The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

HILARIOUS TAKE ON W -- The following is from a story written by Susan Mazur, a writer whose work has appeared in places like The Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, and PBS. She was present during a speech by David Rubenstein of the hugely influential Carylye Group. Read on...

[David Rubenstein, co-founder and Managing Director of The Carlyle Group, the "world's largest private equity firm," recently recounted his first meeting the current president and Bush's days on the Carlyle board in a speech to the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association.]
[He had this to say about George W. Bush]

Let me talk about a bad deal. At the beginning of Carlyle - early - we didn't have any funds. We didn't have any dedicated funds. And we had a deal that seemed like it would be the greatest deal since sliced bread. It was handed to us. Marriott said to us, look, we're going to sell our airline catering business [Caterair].It's number one in the world. Management team has been there for 10 years. We dominate all the markets and we're not going to do an auction. We're going to sell it to you guys 'cause some of our people [Carlyle co-founders Steve Norris and Dan D'Aniello and Bush crony Fred Malek] used to work at Marriott. You know, what could be better?

So the financing was there. And we thought, this is an easy business. So they're going to give us a company. Number one in the world. Gold plated. Got all the equipment you need. Good management team.

Well, then the Gulf War came. And all of a sudden people stopped flying. And then those who were flying realized that they weren't going to be getting the food that they thought they were going to get. . . . So no matter how good you think a company can be something can go wrong. We couldn't anticipate the Gulf War. So the airline catering business has gone this way.

I mention this because it reminds us all the time we shouldn't have hubris. You know no matter how smart we think we are or how good we are, something can go wrong. And if something seems too good in life to be true, it usually is. In this case, the only interesting thing about the deal--and we lost all our money in it. Our money and our investors' money in it. In that deal.

But when we were putting the board together, somebody [Fred Malek] came to me and said, look there is a guy who would like to be on the board. He's kind of down on his luck a bit. Needs a job. Needs a board position. Needs some board positions. Could you put him on the board? Pay him a salary and he'll be a good board member and be a loyal vote for the management and so forth.

I said well we're not usually in that business. But okay, let me meet the guy. I met the guy. I said I don't think he adds that much value. We'll put him on the board because - you know - we'll do a favor for this guy; he's done a favor for us.

We put him on the board and [he] spent three years. Came to all the meetings. Told a lot of jokes. Not that many clean ones. And after a while I kind of said to him, after about three years - you know, I'm not sure this is really for you. Maybe you should do something else. Because I don't think you're adding that much value to the board. You don't know that much about the company.

He said, well I think I'm getting out of this business anyway. And I don't really like it that much. So I'm probably going to resign from the board.

And I said, thanks - didn't think I'd ever see him again. His name is George W. Bush. He became President of the United States. So you know if you said to me, name 25 million people who would maybe be President of the United States, he wouldn't have been in that category. So you never know. Anyway, I haven't been invited to the White House for any things.

[Suzan Mazur's reports have appeared in the Financial Times, Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, and on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose, and Fox television shows.]

9/11 REPORT OUT SOON -- It appears that a sanitized version of the long-delayed 9/11 report will be released by the Bush regime in the next few days. This is long overdue, of course, and the delay and censorship of the report are highly suspicious. Senator Bob Graham [D-FL], former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and now ranking Democrat on that committee, has charged the Bush regime with censoring the report to cover up its gross intelligence and policy failures prior to and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

The release of this report will not necessarily silence Senator Graham, who has been very demonstrative about his accusations as he campaigns for the Democratic nomination for president. In fact, if the report is sanitized in a way not to Senator Graham's liking, we can probably expect him to amplify and augment his accusations of policy failure and official coverup. In addition, the story would get more play. Because the elite media in the United States prefer to cover what the administration is doing [instead of covering important issues], an administration can dampen coverage of something like the 9/11 report by simply doing nothing on it and never speaking about it. If nothing is being done, the media presumes, there is no news to report. Of course, there is news to report on this and many other issues, but our lazy U.S. media cannot be bothered to do any digging. They prefer to sit in their chairs and have the news spoon-fed to them by Ari Fleischer. With the release of this report, though, and the inevitable comments from Senator Graham, this issue might return as an important one. It should.

BUSH RE IRAQI ATTACKS ON U.S. SOLDIERS: BRING 'EM ON! -- "Bring 'em on," Mr Bush told reporters today when asked about attacks by Iraqi irregulars on U.S. forces in Iraq. In addition, Mr Bush stated that he knows Saddam Hussein had a "weapons program"--a subtle change from saying Saddam had weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S./UK invasion.

Pardon me: "Bring em on"??? That's Mr Bush's attitude towards attacks that have taken the lives of numerous U.S. soldiers and wounded many others? "Bring 'em on"?? Has this man fallen off the wagon?

This is what Mr Bush said in response to a question about the lack of evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:
No, Saddam Hussein had a weapons program. Remember, he used them. He used chemical weapons on his own people.

Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to the United States, because we removed him. But he was a threat, such a threat that my predecessor, using the same intelligence, in 1998 ordered a bombing of -- of -- of Iraq, I mean. So -- no, he was a threat. He's not a threat now. And the world is more peaceful by virtue of the fact that he is not in power.

