Saturday, September 15, 2007

How the Press Does it or Not

Let it be noted that the morning after George W. Bush announced an open-ended – possibly permanent – military occupation of Iraq the premier U.S. newspapers ran headlines about the President ordering “troop cuts,” itself a troubling reminder of how the American people got into this mess.

The New York Times’ lead headline read: “Bush Says Success Allows Gradual Troop Cuts.” The Washington Post went with: “Bush Tells Nation He Will Begin to Roll Back ‘Surge.’”

In a subhead, the Post highlighted a tidbit from its own interview with Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq: that he projected “sustainable security” in that country by mid-2009 (which would fall shortly after the sixth anniversary of Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech).

Granted, the news stories did include some reasons for skepticism about Bush’s latest happy talk, including references to the assassination of the U.S.-allied Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha earlier in the day in Anbar Province and the apparent collapse of Iraqi negotiations over how to divvy up the country’s oil revenues.

Yet, despite Bush’s long history of wishful thinking – or delusions – about Iraq, the major newspapers still gave Bush the headlines he wanted.

So, Americans bustling past newsstands on their way to work would get the superficial impression that Bush was finally moving toward the Iraq exit door when he really was doing all he could to paint the country, and his presidential successor, into a corner.

While the newspapers played up Bush’s relatively modest troop cuts – 5,700 by year’s end and another 20,000 or so by July 2008 – the more significant point was that the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq would still exceed the 130,000 or so who were in Iraq last November when anti-war sentiment led to the defeat of Republicans in Congress.

In his televised address, Bush also made clear that he foresaw an indefinite U.S. military commitment to Iraq reaching “beyond my presidency,” with any possible future de-escalation tied to Bush’s new slogan, “return on success.”

So, the headlines after the Sept. 13 speech could have read: “Bush Vows Indefinite U.S. Military Occupation of Iraq.” Indeed, if Bush’s speech is remembered historically, it will almost surely be for that reason, the clearest indication yet of his imperial impulse in the Middle East.

But the major U.S. news outlets still fear diverging from the message that Bush and his right-wing allies want delivered to the American people.

More Propaganda

That was the case in 2002-03 when the same newspapers trumpeted Bush’s Iraq-WMD propaganda and in early 2005 when Bush’s “freedom agenda” was conveyed with almost no skepticism, even as Bush was eliminating the classic American principle of inalienable rights, including the habeas corpus guarantee against arbitrary imprisonment, protection against “cruel and unusual punishment, “ and prohibitions against unreasonable searches.

The news media’s timidity and/or complicity in relation to Bush and his “war on terror” policies remain a fact of life today.

When the President asserts that up is down, readers of American newspapers have to search somewhere in the jump for a carefully hedged suggestion that perhaps up is really sideways. After six years of this behavior, it’s clear that the U.S. press corps has proven no match for Bush’s cognitive dissonance.

By focusing on “troop cuts” after Bush’s endless-war speech, the newspaper headlines represent just the latest example of why large segments of the American people have lost confidence in the U.S. news media.

The public intuitively understands that national-level journalists are looking out for their careers first, way more than the public’s right to know. With a few exceptions, these well-paid media stars fear that their livelihoods would be endangered if they got on the wrong side of the administration and its brass-knuckled allies.

So the beat goes on. By jacking up the number of troops and then letting some go home, Bush gets to play an escalation of the war into a troop cut. He also gets to sell the Iraq War again as a battle necessary to thwart al-Qaeda terrorists, even though U.S. intelligence has long ago concluded that Bush’s strategy is playing into al-Qaeda’s hands.

Almost one year ago, West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center posted a captured al-Qaeda communiqué from a senior aide to Osama bin Laden, a Libyan identified as Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, to the now-deceased Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which stated in black-and-white al-Qaeda’s view of the Iraq War.

“Prolonging the war is in our interest,” the al-Qaeda letter read. Yet, neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post has ever mentioned this remarkable fact. Nor have Democrats cited the “Atiyah” comment as a counterpoint to Bush’s claims that al-Qaeda wants to “drive us out” of Iraq.

The reality – as many U.S. intelligence analysts know – is that al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan see their personal survival and their movement's growth tied to the tying down of American forces in Iraq and to the outrage that an indefinite U.S. occupation of Iraq continues to stir up in the Islamic world.


Meanwhile, President Bush keeps pointing the way forward in Iraq from one mirage to another, as the United States staggers deeper into a neoconservative dreamscape of delusions.

The Joke that is Big Media Journalism

Cut corners, save money by using stringers, supervise them even less than employees, then expect any sort of competence:
As predicted yesterday, the scandal over disgraced ex-ABC News consultant Alexis Debat continues to spin out of control, with major implications for the way that Americans have been getting their news about the flashpoints that could determine war or peace in the Persian Gulf and South Asia.

The story first broke in Debat's native France, but here at home Laura Rozen continues to lead the pack on the coverage. Writing online today for Mother Jones, she exposes that there were long-time, serious questions about Debat by some at ABC News -- yet those questions never stopped star investigative reporter Brian Ross from airing sensational and inflamatory articles about U.S. meddling in Iran and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, using Debat as a prime source. Writes Rozen:

Interviews with journalists, think tank associates, and a former government official indicate that there were warning signs about Debat for years—even within the network itself. Two journalists familiar with Debat's work point to ABC chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross not only as the victim of Debat's alleged deceptions, but as an enabler, who has promoted sensational stories—including some that Debat brought the network—at the expense at times of rigorous journalism standards.

She notes two Ross ABC "scoops" on Pakistan that were either corrected or instantly denounced as false by Pakistani officials.

In the meantime, little attention had been paid to the French journal Politique Internationale -- which published Debat's bogus "interviews" with Barack Obama, as well as Hillary Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, former Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

But the French magazine deserves closer scrutiny. In continuing to connect the dots between Debat and the push for a neoconservative agenda that includes ratcheting up war tensions with Iran, it turns out that a prominent member of the neocon movement has served as editor of Politique Internationale for much of this decade.

Iranian-borm Amir Taheri (pictured at top) -- who edited a leading Iranian newspaper prior to the 1979 overthrow of the Shah and has since written for a number of western publications, including several owned by conservative press lord Rupert Murdoch -- has been a leading voice in Politique Internationale. It's not clear what his current role is, but in numerous press reports from 2001 through 2006 he was listed as its editor.

In recent years, Taheri's work has been prominently promoted by Benador Associates, a New York based public-relations firm that specializes in Middle Eastern affairs with a roster of experts, according to its own Web site, that reads like a Who's Who of the neo-conservative movement, including Richard Perle and James Woolsey.

Taheri's articles appear frequently in Murdoch-owned publications like the New York Post, the Times of London (which front-paged colleague Debat's accusations of the pending U.S. bombing of Iran), and the Weekly Standard. Ironically, Taheri has also written occasionally for the Wall Street Journal, which will soon be owned by Murdoch as well.

And like Debat, Taheri's work has been called into question in recent years. Most notably, Taheri reported in a column in Canada's National Post in May 2006 that Iran had passed a law requiring the country's Jews and other religious minorities to wear coloured badges identifying them as non-Muslims. The story was received wide play in conservative circles, but it was not true -- the newspaper had to publish a retraction the next day.

A month later, the Nation reported there has been a long history of questions about Taheri's work, including numerous inaccuracies in a popular 1988 book by Taheri about Islamic terrorism called Nest of Spies. The article lays out the allegations against Taheri in detail and concludes that:

Even among a crowd notable for wrongheaded analyses, Taheri stands out, with a rap sheet that leaves one amazed that he continues to be published. It is here that the role of Benador is key; the firm gives Taheri a political stamp of approval that provides entree to hawkish media venues, where journalistic criteria are secondary.
It notes that just days after the bogus National Post article, Taheri was invited to the White House to consult with President Bush on Iraq with other "experts."

Now it turns out that Taheri also served as editor -- or claimed to, anyway -- of a publication that also came to print Debat and his fake "interviews" with world leaders who for the most parts are opponents to the neoconservatve movement, like Obama, Clinton, and Kofi Anan. The made-up quotes attached to Obama -- saying the U.S. had suffered a "defeat" in Iraq -- were quite inflamatory and could have been re-surfaced in the heat of a presidential campaign. What type of working relationship did Taheri have with Debat at Politique Internationale? Was the Iranian also a second-hand source for Ross' inflamatory pieces?

In nearly seven years of the Bush administration, we've grown used to the loud and often wrong drumbeat in the usual right-wing publications. However, for this kind of clap-trap to find its way -- unfiltered, apparently -- onto ABC News and into millions of American homes was a huge coup for the neocon movement, but a huge blow to the U.S. media, and our political discourse on the Middle East.

