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Bush On Torture Report: ‘Haven’t Seen It, We Don’t Torture’

Thu, 2007-08-09 10:21

During President Bush’s press conference this morning, The Washington Post’s Peter Baker asked him if he “had read” a highly confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross that “has found an interrogation program in CIA detention facilities, [that] used interrogation techniques that were ‘tantamount to torture.’” Details of the Red Cross report were revealed recently by the New Yorker.

“Haven’t seen it; we don’t torture,” Bush bluntly responded before moving on to another question. Watch it:

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Bush’s ignorant denial of torture is hardly convincing, considering he is apparently unaware of the allegations coming from the Red Cross, “which is known for its credibility and caution.” The report alleges “that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment” at CIA “black sites” may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions:

One of the sources said that the Red Cross described the agency’s detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that these officials may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications.

Though Bush claims to have not “seen” the report, others in his administration have. According to the New Yorker, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Rice’s legal adviser John Bellinger III, CIA director Michael Hayden and his acting general counsel John Rizzo are all “believed to have seen it.”

Given the documented abuses at Abu Ghraib, President Bush would be wise to actually read reports like the Red Cross’s before definitively declaring “we don’t torture.”

Digg It!

Air force study contradicts Bush rhetoric.

Thu, 2007-08-09 10:08

“A US withdrawal from Iraq may be ‘impossible to resist‘ unless violence against civilians falls substantially,” a new study funded by the Air Force warns. “The US commitment to Iraq should not be open ended. … If US forces cannot reduce the violence in Iraq, their continued presence and the further expenditure of US treasure and lives will prove unsustainable, even if their presence is achieving other objectives,” the study said.

ABC, NBC presidential debate video on YouTube.

Thu, 2007-08-09 09:50 announced that NBC and ABC have joined CNN in allowing footage from the presidential debates available to be “legally shared, blogged, excerpted and put on sites like YouTube.” CBS has not yet announced its policy, and Fox News says it will not share its Republican debate video.

Conservative Blogs, Newspapers Spin Durbin’s ‘Very Discouraging’ Iraq Assessment

Thu, 2007-08-09 09:08

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) recently returned from a trip to Iraq and reported that, while he sees some signs of quietude in select areas, the larger mission is doomed because political reconciliation is “coming apart”:

There were two important parts of this story, the military part as Senator [Bob] Casey said, where men and women were doing their best and making real progress. […]

But I have to tell you there’s another side to this story…As we are seeing military progress, the political scene is very discouraging. We are seeing this al Maliki government, which was once branded the government of unity, coming apart. We see Shia’s leaving, Sunnis walking out. It’s not the kind of promise that we want in terms of bringing stability to this country.

Watch it:

Durbin explained further on NPR: “I think we’re making some measurable progress but it’s slow-going. And the fact that as our troops show some progress towards security, the government of this nation is moving in the opposite direction. This is really unsustainable with the American people.”

But, the conservative blogosphere, desperate to maintain Bush’s escalation, have spun and distorted Durbin’s claims. Rather than recognize what Durbin actually said — that the escalation lacks a political solution — conservatives conveniently noted only one of “the two important parts of this story”:

Red State: “Well, lo and behold, Democratic Senators Durbin (the #2 ranking Democrat in the Senate) and Casey, after actually visiting Iraq, now admit that the surge is, in fact, making precisely the military progress that Senator Reid declared to be impossible.”

Power Line: Some Democrats have noticed that the “surge” is producing results on the ground in Iraq

National Review: Dick Durbin says the surge is “making real progress”

Even some newspapers such as the D.C. Examiner and the New York Sun echoed the conservative spin, giving false impressions about Durbin’s assessment:

New York Sun: Durbin “is conceding that the surge of American troops has led to military progress in Iraq. [Durbin] could open the door for the majority party in Congress to pivot away from its insistence on a deadline for an American retreat.”

DC Examiner: The U.S. military surge…is working. Even as vocal a war critic as Deputy Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has now acknowledged as much, telling CNN that the U.S. military is “making real progress.”

In fact, as General Wesley Clark said at the YearlyKos conference last week, military “progress” alone in the escalation cannot forge a sustainable peace in Iraq.

“We can’t succeed in Iraq with the numbers of troops, no matter how good they are,” Clark said, “because you can’t succeed in this war just by killing people or intimidating the opposition. Dave Petraeus would be the first one to tell you that. The military’s part of the solution. It’s not the answer. The answer’s the politics.”

UPDATE: Carpetbagger has more.

AT&T censors Pearl Jam’s criticism of Bush.

