Friday, January 30, 2009

The Party of Limbaugh

Not one to waste time on conservative mouthpeices. So last week, when GOP shockjock posing as an intellectual Rush Limbaugh proclaimed to his gleeful dittoheads "I hope Obama fails," I ignored it. But the story, which made news headlines for its sheer absurdity, took an even more bizarre turn with the entrance of Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia. Gingrey, reacting to criticism of the GOP Congress by Limbaugh, told the radiohost to back off.

More after the fold...

“I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn’t be or wouldn’t be good leaders, they’re not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell."

Disagree with the GOP or not, many applauded Gingrey for having the backbone to stand up to Limbaugh. Alas, his fortitude was not to last. Within 24 hours, Gingrey was issuing a stated apology--to Rush Limbaugh!

"“I regret and apologize for the fact that my comments have offended and upset my fellow conservatives—that was not my intent. I am also sorry to see that my comments in defense of our Republican Leadership read much harsher than they actually were intended, but I recognize it is my responsibility to clarify my own comments.”

Gingrey went as far as to appear on Rush Limbaugh's show, "hemming and hawing" before the radio host in the best "white steppin' fetchit" role I've ever heard. So to recap, a sitting Georgian elected member of Congress, rather than defending the President of the United States, has decided it's more important to beg for forgiveness from an entertainer.

The end of the GOP is nigh... .


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Tragic Failure of American Journalism in Gaza

Look at the news in the world, and in the past weeks you would have watched as the Israeli military machine destroyed Gaza, UN buildings and even an American school, using controversial weapons that have left thousands of civilians dead and injured. Catch the news in the US however, from broadcast television to newspapers, and you would think you live in some other world--where Israeli military and government propaganda serves as the script for a necessary and "defensive" war.

That US politicians are unable (through cowardice or tunnel-vision) to critique Israel, is nothing new. Neither is it news that our media find objectivity a lacking trait when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, with the sheer scale of what happened in the past few weeks, it is still shocking to see this willful blindess and group-think in action.

Below is an article by journalist Chris Hedges, examining this sad state of affairs:

With Gaza, Journalists Fail Again

By Chris Hedges
Jan. 26, 2009

The assault on Gaza exposed not only Israel’s callous disregard for international law but the gutlessness of the American press. There were no major newspapers, television networks or radio stations that challenged Israel’s fabricated version of events that led to the Gaza attack or the daily lies Israel used to justify the unjustifiable. Nearly all reporters were, as during the buildup to the Iraq war, pliant stenographers and echo chambers. If we as journalists have a product to sell, it is credibility. Take that credibility away and we become little more than propagandists and advertisers. By refusing to expose lies we destroy, in the end, ourselves.

Full article here or after the fold.

All governments lie in wartime. Israel is no exception. Israel waged an effective war of black propaganda. It lied craftily with its glib, well-rehearsed government spokespeople, its ban on all foreign press in Gaza and its confiscation of cell phones and cameras from its own soldiers lest the reality of the attack inadvertently seep out. It was the Arabic network al-Jazeera, along with a handful of local reporters in Gaza, which upheld the honor of our trade, that of giving a voice to those who without our presence would have no voice, that of countering the amplified lies of the powerful with the faint cries and pain of the oppressed. But these examples of journalistic integrity were too few and barely heard by us.

We retreated, as usual, into the moral void of American journalism, the void of balance and objectivity. The ridiculous notion of being unbiased, outside of the flow of human existence, impervious to grief or pain or anger or injustice, allows reporters to coolly give truth and lies equal space and airtime. Balance and objectivity are the antidote to facing unpleasant truths, a way of avoidance, a way to placate the powerful. We record the fury of a Palestinian who has lost his child in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza but make sure to mention Israel’s “security needs,” include statements by Israeli officials who insist there was firing from the home or the mosque or the school and of course note Israel’s right to defend itself. We do this throughout the Middle East. We record the human toll in Iraq, caused by our occupation, but remind everyone that “Saddam killed his own people.” We write about the deaths of families in Afghanistan during an airstrike but never forget to mention that the Taliban “oppresses women.” Their crimes cancel out our crimes. It becomes a moral void. And above all we never forget to mention the “war on terror.” We ask how and who but never, never do we ask why. As long as we speak in the cold, dead language of those in power, the language that says a lie is as valid as a fact, the language where one version of history is as good as another, we are part of the problem, not the solution.

