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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

December 9, 2005 PERMALINK
Chavez, Petro-Diplomacy and Iraq
(posted Dec. 9 2 AM ET)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been getting good press, and giving Bush and his Big Oil cronies bad press, by delivering discount heating oil to the poor in New York and Massachusetts via the Venezuelan-owned Citgo.

It is this sort of “petro-diplomacy” that the GOP hates.

And that hatred drove them to support a failed coup of Chavez in 2002, in order to exert greater control over our fourth biggest oil supplier.

And it drove them to seek control of Iraqi natural resources as well, by using a long-term military presence to directly assist and influence the creation of a new government.

It is not necessarily that the GOP wants US oil companies to get rich, or that they want to ensure that gas prices will be low.

It’s that when you control oil, you wield a certain amount of power. You can win friends and influence people by helping fulfill others’ energy needs.

(As LiberalOasis has flagged in the past, one of our top military commanders has talked openly about how we currently intertwine natural resources and national security in our foreign policy.)

While it’s true that it’s not healthy for your economy to be dependent on political leaders who are fundamentally hostile to you, that is not a justification for subverting the people’s right to self-determination in their sovereign lands.

And it’s certainly not a justification for war. There are plenty of nonviolent ways to ensure our planet’s natural resources are efficiently managed and properly shared.

In the case of the democratically elected Chavez, while he may not be a saint, he’s certainly is not fundamentally hostile to the United States.

He’s ticked at Bush, and legitimately so. The guy tried to assist his coup plotters.

But disliking Bush is not the same thing as being on an anti-US jihad. He has no interest in terrorizing US citizens or overthrowing our government.

If anything, Venezuela should be near the top of the list of oil-producing countries we want to do business with.

In the case of Iraq, Defense Sec. Rumsfeld has argued we must keep our troops in Iraq because otherwise, Zarqawi will control Iraq’s oil and water. From last month’s appearance on Face The Nation:

...Picture turning over Iraq to Zarqawi -- the person who beheads people, the person who is out killing innocent men and women -- ... turning that country, with its oil, with its water, with its population, into a haven for terrorists.

Actually, don’t bother picturing it. That’s just typical fearmongering.

Since only 3 to 7 percent of the Iraqi insurgency is led by Zarqawi, he doesn’t have the popular support or the military strength to take over the country.

Therefore, Zarqawi is not who Rumsfeld is really worried about.

He and the rest of the GOP are simply worried about the Iraqi people having a real choice over who leads them and manages their resources.

Because then, the Iraqis might find their own Chavez.

Not necessarily a socialist, but simply someone who the Bushies don’t consider reliable.

Which is why loveable chaps like Ahmad Chalabi and Iyad Allawi got ferried in and propped up by the Bushies.

Which is why even if the Bushies conduct a partial drawdown in the near future, they still plan on leaving enough troops behind to maintain a permanent presence.

Which is why the war will never end on their watch.

QUICK HIT

Anti-War Star Tribune Honored By DC Establishment

You may recall that back in June, LiberalOasis encouraged readers to subscribe to the Star Tribune, which was under attack from the right-wing because its editorial page refused to make excuses for torture.

It is LO's understanding that the reader response was strong, and in turn, the editorial position of the Star Tribune has remained strong.

Now, the Star Tribune is being recognized for its committment to a foreign policy true to American values.

Yesterday, the American Academy of Diplomacy, which is representative of the Washington foreign policy establishment, gave Jim Boyd, the Strib's Deputy Editor of the Editorial Pages, the Arthur Ross Media Award.

Among editorial pages, The Strib has arguably offered the clearest voice against the war, against secret detentions, and against torture, even publishing the entire Downing Street Memo.

For an organization of the DC Establishment to choose Boyd for such an award speak volumes.

And the fact that Boyd and his peers have been able to stare down the right-wing's attacks is in no small part due to support from their readers.

LiberalOasis extends its congratuations.

