Let's Fix This Country

Is the U.S. Military Ready for War? Not by a Long Shot. »

Dec 3 2022

It is a world that bristles with hostiles — China, Russia, Iran, North Korea — any of which could trigger war. Yet the consensus is that the U.S. military is, on many counts, vastly unprepared.

Actually, that consensus comes principally from analysts at conservative think tanks, many of them former military,… Read More »


Can the U.S. Navy Win in a War Against China’s? »

Jul 29 2021

A war with China would be a naval war, and the United States Navy is not at all prepared. Long assuming our invulnerability as a navy centered on aircraft carrier strike groups while the nature of warfare changes, we have… Read More »

foreign policy

This Will Be Pompeo’s War. Congress Won’t Have a Say »

The Secretary of State becomes Secretary of War Jul 5 2019

The Trump administration is setting the stage to begin a war with Iran without the bother of obtaining the authorization of Congress, as the Constitution prescribes. Nothing else can explain the outlandish claims in briefings to members of Congress by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Pentagon that Iran is linked to al Qaeda.

What is that about? Just three days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress authorized the president to use military force “against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks…or harbored such organizations or persons”. That organization was quickly determined to be al Qaeda, and the AUMF, as the Authorization for Use of Military Force is commonly referred to, has been used since as justification for our wars-without-end throughout the Middle East.

Pompeo is now making the case in advance that war against Iran would be yet another… Read More »


Burnishing Bush »

A loyalist attempts to tidy up the record Feb 25 2015

Two weeks ago Laurence Silberman wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled "The Dangerous Lie That 'Bush Lied'" to say how "shocking" he found former Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier's having twice asserted on Fox News that President George W. Bush “lied us into war in Iraq”.

Silberman is a senior federal judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals and served as co-chair of the commission assigned in 2004-05 to evaluate the "intelligence community’s determination that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD". He warrants that it was intelligence that Bush relied on as his "primary casus belli" and reliance on what proved to be "dead wrong" does not make Bush a liar.

There are weaknesses in his certitude. He cites the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and its "90% level of confidence" that "Saddam had weapons of mass destruction" as the leading determinant in Bush's decision. But that's not what the NIE said. "Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons" was the conclusion of the sixteen intelligence services, which then said only that "We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs". Silberman doesn't make that clear. His "Saddam had weapons of mass destruction" leaves the reader to assume nuclear weapons, especially use of the word "destruction", which one doesn't commonly associate with chemical and biological weapons.

So that led us to wonder how close to accurate were Judge Silberman's other assertions to absolve the 43rd president.

He reminds us that "Saddam had also attempted to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush" in Kuwait in 1993, "But President George W. Bush based his decision to go to war on information about Saddam’s WMD". Implicit is that the younger Bush was not motivated by revenge. But the judge doesn't get to erase what Bush had said. In a September 2002 campaign speech six months before the invasion, Bush cited a number of reasons why Saddam was so dangerous to the U.S., among them, "After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad". He would refer to the assassination attempt again that month in an address at the United Nations General Assembly, urging adoption of a resolution demanding that Saddam surrender his WMD. We could also cite Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, whose perspective on the cause of war as the first proconsul in Iraq before Paul Bremer's disastrous reign was more immediate than than that of Judge Silberman sitting in D.C. a year or two later. Garner said of George W. Bush that "he had a burr in his saddle on Iraq because they made an assassination attempt on his father".

Silberman wants us to believe that Bush based the decision to attack Iraq in 2003 solely on the intelligence handed to him. But longer memories recall Richard Clarke saying that, on the night after 9/11 two years earlier, Bush had demanded "Iraq, Saddam, find out if there is a connection”. The origin of the 9/11 attacks was al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but there was an eagerness to go after Iraq from the start and the intelligence that Silberman says Bush relied on came later and was made to order — raw intelligence free of analysis "cherry-picked" and "stove-piped" straight to the top were the terms of choice at the time.

In leaked minutes of a meeting at 10 Downing Street, Richard Deerlove — "MI6", Britain's chief of intelligence — fresh from a trip to Washington where he learned of U.S. manipulation of intelligence first hand, reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that “The intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy”.

