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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

April 14, 2006 PERMALINK
First Card, Then Rummy?
(posted April 14 2 AM ET)

There’s a reason why Dubya doesn’t like to admit mistakes, especially under pressure.

Because you can look weak in the process, and invite more debilitating criticism.

Case in point: Bush was worn down by GOP wise men generating a drip-drip of stories calling for a staff shakeup, and cut loose Chief of Staff Andy Card.

Now, several leaders of the military establishment are trying the same tack to take out Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld.

Surely, it’s Dubya’s inclination to initially thumb his nose at such an effort.

But Rummy’s critics have the incentive to keep up the drumbeat, because they saw it work just a few weeks ago.

Will this have any practical benefit for Americans craving a new national security strategy? After all, Rummy doesn’t set the foreign policy course, Dubya and Cheney do.

So swapping Rummy for another Bush loyalist won’t be a rebuff to neoconservatism.

However, increasing pressure can potentially create a distraction for the Administration, sapping staff energy and crowding out news stories helpful to Bush’s agenda.

And if the pressure finally succeeds and Rummy leaves, there would certainly be a transition period at the Pentagon that would slow down the start of any new projects, say, war with Iran.

Since Bush’s clock is ticking, any delay could be a big help in saving us from another senseless war.

Granted, if Seymour Hersh’s reporting is correct, and Dubya is so “messianic” that he would launch air strikes on Iran before his term is up no matter what, then none of this would have a substantive impact.

But if Dubya feels he can’t attack Iran until he can achieve a modicum of stability in Iraq, then the pressure on Rummy could force Bush to keep his focus on Iraq.

QUICK HIT

Reframing the Iran Debate

In case you missed it, check out LiberalOasis Exec. Ed. Bill Scher’s post over at The Huffington Post about how we can reject false neoconservative assumptions about Iran and offer a sane solution to the problem.

April 13, 2006 PERMALINK
Condi's "Good Friend"
(posted April 13 1:15 AM ET)

Yesterday, Condi Rice stood next to Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo -- a man who has made Parade’s “Annual List of the World’s 10 Worst Dictators” four years running -- and called him “a good friend.”

Then, with Obiang at her side, she proceed to threaten Iran, calling on the U.N. Security Council to take “strong steps” against it.

This hypocrisy would be funny, if it weren’t so damaging to our national security.

Rice just two months ago reiterated our foreign policy objectives as “stem the tide of terrorism and to help advance freedom and democratic rights.”

In turn, she said our Iran policy is to “actively confront the aggressive policies of the Iranian regime. At the same time, we will work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy in their country.”

And about one year ago, Rice proclaimed, “the Middle East is changing and even the unelected leaders in Tehran must recognize this fact. They must know that the energy of reform that is building all around them will one day inspire Iran's citizens to demand their liberty and their rights.”

Apparently, the unelected leaders of Tehran must recognize that freedom is on the march, but the unelected leader of Equatorial Guinea can skip it.

Rice’s “good friend” Mr. Obiang is primarily known for living the high life off his country’s relatively newfound oil revenues, while his people live on less than $1 a day without clean water.

And Rice’s own State Department has complied quite a rap sheet on Obiang’s rule, including these gems:

-- In September [2005] [Amnesty International] reported that torture was widespread in the country's places of detention and during the course of trials.

-- In 2004 senior government officials told foreign diplomats that human rights did not apply to criminals and that torture of known criminals was not a human rights abuse.

-- Unlike [2004], there were no reports that prisoners died from torture; however, there were reports that officials tortured political opposition activists and other persons during the year.

-- An independent or privately owned press was nearly nonexistent ... Foreign celebrity and sports publications were available for sale at foreign-owned grocery stores, but no newspapers; there were no bookstores or newsstands in the country.

-- The law authorizes government censorship of all publications. During the year the Ministry of Information sometimes required publishers to submit a copy for approval prior to publication.

-- The president's son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, owned the only private radio station, Radio Asonga.

Gee, why does Obiang get to be Condi’s “good friend” and the Iran mullahs get threatened with tactical nuclear weapons?

Cause we already have our hands on Equatorial Guinea’s oil, silly.

Rice threatening of Iran while coddling Obiang puts Bush’s democracy hypocrisy in sharp focus.

Because it’s obvious that the White House claims of selflessly promoting freedom thinly masks a self-serving agenda, Iran has every incentive in the world to distrust Bush and pursue nukes, and the international community can’t be unified to properly pressure Iran to renounce nukes.

A side note on yesterday’s remarks.

Rice had the audacity to say “Iran has been offered many opportunities to negotiate in good faith,” when in fact, it was Iran who tried to open good faith negotiations in 2003 – even after being derided as part of an Axis of Evil -- and was snubbed by Bush.