December 8, 2005 PERMALINK
How The Dems Can Get Unified On Iraq
(posted Dec. 8 2:15 AM ET)

LiberalOasis said recently that Rep. John Murtha’s call for an immediate redeployment of ground troops from Iraq, while sparking a useful policy debate nationwide, would also complicate Dem attempts for a unifying message.

It has, along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Murtha’s resolution, and DNC Chair Howard Dean’s inartful (and somewhat out of context) remark that it’s “plain wrong” to say “we’re going to win the war in Iraq,”

Those three developments have pushed to the surface, in the W. Post (twice) and Reuters, divisions within the party about what the party’s policy position and political strategy should be regarding Iraq.

Yesterday, House Dems tried to hash things out in a private meeting, but apparently only agreed to disagree and to put a nice face on it for reporters.

The fact is, the media loves conflict. And if there’s obvious intra-party conflict, it draws attention away from the conflict between the two parties, and draws political heat away from the GOP.

Some want to delay talking about solution for Iraq until we get closer to the election, to keep the heat on the GOP.

Even if that was politically pragmatic (and LO doesn’t believe it is), it’s too late for that game. Cat’s out of the bag. Several Dem plans are on the table.

So, how can we get unified from where we are now? Three steps:

1. Don’t start with an exit strategy for Iraq, start with a broader foreign policy vision

Currently, the public has no clue what foreign policy direction the Democratic Party would take America to achieve lasting peace and secure the nation.

If Democrats laid out a overarching positive vision (which an Iraq policy could fit into) not only would it serve the Dems’ long-term need to define what they stand for, it would also make it harder for GOPers to attack exit strategy ideas as plans to “cut and run."

Why? Because people would have a clear sense of what would come after the exit strategy.

People would see that Dems are thinking several steps ahead, not looking to pull troops and then cross their fingers, hoping things don’t spiral out of control.

Sen. Russ Feingold has made some moves in this direction, placing his Iraq exit strategy in the broader context of “national security,” and arguing on ABC last month that:

As long as it's seen as an American occupation it helps the al Zarqawis and others to bring insurgents in, to bring terrorists in and we need to reverse that problem...

...the most important reason that I favor a timetable is I want this country to get refocused on the terrorist network that is now in some 60 countries around the world.

LiberalOasis ideally wants Dems to base their vision on something loftier and more distinct than just fighting terrorism, such as fostering credible democracy and eradicating poverty through multilateralism (goals that would also undermine support for terror networks.)

But either way, you want to lay out some sort of optimistic overall goal for your party’s foreign policy.

Once the public gets the positive direction Dems want to take foreign policy, it becomes harder for GOPers to take a comment like “we can’t win militarily” out of context, and attack it as defeatist and pessimistic.

2. Distinguish the two parties’ goals for Iraq: Republicans don’t ever want to leave. Dems do.

LiberalOasis has said this before, but it bears repeating.

Given the chance on the Senate floor to vote for a resolution saying US troops should not stay in Iraq indefinitely, Republicans balked.

While Republicans want to reduce troop levels to some extent, they don’t want to fully pull out.

They want to maintain permanent bases in Iraq to impose unilateral influence on the nation and region.

Such a strategy does not fit into any Democratic foreign policy vision. It conflicts with our belief in credible democracy and it fuels terrorism.

3. Acknowledge tactical differences within the party about timing, but stress common principles and goals.

There’s just no way all the Democrats in the Senate and House are going sign up for singular plan in the near future.

But Democrats can say something like this:

“Some of us believe we should redeploy troops as soon as possible.

“Some think we should have a target date for redeployment in a year or two.

“Others think we should start a drawdown, pegged to conditions on the ground, with no specified target date for completion

“We all believe our tactical ideas would improve the prospects for democracy and stability in Iraq, allow us to better focus on Al Qaeda, and bolster our national security.

“As the war continues, and sadly it will, we will learn more about the insurgency and more about what the Iraqi people really want, it will become clearer what would be the best timing for redeployment.

“But until then, there is broad agreement among Democrats that an indefinite deployment is unwanted by the Iraqis, impedes their transition to democracy, fuels terrorism and harms the security of the US.

