Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Libby Trial: Day Twelve Libby Trial Reflects a Secrecy-Obsessed Administration:
"Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller this week may have proved to be a lousy witness–often dithering and plagued by seemingly stunning memory lapses–but at this point press critics who expected the perjury trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby to add up to a scathing indictment of the Washington reporting corps have to be disappointed.

Well, at least a little.

What has emerged in U.S. District Court even more dramatically than the media's well-documented though often overstated shortcomings is an intimate and at times amusing portrait of how an administration obsessed with secrecy dispatches its apparatchiks to obfuscate, plant, plot, and discredit...."

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Brooks: As Delusional as Bush

Davey Brooks proves once again that he is a supreme simpleton, incapable of seeing through the political spin, who has learned no more from the Bush years than he failed to learn from the Viet Nam era -- which is to say, nada.

He is as dangerously out of touch with the dramatic shift of mood in America as is his beloved, fallen King George.

Brooksie's new victory cry? Hegemony is not dead! Long live hegemony! America is great! America will wage ever more wars! America will conquer all! America will spread our infamous brand of Iraqi freedom and justice all over the globe! Hoorah! Death, war and destruction forever! Long live the military state! Long live colonialism! Long live Imperialism!

Speak for yourself, Brooksie. We're not all arrogant morons....

The Iraq Syndrome, R.I.P.
By David Brooks
The New York Times
After Vietnam, Americans turned inward. Having lost faith in their leadership class, many Americans grew suspicious of power politics and hesitant about projecting American might around the world.

The Vietnam syndrome was real. It lasted all of five years — the time between the fall of Saigon and the election of Ronald Reagan.

Today, Americans are disillusioned with the war in Iraq, and many around the world predict that an exhausted America will turn inward again. Some see a nation in permanent decline and an end to American hegemony. At Davos, some Europeans apparently envisioned a post-American world.

Forget about it. Americans are having a debate about how to proceed in Iraq, but we are not having a strategic debate about retracting American power and influence. What’s most important about this debate is what doesn’t need to be said. No major American leader doubts that America must remain, as Dean Acheson put it, the locomotive of the world.

Look at the leaders emerging amid this crisis. The two major Republican presidential contenders are John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, the most aggressive internationalists in a party that used to have an isolationist wing.

The Democrats, meanwhile, campaigned for Congress in 2006 by promising to increase the size of the military. The presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton, is the leader of the party’s hawkish wing and recently called for a surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan. John Edwards, the most “leftward” major presidential contender, just delivered a bare-knuckled speech in which he castigated the Bush administration for not being tough enough with Iran. “To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep all options on the table,” Edwards warned.

This is not a country looking to avoid entangling alliances. This is not a country renouncing the threat of force. This is not a country looking to come home again. The Iraq syndrome is over before it even had a chance to begin.

The U.S. has no material need to reconsider its dominant role in the world. The U.S. military still has no serious rivals, even after the strains of Iraq. The economy is humming along nicely.

The U.S. has no cultural need to retrench. Vietnam sparked a broad cultural revolution, a shift in values and a loss of confidence. Iraq has not had the same effect. Many Americans have lost faith in the Bush administration and in this particular venture, but there has been no generalized loss of faith in the American system or in American goodness.

There hasn’t even been a broad political shift in favor of the doves. The most important war critics are military types like Jack Murtha, Chuck Hagel and Jim Webb, who hate this particular war but were superhawks in other circumstances.

Finally, there has been no change in America’s essential nature. As Robert Kagan writes in his masterful book “Dangerous Nation,” America has never really been an isolationist or aloof nation. The United States has always exercised as much power as it could. It has always coupled that power with efforts to spread freedom. And Americans have always fought over how best to fulfill their mission as the vanguard of progress.

What’s happening today is just another chapter in that long expansionist story. Today’s debate in the Senate flows seamlessly from the history Kagan describes. Most senators agree that the tactical question of sending 20,000 more troops is not the central issue. Their core concern, they say, is finding a new grand strategy to stabilize the region.

Most senators want a much more aggressive diplomatic effort to go along with the military one. (If President Bush said his surge was part of an effort to establish a regional diplomatic conference, he’d have majority support tomorrow.) But they don’t question the need for America to play a leading role. They take it for granted that the U.S. is going to be in the Middle East for a long time to come.

When you look further into the future, you see that the next president’s big efforts will not be about retrenchment, but about expansion. They’ll be about expanding the U.S. military, expanding the diplomatic corps, asking for more shared sacrifice, creating new interagency bureaus that will give America more nation-building capacity.

In short, the U.S. has taken its share of blows over the past few years, but the isolationist dog is not barking. The hegemon will change. The hegemon will do more negotiating. But the hegemon will live.

Photo Credit: David Brooks. (The New York Times)

Also See:

A Death in Destrehan

By Bob Herbert
The New York Times
Destrehan, La.

On the afternoon of Oct. 7, 1974, a mob of 200 enraged whites, many of them students, closed in on a bus filled with black students that was trying to pull away from the local high school. The people in the mob were in a high-pitched frenzy. They screamed racial epithets and bombarded the bus with rocks and bottles. The students on the bus were terrified.

When a shot was heard, the kids on the bus dived for cover. But it was a 13-year-old white boy standing near the bus, not far from his mother, who toppled to the ground with a bullet wound in his head. The boy, a freshman named Timothy Weber, died a few hours later.

That single shot in this rural town about 25 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans set in motion a tale of appalling injustice that has lasted to the present day.

Destrehan was in turmoil in 1974 over school integration. The Supreme Court’s historic desegregation ruling was already 20 years old — time enough, the courts said, for Destrehan and the surrounding area to comply. But the Ku Klux Klan was still welcome in Destrehan in those days, and David Duke, its one-time imperial wizard, was an admired figure. White families in the region wanted no part of integration.

When black students were admitted to Destrehan High, they were greeted with taunts, various forms of humiliation and violence. Some of the black students fought back, and in the period leading up to the shooting there had been racial fights at a football game and inside the school.

While the Weber boy was being taken to a hospital, authorities ordered the black students off the bus and searched each one. The bus was also thoroughly searched. No weapon was found, and there was no evidence to indicate that the shot had come from the bus. The bus driver insisted it had not come from the bus, but from someone firing at the bus.

