Saturday, May 29, 2004

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A Vote for Bush
is a Vote for Osama

There has been lots of appropiate outrage over CNN's commentators implying that al Qaeda would prefer a Kerry victory in November.

Atrios picked up on it first, noting these graphs from the CNN transcripts:
[Kelli] ARENA: Neither John Kerry nor the president has said troops pulled out of Iraq any time soon. But there is some speculation that al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House.

BEN VENZKE, INTELCENTER: Al Qaeda feels that Bush is, even despite casualties, right or wrong for staying there is going to stay much longer than possibly what they might hope a Democratic administration would.
Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum are in full agreement with Artios that readers should contact CNN's chief news executive Eason Jordan (Eason.Jordan@turner.com) to express their displeasure at such outrageous comments.

I certainly concur with that. Besides the obvious and insidious bias in those comments, they are flat our wrong. George Bush, through his senseless invasion and occupation of Iraq, has done more to further the cause of al Qaeda than anything Osama or his lieutenants could have ever dreamed of. As Avedon Carol states so clearly:
George Bush is the poster boy for Al Qaeda recruitment, and everyone knows it. Kerry just doesn't hold the potential to reap such benefits for Osama's children.
David Neiwert at Orcinus has done a great job of capturing this entire issue, not just the sound bites. Go read it. Then contact Eason Jordan at CNN (Eason.Jordan@turner.com) and tell him what you think.

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Billmon is Back
and the Bar is Open


Friday, May 28, 2004

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Axis of Eve

...and speaking of the gender gap. Check it out.

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Pennsylvania is Looking Blue

A lot of people think that Pennsylvania is the big dog among the battleground states -- the one that could make or break the election for either candidate.

Sini at Jusiper has numbers from a recent poll that have the big dog looking pretty blue:
Kerry is ahead 44-41. Nader is at 6, but without him Kerry's retains a three point lead. Bush's favorable/unfavorables are at 34/42 and Kerry's are 32/27. Kerry leads among independents, 44-34. There is a 16 point gender gap; Bush leads 46-41 among men, while Kerry leads 49-38 among women.

A 34% approval rating and 41% poll result against a challenger are troubling indeed for an incumbent president. Equally troubling: 51% now think going to war with Iraq "was the wrong thing to do" and that Bush and Kerry are now nearly even on handling Iraq (48-45). And 50% think Kerry would do a better job of the economy, as opposed to Bush's 41%.
A 16 point gender gap! God bless the women. They know how to return a bad product when they find out it doesn't work as advertised.

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Tradin' Pigs

This week's internet humor:
As the President is getting off the helicopter in front of the White House, he has a baby pig under each arm.

The Marine guard snaps to attention, salutes, and says: "Nice pigs, sir."

The President replies: "These are not pigs, these are authentic Texan
Razorback Hogs. I got one for VP Cheney, and I got one for Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld."

The Marine again snaps to attention, salutes, and replies, "Nice trade, sir."
Thanks to SKK. Hope you heal up soon.

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Kleiman on Raising Gas Taxes:
The right-wingeres who pretend not to understand why raising gasoline prices through taxation -- which means we get to keep the money -- is better than having them raised for us by the oil cartel -- thus sending the money to Riyadh -- clearly hate the American government worse than they do the Saudi government. I suppose it would be too rude to suggest that they move, but might I politely ask them to shut up?


Thursday, May 27, 2004

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Election Projection
with full-color graphics

Rodger Payne has found an interesting site that does electoral vote projections based on recent polling data.

It's administered by someone who is clearly pro-Bush, but the numbers posted today are looking pretty good for Kerry.

The good news is that it does a nice job displaying states that are leaning one way or the other (though not solidly nailed down). The bad news is that there is a dearth of clickable links (which would be helpful if, for instance, you want to know where the host is getting the data that determines whether a state is red or blue).

But it's worth a look. You might want to open another window to American Research Group's Electoral Vote Calculator at the same time. That will let you play with the battleground states and see how they will impact the electoral vote outcome.