We -- see, we've been there, what, how many day -- you're counting the days since we've been there? Because I'm not. Eighty, 90. We -- frankly, it's -- it wasn't all that long ago that we started military operations, and we got rid of him, much faster than a lot of people thought. And so we're -- we're bringing some order to the country, and we're beginning to learn the truth.

But he played his hand, Terry -- he, Saddam Hussein -- when he used chemical weapons. And then he played his hand by not letting people come and inspect for the weapons. He had them. And it's just a matter of time. It's a matter of time. The man was a threat to America. He's not a threat today.
And this is what Mr Bush said about the Iraqi attacks on U.S. troops:
There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, Bring 'em on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation. Of course, we want other countries to help us. Great Britain is there. Poland is there. Ukraine is there, you mentioned. Anybody who wants to help, we'll welcome to help, but we got plenty tough force there right now to make sure the situation is secure. We always welcome help. We're always glad to include others in, but make no mistake about it, and the enemy shouldn't make any mistake about it. We will deal with them harshly if they continue to try to bring harm to the Iraqi people.

I also said yesterday an important point: that those who blow up the electricity lines really aren't hurting America; they're hurting the Iraq citizens. Their own fellow citizens are being hurt.

But we will deal with them harshly, as well.
Notice how Mr Bush has no plan to deal with these attacks other than macho bluster ["Bring it on.] Evidently, he thinks Iraqi nationalists and Islamists will be intimidated by macho bluster. I'm not sure why he would think that since they don't appear to be intimidated by the presence of thousands of U.S. troops, tanks, and warplanes in their country. In other words, the Bush regime's plan to deal with these attacks is to use force--the very strategy that has failed miserably so far and appears to be doing nothing so much as creating more enemies in country.

This is going badly and it is hard to see it getting any better. The man responsible for the mess is still delusional.

TALIBAN BACK AND COMING ON STRONG -- The Bush regime allied itself with the Northern Alliance to displace the Taliban--Osama Bin Laden's allies--in Afghanistan. It hasn't worked. The Asia Times has a great story about how the Taliban have regrouped and are moving back into every area of Afghanistan.
Despite the best efforts of its military and intelligence apparatus and political manipulation in Pakistan, in the year and a half since the demise of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the United States and its allies have failed to break the Taliban and al-Qaeda in that country. Indeed, the resistance movement in Afghanistan has fully re-organized itself, even setting up offices, and official claims to the contrary, US forces are fighting in the dark.
Investigations carried out by Asia Times Online reveal the following:

The resistance movement has been named Saiful Muslameen (Sword of Muslims), as reported by Asia Times Online - Al-Qaeda's deadly seeds bear fruit, May 20.

The central office is located in Asadabad, near the Pakistani border, while several training camps have been established in Parachinar and Miran Shah (both in Pakistan)and other places. These are mobile camps that can be moved quickly according to required needs.

The main military committee is headed by Mullah Omar, supported by his commanders, including Mullah Dadullah and Ahktar Usmani.

Under the Saiful Muslameen, Afghanistan has been divided into five operational zones.

The zone commanders include famed Pashtun warlord Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, leader of the Hizb-i-Islami, in Kunhar, Jalalabad, Kabul, Logar and Gazni. Khost and Paktia and Paktika are under the command of Maulana Jalaludin Haqqani, while Gardez is under the control of Mullah Saifullah Mansoor. The appointments of two more war zone commanders had not been made at the time this article was written. These zones include Kandahar, Urugzan and Zabul.
Hikmatyar is the legendary commander who was allied with the United States during the Soviet Union and who was responsible for sending countless Russian youths to their reward. His cooperation with the Taliban on this new venture lends a disturbing and menacing credibility to the entire exercise. Hikmatyar is a religious fanatic and a psychopath, who inspires great loyalty among his men and equally great terror among his enemies.

This is bad news. The Bush regime never conquered Afghanistan and destroyed the Taliban and Al Qaeda as it should have. A chance was there for the taking at Tora Bora when the U.S. had Al Qaeda [including Osama Bin Laden] and Taliban remnants trapped in a vast cave complex. However, rather than take the casualties necessary in a U.S. assault upon the complex, the Bush regime sent unreliable Afghan mercenaries to do the job for them. The result was the escape of untold numbers Taliban fighters and Al Qaeda terrorists.

In the months since the fall of Kabul to Northern Alliance/U.S. forces, the rest of the country has remained unpacified. Our creature Hamid Karzai, hold the impressive title of Prime Minister of Kabul, but he is, in reality, nothing more than mayor of Kabul. Afghanistan has returned to warlordism and radical Islam, making a return for the Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants relatively simple.

In other words, we didn't get the job done in Afghanistan. Not by a long shot. The American people don't know that yet and won't want to hear it, but the truth won't go away, just because the Bush regime wants it to and the media doesn't care anymore. As that television show used to state: "The truth is out there." Pretty soon, it'll come looking for us again.

