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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

May 19, 2006 PERMALINK
The Qaddafi Card
(posted May 19 2:45 AM ET)

In the 1980s, Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi was foreign leader everyone depicted as crazy.

Now, he’s the buddy the Bushies trot out to justify their foreign policy.

In December 2003, they cut a deal with Qaddafi to get him to give up his (not very impressive) nuclear program.

They immediately claimed the Iraq War was to thank, because Qadaffi saw Saddam’s fate and chose a peaceful path.

And this week, the White House fully restored diplomatic ties with Libya and removed it from the list of state terrorism sponsors. Sec. of State Condi Rice said, “Libya is an important model as nations around the world press for changes in behavior by the Iranian and North Korean regimes.”

See, how can you say Bush won’t deal with Iran, when he’s been so diplomatic with Libya?

So is this really a glorious byproduct of the war? Is Dubya really pursuing a principled, pragmatic foreign policy?

Let’s look back at our history with Libya.

It was 1986 when Reagan launched air strikes on Libya, in an attempt to kill Qaddafi (the sort of air strikes neocons are agitating for in Iran).

The attack did not deter Qaddafi. As Newsweek’s Chris Dickey recounted this week:

[Qaddafi] survived ... and struck back with a vengeance, stepping up support for terrorists from Japan to Sudan, Northern Ireland to Wall Street.

One of his hirelings, a member of the Japanese Red Army terrorist group, was caught on the New Jersey Turnpike in April 1988 with bombs intended for detonation not far from the World Trade Center.

Then, in December 1988, a Pan Am 747 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people in the air and on the ground.

After that, instead of more air strikes, our strategy shifted to international economic sanctions. As the NY Times Magazine reported in Jan. 2003:

When Libya refused to hand the men over for trial in Scotland, the United States and Great Britain led a successful campaign in the United Nations for international sanctions ... they had the effect of virtually isolating Libya from the rest of the world. And just like that ... Qaddafi and his rogue state seemed to fairly fall off the map.

Former Bush aide Flynt Everett, in a Jan. 2004 NYT op-ed about how the WMD deal came to be, said it was the sanctions worked, not the war:

Tired of international isolation and economic sanctions, the Libyans decided in the late 1990's to seek normalized relations with the United States, and held secret discussions with Clinton administration officials to convey that message.

Clinton had to leave office before finishing the job of extracting Libyan concessions and doing a deal.

But since Libya was looking to deal for some time, Bush did not need the Iraq War to change Qaddafi's anti-US behavior. It had already changed.

Yet Bush waited until the war, so it would look like that was the main factor. Sen. John Kerry called this out at the time, on CNN:

The truth is that [Qaddafi] has been looking for a deal for four years. He began negotiations with Bill Clinton, unfortunately toward the very end of the administration...

...the deal with [Qaddafi] -- mostly, might I add, pursued and brokered by Tony Blair and the British -- could have been achieved some time ago. It's now happening partly to make it look like it's causal with respect to the war on terror. I disagree.

Of course, Bush had other reasons to deal besides gaining cover for the war.

As Human Rights Watch notes:

United States and European governments steadily improved their relations with Libya throughout 2005 ... driven by energy companies who are eager to tap Libya’s vast oil reserves, but Western governments are also drawn to Qaddafi’s cooperation in the global war on terror...

... Libya has provided valuable intelligence on militant Islamic individuals and groups. In return, countries like the U.S. and U.K. have added the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), fighting to overthrow Qaddafi since the late 1990s, to their lists of terrorist groups.

So, Qaddafi is no longer officially sponsoring terror in the eyes of Bush's State Department.

Never mind that he was accused a few years ago of trying to assassinate the Saudi Crown Prince.

Or that he still runs the sort of oppressive dictatorship Bush himself says fosters terrorism.

As long as Bush can trot him out to justify the war, or to make himself seem pragmatic and flexible while continually snubbing Iran, and as long as Qaddafi keeps pumping oil and providing intel, he’s now our boy.

May 18, 2006 PERMALINK
Snubbing The Snub
(posted May 18 1:45 AM ET)

Today, the NY Times and W. Post dutifully report on Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pre-emptive snubbing of a forthcoming European proposal regarding its nuclear program.

That’s pretty basic editorial judgment by the two big papers. The rejection of a significant diplomatic offering is certainly news.

Yet for some reason, neither paper bothered to report last week’s snubbing news: Dubya’s dismissal of a significant Iranian proposal, which showed a willingness to accept “intrusive and snap inspections” among other things.

