Tuesday, July 17, 2007
It is so rich listening to these Republicans decry the tyranny of the majority and stand up for the inalienable right to filibuster after their tiresome "up-or-down vote!" mantra of the last six years. Nobody ever accused them of being intellectually consistent....The Republicans are betting that the public will blame the indulgent parents when the children run wild and it's a pretty creative plan for a party that has a deeply loathed president and monumentally unpopular agenda.
Republicans are only obstructing a vote on withdrawing the troops from Iraq and, well...everything else.
Americablog describes Republicans' tactics in response to the latest attempts by Democrats to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq as "a permanent filibuster on any Iraq related issue." The Washington Post reports:
Majority Leader Harry M. Ried (D-Nev.) had hoped to convince Republicans to allow a simple-majority vote on a Democratic proposal to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq by next spring, But GOP leaders held firm to a 60-vote threshold for passage -- a routine maneuver in today's closely divided Senate but a number Democrats have been unable to meet all year. And Republicans decried Reid's decision for a marathon session as a stunt....
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) responded to Reid with a counteroffer: an automatic 60-vote threshold for all key Iraq amendments, eliminating the time-consuming process of clearing procedural hurdles. Democrats agreed to similar terms on several Iraq votes earlier this year, and all the controversial war-related votes held since Democrats took control of the Senate in January have required 60 "yeas" to pass.
"It's a shame that we find ourselves in the position that we're in," McConnell said. "It produces a level of animosity and unity on the minority side that makes it more difficult for the majority to pass important legislation."
Assuming neither side blinks, the Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on the Democratic amendment, offered by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (Mich.) and Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.). It would require Bush to begin reducing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq within four months, while reassigning remaining forces to specific missions, including the training of Iraqi security forces and counterterrorism operations. Under the proposal, most U.S. troops would leave Iraq by April 30, 2008....
(Emphasis mine). Seems like I've read about this kind of thing recently:
Americans elected a new Congress to get things done. But the conservative minority has chosen a strategy of obstruction in the Senate. They have used the threat of a filibuster to delay or block virtually every major initiative. Bills with majority support....Conservatives boast about the “success” of their strategy in discrediting the new majority. As Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., put it, “the strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. So far it’s working for us.”
Six years after the Bush administration declared war on al-Qaeda, the terrorist network is gaining strength and has established a safe haven in remote tribal areas of western Pakistan for training and planning attacks, according to a new Bush administration intelligence report to be discussed today at a White House meeting....
[The report] concludes that the group has significantly rebuilt itself despite concerted U.S. attempts to smash the network.
The article quotes the CIA's deputy director for intelligence, John A. Kringen telling a House comittee on Wednesday "that al-Qaeda appears 'to be fairly well settled into the safe haven in the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan. We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications.'"
On Tuesday Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said "that reports of heightened al-Qaeda activity and public threats gave him a "gut feeling" that the country faces an increased chance of a terrorist attack this summer." The Post reports that he later informed everyone that this remark was based on '"a more general, strategic sense of the threat environment,' [and] on publicly reported information rather than secret intelligence." According to the article there was no definitive word on whether Chertoff's statement had anything to do with the new intelligence report.
That's nice to know considering that the increasing activity of al-Qaeda is a concern for many others in the intelligence community. According to the Post article:
A U.S. counterterrorism official said the new intelligence report, whose existence was first reported by the Associated Press, did "not really" differ from recent statements by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell; his predecessor, John D. Negroponte; and CIA Director Michael V. Hayden.
Those officials have cited heightened concerns that al-Qaeda is regrouping, reorganizing and -- based on recent threats delivered by Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri -- increasingly confident of its ability to conduct similar relatively low-scale attacks against U.S. or other Western targets.
While asserting that al-Qaeda is still considerably weaker than it was before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the new report concludes that the group is stronger than it has been in years. "There is heightened concern given al-Qaeda's operational activity [and] . . . operational levels" along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the U.S. official said.
Via The Left Coaster, this Newsweek article points out that the renewed threat from al-Qaeda's operating in Pakistan might have something to do with a peace agreement signed by this ally of ours with, as Left Coaster points out, the Bush Administration's encouragement:
The primary development that has allowed all this to happen, U.S. officials say, was the peace agreement signed last year between the Pakistani government of President Pervez Musharraf and pro-Taliban tribal leaders in the remote region of North Waziristan. The withdrawal of Pakistani troops under that agreement gave Al Qaeda leaders new freedom to operate with relative impunity, officials said. "Clearly, they are resurgent,” said one senior U.S. intelligence official about Al Qaeda. (The official, who is familiar with the NIE’s findings, asked not to be identified because the document remains classified.)
