Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Monday, October 31, 2005

You'd Think, Wouldn't You?

Democrats: It’s the War
By Dennis Kucinich

Ending the war in Iraq is right for a lot of reasons. The war was unjustified, unnecessary and unprovoked. It is counterproductive, strengthening al-Qaeda and weakening the moral authority of the United States. It is deadly: Many Americans, and many, many more Iraqis, have been killed or injured as a result of the fighting. And it is costly: Well over $250 billion in taxpayer funds have already been spent, with no end in sight.

It is also increasingly unpopular. For all these reasons, plus the increased spotlight that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita put on how much the war is draining resources desperately needed at home, Democrats should clearly call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. If Democrats do not make this the centerpiece of their campaign in 2006, they risk repeating recent history, in which they failed to recover seats in the House and Senate.

National Democratic leaders have already tried, and tried again, to ignore the war, and it didn’t work politically. During the 2002 election cycle, when Democrats felt they had historical precedent on their side—the president’s party always loses seats in the mid-term election—the Democratic leadership in Congress cut a deal with the president to bring the war resolution to a vote, and appeared with him in a Rose Garden ceremony. “Let no light show” between Democrats and President Bush on foreign policy was the leadership’s strategy, and it yielded a historic result: For the first time since Franklin Roosevelt, a president increased his majorities in both houses of Congress during a recession.

Then, in 2004, with the president vulnerable on the war, the Democratic Party again sacrificed the opportunity to distinguish itself from Bush. Members avoided the issue of withdrawal from Iraq in the Party platform, omitted it from campaign speeches and deleted it from the national convention.

Why is it an unconscionable political blunder to sweep the war and occupation of Iraq under the rug? Because the war is one of the most potent political scandals of all time, and it has energized grassroots activity all over the country.

President Bush led the country into war based on false information, falsified threats and a fictitious estimate of the consequences. His war and the continuing occupation transformed Iraq into a training ground for jihadists who want to kill Americans, and a cause célèbre for stoking resentment in the Muslim world.

Bush’s war and occupation squandered the abundant good will felt by the world for America after our 9/11 losses. He enriched his cronies at Halliburton and other private interests through the occupation. And he diverted our attention and abilities away from apprehending the masterminds of the 9/11 attack. Instead, we are mired in an occupation which has already cost over 2,000 American lives and the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis.

The issue of the war clearly distinguishes what is wrong with Republican rule. Republicans in Congress won’t extricate the United States from the quagmire the president has gotten us into. They have refused to investigate what role the White House played in manipulating pre-war intelligence. They refused to investigate the Downing Street memo. Democrats, on the other hand, mostly voted against the war: Two-thirds of House Democrats and half of Senate Democrats opposed the war in Iraq. Democrats can draw no clearer distinction with the president and the Republican Congress than over this war.

Every major poll confirms that the war is a loser for the president and his party. Consider one of the most prominent: The ABC/Washington Post poll, which has surveyed public opinion on the war regularly since March 2003. Responses to all pertinent key questions clearly show eroding support for the war. Support for the president’s handling of Iraq has steadily fallen; belief that the war was worth fighting has fallen; belief that the number of U.S. casualties are an acceptable cost of the war has steadily fallen; belief that the war has contributed to U.S. long-term security has steadily fallen, and support for keeping forces in Iraq has steadily fallen. There are no exceptions to this trend.

Right is on our side, and public opinion is trending our way. In 2006, Democrats must break from the past and run on the issue of quick withdrawal of all troops from Iraq. The stakes are high: Unless Democrats stand for ending the war in Iraq, this country will not leave Iraq, and Democrats their minority status in Washington, for a long time to come.

Of course, no party can win votes on the strength of one issue. Ending the war in Iraq must be at the centerpiece of a campaign that includes standing for national health care and preserving Social Security. This is the constellation of issues with which Democrats can take back the country.

The Company really hates the Democrats, because despite being so cheaply bought, the Democratic establishment can't control the Party.

Examples: George McGovern, 1972; Jimmy Carter, 1976; Bill Clinton, 1992. Outsiders who touched a raw nerve and beat the system to win the Party. It almost happened with Dean in 2004, but Dean, the first Democrat to understand the potential of the internet, made the mistake of listening to the Party insiders and the main$tream media.

Fatal error, that. Just ask Al Gore.

Dear Leader Goes Down on the Dominion

If he can't have a crony he'll have a Scalito.

The AmeriTaliban feel much better being able to hate the 21st century all together again instead of sniping at Cheneyburton.

Billmon has a good take-down on this.

Having finally tracked down and read Judge Alito's 3rd Circuit dissent in Planned Parenthood v Casey, I certainly hope that over the next several weeks pro-choice voters in Maine (Snowe, Collins) Rhode Island (Chafee) Ohio (Voinovich, DeWine) and the other haunts of "moderate" Republicans are made aware of the fact that Bush's nominee believes husbands have a vested property right in their wives' uteruses...

...the fact that Justice O'Connor -- whose various balancing tests Scalito relies heavily upon in his dissent -- basically slapped him down cold ("Section 3209's husband notification provision constitutes an undue burden, and is therefore invalid." full stop) suggests she at least thought he was full of it.

True, there are no "gotcha" lines -- Little Scalia apparently doesn't share Big Scalia's tendency to showboat -- but his legal reasoning in Casey can easily be reduced to a few viscerally offensive points, suitable for 30-second ads:

* Scalito equates Pennsylvania's spousal notification laws with the parental notification requirements upheld by the O'Connor court. Women are children, in other words, and stand in relationship to their husbands as minors stand to their legal guardians:

"Justice O’Connor has also suggested on more than one occasion that no undue burden was created by the statute upheld in H.L. v. Matheson . . . which required parental notice prior to any abortion on an unemancipated minor . . .These harms are almost identical to those that the majority in this case attributes to Section 3209 (the PA spousal notification requirement.)"

* Because the vast majority of married women tell their husbands before they have an abortion, those who don't are not worthy of the law's protection:

"In the trial testimony on which the district court relied, the plaintiffs’ witness stated that in her experience 95% of married women notify their husbands. Second, the overwhelming majority of abortions are sought by unmarried women. Thus, it is immediately apparent that Section 3209 cannot affect more than about 5% of married women seeking abortions or an even smaller percentage of all women desiring abortions."

* The risk that a husband might retaliate against a wife with psychological torment -- or by hurting her children -- is too insignificant to qualify as an "undue burden," even though plaintiffs established that such behavior is frequent in spousal abuse cases:

"The plaintiffs . . . do not appear to have offered any evidence showing how many (or indeed that any actual women) would be affected by this asserted imperfection in the statute."

* The fact that pregnancy notification has been documented as a flashpoint for spousal abuse is also irrelevant:

"This proof indicates when violence is likely to occur in an abusive marriage but provides no basis for determining how many women would be adversely affected by Section 3209."

* It's OK if some women get beaten up by their husbands, because others wouldn't:

"Of the potentially affected women who could not invoke an exception, it seems safe to assume that some percentage, despite an initial inclination not to tell their husbands, would notify their husbands without suffering substantial ill effects."

Scalito's reasoning becomes even more of an exercise in the defense of masculine property rights when he tries to determine if the state of Pennsylvania has a "legitimate" state interest in requiring spousal notification...

From this, he concludes:

"It follows that a husband has a “legitimate” interest in the welfare of a fetus he has conceived with his wife."

Got that guys? You own the sperm, you have parental rights over the child, ergo, you've got a miner's claim on the missus's uterus, too. So have a cigar on Little Scalia...

having sampled Scalito's intellectual wares in the Casey case, I think I can say unequivocally that this is a battle that has to be fought to the bitter end -- up to and including nuclear war. Little Scalia has to be attacked with any and every legal tool at the left's disposal, and for my money, Casey is a pretty good place to start.

And if that be Borking, let us make the most of it.

May this attitude spread out everywhere.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

No Jolly Green Giant

Time for the Vice President to Explain Himself
Published: October 30, 2005

It's time for Dick Cheney to give the nation "a stiff dose of truth."

In calling for Cheney to resign, it reads:

First, Democrats should wipe the smiles off their faces. This is a humiliation for the entire country, and their glee is unseemly. Moreover, the situation is not that neocons are all crooks, but that one vice-presidential aide must be presumed innocent of trying to cover up conduct that may not have been illegal in the first place.

Not all NeoCons are crooks, unless you count things like subversion of the Constitution, war profiteering, and repressing the American people. Or supporting a couple of stolen elections in order to get your own way.

Sounds like Kristof just wants a Con he can trust...

No, we're not out of the woods by a long shot. Bu$hCo is just going to start playing it smarter. Instead of an absolute patsy in the Supreme Court, he'll nominate a Robert Bork clone blowhard that will vote pretty much the same way.

Here's one symptom of the underlying disease that infects all of us. The progressive delusion that "...the US bestrode the world like a radiant colussus, admired by its many friends and feared by its enemies."

The Jolly Green Giant we have never been. Somebody seems to have slipped some Kool-Aid into our orange juice. Even the most benevolent colossus tends to walk like Godzilla on the little people it can't see, and that includes almost everyone in its way.

