Political MoJo

Jargon Watch: "Long War" Goes the Way of GWOT

| Tue Apr. 24, 2007 2:00 AM EDT

Man, if only the Pentagon put as much effort into winning the war as it does into rebranding its losing efforts.

Remember when
GWOT (Global War On Terrorism) became GSAVE (Global War on Violent Extremism). Well, at least that's what Donald Rumsfeld proposed back in 2005. Evidently, even Bush thought this was stupid.

As for the "long war"—this one was coined by Gen. John P. Abizaid before he retired as head of the Central Command. According to the NYT, "it was intended to signal to the American public that the country was involved in a lengthy struggle that went well beyond the war in Iraq and was political as well as military."

Except, whoops, folks in the Middle East took it to mean that they'd be occupied for a long time. The Times also notes that U.S. officials seem to be using the phrases "Islamic fascism" and "jihadist" less regularly, as they seem to have offended Muslims worldwide, and even helped recruit folks to fight us. (D'oh!) The Pentagon has also dropped "Salafist Extremist Network," presumably because only Juan Cole knew what it meant.

"We continue to look for other options to characterize the scope of current operations," said a Pentagon spokesperson.

SNAFU? Vietnam II? Hundred Years War?

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Handy List of Bushies Who've Left Under Cloud (or Should)

| Mon Apr. 23, 2007 9:57 PM EDT

Thanks AP! (Via WaPo) But you forgot a few. Like Rumsfeld.

• Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in a grand jury investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. His trial also implicated top political adviser Karl Rove and Cheney in a campaign to discredit her husband, Iraq war critic and retired ambassador Joe Wilson. Libby, who plans an appeal, is awaiting a June 5 sentencing.
• Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is fighting to hold onto his job in the face of congressional investigations into his role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Two top aides have resigned in the investigation into whether the firings were politically motivated. Emails and other evidence released by the Justice Deparment suggest that Rove played a part in the process. Other e-mails, sent on Republican party accounts, either have disappeared or were erased.
• Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank and a former deputy defense secretary, acknowledged he helped arrange a large pay raise for his female companion when she was transferred to the State Department but remained on the bank payroll. The incident intensified calls at the bank for his resignation.
• J. Steven Griles, an oil and gas lobbyist who became deputy Interior Secretary J., last month became the highest-ranking Bush administration official convicted in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, pleading guilty to obstructing justice by lying to a Senate committee about his relationship with the convicted lobbyist. Abramoff repeatedly sought Griles' intervention at Interior on behalf of Indian tribal clients.
• Former White House aide, David H. Safavian, was convicted last year of lying to government investigators about his ties to Abramoff and faces a 180-month prison sentence.
• Roger Stillwell, a former Interior Department official, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for not reporting tickets he received from Abramoff.
• Sue Ellen Wooldridge, the top Justice Department prosecutor in the environmental division until January, bought a $980,000 beach house in South Carolina with ConocoPhillips lobbyist Donald R. Duncan and oil and gas lobbyist Griles. Soon thereafter, she signed an agreement giving the oil company more time to clean up air pollution at some of its refineries. Congressional Democrats have denounced the arrangement.
• Matteo Fontana, a Department of Education official who oversaw the student loan industry, was put on leave last week after disclosure that he owned at least $100,000 worth of stock in a student loan company.
• Claude Allen, who had been Bush's domestic policy adviser, pleaded guilty to theft in making phony returns at discount department stores while working at the White house. He was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and fined $500.
• Philip Cooney, a former American Petroleum Institute lobbyist who became chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, acknowledged in congressional testimony earlier this year that he changed three government reports to eliminate or downplay links between greenhouse gases and global warming. He left in 2005 to work for Exxon Mobil Corp.
• Darleen Druyun, a former Air Force procurement officer, served nine months in prison in 2005 for violating federal conflict-of-interest rules in a deal to lease Boeing refueling tankers for $23 billion, despite Pentagon studies showing the tankers were unnecessary. After making the deal, she quit the government and joined Boeing.
• Eric Keroack, Bush's choice to oversee the federal family planning program, resigned from the post suddenly last month after the Massachusetts Medicaid office launched an investigation into his private practice. He had been medical director of an organization that opposes premarital sex and contraception.
• Lurita Doan, head of the General Services Administration, attended a luncheon at the agency earlier this year with other top GSA political appointees at which Scott Jennings, a top Rove aide, gave a PowerPoint demonstration on how to help Republican candidates in 2008. A congressional committee is investigating whether the remarks violated a federal law that restricts executive-branch employees from using their positions for political purposes.
• Robert W. Cobb, NASA's inspector general is under investigation on charges of ignoring safety violations in the space program. An internal administration review said he routinely tipped off department officials to internal investigations and quashed a report related to the Columbia shuttle explosion to avoid embarrassing the agency. He remains on the job. Only Bush can fire him.
• Julie MacDonald, who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service but has no academic background in biology, overrode recommendations of agency scientists about how to protect endangered species and improperly leaked internal information to private groups, the Interior Department inspector general said.

