Blogs

Losing the War in Afghanistan in Four Steps

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 11:47 AM PDT

Terrorism expert Peter Bergen writes in the New Republic's most recent cover story, "Today, Afghanistan resembles nothing so much as Iraq in the fall of 2003, when the descent into chaos began." In searching for why that's the case, he identifies four primary factors.

1. Allowing Osama bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora.

2. Under-funding and under-manning the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and refusing international help early in that process.

3. Turning the military's attention to Iraq before Afghanistan could be stabilized.

4. Appeasing, and not demanding more out of, Musharraf and the Pakistani government.

The whole thing is worth a read, but if you want an easily digestible yet expanded list, take a look at something Bergen put together for Mother Jones this past summer. We call it "The Iraqization of Afghanistan."

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The SecDef Tells The Truth

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 11:35 AM PDT

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From McClatchy:

"Following contentious and unproductive encounters with Russian officials on Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates Saturday said he isn't certain that Russia is interested in cooperating with the United States to defend Europe against Iranian missiles or whether Moscow simply wants to stop the U.S. from building missile defenses in Eastern Europe."

It's pretty shocking that news reports on this subject haven't made Russia's objection clear (maybe because U.S. and Russian diplomats have been beating around the bush to the press). But let's spell it out: Russia does not want American missile defenses in Eastern Europe. They do not want them on a train, they do not want them on a plane, they do not want them here or there, they do not want them anywhere.

US News: "Waxman Hunting for Bush Lies"

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 11:06 AM PDT

US News' "Washington Whispers" columnist Paul Bedard reports:

Rep. Henry Waxman, considered the meanest dog in town by the GOP, is still sniffing around the White House for proof the president lied when making the case for going to war in Iraq. We hear that he's been quietly summoning former Bush aides, especially speechwriters, to testify behind closed doors about what they knew and how they phrased his words on the issue. Whispers hears that one called in was John Gibson, a former National Security Council speechwriter. He wouldn't spill to us. The committee had no comment either, but an administration official says, "It is yet another item on the ever growing fishing expedition list from Representative Waxman."

After interviewing those NSC officials, here's another reference Waxman's investigators can peruse.

Comcast's Fee to the Government and Policy on Domestic Surveillance

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 10:58 AM PDT

The Federation of American Scientists' government secrecy guru Steve Aftergood reports:

Upon lawful request and for a thousand dollars, Comcast, one of the nation's leading telecommunications companies, will intercept its customers' communications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The cost for performing any FISA surveillance "requiring deployment of an intercept device" is $1,000.00 for the "initial start-up fee (including the first month of intercept service)," according to a newly disclosed Comcast Handbook for Law Enforcement.

Portrait of Presidential Sadness, in Dots

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 10:20 AM PDT

The failures of the Bush presidency are not lost on the stipple portraitists at the Wall Street Journal.

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Spotted on Trailhead.

Former Lobbyists Say the Darnedest Things

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 9:43 AM PDT

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Dean Kleckner, who used to run the farmer's lobby and took corn and soybean subsidies for years, calls for farm subsidy reform in today's New York Times. "It's obvious that we need to transform our public support for farmers," he says. "There's something fundamentally perverse about a system that has farmers hoping for low prices at harvest time — it's like praying for bad weather. But that's precisely what happens, because those low prices mean bigger checks from Washington."

Still waiting to hear Doug Brooks come out against military contractors.

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Romney Responds to Rancorous Republican Rival

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 8:55 AM PDT

Ohhh, snap! After John McCain shredded Mitt Romney for being a false conservative and a misleading campaigner, the Romney campaign released a video of McCain endorsing Romney for governor of Massachusetts in 2002.

Says McCain, "You got a great team here but it's led by a man of honesty and integrity. It's led by a man who is prepared to serve and a man who I have grown to know for his honesty, his decency, and his commitment to America... we have a man of unimpeachable integrity, decency, and honor." McCain says the word honesty about a dozen times. I'm not kidding. Take a look.

Boy, the Romney campaign must have been sitting on this for ages, just waiting for an opportunity to use it. And McCain finally gave them one.

(H/T PrezVid)

McCain Mauls Massachusetts Mountebank

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 8:30 AM PDT

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You might think that because the Democratic side of the primary fight is the one with a solid frontrunner and a set of increasingly desperate also-rans, it would be the one with the more vicious and vitriolic attacks.

You would be wrong.

The Democratic side has been relatively civil (though that might change) while the Republican side has been brutal. And it just got worse. Michael Scherer of Salon has the deets:

"...conservatives that have heard me time and again recognize that I do speak for the Republican wing of the Republican Party," Romney told the Nevada gathering, according to the Associated Press.
Less than 24-hours later, McCain responded with a blistering and detailed assault on Romney that read like an opposition research paper. "I don't usually do this but I'm going to depart for a moment from the issues I want to talk to you about today," McCain said at the beginning of his address to the party meeting. "One of the other Republican candidates made an extraordinary statement yesterday. Former Gov. Romney yesterday proclaimed himself the only real Republican in this race. As we all know, when he ran for office in Massachusetts being a Republican wasn't much of a priority for him. In fact, when he ran against Ted Kennedy, he said he didn't want to return to the days of Reagan-Bush. I always thought Ronald Reagan was a real Republican. When Gov. Romney donated money to a Democratic candidate in New Hampshire, I don't think he was speaking for Republicans. When he voted for a Democratic candidate for President, Paul Tsongas, I don't think he was speaking for Republicans. When he refused to endorse the Contract with America, I don't think he was speaking for Republicans. And when he was embracing the Democratic position on many major issues of the day, I don't think he was speaking for Republicans."

Pat Robertson: Flippin' Out

| Mon Oct. 15, 2007 7:30 AM PDT

Remember Regent Law, the school founded by Pat Robertson to bring the will of the Almighty to the legal profession? While half of the school's early graduates flunked the bar on the first go-around, Regent has sent a number of its alumni to the Bush administration, including, most famously, former DOJ staffer Monica Goodling. One Regent student who's not likely to get a White House placement any time soon is Adam Key, who's been threatened with expulsion for posting on his Facebook page a YouTube video of the school's founder, well, flippin' the bird during a TV interview. Apparently the will of the Almighty is that the First Amendment doesn't protect those making fun of Pat Robertson.

Here's the offending video.

Update: Blackwater Quit Trade Group to Avoid Scrutiny

| Fri Oct. 12, 2007 6:18 PM PDT

This is an update to my recent piece on Blackwater's withdrawal from the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), a private military industry trade group. Earlier today, the IPOA issued a press release, explaining that Blackwater's sudden departure from the organization, announced yesterday, may have been intended to quash an IPOA investigation of the firm's conduct in Iraq, specifically relating to the September 16 shootings in Baghdad, which killed 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded 24 others. According to the press release:

On October 8, 2007 the IPOA Executive Committee authorized the Standards Committee to initiate an independent review process of Blackwater USA to ascertain whether Blackwater USA's processes and procedures were fully sufficient to ensure compliance with the IPOA Code of Conduct.

Yesterday, I spoke with Doug Brooks, the IPOA's founder and president. He assured me that Blackwater's decision to withdraw from the organization had not been the result of an internal IPOA disciplinary process. He went on to praise Blackwater for its cooperation, saying "they've been quite open with us."

Nevertheless, Blackwater's decision appears to have had the intended effect: According to a source with knowledge of the IPOA's internal deliberations, the group's investigation of Blackwater's conduct has now been cancelled.