One of the black youngsters, a 16-year-old named Gary Tyler, was arrested for disturbing the peace after he talked back to a sheriff’s deputy — one of the few deputies in St. Charles Parish who was black. It may have been young Tyler’s impudence that doomed him. He was branded on the spot as the designated killer.

(Later, at a trial, the deputy, Nelson Coleman, was asked whose peace had been disturbed by Mr. Tyler’s comments. “Mine,” he replied.)

Matters moved amazingly fast after the shooting. Racial tension gave way to racial hysteria. A white boy had been killed and some black had to pay. Mr. Tyler, as good a black as any, was taken to a sheriff’s substation where he was beaten unmercifully amid shouted commands that he confess. He would not.

It didn’t matter. In just a little over a year he would be tried, convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to death by electrocution.

The efficiency of the process was chilling. Evidence began to miraculously appear. Investigators “found” a .45-caliber pistol. Never mind that there were no fingerprints on it and it turned out to have been stolen from a firing range used by the sheriff’s deputies. (Or that it subsequently disappeared as conveniently as it was found.) The authorities said they found the gun on the bus, despite the fact that the initial search had turned up nothing.

The authorities found witnesses who said that Mr. Tyler had been the gunman. Never mind that the main witness, a former girlfriend of Mr. Tyler’s, was a troubled youngster who had been under the care of a psychiatrist and had a history of reporting phony crimes to the police, including a false report of a kidnapping. She and every other witness who fingered Mr. Tyler would later recant, charging that they had been terrorized into testifying falsely by the police.

A sworn affidavit from Larry Dabney, who was seated by Mr. Tyler on the bus, was typical. He said his treatment by the police was the “scariest thing” he’d ever experienced. “They didn’t even ask me what I saw,” he said. “They told me flat out that I was going to be their key witness. ... They told me I was going to testify that I saw Gary with a gun right after I heard the shot and that a few minutes later I had seen him hide it in a slit in the seat. That was not true. I didn’t see Gary or anybody else in that bus with a gun.”

Mr. Tyler was spared electrocution when the Supreme Court declared Louisiana’s death penalty unconstitutional. But in many ways he has in fact paid with his life. He’ll turn 50 this year in the state penitentiary at Angola, where he is serving out his sentence of life without parole for the murder of Timothy Weber.

Photo Credit: Bob Herbert. (The New York Times)

Dems, GOP Unite Against Bush Iraq Plan

The tide is (at least) symbolically turning against Bush's Iraq War escalation .... the latest compromise Senate Resolution is watered down and has no teeth .... but what can you expect from a bunch of gutless self-obsessed politicos, most of whom had no problem getting us into this immoral mess or skipping merrily along with BushCo's every disastrous whim for four years -- without so much as a twinge of guilt or a peep of protest.

Senate foes of troop buildup join forces:
"Two senators, a Republican and a Democrat, leading separate efforts to put Congress on record against President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq joined forces Wednesday, agreeing on a nonbinding resolution that would oppose the plan and potentially embarrass the White House...."

German Court Challenges C.I.A. Over Abduction

No longer is BushCo free to ignore international law without consequences ....

New York Times reports:
"FRANKFURT, Jan. 31 — A German court on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for 13 people in the mistaken kidnapping and jailing of a German citizen of Lebanese descent, in the most serious legal challenge yet to the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret transfers of terrorism suspects...."
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Brzezinski: Iraq War a Historic, Strategic and Moral Calamity; Stop Colonialism


The Washington Note: Zbigniew Brzezinski Calls Iraq War a Historic, Strategic and Moral Calamity & Says Stop the Trappings of Colonial Tutelage:
"TWN has secured testimony being offered by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski tomorrow morning in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 9:30 a.m.

Brzezinski will be paired with former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft who will testify about their views on the strategic context of America's actions in Iraq.

This may be covered by C-SPAN but will also be available in full at CNN's Pipeline."
Photo: Zbigniew Brzezinski. (The Washington Note)

Missing Molly ...

Molly Ivins Died Today of Cancer at 62:
"Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as 'Shrub,' died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

Ivins died at her home while in hospice care, said David Pasztor, managing editor of the Texas Observer, where Ivins was co-editor."
Read John Nichols' (The Nation) tribute, Remembering Molly Ivins; the following is an excerpt:
"The warmest-hearted populist ever to pick up a pen with the purpose of calling the rabble to the battlements, Ivins understood that change came only when some citizen in some off-the-map town passed a petition, called a Congressman or cast an angry vote to throw the bums out. The nation's mostly widely syndicated progressive columnist, who died January 31 at age 62 after a long battle with what she referred to as a "scorching case of cancer," adored the activists she celebrated from the time in the late 1960s when she created her own "Movements for Social Change" beat at the old Minneapolis Tribune and started making heroes of "militant blacks, angry Indians, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers."
Photo Credit: Molly Ivins. (Ave Bonar/NPR)

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Olbermann : Where is the Evidence?

Keith Olbermann's latest Special Comment: "Bush Shoots for 'Jaws,' Delivers 'Jaws 2'" debunks Bushie's claim, in the State of the Union address, to have stopped four terror plots.

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Transcript and video: Here.

If Fox Won't Fire Irresponsible Reporters -- Fire Fox

Evidently that is just what Barack Obama did. According to The Sleuth at the Washington Post (Mary Ann Akers), "the Obama camp has 'frozen out' Fox News reporters and producers in the wake of the network's major screw-up in running with the erroneous Obama-the-jihadist story reported by Insight magazine."

Good for Barack.

Let's take his lead and fire Fox News by boycotting them and their advertisers. And, hey, while we're at it, how about firing Donald Trump and boycotting 'The Apprentice" as well as anything else with which he is associated?


  • AlterNet: MediaCulture: Punish the Right-Wing Liars:
    "If the right-wing media keeps spreading lies like the one about Barack Obama supposedly going to a madrassa as a child, it's time to consider hiring the meanest lawyers on the planet to fight these creeps...."

The Message ...

Sit, breathe, watch .... and pass it on.

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Congress Can Stop Iraq War, Experts Tell Lawmakers

Susan Cornwell reports (Reuters):
The U.S. Congress has the power to end the war in Iraq, several high-powered legal experts including a former Bush administration attorney told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

With many lawmakers poised to confront President George W. Bush by voting disapproval of his war policy in the coming days, four of five experts called before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee said Congress could go further and restrict or stop U.S. involvement if it chose.

