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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

May 5, 2006 PERMALINK
Permanent Bases Update
(posted May 5 12 AM ET)

Back in March, LiberalOasis wrote:

...the House passed Democrat Barbara Lee’s amendment to an Iraq spending bill banning funds for permanent bases.

The GOP leadership, clearly unwilling to go on the record opposing the amendment, allowed it to pass on a voice vote.

But there’s no way the amendment will survive the legislative process.

After the Senate (which voted down a Dem resolution renouncing permanent bases in November) passes its version of the spending bill, the House-Senate conference will surely strip out the Lee Amendment, allowing the GOP to get rid of it without a recorded vote.

However, earlier this week, the Senate threw LiberalOasis a little curveball.

It approved an amendment proposed by Sen. Joe Biden, which says, “None of the funds made available by title I of this Act may be made available to establish permanent military bases in Iraq or to exercise control over the oil infrastructure or oil resources of Iraq.”

This also appears to have been approved by voice vote, as it is not listed on the Senate webpage list of recorded roll call votes.

So, does this mean that Congress will definitely pass a law banning spending on permanent military bases in Iraq?

Don’t bet on it.

The House and Senate bills still need to go to a House-Senate conference, where the amendment can still be stripped out by conference negotiators, despite the “support” it has in both houses.

(And the final bill can be vetoed, which Dubya is threatening to do because of the overall price tag.)

But, while LO said earlier that the provision would “surely” be stripped in conference, it now appears the possibility exists that it could survive.

If it does, the question then becomes, will the White House respect the law, and will the Republican Congress hold the White House accountable if it tries to get cute?

For example, the permanent bases already being built are not formally called “permanent.” They’re called “enduring.”

So the Bushies could parse words and say they’re not violating the law by spending money on enduring bases.

LO would still presume that the Bushies would greatly prefer not having to regularly justify their spending on bases -- especially with the prospect of a Democratic House and/or Senate next year – and will press the conference negotiators to bury the provision.

But if the provision does pass, it’s pure cosmetics unless the White House actually follows the letter and spirit of the law.

And what do you think the chances are of that?

May 4, 2006 PERMALINK
The Importance of Cole v. Hitchens
(posted May 4 12 AM ET)

High-profile arguments between pundits, experts or intellectuals can be distracting sideshows.

But the online fight between U. of Michigan history professor Juan Cole and neocon writer Christopher Hitchens, over the accuracy of translated remarks of Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is important.

And potentially useful in preventing the neocons from successfully re-running the Iraq playbook for Iran.

For the details of the fight, check out these two posts from Prof. Cole (first link via Eschaton).

The key substantive point of dispute is: did or did not Ahmadinejad say that Israel should be “wiped off the map”?

Those agitating for war in Iran have repeated the alleged quote ad nauseam, to make the case that Iran is irrational and cannot be dealt with diplomatically.

And as LiberalOasis has noted before, the argument over whether Iran is rational or irrational is “the ballgame,” between persuading the American public that either direct talks are worthwhile or we have no choice but to launch a military strike.

Juan Cole argued in a private, off-the-record email group that the “wiped off the map” translation was wrong.

Hitchens took one of those emails and proceeded to attack Cole’s analysis in Slate.

Yesterday, Cole wrote on his blog:

The precise reason for Hitchens' theft and publication of my private mail is that I object to the characterization of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as having "threatened to wipe Israel off the map."

I object to this translation of what he said on two grounds. First, it gives the impression that he wants to play Hitler to Israel's Poland, mobilizing an armored corps to move in and kill people.

But the actual quote, which comes from an old speech of [Ayatollah] Khomeini, does not imply military action, or killing anyone at all.

The second reason is that it is just an inexact translation. The phrase is almost metaphysical.

He quoted Khomeini that "the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time."

It is in fact probably a reference to some phrase in a medieval Persian poem. It is not about tanks.

Cole then shared another one of his private emails that was part of the original discussion:

Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope-- that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah's government.

Whatever this quotation from a decades-old speech of Khomeini may have meant, Ahmadinejad did not say that "Israel must be wiped off the map" with the implication that phrase has of Nazi-style extermination of a people.

He said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time.

Again, Ariel Sharon erased the occupation regime over Gaza from the page of time.