Thu, 2007-08-09 08:44

During their performance at Lollapalooza on Sunday, fans at the venue heard grunge rockers Pearl Jam insert the words “George Bush, leave this world alone” and “George Bush find yourself another home” into their song “Daughter.” Fans watching AT&T’s “Blue Room” Live Lollapalooza Webcast, however, did not, as singer Eddie Vedder’s voice was muted:

When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the webcast. […]

This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media.

AT&T’s actions strike at the heart of the public’s concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media.

More on AT&T and other telecoms power to “mute” voices here.

Fox’s Shep Smith pledges not to do ‘more crap’ news.

Thu, 2007-08-09 07:41

In an interview with TV Guide, Fox News Channel’s Shepard Smith discussed changes being planned for his show:

We have to do more news. We’ve already given up the “coming up” teasing that we were known for in the early days. We’ve taken all of that time and put it into content. We did that because viewers said that’s what they wanted. Viewers have said, “Stop telling me for 45 seconds what you’re going to do in the next four minutes.” So we have. We’re not going to do more crap. We’re not going to do more titillating [stories], Hollywood-movie reviews and jokes. We’re going to do less of that. There are other places that do that better than we do. I don’t make any apologies for the way we’ve done it in the past. There was an atmosphere where it was acceptable because people didn’t have so much of it. We need to do news.

Bush to hold press conference this morning.

Thu, 2007-08-09 06:48

The AP reports, “President Bush, clearing the decks before his August vacation, called a news conference for Thursday. The president was expected to face questions about the war in Iraq, now in its fifth year, political unrest in nuclear-armed Pakistan, an ally in the war on terrorism, and the deteriorating state of bridges in the United States, dramatized by last week’s collapse of the span over the Mississippi River at Minneapolis.” It is schedule to take place at 10:30 am EST.

ThinkFast: August 9, 2007

Thu, 2007-08-09 06:02

President Bush is “scheduled to arrive in Kennebunkport today, staying through the weekend for a wedding.” The White House says it is not a “vacation,” but rather a “recess.” The Bushes will host French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Cecilia, on Saturday.

“A soft-spoken teacher [who] posted the words ‘Impeach Bush’ in a public garden” has been “cast as an outlaw.” The Plain-Dealer reports “the case is emerging as a free-speech issue of interest well beyond the boundaries of placid Portage County.”

The New York Times notes that President Bush’s unpopularity is taking a toll on his father. “It wears on his heart…and his soul,” longtime aide Ron Kaufman said. Some “close to the former president say it is clear that the father has been dissatisfied with the performance of some of his son’s aides, notably Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former secretary of defense.”

Bush “said yesterday that he is considering a fresh plan to cut tax rates for U.S. corporations to make them more competitive around the world.” With most of his legislative agenda in tatters and “his strategy in Iraq under bipartisan fire, Bush appears eager to return to familiar issues that animated the beginning of his presidency and might rally disaffected Republicans behind him again.”

The effort to reduce the size of Guantanamo “has been hampered by a laundry list of diplomatic, legal and political challenges, including the unwillingness of some countries to accept detainees and concerns about human rights abuses in others.” The Pentagon has suggested a goal to release up to 150 of the 360 men, “which would leave about 210 who they say could be eligible for war crimes trials or should be held indefinitely.” (more…)

FISA bill boosts conservatives’ morale.

Wed, 2007-08-08 20:10

Robert Novak reports, “With congressional Republicans’ morale in a steady decline, the adjournment for the August recess found the GOP in high spirits thanks to winning the anti-terrorist eavesdropping bill. That trumped Democratic passage of an energy bill in the final House session last Saturday night. The importance is that Democrats still flinch when they come face to face with President George W. Bush on terrorism.”

Roadside bomb attacks reach all-time high.

Wed, 2007-08-08 19:39

The Independent reports, “Roadside bomb attacks on American troops in Iraq reached an all-time high last month, accounting for more than one third of all combat deaths.”

Right-Winger Accuses Iraq Vet Of ‘Stabbing’ His ‘Fellow Men And Women In Uniform’ In The Back

Wed, 2007-08-08 16:53

During a debate on MSNBC’s Hardball this evening, retired Air Force Lt. Colonel Robert “Buzz” Patterson, a right-wing radio host, gratuitously attacked Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz, the chairman of, exclaiming “I am so happy you’re not serving in Iraq right now, stabbing your fellow men and women in uniform like you do back in the states.”

Patterson claimed that Soltz didn’t know what he was talking about because he “didn’t get the memo” that “we’re fighting al Qaeda in Iraq.” “You know what, I don’t need the memo because I was in Iraq,” responded Soltz. “You read the newspaper, I was in Iraq. That’s the difference between you and I.”

