While Blair offers ersatz apology for Iraq War, Bush offers none at all

C-Span

DAILY KOS

In the coming weeks, the U.K. is certain to be rocked by the Chilcot Inquiry, the years-overdue investigation into the planning, marketing, and execution of the Iraq War under former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair.That timing explains the preventive public relations war Blair launched over the past week to soften the coming blows. On the airwaves and in the op-ed pages, the mastermind of New Labour repackaged some old apologies to defend—not atone for—his decision to join U.S. President George W. Bush in ousting Saddam Hussein. Acknowledging that there are “elements of truth” to the well-documented history that the invasion and occupation of Iraq fueled the rise of ISIS, Blair nevertheless countered that, “I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam.” Speaking to Fareed Zakaria of CNN, Blair made the historical strategic catastrophe for his country and ours sound like an ill-timed fart:

“I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong. I can also apologize by the way for some of the mistakes and planning and certainly our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you remove the regime.”

If that script sounds familiar, it should. After all, that kind of finger-pointing was behind Jeb Bush’s short-lived talking point that “knowing what we know now” he “would not have engaged” in the preventive war against Iraq. Or as his fellow Floridian and 2016 White House wannabe Marco Rubio put it in May:

“Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it.”

But that statement is simply not true. And we know this because George W. Bush repeatedly told us so.Continue reading about the unrepentant George W. Bush, below.

That’s right. Bush didn’t just declare in 2013 that “I’m confident the decisions were made the right way,” decisions that directly led to the needless Iraq war that killed 4,500 American soldiers, wounded 30,000 more, converted Baghdad into an Iranian satellite and birthed ISIS. To the degree Dubya admitted to any mistakes it all, it was limited to his use of his “bad language” and “gun-slinging rhetoric”about the war.

That Bush was unrepentant, unaware, or both became apparent in April 2004. Thirteen months after the start of “shock and awe” in Iraq, President Bush could not acknowledge that ousting Saddam—or anything else—constituted a mistake. During a White House press conference, President Bush could not think of a single error he had made during his tenure in the White House:

“I’m sure something will pop into my head here…maybe I’m not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.”

On August 30, 2004, Bush43 confessed that his only failure in Iraq was being too successful:

“Had we had to do it [the invasion of Iraq] over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success – being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day.”

But by January 2007, just days after he announced the surge in Iraq, Bush admitted to Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes that he had made mistakes, if only semantic ones:

PELLEY: You mention mistakes having been made in your speech. What mistakes are you talking about?BUSH: You know, we’ve been through this before. Abu Ghraib was a mistake. Using bad language like, you know, “bring them on” was a mistake. I think history is gonna look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better. No question about it.

(Mary Kewatt, whose nephew Jim was killed by a sniper in Baghdad in 2003, doubtless agreed. As she lamented to Minnesota Public Radio that summer, “President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said, ‘bring it on.’ They brought it on and now my nephew is dead.”)Bush’s most jaw-dropping statement of regret about his tough talk came in June 2008. In London as part of his final swing through Europe before leaving the White House, President Bush told The Times of London that his cowboy rhetoric was perhaps his greatest regret:

President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a “guy really anxious for war” in Iraq.[…] In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. “I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric.”

Phrases such as “bring them on” or “dead or alive”, he said, “indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace.”

Of course, many Americans struggled with the notion that George W. Bush was a “man of peace” after he had repeatedly bragged to them that “I’m a war president.” Bush doubtless made matters worse by joking about the bloodbath he inaugurated in Iraq. On March 24, 2004 (the same day his former Counter-Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke told the 9/11 Commission, “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you”), President Bush regaled the audience at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner in Washington. As David Corn recalled:

Bush notes he spends “a lot of time on the phone listening to our European allies.” Then we see a photo of him on the phone with a finger in his ear. But at one point, Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office, and he said, “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.” The audience laughed. I grimaced. But that wasn’t the end of it. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. “Nope,” he said. “No weapons over there.” More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: “Maybe under here.” Laughter again.

Bush’s punchlines about the missing “smoking gun that could come in the form of the mushroom cloud” was no laughing matter to the families of the Americans killed and maimed in Iraq. And over the years, it was no laughing matter to President Bush’s closest aides, either.In his 2010 memoir Courage and Consequence, Karl Rove blamed himself for not lying more about the war. As Baker wrote at the time (“Rove on Iraq: Without W.M.D. Threat, Bush Wouldn’t Have Gone to War”):

“Would the Iraq War have occurred without W.M.D.? I doubt it,” he writes. “Congress was very unlikely to have supported the use-of-force resolution without the W.M.D. threat. The Bush administration itself would probably have sought other ways to constrain Saddam, bring about regime change, and deal with Iraq’s horrendous human rights violations.”He adds: “So, then, did Bush lie us into war? Absolutely not.” But Mr. Rove said the White House had only a “weak response” to the harmful allegation, which became “a poison-tipped dagger aimed at the heart of the Bush presidency.”

After Jeb’s “knowing what we know now” imbroglio, Dubya’s former press secretary Ari Fleischer lamented, “No, it was not handled well by Gov. Bush. I don’t know why he said what he did.” But this is how Fleischer himself recently addressed the “knowing what we know now” question on Iraq:

“I just don’t think he would have gone to war. I think he would have turned up the heat on Saddam, but I don’t think he would have gone to war.”

