The Deaf Claque

Because they’re worth clapping for…probably…

Ron Suskind’s Interview on NPR

Tonight OPB aired an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ron Suskind whose new book, The Way of the World, came out this past Tuesday, August 8th. In it, he puts forward harsh allegations against the Bush Administration based on credible sources–the most important of which are on the record–with respect to misleading the American people on the path to war.

The interview follows. Click here then click on the “Listen now” button on the top of NPR’s page.

August 7, 2008 Posted by | Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Impeachment, Iraq War, Journalism, Terrorism, The Media, White House | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Phase 2: Senate Report on Pre-war Intelligence

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Phase 2 of the Senate Report on Pre-war Intelligence was released this past Thursday. In a press conference about it’s release, Senator Jay Rockefeller stated that, “In making the case for war administration officials distorted the facts or were not supported by the facts, and said that they knew or should of known were not true.

The Huffington Post is sadly one of the few news sources that really covered it. Below is an excerpt, kind of the meat of it:

“the breadth of the Committee’s citations of examples in which the Bush administration’s comments were not supported by intelligence could reignite public dissatisfaction over the war. According to a release from Rockefeller’s office that was provided to The Huffington Post, these examples include:

— Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

— Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

— Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.

— Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.”

June 11, 2008 Posted by | Congress, George W. Bush, Iraq War, Jon Stewart, Nathan Schmitt, Senate, The Media, Video, White House | , | Leave a comment

Signing Statement: National Defense Authorization Act for 2008

By Nathan Schmitt

Vodpod videos no longer available.

On January 28, 2008, President Bush signed into law National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Searchable) (H.R. 4986) along with a signing statement effectively giving himself the power to ignore sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222. Here is a quick summary of these four sections:

§ 841 “established a commission to be known as the `Commission on Wartime Contracting'” that is essentially in charge of investigating defense contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

§ 846 Provides “protection for contractor employees from reprisal for disclosure of certain information” relevant to violations of law regarding such defense contracts.

§ 1079 States that the various heads of Intelligence must deliver requested Intelligence information, within 45 days of such a request, to one of the congressional Committees on Armed Services.

§1222 Prohibits the use of alloted funds for the creation of permanent military bases in Iraq or for the U.S.’s “control of the oil resources of Iraq.”

I’m not quite sure from whence the President claims this authority because he does not explicitly (or implicitly) state why he thinks he has such power. There are however three constitutional provisions that speak directly to this question:
Art. I, § 8, ¶ 12: Congressional Enumerated Powers:

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years[…]

This provision vests the power of Military Appropriations specifically in Congress.

Art. I, § 8, ¶ 18: Necessary and Proper Clause:

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution [the powers] vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States […]

This provision states (along with Art. I, § 1, ¶ 1) that Congress is the sole legislative body and that it has the power to make laws that it deems necessary and proper to uphold the Constitution.

Art. I, § 7, ¶ 2 & 3: The Presentment Clause:

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated […]

This clause lays out the process which a bill must go through to become a law.

The first provision clearly implies that the President does not have the power to overlook Section 1222 of H.R. 4986. It really doesn’t get any more black and white: the power of military appropriations was vest explicitly and distinctly to Congress and the President’s signing statement is therefore in direct conflict of the Presentment Clause.

As far as the other three sections that the President posits to negate, the language of the Presentment Clause is very clear in stating “If he approve[s of the bill] he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections.” This is not a debate of any kind, I’m simply at a loss. The President assumes the power he does on the basis that he wants it, and not on any Constitutional provision, law, statute, case, precedent, etc…

Wow…

February 13, 2008 Posted by | Bills, Committee on Oversight, Congress, George W. Bush, House of Representatives, Impeachment, Iraq War, Jon Stewart, Nathan Schmitt, Presidential Vetos, Video | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bush Defends Mukasey, While Attacking Congress

By Theo O’Brien

 

Click Here for Speech (External Video)

In a speech today (original source) before the Heritage Foundation, President Bush plead for the confirmation of Michael Mukasey while scolding Congress for what he considers a lack of progress and support for the troops deployed overseas.

 

Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey’s recently struggled with Democrats over his definition of torture. In his speech the President rose to the defense of his nominee reasoning that the acceptance of Mukasey as Attorney General is key to America’s safety against terrorism.

