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Updated: 1 hour 33 min ago

‘The truth about my dead brother.’

Thu, 2007-08-30 21:04

Dante Zeppala writes a Daily Kos diary about his brother, Army Sgt. Sherwood Baker, who was killed in Iraq in 2004:

He was killed two weeks after he sent that e-mail when a paint factory exploded. The mission had been aborted several times before because of safety concerns. Under the direction of a British Captain, they went looking for WMD. Sherwood saved lives, I’m told, of soldiers and an Iraqi translator.

That was over three years ago. Now, in light of Ari Fleischer’s latest propaganda campaign to continue the unabated bloodshed, I’m seeing my big brother out there again–his sacrifice somehow becoming a reason for more sacrifice, his death used to justify more death. It doesn’t make sense to me, and it wouldn’t make sense to Sher, either. […]

Does Fleischer even know who our primary military targets and threats in Iraq are? Does he know the actual amount of foreign Al Qaeda members in Iraq?

It doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter to him in 2003, when he told lie after lie selling this war to the American public. It doesn’t matter now. This is about ideology for him, not humanity.

CNN: Craig ‘likely resign pretty soon.’

Thu, 2007-08-30 19:26

CNN’s Dana Bash, who is reporting from Idaho, said today that her sources “do think that Senator Craig will likely resign pretty soon. That is sort of the sense that people are getting.”

Plane carrying U.S. lawmakers in Iraq comes under attack.

Thu, 2007-08-30 17:09

A military cargo plane carrying three senators — Mel Martinez (R-FL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and James Inhofe (R-OK) — and a House member — Bud Cramer (D-IL) — was forced to take evasive maneuvers and dispatch flares to avoid ground fire after taking off from Baghdad on Thursday night. The AP reports:

The lawmakers said their plane, a C-130, was under fire from three rocket-propelled grenades over the course of several minutes as they left for Amman, Jordan.

”It was a scary moment,” said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who said he had just taken off his body armor when he saw a bright flash outside the window. ”Our pilots were terrific. … They banked in one direction and then banked the other direction, and they set off the flares.” […]

”We were jostled around pretty good,” said Cramer, who estimated the plane had ascended to about 6,000 feet. ”There were a few minutes there where I wondered: ‘Have we been hit? Are we OK?”’ […]

”It was kind of dicey,” Shelby said. ”But it just shows you what our troops go through every day.”

Video: Bloggers and activists on FISA.

Thu, 2007-08-30 13:44

Yesterday, the Center for American Progress hosted an event examining the recent amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. One panel, moderated by ThinkProgress editor Faiz Shakir, featured prominent bloggers and activists who have led the campaign to rein in the administration’s quest for expansive powers. If you missed it, you can now watch the video HERE. Also, check out more coverage of the event in today’s Washington Post.

Tauscher Warns Of Petraeus’ Conflict Of Interest In Reporting On Escalation

Thu, 2007-08-30 12:43

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) added her name to the list of analysts and lawmakers who are raising concerns about Gen. David Petraeus’s “conflicting loyalty” between “the desire to please the president” and to report the unvarnished truth about Bush’s strategy.

In an interview with ThinkProgress, Tauscher said:

We have to be sanguine about the surge, and it’s [Petreaus’s] idea. He is a fabulous military officer and tremendous pedigree, but I don’t know anybody that doesn’t want to sell their idea and keep selling it. I don’t know anybody that doesn’t think that people that aren’t for his idea are critical. So I think he’s been put in a terrible position by the Commander-In-Chief.

Revealing the deep insecurity of life in Iraq — including inside the Green Zone — Tauscher said that a mortar fell near her compound during the one of her nights in Iraq.

Tauscher used the incident to note the “constant, constant, constant stress” that troops are under. “It’s not just going to the front line, it’s going to the chow line that is a place of danger in Iraq,” she said.

Watch it:

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Tauscher said “we are breaking” the soldiers on the ground. “The number of suicides has gone up dramatically, the number of attempts have gone up geometrically. … It’s our duty to take care of these people as they take care of us.”

NY Post uses gay stereotypes to cover Craig.

Thu, 2007-08-30 12:00

As part of its coverage of Sen. Larry Craig’s (R-ID) arrest for “lewd conduct” in an airport bathroom, the tabloid-y New York Post posted a sidebar questionnaire on its website today asking “are you a gay Senator?” The questions are filled with gay stereotypes like “do you sing showtunes in the car between political events?” and “did you quit the ‘Singing Senators’ because the bow ties didn’t match the seersucker suits?”

As New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer blog points out, the Post has a history of homophobia, using “archaic adjectives like ’swishy’ and ‘limp-wristed’ to describe gay subjects” and featuring a cartoonist who draws homosexual characters “with exaggerated lips and eyelashes, and one leg kicked flamboyantly upward.”

