Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Report: Iran Years From Nuclear Weapons

LONDON - Iran is two to three years away from having the capacity to build a nuclear weapon, a leading security think tank said Wednesday. But the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies said domestic opposition to outspoken President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could still help put the brakes on its nuclear development efforts.

"There are signs that political and economic pressure is having an impact in Tehran," said John Chipman, the institute's chief executive, speaking at the launch of the its annual publication, "The Military Balance."

Although Chipman said Iran could be as little as two years away from a bomb, other authorities say it could take Tehran significantly longer to reach that point.

Both John Negroponte, the head of national intelligence for the U.S., and Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, have said Iran is perhaps four years from the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon. .....

EU to debate data transfers to US


Members of the European Parliament are to voice concerns about the use of data on air passengers and bank transactions in a US anti-terror profiling system.
The EU has already asked Washington for assurances that the US system is not using passenger data in ways that violate EU-US agreements.

Washington says access to international bank transactions and passenger records is key to its fight against terrorism.

The US has had access to data about European air passengers since 2004.

The BBC's Alix Kroeger in Brussels says that many in the EU are uneasy with the scope of the Americans' requests. .....

US money is 'squandered' in Iraq


Millions of dollars in US rebuilding funds have been wasted in Iraq, US auditors say in a report which warns corruption in the country is rife.
A never-used camp in Baghdad for police trainers with an Olympic-size swimming pool is one of the examples highlighted in the quarterly audit.

Billions of budgeted dollars meanwhile remain unspent by Iraq's government.

The report comes as President Bush is urging Congress to approve $1.2bn (£600m) in further reconstruction aid.

The audit by Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (Sigir), is the latest in a regular series of updates to Congress. ......

Bush 'spoiling for a fight' with Iran

US officials in Baghdad and Washington are expected to unveil a secret intelligence "dossier" this week detailing evidence of Iran's alleged complicity in attacks on American troops in Iraq. The move, uncomfortably echoing Downing Street's dossier debacle in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, is one more sign that the Bush administration is building a case for war.

Nicholas Burns, the senior US diplomat in charge of Iran policy, says Washington "is not looking for a fight" with Tehran. The official line is that Washington has made a conscious decision to "push back" against Iran on a range of fronts where the two countries' interests clash. Primarily that means Tehran's perceived meddling in Iraq, where its influence with the Shia-led government and Shia majority population appears to be increasing as Washington's weakens.

State department spokesman Sean McCormack claimed this week the administration has a body of evidence implicating Iran in sectarian attacks against Iraq's Sunni minority. "There is a high degree of confidence in the information that we already have and we are constantly accumulating more," he told the New York Times. More

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN: Not-So-Strange Bedfellow

Here’s a little foreign policy test. I am going to describe two countries — “Country A” and “Country B” — and you tell me which one is America’s ally and which one is not.

Let’s start: Country A actively helped the U.S. defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and replace it with a pro-U.S. elected alliance of moderate Muslims. Country A regularly holds sort-of-free elections. Country A’s women vote, hold office, are the majority of its university students and are fully integrated into the work force.

On 9/11, residents of Country A were among the very few in the Muslim world to hold spontaneous pro-U.S. demonstrations. Country A’s radical president recently held a conference about why the Holocaust never happened — to try to gain popularity. A month later, Country A held nationwide elections for local councils, and that same president saw his candidates get wiped out by voters who preferred more moderate conservatives. Country A has a strategic interest in the success of the pro-U.S., Shiite-led, elected Iraqi government. Although it’s a Muslim country right next to Iraq, Country A has never sent any suicide bombers to Iraq, and has long protected its Christians and Jews. Country A has more bloggers per capita than any country in the Muslim Middle East.

The brand of Islam practiced by Country A respects women, is open to reinterpretation in light of modernity and rejects Al Qaeda’s nihilism.

Now Country B: Country B gave us 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. Country B does not allow its women to drive, vote or run for office. It is illegal in Country B to build a church, synagogue or Hindu temple. Country B helped finance the Taliban.

Country B’s private charities help sustain Al Qaeda. Young men from Country B’s mosques have been regularly recruited to carry out suicide bombings in Iraq. Mosques and charities in Country B raise funds to support the insurgency in Iraq. Country B does not want the elected, Shiite-led government in Iraq to succeed. While Country B’s leaders are pro-U.S., polls show many of its people are hostile to America — some of them celebrated on 9/11. The brand of Islam supported by Country B and exported by it to mosques around the world is the most hostile to modernity and other faiths.

Question: Which country is America’s natural ally: A or B?

Country A is, of course. Country A is Iran. Country B is Saudi Arabia.

Don’t worry. I know that Iran has also engaged in terrorism against the U.S. and that the Saudis have supported America at key times in some areas. The point I’m trying to make, though, is that the hostility between Iran and the U.S. since the overthrow of the shah in 1979 is not organic. By dint of culture, history and geography, we actually have a lot of interests in common with Iran’s people. And I am not the only one to notice that.

Because the U.S. has destroyed Iran’s two biggest enemies — the Taliban and Saddam — “there is now a debate in Iran as to whether we should continue to act so harshly against the Americans,” Mohammad Hossein Adeli, Iran’s former ambassador to London, told me at Davos. “There is now more readiness for dialogue with the United States.”

More important, when people say, “The most important thing America could do today to stabilize the Middle East is solve the Israel-Palestine conflict,” they are wrong. It’s second. The most important thing would be to resolve the Iran-U.S. conflict.

That would change the whole Middle East and open up the way to solving the Israel-Palestine conflict, because Iran is the key backer of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Syria. Iran’s active help could also be critical for stabilizing Iraq.

This is why I oppose war with Iran. I favor negotiations. Isolating Iran like Castro’s Cuba has produced only the same result as in Cuba: strengthening Iran’s Castros. But for talks with Iran to bear fruit, we have to negotiate with Iran with leverage.

How do we get leverage? Make it clear that Iran can’t push us out of the gulf militarily; bring down the price of oil, which is key to the cockiness of Iran’s hard-line leadership; squeeze the hard-liners financially. But all this has to be accompanied with a clear declaration that the U.S. is not seeking regime change in Iran, but a change of behavior, that the U.S. wants to immediately restore its embassy in Tehran and that the first thing it will do is grant 50,000 student visas for young Iranians to study at U.S. universities.

Just do that — and then sit back and watch the most amazing debate explode inside Iran. You can bet the farm on it.

MAUREEN DOWD: Mama Hugs Iowa


When she was little, Hillary Rodham would sit on a basement bench and pretend she was flying a spaceship to Mars. Her younger brother Hugh, perched behind, would sometimes beg for a chance to be captain.

No dice. “She would always drive, and I would always have to sit in the back,” he once told me.

Through all the years of sitting behind Bill Clinton on his trip to the stars, Hillary fidgeted and elbowed, trying to be co-captain rather than just wingman, or worse, winglady.

Finally, in Iowa, she was once more behind the wheel of her spaceship to Mars. She didn’t have to prop up Bill after one of his roguish pratfalls. She didn’t have to feign interest in East Wing piffle — table settings and pastry chefs and designer gowns. She didn’t have to defer to her male colleagues in the Senate, stepping back to give them the limelight.

She positively glistened as she talked about how “I” — rather than the “we” of ’92 — would run the world.