(Cole also stressed that: "I personally despise everything Ahmadinejad stands for, not to mention the odious Khomeini, who had personal friends of mine killed so thoroughly that we have never recovered their bodies.")

The neocons had been successfully making the “wiped” quote accepted by the mainstream media as undisputed fact.

Yet there were differing translations from the get-go.

The NY Times provided the “wiped” translation.

But MEMRI (no fans of Juan Cole) translated the line nearly exactly as Cole had it: “This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.” (link via Arbeiter Fotografie, via Trap Rock Peace)

And despite Hitchens’ argument that if the “wiped” translation was wrong, “Ahmadinejad would have denied it,” Iranian officials have on at least two occasions (Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh on CNN and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki during a Feb. news conference) challenged the translation.

Now, if we can attract more attention to the substantive dispute of the Cole-Hitchens fight, we will also call attention to the fact that translations are tricky business.

And those with political agendas can selectively choose translations to obscure the big picture and manipulate the media.

If the media can be conditioned to understand that they should be extra careful with translations pushed by the neocons, we will have taken a big step to thwarting the White House agenda to dishonestly paint the Iranian government as irrational and fast-track us to war.

(UPDATE 5/4/06 7:30 AM ET -- More on Cole v. Hitchens from Just World News.)

(UPDATE 5/4/06 11 AM ET -- Still more from CorrenteWire, Left I on the News, Sadly, No, Peking Duck, Pharyngula and Firedoglake. Links via Memeorandum.)

May 3, 2006 PERMALINK
Purge Watch
(posted May 3 2:15 AM ET)

Tuesday last week, LiberalOasis raised the possibility that the firing of CIA analyst Mary McCarthy was the start of a purge.

A purge of those CIA folks that can be expected to provide reality-based intelligence and analysis.

In other words, people that cannot be counted on to manufacture cases for future wars in places like Iran.

Well, that ain’t speculation anymore. It’s confirmed.

Last Friday, Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough of the right-wing W. Times reported (via Arms Control Wonk):

We asked Dan Gallington, who once was chief counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to discuss whether the CIA's bureaucracy is working against President Bush's policies in the war on al Qaeda.

"I wouldn't say they are anti-Bush as much as to say they generally support the more conciliatory policy positions of the State Department bureaucracy," Mr. Gallington said ... "I would say it seems clear that the leaks out of the CIA in recent years are both substantively, and in timing, seem intended to embarrass the president."

He said a "purge" is the answer for a leak-weary Bush administration. "It's already under way," he said.

It’s not just the CIA.

The Bushies are looking get the reality-based crowd at the State Dept. out of the way too.

The Agonist quoted this from last night’s Nelson Report newsletter:

... sources say ... Vice President Cheney’s office seems to be sponsoring the hiring of exceptionally large numbers of political appointees, not career [Foreign Service Officers], to staff the to-be-created Iran democracy projects to be run out of State.

Career officers are often experienced professionals who will talk straight to policymakers.

Republican political appointees are often inexperienced hacks that just blindly follow ideological agendas.

Cutting out career officers from major policy initiatives is like a soft purge. They’re not getting fired, just marginalized.

A dramatic side note is MSNBC’s confirmation of an earlier Raw Story report that outed CIA agent Valerie Plame was working on Iran and WMD.

(In response, Sen. Frank Lautenberg has asked for a damage assessment. Perhaps the loss of her efforts is why GOP Rep. Peter Hoekstra said the other day that “we really don't know” what’s going on in Iran.)

Plame’s career may not have been sabotaged three years ago specifically because of her Iran work.

But she clearly was the kind of agent the Bushies didn’t want on the Iran desk, and we can assume they have no regrets.

They don’t care that “we don’t really know” what’s going on in Iran, because they don’t need/want to know to carry out their plans.

The upshot is -- if the Dubya’s credibility wasn’t damaged enough by Iraq – that the White House is rendering worthless the word of CIA and State.

When hysterical assessments about Iran are cranked out down the road, we must remind people that Bush intentionally gutted the integrity of our intelligence community.

And then we should dismiss the hype outright.

QUICK HIT

"Wait! Don’t Move To Canada!" Available For Pre-Order

As you can see on your right, LiberalOasis’ Exec. Ed. Bill Scher has a book coming out in September, “Wait! Don’t Move To Canada!”, which you can pre-order today.