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Depends on What Your Definition of Sovereignty is, Part II:
It's sort of like partially pregnant

Great piece from Mark Kleiman:
We're turning over full sovereignty to the Iraqi government to be installed June 30, except that the Iraqi army will still be taking orders from the American Army and the newly sovereign government won't be able to ask the American Army to leave. (As the LA Times headline put it, "Full power -- with limits." Someone ought to have the President read Hobbes -- or maybe have someone read Hobbes out loud to the President -- so he will understand that "partially sovereign" makes about much sense as "partially pregnant."
There's more. Read it.

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I miss Billmon

With the Whiskey Bar closed, I just wander the streets of Left Blogistan alone.

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Slip-Sliding Away:
Is Bush losing the Tom Clancy Conservatives?

Somebody's finally mentioning that Anthony Zinni's new book Battle Ready was co-authored by conservative literary icon Tom Clancy.

Kevin Drum points to this article by Alan Wirzbicki writing in The New Republic:
The novelty of the book isn't that Clancy has moved away from criticizing liberal elites; he hasn't. Rather, it's the suggestion that President Bush, who has so effectively positioned himself as the champion of Red State America, might in fact be no better than Clancy's old left-wing villains. Clancy, after all, seems now to be harboring contempt for both "flower children" and the Bush administration, raising the question of whether, in the author's mind, they are equally destructive forces.
If nothing else, Clancy is influential. His numerous books have been best sellers for two decades. And the fact that he is lining up against the Bush administration is significant, not because his political views have shifted, but because they haven't.
Clancy is perhaps the least likely writer imaginable to lend his name to a project bashing the Bush administration. Since the beginning of his literary career in the 1980s, he has been the most Republican of authors. Clancy owes his fame to Ronald Reagan, who propelled the unknown former insurance salesman to celebrity status when he endorsed The Hunt for Red October in 1985; Clancy, in turn, dedicated his novel Executive Orders to the 40th president a decade later. He is a Republican donor and reliable conservative, penning articles and book introductions against gun control and in favor of school prayer.
With Republican stalwarts like Clancy deserting Bush-Cheney, it's easy to see how the Bush approval ratings keep heading south. The ship is sinking and the life boats are filling up fast. Must be time to re-arrange the deck chairs.

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Salon Supports the Troops
with a Free Subscription

Salon is offering a year of free premium subscription to anyone with a .mil email address. It's sort of a Memorial Day gift to those who serve, as well as a not-so-covert attempt to balance out the far-right pain-killer induced rants frequently heard over the Armed Forces Radio network.
As the country heads toward Memorial Day, we feel it's the appropriate time for Salon to extend the following offer to all active-duty military personnel. If you are currently serving in the U.S. military and have a .mil e-mail address, send us your name and address and we will give you a free one-year Salon Premium subscription. If you are one of the active-duty GIs already receiving Salon Premium, we will extend your subscription for a year free of charge.

To take advantage of this offer just send an e-mail to militaryoffer@salon.com with your first and last name and e-mail address and we'll create your Salon Premium subscription. Please note that we'll only be able to create Premium subscriptions for .mil e-mail addresses.
I know that Rain Storm doesn't have a huge following among active duty military (a shame, really), but I thought that the occasional visitor with the Coast Guard up in Alaska might appreciate this information. Feel free to pass it on to anyone you know who is serving. And thanks to Digby for the link.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

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The Brat Pack Goes to Iraq

Covered elsewhere, but worth repeating: Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) picked its staff from kids who had posted their resumes on the website of ultra-right think tank The Heritage Foundation. This explains why the tripe that comes out of the CPA sounds like it was written by the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign. Here are a few graphs from the WaPo story:
For months they wondered what they had in common, how their names had come to the attention of the Pentagon, until one day they figured it out: They had all posted their resumes at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank.