Humbly, graciously, deftly, she offered Iowa the answer to that eternal question, What Is Hillary Owed?


John Wood, a self-described “plainsman,” Republican and machinery-and-tool salesman from Davenport, asked Hillary how she would handle the world’s evil and bad men, provoking the slyly ambiguous retort: “What in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men?”

He said afterward that he was more worried about her ability to face down villains, “being a lady,” but conceded, “The woman did good today.”

(His question was reminiscent of Ali G’s interview of Newt Gingrich, when the faux rapper asked whether a woman president would be turned on and manipulated by evil dictators, given that, with women, “the worse you treat ’em, the more they want you.”)

As YouTube attests, Hillary didn’t care about style as first lady; she was too busy trying to get in on Bill’s substance. She showed off a long parade of unflattering outfits and unnervingly changing hairdos.

In Iowa, her national anthem may have been off-key, but her look wasn’t. It was an attractive mirror of her political message: man-tailored with a dash of pink femininity.

“I think you look very nice,” a veteran of the first gulf war told her in Des Moines.

“Thank you!” she answered, beaming and laughing.

When Geraldine Ferraro made her historic run in ’84, she tried to blend a mother’s concerns into her foreign policy answers, but it did not work so well once she started getting her nuclear terminology mixed up.

Hillary dealt with the issue head on — “I’m a woman; I’m a mom” — hoping to stir that sisterly vote that Ms. Ferraro failed to draw after it turned out that many women were skeptical about one of their own facing down the Soviets.

Unlike Barack Obama, who once said he was bored by the suburbs, she introduced herself in the land of bingo and bacon as a product of the suburbs, wallowing in the minutiae of kitchen-table issues.

W. and Cheney have lavished attention and money on Iraq, leaving Americans feeling neglected. Hillary offered Iowans a warm bath of “you,” homey rumination rather than harsh domination.

(Though Jon Stewart warned on “The Daily Show” that her slogan — “Let the conversation begin!” — will not help her with men. “I think the typical response would be, ‘Now?’ ” he said, adding that her new Iraq policy is, “America, let’s pull over and just ask for directions.”)

Thomasine Johnson, a 66-year-old African-American from outside Des Moines, complained that Hillary talked too much about “traditional women’s issues,” but many in the audiences seemed enthralled.

The Achilles’ heel of “The Warrior,” as she is known, is the war. She expressed outrage about Iraq, but ended up sounding like a mother whose teenage son has not cleaned up his room: “The president has said this is going to be left to his successor ... and I think it’s the height of irresponsibility, and I really resent it.”

She uttered the most irritating and disingenuous nine words in politics: “If we had known then what we know now. ...”

Jim Webb knew. Barack Obama knew. Even I knew, for Pete’s sake. The administration’s trickery was clear in real time.

Hillary didn’t have the nerve to oppose a popular president on a national security issue after 9/11, and she feared being cast as an antiwar hippie when she ran. Now she feels she can’t simply say she made a bad decision. And that makes her seem conniving — not a good mix with nurturing.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Saudi Arabia and Iran cooperating to try to ease crises in Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi FM says

(AP) Saudi Arabia and Iran are working together to try to calm the crises in Iraq and Lebanon, the Saudi foreign minister said Tuesday, despite Washington's efforts to isolate Tehran and limit its influence in the Middle East. The mediation is an unusual step by two rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran, that compete for regional influence.

President Bush has rejected calls that the United States win Iran's help in easing Iraq's

bloodshed and resolve the political crisis in Lebanon that erupted into violence last week. Instead, he has vowed to break what he called Iranian support for militants in both countries.

Saudi Arabia's willingness to work with Iran likely indicates the growing alarm in the kingdom's leadership over the two simultaneous crises, which have inflamed Sunni- Shiite tensions throughout the Middle East.

Army Investigating Video Alleging More Iraq Prison Abuses

The U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Division has begun an investigation into this video, which was first posted on IraqSlogger last week.

The clip, originally linked via a now defunct account on YouTube, purports to show a former guard from Abu Ghraib talking about torture techniques employed at the American-run prison. The man also recounts the gang rape of a female teenage detainee, in which one guard "pimped" the girl to others for $50 each. As he recalls, "I think at the end of the day he'd made like 500 bucks before she hung herself."

According to chief of public affairs Christopher Grey, "CID Special Agents are looking into the matter and take this issue very seriously. I am not able to provide you with any further details of our activity at this time due to investigative reasons."

At this point, there is no way to confirm if the video is a true representation or not. The video has no publicly-identifiable source at this point, the primary subject appears almost completely in shadow, and the footage has obviously been edited down into a concise 3-minute package.

Previous soldier/atrocity items have caused great media stir, only later to be proven hoaxes. As Grey noted, "We have seen situations where people post videos and pictures on the Internet pretending or leading people to believe they are U.S. soldiers, when in fact they were not even in the military or they never served in OIF or OEF."


Specter: Bush Not Sole 'Decision-Maker'

WASHINGTON - A Senate Republican on Tuesday directly challenged President Bush's declaration that "I am the decision-maker" on issues of war.

"I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said during a hearing on Congress' war powers amid an increasingly harsh debate over Iraq war policy. "The decider is a shared and joint responsibility," Specter said.

The question of whether to use its power over the government's purse strings to force an end to the war in Iraq, and under what conditions, is among the issues faced by the newly empowered Democratic majority in Congress, and even some of the president's political allies as well.

No one challenges the notion that Congress can stop a war by canceling its funding. In fact, Vice President Dick Cheney challenged Congress to back up its objections to Bush's plan to put 21,500 more troops in Iraq by zeroing out the war budget.

Underlying Cheney's gambit is the consensus understanding that such a drastic move is doubtful because it would be fraught with political peril.

But there are other legislative options to force the war's end, say majority Democrats and some of Bush's traditional Republican allies.

The alternatives range from capping the number of troops permitted in Iraq to cutting off funding for troop deployments beyond a certain date or setting an end date for the war.

"The Constitution makes Congress a coequal branch of government. It's time we start acting like it," said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., who is chairing a hearing Tuesday on Congress' war powers and forwarding legislation to eventually prohibit funding for the deployment of troops to Iraq.

