Iraq war and occupation"The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people, and it is unacceptable to me," he says. The centerpiece of his plan includes a wildly unpopular troop escalation of over 21,000 US troops, mostly to be deployed in Baghdad and in Anbar province. (A January 10 AP/Ipsos poll shows 70% of Americans oppose the escalation.) Bush has repeatedly said the plan originated over a month ago with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. In a detailed, skeptical analysis of the plan by Washington Post reporters Michael Abramowitz, Robin Wright and Thomas Ricks, they write, "In going for more troops, Bush is picking an option that seems to have little favor beyond the White House and a handful of hawks on Capitol Hill and in think tanks who have been promoting the idea almost since the time of the invasion." This will actually be the fifth such "surge" of troops into Iraq since the occupation began after the fall of the Hussein regime. The first was an escalation of 15,000, when troops were rotated in and out between December 2003 and April 2004. Then 12,000 more troops were brought in between November 2004 and March 2005. The third, of 22,000 troops, took place between September and December of 2005, and the fourth was "Operation Together Forward," between June and October of 2006. The plan also mentions a number of "benchmarks" that Iraq will have to achieve in the coming months, but there are no provisions to penalize Iraq or withdraq American support should Iraq fail to meet those goals. The Iraqi government rejected similar benchmarks in late 2006.
"[It is] the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out." -- Republican senator Chuck Hagel on Bush's war plan
Iraq war and occupationIn the end, faced with a choice between the neoconservatives' mad dreams of American empire and the more pragmatic, business-friendly policies of the ISG's James Baker and the circle of advisors around the senior George H.W. Bush, Rice chose to go with the neoconservatives.
Iraq war and occupationAEI neocons such as Paul Wolfowitz, and their allies such as Dick Cheney, are, of course, primarily responsible for the Bush administration's belligerent, obdurate Middle East strategies up till now. Unfortunately, even the most basic details of Kagan's plan are wrong: Kagan can't even get his geography straight. AEI provides several glossy maps of Baghdad, focusing on Shi'ite, Sunni, and other enclaves within the city, but those maps are wrong. Sparsely populated districts are erroneously shown as various sectarian "enclaves." Even the names of the various neighborhoods and districts of Baghdad are often wrong. It is hard to place any faith in Kagan's reports if even his maps are incorrect. (Daily Kos [includes numerous maps])
Iraq war and occupationThe Democrats intend to isolate Bush politically and force the beginnings of a phased withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The move is led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative John Murtha, who, in a closed-door meeting with the House Democratic Caucus, invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as she urged her members against timidity and towards solidarity. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, a quiet, hawkish supporter of the war, stuns many of his colleagues when he comes out strenuously against Bush's proposal and says the war may no longer be militarily winnable. Murtha will open hearings and begin drafting legislation that will stop funding for any troop escalation. While Bush pressured the Democrats to withhold action until after his speech, they refused, knowing that nothing Bush was likely to say would change their minds. Democrats also know that the timeframe for stopping any troop escalation is short, and that the more time they spend waiting at Bush's behest, the less time they have to keep the troops from being deployed. (Washington Post)
Congressional DemocratsWe "demonstrate once and for all that we care more about representing the American people than the perks of power," says Democrat Dianne Feinstein. Both House Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are working to plug loopholes in the current ethics legislation, which is inadequate in several key areas. Under the new rules, lawmakers will pay full price for tickets to sporting and entertainment events; legislative "earmarks" would be more broadly defined and more strictly regulated; lawmakers will pay charter rates, not the far less expensive first class rates, when they fly on corporate jets; block lawmakers negotiating for jobs with lobbying firms while still in ofice; and other changes, mostly inspired by the rampant, systematic corruption displayed by Republicans such as convicted criminal Randy Cunningham, a former House leader sent to jail last year for taking bribes. "We should not tolerate a committee chairman shepherding the Medicare prescription drug bill through Congress at the same time that he is negotiating a job with the pharmaceutical industry to become their top lobbyist," says Democrat Barack Obama, referring to former House Republican Billy Tauzin, who left Congress in 2005 to head the trade group representing pharmaceutical companies. Tauzin had chaired the committee that regulated drug makers and was a key player in passing the prescription drug bill that critics said was favorable to the pharmaceutical industry. Like many House Republicans, Senate Republican Trent Lott says that the ethics bill is little more than overreacting and "feckless positioning to make it look good." On the other hand, Democratic senator Richard Durbin says that the ethics bill does not go far enough, and the Senate needs to address the overarching question of campaign finance. This bill would ban a lobbyist from buying him lunch, Durbin says, but "tomorrow that same lobbyist can have me over for lunch at his lobbying firm to provide campaign funds for my reelection campaign and its perfectly legal." (AP/Traverse City Record-Eagle)
George W. BushThe library will host a ideologically extremist, conservative think tank. The funds are being raised by people described as the truest of Bush loyalists, with half of the donations coming from a small group of "megadonors" kicking in $10 to $20 million apiece. The smallest donation being solicited is $25,000. The donors are anonymous, but one can extrapolate from the list of the donors to the elder Bush's own presidential library, which include a sheikh from the UAE, who donated $1 million; the nation of Kuwait; the nation of China; the family of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Bush's colleague and foreign policy mentor; the Sultan of Oman; King Hassan II of Morocco; the emir of Qatar; the former prime minister of South Korea; Enron's Kenneth Lay; and vice president Dick Cheney.