Who else should AP have included on this list?

"I Don't Work For You, I Work For the American People"

| Mon Apr. 23, 2007 5:42 PM EDT

The last time I checked, singer Sheryl Crow and environmental activist Laurie David were Americans, just like me. But according to Karl Rove, he does not have to answer to them because he "works for the American people." Rove was approached on Saturday night by the stars and asked to discuss the president's environmental policy (or lack thereof).

Citizenship issues aside, Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino scolded Crow and David for not showing respect to George W. Bush.

(Here is where I take a break so I can recover from Perino's statement. Why on Earth would anyone who has been paying attention for the last six years want to show respect for Bush? And, as Think Progress says, "...the last time we checked, Karl Rove is not the president.")

But I digress. Perino's next zinger was even better: "The president's record on climate change is very strong."

Right. It is so strong that he has all but demolished the Environmental Protection Agency, encouraged falsification of scientific reports on global warming, removed reports that indicate the seriousness of global warming and the harm being done by pollutors, backed out of the Kyoto agreement, and lied about reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Perino decribes herself as "a strong environmentalist."

Bush's Cocaine Problem

| Mon Apr. 23, 2007 5:40 PM EDT

Mother Jones had a little fun with cocaine in March. Or, what I meant to say was, Mother Jones had a little fun reporting on cocaine in our March/April issue. Jokes aside, we contended that the ambitious and expensive plan enacted in 2000 to eradicate Colombian coca by aerially spraying crops has not significantly reduced cocaine production or the availability of the drug in the United States. In fact, we indicated that as much as 40 percent of the sprayed crops are not coca at all, but rather rainforest or food crops.

Today's American Prospect online augments MoJo's admittedly jaunty foray into the white stuff. Based on the personal stories of peasants in Colombia's cocafied southern districts (well worth a read) and a report released—albeit belatedly—by the State Department itself, the article reveals that even the government's own numbers demonstrate that Plan Colombia hasn't made a dent in the drug trade. And that peasants will continue growing coca—planes be damned—until they are provided with another way to earn money. And they need more, rather than less, money every time their food crops are destroyed.

Let's hear an Amen for Sandro Calvani, director of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime in Bogotá, who observes, "You cannot change a dysfunctional social-economic situation by force alone … The only way to make elimination sustainable is to convince people to make a new life plan. The people must be at the center of the change."

But Calvani's common sense is Bush's anathema. In fact, the Bush administration is increasingly spending its massive Colombian aid package on attempts to corral the cocaine-funded FARC guerrillas, rather than on aid to poor coca farmers or more effective eradication efforts. TAP reports that, while FARC has indeed retreated, the conservative Colombian government is forming ever-tighter alliances with the paramilitary death squads originally formed to fight the guerillas:

Also funded by cocaine and considered terrorists by the State Department, paramilitary forces have fast become some of the country's largest drug traffickers. In other words, U.S. taxpayer money meant to fight the drug trade is funding allies who are, in part, fueling it.

But because the rest of Latin America can't stand Bush, he's stuck with Colombia's corrupt, right-wing, human-rights abusing government. Wow, it feels like déjà-vu all over again! Get ready: We may have to attack Colombia 20 years from now.

Tillman Family, Jessica Lynch to Testify on Capitol Hill

| Mon Apr. 23, 2007 3:48 PM EDT

Tomorrow, Pat Tillman's mother and brother and Jessica Lynch will testify at a congressional hearing focusing on the inaccurate reports of Tillman's friendly fire death in Afghanistan and Lynch's capture and rescue in Iraq.

The Tillman family has been butting heads with the military for years now, all in an effort to get a straight story about Pat's death, and Lynch has openly said that her rescue, once called "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived" was overblown. Should be an interesting hearing.

We covered Lynch in the Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline. See all entries relating to her here. The link provides a pretty good summary of that whole embarrassing drama.

Al-Maliki Says No Wall, No Way

| Mon Apr. 23, 2007 3:14 PM EDT

I blogged on Friday that the U.S. military was beginning construction of a 3-mile long wall to separate the Sunni neighborhood Azamiyah from the Shiite neighborhoods that border it. The story gained traction over the weekend (the New York Times and McClatchy, among others, covered it). A protest scheduled for today also turned up the heat, and Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki put his foot down.