Media Matters for America summary, January 30, 2007

ABC's Tapper questions "authentic[ity]" of Democrats but not Republicans

On the January 29 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper said that "[t]he question is whether ant-iwar Democrats will find" Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) rhetoric against the war in Iraq "authentic." However, Tapper previously called Republican Sen. John McCain's (AZ) efforts to "build[] bridges ... with conservative Christians" "smart" when McCain delivered the 2006 commencement address at Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University despite McCain having called Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson "the forces of evil" six years earlier. In a segment about McCain's criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq rhetoric, Tapper suggested McCain was part of a pattern of "once-supportive Republicans now distancing themselves from President Bush and the war in Iraq" without questioning whether McCain's criticism would be perceived as "authentic." Moreover, Tapper's question fits a pattern in his reporting of questioning the authenticity of Democrats but not Republicans. Read more

Wash Post article omitted context of Russert's "Christian nation" question to Huckabee

In a January 29 article on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's (R) announcement that he would form a presidential exploratory committee, Washington Post staff writer Lois Romano reported that when "pressed" by Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press, "on whether he [Huckabee] would lead the United States to be a more Christian nation," Huckabee answered, "We are a nation of faith. It doesn't necessarily have to be mine." But the Post article omitted the context in which Russert put his question: Huckabee's statement came in response to two Huckabee quotes Russert read, including one in which Huckabee stated he wanted to "take this nation back for Christ." Read more

Fox defense of Gibson's report on Obama smear missed mark

According to an report, Fox News vice president Bill Shine defended John Gibson's reporting on the discredited accusation that Sen. Barack Obama attended a madrassa in his youth. But a statement from Shine, as quoted by the report, never addressed Gibson's charges that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was behind the smear. Read more
Blitzer called Steele "a good, strong Republican" despite campaign materials suggesting he's a DemOn the January 28 edition of CNN's Late Edition, host Wolf Blitzer called unsuccessful Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele "a good, strong Republican," despite, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, the Steele campaign's misleading tactics, which included the distribution of a flier labeled "Democratic Sample Ballot" that referred to "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats" and falsely suggested that certain prominent African-American Maryland Democrats endorsed Steele for Senate and then-Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for re-election. Read more

Andrew Sullivan on Sen. Clinton's "cootie vibes": "I just can't stand her"

On the January 28 edition of the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show, discussing the potential 2008 presidential candidacies of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Time blogger Andrew Sullivan said "when I see [Clinton] ... all the cootie vibes sort of resurrect themselves." Sullivan added that he considered Clinton a "very sensible senator," stated that it was "hard to disagree with her on the war," and admitted that he "actually [found] her positions appealing in many ways." Nevertheless, he concluded: "I just can't stand her. I'm sorry about that." Read more

LA Times latest to suggest proponents of Iraq withdrawal are anti-military

In a January 28 editorial headlined "How Iraq affects D.C. reputations," the Los Angeles Times claimed that Sen. John Warner's (R-VA) assertion "that Congress would have to make 'bold decisions' if the Iraqi government didn't shape up within three months" was surprising "[b]ecause of Warner's long-reliable pro-military vote and support for Bush's foreign policy." In suggesting that Warner's "pro-military" views were inconsistent with asserting that the Iraqi government must "shape up" or face Congress' "bold decisions," the Times joined other news organizations identified by Media Matters for America (here, here, and here) as equating being "pro-military" and supporting the troops with supporting the war in Iraq. Such a suggestion implies that those who advocate withdrawal from Iraq are not "pro-military" and do not support the troops. Read more

Questions for the NY Times about the alleged spitting incident during anti-war protest

On January 28, The New York Times reported, in an article by Ian Urbina, that, during the January 27 anti-war protest on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., an unnamed anti-war protester spat at the ground near Joshua Sparling, a wounded Iraq war veteran "who said he was a corporal with the 82nd Airborne Division." The Times reported that Sparling spat "back" and subsequently said of the protesters: "These are not Americans as far as I'm concerned." The Times gave no further details about the alleged incident, despite the politically charged nature of the allegations, which recall the apocryphal tales of Vietnam War veterans being spit on as they returned to the United States. Read more

Savage on Sen. Bernie Sanders: "a dirty socialist" who should "go to hell"

On the January 25 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage attacked Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), saying, "Kiss my behind, you psycho," and "Screw you, you jealous loser." Savage also called Sanders "a rat," "a bum," and "a dirty socialist" and told him to "go to hell." These remarks followed audio clips Savage played on his show, in which Sanders addressed the issues of wealth distribution and childhood poverty. Savage asked: "Now, how did child poverty become an issue all of a sudden? ... Two weeks ago we heard that -- before the elections, three months ago -- that children were overweight and fat from eating too much McDonald's; they were dying of diabetes from being little piglets. Now, we hear about childhood poverty, childhood poverty." Read more

On Hannity's America, Path to 9/11 filmmaker defended scene he previously admitted was fabricated

Path to 9/11 screenwriter and producer Cyrus Nowrasteh asserted that the unedited version of a scene in his film in which Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger abandons an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden is an accurate representation of history. However, the scene depicts an event that did not happen, and Nowrasteh himself has acknowledged that the edited portion was fabricated. Read more

O'Reilly is Olbermann's "Worst Person" for claim that Sunni and Shia kill each other for "fun"

On the January 26 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann named Fox News host Bill O'Reilly the "winner" of his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment for, as Media Matters for America documented, "telling his radio listener that in Iraq, quote, 'the Sunni and Shia want to kill each other. They want to blow each other up. They want to torture each other. They have fun.'" Olbermann again cited O'Reilly's statement that kidnap victim Shawn Hornbeck, after his abduction, was in a situation that "looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents." Olbermann asserted, "We're now beginning to get a clear picture of what Bill thinks fun is: torture, killing, and child molestation." As Media Matters noted, Olbermann previously criticized O'Reilly for his comments about Hornbeck's abduction and stated: "It reeks of perversity and inhumanity. Simply put, Mr. O'Reilly no longer deserves any place on the public stage." Read more

Krauthammer overstated likely ANWR oil production

In his January 26 Washington Post column, "Energy Independence," Charles Krauthammer advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), asserting that the United States could extract "a million barrels a day from" ANWR. He added that, "[i]n tight markets, that makes a crucial difference." His claim recalled a Wall Street Journal editorial (subscription required) that, as Colorado Media Matters noted, stated that drilling for oil in ANWR would "result in an extra one million barrels a day." Read more

Monday, January 29, 2007

Pelosi Reaches Out to Blogging Community

WASHINGTON - Shortly after her swearing-in as the first female House speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi took time to field questions from a few dozen Internet bloggers on a conference call that was off limits to mainstream media.

Last week, Pelosi's aides arranged for bloggers to question two Democratic House leaders on another conference call shortly before President Bush's State of the Union speech.

Pelosi also hired a full-time staff member this month dedicated to blogger outreach, and is making plans to launch a blog of her own. The day she was sworn in, bloggers were given special accommodations at the Capitol to cover the event, and fed lunch.

It's all evidence of the newfound attention bloggers from left-leaning Web sites are commanding on Democratic-run Capitol Hill, especially from the new speaker, a San Franciscan with an appreciation for the power of the Internet and grass-roots activism.

Schooled by evidence of what Internet-driven politics can accomplish - from fueling Howard Dean's presidential campaign in 2004 to propelling Ned Lamont to victory over Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic Senate primary last year - Pelosi and other politicians have realized bloggers are too important to ignore.

"They've gone from an initial writing blogs off, then moving to skepticism, then moving to, 'OK, maybe we can find a way of working with these guys,'" said John Aravosis, who runs

"It's a power base and it's influential and it's an opportunity. And you know what? It exists," Aravosis added.

"It should only scare you if you're on their bad side."

Blogs also are a way for Pelosi and others to communicate directly with a politically engaged audience, without filtering by traditional media. She promoted the Democrats' agenda for their first 100 legislative hours in a posting on

Democrats, in turn, credit bloggers with helping marshal successful opposition to President Bush's 2005 plan to overhaul Social Security by adding private accounts, a fight Pelosi led.

Bush Signs A Directive Which Gives Admin Greater Power Over Civil Rights etc.


“WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

The White House said the executive order was not meant to rein in any one agency. But business executives and consumer advocates said the administration was particularly concerned about rules and guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”

Israel 'broke US arms deal terms'


Israel probably violated the terms of its arms deals with Washington by using US-made cluster bombs in Lebanon last year, a US government report says.
The state department looked into Israel's use of cluster bombs in civilian areas of southern Lebanon during its conflict with Hezbollah.

US-made weapons are sold to the Israeli military with restriction on their use.

Cluster bombs can scatter hundreds of small bomblets over a wide area, and their use has been widely criticised.


The US government has now sent a preliminary report on its investigation into the matter to the US Congress.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the report delivered to Congress was not a "final judgement".

Bush's ex-spokesman rebuts Libby


Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer has told a court that a key former aide to the vice-president revealed secret information to him.
Mr Fleischer said Lewis Libby told him on 7 July 2003 that Valerie Plame, the wife of administration critic Joseph Wilson, worked for the CIA.

Mr Libby is on trial, charged with lying to investigators trying to find out who leaked the secret information.

Mr Libby denies the charges, and no-one was ever charged with the leak itself.

Mr Fleischer was a prosecution witness at the high-profile trial, becoming the fourth current or former official to contradict Mr Libby's account of how and when he learned Ms Plame worked for the CIA.

It is a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover CIA agent.

Mr Fleischer said Mr Libby told him about Ms Plame at lunch a day after her husband published an article accusing the Bush administration of misusing intelligence in the run-up to the war against Iraq.

Mr Libby added that the information was "hush-hush", Mr Fleischer testified.

If found guilty, Lewis "Scooter" Libby - who was Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff - could face up to 30 years in jail.

Europe Resists U.S. Push to Curb Iran Ties


European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.

Administration officials say a new American drive to reduce exports to Iran and cut off its financial transactions is intended to further isolate Iran commercially amid the first signs that global pressure has hurt Iran’s oil production and its economy. There are also reports of rising political dissent in Iran.

In December, Iran’s refusal to give up its nuclear program led the United Nations Security Council to impose economic sanctions. Iran’s rebuff is based on its contention that its nuclear program is civilian in nature, while the United States and other countries believe Iran plans to make weapons.

At issue now is how the resolution is to be carried out, with Europeans resisting American appeals for quick action, citing technical and political problems related to the heavy European economic ties to Iran and its oil industry.

The Unraveling of Dick Cheney

While Dick Cheney undoubtedly remains the most powerful vice president this nation has ever seen, it's becoming increasingly unclear whether anyone outside the White House believes a word he says.Inside the West Wing, Cheney's influence remains considerable.

In fact, nothing better explains Bush's perplexing plan to send more troops to Iraq than Cheney's neoconservative conviction that showing the world that we have the "stomach for the fight" is the most important thing -- even if it isn't accomplishing the things we're supposed to be fighting for.

Even if it's backfiring horribly.

But as his astonishing interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer laid bare last week, Cheney is increasingly out of touch with reality. He seems to think that by asserting things that are simply untrue, he can make others believe they are so.Maybe that works within the White House. But for the rest of us, it's becoming a better bet to assume that everything -- or almost everything -- Cheney says is flat wrong.

Meanwhile, the trial of Cheney's former chief of staff Scooter Libby is exposing to public view the vice president's role as master-manipulator of misinformation and vindictive retaliator-in-chief -- once again, indifferent to the truth. (For example, Cheney ordered his staff to lie to reporters about the contents of a highly classified National Intelligence Estimate.


Australia to drink recycled water


People in the Australian state of Queensland will soon have to start drinking water containing recycled sewage, the state premier has warned.

Premier Peter Beattie said he had scrapped a planned referendum on the issue, because there was no longer a choice.

He also warned that other states in Australia might eventually have to do the same as Queensland.


"We're not getting rain; we've got no choice," he told ABC radio.

"These are ugly decisions, but you either drink water or you die. There's no choice. It's liquid gold, it's a matter of life and death," he said.

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots, No. 276

January 29, 2007 - State Of The Union Special

Welcome to the 276th edition of the Top 10 Conservative Idiots. After the 2006 State of the Union address I reported that George W. Bush gave a "big ol' speech full of stuff." With the president's approval ratings standing at a
mighty 28%, this year's effort was merely a big ol' speech full of guff. All quotes from the State of the Union address can be found here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

PAUL KRUGMAN: The Sum of All Ears

For those hoping for real action on global warming and energy policy, the State of the Union address was a downer. There had been hints and hopes that the speech would be a Nixon-goes-to-China moment, with President Bush turning conservationist. But it ended up being more of a Nixon-bombs-Cambodia moment.

Too bad: the rumors were tantalizing. Al Hubbard, the chairman of the National Economic Council, predicted “headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence.” British officials told the newspaper The Observer that Mr. Bush would “make a historic shift in his position on global warming.”

None of it happened. Mr. Bush acknowledged that climate change is a problem, but you missed it if you sneezed. He said something vague about fuel economy, but the White House fact sheet on energy makes it clear that there was even less there than met the ear.

The only real substance was Mr. Bush’s call for a huge increase in the supply of “alternative fuels.” Mainly that means using ethanol to replace gasoline. Unfortunately, that’s a really bad idea.

There is a place for ethanol in the world’s energy future — but that place is in the tropics. Brazil has managed to replace a lot of its gasoline consumption with ethanol. But Brazil’s ethanol comes from sugar cane.

In the United States, ethanol comes overwhelmingly from corn, a much less suitable raw material. In fact, corn is such a poor source of ethanol that researchers at the University of Minnesota estimate that converting the entire U.S. corn crop — the sum of all our ears — into ethanol would replace only 12 percent of our gasoline consumption.

Still, doesn’t every little bit help? Well, this little bit would come at a very high price compared with the obvious alternative — conservation. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that reducing gasoline consumption 10 percent through an increase in fuel economy standards would cost producers and consumers about $3.6 billion a year. Achieving the same result by expanding ethanol production would cost taxpayers at least $10 billion a year, based on the subsidies ethanol already receives — and probably much more, because expanding production would require higher subsidies.

What’s more, ethanol production has hidden costs. Even the Department of Energy, which is relatively optimistic, says that the net energy savings from replacing a gallon of gasoline with ethanol are only the equivalent of about a quarter of a gallon, because of the energy used to grow corn, transport it, run ethanol plants, and so on. And these energy inputs come almost entirely from fossil fuels, so it’s not clear whether promoting ethanol does anything to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

So why is ethanol, not conservation, the centerpiece of the administration’s energy policy? Actually, it’s not entirely Mr. Bush’s fault.

To be sure, at this point Mr. Bush’s people seem less concerned with devising good policy than with finding something, anything, for the president to talk about that doesn’t end with the letter “q.” And the malign influence of Dick “Sign of Personal Virtue” Cheney, who no doubt still sneers at conservation, continues to hang over everything.

But even after the Bushies are gone, bad energy policy ideas will have powerful constituencies, while good ideas won’t.

Subsidizing ethanol benefits two well-organized groups: corn growers and ethanol producers (especially the corporate giant Archer Daniels Midland). As a result, it’s bad policy with bipartisan support. For example, earlier this month legislation calling for a huge increase in ethanol use was introduced by five senators, of whom four, including presidential aspirants Barack Obama and Joseph Biden, were Democrats. In a recent town meeting in Iowa, Hillary Clinton managed to mention ethanol twice, according to The Politico.