“If the public chooses Democrats to hold the majority in Congress, we will immediately pass the resolution declaring US will not stay indefinitely, that Republicans recently blocked.

“And we’ll pass another resolution declaring we will not fund permanent bases in Iraq.

“That will send a clear message to the Iraqi people that they will soon have full control of their own country, weakening public support for the insurgency.”

If Dems implement those three steps, they will succeed in articulating to the public where they stand, what direction they would take the country, and what would happen if Dems took over Congress in 2006, without getting bogged in more intra-party squabbles.

December 7, 2005 PERMALINK
Knight-Ridder Calls Alito Conservative; Bushies Whine Like Babies
(posted Dec. 7 1:45 AM ET)

As the evidence of Sam Alito’s right-wing judicial activism and dishonesty mounts, the pro-Alito forces have become increasingly defensive.

Last week, the White House forced Sen. Arlen Specte to bat back the latest anti-abortion revelations, by holding a private meeting with Alito and then relaying Alito’s evasive blather to the press afterwards (though Specter did not completely play ball.)

This week started with anti-affirmative action crusader Abigail Thernstrom, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, defending Alito’s opposition to “one person, one vote” principles when drawing legislative districts.

(Shorter Abigail: “nothing in the actual language of the Constitution” blah blah blah blah)

Then we saw a lame attempt to change the subject by portraying Alito as a defender of Christmas, which might have been smart strategy, if Fox News and the White House hadn’t the whole phony “War on Christmas” look ridiculous by throwing “holiday” parties and sending “holiday” cards.

And yesterday, the White House whined up a storm after the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain had the temerity to actually read the vast majority of Alito’s opinions and concluded that he’s a “staunch conservative.”

Knight-Ridder reported last week:

...Samuel Alito has worked quietly but resolutely to weave a conservative legal agenda into the fabric of the nation's laws...

....Although Alito's opinions are rarely written with obvious ideology, he's seldom sided with a criminal defendant, a foreign national facing deportation, an employee alleging discrimination or consumers suing big businesses.

Yesterday, Knight-Ridder reported on the Administration’s crybaby response:

The Bush administration is mounting an aggressive effort to counter a Knight Ridder story that described Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito as a committed judicial conservative.

The administration's response ... reflects its determination to defend Alito and its sensitivity to the "conservative" label for him...

...John Nowacki, senior counsel in the Justice Department's Office of Public Affairs, also objected to the Knight Ridder analysis ... "This outcome-based analysis is inapplicable and unfair to judges ...," Nowacki wrote.

(Shorter Nowacki: Waaah!)

The White House is on the defensive, not the offensive.

They are not controlling the Alito narrative. They are scrambling to try to put out one brush fire after another.

Which means we will head into the hearings (starting Jan. 9th) with Alito perceived as a “controversial” nominee, and not a “ highly qualified, consensus” nominee.

That’s half the battle.

December 6, 2005 PERMALINK
McCain: Most Dangerous Man In America
(posted Dec. 6 12:15 AM ET)

Over at The Huffington Post, LiberalOasis Exec. Ed. Bill Scher discusses Sen. John McCain's long-standing neoconservative foreign policy philosophy, and warns Dems and independents not to back him in '08 and unwittingly support a continuation of the Bush Doctrine.

Regular posting at LiberalOasis will resume tomorrow.

December 5, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Dec. 5 12:15 AM ET)

Challeging Bush’s Credibility (Or Not)

On CBS’ Face The Nation, when asked if Bush was “not being straight with the American people about what's going on in Iraq,” Sen. John Kerry did not hesitate to say “yes.”

And on Fox News Sunday, when Chris Wallace regurgitated the spin from last week’s Bush speech and told Sen. Barbara Boxer that “the president wants to bring home the troops also,” she wisely responded that “what he says and what he's doing are very, very different.”

Sadly, Dems did not consistently challenge the credibility of Bush and his withdrawal head fakes.

