Friday, November 25, 2005

The real truth about the Wilson affair; Bush is killing us.

The Real Plame Issue: Bush Killed Us

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The Real Plame Issue: Bush Killed Us

It was a pivotal moment: CNN reports on November 6th that Senator Harry Reid's (D-NV) shut-down of the senate, after the indictment of Scooter Libby, may be a response to "activists" complaining that Democrats weren't "putting up enough of a fight," that they "lacked spine," and did not "stand up to Republicans." The real news is that such long-running disputes on the center-left are spilling onto CNN. There's no telling where this kind of talk may lead.

However, there is no time for these activists (I count myself one) to break their arms patting themselves on the back for forcing some real opposition. We have seen Democratic offensives suddenly halt and wither before, and lapse into baffling and inexplicable inarticulateness.

Reid's rarely-invoked rule to force the senate into closed session, to demand answers on the use of intelligence before the Iraq War, was a blistering shot across the bow, but no more. The proof in the pudding will be follow-through. Judging by the amount of unused ammunition at the Democrats' feet, it doesn't look promising. Absent a widened attack, the Bushies' instinct is that this can be reduced to another tempest in a teapot. And if there is anything the Republicans possess in abundance over the Democrats, it is excellent political instincts.

Democratics have settled on the "falsified intelligence" angle as the way to attack the administration's misconduct in the Plame Affair. Sen. Reid said:

"The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about, how this administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions..."

With this strategy, it is not so much Valerie Plame's blown cover that matters as much as the light it sheds on the run-up to the Iraq war. The Bushies are confident that this line of attack will not cause their downfall.

As long as Bush sticks to his fallback position, that he didn't really know if Saddam had WMD, but he couldn't take any chances with "protecting the American people," he will ride this rough storm out, counting as always on ignorance, fear, and the general bloodthirstiness of Americans after 9/11. Bombing tens of thousands of civilians and losing over 2000 soldiers is no problem, as long as we're "fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here." Who cares how we got into it?

In a nutshell this is what the Rovian gut understands, and Karl Rove's gut is too often right. Bush's soundbite subtly taps into this dark truth: the Democrats are trying to "rewrite history" over how the war began. In other words, the stupid lib'rals forget we had just been attacked on 9/11, and that Saddam would've gotten his hands on a nuke sooner or later, even if, uh, he wasn't even close this time.

With the betrayal of Plame itself reduced to a brush-fire, the Republican instinct understands what the Democrats do not: Americans will tolerate being lied to if deep inside they believe it was for their own good. The "fight them there rather than here" is a powerful narcotic to fearful Americans. Although it's absurd (nothing says they can't come here after the live training ground we have provided in Iraq,) its pedigree is long.

During Vietnam we were told we had to fight them in Southeast Asia or we would be fighting them "on the shores of San Diego." My own dear dad went to that war, and the only reason he went, he said, was so that we, his young sons, "wouldn't have to." The real evil of this draft-dodger administration is to harness the noblest impulses of the bravest and most idealistic, and to use them for their own foul ends.

The Democrats are throwing the fight by holding back on the most damning aspect of the Plame Affair: Plame was no politically-motivated analyst working for the "thems" in a politically-motivated CIA. This is the spin the right-wing is polluting the radio airwaves with. For most of her career Plame was non-official cover (NOC) on un-coventional weapons. NOC means the government can deny your existence if you are caught. As CNN national security correspondent David Esnor explains, a non-official cover operates "without the protection of diplomatic recruit foreigners who [know] about murky international weapons deals involving weapons of mass destruction."

The intelligence networks Plame had erected were an early warning system against weapons of mass destruction and other threats to our daily security. Most recently Plame worked in the CIA's Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center (WINIPAC.) When the administration blew her cover, it didn't betray her. It betrayed US, every man, woman, and child in America. Esnor says "the damage was most likely done" by "other nations tracking down...Valerie Plame Wilson's contacts and sources and shutting them down."

One intelligence officer after another has bravely stepped forward to put the lie to the "analyst" myth, risking career, reputation, and the well-known pathological wrath of the Bush administration. Ever the fast friends good to have in a pinch, the Democrats apparently see and hear nothing.

