The BUSH JUNTA -"The Propaganda Administration"

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It Takes a Potemkin Village</font>

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<b>by Frank Rich
(Late Edition (East Coast). New York, N.Y.: Dec 11, 2005 </b>

WHEN a government substitutes propaganda for governing, the Potemkin village is all. Since we don't get honest information from this White House, we must instead, as the Soviets once did, decode our rulers' fictions to discern what's really happening. What we're seeing now is the wheels coming off: As the administration's stagecraft becomes more baroque, its credibility tanks further both at home and abroad. The propaganda techniques may be echt Goebbels, but they increasingly come off as pure Ali G.

The latest desperate shifts in White House showmanship say at least as much about our progress (or lack of same) in Iraq over the past 32 months as reports from the ground. When President Bush announced the end of ''major combat operations'' in May 2003, his Imagineers felt the need for only a single elegant banner declaring ''Mission Accomplished.'' Cut to Nov. 30, 2005: the latest White House bumper sticker, ''Plan for Victory,'' multiplied by Orwellian mitosis over nearly every square inch of the rather ''Queer Eye'' stage set from which Mr. Bush delivered his oration at the Naval Academy.

And to no avail. Despite the insistently redundant graphics -- and despite the repetition of the word ''victory'' 15 times in the speech itself -- Americans believed ''Plan for Victory'' far less than they once did ''Mission Accomplished.'' The first New York Times-CBS News Poll since the Naval Academy pep talk, released last Thursday, found that only 25 percent of Americans say the president has ''a clear plan for victory in Iraq.'' Tom Cruise and evolution still have larger constituencies in America than that.

Mr. Bush's ''Plan for Victory'' speech was, of course, the usual unadulterated nonsense. Its overarching theme -- ''We will never accept anything less than complete victory'' -- was being contradicted even as he spoke by rampant reports of Pentagon plans for stepped-up troop withdrawals between next week's Iraqi elections and the more important (for endangered Republicans) American Election Day of 2006. The specifics were phony, too: Once again inflating the readiness of Iraqi troops, Mr. Bush claimed that the recent assault on Tal Afar ''was primarily led by Iraqi security forces'' -- a fairy tale immediately unmasked by Michael Ware, a Time reporter embedded in that battle's front lines, as ''completely wrong.'' No less an authority than the office of Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, promptly released a 59-page report documenting his own military's inadequate leadership, equipment and training.

But this variety of Bush balderdash is such old news that everyone except that ga-ga 25 percent instantaneously tunes it out. We routinely assume that the subtext (i.e., the omissions and deliberate factual errors) of his speeches and scripted town meetings will be more revealing than the texts themselves. What raised the ''Plan for Victory'' show to new heights of disinformation was the subsequent revelation that the administration's main stated motive for the address -- the release of a 35-page document laying out a ''National Strategy for Victory in Iraq'' -- was as much a theatrical prop as the stunt turkey the president posed with during his one furtive visit to Baghdad two Thanksgivings ago.

As breathlessly heralded by Scott McClellan, this glossy brochure was ''an unclassified version'' of the strategy in place since the war's inception in ''early 2003.'' But Scott Shane of The New York Times told another story. Through a few keystrokes, the electronic version of the document at whitehouse.gov could be manipulated to reveal text ''usually hidden from public view.'' What turned up was the name of the document's originating author: Peter Feaver, a Duke political scientist who started advising the National Security Council only this June. Dr. Feaver is an expert on public opinion about war, not war itself. Thus we now know that what Mr. McClellan billed as a 2003 strategy for military victory is in fact a P.R. strategy in place for no more than six months. That solves the mystery of why Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey of the Army, who is in charge of training Iraqi troops, told reporters that he had never seen this ''National Strategy'' before its public release last month.

In a perfect storm of revelations, the ''Plan for Victory'' speech fell on the same day that The Los Angeles Times exposed new doings on another front in the White House propaganda war. An obscure Defense Department contractor, the Lincoln Group, was caught paying off Iraqi journalists to run upbeat news articles secretly written by American Army personnel and translated into Arabic (at a time when American troops in harm's way are desperate for Arabic translators of their own). One of the papers running the fake news is Al Mutamar, the Baghdad daily run by associates of Ahmad Chalabi. So now we know that at least one P.R. plan, if not a plan for victory, has been consistent since early 2003. As Mr. Chalabi helped feed spurious accounts of Saddam's W.M.D. to American newspapers to gin up the war, so his minions now help disseminate happy talk to his own country's press to further the illusion that the war is being won.

The Lincoln Group's articles (e.g., ''The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq'') are not without their laughs -- for us, if not for the Iraqis, whose intelligence is insulted and whose democratic aspirations are betrayed by them. But the texts are no more revealing than those of Mr. Bush's speeches. Look instead at the cover-up that has followed the Los Angeles Times revelations. The administration and its frontmen at once started stonewalling from a single script. Mr. McClellan, Pentagon spokesmen, Senator John Warner and Donald Rumsfeld all give the identical answer to the many press queries. We don't have the facts, they say, even as they maintain that the Lincoln Group articles themselves are factual.

The Pentagon earmarks more than $100 million in taxpayers' money for various Lincoln Group operations, and it can't get any facts? Though the 30-year-old prime mover in the shadowy outfit, one Christian Bailey, fled from Andrea Mitchell of NBC News when she pursued him on camera in Washington, certain facts are proving not at all elusive.

Ms. Mitchell and other reporters have learned that Mr. Bailey has had at least four companies since 2002, most of them interlocking, short-lived and under phantom names. Government Executive magazine also discovered that Mr. Bailey ''was a founder and active participant in Lead21,'' a Republican ''fund-raising and networking operation'' -- which has since scrubbed his name from its Web site -- and that he and a partner in his ventures once listed a business address identical to their Washington residence. This curious tale, with its trail of cash payoffs, trading in commercial Iraqi real estate and murky bidding procedures for lucrative U.S. government contracts, could have been lifted from ''Syriana'' or ''Glengarry Glen Ross.'' While Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. McClellan valiantly continue their search for ''the facts,'' what we know so far can safely be filed under the general heading of ''Lay, DeLay and Abramoff.''

The more we learn about such sleaze in the propaganda war, the more we see it's failing for the same reason as the real war: incompetence. Much as the disastrous Bremer regime botched the occupation of Iraq with bad decisions made by its array of administration cronies and relatives (among them Ari Fleischer's brother), so the White House doesn't exactly get the biggest bang for the bucks it shells out to cronies for fake news.

Until he was unmasked as an administration shill, Armstrong Williams was less known for journalism than for striking a deal to dismiss a messy sexual-harassment suit against him in 1999. When an Army commander had troops sign 500 identical good-news form letters to local newspapers throughout America in 2003, the fraud was so transparent it was almost instantly debunked. The fictional scenarios concocted for Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman also unraveled quickly, as did last weekend's Pentagon account of 10 marines killed outside Falluja on a ''routine foot patrol.'' As the NBC correspondent Jim Miklaszewski told Don Imus last week, he received calls within hours from the fallen's loved ones about how the marines had been slaughtered after being recklessly sent to an unprotected site for a promotion ceremony.

Though the White House doesn't know that its jig is up, everyone else does. Americans see that New Orleans is in as sorry shape today as it was under Brownie three months ago. The bipartisan 9/11 commissioners confirm that homeland security remains a pork pit. Condi Rice's daily clarifications of her clarifications about American torture policies are contradicted by new reports of horrors before her latest circumlocutions leave her mouth. And the president's latest Iraq speeches -- most recently about the ''success'' stories of Najaf and Mosul -- still don't stand up to the most rudimentary fact checking.

This is why the most revealing poll number in the Times/CBS survey released last week was Mr. Bush's approval rating for the one area where things are going relatively well, the economy: 38 percent, only 2 points higher than his rating on Iraq. It's a measure of the national cynicism bequeathed by the Bush culture that seeing anything, even falling prices at the pump, is no longer believing.

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Is There Any Doubt, Anymore
About What's Happening To America Under This Bush Junta??? <img src="http://www.smirkingchimp.com/images/topics/thief.jpg"><img src="http://www.smirkingchimp.com/images/topics/republicans.jpg">



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Will the Real Traitors Please Stand Up?</font>
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<b>By FRANK RICH
Published: May 14, 2006</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2006/05/14/opinion/14rich.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26hp&OP=16c33a6eQ2Fcnxvc0oQ3AVV0cJffdcficurcV9Q25OQ25VOcurQ3AQ25lqQ3Cq05Q5D

<br>WHEN America panics, it goes hunting for scapegoats. But from Salem onward, we've more often than not ended up pillorying the innocent. Abe Rosenthal, the legendary Times editor who died last week, and his publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, were denounced as treasonous in 1971 when they defied the Nixon administration to publish the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of the Vietnam War. Today we know who the real traitors were: the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes. It was precisely those lies and mistakes, of course, that were laid bare by the thousands of pages of classified Pentagon documents leaked to both The Times and The Washington Post.
<br>This history is predictably repeating itself now that the public has turned on the war in Iraq. The administration's die-hard defenders are desperate to deflect blame for the fiasco, and, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.'s secret &quot;black site&quot; Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism.
<br>President Bush, himself a sometime leaker of intelligence, called the leaking of the N.S.A. surveillance program a &quot;shameful act&quot; that is &quot;helping the enemy.&quot; Porter Goss, who was then still C.I.A. director, piled on in February with a Times Op-Ed piece denouncing leakers for potentially risking American lives and compromising national security. When reporters at both papers were awarded Pulitzer Prizes last month, administration surrogates, led by bloviator in chief William Bennett, called for them to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.
<br>We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin.
<br>Well before Dana Priest of The Post uncovered the secret prisons last November, the C.I.A. had failed to keep its detention &quot;secrets&quot; secret. Having obtained flight logs, The Sunday Times of London first reported in November 2004 that the United States was flying detainees &quot;to countries that routinely use torture.&quot; Six months later, The New York Times added many details, noting that &quot;plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes' movements.&quot; These articles, capped by Ms. Priest's, do not impede our ability to detain terrorists. But they do show how the administration, by condoning torture, has surrendered the moral high ground to anti-American jihadists and botched the war of ideas that we can't afford to lose.
<br>The N.S.A. eavesdropping exposed in December by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The Times is another American debacle. Hoping to suggest otherwise and cast the paper as treasonous, Dick Cheney immediately claimed that the program had saved &quot;thousands of lives.&quot; The White House's journalistic mouthpiece, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, wrote that the Times expos&eacute; &quot;may have ruined one of our most effective anti-Al Qaeda surveillance programs.&quot;
<br>Surely they jest. If this is one of our &quot;most effective&quot; programs, we're in worse trouble than we thought. Our enemy is smart enough to figure out on its own that its phone calls are monitored 24/7, since even under existing law the government can eavesdrop for 72 hours before seeking a warrant (which is almost always granted). As The Times subsequently reported, the N.S.A. program was worse than ineffective; it was counterproductive. Its gusher of data wasted F.B.I. time and manpower on wild-goose chases and minor leads while uncovering no new active Qaeda plots in the United States. Like the N.S.A. database on 200 million American phone customers that was described last week by USA Today, this program may have more to do with monitoring &quot;traitors&quot; like reporters and leakers than with tracking terrorists.
<br>Journalists and whistle-blowers who relay such government blunders are easily defended against the charge of treason. It's often those who make the accusations we should be most worried about. Mr. Goss, a particularly vivid example, should not escape into retirement unexamined. He was so inept that an overzealous witch hunter might mistake him for a Qaeda double agent.
<br>Even before he went to the C.I.A., he was a drag on national security. In &quot;Breakdown,&quot; a book about intelligence failures before the 9/11 attacks, the conservative journalist Bill Gertz delineates how Mr. Goss, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, played a major role in abdicating Congressional oversight of the C.I.A., trying to cover up its poor performance while terrorists plotted with impunity. After 9/11, his committee's &quot;investigation&quot; of what went wrong was notoriously toothless.
<br>Once he ascended to the C.I.A. in 2004, Mr. Goss behaved like most other Bush appointees: he put politics ahead of the national interest, and stashed cronies and partisan hacks in crucial positions. On Friday, the F.B.I. searched the home and office of one of them, Dusty Foggo, the No. 3 agency official in the Goss regime. Mr. Foggo is being investigated by four federal agencies pursuing the bribery scandal that has already landed former Congressman Randy (Duke) Cunningham in jail. Though Washington is titillated by gossip about prostitutes and Watergate &quot;poker parties&quot; swirling around this Warren Harding-like tale, at least the grafters of Teapot Dome didn't play games with the nation's defense during wartime.
<br>Besides driving out career employees, underperforming on Iran intelligence and scaling back a daily cross-agency meeting on terrorism, Mr. Goss's only other apparent accomplishment at the C.I.A. was his war on those traitorous leakers. Intriguingly, this was a new cause for him. &quot;There's a leak every day in the paper,&quot; he told The Sarasota Herald-Tribune when the identity of the officer Valerie Wilson was exposed in 2003. He argued then that there was no point in tracking leaks down because &quot;that's all we'd do.&quot;
<br>What prompted Mr. Goss's about-face was revealed in his early memo instructing C.I.A. employees to &quot;support the administration and its policies in our work.&quot; His mission was not to protect our country but to prevent the airing of administration dirty laundry, including leaks detailing how the White House ignored accurate C.I.A. intelligence on Iraq before the war. On his watch, C.I.A. lawyers also tried to halt publication of &quot;Jawbreaker,&quot; the former clandestine officer Gary Berntsen's account of how the American command let Osama bin Laden escape when Mr. Berntsen's team had him trapped in Tora Bora in December 2001. The one officer fired for alleged leaking during the Goss purge had no access to classified intelligence about secret prisons but was presumably a witness to her boss's management disasters.
<br>Soon to come are the Senate's hearings on Mr. Goss's successor, Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the N.S.A. As Jon Stewart reminded us last week, Mr. Bush endorsed his new C.I.A. choice with the same encomium he had bestowed on Mr. Goss: He's &quot;the right man&quot; to lead the C.I.A. &quot;at this critical moment in our nation's history.&quot; That's not exactly reassuring.
<br>This being an election year, Karl Rove hopes the hearings can portray Bush opponents as soft on terrorism when they question any national security move. It was this bullying that led so many Democrats to rubber-stamp the Iraq war resolution in the 2002 election season and Mr. Goss's appointment in the autumn of 2004.
<br>Will they fall into the same trap in 2006? Will they be so busy soliloquizing about civil liberties that they'll fail to investigate the nominee's record? It was under General Hayden, a self-styled electronic surveillance whiz, that the N.S.A. intercepted actual Qaeda messages on Sept. 10, 2001 - &quot;Tomorrow is zero hour&quot; for one - and failed to translate them until Sept. 12. That same fateful summer, General Hayden's N.S.A. also failed to recognize that &quot;some of the terrorists had set up shop literally under its nose,&quot; as the national-security authority James Bamford wrote in The Washington Post in 2002. The Qaeda cell that hijacked American Flight 77 and plowed into the Pentagon was based in the same town, Laurel, Md., as the N.S.A., and &quot;for months, the terrorists and the N.S.A. employees exercised in some of the same local health clubs and shopped in the same grocery stores.&quot;
<br> If Democrats - and, for that matter, Republicans - let a president with a Nixonesque approval rating install yet another second-rate sycophant at yet another security agency, even one as diminished as the C.I.A., someone should charge those senators with treason, too.
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<p><font face="arial Black" size="5" color="d90000">The Administration That Won’t Stop Lying</font>

