Let’s Get Fooled Again!

As we blithely stumble toward a nuclear confrontation with Iran, two more favorite Bush lies were put to rest this week. The first is the absurd notion that “everything’s just great” in Iraq, only Katie Couric and her co-horts in the “Main-Stream-Media” won’t report it. The second is the oft-quoted Bush lie that he “listens” to his military. Six retired generals came out this past week and called for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign, basically for gross incompetence. Here are the six, several of whom were directly involved in Rumsfeld’s Excellent Adventure, and none of whom are known Michael Moore fans:

General Anthony C. Zinni, United States Marines Corps, former Commander in Chief of United States Central Command (CENTCOM).

Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, former Director of Operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Read more about him in this week’s TIME Magazine.

Major General Charles H. Schwank Jr., Commander of Army 82nd Airborne Division, led ground troops in Iraq.

Major General Paul D. Eaton, was head of training for the Iraq military 2003 – 2004.

Major General John Batiste, former commander, 1st Infantry Division in Iraq.

Major General John Riggs. Read about his demotion and forced retirement here.

Here’s some of Newbold’s article:

In 1971, the rock group The Who released the antiwar anthem Won’t Get Fooled Again. To most in my generation, the song conveyed a sense of betrayal by the nation’s leaders, who had led our country into a costly and unnecessary war in Vietnam. To those of us who were truly counterculture–who became career members of the military during those rough times–the song conveyed a very different message. To us, its lyrics evoked a feeling that we must never again stand by quietly while those ignorant of and casual about war lead us into another one and then mismanage the conduct of it. Never again, we thought, would our military’s senior leaders remain silent as American troops were marched off to an ill-considered engagement. It’s 35 years later, and the judgment is in: the Who had it wrong. We have been fooled again.

Meanwhile, massive planning is underway, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons, for regime change in Iran.

Cyril Rugby is cyberkrunk’s senior political correspondent.

Dubya, Dubai and the 1993 WTC bombing

You would hardly notice it for lack of coverage, but thirteen years ago today was one of the most important days in the history of New York. On February 26, 1993, Ramzi Yousef set off a bomb in the parking garage of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Yousef’s goal was to bring down the building, but instead he succeeded only in killing 6 and wounding about 1,000. This failure hardly deterred the men behind this attack. Eight years later, Yousef’s uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and many others came and finished the job on the day that we now all know as 9/11.

In 1998, al-Qaeda set off synchronized bombs in the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 258 and wounding about 5,000. President Clinton responded to this with several cruise missile strikes which, history has shown, were on a scale that was too small to disrupt al-Quaeda operations. In February of 1999, however, Clinton had an opportunity to strike at an extremely high value target: al-Quaeda leader Osama bin Laden himself. Intelligence had verified bin Laden’s exact location, and a cruise missile strike was perfectly feasible. They had the clear shot. The strike was abandoned however, because intelligence also showed that bin Laden’s hunting companions on that day included members of the Royal Family of the UAE.

The UAE was formed by a coalition of 6 Persian Gulf states in 1971, with a 7th added in 1972. Dubai is one of these member states, or emirates. The country has a population of about 3.5 million in an area less than the state of Maine. The UAE is governed as a federation, essentially run by the royal families of each of the emirates. There is no democracy there to speak of. The UAE, and Dubai in particular, is a both a financial and travel hub in the region. Dubai also served as both a financial and travel hub in the events of 9/11. 11 of the 19 highjackers entered the US from Dubai and half of the money used to carry out the 9/11 attacks was wired to the US from Dubai banks. In addition to this, 2 of the highjackers were themselves natives of the UAE. The UAE recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and does not currently recognize the legitimacy of Israel. (The last point troubles the Bush administration much less than the fact that Hamas does not recognize Israel.) In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the UAE was, at first, less than cooperative with the efforts to track al-Quaeda money flows through the Dubai banking system.

It’s rather strange, then, that we now face the prospect of a company directly controlled by the government of the UAE operating six of our largest ports on the East coast. That company is Dubai Ports World, and the ports in question are New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Miami. And it should surprise no one that the Bush administration is now facing a heavy backlash over the idea of ceding management of the port of New York to a country indirectly, but inextricably, involved in 9/11.

