Category Archives: Fred Kagan:an idiot running a war

Yes, we are now helping the Iran-supported militias in Iraq

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There is one group of Iraqi Shiite militia that is given some support from Iran: formerly referred to as SCIRI, they are now called ISCI. The US, which regularly exaggerates Iran’s role in Iraq, is now helping this Iran-supported group to fight the Iraqi Shiite militias led by al-Sadr, who wants the US and Iran out of Iraq.

Are we clear? Bush’s BS about Iraq has always been self-contradictory.  What the US wants under Bush (and McCain) is permanent occupation and dominance over Iraq. It’s all about the oil for Bush/Cheney and their fatcat oil baron friends and donors.  The one force (al-Sadr) that wants independence for Iraq is Bush’s worst enemy. How long can this smoke and mirrors fool the American public?

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Juan Cole on Steven King and Barack Obama

One of Cole’s best ever.

Congressman Steven King of Iowa, who has decided to further disgrace Congress by seeking a fifth term there, delivered himself of the sort of bigotted and ignorant comments about Barack Obama that we have come to expect from the rightwing Republicans who have made such a mess of our economy and of the world…..

Judge for yourself on what grounds Vural Cengiz, head of the Turkish-American Businessmen’s Union thinks Obama would be “good for Turkey” (a NATO ally of the United States and part of King’s ‘world of Islam.’):

“Barack Obama can be the leader that the world is looking for. He can put a new list of criteria to judge what is good and bad for American people. He can stop the hate wars between Muslims and Christians by promoting peace and helping the communities in need. He can be the one to stop dropping the bombs and start sending the doctors, food and clothing as well as capital to create more jobs, to build more hospitals and schools all over the world. . .

Turks do not have high hopes about the future as long as American politics in Iraq continue as usual. Help in the war against the terrorist PKK (the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party) from United States in the last two months gave some hope to many Turks about the United States. However, Turks will not feel friendly to the US as long as they don’t feel that America’s Iraq politics is completely changed. And it looks like only Obama can change it. . .

Barack Obama is an African-American. He knows suffering, hunger and danger much better than Senator Clinton. He is not a rich man. He understands the issues of poor and middle-class families. He also understands poor and middle-class nations. Turkey stands right there. He is good for Turks, as well as the rest of the world…”

So from Cengiz’s point of view, it is Bush who is promoting terrorism (because his Iraqi-Kurdish allies coddle the Kurdish Workers Party terrorist group, which has been sneaking over to Turkey from Iraq and killing Turks), and it is Obama who might stop the bombings.

King again:

‘ He continued: “There are implications that have to do with who he is and the position that he’s taken. If he were strong on national defense and said ‘I’m going to go over there and we’re going to fight and we’re going to win, we’ll come home with a victory,’ that’s different. But that’s not what he said. They will be dancing in the streets if he’s elected president. That has a chilling aspect on how difficult it will be to ever win this Global War on Terror.” ‘

Oh, it seems pretty obvious that the “global war on terror” could be much more easily won if we stop being mired in a quagmire in Iraq, stop operating a machine for producing terrorists, stop spending trillions on Bush’s buddies in the military-industrial complex, and instead do some good police work in finishing off al-Qaeda.

You see, when King gets away from name-calling, racism, and guilt by association and actually tries to make a substantive point, the bankruptcy of his arguments becomes amply apparent.

People like King have run this country since 1994. I say they are dinosaurs. I say that November 2008 will be to them as the Chicxulub meteor was to the original dinosaurs. I say that the dark age of bigotry and fear-mongering and tyranny will pass.

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Guns or butter? Bombs or healthcare? participatory democracy or plutocracy/fascism?

Washington Post talks about Clinton and Obama tying the economy to the war in Iraq.

That is getting close to what this election is about. This election is fundamentally about the survival of this nation as a good place to live and as a positive force in the world.

There are two directions we can go. The first is the Bush/McCain way. We can allow entrenched multinational corporations to run our country in the best interest of their short term profits. This will involve using our tax dollars to maintain our control of the world and its resources by military might, and we will press on with fossil based fuels that we will try to steal from others. This will require enormous military expenditures, and a virtual fascist state. The world will be our enemy, and we will be perpetually at war. This will entail loss of our freedoms and civil rights, domestic spying, racial and religious intolerance, and turning away from transparency, and from intellectual and scientific pursuits. History and reality will be defined by the ruling class.

