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Obama Administration Set to Cover For Petraeus’ Training Failure

5:03 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

David Petraeus: winner in propaganda, failure in training troops.


On Wednesday, I noted that Senator John Kerry (D-MA) was quoted in the Washington Post pointing out the impossibility of David Petraeus’ plan to train Afghan forces to take over security responsibility in Afghanistan after a US pullout. I predicted a ramping up of the Petraeus propaganda machine kicking into gear to protect Petraeus’ reputation as he prepares to assume control of the CIA in his planned preparation for the presidency. Friday’s Los Angeles Times has a remarkable article where we see that the Obama administration is planning to “scale back” training of Afghan forces under cover of saving money. The Times tries to present this as the administration somehow pushing back against Petraeus’ plans, but it looks to me much more like the administration is covering for the abject failure, once again, of Petraeus’ training myth.

Here is the remarkable passage from Wednesday’s Washington Post on the impossibility of training sufficient Afghan troops to take over security there:

Many have questioned the feasibility of plans to recruit and train as many as 400,000 Afghan security forces to take over once foreign troops depart.“Despite our best efforts, there are challenges — corruption, predatory behavior, incompetence — still evident within the Afghan army and police,” Kerry said. “On top of these problems, there is the question, ultimately, of money, resources.”

That statement by Kerry, where he appears be pointing out failure in Petraeus’ key strategy of training Afghan troops so that we can withdraw ours then leads to today’s article in the Los Angeles Times. The article begins:

After months of internal deliberations, the Obama administration has decided to limit the expansion of Afghanistan’s army and police forces over the next 18 months, largely to hold down the costs of training, equipping and paying them.

If we are to take this at face value, then we are supposed to believe that it’s just too darned expensive to follow the Petraeus plan of training so many Afghan troops so fast. And the Times tries to present this as a difference between what Petraeus wants and what the administration wants:

Petraeus and senior Pentagon officials had pushed to add as many as 73,000 troops to the Afghan force, officials said. Instead, the administration has limited the addition to 47,000, which would bring the authorized Afghan force to a total of 352,000. The U.S. government provides most of the money to recruit, train and pay the Afghan troops.

However, by hiding behind this “it costs too much” excuse, which John Kerry nicely framed for them, the administration is able to provide cover for Petraeus failing miserably, once again, to reach his troop training goal, just as he did multiple times in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. In going out of their way to protect Petraeus’ reputation before he gets saddled with accusations of failing to meet his training goals in Afghanistan, the administration also gets the “bonus” of using the scaled back training as an excuse to “follow” the recommendation that will be coming from Petraeus to scale back the troop drawdown:

They said Petraeus and other senior officers in the Pentagon favor limiting the scale and slowing the pace of any U.S. pullout in order to preserve fragile security gains, especially in the south and east, where the Taliban presence remains strong.

And, of course, by slowing the buildup of Afghan forces, that allows the addition of ever more Friedman units to the date on which our drawdown of troops will be complete. So much for the cost savings from a slower training schedule.

David Petraeus, once again, will be given a free pass for his failure. The Obama administration is going to change the training goals under the guise of scaling back expenses when the underlying reason almost certainly is that Petraeus had zero chance of hitting his stated goal. The punditocracy will once again sing Petraeus’ praise as he takes the reins at CIA. What new failures await him there?

John Kerry at Nexus of Pakistan Relations, Afghanistan Strategy

5:28 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Senator John Kerry (D-MA)

With US-Pakistan relations strained over the US mission that killed Osama Bin Laden and the push by many in Congress to accelerate withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in the wake of Bin Laden’s death, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) finds himself at the nexus of these two vital issues. Recall that Kerry was one of a number of US elected officials who visited Pakistan during the Raymond Davis saga, claiming that he felt his visit would achieve Davis’ release “within the next few days” after his visit. Davis was eventually released four weeks after the Kerry trip. Today, we see Kerry featured prominently in the news for his plan to visit Pakistan again in an attempt to repair damage to US-Pakistan relations arising from the Bin Laden mission and for his statements suggesting that a new Afghanistan strategy is now needed.

Reuters describes the Kerry’s upcoming visit to Pakistan:

Senator John Kerry will travel to Pakistan in coming days to put relations “on the right track” after the killing of Osama bin Laden in a surprise Navy SEALs raid, but he is likely to face fury from the army over what it sees as a breach of trust.

