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June 19, 2005 - After all this time it's now time to talk about the war?

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So why now?  Thursday, June 16, late in the afternoon, Jennifer Loven of Associated Press proves a summary of the situation – "Facing growing pressure to bring troops home from Iraq, President Bush is launching a public relations campaign to try to calm anxieties about the war."

Is this a problem public relations can fix?  Sometimes PR isn't the answer – but who knows?  Maybe that'll do.  In any event it seems we're going to get a major address on June 28, and that's symbolic, of course.  That's the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty from our coalition - such as it is now (or was) - to the Iraqis.  Four days before that it seems Bush is scheduled to will meet at the White House with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the fellow who heads the transitional government over there.  Oh yeah, we are told Bush also plans a series of radio addresses and appearances outside Washington, one assumes with those trademark carefully-vetted audiences so there's no trouble.  And the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, says Bush "will emphasize the importance of democracy in Iraq and elsewhere" when he meets with selected world leaders in Gleneagles, Scotland.

That will turn things around?

Our fatalities so far?  Over 1,700 now – and rising.  Don't ask about how many Iraqis, soldiers and civilians, have died in all the recent bombings.  It seems an average of thirty or so a day.

Scott McClellan: "The president recognizes that this is a concern that's on the minds of the American people. That's why he's going to sharpen his focus, spending more time talking about the progress that's being made on the ground - there's significant progress that has been made in a short period of time - the dangers that remain and that lie ahead, as well as our strategy for victory in Iraq."

Focus is good.  And a strategy would be nice.  Up until now out leaders were doing what, exactly? 


Well, there was the body of the one brain-dead woman that had to be kept functioning – and that moral, ethical and metaphysical battle had to be fought, as a matter of principal and religious faith.  There was rescuing our stem-cell citizens - those little lumps of cells who were really people just like you and me - from the evil scientists.  There was getting judges who favor the Bible over the constitution appointed – and that damned filibuster.  And there was so much more.  So the war got short shrift – but, reluctantly, it seems the guy has to deal with it.
Why?  Because even the "freedom fries" guy has turned to the dark side.  Representative Walter Jones, Republican of North Carolina – the guy who won the battle to have the House cafeteria rename those greasy potato sticks something other than "French" fries – is supporting the new bipartisan resolution to start withdrawing our troops from Iraq by October 1, 2006. He voted for the war and now says - "After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and discussion."  Dang.
And Loven of AP notes this –


Foreign policy has typically given Bush his highest scores with the public, but that has changed. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll this month found just 41 percent of adults supported his handling of the Iraq war - an all-time low. In addition, a Gallup poll released Monday found that six in 10 Americans say they think the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq.


That'll grab your attention.

So the PR task now is to explain there was be no change in any policy - that's the official line - we'll just be told we're doing the right thing, and we should trust them on that.

Loven does add a comment that this new focus, and some revelation of some sort of clear strategy, may be a momentary thing.  There could be the first Supreme Court vacancy in more than ten year, and by the end of this month.  If so, the war stuff goes to the back burner again?

But can it go back into the "we'll worry about it later" bin?

Even the Thursday edition of the pro-Bush conservative Wall Street Journal explains the grim situation


As bad news continues to emerge from Iraq and the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, some Republicans are starting to edge away from the White House on its policies in the war on terror. The strains were on display yesterday, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Guantanamo Bay to address what Chairman Arlen Specter called the 'crazy quilt' system that governs the treatment of about 520 suspected enemy combatants being held there. Mr. Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, called on Congress to set out rules.

"More pointedly, Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, warned that if the administration and Congress and the courts can't come up with an effective policy for Guantanamo Bay, 'we're going to lose this war if we don't watch it.'"

President Bush is starting to get peppered by his own side on Iraq, too. Over the weekend, Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina - once a co-promoter of "freedom fries" - called for the U.S. to set a date to withdraw troops from Iraq. And last week, Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, a former Bush cabinet member who strongly supported the Iraq war in its earlier days, said he was "discouraged" by the lack of progress and the inability of the Pentagon to draw down U.S. forces.


Look like it really is time to roll out the public relations heavy armor.  A former cabinet member?  The Freedom Fries guy?

