Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wounded soldiers silenced

Walter Reed patients told to keep quiet

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.

The soldiers said they were also told their first sergeant has been relieved of duty, and that all of their platoon sergeants have been moved to other positions at Walter Reed.

The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.
h/t nickpicker

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The devil's distraction

ThinkProgress highlight's Jerry Falwell's declaration that global warming is a trick by Satan to distract the faithful.

Personally, I've never understood the hostility of fundamentalists towards climate science, other than that it comes as a package with their whole-hearted embrace of the Republican party. I was more interested in another statement of Falwell's:
Falwell told his Baptist congregation in Lynchburg yesterday that "the jury is still out" on whether humans are causing -- or could stop -- global warming.
This is the typical global warming denialist tactic: There is no global warming, you can't prove we're causing global warming, we don't know enough to start addressing the problem and it's too late for us to stop it now anyway.

Fareed Zakaria's recent article fell into this trap, playing right into the nonsense talking point: It's getting hotter, we can't stop it, just get used to it. Our first course of action needs to be to stop stoking the fire.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Canadian View of Afghanistan

Is the country collapsing?

It's hard to overstate just how badly things are going at the moment, according to Barnett R. Rubin of New York University, a leading scholar on Afghanistan.

Otherwise, he warns, the resurgent Taliban, record opium production and a moribund reconstruction effort will push the country into chaos.

"It's not just about a military strategy," Masty says, "it's about who owns the process, and that should be the people of Afghanistan. Not just warlords and politicians in Kabul but real people in real villages."

"Afghans seriously believe that the $16 billion [US] in aid that the country has received since 2001 has been stolen or wasted."

Rubin also believes, along with every other Afghanistan expert contacted for this article, that the United States has yet to take its Afghan campaign seriously enough to invest the time, troops and resources that the situation requires. That might be changing, he says, but the war in Iraq, tensions with Iran and other pressing international demands could just as easily divert U.S. attention yet again from a country that's known nothing but war for the past 30 years.

[A]t the moment, Gannon says, the Afghan police are widely seen by the public as corrupt and untrustworthy. Police officers are often involved in violent crime, she says, often for understandable reasons.
Canada has roughly 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, mostly stationed in the south, where much of the fighting has taken place. Since 2002, 44 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Bush uses the threat of the Democratic Congress to motivate Musharraf

Bush to warn leader of Pakistan on aid

WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush has decided to send an unusually tough message to one of his most important allies, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces became far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda, senior administration officials say.

[T]he White House has ruled out unilateral strikes against the training camps that American spy satellites are monitoring in North Waziristan, in Pakistan's tribal areas on the border. The fear is that such strikes would result in what one administration official referred to as a "shock to the stability" of Musharraf's government.

If his government collapses, it is not clear who would succeed him or who would gain control over Pakistan's arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Congressional Democrats have threatened to review military assistance and other aid to Pakistan unless they see evidence of aggressive attacks on Al Qaeda. The House last month passed a measure linking future military aid to White House certification that Pakistan "is making all possible efforts to prevent the Taliban from operating in areas under its sovereign control."

American intelligence officials have made an assessment that senior Qaeda leaders in Pakistan have re-established significant control over their global network and are training operatives in some of the camps for strikes on Western targets.
According to the article, British and American intelligence agencies have linked al Qaeda camps in Pakistan to plans to blow up airliners over the Atlantic. This puts the lie to the comment by General Schoomaker, that capturing bin Laden would have little effect on threats to the United States.

For too many years, America has been distracted from its original fight. We need to discard the absurd and meaningless declaration of "war on Terror" and rededicate ourselves to destroying al Qaeda.

A Rube Goldberg policy for fixing the Middle East

Excerpts from Seymour Hersh's recent article on America's Middle East policy:


The Administration’s new policy for containing Iran seems to complicate its strategy for winning the war in Iraq. Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran and the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued, however, that closer ties between the United States and moderate or even radical Sunnis could put “fear” into the government of Prime Minister Maliki and “make him worry that the Sunnis could actually win” the civil war there. Clawson said that this might give Maliki an incentive to coöperate with the United States in suppressing radical Shiite militias, such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.


The Administration’s effort to diminish Iranian authority in the Middle East has relied heavily on Saudi Arabia and on Prince Bandar, the Saudi national-security adviser. Bandar served as the Ambassador to the United States for twenty-two years, until 2005, and has maintained a friendship with President Bush and Vice-President Cheney.

This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

The Saudi said that, in his country’s view, it was taking a political risk by joining the U.S. in challenging Iran: Bandar is already seen in the Arab world as being too close to the Bush Administration. “We have two nightmares,” the former diplomat told me. “For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I’d rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.”


I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State.

The government consultant said that Negroponte shared the White House’s policy goals but “wanted to do it by the book.” The Pentagon consultant also told me that “there was a sense at the senior-ranks level that he wasn’t fully on board with the more adventurous clandestine initiatives.” It was also true, he said, that Negroponte “had problems with this Rube Goldberg policy contraption for fixing the Middle East.”

Iraq has become particularly dangerous for minority communities

From the Independent:

Exodus' of Iraq's ancient minorities

Iraq's minorities, some of the oldest communities in the world, are being driven from the country by a wave of violence against them because they are identified with the occupation and easy targets for kidnappers and death squads. A "huge exodus" is now taking place, according to a report by Minority Rights Group International.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says 30 per cent of the 1.8 million Iraqis who have fled to Jordan, Syria and elsewhere come from the minorities.

The Christians, who have lived in Iraq for 2,000 years, survived the Muslim invasion in the 7th century and the Mongol onslaught in the 13th but are now being eradicated as their churches are bombed and members of their faith hunted down and killed along with other minority faiths.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Leaving Basra: proof of success or failure?

Dick Cheney has praised the British decision to pull troops out of Basra, claiming that it's "an affirmation that in parts of Iraq...things are going pretty well." This has been echoed by other officials in the Bush administration, including Stephen Hadley,"So this is basically a good news story, an indication that progress is being made, and that events on the ground permit this kind of adjustment in forces"

Other's dispute that assessment, noting that the British take regular mortar fire from insurgents in the South. From the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, we get this bleak assessment of the situation in Basra, and some predictions for the fallout once British forces finally leave:
The Calm before the Storm: The British Experience in Southern Iraq

[Basra] has suffered one of the worst reversals of fortune of any area in Iraq since the fall of Saddam’s regime. Once a relatively calm part of postwar Iraq, where multinational forces were able to undertake community policing at acceptable risk without helmets or body armor, Basra has since been overwhelmed by a storm of violence and disorder, becoming an area where it is impossible to undertake road moves without heavily armored vehicles. Although it was one of the more liberal and cosmopolitan areas in Iraq during the 1980s, Basra has transformed into a bastion of Islamist groups and their associated militias, afflicted with high levels of insurgent and criminal activity. From being the heart of Iraq’s oil industry, Basra is increasingly a kleptocracy used by Islamist militias to fill their war chests.

The ongoing weakness of Iraqi security forces became increasingly apparent in the early months of 2005 as Basra witnessed unprecedented levels of political violence and crime. Criminal factions, both in Basra and the tribal areas north of the city, undertook high levels of carjacking, kidnapping, and oil smuggling. The January elections were marred by violent intimidation beforehand and equally brutal recriminations afterward. Basra’s politically neutral police chief Hassan al-Sade stated that he trusted no more than a quarter of his officers and that another 50 percent owed their primary loyalty to militias. Using militiamen serving in the security forces, Sadrist factions and SCIRI affiliates such as Badr and Thar Allah accelerated their intimidation of local university professors, trade unionists, and other secular figures. Most Iraqis were forced under the protective umbrella of enforced party membership, and those who attempted to make a stand were intimidated and sometimes killed.
The authors' predictions:
In the coming year, the drawdown of British forces in the deep south will likely be accompanied by an upsurge of factional violence as the long-delayed fight for local supremacy begins in earnest.

