Thursday, March 30, 2006

More Downing St. revelations, media ignores

Yet another Downing Street memo. While the President and his men were telling us they were working on a diplomatic option to war, he was telling Tony Blair none of that mattered.
During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser.
Most of the SCLM, meanwhile, failed to cover the story. Fox News unsurprisingly ignored it entirely, but so did The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Associated Press, and Reuters. United Press International ran two articles, one on the memo and one on the reaction from the White House.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Occupation "an unbelievable mess" from the start

Senior British diplomatic and military staff gave Tony Blair explicit warnings three years ago that the US was disastrously mishandling the occupation of Iraq, according to leaked memos.
[A] series of confidential memos to Downing Street in May and June 2003 cataloguing US failures ... [w]ith unusual frankness, ... described the US postwar administration, led by the retired general Jay Garner, as "an unbelievable mess" and said "Garner and his top team of 60-year-old retired generals" were "well-meaning but out of their depth".
The memos identified a series of US failures that contained the seeds of the present insurgency and chaos. Some of the problems identified as early as May 2003:

· A lack of interest by the US commander, General Tommy Franks, in the post-invasion phase.

· The presence in the capital of the US Third Infantry Division, which took a heavyhanded approach to security.

· Squandering the initial sympathy of Iraqis.

· Bechtel, the main US civilian contractor, moving too slowly to reconnect basic services, such as electricity and water.

· Failure to deal with health hazards, such as 40% of Baghdad's sewage pouring into the Tigris and rubbish piling up in the streets.

· Sacking of many of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party, even though many of them held relatively junior posts.

All of these difficulties could have been easily foreseen and dealt with, but the PNAC'ers thought it could be done on the cheap and dismissed the warnings of the "experts."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Good intel ignored, bad intel pushed for war

Criticism of the Iraq war is mostly dismissed as hindsight, but recent reports illustrate that the President was told of what might go wrong -- what did go wrong -- but ignored the information, and actively deceived the nation about it.
Two highly classified intelligence reports delivered directly to President Bush before the Iraq war cast doubt on key public assertions made by the president, Vice President Cheney, and other administration officials as justifications for invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein.
A summary from the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), delivered to the President in October 2002, concluded that high-strength aluminum tubes procured by Iraq were "intended for conventional weapons," a view disagreeing with that of other intelligence agencies, including the CIA, which believed that the tubes were intended for a nuclear bomb.

The President and others continued to state conclusively that the tubes were to be used in WMDs, and never mentioned that experts in his administration did not support the claim.

Another summary from the NIE, delivered in early January 2003, stated that U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that Saddam was unlikely to attack the US except if "ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime" or if he intended to "extract revenge" for such an assault.

So intelligence believed Saddam posed no threat. The aluminum tubes, along with the Niger uranium, were known to be nothing. Yet the intel agencies were blamed when they turned out to be wrong! They were actually right, but the administration suppressed the dissent and beat the war drums.

And then...
U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war, according to former senior intelligence officials who helped craft the reports.
The NIE report completed in October 2003 concluded that the Iraq insurgency was fueled by local conditions -- not by foreign terrorists -- and drew strength from deep grievances, including the very presence of US troops. As with the earlier case, the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense and others continued to describe the insurgency as a containable threat, posed mainly by former supporters of Saddam Hussein, criminals and non-Iraqi terrorists, even as the U.S. intelligence community was warning otherwise.

"No one could have expected" has been a mantra for this administration, but in fact so much of this situation was foreseen, and should have been avoided. They were unshakable in their belief of what would happen, and refused to listen to better-informed experts. Why does anyone still grant them credibility?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Katrina briefing explodes "no one knew" dodge

In the wake of the Katrina fiasco, the President told us that no one could have foreseen the damage that the storm could do. That was patently false to begin with, but now we have video showing the President himself being warned not only of the possibility that the levees could be breached but also of the risk to evacuees.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Republican War on Science

Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.
- Internal strategy document of tobacco company Brown and Williamson, circa 1969

