Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

Home of the This Is Not Normal podcast, Bill Scher columns and other liberal commentary

Month: September 2006 (page 1 of 5)

Mahablog Likes

The Mahablog, after pointedly noting that “Canada Probably Doesn’t Want Us, Anyway,” urges her readers to fight on with the help of Wait! Don’t Move To Canada!:

…if you think it’s too late to fight, then please step out of the way. Some of us haven’t given up yet.
Wait! Don’t Move! is a handbook for liberals who want to fight but aren’t sure how. Thankfully, Bill moves beyond cheery little checklists reminding you to write your congressperson. Suggestions for action are presented within a Big Picture framework. It’s not just about defeating Republicans, but about making America safe for liberalism again. Throughout, Bill challenges readers to be clear about what we want. Instead of just reacting to the Republican agenda, we should be showing the nation an alternative way to look at issues. We should fight from a position of clarity and purpose rather than defensiveness.

Thanks Boston!

Thanks to the Boston and Cambridge chapters of Drinking Liberally and Democracy for America, as well as BlueMassGroup, for hosting a great Wait! Don’t Move To Canada! event on Thursday. Let it be known that you don’t need to serve alcohol to bring out the DLers.

Special thanks to Shai Sachs (far left, tan shirt) of the Cambridge DL for putting the event together, Charley Blandy of BMG for snapping the photos, and RevDeb (far right) of Progressive Pulpit for coming properly attired in her “Canada Looks Better Every Day” shirt!


In case you missed it, here’s video — broken up into four parts — of yesterday segment on MSNBC’s “Tucker” featuring Andrew Wilkow and myself. Transcript is available here.

Book Tour Continues, With A Stop At MSNBC

Barring last-minute changes, I’m scheduled to be on MSNBC’s “Tucker” today, which airs 4 PM ET/1 PM PT (and reruns 6 PM ET/3 PM PT). I’ll be paired with Sirius Satellite Radio host Andrew Wilkow.
And tonight at 7 PM, I’ll be in Boston, MA at the USES Harriet Tubman House, 566 Columbus Ave., in the Cafeteria Room. The event is co-sponsored by Blue Mass Group, Cambridge Drinking Liberally, Boston Drinking Liberally, Boston Democracy for America, Cambridge Democracy for America and the Harvard Book Store.
Hope to see you there.

Why the Intelligence Community Might Like My Book

The National Intelligence Estimate on trends in global terrorism is so damning to the Right’s entire foreign policy vision, they have no choice but to pushback on it now that is has surfaced.
But they are so caught off-guard, they are flailing about with contradictory messages.
Should they dismiss the report as a political hit job from that anti-American intelligence community? Or should they spin the report as supporting a stay-the-course strategy in Iraq?
The Weekly Standard attacked the intelligence analysts who wrote the report.
While PowerLine and RedState insisted that the report argues against any sort of troop withdrawal from Iraq.
And as Sidney Blumenthal, author of the critically important How Bush Rules, notes in Salon, Dubya has managed to contradict himself, supporting and dismissing the report.
The stay-the-course argument hinges upon the first and last sentences of this section of the NIE:

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and
operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the
struggle elsewhere.

  • The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
  • The Right’s simplistic argument follows: we must continue to occupy Iraq or else the jihadists will succeed and we will fail.
    Now, the NIE doesn’t give an explicit opinion whether or not a stay-the-course Iraq strategy will bring about a jihadist failure.
    But the following paragraphs in the NIE give weight to an alternative approach: that a fundamental shift in our foreign policy, away from permanent occupation of the Arab/Muslim word, is needed:

    We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.

  • Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq “jihad;” (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims — all of which jihadists exploit.

  • The jihadists’ greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution — an ultra-conservative interpretation of shari’a-based governance spanning the Muslim world — is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists’ propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.

  • Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.
    If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives. Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit.