The book offers a “Stay and Fight Strategy To Win Back America”: a big-picture message framework to proudly and succinctly articulate liberal principles in domestic and foreign policy, along with tips for individuals to translate those principles into grassroots action.

Simply put, if you like the advice and analysis you get on LO, you’ll love the book.

The book would have never happened without the support of LiberalOasis readers, which made the site a success. Thank you for all you have done.

And with your continued help, “Wait! Don’t Move To Canada!” can make an even bigger impact than LO has so far.

May 1, 2006 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted May 1 2:15 AM ET)

Sec. of State Condi Rice was eager to tell the viewers of ABC’S This Week and CBS’ Face The Nation that, regarding Iran:

...it's likely that we will try to move to a Chapter 7 resolution [in the UN Security Council], which is a resolution in the UN that compels behavior from a member-state.

What does that wonkspeak mean? As the NY Times reported yesterday:

In interviews in the past two days, [senior Bush Administration] officials have described a plan to turn the United Nations Security Council's "requests" that Iran cease enriching uranium into an enforceable requirement.

What has chilled the Chinese, the Russians and some others in Europe, however, is that the administration is insisting on citing Iran under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which authorizes the use of penalties, and if that is inadequate, of military force.

Does that mean that Bush wants to attack Iran in a few weeks? Not necessarily.

But it does appear that Bush wants to prematurely force the issue of penalties and possible military force in the UN at a moment when he knows he won’t get the support.

After achieving the desired failure, he can argue later that he really, really, tried to work with the UN, but they we’re just too “unwilling” to “enforce” their statements and resolutions.

Leaving him no choice but bomb away on his own, or with another glorious “Coalition of the Willing.”

It’s important to note that as the White House tries to claim Dubya is exhausting all diplomatic avenues, they are refusing to negotiating directly with Iran, despite the bipartisan calls for it.

Clearly, the White House realizes that direct talks would be a popular move in a country weary of war.

Because instead of stating outright that we have refused to talk to Iran (despite Iran’s attempts) Condi tried to mislead the public – without directly lying – into thinking we are already talking with Iran.

From Face The Nation:

BOB SCHIEFFER: ...the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Richard Lugar, Republican, says we ought to talk to them face to face.

Would we ever consider that?

RICE: Well, first of all, we do talk to the Iranians about limited issues. We've talked to them in Afghanistan. We've --

SCHIEFFER: What about this?

RICE: On this, I think the Iranians know what they need to do. The United States has been very clear in public, in private, in every way conceivable...

Interestingly, Condi was followed on ABC by top oil lobbyist Bennett Johnston and Dem Sen. Chuck Schumer.

And Johnston practically begged Schumer to do all he could to stop an attack on Iran.

JOHNSTON: The thing that is driving so much of the price of crude oil, and in turn gasoline, today, is Iran.

And Chuck, I hope you’ll do your part to keep us from rattling the saber on Iran. Because that’s the thing --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Keep us from ratting the saber?

JOHNSTON: We’re rattling the saber on Iran, and you know, it jacks up that price of oil.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what do we do if they’re going to build a nuclear weapon?

JOHNSTON: Well bombing Iran, believe me, is not the solution.

It would unleash Hezbollah [and] we’d see gasoline prices above five or six dollars, crude oil above 100 dollars, if we bomb Iran.

QUICK HIT

Getting Off Easy On Sudan

Condi’s also misled, barely challenged, about their response to the Sudan genocide yesterday.

From ABC:

STEPHANOPOULOS: At what point does the United States, does the international community, say we don't care if they're going to accept it anymore, we have to go in and stop this genocide.

RICE: Well, we are going to continue to press the Sudanese Government and we're continuing to not just talk to them.

But, of course, we're taking some actions against those in the Sudanese Government who are responsible for this.

Just last week --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Only four individuals.

RICE: Well, but it's four individuals who now know that their role in this terrible crisis is being noted by the international community and, if necessary, we will do more.

That is far from the full story.

As the W. Post editorial board wrote last month:

the United States sought to block the inclusion of Sudan's intelligence chief [Salah Abdallah Gosh] and other government officials from a list of people U.N. sanctions would target, feeding a theory that the administration is soft on Sudan because it wants Sudanese cooperation on counterterrorism intelligence.

