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)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Arm chair generals help shape surge in Iraq

Arm chair generals help shape surge in Iraq

American Enterprise Institute's Thomas Donnelly is one of a group of military experts who single handedly convinced the White House to change its strategy on Iraq.

Rowan Scarborough, The Examiner
2007-07-25 15:30:00.0


When it comes to the troop surge in Iraq, a bunch of arm chair generals in Washington are influencing the Bush Administration as much as the Joint Chiefs or theater commanders.

A group of military experts at the American Enterprise Institute, concerned that the U.S. was on the verge of a calamitous failure in Iraq, almost single handedly convinced the White House to change its strategy.

They banded together at AEI headquarters in downtown Washington early last December and hammered out the surge plan during a weekend session. It called for two major initiatives to defeat the insurgency: reinforcing the troops and restoring security to Iraqi neighborhoods. Then came trips to the White House by AEI military historian Frederick Kagan, retired Army Gen. John Keane and other surge proponents.

More and more officials began attending the sessions. Even Vice President Dick Cheney came. "We took the results of our planning session immediately to people in the administration," said AEI analyst Thomas Donnelly, a surge planner. "It became sort of a magnet for movers and shakers in the White House." Donnelly said the AEI approach won out over plans from the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command. The two Army generals then in charge of Iraq had opposed a troop increase.

In January, President Bush announced the surge, which kicked off the next month. "I think without the AEI exercise, it would be highly unlikely we would have followed a completely different course over the last six months in Iraq," Donnelly said.

Keane already had done some ground work. He won a private meeting with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in September. The retired four-star bluntly told him that he would lose the war unless he changed tactics.

The emergence of AEI as a power player on Iraq belies the notion that neo-conservatives are on the decline in Washington. AEI brags an impressive roster of neo-con thinkers. Former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, an Iraq war architect, arrived at AIE this summer, joining such prominent conservatives as John Bolton, David Frum and Michael Ledeen.

With its plan in place, the AEI Iraq team is not sitting still. Keane is an adviser to Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. He has inspected war conditions on two visits. Kagan left for Iraq this week.

"It was kind of the 11th hour, 59th minute," Donnelly said of AEI's surge plan. "It's the function that think tanks are supposed to perform to provide independent advice and analysis."

Disfavor for Bush Hits Rare Heights

Disfavor for Bush Hits Rare Heights
In Modern Era, Only Nixon and Truman Scored Worse, Just Barely

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 25, 2007; A03

President Bush is a competitive guy. But this is one contest he would rather lose. With 18 months left in office, he is in the running for most unpopular president in the history of modern polling.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News survey shows that 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance, matching his all-time low.

In polls conducted by The Post or Gallup going back to 1938, only twice has a president exceeded that level of public animosity -- Harry S. Truman, who hit 67 percent during the Korean War, and Richard M. Nixon, who hit 66 percent four days before resigning.

The historic depth of Bush's public standing has whipsawed his White House, sapped his clout, drained his advisers, encouraged his enemies and jeopardized his legacy. Around the White House, aides make gallows-humor jokes about how they can alienate their remaining supporters -- at least those aides not heading for the door. Outside the White House, many former aides privately express anger and bitterness at their erstwhile colleagues, Bush and the fate of his presidency.

Bush has been so down for so long that some advisers maintain it no longer bothers them much. It can even, they say, be liberating. Seeking the best interpretation for the president's predicament, they argue that Bush can do what he thinks is right without regard to political cost, pointing to decisions to send more U.S. troops to Iraq and to commute the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff.

But the president's unpopularity has left the White House to play mostly defense for the remainder of his term. With his immigration overhaul proposal dead, Bush's principal legislative hopes are to save his No Child Left Behind education program and to fend off attempts to force him to change course in Iraq. The emerging strategy is to play off a Congress that is also deeply unpopular and to look strong by vetoing spending bills.

The president's low public standing has paralleled the disenchantment with the Iraq war, but some analysts said it goes beyond that, reflecting a broader unease with Bush's policies in a variety of areas. "It isn't just the Iraq war," said Shirley Anne Warshaw, a presidential scholar at Gettysburg College. "It's everything."

Some analysts believe that even many war supporters deserted him because of his plan to open the door to legal status for illegal immigrants. "You can do an unpopular war or you can do an unpopular immigration policy," said David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter. "Not both."

Yet Bush's political troubles seem to go beyond particular policies. Many presidents over the past 70 years have faced greater or more immediate crises without falling as far in the public mind -- Vietnam claimed far more American lives than Iraq, the Iranian hostage crisis made the United States look impotent, race riots and desegregation tore the country apart, the oil embargo forced drivers to wait for hours to fill up, the Soviets seemed to threaten the nation's survival.

"It's astonishing," said Pat Caddell, who was President Jimmy Carter's pollster. "It's hard to look at the situation today and say the country is absolutely 15 miles down in the hole. The economy's not that bad -- for some people it is, but not overall. Iraq is terribly handled, but it's not Vietnam; we're not losing 250 people a week. . . . We don't have that immediate crisis, yet the anxiety about the future is palpable. And the feeling about him is he's irrelevant to that. I think they've basically given up on him."