As another proof that lies took us to war, the AP reporter could have cited Bush's use of United Nations resolution 1441 as justification for going to war. The following article from 2007 by guest writer Al Robdell makes clear that the conditions of 1441 had already been met by Saddam Hussein, yet Bush went on to create his own reality for our consumption in his search for exculpation:
                                             •           •           •

          Not just a lie, a "Big Lie"

See the President of the United States of America rewrite history in front of your very eyes when he was asked this Wednesday whether there was any choice other than going to war with Iraq:

It's important to document the actual history of those days, when there was a choice to be made, since this version, repeated often enough without a single objection soon becomes the new reality.

Here are the President's words, which he has spoken numerous times before almost verbatim, from the White House Transcript:

Q: So there was no choice -- so there was no choice between the course we took and leaving Saddam Hussein in power? Nothing else that might have worked?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we tried other things. As you might remember back then, we tried the diplomatic route: 1441 was a unanimous vote in the Security Council that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. So the choice was his to make. And he made -- he made a choice that has subsequently left — subsequently caused him to lose his life under a system that he wouldn't have given his own citizens. We tried diplomacy. As a matter of fact, not only did I try diplomacy; other Presidents tried diplomacy.

Let me paraphrase his statement:

The United Nations, the nations of the world, speaking in unity, gave Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to disclose his Weapons of Mass Destruction and to disarm (destroy his illegal weapons, (specifically defined as WMD along with certain long range missiles.) He then adds that this was encompassed in Resolution 1441 which stated that if he refused, he would face "serious consequences" which is diplomatic language for war.

This statement is so clear and reasonable, if only it were true. This was not an off the cuff answer. This is the story that is being repeated to the public. It could be taken from this description of Joseph Goebbels' "Big Lie," that if you you repeat something consistently over a long enough period, even though false, it becomes a new reality.

Now comes the easy part, dissecting this sham for what it is: Yes, Saddam did refuse to disclose his WMD. But in this case his excuse is pretty compelling: he didn't possess any to disclose. My source? How about President Bush from the same news conference, spoken about one minute before he said Saddam was attacked for not disclosing WMD:

I obviously thought he had weapons, he didn't have weapons; the world thought he had weapons. It was a surprise to me that he didn't have the weapons of mass destruction everybody thought he had...

O.K. He couldn't "disclose" what he didn't possess; now what about the "destroy" part of the ultimatum?

It turns out that there was only one type of weapon that Iraq possessed that was marginally illegal based on the outside limit of its range. Weeks before the invasion these missiles were being destroyed as fast as possible as indicated in this reportfrom the New York Times of March 8, 2003, twelve days before we attacked:

The assessment from the weapons inspectors took account of Iraq's cooperation since Nov. 27, when inspections in Iraq resumed for the first time since 1998, after the Security Council passed a unanimous resolution. In addition to casting severe doubt on the reported Iraqi attempt to buy uranium in Niger, Dr. ElBaradei said that ''there is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment'' of uranium into weapons-grade material. For months, American officials have cited Iraq's importation of these tubes as evidence that Mr. Hussein's scientists have been seeking to develop a nuclear capability.

Mr. Blix reiterated that the destruction of 34 Al Samoud 2 missiles in the past week "constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament indeed, the first since the middle of the 1990's. We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks."

Disarm?: far from refusing, Iraq was acceding to the demand, as reported by the U.N. Chief Inspector.

So what else is wrong with President Bush's summarization of why we attacked Iraq? I'm talking about proximate causes here, not underlying motivations which is another more complex subject. He mentions U.N Resolution 1441 as containing the ultimatum and threat of war. Here's how one newspaper saw it:

It should be remembered that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted in November 2002 regarding Iraq, was also unanimous but not definitive. The consensus was an additional resolution would be needed to authorize action against the Baghdad regime. But when Washington tried to get such a resolution, it failed to even muster a majority of the Security Council, with three veto-yielding members (China, Russia and France) opposed.

This wasn't from the New York Times or the Washington Post. It was from the July 26, 2006 edition of The Washington Times, considered the Fox News of the print media.

