Saturday, May 28, 2005

Iraqi-ization...Shades of Vietnamization 

The ‘Iraqi-ization’ of the war there is not going so well.

I suppose this is an understatement of monumental proportions, but again we have examples this week of how poorly it goes. A massive attempt to lock down Baghdad is the latest technique that will be employed to quell the raging guerrilla battle there. This effort will be spearheaded by the Iraqi forces, who are often called the “dogs of the Americans” by ordinary Iraqis, not just by the opposition.

Dahr Jamail, an Arab-American journalist, writes yesterday about the Iraqi Defense force, quoting first a doctor he’s friendly with in Baghdad:

“…they (the defense forces) now practice a kind of state
sponsored terrorism.”

He went on to give an example of their not-so-straight behavior…

“Eyewitnesses in Al-Saydia area to the south of Baghdad told me that recently when a car bomb detonated and destroyed the area nearby, people were astonished to see the so-called police looting a destroyed mobile phone store that was nearby! The police now are a bunch of thieves. Many of then are already criminals who were released from Abu Ghraib prison before the war.”

Jamail goes on to note:

“When I was in Baghdad in January, I was shot at by Iraqi Police on two different occasions simply because our car drove too close to them.”

These are the guys who are supposed to get our troops out by taking over and winning the respect of the people? We’re in serious trouble.

Take This Tour 

As someone who spends way too much time with earbuds plugged into my head, listening to NPR or Al Franken podcasts (when Air America gets around to them), or downloading snippets of Brian Lehrer’s interviews with political bloggers, or Leonard Lopate talking with Liz Swados about depression and her plays, I relate to these art lovers, as told in this article by Randy Kennedy in the Times.

John Conyers' Letter to the President 

Here's something you can do for your country on this Memorial Day Weekend.

Rep. John Conyers site has a letter on the Downing Street Memo that is being sent to President Bush. Thanks to Somegirl at the All Spin Zone for the heads up. Read it and if you think the questions he poses about rigged Iraq intelligence need to be answered, sign on.

Here’s the text:

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Mr. President:

We the undersigned write to you because of our concern regarding recent disclosures of a “Downing Street Memo” in the London Times, comprising the minutes of a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers. These minutes indicate that the United States and Great Britain agreed to by the summer of 2002 to attack Iraq, well before the invasion and before you even sought Congressional authority to engage in military action, and that U.S. officials were deliberately manipulating intelligence to justify the war.

Among other things, the British government document quotes a high-ranking British official as stating that by July, 2002, “Bush had made up his mind to take military action.” Yet, a month later, the you stated you were still willing to “look at all options” and that there was “no timetable” for war. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, flatly stated that “[t]he president has made no such determination that we should go to war with Iraq.”

In addition, the origins of the false contention that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction remains a serious and lingering question about the lead up to the war. There is an ongoing debate about whether this was the result of a “massive intelligence failure,” in other words a mistake, or the result of intentional and deliberate manipulation of intelligence to justify the case for war. The memo appears to resolve that debate as well, quoting the head of British intelligence as indicating that in the United States “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

As a result of these concerns, we would ask that you respond to the following questions:
1) Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?
2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain’’s commitment to invade prior to this time?
3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?
4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?
5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to “fix” the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

These are the same questions 89 Members of Congress, led by Rep. John Conyers, Jr., submitted to you on May 5, 2005. As citizens and taxpayers, we believe it is imperative that our people be able to trust our government and our commander in chief when you make representations and statements regarding our nation engaging in war. As a result, we would ask that you publicly respond to these questions as promptly as possible.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Go Now to Sign

Friday, May 27, 2005

Why Not Tom? 

What do the following companies have in common?

Philip Morris USA
Bacardi USA
Sears Roebuck and Co.
AT&T Corp.

Yes, they are all national and international in scope.

Yes, they do all rely on the federal government to do business, in terms of regulatory and legislative policies.

No, they wouldn’t appear to have a substantial interest in the Texas legislature, being as big as they are.

And yes, they all made illegal contributions to US House Speaker Tom DeLay’s home state committee— ‘Texans for a Republican Majority’ PAC.

So why is TRPAC's Treasurer, Bill Ceverha, taking the fall when the trail leads back to Washington?

Why not its director, John Colyandro, a veteran of White House political adviser Karl Rove's direct-mail firm?

Why not Jim Ellis, who runs DeLay's federal political action committee and was a decision maker at the PAC?

Why not its chief corporate fundraiser, Warren RoBold, who performed the same function for DeLay's federal PAC?

Why not Tom DeLay?

DeLay, asked by a reporter for CNN if the ruling had implications for him, responded: "Not for me. I'm not part of it."

Some say why.

I say, why not?

More DeLay Cash Ruled Slush 

Thanks to Greg Stroud, the DeLaywatch has an update:

Texas State District Judge Joe Hart ruled yesterday against Tom DeLay’s committee treasurer in the lawsuit filed there by five Democratic candidates. The court held that Texans for a Republican Majority, DeLay’s PAC dedicated to ousting state Democrats, illegally accepted $600,000 in corporate political donations, a practice banned by Texas law. The Democrats, who were successfully ousted with the committee’s help in 2002, received $196,660 in damages.

