Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Who Is This Man Cheney?

John King's interview of Dick Cheney on Sunday on "State of the Union" has received press coverage of his candid admission of a profound disagreement with Bush over the issue of a pardon for Scooter Libby. Robert Gibbs's dismissive response to questions about Cheney's criticism of Obama is now receiving extensive press coverage, much of it very critical of Gibbs's alleged disrespect for the former Vice President. As Cheney was sitting for the King interview Sunday morning the Washington Post was running a lead story castigating Obama for "blaming" the Bush/Cheney administration for the our current economic woes. Anyone viewing coverage of the back-and-forth between Cheney and the Obama administration would fairly infer the following regarding Beltway rules of decorum for exchanges between new administrations and the highest officials of the prior administration:
1. It is unusual and probably improper for a new President to note that he inherited problems from the prior administration.
2. It is customary for high officials of the prior administration to harshly criticize the new administration a mere seven weeks after Inauguration day.

3. There is nothing unusual or improper about a former Vice President unambiguously repudiating critical elements of his own administration's foreign policy.

4. Any riposte from the White House press briefing podium in response to criticism from a former Vice President is disrespectful of the office of the Vice Presidency.

As any observer of Beltway practices would realize, however, these implied rules of decorum not only don't exist, they stand the actual, longstanding rules on their head. In each instance, the press coverage we've seen in recent days exhibits a bizarro world, alternative universe approach, in which former Vice Presidents scathingly criticize the current administration and even their own administration, and new administrations are prohibited from responding to such criticism or noting that they "inherited" problems from the prior administration.

Even before Cheney had taken the (not-so-) hot seat across from John King on Sunday morning, the Washington Post had an edition on newsstands in which Post staff writer Scott Wilson was reporting that Obama had adopted a "new tack" of blaming the Bush administration for the sad state of the U.S. economy. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that Obama has been blaming the Bush/Cheney administration for their reckless mishandling of the economy for the two years preceding the election, and the "new tack" therefore a very old tack, Wilson's article suggested that there was something unusual and improper about a new President noting that he'd inherited problems from the prior administration. Of course, blaming the prior administration is perhaps the least controversial and most time-honored White House ritual in our nation's history, one which the Bush administration resorted to as unabashedly as any administration in memory. Did Wilson not recall the Bush administration constantly referring to the "Clinton recession" in 2001? Did Wilson not recall the Bush administration blaming 9/11 on Clinton's allegedly feckless terrorism policy? More recently, didn't the Bush administration blame Clinton policies for contributing to the economic meltdown in 2008, nearly eight years after these Clinton policies were last in effect?

It can safely be said that when it comes particularly to economic issues, there is no statute of limitations on the alleged failures of the prior administration, and Presidents will routinely lay at the feet of their predecessors the fault for economic problems that persist years into the new administration. If Obama violated some unwritten rule of D.C. decorum when he noted seven weeks into his administration that he'd "inherited" a crappy economy, then what is one to make of Reagan's 1982 State of the Union Address in which he stated - more than year after Carter's departure from office - that "Our current problems are not the product of the recovery program that's only just now getting under way, as some would have you believe", and proceeded to blame the "tax and tax, spend and spend" ways of prior administrations. Needless to say, nary a feather was ruffled in D.C. by Reagan's attempt to blame prior administrations for the brutal recession then gripping the nation.

The "blame game" between current and former administration is a one-way street, historically, as it has always been deemed by our D.C. doyens "bad form" for officials of the prior administration to criticize the current administration, even if offered in response to lamentations from the current administration about having inherited their problems. Indeed, it is unprecedented for a former Vice President to launch the kind of broadsides against the new administration that Cheney launched on Sunday only seven weeks into the Obama administration. It just isn't cricket, according to D.C. consensus. Ari Fleischer invoked this traditional prohibition on criticism from the prior administration when he was asked in January 2001 about the prospect of a "running critique" of the Bush administration by Clinton or Gore. "I think that would be a real break with tradition," Ari noted, "and I think that Vice President Gore and President Clinton, we would hope, would have no intention of doing that."

Ari was, in this one instance, absolutely correct, and Clinton and Gore, like their predecessors as former officeholders, refrained from criticizing the new administration in its first weeks and months in office. Gore broke his silence in September 2002 (20 months into the Bush administration) expressing concern that the Bush administration's "war on terror" was undermining civil liberties in the U.S. Gore's comments, although rather tepid compared to Cheney's allegation that Obama was endangering America, attracted the attention of the White House press corp and were raised with Ari Fleischer at a press gaggle on September 27, 2002. Ari, with the class for which he became famous, demonstrated his respect for the Office of the Vice President:

Q Gore said the war on terrorism has -- through the war on terrorism the administration has been attacking civil liberties.
MR. FLEISCHER: (Laughter.) You know, it's hard to pay attention to what Al Gore says because it's so hard to know what Al Gore really believes, given how many times he's changed his position on Iraq. In 1991, he praised President Bush -- former President Bush -- publicly for not going on to Baghdad and for not continuing --
Q He's not talking about Iraq.
MR. FLEISCHER: -- not continuing the military action. In his speech the other day, he said he was personally offended that the former President didn't bring the war to Baghdad. My point is that Al Gore changes his story and his tune so often on so many different issues that it's not an effective use of time to pay much attention to what he says.