The political parties, and particularly Muqtada al-Sadr’s organization, will struggle to control a fragmenting range of local militias, most of which have become thoroughly intertwined with criminal enterprises. Such militias and their attached politicians will compete violently at the local level, but they will also periodically close ranks whenever foreign or national interlopers seek to reestablish some degree of control over the deep south or restore a modicum of personal security to the populace. In essence, the deep south has become a “kleptocracy” where well-armed political-criminal mafiosi have locked both the central government and the people out of power. As journalist Steve Negus wrote in August 2006: “The region’s political parties have done almost nothing for the common good. Those with street credibility and a militia now have the power. . . . A year ago, people were clamoring for greater autonomy from Baghdad. Some people in this anarchic port city are now calling for the central government to save them from their elected leaders.”

If and when delayed provincial elections are held, their fairness will be heavily curtailed by four years of militia control and the obliteration of secular liberal opposition.

Such an outcome contrasts sharply with Britain’s hopes for the deep south. In January 2003, Britain’s vision for postwar Iraq was “a stable, united and law abiding state within its present borders, cooperating with the international community, no longer posing a threat to its neighbors or to international security, abiding by all its international obligations and providing effective representative government to its own people.” By February 2006, the British Ministry of Defense announced less lofty conditions for withdrawal.

Instead of a stable, united, law-abiding region with a representative government and police primacy, the deep south is unstable, factionalized, lawless, ruled as a kleptocracy, and subject to militia primacy. Brig. James Everard, commander of British forces in MND(SE) until November 2006, noted darkly: “Freedom of speech, freedom of expression: it just hasn’t quite worked out the way it was planned. They’re just not prepared to debate. They tend to do things at the end of a gun.” The senior British intelligence officer in Basra concurred, stating, “There are no moderate leaders here. We will not be leaving behind a Westernized democracy—and there will be a certain amount of killing once we go.” In the light of growing factional score-settling, the latter may soon appear to be an understatement.

Rudy's few bad apples

C Stanley responded to my comment on Rudy:
It seemed to me that he DID condemn a “few bad apples” on the force but he believed that the majority of the police force shouldn’t be condemned for the bad behavior of a few.
Here's what Time magazine had to say in their Man of the Year piece on Rudy:
Giuliani denounced the cops who brutalized Louima but defiantly backed those who killed Diallo and Dorismond. (In those cases, juries cleared the officers of wrongdoing.) After Dorismond was killed, Giuliani's instinct to defend the police led him to attack the unarmed victim; the mayor authorized release of Dorismond's juvenile records to "prove" his propensity for violence. The dead, Giuliani argued, waive their right to privacy. Even old friends and supporters were appalled. The man who had saved New York City saw his job-approval rating drop to 32%.
So Rudy denounced officers in the Louima case. That was a case in which a policeman bragged about sodomizing Louima. Here's a view of Rudy's reaction after reelection (article dated 1998) (behind the wall at NYT):
Giuliani Sneers, and Even Friends Bridle

Analysis of Mayor Rudolph W Giuliani's sarcastic response to final report of task force he created to examine relations between New York City's residents and Police Dept following beating and torture of Abner Louima in Brooklyn police station house; says Giuliani's dismissive attitude leaves open question of whether he ever intended to take panel's findings seriously, once he was re-elected; says even his supporters on panel could not mask their disappointment
And here's another (also 1998):

Mayor Rudolph W Giuliani caustically dismisses most of recommendations of task force he appointed last summer to examine relations between New York City's residents and its Police Dept; says panel failed to recognize department's recent success in reducing crime; Giuliani makes no mention of impetus behind task force--beating and torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in Brooklyn precinct station house; nor does he discuss any of panel's primary recommendations

Rudy Giuliani: stubborn and authoritarian?

C Stanley commenting at the Moderate Voice wonders why others dislike Rudy Giuliani:
I presume that your objections to Guiliani relate to the comparisons with Bush: stubbornness, authoritarianism, etc.

But what specifically in Guiliani’s history lead you to believe this?
Here's a little background from the Wikipedia site:
During [the post 9/11] period, Giuliani sought an unprecedented three-month emergency extension of his term, from its scheduled expiration on January 1 to April 1, due to the circumstances of the emergency besetting the city. He threatened to challenge the law imposing term limits on elected New York City officials and run for another full four-year term, if the primary candidates did not consent to permit the extension of his mayoralty.
Rudy thought he was the only person capable of seeing New York through the post 9/11 crisis. He threatened candidates during the campaign to that effect. That demonstrates a huge amount of arrogance and stubbornness.

Here's some more on Rudy's pre-9/11 term as Mayor:
[A] number of tragic cases of abuse of authority took place, and numerous allegations of civil rights abuses were leveled. Giuliani's own Deputy Mayor, Rudy Washington, alleged that he had been harassed by police on several occasions. More controversial still were several police shootings of unarmed suspects, and the scandals surrounding the brutalization of Abner Louima and the killing of Amadou Diallo. In a case less nationally-publicized than those of Louima and Diallo, unarmed bar patron Patrick Dorismond was killed shortly after declining the overtures of what turned out to be an undercover officer soliciting illegal drugs. Even while hundreds of outraged New Yorkers protested, Giuliani staunchly supported the New York City Police Department, going so far as to take the unprecedented step of releasing Dorismond's "extensive criminal record" to the public.
For Giuliani, the police could do no wrong. Even when innocent me were killed, he showed no sorrow for the deaths, instead he villified the victims. He never condemned "a few bad apples" or mourned tragic mistakes. He celebrated the acquittal after the Diallo trial. To him, that was a complete vindication. There was no need for better police training or a change in his crime policy. In fact, he worries that suspects have too many rights. That's authoritarianism.

Apparently, a documentary has been made to highlight the less well know side of Rudy's character:

'Giuliani Time' Recalls Ex-Mayor's Less Heroic Deeds

The film tarries at that unfortunate pass in Giuliani's mayoralty: Hizzoner's tone-deaf reaction to a growing outcry about police brutality and thousands of questionable arrests. In 2000, undercover officers shot to death Patrick Dorismond, a black security guard, during a drug crackdown. (Dorismond, as it turns out, had no involvement with drugs. He thought the undercover cops were robbers, and was shot while resisting arrest.) Afterward, Giuliani directed his officials to unseal the man's juvenile record and opined that Dorismond was "no altar boy."

The film also shines a light on Giuliani's record as associate attorney general in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department, where he led efforts to deport Haitian boat people.

"Repression," Giuliani announces after returning from a meeting with President Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, "simply does not exist now" in Haiti.
That's the Rudy Giuliani I remember. The pre-9/11 mayor of New York city. Completely dismissive of civil liberties worries or government excesses.

Bill Richardson, diplomat for president

Diplomacy, Not War, With Iran

No nation has ever been forced to renounce nuclear weapons, but many have chosen to do so. The Iranians will not end their nuclear program because we threaten them and call them names. They will renounce nukes because we convince them that they will be safer and more prosperous if they do that than if they don't. This feat will take more than threats and insults. It will take skillful American diplomatic leadership.

