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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Terror

The Bush administration is conducting a "war on terror," but policymakers and scholars do not have a simple consensus definition of terrorism.

Nonetheless, a few dimensions of terrorism are widely agreed, including the intentional use of violence against "noncombatant targets."

While the US State Department views terrorism as an act committed by non-state actors, the term originally referred to violence by states -- terrorizing their own polities:
Interestingly, the American definition of terrorism is a reversal of the word's original meaning, given in the Oxford English Dictionary as "government by intimidation". Today it usually refers to intimidation of governments.

The first recorded use of "terrorism" and "terrorist" was in 1795, relating to the Reign of Terror instituted by the French government.
September 11, 2001, was tragic, in large part, because of the death of nearly 3000 innocent noncombatants.

Why am I bringing this up?

Well, in the US, there has been surprisingly little public discussion of the innocent civilians killed in Iraq. They are quite significant, however. The Iraq Body Count project estimates that, as of today, at least 8900 civilian Iraqis have died as a direct result of the US military campaign. The same source gives a maximum number of 10,740.

The recent attacks on Fallujah (a city of 250,000), which some call reprisals for the deaths of four American contractors, apparently resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. The Christian Science Monitor reported "a US assault left 600 dead last week. The victims include hundreds of women and children, according to hospital and clinic records in Fallujah."

In any case, approximately three times as many innocent civilians are dead as a direct result of this part of the President's "war on terror" as occurred on September 11, 2001.

I know, these deaths, while unfortunate, are not always the result of targeted action. Many are "collateral damage."

Still, the main purpose of the "war on terror" is to protect innocent civilians and the perverse outcome is that it is killing innocent civilians.

Moreover, media reports are starting to suggest that the US military may be using disproportionate force that results in indiscriminant targeting. Last week, in a report originally appearing in the British newspaper The Telegraph, a "Senior British commander" was quoted anonymously from Iraq:
Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are."

The officer explained that, under British military rules of war, British troops would never be given clearance to carry out attacks similar to those being conducted by the US military, in which helicopter gunships have been used on targets in urban areas.

British rules of engagement only allow troops to open fire when attacked, using the minimum force necessary and only at identified targets. The American approach was markedly different, the officer said.

"When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area.

"They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage, but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later."
The article notes that "The phrase untermenschen - literally 'under-people' - was brought to prominence by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925. He used the term to describe those he regarded as racially inferior: Jews, Slavs and gypsies."

As I've blogged before, this is not the first time the US military has been accused of using excessive force in Iraq -- perhaps as a result of counterinsurgency lessons learned from Israel.

Question: How many innocent noncombatants must die from brutal violence in the name of protecting innocent civilians from terror?

I think this echoes John Kerry's questions from his famous testimony, April 22, 1971:
"We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? But we are trying to do that, and we are doing it with thousands of rationalizations..."
Before anyone tries to change the subject to alleged Iraqi WMD, keep in mind that the US isn't even guarding Iraqi nuclear facilities. Maybe I'll consider that soon.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Another Critical Army War College Study

In December 2003, a study "Bounding the Global War on Terrorism," by Jeffrey Record, a Visiting Research Professor at the Army War College, received a great deal of press attention because it was fairly critical of the Bush administration's war on terror. Record was at the Army's Strategic Studies Institute when he released his report -- and this is essentially the US Army's think tank.

Record concluded that "the war on terrorism--as opposed to the campaign against al-Qaeda--lacks strategic clarity, embraces unrealistic objectives, and may not be sustainable over the long haul." He called "for downsizing the scope of the war on terrorism to reflect concrete U.S. security interests and the limits of American military power."

Potent stuff. The blog world noticed, of course.

Last week, another study "Toward an American Way of War," by Antulio J. Echevarria II gained a great deal of international publicity. While Echevarria's tone seems more measured, at least in its summary form, his study too is being framed by the global media as quite critical of the administration's war on terror.

And it is fairly critical. The author calls for some "fundamental rethinking" of "the practical resources necessary to translate military victory into strategic success." Echevarria criticizes the US for trying to change Iraq's regime "quickly and on the cheap."

Here's how Reuter's covered the study, which reflects the author's views and not those of the War College or the Department of Defense:
The Bush administration went to war in Iraq with a flawed strategy that sought victory "on the cheap" and is now paying the price in the form of a growing insurgency and doubts about its goal of building a democracy, a top U.S. Army analyst says in a recent report.

Lieutenant Colonel Antulio Echevarria, director of national security affairs at the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, said Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other administration officials rejected as "old think" early calls for more troops from senior commanders.

Instead, the administration hoped to address any military and financial shortfalls in Iraq through anticipated support from NATO and the United Nations.

"It low-balled the total number of U.S. troops and other personnel that might have to be put in harm's way to get the job done, and how long they might have to remain," Echevarria said in the report titled, "Toward an American Way of War."

Echevarria said the administration's Iraq strategy was flawed because its goal of regime change in Iraq required a labour- and time-intensive effort. But the administration instead wanted "to win the war quickly and on the cheap."

"While this emerging way of war looked to employ new concepts, such as shock and awe and effects-based operations, designed to win battles quickly, it had no new concept for accomplishing the time-intensive and labour-intensive tasks of regime change more quickly and with less labour," his report concluded.
Funny, I thought Rumsfeld recognized the war would be a "long, hard slog."

This study is getting a lot of attention around the world. I used and discovered hits in Pakistan, Bahrain, Iran, South Africa, India, Canada, and the UK. covered it too. Most seem to use the Reuters story I quoted.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Another terror attack?

Yahoo News has an AP story today entitled, "U.S. Bracing for Terror Before Election."

Condi Rice is quoted this morning saying that the Bush administration thinks there's a good chance of a terror attack before the election later this year:
The opportunity for terrorists to try to influence the election, as was the case last month in Spain, appears to be an opportunity that would "be too good to pass up for them," Rice said.

"I think that we do have to take very seriously the thought that the terrorists might have learned, we hope, the wrong lesson from Spain," Rice told "Fox News Sunday."

"I think we also have to take seriously that they might try during the cycle leading up to the election to do something," she said.
That would be some October surprise.

Perhaps this admission will invigorate the debate about anti-terrorism. What should the US be doing? Perhaps more attention to port security? Shoulder-fired missiles? Emergency response?

Iraq has been a significant and unfortunate distraction for a very long time now. Its future is now vitally important, of course, but the events there really don't have that much to do with al Qaeda, which has got to the be most likely group to strike the US.

The administration has taken the view from the very beginning of the "war on terror" that states are the appropriate central targets of US actions. Thus, the Bush administration dispatched troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.

But 1000s of terrorists may be dispersed across the world, receiving almost no support from any state. Finding them and preventing their deadly acts requires improved intelligence, law enforcement, government regulatory authority (banking laws) and interstate cooperation (on law enforcement, intelligence and even banking).

Of course, if the administration wants to talk about states between now and November, I nominate the discussion begin with a healthy critique of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Europe Unhappy with Bush Administration -- Again

A lot of bloggers, including Abu Aardvark, have noted the very serious implications of the Bush deal with Sharon the other day. Basically, the US is tossing aside decades of policy and writing off Arab public opinion.

The deal conflicts with longstanding international understandings about occupied territories. Shared norms have long precluded states keeping territory acquired in war.

International norms matter -- the US and Israel cannot simply decide by themselves that Israeli settlements built on occupied territory are legitimate and can remain in place. Other great powers might not be keen on the precedent -- and of course there are competing claims for the land.

Today, the European Union has declared that the so-called "roadmap to peace" remains central so far as the EU is concerned, and they wish to see issues such as the occupied territory and the "right to return" negotiated by all the parties -- including the Palestinians.

Clearly, as many of its members did in regard to Iraq, the EU again intends to challenge American unilateralism:
EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten warned the world community had to repair "an awful lot of damage" arising from a historic US policy reversal announced by President George W. Bush this week.

And French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier warned Bush to "respect" Europe, saying the quartet was not a "one-man show".

Bush dropped a political bombshell by backing Sharon's plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip -- coupled with the retention of permanent settlements on the West Bank.

The president's declaration reversed three decades of US foreign policy, which had consistently labelled the Israeli settlements an obstacle to peace.

