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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

February 17, 2006 PERMALINK
Tammany Hall in Iraq
(posted Feb. 17 2 AM ET)

David Ignatius, the allegedly centrist W. Post columnist, a mere two days after accusing Bush and Cheney of “arrogance of power,” today forgets all that and pens a glowing review of current Bush policy regarding the creation of Iraq’s government.

The large Shiite bloc recently nominated the incumbent prime minister, Ibrahim Jafari, to stay in his job, to the dismay of the Kurds and Sunnis who felt he was depriving them of power and security.

But Ignatius reports that “it ain’t over till it’s over”:

In a round of political wheeling and dealing that rivals Tammany Hall, Iraq's Kurdish and Sunni Muslim leaders -- backed by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad -- are demanding a broad government of national unity.

And they're playing political hardball with the Shiite coalition -- threatening to form an alternative government if their demands aren't met...

...[They are seeking] a government made up of the four biggest parties -- the Shiite alliance, the Kurdish alliance, a coalition of Sunni parties and Ayad Allawi's secular list.

And Ignatius raves:

This is politics in the raw: bargaining, brokering, backroom dealing. It's a messy process, especially against the ugly backdrop of new Abu Ghraib photos.

But it's good news that the people who want a unified, democratic Iraq are fighting like hell to make it happen -- and that America is warning it won't pay the bills for a government that doesn't put unity first.

Uh, how exactly is corrupt Tammany Hall-style “wheeling and dealing,” heavily influenced by an occupying superpower, the equivalent of “fighting like hell” for a “democratic Iraq”?

And how does insisting on a major role for the CIA-backed exile, now rejected-at-the-polls Allawi show a desire for a “unity” government?

Sure, a truly democratic system would produce an independent government representative of all of its diverse people, ensuring long-term stability.

But the Bushies never had that in mind.

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.

(Jafari is also an exile, and he currently has support from good ol’ Ahmed Chalabi, another exile).

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.

As noted here in Dec., Bush’s point man in Iraq expressed his hope, desire (and implicitly, his intention) to have such a weak “coalition” government just before the most recent “election,” and now he’s simply following that strategy through.

It’s not that Allawi is a bad guy and Jafari is a good guy, or vice-versa.

It’s that the Bushies have created a fundamentally rotten system, and intentionally so.

They are not fighting for any sort of representative democracy.

They are pragmatically giving a democratic veneer to an undemocratic foreign policy that epitomizes “arrogance of power.”

And that deserves no praise from Beltway Establishment foreign policy pragmatists.

February 16, 2006 PERMALINK
Can Cheney Declassify At Will?
(posted Feb. 16 2:30 AM ET)

Eschaton asked if this claim by Dick Cheney about his declassification authority, from his “interview” by Fox News, was true:

BRIT HUME: ...Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?

CHENEY: There is an executive order to that effect.

HUME: There is.

CHENEY: Yes.

HUME: Have you done it?

CHENEY: Well, I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The executive order --

HUME: You ever done it unilaterally?

CHENEY: I don't want to get into that.

There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President.

So, is that true?

Not exactly.

The executive order that Cheney is referring to is one that Bush issued in March 2003 -- a few days after the Iraq War began, and few months before the Plame leak.

That order revamped a prior Clinton Administration order. (The Clinton order sought to reduce overclassification and increase transparency. Bush’s order junked that in favor of easier secrecy.)

(Here’s the Bush order, and here’s a version showing how it altered the Clinton order.)

Under Clinton, the Vice President already had what’s called “original classification authority,” the authority to classify information in the first place.

But classification authority is not the same as declassification authority (Bush’s order explicitly defines them separately).

If you, or a subordinate of yours, originally classified something, you have the power to declassify that something.

But you do not have the power to declassify something that was classified in a different agency.

Since everyone in the executive branch is subordinate to the President, the President can declassify at will (except for specific items that are outlawed by Congress, say for example, the identities of covert agents).

But that is not necessarily the case for the Vice President.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this is a matter of debate:

The vice president's authority to declassify is less clear.

Some legal scholars believe that Mr. Cheney would share in the president's authority, as an elected official.