Part of it is the Clinton NeoLiberalism that is basically the same thing as NeoConservatism except, you know, we feel their pain.

No, under Clinton we didn't invade Iraq. We just bombed the hell out of it and let Al Qaeda establish bases where Saddam didn't go. We just starved several hundred thousand children to death. And profited under the table from oil-for-food. Which is admittedly a whole lot better than we're doing right now- to them or ourselves. The NeoLibs like the Clintons don't want to end Iraq now that we're there, they just want to improve our management of it.

Watch out about that Kristof cat. He actually believes the stuff he writes. So you get the worst disinformation mixed seamlessly with the facts from him.

Where's Harry Seldon When We Really Need Him?

The wave of darkness and iniquity spreading across the land doesn't require a Dr. Evil to be behind it.

All it requires is a convergence of interests, as Shystee points out.

Similarly, even if Dr. Evil and the bad boys (and girls) behind him do the frog-march, it's not going to do more than skim the foam off of the tsunami.

For a real fun read on the physical principles behind the scene go read the posting on Emergence.

To complement the portion that Shystee quoted, I'd like to add this note:

Emergence is the process of complex pattern formation from simpler rules. This can be a dynamic process (occurring over time), such as the evolution of the human brain over thousands of successive generations; or emergence can happen over disparate size scales, such as the interactions between a macroscopic number of neurons producing a human brain capable of thought (even though the constituent neurons are not themselves conscious). For a phenomenon to be termed emergent it should generally be unpredictable from a lower level description. Usually the phenomenon does not exist at all or only in trace amounts at the very lowest level...

It should be emphasized that in each of these cases, while an emergent phenomenon at the macroscopic scale does not directly exist at the microscopic scale, its existence at macroscopic scales can still be explained (perhaps after a substantial amount of rigorous or semi-rigorous mathematical analysis) by the laws of physics at microscopic scales, taking into account the interactions between all the microscopic components of a macroscopic object. Thus, emergent phenomena can demonstrate why a reductionistic physical theory, viewing all matter in terms of its component parts, which in turn obey a relatively small number of laws, can hope to model complex objects such as living beings. However, by the same token, emergent phenomena serve to caution against greedy reductionism, because the microscopic explanation of an emergent phenomenon may be too complicated or "low-level" to be of any practical use...

Speaking of the physical description of things you can't do a lot about, check out the link on Kondratiev Waves.

By this measure, the peaks and nadirs of modern human economic activity come in 50 year cycles. The last lowest point?

Fall of 2001. I agree entirely.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

That Was Then. This is Still Pretty Much the Same.

All the Vice President's Men
By Juan Cole

As Washington waits on pins and needles to see if special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald hands down indictments, the focus falls on Dick Cheney's inner circle. This group, along with that surrounding Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made up what Colin Powell's top aide, Lawrence Wilkerson, called "a cabal" that "on critical issues ... made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made." Cheney is the first vice president to have had, in effect, his own personal National Security Council. This formidable and unprecedented rump foreign policy team, composed of radical hawks, played a key role in every aspect of the war on Iraq: planning for it, gathering "evidence" to justify it and punishing those who spoke out against it. It is not surprising that members of that team, and Cheney himself, have now also emerged as targets in Fitzgerald's investigation of the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson to the press, along with Bush advisor Karl Rove.

Although the investigation has focused on Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a number of other Cheney staffers have been interviewed. Who are these shadowy policymakers who played such a major role in shaping the Bush administration's foreign policy?

Most of the members of Cheney's inner circle were neoconservative ideologues, who combined hawkish American triumphalism with an obsession with Israel. This does not mean that the war was fought for Israel, although it is undeniable that Israeli concerns played an important role. The actual motivation behind the war was complex, and Cheney's team was not the only one in the game. The Bush administration is a coalition of disparate forces - country club Republicans, realists, representatives of oil and other corporate interests, evangelicals, hardball political strategists, right-wing Catholics, and neoconservative Jews allied with Israel's right-wing Likud party. Each group had its own rationale for going to war with Iraq.

Bush himself appears to have had an obsession with restoring family honor by avenging the slight to his father produced by Saddam's remaining in office after the Gulf War. Cheney was interested in the benefits of a war to the oil industry, and to the military-industrial complex in general. It seems likely that the Iraq war, which produced billions in no-bid contracts for the company he headed in the late 1990s, saved Halliburton from bankruptcy. The evangelicals wanted to missionize Iraqis. Karl Rove wanted to turn Bush into a war president to ensure his reelection. The neoconservatives viewed Saddam's Iraq as a short-term danger to Israel, and in the long term, they hoped that overthrowing the Iraqi Baath would transform the entire Middle East, rather as Kamal Ataturk, who abolished the offices of Ottoman emperor and Sunni caliph in the 1920s, had brought into being a relatively democratic Turkey that was allied with Israel. (This fantastic analogy was suggested by Princeton emeritus professor and leading neoconservative ideologue Bernard Lewis.) This transformation would be beneficial to the long-term security of both the United States and Israel.

None of these rationales would have been acceptable across the board, or persuasive with Congress or the American public, so the various factions focused on the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Unfortunately for them, this rationale was discovered to be a mirage. And in the course of trying to punish those who were pointing out that the emperor had no clothes - or, in this case, that the dictator had no weapons of mass destruction - Cheney and Bush's underlings went too far. Ironically, their attempt to silence critics succeeded only in turning a harsh light on their own actions and motivations.

"Cheney Assembles Formidable Team," marveled a Page One article in the Feb. 3, 2001, edition of the New York Times. It turns out that Cheney had 15 military and political advisors on foreign affairs, at a time when the president's own National Security Council was being downsized. The number of aides who counseled Cheney on domestic issues was much smaller. In contrast, Al Gore had been advised by a single staffer on security affairs.

The leader of the team was Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. Libby had studied at Yale with Paul Wolfowitz, who brought him to Washington. He co-authored a hawkish policy document with Wolfowitz in the Department of Defense for its head, Dick Cheney, after the Gulf War in 1992. When it was leaked, it embarrassed the first President Bush. Libby was a founding member of the Project for a New American Century in 1997 during the Clinton years, when many neoconservatives were out of office. The PNAC attempted to use the Republican-dominated Congress to pressure Clinton to take a more belligerent stance toward Iraq, and it advocated significantly expanding military spending and using US troops as "gendarmes" in the aftermath of wars to "shape" the international security environment.

Cheney was also a PNAC member, and his association with this group from 1997 signaled a shift from his earlier hard-nosed realism, as he allied himself with the neoconservatives, who dreamed of transforming other societies. The James Baker branch of the Republican Party had long been critical of Israel for causing trouble for the United States in the Middle East with its expansionist policies and unwillingness to stop the settlement of the West Bank, and Baker was well aware that the vast majority of American Jews do not vote Republican.

Although a staunch defender of Israel, Cheney at one time was at least on speaking terms with this wing of the Republican Party. (The sense of betrayal felt by his old colleagues was summed up by Bush I's national security advisor Brent Scowcroft, who told the New Yorker he considered Cheney a friend, "But Dick Cheney I don't know anymore." As time went on, however, he increasingly chose to ally with neoconservatives and the Jewish right in the US and Israel, accepting them as powerful allies and constituents for his vision of a post-Cold War world dominated by an unchallenged American hegemony that would be backed by a vast military-industrial establishment fed by US tax dollars. He continually promised skeptical Jewish audiences that a democratic Iraq would benefit Israel. His choice of advisors when he became vice president demonstrated a pronounced preference for the neoconservatives.

But Cheney's alliance with the neocons was probably driven more by his Manichaean, Cold War-inspired worldview - in which the US battled an evil enemy - and his corporate ties, than by an obsession with Israel or remaking the Middle East. Islamist terror provided a new version of the Soviet "evil empire." And the neocons' dynamic foreign policy vision, their "liberalism with guns," offered more opportunities for the military-industrial complex than did traditional Republican realism in a post-Soviet world, where peer states did not exist and no credible military threat menaced the US Only a series of wars of conquest in the Middle East, dressed up as a "defense" against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, could hope to keep the Pentagon and the companies to which it outsourced in the gravy.

Such wars could no longer be fought in East Asia, given Chinese and North Korean nuclear capabilities, and there were no US constituencies for such wars in most other parts of the world. The Middle East was the perfect arena for a renewed American militarism, given that the US public held deep prejudices against the Arab-Muslim world, and, after Sept. 11, deeply feared it.

A key, but less well-known, Cheney advisor on the Middle East is John Hannah, a former Soviet expert. He had been part of a policy group assembled by Cheney when he was secretary of defense, in 1989, under the direction of Paul Wolfowitz. Hannah was distinguished for his distrust of Soviet reformist Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev, according to the New Republic.

Hannah then came to head the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a stridently pro-Israel think tank that has gained enormous influence in Washington. WINEP had been founded in the 1980s with the backing of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the legendarily powerful pro-Israel lobbying group. The initial impetus for it was that think tanks like the Brookings Institution were felt to be insufficiently pro-Israel. Initially WINEP tended to support the government in power in Israel, but in the past 15 years it has increasingly been drawn into the orbit of the right-wing, expansionist Likud Party.

