National Security

Did Condi break the law?

In a very provocative post about the new Woodward book, Thinkprogress raises a critical question - did our Secretary of State lie to the 9/11 Commission? And is this a crime?

At the very least it is now clear that the Administration, in covering up a high-level meeting in July of 2001 where the CIA warned about an impending attack by Bin Laden, has once again repeatedly lied to the American people about an issue of great significance, and one critical to maintaining our security. 

The tipping point has arrived for Bush and our security

You can feel it.  You can feel the tide turning against the Administration.  You can feel it in the nuance of press stories, in the willingness of leaders to challenge him, in the chatter around town. 

A big new idea is settling in with the American people and political elites.  It is simply that when it comes to foreign policy Bush blew it.  He took a big swing and failed. 

It is been a long time coming.  Much of the story has been known, but it has not hit critical mass.  We’ve known that he was warned about Al Qeada striking in the US and did nothing; known that they had Bin Laden at Tora Bora and failed to give the guys on the ground more troops, and that he escaped; known that they all lied in the run up the war; known that they failed to plan for the occupation; known that the occupation itself has been ripe with cronyism, corruption and silliness; known that they blamed and prosecuted a “few rotten apples” for the torturing of Iraqis when it was officially sanctioned government policy; known that their “democratization” strategy gave some of the most radical elements in the Middle East, Hezbollah and Hamas, electoral legitimacy without forcing them to disband their militias; known that the standing up of the Iraqi police and Army has been a farce; known that despite their statements otherwise, the Administration has seldom listened to the generals in the field; known that the “insurgency” was much more than a few rogue elements causing trouble; known that our failure to win the peace was turning Iraq into a version of Soviet Afghanistan, fueling the jihadists around the world. 

All of this been known.  But in recent weeks, these things we’ve known have come together, stuck together, and are forming a new story line.  It is no longer they’ve tried hard, acted tough and are gutting it out for America.  It is that they’ve blown it.  Big time.  Perhaps overseeing the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history. 

It is hard to know the exact moment when it all tipped.  Suskind’s new and remarkable book, The One Percent Doctrine, has been part of it.  The insanity around the ABC movie, The Path to 9/11 has been part of it.  Clinton’s appearance on Fox has been part of it.  The NIE release has been part of it.  The recent spate of stories about the utter incompetence and corruption of our occupation have been part of it.  And now Woodward’s new book, out next week, loaded with new and extraordinary stories will accelerate it all.  

However we got to this point I think the President’s credibility on security matters has been shattered, and he can’t get it back.  They took a big swing, and they blew it big time.  

Now what do we do? Clearly a new team, a new approach is needed.  Isn’t that what elections are about?  

More "progress" in Iraq: Heralded Iraq Police Academy a 'Disaster'

The Washington Post further documents the scale of our failed occupation of Iraq.

Let us all be proud of those Members of Congress who choose to not accept the Administration's argument about progress, and who have forced a vital debate about how to bring our work in Iraq to a better end. 

A sad and terrible report from the Senate

Most papers had made major coverage of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report.  The Times has these opening graphs:

"WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 — The Central Intelligence Agency last fall repudiated the claim that there were prewar ties between Saddam Hussein’s government and an operative of Al Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to a report issued Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The disclosure undercuts continuing assertions by the Bush administration that such ties existed, and that they provided evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The Republican-controlled committee, in a second report, also sharply criticized the administration for its reliance on the Iraqi National Congress during the prelude to the war in Iraq."

These stories and the report itself are well worth reading.  And they are a shocking indictment of the carelessness and outright deceit of the Administration.  It is very clear from this report that Bush and Cheney knowingly and repeatedly lied to the American people about the cause of the Iraq War.  While this may not be news, this historic effort to mislead the American people and the world has now been documented and confirmed by the Congress - the Government - of the United States itself. 

One new area that many will be looking into is how the Administration was duped by the Iraqi exiles, who exagerated and lied to help bring the US into Iraq.  A small mention, but one certainly examining, is the claim that this group had been infiltrated by foreign intelligence services.  Is the implication here that the Iranians helped dupe the US into attacking their worst enemy? 