“Bombs and rockets are flying between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza, and once again, The Times is caught in a familiar crossfire, accused from all sides of unfair and inaccurate coverage,” New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt breezily began in writing his assessment of the paper’s coverage, going on to conclude “though the most vociferous supporters of Israel and the Palestinians do not agree, I think The Times, largely barred from the battlefield and reporting amid the chaos of war, has tried its best to do a fair, balanced and complete job—and has largely succeeded.”

The cliché that Israel had a right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks—that bombs and rockets were “flying between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza”—was accepted in the press as an undisputed truth. It became the starting point for every hollow discussion of the Israeli attack. It left pundits and columnists chattering about “proportionality,” not legality. Israel was in open violation of international law, specifically Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which calls on an occupying power to respect the safety of occupied civilians. But you would not know this from the press reports. The use of attack aircraft and naval ships, part of the world’s fourth-largest military power, to level densely packed slums of people who were hungry, without power and often water, people surrounded on all sides by the Israeli army, was fatuously described as a war. The news coverage held up the absurd notion that a few Hamas fighters with light weapons and no organization were a counterforce to F-16 fighter jets, tank battalions, thousands of Israeli soldiers, armored personnel carriers, naval ships and Apache attack helicopters. It fit the Israeli narrative. It may have been balanced and objective. But it was not true.

The Hamas rockets are crude, often made from old pipes, and largely ineffectual. The first homemade Qassam rocket was fired across the Israeli border in October 2001. It was not until June 2004 that Israel suffered its first fatality. There are 24 Israelis who have been killed by Hamas rocket fire, compared with 5,000 Palestinian dead, more than half of them in Gaza, at least a third of them children. This does not absolve Hamas from firing rockets at civilian areas, which is a war crime, but it does raise questions about the story line swallowed without reflection by the press. I covered the Kosovo Albanians’ desperate attempts to resist the Serbs, which resulted in a handful of Serb casualties, but no one ever described the lopsided Serbian butchery in Kosovo as a war. It was called genocide, and it led to NATO intervention to halt it.

It was Israel, not Hamas, which violated the truce established last June. This was never made clear in any of the press reports. Hamas agreed to halt rocket fire into Gaza in exchange for an Israeli promise to ease the draconian siege that made the shipment of vital material and food into Gaza nearly impossible. And once the agreement was reached, the Hamas rocket fire ended. Israel, however, never upheld its end of the agreement. It increased the severity of the siege. U.N. agencies complained. International relief organizations condemned the Israeli blockade. And there were even rumblings inside Israel. Shmuel Zakai, an Israeli brigadier general who resigned as commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza Division and was forcibly discharged from the military amid allegations that he leaked information to the media, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Dec. 22 that the Israeli government had made a “central error” during the tahdiyeh, the six-month period of relative truce, by failing “to take advantage of the calm to improve, rather than markedly worsen, the economic plight of the Palestinians of the Strip. … [W]hen you create a tahdiyeh, and the economic pressure on the Strip continues,” Zakai said, “it is obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahdiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire. … You cannot just land blows, leave the Palestinians in Gaza in the economic distress they’re in, and expect that Hamas will just sit around and do nothing.”

Israel, we know from papers such as Haaretz, started planning this assault last March. The Israeli army deliberately broke the truce when it carried out an attack on Nov. 4 that killed six Hamas fighters. It timed the attack, the heavy air and naval bombardment and the invasion of Gaza to coincide with the waning weeks of the Bush administration. Israel knew it would be given carte blanche by the White House. Hamas responded to the Nov. 4 provocation in the way Israel anticipated. It fired Qassam rockets and Grad missiles into Israel to retaliate. But even then Hamas offered to extend the truce if Israel would lift the blockade. Israel refused. Operation Cast Lead was unleashed.