Chip Reid, have you recovered from your fainting spell yet? Did Ari exhibit proper respect for the august office Al Gore had occupied? I don't know about Chip, but for flat-out derision directed at a former VP, I'd say it's Ari 1, Gibbs 0.

I haven't done a Lexis search (what am I - the great Glennzilla?), but I have googled thoroughly and searched the archives of the New York Times and Washington Post. I am sure any readers will be as shocked as I was to learn that Ari's airy and dismissive reference to Al Gore DID NOT arouse Village consternation. Think of it: here's a White House press secretary laughing at a former VP and suggesting, with dripping disdain, that only an idiot would pay any attention to the Former Vice President of the United States of America, and not one reporter summoned the courage and decency of a Chip Reid to defend the Vice President. Apparently the bullet-proof cloak of Respect donned by a VP upon leaving office is a rather recent development (or, perhaps, simply unique to Vice President Cheney). There was no uproar over Ari's impertinence.

And so it would appear - contrary to what one would be lead to believe by Scott Wilson, Chip Reid, Rick Klein, MSNBC and beltway tongues clucking on cable - that Presidents invariably suggest that they inherited problems from the prior administration, that former Vice Presidents generally wait substantially longer than seven weeks before, say, accusing the new President of inviting terrorist attacks on America, and that White House press secretaries do not welcome, or suffer silently, the partisan attacks of former Vice Presidents.

The most striking thing about Cheney's interview, however, has gone virtually uncommented upon by the media. The news coverage of the interview focused on Cheney's admission that he and Bush had strongly differed on the issue of a pardon for Scooter Libby. This was hardly news, however, as Cheney had said the same thing weeks earlier, the day after Inauguration day, publicly stating that he disagreed with the President's decision. Furthermore, Cheney's criticism of his Bosses decision, although extremely unusual for any Vice President, could be forgiven in light of Cheney's close relationship with Libby and his very personal interest in the matter.

What was truly unprecedented (and the gravest possible breach of Beltway etiquette) was Cheney's unequivocal repudiation of his own administration's policies on two critical foreign policy issues: Iran and North Korea. In each case, Cheney said clearly and forecefully that he disagreed with Bush's policies, and implied that Bush was too soft in dealing with the nuclear ambitions of these rogue states. George Bush? A pussy on keeping WMD from the terrorists? So sayeth Dick.

KING: You were not always happy with that [i.e. Bush's decision to engage Europe], especially at the end of the administration.

CHENEY: I was not always happy with that.

KING: You think your president invested too much in the European diplomacy?

CHENEY: Well, I can't say that. It was a choice he made.

It was indeed a choice Bush had made, and here was his own Vice President not only publicly disassociating himself from it, but unmistakably stating his disagreement with it! I defy any of our friends in the media to cite a single precedent for what Cheney did; a single precedent for a Vice President's statement of substantive policy difference with the President he served within a mere seven weeks of leaving office. If there is one truism in D.C., it's easier to find space between the stated positions of a President and his VP than space between Michael Steele's lips and Rush Limbaugh's ass.

Cheney was not finished with second-guessing the decisions of George Bush, however. After discussing Iran, Cheney and King moved directly to North Korea, whereupon Cheney explained that George Bush had been played for a fool by the North Koreans, and Cheney had warned Bush he'd be played for a fool.

CHENEY: I did not support the work that Chris Hill did with respect to North Korea.

KING: Why didn't the president listen to you?

CHENEY: Well, he gets to listen to whoever he wants to listen to, and I had my say. I got my chance to voice my views and my objections. I didn't the North Koreans were going to keep their end of the bargain in terms of what they agreed to, and they didn't.
Whoa. Dick didn't agree with the President's policy. And Dick was right. And the President was wrong, and foolishly so.

The almost completely insensate John King apparently didn't notice anything unusual about this. Here's Cheney making BIG AND BREAKING NEWS on King's Sunday chat show on CNN, and King reacts to Cheney's bombshell by...going to a commercial break. The mind boggles.

Bush, placed in the uncomfortable and unprecedented position for a former President of responding to criticism from his Vice President, declined to return fire, issuing a pro forma, standard-fare, traditional D.C. non-statement. Bush's spokesperson referred reporters to a previous Bush statement calling Cheney "a great Vice President."

Bush handled Cheney's criticism the way you're supposed to. This is the way it is done. These are the rules by which administrations and Presidents and Vice Presidents, current and former, play the game. It would be simply declasse for a President to criticize his Vice President. If Bush were to suggest that any of his administration's problems could be traced to Cheney's positions - say, for example, Cheney's uber-hawkishness on Iraq - how long would it be before Krauthammer, Kristol, Kagan and the rest of the neokon kolumnists would be tearing ol' Bushie a new one? And yet here is a former Vice President slamming his boss and we've yet to hear a cluck of the tongue or a muffled "oh, my" from the Broders and Brooks's of the media elite.