On his show Thursday night Keith Olbermann did a great job of covering this latest in terror politics. As one would expect, His Royal Fuckup King George responded to the new report from the National Counterterrorism Center regarding al-Qaeda's strengthening operations by reassuring us that:
There is a perception in the coverage that al Qaeda may be as strong today as they were prior to September 11. That‘s just simply not the case. I think the report was since 2001, not prior to September 11, 2001.
Olberman then pointed out that, in his address at the White House, "Mr. Bush also repeating the lie that the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks were and are in any way connected to Iraq."
Yep, the Royal Fuckup responded to a new report confirming what others in the intelligence community have expressed concerns about, that al-Qaeda is strenthening its operations and ability to attack us in the United States largely as a result of being able to operate in Pakistan because of a peace agreement that the Fuckup and his administration encouraged, by letting us know that:
Al Qaeda in Iraq have sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. And the guys who perpetuated the attacks on America, obviously the guys on the airplane are dead and the commanders, many of those are dead or in captivity like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
But the people in Iraq—al Qaeda in Iraq has sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. And we need to take al Qaeda in Iraq seriously like we need to take al Qaeda anywhere in the world seriously.
Of course, Olbermann had to then remind His Highness Fuckup that:
Of course the allegiance to Osama bin Laden was only sworn in 2004. And of course al Qaeda in Iraq is only in Iraq because of the power vacuum that was created by the U.S. invasion and ongoing military operations there.
After that Olbermann brought on MSNBC's analyst Wesley Clark, retired four-star army general and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, to discuss King George's all too predictable response:
The truth is al Qaeda has not only reconstituted its base area, this time along the border in Pakistan next to Afghanistan, but its also used our mission in Iraq as a huge recruiting magnet....Well, I do believe that the strategy in Iraq and the way it‘s been executed and the president‘s fear to face the facts and the administration‘s blindness on homeland security—and all of this, and the alienation of our allies, yes, we‘re more at risk as a result of Iraq than we were prior to the invasion of Iraq. There‘s no doubt about it. We‘re not winning the battle against al Qaeda.
Obviously the Royal Fuckup thinks the American people and the troops are completely fucking stupid. He tells us that it is necessary for our security to continue to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq while his own intelligence agencies tell us that al-Qeada is resurging in Pakistan. As if we can't put two and two together; he may not be able to, but we certainly can. And because we can, the fear-mongering has to be turned up a notch. Thus, as if on cue, his Secretary of Homeland Security told us the day before the CIA's deputy director of intelligence reported to a House Committee about the activities of al-Qaeda in Pakistan that we may be facing another terrorist attack. Olbermann did an excellent job, as usual, in commenting on what Chertoff's "gut" feeling really means to those of us who know that two + two does indeed = four:
Michael Chertoff‘s gut feeling, which he took pains to emphasize was based on no specific, nor even vague intelligence—you got that right—that we are entering a period of increased risk of terrorism here. He got as specific as saying that al-Qaeda seems to like the summer, but as to the rest of it, he is perfectly content to let us sit and wait and worry and to contemplate his gut.
His gut. We used to have John Ashcroft‘s major announcements. We used to have David Paulson‘s breathless advisories about how to use duct tape against radiation attacks. We used to have Tom Ridge‘s color coded threat levels. Now we have Michael Chertoff‘s gut....
Now, it turns out, we are risking all of our rights and all of our protections, and risking the anger and hatred of the rest of the world for the sake of Michael Chertoff‘s gut. I have pondered this supreme expression of diminished expectations for parts of three days now. I have concluded that there are only five explanations for Mr. Chertoff‘s remarkable revelations about his transcendently important counter-terrorism stomach.
Firstly, Mr. Chertoff, you are, as Richard Wolfe said here the other night, actually referencing not your gut, but your backside, as in covering it, C.Y.A. Not only has there not been a terrorist attack stopped in this country, but your good old Homeland Security has not even unraveled a plausible terrorist plan.
You and your folks there have a different kind of stomach pain, know that with a track record that consist largely of two accomplishments, inconveniencing people at airports and scaring them everyone else, your department doesn‘t know what the hell it is doing. And even you, Mr. Chertoff, know that.
Secondly, of course, there is the possible explanation of choice for those millions of us who have heard the shrill and curiously timed cries of wolf over the last six years, what we‘ve called here the nexus of politics and terror. But there isn‘t anything cooking, and your gut feeling was actually that you better throw up a diversion soon on Mr. Bush‘s behalf for something real, like Republican revolt over Iraq, and the nauseating gut feeling the rest of us have that we have gotten 3,611 Americans killed there for no reason; that it was actually going to seep into the American headlines and American consciousness.