Our citizens will do without healthcare coverage, and major illnesses will result in bankrupcy for all but the wealthy.  Our country will eventually go bankrupt, our currency will be worthless, and social security will vanish. We will do nothing to mitigate global warming.

Our citizens are already fed up with the corruption and sleazy politics, and our young people are turned off by, and to, the democratic process. Election of John McCain will further entrench those attitudes.

The other way is to elect someone who represents and gives hope to young people, who will go to the polls, who will demand some say in their future, who will demand that their tax dollars buy something useful, like universal healthcare. This way sees the rest of the world as a partner, not a slave or a colony. This way sees change as necessary, and will put money into generating new solutions, rather than holding on to the fossil fuels of the past and present. This approach will revitalize our economy. This is the way (we hope) Barack Obama can lead us. Some fear that he has not had enough experience. What presidents in the past have had “enough” experience? Lincoln? FDR? Teddy Roosevelt? Kennedy? Reagan? By the time you get a candidate with “enough” experience, they are in their sixties, and unable to inspire and lead those to whom the country really belongs.

Barack Obama has a record as an intelligent and responsible leader, and is an inspiring person. He connects with the young; he can bring them into the process. He is the hope of this country and, I dare say, the world. It took me a while to figure out what Obama’s message was about…it seemed like empty rhetoric…but now I get it.  This is about mobilizing our people, and taking back our country.  It’s leadership. Hillary Clinton is not the person who can do this. She represents the aspirations of millions of women, but she just can’t inspire large numbers of people to enter the system. Perhaps that is sad. Already she has become a less admirable figure, because of the lies and slurs she has employed in the campaign.  She cannot bring more people into the process and she cannot win against John McCain, even if she were to defeat Obama for the nomination by sleazy tactics.

It seems ironic that Texas would be the state that can decide the issue. A year ago, who would have expect that an African American could win a primary there? No one who has ever lived there, I can tell you that. But let’s see if it happens. It would be a powerful statement.

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British will release minutes of 2003 Iraq war discussions

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“There is a widespread view that the justification for the decision on military action in Iraq is either not fully understood or that the public were not given the full or genuine reasons for that decision,” Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said in his ruling on a request made under the British version of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Cabinet Office had argued to him that public disclosure of minutes would inhibit free and candid debate about sensitive issues in future cabinet sessions.

Thomas, who was allowed to inspect the minutes as part of his deliberations, said that while he respected the government’s position, “arguments for the withholding of the information are outweighed by the public interest in its disclosure.”

Wow, So that’s how they do it in a democracy. Simply amazing. Just think, there actually was a day when we had the democracy on this side of the pond and Britain had the king. (or, was that a dream?)

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Iraq war cost: THREE TRILLION; dragging down US economy

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THE Iraq war has cost the US 50-60 times more than the Bush administration predicted and was a central cause of the sub-prime banking crisis threatening the world economy, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

The former World Bank vice-president yesterday said the war had, so far, cost the US something like $US3trillion ($3.3 trillion) compared with the $US50-$US60-billion predicted in 2003.

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Professor Stiglitz told the Chatham House think tank in London that the Bush White House was currently estimating the cost of the war at about $US500 billion, but that figure massively understated things such as the medical and welfare costs of US military servicemen.

The war was now the second-most expensive in US history after World War II and the second-longest after Vietnam, he said.

The spending on Iraq was a hidden cause of the current credit crunch because the US central bank responded to the massive financial drain of the war by flooding the American economy with cheap credit.

“The regulators were looking the other way and money was being lent to anybody this side of a life-support system,” he said.

That led to a housing bubble and a consumption boom, and the fallout was plunging the US economy into recession and saddling the next US president with the biggest budget deficit in history, he said.


The money being spent on the war each week would be enough to wipe out illiteracy around the world, he said.

Just a few days’ funding would be enough to provide health insurance for US children who were not covered, he said.

