Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Clues in the News

So much going on in the world, it's hard to keep up.

Adm. William J. Fallon, the new chief of the U.S. military's Central Command, claims there's no civil war in Iraq. A Pentagon report sort of agrees, because the term "civil war" "does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict." For me, the report makes it sound like what's going on in Iraq is worse than a civil war, but I'm not sure the Pentagon meant it that way.

As for the firing of those eight US Attorneys, as always, the cover-up is worse than the crime. In fact, in this case, there was no crime: as the White House has repeatedly pointed out, "US Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president." (By the way, am I the only one wishing I had people who served at my pleasure? Not just working for me, but actually serving at my pleasure? I thought only sheiks and sultans and satraps had people serving at their pleasure, and never thought to aspire to such stations... but now I wonder if I set my sights too low...).

So yes, certainly the White House has the power to fire any US Attorney it wants, or even all of them, as President Clinton did, and presumably for any reason. But then... why all the obvious lies coming out of the White House and the Justice Department about why, how, when, and by whom these people were fired? Why not just proudly proclaim: "Karl Rove directed Alberto Gonzales to weed out US Attorneys who he deemed were pro-Democrat or anti-Republican. It was a political move, and within the White House's rights." There would have been a brouhaha, and then the story would have faded away because there would be no lies and other inconsistencies for the media to glom onto and use to keep the story front center.

Instead, as with so many cover-ups, the White House wanted it both ways. It knew it could fire the US Attorneys, but also knew it shouldn't. It had the power, but didn't want to pay a political price for exercising that power. If these guys just had the courage of their convictions, they could have achieved their desired result and paid a much lower price for it. As it is, they're exposed, not for the first time, as liars and hypocrites, and at a minimum will have to throw Gonzales over the side to keep the White House afloat. It'll be interesting to see whether the ballast clearing stops there, or goes further.

Back to Iraq: here's a useful barometer for how long we'll be there: Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama have both felt compelled to retract their statements that US lives are being "wasted" in Iraq, insisting they meant to say "sacrificed," instead.

Of course, the candidates' first choice of words is likely the more accurate reflection of their true thinking, but more importantly, the retraction demonstrates their political thinking. Both candidates have concluded that America isn't ready to admit to itself that the war is unwinnable. If the war is winnable and we ultimately win it, we can tell ourselves our soldiers' lives weren't wasted. If the war is unwinnable, substituting words like "sacrificed" for "wasted" becomes a significantly more difficult exercise. I've said it before, and McCain's and Obama's retracted diction is simply further evidence: we're going to be in Iraq for a long time to come.

Here's a terrific op-ed by Zbigniew Brzezinski from yesterday's Washington Post: "Terrorized by 'War on Terror': How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America."


Anonymous said...

I can't help but think that most of the reason we find our government covering up and retracting statments is due to the point you brought up regarding our soldiers lives taken in this "War on Terror". Would more of the population in the United States begin to question their motives and actions, rather than sit on their laurels, if they felt these lives had been "wasted". I too believe we will be in Iraq for some time to come.

Anonymous said...

There's something to the logic of keeping the fighting over there in another country and not on American soil. One 9-11 was enough.

Steve Allan said...

It will be interesting to see what the political rhetoric will be like during the primary season. I do agree that we will remain in Iraq even after these new deadlines that the House and Senate recently passed.

As for the logic of over there instead of here, there isn't any. 9-11 and Iraq were two separate things.

Spy Scribbler said...

Our Mad King George, at it again (or would the correct word be incessantly?). He's the only reason the actions of 24's vice-president were semi-believable in the latest episode. (I know you don't watch tv, darn!)

Have you seen the latest Newsweek, Voices of the Fallen: The Iraq War in the Words of America's Dead?

I'm not much of a Newsweek reader, but this issue is the first one I've bought in fifteen years. It doesn't have much to say politically, except to share the views of those fighting. There's also an awesome essay by Anna Quindlen, "The Weight of What-If," that's well worth a read.

Anonymous said...

The "War on Terror" in Iraq:

1) Violence associated with the believers fight against the non-believers.

The source of this violence is supposed to go away when the non-believers leave but something installed by the non-believers remains.

2) Violence associated with the Sunni-Shia conflict.

