Sunday, July 31, 2005

The atomic bomb 60 years on

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has made a 1975 article on the Trinity tests of the atom bombs during the Manhatten Project temporarily available online: A foul and awesome display by Kenneth Bainbridge Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May 1975 (*.pdf file). Bainbridge was in charge of the first test.

This is a reminder of how things can go wrong:

In the middle of May [1945], on two separate nights in one week, the Air Force mistook the Trinity base for their illuminated target. One bomb fell on the barracks building which housed the carpentry shop, another hit the stables, and a small fire started. Fortunately the barracks occupied by soldiers and civilian scientists were not struck. If the lead plane hit the generator or wires and doused the target lights, then the succeeding planes looked for another illuminated area. This must have been what happened in May of 1945. After all, the crews had come at least a thousand miles to pass their final exam and had probably never been told of anything except targets in the area.

Bainridge writes, "Early in July, Oppenheimer had told me of the approaching meeting beginning July 15, of Truman, Churchill and Stalin. A successful test was a card which Truman had to have in his hand."  And he quotes from another report:

The schedule for the test was such that as soon as the plutonium for the bomb was ready, everything else should be ready and the test would be held. There was a little delay but not much. Instructions from Washington were that no day was to be lost and it wasn’t. The nuclear assemblyand final explosives were completed a t Alamogordo and the shot was scheduled for July 16. (R. F. Bacher, “Robert Oppenheimer,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 116 (1972), 219.)

One of the uncertainties before the first test explosion was the possibility that the atomic blast might ignite the earth's atmosphere and spread for who-knows-how-far:

I had been in the test area nearly all day. Back at the Base I was furious to hear of discussions of the possibility that the atmosphere might be detonated. This possibility had been discussed a t Los Alamos and had been quashed by intensive studies of all possibilitiesby Hans Bethe and others. It was thoughtless bravado to bring up the subject as a table and barracks topic before soldiers unacquainted with nuclear physics and with the results of Bethe’s studies.

The idea of runaway nuclear energy was not new. In 1903 Rutherford had quipped, “Some fool in a laboratory might blow up the universe unawares.”

And the test worked:

The bomb detonated at T = 0 = 5:29:45 a.m. I felt the heat on the back of my neck, disturbingly warm. Much more light was emitted by the bomb than predicted, the only important prediction which was off by a good factor. When the reflected tiare died down, I looked at Oscuro Peak which was nearer Zero. When the reflected light diminished there I looked directly at the ball of fire through the goggles. Finally I could remove the goggles and watch the ball of fire rise rapidly. It was surrounded by a huge cloud of transparent purplish air produced in part by the radiations from the bomb and its fission products. No one who saw it could forgetit, a foul and awesome display.

I had a feeling of exhilaration that the “gadget” had gone off properly followed by one of deep relief. I wouldn’t have to go to the tower to see what had gone wrong. I wouldn’t worry any longer: Had everything been properly anticipated? Was there one lousy soldered joint which had separated for some reason? Had some important circuit grounded because of the rain? Had someone in the final hours of activity, handicapped by fatigue, gotten careless and made the wrong connection or substituted a dummy unit used in rehearsals for the proper final unit?

After turning on the lights, I returned to my car and drove to S 10,000, arriving about 500 a.m. The next step was to broadcast the wind velocity and elevation data to Compagna Hills, N and W 10,000. With the weather the way it was, only the higher After the blast wave had passed, I got up from the ground to congratulate Oppenheimer and others on the success of the implosion method. I finished by saying to Robert, “Now we are all sons of bitches.” Years later he recalled my words and wrote me, “We do not have to explain them to anyone.” I think that I will always respect his statement, although there have been some imaginative people who somehow can’t or won’t put the statement in context and get the whole interpretation.Oppenheimer told my younger daughter in 1966 that it was  the best thing anyone said after the test.

Chuckie Watch 111: Chuckie and Jane

Something must be wrong with Chuckie's Web site today.  Because I just can't find the address there for this classic Chuckie's Soapbox rant.  In the interest of helping preserve it for posterity, I'll include the entire text here.  It's undated, but the URL address and the format indicates it belongs in his "pre-2000" bucket as #26.  I just can't find it there right now, though.  Funny.

Anyway, here it is (accessed 07/31/05; my emphasis):

An Open Letter To Jane Fonda

Dear Jane,

I must admit that I was completely taken by surprise when I heard that you had been born again. I never expected to see the day when I could call you sister. After all, I had some serious problems with what you had done in Vietnam and the liberal stands you have taken on issues. To be honest, I just didn’t like you and I'll confess that I have called you some unflattering names through the years. I ask you to forgive me for holding these things against you. In fact I thought you would be one of the last people to accept Jesus. I realize now that we can never know God’s plans and I truly rejoice in your conversion. If I could I would like to warn you about some things. First of all, I think that you will find your relations with the media will be vastly different. Instead of being treated fairly and with favor you can expect to be ridiculed and belittled. You see, the press has a great fear of Jesus and a great distrust for those of us who follow him. Secondly, I would imagine that a lot of your Hollywood friends are going to treat you much differently. After all, in their eyes it’s not cool to be a Christian. And there will be those in the Christian community who will question your commitment. Yes Jane, you’re probably going to catch it from all sides, from people who are supposed to be your friends. And those, who a few short years ago were lauding you with honors and Academy Awards may very well turn their backs on you. So be it. That’s just the way of the world. What you have received is the most precious thing in existence. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul. So hold on, Jane. Through criticism, ridicule and doubt. You just keep holding on to Jesus because he is the way the truth and the life. I will bepraying for you Jane. Welcome to the family my sister.

God Bless
Charlie Daniels


You know, I think ole Chuckie may have had a little backsliding lately.  'Cause his latest Soapbox rant is also about Jane Fonda.  And, well, it strikes a bit of a different tone:

Fearless Fonda Rides Again 07/29/05

It’s a strange world where John Rocker, a baseball pitcher can get drummed out of baseball for making what media hacks considered racial slurs [?!?] and Jane Fonda can sell out her nation and win an academy award.

That picture of Fonda on top of that North Vietnamese tank is one of the most sickening pieces of photography I have ever seen in my 68 years and should be in the encyclopedia to help define the word traitor. ...

So get on your little vegetable bus and go protest Jane but don’t look to have an easy time of it. America has a long memory when it comes to traitors who aided and abetted an enemy who was killing its sons and daughters and over 50,000 of them died in Vietnam. That’s a lot of deeply hurt parents, brothers and sisters and children.

A little piece of advice, I wouldn’t plan on giving any speeches at VFW or American Legion clubs and I would definitely steer away from any Vietnam Veteran’s conventions.

I'm not sure what any of the Jane Fonda stuff had to do with racial slurs.

But it looks like ole Chuckie's gone have to ask for Sister Jane's forgiveness again!  Do you think that stuff is what he says when he prays for her?

And, man, if Chuckie's that upset about Jane Fonda's dumb-publicity stunt decades ago, just imagine the flaming jeremiad he must be writing about Karl Rove!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Anonymous sources

The San Francisco Chronicle's  readers' representative has given a good summary of the problem that the news media have created for themselves by allowing sources to abuse the privilege of confidentiality: The use and misuse of unnamed sources by Dick Rogers San Francisco Chronicle 07/24/05.

Asked by Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein (Sharon Stone's ex-husband) to review their paper's use of such sources, he went through 60 stories relying on unnamed sources.  His findings:

The articles appeared in nearly every section -- main news, local, sports, business and features. Many were weighty and important to the public. (Was state Senate leader Don Perata benefiting financially from people who stood to gain from his support? Was former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley using taxpayer-financed grants to underwrite his political campaigns?)

Sometimes, though, the use of unnamed sources appeared easily avoidable or inappropriate. In one case an "informed source" is allowed to commit the journalistic equivalent of a drive-by shooting -- criticizing the performance of a colleague from behind a shield of anonymity.

What bothered me most is that the paper too often failed to give readers basic information about why sources were allowed to avoid identification and why their comments ought to be believed.

In 80 percent of the cases, the paper said nothing about the sources' motives for remaining anonymous. Were their jobs in jeopardy? Were they potentially in danger? Or was the paper just making it easier for sources to avoid embarrassment or criticize without risk?

