Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

The press is reporting on the discovery (and detonation) of a roadside bomb discovered in Iraq, which released a “small quantity” of sarin gas. The gas temporarily bothered two American soldiers, and (presumably) put them off their lunch. But that’s about it.

Clearly relieved to finally have some "happy" news to crow about, the right-wing blogosphere is all over this, hyping this story as proof positive that Bush wasn’t jerking America around about the need to invade Iraq.

So maybe it’s time to revisit what Bush told America in his 2003 SOTU speech:

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He’s not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

Note to the right-wingers: It’s kind of easy to feel that Bush has been vindicated, but that’s only because the bar has been set so low. That’s what happens with failure after failure. Oh . . . and haven’t you been burned before by jumping to premature conclusions based on vague press reports (i.e., the "mobile labs")?

It Gets Worse For Bush

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

As most of you probably know, Sy Hersh at The New Yorker has placed blame for the Abu Ghraib scandal directly at the feet of Rumsfeld.

But this independent Newsweek investigation brings it directly to the Oval Office.

The money quote:

But a NEWSWEEK investigation shows that, as a means of pre-empting a repeat of 9/11, Bush, along with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods. It was an approach that they adopted to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Conventions, which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war. In doing so, they overrode the objections of Secretary of State Colin Powell and America’s top military lawyers—and they left underlings to sweat the details of what actually happened to prisoners in these lawless places.

What does this mean in political terms?


Heh. Hat tip to Kevin Drum.

Bush to Seek Another $25B for Iraq War

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

As reported here.

As the story reports, this request for additional funds is a "retreat from the White House’s earlier plans not to seek such money until after the November elections. "

In my view, the request for more money — and the apparent necessity of asking for it now instead of after the elections — forces Bush to admit one of two things in the upcoming heavy election season:

(1) The war has become more of a failure (or less of a success) than the Administration realized; and/or

(2) The administration was never straight with the American people on the costs of the war/re-building.

Take your pick.

Now THIS is interesting . . .

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Election 2004, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

First the background . . .

This document is part of Bush’s military records — specifically, it is the document which records that Bush was suspended from flight status for failure to show up for an annual physical examination.

Interestingly, below the entry for Bush is another entry for another pilot, also removed from flight status (on the same day), for failure to show up for an annual physical examination.

The pilot’s name: James R. Bath.

Who is James Bath? Were he and Bush buddies or something, deciding to skip their Air National Guard obligations together?

You bet they’re buddies. Bush and Bath later co-founded Arbusto, an oil company, in 1979 [Arbusto means "Bush" in Spanish — cute, huh?]

Now comes the interesting part . . . Bath was accused of funnelling Saudi money into Arbusto and other Bush business interests including money from — wait for it — Saudi Sheik Salem M. Binladen.

Binladen? Where have I heard that name before? Yup, it’s Osama’s older brother.

That probably explains why Bush, when he recently released his military record, redacted the name of "James R. Bath" (as Atrios point out). Unfortunately, the document was released years ago, unredacted — that’s how we know of James R. Bath. But still, one can see why the Bush White House would not want to remind the public that Bush’s friend was a bin Laden business representative.

You can read more about the Bush-Bath-Saudi-Bin Laden connections in this 1992 Houston Chronicle article, reprinted here.

Ribbons and Medals

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

I won’t regurgitate the entire manufactured Kerry medals/ribbons "controversy" which the right is all lathered up over. You can get a good sense of the ridiculous claim here.

Basically, it all hinges on the flimsy premise that when Kerry was asked, in 1971, about what he was awarded (in the midst of a discussion about what medals he "gave back"), he failed to make a distinction between medals and ribbons . . . and therefore he is a lying sack of shit and how can we let him be President blah blah blah.

Problem is, the U.S. Military doesn’t make that distinction either. Ribbons can be called medals, and vice versa. Don’t believe me? Go here and here and here and here and here.

Hat tip to Kos for taking the effort to show what a bunch of hacks many on the right can be.

Lesson of the Day

Ken AshfordBush & Co., War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Eric Alterman nails it:

If you fire a photographer, the photograph you fired her for will get printed again and again, even in the New York Times, which otherwise might have left the whole thing alone.

