We’re just not sure what to think…
UPDATE: Quick! Someone tell Secretary Rumsfeld that Cap’n America is a friend of the terrorists!
We’re just not sure what to think…
UPDATE: Quick! Someone tell Secretary Rumsfeld that Cap’n America is a friend of the terrorists!
QUESTION: Do you feel that the number of troops that you’ve kept there is limiting your options elsewhere in the world? …
BUSH: I appreciate that question.
The person I asked that to — the person I asked that to, at least, is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, my top military adviser.
I said, Do you feel that we’ve limited our capacity to deal with other problems because of our troop levels in Iraq? And the answer is no, he doesn’t feel we’re limited. He feels like we’ve got plenty of capacity.
You mentioned the Korean Peninsula. We’ve got good capacity in Korea.
Perhaps Gen. Myers was being coy that day. Here’s what he said in February:
Joint Chief of Staff chairman Gen. Richard Myers told Congress that the US military “would have trouble responding as quickly and effectively as commanders would like if it had to go to war in Iran or North Korea.” Myers “said a sudden military crisis in one of those two nations…would likely force the Pentagon to remobilize reserve and Guard components that have rotated home from Iraq to rest.” [USA Today, 2/17/05]
President Bush tonight:
President Putin believes in democracy. I take him at his word.
One week ago: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “criticised the course Russia was taking under President Vladimir Putin, noting a lack of clear alternatives to the current, dominant Kremlin regime. ‘Trends have not been positive on the democratic side,’ Dr Rice told reporters on board her plane to Moscow, where she was due to meet Mr Putin and other top officials. ‘The centralisation of state power in the presidency at the expense of countervailing institutions like the Duma (parliament’s lower house) or an independent judiciary is clearly very worrying. ‘” [4/21/05]
The problem with John Bolton isn’t so much that he’s not afraid to speak his mind…it’s that he has shown a pattern of being against others speaking theirs.
President Bush said, the way to defeat terror is to spread democracy.
This week, however, former 9/11 Commission chairmen Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton said President Bush isn’t moving fast enough to improve efforts to spread American values in the Muslim world. As Kean said, the United States is still perceived in the Middle East as a military enforcer. “We cannot continue to be the man in the tank — and that’s our image in the Arab world.” But although Bush appointed adviser Karen Hughes to lead this effort to spread democracy, for some reason, she’s not starting that new job until this fall.
Though President Bush has announced that tonight’s press conference will be on Social Security and energy, the press certainly will not limit their questions to those two topics. However, there is one question we are unlikely to hear: Why are you ignoring the ongoing genocide in Darfur?
It has been nearly eight months since then-Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that genocide is occurring in Darfur. But on a recent trip to the region, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick backed away from that conclusion and attempted to downplay the number of victims. The latest estimates place the number of dead at 400,000 — dying at a rate of nearly 15,000 a month — with an additional 2 million Darfuris in refugee camps. Since Secretary Powell’s statement, an estimated 120,000 have been killed by the government-backed Janjaweed militia. Obviously, simply calling it genocide is no substitute for action. In the absence of presidential leadership, Congress has taken the lead — Senators Corzine and Brownback introduced the Darfur Accountability Act, which calls for an expansion of the current African Union mission to include the protection of civilians; a no-fly zone; and meaningful sanctions against the perpetrators. Decisive American action can put an end to the worst humanitarian crisis since the Rwandan genocide eleven years ago.
The press cannot ask this question because it is one they must ask of themselves as well. If reporters are going to critique President Bush for turning his back on these atrocities, then they must do some introspection as to why, in their own capacity, they are not doing more to try and put an end to this genocide. Why are the images not emblazoned on the front page of every paper, every day? Why are editorial pages not demanding action? Why are we not keeping a running toll of the deaths until the sheer number of victims overwhelms our senses enough to reignite what seems to be smoldering moral outrage?
The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency met today to decide whether to reappoint Mohamed ElBaradei to a third term as the head of the UN’s atomic watchdog agency. They had to postpone the decision: thirty-four out of the 35 IAEA board member countries support naming Mohamed ElBaradei to a third term. One, however, opposed: The United States wants to block his nomination.
Yep, it’s payback time. El Baradei, remember, spoke up against the White House’s campaign of misinformation in the days before the invasion of Iraq, providing intelligence that shot down White House rationales for going to war. And he made the grievous mistake of being right:
He Was Right About Nuclear Weapons: IAEA Director ElBaradei told the United Nations that nuclear experts had found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In February 2003, he warned the White House “We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq.” President Bush’s nomination to the U.N., John Bolton, attacked him, saying that was “impossible to believe.” (Today, two years after the invasion of Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction have been found and, in fact, the “intelligence” provided by Bolton’s Office of Special Plans turned out to be “dead wrong.”)
