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O’Hanlon: ‘I Could Easily See Myself Changing Camps’ On Iraq ‘In The Next Six To Nine Months’

Thu, 2007-09-13 11:35

At a Brookings Institution event today, Iraq war proponent Michael O’Hanlon expressed his support for President Bush’s call to extend the escalation, but he claimed he could only support the strategy “for another six to nine months”:

If you think there’s hope [in Iraq], there’s a very powerful argument in favor of trying to see what we can build on, what battle field successes at least we may have had this summer or this year so far. … But I think this is a very complex subject and could easily see myself changing camps in the next six to nine months.

Watch it:

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Isolated within his own community due to his obsessive flacking for Bush, O’Hanlon has no credibility in making predictions. Some lowlights:

March 2003: “Here’s why things are going well and why they will soon go even better.”

May 2004: “Set a date to pull out.”

November 2005: “[T]he military appears as confident as ever of ultimate victory.”

December 2006: “Give it six more months or so, maybe nine more months.”

March 2007: “There are good reasons to give the war effort, now almost four years old, another six to nine months before concluding that the current strategy should be discarded.”

O’Hanlon’s moment of accountability is always six months away.

O’Reilly: Middle Easterners want to ’sit around,’ ’smoke.’

Thu, 2007-09-13 11:07

On the Monday edition of his radio show, Bill O’Reilly opined that citizens of Middle Eastern countries don’t “want democracy.” O’Reilly then claimed that it was because they are lazy and just want to “smoke,” “sit around,” and “go to the mosques“:

In my opinion, they just don’t. They want their meals. They want to smoke. They want to go to the mosques. They want to sit around, and that’s what they want to do. Do they want to vote? Do they want to get involved? Not really.

Media Matters has the audio here.

Petraeus Has ‘Expressed Long-Term Interest’ In Running For President

Thu, 2007-09-13 10:18

According to a senior Iraqi officer who knew Gen. David Petraeus when he was stationed in Baghdad from 2004-2005, Petraeus is interested in running for President. From The Independent today:

The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, expressed long-term interest in running for the US presidency when he was stationed in Baghdad, according to a senior Iraqi official who knew him at that time.

Sabah Khadim, then a senior adviser at Iraq’s Interior Ministry, says General Petraeus discussed with him his ambition when the general was head of training and recruitment of the Iraqi army in 2004-05.

“I asked him if he was planning to run in 2008 and he said, ‘No, that would be too soon’,” Mr Khadim, who now lives in London, said.

General Petraeus has a reputation in the US Army for being a man of great ambition. If he succeeds in reversing America’s apparent failure in Iraq, he would be a natural candidate for the White House in the presidential election in 2012.

The right wing is rooting for Petraeus to take the plunge. On Sept. 6, The New York Sun wrote an editorial titled “Petraeus for President?” The Corner’s Kathryn Jean Lopez approvingly linked to the editorial this morning, titling her post “Dream Sequence.” Last spring, The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol told the Harvard Republican Club that he and other “conservative insider[s]” believe “a ticket of Fred Thompson and David Petraeus might be able to avert electoral disaster for the GOP” in 2008.

It’s unlikely that Petraeus would be as warmly received by the American public. In anticipation of this week’s congressional testimony, 53 percent of the public believed Petraeus would “try to make the situation in Iraq look better than it really is.” According to a Rasmussen poll of major political figures, Petraeus has an approval rating of only 24 percent — a number lower than even Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

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The troops were coming out anyway.

Thu, 2007-09-13 09:44

Tonight, President Bush will spin the drawdown of surge troops to the status quo ante as “progress.” In fact, the pullout is simply a natural result of the fact the military is overstretched. Gen. David Petraeus acknowledged this week that the 30,000 troops were coming home anyway. “Yes, the surge forces were scheduled to go home between April and mid-July, that is absolutely right,” he said. Watch it:

UPDATE: Editor & Publisher takes us on a trip down memory lane, recalling that Bush predicted in January that the “surge” would bring stability.

UPDATE II: The Center for American Progress released this video as a pre-buttal to Bush’s speech tonight, also noting the drawdown is simply part of the military rotation. Brian Katulis calls the speech “much ado about nothing“:

Former DoD, State Dept officials: Rumsfeld is wrong.