"The Union reaffirms its belief that the roadmap represents the only route to achieving such an outcome," said a statement issued at the end of a two-day meeting.

Bush also endorsed Sharon's contention that Palestinian refugees driven out of their homes when the Jewish state was created in 1948 had no right to return.

But in their statement, the EU ministers recalled that the bloc "will not recognise any change to the pre-1967 borders (created by the Six Day War) other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties".

"The Union emphasises that no declared views on the possible shape of a final settlement can pre-empt the negotiation of that settlement."

The ministers added that a Middle East settlement "must include an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to this question" of refugees.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw claims that the Bush administration remains committed to the roadblock, but lots of people now doubt that after the deal this week.

Bush foreign policy really is disastrous. The US has unpredented military power, but that does not afford it the right to assert anything it wants in world affairs. As Iraq demonstrates daily, using that military force to achieve desired goals can be quite difficult. And other great powers can make life miserable for the US when they are sufficiently perturbed. After all, the US wants their cooperation in the UN on Iraq over the next six weeks.


Friday, April 16, 2004

"Surprise, surprise, surprise"

Forty years ago, Jim Nabors played the lead character on "Gomer Pyle, USMC." The show was something of a success since it ran until 1970 and was in the top 10 in the ratings for five years.

For those not familiar with the show or acronym, USMC stands for United States Marine Corps.

Yes, it was a comedy about stateside military life, with the title character "a sweet but not too smart Marine from Mayberry, North Carolina...Gomer's innocence, naivete and low-key demeanor often got him into trouble, most frequently at the hands of his loud-mouthed superior, Sgt. Carter. "

For those not up on television trivia, Gomer had appeared for two years on "The Andy Griffith Show," playing the guy who ran the gas station.

Gomer's main catchphrase was "Surprise, surprise, surprise." Innocent that he was, Pyle was often taken unawares by events.

Why am I writing this, you ask? Well, in some ways, the show is a perfect metaphor for the Bush Presidency and Iraq.

The show, like the Bush adventure in Iraq, appeared within two years of a major national crisis. Bush had 9/11 (the Iraq War started March 2003, about 18 months after 9/11), Gomer had the Cuban Missile Crisis (the show began September 1964, about 23 months after the October 1962 CMC).

The reason Gomer joined the Marines sounds eerily familiar to anyone who hypothesizes that Bush went after Saddam to complete his Dad's unfinished business. Gomer actually joined the Marines in episode #107 of the "Andy Griffith Show," and this was his rationale:
Gomer: Know what my daddy told me a long time ago? I’ll never forget it. We wuz sittin’ out on the front porch in the summertime. It was so hot we couldn’t sleep, and he said, “Son, some day, when you’re growed up, they gonna test ya to see how much of a man you are. And you’re gonna have to make it ON YOUR OWN, ’cause I ain’t gonna be there to help ya.” That’s what my daddy said, and here’s where I’m gonna get tested – the United States Marine Corps!
This is what Bush said the other night about his test:
Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver.
Gomer, like Bush, appeared regularly on TV. Gomer and his buddies never talked about the ongoing disaster that was Vietnam. The writers behind the curtain never mentioned the war. It was as if they were in deep denial and wanted to keep Gomer funny and light. Eventually, the Gomer character started to sing regularly on the show. It was a distraction. Bush talks about the war, but not in a way that sounds anything like we see on TV.

How far can we extend this metaphor? Apparently, "Gomer Pyle, USMC" was cancelled when CBS decided to "modernize its programing and get rid of shows that appealed mainly to poorer, rural audiences."

Perhaps the American public will arrive at the same decision vis-a-vis Bush in November.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Abandoning the UN -- Again

It has been widely reported this week that career diplomat John D. Negroponte, the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will be leaving his current posting to become the American Ambassador to Iraq.

This is another clear signal that the Bush administration's worldview is topsy-turvy.

In most administrations, the UN role is a Cabinet-level post that would only be vacated by someone moving out of government or up in the hierarchy. Madeline Albright was made Secretary of State in the Clinton administration after serving first as UN Ambassador.

Ask any career US foreign service officer. Would they rather be US ambassador to a specific country or US ambassador to the UN? I'm guessing that well over 90% would say the UN -- and I'm hedging only because (a) the post is political; and (b) some careerists might prefer London or Paris over NY.

Negroponte's leap to Baghdad from NY headquarter says a lot about the Bush administration's priorities. The UN is viewed as a virtual backwater, Iraq is ground zero of "high politics." Winning the peace in Baghdad is central to the administration's strategy in the war on terror -- sort of a perverted Kantian/Wilsonian vision that ostensibly values democracy within states very highly even as it significantly downplays the virtues of multilateralism. In their view, who needs international restraints on power?

To make clear the elevated new status, maybe Bush is going to nickname Negroponte "Viceroy"?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Buying an Election

The Los Angeles Times had an interesting story today about the Bush campaign scaling back its ads.

Already, however, the Bush team has spent a lot of cash. No, really, more than you think.

They apparently spent at least $40 million on ads to date -- with little to show for it. Consider these paragraphs from Ron Brownstein's story:
Pointing to recent polls that generally show Kerry at least even with the president, these Democrats say the Massachusetts senator has taken what could be the Bush campaign's hardest punch and is still standing.

The reelection team spent so much so soon "with the intent of putting this thing away early, and it didn't happen," said Erik Smith, executive director of the Media Fund, a group formed by leading Democrats that is running ads in support of Kerry.

Independent analysts agreed with that assessment.

Anthony Corrado, an expert on campaign finance at Colby College in Maine, said that since March 4 — just after Kerry in effect wrapped up his party's nomination — Bush has bought about as much television advertising as past presidential candidates purchased for the entire general election campaign.

"And frankly," Corrado said, the president's campaign "didn't move the [poll] numbers that much."

He added: "The Bush campaign came out heavy, both in terms of volume and with some of their strongest attacks, and they didn't get a knockout."
There will be more to come, of course, but the Kerry people have to feel like they've survived a heavyweight tuneup fight and have lived to fight the champion.
But extensive polling by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey found that Kerry's favorability ratio was virtually unchanged from the start of March until its end in the 18 states where the Bush campaign has advertised. And the Bush advertising apparently has done little to affect the president's standing with the public.

The Annenberg survey found that Bush's favorability rating in the 18 states did not change during March.

A survey last week by Democratic pollsters Stanley and Anna Greenberg for the Media Fund found that Bush's job approval rating in the contested states was 51% — virtually the same as before the advertising began. And a majority of those polled still said the country was moving in the wrong direction, the survey found.
Who knows, Kerry may yet be the favorite in November.

The story suggests that conditions in Iraq and the 9/11 Commission investigation have a lot to do with Bush's inability to hurt Kerry.

The article also notes that Bush has raised about $180 million. About $80 million will go to "basic operations" for the campaign, so the President's campaign will still have something like $60 million to spend on TV before November.

Yikes. And they are still fundraising.

Addressing Threats

My family flew on the 4th of July weekend in 2001 and I specifically recall heightened security concerns -- fears of terror attacks and talk of hijacking. It was public knowledge. Indeed, sitting around a pool, I recall casual talk of these warnings.

Of course, this didn't mean the US was on war footing. What should the US have been doing in summer 2001?

Last night, the Fox News reporter asked the President this important set of questions:
Q You have been accused of letting the 9/11 threat mature too far, but not letting the Iraq threat mature far enough. First, could you respond to that general criticism? And, secondly, in the wake of these two conflicts, what is the appropriate threat level to justify action in perhaps other situations going forward?
This came right after the President refused to say why the President and Vice President are meeting with the 9/11 Commission together "rather than separately, which was their request."

I'm not going to discuss Iraq in this entry. There's plenty on that here.

What did we know about the pre-9/11 threat? What did the President know?

Well, on April 18, 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration put the airlines on "high" alert for hijackings.
"The FAA does not have any credible information regarding specific plans by terrorist groups to attack U.S. civil aviation interests ... Nonetheless some of the current active groups are known to plan and train for hijackings ... The FAA encourages U.S. carriers to demonstrate a high degree of alertness."
They repeated this warning on July 31, 2001. Indeed, the FAA issued 15 warnings in the months leading up to September 11.

