Posts

David Ignatius and Bin Laden’s Biden Judgment

Presumably to buck up their campaign theme–“Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive“–the Administration pre-leaked some documents to David Ignatius taken from OBL’s compound revealing that OBL hoped to attack President Obama. Ignatius described the aspirational plot as a “bold” command

Before his death, Osama bin Laden boldly commanded his network to organize special cells in Afghanistan and Pakistan to attack the aircraft of President Obama and Gen. David H. Petraeus.

“The reason for concentrating on them,” the al-Qaeda leader explained to his top lieutenant, “is that Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make [Vice President] Biden take over the presidency. . . . Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis. As for Petraeus, he is the man of the hour . . . and killing him would alter the war’s path” in Afghanistan. [my emphasis]

And even while Ignatius admits OBL was never going to be able to shoot Petraeus and Obama out of the air, he offers it as proof that the terrorist still wanted to launch spectacular attacks.

The plot to target Obama was probably bluster, since al-Qaeda apparently lacked the weapons to shoot down U.S. aircraft. But it’s a chilling reminder that even when he was embattled and in hiding, bin Laden still dreamed of pulling off another spectacular terror attack against the United States. [my emphasis]

Politico–that arbiter of beltway conventional wisdom–has described Ignatius’ acceptance of a motivated leak to be a scoop of such proportions to solidify his position as the “preeminent writer on national security affairs.” Politico even offers a quote from its own anonymous Administration source explaining what they got by leaking stuff to Ignatius.

“David is not only influential, he’s a serious journalist who is taken seriously,” an Obama administration official told POLITICO. “His byline gives [the bin Laden] story instantaneous cachet, credibility and, yes, visibility.”

Which Politico accompanies with fawning quotes from Jeff Goldberg, Evan Thomas, Steve Clemons and Sally Quinn (Sally Quinn!?!?!) affirming Ignatius’ magnificence as national security status.

There’s just one problem with all that.

Ignatius, this purportedly brilliant commenter, doesn’t even notice, much less mention, how stupid OBL was.

OBL was going to kill Obama not for the sake of killing the US President, but because Biden, who served in the Senate for 36 years, almost 12 of which he served as one or another powerful committee Chair, “is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis.”

Really?

Joe Biden may be many things: but he is as prepared to be President as just about any person in this country. And in a number of key debates during this Administration–notably, what to do with Afghanistan–Biden proved to be right two years before the rest of the Administration copped on.

OBL’s plans to attack Obama, then, show not just how unhinged from reality about al Qaeda OBL was by this point, but also how completely ignorant he was about America.

You’d think that DC’s crack national security correspondent would note just how laughable OBL’s plots were late in life.

But I guess if he did, the Administration wouldn’t come to him anymore for his purported “instantaneous cachet, credibility and, yes, visibility.”

Scary Iran Plot: Making an International Case before Passing the Ham Sandwich Test

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger;

I want to return to something Manssor Arbabsiar’s attorney, Sabrina Shroff, said the other day. “If he is indicted, he will plead not guilty.”

I’ve suggested Shroff may have reason to believe Arbabsiar will get a plea deal before this ever goes to the grand jury. Which would mean no one would ever challenge the government on the many holes in this case [oh hey! that’s me at Atlantic.com]: the claimed lack of taped conversations, the explanation why Arbabsiar cooperated, some holes in the government’s money trail (at least as it appears in the complaint), the remarkable coinkydink Arbabsiar just happened to ask a DEA informant to help him kidnap the Saudi Ambassador, and some perhaps incorrect interpretations of existing tape transcripts.

It would be very convenient for the government if this never went to trial.

But think, for a moment, about the government’s actions in this affair. It rolled out a splashy press conference. Joe Biden has declared no options off the table; Susan Rice is “unit[ing] world opinion” against Iran. And if that doesn’t work, Hillary Clinton will make personal calls followed by onsite teams to persuade allies that this whole plot isn’t a bunch of bupkis.

We have rolled out a giant campaign to use this plot to do … something … with Iran.

But it has yet to pass the ham sandwich test.

