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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

March 3, 2006 PERMALINK
An Even Worse Deal
(posted March 3 2:15 AM ET)

It’s not an either-or situation, but if LiberalOasis had to choose one White House deal to scuttle, it’d have to be the US-India nuke deal instead of the US-UAE port deal.

Why?

If the immensely unpopular port deal goes through, it’ll make it easier for Dems to retake Congress, where they can quickly pass some comprehensive port security legislation and at least mitigate the risks of foreign government control of our ports.

Whereas the nuke deal severely weakens the international effort to stop nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and Asia, and that damage is not as easily undone.

The Carnegie Endowment’s Joseph Cirincione provided the big-picture analysis, first describing the true nature of deal:

To clinch a nuclear weapons deal, [Bush] had to give in to demands from the Indian nuclear lobby to exempt large portions of the country’s nuclear infrastructure from international inspection.

With details of the deal still under wraps, it appears that at least one-third of current and planned Indian reactors would be exempt from [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections and that the president gave into Indian demands for “Indian-specific” inspections that would fall far short of the normal, full-scope inspections originally sought.

Worse, Indian officials have made clear that India alone will decide which future reactors will be kept in the military category and exempt from any safeguards.

The deal endorses and assists India’s nuclear weapons program.

US-supplied uranium fuel would free up India’s limited uranium reserves for fuel that would be burned in these reactors to make nuclear weapons. This would allow India to increase its production from the estimated 6 to 10 additional nuclear bombs per year to several dozen per year.

Then, Cirincione described how the deal may spread nukes throughout the region:

In addition to breaking U.S. law and shattering long-standing barriers to proliferation, lawmakers are concerned about the example the nuclear weapons deal sets for other nations.

The lesson Iran is likely to draw is simple: if you hold out long enough, the Americans will cave.

All this talk about violating treaties, they will reason, is just smoke. When the Americans think you are important enough, they will break the rules to accommodate you.

Pakistani officials have already said they expect Pakistan to receive a similar deal, and Israel is surely waiting in the wings.

Other nations may decide that they can break the rules, too, to grant special deals to their friends.

China is already rumored to be seeking a deal to provide open nuclear assistance to Pakistan—a practice it stopped in the early 1990s after a successful diplomatic campaign by the United States to bring China into conformity with the Non-Proliferation Treaty restrictions.

Will Russia decide that it can make an exception for Iran?...

...Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) says, “America cannot credibly preach nuclear temperance from a barstool. We can't tell Iran, a country that has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, that they can't have [uranium] enrichment technologies while simultaneously carving out a special exemption from nuclear proliferation laws for India, a nation that has refused to sign the treaty.”

Markey’s comments leave out two key things.

One, the Bushies spit on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Because they hate the UN, they hate treaties, they hate anything that constrains their neoconservative agenda.

Our UN Ambassador John Bolton was actively undermining the treaty last year, and yesterday, he essentially praised India and Pakistan for not signing it.

Two, the Bushies have also said they aren't really trying to stop Iran from getting a nuke. Their goal is regime change before that happens.

So the deal with India, further undermining the treaty, is fully in line with the Bush agenda.

However, there appears to be a chance that congresspeople from both parties will block the deal (though putting any faith in the GOP to buck Bush is always a dubious prospect).

Cirincione sizes up the political landscape:

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are deeply concerned about the deal and the way it was crafted.

Keeping with the administration’s penchant for secrecy, the deal was cooked by a handful of senior officials (one of whom is now a lobbyist for the Indian government) and never reviewed by the Departments of State, Defense or Energy before it was announced with a champagne toast by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Congress was never consulted. Republican committee staff say the first members heard about it was when the fax announcing the deal came into their offices.

Worse, for the president, this appears to be another give away to a foreign government at the expense of U.S. national security interests...

...Lawmakers loyal to President Bush are already signaling tough times ahead for this deal...

...This looming Congressional battle will pit the proliferation fighters against the nuclear lobby and the increasingly powerful India lobby.

Companies and countries (including France, Canada and Russia) are lining up to sell fuel and reactors to India.

They will be joined by the neoconservatives who seek to construct an anti-China alliance.

For them, as one architect of the India deal reportedly said, “The problem is not that India has too many nuclear weapons, it is that they do not have enough.”

This isn't as simple or as flashy an issue as the port deal, but if we have a shot of blocking it, it's worth trying to make some noise about it.