One US official told Time magazine: "I'm beyond disgusted. I am especially angry about the bullshit explanations that she is not a covert agent. That is an official status, and there are lots of people in this building who are on that status. It's not up to the Republican Party to determine when that status will end for an agent." Time noted that foreign intelligence services were "known to have retraced her steps and contacts to discover more about how the CIA operates in their countries."

Another right-wing talking-point is that Plame's work could not have been secret if she reported to CIA headquarters and was married to a US ambassador. But, as one former CIA operative, Melissa Mahle, told Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, this reflects a total ignorance about the way the CIA works. And when an operative's cover is blown to other governments, Alter said "It isn't pretty." We already know the Pakistani Secret Service is riddled with Al Qaeda sympathizers, one of the reasons we haven't found bin Laden. Now they know Plame's secrets too. There may be many a slit throat in obscure Third World back alleys thanks to the loose lips of the Bush administration.

The list of former intelligence officers claiming serious damage to the national security is long and growing longer: Michael Scheuer, Larry Johnson, Jim Marcinkowski, David McMichael, Colonel Patrick Lang, Mel Goodman. Testimony from many of these intelligence officials was taken at the Dorgan (D-ND) Committee Hearings last July. Col. Patrick Lang, former director of the Defense Dept. Human Intelligence Service, went on the record saying that as a result of the Plame betrayal:

"the very kinds of people you need to get into the heart of this galaxy of jihadi groups and people like this will make a judgment that they are not going to trust you in this way. And once that happens, then the possibility of penetrating these groups, the possibility of knowing that they're going to carry 10-pound bags of explosive in the subway stations, will go right down the drain."

The Downing Street Memo showed once and for all that the White House was determined to "fix" intelligence to justify the Iraq invasion, no matter what the real intelligence said. The yawn with which this was greeted by the American public should tell the Democrats something. Although it is important to keep up the drumbeat on the administration's pre-war deceptions, they alone do not resonate in a way that will force the White House toward its day of reckoning. What is amazing is that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has already given the Democrats more ammunition than they would need to impeach ten presidents. He made the connection between Plame and "national security" no fewer than nine times in his initial press conference, including such statements as:

-"The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well- known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security."

-"given that national security was at stake, it was especially important that we find out accurate facts."

-"This is a very serious matter and compromising national security information is a very serious matter."

The bottom line is that George Bush and his people, by their reflexive habit of smearing all who disagree, have placed us all in grave danger. In the New Warfare, one snitch giving the number of a single cargo container is worth a division of soldiers floundering around in countries they do not understand. Playing with the truth to entice a nation into war will not spark the popular outrage required to eject this administration, nor does it rise to the level of treason. But punching a hole in the intelligence shield painstakingly built to protect us, and to help gauge the intentions of our enemies, will, and does.

Alito: From Plame Distraction to Bush Liabilty

Note: This was written before today's development: the administration has formally charged Padilla with a crime. This is a tactic to avoid a Supreme Court showdown, which leaves Bush's assertion of his powers over American citizens intact and to be tested on another day. The relevance of Padilla to the nomination of Sam Alito is diminished not one iota, as the administration is sure to revive its claims in the event of another terror attack, when a wave of national hysteria makes the climate more favorable. The question to be put to Alito remains: Do American citizens have the right to a jury trial as described under the Sixth Amendment, whatever the crime or political climate, during this war that may conceivably have no end? Or does the new war effectively abrogate this right indefinitely, thus fundamentally changing forever the rights under which Americans are born?

A strange curtain of silence has descended over the most important decision facing post 9/11 America: the fate of the Constitution and the "freedom" which George Bush claims to champion for the rest of the world. We wonder whether the constitution Bush envisions for Iraq includes a Bill of Rights for its citizens, and whether that Bill of Rights includes "the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed" as the Sixth Amendment of our magnificent document reads.

Or will this right in Iraq, as here, depend on the whim of whomever happens to be president?

Jose Padilla, an American by birth, was arrested on American soil and publicly denounced by the administration as having planned to explode a "dirty bomb." Bush claims that, as part of the war on terror, he has the authority to lock up anyone he deems a terrorist suspect, indefinitely, without trial, without a lawyer, without even formal charges. So far, the judicial branch has partially checked these un-American ambitions, and held that, at the least, Padilla is entitled to a lawyer.