The source of this violence remains backed by the Iranians and the Saudis unless a political solution is found.

So, the non-believers can't leave because the Sunni-Shia conflict gets worse if they do and the believers possibly won't leave until the non-believers do.

3) A political solution to Sunni-Shia conflict is found eliminating the second source of violence. What's the timeline for this?

If the United States leaves Iraq at this point, you still have the those wanting to destroy the Iraqi democracy installed by the United States.

You now have the Iraqi army fighting to preserve the Iraqi democracy.

What happens if the Iraqi army can't handle the fight and it looks like the Iraqi democracy is going to fall? Who are they going to call?

Even if the Iraqi army holds its own, you are still left with a country left in a perpetual state of war against those opposed to democracy in the Middle East.

"Win" or lose what you end up with in Iraq is the never ending "War on Terror".

Saudis back US Iraq strategy as fears grow over Iran's influence

Saudi Arabia declared yesterday that it held Iraq's Shia-led government responsible for its sectarian strife and warned that America's new war strategy would fail without a radical change of heart by the Baghdad leadership.

The Sunni monarchy fears that the rise of Shia Arabs in Iraq may lead to unrest among its own Shia population, which forms a majority in the main oil-producing region.

The Iraq insurgency for beginners

You have Sunni nationalists, initially a large portion of the insurgency; the moderate Sunni Islamists, who use Islamic terminology and talk about establishing a government based on Sharia law; and you have the Salafists, like the group Al-Qaida in Iraq. To them, the fight is not about preserving the borders of Iraq, it's about revolution, about rebuilding something completely new on the basis of some kind of idyllic Muslim empire.


As I said before, I've been to Iraq five times and one of the questions I've repeatedly asked our generals and the officers on the ground is this..."How much of this fight is against jihadist, Salafists, foreign fighters, and al Qaeda in Iraq?" ... The true terrorists?

I was impressed that even among a wide range of combat commanders the answer has been nearly unanimous - that about 10% of the fighters in Iraq are foreign fighters and jihadists as part of the global war on terror.

They also confirmed that 90% of what's going on in Iraq is about Sunni vs. Sh'ia. It's about a sectarian war and revenge killings that are homegrown in Iraq.

The Origins of the Sunni-Shia Split

"Shia believed that leadership should stay within the family of the Prophet," notes Gregory Gause, professor of Middle East politics at the University of Vermont. "And thus they were the partisans of Ali, his cousin and son-in-law. Sunnis believed that leadership should fall to the person who was deemed by the elite of the community to be best able to lead the community. And it was fundamentally that political division that began the Sunni-Shia split."

Anonymous said...

Barry, thanks for the link to the Zbigniew Brzezinski piece....I found it to be both thoughtful and thought-provoking...

Anonymous said...

I really think reading back on previous situations where the US has initiated regime change the administration in the White House could care less who was squaring off against who. Thing is, if the US officially admits Iraq is the midst of a civil war (and by most definitions they are), that's also admitting the US was the cause behind it. Saddam Hussein was a bastard when he ruled, no doubt, but he also controlled his country with an iron fist with no civil conflicts occurring on the level seen five years after the US invasion.

The other aspect is, and one President Bush has ironically admitted on several occasions, is that leaving the country also means admitting to the US presence in the country being a cause for an Iraqi civil war. When GW Bush was known as Governor Bush of Texas, he carried over some of his more endearing traits to the Oval Office as well. Simplistic views and speech to the people he resided over being among them, but also a huge complex for not admitting when he's just plain wrong about something. Plenty of politicians have this, sure, but I get the feeling Bush had this trait all throughout his life, probably way back in primary and secondary schools.

Anonymous said...

Involvement from Karl Rove is being mitigated by saying he was only interested in trying to secure a U.S. Attorney's post for one of his former aides. The email seem to suggest a larger role though.


Ex-aide contradicts Gonzales on firings

(1) "I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign," Sampson said.

(2) He said White House political staffers working for presidential aide Karl Rove were involved closely in the plans to replace prosecutors — as illustrated by thousands of department e-mails released to Congress.

Ex-Aide: Gonzales, Miers OKed Firings

(1) Gonzales and Miers were deeply involved for two years in discussions about which prosecutors to fire, according to Sampson's testimony and e-mails released by the Justice Department.