Kerry, a Democrat who is close to the Obama administration, said he expected to see “all the main players” in Pakistan to discuss strains in bilateral ties following the May 2 operation that killed the al Qaeda leader in his Pakistani hideout.

“A number of people suggested it would be good to get a dialogue going about the aftermath and how we get on the right track,” Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters in Washington.

At the same time he is playing a leading role (and rightly so, as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) in repairing the relationship with Pakistan, Kerry is also the first politician quoted in Wednesday’s Washington Post article on calls to accelerate withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan:

The death of Osama bin Laden and growing pressure from Congress to shrink the U.S. footprint and expense in Afghanistan have given new impetus to those within the Obama administration who favor a swift reduction of U.S. forces, according to senior administration officials and leading lawmakers.

/snip/

Current expenditures of $10 billion a month are “fundamentally unsustainable” and the administration urgently needs to clarify both its mission and exit plan, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said Tuesday.

Even though Kerry is described in the article as often a leading indicator for thinking from the Obama administration, it is clear that the administration has not reached consensus on a new Afghanistan strategy, as the article quotes an unnamed senior administration official that “there will be no re-litigation” of the strategy.

In my opinion, the most important point to make it into the Post story is that, at long last, there is finally a piercing of Petraeus’ training myth. The article notes that “many” now question the concept of training Afghan forces to take over when we leave and Kerry confronts the problem head-on:

Many have questioned the feasibility of plans to recruit and train as many as 400,000 Afghan security forces to take over once foreign troops depart.“Despite our best efforts, there are challenges — corruption, predatory behavior, incompetence — still evident within the Afghan army and police,” Kerry said. “On top of these problems, there is the question, ultimately, of money, resources.”

The fact that Kerry now sees that training so many Afghan troops is not feasible and will waste huge amounts of money is a huge development to make it into the pages of the Washington Post. Watch for the Petraeus propaganda machine to push back on this very hard, making over-inflated claims of progress that the press will accept at face value rather than subjecting to fact-checking.  Petraeus owes much of the rapid rise in his career trajectory to his “Groundhog Day”-like reliance on always making strong progress toward troop training whether it is in Iraq or Afghanistan.  And, just as in the movie, we always seem to be starting fresh on those training efforts.  Why it has taken so long for Washington to figure out that we are stuck in an endless loop of re-starting training is beyond me. Perhaps Senator Kerry can help us to break out of the loop.

On Second Day After Bin Laden’s Death, No Massive Demonstrations or Reprisals in Pakistan

4:28 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

White House photo by Pete Souza of President Obama making phone calls to leaders, most likely including Pakistani President Zardari, before making his public statement Sunday night.

Although there were a few small demonstrations on Monday, Tuesday appears to be quiet in Pakistan on the second day after the US killed Osama Bin Laden just outside Islamabad. Warnings to be wary of reprisals have been voiced by both the US and Pakistani governments and two US consulates in Pakistan have been closed as a precaution.

Writing in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Pakistani Presdient Asif Ali Zardari pointed out that Pakistan has suffered greatly (and he personally) at the hands of al Qaeda:

Let us be frank. Pakistan has paid an enormous price for its stand against terrorism. More of our soldiers have died than all of NATO’s casualties combined. Two thousand police officers, as many as 30,000 innocent civilians and a generation of social progress for our people have been lost. And for me, justice against bin Laden was not just political; it was also personal, as the terrorists murdered our greatest leader, the mother of my children. Twice he tried to assassinate my wife. In 1989 he poured $50 million into a no-confidence vote to topple her first government. She said that she was bin Laden’s worst nightmare — a democratically elected, progressive, moderate, pluralistic female leader. She was right, and she paid for it with her life.

Zardari did a gentle push-back on Pakistan’s embarrassment (“He was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be”) about their apparent lack of action against al Qaeda in general and admitted that Pakistan was not included in the planning or execution of Sunday night’s Bin Laden mission:

Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world. And we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day.

So, while the pseudonym of the carrier was obtained at Guantanamo (but not through torture), Zardari is claiming a major role for Pakistan in helping to put a real name together with the operational one which is indeed a key step in the sequence of events leading to Bin Laden’s death.

