Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

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

Month: August 2007 (page 1 of 2)

Contempt for Democracy

David Ignatius said yesterday, in the latest Washington Post effort to buoy Iyad Allawi’s paid lobbying campaign to run Iraq again, that: “Future historians should record that the Bush administration actually lived by its pro-democracy rhetoric about a new Iraq — to the point that it scuttled a covert action program aimed at countering Iranian influence.”
And that’s why the great Allawi does not run Iraq today.
Except for one thing.
The Bush administration did not scuttle that covert action program to influence the 2004 Iraqi election.
According to The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, Dubya simply replaced one covert program — which was under fire from Rep. Nancy Pelosi — with another that was “off the books.”

…I was told by past and present intelligence and military officials, the Bush Administration decided to override Pelosi’s objections and covertly intervene in the Iraqi election. A former national-security official told me that he had learned of the effort from “people who worked the beatâ€?—those involved in the operation. It was necessary, he added, “because they couldn’t afford to have a disaster.â€?
A Pentagon consultant who deals with the senior military leadership acknowledged that the American authorities in Iraq “did an operationâ€? to try to influence the results of the election. “They had to,â€? he said. “They were trying to make a case that Allawi was popular, and he had no juice.â€? A government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon’s civilian leaders said, “We didn’t want to take a chance.â€?
I was informed by several former military and intelligence officials that the activities were kept, in part, “off the booksâ€?—they were conducted by retired C.I.A. officers and other non-government personnel, and used funds that were not necessarily appropriated by Congress. Some in the White House and at the Pentagon believed that keeping an operation off the books eliminated the need to give a formal briefing to the relevant members of Congress and congressional intelligence committees, whose jurisdiction is limited, in their view, to officially sanctioned C.I.A. operations.

(More about Hersh & Ignatius from Needlenose.)
The conclusion of Hersh’s piece, voiced by a UN official, was that Bush still couldn’t get Allawi to win because pro-Iranian Shiites did a better job of rigging the election: “You are right that it was rigged, but you did not rig it well enough.â€?
But Hersh also noted that: “The pro-Iranian Shiites did worse than anticipated, with forty-eight per cent of the vote—giving them far less than the two-thirds of the assembly seats needed to form a government and thus control the writing of the constitution.”
That, in LiberalOasis’ view, is the more important result. The overarching objective by the Bushies was to create a weak central government that would be dependent on an occupying force to stay in power.

As written here back in Feb. 2006 (after another idiotic Ignatius column):

They set up a faux democratic system that would create a government where exiles with little grassroots support were installed and given a leg up before elections even took place.

It would prevent one faction from consolidating too much power, creating a need for coalitions.
Not to truly represent a diverse country, but to create a weak government dependent on a continued US presence, and therefore, vulnerable to continued US influence.

Allawi (one of the imported exiles) may have been their first choice, but he was not their only choice, and not critical to maintaining a grip on Iraq. (Hence, Bush’s continued support for the current Prime Minister Maliki.)
So Ignatius is flat wrong to besmirch democracy’s good name by blaming it for the disastrous occupation of Iraq (which he has backed from the beginning).
Iraq is not the only place where Bush’s distaste for democracy is showing this week.
In Pakistan, the public is chafing at Musharraf’s dictatorial rule.
But the Bush administration — looking to keep who it wants in power, instead of supporting the Pakistani people’s right to choose its leaders — is trying to facilitate a power-sharing deal to prevent Musharraf’s total ouster.
As the NY Times reports:

The power-sharing deal under negotiation would allow Ms. Bhutto to return from self-imposed exile and run for prime minister, and would allow General Musharraf to run for another term as president. The United States supports the deal as a way to keep an ally in the presidency and shore up his domestic support.

And the Washington Post:

An agreement between Musharraf and Bhutto would be welcomed in Washington, where Bush administration officials have been pushing for an alliance of moderates in Pakistan to battle rising forces of extremism.
Although the United States had not been actively involved in the negotiations, it had been prodding the two sides to come together and had helped to facilitate the talks, according to people familiar with the U.S. role.

So the Bushies are “facilitating” a deal that would short-circuit the democratic process, and potentially stall the momentum for democratic reform in Pakistan — with the Supreme Court repeatedly challenging Musharraf’s dictatorial claims.
A more moderate and stable Pakistan is possible, but not if we keep trying to impose our will on other countries.
Future historians should record that the Bush administration did absolutely nothing to promote credible democracy, and in turn, it’s colossal foreign policy failures had nothing to with support for democracy.

Larry Craig’s Foreign Policy: Occupation for Oil

Sen. Larry Craig may not be telling the truth about his sexual orientation, but he was certainly honest about why we’re occupying Iraq and gearing up to fight Iran: oil.
This is from last month’s all-night Iraq debate. Craig ran short on time, so part of this statement is from his prepared remarks later inserted in the Congressional Record:

Iraq is simply in the way of Iran. It’s quite plain. It’s quite simple. And it is very visual when you look at the map. And without some stability … in Iraq, the ability of it to control itself and its borders, the ability to govern itself, the reality of what could happen in the region is in fact dramatic consequences, a collapse, a major war within the region, not only a civil war within Iraq but the ability of Iran and Syria to exploit the situation that would occur there.
Tehran would extend its destabilizing activities to another very important part of the region–Kuwait–and the oil-rich regions of eastern Saudi Arabia along this border here, one of the larger producing oilfields in the region and the kingdom could well fall. And those are the realities we face at this moment that I think few want to talk about.
Let’s talk about another consequence … we’ve not talked about … what happens when 54 percent of the world’s oil supply goes to risk with a collapse of the region. And this is a reality check that we only talk about in hushed terms, because we don’t like to talk about our dependency on a part of the world that is so unstable.