  • Conservatives will still argue that the above just means we must push forth with democracy in Iraq.
    But if there was real progress for democracy in Iraq, why would the NIE be so sour on the situation?
    As I lay out in my book, Wait! Don’t Move To Canada!, the problem with conservative foreign policy is not its pro-democracy rhetoric.
    It’s that the rhetoric is wholly insincere. It’s that you don’t get democracies that people find credible when they are imposed on them at gunpoint and shaped by the occupying force.
    The book then makes the case for a liberal foreign policy vision, based on promoting credible democracy and eradicating poverty.
    The four ways we Americans can help bring about legitimate, homegrown democracy — in brief — are:

  • Work with international institutional and coalitions, so our actions are not perceived as narrowly self-serving, but in the global interest.
  • Don’t play favorites when engaging other countries. By engaging both those in power and all opposition parties, we signal to other peoples that we’re not trying to choose their rulers.
  • Practice what we preach on human rights, setting high standards for other nations to follow.
  • Stop nuclear proliferation, because it is much harder to press for democratic reforms when a dictatorship is holding a nuclear trump card.
    None of that negates the need to use our military to capture or kill Al Qaeda members, but if we want to stop recruitment of future terrorists, you need more than just brute force (as even George W. Bush has said).
    Further, when we use our military for permanent occupation in Arab/Muslim countries, that feeds all the resentments and anxieties that the NIE says jihadists exploit.
    Finally, if our democracy efforts are combined with a real, long-term effort to fight poverty abroad, we will mitigate the “destabilizing transitions” that create opportunities for terrorists that the NIE warns about.
    Conservatives will continue to distort the choice in front of us as between stay-the-course and cut-and-run.
    When in fact, we can replace the strategy of permanent occupation in Iraq and beyond, with a global strategy of strict military focus on Al Qaeda, promotion of credible democracy and eradicating poverty.
    From what I (and others) see in the NIE, such a shift is imperative.

  • Thanks Hanover!

    We kicked off the Wait! Don’t Move To Canada! tour with the Hanover, NH chapter of Drinking Liberally yesterday. Spirits were roused, beer was drunk, the cause was advanced.

    Not pictured is Laura Clawson (she had to leave early). She made news this week by exposing an House aide of Rep. Charlie Bass who had been posing as a supporter of Bass’ opponent Paul Hodes on local liberal blogs, and downplaying Hodes’ chances of winning. The aide resigned.
    Thanks to organizer Ed Tracey (center) and everyone else in Drinking Liberally for their support and hospitality. Click here to learn more about the Hanover chapter.

    More Blog Reaction To “Wait! Don’t Move To Canada!”

    Suburban Guerrilla had just the kind of reaction to Wait! Don’t Move To Canada! I’m hoping for:

    I didn’t think there was anything Bill Scher … could say in his new book that would make me feel any better, especially after the past week.
    I was wrong … It gave me hope. It’ll give you hope, too. Buy it.

    Punk Ass Blog also found some hope:

    In Bill Scher’s book “Wait! Don’t Move to Canada!,” he produces quality evidence that Americans like liberal ideas, can be swayed by the idea of effective governance regardless of its size, and badly want someone to address issues like the environment, health care reform, and government accountability.
    If ever want to do more than win a few fluky elections against unpopular incumbents (see: Ford, Gerald and Bush, George HW), and if Democrats ever want to regain lasting control of Congress, we must change the talking points.

    And Alan Bisbort (check out his new book When You Read This They Will Have Killed Me about the dubious execution of Caryl Chessman) conducted an interview with me, and he posted a transcript at American Politics Journal.

    CACI Writes A Letter

    Jody Brown, Executive VP of CACI International, Inc., has sent me a letter in response to my In These Times article on the privatized Iraq War.
    To refresh, these are the portions of the article that relate to CACI:

    [In the Robert Greenwald documentary Iraq For Sale, a] former military interrogator at Abu Ghraib who worked next to corporate interrogators from CACI International describes his experience this way: “We were uncertain — we knew what our chain of command was … but what’s the CACI chain of command?” As’s Mark Benjamin says, the Pentagon was “desperate” for intelligence, “panicked,” and hired “a bunch of contractors who didn’t know what they were doing.” (CACI’s sorry role in the Abu Ghraib scandal didn’t stop its CEO from attacking the authors of the Executive Excess report last year for criticizing defense contractors who earn far more than generals, arguing that “Companies are accountable for profitable performance and sustained customer satisfaction. Generals are not.”)

    Few litigators are following the legal precedent set to prosecute contractors — as CNN reported in June, not one private military contractor in Iraq has been charged with a crime, not even one of the CACI interrogators at Abu Ghraib.