"I think the constitutional scheme does give Congress broad authority to terminate a war," said Bradford Berenson, a Washington lawyer who was a White House associate counsel under Bush from 2001 to 2003.

"It is ultimately Congress that decides the size, scope and duration of the use of military force," said Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general -- the government's chief advocate before the Supreme Court -- in 1996-97, and an assistant attorney general three years before that.

The hearing was frequently punctuated by outbursts from more than a dozen anti-war protesters, who were asked several times to be quiet but not thrown out.

The subcommittee's chairman, Sen. Russ Feingold, said he would introduce a bill on Wednesday prohibiting the use of funds for the war six months after enactment.

"Today we've heard convincing testimony and analysis that Congress has the power to stop the war if it wants to," said Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat.

The Senate is poised in the coming days to take up a resolution opposing Bush's recent decision to add 21,500 troops in Iraq. But that resolution would not be binding on the president, while legislation to cut funds -- assuming it passed -- would be. However, this idea is much more controversial among lawmakers as many do not want to slash funds when troops are already abroad....

Feingold, who considered a presidential run but decided against it, said he had no desire to place troops in danger. His legislation would allow time for the administration to redeploy U.S. forces, while letting a limited number remain in Iraq to conduct "targeted counter-terrorism" and training missions."
Specter: Bush Not Sole 'Decision-Maker'
WASHINGTON - A Senate Republican on Tuesday directly challenged President Bush's declaration that "I am the decision-maker" on issues of war.

"I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said during a hearing on Congress' war powers amid an increasingly harsh debate over Iraq war policy. "The decider is a shared and joint responsibility," Specter said.

The question of whether to use its power over the government's purse strings to force an end to the war in Iraq, and under what conditions, is among the issues faced by the newly empowered Democratic majority in Congress, and even some of the president's political allies as well....
Photo Credit: Senator Russ Feingold (

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Libby Trial: Day Eleven

NYT: Ex-Reporter for Times Testifies for Prosecutor Who Jailed Her
"Judith Miller, a former reporter for The New York Times, testified Tuesday as a witness for the prosecutor who had put her in jail for 85 days, recounting details of her once-confidential interviews with I. Lewis Libby Jr...."

Day 11 Summary Wrap-Up

Friedman's Foreign Policy Test

Not a half-bad column from Tom Friedman in today's NY Times:

Not-So-Strange Bedfellow
By Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times
Here’s a little foreign policy test. I am going to describe two countries — “Country A” and “Country B” — and you tell me which one is America’s ally and which one is not.

Let’s start: Country A actively helped the U.S. defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and replace it with a pro-U.S. elected alliance of moderate Muslims. Country A regularly holds sort-of-free elections. Country A’s women vote, hold office, are the majority of its university students and are fully integrated into the work force.

On 9/11, residents of Country A were among the very few in the Muslim world to hold spontaneous pro-U.S. demonstrations. Country A’s radical president recently held a conference about why the Holocaust never happened — to try to gain popularity. A month later, Country A held nationwide elections for local councils, and that same president saw his candidates get wiped out by voters who preferred more moderate conservatives. Country A has a strategic interest in the success of the pro-U.S., Shiite-led, elected Iraqi government. Although it’s a Muslim country right next to Iraq, Country A has never sent any suicide bombers to Iraq, and has long protected its Christians and Jews. Country A has more bloggers per capita than any country in the Muslim Middle East.

The brand of Islam practiced by Country A respects women, is open to reinterpretation in light of modernity and rejects Al Qaeda’s nihilism.

Now Country B: Country B gave us 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. Country B does not allow its women to drive, vote or run for office. It is illegal in Country B to build a church, synagogue or Hindu temple. Country B helped finance the Taliban.

Country B’s private charities help sustain Al Qaeda. Young men from Country B’s mosques have been regularly recruited to carry out suicide bombings in Iraq. Mosques and charities in Country B raise funds to support the insurgency in Iraq. Country B does not want the elected, Shiite-led government in Iraq to succeed. While Country B’s leaders are pro-U.S., polls show many of its people are hostile to America — some of them celebrated on 9/11. The brand of Islam supported by Country B and exported by it to mosques around the world is the most hostile to modernity and other faiths.

Question: Which country is America’s natural ally: A or B?

Country A is, of course. Country A is Iran. Country B is Saudi Arabia.

Don’t worry. I know that Iran has also engaged in terrorism against the U.S. and that the Saudis have supported America at key times in some areas. The point I’m trying to make, though, is that the hostility between Iran and the U.S. since the overthrow of the shah in 1979 is not organic. By dint of culture, history and geography, we actually have a lot of interests in common with Iran’s people. And I am not the only one to notice that.

Because the U.S. has destroyed Iran’s two biggest enemies — the Taliban and Saddam — “there is now a debate in Iran as to whether we should continue to act so harshly against the Americans,” Mohammad Hossein Adeli, Iran’s former ambassador to London, told me at Davos. “There is now more readiness for dialogue with the United States.”

More important, when people say, “The most important thing America could do today to stabilize the Middle East is solve the Israel-Palestine conflict,” they are wrong. It’s second. The most important thing would be to resolve the Iran-U.S. conflict.

That would change the whole Middle East and open up the way to solving the Israel-Palestine conflict, because Iran is the key backer of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Syria. Iran’s active help could also be critical for stabilizing Iraq.

This is why I oppose war with Iran. I favor negotiations. Isolating Iran like Castro’s Cuba has produced only the same result as in Cuba: strengthening Iran’s Castros. But for talks with Iran to bear fruit, we have to negotiate with Iran with leverage.

How do we get leverage? Make it clear that Iran can’t push us out of the gulf militarily; bring down the price of oil, which is key to the cockiness of Iran’s hard-line leadership; squeeze the hard-liners financially. But all this has to be accompanied with a clear declaration that the U.S. is not seeking regime change in Iran, but a change of behavior, that the U.S. wants to immediately restore its embassy in Tehran and that the first thing it will do is grant 50,000 student visas for young Iranians to study at U.S. universities.

Just do that — and then sit back and watch the most amazing debate explode inside Iran. You can bet the farm on it.

Photo Credit: Thomas Friedman. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Also See:

The Politics of Hillary

Mama Hugs Iowa
By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times

When she was little, Hillary Rodham would sit on a basement bench and pretend she was flying a spaceship to Mars. Her younger brother Hugh, perched behind, would sometimes beg for a chance to be captain.