This of course refers to the Pentagon/Bush ban on photos of dead troops in their coffins — an order which was violated by Pentagon contractor, causing a minor controversy, which resulted in news stories about the controversy, many of which carried photos of dead troops in their coffins. And publication of 300+ photos on places like The Memory Hole. [UPDATE: better access at a mirror site here]

Personally, I don’t know what the hub-bub is about. Soldiers die in war. When that happens, they come home in big planes, and military guards escort them off in a ceremonial dignified way.

Do I need a picture to remind me of that? No — I already knew it.

On the other hand, if I were the President, should I be scared or concerned that the public is seeing pictures of that? No – give the public a little credit, and don’t treat them like children.

And besides, I’m not even convinced that the display of such a photograph stirs up anti-war sentiments. If anything (I’m guessing), it would stir up the opposite emotion.

Anyway, that said . . . Alterman is right.

Say WHAT?!?

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

In an article entitled AP Poll: More than 30 months after attacks, concerns that the terrorists might be winning comes the following paragraphs:

More than 30 months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, two-thirds of Americans acknowledge some concern that terrorists may be recruiting faster than the United States can keep up. A third of those polled feel strongly this is the case, and another third say they have at least some worries.

"Terrorists are winning the war for the hearts and minds of the people in the Mideast," said Christine Wyatt, a 52-year-old church deacon in Clarkston, Mich.

Somebody please tell me she means the Middle East, as opposed to say, Ohio and Michigan.

That aside, it’s a good read.

“If It’s Not On Our Website, It Didn’t Happen”

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Paging George Orwell . . .

The Pentagon deleted from a public transcript a statement Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made to author Bob Woodward suggesting that the administration gave Saudi Arabia a two-month heads-up that President Bush had decided to invade Iraq.

At issue was a passage in Woodward’s "Plan of Attack," an account published this week of Bush’s decision making about the war, quoting Rumsfeld as telling Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, in January 2003 that he could "take that to the bank" that the invasion would happen.

The comment came in a key moment in the run-up to the war, when Rumsfeld and other officials were briefing Bandar on a military plan to attack and invade Iraq, and pointing to a top-secret map that showed how the war plan would unfold . . .

Pentagon officials omitted the discussion of the meeting from a transcript of the Woodward interview that they posted on the Defense Department’s Web site Monday. Rumsfeld told reporters at a briefing yesterday that he may have used the phrase "take that to the bank" but that no final decision had been made to go to war.

From today’s Washington Post.

The Third Front

Ken AshfordDemocratsLeave a Comment

Billmon of the Whiskey Bar has some interesting thoughts on the unification of interests between progressives (as distinguished from John Kerry-like "neolibs") and libertarians. It takes him a while to get to that point, but the journey is interesting as well. An excellent read from an underrated blog.

Excerpted highlights:

Strategically, the neocons and their neoliberal collaborators now hold the center of the political spectrum. The anti-imperialists hold the two edges — historically not an enviable position. To continue the military analogy, the hawks enjoy the advantage of "interior lines of communication." The two wings of the anti-war movement, on the other hand, barely speak the same language.

The fact that realism has been pushed to the fringes of the political debate says a lot about America’s collective mental condition. Sanity isn’t very popular these days . . . We seem to have reached the point where a half-baked strategy for endless war in the Middle East is actually easier to sell politically than a sensible energy policy, an end to America’s fawning subservience to worst instincts of the Israeli national security state, and a focused, relentless campaign to destroy Al Qaeda while drying up the pools of hatred in which jihad festers and grows.


For libertarian conservatives, the great fear is of a state that gradually overwhelms and crushes human liberty. For progressives, it’s a state that ignores the needs of the weak and the powerless at home, while acting as an engine of oppression in the developing world. Thanks to the war in the Middle East, it looks like both of our worst fears could come true. Thus, the idea of a coalition of both ends against the middle.


Lets just call it "Americans for Sanity," and leave it at that.

On Winning The Hearts And Minds

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

"Today there is hatred of the Americans like never before in the region," said Egyptian President (and ally) Hosni Mubarak, speaking of the Middle East. You can read all about his comments here: "Mubarak: Arabs Hate U.S. More Than Ever" (Reuters)

Quick! What best describes your reaction?