WINEP wields enormous influence, to the point where it almost functions as a governmental entity. The director of a private consulting firm with a contract from the Department of Defense that involved trying to think about the future of the main political parties in Iraq told me in 2004 that he was specifically instructed, as part of his contract, to depend on the material at the WINEP Web site. State Department officials and US military officers are detailed to WINEP to learn about the Middle East and are indoctrinated into a pro-Likud point of view at taxpayers' expense. Despite its highly political activities, WINEP has the status for tax purposes of a nonprofit charitable foundation.

When Hannah was at WINEP, he was still deeply concerned with post-Soviet Russian foreign policy toward the Middle East. The Soviets had been major patrons of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Syria and Iraq, all of whom Hannah viewed as enemies. In a 1993 interview with the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, another pro-Israel, right-wing organization, Hannah expressed anxiety about the rise of Russian nationalists who, he claimed, sought to undermine United Nations sanctions against Libya and to position Russian companies to invest in Iraq should the sanctions on that country begin to slip. For figures such as Hannah, Russian nationalism and Middle Eastern rogue states like Libya and Iraq represented unfinished business left over from the Cold War. For the Israeli hawks and their American supporters, the Cold War was not really over as long as the former Soviet allies in the Middle East continued to express enmity to Israel.

As former Secretary of State Warren Christopher once remarked, the US State Department probably owes WINEP a finder's fee for providing it with key personnel. From the institute, Hannah came to work for Christopher (who served from 1993 to 1997). During this period, Hannah cultivated ties with Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, an expatriate group funded by the CIA and the State Department to overthrow Saddam. One of the things that made Chalabi attractive to Hannah and other neocons was that he promised them that if he came to power he would recognize Israel and take Iraq in the same direction as Turkey, a Muslim country allied with the Zionist state.

We next meet Hannah as an aide to John Bolton. Bolton, a curmudgeonly lawyer who helped stop the Florida recount in 2000, was rewarded by Bush by being made undersecretary of state for arms control and international proliferation. Bolton detailed Hannah to Cheney's office as chief adviser on the Middle East. (Hannah actually knew little about the Middle East and knows no Arabic, being primarily an old Russia hand.)

Cheney's other major advisor besides Libby on Middle East affairs is David Wurmser, a Johns Hopkins Ph.D. in international relations. He served as project officer at the congressionally funded US Institute of Peace, from 1988 to 1994. He then moved for two years to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he was director of institutional grants until 1996. In the latter year he co-authored, with Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and others, a now-famous policy paper for incoming Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," that advocated a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein and install a Hashemite monarchy in Iraq as a way of moderating the Shiites of the region and securing "the realm" of Israel. Since post-Khomeini Shiites despise monarchy as un-Islamic, and since the Hashemites, who used to rule Iraq before 1958 and still rule Jordan, are Sunni Muslims, this plan was worse than science fiction. Science fiction is coherent and often involves some actual knowledge.

The neoconservatives were actually more concerned with Syria initially than Iraq, since it more directly threatened Israeli security. Indeed, "A Clean Break" advocated the removal of Saddam Hussein mainly as a way of pressuring Damascus. The policy paper said, with astonishing ignorance, "Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq - an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right - as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions. King Hussein may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf [sic] Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet's family, the direct descendants of which - and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows - is King Hussein."

This paragraph must be the most absurd, ill-informed and frankly lunatic pieces of prose ever produced by any policy advisor anywhere. It is full of false premises and ignorant assumptions. Saddam Hussein's branch of the Baath Party was a rival of the Syrian Baath Party, not a supporter. Syria had joined Bush I's coalition against Iraq, allying with the Americans in 1990-91. Removing the Iraqi Baath would more likely strengthen Syria than weaken it. As for the Shiites in Iraq and southern Lebanon, they had been deeply influenced by the ideology of Ayatollah Khomeini, who preached that monarchy is incompatible with Islam. The idea that the old Hashemite monarchy could be revived and reinstalled in revolutionary Iraq was itself absurd. That a Sunni king in Baghdad might have any appeal to the Shiites of southern Lebanon, who favored Hezbollah and Khomeinism, would only occur to someone completely ignorant of the actual politics of Tyre and Nabatiya. The tragedy is that this sort of hallucination appears actually to have underpinned real policy moves by the neoconservatives as they became powerful in Washington under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Wurmser is married to Meyrav Wurmser, director of Middle East programs at the right-wing Hudson Institute. She was listed as a co-author of "A Clean Break." She had also co-founded, with a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence, the MEMRI translation service, which cherry-picks Arabic newspapers for the more outrageous articles and political cartoons, and translates them into English for the purpose of creating a negative view of the Arab world.

In 1999 David Wurmser published "Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein." In 2000, Wurmser authored a paper urging the US government to push Syria out of Lebanon and to refuse to engage with Damascus that was published by the Middle East Forum of Daniel Pipes. The Middle East Forum advisory board is primarily composed of leaders of right-wing organizations such as the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and the Zionist Organization of America.

Wurmser was picked by fellow neoconservative and Undersecretary of Defense for Planning Douglas Feith (whom the departing Colin Powell denounced to George W. Bush as a "card-carrying member of the Likud") after Sept. 11 to form part of the notorious Office of Special Plans in the Near East and South Asia division of the Department of Defense. That unit cherry-picked intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's alleged links to al-Qaida, singling out unreliable, single-sourced accounts and stripping them of any context that would show where they came from. These were then stove piped to Libby and Hannah in Cheney's office, so as to go directly to Bush and make an end run around the professional intelligence agencies. When allegations emerged that corrupt Iraqi businessman and longtime expatriate politician Ahmad Chalabi had been given classified information about US intelligence efforts against Iran, and had promptly passed it on to Tehran, Wurmser was among the officials the FBI interviewed searching for the leak.

When the OSP was dissolved after the Iraq war, Wurmser went back to work for Bolton. Although Wurmser only came to Cheney's shadow national security council in September 2003, after the Plame leak, he had been in close contact with Libby and Hannah all along. Close observers noted a distinct turn toward belligerency against Syria in White House pronouncements soon after Wurmser's advent. (He replaced old Soviet hand Eric Edelman, who was sent as ambassador to Turkey.)

On Sept. 10, 2002, the Boston Globe had reported that ascendant hawks in the Bush administration saw the overthrow of Saddam as a first step toward democratizing and transforming the Middle East. John Donnelly and Anthony Shadid wrote, "The argument for reshaping the political landscape in the Mideast has been pushed for years by some Washington think tanks and in hawkish circles. It is now being considered as a possible US policy with the ascent of key hard-liners in the administration - from Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith in the Pentagon to John Hannah and Lewis Libby on the vice president's staff and John Bolton in the State Department, analysts and officials say."

Cheney and other advocates of this policy promised that an Iraq war would break the deadlock between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Donnelly and Shadid quote Meyrav Wurmser, "Everyone will flip out, starting with the Saudis ... It will send shock waves throughout the Arab world ... But if we can get a democracy in the Palestinian Authority, democracy in Iraq, get the Egyptians to improve their human rights and open up their system, it will be a spectacular change. After a war with Iraq, then you really shape the region." Since both Wurmsers and their circle had argued forcefully for the destruction of the Oslo peace process and against the surrender by Israel of any of the Palestinian territories captured in 1967, it seems most likely that they hoped that getting the US to produce chaos in the Middle East by undermining its allies would give hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a free hand to annex most of the West Bank, and perhaps other Arab lands, rather than that it would lead to a just peace. Weakened by the loss of their backers in Baghdad and Damascus, the Palestinians would be forced to make peace on Sharon's terms.

Libby, Hannah and Wurmser were at the center of the production and purveying of bad intelligence on alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Hannah received intelligence directly from the Iraqi National Congress, according to a leaked memo from that organization. He was also a liaison with Wurmser when the latter was in the Office of Special Plans.

According to a Newsweek article of Dec. 15, 2004, "a June 2002 memo written by INC lobbyist Entifadh Qunbar to a US Senate committee lists John Hannah, a senior national-security aide on Cheney's staff, as one of two 'US governmental recipients' for reports generated by an intelligence program being run by the INC and which was then being funded by the State Department." The article explains that the program arranged for the raw information coming from defectors and other sources to be "reported to, among others, 'appropriate governmental, non-governmental and international agencies.'" The memo explicitly mentioned Hannah as "a principal point of contact" for the program. The other point of contact, according to Newsweek, was William Luti, who headed the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon under Feith. (Luti, also known as "uber-Luti," was such a zealot that he denounced retired Gen. Anthony Zinni as a "traitor" for expressing reservations about the impending Iraq war.) Chalabi's lie factory thus had two main customers, both of them wholesalers to Cheney. (These alleged contacts are an apparent violation of the National Security Act, which prohibits federal officials from engaging in unauthorized intelligence gathering.)