Welcome to the “antiscientific counterrevolution.”
"The Republican War on Science" is nothing short of a landmark in contemporary political reporting. [Author Chris] Mooney compiles and presents an extraordinary mountain of evidence, from several different fields, to demonstrate that the conservative wing of the Republican Party has launched an unprecedented and highly successful campaign to sow widespread confusion about the conclusions of science and its usefulness in political decision making. Using methods and strategies pioneered under the Reagan administration by the tobacco industry and anti-environmental forces, an alliance of social conservatives and corporate advocates has paralyzed or obfuscated public discussion of science on a whole range of issues. Not just climate change but also stem cell research, evolutionary biology, endangered-species protection, diet and obesity, abortion and contraception, and the effects of environmental toxins have all become arenas of systematic and deliberate bewilderment.

Mooney compiles documentary evidence that many conservatives have stopped regarding science as an objective search for truth, and now treat it as yet another cynical political power struggle. A smokescreen of doubt obfuscates science with corporate-funded pseudo-studies and faith-based anti-science like "intelligent design." The effort uses disinformation to give the impression of scientific controversy where there is none.

Mooney links disparate elements of the Republican party through their interests in undermining science. Thus, global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," according to oil-soaked Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, while Sen. Rick Santorum amends the law to recognize teaching intelligent design as part of a "quality science education."

The press proves an easy foil for peddling false science, as they uncritically balance the findings of scientists with the claims of charlatans. Despite an overwhelming consensus on the science of global warming, the unsupported denials of flat-earthers gets equal time from the credulous media. Similar efforts by conservative groups, and the administration, cloud scientific findings regarding abortion, stem-cell research, missile defense, abstinence education, product safety, environmental regulation, and others.

Federal scientific agencies are increasingly staffed by political-appointees rather than qualified experts, and their once fierce independence has given way to partisan advocacy. Meanwhile the administration gives the impression of embracing science while in exercise stifling or ignoring findings it doesn't agree with.

Mooney documents an "immense stealth campaign" to undermine science through regulatory subtleties, giving industry some of its biggest victories against oversight. The two sentence "Data Quality Act," inserted into an appropriation bill, gives industry the ability to tie up most regulations in an endless review process that may be distorted with "junk sciemce." These changes are designed to disable clean air and water efforts, and to dismantle safeguards aimed at providing Congress with unbiased advice.

Challenging scientific consensus is an essential step in the advancement of science itself. Muddying scientific consensus to advance faith or profit distorts reality and blinds us to health and safety dangers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"Clear Path to Victory"

President Curveball gives the nation a little pep talk this evening to assure us he sees a "clear path to victory" in Iraq. Meanwhile...
The news now from Iraq is only depressing. All the roads leading out of the capital are cut. Iraqi security and US troops can only get through in heavily armed convoys. There is a wave of assassinations of senior Iraqi officers based on chillingly accurate intelligence. A deputy police chief of Baghdad was murdered on Sunday. A total of 52 senior Iraqi government or religious figures have been assassinated since the handover. In June 2004 insurgents killed 42 US soldiers; so far this month 75 have been killed.
And the beat goes on. General John Abizaid, who heads U.S. Central Command, told Congress, "the insurgency has not weakened." He continued,
Our men and women in uniform are serving with great honor. They deserve an objective assessment of the situation in Iraq. They deserve a clear layout of the next steps there. They're not getting either from the administration.
The administration believes that the only problem with Iraq is public relations and that the right sales pitch will smooth everything over. They seem incapable of understanding that the public recognizes the disconnect from reality between their words and what we are seeing and hearing from those on the ground. How can we trust their ability to solve a problem they will not acknowledge exists?

Friday, June 24, 2005

North Korea Policy Adrift

As critics like John Newhouse have explained, the Bush administration has botched its North Korea policy at virtually every turn. They have provoked North Korea while failing to follow a discernable policy direction. While we dally, the North Koreans may have built several nuclear weapons.

Now we learn that the North Koreans approached the administration in 2002 with a proposal for a resolution to the nuclear issue but were spurned. North Korea wishes to have recognition of its sovereignty and non-aggression assurances. If we refuse to even discuss these valid concerns, then we will remain at an impasse. And North Korea will continue to build its nuclear program.

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