The State and Defense Departments, as well as the FBI, also put out a number of warnings through the year 2001:
Four Defense Department alerts between June 22 and July 20 alerting U.S. military personnel that ''bin Laden's network was planning a near-term, anti-U.S. terrorist operation.''
OK, so the US and its military was on "high alert" in 2001 for hijackings and/or other threats.

What about the use of planes of weapons? Did policymakers know? According to a New York Times story from earlier this month, they did:
A Congressional inquiry into intelligence activities before Sept. 11 found 12 reports over a seven-year period suggesting that terrorists might use airplanes as weapons.
And as everyone knows, the FBI in Arizona was already worried about Arab men training in US flight schools.

Would the attack come in the US? The CIA warned that it would, as the now-declassifed August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing warned. The BBC has a text version of that document:
For the President Only

Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate (Osama) Bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Laden implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America".
World Trade Center. America.

The NYT reported that stronger warnings came earlier in the year, as the congressional inquiry found:
In March, the C.I.A. said that "a group of bin Laden operatives was planning to conduct an unspecified attack in the United States in April 2001. One operative allegedly resided in the United States," according to the Congressional report.

The C.I.A. warnings created what the Congressional report called "a stressful summer." Between May and July, the National Security Agency, which eavesdrops on communications around the world, reported 33 communications suggesting "a possibly imminent terrorist attack," according to the Congressional report.
"Imminent." What an interesting word.

As the year passed, greater attention was directed at US targets abroad -- there was a lot of worry, for example, concerning President Bush's visit to Genoa, Italy during ther summer. The LA Times had a story on September 27, 2001, that indicated the nature of this threat:
U.S. and Italian officials were warned in July that Islamic terrorists might attempt to kill President Bush and other leaders by crashing an airliner into the Genoa summit of industrialized nations, officials said Wednesday.

Italian officials took the reports seriously enough to prompt extraordinary precautions during the July summit of the Group of 8 nations, including closing the airspace over Genoa and stationing antiaircraft guns at the city's airport....

The Genoa warning was disclosed last week by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini. In remarks on a television talk show reported by the Italian news agency ANSA, Fini said: "Many people were ironic about the Italian secret services. But in fact they got the information that there was the possibility of an attack against the U.S. president using an airliner. That's why we closed the airspace and installed the missiles. Those who made cracks should now think a little."

In an interview published Sept. 21 in the French newspaper Le Figaro, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said his government provided information to the United States about possible attacks on the Genoa summit by Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden. "There was a question of an airplane stuffed with explosives. As a result, precautions were taken."
Bin Laden crashing planes into a buildings?

Did the White House know about all this? Condi Rice told reporters on March 24 that Geoge Tenet briefed Bush at least 40 times about the al Qaeda threat.

The day after receiving the PDB on August 6, 2001, President Bush left for a one month vacation in Crawford, Texas. Even at the time, the length of this vacation was newsworthy.

In fact, since his presidency began, George Bush has taken a lot of vacation time. And people have noticed -- it was the #1 question on yahoo last year.

I'm in favor of giving him a really long one, starting January 2005.

Update: Back in September, Open Source Politics had a much more detailed threat timeline for 2001 than I've provided. Note that their entry for August 6 includes the title of the PDB that everyone seemed surprised to hear.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Update: Russia and Kyoto

In December, Russia seemed to flip-flop on the question of Kyoto ratification. One official reported that Russia was unlikely ever to ratify the global warming pact, another claimed that Russia was "moving toward ratification."

This is important because the Bush administration's rejection of Kyoto puts Russia in the driver's seat. Canada, the EU, and Japan have all joined, but the treaty cannot go into effect without either the US or Russia.

Russia easily meets the treaty's terms because factories from the cold war era have been closed and its greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced from the 1990 treaty base year. Thus, Russia has little reason to oppose the accord. Indeed, Russia could earn billions of dollars by selling emission quotas.

In October, I guessed that the EU might offer something valuable to Russia in return for its ratification.

Last week, Anders Åslund provided specificity to my claim. Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Åslund suggested that Russian and EU officials could strike a deal as soon as their next meeting in Moscow April 22, or perhaps at the EU-Russia summit scheduled for May 21.

Basically, the EU could agree to support Russia's entry into the WTO in exchange for President Vladimir Putin's support of Kyoto. Åslund does not offer evidence that this deal is likely to be concluded, but it seems logical -- and EU concerns over Russian natural gas export prices are a key remaining barrier to Russian entry into the WTO.

If Russia and the EU strike this deal, the Kerry campaign might be able to leverage Kyoto as an environmental issue against Bush this summer. Of course, high gasoline prices might mitigate this somewhat, but really hot weather and drought could make the topic quite newsworthy.

"Talk like an Egyptian"

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with President Bush in Crawford, TX yesterday. In anticipation of that meeting, the Dreyfuss Report speculated that Bush would be leaning hard on Mubarak:
Chances are, Bush will deliver a lecture on democracy to the Egyptian leader, who’s sitting on top of a powder keg of Islamic fundamentalists and Muslim Brotherhood fanatics.
Dreyfuss wondered if Mubarak might likewise lecture Bush on Iraq, as it was the Egyptian President who predicted last year that the war in Iraq could produce "100 Osama bin Ladens."

Did everyone read the op-ed on Egypt in the Washington Post last Wednesday, April 7? I found a copy on an Africa website that may have a more permanent link. Who wrote these words?
The Egyptian elite should make room at the table for reformers and other activists who have a stake in development assistance, and it should share foreign assistance dollars more equitably with indigenous and international nongovernmental organizations. We already know from last month's conference in Alexandria that Arab civil society has concrete -- and forward-leaning -- positions on freedom, human rights and the status of women. These voices must be heard, and their counsel heeded....Because civil society plays an important role in determining progress, the Egyptian government should encourage the participation of indigenous nongovernmental organizations in the identification -- and achievement -- of these [significant economic and political] reforms.
Sure sounds like they could have been delivered by somebody from the UN, or the NGO community, or perhaps a European Foreign Minister.

If you said Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, reward yourself today -- eat some extra carbs or something.

Of course, while McConnell wrote those words, he was urging Bush (and Secretary of State Colin Powell) to lecture Mubarak about democracy -- and to threaten Egypt's foreign aid account with the US. This is a very significant sum of cash:
While Egypt has been a partner for Middle East peace and in the global war on terrorism, cooperation with the United States has come at high price to the American taxpayer. Since 1948 Egypt has received more than $59 billion in U.S. foreign assistance. For fiscal 2005, the foreign aid budget request for Egypt alone tops $1.8 billion.

Apart from cooperation on certain mutual security interests -- but not the liberation of Iraq -- what has U.S. foreign assistance secured in Egypt?

Not greater freedoms. According to the State Department's 2003 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Egypt remained a repressive country where citizens "did not have the meaningful ability to change their government" and where the government "significantly restricted freedom of assembly and association."

Not greater tolerance. The Middle East Media Research Institute, which tracks the Egyptian press, cites a Jan. 2 editorial in the Egyptian government daily Al-Masaa praising suicide bombers for attacks in Israel. It also cites an Oct. 14 article in a religious weekly that is published by the official Egyptian daily Al-Gumhuriya by the former undersecretary for religious affairs that fans the flames of anti-Semitism by stating that "trickery is the nature of the Jews."

Not greater economic opportunity. According to the World Bank, Egypt's average annual per capita income is $1,490, and the official unemployment rate is 9 percent (although the actual rate is thought to be higher)....

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell should use the occasion of President Mubarak's upcoming visit to cement Egypt's commitment to implementing much-needed political and economic reforms....

Should Egypt fall short on its commitments, the United States must retain control of foreign aid dollars so that funds can be shifted to other development sectors -- or returned to the U.S. Treasury. Such a "use it or lose it" approach might provide necessary motivation for the Egypt government to accelerate much-needed political and economic reforms.
I think there's wide agreement that Egypt should become more democratic. The question is whether we can trust the Bush administration to employ the appropriate diplomatic skill to accomplish anything meaningful -- or will it merely threaten in a heavy-handed way to cut off economic assistance if Egypt does not shape up pronto?

