I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Various items

(1) I was very glad to see this Kos diary about the two banished Americans doing so well. For some reason, it takes a few moments to really digest the true significance of this story (at least it did for me), but when you realize that these two American citizens have, in essence, been banished from the Kingdom without any charges or process of any kind, it's hard to overstate what a travesty it is. This is a story that deserves much more attention. (See UPDATE below).

(2) The Editors points to a study from a Middle East think tank which reaches an obvious though still amazing conclusion -- namely, that U.S. foreign policy "has bolstered Iran’s power and influence in the Middle East, especially over its neighbour and former enemy Iraq." In virtually every respect -- but particularly with regard to the replacement of Iran's dreaded enemy, Saddam Hussein, with loyal Shiite allies -- Iran has been the primary beneficiary of most of our work in the Middle East.

Iraq is a war that is saddled with more incoherent premises than can be counted. Yet the most baffling part of it has to be that the more we succeed in stabilizing the new government and empowering majority rule, the more we hand over to our arch Iranian enemy (the New Hitlers) control over large parts of that strategically vital country. Thus, the principal result in exchange for all the lives lost and hundreds of billions of dollars squandered is to ensure that Iraq will be ruled by those most opposed to U.S. interests. Spencer Ackerman makes this same point in response to William Stuntz's Weekly Standard cover story, in which Stuntz absurdly argues that we have to stay in Iraq in order to prevent Moktada al-Sadr from gaining power:

But Sadr is right now among the most powerful figures in the Iraqi government, and is even more powerful in the streets. His Sadrist movement controls the largest parliamentary bloc in Iraq--meaning that it's not a prospective U.S. withdrawal that's empowering Sadr, but the very Iraqi political process for which we have sacrificed 2,628-and-counting brave Americans, and for which Stuntz wants us to sacrifice more.

As The Editors notes, the claim that the Iranians are some sort of wild-eyed lunatics who operate outside of the rational realm seems less and less credible by the minute. They have built up a web of impressive alliances around the world, positioned themselves as the clear regional power, have stood quietly by while their arch enemy (us) rids the region for them of the two regimes outside of Israel which they hated most (in Iraq and Afghanistan), and have exploited U.S. hostility towards their country for great domestic political gain.

And as the third charter member of Bush's "Axis of Evil," they have looked at the respectful treatment given to the one Axis member which has nuclear weapons (North Korea) and contrasted it with the rather disrespectful treatment given to the one who did not (Iraq), and have drawn the only rational lesson there is from that discrepancy. Iran may be many things, but irrational doesn't appear to be one of them.

(3) From Republican shill Michael Barone today, claiming that there has been a polling boost for Republicans over the last two weeks (emphasis added):

There seems to have been a change in the political winds. They've been blowing pretty strongly against George W. Bush and the Republicans this spring and early this summer. Now, their velocity looks to be tapering off or perhaps shifting direction.

When asked what would affect the future, the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan famously said: "Events, dear boy. Events." The event this month that I think has done most to shape opinion was the arrest in London on Aug. 9 of 23 Muslims suspected of plotting to blow up American airliners over the Atlantic.

Barone calls it a "GOP terror bump." From today's lengthy New York Times article providing new details about the U.K. plot:

But at the same time, five senior British officials said, the suspects were not prepared to strike immediately. Instead, the reactions of Britain and the United States in the wake of the arrests of 21 people on Aug. 10 were driven less by information about a specific, imminent attack than fear that other, unknown terrorists might strike. . . .

In fact, two and a half weeks since the inquiry became public, British investigators have still not determined whether there was a target date for the attacks or how many planes were to be involved. They say the estimate of 10 planes was speculative and exaggerated.

In his first public statement after the arrests, Peter Clarke, chief of counterterrorism for the Metropolitan Police, acknowledged that the police were still investigating the basics: “the number, destination and timing of the flights that might be attacked”. . .

While officials and experts familiar with the case say the investigation points to a serious and determined group of plotters, they add that questions about the immediacy and difficulty of the suspected bombing plot cast doubt on the accuracy of some of the public statements made at the time.

“In retrospect,’’ said Michael A. Sheehan, the former deputy commissioner of counterterrorism in the New York Police Department, “there may have been too much hyperventilating going on.”

Barone's claims of some grand Republican polling resurgence are driven by as much "hyperventilating" as was commentary on this plot. But clearly, Republicans believe that their only chance for avoiding electoral disaster in two months is to have terrorism fears jacked up as high as possible.

(4) Speaking of jacking up terrorism fears, I will be on the Alan Colmes Show tonight at 11:06 p.m EST to debate Fox News regular guest and former Bush 41 DoD Deputy Undersecretary Jed Babbin. The debate will concern Judge Taylor's NSA decision. Station listings and live audio feed are here.

UPDATE: The New York Times has an article this morning on the banishment of the two American citizens. The article doesn't contain very many facts which weren't already reported by the Chronicle, but it does report that the Bush administration has not merely put them on the "no-fly" list -- as several Kos commenters were strangely arguing in order to mitigate the importance of this story -- but instead has "prevented" them "from returning home" and that the FBI's "conditions had to be met before the authorities would consider letting them back into the United States."

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