I'm in favor of some kind of federal shield law that would protect journalists' sources in some circumstances.  But the Valerie Plame case shows how the system can be gamed for illigitimate purposes.  Even psychiatrists have laws that define the limits of patient confidentiality.  For instance, in California at least and probably most other states, a therapist is required to warn a person who is mentioned by a patient as a possible target of violence.

Reporters and their sources need protection when it's a case of a genuine whistleblower.  But ratting out CIA undercover agents for pure political spite is not one of them. 

Friday, July 29, 2005

Jesus goes to the Army

Christian Right writer Stephen Mansfield has a new book out, The Faith of the American Soldier (2005).  In it, he argues that the US armed services need a "faith-based warrior code."  More specifically, a Christian religious warrior code.

In a chapter called "Anvil of the Warrior Code", Mansfield praises the (in)famous Gen. Wiliam "my-God-is-bigger-than-his-God" Boykin:

What Boykin had unintentionally accomplished was the fashioning of a warrior code, or at least the closest thing to a faith-based code as has been presented to the new generation at war.  He first offered himself as a model of the Christian officer, a man of prayer, piety, miracles [!?!], and a distinctly Christian vision for his profession.  Then he articlulated the nation in spiritual terms.  "America is a Christian nation," he said, "with a calling under the hand of God.  Her battles, then, are spiritual and should be fought by men and women who comprise a 'Christian army.'"

I guess that means he would exempt Jews, Muslims, , Buddhists and other non-Christians from any draft?  Yeah, right.

In discussing the Abu Ghuraib torture scandal in a separate chapter, he articulates the position for his generic Christian warrior to take on the scandal in public.  (In private and among other white folks, they can speak more freely.)

Mansfield in the introductory paragraphs of the Abu Ghuraib chapter describes a conversation he had with an unnnamed soldier after the scandal broke:

In a tent at Camp Bucca some one hundred fifty miles away [from Abu Ghuraib], a group of soldiers saw the Abu Ghraib pictures for the first time.  The grief that filled their souls was painfully etched into each face.  "I suppose now this is how we are going to be remembered," on of them said sadly.  "They spit on my father when he came home from Vietnam, and all because of what a few soldiers did at My Lai.  Now, no mattter what we do here, Abu Ghraib is always going to be stamped over our lives."

It's not clear where Mansfield got such clear impressions of the fellings in these soldiers' souls.  He doesn't indicate in that passage that he was there personally, and it is not footnoted.

He then proceeds for several pages to explain all the extenuating circumstances that led soldiers in the prison to torture their victims.  Apparently the food the soldiers were being served wasn't very tasty, for example.  He then recites the obligatory disclaimer, and sets up the general alibi:

It was a collapse of command, a failure of individual character, and a violation of American values.  It may indeed, as the young soldier at Camp Bucca sadly predicted, mark the new generation at war in the eyes of history.

Perhpas a greater misfortune, though, would be a refusal to learn the lessons of Abu Ghraib and thus allow such scandals to reoccur.  It is too easy to see this tragedy [sic] in isolation.  To blame only that particular group of soldiers and that particular chain of command, though, misses the point that men and women under dire stress - without moral leadership, without core values held before them, and without a noble sense of mission - may well descend into barbarism.  There is too much evidence through human history to conclude otherwise.

He proceeds from there to talk approvingly about a chaplain who reached out to comfort the torturers.  And he stresses the need for Christian values to oppose Muslim fanaticism.

Iraq War: Saying the obvious, ignoring the conventional wisdom

"I think we are winning.  Okay?  I think we're definitely winning.  I think we've been winning for some time." - Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the Iraq War 04/26/05

"I just wonder if they will ever tell us the truth." - Harold Casey, Louisville, KY, October 2004.

I'm going through my weekly read for some of my favorite columnists.  I see Jules Witcover states the obvious about this week's high-level suggestions that large numbers of American troops will be pulled out of Iraq next year: Mixed signals on bringing troops home Baltimore Sun 07/29/05.

It's sad that our press corps has deteriorated to the point where an analysis like this seems exceptional - not to take anything away from Witcover for making it:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in Baghdad the other day, said again that the Bush administration would not set a timetable for troop withdrawal. Instead, he pressed Mr. al-Jaafari on meeting an October deadline for a referendum on a new constitution that would allow national elections in December.

At the same time, however, the U.S. troop commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., volunteered an optimistic outlook for "some fairly substantial reductions after these elections in the spring and summer" if training of Iraqi security forces "continues to go as it is going." General Casey argued that "the level of attacks they've [the insurgents] been able to generate has not increased substantially" over the previous year.

It's hard to square this rosy scenario with the observation to Congress this month of Marine Gen. Peter Pace, soon to becomechairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said only "a small number of Iraqi security forces are taking on the insurgents and terrorists by themselves," a third are ready to do so with coalition help, and the rest are only "partially capable."

Mr. al-Jaafari, at a news conference with Secretary Rumsfeld, seemed to be supporting an early withdrawal. "The great desire of the Iraqi people is to see the coalition forces be on their way out as they take more responsibility," he said.

But then he added: "The withdrawal should be whenever the Iraqi forces are ready to stand up." ...

General Casey's conditional prospect of some reduction in the 138,000 U.S. troop level and Mr. Rumsfeld's refusal to set a timetable send mixed signals - but hardly the only ones in this war of controversial decision-making.

It seems that the Iraq War is at a place now where military and foreign policy professionals that were and are involved are concentrating on their alibis for failure.  I mean, as distinct from alibis they may have to present in court.

As James Wolcott wrote on his blog last weekend (Sunday Bloody Sunday 07/24/05):

I'm going to type this very slowly and simply so that the Couch Potato Pattons can understand what I'm saying, even though I don't expect them to accept it.

What's rising in Iraq is the spectre of American defeat and Iraqi chaos. We're are past the point when you could counter every article of which you disapprove by summoning Austin Bayfrom the bullpen for a positive spin, or seeking shelter in Winston Churchill's lion shadow, or being warned over and over that "failure is not an option" (yes, it is). We are past the point of listening to Joe Biden and others say we need more troops on the ground and more international cooperation. Neither cavalry is riding over the hill.

Where the warbloggers are actively denying the spectre of defeat, the political talkshows are passively denying it. Today - Sunday - it was all about the Supreme Court nominee and the Plame leak and not much else. Understandable. But at what point will attention be paid to the full enormity of what's unraveling in Iraq? Or will it be like global warming, which Russert, Stephanopolous, Chris Wallace, and the rest ignore altogether, as if waiting for heatstroke deaths to dot the capital lawns before acknowledging something momentous is happening. They're still waiting for the memo that'll verify what any fool can see.

"Wars are easy to get into, but hard as hell to get out of." - George McGovern and Jim McGovern 06/06/05

Plame case: The failure of our "press corps"

"Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors."  - Old Man Bush 04/26/99

Gene Lyons in his latest column (Propaganda machine encounters reality Dunklin Daily Democrat 07/27/05) states clearly what most Big Pundits won't, especially not this bluntly:

For years, the Republican media machine has dominated national politics. Through a combination of ideological certitude, message discipline and bullying, the right often succeeds in defining issues its way. Outfits like Fox News, the Washington Times, and Wall Street Journal editorial page, as well as Rush Limbaugh and his cohorts, serve as propaganda organs of the Republican National Committee.

Democrats have no equivalent apparatus. Indeed, one of the GOP's most useful fictions is "liberal bias," the idea that big city newspapers and TV networks pick on poor, beleaguered Republicans. But nobody touted Iraq's imaginary WMDs harder than The New York Times and Washington Post.

With Republicans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, GOP agitprop [as Marxists called it] has grown increasingly brazen. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, puts it "we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. ... [T]here are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern."

He says that the e-mail he's been receiving on the Rove/Libby/Plame case reminds him of the sheep in George Orwell's Animal Farm who loyally absorbed each and every change in the party line:

Why are the sheep agitated? Basically for the same reasons White House operatives attacked Joe Wilson to begin with. They'd concocted a fake nuclear threat to scare Americans into supporting a war against Iraq that Bush's neoconservative supporters had long planned for other reasons, and they were afraid the public would figure it out.