As former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in March, the Bush administration's "democracy initiative" was revealed in a patronizing manner and is widely viewed as a justification for not pushing Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. Vice President Cheney called democracy a prerequisite to peace in the region and many scholars of the region, as well as national leaders in both the Middle East and Europe, think that the US is trying to compel states to accept its view of democratic reform.

As Dreyfuss wrote, "Having mangled Iraq, there’s a chance that President Bush might start doing the same to Egypt."

Monday, April 12, 2004

Again: Legitimacy Crisis? (R)

I feel badly for not writing a word over the past week about the violence in Iraq -- even as I've blogged about trivial matters such as my fantasy baseball team and the Vice Presidency. What do I think? I agree with this:
Self determination is a very powerful idea in politics. Political scientists have often demonstrated that even the poor and weak will resist their subordination. Terrorism is a classic weapon of the weak.

Thus, it should not be surprising that the situation in Iraq seems to be deteriorating.

While there are a lot of proposals floating around that would place Iraqis in much greater positions of power in Iraq, Paul Bremer is running the country -- and he reports directly to the Pentagon.
That excerpt is from one of my first pieces for this blog.

This is how I concluded:
The American/British occupation of Iraq has got to end soon, to be replaced by UN-directed nation-building and some form of legitimate Iraqi governance. An American general might oversee the troops on the ground, but there's a decent chance he's going to be wearing a blue helmet.
This is a repeat episode from September 5, 2003.

Following the money

The internet is working to promote campaign finance transparency! By simply typing in a name or address, the curious web surfer can unearth the names of contributors to the 2004 presidential election campaigns -- and discover how much each individual gave.

I actually learned of this website on a baseball research list -- so some of my time spent on the sport has practical benefit. Someone on that list posted the contributions of various team owners (overwhelmingly, they gave to Bush).

The list only includes donors who gave more than $200 in the first two months of 2004. Also, donors who give directly to political parties (DNC) or organizations like MoveOn are not listed. All of my donations are under the radar, so far as this listing is concerned.

In any case, spend a few minutes at the FundRace 2004 website and you can learn -- or merely confirm -- all sorts of things about campaign finance.

For example, I was not surprised to learn that Kentucky US Senator Mitch McConnell and his spouse, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, each gave two grand to the Bush campaign. It was interesting to learn that many of their neighbors contribute to Democrats (you can search by address too).

Enter zip code 90210, and discover the candidates favored by the rich and famous. Maury Povich, for example, gave $2000 to Bush. David Cross, of Fox's "Arrested Development" gave $1000 to Howard Dean. Carl and Rob Reiner both gave two grand to Dean -- though Rob also gave $2000 to Edwards. Actress Melanie Griffith favors John Kerry, as does Normal Lear ($2000 each).

Try not to become addicted. I now know that the spouse and son of one of my colleagues gave a fair sum to Howard Dean and that an old friend from college gave a big check to Bush.

As I've noted before, Republicans tend to have a much larger number of affluent donors, as well as other huge advantages, so I encourage everyone reading to kick in a few bucks to help topple Bush in 2004.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Weekend update

Sorry, readers, but I spent Saturday drafting a second fantasy baseball team and have not had time to think much about politics, globalization, or Iraq. The 12 owners in my "Hardy House" league (AL only) employ an auction that always takes 6 to 8 hours, not counting the hours of preparation time. I've been meeting annually with some of these guys since 1989, when many of us were students or young faculty at Northwestern. That year, Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen and league MVP Robin Yount led my team to its first title.

The day is fun, but every auction can be frustrating. It's a market, but prices have been distorted by cheap "keepers" -- players that each owner retains in advance of the draft because he had the luck or foresight to pick them when they were undervalued in one of the past two seasons. Plus, as the draft proceeds, scarcity starts to play a role affecting prices. Talent becomes increasingly scarce, and some owners face spending limits.

Yes, unlike the major leagues, we operate like most fantasy leagues do under an equal salary structure. Each of us has the exact same material resources with which to assemble a team.

I'm an opponent of salary caps in real baseball, but I do think there's a decent argument for greater revenue sharing among owners. A great part of the disparity among major league teams derives from TV revenues that baseball generates mostly from "local" TV contracts. Back in 2001, the New York Yankees received almost 10 times as much from local TV as did my KC Royals.

The NFL, by contrast, equally splits an enormous network TV deal and there are very limited local broadcast revenues. Incidentally, I think the disparities are getting worse. I've seen estimates suggesting the Yankees may now be receiving something like $90 million annually from broadcast revenues. It's hard to determine because teams have incentives to hide revenues (showing profits in corporate partners; George Steinbrenner owns both the Yankees and the YES broadcast network).

Back to my Saturday. Ultimately, many of the players I wanted to buy were bid up past what I wanted to pay. Of course, I was unable to bid more because I quite early dropped a lot of pretend cash (we don't play for money) on Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano.

Stuck with my high-priced stars (ironically, I bid them up because I thought they were too cheap), I was left with little choice but to pursue some relative unknowns later in the draft. Suffice to say that I'm now a big fan of youngsters Michael Cuddyer , Lew Ford , Kevin Mench, Reed Johnson and Eric DuBose.

Owners in my league are pretty sharp, so young players tend to sell for higher prices than the fantasy baseball guidebooks suggest. Because we use a keeper system, older players at the end of their careers are discounted and young players future value is very much factored into their current price.

Still, I got all five of those young players together for exactly the same amount I paid for Soriano alone.

Real baseball would probably be a different game if it worked more like our league. Young players would not be locked to their teams for so long at artificially low prices. Some of the game's best players make near league minimum, while they easily outplay older guys making millions. Players agreed to this structure in the collective bargaining agreement, and salary arbitration helps resolve many of the disparities after three years' service in the league.

While fans might worry about too much turnover from a system that would work more like a market, our league suggests that this might not be a huge problem. I regularly release and then re-purchase the same players year-after-year. Just about every owner in my league has favorite players and will attempt to buy them at the draft if available. One guy used to buy Paul O'Neill every year because his wife really wanted to root for him.

At yesterday's draft, I obtained Kyle Lohse and Erubiel Durazo who I cut only last week -- and Jeter is very frequently on my team.

Well, that's probably more than anyone wants to read about my fantasy baseball team. Hopefully, the non-fantasy elements made it worth reading.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Fixated on McCain


I'm the one fixated on McCain. I keep searching Google News for recent stories.

Today, I found an interesting interview the Senator gave to the Detroit Free Press. As usual, the "straight shooter" had some candid moments.

First, he put to rest the McCain for Kerry Veep talk:
I will not leave the Republican Party and I don't want to be vice president of the United States.

...I have disagreements with the Republican Party on environmental issues and a number of other issues. But I'm of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. I respect the Democratic Party, but I just don't share their philosophy and views on many fundamental issues. It's just a reality....

Q: Can you give us a frank assessment of how you think they [Bush and Kerry] stack up against each other?

A: That's hard for me to do. One of my major reasons for supporting President Bush's re-election is that I believe he led this nation after Sept. 11 with strength and did a really fine job in leading the country in a time of real crisis. I have had differences of viewpoints with the president -- tax cuts, and a number of other issues. But I have agreed with him more that I have disagreed with him.

If you probably put my voting record up against John Kerry's, I've probably disagreed with him more than I have agreed with him. But we are of different parties....

But if I had to say who do I agree with more on issue, I'm sure it's President Bush.
That seems pretty clear.

McCain, by the way, provided a reasonable explanation of why the Iraqi intelligence commission hasn't yet met:
Q: You are a member of the commission on Iraqi intelligence. Have you met yet?

A: Yes. We met last week for the first time. One of the reasons why commissions take a while to set up is because of security clearances. I was the only member of the commission that had a security clearance. It takes many weeks to complete a security clearance for access to that level of classified materials. It is unfortunate. It's hardly likely that the president of Yale University is a spy. It just takes a great deal of time.

I expect us to get moving within the next two to three weeks. And I won't bother you with the details, but there is one aspect that is a little bit interesting.

You could staff up immediately with guess what? Detailees from these different agencies -- the CIA, the NSA, all of these different agencies. But those detailees are going to go back to their agencies. So you have to make sure that you have at least some people who are there who don't come from the organization you are investigating.