(1) "Who gives a tinker’s cuss about what Arabs think of America?"
(2) "I’m building a bomb shelter"

To those who responded with #1, let me counter-respond.

Let’s assume that every society has its share of player-haters. For example, we in the West have angry Christian fundamentalists (although, of course, that does not mean that all Christian fundamentalists are angry).

Let’s further assume that a certain small percentage of those player-haters will be driven to illegal, immoral, and violent extremes — in a word, terrorism. For argument’s sake, let’s say they represent 1% of the identifiable group of "player-haters". So, continuing my example, one percent of angry Christian fundamentalists will be so angry as to commit acts of violence and terrorism (see Eric Rudolph).

It stands to reason that as the Christian fundamentalist movement grows and gains power (which is not a bad thing necessarily), the violent radical fringe of the movement also grows (which IS a bad thing).

So logically, what’s the result when you have a larger universe of Arabs in the Middle East who hate America than you did on, say, 9/11? Answer: you have greater numbers of Arabs situated in the subset of those willing to go to violent extremes. In short, you have more who are (a) willing to fund terrorists (private donations, etc.) and (b) act as terrorists. (Note that this does not require the complicity of nation-states to harbor or support terrorists).

A rising tide raises all boats, so a rising tide of anti-American sentiment necessarily means more terrorists. Does that make America safer? So if you are serious about ending terrorism, you should care about how other cultures see America.

Those who think we can win a (so-called) "war on terror" by stamping out "the terrorists" fail to see how our actions in the past have actually created terrorism. So naturally, they fail to see how our actions in the present are counter-productive to the ultimate objective. They assume that terrorists, in all the forms and incantations, are nothing more than a "band of thugs" (a phrase Bush likes to invoke), without realizing that our policies actually create more anti-U.S. fever and, hence, more terrorists.

In fact, the Bush supporters often go one step further. The mere suggestion that attention be paid to winning the hearts and minds of the people we want to change . . . gets greeted with mocking derisions of how "appeasement doesn’t work".

Don’t get me wrong. I’m strongly in favor of the judicious use of the military, but only as one of many tools in our arsenal to halt the so-called "war" on terror. But a myopic, heavy-handed, military-weighted solution to terrorism is like scratching a poison ivy rash: it may seem like you are getting rid of the problem . . . but in reality, you are merely exacerbating it.

If terrorists recruit in their culture with the propaganda that America is militaristic, expansionist, and self-serving. . . then how are we served by acting in an unapologetic militaristic, expansionist and self-serving manner, thus proving their entire point?

If America wants to change the world, it needs to be a beacon of humble respect for other countries and cultures, even — no, especially — ones that we disagree with.

On occasion, there may be clear good reasons to militarily overthrow countries (and if they are indeed "clear and good", there should be absolutely no problem with world consensus on that issue). But barring that, there is simply no reason to attempt to make other countries in our own image. Let THEM make THEMSELVES in our image, but being a beacon of freedom.

Furthermore, if we demonstrate that all we understand is force and death, then those who oppose us will not hesitate to speak to us in a language we understand — just as they did on 9/11. And once again, we will hear them say, "The chickens have come home to roost".

CPA Memo Admits That Iraq Is A Clusterfuck

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

A newly-surfaced memo, written in March, from an unnamed U.S. government official detailed to the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) in Iraq, is alarming in its honesty.

You can read about the CPA memo here. Some highlights from the article:

Yet the memo is gloomy in most other respects, portraying a country mired in dysfunction and corruption, overseen by a CPA that "handle(s) an issue like 6-year-olds play soccer: Someone kicks the ball and 100 people chase after it hoping to be noticed, without a care as to what happens on the field."

The memo also describes the CPA as "handicapped by [its] security bubble," and derides the U.S. government for spending "millions importing sport utility vehicles which are used exclusively to drive the kilometer and a half" between CPA and Governing Council headquarters when "we would have been much better off with a small fleet of used cars and a bicycle for every Green Zone resident."