That may stem in part from the changing nature of society. When Caddell's boss was president, there were three major broadcast networks. Today cable news, talk radio and the Internet have made information far more available, while providing easy outlets for rage and polarization. Public disapproval of Bush is not only broad but deep; 52 percent of Americans "strongly" disapprove of his performance and 28 percent describe themselves as "angry."

"A lot of the commentary that comes out of the Internet world is very harsh," said Frank J. Donatelli, White House political director for Ronald Reagan. "That has a tendency to reinforce people's opinions and harden people's opinions."

Carter and Reagan at their worst moments did not face a public as hostile as the one confronting Bush. Lyndon B. Johnson at the height of Vietnam had the disapproval of 52 percent of the public. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Gerald R. Ford never had disapproval ratings reach 50 percent.

Truman and Nixon remain the most unpopular modern presidents, though barely. Truman's disapproval rating reached 67 percent in January 1952 and matched Bush's 65 percent a month later. Nixon reached 66 percent on Aug. 5, 1974, four days before he resigned amid Watergate. George H.W. Bush came close before losing his bid for reelection in 1992, with 64 percent disapproval.

The current president, though, has endured bad numbers longer than Nixon or his father did and longer than anyone other than Truman. His disapproval rating has topped 50 percent for more than two years. And although Truman hit 67 percent and 65 percent once each within a month-long period, Bush has hit his high three times in the past 14 months.

Bush advisers clutch at Truman as if he were a political life preserver. If Bush has experienced a similar collapse in public support while in office, they hope he will enjoy the same post-presidential reassessment that has made Truman look far better today than in his time. A 2004 poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner found that 58 percent of Americans viewed Truman favorably.

And the president's team takes solace in the fact that the public holds Congress in low esteem, too. More than half disapproved of Congress generally, and Democrats in particular, in the latest Post-ABC survey, though their ratings were still better than Bush's.

The deep antipathy to Bush has fueled grass-roots support for impeachment. Democrats have resolved not to do that, remembering the division when a Republican Congress impeached Bill Clinton in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice to cover up his affair with Monica S. Lewinsky. His public support, though, never fell as far as Bush's. Clinton's worst disapproval rating, 51 percent, came during his first term, and he soared to his highest approval rating days after the Lewinsky scandal broke.

As much as Bush advisers dismiss polls, their predecessors in the White House said public rejection invariably drags down the whole institution. "It colors everything you can do," Donatelli said. "Psychologically, it wears on you."

Caddell describes a White House down in the polls in one word: "Awful." "People start going through the motions," he added. "The energy is gone."

Assistant polling director Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

Credibility Collapse

Credibility Collapse
Once again, Alberto Gonzales is unable to offer straight answers to simple questions.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007; A14

"I don't trust you."

"What credibility is left for you?"

SOMETHING IS terribly, terribly wrong when the attorney general of the United States is called to testify under oath before Congress and much of the hearing revolves around his credibility -- or lack thereof. But such was the case yet again during an appearance yesterday by Alberto R. Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The comments quoted above from Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking Republican Arlen Specter (Pa.) reflect the frustration we have come to know all too well when Mr. Gonzales is asked to provide answers to legitimate questions, whether the subject is surveillance programs, interrogation methods for foreign prisoners, the firing of U.S. attorneys -- or even last-minute missions to hospital rooms.

That last topic formed the basis of what can only be described as incredible testimony by Mr. Gonzales yesterday. During the hearing, the attorney general was asked about his March 10, 2004, sojourn to a Washington hospital where then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was in intensive care because of gall bladder complications. Mr. Ashcroft had temporarily transferred the powers of the attorney general to his deputy, James B. Comey. Mr. Comey had refused to give the department's legal blessing to an intelligence program due to expire the next day. Mr. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, traveled to Mr. Ashcroft's bedside with then-White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr.

"Obviously, there was concern about General Ashcroft's condition, and we would not have sought, nor did we intend to get any approval from General Ashcroft if in fact he wasn't fully competent to make that decision," Mr. Gonzales testified yesterday. He then described Mr. Ashcroft as "lucid." Mr. Ashcroft ultimately told the two White House visitors that Mr. Comey was the only official legally empowered to make a determination on the matter.

Was Mr. Gonzales, now the top law enforcement official in the country, attempting to circumvent the chain of command? Mr. Comey, who has a reputation as a straight shooter, seems to think so. He testified in May that he believed Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card were attempting "to take advantage of a very sick man."

But it's not just Mr. Comey's word against Mr. Gonzales's when it comes to aspects of this matter. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), who was ranking minority member on the Senate intelligence committee in 2004, told The Post's Dan Eggen and William Branigin that he was surprised by Mr. Gonzales's description of a meeting earlier on March 10, 2004, involving top lawmakers on the intelligence committees. Mr. Gonzales testified that there was consensus among lawmakers of both parties that the intelligence program in question should not be allowed to lapse and that Mr. Ashcroft should be informed about that consensus. Mr. Rockefeller told The Post that there was no such agreement. Mr. Gonzales is "once again . . . making something up to protect himself," said Mr. Rockefeller, who is now chairman of the Senate intelligence committee.