Blow the smoke away, and it's a simple, therefore politically combustible story: the White House attacked Wilson's wife to punish him for telling the truth, revealing an American agent's identity to hide falsehoods that drove the nation to war. They did so in 2003 to get President Bush elected as a strong wartime leader; and they're doing it now to hide their own dirty tricks.

He uses this metaphor for the current state of America's Potemkin press corps and the loyal devotees of the Republican Party noise machine:

Sometimes even the most brazen agitprop can't stand against reality. Under communist rule, Moscow had two newspapers: The standard joke was that "There is no Pravda in Izvestia, and there is no Izvestia in Pravda." ("There is no truth in News, and no news in Truth.")

Americans aren't there yet, but the Wilson/Plame affair is pushing them in that direction.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A thought on wars and cheerleading

When Iraq War supporters accuse critics of Bush's Iraq policies of failing to "support the troops," they are repeating claims similar to those often made in wars.  It seems particularly vapid from most Iraq War supporters because as, Jules Witcover observes, most of them are asked to do very little in concrete terms to support the troops (Politics at the pump Baltimore Sun 07/27/05):

... in this war in which sacrifice seems confined to those who fight it and their families, President Bush continues to ask little of average Americans except to keep going about their business as usual. ...

A good part of [Bush's] exercise has been his ability to convince a pliant public of the false view that the enemy he attacked in Iraq more than two years ago was the same one that caused the unforgettable havoc of 9/11.

So, as those cylinders on the nation's gas pumps spin higher and higher prices for the stuff that drives the guzzlers, uncomplaining Americans keep digging deep, or routinely insert their credit cards at the pump in what may seem a less painful way to pay the tribute exacted by the Middle East oil producers.

And through it all, the president keeps telling us not to worry, and to invest our Social Security payroll taxes in the stock market.

Actually, the opinion polls show that much of the public is no longer convinced about the phony claim about an Iraq-9/11 connection.  And, of course, a substantial portion of the public never was.

But his point about the Republican way of war is a good one.  Since most people are not being asked for sacrifice in the Iraq War, it's relatively easy for Republican war fans to convince themselves that a "Support Our Troops" bumper sticker is actually doing something important for the war effort.

Conversely, it's relatively easy for them to claim that the troops' morale is being damaged by anyone who criticizes torture in the Bush Gulag, or who says it was a terrible thing for Bush to take the country to war with bogus claims of  weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

So this comment in a paper by Anthony Cordesman - a supporter of Bush's stay-the-course policy in the Iraq War - on the morale of combat troops:

Here's the link: At the time I'm posting this, the Web site of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is down for maintenance.  Cordesman:

Regardless of the quality of training and equipment, and the political and ideological conditions shaping a war, men who are thrust into combat or high risk operations only function well if they have proven leaders they feel that they can trust. Their primary motivation also ultimately comes to be how they feel about the other men in their units, how important the approval of their peers is in crisis and combat, and how confident they are that their unit will do everything possible to support and protect them.

Nothing about whether good Republican white folks who wouldn't dream of volunteering to fight in Bush's War in Iraq are sporting patriotic bumper-stickers on their SUVs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Occupied Germany and occupied Iraq

I was surprised when I came across the following reference to postwar German resistance to the occupation authorities.  It comes in a review by history professor Hal Elliott Wert in the May-June 2005 issue of the Army's Military Review, (Review p. 110; p. 19 of the *.pdf document in my viewer)

He is reviewing the book Endkampf: Soldiers, Civilians,and the Death of the Third Reich by Stephen Fritz (2004).

He writes:

In April 1945, the war in Europe was near its end. Allied commanders, however, feared German SS and other hardcore elements in the Nazi regime would not surrender but, instead, continue to tenaciously resist while retreating to the mountains of Bavaria and Austria - an alpine festung [fortress].  How long these “werewolves” might hold out was anyone’s guess.

Stephen G. Fritz’s Endkampf convincingly challenges the accepted view that after the Allies crossed the Rhine in March 1945 the German army rapidly disintegrated and the war quickly wound down.To the contrary, he argues, the resistance in Bavaria was intense, and American units suffered more casualties in April 1945 than they had previously. Large numbers of civilians and combatants needlessly lost their lives in this hopeless Nazi last-ditch effort.

So far, that hardly seems controversial, although I doubt anyone on the Anglo-American side thought that the Germans would just throw down their arms as soon as the Rhine was breached.  That had fought ferociously for occupied territory.  Why would anyone expect they would fight less tenaciously, much less just surrender, when they were fighting on their home territory?

But then he continues.  And here it's not clear whether he's referring to material in the book or introducing this himself:

In 1947, American soldiers were attacked, sometimes killed, and Army facilities sabotaged or attacked. Part of the resistance was caused by diehard elements who stuck it out in frustration over the deteriorating economy and the large number of German women who were involved with American GIs.

And he draws a very strained analogy to the postwar occupation of Germany and today's occupation/counterinsurgency in Iraq.  "Very strained" is putting it mildly, although I know that has been a favorite  superficial comparison among the Bush true believers.

Reminiscent of the current situation in Iraq, occupation authorities, journalists, and visiting politicians often despaired of success in Germany, calling for more troops and more trained civil affairs personnel.  The Army and President Harry S. Truman’s administration (repeatedly accused of poor planning) faced charges similar to those being hurled today at those responsible for the war in Iraq. Skepticism toward eventual success and predictions of disaster were brandished by the press and public alike. Germany’s past, the devastation wrought by war, and the perception of a botched occupation led many to conclude that restoration of a democratic society was beyond reach.

What caught my attention was his reference to what he seems to think was an organized, violent resistance movement as late as 1947.  Because the accounts I've seen of that period were more in agreement with, for instance, this RAND study, America’s Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq by James Dobbins, et al (2003) Chapter 2: Germany (*.pdf file; p. 21 of report; p. 19 the *.pdf document on my viewer.)

U.S. officials anticipated and planned to deal with significant residual German resistance following the surrender of its armed forces. Yet no resistance of consequence emerged then or at any time thereafter, much as in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy .... The large number of U.S. and allied military forces in West Germany and the establishment of a strong constabulary force preempted most resistance. Indeed, the constabulary force was specifically created to respond to incidents of civil unrest, conduct mounted and dismounted police patrols, interdict smuggling operations, and aid in intelligence gathering. This contrasts starkly with nation-building efforts in such countries as Bosnia, which were marred by organized crime and civil unrest.

I have to wonder if his reference to what he gives us tobelieve were politically-motivated killings in 1947 were not more likely to have been murder for more-or-less personal reasons, as his mention of GI's dating German women seems to suggest.  I know there was some nationalistic resentment in Germany and Austria about local women dating Americans.  (It's a subject of some interest to me since my wife is Austrian.) And even on that subject - and I don't mean to be grim in saying this -  it's not as though any able-bodied German man would have experienced a shortage of eligible women at that time, even in very difficult economic circumstances.  Because such a large number of German men, especially but by no means exclusively younger men, had been killed in the war.

It seems to me that Wert is trying too hard in this review to create an easy comparison to today's situation in Iraq.  I haven't tried to analyze the RAND document in detail.  But my impression is that it gives a fairly realistic picture of the situation in the space available.  But it also seems to be reaching pretty hard for Iraq analogies.  For example, it argues:

The most important lesson from the U.S. occupation of Germany is that military force and political capital can, at least in some circumstances, be successfully employed to underpin democratic and societal transformation. Furthermore, such a transformation can be enduring. U.S., French, and British efforts to help build democratic institutions in Germany and to encourage the establishment of political parties were incremental and began in 1945. Over the next several years, these powers oversaw local and national elections; the establishment of a constitution and a bicameral parliament; and, in September 1949, the election of Konrad Adenauer as the first postwar chancellor of the newly formed West German state.

But it's not as though the Allied armies just rounded up people in the town square and said, "Okay, we're going to be using a strange new system called 'democracy' around here now, and here's how it works."

Germany had a democratic tradition going back to the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon (as they are called in German history), although it wasn't until the 1918 democratic revolution after the First World War that a fully democratic system was established there.  The weaknesses of the Weimar democracy have been widelydiscussed.  But in the 1920s, Germany was considered a model democracy by aspiringdemocrats in middle and eastern Europe.

That meant that Germany *had* leaders like Konrad Adenauer, Ernst Reuter, Kurt Schumacher, Herbert Wehner and Theodor Heuss who had actual experience in democratic politics.

