Political MoJo

Anti-War Protesters Arrested In Colorado Springs

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 1:49 PM EDT

Seven Iraq war protesters who had a permit to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade in Colorado Springs were arrested Saturday for refusing to cooperate with the police. The protesters wore green "peace" shirts and carried signs that said "Kids Not Bombs" and "End This War Now." Despite the possession of a permit, the marchers were halted by police when parade organizers saw their signs and asked the police to intervene.

There were about 45 people in the group--Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission--and, according to the Colorado Springs police, most of them left when they were told to. However, a small group sat in the road and were "escorted off." One woman sustained a minor leg injury as she was dragged off, a retired priest was taken in a chokehold, a taser gun was pointed at the protesters, a police officer broke one of the signs over his knee, and a good time was had by all.

The protesters say they marched with the parade last year without any trouble. The parade organizers, who say they have no memory of the protesters' having marched before, permit political candidates to march, but "It is our goal not to turn this into a confrontational political atmosphere."

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Experts: We are NOT Fighting al Qaeda in Iraq to Avoid Fighting it Here

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 1:43 PM EDT

A good article in the Washington Post today debunking the idea that if we don't fight al Qaeda in Iraq, we'll be fighting al Qaeda in the United States.

You see this argument all the time. "If we fail there, the enemy will follow us here," says President Bush. "I am convinced that if we lose this conflict and leave, they will follow us home," says Papa McCain. It has always seemed unlikely to me that a bunch of young men with nothing but grenade launchers, IEDs, and the advantages of fighting guerrilla-style on their home turf would be able to launch a coordinated and sophisticated attack overseas -- much less on the most well-protected country in the world -- but now the experts have weighed in, and that instinct is correct.

What's the main reason we're unlikely to see al Qaeda in Iraq turn their attention to the United States? First, it's doing so damned well in its own country:

"In a year, AQI went from being a major insurgent group, but one of several, to basically being the dominant force in the Sunni insurgency," said terrorism consultant Evan F. Kohlmann. "It managed to convince a lot of large, influential Sunni groups to work together under its banner -- groups that I never would have imagined," Kohlmann said.

Second, al Qaeda's leadership in Iraq is Iraqi, and it cares much more about determining the fate of its home country than taking pot shots at the U.S.:

...al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has undergone dramatic changes. Once believed to include thousands of "foreign fighters," it is now an overwhelmingly Iraqi organization whose aims are likely to remain focused on the struggle against the Shiite majority in Iraq, U.S. intelligence officials said.
...AQI's new membership and the allied insurgents care far more about what happens within Iraq than they do about bin Laden's plans for an Islamic empire, government and outside experts said. That is likely to remain the case whether U.S. forces stay or leave, they added.

Third, al Qaeda in Iraq is not on the best of terms with Osama bin Laden's worldwide al Qaeda operation, and likely won't take marching orders if they involve some kind of attack on the U.S.:

...under [former AQI leader Abu Musab Zarqawi's] leadership, AQI was frequently estranged from al-Qaeda, and its separation has increased since his death last year.

Fourth, it is much easier for al Qaeda to organize major attacks in the lawless region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"As people around the world sign up to fight jihad," the intelligence official said, "before they were always going to Iraq. Now we see more winding up in Pakistan."
As al-Qaeda recoups its numbers and organizational structure in the lawless and inaccessible territory along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, it is seen as having little need for major bases in western Iraq, where the flat desert topography is ill-suited for concealment from U.S. aerial surveillance.

What this means is that while a threat to the United States does come from al Qaeda, it comes from operatives outside of Iraq. You know, the ones we could be chasing down if we weren't bogged down in Iraq trying not to get shot in the crossfire of a civil war. So preventing an attack on the United States has little or nothing to do with our success in Iraq -- in fact, it has more to do with disentangling ourselves from Iraq and turning to the War on Terror. So, Messrs. Bush and Mccain, let's put that twisted little piece of warmongering rhetoric to bed.