March 2, 2006 PERMALINK
"I Don't Think Anyone Could Have Anticipated [INSERT DISASTER HERE]"
(posted March 2 2:15 AM ET)

“I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees”
-- George W. Bush, 9/1/05, four days after being warned, on tape, that the levees were a “very, very grave concern”

“I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile.”
-- Then-National Security Adviser Condi Rice, 5/16/02, despite government reports in ’99 and ’01 predicting just that.

“I don’t know of any reporting that anyone saw that anticipated an insurgency of this level, and I just have never seen anything like that.”
-- Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, 12/21/04, two months after the USA Today headline “Prewar intelligence predicted Iraqi insurgency”

The Administration-wide propensity to lie, knowing that hard evidence to the contrary is not hard to find, is quite stunning. What can explain it?

The first two cases, Katrina and 9/11, are relatively easier to explain.

Both involved issues that the Bushies simply weren’t interested in making top priorty for our federal government

Emergency management was in the process of being downgraded and denigrated, lest anyone get the crazy idea that they should look to our federal government to take the lead when disaster strikes.

And terrorism, before 9/11, was treated as “one of those Clinton issues.” Al Qaeda was penny-ante. Dealing with geopolitics, like Iraq and China, was big-boy stuff. While everyone begged the Bushies to focus on terror, they argued that we already spent enough on it, when what really needed funds was national missile defense.

(In fact, they still don't treat terrorism as a top priority. See Security, Port and Bin Forgotten, Osama.)

In both cases, when we got hit and people started asking why wasn’t more done, they couldn’t tell the truth:

That they didn’t find the issues important enough to drop their pre-cooked ideological agendas and do some basic governance, some real national security.

They could have gotten a little closer to the truth and at least copped to making a mistake.

But lying is addictive, especially when it has worked in the past.

So they tried to ludicrously claim that the tragedies were so huge and unique that nobody, not even the mystical godlike Dubya, could have properly prepared for the possibility.

The Iraqi insurgency is a different matter, as the Iraq project was taken far more seriously than natural disasters and terrorism.

But those in the intelligence community who gave advance warning of a “messy aftermath” were not faithful neocons, so their reports were dismissed.

Probably partly because of hubris, and partly because they knew a massive troop commitment meant more nationwide sacrifice and less political support for war.

While Iraq was given more thought and focus than hurricanes and terrorism, it’s akin to the other two cases in that it’s another failure to govern, to let facts shape policy, to be reality-based.

Another failure so dumbfounding that it requires audacious lies to keep the public at bay.

This new video, indisputably showing that Bush lied about the levees, will likely sear the public and severely damage Bush’s credibility.

But Bush is not running for re-election again, so it’s important to note that it’s not just about his own lying.

It’s about a conservative approach to government, a reckless and callous approach that avoids responsibility, ignores problems, shrugs off facts, and makes us less secure.

March 1, 2006 PERMALINK
When You're In A Hole, Stop Digging
(posted March 1 AM ET)

Juan Cole, in his latest Iraq analysis for Salon.com, writes:

If civil war does break out, a U.S. withdrawal will look even more like cutting and running

He wrote this in the context of explaining the political box Dubya is in.

But it has political implications for Democrats too.

Last week, LiberalOasis urged Dems not to flinch from coalescing around a plan for strategic redeployment of troops out of Iraq by the end of 2007.

Yet it is also important, both politically and substantively, not to give a perception that we were chased out of Iraq by the insurgency.

Substantively, it does not serve global stability if our withdrawal had the unintended consequence of giving legitimacy and credence to terrorist tactics.

Politically, it’s not good for Democrats trying to regain national security credibility if Americans think they finally came together on a withdrawal plan just because things got too gruesome.

This is why it is so important to be articulating a larger foreign policy vision consistently over an indefinite period of time. (LiberalOasis pressed Dems on this point back in September, after reports of ethnic cleansing in Iraq.)

If Americans already understood that Democrats sought true self-determination and stability for the Iraqi people -- and that such a goal required the eventual end of a destabilizing occupation and dismantling of permanent bases, coupled with a multilateral effort on reconstruction and democracy promotion -- then to rearticulate that in the wake of fresh violence wouldn’t be seen as panicked and amateurish, but steady and proficient.

They would see that Democrats have a long-term game plan for a stable, free Iraq and a safer world, not merely a weak stomach for messy, complicated situations.

And that would begin the long overdue process of rebuilding trust on national security.

The longer Dems wait, the harder it may be to convince and reassure Americans that the party has a real vision that will get us off our present destabilizing path.