Henry Siegman, the director of the U.S./Middle East Project at the Council of Foreign Relations, noted correctly that Israel “could have met its obligation to protect its citizens by agreeing to ease the blockade, but it didn’t even try. It cannot be said that Israel launched its assault to protect its citizens from rockets. It did so to protect its right to continue the strangulation of Gaza’s population.”

There were a few flashes of integrity in the American press. The Wall Street Journal ran a thoughtful piece, “How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas,” on Jan. 24 that was unusual in view of the acceptance in U.S. press coverage that Hamas is nothing more than an Islamo-fascist organization that understands only violence. And some journalists from news organizations such as the BBC did a good job once they were finally permitted to enter Gaza. Jimmy Carter wrote an Op-Ed article in The Washington Post detailing his and the Carter Center’s efforts to prevent the conflict. This article was an important refutation of the Israeli argument, although it was ignored by the rest of the media. But these were isolated cases. The publishers, news executives and editors largely accepted without any real protest Israel’s ban on coverage and allowed Israeli officials to fill their news pages and airtime with fabrications and distortions. And this made the war crimes carried out by the Israeli army easier to commit and prolong.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is acutely aware of Israel’s violations of international law, has already begun to reassure his commanders that they will be protected from war crimes prosecution.

“The commanders and soldiers that were sent on the task in Gaza should know that they are safe from any tribunal and that the State of Israel will assist them in this issue and protect them as they protected us with their bodies during the military operation in Gaza,” he said.

Israel’s brutal military tactics, despite the lack of coverage in the American press, have come under intense international scrutiny. Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, blame the high civilian death toll on indiscriminate firing and shelling, as well as the use of white phosphorus shells in civilian areas. Israel has admitted using white phosphorus in Gaza but insists the chemical, used for smoke screens and to mark spots to be shelled or bombed, was not used directly against civilians.

Hamas is an unsavory organization. It has made life miserable for many in Gaza and carried out a series of death-squad-style executions of alleged opponents. But Hamas, elected to power in 2006, also brought effective civil control to Gaza. Gaza, ruled by warring factions, warlords, clans, kidnapping rings and criminal gangs, had descended into chaos under Mahmoud Abbas’ corrupt Fatah-led government. Hamas, once it assumed power, halted suicide bombing attacks on Israel. It ended rocket fire into Israel for almost a year. It upheld its agreement with Israel. Hamas’ willingness to negotiate with Israel, albeit through Egyptian intermediaries, led al-Qaida, which has been working to make inroads among the Palestinians, to condemn the Hamas leadership as collaborators.

Israel and the United States carried out an abortive and desperate attempt to overthrow Hamas by arming and backing a Fatah putsch in June 2007. They wanted to install the pliant Abbas in power. Hamas resisted, often with violent brutality, and expelled Abbas and the Fatah leadership from Gaza to the West Bank. Israel has now decided to do the dirty job itself. It will not work. Israel broke and discredited Yasser Arafat and Fatah in much the same manner. Abbas and Fatah have no authority or credibility left. Abbas is seen by most Palestinians as a pliant Israeli stooge. Israel is now destroying Hamas. Radical Islamic groups, such as al-Qaida, far more violent and irrational, stand poised to replace Hamas. And Israel will one day look wistfully at Hamas just as it does now at Fatah. But by then, with Israel surrounded by radical Islamic regimes in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and even Jordan, as well as fighting a homegrown al-Qaida movement among the Palestinians, it may be too late.