Nuclear weapons are expensive to design, expensive to build, dangerous to own and fatal to use. That’s the reason most countries don’t try to make them. Iran is pursuing its nuclear program more in spite of America than for need. If we convinced them that any nuclear attack on Israel would be considered an attack by Iran against the U.S. they’d have serious reasons to invite inspectors in to prove their research was exclusively peaceful. (This was the strategy used by Kennedy to convince the Soviets to pull nukes from Cuba).

Quit making excuses and catch bin Laden

The Huffington Post points out this article:

General says eliminating bin Laden not priority

The Army's highest-ranking officer and the former leader of the secretive world of Special Operations offered his thoughts on the importance of capturing or killing Osama bin Laden during a luncheon here Friday.

"I don't know whether we'll find him," Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, said in a speech to the Rotary Club of Fort Worth. "I don't know that it's all that important, frankly."

Schoomaker, pulled out of retirement in 2003 to lead the Army, pointed to the capture of Saddam Hussein, the killings of his sons, Uday and Qusay, and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as evidence that bin Laden's capture or death would have little effect on the threats to the United States.

"So we get him, and then what?" Schoomaker said. "There's a temporary feeling of goodness, but in the long run, we may make him bigger than he is today. He's hiding, and he knows we're looking for him. We know he's not particularly effective. I'm not sure there's that great of a return" on capturing or killing bin Laden.
Killing Uday, Qusay and Saddam had little effect on threats to the U.S. because they weren't a threat in the first place.

Osama helped organize and fund the largest terrorist attack on the United States and followed it up with attacks in Madrid and London. Indonesia has also suffered severely. Al Qaeda has found a new safe haven in Pakistan, the one Islamic nation with nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. Pakistan is also the most famous nuclear weapons proliferator in the world. A. Q. Khan lives comfortably at home and is regarded a national hero. If bin Laden ever gets a nuclear bomb, this is where he'll get it.

Despite what the General said, we are not actively hunting for bin Laden. Pakistan has halted operations in Waziristan and the Taliban are now resurgent. The U.S. has refused to pursue Taliban and al Qaeda forces into Pakistan with its own forces.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Britain will increase the number of troops in Afghanistan

Britain intends to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, even as it pulls out troops from Iraq. Dick Cheney praised the pullout, suggesting it affirmed progress in the country. He then denounced the Democrat's plan to do the same thing, claiming that would "validate al Qaeda".

Iraq leader welcomes troops' exit

Tony Blair's plan to recall 1,600 British troops from Iraq within the next few months has been welcomed by the country's president.

Jalal Talabani's spokesman said it was a "welcome catalyst" that would force Iraqi forces to take responsibility for the country's security.

"But Basra is still, in Tony Blair's words, a difficult and dangerous place, which means that this is far short of the victory they wanted in 2003 but something, they hope, short of a total defeat."
The BBC report has an interesting chart of the number of British forces in Iraq over the last few years, with a high of more than 40,000 in early 2003, dropping to less than 20,000 that May and less than 10,000 in May 2004.

EXCLUSIVE: Cheney Says British Troop Withdrawal Is Positive Sign

"Well, I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," Cheney told ABC News' Jonathan Karl.

"In fact, I talked to a friend just the other day who had driven to Baghdad down to Basra, seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved from a year or so ago, sort of validated the British view they had made progress in southern Iraq and that they can therefore reduce their force levels," Cheney said.

Cheney also had harsh words for Democratic leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., who says he wants to stop the surge of more U.S. troops into Iraq.

"I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat," Cheney told the soldiers.

Increase in troops to Afghanistan

The number of British troops in Afghanistan is set to rise Britain is to increase its military presence in southern Afghanistan by about 800 troops to 5,800.

But the UK's overall deployment in Afghanistan will only increase by 300 because the military is also reducing its presence in Kabul by 500 personnel.

The British troops are part of a 32,000-strong Nato force which is currently based in Afghanistan.

25,000 rally in Kabul to give amnesty to warlords

Afghan warlords in amnesty rally

Around 25,000 people have rallied in the Afghan capital Kabul, calling for a proposed war crimes amnesty for former military commanders to be made law.

The upper house of parliament has passed the controversial bill but it has yet to be signed by the president.

Tens of thousands of people were killed and tortured during decades of war and unrest in the country.

If the bill were to become law, those who led fighting first as leaders of the anti-Soviet resistance during the 1980s and then during the 1992-1996 civil war would be immune to prosecution for war crimes.

The protesters, waving placards with pictures of political leaders, gathered in the city's Ghazi football stadium, where people were executed and tortured during the Taleban era.

"Whoever is against mujahideen is against Islam and they are the enemies of this country," former fighter Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, now an influential lawmaker, told the crowd of demonstrators.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

John McCain: we leave too much to the discretion of our judges

John McCain spoke to the Federalist Society on limited government last November. This is the speech where he puzzlingly declared that a majority of Americans consider themselves "right of center". Most of the speech focused on his views on activist judges, praising the confirmation of Bush's picks, and decrying Congress for writing laws that give judges "too much discretion".
Some basic attributes of judges follow from this understanding. They should be people who respect the limited scope afforded Federal judges under the Constitution. They should be people who understand that the Founders' concern about the expansive tendency of power extended to judicial power as well as to executive or legislative power. They should be people who are humbled by their role in our system, not emboldened by it. Our freedom is curtailed no less by an act of arbitrary judicial power as it is by an act of an arbitrary executive, or legislative, or state power. For that reason, a judge's decisions must rest on more than his subjective conviction that he is right, or his eagerness to address a perceived social ill.

The efforts we undertook a year and a half ago, working with Senators of both parties, who were concerned about abuses of the filibuster tradition, resulted in a substantial increase in the confirmation of the President's Circuit Court nominees. Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and Bill Pryor have all been confirmed, and this year Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The President nominated these individuals; I supported each of their nominations; and we fought successfully to confirm them. President Bush now has a higher percentage of his nominations confirmed to both the District Courts and the Circuit Courts than did President Clinton during his presidency. I am also proud to see Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Alito serving with such distinction on the Supreme Court.

They are good people, deserving people, and their decisions will be grounded in the text and history of the statute, regulation, or constitutional provision under consideration, and interpreted narrowly in light of the specific facts of the case before them.

Of course, to paraphrase Mr. Madison, if angels wrote laws, we wouldn't need judges at all. Unfortunately, angels don't write laws; Congress does. And we're called a lot of things, but no one would mistake us for angels. Too frequently, we write laws that are unclear, we vote on laws we haven't adequately debated, and sometimes, I am sad to report, we vote on laws we haven't even read. When we pass laws like that, we leave too much to the discretion of our Federal judges. We fail in our role to ensure that the judiciary's scope is limited. As we debate reforms to the practices and procedures of Congress, I hope, particularly we Republicans, will take an honest look at how we fail to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities when we write laws that invite judicial activism and misinterpretation.

Why these restraints on Federal judges? Because the structure of our government, by itself, will not assure our freedom. That structure, while it reduces the likelihood of tyranny, is only as strong as our commitment to the rule of law, and the rule of law depends largely on our judiciary's commitment not to impose its will arbitrarily on us.

That's why the appointment of Federal judges has become such a flashpoint issue for so many. Judges stand in our system where our commitment to limited government meets our commitment to the rule of law. To the extent that judges impose their own will, they undermine both the structure of limited government and the rule of law.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Judges Sentelle, Randolph: Congress can suspend habeas protections

In a 2-1 decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Guantanamo bay detainees the right of habeas corpus, citing a law passed by Congress in 2006 specifically denying them those rights. (Habeas corpus is the right of a prisoner to protest the legality of his imprisonment before a court.)
U.S. appeals court backs Bush, denies Gitmo detainees

U.S. citizens and foreigners being held inside the country normally have the right to contest their detention before a judge. The Justice Department said foreign enemy combatants are not protected by the Constitution.