These, then, were the key neocon players gathered around Cheney. Cheney's office was key to the manufacturing of the bogus case for Iraq being close to having a nuclear bomb (it had no nuclear weapons program at all after the mid-1990s) and for it having a biological weapons program on wheels (biological weapons labs require clean rooms and cannot be mounted in Winnebagos). Cheney's office was among the originators of the smears against critics of such allegations, such as Joseph Wilson. Wilson's attack on the integrity of their intelligence gathering deeply threatened them. At the time he began speaking out, no high US government official had dared name their fantasy for what it was - a tissue of innuendo and falsehoods fed to them by the ambitious and swallowed by the greedy and the gullible. That he was connected to the CIA's own unit on weapons proliferation through his wife, Valerie, made him all the more dangerous in their eyes, once Cheney had ferreted out that link.

The New York Times reported on Oct. 24, 2005, that it was Cheney who told Libby that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. White House chief of staff Karl Rove also learned of Plame's identity, although it is not known how. Both of them shared the information with the press, including Matt Cooper of Time magazine, Robert Novak of CNN and Judith Miller of the New York Times. Their aim was to discredit Wilson in official Washington as a tool of CIA disinformation, someone determined to make the White House the fall guys in the intelligence scandal, so as to spare the Company criticism. Some have a dark suspicion that they may also have wished to disrupt the CIA unit on anti-proliferation, which continued to doubt the case they were making about the rogue Middle East states. When confronted by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, Libby and Rove seem to have claimed that they did not reveal the name of Valerie Plame Wilson. In fact, they had called her "Joe Wilson's wife." This denial, however, is strikingly disingenuous and unconvincing.

Clearly Cheney's men had powerful domestic political reasons to try to destroy Wilson. But considering the larger geopolitical ambitions of the neocons in Cheney's inner circle, and their combination of ignorance and arrogance, it could be argued that Iraq and Iraqi weapons were all along a mere pied-à-terre. Syria, Iran and the rest of the Middle East were in the cross hairs, and Wilson and Plame were getting in the way of the next projects.

With the war in Iraq a disaster, possible indictments looming and polls showing that 80 percent of Americans believe that revealing Plame's identity was either illegal or unethical, those dreams of world domination have crumbled to dust.

Informative, but the good Professor reveals himself as naive. He was a credulous supporter of the War to can Saddam when it started. Now he thinks a Special Prosecutor is enough to stop the NeoCons cold.

Tell that to the American boys and girls dying in Baghdad. Or the Iraqis for that matter. The War has no end in sight.

Cheneyburton and Darth Rumsfeld still run the Empire.

Maybe a little more circumspectly.

All the Opposition is Company, as far as I can tell.

Past tense, Professor? Crumbled to dust, Sir? Wrong on both counts, alas.

Why are the Movement's leaders so simple? Even the best educated ones? Even the ones that have been burned?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Squeal, Pig

Karl Rove had better stay away from small airplanes.

Does Rove Have a Secret Plea Deal?

As I noted earlier, the news reports on Rove are conflicting. But this statement by one "non-legal" member of his team, who I assume is the P.R. specialist Mark Carballo who signed on to Rove's team the other day, leads me to believe Rove took a deal and Fitzgerald has agreed not to announce it immediately:

"A person outside the legal profession familiar with recent developments in the case said Thursday night that Rove's team does not believe he is out of legal jeopardy yet but likely would be spared bad news Friday when the White House fears the first indictments will be issued. Fitzgerald signaled Thursday he might keep Rove under continuing investigation, sparing him from immediate charges, the person said."

...Once again, my post, How Karl Rove Could Walk.

Things are probably pretty chilly for Karl in the Vice-President's office.

Now that Cheney's competitors in the Company have a pigeon in the Oval Office, you might see a number of odd and inexplicable occurences. For example, there will likely be an increasing disconnect between NeoCon policy and its implementation designed to keep Karl's sweet bottom away from the Pen. Of course, once Dear Leader realizes which worm has turned, he's left with his role model's alledged advice: he can only hold him closer.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tip o' the Iceberg for Cheneyburton?

Via firedoglake:

It just keeps getting better and better.

Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.

Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office -- and Libby in particular -- pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said.

The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.

Tomorrow's the day. Up to 5 indictments and the announcement of a new Grand Jury. One hopes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Does Macy's Out Gimbel's?

...I saw Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison say that she hoped Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald would not bring a charge like perjury, which would be a sign that he could not discover a real crime, or words to that effect. She was speaking off the current Republican Party talking points aimed at spinning this scandal.

So let's get this straight. The Republicans roiled the country for two years and impeached Clinton for lying about sex under oath, but now all of a sudden perjury is a minor crime not worth bothering about. Remember that 1998 was a period when Clinton needed to focus on the threat of al-Qaeda, but he was being distracted by the Republican bulldogs and everything he did about al-Qaeda was dismissed as "wag the dog." Vicious partisan politics was put before the benefit of the nation. (Many of the major Republican figures who impeached Clinton had themselves had affairs and covered them up, and besides, who cared or cares?)

But what Cheney, Libby and Rove did was not just a private impropriety. The leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity did enormous harm to US national security, since it blew the cover of the dummy corporation the Company was using to investigate weapons of mass destruction proliferation...

Let's just say Big Time has a unique way of eliminating the competition.

...and he wants more.

...And I walked in and sat down and they gave me a piece of paper, said, "Kid, see the psychiatrist, room 604."

And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I
wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and
guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill,
KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and
he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down
yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me,
sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."

Didn't feel too good about it.

But He does.

Negotiators on Torture Bill Feeling Heat
By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

Tuesday 25 October 2005

Washington - Congressional negotiators are feeling heat from the White House and constituents as they consider whether to back a Senate-approved ban on torturing detainees in US custody or weaken it as the White House prefers.

Led by Vice President Dick Cheney, the Bush administration is floating a proposal that would allow the president to exempt covert agents outside the Defense Department from the prohibition...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Behind the saber rattling: Bu$hCo tries to play chess with the inventors of the game.

Oct 26, 2005
A vote, a strike and a sleight of hand
By Conn Hallinan

For the past six months, the United States and the European Union (EU) have led a full court press to haul Iran before the UN Security Council for violating the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by supposedly concealing a nuclear weapons program. Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted to declare Iran in "non-compliance" with the treaty, but deferred a decision on referral to the Security Council until November 25.

The strike:
On September 30, more than a million Indian airport and banking workers took to the streets to oppose a plan to downsize financial establishments and privatize airports, but also to denounce the ruling Congress Party as "shameful" for going along with the September 24 "non-compliance" vote in the IAEA. The strikers were lead by four left parties that are crucial allies of the Congress-dominated United Progressive Alliance government.

The alliance controls 270 votes in parliament. The left holds 64 seats to the Congress Party's 145. The alliance's other 61 seats come from a diverse group of small parties.

Why was India lining up with the US and the EU against Iran, especially since it risked alienating essential domestic allies? Why would India jeopardize its relations with Iran while it is engaged in high-stakes negotiations with Tehran over a $22 billion natural gas deal, and a $5 billion oil pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan?

To sort this out one has to go back to early this year when Central Intelligence Agency director Porter Goss and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified before Congress that China posed a strategic threat to US interests. Both men lobbied for a "containment" policy aimed at surrounding and isolating China.

One key piece on this new Cold War chessboard is India, which under the previous right-wing government saw itself as a political and economic rival to Beijing. But there was an obstacle to bringing India into the ring of US allies stretching from Japan in the East, to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in Central Asia .

In 1974, using enriched uranium secretly gleaned from a Canadian - and US - supplied civilian reactor, India set off an atomic bomb. New Delhi was subsequently cut off from international uranium supplies and had to fall back on its own rather thin domestic sources. Yet another set of barriers was erected following India's 1998 nuclear blasts.

But the Bush administration realized that if it wanted India to play spear bearer for the US, the Indians would need to expand and modernize their nuclear weapons program, an almost impossible task if they couldn't purchase uranium supplies abroad. India produces about 300 tons of uranium a year, but the bulk of that goes to civilian power plants.

According to the 2005 edition of Deadly Arsenals, India presently has between 70 and 110 nuclear weapons, plus 400 to 500 kilograms of weapons grade uranium on hand. Given India's present level of technology, a stockpile of that size can produce about 100 atomic weapons.

Those weapons, however, are fairly unsophisticated, and too big and clunky for long-range missiles. Nor are Indian missiles yet capable of reaching targets all over China , although the Agni III, with a range of 2,000, miles is getting close.

So here comes the sleight of hand.

On June 28, Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee met with Rumsfeld to sign the US-India Defense Relationship Agreement, which gives India access to sophisticated missile technology under the guise of aiding its space program.

The defense pact was denounced by the Communist Party of India/Marxist - one of the parties in the alliance's governing coalition - as "fraught with serious consequences", that would end up making India like "Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, all traditional military allies of the United States".

The June agreement was followed by a July 18 meeting of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush that ended US restrictions on India's civilian nuclear power program, and allowed India to begin purchasing uranium on the international market.

While the Bush administration is telling the US Congress that the pact will encourage civilian over military uses of nuclear technology, Manmohan told the Indian parliament, "There is nothing in this joint statement that amounts to limiting or inhibiting our strategic nuclear weapons program."

Indeed, by allowing India to buy uranium on the open market, the pact will let India divert all of its domestic uranium supplies to weapons production. That would allow it to produce up to 1,000 warheads, making it the third largest arsenal in the world behind the US and Russia.