Even Our Victories Merely Sow the Seeds of a Later Defeat or Disaster

The administration is employing a very prudent tactic by having American commanders in the field striking these alliances, which eases our immediate torment. But the administration is spinning this as some sort of strategic victory for its vision of the Middle East. It’s not. The good news is that the sheiks are accepting our guns and money. The bad news is that the sheiks are accepting our guns and money. Yes, okay, go ahead and make these alliances–but understand how it’s going to play out. Don’t boogey in the end zone and pretend these Sunni fighters are a bunch of Presbyterians.

When I was in Pakistan I asked an Army commander if we could get the Afghan tribes to do something and he said, “We can usually get the Afghans to do something that they want to do.” In Afghanistan, the Soviets made thousands of deals with the tribes, but you don’t buy them–you rent them. These guys change sides all the time. It’s the same thing here. Their needs and goals are completely unrelated to our vision of the world. The sheiks figure that their turf is threatened by Al Qaeda in Iraq and they’re happy to help go after them, especially when the U.S. is doing the heavy lifting. But there will be a piper that needs to be paid. You don’t have to go much beyond T.E. Lawrence to see how this is likely to play out.

Even Our Victories Merely Sow the Seeds of a Later Defeat or Disaster

The administration is employing a very prudent tactic by having American commanders in the field striking these alliances, which eases our immediate torment. But the administration is spinning this as some sort of strategic victory for its vision of the Middle East. It’s not. The good news is that the sheiks are accepting our guns and money. The bad news is that the sheiks are accepting our guns and money. Yes, okay, go ahead and make these alliances–but understand how it’s going to play out. Don’t boogey in the end zone and pretend these Sunni fighters are a bunch of Presbyterians.

When I was in Pakistan I asked an Army commander if we could get the Afghan tribes to do something and he said, “We can usually get the Afghans to do something that they want to do.” In Afghanistan, the Soviets made thousands of deals with the tribes, but you don’t buy them–you rent them. These guys change sides all the time. It’s the same thing here. Their needs and goals are completely unrelated to our vision of the world. The sheiks figure that their turf is threatened by Al Qaeda in Iraq and they’re happy to help go after them, especially when the U.S. is doing the heavy lifting. But there will be a piper that needs to be paid. You don’t have to go much beyond T.E. Lawrence to see how this is likely to play out.

What's Crazier than Rudy? His Advisors

On September 11, staffers for Barack Obama had a campaign ad taken down that had appeared as a “sponsored link” on’s web page for The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, the controversial new book by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Obama’s campaign didn’t place the ad; it apparently appeared on the Amazon page because his campaign, like those of other presidential candidates, pay to have their ads pop up when people do searches for key words like “politics.”

That same day, in the face of questions from the media, Obama’s campaign released a statement saying that while he had not actually read the book, its conclusions were “dead wrong” and that the senator “has stated that his support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, which includes both a commitment to Israel’s security and to helping Israel achieve peace with its neighbors, comes from his belief that it’s the right policy for the United States.”

Yet just five days earlier, Daniel Pipes–who, as I first reported here, has signed on as a foreign policy advisor to Rudy Giuliani’s campaign–essentially argued for war crimes against Palestinians, and there was no cry of protest from the media or anywhere else.

“Believing that if you don’t win a war, you lose it, I have long encouraged the Israeli government to take more assertive measures in response to attacks,” Pipes wrote on his blog on September 6.
In a Jerusalem Post piece six years ago, “Preventing war: Israel’s options,” I called for shutting off utilities to the Palestinian Authority as well as a host of other measures, such as permitting no transportation in the PA of people or goods beyond basic necessities, implementing the death penalty against murderers, and razing villages from which attacks are launched. Then and now, such responses have two benefits: First, they send a strong deterrent signal “Hit us and we will hit you back much harder” thereby reducing the number of attacks in the short term. Second, they impress Palestinians with the Israeli will to survive, and so bring closer their eventual acceptance of the Jewish state.
The Geneva Conventions label collective punishments as a war crime. “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” according to Article 33. “Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”

For the record, there’s much I disagree with in the Mearsheimer/Walt Book. But there’s something terribly wrong with the American debate on the Middle East when, due to public criticism, Obama’s campaign flees from an unintentional link to that book, while a Giuliani advisor argues for a policy of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians and his comments pass unremarked.

The People Speak Out on the President's Potential Troop Reduction

"I hope he hasn't picked out the specific 30,000 troops already, because by next August it will be more like 13,500."

More Presidential Lies

As I recollect -- always a hit and miss proposition -- first became aware of and enamored by this joke during the administration of Bush the Elder, apropos, of course, Bush the Elder:

How can you tell that the president is lying?

His lips are moving.

Or you know, maybe this was the joke (actually, I think it was, and it was during the Reagan administration):

What's the difference between President ----- and a bucket of hot steaming shit?

The bucket.

I of course digress, and it's just the first joke that segues in the little Bush's recent major speech to the nation:

"Anbar province is a good example of how our strategy is working," Bush said, noting that just last year U.S. intelligence analysts had written off the Sunni area as "lost to al-Qaida."


Early Thursday, the most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed by a bomb planted near his home.

The killing of a chief Anbar ally hours before Bush spoke showed the tenuous and changeable nature of success in Anbar and Iraq at large.

Although Sunni sheiks have defied al-Qaida and largely allied with U.S. forces in Anbar, the province remains violent and al-Qaida remains a threat.

Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha died 10 days after he met with Bush during a surprise visit the U.S. leader made to highlight the turnaround in Anbar. The charismatic young sheik led the Anbar Salvation Council, also known as the Anbar Awakening - an alliance of clans backing the Iraqi government and U.S. forces.

The Sunni revolt against al-Qaida led to a dramatic improvement in security in Anbar cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi. Iraqis who had been sitting on the sidelines - or planting roadside bombs to kill Americans - have now joined with U.S. forces to hunt down al-Qaida in Iraq, whose links to Osama bin Laden's terror network are unclear.

Anbar is not secure, accounting for 18 percent of the U.S. deaths in Iraq so far this year - making it the second deadliest province after Baghdad.

Bush's top military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, told Congress this week that Anbar's circumstances are unique and its model cannot be replicated everywhere in Iraq, but "it does demonstrate the dramatic change in security that is possible with the support and participation of local citizens."


Progress in Iraq, including improvement in the performance of the Iraqi army, led to Petraeus' recommendation that "we have now reached the point where we can maintain our security gains with fewer American forces."

Bush said there is still work to be done to improve the Iraqi national police.


A new White House report on Iraq shows slim progress, moving just one more political and security goal into the satisfactory column. Efforts to let former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party rejoin the political process earned the upgrade, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.

The report largely tracks a comparable poor assessment in July on 18 benchmarks. The earlier White House report said the Iraqi government had made satisfactory gains toward eight benchmarks, unsatisfactory marks on eight and mixed results on two.

Although the benchmark list is the rubric that the White House and the Iraqi government proposed earlier this year, the Bush administration has recently said it offers a skewed or incomplete view of progress in Iraq.


Bush noted that the government has not met its own legislative benchmarks, but he pointed to limited political progress among Iraq's national leaders. He said Iraq has passed a budget and is sharing oil wealth.


The General Accountability Office reported last month that Iraq has only partially met a test involving reformation of its budget process, although the State Department, Pentagon and White House disputed the finding.

Some proceeds from Iraq's vast oil and gas resources are being shared among regions, but the country lacks a national framework agreement for the distribution of oil revenues.

A national oil law, which would also invite foreign investment, has been repeatedly promised by Iraq's leaders and frequently mentioned by U.S. officials as a crucial marker of the country's ability to reconcile its ethnic and religious groups.

Iraq's main political parties are deadlocked over the law and the legislation has been sent back to party leaders to see if they can salvage it, an official involved in the talks said Thursday.


"We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy."


There may well be 36 nations contributing to the cause, but the overwhelming majority of troops come from the United States. For example, Albania has 120 soldiers there and Bulgaria has 150 non-combat troops in Iraq. Bush visited both nations this summer as a thank you.

The United States has 168,000 troops in Iraq.

Just Another Example of Mendancity Mixed with Audacity; Or: Now He Tells Us

The God, Greenspan, claims to now tell us the truth:
In [his] 500-page book, “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World,” Mr. Greenspan describes the Bush administration as so captive to its own political operation that it paid little attention to fiscal discipline, and he described Mr. Bush’s first two Treasury secretaries, Paul H. O’Neill and John W. Snow, as essentially powerless.