WHERE THE BUCKS ARE -- The Marketing Report has their new survey of prices at NFL sites and the New England Patriots win this year's award as priciest game in the league. My Redskins are, unsurprisingly, right behind in second place. Have a look and see where your favorite team ranks.

THOUSANDS PROTEST CRACKDOWN IN HONG KONG -- Anywhere from 350,000 to 500,000 residents of Hong Kong [population: 6.8 million] marched in protest yesterday against the proposed imposition of harsh new laws intended to stifle political dissent in the freewheeling former British colony. Drawing the most ire from protestors and foreign democracies is a new provision that would allow the government to ban any organization in Hong Kong if it has links to an organization banned elsewhere in China for national security reasons. Interestingly, Protestant and Catholic churches in Hong Kong have been urging their members to protest against the proposed laws, arguing that their churches face harsh repression in other parts of China, something that could happen in Hong Kong, too.

The Chinese government is ruthless and towards its political enemies [both real and imagined], utterly merciless. By challenging the Chinese government on behalf of their own freedoms, Hong Kongers are setting an example for people in other parts of the People's Republic. I suspect Beijing will see it that way, too. Their desire to crush protest in Hong Kong, however, must be tempered by the fact that the city is the richest and most productive part of China. Altering its political nature will, inevitably, alter its economic nature--and probably not for the better. Beijing will be keen to maintain control and not kill the goose that has laid the golden egg. When push comes to shove, however, Beijing will always elevate political control over economic considerations. We learned that in June 1989. Let's hope Hong Kong does not receive a reminder.

VANCOUVER GETS THE GAMES -- And all the headaches, too. That's right, Vancouver, a beautiful Pacific city in the Canadian province of British Columbia, will host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Having bribed IOC officials more efficiently than the representatives of any other city, Vancouver now has less than seven years to start building a plethora of stadiums, arenas, halls, roads, parking lots, and whatnot that will be used for a few weeks and then rarely, if ever, again. Congrats, Vancouver. I'm not sure why you wanted it, but you got it. Enjoy.

BUSH TO SOLDIERS: DROP DEAD! -- Via Daily Kos comes this stinging editorial in Army Times about how the Bush regime is screwing the Armed Services with breathtaking brutality.

Nothing but lip service
(Issue Date: June 30, 2003)

In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap -- and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful -- and unnecessary -- including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

Then there's military tax relief -- or the lack thereof. As Bush and Republican leaders in Congress preach the mantra of tax cuts, they can't seem to find time to make progress on minor tax provisions that would be a boon to military homeowners, reservists who travel long distances for training and parents deployed to combat zones, among others.

Incredibly, one of those tax provisions -- easing residency rules for service members to qualify for capital-gains exemptions when selling a home -- has been a homeless orphan in the corridors of power for more than five years now.

The chintz even extends to basic pay. While Bush's proposed 2004 defense budget would continue higher targeted raises for some ranks, he also proposed capping raises for E-1s, E-2s and O-1s at 2 percent, well below the average raise of 4.1 percent.

The Senate version of the defense bill rejects that idea, and would provide minimum 3.7 percent raises for all and higher targeted hikes for some. But the House version of the bill goes along with Bush, making this an issue still to be hashed out in upcoming negotiations.

All of which brings us to the latest indignity ‹ Bush's $9.2 billion military construction request for 2004, which was set a full $1.5 billion below this year's budget on the expectation that Congress, as has become tradition in recent years, would add funding as it drafted the construction appropriations bill.

But Bush's tax cuts have left little elbow room in the 2004 federal budget that is taking shape, and the squeeze is on across the board.

AMERICANS SLOWLY FIGURING IT OUT -- According to a new poll by the University of Maryland, 62% of Americans believe the Bush regime "stretched the truth" [52%] or lied [10%] about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This is the first time a poll has found more than half of all Americans believe the Bush regime was telling the truth on that subject. [Speaking of which, only 32% of Americans are still stupid enough to believe the Bush regime told the truth about Iraq WMD. I suspect considerable overlap with people who also believe Elvis is alive.]

What's more, 56% believe the Bush regime stretched the truth or outright lied about Iraqi connections with Al Qaeda.

SOLUTION TO IRAQ QUAGMIRE? MORE TROOPS! -- That's what America's top civilian in the country, Jay Bremer, apparently believes. He's asking for more U.S. troops and advisors in Iraq because the country is ungovernable as is. How ungovernable? This ungovernable:
Two months after President Bush declared major combat over in Iraq, stealthy enemies are still firing at American soldiers, killing 25 so far.

In response, U.S. commanders have unleashed repeated military raids - Operation Peninsula north of Baghdad, Operation Desert Scorpion west of Baghdad, and Operation Sidewinder in western and central Iraq - to root out pockets of resistance. The raids have netted hundreds of arrests but have created new waves of hostility among the Iraqi people.

The pattern of attack and counterattack looks like classic guerrilla warfare, in which a weaker foe attacks in the place of his choosing, then melts into the population. The harder an occupying force pounds back, the more it alienates the populace, creating communities that accept, if not actively support, armed resistance.

