Saturday, May 15, 2004

The "It's Not Dead, It's Just Resting" Defense  

These days, having learned far too much about the mendacity of the right wing to be surprised very often, it takes an awful lot to bring on rabid drooling. But this morning, having read this absolutely mind-boggling exchange of letters in the NY Times Book Review, I reverted to my former lycoanthropic self.

At issue is Craig Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud, which was reviewed by Jonathan D. Tepperman. Unger writes to complain about Tepperman's...well, there's no way of saying it nicely...lies about what he said in the book. Unger writes:
Tepperman can't reconcile the fact that the president he admires has been so close to the Saudis he detests. Consequently, he resorts to distortions, omissions and fabrications to paint me as a conspiracymonger.

Let me point out two inaccuracies. Tepperman writes, ''To suggest, as Unger does, that support for the Afghan rebels was the result of Bush family corruption . . . strains credulity.'' My book duly attributes the creation of the Afghanistan policy to Zbigniew Brzezinski. At no point do I suggest it is related to Bush family corruption. The assertion is Tepperman's invention.

To highlight my ''conspiracymongering,'' Tepperman also claims that I write that the Bushes and Saudis were behind the firing of the Dallas Cowboys' coach Jimmy Johnson. This is also pure fabrication. I refer to Prince Bandar's close friendship with the team owner, Jerry Jones, but I make no assertion that the Bushes or Saudis were behind the firing of the coach. I challenge Tepperman to cite the text in which I make these allegations. I can't find them -- and I wrote the book.
Tepperman replied:
Craig Unger is correct to note that he does not, in his book, explicitly assert that the Bushes are corrupt, or that they and their Saudi friends were responsible for American support for the Afghan rebels and were behind the Dallas Cowboys' firing of Coach Jimmy Johnson.

But this is only because he implies these things instead, amassing reams of circumstantial evidence and heavily relying on nudge-nudge, wink-wink innuendo, the sort of stuff that wouldn't stand up in court or Congress but that makes for tabloid-style sensationalism. He tells the Johnson story in an extended footnote on Pages 152 and 153, and makes the Afghanistan allegation on Page 101 and following. Readers can check out these passages for themselves to decide whether I mischaracterize them or not.
What does Tepperman take us for? I have a copy of Unger's book. I looked up the two references. It is quite true that Unger never explicitly asserts what Tepperman accused him of saying in his review. Furthermore, there is no way in hell that an honest reader could possibly construe these citations as insinuating that the Bushes are corrupt, that the Bush/Saudi dynasties were responsible for American support for the Afghan rebels, or that the Bushes and Bandar conspired to get Johnson fired. Unger point about Afghanistan is quite simple: that during the Jihad against the Soviets, bin Laden's goals and US goals were essentially the same: drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. This is well known, indisputable history. That is all Unger asserts - he insinuates nothing. Likewise, Unger is explicit about the firing of Coach Jimmy Johnson: Prince Bandar's distracting presence on the sidelines (with a score of bodyguards) was one of many irritations that led to friction between Johnson and Jones, his boss. There is not so much as a semi-colon that so much as suggests that Bush, or even Bandar himself, caused the firing.

In short Tepperman is lying and bluffing. He expects no one to look up the references he was challenged to cite. But that's just a warmup for what is to come.

Unger is deeply puzzled that Tepperman saw fit not discuss one of the most important sections of his book:
For my thesis to hold up, he argues, I would have to show that President Bush has given Saudi Arabia a ''pass'' and overlooked the kingdom's support for Islamic terror. I answer this question with the first account of the Saudi evacuation from the United States that began when American airspace was still restricted. At the time, we knew that 15 out of 19 hijackers were Saudi, that Osama bin Laden was Saudi, that Saudis played a key role in the funding of Al Qaeda. One of the most basic investigative procedures in any murder is to interrogate relatives and associates of the perpetrator. Yet the Bush White House allowed at least eight planes to pick up roughly 140 Saudis in 12 American cities. One Saudi in the evacuation allegedly had advance knowledge of 9/11. Why did the White House let them leave the country largely unquestioned? The logical conclusion is that the White House weighed the relative merits of doing a favor for wealthy Saudis versus getting to the bottom of America's greatest national security disaster and came down in favor of the Saudis. And what does Tepperman have to say about all this? Absolutely nothing. Perhaps to do so would interfere with his political agenda.
Here, believe it or not, is Tepperman's reply:
I chose not to mention Unger's account of the emergency evacuation of Saudi royals from American soil following Sept. 11 not because of any political agenda, but because he provides no proof that there was anything untoward about the White House's helping prominent Saudis leave the country during a dangerous time. Unger seems to assume that these Saudis, by virtue of their nationality and the fact that some were related to bin Laden, were terrorism suspects and should have been treated as such. But since he provides no evidence for this claim, I decided not to mention it: to repeat a slanderous charge is also a form of slander
Hello?????!!!!??? No evidence that they should be treated as terrorism suspects?? It's the week after 9/11! And let's see:

1. They're Saudis like Osama.
2. Some are related to Osama.
3. One may even have had advance notice of 9/11.

What more do you need to keep them in the country as potential material witnesses, if not terrorism suspects? There's a lot more tying these people to Osama then there ever was evidence tying Saddam to Osama (or to WMD), which didn't stop Bush leaping to conclusions!