Then again, that’s not what Ari Fleischer was saying before. As he put it to Chris Matthews in March 2009:

After September 11th having been hit once how could we take a chance that Saddam might strike again? And that’s the threat that has been removed and I think we are all safer with that threat removed.” [Emphasis mine]

As his presidential library was about to open in 2013, Bush declared he was “comfortable” with life and his legacy. And that included the legacy of his war of choice in Iraq. “It’s easy to forget,” he said, “what life was like when the decision was made.”And in Bush’s own 2010 memoir Decision Points, the decision to remove Saddam over his non-existent weapons of mass destruction was an embarrassment, but not a mistake. As Peter Baker documented for the New York Times in May 2015 (“Unlike His Brother, George W. Bush Stands by His Call to Invade Iraq”):

“No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons,” Mr. Bush wrote. “I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.” The false intelligence proved to be “a massive blow to our credibility — my credibility — that would shake the confidence of the American people,” he concluded…”Imagine what the world would look like today with Saddam Hussein still ruling Iraq,” Mr. Bush wrote. “He would still be threatening his neighbors, sponsoring terror and piling bodies into mass graves.”

“Instead,” he added, “as a result of our actions in Iraq, one of America’s most committed and dangerous enemies stopped threatening us forever.”

As it turned out, not so much. Last November, the former president used the press tour for his biography of his father to once again defend the rightness of his March 2003 invasion of Iraq. If “bad language” had been his only regret while in office, by the end of 2014 Bush’s lone misgiving was the rise of ISIS:

“I think it was the right decision. My regret is that a violent group of people has risen up again. This is al Qaeda plus. I put in the book that they need to be defeated. And I hope they are. I hope the strategy works.”

Unfortunately, as Jeb Bush learned from 19-year-old college student Ivy Ziedrich, “Your brother created ISIS.” As I summed up Team Bush’s culpability for the birth and rise of the Islamic State in May:

Ms. Ziedrich’s is a bold claim. After all, for her to be right, ISIS–the dangerous movement combining Saddam loyalists, former Al Qaeda members and disgruntled Sunni fighters–would have to have emerged as a direct result of the war Bush launched in 2003. The disbanding of Saddam’s 400,000 man army would have to be laid at the feet of “The Decider.” Foreign fighters must have flocked to Al Qaeda–a non-factor in Iraq before the U.S. invasion–specifically to target American troops. And while those unlikely allies forged ties in U.S and Iraqi prisons, Sunni tribesmen once paid by American forces would have to have become alienated by a sectarian Shiite strongman in Baghdad beholden to Iran. The inevitable outcome of such U.S. mismanagement of post-Saddam Iraq, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld privately warned his boss on October 15, 2002, would be that “Iraq could experience ethnic strife among Sunni, Shia, and Kurds” with the result that “it could fracture into two or three pieces, to the detriment of the Middle East and the benefit of Iran.”Unfortunately for Jeb Bush, and to Ivy Ziedrich’s credit, that is precisely what transpired. Or to put it in terms even Republican myth-makers can understand: ISIS? George W. Bush built that.

It’s with good reason that even the ever-smarmy Tony Blair had to admit this week, “Of course, you can’t say that those who removed Saddam in 2003 have no responsibility for the situation in 2015.” Of course, George W. Bush had in his  own way admitted as much in his December 2008 exit interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News:

BUSH: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take–RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

BUSH: Yeah, that’s right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they’re going to take a stand. Well, first of all in the post-9/11 environment Saddam Hussein posed a threat. And then upon removal, al Qaeda decides to take a stand.

Before and since, George W. Bush has taken a stand on his decision to go to war in Iraq. As he explained in that 2014 hagiography of his dad (41: A Portrait of My Father), Dubya proclaimed:

“One thing is certain: The Iraqi people, the United States and the world are better off without Saddam Hussein in power,” Mr. Bush wrote. “I believe the decision that Dad made in 1991 was correct — and I believe the same is true of the decision I made a dozen years later.”

History, as both he and Jeb are fond of saying, will judge the 2003 Iraq war. Sadly for them both, it’s already clear that history’s judgment won’t be kind. Alas, being a Republican apparently means never having to say you’re sorry.

Daily Kos Staff

What Are the Differences Between al-Qaeda and IS?

Isis vs Al Qaeda | wsj

The Huffington Post

When the Taliban regime fell after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and al-Qaeda was forced to flee towards the mountains of Pakistan, Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, wrote a book called Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner: The al-Qaeda Manifesto. In the book, which was serialized in Arab newspapers, al-Zawahiri argued that al-Qaeda’s strategic objective over the coming period — the time we are living in today — was to establish a new base for the holy war (al-Qaeda al-Jihad means “the base for the holy war” in Arabic) somewhere in the Middle East. IS has done just that now in Iraq and Syria, which is nothing less than an historic achievement. In doing so, IS has begun to unravel the old colonial borders which were set up a hundred years ago, beginning with the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. IS referred to the Sykes-Picot agreement in its last propaganda video “Flames of War: Fighting Has Just Begun” as the “black pages of history,” because it introduced the secular state in the Middle East.

IS now controls significant territories in Iraq and Syria, equaling a small European state. At the same time, despite having a nearly identical view of Islam, IS and al-Qaeda are deadly enemies at present, which may confuse people in the West. IS and al-Qaeda have four major issues of contention:

1) Whether the oath of loyalty (bayat) the IS leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi swore to bin Laden is valid even for his successor, al-Zawahiri;

2) Whether the Jihadis should fight against what they call “the faraway enemy”, meaning the U.S., or the “near enemy,” meaning the local rulers in the Middle East;

3) Whether IS’ declaration of an Islamic state is valid; and

4) Whether IS’ massive violence against everyone who disagrees with them, minorities and others, is a wise strategy.

