Friday, May 22, 2015

Breaking (Old) News: Bush and Cheney Lied us into Iraq.

In a startling conversation on Tuesday--three days ago by my calendar, not that you would know it by the mainstream media coverage--Chris Matthews, bless his passionate, irritating bulldoggedness, pulled the truth out of Michael Morell, George Bush's CIA intelligence briefer during the lead-up to the Iraq war: the Bush White House lied about WMDs in order to get us into a war with Iraq.

It was not bad intelligence, as every Republican alive in Washington--and some Democrats--still keep repeating. The intelligence that there were no WMDs was, in fact, presented to the decision-makers, and the decision-makers--Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Rice, and so on--lied and said their experts were telling them otherwise. That was in 2003.  This is 2015.  For 12 years most of the people in the loop who know the truth have kept it hidden.  They've said nothing.

There are exceptions:  Richard Clarke, GWB's former counterterrorism coordinator, appeared on PBS' Frontline in 2006 and, in an interview riddled with bombshells, dropped this one, which, along with the others, sadly but predictably didn't detonate:
"Yes, the intelligence community made mistakes in erring in the direction of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. But the president, the vice president, the national security adviser, they went a lot further in their public remarks than the intelligence analysis had gone.
There's nowhere in the intelligence analysis that says there's imminent threat and that we have to do something right away. Yet the president, the vice president, the national security adviser all tell the public, tell the Congress: 'Got to act right away! Something's about to happen!'"
In that same interview he said this:
"I remember vividly, in the driveway outside of the West Wing, Scooter Libby, from the vice president's office, grabbing me and saying, 'I hear you don't believe this report that Mohamed Atta was talking to Iraqi people in Prague.' I said, 'I don't believe it because it's not true.' And he said: 'You're wrong. You know you're wrong. Go back and find out; look at the rest of the reports, and find out that you're wrong.' I understood what he was saying, which was: 'This is a report that we want to believe, and stop saying it's not true. It's a real problem for the vice president's office that you, the counterterrorism coordinator, are walking around saying that this isn't a true report. Shut up!' That's what I was being told."
Immediately afterward, the White House attack machines went after Richard Clarke, trying to make him out to be the liar and not the other way around.  Poor Richard. He's still trying to tell the truth about what he and others knew then, but preaching to the choir has its limitations.  A whole lot of tsk-tsking goes on but nothing really gets done. The Bush/Cheney gang still runs free.  Cheney, the man we'll always believe was the oily kingpin behind the whole operation, is so unafraid of consequences he still rambles on publicly about the benefits of torture against our supposed enemies.

Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's right-hand-man during his tenure as Secretary of State, rails against the Iraq warmongers every chance he gets, admitting that both he and Powell got sucked in by them, but he stops just short of calling the misinformation falsehoods.
"It's a mess, to be sure," Wilkerson says, "a mess we largely created -- 'we' being George Bush and Dick Cheney and all their minions, myself and Powell included, however reluctantly. I'm fairly certain that no one knows now how to extricate us from that mess. So, most do not want to have that ignorance exposed."

They were lies, Larry.  Lies.

Why Michael Morell decided to play Hardball with Matthews (besides hawking his new book) is something only Morell knows, but once he got there it was Katie bar the door! Matthews was gunning for him.  From David Corn in Mother Jones:
MATTHEWS: So you're briefing the president on the reasons for war, they're selling the war, using your stuff, saying you made that case when you didn't. So they're using your credibility to make the case for war dishonestly, as you just admitted.
MORELL: Look, I'm just telling you—
MATTHEWS: You just admitted it.
MORELL: I'm just telling you what we said—
MATTHEWS: They gave a false presentation of what you said to them.
MORELL: On some aspects. On some aspects.
"That's a big deal," Matthews exclaimed. Morell replied, "It's a big deal."

Soon after the attack on 9/11 the White House began diverting our attention from Afghanistan to Iraq.  It was such a crazy idea nobody believed anything would ever come of it.  The craziest part was that the press--the guardians of truth, the defenders of liberty--walked away from their duties and went AWOL. 

It wasn't because the hawks were itching to get into battle--the war against Al Qaeda was legitimate; it was justified. We as a nation knew who the enemy was.  We understood the need.  We never intended to send our sons and daughters to a battleground that didn't involve a real enemy, yet we did just that, and nearly 4500 of them didn't come home.  Another 32,000 suffered injuries; lost their limbs, their eyes, and, too often, the part of them that allows them peace.

As Andy Borowitz said yesterday on his Facebook page, "No one could have known that invading Iraq would be a disaster, unless you count the millions of people who protested against it."  Our protests were ignored.  That war was an unnecessary disaster and we know who to blame, but the time for inquiries is apparently over.  There are no planned hearings on the responsibility for the Iraq War, even though we're faced every day with the consequences of a murderous, trillion-dollar war built on lies.

