Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dems Need to Make The Case: Lieberman's A Right-Wing 'Proxy Candidate' for Rove/Cheney

Huffington Post
RJ Eskow
Dems Need to Make The Case: Lieberman's A Right-Wing 'Proxy Candidate' for Rove/Cheney

Joe Lieberman is the de facto Republican candidate in the CT Senate race. That much is clear. What's less obvious (especially to the pundits), is that he's become a member of that party's hard-right Dick Cheney wing, and that he's now fighting an ugly Rovian campaign on its behalf.

Those facts, if properly explained, are the key to a Lamont victory in November.
Awareness of Lieberman's extremism should dry up the support he holds among Democrats who still think he's a "moderate" - but only if other Democrats get the message out to them.

I tuned into a few minutes of "Left, Right, and Center" today, and heard the moderator ask Arianna a question whose premise was: "How does Ned Lamont win the Republican votes he'll need to win the election?" Arianna's response was to cite this piece by Bob Geiger, which lists those Democratic Senators unwilling to publicly support their own party's nominee.

The question missed the point entirely. Lamont doesn't need to win Republican votes. He needs to win all the Democratic votes, and to mobilize the Democratic base. If he does that in Democratic-leaning Connecticut, while persuading a few moderates, he'll win.

The problem of those wayward Senators and their endorsements will take care of itself, if Democrats communicate the true nature of Lieberman and his campaign.

I have some sympathy for these straying Senators. They face two problems. First, many of them live in swing states or Red states, where it's critical to their political health that they appear both moderate and non-partisan.

Second, they've done the math: they realize that, under certain scenarios, the presence of Lieberman as a voting Democrat might be their only chance to retake the Senate. (That's why I compared him to Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction, " in asking whether Lieberman's campaign has been a Rove operation all along.)

So what's the answer? Let's take the "Lieberman as swing vote" scenario first, since it's so much easier to bat down. The fact is, it ain't gonna happen. Here's why: This scenario means, by definition, that Lieberman's choice of party affiliation determines Senate control.

In such a high-stakes bidding war between Democrats and Republicans, the GOP - which controls the Executive and might well still control the House - would have much, much more to offer Lieberman. They will also have been instrumental in securing his victory. Democrats, give up. You don't have a chance.

There's another reason why Dems lose in this scenario, and it's the key to how they should conduct their campaign: Lieberman is now far closer to the Republican right on key issues, and is more 'extreme' than the moderates in either party. There's no doubt: Joe will dance with the ones that brought him. He likes their tune better, especially on the big issues.

(His waffling on Social Security shows that he'll change positions when it's expedient, too, so don't expect much "bipartisanship" from your new Republican. He'll need to thank his benefactors.)

And guess what? If Lieberman wins and his pals make him Defense Secretary (or give him another plum assignment), his replacement will be named by Connecticut's Governor ... a Republican.

With the National Republican Senatorial Committee's all-but-endorsement of his campaign, it's now pretty much official that he's conducting a GOP "proxy war" in Connecticut. The message needs to be: Joe Lieberman - along with his allies Dick Cheney and Karl Rove - is no "moderate." He's well to the right of Republican moderates, much less those other Democrats in the "Gang of 14."

Compare Lieberman's war stance with that of Chuck Hagel, and contrast his long-term advocacy of warrantless wiretapping with the positions taken by Sens. Snowe and Specter.

If Lieberman's more conservative than these Republican Senators, how can he be described as a "moderate Democrat" by any but the totally clueless?

Here's how Democrats can educate the voters on Lieberman's hard-right GOP stance in four simple sentences:

1. He supported the religious extremists when they tried to intervene in the Schiavo case - an action opposed by 70% of all Americans.
2. He wants more troops in Iraq, while 60-70% of Americans want an end to the war.
3. He doesn't support the Fourth Amendment. Period.
4. He's running a gutter campaign using sleazy tactics(1), with the active participation of the Rove/Cheney dirty-tricks gang.

That's the argument Lamont's supporters need to make. While Ned shares his positive vision with the voters, other Democrats need to hammer this message over and over again. Lamont doesn't need to win Republican votes. He needs to starve Lieberman of Democratic votes. Tepid endorsements from fellow Dems won't do: he needs fighters.

Removing the illusion that Joe is in any way "moderate" or "bipartisan" will also give these wavering Democratic Senators the cover they need to endorse the real Democrat in the race.

Dems could do other things to win the Connecticut race, too. They could take a cue from Republicans who flood Green candidates with money. Once Democratic donors have reached their limit with Ned, they should dig deep in their pockets and show some cash love to the "official" Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger. Even though the national GOP isn't supporting him, we can assume that every vote for Schlesinger is one less vote for Joe.

They could also make cheap, potentially unlawful, and entirely baseless allegations ... but, no. Leave that to Lieberman. The high road is the one that leads to victory in November.


(1) Here's a partial list of Lieberman's gutter tactics (so far - it's early in the campaign):

1. Accusing the Lamont campaign of hacking his website without proof.
2. The absurd "bear cub" ad, which made the false accusation that Lowell Weicker intitiated the Lamont campaign.
3. Statements from his Republican friends, including Cheney, that Lamont's victory pleased Al Qaeda. (note: Lieberman did not repudiate these statements.)
4. Accusations from his supporters that Jewish voters were disloyal Jews if they didn't vote for him. (Again, these are statements he didn't repudiate.)
5. Describing his opponents' supporters as "haters," "fascists," "Stalinists," etc.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Bush's Iraq Quagmire: "Lions Led By Donkeys"

Huffington Post
Walter C. Uhler
Bush's Iraq Quagmire: "Lions Led By Donkeys"

Three years ago, while visiting St, Petersburg, Russia, three Russian friends pointedly advised me that the Russian news media was having a field day with the stupidity of President Bush. Why? Because he not only mispronounced "Abu Ghraib" each of the three times he mentioned it during his nationally televised speech the previous evening, he also mispronounced it three different ways.

Which is why I'm curious to know what my Russian friends would say now, given the recent news that Mr. Bush didn't even know, until two months before his order to invade Iraq, that the country was largely populated by antagonistic Sunnis and Shias.

Unfortunately, we're talking about something more than a mere "bubble-boy" president, who "just doesn't get it." Rest assured, Mr. Bush infuses his appalling ignorance with self-righteous, in-your-face "attitude." One might call it "punk stupidity." And, beyond our more than 2,600 dead American soldiers, it's costing us dearly in Iraq.

Consider the evidence recently provided by journalist Tom Lasseter: "When L. Paul Bremmer, then the top U.S. representative in Iraq, appointed an Iraqi Governing Council in July 2003, insurgent attacks averaged 16 daily. When Saddam Hussein was captured that December, the average was 19. When Bremmer signed the hand-over of sovereignty in June 2004, it was 45 attacks daily. When Iraq held its elections for a transitional government in January 2005, it was 61. When Iraqis voted last December for a permanent government, it was 75. When U.S. forces killed terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al Zarqawi in June, it was up to 90." [Miami Herald, Aug. 16, 2006]

Bush's early response was to suggest, "the insurgency's escalation was a sign of progress."[Thomas Ricks, Fiasco, p. 248]. Such pure punk stupidity made the evening news, notwithstanding its unadulterated contempt for the public's intelligence. Not to be outdone, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld referred to the insurgents as "dead enders" -- not realizing the high probability that insurgents would be fighting Americans in Iraq long after the Bush administration became "dead enders."

Moreover, simply recall the alacrity with which President Bush and his spin operatives seized upon each of these so-called "milestones" to fling Panglossian excrement into the collective eyes of America's dupes, in order to rationalize away a lost war and all the unnecessary blood on his hands. More than 3,400 Iraqi civilians were killed just last month and all those deaths are the result of the whirlwind our punk president unleashed when he authorized the illegal, immoral invasion.

Has he learned anything? Simply consider the latest example of his punk petulance: On August 16, 2006, the Boston Globe reported on two secret Pentagon studies devoted to correcting the many mistakes - such as excessive use of force, delays in establishing a working relationship with local allies and failure to make security and safety for the Iraqi people an early priority - which caused much of the alienation that fueled the insurgency roiling Iraq today.

Yet, on that same date, as the New York Times reported, "the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq." Moreover, Mr. Bush "was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah could draw such a large crowd." [NYT, Aug. 16, 2006]

Poor petulant punk! Mr. Bush just can't understand why he continues to get punked in Iraq. Yet, unlike America's military leaders, who utilize "lessons learned" debriefings to avoid being punked in future insurgencies, Mr. Bush learns nothing -- except for new ways to fling more Panglossian excrement. Even punks can fake it as men of conviction.

Bush is a punk? Yes. Always has been. Consider the following:

(1) As Ron Suskind reports in his recent book, The One Percent Doctrine, Bush was a dirty, cheap-shot intramural basketball player while a student at the Harvard Business School. On one occasion, Bush not only elbowed the opponent's star player in the mouth, he also chopped his legs "out from under him" as he jumped to grab a rebound. [Suskind, p. 215.] As anyone who's played basketball knows, such tactics are those of a cheap-shot punk.

(2) Carrying his punk stupidity to the White House, Bush told Bob Woodward: "I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation." ["A Rare Glimpse Inside Bush's Cabinet," CBS News, Nov. 17, 2002.]

(3) Perhaps most incriminating was Bush's punk behavior immediately before his televised national address announcing the beginning of his (illegal, immoral) war with Iraq. "A camera caught Bush pumping his fist as though instead of initiating a war he had kicked a winning field goal or hit a home run. 'Feels good," he said." [Paul Waldman, Fraud, p. 8] So much, then, for his supposed concern about sending U.S. forces into harm's way.