 

The job of the attorney general is essential to the security of America. The attorney general is the highest ranking official responsible for our law enforcement community’s efforts to detect and prevent terrorist attacks here at home.” (1)

In response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s continued pressure for a more revealing insight into the legality of the United States’ interrogation techniques by Mr. Mukasey, the President had this to say:

Finally, he does not want any statement of his to give the terrorists a window into which techniques we may use and which ones we may not use. That could help them train their operatives to resist questioning and withhold vital information we need to stop attacks and save lives.” (1)

President Bush recently vocalized his disapproval of Congress, chastising the fact that they have not sent him a War Spending Bill yet. Today, he again called on Congress to allocate the funds necessary to fund the Iraq war.

 

Congress is also stalling on the emergency war supplemental to fund our troops on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq. This crucial bill includes funds for bullets and body armor, protection against IEDs and mine-resistant ambush-protective vehicles.” (1)

He also spoke adamantly of the need to pass other bills to support the troops fighting in Iraq currently, and those who have returned.

Congress also needs to pass the Department of Defense spending bill, as well as a funding bill for our nation’s veterans.

There are reports that congressional leaders may be considering combining the funding bills for our military and our veterans together with a bloated labor, health and education spending bill.

It’s hard to imagine a more cynical ploy than holding funding for our troops and our wounded warriors hostage in order to extract $11 billion in wasteful Washington spending.” (1)

This has been the latest of a string of pleas by the President for financial support of the war, highlighted by his recent criticism of Congress as having “the worst record for a Congress in 20 years.” (2)

November 1, 2007 Posted by | Congress, George W. Bush, Iraq War, Theo O'Brien | , , , | Leave a comment

“The Describer”: A Speech About a Speech

By Nathan Schmitt


The President gave a speech today, but earlier in the day he gave a preview. I thought this was rather odd on multiple counts:

President Bush:”I wanted to highlight the speech I’m giving today to Heritage. I’m concerned that there are some who have lost sight of the fact that we’re at war with extremists and radicals who want to attack us again. Part of the speech is to remind people that even though we haven’t been attacked since September the 11th, there’s still an enemy out there that would like to attack us.” (1)

First and most trivial, this is another example of the President as “The Describer.” That was just kind of funny. The content of this introductory paragraph was a bit less funny. I have a hard time reading the President: does he genuinely believe that people have forgotten about the possibility of terrorist attacks as he claims or is there another motive? It would be unfair for me to say either way since I’m by no means George W. Bush so I won’t.

In addition to that, I would suggest that this is a scare tactic. It’s impossible to determine whether or not the use of this tactic was consciously motivated; surely, it would be rather cynical–and more importantly, irrelevant–to assume so. Regardless of the intent of the President, it has the same effect on the population. Rather than basing an argument for war on rationale and logic, scare tactics seek to use emotions overtake one’s logic.

Please recognize that this is not a criticism of the President himself. Such examples of non-rational, non-logical discourse must be pointed out regardless of where they appear.

November 1, 2007 Posted by | General Discourse, George W. Bush, Iraq War | , , , | Leave a comment

The People Pay for the War: What Did You Expect?

By Nathan Schmitt

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) hates this ‘misbegotten, stupid, ill-advised’ Iraq war. He won’t even consider President Bush’s latest war funding request until next year. And he wants to tax Americans to pay for it.

“I (David Obey) went to Nancy a week before we did it, and I told her: ‘Nancy, I’m gonna do two things. One of them you’re gonna like, and one of them you’re not,” Obey said. He told her he wouldn’t take up Bush’s funding request for Iraq until next year. “And she said: ‘I like that. What won’t I like?’ ”

She doesn’t like that war tax. ‘We don’t go forward lightly when we’re talking about a tax on all the American people,’ Pelosi said. No problem — Obey will introduce the tax proposal anyway on Tuesday. (1)

Says an article a week ago from the Washington Post.

A war tax huh? Well, it’s certainly not a surprise. I can’t say I’m excited about the possibility of this tax, and I can’t even begin to form an opinion about it because there are so many factors pulling me in every direction.

On one hand, it seems like it’s completely permissible, if not necessary by this argument: The American people are responsible for the war in Iraq. As much as people hate to hear it, and as much as it sounds like I’m ragging on all of us (which I’m not), it’s hard to argue against. If you think we live in a democracy, then it’s pretty straight forward: the decisions of the representative government reflect the values of the people. If you look at the United States (from what is in my opinion a more realistic point of view) as a democratic constitutional republic the same representative argument still holds. In addition to that, it is written into the Declaration of Independence that,

“When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards of their future security.” (2)

Don’t think I’m implying support for a government overthrow or anything, this is just to show that the responsibility of the people is no new idea. In addition to that, the government itself is made up the people. There is nothing different about politicians and lawmakers except that they are people put in positions of power their peers.

