The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Enough already with calling Iraq a mistake

Note: This is a repost from a diary at Dailykos. I've put it here with all the hyperlinks intact because I believe it's the best example of compact, docmunted primer on the sham that is the Iraq war. Pass this link on.

Enough already with calling Iraq a mistake
by Meteor Blades (dailykos)

Someone said it again today. Invading Iraq was a mistake. Every time it gets said, I grind another layer of enamel off my teeth. Nancy Pelosi says it. John Kerry says it. Mikhail Gorbachev says it. Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says it. Even the occasional Republican says it. And recent polls indicate 55% to 59% of Americans think it.

Every one of them is wrong. Invading Iraq was no mistake. It was bloody treason. And the traitors still rule us instead of breaking rocks at Leavenworth.

They knowingly, willingly, unhesitatingly pronounced what they knew to be lies and marginalized, denigrated and smeared contrary-minded people, manipulated real evidence, concocted fake evidence, tricked an American population traumatized, fearful and furious about terrorism and sent young men and women off to a war at the tip of a bayonet named "9/11."

A mistake is when you hammer your thumb instead of the nail. A mistake is when you choose c) instead of d) on the SAT. A mistake is when you put too much garlic in the minestrone. Invading Iraq was no damned mistake. And calling it a mistake is more than a mere slip of the tongue. It sets a precedent. Pretty soon, everybody will be saying invading Iraq was a mistake. And in 20 years, your grandkids will be studying out of textbooks that call it a mistake.

Instead of calling it what it really was. Sedition.

Over and over again for three years we've had our faces rubbed in the evidence. Yet, every day, someone calls this perfidious, murderous scheme a mistake. As if invading Iraq were a foreign policy mishap. Oopsy.

Stop it already. People do not commit treachery by mistake.

As we full well know, even before George W. Bush was scooted into office 5-to-4, the men he came to front for were already at work plotting their rationale for sinking deeper military and economic roots in the Middle East, petropolitics and neo-imperialist sophistry greedily intertwined. When they stepped into office, as Richard Clarke explained to us , terrorism gave them no worries. They blew off Clarke and they blew off Hart-Rudman with scarcely a fare-thee-well. Then, when they weren't figuring out how to lower taxes on their pals and unravel the tattered social safety net, they focused - as Paul O'Neill informed us - on finding the right excuse to persuade the American people to go to war with Saddam Hussein as a prelude to going to war with some of his neighbors. In less than nine months, that excuse dropped into their laps in the form of Osama bin Laden's kamikaze crews.

From that terrible day forward, Richard Cheney and his sidekick Donald Rumsfeld and their like-minded coterie of rogues engineered the invasion. They didn't slip the U.S. into Iraq by mistake. Like the shrewd opportunists they have shown themselves to be in the business world, they saw the chance to carry out their invasion plan and they moved every obstacle - most especially the truth - out of their way to make it happen.

When they couldn't get the CIA to give them the intelligence that would justify their moves they exerted pressure for a change of minds. They exaggerated, reinterpreted and rejiggered intelligence assessments. For icing they concocted their own.

Larry Wilkerson merely confirms what O'Neill and Clarke previously had told us: The traitors didn't mistakenly stumble their way into invasion pushed along by world events; they created a cabal of renegades specifically to carry out the Project for a New American Century's plans for hegemony, first stop - Baghdad. They didn't carefully weigh options and evaluate the pros and cons and make error in judgment, the kind of wrong choice that could happen to anyone. They studiously ignored everyone who warned them against taking the action they had decided upon years before the World Trade Centers were turned to ashes and dust.

The traitors ignored Brent Scowcroft when he wrote in August 2002, "Don't Attack Saddam". They ignored the Army War College when it warned of the perils of invasion and occupation in a February 2003 report, "Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, And Missions For Military Forces In A Post-Conflict Scenario".

When their propaganda failed to measure up as a justification for expending American lives and treasure, they fabricated evidence. Aluminum tubes that experts said could in no way be used to help make nuclear weapons were turned into prima facie evidence of Saddam's intent to do so. Documents that intelligence veterans said from the get-go were forged remained the basis for the traitors' claims. With the straightest face he'd mustered since taking the oath of office, Dubyanocchio declared: "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

If the ousted Colin Powell can be believed, they sandbagged him into publicly providing the United Nations with information the traitors knew to be false.

Senators and Congressmen were lied into granting the President authority to take military action to protect the United States from a threat that the traitors knew didn't exist.

When the weapons inspectors under Hans Blix couldn't find anything, but asked for more time to look, they brushed him off and began pounding Baghdad and other Iraqi targets with a display of raw power they labeled, like ad writers for some ultimate cologne, "Shock and Awe."

Every smidgen of this betrayal of the American people was purposely calculated, even if poorly planned and frequently incompetently handled. Just as invading Iraq was no mistake, the pretense that Bush hadn't made up his mind months before the invasion was no mistake. It was a calculated ploy to suggest falsely that the President and the ideological crocodiles in the White House gave two snaps about cooperating with the international community other than as a means to camouflage their unalterable determination to stomp Iraq, plundering it under the guise of righteous magnanimity.

Just as the war was no mistake, torturing prisoners was no mistake. It was a deliberate, premeditated policy of international outlawry and inhumanity guided by legal arguments requested and approved by the man who soon got his reward, appointment as attorney general, and carried out on the direct orders of men like General Geoffrey Miller at the "suggestion" of Don Rumsfeld and under the command George Walker Bush.

It was no mistake that the vice president's company collected billions in no-bid contracts and that the White House attempted to cover up massive over-charges by that company.

Just as planning for invasion, the concoction of evidence, the ignoring of counter-advice, and the lying to Congress, to the United Nations and to the American people were not mistakes, the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson was no slip of the tongue, but a conscious, purposeful and deliberate act. Nor did the traitors mistakenly smear Ambassador Joe Wilson - a smear which continues today. It was the intentional plot of men fearful of having their treacherous lies exposed.

Mistakes were definitely made. Three years ago, too many elected Democrats and too many other Americans believed the president and vice president of the United States to be honorable men. To be patriots. To have the best interests of Americans at heart. They believed them and they believed a megamedia that operated like government-owned megaphones instead of independent watch dogs. Those were gigantic mistakes.

I haven't told you a single thing you haven't heard dozens of times previously. And yet, every day, people who I am positive are as well or better acquainted than I with the facts I've outlined here say or write: "Invading Iraq was a mistake."


Our leaders betrayed us and aided our enemies. They worked overtime to silence dissident voices. They deliberately took us into war under a cloak of deceit and the outcome, so far, is tens of thousands of dead soldiers and civilians, a weakened national security, a diplomatic catastrophe, a sullied American voice, a dwindling treasury and increased terrorism, with no end in sight.

Stop calling what they did a mistake.

Peggy Noonan's Stump Speech for Dems

Peggy Noonan's Stump Speech for Dems

By Greg Anrig, Jr. | bio

From: Politics
More than any conservative pundit with the possible exception of David Brooks, Peggy Noonan makes me want to smash my computer mouse for her capacity to derive right-wing non sequiturs from elegantly expressed liberal values. But in a meandering, world-is-coming-to-an-end column today, she writes something that is almost exactly right:

"It's beyond, 'The president is overwhelmed.' The presidency is overwhelmed. The whole government is. And people sense when an institution is overwhelmed. Citizens know. If we had a major terrorist event tomorrow half the country--more than half--would not trust the federal government to do what it has to do, would not trust it to tell the truth, would not trust it, period.

"It should be noted that all modern presidents face a slew of issues, and none of them have felt in control of events but have instead felt controlled by them. JFK in one week faced the Soviets, civil rights, the Berlin Wall, the southern Democratic mandarins of the U.S. Senate. He had to face Cuba, only 90 miles away, importing Russian missiles. But the difference now, 45 years later, is that there are a million little Cubas, a new Cuba every week. It's all so much more so. And all increasingly crucial. And it will be for the next president, too."

You're so close, Peggy. Now just take the next step. Suppose today's president were someone like Jack Kennedy or Bill Clinton -- someone who believes deeply that government can be effective in addressing challenges like protecting citizens against terrorist attacks or responding to a natural disaster. Someone who extolled the value of public service and recruited the best and the brightest to take on all those hard problems you're talking about. Don't you think that citizens would be less likely to feel that government is overwhelmed? Conservative government doesn't work because conservatives don't believe in government. Peggy, there's hope.

Tom Engelhardt - Will the Bush Administration Implode?

Will the Bush Administration Implode?
By Tom Engelhardt

Wednesday 26 October 2005

Bush's October surprise.

Those in the anti-fascist struggle of the 1930s who went off to fight in the Spanish Civil War were later termed "premature antifascists." Perhaps, in the same spirit, I might be considered a premature Bush-administration implodist.

On February 1, 2004, reviewing the week just passed, I imagined us trapped in "some new reality show in which we were all to be locked in with an odd group of [administration] jokesters," and then wrote:

When we finally emerge will there be a prize for the survivors? Will we discover, for instance, that our President and his administration have headed down a path of slow-motion implosion...?