Contrast that with the Republicans' need to know what happened in Benghazi, when our embassy was attacked and four Americans were killed under then-Secretary-of-State Hillary Clinton's watch. So far the Republicans have held 13 hearings, 50 briefings, and have produced 25,000 document pages on the events surrounding the attack.  The blame rests on Clinton's shoulders and to their minds she has much to answer for.  She'll be required to answer to them at least until November, 2016, when the next presidential election is held.  If she wins that election, she'll be required to answer for Benghazi until 2020, assuming she'll decide to run again.  If she wins that election, Benghazi will be her ball and chain until Hell freezes over.

But Dick Cheney and George W. Bush have nothing to fear, nothing to answer for.  Dick Cheney can appear on dozens of political programs and slake his thirst for war and profit, his hatred for our current president, his disdain for Democrats in general, without a care in the world about the misery his own recklessness has caused.

A furious Chris Matthews left Michael Morell with this thought:
Let me explain to you my position as an American. and why this infuriates me.  I knew people in this business who were very objective people who finally went for the war--and we were arguing about it here--because they believed Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons. And you couldn't argue with that once you believed that this final piece of the sales pitch is what did it.  And to know, and now hear it from you, that that wasn't based on fact or any evidence or any intel--that it was just made up--that's the case for why I'm so angry about that war. . . I think we got talked into a war by people who weren't being honest.
We didn't get talked into that war, Chris  We knew all along it was a dishonest pitch made by dishonest people. Those who could have done something at the time didn't fight hard enough to stop them. Without the press, without members of congress, without the movers and shakers, the millions of us who protested were whispering in the wind.  There is plenty of blame to go around but the blame lies squarely on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

The least we can do for the Iraq war casualties, both foreign and domestic, is to keep this alive:  We went into a war based on deliberate lies. The perpetrators walk among us without fear, but we know.  We can't forget.  We won't forget.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Liberaland. Featured on Crooks and Liars MBRU)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

William Zinsser: Writing Well Is The Best Legacy

I came to what I call professional writing fairly late.  I didn't take it seriously until real life eased enough for me to give some attention to what I might want to do with the rest of my days.
After dabbling in every artistic expression of my day--needlework, crochet, macrame, pottery, ceramics, drawing in charcoal and pastels, painting in oils, acrylics, and watercolor--none of which I did well--I finally realized that my early love, writing, was the creative outlet I had been looking for all along.
I joined a local writing group and there I found William Zinsser, their anointed guru.  They couldn't stop talking about his book, On Writing Well.  It was their bible and I, more interested in hamper-free, no-rules writing, was having none of it.  I didn't want to be told how to write, I wanted to be told I wrote well, even when I didn't.  That was the whole point of joining a writing group.  Or so I thought at the time.
Zinsser, when I finally opened up to him, taught me otherwise.  Good writing takes skill.  There is no easy way to acquire it and the sooner the novice realizes it, the easier it is to look at the beginnings as school--lessons, grades, apprenticeships.  And then you go to work, where you find that you don't know everything after all, and that, as in any other profession, the learning never stops.
I'm still a dummy when it comes to grammar and sentence structure.  I'm always imagining the "Oh, God, no" reactions from the more knowledgeable people who take on the task of reading what I write.  I don't always get it--what can I say?  But William Zinsser gave me the reasons to write. Yes, he was a stickler for grammar and sentence structure, but his main focus was not so much on doing it right as on doing it well.
In honor of his life and skills, in sadness at his passing, here are a few passages from "On Writing Well" (Fifth Edition):
Trust your material if it's taking you into unknown terrain you didn't intend to enter but the vibrations are good.  Adjust your style and your mood accordingly and proceed to whatever destination you reach.  Don't ever become the prisoner of a preconceived plan.  Writing is no respecter of blueprints--it's too subjective a process, too full of surprises.
Writing is hard work.  A clear sentence is no accident.  Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time.  Remember this in moments of despair.  If you find that writing is hard, it's because it is hard.  It's one of the hardest things people do.
The good writer of prose must be part poet, always listening to what he writes.  E.B White continues to be my favorite stylist because I'm conscious of being with a man who cares about the cadences and sonorities of the language.  I relish (in my ear) the pattern his words make as they fall into a sentence.  I try to surmise how in rewriting the sentence he reassembled it to the end with a phrase that will momentarily linger, or how he chose one word over another because he was after a certain emotional weight.  It's the difference between say, "serene" and "tranquil"--one so soft, the other strangely disturbing because of the unusual n and q
Writing is not a contest.  Every writer is starting from a different point and is bound for a different destination. Yet many writers are paralyzed by the thought that they are competing with everyone else who is trying to write and presumably doing it better.
Decide what you want to do.  Then decide to do it.  Then do it.
Mr. Zinsser, I wish I had said this before, but you'll understand if I feel the need to say it now.
Thank you. It didn't always take (living proof), but you gave it your best.  You never stopped trying.  And that's what counts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sarah Palin: Out. Carly Fiorina: In

In 2007, the story goes, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and a few GOP movers and shakers went on a cruise to Alaska  and met a certain Sarah Palin, then-governor of that great state.  It's safe to say she knocked Kristol's socks off (and his head cockeyed, though he didn't know it at the time).