The Americans learned it the hard way in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, the British in Northern Ireland, and now, it seems, the same scenario may be unfolding in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told senators last week that Iraq was not, in fact, experiencing guerrilla warfare. "I don't know that I would use that word," he said.

But military officials in Iraq have for weeks described an opponent that does not appear part of a central command structure, is not well-organized, and tends to attack in ambush-style operations. The opponent promotes Iraqis' discontent by spreading rumors and disrupting basic services through sabotaging power lines.

Asked what all those pieces added up to, Maj. Sean Gibson, an Army spokesman in Baghdad, said: "I know where you're going here. I studied guerrilla warfare too."
All this is leading, pretty predictably, to a cycle of violence with no end in sight.
In Balad, where two American soldiers disappeared with their humvee, and then turned up dead, locals harbor resentment over what they say was an overreaction to a rocket-propelled grenade attack June 13 on a U.S. tank convoy. In the aftermath of the attack, U.S. soldiers killed seven people, including five who residents said were not connected to the violence. Local tribal customs have long dictated that a killing must be avenged either with payment or another death.

"I know there's a sense that the more combat operations we conduct... the more riled up they get," said Capt. John Morgan, a spokesman for the Army's V Corps. Still, Morgan said, the coalition cannot stop looking for weapons and possible militia leaders.
And those of us who opposed the war for this very reason are getting tired of saying "I told you so."


LIEBERMAN RAISES $5 MILLION THIS QUARTER -- All in all, not a bad quarter for Senatore Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and a significant improvement over his first quarter results. The old boy isn't dead yet.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

OFF TO THE RACES -- A Breakthrough Issue That Could Bite Back

By Charlie Cook
Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Here's a prediction for 2004: If the prescription drug benefit is a factor in next year's election, it will be as an albatross around the necks of Republicans and the Bush administration. While the White House and GOP strategists have long said passing a drug benefit for Medicare recipients was a key element in the president's re-election strategy, the implication was that they needed to pass something called a drug benefit, with the contents and details less important than having done it. That may well turn out to be true, but maybe not.

Not too long ago I served on a panel discussion at Washington & Lee University with Dick Morris, the politically androgynous strategist who has worked for a variety of leading figures in each party in a career that has spanned more than three decades. While Morris is not necessarily one of my favorite people (and I disagree with perhaps 80 percent of what he has to say), there is clearly a mad genius in the man that generates some very provocative ideas amid a clutter of goofball thoughts and theories.

While many talk about Morris' triangulation strategy that he developed for former President Bill Clinton back in 1995, which contributed to the first elected Democratic president to be re-elected since Franklin Roosevelt, it was his broader view of strategy I found most interesting.

According to Morris, certain issues "belong" to Democrats while others "belong" to Republicans. Historically each party has certain issues on which it is perceived as very strong, while on others there is little credibility. Morris points out that these lists remain fairly static; one rarely sees issues on one party's list transfer to the other. Morris argues that the goal of a candidate is to maximize his party's strength on the issues that his party is strong, then embrace one or two issues that "belong" to the other party, allowing virtually no distance between themselves and the other party on that issue. The point is to
demonstrate to swing voters that you are not a lock-step party type, but rather demonstrably moderate and pragmatic.

In 1995 and 1996, by emphasizing his efforts to balance the federal budget and his signing a welfare reform bill into law, Clinton managed to avoid the liberal tag and, though incurring the wrath of many in his own party, went on to win re-election by a fairly comfortable eight-point margin.

In 2000, Gov. George W. Bush picked the education issue and was pictured almost daily visiting a school, reading with some cute little kid and more closely identifying himself with education than any Democratic presidential candidate in history. Very clearly, the Bush campaign sees a prescription drug benefit as its Democratic issue of choice for next year.

But it may not be that simple. I have noticed two things about senior citizens. First, they tend to have a great deal of time on their hands. Second, they don't mind telling anyone what they think about things. Even the most cursory look at polling data and reports from focus groups indicates that senior citizens have very specific ideas of what they expect in a prescription drug benefit. What they have in mind is something resembling what a Fortune 500 company provides (or used to provide) employees: A modest premium, minimal co-pay, no gaps, no restrictions on what drugs physicians can prescribe and unlimited coverage. Typical is a July 2001 report on eight focus groups conducted by the Democratic firm of Peter D. Hart Research Associates and the
Republican firm of Public Opinion Strategies for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Reading this and similar reports, looking at polling data and conducting interviews show that seniors are quite adamant about their wants, and Medicare is the vehicle of choice. In short, the proposals passed last week by the House and Senate bear very little, if any, resemblance to the benefit they have in mind.

The idea of a plan being passed that doesn't begin to meet their expectations and won't kick in until after the next presidential election could well trigger the same kind of reaction that resulted in seniors picketing members of Congress in the late 1980s after passage of the catastrophic coverage plan. That example of political disconnect came the famous scene of old-timers climbing on the hood of House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski's car, hurling obscenities at the Illinois Democrat.