    CACI’s Brown responds:

    Your recent article regarding CACI was not accurate; please let me take this opportunity to inform you of the facts.
    CACI supports our nation’s vital defense missions, including the war on terrorism, security for our people and homeland, and sweeping enhancements in the quality and efficiency of essential government services, in both the defense and civilian sectors. It is our mission to be absolutely clear and truthful about CACI’s business and role in Iraq as a military contractor.
    CACI maintains the highest professional and ethical standards. In more than four and a half decades of work helping to defend our nation, we have never tolerated any misconduct by our employees. Moreover, the men and women of CACI are committed to supporting the U.S. military’s efforts in Iraq and the global fight against al Qaeda and Islamic-extremists. It is our patriotic duty to serve our nation, and we are honored that CACI employees have stepped up and accepted great personal risk to support our troops in Iraq. In all we do, we are concerned about our employees’ security and their performance.
    From all indications, the war on terrorism will be lengthy, brutal, and challenging. In order to enable the greatest number of soldiers to engage in combat duty, the U.S. military has turned to qualified civilian contractors like CACI to provide a wide range of support. This is the government’s decision and not a decision on the part of CACI. Though contractors like CACI do not engage in combat duties, our work is dangerous and often conducted in places where most people would not want to work each and every day.
    Unfortunately, your article contains gross misrepresentations about CACI. And we are confident you would only want to portray the facts and the truth. Please take note that the substantiated and factually verifiable truth is that:

  • No CACI employee has ever been charged with any misconduct in connection with incidents at Abu Ghraib, and no CACI employee ever appeared in any photos of detainee abuse released from Abu Ghraib. CACI assisted the Army with gathering much-needed intelligence in an effort to save lives and safeguard our troops during dangerous and hostile wartime conditions.
  • At CACI, our fundamental commitment to honesty, integrity, and ethics guides everything we do. CACI does not condone, endorse, or in any way abide misconduct by its employees. CACI also emphasizes its strong commitment to the basic American principle of the rule of law, due process and that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  • Our specialty is information technology support and secure network communications services, including information collection and data analysis. We provide these solutions to federal agencies, the intelligence community, and the military in support of America’s homeland security and our national defense. Interrogation services are an extension of that work, which CACI provided in August 2003 in response to an urgent request by the U.S. Army, which did not have sufficient available personnel to carry out these vital operations in Iraq.
  • The term “war profiteering” connotes an extreme and undeserved level of profit. As applied to CACI, that term is a maliciously false accusation. The government received good value from CACI’s work efforts and services. No one with access to the facts can reasonably and responsibly contend otherwise. For example, the Company’s contract was not a cost-plus contract and was less than 1 percent of the company’s total worldwide business (revenue). Equally important, none of the inflated prices, purposeless activity, waste, fraud or abuse alleged in the film against other contractors had any application to CACI.
  • CACI is a company of diverse and dedicated individuals, many of whom are former servicemen and women who have bravely served at some time in every branch of the U.S. military. Many CACI employees believed it was within their duty to serve in Iraq, and many of them voluntarily accepted great personal risk to support the U.S. mission there.
  • CACI has served our U.S. federal government for the past 45 years, through nine presidential administrations, and from the Cold War to the “long war” on global terrorism. The Army has recognized the diligent service of civilian workers provided by CACI in several public reports and in sworn testimony to the U.S. Congress.
  • A comprehensive history containing factual information about CACI’s 45 years of honorable service to the U.S. government, and the support services provided by our brave people in Iraq, can be found at
    Regrettably, your article winds up maligning a respected and reputable company. We are confident it is not your intent to malign or smear anyone based on inaccurate information, or distortions and falsehoods perpetuated by uninformed critics. Please be advised that CACI will not tolerate unsubstantiated speculation, bias, spin, rumors, insinuation, and unfounded accusation. We will not allow anyone to recklessly besmirch the good name of this company or its many fine people.
    Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.
    Jody Brown
    Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications
    CACI International Inc

  • There’s not a whole lot to say in response. Despite all of Brown’s bluster that the article is “not accurate,” she doesn’t actually call into question the accuracy of any factual assertion in the article.
    But just to cover the bases:

  • CACI’s Steven Stephanowicz “led” a “team of civilian interrogators” into Abu Ghraib, according to the 5/9/04 NY Times. The internal military investigation, which resulted in the Taguba report, recommended:

    That Mr. Steven Stephanowicz, Contract US Civilian Interrogator, CACI, 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, be given an Official Reprimand to be placed in his employment file, termination of employment, and generation of a derogatory report to revoke his security clearance for the following acts which have been previously referred to in the aforementioned findings:
    — Made a false statement to the investigation team regarding the locations of his interrogations, the activities during his interrogations, and his knowledge of abuses.
    — Allowed and/or instructed MPs, who were not trained in interrogation techniques, to facilitate interrogations by “setting conditions” which were neither authorized and in accordance with applicable regulations/policy. He clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse.