On February 18, 2004, my optimism briefly surging, I imagined the future as a movie trailer (inviting readers back for the main attraction that spring or summer) and offered this synopsis of the future film - the wild fowl references being to Dick Cheney's hunting habits, then in the news - with:

A wall-to-wall cast of characters. Far too many to absorb in a split second including our President, Vice President, CIA officials, a supreme court justice, spooks and unnamed sources galore, FBI agents, prosecutors, military men, congressional representatives and their committees, grand juries, fuming columnists, an ex-ambassador, journalists and bloggers, sundry politicians, rafts of neocons..., oil tycoons, and of course assorted wild fowl (this being the Bush administration). If the director were Oliver Stone, it might immediately be titled: The Bush Follies... And the first scene would open - like that old Jean Luc Goddard movie Weekend - with a giant traffic jam. It would be epic. All of political Washington in potential scandal gridlock. And (as with Weekend) horns would be blaring, drivers and passengers arguing. It would be obvious that the norms of civilization were falling fast and people were threatening to cannibalize each other.

Sounds a bit like Washington awaiting the Fitzgerald indictments this week, doesn't it? For good measure, I added, "The Bush administration has been in trouble ever since its arrogance met its incompetence at Intelligence Pass last summer; ever since Plame Gate began..."

On January 17, 2005 (hedging my time spans a bit more carefully), I wrote:

The Bush administration has insisted with remarkable success that a vision of the world concocted more or less out of whole cloth inside a bubble of a world is the world itself. It seems, right now, that we're in a race between Bush's fiction-based reality becoming our reality... and an administration implosion in the months or years ahead as certain dangerous facts in Iraq and elsewhere insist on being attended to.

Finally, this July, when matters were more visibly underway, I returned to the subject,

While there is officially no means for the Bush administration to implode (impeachment not being a political possibility), nonetheless, implosion is certainly possible. If and when the unraveling begins, the proximate cause, whether the Plame affair or something else entirely, is likely to surprise us all but none more than the members of the mainstream media.

Shadow Governments and Armed Imperial Isolationists

Now, here we are. So call me prescient or, less charitably, chalk it up to the fact that, if you say anything over and over, sooner or later it may come true. Already we have the first front-page tabloid report - in the New York Daily News - on a President (whose reigning adjectives not so long ago were "resolute" and "steady") beginning to unravel. Under the headline, Bushies Feeling the Boss's Wrath, Thomas DeFrank, that paper's Washington Bureau Chief, wrote, "Facing the darkest days of his presidency, President Bush is frustrated, sometimes angry and even bitter, his associates say... 'This is not some manager at McDonald's chewing out the help,' said a source with close ties to the White House when told about these outbursts. 'This is the President of the United States, and it's not a pleasant sight.'... Presidential advisers and friends say Bush is a mass of contradictions: cheerful and serene, peevish and melancholy, occasionally lapsing into what he once derided as the 'blame game.'" Frankly, the description already has a touch of Richard Nixon (as his presidency delaminated after Watergate finally hit).

If you want to understand the present moment, however, it's important to grasp one major difference between the Nixon years and today. In the early 1970s, Richard Nixon had to compete, elbows flying, for face and space time in what we now call the mainstream media. There wasn't any other game in town. (For instance, I suspect that if the secret history of the first op-ed page, which made its appearance in the New York Times in 1970, was ever written, its purpose would turn out to have been to give the hard-charging Nixon administration a space in the liberal paper of record where Vice President Spiro Agnew and other administration supporters could sound off from time to time.)

George Bush arrived at a very different media moment. From Rush Limbaugh and Sinclair Broadcasting to Fox News, the Washington Times, and the Weekly Standard, he had his own media already in place - a full spectrum of outlets including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and publishing houses. As for the rest of the media, his task, unlike Nixon's, wasn't to compete for space, but to pacify, sideline, and, if need be, punish. In this sense, no administration has been less giving of actual news or more obviously tried to pay less attention to major media outlets. The President was proud to say that he didn't even read or watch such outlets. His was a shock-and-awe policy and, from September 12, 2001 to last spring, it was remarkably successful.

The "cabal" of Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and their associates that Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, recently spoke and then wrote about - "Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift, not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy." - dealt with the media that wasn't theirs and the government bureaucracy that wasn't theirs in similar ways via those big three: pacification, sidelining, and punishment. Whether it was the hated CIA or the much-loathed State Department, they set up their own small, enclosed structures for governing and attempted to shove the rest of them out into the cold. And again they were remarkably successful - for a while. (Nixon, too, took a stab at setting up a shadow government, loyal only to him, including, of course, those famous "plumbers.")

In fact, the same cast of Bush administration characters dealt with the world in a similar manner. They buckled on their armor, raised their cruise missiles, broke their treaties, distained anything that passed for multi-nationalism or had the letters "U" or "N" in it, unpacked their dictionaries to redefine the nature of torture and international relations, proclaimed world domination to be their modest goal - and, armed to the teeth, sallied forth with their allied corporations in the name of everything good to ransack the globe (and punish any country or government that dared get in their way). In this course, they were regularly called "unilateralists."

In all their guises - in relation to the media, the federal bureaucracy, and other countries - they actually were dominating isolationists. They took a once honorable Republican heartland tradition - isolationism - turned it on its head and thrust it into the world. They acted in Iraq and elsewhere as armed imperial isolationists. Where the elder Bush and Bill Clinton were multi-nationalists and globalizers; they were ultra-nationalists and militarists, focused only on the military solution to any problem - and damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

But when you are a cabal, using such close-to-the-breast, not to say mom-and-pop, methods of ruling, and you falter, whether in Iraq or at home, unilateralism becomes weakness. And when it turns out that what you rule is the "last superpower" and you've sidelined, pacified, or punished large numbers of people in the vast, interlocking worlds of the governmental bureaucracy and the media, your enemies still retain the power to strike back.

When something closer to the full story of our moment is known, I suspect we'll see more clearly just how the bureaucracy began to do so (along with, as in this week's New Yorker magazine in the person of Brent Scowcroft, the old multinational ruling elite). In the meantime, it's clear that what the potential implosion moment awaited was the perfect storm of events now upon us. If this moment were to be traced back to its origins, I would, for the time being, pick the spring of this year as my starting point and give the mainstream media - anxious, resentful, bitter, cowed, losing audience, and cutting staff - their due. The Bush slide has been a long, slow one, as the opinion polls indicate; but like that famed moss-less rolling stone, it picked up speed last spring as the President's approval ratings slipped below 50%, and then in the ensuing months plunged near or below 40%, putting him at the edge of free-fall.

If there's one thing that this administration and Washington journalists have in common, it's that both groups parse opinion polls obsessively; so both saw the signs of administration polling softness and of a President, just into a second term, who should have been triumphant but was failing in his attempt to spend what he called his "political capital" on social security "reform."

Vulnerability, it gets the blood roaring, especially when it seeps from an administration so long feared and admired as the "most disciplined" and "most secretive" in memory, an administration whose highest officials (as the Plame case showed) regularly whacked their opponents with anything at hand and then called on their media allies, always in full-battle-mode, for support. Probably the key moment of weakness came in August, when Cindy Sheehan ended up in that famed ditch at the side of a road in Crawford, Texas, and the President and his men - undoubtedly feeling their new-found vulnerability, anxious over an Iraq War gone wrong and the protesting mother of a dead soldier so near at hand - blinked.

In their former mode, they would undoubtedly have swept her away in some fashion; instead, they faltered and sent out not the Secret Service or some minor bureaucrat, but two of the President's top men, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin. For forty-five minutes, they negotiated over her demand to meet George Bush the way you might with a recalcitrant foreign head of state - and then she just sent them back, insisting she would wait where she was to get the President's explanation for her son's death.

Trapped in no-news Crawford with a President always determined to offer them less than nothing, hardened by an administration whose objective for any media outlet not its own was only "rollback," and sympathetic to a grieving mother from Bush's war, reporters found themselves with an irresistible story, ratified as important by the administration, at a moment when they could actually run with it - and they headed down the road.

Not long after, hurricane Katrina swept into town; the President refused to end his vacation; FEMA began twisting, twisting in the wind; Tom DeLay went down; Rita blew in (to be followed by Wilma); Senator Frist found himself blinded by his trust; the President nominated his own lawyer to the Supreme Court - at this point, even some of his conservative allies began peeling away - and then, of course, waiting in the wings, there was the ultimate October surprise, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald - backed by a reinvigorated media and an angry bureaucracy - ready to lift the lid on a whole can of worms not likely to be closed for years to come.

Our Imploding Future

To me anyway, this looks like a potential critical-mass moment. Of course, there are a few missing elements of no small import. The most obvious is an opposition party. The Democrats are essentially nowhere to be seen. In fact, whether or not they even remain a party is, at this point, open to serious question. Their leading candidate for president, Hillary Clinton, still wants to send more (nonexistent) American troops into Iraq and, like most other Democrats in Congress, has remained painfully mum - this passes for a strategy, however craven - on almost everything that matters at the moment. Even on the issue of torture, it's a Republican Senator, John McCain, who is spearheading resistance to the administration.