It is only two days since Cheney's attack on Bush, I suppose, and we may yet see the ruffling of feathers among the chattering classes. I sincerely hope we do, because frankly I'll start feeling a little anxious if we don't. I mean, who is this man Cheney who can not only criticize a new President and escape media censure but repudiate the President he served under without a peep from the hot house flowers in the White House press corp?

Well, I'm waiting. Bush might be muzzled by Beltway Rules (which, like the Constitution, apparently do not apply to Cheney), but surely W's former staffers will fan out to express off-the-record "disappointment" in the prodigal VP, and "bad form, dear Dick" columns will flow from the laptops of Broder and Boys. Right?

Meanwhile, I'm still wondering who this man Cheney is, that he can not only get away with this, but hypnotize the media into believing that this is the way it has always been: former Vice Presidents shitting on Presidents (current and former) and Presidents and their press secretaries constrained by decency to just smile and nod, out of respect for the former Vice President, even one displaying disrespect for Presidents. How can this man, the most widely reviled and disrespected figure in American politics since Nixon, shatter every Rule in the Beltway Book in the most brazen manner imaginable and be comfortable in the knowledge that the media will not only give him a pass, but will vilify the current administration for disrespecting the former Vice President? How can this man, whom one can reasonably believe ran death squads out of the White House and authorized the details torture, command the kind of respect from the media that not even former Presidents receive?

I was always amused by the Darth Vader jokes about Cheney, but really, what is this if not a Jedi Mind Trick played on the media?

I'll give the media another two or three days. If by then there isn't a single media bigwig hammering Cheney for his impolite treatment of Bush, I'll dig out the tinfoil hat, go down to the town square and start trying to warn people that Presidents come and Presidents go, but the REAL power in this country is wielded by a shadowy conspiracy of corporate interests, and even Presidents and the media dance on the strings held by these sinister forces.

And the Puppet Master is Dick Cheney.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Lying for Libby

There is a virtual blizzard of Libby Lies in the media right now. It is essential that the neocons obtain a pardon for Libby. So much of what they do is dependent upon the willingness of their apparatchiks to break the law. It is esssential that their accomplices believe they are immune from legal consequences. A conviction of one of their own, particularly a "made man" like Libby, will likely have a very chilling effect on the willingness of as yet unconvicted neocons to discharge their extralegal duties.

I attach the clip of Kate O'Bierne above because Matthews actually gives the old neocon crone some substantial pushback, and even on occasion exhibits outright disdain for O'Bierne's shameless lies. If only Fred Hiatt and Victoria Toensing and Chuckie Krauthammer were similarly held to account for their many distortions of fact and frequent misstatements of the law.

Herewith a brief compendium of Libby Lies.

1. "Libby learned early on that Armitage was the leaker, so the investiation should have stopped there and Fitzgerald should not have pursued the matter further."

Quite simply, Armitage was not "the leaker." He was "a leaker." Armitage's improper disclosure of Plame's affiliation with the CIA in no way mitigates Libby's. Any knowing disclosure of classified information to a party lacking the requisite security clearance is illegal. When Libby informed Judy Miller of Plame's identity he was leaking. It didn't matter if Armitage had independently leaked it, or leaked in coordination with Libby and/or the White House. The neocon lie here presumes that Armitage's leak effectively declassified the information, or at least immunized all subsequent leakers from any culpability. It's ridiculous.

2. "There was no underlying crime."

How do they know this? Crimes are committed all the time for which charges are never brought for lack of evidence sufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It is never logical to infer that a crime was not indeed committed merely because charges have not been brought. To make such an inference in any case where a principal or principals has been charged with obstrucing justice is particularly cynical.

Fitzgerald stated consistently, beginning with his very first press conference following announcement of the Libby indictment, that he couldn't tell whether the leaking of Plame's identity was criminal because the investigation was impeded by Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice. Although pressed repeatedly on this question in the 17 months since the indictment, Fitzgerald has steadfastly refused to concede that a crime had not been committed. How could he conclude otherwise? He was prosecuting a case against a perjurer, he was alleging that Libby was covering-up something by obstructing justice, and he was arguing (most memorably in his "cloud over the vice-president" summation) that Libby's obstruction of justice was preventing us from knowing facts pertinent to a full understanding of what had occurred and whether it was criminal. How could Fitzgerald or anyone else conclude under such circumstances that a crime had not been committed?

3. "Plame was not covert."

Plame was covert. Fitzgerald stated so during the course of legal proceedings, a rather risky thing to do were it not true. The CIA effectively confirmed it when it referred the matter of Plame's outing to the Justice Department. Plame's covert status had been widely reported in the press for more than a year prior to the Libby verdict. Her CIA affiliation was classified, and the CIA had taken steps to protect her covert status (including establishing the Brewster Jennings CIA-front company).

This is one of these truly deranged neocon distortions. This entire lie is based on the insane contention that the definiton of "covert" in the context of the Plame case is limited to the definition of that term in an obscure statute that is virtually never the basis for prosecution - the Intelligence Identifies Protection Act. The IIPA defines the term "covert" very narrowly because it imposes particularly draconian consequences on anyone who would knowingly out a U.S. intelligence operative covered by the statute's definition of "covert."