Two weeks after that was published, the LA Times, reporting on the final outcome, wrote that the Bushies, “lobbied quietly behind the scenes to ensure that one of Washington's key sources on terrorism, Sudanese intelligence chief Salah Abdallah Gosh, stayed off the list.”

As Wesley Clark and John Prendergast explained in a Boston Globe op-ed:

Gosh was Osama bin Laden's handler when the Al Qaeda leader lived in Sudan in the 1990s, and he is no doubt useful.

But Gosh is also very likely a war criminal whose policies are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Darfurians.

So the lesson that Sudan can take is not that bad actions will be “noted by the international community.”

It’s that if you feed Dubya and Condi a little intel (and happen to be sitting on some oil), they’ll junk all their freedom blather, turn their backs to continue genocide, and foster more global instability.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Tapped: "Ryan Lizza's new profile of George Allen is the sort of article that can sink a candidacy."

Think Progress: The Gaping Hole In Rove’s Defense

Opinions You Should Have: Ten Reasons I Will Make A Great White House Press Secretary

Unclaimed Territory: "In just one day, before it has been released, and with literally nothing more in the way of marketing and publicity than a handful of bloggers discussing it and a very committed and passionate blog readership here, 'How Would a Patriot Act?' went to #1 on the Amazon Top Sellers List last night ... thank you and congratulations are in order for everyone who helped make that happen ... I want to make a few observations about why I think this is so potentially significant ..."

No Quarter and TomPaine on the firing of CIA analyst Mary McCarthy

MyDD: Background on the efforts to take control of the internet out of our hands, and into the hands of corporations

Talking Points Memo: "[Former CIA agent Tyler] Drumheller's [60 Minutes] account is pretty probative evidence on the question of whether the White House politicized and cherry-picked the Iraq intelligence. So why didn't we hear about any of this in the reports of those Iraq intel commissions ... He was interviewed by the Robb-Silbermann Commission ... Did he tell them everything he revealed on tonight's 60 Minutes segment. Absolutely."

The Reality-Based Community: "Why, [right-wing blogs] demand, was she fired rather than being prosecuted? ... [W]ait, don't tell me ... ummmm .... because she'd assert a "public interest" defense, which would mean putting the story back on the front pages for weeks, and risk having the facts about what's been going on in those dungeons revealed in open court? Just a guess." (via Tapped)

Stygius: "Will Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice be subpoenaed in the AIPAC espionage case? Looks possible ..."

Informed Comment: "The chief candidates [for Iraq PM] now seem to be Jawad al-Maliki, a long-time Dawa Party activist exiled for decades to Syria, and Ali al-Adib of the Dawa Party's Tehran branch. It is so amusing that the saviors of the Bush administration's political process in Iraq are beholden either to Syria or Iran-- Bush's chief targets for demonization-- for their political survival in the Saddam years ... Some Iraqis believe that Iyad Allawi is going to try to make a coup. None of these maneuvers will dampen down sectarian violence."

The Nation: "Blackwater is being sued for the wrongful deaths of Stephen "Scott" Helvenston, Mike Teague, Jerko Zovko and Wesley Batalona by the families of the men slain in Falluja ... 'Blackwater sent my son and the other three into Falluja knowing that there was a very good possibility this could happen,' says Katy Helvenston, the mother of 38-year-old Scott Helvenston, whose charred body was hung from the Falluja bridge. 'Iraqis physically did it, and it doesn't get any more horrible than what they did to my son, does it? But I hold Blackwater responsible one thousand percent.'"

The Carpetbagger Report: Republican donor gets presidential pardon

Newshounds: Fox News Floundering On Rove, McClellan without GOP Talking Points

Editor: Myself: "Many of Iranian anti-war activists, for whatever reason, forget one side of the story and only attack the Bush administration ... Khamanei must ultimately change his behaviour and at best become a symbolic religious leader with as much power as the King of Spain or Queen of Britain. But it doesn't also mean ... the least transparent and accountable administration in the American contemporary history has the right to topple Khamanei."

Head Heeb: "the situation [in Nepal] is looking increasingly pre-revolutionary ... is anyone else getting echoes of Iran in 1979?"

Ostroy Report: Al Gore Takes Huge Step Closer to the White House

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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