The other group distinctly missing-in-action, as they have been for years now, is the military. Many top military men were clearly against the Iraq War and, aghast at the way the administration has conducted it, have been leaking like mad ever since. But other than General Eric Shinseki, who spoke up in the pre-invasion period, suggesting the kind of troop strength that might actually be needed for an occupation (rather than a liberation) of Iraq and was essentially laughed out of Washington, and various retired generals like former Centcom Commander Anthony Zinni and former Director of the National Security Agency retired Lieutenant General William Odom, not a single high-ranking military officer has spoken out - or, more reasonably, resigned and then done so. This, it seems to me, remains a glaring case of dereliction of duty, given what has been going on.

As for the implosion of this administration, we have no idea what implosion would actually mean under the present circumstances. Even with a Republican Congress partially staffed with the American version of the Taliban, will whatever unravels over many months or even years, post-the Fitzgerald indictments, lead to hearings and someday the launching of impeachment proceedings? Or is that beyond the bounds of possibility? Who knows. Will this administration dissolve in some fashion as yet undetermined? Will they go down shooting (as, points out Robert Dreyfuss in a striking if unnerving piece at, they already are threatening to do in Syria)? Will Daddy's men be hauled out of the pages of the New Yorker magazine and off the front-lines of money-making and called in to save the day? Again, who knows. (Where is Bush family consigliere James Baker anyway?)

As you consider this, remember one small thing: So far, hurricane Katrina aside, this administration has largely felt tremors coursing through the elite in Washington. The real 7.9 seismic shocks have yet to happen. Yes, in Iraq, the 2,000 mark in American dead has just been breached, but the Iraqi equivalent of the 1983 Lebanon barracks suicide bombing in which 241 American servicemen died, hasn't happened yet. Yes, gas hovers near $3.00 a gallon at the pumps, but the winter natural-gas and heating-oil shock hasn't even begun to hit; nor has next summer's oil shock (after the Bush administration bombs Iran); nor has the housing bubble burst; nor have foreign countries begun to cash in their T-bills in staggering quantities; nor has oil sabotage truly spread in the Middle East; or unemployment soared at home; or the initial wave of a recession hit; nor have we discovered that next year's hurricane season is worse than this terrible one; nor... but I'm not really being predictive here. I'm simply saying that, once upon a time not so very long ago, this administration had a fair amount of room for error. Now, it's no longer in control of its own script and has next to no space for anything to go wrong in a world where "going wrong" is likely to be the operative phrase for quite a while. The Fitzgerald indictments, in other words, are probably just the end of the beginning. Whether they are also the beginning of the end is another question entirely.

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of American Triumphalism in the Cold War. His novel, The Last Days of Publishing, has just come out in paperback.

Maureen Dowd - Dick at the Heart of Darkness

Dick at the Heart of Darkness
By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times

Wednesday 26 October 2005

After W. was elected, he sometimes gave visitors a tour of the love alcove off the Oval Office where Bill trysted with Monica - the notorious spot where his predecessor had dishonored the White House.

At least it was only a little pantry - and a little panting.

If W. wants to show people now where the White House has been dishonored in far more astounding and deadly ways, he'll have to haul them around every nook and cranny of his vice president's office, then go across the river for a walk of shame through the Rummy empire at the Pentagon.

The shocking thing about the trellis of revelations showing Dick Cheney, the self-styled Mr. Strong America, as the central figure in dark conspiracies to juice up a case for war and demonize those who tried to tell the public the truth is how un-shocking it all is.

It's exactly what we thought was going on, but we never thought we'd actually hear the lurid details: Cheney and Rummy, the two old compadres from the Nixon and Ford days, in a cabal running the country and the world into the ground, driven by their poisonous obsession with Iraq, while Junior is out of the loop, playing in the gym or on his mountain bike.

Mr. Cheney has been so well protected by his Praetorian guard all these years that it's been hard for the public to see his dastardly deeds and petty schemes. But now, because of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation and candid talk from Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Wilkerson, he's been flushed out as the heart of darkness: all sulfurous strands lead back to the man W. aptly nicknamed Vice.

According to a Times story yesterday, Scooter Libby first learned about Joseph Wilson's C.I.A. wife from his boss, Mr. Cheney, not from reporters, as he'd originally suggested. And Mr. Cheney learned it from George Tenet, according to Mr. Libby's notes.

The Bush hawks presented themselves as protectors and exporters of American values. But they were so feverish about projecting the alternate reality they had constructed to link Saddam and Al Qaeda - and fulfilling their idée fixe about invading Iraq - they perverted American values.

Whether or not it turns out to be illegal, outing a C.I.A. agent - undercover or not - simply to undermine her husband's story is Rove-ishly sleazy. This no-leak administration was perfectly willing to leak to hurt anyone who got in its way.

Vice also pressed for a loophole so the C.I.A. could do torture-light on prisoners in U.S. custody, but John McCain rebuffed His Tortureness. Senator McCain has sponsored a measure to bar the cruel treatment of prisoners because he knows that this is not who we are. (Remember the days when the only torture was listening to politicians reciting their best TV lines at dinner parties?)

Colonel Wilkerson, the former chief of staff for Colin Powell, broke the code and denounced Vice's vortex, calling his own involvement in Mr. Powell's U.N. speech, infected with bogus Cheney and Scooter malarkey, "the lowest point" in his life.

He followed that with a blast of blunt talk in a speech and an op-ed piece in The Los Angeles Times, saying that foreign policy had been hijacked by "a secretive, little-known cabal" that hated dissent. He said the cabal was headed by Mr. Cheney, "a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces," and Donald Rumsfeld, "a secretary of defense presiding over the death by a thousand cuts of our overstretched armed forces."

"I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less," Colonel Wilkerson wrote. "More often than not, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal."

Brent Scowcroft, Bush Senior's close friend, let out a shriek this week to Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker, revealing his estrangement from W. and his old protégé Condi. He disdained Paul Wolfowitz as a naïve utopian and said he didn't "know" his old friend Dick Cheney anymore. Vice's alliance with the neocons, who were determined to finish in Iraq what Mr. Scowcroft and Poppy had declared finished, led him to lead the nation into a morass. Troop deaths are now around 2,000, a gruesome milestone.

"The reason I part with the neocons is that I don't think in any reasonable time frame the objective of democratizing the Middle East can be successful," Mr. Scowcroft said. "If you can do it, fine, but I don't think you can, and in the process of trying to do it you can make the Middle East a lot worse."

W. should take the Medal of Freedom away from Mr. Tenet and give medals to Colonel Wilkerson and Mr. Scowcroft.

Al-Jazeera: The new power on the small screen

Al-Jazeera: The new power on the small screen

It only started broadcasting in 1996 but the Qatar-based station has already changed the face of broadcasting. Now even the World Service is launching an Arabic-language channel. Paul Vallely reports on a global media phenomenon
Published: 26 October 2005

It must have been seen as something of a back-handed compliment in the tiny Gulf state of Qatar. The BBC yesterday confirmed it is to axe 10 of its World Service radio services to find the money to launch an Arabic-language television station. The decision is powerful testimony to the extraordinary growth of al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite station which in less than a decade has developed from the personal indulgence of the Emir of Qatar into a global player on the international broadcasting stage.

Founded in 1996 the Qatar-based news network - which became a potent media force in during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq when its ability to report events in the Middle Eastern domain from an Arab perspective contrasted with the difficulties faced by other media organisations - al-Jazeera was recently voted the fifth most influential global brand (behind Apple and Google).

That status can only increase from next year when it launches an English-speaking international version, with a raft of top ITN and BBC executives behind the scenes, and Sir David Frost - who has interviewed seven US presidents and six British prime ministers - signed up as its big-name presenter. Its intention is to rival CNN and BBC World as the globe's biggest broadcaster.

In some parts of the world that notion will be greeted with a mixture of derisive mirth and horror. The station gained worldwide attention after 11 September 2001 when it began broadcasting videos in which Osama bin Laden and his sidekicks sought to justify the terrorist attacks on the United States. Al-Jazeera has, ever since, been routinely accused by the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and others of "consistently lying" and "working in concert with terrorists". He has even accused it of taking women and children to places where US bombs had fallen and pretending they were victims of the US attack.

This has not entirely been to their disadvantage. "The more Rumsfeld attacks us, the more popular we are with our viewers," the station's communications director, the surreally named Jihad Ballout has said.

But then things have been complex at al-Jazeera from the outset. It began in 1996. In April that year there were tear-stained faces at the BBC as 250 journalists were toldthe BBC World Service's Arabic television station was to shut. It had been a joint venture with a Saudi company and a lack of common ground on editorial policy came to a head when the Saudi government tried to censor a documentary on executions under its brutal interpretations of sharia law.

But the Emir of Qatar - a man sitting on the third-largest proven reserves of natural gas in the world - was waiting in the wings. He had liked the short-lived BBC Arabic, and believing the long-term interests of Islam were served better by truth than by censorship, he stumped up $150m (now £90m) and founded al-Jazeera. Large numbers of the BBC staff transferred from London to Qatar to run it.