The Israeli government bears the responsibility for its crimes. But by giving credibility to the lies and false narratives Israel uses to justify wholesale slaughter we empower not only Israel’s willful self-destruction but our own. The press, as happened during the buildup to the Iraq war, was again feckless and gutless. It bent to the will of the powerful. It abandoned its sacred contract with its readers, listeners and viewers to always tell the truth. It chattered about nothing. It obscured the facts. It did this while hundreds of women and children were torn to shreds by iron fragmentation bombs in a flagrant violation of international law. And as it failed it lauded itself for doing “a fair, balanced and complete job.”


Friday, January 23, 2009

A Final Message from the Bush Admin...

If only it was that easy...
Then again, maybe "forgetting" isn't the best remedy.
And our memories of the past eight years should be kept, if only to serve as a warning...


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Bush Era Remembered

In her article "Drowning our Sorrows and Lifting a Glass," the mad law professor Patricia Williams recounted the many surreal yet tragically factual elements of the outgoing Bush administration. It makes even a cynic like me take pause, and realise that even in an imperfect Obama, we've made some serious change.

Some of these are listed here, with links. Will add as my repressed memory allows me access. So in case any of you forgot the sheer horror of it all, here's what may finally be over.

*Pax Americana and the aspiration to consolidate a global American empire.

*The Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive warfare.

*Hurricane Katrina and "heckuva job, Brownie."

*The explicit rejection of the Geneva Conventions.

*John Yoo's and Alberto Gonzales's redefinition of torture.

*Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank subsidizing his girlfriend.

*Ahmad Chalabi.

*The FCC allowing greater consolidation of media.

*The outing of Valerie Plame.

*The manipulations asserting that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

*The addled handling of Harriet Miers's nomination to the Supreme Court.

More below...

*Opposition to stem cell research.

*The looting of the National Museum of Iraq, and the burning of Baghdad's National Library.

*Donald Rumsfeld's remarks that rioting in Iraq was the sign of a liberated people and that Iraq was no more violent than some American cities.

*Stacking the Civil Rights Commission with conservatives, like Abigail Thernstrom, who want to overturn sections of the Voting Rights Act.

*The shooting death of Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari and injury of journalist Giuliana Sgrena at the hands of American soldiers.

*The appointment of ultraconservatives John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

*Cheney filling his friend with birdshot.

*The USA Patriot Act.

*Doing away with habeas corpus.

*The National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping of citizens' phone calls and e-mails.

*The notion of an unchecked, unaccountable "unitary executive."

*The failure to keep official numbers of dead Iraqi civilians.

*The forbidding of photographs, or even visibility, of American military dead.

*The multilayered, high-level lying about how football hero Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan.

*Halliburton taking kickbacks from Kuwaiti oil suppliers.

*Paul Bremer dispensing billions of dollars for contracts in Iraq, which disappeared, never to be accounted for or recovered.

*Blackwater mercenaries accused of murdering Iraqi civilians.

*"Military tribunals" established outside the military justice system, with no due process or right to an attorney or to cross-examination or even to know the charges.

*The silly disparagement of the national anthem sung in Spanish.

*Bush talking directly to God.

*Abu Ghraib.

*Profiling Arab, Muslim and Latino immigrants.


*Extraordinary rendition.

*Lousy veterans' benefits.

*Lousy veterans' hospitals.

*The failure to provide soldiers with reinforced armored vehicles ("You go to war with the army you have," explained Rumsfeld).

*The refusal to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder as a legitimate condition.

*Monica Goodling's political litmus tests in hiring for nonpolitical posts in the Justice Department.

*Expelling Helen Thomas from the White House press room and putting in fake reporter "Jeff Gannon" to throw adoring softball questions.

*John Ashcroft's draping of bare-breasted sculptures in the Justice Department.

*His subpoenas of more than 2,500 records of abortions performed at public hospitals.

*Gonzales firing US Attorneys around the country for political reasons.

*Oh, and did I forget the economy?


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama- History in Photos

A photographic look at the Obama Inauguration, in the US and throughout the world--courtesy of The Boston Globe.