(4) Whenever you hear someone taunt the enemy by asserting, "Bring 'em on," while sitting safely behind a desk thousands of miles away from the battlefield, it's a safe bet you're listening to a punk.

Readers of the new book by Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, know that the author lowers the boom on both Bush and his administration. Although he pays little attention to questions about the war's legality and morality - the book's major flaw - Mr. Ricks does fault Bush's "incompetence and arrogance," [p. 4] and boldly concludes: "It already is abundantly apparent in mid-2006 that the U.S. government went to war with Iraq with scant solid international support and on the basis of incorrect information - about weapons of mass destruction and a supposed nexus between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda's terrorism - and then occupied the country negligently." [p. 3]

Moreover, instead of "punks," Ricks uses the word "donkeys," as in "lions led by donkeys." [p. 308] German generals introduced that phrase during World War I as a way to disparage the British civilians and officers who so poorly led the lions in the British army.

Nevertheless, Ricks persuasively demonstrates that America's donkeys - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle and Bremmer, abetted by the incompetent Generals Franks and Sanchez, as well as the sycophantic Generals Myers and Pace - woefully screwed up the strategic planning, especially Phase IV, for war in Iraq. "In military terms, there was a disconnect between the stated strategic goal of transforming the politics of Iraq and the Mideast and the plan's focus on the far more limited aim of simply removing Saddam Hussein's regime. [p. 116]

As a consequence of this royal screw-up, "the U.S. military would fight hard and well but blindly, and the noble sacrifices of soldiers would be undercut by the lack of thoughtful leadership and the top that soberly assesses the realities of the situation and constructed a response." [p. 129] Ricks is undoubtedly correct when he asserts: "Ultimately, however, the fault for the lapse in the planning must lie with Rumsfeld." [Ibid]

Inside Rumsfeld's steel-trap mind was the conviction that Iraq could be defeated and pacified with a ridiculously low number of soldiers. It was the "mother" of all the Bush administration's donkey mistakes, coming in slightly ahead of Bremmer's two disastrous decisions, the disbanding of Iraq's army and the de-Baathification of Iraq's society.

Ricks quotes an unnamed active-duty general who concluded: "Tactically, we were fine. Operationally, usually we were okay. Strategically - we were a basket case." [p. 308] And that's the beauty of Rick's exceptionally informed book. He allows the brave American soldiers to describe the hellish, no win, situation that the Bush administration donkeys [punks] placed them in.

Take, for example, Army officer Paul Arcangeli, who blames Paul Wolfowitz "for all this shit in Iraq. Even more than Rumsfeld, I blame him." Wolfowitz is "dangerously idealistic. And crack-smoking stupid." [p. 17]

Or take, for example, the Bush administration official who claimed that "Feith ought to be drawn, quartered and hung�He's a sonofabitch who agitated for war in Iraq, but once the decision is made to do it, he disengages. [Note: Feith was nominally responsible for planning the post-invasion occupation. For more information on Feith's role in offering up bogus inflammatory intelligence about Saddam's ties to al Qaeda, see my article, "Fixed" Intelligence from Feith's "Gestapo Office," the CIA and the Bush Administration's Impeachable Lies about Iraq's Prewar Links to al Qaeda. Moreover, Fiasco is an exemplary case study of civil-military relations under the Bush administration. As such, and assuming it receives the wide readership it deserves, Americans will find a new frame of reference to aid them when attempting to decide which congressional candidate(s) should get their vote this upcoming November.

Armed by the information in Fiasco, Americans will get a sense of the passion with which many of America's senior military leaders (both active and retired) opposed both the very reasons for invading Iraq as well as the (now demonstrably crackpot) strategy to be employed there. And they've been vindicated on both counts. (This reader felt compelled to contemplate how close America came to a coup d'etat.)

In addition, voters armed by the information contained in Fiasco will be able to ask their incumbent candidates:

(1) Did they vote in favor of authorizing the use of force in Iraq? And, if yes, were they one of the mere handful of incumbents who actually read all 92 classified pages of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's WMD before voting in favor of war?

(2) Did they stand up for America's soldiers, when their senior officers, especially in the Army, so presciently opposed both the very reasons for invading Iraq as well as Rumsfeld's crackpot strategy? Or did they support the donkeys that ordered America's lions into their self-generated quagmire?

Although the prospect of a coup was always remote and morally problematic, the prospects for regime change in America now seem quite promising. And, thanks to Thomas Ricks, Fiasco might advance that cause by demonstrating to voters precisely how Bush administration donkeys [punks] betrayed America's military lions in Iraq. His book sheds fresh light on the subject of "supporting the troops."


White House sees "huge challenges" in Iraq

White House sees "huge challenges" in Iraq
By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Amid a largely bleak picture in Iraq, President Bush received an update on the security situation from top commanders on Thursday and the White House said "huge challenges" remain.

Bush held talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and senior advisers. Participating by video link were top generals George Casey and John Abizaid.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said he suspected there could be some discussion about U.S. troop levels in Iraq but he had no details.

"When you're getting a comprehensive review, one of the questions that's going to come up is, what do we need? The president has always said that that's the first question he asks his commanders, and I suspect that it will arise today," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Bush is under election-year pressure to start bringing some troops home this year, but a spasm of violence in Baghdad has forced commanders to move some American forces from other parts of Iraq into the capital.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January.

But Bush says he will not be governed by public-opinion polls or political considerations in making decisions about Iraq, which he calls a central front in the war on terrorism.

The Times quoted an unnamed military affairs expert who briefed at the White House last month as saying senior administration officials "have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy" in Iraq.


Snow opened his daily briefing by saying, "It's just not true."

The Bush administration is insisting that Iraq is not sliding into a civil war despite weeks of sectarian violence that have killed hundreds of Iraqis.

"The administration continues, though, to take a very close and candid look at what's going on. The security situation in some places is uneven. And it's clear that there are huge challenges that await us," Snow said.

A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found Americans significantly more pessimistic about the situation in Iraq now than they were two months ago.

In June, after the killing of Iraq's al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, 53 percent of Americans thought the situation was going well in Iraq, while only 41 percent believe so now after weeks of sectarian violence, the poll said.

The survey also said that 52 percent of Americans believe there should be a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops, while 41 percent believe there should not be.

Bush's overall job approval rating was at 37 percent, which is in the danger zone for a president whose party is seeking to retain control of the U.S. Congress in the November election.

Democrats accuse Bush of staying the course with a failed policy in Iraq and say the Iraq war is draining resources from fighting the greater threat to U.S. security, al Qaeda.

"We need a new direction. We need to refocus our attention on destroying the enemy that attacked us five years ago, protecting America, and rebuilding our military," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada on Wednesday.


Hizbollah hands out cash to Lebanese

Hizbollah hands out cash to Lebanese
By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hizbollah handed out bundles of cash on Friday to people whose homes were wrecked by Israeli bombing, consolidating the Iranian-backed group's support among Lebanon's Shi'ites and embarrassing the Beirut government.

"This is a very, very reasonable amount. It is not small," said Ayman Jaber, 27, holding a wad he had just picked up from Hizbollah of $12,000 in banknotes wrapped in tissue.

Israeli and U.S. officials have voiced concern that Hizbollah will entrench its popularity by moving fast -- with Iranian money -- to help people whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the 34-day conflict with Israel.

Hizbollah has not said where the funds are coming from to compensate people from an estimated 15,000 destroyed homes. The scheme appears likely to cost at least $150 million. The Lebanese government has yet to launch anything similar.

Trying to bolster a five-day-old truce, Lebanese troops moved deeper into south Lebanon a day after France dealt a blow to hopes of building a strong U.N. force to help the army take control of the region as Israeli troops withdraw.

The United Nations said it had received substantial offers of troops for Lebanon, but was disappointed that France was only offering to send 200 additional soldiers.

"We had hoped -- we make no secret of it -- that there would be a stronger French contribution," said U.N. deputy secretary-general Mark Malloch Brown.

International and Lebanese government aid efforts risk being overshadowed by Hizbollah's swift action on reconstruction.

Hizbollah said it had so far given the one-time cash payment to 120 families whose homes in the southern suburbs of Beirut were destroyed in Israeli air strikes. The money is to help families rent and furnish alternative accommodation.

"We have full information on all the buildings that have been destroyed or damaged," said a Hizbollah official at one of 12 assistance centers the group has set up in the suburbs.

"Later on, we will either pay for new flats or rebuild the buildings that were destroyed."

Hizbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah promised the compensation in his first speech after the truce took hold.


France's reticence to contribute more troops follows disastrous peacekeeping missions in the past. It lost 58 paratroopers to a Shi'ite suicide bomb attack in Beirut in 1983 and some 84 soldiers in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

"I'd like to remind you of the experience of painful operations where U.N. forces did not have a sufficiently precise mission or the means to react," French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told RTL radio.

The Italian government formally approved the deployment of troops to Lebanon. It did not say how many would be sent, but officials have said Italy was ready to offer up to 3,000 troops.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Italy wanted to contribute, but that the mission must have clear rules of engagement.

The Lebanese army began deploying south of the Litani River, about 20 km (13 miles) from the border with Israel, on Thursday.

A senior security source said about 4,500 Lebanese troops were already south of the Litani and more units were joining them on Friday as the force builds up to an eventual 15,000.

Some troops reached the village of Shebaa, near the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms enclave, a key source of tension between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas before the recent war.

