NDN Blog

Bush, Rumsfeld defend strategy

So says a headline in today's Washington Post

Man, are they out of it. 

Immigrants: beware the end of habeas corpus

There are many reasons people have immigrated to the United States over the years.   One of the most important was a sense of security, that here one was safe and secure from bad governments and political strife that had ruined the lives of so many for centuries.

The new Military Commissions Act signed by President Bush may be making that sense of safety and security for newly arrived immigrants to America a thing of the past. While there is debate about whether the new rules apply to American citizens, we do know for sure they apply to non-citizens of any type, even legal residents.  And what are these rules?

According to the NY Times, “While the Republicans pretend that this bill will make America safer, let’s be clear about its real dangers. It sets up a separate system of justice for any foreigner whom Mr. Bush chooses to designate as an “illegal enemy combatant.” It raises insurmountable obstacles for prisoners to challenge their detentions. It does not require the government to release prisoners who are not being charged, or a prisoner who is exonerated by the tribunals.

The law does not apply to American citizens, but it does apply to other legal United States residents. And it chips away at the foundations of the judicial system in ways that all Americans should find threatening. It further damages the nation’s reputation and, by repudiating key protections of the Geneva Conventions, it needlessly increases the danger to any American soldier captured in battle.”

And from Glenn Greenwald:  "The so-called Military Commissions Act of 2006 (.pdf)...is replete with radical provisions, but the most dangerous and disturbing is that it vests in the President the power to detain people forever by declaring them an "unlawful enemy combatant," and they then have no ability to contest the validity of their detention in any tribunal. The President now possesses a defining authoritarian power -- to detain and imprison people for life based solely on his say-so, while denying the detainee any opportunity to prove his innocence…

…the Act creates military commissions and establishes rules for those commissions in the event that the President wants a certain detainee tried, convicted and punished (almost certainly execution). Not even the Bush-led U.S. will openly execute detainees without a finding that they are guilty of terrorism. The commissions exist so that the Executive branch can impose sentence (such as the death sentence) on detainees who are found guilty of engaging in terrorism (or some other war crime).

But there is no right for detainees to be tried before a commission, and there is no obligation for the President to bring any detainee before a military commission. If the President does not want to obtain a finding of guilt and impose punishment, he has no reason to bring them before a military commission. He can just keep them detained forever without any finding of guilt and without any punishment being imposed (just as many of the Guantanamo detainees, and even U.S. citizens, have been kept in cages for years with no finding of any kind of guilt).

The Act even allows U.S. citizens to be subjected to this treatment (though the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdi likely requires for U.S. citizens some opportunity to challenge the detention) because even American citizens can be declared to be "unlawful enemy combatants" under the statute (see Sec. 3(a)(1)(1))."

With this new Act, we now have the ironic and tragic circumstance that the man who has worked so hard to give millions of undocumented immigrants legal status - John McCain - has ensured that when they do come out of the shadows this new legal status will be missing one of the most treasured protections of American life; one that has made America different for a very long time. 

Not sure about you, but I think amending this Act should be a high priority for progressives in the years to come. 

Time for a political solution in Iraq

It is long past time for the Administration to be working towards a new political solution to our failed occupation of Iraq. Les Gelb was on CNN this morning talking about partition. Yesterday morning at an NDN breakfast in NYC, Governor Bill Richardson talked about setting a timetable for withdrawl of our troops from Iraq only after we make significant progress on creating a new political reality in Iraq. Why is the Administration seemingly so uninterested in sitting down with the various groups in Iraq and working out a deal to quell the violence? Where is our Secretary of State, and why isnt she leading a multinational effort to bring peace to the region?

What is clear is that our current strategy isn't working, and that Iraq is on the verge of becoming a failed state or slipping into some kind of civil war. Here's a Times report on a briefing given by an American general on the ground in Iraq, one that I watched this morning live on CNN:

General Urges New Strategy for Baghdad

By KIRK SEMPLE and JOHN O’NEIL

Published: October 19, 2006

BAGHDAD, Oct. 19 — The American-led crackdown in Baghdad has not succeeded in quelling violence across the capital and a new approach is needed, a military spokesman said today.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the senior spokesman for the American military in Iraq, said that the strategy of concentrating on a limited number of highly troubled neighborhoods had not slowed sectarian violence in the city as a whole.

