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Month: May 2007 (page 1 of 3)

Time For Congressional Oversight On Permanent Bases

Overlooked in the congressional cave-in to Dubya on a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq is that the final bill (H.R. 2206) kept in a flat ban on funding permanent bases:

SEC. 3301. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this or any other Act shall be obligated or expended by the United States Government for a purpose as follows:
(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.
(2) To exercise United States control over any oil resource of Iraq.

Yet it was only a day after Bush signed the bill into the law that the NY Times reported:

[Senior Bush administration officials] said the proposals being developed envision a far smaller but long-term American presence, centering on three or four large bases around Iraq. Mr. Bush has told recent visitors to the White House that he was seeking a model similar to the American presence in South Korea.

And when reporters asked WH Press Secretary Tony Snow if the “Korea” parallel means they’re planning on staying for 50 years, he danced, saying that’s “unanswerable” but “what I’m saying is you get to a point in the future where you want it to be a purely support role.”
(See Washingtonpost.com’s Dan Froomkin for a great overview.)
That’s in sync with what LiberalOasis wrote in April 2006:

The end game is, and always has been, permanent military bases. A permanent military presence gives them the ability to exert influence on the Iraqi government and makes it easier to pressure neighboring countries, or start wars with them.
You don’t need, or even want, to keep 150,000 troops in Iraq to accomplish that. Probably around 30,000 would do.
Which is why the Bushies don’t flinch at talking about drawdowns in the future, because it’s part of the plan anyway.

They’ve never explicitly talked about staying in Iraq permanently. And now they really can’t, because it’s unequivocally against the law.
But they’re subtly making it clear they’re not planning to go anywhere.
Which means Congress has the ability to investigate and assess if the White House is breaking the law with those “three or four large bases.”
If they don’t try to enforce the law that they passed, then the law is meaningless.
Every Democratic presidential candidate is opposed to permanent bases. Some of them are in Congress.
The candidate that actually takes the permanent bases law seriously, takes the lead on oversight, and forcefully challenges the foreign policy objective of permanent occupation, will make a strong impression.

FLASHBACK — Samuel Alito: Hostility To Equality

In light of yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court rulinga disingenuous reading of law by Sam Alito. screwing over a woman suffering pay inequity and making it harder for others to challenge employment discrimination — it seems appropriate to republish LiberalOasis’ post from the day of Alito’s nomination for several reasons.
1) This was predictable, despite the attempts to claim that “brilliant” judges like Alito and John Roberts would objectively interpret the law.
2) It’s important to chronicle the damage being done by the increasingly conservative activist Court, so it will be easier to galvanize the public to protect the Court from the next conservative activist nominee.
3) It’s important to show how you can take a nominee’s record, build a factual narrative within 24 hours of a nomination, and properly define a nominee before the inevitable snow job at the Senate hearing.
Without further ado, from Oct. 31, 2005:

What’s Samuel Alito’s trademark? Hostility to equality.
The opinion that people will focus on the most was his desire to uphold a spousal notification provision in a PA abortion law that severely restricted reproductive freedom.
Most will look at his opinion to indicate opposition to Roe, and they should.
But fundamentally, it was an opinion that was dismissive of women’s independence.
The vast majority of married women already discuss abortion decisions with their husbands, they don’t need a law to force them to do so.
But there are situations where a married woman would not want to, such as when she is mired in an abusive relationship, or if the marriage is fraying and near its end.
And it is not our government’s place to tell a woman what to do in such situations, one way or the other.
As the Supreme Court determined in opposing Alito’s view: “For the great many women who are victims of abuse inflicted by their husbands, or whose children are the victims of such abuse, a spousal notice requirement enables the husband to wield an effective veto over his wife’s decision.”
Alito had callously shrugged off such concerns, saying “The plaintiffs failed to show even roughly how many of the women in this small group would actually be adversely affected…”. Classy.
Alito’s hostiliy to equality goes beyond that one ruling.
He tried to make it easier for employers accused of sex discrimination to get the cases thrown out, saying that cases don’t automatically deserve to go to trial when employers make excuses for discrimination and plaintiffs cast doubt on them.
Similarly, he tried to protect Marriott Hotels when it was found to discriminate against an African-American employee.
The majority said Alito’s “position would immunize an employer … if the employer’s belief that it had selected the ‘best’ candidate, was the result of conscious racial bias.”
He sought the deny our democratically elected Congress the authority to have the Family Medical Leave Act apply to state government employees, arguing that there was no discrimination in employers’ sick leave policies.
(That’s a view that was overruled by the Supreme Court in an opinion written by Rehnquist. Yes, he’s to the Right of Rehnquist.)
Perhaps what’s most disturbing is his view that girls sexually abused at school by other students cannot take legal action against the school for failing to protect them.
For Sandra Day O’Connor to be replaced by a man who has been defined as “an activist conservatist judge [who] has looked to be creative in his conservatism” will be a huge step backwards.
For the sake of the American ideal of equal protection under the law, bring out the filibuster.