Hizbollah fighters have melted away as the Lebanese army arrives, but they have not left the south or given up the rocket launchers they used to bombard Israel during the conflict.

Malloch Brown said Hizbollah's disarmament required an agreement between the group and the Lebanese government.

At least 1,181 people in Lebanon and 157 Israelis were killed in the conflict that erupted after Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinian militants near Bethlehem after a nearly two-hour standoff, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said.

(Additional reporting by Beirut, Jerusalem, Paris, Rome and U.N. bureaux)


Two Wars on Terror

The American Prospect
Two Wars on Terror
We're making headway on one, but not the other. Unfortunately, we can't avoid fighting both.
By Suzanne Nossel

Five years after September 11, it is possible to take stock of what parts of the battle against terrorism are succeeding and failing, and why. The thwarting of an elaborate terrorist plot against trans-Atlantic flights last week prevented what some maintain could have been a second September 11-style attack. Regardless of what the would-be perpetrators were actually capable of, credit goes to the intelligence, law enforcement and transportation security agencies that uncovered the plan, caught the culprits, and protected the public.

The rest of the picture is bleaker. The announcement that more than 3,400 Iraqi civilians died in unrest in the month of July is a shocking reminder that the world’s most powerful military has, let’s face it, failed in its chief aim of stabilizing Iraq. The Israel Defense Forces’ inability to vanquish Hezbollah in a month-long fight further shows that when in on-the-ground combat, terrorist groups can stand up to the world’s most advanced armies

It’s clear that meticulous intelligence and collaborative criminal enforcement can curb terrorists’ ability to carry out episodic headline-grabbing attacks. But when it comes to uprooting endemic terrorist schemers with roots in unstable societies, at least as a military matter, the task is virtually impossible. The war on terror is happening on two fronts, but headway is being made on only one.

The conclusion is not a surprise. During the last three decades, Israel, despite preventing targeted killings and kidnappings around the globe, never effectively clamped down on the intifada back home. The United States likewise had an easier time defending itself against hijackings and assassinations than it had fighting Viet Cong forces hidden in jungles.

The reasons for the disparity are clear. To succeed in sowing fear, terrorist attacks must be carried out in places and against people who are well-protected and feel safe. Grassroots terrorist activity targets vulnerable populations in already unstable situations. High-profile attacks require perpetrators to risk suicide, capture, or life on the run. Endemic terrorists can melt away anonymously. Whereas splashy international terrorists must plot with utmost secrecy and isolation, domestic terrorists can draw succor from supportive civilian populations.

These two faces of the war on terror prescribe radically different methods. Intelligence and law enforcement can prevent episodic hijackings or subway attacks. To root out terrorists enmeshed in a failed state is much more complicated. It requires not just extensive, on-the-ground intelligence, but also massive troop, diplomatic, and civilian support and logistics. Whereas urban terror efforts can be surgical in nature -- a sweep that picks up two dozen hijackers and a circle of abetters -- grassroots terrorist guerillas hide amid civilians, ensuring innocent casualties that raise the price of the fight.

The implications of this gap for the war on terror are becoming clear. Resources devoted to stanching the flow of terrorist funds, improved international intelligence collaboration, tight security at terrorist targets, and effective early warning and threat management systems seem to be largely well spent. As for the billions of dollars and thousands of lives dedicated to Iraq since the insurgency began, the value is much less clear.

Unfortunately, we do not get to choose whether to fight episodic or endemic terrorism. Terrorists who enjoy the resources and protection of a host country, as al-Qaeda did in Afghanistan, can plan for attacks that directly terrorize the West. Such terrorists are also well-placed to realize the ultimate doomsday scenario: acquiring nuclear weapons. Terrorist-infested territories destabilize their neighbors, as Lebanon has. For all these reasons, simply opting out of tackling the problem of entrenched terrorist organs like Hezbollah or al-Qaeda in Iraq is not an option

So, what can be done? While the Iraq operation was botched in obvious ways, it’s easier to make retrospective arguments about how the United States might have prevented such a powerful insurgency from arising than to advise how to suppress it after the fact. Strategies like the "oil spot" concept, which involves stabilizing small patches of territory and then gradually expanding the occupied zone, seem logical but are mostly untested. The UN’s experience in trying to stabilize Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon in the coming months may tell us something about what a well-planned, broadly supported mission can accomplish. But in the wake of Iraq, and three decades after the Vietnam War, it's hard to be optimistic about overcoming the advantages that well-organized terrorist groups enjoy on their home turf.

Thus the challenges of defeating endemic terrorist groups point to the importance of preventing such groups from taking root in failed states in the first place, and of minimizing the outside support they are able to draw on. Right now Afghanistan is teetering toward collapse. The Taliban is regrouping and Hamid Karzai’s central government is barely holding power in Kabul. The problems stem in part from the United States and the West’s focus being diverted to Iraq. Experience suggests that without forceful action to strengthen the Kabul government, build civil society, and dismantle the Taliban, the West may soon find itself in a deadly, losing battle in Afghanistan. The situation in Somalia is also comparable, and may have already passed the point of repair.

Another crucial facet of prevention is at risk of being overlooked in Lebanon right now. Poor, politically disenfranchised populations naturally feel loyalty to terrorist organs that provide social services and aid far more effectively than their corrupt and inept ruling governments. Looking backward, it is hard not to wonder whether, had it faced up to the reality of a Hamas alternative, the West could have done more to help the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority weed out graft and corruption and deliver on its political promises. Over the past few days in Lebanon, Hezbollah has positioned itself as the conduit for reconstruction and humanitarian aid sourced from Syria and Iran. Unless the UN and the international community help the Lebanese government compete in these areas, the war may occasion the very victory that Hezbollah now claims.

A related key to fighting endemic terrorists is limiting their ability to obtain arms and resources. Backing from Syria and Iran has been essential fuel to terrorists in Iraq and Lebanon. Stringent international penalties for abetting terrorist groups -- including broad economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation -- are needed to raise the price of suborning terror.

The fight against episodic terror looks very different than the battle against endemic terror. But to prevail in the long-term over either, we’ll likely have to get both right.

Suzanne Nossel is a senior fellow at the Security and Peace Initiative, a joint project of The Century Foundation and Center for American Progress. She is the founder of the Democracy Arsenal weblog.


Court Rules Wiretaps Illegal; Says Bush Not King

Court rules wiretaps violate rights
By Kevin Krolicki

DETROIT (Reuters) - A judge ordered the Bush administration on Thursday to stop a domestic wiretap program it says protects Americans from terrorism but which the judge said violated their civil rights.

The administration, buoyed by polls showing Americans back its handling of security and terrorism, appealed against the federal court ruling, saying: "We couldn't disagree more."

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor said the wiretaps under a five-year-old "Terrorist Surveillance Program" violated freedom of speech, protections against unreasonable searches and a constitutional check on the power of the presidency.

"There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution," Taylor said in a 44-page ruling.

The National Security Agency program has been widely criticized by civil rights activists and raised concern among lawmakers, including some in President George W. Bush's own Republican Party, who say he may have overstepped his powers.

Bush authorized the NSA program after the September 11 attacks on the United States, and it became public last year.

Both sides agreed the program could go on until the judge hears the government's case for a stay pending appeal.

The program allows the government to eavesdrop on the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens without obtaining a warrant, if those wiretaps are made to track suspected al Qaeda operatives.

"We have confidence in the lawfulness of this program," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, said after Thursday's ruling. "That's why the appeal has been lodged."

A Justice Department statement called the program "an early warning system to detect and prevent a terrorist attack."

Officials said last week a foiled plot to blow up airliners from Britain underscored the need for secret surveillance.

"The very real threat posed by radical Islamists requires every tool at our disposal, including the ability to track financial activity and the communications of terrorists," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee.


The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit which could well end up being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court delivered a similar blow to the administration in June when it struck down as illegal a system of military tribunals set up to try foreign terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

On Thursday, the judge ruled the Bush administration had violated the terms of a 1978 law by skirting a requirement that warrants be issued by a special secret court for eavesdropping on individuals or suspects in the United States.

The judge sided with the government on one issue -- that arguments in open court about the NSA's "data mining" of phone records would jeopardize national security and rejected an ACLU challenge to that part of the NSA's surveillance program.

The ACLU suit was filed on behalf of scholars, attorneys, journalists and nonprofit groups that regularly communicate with people in the Middle East and believed their phone calls and e-mail may have been intercepted by the U.S. government.

"The ruling of the judge is not only a victory for the American Muslim community but a victory for the entire American population," said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations for Michigan, which joined the ACLU as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

A similar suit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights is pending in federal court in New York. The judge in that case is set to hear arguments on September 5.

The Bush administration has thrown its support behind a bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania that would submit the NSA's surveillance program to a secret court for review.

(Additional reporting by Jui Chakravorty; Claudia Parsons and Daniel Trotta in New York; Deborah Charles and Frances Kerry in Washington)


Iraqi group mocks Bush in film titled "The Code of Silence"

Iraqi group uses Michael Moore film to mock Bush
By Alister Bull

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi militant group has produced an elaborate video of what it said were attacks on U.S. troops, in the latest example of the increasingly sophisticated propaganda war being waged by Iraqi insurgents.

"The Code of Silence" was posted on the Internet by the Rashedeen Army, thought to be a relatively small Sunni group which has produced videos in the past of attacks it claims to have carried out.

At almost an hour in length, it is the longest and most professionally made of recent postings by mainly Sunni militant and insurgent groups fighting the U.S.-backed government.