And Thursday on Capitol Hill, in a basement room because the Republican house leadership said no conference rooms were available, Democratic representatives Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and John Conyers of Michigan led a hearing on the Downing Street Memo - those minutes from a British leadership meeting that suggest the Bush first decided to go to war in Iraq and then built a case for it later.  No wonder there were no rooms available.

Note this: "In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Jackson Lee said the public needs to understand what happened. 'This is just the beginning. I look to 2002 and the names many of us were called for opposing the war in Iraq, and then I look at where we are today,' she said. 'If this is to meet the test of history, we have to have a comprehensive answer to what happened.'"

Things are getting hot.

On Flag Day, Tuesday, June 14 - Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat, read this statement (links to a PDF document) –


When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]--I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:


On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.


If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.


Oh, that's just not nice.

Over at Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas Ziniga (Kos) describes the reaction to what Durbin said.  This has become "the latest cause celebre of the Right Wing Media Borg."  (Borg? See this.)


To the pea brains on the Right, incapable of reading the English language in its most basic, unuanced form, they claim Durbin is calling our troops Nazis. The Wingnutosphere is making that claim. Rush is making that claim. Hannity is making that claim. Drudge is making that claim. Look to Fox News to jump on the bandwagon tomorrow.


Fox News?  Late Thursday they headlined the administration saying Durbin's comments were "reprehensible."  As expected.
Kos suggests all the critics of what Durbin said missed the point –


Of course, what Durbin is saying is that such torture - undisputed, by the way, and read from an FBI report - is more at home in a place like Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany than in a modern Democracy.

And that's the truth. Plain and simple.

Remember when torture was bad? And getting rid of it was good?


Yep, Durbin was saying we're better than this.  The response?  You're calling us Nazis!

I'm not sure that's a counterargument.  Why are we doing this stuff?

Of course, the Nazi reference, and the Gulag and Pol Pot stuff, was meant as a reminder we're NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THOSE GUYS.

Perhaps it would have been better if Durbin had done what Jon Stewart did on the Wednesday night "Daily Show" - discuss the torture business under a beach graphic with the logo "Guantánamo Baywatch."  No one is offended by David Hasselhoff.  (Well, that's not exactly true.)

Kos does offer some reminders that we do say we don't like torture much -

President Bush, Oct. 8 2003: "Iraq is free of rape rooms and torture chambers."

Scott McClellan, Dec. 10, 2003: "There was an announcement by the Iraqi Governing Council earlier this week about the tribunal that they have set up to hold accountable members of the former regime who were responsible for three decades of brutality and atrocities. ... We know about the mass graves and the rape rooms and the torture chambers of Saddam Hussein's regime. ... We welcome their decision to move forward on a tribunal to hold people accountable for those atrocities."

President Bush, Jan. 12, 2004: "One thing is for certain: There won't be any more mass graves and torture rooms and rape rooms."

Well, there won't be any over there. And those quotes are links from the actual White House website.


And let's not forget, "torture" was used as a rationale for this war - as in, we'll invade and end the torture.

Of course, none of that has happened. The torture that was so bad under Saddam is equally bad under U.S. command. And Dick Durbin had the balls to say it so on the Senate floor.

And these cowards - these people who will neither serve the cause they claim is so vital, nor urge others to serve it - now rush to defend behavior that is indefensible?


Ah, seems so.

More of the same sort of thing from others here, here and here.

Kos wraps up with this –


Really, what is the Right trying to accomplish here? Inflict so much pain on Durbin that others will think twice before they levy legitimate criticisms of the war? Are they so hell-bent on their political correctness that any criticisms of the war effort is considered treasonous?

Last time I checked, the American people were giving up on Bush's folly. Last time I checked, most people still think torture is wrong, worthy of condemnation. Last time I checked, the War Pundits, War Politicians, War Preachers, and 101st Fighting Keyboarders still refused to personally sacrifice for the war effort. Last time I checked, that sad lot still refused to call on their own supporters to sacrifice for the war effort.

At a time when REAL support for the troops means providing them with the equipment and manpower necessary to fight the war effectively, they agitate for neither.