As is frequently the case in statutes and in legal drafting generally, the term as defined in a statute is distinctly different than the general meaning of the term. For example, the IIPA defines "covert" to require that the intelligence operative have been posted overseas at some point during the five years preceding the outing. Should this definition in the IIPA be understood to be arguing that any intelligence operative who has not been posted overseas does not have "covert" status within the CIA? Of course not. Does it in fact reflect the CIA's own standard for covert status? Of course not. The term "covert" in the IIPA is merely a drafting tool for restricting the scope of the statute and does not purport to control the CIA's designation of covert status nor determine whethor or not an agent is covert. Nor does the definition of "covert" in the IIPA in any way restrict the application of laws prohibiting the disclosure of classified information.

Many (if not most) intelligence agents who are indeed covert, and are officially deemed so by their agency, are not covered by the definition of "covert" in the IIPA. If they are outed intentionally and knowingly then laws regarding disclosure of classified information have been violated even if the IIPA has not. They are covert because, among other things, their identity as an intelligence operative is classified and because their agency has taken pains to conceal their identity as agents.

4. "No crime was committed because disclosure of Plame's identity was not violative of the IIPA."

Utterly absurd. One might as well argue that Dennis Kozlowski (the Tyco swindler) was not guilty because his financial defalcations did not violate the murder statutes. The neocons would like you to believe you're not guilty unless you break all the laws relating to a given act, including the IIPA if the act involved leaking the identity of a CIA agent. However, as any non-neocon school age child would know, if you violate one law - say, the law prohibiting knowing and intentional disclosure of classified information - then you've committed a crime, no matter how many laws you didn't break.

5. "Russert could have misrecollected, and therefore Libby would not be guilty if indeed he'd heard of Plame from Russert."

This is a particularly stupid piece of neocon anti-logic, and the foundation of Charles Krauthammer's Libby Lie Fest in this morning's Washington Post. You know your opposition's case is weak when even the most charitable and expansive reading of their premises fails to establish their argument. For example, even if one were to concede that Libby was right and Russert did indeed tell Libby of Plame's identity, Libby was indicted not merely for claiming that Russert had informed him of Plame's identity but for claiming that he didn't know of Plame's identity until he learned it from Russert. Even if Russert did indeed tell Libby of Plame's identity, there are nine other conversations testified to by reporter and other administration officials - Cheney, Addington, Cathie Martin, Ari Fleischer and others - that took place prior to Libby's conversation with Russert and therefore contradict Libby's claim that he first learned from Russert. Russert's testimony was merely the coup de grace for Libby's guilt. That guilt had already been well established by the testimony of Libby's associates in the administration and his BFF Judy Miller.

6. "There was no conspiracy to out Valerie Plame."

Neocon lapdog Fred Hiatt made this argument - again - in the Washington Post editorial the other day. "The trial has provided convincing evidence that there was no conspiracy to punish Mr. Wilson by leaking Ms. Plame's identity," Fred insisted, stamping his little neocon feet.

This one is particularly outrageous. Numerous administration officials, including Cheney, have testified to more than a dozen conversations regarding Plame in the weeks preceding Plame's outing in Novak's column. They have admitted that it was their intent to rebut what they untruthfully claimed was Wilson's contention that he'd been sent to Niger by Cheney. They have argued, testified and pleaded that disclosure of Plame's identity was a justifiable means toward this end. Following this flurry of internal discussions among administration officials, numerous administration officials - including Libby, Fleischer, Bartlett, Armitage - proceeded to disclose Plame's identity to journalists and, in many instances, falsely claimed that Plame had sent Wilson to Niger. Libby himself plied Judy Miller with this information on multiple occasions, and Miller certainly would have published Libby's leaks had Bill Keller not decided that Miller stories related to WMD were not particularly reliable anymore.

But Fred Hiatt sees no "conspiracy." Well, it is by now a favorite tactic of neocons to imply that "conspiracies" exist only in the mind of the demented; that anyone who alleges conspiracy is a nut. Fortunately, one need not find a "conspiracy" in order to infer that Libby's motive in obstructing justice was to conceal nefarious activities in Cheney's office and in the White House. One need only conclude, as Fitzgerald has asserted, that there was "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" -- using classified information -- to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" Joe Wilson.

7. "Libby shouldn't take the fall if Armitage didn't."

Armitage apparently didn't lie to investigators and a grand jury. And the fact that Armitage wasn't charged for improper disclosure of classified information could be attributable to either of two very good reasons: either Fitzgerald couldn't establish that Armitage was aware that Plame's identity was classified, or Fitzgerald judged, in the exercise of his prosecutorial discretion (suddenly a favorite phrase of the neocons), that Armitage's idle gossip was nothing more, had no malign intent, and therefore was not worth prosecuting even if it technically violated laws governing disclosure of classified material. For a guy the neocons are trying to paint as an out-of-control prosecutor, Fitzgerald in fact used his prosecutorial discretion to avoid various prosecutions that could have been justified against Armitage and others based on their involvement in leaking Plame's identity.

8. "You're entitled to a pardon as long as you continue to maintain your innocence."