The U.S. military said earlier this week that recent intelligence indicated al Qaeda in Iraq was refining its strategy by producing propaganda and adding a political base to its violent campaign of suicide bombings.

Lifting scenes from Michael Moore's anti-war film "Fahrenheit 9/11", Rashedeen's narrator taunts President Bush in softly spoken English over graphic images of Humvees being blown up by roadside bombs, and purportedly dead U.S. troops.

It was not possible to verify when the documentary was made or the authenticity of any of the images portrayed by Rashedeen, whose name means Army of the Rightly Guided.

At one point, the documentary cuts to a scene from Moore's 2004 award-winning film where he lobbies on the steps of the U.S. Congress in Washington.

"After all, there are honest and influential guys in America and if Mr Moore can talk to you like that, so can I," the Rashedeen narrator says.

In addition to numerous bomb and rocket attacks, the documentary also shows two militants painstakingly drilling a hole into an old artillery shell, turning it into a homemade bomb and then burying it to create a deadly trap.

"In the good old days of the invasion, this used to be a one-man show. Not any more. Your boys have become smart. They started to ambush us. Today it takes a big unit.

"That's good. It means your boys are on the run all day long, seven days a week. And it is really devastating for them, especially if they are on their third tour and don't have our secret weapon -- patience."

(Additional reporting by Firouz Sedarat in Dubai)


Probe suggests Marines hid Haditha evidence

Probe suggests Marines hid Haditha evidence: NYT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Pentagon investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha has found possible concealment or destruction of evidence by U.S. Marines involved in the case, The New York Times reported on Friday.

Two Defense Department officials briefed on the investigation said the unit's logbook had been tampered with and an incriminating video taken by an aerial drone was not given to investigators until a top-ranking commander in Iraq intervened, the newspaper reported.

The findings, based on an investigation by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell, draws no conclusions about who may have tampered with the log and does not directly accuse Marines of attempting a cover-up, The New York Times said.

It said the report, concluded last month but not made public, is the first time details about possible concealment or destruction of evidence have been disclosed.

The Pentagon had no immediate comment.

U.S. Marines have been accused of killing 24 unarmed Iraqis in Haditha in November 2005, one of a series of incidents in which U.S. troops are suspected of killing Iraqi civilians.

Two investigations were initiated into the Haditha case -- a murder inquiry and a probe into the Marines' procedures following the killings.

The Bargewell report was sent to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Times report said.

According to the newspaper, the report faults officers in the Second Marine Division for not aggressively investigating the Haditha killings.

The defense officials were quoted as saying the report also found commanders had created a climate that minimized the importance of Iraqi lives, particularly in Haditha, where insurgent attacks were rampant, The New York Times said.

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the new top Marine general in U.S. Central Command, is due to decide on whether charges are warranted, officials said this week.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Husband Takes Schiavo Fight Back to Politicians

The New York Times
Husband Takes Schiavo Fight Back to Politicians

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The curtains are still drawn tight at Michael Schiavo’s home on a quiet cul-de-sac here, and in some ways he remains as private and unknowable as when his wife Terri was the focus of a fervent national debate last year about life and death.

Yet Mr. Schiavo, who won a scorching legal battle to remove his brain-damaged wife’s feeding tube, also remains furious at lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington who intervened in the case. Hence the creation last winter of TerriPAC, a federal political action committee aimed against politicians who tried to stop Ms. Schiavo’s death, and the debut of Mr. Schiavo, a newly remarried, self-described normal guy, as a political weapon in this year’s midterm elections.

He is an unpolished speaker, sometimes abandoning sentences midstream or grasping for the right words. He did not vote or follow the news until recently, he says, and had never heard of a PAC until strangers suggested he start one late last year.

Still, Mr. Schiavo flew to Connecticut last month to help Ned Lamont, who defeated Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in the Democratic primary. Mr. Schiavo reminded voters that Mr. Lieberman had supported an emergency bill asking a federal court to consider reinserting Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube days before she died in March 2005. Ms. Schiavo’s parents, who adamantly opposed her death and rejected Mr. Schiavo’s claim that she would have wished it, had pleaded with Congress and President Bush to intervene.

Mr. Schiavo also hand-delivered a caustic letter to Representative Marilyn Musgrave, Republican of Colorado, who outspokenly opposed Ms. Schiavo’s death, and endorsed her Democratic opponent, Angie Paccione. He attended a bloggers’ convention in Las Vegas in June to raise his profile in the online pundit world, playing host to a “privacy roundtable” at the Riviera Hotel.

“He is the human face of government intrusion,” said Ms. Paccione, explaining why she accepted Mr. Schiavo’s offer to appear with her at a news conference July 12. “We need more individual citizens like him to step up and put an end to it. People trust somebody who looks like them, talks like them and has their experience.”

Representative Jim Davis, a Tampa Democrat running to replace Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, widely distributed a letter that Mr. Schiavo wrote after endorsing him in June. Mr. Davis was among the most vigorous opponents of intervention in the Schiavo case, criticizing it on the House floor before Congress enacted the now-famous measure that President Bush cut short his vacation to sign.

Mr. Schiavo said his hastily written book, “Terri: the Truth” (Dutton Adult, 2006), was meant to be his final say on the events that dominated his life for 15 years. But Democratic operatives looking toward the November elections saw gold in his lingering anger.

When those operatives encouraged Mr. Schiavo not to disappear from the public eye, the man who had kept his mouth tightly shut throughout his quest to end his wife’s life — once even jumping an eight-foot-high fence behind his house to avoid the news media throng out front — decided he had more to share.

Driving him, he said, were television and newspaper clips from the end of the case, which he did not scrutinize until several months after his wife died.

“I didn’t pay attention to a lot of it in the last couple weeks because I spent my time with Terri,” Mr. Schiavo, 43, said at his preferred meeting place, a T.G.I. Friday’s near his house in a neighborhood misleadingly called Countryside. “But when I saw it all, I thought, this is absolutely out of control.

“I had to remind people that what this government did to me, they can do to you.”

Mr. Schiavo’s PAC has made no direct solicitations, but it has raised more than $26,000 in eight months, mostly in contributions of $100 or less made through its Web site, The committee is nearly broke at the moment, having contributed a total $4,000 to five Democratic candidates in Florida, Colorado and Texas and spent most of the rest on travel, Web site design and production of a video to help with fund-raising down the road.

“We are not a big financially powerful PAC yet,” said Derek Newton, a Democratic consultant in Miami who sold Mr. Schiavo on the PAC and now serves as its director. “We are just looking at what makes sense and how we can do it.”

Like Mr. Schiavo, Mr. Newton, 34, is learning as he goes. At first he did not realize that federal PAC’s must disclose donations only of $200 or more, and filed reams of unnecessary paperwork. Though working with Mr. Schiavo could perhaps raise his own profile, Mr. Newton, who ran a mayoral race in Miami in 2004, said he was motivated only by disgust for the politics of the Schiavo case.

The PAC is not just devoted to politics. Its Web site also provides information about living wills, which Ms. Schiavo did not have when her heart briefly stopped one night in 1990, causing her grievous brain damage. Organizers say information on eating disorders will be added to the site.

Mr. Schiavo believes his wife’s cardiac arrest was due to a vitamin deficiency brought on by bulimia, though her autopsy could not prove that. His former in-laws, Robert and Mary Schindler, have accused him of strangling her, though the courts rejected that claim.

The Schindlers and their surviving children, Bobby and Suzanne, are raising money through the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation Center for Health Care Ethics, a nonprofit group whose stated goal is to protect “the rights of disabled, elderly and vulnerable citizens against care rationing, euthanasia and medical killing.”

The foundation collected $379,855 in contributions last year, its lawyer said. Bobby Schindler, its director, said his family was not paying attention to Mr. Schiavo’s activities.

“Our family believes our fight with Michael is over,” he said.

Mr. Schiavo will focus on Florida candidates like Mr. Davis in the coming months, Mr. Newton said, but he may also offer help to James Webb, the Democratic challenger to Senator George Allen of Virginia; Claire McCaskill, the Democratic challenger to Senator Jim Talent of Missouri; and several Congressional candidates in Pennsylvania, his home state.

Mr. Schiavo said he would also make overtures to State Senator James E. King Jr., a Jacksonville Republican whose primary opponent, Randall Terry, led protests outside Ms. Schiavo’s hospice in the weeks before her death and rallied the anti-abortion movement against it.

A spokeswoman for Mr. King, whose North Florida district has many religious conservatives, said: “We are not making the events that surrounded the Terri Schiavo case here in Florida a focus of our race.”

Indeed, some campaign officials worry that joining up with the polarizing Mr. Schiavo could cut both ways. One person with a campaign that enlisted his help said the campaign received a number of angry phone calls afterward.

One of five brothers, Mr. Schiavo said he was raised to be a fighter, a quality on display throughout his book, which was written with Michael Hirsh. In it, he acknowledges losing his temper a lot during his court battle and repeatedly attacks his former in-laws.

His appetite for combat, which helps explain why he would sacrifice some of the privacy he demanded while Ms. Schiavo was alive, is also evident in his intense gaze and in the words he chose for her gravestone: “I kept my promise.”

Mr. Schiavo, who switched his voter registration to Democrat from Republican last year, said people had asked him repeatedly to run for office after his wife’s death.

But while the prospect holds allure, he said he was content with a lower-key role for now. He married Jodi Centonze, whom he met and started dating three years after Ms. Schiavo’s collapse, in January. He works three 12-hour shifts a week as a nursing supervisor at the Pinellas County Jail and helps raise his children, Olivia, 3, and Nicholas, 2.