At what point does someone lose so much credibility that he should no longer serve in public office? In the case of Mr. Gonzales, we believe that time has come and gone.

BBC: Bush's Grandfather Planned Fascist Coup In America

BBC: Bush's Grandfather Planned Fascist Coup In America

New investigation sheds light on clique of powerbrokers, including Prescott Bush, who sought to overthrow U.S. government and implement Hitlerian policies
By Paul Joseph Watson

A BBC Radio 4 investigation sheds new light on a major subject that has received little historical attention, the conspiracy on behalf of a group of influential powerbrokers, led by Prescott Bush, to overthrow FDR and implement a fascist dictatorship in the U.S. based around the ideology of Mussolini and Hitler.

In 1933, Marine Corps Maj.-Gen. Smedley Butler was approached by a wealthy and secretive group of industrialists and bankers, including Prescott Bush the current President's grandfather, who asked him to command a 500,000 strong rogue army of veterans that would help stage a coup to topple then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

According to the BBC, the plotters intended to impose a fascist takeover and "Adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression."

The conspirators were operating under the umbrella of a front group called the American Liberty League, which included many families that are still household names today, including Heinz, Colgate, Birds Eye and General Motors.

Butler played along with the clique to determine who was involved but later blew the whistle and identified the ringleaders in testimony given to the House Committee on un-American Activities.

However, the Committee refused to even question any of the individuals named by Butler and his testimony was omitted from the record, leading to charges that they were involved in covering the matter up, and the majority of the media blackballed the story.

General Smedley Butler, author of the famous quote "war is a racket", exposed the fascist plotters but was subsequently demonized and shunned by the government and the media.

In 1936, William Dodd, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, wrote a letter to President Roosevelt in which he stated,

"A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime.... A prominent executive of one of the largest corporations, told me point blank that he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism into America if President Roosevelt continued his progressive policies. Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there. Propagandists for fascist groups try to dismiss the fascist scare. We should be aware of the symptoms. When industrialists ignore laws designed for social and economic progress they will seek recourse to a fascist state when the institutions of our government compel them to comply with the provisions."

The proven record of Prescott Bush's involvement in financing the Nazi war machine dovetails with the fact that he was part of a criminal cabal that actively sought to impose a fascist coup in America.

Prescott did not succeed but many would argue that two generations down the line the mission has all but been accomplished.

Click here to listen to the BBC Radio 4 investigation.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Power Without Limits

NYT Editorial

Power Without Limits

Published: July 22, 2007

The Bush administration, which has been pushing presidential power to new extremes, is reportedly developing an even more dangerous new theory of executive privilege. It says that if Congress holds White House officials in contempt for withholding important evidence in the United States attorney scandal, the Justice Department simply will not pursue the charges. This stance tears at the fabric of the Constitution and upends the rule of law.

Congress has a constitutional right to investigate the purge of nine United States attorneys last year. And there is no doubt that the investigation has unearthed improprieties: several administration officials have already admitted illegal or improper actions involving the politicization of the country’s chief law enforcement agency.

But the administration has been extraordinarily defiant toward Congress’s legitimate requests for information. The low point came recently when Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, refused even to show up in response to a Congressional subpoena. Some of the questions she would have been asked might have been protected by executive privilege, but others no doubt would not have been. Ms. Miers had no right to ignore the entire proceeding.

The next question is how Congress will enforce its right to obtain information, and it is on that point that the administration is said to have made its latest disturbing claim. If Congress holds White House officials in contempt, the next step should be that the United States attorney for the District of Columbia brings the matter to a grand jury. But according to a Washington Post report, the administration is saying that its claim of executive privilege means that the United States attorney would be ordered not to go forward with the case.

There is no legal basis for this obstructionism. The Supreme Court has made clear that executive privilege is not simply what the president claims it to be. It must be evaluated case by case by a court, balancing the need for the information against the president’s interest in keeping his decision-making process private. Mark Rozell, an expert on executive privilege at George Mason University, calls the administration’s stance “almost Nixonian in breadth,” because of its assertion that “the mere utterance of the phrase executive privilege” means that “no other branch has recourse.”

The White House’s extreme position could lead to a constitutional crisis. If the executive branch refused to follow the law, Congress could use its own inherent contempt powers, in which it would level the charges itself and hold a trial. The much more reasonable route for everyone would be to proceed through the courts.

This showdown between a Democratic Congress and a Republican president may look partisan, but it should not. In a year and a half, there could be a Democratic president, and such extreme claims of executive power would be just as disturbing if that chief executive made them.

Congress should use all of the tools at its disposal to pursue its investigations. It is not only a matter of getting to the bottom of some possibly serious government misconduct. It is about preserving the checks and balances that are a vital part of American democracy.