Thu, 2007-09-13 09:32

In a recent interview with GQ, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that Afghanistan was a “big success!” Today, a former CIA officer and a former State Department official write in the Los Angeles Times that Rumsfeld is wrong:

Former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld says in the current edition of GQ magazine that the war in Afghanistan has been “a big success,” with people living in freedom and life “improved on the streets.”

To anyone working in the country, there is only one possible, informed response: What Afghanistan is the man talking about? […]

The country is, plain and simple, a mess. Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies have quietly regained territory, rendering wide swaths of the country off-limits to U.S. and Afghan forces, international aid workers and even journalists. Violent attacks against Western interests are routine. […]

The war in Afghanistan is a political and military one-step-forward-two-steps-back exercise. The work there isn’t just unfinished, it is more dangerous and less certain than policymakers in Washington and talking heads in New York studios can imagine. Those suggesting otherwise are either naive or flacking a political agenda.

Wash. Times Claims Increased GOP Unity On Iraq, Ignores New Anti-War Conservative

Thu, 2007-09-13 08:34

In an article this morning, the Washington Times is claiming that the recent testimony by Gen. David Petraeus has “bolstered” Republican unity in support of President Bush’s Iraq policy. The piece, written by S.A. Miller, quotes House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) as saying “his caucus is considerably more unified” on Iraq following Petraeus’ report:

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said his caucus is considerably more unified on the war issue following the report by Gen. Petraeus and Ryan C. Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq. […]

“We’ve taken a different approach than [Democrats] have on Iraq from the very start,” said Mr. Blunt. “They saw Iraq as a political issue, and we saw it as both a security issue and an issue that had to be above politics for our members.”

The article concludes from Blunt’s comments that “the fact that few if any members of Congress are shifting their position likely signals a replay of Democratic losses in past war debates.” But Miller never mentions that on the second day of Petraeus’ testimony, Rep. Jim Walsh, a member of the House Republican caucus, actually changed his position on Iraq, calling for troop withdrawals to begin:

Rep. Jim Walsh, in a dramatic break with the White House, returned Monday from a trip to Iraq saying it’s time to bring troops home and stop funding the war. […]

“Before I went, I was not prepared to say it’s time to start bringing our troops home,” Walsh said. “I am prepared to say that now. It’s time.”

Walsh’s announcement came as Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, told House members that the troop “surge” has made progress.

But Walsh said he saw little evidence that much has changed in Iraq since he last visited four years ago.

As Steve Benen noted recently, Walsh is one of 11 “moderate” Republicans who “gave President Bush a blunt warning on his Iraq policy” in May “that conditions needed to improve” in Iraq “or more Republicans would desert him on the war.”

Sattar Abu Risha

Thu, 2007-09-13 08:13

– the head of the Anbar Salvation Council who President Bush had credited for ushering in “bottom-up reconciliation” in Anbar — has been killed in an IED attack. Just 10 days ago, Bush visited Risha in Iraq and hailed his efforts in “cooperating with the United States against al Qaeda in Iraq.” Today, he was killed in an explosion near his house in the Anbar province. Risha had an unsavory reputation with many Sunnis. Abu Aardvark’s Marc Lynch referred to Risha as “a two bit, corrupt petty shaykh.”

Katie Couric is the right wing’s new ’sweetheart.’

Thu, 2007-09-13 07:18

Last week, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reported from Iraq, but her stories largely repeated the Bush administration’s talking points. She even admitted that her stories were largely based on “what the U.S. military want[ed]” her to see. The right wing is now embracing her. Roll Call reports that conservative aides on Capitol Hill say that Couric is “our sweetheart.”

Senate panel demands withdrawal of CIA nominee.

Thu, 2007-09-13 06:45

On Tuesday, Think Progress noted that a coalition of human rights and advocacy groups were urging the Senate Intelligence Committee to reject President Bush’s nominee for General Counsel of the CIA, John Rizzo. The groups said that Rizzo’s refusal at a June confirmation hearing to disavow his approval of a 2002 memo stretching the definition of torture should disqualify him from the position. Today, the Washington Post reports members of the committee requested the withdrawal of Rizzo’s nomination:

Two U.S. officials familiar with the committee’s decision said the request for Rizzo’s withdrawal has been conveyed to Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA’s director. […]

CIA officials declined comment on whether a formal request had been received, but a spokesman said Hayden continues to support Rizzo’s nomination.