Patterson muttered back that he had “been to Iraq too,” but Soltz laughed at his claim. “Are you talking about your rah-rah-sis-kum-bah cheerleader tours that the White House took you on or are you talking about as a soldier who took the country?” Watch it:

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The fact that “Buzz” Patterson would accuse a political opponent such as Soltz of betraying his fellow Americans should come as no surprise. In a May 2007 interview with National Review Online, Patterson accused “Democrat politicians, big media, academia, popular culture, and nongovernmental organizations” of forming “a Fifth Column” that is “facilitating defeat against Islamo-fascism.”

Additionally, Patterson’s only experience in Iraq was part of a dog-and-pony show tour of Iraq. In 2005, Patterson, along with four other conservative talk show hosts, traveled to Iraq on a “truth tour” to tell “the good news that the old-line liberal news media won’t tell you about.” That visit was shepherded by the Office of Media Outreach, a taxpayer-funded publicity arm of the Department of Defense.

Patterson has never been interested in debating the merits of redeployment; instead, he repeatedly falls back on accusing Bush critics of treason. And yet he’s given a high-profile platform to spout his over-the-top rhetoric.

Digg It!

Transcript: (more…)

Brits expect U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Wed, 2007-08-08 16:00

The Guardian reports, “British officials believe that Washington will signal its intention to reduce US troop numbers after a much-anticipated report next month by its top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, clearing the way for Gordon Brown to announce a British withdrawal in parliament the following month. An official said: ‘We do believe we are nearly there.’”

Countering Ann Coulter.

Wed, 2007-08-08 15:30

In a surprising twist, groups typically attacked by controversial ultra-conservative Ann Coulter are glad to see her visiting Xavier University next month in Cincinnati. “They are asking for $5 donations for student groups ‘who represent the values Coulter vilifies in her speeches and writings.’ … Groups opposed to Coulter’s views are planning a separate forum and rally, also on campus, where they say they will distribute the funds.”

“Every protest and every heckler she attracts wherever she appears means more publicity for her and bigger speaking fees,” said Patrick McNearny, president of the Xavier Gay-Straight Alliance. “We are glad to be able to do something different that is a win for the Xavier community.”

Rep. Kanjorski: Minnesota legislators ’screwed us.’

Wed, 2007-08-08 15:06

Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) thinks the $250 million bill Congress passed to rebuild the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis was a ripoff because it exceeded the normal $100 million limit for emergency relief projects. Said Kanjorski: Minnesotans “discovered they were going to get all the money from the federal government and they were taking all they could get,” he said. They took the opportunity “to screw us,” he said. Congress stipulated that the funds be used for bridge repair.

After Propagating False Iraq Intel, NYT’s Michael Gordon Now Echoing Bush Claims On Iran

Wed, 2007-08-08 14:09

In today’s New York Times, reporter Michael Gordon uncritically reports that the increase in “attacks on American forces” is the result of “a lethal type of roadside bomb said to be supplied by Iran.” Gordon’s piece relies primarily on a single military source, fails to challenge the source’s information, and casually dismisses contrary opinions as the complaints of “some critics of Bush.”

In February and July, Gordon similarly promoted Bush administration charges with a “one-sided array of anonymous sources charging the Iranian government with providing a particularly deadly variety of roadside bomb to Shia militias in Iraq.” Gordon’s reports were disputed by high-profile officials including Gen. Peter Pace.

Gordon engaged in similar exaggerated misreporting in the lead-up to war with Iraq. Along with disgraced New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Gordon relied on anonymous sources to propagate the administration’s case for war in a series of front-page exclusives.

In September 2002, for instance, the duo reported:

Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb…Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes.

On the same day it was published, Vice President Dick Cheney cited the Times piece during his appearance on Meet the Press, and the White House featured its lead on its website.

Five days later, when Miller and Gordon “learned that the tubes were in fact a subject of debate among intelligence agencies” they buried their reservations “deep in an article on Page A13.”

During a discussion about Bush’s escalation strategy on the Charlie Rose Show, Gordon disclosed his personal agenda, saying: “I think it’s worth it one last effort for sure to try to get this right.” He was rebuked by the public editor of the New York Times for stepping “over the line.”

Like the administration’s architects of the Iraq war, Gordon’s past failures have not prevented him playing a leading role in shaping U.S. national security issues.

Igor Volsky

Romney equates sons’ campaigning to military service.

Wed, 2007-08-08 12:35

At an “Ask Mitt Anything” forum this morning in Iowa, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) was asked about why his sons have not served in the military. His response:

My sons are adults. They’ve chosen not to serve in the military in active duty and I respect their decision in that regard. … And one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.

Bush makes delayed phone call to Bonds.