The RAND study also seems to make a lot of the "denazification" program.  Although the Allies did intervene to prevent neo-Nazi type political groups from developing, the "denazification" program as such seems to be generally regarded by German historians as little more than an ineffective joke.

This is not to minimize the American, British and French contributions to building the postwar Federal Republic (of West Germany).  It's to recognize that it took place in a particular context.

Rightwingers bite poodle: It had to happen

I've been saying for years that, as soon as Tony the Poodle started differing with Dear Leader Bush on the "war on terror", the Republicans would finally be able to start bashing Britain as just another wimp European democracy.

It looks like finally some of them are starting to unload on that sissy Socialist Blair:

US Right turns on Blair for being 'soft on terror' by Alec Russell Daily Telegraph 07/25/2005.

The American Right, for four years a fount of rapturous praise for Tony Blair, is showing signs of falling out of love with Britain over what it sees as its soft and ineffective record on terrorism. ...

Two prominent articles in the latest edition of The Weekly Standard, the neo-conservative journal with close ties to the Bush administration, have laid into Britain's domestic approach to fighting terrorism.

Under the headline "Letter from Londonistan" Irwin Stelzer concludes that British policy amounts to "easy entry for potential terrorists" and "relative safety from deportation and detention as enemy combatants".

He concludes that Mr Blair is the "prisoner of a dominant political class that is preventing Britain from responding to the threat the nation faces".

Another article suggests President George W Bush's administration take the dramatic step of ending the 1986 visa waiver programme which allows Britons and citizens of most other western European states three months in the US without a visa. ...

The Heritage Foundation, another prominent Right-wing think-tank, last week called on Britain to strengthen its anti-terrorist laws and consider withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights.

It also wants Britain to adopt a policy of zero-tolerance against radical Islamic preachers.

One of the two Weekly Standard articles referenced in that piece is online (08/01/05 issue; accessed 07/24/05): Letter from Londonistan by Irwin Stelzer.  He has things to say like this:

British culture now dictates a confused response to terrorists. Start with the unwillingness of the majority of the British people to recognize that they are indeed in a war. The flak-jacketed, heavily armed men and women lining my road to Heathrow last week were cops, not troops. America is at war, Britain is playing cops and criminals. These are very different things, with important implications for policy. Just as the Clinton administration decided to respond to terror attacks as if they were bank heists--he sent the FBI overseas--Britain has insisted on applying the law and procedures of the criminal justice system to terrorists. The entire panoply of legal procedures that prevent detention, deportation, and arrest of Muslim clerics calling for the blood of Britain's infidels is available to the as-many-as 3,000 terrorists whom the authorities estimate live in Britain, many trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or with actual battle experience in Iraq. Whatever rights U.K. law doesn't confer are available to the fledgling jihadists as a result of Blair's decision to sign on to Europe's Human Rights Act. Britain makes available to terrorists and preachers of mayhem, often at government expense, an entire industry of human rights lawyers and support groups. These resources will remain available to those who challenge the new powers the government will seek to curb the preaching of violence. The government also provides substantial housing and health care benefits to many men who reciprocate by trying to destroy it.

Short version: Brits are cowardly European wimps.  They're almost as bad as Bill Clinton.  They coddle Muslims.  They worry about all that wussy "human rights" stuff.  They have a national health care system. (?!?)

"Where's the love?" the poodle-man must be thinking.

But it's too late, Tony.  You agreed to be the pretty social-democratic face on Bush's preventive war in Iraq.  You've served your purpose.  What,you thought these rightwingers might feel some loyalty to you?

Philip Agee

With all the talk about the Plame/Rove/Libby investigation, it's worth taking a look at why the specific law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, was put in place to begin with.  Actually, that law seems to be written so tightly that in practice, it's difficult to prosecute someone under that particular statute.  There were already laws in place against disclosing classified information and various forms of espionage when that law was passed in 1982.

The "Agee Law"

This piece gives some of the background, which had to do with the revelations of former CIA agent Philip Agee: In Rove case, one outing got another: White House adviser feels heat in leak probe by Vikki Haddock San Francisco Chronicle 07/17/05.

Renegade ex-CIA agent Philip Agee spent years ripping the masks off fellow secret spies -- hundreds of them.

Troubled by U.S. covert activities in Latin America, in the 1970s he wrote an expose and launched the bimonthly "Covert Action Information Bulletin, " a Who's Who of CIA operatives with detailed biographies. By Agee's estimate, the Agency had 5,000 officers experienced in clandestine operations, and he gleefully predicted "it should be possible to identify almost all of those who have worked under diplomatic cover."

The CIA was flabbergasted to discover no law against this. But it had a powerful friend in the next U.S. vice president, a former CIA director. George H. W. Bush made it his mission to get legislation making it a felony to out a covert agent. "I don't care how long I live, I will never forgive Philip Agee and those like him who wantonly sacrificed the lives of intelligence officers, " he said.

Even wife Barbara Bush, in her autobiography, said Agee's "traitorous" book blew the cover of the Athens CIA station chief, Richard Welch, causing his assassination (a charge stricken after Agee sued for libel, claiming Welch was outed by Counter Spy Magazine.)

Billmon made the same mistake in describing the background of the law two years ago: Whiskey Bar: Nice Guys Finish Last 07/18/03:

The law, by the way, was passed after CIA dissident Philip Agee deliberately published the identity of the agency's station chief in Athens, who was promptly assassinated.

But it was Agee's campaign against the CIA that gave the law the nickname of the "Agee Law."

I'm not sure how careful Vikki Haddock was in her account.  It was a brief article.  But it's worth noting, to avoid confusion, that though Agee may have released the names of some agents, as I understand it, some significant part of the Covert Action Information Bulletin's investigative reporting (use a less flattering term if you prefer) was based on research using largely public sources.  She quoted Agee saying "it should be possible to identify almost all of those who have worked under diplomatic cover."

As several of the articles on the Plame case have explained, agents working under diplomatic cover can generally claim diplomatic immunity if caught by the government of the country in which they are operating.  Which obviously doesn't exclude terrorist groups from targeting them for harm.  But agents like Valerie Plame were working without diplomatic cover, which means they couldn't have claimed diplomatic immunity if caught spying and were therefore in a more high-risk situation in their intelligence work.

Investigating CIA misconduct

As Chris Mooney pointed out in a 2001 article, it was not only Philip Agee who was accused of Welch's outing.  In an article about the Congressional investigations of CIA misconduct in the 1980s by the Church Committee (headed by Sen. Frank Church) and the Pike Committee (Chris Mooney, "Back to Church," The American Prospect vol. 12 no. 19, November 5, 2001 .) :

Probably the most malicious attack on Church suggests that his committee's activities compromised CIA operatives overseas. Following September 11, for example, the American Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., wrote that Church's hearings "betrayed CIA agents and operations." This intimation has its roots in Christmas Day, 1975, when Richard Skeffington Welch, the CIA station chief in Greece, was assassinated. Welch's death was instantly used against the Church committee for political gain. Many CIA agents killed in the line of duty are memorialized only by anonymous stars in the lobby of the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia--but NBC's Today Show covered the airlifting of Welch's body back to the United States, and President Ford attended his funeral with various luminaries. The chief counsel of the Church committee remarked that intelligence defenders "danced on the grave of Richard Welch in the most cynical way." Following Welch's assassination, Church received death threats and letters calling him a murderer.

The truth is that Church stuck to his promise to Colby that there would be "no dismantling and no exposing of agents to danger. No sources will be compromised." The committee made sure that it received no names of active agents, so that none could be revealed. Colby's successor as CIA director, George H.W. Bush, fully admitted that Welch's death had nothing to do with the investigation. In fact, Welch had been warned not to live in the Athens home that his CIA predecessors had occupied, because it was "notorious." And the Greek media had identified him as a CIA officer. Yet when Church ran for re-election in 1980, Republican Senator Jim McClure of Idaho publicly blamed him for Welch's death. Church lost by just over 4,000 votes.

I don't know whether Welch's name had been published in Greece as a CIA officer before orafter the Counter-Spy revelation.