But it's pointless to argue with Tepperman. He's lying. He knows it. No one honest can look at what happened regarding their WH approved flight from the US and not ask WTF is up with that?

What's most shocking of all is that the Times permitted such trash as Tepperman's letter to be published. First, he assumes we won't bother to fact check him, which is cynical enough, then he actually thinks he can get away with lying about Unger immediately wrote.

Has he no shame, at long last? Has he no shame?

[Update] Revised May 17, 2004 to correct a typographical error.

Keller Reads Tristero  

I blog, you decide:

Tristero April 30, 2004:
... I can't see much good coming out of this any way I can imagine it:

1. The Iraqi army enters Fallujah and engages in a wholesale slaughter. Everyone in the world will know that they committed those atrocities on behalf of the the Americans.

2. The Iraqi army enters Fallujah and proclaims it liberated. Joining with the "anti-American insurgents" -who may very well be fellow Baathists- they provide arms and brains that will make it more, not less, difficult for a civil war between minority Sunnis and majority Shias to be averted.

3. The siege of Fallujah, now Iraqi-fied, continues indefinitely, a situation that will inevitably lead to the sapping of the will of the sieging army who will then be tempted to reconsider which side they are on, their countrymen's or the Americans who are forcing them to conduct the siege.

4. The reconstituted Baathist army, who know how to deal with their fellows, will negotiate a handover of all heavy armament from the Fallujan insurgents. Then, since their mission is over, the Baathist army will voluntary disband, handing over all their weaponry to the Americans, and stand down to await the peaceful turnover of authority to a representative government on June 30th, all without firing a shot.

I'm just kidding about #4, of course. But that seems to be the hope behind this plan. And as we all know about hope...

The New York Times editorial May 14, 2004:
American field commanders have now signed over the city of Falluja to former officers of the same Baathist army they came to Iraq to fight a little more than a year ago. The original plan of having American marines storm Falluja to avenge the mob murders of four private contractors there was not a wise idea. Handing over the town to these politically ambitious soldiers looks even more shortsighted. Subcontracting security and territory out to rival Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish warlords can only increase the risks of an eventual civil war.

July Surprise  

Kevin Drum found a fabulous chart that details Bush's descent into the low 40's of approval. He writes:

"Question: W looks doomed unless he manages to gin up a fourth crowd pleaser to spike his numbers back up. What do you think it will be? And when?"

Here, it is folks. Operation If Want Something Done... :

During the Democratic Convention, Bush secretly flies to Pakistan, as does Cheney. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Perle go to Iraq.

Simultaneously and singlehandedly, they capture:

Osama (by Bush, dressed in flight suit.)

al Zawahiri (Cheney, forced by the heat to loosen his tie, but otherwise impeccably dressed.)

Zarqawi (Rumsfeld, who has something gnomic to say.)

al-Sadr (Wolfowitz, disguised, poorly, as an American soldier.)

Sistani (Perle, disguised in traditional Iraqi women's clothes, complete with matching hijab.)

A week later, the captives are put on indefinite display in glass jails in the main lobby of the Halliburton building.

Now, that would really boost Bush's chances.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Political Hate Speech  

Found on the front page of the official RNC website. Glad to see the grown-ups are in charge.

via Daily Kos

Bush's Poll Numbers Still Not Low Enough  

But it's moving in the right direction:
As Americans express growing unease about Iraq, President Bush's job approval rating has taken a hit, according to a poll released Friday by CNN and Time magazine.

That development appears to be helping Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. He wins the support of 51 percent of likely voters, compared to 46 percent for Bush. In February, Bush was ahead of Kerry by two percentage points.

If Independent Ralph Nader is among the choices, Kerry gets 49 percent, Bush 44 percent and Nader 6 percent.

Bush's overall job approval rating fell from 49 percent to 46 percent since the last CNN/Time poll on April 8, while his disapproval rating rose from 47 percent to 49 percent -- the first time that more people disapproved of Bush's job performance than approved.

More people than not believe that going to war with Iraq was the right thing to do, but that number has declined 48 percent in this poll, compared to 53 percent in April. And 56 percent of those polled say the war is not worth U.S. lives and other costs.