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<b>by Paul Craig Roberts<br>
May 21,2006</b><br>
<br>The Bush Regime has killed tens of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, mainly women and children. The deaths are excused as unintended &quot;collateral damage&quot; of the ongoing war, but the deaths are nonetheless important to the tens of thousands of relatives and friends. An equally important casualty of the Bush Regime is truth.
<br>The American public has been trained to obediently accept their government&rsquo;s lies fed to them by their government&rsquo;s handmaiden, the US Media. No statement or claim by a Bush Regime Official is too outlandish to be received with acceptance. Consider the claim by Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary for War and Aggression, made to the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee on May 17, that Iran was to blame for the instability in Iraq.
<br>Did the senators laugh Rumsfeld out of the room? No.
<br>Did the media remind the &quot;informed public&quot; that it was actually the US invasion and unsuccessful occupation, together with mass detentions, torture, slaughter of citizens and invasions of their homes, destruction of infrastructure and entire cities, such as Fallujah, and removal of Saddam Hussein&rsquo;s government, which kept the three Iraqi factions from each other&rsquo;s throats, that destabilized Iraq?&nbsp; Needless to say, no.
<br>The only person in the Senate committee room who spoke the truth called Rumsfeld a liar and was <a href="http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/05/c5e643e5-04f8-48aa-853c-1b45abe75bac.html">hauled off by the police</a> .
<br>Freedom of expression still exists in America, but only on behalf of lies. Truth is forbidden, except on the Internet. The Internet is still free, because Americans are accustomed to believing what they hear on TV and read in the news columns of newspapers, whereas the Internet is new and iffy to most Americans and of less concern to the government. The mainstream media, which serves as a government propaganda organ, and the Internet are two parallel universes.
<br>The influence of neocon propaganda now extends to National Public Radio. Prior to the Bush Regime and total Republican control of our government, NPR offered in-depth reporting and alternative views. This important service has diminished under Republican control. On May 18 <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5415846">NPR reported on a controversy at Yale University.</a> A former spokesman for the Taliban government in Afghanistan is now a student at Yale. Conservative students and alumni are up in arms.
<br>A spokesman for the concerned Yale students said that the Taliban had killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11. The NPR reporters and commentators took for granted that the Taliban had attacked America and were a dangerous enemy of our country.
<br>We have reached the point where the media that brainwashes the public is itself brainwashed. The Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11 and was not a declared enemy of the US. The Taliban was fully absorbed in a struggle to unify Afghanistan. Their opponent, the Northern Alliance, was comprised of Tajiks, some ethnic minorities, and the remnants of the Soviet puppet government. As Afghanistan has never been unified and consists of a collection of tribes and warlords, the only basis for Afghan unity is Islam, the emblem for the Taliban.
<br>The Taliban became an enemy only after Bush attacked them and took the side of the Northern Alliance. Bush claims that he attacked the Taliban because they refused to deliver Osama bin Laden to US custody.
<br>The Bush Regime blames bin Laden for 9/11, although the evidence is sketchy and inconclusive. Take a moment to consider the chances of bin Laden, who was fully occupied in his involvement in civil war in Afghanistan, being able to organize a successful attack on high-tech America from a primitive country half a world away. A man in a cave operating on a shoestring somehow defeats the myriad intelligence agencies of the US.
<br>Regardless of bin Laden&rsquo;s responsibility for 9/11, the Taliban could not turn over bin Laden, and the Bush regime knew that. Bush made a demand that could not be met in order to have the excuse to attack the Taliban.
<br>Why couldn&rsquo;t the Taliban turn over bin Laden? Osama, of course, had his own armed fighters, but this is not the reason. Bin Laden helped to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan and is an Afghan national hero. He was helping the Taliban to finish off their opponents, including the remains of the Soviet puppets. The Taliban could not possibly claim to be unifying Afghanistan in the name of Islam and turn over an Islamic hero to the Great Satan.
<br>At that time Americans were told that bin Laden was the target of the invasion of Afghanistan. In retrospect we know that that was just another lie. The target was Iraq (and Iran and Syria). Bin Laden was the excuse for getting the camel&rsquo;s nose under the tent.
<br>Iraq has nothing whatsoever to do with bin Laden or 9/11. Yet, war in Iraq has completely absorbed the Bush Regime. The regime sticks with its war despite its sinking polls, which even Karl Rove attributes to the fruitless war.
<br>The war in Iraq has multiplied terrorism, not reduced it. The war has destroyed America&rsquo;s reputation. The war has served as an excuse for concentrating unconstitutional powers in the executive for for removing the institutional protections against a police state. The war has already cost 20,000 American casualties (dead and wounded) and hundreds of billions of dollars, which have had to be borrowed from foreigners, and is projected to have a total cost in excess of one trillion dollars.
<br>This is a horrendous commitment. What is its purpose?
<br>We have never been told. Everything the Bush Regime has said has been a lie. There were no weapons of mass destruction, and this was known prior to the orchestrated invasion. As the leaked top secret British Cabinet memo, &quot;the Downing Street memo,&quot; makes completely clear, the Bush regime falsified the intelligence to justify its invasion of Iraq.
<br>There was no Iraqi connection to al Qaeda, a sworn enemy of the secular Hussein regime.
<br>The most recent excuse--building democracy--is also a lie. It is perfectly clear that what the Bush Regime has done is to bring the three Iraqi factions to the brink of civil war, while constructing a massive US fortification in the guise of an embassy and permanent military bases.&nbsp;
<br>The Republican Party has been reduced to one principle--its own power. It protects the Bush Regime from accountability and covers up its lies and misdeeds. Under the myths and lies that enshroud 9/11, the Democrats have collapsed as an opposition party.
<br>The Bush Regime has destroyed Iraq without being able to defeat the resistance. Its greater casualty, however, is the American people, voiceless with no political representation, defenseless in the face of police state depredations, such as illegal warrantless surveillance, and the possibility of property seizures and indefinite detention without charges.
<br>The Bush Regime&rsquo;s war on terror has defeated truth and the constitutional protections of liberty in the United States. No conceivable number of Muslim terrorists could inflict comparable damage on America.</font>

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He's In The Bunker Now</font>
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<b>By FRANK RICH
Published: January 14, 2007</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2007/01/14/opinion/14rich.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26hp&OP=55e31621Q2F!oX0!dQ2Fnxxd!UQ24Q24Q26!Q24Q22!Q22Q51!xpuQ23uxQ23!Q22Q51nuaQ5DQ25Q5DdQ7CP

<br>PRESIDENT BUSH always had one asset he could fall back on: the self-confidence of a born salesman. Like Harold Hill in ''The Music Man,'' he knew how to roll out a new product, however deceptive or useless, with conviction and stagecraft. What the world saw on Wednesday night was a defeated Willy Loman who looked as broken as his war. His flop sweat was palpable even if you turned down the sound to deflect despair-inducing phrases like ''Prime Minister Maliki has pledged '' and ''Secretary Rice will leave for the region. ''

Mr. Bush seemed to know his product was snake oil, and his White House handlers did too. In the past, they made a fetish of situating their star in telegenic settings, from aircraft carriers to Ellis Island. Or they placed him against Orwellian backdrops shrieking ''Plan for Victory.'' But this time even the audio stuttered, as if in solidarity with Baghdad's continuing electricity blackout, and the Oval Office was ditched, lest it summon up memories of all those past presidential sightings of light at the end of the Iraqi tunnel. Mr. Bush was banished to the White House library, where the backdrop was acres of books, to signify the studiousness of his rethinking of the ''way forward.''

''I'm not going to be rushed,'' the president said a month ago when talking about his many policy consultations. He wasn't kidding. His ostentatious deep thinking started after Election Day, once he realized that firing Donald Rumsfeld wouldn't be enough to co-opt the Iraq Study Group. He was thinking so hard that he abandoned his initial plan to announce a strategy before Christmas.

The war, however, refused to take a timeout for the holiday festivities in Crawford. The American death toll in Iraq, which hovered around 2,840 on Election Day, was nearing 3,020 by Wednesday night.

And these additional lives were sacrificed to what end? All the reviews and thinking and postponing produced a policy that, as a former top Bush aide summed it up for The Daily News, is nothing more than ''repackaged stay-the-course dressed up to make it look more palatable.'' The repackaging was half-hearted as well. Not for nothing did the ''way forward,'' a rubric the president used at least 27 times in December, end up on the cutting-room floor. The tossing of new American troops into Baghdad, a ploy that backfired in Operation Together Forward last year, is too transparently the way backward.

''Victory'' also received short shrift, downsized by the president to the paltry goal of getting ''closer to success.'' The ''benchmarks'' he cited were so vague that they'd be a disgrace to No Child Left Behind. And no wonder: in November, Mr. Bush couldn't even get our devoted ally, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, to show up for dinner at their summit in Amman, let alone induce him to root out Shiite militias. The most muscle the former Mr. Bring-'Em-On could muster in Wednesday's speech was this: ''If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people.'' Since that support vanished long ago, it's hard to imagine an emptier threat or a more naked confession of American impotence, all the more pathetic in a speech rattling sabers against Syria and Iran.

Mr. Bush's own support from the American people is not coming back. His ''new'' Iraq policy is also in defiance of Iraqi public opinion, the Joint Chiefs, the Baker-Hamilton grandees, and Mr. Maliki, who six weeks ago asked for a lower American profile in Iraq. <div align="right">
<!-- MSTableType="layout" --><br><img src="http://estaticos03.cache.el-mundo.net/navegante/imagenes/2004/11/22/1101124038.jpg" align="right"></div>Which leaves you wondering exactly who is still in the bunker with the president besides the first lady and Barney.

It's a very short list led by John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and neo-conservative dead-enders like William Kristol and Frederick Kagan, who congregate at The Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington think tank. The one notable new recruit is Rudy Giuliani, who likened taming Baghdad to ''reducing crime in New York'' without noticing that even after the escalation there will be fewer American troops patrolling Baghdad than uniformed police officers in insurgency-free New York City.

Mr. Kagan, a military historian, was sent by the White House to sell its policy to Senate Republicans. It was he, Mr. Kristol and the retired Gen. Jack Keane who have most prominently pushed for this escalation and who published studies and editorials credited with defining it. Given that these unelected hawks are some of the same great thinkers who promoted the Iraq fiasco in the first place, it is hard to imagine why this White House continues to listen to them. Or maybe not that hard. In a typical op-ed article, headlined ''Stay the Course, Mr. President!,'' Mr. Kagan wrote in The Los Angeles Times in 2005: ''Despite what you may have read, the military situation in Iraq today is positive.''

Yet Mr. Bush doesn't even have the courage of his own disastrous convictions: he's not properly executing the policy these guys sold him. In The Washington Post on Dec. 27, Mr. Kagan and General Keane wrote that escalation could only succeed ''with a surge of at least 30,000 combat troops'' -- a figure that has also been cited by Mr. McCain. (Mr. Kagan put the figure at 50,000 to 80,000 in a Weekly Standard article three weeks earlier. Whatever.) By any of these neocons' standards, the Bush escalation of some 20,000 is too little, not to mention way too late.

The discrepancy between the policy that Mr. Bush nominally endorses and the one he actually ordered up crystallizes the cynicism of this entire war. If you really believe, as the president continues to put it, that Iraq is the central front in ''the decisive ideological struggle of our time,'' then you should be in favor of having many more troops than we've ever had in Iraq. As T. X. Hammes, an insurgency expert and a former marine, told USA Today, that doesn't now mean a ''dribble'' (as he ridicules the ''surge'') but a total of 300,000 armed coalition forces over a minimum of four years.

