIN: You and I are reading different, ah, newspapers, I think.

CONASON: No It's, it's not a matter of reading different newspapers; it's a matter of what the Federal Aviation Administration said about this incident. It was debunked at the time.

Now, what I have to say is THIS is the way you handle a liar and a political hack. This is the way that people should interview Bill O'Reilly, this is the way that Karl Rove should be handled, how Limbaugh should be questioned. You don't have to be mean, you don't have to call names - all you have to do is know the facts and simply present them with conviction.

Now is that really too much to ask?

Media Matters Full Breakdown of "The Truth About Hillary".


Friday, June 24

14 CIA Agents Wanted for Kidnapping in Italy

Keeping in line with previous reports from New Yorker Columnist Sy Hersh, who stated that his sources had revealed to him the existence of a "Special Access" group of U.S. military personnel who have been traveling around the world and kidnapping suspected terrorist for interrogation, an Italian Judge has called for the arrest of 14 CIA agsnts for doing exactly what Hersh described before the November Election.

Italy Judge Orders Arrest of 13 CIA Agents

By AIDAN LEWIS, Associated Press Writer

ROME - An Italian judge on Friday ordered the arrests of 13 CIA officers for secretly transporting a Muslim preacher from Italy to Egypt as part of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts - a rare public objection to the practice by a close American ally.

The Egyptian was spirited away in 2003, purportedly as part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program in which terror suspects are transferred to third countries without court approval, subjecting them to possible torture.

The arrest warrants were announced Friday by the Milan prosecutor's office, which has called the disappearance a kidnapping and a blow to a terrorism investigation in Italy. The office said the imam was believed to belong to an Islamic terrorist group.

The 13 are accused of seizing Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, on a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, and sending him to Egypt, where he reportedly was tortured, Milan prosecutor Manlio Claudio Minale said in a statement.

The U.S. Embassy in Rome and the CIA in Washington declined to comment.



Top Five Gitmo Falsehoods

As usual Media Matters is directly on target with their latest list of Gitmo Lies and Errors from the Republicans. It's critical if one is to push back against inaccurate information, that you have the best facts on hand at your fingertips. Thus, I post the Media Matter article in it's entirety:

Media Matters: Top Five Gitmo Falsehoods

In recent weeks, the debate over the Pentagon detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has garnered increased coverage on cable and network news programs. But as Media Matters for America documents below, conservative media figures have often attempted to downplay the severity of the alleged abuses at Guantánamo, dismiss every detainee as a terrorist unprotected by international law, and distort criticism of the Bush administration's detention policy.

Falsehood #1: Abuse at Guantánamo is "minor," allegations are based on "rumor"

Conservative commentators have repeatedly attempted to dismiss the alleged detainee abuse at Guantánamo as unsubstantiated or harmless. But these claims ignore firsthand accounts by FBI agents and human rights monitors that paint a much grimmer picture of detainee treatment at Guantánamo.

In a series of emails and letters, which the American Civil Liberties Union first obtained in December 2004 through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, FBI agents described graphic instances of abuse by interrogators at Guantánamo that the agents personally witnessed. In one emailPDF file, an FBI agent described the interrogation methods employed by Department of Defense officials as "torture techniques." An emailPDF file by deputy assistant FBI director for counterterrorism T.J. Harrington detailed several agents' accounts of abusive treatment, including one in which a female sergeant "grabbed detainee's thumbs and bent them backwards and indicated that she also grabbed his genitals." Worse, the sergeant warned that past interrogations had left other "detainees curling into a fetal position on the floor and crying in pain." Harrington also included an account of a detainee being "subjected to intense isolation for longer than three months ... in a cell that was always flooded with light," which led to him showing signs of "extreme psychological trauma (talking to non existent people, reporting hearing voices, crouching in a cell covered with a sheet for hours on end).' " A third FBI document described a detainee "chained hand and foot to the floor" and subjected to food deprivation and temperature extremes. "The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor with a pile of hair next to him," the FBI agent wrote. "He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night."

Further, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described prisoner abuse at Guantánamo. The New York Times, which first obtained a memo that summarizes the confidential report of the ICRC, reported that the Red Cross delegation cited the use of "temperature extremes, persistent noise, and 'some beatings.' "

Falsehood #2: All Guantánamo detainees are confirmed terrorists

Numerous media figures have stated or suggested that the prisoners held at Guantánamo are all terrorists. On the June 21, 2004, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly stated, "From what I understand, they had -- they took most of [the Guantánamo detainees], like 95 percent of them, off the battlefield, number one. So what the heck were they doing there?"

