Yesterday, Fox News aired “American Commander: Gen. David Petraeus,” a one-hour biographical account of the top commander in Iraq. The program, a narrative of Petraeus’s life from birth until his controversial Congressional testimony, featured stories from old neighbors to high school buddies to fellow military officials.
One of the most prominent interviewees was Brookings Institution analyst Michael O’Hanlon. Fox highlighted the fact that O’Hanlon has enjoyed a 20-year personal relationship with the general, extending back to graduate school:
O’HANLON: Petreaus certainly was distinctive and noteworthy.
FOX: Michael O’Hanlon is with the Brookings Institution. And in 1987, he attended Princeton with Petraeus. […]
O’HANLON: Petraeus was trying to learn lessons [from Vietnam], so that with humility, and a willingness to do things differently, then next time, the military could stay out of that predicament. So that’s Petraeus’s style. He is very self-critical of himself and the institutions that he represents.
In his notorious New York Times op-ed, O’Hanlon did not mention the friendship but called Petraeus a “superb commander.” In subsequent interviews, he again glossed over his long relationship with Petraeus. In a Washington Post story entitled “The Work Behind Our Iraq Views,” O’Hanlon did not state that the work behind his Iraq views may be biased by his friendship with Petraeus.
The traditional media has regularly hosted O’Hanlon but has also ignored O’Hanlon’s inability to assess Petraeus’s work in an unbiased manner, choosing instead to call him a “vocal critic” of the war.
O’Hanlon has alleged that no one can question the “forthrightness” of Petraeus and has since attacked reputable critics of Petraeus as “flat-out sloppy.” Both the mainstream media as well as O’Hanlon have ignored the possibility that his judgment of Iraq may be clouded by his friendship and deep-admiration for Petraeus.
According to Newsweek magazine, Vice President Dick Cheney considered a plan to allow Israel to conduct missile strikes against Iran’s nuclear sites “in an effort to draw a military response from Iran, which could in turn spark a U.S. offensive against targets in the Islamic Republic”:
[T]he magazine quoted David Wurmser, until last month Cheney’s Middle East advisor, as having told a small group of people that “Cheney had been mulling the idea of pushing for limited Israeli missile strikes against the Iranian nuclear site at Natanz — and perhaps other sites — in order to provoke Tehran into lashing out.”
According to the report, “The Iranian reaction would then give Washington a pretext to launch strikes against military and nuclear targets in Iran.”
Newsweek said that it had corroborated Wurmser’s remarks, which it said were first published by Washington foreign-policy blogger Steven Clemons.
UPDATE: The U.K. Sunday Times writes that the U.S. Air Force has set up “a highly confidential strategic planning group” tasked with preparing the perfect plan for Iran.
On Sept. 16, Dr. Mohammed, a dentist in Baghdad and author of the blog Last Of Iraqis, wrote about the possibility of cholera in the city as he described and photographed the changes in water coming from the tap in his home:
This week the World Health Organization confirmed Dr. Mohammed’s fears, with cases confirmed in Baghdad and Basra. The disease had been previously limited to the northern Kurdish provinces, with the number of infected at over 7,000.
Iraq’s deputy health minister, Dr. Adel Mohsin said that further spread of the epidemic was “very likely” in the capital without water testing and maintaining sufficient levels of chlorination, which kills the bacteria. Mohsin said teams testing in the capital had found chlorine levels were insufficient to prevent cholera in 20 areas.
Chlorine imports have been dramatically curtailed in the wake of insurgent bombs that used chlorine. Dr. Naeema al-Gasseer, the WHO’s representative in Iraq, said some 100,000 tons of chlorine were being held up at Iraq’s border with Jordan because of fears the chemical could be used in explosives, leaving Baghdad with only a week’s supply.
Cholera “is a gastrointestinal disease that is typically spread by drinking contaminated water and can, in extreme cases, can lead to fatal dehydration.” Cholera is fairly simple to manage under ordinary circumstances, but the precarious security situation in the country prevents medical teams from reaching the ill, and the mass displacement of the population into unsanitary conditions makes control and treatment difficult.
– Candyce G.