The problem, of course, is that seniors are looking for a prescription drug benefit that would probably cost at least $800 billion (twice the cost of the plans that the House and Senate just passed), and very likely much more than that. Many would at this juncture say, "we simply can't afford an $800 billion to $1.2 trillion Medicare drug benefit, given the size of the deficit, the tax cut and the war with Iraq." While that's absolutely true, try to convince seniors that the tax cut is more justified than the drug benefit. Go ahead, I'll watch.

Republicans decided that they wanted to pass a drug benefit and they had about $400 billion to spend. Between the two plans, they seem to have done a reasonable job of coming up with the best benefit they could, but it just isn't in the ballpark of what seniors are expecting.

So for all this talk about prescription drugs being a breakthrough issue for the GOP, I think it just as easily could become a liability that they really don't need given everything else that is going on. Had they trimmed the tax cut a bit to leave room for the kind of benefit these seniors are demanding, they might have gotten the political pop that they were seeking.

U.S. NEEDS HELP IN IRAQ -- The Bush regime is loathe to admit it, but they are way out of their depth in Iraq and need help badly before things get even worse.
Since May 1, at least 25 U.S. troops have been killed in hostile circumstances in Iraq, in a conflict experts say is fast becoming a low-level guerrilla war -- a description rejected by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"The war has moved into a disturbing new phase, a guerrilla, counter-insurgency phase. We need to adapt," said retired Army Gen. Dan Christman, a former Pentagon planner.
Christman and other military analysts said the United States needed to adapt by getting more boots on the ground to deter attacks and to enable politicians to focus on nation-building and win over a distrustful Iraqi population.

"Our army is absolutely stretched thin and we ought to be reaching out to all of those countries who are offering to send troops -- the Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, the Indians, and NATO -- I'm not sure why we have been reluctant to pick up a NATO offer," said the retired general.
Retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Boyd agreed NATO should get involved and he estimated several hundred thousand troops would be needed. "We need far more than 150,000 troops to secure a country of that size," said Boyd.
However, the Bush regime does not want to offer other countries or the United Nations a significant voice in the governance of the country or the search for these near-mythical weapons of mass destruction. Since other countries are being offered no power or influence in post-war Iraq, it is going to be pretty difficult to convince them that they should put their troops in the front lines of this disintegrating country and let them be shot at instead of our American boys.

Look at it this way: If you were the Prime Minister of a country, would you want your troops where American soldiers are right now?

I didn't think so.

HIPSTER SUPPORTS GAY-BASHING SENATOR -- Richard Hayne, owner of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie probably doesn't want you to know that he is a major donor to Senator Rick Santorum [R-PA], the gay-bashing right-wing darling of the religious fundamentalists. Take note.

IRAQ JUST BLEEDS AND BLEEDS -- And unlike the war, it is Americans who are doing most of the bleeding now. The latest news is that four American soldiers have died and two wounded in a rocket grenade attack outside Baghdad earlier today. That brings to at least 21 Americans and six British dead since Mr Bush declared an end to the Iraq War.

But wait, there's more. That explosion at the Fallujah mosque is causing even more trouble than previously believed. Some important persons died in that explosion and suspicion, almost certainly unwarranted, is falling on the United States.
Thousands of Iraqis chanted anti-American slogans on Tuesday as they buried victims of an overnight blast that damaged a mosque -- despite U.S. insistence that its forces had nothing to do with the explosion.

The mosque's imam, or prayer leader, Sheikh Laith Khalil, died from his wounds on Tuesday night, bringing the blast death toll to nine, local people said.
Killing an imam is serious business. The U.S. didn't do it, but if the Iraqis think we did, our innocence won't matter a bit. Small wonder American troops are increasingly unhappy and eager to leave Iraq altogether.
"U.S. officials need to get our [expletive] out of here," said the 43-year-old reservist from Pittsburgh, who arrived in Iraq with the 307th Military Police Company on May 24. "I say that seriously. We have no business being here. We will not change the culture they have in Iraq, in Baghdad. Baghdad is so corrupted. All we are here is potential people to be killed and sitting ducks."

To Sgt. Sami Jalil, a 14-year veteran of the local police force, the Americans are to blame. He and his colleagues have no badges, no uniforms. The soldiers don't trust them with weapons. In his eyes, his U.S. counterparts have already lost the people's trust.
This is more than farce, it is also tragedy. Our soldiers face an impossible task, forced upon them by an ignorant administration hell-bent on its quasi-religious/neoconservative crusade in the Middle East. American and British soldiers have been unthinkingly placed in an untenable position. The tragedy that is unfolding before us with an inevitability that is as grotesque as it is elegant should not be dropped on to the shoulders of our troops. The civilian leadership [the Bush regime] is to blame for this. God willing they will pay for it, as well.

A DOG AND NEW TRICKS -- This one pretty much speaks for itself:
A German used recorded barking to provoke a neighbor's dog to respond so he could report the animal for disturbing the peace, police said on Monday.
Or barks for itself, as the case may be.

YOUR DAILY DOONESBURY -- Another young 'un for Dean.

