Mojo - September 2007

Republicans Can't Find the Cash to Campaign

| Thu Sep. 27, 2007 1:57 PM EDT

From The Blotter:

A crucial GOP fundraising committee is nearly broke, according to its latest monthly filing with the Federal Election Committee last week.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) reported $1.6 million in cash on hand and $4 million in debts as of Aug. 31. The group helps bankroll House campaigns for GOP candidates.
Its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, reported $22.1 million, more than 10 times its Republican counterpart.

For the record, I don't call that "nearly broke." I call that "completely broke" or "in debt."

Each party has two other organs, in addition to the House campaign committee.

Senate Republicans are in a state of relative poverty, also. The National Republican Senatorial Campaign has just over $7 million on hand, according to the new filings. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has more than $20 million.
While the Democrats' new congressional majority appears to have sapped much of the GOP lawmakers' fundraising power, its national group, the Democratic National Committee, still lags behind its Republican counterpart.
The RNC reported raising $57.3 million so far this year, with $16 million on hand, while the Democratic National Committee raised $36.8 million so far this year, with $4.7 million on hand.

It's worth pointing out that these trends are seen with the presidentials as well. The top Democratic candidates, Clinton and Obama, are murdering the top Republican ones in the fundraising department.

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New Report Says Private Military Contractors Hurt Counterinsurgency Efforts

| Thu Sep. 27, 2007 1:06 PM EDT

Long before the latest Blackwater flap, Brookings scholar P.W. Singer has been highlighting the dilemmas and legal loopholes presented by America's increasing reliance on private military contractors in para-military, peacekeeping, and post-war security operations abroad.

Singer sends a new report on this issue today (.pdf), Can't Win With 'Em, Can't Go to War Without 'Em: Private Military Contractors and CounterInsurgency.

Top lines: "Not only is the use of contractors actually undermining [counterinsurgency] efforts," Singer writes, "but the end result is that the military can no longer carry out its core mission of winning the nation's wars."

Worth reading alongside my colleague Bruce Falconer's profile of a PMC lobbyist in Washington. Also check out R.J. Hillhouse's blog, The Spy Who Billed Me, about, you guessed it, the outsourcing of a growing number of U.S. military and intelligence functions, often well beyond the realm of oversight.

Why Can't We Close Guantanamo?

| Thu Sep. 27, 2007 12:09 PM EDT

Robert Gates began arguing for the shuttering of Guantanamo as soon as he took office as the Secretary of Defense. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has always agreed with him. In May 2006, President Bush told the German press, "I very much would like to end Guantanamo." In June 2006, he told the American press, "I'd like to close Guantanamo."

So why is Gitmo still open? What force within the national security apparatus is keeping the Guantanamo Bay prison, a national disgrace and monument to how America has lost its ideals, open for business?

It's the Vice President's office, of course. Therein lives Cheney and Cheney's chief lawyer, David Addington, perhaps the most powerful man in the country when it comes to determining this country's approach to balancing rights and security.

Gates acknowledged as much when he went before Congress yesterday and reiterated his desire to close Guantanamo, but said he was unable to do so because "I was unable to achieve agreement within the executive branch on how to proceed."

So if you didn't know, now you know: everyone in the government, including the Secretary of Defense and the President himself want to close Gitmo, but can't because Cheney and his minions are powerful enough to keep it from happening.

Intelligence Manipulation Alleged

| Thu Sep. 27, 2007 11:17 AM EDT

Newsweek reports:

A leading House Democrat has charged that congressional Republicans promoted "bogus" intelligence about a reputed terror threat on Capitol Hill last summer, inflaming debate over the Bush administration's proposal to dramatically expand the U.S. government's electronic surveillance powers.
Rep. Jane Harman, who chairs a key homeland-security subcommittee, has provided new details this week about an alarming intel report in August that warned of a possible Al Qaeda attack on the Capitol. The report, which was quickly discredited, was circulated on Capitol Hill at a critical moment: just as the administration was mounting a major push for a new surveillance law that would permit the U.S. intelligence community to intercept suspected terrorist communications without seeking approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
In the days before the vote on the surveillance bill in early August, the U.S. Capitol Police suddenly stepped up security procedures, and one top Republican senator, Trent Lott, seemed to allude to the report when he claimed that "disaster could be on our doorstep" if the Congress didn't immediately act. Inside the Congress, "there was a buzz about this," Harman told NEWSWEEK. "There was an orchestrated campaign to basically gut FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act], and this piece of uncorroborated intelligence was used as part of it."

Yet another example of the deeply cynical and dangerous way this administration and its supporters have manipulated the public, citing hyped and bogus terror threats for short term political gain. Good for Jane Harman for calling her colleagues on it.

More from Marcy Wheeler who noted Harman's comments a few days ago.

Nixon Hated the Jews: Even More Evidence

| Thu Sep. 27, 2007 11:16 AM EDT

Slate just got its hands on some old Nixon-era memos, and wow, did Nixon ever hate those Jews. I guess we already knew that, but the degree to which he tried to root Jews out of the federal government was new to me. The good stuff starts on page two of this article.