The public had been encouraged by the White House to ignore the costs of the war because of the belief that the war would somehow pay for itself or be paid for by Iraqi oil or US allies.

“When the Bush administration went to war in Iraq it obviously didn’t focus very much on the cost. Larry Lindsey, the chief economic adviser, said the cost was going to be between $US100billion and $US200 billion – and for that slight moment of quasi-honesty he was fired.

“(Then defence secretary Donald) Rumsfeld responded and said ‘baloney’, and the number the administration came up with was $US50 to $US60 billion. We have calculated that the cost was more like $US3 trillion.

“Three trillion is a very conservative number, the true costs are likely to be much larger than that.”

Five years after the war, the US was still spending about $US50billion every three months on direct military costs, he said.

Professor Stiglitz and another Clinton administration economist, Linda Bilmes, have produced a book, The Three Trillion Dollar War, pulling together their research on the true cost of the war, which does not include the cost to Iraq.

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“A Victory of the Better America?”

You really should read this; the best piece of writing I’ve seen on the Clinton/Obama race.

Andrew Arato, Dorothy Hart Hirshon Professor of Political and Social Theory, The New School for Social Research, New York

Is it possible? At least we have found a likely leader. The Battle of the Potomac is over. Despite the name that resembles the bloody exchanges of the Civil War, the mini civil war of the U.S. Democrats will hopefully not last very long. I am watching Obama’s victory speech from Madison, Wisconsin, a famous left wing university town. It is his best yet, combining the thoroughness of Harvard Law School and the emotional fervor of the Black Protestant church. Because McCain wants to stay in Iraq a hundred years, we should not give him four years…..The post-imperial candidate laid down his markers. The students (and myself even more) loved what we heard, expressed so clearly and so eloquently. Is it possible for an imperial Republic, after the failure of Athens and Rome, , for the second time in history after the lone British case, to willingly divest itself of a significant part of its imperial possessions that have become so dangerous for what makes the republican core still great? Yes we can is the Obama slogan, even if coined not exactly for the project that I have in mind. His personality and foreign policy ideas fortunately embody it. He was always against the Iraq war. He wants comprehensive negotiations with all regional powers of the Middle East. He wants to withdraw from Iraq relatively rapidly. But, and it is a big but, despite a series of successful battles, he has not yet won. Not yet against Clinton, and more importantly not yet against the other America, against McCain.

If Clinton loses it is not because she is a woman. In the Democratic Party that fact is rather a plus, ideologically and also because there are more women voters and more woman Democrats. It is because she is a woman, that she is still a serious contender in the race. She is losing instead, aside from Obama’s own strengths, because of her unforgivable two votes on the Iraq War in 2002 that already cost John Kerry (now an Obama supporter) the presidency. Making things worse, she still defends not only her positive vote on the Authorization of the Use of Force, but also the negative one on the Levin Amendment that would have required that the U.S. President go to the UN Security Council first, and, in case failure to get Chapter VII authorization under the Charter, to go back to Congress for explicit authorization to go to war. While in case of the Authorization itself, Clinton now says that knowing everything she knows today (i.e. that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Bush would abuse the authorization) she would have voted no, she does not say why it was right to trust this particular President and his circle at all, given all the planning for war. But in the case of the Levin Amendment the issue is even more serious. The proposal was eminently sensible as well as deeply constitutional. It is Congress’ constitutional power to declare war. This power cannot be delegated, because it is given by the constituent power. The only possible exception is a Chapter VII war, where under a binding international treaty signed by the U.S. the Security Council is the source of the authorization. This is what happened in the Korean War; the first time the Congressional right to Declare was seriously bypassed. Recently Congressional declarations have been replaced by Authorizations that however do not leave it up to the president to decide whether to go to war or not, as did the Iraq authorization in question. The aim of the Levin Amendment was to replace a “blank check” authorization, clearly unconstitutional, by the choice: either authorization by the Security Council or a more specific, Congressional re-authorization. It is this choice that Hillary Clinton still repeatedly represents in speeches, quite wrongly, as surrendering the powers of the United States to the United Nations. In reality however, she like Bush, wishes to keep the presidential prerogative free of both international and constitutional restraints.