When Ledeen's group showed up at the palace -- with their North Face camping gear, Abercrombie & Fitch camouflage and digital cameras -- they were quite the spectacle. For some, they represented everything that was right with the CPA: They were young, energetic and idealistic. For others, they represented everything that was wrong with the CPA: They were young, inexperienced, and regarded as ideologues.

Several had impressive paper credentials, but in the wrong fields. Greco was fluent in English, Italian and Spanish; Burns had been a policy analyst focused on family and health care; and Ledeen had co-founded a cooking school. But none had ever worked in the Middle East, none spoke Arabic, and few could tell a balance sheet from an accounts receivable statement.

Other staffers quickly nicknamed the newcomers "The Brat Pack."

"They had come over because of one reason or another, and they were put in positions of authority that they had no clue about," remembered Army Reserve Sgt. Thomas D. Wirges, 38, who had been working on rehabilitating the Baghdad Stock Exchange.

Some also grumbled about the new staffers' political ties. Retired U.S. Army Col. Charles Krohn said many in the CPA regard the occupation "as a political event," always looking for a way to make the president look good.
Mark Kleiman's comments are some of the best:
Hire the folks who are going to run the reconstruction of Iraq by grabbing random resumes off the Heritage Foundation website. Don't bother to pick anyone who speaks Arabic, or knows about the Middle East, or has studied development. Staff the budget office with political science majors who can't read a balance sheet.

Given Team Bush's almost Maoist sense of the transcendent importance of politics, political reliability is everything, and competence is nothing. I can understand their applying this to stuff they don't actually care about. But the Iraq adventure was their crown jewel. How could they have tossed it away so casually?

If George W. Bush is defeated for re-election because of the chaos in Iraq, he will have earned it.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

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Another Retired General
who must hate America

Jusiper has a link to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's coverage of the President's speech about his plan for fixing Iraq after breaking it.

The Post-Dispatch quotes retired Major General William Nash, who apparently wasn't all that impressed with the president's plan:
"It's impossible to try to communicate a policy until you've done some very serious thinking on how to develop it," Nash said, "and that has not been done to date."
For the record, Nash commanded a brigade of the 3rd Armored Division in Desert Storm, then was the first commander of U.S. forces in Bosnia.

Clark, Zinni, now Nash. Why do so many retired generals hate America?

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Somebody's Lying:
Accusations fly over dogs at Abu Ghraib

The WaPo is reporting that different stories are being told by the commander of the intelligence brigade responsible for the interrogations at Abu Ghraib, and the general who was sent to Iraq from Guantanamo to increase the flow of intelligence from prisoners.
A U.S. Army general dispatched by senior Pentagon officials to bolster the collection of intelligence from prisoners in Iraq last fall inspired and promoted the use of guard dogs there to frighten the Iraqis, according to sworn testimony by the top U.S. intelligence officer at the Abu Ghraib prison.

According to the officer, Col. Thomas Pappas, the idea came from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who at the time commanded the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was implemented under a policy approved by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top U.S. military official in Iraq.

"It was a technique I had personally discussed with General Miller, when he was here" visiting the prison, testified Pappas, head of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade and the officer placed in charge of the cellblocks at Abu Ghraib prison where abuses occurred in the wake of Miller's visit to Baghdad between Aug. 30 and Sept. 9, 2003.

"He said that they used military working dogs at Gitmo [the nickname for Guantanamo Bay], and that they were effective in setting the atmosphere for which, you know, you could get information" from the prisoners, Pappas told the Army investigator, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, according to a transcript provided to The Washington Post.

Pappas, who was under pressure from Taguba to justify the legality and appropriateness of using guard dogs to frighten detainees, said at two separate points in the Feb. 9 interview that Miller gave him the idea. He also said Miller had indicated the use of the dogs "with or without a muzzle" was "okay" in booths where prisoners were taken for interrogation.

But Miller, whom the Bush administration appointed as the new head of Abu Ghraib this month, denied through a spokesman that the conversation took place.