No dice. “She would always drive, and I would always have to sit in the back,” he once told me.

Through all the years of sitting behind Bill Clinton on his trip to the stars, Hillary fidgeted and elbowed, trying to be co-captain rather than just wingman, or worse, winglady.

Finally, in Iowa, she was once more behind the wheel of her spaceship to Mars. She didn’t have to prop up Bill after one of his roguish pratfalls. She didn’t have to feign interest in East Wing piffle — table settings and pastry chefs and designer gowns. She didn’t have to defer to her male colleagues in the Senate, stepping back to give them the limelight.

She positively glistened as she talked about how “I” — rather than the “we” of ’92 — would run the world.

Humbly, graciously, deftly, she offered Iowa the answer to that eternal question, What Is Hillary Owed?


John Wood, a self-described “plainsman,” Republican and machinery-and-tool salesman from Davenport, asked Hillary how she would handle the world’s evil and bad men, provoking the slyly ambiguous retort: “What in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men?”

He said afterward that he was more worried about her ability to face down villains, “being a lady,” but conceded, “The woman did good today.”

(His question was reminiscent of Ali G’s interview of Newt Gingrich, when the faux rapper asked whether a woman president would be turned on and manipulated by evil dictators, given that, with women, “the worse you treat ’em, the more they want you.”)

As YouTube attests, Hillary didn’t care about style as first lady; she was too busy trying to get in on Bill’s substance. She showed off a long parade of unflattering outfits and unnervingly changing hairdos.

In Iowa, her national anthem may have been off-key, but her look wasn’t. It was an attractive mirror of her political message: man-tailored with a dash of pink femininity.

“I think you look very nice,” a veteran of the first gulf war told her in Des Moines.

“Thank you!” she answered, beaming and laughing.

When Geraldine Ferraro made her historic run in ’84, she tried to blend a mother’s concerns into her foreign policy answers, but it did not work so well once she started getting her nuclear terminology mixed up.

Hillary dealt with the issue head on — “I’m a woman; I’m a mom” — hoping to stir that sisterly vote that Ms. Ferraro failed to draw after it turned out that many women were skeptical about one of their own facing down the Soviets.

Unlike Barack Obama, who once said he was bored by the suburbs, she introduced herself in the land of bingo and bacon as a product of the suburbs, wallowing in the minutiae of kitchen-table issues.

W. and Cheney have lavished attention and money on Iraq, leaving Americans feeling neglected. Hillary offered Iowans a warm bath of “you,” homey rumination rather than harsh domination.

(Though Jon Stewart warned on “The Daily Show” that her slogan — “Let the conversation begin!” — will not help her with men. “I think the typical response would be, ‘Now?’ ” he said, adding that her new Iraq policy is, “America, let’s pull over and just ask for directions.”)

Thomasine Johnson, a 66-year-old African-American from outside Des Moines, complained that Hillary talked too much about “traditional women’s issues,” but many in the audiences seemed enthralled.

The Achilles’ heel of “The Warrior,” as she is known, is the war. She expressed outrage about Iraq, but ended up sounding like a mother whose teenage son has not cleaned up his room: “The president has said this is going to be left to his successor ... and I think it’s the height of irresponsibility, and I really resent it.”

She uttered the most irritating and disingenuous nine words in politics: “If we had known then what we know now. ...”

Jim Webb knew. Barack Obama knew. Even I knew, for Pete’s sake. The administration’s trickery was clear in real time.

Hillary didn’t have the nerve to oppose a popular president on a national security issue after 9/11, and she feared being cast as an antiwar hippie when she ran. Now she feels she can’t simply say she made a bad decision. And that makes her seem conniving — not a good mix with nurturing.

Photo Credit: Maureen Dowd. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Iran War Alert: Rhetoric vs. Reality

Given the level of lies, propaganda, fear-mongering, and manipulation of intelligence exhibited at the highest levels of our government, is it any wonder that confusion and distrust surround the government's intentions towards Iran?

Take a look at the array of articles trying to discern BushCo's Iran strategy and I defy you to come away with anything but a scrambled brain.
  • El Baradei Says Iran Is at Least 5 Years Away From Nuclear Arms:
    Bloomberg reports: "Iran is at least five to 10 years away from developing nuclear weapons, and any military attack on the country would only speed up its program, the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog organization said....

    'We have not seen any facilities capable of building a weapon,' International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. 'We are not dealing with a threat tomorrow.'

    Military strikes to knock out any suspected Iranian nuclear program would be 'absolutely catastrophic' and would 'accelerate a program, if it exists,' he said. Graham Allison, an international-affairs professor at Harvard University and a former Defense Department official, told the forum that there's a 20 percent chance the U.S. or Israel will bomb Iran's nuclear research sites within the next two years...."
  • New US strategy on Iran emerges from Davos:
    Timesonline reports: "The real value of Davos is in making connections - not just in the sense of networking and schmoozing with important people, but also in relating seemingly disparate events and ideas. Overtly the main themes at Davos today were terrorism and Iraq – and the story, as presented publicly by Iraqi and US politicians and officials, was all about wresting back control of Baghdad from terrorists, with al-Qaeda and Shia death squads bearing equal blame. In contrast to American officials, who simply repeated President Bush’s mantra that "failure is not an option", Iraqi politicians have a more realistic and nuanced view.

    As Abd Al-Mahdi, the Vice-President, noted privately after his appearance at a plenary session: "The Americans actually have two options: either they stay or they withdraw. But we Iraqis don’t have any options. If we don’t succeed on ending the violence with the present strategy, we just have to be patient and keep trying. Unlike the Americans, we don’t have an exit strategy from Iraq." The same was true, he noted, of Iraq’s neighbours Iran, Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. This was why Iraqi politicians were constantly urging President Bush to start talking to Iraq’s neighbours and warning the White House that any military attack on Iranian nuclear installations, whether by America or Israel, could spill over catastrophically into Iraq.

    Why, then, did President Bush refuse to start talking to Iran and Syria, as recommended by the Baker-Hamilton commission? Why instead did he seem to be increasing military tensions with Iran?"


    "...[T]hree strands of a more interesting and hopeful strategy begin to emerge in conversations with Middle Eastern analysts and politicians at Davos....