A Reuters article attributes at least a portion of the calm in Pakistan to a sense of embarrassment over the harboring of Bin Laden:

There were no protests and no extra security in Pakistan on Tuesday, a day after the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces, just a sense of embarrassment and indifference that the al Qaeda leader had managed to lie low for years in a Pakistan garrison town.

“The failure of Pakistan to detect the presence of the world’s most-wanted man here is shocking,” The News said in an editorial, reflecting the general tone in the media, where some commentators predicted that Washington would take action to show its displeasure with Islamabad.

After noting that a demonstration is expected in Karachi, the article then states that many Pakistanis are indifferent to Bin Laden:

Still, many ordinary Pakistanis said bin Laden’s killing was of no consequence to them. “It doesn’t make any difference to my life whether he is killed or not,” said Zain Khan, a laborer in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Despite some indifference, though, warnings of potential reprisals have been made:

Intelligence agencies have warned that Pakistan may face a sharp rise in terrorism cases in the wake of the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

The National Crisis Management Cell of the interior ministry issued the warning to the police and law enforcement agencies after receiving credible intelligence that militants may plan ‘revenge’ attacks in Pakistan, targeting US diplomatic missions and Americans in the country, in addition to important civilian and military government installations.

These warnings have led to the closure of US consulates in Lahore and Peshawar:

The United States closed two of its consulates in Pakistan to the public on Tuesday until further notice, a day after Osama bin Laden was killed near the capital Islamabad.

The US embassy in Islamabad and a third consulate in Karachi had earlier also been closed to the general public for routine business, but a decision was taken Tuesday for them to re-open as normal, said an embassy spokesman.

Those closed are in the eastern city of Lahore and the northwestern city of Peshawar, which is close to the country’s tribal belt that Washington has called the global headquarters of Al-Qaeda.

Note that the Karachi consulate has been re-opened for today despite the prediction of protests in Karachi. However, it is significant that the Lahore consulate is closed since this is where massive protests were held for many days during the prolonged Raymond Davis saga.

The complexity of the situation in Pakistan is reflected in part in its politics.  In an analysis at the Express Tribune, we see a listing of some of the radical groups in Pakistan with ties to both al Qaeda and the political system:

Harkatul Jihadul Islami, Jaishe Muhammad, Sipahe Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangavi and Lashkar-e-Taiba are some of the many organisations that were allowed to spread their network and physical infrastructure into the ‘settled’ areas of Pakistan such as Punjab and Sindh.

These organisations have deep links with al Qaeda and have allegedly collaborated with Osama bin Laden’s terror network against targets in Pakistan and South Asia at large. The larger Asian region is concerned about the linkages as recent stories have emerged regarding individuals coming from Indonesia and many countries in Europe to train in Pakistan.

/snip/

Most of the militant outfits now have developed influential ties within the mainstream political parties as well. These militant forces might not conduct a vicious attack on the Pakistani state just yet. But they are likely to use the chaos to re-group and consolidate through manipulating the public discourse on terrorism run through the private and public media.

Zardari’s piece also provides some perspective on these radicals and their status in the political system:

Radical religious parties have never received more than 11 percent of the vote. Recent polls showed that 85 percent of our people are strongly opposed to al-Qaeda. In 2009, when the Taliban briefly took over the Swat Valley, it demonstrated to the people of Pakistan what our future would look like under its rule — repressive politics, religious fanaticism, bigotry and discrimination against girls and women, closing of schools and burning of books. Those few months did more to unite the people of Pakistan around our moderate vision of the future than anything else possibly could.

These figures from Zardari demonstrate that while organized and vocal, Pakistan’s radical religious groups appear to be less numerous at the polls than the radical Christian fundamentalist voting bloc in the US.

Will Bin Laden’s Killing Reset US Relations with International Community?

5:16 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

In dramatic fashion and after numerous delays from the initially announced time, President Obama announced late Sunday night that the United States has killed Osama Bin Laden in the outskirts of
Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. After recent months which have seen US-Pakistan relations stretched to the breaking point multiple times over the US killing three Pakistani soldiers at a border crossing (resulting in Pakistan briefly closing off US supply routes to Afghanistan) and then the arrest of CIA agent Raymond Davis after he killed two men in Lahore (resulting in Pakistan dropping out of the trilateral talks with the US and Afghanistan) this latest development immediately puts Pakistan in a bad light for repeatedly denying Bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan, despite evidence now that the compound where he was killed appears to have been built specifically for him in 2005.