Report: Saddam Was Willing to Accept Exile Before Invasion (!!)

| Thu Sep. 27, 2007 10:09 AM EDT

Diane mentioned in a blog post yesterday that the Spanish newspaper El Pais claims to have a transcript of a pre-war meeting between George W. Bush and then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. The transcript, El Pais says, shows Bush was determined to invade Iraq regardless of what happened at the U.N. and in the international diplomatic community.

According to a fuller treatment in the Washington Post today, Bush said a lot more than that.

First of all, Bush was apparently uninterested in a report out of Egypt that Saddam Hussein would accept exile rather than see Iraq invaded. "Saddam Hussein signaled that he was willing to go into exile as long as he could take with him $1 billion and information on weapons of mass destruction," says the Post. Bush was not impressed. No indications are given that the administration discussed the possibility.

Also, Bush had nothing but disregard and disgust for foreign leaders that opposed the invasion. Then-French President Jacques Chirac "sees himself as Mr. Arab," said Bush. Others could be, and should be, strongarmed into support. Then-Chilean President Ricardo Lagos "ought to know that the Free Trade Agreement with Chile is waiting for Senate confirmation and that a negative attitude on this could endanger ratification," Bush warned. "Angola is getting money from the Millennium Account, and those agreements could also be in danger if they don't show themselves to be favorable. And [Russian President Vladimir] Putin ought to know that his attitude is endangering relations" with Washington. Bush does not come off as a man who seeks war as a "last resort," as he said publicly so many times before the invasion.

El Pais is a leading Spanish newspaper. It opposed the war. There has been no independent verification that the transcript, which was allegedly prepared by Spain's ambassador to the United States, is legit. According to the Post, El Pais will not reveal how it obtained the transcript.

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Sunni Insurgents Launch Assassination Campaign

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 4:04 PM EDT

It began with the September 15 killing of Abu Risha, a Sunni tribal leader in Iraq's Anbar province who had been cooperating with U.S. troops against Al Qaeda in Iraq, and who had met with President Bush only a week before his death. Since then, Sunni insurgents have continued with targeted killings of other tribal leaders, police chiefs, police officers, and other Interior Ministry officials. The New York Times reports that in the last 48 hours alone, insurgents have staged 10 attacks, killing eight and wounding about 30 others. From the Times:

The latest outbreak of violence closely follows the concerted efforts of President Bush and Gen. David H. Petraeus to portray the American troop "surge" as having succeeded in bringing more stability to Iraq. Iraqi officials said Tuesday that the attacks might well have been intended to blunt that message.
"The main reason behind all these attacks are the signs of improvement of the security situation mentioned in the Crocker-Petraeus report," said Tahseen al-Sheikhly, the Iraqi spokesman for the security plan, in a reference to the recent Congressional testimony of General Petraeus and the American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker. "The terrorist groups are just trying to say to the world that the report did not reflect the reality of the security situation in Iraq."
Mr. Sheikhly played down the recent violence, though, saying the groups were seeking publicity to compensate for their inability to conduct major offensive operations, which have been sharply curtailed by the surge.
Indeed, the enormous car and truck bombs that plagued Baghdad for so long have been absent in recent weeks. But the string of attacks this week served as a reminder of the insurgency's persistence, particularly in areas outside of Baghdad and its environs.
In addition to the attack on Monday in Diyala, insurgents struck in Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk, Falluja, Kut and Samarra. The strikes occurred primarily in mixed areas of Shiites and Sunni Arabs or in exclusively Sunni Arab areas where there is fighting between Sunni Arab tribes and extremist groups like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Each attack on its own would hardly be notable, since almost every day in Iraq brings a few roadside bombings and shootings, but so many attacks singling out similar victims suggest a more concerted campaign.

El Pais Publishes Transcript of 2003 Bush/Aznar Discussion: Invade Iraq

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 2:27 PM EDT

El Pais, the major Spanish daily newspaper, just published what it professes to be a transcript of a private discussion between George W. Bush and Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar that took place on February 22, 2003 at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. El Pais says that the transcript was prepared by Spain's ambassador to the United States, Javier Ruperez.

In their alleged conversation, Bush states that "if there was a United Nations Security Council resolution or not....We have to get rid of Saddam. We will be in Baghdad at the end of March." He also said that the takeover of Iraq would occur "without widespread destruction," and that he was willing to play "good cop" to then-British prime minister Tony Blair's "bad cop" (some of us may have trouble sorting that one out).

Throughout the conversation, Aznar calls for caution, but Bush tells him "My patience is exhausted."

Notable quotes:

"We can win without destruction."

"I am the one [who] has to console the mothers and the widows of [the dead]."

And one I will leave as translated by the Spanish translator because it actually sounds like Bush himself:

"We are developing a package of humanitarian aid very hard."

A Million More Marches

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 2:23 PM EDT

Abner Louima, Rodney King, Amadou Diallo. Now the Jena 6, black people speaking truth to the power of undisguised racism, the good old proveable, Movement-y kind.

