Friday, April 04, 2008

Speaker Pelosi on Upcoming Testimony from Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus

  These are some of Speaker Pelosi's comments on which she gave at her weekly news conference in which she was also joined by Ike Skelton, Howard Berman and Rahm Emanuel.

Ms. Pelosi. How is this war in Iraq helping us fight the war on terrorism, the real war on terrorism, Afghanistan? General Mullen says we don’t have enough troops to go there with the commitment in Iraq.

How is this impacting our readiness, our capability to protect the American people wherever our interests are threatened? Admiral Mullen says we don’t have any troops on the shelf to meet those needs.

How is this affecting our economy, another part of our strength? We have heard over and over again the unfairness of the opportunity costs of this war which is driving us into debt, which is driving us into recession, and the American people are paying the costs.

Ms. Pelosi. What I hope we don’t hear from General Petraeus next week is any glorification of what has just happened in Basra and a presentation that says that the Iraqi forces went in there, did the job, violence is diminished, mission accomplished, because the fact is there are many questions that arise in relationship to Basra.

First of all, the word is that they told us 48 hours in advance only about the engagement. Why didn’t we know? Don’t we have an intelligence operation in Iraq? So I don’t know what’s worse: they only gave us 24 hours notice, or we didn’t know in the first place.

Second of all, they weren’t winning this engagement on their own. It wasn’t until the U.S. came in to help that the resolution came about.

Third of all, the diminution of violence in Iraq is in the hands of others. It is beyond our control. Al Sadr established the terms under which he would freeze the violence from his side, terms probably dictated from Iran and accepted like that by the al Maliki government.

So we have to know the real ground truth of what is happening there, not put a shine on events because of the resolution that looks less violent, when it has in fact been dictated by someone, al Sadr, who can grant or withhold that call for violence or not.

Mr. Skelton. The Speaker mentioned Iran’s participation in the Basra area. Iran is the bull in the China shop in all of this. And they seem to have links to all of the Shiite groups, whether they be political or whether they be military. And it’s rather ironic that Iraq, the mortal enemy of Iran, now has at least in part ties to that country.

Mr. Emanuel. One thing. Every event in Iraq cannot be a justification for the policy of more troops, more time and more money. Violence goes down; we need more troops, more time, more money. Violence goes up; we need more troops more time more money. Not every event in Iraq can get us into a position which we find ourselves in, which is a policy cul de sac, and we just keep going around and around.     Article

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Iraq War: The Cost To Our Troops

  You all know by now that next week both General Petraeus and our Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, will be testifying before Congress about the Iraq war.  of course, the testimony will be the same old song and dance that we have all grown accustomed to hearing from the Bush mouthpieces. Both of these people will simply be telling the Congress that we will have the same continuation in Iraq that we have thus far had, with 140,000 troops to stay in place indefinitely, which we already knew in the first place.

  Office of the Speaker

The Cost to Our Troops

· Since the start of the war in Iraq, 4,003 brave American men and women in uniform have been killed. [Defense Department, 3/31/08]

· An estimated 29,496 servicemembers have been wounded in Iraq and, as of March 1, more than 31,300 have been treated for non-combat injuries and illness. [Defense Department, 3/31/08, AP, 3/8/08]

· Nearly 1.7 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since September 2001 – more than 592,000 have been deployed more than once. [Department of Defense, 1/31/08]

· According to a report by the Army’s Mental Health Advisory Team, soldiers who are on their second, third and fourth deployments report “low morale, more mental health problems, and more stress-related work problems.” [3/6/08]

· An estimated three-quarter of a million troops have been discharged since the war in Iraq began – many of whom with compromised mental and physical health. An estimated 260,000 have been treated at veterans’ health facilities, nearly 100,000 have been diagnosed as having mental health conditions, and an additional 200,000 have received some level of care from walk-in facilities. [Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz, Excerpt:“The Three Trillion Dollar War,” 2008]

  The price is way to high to continue this sham!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pledge of Allegiance

  I ran across an old clip from a Red Skelton show from back in the day. He is discussing what each word of the " pledge of Allegiance " means when this was told to him by a past teacher in school. Worth repeating in this day and age.

 Interpretation of the American Pledge of Allegiance @ Youtube.

