Pelosi Quotes Bush on Timelines

Nancy Pelosi has clearly been planning for the veto we all knew would come on the spending bill for Iraq. Her statement, posted in The Gavel, is razor sharp, clear and concise. You can agree with her, you can disagree with her, but the message is unambiguous.

But even better, Pelosi actually turns George Bush’s past words against him. Apparently, some folks on her team did some digging into George Bush’s past statements and dug up a doozie that I’ve not heard anywhere else in the entire time we’ve been having these debates about timelines:

Constitutional Powers Go Three Ways, Mr. President

John Murtha, responding to the president’s stated intention to veto the new spending bill, posted a hum-dinger in the Huffington Post today.  We’ve been getting hit over the head repeatedly about the president’s supposedly vast and irrefutable “Constitutional Powers.”  Well, Jack reminds us all that the Congress has powers which it must exercise as well:

The Blog | Rep. John Murtha: My Response to the President’s Veto Threat | The Huffington Post

The Constitution expressly places the power ‘to raise and support Armies,’ and ‘to provide and maintain a Navy’ with Congress. It is, therefore, Congress’ responsibility to raise the revenues for our military and to determine in what manner and by what means they shall be spent.

For four years, the president has been waging a war without end and without accountability. The Iraq Accountability Act expresses the sentiment of the Congress and the majority of the American people who say it’s time for a plan to safely and responsibly end the war.

It’s actually an interesting legal question.  If the job of the Congress is to “raise and support” an Army and to maintain the Navy, then certainly they have the obligation to pass such laws as will restrain the president when he’s in danger of over-extending and irreparably damaging that military they are bound to maintain.

But while I support Congressman Murtha’s effort in this instance, it bears mentioning that all wars require such a risk.  If they didn’t, no one would ever lose.  So effectively Murtha is stating that the Congress does, to a great extent, have a role to play in fighting any war.  Maybe not to the extent of a battle-by-battle, movement-by-movement management, but clearly, he is arguing for considerably more active involvement by Congress than the president seems to think is appropriate.

So, the question is: how has this been interpreted by Congresses and presidents past?  I should think that most of the Constitutional War Powers interpretation issues would have been sorted out for the most part during the Civil War, but in fact there are a great many precedents.  However, a great review of the Constitutional falacies (or phallacies, if you prefer) can be found at EPluribusMedia.org in it’s “Top 10 War-Powers Myths”:

Top 10 War-Powers Myths

8. “In the exercise of his plenary power to use military force, the president’s decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable.”

This often-quoted statement is from a memorandum written by John Yoo, an attorney who worked in the Justice Department during George W. Bush’s first term. It implies that the Constitution grants the president absolute powers to conduct war; in fact, the Constitution assigns most war powers to the legislature. Article II makes the president commander in chief of the military. Specific war-making powers are delineated in Article I, which grants Congress these powers:

* To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and offenses against the law of nations;

* To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

* To raise and support armies; however, no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

* To provide and maintain a navy;

* To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

* To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; and

* To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia; and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively the appointment of the officers and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress[.]

By the way, John Yoo’s a dick.  There, I said it.

It’s clear that Congress creates the Army, it’s clear they fund the Army, it’s clear also they are supposed to approve going to war.  What is less clear is what the Congress’ role is in declaring withdrawal or even defeat (despite the screeching of The Right, it is not clear that either term is applicable in this case). 

Certainly in the days of the Founding Fathers, such a thing wouldn’t have been much of a consideration, since battles and wars were typically ended by the destruction of the army.  But in these days and with such a vast Army, a single-battle destruction is simply not possible for the US Army.  We are, in some ways, in virgin territory, here.

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The White House is Losing it’s Grip

. . .  On whatever the hell it had a grip on.  I’m not sure what that was, other than approval ratings. . .

I just got done posting an article about how the Middle East has begun to solve it’s own problems (however feebly) without the White House, now it seems that the Congress has gotten into the act of moving beyond the idiot president and into negotiations with Damascus directly:

White House criticizes Pelosi’s planned Syria visit – CNN.com

“We do not encourage and, in fact, we discourage members of Congress to make such visits to Syria,” said White House deputy spokeswoman Dana Perino. “This is a country that is a state sponsor of terror, one that is trying to disrupt the (Prime Minister Fouad) Siniora government in Lebanon and one that is allowing foreign fighters to flow through its borders to Iraq.