U.S. Attorney Firing May Be Connected to CIA Corruption Probe

| Mon Mar. 19, 2007 10:12 AM EDT

Yesterday, McClatchy reported that new evidence indicates the firing of former San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam could have been related to a CIA corruption probe. Dianne Feinstein, one of the Democrats spearheading the Senate investigation into the mass purge of eight U.S. Attorneys preoccupying Washington right now, said that Lam notified the Justice Department that she had "intended to execute search warrants on a high-ranking CIA official as part of a corruption probe the day before a Justice Department official sent an e-mail that said Lam needed to be fired." The motivation behind the firings of these federal prosecutors has been central to both the House and Senate investigations of the cases (the DOJ has flip-flopped numerous times over why exactly the prosecutors were forced to resign) and the motivation behind Lam's firing has been even more mystifying. As I wrote last week, new evidence revealed that Lam may not have been fired for her successful prosecution of Duke Cunningham, which was widely been believed to have been the reason she was forced to resign.

This week the DOJ is set to release more documents thought to have further information related to the firings and the Bush administration will announce whether it will assert its executive privilege and not allow Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and other officials to testify. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has made clear that whether the administration asserts this privilege or not, the committee will subpoena them and that "he is 'sick and tired' of the administration's changing rationale for the firings."

"Don't Ask Don't Tell" Equals 4,000 Troops Lost Each Year

| Sun Mar. 18, 2007 5:12 PM EDT

A new report out from UCLA's Williams Institute, finds that since DADT went into effect in 1994 the armed forces have missed out on 4,000 troops each year, in attrition and dismissals, and they continue to each year that the cryptic policy is in effect. And that doesn't even include the potential recruits lost because of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

So let's get this straight: One in five Americans think that gays shouldn't serve in the military. The chairman of the joint chiefs General Peter Pace, citing homosexuality as immoral, agrees with the DADT. And our potential presidential candidates, are cagey on the issue.

Frankly, gays in the military should be a place where everyone agrees, morality aside. The wholesale acceptance of gays in the military has nothing to do with morality or lifestyle acceptance; it's a practical no brainer. It is a matter of—as the Army has demonstrated as their recruitment numbers have floundered—national security.

The Army has decided that it's okay to allow convicted felons and neo-nazis to serve, and its been loosening recruitment standards for years in order to patch together a surgeable workforce. (The Army now allows clinically obese plebes to enlist and and for the first time ever recruits with recent asthma and ADD.) All in the name of Army Strong.

In fact, the military has granted a record number of "moral waivers," handed out to one in 10, 8,129, new recruits last year. In the past three years more than 125,000 moral waivers, for everything from vehicular manslaughter, to DUI, to robbery and assault, were granted throughout the four branches of military service. So having 125,000 new enlistees who have immoral conduct on their record is fine, but enlistees who say they are gay is not?

Finally, since when is the military and its warriors held up to any standard of morality anyway? If we are really going there, and morality is on the table when it comes to military actions, homosexuality should be the least of Pace's worries.

Right Wing Backs Terrorist When His Target is Ex-Prez Carter

| Sat Mar. 17, 2007 3:46 PM EDT

Remember the buzz about anonymous commenters damning their luck that the attempt in Afghanistan on VP Dick Cheney's life was unsuccessful? In fact, several commenters on my post yesterday about Donald Rumsfeld's recent hospitalization have accused me of wishing the former Secretary of Defense dead.

Well, in the spirit of tit for tat, I call your attention to Glenn Greenwald's blog post on responses at the major conservative blog Little Green Footballs to news that among the many—too many—things that KSM has confessed to was a plot to assassinate Carter. (How old is this guy?)

Greenwald's post is worth reading in its entirety, but here are a few of the choicest comments:

Can we furlough him--just so he can realize the Carter plot? Please? /Is this wrong?

Can we trade Carter to get the WTC and it's occupants back?

#31 Earth2moonbat Can we trade Carter to get the WTC and it's occupants back? Yes. Absolutely. We won't get them back in the trade, but we will have gotten rid of Carter, so there is still a net benefit.

Really, why would Islamic terrorists plan to kill Jimmy Carter...the man is their best friend.

"Mohammed also admitted to planning assassination attempts on former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter." Even this schmuck had some good ideas.