In June of last year, just as the Padilla case was about to reach an important point in the appeals process, the administration released fresh allegations that Padilla had planned to use natural gas lines to blow up some apartment buildings. We'll never know if the new allegations were timed to correspond with Padilla's appeal, since Padilla, according to Bush's definition of an "enemy combatant," is not entitled to a trial.

With one hand George positions himself as freedom's ultimate champion (hey I like that fellers, "ultimate champion" thas' me!), with the other hand he directs the Justice Department to think of new ways to deny Americans birthrights which have survived social upheavel and a civil war. One of the most novel creations is the extension of traditional wartime powers to this new, non-traditional war that may never end.

One: I, George Bush, have wartime powers, since I have declared a "war on terror" (a ridiculous name since "terror" is an emotion that will always be with us. More correct would be the political tactic of "terrorism.") Two: this war will last a long, long time," as Bush takes pains to emphasize. Therefore: any citizen can be locked up by Bush forever, incommunicado, for the "protection" of the American people. This unlimited power has been challenged by, of all people, Justice Antonin Scalia. Dissenting from the majority which upheld the Bush position in the related case of Yaser Hamdi, another American "enemy combatant," Scalia said that such power "meet[s] the current emergency in a manner the Constitution does not envision..."

The nomination of Judge Sam Alito to the Supreme Court provides Democrats with their best opportunity to show they will defend their countrymen against the rapacious appetite for power that is the hallmark of the Bush administration. As the Padilla case stands now, the courts are hinting that Padilla only has the right to a military tribunal, in which he must prove his innocence rather than the government having to prove his guilt.

The question of how he stands on the Sixth Amendment was never asked of Judge Roberts, before he was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Another fight thrown by the Democrats? If the Democrats have truly found their backbone, the Borking of Alito over insufficient or ambiguous answers regarding the Padilla case can only make them heroes across a swath of the political spectrum that will frighten King George. Whose primary duty, contrary to what he is fond of saying, is not to "protect the American people," (this is nowhere in the Constitution; look it up) but "to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." This is the oath of office required of all presidents according to Article II, section 1 of the US Constitution.

"Spiro" Dick Cheney, More On...

I've been saying this for two years: the impeachment of Dubya leaves us with President Dick Cheney, hardly an improvement. So we take a page from the playbook that drummed Richard Nixon out of office. Remember? Nixon's VP was Spiro Agnew, whom no one wanted to be stuck with either. So they ran him out of town first, on tax evasion charges. The way was then clear to impeach Tricky Dick, who compared to Bush looks like a Great American. After all, even Nixon never accused his opponents of helping kill American troops. This is how we got Gerald Ford, the first vice president confirmed under the 25th Amendment, who then went on to become a mediocre but relatively benign president.

With the Libby indictment, Cheney is in even more immediate peril than Bush. The famed Washington Post article "The Profitable Connections Of Halliburton" states that: "During Cheney's tenure at Halliburton the company did business in all three countries [Iraq, Iran, Libya.] In the case of Iraq, Halliburton legally evaded U.S. sanctions by conducting its oilservice business through foreign subsidiaries that had once been owned by Dresser."

It's all in my new book. If the Dems with their new "spine" ever decide to uncork Dresser Industries, Cheney is gone. The question for impatient Americans is why he wasn't gone long ago.

A New Contract for America

A favorite talking-point of the right-wing TV and radio spin machine is that Democrats are attacking Bush on Plame etc. only because he is down in the polls and they have no plan of their own. Forget for a moment that people who attack a grieving mother like Cindy Sheehan whine like babies when someone attacks them back. Forget that these people are thin-skinned, hypocritical, and utterly vicious all at once. They have a point. The Democrats have left themselves wide open to this charge, by having a platform with all the consistency and laser focus of Jello. The latest slogan is a gag-reflex-inducing repetition of the doomed Kerry campaign: "We can do better." How about "Restoring the American Dream"? Copyright Ralph Lopez.

We can do, uh, what? More of the same, but better? Just better? That really fires me up and makes me want to go vote.