At the same time, it is true that political figures can misuse power in such a way as to misrepresent the population they supposedly represent. In any case, it completely misses the point to blame at this point. There are countless factors that play into the responsibility for this war and it unrealistic and unfair, not to mention counterproductive, to try to narrow it down to one or two parties.

I guess the point is this: can the society responsible for such an absurdly costly war rightfully deny their economic responsibility to it? Regardless of whose fault it is, the responsibility of the action rests on those who permitted it, as well as those who carried out the actions. I’m not making an assertion either way, just think about it.

October 27, 2007 Posted by | Economics, General Discourse, House of Representatives, Iraq War, Nathan Schmitt, Tax | , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq War Costs

By Nathan Schmitt


Lets take a look at the monetary costs of the war, and lets let economist Mark Thoma give us a hand. This piece of his includes text from the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) cost of war testimony:

Including both funding provided through 2007 and projected funding under the two illustrative scenarios, total spending for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other activities related to the war on terrorism would amount to between $1.2 trillion and $1.7 trillion for fiscal years 2001 through 2017.” (1)

That is a pretty amazing amount of money. And out of who’s pocket?

Also from Mark Thoma:

According to this, there is an additional $700 billion in interest expenses bringing the total (under the $1.7 trillion dollar scenario) to $2.4 trillion.” (2)

October 26, 2007 Posted by | Economics, Iraq War | , , , | Leave a comment

Private Security Contractors: Now $4 Billion from the State Department


The New York Times published a story today that explores the drastic increase in State Department spending (federal money) for private security contracts over the past four years, which now stands at a little under $4 Billion. Here is this year’s State Department budget in brief, and here is next years budget as it stands now (recall that Bush requested an additional $45.9 Billion earlier this week).

The largest problem seems to be the lack of ability of the State Department to manage all of these contractors. I discussed this yesterday with respect to a possible private contractor oversight program.

“State Department contracting officials complain that they do not have nearly enough people to properly oversee the more than 2,500 contractors now under their informal command around the world. And a proposal to charge contractors a fee to pay for additional government compliance officers has stalled in the State Department bureaucracy.” (1)

In the past, for the most part officials have done little to try to submit contractors clearly in the wrong to any sort of reasonable justice process. This example stuck out to me:

Congressional investigators say the security bureau has sought to minimize episodes like the shootings of civilians.

‘We are all better off getting this case — and any similar cases — behind us quickly,’ one State Department security official in Iraq wrote to another, after Blackwater guards killed a father of six in Hilla in 2005, according to an internal State Department memo turned over to Congress. He recommended paying the man’s family $5,000.” (1: Page 2)

Monetary compensation of $5,000 for irresponsible behavior that resulted in death hardly seems equitable. In any case, this and similar examples aren’t near this level of contemplation because there first has to be some recognition of accountability before specific terms can be discussed.

October 24, 2007 Posted by | Blackwater, Department of State, Economics, Iraq War, Private Security Contractors | , , , | Leave a comment

“The Things They Carried” minus O’Brien


A few days ago (Tuesday), WaPo published an op-ed written by 12 former Army Captains who all served in during the present war. This article seems to summarize it better than I could hope to:

“Iraqi security forces would not be able to salvage the situation. Even if all the Iraqi military and police were properly trained, equipped and truly committed, their 346,000 personnel would be too few. As it is, Iraqi soldiers quit at will. The police are effectively controlled by militias. And, again, corruption is debilitating. U.S. tax dollars enrich self-serving generals and support the very elements that will battle each other after we’re gone.”

It’s interesting to hear former military personnel say this. This opinion seems so pervasive that I have a hard time believing that Bush genuinely doesn’t understand the situation. Maybe another motive? I’m not conspiracy theorist and its possible that I just don’t want to believe Bush is using is power for personal, ideological ends. Not that he hasn’t done that before, what with “leading” (and it should be noted that you can’t have a “leader “without followers) us into the war and all, but on such a tragic scale…wow…

October 20, 2007 Posted by | Iraq War | Leave a comment