Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

JEB the Vulcan; the 90’s Roots of the Iraq War

Was the invasion of Iraq in 2003 a mistake based on false intelligence gathered post 9/11? Well for some that might be a reasonable excuse, say for the Senators who voted for the 2002 AUMF – the Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Iraq. Even they would have some things to explain and ask forgiveness for, because after all a lot of that supposed intelligence was known to be bunk at that time, and probably some of them knew that and all of them SHOULD have known that. Still there were reasonable (if cowardly) political calculations that suggested that standing in the way of those who were bound and determined to go to war come what may was a bad idea for politicians with future ambitions. Say certain Senators whose names were Kerry and Clinton, but of course not only them.

So we should not give the Signatories of the AUMF a pass. On the other hand there is a clear difference in culpability between being an accomplice after the fact and a conspirator before the fact. And the ‘fact’ in question is when the decision to go to war on Iraq was decided and by whom. And on examination that decision had little to do with intelligence gathered between 2001 and 2003, it had little to nothing to do with aluminum tubes or yellowcake or Curveball, those were instead convenient trigger points for a decision made years before. By a group that came known as the Vulcans, which overlapped almost entirely with those who signed on to the Project for a New American Century – PNAC.

Who were the Vulcans? Well the easiest test is those who either signed the Statement of Principles of the Project for a New American Century in June 1997 or those who signed the follow-up Jan 1998 Letter to President Clinton on Iraq or as in many cases both. These names and explanations for who they are can be seen at this openly anti-PNAC site, so feel free to fact check: Sourcewatch: Project for a New American Century. An examination of those names and the express goals of the PNAC and how the inclusion of Jeb Bush among the former implicates him in the latter below the fold.

Declaring War on ISIS without Making War In Iraq or Syria

Put that way it sounds silly. I mean isn’t ISIS simply IN various parts of Iraq and Syria and wouldn’t US involvement in something like an all out attack on ISIS mean intervening in any number of civil wars? Well that depends on how smart your lawyers are (and I am only kind of smart and not a lawyer at all). But let me float a trial balloon (one fully equiped with Hellfire Missiles and Special Forces assault teams).

One. There is such a thing as the self-proclaimed Islamic State. And this sovereign state does have existing if fluid borders, that is there are parts of the territory of pre-existing states like Iraq and Syria that are now not under the physical and military and administrative control of those states. To that degree there is in fact an independent territorial based Islamic State. Moreover this IS has in very explicit fashion declared war on the United States, most recently be executing a U.S. citizen and threatening the same against his compatriot.

Which leads to this perhaps counterintuitive suggestion. Declare war on ISIS while simply allowing any territory gained in that military effort to simply be reabsorbed by the former state actors who held it. That is simply regarding any territory held by ISIS to not actually be in Iraq or Syria while allowing any and all claims to territory liberated from ISIS to revert to the states which formerly and still formally claim it. And this latter move could be itself justified by simply refusing to commit ‘boots on the ground’ to actually taking that territory as opposed to the deployment of targeted ground assaults within the territory currently controlled by the Islamic State. That is the U.S. would commit to the destruction and dismemberment of the IS while not formally taking control of any part of it. And by that token never actually waging war in ‘Iraq’ OR ‘Syria’.

Maybe this is too clever by half to be workable. But what it would conceptually do is convert ISIS into the Cheshire Cat state, simply vanishing as every piece of it is dismantled around it. Leaving nothing but the dream of a Caliphate (and being realistic an ongoing terroristic threat to both the restored Iraqi and Syrian States and the West at large).

The main conceptual difference between this effort and the Second Iraq War is that the U.S. by and large wouldn’t own the Pottery Barn where the breakage occured. Because by donning the proper set of logical blinders we could make the case that we weren’t ‘really’ engaged in war on current Iraqi or Syrian soil. And if those state actors had a beef with us waging war on what they consider to be their sovereign territory the U.S. answer would be simple: “Okay take back that territory an inch and a mile at a time and raise your own flag over the liberated cities and villages”. Because if that village or region or province is no longer under IS control it would not be at war with the U.S. And as such there would perhaps not ever be such a thing as the “U.S. Occupation of the Islamic State”.

I am not saying there would not be complications. After all the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after WWI delivered us right into WWII via the new Balkan States and even more so into the current I-P mess verging on horror, the ‘War to End All Wars’ is maybe the most ironic slogan ever invented. Still it is clear that the U.S. needs to put paid to ISIS while having some plausible deniability of actually occupying parts of war torn Iraq and Syria. And simply defining the Islamic State as being such and so a proper and plausible target of a Constitutional Declaration of War seems a reasonable way of slicing the logical knot here.

Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis

Rolling Stone (via Reader Supported News) points us to an op-ed in Armed Forces Journal  by Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis and the pdf at Rolling Stone.