Mr. Bush, he writes, was never willing to contain spending or veto bills that drove the country into deeper and deeper deficits, as Congress abandoned rules that required that the cost of tax cuts be offset by savings elsewhere. “The Republicans in Congress lost their way,” writes Mr. Greenspan, a self-described “libertarian Republican.”

“They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose” in the 2006 election, when they lost control of the House and Senate.
And I guess that the electorate is so stupid that they replace fiscally conservative Republicans with tax-and-spend Dems. (Please note: Both those claims are factually incorrect shibboleths. Actually, look at this:)
Of the presidents he worked with, Mr. Greenspan reserves his highest praise for Bill Clinton, whom he described in his book as a sponge for economic data who maintained “a consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth.”


By contrast, Mr. Greenspan paints a picture of Mr. Bush as a man driven more by ideology and the desire to fulfill campaign promises made in 2000, incurious about the effects of his economic policy, and an administration incapable of executing policy.

The White House is clearly not eager to get into a public argument with Mr. Greenspan, whom President Bush reappointed to a fifth term in May 2004. But they pushed back at Mr. Greenspan’s central themes.

“The Republican leadership in the House and Senate kept to our top number,” Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman, said. Veto threats worked, he said, to keep spending within caps set by the White House. “We’re not going to apologize for standing up the Department of Homeland Security and fighting terror.”

Mr. Greenspan described his own emotional journey in dealing with Mr. Bush, from an initial elation about the return of his old friends from the Ford White House — including Mr. Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld, secretary of defense — to astonishment and then disappointment at how much they had changed.

“I indulged in a bit of fantasy, envisioning this as the government that might have existed had Gerald Ford garnered the extra 1 percent of the vote he’d needed to edge past Jimmy Carter,” Mr. Greenspan writes in his memoir. “I thought we had a golden opportunity to advance the ideals of effective, fiscally conservative government and free markets.”

Instead, Mr. Greenspan continued, “I was soon to see my old friends veer off in unexpected directions.” He expected Mr. Bush to veto spending bills, he writes, but was told that the president believed he could control J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, the Republican speaker of the House, better by signing them.

“My friend,” he writes of Mr. O’Neill, “soon found himself to be the odd man out; much to my disappointment, economic policymaking in the Bush administration remained firmly in the hands of the White House staff.”

He was clearly referring to the political team led by Karl Rove at the White House. Mr. Rove was a neighbor of Mr. Greenspan in a leafy enclave near the Potomac River, but the two men almost never had a conversation.

In responding to Mr. Greenspan, Mr. Fratto of the White House disputed the accusation that Mr. O’Neill’s economic arguments were ignored. “Just because you don’t carry the day doesn’t mean your views weren’t considered,” Mr. Fratto said.

Though Mr. Greenspan does not admit he made a mistake, he shows remorse about how Republicans jumped on his endorsement of the 2001 tax cuts to push through unconditional cuts without any safeguards against surprises. He recounts how Mr. Rubin and Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, begged him to hold off on an endorsement because of how it would be perceived.

“It turned out that Conrad and Rubin were right,” he acknowledges glumly. He says Republican leaders in Congress made a grievous error in spending whatever it took to ensure a permanent Republican majority.

Mr. Greenspan has critics as well, and they are likely to weigh in as soon as the book is published. Though he publicly disagreed with Mr. Bush’s supply-side approach to tax cuts, urging Congress to offset the cost with savings elsewhere, he refrained from public criticism that could have shifted the debate. His willingness to criticize now, 18 months after leaving office, may open him to the accusation of failing to speak out when it could have affected policy.

Today, Mr. Greenspan is indignant and chagrined about his role in the Bush tax cuts. “I’d have given the same testimony if Al Gore had been president,” he writes, complaining that his words had been distorted by supporters and opponents of the cuts.
Of course, Greenspan is legendary for his opaque speeches to Congress so, you know, it's understandable how maybe his pronouncements may have been misconstrued by political hacks and others with lesser intelligence that the ex-chair, such as, but not exclusively, the the ex-chair's wife's fellows in mainstream journalism. See:
Mr. Greenspan, of course, had been the ultimate Washington insider for years, and knew full well that politicians cited his words selectively to suit their agendas. He was also legendary for ducking delicate issues by, as he once said, “mumbling with great incoherence.”
Mr. Greenspan’s memoir describes at some length the monetary policies that many economists say fostered the extraordinary economic boom of the 1990s. In what is widely regarded as a brilliant insight, Mr. Greenspan became convinced the United States could grow faster than generally thought because productivity was climbing much faster than the official statistics implied.

Mr. Greenspan writes briefly about what may become a more troubling legacy, the housing bubble, and now the bust, that was fueled by low interest rates and risky mortgages in the last six years.

Some economists argue that Mr. Greenspan deserves considerable blame, because the Fed slashed interest rates to rock-bottom lows and kept them there for three years after the stock market collapse and the recession in 2001.

The Fed was “a prime culprit in creating the crisis,” wrote Steve Forbes, publisher of Forbes magazine, in a just-published commentary. But other economists, including critics of Mr. Greenspan, say the housing bubble resulted from much broader forces, including a dramatic drop of interest rates around the world and an explosion of mortgages that required no money down, no income verification and deceptively low initial teaser rates.

Mr. Greenspan generically defends the Fed’s action, writing: “I believed then, as now, that the benefits of broadened home ownership are worth the risk. Protection of property rights, so critical to a market economy, requires a critical mass of owners to sustain political support.”
Myself, I'm a Keynesian, enhanced by Old Testaments studies. Overly simply, you take advantage of excess wealth in the "fat" years so as to be protected in the "lean" years. Our Leaders believe that "now" is always the right time for profiting regardless of anything else. But of course, their sole belief, at the end of the day is not a religious or spiritual or moral one but simple greed.

But the question raised is: Any legitimate reason why Greenie couldn't say any of this when he was Fed chair? Or I should qualify that: It's not that I agree with what he's saying, and some of it is really ridiculous, but if he's right now (he isn't) why not say it when it mattered?

Way to go, Greenie!

More of Our Beloved Lies but this is Sort of Funny

With President Bush reportedly ready to endorse a full continuation of the "surge" in Iraq through next summer in a speech to the nation tonight, a look back at what he promised in his address last January might prove illuminating, especially concerning "benchmarks."

The president said then, "I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this....

"To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution."

None of this happened.

A fact sheet released by the White House at the same time stated:

"The Government of Iraq commits to:

--Reform its cabinet to provide even-handed service delivery.
--Act on promised reconciliation initiatives (oil law, de-Baathification law, Provincial elections).
--Give Coalition and ISF authority to pursue ALL extremists.
--All Iraqi leaders support reconciliation.
--Moderate coalition emerges as strong base of support for unity government."

Excerpts from the Bush speech on Jan. 10, 2007, follow.

It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq. So my national security team, military commanders, and diplomats conducted a comprehensive review. We consulted members of Congress from both parties, our allies abroad, and distinguished outside experts. We benefitted from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. In our discussions, we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq. And one message came through loud and clear: Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States….

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it….

Now let me explain the main elements of this effort: The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations -- conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints, and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.

This is a strong commitment. But for it to succeed, our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them -- five brigades -- will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences: In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents, but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we'll have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods -- and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated.

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

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities.

So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November. To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs. To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year. And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.

America will change our approach to help the Iraqi government as it works to meet these benchmarks. In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units, and partner a coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division. We will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped army, and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq. We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility to spend funds for economic assistance. We will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. And Secretary Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad to ensure better results for economic assistance being spent in Iraq….

Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders, and they are protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists. So I have given orders to increase American forces in Anbar Province by 4,000 troops. These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces to keep up the pressure on the terrorists. America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan -- and we will not allow them to re-establish it in Iraq….

We will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists and a strategic threat to their survival….

This new approach comes after consultations with Congress about the different courses we could take in Iraq. Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States, and therefore, our policy should focus on protecting Iraq's borders and hunting down al Qaeda. Their solution is to scale back America's efforts in Baghdad -- or announce the phased withdrawal of our combat forces. We carefully considered these proposals. And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear the country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale. Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer, and confront an enemy that is even more lethal. If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home.

In the days ahead, my national security team will fully brief Congress on our new strategy. If members have improvements that can be made, we will make them. If circumstances change, we will adjust. Honorable people have different views, and they will voice their criticisms. It is fair to hold our views up to scrutiny. And all involved have a responsibility to explain how the path they propose would be more likely to succeed.

Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror. This group will meet regularly with me and my administration; it will help strengthen our relationship with Congress. We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the Armed Forces we need for the 21st century. We also need to examine ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas, where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny....

We go forward with trust that the Author of Liberty will guide us through these trying hours. Thank you and good night.

The War Whores; Two Brainless Mouths, Two Wanna-Be Destroyers of America, and Others

From the awesome, breathtaking Matt Taibbi:
Quietly and miserably, like an anxious mother tiptoeing away from an autistic child who has fallen asleep with his helmet on, the Republican Party continues its hopeless search for a viable nominee while backpedaling from its own disaster in Iraq. The candidates, all of them -- I exclude here Congressman Ron Paul, who is an uninvited guest to this ball -- are fourth-rate buffoons, not one of them qualified to hold down the last ten minutes of a weekday open-mike night in a Skokie comedy club. They are divided into two categories: those who try to avoid talking about Iraq by saying nothing at all, and those who try to avoid talking about Iraq by talking loudly about something else.

One Monday a few weeks back in Newark, New Jersey, I met one of the members of the latter group, Rep. Tom Tancredo. The vengeful Colorado midget's rap is immigration, i.e., convincing Middle America that the War on Terrorism is actually taking place in Mexico. But when he shows up in the ugliest city in America to gloat about three kids allegedly murdered by illegals from Latin America, he is greeted by a crowd of pro-immigrant protesters chanting, Tancredo! You liar! We'll set your ass on fire! They're yelling so loudly that no one can hear Tancredo speak from a distance beyond two feet.

The actor Paul Winfield was once asked what was the artistic key to his performance as Don King in a made-for-HBO movie about Mike Tyson. Winfield shrugged and held up his spiky Don King wig. His was a one-trick performance. Tancredo also has only one trick on the campaign trail. Whenever he mentions the words "illegal aliens," he follows them with the word "including." As in:

"Sanctuary cities," he says in Newark, "are safe havens for all illegal aliens, including gang members, drug dealers, rapists and murderers, further exposing the law-abiding citizens of such a city to greater crime." In other words, who cares about Iraq when you might get raped by a Mexican busboy?

In the face of the awesome political catastrophe that has befallen the Republican Party in the form of George W. Bush, the response of its new leaders has not been to re-examine their perverted values, their vicious tactics or even their position on Bush's singularly idiotic and supremely characteristic policy mistake, the Iraq War. Instead, the party is closing its eyes and trying, Dorothy-like, to wish its way back to Kansas, back to the good old days of mean-spirited, blame-the-darkies politics of Newt Gingrich, a time when electoral blowouts could be won by offering frightened Americans a chance to pull a lever against gays, atheists and the collective rest of onrushing modern reality.

If this were ten years ago, when America was safely suckling on the Internet bubble and restricting its overseas dabbling to military exhibition games like Kosovo, this back-to-the-good-old-days bullshit would be mere vileness. But thanks to the GOP's excellent leader, Mr. Bush, America is no longer in any position to hide from reality. We are now fully and catastrophically engaged in reality. And reality is kicking our ass, in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere else in this world that hates us more and more with each and every passing day. The party's response is to blow that off, pretend it's not happening. Six years after 9/11, Bush's would-be replacements are still reading My Pet Goat. Their solution to the Iraq dilemma is to keep talking tough, as if our kids were not getting arms shot off from Basra to Tal Afar, as if bin Laden weren't still scoring record recruiting numbers in between bong hits on Al Jazeera.

Tancredo's idea for repairing America's relations with the Islamic Middle East is to threaten to nuke the innocent holy cities of Mecca and Medina. "That's the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they otherwise might do," he said recently. At the tail end of his Newark appearance, as a means of trying to get him to say something, anything, about the Middle East, I ask Tancredo about that comment.

"That's for a different press conference," he grumbles, and slithers away.


Polls may be the devil's currency, near the top of the list of campaign evils, but in this case they tell the whole story. A recent CBS News poll indicates that thirty-one percent of Americans want to begin pulling at least some troops out of Iraq right away. Another thirty percent want to completely withdraw from Iraq, right now. That's nearly two-thirds of the country that wants to start bringing troops home.

Among young people, the numbers are even more striking. According to another poll, voters ages eighteen to twenty-nine now trust the Democrats more than the Republicans on every single issue surveyed, including the War on Terror. A mind-boggling sixty-six percent of young people are against giving the president's Iraq War plan a chance. Even among young Republicans, nearly four in ten favor an immediate withdrawal.

Anyone with an IQ above ten can see what these polls mean; what they should tell the Republican Party is that it simply cannot win a general election unless it changes its tune on Iraq. Instead, after two decades of Reagan-esque macho campaigning, decades in which Republican electoral success so spooked both the national media and the Democratic Party that it became axiomatic that only the toughest-talking and most warmongering politicians had even the slightest chance at the presidency, the Republicans find themselves cornered by their own conventional wisdom. Indeed, they are experiencing a sort of mirror image of the electoral/ideological malaise that has stricken their opponents in recent years. Democratic candidates have generally refused to sell out on social issues like abortion and minority rights but have quickly surrendered on military spending, worker rights and deregulation in a desperate attempt to win swing voters and corporate contributions. Now, with doomed figures like Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain headlining this season's primary choices, the Republican Party offers the opposite: candidates willing to betray traditional party orthodoxies on abortion and gay rights but unwilling to budge on the toughness thing. After so many years of watching Democrats crucify themselves on the altar of missile envy -- saddling national tickets with pint-size fist-shakers like Joe Lieberman and turning the Kerry convention into a fatigue-clad orgy of Band of Brothers-style grunt-humping -- witnessing this sad procession of stay-the-course Republicans engaged in the political version of the Bataan Death March is a delicious comedy.

To wit: I checked in with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney outside Orlando, where he gave a speech to local Republicans before opening up the floor for his goofy-ass "Ask Mitt Anything" town-hall routine. Romney is an utter tool; he represents nothing so much as the very banality of our system of campaigning, a poll-chasing stuffed suit with a Max Headroom hairdo who will say (or won't say, for that matter) whatever the fuck it takes to get elected. The winner of the less-than-meaningless Iowa straw poll, he might end up the front-runner solely by virtue of the fact that he lacks the obvious hideous deformities of most of the rest of the field, in particular the human car wreck John McCain and the electoral incarnation of Tommy Lee Jones' acid-bath-surviving Two-Face character, Rudy Giuliani.

Romney's plan is clearly to wear a straight tie, call Hillary Clinton a commie (she's "out with Adam Smith and in with Karl Marx") and say almost nothing else. And it might work; that's what makes his stump shtick so interesting. In Orlando, he surfs through a nervous presentation that carefully avoids the Iraq thing, taking a shot at John Edwards' plan to create a $250 tax deduction for low-income Americans ("It wouldn't buy John Edwards a haircut," he cracks to pseudoapplause, trying not to touch his own perfectly sculpted hair helmet) and railing against those damned perverts the Democrats won't keep from raping our kids. "There are 29,000 convicted sex offenders on MySpace alone!" Romney cries. He's big on the whole protect-our-poor-innocent-children thing, blabbering about how we have to "clean up the water our kids are swimming in."

Not, of course, our kids in Iraq, who have some interesting water of their own to swim in lately, but our poor kids at home who have to brave the real dangers of the Internet, Hollywood movies and men holding hands. Nor, for that matter, Romney's own kids -- five sons who, rather than fighting in Iraq, he said recently, are "showing support for our nation" by working on their dad's campaign.

Of course, some of our kids are enemies themselves; one audience member picked by Romney's staff of breasty volunteer chicks to "Ask Mitt Anything" is a middle-aged white woman with a fine command of Rovian code words. Explaining that she is a teacher who works in a "socioeconomically low" area, she complains that her students are not motivated to get better test scores because, they tell her, "We don't have to work -- we'll get a check just like my mama does." Romney delivers a heartfelt solution to the lazy-Negro problem, saying you can predict which black kids will fail in school by seeing which ones have two parents come to parent-teacher night.

Romney is easy to make fun of, but he knows his business; in a world where bullshit rules the day, he does bullshit better than anyone. Hence, it is significant that this candidate -- who only a few months ago was gamely clutching his balls in a South Carolina debate and making macho pledges to "double Guantanamo" -- has suddenly abandoned his foreign-policy bluster. In Orlando, he doesn't touch Iraq until asked about it in Q&A -- and even then only mumbling something about how "the surge is, in my view, the right thing to be doing." Then it is quickly back to the usual stuff, commies and perverts and immigrants and lazy black people, the real sources of trouble in this country.