Well, I'm being a little playful here. I've only heard this from one neocon windbag, O'Bierne, and I've interpreted her words freely. But there is no question that she told Matthews that Libby deserved a pardon because, unlike Clinton, he didn't plead guilty. As Matthews clearly realized, as evidenced by his reaction, O'Bierne is quite simply insane. Or, alternatively, the most shameless and maniacal apologist for neocon criminality this side of the execrable Mary Matalin.

Watch the clip of O'Bierne on Hardball, beginning about four minutes in. She unmistakably argues that Scooter is innocent because he says so, jury verdict be damned. This is the clearest statement to date by a neocon of something many of us have long suspected: they truly believe that they are above the law.

9. Wilson lied when he claimed Cheney sent him to Niger.

He never claimed it. Or if he did claim it (or imply it), his NYT op-ed corrected the record by clearly stating that he was sent by the CIA in response to inquiries from Cheney. Cheney and his people had to invent this lie in order to justify their outing of Plame, i.e., they contended Wilson had falsely claimed that Cheney had sent him and they (Cheney, Libby et al) were merely correcting the record and exposing his deceit when they outed his wife.

This is another example of the neocon Hall of Mirrors and the embedded lie technique. They use a lie (that Wilson had claimed to have been sent to Niger by Cheney) in order to justify a second lie (that Plame had sent Wilson to Niger).

10. "Plame sent Wilson to Niger."

She did not have authority to send Wilson to Niger. She informed those at the CIA who possessed such authority (and who in fact dispatched Wilson to Niger) that her husband was a career diplomat with extensive contacts in Niger. This is another example of a lie that would be insufficient to buttress the neocon case even if true. Cheney argues that he didn't receive a report on Wilson's trip because he didn't send Wilson to Niger. But is it credible that the CIA would not have forwarded Wilson's findings to Cheney's office if, as the CIA has confirmed, the CIA dispatched Wilson to Niger in an effort to answer certain inquiries posed by the Vice President?

Well, the truth is that is may indeed be credible that the CIA would not have forwarded Wilson's findings to Cheney, because by that time it may have been pluperfectly apparent to the CIA that Cheney wasn't interested in intelligence that was inconvenient for his warmongering agenda. But the point is that the provenance of Wilson's trip was not particularly probative of whether Cheney would have received a report or not, and therefore outing Plame didn't serve to buttress the credibility of Cheney's claim that he never received the findings of Wilson's trip. And if it did not serve as a rebuttal, then reprisal against the Wilson's is the default motive for Plame's outing.

There are many other lies. I may supplement this post. I welcome the submission by others of their favorite neocon Libby Lies, as well.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


(UPDATE: Frank Gaffney was peddling the same lies discussed below on the Tucker Carlson show on Tuesday. Amazing. The above video is a brief clip of Gaffney's Lie Offensive on "Tucker.")

Glenn Greenwald and neocon policy maven Frank Gaffney appeared on Alan Colmes’s radio show last week. Glenn posted on their debate at his new blog at Salon.com. The entire broadcast is available for listening (and downloading) at Crooksandliars.com.

The impetus for this clash of good and evil was Gaffney’s eliminationist commentary in the Washington Times last week, in which Gaffney appeared to advocate hanging anyone who, well, disagrees with Frank and his neocon buddies. As you’ve probably heard by now, Gaffney’s screed began with a fabricated quote from Abraham Lincoln that suggested Honest Abe shared Frank’s fondness for the noose in cases of political dissent. I’d link to the column, but it appears to have been "disappeared" by the Washington Times (suggesting the possibility that the Washington Times may not be totally without shame). Gaffney, undeterred, regurgitated yet another eliminationist rant yesterday, the gist of which is that anyone who dissents from the Iraq policy of Dear Leader is guilty of suborning desertion by our troops in Iraq. I tell you, this man Gaffney is absolutely incorrigible.

I won’t bother citing Frank’s curriculum vitae here simply because, as will become apparent, the man is a complete charlatan. He purports to be an expert in matters of Iraq and Iraqi WMD programs, but I have charitably concluded that Gaffney is nothing of the sort. I say “charitably” because were Gaffney indeed an authority on Iraqi WMD then he would be one of the most brazen and shameless liars extant, for only someone either pathetically uninformed or pathologically dishonest could assert that the Iraq Survey Group, the Bush administration's handpicked WMD inspectors in post-invasion Iraq, had confirmed that Iraq maintained ongoing WMD programs in the period immediately preceding the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Gaffney, apparently unnerved by Glenn's scathing critique of his Washington Times column (and perhaps taken aback by an unusually aggressive Alan Colmes), made a series of shocking claims regarding the findings of the Iraq Survey Group, claims that are in each case belied by the ISG's own report (commonly referred to as the "Duelfer Report"). Virtually every claim made by Gaffney regarding Iraqi WMD and the Duelfer Report was an egregious distortion, and one need look no further than the "key findings" of the Duelfer Report itself in order to establish Gaffney's ignorance or deceit (take your pick).