There are 100 or so other Arabic TV stations available to those with satellite dishes. But all are either state controlled or not trusted by viewers. From the outset al-Jazeera was different. It ran stories about the corruption of government officials in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and elsewhere. It aired debate of a kind rarely seen on Arab television. It even interviewed Israeli officials - never seen on other Arab networks. Its motto was: "We get both sides of the story."

But there are always those who do not want the other side to get an airing. And not just totalitarian governments in the Middle East. When US President George Bush launched his "war on terror" he pronounced that you had to be either with him or against him. And though al-Jazeera in total showed just five hours of bin Laden's speeches, compared with 500 hours of the US President, it was clear al-Jazeera was seen as being in the enemy camp.

During the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, al-Jazeera was the only station with a round-the-clock satellite link from Kabul to the outside world - until, that is, two American "smart" bombs hit its office. Something similar happened in 2003 in Iraq when the station's office in Baghdad was attacked by US forces, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub, after the US had been given the office's precise co-ordinates.

During the war al-Jazeera riled the American and British coalition further by broadcasting a 30-second film of the bodies of two dead British soldiers in a "flagrant breach" of the Geneva convention. Those who knew Arab culture pointed out that it did not share Western taboos on pictures of the dead, with graphic footage of dead Palestinians and Israelis alike commonplace on Arab TV screens. But the outrage was undiminished.

The differences were not merely cultural but propagandistic. Al-Jazeera had equipped ordinary people around Iraq with phones and cameras as the invasion got under way, anticipating that communications in Baghdad would deteriorate as the US forces closed in. As a result the station was broadcasting pictures from hotspots such as Fallujah, which openly contradicted the claims the US military was putting out.

"The contradictions were much in evidence in Fallujah where the Americans one day announced there was a truce that was beginning at 12 noon," said one al-Jazeera journalist. "Then we would transmit images of American jet fighters bombing the city and breaking the truce."

Even so there was much debate in the station about how its reporters should remain even-handed. At one point editors banned journalists from describing American troops' presence as an "occupation" and those attacking them as a "resistance" movement. And although throughout last year al-Jazeera broadcast several video tapes of kidnapping victims - with hostages often blindfolded, pleading for their release and reading out their kidnappers' prepared statements - the station assisted Western governments in attempts to secure the hostages' release. And it always refused to show the beheadings posted by terrorists on internet websites.

None of that impressed Washington. It put pressure on the Emir to sell the station, which he still subsidises to the tune of$30m a year (because almost all Arab governments boycott al-Jazeera's advertising - a fact which one wag said was "about the only thing the Arab information ministers can all agree on"). Ernst and Young were hired to look into possible privatisation models earlier this year, but the idea seems to have been shelved, possibly because al-Jazeera means the little emirate now punches above its political weight.

But the political pressure on the station is unrelenting. Since the start of 2002 one of its cameramen has been held at Guantanamo Bay. The same year Bahrain banned al-Jazeera reporters - because the station was "biased towards Israel and against Bahrain". Then two of its financial journalists had their credentials to cover the New York Stock Exchange revoked. In 2003 its reporter in Spain was arrested and accused of being an al-Qa'ida agent. In 2004 the Algerian government froze the activities of al-Jazeera's correspondent there and later in the year the provisional Iraqi government shut down its offices in Baghdad. Problems have been created for the station in Canada, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia where it has even been banned from covering the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Its website has been attacked by hackers, who redirected users to - a revealing combination - US patriot or porn sites.

Despite all that - or perhaps because of it - subscriptions to al-Jazeera doubled in a single week after the war on Iraq began. It now has 50 million viewers and is in the middle of a major expansion. In addition to its news network it has al-Jazeera Sports, the al-Jazeera Children's Channel and al-Jazeera Live, which broadcasts conferences in real time without editing or commentary. The English-language service, al-Jazeera International, will launch in March. It will broadcast from its Qatar headquarters and bureaux in London, Kuala Lumpur and Washington DC. Unsurprisingly it has yet to find a US cable outlet prepared to carry its broadcasts. But the likelihood is that it will find a ready audience.

"The brief is emphatically not an English translation of the Arabic channel," says Nigel Parsons, al-Jazeera International's managing director, who was previously a senior executive with Associated Press Television News and the BBC. "It will have international appeal and fill a lot of gaps in existing output."

The English-language website drew a huge number of hits during the July bombings in London. "One of the aims will be to try and bring better understanding of each other's positions," Parsons said. "We'll aim for balance ... It's not going to be anti-Western or anti-American." Indeed some staff fear it could end up being too Western and unpopular with English-speaking Muslims.

The gap in the market comes, Parsons believes, from the fact that CNN has been dragged to the right by Rupert Murdoch's outrageously partisan Fox News Channel. CNN's coverage of the Iraq war cost them a lot of credibility. And the BBC's international coverage, particularly of the developing world, he says, "are 40 per cent of what they were when Michael Buerk first did the Ethiopian famine".

He has convinced many in the industry. Behind the big name of Sir David Frost lie a raft of seasoned professionals. They include: John Pullman, former editor of News At Ten; a Paul Gibbs, a former editor of BBC Breakfast; Steve Clarke, an executive producer from Sky; and Al Anstey, who has just quit as ITN's head of foreign news. On-camera will be Susan Phillips, previously the London bureau chief of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Mark Seddon, the former editor of Tribune, who will be the New York and UN correspondent. Parsons has had 4,000 applications for the 40 jobs in the Washington bureau from staff at CNN, Fox, Sky, the BBC and Australian television.

Will the BBC Arabic service make a dent in al-Jazeera? Washington has already launched its own rival, al-Hurra. It has made little impact. So has the Saudi-backed al-Arabiya, though it has made inroads in Iraq and Bahrain. "Al-Jazeera," sighs Mouafac Harb, the director of al-Hurra, "has hijacked the role of the mosque as the primary source of information and views. Al-Jazeera is the only political process in the Middle East."

Even some Americans have been forced to agree. Kenton Keith, a former US ambassador to Qatar, says: "For the long- range importance of press freedom in the Middle East and the advantages that will ultimately have for the West you have to be a supporter of al-Jazeera, even if you have to hold your nose sometimes."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Lawrence B. Wilkerson - The White House Cabal

The White House Cabal
By Lawrence B. Wilkerson
The Los Angeles Times

Tuesday 25 October 2005

Lawrence B. Wilkerson served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell from 2002 to 2005.

In President Bush's first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security - including vital decisions about postwar Iraq - were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

When I first discussed this group in a speech last week at the New American Foundation in Washington, my comments caused a significant stir because I had been chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell between 2002 and 2005.

But it's absolutely true. I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. More often than not, then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal.

Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift - not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and "guardians of the turf."

But the secret process was ultimately a failure. It produced a series of disastrous decisions and virtually ensured that the agencies charged with implementing them would not or could not execute them well.

I watched these dual decision-making processes operate for four years at the State Department. As chief of staff for 27 months, I had a door adjoining the secretary of State's office. I read virtually every document he read. I read the intelligence briefings and spoke daily with people from all across government.

I knew that what I was observing was not what Congress intended when it passed the 1947 National Security Act. The law created the National Security Council - consisting of the president, vice president and the secretaries of State and Defense - to make sure the nation's vital national security decisions were thoroughly vetted. The NSC has often been expanded, depending on the president in office, to include the CIA director, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Treasury secretary and others, and it has accumulated a staff of sometimes more than 100 people.

But many of the most crucial decisions from 2001 to 2005 were not made within the traditional NSC process.

Scholars and knowledgeable critics of the U.S. decision-making process may rightly say, so what? Haven't all of our presidents in the last half-century failed to conform to the usual process at one time or another? Isn't it the president's prerogative to make decisions with whomever he pleases? Moreover, can he not ignore whomever he pleases? Why should we care that President Bush gave over much of the critical decision-making to his vice president and his secretary of Defense?

Both as a former academic and as a person who has been in the ring with the bull, I believe that there are two reasons we should care. First, such departures from the process have in the past led us into a host of disasters, including the last years of the Vietnam War, the national embarrassment of Watergate (and the first resignation of a president in our history), the Iran-Contra scandal and now the ruinous foreign policy of George W. Bush.

But a second and far more important reason is that the nature of both governance and crisis has changed in the modern age.

From managing the environment to securing sufficient energy resources, from dealing with trafficking in human beings to performing peacekeeping missions abroad, governing is vastly more complicated than ever before in human history.

Further, the crises the U.S. government confronts today are so multifaceted, so complex, so fast-breaking - and almost always with such incredible potential for regional and global ripple effects - that to depart from the systematic decision-making process laid out in the 1947 statute invites disaster.

Discounting the professional experience available within the federal bureaucracy - and ignoring entirely the inevitable but often frustrating dissent that often arises therein - makes for quick and painless decisions. But when government agencies are confronted with decisions in which they did not participate and with which they frequently disagree, their implementation of those decisions is fractured, uncoordinated and inefficient. This is particularly the case if the bureaucracies called upon to execute the decisions are in strong competition with one another over scarce money, talented people, "turf" or power.

It takes firm leadership to preside over the bureaucracy. But it also takes a willingness to listen to dissenting opinions. It requires leaders who can analyze, synthesize, ponder and decide.