Al-Zawahiri, who has been active in jihadi circles for 50 years, since he was 14, has many bitter experiences from how Islamic movements, which initially had significant popular support, degenerated into blind and murderous terrorism. This happened in al-Zawahiri’s homeland Egypt in the 1990s and even worse in Algeria during the same time. The leading jihadi group in Algeria during the ’90s, GIA (Groupe Islamique Armé), lost almost all of its popular support when it started to slice the throats of young girls in the name of Islam. In his final communiqué, GIA’s most well-known leader, a chicken farmer whose name was Antar Zouabri, declared the whole population of Algeria to be takfiris — meaning people allowed to be killed by the Jihadis.

When Obama took office in 2009, he was fully determined to take the U.S. out of Bush’s “global war on terrorism,” a phrase Obama has been careful not to use. At first, it looked like he was succeeding. Obama pulled the troops out of Iraq, successfully escalated the drone campaign in Pakistan and, most significantly, he had bin Laden killed in May 2011 — in perfect timing to spoil al-Qaeda’s upcoming celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. On top of all this, the outbreak of the Arab Spring earlier in 2011 had taken the world by storm and many observers truly believed that the Middle East was heading towards freedom and democracy. NATO’s operation in Libya was, for example, initially hauled as one of the organization’s most important successes ever. Then things started to deteriorate in most of the states that had been affected by the Arab Spring with chaos and violence following.

The rise of IS is a nightmare with possible consequences far beyond anything we have seen so far during the past 13 years of the war on terrorism. A realistic alternative to IS would be an Iranian empire stretching from Western Afghanistan to the Golan Heights at Israel’s border, but that would be, if possible, an even greater nightmare than IS for Western policymakers. In other words, the Middle East is not a smorgasbord of good policy alternatives for Western policymakers at the moment.

A decisive question for the future is whether IS will attack Europe and the U.S. Nothing IS has done so far, the horrific violence included, suggests that its leaders act irrationally. Al-Baghdadi knows very well that the Talibans lost their regime in Afghanistan because they had let al-Qaeda attack the U.S. from its territory. If IS launches a wave of attacks against the West, the U.S. and her European allies will have to go in with full force in Iraq and Syria, this time to win — not the peace, but the war. Such a war would likely have enormous consequences for the hundreds of thousands Syrians and Iraqis now living in the West, overwhelmingly in Europe, if the U.S. and her European allies start killing their relatives in large numbers.

The global jihadis wrongly believe that the liberal Western democracies are weak and unwilling to fight. Previously in history, Nazis, Japanese fascists and Communists believed the same. It took Dresden, Hiroshima and a dissolved Soviet Union to prove to these people that liberal democracies can be as brutal as they have to. Let us all hope that we do not have to teach IS that lesson.

On 9/11, Osama bin Laden Set a Trap To Lure America Into Perpetual War. Is He Winning?

2014-10-01-ISISTRUCK.jpg | No atrribution

I wouldn’t assign that much power to any one person.

In my opinion, it’s a cumulative effect.  Decades of siding with the wrong elements in that region is what brought on this perpetual war.

The Huffington Post

Osama bin Laden is the reason we’re fighting ISIS today and the reason we’ve wage two wars in the Middle East. His vision for chaos in the region was clearly stated even before he murdered 3,000 Americans and long before we entered Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. Our national amnesia fueled by the righteous indignation of watching Americans murdered on ISIS video plays right into the trap bin Laden set on 9/11 and mires us further into the sectarian and religious quagmire in Iraq and Syria. Actually, to be completely accurate, bin Laden’s terror and maniacal visions were only half of the problem. The other half rests with America’s penchant for being lured into never-ending counterinsurgency wars against an enemy who wears tennis shoes, hides in apartment buildings, drives pickup trucks with gun turrets, and makes horrifying videos to frighten the average American household into blindly accepting a forever war. After 4,486 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq and 2,347 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan, close to 1 million U.S. soldiers wounded in both wars, and a cost that will easily exceed $6 trillion, the last thing American soldiers and their families need is an electorate who willingly accepts perpetual war. Mind you, this blind acceptance is coupled with the fact that according to Forbes, over 900,000 Americans have had their lives altered fighting terror in the Middle East:

All that can be said with any certainty is that as of last December more than 900,000 service men and women had been treated at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics since returning from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the monthly rate of new patients to these facilities as of the end of 2012 was around 10,000.

While two beheading videos have made the majority of Americans completely forget about the human sacrifice and financial costs of two wars, it’s important to remember the words of the person responsible for this mess.

ISIS is an extension of bin Laden’s original plan to fan the flames of Shia/Sunni power struggles and rivalries, his belief that guerrilla and insurgent forces can defeat superpowers, and the terrorist’s belief in the gullibility and naivete of the West. A Frontline interview in 1998 highlights bin Laden’s foreshadowing of ISIS, the failures of two presidents, and the belief that “terror” will outlast the ambitions of any superpower:

Those who threw atomic bombs and used the weapons of mass destruction against Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the Americans…

In today’s wars, there are no morals, and it is clear that mankind has descended to the lowest degrees of decadence and oppression…

There is a lesson here. The Soviet Union entered Afghanistan late in December of ’79. The flag of the Soviet Union was folded once and for all on the 25th of December just 10 years later. It was thrown in the waste basket. Gone was the Soviet union forever…

We expect for the ruler of Riyadh the same fate as the Shah of Iran…

After our victory in Afghanistan and the defeat of the oppressors who had killed millions of Muslims, the legend about the invincibility of the superpowers vanished. Our boys no longer viewed America as a superpower. So, when they left Afghanistan, they went to Somalia and prepared themselves carefully for a long war. They had thought that the Americans were like the Russians, so they trained and prepared.