“Maybe down the road,” he said of becoming a political candidate. “Maybe when everybody understands and everything is fixed.”


A Connecticut Yankee in Joe Stalin's Court: Painting Ned Lamont 'Red'

Editor and Publisher
A Connecticut Yankee in Joe Stalin's Court: Painting Ned Lamont 'Red'
The editorial page of Waterbury's Republican-American, stuck in a 1950s time warp, suggests that blueblood U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont is actually a Marxist whose "true color" is Red.
By Greg Mitchell

(August 15, 2006) -- In case you thought McCarthyism in the press died out in the late-1950s, consider this past Sunday’s editorial in the daily newspaper in Waterbury, Connecticut. At least Ann Coulter, an avowed fan of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, has moved on to current threats (terrorists and other liberals), while the aptly named Republican-American, Sunday circ 60,000, is still obsessed with Communists.

It’s almost quaint, but as the author of a book about 1950s politics, I have to add that Red-baiting is no joke, even when the Red Menace is no more.

Not many were laughing late last Sept. 1, either, when New Orleans’ besieged Times-Picayune, then underwater and only publishing online, felt it had to reply to the Waterbury paper after it suggested their city might not be worth “re-claiming” after Katrina. "How dare they?" the Times-Picayune asked.

Not surprisingly, this past Sunday’s editorial was inspired by Ned Lamont’s upset victory in the state’s Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate last Tuesday, in which he edged Joseph Lieberman, mainly on grounds that the incumbent backed President Bush on the Iraq war and several other key issues. Lieberman is now running as an Independent.

On the surface, Lamont seems blessed with Republican-like credentials. He is a true blueblood, a phenomenally successful businessman and terribly rich. His father, Ted, a longtime Republican, was an economist who worked with the Marshall Plan, and later served in the Nixon administration. His uncle, Thomas Stilwell Lamont was vice-chairman of Morgan Guaranty Trust. His famous grandfather, Thomas Williams Lamont Jr., was a partner and then chairman of J.P. Morgan & Co.

But that doesn’t mean that Ned Lamont isn’t a Commie. Here are a few excerpts from the Waterbury paper’s Sunday editorial. It’s titled “Ned Lamont’s True Colors” and I think you can guess what color they are referring to:

“(L)iberal journalists adore him because they share his world view on abortion, homosexual marriage, universal health care, racial quotas, loopy environmentalism and especially the war against Islamic terrorism.

“They are blood brothers, or more accurately, fellow travelers. Just as journalism has become a hornet's nest of socialism (communism not yet perfected), if you shake Mr. Lamont's family tree, a lot of Red apples will fall.

“His great-grandfather, Thomas W. Lamont, was chairman of J.P. Morgan. A wealthy progressive pacifist, he was the sugar daddy for the American Communist Party and other extreme left-wing organizations. His wife, Florence, belonged to such subversive groups as the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship and American Committee for Friendship with the Soviet Union.

“Their son, Corliss Lamont, was an unapologetic Stalinist and atheist. Congress once declared him ‘probably the most persistent propagandist for the Soviet Union to be found anywhere in the United States.’ As national chairman of The Friends of Soviet Russia, he refused to condemn Josef Stalin's show trials in the 1930s. For 22 years, he was director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been financed by communists and dedicated to advancing Marxism since its inception and to this day seeks to impose socialism and atheism on America. ...

“According to one recent commentary, Corliss' nephew, Edward M. ‘Ted’ Lamont Sr., embraced liberal-socialism ‘and passed his religious devotion to atheistic materialism along to his son.’ Ned Lamont, in turn, has surrounded himself with people who may be characterized fairly as dedicated socialists and borderline communists. ...

“Corliss Lamont was the only Lamont unashamed to declare his communist sympathies and beliefs publicly, but that doesn't make Thomas, Ted and Ned any less Marxist. Red Ned may label himself a progressive, but when he espouses goals shared by Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Castro, et al., he gives away his true color.”

This account is rife with errors -- consider, for example, the suggestion that J.P. Morgan for decades entrusted its billions to the Communist Party’s “sugar daddy” -- but that’s not the point. Even if everything stated in the editorial were somehow true, it would still be an attempt to tar Lamont because of the views or political activities of long-dead ancestors. If you’re going to play the bloodline game, at least stick to the still-living father -- the Nixon administration official.

There’s an intresting story behind the Waterbury paper, however. A man named William J. Pape once owned three papers. He folded The Democrat in 1946, and merged The American and the Republican in the early 1990s. The Pape family still controls the paper through American-Republican Inc., and William J. Pape, II now serves as publisher.

Back in June, a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interviewed Pape for a piece on the trend of newspapers dropping an outdated party label from their logo. Pape admitted that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans 2.5 to 1 in his city, but added, “We've got no intention of changing the name. My grandfather would roll over in his grave, because The Republican was always his favorite."

It was almost a full year ago that the Waterbury paper made national headlines with that August 31 editorial which asked, in its title,
"Is New Orleans Worth Reclaiming?"

The following day, The Times-Picayune replied online: "Yes, We're Worth It.” Others in the media around the country joined in bashing the Waterbury editorial, which had asserted that “if the people of New Orleans and other low-lying areas insist on living in harm's way, they ought to accept responsibility for what happens to them and their property."

Waterbury, of course, is built on a flood plain of the Naugatuck River, and has been ravaged by floods over the years.

The Times-Picayune concluded: "Even as people from New Orleans desperately search for their family members and rescue workers patrol the region in boats, hack through roofs and try to pluck survivors out, some people in other parts of the country have begun to blame us, the victims. Our crime? Choosing to live in New Orleans.

"Especially heartless were U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the writers of an editorial that appeared Wednesday in the Republican-American, a newspaper in Waterbury, Conn. ... The editorial depicts our city and our people as a drain on federal coffers, and if you read it you might get the impression that New Orleans has never contributed to the economic vitality of this country. It maligns the city and our people as if we're nothing more than outstretched palms waiting for FEMA grants that only they fund.

"How dare they?”


The Right Stuff, The Wrong War, and the Shameful Politics of Fear

Huffington Post
Brent Budowsky
The Right Stuff, The Wrong War, and the Shameful Politics of Fear

For the first time since Christopher Columbus first set eyes on the New World, the leader of America is waging an aggressive campaign to spread fear throughout the land, to divide American against American, and to exploit that fear and division to abuse cardinal rules of the American Experience and the American idea.

As America approaches historic elections in 2006 and 2008 let me propose that the great divide is not between the Democrats and the Republicans, or the liberals and conservatives, but between those who believe in a politics of fear that divides the country, versus those who believe in a politics of bravery that is based on common sense and the common history of Americanism.

In For Whom The Bells Tolls, are these words: "No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is part of the continent, a part of the main." At home and around the world today, the bell tolls for us. The arch of crisis and chaos that leads the evening news is the inevitable and certain outcome of attitudes and policies that stray dangerously far from the mainstream of the American Experience and the American idea.

Those who have done the most to cause these crises have no better way than escalating these catastrophic attitudes, and magnifying these monumental misjudgments.

The partisans and ideologues speak of World War III, which is not only historically false, which not only borders on insulting to those who fought World War I and World War II; it is their desired trump card in the politics of fear, used to justify deviations from traditional Americanism that are unprecedented in our history from our leaders.

Never before have American leaders promoted fear to justify the use of torture and abrogation of key points in the Geneva Convention that are supported by every branch of our military service.

Never before have our leaders promoted fear to seek to exempt themselves from American laws governing crimes of war.

Never before has a commander in chief created fear to demonize half the country as unpatriotic and for the first time since George Washington crossed the Delaware, never before has an American commander in chief launched and supported systematic attacks on the bravery and heroism of authentic war heroes because he views them as domestic political enemies.

Never before has a commander in chief promoted fear to claim the unilateral power to abrogate the bill of rights, or violate statutes with a statement asserting he alone will choose whether or not he is bound to faithfully execute the laws he signs, not once, not twice, but now approaching a thousand times.

Never before in our history, has any President so brazenly and so wrongly and so disastrously used war itself not as a call to heroism to unite our people, but as a call to fear, as a cheap weapon of wedge politics and war partisanship where instead of having nothing to fear but fear itself, we are told to fear our enemies, fear for our lives, and fear each other.

George Washington twice surrendered power when he could have had it all for himself, first when the Continental Army won and some wanted Washington to the equivalent of King, then when he had served his terms and some wanted him to be President for life. What would the man who led our troops through Valley Forge and across the Delaware think of the man who today tells us to be afraid?

It is true, there is a war against terrorism; but this is also true: in this latest incarnation of the politics of fear, if we are supposed to be so afraid of bottled water and after shave on airplanes, why was this problem ignored since 1995 by those promoting these fears, and why were there attempts to cut funding for airport screening from those who use their own failures to create new fears?

It is true, there is a war against terrorism, but this is also true: it is a war the involves the miltary but also a battle of ideas where we must appeal to best aspirations for democracy; it is a war against poverty and hunger and desperation in the world, which are breeding grounds for terrorists of today and tomorrow.

It is true, there is a war against terrorism, but its weapons include homeland security that must be competently managed and should never be incompetently cut, ngeligently used for pork barrel corruption, or shamefully abused for partisan rewards, through no bid contracts and sweetheart deals.

It is true, we live in a dangerous world, but the way to reduce those dangers is not to make us the only generation in our history that is afraid of them, but to do the smart and right things that matter. Instead of fear, every American, every Israeli, and every friend of freedom and democracy should initiate a long overdue Herculean campaign to rid our country and our world from this inexcusable dependence on Middle East oil.