Najaf Shrine Damaged  

The inevitable has happened. Regardless of who actually shot up the dome, the US, the infidel demons of Abu Ghraib, will be blamed:*
he Imam Ali shrine in Najaf, Shiya Islam's holiest site, was damaged in fighting today between U.S. forces and fighters loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the Associated Press reported.

Four holes, about 12 inches (30 centimeters) by eight, are visible on the shrine's dome, AP cited one of reporters as saying. They appeared to have been caused by machinegun fire, it said.

It wasn't clear which side was responsible, AP said. U.S. troops have sought to avoid damaging holy sites in Najaf and other cities, AP said...
So much for Shia support. It looks like it's gonna get real dicey real soon now in Iraq.

*Rightwing moron note: Obviously, I don't think the US are infidel demons, I'm simply imagining how Muqtada will spin this in Iraq.

Juan Cole On Muqtada  

I was afraid of this:
My own view is that Muqtada has now won politically and morally [earlier, Juan cited polls indicating significant support for Muqtada in Iraq]. He keeps throwing Abu Ghuraib in the faces of the Americans. He had his men take refuge in Najaf and Karbala because he knew only two outcomes were possible. Either the Americans would back off and cease trying to destroy him, out of fear of fighting in the holy cities and alienating the Shiites. Or they would come in after Muqtada and his militia, in which case the Americans would probably turn the Shiites in general against themselves. The latter is now happening.

The Americans will be left with a handful of ambitious collaborators at the top, but the masses won't be with them. And in Iraq, unlike the US, the masses matter. The US political elite is used to being able to discount American urban ghettos as politically a cipher. What they don't realize is that in third world countries the urban poor are a key political actor and resource, and wise rulers go out of their way not to anger them.

Two More Marines Killed In Iraq  

And the killing goes on, over and over and over:
A roadside bomb yesterday killed a U.S. Marine in the Fallujah area, U.S. officials said. Another Marine died of wounds suffered in a clash west of Baghdad, the U.S. command said.

A statement from the U.S. command said the Marine who died Wednesday was assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He was mortally wounded earlier in the day in Anbar province, which includes Fallujah.

As of Wednesday, more than 770 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations in Iraq last year, according to the Department of Defense. Of those, more than 560 died as a result of hostile action.

In other developments:

Explosions rocked the holy city of Najaf, and residents reported intermittent gunfire in Karbala today as U.S. soldiers again clashed with militiamen loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Fighting erupted on a road leading from Najaf to nearby Kufa, where al-Sadr was scheduled to deliver a sermon today. At least one U.S. tank was stationed on the road.

Smoke rose from two areas of Najaf and residents scurried for cover. Later, two U.S. tanks moved into the city's cemetery and fired on militia positions. Al-Sadr's fighters retreated to alleyways and residential areas, while U.S. forces moved on the main roads.

Fighting occurred near Imam Ali shrine, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam.

Gunfire was heard in parts of Karbala, where U.S. troops and the cleric's militia, al-Mahdi Army, have fought intense battles this week.

Yesterday, Muslim clerics and political leaders in Karbala named Shakir Abdul-Amir, a former major general in Saddam Hussein's army, to mediate an end to the fighting, but there was no indication al-Sadr was willing to accept Abdul-Amir.

Cash payments were made yesterday to people in the village Ali-Bo Ali Dakel, Iraq, who suffered during recent fighting between the U.S. Marines and insurgents in nearby Fallujah.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Hate Speech  

Digby has part of a Michael Savage transcript. It's pretty unbelievable:
Savage on what should be done to the Iraqi prisoners:

And I think there should be no mercy shown to these sub-humans. I believe that a thousand of them should be killed tomorrow. I think a thousand of them held in the Iraqi prison should be given 24 hour -- a trial and executed. I think they need to be shown that we are not going to roll over to them. It won't happen. It won't happen because of the CBS Communists. It won't happen because of the CNN traitors. I won't happen because of the MSNBC empty heads. And we the people are the ones who are going to suffer today. ...

Instead of putting joysticks, I would have liked to have seen dynamite put in their orifices and they should be dropped from airplanes. How's that? You like that one? Go call somebody that you want to report me to, see if I care. They should put dynamite in their behinds and drop them from 35,000 feet, the whole pack of scum out of that jail. Thank you CBS. Thank you New Yorker. Thank you Carl Levin. Thank you Ted Kennedy. Thank you Hillary Clinton. I'm sure that Mr. Berg's parents appreciate what you've done for them. I'll be right back.
As Digby notes, Savage has 6 million listeners a day. You read that right. 6 million a day.

ACLU Censored Under Patriot Act  

Just in case anyone thought it wouldn't be abused
When a federal judge ruled two weeks ago that the American Civil Liberties Union could finally reveal the existence of a lawsuit challenging the USA Patriot Act, the group issued a news release.