More recently, Fox host John Gibson asserted that "We have 520 terrorists where we want them, with our boot on their neck." [Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, 6/15/05]

But the Pentagon's decision to release numerous Guantánamo detainees suggests that many were not terrorists. In a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Matthew Waxman reportedly wrote that, as of April 2005, "167 [Guantánamo] prisoners had been released and 67 had been transferred to the custody of other countries." The 167 detainees released were presumably found not to be terrorists, as in the cases of Abdul Rahim and Mamdouh Habib. Both men were captured in Pakistan following September 11, 2001. The U.S. later transferred them to Guantánamo, where they remained for more than two years, accused -- but never charged -- of involvement in terrorist activities. In 2005, the United States released them without charge.

Falsehood #3: The Geneva Conventions apply only to prisoners of war

Numerous media figures have defended the harsh treatment of Guantánamo detainees by claiming that the Geneva Conventions apply exclusively to prisoners of war (POWs). Though many legal scholars agree that Al Qaeda detainees are not entitled to POW status under the Third Geneva Convention, which details protections specifically for POWs, the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) grants different protections to non-POWs.

But the U.S. Army's own field manual statesPDF file that GCIV protects "all persons who have engaged in hostile or belligerent conduct but who are not entitled to treatment as prisoners of war."

Even the White House has acknowledged that the Geneva Conventions grant protections to some detainees who are not POWs. On May 7, 2003, the White House announced that President Bush had revised his earlier determination and decided that the conventions would apply to the suspected Taliban (but not Al Qaeda) detainees held at Guantánamo even though they are not POWs. Then-press secretary Ari Fleischer explained:

FLEISCHER: Although the United States does not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate Afghani government, the President determined that the Taliban members are covered under the treaty because Afghanistan is a party to the Convention. Under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention, however, Taliban detainees are not entitled to POW status.

Falsehood #4: Enemy combatants do not qualify for protection under the Fourth Geneva Convention

Some conservatives have disputed whether the Guantánamo detainees even qualify for protections under GCIV. Their common argument is that GCIV applies specifically to civilians, thereby excluding so-called "illegal enemy combatants."

Again, the Army's field manual recognizesPDF file GCIV protections for non-POWs "engaged in hostile or belligerent conduct."

Further, the ICRC -- the organization that pioneered the concept of international humanitarian law and has monitored compliance with the Geneva Conventions for more than 140 years -- concluded in a 2003 legal analysisPDF file that "unlawful combatants" are entitled to protections under GCIV, citing its 1958 analysis of GCIV, which stated:

Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, [or] a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law. (Commentary: IV Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 1958)

Falsehood #5: Detainees captured on the "battlefield" are not criminal defendants, so they have no right to petition U.S. courts

A June 22 Washington Times editorial warned, "If the critics are right, and detained terrorists have an inalienable right to access U.S. courts, then they have created a new standard -- one which has no precedent in the Geneva Conventions, the Constitution or U.S. history."

But it is not merely "critics" who have taken the position that the detainees "have access to U.S. courts"; the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that detainees have the right to challenge the legality of their detentions in federal court. In Rasul v. Bush, the high court ruled that the "United States courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay."

Conservatives also have attempted to paint opponents of the Bush administration's detention policy as advocates of granting detainees the full due process rights that U.S. citizens enjoy. The Times, for example, referred to "the current effort to treat Guantanamo detainees like American criminals, with full access to our courts." In fact, while "critics" have frequently argued that detainees must have some legal recourse to challenge their detention, Media Matters for America found no instances of human rights groups or elected officials arguing that the detainees have the same constitutional rights as U.S. citizens or that they deserve the same treatment as "American criminals."

Posted to the web on Thursday June 23, 2005 at 4:45 PM EST

Thursday, June 23

Top General Proves Cheney Wrong Again

Top General Disputes Cheney Claim That Iraq Insurgency in Last Throes

Published: Jun 23, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) - The top American military commander in the Persian Gulf disputed a contention by Vice President Dick Cheney that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last thoes" and told Congress on Thursday its strength was basically undiminished from six months ago.

Furthermore, Gen. John Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago."

His testimony came as the nation's top defense leaders rejected calls by some lawmakers for the Bush administration to set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. "That would be a mistake," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the committtee.

