The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Thursday, August 28, 2003

FIRE DONALD RUMSFELD -- That is what the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wants. They've got good reasons.

BACK TO MATH CLASS, MR HUME -- FOX News halfwit Brit Hume has been carrying the White House's water by arguing that U.S. soldiers in Iraq are not unsafe. Mr Hume's argument is that since 6.6 murders occur daily in California and the U.S. is losing less than two soldiers a day in Iraq, living in California is actually more unsafe than being an American soldier in Iraq. Just one problem and you've probably already guessed it: Mr Hume is full of crap. There are less than 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, but there are 34.5 million people in California. Doing the math properly, we find that living in California is A LOT more safe than being a U.S. soldier in Iraq. How much more safe? Well, if we had as many troops in Iraq as there are people in California, at current death rates we'd lose about 385 soldiers a day. Another "mistake" by Mr Hume and the crack FOX News team.

PRESIDENT CLARK -- Bob Kuttner of The American Prospect has written an interesting column about the possibility of a Wesley Clark presidential candidacy. Basically, he sums up the various reasons he, I, and others like us are so interested in the good general.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

NO TO RECALL, YES TO BUSTAMANTE -- Organized labor in California is increasingly falling in line with the Democratic party's recall strategy: No on the recall and yes to Bustamante. The outlook is improving for the good guys in the Golden State.

DOWD GETS IT RIGHT -- It's hard to know where to stand on NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd. [On her throat? On her head?] But seriously, folks, sometimes Ms Dowd reveals herself as an enormously gifted writer, but too often she's a smarmy, flippant know-it-all who prefers to write a good one-liner than actually write an accurate column. Today, however, when writing about the Bush regime's awful miscalculation in Iraq, she gets it just right. The result is impressive:
We've brought the fight to their turf, they're swarming into Iraq and blowing up our troops and other Westerners every day, and that's just where we want to be.

Our exhausted and frustrated soldiers are in a hideously difficult environment they're not familiar with, dealing with a culture America only dimly understands, where our desperation for any intelligence has reduced us to recruiting Saddam's old spies, whom we didn't trust in the first place, and where we're so strapped that soldiers may have to face back-to-back yearlong overseas tours.
In yesterday's milestones, the number of U.S. soldiers who have died since the war now exceeds the number who died during the war, and next year's deficit was estimated at a whopping $480 billion, even without all the sky-high costs of Iraq.

But Republicans suggest that Iraq's turning into a terrorist magnet could be convenient — one-stop shopping against terrorism. As Rush Limbaugh observed: "We don't have to go anywhere to find them! They've fielded a Jihad All-Star Team."
By doing their high-risk, audacious sociological and political makeover in Iraq, Bush officials and neocons hoped to drain the terrorist swamp in the long run. But in the short run, they have created new terrorist-breeding swamps full of angry young Arabs who see America the same way Muslims saw Westerners in the Crusades: as Christian expansionist imperialists motivated by piety and greed.

Just because the unholy alliance of Saddam loyalists, foreign fighters and Islamic terrorists has turned Iraq into a scary shooting gallery for our troops doesn't mean Americans at home are any safer. Since when did terrorists see terror as an either-or proposition?

"Bring 'em on" sounded like a tinny, reckless boast the first time the president said it. It doesn't sound any better when Mr. Bush says it louder with a chorus.
It's always impressive what this woman can do when she decides to write about important things in a thoughtful way. I just wish she would do it more often.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

FIRE THE WORKERS AND RAID THEIR PENSION FUNDS -- That's how far too many corporate CEOs see as their priorities these days. Read this report from United For A Fair Economy [UFE] to learn all the awful facts.

HOW WE SHOP -- Thanks to my good buddy Carolina Mike for this one.

FOX DROPS LAWSUIT AGAINST FRANKEN -- What a bunch of losers.