LIEBERMAN IS IN TROUBLE -- Senator Joe Lieberman [D-CT], golden boy of the Democratic Leadership Council and The New Republic, is in trouble. His first quarter fundraising total was a disappointing $3 million--far behind Senator John Kerry [D-MA] and Senator John Edwards [D-NC]. Senator Lieberman needs a big second quarter fundraising total or people--important people in the Democratic party--are going to start thinking he's an also-ran before the campaign has even begun. That's why it is bad news that Senator Lieberman's campaign is setting a fundraising goal of $4 million this quarter. Even if he reaches that level, it's a paltry number, no matter how furiously his staff spins it. Dr Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is going to announce about $7 million in fundraising this quarter, an impressive total for someone once considered a darkhorse candidate. It's virtually certain that Senators Kerry and Edwards will also announce fundraising totals far in excess of Senator Lieberman's $4 million [assuming he gets even that much]. Not a single primary or caucus has been held, but many in the Democratic party are already looking at Senator Lieberman as yesterday's second banana.

MORE IRAQI ATTACKS ON U.S., ALLIES -- It's been a hot and heavy day in Iraq, with
mosque explosions, rocket grenade attacks on U.S. troops, and the assassination of a former ally of Saddam Hussein.

The explosion at a mosque in Fallujah killed ten Iraqis and injured four more. Unsurprisingly, many Iraqis are blaming the United States for the attack. It's almost certainly untrue, but the truth doesn't matter, what matters is what people believe. Even those who do not think the U.S. is behind the attack may blame the U.S. for lax security making such attacks not only possible but increasingly commonplace.

There is no word on American casualties in the grenade attack, but a witness claims to have seen Americans evacuated from the scene on stretchers. As for the former ally of Saddam Hussein, he seems to have been a very unpopular boy with those who hated the old regime and those who hated the deceased for disavowing the old regime. So who killed him? It could have been anybody and there are, as of now, no suspects and no one in detention. Get used to that.

MANUFACTURING STRUGGLES IN JUNE -- Despite predictions of healthy growth, U.S. manufacturing was stagnant again in June 2003.
As factories kept firing workers, the Institute for Supply Management's national factory gauge edged up to 49.8 in June from 49.4 in May. That was well short of Wall Street forecasts, which had pegged the figure at 51.0.

A number above 50 signals growth while a figure below that level points to contraction.
Anyone else getting tired of hearing these endless predictions of great growth just around the corner?

Monday, June 30, 2003

GOOD NEWS IN WAR ON TERROR -- Indonesian authorities have arrested a fugitive wanted in connection with the Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people last October, mostly Australian tourists.
"He has confessed to his entire role in the bombing," Bali police chief Maj. Gen. I Made Mangku Pastika told The Associated Press. "This is a very important arrest."
Indeed, it is. The Bali atrocity is one too-often overlooked in the American media, but it sent a shockwave of grief through Australia, which lost so many innocents in that slaughter. Their survivors may take some small measure of comfort today, now that justice is being done. Here's hoping for more good news in the war on terror in the second half of 2003. It's got to go better than the first half of 2003.

MORE ON APPROVAL OF BUSH'S IRAQ POLICY -- Below I wrote about a conversation I had with someone at Pew, telling me their new poll would show a significant drop in public support for Mr Bush's Iraq policy. Another poll finds a
less dramatic, but still considerable drop in support for the post-war policy in Iraq.
Just over half, 56 percent, say things are going well, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, and 42 percent say badly.

The number who said things are going well has dipped from 86 percent in early May to 56 percent, and the number that say badly has grown from 13 percent to 42 percent.
The number that expects the United States to find weapons of mass destruction, however, has dropped from 84 percent in late March to 53 percent now.

Almost four in 10 say they believe the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, while six in 10 say they do not believe that.

More than half, 53 percent, say it would matter a great deal to them if they became convinced the Bush administration deliberately misled the public on that subject.
This is the beginning of it. Story after story about WMD lies and occupation incompetence are coming out. A public that has tried to ignore them for weeks is now finding it harder to do so. These polls are only going to go lower for Mr Bush because the situation in Iraq isn't going to get better.

McCAIN PRAISES KERRY -- Senator John McCain [R-AZ], the straight-talking insurgent who was defeated in the Republican primaries by a long series of vicious attacks and lies from the Bush campaign, says Senator John Kerry [D-MA] "certainly can" ignite the public the same way McCain did in 2000.
GOP maverick Sen. John McCain, whose breezy straight-talking style ignited the 2000 White House race, predicts Sen. John Kerry could rekindle the same campaign magic this time around.

``He certainly can,'' McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a telephone interview with the Herald from Arizona.

``He's smart, he's tough and he's experienced. He has the capability.''
I think Senator McCain is correct, obviously. The public like smart, civic-minded war heroes and both Senator Kerry and Senator McCain qualify.

CASUALTIES UP, APPROVAL DOWN -- I spoke to someone with Pew today and he told me their new poll, out later this week, will show public approval of Mr Bush's Iraq policy is in free-fall, from about 65% to under 30 percent. If true, and this man has never lied to me, it will be significant turning point. Not all members of the media are in the bag for Bush--many have been cowed by what they believe to be his vast public approval. If they see that falling, some will pounce.