    The first is, obviously, the US effort to reduce violence in Iraq – or failing that, at least to mount a show of strength against the Iranian-backed Shia militias and to remind Tehran that America retains its capacity to deploy overwhelming military power.

    The second is the sabre-rattling over Iran’s nuclear programme, especially the semi-public threats of Israeli bombing, perhaps even with tactical nuclear weapons. America’s announcement that two aircraft carrier battle groups will move to the Gulf within a month or so are clearly a reminder that Washington still has plenty of firepower to attack Iran directly or to back Israeli bombing – and also to protect international oil shipments through the Gulf against Iranian retaliation. These deployments and public warnings do not necessarily suggest that an actual attack on Iran is likely but rather that America wants Iran to realise that it is playing for very high stakes in its confrontation with the West."


    "...the final and most interesting strand in the anti-Iranian policy nexus: the price of oil. Iran’s economy depends entirely on oil sales, which account for 90 per cent of exports and a roughly equal share of the Government’s budget. Since last July, a barrel of oil has fallen from $78 to just over $50, reducing the Government’s revenues by one third. If the oil price fell into the $35 to $40 range, Iran would shift into deficit, and with access to foreign borrowing cut off by UN sanctions, the Government’s capacity to continue financing foreign proxies would quickly run out. Iran has reacted to this threat by calling on Opec to stabilise prices but, in practice, only one country has the clout to do this: Saudi Arabia. Earlier this month, in a highly significant statement, Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi Oil Minister, publicly opposed Iranian calls for production cuts to halt the decline in prices. Mr Naimi's pronouncement was cast as a technical matter unconnected with politics, but it seemed to confirm private warnings by King Abdullah that his country would try everything to thwart Iran’s hegemony in Iraq and throughout the region, whether by military intervention or more subtle economic means.

    This policy was spelt out with surprising precision in an article by Nawaf Obaid, a senior Saudi security adviser, in The Washington Post: "King Abdullah may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the Iraqi militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half, the kingdom could still finance its current spending. But it would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties even with today's high prices. The result would be to limit Tehran's ability to continue funnelling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere."
  • If the above is true, the following begins to make sense:

  • Mr. Bush's Oil Security Blanket:
    The New York Times reports: "One of the stranger and so far unexplained items in President Bush's energy program is his proposal to double the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to 1.5 billion barrels, over the next 20 years. The proposal carries a $65 billion price tag -- one of several reasons Congress should question Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman closely when he comes looking for the money...."
  • Or is, as the following article asserts, war with Iran the goal after all? Or is it merely a matter of US propaganda helping to execute the earlier mentioned strategy? Propaganda, fear, and confusion are still the main tools in White House's game.

  • Iran Must Get Ready to Repel a Nuclear Attack:
    Global Research reports: "In the overall flow of information coming from the Middle East, there are increasingly frequent reports indicating that within several months from now the US will deliver nuclear strikes on Iran. For example, citing well-informed but undisclosed sources, the Kuwaiti Arab Times wrote that the US plans to launch a missile and bomb attack on the territory of Iran before the end of April, 2007. The campaign will start from the sea and will be supported by the Patriot missile defense systems in order to let the US forces avoid a ground operation and to reduce the efficiency of the return strike by 'any Persian Gulf country'.

    'Any country' mostly refers to Iran. The source which supplied the information to the Kuwaiti paper believes that the US forces in Iraq and other countries of the region will be defended from any Iranian missile strikes by the frontier Patriots...."
  • So what is this about?

  • Bush Throws The Dice:
    Information Clearing House reports: "By funding the Iraq war and supporting Israel, Egypt and Jordan, the US pays an oil security tax running at least $100 billion per year. China doesn't pay billions per year to secure their oil supplies. The Europeans collectively spend a fraction of the US amount on oil security...."

More on Iran:

  • NYT: Europe Resists U.S. Push to Curb Iran Ties

  • NEW: US takes new steps to isolate Iran
    "The United States took new steps to isolate Iran, announcing a freeze on the sale of all F-14 fighter parts and warning that an attempt by Tehran to block the flow of Gulf oil could be turned against it.

    President George W. Bush reiterated in a television interview that the US had no plans to invade Iran, but will step up diplomatic pressure to convince it to abandon its nuclear program...." (Hat tip to A. Buono)
  • NEW: Senators warn against war with Iran:
    "WASHINGTON - Republican and Democratic senators warned Tuesday against a drift toward war with an emboldened. Iran and suggested the Bush administration was missing a chance to engage its longtime adversary in potentially helpful talks over next-door
  • ZNet | Iran | Hegemony and Appeasement: Setting Up the Next U.S.-Israeli Target (Iran) For Another "Supreme International Crime"

  • NEW: Iran Clock Is Ticking
    "While congressional Democrats test how far they should go in challenging George W. Bush’s war powers, the time may be running out to stop Bush from ordering a major escalation of the Middle East conflict by attacking Iran.

    Military and intelligence sources continue to tell me that preparations are advancing for a war with Iran starting possibly as early as mid-to-late February. The sources offer some differences of opinion over whether Bush might cite a provocation from Iran or whether Israel will take the lead in launching air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities...."
  • NEW: Iranians Worry about a Possible American Attack
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Truth Game

This is a "Must Watch" documentary film by John Pilger which looks at the world-wide propaganda surrounding the nuclear arms race:

Trouble viewing this video? Click Here.

"When the two American atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, they were code-named 'Fat Man' and 'Little Boy', and President Truman announced after the event: "The experiment has been an overwhelming success." "These", says Pilger, "were words used to describe the awful and horrific carnage of nuclear war. By using reassuring, even soothing language, this new kind of propaganda created acceptable images of war and the illusion that we could live securely with nuclear weapons".

Official 'truths' are examined in connection with the bombing of Hiroshima, the build up of arms by Russia and America, the siting of nuclear bases by the US in Britain and Europe, Ministry of Defence statements about the Cruise missile base at Greenham Common, and other US bases, the amount of government money spent on weapons, 'Civil defence' arrangements and a NATO 'limited' nuclear and chemical war exercise in West Germany, which Pilger describes as 'a dry run for the unthinkable'. Many experts give their views, including Paul Warnke who thinks arms reduction is feasible -- 'All we need is the political will to go ahead with it.'"

