Bush and Iran: Preparing Us for the Worst, Part I

Posted December 26, 2006 on 4:56 pm | In the category Iran, Press, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff
Below is Part I of a December 18 Statement by Flynt Leverett, former Bush White House official on Iran and Iraq. It repeats – in more detail – coments made by Mr. Everett in the Ny Times Op Ed pages last week. It is useful to remember the deception and lies used by Bush to gain support for his Iraq fiasco while reading this. Part two follows in the next posting to this blog.
Part I of the December 18 Statement by Flynt Leverett, former Bush White House official on Iran and Iraq:
     “Since leaving government service in 2003, I have been publicly
critical of the Bush administration’s mishandling of America’s Iran policy
— in two op-eds published in the New York Times, another published in the
Los Angeles Times, an article published earlier this year in The American
Prospect, and a monograph just published by The Century Foundation, as
well as in numerous public statements, television appearances, and press
interviews. 

     All of my publications on Iran — and, indeed, on any other policy
matter on which I have written since leaving government — were cleared
beforehand by the CIA’s Publication Review Board to confirm that I would
not be disclosing classified information.

     Until last week, the Publication Review Board had never sought to
remove or change a single word in any of my drafts, including in all of my
publications about the Bush administration’s handling of Iran policy.
However, last week, the White House inserted itself into the
prepublication review process for an op-ed on the administration’s
bungling of the Iran portfolio that I had prepared for the New York Times,
blocking publication of the piece on the grounds that it would reveal
classified information.

     This claim is false and, I have come to believe, fabricated by White
House officials to silence an established critic of the administration’s
foreign policy incompetence at a moment when the White House is working
hard to fend off political pressure to take a different approach to Iran
and the Middle East more generally.

     The op-ed is based on the longer paper I just published with The
Century Foundation — which was cleared by the CIA without modifying a
single word of the draft. Officials with the CIA’s Publication Review
Board have told me that, in their judgment, the draft op-ed does not
contain classified material, but that they must bow to the preferences of
the White House.

     The White House is demanding, before it will consider clearing the
op-ed for publication, that I excise entire paragraphs dealing with
matters that I have written about (and received clearance from the CIA to
do so) in several other pieces, that have been publicly acknowledged by
Secretary Rice, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former Deputy
Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and that have been extensively
covered in the media.

     These matters include Iran’s dialogue and cooperation with the United
States concerning Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and
Iran’s offer to negotiate a comprehensive “grand bargain” with the United
States in the spring of 2003.

     There is no basis for claiming that these issues are classified and
not already in the public domain.

     For the White House to make this claim, with regard to my op-ed and at
this particular moment, is nothing more than a crass effort to politicize
a prepublication review process — a process that is supposed to be about
the protection of classified information, and nothing else — to limit the
dissemination of views critical of administration policy.”

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The surprise winner in Canada

Posted December 9, 2006 on 10:53 am | In the category Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

So it turns out that the Liberal party of Canada decided at the last minute that Michael Ignatieff had made a few too many strange remarks, had identified himself too closely with too many strange US policies and had ultimately not shown that he deserved to be catapulted over the line of long-serving candidates seeking the position of head of the Liberal Party and future Prime Minister of Canada. A quick survey by one of the Mackenzies shows that there is general satisfaction with the result across Canada, except among the separatistes in Quebec.
Nobody could be less in cahoots with the Bush regime than the winner, Stephan Dion. Here we have a highly intellectual and very French political professor with ten years of political service under his belt and an impeccable record as the minister of environment responsible for Canada’s signing of the Kyoto Accord, which the current conservative governement is attempting to weasel its way out of. Dion won’t win a seat in Alberta where all the oil is, but he’ll win some in British Columbia and the Maritimes. The big quesion is whether Ontario can warm up to someone so French and whether the separatistes in Quebec, who dislike Dion because of his commitment to Canada, can ruin his chances in Quebec. But the Mackenzie Brothers once spent a week with Dion in Iceland and are ready to predict that the man’s basic decency and
honest humility (certainly very unfrench qualities for a politician), combined with his eloquent French and heavily accented English will prove to be a tough challenge for the Alberta-dominated Conservatives when it comes to the vote in Quebec. Could be even a tougher challenge for the Bushmen if they have to sit down and deal with Dion as prime minister and Ignatieff as foreign minister.

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Iran Study Group and Iran in Wonderland

Posted December 7, 2006 on 9:39 pm | In the category Iran, Iraq, Press, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

This just in from our correspondent in New Zealand:
The NY Times’ last 2 graphs of its main ISG story on thursday are strangely disjointed as if the writer had omitted a connective graph between them.
From the Times: “Critics of the panel’s conclusion called the approach naïve. “The study group is threatening to weaken a weak government,” said Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, one of the groups that helped sponsor the study group, which was established by Congress. And, he added: “There is no ‘Plan B.’ The report does not address what happens if events spiral out of control.”
(missing paragraph)

The most controversial element of the diplomatic strategy is the panel’s case for engaging Iran, though Mr. Baker and Mr. Hamilton, the chairmen, acknowledged in an interview that they thought it unlikely the Iranians would cooperate. Mr. Baker insisted that even if that effort failed, “the world would see their rejectionist attitude.”