In a CNN interview last month, Cheney said: "The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's senior Democrat, asked Abizaid if he realized he was contradicting Cheney.

"I don't know that I would make any comment about that other than to say there's a lot of work to be done," said Abizaid. "I gave you my opinion."

Levin and other congressional Democrats - and some Republicans as well - have criticized administration officials for painting an unrealistically rosy picture of the situation in Iraq.

For his part, Rumsfeld sought to explain what Cheney meant.

Between now and when an Iraqi constitution is drafted and voted on later this year, "They may very well be in their last throes by their own view cause they recognize how important it will be if the lose," he said.

Of Cheney's words specifically, Rumsfeld added: "While I didn't use them and I might not use them, I think it's understandable that we can expect that kind of a response from the enemy."

Wednesday, June 22

O'Reilly hits an all new low

My favorite bloviating blowhard Bill O'Liely has managed to even sink below his own snail-like standard.

From Media Matters:

O'Reilly: FBI should arrest the "clowns" at Air America Radio for being traitors

Responding to controversial comments by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) regarding the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said that Americans "must know the difference between dissent from the Iraq war and the war on terror and undermining it," and that "any American who undermines that war ... is a traitor." He then hurled this accusation at Air America Radio: "So, all those clowns at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care."

From the June 20 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: And when he [Durbin] went out there, his intent was to whip up the American public against the Bush detainee policy. That's what his intent was. His intent wasn't to undermine the war effort, because he never even thought about it. He never even thought about it. But by not thinking about it, he made an egregious mistake because you must know the difference between dissent from the Iraq war and the war on terror and undermining it. And any American that undermines that war, with our soldiers in the field, or undermines the war on terror, with 3,000 dead on 9-11, is a traitor.

Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you're a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they're undermining everything and they don't care, couldn't care less.

Posted to the web on Wednesday June 22, 2005 at 2:53 PM EST

And they say Sen. Dick Durbin just disgraced America? Take another look around.


Soldier Sues Over Guantanamo Beating

Here's a report I recall seeing before on 60 Minutes (back on Nov 3rd), now reported by the LA Times:

LATimes: Soldier Sues Over Guantanamo Beating

  • Spc. Sean Baker, who was medically retired after a drill went awry, asks for $15 million.

  • A U.S. military policeman who was beaten by fellow MPs during a botched training drill at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison for detainees has sued the Pentagon for $15 million, alleging that the incident violated his constitutional rights.

    Spc. Sean D. Baker, 38, was assaulted in January 2003 after he volunteered to wear an orange jumpsuit and portray an uncooperative detainee. Baker said the MPs, who were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant, inflicted a beating that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.
    Baker, a Gulf War veteran who reenlisted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was medically retired in April 2004. He said the assault left him with seizures, blackouts, headaches, insomnia and psychological problems.

    In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington, Ky., Baker asked the Army to reinstate him in a position that would accommodate his medical condition. He said the Army put him on medical retirement against his wishes.

    "Somebody has to step up to serve, and I still want to serve," Baker said Friday in a telephone interview from his home in Georgetown, Ky. "There's some task somewhere I can do in the Army."

    A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to comment, saying she had not seen the lawsuit and could not discuss pending litigation.


    Baker said he put on the jumpsuit and squeezed under a prison bunk after being told by a lieutenant that he would be portraying an unruly detainee. He said he was assured that MPs conducting the "extraction drill" knew it was a training exercise and that Baker was an American soldier.

    As he was being choked and beaten, Baker said, he screamed a code word, "red," and shouted: "I'm a U.S. soldier! I'm a U.S. soldier!" He said the beating continued until the jumpsuit was yanked down during the struggle, revealing his military uniform.

    The lawsuit says of the extraction team: "Armed with the highly inflammatory, false, incendiary and misleading information that had been loaded into their psyches by their platoon leader, these perceptions and fears … became their operative reality, and they acted upon these fears, all to the detriment of Sean Baker."

    No one has been disciplined or punished for the assault, said Baker's lawyer, T. Bruce Simpson Jr.

    So when we wonder exactly what kind of treatment that actual Prisoners are receiving if they happen to become "unruly", we have no further to look that the treatment of Spc. Sean Baker.


    Families of Fallen Soldiers Deserve Truth

    It appears that there just might be some steam picking up behind the idea I presented last week, that the families of the fallen such as Cindy Sheehan of (Gold Star Families for Peace) are likely to be the first to really begin to shake the foundations of the Bush Administration regarding the false pretenses which brought us into War with Iraq.