Alternatively, the president could delegate his declassification authority to the vice president.

But in Bush’s executive order, the Vice President is not granted equivalent declassification authority.

Bush did give the Vice President more power than Clinton had allowed – specifically, an exemption from a mandatory review process when there is a declassification request.

But that is not the same as giving Cheney the broad declassification authority that the President has.

Further, the National Journal report that Cheney told the now-indicted Scooter Libby to leak classified info, did not involve info classified by the VP office – it involved a National Intelligence Estimate drafted by the National Intelligence Council at the request of Congress.

So he should not have had the authority to arbitrarily declassify the NIE and send Libby out to clandestinely disseminate the info to select people.

Of course, Bush could have arbitrarily declassified it and given Cheney directions to send Libby out.

That would be legal, though in the words of one secrecy expert, “sleazy.”

And that would not give them the legal authority to break any laws regarding covert identities.

It’s also worth noting that Bush’s executive order did slip in this loophole:

In an emergency, when necessary to respond to an imminent threat to life or in defense of the homeland, the agency head or any designee may authorize the disclosure of classified information to an individual or individuals who are otherwise not eligible for access.

Surely, stopping Joe Wilson from exposing the dishonesty of the Niger-uranium claim was just such an emergency.

(UPDATE 2/16 11:15 AM ET -- The AP, citing former Whitewater independent counsel Robert Ray, says that "Cheney's comments could ... foreshadow a Libby defense.")

(UPDATE 2/16 1 PM ET -- Additional analysis by The Washington Note and Daily Kos' georgia10)

(UPDATE 2/16 4:45 PM ET -- Still more analysis at Secrecy News and firedoglake)

February 14, 2006 PERMALINK
The Katrina Dance
(posted Feb. 14 2 AM ET)

Republicans are staging a delicate dance this week over Katrina.

With Bush’s numbers mired in the high 30s/low 40s, and with the Katrina response widely seen as an Administration failure, Congressional Republicans want to put some distance between themselves and Administration.

But they’re not looking to spark an intra-party holy war either.

So the House GOPers are on the verge of releasing a report with some tough words for Bush and Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff, but limiting the breadth and depth of actual accountability, ensuring no significant political blood will be spilled.

The report is to be released tomorrow, but staffers leaked it to the W. Post and NY Times, in an attempt to garner credibility for the report and for House GOPers.

Meanwhile, the Administration, in advance of the report’s release, are taking a “mistakes were made, and we’re already addressing the problem, so relax” stance, to further mitigate any fallout.

This won’t turn Katrina into a net positive for Republicans. The response was botched too badly for that.

But if the Congressional Republicans achieve credibility on the issue, while restraining their fire against Bush, that could make it less of a net negative.

Minimize the heat on Bush and marginalize Democrats. Make it hard for Dems to talk about Katrina during the election season this year without seeming like partisan carpers.

At least, that’s the idea.

It’s not an easy maneuver for Republicans, especially with more stories of cruel post-Katrina policy decisions coming out.

But since their opponents have their own difficulties with messaging, tricky maneuvers have a better shot at working.

How can Dems avoid getting marginalized?

As LiberalOasis discussed last week, by making it clear that the reasons for the failed Katrina response go beyond the incompetence of certain individuals.

They are the inevitable result of reckless, callous conservative philosophy of governance, fundamentally disdaining the concept of government that truly serves the public.

This is not a Katrina-specific message. It is a framework for discussing a multitude of issues and scandals such as the Medicare prescription debacle, Social Security privatization, Jack Abramoff and others.

It’s possible that the substantive missteps by the GOP will be enough for Dems to make gains in November, regardless of the creative dance steps that comprise the GOP spin.

But without a strong frame to shape the counterspin, Dems won’t put themselves in as strong a position as possible.

February 13, 2006 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Feb. 13 2 AM ET)

Condi Rice hit two of the Sunday shows in order to continue exploiting the Mohammed Cartoon controversy.

She has been blaming Iran and Syria for inciting violent protests in the wake of the cartoons.

