2006/09/27

Bush and "finger-pointing" on 9-11

President Bush comments on former President' Clinton's assertion that Bush did little or nothing to try and head off the 9-11 attacks "I don't have enough time to finger-point."
Well, gee, let's think about this now...
- Disney/ABC pointed the fingr of blame at Bill Clinton in their TV miniseries "Path to 9-11"
- Fox News conducted a hostile, "gotcha"-type interview with Clinton
- Secretary of State Rice launched a further attack in the Administration-friendly New York Post
Yesh, Bush could have piled on further, but at that point, who needs to?

2006/09/25

Lieberman's plan for victory in Iraq

Sigh! Again, we get this sort of stuff from people who support the vague, fuzzy concept of victory in Iraq:

Ninth, we must begin now to increase the size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps and to make sure we are building the numbers and types of units we need to fight and win the kinds of conflicts that we are likely to be confronted with during this century. While this will not fix the shortages we have now, nor reduce the strain on our over stretched ground forces, it will begin to give us the greater capabilities we will need and send a signal to our troops that we understand what they are going through and that we are going to do something now about having reinforcements for them.

Nice ideas. Where are the extra troops going to come from!?!?!?! The DLC has also recommended extra troops, again without giving any indication as to where they'll be coming from. The Army and Marine Corps are stretched to the breaking point. Does anybody who gives the issue a moment's thought really think the answer is to just wave a magic wand and more troops will magically appear? This next point is just pure fantasyland wishful thnking:

...we should form a bipartisan Iraq working group early in the next session of Congress. This group would include the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate security committees - Armed Services, Intelligence, Homeland Security, Foreign Relations, and Appropriations - and meet regularly with the President and his team.

Seriously, what evidence does Lieberman have that the Bush Adinistration has shown any desire in the entire five-plus years they've been in office that they have any intention of working with Democrats on any issue, large or small?

Rubbish, utter rubbish!

2006/09/22

NY Times on Geneva Conventions

The Democrats have largely stood silent and allowed the trio of Republicans to do the lifting. It's time for them to either try to fix this bill or delay it until after the election. The American people expect their leaders to clean up this mess without endangering U.S. troops, eviscerating American standards of justice, or further harming the nation's severely damaged reputation.

DailyKos is right. If we were to rate the Geneva Conventions as they are at a 10 and Bush's attempt to gut them as a 2, then the changes sought by McCain et al, would count as a 2.2. Somewhere between slight and nonexistant. It's long past time for Democrats to make themselves heard, loudly and clearly, on this issue!! Will they? Well, this piece, suggesting that the Democrats intend to repeat the twice-failed (2002 & 2004) strategy of running on the economy, means they probably won't.
Too bad, because the campaign in the Second Congressional District of Ohio is looking very good for Democrats. In 2005, it was Paul Hackett (D) vs Jean Schmidt (R). The district was 63% pro-Bush. Now it's Jean Schmidt (R) vs Victoria Wulsin (D) and the race is now in a statistical dead heat. Why is OH-2 competitive? "...because the netroots threw so much into it in 2005." Not because any high-priced lobbyists in expensive loafers came up with any clever strategies, not because any official committes threw gobs of money into the race or because some people in Washington DC came up with oh-so-cute-and-clever slogans, but because people got down, threw their shoulders into it and pushed!

Geneva Conventions - RIP?

The Specter bill seeks to excuse all of the President's crimes concerning warrantless NSA spying. "The President and Vice President negotiated the Specter bill personally and every sign has strongly reflected its great importance to them." It's been pointed out that the Specter bill would "expressly immunize Bush officials from any legal consequences arising out of their illegal eavesdropping -- giving them what Pincus called "blanket amnesty" -- by retroactively legalizing warrantless eavesdropping going back to 1978."

The Existentialist Cowboy (Who also makes a number of other good points) quotes from the Constitution: " 'No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed' —US Constitution, Article I". What this means is that Congress cannot pass a law that goes back into time and excuses behavior that was illegal at the time that the behavior was engaged in. If a US agent committed a war crime while the US was formally observing the Geneva Conventions, then he's guilty of a war crime. No bill passed in 2006 can absolve him of a crime committed in 2003. The Cowboy also quotes a section of Article IV which states: "all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land" which means that the Geneva Conventions, ratified in 1949, do not simply amount to a mere piece of paper that only foreigner care about, it's "the supreme law of the land."

At the moment, if the US decides that the Third Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War no longer applied, that would immediately affect approximately 14,000 prisoners being kept in a "global network of overseas prisons."