The word is that Kristol fell head over heels--as much as a Republican operative can--for the sassy, smart-assy former cheerleader and did a little cheer-leading of his own.  This woman, he told anyone who would listen, will be the next Vice President of the United States!  It seemed a simple matter (maybe not to you and me. . .) and somehow they convinced John McCain, the then-presidential candidate, that if a woman would be a good choice, this woman would be spectacular!

And so it went.  McCain didn't become president and Palin didn't become vice-president, but that didn't mean Sarah Palin would just fade away.  No, indeedy.  She's still around, still giving rah-rah speeches, still going for the anti-liberal, anti-Obama laughs.  But nobody is looking to her to be the first female to sit behind the Oval Office desk.  Not anymore.  She has a semi-permanent role as the gal who dishes the diss and keeps 'em rolling in the aisles.  She never wanted to be a politician anyway.  No big bucks in it and besides that, it's work!  (For further discussion, see Game Change.)

For several years post-Palin, there were no other GOP women who showed even the slightest interest in running the country. Then along comes Carly Fiorina, with no political experience save for a couple of CPAC appearances, and it's look out, Hillary!

Carly's best CPAC line about the former U.S Secretary of State:
"Like Hillary Clinton, I too have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe, but unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is not an accomplishment, it’s an activity. I have met Vladimir Putin and know that it will take more to halt his ambitions than a gimmicky red ‘Reset’ button."

I love watching Carly Fiorina put on her haughty face, purse her lemony lips and smile her regal smile.  I love the "air quotes" thing.  I love it when she uses her I-mean-business voice to tell us why she would make the best president of the United States of Corporate America.

 Carly has given a lot of thought to what works best when a woman goes after the highest job in the land.  First of all, forget she's a woman.  Well, not totally.  It would be cool to be the first woman president!  If you must, think tough hard-knocks broad who can slam-bang with the best of them.Take no prisoners!  Get it done!  Enough with those liberals!  They'll be the ruination of us all! (Carly to her cohorts:  Honestly, don't they want us to own this country?)

Consider her thoughts on the California drought crisis:
Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett Packard CEO, failed 2010 GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, and friend of the fossil fuel industry. . .who is considering a presidential bid, told Glenn Beck that the California drought is a “man-made disaster.” And by man-made she means it has been caused by “liberal environmentalists” who have prevented the state from building the appropriate reservoirs and other water infrastructure.
“In California, fish and frogs and flies are really important,” she said. ” … California is a classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology.
Says the same presidential candidate who called off-shoring "right-shoring"; the same candidate who bragged about moving parts of Hewlett-Packard out of the country in order to avoid having to pay high taxes here; the same candidate who micromanaged the lay-offs of some 30,000 workers, sending most of their jobs overseas, labeling the move "streamlining".  The same candidate who was fired from said job for questionable practices and for losing the company, and thus the stockholders, tons of money.  ("Not so," says Carly.  But who you gonna trust?)

Carly is all business.  She sees that as a good thing.  Our political system is too full of politicians, she says.  What we need is a female president who understands management, who understands technology.  Carly says she does. (She's against net neutrality--something 80% of Americans are for.) What we need, she says, is a female president who isn't Hillary Clinton.  Don't get Carly wrong; Hillary has given her life to her work. She's just. . .

  "Hillary Clinton must not be president of the United States, but not because she's a woman. Hillary Clinton must not be president of the United States because she is not trustworthy."



But, aside from building businesses by quashing government interference, what does Carly have in mind for her presidency, should she, um, win?  I think she's probably pretty smart.  (That's a plus when you want to be president, but it's not a qualification written in stone.) I'm pretty sure she knows she won't just be the CEO of a company, she'll be the CEO of the whole damn United States.  Of America.  That's--count 'em--50 states.  Big ones.  Lots of people. 

She must have thought beyond just being the anti-Hillary, as she's depicted (and as she no doubt relishes), but has she thought beyond being the CEO? There is a whole contingency (almost everybody) who think Carly made a lousy CEO while at HP, but Carly isn't one of them.

In her announcement video, she makes no mention of her qualifications (showing she has a sweet side), and to her credit she left out the Demon Sheep. (She lost to California Senator Barbara Boxer in 2010--by 10 points--thereby giving rise to the notion that it might take more than a phony red-eyed sheep to pull the wool over some peoples' eyes.)  But Carly thought the sheep ad was a good one.  "Some people thought it was funny," she said.

Well,  yeah, we all thought it was funny.  But was it wise?

But never mind. Carly says it might have looked like she lost big time but, in fact, she only slightly lost because in the primaries she outshone every other GOP hopeful.  She won the primary.  She WON.  The primary.)

Despite the high marks she gives herself, Carly Fiorina will not be the next president of the United States.  Carly knows that as well as I do, but what I'm seeing from Carly is a much bigger ambition:  She really, truly wants to knock that ditzy Sarah Palin off her high horse, climb onto that bejeweled saddle, and be The Witty Smart Spokeswoman for The New GOP.

Good luck with that, Carly.  But hang around for awhile, won't you, honey?  Strictly for laughs, of course.  You make it hard for us to take you seriously.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog, Liberaland, and FreakOutNation. Featured at Crooks and Liars MBRU)