[Judge A. Raymond] Randolph and Judge David B. Sentelle ordered that the hundreds of cases pending in the lower courts be dismissed.

Judge Judith W. Rogers dissented, saying the cases should proceed.
Here are some other opinions of Circuit Judge Sentelle:
Government correct not to publicly identify Sept. 11 detainees

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department properly withheld the names and other details about hundreds of foreigners detained in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal appeals court ruled today. The powerful decision was deferential to the Bush administration's arguments over continued threats to America from terrorists.

In a 2-1 ruling that represents a major victory for President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft, a panel from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia determined that disclosing such information could provide a roadmap of the government's Sept. 11 investigation for international terrorists.

Federal judges asked to compel such disclosures should defer to White House concerns that it might help the nation's enemies, the appeals panel said.

"America faces an enemy just as real as its former Cold War foes, with capabilities beyond the capacity of the judiciary to explore," wrote U.S. Circuit Judge David B. Sentelle. He said judges are "in an extremely poor position to second-guess the executive's judgment in this area of national security."

In a harsh dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge David S. Tatel accused his colleagues of "uncritical deference to the government's vague, poorly explained arguments for withholding broad categories of information about the detainees."

Junketing Judges: A Case of Bad Science

Just how far will corporate lobbyists go to tilt governmental decisions in their favor? Last fall, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Clean Air Act does not require regulating carbon dioxide emissions that are heating up the planet at an unprecedented rate. It turns out that two of the jurists who helped decide the case -- Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg and Judge David B. Sentelle -- attended a six-day global warming seminar at Yellowstone National Park sponsored by a free-market foundation and featuring presentations from companies with a clear financial interest in limiting regulation.

Sentelle was the deciding vote in the 2 to 1 ruling last fall backing the EPA's decision not to regulate, and he and Ginsburg were part of the 4 to 3 majority on the full court that rejected a request by states and environmental groups to reconsider. The Supreme Court will decide on June 15 whether to hear an appeal.

Punishing Good Journalists

Writing for the court, D.C. Circuit Court Judge David B. Sentelle ruled flatly that journalists have no constitutional right to be free from testifying before a grand jury. His hands are tied, he said, by a Supreme Court decision a generation ago, Branzberg v. Hayes, in which a divided court rejected the idea of a First Amendment privilege. The justices, Sentelle noted, wrote in Branzberg that they could "not seriously entertain the notion that the First Amendment protects a newsman's agreement to conceal the criminal conduct of his source, or evidence thereof, on the theory that it is better to write about a crime than to do something about it."

U.S. appeals court debates anti-piracy TV technology

U.S. Circuit Judge Harry Edwards told the Federal Communications Commission it "crossed the line" requiring the new anti-piracy technology in next-generation television devices. But another appeals judge on the panel questioned whether consumers can challenge the FCC's rules in the courtroom.

But Sentelle questioned whether the consumer and library groups can lawfully challenge the FCC decision, since the rules in question affect television viewers broadly. Appeals court procedures require groups to be able to show a particular injury before judges will consider a case; the FCC did not argue this point.

D.C. Circuit Judge Gets on Supreme Court Short List

In the July 2004 decision Barbour v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Roberts joined Merrick Garland -- a Clinton appointee -- in deciding that sovereign immunity did not bar a D.C employee with bipolar disorder from suing the transit agency under federal laws barring discrimination against the disabled. Conservative Sentelle dissented.

h/t thinkprogress

Bill Richardson: end torture, close the Guantanamo prison, live up to our ideals as Americans

Matthew Yglesias points us to this recent speech by Bill Richardson, where he details his foreign policy ideas. Focusing on the need for both strength and diplomacy, and reasserting American ideals of civil liberties and human rights, Richardson would end the war in Iraq within the calendar year, refocus on the al Qaeda threat, open a dialogue with Cuba, Syria and Iran and attack the problems of globalization:
[Y]ou know, in recent years American foreign policy has been guided more by dogma than by facts, more by ideology than by history, more by wishful thinking than by reality. This administration’s lack of realism has led us to a dangerous place. In an era of terrorism, they’ve squandered our military power, undermined our diplomatic leverage, and depleted our Treasury. They’ve emboldened our enemies and isolated us from our friends. They’ve confused our moral compass and compromised our national security.

So if America is to lead again, we need to remember this history and to rebuild our overextended military, increase the size of our Army, revive our alliances, and restore our reputation as a nation which respects international law, human rights, and civil liberties. There is really no time to lose, for we live today in perilous times in which policies shaped by fantasy and wishful thinking have already wreaked havoc and court further disaster.

There are six trends that are transforming our world. We need to understand them and we need to respond to all of them simultaneously.

1. Fanatical jihadism: This trend has been growing for years, but the invasion and collapse of Iraq has fueled its growth.

2. The growing power and sophistication of criminal and terrorist enterprises capable of disrupting the global economy and trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

3. The rapid rise of Asian economic and military power, especially China and India.

4. The reemergence of Russia as an increasingly assertive global and regional player

5. Globalization, unaccompanied by the growth of institutional capacities to manage its consequences.

6. Urgent and worsening health and environmental problems. Global warming and pandemics like AIDS do not respect national borders. And poverty, ethnic conflict and overpopulation also spill over borders, feeding what Moises Naim has called the five wars of globalization: drugs, arms trafficking, money laundering, intellectual property, and alien smuggling.

[W]e need to live up to our own ideals as Americans. So prisoner abuse – Abu Ghraib, torture, secret prisons – eavesdropping, evasion of the Geneva Convention must have no place in America’s foreign policy. If we want Muslims to open up to us, we should start by closing Guantanamo. We also need to pressure Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other friends to reform their education system, which five years after 9/11 are still incubators of anti-Americanism. And we must give a louder, more systematic voice to moderate American Muslims so that they can speak the truth about us and be heard.

The United States also needs to start paying attention to the Americas, to Latin America, our own backyard. The legal trafficking of drugs and persons across the Mexican border threatens America’s national security, so we need better border security and comprehensive immigration reform – reform that provides for a guest worker program with a realistic and earned path to legalization for the 12 million undocumented workers that are in the United States.

[W]e must abandon the ridiculous notion of building a fence along the border. ... No fence ever built has stopped history, and this won’t either. It just won’t work. Let’s use those funds for the border for real border enforcement, and I propose doubling the number of border guards to do just that.

I live with this issue every day as a border governor. Real security, real results with a fraction of the financial and political cost of building a fence is critically important.

America needs to lead the global fight against poverty, ... America needs to lead donors on debt relief, shifting aid from loans to grants, and a greater focus on primary health care and affordable vaccines. We should pressure pharmaceutical companies to allow expanded use of generic drugs, and we should stimulate public/private partnerships to reduce costs and enhance access to anti-malarial drugs and bed nets.

Most importantly, America should spearhead a Marshall plan for the Middle East and North Africa. For a small fraction of the cost of the Iraq war, which has made us so many enemies, we could make many friends.

Global climate change has to be part of that effort too. We should have an all-out assault, led by the United States, not just to rejoin the Kyoto Treaty, but to make up for lost time.

Q: Do you favor restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba? And do you favor ending the embargo that has lasted almost 50 years?

A: Taking the embargo off I believe is premature. I think there has to be a negotiation. I would get leaders of foreign – former presidents of Latin America to help me visualize a policy for a post-Castro Cuba where you push for a democratic transition, where you push for democracy, where you push for fair elections, where you push for long-term viability of that country and reintegrate it into the Americas.

Q: What do you think we should be doing in Iraq that we’re not doing today?