Attacks in the Baghdad area went up 22 percent during the first three weeks of Ramadan in comparison with the three weeks before, an increase General Caldwell called “disheartening.”

The crackdown, which began in August, “has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in the level of violence,” General Caldwell said, adding that American commanders were consulting with the Iraqi government on a change in plans.

General Caldwell’s statement comes at a time when attacks on American forces have been increasing, in part because of the push in Baghdad, and at a time of increasing friction between the United States and the Iraqi government over how to deal with the Shiite militias that are responsible for much of the sectarian violence..."

Immigration Reform: no greater example of how the GOP has lost its way

There are many examples.  North Korea going nuclear.  Iran rising as a regional power in the Middle East.  The collapse of our occupation of Iraq.  Historic deficits.  No agenda to help the middle class in a more virulent age of globalization.  No action taken on global climate change, energy independence, health care, etc.

There are so many example of how this governing party has failed to deliver on its promises, and left many other critical emerging challenges so unexamined.

But to me there is perhaps no greater example of their inability to make government work for the “common good” than their failure to tackle immigration reform this year.  In a hyper-partisan and disappointing age, immigration reform was different.  Senators McCain and Kennedy built a broad bi-partisan coalition for reform that included labor, the Chamber of Commerce, immigrant advocacy groups and groups like NDN.  Republicans got guest worker, Democrats a path to citizenship and everyone agreed to work on fixing the porous border.  It was a throwback to an earlier era, when reasonable people could come together to solve a vexing problem.

But then late last year, almost out of nowhere, the House Republicans broke from this consensus approach and passed a wild and irresponsible bill that called for the arrest and deportation of the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  These two approaches seemed irreconcilable.  Debate ensued.  Latinos threatened by both this policy and the extreme rhetoric surrounding the debate, took to the streets in protest.  The Senate came together, led by McCain, Kennedy and Reid and got 58 votes for what was known as McCain-Kennedy.  A version of it finally passed, and off to conference it went.

At that point the national Republican Party and the House Republicans faced a critical choice.  Solve a national problem or succumb to politics? It was a crucial test.  And it spoke to the heart of the criticism of the Republicans these days.  Could they make government work for the common good?

The answer? Speaker Hastert and his able team choose politics.  They said no to any bill with earned citizenship, and renamed the McCain bill the Reid-Kennedy Democratic Amnesty Bill.  Republican ads equating Latino immigrants to terrorists and charging that Democrats were on this side of illegals and terrorists spread like wildfire.

On such a basic level this is all very tragic.  We had a broad bi-partisan approach towards fixing the immigration system in America.  The President went on national TV to support it.  John McCain was its lead sponsor.  Labor and business had come together.  Immigrants groups accepted changes that in many years would have been unacceptable.  The criticism of the Republicans was that they couldn’t make government work.  And what happened? We ended up with an extraordinarily expensive fence that covers only a small portion of the open border, will take years to build and is not guaranteed to make any difference in this difficult problem.  As Travis writes below the governing party cannot even agree on to how and when to sign this new fence bill into law, and may have violated their own rules in holding it this far. 

And we ended up with ads, politics, distortion, fear, lying in the campaigns themselves.  But perhaps reason is prevailing.  As a DCCC blog post yesterday points out, a television station just pulled a GOP ad in Ohio that was clearly lying about the Democratic candidate’s position on immigration.  And Barack Obama jumped in to the fight, cutting a sensible ad for a Democratic candidate in Illinois trying to set the record straight.

I am very proud of the leadership of the Democrats for standing true on this issue of immigration reform.  In this case, they have taken the right moral, political and legislative position.  Tough as it’s been, on this issue, Democrats have shown that they have what it takes to be good stewards of America in a new century. Despite tremendous opposition, we held fast to tackling a serious nation problem and did not yield.

I am also proud of our role in all this.  NDN got involved last year before the now infamous House vote on “Sensenbrenner,” urging all involved to reject that terrible bill.  We have lobbied many Members of Congress and candidates, written many memos, held forums and fought hard with allies like the National Immigration Forum to find a better path.  And in the spring, we launched the first in a series of national Spanish-language ad campaigns that spoke to the hopes of Latinos and not their fears, and we have been on the air, nationally, ever since.