But as the saying goes, when you’re in a hole, stop digging.

That applies to the Dems' Iraq strategy, as well as our nation’s Iraq policy.

February 28, 2006 PERMALINK
UAE's Problem With Security
(posted Feb. 28 12:15 AM ET)

Let’s put a fine point on what the problem is with the United Arab Emirates government owning American port terminals.

It’s not that the ruling emirs are religious extremists in league with Al Qaeda.

It’s that already filthy rich emirs are so committed to making gobs more money for themselves, that they have created an anything-goes economy in their country – be it exploiting workers or welcoming illegal arms dealers.

As the Center for Public Integrity put it:

The United Arab Emirates is a major financial center and crossroads for east-west trade. With its large volume of transiting cargo, its bank secrecy laws, and its bustling free trade zones, it is a perfect base for arms dealers.

That’s why the UAE is the base of operations for the notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout.

He is also known as the “Merchant of Death” for regularly violating arms embargoes and fueling conflicts for profit. Among his many past clients was the Taliban.

The Clinton Administration tried to shut him down, and pressed the UAE to help. Nothing.

The Bushies have pressed the UAE too. Again, the UAE did nothing.

(Although the Bushies may not have pressed that hard, considering they’re using Bout’s services in Iraq.)

Douglas Farah concludes:

Not a very auspicious way of handling a known aider and abettor of terrorist organizations ... It does not build confidence in the ability of UAE rulers to handle future problems.

One of the reasons is that Bout has a partnership with a member of the UAE’s ruling family, a prince who ran an airline with him and has reportedly helped insure that Bout’s operations are untouchable.

If it happens with Bout, one can only imagine other terrorists with business or family connections receiving the same kind of protection, perhaps with deadlier results.

February 27, 2006 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Feb. 27 12:30 AM ET)

Will Dubya save the Dubai Ports World deal, even though it only has the support of 17% of Americans?

The outlines of how he could pull it off began to surface on the Sunday shows.

For one, Bush signaled he still plans to go to the mat for the deal by dispatched his National Security Adviser to CNN and CBS, and his Homeland Security Adviser to Fox, to flack for it.

Second, Rep. Peter King, who has been the loudest GOP critic, hinted at a way the Bushies could get him on board. From NBC’s Meet The Press:

One thing that could be done is sort of like when the courts imposed monitors over a union or a company to monitor it...

...Because even if nothing turns up now, the fact is this government could shift overnight, the way it’s done in the past, and then we’ll be stuck.

So again, I don’t want to prejudge it, but I think certainly a real possibility at the end of this process to have U.S. officials monitoring it on a regular basis.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has also been critical, offered this on CBS’ Face The Nation:

I'm suggesting ... that we sit down and look at this anew and address these concerns.

Because the UAE has been a valuable ally. We need to reward them where we can, but we need to understand that in the past they've been a problem...

...So let's slow down and get everybody on the same sheet of music instead of bullying people into voting for this...

...I am not against the UAE. They may be the right company at the right time.

But this process has been flawed from the beginning, and it needs to be fixed, and we need a 45-day investigation.

Now, we’re going to have that 45-day “investigation,” at the request of DP World.

Of course, this is not about actual investigating. As Bush’s Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend said on Fox News Sunday, from the White House’s standpoint, there’s nothing more to investigate.

This is a 45-day cooling off period so Bush can continue to pressure his party and “get everybody on the same sheet of music.”

That means that Democrats should quit talking about this as a bipartisan effort, as Sen. Joe Biden was still doing on Fox yesterday.

LiberalOasis argued earlier that the bipartisan route was a foolish way to go from the beginning, since the entire GOP should be called out for their abysmal port security record.

Now that it seems likely the GOP critics will eventually fold, there’s even less reason to hold them up as principled partners for our national security.

QUICK HITS

Worst Talking Point of the Day

That goes to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who argues that Pakistan should get a crack at our ports too! From CNN’s Late Edition:

HADLEY: Wolf, all the things you said [about the United Arab Emirates’ past record on terrorism] could have been applied to Pakistan.

And as you know, the United States at this point has a very loyal ally in the ... war against terror in Pakistan.

Pakistan is involved in activities and operations against al Qaida. There have been several hundred al Qaida operatives that have been either killed or captured by Pakistani authorities. Pakistanis, large numbers of their security forces have lost their lives.

The point is, I think, not withstanding what was done before 9/11, the kinds of things you could say with respect to UAE or Pakistan, these are two countries who have been good allies in the war on terror and whose support we're going to need if we're going to prevail in this conflict.