Outside of Time magazine -- which received the proposal in the form of an open letter from Hassan Rohani, a representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader -- pretty much only New York Newsday (here and here) did any reporting on it.

(LiberalOasis discussed it last Thursday.)

Since most of the media completely ignored Rohani’s letter (while playing up the less substantial letter from Ahmadinejad to Bush), the prevailing narrative in the media is becoming distorted and one-sided.

It will appear that only a surly, recalcitrant Iran is continually refusing to deal with the White House and the Europeans.

When in fact, the Bushies have been undermining European attempts and fostering mistrust by continually sending clear, negative signals to Iran.

The American people can’t properly weigh in about how Dubya is handling the situation, if they don’t know all that is happening.

And they can’t know if our most respected media outlets refuse to report it.

May 17, 2006 PERMALINK
Immigration: Dubya In Hole, Keeps Digging
(posted May 17 1:30 AM ET)

Back in March, LiberalOasis sized up the immigration debate:

...it would seem ... that either no bill gets out of the Senate, or if one does, then no House-Senate compromise is plausible.

In either "no-bill" scenario, the fallout for the GOP is probably negative.

Party leaders will have failed to have contained their nativist wing and in turn, failed to present a welcoming party for Latinos.

Meanwhile, the nativists may harbor resentment because the House bill never was taken seriously by party leaders, which could hurt turnout in the fall.

Nothing Dubya is doing is saving the GOP from that outcome.

Passage of a Senate bill does look likely.

But its split-the-baby attempt -- allowing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who've been in for five years, sending home those who've been here two years or less -- does not impress the nativists.

Neither has Dubya's pandering -- first by criticizing Spanish language versions of The Star-Spangled Banner, then this week's half-baked plan to send our overstretched National Guard to the board.

Yet at the same time, those pander moves have also undermined Dubya's effort to redefine the GOP as Latino-friendly.

Dubya is reacting to his failure with trademark stubbornness and petulance, apparently deluding himself that if he keeps talking about the issue, he will defy expectations, get his way, and give a stalled White House fresh momentum.

Clearly displeased that his speech and his 30% approval rating failed to unite his party and rally the nativists to his side, he got condescending and exasperated yesterday.

He not-so-subtly told right-wing critics, "don't get so emotional" and lectured congresspeople that "it's important for people up here in Washington to understand that there's got to be a temporary worker program."

And on Thursday, he plans on digging the hole deeper by traveling to Arizona to talk immigration some more.

His long-time adviser, Mark McKinnon may have been trying to send him a subtle message earlier this week, telling the NYT: "It would be a lot easier just to let [the issue] go away."

McKinnon was ostensibly complimenting Bush for tackling a difficult issue.

But he's right: it would be easier to let the issue fade.

Because talking about it just further exacerbates the GOP split between the corporatists and nativists, and alienates both Latinos and the right-wing party base.

However, the problem for Dubya is: if he isn't talking about immigration, what else going on in DC does he have to talk about?

Iraq. Prescription drugs. Gas prices. Domestic spying. DeLayGate. HookerGate. LeakGate...

May 15, 2006 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted May 15 12 AM ET)

When the warrantless wiretap program was revealed in December, LiberalOasis argued that, in addition to the program being illegal and unconstitutional, it was also ineffective.

It wasted resources on bad leads, undermined our moral authority and failed to capture any significant Al Qaeda operatives.

Now, we’ve learned that the White House has been secretly and illegally maintaining a massive database of our phone records for at least five years.

So, has this program helped catch any significant terrorists?

That’d be...no.

On CNN’s Late Edition, Wolf Blitzer put the question to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Hadley smoothly sidestepped the question the way he had all day when specific questions about the program came up: “I cannot confirm or deny the claims in the USA Today story.”

However, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is not very smooth.

After Blitzer read an USA Today excerpt describing the program, they had the following exchange:

BLITZER: Are you comfortable with this program?

FRIST: Absolutely. Absolutely. I am one of the people who are briefed --

BLITZER: You've known about this for years.

FRIST: I've known about the program. I am absolutely convinced that you, your family, our families are safer because of this particular program.

I absolutely know that it is legal.

The program itself is anonymous, in the sense that identifiers, in terms of protecting your privacy, are stripped off.

And, as you know, the program is voluntary, the participants in that program...

...the only way to connect [the] dots is to use 21st-century technology that protects your privacy, and that's exactly what this does.