After the event, I actually find a few people who express muted enthusiasm for Romney's performance. Jim Broughton, an Orlando native who proudly describes himself as "to the right of Attila the Hun," is a Tancredo man who likes Romney as a second choice. He thinks we should "hurry up and end the war," but Iraq isn't his top concern. "Our culture and civilization, it's under . . . let's just say I don't want to learn Spanish," he says, frowning.

Another man at the event who appears to be mentally disturbed says he likes Romney because the candidate's slogan, "True Strength for America's Future," communicates to him that "the Space Center makes the United States a superpower." And a couple emerging after the speech say they now much prefer Romney to Giuliani; when I ask what they think the difference between the two is, they say they don't know, but that "Romney talks good."


There is a joke to be made here, but it's probably best left unmade. Suffice to say that this is not the year for any party to feel positive about relying on voters who are content with "talking good" or who worry more about dirty Mexicans than a bloody trillion-dollar war. But that is where the Republican Party is right now -- and there are signs that some of the candidates are finally collapsing under the weight of this painful equation.

Take rapidly decaying political rape victim John McCain, who has become the symbol of America's newfound impatience with the war. The one-time consensus front-runner was recently humiliated by a poll that shows him trailing Barack Obama among Iowa Republicans. (In fact, Obama outpolled McCain, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and U.S. senator/Christian lunatic Sam Brownback combined). Pilloried for his "principled" stand of refusing to give up on the war, McCain is now, hilariously, trying to reposition himself as a war critic. "I was the greatest critic of the initial four years," McCain claimed on CNN, failing to note that his "criticism" is that there are too few troops in Iraq.

McCain has taken the biggest beating in the press for his war stance, but really there is no meaningful difference on Iraq between any of the Republican candidates, who all waver along the same narrow spectrum of embarrassing self-delusion ("the surge is working") and blind idiocy ("taking the fight to the terrorists"). Brownback, a candidate of the Tancredo school who mostly avoids Iraq talk by yammering the loudest about dead fetuses, talks about needing a "political compromise" -- one that does not include withdrawal, that is. Rep. Duncan Hunter is trying to sell war-weary Americans on a really tall fence to keep rape-seeking Mexicans out of San Diego; his Iraq position is the same as everyone else's, except that he stresses the need for more training -- something, apparently, that the Bush administration hasn't thought to try in the past four years.

Huckabee offers the most novel explanation for why the candidates keep skirting the war. "The reason you don't hear a lot of Republicans bringing Iraq up in the front end of their stump speeches is that, frankly, we don't have to," he tells me at a fund-raiser in Great Falls, Virginia. "It seems to dominate so much of our interaction with the media, so therefore, that part's covered pretty well."

Wait, I think. Isn't that . . . bullshit?

"So you're saying," I ask Huckabee, "that if the poll numbers were different, if people approved of the war, you still wouldn't be talking about it in your stump speeches?"

"I think," Huckabee says cheerfully, "that we would be talking about it if there was no other forum in which we could be asked about it."

Yep, that's bullshit, all right. Like the Republican candidates wouldn't all be ramming it down our throats if Bush had turned Baghdad into Geneva, instead of Kinshasa. Like we wouldn't be listening to Rudy Giuliani propose sedition charges against the Dixie Chicks and Michael Moore to roaring crowds in Manchester and Des Moines.

Which brings us to Giuliani. His position, while not substantively different from the others, is certainly interesting from a stylistic perspective. While the other candidates avoid Iraq in their stumpery, Rudy proudly plunges into the issue from the start of his speeches, snarling at crowds like a wild, bald beast. He unabashedly talks about the need to "stay on offense" and howls at the mere suggestion of a pullout, insisting that any withdrawal would be a "terrible mistake" and "worse than Vietnam."

In a testament to the astonishingly low standards of the American voting populace, it appears that this approach is succeeding on the level of "charisma." Giuliani leads his nearest Republican competitor by twenty points and would only lose to Hillary Clinton by six measly points if the election were held now.

Oh, wait, he would still lose, even to a supposed Marxist witch like Hillary Clinton. That's the best-case scenario for the Republican Party at the moment. First they screwed up, sending thousands of Americans to their deaths. Then they refused to apologize. And now they're going to pay.
And speaking of the genius that is that patronizing liar, Rudy, some recent lies:
Clinton, Petraeus and MoveOn: Giuliani smells a rat

So first MoveOn calls Gen. David Petraeus "Betray Us," and then Hillary Clinton says that the reports Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker have provided Congress "really require the willing suspension of disbelief."

Hey, a guy like Rudy Giuliani can connect the dots.

In a full-page ad in the New York Times today, Giuliani's campaign lumps the MoveOn ad and Clinton's questions together under the category of "The Democrats' Orchestrated Attacks on Gen. Petraeus."

Orchestrated? We asked Clinton spokesman Phil Singer if either Clinton or her campaign had "anything at all" to do with the MoveOn ad. His one-word answer: "No." Does Giuliani have any proof to the contrary? Not so far as we can tell. It's just that Giuliani has a sense for these things -- he used to be a prosecutor! -- and he noticed that Clinton's questioning of Petraeus followed up on MoveOn's "abominable" ad in a "very, very coincidental way."

Memo to Rudy: It's worse than you think. We've checked the hearing transcripts, and it turns out that Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is totally in cahoots with MoveOn, too. When Hagel had his chance to put questions to Petraeus this week, he said that there were "way too many disconnects" and some "bright-line contradictions" between what Petraeus was reporting and what we've all heard from the GAO, the Jones commission, the National Intelligence Estimate and the seven NCOs who wrote that Op-Ed in the New York Times.

See that? First MoveOn's ad says that Petraeus' views contradict "every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq," and then Hagel says there are "disconnects" and "bright-line contradictions."

It's like you say, Mr. Mayor: "Very, very coincidental."

So here's what you've got to do, sir. Now that you've said that Hillary Clinton is "maybe" free to disagree with Petraeus' "tactics" but has "no right to disagree with his integrity," you've got to pay a visit to Hagel and tell him the same thing. But watch yourself; we hear that this guy can handle himself. He has made five trips to Iraq -- something you somehow haven't found time to do even once. And while you were racking up deferments in the late 1960s, Hagel was serving as a squad leader in the infantry in Vietnam.

But it's like you say in your ad, sir. "These times call for statesmanship, not politicians spewing political venom." And as soon as you're done giving this Hagel fellow the what-for, you can tell that to the U.S. troops you once blamed for losing track of 380 tons of ammunition in Iraq.

The Non-Existent Victories in Iraq

A recent spew of lies from Our Leaders contrasted with, you know, something reality-based; from the War Room:
Bush: "In Iraq, an ally of the United States is fighting for its survival ... This ally has placed its trust in the United States."

Reality: Only 18 percent of Iraqis say that U.S. forces are improving security in their country, according to an ABC/BBC/NHK poll taken this week. Fifty-seven percent of the Iraqis polled say they consider attacks on U.S. troops "acceptable," and a plurality -- 47 percent -- say they want all U.S. troops out of their country immediately.

Bush: "The goal of the surge is to provide that security and to help prepare Iraqi forces to maintain it. As I will explain tonight, our success in meeting these objectives now allows us to begin bringing some of our troops home."

Reality: As we've noted previously, the current 15-month limit on troop deployments would have required the withdrawal of "surge" forces to begin this spring regardless of how the "surge" was going. Gen. David Petraeus says his plan will have some troops home slightly ahead of the rotation-driven deadline -- and that he "could have" asked for more troops if he thought he needed them -- but even he acknowledges that he "very much [had] in mind the strain and stress that has been placed on our ground forces, in particular, as one of the considerations that was factored into the calculations."

Bush: "Gen. Petraeus and ambassador Crocker report that the success in Anbar province is beginning to be replicated in other parts of the country."

Reality: When Petraeus appeared Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain tried to get him to rebut the argument that the "success" in Anbar can't be replicated elsewhere in Iraq because Anbar is "strictly Sunni." Petraeus demurred. "Sir," he said, "it can't be replicated exactly except, of course, in locations that are exactly Sunni Arab." At another point in his testimony, Petraeus said that Anbar shows that "dramatic change in security is possible with the support and participation of local citizens," but that "Anbar's model cannot be replicated everywhere in Iraq." When John Kerry asked Crocker if the Anbar model could be "replicated" elsewhere, he said: "No, it can't be done so in a cookie-cutter fashion," but he said that he's seeing "some of the same phenomenon" in Diyala.