  • Brown said no one at CACI has ever been charged with misconduct at Abu Ghraib. So did I. No contractor in Iraq suspected of misconduct has. That’s the point.
  • Brown appears to think CACI’s profits off of war are unquestionably deserved, because unlike Halliburton, it hasn’t been accused of mishandling funds and overcharging our government. My article didn’t accuse CACI of such things. Again, there’s nothing to retract.
    But I don’t care for, as described in the article, “private contractors fighting wars and racking up huge profits without being plagued by pesky accountability,” of which CACI — which got $765M in 2005 defense contracts, and which had its CEO’s compensation triple since 9/11 — is one. (Yes Jody, CACI doesn’t technically do “combat” but when you interrogate prisoners, or otherwise work hand in glove with the military, you’re part of fighting the war.)
    In my opinion, that makes CACI one of the war profiteers. Sorry Jody, sue me.

  • My taxpayer money paid for CACI’s work at Abu Ghraib. I do not believe I got a “good value” for my money.
  • Brown wrote, “Interrogation services are an extension of that work, which CACI provided in August 2003 in response to an urgent request by the U.S. Army, which did not have sufficient available personnel to carry out these vital operations in Iraq.” I summed up a portion of the documentary: “As’s Mark Benjamin says, the Pentagon was ‘desperate’ for intelligence, ‘panicked,’ and hired ‘a bunch of contractors who didn’t know what they were doing.'” So, we’re not all that far apart.
    Everything else in the letter is just corporate boilerplate that doesn’t require a response.

  • What Dems Are Doing Right

    LiberalOasis has been critical of Washington Dems for not nationalizing the election around a set of core principles.
    Yet Washington Dems have been working to prevent Republicans from nationalizing the election around dishonest right-wing terrorism frames.
    They got in Bush’s face when he sought to exploit the five-year remembrance of 9/11 to again conflate the Iraq War with the Al Qaeda attacks.
    Bill Clinton made news by not just defending his own pre-9/11 actions, but by reminding the public that the Bushies “did not try” to get Bin Laden before 9/11.
    Dems are driving the story that a classified National Intelligence Estimate from April found that “the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse.”
    And they held their own oversight hearing on Iraq yesterday, a creative way to put media attention on the Administration failures.
    All of these events disrupt the White House narrative, and the long-held perception, that Republicans can be trusted more than Dems to make us safer.
    Having said that, there’s six weeks until Election Day, which is plenty of time for Republicans to push back.
    For example, we’re already seeing Bush’s National Intelligence Director John Negroponte enlisted to spin that NIE, to help argue that we have to stay the course (read: keep digging the hole) to defeat the terrorist threat.
    If Dems succeed in instigating a tangle on national security six weeks out, they have to prepare for the argument to advance — towards a discussion of future goals, strategies and tactics.
    Tactical shifts Dems seem happy to discuss. Big picture shifts in strategy and goals, less so.
    Yet as noted here last week, the public is beginning to question how good Republicans are on national security.
    The more Dems can show the public about where they would take our foreign policy, the easier it will be for the public to answer their own questions

    Book Tour Begins This Week

    My book tour in support of Wait! Don’t Move To Canada! begins this week, kicks into high-gear in mid-October, and runs through mid-November.
    This week, Tuesday 7 PM, I’ll be at the Hanover, NH chapter of Drinking Liberally, which meets at Murphy’s On The Green, 11 South Main St., in the Webster Room.
    Then on Thursday at 7 PM, I’ll be in Boston, MA at the USES Harriet Tubman House, 566 Columbus Ave., in the Cafeteria Room. The event is co-sponsored by Blue Mass Group, Cambridge Drinking Liberally, Boston Drinking Liberally, Boston Democracy for America, Cambridge Democracy for America and the Harvard Book Store.
    The full book tour schedule is here. Please note that I have recently added a 10/14 appearance at The Regulator in Durham, NC.

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