A: Here’s what I would do with Iraq: I would get out this calendar year,... find a way that that reconciliation conference, using the leverage of a withdrawal, brings forth a coalition government, a sharing of oil revenues, a sharing of Cabinet ministries, and a Dayton-type accord similar to Dayton – not a division, a splitting up of the country, that would bring territorial integrity and respect to the religious groups in Iraq.

Fighting tiny injustices

Matthew Yglesias seems overly disturbed by the Constitution's exclusion of foreign born citizens from the presidency.
People constantly seem to be forgetting about this, but the foreign-born are systematically excluded from the presidency for no real reason. Like a kid who immigrated to this country from Mexico at the age of two is seriously at risk of disloyalty, or we're all haunted by a deep, dark suspicion that Madeleine Albright may be a sleeper agent run by Czech intelligence. Thus, the popular moderate Republican governor of the country's largest state isn't considered a potential contender in 2008 and won't be a contender in 2012, either, because he was born in Austria.
I've got to say, in the scope of injustices, this ranks about as high as getting the wrong colored gum ball from a vending machine. We've got over 300 million citizens in this country. About a dozen will ever be president. Are we really going to amend the Constitution so Arnold Schwarzenegger can get his 1 in 20 million chance? If you really want to tinker with the Constitution, how about lobbying for an end to the Electoral College instead?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Things get worse in Afghanistan

Taliban Seize Rural District in Southwest as Police Flee

The police in Baqwa town warned their provincial headquarters that the Taliban were advancing in such large numbers they could not hold the district office, according to Baryalai Khan, the secretary to the provincial police chief.

Taliban forces have often overrun district offices in the past, sacking them and then usually leaving after a few hours. But this year they have seized and held entire regions.

What would you do with a crippled city?

A week ago Pete Abel asked his readers to identify five critical, governance-related questions that, should be asked of each of the candidates vying for the presidency. A draft list is now posted at his site Central Sanity. I don't have a list of 5, but there is one specific question I think should be answered by every candidate running:
What should we do about New Orleans?
In particular:
Should we commit to rebuilding New Orleans within its pre-Katrina boundaries?
Should we relocate all or part of the population to higher ground?
Or, should we allow nature and market forces to determine where we build and what we abandon?
This goes straight to one of the fundamental jobs of a national leader. What do you do when entire communties are destroyed and the people left stranded and homeless? Many have an opinion about New Orleans. It was built largely below sea level in an area prone to hurricanes and the risk was known for years. Some think the government was corrupt or unprepared. Some think the people took a gamble and lost.

But decisions need to be made, now. Few will invest in rebuilding their homes until they know the answer to that question. Will we commit to rebuilding a city below sea level, and grant it protection from the elements, like the Dutch or Venicians? Will we tell the people that we will no longer insure their financial safety if another storm comes? Will we even guarantee that we'll rebuild water and power systems for those who live in the highest risk areas?

This is an issue much bigger than New Orleans. Floods threaten communities all along the coast and up the Mississippi River, earthquakes threaten virtually every city on the west coast, fire and drought threaten more. If we're willing to abandon one city to its fate, are we willing to abandon all of them?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

in 2003, asking questions was the definition of media bias

Trolling through Google, I stumbled across an interesting post from early 2003. The Media Research Center, which bills itself as America's media watchdog "Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996" had issued its 1,435th CyberAlert. Complaining that Peter Jennings had aired comments critical of the administration's push for war, instead of simply reciting the party line without comment or analysis.
Jennings Again Delivers Most Anti-Bush Spin of the Night

CBS and NBC were satisfied Tuesday night to note how Secretary of State Colin Powell contended Osama bin Laden's audio tape offered proof of his links to Iraq and then to point out how others in the government fear it's a signal of an impending terrorist attack on the U.S. But ABC's Peter Jennings wasn't satisfied with just doing that. He once again offered the most anti-administration spin of the night with a trilogy of three stories addressing subjects not touched by CBS or NBC.

Jennings argued that “a lot of people say they’ve made the connection” between Iraq and al Qaeda, “but haven’t proved the connection.” Reporter Martha Raddatz seemed to imply the administration's tough line toward Iraq may cause more terrorism: “Well, there are some people, Peter, who are saying the administration has created this link, linking up al-Qaeda and Iraq, because of the possible invasion of Iraq. And many believe this may backfire, saying, 'Who stirred up this hornets nest?’”

Jennings charged that taking on al Qaeda and Iraq “might well be stretching the United States quite thin” before highlighting “dissatisfaction” on Capitol Hill from Bush Iraq policy opponents over plans for a post-war Iraq.

Jennings: “Well, certainly one thing this does today is point out that you’ve got Osama bin Laden on one hand, Saddam Hussein on the other, and this might well be stretching the United States quite thin.”
Raddatz: “Yes, remember the war on terrorism. It would certainly stretch the United States military thin, especially Arabic speakers, special forces and intelligence analysts.”

Setting up another story, on a hearing not mentioned by CBS or NBC, Jennings asserted: “There was more about Iraq on Capitol Hill today. And the headline is dissatisfaction. At a Senate hearing, Senators from both parties wanted to know what the Bush administration intends to do in Iraq after the military phase. ABC’s Linda Douglass reports that if you believe the witnesses today, the administration may not know.”
Throughout the post, we're told CBS and NBC were satisfied to simply report the party line. Jennings was constantly bringing up counter arguments. Questioning whether an attack on Iraq would divide our attention, drain resources from the fight on bin Laden and inflame the Muslim world. Mentioning that some Senators were concerned about what would happen after Saddam fell.

That was considered unacceptable bias in 2003. Today, even many Iraq war supporters wish more questions had been asked and plans made for the consequences of opening up a second war front.

This is what happens when you lose sight of the objective

In 2002 George Bush assured the country that opening up a new front in Iraq wouldn't detract from the fight against bin Laden.

Al Qaeda Chiefs Are Seen to Regain Power

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 — Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

The United States has also identified several new Qaeda compounds in North Waziristan, including one that officials said might be training operatives for strikes against targets beyond Afghanistan.

“Al Qaeda’s core elements are resilient”

“The chain of command has been re-established,” said one American government official, who said that the Qaeda “leadership command and control is robust.”

The emergence of a relative haven in North Waziristan and the surrounding area has helped senior operatives communicate more effectively with the outside world via courier and the Internet.

In a videotaped statement last year, Mr. Zawahri claimed responsibility for the July 2005 London suicide bombings.

Over the past year, insurgent tactics from Iraq have migrated to Afghanistan, where suicide bombings have increased fivefold and roadside bomb attacks have doubled. In testimony to the House Armed Services Committee last week, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the departing commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, said the United States could not prevail in Afghanistan and defeat global terrorism without addressing the havens in Pakistan.

Bill Richardson's foreign policy strategy

Here are some details on Bill Richardson's foreign policy strategy, from a speech he gave in July of 2006:
One, achieve national security through energy independence... reduce our dependency on foreign oil -- go from 65-percent to 20-percent by 2015; increase fuel efficiency; invest in green buildings and fuel cells; and become the leader of the future economic engine of the world - renewable energy, such as ethanol, solar and wind.

Two, re-build alliances and reinvigorate our allies. A far-sighted policy would have built a coalition to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Most immediately, we need an international coalition for peacekeeping in the Middle East.

Three, focus on the real dangers. Prioritize resources to fight Al Qaeda and Jihadist terrorists and the most urgent dangers, such as nuclear terrorism. That means a new strategy for success in Iraq that allows us to redeploy our troops.

Four, don't outsource our diplomacy. We need direct, face to face talks with North Korea. We should also talk directly with Iran.