"Miller never had a conversation with Colonel Pappas regarding the use of military dogs for interrogation purposes in Iraq. Further, military dogs were never used in interrogations at Guantanamo," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq.
Somebody's lying.

UPDATE: And just for the record, Kevin Drum shares with us what that great American, Senator Trent Lott, thinks about dogs and prisoners:
"Frankly, to save some American troops' lives or a unit that could be in danger, I think you should get really rough with them," Lott said. "Some of those people should probably not be in prisons in the first place."

When asked about the photo showing a prisoner being threatened with a dog, Lott was unmoved. "Nothing wrong with holding a dog up there unless it ate him," Lott said. "(They just) scared him with the dog."

Lott was reminded that at least one prisoner had died at the hands of his captors after a beating. "This is not Sunday school," he said. "This is interrogation. This is rough stuff."
Nothing like setting the moral climate for the nation. Of course, ol' Trent probably has fond memories of how effective police dogs were against those civil rights agitators back in the good ol' days.

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Krugman on the Job News
and why Republicans are whining
Republicans, we hear, are frustrated by polls showing that the public has a poor opinion of George Bush's economic leadership. In their view, the good news about Mr. Bush's economic triumphs is being drowned out by the bad news from Iraq.

A recent article in The New York Times, citing concerns of "Republican elected officials, pollsters and strategists," put it this way: "The creation of nearly 900,000 new jobs in the last four months — a development that might otherwise have redefined the race in Mr. Bush's favor — has been largely crowded out of the electorate's psyche by images from Iraq."

Funny, isn't it? In 2002, Republican strategists used the impending Iraq war to distract the public from the miserable economic news. Now they're complaining that Iraq is taking voters' focus off the economy.
He follows with the numbers and the sources to make his point. I'm not going to quote the whole thing.
The bottom line, then, is that Mr. Bush's supporters have no right to complain about the public's failure to appreciate his economic leadership. Three years of lousy performance, followed by two months of good but not great job growth, is not a record to be proud of.
And that, my friends, is why Bush's approval rating on the Economy is down in the mid-30s. It is not, as the Republicans would have us believe, because we have been distracted by another miserable policy failure -- that one in Iraq.


Monday, May 24, 2004

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Unitarian is a Religion in Texas Again:
Comptroller reverses earlier ruling

Following up on an earlier post (Is there something in the water in Texas?), we just got this (registration required) via Kevin Drum commenter Joy:
AUSTIN -- The state comptroller's office reversed an earlier decision and granted tax-exempt status to a Unitarian church in Denison on Monday.

The comptroller's office originally ruled that Red River Unitarian Universalist Church in Denison was not a religious organization for tax purposes because it "does not have one system of belief," the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on its Web site Monday.

Church officials claimed it was the first time in U.S. history that a state had denied tax exempt status to the Unitarians because of their beliefs.

In a news release Monday, the comptroller's office said the decision had been reversed after Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn asked her general counsel to review it.

"It is my opinion that the Red River Unitarian Universalist Church is an organization created for religious purposes and should be granted the requested tax exemption," general counsel Jesse Ancira wrote in a letter Monday to Dan Althoff, board president of the church.
Well, I take it all back. There may be hope for the state of Texas after all. And that's good because come January, Texas is going to have two additional residents. Let the vacations continue.

UPDATE 5/26/04 -- Via Electrolite we learn that Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, interestingly, turns out to be the mother of White House press secretary Scott McClellan. Imagine that. It's a small world after all.

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Veterans Know who was Responsible

I posted earlier on the CBS poll that has Bush's approval ratings hitting record lows (see As the Numbers Tank).

Josh Marshall suggests taking a look at the internals of the poll, which CBS just posted.

One interesting stat that caught my eye was the difference in who should be held accountable for the Iraqi prison abuses. Among general respondents, 44 percent said higher military authorities bore responsibility, while 45 percent said that only the soldiers involved should be held accountable.