    Beth QuinnFamilies of dead soldiers demand truth from Bush

    By Beth Quinn
    Times Herald-Record

    The one reservation I had last week when I wrote about the Downing Street Memo was this: How will the loved ones of the soldiers who've died in Iraq feel when they read this?
    How much more pain will it cause them to know we now have strong evidence that George Bush knew all along there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? That he made the "facts" fit his personal plan for war?
    How does your mind accept what surely breaks your heart? And how much harder to know that your child, your spouse, your parent died in a war that a growing number of Americans are questioning?
    Since that column ran, the loved ones of two soldiers, dead in Iraq, have told me.
    Their words are far more meaningful than anything I could say, so I will turn this column over to them.

    From Lauren Bowker of Middletown:
    "As a loved one of Joseph Tremblay of New Windsor, who died April 27 in Iraq doing what he considered his duty for his country and fellow Marines, I have feelings of such loss and sadness – and also extreme anger.
    "The article (on the Downing Street Memo) has helped me understand my anger towards the President and his underhanded, dishonest and dangerous policies in Iraq.
    "I urge every American to demand that President Bush be made to answer these allegations regarding what has become known as the Downing Street Memo. I sent in the petition (demanding a hearing) and called all my family and friends, urging them to do the same.
    "I am very proud of Joey and the ultimate price he paid for our country, but if President Bush had not lied and been so determined to invade Iraq, Joey would be here with his loved ones, planning his wedding and looking forward to what a young man with such promise could have contributed to the world.
    "My question to President Bush is – how do you look yourself in the mirror every morning with a clear conscience knowing that 1,700 young Americans are dead based on a lie?"

    From Karen Meredith of Mountain View, Calif.:
    "My only child, Lt. Ken Ballard, was 26 years old when he was killed in Najaf, Iraq, on 5-30-04. My son saved the lives of 60 men that horrible night – they all got to go home to their families. He was one of three soldiers in his battalion killed after they were extended with the First Armored Division.
    "After I read the notes from the meeting at Downing Street, I knew that his fate was decided and he was a dead man in July 2002, when that meeting took place.
    "How sad that I didn't know then – just two months after he was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Army, just two months after he took an oath to obey the orders of the President of the United States – that his fate was already determined by a corrupt administration. Members of the Bush Administration lied repeatedly to this country when they told us time and again that no decision to go to war had been made.
    "And how devastating to know that if the administration had planned for more ground strength, my son might be alive today.
    "I belong to a group called Gold Star Families for Peace. The most difficult thing we encounter when we speak out against the war is that most of us are not anti-military and would never malign the soldiers or their service to this country. My son was a fourth-generation Army officer.
    "But our members provide witness to the lies that resulted in our children being killed. We are all trying to put some sanity in this world gone mad. "

    Our soldiers in Iraq are dying on average of two per day.
    How can the rest of us do nothing to protest this travesty when our silence means that, today, two more families will know such pain?

    Beth Quinn's column appears on Monday. Talk to her at 346-3147 or at


    Tuesday, June 21

    MSNBC's David Shuster shows some spine!

    Here's a new phenomenon, people in the MSM with some backbone. Here's some daring commentary from MSNBC's David Shuster on the Hardblogger.

    The White House spin cycle (David Shuster)

    I don't know if things are getting better or worse in Iraq. But I do know the Bush administration is now in total panic mode over the erosion of public support for the occupation. How else could one explain the President's bizarre radio address this past Saturday or the even more surreal comments recently from other administration officials?

    First, the president's radio address: On Saturday President Bush defended the war in Iraq saying, "We went to war because we were attacked." Huh? In September 2003, the President himself stated, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th attacks." (For the record, the 9/11 Commission is on the side of the Sept. 2003 President Bush — The commission found there was "no collaborative relationship between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.")

    On Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said criticism of the handling of the war isn't justified because "The administration, I think, has said to the American people that it is a generational commitment to Iraq." What? That was said... but it came from Senators pouring cold water on the administration's optimistic pre-war predictions. What were those predictions? Vice President Cheney (March 16, 2003) said, "My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators... I think it will go relatively quickly... in weeks rather than months." Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld on Feb. 7, 2003 said, "It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." Former Budget director Mitch Daniels (March 28, 2003) stated, "The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid."

