The 22 Democrats who betrayed their party and its supporters by voting to condemn MoveOn probably thought voting for a Republican stunt would shield them from further Republican smears. For the umpteenth time, they were wrong.
Their delusions were shattered again when President Bush used his bullying pulpit to smear the entire “Democrat” party, claiming most of them are “more afraid of irritating a left-wing group like Moveon.org . . . than they are of irritating the United States military.”
The hypocrisy evoked another Special Commentary from KO (h/t C&L). Dana Milbank confirmed that Bush’s answer was staged; at the end of his press conference, the President called upon an obliging
Fox News Washington Examiner reporter, because no one else asked about the vote.
Had enough, Senators? You were set up, again. As Jane keeps explaining, never support Republican talking points or attacks on Democratic allies. Never. And just in case you’ve forgotten what’s important here, I left a few reminders.
The Republican stunt distracted attention from Bush’s disastrous Iraq policies: massive human displacement has accelerated, and cholera is now spreading south, an indication of further collapse in basic health, water and sewage services.
Republicans must also obscure their obstruction of every Senate effort — from the restoration of habeas corpus to the Webb Amendment — to force changes in Bush’s destructive polices. Republican obstruction will be repeated over and over in coming weeks on everything from childrens’ health care to major budget bills.
Earth to Democrats: Republicans will not let you accomplish anything worthwhile if they can stop it. There is no responsible party across the aisle who will work with you in good faith. They’re at war with you; stop accommodating them.
The moral vacuum of Iraq—where Blackwater USA guards can kill 10 or 20 Iraqis on a whim and never be prosecuted for it—did not happen by accident. It is yet another example of something the Bush administration could have prevented with the right measures but simply did not bother about as it rushed into invading and occupying another country. With America’s all-volunteer army under strain, the Pentagon and White House knew that regular military cannot be used for guarding civilians. As far back as 2003, . . . Rumsfeld convened a task force . . . to consider new laws that might be needed to govern the privatization of war. Nothing was done about its recommendations. Then, two days before he left Iraq for good, L. Paul Bremer III, the Coalition Provisional Authority administrator, signed a blanket order immunizing all Americans, because, as one of his former top aides told me, “we wanted to make sure our military, civilians and contractors were protected from Iraqi law.” (No one worried about protecting the Iraqis from us; after all, we still thought of ourselves as the “liberators,” even though by then the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib and other places were known.)
. . . [T]he unspoken rule of Bush’s counterinsurgency efforts over the past four years has been that almost all Iraqis, at least the males, are guilty until proven innocent. Arrests, beatings and sometimes killings at the hands of security firms and sometimes U.S. military units are arbitrary, often based on the flimsiest intelligence, and Iraqis have no recourse whatever to justice except in a few cases like Haditha. Imagine the sense of helpless rage that emerges from this sort of treatment. Apply three years of it and you have a furious, traumatized population. And a country out of control.
And now we have the awful absurdity of U.S. diplomats going out to make allies among Iraqis and build civil society—winning “the battlefield of the mind,” Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone told The Washington Post—surrounded by security guards who operate in an amoral universe and are hated by Iraqis. The Blackwater phenomenon undermines the Petraeus surge, which applies counterinsurgency principles that require winning over the local population, and isolating the bad guys from them. Instead, Blackwater is seen by Iraqis as the face of a malignant occupation.
But don’t count on the Justice Department following up any criminal charges against Blackwater. It has never happened. The DoJ attorney who has been sitting on efforts to bring charges against contractors who commit crimes in Iraqi is Peter Keisler, now Bush’s current acting Attorney General. Just like the State Department’s see-no-evil Inspector General, Keisler is probably there to keep a lid on efforts to hold this regime legally accountable. Justice has been banished from this regime.
Update: Via Selise, Byron Dorgan will hold a hearing on the Iraq contractor issues, featuring whistleblowers and The Nation Magazine’s Jeremy Scahill. Begins about 10:30. Will let you know about coverage.
Update II. Blackwater is back on the streets for “limited” outings.
Photo: His favorite espresso cup, from josesh27566′s photostream