A tight set of proposals will do wonders for the party of promise-you-the-moon-and-trust-us-on-how-we'll-get-there. As during the Kerry presidential campaign, the Republicans are lobbing slow softballs the Dems aren't even swinging at. Remember when Bush proposed cutting back time-and-a-half for overtime, and Kerry schlepped on with his "we can do better" canned speech? The Repubs laughed as Kerry stood at the plate with his helmet down over his eyes. How badly do you have to screw the American worker get these guys to get a pulse?

Here's my suggestion for a Democratic platform:

-Save American Pensions - Time magazine reveals that more and more people who have worked twenty or thirty years for the same company are getting their pensions yanked. At fault are recently-passed laws that enable corporations to renege on their pension promises. More than one little old lady in what was once solid middle America is collecting cans to make ends meet. We're not talking about New York bag ladies; we're talking Main Street. Did this trigger immediate and sustained calls for a congressional investigation from the Democrats? No, the silence is deafening. No wonder they are identified solely as the party of pro-sodomy baby-killers that wants to take away your guns, as Boston's little newspaper the Weekly Dig says.

-Restore college opportunity, by enabling students to go to any college to which they earn admission. Yes, I'll take credit for this idea, which I've been pushing since my first days as a candidate, in my books, and in many emails to the Kerry campaign. College "sticker shock" is a winning middle-class issue, because even parents making good money can't afford Junior's first-choice school. In addition, this is a "bootstrap" program that only leverages hard work already done. You have to get into the college first, then we help you go. In other words, this is no welfare hand-out. This is the first rung on the ladder of the American Dream.

-Distinguish Iraq from real war on terror - the task for Democrats is to articulate a position on Iraq that cannot be miscast as appeasement. We are properly at war in Afghanistan and in the mountainous border regions of Pakistan, but Iraq is exactly the quagmire bin Laden wanted. It draws resources away from the hunt for Al Qaeda and from the critical stablization of Afghanistan. This is what the former chief of the CIA's Al Qaeda unit, Michael Scheuer, says. He calls the invasion of Iraq a “never-to-be-hoped-for gift” to bin Laden. Scheuer says al-Zawahari practically cheered when we invaded Iraq, and gave thanks to God for "appeasing" Al Qaeda with the American invasion (see his book "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror.") Now one foreign policy heavyweight after another is calling for an exit from Iraq. The most recent is former Nixon Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, who says ""Our presence is what feeds the insurgency (in Iraq), and our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgency." Joining him is former National Security Advisor for Bush Senior, Brent Scowcroft, who says "This was said to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism."

George Bush takes extreme pains to conflate the Iraq War with the war on terror, for good reason. Once separation surgery is successfully performed, he stands vulnerable to charges of bungling the war on terror. I believe that drawing down forces in Iraq must be accompanied by boosting troop levels in Afghanistan, and that we must pour troops into the Afghan-Paki border region to hunt down the people who attacked us on 9/11.

This is not appeasement or pulling back. This is pulling the steering wheel back into the right lane after George Bush has drifted onto the sandy shoulder. The right-wing attack in the face of too much truth is predictable. When you can't argue with facts, just accuse "traitors" of "undermining our troops." This time Democrats should slash back. Number one, it was George Bush who appeased bin Laden with the war in Iraq. Two, it was the Bush administration that committed treason by betraying Valerie Plame (forget this "outting" talk, this is not about Plame's sexual preference. This is a national security betrayal, pure and simple.)

Three, anytime the righties can't answer an argument, they hide behind the troops, like sissies. Another idea: if Sean Hannity is so patriotic why don't we start a public challenge to him, to enlist and go fight?

Bush's grand plan of bombing the Middle East into democracy is shot through with hypocrisy that makes Middle Easterners hate us. They have been trying to win their freedom from corrupt and dictatorial regimes for years, in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and the Gulf states, only to face armies and police equipped with American weapons. Our addiction to oil is the cause of our unholy alliances with these governments, says Scheuer. He contradicts Bush's assertion that there is an Islamo-fascist ideology bent on taking over the world.

9/11 should not have been a surprise. It was the culmination of a steady stream of Al Qaeda attacks which included the Khobar Towers, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole. Each attack was preceeded by demands by Al Qaeda that the US change its policies of permanently stationing troops in the Arabian peninsula, of sending money and arms to Arab dictators, and of our lopsided support for Israel. Scheuer predicts that without changes in US policy to accompany the military campaign, we are in for "hundred years war drenched with blood on our own soil."