Among veterans, 57 percent said higher military authority should be held accountable. Only 28 percent put the blame solely on the soldiers involved.

As a veteran, I think this reflects the understanding among those who have served that superior officers are responsible for what happens, whether it happens under their orders, or as a result of their failure to adequately supervise. The responsibility is theirs, and it continues all the way up the chain of command.

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General Zinni Tells It Straight Up

CBS has posted an interview with retired Marine General and former CENTCOM Commander Anthony Zinni in advance of the launch of his book (co-written with Tom Clancy). The whole thing is worth reading. Here are a few key graphs:
Now, in a new book about his career, co-written with Tom Clancy, called "Battle Ready," Zinni has handed up a scathing indictment of the Pentagon and its conduct of the war in Iraq.

In the book, Zinni writes: "In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption."

"I think there was dereliction in insufficient forces being put on the ground and fully understanding the military dimensions of the plan. I think there was dereliction in lack of planning," says Zinni. "The president is owed the finest strategic thinking. He is owed the finest operational planning. He is owed the finest tactical execution on the ground ... He got the latter. He didn’t get the first two."

Zinni says Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time - with the wrong strategy. And he was saying it before the U.S. invasion. In the months leading up to the war, while still Middle East envoy, Zinni carried the message to Congress: "This is, in my view, the worst time to take this on. And I don’t feel it needs to be done now."


Should all of those involved, including Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, resign?

"I believe that they should accept responsibility for that," says Zinni. "If I were the commander of a military organization that delivered this kind of performance to the president, I certainly would tender my resignation. I certainly would expect to be gone."


Zinni, who now teaches international relations at the College of William and Mary, says he feels a responsibility to speak out, just as former Marine Corps Commandant David Shoup voiced early concerns about the Vietnam war nearly 40 years ago.

"It is part of your duty. Look, there is one statement that bothers me more than anything else. And that's the idea that when the troops are in combat, everybody has to shut up. Imagine if we put troops in combat with a faulty rifle, and that rifle was malfunctioning, and troops were dying as a result," says Zinni.

"I can't think anyone would allow that to happen, that would not speak up. Well, what's the difference between a faulty plan and strategy that's getting just as many troops killed? It’s leading down a path where we're not succeeding and accomplishing the missions we've set out to do."
I think General Zinni is being overly generous in the slack he is cutting President Bush. Even so, expect to see the white house slime machine working overtime on this one.

UPDATE 5/26/04: Juan Cole has more. Read Zinni on What Went Wrong

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Thou Shalt Not Stray
from election year talking points

Having not made good on its 2000 campaign promises about funding for the National Parks, it appears that the administration is now trying to keep a tight reign on what senior park officials say about it. AP reports:
The Bush administration is muzzling national park superintendents by ordering them not to stray in public comments from a predetermined list of rosy stances on budget matters, an advocacy group charged.

National Park Service officials acknowledge providing a list of "talking points" to help guide employees but say it's standard practice and that no policy prevents superintendents from being candid.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, based in Washington, D.C., recently released samples of talking points and two internal Park Service e-mails to make their case.

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Creeping Fascism:
Coming to a community near you!

Billmon likes to quote from George Orwell's 1984 (here and here, for example), pointing out the not so subtle parallels between Orwell's fictional time and place and our current one (and to think -- back in high school I thought it was about Communism!).

Others have noticed, too. The Sideshow notes what it calls a Creepy Parallel between current events and those that led to the rise of Nazi Germany, linking to a piece called Lest We Forget that was posted on The Goddess:
Nazism was a form of government that restricted personal freedom but permitted private ownership of property. It called for aggressive nationalism, militarism and expansion of Germany's spheres of control through military conquest. The Nazis glorified Germany and its people, claiming that other nationalities were inferior. It promised to build a harmonious, orderly and prosperous society for the Germans.