One of the main reasons Iran has become such a regional and even global threat today is the elimination of Saddam Hussein and the Sunni dominance of Iraq.  Did the neo con cabal in the White House get taken for a ride - to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, tens of thousands of casualties, the loss of our prestige around the world - by the Iranians?  Clearly this is a question that must be answered as soon as possible.   

All in all this report recounts a sad and terrible chapter in our history. 

Flynt Leverett on the Discredited Bush Foreign Policy

I had a chance to hear Flynt Leverett, former Senior Director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council speak at the New America Foundation yesterday.  Expanding on his essay in the September edition of the American Prospect, he talked about the decision making he observed during the year he spent as the top advisor on the Middle East at the White House.  His critique was clear: this administration is not bumbling and incompetent in their approach to the Middle East, rather they have launched a great foreign policy experiment with disastrous consequences. 

Leverett talked about the decision to walk away from diplomacy, when countries like Syria and Iran were looking to cooperate and improve relations with the United States following September 11th and the defeat of the Taliban.

He also discussed the move away from establishing a credible position on the Israeli-Palestinian question, just as US leadership was needed to restore peace and improve US credibility in the region. 

These decisions and many others were rooted in ideology and the result is a less stable Middle East where the Kissinger maxim that the US should marginalize radicals and empower moderates has been turned on its head.  Today, US policy has actually empowered radicals such as Ahmadinejad in Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Assad in Syria, etc.

Leverett also disputed the Bush Administration line that more Democracy in the Middle East equals less terrorism, citing the three "poster children" for Middle East Democracy: Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.  In these cases, forcing Democracy on societies not prepared for it has lead to more instability.

Finally, on a political note, I observed that Leverett never used the terms neo-conservative or neocon. Instead he referred to “Bush Foreign Policy.” I think this is smart, because it ties the discredited foreign policy to the increasingly discredited and unpopular president. Neo-conservatism did not exist as a governing philosophy before this President and it will soon go back to the Ivory Tower where it belongs. It is important that blame for the foreign policy debacles of the past six years falls squarely on the shoulders of this President, and not on a faceless ideology.


The lessons of history

Defeating "Islamic Fascism."  This week defeating Islamic Fascists became the primary goal of our foreign policy.  But can this can be our primary goal?  What can history, for example, tell us?

Let's look at the lesson of World War II.  In that era our national strategy was to foster democracy, the rule of law, liberty and free markets around the world.  We defeated the fascists of that era, who were a virulent threat to our vision, through war; and built lasting democracies and peace through institutions like the United Nations, NATO, the IMF, the World Bank and the far-sighted investments of the Marshall Plan.  Defeating the fascists of that time was a tactic, a way of getting to the end goal - global peace and prosperity, and flourishing democracies that cherished liberty, the rule of law and open markets. 

Bush and co seem to have no similar strategy.  They seem only concerned to with defeating those who disagree with us through war; they have no serious strategy for achieving lasting peace and prosperity, or deploying the formula that worked so well after WWII - democracy, the rule of law, liberty and free markets.  

If we are to learn the lessons of history - as this Administration suggests - then we must get much more serious about promoting - in word and deed - our commitment to the formula that worked so well before.  But this means that in bringing peace and prosperity to the Middle East hat there can be no sacrifice of our commitment to liberty through warrantless spying; no sacrifice of our commitment to Geneva conventions; no sacrifice of our commitment to the rule of law by allowing political parties with funded militias to participate in democratic elections; or no "nation building" in Iraq without a serious plan or a serious political commitment to bring it about. 

The Bush Administration has confused means with ends.  The end goal of foreign policy should be to foster a peaceful and prosperous world.  Defeating "Islamic Fascism" is certainly one of the main tactics we should use to achieve our goals, but it cannot be an end in itself.  To me that is the greatest lesson of World War II.  As we re-learning in Iraq today. 

On Iraq, Democrats are offering a clear and unified message

A front page Post piece offers a lot to chew on:

"Most Democratic candidates in competitive congressional races are opposed to setting a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, rejecting pressure from liberal activists to demand a quick end to the three-year-old military conflict.

Of the 59 Democrats in hotly contested House and Senate races, a majority agree with the Bush administration that it would be unwise to set a specific schedule for troop withdrawal, and only a few are calling for substantial troop reductions to begin this year, according to a Washington Post survey of the campaigns.

