May 05, 2006

Goss' failure to deliver

Zowie!

Porter Goss abruptly announced his resignation this afternoon, after less than two years as CIA Director. Actually, I guess it would be more accurate to say that George Bush, looking extremely... well, constipated is the word I'd choose, announced Mr. Goss' departure for him. Is it just me, or has it grown unbearably painful to watch this President stumble his way through any public appearance lately? I mean (slipping into Jon Stewart's Bush-impersonation voice), "Ya see, the CIA is well-known for its secrecy and accountability"?!?! It's frightening to know that this is the man at the helm.

But I digress.

The fact that this announcement, like so many negative events before it, came on a Friday afternoon is reason enough to suspect that something more is afoot with the Director than a simple case of homesickness. Think Progress is already making a case that Goss' sudden move may have some connection to the growing Cunningham scandal, and I'm certain that we'll see a great deal of additional speculation and analysis along those lines in the days and weeks ahead.

Once the media is done with the BIG STORY of Patrick Kennedy's substance abuse, that is. (Fairness alert: Anyone who takes an Ambien and then gets behind the wheel of a car is, in a word, an idiot. Good God - when will the ridiculous personal antics of the Kennedy family stop undercutting whatever momentum the Democratic Party has going for it at a given time?)

Oh hell! Digressing again. Now where was I...

Right. Goss' resignation. Hey, chances are that the Cunningham connection will prove to have had at least some bearing on today's surprise decision. But I'd like to float one other thought that I'm certain won't arise in any WaPo editorials or FOX talk-show debates or The Situation Room, but is one that's potentially terrifying.

In his 19 months as our top spy, Goss has failed to deliver any hard evidence to support Administration claims about Iranian nuclear weapons programs. Unlike his predecessor, poor Porter has been unable to uncover a "slam dunk" smoking gun that would allow this White House to do what it does best - plant the seeds of fear in the general populace, invoke the platitudes of "9/11" and the greater "war on terror," and send thousands of American boys to die needlessly for what is, from the start, a stage-managed bit of political theater designed solely to keep the neo-cons in power.

And time (i.e. the run-up to November's mid-term election) is growing short.

It seems suspiciously coincidental that the current CIA Director would suddenly abandon his post at the precise moment that debate over proposed U.N. Security Council action against Iran has commenced in earnest - and the U.S. has stepped up its rhetoric about the need for "swift and decisive action." The miraculous appearance sometime soon of previously overlooked evidence "confirming" the sinister intentions of Iranian President Ahmadinejad would undoubtedly give Bush and Co. much-needed leverage in convincing a skeptical Russia and China to acknowledge the urgency of intervention.

Such "evidence" would also afford the Commander in Chief another rousing "bullhorn on the rubble" photo op (absent, we pray, the rubble), just in time to rally the nation around the idea of Republican superiority in matters of national security.

Several days ago, friend Star A. Decise wrote at The Enigmatic Paradox about an impending "October Surprise," which Ms. Star predicts will involve massive troop withdrawals from Iraq. And such a move would give the incumbent ruling Party a generous bump in autumn popularity.

But it would also require a tremendously successful spin campaign by the Republican machine to be seen as anything other than a tacit admission of defeat. So, while Ms. Star makes a compelling argument for this scenario, it would seem to me far more strategically advantageous for Bush to simply open a second front against Spoke #2 in the infamous Axis of Evil, and reclaim some of that "War President" glory - and positive poll numbers - he so desperately covets.

It seems logical that an uncooperative Porter Goss may have stood in the way with his failure to produce an Iranian "aluminum tubes" story. Oh well, Porter - no medal for you. Lord knows that I hope I'm wrong, and that my tendency to see conspiracies everywhere is simply the product of an overactive imagination.

But we should all watch closely for any upcoming intelligence "discoveries" damning Tehran that magically appear under the reign of Goss' successor. And let's keep our fingers crossed that any "evidence" trumpeted by the new CIA Director will be viewed with greater skepticism than we possessed in the winter of 2002/2003.