Al-Maliki is touring Sunni countries in hopes of shoring up some regional support for his ailing Shiite government, and, in a joint press conference with the secretary-general of the Arab League, said authoritatively, "I oppose the building of the wall and its construction will stop." American military officials wouldn't confirm that construction would stop, TIME reports, "saying only that all security measures were constantly under discussion." However, the U.S. military did cede to the PM's wishes in October, when al-Maliki—sensibly—objected that barricading off Muqtada al-Sadr's stronghold, Sadr City, would be a recipe for disaster. Al-Maliki's suggestion this time also seems like a winner, since both Shiites and Sunnis oppose construction of the wall.

The Prime Minister, loyal to his American king makers, showed great restraint in alluding only vaguely to the obviously catastrophic history such barriers have had.

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California Representative Dies of Cancer

| Mon Apr. 23, 2007 11:07 AM EDT

Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald, a Democrat from Southern California, died over the weekend. The cause was cancer. Millender-McDonald served seven terms in Congress and recently worked on election reform and the genocide in Darfur.

White House Cutting its Losses on Wolfowitz

| Mon Apr. 23, 2007 9:47 AM EDT

Forty-two former World Bank senior executives have written a letter urging the resignation of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, and if you're wondering if the White House will turn a deaf ear to them the way they have towards the bipartisan calls for Alberto Gonzales' resignation, wonder no longer. According to news reports, the White House has drawn up a list of possible replacements for Wolfowitz. (Maybe it was the fact that Wolfie breached national security for something as silly as getting his lady friend a job.) I found this interesting:

Most prominent on the list is Ashraf Ghani, the man credited with overhauling the economy of Afghanistan after September 11... Such an appointment would mark the first time a non-American has held the position in the 60-year history of the global lender.

If you're wondering why the White House has so much control over naming the head of the World Bank, an international aid organization independent of the United States government, it's because the U.S. and Europe have worked out a sweet deal wherein the U.S. names the World Bank president and the E.U. names the head of the IMF. Asia, who is grossly underrepresented in both organizations, has little say. The situation with Wolfowitz has created calls to revamp this privilege-laden process.

Perle, PBS, and the Iranian Dissident

| Sat Apr. 21, 2007 2:26 PM EDT

A belated heads up to viewers of the PBS America at the Crossroads documentary featuring former assistant secretary of defense Richard Perle, "The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom." Midway through the documentary, Perle takes the film cameras and viewers with him to a Dubai hotel to meet an Iranian dissident who, Perle says, had just escaped from Iran. (In fact, the Iranian, Amir Abbas Fakhravar, had flown out of Tehran airport on a normal commercial flight -- more on that in a moment).

In the documentary, Perle and Fakhravar sit on a couch and Perle uses the young Iranian as a cipher upon which to project his views of why the U.S. should be promoting regime change in Iran. (In a Wired magazine blog review, writer Sharon Weinberger captures the scene: "'Oh my God, is he gonna kiss him?' my husband asked, as Perle gazed affectionately at Fakhravar"). Whatever the merits of the idea, it's worth reading my feature on Perle's chosen Iranian dissident cipher, "Has Washington Found Its Iranian Chalabi: Introducing the Talented Mr. Fakhravar," to get a better feel for just what a Hollywood version of faux reality Perle is basing his beliefs upon -- and potentially dragging the 82nd Airborne with him.

As I wrote:

But Fakhravar may be a false messiah. In interviews with more than a dozen Iranian opposition figures, some of them former political prisoners, a different picture emerged—one of an opportunist being pushed to the fore by Iran hawks, a reputed jailhouse snitch who was locked up for nonpolitical offenses but reinvented himself as a student activist and political prisoner once behind bars. Fakhravar and his supporters vehemently deny such allegations, saying that the attacks are motivated by petty jealousy and a vendetta by Fakhravar's enemies on the Iranian left.
For those like Perle who want the United States to eschew diplomacy in favor of backing regime change, Fakhravar is an essential link in the argument for confrontation with Iran. ... But by choosing Fakhravar, they may have inadvertently accomplished the opposite, exposing the ruptures in the pro-democracy movement and throwing into question the notion that America's problems with Tehran will be solved by a saffron revolution.

As later parts of the documentary show, Perle grew up in in the shadow of Hollywood, and as he says, many of his school friends' parents were blacklisted Hollywood writers. Perle's wishes for the people of the Middle East to enjoy the benefits of democracy may be deeply well intentioned, but reality has not lived up to almost any of his pronouncements about Iraq. The fact that Perle and the PBS film's producers seemingly failed to do any basic fact checking on Fakhravar's story is striking and fits the pattern. As Perle's pre-war expounding about Iraq and ardent championship of Ahmad Chalabi have shown, these things don't often work out according to the movies.