Rumsfeld Has Left The Building -- Sort of

Read all about it and weep:
Rumfeld Remains Defense Department 'Consultant,' Opens 'Transition Office' Near Pentagon
Rumsfeld's transition raises questions according to �The Washington Times:
"Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has left the Pentagon, but not the Defense Department.

On Jan. 4, Mr. Rumsfeld opened a government-provided transition office in Arlington and has seven Pentagon-paid staffers working for him, a Pentagon official said.

The Pentagon lists Mr. Rumsfeld as a "nonpaid consultant," a status he needs in order to review secret and top-secret documents, the official said.

Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides, who include close adviser Stephen Cambone, are sifting through the thousands of pages of documents generated during his tenure...."

Senior State Department Official Resigns over Nuclear Proliferation

The Washington Post Reports that "Robert Joseph, the State Department's senior arms control and security official, has resigned.

Joseph submitted his resignation to President Bush amid uncertainty about the future of negotiations to curb nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. Talks on both fronts have moved slowly, with U.N. penalties against both countries showing limited results. The talks are in recess...."

Photo: Robert Joseph, Under Secretary, Arms Control and International Security. (U.S. Dept. Of State Photo)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Give 58% of Americans Their Wish

Survey Says Most Americans want Bush presidency to be over:

Give voters what they want: Impeach Bush.

Newsweek Poll: A Sorry State:
Jan. 27, 2007 - President George W. Bush concluded his annual State of the Union address this week with the words “the State of our Union is strong … our cause in the world is right … and tonight that cause goes on.” Maybe so, but the state of the Bush administration is at its worst yet, according to the latest NEWSWEEK Poll. The president’s approval ratings are at their lowest point in the poll’s history—30 percent—and more than half the country (58 percent) say they wish the Bush presidency were simply over, a sentiment that is almost unanimous among Democrats (86 percent), and is shared by a clear majority (59 percent) of independents and even one in five (21 percent) Republicans. Half (49 percent) of all registered voters would rather see a Democrat elected president in 2008, compared to just 28 percent who’d prefer the GOP to remain in the White House.
Photo Credit: ITMFA

US Must Get Out Of Iraqi Cities To Contain Civil War

The Independent: US must abandon Iraqi cities or face nightmare scenario, say experts
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington

The US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.

This is the central recommendation of a study by the Brookings Institution here, based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.

Even the US staying to try to contain the fighting, said Kenneth Pollack, one of the report's authors, "would consign Iraqis to a terrible fate. Even if it works, we will have failed to provide the Iraqis with the better future we promised." But it was the "least bad option" open to the US to protect its national interests in the event of full-scale civil war.

US troops, says the study, should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects....

Yet Another Bush Power Grab

The Emperor goes on .... despite unquestionably having no clothes .... he goes on imperially manipulating the law to strengthen his Presidential powers at the expense of Congress and the people's will.

When will Congress act to protect the people who elected them? When?

Bush Signs Directive To Exert Power Over Dem Congress:
"President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president's priorities. This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats...."
Read more.

Social Entrepreneurs

Nicholas Kristof reports from Davos that "what it really takes to change the world isn’t so much wealth or power as creativity, determination and passion."

Lots of food for inspiration here ....

Do-Gooders With Spreadsheets
By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times
DAVOS, Switzerland

The World Economic Forum here in Davos is the kind of place where if you let yourself get distracted while walking by a European prime minister on your left, you could end up tripping over a famous gazillionaire — and then spilling your coffee onto the king on your right. But perhaps the most remarkable people to attend aren’t the world leaders or other bigwigs.

Rather, they are the social entrepreneurs. Davos, which has always been uncanny in peeking just ahead of the curve to reflect the zeitgeist of the moment, swarmed with them.

So what’s a social entrepreneur? Let me give a few examples among those at the forum in Davos.

• In Africa, where children die of diarrhea from bad sanitation, Isaac Durojaiye runs a franchise system for public toilets. He supplies mobile toilets to slum areas, where unemployed young people charge a small fee for their use. The operators keep 60 percent of the income and pass the rest back to Mr. Durojaiye’s company, Dignified Mobile Toilets, which uses the money to buy new toilets.

• Nic Frances runs a group that aims to cut carbon emissions in 70 percent of Australian households over 10 years. His group, Easy Being Green, gives out low-energy light bulbs and low-flow shower heads — after the household signs over the rights to the carbon emissions the equipment will save. The group then sells those carbon credits to industry to finance its activities, and it is now aiming to expand globally.

• In the U.S., Gillian Caldwell and her group, Witness, train people around the world to use video cameras to document human rights abuses. The resulting videos have drawn public attention to issues like child soldiers and the treatment of the mentally ill. Now Ms. Caldwell aims to create a sort of YouTube for human rights video clips.

Social entrepreneurs like Ms. Caldwell resemble traditional do-gooders in their yearning to make the world a better place, but sound like chief executives when they talk about metrics to assess cost-effectiveness. Many also generate income to finance expansion.

“We’re totally self-sustaining,” said Mirai Chatterjee, a dynamo who is coordinator of the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India. “From Day 1 our idea was to run a strong economic organization.” Ms. Chatterjee’s organization now has nearly 1 million members, owns a bank, runs 100 day care centers, trains midwives and provides health insurance for 200,000 women. It is empowering women and fighting poverty across a growing swath of rural India, and its down-to-earth approach is characteristic of social entrepreneurs.

“Politics is failing to solve all the big issues,” said Jim Wallis, who wrote “God’s Politics” and runs Sojourners, which pushes social justice issues. “So when that happens, social movements rise up.”

Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, demonstrated with Grameen Bank the power of microfinancing. His bank has helped raise incomes, secure property rights for women, lower population growth and raise education standards across Bangladesh — and now the success is rippling around the globe.

One of those inspired by Mr. Yunus, for example, was Roshaneh Zafar, a young Pakistani economist. She quit her job and started Kashf, a microfinance institution that now gives hundreds of thousands of Pakistani women a route out of poverty.

Ms. Zafar also received help from Ashoka, a hugely influential organization for social entrepreneurs started by an American, Bill Drayton (who describes social entrepreneurs as “the most important historical force at work today”). Ashoka is one of a growing number of donor groups that offer the equivalent of venture capital for social entrepreneurs.

“The key with social entrepreneurs is their pragmatic approach,” said Pamela Hartigan of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, which is affiliated with the World Economic Forum. “They’re not out there with protest banners; they’re actually developing concrete solutions.”