The video above shows Obama’s dramatic announcement. From the text of his statement, we see this about Pakistan’s involvement in the operation that killed Bin Laden:

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

A close reading of Obama’s words here, supplemented with additional information that has been released, allows us to surmise that ISI was involved in background work that helped to set the stage for this operation, but once specific information was developed and as the actual operation was planned and carried out, Pakistan was left out of discussions.

The details that are emerging tell us that it was through a courier that the CIA developed the information used to find Bin Laden.

This operation is remarkable in part for the conventional knowledge which has been turned on its head. Many believed Bin Laden was hiding out in a primitive cave in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan, and yet he was actually living in a luxurious compound only a thousand feet from Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point. Many believed that Bin Laden only could be taken through use of drones, and yet it was painstaking work much more akin to old-fashioned police work that found his compound and resulted in his death when he and those around him took up arms in response to the task force entering the compound.

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the US faced a moment of decision for how it would interact with the world community. The administration of George W. Bush chose an aggressive, belligerent stance that has resulted in the overthrow of the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq, followed by ongoing occupations of those countries and a very heavy-handed approach throughout the world, including the implementation of torture.

The nature of how Bin Laden was found and killed suggests that an approach much more focused on Bin Laden himself and his key associates would have been a much better approach. It was intelligence heavy-lifting that took the one clue that appears to have come from a Guantanamo detainee (a key question not answered is how this information was obtained; I’m betting it wasn’t through torture), the operational, but not real, name of Bin Laden’s most trusted courier.

There will be much bellowing from the war mongers in our midst that Bin Laden’s killing does not end the Great War on Terror and that we must extend our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. I call on our President instead to use this opportunity for a complete reset of the US approach to terrorism. An honest review of where we are and how we have gotten here has to acknowledge the death and destruction that our toppling of the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan has wreaked. Perhaps even more important, though, is that an honest evaluation also would show that these operations only got in the way of, and greatly prolonged, the search for the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks. We have created many more enemies of the United States through our choice of methods for responding to the 9/11 attacks.

Obama has the perfect opportunity now to explain to the world community that the approach taken by the United States has been in error. Our success in finding Bin Laden came from focused intelligence work, not from killing huge numbers of people and letting God sort them out. Now is the perfect time to begin a real withdrawal of forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. It would illustrate that, as Obama said Sunday night, “the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam”. The best way to achieve the security Obama seeks when he also said “The cause of securing our country is not complete” is to acknowledge how the US overstepped in its response to 9/11 and that with Bin Laden’s death, we can turn that page and return to a peaceful stance rather than being an occupying power.

Jon Stewart Demonstrates Folly of Ryan’s Deficit Reduction Plan on Eve of Obama Speech

4:00 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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As we prepare for today’s speech from Barack Obama on his response to the draconian cuts to social services proposed by Paul Ryan in his deficit reduction plan, it is very informative to watch Jon Stewart’s perfect dismantling of that plan from last night’s Daily Show. Stewart is right to poke fun at the “creepy music” to which Ryan presents his plan that the Washington villagers laud as so bold and decisive, but the real value of Stewart’s piece comes in his demonstration that the exact same amount of deficit reduction can be achieved by ending the Bush tax cuts. There were hints yesterday that Obama might actually suggest ending at least some tax cuts, but it remains to be seen just what kinds of revenue improvements Obama will suggest and, more importantly, how hard Obama will fight for them when it comes time to put his plan through Congress.

In the meantime, it helps to keep perspective on where we stand on taxes today. Back in December, I wrote a piece on the death of the middle class in the US. Parts of that piece are repeated below for reference as we enter the discussion of Obama’s speech. It is vitally important to realize that taxes now are at a historic low point, especially for the ultra-rich and corporations. If Obama is not serious about increasing revenue from these sources, then he has no hope of restoring our economy to what it could be.