Bush: "Today, most of Baghdad's neighborhoods are being patrolled by coalition and Iraqi forces who live among the people they protect. Many schools and markets are reopening. Citizens are coming forward with vital intelligence. Sectarian killings are down. And ordinary life is beginning to return."

Reality: Sen. Joe Biden asked Petraeus this week whether "a Sunni Arab" can "travel safely to a Shia neighborhood in Baghdad today without fear of being kidnapped or killed." "It depends on the neighborhood," Petraeus said.

Bush: "The government has not met its own legislative benchmarks -- and in my meetings with Iraqi leaders, I have made it clear that they must."

Reality: The president has been "making that clear" to the Iraqis since the surge began. "America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced," Bush declared as he announced the surge back in January. When the Iraqis hadn't made any progress by May, Dick Cheney flew to Baghdad, gave them an earful and came out declaring that he sensed "a greater sense of urgency" to get things done. Two months later, having accomplished virtually nothing in the meantime, the Iraqi parliament took a monthlong vacation.

Bush: "According to Gen. Petraeus and a panel chaired by retired Gen. Jim Jones, the Iraqi army is becoming more capable, although there is still a great deal of work to be done to improve the national police."

Reality: While it's true that Jones' Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq said that the Iraqi Army is making measurable progress, the commission also said that the army would be "unable to fulfill [its] essential security responsibilities independently over the next 12-18 months." As for the national police? The commission didn't say that there's a "great deal of work to be done"; it said that the force is so rife with corruption and sectarianism that it should be disbanded.

Bush: "We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy."

Reality: There are approximately 165,000 U.S. troops serving in Iraq today. According to the latest Iraq Weekly Status Report produced by the U.S. State Department, other countries are contributing 11,685 additional troops. Approximately 5,500 of those are British, 1,500 more are Australian, and about 1,200 are South Korean. That means the president's remaining 32 countries are contributing about 3,500 soldiers combined.
And what about that success in Anbar where we kicked Al-Qaida's ass? Well, the ally is assasinated and, well, looks like the peace is over. Way to go, Bushie! Just another 16 months and it will no longer be Our Beloved Leader's problem (let alone responsibility); that's success!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Doomed to Failure in Iraq?

Can't have democracy. Can't work and isn't wanted by the natives (desire or freedom's a whole 'nother issue). Only choices are to put into power another, well, Saddam or just fill the country with our forces, but that's not alternative either.

Krugman has a vision of the way the U.S. role plays out -- that's later.

First, why we're, well, screwed:
No matter what the president or Gen. David Petraeus, the military point man of the surge, may now say about next spring's drawdown, it is not predicated on success. Bringing troops home is not a choice, but a fait accompli. It has been preordained since the beginning of the surge. In fact, the surge was always destined to end next spring because after that there will be no more troops with which to continue it, according to statements from Adm. Michael Mullen, the man Bush recently appointed as chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, not to mention statements from Gen. Petraeus himself.

Many troops now in Iraq have already had their tours of duty extended to 15 months in order to participate in the surge. To continue the surge past next spring, the Pentagon would have to extend those tours even further. To do so would "break" the U.S. military, many experts have warned -- including Adm. Mullen. The administration has repeatedly indicated that those tours would not be extended.

Fred Kaplan, a reporter for Slate who once served as a foreign and defense policy advisor to former Rep. Les Aspin and has written extensively on the shortage of troops available for Iraq, said in an interview that the drawdown was destined to happen regardless of events on the ground in Iraq.

"The 15-month tours will be up," said Kaplan. "The Army was adamantly opposed to extending the tour beyond that [and] there has not been any further mobilization of the Reserves ... So, you know, there's no choice. They've got to come home without any replacement.

"If Bush and all decision-makers had suddenly gone comatose and things were just allowed to run their natural course, this is exactly what would have happened."

Larry Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration and former director of security studies at the Council of Foreign Relations who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, agrees.

"The reason that you've got to cut back is that the only way you've been able to get up to 160,000 given the fact that you also have close to 30,000 in Afghanistan is by extending the tours of people from 12 to 15 months," Korb says. "If you wanted to continue past next spring, next summer, you have to extend tours to 18 months or send people back [to Iraq] before they've had a year home ... [The administration has] said they won't do that."

Korb further points out that even during the wars in Vietnam and Korea, tours were not extended past 12 months; he believes the only way the surge could be continued without doing so, or without cutting soldiers' time back home, is to institute a draft.

Petraeus himself conceded that the surge had definite time limits long before he appeared on Capitol Hill to tout the surge's success earlier this week. A month and a half ago, on July 29, U.S. News' Paul Bedard reported that Petraeus "is telling surge troops that they will not be kept past their 15-month tours. That means the troop drawdown could begin in April, when the first troops in the surge will reach their 15th month on the ground. Officials say that all of the surge brigades reach their 15th month by August 2008."

Petraeus appeared the next day on ABC's "Good Morning America," where, in an interview with Diane Sawyer, he said, "We know that the surge has to come to an end ... General Odierno and I have -- are on the record telling our soldiers that we will not ask for any extension certainly beyond 15 months."

The next day, Adm. Mullen, then the nominee to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for hearings on his nomination. Mullen, whose nomination was approved by the Senate -- he will take his post as chairman of the JCS next month -- referenced the Petraeus interview and concurred with what Petraeus had said.

"General Petraeus said it yesterday in an interview," Mullen noted. "[T]here is a time element here."

Under questioning by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Mullen twice repeated the conclusion that the surge had to begin to end in April of 2008.

"You said ... you were going to do your utmost to maintain rotations no more than 12 to 15 months," Reed said to Mullen. "Effectively, that means, as you also suggest, by next April, regardless of the conditions on the ground, the surge will end, because we simply will not be able to put manpower on the ground unless we extend rotations.

"Is that a fair..." Reed continued, before Mullen interjected, according to a transcript of the hearing, "Yes, sir, that's fair."

Later in the hearing, Reed said to Mullen, "[T]his notion that we're going to have an unlimited opportunity to keep forces there at this level, that we're only going to take forces down based upon General Petraeus' suggestion that things are OK now is, I think, fully rebutted by the force structure. Is that an irrational..."

Mullen interrupted Reed again. "I think that's fair, Senator," he said.
To understand what’s really happening in Iraq, follow the oil money, which already knows that the surge has failed.

Back in January, announcing his plan to send more troops to Iraq, President Bush declared that “America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.”

Near the top of his list was the promise that “to give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.”

There was a reason he placed such importance on oil: oil is pretty much the only thing Iraq has going for it. Two-thirds of Iraq’s G.D.P. and almost all its government revenue come from the oil sector. Without an agreed system for sharing oil revenues, there is no Iraq, just a collection of armed gangs fighting for control of resources.

Well, the legislation Mr. Bush promised never materialized, and on Wednesday attempts to arrive at a compromise oil law collapsed.

What’s particularly revealing is the cause of the breakdown. Last month the provincial government in Kurdistan, defying the central government, passed its own oil law; last week a Kurdish Web site announced that the provincial government had signed a production-sharing deal with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, and that seems to have been the last straw.

Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.

Some commentators have expressed surprise at the fact that a businessman with very close ties to the White House is undermining U.S. policy. But that isn’t all that surprising, given this administration’s history. Remember, Halliburton was still signing business deals with Iran years after Mr. Bush declared Iran a member of the “axis of evil.”

No, what’s interesting about this deal is the fact that Mr. Hunt, thanks to his policy position, is presumably as well-informed about the actual state of affairs in Iraq as anyone in the business world can be. By putting his money into a deal with the Kurds, despite Baghdad’s disapproval, he’s essentially betting that the Iraqi government — which hasn’t met a single one of the major benchmarks Mr. Bush laid out in January — won’t get its act together. Indeed, he’s effectively betting against the survival of Iraq as a nation in any meaningful sense of the term.

The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.

After all, if the administration had any real hope of retrieving the situation in Iraq, officials would be making an all-out effort to get the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to start delivering on some of those benchmarks, perhaps using the threat that Congress would cut off funds otherwise. Instead, the Bushies are making excuses, minimizing Iraqi failures, moving goal posts and, in general, giving the Maliki government no incentive to do anything differently.

And for that matter, if the administration had any real intention of turning public opinion around, as opposed to merely shoring up the base enough to keep Republican members of Congress on board, it would have sent Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, to as many news media outlets as possible — not granted an exclusive appearance to Fox News on Monday night.

All in all, Mr. Bush’s actions have not been those of a leader seriously trying to win a war. They have, however, been what you’d expect from a man whose plan is to keep up appearances for the next 16 months, never mind the cost in lives and money, then shift the blame for failure onto his successor.