With every drone strike that kills an innocent civilian in Yemen, or Pakistan, or Afghanistan, bin Laden’s propaganda of equating Nagasaki with his terrorism is legitimized. Also, his evaluation of today’s wars having “no morality” is eerily reminiscent of how Americans could care less about civilian casualties after drone strikes, or even the killing of American citizens abroad if deemed necessary.

His cherry-picking of history is obvious since he blatantly forgets to state that Reagan helped fund and arm the mujaheddin against the Soviets, however the USSR losing this war is all a part of bin Laden’s ideology. We’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for his overall strategy of weakening America through perpetual war. The superpower is no longer a superpower if it fights a war against sheepherders, tribes, or insurgents. In fact, his terrorist propaganda and manipulation of Islam is warranted by us “bringing the fight” to him and other terrorists in the Middle East. Furthermore, drone strikes and other endeavors that cause civilian deaths (thus weakening our moral position in this fight) justify not only his vision of terrorism in the Middle East, but also furthers the notion that America is the new Soviet Union.

To ISIS, al Qaeda, and radical insurgents everywhere, we are the new Soviet Union and the Middle East is one giant Afghanistan of the 1980’s.

Is this analysis only hyperbole written by an author who wants this country to care more about its veterans and soldiers than the outrage elicited from an ISIS beheading video?

The answer lies in who we’re fighting today. According to a Vox  article, ISIS used to have a different name:

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) used to have a different name: al Qaeda in Iraq.

…The US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, described the group in 2010 as down but “fundamentally the same.” In 2011, the group rebooted.

So, even though they’ve split, we’re still fighting remnants of al Qaeda and an enemy that simply regroups and fights under a different brand name.

Finally, I am all for arming every single enemy of ISIS, from the Kurds to the Iraqi Shia and moderate Sunni forces who fight against ISIS, to rebels in Syria. We should have done this for years. I’m all for funding their enemies on the ground and giving these forces the weapons needed (like Reagan with the mujaheddin) to defeat ISIS. However, a never-ending American fight against “terror” is exactly what bin Laden always wanted and exactly what ISIS needs to legitimize its propaganda and recruiting. If we’re serious about defeating this group, we should address the needs of the Kurdish forces, who in a recent CNN article stated they’re in dire need of funding and weapons:

…Brig. Gen. Hazhar Ismail at the Peshmerga Ministry in Irbil told CNN.

He complained that the Peshmerga’s budget, weapons and training must go through the central government in Baghdad and claimed that the Peshmerga “have not received one dollar from Iraq, even though Parliament has approved funds.”

No amount of American bombing campaigns is going to help defeat ISIS if the Peshmerga’s “budget, weapons, and training” must go through the dysfunctional central government in Baghdad.

Also, the United States can’t solve the Sunni/Shia rivalry through military might.  According to The New York Times, before killing and slaughtering prisoners, ISIS asks questions of captive Iraqi forces to differentiate between Sunni and Shia:

Whether a person is a Shiite or a Sunni Muslim in Iraq can now be, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

As the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has seized vast territories in western and northern Iraq, there have been frequent accounts of fighters’ capturing groups of people and releasing the Sunnis while the Shiites are singled out for execution.

What is your name?
Where do you live?
How do you pray?
What kind of music do you listen to?

The wrong answers to those questions will get you killed because ISIS, and bin Laden as well as al Qaeda, used the Shia/Sunni rivalry to terrorize local populations and gain support from local Sunni populations. Those Iraqi forces you hear about abandoning their equipment and fleeing from ISIS fighters do so because they are not only a part of a different sect, but also because the Iraqi government isn’t as important as your religious background in this sectarian and regional war.

The battle against ISIS and other terrorists should be waged by Iraqi, Kurdish, Syrian rebel, and regional armies intent on stopping its conquest. American soldiers have done enough and sacrificed enough in this fight. The longer President Obama, Congress, and the American people allow themselves to be lured into perpetual war, against an enemy that relishes this conflict, we end up falling even further into bin Laden’s trap. My latest Jerusalem Post article and my recent Times of Israel piece, in addition to all my other posts in The Huffington Post and elsewhere all highlight my viewpoint that America has done enough and this fight should no longer entail our soldiers, military, or further American sacrifice.

Sorry, George W. Bush, but this whole mess is still your fault

Sorry, George W. Bush, but this whole mess is still your fault
(Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing)

Salon

Like clockwork, the Republican noise machine is blaming Barack Obama for the crisis in Iraq. And like clockwork, they’ve got everything wrong again.

The man to blame for what’s happening in Iraq is not President Obama — it’s President Bush.

Contrary to Tony Blair’s latest protestations, the U.S./U.K. invasion of Iraq — under deliberately fraudulent pretenses – had a great deal to do with enabling the current emergence of a Sunni terrorist military power in Iraq, but it goes much deeper than that. The recent success of ISIS — the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — is exactly what Osama bin Laden had hoped that the 9/11 attacks would lead to. And thanks to Bush’s spectacularly foolish responses, bin Laden’s dream has come true.

Before 9/11, bin Laden was a terrorist and could only dream of becoming the “holy warrior” he imagined himself to be. When Bush chose to respond to 9/11 as an act of war, rather than a crime, he gave bin Laden the gift he had always wanted, just by conferring that status.