It is impossible to prove a negative, to guarantee that you and your predecessors deliberately scared the American public just for the political hell of it, even though your predecessor, Mr. Ridge, admitted he had his suspicions about exactly that. Suffice to say, Mr. Chertoff, if it ever can be proved, there will be a lot of people from Homeland Security and other outposts of this remarkably corrupt administration who will be going to prison.
Thirdly, and most charitably, I guess, Mr. Chertoff, there is the possibility that you have made some credible inference, that we are really at greater risk right now, but that any detail might blow some attempt at interruption. There is some silver lining in this, but the silver lining would have been a greater one if this counter terrorism center report had not leaked out the day after you introduced us to your gut. It was a report suggesting that al-Qaeda had rebuilt its operational capacity to re-9/11 levels.
Not only did this latest hair on fire missive remind us that al Qaeda‘s regrowth has been along the Pakistan/Afghan border; not only did it remind us that your boss let this happen by shifting his resources out of Afghanistan to Iraq for his own vain an foolish purposes, to say nothing of ignoring Pakistan; not only did it underscore the ominous truth that if this country is victimized by al-Qaeda, the personal responsibility for the failure of our misplaced defenses would belong to President Bush and President Bush alone.
On top of all of that, Mr. Chertoff, it revealed you for the phony expert you are, the kid who hears in confidence something smart from somebody smart and then makes his prediction that what the smart kid said confidentially is about to happen. It reads, just as you revise the gut remark this morning sir, the informed opinion, the kid telling stories out of school.
The fourth possibility is a simple reversal of third, Mr. Chertoff. You shot off your basso (ph) and then this National Counter Terrorism Center report was rushed out, even created to cover you, to give you credibility, to cloud the reality that you actually intoned to the “Chicago Tribune” the 21st century equivalent of by the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.
But the fifth possible explanation of your gut, Mr. Chertoff, is the real nightmare scenario, and it is simple, that you, the man who famously told us Louisiana is a city that is largely under water, meant this literally, that we really have been reduced to listening to see if your gut will growl, that your intestines are our best defense, that your bowels are our listening devices. Your digestive track is full augers. Your colon produces the results that the torture at Gitmo does not.
All hail the prophetic gut.
So there are your choices, bureaucratic self-protection, political manipulation of the worst kind, the dropping of opaque hints, a gaffe back filled by an instant report, or the complete disintegration of our counter terrorism effort.
Even if there really is never another terror attempt in this country, we have already lost too much in these last six years to now have to listen to Michael Chertoff‘s gut, no matter what its motivation. We can not and will not turn this country into a police state. But even those of us who say that most loudly and instantly acknowledge that some stricter measures under the still stricter supervision of as many watch dogs as we can summon are appropriate.
(Emphasis mine). A "supreme expression of diminished expectations" indeed. I'm not sure which aspect of this is more infuriating at this point. That His Royal Fuckup King George, upon being informed by his intelligence agencies that al-Qaeda is resurging along the Pakistan/Afghan border, would pull out the same tired spin and repetative bullshit that we have to continue to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq because al-Qaeda is now, thanks to him, also in Iraq--oh, and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and god knows where else.
Or that he chose to bother even addressing us at all on this point rather than just outright ignoring this latest intelligence report. Right now I'm leaning toward the second aspect. Most of us have been aware for quite some time that King George just doesn't give a shit what anyone thinks--not the overwhelming majority of the American people, not the troops actually serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, not congress, not the people jumping ship in his own party, not the generals who have resigned over the mess he's made or have been fired, not his own intelligence agencies, not the rest of the world.
But in response to this latest bit of profoundly disturbing news on his failures in fighting the war on terrorism, to address the American people at all, except with an announcement of his and Cheney's resignations, is to insult the intelligence, common sense and most basic ability to reason of all but the tiny minority of authoritarian minded Americans who would literally run screaming off a giant precipice if His Highness the Royal Fuckup told them to. As to the rest of us non-authoritarian Americans who possess a functioning brain, common sense and a basic ability to reason I think it would have been better if he had just not said anything at all to avoid the appalling spectacle of the Royal Fuckup talking down to us as if we don't know better. Why add insulting our intelligence and ability to reason and conclude that 2 + 2 does, in fact, =4 to the increasingly apparent injury that he has done to us and the state of our national security?