    Iraq will not require sustained aid? Hmmm. Today, Congress voted to send the Pentagon another $45 billion for operations in Iraq. That brings the total amount appropriated so far, for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to $322.40 billion.

    The administration seems to think that by shifting the justification for the war or changing what administration officials said 3 years ago, the president's poll numbers will magically turn around. The pretzel shaped logic of this strategy is mind-boggling. And one begins to wonder if the gang that helped President Bush win a 2nd term has been stuffed into a closet.



    Hardball: Taking the DSM to the Next Level

    Click to View Window Media Video (Courtesey of

    Tonight Hardball on MSNBC did a Special Report on the Downing Street Memo, and contrary to expectation of many, including myself, who predicted yet another lame white-washing of the issue similar to the recent Washington Post Editorial by Dana Milbank - this story, I dare say, may have been a breakthrough moment.

    Rather than throwing cold water on the issue as did CNN when it first mentioned the memo (Calling the London Time a "Tabloid"), Hardball with host David Gregory - temporarily sans Faux-macrat Chris Matthews - handled the story in a very sober and serious manner, starting with primary guest Michael Smith (the original author of the London Times piece), and moving on to former CIA Director Jim Woolsey as well as UN Weapons Inspector David Kay.

    (Read Full Transcript)

    Instead of the standard right-wing claims that the information within the Memo's is "Second Hand", this report gave I think a fair estimate that either MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove was wrong in his assessment that the "facts were being fixed", OR the United States simply used the UN as a "pretext" to give legal authority to the Iraq War.

    For his part, Michael Smith did an good job of expaining exactly why the original documents were photocopied, transcribed by a secretary, afterwhich the originals were returned to the source and the photocopies were destroyed : On the advice of attorneys to protect the anonymity of the source.

    There was also the arguement that, "fixed means something different in England" and that this is "old news", however it seemed quite obvious even to a casual viewer that the first option (Dearlove is wrong), is a rather strange position in conjunction with "this is old news", when Richard Clarke, former Treasury Secratary Paul O'Neill and even Bob Woodward (although not mentioning former Pentagon insider Lt. Col Karen Kwaitkowski) are all called upon as examples of how "Bush was focused on Iraq and Saddam from day one".

    Could all of these people be wrong in exactly the same way?

    Click to view Part II of report

    Jim Woolsey provided the most damaging commentary, stating his opinion, in contrast to Britain's Attorney General, that Saddam's repeated violations of UN Security Resolution #1205 already provided ample ammunition to go war.

    As it turns out UN Resolution #1205 dates back to 1998, when the Weapons Inspectors were pulled out in the wake of continued resistance by Saddam to their continued work in detecting and destroying chemical and biological weapons. This resolution, among others, was used by then President Clinton to begin a massive bombing campaign of Iraq specifically targetting all known and suspected WMD sites. (In fact, it may be because of the work of weapons inspectors up to this point in conjunction with Clinton Administration bombing that WMD's have to date not been found in Iraq.)

    When asked whether or not the efforts by the US and UK to seek UN support for the war, subsequent to the events of the DSM, are indeed a debunking of the information contained in the memo/minutes - Michael Smith pointed out twice that the key element of the minutes is the apparent plot to use the UN as a pretext to create a legal justification for the war when none currently existed. The expectation was the Saddam would resist the re-insertion of weapons inspectors - as he had prior to the passage of resolution #1205, But how after going to the UN and getting the passage of resolution #1441, the weapons inpectors were indeed allowed back into Iraq, and contrary to UK and US expectations - as outlined by the DSM's - Saddam submitted completely to their intrusion, and thereby completely abrogated the hoped for justification for military intervention.

    Inspectors did not find WMD's, but they did find and destroy hundreds of Iraqi missles which were in violation of UN Resolutions. Saddam did not resist. At this point Saddam was in complete and total compliance with resolution #1205 and #1441 as well as all relevent resolutions.

    What then, was the continued justification for War?

    The fact is, there wasn't one. Saddam and Iraq was in compliance and had provided thousands of pages of documentation to that effect. Weapon's inspectors were back in place and doing their job.

    Yet we still went to war? Why?

    Apparently because President Bush decided he didn't trust Saddam, and decided to forgo further diplomacy in direct violation of the October 2002 Resolution (H.J. 141) authorizing War in Iraq as a last resort.

    Tonights excellent report on Hardball - as well as a similar report and the immediately following Countdown with Keith Olbermann (Transcript), may have been the first serious examination by the MSM on Downing Street: The Series (as it was described in the Countdown crawl), and the first real MSM attempt to explain why we are in the midst of a war that didn't need to occur.