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Former Republican Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has remained silent though. Not only has his campaign not issued a statement, but as the Politico reports, it has refused to even answer any questions:
Romney’s campaign has declined to answer specific questions posed by Politico about issues central to the debate — issues now being hashed out by Congress, the State Department and the Iraqi government. […]
After the shooting, though, a Romney spokesman would not say whether Black has advised Romney on the use of security contractors in Iraq. Nor would he elaborate on Black’s role in the campaign or answer specific questions about whether the U.S.’s level of oversight over security contractors is adequate.
Romney has a clear interest not condemning Blackwater. Cofer Black, vice chairman of Blackwater, currently serves as a Senior Adviser for counterterrorism and national security issues on the Romney campaign. From the April press release announcing that Black would be joining the campaign:
“I am pleased to welcome Cofer Black to our campaign. He has a long and impressive career dedicated to making America safer and more secure in the world,” said Governor Romney. “Our country faces a new generation of challenges and Black’s experience at the forefront of our nation’s counterterrorism efforts will be a tremendous asset.”
The recent incident was not the first violent episode that involved Blackwater in Iraq. Iraqi officials are now investigating “allegations about the security firm’s involvement in six other violent episodes this year that left at least 10 Iraqis dead.” The day before the Coalition Provisional Authority ceased to exist, L. Paul Bremer, then the chief American envoy in Iraq, issued an order that “granted American private security contractors immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts.”
Black previously served as the CIA’s chief of counterrorism. In 2001, he infamously ordered an agent to “Capture Bin Laden, kill him and bring his head back in a box on dry ice.”
UPDATE: Steve Clemons at The Washington Note has more.
A “paper claiming to show that the scientific consensus on climate change is not in fact a consensus has been rejected by the journal Energy & Environment.” The journal is run by a “climate change skeptic” and “known for publishing work that denies a link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.” Brandon Keim at Wired writes, “So if Energy and Environment wouldn’t take it, the paper…really is hot air.” More at DeSmogBlog.
This weekend on Bloomberg Television, right-wing pundit Robert Novak ripped former Fed chief Alan Greenspan because he criticizes Bush’s economic policies while hailing those of President Clinton. Novak said that Greenspan revealed himself “as a Democrat”:
[Greenspan] suddenly emerges from the sea, naked like Venus, as a Democrat. He loves Bill Clinton, he loves tax increases, he’s dismissive of Ronald Reagan as an amiable putz, he detests the Bushes.
Greenspan has identified his roots as that of a Goldwater Republican, and he has said he will vote for the Republican candidate in the 2008 presidential elections. Greenspan hasn’t emerged as a progressive, but rather has revealed the truth about the failure of conservative economic theories.
Later in the show, Novak went on to criticize President Bush’s selection of Judge Michael Mukasey, arguing, “He’s totally unqualified to be Attorney General. He has no administration experience.” Novak is the latest in a long line of right-wing voices who has complained of the pick.
Novak said a better choice would have been former Solicitor General Ted Olson, because he “knows where the bodies are buried” at the Justice Department:
[Mukasey] is going into a zoo at the Justice Department. It is chaos — he has no idea what to do there. They have vacancies there, staff. You need someone who knows where the bodies are buried, like Ted Olson.
Watch a compilation:
Federal investigations are now investigating whether Blackwater USA employees smuggled weapons into Iraq. The employees allegedly “sent over unlicensed weapons and equipment, that could have been used by a group labelled as terrorist by the US.” Iraqi officials are also probing “allegations about the security firm’s involvement in six other violent episodes this year that left at least 10 Iraqis dead.”
Amount the war in Iraq costs per minute, according to a new analysis by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard’s Linda Bilmes, put out by the American Friends Service Committee. The study finds that this $720 million a day could buy homes for 6,500 families or health care for 423,529 children.
The Washington Post reports:
The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.
The personal travel records are meant to be stored for as long as 15 years, as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to assess the security threat posed by all travelers entering the country. […]
But new details about the information being retained suggest that the government is monitoring the personal habits of travelers more closely than it has previously acknowledged. The details were learned when a group of activists requested copies of official records on their own travel. Those records included a description of a book on marijuana that one of them carried and small flashlights bearing the symbol of a marijuana leaf.