But that would mean asking Americans for sacrifice, not giving us tax cuts. Mr. Bush has never asked for sacrifice and still doesn't. If his words sound like bargain-basement Churchill, his actions have been cheaper still. The president's resolutely undermanned war plan indicated from Day 1 that he knew in his heart of hearts that Iraq was not the central front in the war against 9/11 jihadism he had claimed it to be, only the reckless detour that it actually was. Yet the war's cheerleaders, neocon and otherwise, disingenuously blamed our low troop strength almost exclusively on Mr. Rumsfeld.

Now that the defense secretary is gone, what are they to do? For whatever reason, you did not hear Mr. Kagan, General Keane or Mr. McCain speak out against Mr. Bush's plan even though it's insufficient by their own reckoning -- just a repackaged continuance of the same ''Whac-A-Mole'' half-measures that Mr. McCain has long deplored. Surely the senator knows that, as his loosey-goosey endorsement attests. (On Friday, he called the Bush plan ''the best chance of success'' while simultaneously going on record that ''a small, short surge would be the worst of all worlds.'')

The question now is how to minimize the damage before countless more Americans and Iraqis are slaughtered to serve the president's endgame of passing his defeat on to the next president. The Democrats can have all the hearings they want, but they are unlikely to take draconian action (cutting off funding) that would make them, rather than Mr. Bush, politically vulnerable to blame for losing Iraq.
I have long felt that it will be up to Mr. Bush's own party to ring down the curtain on his failed policy, and after the 2006 midterms, that is more true than ever. The lame-duck president, having lost both houses of Congress and at least one war (Afghanistan awaits), has nothing left to lose. That is far from true of his party.

Even conservatives like Sam Brownback of Kansas and Norm Coleman of Minnesota started backing away from Iraq last week. Mr. Brownback is running for president in 2008, and Mr. Coleman faces a tough re-election fight. But Republicans not in direct electoral jeopardy (George Voinovich of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) are also starting to waver. It's another Vietnam-Watergate era flashback. It wasn't Democrats or the press that forced Richard Nixon's abdication in 1974; it was dwindling Republican support. Though he had vowed to fight his way through a Senate trial, Nixon folded once he lost the patriarchal leader of his party's right wing.

That leader was Barry Goldwater, who had been one of Nixon's most loyal and aggressive defenders until he finally realized he'd been lied to once too often. If John McCain won't play the role his Arizona predecessor once did, we must hope that John Warner or some patriot like him will, for the good of the country, answer the call of conscience. A dangerous president must be saved from himself, so that the American kids he's about to hurl into the hell of Baghdad can be saved along with him.


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Daffy Does Doom</font>
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January 27, 2007

<img src="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/04/02/opinion/dowd-ts-75.jpg">

By Maureen Dowd</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2007/01/27/opinion/27dowd.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26nQ3DTopQ252fOpinionQ252fEditorialsQ2520andQ2520OpQ252dEdQ252fOpQ252dEdQ252fColumnistsQ252fMaureenQ2520Dowd&OP=55a3bf8eQ2FsQ3C-wsYn)Q26Q26YsFffCsfQ2BsFCsQ26VSQ7DSQ26Q7DsFC@Q26Q3C@y5Y6p

Dick Durbin went to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to denounce the vice president as “delusional.”

It was shocking, and Senator Durbin should be ashamed of himself.

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.

Only someone with an inspired alienation from reality could, under the guise of exorcising the trauma of Vietnam, replicate the trauma of Vietnam.

You must have a real talent for derangement to stay wrong every step of the way, to remain in complete denial about Iraq’s civil war, to have a total misunderstanding of Arab culture, to be completely oblivious to the American mood and to be absolutely blind to how democracy works.

In a democracy, when you run a campaign that panders to homophobia by attacking gay marriage and then your lesbian daughter writes a book about politics and decides to have a baby with her partner, you cannot tell Wolf Blitzer he’s “out of line” when he gingerly raises the hypocrisy of your position.<div align="right"><!-- MSTableType="layout" --><br> <Embed src="http://www.crooksandliars.com/Media/Download/13842/1/TSR-Cheney-Hogwash.wmv" "AUTOSTART=false" align="right" "Name=MediaPlayer" "ShowControls=1" "ShowDisplay=0" "ShowStatusBar=0" "width=320" "height=285"></embed></div>
Mr. Cheney acts more like a member of the James gang than the Jefferson gang. Asked by Wolf what would happen if the Senate passed a resolution critical of The Surge, Scary Cheney rumbled, “It won’t stop us.”

Such an exercise in democracy, he noted, would be “detrimental from the standpoint of the troops.”

Americans learned an important lesson from Vietnam about supporting the troops even when they did not support the war. From media organizations to Hollywood celebrities and lawmakers on both sides, everyone backs our troops.

It is W. and Vice who learned no lessons from Vietnam, probably because they worked so hard to avoid going. They rush into a war halfway around the world for no reason and with no foresight about the culture or the inevitable insurgency, and then assert that any criticism of their fumbling management of Iraq and Afghanistan is tantamount to criticizing the troops. Quel demagoguery.

“Bottom line,” Vice told Wolf, “is that we’ve had enormous successes, and we will continue to have enormous successes.” The biggest threat, he said, is that Americans may not “have the stomach for the fight.”

He should stop casting aspersions on the American stomach. We’ve had the stomach for more than 3,000 American deaths in a war sold as a cakewalk.

If W. were not so obsessed with being seen as tough, Mr. Cheney could not influence him with such tripe.

They are perpetually guided by the wrong part of the body. They are consumed by the fear of looking as if they don’t have guts, when they should be compelled by the desire to look as if they have brains.

After offering Congress an olive branch in the State of the Union, the president resumed mindless swaggering. Asked yesterday why he was ratcheting up despite the resolutions, W. replied, “In that I’m the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster.” (Or preordained it.)

The reality of Iraq, as The Times’s brilliant John Burns described it to Charlie Rose this week, is that a messy endgame could be far worse than Vietnam, leading to “a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we’re seeing now,” and a “wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world’s flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there’s complete chaos in the region?”

Mr. Cheney has turned his perversity into foreign policy.

He assumes that the more people think he’s crazy, the saner he must be. In Dr. No’s nutty world-view, anti-Americanism is a compliment. The proof that America is right is that everyone thinks it isn’t.

He sees himself as a prophet in the wilderness because he thinks anyone in the wilderness must be a prophet.

To borrow one of his many dismissive words, it’s hogwash.

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<font face="arial black" size="6" color="#d90000">
Oh What a Malleable War </font>
<br><font face="trebuchet ms, verdana" size="3" color="#000000">
<img src="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/04/02/opinion/ts-rich-75.jpg"><br>
<b>By FRANK RICH<br>
Published: February 18, 2007</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/opinion/18rich.html?_r=1&oref=login&pagewanted=print

Maybe the Bush White House can’t conduct a war, but no one has ever impugned its ability to lie about its conduct of a war. Now even that well-earned reputation for flawless fictionalizing is coming undone.

Watching the administration try to get its story straight about Iran’s role in Iraq last week was like watching third graders try to sidestep blame for misbehaving while the substitute teacher was on a bathroom break. The team that once sold the country smoking guns in the shape of mushroom clouds has completely lost its mojo.

Surely these guys can do better than this. No sooner did unnamed military officials unveil their melodramatically secretive briefing in Baghdad last Sunday than Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, blew the whole charade. General Pace said he didn’t know about the briefing and couldn’t endorse its contention that the Iranian government’s highest echelons were complicit in anti-American hostilities in Iraq.

Public-relations pandemonium ensued as Tony Snow, the State Department and finally the president tried to revise the story line on the fly. Back when Karl Rove ruled, everyone read verbatim from the same script. Last week’s frantic improvisations were vintage Scooter Libby, at best the ur-text for a future perjury trial.

Yet for all the sloppy internal contradictions, the most incriminating indictment of the new White House disinformation campaign is to be found in official assertions made more than a year ago.
The press and everyone else seems to have forgotten that the administration has twice sounded the same alarms about Iranian weaponry in Iraq that it did last week.

In August 2005, NBC News, CBS News and The Times cited unnamed military and intelligence officials when reporting, as CBS put it, that “U.S. forces intercepted a shipment from Iran containing professionally made explosive devices specifically designed to penetrate the armor which protects American vehicles.”

Then, as now, those devices were the devastating roadside bombs currently called E.F.P.’s (explosively formed penetrators). Then, as now, they were thought to have been brought into Iraq by members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Then, as now, there was no evidence that the Iranian government was directly involved. In February 2006, administration officials delivered the same warning yet again, before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Timing is everything in propaganda, as in all showmanship.

So why would the White House pick this particular moment to mount such an extravagant rerun of old news, complete with photos and props reminiscent of Colin Powell’s infamous presentation of prewar intelligence? Yes, the death toll from these bombs is rising, but it has been rising for some time. (Also rising, and more dramatically, is the death toll from attacks on American helicopters.

After General Pace rendered inoperative the first official rationale for last Sunday’s E.F.P. briefing, President Bush had to find a new explanation for his sudden focus on the Iranian explosives. That’s why he said at Wednesday’s news conference that it no longer mattered whether the Iranian government (as opposed to black marketeers or freelance thugs) had supplied these weapons to Iraqi killers. “What matters is, is that they’re there,” he said.

The real point of hyping this inexact intelligence was to justify why he had to take urgent action now, no matter what the E.F.P.’s provenance: “My job is to protect our troops. And when we find devices that are in that country that are hurting our troops, we’re going to do something about it, pure and simple.”

Darn right! But if the administration has warned about these weapons twice in the past 18 months (and had known “that they’re there,” we now know, since 2003), why is Mr. Bush just stepping up to that job at this late date?

Embarrassingly enough, The Washington Post reported on its front page last Monday — the same front page with news of the Baghdad E.F.P. briefing — that there is now a shortfall of “thousands of advanced Humvee armor kits designed to reduce U.S. troop deaths from roadside bombs.”
Worse, the full armor upgrade “is not scheduled to be completed until this summer.” So Mr. Bush’s idea of doing something about it, “pure and simple” is itself a lie, since he is doing something about it only after he has knowingly sent a new round of underarmored American troops into battle.

To those who are most suspicious of this White House, the “something” that Mr. Bush really wants to do has little to do with armor in any case. His real aim is to provoke war with Iran, no matter how overstretched and ill-equipped our armed forces may be for that added burden.
By this line of thinking, the run-up to the war in Iraq is now repeating itself exactly and
Mr. Bush will seize any handy casus belli he can to ignite a conflagration in Iran.

Iran is an unquestionable menace with an Israel-hating fanatic as its president. It is also four times the size of Iraq and a far more dangerous adversary than was Saddam’s regime.

Perhaps Mr. Bush is as reckless as his harshest critics claim and will double down on catastrophe. But for those who don’t hold quite so pitch-black a view of his intentions, there’s a less apocalyptic motive to be considered as well.

Let’s not forget that the White House’s stunt of repackaging old, fear-inducing news for public consumption has a long track record. Its reason for doing so is always the same: to distract the public from reality that runs counter to the White House’s political interests.

When the Democrats were gaining campaign traction in 2004, John Ashcroft held an urgent news conference to display photos of seven suspected terrorists on the loose. He didn’t bother to explain that six of them had been announced previously, one at a news conference he had held 28 months earlier.

Mr. Bush played the same trick last February as newly declassified statistics at a Senate hearing revealed a steady three-year growth in insurgent attacks: he breathlessly announced a thwarted Qaeda plot against the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles that had already been revealed by the administration four months before.

We know what Mr. Bush wants to distract us from this time: Congressional votes against his war policy, the Libby trial, the Pentagon inspector general’s report deploring Douglas Feith’s fictional prewar intelligence, and the new and dire National Intelligence Estimate saying that America is sending troops into the cross-fire of a multifaceted sectarian cataclysm.

That same intelligence estimate also says that Iran is “not likely to be a major driver of violence” in Iraq, but no matter. If the president can now whip up a Feith-style smoke screen of innuendo to imply that Iran is the root of all our woes in the war — and give “the enemy” a single recognizable face (Ahmadinejad as the new Saddam) — then, ipso facto, he is not guilty of sending troops into the middle of a shadowy Sunni-Shiite bloodbath after all.

Oh what a malleable war Iraq has been.
First it was waged to vanquish Saddam’s (nonexistent) nuclear arsenal and his (nonexistent) collaboration with Al Qaeda. Then it was going to spread (nonexistent) democracy throughout the Middle East. Now it is being rebranded as a fight against Tehran.

Mr. Bush keeps saying that his saber rattling about Iran is not “a pretext for war.” Maybe so, but at the very least it’s a pretext for prolonging the disastrous war we already have.

What makes his spin brazen even by his standards is that Iran is in fact steadily extending its influence in Iraq — thanks to its alliance with the very Iraqi politicians that Mr. Bush himself has endorsed.

In December the president welcomed a Shiite leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, to the White House with great fanfare; just three weeks later American forces had to raid Mr. Hakim’s Iraq compound to arrest Iranian operatives suspected of planning attacks against American military forces, possibly with E.F.P.’s.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Nuri al-Maliki’s government promptly overruled the American arrests and ordered the operatives’ release so they could escape to Iran. For all his bluster about doing something about it, Mr. Bush did nothing. Quack!

It gets worse. This month we learned that yet another Maliki supporter in the Iraqi Parliament, Jamal Jafaar Mohammed Ali Ebrahimi, was convicted more than two decades ago of planning the murderous 1983 attacks on the American and French Embassies in Kuwait. He’s now in Iran, but before leaving, this terrorist served as a security adviser, no less, to the first Iraqi prime minister after the American invasion, Ibrahim al-Jafaari. Mr. Jafaari, hailed by Mr. Bush as “a strong partner for peace and freedom” during his own White House visit in 2005, could be found last week in Tehran, celebrating the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian revolution and criticizing America’s arrest of Iranian officials in Iraq.