WHERE ARE THOSE DAMN WEAPONS? -- And who is responsible for finding them? Those are the questions Mr Bush wanted to know when he visited Iraq earlier this month. The response he got is priceless:
Meeting last month at a sweltering U.S. base outside Doha, Qatar, with his top Iraq commanders, President Bush skipped quickly past the niceties and went straight to his chief political obsession: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Turning to his Baghdad proconsul, Paul Bremer, Bush asked, "Are you in charge of finding WMD?" Bremer said no, he was not. Bush then put the same question to his military commander, General Tommy Franks. But Franks said it wasn't his job either. A little exasperated, Bush asked, So who is in charge of finding WMD? After aides conferred for a moment, someone volunteered the name of Stephen Cambone, a little-known deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, back in Washington. Pause. "Who?" Bush asked.
There is more good stuff in there. Read all of it.

WORST-KEPT SECRET IN WASHINGTON -- A Council of Foreign Relations report by former Senator Warren Rudman (R-NH) and former Bush White House cybersecurity chief Richard Clarke warns that homeland security in the U.S. is an underfunded joke.
Rudman's report, written with assistance from former White House terrorism cyber-security chief Richard Clarke, says: "The United States is drastically underfunding local emergency responders and remains dangerously unprepared to handle a catastrophic attack on American soil."
The report... says that in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks the country is especially vulnerable to "chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-impact conventional weapons.

"If the country does not take immediate steps to better identify and address the urgent needs of emergency responders, the next terrorist incident could be even more devastating than 9/11," the report warns.
At least $30 billion in new spending is required to bring homeland security up to scratch, according to the report.
"Police departments in cities across the country do not have the protective gear to safely secure a site following an attack using weapons of mass destruction," the report says.

"If you talk to mayors, to governors, to police chiefs, they are just not ready, and we had better get ready," Rudman said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." Rudman, a Republican, represented New Hampshire in the Senate.
I don't care how difficult it is to explain this to the American public, some Democrat must make a federal case of this during the 2004 elections. It's too important to the country to be unnoticed.

TORTURE RETURNS TO IRAQ -- And the United States is responsible for it.
An Iraqi businessman detained during a raid on his home says U.S. interrogators deprived him of sleep, forced him to kneel naked and kept him bound hand and foot with a bag over his head for eight days.
Al-Abally, 39, said that while he was bound and blindfolded, he was kicked, forced to stare at a strobe light and blasted with ''very loud rubbish music.''

''I thought I was going to lose my mind,'' said al-Abally, a burly man whose wrists are still scarred from plastic cuffs more than a month after his release. ''They said, 'I want you on your knees.' After three or four days it's very painful. My knees were bleeding and swollen.''
I love my country more than anything else in the world, but I'm starting to wonder if the Bush regime will leave me anything left to be proud of after they've gone.

NEA TO TARGET SWING STATES -- The National Education Association, the pro-Democratic teachers union, will target 16 mostly swing states in the 2004 elections with the hopes of replacing George W Bush with a Democratic president. In addition:
And in House and Senate races, "we may find some right-wing Republicans that we can take out," said Randall J. Moody, the NEA's federal policy manager, at workshops to outline the group's political strategy.
The union's efforts will be the strongest in states where the 2004 election was closest, including Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin. It's a good cause. I wish them luck.

RIDGE JUST 7 HEARTBEATS AWAY! -- Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge is now eighth in line of successsion to the White House. If that seems ridiculous to you, consider the qualities of the seven people in front of him.
The current order of succession lists Vice President Dick Cheney, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Senate President Pro Tempore Ted Stevens, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of the Treasury John Snow, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and Norton.
Yeah, I'd say Mr Ridge is at least as qualified to be president as any of those people--which isn't setting the bar very high for him.

IRAQI SAYS 'NO' TO BUSH'S "DEMOCRACY" -- A moderate Iraqi cleric has issued a fatwa condemning the U.S. plan to draft an Iraqi constitution, calling it "unacceptable."
The drawing-up of a constitution for post-Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) Iraq (news - web sites) must be preceded by general elections, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said in a fatwa, or religious edict, a copy of which was obtained by AFP Monday.

"The (occupation) authorities are not entitled to name the members of the assembly charged with drafting the constitution," said Sistani's edict, terming the US plan "unacceptable."
"There is no guarantee that such a convention will draft a constitution upholding the Iraqi people's interests and expressing their national identity, founded on Islam and lofty social values," said Sistani, who is based in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Baghdad.

The cleric, whose rulings are widely obeyed by Iraq's majority Shiite Muslim community, called for general elections to be held "so that every eligible Iraqi can elect his representatives to the assembly that will draft the constitution."

Once the document is finalized, it should be put to a referendum, he added.
Hard to believe the Iraqis wouldn't want a Constitution written entirely by Mr Bush's handpicked stooges? Who woulda thunk it?

THIS MODERN WORLD -- Tom Tomorrow asks, "When is a lie a lie?"