The memo also notes that while Iraqi police "remain too fearful to enforce regulations," they are making a pretty penny as small-arms dealers, with the CPA as an unwitting partner. "CPA is ironically driving the weapons market," it reveals. "Iraqi police sell their U.S.-supplied weapons on the black market; they are promptly re-supplied. Interior ministry weapons buy-backs keep the price of arms high."

CPA now estimates there are at least 30 separate militias active in Iraq, and "essentially [CPA] doesn’t know what to do with regard to them — which is frightening, because CPA’s authority essentially ends on June 30, and any Iraqi incentive to get rid of the militias is likely to go away after that date . . .

We have a strategy?!?

UPDATE: Full text of memo now online here.

Foreign Leaders Favor Bush

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Election 2004Leave a Comment

The Saudis, that is.

In blogosphere time, this is an old story, but for those who have been in a cave for 24 hours, you can read more about it here. Basically it’s this: The Bush White House and the Saudis have a "sweetheart deal" in which the Saudi government will lower gas prices just prior to our elections, a move that would favor Bush.

The response from the right wing pundits about this piece of news? It’s this: [sound of crickets chirping and a sagebrush ambling by].

So what is it guys? Is Woodward a liar, too? And answer me this question posed by Calpundit: "What would be [your] reaction if Woodward reported that Jacques Chirac had agreed to hold up a new UN resolution until November, just to make Bush look bad?"

UPDATE: Even though Woodward has clarified that the Saudi’s offer of political help to Bush does not necessarily mean it was a "quid pro quo", the Bush White House seems curiously unable to deny that there was indeed a deal:


QUESTION: There were no conversations specifically about the President’s reelection?

MR. McCLELLAN: You can ask Prince Bandar to —

QUESTION: But from the point — I mean, conversations are obviously two ways.

MR. McCLELLAN: — what his comments were. But the conversations we have are related to our long-held views that we have stated repeatedly publicly, that market forces should determine prices.

QUESTION: To follow up on that then, I would gather that the White House view is one of expectation that the Saudis would increase oil production between now and November.

MR. McCLELLAN: Our views are very well-known to Saudi Arabia. Prince Bandar made a commitment at the stakeout that I will let speak for itself. You all should look back to those remarks.

QUESTION: We’re missing the allegation here, which is that Prince Bandar and the Saudis have made a commitment to lower oil prices to help the President politically. Is that your —

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those comments to him. I can tell you that what our views are and what he said at the stakeout is what we know his views are, as well.

QUESTION: Does the White House have any knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Does the White House have any knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I’m not going to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those questions —

QUESTION: Is there a deal?

MR. McCLELLAN: — I wouldn’t speculate one way or the other. You can direct those questions to him, but I’m telling you —

Thanks, GWB. I Feel MUCH Safer Now

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Probe Shows Iraq Nuke Facilities Unguarded

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Some Iraqi nuclear facilities appear to be unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrapyards.

Geez. Full story here.

Bush Is Perfect, White House Reveals

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

Courtesy of The Borowitz Report:

First Flawless Person in History, Experts Believe

President George W. Bush received some much needed good news today as the White House revealed conclusive evidence that the President is perfect.

“After reviewing his actions since entering the White House in 2001, we have come to the conclusion that the President is perfect,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “And we believe that his perfection may date back even further than that, possibly to his date of birth.”

Mr. Bush responded to the news of his perfection with self-effacing modesty, Mr. McClellan said, “which is exactly how you’d expect a perfect person to react.”

“He said he would move mountains to find some flaw that would make him less than perfect,” Mr. McClellan said, adding that the President could, in fact, move mountains.

Mr. McClellan then distributed to the press copies of a bowling score-sheet attributed to the President which showed Mr. Bush bowling a perfect score of 300.

In the aftermath of the White House’s announcement, experts in the field of human perfection expressed astonishment at the news of Mr. Bush’s flawlessness.

“We’ve always operated on the presumption that nobody is perfect,” said Dr. David Stemmins of the University of Minnesota. “If these revelations are true, that would make President Bush the first perfect person in history.”

Not so, says Mr. McClellan: “Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Ashcroft are also perfect.”

In other news, Barry Bonds’s home-run heroics were overshadowed yesterday when President Bush produced his 660th reason for invading Iraq.