Petraeus: WH won’t write my September report.

Thu, 2007-08-30 11:41

Recently, the media revealed — and the White House confirmed — that Gen. David Petraeus’s much-anticipated September report on Iraq will “actually be written by the White House.” But this week, Petraeus assured lawmakers that he won’t let the White House interfere with his analysis:

Gen. David Petraeus, who is scheduled to brief Congress in two weeks on the progress in Iraq, assured lawmakers this week that the administration is not involved in the writing of his report, according to a lawmaker who has recently returned from the region.

Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), told reporters Thursday that Petraeus said he and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had briefed the administration on the situation in Iraq, but added that “as far as [Petraeus] is concerned … he is writing his recommendations of that report and testimony.”

Fox News Bashes ‘Desperate,’ ‘Ambitious,’ ‘Single Mother’ Katie Couric For Traveling To Iraq

Thu, 2007-08-30 10:48

In two separate segments yesterday, Fox News attacked CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric for reporting from the ground in Iraq, calling it “a desperate move” and asking if it was a “ratings ploy or legitimate journalism.”

On Your World With Neil Cavuto, guest host Dagen McDowell featured Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, who characterized Couric’s trip as “a clear act of desperation” by a single mother whose “priorities [are] so determined by her ambition rather than her children’s welfare.” Crouse pointedly accused Couric of being a bad mother for going to cover Iraq:

I would say the same thing if this were a man journalist going out there, a male anchor, because when you look at the choice she’s making, she’s saying my ratings are more important than my children. That’s the bottom line.

Later in the afternoon, The Big Story With John Gibson hosted New York Post columnist Linda Stasi, who called Couric’s trip “a desperate move” to gain “some sort of credibility.” “You know and I know that she doesn’t have to be there for the report,” said Stasi. Watch it:

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During the Your World segment, law professor Susan Estrich came to the CBS anchor’s defense, noting that Couric is “a journalist” and that the war in Iraq is “a really important story” that hasn’t been covered “with the intensity it” deserves:

She’s a journalist. This is a war. It’s a really important story. It’s not like she’s going to camp out at Paris Hilton’s house. I mean the press has been criticized for not covering Iraq with the intensity it should. And really, that’s her decision.

In fact, Fox News is one of the biggest culprits of “not covering Iraq with the intensity it should.” As a recent Project for Excellence in Journalism study showed, the network consistently covers the war in Iraq roughly half as much as its rivals.

Fox has attacked journalists for covering Iraq too much. In February, John Gibson accused CNN’s Anderson Cooper of “news-guy snobbery” for his complaints that the death of Anna Nicole Smith was saturating the news when “there’s a war on.” Fox’s Bill O’Reilly has claimed “CNN and MSNBC are actually helping the terrorists by reporting” often on Iraq.

ThinkProgress is going on the road today.

Thu, 2007-08-30 10:30

Blogging will be light.

DoJ IG will continue probe into Gonzales.

Thu, 2007-08-30 09:48

Earlier this month, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked “Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) to investigate potentially false or misleading testimony given by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during his appearances before various congressional committees.” Despite Gonzales’ resignation, Fine told Leahy today that his office will still assess Gonzales’ contradictory claims. Leahy released the following statement:

I am pleased that Department of Justice Inspector General Glenn Fine will look into my concerns about potentially false, misleading or inappropriate testimony by the Attorney General. I look forward to the Inspector General’s findings on the unprecedented firings of nine United States Attorneys, the improper political hiring of career officials within the Justice Department, the misuse of National Security Letters, and the efforts to bypass the Department’s finding that a warrantless surveillance program was without legal basis.

These actions have eroded the public’s trust and undermined morale within our justice system, from the top ranks to the cop on the beat. The current Attorney General is leaving, but these questions remain. It is appropriate that the Inspector General will examine whether the Attorney General was honest with this and other Congressional committees about these crucial issues. His investigations can help restore independence and accountability, which have been sorely lacking at the Justice Department.

Read Fine’s letter here.

Gates Marginalized By White House, Not Informed Of New $50 Billion Iraq Funding Request

Thu, 2007-08-30 09:26

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that President Bush will soon request an additional $50 billion from Congress for the war in Iraq. The request, which is expected to be made after Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify to Congress about Iraq, “appears to reflect the view in the administration” that Bush’s escalation strategy “will last into the spring of 2008 and will not be shortened by Congress.”

On Fox News’ Special Report last night, host Brit Hume revealed that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was unaware of the White House’s plans. “A Pentagon spokesman said Defense Secretary Gates saw the published report this morning and said, quote, ‘this is news to me,’” reported Hume. Watch it:

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Gates’ admission of being out of the loop on the funding request coincides with a report by McClatchy that military brass are trying to “distance themselves” from the President on Iraq strategy:

The Pentagon said Wednesday that it won’t make a single, unified recommendation to President Bush during next month’s strategy assessment, but instead will allow top commanders to make individual presentations. […]

Military analysts called the move unusual for an institution that ordinarily does not air its differences in public, especially while its troops are deployed in combat.