Even if the White House still had its touch for spinning fiction, it’s hard to imagine how it could create new lies brilliant enough to top the sorry truth. When you have a president making a big show of berating Iran while simultaneously empowering it, you’ve got another remake of “The Manchurian Candidate,” this time played for keeps.
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<font face="arial black" size="6" color="#d90000">
Why Libby’s Pardon Is a Slam Dunk </font>
<br><font face="trebuchet ms, verdana" size="3" color="#000000">
<img src="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/04/02/opinion/ts-rich-75.jpg"><br>
<b>by FRANK RICH<br>
Published: March 11, 2007</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/opinion/11rich.html?pagewanted=print


Even by Washington’s standards, few debates have been more fatuous or wasted more energy than the frenzied speculation over whether President Bush will or will not pardon Scooter Libby. Of course he will.

A president who tries to void laws he doesn’t like by encumbering them with “signing statements” and who regards the Geneva Conventions as a nonbinding technicality isn’t going to start playing by the rules now. His assertion last week that he is “pretty much going to stay out of” the Libby case is as credible as his pre-election vote of confidence in Donald Rumsfeld. The only real question about the pardon is whether Mr. Bush cares enough about his fellow Republicans’ political fortunes to delay it until after Election Day 2008.

Either way, the pardon is a must for Mr. Bush. He needs Mr. Libby to keep his mouth shut. Cheney’s Cheney knows too much about covert administration schemes far darker than the smearing of Joseph Wilson. Though Mr. Libby wrote a novel that sank without a trace a decade ago, he now has the makings of an explosive Washington tell-all that could be stranger than most fiction and far more salable.

Mr. Libby’s novel was called “The Apprentice.” His memoir could be titled “The Accomplice.” Its first chapter would open in August 2002, when he and a small cadre of administration officials including Karl Rove formed the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a secret task force to sell the Iraq war to the American people.

The climactic chapter of the Libby saga unfolded last week when the guilty verdict in his trial coincided, all too fittingly, with the Congressional appearance of two Iraq veterans, one without an ear and one without an eye, to recount their subhuman treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

It was WHIG’s secret machinations more than four years ago that led directly to those shredded lives. WHIG had been tasked, as The Washington Post would later uncover, to portray Iraq’s supposedly imminent threat to America with “gripping images and stories not available in the hedged and austere language of intelligence.” In other words, WHIG was to cook up the sexiest recipe for promoting the war, facts be damned.

So it did, by hyping the scariest possible scenario: nuclear apocalypse. As Michael Isikoff and David Corn report in “Hubris,” it was WHIG (equipped with the slick phrase-making of the White House speechwriter Michael Gerson) that gave the administration its Orwellian bumper sticker, the constantly reiterated warning that Saddam’s “smoking gun” could be “a mushroom cloud.”

Ever since all the W.M.D. claims proved false, the administration has pleaded that it was duped by the same bad intelligence everyone else saw. But the nuclear card, the most persistent and gripping weapon in the prewar propaganda arsenal, was this White House’s own special contrivance. Mr. Libby was present at its creation. He knows what Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney knew about the manufacture of this fiction and when they knew it.

Clearly they knew it early on. The administration’s guilt (or at least embarrassment) about its lies in fomenting the war quickly drove it to hide the human price being paid for those lies. (It also tried to hide the financial cost of the war by keeping it out of the regular defense budget, but that’s another, if related, story.) The steps the White House took to keep casualties out of view were extraordinary, even as it deployed troops to decorate every presidential victory rally and gave the Pentagon free rein to exploit the sacrifices of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman in mendacious P.R. stunts.

The administration’s enforcement of a prohibition on photographs of coffins returning from Iraq was the first policy manifestation of the<div align="left"><!-- MSTableType="layout" --><img src="http://www.chris-floyd.com/images/funeral.jpg" alt="burial" border="4" align="left" width="400" height="266" /></div>hide-the-carnage strategy. It was complemented by the president’s decision to break with precedent, set by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter among others, and refuse to attend military funerals, lest he lend them a media spotlight.

But Mark Benjamin, who has chronicled the mistreatment of Iraq war veterans since 2003, discovered an equally concerted effort to keep injured troops off camera. Mr. Benjamin wrote in Salon in 2005 that “flights carrying the wounded arrive in the United States only at night” and that both Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda barred the press “from seeing or photographing incoming patients.”

A particularly vivid example of the extreme measures taken by the White House to cover up the war’s devastation turned up in The Washington Post’s Walter Reed exposé. Sgt. David Thomas, a Tennessee National Guard gunner with a Purple Heart and an amputated leg, found himself left off the guest list for a summer presidential ceremony honoring a fellow amputee after he said he would be wearing shorts, not pants, when occupying a front-row seat in camera range.

Now we can fully appreciate that bizarre incident on C-Span in October 2003, when an anguished Cher, of all unlikely callers, phoned in to ask why administration officials, from the president down, were not being photographed with patients like those she had visited at Walter Reed. “I don’t understand why these guys are so hidden,” she said.

The answer is simple: Out of sight, out of mind was the game plan, and it has been enforced down to the tiniest instances. When HBO produced an acclaimed (and apolitical) documentary last year about military medics’ remarkable efforts to save lives in Iraq, “Baghdad ER,” Army brass at the last minute boycotted planned promotional screenings in Washington and at Fort Campbell, Ky. In a memo, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley warned that the film, though made with Army cooperation, could endanger veterans’ health by provoking symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The General Kiley who was so busy policing an HBO movie for its potential health hazards is the same one who did not correct the horrific real-life conditions on his watch at Walter Reed. After the Post exposé was published, he tried to spin it by boasting that most of the medical center’s rooms “were actually perfectly O.K.” and scapegoating “soldiers leaving food in their rooms” for the mice and cockroach infestations. That this guy is still surgeon general of the Army — or was as of Friday — makes you wonder what he, like Mr. Libby, has on his superiors.

Now that the country has seen the Congressional testimony of Specialist Jeremy Duncan, who has melted flesh where his ear once was, or <!-- MSTableType="layout" --><img src="http://mywebpage.netscape.com/camarilla10029/veteran+2.png" alt="veteran" width="300" height="231" border="4" align="right" /></div>watched the ABC newsman Bob Woodruff’s report on other neglected patients in military medical facilities far beyond Walter Reed, the White House cover-up of veterans’ care has collapsed, like so many other cover-ups necessitated by its conduct of this war. But the administration and its surrogates still won’t face up to their moral culpability.

Mary Matalin, the former Cheney flack who served with Mr. Libby on WHIG and is now on the board of his legal defense fund (its full list of donors is unknown), has been especially vocal. “Scooter didn’t do anything,” she said. “And his personal record and service are impeccable.”

What Mr. Libby did — fabricating nuclear threats at WHIG and then lying under oath when he feared that sordid Pandora’s box might be pried open by the Wilson case — was despicable. Had there been no WHIG or other White House operation for drumming up fictional rationales for war, there would have been no bogus uranium from Africa in a presidential speech, no leak to commit perjury about, no amputees to shut away in filthy rooms at Walter Reed.

Listening to Ms. Matalin and her fellow apparatchiks emote publicly about the punishment being inflicted on poor Mr. Libby and his family, you wonder what world they live in. They seem clueless about how ugly their sympathy for a conniving courtier sounds against the testimony of those wounded troops and their families who bear the most searing burdens of the unnecessary war WHIG sped to market.

As is often noted, any parallels between Iraq and Vietnam do not extend to America’s treatment of its troops. No one spits at those serving in Iraq. But our “support” for the troops has often been as hypocritical as that of an administration that still fails to provide them with sufficient armor. Health care indignities, among other betrayals of returning veterans, have been reported by countless news organizations since the war began, not just this year. Many in Congress did nothing, and we as a people have often looked the other way, supporting the troops with car decals and donated phone cards while the same history repeats itself again and again.

Now the “surge” that was supposed to show results by summer is creeping inexorably into an open-ended escalation, even as Moktada al-Sadr’s militia ominously melts away, just as Iraq’s army did after the invasion in 2003, lying in wait to spring a Tet-like surprise. And still, despite Thursday’s breakthrough announcement of a credible Iraq exit blueprint by the House leadership, Congress threatens to dither.

While Mr. Bush will no doubt pardon Scooter Libby without so much as a second thought, anyone else in Washington who continues to further this debacle may find it less easy to escape scot-free.
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<font face="arial black" size="6" color="#d90000">
The Ides of March 2003 </font>
<br><font face="trebuchet ms, verdana" size="3" color="#000000">
<img src="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/04/02/opinion/ts-rich-75.jpg"><br>
<b>by FRANK RICH<br>
Published: March 18, 2007</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20B15F634550C7B8DDDAA0894DF404482

TOMORROW night is the fourth anniversary of President Bush's prime-time address declaring the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the broad sweep of history, four years is a nanosecond, but in America, where memories are congenitally short, it's an eternity. That's why a revisionist history of the White House's rush to war, much of it written by its initial cheerleaders, has already taken hold. In this exonerating fictionalization of the story, nearly every politician and pundit in Washington was duped by the same ''bad intelligence'' before the war, and few imagined that the administration would so botch the invasion's aftermath or that the occupation would go on so long. ''If only I had known then what I know now '' has been the persistent refrain of the war supporters who subsequently disowned the fiasco. But the embarrassing reality is that much of the damning truth about the administration's case for war and its hubristic expectations for a cakewalk were publicly available before the war, hiding in plain sight, to be seen by anyone who wanted to look.

By the time the ides of March arrived in March 2003, these warning signs were visible on a nearly daily basis. So were the signs that Americans were completely ill prepared for the costs ahead. Iraq was largely anticipated as a distant, mildly disruptive geopolitical video game that would be over in a flash.

Now many of the same leaders who sold the war argue that escalation should be given a chance. This time they're peddling the new doomsday scenario that any withdrawal timetable will lead to the next 9/11. The question we must ask is: Has history taught us anything in four years?

Here is a chronology of some of the high and low points in the days leading up to the national train wreck whose anniversary we mourn this week [with occasional ''where are they now'' updates].

March 5, 2003

''I took the Grey Poupon out of my cupboard.''

-- Representative Duke Cunningham, Republican of California, on the floor of the House denouncing French opposition to the Iraq war.

[In November 2005, he resigned from Congress and pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from defense contractors. In January 2007, the United States attorney who prosecuted him -- Carol Lam, a Bush appointee -- was forced to step down for ''performance-related'' issues by Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department.]

March 6, 2003

President Bush holds his last prewar news conference. The New York Observer writes that he interchanged Iraq with the attacks of 9/11 eight times, ''and eight times he was unchallenged.'' The ABC News White House correspondent, Terry Moran, says the Washington press corps was left ''looking like zombies.''

March 7, 2003

Appearing before the United Nations Security Council on the same day that the United States and three allies (Britain, Spain and Bulgaria) put forth their resolution demanding that Iraq disarm by March 17, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, reports there is ''no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.'' He adds that documents ''which formed the basis for the report of recent uranium transaction between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic.'' None of the three broadcast networks' evening newscasts mention his findings.

[In 2005 ElBaradei was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.]

March 10, 2003

Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks tells an audience in England, ''We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.'' Boycotts, death threats and anti-Dixie Chicks demonstrations follow.

[In 2007, the Dixie Chicks won five Grammy Awards, including best song for ''Not Ready to Make Nice.'']

March 12, 2003

A senior military planner tells The Daily News ''an attack on Iraq could last as few as seven days.''

''Isn't it more likely that antipathy toward the United States in the Islamic world might diminish amid the demonstrations of jubilant Iraqis celebrating the end of a regime that has few equals in its ruthlessness?''

-- John McCain, writing for the Op-Ed page of The New York Times.

''The Pentagon still has not given a name to the Iraqi war. Somehow 'Operation Re-elect Bush' doesn't seem to be popular.''

-- Jay Leno, ''The Tonight Show.''

March 14, 2003

Senator John D. Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, asks the F.B.I. to investigate the forged documents cited a week earlier by ElBaradei and alleging an Iraq-Niger uranium transaction: ''There is a possibility that the fabrication of these documents may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq.''

March 16, 2003

On ''Meet the Press,'' Dick Cheney says that American troops will be ''greeted as liberators,'' that Saddam ''has a longstanding relationship with various terrorist groups, including the Al Qaeda organization,'' and that it is an ''overstatement'' to suggest that several hundred thousand troops will be needed in Iraq after it is liberated. Asked by Tim Russert about ElBaradei's statement that Iraq does not have a nuclear program, the vice president says, ''I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong.''

''There will be new recruits, new recruits probably because of the war that's about to happen. So we haven't seen the last of Al Qaeda.''

-- Richard Clarke, former White House counterterrorism czar, on ABC's ''This Week.''

[From the recently declassified ''key judgments'' of the National Intelligence Estimate of April 2006: ''The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.'']

''Despite the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to give Congress or the Pentagon specific information about the amounts of banned weapons or where they are hidden, according to administration officials and members of Congress. Senior intelligence analysts say they feel caught between the demands from White House, Pentagon and other government policy makers for intelligence that would make the administration's case 'and what they say is a lack of hard facts,' one official said.''

-- ''U.S. Lacks Specifics on Banned Arms,'' by Walter Pincus (with additional reporting by Bob Woodward), The Washington Post, Page A17.

March 17, 2003

Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, who voted for the Iraq war resolution, writes the president to ask why the administration has repeatedly used W.M.D. evidence that has turned out to be ''a hoax'' -- ''correspondence that indicates that Iraq sought to obtain nuclear weapons from an African country, Niger.''