RED SKELTON: "I remember this one teacher. To me, he was the greatest teacher, a real sage of my time. He had such wisdom. We were all reciting the Pledge Of Allegiance and he walked over. Mr. Lasswell was his name... He said": "I've been listening to you boys and girls recite the Pledge Of Allegiance all semester and it seems as though it is becoming monotonous to you. If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word:
Me; an individual; a committee of one.
Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self-pity.
My love and my devotion.
To the Flag
Our standard; Old Glory ; a symbol of Freedom; wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody's job.
That means that we have all come together.
Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.
And to the Republic
Republic -- a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.
For which it stands
One Nation
One Nation -- meaning, so blessed by God.
Incapable of being divided.
With Liberty
Which is Freedom; the right of power to live one's own life, without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation.
And Justice
The principle, or quality, of dealing fairly with others.
For All
For All -- which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine. And now, boys and girls, let me hear you recite the Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands; one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance: Under God. Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer, and that would be eliminated from schools, too?"

The 9/11 Lies Of Michael Mukasey

  Cross-posted from CommonDreams

Published on Saturday, March 29, 2008 by

Michael Mukasey’s Tearful Lies

by Glenn Greenwald

Michael Mukasey has conclusively proven himself to be an exact replica of Alberto Gonazles — slavishly loyal to every presidential whim and unbound by even the most minimal constraints of truth while serving those whims. Speaking in San Fransisco this week, Mukasey demanded that the President be given new warrantless eavesdropping powers and that lawbreaking telecoms be granted amnesty. To make his case, Mukasey teared up while exploiting the 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11 and said this:

Officials “shouldn’t need a warrant when somebody with a phone in Iraq picks up a phone and calls somebody in the United States because that’s the call that we may really want to know about. And before 9/11, that’s the call that we didn’t know about. We knew that there has been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn’t know precisely where it went.” At that point in his answer, Mr. Mukasey grimaced, swallowed hard, and seemed to tear up as he reflected on the weaknesses in America’s anti-terrorism strategy prior to the 2001 attacks. “We got three thousand. . . . We’ve got three thousand people who went to work that day and didn’t come home to show for that,” he said, struggling to maintain his composure.

At the time of the attacks, Mr. Mukasey was the chief judge at the federal courthouse a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.

These are multiple falsehoods here, and independently, this whole claim makes no sense. There is also a pretty startling new revelation here about the Bush administration’s pre-9/11 failure that requires a good amount of attention. Even under the “old” FISA, no warrants are required where the targeted person is outside the U.S. (Afghanistan) and calls into the U.S. Thus, if it’s really true, as Mukasey now claims, that the Bush administration knew about a Terrorist in an Afghan safe house making Terrorist-planning calls into the U.S., then they could have — and should have — eavesdropped on that call and didn’t need a warrant to do so. So why didn’t they? Mukasey’s new claim that FISA’s warrant requirements prevented discovery of the 9/11 attacks and caused the deaths of 3,000 Americans is disgusting and reckless, because it’s all based on the lie that FISA required a warrant for targeting the “Afghan safe house.” It just didn’t. Nor does the House FISA bill require individual warrants when targeting a non-U.S. person outside the U.S.

Independently, even if there had been a warrant requirement for that call — and there unquestionably was not — why didn’t the Bush administration obtain a FISA warrant to listen in on 9/11-planning calls from this “safe house”? Independently, why didn’t the administration invoke FISA’s 72-hour emergency warrantless window to listen in on those calls? If what Muskasey said this week is true — and that’s a big “if” — his revelation about this Afghan call that the administration knew about but didn’t intercept really amounts to one of the most potent indictments yet about the Bush administration’s failure to detect the plot in action. Contrary to his false claims, FISA — for multiple reasons — did not prevent eavesdropping on that call.

Mukasey was even more dishonest in demanding amnesty for lawbreaking telecoms. According to today’s admiring Wall St. Journal Editorial, this is what Mukasey said on that subject:

The AG also addressed why immunity from lawsuits is vital for the telecom companies that cooperated with the surveillance after 9/11. “Forget the liability” the phone companies face, Mr. Mukasey said. “We face the prospect of disclosure in open court of what they did, which is to say the means and the methods by which we collect foreign intelligence against foreign targets.” Al Qaeda would love that.

Mike Mukasey was a long-time federal judge and so I feel perfectly comfortable calling that what it is: a brazen lie. Federal courts hear classified information with great regularity and it is not heard in “open court.” There are numerous options available to any federal judge to hear classified information — closed courtrooms, in camera review (in chambers only), ex parte communications (communications between one party and the judge only). No federal judge — and certainly not Vaughn Walker, the Bush 41 appointee presiding over the telecom cases — is going to allow “disclosure in open court of . . . . the means and the methods by which we collect foreign intelligence.” And Mukasey knows that. Worse, FISA itself (50 USC 1806(f)) explicitly provides that telecoms are permitted to present any evidence in support of their defenses in secret (both in camera and ex parte) to the judge and let the judge decide the case based on it. Just go read 50 USC 1806(f) of FISA; it’s as clear as day. In fact, it doesn’t merely permit, but explicitly requires, the federal judge to review evidence in secret whenever the Attorney General requests that (”the United States district court in the same district . . . shall, notwithstanding any other law, if the Attorney General files an affidavit under oath that disclosure or an adversary hearing would harm the national security of the United States, review in camera and ex parte the application the application, order, and such other materials relating to the surveillance.”).