Here are some supporting the torture that almost certainly, err, facilitated KSM's catch-all confessions:

But they got those confessions through torture! And worse than that, they probably hurt his feelings too.

They probably gained those confessions through brutal torture - you know, panties on the head and all.

Little Green Football's blogger-in-chief Charles Johnson has already blocked the link from Greenwald's post (which took time, Greenwald points out, that Johnson could have used to delete the comments), so check them out before they're gone.

FAA Backs Down: Reinstates Inspector Fired for Talking to MoJo

| Fri Mar. 16, 2007 9:54 PM EDT

Mike Gonzales, the FAA inspector who had been on administrative leave for almost ten months, is back at work in the FAA's Scottsdale, Arizona, office. Gonzales, you may remember, was notified that the FAA had begun termination proceedings against him for supposedly "abusing his position" by escorting a Mother Jones reporter into a TIMCO aircraft-repair facility without identifying his guest as a journalist. The allegation was BS, as Frank Koughan, the reporter in question, demonstrated in this story, which features sound clips that clearly refute the FAA's allegations.

The irony is that the FAA could have avoided all this simply by letting its employees talk to Mother Jones in the first place. But instead they would only allow FAA staff to speak in their capacity as representatives of their union. Mother Jones honored that agreement, only to have the FAA harass staff who did speak to us. The original story on the FAA, "Waiting to Happen," painted a picture of an agency that is in bed with the industry it is supposed to regulate: By trying to muscle out one its own staff in order to protect the repair facility, the FAA only confirmed that its customer is the aircraft industry, not the flying public.

Adding to the outrage, remember that Gonzales was on full pay for the nine and half months he was placed on leave, a waste of taxpayer dollars that could have been better spent on letting him inspect aircraft!

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Breaking: Rumsfeld Underwent Heart Procedure

| Fri Mar. 16, 2007 7:03 PM EDT

rumsfeld.jpgPolitico is reporting that Donald Rumsfeld was held overnight in the VIP unit of Washington Center for a heart procedure. He was released yesterday. No more information is available, but we'll keep you posted.

Mainstream Media Catching Up on KSM Doubts

| Fri Mar. 16, 2007 5:22 PM EDT

Ah, the blogosphere is again one day ahead of the MSM. Yesterday, when news of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's confessions came out, Jim and I expressed our doubts. Now we're seeing the same sentiment in the AP, TIME, and Newsweek.

Robert Baer, CIA agent extraordinaire and popular author, writing in TIME:

On the face of it, KSM, as he is known inside the government, comes across as boasting, at times mentally unstable. It's also clear he is making things up. I'm told by people involved in the investigation that KSM was present during Wall Street Journal correspondent Danny Pearl's execution but was in fact not the person who killed him. There exists videotape footage of the execution that minimizes KSM's role. And if KSM did indeed exaggerate his role in the Pearl murder, it raises the question of just what else he has exaggerated, or outright fabricated...
Although he claims to have been al-Qaeda's foreign operations chief, he has offered no information about European networks. Today, dozens of investigations are going on in Great Britain surrounding the London tube bombings on July 7, 2005. Yet KSM apparently knew nothing about these networks or has not told his interrogators about them.
The fact is al-Qaeda is too smart to put all of its eggs in one basket. It has not and does not have a field commander, the role KSM has arrogated.

Michael Hirsh, who has broken some important scoops on the Iraq War, writes in Newsweek about how the KSM case is a perfect illustration of how not to fight a war against terror:

