Be wary, be wary. Of the 31st of January…

A day, in Boston, that will live in infamy!


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Great Colin Powell interview in GQ.

There’s still at least one Republican out there I’d probably vote for if he were to decide to run for President, unfortunately for Republicans he’s not in the race. That man is Colin Powell, the one man in the Bush Administration for whom I had any respect and trust. It was sad to see him manipulated by the Bush Administration to justify the war in Iraq and his leaving after the re-election meant there’d be one less voice of sanity in the White House. In an interview with GQ magazine he only reinforces my opinion of him:

Isn’t the new global threat we face even more dangerous?
What is the greatest threat facing us now? People will say it’s terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?

I would approach this differently, in almost Marshall-like terms. What are the great opportunities out there—ones that we can take advantage of? It should not be just about creating alliances to deal with a guy in a cave in Pakistan. It should be about how do we create institutions that keep the world moving down a path of wealth creation, of increasing respect for human rights, creating democratic institutions, and increasing the efficiency and power of market economies? This is perhaps the most effective way to go after terrorists.

So you think we are getting too hunkered down and scared?
Yes! We are taking too much counsel of our fears.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a terrorist threat. There is a threat. And we should send in military forces when we have a target to deal with. We should also secure our airports, if that makes us safer. But let’s welcome every foreign student we can get our hands on. Let’s make sure that foreigners come to the Mayo Clinic here, and not the Mayo facility in Dubai or somewhere else. Let’s make sure people come to Disney World and not throw them up against the wall in Orlando simply because they have a Muslim name. Let’s also remember that this country was created by immigrants and thrives as a result of immigration, and we need a sound immigration policy.

Let’s show the world a face of openness and what a democratic system can do. That’s why I want to see Guantánamo closed. It’s so harmful to what we stand for. We literally bang ourselves in the head by having that place. What are we doing this to ourselves for? Because we’re worried about the 380 guys there? Bring them here! Give them lawyers and habeas corpus. We can deal with them. We are paying a price when the rest of the world sees an America that seems to be afraid and is not the America they remember.

You can drive up the road from here and come to a spot where there is a megachurch over here, a little Episcopal church over there, a Catholic church around the corner that’s almost cathedral-size, and between them is a huge Hindu temple. There are no police needed to guard any of this. There are not many places in the world where you would see that. Yes, there are a few dangerous nuts in Brooklyn and New Jersey who want to blow up Kennedy Airport and Fort Dix. These are dangerous criminals, and we must deal with them. But come on, this is not a threat to our survival! The only thing that can really destroy us is us. We shouldn’t do it to ourselves, and we shouldn’t use fear for political purposes—scaring people to death so they will vote for you, or scaring people to death so that we create a terror-industrial complex.

His thoughts on how to reform America’s tarnished image:

How can we restore America’s image?
We should remember what that image was, back after World War II. It was the image of a generous country that sought not to impose its will on other countries or even to impose its values. But it showed the way, and it helped other countries, and it opened its doors to people—visitors and refugees and immigrants.

America could not survive without immigration. Even the undocumented immigrants are contributing to our economy. That’s the country my parents came to. That’s the image we have to portray to the rest of the world: kind, generous, a nation of nations, touched by every nation, and we touch every nation in return. That’s what people still want to believe about us. They still want to come here. We’ve lost a bit of the image, but we haven’t lost the reality yet. And we can fix the image by reflecting a welcoming attitude—and by not taking counsel of our fears and scaring ourselves to death that everybody coming in is going to blow up something. It ain’t the case.

Yep, I’d vote for him in a heartbeat. It’s a shame he’s not running.

Good Question: Why Sell Saudi Arabia $20 Billion in Arms Now?

[While we’re on the subject of blowing taxpayer dollars:]

US Army Col (Ret) Daniel Smith asks some very provocative questions in a recent article on Foreign Policy In Focus:

The “headline-grabber” read: “U.S. Plans New Arms Sales to Gulf Allies.”

Nothing startling there. For decades the United States has routinely sold or transferred weapons and ammunition, sent military teams abroad or brought foreign military personnel to the United States for training, and transferred technology that allowed “friendly” governments to produce almost state-of-the-art copies of U.S. weapons.

What was a surprise were two details in the article’s subheading. The main recipient of Uncle Sam’s largesse was Saudi Arabia, and the value of the deal was said to be $20 billion.

Saudi Arabia? Isn’t that the country:

 

     

  • from which came 15 of the 19 men responsible for 9/11?
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  • that opposed the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and whose king, in March 2007, called the invasion an “illegal occupation”?
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  • that told the United States to remove its troops and find some other country for U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM) forward command post?
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  • whose border is so poorly monitored that 75% of all foreign fighters crossing into Iraq do so from Saudi territory, far more than from Syria?
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  • whose autocratic government either will not or cannot prevent its youth from going to Iraq – an estimated 40% of all foreigners fighting U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces are Saudi nationals – where they become bomb makers, snipers, and suicide bombers?
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  • that nearly 60 years after the creation of the modern state of Israel still refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to Tel Aviv?