The administration's performance during its first four years would have been even worse without Powell's damage control. At least once a week, it seemed, Powell trooped over to the Oval Office and cleaned all the dog poop off the carpet. He held a youthful, inexperienced president's hand. He told him everything would be all right because he, the secretary of State, would fix it. And he did - everything from a serious crisis with China when a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was struck by a Chinese F-8 fighter jet in April 2001, to the secretary's constant reassurances to European leaders following the bitter breach in relations over the Iraq war. It wasn't enough, of course, but it helped.

Today, we have a president whose approval rating is 38% and a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces. We have a secretary of Defense presiding over the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of our overstretched armed forces (no surprise to ignored dissenters such as former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki or former Army Secretary Thomas White).

It's a disaster. Given the choice, I'd choose a frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time.

Can Fitz nail them on The Big One?

Can Fitz nail them on The Big One?
by Kagro X (dailykos)
Tue Oct 25, 2005 at 11:15:35 AM PDT

Thanks, Larry. May I call you Larry? OK, fine. Thanks, then, to Mr. Wilkerson, formerly chief of staff to Colin Powell, who himself was formerly chief pooper scooper and hand holder to Preznit George W. Bumblefuck. Thanks for opening the door a crack to let the light in.

When I wrote back in July that there was something seething beneath the surface of the Plame investigation, I fully believed it would remain beneath the surface, even as indictments were handed down and convictions entered on the record. I reaffirmed that assumption this month, when I worried that what I felt was the more serious rot within the federal government might go unaddressed, as it had with Iran-Contra.

But Wilkerson has changed my outlook a bit. Just a bit.

Why? Let's recap.

My original Big Lie question:

What I'm asking is, what's bigger? The lies the administration used to convince the country to go to war? Or the lie that the administration only fought the intelligence community after the fact, to cover its tracks when caught?

Is the administration covering up the lengths to which it went to prevent the exposure of its mistaken reliance on bad intelligence? Or is the administration covering up the lengths to which it went to promote intelligence developed by its own, parallel intelligence structure, a plan which required the simultaneous undermining and the destruction of the credibility of the country's established (read: authorized and legitimate) intelligence structure, which refused to give them what they wanted?

The answer to that question is the difference between "just politics," and "we're not kidding when we whisper the word 'treason.'"

That question was prompted by my own earlier musings on the applicability of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) to the targets of the Fitzgerald investigation, which applicability has fallen out of theoretical favor, somewhat. But only for a lack of imagination, in my view. And it's also my view that Patrick Fitzgerald's greatest asset in his work on the Plame case has been his ability to strip away the assumptions of legitimacy which the Bush "administration" has used to camouflage its actions, and examine the goings on in a purely legal context, without deference to "mandates" or the "normal" practice of "politics."

Is the IIPA still in play? Will Wilkerson's revelations reopen the question? Probably not in court, where the game may not be worth the candle, but in the realm of what we'll call the theory of governance, they should. Recall that one of the sticking points in the IIPA requirements was that the disclosures needed to be made, "with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States." A tall order, since it requires overcoming the assumption that American administrations always act, even if mistakenly, with the interests of the United States at heart.

But that's where the problem lies. The assumption is too broad. You can still give this particular "administration" the benefit of the doubt and assume they do have the interests of the United States at heart (despite the evidence), but does that necessarily mean they had the interests of "the foreign intelligence activities of the United States" at heart? No, not necessarily. And in fact, the only way you get to "yes" in answer to that question is if you're willing to permit the parallel intellegence operations set up by the "administration" -- the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, the White House Iraq Group, and all those implicated in what Seymour Hersh called "stovepiping" of cooked intelligence -- to stand in the shoes of the legitimate and Congressionally authorized intelligence community. A position of questionable legitimacy. And very thin ice.

We had an interesting exchange following the big lie question, with now-fellow TNHer Mimikatz noting:

Cheney and Libby led the charge. And Bolton was in the middle of it. Rove probably got in on the details only at the end, when they needed someone to smear Wilson to detract form the controversy over the 16 words and the fact that Wilson had showed they knew or should have known that the Niger uranium evidence (like the aluminum tube evidence) was bogus.

And today, lo and behold, we find out she was quite correct. Wilkerson, via the Washington Post, takes us inside the rotting core of the "administration," and lends Mimikatz significant support:

"The case that I saw for four-plus years was a case I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process," Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Powell's former chief of staff and longtime confidant, said in a speech last week. "What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made."

So much for the "who." As for the "what," later in the Big Lie exchange, TNH reader dksbook prompted my observation that:

Where things got hairy was when certain others with hands on the levers of power appeared to disagree. And from that point on, it seems the administration took its "mandate" to mean that it had carte blanche to cut corners when it came to overcoming its opposition. Rather than have a protracted policy battle which could take decades and would require many successive administrations in the control of neo-cons, they decided it was worth going for it all in one fell swoop. And that's what led them to explore admittedly faster, but extralegal, methods.

And why, other than being illegal, is that important? Wilkerson, again, this time via the LA Times:

I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. More often than not, then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice was simply steamrolled by this cabal.

Its insular and secret workings were efficient and swift -- not unlike the decision-making one would associate more with a dictatorship than a democracy. This furtive process was camouflaged neatly by the dysfunction and inefficiency of the formal decision-making process, where decisions, if they were reached at all, had to wend their way through the bureaucracy, with its dissenters, obstructionists and "guardians of the turf."

But the secret process was ultimately a failure. It produced a series of disastrous decisions and virtually ensured that the agencies charged with implementing them would not or could not execute them well.

I prefaced the above quote using the phrase "other than being illegal," but a better description of what Wilkerson is telling us is why it's illegal. Not which statute or federal regulation is being broken which makes it illegal, but the reason that a sound theory of governance would give us for passing such a statute in the first place. In the vernacular, cabalistic bullshit within the administrations of nuclear armed global superpowers leads to fuckups of worldwide import. So, yeah, we tend to frown the practice.

How, formally speaking, do we "frown" on it? Wilkerson (in the same LAT article) takes us through the paces:

I knew that what I was observing was not what Congress intended when it passed the 1947 National Security Act. The law created the National Security Council -- consisting of the president, vice president and the secretaries of State and Defense -- to make sure the nation's vital national security decisions were thoroughly vetted. The NSC has often been expanded, depending on the president in office, to include the CIA director, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Treasury secretary and others, and it has accumulated a staff of sometimes more than 100 people.

But many of the most crucial decisions from 2001 to 2005 were not made within the traditional NSC process.

So we've heard. And Wilkerson anticipates and rebuts the "criminalization of politics" argument that Republicans hope will counter the sting of being found out:

Scholars and knowledgeable critics of the U.S. decision-making process may rightly say, so what? Haven't all of our presidents in the last half-century failed to conform to the usual process at one time or another? Isn't it the president's prerogative to make decisions with whomever he pleases? Moreover, can he not ignore whomever he pleases? Why should we care that President Bush gave over much of the critical decision-making to his vice president and his secretary of Defense?

Both as a former academic and as a person who has been in the ring with the bull, I believe that there are two reasons we should care. First, such departures from the process have in the past led us into a host of disasters, including the last years of the Vietnam War, the national embarrassment of Watergate (and the first resignation of a president in our history), the Iran-Contra scandal and now the ruinous foreign policy of George W. Bush.

But a second and far more important reason is that the nature of both governance and crisis has changed in the modern age.

Wilkerson goes on to say, essentially, that success in Texas politics notwithstanding, the problems of dealing effectively with the rest of the world are not games appropriate for petulent children. They are serious and require the kind of adult supervision not only sorely lacking, but indeed scorned and ridiculed in the Bush "administration."

Laughter and derision over the need for a "sensitive" in foreign policy. "Old Europe." "Bring 'em on." "With us or with the terrorists." You remember it well.

So ultimately, Bush's failure of leadership was multilayered -- a failure to lead within his own "administration" that led inexorably to a failure to lead United States foreign policy. And, of course, the foreign intelligence activities of the United States.

Wilkerson next reminds us why it's no substitute for institutional knowledge to surround yourself instead with effete theoreticians, even those who insist that studying under the exalted Leo Strauss makes them the smartest guys in any room:

Discounting the professional experience available within the federal bureaucracy -- and ignoring entirely the inevitable but often frustrating dissent that often arises therein -- makes for quick and painless decisions. But when government agencies are confronted with decisions in which they did not participate and with which they frequently disagree, their implementation of those decisions is fractured, uncoordinated and inefficient. This is particularly the case if the bureaucracies called upon to execute the decisions are in strong competition with one another over scarce money, talented people, "turf" or power.

Maybe W. has heard this one before: It's not what you know, it's who you know. Even your team of evil geniuses and their bag of dirty tricks wasn't enough to overcome every single career intelligence and diplomatic officer in the United States. Perhaps the lesson is that you didn't slit enough throats on Inauguration Day, 2001. Or maybe, just maybe, the lesson is that you never should have started down that path at all.

Today, we have a president whose approval rating is 38% and a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces. We have a secretary of Defense presiding over the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of our overstretched armed forces (no surprise to ignored dissenters such as former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki or former Army Secretary Thomas White).