ThinkFast: September 13, 2007

Thu, 2007-09-13 06:02

At a White House meeting this week, President Bush told Democratic leaders said he planned to “start doing some redeployment.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) immediately interjected: “No you’re not, Mr. President. … You’re just going back to the presurge level.”

Citing remarks about troop withdrawals by Gen. David Petraeus, “Democrats began a fresh campaign Wednesday to woo centrist Republicans on Iraq.” “Petraeus assured me that he favors continuing reductions beyond the pre-surge levels,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) said.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) blasted Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell yesterday for taking political orders from the White House. Harman ended her comments by saying, “Jane to Mike: please stop. You’re undermining the authority of your office.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is poised to reexamine “the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal in coming weeks.” Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) “issued letters to a range of Abramoff associates seeking information about his contacts with the White House.”

78 years: The life expectancy for Americans, according to new government figures from 2005. While the span is the longest in U.S. history, it is still “lower than the life span in more than three dozen other countries.” (more…)

Boehner: Troop deaths in Iraq are ‘a small price.’

Wed, 2007-09-12 17:29

In an interview on CNN today, Wolf Blitzer asked House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) about “the Americans who are killed every month” in Iraq and “how much longer” the “military commitment is going to require?” “The investment that we’re making today will be a small price if we’re able to stop al Qaeda here,” replied Boehner. As Atrios notes, the “small price” Boehner refers to is “3774 dead US troops and counting.” Watch it:

UPDATE: Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has put out a statement today blasting Boehner’s comment, saying “no American should ever for even a moment think the cost of war is small.”

DNI McConnell: I Lied To The Senate

Wed, 2007-09-12 16:28

Earlier this week, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell claimed the new expansive FISA legislation passed by Congress prior to the August recess — the so-called Protect America Act — had helped to thwart a an alleged terror plot in Germany.

A government official later told the New York Times that McConnell was wrong, and that the intelligence had been collected under the old FISA law which required warrants. A chorus of House Democrats immediately raised concerns about McConnell’s claims.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) demanded McConnell back up his sworn statement. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) said the Protect America Act “played no role in uncovering the recent German terrorist plot.” House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes urge McConnell “to issue a public statement immediately” correcting his remarks.

In a statement released today, McConnell unapologetically acknowledged he lied to the Senate:

During the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on September 10, 2007, I discussed the critical importance to our national security of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the recent amendments to FISA made by the Protect America Act. The Protect America Act was urgently needed by our intelligence professionals to close critical gaps in our capabilities and permit them to more readily follow terrorist threats, such as the plot uncovered in Germany. However, information contributing to the recent arrests was not collected under authorities provided by the Protect America Act.

Read the statement here. McConnell would be well-advised to officially correct his testimony.

Note that in the statement, McConnell does not apologize, but rather uses it as another opportunity to call for Congress to authorize the “unnecessary and dangerous” expansion of the administration’s spying power.

UPDATE: Here’s exactly what McConnell said in his Senate testimony:

MCCONNELL: [The new FISA law] was passed, as you well know, and we’re very pleased with that. And we’re better prepared now to continue our mission; specifically Germany, significant contributions. It allowed us to see and understand all the connections with –

LIEBERMAN: The newly adopted law facilitated that during August?

MCCONNELL: Yes, sir, it did. [Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 9/10/07]

Reyes: McConnell Lied When He Claimed New FISA Law Stopped Terrorist Attack

Wed, 2007-09-12 15:28

On Monday, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell claimed that the new expansive FISA law adopted by Congress prior to the August recess was responsible for the foiling of an alleged terrorist attack in Germany.

As Think Progress noted yesterday, McConnell’s testimony was later contradicted by an anonymous government official, who said “McConnell might have misspoken,” as the intelligence used to thwart the plan was gathered under the old FISA law:

[T]he official, who has been briefed on the eavesdropping laws and the information given to the Germans, said that those intercepts were recovered last year under the old law.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, both issued statements chastising McConnell and urging him to back up his claims.