When I travel around the world, I’m blown away by how these people are transforming lives. A growing number of the best and brightest university graduates in the U.S. and abroad are moving into this area (many clutching the book “How to Change the World,” a bible in the field).

It’s one of the most hopeful and helpful trends around. These folks aren’t famous, and they didn’t fly to Davos in first-class cabins or private jets, but they are showing that what it really takes to change the world isn’t so much wealth or power as creativity, determination and passion.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Kristof. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Libby Trial: Day Ten

Testimony by Ari Fleischer that Libby disclosed to him the identity of Valerie Plame one week prior to her name surfacing in the press ....

  • WaPo: Fleischer Tells Jury That Libby Told Him About Plame:
    "ormer White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told a jury today that Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff disclosed to him the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame a week before her name surfaced publicly in the press.

    Taking the stand as the most critical witness so far in the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fleischer said that in an unusual lunch in the White House mess, Libby told him that the wife of prominent war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV worked in the CIA's counterproliferation division.


    Fleischer said he never viewed the information he received about Plame as classified or secret, because the protocol in the White House was that press aides would be warned explicitly when information was classified and could not be used in discussions with reporters.

    Fleischer also made clear how uncomfortable he was when questioned earlier that day at a press briefing about Wilson's claims that the administration was twisting intelligence. Earlier in the spring, he had insisted that President Bush stood behind 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union address about Iraq's efforts to buy uranium in Niger.

    But higher level officials he didn't name began suggesting it might be a problem to defend that statement.

    "I had been told to be careful not to stand by the 16 words, that the ground might be shifting on that," Fleischer said. "You can't say yes. You can't say no. At that briefing, I basically punted. I said yes and no."

    During afternoon testimony, Fleischer told jurors that, a few days after his lunch with Libby, Fleischer had relayed the fact that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA to two reporters while they were covering a trip Bush made to Africa.

    According to Fleischer, he passed on the information to the reporters, NBC's David Gregory and Time magazine's John Dickerson, as they were walking alongside a road in Uganda.

    The former press secretary said that, in addition to learning about Plame from Libby, he also had just heard another White House aide, then-communications director Dan Bartlett, "vent" about news accounts that Cheney had asked for Wilson's trip. Fleischer said he was in the senior staff cabin of Air Force 1 during the Africa trip when he overheard Bartlett say out loud that Wilson's wife had sent him on the mission to Niger.

    He testified that neither Libby nor Bartlett gave him any reason to believe that Plame's employment was classified.

    "I never in my wildest dreams thought this information would be classified," he said.

    Fleischer, who left the White House in mid-July 2003, said that in September, about 2 1/2 months after his conversation with the reporters, he saw a news account that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate a possibly illegal leak of a covert CIA officer's identity.

    "I was absolutely horrified to know I had played a role," Fleischer said. "I thought, 'Oh my God. Did I play a role in somehow outing a CIA officer. . . . Did I just do something that I could be in big trouble for.' "

    He said that he hired lawyers and ultimately agreed to be interviewed by investigators after receiving immunity from prosecution."
  • Huffington Post: On The Stand: Inner Workings Of The White House Media Machine:
    "Former vice presidential aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's perjury trial continues to expose the inner workings of the White House media machine.

    Cathie Martin, the former spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney who last week discussed the preferred White House strategies for beating back negative media stories, returns to the stand Monday."
  • Documents From the Trial of I Lewis "Scooter" Libby

  • LA Times: Libby trial shows unsealed lips in CIA

  • Firedoglake: � Libby Live: Cathie Martin, Four

  • Firedoglake: � Libby Live: Ari Fleischer One

  • Firedoglake: � A Peek Inside The Media Circus

  • Firedoglake: � Libby Live: Ari Fleischer Two

  • Firedoglake: Libby Live: Ari Fleischer Three

  • Firedoglake: � Libby Live: David Addington

  • Firedoglake:� B-I-N-G-O

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Krugman's Inconvenient Truth

The Krug Man laments the absense of political will for a meaningful energy policy, one which has as it's centerpiece conservation, rather than ethanol.

My own feeling is that unless someone of the caliber and credentials of Al Gore leads the way on this issue -- preferably as a presidential candidate -- the likelihood that we will make necessary, significant progress on global warming is not good.

Gore, who has said he will not run for president, is missing his moment. Never was the time more right for an environmentally savvy President to inspire and lead our nation to partner with the rest of the world to solve this global problem. The environmental issue is rife with opportunity to craft a new foreign policy with global warming and clean energy alternatives at its core and could begin to reverse the arrogant American imperialistic image Bush has cultivated so successfully.

Al Gore, if you're listening, your moment is now. You are the man with the experience, the will, and the ability to lead us toward a brighter future. There isn't another candidate out there -- from either party -- who has your same unique qualifications, experience and credibility. Go for it, man!

The Sum of All Ears
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
For those hoping for real action on global warming and energy policy, the State of the Union address was a downer. There had been hints and hopes that the speech would be a Nixon-goes-to-China moment, with President Bush turning conservationist. But it ended up being more of a Nixon-bombs-Cambodia moment.

Too bad: the rumors were tantalizing. Al Hubbard, the chairman of the National Economic Council, predicted “headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence.” British officials told the newspaper The Observer that Mr. Bush would “make a historic shift in his position on global warming.”

None of it happened. Mr. Bush acknowledged that climate change is a problem, but you missed it if you sneezed. He said something vague about fuel economy, but the White House fact sheet on energy makes it clear that there was even less there than met the ear.

The only real substance was Mr. Bush’s call for a huge increase in the supply of “alternative fuels.” Mainly that means using ethanol to replace gasoline. Unfortunately, that’s a really bad idea.

There is a place for ethanol in the world’s energy future — but that place is in the tropics. Brazil has managed to replace a lot of its gasoline consumption with ethanol. But Brazil’s ethanol comes from sugar cane.

In the United States, ethanol comes overwhelmingly from corn, a much less suitable raw material. In fact, corn is such a poor source of ethanol that researchers at the University of Minnesota estimate that converting the entire U.S. corn crop — the sum of all our ears — into ethanol would replace only 12 percent of our gasoline consumption.