There's more, so much more that refutes the content and implications of the President's statement, such as the acknowledgment by his Press Secretary as the war was approaching that even acceding to the 1441 demands would no longer be sufficient,

Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said today that President Bush was hopeful that war could be averted, but that to escape military action, Iraq must disarm and Mr. Hussein must be deposed.

That combination of events, he said, looked highly unlikely.

Pressed on the point, Mr. Fleischer said both would be necessary conditions because disarmament was the United Nations' goal and changing Iraq's government was the president's.

The statement puts the United States on a different track from the United Nations, whose resolutions have been concerned with the immediate and unconditional disarmament, not with a change of government in Baghdad. that Saddam must give up power.

the above report from a New York Times article concluded with, "All pretense of Iraq being attacked based on the will of the international community was abandoned."

There are those who are convinced that everything that President Bush has said about this war is a lie, most importantly his underlying motivation for it in the first place. While some may refute this, and many do, how does one justify his blatant rewriting of the events leading up to this war.

We could not have possibly attacked Iraq because Saddam refused to "Disclose and Disarm." He was disarming and he had nothing to disclose. This is irrefutable fact-- from the President's own words, that of his press secretary, and the most extreme right wing newspaper in the country.
                                            •           •           •
A few days ago there was a highly recommended sketch by a noted humorist that showed a video of a fictional White House reporter challenging the President at a news conference. While most of us were enjoying the satire, I almost believed it was real. And I was somewhat peeved that I was tricked into buying into it.

Perhaps I was made numb by the routine bizarre fiction coming from the highest office in the land. What I find more incredible than the satiric video is that among the assembly of White House correspondents who listened to President Bush say these words, not a single one stood up and challenged him.

Not a single one of these "respected" journalists was willing to state the facts that refute his statement, to incur the wrath of this one man, who willfully and purposefully perpetrated an illegal act of war; and now has the effrontery to attempt to rewrite history, by erasing his crime with this "big lie."

                           Al Rodbell writes on a wide range of topics
                                       on his personal website, AlRodbell.com


The Drone Controversy, Viewed From All Sides »

Senate scrutiny of John Brennan to head CIA brings issue to forefront Feb 16 2013

As the confirmation hearings by the Senate of John Brennan to be named CIA director drew near, the heat intensified over the program of death by drone enough to cause the Obama White House to finally relent, pledging to release to lawmakers the document that it had even gone to court to keep secret.

An opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel, the document gives the President legal cover for killing, without due process of trial, an American citizen in September of 2011 in Yemen and of his 17-year-old son two weeks later. The practice of conjuring after-the-fact legal justifications for deeds already done brings to mind the opinions issued by that same office during the Bush administration that blessed “enhanced interrogation techniques”, otherwise known as torture.

kill list criteria

Just days before the hearing, NBC News had obtained and released a copy of a white paper that supposedly summarized the contents of the longer opinion. That finally undercut the White House’s long campaign to keep secret its arguments why a program of targeted killing is constitutionally defensible, but, even with the white paper out in the open, the full opinion is still classified and… Read More »


Obama’s Hidden War: Peeling Back the Layers of Secrecy »

We…the people…are not entitled to know Feb 15 2013

As the use of drones increased in the Waziristan tribal areas of Pakistan, inaccessible to U.S. ground forces, a New York Times exposé in May of 2011 revealed that the White House itself was calling the shots from a “kill list” maintained by Obama’s counter-terror advisor, John Brennan. He who has now been nominated to head the CIA.

The drone war, since ramped up in Yemen and elsewhere, has still not even been acknowledged to exist by the White House. The Obama administration has decided that it is none of the public’s business. The White House has steadily denied Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain copies of the 2010 opinion the Office of Legal Counsel’s served up to make the assassination by this administration of even Americans legal (see related story). What irony, considering that on taking office, this president, over the protests of the CIA, found it only proper and transparent to release the similar and linguistically tortured Justice Department legal opinions that absolved the Bush administration of its physical torture practices.

The American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times sued, which led to an unusual ruling from federal judge Colleen McMahon of… Read More »

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Suggested Milley Execution Brings Up Trump’s Mocking of the Military »

Sep 29 2023

Donald Trump is under indictment for what he did before, during, and after he was president. That is a staggering load to bear which may help explain his recent lashing out at the world, even more than usual.