The only fear that matters is not what we should feel, but the fear of those who employ secret meetings with profiteers from foreign oil business, because they are afraid of what the American people would think if they knew the whole truth.

Yes, we live in a dangerous world and the Middle East is a dangerous place, but the answer lies not in our being afraid of the harm that will befall us, and turning on each other, but the bravery and wisdom of every American leader since 1948 to combine the force of our power with the force of our ideas through American leadership in Middle East diplomacy that has been completely absent, for the first time ever, for the past six years.

The problem with the current Administration is not that virtually none of them have combat experience, but that they are so fast to demean the advice of those who do, that they learn no lessons from world history or their own terrible mistakes. No matter what the lessons of either history or experience, their only response is to keep making the same mistakes on even larger scales, with ever more harmful consequences.

Funding homeland security, leadership in diplomacy, winning the battle of ideas, uniting the American people, fighting poverty and injustice, intelligence that provides the best information to decision-makers without being twisted for ideology or partisanship, the proper ways to wage counter-insurgency war, the need to genuinely respect the advice of commanders and the need to appeal to the aspirations of people everywhere; these are not part of their vision of a permanent world war with an always divided nation, where even our neighbors at home and friends around the world are treated like enemies and demeaned by the politics of fear.

For Whom The Bell Tolls: When our national life becomes dominated by a war crazed policy that knows nothing but war, from those who know little about how to win them. When American democracy becomes dominated by a fevered war partisanship deliberately designed to create fear rather then courage. When the essence of the mission becomes the warped obsession to defeat and destroy each other by the warped notion of a permanent and endless world war. Of course, as a law of nature and history, the result will be the tragedy witnessed every night on the evening news.

The great truth of our times must include this:

There is no World War III comparable in any way miltarily to World War II. Military force must be part of the policy, but we fight a war of counter-insurgency where shock and awe bombing, massive use of precision guided missiles, heavy long range artillery and the excessive killing of civilians can do great harm when they alienate vast populations who's support we need to win.

War includes a political dimension, a tactical dimension, a human dimension that are just as essential to victory or defeat as the power of the bombs we drop and the missiles we launch. The war fever partisans in Washington have learned nothing from the experience of Iraq except an obsession to repeat the same mistakes everywhere.

The great truth of our times and all times is clear: the risks we take for peace are just as important as the risks we take for war. There is no reason we cannot and many reasons we should seek a cease-fire in Iraq, aimed at preventing civil war by bringing internal Iraqi insurgents into the political system through negotiations, splitting them off from the foreign terrorists who exploit sectarian violence, and defeating the smaller number of Al-Quada foreign terrorists on the battlefield once and for all. It will not be easy, but this is the solution favored by many of the commanders and it makes far greater sense than the disastrous status quo.

The risks we take for peace: we must restore the traditional role of the United States in the Middle East supported by every American and every Israeli Admnistration since 1948 of combining ironclad security for Israel with a capacity of being widely seen as an honest broker for a broader peace. The arch of chaos, instability and war throughout the region is not the only way; while we defeat the terrorists on the battlefield we also defeat them by offering young Arabs and Israelis alike the hope of a better world.

There must be a renewed U.S. leadership including high level Democrats and high level Republicans such as President Clinton and
Secretary Powell to at least open the door to a new cycle of hope. Hard though it is, it is necessary and better than the disastrous status quo where American diplomacy has been AWOL for six failed years. The road to a just peace between Israel and Palestinians is long and hard, but must begin with the first steps and must include the leadership of America that all previous presidents since
Truman have tried to provide.

The risks we take for peace: nothing would be lost and potentially much would be gained by seeking a major diplomatic breakthrough with Syria. Without question the Syrians like the Iranians have been malevolent players thoughout the Middle East. But it is a deadly mistake to accept the war fever of the war partisans, which lumps everyone into this giant blob of Islamo-fascists, and fails to recognize that we can exploit the natural differences of malevolent players who are not ordained to be in permanent alliance against us.

The Syrians have many common interests but also important different interests from Iran. We must first understand two things about the war fever of the war partisans and why they refuse to even test the possibilities. The first is that they are fundamentally motivated by the desire to drive fear among Americans and to use fear to drive us apart from each other. Risks for peace reduce fear, and they certainly do not want that.

Second, the inevitable consequence of this war fever partisanship is that America is ultimately at war with virtually everyone in the region, on a virtually permanent basis. Their motto is: more Iraqs. Our motto is: lets learn from Iraq.

We risk absolutely nothing by asking Syria: we want you to stop supporting terrorism, to stop all actions against Israel, to stop all support and sanctionary for those attacking our troops in Iraq. We are willing to offer very considerable inducements for you to do so.
What do you want in return? This is the real game changer in the Middle East: the upside is greater security for Israel, a stronger and more democratic Lebanon, a significant cut-off of support to those opposing us in Iraq, and isolation and pressure on Iran. Here is the downside if the Syrians say no: nothing. We give up zero by making the offer; we gain enormously if it works.

Richard Nixon took risks to open the doors to China; Ronald Reagan took risks that changed history with Gorbachev; risks for peace protect our security as much as risks for war, and war fever, with war fear, and war partisanship, is not only without precedent in our history but it will virtually guarantee the escalated damage of the mistakes that have gotten us to this point today.

We don’t need World War III to understand and honor the greatness of those who won World War II, and ask why their spirit that is so lacking from our leaders in Washington today.

Like John McCain, I honor my father, Murray Budowsky, a decorated Army medic who fought the Battle of the Bulge, who kept charging into bullets to tend to his wounded brothers, until they carried him away to care, on a stretcher, with them. But we also honor those who stayed at home to join the fight in the factories, in the shipyards, in every community in America, with a courage and unity and bravery that is so quintessentially American.

On the front lines, Clark Gable, James, Stewart, and Tyrone Power shared combat side by side with the son of the steelworker, the brother of the taxi driver, the daughters of great wealth who were heroic nurses in the hardest theaters of combat. From the home front Bob Hope and Judy Garland supported the effort with USO tours and singing Over The Rainbow to give our forces inspiration, and women flocked to Washington not only to be secretaries but to serve Naval Intelligence and Marine Corps recruiting and do whatever was needed.

When we lacked the boats to land at Normandy or retake the Pacific from Imperial Japanese Army, an entrepreneur from New Orleans named Andrew Higgins hired not only men but women, blacks, the elderly, the handicapped and paid them fairly and built more 12,000 "Higgins Boats" that General Eisenhower praised as one of the greatest contributors to Allied victory. What a contrast to the inability of our war fever partisans to provide enough armor, bandages and helmuts to our troops today!

Risks for peace as well as risks for war: one of the great Generals of that era created one of the most visionary and enlightened weapons for freedom in this history of democracy, the Marshall Plan. What a contrast to the hustlers and protifeers who misuse much of our money given to them through insider deals from the partisans of the politics of fear!

Whatever our views of the MIddle East, lets act with a spirit of generosity towards the people of Lebanon, as General Marshall did, strengthening their democacy, training and equipping their Army, rebuilding their homes and infrastructure and calling on every nation from Europe to the Gulf States to contribute amounts worthy of the mission.

We must reject the war fever partisans who believe America must be in a permanent world war, creating fear, exploiting fear, exporting fear, manipulating fear and championing fear which is a radically warped view of American security and American democracy, which has caused enough escalating trouble not only for a lifetime, but for a generation.

The American people are better, wiser and nobler than fear politics and war partisanship. We are a Right Stuff people, a can-do nation of optimism and aspiration that sets the right mission, and gets it done, together. We are not afraid of anyone or anything, and we will defeat those who try to make us afraid, and reject those who try to divide us, because we are a better nation than that.


Under Fresh Attack, Media Turns a Blind Eye

New York Observer
Under Fresh Attack,
Media Turns a Blind Eye
By: Niall Stanage

When prosecutors won the right to inspect reporters’ phone records earlier this month—potentially unmasking numerous secret sources—the story barely caused a ripple.

Such a blatant threat to the freedom of the media might once have stirred national outrage, or at least a spirited debate.

But if government intrusion into the media’s rights isn’t receiving the attention it deserves, the press has only itself to blame, with leading outlets like The New York Times weighing in on the subject inconsistently and in a way that seems to be motivated more by political ideology than institutional self-interest.

The recent ruling on phone records was issued by a federal appeals court in New York on Aug. 1. It related to a grand-jury investigation into who told Times reporters that two Islamic charities were going to be the subject of government action in 2001.

Prosecutors contend that phone calls the reporters made seeking comment from the charities tipped off the organizations to forthcoming raids and asset freezes.

One of the reporters was Judith Miller, formerly of The Times. The lead prosecutor in the ongoing case was her “Plamegate” nemesis, Patrick Fitzgerald.

Ms. Miller, reached by The Observer while traveling, responded scornfully to the accusation that she or her colleague tipped off the charities.

“That’s such crap,” she said. “We had to ask them for comment on the story. I don’t know what Fitzgerald knows and what he doesn’t know about journalism, but I presume he knows that much.”

(The other reporter was Philip Shenon, who is still with The Times.)

As for the ruling itself, Ms. Miller said, “I just can’t tell you how ominous this is. If this were to hold, Philip Shenon and Judy Miller and every other investigative reporter is going to have to start acting like a drug dealer, meeting people on street corners and using untraceable cell phones.”

The judgment was the latest big setback for the media. But one of the reasons why the press has failed to effectively resist its adversaries is simple: Its most exalted organs have tied themselves up in knots on the subject of leaks.