Just wait for the “Hanoi Nancy” comments from The Right.  Trust me, they’re coming.  But this isn’t a celebrity negotiating surrender with the enemy.  This is serious politicians dealing directly with serious issues that the White House simply cannot.  The whole world is doing an end-run around the president.  Sad.  Very sad.

“I don’t know what she is trying to accomplish, and I don’t know if anyone in the administration has spoken to her about it,” Perino said. “In general, we do discourage such trips.”

Yes. We know, that’s why we’ve all stopped listening.

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Peace in the Mid East: The Other Narrative

Always a great report from the TomDispatch.  This one analyzes the diplomatic goings on in the Middle East and the fact that Condi, despite her spin, has had nothing really much to do with any of it:

TomDispatch – Tomgram: Karon, Why Condi’s Diplomacy Should Start with Bush

Mainstream U.S. media outlets were alone in their willingness to swallow the preposterous narratives offered by Rice’s State Department spinners on the significance of her latest diplomatic efforts. For months, we have been reading a fantasy version of American diplomacy in which Rice was at the center of a realignment of forces in the Middle East, building a united front of Arab moderates to stand alongside the U.S. and Israel against Iran and other “extremist” elements. Last week, we were asked to believe that Rice was now about to head back to the region to choreograph a complex and dramatic diplomatic dance that would include such “challenges” as “trying to get the Saudis to talk to the Israelis.” Perhaps none of her aides bothered to let her in on the open secret that the Saudis have been doing that for months — and not under the tutelage of, or at the prompting of, the Secretary of State either.

The lengthy article goes on to describe the political forces unleashed by the Bush Administration that are forcing players in the Middle East as disparate as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hammas and Isreal to begin discussing the problems of their region without the proven-worthless assistance of the Americans.  Now, bear in mind: Conservatives will argue that this was in fact the glorious legacy of the Bush Administration; it’s transformative policy in the region that cooled the passions of a dangerous world.

Bullshit.

And now I know why, seemingly as if to demonstrate my recent post on Bush Administration language abuse, the newest Security Council resolution on the recent seizure of British sailors by Iran includes the language “grave concern.”  This did not get through the Security Council without Bush Administration approval; it’s obvious the Bush State Department is powerless and clueless to stop what is going on and afraid to fan the flames any more than they’ve already done.

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Practiced Non-Reality

It doesn’t get more out of touch than this:

Democratic Leaders to Finalize Iraq Plan – washingtonpost.com

The House Democrats’ plan brought a sharp response from Brian Kennedy, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

“If this is the Democrats’ last ditch effort to appease the ultraliberal wing of their party while appearing to support the troops at the same time, I don’t think they are going to convince either one of any commitment whatsoever,” Kennedy said. “This appears to be political posturing at its worst and yet another attempt to undermine the mission of our troops in harm’s way. The American people are going to see right through it.”

Way to go, dude.  Refer to 70% of the population as “Ultraliberal.”  This proposal is about as watered-down as it gets, and simply asks that the president report his actions without explicitly setting any rules by which the Congress can intervene.  It’s politically embarrasing for the president (assuming he doesn’t use a “signing statement” to neuter it, which he will), but that’s it.

In fact, while I think it’s an OK increment towards a withdrawl, the real question is not whether this appeals to the “ultraliberal,” but whether this is going to impress the middle of our political spectrum.  Will “The Middle” give as much leeway to the Democrats getting us out of the war as they did to the Republicans who got us into it?

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Iraqi VP Wounded, Many More Killed

The below-linked article includes nothing but bad news from Iraq (big surprise, I know).  But the major headline out of this: someone managed to pass a bomb past security at a big-wig convention in Baghdad, killed 12 people and tagged the Iraqi VP:

Iraqi VP wounded, 12 killed in bombing at ministry – CNN.com

Insurgents bombed Iraq’s Ministry of Municipalities building as top Iraqi officials gathered there Monday morning for a celebration, Iraqi officials said.

The attack killed at least 12 people and wounded 42 others, including Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, the officials said.

Mahdi, a member of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq — a powerful Shiite political group — suffered minor injuries to his hand and leg in the blast, SCIRI spokesman Haithem al-Husseini told CNN.