Instead, they try to shut down a US senator reading from an FBI report. From Bush's FBI. Because the truth hurts. So we must suppress it. And we'll do it by shedding crocodile tears for the troops. Because who gives a shit about them, so long as our heroic, do-no-wrong President looks good on the evening news.

Well, I stand with Durbin. Proudly. Because opposing torture is the Right Thing, despite violating the wingnut manual of political correct speech. And the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus better be standing with him as well.

You are either for torture, or against it. Let the chips fall where they may.


Yeah, well, if he's angry, turn to the other side.

J. Mendez posts an open letter


Senator Durbin,

The word traitorous does not begin to capture your heinous remarks in the Senate regarding our treatment of war prisoners. You, Sir, are a political abomination and if I had my way senator you would be impeached and arrested for sedition.

For you to compare the treatment these Islamic dogs have received as our prisoners to Nazi concentration camps, to the Soviet gulags or to murderous regime of Pol Pot is not only a disservice to the victims of those horrible crimes, it is nothing less than siding with our enemy and emboldening them to continue their terrorist assault on our country.

You, sir, have demonstrated clearly where your loyalties lie and they lie squarely with our nation's enemies. You have inexcusably indicted our men and woman in uniform, you have dragged our good name through the mud and you have enraged a huge segment of this nation's citizenry in ways you cannot begin to fully grasp.

Do you forget senator the vermin we are holding in places like Guantanamo are of the same ilk as those who killed close to 3,000 Americans on 911 and who ruthlessly and cowardly beheaded Americans like Nick Burg in a crazed blood bath? You traitorous slim you!

You are not worthy to be called an American senator you are barely worthy to be called an American at all. You, Sir, are a quisling, not to mention a real and present danger to this country's safety and well-being.

To call you a horse's ass senator would be to insult the horse!

With any luck we, the people of Illinois, will give you what is coming to you in your next election and vote you clear out of office. The Senate is no place for seditious slim like you senator.

Gloat all you want for now in your unabashed anti-Americanism. We, the American people, will not forget what you have said and, if it is all I do, I will do all I can to send you back to whatever spider whole [sic] crawled out came from. [sic]

God help us all from you and your entire kind, senator.


Things really are getting hot.

Over at Blogs for Bush you'll find a more reasoned voice here


As a general rule, I don't wish to see these men treated brutally because I believe that we can get more useful information out of them by treating them humanely - but make no mistake about it, if harsh measures are ever required to get the necessary information, then we must do it. Their lives are forfeit, and only necessity and our innate humanity keeps them alive for any given length of time.


The tone is calmer - the contention that these lives are forfeit does raise the issue of whether we need to determine if we got the right folks - that has been a bit of a problem in the past - and whether they deserve to have the chance to explain there may have been some mistake.

On the right side - the Bush side - there is no dispute, it seems.

And as one middle-of-the road television analyst, Chris Matthews suggests to America on MSNBC, there is the a practical consideration about the folks we hold at Guantanamo –


My big concern is, the longer you keep them, the angrier they get. Eventually, you are going to send them home. Maybe the smarter thing is to execute everyone down there, because if you're going to send them back to the Arab world or the Islamic world angry as hell at us, they're going to be doing dirty stuff against us, right?


Ah, the famous kill-'em-all-and-let-God-sort-it-out argument.  Elegantly simple.

But folks are angry - as in the Pentagon now threatening members of congress.  Chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita –


The Pentagon on Thursday invited more members of Congress to visit the Guantanamo jail for foreign terrorism suspects, saying criticism by some U.S. lawmakers showed "a real ignorance of what's really going on...."

"And the way they are describing it is unfortunate, and in some places I believe those people will regret having made those kind of comments."


Whatever does that mean?  Better not visit a NASCAR race?  Don't walk down dark alleys?  Expect a horse's head in your bed?

Whatever.  Warning noted.

You know, of course, that Navy general counsel Alberto Mora could be sleeping with the fishes if he's not more careful.  From CURSOR.COM we see ABC News reports that a Pentagon memo reveals that Alberto Mora warned that "top officials could go to prison" over interrogation techniques used on Guantánamo Bay detainees.  Mora was previously reported to have called the techniques "unlawful and unworthy of the military services."

Hey, no one is going to prison.  Mora needs to shut up, or watch his back.