First, by invading Afghanistan, Bush validated bin Laden’s claim that what was happening was a religious war between Islam and the Christian West. Then, by invading Iraq and deposing his most prominent ideological foe, Saddam Hussein, Bush gave bin Laden a second gift—a much stronger position of influence throughout the region.

But the invasion also fractured Iraq’s tenuous factional stability, and was followed by a whole series of bad decisions making matters even worse. (There was a seeming exception to this pattern, the vaunted “surge,” but as Middle East specialist Stephen Walt tweeted on June 14, “Clear now that Iraq ‘surge’ in 2006-07 failed. Had 2 goals: reduce violence & promote political reconciliation. Achieved 1st but not 2nd.”) As a result, the success of ISIS and the threatened disintegration of Iraq gives bin Laden’s ideological descendants a third gift: a level of military and political power they could never have dreamed of, much less achieved, on their own.

The root cause of all the above was Bush’s decision to respond to al-Qaida post-9/11 as warriors, not criminals. From there, the seeds of everything else were sewn, along with the skyrocketing of our national debt (more on that below). But it did not have to be that way.

In fact, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was a worldwide consensus that 9/11 was a monstrous crime, and that those who committed it should be brought to justice. Gallup International revealed this via a poll conducted in 37 countries, conducted within a week of 9/11. The first question it asked was whether the U.S. should respond militarily, or by seeking extradition and trial. In all but three countries, overwhelming majorities said that the U.S. should pursue extradition and trial.

The exceptions were particularly instructive. Two countries with overwhelming majorities in favor of war (more than 70 percent) were Israel and India — countries that have spent decades unsuccessfully trying to suppress terrorist attacks through military means. “Hey, it hasn’t worked for us,” their people seemed to be saying, “but you should try it, too, so we don’t feel like such fools in our isolation.”

The third county, not surprisingly, was the U.S. But only a bare majority, 54 percent, favored a military approach, while 30 percent favored extradition and trial, and 16 percent were undecided. What’s truly remarkable about the U.S. results is that almost nowhere in the media was anyone arguing against a military response — a tally conducted by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that Op-Eds in the New York Times and the Washington Post ran 44-2 in favor of war during the first three weeks after Sept. 11 — and yet, a total of 46 percent of Americans did not initially support the idea.

There can be no doubt that the war response was exactly what al-Qaida wanted. In the wake of bin Laden’s assassination, Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting wrote an article, “Losing the Plot: The Afghan War After bin Laden,” citing several pieces of evidence along these lines. Over the years, bin Laden had never made it a secret what he was up to: trying to bait the U.S. into a ground war in his backyard, so that he could defeat us, just as he’d defeated the USSR, in large part by bleeding us dry financially. Naureckas first cited Abdul Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi, one of the few Western-based journalists to interview bin Laden, who spent three days with him in 1996. In a 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation interview, Atwan recalled bin Laden explaining his long-term strategy:

He told me personally that he can’t go and fight the Americans and their country. But if he manages to provoke them and bring them to the Middle East and to their Muslim worlds, where he can find them or fight them on his own turf, he will actually teach them a lesson.

Atwan also reported that bin Laden had been disappointed with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia:

He told me, again, that he expected the Americans to send troops to Somalia, and he sent his people to that country to wait for them in order to fight them. They managed actually to shoot down an American helicopter where 19 soldiers were killed, and he regretted that the Clinton administration decided to pull out their troops from Somalia and run away. He was so saddened by this. He thought they would stay there so he could fight them there. But for his bad luck, according to his definition, they left, and he was planning another provocation in order to drag them to Muslim soil.

Naureckas also cited bin Laden’s 2004 video message in which bin Laden recalled fighting alongside the Mujahedin as they “bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.” The same could be done with the U.S., he said, citing estimates that the Sept. 11 attacks, which cost al-Qaida $500,000, had cost the U.S. more than $500 billion in destruction and military expenditures. And Naureckas cited a 2011 Washington Post piece by Ezra Klein, elaborating al-Qaida expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross’ contention that bin Laden had been “enormously successful”:

Bin Laden, according to Gartenstein-Ross, had a strategy that we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to defend against. What he really wanted to do—and, more to the point, what he thought he could do—was bankrupt the United States of America. After all, he’d done the bankrupt-a-superpower thing before.

Continue reading here…

Dick Cheney Sets New World Record for Being an Asshole

Former Vice President Dick Cheney. UPI/Jim Ruymen

Mother Jones – Kevin Drum

Really, you almost have to admire the sheer balls this takes:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney took a shot at President Barack Obama late Monday night after it was reported that the president has attended fewer than half of his daily intelligence briefings.

“If President Obama were participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis then perhaps he would understand why people are so offended at his efforts to take sole credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden,” Cheney told The Daily Caller in an email through a spokeswoman.

This came on the same day that Kurt Eichenwald told us what he’d learned after seeing a series of daily briefings from the months prior to 9/11. Presumably Dick Cheney saw them all too:

By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration [i.e., Cheney’s clique of neocon nitwits -ed.] considered the warning to be just bluster….In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government’s transliteration of Bin Laden’s first name….On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but “will occur soon.”….On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews.

….On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months. But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.

August 6, of course, was the infamous daily brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” — the one that prompted George Bush to tell his briefer, “All right. You’ve covered your ass.”

Honest to God, Dick Cheney really is the world’s biggest asshole, isn’t he? And for the record, it turns out that sometimes Obama reads the daily brief and sometimes he attends briefing sessions. Either way, though, he certainly seems to pay more attention to them than either George Bush or Dick Cheney ever did.