See them all below:


Friday, January 16, 2009

9 Ways to Talk to Cuba

"If Barack Obama and Raúl Castro sat down for negotiations, what could they talk about?" That was the question posed by the Center for Democracy in the Americas in a report released this week titled “9 Ways for US to Talk to Cuba and for Cuba to Talk to US.” For over sixty years the relationship between successive American administrations and the small island have gone from dismal to extremely dismal. Ignoring repeated pleas from the UN, the US keeps a stifling embargo on Cuba and refuses engagement with its leaders. President-elect Barack Obama however during his campaign signaled this could change, promising that his administration would be willing to sit down with its enemies. Putting aside the question on whether Cuba and the US are enemies, this has given many--from moderates in Florida to those in Havana--a glimmer of hope. Drawing on essays by a team of experts in varied fields, the report details 9 practical ways Cuba and the US can cooperate in military affairs, migration, energy, trade, academic exchange and other fields. The authors of the report envision a future relationship where Cuba can not only benefit from the US, but where the US can learn a few lessons from its smaller neighbor.

For full report, visit the Center for Democracy in the Americas or download the PDF file here.

Praise for the report:

“Cuba ceased being a security threat to the United States over a decade ago. The rest of the world has changed during that decade. Yet, U.S. policymakers remain wedded to a series of dated policies that cry out for a fresh approach. This report offers concrete ideas which could yield benefits to both sides of the Florida Straits and help bring a close to sixty years of distrust and animosity.”

John J. “Jack” Sheehan is a retired United States Marine Corps general. He was Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic for NATO and Commander-in-Chief for the U.S. Atlantic Command (1994-1997)

“This 9 Ways report is a road map for not just ending the embargo but also for engaging the Cuban people, sending a hopeful signal to Latin America, and showing the world that this White House is under new management. This is exactly the kind of change we elected Barack Obama to make.”

Donna Brazile- Political strategist, adjunct professor, author, and syndicated columnist


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bush, Bushisms and Buffoonery

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

Thus starts off what Jacob Weisberg at SLATE deems The top 25 Bushisms of all time. As part of a farewell to the 43rd Commander in Chief, Weisberg has selected 25 of the most bizarre utterances to have come out of the soon-to-be-former occupant of the White House. Given the sheer number to choose from, I am amazed he was able to narrow it down to under 30. Not wanting to be accused of sipping the hater-ade however, Weisberg is certain to distance himself from Bush-bashing:

People often assume that because I've spent the past nine years collecting Bushisms, I must despise George W. Bush. To the contrary, Bushisms fill me with affection for the man....I find the Bush who flails with words, unlike the Bush who flails with policy, to be an endearing character. Instead of a villain, he makes himself into an irresistible buffoon, like Mrs. Malaprop, Archie Bunker, or Homer Simpson.

Yes... only unlike those mythical figures, this "irresistible buffoon" managed to wreak havoc on the lives of some 28 million Iraqis, tens of thousands of American soldiers, unknown numbers of tortued and "rendered" individuals and as yet underdetermined swaths of the global community. Reducing dislike of Bush down to a personal ability to "despise" him seems to miss the point. And buying into the affable clown ignores the real life horrors unleashed in the name of this "irresistible buffoon."

Probably Weisberg best captures this dark comedy with his final words:

Being able to laugh at yourself is a rare quality in a leader. It's one thing George W. Bush can do that Bill Clinton couldn't. Unfortunately, as we bid farewell to Bushisms, we must conclude that the joke was mainly on us.


Full article here. See the 25 Bushisms below...

The top 25 Bushisms of all time.