We could staff up tomorrow. Say have the CIA send us 10 people. But you have to have at least a certain number of people in there who are independent and who have credentials but yet are not tied to these very same agencies we're looking at.
He did say that some congressional staffers would be part of the team.

Oh, and here's another one of his "Band of Brothers" quotes about a fellow Democratic Senator:
I'm a great admirer of Carl Levin's. He's one of the most thoughtful and intellectually capable members of the Senate on national security issues.
It is a long interview and McCain talks about his views on global warming, tax cuts, campaign finance reform, homeland security, etc.

McCain certainly comes off as fairly thoughtful and frank. He may be my favorite Republican member of Congress.

Not that there's a lot of competition.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Framing the "War on Terror"

Let me explain why I could not watch Condi Rice's testimony today.

I tuned in a couple of times, read a news story or two about it, and watched some of the analysis on CNN afterward -- but it all seemed pretty pointless.

Essentially, Rice was addressing questions that are secondary to the bigger critique of the Bush administration's war on terror. She argued, from what I have seen, heard, and/or read, that the Bush administration took terrorism seriously -- and that no specific measures could have been taken to prevent the 9/11 attacks.

Since she was testifying before the 9/11 Commission, I guess this particular framing was to be expected.

However, the most potent critique of the "war on terror" concerns what the administration did after 9/11. Critics like Richard Clarke, Wesley Clark, and John Mearsheimer have argued that the war on Iraq had almost nothing to do with fighting al Qaeda and distracted from the ongoing fighting/searching in Afghanistan.

In other words, could Rice have readily defended the administration's policies had the entire event been framed around the question of Iraq? Read Rice's opening statement and note that she certainly didn't discuss Iraq in this manner.

Rice says Clarke is wrong, that the President did not push him to link Iraq to 9/11 -- but ultimately, who cares? Take the Bush people at their word. The President acted without a link between Iraq and 9/11. The decision simply reflected a very poor judgment call -- and something of an intelligence failing (though this is yet to be determined by a different Commission).

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Iraq: A UN Trusteeship?

Josh Marshall and Abu Aardvark have recently noted some odd political ideas coming out of the Bush administration. No, I mean really odd -- as in counter to their usual thinking.

Marshall, for example, references the President providing an odd answer to a press question about the future of Iraq:
I believe we can transfer authority by June 30th. We're working toward that day. We're, obviously, constantly in touch with Jerry Bremer on the transfer of sovereignty. The United Nations is over there now. The United Nations representative is there now to work on the -- on a -- on to whom we transfer sovereignty. I mean, in other words, it's one thing to decide to transfer. We're now in the process of deciding what the entity will look like to whom we will transfer sovereignty.
Marshall writes that he is "genuinely unsure what to make of that."

I'm starting to wonder if the Bush administration is thinking of transfering political sovereignty to an international body, rather than to Iraq. This would give the "UN seal of approval" to the handover, get the US off the hook, and allow for continued US military presence to provide security.

Abu Aardvark noted a similar report about internationalization that
appeared in today's generally pro-American newspaper al Sharq al Awsat and about which I have seen nothing else anywhere. But the story goes like this: a "high ranking Israeli source" told al Sharq al Awsat that the United States was about to propose turning Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan into an international plan with the EU and the UN, as well as Egypt and Jordan and in coordination with the PA.
These sound kind of similar, don't they?

Less than a year ago, Yale historian Paul Kennedy wrote a piece for the Japanese Daily Yomiuri that proposed internationalizing Iraq. He discussed reviving the Trusteeship Council, or a contemporary equivalent:
The Trusteeship Council is an odd bird. It is listed in the U.N. Charter as one of its so-called principal organs, alongside, for example, the Security Council and the General Assembly. It was created to supervise colonial territories that had been administered as League of Nations mandates, such as German East Africa (now Tanzania) or island groups in the central Pacific. Ironically, one of the first mandates of the League was British-administered Iraq, until it came into its own in the late- 1920s. Because of that earlier history, the Trusteeship Council suffered from two major weaknesses in the post-1945 age. First, so many colonial territories became independent, and so swiftly, that it soon had very little business. Second, to many developing nations it smacked of out-of-date imperialism and patronage. From time to time it was proposed that the council be abolished, but the United Nations' collective lethargy meant that such proposals were never acted upon.

Thus, it exists to this day, as Chapter XIII and Articles 86-91 of the U.N. Charter. The Trusteeship Council had to contain the Permanent Five veto members of the Security Council--which should keep Washington, London, Paris, Moscow and Beijing happy--plus those states involved in administering the lands in question, plus an equal number of outside states representing the world community. The council was empowered to make its own rules and to avail itself of other U.N. bodies and specialized agencies (for example, the World Bank) when appropriate. Originally, it was to report "on the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the inhabitants of each trust territory"--and the report was to go to the General Assembly, a body that has been totally sidelined by the current Iraq war, but still remains the only forum for world discussion and comity.

But if it has colonial overtones to many developing countries, it would not be hard to change its name: the Council for Reconstruction and Development, perhaps, or the Council for States Needing Help. Its membership could be statutorily fixed--the permanent five, plus perhaps another 20 members, representing in turn the world's regions. Once a conflict was over, the Security Council could hand the war-torn country over to the new body. It certainly should not try to micro-manage the rebuilding of society and democracy; more likely, it would appoint a special administrator and staff to work with local political parties, and to coordinate the international efforts to help the nation regain its full sovereignty as soon as possible. Since reconstruction is not a matter of war and peace, there should be no veto powers exercised in the council. And by reporting to the General Assembly, it should assuage the fears that this was disguised colonial tutelage.
It doesn't take much searching to find support for this idea in the Arab media as well.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

2004 NL Final Standings (projected)

Just another attempt at public accountability. Check back in September/October/November.
NL East

1. Philadelphia Phillies 95 - 67
2. Atlanta Braves 85 - 77
3. Florida Marlins 83 - 79
4. Montreal Expos 79 - 83
5. New York Mets 75 - 87

NL Central

1. Houston Astros 94 - 68
2. Chicago Cubs 89 - 73
3. St. Louis Cardinals 87 - 75
4. Cincinnati Reds 74 - 88
5. Milwaukee Brewers 68 - 94
6. Pittsburgh Pirates 66 - 96

NL West

1. San Diego Padres 87 - 75
2. San Francisco Giants 84 - 78
3. Arizona Diamondbacks 81 - 81
4. Los Angeles Dodgers 77 - 85
5. Colorado Rockies 72 - 90

NL Champions: Houston Astros
NL MVP: Jim Thome (Phillies)
NL Cy Young: Roy Oswalt (Astros)
NL Rookie of the Year: Kaz Matsui (NYM)
Thome has been on one of my fantasy baseball teams since he was in AAA.

Force and Democracy

Monday, I caught a bit of the President's brief press conference. He said something pretty amazing, considering what the US is trying to do in Iraq.
Q Mr. President, are you concerned at all that events like we've seen over the last week in Iraq are going to make it tougher to meet that deadline, or increase pressure from the U.N. or anyone else?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think there's -- my judgment is, is that the closer we come to the deadline, the more likely it is people will challenge our will. In other words, it provides a convenient excuse to attack. In this particular incident, with Sadr, this is one person who is deciding that rather than allow democracy to flourish, he's going to exercise force. And we just can't let it stand. As I understand, the CPA today announced a warrant for his arrest. This is one person -- this is a person, and followers, who are trying to say, we don't want democracy -- as a matter of fact, we'll decide the course of democracy by the use of force. And that is the opposite of democracy.
I've added the emphasis.

Monday, April 05, 2004

McCain-Kerry thoughts

The blogger once known as "Calpundit," Kevin Drum, joined the fray yesterday and speculated about John McCain as John Kerry's running mate.

Rather than again speculating about the political possibilities, I decided to think about the implications of such a choice. There would be many, I think, and some would be bad -- despite the view expressed by columnist Joe Klein that this would be a bold and "ideal step" by Kerry, though Klein concedes the move is a "fantasy."

Obviously, picking McCain would be a huge story for the news media. McCain would provide Kerry with a very powerful national voice to counter Bush and Cheney. The Arizona Senator is viewed as a "straight talker" who was quite popular with the media in his own 2000 primary campaign.