On CNN’s Late Edition, Sen. Joe Biden contended Bush’s speech amounted to a actual policy shift towards withdrawal:

The reality is, and the president in his speech acknowledged it -- what the president said in his speech that didn't get much coverage -- that quote, "we're going to change the mission in Iraq in 2006."

[Note: that’s not an accurate quote.]

That's code word for saying there is a reality. We're going to draw down 50,000 troops in Iraq next year because we're going to be about three brigades short.

And there is no way, unless you are going to eliminate any prospect of a volunteer army continuing, no way to be able to rotate the existing troops we have now.

And, most unfortunately, Rep. John Murtha, on ABC’s This Week, was also buying the Administration spin.

Referring to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who was doling out the Bush line earlier in the show, Murtha said:

I like this guy. I mean, he’s starting to come around.

He’s starting to understand what the American people are saying and what the Iraqi people are saying...he’s talking about redeployment, he’s talking about pulling our troops out.

Murtha continued:

I think this Administration’s coming around.

I see the signals that they’re starting to realize that the military has done everything it can do ... and it has to be turned over to the Iraqis.

Neither Biden nor Murtha noted what Seymour Hersh reported, that a partial withdrawal is likely to be coupled with a stepped-up air war.

Furthermore, equating the possibility of partial withdrawal in the near future with a commitment to complete withdrawal misunderstands the neocon policy agenda.

The neocon strategy is to exert unilateral influence and control in this resource-rich region through permanent occupation, but it does not require a permanent occupation of 150,000 troops.

If you’ll allow LiberalOasis to take Bush at face value for a moment, what he said last week was, “We will .... reduce the number of bases from which we operate”.

That is surely true, as “reduce” does not mean “eliminate.” You only need a few bases to make your presence count.

To not continually call attention to Bush’s actual long-term policy goals, and to act as if Dems and the White House are not all that far apart, makes it impossible for Dems to contrast foreign policy visions and offer a case for a change in ’06 and ’08.

That’s why we must be relentless in challenging Bush’s credibility.

Because they are trying to send withdrawal signals in order to pacify the public, blur partisan distinctions, and buy time.

And we must make clear that those signals are mere words, and the only way the troops will all come home and Iraq will become stable is if we throw the neocons out.

Covering For Lieberman

Sen. Joe Lieberman is a foreign policy neocon.

He is the only Dem Senator who is explicitly for permanent bases in Iraq.

He is one of the few Dems who did not vote for the Dem amendment which said troops should not stay in Iraq indefinitely.

And most recently, the Republican National Committee touted Lieberman’s recent pro-war op-ed and Bush approvingly quoted him in last week’s speech.

The guy is simply on the other team when it comes to Iraq (at minimum.)

So what happens when Dems are asked about Lieberman’s views?

Here’s Kerry:

...there is so much more that unites Democrats than divides us.

And Democrats have much more in common with each other than they do with George Bush's policy right now.

Now Joe Lieberman, I believe, also voted for the resolution which said the president needs to make more clear what he's doing and set out benchmarks, and that the policy hasn't been working.

Kerry is talking about the bipartisan resolution that passed, not the Dem resolution that Lieberman spurned.

And Kerry is completely distorting what that resolution said to cover for Lieberman.

While the resolution did call for more detail from Bush, it did not say Bush’s Iraq policy wasn’t working.

Lieberman’s vote for it was not a rejection of Bush’s policy, as all of his public comments in the last few days clearly show.

Sen. Boxer was even more idiotic than Kerry in covering for Lieberman.

After also insisting Lieberman was with the Dems because of that same vote, she had this exchange with Fox’s Chris Wallace:

WALLACE: Joe Lieberman said he thought it would be disastrous to start pulling our troops out now.

BOXER: Well, I didn't hear him say that at all.

Uh, his op-ed was titled, “Our Troops Must Stay.” What are you not hearing?

Still, Kerry topped Boxer in overall idiocy by expressing support for Lieberman to be Defense Secretary.

How hard is this to grasp? Bush wants to hold up Lieberman as evidence his strategy has bipartisan support.

If Dems praise Lieberman on Iraq at the same time, then Bush’s strategy works, while the Dem message on Iraq gets muddled.