He Was Right About Uranium: In March 2003, El Baradei said the “documents which formed the basis for [the White House's assertion] of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic.” Vice President Cheney, asked about this a week later, said, “Mr. El Baradei frankly is wrong.” (The documents turned out to be fakes. Cheney, frankly, was wrong.)
He Was Right About Aluminum Tubes: In March 2003, ElBaradei said nuclear experts found “no indication” that Iraq tried to import high-strength aluminum tubes for a centrifuge to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice ignored that finding and claimed in July 2003 that “the consensus view” in the intelligence community was that the tubes “were suitable for use in centrifuges to spin material for nuclear weapons.” (The tubes, in fact, were not for use for weaponizing uranium. They were the wrong size — “too narrow, too heavy, too long” for a centrifuge. They had a special coating to protect them from the weather, which was “not consistent” with use in a centrifuge, as it could cause bad reactions with uranium.)
Guess the White House would rather have people who are serially wrong — like John Bolton — in positions of international power than those who’ve been consistently proven right. Way to get it backwards.
“The insurgents have very little stock in the country anymore … Almost any indicator you look at [on the insurgency in Iraq], the trends are up. So we’re definitely winning.”
– Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, 4/26/05
“[The Iraq insurgency] is right about where it was a year ago.”
– Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, 4/26/05
– Ken Gude
Another record was broken this year — the number of serious international terrorist attacks in a single year more than tripled, from a record of 175 in 2003 to 655 last year, according to recently released U.S. government figures.
This data, however, will no longer be in the annual report on international terrorism submitted to Congress by the State Department. Just over ten days ago the State Department decided to eliminate the report, “Patterns of Global Terrorism,” entirely.
All this comes not even a year after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell had to publicly apologize for the first edition of the 2003 report — which severely undercounted the number of terrorist attacks. “The numbers were off,” Powell said, and “we have identified how we have to do this in the future.”
Apparently Condoleezza Rice doesn’t agree — her office had suggested an alternative method for counting attacks, and when the National Counterterrorism Center decided not to use this new method, the State Department eliminated the terrorism statistics in the congressionally mandated report altogether.
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah visited President Bush’s Texas Ranch yesterday. Here’s what President Bush did — and did not — do during the visit:
Strolled through wildflowers
Stood up for pro-democracy Saudi activists
Despite his lofty rhetoric, President Bush uttered not one word about the three Saudi dissidents whom Prince Abdullah has imprisoned for circulating a petition calling for democratic reform in Saudi Arabia. Human Rights Watch urged Bush to call for their release last week.
Called for democratic reform in countries that aren’t Saudi Arabia
The joint statement by President Bush and Prince Abdullah expressed “support for the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to bring democracy, peace, and prosperity to all Palestinians” and called for “free and fair elections unburdened by foreign interference or intimidation” in Lebanon.
Called for democratic reform in Saudi Arabia
The same statement didn’t mention “democracy” or “rights” at all in relation to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, it noted that the U.S. “does not seek to impose its own style of government on the government and people of Saudi Arabia,” even though Saudi Arabia’s “style of government” has lately included violating fundamental human rights which it has agreed to uphold though various international agreements.
Talked about old agreements to lower gas prices in ten years
The Saudis presented a plan to increase oil production over the next decade in what the Wall Street Journal described as a “recap of plans the Saudis already had announced.”
Worked out new agreement to deal with today’s sky-high gas prices
Today’s Washington Post: “President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah emerged from their meeting here Monday with no agreement that would lower gasoline prices in the near term.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 3/7/05:
The United States is committed to the success of the United Nations and we view the UN as an important component of our diplomacy…President Bush has sent our most skilled and experienced diplomats to represent the United States at the UN. Today, I am honored to continue that tradition by announcing that President Bush intends to nominate John Bolton to be our next Ambassador to the United Nations.
Frederick Vreeland, former U.S. ambassador to Morocco,4/26/05:
Bolton has none of the qualities needed for that job. On the contrary, he has all the qualities needed to harm the image and objectives in the U.N. and its affiliated international organizations. If it is now U.S. policy not to reform the U.N but to destroy it, Bolton is our man. It is totally erroneous to speak of Bolton as a diplomat.
Vreeland worked with Bolton in the early 1990s. He also said Bolton “dealt with visitors to his office as if they were servants with whom he could be dismissive, curt and negative” and once “spoke of the U.N. as being the enemy.”
“Before boarding his flight to Crawford to meet with President Bush Monday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah presided over the arrest of 40 Pakistani Christians on Friday. Their crime? The Pakistanis were caught praying in a private home in the capital Riyadh in violation of the state’s strictly enforced religious law that bans all non-Muslim worship.”