(2) The Justice Department admitted Wednesday that it gave senators inaccurate information about the firings and presidential political adviser Karl Rove's role in trying to secure a U.S. attorney's post in Arkansas for one of his former aides, Tim Griffin.

Bush Loyalist Rose Quickly at Justice

(1) Her name appears on several e-mails about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are eager to ask her about those dismissals.

(2) "She forced many very talented, career people out of main Justice so she could replace them with junior people that were either loyal to the administration or would score her some points," said a former career Justice official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

(3) There is an attempt by professors to integrate biblical principles into areas of the law," said Dugan Kelley, who worked with Goodling on Regent's moot court.

Just Gonzalez? Evidence Suggests Rove (and Superiors) Masterminded the U.S. Attorney Firings

-----Original Message-----
From: Newman, Colin
To: Leitch, David
Sent: Thu Jan 06 12:30:17 2005
Subject: Question from Karl Rove

David -- Karl Rove stopped by to ask you (roughly quoting) "how we planned to proceed regarding US Attorneys" . . .

Anonymous said...


Sellers, Kiahna (OAG)

Subject: Phone Call with Senator Domenici

Start: Fri 9/23/2005 12:45 PM
End: Fri 9/23/2005 1:00 PM

Recurrence: (none)

Meeting Status: Meeting organizer

AG will call Senator Domenici <-------- here
AG's Office
AO: Kyle Sampson DOJ: Will Moschella

Justice Department: Senator Domenici Complained About U.S. Attorney 4 Times

On Monday, Justice officials confirmed portions of that account, saying Domenici had called Gonzales on three occasions — September 2005, as well as in January and April 2006 — to question whether Iglesias was "up to the job."

Senator Complained About Fired Attorney

In the first week of October 2006, Domenici then made another "similar and very brief call" to deputy attorney general Paul McNulty about the U.S. attorney's performance, said Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.

Former Top Justice Official to Contradict Gonzales Statements

Gonzales had delegated the replacement plan for U.S. attorneys largely to Sampson and was monitoring it at "the 30,000-feet level," Sampson's associate says.

U.S. Attorneys data dump, made searchable for researching

Inside the U.S. Attorneys Emails: Major Players and Themes


Recently, emails have been released showing that top White House staff routinely have used Republican National Committee (RNC) email accounts rather than the White House account for official business. For example, in 2006 when D. Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, corresponded with White House Deputy Political Director J. Scott Jennings regarding the dismissals of eight U.S. Attorneys, Sampson wrote to Jennings at another RNC address, Sjennings@gwb43.com.

"WH system" in the email below refers to the White House email system. They are avoiding it to get around record keeping requirements.


From: Abramoff, Jack (Dir-DC-Gov)[/o=GTLAW/ou=WDC/cn=Recipients/cn=abramoffj] on behalf of Abramoff, Jack (Dir-DC-Gov)
Sent: Friday, February 07, 2003 10:25 AM
To: Ring, Kevin (Shld-DC-Gov)
Subject: RE: email on jena

Dammit. It was sent to Susan on her mc pager and was not supposed to go into the WH system.

-----Original Message-----
From: Ring, Kevin (Shld-DC-Gov)
Sent: Friday, February 07, 2003 10:26 AM
To: Abramoff, Jack (Dir-DC-Gov)
Subject email on jena

Your email to Susan was forwarded to Ruben Barrales and on to Jen Farley, who read it to me last night. I don't know what to think about this, but she said is better not to put this stuff in writing in their email system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc. Who knows? Just letting you know what she said, Anyway, I had called her to talk about Jena. She has not heard from anyone on the other side of this issue.

-----Original Message-----
From: abramoff
Sent: Thursday, February 06, 2003 4:24 PM
To: Susan Ralston
Subject: Louisiana

I don't want to bother you guys with a meeting request, so I was hoping you could pass on to Karl that Interior is about to approve a gaming compact and land in trust for a tribe which is an anathema to all our supporters down there. it's called the Jena tribe, and the politicos (!) at Interior (low - mid level) are agreeing to this. It will cause a major backlash from our coalition and is something they should not do on the merits. I believe that Steve Griles over there would be opposed, but it's important, if possible to get some quiet message from WH that this is absurd. Thanks Susan.