Wed, 2007-08-08 12:08

President Bush called Barry Bonds to congratulate him for breaking Hank Aaron’s mark as the all-time homerun king. The White House was apparently in no rush to make the call. “It was after noon before the president finally called, spending about three minutes on the phone.” Why the delay? The Swamp speculates:

Might this have had anything to do with the suspicion of steroid use by the San Francisco Giant who has batted his 756th homer?

“Right now, there is a leaguewide investigation going on in regard to steroid use,” Snow, said, and the president encourages the pursuit of that investigation and also thanks senators for pressing it.

Last week, ThinkProgress noted, “Should Bonds break the home run record sometime this week, Bush will face the question of whether or not he should call to congratulate the new all-time home run king and give legitimacy to a tainted record. It should be noted, however, that his hands are hardly clean on the issue.”

After Four Years of Certainty, McCain ‘Not Positive We Can Win’ In Iraq

Wed, 2007-08-08 11:31

During debate in the Senate last month, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) attacked his colleagues who demanded a strategic redeployment out of Iraq by asking, “The terrorists are in this war to win it. The question is, are we?”

It appears McCain’s answer to his own question is no. At a fundraiser for his presidential campaign last night, he conceded, “I’m not positive we can win this fight”:

“I’m not positive we can win this fight,” he told about 150 people at a $50-a-person fundraiser in a Highland Township barn. “But I believe we’re winning. The Anbar province is dramatically better and Baghdad has some neighborhoods that are much more secure.”

McCain’s doubts come after four years of predicting easy victory in Iraq:

– “Because I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women.” [CNN, 9/24/02]

– “But the point is that, one, we will win this conflict. We will win it easily.” [MSNBC, 1/22/03]

– “[I]t’s going to be long, tough, very difficult, but … we can win.” [PBS, 11/10/05]

– “I believe that we can succeed and I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic.” [CBS, 4/8/07]

– “We’re going to win. We will. We will never surrender.” [AP, 4/18/07]

Previously, McCain has attacked senators who have expressed doubts about the mission in Iraq like those he voiced yesterday, accusing them of “embrac[ing] the policy of surrender” and “waving a white flag to al Qaeda.”

Jordan Grossman

Leahy sets new due date for WH subpoenas.

Wed, 2007-08-08 11:03

In a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding today, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) set a new return date of August 20 for subpoenas served to the executive branch in June. After the White House missed the original due date of July 18, Leahy granted them an extension until Aug. 1, which they also missed. Leahy writes:

Despite my patience and flexibility, you have rejected every proposal, produced none of the responsive documents, provided no basis for any claim of privilege and no accompanying log of withheld documents. I had been requesting this information for an extended time before issuing the subpoenas.

I am setting as the new return date for these four subpoenas August 20,2007, at 2:30 p.m. I look forward to compliance with the Judiciary Committee’s June 27, 2007 subpoenas to the White House Office, the Office of the Vice President, the National Security Council, and the Department of Justice.

Read the letter HERE.

REPORT: ‘The Next Few Months’ On Iraq That Never End

Wed, 2007-08-08 10:26

The Bush administration and its supporters have pledged to Americans time and again during the past four years that the “next few months” in Iraq will be the “decisive, critical period” of the war.

The implication has always been that U.S. forces just need to hold on a little while longer for things to get better. Using an interactive timeline tool, the Center for American Progress has catalogued the broken record of false claims we’ve been hearing. Some examples:

TOM FRIEDMAN: It might be over in a week, it might be over in a month, it might be over in six months, but what’s the rush? Can we let this play out, please?” [NPR, 6/3/04]

DICK CHENEY: I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency. [Larry King Live, 5/30/05]

JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT): By the end of this year, we will begin to draw down significant numbers of American troops. [Washington Post, 7/7/06]

JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): If you talk to most military experts, we’re in a critical and crucial time. We’re either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months.” [Meet The Press, 11/12/06]

ZALMAY KHALILZAD: Iraq Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki “has a window of a couple months. … If the perception is that this unity government is not able to deal with this issue, then a big opportunity would have been lost.” [Washington Post, 9/30/06]

Four years later, Iraq is still plagued with violence and political instability. Since the beginning of the invasion, 3,679 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died. “August has begun with a wave of U.S. troop deaths,” and Iraq’s unity government remains in disarray.

The United States has no good options given the strategic and tactical mistakes made in Iraq since 2002, but simply staying the course with an indefinite military presence is not advancing U.S. interests.

For a progressive strategy on the way forward in Iraq, read “Strategic Reset,” the Center for American Progress’s plan for reclaiming control of U.S. security in the Middle East.

Igor Volsky