How exactly did this come about? That’s the easy part. It is not, as some news reports almost seem to imply, the case that someone in the Bush administration woke up one morning and thought to himself, “Dubai should really be running our ports.” No, in fact it’s just a simple case of some global M&A activity: DPW is acquiring British-owned Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, or P&O as it is known. P&O currently operates the ports in question. If the deal goes through, DPW would become the world’s third largest port operator (Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa is number 1 and Singapore’s PSA is number 2). This deal is scheduled to complete on March 2, altough DPW has now agreed to a 45-day security investigation. DPW asserts that, even though the deal will have already been completed while the investigation is conducted, it will keep management of the American ports at arms length, leaving British executives to run them.

The fact that no one in the administration had the judgement to get in front of this issue should, again, surprise no one at this point. Instead, the sory was brought to light and framed by people highly suspicious of the deal, CNN’s Lou Dobbs chief among them. The Bush administration has become increasingly tone-deaf politically and through mishandling the response to this issue, risks losing broad public support for its stance on security, its strongest remaining political asset. And once again, we see that the White House has lost the unflinching, universal support among Republicans that had been its other chief asset. Indeed, several Republicans, including Representative Peter King of NY, have been among the most vocal opponents of the deal.

In all likelihood, the deal will go through. If nothing else, all this hooplah will at least serve to remind us that port security is one of the biggest challenges we now face. We should not need an imbroglio to remind us of this; the issue should already be front and center. But then again, we should not have to be reminded that 13 years ago today al-Qaeda first struck New York and we did too little in response.

Cyril Rugby is cyberkrunk’s senior political correspondent.

Quack!

Time of death, Oct 14 2005. And even though it seems like Mr. Bush is well into his second term of office, we have to remind ourselves that it has only been nine months since he had his title upgraded from “President” to President. So what makes me say it’s over? It’s not because Mr. Bush’s major second-term policy initiative, his social security reform, was first booed and then laughed off the stage. No curiously, it is the Miers nomination that has seemingly removed from Mr. Bush his greatest political strength: unanimous, constant, unwavering support from his base, his party and the punditry. The same voices who would have praised Bush’s consistency, his steadfast courage if he had shown up for a press conference with his pants on backwards (“Once I put on my pants, I stay the course”) have let loose an unprecedented barrage of criticism over the Miers choice. Miers was some kind of signal to, especially I think, those inhabiting the stranger end of the bedfellow spectrum–traditional conservatives–that is was ok to let the boss know that he had really stepped in it this time. I will save an analysis of this for a later time, but for now let me simply say “God bless mid-term elections!”

The Crisis in Leadership

“It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV “storm teams” warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

“But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

“The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

“Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

“When did this calamity happen? It hasn’t—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.”
–National Geographic, Oct 2004.

“I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”
–George W. Bush, Good Morning America, Sept. 1 2005

Rock ‘n Roll politics

A while back I celebrated my long-delayed Karaoke debut. This took place appropriately enough in “Music City, USA”. Nashville certainly earns that title, covering as it does that wide stylistic expanse from Country to Western.*** Up on stage, S.Fo and I performed My Generation (my choice) and LA Woman (his choice). Both songs are probably revealing of something or other. Leafing through the giant binder full of songs, I flipped past one page with about a third of the page blacked out. At first, I just continued browsing, but the blackened section piqued my curiosity, compelling me back to figure it out. Wild Turkey in hand, doing my best darkened Honky-Tonk 1:00 a.m. Wednesday squint, I gradually began making out letters behind the magic marker. When the mystery was revealed, I was hit with a wave of queasiness. In a move confounding authoritarian jackassery with patriotism, someone had blackened out all the songs by The Dixie Chicks.

What reminded me of this funny and sad incident is the new story about Sweet Neo Con, the new Rolling Stones tune that tells president Bush what the Glimmer Twins really think of him. Now, instead of three young Southern women criticizing Bush, you have the full force of the British Rock ‘n Roll empire launching an attack. And funnily enough, the calls for burning their album in the street haven’t been heard. The calls to ban Start Me Up from football games. And while it’s generally true that bullies don’t like to pick on people their own size, I suppose I can imagine another defense, Scott McLellan informing us that “The United States does not interfere with the Rock and Roll of sovereign nations.”

