So why now? Thursday, June 16, late in the afternoon, Jennifer Loven of Associated Press proves a summary of the situation – "Facing growing pressure to bring troops home from Iraq, President Bush is launching a public relations campaign to try to calm anxieties about the war."
Is this a problem public relations can fix? Sometimes PR isn't the answer – but who knows? Maybe that'll do. In any event it seems we're going to get a major address on June 28, and that's symbolic, of course. That's the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty from our coalition - such as it is now (or was) - to the Iraqis. Four days before that it seems Bush is scheduled to will meet at the White House with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the fellow who heads the transitional government over there. Oh yeah, we are told Bush also plans a series of radio addresses and appearances outside Washington, one assumes with those trademark carefully-vetted audiences so there's no trouble. And the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, says Bush "will emphasize the importance of democracy in Iraq and elsewhere" when he meets with selected world leaders in Gleneagles, Scotland.
That will turn things around?
Our fatalities so far? Over 1,700 now – and rising. Don't ask about how many Iraqis, soldiers and civilians, have died in all the recent bombings. It seems an average of thirty or so a day,
Scott McClellan: "The president recognizes that this is a concern that's on the minds of the American people. That's why he's going to sharpen his focus, spending more time talking about the progress that's being made on the ground - there's significant progress that has been made in a short period of time - the dangers that remain and that lie ahead, as well as our strategy for victory in Iraq."
Focus is good. And a strategy would be nice. Up until now out leaders were doing what, exactly? Well, there was the body of the one brain-dead woman that had to be kept functioning – and that moral, ethical and metaphysical battle had to be fought, as a matter of principal and religious faith. There was rescuing our stem-cell citizens - those little lumps of cells who were really people just like you and me - from the evil scientists. There was getting judges who favor the Bible over the constitution appointed – and that damned filibuster. And there was so much more. So the war got short shrift – but, reluctantly, it seems the guy has to deal with it.
Why? Because even the "freedom fries" guy has turned to the dark side. Representative Walter Jones, Republican of North Carolina – the guy who won the battle to have the House cafeteria rename those greasy potato sticks something other than "French" fries – is supporting the new bipartisan resolution to start withdrawing our troops from Iraq by October 1, 2006. He voted for the war and now says - "After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and discussion." Dang.
And Loven of AP notes this -
That'll grab your attention.
Foreign policy has typically given Bush his highest scores with the public, but that has changed. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll this month found just 41 percent of adults supported his handling of the Iraq war - an all-time low. In addition, a Gallup poll released Monday found that six in 10 Americans say they think the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq.
So the PR task now is to explain there was be no change in any policy - that's the official line - we'll just be told we're doing the right thing, and we should trust them on that.
Loven does add a comment that this new focus, and some revelation of some sort of clear strategy, may be a momentary thing. There could be the first Supreme Court vacancy in more than ten year, and by the end of this month. If so, the war stuff goes to the back burner again?
But can it go back into the "we'll worry about it later" bin?
Even the Thursday edition of the pro-Bush conservative Wall Street Journal explains the grim situation -
Look like it really is time to roll out the public relations heavy armor. A former cabinet member? The Freedom Fries guy?
As bad news continues to emerge from Iraq and the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, some Republicans are starting to edge away from the White House on its policies in the war on terror. The strains were on display yesterday, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Guantanamo Bay to address what Chairman Arlen Specter called the 'crazy quilt' system that governs the treatment of about 520 suspected enemy combatants being held there. Mr. Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, called on Congress to set out rules.
"More pointedly, Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, warned that if the administration and Congress and the courts can't come up with an effective policy for Guantanamo Bay, 'we're going to lose this war if we don't watch it.'"
President Bush is starting to get peppered by his own side on Iraq, too. Over the weekend, Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina - once a co-promoter of "freedom fries" - called for the U.S. to set a date to withdraw troops from Iraq. And last week, Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, a former Bush cabinet member who strongly supported the Iraq war in its earlier days, said he was "discouraged" by the lack of progress and the inability of the Pentagon to draw down U.S. forces.
And Thursday on Capitol Hill, in a basement room because the Republican house leadership said no conference rooms were available, Democratic representatives Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and John Conyers of Michigan led a hearing on the Downing Street Memo - those minutes from a British leadership meeting that suggest the Bush first decided to go to war in Iraq and then built a case for it later. No wonder there were no rooms available.
Note this: "In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Jackson Lee said the public needs to understand what happened. 'This is just the beginning. I look to 2002 and the names many of us were called for opposing the war in Iraq, and then I look at where we are today,' she said. 'If this is to meet the test of history, we have to have a comprehensive answer to what happened.'"
Things are getting hot.
On Flag Day, Tuesday, June 14 - Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, a Democrat, read this statement (links to a PDF document) -
Oh, that's just not nice.