Mooney's article is also a good reminder that the CIA has often been involved in misconduct.  We know today, for instance, that they are practicing "rendition," i.e., outsourcing torture by sending terrorist suspects to countries where they will be tortured.  Mooney reminds us what prompted the special Congressional investigations of the CIA at that time:

It's important today to recall that the object of much of the Church committee's investigation were the abuses the CIA and other intelligence agencies inflicted on Americans here at home. They included the Huston Plan, a proposal to have the agencies infiltrate and disrupt student and other dissenting organizations; Operation HT Lingual, in which the CIA had for 20 years been opening the mail that Americans (including Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey) had sent to the Soviet bloc; and other operations that kept files, ran wiretaps, and performed medical experiments on U.S. citizens.

Although the CIA had ballooned to the size of the State Department by the late 1950s, prior to 1975 the U.S. intelligence community had never undergone significant congressional scrutiny. The laissez-faire attitude was encapsulated by a remark to Church from the Republican Senator Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts: "It's better for gentlemen not to know what's going on." But after a 1974 New York Times series by Seymour Hersh revealed that the CIA had conducted "massive" illegal spying activities against American antiwar protesters and dissidents, Congress and the executive branch convulsed into action. Three separate bodies were formed to investigate the intelligence services: Church's committee in the Senate, a committee headed by New York Democrat Otis Pike in the House of Representatives, and a commission led by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.

The Watergate hearings lingered in recent memory, and Church was in some sense the congressional equivalent of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The amount of information amassed by his committee of 11 senators and more than 100 staff members was staggering: 800 interviews, 110,000 pages of documents. ... And as the embarrassing revelations tumbled out--that the CIA had kept lethal shellfish poisons despite an order from President Nixon to destroy them, for example, or that it had administered LSD to "unwitting" human subjects--the Ford administration dug in its heels. Indeed, the rhetoric of "dismantling" and "crippling" the CIA comes from ur-Realpolitickers Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger. ...

The chief legacies of the Church committee - besides President Ford's executive order banning political assassinations, a key policy change resulting from the 1975 CIA probes [Bush has lifted the ban. - Bruce] - were the standing House and Senate intelligence committees formed after the investigation. How such oversight could have hamstrung the CIA is not clear. If anything, the committees were too lax with William Casey, the Reagan-era CIA director who easily misled them about the agency's dangerous mining of harbors in Nicaragua.

This background of the law is worth remembering.  Because there could be instances of genuine misconduct by CIA officers that would make it ethical for a reporter to expose their activities and even their identities.  I won't both to try to troll-proof that comment.  But I would hope that no one would ever again divulge undercover CIA for such light reasons and in such an irresponsible way as Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and Robert Novak did.  Even if the underlying issue is serious misconduct by the CIA.

And it's worth remembering, as Mooney's article notes, that despite the dishonest accusations by Republican partisans, the Church Committee exposed much CIA misconduct in ways that allowed meaningful reforms to be put in place without exposing the identities of undercover agents.

Philip Agee Today

Agee is still around.  For instance, in this interview, he discusses his view of Bush administration efforts to oust Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: Interview with Philip Agee former CIA Operative : The nature ofCIA intervention in Venezuela 03/23/05

I saw him described on some blog the other day as having "defected" to Cuba.  I'm not sure  if that's technically true.  And so far as I know, there are no warrants out against him.  But he definitely did cooperate with Cuba and other groups that have been highly critical of US policies in Latin America.  In his 1987 book On the Run, Agee himself provides some strong impressions of his own perspective.  Describing a press conference in Nicaragua during the time when the Reagan administration was funding armed opposition to the Sandinista government there, he writes:

To nobody's surprise the press conference itself started trouble with the U.S. Embassy—a controversy that continued even after I had left three weeks later. I planned in my remarks to describe the CIA's targets, the general techniques used to penetrate, divide and weaken progressive organizations, and to stress the need for unity and constant vigilance. But I also wanted to focus attention on the CIA's presence in the U.S. Embassy where they had as many as a dozen people, maybe more, under various covers. So I brought up the previous accusations that I had influenced the assaults on U.S. Embassies in Tehran, Islamabad and Tripoli.

"I denied it," I said, "but the people in those countries knew the CIA was hard at work every day in those Embassies, and they gave them a direct answer. People ought to prepare themselves, like the Moslems, so that the U.S. government knows the cost of aggression, that people will answer violence with violence, that the cost will be too high, that if the Reagan administration invades Nicaragua too many young Americans will be going home in nylon bags."

I was careful not to say anything that could be interpreted as inciting people to attack the Embassy or any Embassy personnel, but that people should be prepared to respond. I went on to emphasize that Nicaraguans should know exactly who the CIA people in the Embassy are: their names and home addresses. "They're not invulnerable, and they should know that they're in for the same fate as the people they attack."

Those remarks, I knew, would be seen as a provocation, but little did I anticipate the reaction. The next day they were carried in headline articles by Barricada, the FSLN [Sandinista party] newspaper, and by El Nuevo Diario, the other pro-government paper. Wire services reported immediately that theU.S. Embassy had gone on full alert against a possible assault, had implemented plans to evacuate families, and had started burning files.

That was fine, I thought. Let them worry a bit.

It's pretty obvious why even dissident CIA officers or Americans who were strongly critical of Reagan's Latin America policies - and his support for the rightwing Nicaraguan contras was unpopular - would not feel comfortable with Agee's approach, to put it mildly.  Comments like "they should know they're vulnerable" and "let them worry a bit" sound like Mad Annie Coulter talking about liberals today.

"People ought to prepare themselves, like the Muslims," is not the kind of comment that tends to win friends and influence people in Western democratic countries these days, either.

And it's not too hard to see how appeals like this might seem like calls for defection:

CIA employees who reject this policy should know that there is a "whole world out here" ready to give the help and support you if you take  a stand. You will find the same approval I did, the same acceptance, the same loyalty I found in the peace movement and among progressives and revolutionaries everywhere I went. And if you take a strong and principled position, you will never regret it.

For more effective resistance to the Reagan Doctrine, the cruelty of "low intensity conflict," and the "new cold war," present and former CIA employees are needed now more than ever.

I hope this book will encourage some of them to join the international solidarity movement and to speak out on Agency deception and promotion of terrorism. Those who join will not find enemies of the American people, but enemies of a system that appropriates natural resources, imposes mass poverty, and relies on political repression for social control.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Chuckie Watch 110: Profiling Chuckiestan

The conjunction "but" can be a very expressive word.  As in, "Now, I don't have anything against black people, but ..."  Or, "Some of my best friends are Mexicans, but ..."  You don't even have to finish the sentence, because you've already communicated everything you intended to!

Chuckie thanks we need to Profile or Perish 07/25/05.  He starts off by saying:

No decent person has any desire to single out any ethnic group or race of people and pick on them, that’s called discrimination.

But ...

Yeah, that's ChuckieThought in a nutshell.

You know the rest of it already.  Although you can always click on the link and fit Chuckie's inspired prose firsthand.

He goes on to explain how the way to git the terrorists is to go ransacking through Muslim neighborhoods.  And the Muslims shouldn't complain, because, you know, if they don't like it, "they should go back where they came from."  I wonder if Chuckie thanks that "Muslim" is a funny word for "immigrant"?

In Chuckiestan things like this apparently make perfect sense:

If the terrorists were Polish I’m sure the good people of Hamtramck, Michigan wouldn’t mind government agents coming into their neighborhoods to rid them of these murderers.

Chuckie seems to thank all The Terrorists are Muslims.  Which he may thank means "immigrant".

Except that, guys like Eric Rudolph or the one from Texas that got busted with more "weapons of mass destruction" (poison gas) in his possession than Saddam had in Iraq, they're more likely to be white Christian Americans.  So I'm sure Chuckie would be just fine with it if we substitute "white Christian" for "Muslim" in some of his comments.  Like:

... we must go into [white Christian] neighborhoods in search of the bad guys and that is not discrimination, it’s just common sense.


The point is that any [white Christian] who is a true American citizen and I’m sure there are many of them, should be willing to cooperate with federal agents in their effort to locate terrorists.

It all comes down to do American [white Christians] love America more than the countries they left behind? If so they should be willing to bend over backwards to rid their chosen land of terrorists. If not they should go back where they came from.