I’m just wondering, why would the damages be less than the illegal donations?

Another Breath for Bolton Opposition 

The Bolton debate will now go on until at least June 7th, giving the Senate some additional time to consider whether he’s qualified to represent the United States at the UN. Even though Mr. Bolton appears to detest the United Nations, President Bush is determined to back him to the hilt. While the UN appointment is a fallback position for Bolton, who was rejected by two Cabinet members for secondary roles at both the State Department and Defense, Bush seems to be using the same line he’s used with all appointees but the philandering Bernie Kerik—standing by his man. Maybe some additional exposure and time in the limelight will bring the White House to its senses.

Democrats continued to support debate, forcing the issue this evening, with 40 of their 44 members in support, backed by Independent Jim Jeffords and oddly accompanied, for parliamentary reasons, by Majority Leader Bill Frist, who can therefore force a later vote for cloture by posing with the minority.

While the Democratic minority describes the cloture vote as distinct from their filibuster attempts over judicial nominees, it promises more debate over Bolton’s frosty management style and contempt for the world body he would serve. Moreover, in the wake of the Downing Street Memo, Bolton’s willingness to distort intelligence data in order to support the Iraq invasion makes him a legitimate target of continued investigation. Any new revelation regarding his role in the run-up to war will become fodder for the post-holiday debate.

There’s at least some hope that Bolton’s nomination will self-destruct before he’s installed in the General Assembly, pounding his shoe on the table and shouting at everyone.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Amnesty International Report 2005 

The annual Amnesty International Report on the state of human rights across the world is out. Unfortunately, the United States features prominently in it as an abuser rather than as a human rights advocate.

The report says the following in its overview on the Americas:

“The US-led “war on terror” continued to undermine human rights in the name of security, despite growing international outrage at evidence of US war crimes, including torture, against detainees…”


“The US administration’s treatment of detainees in the “war on terror” continued to display a marked ambivalence to the opinion of expert bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and even of its own highest judicial body. Six months after the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts had jurisdiction over the Guantánamo detainees, none had appeared in court. Detainees reportedly considered of high intelligence value remained in secret detention in undisclosed locations. In some cases their situation amounted to “disappearance”.”

The US is also described as a significant abuser of domestic prisoners through the arbitrary application of the death penalty.

Remember when we were using the Amnesty International reports to highlight problems abroad, rather than attempting to discredit AI's findings?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

One Senator's Reservations 

“…I feel compelled to share my deep concerns with the nomination of John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations. I strongly feel that the importance of this nomination to our foreign policy requires us to set aside our partisan agenda and let our consciences and our shared commitment to our nation’s best interests guide us.”

—George V. Voinovich (R)
United States Senate

Segregation in the Present Tense 

At the Policy Link Advancing Regional Equity Conference in Philadephia, Sheryll Cashin, former law clerk to Thurgood Marshall and a Clinton advisor on urban policy, spoke about the failure of integration to take hold in contemporary America. Cashin posited that residential segregation is still a huge obstacle to a truly integrated society. She noted that the costs of segregated housing patterns are distributed to all segments of America, not just to those excluded by the informal apartied.

An excerpt from Cashin’s book expresses her point:

(upper-middle class white suburban segregation)…”like the black ghetto, represents an extreme of American separatism. It also represents the mythic American dream. But there is another dimension to the dream that is America: the shibboleth of all boats rising. Everyone who works hard and plays by the rules is supposed to be able to get ahead in this land of opportunity. American mythology has a powerful hold on us in part because there are real-life rags-to-riches stories. Those who are celebrated in American popular culture mirror this possibility for the masses. Likewise, our separate neighborhoods offer up the promise that one day, we too might be able to trade up to an ideal we wish for, even if we can't live with that ideal today. But this separated system comes with serious costs. The costs of separatism to whites are enormous, yet they are the ones who are likely to be least conscious of separatism's insidious effects. Currently, whites are also the segment of the population that is most apt to live a separated existence. Without an altered consciousness on the part of many more whites, I fear, our nation will never be able to transcend the separate an unequal society we have created.”
Also at the conference, the documentary, “Race: The Power of an Illusion” (Episode 3, “The House We Live In”) ties residential segregation and the soaring value of segregated homes to the huge descrepancy between the net worth of black and white families in America today. In the film, a pair of quotes make the point:

“In 1966, the Frisbys moved from Queens to suburban Roosevelt, only a few miles from Levittown. Like the Frisbys, many non-white families would discover the economic value of race in the real estate market. They watched as their homes and neighborhoods in suburbia declined precisely because they had moved into them…”

Sociologist Dalton Conley : “Today, the average Black family has only one-eighth the net worth or assets of the average white family. That difference has seemingly grown since the 1960's, since the Civil Rights triumphs. And is not explained by other factors (than housing), like education, earnings rates, savings rates. It is really the legacy of racial inequality from generations past. No other measure captures the legacy, the sort of cumulative disadvantage of race, or cumulative advantage of race for whites, than net worth or wealth.”

The pernicious effects of segregated housing can be seen in so many areas of American life, yet the problem is largely ignored in our political life. The Policy Link Conference is a breath of fresh air in addressing this elephant in our kitchen.

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