    During the report Woolsey futher argued, deftly I must admit, that Saddam was certainly a danger to security in the region as well as to his own people - and that "We are certainly better off now - without Saddam". That may indeed be true, even John Kerry was forced to admit this many times during the election, but what is also clear is that Saddam's continued resistance to inspections was tied directly to his ability to remain in power. If weapons inspectors had been allowed by the Bush administration to finish their job and had confirmed in 2003 that Saddams WMD's were in fact either exhausted or destroyed (as the ISG eventually did report in 2004), it's certain that as Woolsey puts it he wouldn't have become "Philosopher King" - but without any real way to again repel an insurection by the Kurds from the north (as was openly supported by the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998), it may also be equally argued that he may not have remained the leader of Iraq either.

    Imagine that - Saddam gone without the blood of a single American soldier, or $322 Billion (and counting) of the American Treasury having been spent? Wouldn't that be a far more preferable situation to the one we have now?


    Sunday, June 19

    Why I'm joining the Republican Party!

    From Democratic Underground: (All due sarcasm intended)

    After a lifetime voting for and working for Democratic candidates and independents, I'm finally going to make the switch and become a Republican.

    The reasons are many, not the least of which is age. I turned 55 recently and, having lived more than half my life, I can't afford to worry anymore about the other guy. It's time for me.

    As a Republican, I can now proudly -- indeed, defiantly -- pledge to never again vote for anyone who raises taxes for any reason. To hell with roads, bridges, schools, police and fire protection, Medicare, Social Security and regulation of the airwaves.

    President Bush has promised to give me more tax cuts even though our federal government owes trillions of dollars to its creditors. But that's someone else's problem, not mine. Republicans are about the here and now, and I'm here now.

    As a Republican, I can favor exploiting the environment for everything she's got. No need to worry about quaint notions like posterity and natural legacy. There are plenty of resources left for everyone, and if we don't use them, someone else will.

    I want a party that doesn't worry about things before we have to. Republicans refuse to get hog-tied by theories such as global warming, ozone depletion, fished-out oceans and disappearing wetlands. The real problems -- if there are any -- aren't forecast to take hold for at least 50 years. So what do I care? I'll be dead.

    As a Republican, I can swagger and clamor for war -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, wherever -- even though I've never fought in one or even been in the military. I can claim that we're fighting for Democracy, ignoring reports of torture at Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Base and Guantanamo Bay, and a spreading gulag of secret detention centers around the world.

    Freedom, as every American should know after spending $300 billion for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, isn't free.

    As a Republican, I can insist on strict moral values when it comes to sex and ignore the growing moral chasms in business, politics, sports, journalism and the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.

    A society that loses control of its sexual urges faces unwanted pregnancies, socially transmitted disease, broken families. Those overzealous about wealth, however, produce only a higher GDP, lifelong security for their family and more minimum wage jobs for the lower classes. What's wrong with that?

    As a Republican, I can favor strict punishment of criminals, except for those who happen to be my friends or neighbors. Isn't that the very definition of community -- looking out for friends and family?

    I will be pro-death penalty and anti-abortion, pro-child but anti-child care, for education but against funding of public schools. As a Republican, I'll have a better chance of getting to spout my opinions in the media, which for some reason seems convinced that since Bush was re-elected with the smallest electoral margin of any sitting president in history, liberals are passe.

    As a Republican, I'll say goodbye to "old Jesus" and hello to "new Jesus." Sure Christ started out as a liberal Jew, and look where that got him. Compassion, love and diatribes against the rich only encourage the weak and punish the most successful among us. The Jesus that Republicans worship is a muscular, decisive, pro-war crusader hard at work cleansing the world of evildoers, not, God forbid, turning the other cheek.

    My decision to become a Republican didn't come easily. For years I clung to the idea that the foundation of a democratic society was our implied social contract, each of us committing some level of personal sacrifice to the common good of all.

    I regarded taxes as dues we pay for better roads and schools, safe inspection of meat and dairy products, maintenance of parks and protection of wilderness areas. I see now that looking out for the common good resulted in shortchanging the most important element in this formula -- me.

    Let Democrats continue promising the "greatest good for the greatest number." Republicans clearly have my number -- No. 1.