The Republicans, however, in their inability to get this done, have shown why America has grown weary of them and are looking for a new path.  They no longer have what it takes to lead America in this challenging time. 

Further disintegration in Iraq

From Thursday's Washington Post:

BAGHDAD, Oct. 18 -- A roadside bombing and other attacks killed 10 American troops across Iraq on Tuesday, the U.S. military reported Wednesday, making it the deadliest day of combat for U.S. forces in 10 months.

The one-day toll, part of what the U.S. military has said is a 43 percent increase in attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces in the capital since midsummer, occurred as casualties among Iraqi troops and civilians are soaring far higher than at any previous time in the war, according to U.S. and Iraqi tallies.

The deaths underscore the surging nature of sectarian violence and the increasing lethality of roadside bombs, which claim the most American lives in Iraq despite efforts to bolster armor and use high-technology devices to disable bombs.

Five of the American troop deaths Tuesday were caused by bombs. Four soldiers were killed in Baghdad about 6:50 a.m. when a planted bomb exploded under their vehicle, the U.S. military said in a statement. Another bomb killed a single soldier north of the capital.

Three soldiers died in combat east of Baghdad, in Diyala province, the military said. One soldier was killed in north Baghdad when armed men attacked his patrol, and a Marine died in combat in the predominantly Sunni province of Anbar, in western Iraq. Since the summer, Baghdad has passed Anbar as the most hostile place in the country for U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Tuesday's deaths, along with the death of an American soldier in Baghdad by small-arms fire on Wednesday, brought the number of total U.S. troop fatalities for October to 70, including 67 killed in action......

NDN launches a campaign to get Condi to come clean

Over the last two weeks conclusive evidence has emerged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice received specific warnings about imminent Al Qaeda attacks two months before September 11th 2001.

Bob Woodward’s State of Denial reveals details of an emergency meeting held on July 10th between Rice and CIA Director George Tenet. In his crisis briefing Tenet warned of an imminent Al Qaeda strike, possibly in the United States.

Yet in statement after statement Rice has implied that she was not adequately warned about Al Qaeda attacks, and that she was not told of a potential attack on America.

Meanwhile, details of this July 10th emergency meeting did not appear in the official report of the 9/11 Commission, despite being covered in detail by Tenet in his sworn testimony.

The Secretary of State has had two weeks to explain these inconsistencies. She has not done so. It is time for Condi to come clean.

Today NDN is launching a new campaign to get the Secretary of State to answer four critical questions about the July 10th meeting.

Visit NDN’s website now to see in full the four questions Rice must answer, and the clear evidence which backs them up.

If Rice does not provide honest and complete answers to these four questions, the American people will be forced to conclude that she and others lied about what they knew to cover up their inadequate response to the Al Qaeda threat.

The four questions Rice must answer are:

  1. Question 1: Why do you continue to deny that an “emergency meeting” took place on July 10th 2001 between yourself, CIA Director George Tenet and CIA Deputy Counterterrorism Chief Coffer Black? 
  2. Question 2: How can you continue to claim not to have been warned of a possible attack in the United States in light of what we now know about the July 10th meeting?
  3. Question 3: Given the evidence presented in the July 10th meeting, why were no drastic and immediate new actions taken to protect the American people?
  4. Question 4: How is it possible that the 9/11 Commission’s Report failed to mention the warnings of the July 10th meeting, given George Tenet’s testimony on the subject, witnessed by the Commission’s Executive Director Philip Zelikow, who now serves as one of your closest advisors?

The American people deserve answers. That’s why we are calling for the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to convene urgently to ask Rice, Tenet and 9/11 Commission Executive Director Phillip Zelikow to set the record straight.

And you can help: by supporting NDN’s campaign; reading our new evidence released today; joining our call for the reconvening of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees; signing the petition of the 9/11 Widows to declassify details of the July 10th Meeting; and urging your local media to learn about this issue and hold Secretary Rice accountable.

With your help we can ensure that Condi comes clean.  Because the American people deserve better than a Secretary of State who continues to lie about one of the greatest national security failures in American history.  