How did American culture change so dramatically within the lifetimes of these children of the Depression? In The Conscience of a Liberal, Paul Krugman describes “The Long Gilded Age” that preceded the Depression as a time of extreme disparity in wealth accumulation, when only the extremely wealthy could afford a “comfortable” life. He then describes “The Great Compression” when the strong middle class emerged:

Part of the great narrowing of income differentials that took place between the twenties and the fifties involved leveling downward: the rich were significantly poorer in the fifties than they had been in the twenties. . . By the mid-fifties the real after-tax incomes of the richest 1 percent of Americans were probably 20 or 30 percent lower than they had been a generation earlier. And the real incomes of the really rich–say, those in the top tenth of one percent–were less than half what they had been in the twenties.

/snip/

Meanwhile the real income of the median family had more or less doubled since 1929. And most families didn’t just have higher income, they had more security too. Employers offered new benefits, like health insurance and retirement plans.

/snip/

Returning to Krugman’s book, we see that one of the primary means by which “The Great Compression” was achieved was through taxes:

In the twenties, taxes had been a minor factor for the rich. The top income tax rate was only 24 percent, and because the inheritance tax on even the largest estates was only 20 percent, wealthy dynasties had little difficulty maintaining themselves. But with the coming of the New Deal, the rich started to face taxes that were not only vastly higher than those of the twenties, but high by today’s standards. The top income tax rate (currently only 35 percent) rose to 63 percent during the first Roosevelt administration, and 79 percent in the second. By the mid-fifties, as the United States faced the expenses of the Cold War, it had risen to 91 percent.

/snip/

We have Senate Republicans openly announcing that they will block passage of all legislation until tax breaks for the highest income bracket are extended. We have unemployment benefits expiring, just a few short weeks before Christmas, for nearly two million people who have been unemployed for extended periods. In the face of those ills, we have a President, elected to stave off the New Depression, who is so willfully ignorant of the past and so cowardly in the face of a demented political opposition, that he is guaranteed to negotiate an extension of the 35 percent tax level on the highest income bracket rather than let it return to a mere 39.9 percent. What a far cry that is from Roosevelt’s 63 percent upper tax bracket that got the nation moving toward equal economic opportunities for all. When Obama signs the legislation for extension of tax breaks for the highest income bracket, that will be the final death knell for the middle class.

So, just as Senate Republicans last December were threatening to shut down all legislation just to enshrine the top tax bracket at 35 percent rather than 39 (which they wound up getting as a “temporary” arrangement for now), now all Congressional Republicans have taken us to the brink of a total government shutdown just a few months later because they insist on cutting social services rather than addressing debt through increasing revenues above the current historically low tax rates. There is no other way to describe this situation than as a class war. Sadly, Obama will be approaching the situation as if it is merely a minor disagreement to be worked out through negotiations between parties who want the common good, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Republicans will insist, once again, on policies that benefit only the rich and corporations at the expense of the middle and lower classes. What the Republicans fail to realize, though, is that their past thievery from these groups has left them with nothing more than what they are using to subsist. Taking the last few crumbs through trillions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid and Medicare is cruel beyond measure. Or, as Stewart put it at the close of the segment, “To avoid a future that would be painful for us all, all we need is a present that is painful for some.” And, of course, the “some” are the poor whom Stewart depicts as literally bleeding to prevent pain for the rich.

Will Petraeus Propaganda Machine Get Him DCI Job?

5:48 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

I noted last week that there is a push to appoint General David Petraeus as head of the CIA should Leon Panetta move on to be Secretary of Defense and that this would represent a terrible move by President Obama. Sadly, this push now seems to have moved beyond the whispers on Twitter that I noted last week to a story that can be found here on NPR’s website. The NPR story is notable for its listing of “top jobs” potentially available to Petraeus when he rotates out of Afghanistan later this year, pitching Petraeus as worthy of a very high position but noting that many top positions already seem to be “taken” and pouting that Petraeus is not a candidate to be Chair of the Joint Chiefs.

The NPR story fits into a general pattern of propaganda that is generated on many fronts to promote Petraeus’ career. Back in January, I noted the push to get a fifth star for Petraeus and was able to do some digging on the Republican front groups that were a leading part of that effort. The current effort to push Petraeus, however, seems to be originating with help from inside the government and/or military. The NPR story cites “government sources” and “sources close to Petreaus”. Given the tone of the NPR piece, I find it disturbing that “government sources” seem concerned with finding Petraeus a position that is suitably important enough for him. It seems to fit within an overall atmosphere that promotes Petraeus in a way that I find to be quite offensive. Take, for example, the Army recruiting ad that is embedded above. I saw this ad run again just last night during the NCAA National Championship basketball game on CBS. Here is the “Information” about the ad that the Army provides on its YouTube Army Strong Videos channel:

A parade of U.S. Army leaders are shown in powerful archival footage, from General George Washington to Teddy Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Colin Powell. The message ends with a call to action:They bring out the best in others and themselves. Can you?