IRAQ NOW A HAVEN FOR TERRORISTS -- The occupation of Iraq is a mess. The lights are not on. The water is not clean. The streets are not safe. Our soldiers die almost daily. The borders are porous. Think I'm exaggerating? Think again. Then read this story from Knight-Ridder, about how the occupation is creating and attracting terrorists that the U.S. has no plan to defeat.
Increasingly, said one senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the terrorists appear to have a well-thought-out strategy that may be working, as the United Nations and other international agencies pare back their presence and the United States faces the prospect of a long, lonely and costly occupation, with uncertain chances of creating a democratic and stable Iraq friendly to the West.

The terrorist strategy has four elements:

-Kill Americans to raise the cost of the occupation and attract foreign jihadis - holy warriors - by killing under the banner of Islam.

-Kill other foreigners to discourage cooperation with the United States.

-Kill alleged Iraqi collaborators with the Americans.

-Stoke popular discontent by sabotaging basic services and encouraging street crime.

What Abizaid didn't say - but ordinary Iraqis know - is that terrorists are finding sympathizers among a growing number of people who have been alienated by the heavy-handed tactics of American soldiers, and by the failure of the U.S.-led occupation to deliver safe streets, electricity, clean water and jobs.

"The occupation is a mess," said Hassan Fattah Pasha, the Iraqi-American editor of Iraq Today, a weekly English-language newspaper. "The people who really would have stuck their necks out for us - we're losing them. The more upset people get with the Americans, the more likely they are to at least look away from the troublemakers, if not support them."
The reason this won't get any better is that the things we have to do as an occupying power are the very things which turn the populace against us.
Every time U.S. soldiers kick in a door in the middle of the night or search a woman, Iraqis get angry. That anger spikes to outrage when innocent civilians die because a jumpy American soldier at a checkpoint fires his automatic weapon.

"I feel there is not much difference between the Americans and the former regime," said Ali al Garnawai, who owns three tobacco stores where U.S. soldiers often buy Cuban cigars. "They point their guns at people for no reason. They kill people if they drive in the wrong place."

Publicly, the Bush administration and the military say Iraqis are coming forward more often with tips about weapons caches, guerrilla fighters and former regime officials. They say the vast majority of the thousands of anti-American fighters they've arrested are die-hard members of the former regime.

But a senior intelligence official in Washington, who asked not to be identified, acknowledged that the inability to maintain security and restore basic services is eroding popular support for the U.S. presence and the Iraqi interim Governing Council.

"If the Iraqi people turn against us, we're really in trouble," said Jessica Stern, a terrorism expert at Harvard University.
This is why some of us opposed the invasion in the first place. Defeating the Iraqi army was never going to be difficult for the most powerful military in the history of the world. Winning over the Iraqi people--that's the hard part. We have to do it. We're not doing it.

BLAIR WANTED IT SEXED UP -- UK Prime Minister Tony Blair wanted unproven allegations about Iraq's non-existent nuclear program reinserted into government intelligence documents despite warnings from British intelligence agencies. Mr Blair is a pathological liar on the Iraq issue and should be toppled from power.

DEFICITS AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE -- The most fiscally irresponsible administration in American history got further evidence of its recklessness today when the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office announced the U.S. would run a record deficit of $480 billion in 2004 and compile $1.3 trillion in red ink over the next decade.

Monday, August 25, 2003

BILL O'REILLY IS A PITIFUL DOPE -- Want to know how much of a pitiful dope? Read this.

GOTTA LOVE THAT LIBERAL MEDIA -- Those of us who read The Washington Post every day [and that isn't as many as it used to be] have, for some time, noticed the increasingly right-wing tilt of its editorial page and its editorial position. I think this article in The Washingtonian magazine illustrates how tough it is for fair-minded reporters who want to write the truth about Mr Bush to get their way at The Washington Post.

Why Doesn't the Post Love Walter Pincus?
If President Bush suffers because it turns out he took the country to war on false pretenses, he might look back on stories by Walter Pincus for drawing first blood.