Five, we need to pay attention to Latin America, our own back yard. The key is passing a comprehensive immigration plan now that includes enhanced border security, a path to legalization for the 11 million immigrants already here, and sanctions against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The House should stop holding these silly hearings. Mr. President, your good words on immigration should be followed by deeds to pass a comprehensive plan.

Six, face up to global environmental threats. The first thing this Administration did was reject the Kyoto Treaty. America should be the world's leader, and that means owning up to grave environmental dangers, such as global warming.

Finally, respect human rights and American values. Prisoner abuse, torture, secret prisons and evasion of the Geneva Accords should have no place in our foreign policy.

Off the Table

Digby points out Bill Richardson's approach to dealing with Iran:
Bill Richardson figured out a way to talk about Iran without sounding like he's talking underwater.
...we will not tolerate ill-conceived and unauthorized aggression against Iran. It would be a mistake for the US to take military action in Iran before exhausting all diplomatic avenues. Tough, direct diplomacy backed by strong international alliances can work. This is exactly the strategy that worked in North Korea and it can work in Iran.

I demand this administration start direct diplomacy with Iran immediately and stop the irresponsible aggression.

This administration has stubbornly refused to pursue real, honest diplomacy in Iran and engage our allies around the world to help negotiate a solution. Instead, they are pursuing a strategy of non-negotiation and threats of possible US military action. We are clear and united - we want negotiations now and no unauthorized and unwarranted attacks in Iran.
See how easy it is to not sound like like a Republican asshole? And to think he did it without making a fetish of saying "all options are on the table." Why, someone might even think the man has some experience doing this type of thing.
That last point is a slap at John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, both of whom used one of George Bush's favorite talking points to prove their mettle against the Iranians:

Although Edwards has criticized the war in Iraq, and has urged bringing the troops home, the former senator firmly declared that "all options must remain on the table," in regards to dealing with Iran, whose nuclear ambition "threatens the security of Israel and the entire world."
Clinton told some 1,700 AIPAC supporters that the US must take any step to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

"U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons," she said. "In dealing with this threat ... no option can be taken off the table."
JERUSALEM (AP) — In a stern warning to Iran, President Bush said "all options are on the table" if the Iranians refuse to comply with international demands to halt their nuclear program, pointedly noting he has already used force to protect U.S. security.
This is an important distinction, the Democratic candidate must be able to define foreign policy issues, not simply react to George Bush's assertion of the threats against us. Considering both Clinton and Edwards now claim they were deceived by the president into voting for the Iraq war, they should be particularly sensitive on this point.

Rudy Giuliani: credibility on national security?

I hear it all the time. In fact, I just heard it again on Face the Nation. Rudy Giuliani has credibility on national security issues. This appears to be based entirely on his actions on 9/11/2001. Rudy was visibly engaged coordinating the response to the attacks, frequently on radio and television reassuring the populace and showing resolve at a time when the President and Vice President were running and hiding at undisclosed locations. I've always given Rudy credit for that. But that proves he's capable at disaster management, not national security. From what I can see, he's no more an expert on national security than the members of the NYPD and NYFD who risked their lives that day.

I haven't yet seen anyone connect the dots between Rudy's credibility and substantive actions or strategies. Like the Giuliani supporters quoted before, everyone feels he's strong and capable, but they don't quite know why.

From the NYT:
“Giuliani may be in the best position of any of the Republican primary candidates on this because he uses very strong language in support of the war and its goals, but he doesn’t have to take simple up-or-down votes, like McCain does,” said Dan Schnur, a Republican political consultant who worked for Mr. McCain in 2000 but said he expected to sit out 2008. “He can voice the same ambivalence the voters feel.”

Polls suggest that Mr. Giuliani, far more than Mr. Romney, has credibility on terrorism and national security questions, and he and his aides see it as a central part of his appeal. When he speaks of possible setbacks in Iraq and a long fight against terrorists, analysts say, Mr. Giuliani enhances that image, sounding tough but realistic.

“I think it’s an effective pitch,” said Charles R. Black Jr., a Republican consultant who is not involved in the 2008 campaign. “The idea that the war on terror will go on for a generation plays to his strength.

In the past, Mr. Giuliani has often injected notes of pessimism into his comments on security, or warned of a protracted struggle. Campaigning for Republicans around the country last year, he often said that it was inevitable that the United States would be attacked again, and that the nation had no choice but to be at war with terrorists for many years.
So he uses strong language, believes the war will go on for generations and essentially guarantees that we'll suffer another attack. Is that reassuring?

Ironically, Giuliani’s stock as a presidential contender is widely expected to rise if the U.S. is attacked again by terrorists.

“If we are still at war, and we get hit again, I think that changes the dynamics,” says Michael Long, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State. “He is seen as a strong leader.”

Hamdan v Rumsfeld

John Cole of Balloon-Juice, points us to this article in Vanity Fair on the JAG lawyers at Gitmo:
Taking on Guantánamo

...The whole purpose of setting up Guantánamo Bay is for torture. Why do this? Because you want to escape the rule of law. There is only one thing that you want to escape the rule of law to do, and that is to question people coercively—what some people call torture. Guantánamo and the military commissions are implements for breaking the law. Why build a prison here when there are plenty of prisons in Nebraska? Why is it, when we see photos of Abu Ghraib, we think that it is "exporting Guantánamo"? That it is the "Guantánamo method"? —Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift to the author, January 2007.

...The fog surrounding Guantánamo had seemed to lift on June 29, 2006, when Hamdan v. Rumsfeld—a case scholars have compared to Brown v. Board of Education in its ramifications for this country—was decided in the Supreme Court. The court struck down President Bush's military tribunals, declaring them illegal under long-established U.S. laws, the Geneva Conventions, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In a 73-page opinion, the court said that the administration had established the tribunals without congressional authorization and violated international law. At first, the decision seemed a complete victory for Swift and all the other lawyers in and out of the jag Corps who had been fighting what they considered to be Draconian conditions at Guantánamo.

...Suddenly, all the lawyers were talking at once as Gunn scribbled on the whiteboard at the front of the room. "We need to get out of the barrage of the media," one lawyer said. "P.R. is essential! We need to get the reporters on our side!" Another said, "More important is to get our future clients to a federal trial." All agreed that what was happening at Guantánamo was something straight out of the gulags of the Stalin era. "We have to build support from the N.G.O. [non-governmental organization] community and from the defendants' families," Swift said.
The Supreme Court voted 5-3 in the Hamdan case. Scalia, Thomas and Alito dissented, declaring that the Court had no jurisdiction in the case. Roberts recused himself, as he had already voted to reject Hamdan's appeal while sitting on a lower court. (Had he voted otherwise in the appelate decision, he undoubtedly would not be sitting on the Supreme Court today). In his dissent, Scalia cited a law passed in 2005 by the Republican Congress which was written specifically to derail this case:
“[N]o court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”
I find it astounding that Scalia or any other judge would believe the Congress can strip the courts of their power to hear an appeal. If they can strip the Court of jurisdiction in this case, they can strip the Court of jurisdiction in any case. Every controversial bill passed in the future would simply have a "No Judicial Review" clause attached to it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ron Paul (R) Texas: cut off funding and end the war in Iraq, now

Ron Paul, former Libertarian and one of the few Republicans in Congress to vote against the 2002 authorization for use of force in Iraq, continues to oppose the conflict and believes we should cut off all funding to support it.
Osama bin Laden has expressed sadistic pleasure with our invasion of Iraq and was surprised that we served his interests above and beyond his dreams on how we responded after the 9/11 attacks. His pleasure comes from our policy of folly getting ourselves bogged down in the middle of a religious civil war, 7,000 miles from home that is financially bleeding us to death. Total costs now are reasonably estimated to exceed $2 trillion. His recruitment of Islamic extremists has been greatly enhanced by our occupation of Iraq.