It's a disaster. Given the choice, I'd choose a frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time.

Yeah, Larry. (I'm gonna call you Larry, now. I feel closer to you.) You'd choose frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time.

You, me, and the Framers, too. In fact, I'm pretty sure they did just that. Wrote it down, too.

Like I said, we're not kidding when we whisper the word "treason."

Tim Grieve - What they did, what they said, why it matters

What they did, what they said, why it matters
by Tim Grieve

We could spend days -- and people have -- constructing timelines related to the Valerie Plame investigation. But if Patrick Fitzgerald is planning to bring a case charging somebody in the White House with perjury, obstruction of justice or making false statements, we're betting that he cares most about a handful of dates and the conflicting stories that have been told about what happened on them. Here's our version of an essential Plame calendar. If you have other entries, post them in the comments below, and we'll amend our list as appropriate.

June 12, 2003: Vice President Dick Cheney tells his chief of staff, Scooter Libby, that Joseph Wilson's wife works for the CIA and may have helped arrange Wilson's trip to Niger. Although the conversation is reflected in Libby's notes, Libby subsequently tells Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned of Plame's identity from NBC's Tim Russert.

June 23, 2003: Libby meets with the New York Times' Judy Miller in the Old Executive Office Building, where he suggests to her that Wilson's wife works for the CIA. Miller initially fails to mention the meeting when she testifies before the grand jury but begins to remember it when shown Secret Service logs suggesting that it happened. Later, she says she finds notes from the meeting that indicate that Libby told her about Wilson's wife.

July 6, 2003: The New York Times publishes an Op-Ed piece in which Wilson says that he has "little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." In the wake of Wilson's column, a still-unidentified "senior administration official" tells Robert Novak that Wilson was sent to Niger "by the CIA's counter-proliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife." Patrick Fitzgerald apparently knows who this "senior administration official" is, even if the rest of us don't.

Sometime before July 14, 2003: Rove and Libby discuss the fact that Wilson's wife works for the CIA.

July 8, 2003: Rove confirms for Novak that Wilson's wife works for the CIA. Asked by an ABC producer two months later whether he'd had "any knowledge" or the CIA leak, Rove said, "No."

July 11, 2003: Rove tells Time's Matthew Cooper that Wilson's wife works for the CIA. He fails to mention the conversation when he is first interviewed by investigators several months later.

July 14, 2003: Robert Novak publishes his column identifying Wilson's wife as Valerie Plame, whom he identifies as "an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction."

Oct. 10, 2003: White House press secretary Scott McClellan says that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove have "assured" him that they were "not involved" in leaking Plame's identity to the press.

Sept. 15, 2005: Scooter Libby sends a letter to Judy Miller in jail in which he says that he always thought it would be in his "best interests" to have all reporters testify about their contacts with him. "As I'm sure will not be news to you," he writes, "the public report of every other reporter's testimony now makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me, or knew about her before our call." Miller subsequently testifies that one could read Libby's letter as a hint she and Libby had not discussed Plame's identity when, in fact, they had.

-- Tim Grieve

Stonewalling 101

from: "we aren't going to respond during an ongoing investigation"

to: "we aren't going to respond during ongoing legal proceedings"

to: "we aren't going to respond during ongoing appeals"

to: "we aren't going to respond until there is a Supreme Court ruling"

to: "we don't have time to discuss old news, as it's water under the bridge and we have work to do"

On Leadership: How I know that Bush did not truly serve

On Leadership: How I know that Bush did not truly serve (updated)
by I like Ike (dailykos)
Tue Oct 25, 2005 at 11:05:13 AM PDT

As I listened to Bush's latest re-hashed talking points speech about the War on Terra, I began to wonder what qualities, if any, he learned from his time as a Lieutenant in the Texas Air National Guard.

Some background: I come from a military family. I spent five years as a Naval Officer from 1990-1995. My father was career Navy for 30 years, and both of my grandfathers and my step-grandfather were all military officers who fought in WW1 and WW2. We can trace military descendents down through the Revolutionary War, fighting as Hessian mercenaries for the British. So you could say that it's in my blood...

Through this exposure to the military, I learned a lot of things about leadership. I would expect that most military officers know them, so I'll see how our President stacks up:

Rule #1: You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.
The premise of this rule is that a leader is always responsible for the actions of his unit. A leader can appoint subordinates to make decisions in his absence, but those appointees are extensions of his judgment, therefore the leader must bear responsibility for their actions. An example would be when a Navy ship collides with another ship- even if the Captain is not giving the navigation orders at the time of the collision, he is held responsible because he decided to appoint the officer of the deck and conning officer who made the decisions that led to the collision.
How Bush stacks up: Not good. Not good at all. Throughout his presidency we see a pattern of irresponsibily of office and of his cabinet members, whether they are misusing intelligence, lying to the public, leaking classified data, contributing to corporate graft, or failing to respond to natural disasters. Bush is unable to take responsibility for his failings.

Rule #2: Lead by example
Do not give an order that you would not follow yourself. Your unit is made up of eager men and women who put their trust in you to make sound decisions that will accomplish objectives without undue risk or hardship. A good officer doesn't order his men to do a 10 mile march and then drive alongside in a jeep; he is on the ground with them the whole way.
How Bush measures up: Again, not so hot here. Sending 2000 of our country's finest resources to die in a war when you dodged out of your Viet Nam service by dodging out of your Texas Air National Guard duty is not leading by example. Donning a carpentry belt and pretending to rebuild a home destroyed in Katrina while rescinding Davis-Bacon is not leading by example.

Rule #3: You will only succeed if you have a great supporting cast
This is a simple rule that young officers learn early on. A military unit in the field is really run by the non-commissioned officers- the sergeants and chief petty officers. These are the career military men who have risen through the ranks and know how the system really works. They've seen it all by living it, whereas officers have learned about it in classes and books. As such, Non-coms are also responsible for training the new officers in the ways of the world. Young officers out of the service academies or ROTC succeed by earning the trust of that non-com. They do this by managing upwards- such as making sure that his unit is receiving the right equipment, is kept in communication about what is going on and is given the right orders to succeed in its mission.
How Bush fares: Again, not so hot. The appointment of cronies and sychophants in the place of career diplomats and qualified public servants shows that Bush has no respect for merit, and is a dangerous signal that he is out of touch with what is really occurring on the ground. That's why he thought Brownie was doing a "heckuva job".

Rule #4: You learn a lot by just walking around
A good officer is constantly reviewing things going on in his command from the ground level. By talking to the troops, and officer can learn their motivations and their concerns. By watching his unit conduct exercises, the officer finds out what they do well and what they need to train in.
Bush's take: He doesn't walk around. In fact, he doesn't appear in public at all unless it's in a controlled environment with loyalist attendees and a script. And he doesn't read the news, it is presented to him by his loyal advisors (see #3 above)

Rule #5: Take care of your people and they will take care of you
Your team of military men and women are your greatest asset- not your ships and tanks and planes. They sacrifice a lot to do their jobs- they don't earn much, they are frequently away from their families, they work in stressful jobs, often with little sleep or downtime. They will go to great lengths under these circumstances because they are professional, patriotic and genuinely good people. A good officer will remember his people and make sure that they are acknowledged for their work through awards, promotion, time off, and public recognition. Success here means that the unit will watch the officer's back.
Bush: Well if we look at the plight of the military under our President, we see the opposite: placed in a police action with inadequate numbers, no body armor, and a reduction in VA benefits. But he gave Medals of Freedom to those who had failed, like George Tenet, thereby turning awards into farce. Way to go, Georgie.

Rule #6: You need to be able to make good decisions and you need to be flexible about them.
As the leader of a team of people, it is expected that you take all of the information that you can get and make the best decision possible to accomplish your mission with the least risk. Sometimes, you don't have time to react, so you make a quick decision. Sometimes, you have the luxury of planning and intelligence assessment, and can take time to make a good call. But no decision is final- the field is fluid and you need to be able to react, even if it means countering a previous order. For example, if you commit your troops to an area that suddenly erupts in an ambush, you need to react to get them out of there safely.
Our president: Well he doesn't make decisions well, and then when he does, he sticks to them come what may. We've seen it on Iraq, on his Social Security crusade, and on Bolton and Miers nominations. It makes me wonder how he could pilot a plane without crashing into a mountain.

Rule #7: The Chain of Command is inviolable
[Updated] Related to Rule #1, all organizations operate under a command hierarchy called the Chain of Command. The Chain of Command is the line of authority and responsibility along which orders are passed. The Company Commander will issue an order to the Platoon Commander, who then issues the order to the Platoon Sergeant, who then issues it to the troops. The structure is the basis upon which the military functions, as it clearly defines the roles of each member of the leadership team. It also ensures accountability- soldiers act from orders up the chain and their actions are the responsibility of their commanding officer.
Bush says: The Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal showed that the Chain of Command means little to this administration. Instead of punishing those who issued the orders, the scandal was swept under the rug by going after the troops on the ground (see taking care of your troops, above). Also, during the run-up to the Iraq War, Cheney circumvented the established chain of command in the intelligence community to stovepipe information that would justify the war.