Y Kant David Brooks Read?

The NY Times’ David Brooks (hat tip: Bark Bark Woof Woof) writes of Al Gore’s new book The Assault on Reason:

Gore’s imperviousness to reality is not the most striking feature of the book. It’s the chilliness and sterility of his worldview. Gore is laying out a comprehensive theory of social development, but it allows almost no role for family, friendship, neighborhood or just face-to-face contact. He sees society the way you might see it from a speaking podium — as a public mass exercise with little allowance for intimacy or private life. He envisions a sort of Vulcan Utopia, in which dispassionate individuals exchange facts and arrive at logical conclusions.

David Brooks, professed lover of families, did not write a word about Al Gore’s 2002 book, co-written with his wife Tipper, “Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family.”
On pages 2-3, “Joined at the Heart” reads:

If we really care about families, we need to change our thinking about what they need, and how we as individuals, as communities, and as a society can help meet those needs. Valuing families means recognizing that families — in all their shapes and sizes — really are trying hard to do right by one another. Valuing families also means finding ways to nurture and support and strengthen families so that they can realize their best aspirations and provide a better future for their children.
Without strong families, we are all much more vulnerable to stress, despair, and unhappiness and their consequences. And worse still, families that malfunction and turn negatively inward can generate nearly unbearable emotional anguish. How we love, how we live, how we relate to other people, how we see ourselves — all this and so much more comes from the foundation of the families in which we grow up and the families we form ourselves. Families give our destiny its first momentum. In creating and shaping our families, each of us forms our own future. We must not take families, for granted: instead, we need to realize that for families to be able to nurture us, we need to nurture families.

Gore’s new book highlights a question posed by Sen. Robert Byrd: “Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?”
Perhaps because “exceedingly strange individuals” like David Brooks — who have no interest in reason, logic and truth — can “rise to the top” as purveyors of serious political discourse.

Stephanopoulos Hypes Heritage Foundation

On ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked his guests to respond to a Heritage Foundation claim that “low-skill” workers take more from the country than they give in taxes, and increased immigration would heighten that dynamic.
Stephanopoulos did not say that:
1) The Heritage Foundation is a conservative operation, let alone a conservative operation with a history of shoddy research.
2) The “low-skill” report was debunked by the Immigration Policy Center as “one in a long line of deeply flawed economic analyses which claim to estimate the contributions and ‘costs’ of workers”.
In turn, Stephanopoulos gave Heritage a credibility it does not deserve, giving the impression its claims are objective fact.

BIggest Cave-In Of The Day

Sen. Joe Biden, 4/27/07:

We’re going to shove it down his throat.

Sen. Joe Biden, 5/24/07:

But the practical reality is that, for now, those of us who want to change course in Iraq don’t have the votes to override the President’s veto. And I believe that as long as we have troops on the frontlines, we must give them the equipment and protection they need. So I will vote for the supplemental.