Since Petraeus appears within that “powerful archival footage”, he is clearly being touted as worthy of comparison to Washington, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower. That’s a lot of presidents, so I find it very informative that this ad would run again in an extremely high viewership slot when Petreaus is being touted for a position that would be seen by many as a stepping stone to the presidency. How can it be legal for this ad to run in this way at this time?

Just in case the Army pulls the video or blocks its embedding function, here is a screengrab of Petraeus as he appears in the ad among the historical figures to whom he is being compared:

David Petreaus has inserted himself, time after time, into the political arena, often by falsely claiming progress on training of troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, going all the way back to his interference in the 2004 presidential election.  Obama needs to resist this relentless push from those who would have David Petraeus as president and who think that DCI would be the next logical step in his career advancement to the presidency.  Rather than appointing Petraeus to that vital position, Obama should let him rotate into a position of minor importance more in keeping with his multiple failures in the field and his pathological lying about those failures.

Brutal Numbers: Polls, Rally Attendance Show Total Implosion of Radical Tea Party Agenda

7:12 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

With radical Republicans forging ahead on the signing of a union-busting bill in Ohio while a court blocks (again) a similar bill in Wisconsin, a new Gallup poll shows that US voters strongly side with state employee unions over the governors in these disputes. At the same time, a much-heralded Tea Party “rally” in Washington, DC drew only 250 people at most, a far cry from the estimated 100,000 reached several times during the repeated rallies in Madison.  Even though Democrats are showing no leadership at all on framing the horrendous moves Republicans are making to punish poor working people for the benefit at the expense of large corporations, the Tea Party movement is clearly turning into a victim of its own hateful messaging.

As the screen capture from the Gallup poll shows, Americans favor state employee unions over governors by almost a ten point margin, 48 percent to 39 percent.  Given the huge expenditures by the Koch-fueled astroturf groups demonizing state employee unions, this is an amazing result.  There has been virtually no action from unions or the prominent Democrats who should be protecting them, so one can only imagine where those numbers would be if Koch-like resources were deployed on behalf of the unions.

Perhaps the only bright spot for the Tea Party’s agenda is buried in an AP-GfK poll released earlier this week.  In that poll conducted from March 24 to March 28, respondents were asked “In order to balance the federal budget, which should be the main focus of lawmakers?”  The response was 62 percent in favor of “Cutting government services” compared to 29 percent who favored “Increasing taxes”.  However, I’d chalk that one up  to the disproportionate efforts at framing the deficit issue.  Perhaps the recent attention to GE’s huge profits while paying zero taxes will help to bring people to an appreciation of the sad state of the current tax structure.

More encouraging information from the AP-GfK poll is found in the area of party identification.  The poll repeats the information from the 2010 elections, showing that the major problem was an enthusiasm gap, with Republicans having a 48 percent to 42 percent advantage among likely voters in mid-October but Democrats holding a narrow 43 percent to 40 percent advantage among all voters polled at the same time.  The radical actions by the Republicans who were elected last fall have resulted in a huge swing of voters in favor of Democrats, with October’s 3 point advantage now swelling to twelve points, as Democrats now show a 45 percent to 33 percent advantage.

If only Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress could appreciate where public sentiment has moved since the midterms, they would realize that “negotiating” with Republicans who still are fueled by Tea Party rage against unions and government spending has no value, as Americans now are beginning to appreciate once again the value of unions.  With only a little effort on messaging, the public could appreciate that the tax structure and stopping unnecessary wars (this poll shows a 50 percent opposed to 48 percent in favor of US military action in Libya) have much more to offer on reining in the deficit than cutting government services which already are at bare bones.