What happens to the world energy supply if Iran does gain more control in the Middle East? What are the realities of the consequences of an Iran that possibly could gain control over 54% of the world energy supply? They could place a choke hold over the Strait of Hormuz and possibly in sea lanes in the region, severely limiting the supply of oil to the world market. That is not just a reality that the United States must face, but a reality for the world.
I have worked very hard with my colleagues to lessen the U.S. dependence on foreign oil. However, we are not yet capable of raising production in the United States because we have been blocked by the other side of the aisle from doing so. Therefore, a premature withdrawal from Iraq could have dire consequences with our economy and energy supply; but would also have the same effects on the world economy.

There it is, the conservative worldview in all it’s glory.
To control the natural resources in foreign lands through war, instead of ending occupation so we can successfully engage the entire Gulf region diplomatically, allow sovereign people to control their own natural resources, and invest in renewable energy to reduce our dependence on oil.
Craig’s political career may be over soon, but this foreign policy vision remains in place.

Radio Show Podcasts

If I did this right, you can subscribe to The LiberalOasis Radio Show podcast here.


CNN, July 26, 2007:

JOHN ROBERTS: Congressman Sensenbrenner, let me ask you first of all, what’s your reaction to this contempt citation?
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER: I think it’s an overreach. I don’t think Congress should make the move to throw the president’s chief of staff and former counsel in jail over a personnel matter. Everyone says the president has the absolute right to fire U.S. attorneys.

CNN, April 25, 2007:

LOU DOBBS: The White House today immediately striking back at Democrats. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino accused the Democrats of creating what she called grand conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact. Perino said Democrats are overreaching with their concept of congressional oversight.

ABC’s This Week, March 18, 2007:

SEN. JOHN CORNYN: George, you know, it’s amazing to me. This is what I’m talking about when I say a legitimate investigation can be overreached – can overreach and the idea – I mean Democrats think Karl Rove is lurking behind every bush in Washington.

After months of “overreaching,” Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales — the key figures in the Prosecutor Purge scandal, and perhaps the two aides with the deepest loyalty to Dubya — have offered back-to-back resignations.
“Everyone says” firing prosecutors for political reasons is no big deal, and there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
Yet the growing mountain of evidence was a big enough deal to run these uber-hacks out of town.
Is this success? Are we done here? Hell no.
First and foremost, we still don’t know the full story how prosecutors were put on the purge list — to what extent were congresspeople and the president involved.
Dems are saying the investigations will continue. Good.
Beyond nailing all the individuals involved, there’s a larger story to tell.
That this is not merely about unethical individuals. This is about how conservatives govern.
By placing loyalty over expertise, by running “everything … by the political arm,” by empowering political hacks to run roughshod over career civil servants beholden to facts and the law.
No matter who replaces Gonzales, this bankrupt conservative philosophy of governing will remain so long as Dubya is in office.
Our job is to make clear what’s at stake, so the voters will know what visions of government they can to choose.
The conservative kind that has already run our government into the ground.
Or the liberal kind that directs our government to respond to the people’s will.

The LiberalOasis Radio Show

Today at 10 AM, The LiberalOasis Radio Show debuted on WHMP-AM in Western MA, with special guest Rachel Maddow.
You can watch the show below.

Segment 1: Vietnamization


Segment 2: 160,000 Troops? Or 155,000?

Segment 3: Interview with Rachel Maddow
Segment 4: More Maddow
One correction: I referred to the new neocon group “Freedom’s Watch” as “Freedom March.”
I’m working on getting a podcast up as well.
New installments every Saturday morning. Next week: Rick Perlstein on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
UPDATE: Below is the Fox Attacks: Iran video I mentioned in the broadcast.

Dubya Deepens The Delusion

Dubya has learned how to maintain his bully pulpit and generate headlines as a lame duck: by making the craziest, most factually baseless, arguments possible.
Democrats appear to be descending into one of their patented shame spirals as they fret about how to respond to the upcoming surge report.
But they should recognize that Bush is showing his weakness and bankrupt credibility by digging himself even deeper into the land of wingnuttia delusion.
Instead of offering a united front against the latest blast of propaganda, we’re seeing some Dems fall susceptible to it after being led by the nose while touring Iraq.
(Similar lameness followed congressional tours of Gitmo two years ago. Something about these stage managed tours turns brains to mush.)
There’s no need to expect Dems are all of a sudden going to become surge boosters and regime change lovers.
But if they become hesitant in debunking attempts to glorify the surge and justify a continued occupation, they will not only lose the debate about the surge tactic.
They will also be helping neocons continue to frame the larger, more important, debate over foreign policy strategy.
Presidential candidates take note: when congressional Dems fall down on the job, it presents opportunities for you to show real leadership and directly challenge the neocon worldview.