But the next day, according to new documents released yesterday, the ACLU was forced to remove two paragraphs from the release posted on its Web site, after the Justice Department complained that the group had violated court secrecy rules.

One paragraph described the type of information that FBI agents could request under the law, while another merely listed the briefing schedule in the case, according to court documents and the original news release.

The dispute set off a furious round of court filings in a case that serves as both a challenge to, and an illustration of, the far-reaching power of the Patriot Act. Approved by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the law gives the government greater latitude and secrecy in counterterrorism investigations and includes a provision allowing the FBI to secretly demand customer records from Internet providers and other businesses without a court order.

The ACLU first filed its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of such demands, known as national security letters, on April 6, but the secrecy rules of the Patriot Act required the challenge to be filed under seal. A ruling April 28 allowed the release of a heavily censored version of the complaint, but the ACLU is still forbidden from revealing many details of the case, including the identity of another plaintiff who has joined in the lawsuit. The law forbids targets of national security letters to disclose that they have received one.

ACLU lawyer Ann Beeson said the court order also means that she "cannot confirm or deny" whether the ACLU is representing the second plaintiff. The group is the only counsel listed in court documents.

The dispute over the ACLU's April 28 news release centered on two paragraphs. The first laid out the court's schedule for receiving legal briefs and noted the name of the New York-based judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero.

The second paragraph read: "The provision under challenge allows an FBI agent to write a letter demanding the disclosure of the name, screen names, addresses, e-mail header information, and other sensitive information held by 'electronic communication service providers.' "

Justice lawyers said that both paragraphs violated a secrecy order and that the ACLU should be required to seek an exemption to publicize the information, court records show. Justice spokesman Charles Miller declined to comment yesterday.

Political Hate Speech  

Pandagon quotes Derbyshire:
My mental state these past few days:

1. The Abu Ghraib "scandal": Good. Kick one for me. But bad discipline in the military (taking the pictures, I mean). Let's have a couple of courts martial for appearance's sake. Maximum sentence: 30 days CB.

2. The US press blowing up the Abu Ghraib business: Fury at these lefty jounalists doing down America. They just want to re-live the glory days of Vietnam, when they brought down a president they hated. (PS: They hated him because he was an anticommunist, while they themselves tought communism was just fine.)

3. GWB apologizing to some barbarian chieftain for Abu Ghraib: Disgust. Correct approach: "Mind if we film some footage in YOUR jails?"

4. Revelations about sexual hanky panky in US armed forces: Outrage. I want to see someone cashiered -- a general, at least. This is no way for soldiers to behave when on active service. Gross, unpardonable violation of military ethics. Whose damn fool idea was it to mix men and women in the same units?
They are all beyond the pale but I draw your attention to #2 and Derbyshire's lies. This liberal never liked communism: many liberals never did. And Nixon brought himself down, by his paranoia, his crimes, his lies, and his cover-ups.

Y'know, that anyone ever took Derbyshire seriously as a commentator... Apparently, he's a second rate mathematician, not terribly original, but not stupid either. Obviously, that skill does not translate into any other area and should give him no standing to lie and smear loyal American citizens in print.

Quote Of The Day  

Rob Courddry:
Just because torturing prisoners is something we did doesn't mean it's something we would do.

More Voting Machine Hijinks  

Courtesy of MSS comes more voting machine nonsense.

Diebold In Trouble  


Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Told you he was disturbed:
A Senate hearing into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was told on Tuesday that Lt. Gen. William Boykin, an evangelical Christian under review for saying his God was superior to that of the Muslims, briefed a top Pentagon (news - web sites) civilian official last summer on recommendations on ways military interrogators could gain more intelligence from Iraqi prisoners.

Critics have suggested those recommendations amounted to a senior-level go-ahead for the sexual and physical abuse of prisoners, possibly to "soften up" detainees before interrogation -- a charge the Pentagon denies.

Congressional aides and Arab-American and Muslim groups said any involvement by Boykin could spark new concern among Arabs and Muslims overseas the U.S. war on terrorism is in fact a war on Islam.

"This will be taken as proof that what happened at Abu Ghraib (prison) is evidence of a broader culture of dehumanizing Arabs and Muslims, based on the American understanding of the innate superiority of Christendom," said Chris Toensing, editor of Middle East Report, a U.S.-based quarterly magazine.

One Senate aide, who asked not to be identified, said any involvement by Boykin could be explosive. "Even if he knew about the abuse, that would be a big deal," he said.

Boykin has declined comment, and defense officials could not say what the extent of his involvement or knowledge about the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners might have been.
Previous posts on General Boykin and his possible mental problems can be found here and here. Bob Somerby had a similar take on Boykin. And Dave Neiwert has much useful information on Boykin, Cambone, and others.

Katrina Leung Back In The News  

But everyone's forgotten that Leung is a GOP activist. Check it out.

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