McCain's party switch would also send a strong signal to potentially dissatisfied Republicans -- or at least Republican-leaning moderates -- out there: "It's safe to vote for Kerry."

Furthermore, such a move would probably seal Arizona for Kerry (a state he might win anyway). If Kerry could carry all the other Gore states, he would thus win the 2004 Electoral College vote 270-268. See for yourself with this helpful map.

Still, McCain is a longtime Republican and his conservative voting record would likely not sit well with most Democrats. Kos had the details on McCain's voting record Saturday. Drum says this isn't that big of a deal since McCain is "practically a Democrat already" on certain kinds of issues (the budget deficit, Kyoto) and Kerry is likely to govern as a centrist on Iraq and would have little control over Republican base issues like abortion policy. Timothy Noah had a piece in 2002 in Slate arguing that McCain is really a Democrat, so this is not an entirely new idea.

I'm nonetheless guessing that at minimum, the Nader-leaning, Green, lefty Democrats would very strongly dislike such a move. Even a common goal -- beating Bush -- might not be enough justification for it. After all, the Veep gets to vote in tied Senate outcomes and would succeed the President in case of death or incapacitation.

Plus, McCain's strength is precisely the Democrats' fear. What if McCain speaks out against some core Democratic issues, just because he is McCain and does this sort of thing? Any close election requires very strong party discipline and the Dems cannot afford either to tick off their base or push away Democratic-leaning independents.

Conceivably, McCain on the ticket might depress Democratic voting in a state or two they will need in 2004 -- like Oregon. Arizona has 3 more electoral votes than Oregon, but Democrats need to keep Oregon and add states if they want to win. This swap isn't enough.

Bottom line: Kerry should not pick McCain unless he gets a firm commitment from the Senator to toe the Democratic party line through November. He needs to be an outspoken critic of Bush and Cheney and keep quiet about his disagreements with Democrats.

He probably also has to switch parties formally in order to run as a Democrat on many state ballots.

Question to ponder: could Kerry achieve the benefits of roping in McCain by announcing in a couple of months that the Senator would be his Secretary of Defense?

2004 AL Results

As David Letterman might say, "no wagering."

I'll try to do the NL in the next day or two.
AL East

1. Boston Red Sox 97 - 65
2. New York Yankees 95 - 67 Wild Card team
3. Toronto Blue Jays 83 - 79
4. Baltimore Orioles 79 - 83
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays 63 - 99

AL Central

1. Minnesota Twins 87 - 75
2. Chicago White Sox 83 - 79
3. Kansas City Royals 79 - 83
4. Cleveland Indians 72 - 90
5. Detroit Tigers 63 - 99

AL West

1. Oakland Athletics 92 - 70
2. Seattle Mariners 84 - 78
3. Anaheim Angels 83 - 79
4. Texas Rangers 74 - 88

AL Champions: Oakland A's
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez (Yankees)
AL Cy Young: Tim Hudson (A's)
Al Rookie of the Year: Bobby Crosby (A's)
I'm not sure why my columns don't align. Sorry.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Kerry-McCain ticket watch

A couple of bloggers have noticed a remark by Republican Senator John McCain Friday:
``I believe my party has gone astray,'' McCain said, criticizing GOP stands on environmental and minority issues.

``I think the Democratic Party is a fine party, and I have no problems with it, in their views and their philosophy,'' he said.
Of course, he then said, "But I also feel the Republican Party can be brought back to the principles I articulated before.''

In short, McCain continues to fire away at the Bush Administration -- but he also continues to deny that he's willing to be John Kerry's Vice President:
The maverick senator made the remarks at a legislative seminar hosted by U.S. Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Lowell) as he again ruled out running on a ticket with Democrat John F. Kerry.

The Arizona Republican took on President Bush for failing to prepare Americans for a long involvement in Iraq, saying, ``You can't fly in on an aircraft carrier and declare victory and have the deaths continue. You can't do that.''

McCain said the U.S. should seek more U.N. involvement in Iraq. ``Many people in this room question, legitimately, whether we should have gone in or not,'' he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was quoted Friday saying that McCain might be a good choice for Kerry's Veep:
"It's very important to have another person on the field who is part of the presidential ticket," Pelosi told a round-table meeting of reporters Friday. "I don't want to see John Kerry debating with Dick Cheney in the press, I don't want to see him debating down. I want him to be debating the president of the United States."

"I think that it would be important to have a nominee by May 1," Pelosi said. Kerry's campaign has been vague about a timetable for the decision.

Pelosi also said that the selection of Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain would be "a gesture to bring the country together," but she said she had no reason to think that would happen.
It's quite unlikely to happen, but it would be damn interesting.

As I've blogged before, McCain has been fairly nice to Kerry at times and sometimes quite nasty towards Bush.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Another Former Republican Jumps Ship

Just over thirty years ago, John Dean was President Nixon's counsel. Of course, during the Watergate investigation and congressional hearings, Dean famously became the main whistleblower. Nixon fired Dean in April, 1973 and he testified two months later. After another two months, Nixon resigned -- Dean had demonstrated conclusively that the Watergate conspiracy went all the way to the Oval Office.

Today, Dean taped an interview with journalist Bill Moyers for the PBS TV program "NOW." Dean was promoting his new book, Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush. In the book and interview, Dean claims that the current White House is the most secretive ever -- and should be brought down because of the way it fomented war against Iraq.

Here's the key exchange:
BILL MOYERS: Be specific with me. What is worse than Watergate?

JOHN DEAN: If there's anything that really is the bottom line, it's taking the nation to war in a time when they might not have had to go to war and people dying. That is worse than Watergate. No one died for Nixon's so-called Watergate abuses.

BILL MOYERS: Let me go right to page 155 of your book. You write, quote, "The evidence is overwhelming that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have engaged in deceit and deception over going to war in Iraq. This is an impeachable offense."

JOHN DEAN: Absolutely is. The founders in the debates in the states. I cite one. I cite one that I found, I tracked down after reading the Nixon impeachment proceedings when Congressman Castenmeyer had gone back to look to see what the founders said about misrepresentations and lying to the the Congress. Clearly, it is an impeachable offense. And I think the case is overwhelming that these people presented false information to the Congress and to the American people.
I've blogged about a lot of the flawed use of intelligence, of course -- and have previously discussed the secrecy angle too.

Like the other recent whistleblowers, Paul O'Neill and Richard Clarke, Dean recognizes that he's likely to come under attack from the White House. He claims not to be bashing Bush because of partisan politics. Here are his concerns regarding lack of "good government."
JOHN DEAN: Well, I'm not interested in Bush bashing. I'm really only interested in the truth getting out, people understand a very complex and sensitive issue. And that is secrecy.

In fact, I rely, if you notice in the book on every chapter I start with somebody who is of Mr. Bush's party, talking and complaining about his excessive secrecy. This isn't a partisan issue for me.

This isn't an issue of Republicans versus Democrats. This is an issue of good government versus bad government. This is an informed electorate and an uninformed electorate.

JOHN DEAN: Absolutely. Well, you know, Bill, I don't come at this as a partisan. I mean I really left those days long behind me. I'm a registered Independent. I vote for both Republicans, I vote for Democrats. I vote for the issues.

And you know, I didn't wanna get in the mix of a partisan thing. But I do think these are issues that must be on the table.

BILL MOYERS: You say in here that even more so than Nixon, they come after their enemies list, the people on their enemies list. I mean we see what's happening to Clarke. What's gonna happen to you again?

JOHN DEAN: You know, they can't hurt me at this point. I'm damaged material already.
We'll see if Dean still believes this in a week or two.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Kerry on Energy

Are people starting to notice higher gasoline prices? Jon Stewart did a bit on it tonight on "The Daily Show."

For the foreseeable future, the US remains reliant upon OPEC to set prices -- and the cartel doesn't always follow market principles. Plus, the dependence is arguably bad for the economy and dangerous for national security.

The Bush energy plan has received lots of attention -- partly because of the GAO's effort to gain access to Cheney's meeting notes and partly because of the progress in Congress last year (though the bill ultimately failed).