We have seen the consequence of such a liberation from both types of law in Iraq, in Guantanamo, and all places where extraordinary rendition, kidnappings, torture, and detentions without due process have been practiced by U.S. authorities. Hillary Clinton may be an opponent of all that, but she does not attack the problem at its roots even if she goes further than McCain in the one and only case of Iraq. The empire is not only Iraq, and presidential power in an imperial setting would remain a danger also after an Iraqi withdrawal, assuming she would carry it out. As the famous colonel in the film Battle of Algiers said to the assembled French journalists: if you want an Algerie Francaise, you must put up with all that. If you want to protect the American empire as is . . . if you are unwilling to negotiate with all our adversaries without pre-conditions that is of course the pre-condition of orderly withdrawal…then you must put up with the means necessary to protect it. Clinton’s positions on negotiations with Iran indicate that she has not yet learned much from the past, indeed from the war in Iraq itself. And McCain is one of the most aggressive American politicians with respect to both continuing the war in Iraq and risking a new one with Iran. Only Obama, not Clinton, nor McCain in spite of his loud verbal opposition to torture is ready to do what it would take to end the situation in which there is any kind of imperial rationale (however mistaken technically) for torture. Obama (tutored here by Zbigniew Brzezinski) is the only realist among the three candidates still standing, in spite of his soaring rhetoric.

All polls currently indicate that the great majority of the country is with Obama on questions of foreign policy, and has been for two or more years, though they may not yet correctly identify his views on all the issues. But given the threat of recession, the issue of external affairs retreated behind that of the economy. In general this would be an advantage to the Democrats. It is also to Hillary Clinton’s advantage, because of the superior track record of the Clinton administration, her own obvious competence, and better thought out position on very much needed health care reform – where she is an expert paradoxically enough because of her dramatic failure in 1993, that led to the so-called “Republican Revolution in 1994. The Obama idea of “change” has to do mostly with the large issue of identity and foreign policy posture in the world, while Clinton’s slogan experience refers to her managerial abilities in the domestic sphere where there is very little difference between the two equally liberal (in the American sense = social liberal) Democratic candidates. In spite of small, probably tactical differences, they both have dramatic health care reform as the centerpiece of their social program, and they would both pay for it the same way, by refusing to make the outrageous Bush tax cuts that produced huge deficits permanent for the wealthy. They are lucky, because unlike Kerry in 2004 they don’t have to promise to pass new legislation to finance health expenditures . . . all they have to do is the much easier thing, namely to oppose new legislation to make reduction of governmental resources permanent. This will still be called raising taxes by the Republicans; but the stress will be on rescinding tax cuts to the wealthy! In any case, the Democratic electorate is asked to decide whether the more experienced but more polarizing Clinton, or the more novice Obama who is willing to work with Republicans is likely to accomplish a similar domestic agenda. And we still do not know how they will decide this question.

So far, before the three Potomac Primaries, the young, the educated, men and most dramatically blacks were with Obama, older voters, the less well educated, women, and Hispanic-Americans were with Clinton. Obama could win the majority of whites in caucus states where the politically active vote in a kind of township meeting setting that suggests participatory democracy, and where the young and the educated have an advantage. Clinton won the whites in the primary states, where normal elections with secret ballots take place, the form also favoring the Brady (a former losing black Mayor candidate in Los Angeles) effect: the voter tells the pollster that he or she votes for the black but does not do so under the veil of secrecy. This was probably the reason for the huge discrepancy between polls and results in New Hamphshire and California, lost by Obama. Now in Virginia and Maryland, two primary states, the white vote was evenly split and there was no Brady effect! (There may be now a Haile Berry effect, still racist of course: “she is the one black that I would marry”). Admittedly there is also Hillary hatred, but this is measured by the polls; since we still allow substitute languages for misogyny but not for racism: as “she is so aggressive” or “she is such a know it all”. It seems however that her collapse in Virginia and Maryland where she is liked and where she used to be leading is due simply to the rise of Obama.