No “I can’t confirm or deny” business from Frist. He confirms. He details. He likes.

So Blitzer then tried to ask the question again:

Can you tell the American people right now that over these past almost five years since the phone records have been collected ... has [the program] resulted in thwarting one terrorist attack in the United States?

Suddenly, Frist’s interest in confirming and detailing fades:

FRIST: You know, I am not going to comment on the program until the appropriate time.

There has not been even a confirmation of the USA Today program itself. I --

BLITZER: But have you been briefed on one success story?

FRIST: I can tell you I've been briefed in a classified way, and I can tell you that I am absolutely, 100 percent sure, confident that this has protected and saved lives in the United States of America.

BLITZER: But has there been one success story that you can point to?

FRIST: I just don't want to be pulled in --

BLITZER: Without specifics, just tell us that there has been a terrorist attack that was plotted and, as a result of collecting these phone calls, was thwarted.

FRIST: You know, in appropriate hearings and settings, this will come out.

But this is classified information about a classified program.

You know, the more we talk about these programs, the more we're giving our playbook to the terrorists...

Of course, Frist wasn’t “giving our playbook” away 30 seconds prior when he was happily describing the program.

Only when asked, “did you actually catch anybody,” did answering become so fraught with danger.

Over on Meet The Press, Newt Gingrich was counseling the Bushies to paint the issue as literally a choice between life and death:

I think this administration [should] come straight out on this, go right at the, the Senator [Pat] Leahys of the world and say:

“This is the choice. We’re going to have a nuclear weapon some day or a biological weapon that could kill millions of Americans. We have the technical ability to stop it. Now do you want us to be able to stop it or not?”

Actually, considering that the program hasn’t had any success fighting terrorism, this is the real choice:

Do you want your government to waste its time and resources chasing countless bad leads and invading your privacy, or do you want checks and balances that keep your government focused on the actual threat?

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

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

Wait!
The debut book from LiberalOasis' Bill Scher
Available 9/19/06
Pre-order today at Amazon or Powell's

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

The Sideshow: "The top headline is from USA Today, where we learn that the the NSA has been spying on all domestic communications. And we are... not surprised ... I don't know anything about Qwest, but I think I'd be interested to know why they are departing from the Program."

Abu Aardvark: "Since the loss of its Afghan base in the winter of 2001, al-Qaeda has undergone a 'constructivist turn,' employing not only violence but also a dizzying array of persuasive rhetoric and public spectacle toward the end of strategic social construction. Failure to appreciate al-Qaeda’s fundamentally constructivist orientation has led to a range of misconceptions about its strategy and its fortunes, as well as about the success and failure of the 'war on terror.' Al-Qaeda’s grand strategy seeks to promote an Islamic identity, define the interests of all Muslims as necessarily in confrontation with the West, and shape the normative environment in which Muslim politics are contested"

Pacific Views: Cindy Sheehan At The Rep. McDermott Fundraiser

Grist interviews Al Gore

Orcinus: The Real Minutemen

Think Progress: Alphonso Jackson: Profoundly Unethical Whether He Lied Or Not

Angry Bear: Not tax cuts, tax deferrals

Harper's Washington Babylon: "So now two of Goss’s close associates, Foggo and Bassett, have a lot of explaining to do about their relationship with Brent Wilkes — the pivotal figure in the Cunningham affair."

War and Piece: "I am still perplexed how the most successful media operation of the past several months hasn't been fully appreciated ... The White House and CIA public affairs seem to have genuinely managed to disconnect the timing of Goss' resignation from the wider Duke Cunningham case ..."

TPM Muckraker: "We've been hearing a lot about this guy 'Nine Fingers,' a CIA veteran who was a regular at Brent Wilkes' poker parties ... Newsweek identified him as Brant Bassett, who had a career at the CIA before he went to work as a staffer for then-chairman Rep. Porter Goss ... Well, now here's another weird thing about Bassett: Just before he went to work for Goss ... Brent Wilkes cut him a check for $5000."

The Washington Note: Creative Diplomatic Move by Iran: Direct Talks or Bust

TPM Muckraker: "While director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Michael V. Hayden contracted the services of a top executive at the company at the center of the Cunningham bribery scandal, according to two former employees of the company."

The Reality Based Community: Can prosecutors squeeze Ralston to get to Rove?

Editor: Myself: "BBC News confirms the bad news circulating in the past few days. [Canadian-Iranian intellectual] Ramin jahanbegloo is arrested [by the Iranian government]."

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

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