When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]--I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:
On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.
If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.
Over at Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas Ziniga (Kos) describes the reaction to what Durbin said. This has become "the latest cause celebre of the Right Wing Media Borg." (Borg? See this.)
Fox News? Late Thursday they headlined the administration saying Durbin's comments were "reprehensible." As expected.
To the pea brains on the Right, incapable of reading the English language in its most basic, unuanced form, they claim Durbin is calling our troops Nazis. The Wingnutosphere is making that claim. Rush is making that claim. Hannity is making that claim. Drudge is making that claim. Look to Fox News to jump on the bandwagon tomorrow.
Kos suggests all the critics of what Durbin said missed the point -
Yep, Durbin was saying we're better than this. The response? You're calling us Nazis!
Of course, what Durbin is saying is that such torture - undisputed, by the way, and read from an FBI report - is more at home in a place like Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany than in a modern Democracy.
And that's the truth. Plain and simple.
Remember when torture was bad? And getting rid of it was good?
I'm not sure that's a counterargument. Why are we doing this stuff?
Of course, the Nazi reference, and the Gulag and Pol Pot stuff, was meant as a reminder we're NOT SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THOSE GUYS.
Perhaps it would have been better if Durbin had done what Jon Stewart did on the Wednesday night "Daily Show" - discuss the torture business under a beach graphic with the logo "Guantanamo Baywatch." No one is offended by David Hasselhoff. (Well, that's not exactly true.)
Kos does offer some reminders that we say we don't like torture much -
President Bush, Oct. 8 2003: "Iraq is free of rape rooms and torture chambers."
Scott McClellan, Dec. 10, 2003: "There was an announcement by the Iraqi Governing Council earlier this week about the tribunal that they have set up to hold accountable members of the former regime who were responsible for three decades of brutality and atrocities. ... We know about the mass graves and the rape rooms and the torture chambers of Saddam Hussein's regime. ... We welcome their decision to move forward on a tribunal to hold people accountable for those atrocities."
President Bush, Jan. 12, 2004: "One thing is for certain: There won't be any more mass graves and torture rooms and rape rooms."
Well, there won't be any over there. And those quotes are links from the actual White House website.
Ah, seems so.
And let's not forget, "torture" was used as a rationale for this war - as in, we'll invade and end the torture.
Of course, none of that has happened. The torture that was so bad under Saddam is equally bad under U.S. command. And Dick Durbin had the balls to say it so on the Senate floor.
And these cowards - these people who will neither serve the cause they claim is so vital, nor urge others to serve it - now rush to defend behavior that is indefensible?
More of the same sort of thing from others here, here and here.
Kos wraps up with this -
Yeah, well, if he's angry, turn to the other side.
Really, what is the Right trying to accomplish here? Inflict so much pain on Durbin that others will think twice before they levy legitimate criticisms of the war? Are they so hell-bent on their political correctness that any criticisms of the war effort is considered treasonous?
Last time I checked, the American people were giving up on Bush's folly. Last time I checked, most people still think torture is wrong, worthy of condemnation. Last time I checked, the War Pundits, War Politicians, War Preachers, and 101st Fighting Keyboarders still refused to personally sacrifice for the war effort. Last time I checked, that sad lot still refused to call on their own supporters to sacrifice for the war effort.
At a time when REAL support for the troops means providing them with the equipment and manpower necessary to fight the war effectively, they agitate for neither.
Instead, they try to shut down a US senator reading from an FBI report. From Bush's FBI. Because the truth hurts. So we must suppress it. And we'll do it by shedding crocodile tears for the troops. Because who gives a shit about them, so long as our heroic, do-no-wrong President looks good on the evening news.
Well, I stand with Durbin. Proudly. Because opposing torture is the Right Thing, despite violating the wingnut manual of political correct speech. And the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus better be standing with him as well.
You are either for torture, or against it. Let the chips fall where they may.
J. Mendez posts an open letter -
Things really are getting hot.
The word traitorous does not begin to capture your heinous remarks in the Senate regarding our treatment of war prisoners. You, Sir, are a political abomination and if I had my way senator you would be impeached and arrested for sedition.
For you to compare the treatment these Islamic dogs have received as our prisoners to Nazi concentration camps, to the Soviet gulags or to murderous regime of Pol Pot is not only a disservice to the victims of those horrible crimes, it is nothing less than siding with our enemy and emboldening them to continue their terrorist assault on our country.
You, sir, have demonstrated clearly where your loyalties lie and they lie squarely with our nation's enemies. You have inexcusably indicted our men and woman in uniform, you have dragged our good name through the mud and you have enraged a huge segment of this nation's citizenry in ways you cannot begin to fully grasp.