    I'm sure a lot of my friends reading this will ask me, "How can you sleep?" My answer will be, "Who's got time? I'm busy earning money." While they're bellyaching about rising deficits, the outsourcing of jobs and casualties in Iraq, I'll be marveling at the march of freedom in the Middle East, upticks in the GDP and the president's plan to link Social Security to the magic of the marketplace.

    As a Republican, I simply won't listen to bad news anymore. Bad news doesn't get me or my family anywhere. If you don't have anything good to say about somebody, don't say anything at all -- unless it happens to be about a Democrat, of course.

    Jeff Gillenkirk was a speechwriter for former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. He lives in San Francisco. Contact us at .

    Durbin's Quiet Gitmo Storm

    Last week, just prior to hearings on the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) spoke out on the many problems our detention policy at Gitmo, proving the age-old axiom that no truly good deed goes unpunished.

    I am a member of the Judiciary Committee. For two years I have asked for hearings on this issue. I am glad Chairman Specter will hold a hearing on wartime detention policies tomorrow, I thank him for taking this step. I wish other members of his party would be willing to hold this administration accountable as well.

    It is worth reflecting for a moment about how we have reached this point. Many people who read history remember as World War II began with the attack on Pearl Harbor, a country in fear after being attacked decided one way to protect America was to gather together Japanese Americans and literally imprison them, put them in internment camps for fear they would be traitors and turn on the United States. We did that. Thousands of people, good American citizens, who happened to be of Japanese ancestry, were treated like common criminals.

    It took almost 40 years for us to acknowledge that we were wrong, to admit that these people should never have been imprisoned. It was a shameful period in American history and one that very few, if any, try to defend today.

    I believe the torture techniques that have been used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanemo and other places fall into the same category. I am confident, sadly confident as I stand here, that decades from now people will look back and say: What were they thinking?


    In his memo to [then White House Counsel] Gonzales, Secretary Powell on setting aside the Geneva Conventions " will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice and undermine the protections of law of war for our own troops... It will undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain".

    When you look at the negative publicity about Guantanamo, Secretary Colin Powell was prophetic.


    Military sources, according to the media, indicate that many detainees have no connection to al-Qaida or the Taliban and were sent to Guananamo over the objections of intelligence personnel who recommended their release. One military officer said:

    "We're basically condemning these guys to a long-term imprisonment. If they weren't terrorists before, they certainly could be now".

    Last year, in two landmark decisions, the Supreme Court rejected the administration's detention policy. The Court held that the detainees claims that they were detained for over two years without charge and without access to counsel "unquestionably describe custody in violation of the Constitution, or laws and treaties of the United States".

    The Court also held that an American citizen held as an enemy combatant must be told the basis for his detention and have a fair opportunity to challenge the Government's claims. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority:

    "A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens."

    Ignoring all of the salient points made by the Senator, Republican operatives chose instead to attack his one comment that "If I read this [FBI Report of Torture Techniques used at Guantanemo] to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings.".

    The New York Post stated:

    Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) is a dis grace to the people he serves, the U.S. Senate and the United States of America.

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (who himself was forced to resign amid scandal and disgrace) called for the Congress to censure Durbin.

    "Senator Richard Durbin has dishonored the United States and the entire U.S. Senate. Only by a vote to censure Senator Durbin for his conduct can the U.S. Senate restore its dignity and defend American honor," Gingrich wrote.

    Fox News Jim Angle Reported:


    ANGLE: Late today, in an interview with Fox, Senator Durbin stuck by his comments and insisted the FBI memo alleged the actual torture of a prisoner.


    DURBIN: It isn't just the denial of simple creature comforts. What was involved here is nothing short of torture.

    ANGLE: But a knowledgeable official familiar with this and other memos said the FBI agent made no such allegation, that his memo only described someone chained to the floor, and that anything beyond that is simply interpretation. And several Republican senators took to the floor late today to say there is no evidence of torture and that Durbin's comparisons to the Soviets, Pol Pot and the Nazis have no basis in fact or history.

    So intense have been the attacks that Durbin has been forced to apologize, allowing the heat of criticism to obscure the truthful light that shown in his original commentary:

    On Friday, Durbin tried to clarify the issue. "My statement in the Senate was critical of the policies of this administration, which add to the risk our soldiers face," he said in a statement released Friday afternoon. "I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood. I sincerely regret if what I said caused anyone to misunderstand my true feelings: Our soldiers around the world and their families at home deserve our respect, admiration and total support."