Iraq slips further and further into chaos

Iraq is slipping away.  News accounts in recent weeks detail a dramatic escalation of random violence, the central authority losing its grip and an overall decline in civil society.  America faces very tough choices now, but "stay the course" certainly is not one of them.  We need a strong and resolute diplomatic initiative that works to restore order and civil society to Iraq.

What is happening in Iraq is no longer a "war."  It is a failed occupation of a nation by a foreign power, and civil society itself is failing there.  What is needed now is a significant and sustained diplomatic and political effort led by Bush himself.  But of course that would require him and his team to admit what is happening there isn't working. 

In the short term the disintegration of Iraq is a much more urgent matter than North Korea exploding a nuclear bomb.  But where is Condi, already so compromised by the recent relevations of the July 10th, 2001 meeting, headed this week? Asia. Why? To do anything they can to change the subject from the worsening situation in Iraq.   

The front page Post story about Iraq should be read in its entirety to get a sense of how bad things are getting there:

BAGHDAD, Oct. 15 -- Militias allied with Iraq's Shiite-led government roamed roads north of Baghdad, seeking out and attacking Sunni Arab targets Sunday, police and hospital officials said. The violence raised to at least 80 the number of people killed in retaliatory strikes between a Shiite city and a Sunni town separated only by the Tigris River.

The wave of killings around the Shiite city of Balad was the bloodiest in a surge of violence that has claimed at least 110 lives in Iraq since Saturday. The victims included 12 people who were killed in coordinated suicide bombings in the strategic northern oil city of Kirkuk.

"This has pushed us to the point that we must stop this sectarian government," Ali Hussein al-Jubouri, a Sunni farmer in Duluiyah, said as he searched for the body of a nephew reportedly killed in the violence around Balad.

The slaughter came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday renewed pledges by the Iraqi government to break up the militias, and as al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni Arab insurgent groups declared a new Islamic republic in the western and central parts of the country.

The violence around Balad, a Shiite enclave in a largely Sunni region, began Friday with the kidnapping and beheading of 17 Shiite farmworkers from Duluiyah, a predominantly Sunni town. Taysser Musawi, a Shiite cleric in Balad, said Shiite leaders in the town appealed to a Baghdad office of Moqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric, to send militiamen to defend local Shiites and to take revenge. Sadr's political party is a member of a Shiite religious alliance that governs Iraq.

Shiite fighters responded in force, local police said. Witnesses said Shiite fighters began hunting down Sunnis, allegedly setting up checkpoints in the area to stop travelers and demand whether they were Shiite or Sunni.

By Sunday afternoon, 80 bodies were stacked in the morgue of the Balad hospital, the only sizable medical center in the region, physician Kamal al-Haidari said by telephone. Most of the victims had been shot in the head, he said. Other hospital officials said some of the bodies had holes from electric drills and showed other signs of torture. The majority of the victims were believed to be from Duluiyah.

The hospital received calls from residents who said more bodies were lying in the streets, but workers were unable to pick them up, Haidari said. Witnesses arriving at the hospital also reported seeing bodies in the roads, he said....."

Did the neocons dupe the 9/11 Commission?

A friend sent me a link to a TPM Muckraker piece from early October that provides further evidence the 9/11 Commission was duped.  It points out that this now infamous July, 2001 meeting between Tenet and Rice recently reported by Bob Woodword was first reported in Time Magazine in August of 2002. 

Friends, did they not have Lexus-Nexus at the 9/11 Commission?

We've written about Sec. Rice and this meeting here and here.  The bottom line is that Senate and House Intelligence Committees need to convene as soon as possible, and certainly no later than during the November Congressional Session, and bring Phillip Zelikow, Sec. Rice and Tenet in and ask them under oath what happened here.  Was there an organized effort to erase this meeting from the history books? And who participated? Certainly Zelikow should be first, as he was the Executive Director of the Commission, was present at Tenet's testimony to the Commission (where among other things he shared the presentation he did for Rice at the July 10th mtg), and now works for Rice. 