-Environment - A "Marshall Plan" commencing within the first hundred days of a non-Republican, filibuster-proof majority to put us on the path toward clean, sustainable energy independence. The wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and conservation technologies necessary to set us free from Middle East oil have existed for years. All that remains is the political will to make it a reality.

-Back progressive candidates who are pro-gun-rights in red states. What's right in Manhattan is not necessarily what's right in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

- speak the language of the fair playing field in a free market, not the language of big government. I've always said if we had a fair economic playing field, we wouldn't need much in the way of social programs. You could afford the rent, you could afford food, a house, health insurance. Instead of a fair playing field we have the biggest welfare bums of all, corporate welfare bums, sucking wealth from the middle to the top one percent of shareholders. Ralph Nader is the only public figure talking about it. Cut them off to pay for worker training vouchers, college tuitions, and reduction of the national debt.

It is tempting to keep adding to what could be done with a non-Republican majority in 2006, but this is a do-able list people can remember, and get excited about. If the opposition does not learn message discipline, it is doomed to lose, because when righties ask - "tell me what they stand for besides being against Bush?" - the average voter will keep drawing a blank, beyond vague promises of more of everything.

More Good Shit I've Been Meaning to Post...

-London Mayor Ken Livingstone says blame for the July 7 London bombing attacks lays with "80 years of Western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of the Western need for oil." New York Times July 21, 2005, reprinted here at

-Records Sought for Two Groups Opposed to Bush Clean-air Plan - "The chairman of a Senate committee that oversees environmental issues has directed two national organizations that oppose President Bush's major clean-air initiative to turn over their financial and tax records to the Senate." Boston Globe, Feb. 20, 2005

-Evidence that Bush attack on Iraq is spreading terrorism rather than stopping it.

On the November 2005 terror attacks in Jordan Time Magazine reports: "The attacks also represented a chilling milestone: if al-Zarqawi was indeed behind them, they would mark the first time his network has pulled off a major terrorist attack outside Iraq. Major General Rick Lynch, a coalition spokesman in Baghdad, said the bombings are "an indication of al-Qaeda in Iraq spreading across the region.""

Note: this is exactly what bin Laden wants, according to the plan he has been articulating for years. Draw Americans into the Middle East, use our presence to inflame populations against Arab governments who are allied with us, topple said governments and send us packing across the sea. George Bush couldn't have played into it any better: he popped off and went after Saddam instead of stabilizing Afghanistan and finding bin Laden. Saddam was a bad man but he wasn't Al Qaeda. Now Al Qaeda has the base it wants, in Iraq, until another strongman takes charge whom we can deal with.

-Also, NY Times reports "The Central Intelligence Agency recently issued reports warning that a new generation of jihadists was being trained in the Iraq war, and that these fighters could soon take their cause to other countries, as the mujahedeen in Afghanistan did after the Soviet withdrawal there in 1989."

Fight them there so we don't have to fight them here? They'll be here next, thanks to George Bush. Impeach.

-Quotes from Paul Hackett, the anti-war Iraq War veteran and Democratic candidate for senator from Ohio in 2006 (the one who almost beat Rep. Jean Murtha-is-a-coward Schmidt.):

“These guys in the Republican Party adopted this tough-guy language. They’re bullies. They’re offended when somebody takes a swing back at them.”

“I don’t have to take an oath to love any man living in the White House. My oath is to the office. I respect the office. I respect the Constitution and I serve the Constitution. He’s not a king. He’s not an emperor. He’s a servant. He’s on no higher pedestal than me.”

-And another reason I love my country! Because MFs don't take shit from these Nazis lying down, in Denver a couple is suing after the Secret Service ejected them from a taxpayer-financed Bush appearance for having a bumper sticker outside that said "No More Blood for Oil." This sort of thing happened a lot last year at Bush's campaign appearances, now lawsuits are sprouting up left and right. See "Life in Bush's America: Wear an anti-Bush T-shirt, get arrested, lose your job" by Tara Tuckwiller.



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