The editorial and opinion pages of The Times, in particular, have condemned disclosures that have been helpful to the Bush administration, while defending the broad right of officials to secretly pass on information.

That stance has only served to strengthen the paradigm pushed by the media’s most trenchant critics—that some leaks are morally wrong and thus deserving of punishment.

Two examples stand out. One is the Plame affair, the other the furor in April over the President’s declassification of parts of a prewar National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E.).

It is increasingly apparent that no crime was committed in the course of Ms. Plame’s identity being revealed. Moreover, the leak exposed a fact of legitimate public interest—that Ms. Plame had played a significant role in sending her husband, Joseph Wilson, on his now-infamous trip to Niger.

Similarly, the partial declassification of the N.I.E. added to public knowledge about a matter of vital importance.

On the question of where responsibility really lay for the erroneous predictions about Iraqi W.M.D., it was germane to know the general tenor of a document that purported to represent the best thinking of the intelligence community.

The October 2002 N.I.E. expressed “high confidence” that “Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding, its chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs.”

The problem with these leaks, for at least some in the media, seemed to be that the information they revealed favored Mr. Bush.

In an October 2003 column about “Plamegate,” Maureen Dowd made the blanket assertion that “The issue is the administration’s credibility, not Joe Wilson’s.”

But if the subject under debate is the White House’s alleged mendacity, why is the honesty—or otherwise—of its accuser not relevant?

In an April editorial during the N.I.E. flap, The Times huffed that “this president has never shown the slightest interest in disclosure, except when it suits his political purposes.”

The same could be said of almost all Mr. Bush’s critics. Yet The Times, like any other media organization, would not (and should not) complain about briefings by the President’s detractors if the details they revealed were true.

The press’ most esteemed outlets have embraced this selective argument and, in so doing, have ceded precious ground to their tormentors.

That ground will not be easily won back. And m­any reporters will yet have cause to rue the confused rationales offered up by the high priests of their profession.


US space commander predicts satellite attacks

US space commander predicts satellite attacks
By Jim Wolf

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (Reuters) - The Air Force's new top commander for space predicted on Tuesday future attacks on U.S. satellites and called for greatly expanded tracking and identification of payloads launched by other countries.

Currently, U.S. efforts are focused on determining if an overseas launch is a ballistic missile or designed to put an object in orbit, then cataloging it over a period that can take weeks, said Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, who heads the Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

"I say those days are over," he told an annual conference here on the fledgling, multibillion-dollar U.S. anti-missile shield. "If it's a space launch, we can't afford to relax."

"We need to know what the intent of that launch is," he said, including whether an object could jam or otherwise harm satellites or spread micro-satellites that could do so.

Chilton said his goal was to learn all this in the object's first orbit of the Earth so the United States could take unspecified actions "before an adversary can cripple us."

The increased "situational awareness" he had in mind could be achieved largely through improved computer work that would present information in easy-to-understand displays, he said.

Foes would be foolish not to be thinking of how to deny the United States the advantages of space, on which it relies heavily for military and commercial purposes, said Chilton, who took over the space command a month and a half ago.

"And in the future, I'm convinced they'll strike at these capabilities, if nothing else to attempt to level the playing field," he said.

Chilton said the United States had a duty to secure "the entire space domain not just for our own military but for our allies and for the benefit of the free world."

In other remarks to the missile-defense conference, Gil Nolte of the code-making Information Assurance Directorate at the Pentagon's National Security Agency said his agency believed unspecified foreign intelligence agencies had been behind attacks on U.S. computer networks.

He said there had been insufficient investment in cyber security at all levels of the U.S. government while attackers were very well financed and used "a wide range of tradecraft."


Bush will not endorse Republican opposing Lieberman

Bush will not endorse Republican opposing Lieberman

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush gave a boost to Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman's re-election bid as an independent by taking the rare step of refusing to endorse the Republican candidate running for Lieberman's U.S. Senate seat.

"We are not making any endorsement in Connecticut. The Republican party of Connecticut has suggested that we not make an endorsement in that race and so we're not," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

It is highly unusual for a sitting president not to endorse a Senate candidate from his own party and suggests the depth of the political machinations over Lieberman's Senate seat after his defeat in last week's Democratic primary by Ned Lamont, a well financed challenger running on an anti-Iraq war platform.

Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, has vowed to launch an independent bid to retain his seat.

The little-known Republican candidate in Connecticut's Senate race, Alan Schlesinger, trails both Lieberman and Lamont in the polls.

Snow would not say why the Bush would not endorse Schlesinger, but other White House officials have made known their displeasure with him as a candidate and the Connecticut Republican Party has urged him to drop out of the race.

There were published reports last month that Schlesinger had once run up large gambling debts and had gambled under an assumed name.

"There have been races in the past where candidates didn't meet the expectations of the local parties and presidents have stayed out, Democrats and Republicans in the past," Snow said.

The White House has said Bush will not support Lieberman's re-election bid because Lieberman has made clear he will vote Democratic.


Northeast states to act on CO2 where Bush won't

Northeast states to act on CO2 where Bush won't
By Timothy Gardner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seven northeastern U.S. states said on Tuesday they had agreed on a model rule that would create the country's first market for heat-trapping carbon dioxide by curbing emissions at power plants.

The agreement, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, is relatively weak compared to the European Trading Scheme, the emissions trading program set up by the European Union to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

But one expert said it was a landmark agreement that may help force the federal government to take action on reducing greenhouse gases.

"It's a good first step, but the road is pretty long, and we are going to need substantive greenhouse gas reductions," said Peter Fusaro, a carbon markets expert and the CEO of Energy & Environment Capital Management LLC in New York. "The limits are mild, pretty negligible," he added.

States in the western U.S. such as California are also trying to form regional regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. Fusaro said both regions hope that companies that could face emissions reductions on each coast would lobby for national regulation.

The RGGI would cap carbon dioxide emissions at about current levels at power plants from 2009 until 2015. Emissions at the plants would then be gradually reduced by 10 percent by 2019.

The first round of the Kyoto pact requires developed countries to cut greenhouse emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels from 2008 to 2012.


The northeastern states have been working to regulate emissions because the U.S. federal government places no mandatory limits on the gases most scientists believe cause global warming.

In 2001, President George W. Bush withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, saying that it would hurt the economy and unfairly left rapidly developing countries without emissions limits in its first round.

Most scientists believe greenhouse gases are causing global warming that could lead to catastrophic consequences such as stronger storms, heat waves and flooding as warmer temperatures melt glaciers.

The RGGI was initiated in 2003 by fellow Republican New York Gov. George Pataki.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island dropped out of the group late last year, saying the agreement could boost electricity rates. The RGGI said in a statement on Tuesday that homeowners would pay at most an additional $21 annually and would eventually save money as the plan helps power plants become more efficient.

Many Massachusetts legislators expect the state will rejoin the pact when Gov. Mitt Romney, also a Republican, leaves office. Romney is not seeking reelection in 2006.

The states participating in RGGI are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. Maryland recently adopted legislation requiring the state to join RGGI by June 2007. The states now each have to approve the model rule.

Several bills in the U.S. Congress seek to create a national greenhouse emissions market.


Plame lawyer plans to force Cheney, Rove testimony

Plame lawyer plans to force Cheney, Rove testimony
By Gina Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A lawyer plans to use a legal precedent that allowed President Bill Clinton to be sued while in office to force Vice President Dick Cheney and presidential adviser Karl Rove to testify in a lawsuit brought by former CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband.

California attorney Joseph Cotchett said he will ask a federal court to order Cheney, his ex-chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Rove to testify in depositions about their role in disclosing her classified status.

The civil lawsuit accuses them and others of conspiring to publicly identify Plame as a CIA agent to punish her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for writing in an op-ed piece that the Bush administration twisted intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Cotchett, who took over as trial counsel in Plame's case on Tuesday, said legal precedent for whether Cheney and the others could claim legal immunity in the case comes, in part, from Paula Jones' sexual harassment case against Clinton.

In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling that neither Clinton "or any other official has an immunity that extends beyond the scope of any action taken in an official capacity."

In order to be dismissed from the case or avoid testifying, Cotchett said, lawyers for Cheney and the other men would have to argue that they were acting on government business if they are found to have leaked Plame's name to the media.

Federal law makes it a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert agent.

A hearing on motions to dismiss the case and on immunity for the defendants are expected in a month or two, Cotchett said.

The lawsuit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Washington, came after Libby's indictment last October on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury in an ongoing federal investigation into who leaked Plame's identity to the media in 2003. He is so far the only person criminally charged in the case.

The CIA-leak case flared after Wilson accused the administration of leaking his wife's name to the media after he criticized the government in a New York Times opinion piece.

Rove was also named as a source by conservative columnist Robert Novak, who first revealed Plame as a CIA operative.

Cotchett, a longtime Democratic Party supporter and legal adviser, is best known for winning a $3.3 billion jury verdict in a case involving the failure of Lincoln Savings and Loan in the 1980s.

Court documents show that Cheney has hired Emmet Flood, a lawyer from Clinton's impeachment defense team, to represent him in the Plame case.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Greenland's ice cap is melting at a frighteningly fast rate

San Francisco Chronicle
Greenland's ice cap is melting at a frighteningly fast rate
David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

The vast ice cap that covers Greenland nearly three miles thick is melting faster than ever before on record, and the pace is speeding year by year, according to global climate watchers gathering data from twin satellites that probe the effects of warming on the huge northern island.

The consequence is already evident in a small but ominous rise in sea levels around the world, a pace that is also accelerating, the scientists say.