Here is Gaffney's first barrage of distortions, to the effect that the Duelfer Report found Iraq was producing chemical and biological agents and placing them in aerosol cans and perfume sprayers for shipment to the U.S. and Europe:

Gaffney: "There was a hot production line for chemical and biological agents in Iraq." He says it's a fact. He says the Duelfer Report confirmed it. But here is the Duelfer Report's "key finding" with regard to whether Iraq was producing chemical agents:
Iraq constructed a number of new plants starting in the mid-1990s that enhanced its chemical infrastructure, although its overall industry had not fully recovered from the effects of sanctions, and had not regained pre-1991 technical sophistication or production capabilities prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). ISG did not discover chemical process or production units configured to produce key precursors or CW agents. However, site visits and debriefs revealed that Iraq maintained its ability for reconfiguring and ‘making-do’ with available equipment as substitutes for sanctioned items.
The Duelfer Report was equally unequivocal on the subject of whether Iraq was producing biological agents:
ISG is aware of BW-applicable research since 1996, but ISG judges it was not conducted in connection with a BW program. ISG has uncovered no evidence of illicit research conducted into BW agents by universities or research organizations.
As for Frank's aerosol cans and perfume sprayers filled with chemical and biological poisons, the Duelfer Report recounted Iraqi efforts in the 1980's and early 1990's to develop aerosol delivered biological agents but makes only one mention of aerosol related efforts post-1992.
Mun’im Mustafa Fatahi, a close friend of Dr. Al Azmirli, reportedly told Al
Azmirli that a group of people was actively pursuing ricin for weaponization. As
of March 2003, ricin was being developed into stable liquid to deliver as an
aerosol in small rockets, cluster bombs, and smoke generators, according to Al
Ultimately, however, the Duelfer Report deemed this account to be "based on single source reporting of unclear veracity." In short, Gaffney's claim of Iraqi production and export of aerosol delivered chemical agents is nothing more than another febrile wingnut delusion.

But Frank was just getting going. This next clip is truly priceless.

Gaffney claims to be directly quoting from the Duelfer Report when he asserts that Iraq was engaging in "active production of chemical and biological weapons" (not merely chem/bio agents), and that "Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction programs." Again, let's go to the Duelfer Report, the key findings of which rendered unambiguous judgments on each of the three categories of allegedIraqi WMD : biological, chemical and nuclear.

With regard to biological weapons, the Duelfer Report stated:
In practical terms, with the destruction of the Al Hakam facility, Iraq
abandoned its ambition to obtain advanced BW weapons quickly. ISG found
no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes."
The Duelfer Report similarly found no evidence of any chemical weapons program:
While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad’s desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it should WMD be discovered.
And with regard to Iraq's alleged nuclear program - the existence of which Cheney was so certain, the "mushroom clouds" of Condi's nightmare- the Duelfer Report found not merely a lack of evidence of any program, but concluded with finality that a nuclear weapons program in Iraq had not existed since 1991:
Iraq did not possess a nuclear device, nor had it tried to reconstitute a capability to produce nuclear weapons after 1991. ISG has uncovered no information to support allegations of Iraqi pursuit of uranium from abroad in the post-Operation Desert Storm era.
Again, each of the preceding three paragraphs are contained in the "key findings" of the Duelfer Report regarding the three different categories of WMD: nuclear, chemical and biological. These key findings contradict Gaffney's claims that the Duelfer Report had found "active production of chemcial and biological weapons" and "weapons of mass destruction programs" in Iraq.

Even while conceding that large stockpiles of chemical weapons were not found in Iraq, Gaffney resorts to another gross distortion when he claims that the Duelfer Report was unable to explain what had happened to such stockpiles; that the fate of such stockpiles were a "mystery." Another "key finding" of the Duelfer Report stated "[w]hile a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991." Mystery solved, Frank.

As Gaffney would say, I'm not making this up. These are excerpts from the Duelfer Report. These findings were widely reported in October 2004 in connection with Duelfer's delivery of the report to Congress. The press and Duelfer himself similarly deemed the findings of the Iraq Survey Group to have contradicted virtually every claim made by the Bush administration (and reiterated by Gaffney on Colmes's show) regarding alleged Iraqi WMD and WMD programs. This is from the Washington Post article published in connection with Duelfer's delivery of his report to Congress:
The 1991 Persian Gulf War and subsequent U.N. inspections destroyed Iraq's illicit weapons capability and, for the most part, Saddam Hussein did not try to rebuild it, according to an extensive report by the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq that contradicts nearly every prewar assertion made by top administration officials about Iraq.

Charles A. Duelfer, whom the Bush administration chose to complete the U.S. investigation of Iraq's weapons programs, said Hussein's ability to produce nuclear weapons had "progressively decayed" since 1991. Inspectors, he said, found no evidence of "concerted efforts to restart the program."

The findings were similar on biological and chemical weapons. While Hussein had long dreamed of developing an arsenal of biological agents, his stockpiles had been destroyed and research stopped years before the United States led the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Duelfer said Hussein hoped someday to resume a chemical weapons effort after U.N. sanctions ended, but had no stocks and had not researched making the weapons for a dozen years.

Duelfer's report, delivered yesterday to two congressional committees, represents the government's most definitive accounting of Hussein's weapons programs, the assumed strength of which the Bush administration presented as a central reason for the war. While previous reports have drawn similar conclusions, Duelfer's assessment went beyond them in depth, detail and level of certainty.