Of course there was a price for these agreements: India had to vote to drag Iran before the Security Council. The Americans were quite clear that failure to join in on the White House's jihad against Tehran meant the agreements would go on ice. "India," warned US representative Tom Lantos, will "pay a very hefty price for their total disregard of US concerns vis-a-vis Iran."

So that explains the vote. But is the Congress Party really willing to hazard its majority in parliament and endanger energy supplies for the dubious reward of joining the Bush administration's campaign to isolate Iran and corner the dragon?

Well, a sleight of hand can work both ways.

Right after the September 24 vote in the IAEA, according to the Indian newspaper, Frontline, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA told the Indian delegation the natural gas deal was off. Then President Mahmud Ahmadinejad gave an incendiary interview to the United Arab Emirates-based newspaper, the Khaleej Times , threatening retribution against any country that voted against Iran.

A few days later, the Iranians reversed themselves, claiming that their president had never actually talked with the Khaleej Times, and the Indians quickly announced that the gas and pipeline deal was still on. New Delhi also began hinting that it might change its vote come November 25 (one suspects from "yes" to "abstain"). So either the Indians gave Tehran a wink and a nod following their "yes" vote, or Iran's shot across their bow had an effect.

The September 24 vote was 22 "yes", one "no" and 12 abstentions. China and Russia abstained, but have publicly said that they are opposed to sending Iran to the Security Council. Two of the "yes" votes are rotating off the 35-member IAEA board to be replaced by Cuba and Belarus. And much to the annoyance of the US, Britain, France and Germany (EU-3) met earlier this month to discuss restarting direct talks with Tehran. In short, it is unlikely that Iran will end up being referred to the Security Council.

Will an "abstain" vote by India be enough to open the gates for US technology to ramp up New Delhi's nuclear weapons programs? Probably, but that depends on whether the administration can get it by Congress and people like Lantos.

Does this mean India joins the US alliance against China? The answer to that question is a good deal more complex.

In April of this year, India and China signed a "Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity", and trade between the two up-and-coming Asian giants is projected to reach $20 billion by 2008.

Following the July agreement with the US, Manmohan reported to parliament that "we see new horizons in our relationship with China", and that the pact "is not at the cost of China".

In fact, in the end, the US may just end up getting snookered. The Indians feel they need to modernize their military in order to become more than a regional power. If the Americans will help them do it, fine. But that doesn't mean signing on for the whole program.

As analyst Lora Saalman writes in Japan Focus , "The technical and military hardware provided by the United States promises to expand India's political, strategic and military footprint even beyond China," but that rather than pitting the two huge Asian powers against one another, "the United States may be setting up India to instead serve as a future strategic counterweight to US interests in Asia and abroad."

Conn Hallinan is a foreign policy analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus and a lecturer in journalism at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

May Big Time Do Time

We can only hope for a Fitzmas present.

October 24, 2005
Cheney Told Aide of C.I.A. Officer, Notes Show

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 - I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war.

Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.

Mr. Libby's notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson's undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent's identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent's undercover status.

It would not be illegal for either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby, both of whom are presumably cleared to know the government's deepest secrets, to discuss a C.I.A. officer or her link to a critic of the administration. But any effort by Mr. Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Mr. Cheney could be considered by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case, to be an illegal effort to impede the inquiry.

White House officials did not respond to requests for comment, and Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, would not comment on Mr. Libby's legal status. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, declined to comment on the case.

Mr. Fitzgerald is expected to decide whether to bring charges in the case by Friday, when the term of the grand jury expires. Mr. Libby and Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser, both face the possibility of indictment, lawyers involved in the case have said. It is not publicly known whether other officials also face indictment.

The notes help explain the legal difficulties facing Mr. Libby. Lawyers in the case said Mr. Libby testified to the grand jury that he had first heard from journalists that Ms. Wilson may have had a role in dispatching her husband on a C.I.A.-sponsored mission to Africa in 2002 in search of evidence that Iraq had acquired nuclear material there for its weapons program.

But the notes, now in Mr. Fitzgerald's possession, also indicate that Mr. Libby first heard about Ms. Wilson - who is also known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame - from Mr. Cheney. That apparent discrepancy in his testimony suggests why prosecutors are weighing false statement charges against him in what they interpret as an effort by Mr. Libby to protect Mr. Cheney from scrutiny, the lawyers said...

Since Libby, contrary to his dated notes, told the Grand Jury that he heard of Valerie Plame's identity from a journalist, they can nail him and Karl (we hope) for perjury.


Hopefully the whole cabal will get hammered for criminal conspiracy charges as well.


No one in the world is safe until these criminals are out of power. War crimes of convenience and fabricated intelligence make no one safe. It's a matter of National Security, indeed.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Cheneyburton Press Gang

U.S. cash fuels human trade
Chicago Tribune (IL)
October 9, 2005
Author: Cam Simpson and Aamer Madhani, Tribune staff reporters. Cam Simpson reported from Nepal, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Washington. Aamer Madhani reported from Iraq's Camp Liberty and Baghdad.

American tax dollars and the wartime needs of the U.S. military are fueling an illicit pipeline of cheap foreign labor, mainly impoverished Asians who often are deceived, exploited and put in harm's way in Iraq with little protection.

The U.S. has long condemned the practices that characterize this human trade as it operates elsewhere in the Middle East. Yet this very system is now part of the privatization of the American war effort and is central to the operations of Halliburton subsidiary KBR, the U.S. military's biggest private contractor in Iraq.

To document this system, the Tribune retraced the journey of 12 Nepalese men kidnapped last year from an unprotected convoy en route to an American military base in Iraq. The Tribune's reporting found that:

To maintain the flow of low-paid workers key to military support and reconstruction in Iraq, the U.S. military has allowed KBR to partner with subcontractors that hire laborers from Nepal and other countries that prohibit citizens from being deployed in Iraq. That means brokers recruiting such workers operate illicitly.

The U.S. military and KBR assume no responsibility for the recruitment, transportation or protection of foreign workers brought to the country. KBR leaves every aspect of hiring and deployment in the hands of its subcontractors. Those subcontractors often turn to job brokers dealing in menial laborers.

Working in tandem with counterparts in the Middle East, the brokers in South and Southeast Asia recruit workers from some of the world's most remote areas. They lure laborers to Iraq with false promises of lucrative, safe jobs in nations such as Jordan and Kuwait, even falsifying documents to complete the deception.

Even after foreign workers discover they have been lured under false pretenses, many say they have little choice but to continue into Iraq or stay longer than planned. They feel trapped because they must repay brokers' huge fees.

Some U.S. subcontractors in Iraq--and the brokers feeding them--employ practices condemned by the U.S. elsewhere, including fraud, coercion and seizure of workers' passports.

The State Department has long expressed concerns about the treatment of foreign workers in the same Middle Eastern nations the U.S. relies on to supply labor for bases in Iraq. In June, the department added four of these nations--Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates--to the top tier of its human trafficking watch list for not undertaking "significant efforts to combat forced labor trafficking."

U.S. law calls for sanctions in such cases. But last month, citing Kuwait's and Saudi Arabia's efforts in the "Global War on Terror," President Bush waived the sanctions against them. This allowed more than $6 billion in combined military sales to go forward. One reason laborers from developing countries are sought for work in Iraq is the U.S. military fears that hiring Iraqis would allow insurgents to infiltrate its bases.

Halliburton would not say whether it includes such laborers in its public tallies of contractor casualties in Iraq. But figures compiled by Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a private group, indicate that third-country nationals--neither Iraqis nor citizens from U.S. coalition members--account for more than 100 of the roughly 270 contractor fatalities in the country since the start of the war. Those numbers are based on the group's tracking of Defense Department releases and media accounts.

Halliburton declined to make KBR executives available for an interview, agreeing to respond only to written questions from the Tribune. In a written statement, Halliburton said it outlines the "legal and ethical behaviors that all employees and subcontractors are expected to follow in every aspect of their work."

The U.S. military has outsourced vital support operations in Iraq to KBR at an unprecedented scale, a deal that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $12 billion. KBR, in turn, outsources much of that work to more than 200 subcontractors, many of them based in the Middle East...

The subcontractors employ an army of workers from developing countries to dish out food, wash clothes and clean latrines. About 35,000 of the 48,000 people working for those subcontractors are not Americans, KBR has said.

According to salary statements obtained by the Tribune, the pay for such workers can range from about $65 to $112 weekly--a fortune to those scratching a living from the farm fields and brick factories of Nepal, where the per capita annual income is about $270.

The Nepalese government must grant permission before workers can legally go abroad or brokers can legally send them. It has refused to do so for Iraq, because of the dangers there.

Some Nepalese job brokers have been raided or shut down, but it is unclear how vigorously authorities have pursued those involved. The government, consistently ranked among the world's most corrupt, has little incentive to do so because the Nepalese economy is reliant on the estimated $1 billion sent home each year by citizens working overseas.

Many Nepalis willingly assume the risks of working in Iraq, although their knowledge of its dangers before leaving home is questionable. Only 16 of every 1,000 Nepalis even had a phone line when the war broke out in 2003.