[Still waiting for ''an adequate explanation'' of the bogus Niger claim four years later, Waxman, now chairman of the chief oversight committee in the House, wrote Condoleezza Rice on March 12, 2007, seeking a response ''to multiple letters I sent you about this matter.'']

In a prime-time address, President Bush tells Saddam to leave Iraq within 48 hours: ''Every measure has been made to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win it.'' After the speech, NBC rushes through its analysis to join a hit show in progress, ''Fear Factor,'' where men and women walk with bare feet over broken glass to win $50,000.

March 18, 2003

Barbara Bush tells Diane Sawyer on ABC's ''Good Morning America'' that she will not watch televised coverage of the war: ''Why should we hear about body bags and deaths, and how many, what day it's going to happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it's, it's not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?''

[Visiting the homeless victims of another cataclysm, Hurricane Katrina, at the Houston Astrodome in 2005, Mrs. Bush said, ''And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this -- this is working very well for them.'']

In one of its editorials strongly endorsing the war, The Wall Street Journal writes, ''There is plenty of evidence that Iraq has harbored Al Qaeda members.''

[In a Feb. 12, 2007, editorial defending the White House's use of prewar intelligence, The Journal wrote, ''Any links between Al Qaeda and Iraq is a separate issue that was barely mentioned in the run-up to war.'']

In an article headlined ''Post-war 'Occupation' of Iraq Could Result in Chaos,'' Mark McDonald of Knight Ridder Newspapers quotes a ''senior leader of one of Iraq's closest Arab neighbors,'' who says, ''We're worried that the outcome will be civil war.''

A questioner at a White House news briefing asserts that ''every other war has been accompanied by fiscal austerity of some sort, often including tax increases'' and asks, ''What's different about this war?'' Ari Fleischer responds, ''The most important thing, war or no war, is for the economy to grow,'' adding that in the president's judgment, ''the best way to help the economy to grow is to stimulate the economy by providing tax relief.''

After consulting with the homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, the N.C.A.A. announces that the men's basketball tournament will tip off this week as scheduled. The N.C.A.A. president, Myles Brand, says, ''We were not going to let a tyrant determine how we were going to lead our lives.''

March 19, 2003

''I'd guess that if it goes beyond three weeks, Bush will be in real trouble.''

-- Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel teaching at Boston University, quoted in The Washington Post.

[The March 2007 installment of the Congressionally mandated Pentagon assessment ''Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq'' reported that from Jan. 1 to Feb. 9, 2007, there were more than 1,000 weekly attacks, up from about 400 in spring 2004.]

Robert McIlvaine, whose 26-year-old son was killed at the World Trade Center 18 months earlier, is arrested at a peace demonstration at the Capitol in Washington. He tells The Washington Post: ''It's very insulting to hear President Bush say this is for Sept. 11.''

''I don't think it is reasonable to close the door on inspections after three and a half months,'' when Iraq's government is providing more cooperation than it has in more than a decade.

-- Hans Blix, chief weapons inspector for the United Nations.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 71 percent of Americans support going to war in Iraq, up from 59 percent before the president's March 17 speech.

''When the president talks about sacrifice, I think the American people clearly understand what the president is talking about.''

-- Ari Fleischer

[Asked in January 2007 how Americans have sacrificed, President Bush answered: ''I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night.'']

Pentagon units will ''locate and survey at least 130 and as many as 1,400 possible weapons sites.''

-- ''Disarming Saddam Hussein; Teams of Experts to Hunt Iraq Arms'' by Judith Miller, The Times, Page A1.

President Bush declares war from the Oval Office in a national address: ''Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure.''

Price of a share of Halliburton stock: $20.50

[Value of that Halliburton share on March 16, 2007, adjusted for a split in 2006: $64.12.]

March 20, 2003

''The pictures you're seeing are absolutely phenomenal. These are live pictures of the Seventh Cavalry racing across the deserts in southern Iraq. They will -- it will be days before they get to Baghdad, but you've never seen battlefield pictures like these before.''

-- Walter Rodgers, an embedded CNN correspondent.

''It seems quite odd to me that while we are commenced upon a war, we have no funding for that war in this budget.''

--Hillary Clinton.

''Coalition forces suffered their first casualties in a helicopter crash that left 12 Britons and 4 Americans dead.''

-- The Associated Press.

Though the March 23 Oscar ceremony will dispense with the red carpet in deference to the war, an E! channel executive announces there will be no cutback on pre-Oscar programming, but ''the tone will be much more somber.''

March 21, 2003

''I don't mean to be glib about this, or make it sound trite, but it really is a symphony that has to be orchestrated by a conductor.''

-- Retired Maj. Gen. Donald Shepperd, CNN military analyst, speaking to Wolf Blitzer of the bombardment of Baghdad during Shock and Awe.

[''Many parts of Iraq are stable. But of course what we see on television is the one bombing a day that discourages everyone.''

-- Laura Bush, ''Larry King Live,'' Feb. 26, 2007.]

''The president may occasionally turn on the TV, but that's not how he gets his news or his information. He is the president, he's made his decisions and the American people are watching him.''

-- Ari Fleischer.

[The former press secretary received immunity from prosecution in the Valerie Wilson leak case and testified in the perjury trial of Scooter Libby in 2007.]

''Peter, I may be going out on a limb, but I'm not sure that the first stage of this Shock and Awe campaign is really going to frighten the Iraqi people. In fact, it may have just the opposite effect. If they feel that they've survived the most that the United States can throw at them and they're still standing, and they're still able to go about their lives, well, then they might be rather emboldened. They might feel that, well, look, we can stand a lot more than this.''

-- Richard Engel, a Baghdad correspondent speaking to Peter Jennings on ABC's ''World News Tonight.''
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muckraker10021

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<font face="arial black" size="6" color="#d90000">
Sunday in the Market With McCain</font>
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<img src="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/04/02/opinion/ts-rich-75.jpg"><br>
<b>by FRANK RICH<br>
Published: April 8th, 2007</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/opinion/08rich.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26nQ3DTopQ252fOpinionQ252fEditorialsQ2520andQ2520OpQ252dEdQ252fOpQ252dEdQ252fColumnistsQ252fFrankQ2520Rich&OP=62ff0e69Q2FQ7EQ22bZQ7En1yQ5DQ5DnQ7EQ2BkkNQ7Ek.Q7EkAQ7EQ5DovQ20vQ5DQ20Q7EkAyvQ7BQ7DQ25Q7Dn7t



JOHN McCAIN'S April Fools' Day stroll through Baghdad's Shorja market last weekend was instantly acclaimed as a classic political pratfall. Protected by more than a hundred American soldiers, three Black Hawk helicopters, two Apache gunships and a bulletproof vest, the senator extolled the ''progress'' and ''good news'' in Iraq. Befitting this loopy brand of comedy -- reminiscent of ''Wedding Crashers,'' in which Mr. McCain gamely made a cameo appearance -- the star had a crackerjack cast of supporting buffoons: Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who told reporters ''I bought five rugs for five bucks!,'' and Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, who likened the scene to ''a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.''

<center><img src="http://www.theage.com.au/ffximage/2007/04/03/0404W_BAGHDAD_wideweb__470x249,0.jpg"><br>
<font face="arial" size="2" color="#0000FF"><b>Republican senator John McCain and his entourage guarded by a heavily armed military escort including more than 100 soldiers and attack helicopters overhead, tour Baghdad's Shorja market wearing bulletproof vests.</b></font></center>

Five rugs for five bucks: boy, we've really got that Iraq economy up and running now! No wonder the McCain show was quickly dubbed ''McCain's Mission Accomplished'' and ''McCain's Dukakis-in-the-Tank Photo Op.'' But at a certain point the laughter curdled. Reporters rudely pointed out there were 60-plus casualties in this market from one February attack alone and that six Americans were killed in the Baghdad environs on the day of his visit. ''Your heart goes out to just the typical Iraqi because they can't have that kind of entourage,'' said Kyra Phillips of CNN. The day after Mr. McCain's stroll, The Times of London reported that 21 of the Shorja market's merchants and workers were ambushed and murdered.

The political press has stepped up its sotto voce deathwatch on the McCain presidential campaign ever since, a drumbeat enhanced by last week's announcement of Mr. McCain's third-place finish in the Republican field's fund-raising sweepstakes. (He is scheduled to restate his commitment to the race on ''60 Minutes'' tonight.) But his campaign was sagging well before he went to Baghdad. In retrospect, his disastrous trip may be less significant as yet another downturn in a faltering presidential candidacy than as a turning point in hastening the inevitable American exit from Iraq.

Mr. McCain is no Michael Dukakis. Unlike the 1988 Democratic standard-bearer, who was trying to counter accusations that he was weak on national defense, the Arizona senator has more military cred than any current presidential aspirant, let alone the current president. Every American knows that Mr. McCain is a genuine hero who survived torture during more than five years of captivity at the Hanoi Hilton. That's why when he squandered that credibility on an embarrassing propaganda stunt, he didn't hurt only himself but also inflicted collateral damage on lesser Washington mortals who still claim that the ''surge'' can bring ''victory'' in Iraq.

It can't be lost on those dwindling die-hards, particularly those on the 2008 ballot, that if defending the indefensible can reduce even a politician of Mr. McCain's heroic stature to that of Dukakis-in-the-tank, they have nowhere to go but down. They'll cut and run soon enough. For starters, just watch as Mr. McCain's G.O.P. presidential rivals add more caveats to their support for the administration's Iraq policy. Already, in a Tuesday interview on ''Good Morning America,'' Mitt Romney inched toward concrete ''timetables and milestones'' for Iraq, with the nonsensical proviso they shouldn't be published ''for the enemy.''

As if to confirm we're in the last throes, President Bush threw any remaining caution to the winds during his news conference in the Rose Garden that same morning. Almost everything he said was patently misleading or an outright lie, a sure sign of a leader so entombed in his bunker (he couldn't even emerge for the Washington Nationals' ceremonial first pitch last week) that he feels he has nothing left to lose.

Incredibly, he chided his adversaries on the Hill for going on vacation just as he was heading off for his own vacation in Crawford. Then he attacked Congress for taking 57 days to ''pass emergency funds for our troops'' even though the previous, Republican-led Congress took 119 days on the same bill in 2006. He ridiculed the House bill for ''pork and other spending that has nothing to do with the war,'' though last year's war-spending bill was also larded with unrelated pork, from Congressional efforts to add agricultural subsidies to the president's own request for money for bird-flu preparation.

Mr. Bush's claim that military equipment would be shortchanged if he couldn't sign a spending bill by mid-April was contradicted by not one but two government agencies. A Government Accountability Office report faulted poor Pentagon planning for endemic existing equipment shortages in the National Guard. The Congressional Research Service found that the Pentagon could pay for the war until well into July. Since by that point we'll already be on the threshold of our own commanders' late-summer deadline for judging the surge, what's the crisis?

The president then ratcheted up his habitual exploitation of the suffering of the troops and their families -- a button he had pushed five days earlier when making his six-weeks-tardy visit to pose for photos at scandal-ridden Walter Reed. ''Congress's failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines,'' he said. ''And others could see their loved ones headed back to the war sooner than they need to.''

His own failures had already foreordained exactly these grim results. Only the day before this news conference, the Pentagon said that the first unit tossed into the Baghdad surge would stay in Iraq a full year rather than the expected nine months, and that three other units had been ordered back there without the usual yearlong stay at home. By week's end, we would learn the story of the suspected friendly-fire death of 18-year-old Pvt. Matthew Zeimer, just two hours after assuming his first combat post. He had been among those who had been shipped to war with a vastly stripped-down training regimen, 10 days instead of four weeks, forced by the relentless need for new troops in Iraq.

Meanwhile the Iraqi ''democracy'' that Mr. Zeimer died for was given yet another free pass. Mr. Bush applauded the Iraqi government for ''working on an oil law,'' though it languishes in Parliament, and for having named a commander for its Baghdad troops. Much of this was a replay of Mr. Bush's sunny Rose Garden news conference in June, only then he claimed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was taking charge of Baghdad security on his own. Now it's not even clear whom the newly named Iraqi commander is commanding. The number of military operations with Iraqis in the lead is falling, not rising, according to the Pentagon. Even as the administration claims that Iraqis are leading the Baghdad crackdown, American military losses were double those of the Iraqi Army in March.

Mr. Bush or anyone else who sees progress in the surge is correct only in the most literal and temporary sense. Yes, an influx of American troops is depressing some Baghdad violence. But any falloff in the capital is being offset by increased violence in the rest of the country; the civilian death toll rose 15 percent from February to March. Mosul, which was supposedly secured in 2003 by the current American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, is now a safe haven for terrorists, according to an Iraqi government spokesman. The once-pacified Tal Afar, which Mr. Bush declared ''a free city that gives reason for hope for a free Iraq'' in 2006, is a cauldron of bloodshed.

If Baghdad isn't going to repeat Tal Afar's history, we will have to send many more American troops than promised and keep them there until Mr. Maliki presides over a stable coalition government providing its own security. Hell is more likely to freeze over first. Yet if American troops don't start to leave far sooner than that -- by the beginning of next year, according to the retired general and sometime White House consultant Barry McCaffrey -- the American Army will start to unravel. The National Guard, whose own new involuntary deployments to Iraq were uncovered last week by NBC News, can't ride to the rescue indefinitely.

The center will not hold, no matter what happens in the Washington standoff over war funding. Surely no one understands better than Mr. McCain that American lives are being wasted in the war's escalation. That is what he said on David Letterman's show in an unguarded moment some five weeks ago -- though he recanted the word wasted after taking flak the morning after.