Still, doesn’t every little bit help? Well, this little bit would come at a very high price compared with the obvious alternative — conservation. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that reducing gasoline consumption 10 percent through an increase in fuel economy standards would cost producers and consumers about $3.6 billion a year. Achieving the same result by expanding ethanol production would cost taxpayers at least $10 billion a year, based on the subsidies ethanol already receives — and probably much more, because expanding production would require higher subsidies.

What’s more, ethanol production has hidden costs. Even the Department of Energy, which is relatively optimistic, says that the net energy savings from replacing a gallon of gasoline with ethanol are only the equivalent of about a quarter of a gallon, because of the energy used to grow corn, transport it, run ethanol plants, and so on. And these energy inputs come almost entirely from fossil fuels, so it’s not clear whether promoting ethanol does anything to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

So why is ethanol, not conservation, the centerpiece of the administration’s energy policy? Actually, it’s not entirely Mr. Bush’s fault.

To be sure, at this point Mr. Bush’s people seem less concerned with devising good policy than with finding something, anything, for the president to talk about that doesn’t end with the letter “q.” And the malign influence of Dick “Sign of Personal Virtue” Cheney, who no doubt still sneers at conservation, continues to hang over everything.

But even after the Bushies are gone, bad energy policy ideas will have powerful constituencies, while good ideas won’t.

Subsidizing ethanol benefits two well-organized groups: corn growers and ethanol producers (especially the corporate giant Archer Daniels Midland). As a result, it’s bad policy with bipartisan support. For example, earlier this month legislation calling for a huge increase in ethanol use was introduced by five senators, of whom four, including presidential aspirants Barack Obama and Joseph Biden, were Democrats. In a recent town meeting in Iowa, Hillary Clinton managed to mention ethanol twice, according to The Politico.

Meanwhile, conservation doesn’t have anything like the same natural political mojo. Where’s the organized, powerful constituency for tougher fuel economy standards, a higher gasoline tax, or a cap-and-trade system on carbon dioxide emissions?

Can anything be done to promote good energy policy? Public education is a necessary first step, which is why Al Gore deserves all the praise he’s getting. It would also help to have a president who gets scientific advice from scientists, not oil company executives and novelists.

But there’s still a huge gap between what obviously should be done and what seems politically possible. And I don’t know how to close that gap.

Photo Credits: (1) Al Gore. May 2006 Wired Magazine Cover. (2) Paul Krugman. (The New York Times)

More Al Gore:

Herbert's Ode to Protest

More Than Antiwar
By Bob Herbert
The New York Times
It was a few minutes after 11 a.m. when the scattered crowd began moving slowly toward the stage at the end of the Mall. The sky was a beautiful sunlit blue and the Capitol building, huge and white and majestic, offered the protesters an emotional backdrop that seemed almost close enough to touch.

“It’s so big,” said a woman from Milwaukee, who was there with her husband and two children. “It’s lovely. Makes you want to cry.”

You can say what you want about the people opposed to this wretched war in Iraq, try to stereotype them any way you can. But you couldn’t walk among them for more than a few minutes on Saturday without realizing that they love their country as much as anyone ever has. They love it enough to try to save it.

By 11:15 I thought there was a chance that the march against the war would be a bust. There just weren’t that many people moving toward the stage to join the rally that preceded the march. But the crowd kept building, slowly, steadily. It was a good-natured crowd. Everyone was bad-mouthing the Bush administration and the war, but everybody seemed to be smiling.

There were gray-haired women with digital cameras and young girls with braces. There were guys trying to look cool in knit caps and shades and balding baby boomers trading stories about Vietnam. And many ordinary families.

“Where’s Hillary?” someone asked.

That evoked laughter in the crowd. “She’s in Iowa running for president,” someone said.

When a woman asked, “What’s her position on the war?” a man standing next to her cracked, “She was for it before she was against it.”

More laughter.

The crowd kept building. There were people being pushed in wheelchairs and babies in strollers. There were elderly men and women, walking very slowly in some cases and holding hands.

The goal of the crowd was to get the attention of Congress and persuade it to move vigorously to reverse the Bush war policies. But the thought that kept returning as I watched the earnestly smiling faces, so many of them no longer young, was the way these protesters had somehow managed to keep the faith. They still believed, after all the years and all the lies, that they could make a difference. They still believed their government would listen to them and respond.

“I have to believe in this,” said Donna Norton of Petaluma, Calif. “I have a daughter in the reserves and a son-in-law on active duty. I feel very, very strongly about this.”

Betty and Peter Vinten-Johansen of East Lansing, Mich., said they felt obliged to march, believing that they could bolster the resolve of opponents of the war in Congress. Glancing toward the Capitol, Mr. Vinten-Johansen said, “Maybe we can strengthen their backbone a little bit.”

Even the celebrities who have been at this sort of thing for decades have managed to escape the debilitating embrace of cynicism. “How can you be cynical?” asked Tim Robbins, just before he mounted the stage to address the crowd, which by that time had grown to more than 100,000.

“This is inspiring,” he said. “It’s the real voice of the American people, and when you hear that collective voice protesting freely it reminds you of the greatness of our country. It gives you hope.”

When Jane Fonda said, “Silence is no longer an option,” she was doing more than expressing the outrage of the crowd over the carnage in Iraq and the president’s decision to escalate American involvement. She was implicitly re-asserting her belief in the effectiveness of citizen action.

Ms. Fonda is approaching 70 now and was at the march with her two grandchildren. It was very touching to watch her explain how she had declined to participate in antiwar marches for 34 years because she was afraid her notoriety would harm rather than help the effort.

The public is way out in front of the politicians on this issue. But the importance of Saturday’s march does not lie primarily in whether it hastens a turnaround of U.S. policy on the war. The fact that so many Americans were willing to travel from every region of the country to march against the war was a reaffirmation of the public’s commitment to our peaceful democratic processes.

It is in that unique and unflagging commitment, not in our terrifying military power, that the continued promise and greatness of America are to be found.

Photo Credit: Bob Herbert. (The New York Times)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Silence is No Longer An Option"

Thank you, Jane and everyone else who took part in the Peace Rally in DC!

Fonda Back in Her Most Famous Role:
"For her next act, Jane Fonda has entered the war against the Iraq war. At the tail-end of yesterday's on-the-Mall rally, organized by United for Peace and Justice, Fonda stood onstage with the Capitol behind her and addressed the sun-drenched thousands. 'I haven't spoken at an antiwar rally in 34 years,' she said. But, 'Silence is no longer an option....'"

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