Obama will most likely take Wisconsin, powered by the young and the educated. Then the big three hurdles will be Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. If his current momentum is real he may take all three or two out of three. If he takes both Ohio and Texas on March 4, or one of them and later Pensylvania he has won, and the so-called super delegates will have to fall into line with Carter, Gore and Pelosi leading the pack. If Clinton takes all three she will win, narrowly perhaps depending on the size of her win in proportional elections, to the tremendous disappointment of Obama’s young army, and the super-delegates whose majority is now with her will also fall into line. She would do well in that case to offer the vice-presidency to Obama in a convincing manner, if she wants to win against McCain. If Obama wins only one of the three, and is narrowly ahead, the super-delegates may still want to decide for Clinton. There may even be attempts to illegitimately give Clinton the delegates from the Florida and Michigan primaries where Obama chose not to compete on the orders of the DNC. In either case, in August we will have riots in Denver, the site of the Democratic Convention, that will resemble the siege of Chicago in 1968, and with Clinton playing the role of Hubert Humphrey the Democrats will go on to lose the election. So if Obama has a narrow majority in the end, the party leaders better quickly shift to him and manage some deal. Their choice will be also motivated by electability (that does not = Hillary hatred, pace Stanley Fish!) as an issue, namely the legitmate concern regarding who does better against McCain in the polls. Today it clearly seems to be Obama, but how much of a Bradley effect is hiding in the numbers? Noone knows. Clinton however is more vulnerable on the question of Iraq, exactly like Kerry was, than is Obama with his far greater consistency on the issue.

The electoral results will in any case be all important. Conventionally two things are said: First, that the one with momentum wins and that is now Obama, and, second, the one who can break through his or her prior demographic constraints wins, and that is Obama too, though only marginally. Clinton cannot hope to get the young, or the blacks or the educated to vote against Obama. But in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas she may not have to. If she can continue to get huge majorities among white women, the less educated, and among Hispanic Americans that may be enough. It is Obama who needs to break through his previous demographics, and he has not yet done so enough. Whether the momentum will do it for him remains to be seen.

If he does make it, the Democrats, unlike last time, will have a great convention, one for all the ages. And then debates will be incredibly exciting. McCain already admitted he knows little about the economy and economics, but has read Alan Greenspan’s book. Now that two bubbles (finance and real estate) Greenspan helped to create have burst, that should not be enough. Flip-flopping on taxes (first I was against them as unfair and unwise, before I was for making them permanent) and staying in Iraq permanently will not go over well in the debates with a clever lawyer like Obama. Just one issue remains for McCain: that of commander in chief in wartime, if we are willing to forget that we should not be in any war at all. And here McCain with his military experience looks more like such a figure, however wrong his policies! Obama will undoubtedly show that staying in Iraq even 5 and not 10 or 100 years makes the United States weaker in Afghanistan, weaker against the terrorists, less able to deal with new crises, more and more unpopular in the world and especially the Islamic world. What he then must be ready for is two things. To give a convincing answer to the question of how to withdraw from Iraq in a way that is not catastrophic for Iraq itself, and to deal with crises situations, external or internal, real or manufactured that probably will arise during the campaign, and do so in a very effective and presidential manner. He should be able to do these two things, but the other side that should have certainly lost in 2004 already cannot be underestimated.

We are not there yet. But it is already another country. I did not think I would say it so soon. After years of shame, I am proud of our democracy again. To nominate a very liberal black or a liberal woman, to force even the other America to choose someone with a human face, though largely the wrong policies that are not yet sufficiently known, is a clear repudiation of the politics of 2001-2008. The driving force behind all this is American civil society, and mostly the self-organizing young, and the gods of history have given us a perfect candidate to carry their message and their hope. The activists must not be disappointed by the eventual victory of McCain, or even Clinton. But the future is actually in their own hands. It is they who need to take their country back!

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New Harris Poll: 81% of Americans now negative; economy, war top issues

The new Harris Poll is coming out (no link yet) in advance of the State of the Union address, and it should be a guide to what our candidates and dKos should be doing to the Republicans and their leading candidate for president, John McCain: Tying the enablers to the Bush economy and the Bush war.
Overall, the Harris Poll found that 81% of Americans feel rate the current state of the country as “fair or poor.”