No sooner had he given an 80-minute interview with NBC's Kristen Welker… Read More »

foreign policy

Changing Presidents: Will Russia or China Move Against Us? »

Aug 24 2016

"We move inexorably toward our nation's moment of maximum vulnerability, when our democracy's leadership changes hands
January 20th. It is a moment when our adversaries may probe for weakness and will be tempted to test us."

This quotes from fairly deep in our earlier piece on Donald Trump's world outlook and the concern that, as we make the transition to a new and inchoate administration, Vladimir Putin might find our moment of disarray irresistible for making his next move.

Or might Kim Jong-un, now that North Korea has finally staged a successful missile flight after several failures landing it close to Japan, a country that the U.S. is sworn to defend, decide to… Read More »


Still a Disconnect After All These Years »

Government agencies still don’t exchange information? Apr 26 2013

The Department of Homeland Security {DHS} knew about the Boston bomber's trip to Russia, despite a misspelled name on his travel documents, the agency's chief, Janet Napolitano, told a Senate subcommittee a week after
Our increasingly militarized police: Do we
really need all this to go after a 19-year-old?

the atrocity. Redundancies in the system caught the disparity and “there was a ping on the outbound to Customs”, one of the divisions of the DHS, she said.

That puzzled Sen. Lindsay Graham (R, SC), who had been told by the FBI that "that they had no knowledge of [Tamerlan Tsarnaev] leaving or coming back".

But the FBI is separate — a part of the Justice Department. Both they and CIA had added the older Tsarnaev to two different watch lists in 2011. CIA notified State and DHS. They had been tipped off by Russian intelligence, suspicious about the U.S. transplant from Dagestan even before he went to Russia. But neither CIA nor FBI noticed when Tsarnaev last year went back to the mother country.

where have we heard that before?

What we are hearing is that what one agency knew was not shared with the other and that databases are where information goes to die. Russia had warned the FBI twice, calling the older brother "a follower of radical Islam" who had "changed drastically", yet the FBI dropped the matter because a law prevents them from indefinite surveillance, they now say. That ping to Customs? That was relayed to the Boston area FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force. There is no evidence so far that they took any action.

This account and another by the New York Times reminds us of George Tenant warning the president in the summer of 2011 that "the system is blinking red" and yet the signals were once again missed. Here's what it was like in the prelude to 9/11, which we offer to compare progress between then and now.

the 9/11 commission revisited

The 2004 commission investigating the 9/11 attacks uncovered numerous instances where vital information that might have warned us of the attacks instead disappeared into dead ends, with notorious failings to “connect the dots”. In fact, a structural fault was found right in the 9/11 Commission’s ranks. One of its panelists, Jamie Gorelick, was the author of rules while at the Justice Department that set up “the wall” through which information must not pass, even within the FBI. Agencies were forbidden to pass criminal investigation discoveries to intelligence agencies and vice versa. The CIA was restricted to international, the FBI to domestic. Gorelick’s rules… Read More »

endless war

Still Obsessed with Obama, Trump Tells a Whopper »

Unending fake charges against the first black president go unchallenged Jan 12 2020

In his talk the morning after the Iran missile strike at U.S. bases in Iraq, President Trump continued his psychodrama with Barack Obama with a compound lie that may have… Read More »

war plans

If Hostilities Break Out, Iran Controls the Geography »

Jul 20 2019

The many provocations in recent weeks, capped by the downing of a costly drone, are sure to provoke a military response from the U.S. should Iran continue. We're full of bluster with Trump talking of "obliteration" and "end of Iran", but, having
Where the drone was brought down in the Gulf of Oman with the Straits of Hormuz to its west.

pulled back after the drone's loss, there will be pressure to respond militarily if an incident causes any loss of American life.