It is believed that the omitted middle graph would have read something like this:

“An un-named ISG advisor, who wanted anonymity in order to keep his balls and still be able to sleep at night, told this reporter that Plan B in fact consisted of “events spiraling out of control”. “Once we regionalize the political conflict and further weaken any Iraqi institution that might get in the way of total anarchy then the world will see that rejectionist Iran needs a spanking.” This source acknowledged that there was controversy among the ISG’s “old geezers” about how explicit to be with “this most controversial element. “

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The Iraq Study Group’s Shell Game

Posted December 7, 2006 on 9:29 pm | In the category Iraq, Politics, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

Turns out that the Iraq Study Group (ISG) is a colossal shell game. Most of what they recommend won’t work and therefore Bush could argue for doing whatever he comes up with – for instance, bombing Iran, a favorite tactic of his neocon friends and one consistent with his schoolyard bully persona.

I was struck by Baker and Hamilton’s inability in their TV interviews to mention that this particular “Iraq problem” exists only because Bush created it. And what of the Orwellian idea that we need to punish those incompetent Iraqis who do not seem able to fix what we created and totally screwed up? So therefore we pick up our game pieces and go home? But not right away because we need a bipartisan solution  – that is, one in which no one in America need take responsibility for what has turned out to be perhaps the most destructive American foreign policy blunder in the country’s history.

And the ISG can’t come out and say any of that because the president might get pissed off and do something truly nutty just to show everyone who is in charge: mucho macho presidento.

There was a time in the not so distant past when bipartisan support of foreign policy was a centerpiece of American political life and it worked fairly well. Bush has destroyed that for now and perhaps forever. He lied the country into this fiasco, the members of Congress lay down and let him run over them, and Bush has refused to discuss options for over three years while Iraq burned and American soldiers died. And he is psychologically unprepared to take responsibility for this massive foreign policy failure.  We have not had a truly bipartisan foreign policy since the late 80s and are in desperate need of strong, intelligent leadership.

Anyone watching today’s press conference of Bush and Blair has to wonder whether the President is beginning to spin off this planet into a universe all his own. It was not pretty. Look for it on C-Span.

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Putin’s Russia and Terrorism

Posted December 5, 2006 on 10:54 pm | In the category Russia, Terrorism | by Jeff

Anne Applebaum has published an excellent piece on the deterioration of Russian democracy – and more serious issues – in today’s Slate. Beginning with the recent nuclear murder of Alexander Litvinenko, Applebaum looks backward through other murders of critics of Russian President Putin, considers the enormous corruption of state resources taken by old KGB friends of Putin, and remembers the suspicious bombing of Russian apartment buildings which led to Putin claiming to join the so-called war on terrorism, which gave him carte blanche to wage war on Chechnya. And then there is the matter of the first known act of nuclear terrorism that just might have been committed by our Russian friends.

Rather than repeat here Applebaum’s impressive list of what is wrong with Russia in 2006, I refer you to her piece.

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George Will: Miss Manners to the Political Stars

Posted December 5, 2006 on 6:32 pm | In the category Press | by Jeff

I have always been puzzled by the notoriety of George Will. His writing is pompous, self-important, obtuse, and almost always off in defense of whichever Republican is in or near the white House. He has a history of dishonest journalism, kissing up to Republican presidents and slapping down anyone suggesting there are wrongs to be righted. He once wrote a speech for President Reagan and then complimented Reagan on the speech in a TV news broadcast – forgetting to mention that he was its author; he writes silly, yuppie sports columns on his adorable Chicago Cubbies, and he is one of the last defenders of the current President. Recently he turned into a Miss Manners, commenting on the egregious sins of Senator-elect Webb who refused to follow the George Will Book of Polite Suck Ups in dealing with President Bush.

I am grateful to one John Hanchette for alerting me to a recent Will column. Hanchette’s aptly-named piece, PRISSY PANTYWAIST GEORGE WILL POUTS OVER WAR HERO’S OFF-THE-CUFF REMARKS, appeared in a weekly, the Niagara Falls Reporter, and is a wonderful and entertaining description of Will’s foibles as a journalist, analyst and writer. Read it and laugh.

It is unfortunately symptomatic of the state of American journalism that a solid criticism of Will appears in a small weekly while the big boys and girls of media go about the business of slapping each other on the back. Will pontificates in sanctimonious terms in Newsweek, the Washington Post and on Sunday morning TV talk shows. He is a triple threat polluter.

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Iraq Reality vs. President Bush

Posted December 1, 2006 on 6:34 pm | In the category Iran, Iraq, Press, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

In an earlier posting to this blog the point was made that as a lameduck president George W. Bush has nothing to lose other than whatever shreds of dignity might cling to him. We now await the Baker-Hamilton report which is widely reported to include recommendations for phased withdrawal of American troops as well as direct negotiations with Iran and Syria. But we are in the Bush universe and President Bush will commit to neither while his pal Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki, says he is ready for both and Iraqi President Talabani has just concluded a visit to Iran where he received a commitment of $1billion for reconstruction.

The only point here is that we have a president who simply refuses to recognize reality. Indeed, he is reminiscent of President  Nixon when he went bonkers in the aftermath of Watergate. So the danger is real that as leader of the free world, Bush will stay the course in Iraq, bomb Iran and ignore Syria while Lebanon burns.

Since a strike at North Korea’s nuclear sites would risk the death of hundreds of thousands of South Koreans Bush is unlikely to act there – but he is equally unlikely to open direct one-on-one negotiations without getting some concessions in advance – which is not really negotiating at all.

Some, including most of the press, ignore the fact that leaders have psychologies and that these can drive actions. Stubborn commitment to failed policies, an unwillingness to recognize or address reality, an inability to hear differing points of view, a refusal to admit mistakes – these are all characteristics of a person we would not trust with a business let alone an entire nation.

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