Anonymous said...

U.S. attorney was fired to make room for Rove protege

(1) The unusual appointment of Griffin, now serving as the interim U.S. attorney in Little Rock, has been one of the central issues in the Justice Department's firing of eight U.S. attorneys, which led to this week's constitutional showdown between Congress and the White House.

(2) The e-mails show how Kyle Sampson, then the attorney general's chief of staff, and other Justice officials prepared to use a change in federal law to bypass input from Arkansas' two Democratic senators, who had expressed doubts about placing a former Republican National Committee operative in charge of a U.S. attorney's office.

Bush’s New US Attorney a Criminal?

(1) And we dug in, decoding, and mapping the voters on what Griffin called, “Caging” lists, spreadsheets with 70,000 names of voters marked for challenge. Overwhelmingly, these were Black and Hispanic voters from Democratic precincts.

(2) Griffin himself ducked our cameras, but his RNC team tried to sell us the notion that the caging sheets were, in fact, not illegal voter hit lists, but a roster of donors to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. Republican donors at homeless shelters?

Tim Griffin's "caging" spreadsheets are available at the following link:


-----Original Message-----
From: Tim Griffin - Research/Communications [mailto:tgriffin@rnchq.org]
Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2004 6:34 PM
To: kporter@rpof.org; Lindy Landreaux - Political [mailto:LLandreaux@rnchq.org]; Miriam Moore - Research/Communications [mailto:MMoore@rnchq.org]; Victoria Newton - Research/Communications [mailto:VNewton@rnchq.org]; Shawn Reinschmiedt - Research/Communications [SReinschmiedt@rnchq.org]; rkammerdiner@rnchq.org; sshiver@rpof.org; bdoster@georgewbush.org
Subject: Re: caging

Tim Griffin
Research Director and
Deputy Communications Director
Republican National Committee
310 First Street, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003
w:(202) 863-8815
f: (202) 863-8744

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Kelly Porter [kporter@rpof.org]
> To: Lindy Landreaux - Political [LLandreaux@rnchq.org]; Miriam Moore - Research/Communications [MMoore@rnchq.org]; Victoria Newton - Research/Communications [VNewton@rnchq.org]; Tim Griffin - Research/Communications [tgriffin@rnchq.org]; Shawn Reinschmiedt - Research/Communications [SReinschmiedt@rnchq.org]; rkammerdiner@rnchq.org [rkammerdiner@rnchq.org]; Stephen Shiver [sshiver@rpof.org]; bdoster@georgewbush.org [bdoster@georgewbush.org]
> Sent: Thu Aug 26 18:12:49 2004
> Subject: caging
> Total as of today is 1834.
> Kelly
> ATTACHMENT: Caging-1.xls


From: Elston, Michael (ODAG)
Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 4:35 PM
To: Sampson, Kyle; Hertling, Richard
Cc: Goodling, Monica; Moschella, William; McNulty, Paul J.; Seidel, Rebecca
Subject: Re: Bud Cummins


-----Original Message-----
From: Sampson, Kyle
To: Elston, Michael (ODAG); Hertling, Richard
Cc: Goodling, Monica; Moschella, William; McNulty, Paul J.; Seidel, Rebecca
Sent: Thu Feb 01 16:15:00 2007
Subject: RE: Bud Cummins

I don't think he should. How would he answer:

Did you resign voluntarily?
Were you told why you were being asked to resign?
Who told you?
When did they tell you?
What did they say?
Did you ever talk to Tim Griffin about his becoming U.S. Attorney?
What did Griffin say?
Did Griffin ever talk about being AG appointed and avoiding Senate confirmation?
Were you asked to resign because you were underperforming?
If not, then why?
Etc., etc.

-----Original Message-----
From: Elston, Michael (ODAG)
Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 3:52 PM
To: Hertling, Richard
Cc: Sampson, Kyle; Goodling, Monica; Moschella, William; McNulty, Paul J.; Seidel, Rebecca
Subject: Bud Cummins

just called to let me know that Pryor's and Schumer's staff have called and asked him to testify on Tuesday. He declined, but wanted to know if we wanted him to testify -- would tell the truth about his circumstances and would also strongly support our view of S 214.