Like his Letterman gaffe, Mr. McCain's ludicrous market stunt was at least in the tradition of his old brand of straight talk, in that it revealed the truth, however unintentionally. But many more have watched the constantly recycled and ridiculed spectacle of his ''safe'' walk in Baghdad than heard him on a late-night talk show. This incident has the staying power of the Howard Dean scream. Should it speed America's disengagement from Iraq, what looks today like John McCain's farcical act of political suicide may some day loom large as a patriot's final act of sacrifice for his country.
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muckraker10021

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<br>
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Rich always writes with bullet-proof “reality based” precision and prescience. This article is particularly good in cataloguing the ‘inconvenient facts’ that the RepubliKlan and their media whore accomplices hope you will forget.
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<font face="arial black" size="6" color="#D90000">Earth to G.O.P: The Gipper Is Dead</font>
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by Frank Rich

Published -May 13, 2007</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2007/05/13/opinion/13rich.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26nQ3DTopQ252fOpinionQ252fEditorialsQ2520andQ2520OpQ252dEdQ252fOpQ252dEdQ252fColumnistsQ252fFrankQ2520Rich&OP=2aa06f77Q2FQ22CiGQ22qQ20j44qQ22Q2655Q5CQ225Q3EQ222@Q224-cQ23c4Q23Q222@jcFEAEqDY


OF course you didn't watch the first Republican presidential debate on MSNBC. Even the party's most loyal base didn't abandon Fox News, where <b><font color="#ff0000">Bill O'Reilly, interviewing the already overexposed George Tenet,</font></b> drew far more viewers. Yet the few telling video scraps that entered the 24/7 mediasphere did turn the event into an instant ''Saturday Night Live'' parody without ''SNL'' having to lift a finger. The row of 10 middle-aged white candidates, <b><font color="#ff0000">David Letterman said,</font></b> looked like ''guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club.''

Since then, panicked Republicans have been either blaming the ''Let's Make a Deal'' debate format or praying for salvation-by-celebrity in the form of another middle-aged white guy who might enter the race, Fred Thompson. They don't seem to get that there is not another major brand in the country -- not Wal-Mart, not G.E., not even Denny's nowadays -- that would try to sell a mass product with such a demographically homogeneous sales force. And that's only half the problem. The other half is that the Republicans don't have a product to sell. Aside from tax cuts and a wall on the Mexican border, the only issue that energized the presidential contenders was Ronald Reagan. The debate's most animated moments by far came as they clamored to lip-sync his ''optimism,'' his ''morning in America,'' his ''shining city on the hill'' and even, in a bizarre John McCain moment out of a Chucky movie, his grin.

<b><font color="#ff0000">The candidates mentioned Reagan's name 19 times,</font></b> the current White House occupant's once. Much as the Republicans hope that the Gipper can still be a panacea for all their political ills, so they want to believe that if only President Bush would just go away and <b><font color="#ff0000">take his rock-bottom approval rating</font></b> and equally unpopular war with him, all of their problems would be solved. But it could be argued that the Iraq fiasco, disastrous to American interests as it is, actually masks the magnitude of the destruction this presidency has visited both on the country in general and the G.O.P. in particular.

By my rough, conservative calculation -- feel free to add -- there have been corruption, incompetence, and contracting or cronyism scandals in these cabinet departments: Defense, Education, Justice, Interior, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development. I am not counting State, whose deputy secretary, a champion of abstinence-based international AIDS funding, <b><font color="#ff0000">resigned last month</font></b> in a prostitution scandal, or the General Services Administration, now being investigated for possibly <b><font color="#ff0000">steering federal favors to Republican Congressional candidates</font></b> in 2006. Or the Office of Management and Budget, whose chief procurement officer was sentenced to prison in the Abramoff fallout. I will, however, toss in a figure that reveals the sheer depth of the overall malfeasance: no fewer than four inspectors general, the official watchdogs charged with investigating improprieties in each department, <b><font color="#ff0000">are themselves under investigation simultaneously</font></b> -- an all-time record.

Wrongdoing of this magnitude does not happen by accident, but it is not necessarily instigated by a Watergate-style criminal conspiracy. When corruption is this pervasive, it can also be a byproduct of a governing philosophy. That's the case here. That Bush-Rove style of governance, the common denominator of all the administration scandals, is the Frankenstein creature that stalks the G.O.P. as it faces 2008. It has become the Republican brand and will remain so, even after this president goes, until courageous Republicans disown it and eradicate it.

It's not the philosophy Mr. Bush campaigned on. Remember the candidate who billed himself as a ''different kind of Republican'' and a ''compassionate conservative''? Karl Rove wanted to build a lasting Republican majority by <b><font color="#ff0000">emulating the tactics of the 1896 candidate, William McKinley,</font></b> whose victory ushered in G.O.P. dominance that would last until the New Deal some 35 years later. The Rove plan was to add to the party's base, much as McKinley had at the dawn of the industrial era, by attracting new un-Republican-like demographic groups, including Hispanics and African-Americans. Hence, No Child Left Behind, an education program pitched particularly to urban Americans, and a 2000 nominating convention that starred break dancers, gospel singers, Colin Powell and, as an M.C., the only black Republican member of Congress, J. C. Watts.

As always, the salesmanship was brilliant. One smitten liberal columnist imagined in 1999 that Mr. Bush could redefine his party: ''If compassion and inclusion are his talismans, education his centerpiece and national unity his promise, we may say a final, welcome goodbye to the wedge issues that have divided Americans by race, ethnicity and religious conviction.'' Or not. As <b><font color="#ff0000">Matthew Dowd, the disaffected Bush pollster,</font></b> concluded this spring, the uniter he had so eagerly helped elect turned out to be ''not the person'' he thought, but instead a divider who wanted to appeal to the ''51 percent of the people'' who would ensure his hold on power.

But it isn't just the divisive Bush-Rove partisanship that led to scandal. The corruption grew out of the White House's insistence that partisanship -- the maintenance of that 51 percent -- dictate every governmental action no matter what the effect on the common good. And so the first M.B.A. president ignored every rule of sound management. Loyal ideologues or flunkies were put in crucial positions regardless of their ethics or competence. Government business was outsourced to campaign contributors regardless of their ethics or competence. Even orthodox Republican fiscal prudence was tossed aside so Congressional allies could be bought off with bridges to nowhere.

This was true way before many, let alone Matthew Dowd, were willing to see it. It was true before the Iraq war. In retrospect, the first unimpeachable evidence of the White House's modus operandi was reported by the journalist Ron Suskind, for Esquire, at the end of 2002. Mr. Suskind interviewed an illustrious Bush appointee, the University of Pennsylvania political scientist John DiIulio, who had run the administration's compassionate-conservative flagship, the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bemoaning an unprecedented ''lack of a policy apparatus'' in the White House, <b><font color="#ff0000">Mr. DiIulio said: ''What you've got is everything -- and I mean everything -- being run by the political arm.</font></b> It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.''

His words have been borne out repeatedly: by the unqualified political hacks and well-connected no-bid contractors who sabotaged the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq; <b><font color="#ff0000">the politicization of science</font></b> at the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency; <b><font color="#ff0000">the outsourcing of veterans' care to a crony company</font></b> at Walter Reed; and the purge of independent United States attorneys at Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department. But even more pertinent, perhaps, to the Republican future is how the Mayberry Machiavellis alienated the precise groups that Mr. Bush had promised to add to his party's base.

By <b><font color="#ff0000">installing a political hack, his 2000 campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh</font></b>, at the top of FEMA, the president foreordained the hiring of Brownie and the disastrous response to Katrina. At the Education Department, the signature No Child Left Behind program, Reading First, is turning out to be a cesspool of contracting conflicts of interest. It's also at that department that Bush loyalists stood passively by while the student-loan industry scandal exploded; at its center is Nelnet, the single largest corporate campaign contributor to the 2006 G.O.P. Congressional campaign committee. Back at Mr. Gonzales's operation, where revelations of politicization and cover-ups mount daily, it turns out that <b><font color="#ff0000">no black lawyers have been hired</font></b> in the nearly all-white criminal section of the civil rights division since 2003.

The sole piece of compassionate conservatism that Mr. Bush has tried not to sacrifice to political expedience -- nondraconian immigration reform -- is also on the ropes, done in by a wave of xenophobia that he has failed to combat. Just how knee-jerk this strain has become could be seen in the MSNBC debate when Chris Matthews asked the candidates if they would consider a constitutional amendment to allow presidential runs by naturalized citizens like their party's star governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger (an American since 1983), and its national chairman, Senator Mel Martinez of Florida. Seven out of 10 said no.

We've certainly come a long way from that 2000 Philadelphia convention, with its dream of forging an inclusive, long-lasting G.O.P. majority. Instead of break dancers and a black Republican congressman (there are none now), we've had YouTube classics like <b><font color="#ff0000">Mr. Rove's impersonation of a rapper</font></b> at a Washington journalists' banquet and <b><font color="#ff0000">George Allen's ''macaca'' meltdown.</b></font> Simultaneously, the once-reliable evangelical base is starting to drift as some of its leaders join the battle against global warming and others recognize that they've been played for fools on ''family values'' by the G.O.P. establishment that covered up for Mark Foley.

Meanwhile, most of the pressing matters that the public cares passionately about -- Iraq, health care, the environment and energy independence -- belong for now to the Democrats. Though that party's first debate wasn't exactly an intellectual feast either, actual issues were engaged by presidential hopefuls representing a cross section of American demographics. You don't see Democratic candidates changing the subject to J.F.K. and F.D.R. They are free to start wrestling with the future while the men inheriting the Bush-Rove brand of Republicanism are reduced to harking back to a morning in America on which the sun set in 1989.
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muckraker10021

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<font face="tahoma" size="4" color="#0000FF"><b>
Darth Cheney says in 1994 - "Invading Baghdad Would Create Quagmire"</b></font>

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Shuffling Off to Crawford, 2007 Edition </font>

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<b>by Frank Rich

August 12th 2007</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/opinion/12rich.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26nQ3DTopQ252fOpinionQ252fEditorialsQ2520andQ2520OpQ252dEdQ252fOpQ252dEdQ252fColumnistsQ252fFrankQ2520Rich&OP=107f34e2Q2FQ26Q2FfQ3BQ26Q60t9__Q60Q26P33oQ263XQ26cPQ26_qQ25aQ25_aQ26cP9Q25Q2AQ220Q22Q60nj

THE cases of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch were ugly enough. So surely someone in the White House might have the good taste to draw the line at exploiting the murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. But nothing is out of bounds for a government that puts the darkest arts of politics and public relations above even the exigencies of war.

As Jane Mayer told the story in last week’s New Yorker <B>(article <FONT COLOR="#FF0000" FACE="VERDANA">OUTSOURCING TORTURE -The secret history of America’s “extraordinary rendition” program</FONT>)</B> , Mariane Pearl was called by Alberto Gonzales with some good news in March: the Justice Department was releasing a transcript in which the long-incarcerated Qaeda thug Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to the beheading of her husband. But there was something off about Mr. Gonzales’s news. It was almost four years old.

Condoleezza Rice had called Ms. Pearl to tell her in confidence about the very same confession back in 2003; it was also reported that year in The Journal and elsewhere. What’s more, the confession was suspect; another terrorist had been convicted in the Pearl case in Pakistan in 2002. There is no known corroborating evidence that Mohammed, the 9/11 ringleader who has taken credit for many horrific crimes while in American custody, was responsible for this particular murder. None of his claims, particularly those possibly coerced by torture, can be taken as gospel solely on our truth-challenged attorney general’s say-so.

Ms. Pearl recognized a publicity ploy when she saw it. And this one wasn’t subtle. Mr. Gonzales released the Mohammed transcript just as the latest Justice Department scandal was catching fire, with newly disclosed e-mail exchanges revealing the extent of White House collaboration in the United States attorney firings. Had the attorney general succeeded in enlisting Daniel Pearl’s widow as a player in his stunt, it might have diverted attention from a fracas then engulfing President Bush on his Latin American tour.

Though he failed this time, Mr. Gonzales’s P.R. manipulation of the war on terror hasn’t always been so fruitless. To upstage increasingly contentious Congressional restlessness about Iraq in 2006, he put on a widely viewed show to announce an alleged plot by men in Miami to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and conduct a “full ground war.” He said at the time the men “swore allegiance to Al Qaeda” but, funnily enough, last week this case was conspicuously missing from a long new White House “fact sheet” listing all the terrorist plots it had foiled.

The Gonzales antics are, of course, in the tradition of an administration with a genius for stirring up terror nightmares at politically opportune times, like just before the Democratic convention in 2004. The Sears Tower scenario came right out of the playbook of his predecessor, John Ashcroft. In 2002, Mr. Ashcroft waited a full month to announce the Chicago arrest of the “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla — suddenly commandeering TV cameras in the middle of a trip to Moscow so that this tardy “news” could drown out the damning pre-9/11 revelations from the F.B.I. whistleblower Coleen Rowley. Since then, the dirty bomb in the Padilla case has evaporated much like Mr. Gonzales’s Sears Tower extravaganza.

Now that the administration is winding down and the Qaeda threat is at its scariest since 2001, one might hope that such stunts would cease. Indeed, two of the White House’s most accomplished artificial-reality Imagineers both left their jobs last month: Scott Sforza, the former ABC News producer who polished up the “Mission Accomplished” spectacle, and Peter Feaver, the academic specialist in wartime public opinion who helped conceive the 35-page National Security Council document that Mr. Bush unveiled as his Iraq “Plan for Victory” in November 2005.