Beyond that, the key provision of the House’s FISA bill expressly provides that any classified information in the telecom lawsuits shall be submitted in secret to the federal judge. Mukasey’s claims that these lawsuits will result in disclosure of classified information in open court is a complete lie — term used very advisedly.

Worse still, think about what Mukasey is actually saying. His argument means that government officials must be free to break the law in a classified intelligence setting with impunity, because we can’t risk subjecting them to a court of law since, presumably, we can’t trust our country’s federal judges with classified information and so it’s preferable to allow lawbreaking by our highest government officials. That’s a pretty extraordinary — and pretty reprehensible — argument for a former federal judge and current Attorney General to be making. I hope Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer are very proud.

Michael Mukasey can cry all he wants about the 9/11 attacks. But neither he nor the rest of the Bush administration are the proprietors of those attacks. There were millions of New Yorkers in Manhattan on 9/11 other than Michael Mukasey, who lived and worked there for a long time. Neither Mike Mukasey nor his tearful pleas for unchecked government surveillance power and the erosion of the rule of law are representative of them.

To the contrary, the substantial majority of New Yorkers — and huge majorities of Manhattanites — vehemently reject the Bush/Cheney agenda of dismantling our constitutional framework and basic safeguards in the name of these sorts of fear-mongering and manipulative appeals. Unlike Mukasey and other Bush followers, most New Yorkers have ceased quivering in fear long ago — if they ever did — and have had their resolve to defend our basic constitutional liberties strengthened, not obliterated, as a result of the 9/11 attack and the subsequent, self-serving exploitation of it by Mukasey’s White House bosses. And under no circumstances do Mukasey’s tears provide license for this tidal wave of lies in defense of presidential lawlessness, from our nation’s highest “law enforcement officer.”

* * * * *

Jane Hamsher, Howie Klein and I are working this weekend on creating the content for the various ads that are going to run, beginning April 23, aimed at Democrat Chris Carney of Pennsylvania — the clear winner (loser) of the poll which asked which Bush Dog Democrat should be targeted. Carney has ceaselessly supported the worst aspects of the Bush agenda and was one of only five House Democrats to vote against the House FISA bill because he wanted to pass the Rockefeller/Cheney bill.

The ad campaign and its purposes were described here. Close to $50,000 was raised in two days, which allows for an extremely hefty, potent package of television, radio and newspaper ads in Carney’s district, which we’re in the process of creating.

I have some preliminary ideas, but if you have suggestions and concepts for what these ads should convey and how they should be shaped, please email me. In order to keep the email load manageable, I’d really appreciate it if only those people who give some real thought to this and create what they believe is a unique and powerful message actually send me their ideas. It can be anything from the broad topic or general content strategy to a full-scale copy-written television, radio or newspaper ad.

Please review the post I linked to above in order to keep the purpose of the ad in mind. The purpose is to undermine and weaken Carney in the eyes of his largely conservative district by conveying why it is that his Bush-loyal support for warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty — and his general refusal to fulfill his constitutional duty to provide oversight of the President — violates the values of that district’s voters.

UPDATE: When Hillary Clinton teared up in New Hampshire, here’s what Maureen Dowd and the very serious band of National Security Journalists at The New York Times said about it:

When I walked into the office Monday, people were clustering around a computer to watch what they thought they would never see: Hillary Clinton with the unmistakable look of tears in her eyes. A woman gazing at the screen was grimacing, saying it was bad. Three guys watched it over and over, drawn to the “humanized” Hillary. One reporter who covers security issues cringed. “We are at war,” he said. “Is this how she’ll talk to Kim Jong-il?”

We’re at war. Is tearing and crying how Mike Mukasey intends to deal with Sleeper Cells and other scary Al Qaeda threats? I wonder if national security reporters at The New York Times are now going to be raising those same questions about Mukasey’s toughness. Actually, I don’t wonder that at all.

UPDATE II: The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the Mukasey speech and is asking some of the right questions:

Mukasey did not specify the call to which he referred. He also did not explain why the government, if it knew of telephone calls from suspected foreign terrorists, hadn’t sought a wiretapping warrant from a court established by Congress to authorize terrorist surveillance, or hadn’t monitored all such calls without a warrant for 72 hours as allowed by law. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for more information.