And Rice needs to explain her repeated statements that the government would have taken action if they knew that Al Qaeda might strike in the US.  But we now know that the she did know.  We know that they knew in early 2001 that the Cole had been struck by Al Qaeda; that their counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke was sounding the alarm; that she and the President were briefed in the summer that Al Qaeda was ready to strike in the US; and that despite all this they did nothing.  Why? Why did this Administration do nothing to stop Al Qaeda despite these extraordinary warnings?

Remember the US had already struck Al Qaeda in Afghanistan n 1998.  We knew where they lived.  Why did Bush and Rice do nothing?

And why should Rice keep her job if she has been repeatedly lying to the American people about a national security matter of this magntitude?

It is time for Rice to come clean

The Governing Party had a terrible, terrible week. 

Polls showed a dramatic decline in their standing across the whole nation.  The many GOP scandals continued, with a major White House resignation, a Congressional guilty plea, new federal investigations opened into two more Members of Congress, and of course the Foley affair just kept going.  North Korea exploded a nuclear bomb and our initial sanctions proposal was soundly rejected by the Russians and Chinese.  With the violence in Iraq spinning to yet another awful level, we may have now come to the point of no return there. 

Also brewing is a situation a little more complicated, but one that has enormous implications for Bush and his team.  The publication of the Woodward book has brought to light a previously unknown CIA briefing of then National Security Advisor Rice on July 10th, 2001.  At this briefing the CIA Director explicitly warned Rice that Al Qaeda was preparing to attack.  Somehow, this very serious meeting was left out of the 9/11 Commission Report, and has never been mentioned by the Administration.  (See more about this story in a previous post.)

Why does this matter? Because the story of the Administration and 9/11 has changed.  We now know that they failed to respond to the USS Cole bombing; failed to heed repeated warnings from Dick Clarke; failed to heed repeated warnings from the CIA; failed to capture Bin Laden at Tora Bora; and we now know that somehow the 9/11 Commission failed to include this July 10th mtg despite George's Tenet under-oath testimony that it took place. 

Tomorrow Sec. Rice goes on Fox News Sunday tomorrow.  Think Progress has waged a smart campaign to offer up some questions for her.  She of all people has a lot to answer for, for what we now know is that the Administration was amply warned about the Al Qaeda threat; did nothing about it; lied about what they knew for years; and somehow managed to keep some of the most damaging parts of the story from the official inquiry into 9/11 planning. 

This is serious stuff.  The main architect of this big lie about 9/11 is now the Secretary of State.  She has repeatedly lied in public and under oath about the run up to 9/11.  One of her current staffers was the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, was present at Tenet's testimony about the July 10th Meeting, and clearly kept it out of the report and from the Members of the Commission. 

If she can't be trusted to level with the American people about something of this gravity, how can we trust her to continue with her job? It is time for Secretary Rice to come clean.   

Bush: “It didn’t work”

In his rambling, disquieting news conference this morning, President Bush said again and again that previous Administrations’ strategy towards North Korea “didn’t work.” It is a concept he should spend a great deal of time thinking about.

For what has he done that has worked? On his watch despite many warnings terrorists struck our homeland, Bin Laden is still active and Al Qaeda is growing in influence, the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan, our attempt to democratize the Middle East is failing spectacularly, our purposeful violation of the Geneva conventions has weakened our moral authority around the world, Iran is on its way to becoming a nuclear state, democracy is threatened in Russia, our relations with Latin America have worsened, our military has been degraded, we have become much more indebted to foreign nations, global trade talks have fallen apart, there is no action towards a global solution to climate change and as we saw with Katrina we are still not ready here at home.

Over six long years we’ve spent trillions on our defense, taken tens of thousand of casualties, lost a great deal of prestige around the world and what have we gotten for it?

A world much less safe.

Mr. President, you are right, “it didn’t work.” Stay the course isn’t an option. But what do we do now?

I think our Democratic leaders should ask for a bi-partisan, bi-cameral sit down with the President to discuss right now how we can take control of world events once again. The Administration’s approach has failed us, let down the American people and the world and is making the whole world less safe. It is critical that they admit that it isn’t working and ask for input to help to find a better path. The dogged determination to defend what isn’t working is what is causing this Administration to be in so much trouble with the American people.

Do they have the courage to change? Or we will stay with the moral equivocation of staying a course that is so clearly failing?

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