Mr. Feaver’s document used the word victory six times in its table of contents alone, and was introduced by a speech at the Naval Academy in which Mr. Bush invoked “victory” 15 times while standing on a set bedecked with “Plan for Victory” signage. Alas, it turned out that victory could not be achieved merely by Orwellian incantation, so the plan was scrapped only 13 months later for the “surge.” But while Mr. Feaver and his doomed effort to substitute propaganda for action may now be gone, the White House’s public relations strategies for the war, far from waning, are again gathering steam, to America’s peril.

This came into sharp focus last weekend, when our military disclosed, very quietly and with a suspicious lack of accompanying White House fanfare, that it had killed a major terror culprit in Iraq, Haythem Sabah al-Badri. Never heard of him? Usually this administration oversells every death of a terrorist leader. It underplayed Badri’s demise for a reason. The fine print would further expose the fictional new story line that has been concocted to rebrand and resell the Iraq war as a battle against Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda — or, as Mr. Bush now puts it, “the very same folks that attacked us on September the 11th.”

To understand how, revisit the president’s trial run of this new narrative, when he announced the surge in January. Mr. Bush had to explain why his previous “Plan for Victory” had gone belly up so quickly, so he came up with a new premise that absolved him of blame. In his prime-time speech, the president implied that all had been on track in Iraq after the country’s December 2005 elections until Feb. 22, 2006, when one of the holiest Shiite shrines, the gold-domed mosque in Samarra, was blown up. In this revisionist history, that single terrorist act set off the outbreak of sectarian violence in Iraq now requiring the surge.

This narrative was false. Shiite death squads had been attacking Sunnis for more than a year before the Samarra bombing. The mosque attack was not a turning point. It was merely a confirmation of the Iraqi civil war that Mr. Bush refuses to acknowledge because American voters don’t want their troops in the middle of one.

But that wasn’t the only new plot point that the president advanced in his surge speech. With no proof, Mr. Bush directly attributed the newly all-important Samarra bombing to “Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents,” cementing a rhetorical sleight of hand he had started sketching out during the midterm election season.

In fact, no one has taken credit for the mosque bombing to this day. But Iraqi government officials fingered Badri as the culprit. (Some local officials told The Washington Post after the bombing that Iraqi security forces were themselves responsible.) Since Badri is a leader of a tiny insurgent cell reportedly affiliated with what the president calls “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” Mr. Bush had the last synthetic piece he needed to complete his newest work of fiction: 1) All was hunky-dory with his plan for victory until the mosque was bombed. 2) “Al Qaeda in Iraq” bombed the mosque. 3) Ipso facto, America must escalate the war to defeat “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” those “very same folks that attacked us on September the 11th.”

As a growing chorus of critics reiterates, “Al Qaeda in Iraq” is not those very same folks. It did not exist on 9/11 but was a product of the Iraq war and accounts for only a small fraction of the Sunni insurgency. It is not to be confused with the resurgent bin Laden network we’ve been warned about in the latest National Intelligence Estimate. But this factual issue hasn’t deterred Mr. Bush. He has merely stepped up his bogus conflation of the two Qaedas by emphasizing all the “foreign leaders” of “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” because that might allow him to imply they are bin Laden emissaries. In a speech in Charleston, S.C., on July 24, he listed a Syrian, an Egyptian, a Tunisian, a Saudi and a Turk.

Against the backdrop of this stepped-up propaganda blitz, Badri’s death nine days later was an inconvenient reminder of the hole in the official White House narrative. Mr. Bush couldn’t do his usual victory jig over Badri’s demise because there’s no way to pass off Badri as a link to bin Laden. He was born in Samarra and was a member of Saddam’s Special Republican Guard.

If Badri was responsible for the mosque bombing that has caused all our woes in Iraq and forced us to stay there, then the president’s story line falls apart. Far from having any connection to bin Laden’s Qaeda, the Samarra bombing was instead another manifestation of the Iraqi civil war that Mr. Bush denies. No wonder the same White House “fact sheet” that left out Mr. Gonzales’s foiled Sears Tower plot and, for that matter, Jose Padilla, also omitted Badri’s name from its list of captured and killed “Senior Al Qaeda Leaders.” Surely it was a coincidence that this latest statement of official Bush administration amnesia was released on Aug. 6, the sixth anniversary of the President’s Daily Brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

And so the president, firm in his resolve against “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” heads toward another August break in Crawford while Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan remains determined to strike in America. No one can doubt Mr. Bush’s triumph in the P.R. war: There are more American troops than ever mired in Iraq, sent there by a fresh round of White House fictions. And the real war? The enemy that did attack us six years ago, sad to say, is likely to persist in its nasty habit of operating in the reality-based world that our president disdains.</font><br><br><hr noshade color="#ff0000" size="10"></hr><p>
 

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<font face="arial black" color="#d90000" size="6">As the Iraqis Stand Down, We&rsquo;ll Stand Up </font>
<font face="trebuchet ms" size="3" color="#000000">

<b>by Frank Rich

September 9, 2007</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2007/09/09/opinion/09rich.html&OQ=_rQ3D1Q26nQ3DTopQ252fOpinionQ252fEditorialsQ2520andQ2520OpQ252dEdQ252fOpQ252dEdQ252fColumnistsQ252fFrankQ2520Rich&OP=71af51ccQ2FQ230DQ27Q23_Eh22_Q23Q5EvvjQ23vdQ23vdQ2321Q7DQ2BQ7D2Q2BQ23vdhQ7DWMYM_Q25Q7C

<br>IT will be all 9/11 all the time this week, as the White House yet again synchronizes its drumbeating for the Iraq war with the anniversary of an attack that had nothing to do with Iraq. Ignore that fog and focus instead on <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>another date whose anniversary passed yesterday without notice: Sept. 8, 2002</u></b></font> . What happened on that Sunday five years ago is the Rosetta Stone for the administration's latest scam.
<br>That was the morning when the Bush White House officially rolled out its fraudulent case for the war. The four horsemen of the apocalypse &mdash; Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice &mdash; were dispatched en masse to the Washington talk shows, where they eagerly pointed to a <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>front-page New York Times article</u></b></font> amplifying subsequently debunked administration claims that Saddam had sought to buy aluminum tubes meant for nuclear weapons. &quot;We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,&quot; said <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>Condoleezza Rice on CNN</u></b></font> , introducing a <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>sales pitch concocted by a White House speechwriter</u></b></font> .
<br>What followed was an epic propaganda onslaught of distorted intelligence, fake news, credulous and erroneous reporting by bona fide journalists, presidential playacting and Congressional fecklessness. Much of it had been plotted that summer of 2002 by the then-secret <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>White House Iraq Group (WHIG)</u></b></font> , a small task force of administration brass charged with the Iraq con job.
<br>Today the spirit of WHIG lives. In the stay-the-surge propaganda offensive that crests with this week's Congressional testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, history is repeating itself in almost every particular. Even the specter of <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>imminent &quot;nuclear holocaust&quot;</u></b></font> has been rebooted in President Bush's arsenal of rhetorical scare tactics.
<br>The new WHIG is a <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>24/7 Pentagon information &quot;war room&quot;</u></b></font> conceived in the <font color="#FF0000"><b><u> last throes of the Rumsfeld regime and run by a former ABC News producer</u></b></font>. White House &quot;facts&quot; about the surge's triumph are turning up unsubstantiated in newspapers and on TV. Instead of being bombarded with dire cherry-picked intelligence about W.M.D., this time we're being serenaded with feel-good cherry-picked statistics offering hope. Once again the fix is in. Mr. Bush's pretense that he has been waiting for the Petraeus-Crocker report before setting his policy is as bogus as his U.N. charade before the war. And once again a narrowly Democratic Senate lacks the votes to stop him.
<br>As always with this White House, telegenic artificial realities are paramount. Exhibit A, of course, was last weekend's <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>precisely timed &quot;surprise&quot; presidential junket</u></b></font> : Mr. Bush took the measure of <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>success &quot;on the ground here in Anbar&quot; (as he put it)</u></b></font> without ever leaving a heavily fortified American base.
<br>A more elaborate example of administration Disneyland can be found in those <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>bubbly Baghdad markets visited by John McCain</u></b></font> and other dignitaries whenever the cameras roll. Last week The Washington Post discovered that at least one of them, the Dora market, is a <font color="#FF0000"><b><u> Potemkin village</u></b></font>, open only a few hours a day and produced by $2,500 grants (a k a bribes) bestowed on the shopkeepers. &quot;This is General Petraeus's baby,&quot; Staff Sgt. Josh Campbell told The Post. &quot;Personally, I think it's a false impression.&quot; Another U.S. officer said that even shops that &quot;sell dust&quot; or merely &quot;intend to sell goods&quot; are included in the Pentagon's count of the market's reopened businesses.
<br>One Baghdad visitor left unimpressed was Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Chicago, who dined with her delegation in Mr. Crocker's Green Zone residence last month while General Petraeus delivered his spiel. &quot;He's spending an awful lot of time wining and dining members of Congress,&quot; she told me last week. Though the menu included that native specialty lobster tortellini, the real bill of fare, Ms. Schakowsky said, was a rigid set of talking points: &quot;Anbar,&quot; &quot;bottom up,&quot; &quot;decrease in violence&quot; and &quot;success.&quot;
<br>In this new White House narrative, victory has been downsized to a successful antiterrorist alliance between Sunni tribal leaders and the American military in Anbar, a single province containing less than 5 percent of Iraq's population. In truth, the surge had little to do with this development, which was already being <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>trumpeted by Mr. Bush in his January prime-time speech</u></b></font> announcing the surge.
<br>Even if you believe that it's a good idea to bond with former Saddamists who may have American blood on their hands, the chances of this &quot;bottom up&quot; model replicating itself are slim. Anbar's population is almost exclusively Sunni. Much of the rest of Iraq is consumed by the Sunni-Shiite and Shiite-Shiite civil wars that are M.I.A. in White House talking points.
<br>The &quot;decrease in violence&quot; fable is even more insidious. Though both General Petraeus and a <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>White House fact sheet</u></b></font> have recently <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>boasted of a 75 percent decline in sectarian attacks</u></b></font> , this number turns out to be as cooked as those tallies of Saddam's weapons sites once peddled by WHIG. As The Washington Post reported on Thursday, it excludes Shiite-on-Shiite and Sunni-on-Sunni violence. The Government Accountability Office, which rejected that fuzzy math, found overall violence unchanged using the methodology practiced by the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
<br>No doubt General Petraeus, like Dick Cheney before him, will say that his own data is &quot;pretty well confirmed&quot; by classified intelligence that can't be divulged without endangering national security. Meanwhile, the White House will ruthlessly undermine any reality-based information that contradicts its propaganda, much as it dismissed the accurate W.M.D. findings of the United Nations weapon experts Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei before the war. <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>General Petraeus intervened to soften</u></b></font> last month's harsh <font color="#FF0000"><b><u> National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq</u></b></font> National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Last week the administration and its ideological surrogates were tireless in trashing the <font color="#FF0000"><b><u> nonpartisan G.A.O. report card nonpartisan G.A.O. report card</u></b></font> that found the Iraqi government flunking most of its benchmarks.
<br>Those benchmarks, the war's dead- enders now say, are obsolete anyway. But what about the president's own benchmarks? Remember &quot;as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down&quot;? <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>General Petraeus was once in charge</u></b></font> of the Iraqi Army's training and proclaimed it &quot;on track and increasing in capacity&quot; three years ago. On Thursday, <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>an independent commission</u></b></font> convened by the Republican John Warner and populated by retired military officers and police chiefs reported that Iraqi forces can take charge no sooner than 12 to 18 months from now, and that the corrupt Iraqi police force has to be rebuilt from scratch. Let us not forget, either, Mr. Bush's former top-down benchmarks for measuring success: &quot;an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself.&quot; On that scorecard, he's batting 0 for 3.
<br>What's surprising is not that this White House makes stuff up, but that even after all the journalistic embarrassments in the run-up to the war its fictions can still infiltrate the real news. After Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, two Brookings Institution scholars, wrote <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>a New York Times Op-Ed article</u></b></font> in July spreading glad tidings of falling civilian fatality rates, <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>they were widely damned for trying to pass themselves off as tough war critics</u></b></font> (both had supported the war and the surge) and for not mentioning that their fact-finding visit to Iraq was largely dictated by a Department of Defense itinerary.
<br>But this has not impeded them from posing as quasi-journalistic independent observers elsewhere ever since, whether on <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>CNN</u></b></font> , <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>CBS</u></b></font> , <font color="#FF0000"><b><u><s>FOX</s> FAKE</u></b></font> or in these pages, identifying themselves as experts rather than Pentagon junketeers. Unlike Armstrong Williams, the talking head and columnist who clandestinely received big government bucks to &quot;regularly comment&quot; on No Child Left Behind, they received no cash. But why pay for what you can get free? Two weeks ago <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>Mr. O'Hanlon popped up on The Washington Post op-ed page</u></b></font> , again pushing rosy Iraq scenarios, including an upbeat prognosis for economic reconstruction, even though the G.A.O. found that little of the $10 billion earmarked for reconstruction is likely to be spent.
<br>Anchoring the &quot;CBS Evening News&quot; from Iraq last week, <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>Katie Couric seemed to be drinking the same Kool-Aid</u></b></font> (or eating the same lobster tortellini) as Mr. O'Hanlon. As &quot;a snapshot of what's going right,&quot; <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>she cited Falluja, a bombed-out city with 80 percent unemployment</u></b></font> , and she repeatedly spoke of American victories against &quot;Al Qaeda.&quot; Channeling the president's bait-and-switch, she never differentiated between that local group he calls &quot;Al Qaeda in Iraq&quot; and the Qaeda that attacked America on 9/11. Al Qaeda in Iraq, which didn't even exist on 9/11, may represent as little as 2 to 5 percent of the Sunni insurgency, according to a <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>new investigation in The Washington Monthly by Andrew Tilghman</u></b></font> , a former Iraq correspondent for Stars and Stripes.
<br>Next to such &quot;real&quot; news from CBS, the &quot;fake&quot; news at the network's corporate sibling Comedy Central was, not for the first time, more trustworthy. <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>Rob Riggle, a &quot;Daily Show&quot; correspondent</u></b></font> who also serves in the Marine Reserve, <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>invited American troops in Iraq to speak candidly about the Iraqi Parliament's vacation</u></b></font> .
<br>When the line separating spin from reality is so effectively blurred, the White House's propaganda mission has once more been accomplished. No wonder President Bush is cocky again. Stopping in Sydney for the economic summit after last weekend's photo op in Iraq, he reportedly told Australia's deputy prime minister that <font color="#FF0000"><b><u>&quot;we're kicking ass.&quot;</u></b></font> </a> This war has now gone on so long that perhaps he has forgotten the price our troops paid the last time he taunted our adversaries to bring it on, some four years and 3,500 American military fatalities ago.
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<FONT FACE="ARIAL BLACK" size="6" color="#d90000">
What Crocker and Petraeus didn't say</font><font face="verdana" size="3" color="#000000">

<b>by Nancy A. Youssef & Leila Fadel

| McClatchy Newspapers | September 11, 2007 </b>

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/19610.html

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration's top two officials in Iraq answered questions from Congress for more than six hours on Monday, but their testimony may have been as important for what they didn't say as for what they did.