So it’s not surprising that Iran ain’t keen on talking lately.

Why talk and delay a nuclear program when you can pull a North Korea and protect yourself from certain invasion?

Iran can be dealt with diplomatically, but only after we clean house in the White House, elect leaders with credibility. and make it clear invasion is no longer certain.

That’s the only way we can prevent Iran from going nuclear and prevent a wider war in the Arab/ Muslim world.

April 12, 2006 PERMALINK
"Pull Back" May Be The New Black
(posted April 12 2 AM ET)

What passes for a conservative elder statesman these days, Newt Gingrich, raised more eyebrows than he intended Monday.

He told U. of S. Dakota students that “"It was an enormous mistake for us to try to occupy [Iraq] after June of 2003” and "We have to pull back, and we have to recognize it."

It surely was Newt’s intention to sound critical, but in doing so, he got misunderstood.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader put a misleading headline on a story about the speech, “Gingrich at USD: Pull out of Iraq.”

But Newt did not say “pull out.” He said “pull back.” Big difference.

After the headline sparked some consternation on the Right, Newt posted a complaint and clarification on his site, and the paper changed its headline to “Gingrich at USD: Scale back to small force in Iraq”

So if Newt’s not jumping off the right-wing ship, what’s he doing?

He’s field-testing how to re-frame the neocon end game.

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.

What Newt (a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board and confidant of Don Rumsfeld) is doing though goes one rhetorical step further.

Recognizing the obvious about public sentiment on the war, Newt is seeking to characterize the old plan as a new idea for a “pull back.”

That way, it looks like a course correction instead of stay-the-course -- a response to Iraq being “a mess” (Newt’s words), and to rising criticism at home.

In Newt’s online clarification, he refines the re-framing:

The United States needs to train the Iraqis as rapidly as possible and "pull back" from the cities to bases and air fields and serve as reinforcers as opposed to occupiers.

Of course, if you’re in the bases and airfields, you’re still occupying someone else’s land, and still exerting influence through weaponry instead of diplomacy.

But Newt’s just looking for an opportunity to change the language and keep US criticism down to a reasonable level.

Newt, having also pledged his support for regime change in Iran Monday, clearly realizes how hard that will be to pull off with American support for Iraq so abysmal.

We should not help him.

We must understand that a “pull back” to permanent bases, is far different than a strategic redeployment so any forces left in the region are strictly focused on rooting out Al Qaeda, not on playing reckless geopolitical chess games.

April 10, 2006 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted April 9 10:30 PM ET)

Last month, a RNC memo instructed congressional Republicans not to “driv[e] a wedge between themselves and the President” because “If he drops, we all drop.”

Looks like a lot of folks didn’t get the memo.

Every GOP congressman asked about Bush’s leak sought to distance themselves.

Sen. Arlen Specter, on Fox News Sunday, called on Bush and Cheney to come clean:

...I think that it is necessary for the president and the vice president to tell the American people exactly what happened...

...I think that there has to be a detailed explanation precisely as to what Vice President Cheney did, what the president said to him, and an explanation from the president as to what he said so that it can be evaluated.

House Majority Leader John Boehner, on ABC’s This Week, tried to play dumb:

BOEHNER: I’m not aware of the facts here.

The facts are in the hands of the prosecutors. That’s where they belong.

And let’s let the prosecutors make their case and let the courts decide the case.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re not going to defend the White House on this one?

BOEHNER: I don’t have the facts George.

On CNN’s Late Edition, Sen, John Kyl (who, like Boehner, is up for re-election in November), was at least willing to perpetuate the smear campaign against Joe Wilson, but even he saw a need to slap Bush:

I think there were a lot of misjudgments here.

The first misjudgment was a person on a CIA mission, for political purposes, apparently, only telling half the story and distorting it.

Then, the administration had no choice but to try to get the rest of the story out.

I think there was a better way to do that, however.

Seemingly all alone, Fox News’ Bill Kristol gamely tried to spin, wildly and baselessly charging Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald with being “politically motivated.”

But that only appeared to reveal how worried Republicans are about where the investigation is going.

With GOP congresspeople leaving the Bushies for fight for themselves, that not only complicates the party’s ability to speak consistently and coherently, it also undermines White House credibility right when it’s trying to set the table for an Iran attack.

Seymour Hersh laid out the gory details in the latest New Yorker, and on CNN’s Late Edition:

WOLF BLITZER: Do you believe, based on the reporting you did for this article, that the president of the United States is now aggressively plotting military action, a preemptive strike against Iran?

HERSH: The word I hear is messianic.

He thinks, as I wrote, that he's the only one now who will have the courage to do it.

He's politically free. I don't think he's overwhelmingly concerned about the '06 elections ...

I think, he really thinks he has a chance, and this is going to be his mission.