In fact, that’s my interpretation of something that startled many people: Mr. Bush’s decision last month, after spending years denying that the Iraq war had anything in common with Vietnam, to suddenly embrace the parallel.

Here’s how I see it: At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home.

What all this means is that the next president, even as he or she tries to extricate us from Iraq — and prevent the country’s breakup from turning into a regional war — will have to deal with constant sniping from the people who lied us into an unnecessary war, then lost the war they started, but will never, ever, take responsibility for their failures.


On a remote East Texas ranch, surrounded by thousands of rowdy Southern whites, many drinking heavily and driving all-terrain vehicles at eye-popping speeds, the young German confronted images of mayhem and depravity. Flula Borg, a tall, curly haired musician, was an accidental visitor to the Texas Redneck Games outside Athens in early August. He came as part of a Los Angeles film crew keen on recording a bit of the backwoods revelry.

The 26-year-old Borg's only preparation for the resulting cultural collision had come in Germany, first from watching popular American shows like the "The Dukes of Hazzard" as a child, later from grown-up movies that cast rural Southern whites in a far harsher light.

With a goodly number of Confederate flags flying, crude signs asking women to disrobe, and the occasional "White Pride" tattoo on a sallow chest, the event's early signs were unsettling. "They seem friendly. I was a little scared. You see movies. You think they'll be loud, throwing people around," Borg said shortly after arriving, still feeling conspicuous as a foreigner. Having a tall, black cameraman with flowing dreadlocks in his group only added to Borg's anxiety.

"I was worried they'd be racist. I'm worried because I don't have tattoos and everyone else is wearing wife-beaters," he confided early that Saturday morning. Hours later, after viewing various gross and silly contests, including some that resemble ancient rites of public humiliation, and competing in the mattress chunk (taking third place), Borg had relaxed.

"Wow, it's crazy. It feels a little like a movie. I don't know anything like this in Germany," he said with open amazement.

As midnight approached that roasting Saturday, the fourth annual edition of the games staggered toward a rowdy, wasted crescendo. Half-clothed women screamed and threw panties at Kevin Fowler and his band on stage while sunburned, mud-flecked men, buoyed on beer and carnal impulses, bellowed out indelicate propositions.

Lost in the roiling, fetid scrum were the guys in black T-shirts from "Girls Gone Wild," who had spent much of the day recording half-drunk blondes in unclothed poses.

"It was a mob. Lots of beer-drinking. Lots of hell-raising. Girls on guy's shoulders, lots of them without shirts. I saw a couple of naked women driving ATVs. It was better than a titty bar," laughed Patrick Holt, 40, a Fort Worth computer programmer with deep redneck roots.

With his head wrapped in a Confederate-flag bandana and wearing a shirt that read, "Loud Pipes, Longnecks and Loose Women. Everything Else is Just Bullshit," Holt could have written the game's dress code. While many of the thousands at the four-day event on a sprawling 3,000-acre ranch came to race ATVs on the backwoods trails, others wanted the chance to turn loose their inner redneck animal.

"As long as we're out of harm's way, we're not hurting anyone, and we're having fun. Life is short," Holt said later. "I didn't see too much bad stuff. There was one guy who got way too drunk, fell off his ATV, and gashed his head open. When people tried to help him, he freaked out and started swinging. When security came, he ran, and they had to tackle him."

Beyond the gimme caps, heavy drinking, and blue-collar rowdiness, exactly what makes a redneck in this enlightened age?

"It's hard to explain. It's like the opposite of an Aggie," said Mike Maxwell, a welder from Longview who spent the lost weekend in Athens throwing strings of cheap beads at passing women.

While the etymology of the word redneck is not clear--it stems either from the sunburned necks of hardworking Southern whites or, more remotely, from red scarves worn centuries ago by rebel Scots unwilling to accept the Anglican Church--until recently it held little ambiguity. Redneck meant lowdown, poor, shifty, ignorant, bigoted, and hopelessly sorry.

In 1974, Larry L. King wrote a lengthy piece for Texas Monthly reliving his harsh, redneck upbringing in rural Texas and disabusing anyone of the notion there was anything remotely attractive or glamorous about any of it.

"Of late, the Redneck has been wildly romanticized; somehow he threatens to become a cultural hero," wrote King, who grew up hard-working poor in Eastland County and then moved to Midland to continue as working poor.

"Perhaps this is because heroes are in short supply in these Watergate years, or maybe it's a manifestation of our urge to return to simpler times," he mused, harking back to a bygone time free of computers, crooked politicians, and urban tangle. Then he rejected the popular concept.

"Attempts to deify the Redneck, to represent his lifestyle as close to that of the noble savage, are, at best, unreal and naïve," he wrote, going on to analyze the redneck as a hapless creature worthy only of pity and avoidance.

A decade and a half later, the unsavory image held, as songwriter Randy Newman sold a bunch of copies of an album titled "Good Old Boys." It included the song "Rednecks," which had memorable verses, including:

"We talk real funny down here. / We drink too much and we laugh too loud. / We're too dumb to make it in no Northern town. / Keepin' the niggers down."

For many Northerners and liberals, at least, that pretty much captured it. But time works cultural miracles. Somehow, menacing Bull Connor of Birmingham has become lovable Larry the Cable Guy.

As one certified redneckologist explained it, the term that was once a crushing insult is now worn by many as a badge of cultural pride.

"It used to be America's most respectable ethnic slur. You could say anything about Southern whites, and it was resented only by Southern whites," said James Cobb, author, college professor, and self-pronounced redneck.

"It's gone through this metamorphosis to where it's become more acceptable for Southern whites to call themselves rednecks. It's an aspect of the growing assimilation of the South into the rest of the country and the greater confidence of the Southern white male," said Cobb, who teaches history at the University of Georgia and writes books about Southern culture.

Nowadays, he said, redneck also implies certain attractive countercultural qualities, including self-reliance and a willingness to buck mainstream convention. "In a way, the rednecks are the hippies of the 1990s and early 21st century, sort of the dropouts from conventional society without a lot of the ideological trappings," he said. "A redneck does his own thing, regardless of what any bluenose, middle-class person thinks about it, living in his mobile home, with cars that don't run anymore up on blocks."

Pretenders are quick to latch onto a lifestyle once it becomes faddish, Cobb agreed. Some of today's rednecks, with their cubicle jobs and 401(k)s, would never have rated the slur decades ago. "Of course most people are playing games. It's a fairly convenient and cheap additional identity you can take on, and Jeff Foxworthy has made millions doing it," he said.

It was a bit over a decade ago that the original Redneck Games appeared as a spoof in Georgia during the same year the Olympics came to Atlanta. The Texas games started in 2003. Now even Canada has its own, somewhat misplaced version. All three summer events poke harmless fun at the stereotype of the lower-class, rural, white male who muddles through modern life, making do as best he can.

Being a redneck has become so popular there is even a Redneck World Magazine, published in Jacksonville, Florida, and claiming to sell about 220,000 issues a quarter. A recent edition featured the usual lame jokes about drunk rednecks, an article by Earl Pitts titled "White Trash and Rednecks Ain't the Same," and a lengthy rant against illegal immigrants.

Another Southern academic, Lana Wachniak, an associate dean at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, said the growing popularity of the games illustrates how the once-negative redneck stereotype has lifted.

"These games are more a caricature of the Southern Buffoon, if you will. They are analogous to St. Patrick's Day festivities, when we all become Irish. We can all reinvent ourselves. If you want to become Bubba, its OK," she said. "By donning this redneck hat, you can get out there and talk to people, have a good time, and feel you are connecting."

As a promoter, Oscar Still knows that redneck sells. With such crowd-pleasing gross-outs as the competitive Spam and jalapeno eating contest and the redneck fear factor, in which contestants dip for animal parts in a trough of red soup, the Texas games were geared toward R-rated entertainment.

"The wet T-shirt contest is probably the biggest redneck game of all," said Still, 54, of Kilgore, and the man responsible for bringing the games to Athens. "Of course I take advantage of it. People like to be called redneck. I've got a doctor and a lawyer friend who will tell you in a minute they are rednecks. It's a heritage, cultural thing."

The games offered a "Daisy Dukes Showoff" featuring women strutting around onstage in cutoff shorts, as well as a coeducational butt-crack contest, not for the faint of heart. It all added up to a large, private adult party in the woods, with something for just about everyone. For the women, outnumbered 10-to-1, a lifetime worth of male attention was available in one weekend.

Not just white people attended, Still pointed out. "A lot of people used to associate the name redneck with racism, but that's not true. You can be a redneck and be a different color. You don't have to be a white boy to be a redneck, and your neck doesn't have to be red," he said.