On March 16, the eve of war, Pincus wrote in the Post that U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to give Congress or the Pentagon specific information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

At the time, the Bush White House was telling the world that America had to invade Iraq to root out weapons of mass destruction. Pincus quoted sources saying that there was a lack of hard evidence. And they also said the White House had “exaggerated intelligence to back up its drive toward war.

Pincus was uniquely positioned to delve into the intricacies of the weapons question. At 70, he had been reporting on national security for 25 years at the Post. Along the way he had cultivated sources in Congress, the CIA, the Pentagon, and the scientific community. For decades, he has been close to chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix.

Yet the Post buried Pincus's March 16 story on page A17. It took help from Bob Woodward to get the story published at all.

"His support gave the editors the guts to run it", says Pincus. "They think I am a crusader and get on kicks."

Woodward, working the same sources for his forthcoming book on the war, put his name at the bottom of the March 16 story.

Pincus had been writing about the buildup to theinvasion for months, along with Post writers Dana Priest, Karen DeYoung, Barton Gellman, and others who gathered at war meetings every day. But according to reporters, editors continually underplayed Pincus's scoops and discounted their stories that ran counter to Bush's call to arms. None of which deterred him, especially after he dissected Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 speech to the United Nations.

"I suddenly realized everything he said was inferential," says Pincus. As he did with stories about the neutron bomb in the 1970s and the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s, Pincus burrowed deep and wrote often.

"When I get hold of one of these things, I stay on it," he says. "The American public doesn't pay attention to one or two stories."

Pincus's byline has appeared on nearly 100 stories since the invasion on March 19. He never stopped writing about the missing weapons of mass destruction.

"He's like a 28-year-old dogging the story," says Woodward. "At the same time, he's not overreaching."

In June Pincus sunk his teeth deeper into the emerging story of the nuclear material that Iraq was supposed to have sought from Niger to make nuclear bombs. US officials repeated the claim as fact and talked ominously of mushroom clouds. President Bush mentioned "significant quantities of uranium" in his State of the Union speech.

Other reporters questioned the nuclear transfer, including Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, David Sanger in the New York Times, and Joby Warrick, Priest, and DeYoung with Pincus at the Post. Pincus pursued it day after day. He says he had to fight to get it on the front page.

"The best way to get a memo to the President is the front page of the Post," he says.

Finally, at the end of May, Pincus broke onto the front page with a story about the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. He stayed there as his stories--some with other reporters--put pressure on the White House to admit that the President's 16-word sentence about uranium going to Iraq was not credible.

Pincus eventually prevailed within his own newspaper, but why did a veteran reporter have to bow and scrape to get his stories noticed and then printed?

"It was ridiculous. Many of the stories were buried," says Priest, also a star on the national-security beat. "Editors continually undervalued what he does."

What Pincus did was help put the Post in front of the biggest story of the day. Managing editor Steve Coll says of Pincus: "We were proud of his coverage before the war, and we're proud of it now, and we've tried to give it prominent display throughout."

Says Woodward: "Editors would be kidding themselves if they discounted him."
The editors of The Washington Post used to be known for their eagerness to take on liars in the White House. Now they are building a new reputation for being cravenly eager to curry favor with the biggest liar in the White House since Richard Nixon. Repulsive.

MOBY FOR KERRY -- That's right, Eminem's least favorite musician, Moby, has endorsed Senator John Kerry [D-MA] for President.
"He's the only one who can beat George Bush for President," the bespectacled vegan told us. "It's one of my fantasies to see that debate between Kerry and Bush where Kerry says, 'What did you do during Vietnam?' Bush was a draft dodger, and Kerry got three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star!"
I own several Moby cds. Maybe I should buy some more.

THIS MODERN WORLD -- Who says the Bush regime has had no successes?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

ALL IS NOT LOST -- Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante is leading Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in a new L.A. Times poll.

I'M BACK -- Just got back from vacation. Lord, I needed that.