1. "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

2. "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family."—Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000

3. "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"—Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

4. "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."—Poplar Bluff, Mo., Sept. 6, 2004

5. "Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican."—declining to answer reporters' questions at the Summit of the Americas, Quebec City, Canada, April 21, 2001

6. "You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.''—Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001

7. "I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."—Washington, D.C., April 18, 2006

8. "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."—Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

9. "I've heard he's been called Bush's poodle. He's bigger than that."—discussing former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as quoted by the Sun newspaper, June 27, 2007

10. "And so, General, I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us in Iraq."—meeting with Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Washington, D.C., March 3, 2008

11. "We ought to make the pie higher."—South Carolina Republican debate, Feb. 15, 2000

12. "There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."—Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

13. "And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."—speaking on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007

14. "We'll let our friends be the peacekeepers and the great country called America will be the pacemakers."—Houston, Sept. 6, 2000

15. "It's important for us to explain to our nation that life is important. It's not only life of babies, but it's life of children living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet."—Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000

16. "One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures."—U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 3, 2000

17. "People say, 'How can I help on this war against terror? How can I fight evil?' You can do so by mentoring a child; by going into a shut-in's house and say I love you."—Washington, D.C., Sept. 19, 2002

18. "Well, I think if you say you're going to do something and don't do it, that's trustworthiness."—CNN online chat, Aug. 30, 2000

19. "I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep on the soil of a friend."—on the prospect of visiting Denmark, Washington, D.C., June 29, 2005

20. "I think it's really important for this great state of baseball to reach out to people of all walks of life to make sure that the sport is inclusive. The best way to do it is to convince little kids how to—the beauty of playing baseball."—Washington, D.C., Feb. 13, 2006

21. "Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream."—LaCrosse, Wis., Oct. 18, 2000

22. "You know, when I campaigned here in 2000, I said, I want to be a war president. No president wants to be a war president, but I am one."—Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 26, 2006

23. "There's a huge trust. I see it all the time when people come up to me and say, 'I don't want you to let me down again.' "—Boston, Oct. 3, 2000

24. "They misunderestimated me."—Bentonville, Ark., Nov. 6, 2000

25. "I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office."—Washington, D.C., May 12, 2008


Monday, January 12, 2009

Bush Wacky

Is this guy for real?

In his last press conference the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush, gave a performance that ranged from defensive to clueless, underscoring just how out of touch both he and his adminstration have been with reality. From the debacle that is the ongoing Iraq saga to the spectacle that was Katrina, Bush 43 defended a legacy that only he and his most stridently right-wing supporters would dare call anything less than disastrous. Stunned reporters listened, laughed awkwardly and recorded this gem for the history books. Sadly, none of them had the courage or outright temerity to remove a shoe and hurl it at him.

Highlights from the press conference, and my own witty commentary, below.

On the ongoing Israeli Assault on Gaza that has thus far killed some 900 Palestinians and wounded thousands more, most of them civilians:

The challenge, of course, has been to lay out the conditions so that a peaceful state can emerge. In other words, helping the Palestinians in the West Bank develop security forces, which we have worked hard to do over the past years....The challenge is to develop -- help the Palestinians develop a democracy -- I mean -- and a vibrant economy in their -- that will help lead to democracy. And the challenge, of course, is always complicated by the fact that people are willing to murder to stop the advance of freedom. And so, the -- Hamas or, for that matter, Al Qaida or other extremist groups, are willing to use violence to prevent free states from emerging. And that's the big challenge.

Well actually the Palestinians did manage a democracy, in which they elected Hamas. Since that wasn't the democracy you, or the EU or Israel wanted, you decided to scrap democracy and back the group that lost--Fatah. You then went on to supply Fatah with weapons and money and worked to *destabilize* the democratically elected Hamas government instead of talking to moderates within the organization and bringing them to the table. As for the Israelis, they don't seem to ever have to make any concessions, and violates UN resolutions with impunity. As for al-Qaida, they have nothing to do with the Palestinians or Hamas, as intelligence officials are well aware. However, images of hundreds of Gazans--including children--buried under the rubble caused by Israeli bombs (paid for by US tax dollars) is the best recruiting tool Osama bin Laden could have wished for.