Today, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the Chairman of the full House Intelligence Committee, wrote a letter to McConnell, confirming that the new FISA law did not play a role and requested a public correction:

I am told by senior American officials that U.S. assistance to German intelligence was based on collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), several months before its modification by Congress in August. Accordingly, the new law did not lead to the arrests of the three terrorist plotters, as you claimed. […]

I therefore urge you to issue a public statement immediately to confirm that the surveillance used to assist in the disruption of German plot was collected pursuant to FISA before the passage of the Protect America Act.

McConnell has yet to publicly concede his false claim.

Oil reaches $80 a barrel for first time ever.

Wed, 2007-09-12 15:05

Oil prices jumped “above a record $80 a barrel after the government reported a surprisingly large drop in crude inventories and declines in gasoline supplies and refinery activity.”

CentCom Chief Fallon: Petraeus Is ‘An Ass-Kissing, Little Chickensh*t,’ ‘I Hate People Like That’

Wed, 2007-09-12 14:03

During the Iraq war, the Central Command (CENTCOM) head — who leads U.S. operations in the entire Middle East region — and the Multinational Force Commander (MNF) have regularly testified together about the course of the war in Iraq.

Former-MNF Commander Gen. George Casey and his CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid constantly briefed Congress about the situation in Iraq and its regional effects. In at least four public hearings after Casey took office in 2004, the pair testified together:

Senate Armed Services [6/23/05]

House Armed Services [6/23/05]

House Armed Services [9/29/05]

Senate Armed Services [9/29/05]

In January, President Bush replaced Abizaid and Casey, who were “surge” skeptics, with Adm. William Fallon and Gen. David Petraeus. This week, Petraeus — in the first public hearings since taking on his new role — delivered his Iraq assessment to great media fanfare. But where was his boss, Admiral Fallon? Inter-Press Service suggests animosity between the two might be one reason for Fallon’s absence:

Fallon told Petraeus [in March] that he considered him to be “an ass-kissing little chickensh*t” and added, “I hate people like that”, the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.

The Washington Post reported this weekend that there is an internal military debate, described as “Armageddon,” brewing between Petraeus and Fallon because the two men have “profoundly different views of the U.S. role in Iraq.”

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) announced today that he will be asking Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) to call Fallon to testify on “his views on the region.” Webb decried the lack of independence in Petraeus’s reporting, observing that there are “a lot of control factors going on that haven’t been visible” from the one-sided testimony of Petraeus:

WEBB: [T]here’s something of a kabuki going on right now. You know, the Petraeus report was brought in. On the one hand they’re calling it independent; on the other, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, from my understanding, gave a one-hour exclusive interview to Fox News after their first day of testimony. […]

So it was a very narrow and focused two days of hearings…we need to hear from people like Admiral Fallon and others to get a sense of how the region is in play. … He was, by many accounts, questioning keeping these troop levels this high. […]

So I’m going to be recommending to Senator Levin that we get Admiral Fallon in and get his views on the region.

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Reid announces opposition to Olson for AG.

Wed, 2007-09-12 13:47

Former Solicitor General Ted Olson “has emerged as a top contender to replace” Alberto Gonzales. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said today: “Ted Olson will not be confirmed.” “He’s a partisan, and the last thing we need as an attorney general is a partisan,” Reid explained. Democrats, including current Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), indicated they would mount strong challenges to Olson if Bush nominates him. “He is certainly not a consensus nominee,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “He has a very political background.”

Demand An Attorney General Who Can Say No To President Bush

Wed, 2007-09-12 13:11

Democrats and Republicans alike agree that they want an independent Attorney General, who will serve the rule of law rather than just the Bush administration.

When outgoing Alberto Gonzales testified before Congress in his January 2005 Senate confirmation hearing, he claimed that if confirmed, he would be Attorney General for not “only the White House,” but also “the United States of America and its people“:

With the consent of the Senate, I will no longer represent only the White House; I will represent the United States of America and its people. I understand the differences between the two roles.

Gonzales completely failed to follow through on his pledge. When the Bush administration nominates the next Attorney General, the Senate must make sure that he or she not only says they are independent, but actually acts that way. Here’s the test for the next nominee: Alberto Gonzales answered yes to the following questions, would you have said “no”?