Quagmires R Us: Now Adding Libya to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq

7:34 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Dial "Q" for quagmire. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarkably, the US is sending “clandestine” CIA teams into Libya to coordinate bombing runs and to provide contact with the rebels there at the same time that courts in Pakistan are still sorting out how Raymond Davis was allowed to leave the country after his blood money payment despite having been placed on the Exit Control List.  Also, Washington is gearing up for a “debate” on drawing down US troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military now angling to narrow the options to include only insignificant numbers to be withdrawn.  Meanwhile, despite the best efforts of the remaining “non-combat” US troops there, violence in Iraq continues, with 56 killed in a single attack Wednesday.

In Pakistan, the Lahore High Court has given various government offices until April 8 to respond to a petition that has been filed with the court requesting information on how CIA operative Raymond Davis was allowed to leave the country despite having been placed on the Exit Control List:

The petition, filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffery, requested the court to seek explanation from Federal Law Minister Babar Awan, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, AD&SJ Mohammad Yousuf Aujla and others as to why they facilitated Davis in his acquittal and emergent departure despite the fact that his name was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).

/snip/

The petitioner had stated that the LHC had directed the interior ministry to place Davis’s name on the ECL and the court was also assured by a law officer and the ministry that the order had been complied with.

He had further said that the court order was in place when Davis was released and the LHC had not suspended or withdrawn its order and no such application was filed by any one on behalf of Davis.

The petitioner had therefore alleged that the government and its functionaries released Davis ignoring the order of the LHC through which his name was placed on the ECL.

And yet, despite the ongoing fallout from the CIA’s continuing misadventures in Pakistan, Obama has signed a “finding” allowing CIA teams to enter Libya with assignments that appear to be very similar to Davis’ reported activities in developing targets for drone attacks:

The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials.

/snip/

In addition to the C.I.A. presence, composed of an unknown number of Americans who had worked at the spy agency’s station in Tripoli and others who arrived more recently, current and former British officials said that dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya. The British operatives have been directing airstrikes from British jets and gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of Libyan government tank columns, artillery pieces and missile installations, the officials said.

/snip/

In addition, the American spies are meeting with rebels to try to fill in gaps in understanding who their leaders are and the allegiances of the groups opposed to Colonel Qaddafi, said United States government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the activities. American officials cautioned, though, that the Western operatives were not directing the actions of rebel forces.

Given the track record of the US in these matters, you can bet that it is only a matter of time until our operatives are engaged not just in “directing the actions” of the the rebels but also actively engaged in the miraculous “training” that always is just on the verge of achieving success, but needs only another Friedman Unit or two to be completed. Of course, we probably also will need some drone strikes to “protect” the rebels and their trainers, too.

At the more mature end of the quagmire process that is beginning in Libya, we are about to move to the next phase in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports Thursday morning on the upcoming battle over the extent of troop reductions this summer:

Military leaders and President Obama’s civilian advisers are girding for battle over the size and pace of the planned pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military seeking to limit a reduction in combat forces and the White House pressing for a withdrawal substantial enough to placate a war-weary electorate.

Despite the fact that Obama is the Commander in Chief, Obama is following his usual negotiation strategy by allowing others to set the parameters of the debate:

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, has not presented a recommendation on the withdrawal to his superiors at the Pentagon, but some senior officers and military planning documents have described the July pullout as small to insignificant, prompting deep concern within the White House.

/snip/

As both sides prepare for what they expect to be a vigorous debate, they are seeking ways to achieve their favored outcome by limiting what the other can do. For the military, that means crafting a narrow set of choices, because there is general agreement that reduction numbers need to originate in the field, not be imposed by the White House. But the National Security Council may attempt to impose its own limitations by setting a date by which all the surge forces must be brought home, the officials said.

And how is that going to work out? We only need go as far as Iraq to find out. The “drawdown” there was finalized by redefining the remaining troops as “non-combat”. And that is going just swimmingly:

Sunni militants linked to al-Qaeda were responsible for a bloody siege in Tikrit in which 56 people were killed, Iraqi officials have said.

Tuesday’s attack took place at a local government building in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.

A fierce gun-battle ended when the attackers – numbering about eight – blew themselves up.

Just how many quagmires do we have to be engaged in simultaneously for the military-industrial-congressional complex to be satisfied?

How Obama Should Emulate Reagan: Kucinich For SecDef, Ellsberg For DCI

6:16 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

If Obama wants to emulate Reagan, he should nominate Dennis Kucinich for Secretary of Defense.