Meanwhile, conservation doesn’t have anything like the same natural political mojo. Where’s the organized, powerful constituency for tougher fuel economy standards, a higher gasoline tax, or a cap-and-trade system on carbon dioxide emissions?

Can anything be done to promote good energy policy? Public education is a necessary first step, which is why Al Gore deserves all the praise he’s getting. It would also help to have a president who gets scientific advice from scientists, not oil company executives and novelists.

But there’s still a huge gap between what obviously should be done and what seems politically possible. And I don’t know how to close that gap.

BOB HERBERT: More Than Antiwar

It was a few minutes after 11 a.m. when the scattered crowd began moving slowly toward the stage at the end of the Mall. The sky was a beautiful sunlit blue and the Capitol building, huge and white and majestic, offered the protesters an emotional backdrop that seemed almost close enough to touch.

“It’s so big,” said a woman from Milwaukee, who was there with her husband and two children. “It’s lovely. Makes you want to cry.”

You can say what you want about the people opposed to this wretched war in Iraq, try to stereotype them any way you can. But you couldn’t walk among them for more than a few minutes on Saturday without realizing that they love their country as much as anyone ever has. They love it enough to try to save it.

By 11:15 I thought there was a chance that the march against the war would be a bust. There just weren’t that many people moving toward the stage to join the rally that preceded the march. But the crowd kept building, slowly, steadily. It was a good-natured crowd. Everyone was bad-mouthing the Bush administration and the war, but everybody seemed to be smiling.

There were gray-haired women with digital cameras and young girls with braces. There were guys trying to look cool in knit caps and shades and balding baby boomers trading stories about Vietnam. And many ordinary families.

“Where’s Hillary?” someone asked.

That evoked laughter in the crowd. “She’s in Iowa running for president,” someone said.

When a woman asked, “What’s her position on the war?” a man standing next to her cracked, “She was for it before she was against it.”

More laughter.

The crowd kept building. There were people being pushed in wheelchairs and babies in strollers. There were elderly men and women, walking very slowly in some cases and holding hands.

The goal of the crowd was to get the attention of Congress and persuade it to move vigorously to reverse the Bush war policies. But the thought that kept returning as I watched the earnestly smiling faces, so many of them no longer young, was the way these protesters had somehow managed to keep the faith. They still believed, after all the years and all the lies, that they could make a difference. They still believed their government would listen to them and respond.

“I have to believe in this,” said Donna Norton of Petaluma, Calif. “I have a daughter in the reserves and a son-in-law on active duty. I feel very, very strongly about this.”

Betty and Peter Vinten-Johansen of East Lansing, Mich., said they felt obliged to march, believing that they could bolster the resolve of opponents of the war in Congress. Glancing toward the Capitol, Mr. Vinten-Johansen said, “Maybe we can strengthen their backbone a little bit.”

Even the celebrities who have been at this sort of thing for decades have managed to escape the debilitating embrace of cynicism. “How can you be cynical?” asked Tim Robbins, just before he mounted the stage to address the crowd, which by that time had grown to more than 100,000.

“This is inspiring,” he said. “It’s the real voice of the American people, and when you hear that collective voice protesting freely it reminds you of the greatness of our country. It gives you hope.”

When Jane Fonda said, “Silence is no longer an option,” she was doing more than expressing the outrage of the crowd over the carnage in Iraq and the president’s decision to escalate American involvement. She was implicitly re-asserting her belief in the effectiveness of citizen action.

Ms. Fonda is approaching 70 now and was at the march with her two grandchildren. It was very touching to watch her explain how she had declined to participate in antiwar marches for 34 years because she was afraid her notoriety would harm rather than help the effort.

The public is way out in front of the politicians on this issue. But the importance of Saturday’s march does not lie primarily in whether it hastens a turnaround of U.S. policy on the war. The fact that so many Americans were willing to travel from every region of the country to march against the war was a reaffirmation of the public’s commitment to our peaceful democratic processes.

It is in that unique and unflagging commitment, not in our terrifying military power, that the continued promise and greatness of America are to be found.

DAVID BROOKS: Parting Ways in Iraq

During the summer of 1995, Edward Joseph was serving as a U.N. peacekeeper in Bosnia. He was asked to help Muslim women and children flee from an area near Srebrenica, where 7,000 Muslims had already been slaughtered by Serb forces.

It was a controversial mission. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees refused to participate, believing the evacuation would just complete the ethnic cleansing. But the high commissioner didn’t see the crowds of Muslim women shrieking in terror as Serb jeeps rolled by. Joseph did. It might seem high-minded to preach ethnic reconciliation from afar, Joseph now says, but in a civil war, when you can’t protect people, it’s immoral to leave them to be killed.

Gradually, leaders on all sides of the Bosnian fight came to see it was in their interest to separate their peoples. And once the ethnic groups were given sanctuary, it became possible to negotiate a peace that was imperfect, but which was better than the reverberating splashes of blood.

Today, many of the people active in Bosnia believe they have a model that could help stabilize Iraq. They acknowledge the many differences between the two places, but Iraq, they note, is a disintegrating nation. Ethnic cleansing is dividing Baghdad, millions are moving, thousands are dying and the future looks horrific.

The best answer, then, is soft partition: create a central government with a few key powers; reinforce strong regional governments; separate the sectarian groups as much as possible.

In practice, that means, first, modifying the Iraqi Constitution.

As Joe Biden points out, the Constitution already goes a long way toward decentralizing power. It gives the provinces the power to have their own security services, to send ambassadors to foreign countries, to join together to form regions. Decentralization is not an American imposition, it’s an Iraqi idea.

But, he adds, so far the Constitution doesn’t yet have legislation that would do things like equitably share oil and gas revenue. The Sunnis will never be content with a strip of sand unless they’re constitutionally guaranteed 20 percent of the nation’s wealth.

The second step is getting implicit consent from all sects that separation and federalism are in their interest. The Shiites would have to accept that there never will be a stable Iraq if the Sunnis are reduced to helot status. The Kurds would have to accept that peace and stability are worth territorial compromise in Kirkuk. The Sunnis would have to accept that they’re never going to run Iraq again, and having a strong Sunni region is better than living under a Shiite jackboot.

As Les Gelb says, unless the thirst for vengeance has driven the leaders in Iraq beyond the realm of reason, it should be possible to persuade them to see where their best interests lie.

The third step in a soft partition would be the relocation of peoples. This would mean using U.S. or Iraqi troops to shepherd people who want to flee toward areas where they feel safe. It would mean providing humanitarian assistance so they can get back on their feet.

As Edward Joseph and Michael O’Hanlon note, in this kind of operation, timing is everything. Move people in a certain neighborhood too early, and militias could perceive a vacuum and accelerate the violence. Move too late and you could be moving corpses.

The fourth step is getting Iraq’s neighbors to buy into the arrangement. Presumably neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia really relishes complete chaos in Iraq and a proxy war with each other after the U.S. withdraws. The Turks would have to be reassured that this plan means no independent Kurdistan will ever come into being.