But on both ABC’s This Week and CBS’ Face The Nation, she was asked about UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s remarks that there was no evidence of that.

Here’s the CBS exchange:

BOB SCHIEFFER: ...Kofi Annan ... says that he sees no evidence that Syria and Iran are taking part in this.

RICE: Well, I think we understand the nature of the Syrian and Iranian regimes.

You don't just go out in the streets of Iran and protest spontaneously, and in the streets of Syria and protest spontaneously.

The Syrian and Iranian governments have very good control of these things...

SCHIEFFER: ...Why would Kofi Annan say something of that nature?

RICE: I'm not going to get into an argument with the secretary-general about this.

I think we both have the same view, which is that governments need to tamp down, not stir up.

If you notice, Condi didn’t actually provide any evidence, something which Schieffer didn’t bother to notice (nor did ABC’s George Stephanopoulos during a similar exchange.)

She simply told people to presume that since we’re dealing with nasty dictators, the violence must have been ordered by the government -- much like she had us presume that since Saddam was a nasty dictator, he must have WMD.

(It never stops being easy to frame someone, when that someone has a rotten record.)

There are other possible explanations, as Juan Cole pointed out earlier last week. He went into particular detail about Syria:

...things have gotten out of hand before in Syria, sometimes on a large scale.

It is likely that the regime allowed the initial demonstration, which radical Sunni Muslims took advantage of to torch the embassy.

The Syrian regime hates radical Islam and doesn't like disorder, either.

We cannot assume that the embassy burning was directed by the Syrian state.

There is no evidence for it, and it actually doesn't make any sense. What would [secular President] Bashar have to gain from that?

Cole also noted that while some Iranian leaders have been making “harsh” remarks, that’s not true across the board. As Africa’s Mail & Guardian reported on Feb. 3:

In Tehran, veteran revolutionary cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani condemned the European press, but urged the faithful to respond calmly.

"We need to put forward our calm and compassionate side, our gentleness. It is enough to look at the Qur'an," he said.

Further, Cole contends that the foreign leader doing the most provoking is Egypt’s foreign minister, yet Condi somehow never gets around to including Egypt -- our second largest foreign aid recipient – in her cartoon attacks.

The point here is not to defend the indefensible Iran and Syria regimes, especially since there are Iranian leaders exploiting the situation to perpetuate anti-Semitism -- in all likelihood, to shore up their own domestic political standing.

(Iranian blogger Hoder says, “There is no bigger threat to Iran's national security bigger than Ahmadinejad,” Iran’s belligerent new president.)

The point is that the Bush Administration is exploiting as well.

By making charges with no evidence against regime change targets Iran and Syria, but ignoring our ally Egypt, Condi is not tamping down. She is stirring up, intentionally so.

The more Iran and Syria are demonized, the easier it will eventually be for the neocons to argue that only an act of war can prevent a nuclear Iran, and the harder it will be for others to argue that a negotiated solution is doable.

Condi is also peddling the misinformation that it is Iran who has been the difficult negotiating partner, when the opposite is true.

Here’s Condi, again from CBS:

Well, what's pushing Iran into a corner is Iran's own behavior. Everybody has tried to give Iran a way out.

Condi neglected to mention (as did Schieffer) that a former Bush official recently wrote in the NY Times that in ’03, Iran presented the Administration with a “detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations ... acknowledg[ing] that Iran would have to address concerns about its weapons programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations.”

And the Administration response? Yell at the Swiss for simply delivering Iran’s proposal.

If that wasn’t enough to wreck any ability to build the needed trust to make a deal, last week, a “senior official” told the NY Times last week that we don’t expect to stop Iran from going nuclear, but don’t really care, because the hope is, “by that time, a changed or different government” will be in place.

Therefore, the “more realistic goal is to delay the day that Iran joins the nuclear club.”

So why would Iran ever cut a deal with Bush, when his people put it in print that they want to delay Iran’s nuclear program in order to buy time for regime change?

This is why we must call the Bushies on their misrepresentations.

Not to provide cover for oppressive dictatorships.