The U.S. military and KBR do not screen workers to determine whether they come from Nepal and other nations that prohibit their citizens from working in Iraq. But the military could easily do so, because it issues the badges listing each worker's nationality, name, job and the subcontractor employing him.

Asked what it was doing to stop the flow of workers from these nations or to monitor its subcontractors, KBR said questions "regarding the recruitment practices of subcontractors should be directed to the subcontractor."

The U.S. Army, which oversees the contract, said much the same. "Questions involving alleged misconduct towards employees by subcontractor firms should be addressed to those firms, as these are not Army issues."

KBR said it does not tolerate subcontractors that abuse their workers. But it declined to cite any specific actions taken against any of its subcontractors since the onset of the war.

The company did not respond to several questions about the case of the 12 Nepalis or any other specific abuses uncovered by the Tribune.

An estimated 10,000 of their countrymen are now in Iraq despite policies restricting such work. Many are employed at American bases where KBR runs support operations, according to Prakash Mahat, who was the Nepalese foreign minister until February.

The Philippines, originally a partner in the U.S.-led coalition, instituted a ban last summer after attacks against Filipino workers in Iraq. Before that, the nation had an arrangement that helped protect workers from exploitation because it effectively cut out the job brokers. Filipinos willing to risk working in Iraq went through official channels, which ensured that they didn't have to pay broker fees and helped guarantee contract terms.

But since the Philippine ban, Filipino workers hoping to go to Iraq go through agencies that operate illegally and charge exorbitant fees. The agencies deliver workers through neighboring Middle Eastern nations, said Ricardo Endaya, who was a senior official with the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad until recently.

Many of the same firms engage in practices condemned by the U.S., including luring workers with false promises or contracts, then switching jobs or terms upon arrival.

Even after they learn they'll be in a combat zone--or their wages will be less than promised--some feel compelled to go into Iraq or stay longer than planned so they can repay the money their families borrowed to send them.

"If I could leave now, I would, but I have not yet even paid off my loan," said Sahib Yadev, a 24-year-old from Uttar Pradesh, India, who was working at the American base called Camp Liberty near Baghdad International Airport when the Tribune interviewed him earlier this year.

A Tribune reporter embedded this summer with U.S. forces at Camp Liberty, which comes under fire almost daily, was taken to the base's living area for foreign workers operated by subcontractor Prime Projects International, or PPI, which has offices in the United Arab Emirates.

Several other workers interviewed shared Yadev's sentiment, but like most who work under KBR at U.S. bases in Iraq, they are not supposed to speak with journalists and did so only on condition of anonymity. An American employee for KBR escorted the reporter to the camp, where the reporter interviewed several laborers...

All of the South Asian workers said PPI took their passports upon arrival. Western supervisors for PPI at the camp said the company keeps workers' passports for safety reasons. The supervisors said they feared if documents were lost, it would be difficult for laborers to get new ones, as most of their countries do not have embassies in Iraq.

Veerus, an Indian laborer who spoke on agreement that his last name not be used, said workers insisted they could care for their passports. But Veerus said PPI responded with an ultimatum: They would not be paid until PPI had their passports. Other workers at the camp suspected the firm kept the documents for another reason.

"We might transfer to another company," said another Indian laborer for PPI, who asked not to be identified. "They are paying very little salary, and other companies may be paying very good salaries. Without passports, they know we cannot leave..."

Thanks to Truthout for the heads up.

I wonder what CSC/DynCorp is doing these days?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

It Only Looks Like a UFO

Check it out.

Imagine an aircraft that could lift 1-2 million pounds of cargo, then fly it up to 12,000 miles nonstop without needing a runway to land on. DARPA has. DID has too via our in-depth coverage of their WALRUS HULA (Hybrid Ultra Large Aircraft) airship program. Now a new congressional report is imagining it as well.

The WALRUS may be an airship, but isn't exactly a traditional blimp. The Army Times reports that the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan analytical arm of the US Congress, "likes the heavy-lift airship concept because it could do more than the airlift aircraft and surge sealift capabilities currently used when U.S. forces deploy." DID went and found that report, which offers some interesting conclusions.

"Options for Strategic Military Transportation Systems" notes that developing and buying 15 WALRUS-class airships and operating them for 30 years would cost about $11 billion over 30 years, roughly as much as the 21 additional C-17s the USAF is seeking. The report then goes on to note that even at their lowest level of desired performance (500 tons capacity), this set of aircraft would be able to deliver 3 times as much cargo per day as 21 C-17s...

They use a whole lot less fuel than jets which will get more important to industry with the passage of time.

Airships aren't as fast as jets, but they use helium for lift these days, and not hydrogen alone. So they're a lot safer. A lot more energy efficient. And the experimental WALRUS-class would use a vacuum aerogel, less dense than the atmosphere, and totally nonexplosive.

Expect a lot more of these in the future moving people around potentially much less expensively.

Now this is what we pay taxes for DARPA to do for us. Like the internet, new technology can drive the economy and make life better for all.

Top Secret. Sort Of. Except for the Advertising

Some things are really hard to hide.

The mighty Titan -- a pillar in American rocketry for five decades -- flew into orbit for the final time Wednesday, capping a distinguished career of heavy-lifting that has spanned the nation's space age.

The 16-story vehicle roared off its Vandenberg Air Force Base launch pad in California at 11:05 a.m. PDT (2:05 p.m. EDT; 1805 GMT) carrying a top-secret spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

Less than 10 minutes later, the Lockheed Martin-built rocket completed its job by deploying the spacecraft payload. The new satellite will be operated by the NRO, a hush-hush government agency responsible for the country's spy satellite fleet. Details of the Titan's payload and its mission were not revealed to the public.

However, experts say the craft was placed into an orbit that coincides with imaging satellites. Such spacecraft are telescopes that point back at Earth with powerful vision to see objects as tiny as just inches across, observers believe...

...Known for its complexity and stiff price tag, at least $411 million for Wednesday's rocket, military leaders took the first steps to retire the big booster a decade ago with creation of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. The new-generation EELV rockets -- Lockheed Martin's Atlas 5 and Boeing's Delta 4 -- are supposed to be less expensive and offer a tailored-feel for a payload's weight...

Top secret except for free advertising for the companies involved.

The first "last" Titan launch occurred with the Apollo missions.

This will be the last, until the D.o'D. or the National Reconniasance Office or somebody decides it really wants to do something again in space. At which point they will tell their Congressional oversight about it after it's already done.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Do You Like Your Coups Cold or Hot?

CorrenteWire and Billmon point to a little discussion with Col. Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff, that adds a whole new layer of tension to the Spy Vs Spy situation going on in Washington right now.

I guess you don't fire top Generals in a purge, then make one of their top minds a patsy who had to fall on his own sword to support a policy he didn't believe, and make friends with your troops.

NeoCons vs Realists. Economists vs. Dominionists. If the lid stays on the situation, and only the mouthpieces do the frogmarch, the pressure will only build.

Update: it seems like the Mouth of Poppy is widening the rift into a family feud (thanks again Billmon).

Looks like Babs is going to have him sleeping on the couch again...

Thursday, October 20, 2005


As Rove and Libby start to pull out the knives on each other (via Atrios), and the Spy vs. Spy between the Agency and its Company (or the Company and its Agents, it's all smoke and mirrors anyway) heats up, you might like the chance to step back and take the longer view.

Part of that longer view is discussed here, via firedoglake.

For more than a decade, Dick Cheney has tussled with the CIA, first as secretary of Defense and later as vice president. Now that long and tortured history forms the backdrop of a federal probe into who named an undercover agency officer — an inquiry that is centering in part on Cheney's office...

Cheney and Libby have worked together for years. As secretary of Defense for President George H.W. Bush, Cheney hired Libby in a senior role. As vice president, Cheney brought Libby on as his top aide and national security advisor. The two are said to be so close personally and ideologically that some refer to Libby as "Cheney's Cheney."...

Cheney's skepticism of the CIA dates to the late 1980s, when the agency failed to predict the Soviet Union's breakup, according to a source familiar with Cheney's thinking. When then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, and the first Bush administration began to ponder its military options, it became clear to Cheney that the intelligence community had a poor understanding of Iraq's arsenal.

Libby, who was working for Cheney, assigned an aide to conduct a secret investigation of Hussein's biological warfare capabilities and his likely reactions to a U.S. invasion.

"Libby's basic view of the world is that the CIA has blown it over and over again," said the source, who declined to be identified because he had spoken with Libby confidentially. "Libby and Cheney were [angry] that we had not been prepared for the potential in the first Gulf War."

In the view of the officials who went on to form George W. Bush's war Cabinet, the CIA continued to blunder through the 1990s. In 1998, for example, the CIA failed to anticipate India's testing of a nuclear weapon.

After President George W. Bush's 2001 inauguration, Cheney immediately established the vice president's office as a second base of foreign policy and intelligence inside the White House, in addition to the National Security Council. Cheney not only received a daily briefing from the CIA, he frequently sat in on the president's briefing and the "principals' meetings" held to assess serious foreign policy and national security issues.

Leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Cheney worked with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld's then-deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, to challenge CIA findings that countered their expectations or that disagreed with information they had received through their own intelligence channels.