President Bush holds hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Remember the promise President Bush made during his inaugural address:
“America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains…. All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”
– President Bush, 1/20/05
The case at hand:
“In March 2004, Saudi authorities arrested 13 people in several cities for circulating a petition calling for a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament, and signaling their intent to form an independent human rights organization. The government released 10 of them after compelling them to sign an agreement that they would cease their public petitioning. Three of the men — Matruk al-Falih, Ali al-Domaini, and Abdullah al-Hamid — refused to sign the statement, and remain in prison facing charges of ‘issuing statements’ and ‘using Western terminology’ in calling for reform.”
– Human Rights Watch, 4/24/05
This is precisely the case that President Bush described in his inaugural address. Human Rights Watch yesterday appealed to the president to call for the prisoners’ release when Saudi crown prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz visits Bush’s Texas ranch today. Likewise, Amnesty International noted that “it should be clear to all that Saudi Arabia, a heralded U.S. ally in the war on terror, has no qualms about terrorizing its own citizens.”
President Bush’s credibility on Middle East reform is at stake today. Will he live up to his lofty rhetoric? Check back with ThinkProgress — we’ll update after their meeting.
There are serious, well-publicized concerns about John Bolton’s treatment of subordinates. His defenders argue that Bolton’s “blunt” style is what makes him an effective diplomat. In fact, Bolton’s record is riddled with serious diplomatic failures. Fresh evidence this morning in Newsweek:
On several occasions, America’s closest ally in the war on terror, Britain, was irked by what U.S. and British sources say were efforts by Bolton to undermine promising diplomatic openings. Perhaps the most dramatic instance took place early in the U.S.-British talks in 2003 to force Libya to surrender its nuclear program, NEWSWEEK has learned. The Libya deal succeeded only after British officials “at the highest level” persuaded the White House to keep Bolton off the negotiating team…The White House agreed to keep Bolton “out of the loop,” as one source puts it.
President Bush delivers the kiss of death to John Bolton?
“Mr. Bush took to Mr. Putin that day, surprising almost everyone by declaring that he had looked into his soul and seen a good man.”
– NYT, 5/25/02
PRESIDENT BUSH: Bernie, you’re a good man.
BERNARD KERIK: Thank you, Mr. President.
“President Bush personally came to the defense of his embattled nominee for United Nations ambassador on Thursday, telling reporters that despite mounting criticism, … [he] continued to stand by Bolton, calling his nominee ‘a good man.’”
On Sunday, NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof called it “a national embarrassment that MTV is more outspoken about genocide than our president.” Could this outrageous claim really be true? Here’s the tale of the tape:
MTV Acknowledges Darfur Atrocities Actually Constitute Genocide, White House Backtracks
White House: During his trip to Sudan last week, Undersecretary of State Robert Zoellick “backed away from the Bush administration’s assertion that the mass killings and village burning amounted to genocide.”
MTV: “Find out how you can take action and help stop the genocide in Sudan.” — Promo for MTV’s Darfur action website.
MTV Encouraging Others to Help Stop the Atrocities in Darfur, White House Tepid
White House: President Bush “has refused to confront Sudan forcefully or raise the issue himself before the world. Incredibly, Mr. Bush managed to get through recent meetings with Vladimir Putin, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair and the entire NATO leadership without any public mention of Darfur.” (Nicholas Kristof, 4/17/05)
MTV: A short list: in recent weeks, college network MTVu has run regular documentaries, PSAs, and news featurettes on Sudan, “broadcast 24-hours of commercial-free programming…entirely devoted to the Sudan crisis and student response” on the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, and sponsored three student correspondents on a week-long trip to Darfur as well as Sudan events at local campuses.
MTV Supports Bipartisan Legislation to Stop the Killing, White House Still Thinking About It
White House: President Bush “hasn’t even taken a position on the Darfur Accountability Act and other bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Jon Corzine and Sam Brownback to put pressure on Sudan.” (Nicholas Kristof, 4/17/05)
MTV: “Support the Darfur Accountability Act of 2005. Help ensure that the perpetrators of gross human rights violations against the Sudanese people in Darfur are brought to justice.” — MTV call to action.
The Verdict: Kristof is right. This is a national freakin’ embarassment.
As the Bush administration continues to tout its efforts to promote democracy in such places as Afghanistan and Iraq, it has overlooked a serious challenge to democracy in Mexico. With 15 months left until the 2006 presidential election, Mexico City’s left-leaning, 51-year-old populist mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, may be forced out of the race due to a highly undemocratic Mexican law.
At the heart of the scandal is a 2001 lawsuit over the city’s construction of a hospital access road on disputed land in Mexico City. Rival political parties PRI and President Fox’s own PAN are uniting against the popular mayor, who currently leads in the polls. Their effort (despite the fact that many Mexicans feel the case to be a minor infraction) attempts to strip Lopez Obrador of the immunity from prosecution he maintains as a public official. Taking away Lopez Obrador’s immunity would bar him from running for further office, since Mexican law states that politicians cannot run for office if under indictment, unlike his majority leader neighbor to the north.