 

It’s hard to argue that they’re anything more than fair-weather friends, and while the Saudis are either barely supporting US actions in the region or are quietly or not so quietly subverting US efforts there, you have to wonder what sort of cerebral ischemic event has led the Bush administration to want to sell them $20 Billions of advanced weapons.  More importantly, Col. Smith asks, why now?

In a word, leverage:

But looking at the Saudi record and Riyadh’s increasing propensity to act in its interests without coordinating with Washington, there is the suggestion that the Bush administration is suddenly wary of its “other” flank in the Persian Gulf – the one occupied by the Saudi-dominated six-member Gulf Cooperation Council. Militarily overcommitted in mid-summer 2007, the White House has only two cards to play: pump up fear of Iran acquiring enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon, or bribe the regional allies.

That’s a mighty big bone to toss to a mighty big dog.  Since there’s much profit to be had, the sale will likely fly through Congress.  The real question is, once the weapons are in the hands of the Saudis, what then?  If recent history is any barometer, we’ll probably see that many of these weapons will wind up in the hands of enemy forces as we are now seeing in Iraq.

Chertoff stokes the FUD flames with “gut feelings” about possible terrorism.

Would somebody please explain to me why the fuck U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff felt the need to imitate “psychic” Sylvia Browne last Tuesday? I’m referring to his claims of a “gut feeling” about possible terror attacks:

“I believe we are entering a period this summer of increased risk,” Chertoff told the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board in an unusually blunt and frank assessment of America’s terror threat level.

“Summertime seems to be appealing to them,” he said of al-Qaida. “We do worry that they are rebuilding their activities.”

Still, Chertoff said there are not enough indications of an imminent plot to raise the current threat levels nationwide. And he indicated his remarks were based on “a gut feeling” formed by past seasonal patterns of terrorist attacks, recent al-Qaida statements, and intelligence he did not disclose.

There is an assessment “not of a specific threat, but of increased vulnerability,” he added.

In other words, “The Bush administration needs something to distract you people from the fact that it’s run by a bunch of fuck ups and we’ve not trotted out the looming specter of Al Qaeda in awhile so here it is: OOoooOOOoooO! Scary! EVERYBODY PANIC!”

“We could easily be attacked,” Chertoff added. “The intent to attack us remains as strong as it was on Sept. 10, 2001.”

And this is a surprise to… whom, exactly? Could it be that we’re still vulnerable because we’re wasting time and money confiscating any bottle of liquid larger than 3oz at the airport while letting the bomb sitting next to it slip right on through? Could it be that we’re spread too thin fighting an illegitimate war in Iraq that we’ve allowed Al Qaeda to recuperate to almost full strength?  You know, the group of people who are directly responsible for the destruction of the Twin Towers? How many of you remember how on December 14th of 2001 our so-called Commander and Chief vowed to bring in Bin Laden, dead or alive? It’s been almost 6 years since that vow, he only has about a year and a half left before he’s out on his ass. When does he plan to honor that vow? It’s the one promise he’s made that I’d really love to see him keep.

Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest course of action to have Chertoff try and distract the public with vague and highly unspecific gut feelings about terrorism. Both Bush and Chertoff seemed to think so today as both came out to try and downplay the hubbub created by Chertoff’s guts:

But this morning, both President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff attempted to play down the intelligence report. “I wouldn’t put it [the threat] at that level — in my own opinion,” said Chertoff. Bush claimed:

    There is a perception in the coverage that al Qaeda may be as strong today as they were prior to September 11th. That’s simply not the case…because of the actions we’ve taken, al Qaeda is weaker today than they would have been.

So, be scared, but not so scared that you start to remember that it’s Bush’s fault Bin Laden and his band of Merry Men are still out there to begin with. We want you just frightened enough to forget about all the other shit that’s going on, but not too scared that you actually question things.

Bonus Update: Keith Olbermann chimed in on Chertoff’s gut:

And you and your folks there have a different kind of stomach pain, knowing that with a track record that consists largely of two accomplishments — inconveniencing people at airports and scaring them everywhere else — your department doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing, and even you, Mr. Chertoff, know it.

Worst bombing in London since World War II.

By now you’ve all probably heard that terrorists have bombed London. So far the death toll stands at 37 with possibly 700 wounded and is likely to climb higher as time passes. I’ve been listening to the coverage of the event on NPR throughout the day and I just wanted to take a moment to say that the British people are in my thoughts. We have a number of regulars here at SEB that call the United Kingdom their home and I hope you all are still with us and I can see that at least one of you is still around.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about it other than to ponder the not so distant claims of the Bush Administration that they had broken the back of al Qaeda. They seem to be pretty strong to me. Assuming, of course, that this was an al Qaeda operation. Whatever. I just hope the death toll stays pretty low for you folks.