Do you forget senator the vermin we are holding in places like Guantanamo are of the same ilk as those who killed close to 3,000 Americans on 911 and who ruthlessly and cowardly beheaded Americans like Nick Burg in a crazed blood bath? You traitorous slim you!
You are not worthy to be called an American senator you are barely worthy to be called an American at all. You, Sir, are a quisling, not to mention a real and present danger to this country's safety and well-being.
To call you a horse's ass senator would be to insult the horse!
With any luck we, the people of Illinois, will give you what is coming to you in your next election and vote you clear out of office. The Senate is no place for seditious slim like you senator.
Gloat all you want for now in your unabashed anti-Americanism. We, the American people, will not forget what you have said and, if it is all I do, I will do all I can to send you back to whatever spider whole crawled out came from.
God help us all from you and your entire kind, senator.
Over at Blogs for Bush you'll find a more reasoned voice here -
The tone is calmer - the contention that these lives are forfeit does raise the issue of whether we need to determine if we got the right folks - that has been a bit of a problem in the past - and whether they deserve to have the chance to explain there may have been some mistake.
As a general rule, I don't wish to see these men treated brutally because I believe that we can get more useful information out of them by treating them humanely - but make no mistake about it, if harsh measures are ever required to get the necessary information, then we must do it. Their lives are forfeit, and only necessity and our innate humanity keeps them alive for any given length of time.
On the right side - the Bush side - there is no dispute, it seems.
And as one middle-of-the road television analyst, Chris Matthews suggests to America on MSNBC, there is the a practical consideration about the folks we hold at Guantanamo -
Ah, the famous kill-'em-all-and-let-God-sort-it-out argument. Elegantly simple.
My big concern is, the longer you keep them, the angrier they get. Eventually, you are going to send them home. Maybe the smarter thing is to execute everyone down there, because if you're going to send them back to the Arab world or the Islamic world angry as hell at us, they're going to be doing dirty stuff against us, right?
But folks are angry - as in the Pentagon now threatening members of congress. Chief Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita -
Whatever does that mean? Better not visit a NASCAR race? Don't walk down dark alleys? Expect a horse's head in your bed?
The Pentagon on Thursday invited more members of Congress to visit the Guantanamo jail for foreign terrorism suspects, saying criticism by some U.S. lawmakers showed "a real ignorance of what's really going on...."
"And the way they are describing it is unfortunate, and in some places I believe those people will regret having made those kind of comments."
Whatever. Warning noted.
You know, of course, that Navy general counsel Alberto Mora could be sleeping with the fishes if he's not more careful. From CURSOR.COM we see ABC News reports that a Pentagon memo reveals that Alberto Mora warned that "top officials could go to prison" over interrogation techniques used on Guantanamo Bay detainees. Mora was previously reported to have called the techniques " unlawful and unworthy of the military services."
Hey, no one is going to prison. Mora needs to shut up, or watch his back.
These guys have the mojo here.
As in this - just Reuters reporting on a Senate hearing this week -
At Corrente there is this comment -
Delaware Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden asked Deputy Associate Attorney General J. Michael Wiggins whether the Justice Department had "defined when there is the end of conflict."
"No, sir," Wiggins responded.
"If there is no definition as to when the conflict ends, that means forever, forever, forever these folks get held at Guantanamo Bay," Biden said.
"It's our position that, legally, they can be held in perpetuity," Wiggins said.
Earlier, the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said the United States may face terrorism "as long as you and I live." He asked Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway, who oversees military trials of Guantanamo prisoners, if that means America can hold prisoners that long without charges.
"I think that we can hold them as long as the conflict endures," Hemingway responded."
Ah, that sort of depends on how you define "doing right."
"In perpetuity." "As long as the conflict endures."
Forget that many of these people were handed over to US troops because we paid the locals money to bring in warm bodies, and some of their only crimes were that they had gotten on the bad side of one of the warlords or their buddies.
Forget that the lack of parameters around the concept of "war on terror" is an expedient method of initiating and extending conflicts all over the world against whomever we may find convenient, without ever having to be made accountable for our actions, a new permutation of the cold war as the-paranoia-that-never-ends.
Forget that all Bushco's squirming under the charge of running a "gulag" hides the fact that this is how gulags begin, and that once this kind of power is exercised against a foe, it becomes that much more inevitable that it will one day be exercised against those identified as foes internally.
How does the concept of clapping a human being into a cell without charges, with no recourse to communication with the outside world and no one to speak for him, and no hope of ever being free again, how does this square with your concept of right and wrong, and what you may have been taught by the decent people in your life?
Now which side of the equation is our nation on? Will our representatives take back our power to do right?
And the definition has changed - as the new Bush PR campaign will let us know.
We will see just who is buying the new shtick.