Hersh also reported that some military officials may resign if preliminary plans to use tactical nuclear weapons aren’t shelved:

BLITZER: You're saying that some senior military officers are prepared to resign?

HERSH: I'm saying that, if this isn't walked back and if the president isn't told that you cannot do it –

And once the chairman of the joint chiefs or some senior members of the military say to the president, let's get this nuclear option off the table, it will be taken off. He will not defy the military in a formal report. –

Unless something specific is told to the White House that you've got to drop this dream of a nuclear option ... people have said to me that they would resign.

BLITZER: Do you want to name names?

HERSH: Are you kidding?

BLITZER: I'm giving you the opportunity.

HERSH: No. You know why? Because this is a punitive government right now...

...one thing about our military is they're very loyal to the president, but they're getting to the edge ,,, with not only Rumsfeld but also with Cheney and the president.

Interestingly, the Administration found the Hersh article so problematic, it required special efforts to knock it down.

Fox News Sunday, in a break with its usual format, brought in national security correspondent Bret Baier to discuss what the White House fed him. Baier reported:

A senior administration official responded today privately, saying that this story is over-reported and hyped without knowledge of the president's thinking.

“Over-reported.” That probably says it all.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Blue Latinos: "Democratic Senate leaders stood firm against floor amendments, knowing that Senators like Kyl would much rather see millions of people deported; piled on trains, ships and planes out of the country. The Senate is now on recess for the next two weeks, and I hope that during this time Senators will hear immigrants' cry for justice."

The Left Coaster: "By not challenging the court filing, the White House has two choices. They are either going to challenge Libby’s grand jury testimony and claim he is lying about what Cheney authorized him to do in Bush’s name, which would require the White House to testify to that effect at Libby’s trial. Or they know they are caught red-handed here, and will argue semantics"

Talk To Action: United Church of Christ stands up to right-wing attacks from the Institute on Religion and Democracy

wonk NOT!: "Massachusetts' step into the national leadership to address the health coverage crisis, also put forth the important concept that the responsibility is shared- government has its part, employers and the private sector have a part, and individuals have a part. This frame blows away the regressive efforts to leave the individual out on his/her own"; The Grey Matter: "Thanks to GW and the GOP-controlled Congress, an increasing number of national problems are being forced to be addressed by states."

TomPaine's Dilip Hiro: "Bush’s dogged refusal to rule out a military option to resolving Iran’s nuclear issue along with his thinly disguised attempts to foment 'regime change' in Tehran by bankrolling opposition is leading to a dangerous impasse."

Firedoglake: "Well, lookie who was authorizing Scooter Libby to leak like a glass full of birdshot in the run-up to the Iraq War, according to Libby’s own testimony ..."

Swing State Project: Rep. Curt Weldon a Moonie Cultist

Alternet's Jessica Valenti: "President Bush committed $100 million a year for the next five years to a "Healthy Marriage Initiative" as part of the welfare reform bill reauthorization. This move diverts funds from programs that have proven successful -- such as education, child care and job training -- and gives money to often religious-based programs that tell women marriage is the best way out of poverty."

The Washington Note: "one of the take-aways from my recent Israel trip is that Israeli national security bureaucrats -- diplomats and generals -- have far greater confidence that there are numerous potential solutions to the growing Iran crisis short of bombing them in an invasive, hot attack."

MyDD: "The way to guarantee that Iran gets a nuclear weapon is to go in with F-15s and bomb them."

Think Progress and Political Animal: Senior U.S. Officials "Want To Hit Iran"

The Stakeholder, Public Campaign Action Fund and Off The Kuff on Tom DeLay's political demise

First Draft: "The Army Corps of Engineers announced last week that another $6 Billion is needed to rebuild the levees for [New Orleans] ... Bush’s point man on Katrina reconstruction has said Bush is making no promises ... The decision will be made this week or next ... Without levee protection residents and business will not return ... No doubt Bush is counting on the fact that people have lost interest"

Political Animal: "As Bob Somerby and Peter Daou and Media Matters have all pointed out, it really is remarkable how little attention the confirmation of David Manning's explosive prewar memo has gotten in the past week."

Orcinus: Tancredo Takes Aim

My Left Wing: "[The Nation's Mike] Davis takes us on a tour of exactly how New Orleans is being murdered. He explains the role of the Bush administration in killing city government - refusing to guarantee municipal bonds, which forced the layoff of over 3,000 city employees, or the Small Business Administration's redlining of black neighborhoods ..."

Stygius: "Mugabe starves Zimbabwe: One of the most wretched regimes in the world continues its imposition of death and chaos on its own people."

The Democratic Party: "we're on schedule and gearing up for the unprecedented Neighbor-to-Neighbor Organizing Day on April 29th."

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

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