Remember the pundits who urged Obama to cave?

MSNBC – Steve Benen

Even as the American mainstream turned against congressional Republicans during the recent crises, there were quite a few Beltway pundits who urged President Obama to give in to GOP demands. We talked earlier about what lessons Republicans may have learned from this fiasco, but I can’t help but feel curious about what, if anything, commentators learned, too.

Let’s take National Journal’s Ron Fournier, for example, who argued just last week that Obama “must negotiate” with GOP leaders. He said it was necessary as a “matter of optics,” adding that Republican “obstinacy” is “no excuse.” (Remember, in context, “negotiating” with Republicans meant exploring what concessions the president was prepared to offer – in exchange for nothing – because GOP lawmakers said it was a precondition to their willingness to complete their basic responsibilities.)
Obama ignored the advice, showed some real leadership, and prevailed. A week later, with the benefit of hindsight, Fournier’s advice appears rather misguided.
Which is what made the National Journal writer’s new column that much more interesting.
Just as he did to John McCain in 2008 and to Mitt Romney in 2012, President Obama defeated a lame Republican political team. The GOP’s right wing foolishly shuttered the government and threatened default in exchange for an unreasonable and unattainable concession: Scrap Obamacare. He refused. The GOP caved.
It was all so predictable.
Hmm. If it was all so predictable that the president would stick to his guns and Republicans would cave, why did Fouriner argue – literally just last week – that Obama should stop sticking to his guns and start making concessions to Republicans?
The rest of Fournier’s argument is somewhat confusing. He wants to know, for example, if Obama can “lead.” Didn’t Obama just prove that he could “lead” quite well by winning this fight? In this case, Fournier suggests “lead” means “making Republicans do what they refuse to do,” which doesn’t seem like an altogether fair definition of the word.
The column goes on to ask if Obama “has the guts to anger liberal backers with a budget deal on Social Security and Medicare,” failing to mention that Obama has already angered liberal backers by offering a budget deal on Social Security and Medicare. Fournier also asks, “Is he willing to engage sincerely with Republicans?” overlooking all of the efforts the president has already made to do exactly that.
The columnist also wants to know if Obama wants “a legacy beyond winning two elections and enacting a health care law,” overlooking the Recovery Act, ending the war in Iraq, decimating al Qaeda and killing Osama bin Laden, rescuing the American automotive industry, reforming Wall Street safeguards, advancing civil rights, and scoring several major foreign policy victories.
Fournier says there are “any number of conservative Republicans with a pragmatic streak,” overlooking the fact that each of them have already rejected the notion of a balanced compromise on the budget. Fournier says facts about the shrinking deficit are “both technically wrong and selectively misleading” when they are in fact both technically correct and objectively true.
Fournier also uses words like “governing” and “success” as synonyms for “a center-right debt-reduction deal that most credible economists consider wholly unnecessary.”
The piece goes on to argue, “There is already a lack of seriousness in the air.” On this, I heartily agree.
Update: Fournier believes the item above takes his post from last week out of context. I disagree, but I’m eager for fair-minded readers to consider the relevant pieces and reach their own conclusions. Here’s his piece from last week, in which Fournier argues that Obama “can’t cave,” while also arguing that Obama “must negotiate” with Republicans who were demanding he cave. Here’s his piece from this morning, in which Fournier argues that the president’s posture against negotiation led to a “predictable” victory.
I continue to believe a fair and informed reading supports the observations published above, but I would encourage interested parties to read further and evaluate the arguments on the merits.

You’ll Pay for This, GOP: How Obama will make the 2013 shutdown a political weapon.

185052200
President Obama at the White House on Oct. 17, 2013, drawing lessons from the shutdown.    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Slate

“There are no winners here,” President Obama declared at the White House this morning. Then, with an elegant air of non-partisanship, Obama began to fashion the shutdown into a political weapon. Here’s how he’s going to deploy it.

1. Economic excuse. Obama noted that before the shutdown, the economy was recovering, and the deficit was falling. The fiscal standoff changed all that: “Every analyst out there believes it slowed our growth.” Obama rattled off the damage: families going without paychecks, home buyers and small businesses unable to get loans, consumers cutting back on spending, CEOs reporting that the fiscal anxiety had “set back their plans to hire over the next six months.” Even the “threat of default,” said the president, “increased our borrowing costs, which adds to our deficit.”

Today, this litany of laments looked like simple compassion from the president. But over the next year, it can serve as an excuse. If economic growth or deficit reduction isn’t where we’d like it to be, Obama can blame the shortfall on the “Republican shutdown” or the “Tea Party shutdown.” He’d be following in the footsteps of his predecessor, who spent three years after Sept. 11, 2001, blaming economic disappointment on the damage done when “the enemy hit us.”

2. Republican downgrade. Two years ago, when Standard and Poor’s downgraded the government’s credit rating, it cited our high deficits as well as the 2011 debt ceiling standoff. Ever since, Republicans have argued that the deficits, not the standoff, caused the downgrade. This time, we haven’t been downgraded, but we’ve been put on a credit watch by Fitch, another ratings agency. And this time, there’s no ballooning deficit. Obama wants to make that difference stick. He wants the downgrade threat of 2013 to reinforce the Democrats’ narrative about the downgrade of 2011. “The agency that put America’s credit rating on watch the other day explicitly cited” the congressional standoff, Obama pointed out. The Fitch report, he went on, said that “our economy remains more dynamic and resilient than other advanced economies and that the only thing putting us at risk is—and I’m quoting here—‘repeated brinkmanship.’ ” “That wasn’t a political statement,” Obama added, politicizing the statement.