There’s Votes, and There’s Leadership

Color LiberalOasis unimpressed with Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama waiting until the very last minute to announce they were voting against the Iraq bill.
When you’re a Senator, the bottom line is how you vote.
When you’re auditioning for President, the bottom line is: How well you lead. How well you frame the debate. How well you push back against bogus conservative attacks.
Out of those in presently serving in Congress, Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Dennis Kucinich were trying to lead. Clinton and Obama were on the defensive.
Most notably, Obama several weeks ago said, “I think that nobody wants to play chicken with our troops on the ground.” He framed the debate on Bush’s inaccurate terms, early, when it mattered most.
This is not necessarily a question of position.
Dodd’s overall foreign policy vision isn’t necessarily different than Obama’s and Clinton’s, based on their public remarks. As president, they may all end the war in Iraq similarly.
This is a question of leadership skills.
And this doesn’t mean than Dodd and Kucinich automatically should be christened great leaders.
LiberalOasis was disappointed in Dodd’s performance against Newt Gingrich last Sunday. Kucinich has never been able to prove he has the chops to sell his liberal vision beyond a loyal base of fans.
But moments such as these give us something to consider when sizing up the candidates.
There will be others.

Promoting Region-Wide Sectarian Violence

ABC News’ The Blotter yesterday broke the news that Bush has given secret authorization to “mount a covert ‘black’ operation to destabilize the Iranian government.”
And on CNN International, Seymour Hersh re-broke his overlooked New Yorker scoop from March, regarding Fatah al-Islam, the Palestinian group exchanging fire with the Lebanese army. From his interview by Hala Gorani:

HERSH: What I was writing about was a sort of a private agreement that was made between the White House, we’re talking about Dick Cheney and Elliott Abrams, who is one of the key aides in the White House with [Saudi national security adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan].
And the idea was to get support, covert support, money, from the Saudis to support various hard-line jihadists, Sunni groups, particularly in Lebanon, who would be seen — in case of an actual confrontation with Hezbollah, the Shia group in the southern Lebanon — would be seen as an asset, as simple as that.
GORANI: So, the Sinora government [of Lebanon], in order to counter the influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon, would be covertly, according to your reporting, funding groups like Fatah al-Islam that they’re having issues with right now?
HERSH: Unintended consequences once again, yes.

GORANI: Why would it be in the best interest of the United States of America right now to indirectly, even if it is indirect, empower these jihadi movements that are extremists, that fight to the death, in these Palestinian camps? Doesn’t it go against the interests not only of the Sinora government, but also of America and Lebanon right now?
HERSH: The enemy of our enemy is our friend. The jihadist groups in Lebanon were also there to go after Nasrallah [leader of] Hezbollah. … Look, the American role is very simple right now. Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, has been very articulate about it.
We’re in the business now of supporting the Sunnis anywhere we can against the Shia, against the Shia in Iran, against the Shia in Lebanon, that is Nasrallah, et cetera against — so the game is really, as you could call it, almost — the Arabic word is Fitna, civil war.
We’re in a business right now of creating in some places, Lebanon in particular, a sectarian violence.

What Hersh is talking about in Lebanon is parallel to what’s going on Iran. The ABC report included the following:

As earlier reported on the Blotter on ABCNews.com, the United States has supported and encouraged an Iranian militant group, Jundullah, that has conducted deadly raids inside Iran from bases on the rugged Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan “tri-border region.”
U.S. officials deny any “direct funding” of Jundullah groups but say the leader of Jundullah was in regular contact with U.S. officials.
American intelligence sources say Jundullah has received money and weapons through the Afghanistan and Pakistan military and Pakistan’s intelligence service.

Like Fatah al-Islam, Jundallah is a militant Sunni organization.
(Iran even accuses it of being linked to Al Qaeda, though that may be akin to accusing the Fort Dix Six or the Seeds of Liberty with Al Qaeda ties.)
In both cases, the Bush administration is supporting Sunni terrorist outfits with the goal of fostering sectarian violence — a strategy that undermines any claim to promoting freedom and stability abroad.