Trump wants to avoid war, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wants to use threats of military force only to drive Iran to new negotiations, we're told. But then there's National Security Adviser John Bolton, the sort who never wore a uniform but has no qualms about sending young Americans to risk their lives, war being his preferred diplomacy. And… Read More »

national security

One Finger on the Button? Are We Crazy? »

Jan 27 2018

The question of Donald Trump's fitness to be president again lit up the Internet and cable news when the two schoolyard bullies tweeted about who has the bigger
nuclear button. How humiliating that we the people find ourselves in such a state of impotence, with no alternative other than to wait to see what two volatile men of wobbly stability might do. We have left in place a law meant for another time… Read More »

Flashpoint in the South China Sea »

May 18 2016

A U.S. guided missile destroyer sailed last week within 12 miles of an artificial island constructed by China to symbolically insist that navigation of the seas will remain free, that the international convention's 12-mile exclusion can only be declared by a sovereign owner of territory, and that disputed Fiery Cross Reef does not belong to China.

Yet now China is moving still further from its takeover of certain of the Spratly and Paracel Island chains to Scarborough Shoal, clearly far from China and on the edge of the Philippines (click map to expand).
Simultaneously, China says it will build floating nuclear power plants to provide power to the… Read More »

foreign policy

U.S. Apparently Abandoning Pacific Friends, Caving in to China »

Jan 6 2016

When Beijing lodged a complaint about a B-52 flying within two miles of an artificial island in the South China Sea built by China, the Obama administration's meek response signaled that we've acceded to their
The B-52. Its maiden flight was in 1952.

takeover of disputed islands, rocks, and reefs in the Spratly chain — never mind that they are in international waters.

Cuarteron is a reef to which China has added 57 acres of dredged sea bottom to form an island that it then equipped with two helipads, possible gun or missile emplacements, and two possible radar towers, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in… Read More »


Ten Years After: How Bush Took Us to War »

Called the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history Apr 26 2013

After the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq this March and the "Mission Accomplished" moment of May, 2003, that just passed, history is slowly being rewritten to soften the image of George W. Bush, as was apparent in the dedication ceremonies for the Bush Library in Dallas in late April.
"He kept us safe" is what the former president wants us to remember, to earn credit where credit is due for constructing the vast security apparatus that prevented any further attacks on U.S. soil for almost a dozen years until Boston.

The Iraq invasion is another matter, and it is fair on the 10th anniversary of its March 19, 2003 commencement, followed only six weeks later on May 1 by the heralding of "Mission Accomplished", to assess the results of that disastrous war. Many in the media have done so. But instead, let's go back to how it began and recount just how we managed to blunder into so costly a mistake. It's an extraordinary story: the deceptions the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld administration spun that many would call treasonous to lure the American public into endorsing an unnecessary war. We shouldn't allow that memory to dim as the nation faces new threats and considers taking new military actions in Syria and Iran.

the past as prelude

Anyone who knew the recent history of Iraq — the arbitrary boundaries drawn to make a country of hostile ethnic and religious groups when the Ottoman Empire was dismembered after… Read More »


Mortal After All, The Shine Comes Off Military Brass »

Looks like our adulation got a bit out of hand Dec 1 2012

A welcome fallout from the Petraeus affair is that voices have come forth suggesting that we not idolize our military leaders quite so unreservedly. Unlike

the opprobrium heaped by some misguided elements on those who fought in Vietnam, we have honored the troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan deservedly this time around. But there are those that say we have taken this too far.

Their criticism is not of units who have done the hard and hazardous work of our two wars — frontline units from brigade level on down are generally credited with adapting well to these insurgency wars and getting done the job assigned to them. Our mistake, say a number of military commentators, is to adore the generals along with them. Paul Yingling, for one, now retired but then a U.S. Army colonel who served three tours in Iraq,… Read More »

the military

Defense: Are We Cutting Too Close to the Bone? »

The Right thinks so, the Left says “about time” Oct 12 2012

In January of this year, President Obama announced a revamping of the military that entails budget cuts of $487 billion across ten years. Before leaving office last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates had already trimmed several hundred billion dollars by shutting down costly weapons programs, notably the F-22 fighter. And beginning this January 2, barring further action, another $500 billion over ten years will be lopped off the defense budget by law.

That’s the consequence of the nation having walked to the brink of default in mid-summer 2011 after months of dispute over raising the debt ceiling. On August 2 of last year, when Treasury Secretary Geithner had warned that the United States would run out of cash needed to pay its bills, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Budget Control Act. It called for $917 billion in spending cuts but, out of an inability to reach agreement… Read More »