These guys have the mojo here.

As in this - just Reuters reporting on a Senate hearing this week –


Delaware Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden asked Deputy Associate Attorney General J. Michael Wiggins whether the Justice Department had "defined when there is the end of conflict."

"No, sir," Wiggins responded.

"If there is no definition as to when the conflict ends, that means forever, forever, forever these folks get held at Guantanamo Bay," Biden said.

"It's our position that, legally, they can be held in perpetuity," Wiggins said.

Earlier, the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said the United States may face terrorism "as long as you and I live." He asked Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway, who oversees military trials of Guantanamo prisoners, if that means America can hold prisoners that long without charges.

"I think that we can hold them as long as the conflict endures," Hemingway responded."


At Corrente there is this comment


"In perpetuity." "As long as the conflict endures."

Without charges.

Forget that many of these people were handed over to US troops because we paid the locals money to bring in warm bodies, and some of their only crimes were that they had gotten on the bad side of one of the warlords or their buddies.

Forget that the lack of parameters around the concept of "war on terror" is an expedient method of initiating and extending conflicts all over the world against whomever we may find convenient, without ever having to be made accountable for our actions, a new permutation of the cold war as the-paranoia-that-never-ends.

Forget that all Bushco's squirming under the charge of running a "gulag" hides the fact that this is how gulags begin, and that once this kind of power is exercised against a foe, it becomes that much more inevitable that it will one day be exercised against those identified as foes internally.

How does the concept of clapping a human being into a cell without charges, with no recourse to communication with the outside world and no one to speak for him, and no hope of ever being free again, how does this square with your concept of right and wrong, and what you may have been taught by the decent people in your life?
Now which side of the equation is our nation on? Will our representatives take back our power to do right?


Ah, that sort of depends on how you define "doing right."

And the definition has changed - as the new Bush PR campaign will let us know.

We will see just who is buying the new shtick.








Email received on this topic from Bob Patterson –


I won't go into just how vitriolic the conservative talk shows were today [Thursday] regarding the Senator from Illinois.  (There is (apparently) no recall for Senators, but if he doesn't back off fast he may find (I believe) that a Senator can be impeached for treason.)


Cut to the chase: If folks believe that the Bush election in 2000 wasn't fair -if folks believe that the Bush election in 2004 wasn't fair (See page 15 of the LA Citybeat for June 16 - 22, 2005 for an interview with Bob Fitrakis who says that the election results in Ohio in 2004 were rigged.) - then I have questions.


In 2008, will there be an honest election that a Democrat might be able to win?  (Just because Bush leaves office doesn't mean he can't be held accountable if folks say he committed a crime.)


If a Bush is going to win in 2008, how can Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, and Rumsfeld be sure that Jeb will hold them over?  (Wouldn't it look very odd if he did?)  With that in mind, won't it be easier to stage a "grass roots" movement for a Third term for Dubya?


If the 2000 and the 2004 elections were fixed, then isn't a third term for George W. Bush a "given?"  If Bush is going to get a third term, and if it is well known that he puts loyal second-raters into various appointed positions, then can't he replace some Republican politicians with more loyal ones?


I know this sounds very paranoid like "wow he lied and got us into the war for some unknown reason," but given that there were no WMD's, isn't it likely there was a different reason for starting that war?  (Thinking that he knew there were no WMD's and got into the war for no reason at all is crazy.)  If there was a "hidden agenda" then do they want "game over" and Bush to step down in 2008?


It seems that there has to be a third term for Bush in 2008 to make sense of all this.


I gotta get the T-shirt business up and running, because if he really is going to get a third term, then I really do want to cash in on it.


Maybe I'm totally wrong and Hillary will be a gracious winner and discourage any Bush investigations after she is inaugurated?


As Bill O'Reilly would say: "What say you?"


My response?


If Dick Durbin doesn't back off fast there will be trouble? 


See this –


Durbin Revises and Extends Gitmo Remarks

Fox News - Friday, June 17, 2005


WASHINGTON - After a barrage of criticism, Sen. Dick Durbin went to the Senate floor Thursday evening to repeat a controversial statement he made two days earlier and insist he said nothing objectionable.