On Iraq

...when the history of Iraq is written, historians will analyze, for example, the decision on the surge. The situation was -- looked like it was going fine, and then violence for a period of time began to throw -- throw the progress of Iraq into doubt. And rather than accepting the status quo and saying, "Oh, it's not worth it," or "The politics makes it difficult," or, you know, "The party may end up being -- you know, not doing well in the elections because of the violence in Iraq," I decided to do something about it and sent 30,000 troops in as opposed to withdrawing. And so that part of history is certain, and the situation did change. Now the question is, in the long-run, will this democracy survive? And that's going to be the challenge for future presidents.

As then presidential nominee Barack Obama reminded John McCain, the Iraq war didn't start with "the surge." And there wouldn't have been a need for "the surge" if there had been no war--which most analysts now agree need not have taken place. Contrary to this hindsight idea of "will this democracy survive," the Iraq war wasn't sold as having to do with democracy, but finding WMDs. Remember? Besides, contrary to popular myth, the success of "the surge" is at most illusionary. Violence has dropped in Iraq because former insurgents were paid off by US military officials, and many neighborhoods in the midst of civil war have been ethnically cleansed. In the long-run, for the millions of Iraqis left in this war's tragic wake, it will not simply be a matter of "will this democracy survive" but whether their broken country can mend itself.

On how he made policy.

And -- and in times of war, people get emotional. I understand that. I've never really, you know, spent that much time, frankly, worrying about the loud voices. I, of course, hear them. But they didn't affect my policy, nor did they affect -- they affect how I made decisions.

Well that one just speaks for itself. No comment...

On possible mistakes.

Look, I have often said that history will look back and determine that which could have been done better or, you know, mistakes I made. Clearly, putting a "mission accomplished" on a (sic) aircraft carrier was a mistake. It sent the wrong message. We were trying to say something differently, but, nevertheless, it conveyed a different message. Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake.

So... the banner was your sole mistake? Not the war built on a false threat of WMDs that took some 4,000+ American lives, wounded tens of thousands of others, has led (directly or indirectly) to perhaps 1 million dead Iraqis, displaced some 4 million more, has cost some $588 billion (and counting), sanctioning torture, carrying out "rendition," circumventing the Constitution, refusing to admit a failed economy or any of the 100 other matters---just a sign.

On Katrina.

I've thought long and hard about Katrina; you know, could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge. The problem with that and -- is that law enforcement would have been pulled away from the mission.... You know, people said, "Well, the federal response was slow....Don't tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed...That's a pretty quick response. Could things have been done better? Absolutely. Absolutely. But when I hear people say the federal response was slow, then what are they going to say to those chopper drivers or the 30,000 that got pulled off the roofs?

Stunning. What can be said about this that hasn't already been said? Just stunning.

That's about all I can presently stomach. Anyone with a stronger constitution, see the full transcript and video.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

US Rejected Israeli Request to Attack Iran--Thrice

So it would seem in the question of which set of neocons are more sane--those in Tel Aviv or the ones on Pennsylvania Ave--the latter has won out. The NY Times is reporting that in at least three known incidents, the Bush administration denied Israeli pleas to launch a military attack on Iran. More below.

According to a NY Times article, "President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex." As US officials tell it, the Israelis--lacking the US weapons needed to attack Iran's underground complexes--"backed off their plans, at least temporarily." What was it then that stopped the US from agreeing to the Israeli plans? It seems, in a rare bit of good sense and judgment, the Bush administration actually decided that Israel's plan would be--*reckless.*

As cited by the Times,

The interviews also indicate that Mr. Bush was convinced by top administration officials, led by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, that any overt attack on Iran would probably prove ineffective, lead to the expulsion of international inspectors and drive Iran’s nuclear effort further out of view. Mr. Bush and his aides also discussed the possibility that an airstrike could ignite a broad Middle East war in which America’s 140,000 troops in Iraq would inevitably become involved.

More interesting, it turns out that one of the key reasons the Bush administration began backing away from any outright attack on Iran had to do with that pesky NIE report released in Dec. 2007. According to the National Intelligence Estimate, Iran had in fact stopped its attempts at building a nuclear bomb as far back as 2003.