Or this one:

The question is are we going to have the cooperation of the [white Christian] population in America. America is the most privileged, the most blessed nation on the face of the earth and being an American carries with it a certain amount of responsibility.

And let's all remember:

But after all the fanfare and political posturing the truth will remain. The terrorists are of [American Caucasian] decent, they are [white Christians] and they are still intent on destroying everything we have and everything we stand for.

Yeah, Chuckie ain't gone let none of that thar political correctness stand in the way of rooting out The Terrorists from their neighborhoods!

Roy Edroso visits the asylum

I make my own efforts.  But I just don't have the gift for lampooning the middle-brow Bush fans the way Roy Edroso does.  Here, for instance: A Jog 'Round the Asylum 07/25/05

Meanwhile congratulations Jeff Goldstein on causing the balloons to drop with the 10,000th blogpost to date on how liberals are losing the war and killing our soldiers. Boy, the President is rightwing, both houses of Congress are rightwing, most governors are rightwing, all the cool kids are rightwing -- we are assured every day that liberals are a dying, impotent, spore of mold in the dustbin of history -- and yet somehow we determine the course of the World War Whatever with our mere words (which no one reads)! Let us gather in Berkeley, people, and sneer for peace!

Chuckie Watch 109: A visit to Chuckiestan

Chuckie, They're Not Going to Stop 07/22/05 (my emphasis):

The world may as well go ahead and face it. There is a contingent within the Muslim world, which is dedicated to nothing less than the total annihilation of every man woman and child on the face of the earth who does not see eye to eye with them. ...

They’re not going to quit. There is no quit in these people. They are fanatics, and what we do other than totally destroy them is not going to make any difference.

It’s certainly not a situation that we want to find ourselves in but the reality of the situation is that’s exactly where we are and the only question is are we going to recognize the situation for what it is and fight it tooth and nail or are we going to pursue the primrose path of passivity and go down the drain one building and a few hundred lives at a time?

For too long the west has been content to sit back and watch Israel deal with the terrorism problem of the radical Islamists practically by themselves.

Times have changed, it’s the planet earth at large which is in danger, and our way of life hangs in the balance.

What it boils down to is, it’s them or us.

Chuckie, Al Jazeera West 07/15/05 (my emphasis):

Would the BBC and CNN like to see America cease to exist? Do they want to see America defeated in the war on terror? If that is not their purpose, then what is?

How would the BBC have felt if during the height of Hitler’s bombing of London American media had begun bashing Churchill’s every move and call the Nazis by some sanitized, generic name other than the butchers they really were.

The BBC and CNN feed the rest of the world a daily diet of anti-Americanism .I guess they think that by doing so they can affect the outcome of elections and politics in general in the U.S.A. Think again guys.

My heart goes out to the people of England who suffered at the hands of terrorist bombs recently and yet their own national broadcasting system refuses to even call the scumbags terrorists as if semantics could just make the whole thing go away.

Glenn Frankel, British Pursue Link Between 2 Sets of Bombers: Police Apologize for Mistaken Killing Washington Post 07/25/05

Meanwhile, the country's highest-ranking police officer made a public apology for the killing of a Brazilian man at a subway station Friday by plainclothes officers who mistook him for a suspected terrorist.

Many of the Brazilian's relatives and friends rejected the official explanation for the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. The 27-year-old electrician was on his way to a job when he was chased into a subway car by undercover policemen, one of whom shot him in the head five times in front of horrified passengers. (my emphasis)

Jill Lawless, Some in U.K. Shocked Over Subway Killing Associated Press 07/23/05:

Witnesses said the Brazilian was wearing a heavy, padded coat when plainclothes police chased him into a subway car, pinned him to the ground and shot him in the head and torso.

"They pushed him onto the floor and unloaded five shots into him," witness Mark Whitby told the British Broadcasting Corp. "He looked like a cornered fox. He looked petrified."

Knight Ridder:

Matthew Schofield and Laura Potts, Man killed in London subway not involved in attacks, police say Knight-Ridder 07/23/05

Police said they ordered him to halt. Instead, he vaulted the turnstiles and ran onto a train, with police close behind.

The official report simply states: "He was then followed by surveillance officers to the underground station. His clothing and behavior added to their suspicions."

According to a witness quoted in London's Daily Mail, the man "looked absolutely petrified" as he ran onto the train. The witness told the newspaper that the suspect, just a few yards away from him, fell to the ground and officers were on him immediately.

"The policeman nearest to me had the black automatic pistol in his left hand. He held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him."

I guess Chuckie must be proud of the London police for this one, huh?  They didn't mess around with no political correctness on this one.  No sirree, the only good terrorist is a daid terrorist, according to Chuckie.  They didn't let it go with just one bullet to the head, either.  They pumped in four more just to be safe.  In a subway car with passengers in it.

And the London cops even claim that they got this shoot-him-in-the-head-and-ask-questions-later approach from the Israelis.  Chuckie must be happy about that, too.

One thing I don't quite understand, though: Does Chuckie thank Israel's situation is the best we can do in regard to terrorism?  I mean, a lot of people might think that their overall results haven't been so good in doing away with the terrorism problem.

But there are a lot of things in Chuckiestan that I don't quite git.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

California politics: About time

Our immigrant-bashing, labor-hating, anti-education bad joke of a Republican governor here in California is finally starting to have some serious crash-and-burn action:  Sand kicked in face of strong-man governor by Carla Marinucci San Francisco Chronicle 07/24/05.  He had pushed for a special election in November for several ballot measures to slash state programs, restrict unions' ability to engage in political activity and create more Republican electoral districts.

He's already had to back off an initiative to slash the pensions of public employees.  Then this past week a court decision removed his electoral initiative from the ballot.

So now his team is floating the prospect of backing off the special election altogether.  Running the largest state government in the country has turned out to involve more than blustering for the cameras and raising lots of money, it appears.

But veteran Democratic strategist Garry South said there's hardly an outpouring of pity for the GOP action-hero-turned-governor with this latest development. "He's gotten himself into this pickle," he said. "This was all about testosterone, and we'll have to see whether his glands outduel his brain on how to get out of this mess.''

Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman also seemed to be enjoying the governor's predicament. Strategy is limited, she said, when you're hanging on the side of a cliff.

"They are in free fall here,'' she said of the governor's team. "They don't have any good choices.''

With just weeks until Schwarzenegger has to decide whether to pull the plug on the special election, the latest debate marks another critical setback for the once-seemingly invincible head of the nation's most populous state -- in a month of setbacks.

On the political front, there was the court decision this week tossing out Proposition 77, the redistricting initiative considered a linchpin of his reform agenda. With his pension reform package pulled months ago, that left only teacher tenure and his Live Within Our Means budget proposal as remnants of the original Schwarzenegger agenda on a shrinking ballot of six initiatives. ("Paycheck protection,'' the initiative backed by Schwarzenegger allies to restrict public union dues for political purposes, is among them.)

In reading Marinucci's article, notice that it's heavy on people giving advice to the Democrats about how they ought to be nice and not try to take advantage of poor Arnie's dilemma.  What a laugh!

Schwarzenegger has also been taking some real heat lately for his outside business dealings: Governor keeps deals secret by Andy Furillo and Gary Delsohn Sacramento Bee 07/19/05.

Despite the furor that prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to drop his $5 million magazine deal last week, his aides declined Monday to provide additional details on income he is receiving from 20 other businesses that each paid more than $10,000 last year to his personal holding company.

Schwarzenegger's financial adviser, Paul Wachter, and his communications director, Rob Stutzman, cited privacy concerns as the reason for keeping secret the governor's total outside income. ...

Scrutiny of Schwarzenegger's personal finances intensified last week with the disclosure of his consulting services agreement with American Media Operations Inc. that promised to pay him at least $1 million a year over five years to serve as the executive editor of two muscle magazines owned by the company.

Schwarzenegger quit the editor's job Friday, saying in a statement, "I don't want there to be any question or doubt that the people have my full devotion."

The American Media deal raised allegations of conflict of interest because the two magazines derive a large portion of their income from dietary supplement advertisements. The Republican governor last year vetoed a bill that would have restricted the use of supplements among high school athletes, saying the substances are overwhelmingly safe. A similar bill by state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, is pending in the Legislature.