Earlier this week, the New York Times’ Scott Shane published a bombshell piece about Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis, a 17-year Army veteran recently returned from a second tour in Afghanistan. According to the Times, the 48-year-old Davis had written an 84-page unclassified report, as well as a classified report, offering his assessment of the decade-long war. That assessment is essentially that the war has been a disaster and the military’s top brass has not leveled with the American public about just how badly it’s been going.

A tax thought…A Modest Tax Proposal

by Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

A Modest Tax Proposal

The GOP is all breathless about deficits, but this is the same GOP of Dubya Bush that fought a war in Iraq (unnecessary) and Afghanistan (overextended) funded entirely by debt.

So, the following proposal.

A 3% surtax on taxable incomes over $75,000 until the cost of both wars is paid.

This level of tax should not slow the economy, and we should face up to the responsibilities of having troops in the field.

Your thoughts?

Nation at war

We actually appeared to have forgotten we are a nation “at war” if news reporting is any indication from a personal search, except for the DC centered coverage of Gen. McChrystal. Notice it was a music magazine that got the scoop, more power to them, not mainstream media.

Here are some thoughts from Tomdispatch to remind us of the dark side of our history in the Middle East. Follow the link for more.

Doesn’t it seem, sometimes, that American history, the “people’s history,” is actually made by about 17 giant government and corporate entities, all hopelessly intertwined — and worse yet, that they never go away? On Tuesday, TomDispatch posted Stephen Kinzer’s piece, “BP in the Gulf — The Persian Gulf.” It was a reminder that, more than half a century ago (when it was called the Anglo-Persian Oil Company), the giant oil corporation now despoiling the Gulf of Mexico had, in quite a different way, despoiled Iranian democracy to maintain its hold on that country’s oil. It did so in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency, which, in 1953, overthrew a democratic Iranian government eager to nationalize that oil.

Well, neither of them has gone away. That’s obvious enough. Last week, the CIA popped up again, this time in conjunction with another of its favorite corporations, the infamous rent-a-gun company formerly known as Blackwater, now Xe Services. The Agency has given that for-profit warrior outfit a new $100 million contract to guard its various outposts in Afghanistan “and elsewhere”…

Worse yet, the CIA wasn’t alone, as the State Department just agreed to shell out $120,123,293 in taxpayer dough to a unit of Xe to pay for guarding some of its facilities in Afghanistan. (The awarding of this contract, reports CBS News which broke the story, comes barely “four months after the government of Iraq ordered hundreds of Blackwater-linked security guards to leave the country within seven days or face possible arrest.”)

Would Have Been Hoisted from Comments Elsewhere

But Steve Randy Waldman already did the heavy lifting:

several of the other officers had been stationed at the height of the housing bubble at facilities located near D.C. in Northern Virginia. They lived in very modest homes which were removed from their workplaces by substantial driving distances, but these homes were nevertheless particularly pricey for someone with a family and on a military salary. The humble homes ate significant chunks out of those salaries as the commutes did to the (already scarce) time these men had to spend with their families….

While we were away, about halfway through our deployment, the crash began and something mysterious had gone horribly wrong with the machinery of America. The small equity positions these men has invested in their respective residences were wiped out in a matter of months. By the time they were close to returning to these homes the men were all badly underwater by over one hundred thousand dollars and, what was worse, the Army had reassigned them….

Their instinct was that if they had borrowed money from a friend or a neighbor they would feel a deep, almost sacred, obligation to make good on their debt and pay it off in full plus interest as soon as they could manage it….That was, after all, the “right thing to do” as they had been taught by their parents and grandparents.

But then the bailouts with taxpayer money started. The “too big to fail” talk began, and then the wave of foreclosures and layoffs and emerging scandals of the unjust excesses of the financial industry, and so on. And these men began to feel that from the personal scale of their little world, their family was also perhaps “too big to fail” by the forfeit of their hard-won life’s savings.

They also started to question how the bailouts could make sense without some of the benefits flowing to innocent and responsible men such as themselves….

Go Read the Whole Thing.

Note:I mentioned this near the end of my last post, but it really deserves to be seen and read by more than the six people who might read to the end of that one.

Another Honest Republican

Lawrence Wilkerson tells the truth and shames the Devil:

Many detainees locked up at Guantanamo were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants, a former Bush administration official said Thursday. “There are still innocent people there,” Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a Republican who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, told The Associated Press. “Some have been there six or seven years.”

Wilkerson, who first made the assertions in an Internet posting on Tuesday, told the AP he learned from briefings and by communicating with military commanders that the U.S. soon realized many Guantanamo detainees were innocent but nevertheless held them in hopes they could provide information for a “mosaic” of intelligence.

“It did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance,” Wilkerson wrote in the blog. He said intelligence analysts hoped to gather “sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.”

Nice to know there was a reason. Read the whole thing, especially

In his posting for The Washington Note blog, Wilkerson wrote that “U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.”

I believe that counts as malice aforethought. Can we please take back The Ancestral Party now?