Today, I went back and read a speech John Kerry delivered in June 2003 on energy independence. What does Kerry think the US can do to control its own energy future? As I blogged some months ago, framed correctly, this could be a winning issue for Democrats in 2004. There's a populist message embedded in this rhetoric:
My strategy calls for new investments in research, new incentives for companies and consumers, new partnership across the old dividing lines, and higher standards of energy efficiency for both business and government to meet. We can create Americans jobs and confront the dangers to our environment at the same time as we make this nation safer, stronger, and more secure.

The challenge will not be easy but neither was the Manhattan Project. It will require real resources and strong leadership and an unwavering will to make tough choices and take on entrenched interests.

Today we have an energy policy of big oil, by big oil and for big oil. It may work for their profits, but it will never work for America. And yet George Bush persists in pursuing a course that can only be described as energy dependence - an approach, that despite all his boasts about a stronger America, will actually risk our hopes, make us weaker, and make both our economy and our country more vulnerable to blackmail by hostile powers.

The dollars we spend at the pump can too easily be diverted to finance the very terrorists that would seek to destroy us. And our endless reliance on the Middle East for oil means that others half a world away hold life insurance policies on America's economy. September 11th doesn't just demand that we confront the danger of terrorism; it demands that we drain the swamps that can sustain and even increase it.
See how easily this could be framed as a winning issue for Democrats? I'm frankly still disappointed that Gore didn't push this issue -- and it is probably why Nader received so many votes in states like Oregon.

The Bush plan funnels more money to oil and other fossil fuel interests, Kerry would push alternative energy and conservation. This is environmentally friendly, technologically savvy, and economically wise:
First, as President, I will channel the funds the government is already owed to invest in rapid growth in technologies that save energy and create alternative fuels. Through a new energy security and conservation trust fund, Americans will have a guaranteed commitment to reducing our dependence on oil. America only has three percent of the world's oil reserves. There is no metaphysical or miraculous way for us to drill our way out of a 60% foreign oil dependency. We have to invent our way out of it; American ingenuity has to drive the process - and new American jobs will be the dividend.

Unfortunately, the funding today is sporadic, uncertain, and always insufficient. We may not have the greatest oil reserves on Earth; but we do have the great resources to find and foster new fuels and to conserve and optimize traditional ones. So the trust fund I propose will take existing royalties that corporations now pay for the right to drill on public lands and dedicate that money to R&D into cleaner and more abundant energy sources. We will do justice to conservation and we will, for the first time, have a guaranteed national commitment to reduce our dependence on foreign oil - to fund renewable energy, accelerate the development of fuel cell vehicles, and support biomass projects like those here in Iowa which can convert our agricultural plenty into energy security.

Second, the road to more energy independence depends on making our cars and trucks more energy efficient. One out of every seven barrels of oil in the world is consumed on America's highways. Instead, I propose both economic incentives to build the cars, the trucks, the SUVs, and the buses of the future - and higher standards for gas mileage for every new vehicle produced or sold in this country. The threats that America faces today don't just come from gun barrels, they come from oil barrels - and we need to disarm that danger.

The research shows that the best way to reduce oil dependence in the near term is to increase fuel efficiency in the near term. A recent study found that raising fuel standards accounts for 80 percent of the savings in oil we can achieve by 2012. We can build the right kind of cars, SUVs, minivans and trucks. We can do it affordably and efficiently. We can give Americans a wide range of choice without leaving America with no choice but endless energy dependence.

Third, the energy security strategy I propose will focus on renewable sources where the reserves are, in effect, endlessly greater than all the oil fields on Earth. We can generate more and more of our electricity from wind, the sun, and forest and farm products. I believe we can and should produce twenty percent of all our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Twenty by 2020 - now that's a clear vision for America.

Finally, this energy security plan is not about spending more, but spending smarter. The Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress have been lavishing billions of dollars in subsidies and corporate welfare on big energy companies while starving the researchers and consumers who could power our way to energy independence. The Bush policy is to subsidize off-shore drilling and strip-mining while refusing to fund the energy revolution that will create jobs and make our country and economy more secure. This has to change - and if I am President, we will change it.

And at the same time, we will repeal the outrageous one hundred thousand dollar tax break for the purchase of luxury gas-guzzlers like Hummers. This was intended to help farmers and others who need light trucks - and that's right - not to subsidize lavish and inefficient machines. Americans have the right to drive whatever car they want - but at a time of international threats, and in a generation of long term danger, they don't have the right to have the government finance more dependence on foreign oil.
Gotta run.

War Profiteering?

As I blogged the other day, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) blasted Richard Clarke on the Senate floor last week.

One of his charges was that Clarke is personally profiting from the tragedy of 9/11:
Assuming the controversy around this series of events does, in fact, drive the sales of his book, Mr. Clarke will make a lot of money, a lot of money for exactly what he has done. I personally find this to be an appalling act of profiteering, of trading on insider access to highly classified information and capitalizing upon the tragedy that befell this nation on September the 11th, 2001. Mr. Clarke must renounce, I think, any plan to personally profit from this book.
I just watched Clarke on MSNBC's "Hardball" and he said that substantial profits from the book (and any possible future movie deal) would go for people affected by Iraq and Afghanistan and for 9/11 victims. He said the same thing Sunday:
Tim, long before Senator Frist said what he said, I planned to make a substantial contribution, not only to them but also to the widows and orphans of our Special Forces who have fought and died in Afghanistan and Iraq. And when we see the results of the book sales, we'll know how much we have to make donations.
Atrios also pointed out that Bill Frist wrote a book on bioterrorism -- and his remarks look pretty hypocritical.

Counterspin has a great graphic highlighting this point. Frist apparently gave away profits from this book to charity, but still gained by getting a better job -- as Senate Majority leader.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Quick note on Rice

I've got lots of stuff on my plate this week, so this will be quick:

As everyone knows by now, Condi Rice is going to testify to the 9/11 Commission. It should be noted that the separation of powers argument was always a ruse. She already testified for four hours in February -- in private. Thus, the claims about executive-legislative power are false.

The entire controversy has really been about public accountability. Will Rice have to answer questions in a public forum, so that you and I can consider her responses to the questions we want answered? Up until today, the Bush administration has tried to avoid just that accountability.

And today, they may yet have achieved victory.

As Paul Sperry notes, the deal the Commission made with the White House includes a lot of concessions that actually hurt transparency and public accountability.

Rice will be the final Bush administration official to testify in public. She cannot be recalled and no one else can be asked to explain anything else from now forward. Every process needs an endpoint, but this seems like a bad deal.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney are also going to testify together, in private, before all the commissioners.

They will not be under oath.

Why not?

I suspect the White House has concerns about the Clinton precedent. The Special Prosecutor ended up going after Clinton for alleged lies under oath -- not for other specific crimes committed as President. That's largely why impeachment failed. The public thought his behavior was bad, but not impeachable.

In any case, without taking such an oath, the current President and Vice President are freed to bend the truth and "forget" potentially important facts.

Think I'm being paranoid?

On March 22, 2004, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy story detailing how "some official accounts of Sept. 11 are incorrect, incomplete or in dispute."

Despite what the President said, he did not personally put the nation on higher alert that morning.

The President claimed to have seen a video of the first plane striking the World Trade Center even before he read to the classroom full of students that day -- but this was impossible. Despite his personal anecdote about seeing a "bad pilot," no tape was available until the night of 9/11.

Uncut videotape reveals that the President was not immediately pulled from the class when informed of the second attack. He remained in the room for at least 7 additional minutes. White House officials claim to have acted within seconds.

There was no threat to Air Force One, despite the fact that Vice President Cheney has claimed there was. There were no remaining jets in the sky that would have posed lingering threats to air safety, as has been claimed by the White House.

The FAA alerted the military immediately when it knew it had hijackings underway that day, but the jets remained on the ground. Nobody can really explain why.

Read the WSJ piece, it raises additional doubts about the official story.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Updates on Clarke

From Mark A.R. Kleiman, I learned that Senator (and Majority Leader) Bill Frist said some things last week about Richard Clarke's congressional testimony that were not true.