And to show what a man of the people he is, Schwarzenegger had this to say about giving up that $5millionmagazine deal: 

"I have no problem about the money, but my wife had a little problem with that," Schwarzenegger told reporters, in reference to first lady Maria Shriver. "She was worried - that means less diamonds or something like that."

And this from the guy who came to power in an extraordinary special election, promising to clean up the pay-for-play, contributions-oriented approach that seemed to characterize Gray Davis' administration.

Before and After, Supplements in the Picture by Robert Salladay and Dan Morain Los Angeles Times 07/23/05:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ended his $8-million contract with a muscle magazine publisher last week. But his deep emotional, political and business ties to bodybuilding — and to the supplement industry that feeds it — won't be so easily severed. ...

According to documents and interviews with industry leaders, Schwarzenegger has continued to give the industry advice. He has participated in private meetings about government regulations. The governor also received personal income from the Arnold Classic bodybuilding contest, which serves as a showplace for supplements.

And since entering politics, he has accepted $242,000 in contributions to his gubernatorial campaign and other causes from individuals and companies connected to the bodybuilding and supplement industry. ...

Last year, Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have required coaches to take a course in performance-enhancing supplements, created a list of banned substances for interscholastic sports and barred supplement manufacturers from sponsoring school events.

In his veto message, an official state document, Schwarzenegger said most dietary supplements were safe. He also said the legislation unfairly focused on "performance-enhancing dietary supplements (PEDS) instead of focusing on ensuring that students participating in high school sports are not engaged in steroids use."

Muscle & Fitness and Flex, two American Media publications, are dominated by advertising from supplement makers. Ads for some products run over multiplepages. One advertisement by VPX Sports, which Schwarzenegger disclosed as providing income to him through the Arnold Classic, sells a "freeze & burn rapid fat loss and energy technology" drink.

With the following, it's hard to know whether it's a misplaced sense of humor, or just total cluelessness:

"He's is not the kind of person who is going to be affected by the money — never," said Charlotte Parker, Schwarzenegger's former longtime movie publicist. "He likes to be fairly compensated for what he does, but that would never compromise what he wants to do. He is committed to being governor."

Iraq War: The "stay the course" option

"I think we are winning.  Okay?  I think we're definitely winning.  I think we've been winning for some time." - Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the Iraq War 04/26/05

"I just wonder if they will ever tell us the truth." - Harold Casey, Louisville, KY, October 2004.

Another recent paper by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies is the draft of a forthcoming book Staying the Course? What Can Be Done in Iraq (*.pdf file; 06/26/05 version).  The text does show signs of being a work in progress; some passages still refer to the January 30 elections of 2005 as being future events, while others discuss more recent events in the past tense.

Cordesman says that anyone hoping for a rapid takover of the war effort by Iraqi forces is smoking crack (he doesn't put it exactly like that, but...):

No one can argue that Iraqi forces will be ready to deal with the every aspect of the current threat posed by insurgency and terrorism in the near future. Iraqi forces will remain a fraction of what is needed through at least mid-2005 and probably deep into 2006. Many critical elements of Iraqi army, security forces, and police development may not be complete by the end of 2007 - and this assumes a high degree of continuity and consistency in Iraqi efforts. Iraqi forces will not have airpower, significant armor, or modern IS&R support for years to come. Creating Iraqi forces that can be fully effective in both dealing with continued insurgency and terrorism, and capable of defending Iraq against any active threat from its neighbors, will not be a matter of sudden "tipping points," it will be a process involving "tipping years." (my emphasis)

"Staying the course" has its own costs and risks:

The answer cannot be adding more US and other coalition troops as a substitute for effective Iraqi forces. Temporary surges and reinforcements to US and British forces may be necessary, but they are at best a short-term expedient, and one that inevitably will have political costs that offset their military impact. The nature of both the insurgency in Iraq and Iraqi politics make it all too clear that only Iraqi forces can minimize the anger and resentment at US forces, give the emerging Iraqi government legitimacy, and support efforts to make that government and the Iraqi political system more inclusive. Even the segments of Iraqi society that tolerate Coalition forces as a necessity today want them out as quickly as is practical.

Even the best possible new elections, restructuring of the government, and efforts to create a constitution cannot by themselves make the new Iraqi government legitimate in Iraqi eyes unless that government provides security with Iraqi forces. Iraqis need to be seen as steadily taking over the security role by their countryman, the region, and the world. Poll after poll has shown that Iraqis see physical security as one of the most important single issues in their lives, generally followed by economic and educational security. The same polls show that they want Coalition forces to leave as soon as possible - and often long before Iraqi forces can be ready.

And the most powerful military in the history of the world, that spends over half the military budgets of the entire planet has its limits:

It is also important to note that the US is exhausting its ability to create, rotate, and retain the skilled forces that actually help in combat and specialized missions, and will soon have rotated a million men and women through Iraq – including those rotated more than once.

But, on the other hand, we're stuck.  At least through the "tipping years":

The fact that more US forces are not a substitute for Iraqi forces, however, does not mean that the US can find substitutes for the US forces that Iraq still needs.

This is sure turning out to be a much longer "cakewalk" than the neocons thought.  But can't the "international community" do something to share the disaster with the US?  Maybe not:

The world would be a better place if commentators and analysts stopped talking in vague terms about the "international community." In practice, the real world "international community" that can participate in nation building consists of a relatively small number of organizations and NGOs with limited and overcommitted resources. Calling for the "international community" to substitute for US action, or the action of any other country, is meaningless unless that call can be tied to the identification of specific organizations and specific resources that can credibly be allocated to a given task or mission.

In the case of Iraqi security, the UN has no military forces, and is unable to recruit new forces at a scale that could begin to replace US and British forces. The UN as a whole lacks the support needed for such a mission and it has no readiness to become involved in a counterinsurgency campaign. Moreover, Iraqis do not want to replace one set of "occupiers" with another.

But surely some Muslim countries could be persuaded to bail us out, right?

Neighbouring countries are not a solution. They cannot provide the necessary combat-ready forces in a sustainable form. The presence of neighbouring countries’ troops would present serious internal political liabilities. Troops from Iran could inflame the Shi’ite issue, Saudi Arabia is dealing with its own bout of insurgents, Syria would present Sunni and Ba’ath Party conflicts, Turkey would be problematic due to the Kurdish question, and Jordan is already doing what it can without openly supporting the US and inviting internal turmoil given the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Even if the Iraqi political repercussions were less severe, other Arab and Islamic forces cannot deploy with the necessary speed and lack the ability to sustain their forces in the field. Once more, such efforts would inevitably be seen as efforts to bail the US out of a war that had no public supporters. The domestic outcry within these countries would be intense, to say the least.

But what about all those schools we hear about being painted and all?  Isn't there some Jim-Dandy economic development going on there?

Iraq is also going to need continuing economic aid, and aid that it plans, allocates, and manages. The many failures in the US and Coalition effort to create effective Iraqi forces documentedin the earlier chapters of this book have at least been largely overcome. The same cannot be said of the aid effort. The initial ideological bias of the CPA, and the illusion that the US had the competence to create a new Iraqi economy out of the mess left by Saddam Hussein in a country his wars had effectively bankrupted in 1984 is only part of the story.

In broad terms, the US simply did not know what to do, and how to go beyond classic project aid to dealing with insurgency. The reprogramming of aid to meet short term goals – adding dollars to bullets – had to be forced on the system largely by the US Embassy team in Baghdad and the US military. USAID and the Department of Defense proved incapable of conducting effective surveys of requirements, establishing valid contracts, administering contracts, ensuring that projects could be carried out in threatened areas, and assessing success and failure with any objectivity. (my emphasis)

At least we didn't hold things up with a lot of, you know, fussy accounting:

Reliance on US contractors, and non-Iraq contractors compounded the security problems and wasted vast amounts of money on expenses that never reached Iraqis or improved their lives. While some contractors showed great courage and dedication, many simply took the money and "hid" in secure areas, and corruption was endemic in many aspects of the aid effort.

It is brutally clear, however, that the talent to plan and manage an effective effort simply does not exist in Washington, and outsiders may be able to advise in transforming the kind of "command kleptocracy" that existed under Saddam Hussein, but do not have the skills necessary to run that transformation themselves.