"Human-rights groups count dozens of deaths that have never been explained and for which no one has been punished." Murder is a crime which has no statute of limitations (That means that if you rob someone of property and the crime is not discovered until after a certain amount of time has passed, the statute of limitations will have expired and you can no longer be charged for it.) and no ex post facto law can excuse a murderer who killed while his or her actions were illegal. While it's perfectly legal to kill an enemy soldier under many specified conditions, it's been quite another story to kill a prisoner of war since 1949, when the Third Geneva Convention was ratified.

Many have wondered why the Democrats have not stepped up and argued against the Specter warrantless NSA spying bill or to keep the Geneva Conventions in force. According to a blogger who interviewed him, Senate Minority Leader "Sen. Reid stated flatly and unequivocally -- and I'm paraphrasing -- that the Specter bill was not going anywhere, that it would not be enacted."

There's been a real battle over the competing bills, with reports that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has "...referred the warrantless surveillance matter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for further review and would not bring it up for Senate consideration until next week." This would be marvelous news for those who support the Constitution as time in the legislative session is short and any delay weakens those who would toss it all away.

And the story on Maher Arar, the man born in Syria, but who became a Canadian citizen in 1987, who was abducted from the JFK airport in September 2002 and was returned a year ago, telling of being sent to Syria to be tortured? The US Government showsnoe desire to evenacknowledgee that he exists (Back in February, his case against the US was dismissed.), but on September 18 of this year, a Canadian court found that his abduction, imprisonment and torture were all completely unjustified and that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police should pay compensation. Intel can be wrong and officials can believe things that simply aren't true.

As of 6:00pm Sep 21, there's word that a deal has been reached between the Bush Administration and the small group of Republican Senators led by Senator John McCain.

As of 6:45pm it's clear that the "rebellious" Senators have completely capitulated and have given Busheverythingg he wants. Bush looks like a leader, McCain looks principled, Democrats look like losers and Geneva looks dead. "Here's the language. It's not subtle at all, and it only takes 30 seconds or so to see that the Senators havecapitulatedd entirely, that the U.S. will hereafter violate the Geneva Conventions by engaging in Cold Cell, Long Time Standing, etc., and that there will be very little pretense about it. In addition to the elimination of habeas rights in section 6, the bill would delegate to the President the authority to interpret 'the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions' 'for the United States,' except that the bill itself would define certain 'grave breaches' of Common Article 3 to be war crimes."

If this bill passes, we can say goodbye to the Geneva Conventions. The shell of them will still be around, but the core will have been completely gutted.

2006/09/18

Oh, good grief!

Sorry, but I'm in complete and total agreement with this post. John Kerry had his time in the spotlight, he had his chance, he blew it. He failed to respond to the Swift Boat Vets, thereby losing his edge in the veteran's vote that he had previously built up. He failed to say anything about Ohio, which well before the vote was showng that it wasn't going to play fair. I supported Kerry wholeheartedly, but I have to agree, his coming out NOW to say he'd "kick ass" on the Swift Boat Vets is really, really pathetic.
You're two years too late John! Hang it up and resign youself to being "just" a Senator. You'll never gain the Presidency.

2006/09/15

Geneva Conventions

On 17 April 2003, the Heritage Foundation produced a "fact sheet" on possible Iraqi violations of the Geneva Conventions. They examined 27 Iraqi actions and cited 38 possible violations. The following two items are good examples:

Iraq's Actions

  • On April 1, PFC Jessica Lynch, a member of the 507th maintenance company captured on March 23, was rescued from a hospital in the city of Nasiriyah. She was badly injured, suffering from two broken legs and severe back injuries. PFC Lynch was not allowed to eat for the nine days of her internment.

Violation

If proven upon further investigation, these actions would violate:

  1. Article 26 of the Third Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War

The basic daily food rations shall be sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to keep prisoners of war in good health and to prevent loss of weight or the development of nutritional deficiencies. Account shall also be taken of the habitual diet of the prisoners. Sufficient drinking water shall be supplied to prisoners of war.

Iraq's Actions

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross was blocked by Iraq from seeing American prisoners of war as required by the Geneva Conventions.

Violation

If proven upon further investigation, this action would violate:

  1. Article 126 of the Third Geneva Convention

Representatives or delegates of the Protecting Powers shall have permission to go to all places where prisoners of war may be, particularly to places of internment, imprisonment and labour, and shall have access to all premises occupied by prisoners of war; they shall also be allowed to go to the places of departure, passage and arrival of prisoners who are being transferred. They shall be able to interview the prisoners, and in particular the prisoners' representatives, without witnesses, either personally or through an interpreter. Representatives and delegates of the Protecting Powers shall have full liberty to select the places they wish to visit. The duration and frequency of these visits shall not be restricted. Visits may not be prohibited except for reasons of imperative military necessity, and then only as an exceptional and temporary measure. The delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross shall enjoy the same prerogatives. The appointment of such delegates shall be submitted to the approval of the Power detaining the prisoners of war to be visited.