Had the case been handled properly, KSM's confession to plotting 9/11 and many other actual or planned terror acts could have made him a "showcase defendant" for America's cause, rallying support and allies around the world. "He could have been charged within six months of his detention and prosecuted in a proceeding, which would have added to the reputation of our country for justice," says [Scott] Horton[, a human rights attorney.]
Instead, the legal black hole is only getting deeper. The transcript released Wednesday night indicates that KSM's references to his previous treatment are all carefully redacted. [John] Sifton [of Human Rights Watch] and others say the redactions clearly indicate that KSM was referring to his secret interrogations—during which he might well have been physically abused. The question of whether such dubiously extracted testimony could be used in any legal proceeding will probably prolong his case for years to come.
Sifton notes, accurately, that the administration has been wildly inconsistent over the past six years. Some terror suspects are held without recourse to habeas corpus at Gitmo; others have been prosecuted in the U.S. courts. In one case involving a Pakistani father and son living in New York, Saifullah and Uzair Paracha, the two have been treated completely differently. "The young Paracha is in federal prison. The older is at Gitmo," said Sifton. (The father, Saifullah, was arrested in Bangkok; his son in the United States, both on suspicion of agreeing to help an Al Qaeda operative sneak into the United States to carry out a chemical attack.) "There are no principles guiding this. It would be fine if the "war on terror" were just a metaphor, but it's not," says Sifton.

And the AP:

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's claims that he was responsible for dozens of successful, foiled and imagined attacks in the past 15 years relies on a loose definition of the word "responsible." Officials say the 9/11 mastermind was key to some plots but a bit player in others...
While there apparently is truth in much of the statement, several officials said, there's also an element of self-promotion. They view the claims as at least in part a rallying cry to bolster his image and that of al-Qaida...
One official cautioned that many of Mohammed's claims during interrogation were "white noise" — designed to send the U.S. on wild goose chases or to get him through the day's interrogation session.

Look -- KSM is a nasty, nasty dude. I said as much when I blogged about him yesterday. And I'm sure he's guilty of enough to be executed a dozen times over. But when the military releases a statement from a terrorist mastermind owning up to every unresolved high-profile terrorist act over the last ten years and releases with it no photos, no video, no audio, and no corroborating evidence, I have questions. I think, given the Bush Administration's record of being forthright with the nation, we all should.

Update: Colleagues report that the mainstream media began debunking KSM's claims as early as yesterday morning. So, kudos to the appropriate parties. I only found the print articles today, which led to this blog post.

Valerie Plame to Congress: I Was Covert

| Fri Mar. 16, 2007 2:46 PM EDT

One of the unresolved issues of Plamegate is whether or not Valerie Plame was covert when she was outed as a CIA agent in Bob Novak's column. Conservatives have long maintained that she was not (Sean Hannity earlier this month: "She did not meet the criteria, in any way, shape, matter or form as a covert agent.") and have speculated that because no one was ever charged with revealing the name of a covert agent, Plame must not have met the strict definitions of "covert" under the law. Reporting from over a year ago said that Plame did covert work within five years of the leak, but was unlikely to do any more.

Well, for what it's worth, Valerie Plame went before Congress today and said that she was in fact covert. She's in a position to know, obviously. ThinkProgress has video, but her statement was:

"In the run-up to the war with Iraq, I worked in the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA, still as a covert officer whose affiliation with the CIA was classified."
"While I helped to manage and run secret worldwide operations against this WMD target from CIA headquarters in Washington, I also traveled to foreign countries on secret missions to find vital intelligence."

Update: A congressman is claiming that CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden recently told Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) explicitly that "Ms. Wilson was covert."

The Ethanol Debate

| Fri Mar. 16, 2007 12:59 PM EDT

Maybe Fidel and Hugo aren't so dumb! Stanard Schaefer in Counterpunch points out that the ethanol binge already has driven corn prices through the roof and, now wrapped in the Bush (and most Democrats') free trade mantra, promises to earmark corn in the developing world for export, thus, removing land from the production of food.

"There are other potential problems," he says. "In Indonesia, ancient forests are being burned up to make room for oil-palm biofuel. They're already digging up the rainforests in Brazil to plant soybeans that will be used in NutriSystem microwavable food packages designed to help fat Americans lose weight. As demand for ethanol increases to be equal to current oil consumption, it is almost guarantees forests will be dug up in the Global South to plant more sugar cane, since after all that is where it grows best. How then can ethanol be called carbon neutral when it will increase deforestation, when its promoters such as BP are notorious human rights violators, when companies such as BP are under a grand jury investigation for spilling 267,000 gallons of oil in Prudhoe Bay?"