Cheney traveled from the White House to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., a dozen times, most often to discuss Iraq's possible links to nuclear weapons and terrorism. Agency veterans have said that Cheney's visits were more frequent than those of any other president or vice president, including the first president Bush, a former director of the agency.

When Cheney visited the CIA, Iraq was his main focus, particularly in the months before the war. Unlike Libby and others working with the vice president, Cheney was reportedly always polite. But in his quiet way, he was insistent, sometimes asking the same question again and again as if he hoped the answer would change, according to people familiar with his contacts with the CIA.

Cheney's visits perked up agency analysts who often worked anonymously, said one former official. Many reportedly enjoyed the challenge of a smart questioner and appreciated his interest. But Cheney's visits and his clinging to certain views became noticeable and drew expressions of concern, according to the former official.

For example, CIA officials repeatedly told Cheney and others in his circle that they did not think Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had met with Iraqi agents in Prague, Czech Republic, before the attacks.

Nonetheless, the agency continued to receive dozens of inquiries on the topic from top officials — several times from Cheney himself. Despite the agency warnings, Cheney made reference to the Atta meeting as if it were a sure thing.

"It's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack," Cheney said Dec. 9, 2001, on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The allegation was not backed up with reliable intelligence, as Cheney and his staff had been repeatedly told, according to a former CIA official. The matter was addressed in public when senators asked CIA Director Porter J. Goss during his confirmation hearings last year to assess the accuracy of Cheney's allegations.

"I don't think it was as well-confirmed perhaps as the vice president thought," said Goss, a Florida Republican who had been chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "But I don't know what was in the vice president's mind, and I've certainly never talked with him about this. So I don't know how we came to that conclusion."

Asked by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) whether the assertion was "worthy of correction," Goss said he might have intervened had he been in charge at the time. "If I were confronted with that kind of a hypothetical, where I felt that a policymaker was getting beyond what the intelligence said, I think I would advise the person involved," Goss said.

Cheney also frequently spoke with certainty throughout 2002 about Iraq and its pursuit of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Addressing Korean War veterans in Texas that August, he predicted that Hussein, armed with nuclear weapons, would "be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, to take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, and to directly threaten America's friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail."

"Simply stated," Cheney continued, "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use them against our friends, against our allies and against us."

A presidential commission on intelligence led by senior federal Judge Laurence H. Silberman concluded that questioning of intelligence analysts by outsiders was healthy, and said in March in its final report on the Iraq war that the "intelligence community did not make or change any analytical judgments in response to political pressure to reach a particular conclusion."

Nonetheless, the tensions between the vice president's office and the CIA increased as investigators failed to find weapons of mass destruction. White House staffers feared they would be blamed by the CIA for encouraging misleading intelligence estimates, one former official said.

Then, Wilson's account of his CIA mission to Niger embarrassed the White House by undermining the administration's claim that Iraq had sought nuclear materials from Africa.

Fitzgerald has been told that Wilson's public disclosure of his findings in Niger reminded Libby and other neoconservatives in the White House of their longtime battles with the CIA, according to someone familiar with the case. And it led some to fear that the agency was trying to shift the blame to the White House for intelligence failures before the war.

Trying? That's no big deal to do.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Cold War in the Company is Heating Up

Dick Cheney's Covert Action

Larry C. Johnson
October 19, 2005

[Larry Johnson worked as a CIA intelligence analyst and State Department counter-terrorism official. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).]

Face it, America. You’ve been punk'd.

It is now quite clear that the outing of Valerie Plame was part of a broader White House effort to mislead and manipulate U.S. public opinion as part of an orchestrated effort to take us to war. The unraveling of the Valerie Plame affair has exposed their scam—and it extends well beyond compromising the identity of a CIA officer. In short, the Bush administration organized and executed a classic “covert action” program against the citizens of the United States.

Covert action refers to behind-the-scenes efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies to plant stories, manipulate information and shape public opinion. In other words, you write stories that reporters will publish as their own, you create media events that tout a particular theme, and you demonize your opponent. Traditionally, this activity was directed against foreign governments...

Revelations during the past week about the Plame affair make it clear that the Bush administration used covert action against its own citizens. Consider, for example, the charge that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger. The key event in this disinformation campaign was the intelligence manufactured by the Italians. The Italian intelligence service, SISME, provided the CIA with three separate intelligence reports that Iraq had reached an agreement with Niger to buy 500 tons of yellowcake uranium (October 15, 2001; February 5, 2002; and March 25, 2002). The second report, from February, was the subsequent basis for a DIA analysis, which led Vice President Cheney to ask the CIA for more information on the matter. That request led to the CIA asking Ambassador Joe Wilson to go check out the story in Niger.

We learned last May that in the summer of 2002, the Bush administration told our British allies that they would "fix the facts" around the intelligence. In other words, the United States sought to manufacture a case that Iraq was trying to build a nuclear capability. Note, not only did bogus intelligence reports and fabricated documents surface, but senior administration officials—Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney—went to great lengths to try to convince Americans that the United States would soon face the wrath of Iraqi attacks. Remember the smoking mushroom cloud?

Despite repeated attempts by the Italian intelligence service to help us cook the books, the senior CIA intelligence analysts resisted the administration’s effort to sell the bogus notion that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Niger. Even in the much-maligned October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, the entire intelligence community remained split on the reliability of the Iraq/Niger claim. During briefings subsequent to the publication of the NIE, senior CIA officials repeatedly debunked the claim that Iraq was trying to buy uranium. They also dismissed as unreliable reports from Great Britain, which also were derived from the faulty Italian intelligence reports...

Although some in the intelligence community, specifically analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Energy, believed the report, the intelligence community as a whole did not put much stock in the reports and forged documents, and repeatedly told policy makers that these reports were not reliable. Yet the Bush administration ignored the intelligence community on these questions, and senior policymakers—like Vice President Cheney—persisted in trying to make the fraudulent case...

Notwithstanding repeated efforts by intelligence analysts to downplay these intelligence reports as unreliable, DOD officials fanned the flames. This, my friends, is one example of “cooking intelligence.” These facts further expose as farce the Bush administration’s effort to blame the CIA for the misadventure in Iraq. We did not go to war in Iraq primarily because of bad intelligence and bad analysis by the CIA. The Bush administration started a war of choice.

While CIA did make mistakes, and while some key members of the National Intelligence Council were willing to drink the neocon Kool-Aid and go along with the White House, when it came to questions of whether Iraq was buying uranium in Niger or if Saddam was working with bin Laden, CIA and INR analysts consistently got it right and told the administration what they did not want to hear. It was policymakers, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, NSC Chief Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who ignored what the analysts were saying and writing.

The evidence of the White House effort to manipulate and shape U.S. public opinion is now overwhelming. Just last week, President Bush appeared in a pathetic scripted “dialogue” with hand-selected U.S. troops. We also know that male escort Jeff Gannon Guckert was granted special access to White House press briefings and that pundits like Armstrong Williams sold themselves to the White House. The Bush administration had an organized campaign to manipulate the U.S. media to get its message out. Unfortunately, the corporate media played along.

The attack on Valerie Plame Wilson was not an isolated incident. It was part of a broader pattern of manipulation and deceit. But this was not done for the welfare of U.S. national security. Instead, we find ourselves confronted by an unprecedented level of terrorist attacks and a deteriorating military situation in Iraq. At the same time, we now know that the Bush administration gladly sacrificed an undercover intelligence officer in order to keep up the pretense that the war in Iraq was all about weapons of mass destruction.

Americans have died because of the Bush deceit. The unmasking of Valerie Plame was not an odd occurrence. It was part of a pattern of deliberate manipulation and disinformation. At the end of the day, American men and women have died because of this lie. It is up to the American people to hold the Bush administration accountable for these actions.

Meanwhile, it's not getting easier for the man who wants to hand-deliver the entire Agency over to the Bu$hCo faction of the Company.

They're running out of letters.

A new Category 5 is now off Yucatan.

The most intense storm in history, and the rapidest developing.

Thank Cheneyburton for melting our icecaps.

Agent, Patsy, or Idiot?

This fool Judith Miller thinks she's living in a Tom Clancy novel.

But she must know on some level that no one bothers to read it, or she'd keep her stories straight.

Even Tom Clancy thinks the NeoCons are morons.

Thanks to Eschaton for the tip.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Feverish Behind the Stone Wall

You wouldn't know it to watch MSGOP or FAUX or even to read the New York Pravda, but things in Washington this week are little high strung.

Perhaps some of the best day to day summaries of the story are found at firedoglake.

Start here. I agree with Reddhedd. The Company has rules, and Bu$hCo, after all, is a subsidiary of the Company, not the other way around.

The WHIG is about to be spanked.

The next post concerns what Karl Rove sang about last Friday.

Jane Hamsher notices that buried within last Sunday's Mea Culpa is the real land mine: Judy admits to having more than one source- although she can't remember who the other one was.

But no worries, campers. Just because The Queen of All Iraq doesn't want to sleep with the fishes- she knows the kinds of people her old boyfriend works for, after all- doesn't mean there isn't somebody willing to join the witness protection program. Even better: the disinformation reported by the leakers seems to point to the same place.