Don’t tell me there wasn’t someone on the insurgent payroll doing security at this gig.  This is huge and either represents a breathtaking failure of security in the middle of Baghdad or a daring infiltration of security in the middle of Baghdad.  Either option is bad, but the second one seems more likely, given what we know of the situation there.

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Guess What? No Evidence. . .

OK, this begins to get a bit silly, actually. . .

U.S. general: No evidence Iran is arming Iraqis – Conflict in Iraq – MSNBC.com

JAKARTA, Indonesia – A top U.S. general said Tuesday there was no evidence the Iranian government was supplying Iraqi insurgents with highly lethal roadside bombs, apparently contradicting claims by other U.S. military and administration officials.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said U.S. forces hunting down militant networks that produced roadside bombs had arrested Iranians and that some of the material used in the devices were made in Iran.

This would seem more of a scandal if only we had not heard this all before.  Time and time again before.  The format never changes.  The Administration forces someone within the Armed Services or some other part of the Executive Branch to make claims that simply cannot be backed up, then within a week, someone else comes out and says that it’s all bollocks. 

It gets to the point where there’s no need for Congressional investigation or even journalistic investigation: all that is required is a week or less of silence, and presto!  The Admin’s full of shit again.  This is fortunate, because we live in a country where Congressional and journalistic investigation are things spoken of in the past-tense.

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Wait, Where Did Gonzales Get His Law Degree From, Exactly?

Gonzo is at it again.  Read the following article and then come back when you’re done.  It’s OK, I’ll wait:

Gonzales Questions Habeas Corpus | BaltimoreChronicle.com

Responding to questions from Sen. Arlen Specter at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jan. 18, Gonzales argued that the Constitution doesn?t explicitly bestow habeas corpus rights; it merely says when the so-called Great Writ can be suspended.

?There is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution; there?s a prohibition against taking it away,? Gonzales said.

I think someone better check the fine print on that supposed law degree of his.  We may find that there is a copyright label from Hasbro.  I have elsewhere commented on this same subject, but shall reiterate again in the vain hope that Gonzales might be reading. . . .

Mr. Gonzo is quite correct on at least one level: the Constitution of the United States does not, in fact, grant the right of Habeus Corpus.  It does indeed only proscribe circumstances under which that right may be suspended.  But neither does the Constitution grant a right to Free Speech, to peaceable assembly, nor any other right that we as Americans enjoy.  The Constitution merely states that “Congress shall pass no law restricting the right to free speech,” and so on.

That a layman on the street would miss this subtle point would be entirely understandable, if lamentable.  That a sitting United States Attorney General misses it is not only unfathomable, it’s dangerous.

The Constitution is predicated on the notions, already spelled out in the Declaration of Independence (and elsewhere):

Declaration of Independence : Indiana Law

. . . that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, . . .

This meaning: the rights of men are preconditions of birth, not the grants of a state.  The Constitution is, therefore, an entirely subtractive document.  It assumes that our rights already exist and seeks only to spell out the rights which are *not* granted to our leaders.  This is a seemingly subtle ~ but substantial ~ shift in logic from what many of us assume.  The Administration further confuses this fact when it reads into the Article II rights of the presidency items for which there is no language, as I have outlined briefly before.

The Constitution takes as, well, “self-evident,” that the rights of men cannot be removed.  In fact, much of the Constitution was written by men who assumed that they need not be spelled out in any document at all, particularly.  That last bit was a major argument in the writing of the Constitution and led to the later adoption of the Bill of Rights over the objections of many.  Among the detractors were men like Alexander Hamilton believed that spelling those rights out was superfluous and moreover dangerous.

Why dangerous?  Because law is a double-edged sword, sometimes.  If the language used in law to describe those rights was too vague in one fashion or too specific in another fashion, someone (like, oh, let’s say, a Texas lawyer named Alberto Gonzales) would use the letter of the law to attempt to constrain the very rights it was designed to uphold.  It now seems as though Hamilton’s great fear is in the midst of being realized as I type.

**  As a side note, let me point out that the single greatest failure of
almost any attempt at creating democracy elsewhere in the world where
that attempt has failed, no less the attempt to create democracy in
Iraq, is that the framers of those Constitutions invariably miss this
point also.  That, and the insistence on putting short term goals such as oil rights into what should be a transcendent document.  **

I still have not made my mind up whether Alberto Gonzales and the lawyers of his ilk are fools or villains, but regardless they have no business running the legal affairs of a dignified country.  Certainly not the United States.