There are many more leadership maxims, but this is running long, so I'll close it up. What we have in our White House is a man:
- who is unable to take responsibility
- who leads from the back
- who surrounds himself with unqualified cronies
- who is out of touch with his people
- who doesn't care for his people
- who shows poor judgment in decision making and
- who doesn't believe in the Chain of Command

There's no way Bush served any time as a military officer without learning any of these qualities, therefore, he didn't truly serve!

Monday, October 24, 2005

William Rivers Pitt - The Bunker Mentality

The Bunker Mentality
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 24 October 2005

I wrote to Ambassador Joseph Wilson last week to ask how he and his wife were bearing up, and to remind them that they had a lot of friends. "The outpouring of support has been of great comfort to us these past two years," he wrote back. "The stakes are enormous. This is all about whether our government can take us to war on lies without any fear of being held to account, and whether our democracy can survive the coalition of fascist forces that have seized control of the levers of power."

Heavy stuff. Yet if the desperation we are seeing on the part of defenders of this administration offers any clue, the fascists are running out of explanations. Take Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's performance on this past Sunday's version of Meet the Press. "I certainly hope," she said when asked about the Fitzgerald investigation into the deliberate outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, "that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation were not a waste of time and dollars."

Some perjury technicality, eh? Waste of time and dollars?

Funny the difference almost seven years and two broken elections can make. Back on February 12, 1999, when Ms. Hutchison cast her vote to impeach a sitting president of the United States, she was of a different mind when it came to perjury. Her statement in Congress practically peeled the paint off the wall, so laden was it with outrage at the violation of an oath taken before the delivery of sworn testimony.

"The edifice of American jurisprudence rests on the foundation of the due process of law," Ms. Hutchison's best speechwriter wrote for her to read that day. "The mortar in that foundation is the oath. Every day, thousands of citizens in thousands of courtrooms across America are sworn in as jurors, as grand jurors, as witnesses, as defendants. On those oaths rest the due process of law upon which all of our other rights are based. The oath is how we defend ourselves against those who would subvert our system by breaking our laws. There are Americans in jail today because they violated that oath."

Here's the funny part. President Clinton violated that oath after being asked a bunch of questions about his personal life, his sex life.

It's a little different today. Anyone violating that oath in Fitzgerald's investigation, be they Lewis Libby or Karl Rove or Judith Miller or John Hannah, will have done so after being asked questions about the deliberate destruction, for political means, of a NOC agent for the CIA who was tasked to track any person, nation or group that might give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. They will have done so after being asked questions about the destruction of Ms. Plame's intelligence networks, which were assembled person by person in unfriendly lands to help her do her job.

They will have done so after being asked questions about how, exactly, this White House manufactured evidence of WMD in Iraq, by way of the White House Iraq Group and the Office of Special Plans, and sold it to the American people - the interruption of which by Joseph Wilson being the reason we are all dealing with this mess today.

Makes the last few years of the '90s seem a giant waste of time, eh?

Funny the difference a few years can make. There were a thousand things wrong in the '90s, to be sure, and more than a few of them stemmed from the government and, specifically, the White House. In those days, however, there was still a sense of optimism. We were in the world and of the world, yet still Americans, still strong and proud. We were riding high, having figured out how to have historic economic expansion and opportunity while still providing the money necessary for programs and policies that helped those who needed a hand. So much remained to be done, but the outlines of a blueprint for getting it done seemed to be out there.

Not so much anymore. Now, we are a nation that believes itself under siege, afraid of our own shadows, afraid of chickens and airplanes and subways and gasoline prices and storms and the nightly news and anyone who doesn't look like an American, whatever that means. Yellow. Orange. We fight them there so we don't have to fight them here. The enemy is all around us, we are told by this administration, ready to strike. Be ready, we hear. Be angry. Be afraid.

Psssst ... Joe Wilson is right. They are fascists, and this is what fascists do. They make people afraid. They turn a populace against an outsider while at the same time denying that populace information or even hope of a peaceful resolution. They mobilize for attack through intimidation and scare-tactics. Ask Herman Goering, who explained during the Nuremburg trials, "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

Welcome to the bunker mentality, courtesy of George W. Bush and the folks who brought you the catastrophic invasion of Iraq, the escape and continued freedom of Osama bin Laden, the annihilation of faith in the business community by way of Enron, the annihilation of any sense of personal security by way of Katrina, the annihilation of our standing on the international stage, the big lie about weapons of mass destruction, and an awful lot of dead American soldiers. They used September 11 against you to get these things, or to get away with these things, depending on the need at hand. The result is a proud, great nation on its knees.

This whole situation with Fitzgerald and Plame and Wilson and Libby and Rove and the rest is but a symptom of the larger disease we endure. This White House bunkered itself in way back in 2001, relying only upon ideologically-vetted yes-men who all agreed upon a singular course of action. If Ms. Hutchison's performance is any indication, and it is, the walls of the bunker are closing in all around them.

Their failure to deal with straightforward facts, their reliance upon the idea that political ideology and political goals can render straightforward facts malleable and subject to change, their deliberate decision to run the government and manage the people by way of a Cold War mentality that uses fear as the prime motivator, their desire to control information through aspirations of absolute authority, has delivered the rest of us into the bunker with them.

It did not used to be this way. It does not have to be this way.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

Stirling Newberry - The Double-Down Presidency

The Great Martingale Massacre
Or, The Mathematics of the Double-Down Presidency
By Stirling Newberry
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 20 October 2005

Imagine there is a good for nothing gambler. He has only two resources: First, he's good for nothing, he's got an unlimited amount of time. Second, he's well born, and has an unlimited amount of credit at no interest. He offers you a chance to play a game, a simple game. It's the flip of a coin. If he loses, then you get what he bet; if he wins, you pay him what he bet, plus a dollar. He can stop any time he wants to, but you always have to accept his bet. Here's the catch: it is with a very loaded coin, and you get to choose which side. You might think that if the coin were loaded enough, the good for nothing gambler would be a fool. He certainly sounds like one.

But the reality of mathematics takes hold. He has an unlimited amount of credit. Each time he loses, he doubles the bet. You can't stop him from placing a new bet, and he has an unlimited amount of time. Eventually, even if the coin is very loaded, he will get back everything and pay back his creditors. Because the payoff is, effectively, one dollar for every time he wins, and the rest doesn't matter. Eventually, no matter how loaded the coin, your money will drizzle into his pocket. This strategy of betting is called a "martingale," and the term has entered into financial theory. The martingale betting strategy doesn't work at the casino, because casinos don't pay off true odds and because even normal runs of bad luck will bankrupt the gambler. The gambler has to have access to astronomical amounts of money to make it work. But rational economic actors, so long as they are convinced there is enough money, will lend to him, because eventually there is risk-free profit to be had.

This is the basic mathematics of George Bush, the double-down President. Each time he fails, he goes back to his backers among the privileged and doubles the bet. Eventually, he will bankrupt anyone with a finite amount of money. And compared to any ordinary player, the government has an infinite amount of money. In fact, the key economic theory of the rational expectations school of economics is exactly that: the government has an infinite amount of money. This idea is embodied in the work of Robert J. Barro, who wrote an influential paper entitled "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?"

His argument is complex and relies on the mathematics of a concept known as the "rational economic actor." In it, he concludes that under very interesting sets of conditions, if a government runs a deficit, then people will just buy government bonds to pay the expected future tax increases. While this doesn't apply to most governments, or to people, it does apply to the anchor currency in a financial system and to other governments. In effect, the hegemonic power has unlimited credit, so long as they can credibly show to other governments that someday, there will be a shortage of the anchor currency. This is the method that George Bush, the double-down President, is using - going to foreign central banks, and telling them that if they don't back his next throw, they will lose their money and that, anyway, eventually his luck will turn.

Now if you think about this situation, you will start to realize why the very wealthy look and act the way they do. In essence, those who want to be wealthy run around playing this game. The skills they need are (1) the ability to secure credit, (2) the willingness to keep playing no matter how far in the hole they are, and (3) the ability to keep securing people who will play this game with them.

The first requires absolute certainty. The theory of a martingale is absolutely certain, provided you are certain you have unlimited time, and unlimited credit. The second is an iron-clad faith in yourself, the ability to get to the table, smile, flip the coin, knowing that it will probably go against you, but, so long as you keep smiling, it will come out in the end. The third, of course, is the ability to make yourself look stupid, because that is how you find people who are willing to bet all their money to take what looks like a sure thing.

In short, there are going to be people who have complete faith that, in the infinite time horizon, the world will be on their side, people who have absolute assurance - and yet the ability to look disorganized and like a mark, to the public. Look on television, almost every commercial tells you how much you are "saving" by buying a product at 100% over the cost of making it in China.

Time arbitrage is, more or less, the ability to play this game: realizing that, while the short-term cost of a dollar from a particular game is very high, over time it will be less than a dollar. Then there is the bet that one can secure enough credit to keep playing. This is what Long Term Capital Management did; in fact, the mathematics I described was applied to financial theory by many of the people who ran LTCM. And the lesson they learned was that even if the bet didn't work, it didn't matter - they walked away rich and honored, and other people paid the bill. At that point, one would have to be a fool not to try it.

