A new video by MoveOn.org Political Action asks:
Q: How do you get to 100 years in Iraq?
A: Six months at a time.
A new video by MoveOn.org Political Action asks:
Q: How do you get to 100 years in Iraq?
A: Six months at a time.
ABC News reported tonight that President Bush’s most senior and trusted advisers met in “dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House” beginning in 2002 to approve the use of “combined” interrogation techniques (the joint use of harsh interrogation techniques). Those tactics included whether detainees “would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.”
Members of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee — Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George Tenet, and John Ashcroft — approved the use of these techniques. “Sources said that at each discussion, all the Principals present approved.” According to ABC’s report, Ashcroft indicated he was troubled by the meetings:
According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”
Watch ABC’s report:
Bush’s former Secretary of Homeland Security — Tom Ridge — has said there is “no doubt” that waterboarding is torture.
Marc Ambinder writes, “[I]t remains one of those hidden secrets in Washington that a Democratic Justice Department is going to be very interested in figuring out whether there’s a case to be made that senior Bush Administration officials were guilty of war crimes.”
In recent weeks, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has repeatedly bumbled the details of the outcome of intra-Shiite violence in Basra, falsely claiming Muqtada al-Sadr was defeated by Prime Minister Maliki’s forces. “Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a ceasefire,” he said on March 31. “I don’t think Sadr would have declared the ceasefire if he thought he was winning,” he again said this Sunday.
The phrase has become a frequent claim from the right wing. Now, surge architect Fred Kagan is jumping to McCain’s defense. Yesterday, on the PBS News Hour, Kagan claimed Sadr simply “stood his forces down, adding that “McCain rightly said” that Maliki did not declare the cease-fire:
KAGAN: And it’s not the way — as Senator McCain rightly said, the side that’s winning a conflict like this doesn’t generally call a timeout and say, “Hey, you know, we’ve had enough. Thank you very much.” And it’s not the way it’s playing on the Iraqi street.
Armchair general Kagan’s “street” analysis is grossly oversimplified. Maliki’s government in fact traveled to Iran to “win the support of the commander of Iran’s Qods brigades” for a cease-fire (revealing his dependence on Iran), to which Sadr agreed. Maliki’s government then issued a statement praising Sadr, after the PM insisted days earlier there would be “no negotiation.”
Earlier in the segment, Lt. Gen. William Odom (ret.) of Yale University explained the possible outcome of the fighting — that the future government in Iraq will not be “one of our allies”:
ODOM: It showed how impossible it is to expect anything productive out of the Maliki government. Let me make a key point about this government: When this is all over, the people in the Green Zone now and the Maliki government will not be in charge. The future successful government in Iraq is not one of our allies. It will be somebody who wins the civil war. And we’re trying to ally with all sides to prevent it.
Today, the press is reporting that Sadr has threatened to end the cease-fire he imposed on his militia last year, “raising the prospect of worsening violence.” Of course, Kagan probably sees this as characteristics of a defeated Sadr.
Huffington Post observes that Gen. Petraeus has also bought the rosy spin, reportedly offering “a dramatically different interpretation of the recent violent unrest in Basra” than he did the day before.
Yesterday on NBC Nightly News, Middle East Correspondent Richard Engel sharply criticized the testimony of Amb. Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus. He said that the Bush administration originally promised that troops could “pull back” once “conditions on the ground improve[d],” but nevertheless, the troops still “have to stay.” He added that if he were a parent of a U.S. soldier, he would be “upset”:
Overwhelmingly, I came away with the impression that it was somewhat frustrating and disheartening that the rules of the game have changed. For years, military commanders have said that once conditions on the ground improve then troops can start to pull back.
Today, Gen. Petraeus said conditions on the ground have improved, but you know what? The troops have to stay. I think if I was the mother or father of the one of the soldiers serving in Iraq, I would be proud because he said they’ve achieved tremendous successes; I would also be upset that if I listened to him would say they have to stay will in order to maintain that success.
On the Senate floor today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that “one of the things that we will be debating this fall, Mr. President, is whether our troops need to be in Iraq for another 50 or 100 years.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) immediately took issue with Reid’s comment, saying “of course no one has said that.” “That’s a swipe at Senator McCain” and “a deliberate misrepresentation of what he has said,” which was “about troop deployments overseas, not the continued engagement in warfare.” Watch it:
But, as ABC News’s Jake Tapper points out on his blog, “Reid’s description was completely accurate: McCain said it would be fine with him if US troops were in Iraq indefinitely.” As Tapper puts it, “Republicans are trying to use the media condemnation” of some of the ways McCain’s remarks have been framed as “a blanket condemnation of any time anyone quotes McCain on the matter.”
Today’s Center for Budget Policies and Priorities report on national income inequality throws a curve ball to the administration’s claim that “the fundamentals of the economy are still pretty strong.” In a state-by-state study examining data over the past two business cycles, the CBPP concludes that the income gap between America’s richest income families has America’s poorest and middle-income families has increased substantially. Some key highlights:
– On average, incomes have declined by 2.5 percent among the bottom fifth of families since the late 1990s, while increasing by 9.1 percent among the top fifth.