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Egyptian Things To Make You Go, “Oh, Crap.”

Linked through from Political Animal, Abu Aardvark has some interesting and disconcerting observations about what’s going on inside of Egypt.  I’ve highlighted some of the same passages as Kevin Drum did, with some differences as well.

If we can take Egypt as a bell-weather for the rest of Sunni Arabia (which is most of the Middle East), things are looking mighty bellicose on a number of fronts.  It is impossible to tell what any of this means, and when taken all at once, perhaps there is a conspiratorial tone to what we’re hearing that is more an artifact of presentation than reality.  Still, just so you’ve read it (Emphasis mine):

Abu Aardvark: Reflections on Egypt

. . . everyone here seems keenly aware that the United States has backed off of democracy promotion. When Condi Rice came through the country without meeting any civil society leaders or mentioning democracy at all, really, it capped off an already widespread perception that the US no longer cares to promote democracy in Egypt: “the government knows it, the people know it, and the activists know it,” as one person put it to me, and everybody is adjusting their behavior accordingly.

. . . the government’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood (a predominantly Sunni para-political, non-state organization, Ed.) is exceptionally intense, with unprecedented pressure on individual members (or suspected members). Not just people going to jail, but businesses closed and merchandise seized, students prevented from sitting exams, and other escalating repression. There’s a huge amount of anti-MB material flooding the press, including in the leading independent paper al-Masri al-Youm.

. . . anti-Shia stuff is really spreading rapidly, and seems to have the Egyptian government’s approval (at a minimum). Sensational-looking books about the Shia are all over the bookstands, along with stories in the tabloids and scare-mongering editorials. Even in al-Masri al-Yom, op-eds in recent days have (for instance) attacked Bush’s plan for Iraq because it would empower the Shia, who would abolish all forms of Arab identity and seek to unify with Iran.

. . . Why all this anti-Shia discourse now? One popular theory is that the Egyptian government, backed by the US, wants to prepare the ground for confrontation with Iran. By this theory, the government is stoking hatred of the Shia as a pre-emptive move to shape the political space in such a way as to make it hard for Iran to appeal to Egyptian (and Arab) public opinion in the event of a war – and to prevent a repeat of anything like the outpouring of popular support for Hassan Nasrullah last summer. One problem with this theory is that mobilizing anti-Shia anger against Iran simultaneously complicates attempts by the government to support American goals of strengthening a Shia government in Iraq – an irony of which at least some officials seem painfully aware. Another school of thought points to the Iraq war, and especially the Saddam execution video, as fueling anger against the Shia, independently of anything the government is doing. Whatever the case, I’ve seen a lot more anti-Shia discourse than I expected or have ever seen before, and it alarms me.

And, in more entertaining news:

. . .one of the main bookstores in central Cairo is prominently featuring posters for an instant book declaring that “Saddam was not executed” – it was all an American hoax. The guy who hanged was actually one of Saddam’s doubles – the author compares a bunch of pictures of Saddam in power with pictures from the trial and execution, and declares that they are obviously not the same man. It’s a nutty book in every sense of the word… I don’t know how many people (besides me) have bought it, but I saw the poster in a few places.

Cracking down on Sunni and Shia at the same time?  Well, they’re nothing if not versitile.  My guess is that the Muslim Brotherhood represents a genuine political threat to a kingdom that may have half-heartedly moved a little too close to democratic reforms for comfort, whereas scoring points against Shia is a fairly typical easy-friends political clout-getter for something else.  Shia are the minority among Middle Eastern Muslims, and picking on minorities is pretty popular everywhere in the world, even here.  Perhaps they’re right, and this is a prelude to a US-led invasion of Iran.  Even if there is no such thing, though, the time may come soon when Middle East governments will need to become much more actively involved in Iraq.  Perhaps the Egyptian government has just chosen a side.

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New Article: The Iraq Crisis Speech

OK, so it’s about one AM in the morning and I’ve just completed my review of the Bush speech on Iraq for the website.  Below is a link for your edification:

The Iraq Crisis Speech, World and National Politics ~ DragonFlyEye.Net

So far, the plan seems OK on paper. If they can tamp down violence in that city, it would almost be worth considering. However, once you start looking at the numbers, it makes less sense. For one, depending on how you define what a ?Brigade? is numeric terms, the plan calls for anywhere from 36,000 to 72,000 Iraqi police and soldiers. But it bears mentioning that these troops need to be trained, ready to work and most importantly not co-opted by sectarian militias. Part of the problem in Baghdad has always been just this: we cannot rely on that many competent, uncorrupted Iraqi forces.