Four in five Americans (81%) say that plans to strengthen the economy are going poorly while just 16 percent say it is going well.
Three in five (61%) Americans think the war on terrorism, …is going poorly with just one-third (35%) saying it is going well.
The war in Iraq fares even worse, as two-thirds (66%) say that is going poorly.

The new Harris Poll comes on the heels of the recent Reuters/Zogby poll which found 48 percent of Americans expect a recession in the next year…and a growing majority of more than two-thirds think the United States is headed in the wrong direction.

If our presidential candidates could can spare the time from elbowing each other around, it’s time to take the Republican Bush enablers to the woodshed, and John “I don’t know anything about economics but let’s stay in Iraq for 100 years” McCain is certainly one of those.

Unfortunately, one of our three major candidates voted for the Authorization for the Use of Force in Iraq, the Patriot Act (twice) AND for the bankruptcy law. That is why John McCain can beat Clinton; she’s a Bush enabler, and McCain will hit her over the head with it through the whole campaign.

That is why I don’t think Clinton should be our nominee. She’s not what America wants.

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The story of the fake Iran speedboat report

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Senior Pentagon officials, evidently reflecting a broader administration policy decision, used an off-the-record Pentagon briefing to turn the January 6 US-Iranian incident in the Strait of Hormuz into a sensational story demonstrating Iran’s military aggressiveness, a reconstruction of the events following the incident shows.

The initial press stories on the incident, all of which can be traced to a briefing by deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in charge of media operations, Bryan Whitman, contained similar information that has since been repudiated by the navy itself.
hen the navy disseminated a short video into which was spliced the audio of a phone call warning that US warships would “explode” in “a few seconds”. Although it was ostensibly a navy production, Inter Press Service (IPS) has learned that the ultimate decision on its content was made by top officials of the Defense Department.

A Pentagon consultant who asked not to be identified told IPS he had spoken with officers who had experienced similar encounters with small Iranian boats throughout the 1990s, and that such incidents are “just not a major threat to the US Navy by any stretch of the imagination”.

With the reports from Fifth Fleet commander Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff in hand early that morning, top Pentagon officials had all day Sunday, January 6, to discuss what to do about the encounter in the Strait of Hormuz. The result was a decision to play it up as a major incident.

The decision came just as President George W Bush was about to leave on a Middle East trip aimed in part at rallying Arab states to join the United States in an anti-Iran coalition.

At 9am, Barbara Starr of CNN reported that “military officials” had told her that the Iranian boats had not only carried out “threatening maneuvers”, but had transmitted a message by radio that “I am coming at you” and “you will explode”. She reported the dramatic news that the commander of one boat was “in the process of giving the order to shoot when they moved away”.

CBS News broadcast a similar story, adding the detail that the Iranian boats “dropped boxes that could have been filled with explosives into the water”. Other news outlets carried almost identical accounts of the incident.

The source of this spate of stories can now be identified as Bryan Whitman, the top Pentagon official in charge of media relations, who gave a press briefing for Pentagon correspondents that morning. Although Whitman did offer a few remarks on the record, most of the Whitman briefing was off the record, meaning that he could not be cited as the source.

In an apparent slip-up, however, an Associated Press story that morning cited Whitman as the source for the statement that US ships were about to fire when the Iranian boats turned and moved away – a part of the story that other correspondents had attributed to an unnamed Pentagon official.

On January 9, the US Navy released excerpts of a video of the incident in which a strange voice – one that was clearly very different from the voice of the Iranian officer who calls the US ship in the Iranian video – appears to threaten the US warships.

A separate audio recording of that voice, which came across the VHS channel open to anyone with access to it, was spliced into a video on which the voice apparently could not be heard. That was a political decision, and Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros of the Pentagon’s Public Affairs Office told IPS the decision on what to include in the video was “a collaborative effort of leadership here, the Central Command and navy leadership in the field”.

“Leadership here”, of course, refers to the secretary of defense and other top policymakers at the department. An official in the US Navy Office of Information in Washington, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that decision was made in the office of the secretary of defense.

That decision involved a high risk of getting caught in an obvious attempt to mislead. As an official at Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain told IPS, it is common knowledge among officers there that hecklers – often referred to as “Filipino Monkey” – frequently intervene on the VHF ship-to-ship channel to make threats or rude comments.