Officials stated that "the Israelis responded angrily and rebutted the American report," providing their own evidence of Iran working on a nuclear weapon. The Bush administration reacted to their own NIE report with similar scoffing. Secretary Robert Gates, the very one kept on by the Obama administration, was "highly critical" of the NIE report. Gates stated the NIE had "presented the evidence poorly, underemphasizing the importance of Iran’s enrichment activity and overemphasizing the suspension of a weapons-design effort that could easily be turned back on." In other words, Gates was laying the ground for the ideology of pre-emption--in which intelligence should be used to predict worst case scenarios rather than current reality. Nevertheless, the much ballyhooed NIE still seemed to be enough to put a speed bump in any Iran attack plans.

The undaunted Israelis however, intent on remaining the only undeclared nuclear power in the neighborhood, was insistent however on attacking Iran. On two occassions in early 2008, they made requests for weapons and other aid from the US in order to strike Iran. And, in what was called "alarming" to US officials, they wanted to do it via Iraq.

In an unmitigated bit of chutzpah, the Israelis asked the US to allow its bombing run on Iran to take place by overflights through Iraq. "Mr. Bush deflected the first two requests, pushing the issue off," the NY Times said, citing a US official, "but 'we said 'hell no’ to the overflights." Concerned that the uproar in Iraq over such a military operation could turn the country into a cauldron of discontent, the Bush administration rebuffed the Israelis. Disagreement over Iran even led some to worry that tensions could arise between the two allies.

As a White House official told the Times, Israeli intentions on striking Iran via Iraq "really spooked a lot of people." White House officials openly fretted that the Israelis might fly over Iraq without American permission. Some pondered whether American military would be ordered to shoot them down or be accused of being complicit in an attack on Iran.

In order to pacify the Israelis, the Times states the US settled on starting up a covert operation meant to deter Iranian attempts at nuclear enrichment. As stated by the Times, this operation, mostly involving sabotage, is "aimed at the entire industrial infrastructure that supports the Iranian nuclear program."

Thus far the Israelis have determined that without US help they cannot carry out an attack on Iran. However, as the Israelis press a popular "war" in Gaza and flex their muscle, whether the next administration can keep the most powerful military in the Middle East from sparking a regional conflict remains to be seen.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Skewed Priorities

Think you're hit hard by the current economic meltdown? Those across the globe, suffering under neoliberal trade policies, IMF/World Bank "restructuring," and soaring food prices are welcoming us to the party. Not surprisingly, as bailouts in astronomical figures are thrown about by elites at home and abroad to rescue the global financial sector, the worst-off among us get nothing. A recent report by the Institute for Policy Studies finds that "the approximately $4.1 trillion that the United States and European governments have committed to rescue financial firms is 40 times the money they’re spending to fight climate and poverty crises in the developing world." Seeing as how the West is directly implicated as a causative agent in these countries' climate and poverty crises, such funding would hardly be charity.

Link to full report here.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Möbius Strip Issue

Möbius Strip: a surface with only one side and only one boundary component.

In our one-sided political and media culture, it's hard to get an objective side to any dealings between Israel and the Palestinians--much less the Palestinian side. Whether Republican or Democrat, liberal-leaning or conservative, politicians and pundits have come out in force for Israel's attack on Gaza, co-signing onto a policy that has left hundreds dead while hiding behind a pretense of self-defense. It is a shameful hypocrisy that is so blatantly obvious, one has to believe we are watching theatre instead of reality--because no one can possibly be that obtuse. As often of late in these times, the sane voice has come not from journalists or those we elect to office, but from a biting, humorous, half-hour satire known as The Daily Show.

In what some have called "brilliant" or "brave" and downright "ballsy," host Jon Stewart manages to raise valid questions not only on current Israeli policy, but calls to task a media and political class that reduces a complex topic into "the Möbius Strip of Issues."