So more often than not, Rock and Rollers are part of the VLWC, and of course most C&Wers are Ditto-Heads, but there are plenty of notable exceptions. We have the Dixie Chicks on the one hand, and Johnny Ramone on the other. We saw the documentary “The End of the Century” last night. If you’re the kind of person who has read “Please Kill Me”, you need to see this movie. Just like the book, the story of the Ramones is interesting and surprisingly sad. Much of the movie focuses on Johnny, for two practical reasons 1) he was still alive (unlike Joey) and 2) he wasn’t strung out (unlike Dee Dee). Joey had succumbed to Cancer at age 49. In 2001, Dee Dee ODed at age 49 in 2002, two months after the film wrapped, and Johnny made it all the way to 55, losing out to prostate cancer in 2004. Johnny comes off as a humorless, fairly bitter, generally not fun to be around kind of guy. Which is a shocker, but you realize that without his level-headed discipline, the never would have survived for as long as it did. Johnny was the enforcer. He made them practice, he made them dress alike, he made them tour like maniacs, he kept tight reins over their finances. And because they were all such complete misfits, they stuck together, realizing they would collapse without each other.

Even though they hated each other.

Johnny had a revealing and unfortunate Spinal Tapian moment when, reflecting on Dee Dee quitting the group, he utters words to the effect that the band would have been exactly the same with another bass player, another drummer and… another singer. For Johnny, it was all about Johnny. For the rest of us, of course, the Ramones are all about Joey. We already know what the Ramones would sound like with out Joey: Green Day, Blink 182 or take your pick of a few dozen other imitators. And I’m not buying any of them. Johnny and Joey’s bitterness had many sources, not the least of which was Johnny stealing Joey’s girl and marrying her. (The KKK took my baby away.) Politically, they were polar opposites with Joey playing the New York Jewish Left-wing Woody Allen type, and Johnny on the Right. Johnny took time to praise president Bush during the band’s induction in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But I like to think that at that moment, in Rock and Roll heaven, Joey and Rock ‘n Roll Jesus glanced at each other, rolled their eyes and smiled.

***Evidently, I never tire of that joke.

Positing an alternate reality

August 6th was the anniversary of two days of infamy. About August 6th, 1945, the title of a book I read as a teenager sums it up: “The Day Man Lost”. More recently, August 6th 2001 was the day that President Bush, on vacation at Crawford TX, received the infamous Presidential Daily Briefing that warned of bin Laden’s intentions. Having ignored bin Laden up to that date in his presidency, on that day he continued to do the same and finished off his vacation.

Here is the portion of the PDB that has been declassified (emphasis mine):

Bin Laden determined to strike in US

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and “bring the fighting to America.”

After U.S. missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, bin Laden told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a — — service.

An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told – – service at the same time that bin Laden was planning to exploit the operative’s access to the U.S. to mount a terrorist strike.

The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of bin Laden’s first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the U.S.

Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that in —, Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own U.S. attack.

Ressam says bin Laden was aware of the Los Angeles operation. Although Bin Laden has not succeeded, his attacks against the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Laden associates surveyed our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.

Al Qaeda members — including some who are U.S. citizens — have resided in or traveled to the U.S. for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks.

Two al-Qaeda members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our embassies in East Africa were U.S. citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a —- service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full-field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.

Re-reading the last two paragraphs, does it not seem that Condolezza Rice committed perjury during her testimony to the 9/11 commission? Up until that moment, we all had heard rumors of the Aug 6 PDB, but until she uttered it, we didn’t know the now famous title. Rice’s filibuster-style testimony was full of protests to the effect that the Aug 6 PDB was “historical” and didn’t warn of coming attacks. To wit:

Rice: You said, did it not warn of attacks. It did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.

Peace out…

Enron

I’ve been spending the past week with Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow and the whole gang from Enron.

It began Sunday afternoon, when I saw a screening of “The Smartest Guys in the Room,” the new documentary based on last year’s book.

So what really felled Enron? Was it hubris? Greed? Well, yes of course, they played a part–they are the cornerstones of American enterprise, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. No, the downfall of Enron was mostly about bad business practices and worse management, not nearly as exciting but twice as deadly in the business world. Yes, there was also criminal activity involved, but it was the poor management that allowed the criminal activity to play such a huge role in bringing down the company.

It’s perfectly natural for a young executive like Fastow, motivated by hubris and greed, to propose hare-brained schemes which, so he thought, would benefit the company while making him obscenely rich. What is un-natural, pathological, is that all the control measures carefully put in place to protect against such idiocies were so consistently subverted by the company’s management.