As recently as last January, Barack Obama reiterated his love of the Reagan zombie, when Time described a dinner Obama shared with a group of presidential historians: “And yet Obama was clearly impressed by the way Reagan had transformed Americans’ attitude about government.” If Obama really wants to emulate Reagan, I have a suggestion for how he could copy Reagan’s pioneering moves when Reagan appointed individuals with attitudes diametrically opposed to the mission of their agency and in line with Reagan’s radically conservative agenda. With Robert Gates’ impending departure there is soon to be an opening for Secretary of Defense. With some bandying Leon Panetta’s name for SecDef, that leaves a potential opening for DCI. I have Reaganesque suggestions for Obama: appoint Dennis Kucinich,who has been a big advocate for a Department of Peace, as Secretary of Defense and Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers, as Director of Central Intelligence.

Perhaps the best-remembered of Reagan’s appointees who were put into positions where they could do significant harm to programs Reagan hated was James G. Watt, Reagan’s first Secretary of the Interior. In an article written near the end of Watt’s rocky tenure, Time noted that Watt was an early advocate for drilling in the Gulf and other near-shore areas:

Even if Watt should defy the odds—and the Senate—and hold on, his ability to put his policies into effect seems at an end. Two weeks ago, for example, Senate-House conferees approved a bill to ban underwater oil drilling on key areas of the continental shelf that Watt wants to open for leasing.

Of course, Watt shared the blatant racism that was a part of Reagan (who kicked off his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi with a reference to “states’ rights”), and the Time article describes the utterance that cost Watt his job, along with his moves to open sensitive lands to commercial exploitation:
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Petraeus to Head CIA Would Be Obama’s Worst Move Yet

5:30 am in Uncategorized by Jim White

Can you spot the war-mongering Republican in this photo? (ISAFMedia photo)

In a presidency that has been marked by actions in direct opposition to his high-minded campaign, Barack Obama appears poised on the precipice of a move that could do more material damage to the US than his refusal to prosecute torturers, coddling of big business, healthcare sellout, escalation of existing wars and starting of a new one all combined. Rumors started on Twitter last night that, in a strange exchange of places, the potential nomination of Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense could be coupled with nominating General David Petraeus to head CIA. This is so wrong, so stupid, so downright evil that I hardly know where to start.

First, the rumors. Michael Goldfarb tweeted last night “@stephenfhayes @lrozen Same here–also hearing Petraeus to replace Panetta…….which would be a way easier confirmation than Hagel.” Laura Rozen responded “I swear, I heard 2nd hand petraeus too for CIA but have a hard time as yet believing it. @thegoldfarb @stephenfhayes”. What should be everyone’s response was uttered by bmaz “WTF?…” And as if that is not enough, Rozen followed with evidence that Petraeus’ office seems to be taking it seriously “Indeed, I wrote his spokesman this AM expecting cackling laughter wave off from Tampa, but heard nothing @bmaz @thegoldfarb @stephenfhayes”.

Just last June, I actually praised Obama for choosing to put Petraeus in Afghanistan to replace the fired Stanley McChrystal. I saw that as a strategic move intended to burden Petraeus with owning the failure of the war in Afghanistan, thereby stripping Petraeus of the political future he has so clearly been angling to arrange. Allowing Petraeus to cut and run from Afghanistan now would accomplish exactly the opposite. The fraudulent nature of Petraeus’ never-ending claims of “training” troops to take over the future of their countries, whether it is in Iraq or Afghanistan is becoming so clear that even the brain-dead US press seems destined to stumble across the story soon.

If Petraeus is allowed to move to CIA, look for him to once again wipe his failure-laden slate clean and jump onto the drone bandwagon. The role of training local troops will disappear from what will “save” our efforts in Afghanistan, and the entire US press will be filled with adulation for the brave keyboard warriors in CIA who kill evil brown people from afar with missiles fired from drones. The reason for this is that Petraeus’ entire career has been built by leaks that he himself has fashioned in self-promotion. And now the guy who has built his career on leaks is being considered to head CIA? Say it ain’t so!

Why does Obama feel such a need to put war-mongering Republicans in positions of responsibility in his government?  Is it because in his heart of hearts, Obama is a war-mongering Republican?  Putting Petraeus in charge of CIA would make that statement loud and clear.

Why is Admiral William Fallon the only public figure who was able to see Petreaus for what he truly is?