“The professional military guys are going to the non-professional military guys and saying ‘Resolve this,’” said Jeffrey White, a military analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “That’s what it sounds like.”

White said it suggests that the military commanders want to be able to distance themselves from Iraq strategy by making it clear that whatever course is followed is the president’s decision, not what commanders agreed on.

The White House’s marginalization of the Pentagon comes on the heels of a report that Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, will recommend reducing “the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half.” Gates’ position on continuing the escalation “is not known, but he was a member of the Iraq Study Group, which advocated a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.”

Additionally, the marginalization of the Pentagon on Iraq by the administration is not a new development. In December, when the White House was first discussing an escalation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were in “unanimous disagreement” with the administration, arguing that “any short-term mission” would create “bigger problems when it ends.”

The ‘watering down’ campaign begins.

Thu, 2007-08-30 09:01

The Bush administration is already in full spin mode regarding the “strikingly harsh” GAO report on Iraq. An individual leaked the GAO report to the Washington Post because the source feared that the administration would try to “water down” its conclusions. As predicted, the Pentagon has begun the watering-down campaign:

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said that after reviewing a draft of the Government Accountability Office report — which has not yet been made public — policy officials “made some factual corrections” and “offered some suggestions on a few of the actual grades” assigned by the GAO. … “We have provided the GAO with information which we believe will lead them to conclude that a few of the benchmark grades should be upgraded from ‘not met’ to ‘met,’” Morrell said.

Judge to unseal secret transcripts from Cunningham trial.

Thu, 2007-08-30 08:58

U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns has decided to unseal the transcripts of a secret court hearing for New York businessman Thomas Kontogiannis, an admitted co-conspirator of former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham. Kontogiannis paid Cunningham nearly $1 million in bribes, and admitted to bribery charges in Feb. 2007. The Kontogiannis “have been at the center of a legal tug of war for months, with government prosecutors fighting to keep them under wraps.”

Conservative ‘Homophobic Hypocrisy’ In Craig Scandal

Thu, 2007-08-30 08:12

Earlier this month, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) pleaded guilty to “misdemeanor disorderly conduct” for “lewd” sexual conduct in a men’s public restroom. In July, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) also admitted to the “sin” of a sexual crime — frequenting an escort service run by the DC Madam.

To date, five Republican lawmakers have called on Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) to resign:

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN): “Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator. He should resign.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): “I believe that he — that he pled guilty and he had the opportunity to plead innocent. So I think he should resign.”

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI): “However, he also represents the Republican Party, and I believe that he should step down as his conduct throughout this matter has been inappropriate for a U.S. senator.”

Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN): “While additional concerns are being raised, Senator Craig already demonstrated that he is unfit to serve in the U.S. Congress when he pled guilty. I believe that he needs to step down.”

Reps. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), Bobby Jindal (R-LA), and Ron Lewis (R-KY): [A handful of Republicans] urged Craig to step down…including Jeff Miller and Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida, Mark Souder of Indiana, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Ron Lewis of Kentucky.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has also stripped Craig of his committee leadership positions and called for a Senate ethics investigation into the affair.

In contrast, none of these nine lawmakers reprimanded Vitter after he admitted to soliciting a prostitute. He even received “‘thunderous applause‘ from Senate GOP colleagues during a policy lunch held a few days after his admission.” Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force explains the hypocrisy:

Let’s see - one Republican senator is involved in soliciting sex from a man and the Republican leadership calls for a Senate investigation and yanks the rug from underneath him. Another Republican senator admits to soliciting the services of a female prostitute and there’s not only no investigation but the senator is greeted with a standing ovation by his Republican peers. What explains the starkly different responses? I’d say rank and homophobic hypocrisy.

The nonpartisan watchdog group CREW has called on Vitter to resign his committee seat. Glenn Greenwald has more on the right-wing blogosphere’s hypocrisy.

Rep. Porter cites gas prices as reason to stay in Iraq.

Thu, 2007-08-30 07:45

Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV), who recently returned from a visit to Iraq, said he was told that an Iraq withdrawal would cause gas prices to rise to $9/gallon. “To a person, they said there would be genocide, gas prices in the U.S. would rise to eight or nine dollars a gallon, al-Qaida would continue its expansion, and Iran would take over that portion of the world if we leave,” Porter said Wednesday in a phone interview from Las Vegas. “Porter did not elaborate on the assessment that gasoline prices could spike. His spokesman, Matt Leffingwell, said afterward that the scenario ‘makes sense if Iran moves into Iraq.’”