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The whirlwind

If you read anything at all today, be sure that it's this important essay from retired Foreign Service officer Elizabeth Spiro Clark, via TomPaine.com. In it, Ms. Clark argues that even the scattered criticisms of belligerent U.S. attitudes toward Iran that have surfaced in the media (and, inexcusably, there aren't enough), are "ducking the central issue," since they are based on the premise that America simply cannot launch an attack given its current state of military readiness.

This premise, she contends, has caused critics to view the issue in a hypothetical sense, debating the Administration's provocative rhetoric as something ill-informed, but certainly not actionable, and stopping short of openly and directly condemning the insanity of this option being kept "on the table" at all. Clark writes:
Critics who are confident they can put off writing their "don't do it" columns because of the irrationality of the strike should consider how a strike is rational - from Bush's perspective. Bush faces a predicament. Whether or not he draws down, withdraws or stays in Iraq, the war will secure his place in history as a failure. A second and related predicament is that if the Democrats capture the House this fall he will spend his last two years fighting investigations, censures and even impeachment - unless he sets himself down in a different geopolitical landscape.

If Bush attacks Iran he can and will cast the action not only as preempting a nuclear threat but also as a necessary action in the "long war" against terrorism. In fact, an attack on Iran will give the administration a new story line on Iraq - Iranian machinations. In February, Sen. Byrd asked Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and General Pace whether the $75 million special appropriations requested to aid Iranian democrats could be used to attack Iran. The answer was basically yes, ambiguously couched in the context of targeting Iranian terrorists operating in Iraq. Victory in Iraq will be linked to action against Iran.

From the perspective of personal ideology, in attacking Iran, Bush reinforces his commander-in-chief role and the "good versus evil" rhetoric he is comfortable with - Iranian President Ahmadinejad playing his part to the hilt. By acting to protect Israel, Bush will appeal to his religious fundamentalist base and - in all likelihood - his own faith convictions. A military strike would also be an expression of Bush and his core constituency's sense of their identity as Americans, namely, that the way the U.S. imposes its dominance globally is through force. In a military strike on Iran scenario, the cure for the failure of force in Iraq is to use more force, much as Vietnam diehards remain convinced that with more force the war could have been won. This is a Brer Rabbit moment, throwing Bush into a place he really wants to be, where force or the threat of force become the only tools of U.S. foreign policy left.
As anyone familiar with this site knows all too well, I've been adamantly opposed to the Administration's bullying tactics toward Tehran for quite some time, and genuinely terrified that the warmongers dictating policy in Washington are, in fact, unhinged enough to fabricate "evidence," convince the American people they are in "imminent danger," and launch an unnecessary and unprovoked war in the name of securing "peace." Let's face it - they've done it once already.

We cannot allow these continued overtures to war to go unchallenged. We cannot allow the traditional media to remain complicit in Administration fearmongering about Iran. We cannot allow ourselves to be duped again into attacking a nation that poses no threat to anyone, simply because the proven liars that govern this nation say otherwise.

If we do, we have only ourselves to blame for the whirlwind that will surely follow.

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May 03, 2006

Read...

...Congressman Ed Markey's post in today's HuffPo, concerning his fight in the House to preserve net neutrality. And contact your district's Representative, urging him or her to support Mr. Markey's Network Neutrality Act of 2006 (HR 5273).

...Star A Decise's editorial at The Enigmatic Paradox, highlighting a rationale for immediate withdrawal from Iraq proposed by retired Lieutenant General William E. Odom.

...Anne Applebaum's op-ed in the Washington Post, in which the writer examines our dishonest energy debate - and wonders when we'll have the real leadership necessary to affect some sensible changes in our oil-gluttonous culture.