Chris Wallace Spins For White House

On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace gratuitously offered a falsehood to spin for White House, regarding its efforts to implement a “terrorist surveillance program” that the Justice Dept. said lacked any legal basis.
Sen. Chuck Schumer said on Fox, in regards to the attempt to get the bed-ridden incapacitated John Ashcroft to approve the program:

Gonzales did not do this on his own. The question is who ordered him to do it. The president was asked. He didn’t say yes or no.

I’m sending letters today to the president, to Vice President Cheney, to Mr. Addington, asking them if they sent Gonzales there or if they know who it is who did it, because the Justice Department’s own Office of Legal Counsel said that this program was being done illegally.

Wallace then added:

I should also point out that James Comey, under questioning from Senator Specter, said there was nothing illegal in what the White House did here.

But Comey did not say during his testimony “there was nothing illegal” done.
He said because he’s “not a presidential scholar,” he wasn’t going to say if it is legal or illegal for the president to ignore the Justice Department’s conclusions on the legality of the program.

Missed Opportunity by Dodd

On Meet The Press today, presidential candidate Sen. Chris Dodd debated Newt Gingrich about Iraq and foreign policy, the kind of bold move that most “top tier” candidates would be too risk-averse to do.
But the bold move only works if you follow it up with a bold performance.
Dodd didn’t say anything that was abhorrent.
But he missed an opportunity to frontally challenge and decimate the neocon “World War III” foreign policy vision offered by Newt, and clearly contrast that fundamentally flawed vision with his own alternative.
For example, as Newt did earlier this month, he conflated the various problems of the Middle East into one Islamofascist enemy — in particular, conflating Al Qaeda and Iran — to justify the continuation of the Iraq war and expansion beyond its borders:

…we are in a worldwide war. And I’m going to use a word that seems to be unfashionable in Washington. We need to think about winning this worldwide war.
We need to understand that every week that goes by there are more young people recruited into al-Qaeda and into, into the various Iranian terrorist organizations…

Dodd was too subtle in response:

…exactly the point Newt is making I agree with here. The war on terror’s the legitimate war. We’re building an army of radicals and the generation coming along, as a result of the legitimacy of the effort engaged in Iraq.

The substance of Dodd’s point is spot-on: the occupation of Iraq is helping strengthen Al Qaeda and similar terrorist operations.
But Dodd chose to blur distinctions by saying he agrees with Newt about “the war on terror.” In fact, he doesn’t.
All he agrees with is that we should fight terrorism. I’m sure they both agree that chocolate chip cookies are tasty fresh out of the oven too.
But Newt’s “war on terror” is not the legitimate one. His lumps in Iran, Syria and the Palestinian governments with Al Qaeda, and sets the stage for a regional war.
Dodd sees the difference between terrorists that must be opposed and isolated, and distasteful but rational state governments where the possibility of successful diplomacy not only exists, but can help advance democratic reform and weaken terrorist threats.
It’s a fundamental difference that should be clarified and brought into the open.
If Dodd squarely put his vision up against Newt’s, showing the moral and pragmatic superiority of his vision, that could have turned heads and helped him break out of the second-tier.
Instead, by blurring distinctions, Dodd made some decent points that will soon be forgotten.

Sam Seder Is Back!

Sam Seder’s new Air America show, “Seder on Sundays” debuts this Sunday at 4 PM. As I noted last week, I’ll be doing a segment called “Weekend Watchdog,” which I’m bringing from the Campaign for America’s Future blog.
On Fridays, I’ll be posting, at both the CAF blog and Sam Seder’s blog, suggested questions for the scheduled guests on the Sunday shows. Readers are encouraged to contact the shows and recommend the questions. Then on “Seder on Sundays” we’ll circle back and see if our questions were asked and answered.
To listen to “Seder on Sundays” online or find a station hear you, click here.

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