These examples are also quite interesting because President Bush is now claiming that Geneva Conventions rules on treatment of prisoners are unclear. After nearly 50 years, all of the sudden, the rules are considered "unclear." Funny, the Heritage Foundation had absolutely zero difficulty citing these "unclear" rules when it was Saddam Hussein and his Baathist followers who were going to be held accountable to them. Here's President Bush on the rules now:

QUESTION: ... If a CIA officer, paramilitary or special operations soldier from the United States were captured in Iran or North Korea and they were roughed up and those governments said, "Well, they were interrogated in accordance with our interpretation of the Geneva Conventions."...

BUSH: My reaction is, is that if the nations such as those you name adopted the standards within the Detainee Detention Act, the world would be better. That's my reaction.

We're trying to clarify law. We're trying to set high standards, not ambiguous standards.

And let me just repeat: We can debate this issue all we want, but the practical matter is, if our professionals don't have clear standards in the law, the program is not going to go forward.

You cannot ask a young intelligence officer to violate the law. And they're not going to. They -- let me finish please -- they will not violate the law.

You can ask this question all you want, but the bottom line is -- and the American people have got to understand this -- that this program won't go forward if there's vague standards applied like those in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. It's just not going to go forward.

You can't ask a young professional on the front line of protecting this country to violate law.

I agree of course, that the US should not ask intelligence officers to violate the law, but what exactly is it that's unclear about the law? No one prior to President Bush in 2006 appeared to have any trouble understanding the law. I completely agree with the questioner here:

QUESTION: But, sir, with respect, if other countries interpret the Geneva Conventions as they see fit, as they see fit, you're saying that you'd be OK with that?

BUSH: I am saying that I would hope that they would adopt the same standards we adopt; and that by clarifying Article 3 we make it stronger, we make it clearer, we make it definite.

As the Heritage Foundation makes clear above, Article 3 and all of the other sections of the Geneva Conventions are already quite clear. If Article 3 needs further clarifying, then clarification needs to be made in the context of international negotiations. To simply "hope" that other countries adopt the standards that the US ultimately adopts seems like an astonishingly naive way to go about changing international rules of conduct. If Article 3 needs further clarifying, then Bush needs to designate people to re-convene at Geneva along with as many other nations as possible, to re-negotiate the Conventions. For the US to arbitrarily and unlaterally decide to reinterpret the Conventions constitutes an open invitation to all the other countries of the world to toss the Conventions into the trash can. The "new standards" are NOT clear and will NOT protect US troops from being abused by our nation's enemies.

2006/09/14

9-11 Conspiracy Theories

First off, I completely and totally support people who want to "debunk" the various 9-11 conspiracy theories. If we on the left are going to confront the public with these theories, our evidence and arguments have to be as strong and as well-thought-through as it's humanly possible to make them. My own perspective on the whole issue is that I found the website cooperativeresearch.org (Now folded into 911Truth.org, their Reading Room is an excellent resource.) Cooperativeresearch had a comprehensive listing of all the suspicious and related events conncted to 9/11 broken up into four sections: Before 2001, 1 Jan 2001 to 10 Sept 2001, 9/11 and afterwards. I printed out the third section. It came out to 35 pages (The Reading Room lists 75 references related to "foreknowledge" about the attacks.) After reading the third section, I went a few pages into the day of 9/11. There was no single item that convincd me that 9/11 was an inside job. It was just the sheer number of suspicious incidents that did it. Of course, the Bush Administration's determined efforts to prevent an investigation and/or to limit any investigation as much as possible (The Reading Room lists 27 pieces concerning FBI/CIA interference with various investigations of 9/11.) simply confirmed to me that something smelled awfully funny here.

The film Loose Change is getting known around the web and available at the link.
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now leads a discussion of the film between makers of Loose Change and editors of Popular Mechanics. Good debate. And yes, they do have an extended discussion near the end about the collapse of the three towers, which is a major subject of the eSkeptic story.

One item from the eSkeptic story that jumped out at me was

In controlled demolitions, detonating devices weaken or disrupt all major support points in a building at the same time. Therefore, once the collapse begins, all parts of the building are simultaneously in motion, free-falling to the ground. However, this is definitely not what happens during the collapse of WTC Buildings 1 and 2. Carefully review footage of the collapses, and you will find that the parts of the buildings above the plane impact points begin falling first, while the lower parts of the buildings are initially stationary.3 The parts of the towers below the impact point do not begin to fall until the higher floors have collapsed onto them. This is not what we would expect if the towers collapsed from a controlled demolition, but it is exactly what we would expect if the building collapse resulted from damage sustained by the impact of the planes and subsequent fire damage. A conspiracy theorist may counter that the buildings were rigged to begin falling from the top down, but what are the chances that those planning such a complicated demolition would be able to predict the exact location the planes would impact the towers, and prepare the towers to begin falling precisely there?