The most serious objection to soft partition is that the Sunni and Shiite populations are too intermingled in Baghdad and elsewhere to really separate. This objection, sadly, becomes less of a problem every day. But it would still be necessary to maintain peacekeepers in the mixed neighborhoods, be open to creative sovereignty structures, and hope that the detoxification of the situation nationally might reduce violence where diverse groups touch.

In short, logic, circumstances and politics are leading inexorably toward soft partition. The Bush administration has been slow to recognize its virtues because it is too dependent on the Green Zone Iraqis. The Iraqis talk about national unity but their behavior suggests they want decentralization. Sooner or later, everybody will settle on this sensible policy, having exhausted all the alternatives.

Gunmen kill top Iraqi Industry Ministry official

BAGHDAD, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Gunmen ambushed the director general of Iraq's Industry Ministry as he drove to work in Baghdad on Sunday, killing him, his daughter and two others, police and the ministry said.

Police said gunmen in a car sprayed Adel Abdul-Mehsun al-Lami's vehicle with bullets in Baghdad's western Yarmouk district. Insurgents fighting the U.S.-backed Shi'ite-led government frequently attack or kidnap government officials.

A ministry spokesman said Lami's daughter had worked as an engineer in the ministry. The other two killed were his driver and a second unidentified employee.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

FRANK RICH: Hillary Clinton’s Mission Unaccomplished

HILLARY CLINTON has an answer to those who suspect that her “I’m in to win” Webcast last weekend was forced by Barack Obama’s Webcast of just four days earlier. “I wanted to do it before the president’s State of the Union,” she explained to Brian Williams on NBC, “because I wanted to draw the contrast between what we’ve seen over the last six years, and the kind of leadership and experience that I would bring to the office.

”She couldn’t have set the bar any lower. President Bush’s speech was less compelling than the Monty Python sketch playing out behind it: the unacknowledged race between Nancy Pelosi and Dick Cheney to be the first to stand up for each bipartisan ovation. (Winner: Pelosi.)

As we’ve been much reminded, the most recent presidents to face Congress in such low estate were Harry Truman in 1952 and Richard Nixon in 1974, both in the last ebbs of their administrations, both mired in unpopular wars that their successors would soon end, and both eager to change the subject just as Mr. Bush did. In his ’52 State of the Union address, Truman vowed “to bring the cost of modern medical care within the reach of all the people” while Nixon, 22 years later, promised “a new system that makes high-quality health care available to every American.” Not to be outdone, Mr. Bush offered a dead-on-arrival proposal that “all our citizens have affordable and available health care.” The empty promise of a free intravenous lunch, it seems, is the last refuge of desperate war presidents.

Few Americans know more than Senator Clinton about health care, as it happens, and if 27 Americans hadn’t been killed in Iraq last weekend, voters might be in the mood to listen to her about it. But polls continue to show Iraq dwarfing every other issue as the nation’s No. 1 concern. The Democrats’ pre-eminent presidential candidate can’t escape the war any more than the president can. And so she was blindsided Tuesday night, just as Mr. Bush was, by an unexpected gate crasher, the rookie senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. Though he’s not a candidate for national office, Mr. Webb’s nine-minute Democratic response not only upstaged the president but also, in an unintended political drive-by shooting, gave Mrs. Clinton a more pointed State of the Union “contrast” than she had bargained for.

To the political consultants favored by both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bush, Mr. Webb is an amateur. More than a few Washington insiders initially wrote him off in last year’s race to unseat a star presidential prospect, the incumbent Senator George Allen. Mr. Webb is standoffish. He doesn’t care whom he offends, including in his own base. He gives the impression — as he did Tuesday night — that he just might punch out his opponent. When he had his famously testy exchange with Mr. Bush over the war at a White House reception after his victory, Beltway pooh-bahs labeled him a boor, much as they had that other interloper who refused to censor himself before the president last year, Stephen Colbert.

But this country is at a grave crossroads. It craves leadership. When Mr. Webb spoke on Tuesday, he stepped into that vacuum and, for a few minutes anyway, filled it. It’s not merely his military credentials as a Vietnam veteran and a former Navy secretary for Ronald Reagan that gave him authority, or the fact that his son, also a marine, is serving in Iraq. It was the simplicity and honesty of Mr. Webb’s message. Like Senator Obama, he was a talented professional writer before entering politics, so he could discard whatever risk-averse speech his party handed him and write his own. His exquisitely calibrated threat of Democratic pushback should Mr. Bush fail to change course on the war — “If he does not, we will be showing him the way” — continued to charge the air even as Mrs. Clinton made the post-speech rounds on the networks.

Mrs. Clinton cannot rewrite her own history on Iraq to match Mr. Obama’s early opposition to the war, or Mr. Webb’s. She was not prescient enough to see, as Mr. Webb wrote in The Washington Post back in September 2002, that “unilateral wars designed to bring about regime change and a long-term occupation should be undertaken only when a nation’s existence is clearly at stake.” But she’s hardly alone in this failing, and the point now is not that she mimic John Edwards with a prostrate apology for her vote to authorize the war. (“You don’t get do-overs in life or in politics,” she has said.) What matters to the country is what happens next. What matters is the leadership that will take us out of the fiasco.

Mr. Webb made his own proposals for ending the war, some of them anticipating those of the Iraq Study Group, while running against a popular incumbent in a reddish state. Mrs. Clinton, running for re-election in a safe seat in blue New York, settled for ratcheting up her old complaints about the war’s execution and for endorsing other senators’ calls for vaguely defined “phased redeployments.” Even now, after the Nov. 7 results confirmed that two-thirds of voters nationwide want out, she struggles to parse formulations about Iraq.

This is how she explains her vote to authorize the war: “I would never have expected any president, if we knew then what we know now, to come to ask for a vote. There would not have been a vote, and I certainly would not have voted for it.” John Kerry could not have said it worse himself. No wonder last weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” gave us a “Hillary” who said, “Knowing what we know now, that you could vote against the war and still be elected president, I would never have pretended to support it.”

Compounding this problem for Mrs. Clinton is that the theatrics of her fledgling campaign are already echoing the content: they are so overscripted and focus-group bland that they underline rather than combat the perennial criticism that she is a cautious triangulator too willing to trim convictions for political gain. Last week she conducted three online Web chats that she billed as opportunities for voters to see her “in an unfiltered way.” Surely she was kidding. Everything was filtered, from the phony living-room set to the appearance of a “campaign blogger” who wasn’t blogging to the softball questions and canned responses. Even the rare query touching on a nominally controversial topic, gay civil rights, avoided any mention of the word marriage, let alone Bill Clinton’s enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

When a 14-year-old boy from Armonk, N.Y., asked Mrs. Clinton what made her “so inspirational,” it was a telltale flashback to those well-rehearsed “town-hall meetings” Mr. Bush billed as unfiltered exchanges with voters during the 2004 campaign. One of those “Ask President Bush” sessions yielded the memorable question, “Mr. President, as a child, how can I help you get votes?”

After six years of “Ask President Bush,” “Mission Accomplished” and stage sets plastered with “Plan for Victory,” Americans hunger for a presidency with some authenticity. Patently synthetic play-acting and carefully manicured sound bites like Mrs. Clinton’s look out of touch. (Mr. Obama’s bare-bones Webcast and Web site shrewdly play Google to Mrs. Clinton’s AOL.) Besides, the belief that an image can be tightly controlled in the viral media era is pure fantasy. Just ask the former Virginia senator, Mr. Allen, whose past prowess as a disciplined, image-conscious politician proved worthless once the Webb campaign posted on YouTube a grainy but authentic video capturing him in an embarrassing off-script public moment.