Instead it brought terrorism, war and mass murder.
David Neiwert at Orcinus, who has done some exceptional writing on this topic (see, for instance, Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: an exegesis), has a new piece that looks at the roots of fascism in America, and traces them right up to a case of intolerance, pseudo-patriotism, and suppression in a modern day American high school.
Americans labor under the delusion that fascism "can't happen here" because of the nation's history as an open, democratic society.

This is a peculiar blind spot, because in fact fascism is only possible as an outgrowth -- a metastasis, if you will -- of democracy. Historically, fascism has only taken root in democracies when they stumble. It seems not to occur to Americans that if their democracy stumbles, the dark face of fascism awaits to take its place.
Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I hear the Mothers of Invention on the Freak Out album singing Frank Zappa's It Can't Happen Here.

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As the Numbers Tank
the Hype will Skyrocket

Atrios points to the latest CBS Poll results. Bush is picking up speed as his numbers head south, but he hasn't been able to find that mythical floor yet.
Mr. Bush's overall job approval rating has continued to decline. Forty-one percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 52 percent disapprove -- the lowest overall job rating of his presidency. Two weeks ago, 44 percent approved. A year ago, two-thirds did.

Sixty-one percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, while just 34 percent approve.


Just 37 percent -- the lowest number in his presidency -- now approve of Mr. Bush's handling of foreign policy, while 56 percent disapprove. Mr. Bush's ratings on the economy are similar: 36 percent approve of his handling of it and 57 percent disapprove.
With a pathology that has remained consistent throughout his administration, the white house (most likely Bush's handlers Rove and Hughes) has decided that the president needs to do a better job of getting his message about the good news from Iraq out to the American people. To that end we will be treated to a weekly series of presidential performances, designed to truly test the gullibility of the voters. Matt Yglesias sees it like this:
The president, apparently, plans to deliver one address per week over the next six weeks in an effort to convince the American people that all is well in Iraq. This strikes me as a potentially catastrophic idea. We've become familiar now with the president's discourse on the subject -- "the bad guys are bad and Saddam was bad and I am good and we must stay the course and everyone who disagrees with me is a racist" -- which appears to be totally disconnected from reality. To the grossly ignorant American public, this sort of tripe can be extremely convincing. But only, or so it seems to me, when these things are spaced out sufficiently so that people can forget that they heard the exact same thing three months ago. One speech per week and the fact that the president's rhetoric does not shift in response to, you know, changing facts and people may start to catch on that they're being had.
I'm reminded of a slimeball huckster who was booted off of the town council in my little mountain burg a few years back. This year he ran for mayor on a thinly veiled campaign platform of Greed is Good and Bulldozers are Better while maintaining that his campaign was really all about issues like Quality of Life and The Children.

As his poll numbers hovered around 30 percent, he kept saying that he just needed to do a better job at getting his message out to the voters so they'd know what he was really about. On election day, he got slammed, barely getting 30 percent of the vote. It turned out that the voters knew exactly what he was about and what he stood for.

I'm hoping the voters have finally figured out what Bush is about and what he stands for, too.


Sunday, May 23, 2004

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The Noose is Tightening
around someone at the Pentagon

The Monday New York Times has this about the investigation into who was feeding sensitive classified information to Chalabi:
Federal investigators now suspect that Mr. Chalabi funneled a wide array of Pentagon and C.I.A. secrets to Iran -- much more material than they believe he might have obtained through his political contacts with Americans, they said. "This was not the kind of stuff that he would have gotten by accident," one official said.

Intelligence officials have said the investigation centers on a handful of officials in Washington and Iraq who dealt regularly with Mr. Chalabi, and an even smaller number who also had access to the compromised information. Most of them are at the Pentagon, which was Mr. Chalabi's main point of contact with the Bush administration.
I found it interesting that the Times article did not name names. That's a little surprising since the neocons with whom Chalabi dealt make up a fairly small, if disproportionately influential, circle in the Pentagon.

Wouldn't it be fun to see Doug Feith (to pick one just at random) being frog-walked out of the Pentagon in handcuffs. Hoo Ah!


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