The large number of Democrats opposed to a strict timeline for ending the military operations runs contrary to the assertion by President Bush and top Republicans that Democrats want to "cut and run" amid mounting casualties and signs of civil war. At the same time, the decision by many Democrats to refrain from advocating a specific plan for withdrawal complicates their leaders' efforts to convince voters that they offer a clear new direction for the increasingly unpopular war."

Lets look at that last graph.  I agree with the first sentence.  Given how unpopular the war has become, the only strategy Republicans now have is 1) change their position on the war as Chris Shays just did; 2) argue that Democrats would make it worse.  I still believe both from a governing and public opinion standpoint a timetable for withdrawal is not the best option on the table.  So I think those Democrats who are rejecting "strategic redeployment" will be well served this fall, and will make it much harder for the GOP to succeed at their "cut and run" campaign. 

But I do not in any way agree with the 2nd part of the graph.  Democrats have presented a united front - we are unhappy with what is happening in Iraq, and want a new course.  Some want strategic redeployment.  Others don't.  There is no simple solution to what's happening in the Middle East, and we are doing the right thing by forcing a public and spirited debate.  Only from that debate will we settle on the best course.

While we may not agree on the details, the Democratic message is clear and simple - we want a new path in the Middle East, and once in power, will be sitting down with the President to find a new American strategy for success in the troubled region.  This position is both the responsible one, and the clear winner in terms of public opinion. 

For more, see my recent appearance on Fox News Sunday. 

New Dem Foreign Policy Shop Opens

As things go from bad to ouch in the middle east, Democrats need another conflicting opinion on security issues like a, well, a high profile infighting senate contest. But that, according to the WSJ's excellent Washington Wire, is what we have.

As divided Democrats reacted to the U.K. terrorist plot, a new voice was emerging, pitched somewhere between those pushing for immediate withdrawal from Iraq and those who advocate staying the course. The National Security Network, aimed at gathering the best progressive ideas on national security and providing a counter to the firepower of conservative think tanks, will officially open for business in September.

The group, which doesn't have a website as yet, kicks off at the end of the summer. It is lead by Rand Beers. Beers, in addition to being part of a teaching double act with Dick Clarke at the Kennedy School, advised the Kerry campaign on foreign policy. Which, upon reflection, might be why that "between those pushing for immediate withdrawal from Iraq and those who advocate staying the course" angle is so eerily familiar...........

Rudy Giulianni vs. Larry King: A Battle of the Out-of-Touch Titans

In between the ads for Ensure and life insurance, Rudy Giuliani said something interesting last night on Larry King Live.  He said that "we are at war with Islamic fascists, this is not a police action."  I think Mr. Giuliani - a terrorism expert according to Mr. King - truly wants to believe that we can defeat terrorists through our involvement in a very twentieth century war, with thousands of American boots on the ground in Iraq.  Mr. Giuliani must have missed the report that the British foiled this murderous plan to blow-up passenger aircraft over the mid-Atlantic by conducting a month-long investigation, involving Scotland Yard, MI5 and security services in Pakistan.  It even looks like the breakthrough in the investigation came from a single undercover agent

With the Taliban back on the rise in Afghanistan, the President continuing to substitute "stay the course" for a real plan in Iraq, Arabic linguists vital to fighting terrorism being discharged from the army for their sexuality and Republican "experts" like Rudy Giuliani completely missing the point in this latest episode, it seems suspiciously as if the Republicans are working overtime to give cast-iron credibility to the Democrats' claim that we need a "New Direction" in how we fight terrorism.

NDN in the News

Simon was in the Washington Post Friday discussing Iraq and this year's mid-term elections.  

"The Republicans are in trouble," said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the centrist New Democrat Network. "But the map is tough. It's going to be hard for us to win one of the two chambers. It's certainly possible. I think both are going to be hard."

Democrats needed "a broader narrative" on foreign policy, especially in light of the Lebanon crisis, and should avoid becoming wedded to the idea that Iraq -- and Iraq alone -- represented their best chance of winning, Rosenberg warned.

"There's a general sense of chaos, that whatever we attempted to do in the Middle East, it certainly seems to be getting worse not better," he said. "If we bet the whole farm on Iraq, it may not work for us."


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