Hegemony on Steroids: the NeoCons, Iraq, and Historical Revisionism

by Bruce Webb

Paul Rosenberg has started an interesting series over at Open Left that in some ways could see my post What is the Nexus? as prologue.

The first post in the series is Hegemony On Steroids–Episode 35,879: “The Neocons Couldn’t A Dunnit!” It starts by stating one set of revisionist talking points eagerly being peddled by wingnuttia (and the Village) to keep from having to take responsibility for Iraq

Last week, the day before Christmas, Digby took note of an eager wanker (Frank Harvey, pimped by Kelly McParland) making the argument that if Gore had been President instead of Bush, we would have had the exact same clusterfuck, because (a) the neocons had nothing to do with it, that’s just a conspiracy theory! (b) invading Iraq was inevitable and (c) Al Gore had all sorts of hawkish attitudes, towards Iraq in particular, so, case closed!

Well Digby did a through take down on points (b) and (c). Mainly in that Al Gore came out publicly against the then current Bush approach on Sept 23, 2002, i.e. before the war. (Extensive quotes and links at OL). Which allows Paul to pursue assertion (a).

And in the course of that he totally demolishes the twin arguments that the Neo-Cons were not powerful enough to get everyone else to go along and that in the end everybody was sharing the same intelligence analysis. Both are simple nonsense and Paul lays out the case why that is so. Conclusion of part 1

In fact, if one looks carefully at what was going on behind the screen–and even just what was going on in plain sight–it soon becomes quite apparent that BushCo and the neocons were quite aware of how utterly flimsy their “evidence” was. They may have fooled some other folks–or at least bluffed them into playing safe and stiffling their doubts–but they knew all along their case couldn’t stand the light of day.

Which is why they never laid it out for anyone else to see. They knew very well that there was no “there” there. They were eager to show us all the evidence. They just didn’t have any.

In Part 2, we’ll take a closer look.

Link to Part 2 and some comments below the fold

Hegemony On Steroids–“The Neocons Couldn’t A Dunnit!”, Part 2

After the Iraq fiasco, the key to continuing neocon power was two-fold: First, disappearing the disaster. Second disappearing the neocons themselves. The disaster was disappeared by a series of rationalizations and redefinitions, the most important of which was the replacement of the original rationale–9/11, WMDs and all that–with goal of “democratization” (which the US originally had no interest in), and the replacement of all else with the mantra, “the surge is working.” Disappearing the neocons involved a rather extensive chameleon act, a key part of which was the erasure of their fingerprints all over everything in sight.
This is where we get the common bit of hegemonic narrative used to excuse the Iraq War, the claim that “everyone” believed the intelligence that Saddam had WMDs. This narrative is not just false, it’s a textbook case of how hegemonic discourse makes it virtually impossible to think straight about anything. There’s an old adage that if you ask the wrong questions, you can’t get the right answers. Hegemonic discourse works best by making sure that nothing but wrong questions get asked.

By implicitly making the question, “did everyone believe Saddam had WMDs?”–and not even asking it, but simply asserting an answer, every question we ought to be asking is summarily swept off the table. And the chance of making a truly fundamental break with the neocon direction is substantially weakened

If some of this sounds awfully familiar it should, various commenter/war supporters here have been faithfully pushing versions of this argument for years.

In any event Paul goes on to give a detailed chronological timeline of how the intelligence was being consciously shaped around the war policy. In other words the Brits had it exactly right in the Downing Street Memo. The question of why Blair and Powell and Rice and Tenet (none of them neo-cons) and yes too many congressional democrats went along is really the theme of the rest of the piece. The whole thing is longish but certainly worth it.

Symbolman: Dangerous lunatic or prophet before his time?

by Bruce Webb
Back in the day even to hint at some of the subjects of Symbolman’s brilliant flash productions was to mark you as being infected with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS). But now in the waning days of Bush/Cheney maybe it is time to push back against the revisionism. Warning if you ever supported Bush or this war you probably need to use your scroll bar. RIGHT NOW. Because I guarantee you are not going to feel comfortable with any of this content.

Army of One If you can watch this without tearing up you may not have any heart at all. Note that this is copyright 2003 before we had any hint that the Walter Reed situation would exist. ‘Support the Troops’? My ass.

Bush no Nazi. A little edgier, but like all of Symbolman’s work fully documented. And also well scored, in this case with Spike Jones. Chorus: “When the fuhrer says we are the master race, sieg heil, sieg heil right in the fuhrer’s face!” In any event pretty illuminating about the source of the Bush family fortune.

Triumph of the Wimp. Whatever you do stick it out to the second half with the soundtrack of ‘Fortunate Son’. Which if it wasn’t written with Bush in mind certainly could have been.

And for people tragically stuck in print mode it is worth reviewing this Onion article published days before the Bush inaugral (Jan 17, 2001). Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over’ Boy Howdy. Key paras?

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

“You better believe we’re going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration,” said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. “Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?”

Shortest verse in the Bible? ‘Jesus wept’. (John 11:35)