    Contrary to other Republican claims that Durbin has "damaged the reputation of men and women in uniform" the FBI Email in question complains that U.S. Military and Intelligence Officers were using a variation of the "False Flag" strategem (authorized by Donald Rumseld for use in Guantanemo on April 16, 2003), attempting to IMPERSONATE FBI PERSONNEL while engaging in unlawful behavior in order to avoid accountability.

    "Of concern, DOD interrogators impersonating Supervisory Special Agents of the FBI...These tactics have produced no intelligence of a threat neutralization nature to date and CITF believes that techniques have destroyed any chance of prosecuting this detainee.

    If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD officials will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done by "FBI" interrogators. The FBI will be left holding the bag before the public.

    In this particular case, the persons using torture - were not in Uniform. So the arguement that Durbin was insulting our uniformed "men and women" as the White House has claimed in patently ridiculous. This issue has been ajudicated as unlawful by the Supreme Court, yet Guantanamo, Bagram AFB and other detention centers continue to function to this very day.

    Clearly the question of how to deal with non-uniformed enemy combatants is far from a simple one. In a normal war, uniformed POW's would be detained until the end of hostilities - and then released back to their native countries. In this case, we have people fighting without uniform, without declaring their country of origin, in a Global War or Terror without End. At no point in the future will we be able to simply release genuinely dangerous prisoners without the risk of them returning to the "battle". Nor can we legally keep them in indefinate detention without access to legal council or tribunal to determine if they are in fact, enemy combatants guilty of war crimes against Iraq and the United States, or not. And certainly, as the FBI email points out - we can't prosecute anyone whose been tortured, or prosecute anyone who has been captured by use of information gained via torture -- the Constitution simply does not allow for coerced testimony to be used in a court of law.

    Many lawmakers have recently suggested the shutdown of Guantanemo, but this also ignores the true issue - which is the unlawful policy which was put into place by the Bush Administration under the false cover of the Gonzales-Bybee memos. We have to change the policy and bring it back into compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Geneva Conventions, not simply play a shell-game with the detainees moving them from one unlawful facility to another.

    The answer here remains illusive, our battle againsts the forces of international terror is sure to be long and difficult, but certainly - we can do far better than this. We have to.


    AP on DSM: Memos Show British Concern Over Iraq Plans

    New AP Report on the scope of all of the leaked Downing Street Documents:

    AP : Memos Show British Concern Over Iraq Plans

    By THOMAS WAGNER, Associated Press Writer Sat Jun 18, 5:55 PM ET

    LONDON - When Prime Minister
    Tony Blair's chief foreign policy adviser dined with
    Condoleezza Rice six months after Sept. 11, the then-U.S. national security adviser didn't want to discuss
    Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida. She wanted to talk about "regime change" in
    Iraq, setting the stage for the U.S.-led invasion more than a year later.

    President Bush wanted Blair's support, but British officials worried the White House was rushing to war, according to a series of leaked secret Downing Street memos that have renewed questions and debate about Washington's motives for ousting
    Saddam Hussein.

    In one of the memos, British Foreign Office political director Peter Ricketts openly asks whether the Bush administration had a clear and compelling military reason for war.

    "U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaida is so far frankly unconvincing," Ricketts says in the memo. "For Iraq, `regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."

    The documents confirm Blair was genuinely concerned about Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction, but also indicate he was determined to go to war as America's top ally, even though his government thought a pre-emptive attack may be illegal under international law.

    "The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programs, but our tolerance of them post-11 September," said a typed copy of a March 22, 2002 memo obtained Thursday by The Associated Press and written to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

    "But even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programs will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW (chemical or biological weapons) fronts: the programs are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up."

    Details from Rice's dinner conversation also are included in one of the secret memos from 2002, which reveal British concerns about both the invasion and poor postwar planning by the Bush administration, which critics say has allowed the Iraqi insurgency to rage.

    The eight memos — all labeled "secret" or "confidential" — were first obtained by British reporter Michael Smith, who has written about them in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times.


    "In particular we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective... A postwar occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise. As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point."

    The British worried that, "Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden. Further work is required to define more precisely the means by which the desired end state would be created, in particular what form of government might replace Saddam Hussein's regime and the time scale within which it would be possible to identify a successor."

    In the March 22 memo from Foreign Office political director Ricketts to Foreign Secretary Straw, Ricketts outlined how to win public and parliamentary support for a war in Britain: "We have to be convincing that: the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for; it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran)."

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