A chart displayed by Army Gen. David Petraeus that purported to show the decline in sectarian violence in Baghdad between December and August made no effort to show that the ethnic character of many of the neighborhoods had changed in that same period from majority Sunni Muslim or mixed to majority Shiite Muslim.

Neither Petraeus nor U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker talked about the fact that since the troop surge began the pace by which Iraqis were abandoning their homes in search of safety had increased. They didn't mention that 86 percent of Iraqis who've fled their homes said they'd been targeted because of their sect, according to the International Organization for Migration.

While Petraeus stressed that civilian casualties were down over the last five weeks, he drew no connection between that statement and a chart he displayed that showed that the number of attacks rose during at least one of those weeks.

Petraeus also didn't highlight the fact that his charts showed that "ethno-sectarian" deaths in August, down from July, were still higher than in June, and he didn't explain why the greatest drop in such deaths, which peaked in December, occurred between January and February, before the surge began.

And while both officials said that the Iraqi security forces were improving, neither talked about how those forces had been infiltrated by militias, though Petraeus acknowledged that during 2006 some Iraqi security forces had participated in the ethnic violence.

Both officials said they believed that Iraq was on the path to potential success. Petraeus said that "the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met." Crocker was similarly optimistic: "In my judgment, the cumulative trajectory of political, economic and diplomatic developments in Iraq is upwards, although the slope of that line is not steep."

They both pleaded for more time, even as Petraeus said that the U.S. should begin pulling troops out, with the goal of being back to the pre-surge level of 130,000 troops by next July. Further reductions would be considered next spring, as conditions allow, he said.

Both men celebrated their plan's success in encouraging residents in once-restive Anbar province to work with U.S. troops against al Qaida in Iraq.

Petraeus conceded that that success didn't extend to Ninevah province, where progress "has been much more up and down." But he didn't say that many believe that al Qaida numbers increased there only after the surge began. Ninevah is where some of the largest bombings of the year occurred, including the attack on the Yazidis, which killed more than 300.

He also offered a tepid endorsement of the Iraqi security forces, at times saying that they were increasingly capable of defending Iraq, while conceding that they needed to show more progress.

"Iraqi security forces have also continued to grow and shoulder more of the load, albeit slowly and amid continuing concerns about the sectarian tendencies of some elements in their ranks," Petraeus said. "In general, however, Iraqi elements have been standing and fighting and sustaining tough losses, and they have taken the lead in operations in many areas."

He said 445,000 people were on the security forces' payroll, but didn't discuss that many officials believe that thousands of those don't actually exist, but are phantoms whose salaries actually go into ministry officials' pockets.

Both Iraqis and U.S. officials concede that militias have infiltrated the security forces and that political leaders continue to interfere with their operations to serve their sects' interests.

Petraeus presented a series of maps to show how sectarian violence had dropped in Baghdad from December 2006 to August 2007. But all of the maps showed the same color-coding for Sunni, Shiite and mixed neighborhoods, even though the ethnicity of many neighborhoods have shifted dramatically over the previous year. U.S. military officials say that Baghdad was once 65 percent Sunni and is now 75 percent Shiite.

Questions from the 107 members of Congress who sat in on the hearing rarely produced more detail.

Still, the two men, considered by many to be among the most capable U.S. public servants to have served in Iraq, didn't attempt to hide their reservations. Both said they couldn't guarantee success.

Crocker, a fluent Arabic speaker and a lifelong student of the area, questioned the U.S. criteria for measuring success and said that the Iraqi government might never meet most of the 18 benchmarks laid out by Congress in a May law. Petraeus, who wrote the Army's counterinsurgency manual, acknowledged that violence remained at unacceptable levels.

Independent observers said the numbers that Crocker and Petraeus provided showed the violence has dropped to about where it was in May 2006, a few months after a February 2006 bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in the mostly Sunni city of Samarra, which the military uses to mark the rise in sectarian violence.

"At best, what you've got is the status quo from May or June of 2006," said Kirk Johnson, who served for 13 months as the chief statistician for Crocker and who said he supports the current strategy in Iraq.

Rand Beers, a former White House counterterrorism aide who resigned to protest the invasion of Iraq, noted there was another troop surge, in Baghdad, in summer 2006.

"We've had two surges, and in a way, things are back to the level before the first surge," Beers said in a conference call with reporters.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard said that it was understandable that Petraeus emphasized the positive.

"He's a human being and he's a military human being that wants to accomplish the mission," Gard said.

(Youssef reported from Washington, Fadel, from Baghdad. Warren P. Strobel in Washington contributed.)

McClatchy Newspapers 2007</font><br><hr noshade color="#0000FF" size="10"></hr><p>
 
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<font face="arial black" size="6" color="#d90000">
A Surge, and Then a Stab </font><font face="tahoma" size="4" color="#0000ff"><b>

To understand what’s really happening in Iraq, follow the oil money, which already knows that the surge has failed. The smart money...knows that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia</b>
</font>
<font face="trebuchet ms" size="3" color="#000000"><b>


By PAUL KRUGMAN

September 14 2007</b>

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2007/09/14/opinion/14krugman.html&OQ=_rQ3D2&OP=56b43d40Q2FUX48ULI.TTLUQ7BzzQ5DUz_UuxUTJ(Q3C(TQ3CUux5.t,mYQ3CQ26BLms

To understand what’s really happening in Iraq, follow the oil money, which already knows that the surge has failed.

Back in January, announcing his plan to send more troops to Iraq, President Bush declared that “America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.”

Near the top of his list was the promise that “to give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.”

There was a reason he placed such importance on oil: oil is pretty much the only thing Iraq has going for it. Two-thirds of Iraq’s G.D.P. and almost all its government revenue come from the oil sector. Without an agreed system for sharing oil revenues, there is no Iraq, just a collection of armed gangs fighting for control of resources.

Well, the legislation Mr. Bush promised never materialized, and on Wednesday attempts to arrive at a compromise oil law collapsed.

What’s particularly revealing is the cause of the breakdown. Last month the provincial government in Kurdistan, defying the central government, passed its own oil law; last week a Kurdish Web site announced that the provincial government had signed a production-sharing deal with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, and that seems to have been the last straw.

Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.

Some commentators have expressed surprise at the fact that a businessman with very close ties to the White House is undermining U.S. policy. But that isn’t all that surprising, given this administration’s history. Remember, Halliburton was still signing business deals with Iran years after Mr. Bush declared Iran a member of the “axis of evil.”

No, what’s interesting about this deal is the fact that Mr. Hunt, thanks to his policy position, is presumably as well-informed about the actual state of affairs in Iraq as anyone in the business world can be. By putting his money into a deal with the Kurds, despite Baghdad’s disapproval, he’s essentially betting that the Iraqi government — which hasn’t met a single one of the major benchmarks Mr. Bush laid out in January — won’t get its act together. Indeed, he’s effectively betting against the survival of Iraq as a nation in any meaningful sense of the term.

The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.

After all, if the administration had any real hope of retrieving the situation in Iraq, officials would be making an all-out effort to get the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to start delivering on some of those benchmarks, perhaps using the threat that Congress would cut off funds otherwise. Instead, the Bushies are making excuses, minimizing Iraqi failures, moving goal posts and, in general, giving the Maliki government no incentive to do anything differently.

And for that matter, if the administration had any real intention of turning public opinion around, as opposed to merely shoring up the base enough to keep Republican members of Congress on board, it would have sent Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, to as many news media outlets as possible — not granted an exclusive appearance to Fox News on Monday night.

All in all, Mr. Bush’s actions have not been those of a leader seriously trying to win a war. They have, however, been what you’d expect from a man whose plan is to keep up appearances for the next 16 months, never mind the cost in lives and money, then shift the blame for failure onto his successor.

In fact, that’s my interpretation of something that startled many people: Mr. Bush’s decision last month, after spending years denying that the Iraq war had anything in common with Vietnam, to suddenly embrace the parallel.

Here’s how I see it: At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home.

What all this means is that the next president, even as he or she tries to extricate us from Iraq — and prevent the country’s breakup from turning into a regional war — will have to deal with constant sniping from the people who lied us into an unnecessary war, then lost the war they started, but will never, ever, take responsibility for their failures.
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QueEx

Rising Star
Super Moderator
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The administration’s enforcement of a prohibition on photographs of coffins returning from Iraq was the first policy manifestation of the<div align="left"><!-- MSTableType="layout" --><img src="http://www.chris-floyd.com/images/funeral.jpg" alt="burial" border="4" align="left" width="400" height="266" /></div>hide-the-carnage strategy. It was complemented by the president’s decision to break with precedent, set by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter among others, and refuse to attend military funerals, lest he lend them a media spotlight.

But Mark Benjamin, who has chronicled the mistreatment of Iraq war veterans since 2003, discovered an equally concerted effort to keep injured troops off camera. Mr. Benjamin wrote in Salon in 2005 that “flights carrying the wounded arrive in the United States only at night” and that both Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda barred the press “from seeing or photographing incoming patients.”


Out of sight, out of mind was the game plan, and it has been enforced down to the tiniest instances.


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<font size=5"><center>
Pentagon lifts media ban
on photos of war dead</font size>
<font size="4">
The new policy lets the families of fallen troops decide
on press coverage, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says</font size></center>



Troops salute the war dead as coffins are
unloaded from a plane at Dover Air Force
Base in Delaware, where all soldiers killed
overseas are sent. Media photographs like
this one had been prohibited since 1991.
(Getty Images, Getty Images)


Los Angeles Times
By Julian E. Barnes
February 27, 2009


Reporting from Washington -- The Pentagon has decided to rescind a long-standing prohibition against press coverage of returning war dead, allowing families to say whether news organizations may photograph the arrivals, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday.

The remains of all U.S. service members killed overseas are flown to Delaware's Dover Air Force Base. But photographic images have been prohibited since 1991. The administration of President George W. Bush rigorously enforced the ban, preventing pictures of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan from appearing in news coverage.

The new policy will leave it up to the families of slain service members to decide whether to allow the media to photograph the arrival of the remains in Dover.

"My conclusion was, we should not presume to make the decision for the families. We should actually let them make it," Gates said.

The question of media access has deeply divided the military as well as veterans and family groups.


Some favored keeping the ban, and others wanted to give families the option of allowing the media in, said Joyce Raezer, the executive director of the National Military Family Assn.

"We are hoping whatever comes out of this new policy accommodates a variety of wishes," she said.

Gates has assigned a group of Pentagon officials to work out details. Concerns include: what to do if a flight is carrying remains of several service members and families are divided over access, or what services will be provided for families who want to be present for the return.

Many Pentagon officials have worried that opening up Dover will result in pressure on families to go to the base to meet the arriving flights. If they do, Raezer said, the military needs to be prepared with chaplains, counselors and lodging.

"If they are going to open it up to families, do they have the capability of assisting those families?" she said. "There are lots of unanswered questions."

One organization, Military Families United, said a survey of military families found that 84% opposed changing the policy.

"We are pretty disappointed in the president's decision to overturn the ban," said John Ellsworth, the group's president, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004. "This is a complete disregard for the will of America's military families and their need for privacy during this solemn moment."

Ellsworth said he would not have wanted to choose whether to leave his grieving family and go to Dover to receive the body of his son, Justin.

"I don't believe my family would have been best served for me to go to Dover," he said. "But I would have felt torn if I had to make the decision."

Gates said he had been opposed to the media ban and first considered dropping it a year ago. At that time, he asked officials to review the prohibition. Those reviewing the policy recommended keeping it unchanged, and Gates decided to accept the recommendation. The Bush White House was not involved in that review, he said.

But the day after President Obama said this month that he wanted to revisit the issue, Gates launched a new, wider review.

"I talked directly with the senior leadership of the services and solicited their views," Gates said. "I'll be perfectly honest about it. There was a division in the building."

Gates said everyone in the military -- on both sides of the issue -- was motivated by trying to help the families of fallen service members.

"People were all trying to do what was right by the families," Gates said. "It just seemed to me that we ought to let the families make that decision."

julian.barnes@latimes.com

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-war-dead-photos27-2009feb27,0,3073377.story
 
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