Earlier this month, Government Accountability Office chief David Walker testified that he could not “get comfortable” with General David Petraeus’ methodology for determining sectarian violence. Petraeus’ methodology has remained unknown throughout his testimony to Congress and the pursuing debate on Iraq. But today, through a Freedom of Information Act request, TPMmuckraker’s Spencer Ackerman has finally brought it to light. Check out Spencer’s rundown here and the actual documents here.
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At 9 pm ET on Saturday, Fox News will air a one hour special about the top commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, who recently argued in Congressional testimony that President Bush’s “surge” in Iraq is working. The program, titled “American Commander: Gen. David Petraeus” and hosted by Jon Scott, will look at Petraeus’ “life and times”:
Today’s conflicts require that a modern American General be a student of history. In this one hour FOX News special, join veteran correspondent and anchor Jon Scott as we take an in-depth look at the life and times of General David Petraeus from his childhood in Cornwall, New York to his historic mission in Iraq.
Fox has gone all-out in aggressively boosting Petraeus and his Bush-friendly testimony. As Media Matters has noted, when Petraeus testified to the House on September 10, Fox featured seven pro-escalation analysts who gave favorable reactions to Petraeus’ testimony and only one critic. Watch a 90 second condensed version of Fox’s unbalanced coverage here:
Later that evening, Fox News Washington Bureau chief Brit Hume hosted an exclusive hour-long interview with Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. In the interview, which Fox labeled “A briefing for America,” Hume gave Petraues roughly 16 uninterrupted minutes to make his case, turning the Fox News “interview” into a powerpoint presentation on national TV.
Petraeus also sat down for an interview with Fox’s Chris Wallace on September 12.
President Bush has said, “People listen to Petraeus, not to me.” And Fox News is doing its part to make sure of that.
President Bush on the future of Iraq, 5/24/07:
[Bush] talked about a transition to “a different configuration” in Iraq after the surge of U.S. troops is completed this summer. When pressed on whether he was talking about a post-surge Plan B, Bush answered: “Actually, I would call that a plan recommended by Baker-Hamilton, so that would be a Plan B-H.” […]
Yes, that same Baker-Hamilton plan now seems to be official White House policy.
President Bush on the future of Iraq, 9/19/07:
In an interview with a group of columnists that I attended Wednesday, [Bush] dismissed the notion of establishing the 2006 recommendations of the Iraq Study Group as official U.S. policy. […]
“My attitude is, I accept what [U.S. Iraq commander] Gen. [David] Petraeus recommended, not what they recommend,” he said, referring to Members of Congress pushing the ISG approach, which includes moving U.S. troops from a combat role to one of “overwatch.”
In his press conference yesterday, President Bush inartfully gave the impression that Saddam Hussein had killed former South African President Nelson Mandela, saying “Somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, ‘Now, where’s Mandela?’ Well, Mandela’s dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.” Watch it:var flvmandelabush232024016421 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/09/mandelabush2.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvmandelabush232024016421', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvmandelabush232024016421.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvmandelabush232024016421.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvmandelabush232024016421.write('flvmandelabush232024016421');
Apparently, Bush’s awkward phrasing led enough people to worry about the former president’s well-being that the Nelson Mandela Foundation needed to “reassure” people that he is still alive. “It’s out there. All we can do is reassure people, especially South Africans, that President Mandela is alive,” Achmat Dangor, chief executive officer of the foundation, told Reuters.
In his new autobiography, former Mexican President Vincente Fox notes that President Bush seems to be afraid of horses, once turning down an offer to ride Fox’s horse. “He demurred, backing away from the big palomino. A horse lover can always tell when others don’t share our passion,” Fox said. In fact, Bush’s equestrian incompetence has been observed for years, as Laura Bush jokingly said in 2005:
George didn’t know much about ranches when we bought the place. Andover and Yale don’t have a real strong ranching program. But I’m proud of George. He’s learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What’s worse, it was a male horse.
Watch it:var flvmalehorsebush32024016420 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/09/malehorsebush.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvmalehorsebush32024016420', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvmalehorsebush32024016420.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvmalehorsebush32024016420.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvmalehorsebush32024016420.write('flvmalehorsebush32024016420');
Fox also called Bush a “windshield cowboy,” or “a cowboy who prefers to drive.”