Those on the right should recall that the traditional conservative position of non-intervention was their position for most of the 20th Century-and they benefited politically from the wars carelessly entered into by the political left. Seven years ago the Right benefited politically by condemning the illegal intervention in Kosovo and Somalia. At the time conservatives were outraged over the failed policy of nation building.

The catch-all phrase, “War on Terrorism”, in all honesty, has no more meaning than if one wants to wage a war against criminal gangsterism. It’s deliberately vague and non definable to justify and permit perpetual war anywhere, and under any circumstances.

There’s no logical reason to reject the restraints placed in the Constitution regarding our engaging in foreign conflicts unrelated to our national security. The advice of the founders and our early presidents was sound then and it’s sound today.

We shouldn’t wait until our financial system is completely ruined and we are forced to change our ways. We should do it as quickly as possible and stop the carnage and financial bleeding that will bring us to our knees and force us to stop that which we should have never started.
on the Supplemental Spending Bill for the War in Iraq
We have embarked on the most expensive nation-building experiment in history. We seek nothing less than to rebuild Iraq’s judicial system, financial system, legal system, transportation system, and political system from the top down-- all with hundreds of billion of US tax dollars. We will pay to provide job training for Iraqis; we will pay to secure Iraq’s borders; we will pay for housing, health care, social services, utilities, roads, schools, jails, and food in Iraq. In doing so, we will saddle future generations of Americans with billions in government debt. The question of whether Iraq is worth this much to us is one Congress should answer now-- by refusing another nickel for supplemental spending bills.

56 Senators vote to reject the president's Iraq plan

34 voted to filibuster the bill. 10 others didn't vote.
The vote marked the second time this winter that Senate Republicans have blocked action on nonbinding measures critical of the president's war policies. This time, however, there were signs of restlessness within the GOP.

Seven Republicans broke with their leadership, compared with only two on the previous test vote.
The text of the bill being debated is identical to that recently passed in the House:
S. 574

To express the sense of Congress on Iraq.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


It is the sense of Congress that--

(1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

(2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

Hillary Clinton on Iraq (2003)

Matthew Yglesias disputes Hillary Clinton's recent statements on preemption and her original position on the Iraq war.
This is, however, all rather banal. Clinton is hardly an obscure figure, and her support for the Iraq War isn't obscure either. Everyone knows she backed the war and spent the subsequent years positioning herself as a leading Democratic hawk. From smacking down Howard Dean in December 2003, to calling for a larger army, to earning the praise of psychotic warmonger Marshall Wittman by attacking Bush from the right on Iran, she spent years affiliating herself with the party's miltiaristic wing.
This is a fundamental question Hillary has to address if she wants the support of the Democratic party and the nomination in 2008. Although many in the press are obsessing over whether she'll apologize for the vote to authorize the war, what we really need to know is whether she thinks the war itself was a bad idea, or whether she simply thinks George Bush bungled the execution of it. The answer to that question, would tell us how Hillary Clinton would conduct foreign policy.

From the 2003 speech Matt references:
We stand at a point in time where we are now in the process of redefining both American internationalism and American interests.

I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote. I have had many disputes and disagreements with the administration over how that authority has been used, but I stand by the vote to provide the authority because I think it was a necessary step in order to maximize the outcome that did occur in the Security Council with the unanimous vote to send in inspectors. And I also knew that our military forces would be successful. But what we did not appreciate fully and what the administration was unprepared for was what would happen the day after.

... with regard to both Iraq and Afghanistan, we need more of something that is often in short supply here in our country: patience. I was struck, during our briefing at the embassy in Kabul, by a comment made by one of our U.S. aid workers, who had recently returned from the Southeast and had met with a number of former Taliban, so-called former Taliban. And one of these former Taliban said, "Americans may have all the watches, but we have all the time." I think it's a lesson that we forget at our peril. This will not be an easy undertaking. It will require patience, and it will require the continuing support of the American people.

... it took 10 years to create a stable, sovereign government, and we still have troops in Germany, as we do in Japan, as we do in South Korea, as we do in Bosnia, as we do in Kosovo. So the idea that we can somehow bring about dramatic transformational change in either a short period of time or with a relatively limited financial commitment is contradicted by our own history. And therefore we have not only the need for patience but a sense that we are going to be involved over the long run, or we will not guarantee or create the conditions for potential success.

Now who can look back and second-guess history? I'm -- I certainly can't. But I think it was in American interest and in German interest and in the eventual interests of our defeating Soviet communism that we retained troops in Germany.
Those words could've been delivered by any of the Republicans recently defending George Bush's "surge" plan.

Based solely on the speeches, interviews and votes given by Hillary Clinton over the past few years, it's hard to believe that she doesn't think that George Bush simply bungled the execution of a good policy.

New Orleans: a city abandoned

Fed-Up New Orleans Residents Are Giving Up

A year ago, Ms. Larsen, 36, and Mr. Langlois, 37, were hopeful New Orleanians eager to rebuild and improve the city they adored. But now they have joined hundreds of the city’s best and brightest who, as if finally acknowledging a lover’s destructive impulses, have made the wrenching decision to leave at a time when the population is supposed to be rebounding.

Their reasons include high crime, high rents, soaring insurance premiums and what many call a lack of leadership, competence, money and progress. In other words: yes, it is still bad down here. But more damning is what many of them describe as a dissipating sense of possibility, a dwindling chance at redemption for a great city that, even before the storm, cried out for great improvement.

“The window of opportunity is closing,” Ms. Larsen said, “before more people like us give up and say it’s too little, too late.”

As a city in flux, New Orleans remains statistically murky, but demographers generally agree that the population replenishment after the storm, as measured by things like the amount of mail sent and employment in main economic sectors, has leveled off. While many poorer residents have moved back to the city, the “brain drain” of professionals that the city was experiencing before the storm appears to have accelerated.

One oft-cited survey by the University of New Orleans found that a third of residents, especially those with graduate degrees, were thinking of leaving within two years.

In battered but proud New Orleans, abandonment is a highly emotional subject, in part because many have made sacrifices to stay and rebuild. To some, leaving now is tantamount to treason.

Rumors of an Afghan summer offensive

Taliban deploy 10,000 fighters for attack

(via AOP news)

More than 4,000 people, a quarter of them civilians, were killed in fighting last year, the most violent year since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. NATO commanders and analysts warn this year could be just as bad or worse.

Ater attempts at conventional pitched battles failed last year, the Taliban are expected to return to more conventional guerrilla tactics against government forces and the roughly 45,000 foreign soldiers in the country.

A key tactic is expected to be suicide bombings, which rose dramatically last year, killing more than 200 people, but which still remain much rarer than in Iraq. The Taliban say they have 2,000 suicide bombers ready and another 3,000 in training.

Afghanistan's government says the militants are still sponsored by Pakistan, their main backer until September 11 attacks on the United States.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Rudi Giuliani, strict constructionist

Giuliani on the law:
KING: Yet you'll say you'll appoint judges who are strict constructionists. If that's the case, they're going to vote to overturn "Roe v. Wade," which you don't want.

GIULIANI: I don't know that. You don't know that.

KING: Well, what is strict constructionist?

GIULIANI: Well, OK, there are a lot of ways to explain that. I mean (UNINTELLIGIBLE)... KING: Do you still favor ""Roe v. Wade?""