White House Preparing Strategy To ‘Water Down’ Pessimistic Reports From Iraq

Thu, 2007-08-30 07:01

The Washington Post reports that a draft version of the Government Accountability Office’s upcoming report on Iraq will deliver a “strikingly negative” assessment of the situation in Iraq. The report contradicts the administration’s claim that sectarian violence is decreasing, stating that “the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged.”

The leaked draft version of the report was sent to the Post by an individual who was concerned the White House may try to “water down” its conclusions. The concern comes on the heels of a report that Gen. David Petraeus “softened” the judgments of the recent National Intelligence Assessment on Iraq and comments by Rep. Tom Davis that the White House would probably “tweak” the “Petraeus report.” The Post explains:

The person who provided the draft report to The Post said it was being conveyed from a government official who feared that its pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version — as some officials have said happened with security judgments in this month’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.

The AP adds further details to the story. According to unnamed officials familiar with the White House’s strategy regarding the GAO report, “the administration is preparing a case to play down the findings, arguing that Congress ordered the GAO to use unfair, ‘all or nothing’ standards when compiling the document.”

An internal White House memorandum obtained by the AP explains the White House’s strategy:

The [White House] memo argues that the GAO will not present a “true picture” of the situation in Iraq because the standards were “designed to lock in failure,” according to portions of the document read to the AP by an official who has seen it.

The benchmarks measured by the GAO were established by Congress in the war supplemental funding bill that passed in May and agreed to by President Bush. In fact, Bush heralded the passage of the benchmarks, saying they laid out a “clear roadmap” that the Iraqi government must meet:

This important bill also provides a clear roadmap to help the Iraqis secure their country and strengthen their young democracy. Iraqis need to demonstrate measurable progress on a series of benchmarks for improved security, political reconciliation, and governance. These tasks will be difficult for this young democracy, but we are confident they will continue to make progress on the goals they have set for themselves.

Now Bush is watering down, tweaking, and backing away from the truth about the situation in Iraq.

UPDATE: More from Bush, in Jan. 2007:

I’ve made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq’s other leaders that America’s commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this. Here is what he told his people just last week: “The Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation”. (…)

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

Coleman drops donation by Craig.

Thu, 2007-08-30 06:43

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), who yesterday called on Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) to step down, has “become the first lawmaker to announce that he is not keeping a political donation” from the embattled senator. Craig’s political action committee gave $2,500 to Coleman’s Senate campaign. Coleman’s spokeperson said that it would likely turn the money over to charity.

ThinkFast: August 30, 2007

Thu, 2007-08-30 06:01

Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) became the fourth member of Congress to call on Sen. Larry Craig to resign. “While additional concerns are being raised, Senator Craig already demonstrated that he is unfit to serve in the U.S. Congress when he pled guilty,” Souder said in a statement. “I believe that he needs to step down.”

Next week, the Pentagon’s inspector general will head to Iraq to investigate how weapons given to Iraqi security forces by the American military have been found “by the authorities in Turkey after being used in violent crimes in that country.” Offical estimates of the amount of weapons found in Turkey vary from dozens to hundreds.

White House officials are considering five names that “have kind of emerged” as possible candidates to take over the beleaguered Justice Department: former Solicitor General Ted Olson, former Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, and Solicitor General Paul Clement.

$1 billion: The amount the Defense Department is paying private contractors in more than 30 separate contracts to collect and analyze intelligence for the four military services and its own Defense Intelligence Agency.

The Washington Times reports “more Americans see war as winnable,” citing a UPI/Zogby poll that shows 54 percent of Americans believe the war is not lost. 66 percent of Democrats said the mission has failed already, compared with 9 percent of Republicans who shared that view. About 49 percent of voters said the troop surge was not working. (more…)

Commanders ‘divided’ over way forward in Iraq.

Wed, 2007-08-29 19:01

McClatchy reports:

In a sign that top commanders are divided over what course to pursue in Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday that it won’t make a single, unified recommendation to President Bush during next month’s strategy assessment, but instead will allow top commanders to make individual presentations. […]

Military analysts called the move unusual for an institution that ordinarily does not air its differences in public, especially while its troops are deployed in combat. […]

[Military analyst Jeffrey] White said it suggests that the military commanders want to be able to distance themselves from Iraq strategy by making it clear that whatever course is followed is the president’s decision, not what commanders agreed on.

UPDATE: Daily Kos diarist The Angry Rakkasan writes, “Pentagon Gives Up; Hands War Over to Bush.”

Bush seeks to be portrayed as antagonist-in-chief.

Wed, 2007-08-29 14:27

U.S. News reports, “White House insiders don’t want to encourage expectations that President Bush will turn into a born-again accommodator in the final year and a half of his administration.” The insiders express “concern” that there is an expectation that Bush will be more “conciliatory.”