If Dems explain how Lieberman’s way out of the party mainstream, he’s nothing but a worthless token.

John McCain, The Artist Formerly Known For Straight Talk

On Meet The Press, Sen. John McCain threw his support for the Pentagon propaganda payola plan:

We're in a propaganda war ... if that's the standard procedure in Iraq, if that's what you need to do to get a story in one of these newspapers, but it has to be accurate and it has to be done by a legitimate person.

I understand these are men and women who serve in our military that are responsible for these stories. If that's the only way you get stories in, then I'm not terribly offended by it.

Tell the Iraqi people, “McCain’s not offended if your press isn’t free. So whaddya you bitchin’ about?”

In the same interview, McCain also deemed the war, “this effort to bring democracy and freedom to people that have never known it.”

And they still don’t.

(More on McCain from Arianna Huffington.)

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Majority Report Radio gets its hands on an invite for the News Corp. "Holiday" Party (Fox News' parent company)

The Left Coaster: Exactly How Strong Was That Jobs Report?

Abu Aardvark: "Of course Ahmed Chalabi's al-Motamar would run that stuff, it's the reason the paper exists. It's part and parcel with the American approach to the Iraqi media, which has always been more about message control and spin than about creating the foundations for a free press and pluralist democracy."

War and Piece: "Rumsfeld is using psyops specialists and information warfare specialists on US journalists, and by extension, the American public ... it's awfully similar to the tactics used by dictatorships"

Balkinization breaks down the SCOTUS hearings on the NH abortion case

Just World News: "AP is reporting that the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) in Iraq is calling for the release of the four [Christian Peacemakers Team] people abducted [in Iraq]"

Alas, A Blog: "Media outlets, and in particular the New York Times, have frequently suggested that mothers ... have been more and more frequently 'opting out' of jobs and careers[, but the] most relevant data [shows] women with children are not more likely to opt out nowadays than in previous decades"

Talk To Action: "if America was founded as a Christian nation, the Christian Right of Thomas Jefferson's and George Washington's day would not have blasted the U.S. Constitution and its creators. But they did."

Save The Court: The 5-Point Plan to Stop Alito

The Sideshow and Busy Busy Busy take down The New Republic piece on repeat abortions

The Forward posts an op-ed from Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld: "For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men." (via The Daou Report)

Salon: "Two major Jewish figures ... have taken on the religious right ... they have enraged some evangelicals ... Tom Minnery [of] Focus on the Family, told the Forward, 'If you keep bullying your friends, pretty soon you won't have any.'"

Body and Soul: "why is the U.S. military suddenly willing to talk about some (not all) of the death squads in Iraq? ... We thoroughly condemn human rights abuses by people who don't share information with us."

Latina Lista: "Bussing anyone, free of charge, back to their families is better than amnesty ... for anyone who lives on this side of the border without family and has slaved for months ... in a menial job. Who wouldn't want a free trip back home? And if this Administration doesn't think these same people won't try again to cross over - they are so out of touch with reality ..."

Huffington Post's David Rees: "One of my favorite writers, Christopher Hitchens, has recently announced that it's time to 'have a real debate about the Iraq war.' SWEET. I was thinking maybe we should wait, like, another three hundred years, but sure -- I guess it couldn't hurt to start debating now!"

Daily Kos and War and Piece on the Iraqi Shia death squads

TalkLeft: What Does Fitzgerald Want From Viveca Novak?

Pacific Views: "Nick Turse has been putting together a list of those who have resigned or lost their job under the Bush administration because they disagreed with or refused to carry out a bankrupt Bush policy."

Carpetbagger Report: Sibel Edmonds' case comes to a halt

War and Piece: "Iranian-Canadian blogger Hoder banned from US? Really, what supreme idiots we live under." Hoder: "It's sad to see America is not the land of the free anymore."

American Prospect: "The United States has so far been hostile at worst and lukewarm at best in regard to a critical [Iraqi] peace initiative by the League of Arab States" (via Political Animal)

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