GIULIANI: I am pro-choice, yes. But I -- I'm also, as you know -- always have been -- against abortion, hate abortion, don't like it, wouldn't personally advise anyone to have an abortion and -- but I believe a woman has a right to choose. And you can't have criminal penalties and I think that would be wrong.

I would select judges who try to interpret the Constitution rather than invent it, from my views as a lawyer. And I don't want to sound presumptuous, I'm not a constitutional lawyer, but I have argued in the Supreme Court and I have argued in many of the circuit courts.

I've spent more time in court than I have in politics.

And I just think it's very, very important that a judge have a judicial philosophy that says I am going to try to figure out what the framers of the Constitution meant when they wrote this or what the people who amended it meant when they put it in, not what I'd like it to mean, not what I feel it means.

I had that view about the criminal law. I thought a lot of the decisions of the Warren court were a mistake.
That would be this Warren court:
Warren was a much more liberal justice than had been anticipated. As a result, President Eisenhower later remarked that nominating Warren for the Chief Justice seat was "the biggest damned-fool mistake I ever made." Warren was able to craft a long series of landmark decisions including Brown v. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483 (1954), which overthrew the segregation of public schools; the "one man, one vote" cases of 1962–1964, which dramatically altered the relative power of rural regions in many states; Hernandez v. Texas, which gave Mexican-Americans the right to serve on juries; and Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), which required that certain rights of a person being interrogated while in police custody be clearly explained, including the right to an attorney (often called the "Miranda warning").
Some specifics rulings Giuliani doesn't like:
GIULIANI: I thought the exclusionary rule was a mistake. I thought, to some extent, "Miranda" was a mistake.

Now, here's what the court did with those. A lot of people thought that with the -- with the Berger...

KING: I know prosecutors who loved "Miranda." It made cases more solid.

GIULIANI: "Miranda's" OK, but when people -- if people, you know, don't give a "Miranda" warning quickly enough and somebody blurts out a confession, I still want to put that murderer in jail. And when a cop makes a mistake in finding a weapon or finding -- and finding drugs, I never liked the idea of giving it back to the criminal.

So here's what the court did. The two courts that came after -- the two conservative courts that came after, Berger and Rehnquist, people thought they were going to overrule "Miranda." They thought they were going to overrule "Escobedo," the exclusionary rule.

They didn't overrule it. They limited it.

KING: All right. And...

GIULIANI: And they limited it to a point where it is now quite rational.
The Exclusionary Rule is designed to provide a remedy and disincentive, short of criminal prosecution, for prosecutors and police who illegally gather evidence in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in the Bill of Rights, which provide for protection from unreasonable searches and seizure and compelled self-incrimination.

And here was Warren's reasoning in the Miranda decision:
The police did not effectively advise (Escobedo) of his right to remain silent or of his right to consult with his attorney. Rather, they confronted him with an alleged accomplice who accused him of having perpetrated a murder. When the defendant denied the accusation and said "I didn't shoot Manuel, you did it," they handcuffed him and took him to an interrogation room. There, while handcuffed and standing, he was questioned for four hours until he confessed. During this interrogation, the police denied his request to speak to his attorney, and they prevented his retained attorney, who had come to the police station, from consulting with him. At his trial, the State, over his objection, introduced the confession against him. We held that the statements thus made were constitutionally inadmissible.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Eikenberry outlines the Pakistani peace agreement

I was wondering what General Eikenberry meant when he warned of the growing threat of Talibanization inside Pakistan. Here are his comments on the agreement between Pakistan and the Waziri tribes, where he basically defines the term:
September 2006

Q General, General Abizaid this week said he was skeptical about a peace agreement that was reached by the Pakistani central government and the tribes in that semi-autonomous border area. Are you also skeptical? And how are you going to deal with the problem of Pakistan, of a safe haven for this larger, better organized Taliban challenge?

GEN. EIKENBERRY: First of all, a little bit about the agreement. The agreement, I think everyone knows, is in north Waziristan, a particular agency within the Federally Administered Tribal Agency of Pakistan. It sits against the Afghanistan border in southeastern Afghanistan.

The agreement itself -- the principles, the tenets of the agreement are very good.

So the tenets of the agreement -- the first, no Talibanization of the area. Broadly speaking, then, that means that there will not be an active campaign to expand extremism within the area -- very critical, because it's the ideology, at the end of the day, which has to be defeated.

Militarily, very important, as I looked at the agreement myself, is that firmly against supporting or allowing cross-border attacks by militants into Afghanistan -- very importantly, proscribes foreign fighters from having sanctuary within north Waziristan.

Then the last piece, ... this does not represent a removal or a relocation of Pakistan military army forces, from north Waziristan; they remain in north Waziristan. And I've been told by my Pakistani military counterparts, the intention is, then, with that capability, where they're now not present in setting up roadblocks and checkpoints, which are being turned over to the Pakistani police in the interior of north Waziristan, a relocation of those military forces to the border of Afghanistan, and then using that additional capability for quick reaction forces.

So that's the agreement. The tenets and the principles of the agreement are very sound. And now we have to wait and watch for the implementation.
Based on his comments, below: the plan has been a failure from the U.S. perspective. The Taliban have acheived a safe haven in Waziristan. They're recruiting and staging attacks on Afghanistan from within that safe haven. The peace deal with Pakistani forces has allowed them to triple cross border attacks and more are expected during a Taliban offensive this spring.

Are we at risk of losing ground in Afghanistan?

General Warns of Perils in Afghanistan

A senior U.S. military commander urged Pakistan yesterday to crack down on an entrenched network of senior Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders, training camps and recruiting grounds -- a sanctuary from which fighters have tripled cross-border attacks since September and are preparing an anticipated major spring offensive in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Army Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, the outgoing top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, also warned that an even greater threat than the resurgent Taliban is the possibility that the government of President Hamid Karzai will suffer an irreversible loss of legitimacy among the Afghan population.

"Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership presence inside of Pakistan remains a very significant problem," Eikenberry testified before the House Armed Services Committee, warning of the "growing threat of Talibanization" inside Pakistan.

"A steady, direct attack against the command and control in Pakistan in sanctuary areas is essential for us to achieve success," Eikenberry said, joining other U.S. officials in publicly pressuring the Islamabad government to crack down on the safe havens in its frontier regions.

Taliban forces in Pakistan's North Waziristan have staged mass attacks on U.S. border camps, including a strike in recent days that saw the U.S. military respond with artillery fire into Pakistan.

"The accumulated effects of violent terrorist insurgent attacks, corruption, insufficient social resources and growing income disparities, all overlaid by a major international presence, are taking their toll on Afghan government legitimacy," he said. "A point could be reached at which the government of Afghanistan becomes irrelevant to its people, and the goal of establishing a democratic, moderate, self-sustaining state could be lost forever."

A critical question, Eikenberry said, is whether the Afghan government is "winning." "In several critical areas -- corruption, justice, law enforcement and counter-narcotics -- it is not," he said. He called Afghan government institutions "extraordinarily weak."

Greater U.S. and international efforts are urgently needed to build a court and corrections system in Afghanistan, and to strengthen efforts to train an Afghanistan police force, which he said is "several years behind" compared with the development of the Afghan army. The Pentagon is seeking $5.9 billion this year and $2.7 billion in 2008 to build up Afghan security forces, including the police.

Eikenberry stressed that Taliban forces -- though making gains in relatively lawless regions of southern Afghanistan, which had few coalition troops until last summer -- have not been able to retake areas where the Afghan government and security forces have established a presence.

Pakistan's government in September struck a peace agreement that halted military raids in North Waziristan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, but since then the number of cross-border attacks has as much as tripled.