As indicated, FISA didn’t require a warrant for that call, but these questions have to be pursued. Mukasey can’t be allowed to drop such a deceitful little bombshell like this — blaming FISA for the Bush administration’s failure to detect the 9/11 attacks — and then refuse to answer basic questions about his incredibly manipulative claims.                  ©

Democrats Have An Agenda For November Victory

Democrats, eager to trump President Bush's bully pulpit on Republican causes, are using their position as the majority party in Congress to push an agenda they hope will propel them to victory in November's elections.   Washington Times

  Coming from the House Democrats and Speaker Pelosi, that is kind of funny. I take it that Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats do not realize that the Democratic Party would be more than a shoo-in for the White House if only Impeachment proceedings against Bush/Cheney had actually been started after the Democrats had gained control of the House. Democrats would be headed to the White House with no one to run against them if they had cut the funding for the war in Iraq and had started bringing our sons and daughters home from that mess.

Bush Is Talking Down To You

Original Article

Talking Down to America
    By Michael Winship
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective

    Wednesday 26 March 2008

    I haven't worked in the realm of children's television in more than a decade, but lessons learned in that world are lessons learned for life.

    First and foremost: never condescend. When writing for kids, think of them as slightly shorter grown-ups with fewer bad habits and better credit.

    Would that the Bush administration followed the non-condescension rule for adults. Instead, they've taken a page from the playbook of the late Uncle Don, host of a kiddy show during the glory days of radio.

    It's apocryphal, one of those hoary urban legends, but the story goes that after finishing the broadcast of his usual half-hour of moonbeams and treacle, Uncle Don turned to a colleague - not knowing the microphone was still hot - and said, "Well, that ought to hold the little bastards."

    Similarly, the White House seems to believe, all evidence to the contrary, that dispersing the same old, Uncle Don-style effluvium to the American public will continue to placate and hold us close. But more and more of us know it's nothing more than a bad smell.

    A comparison of two noteworthy speeches last week - Barack Obama on race, George Bush on Iraq - shows the difference between a candidate who talks to us like grown-ups and an incumbent who seems to think he's still reading "My Pet Goat" to second graders in Sarasota.

    Regardless of how you feel about Obama's candidacy or the continuing issue of his past affiliation with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, last Tuesday's speech in Philadelphia was formidable, candid, sophisticated rhetoric.

    As Republican Peggy Noonan, a virtuoso of speechwriting for Ronald Reagan, observed in Friday's Wall Street Journal, "He didn't have applause lines. He didn't give you eight seconds of a line followed by clapping. He spoke in full and longish paragraphs that didn't summon applause. This left TV producers having to use longer-than-usual soundbites in order to capture his meaning. And so the cuts of the speech you heard on the news were more substantial and interesting than usual, which made the coverage of the speech better. People who didn't hear it but only saw parts on the news got a real sense of what he'd said."

    What he said was, as per civil rights activist and historian Roger Wilkins, "the most extensive discussion of race ever by a presidential candidate." He rejected Wright's incendiary remarks but not his friendship, and he placed the minister's words in the context of the history of black churches in America.

    "The anger is real," Obama said. "It is powerful, and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races."

    Then he added, "A similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race.... So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time."

    Oh my. "This wasn't the gauzy vision of diversity draped in tapestry metaphors and rainbow hues," The Boston Globe's Peter Canellos wrote. "It was a nation confronting its sins and overcoming its deeply held fears and prejudices."

    Contrast that reality with the banana oil the president was peddling when he spoke at the Pentagon the next day, the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war. "The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around," he insisted. "It has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror.... The significance of this development cannot be overstated."

    Yes, it can. As Senate Majority Harry Reid noted, "We are proud of the warriors who have fought hard to reduce violence in Iraq in recent months. But America is not secure and the costs and consequences of the war continue to mount.

    "Al-Qaeda is stronger than it has ever been since 9/11, Osama bin Laden remains at large, the readiness of our Army and Marine Corps is at its lowest levels since Vietnam, and trends in Afghanistan are deeply troubling. The military has done its job; it is time for this administration and Iraq's political leaders to do theirs."

    In his new book, "Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power," journalist Fred Kaplan concludes that the strategies of the Bush/Cheney co-presidency are based "not on a grasp of technology, history or foreign cultures but rather in fantasy, faith and willful indifference toward those affected by their consequences."

    It's no wonder when told by ABC's Martha Raddatz that two-thirds of Americans believe the war is not worth the cost in lives, money and international respect, the reply of Consigliere Cheney was a dismissive, supercilious, "So?"

    Speaking on behalf of former little bastards everywhere, that kind of condescension has got to go. November can't come soon enough.

Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former writer with Bill Moyers, writes this weekly column for the Messenger Post Newspapers in upstate New York. This article was previously published in the Messenger Post Newspapers.