"We were almost all wrong" on Iraq, Duelfer told a Senate panel yesterday.
The Duelfer Report was a massive undertaking, a 1000 page plus opus (and that's excluding the addenda). Failing to confirm the existence of any WMD programs, it strives mightily to give the Bush administration and its neocon allies something to grab onto, something sinister sounding and redolent of Cheney's "reconstituted nuclear weapons" and Condi's "mushroom clouds." Ultimately, Duelfer settles on the ridiculously attenuated concept of "weapons of mass destruction related program activities" (Colmes touches on this briefly in the above audio clip, noting the progression of Bush administration claims from WMD to WMD programs to WMD related program activities). Bush and his handlers were so pleased with this Deulfer Report construction that they inserted it into Bush's 2004 state of the union address, a gambit that succeeded in fooling a large segment of wingnuttia into believing that ongoing WMD programs had been found in Iraq.

A close examination of Duelfer's invention reveals that "weapons of mass destruction program-related activities" consisted of nothing more than the detritus of Saddam's dismantled pre-1991 WMD programs. My favorite was the Deulfer Report’s categorization as a “WMD related program activity” of Saddam’s redeployment of scientists and technicians away from WMD related research to non-weapons related research in their areas of expertise. You read that right – Saddam’s dismantling of WMD programs and redeployment of scientists and technicians was itself a WMD related program activity! As long as highly trained Iraqi personnel continued to work in their chosen fields of physics, chemistry and biology they were (in the estimation of the Duelfer Report) engaged in WMD related program activity. One is left with the impression that unless Saddam had relegated his Ph.D.’s to peddling falafel as Baghdad street vendors that Duelfer would have somehow swept their activities into the vast category of “WMD related program activity.”

The limitlessly elastic concept of “WMD related program activity” is testament to the lengths to which Duelfer was willing to go in order to provide some figleaf to the Bush administration’s lies about Iraq WMD. And yet even Duelfer felt compelled to acknowledge in the most unambiguous language imaginable that Iraq had neither WMD nor WMD programs in the period preceding the invasion of Iraq.

Listen again to the audio clips of Gaffney’s outrageous claims. I have listened to them numerous times in the last week. As delighted as I was by Glenn’s relentless evisceration of Gaffney, I found Gaffney’s seeming fearlessness in publicly propounding lies to be profoundly unsettling. He had the maniacal persistence of one of those guys in the midst of an angel dust induced rage who charges into a hail of police gunfire, absolutely heedless of the consequences. His unreasoning adamance was unmistakably of a kind with the recent delusional fulminations of Cheney, Kristol, Krauthammer and the rest of the patients in the neocon psyche ward.

These people will not stop of their own accord, no matter how discredited they are and regardless of the political consequences for their Manchurian candidate in the White House. They appear to be unconcerned about the consequences of continuing to propagate the most outrageous lies and confident that their grip on Bush (and through Bush ultimate power in this country) will insulate them from any backlash in response to their brazen deceptions. I don't know about you, but I find this scary, scary in the extreme. It suggests the neocons believe they have nothing to lose, and care not at all that the rest of us have so much to lose.

Here's one last, brief audio clip of Glenn and Gaffe on the Colmes show.

Listen at the end of the clip as Gaffney resorts to a silly schoolyard "wanna bet" taunt in a pitiful attempt to lend a patina of bluster to his absurd distortions. I doubt Glenn would take up Gaffney on his offer to wager (it doesn't seem like Glenn's style), or that Gaffney's offer to wager even remains open. But we already know that Frank Gaffney, like Jonah Goldberg (Gaffney's fellow neocon lackey with a penchant to parlay), would certainly have lost his bet.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Attention Democrats!

This is how it is done. This is how an opposition party calls out the idiocies and atrocities of a nation's leader.

Lieberman Is Undermining The War Effort

Joe Klein, generally drum major in the "suckin' up to Lieberman" parade, takes a new look at Joe in his column in this week's edition of Time (sorry, no link - Klein's column is not online yet).

Lieberman steered Petraeus toward his objective--a clear statement from the general that such a resolution would hurt the morale of our troops in Iraq and give the enemy "encouragement." Petraeus, clearly uncomfortable with this line of questioning, refused to give a direct answer: "A commander in such an endeavor would obviously like the enemy to feel there was no hope."

In the initial debate on Iraq war resolutions last week, Lieberman was at it again. The notably mild Warner-Levin resolution of disapproval would "discourage our troops and hearten our enemies," he said.

"You have to ask who is really undermining this mission?" says Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a West Point graduate. "Didn't the Bush Administration undermine it from the start by going to war without sufficient cause, without sufficient planning, without sufficient equipment for our troops? Even now, I would argue that the Bush Administration is undermining this surge by focusing merely on the military part of the mission, ignoring the need to reform the Iraqi government, to find a regional diplomatic solution and, of course, ignoring the real facts on the ground."