By-and-large, not enough new to really stir up much support.  Elsewhere this evening, I was amused by watching Keith Olbermann discuss the speech with Joe Scarborough.  Or rather, I was amused to see Joe just keep talking like he was on his own show.  Dude, shut up.

Even better, the journalists there assembled managed to get themselves all turned around with the Dick Durbin Democrat response to Bush’s speech.  In his rebuttal, Durbin said, “You cannot keep calling 9-1-1 and expect to get 20,000 troops.”  Olbermann, Scarborough and Chris Matthews all decided to take the interpretation (which was Joe’s own mangling, which he’s good at) that this was a signal to the rest of the world that the United States will not be the policemen of the world.

We’ll forget for a moment that the Iraqi civil war currently underway is one domestic dispute that the “cops” started.  We’ll also set aside the amusing image of Saddam Hussien in a wife-beater, standing in the spot light, swinging a half-empty fourty around outside of his Florida trailer and swearing at his fat Shiite wife.  You hear me?  Set those aside.

The point is: what Durbin was saying is that the president cannot keep invoking September 11th and expect that the whole country will jump to his demands.  It had nothing to do with the rest of the world, it was a clever (perhaps too clever for journalists) attempt at turning a phrase.  You can imagine how often this is going to get misquoted and misinterpreted going forward.

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This Day in History

In all the futile talk about the Iraq War going on right now, with all the Conservatives retreating into intellectual hiding holes and Democrats wring their hands, it’s just nice to hear about a well-negotiated peace accord.  Not relevant, really, but nice, nonetheless.  Take a step back thirteen years:

BBC ON THIS DAY | 15 | 1993: Anglo-Irish pact paves way for peace

After nearly two years’ negotiation the two leaders, John Major and Albert Reynolds, today stood united on the steps of 10 Downing Street.

The nine-point document gives the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries the opportunity to take part in negotiations for peace if they first agree to observe a three-month ceasefire.

Reaction has been mixed even though this is the furthest the British Government has ever moved towards the possibility of a united Ireland.

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Report? What Report?

Well, could there possibly be anything deader than the Baker/Hamilton Report, these days?  In fact, the funny thing is: things in Washington are so boring during this post-election/mid-holiday season, the only thing there is of interest to talk about is the heaving lump on the floor that is the BHCR.  (I’m going to coin that entirely-useless acronym now.  Who’s going to stop me?  Who really cares?)

The former Knight-Ridder has some peek-sees into the new plan that Bush will unveil after the holidays, and basically, he plans to ignore the commission’s reports altogether.  JMM has some insightful and only moderately snarky comments on the article which are definitely worth reading.  Oh, Bushie wants to step up training of Iraqi forces, but as McClatchy gently reminds all of us:

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 12/14/2006 | Bush weighing deeper commitment in Iraq, officials say

Only a year ago, on Nov. 30, 2005, Bush, under pressure to show progress, unveiled a “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.” Then, as now, he pledged to focus on training Iraq’s security forces.

Oops.  That old thing, again.  Well, let’s set aside all the other concerns for now, and just focus on this one issue: training up the troops.

The bigger problem is that even if they train enough troops to fight a battle, they’re not equipping them and they’re not building the infrastructure.  An army is not simply men with guns and rockets.  It’s also an entire mobile infrastructure of food, water, clothing, shelter, medicine and countless other services which are required.  And that’s just the human element.  There’s an entire Army Corps of Engineers dedicated to making things like bridges and such happen in a war zone (and they make them disappear, too), not to mention the fact that modern military machines rely on telecommunications infrastructure that needs to be setup and maintained.  Ask General “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker about what it’s like to string telegraph lines around Chancellorsville, if you want to get a good sense of what it is to run an army.

Without the tools to provide troops the things they need on the field, you don’t have an army.  You have a bunch of dudes with guns and rockets.  Right now, most of the logistical heavy-lifting is being done by American servicemen.  Until this extremely critical need is met ~ and there does not seem to be any indication that anyone’s all that serious about meeting it ~ the rest is just details.

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