In remarks first expressed on the Senate floor late Tuesday and then re-read verbatim on Thursday evening, Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, read the report of an FBI agent who described treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. ...


Note - He went on the senate floor this evening and repeated, and extended his comments.  "We are better than this."  As opposed to the Republican position - "America: Not Very Nice, But Not Nearly as Bad as Stalin or Hitler!"  Idealism versus the pragmatic view.


I wouldn't take the third term stuff too seriously.  That 22nd amendment idea that's going around?  It should be repealed?  That will never leave the House - and if it were to get through congress one day, two thirds of the states would have to ratify it.  Remember the Equal Rights Amendment for Women?  The ERA died.  Folks introduce such things all the time.  It's all posturing.  The flag-burning thing may get to the states one day, but who cares?


As for impeachment and crimes and all that?


See this


FROM THIS EVENING'S Nelson Report ...


[There is] an increased press and Congressional focus on the so-called "Downing Street Memo", from the then-head of Britain's secret service to Prime Minister Blair, stating flatly that President Bush and his top advisors had determined to go to war with Iraq well in advance of playing out the UN process.


Such an interpretation is, of course, arguable, as per the Bush/Blair press conference last week, about which you will have read, and will read more tomorrow, given a suddenly large push by more than 100 Hill Democrats. Our point for tonight is that this memo, really a series of memos, has had a strange life...but after a delayed reaction in this country, it seems to be leading somewhere...where, exactly, is the question.


We can report, not as a partisan, but as an observer who happened to be working for a Congressman deeply involved in the Pentagon Papers fight of 1971, that old hands note eerie similarities to the start-up process of questions raised, and the potential for Congress to become more seriously involved.


Two examples of related concerns to the "Downing Street" memos: DOD Secretary Rumsfeld's pre-positioning of thousands of troops and large stores of equipment, months before the final decision was made; the top-level White House involvement in the "torture memo" process that led directly to the international humiliation of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, despite internal warnings from then-Secretary of State Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage.


Add those up, add your own examples, and you will know why you hear conversations in the past couple of days using the "impeachment" word...not as a prediction, this is way too soon and/or extreme for now...but as part of an attempt to measure historic parallels, and to think aloud on how far this process might go. Maybe nowhere? Or, maybe we're just seeing the beginning of something. We mention it tonight because the conversation is being held less quietly than before, and politics in Washington may be about to get even worse, if you can imagine anything worse.


Passed on without comment. - Josh Marshall


Note - on May 17 - the Washington Post's Dan Froomkin, back when the memo was failing to cause much excitement: "It's possible it's less a dud than a bomb with a long, slow fuse."


Two points for him.


Thursday shows Bush running into a bit of a brick wall.


The brick wall is getting more substantial by the hour - as this week all things turned on Bush, or started to turn.  And I didn't even mention the group of Republicans now asking him to give up on the Social Security privatization plan.  We might be seeing an unraveling here. 


One senses, with the polls and the Downing Street memo thing gathering steam, something is up.  That brick wall is forming - sing another chorus of "Just Another Brick in the Wall."  Shifting metaphors, maybe more and more folks are finally admitting, reluctantly, that he's a dim bulb and dangerous - oil hit a new record high at the end of the week, the debt and trade deficit are out of control, fewer and fewer either believe what Bush says or think he knows what he's talking about, or both.  He's always been a charming doofus - but now he's morphing into an embarrassment, and a liability in a complex world where some are out to kill us and nobody anywhere much trusts us.  We can't afford to keep him in power?


I may be reading things all wrong, but I do follow what is said on the right, even if, unlike Bob, I don't spend hours glued to the conservative call-in shows on the radio.  More than the country being divided into warring red-states and blue-states, there's a middle of folks who are more into "practical" than party-line.  And they sense this isn't working.  Bush is in some fantasy world and both sides of the aisles in the houses of congress are seen as attending to foolish disputes - that's what the polls show people now think.


What I sense from the right?  It was fun while it lasted, but this nonsense is really beginning to hurt us.  For 2008 they'll look for someone competent.  Frist has stumbled badly, and Jeb Bush is too much like his brother.  McCain?  Giuliani?  Who knows?


Even my most conservative friend sense it may be time to bring in someone more thoughtful.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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