"We're on the brink of a decisive battle for Baghdad," Lieberman said on the Senate floor. But that was wrong too: the counterinsurgency tactics General Petraeus will use are gradual, not "decisive" in the traditional military sense. We are not on the brink of anything except a long hard slog. I suspect Lieberman understands this but is hyping the mission for dramatic effect. If so, he is raising unfair expectations for the troops and the nation. I'd say that comes pretty damn close to undermining the mission.
I would take Klein's analysis a step further and argue that Lieberman has been undermining the war effort for years by offering rosy assessments of conditions in Iraq that the public couldn't reconcile with the ever increasing carnage. Americans have gradually come to realize they are being fed bullshit, and they understand Lieberman (and Cheney, et al) wouldn't be feeding them bullshit unless things were really bad in Iraq. As each "turning point" has come and gone without any improvement in Iraq, as "last throes" have become death throes, the confidence and trust of the public in our pro-war leaders has eroded, and their repeated disappointments have congealed into a sullen and increasingly angry rejection of the war and the warmongers in our government. That is how war efforts are undermined. That's what destroyed public support for the Vietnam war, and it's what has destroyed support for the Iraq war.

And we have Joe Lieberman to thank for it. Keep the lies comin', Joe. Hell, if you get Gerstein on the job 24/7 we may have the troop home by September.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Iraq Flim Flam

Noam Chomsky, from a recent interview.

US policy should be that of all aggressors: (1) pay reparations; (2) attend to the will of the victims; (3) hold the guilty parties accountable, in accord with the Nuremberg principles, the UN Charter, and other international instruments. A more practical proposal is to work to change the domestic society and culture substantially enough so that what should be done can at least become a topic for discussion. That is a large task, not only on this issue, though I think élite opposition is far more ferocious than that of the general public.
There were no WMD in Iraq. Iraq had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11. Reparations are owed. But the war criminals, the neocons, their republican enablers and even many democrats can be expected to argue that our putatively noble intentions exempt us from a reparation obligation, or that our gift of the misshapen and stunted democracy in Iraq is reparation enough. How completely absurd. We've destroyed their country, killed hundreds of thousands of innocents, and did so without any justification whatsoever, but like some flim-flam man, some plaid-suited huckster, we'll try to sell those Iraqi rubes on the notion that purple fingers are reparation enough. "Sorry 'bout that whole WMD thing; sorry 'bout that mistaken belief that you were involved in 9/11; but ain't democracy grand?"

"...Even Worse..."

Jonathan Chait has a column in this morning's L.A. Times slamming the utter vacuousness of the arguments made by those, like Lieberman, who appear to favor endless war. It's entitled "At This Point, It's Kamikaze Strategy In Iraq." Of course, no such editorial could be complete without discussing the man who has become the very symbol of endless war:

What do the administration's supporters say to this? Let's look at a brief survey. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), one of the most vocal supporters of Bush's strategy, has made two major statements on the war in 2007. In the first, a letter in January, he wrote that "withdrawing from the fight is not a sound, long-term policy for the national security of the United States. Withdrawing from the fight is a recipe for defeat." How did Lieberman envision us winning? What about the reports that our actions are simply fueling the civil war? His letter had nothing to say.

Since then, Lieberman delivered a speech on the war, and that was even worse. The entire point of it was that a Senate vote of no confidence in Bush would demoralize our allies and embolden the enemy. Nothing at all about how the Bush strategy could work.
Chait's kamikaze metaphor is perfectly apt. Like the crazed militarists in Japan at the end of WW II, they can neither promise nor deliver victory, but continue to send people to their deaths simply because they cannot accept defeat. It was a strategy conceived by war criminals then, and it is a strategy conceived by war criminals today.

On the bright side, although Lieberman may be delighted at having been adopted by bush and the 30% of Americans who can't get enought war in Iraq, he has become the face of a corrupt and failed Iraq war for the remaining 70% of America. Our own Joe Lieberman, with his witless Islamophobia and disgraceful slandering of dissent, is every day helping more and more Americans to realize not only that there is no victory in Iraq, but that there is no honor in continued support for the war.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Lieberman Officially Declared "National Joke"

Thank you, Stephen Colbert. Joe Lieberman is now a national joke.

Colbert reveals Lieberman for the laughingstock he has become. But in all fairness Gen. Pace beat Colbert to the punch, arguing ealier this week that "the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy - period." Gen. Pace said even if our enemies somehow were to take comfort from ostensible division in our government, they "don't have a clue how democracy works." As Colbert and Gen. Pace both point out, it is utterly absurd to surrender our constitutional right (and for Senators to abrogate their constitutional obligation) to discuss and debate Iraq war policy merely because a lunatic/fanatic half-a-world away might misconstrue the glory of democracy as a weakness.

How completely ridiculous. Just like Joe.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Money Don't Buy Everything, It's True...

...but what it don't buy, neocons can't use.

Does anyone else see the parallel between spreading around 363 tons of legal tender in Iraq and Joe's $387,000 greasing of urban Connecticut?

Embarrassingly Transparent

Man, now this is a righteous condemnation of Lyin' Joe. John Schneider of New Milford says it all in this letter to the editor of the Danbury News-Times. Here's the opening paragraph of John's letter:
The lies are embarrassingly transparent. The supporters of the illegal, immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq, including Connecticut's own special-interest sponge, Joe Lieberman, are now telling us that opposing the escalation of this conflict gives comfort to the enemy and hurts our troops.
I urge everyone to click on the link above and read John's letter in its entirety.