They came together as one as they like to do once a decade or so, then got back on their long haul buses and went home. No doubt, the kente cloth and waist-lengths 'locks were glorious to behold as they rode home in triumph. To dangerous neighborhoods, underperforming schools, and obese kinfolk praised for prefering prayer to prescription meds. Or, perhaps, to continue being an "only;" only black in the neighborhood, only black in management, only black in the Philosophy Department. The only black who's sick of one-shot wonder marches, rallies and protests? Sick of preformatted analyses which gloss over black quiescence or perfidy (OJ, anyone?) and unerringly conflate the forest with the trees?

Let's get this out of the way: what happened to the Jena 6 was heinous, non-blacks should be reexamining their hearts, and heads should be rolling Nifong-style. I'm as happy as the next Negro to stick it to the man (I'm on record as saying I'd have thrown a rock, just one and into a bush--more of a tossing if you will--after the Rodney King verdict had I been an Angeleno), but this wasn't exactly Selma and these brothers weren't exactly the Scottsboro Boys. Folks should go to jail for stomping a random (and lone) person into the ER, white or not, nooses or not. Not for attempted murder, of course not, but aggravated battery sounds about right, especially when you factor in that the stompee was not, as far as we know, one of the noose hangers. And when we have it on good authority that Jena High also boasts "black bleachers" where honkies fear not tread. Racism, and its effects on the ground, is rarely simple.

If you didn't know about the bleachers, you probably don't know this either: the names of the true inheritors of the Civil Rights Movement, the brave students who sat under the "white tree". Note that they first asked, and received, permission to do so. Something tells me that there would have been no march last week, no year of unrelenting "Afro-sphere" agitation , had the school refused them permission and no black took it on himself to kill whitey in revenge. Anti-black racists aren't the "only" ones who have a use for black oppression, the same oppression to which the black community continues to apply anachronistic, gotcha!, 60s-style tactics.

Sorry, but if Jena doesn't lead to a re-embrace of non-violence when confronting racism and inequality, it's not what Rev. Sharpton deemed the "beginning of the 21st-century civil rights movement;" it's vigilantism. If it doesn't lead to a sustained re-focus on non-symbolic tactics aimed not at white guilt but at black uplift, it'll have to be written off as mere masturbation: feels good but doesn't produce life. We dont need another movement, not if it's focused on the doings of outsiders. Instead, we need to hunker down for a community-wide soul searching of the Chinese re-education camp variety designed to help us figure out what our role in America's racial morass is and what our response to the continuing existence of systemic racism should be. I remember when the untalented Jackson sister LaToya made news for having multiple plastic surgeries to "improve her career." Arsenio Hall mused, "I'm thinking: why not singing lessons? I'm with Arsenio.
Slate put it best: wrong poster children, sorry analysis of the problem.

I made no effort to get to Jena. Instead, I spent that time reading worthy analyses of the proveable, addressable, effects of racism in the criminal justice system. These bespectacled economists and sociologists are downright radical. They already knew that racism filled our prisons; now they're proving how it affects America at large. They're doing more good on Capitol Hill making these "tough on crime" politicians change gears than all the buses in Jena.

The 1960s Civil Rights Movement had to be about what whites were doing to us. Any modern movement needs to be focused inward, on what blacks are doing to themselves or what we're failing to pragmatically respond to.

If you want to stick it to the man, let's police our own neighborhoods. Let's snitch. A lot. Let's make our schools so good they're suing us to get in. Let's take care of ourselves and outlive the bastards. Let's stop using corporal punishment as our primary means of child discipline, limit their TV time and read to them every night. Any one of these will do more for us than a thousand Jenas.

Too bad they don't involve TV crews and tussling with white folks. Then it would be done with a quickness.

Terror Overhaul at the FBI

| Wed Sep. 26, 2007 1:49 PM EDT

From this morning's Washington Post:

The FBI has begun the most comprehensive realignments of its counterterrorism division in six years so it can better detect the growing global collaborations by terrorists and dismantle larger terrorist enterprises, according to senior bureau officials.
The bureau will merge its two international terrorism units -- one for Osama bin Laden's followers and the other for more established groups such as Hezbollah -- into a new structure that borrows both from Britain's MI5 domestic intelligence agency and the bureau's own successful efforts against organized-crime families, Joseph Billy Jr., the FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism, said in an interview.
The new approach is meant to channel raw intelligence and threat information through "desk officers" with expertise on specific world regions or terrorist groups, allowing those experts to spot trends and set investigative strategies for field agents and joint terrorism task forces that collaborate with local law enforcement, Billy said...
Borrowing from its mob-busting strategies in the 1980s, the bureau will encourage counterterrorism agents to forgo immediate arrests when an imminent threat is not present, allowing the surveillance of terrorism suspects to last longer. The aim is to identify collaborators, facilitators and sympathizers who increasingly span across multiple groups and countries, Billy said.

Could it be that the FBI is finally learning to play this game? It's going to funnel information to people who actually know what they're talking about and who can help make informed decisions about how to proceed? They're going to wait longer to bust people to see if they can catch more and bigger fish? I don't know what was going on there until now, but this has got to be progress.