But as part of a strategy to show that there are pragmatic diplomatic paths to stopping nuclear proliferation in the Muslim world, if we vote out those who are hell-bent on spreading misinformation and poisoning those paths.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Nat'l Journal: Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information; Stygius: "Can anybody say: systematic politicization of Top Secret intelligence?"; firedoglake: "Libby is trying to pull an Ollie North"; Eschaton notes past Bush policy on security leaks

The Reality-Based Community: McCain's history of slime & defend

Coalition for Darfur: Eric Reeves writes, "Last week, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer signaled a shift in American policy towards Darfur when she refused to say that genocide was currently taking place in the region ... This is mendacity."

Rising Hegemon: "Well, you could knock me over with a feather. An expert being critical of the Bush Administration and being retaliated against? Who ever heard of such a thing?"

American Footprints: "By sensationalizing a story that is already controversial, CNN is irresponsibly fanning the flames of future mistrust and conflict between the West and the Islamic world ... the Arab media are apparently just as bad. That there are real intercultural issues in play here is all the more reason for us to keep our heads ..."

Bradford Plumer: "It looks like Sweden is preparing a plan to become an 'oil-free' economy by 2020 ... Sweden's not, in a strict sense, a 'model' [for the U.S.]. Still, this is what a grown-up approach to energy policy looks like."

Think Progress: "ThinkProgress has obtained emails written by Jack Abramoff in which the fallen lobbyist personally describes his relationship with President Bush. They describe a relationship far more extensive than has been previously reported."

Seeing The Forest: Swiftboating King's Funeral - Here It Comes!

Talking Points Memo: "You have to dig into the actual correspondence between the two men to get a feel for how off the mark McCain is in his criticism of Obama"; MyDD: "Lieberman can call out McCain on his partisan slash-and-burn strategy, and buttress Obama's claim to bipartisanship. Or he can participate in the smear ..."; Open Letter To Chris Matthews: Matthews Lies About Barack Obama

firedoglake: "Here's what I see from reading [Slate's John] Dickerson ... Dickerson and [Time's Matt] Cooper ... compared notes -- remarkably similar notes ... Strange how so many people in the Administration scattered across the four corners of the globe ... all had the same story line to feed to the press, isn't it? Almost as though there was substantial coordination of message and facts, or something. (Can you say conspiracy? I thought you could.)"

Council on Hemispheric Affairs: Botched Job: The UN and the Haitian Elections

Confined Space: Bush budget actually cuts funding for 50 mine safety personnel

Bob Geiger: GOPers kill Dem-sponsored, American Legion-supported bill to improve vet hospitals

firedoglake: "[Feingold at wiretap hearings:] Problem is not that the Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world – the problem is that the Preznit has a pre-1776 view of the world."

Corrente Wire: "Leahy closes with a message for AG Gonzales and his administration: congress is a co-equal branch of government, we write and pass the laws, and if you don’t ask us to amend a law you feel doesn’t allow you to protect America, that does not give you the right to break that law."

Burnt Orange Report: "Thanks to you, Netroots, the Ciro Rodriguez campaign [against Bush-loving Dem congressman Cuellar] was able to raise over $50,000 dollars via the web."

Unclaimed Territory is live-blogging today's warrantless wiretapping hearings

Think Progress: "Yesterday, the nation’s top intelligence officials appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee for an annual hearing on national security threats. On at least three occassions, the officials refused to answer critical questions about the administration’s domestic surveillance programs in an open session."

The Left Coaster: "Despite Senate hearings, and academic studies, and the establishment of legal support for America's wounded warriors, [our soldiers] still have serious issues over receiving the care and benefits they were promised in return for their service to the nation."

Balkinization: "I'm honored to be part of a diverse group of 14 constitutional scholars and former government officials who have joined together to question the legality of the NSA domestic eavesdropping program ... we sent to Congress this letter ..."

The Democratic Party: New House GOP Maj. Leader Boehner once handed out campaign checks from the tobacco industry on the House floor

Battlepanda: "A little bit of the post-Roe world is already here ..."

Arms Control Wonk is analyzing the latest IAEA report on Iran

Meet Vernon: Vernon is set to be executed during the week of February 6, 2006

**************

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