According to the scientists' data, Greenland's ice is melting at a rate three times faster than it was only five years ago. The estimate of the melting trend that has been observed for nearly a decade comes from a University of Texas team monitoring a satellite mission that measures changes in the Earth's gravity over the entire Greenland ice cap as the ice melts and the water flows down into the Arctic ocean.

"We have only been watching the ice cap melt during a relatively short period," physicist Jianli Chen said Thursday, "but we are seeing the strongest evidence of it yet, and in the near future the pace of melting will accelerate even more."

The same satellites tracking Greenland's ice cap also are monitoring the melt rate of Antarctica's ice cover, and there too the melting is adding to the global rise in sea level, according to another team of scientists.

Next to Antarctica, Greenland is the largest reservoir of fresh water on Earth and holds about 10 percent of the world's supply. The increasing flow of fresh water -- most of it from glaciers melting on Greenland's eastern coast -- is already beginning to change the composition of the ocean's salt water currents flowing past Northwestern Europe, the scientists say.

The result could be a critical change in the composition of the main ocean current that flows past Europe's northern edge, blocking off warmer waters that normally flow there and -- ironically -- making Northern Europe's weather colder than normal, at least temporarily, while the rest of the globe continues warming.

The report on Greenland is being published today in the on-line edition of the journal Science by the University of Texas scientists at Austin, including Chen, aerospace engineer Byron Tapley and geologist Clark Wilson.

According to the researchers, surface melting of Greenland's ice cap reached 57 cubic miles a year between April of 2002 and November of 2005, compared to about 19 cubic miles a year between 1997 and 2003.

"The sobering thing is to see that the whole process of glacial melting is stepping up much more rapidly than before," said Tapley in a statement.

If the Greenland ice cap ever melted completely -- a highly unlikely event, at least in the foreseeable future -- the scientists estimate it would raise world's sea level by an average of 6.5 meters, or about 21 feet, more than enough to drown all the world's low-lying islands and even some entire nations, like Holland.

The possibility of future sea level rises becomes even more evident when Antarctica's huge ice sheets are considered.

Only last March two University of Colorado physicists used the same satellite system to measure melting of ice on the Antarctic continent. Although earlier evidence using other techniques appeared to show that the East Antarctica ice sheet was actually thickening, satellite data gathered by Isabella Velicogna and John Wahr at Boulder found that melting -- primarily from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet -- had turned at least 36 cubic miles of ice to fresh water each year from 2002 to 2005.

A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- known as the IPCC -- estimated that during all of the past century worldwide melting ice from global warming had raised sea levels by only two-tenths of a millimeter a year, or about 20 inches for the entire century.

But, according to Chen and his Texas team, the melting of Greenland's ice cap is already raising global sea levels by six-tenths of a millimeter each year, and the Colorado group estimates that melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet alone is adding up to four-tenths of a millimeter of fresh water to sea levels each year. In other words, the global sea level, due to melting of the ice in Greenland and Antarctica combined, is already rising 10 times faster than the IPPC's tentative estimates, the two analyses indicate.

Both the Texas and Colorado groups have been obtaining their data from two satellites known as GRACE, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, which fly in orbit 137 miles apart and determine with extraordinary accuracy just how the mass of even small regions of the Earth change as ice melts and flows away from the land to the sea.

The GRACE satellite mission is due to end next year, but the Texas team is awaiting NASA approval for a new and improved satellite system to continue the work, using laser beams rather than microwaves to measure ice cap melting, Chen said.

In a recent summary of the ice cap melting problem and its effect on sea levels reported by Richard Kerr in Science, geoscientist Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton said, "The time scale for future loss of most of an ice sheet may not be millennia," as glacier models have suggested, "but centuries."


Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction
Steven Lagavulin

Bush has headed off on his 10-day vacation to his home in Crawford, TX, during which time the press often likes to ask "so what is the President reading?" It's generally presumed that it'll be somehow enlightening to know which books are most strongly calling to our Commander in Chief's attention during these rare moments of personal time. The traditional answers given are a well-scripted list of titles regarding the lives of great past-Presidents, the lessons of ancient history and diplomacy, and with often a nod or two to something of more popular contemporary relevance.

Bush reads Camus's 'The Stranger' on ranch vacation

"US President George W. Bush quoted French existential writer Albert Camus to European leaders a year and a half ago, and now he's read one of his most famous works: "The Stranger."

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Friday that Bush, here on his Texas ranch enjoying a 10-day vacation from Washington, had made quick work of the Algerian-born writer's 1946 novel..."

Alright. So does anyone else find the possibility that Camus might be one of Bush's favorite writers deeply, deeply alarming?

Now if this is just an ill-conceived feint toward literary erudition, then the best we might say is...well, that it's very ill-conceived. But the hint from this little press blurb is that Bush likes Camus, that he wanted to read The Stranger before all other books, that he's stimulated by and appreciates what Camus has to offer him during rare moments when he can be truly alone with himself. That leads me to believe he feels a genuine identification with Camus' classic tale...

The Stranger, if you haven't read it, is about a man who kills an Arab. But to be a little more precise, he kills an Arab for no reason. Absolutely no reason at all. Indeed that's the whole point of Camus' story. The protaganist--a rather formless individual by the name of Meursault--has become so completely disconnected from any sensation of reality that he is literally drawn as sleepwalking through his days. While others pretend and pantomime to having heartfelt feelings and relationships, the "truth" through Meursault's eyes is that he's little more than the shell of a human being "going through the motions" of living.

Ultimately the grindingly oppressive and detached atmosphere Camus draws-out for us leads Meursault with a calm fatalism to the moment where he shoots the nameless Arab. But don't let my own third-rate critical analysis mislead you; let me turn instead to the popular, which provides free online study guides for popular literary works, all written and edited by Harvard University students:

"[Meursault] is as removed from reality and social context at this moment as every moment. He squeezes the trigger without intent. Each small act is singular. He realizes that he has shattered his happy harmonious life -- so why fire four more times? What kind of monster can this be? He will later stress to the reader that he is really like everyone else. What does this say about man and our struggle in the world? Is there another solution to living than blame or indifference? The shots are the peak of Meursault's physical life. In order to transcend this blurred dazed drunkenness he consumes, he must knock "on the door of unhappiness."

So I'll put the question again...what does it mean to you that "The Decider"--a leader residing at the fulcrum of an era seemingly defined by incessant crisis and catastrophe--should "make quick work" of The Stranger on his first days of vacation? I mean is it just me? Am I simply being a literary bigot? Conjuring up a tempest in a teapot? Or am I justified in having a dark foreboding that perhaps this doesn't speak well to our President's maintaining the mental fortitude needed to determine the beneficent course of world events?

"Sir can you tell us what the President is reading during his vacation?

Of course Jim. I noted Mr. President thumbing through a small selection of books on the drive to the ranch...Goodwin's new whopper on the political genius of Abraham Lincoln, Kissenger's "Diplomacy" of course...and as the President has long been a fan of poetry I noticed he was most eagerly devouring "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath..."

If it is indeed true that Bush turns straight to Camus for solace during his down-time, then for myself I can only heed it as a warning sign. I don't say this as a political statement or criticism--I take every opportunity to remind readers that I've never felt it's prudent to identify oneself with any particular political party. Rather I see this as a distinctly personal concern, because it may well signal that there's danger at the helm. It might even be a cry for help.

The existentialist writers like Camus and Sartre, for all their expressive talents, were really only an anomaly on the philosophic scene. They came out of a Europe that had directly perceived the frailty of human civilization, a shattered realization that "Armageddon" wasn't merely a figure of speech. On both a spiritual and intellectual level these people wrestled with devils using pen and paper as weapons, striving to make sense of the psychically humiliating possibility that individual life might very well be devoid of any purpose or meaning. And The Stranger, let's suffice it to say, wasn't a particularly glorious battle in that war.

So for a grown man in a position of inestimable daily stress, a man who must recognize underneath it all that he was born on third-base never having hit a triple, a young man whose family life was less than nurturing, and whose lifelong struggle with alcoholism and drug abuse is common would only be prudent to take this as a sign.

Certainly a lot could be made of the opening scenes in The Stranger, which show the protaganist dozing-off repeatedly at his mother's funeral, unable to recall even on what day she had died--and seeing as we're talking about G. W. Bush here a lot could be made of it. But it's those final closing passages that leap to my mind right now:

"For the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world...For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate."

"Thereupon G. W. slowly, almost lingeringly, closed the book and stared toward the window and out at the night sky. " feel less alone, I had only to wish that...they greet me with cries of hate." Before long however this pensive mood was captured by the gentle chirping of Texas crickets on the lawn outside the ranch..."

Of course there's also a third theory we should probably entertain as well. It's rather far-fetched to be sure--and I'm bringing it up only for the sake of completeness. Only because...well, we're dealing with NeoCons here after all....

Perhaps the President's reported reading material was not simply a bungled PR bullet-point.

And perhaps it was in fact a signal--but not actually an indicator of his personal mental state.

Perhaps Camus' The Stranger was intended to be a kind of sick joke. A subtle message if you will--to those who follow these types of things--that the plan is still in place and that it's still proceding more or less according to schedule. A publicly expressed wink-and-a-nod to the counter-counter-intelligences of the world. A brief but sharply whispered "We know that you know...and we want you to know that we know that you know". You know?

But I'm not saying that that's it at all. Indeed, like Camus' Meursault himself, I sometimes feel that I'm at a loss to know what is real about anything this administration says or does anymore. I'm just saying that sometimes real-life can seem much stranger to our senses than even the most classic literary works of fiction.