Yesterday, ThinkProgress noted that a scheduled speech to the Wichita Chamber of Commerce by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was canceled after “too many people objected.” The Chamber of Commerce has now confirmed that former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow will be the replacement. Snow will also speak two days later at the College of the Ozarks, a private, Christian liberal-arts college.
“Violence in Iraq has pushed more than twice as many Iraqis to seek asylum in industrialized countries during the first half of 2007 compared with the same period last year,” according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “Iraqis top the list of people seeking asylum in 36 of the world’s richest countries.”
BECK: Beyond that, here’s where the trouble really, for me, it just kind of goes off the tracks. You’ve got Jesse Jackson, the week that he says Barack Obama is acting white, which is an unbelievable racist statement.
I mean, if I said, “I don’t know. I don’t think I can vote for that Rudy Giuliani, because he’s acting a little black” he’d be picketing in front of my building tonight.
But Beck has made almost identical comments about Obama in the past. As Media Matters noted at the time, Glenn Beck called Obama “very white” twice on his radio show on Feb. 12:
BECK: Yeah, I — you know, I was driving in today, and I was seeing — because I saw this piece with him on 60 Minutes — and I thought to myself, he [Obama] is — he’s very white in many ways.
BECK: And I thought to myself: Gee, can I even say that? Can I even say that without somebody else starting a campaign saying, “What does he mean, ‘He’s very white?’ ” He is. He’s very white.
Later in the segment he added, “I think he’s colorless. You don’t notice that he is black. So he might as well be white, you know what I mean?”
Watch the two clips:
Does Beck also believe his own statements were unbelievably “racist”?
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For the first time, $1 billion isn’t enough to land someone on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans. Forbes associated editor Matthew Miller said that there “are 82 American billionaires who do not make the Forbes 400 this year.” Income inequality has grown dramatically in recent years, “with the top 1 percent of Americans — those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 — receiving their largest share of national income since 1928.”
On Tuesday, National Review Online’s Jonah Goldberg approvingly linked to a column by the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, in which Cohen slammed Democratic presidential candidates for not criticizing MoveOn.org’s Gen. David Petraeus ad in the New York Times. Goldberg said Cohen had a “pretty good” take on the Democrats’ “spinelessness regarding Petraeus.”
In a September 11 2007 editorial, the National Review Online also took “the Left” to task for questioning the “honesty and patriotism” of Petraeus. As editor-at-large, Goldberg presumably approved of, if not contributed to, the editorial’s position.
But Goldberg hasn’t always been so critical of those who question the integrity of American generals. As Attaturk pointed out yesterday, in January 2004, Goldberg uncritically posted an e-mail from a then-active duty reader that savagely bashed generals as “a gigantic pain in the ass” who are “dishonest”:
[General Wesley Clark] acts just like the vast majority of general officers that it has been my displeasure to deal with during my 16 years in the U.S. military. Generals are, for the most part, a gigantic pain in the ass and we usually accomplish our military objectives despite their chaos-inducing presence. There are a few good generals here and there but most of them are an embarrassment. […]
- Generals are ambitious in the same way that wolverines are aggressive. It’s their defining trait. […]
- Generals are dull. I don’t mean this in the cant-tell-a-good-joke kind of way. I mean the anti-intellectual, zero-curiousity, hasn’t-read-a-real-book-in-years kind of dull. […]
- Generals are arrogant. Generals truly believe that they are completely right 100% of the time and woe to those underlings who demonstrate that this isn’t so. This trait is what makes generals so dangerous. They will ignore sound advice and do the stupidest things imaginable, all because “Well, I’m a general, dammit, I know what I’m doing and. . . ugh, what was the question again?” Generals can be damn near unreasonable when they get their minds made up and it’s almost impossible to get them to see an alternative way of doing things. […]
- Generals are dishonest. This is a tricky charge to throw out, but it’s the sad truth. I’ve seen more out-and-out lies from general officers than any other people in the military. In a weird way, they are just like professional politicians in this regard.
Apparently, it’s never appropriate to attack a general unless you’re Jonah Goldberg.