3. National security. Even after killing Osama Bin Laden, Obama is constantly accused of weakness. No matter what he does in Iran, Egypt, Libya, or Syria, the old portrait of the Democratic president as soft on foreign policy never goes away. What usually helps Democrats in this area is economics. Their devotion to American labor at the expense of free trade comes across as tough on foreigners. But the fiscal showdowns of 2011 and 2013 could add a new twist. This morning, Obama reported that U.S. diplomats have

been hearing from their counterparts internationally. Some of the same folks who pushed for the shutdown and threatened default claim their actions were needed to get America back on the right track, to make sure we’re strong. But probably nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility in the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle we’ve seen these past several weeks. It’s encouraged our enemies. It’s emboldened our competitors. And it’s depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership.

If Republicans stage another big fight over the next debt ceiling, that would be three in a row. It might facilitate a significant political development: the transformation of debt payment into a national security issue. Republicans could become the deadbeat party. Obama seems quite willing to attack them from this angle. And in framing economics as the key to American power, he has reality on his side.

4. The value of government. What happened in 1995 and 1996 has happened again: Closing the government has made Americans miss it. In his remarks today, Obama proposed,

One of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out smart, effective government is important. It matters. I think the American people, during this shutdown, had a chance to get some idea of all the things, large and small, that government does that make a difference in people’s lives. You know, we hear all the time about how government is the problem. Well, it turns out we rely on it in a whole lot of ways. Not only does it keep us strong through our military and our law enforcement—it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our businesses with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries. It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe.  It helps folks rebuild after a storm. It conserves our natural resources. It finances startups. It helps to sell our products overseas. It provides security to our diplomats abroad. So let’s work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy.

Congratulations, Tea Party. In the midst of Obamacare’s glitch-ridden debut, you did the one thing that could make us love our government: You took it away and held it hostage. Don’t expect any thanks from the president you helped.

Al Qaeda official seized in Libya raid was ‘most wanted’ for US Embassy bombings

NBC News

The man whisked off the streets of Tripoli, Libya, Saturday was among the top remaining leaders of al Qaeda, an elusive confidante of – and computer expert for – Osama bin Laden, as well as an alleged conspirator in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings.

Anas al Libi, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed Nabih al-Ruqai’I, has over the years been reported as killed, captured or living in Iran. The U.S. has known he’s been back in his native Libya for more than two years, the latest stop on a journey that has taken him from Tripoli to Sudan, where he met bin Laden, to England, Kenya, Afghanistan and Iran before returning to Libya in the dying days of the regime of former leader Moammar Gadhafi — where he lost his son in the civil war that led to Gadhafi’s ouster and death.

On Saturday, the Pentagon confirmed al Libi had been captured.

“As the result of a U.S. counterterrorism operation, Abu Anas al Libi is currently lawfully detained by the U.S. military in a secure location outside of Libya,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little.

In the days after 9/11, al Libi was among the first names placed in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Terrorists list with a reward of $25 million – the same amount attached to bin Laden and other senior officers of al Qaeda. It was later reduced to $5 million, but the United States’ desire to bring him to justice never waned.

“He’s one of the last guys from the East Africa embassy bombings who was still out there,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official Saturday night.

“We still wanted him,” added a second official, indicating that the Aug. 7, 1998, attacks on U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, remained a high priority in the U.S. government.

“Symbolically, the embassy bombings are for the U.S. what Munich was for the Israelis. It’s about closure,” said Karen Greenberg, director for the Center on National Security at Fordham University Law School.

Of the 21 people indicted in the embassy bombings case by the U.S. Justice Department, eight have been killed, including bin Laden, one died awaiting trial, and another eight are in jail, either convicted or awaiting trial. Al Libi was one of four fugitives until Saturday.

Continue reading here…

 

Eight Fascinating Details From The Report On The Bin Laden Raid

In the darkest hour of the night, elite Navy Seals raid Osama Bin Laden's compound Zero Dark Thirty - 2012

TPMDC

TOM KLUDT –  JULY 8, 2013, 5:22 PM

The 2011 raid that left Osama bin Laden and four other people dead inside a Pakistani compound inspired book chronicles, glossy magazine features and an Academy Award-winning movie — yet, some of the most salient details of the operation have remained shrouded in mystery.

It was ostensibly for those reasons that the Pakistani government set up a commission in June 2011 to shed light on the key unanswered questions regarding the fateful early May evening and the time period leading up to it. On Monday, Al Jazeera published an exclusively obtained copy of the findings from the Abbottabad Commission. According to Al Jazeera, the report “was buried by the government and never made public” after it was finished in May 2012.

Here are eight of the most fascinating details from the Commission’s report.

Bin Laden Immediately Recognized The Incoming Helicopters As American.

The report set the scene of the dramatic night. Bin Laden had been spending the evening with Amal Ahmad Abdul Fattah al-Sadah, a 29-year-old Yemeni woman who was the youngest of the international fugitive’s three wives. The two originally thought the commotion outside was an incoming storm and went on the balcony to investigate, but the moonless sky made the outdoor surroundings pitch black. When Sadah reached to turn on a light, bin Laden said, “No!”

After reciting the Kalma — the Muslim declaration of faith — and verses from the Quran with some of his children, bin Laden told his family that American helicopters had arrived and urged them to leave his room.

Search Of Bodyguard’s Wife Turned Violent.

Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti, a Pakistani man who served as one of bin Laden’s bodyguards at the compound, was shot and killed by U.S. forces after hearing a knock on his door that he thought was from his brother, Abrar, the terrorist’s courier. Abrar was also fatally shot during the raid.

Kuwaiti’s wife, Maryam, was shot and wounded during the raid. Later, when Maryam resisted efforts to comply with an American body search, things turned aggressive. According to the report, Maryam cursed at the Navy SEALs conducting the raid, prompting them to slap her.

Americans Left With Bin Laden’s Will, Leaving Its Contents Unknown.

The Americans gathered a number of items before leaving the compound, including a purse that evidently contained the will of the Al-Qaeda leader. Since then, there have been disputed reports on what the will did or did not say.

Bin Laden’s eldest wife, Khairiyyah Sabar, is quoted in the report as saying that the will was apolitical and dealt only with familial matters. But “she did not wish to divulge the details,” according to the report. Other accounts have suggested that bin Laden used the will to assert that his children should not assume leadership positions with Al-Qaeda, the report noted.

Osama In A Cowboy Hat.

Bin Laden kept very few articles of clothing in the compound, despite having spent six years hiding in Abbottabad. His wardrobe included three pairs of pants for the summer, three for the winter, a black jacket and two sweaters.

Bin Laden’s wives told the Commission that “he was not fond of possessions.” But his wardrobe evidently also included a cowboy hat, which bin Laden wore when he moved about the compound in order to “avoid detection from above.”

A Compound Divided.

According to the Commission, “there was in fact a wall separating” bin Laden’s family from the families of Ibrahim and Abrar. Their children never played with each other and the families did not “mix or socialize.”

The report detailed one account in which Ibrahim’s daughter saw a picture of bin Laden on Al Jazeera, leading her to recognize him as the “Miskeen Kaka” (“poor uncle”) who lived upstairs. Panic-stricken, Ibrahim attempted to bar the women from watching television, but his wife demanded an explanation. He eventually relented and admitted that the man living upstairs was in fact bin Laden.

The Skinny On OBL, KSM.

Bin Laden is said to have lived in Haripur, Pakistan, before re-locating to Abbottabad. While in Haripur, the report indicated that bin Laden did not host any guests — an apparent result of his decision to terminate all contact with “Al-Qaeda fellow Mujahideen” in the wake of the 2003 arrest of suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But bin Laden maintained electronic communication with Qaeda operatives, which ultimately enabled U.S. intelligence to track him.

Mohammed introduced Ibrahim to bin Laden, the report notes. Mohammed, currently held at the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, grew up with Ibrahim in Kuwait. They were described in the report as being “close as brothers.”

Close Call.

Details in the report on bin Laden’s life in hiding painted a picture of a largely confined, solitary existence with little to no outside activity. But the report provided a glimpse at one episode from his time living in Swat, Pakistan, that occurred sometime in the two years after 9/11.

According to testimony from Maryam, the group was traveling to a nearby bazaar when the car, which was carrying bin Laden, was stopped for speeding. Ibrahim “quickly settled the matter,” the report indicated.

Failures Abound.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the report was the across-the-board indictment laid at the feet of Pakistani government and law enforcement — incompetence that was labeled “Government Implosion Syndrome” by the Commission. The Commission blasted the government for failing to recognize bin Laden’s nearly decade-long stay in Pakistan. It also criticized the government and law enforcement for their inability to recognize the U.S.-led effort to track down the terrorist, leading to what the panel described as an American “act of war.”

In calling on the country’s leaders to apologize to the Pakistani people for “dereliction of duty,” the report concluded that “political, military intelligence and bureaucratic leadership cannot be absolved of their responsibility for the state of governance, policy planning and policy implementation that eventually rendered this national failure almost inevitable.”

Right-wing radio host: I want to shoot Clinton right in the vagina

Hillary Clinton announces support for marriage equality

Let’s set aside the insanity of that statement for a second and think about this:  If a Progressive had said the same thing about Sarah Palin, would there be a hell-fire storm of controversy or what?  They’d loose their freakin’ minds…

The Raw Story

Fringe right-wing radio host Pete Santilli made disturbing comments about Hillary Clinton last week, calling for sexual violence against the former secretary of state because of her alleged involvement in a bizarre conspiracy theory.

“Miss Hillary Clinton needs to be convicted, she needs to be tried, convicted and shot in the vagina,” he said. “I wanna pull the trigger. That ‘C U Next Tuesday’ has killed human beings that are in our ranks of our service.”

Santilli alleged Clinton was involved in drug trafficking in Arkansas and the killing of U.S. troops overseas.

“I want to shoot her right in the vagina and I don’t want her to die right away,” he added. “I want her to feel the pain and I want to look her in the eyes and I want to say, on behalf of all Americans that you’ve killed, on behalf of the Navy SEALS, the families of Navy SEAL Team Six who were involved in the fake hunt down of this Obama, Obama bin Laden thing.

“That whole fake scenario, because these Navy SEALS know the truth, they killed them all. On behalf of all of those people, I’m supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict, and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina.”

The remarks were first reported by Right Wing Watch, which said it began monitoring Santilli after National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent and Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt appeared on his online radio program.

On his website, Santilli specifically claims that he is not a conspiracy theorist and that he is not crazy.

“As Alex Jones puts it, there is a war for your mind and its a well known fact that you are not winning. Everything you supposedly perceive as reality has been fabricated by the Wizard of Oz; the little old man behind the curtain,” he explained on his about page.

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