Jack Abramoff scandalGriles is being investigated for, among other allegations, making false statements to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2005 about job discussions Abramoff initiated while Griles was deputy secretary. The Justice Department investigation has examined donations made by Abramoff's Indian tribal clients to an environmental advocacy group run by Italia Federici, who was involved with Griles socially. Also under scrutiny are donations made to Federici's group by energy and mining companies. E-mails released last year by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee showed that Griles had more than half a dozen contacts with Abramoff or with Federici, head of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, who was working as the lobbyist's go-between to Griles. As an interesting side note, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, a senior Justice Department official who has been dating Griles, resigns after notice of Griles's investigation reaches her desk. Wooldridge served as Interior Department solicitor and as deputy chief of staff to then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton before moving to Justice in November 2005. Griles was a controversial figure at Interior, a former lobbyist strongly criticized by the department's inspector general, environmental groups, and watchdog organizations for maintaining ties to, and making favorable decisions on behalf of, energy and mining companies that were once his lobbying clients. (Washington Post)
Iraq war and occupationShe insists that Democrats will not be intimidated by the usual Republican attacks on their bravery and patriotism, saying, "We will not be swiftboated on these issues." She says, "Democrats oppose the escalation. Senator Reid and I signed a letter to that effect to the president last week. And we're making a very strong differentiation between supporting our troops, which we do -- those in the field now -- and giving a blank check to the president for an escalation of the war. He's done this before, this escalation, and it hasn't worked. And the same poor judgment that got us to where we are now, is what he wants us to respect as he goes forward. ...We will say what we believe is right for our country and if he wants to say 'you're cutting off funding for the troops,' we just have to come right back on that -- because that's all they say. What are they going to say? 'You want to cut off money for the troops' -- we're not doing that. There are people who want us to, but that's not what the leadership and the Democratic party in Congress is advocating, by and large."
Iraq war and occupationIn a segment of his "Countdown," Olbermann lists, matter-of-factly, one lie and self-contradiction. Olbermann says in part, "Any meaningful assessment of the president's next step in Iraq must consider his steps and missteps so far. So, let's look at the record:
Iraq war and occupationRoberts believes that the "surge" is merely to distract America's attention -- Congress, media, and citizenry alike -- from a planned assault on Iran by "Israel and its American neoconservative allies...." Roberts looks at the puzzling appointment of "a US Navy admiral as commander in charge of the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The appointment makes sense only if the administration's attention has shifted from the insurgencies to an attack on Iran," he writes. "The Bush administration has recently doubled its aircraft carrier forces and air power in the Persian Gulf. According to credible news reports, the Israeli air force has been making practice runs in preparation for an attack on Iran. Recently, Israeli military and political leaders have described Israeli machinations to manipulate the American public and their representatives into supporting or joining an Israeli assault on Iran." Two carrier groups are moving into the Persian Gulf, as are US nuclear submarines (one of which collided with a Japanese oil tanker on January 9). "Their purpose is either to provide the means for a hard hit on Iran or to serve as sitting ducks for a new Pearl Harbor that would rally Americans behind the new war. Whether our ships are hit by Iran in retaliation to an attack from Israel or suffer an orchestrated attack by Israel that is blamed on the Iranians, there are certainly far more US naval forces in the Persian Gulf than prudence demands.