If the Bush administration is so serious about promoting democracy abroad, how can it ignore such flagrant abuse of power by the Mexican Chamber of Deputies? President Bush’s Inaugural Address spoke of his desire to support democracy whenever and wherever necessary; however, unless you are from the Ukraine or Central Asia, such promises are for naught.
- Jay Heidbrink
In an attempt to discredit opponents of John Bolton, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks has taken a wild swipe at reason.
Seemingly channeling Bolton himself, Brooks claims that “Bodies like the U.N. can toss hapless resolutions at the Milosevics, the Saddams or the butchers of Darfur, but they can do nothing to restrain them. Meanwhile, the forces of decency can be paralyzed as they wait for ‘the international community.’”
Brooks needs to check his history books. In Bosnia (as in Rwanda), UN troops on the ground were handcuffed from acting precisely because they lacked backing from the UN Security Council, including the U.S. As for the genocide in Darfur, yesterday, on the very same op-ed page, Kofi Annan called for a series of specific actions. Meanwhile, the Bush administration’s “force of decency” in Darfur has amounted to a big, wet noodle. As the President wavers, thousands continue to die. And on Iraq, the UN was right. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
Brooks then says that Americans “will never allow transnational organizations to overrule our own laws, regulations and precedents. We think our Constitution is superior to the sloppy authority granted to, say, the International Criminal Court.”
Brooks doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The ICC — which the White House adamantly opposes — does not overrule our laws and does things our constitution was never meant to do; namely, hold international war criminals and people who commit genocide accountable. Yet the administration happily supports the World Trade Organization, which (for good or bad) sets binding rules on global trade and maintains an unelected court in a foreign land whose rulings often require the U.S. to change its laws and regulations under threat of sanctions.
So right-wingers like Brooks oppose global governance because they “love our constitution,” except when it comes to making a buck.
A little consistency please.
– Max Bergmann
Over at Powerline, John Hinderaker (nee “Hindrocket“) is outraged. Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN), he says, “may have set a new low when he used the death of a Minnesota soldier to launch a cheap shot against the Bush administration.”
The backstory: in late-March, Minnesota native Cpl. Travis Bruce was killed in Iraq “by a rocket-propelled grenade while standing watch on the roof of a Baghdad police station.” The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Bruce had called his girlfriend the night before his death “and said that he was stationed on the rooftop and increasing the height of the sandbag barricade. ‘He said they didn’t have enough sandbags up there,’ she said softly.”
Based on this account, Sen. Dayton sent a letter to President Bush calling it “immoral for our command not to provide our soldiers with absolutely everything they need to give them maximum protection: body armor, armored vehicles, sandbags. ” Hinderaker had heard enough.
“First it was body armor, then armored vehicles,” Hinderaker complained. “Now it’s ‘immoral’ that our soldiers don’t have enough sandbags. Am I missing something, or is this ludicrous on its face? I can understand a soldier in Iraq being short of armor. But sand?” He continues: “It is up to soldiers in the field to protect themselves. If they want more sandbags, they should get more sandbags, as Cpl. Bruce apparently did.”
So, according to Hinderaker, the idea of a sandbag shortage is “ludicrous” and it’s Cpl. Bruce’s fault that he couldn’t get his hands on enough bags to save his life.
He should tell that to Sgt. Kris Owen, who was forced to join “other reservists in the Fort Collins-based 244th Engineers in a scavenger hunt for scrap metal and sandbags,” as noted in the Denver Post. In USA Today, soldiers said there were “not enough sandbags to protect detainees from incoming mortars, which at times have been a nightly occurrence. … U.S. military officials said they had ordered more sandbags.” And a Seattle Times reporter described a “cottage industry in sandbag production” spawned by Camp Victory, as U.S. soldiers began hiring local Iraqis to “stuff bag after bag to protect the base.”
Or maybe Hinderaker ought to just keep his uninformed assumptions to himself.
Today on the new blog Democracy Arsenal, Heather responds to an interesting post from last week on the “Top 10 Myths Progressives Need to Let Go of to Regain the Upper Hand in Foreign Policy.” Discussing #4 on trade policy, Heather contends that 93% of Bush voters favored labor and environmental standards in trade agreements — so how left can that sentiment really be?
Democracy Arsenal is the blog of the newly-launched Security and Peace Initiative (SPI). SPI is the offspring of the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress and will focus on promoting a responsible US foreign policy. It will also place special emphasis on identifying and promoting emerging voices in progressive foreign policy, thereby building the next generation of foreign policy thinkers.