That just brings us up to this week.

Now that it's clear that the Company- sorry, Porter Goss, but you've been Brownied, it seems- is going after Cheneyburton, and the entire WHIG, the mud is really starting to fly.

But Fitzgerald trained busting the Chicago political combine, and let's face it: he probably figures he won't be in any worse dangers from hired DynCorp thugs than he might be from anyone the Daley family might send after him.

What's even more delicious is this: thanks to what the Republicans did to Bill Clinton, if Wilson and Plame start a civil action once the criminal charges are settled, Dear Leader and Lord Cheneyburton may have to testify. In open court. Under oath.

Without a wire.

As I've said, I’m just curious how far Fitzgerald’s going to go with this. Or how far the Company lets him go with it. If it were up to Negroponte and Goss, I'm sure Fitzgerald would be dropped from a helicopter over Nicaragua. In unrecognizable pieces.

I don’t think for a minute the entire Company will be effected by the dissolution of the WHIG, although it could be. Especially if the Company wasn't behind the dissolution of the WHIG. And it is, make no mistake about it.

I think rather that the whole Jeff Gannon incident pointed out the unreliability of Rove and of Junior himself to the Company Board.

Rove and Scooter and Judy maybe are being made examples. At this point, Junior himself could be superfluous to the whole enterprise. The Company owns the government, and Poppy’s errant son has served his purpose.

Certainly his arrogant advisors have.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Curse of the NeoLiberal (Clinton, We're Talking to You!)

Partisan War Syndrome

By David Sirota October 17, 2005

A disease is running rampant through the American left these days. Its symptoms are intense and increasingly pervasive in every corner of the self-proclaimed "progressive" coalition. A good name for the disease could be "Partisan War Syndrome" - and it is eating away at what remains of progressives' ideological underpinnings and the Democratic Party's ability to win elections over the long haul.

The disease is simple to understand: It leads the supposedly "ideological" grassroots left to increasingly subvert its overarching ideology on issues in favor of pure partisan concerns...

The main symptoms of Partisan War Syndrome are hallucination, delirium and obsessive compulsive behavior, with those afflicted losing almost all perspective about what winning politics really is all about. Washington, D.C., of course, could be declared a Hot Zone outbreak area, with this disease afflicting virtually every self-described strategist, operative, and lawmaker that operates in the progressive name...

Certainly, this disease can be difficult to detect. The mainstream media regularly portrays the so-called Democratic base as a highly ideological, "liberal" or "progressive" monolith, supposedly pressing an insulated, spineless D.C. Democratic establishment to move to the "left." This portrayal creates the image that there really is a cohesive, powerful ideological force on the left, one that is committed to convictions and issues before party-much like there is on the right. This image is reinforced by the mainstream media's constant characterization of Internet blogs and the "netroots" as an extension of this monolith-as if a medium automatically equals an ideology.

As proof that such a monolith exists, the media writes stories about this or that Democratic politician-no matter how conservative he or she is - pandering to or courting the "left" by once in a while taking a mundane Democratic Party position and then blogging about it. We also see an entire counter-industry to this mythical monolith in the form of organizations like the Democratic Leadership Council, which raise corporate money, put out reports attacking the supposedly all-powerful "left," and commission polls to discredit what, in reality, is a straw man.

...But look no further than the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries to see that the ideological movement as a whole is in tatters. In that race, primary voters - supposedly a representation of this "ideological" base -supported John Kerry on the basis of his personal profile as a Vietnam War veteran and his supposed "electability." It was the most non-ideological of choices in what we were supposed to believe was the most ideological of races.

This blunting of the left's ideological edge is a result of three unfortunate circumstances. First, conservatives spent the better part of three decades vilifying the major tenets of the left's core ideology, succeeding to the point where "liberal" is now considered a slur. Second, the media seized on these stereotypes and amplified them - both because there was little being done to refute them, and because they fit so cleanly into the increasingly primitive and binary political narrative being told on television.

And third is Partisan War Syndrome - the misconception even in supposedly "progressive" circles that substance is irrelevant when it comes to both electoral success and, far more damaging, to actually building a serious, long-lasting political movement. This is the syndrome resulting from the shellshock of the partisan wars that marked the Clinton presidency. It is an affliction that hollowed out much of the Democratic base's economic and national security convictions in favor of an orthodoxy that says partisan concerns and cults of personality should be the only priorities because they are supposedly the only factors that win elections. It is a disease that subverts substance for "image" and has marked the last decade of Democrats' repeated failures at the ballot box.

Again, just look at 2004 for proof of Partisan War Syndrome's negative effects: Kerry's "profile" and "electability" - venerated by the supposed "ideological" base as the most important asset - were made impotent by the vicious attacks on his military service, and more importantly, by the fact that his lack of an ideological rudder allowed him to be vilified as a "flip-flopper."

...The first major symptom of Partisan War Syndrome is wild hallucinations that make progressives believe we can win elections by doing nothing, as long as the Republican Party keeps tripping over itself. You can best see this symptom each time another GOP scandal comes down the pike. The scandal hits, Republicans respond with a pathetic "I am not a crook" defense, and both Democratic politicians and grassroots activists/bloggers berate a "culture of corruption." Yet, then these same critics largely refuse to demand concrete solutions such as public funding of elections that would actually clean up the system, and would draw a contrast between the left and the right. We see hallucinations of a victory in the next election as long as we just say nothing of substance, as we have for the last decade. But like a mirage in the desert, it never seems to materialize...

The next most obvious symptom of Partisan War Syndrome is delirium. Out of power for so long, the left is desperate for anyone that has the appearance of an electoral winner, no matter what the actual positions of that winner are. Other than maybe the war in Iraq or abortion, it increasingly does not seem to matter to the Democratic base where a candidate stands on much of anything, as long as that candidate has the so-called right "profile." Intangibles like a candidate's personal background and charisma - while certainly important - are now seen by parts of the grassroots as the penultimate asset for a candidate. In vogue today are macho males - tomorrow, who knows? As long as you are the "in" thing and put a "D" behind your name, much of the supposedly "ideological" base doesn't really care what positions or record you have. It is as if progressives believe Democrats have been losing elections only because their candidates aren't out of Central Casting...

The third symptom of Partisan War Syndrome is a version of obsessive compulsive disorder that focuses on incessantly on "framing," "narrative" and building "infrastructure." No matter what you read about Democratic politics these days, everything seems to come back to these concepts - as if the left's problems are rooted exclusively in how politicians, activists and leaders talk about issues, and how these folks can get out that rhetoric, rather than the actual positions - or lack thereof - they are taking.

No one doubts that "framing," "narratives" and "infrastructure" are important. Republican pollster Frank Luntz, long considered the master of the trade, has certainly helped Republicans frame their odious agenda in the most effective ways. And the slew of right-wing think tanks and talk radio venues has certainly helped get Luntz's propaganda out. Similarly, University of California, Berkeley, Professor George Lakoff, who has also done some groundbreaking work on the subject, has been an invaluable asset to Democrats, as has the new group of left-leaning talk radio, blogs and think tanks.

But the idea that the left's big problems are all about rhetoric and delivery systems and nothing about substance is a defense mechanism designed to deny the deeper questions of conviction and guts. Obsessive focus on "framing" economic policy negates a bigger question about why large swaths of the Democratic Party and the "progressive" base aren't bothered by corporate-written trade deals that sell out American jobs, and are too afraid to support new regulations on Corporate America for fear of being labeled "anti-business." Similarly, obsessive focus on "framing" Democrats' current national security policy avoids more serious inquiries into why many Democrats still stand in lock-step with neoconservatives and President Bush on the War in Iraq...

Why should this be troubling to the average progressive? First, it is both soulless and aimless. Partisanship is not ideology, and movements are not political parties - they are bigger than political parties, and shape those parties accordingly through pressure. As much as paid party hacks would argue otherwise, the most significant movements in American history did not emanate from the innards of the Democratic or Republican Party headquarters, and they did not come from groups of activists who put labels before substance: They spawned from millions of people committed to grassroots movements organized around ideas - movements which pushed both parties' establishments to deal with given issues. Without those movements transcending exclusively partisan concerns, American history would be a one-page tale of status quo.

Second, even for those concerned more about electoral victories than ideology, this Partisan War Syndrome that subverts ideological movements ultimately hurts electoral prospects. Today's Republican Party, for instance, could not win without the corresponding conservative ideological movement that gets that party its committed donors, fervent foot soldiers and loyal activists. That base certainly operates as an arm of the GOP's party infrastructure - but few doubt it is fueled less by hollow partisanship, and more by their grassroots' commitment to social, economic and religious conservatism.

This is why resisting Partisan War Syndrome and doing the hard work of rebuilding an ideological movement is both a moral imperative and a political necessity for the left. A grassroots base that is organized around hollow partisan labels rather than an overarching belief system - no matter how seemingly energized - will never defeat an opponent that puts ideological warriors ready to walk through fire on the political battlefield. If we do not rekindle that same fervor about actual issues on the left, we will continue living in a one-party country, losing elections into the distant future, and most disturbing of all, watching as our government serves only to protect those in power.