- Would you have said “no” to Bush’s warrantless wiretapping?

- Would you have said “no” to legalizing torture?

- Would you have said “no” to the partisan firings of U.S. attorneys?

- Would you have said “no” to the politicization of the Justice Department?

- Would you have said “no” to Bush’s abuse of Presidential signing statements?

Write to your Senators and demand they ask the next Attorney General nominee if they would have said “No” to these policies. Take action HERE.

Law school dean fired for liberal ‘political views.’

Wed, 2007-09-12 12:57

About a week ago, the new law school at the University of California at Irvine hired Erwin Chemerinsky, a well-known constitutional scholar, as the school’s inaugural Dean. But yesterday, Michael V. Drake, Irvine’s chancellor, fired him, “saying that he had not been aware of how Chemerinsky’s political views would make him a target for criticism from conservatives.” Chemerinsky confirmed his firing to the Wall Street Journal today:

The chancellor “said he hadn’t expected that I would be such a target for conservatives, a lightning rod. It’s clear that significant opposition developed,” though the chancellor didn’t specify where it was coming from. […]

“Obviously I’m sad because it’s something I was excit[ed] about. I’m angry because I don’t believe anyone liberal or conservative should be denied a position like this because of political views.”

(HT: Atrios)

UPDATE: The LA Times notes that April 2005, Chemerinsky “was named one of ‘the top 20 legal thinkers in America’ by Legal Affairs magazine.”

Bush Flashback: ‘Setting A Date For Withdrawal Is Setting A Date For Failure’

Wed, 2007-09-12 12:02

Tomorrow, President Bush will deliver a prime-time address to the nation about progress in Iraq. In that speech, he is expected to endorse Gen. David Petraeus’s recommendations to bring home 30,000 troops from Iraq by July 2008.

But as ThinkProgress highlighted yesterday, Bush’s announcement appears to be primarily political. In fact, the Bush administration has repeatedly argued in the past that progressive proposals for withdrawing troops from Iraq would aid the terrorists.

On May 1, Bush vetoed a Democratic-led bill that would have set a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq:

Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure — and that would be irresponsible.

Watch it:

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Some more examples the administration warning against publicly announcing a withdrawal date:

“Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq.” [Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman, 7/16/07]

I believe artificial timetables of withdrawal would be a mistake. … I will strongly reject an artificial timetable withdrawal and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform how to do their job.” [Bush, 4/23/07]

“He’s also in denial that a surrender date he thinks is a good idea. It is not a good idea. It is defeat. It is a death sentence for the millions of Iraqis who voted for a constitution, who voted for a government, who voted for a free and democratic society.” [White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, 4/23/07]

“The…attempt to micromanage our commanders is an unwise and perilous endeavor. It is impossible to argue that an unconditional timetable for retreat could serve the security interests of the United States or our friends in the region.” [Vice President Cheney, 4/13/07]

“[I]f they [Congress] send him a bill with limitations on his ability to function as commander-in-chief or restrictions on the troops or with a withdrawal date that in effect would tell our enemies we’re going to quit, he will veto it.” [Cheney, 4/5/07]

“Why would you say to the enemy, you know, here’s a timetable, just go ahead and wait us out? It doesn’t make any sense to have a timetable. You know, if you give a timetable, you’re — you’re conceding too much to the enemy.” [Bush, 6/24/05]

(HT: OxyCon)

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UPDATE: MoveOn’s Washington director Tom Matzzie writes in to offer his thoughts on the post: “Thank you for the timetable, may I have another.”

Fathers of soldiers killed in Iraq

Wed, 2007-09-12 11:49

hailed their sons for speaking out. The fathers of Omar Mora and Yance Gray, the two soldiers from the 82nd Airborne who drafted a New York Times editorial criticizing the rosy assessments of the war, said they were proud of them for voicing for their opinions. New York Times Deputy Editorial Page Editor David Shipley, who worked with the seven soldiers who drafted the op-ed, had this to say about them:

“They said from the get-go they did not want to be paid for this,” Shipley said, declining to reveal his payment scale, but said most freelance columnists are paid several hundred dollars. “It was a definite statement from them.”