By January 11, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was already disavowing the story that Whitman had been instrumental in creating only four days earlier. “No one in the military has said that the transmission emanated from those boats,” said Morrell.

The other elements of the story given to Pentagon correspondents were also discredited. The commanding officer of the guided missile cruiser Port Royal, Captain David Adler, dismissed the Pentagon’s story that he had felt threatened by the dropping of white boxes in the water. Meeting with reporters on Monday, Adler said, “I saw them float by. They didn’t look threatening to me.”

The naval commanders seemed most determined, however, to scotch the idea that they had been close to firing on the Iranians. Cosgriff, the commander of the Fifth Fleet, denied the story in a press briefing on January 7. A week later, Commander Jeffery James, commander of the destroyer Hopper, told reporters that the Iranians had moved away “before we got to the point where we needed to open fire”.

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Sunni “Awakening” forces in Iraq: just another sectarian militia

From Dahr Jamail:

The newly formed ‘Awakening’ forces set up by the U.S. military are bringing new conflict among people.

For months now the U.S. military has been actively building what it calls ‘Awakening’ forces and “concerned local citizens” in an effort to reduce attacks on occupation forces.

Members of the forces, which comprise primarily former resistance fighters and tribal groups, are paid 300 dollars monthly. There are at present about 80,000 recruits to these groups. The U.S. military plans to cap the number at 85,000.

According to the U.S. military, 82 percent of the members are Sunni.

The forces, which are opposed by the Iraqi government led by U.S.-appointed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, are also being strongly criticised by Sunni residents in Baghdad and other cities.

“The armed groups called ‘Awakening’ are now the only powerful players in many Sunni areas in Baghdad, and so they show their power the way others did,” Qussay al-Tai’i, a lawyer from Saydiya town southwest of Baghdad told IPS. “It seems that violence has become routine procedure for American soldiers, Iraqi security men and now the so-called Awakening fighters.”

Witnesses from the area who have recently fled to Baghdad told IPS that more than 200 residents have been arrested by Awakening fighters supported by the al-Muthanna battalion of the Iraqi army.

“They came and arrested my 14 and 17-year-old sons,” said Hajja Um Ahmed. “I told them my sons are only schoolboys who did nothing wrong, but they pushed me away.”

Saydiya residents are worried that some of the detainees will be executed as others were in Fallujah and other areas where ‘Awakening’ fighters have taken over.

“They will kill them in cold blood and throw their bodies in garbage dumps,” the terrified father of a 35-year-old detainee, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “They told my son when they took him that they would cut off his head, and it seems that they meant it.”

“They have spread their spies all over the area and threatened us with arrest if we ever talk about this to the press,” a merchant who did not give his name told IPS. “You too must be careful because they really hate journalists.”

The Sunni religious group, The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), has condemned the detentions, and says the occupation forces and the current government are responsible for the safety of the detained.

“We draw the world’s attention to the new wave of detentions and executions by this new toy of the occupation,” Sheikh Hatam Ali of the AMS told IPS in Baghdad. “Thousands of Iraqis are being detained, tortured and executed while the U.S. occupation and its illegitimate so-called Iraqi government tell the world lies about reconciliation and justice among Iraqis.” U.S. military units apparently did not interfere with raids conducted by the Iraqi army and the ‘Awakening’ fighters in Saydiya. The raids have added to the large numbers of people detained.

In November 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that around 60,000 people were currently detained in Iraq. “They are still waiting for their problem to be solved, and the Iraqi government does not seem willing to solve it,” Luqman Mohammad, a journalist and human rights activist in Baghdad told IPS. “This country needs a comprehensive solution by the whole international community.”

‘Awakening’ forces have been widely criticised for corruption and for brutal tactics. Many speak of them as “gangs”, “criminals”, “dogs of the Americans”, and “thieves.”

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Bill Kristol and the passing of the Peter Principle

Famously and consistently wrong pundit Bill Kristol, recently booted by TIME magazine, somehow gets a gig at the NY Times.

John Cole:

if the Peter Principle were true, George Bush and Bill Kristol would be the street-cleaner and dogcatcher in Crawford, Texas.

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