WHERE ARE THE WMDs? -- Al Kamen of The Washington Post wanted opinions from readers and he got them. My favorite:
"They're hiding the WMD in the Boston Red Sox bullpen: Those guys are getting paid a lot of money to protect something, and it ain't leads." -- Keith Cunningham, a senior analyst with the General Accounting Office.
But read them all.

OOUUCCHHH! -- It hurts just to read this.

BRITS, YANKS KNEW WMD PAPERS WERE FORGED -- The former U.S. ambassador and member of the National Security Council who was sent to examine the validity of documents regarding transfers of uranium from Niger to Iraq last year has told a British newspaper that both goverments publicly relied on information they knew to be false.
A high-ranking American official who investigated claims for the CIA that Iraq was seeking uranium to restart its nuclear programme last night accused Britain and the US of deliberately ignoring his findings to make the case for war against Saddam Hussein.

The retired US ambassador said it was all but impossible that British intelligence had not received his report - drawn up by the CIA - which revealed that documents, purporting to show a deal between Iraq and the west African state of Niger, were forgeries. When he saw similar claims in Britain's dossier on Iraq last September, he even went as far as telling CIA officials that they needed to alert their British counterparts to his investigation.
Asked if he felt his findings had been ignored for political reasons, he added: "It's an easy conclusion to draw." Though the official's identity is well-known in Washington - he was on the National Security Council under President Clinton - he asked that his name be withheld at this stage.
This is causing Tony Blair a lot of trouble in the UK and his position may be threatened if it continues. It's heartbreaking to see Americans care less about honesty in government than the British.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

DISINFOTAINMENT -- According to a new study in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Arabs are depicted by Hollywood in a negative fashion an astonishing 96% of the time.
Based on a study of more than 900 films, the report says: "Moviemakers' distorted lenses have shown Arabs as heartless, brutal, uncivilised, religious fanatics through common depictions of Arabs kidnapping or raping a fair maiden; expressing hatred against the Jews and Christians; and demonstrating a love for wealth and power."
"Heartless, brutal, uncivilized, religious fanatics and demonstrating a love for wealth and power"? Wow. That sounds like what most of Europe thinks of us Americans.

DEMS BEGIN WMD INQUIRY -- Senator Carl Levin [D-WI], ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee is will lead the Democrats in their own inquiry into the Bush regime's claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Senator John Warner [R-VA] has refused to stage in inquiry as head of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Gee, I wonder why. Republicans claim to be unconcered about the utter lack of wmd found in Iraq, but not all Iraq War supporters are equally sanguine:
At a news conference in Washington, Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said Friday the failure to find the weapons was a defeat for her government, which strongly supported the war.
Hmm. She no longer seems to be with the program. Must be time to call her a traitor.

OUR WARS OF BLEEDING EMPIRE -- More bad news in Iraq as two missing U.S. soldiers were found dead, yesterday. As I keep writing: Expect more of this.
"America has to understand that we've gone from a conventional war that ended May 1 to an unconventional war. We're not at peace by any stretch," said Capt. Jeff Fitzgibbons, a military spokesman. "It's going to be expensive. There are going to be lives lost. This is going to take a focused, concentrated effort, and the American public has to understand we're in it for the long haul."
Just one problem, Captain Fitzgibbons. This war wasn't sold to the American people as a "long haul." It was sold to them as a quick and bloodless [for us, anyway] war that would rid the world of terrorism. Now, we find we've stepped even further into a maelstrom of terror than the one we had inhabited before the Iraq War. Surprising? Not to anyone paying attention.

Why do I [and many others] think so? Well, consider another example, the death of a 12-year-old-boy. The U.S. forces say he was standing on the roof of his house and holding an AK-47 as he looked upon American soldiers in the streets below. Iraqis say the boy was innocent and killed in cold blood by a trigger-happy Yank. What's the truth? In the minds of Iraqis, that probably doesn't matter any more.
"This is a crime," said Wafaa Kubaisi, Mohammed's mother. "Why would an American with all his technology kill a child?"
"I thought the Americans would bring prosperity, but they are punishing us," Mohammed's uncle, Kamel, said to the nodding approval of mourners at the home of the dead boy's grandfather this evening.

The men sat on the lawn, smoking and speaking quietly. The women, inside the house, periodically burst into tears, their cries rising from behind closed doors.

"The bullet that shot Mohammed will be worth a million bullets," said Mohammed's mother, in a veiled threat of revenge, after she emerged from the home, staggering and supported by family members.
I suspect she's not the only one who thinks that way. Are we popular in Iraq? No, we are not.
"We are furious about people pointing guns at us," said Hamid Hussein, 33, pushing his broken-down Volkswagen bus to the front door of his house this morning. A United States Army Humvee was parked in the middle of his street, and a soldier in the turret ordered Mr. Hussein in English to stop where he was.
"Don't talk to me about Saddam Hussein," snapped Ibrahim Aullaiwi, a 46-year-old shop owner in the poor neighborhood of New Baghdad. "The Americans are in charge of everything here. They could have brought generators in here within 24 hours."
Drip drip drip.