A handful of African-Americans and at least one guy of color who spoke English with a mild Spanish accent were spotted at the Athens games. While most of the blacks were part of an Austin sound crew, a couple of others attended for the same reasons as everyone else: Beer, girls, and ATVs.

"The Confederate Flag doesn't bother me at all. There's no feelings to it. I'm just here to have a good time, to see some women," said Nolan Jackson, a skinny, 23-year-old black kid from nearby Canton. "I'll tell you what's redneck--a stripper pole on a trailer. They had one last night down by the pond."

Until the redneck games came along, Athens was best known as the "Black Eyed Pea Capital of the World," a tribute to J.B. Henry, the local farmer who a century ago figured out how to process the peas for human consumption. From its birth, city fathers have tried to promote a respectable image. History books tell us that it was not by chance it bears the same name as the seat of ancient Greek culture.

A neat and industrious, blue-collar town of about 13,000 people, it has a beautifully maintained courthouse on the square, a nice downtown business district, and some two dozen churches. There are no bars or package sales of alcohol, and the only drinks served come with food in restaurants.

When Still brought his ocean of beer, bare-chested women, and legions of crude-mouthed drunks to Athens, it did not go down well with everyone. In particular, the other local branch of the so-called redneck family, the one that goes to church, keeps its clothes on and speaks civilly to unattended females, was somewhat frosted.

"There was a lot of nudity, rowdiness, intoxication, people running wild on four-wheelers, underage drinking, and there was some assaults and fighting and serious injuries," said Lt. Pat McWilliams of the Henderson County Sheriff's Department.

"I'm from East Texas, and I know rednecks. Personally, I'm having trouble distinguishing the rednecks from the white trash," he said.

Part of the law's beef with Still was the size of the crowd, which was three to four times what Still had promised. It caused a crushing gridlock on the grounds, creating difficulties for police and medical personnel. By state law, any organized public gathering of over 2,500 people must have a permit that includes county oversight.

"We feel he lied to us. We know he did. He assured us there would be no more than 2,000, possibly 2,500 people there, and we realized quite soon that wasn't the case," McWilliams said.

So while the band dodged undergarments on stage that Saturday night, a far different scene was unfolding just outside the ranch gates as troopers and sheriff's deputies threw up a dragnet. Inside the festival grounds, state alcoholic beverage agents trolled for underage drinkers.

By weekend's end, more than 300 warnings were handed out, and nearly 100 people had been arrested or given citations for offenses ranging from driving while intoxicated to possession of marijuana to driving without insurance. Two people were ticketed for illegal dumping.

Sunday morning, as a paralyzing hangover gripped the ranch grounds, deputies with a search warrant seized Still's attendance records. "We're ready to go to court, showing 6,000, and we're still counting. It could go as high as 8,000," McWilliams said of festival attendance.

Dismissing the wholesale traffic stops and citations as "major overkill," by police, Still also took issue with the remark about "white trash."

"That's definitely an insult to the rednecks. White trash is basically the criminal and drug aspect," he said.

Still said he might try to hold the games again in Athens next year, despite a pending misdeamenor criminal charge against him and rumors that a civil suit will soon be filed to block him.

Legal issues aside, it's clear that being a redneck ain't hardly what it used to be, and that the Texas games are here to stay. After all, this year, around 7,000 self-described rednecks were willing to travel and spend a lot of money for the experience.

"If I stop drinking, this shoulder is gonna start killing me," said Stuart Fulton, 36, an offshore oil-field worker from New Orleans who earlier had nailed a stout tree with his Honda ATV.

"It's the freedom. A lot of people these people work 60 hours a week, and all they have off is the weekend," he said. "You've got thousands of people out here. There's no fighting. There's no littering. There's just a bunch of people having a good time."

Another One of Our Leaders' Liars Caught Lying

In a new embarrassment for the Bush administration's top spymaster, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell is withdrawing an assertion he made to Congress this week that a recently passed electronic-surveillance law helped U.S. authorities foil a major terror plot in Germany.

The temporary measure, signed into law by President Bush on Aug. 5, gave the U.S. intelligence community broad new powers to eavesdrop on telephone and e-mail communications overseas without seeking warrants from the surveillance court. The law expires in six months and is expected to be the subject of intense debate in the months ahead. On Monday, McConnell—questioned by Sen. Joe Lieberman—claimed the law, intended to remedy what the White House said was an intelligence gap, had helped to “facilitate” the arrest of three suspects believed to be planning massive car bombings against American targets in Germany. Other U.S. intelligence-community officials questioned the accuracy of McConnell's testimony and urged his office to correct it. Four intelligence-community officials, who asked for anonymity discussing sensitive material, said the new law, dubbed the "Protect America Act,” played little if any role in the unraveling of the German plot. The U.S. military initially provided information that helped the Germans uncover the plot. But that exchange of information took place months before the new “Protect America” law was passed.

After questions about his testimony were raised, McConnell called Lieberman to clarify his statements to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, an official said. (A spokeswoman for Lieberman confirmed that McConnell called the senator Tuesday but could not immediately confirm what they spoke about.) Late Wednesday afternoon, McConnell issued a statement acknowledging that "information contributing to the recent arrests [in Germany] was not collected under authorities provided by the 'Protect America Act'."

The developments were cited by Democratic critics on Capitol Hill as the latest example of the Bush administration's exaggerated claims—and contradictory statements—about ultrasecret surveillance activities. In the face of such complaints, the administration has consistently resisted any public disclosure about the details of the surveillance activities—even though McConnell himself has openly talked about some aspects of them.

The Justice Department, for example, just two weeks ago filed a brief opposing the public release of secret legal opinions about the program—even in redacted form—on the grounds that any disclosure beyond a one-sentence comment earlier this year by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would “cause serious damage to the national security of the United States.” (The existence of one of those rulings was first disclosed by NEWSWEEK this summer and publicly confirmed by McConnell in an interview with the El Paso Times in August. The ACLU last month filed an unprecedented motion with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking public release of its rulings about the surveillance program.)

The flap over McConnell’s latest statements is especially sensitive because many Democrats have said they felt the White House and the director of national intelligence stampeded them into passing the new surveillance law—claiming it was needed on an “emergency” basis to protect the country against a future terror attack. Speaking Wednesday at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Rep. Jane Harman, who was ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee until she was bumped from the committee earlier this year, charged that McConnell had politicized negotiations over the bill. He "appeared to be taking orders from the White House, negotiating for the White House," said Harman. The role he played, "whether he intended it or not, appeared to be political," she said. "Hey—Jane to Mike," she said, "don't become a political actor."

McConnell's testimony that the new law helped in the German case was especially striking—since it seemed to contradict public statements by American and German officials about how the plot was exposed. About 10 months ago—long before the new law was put into effect—guards at a U.S. military base near Frankfurt noted a suspicious individual conducting surveillance outside the facility. U.S. military officials tipped off German authorities, who quickly identified the individual and several accomplices as militants affiliated with the Islamic Jihad Union, a violent Al Qaeda-linked group. The Germans kept the group under surveillance for months and discovered evidence that the militants—some of whom had been to an Islamic Jihad Union training camp in Pakistan—were assembling chemicals for bombing attacks on American military installations in Germany. (The U.S. Embassy in Berlin issued a public warning last April that it had received intelligence reporting about threats against U.S. personnel in that country.) One U.S. intelligence official described the law-enforcement operation as a case of "good old-fashioned police work."

Yet when McConnell testified before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, he cited the German case as an example of how the new Protect America Act was working. The law, he started to say, "allowed us to see and understand all the connections with ..." At that point, Lieberman, the committee chair, interrupted McConnell. Lieberman expressed surprise that the law might have contributed to the German counterterror operation. "The newly adopted law facilitated that during August?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, it did," McConnell responded. “The connections to Al Qaeda, the connections specifically to what's referred to as IJU, the Islamic Jihad Union, an affiliate of Al Qaeda. Because we could understand it, we could help our partners through a long process of monitoring and observation. And so at the right time, when Americans and German facilities were being targeted, the German authorities decided to move."

Counterterrorism officials familiar with the background of McConnell's testimony said they did not believe the intel czar made inaccurate statements intentionally as part of any strategy by the administration to goad Congress into making the new eavesdropping law permanent. Officials said they believed McConnell gave the wrong answer because he was overwhelmed with information and merely mixed up his facts. Nonetheless, some officials said, as news of McConnell's misstatements spread, it would be in the intelligence director's best interests to correct his testimony—advice he is now heeding.