Cordesman's recommendations start on p. 23 of the document.  Cordesman is a supporter of the Bush stay-the-course policy.  Let me repeat that: Cordesman is a supporter of the Bush stay-the-course policy.

Keep reiterating that the US and its key allies will set no deadlines, for withdrawal, or fixed limits on its military effort, and will support Iraq until it is ready to take over the mission and theinsurgents are largely defeated.

I don't quite know why people keep suggesting the following, though.  If this were the Bush administration's intention, they would have declared it long ago:

Make it clear that the US and Britain will not maintain post insurgency bases in Iraq, and that they will stay only as long as the Iraqi government requests and needs their support.

Post-insurgency bases were one of the main benefits of the invasion and occupation of Iraq in the minds of the neocon grand strategists.

I'm tempted to do a whole separate post on the following.  I probably will use this one again.  This is good advice.  Advice that the current Pentagon leadership, military and civilian, is not following (my emphasis):

Any US approach to these issues should remember the lessons of the [1968] Tet offensive and Vietnam, as well as American reversals in Lebanon and Somalia. The enemies of the US clearly recognize that a strategy of attrition is often the key to defeating the US in grand strategic terms even if the US can win every military battle. If the American people are to "stay the course," they need to be prepared for the realities of just how long such missions take and their real world costs. Americans are not inherently casualty and cost adverse, but they must believe that the mission is worth the cost, that victory is possible, and that they are being told the truth.

The current approach to public affairs and the media in the US government and military is far too often to offer the reassuring spin of the day: To "cherry pick" the good news, exaggerate it, and understate or omit bad news and uncertainty. The result is cumulatively to deprive US officials and the US military of their credibility, and to make the media hostile or critical whenever it does not have direct contact with forces in the field and is not able to make its own judgments. It is also to cumulatively build-up distrust in the American people, as real world events play out over time in far less reassuring ways.

Successful propaganda cannot ultimately be based on a "liar's contest," even when the lies are lies of omission. Like leadership, it must consist in educating people in the truth and in the validity of the mission and the means be used to achieve it. There is also a long history in the US government and US military of cases where such liar's contests do more to blind those telling the lies to the reality of the situation than they do to sustain political and public support. In short, transparency, the truth, education, and leadership are the medium and long-term keys to success, and short-term spin artistry can easily become the prelude to failure.

Reality-based analysts like Cordesman can see through the stab-in-the-back theory of the Vietnam War, and the one that is already beginning to kick around on the Iraq War.

And if you read any of the document, be sure to read the part that begins on page 30.  Again, this is a supporter, yes a supporter, of the Bush stay-the-course policy.  But a reality-based one.  Some excerpts (my emphasis):

The US committed a grand strategic error of monumental proportions in misjudging the political conditions, economic conditions, structure of governance, and popular support of an outside invasion and occupation. It did not understand the country it invaded or occupied. ...

The US proved incapable of performing such an assessment in this case. Worse, it both lacked pragmatism and realism in its effort to make such assessments, and both its senior civilian policymakers and its highest-level commanders confused war fighting with grand strategy. This vastly increased the risk of unrest and insurgency and vastly complicated the task of creating effective Iraqi forces.

Worse, these problems were compounded by a kind of cultural arrogance that tacitly assumed US values and perceptions not only were correct, but also would become Iraqi perceptions. The US went to war without understanding or giving importance to the value of the society it intended to liberate and transform.

The US was unprepared for nation building and made no prewar commitment to perform it. Even if it had understood conditions in Iraq, itwas not ready to take on the necessary commitment to nation building until this was force upon it by events,and it then clear lacked the talent, interagency structures, and experience to perform such task efficiently. ...

The US military was unprepared at the senior command level for counterinsurgency, and especially for serious partnership and interoperability with the new Iraqi forces it was seeking to create. The civil aid effort was organized around creating the wrong kind of police forces for a kind of nation building that could only take place in a far more permissive environment. ...

It is far from clear that any of the efforts made to create improve US capabilities to date have served any useful purpose.... The US did not demonstrate it had a coordination problem; it demonstrated that it had a fundamental competence problem.

The two levels I highlighted above are very important for both the present and the future.  It would be another major disaster if the "lessons of Iraq" ignore the failings of the military leadership in the process of politicians of both parties falling all over each other to show they are "honoring the troops" by not making necessary criticisms and reforms to address the very real failures of the generals that have come to light in the Iraq War.  The current massive effort toward "military transformation" will not prepare the United States to fight counterinsurgency wars more effectively.

This is apart from the question of whether as a matter of foreign policy we should put ourselves into situation like the Iraq War that require counterinsurgency warfighting capabilities.

The stab-in-the-back fans, both the conscious opportunists as well as the just foolish, will try to blame the whole thing on some cowardly civilians, or on the lack of insufficient Star Wars boondoggle spending, or some such thing.

"Wars are easy to get into, but hard as hell to get out of." - George McGovern and Jim McGovern 06/06/05

Friday, July 22, 2005

No sympathy for this pair

"Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors."  - Old Man Bush 04/26/99

Gene Lyons had the occasion as a reporter following the Whitewater scandal to see up close and personal how the New York Times in particular got snookered by a bunch of segregationist yawhoos in Arkansas on the Clinton scandals.  So he isn't showing either a lot of sympathy for the Times or conformity to accepted press corps wisdom on the martyrdom of Judith Miller for the higher cause of protecting Karl Rove and/or other liars who helped to start a needless war.

In this column, he takes a few potshots at Miller and her paper: Journalists are citizens, too Daily Dunklin Democrat 07/20/05.

He reminds us of the significance of this case:

It was Wilson's July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed article which forced the White House to admit that one of President Bush's key propaganda claims about Saddam Hussein's non-existent nukes was known to be false when he made it. Although certain of Wilson's claims proved less than 100 percent accurate--the crudely forged documents the White House relied upon weren't exposed as such until after he'd made his own report to the CIA--it's worth remembering that President Bush's statements proved to be 100 percent false.

Lyons takes a dim view of the Rove cover stories:

Meanwhile, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said rumors of Rove's involvement were "totally ridiculous." Rove himself denied knowing Valerie Plame's name, a cute equivocation that's completely beside the point. It's like trying to beat a DWI charge by saying you didn't know gin contained alcohol.

Referring to the memo that Rove may have seen that could have been his first source indicating that she held a sensitive position at the CIA, Lyons writes:

Only the claim about Plame's job turned out to be accurate. Rove's lawyer says his client didn't know it was classified information. If so, Rove's defense againsta potential treason charge wouldbe incompetence.

And he's not cutting the New York Times any breaks on this one:

In a haughty tone familiar to anybody who's ever caught the newspaper with its metaphorical pants down, the editors reminded the prosecutor that they're The New York Times, and he's not. "Mr. Fitzgerald's attempts to interfere with the rights of a free press while refusing to disclosehis reasons for doing so, when he can't even say whether a crime has been committed, have exhibited neither reverence nor cautious circumspection."

What rubbish. Reverence, indeed. (To be fair, it's an allusion to James Madison, not a demand to be worshipped.) In making its argument, the Times states it wouldn't print information that "would endanger lives and national security."

So here's my question: In a post-9/11 world, what information could possibly be more sensitive than the identity of a covert agent charged with preventing nuclear proliferation?

Answer: None.

Lyons doesn't comment on this aspect of it, but what did the Times think they were doing when they let Miller print those WMD stories?  Promoting the WMD fraud has certainly cost a lot of lives.  And it has made the US less safe than terrorism than we would have been without the Iraq War.  We can only wish they had developed these scruples when they still might have helped slow the rush to war - they were editorially opposed to the invasion - instead of feeding the war hysteria with Judith Miller's WMD stories that turned out to be bogus.  If she were an ethical reporter, she would have long since told her readers who was lying to her about those claims.  Confidentiality doesn't apply to blatant deception by your sources.

Noting Miller's very outspoken ideological position on Iraq and her role in promoting the phony WMD claims in the pages of the Times, Lyons writes:

What everybody's ignoring here is that [prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald already knows Miller's sources. That's not what he wants to ask her. His prosecution brief urging her incarceration stipulates that "her putative source has been identified and has waived confidentiality."

Even editor Bill Keller has conceded that there's no imaginable journalist's shield  law that would protect her. It's Miller's patriotic duty to talk.