Announcing The LiberalOasis Radio Show

This Saturday at 10 AM ET is the debut of The LiberalOasis Radio Show, a weekly half-hour breakdown of the week’s top political news, airing on Western Massachusetts’ WHMP (1400 AM in Northampton, 1600 AM in Springfield, 1240 AM in Greenfield). My plan to is post video segments of the show right here on
Scheduled to be the featured guest for the debut show is Air America’s Rachel Maddow.
Should be fun.

The Dem Primary Won’t Be Decided Over Iraq

Given the opportunity in Sunday’s ABC debate to distinguish themselves from Sen. Hillary Clinton on Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards passed.
Which raises the question: how do they think they are going to dislodge her from her front-runner position?
Clinton has a solid, but surmountable, lead nationally and in several key states (with the notable exceptions of Iowa and New Hampshire which are dead heats.)
Yes, it’s early, and lots of things can happen. Polls five months out are notoriously poor indicators.
But Clinton is as vetted as a candidate can be. It’s hard to see a surprise scandal, and she’s not making many self-inflicted wounds.
If something is going to happen, in all likelihood, a rival candidate needs to make it happen.
He will need to a make a compelling case why Clinton should not be the nominee. It’s not at all clear that there is a large enough “Anybody But Hillary” contingent for a single rival to try to consolidate.
Presumably, Iraq would give a rival such an opening.
Not only does she have a weak history on the subject — with her unsatisfying explanations of her war authorization vote.
But she is the only candidate who reportedly believes that we should have US troops in Iraq by Jan. 2017 at least.
She has not said that publicly, but Ted Koppel has reported that she privately told a former Pentagon official who has briefed her that “she would still expect U.S. troops to be in Iraq at the end of her second term.”
All of the candidates (including Clinton) have said they reject the neocon goal of permanent military bases in Iraq.
And Edwards and Obama share Clinton’s view that after the withdrawal of combat troops, a residual force should stay behind temporarily but indefinitely.
However, a residual force that isn’t gone by 2017 (if not sooner) doesn’t look very temporary, making the combat troop withdrawal worthless as far as changing Iraq’s political dynamic.
To date, Edwards has tried overtake Clinton by arguing that Clinton is too close to lobbyists and corporations, and doesn’t have specific enough policy proposals.
But most Dem primary voters, generally pleased with her husband’s presidency, do not seem mistrustful of what she would do in the domestic policy arena for such charges to stick.
Obama has quibbled with her over foreign policy tactics, questioned her judgment in voting for the Iraq war authorization, and alluded that she could not bring the country together as well as he could.
None of that has proven significant enough to primary voters for them to justify throwing a front-runner overboard.
But perhaps, if voters believed Clinton would not really end the war — and primary voters really want to end the war — that would gives voters pause.
Yet when Sunday’s debate moderator George Stephanopoulos prodded the candidates to clarify their differences on Iraq, neither Edwards or Obama exploited the opening.
Edwards argued that their differences on Iraq were very minor:

I know you’re trying to create a fight up here, I understand that, but any Democratic president will end this war…
… the differences between us — whether it’s Senator Clinton or Senator Dodd or Governor Richardson or Senator Biden, all of whom I have enormous respect for — the differences between all of us are very small compared to the differences between us and the Republican candidates, who the best I can tell are George Bush on steroids.

And when asked, “Is there any difference between you and Senator Clinton on what you would do right now,” Obama dodged the question:

My sense is that what all of us need to do over the next 16, 18 months is focus on putting pressure on Republicans to stop giving George Bush a blank check. Because if we have to wait for 16, 18 months, that’s going to make the situation that much worse.
If we have not began a withdrawal by the time I’m sworn into office, then the next task is to call together the Joint Chief of Staff and to give them the mission — which is to begin an orderly, phased withdrawal, so that we can begin the diplomacy that Joe [Biden] and Bill [Richardson] and others are talking about.

Of candidates registering double-digit poll numbers, only Gov. Richardson is making future Iraq policy a point of difference, criticizing the “top-tier” candidates for supporting a residual force, instead of a complete withdrawal.
Arguably, that’s the reason why Richardson is the only “second-tier” candidate to move out of single-digit territory (but because of stumbles and uninspiring positions on other issues, he hasn’t been able to build on that momentum.)
Edwards and Obama appear to have shut the door on distinguishing themselves from Clinton on this critical point.
That is their prerogative.
But they should recognize that if voters are not currently unnerved by the prospect of a Clinton nomination, they will need to make bigger distinctions that speak to major concerns of voters, if they are to derail a coronation.

Seder on Sundays

I’ll be on Air America Radio’s “Seder on Sundays” today at 4 PM ET, for our regular Weekend Watchdog segment. Click here to listen online or find a station near you.

On The Radio

I’ll be on The Errington Thompson Show Saturday at 9 AM ET, heard on Asheville, North Carolina’s 880 AM The Revolution. You can listen online here.

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