As I noted, Frist came close to accusing Clarke of perjury -- but Frist may have committed a similar offense within a few minutes of making his statement in Congress (since it was on the floor of the Senate, he cannot be prosecuted for a crime):
Frist later retreated from directly accusing Clarke of perjury, telling reporters that he personally had no knowledge that there were any discrepancies between Clarke's two appearances. But he said, "Until you have him under oath both times, you don’t know."
If Frist had no idea whether Clarke told a different story, why did he say it?

Salon has a great interview with Clarke, by the way. First come the questions from Joe Conason (in bold) and then Clarke's replies. This exchange is interesting, to demonstrate how the administration has politicized 9/11:
[White House spokesman] McClellan also said that although you criticize the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the book, you had attempted to become the No. 2 in that department and were passed over -- and that's yet another reason why you wrote this critical book.

They're trying to bait me, and they're trying to get me to answer all these personal issues. You know, the fact is that Tom Ridge opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. George Bush opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. And then one day, they turned on a dime and supported it. Why?

As I said in the book, the White House legislative affairs people counted votes. Senator [Joseph] Lieberman had proposed the bill to create the Department of Homeland Security -- and the legislative affairs people said Lieberman has the votes; it's going to pass. They said, "You've got the possible situation here, Mr. President, where you're going to have to veto the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. And if you don't support it now, if you don't make it your proposal, not only will it pass but it will be called the Lieberman bill."

The Lieberman-McCain bill.

The Lieberman-McCain bill, in fact. So that there were two outcomes possible. One in which we have this Frankenstein department, created during the middle of the war on terrorism, reorganizing during the middle of a war. That was possible. It was also possible that a second thing would happen, and that was that Lieberman would get credit for it. And therefore the president changed his position overnight, and became a big supporter of the Department of Homeland Security.

Did you see a memo to that effect? I wondered about that when I was reading the book, because you don't say how you know they gave the president that advice.

No, I don't say ... It was from oral conversations in the White House.
There's a lot more good material in that interview. Here's the bit comparing the Clinton and Bush policies on terror:
It's possible that the vice president has spent so little time studying the terrorist phenomenon that he doesn't know about the successes in the 1990s. There were many. The Clinton administration stopped Iraqi terrorism against the United States, through military intervention. It stopped Iranian terrorism against the United States, through covert action. It stopped the al-Qaida attempt to have a dominant influence in Bosnia. It stopped the terrorist attacks at the millennium. It stopped many other terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. embassy in Albania. And it began a lethal covert action program against al-Qaida; it also launched military strikes against al-Qaida. Maybe the vice president was so busy running Halliburton at the time that he didn't notice.

[P]rior to 9/11, the Bush administration didn't have an approach to terrorism. They'd never gotten around to creating an administration policy. It was in the process of doing so, but it hadn't achieved that. And it was clear that the national security advisor didn't like this kind of issue; she didn't have meetings on this issue. The president didn't have meetings on the issue of terrorism.

Now the White House is saying, oh, they had meetings every day. But let's be clear about what those meetings every day were. Every day George Tenet, the CIA director, would do the morning intelligence briefing of the president, and he would raise the al-Qaida threat with great frequency. That's not the same as having a meeting to decide what to do about it. That's not the same as the president shaking the lapels of the FBI director and the attorney general and saying, "You've got to stop the attack."

Apparently on one occasion -- of all these many, many days when George Tenet mentioned the al-Qaida threat -- the president on one occasion said, "I want a strategy. I don't want to swat flies." Well, months or certainly weeks went by after that, and he didn't get his strategy because Condi Rice didn't hold the meeting necessary to approve it and give it to him. And yet George Bush appears not to have asked for it a second time.

In fact, he told Bob Woodward in "Bush at War" that he kind of knew there was a strategy being developed out there, but he didn't know at what stage it was in the process. Well, if he was so focused on it, he would have kept asking where the strategy was. He would have known where it was in the process. He would have demanded that it be brought forward. He had a fleeting interest.
Among other bloggers, Digby has been making this point.

This is a story that I'll continue to watch.

Saturday, March 27, 2004


Some time ago, I referenced the basic "military math" that slows further implementation of the Bush Doctrine. Put simply, the US doesn't have a sufficiently large armed force to carry out additional Iraq-like invasions and occupations. Most of the force is already deployed somewhere important, and the rest is either training to deploy or resting from a recent deployment

Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that re-enlistment rates may be down as well, which will further limit the President's apparent aspirations.

Conscription, of course, could alter this equation -- though it would take awhile to draft and then train new (likely much less motivated) soldiers.

In any event, I recently read an interesting piece on AlterNet by Conner Freff Cochran suggesting that a draft is coming. Don't expect to hear the Republicans talking about this before the election.

Cochran discusses some behind-the-scenes moves taken by the Selective Service System that could both hasten a draft and make it more effective:
Despite statements to the contrary, quiet preparations for the return of the draft have been under way for some time. The Selective Service System's Annual Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2004 -- despite a ton of obfuscatory jargon, acronyms, and bureaucrat-speak -- can't quite manage to bury all of its bombshells.

Strategic Objective 1.2 of the 2004 plan commits the Selective Service System to being fully operational within 75 days of "an authorized return to conscription." Strategic Objective 1.3 then commits them to "be operationally ready to furnish untrained manpower within DOD timelines." By next year the government intends to turn the ignition key on a mobilization infrastructure of 56 State Headquarters, 442 Area Offices, and 1,980 Local Boards. There's even a big chunk of funding this year to run what's called an "Area Office Prototype Exercise" which will "test the activation process from SSS Lottery input to the issuance of First Armed Forces Examination Orders."

Strategic Objective 2.2 is all about bumping up the Selective Service System's High School Registrar Program. What's that? It's a plan to put volunteer Registrars in at least 85% of the nation's high schools, up from 65% in 1998. Consider these the SSS's "troops on the ground," making sure that the smallest possible number of eligible draftees manages to slip through the net.
According to Cochran, the SSS 2004 plan commits them to report to the President by March 31, 2005 that a draft could be ready for activation in 75 days.

By this math, the US could hold its first draft lottery since Vietnam on June 15, 2005. Congressional action would be required, but even NY Democrats Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rep. Charlie Rangel have publicly supported a draft -- so this is certainly within the realm of the possible.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Republicans Suddenly Embrace Transparency

Yahoo News has a new AP wire story on-line entitled, "GOP Moves to Declassify Clarke Testimony."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) claims that Richard Clarke told a very different story about Bush administration counter-terror efforts when he testified before congressional intelligence committees in July 2002 than he's telling now.

To prove this, various Republicans are seeking to declassify his testimony. Frist implied that perjury charges could lie ahead for Clarke "if it is found that he has lied to Congress."
"Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said in a speech on the Senate floor.

The Tennessee Republican said he hopes Clarke's testimony in July 2002 before the House and Senate intelligence committees can be declassified. Then, he said, it can be compared with the account the former aide provided in his nationally televised appearance Wednesday before the bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Frist, without elaborating, said Clarke's testimony in 2002 was "effusive in his praise for the actions of the Bush administration."
I'm pretty skeptical that such declassification could help the Bush administration all that much. Most importantly, a huge point of departure for Clarke is his opposition to the war against Iraq and the argument that it distracted (and made more difficult) the wider war on terror.

Thus, I can't really see a "gotcha" moment if this testimony merely points to the admininstration's anti-terror achievements during the months after 9/11. Everyone knows they sent the military to Afghanistan, toppled the Taliban and destroyed al Qaida camps.

In August 2002, of course, George Herbert Walker Bush's National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft authored a critical op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal that is just as damning as Clarke's book in terms of the horrible consequences attacking Iraq would have for the war on terror. I quoted a lot of it before, but let me repeat this:
"An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken.

But the central point is that any campaign against Iraq, whatever the strategy, cost and risks, is certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism....At a minimum, it would stifle any cooperation on terrorism, and could even swell the ranks of the terrorists."
Earlier this week, someone leaked to Fox News a background brief Clarke gave in early August 2002. It generally supports the administration on the war on terror -- but Iraq is never mentioned.

Ironically, the White House has repeatedly linked the war in Iraq to the war on terror, but they are focusing all their attention on Clarke's claims about early 2001 -- that the incoming Bush administration was weak on terror from the beginning.

In the long run, that stuff may all wash out and the Iraq argument will prevail. So far, the White House doesn't seem to have a response for it.