Bush's foreign policies...[Bush's words are] only a threat. But it is a far cry from the diplomatic proposals floated just last month for making Syria and Iran part of the solution. Can the president really be saying that we are willing to risk war with the two countries, and even attack elements inside them, to achieve peace in Iraq?" Arkin notes the "feel-good element[s]" of everything produced by the White House on Iraq, from presidential speeches to fact sheets, background briefings, and Power Point presentations. "Everyone, the US included, is committing to the program and redoubling their efforts. One doesn't have to be too cynical to note the definite feel-good element to it all." After summing up the content of the speech, and noting the obvious missing pieces to the plan -- what about Syria and Iran, and will the Iraqis step up -- Arkin concludes simply, "The President giveth peace and he taketh away." (Washington Post)
Iraq war and occupationNow, a newly uncertain Fineman writes that during his speech, Bush "spoke with all the confidence of a perp in a police lineup." Fineman, who has covered Bush since 1987, observes that "I have never seen him, in public or private, look less convincing, less sure of himself, less cocky. With his knitted brow and stricken features, he looked, well, scared. Not surprising since what he was doing in the White House library was announcing the escalation of an unpopular war." Not only were Bush's words not what Americans wanted to hear, but, as Fineman observes, Bush's own demeanor did not inspire confidence, either: "George Bush had the look of a man who knew he had made a royal hash of things in reaching for what most enlightened people would say was a noble goal: a stable, antiterrorist Iraq."
US torture allegationsThe Italian court has not yet decided whether to take the case, which if heard, would cast an uncomfortable spotlight on the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program. Under the secret renditions program, suspected terrorists were kidnapped and interrogated at secret "black" sites.
Bush's economic policiesRailing against the minimum-wage raise proposal by House Democrats, Kingston says on the floor, "If the Democrat [sic] Party truly wanted to take on poverty, they would have to say what is the relationship between marriage and the poverty level and between hours worked and the poverty level, because the truth of the matter is, if people end poverty, many of them would marry and work 40 hours a week, they would be out of poverty. ...It's not something I have the knowledge of or the information of, but it's an economic fact that I hope we could have committee hearings on and discuss this. If we want to attack poverty, that's where we need to go." (Think Progress [link to video])
Plame outingPetraeus's intervention has been discovered by the New York Sun. In 2005, when Miller was facing the possibility of jail for refusing to name one of her sources, former Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby, in front of a grand jury, Petraeus wrote to a federal judge to discourage him from imprisoning her. "Judith demonstrated a deep commitment to her work and values as an American citizen," Petraeus wrote to Judge Thomas Hogan, in a letter delivered by Miller's lawyers to the judge. "Based on my interaction with her, I find it unlikely that Judith would compromise on those values, to include betraying information gained in confidence from her sources. ...Judith is clearly a highly professional journalist, one who has demonstrated to me that she will keep her word." Hogan refused to take Petraeus's advice, and locked up Miller for what became an 85-day jail stint. Petraeus's letter raised some eyebrows at the time because the politically sensitive investigation involved claims that top White House officials leaked the name of covert CIA operative, Plame, in order to lash back at her war critic husband, Joseph Wilson. By writing to the judge, Petraeus was, in effect, undermining the demand of the special prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, that Miller be sent to jail. Petraeus did not write on military letterhead and he made clear in his short letter that he was offering only his "personal views."
Secrecy of Bush administrationAccording to CNN, the State Department's USINFO Counter-Disinformation/Misinformation Team, led by Todd Leventhal, "helps US embassies identify and rebut other nations' disinformation, most often fabrications about the United States planted in foreign newspapers or television shows and, these days, on the Internet." The USINFO denials of the Paraguay property buy is appended, oddly enough, to an earlier USINFO denial that the US has a US military base near the Bush property in Paraguay.
Conservative media slantHe focuses on four moderately hawkish, moderately conservative pundits: Thomas Friedman, Peter Beinart, Fareed Zakaria, and Jeffrey Goldberg. (Reed says that since most of the more hardline conservative pundits are relatively interchangeable in their rhetoric and their even more thorough failures, he sees little point in revisiting their harangues.)