...and, at Informed Comment, Juan Cole's scathing retort to "journalist" Christopher Hitchens, and a few facts Americans should know about the "Iran crisis" being manufactured by dedicated and deceitful neo-con warmongers.

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Be afraid

From today's New York Times:
Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, announced Tuesday that Iran had succeeded in enriching uranium to a level of 4.8 percent, a higher level than it had previously acknowledged. He said that Iran would not enrich it further because, he said, this level suffices for making nuclear fuel. In its report last Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that samples taken inside Iran "tend to confirm" the enrichment level of 3.6 percent declared by Iran, the level needed to make electricity.

Although Mr. Aghazadeh's claim can be seen as provocative, it is well within the bounds of what is used in the most common reactors, enrichment levels of generally less than 5 percent. Uranium must be enriched to about 90 percent for use in bombs.
Now, I'm no nuclear physicist. But unless I'm missing something here, this is the clearest indication I've seen so far that Iran is nowhere even close to having "The Bomb," and is in fact doing precisely what it's been claiming to do from the start - developing a peaceful nuclear fuel cycle for the generation of electricity.

Like it or not, this is Iran's right as a sovereign nation. This is its right as a signator of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And while Tehran does deserve some diplomatic chastisement for its lack of full cooperation with the IAEA and some irresponsible political rhetoric designed chiefly to galvanize a conservative political base, is it any real surprise that its leaders would respond this way to daily threats of attack - including tactical nuclear strikes - from nations with confirmed doomsday arsenals?

Would the U.S. do any differently, if roles were reversed?

What if the international community were evaluating the $27 billion we spend annually "to prepare to fight a nuclear war," coupled with overt promises by Israel and America to launch unprovoked attacks on Iran over unconfirmed hunches, sprinkled with the Bush Administration's demonstrable record of dismissing and defying the U.N., the World Court, and the Geneva Conventions to name but a few, and decided that the United States is deserving of immediate economic sanctions, unfettered foreign inspection and supervision, regime change, and military invasion? I guarantee that the outraged cries of "retribution" against our foes would literally rock the heavens.

Of course, the cruel irony is that those allegations against the Red White & Blue are far more factual - and documented - than America's overly-paranoid hypotheses about Tehran's secret ambition to nuke the free world.

Then how is it, I wonder, with the same alarm I've felt from the first, that the focus of the Times article is not on this apparent confirmation of Tehran's peaceful claims, but is instead a non-critical description of the continued, relentless, stubborn campaign by the U.S. to sanction, punish, and possibly invade Iran, simply because the belligerent minions of the Bush Administration say they know better? Would that be the same way they "knew" that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD, and that America was in "imminent danger" of nuclear attack in the winter of 2002?

And despite the President's public pledge to continue a diplomatic approach, his subordinates have seemingly decided that the time for talk is over. Not that I recall it ever having begun, mind you. The Times notes:
The Americans and the Europeans, who want to move swiftly against Iran, will introduce the resolution in New York on Wednesday or Thursday, according to R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state who has led American diplomatic efforts on Iran.

"The Security Council has no option but to proceed under Chapter 7," Mr. Burns told reporters in Paris, referring to the article in the United Nations Charter that makes resolutions mandatory under international law and opens the way to sanctions or even military action.
Excuse me, under secretary Burns, but "no option"?! The question all Americans should be asking right now is "Why?" Other major global players in this deadly dance see a number of alternatives available. As I noted a few days ago, even Pat Buchanan has a viable approach that doesn't involve this clear step toward another unnecessary and unjustified military confrontation.

Or is it just that war with Iran has been Washington's narrow-minded goal from the word "go"? That's certainly the impression I've had for months now, and one which seems to be borne out by Burns' disturbing statement:
"Diplomacy is not always about words," he said, adding: "Right now, isolation is what will work best."
As I've also said repeatedly, we should all be grateful for the measured, rational views of Russia and China on this issue - and furious with our own leaders for following the same disingenuous and intentionally misleading plan of action they sold to the American people in their push for the invasion of Iraq. Are we so foolish as to place our trust in the same circle of fearmongers that willfully lied us into that quagmire? Can we believe anything this group claims to be true about yet another Islamic "threat" to our safety?