The image that Mrs. Clinton wants to sell is summed up by her frequent invocation of the word middle, as in “I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America.” She’s not left or right, you see, but exactly in the center where everyone feels safe. But as the fierce war critic Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, argues in a must-read interview at, the war is “starting to redefine the political landscape” and scramble the old party labels. Like Mrs. Clinton, the middle-American Mr. Hagel voted to authorize the Iraq war, but that has not impeded his leadership in questioning it ever since.

The issue raised by the tragedy of Iraq is not who’s on the left or the right, but who is in front and who is behind. Mrs. Clinton has always been a follower of public opinion on the war, not a leader. Now events are outrunning her. Support for the war both in the polls and among Republicans in Congress is plummeting faster than she can recalibrate her rhetoric; unreliable Iraqi troops are already proving no-shows in the new Iraqi-American “joint patrols” of Baghdad; the Congressional showdown over fresh appropriations for Iraq is just weeks away.

This, in other words, is a moment of crisis in our history and there will be no do-overs. Should Mrs. Clinton actually seek unfiltered exposure to voters, she will learn that they are anxiously waiting to see just who in Washington is brave enough to act.

Ex-Cheney aide shares media manipulation

WASHINGTON - A smorgasbord of Washington insider details has emerged during the perjury trial of the vice president's former chief of staff.

For example, when Dick Cheney really needed friends in the news media, his staff was short of phone numbers.

No one served up spicier morsels than Cheney's former top press assistant. Cathie Martin described the craft of media manipulation — under oath and in blunter terms than politicians like to hear in public.

The uses of leaks and exclusives. When to let one's name be used and when to hide in anonymity. Which news medium was seen as more susceptible to control and what timing was most propitious. All candidly described. Even the rating of certain journalists as friends to favor and critics to shun — a faint echo of the enemies list drawn up in Richard Nixon's White House more than 30 years ago. ......

FCC to Feel Unfamiliar Heat From Democrats

As congressional Democrats prepare to give the Federal Communications Commission its toughest scrutiny in years, a rivalry between the powerful agency's two most prominent Republicans is raising questions about its readiness to handle barbed questions and stiff challenges.

The Republican-controlled FCC -- which makes far-reaching decisions on telephone, television, radio, Internet and other services that people use daily -- has sparred infrequently with Republican controlled Congresses. But the Democratic-run 110th Congress is about to heat up the grill, starting with a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on Thursday.

Senators vow to press the chairman and four commissioners on matters such as media-ownership diversity, Internet access, broadcast decency standards and delays in resolving various issues. The hearing may cover the waterfront, Democratic staff members say, but there's little doubt that the agency will face a tone of questioning unseen in recent years. More

Strategic errors of Monumental Proportions

By Lt. General WILLIAM E. ODOM (US Army Ret.)

Text of testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,18 January 2007

The war has served primarily the interests of Iran and al Qaeda, not American interests.

As long as US forces remained engaged Iraq, not only will the military costs go up, but also the incentives will decline for other states to cooperate with Washington to find a constructive outcome. This includes not only countries contiguous to Iraq but also Russia and key American allies in Europe. In their view, we deserve the pain we are suffering for our arrogance and unilateralism.

Many critics argue that, had the invasion been done "right," such as sending in much larger forces for re-establishing security and government services, the war would have been a success. This argument is not convincing. Such actions might have delayed a civil war but could not have prevented it. Therefore, any military programs or operations having the aim of trying to reverse this reality, insisting that we can now "do it right," need to be treated with the deepest of suspicion. That includes the proposal to sponsor the breakup by creating three successor states. To do so would be to preside over the massive ethnic cleansing operations required for the successor states to be reasonably stable. Ethnic cleansing is happening in spite of the US military in Iraq, but I see no political or moral advantage for the United States to become its advocate. We are already being blamed as its facilitator.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Media Matters for America summary, January 27, 2007

CNN, NBC blame Obama "opponents" for smears advanced by media
Anderson Cooper, David Gregory, and Soledad O'Brien have all asked Sen. Barack Obama about smears leveled against him, purportedly by his political "opponents" or "enemies." But in each case, they did not name any of these "opponents." Indeed, by framing their questions in terms of political "opponents," they ignored the media's role in promoting these smears, and in some cases originating them. Read more

Hardball analyst: Clinton "too cold" and "too elitist"
On the January 25 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, during a report on the importance of Western states in U.S. elections, NBC News correspondent George Lewis aired a quote by Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior scholar at the University of Southern California, asserting that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) is "too New York, too elitist, too cold, if you will, to really talk the language of the Intermountain West." Read more

CNN's Bash ignored McCain flip-flop on administration's Iraq war rhetoric
On the January 25 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash aired a statement by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticizing the Bush administration for presenting "rosy scenarios" about the situation in Iraq, which he said "exacerbated" public "disillusionment" with the war. But Bash did not tell viewers that McCain has previously commended President Bush for providing the public with what McCain characterized as an accurate assessment of the situation in Iraq. Read more

Ignoring reports of poor performance, Fox analyst touted presence of Iraqi forces on Haifa Street
On Special Report, Fox News' Bret Baier aired a quote by retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales Jr., who uncritically touted military operations on Haifa Street in Baghdad as "evidence of the Iraqi army and the police on the march." But Baier did not mention first-hand accounts of various battles for Haifa Street that indicated that U.S. forces led the fighting, Iraqi forces performed poorly, and residents accused Iraqi forces on Haifa Street of "atrocities." Read more

O'Reilly: Sunni and Shiite Iraqis "have fun" when they "kill each other"
Discussing Iraq during the January 24 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly claimed that "the Sunni and Shia want to kill each other. ... They have fun. This is -- they like this. This is what Allah tells them to do, and that's what they do." O'Reilly then asserted that the "essential mistake of the war" was failing to anticipate that "these people would act like savages, and they are." Later, O'Reilly said that he had not predicted that the Iraqis "were going to act like savages in the aftermath of Saddam [Hussein]," and added: "[N]ow, Iran, we know they're savages." As Media Matters for America has documented (here, here, and here), O'Reilly has repeatedly stated his indifference to the deaths of Iraqis and the fate of their country. Recently, O'Reilly claimed that Iraq is not in "civil war," but rather that Muslims are just "doing what they do. They're killing each other. And they're killing Americans" Read more

Hannity falsely claimed Fox poll found Dems don't want Bush's plan to succeed in Iraq
On the January 25 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity falsely stated that "a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll recently showed that most Democrats don't even want the president's plan to succeed in Iraq." In fact, the poll showed that 51 percent of Democratic respondents said they want President Bush's "Iraq plan" to succeed, compared with 34 percent who said they don't. Read more

Olbermann named Limbaugh "Worst Person"; Morgan received "runner-up"
On the January 25 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann named nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh the "winner" of his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment for, as Media Matters for America noted, "reading a made-up quote from [Sen. Barack] Obama [D-IL] supposedly responding to an endorsement from actress Halle Berry." Olbermann observed: "[Limbaugh] later admitted it was made up, but Fatso still said, 'As a Halfrican-American I am honored to have Ms. Berry's support as well as the support of other Halfrican-Americans.' " Read more