In fact, this situation, in which the privileged can play with the public's money, was described in outline by Berle and Means in the 1930s - and in great detail in the work of John Kenneth Galbraith. "Financial genius," he quipped, "is leverage and a rising market." It is why his biographer, Richard Parker, waxes poetic about the failure of "rational expectations" as a way of bringing general economic prosperity; all it is, is an excuse for the rich to gamble against the poor, with the poor's money.

It would be like finding out that you were playing this game with a gambler, and at the same time loaning him the money. Which, since Bush is playing with the full faith credit of the American public, is exactly what is happening.

Stirling Newberry is an internet business and strategy consultant, with experience in international telecom, consumer marketing, e-commerce and forensic database analysis. He has acted as an advisor to Democratic political campaigns and organizations and is the co-founder, along with Christopher Lydon, Jay Rosen and Matt Stoller, of BopNews, as well as the military affairs editor of The Agonist.


Slavoj Zizek - To Loot and Rape

The Subject Supposed to Loot and Rape
By Slavoj Žižek
In These Times

Thursday 20 October 2005

Reality and fantasy in New Orleans.

According to a well-known anecdote, anthropologists studying "primitives" who supposedly held certain superstitious beliefs (that they descend from a fish or from a bird, for example) asked them directly whether they "really" believed such things. They answered: "Of course not - we're not stupid! But I was told that some of our ancestors actually did believe that." In short, they transferred their belief onto another.

We do the same thing with our children by going through the ritual of Santa Claus. Since our children (are supposed to) believe in him and we do not want to disappoint them, they pretend to believe so as not to disappoint us by puncturing our belief in their naivety (and to get the presents, of course). Isn't this also the usual excuse of the mythical crooked politician who turns honest? "I cannot disappoint the ordinary people who believe in me." Furthermore, this need to find another who "really believes" is also what propels us to stigmatize the Other as a (religious or ethnic) "fundamentalist." In an uncanny way, some beliefs always seem to function "at a distance." In order for the belief to function, there has to be some ultimate guarantor of it, and yet this guarantor is always deferred, displaced, and never present in persona. The point, of course, is that this other subject who directly believes does not need to actually exist for the belief to be operative: It is enough precisely to presuppose his existence, i.e. to believe in it, either in the guise of the primitive Other or in the guise of the impersonal "one" ("one believes...").

The events in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck the city provide a new addition to this series of "subjects supposed to..." - the subject supposed to loot and rape. We all remember the reports on the disintegration of public order, the explosion of black violence, rape and looting. However, later inquiries demonstrated that, in the large majority of cases, these alleged orgies of violence did not occur: Non-verified rumors were simply reported as facts by the media. For example, on September 3, the Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department told the New York Times about conditions at the Convention Center: "The tourists are walking around there, and as soon as these individuals see them, they're being preyed upon. They are beating; they are raping them in the streets." In an interview just weeks later, he conceded that some of his most shocking statements turned out to be untrue: "We have no official reports to document any murder. Not one official report of rape or sexual assault."

The reality of poor blacks, abandoned and left without means to survive, was thus transformed into the specter of blacks exploding violently, of tourists robbed and killed on streets that had slid into anarchy, of the Superdome ruled by gangs that were raping women and children. These reports were not merely words, they were words that had precise material effects: They generated fears that caused some police officers to quit and led the authorities to change troop deployments, delay medical evacuations and ground helicopters. Acadian Ambulance Company, for example, locked down its cars after word came that armed robbers had looted all of the water from a firehouse in Covington - a report that proved totally untrue.

Of course, the sense of menace had been ignited by genuine disorder and violence: Looting, ranging from base thievery to foraging for the necessities of life, did occur after the storm passed over New Orleans. However, the (limited) reality of crimes in no way exonerates "reports" on the total breakdown of law and order - not because these reports were "exaggerated," but for a much more radical reason. Jacques Lacan claimed that, even if the patient's wife is really sleeping around with other men, the patient's jealousy is still to be treated as a pathological condition. In a homologous way, even if rich Jews in early 1930s Germany "really" had exploited German workers, seduced their daughters and dominated the popular press, the Nazis ' anti-Semitism would still have been an emphatically "untrue," pathological ideological condition. Why? Because the causes of all social antagonisms were projected onto the "Jew" - an object of perverted love-hatred, a spectral figure of mixed fascination and disgust.

And exactly the same goes for the looting in New Orleans: Even if all the reports on violence and rapes had proven to be factually true, the stories circulating about them would still be "pathological" and racist, since what motivated these stories were not facts, but racist prejudices, the satisfaction felt by those who would be able to say: "You see, Blacks really are like that, violent barbarians under the thin layer of civilization!" In other words, we would be dealing with what could be called lying in the guise of truth: Even if what I am saying is factually true, the motives that make me say it are false.

Of course, we never openly admit these motives. But from time to time, they nonetheless pop up in our public space in a censored form, in the guise of denegation: Once evoked as an option, they are then immediately discarded. Recall the recent comments by William Bennett, the compulsive gambler and author of The Book of Virtues, on his call-in program "Morning in America": "But I do know that it 's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down." The White House spokesman immediately reacted: "The president believes the comments were not appropriate." Two days later, Bennett qualified his statement: "I was putting a hypothetical proposition ... and then said about it, it was morally reprehensible to recommend abortion of an entire group of people. But this is what happens when you argue that ends can justify the means." This is exactly what Freud meant when he wrote that the Unconscious knows no negation: The official (Christian, democratic ...) discourse is accompanied and sustained by a whole nest of obscene, brutal racist and sexist fantasies, which can only be admitted in a censored form.

But we are not dealing here only with good old racism. Something more is at stake, a fundamental feature of the emerging "global" society. On September 11, 2001, the Twin Towers were hit. Twelve years earlier, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. November 9 announced the "happy '90s," the Francis Fukuyama dream of the "end of history": the belief that liberal democracy had, in principle, won, that the search is over, that the advent of a global, liberal world community lurks just around the corner, that the obstacles to this ultra-Hollywood happy ending are merely empirical and contingent (local pockets of resistance where the leaders did not yet grasp that their time is over). In contrast, 9/11 is the main symbol of the end of the Clintonite happy '90s, of the forthcoming era in which new walls are emerging everywhere, between Israel and the West Bank, around the European Union, on the US-Mexico border. The rise of the populist New Right is just the most prominent example of the urge to raise new walls.

A couple of years ago, an ominous decision of the European Union passed almost unnoticed: a plan to establish an all-European border police force to secure the isolation of the Union territory, so as to prevent the influx of the immigrants. This is the truth of globalization: the construction of new walls safeguarding the prosperous Europe from a flood of immigrants. One is tempted to resuscitate here the old Marxist "humanist" opposition of "relations between things" and "relations between persons": In the much celebrated free circulation opened up by the global capitalism, it is "things" (commodities) which freely circulate, while the circulation of "persons" is more and more controlled. We are thus not dealing with "globalization as an unfinished project," but with a true "dialectics of globalization." The segregation of the people is the reality of economic globalization. This new racism of the developed world is in a way much more brutal than the previous one: Its implicit legitimization is neither naturalist (the "natural" superiority of the developed West) nor culturalist (we in the West also want to preserve our cultural identity). Rather, it's an unabashed economic egotism - the fundamental divide is the one between those included into the sphere of (relative) economic prosperity and those excluded from it.

In the beginning of October 2005, the Spanish police, who have dealt with the problem of desperate African migrants trying to penetrate the small Spanish territory across Gibraltar with lethal force, displayed their plans to build a wall between the Spanish and Moroccan border. The images presented - a complex structure with all the latest electronic equipment - bore an uncanny resemblance to those of the Berlin Wall, only with the opposite motive, designed to prevent people from coming in, not getting out. The cruel irony is that it is the government of Zapatero, arguably the most anti-racist and tolerant in Europe, that is forced to adopt these measures of segregation - a clear sign of the limits of the multi-culturalist "tolerant" approach which preaches open borders and acceptance of Others. It is thus becoming clear that the solution is not "tear down the walls and let them all in," the easy, empty demand often put forth by soft-hearted liberal "radicals." Rather, the real solution is to tear down the true wall, not the police one, but the social-economic one: To change society so that people will no longer desperately try to escape their own world.

This brings us back to rumors and "reports" about "subjects supposed to loot and rape:" New Orleans is one of those cities within the United States most heavily marked by the internal wall that separates the affluent from ghettoized blacks. And it is about those on the other side of the wall that we fantasize: More and more, they live in another world, in a blank zone that offers itself as a screen for the projection of our fears, anxieties and secret desires. The "subject supposed to loot and rape" is on the other side of the Wall - this is the subject about whom Bennett can afford to make his slips of the tongue and confess in a censored mode his murderous dreams. More than anything else, the rumors and fake reports from the aftermath of Katrina bear witness to the deep class division of American society.

Slavoj Žižek, a philosopher and psychoanalyst, is a senior researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, in Essen, Germany. Among other books, he is the author of The Fragile Absolute and Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?