–In 19 states, average incomes have grown more quickly among the top fifth of families than among the bottom fifth since the late 1990s. In no state has the bottom fifth grown significantly faster than the top fifth.
– For very high-income families — the richest 5 percent — income growth since the late 1990s has been especially dramatic, and much faster than among the poorest fifth of families.
–On average, incomes have grown by just 1.3 percent among the middle fifth of families since the late 1990s, well below the 9.1 percent gain among the top fifth. Income disparities between the top and middle fifths have increased significantly in Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, and Texas. Income disparities did not decline significantly in any state.
The most interesting part of the report, however, outlines WHY inequality has risen so much in the last two decades:
Government Inaction: Deregulation, lack of laws protecting collective bargaining, the declining value of the minimum wage, and most notably, “changes in federal, state, and local tax structures and benefit programs have, in many cases, accelerated the trend toward growing inequality emerging from the labor market.” Economist’s View notes that “there was time to find a way to share the gains from the boom across a wider swath of the population – but the administration and congress, a congress that was controlled by Republicans for most of this time period, had no desire to do so.”
Wage Inequality: Weak unions, shrinking manufacturing jobs, and stagnant wages at the bottom of the pay-scale are eroding opportunities for “workers with less than a college education, who make up approximately the lowest-earning 70 percent of the workforce.”
But why does income inequality matter? Besides the fact that unequal societies have tended to shortchange basic education and engage in politically corrupt practices, inequality matters because it decreases long-term innovation, productivity, and national wealth.
In November, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship.” Recently, the Bush administration has refused to say whether it believes there is “a constitutional requirement” for the White House to “consult with Congress…in the commitment of U.S. forces in a battle zone.”
Yesterday, Ambassador Ryan Crocker stated that the status of force agreement (SOFA) would be negotiated with Iraq as an “executive agreement,” which he said did not require congressional approval. Crocker also said that the Iraqi government may submit the agreement to its parliament, while the White House refused to do the same for Congress.
During today’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Dana Perino reiterated that, regardless of what the Iraqi parliament might do, the U.S. Congress would be shut out of its advise and consent role:
PERINO: An executive agreement like this isn’t something that is subject to a yes-or-no by the United States Senate. Other countries, under their constitutions, may have that type of rule, but we don’t. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to work very closely with Congress.
QUESTION: (inaudible) make an end-run around the…
PERINO: No, it’s not.
QUESTION: Well, why can’t you submit it to Congress?
PERINO: I just explained why.
In fact, there is nothing precluding the White House from submitting the agreement to Congress. Indeed, as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) pointed out yesterday, negotiating such a treaty without Senate approval would represent a break from past practice. In 1951, for example, the Senate ratified a U.S./NATO SOFA to preside over the hundreds of thousands of U.S. forces stationed in over 40 countries, including Germany and Japan.
Conservative columnist George Will wrote recently, “Hundreds of such agreements, major (e.g., NATO) and minor (the Reagan administration’s security commitment to the Marshall Islands and Micronesia), have been submitted to Congress.”
Today, the National Lawyers Guild — the “oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States” — called on Berkeley’s law school, Boalt Hall, to dismiss former Bush administration John Yoo, who is a law professor there. From the Guild’s statement:
In a memorandum written the same month George W. Bush invaded Iraq, Boalt Hall law professor John Yoo said the Department of Justice would construe US criminal laws not to apply to the President’s detention and interrogation of enemy combatants. According to Yoo, the federal statutes against torture, assault, maiming and stalking do not apply to the military in the conduct of the war. [...]
“John Yoo’s complicity in establishing the policy that led to the torture of prisoners constitutes a war crime under the US War Crimes Act,” said National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn.
Congress should repeal the provision of the Military Commissions Act that would give Yoo immunity from prosecution for torture committed from September 11, 2001 to December 30, 2005. John Yoo should be disbarred and he should not be retained as a professor of law at one of the country’s premier law schools. John Yoo should be dismissed from Boalt Hall and tried as a war criminal.
This is a pretty striking trend. Politically, it’s a bit tricky since the salient trend is the dramatic narrowing of the better/worse gap, but the betters still outnumber the worses. You want to tap into the sentiments of the growing “worse” bloc, but still can’t let that kind of sentiment dominate what you’re saying since there are all these “betters” out there still.
Last week, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) sent an e-mail to his constituents asking them to submit questions for him to ask Gen. David Petraeus. Today, he summarized the 5,000 submitted questions for Petreaues: “What is the definition of winning?” He also admonished Petraeus for refusing to define success:
And if I will, when Mr. Burton asks for a definition of what is failure, we get a litany of items. But when Mr. Ackerman asks what’s the definition of victory, we get little. Please tell us, general, what is winning?
Max Bergmann at Democracy Arsenal wrote yesterday, “Petraeus and Crocker have no problems projecting out the potential implications of leaving Iraq — but they refuse to make projections of what staying will look like. That double standard is absurd. Is there a strategic plan for our presence in Iraq? If so what? The answer is pretty clearly no. They have no end game. There is no exit strategy.”