WOLF BLITZER: The leadership of Pakistan, President Musharraf, is a strong ally.

But as you know, there are elements in the military, in the intelligence community who may not necessarily be all that supportive.

Are you saying that if Pakistan wanted to operate ports in the United States that it wouldn't justify a national security investigation?

HADLEY: I'm saying if Pakistan wanted to operate ports in the United States, we would do exactly what was done in this case ... We would have each of the agencies take a look.

If there were national security concerns that were raised, we would deal with them. That's the process that we need to do.

Just as a reminder, in addition to the Taliban-friendly elements in the Pakistani military, Pakistan does not allow US troops to go after Bin Laden in its borders, and has recently sent $540,000 to Al Qaeda.

Runner-Up For Worst Talking Point of the Day

That goes to Sen. John McCain, on ABC’s This Week:

We got some very very big issues that I think are perhaps more important than whether a country that’s freer than China is, should have control of some of our terminals.

Freer than China?

China has elections at the village level, albeit of dubious legitmacy.

But that beats the United Arab Emirates, which “does not hold elections for any public office, and political participation is limited to the ruling family in each emirate.”

Smell the freedom!

To be fair, the UAE is planning their first election, for half of their "consultative council." But just so things don’t get too crazy, only about 2000 people will get to vote.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Salon's Joe Conason: "With its sole Middle East office headquartered in Dubai, Carlyle has managed to attract substantial funding from the UAE government ... the president surely understands that maintaining good relations with the Emirates will enhance the prospects of the family's favorite equity firm. But to deprive Dubai of its $6.8 billion ports acquisition might well have the opposite effect. For a company that trades on its political influence as well as its business acumen, such incidents can be pivotal."

Balkinization: "South Dakota's new abortion legislation has not yet been signed by the Governor. If it becomes law, it will not lead to a challenge to Roe v. Wade or Casey at the Supreme Court. Because the law bans almost all abortions, it will be immediately challenged in a declaratory judgment action, and a preliminary injunction will issue. That injunction will be upheld by the 8th Circuit, and the Supreme Court will deny certiorari. And that will be the end of the matter. Why am I so certain that something like this will happen? ..."

Baghdad Burning: "No one went to work today as the streets were mostly closed. The situation isn’t good at all. I don’t think I remember things being this tense- everyone is just watching and waiting quietly. There’s so much talk of civil war and yet, with the people I know- Sunnis and Shia alike- I can hardly believe it is a possibility. Educated, sophisticated Iraqis are horrified with the idea of turning against each other, and even not-so-educated Iraqis seem very aware that this is a small part of a bigger, more ominous plan[.] Several mosques have been taken over by the Mahdi militia and the Badir people seem to be everywhere. Tomorrow no one is going to work or college or anywhere. People are scared and watchful. We can only pray."

The Washington Note: "Ahmadinejad is clearly hell-bent on creating collisions -- first with Israel [then] with the West over Iran's nuclear activities to legitimate his revolutionary faction as the authentic national voice of Iran. But ... there are numerous forces inside Iran working overtime to impede Ahmadinejad ... while America and Europe are doing much to empower him ..."

Informed Comment: "I think the peace movement has a real opportunity here to make a push for much heavier United Nations involvement in Iraq."

DSCC: Republicans Opposing Dubai Deal Have Long Opposed Efforts To Secure America's Ports

Think Progress: Administration Failed To Conduct Legally Required Investigation Before Approving UAE Port Deal

MyDD: "... this port deal is a wake up call. Did most people know that the foreign powers could run the show at American ports? I'd doubt it."

The Nation's John Nichols: "Ports are essential pieces of the infrastructure of the United States, and they are best run by public authorities that are accountable to elected officials and the people those officials represent. While traditional port authorities still exist, they are increasing marginalized as privatization schemes have allowed corporations -- often with tough anti-union attitudes and even tougher bottom lines -- to take charge of more and more of the basic operations at the nation's ports."

Daou Report: "I called on rightwing bloggers to prove their assertions ... Back up your claims. With concrete examples of bias ... I waited for the inevitable tide of rightwing blog posts and emails proving me wrong and demonstrating, once and for all, that pervasive claims of liberal media bias are indeed true. No such luck."

Faith and Policy: "US Church Leaders ... apologized to the ecumenical community for failing to raise a prophetic voice to prevent [the Iraq war]."

Nathan Newman: Hotel Workers Rising: THE Labor Story of 2006

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

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