From where I sit, the answer to both of those questions must be a resounding "No".

- - - - -

(For more opinions and background on our dangerous attitudes toward Iran, read here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. -BP)

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May 01, 2006

May Day - or was that mayday?

Suddenly, things have gotten busy today, so I'll have to let the well-crafted words of others say exactly what's on my mind...
- A wonderful piece by georgia10 at DailyKOS, applauding the boldly critical performance by Stephen Colbert at this weekend's White House Correspondents' Dinner. If you haven't already done so, check out the video here - and thank Stephen while you're at it.

- Under the heading of "They Can't Make This Shit Up" comes a report from Christy Hardin Smith at firedoglake on George Bush's proclamation of May 1st as (wait for it) "Law Day U.S.A." This year's theme: "Liberty Under Law: Separate Branches, Balanced Powers."

- Also from DailyKOS, mcjoan comments on the three-year anniversary of the infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech, and how, on that day, the "Commander-in-Chief solidified his true role as Liar-in-Chief."
Gotta run. More later.

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April 30, 2006

"Bush of a Thousand Days"

In typically brilliant fashion, New York Times' columnist Frank Rich dissects the Bush Administration's consistent aversion to the truth - and the way that aversion "keeps coming back to haunt the Bush White House." Mr. Rich writes:
The demons that keep rising up from the past to grab Mr. Bush are the fictional W.M.D. he wielded to take us into Iraq. They stalk him as relentlessly as Banquo's ghost did Macbeth. From that original sin, all else flows. Mr. Rove wouldn't be in jeopardy if the White House hadn't hatched a clumsy plot to cover up its fictions. Mr. Bush's poll numbers wouldn't be in the toilet if American blood was not being spilled daily because of his fictions. By recruiting a practiced Fox News performer to better spin this history, the White House reveals that it has learned nothing. Made-for-TV propaganda propelled the Bush presidency into its quagmire in the first place. At this late date only the truth, the whole and nothing but, can set it free.
To which I can only add, "Hear, hear!"

- - -

(NOTE: For those of you who are not yet subscribers to the NYT's "Times Select", Mr. Rich's article is reprinted in the comments section below. Click "add your opinion" to access the full editorial.)

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Divine emperor

If anyone still doubts that America is under the thumb of a self-anointed imperial demagogue, I urge you to read this incredible report in today's Boston Globe. In it, the Globe notes:
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution...

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to "execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional...

Bruce Fein, a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said the American system of government relies upon the leaders of each branch "to exercise some self-restraint." But Bush has declared himself the sole judge of his own powers, he said, and then ruled for himself every time.

"This is an attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy," Fein said. "There is no way for an independent judiciary to check his assertions of power, and Congress isn't doing it, either. So this is moving us toward an unlimited executive power."
As I have stated repeatedly in this column, there is little point in discussing reform, rebuke, or policy change until the Bush Administration is removed from office. As long as America is headed by an individual who has named himself the sole arbiter of right and wrong, one who has declared his subjective interpretation of law to be infallible, one who has consistently and repeatedly stated that he is under no obligation to follow any rule he doesn't want to, there is no hope of taking any meaningful step toward altering the disastrous course on which this nation is headed.

This is the central issue about which all Americans must begin talking - and talking soon. As long as George Bush and his disciples are allowed to call the shots, and to ignore any measures they determine to be cumbersome or inconvenient, all else is simply an exercise in rose-colored futility.

Time to decide, America. Time to choose whether the President of the United States is an elected servant of the people, or a divine emperor whose arbitrary whims are the true law of the land.

(Be sure to also check out Anthony Ioven's post on this topic at UpdateAmerica/604.)

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