To take the last point first, yes, the people in charge would have had to have planned with some degree of precision exactly where the planes would strike. It could not have been a coincidence where the Bush Administration simply allowed bin Laden to carry out his plans, it would have to have been a coordinated operation. To that end, this article strongly suggests that the youngest brother of the Bush family had the necessary time and access to the buildings to have made this happen.

George W. Bush's brother was on the board of directors of a company providing electronic security for the World Trade Center, Dulles International Airport and United Airlines, according to public records. The company was backed by an investment firm, the Kuwait-American Corp., also linked for years to the Bush family.
-----------
Marvin P. Bush, the president's youngest brother, was a director at Stratesec from 1993 to fiscal year 2000. But the White House has not publicly disclosed Bush connections in any of its responses to 9/11, nor has it mentioned that another Bush-linked business had done security work for the facilities attacked.

We know that people accociated with the PNAC (PDF) began planning the Iraq War shortly after the Persian Gulf War (Or Iraq War I, which would make the current conflict Iraq War II) wrapped up, so for Marvin Bush to have taken over Stratesec in 1993 makes sense. That would give him and his employees plenty of time to calculate how to make the collapse of the towers appear to be credible.

BTW, good Dutch film (20 min.) here.

Yes, I completely agree. The conspiracy theories appear quite credible, but they need lots and lots of vigorous debate.

2006/09/04

The Plan

This has got to be the most moronically meatheaded, idiotic set of "ideas" I've ever heard of. One of the "bright" ideas these turkeys come up with is to add 100,000 soldiers to America's army. Um, sure. Ri-i-i-ight! Uh-huh. Okay. Tell me, with soldiers on their second and third tours of duty in Iraq and the Army keeping people on through "stop-loss" programs, where exactly do the authors foresee getting 100,000 more soldiers from? Consider what US Dem Vet says about the Army trying to keep up to strength:

As the demand for boots in Mess O'Potamia increased, so too did the demand for fresh new faces to fill them. Clearly, the Yellow Elephant Class were not/are not going to fill them, they're too busy "fighting the war of ideas" here at home, not to mention staying in those well-paid Wingnut Think-tank jobs, all safe and secure.

So what's happened? Apparently recruits who might not normally make it out of basic training are finding their way into the field as fully-trained infantrymen. Recruits whose allegiance is perhaps to their unit for the time being, but might also be to such organizations as the Aryan Nations or the Crips...in short, not the kind of folks we want our tax dollars training in Urban Combat with weapons of small-scale destruction.

Where exactly do the authors of the above "strategy" guidance book believe these extra soldiers going to come from? I threw up my hands when I saw that the second author was a member of the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Council, that organization that favored Senator Joe Lieberman for President in 2004, but which grudgingly settled for John Kerry when audiences of Democrats stayed away from Lieberman in droves.

Republicans from Bush on down know that calling for a draft would be their political death and would probably keep them in the minority for the next 50 years. Do the authors have a better idea? I'd sure be interested to hear it.

Basically, if you work in an organization that lacks needed resources, you learn to make do with what you have or you adjust your goals. The authors here do neither, substituting fantasy and wishful thinking for serious thought.
Update: The Democratic Party has a much better plan!!

Further update: conservative Rich Lowry, a big cheerleader for the Iraq War, presents much the same plan, i.e. add more troops, but again, hasn't the vaguest clue as to where all of these extra troops will come from. I guess they'll just sort of appear out of thin air when we snap our fingers.

2006/09/03

ABC intends to show anti-Clinton version of 9-11 docudrama

ABC intends to show "Paths to 9-11," what AmericaBlog terms "a false and partisan Republican hit piece" that lays the blame for 9-11 at President Clintons's feet. The essential charge is that Clinton and his people "erected a 'wall' to prevent information-sharing between government agencies." Media Matters shows that this claim is long since debunked and provides other details on the upcoming film. Very importantly, a right-wing website, Human Events, is very highly enthusiastic about the miniseries, indicating that there are few, if any criticisms as to how the Bush Administration handled 9-11. Also, Truthout has a piece entitled "Clinton, 9/11 and the Facts"

ABC has a form upon which to comment at but it has a limit of 500 characters, so the paper mail address for ABC is:

ABC, Inc.
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4551

A buddy of mine from Rapid Response found the paper mail address for the Disney Chairman of the Board:

Senator George Mitchell
Chairman of the Board
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, California 91521-0931

ABC requires generous helpings of (politely worded, of course) verbal abuse for this!