Couric repeated administration spin on health care plan: Uninsured will be able to buy coverage
On the January 25 edition of the CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric echoed the Bush administration claim that its proposed "tax break" would "help" the uninsured "buy" health insurance, without noting that the plan would reportedly do little to help many of those who currently lack health insurance. In fact, even the Bush administration has reportedly stated that the tax deduction would help only an estimated 3 million to 5 million of those currently uninsured to be able to purchase health insurance, likely leaving more than 40 million people without insurance. Read more

NPR, Wash. Post latest to dismiss Beck's smears, falsehoods
On the January 25 edition of National Public Radio's All Things Considered, as part of their "Crossing the Divide" series, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik interviewed conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who was described by host Michele Norris as someone "with absolutely no interest in crossing the divide." During the report, Folkenflik purported to contrast Limbaugh with "rival conservative talk show host" Glenn Beck who has his own show on CNN Headline News and was recently hired as a "regular commentator" for ABC's Good Morning America. Folkenflik uncritically reported that Beck finds that "severe rhetoric only drives people apart" and made the misleading claim that Beck has "taken flak" for his beliefs. In fact, Beck has "taken flak" for a host of smears and inflammatory comments he has made -- his denunciations of "severe rhetoric" notwithstanding. For instance, during a November 14, 2006, interview with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who is the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, Beck said: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies,' " a comment he later stated was "poorly worded" and "wish[ed]" he "could take back and rephrase." The weblog Think Progress also noted Folkenflik's report. Read more

Fox News to air deleted, false scenes from ABC's The Path to 9/11
According to a January 26 Los Angeles Times article, Fox News will rebroadcast "footage from ABC's controversial miniseries 'The Path to 9/11' that was edited out of the docudrama amid criticism that it inaccurately portrayed the Clinton administration's response to the terrorism threat." Read more

MAUREEN DOWD: Daffy Does Doom

Dick Durbin went to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to denounce the vice president as “delusional.”

It was shocking, and Senator Durbin should be ashamed of himself.

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.

Only someone with an inspired alienation from reality could, under the guise of exorcising the trauma of Vietnam, replicate the trauma of Vietnam.

You must have a real talent for derangement to stay wrong every step of the way, to remain in complete denial about Iraq’s civil war, to have a total misunderstanding of Arab culture, to be completely oblivious to the American mood and to be absolutely blind to how democracy works.

In a democracy, when you run a campaign that panders to homophobia by attacking gay marriage and then your lesbian daughter writes a book about politics and decides to have a baby with her partner, you cannot tell Wolf Blitzer he’s “out of line” when he gingerly raises the hypocrisy of your position.

Mr. Cheney acts more like a member of the James gang than the Jefferson gang. Asked by Wolf what would happen if the Senate passed a resolution critical of The Surge, Scary Cheney rumbled, “It won’t stop us.”

Such an exercise in democracy, he noted, would be “detrimental from the standpoint of the troops.”

Americans learned an important lesson from Vietnam about supporting the troops even when they did not support the war. From media organizations to Hollywood celebrities and lawmakers on both sides, everyone backs our troops.

It is W. and Vice who learned no lessons from Vietnam, probably because they worked so hard to avoid going. They rush into a war halfway around the world for no reason and with no foresight about the culture or the inevitable insurgency, and then assert that any criticism of their fumbling management of Iraq and Afghanistan is tantamount to criticizing the troops. Quel demagoguery.

“Bottom line,” Vice told Wolf, “is that we’ve had enormous successes, and we will continue to have enormous successes.” The biggest threat, he said, is that Americans may not “have the stomach for the fight.”

He should stop casting aspersions on the American stomach. We’ve had the stomach for more than 3,000 American deaths in a war sold as a cakewalk.

If W. were not so obsessed with being seen as tough, Mr. Cheney could not influence him with such tripe.

They are perpetually guided by the wrong part of the body. They are consumed by the fear of looking as if they don’t have guts, when they should be compelled by the desire to look as if they have brains.

After offering Congress an olive branch in the State of the Union, the president resumed mindless swaggering. Asked yesterday why he was ratcheting up despite the resolutions, W. replied, “In that I’m the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster.” (Or preordained it.)

The reality of Iraq, as The Times’s brilliant John Burns described it to Charlie Rose this week, is that a messy endgame could be far worse than Vietnam, leading to “a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we’re seeing now,” and a “wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world’s flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there’s complete chaos in the region?”

Mr. Cheney has turned his perversity into foreign policy.

He assumes that the more people think he’s crazy, the saner he must be. In Dr. No’s nutty world-view, anti-Americanism is a compliment. The proof that America is right is that everyone thinks it isn’t.

He sees himself as a prophet in the wilderness because he thinks anyone in the wilderness must be a prophet.

To borrow one of his many dismissive words, it’s hogwash.

WH will accept benchmarks/deadlines for surge


A top GOP staffer says more than 70 senators would oppose the surge if their vote matched their comments in private meetings. "The White House is trying to but they really don't know how to handle this," said a senior GOP aide involved in the talks.

White House officials are pleading with GOP senators to oppose any congressional resolution that specifically condemns Bush's effort to escalate the war effort in coming months, congressional sources said Friday morning. In private conversations, the officials are telling senators that the resolution would demoralize U.S. troops and hurt the GOP politically for years to come.

Bush allies are arguing that Republicans will damage their individual political interests as well. Their logic is that there is no anti-war constituency inside the Republican Party, pointing specifically to Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a potential presidential candidate who has opposed the surge but not gained much traction with party activists. "That's a flat argument," the senior aide said. "That does not work."

On a more substantive level, White House officials are arguing that U.S. commanders are confident the escalation will work, but only if Iraqis and world leaders understand the plan has congressional backing. The White House has sent signals that it would stomach a resolution establishing firm deadlines and accountability requirements as long as it does not outright condemn the surge, congressional sources said.

Turkey mulls 'invading' Iraq

Turkey's parliament went into secret session this week to debate sending troops to invade and occupy northern Iraq for security purposes.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in the confrontation between the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and the Turkish army – about 400 last year alone, according to Turkey's Human Rights Association.

Onur Oymen, the deputy chairman of the Opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said: "Northern Iraq is the only place in the world where a terrorist group can operate without being pursued."

"If the Iraqis and the US are not prepared to take action over this, then we must."

Iraq vice president: U.S. invasion was "idiot decision"

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an "idiot decision" and Iraqi troops now need to secure Baghdad to ensure the country's future, Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Thursday."Iraq was put under occupation, which was an idiot decision," Mahdi said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.Mahdi said the Iraqi government planned to bring troops in to Baghdad from surrounding areas and said it was "a technical question" for the United States to decide whether to deploy more soldiers.President George W.

Bush plans to send another 21,500 troops to Iraq, a move widely criticised in the United States. On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted against the decision, which is due to go before the Senate next week."If we can win this war in Baghdad then I think we can change the course of events," Mahdi told a panel on the state of affairs in Iraq."As Iraqis, we think we need more (Iraqi) troops in Baghdad, and we are calling for some regiments to come from other parts of the country," he said. More