Our government has had eleven business days now to subject its amended case to the scrutiny of a grand jury, it had two and a half months to subject its original case to the scrutiny of a grand jury, and it hasn’t yet bothered to do so. We’re sharing our case with the rest of the world before we’re subjecting it to the most basic level of oversight enshrined in our Constitution. Instead of using the legal process laid out in our founding document, we’ve gotten the signature of a Magistrate Judge and run off with it to the rest of the world. And while I have no doubt of the competence of Magistrate Judge Michael Dolinger, the judge who signed the complaint in this case, that’s simply not the way our judicial system is supposed to work. Average citizens are supposed to review the work of the government when it makes legal cases, not just Magistrates.

All of which ought to raise real questions why our government has decided to share these details with the rest of the world, but bypassed the step where they’re supposed to share them with its own citizens.

Redefining Security

Joe Biden finally endorsed yesterday what the imperialists in DC have long been backing: an open-ended presence in Afghanistan.

“It is not our intention to govern or to nation-build,” Mr Biden said. “As President Karzai often points out, this is the responsibility of the Afghan people, and they are fully capable of it.”

But he stressed that the United States would continue to assist the Afghan government.

“If the Afghan people want it, we won’t leave in 2014,” Mr Biden said.

Meanwhile, Lester Brown uses the last paragraph of a piece on the coming food riots to point out how out-dated our empire–the decision-making that will lead us to stay in Afghanistan until we go broke–is.

As the new year begins, the price of wheat is setting an all-time high in the United Kingdom. Food riots are spreading across Algeria. Russia is importing grain to sustain its cattle herds until spring grazing begins. India is wrestling with an 18-percent annual food inflation rate, sparking protests. China is looking abroad for potentially massive quantities of wheat and corn. The Mexican government is buying corn futures to avoid unmanageable tortilla price rises. And on January 5, the U.N. Food and Agricultural organization announced that its food price index for December hit an all-time high.

But whereas in years past, it’s been weather that has caused a spike in commodities prices, now it’s trends on both sides of the food supply/demand equation that are driving up prices. On the demand side, the culprits are population growth, rising affluence, and the use of grain to fuel cars. On the supply side: soil erosion, aquifer depletion, the loss of cropland to nonfarm uses, the diversion of irrigation water to cities, the plateauing of crop yields in agriculturally advanced countries, and — due to climate change — crop-withering heat waves and melting mountain glaciers and ice sheets. These climate-related trends seem destined to take a far greater toll in the future.

[snip]

The unrest of these past few weeks is just the beginning. It is no longer conflict between heavily armed superpowers, but rather spreading food shortages and rising food prices — and the political turmoil this would lead to — that threatens our global future. Unless governments quickly redefine security and shift expenditures from military uses to investing in climate change mitigation, water efficiency, soil conservation, and population stabilization, the world will in all likelihood be facing a future with both more climate instability and food price volatility. If business as usual continues, food prices will only trend upward.

Note, I think Brown misses one cause of the food shortages: the treatment of food and commodities used in its production as one more thing our banksters can bet on at their casino.

But his point stands: probably the two biggest threats to our country are–first–climate change and–second–the refusal to fix the global economy the banksters broke. Yet we’re continuing to pour our dollars into Afghanistan, and to pour it into efforts that may well just exacerbate the violence.

A McClatchy story written by Medill graduate students shows how badly our own “security” establishment responds to such non-military threats.

Yet the U.S. government is ill-prepared to act on climate changes that are coming faster than anticipated and threaten to bring instability to places of U.S. national interest, interviews with several dozen current and former officials and outside experts and a review of two decades’ worth of government reports indicate.

Climate projections lack crucial detail, they say, and information about how people react to changes — for instance, by migrating — is sparse. Military officials say they don’t yet have the intelligence they need in order to prepare for what might come.

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a 23-year veteran of the CIA who led the Department of Energy’s intelligence unit from 2005 to 2008, said the intelligence community simply wasn’t set up to deal with a problem such as climate change that wasn’t about stealing secrets.

Read more

The Day after Blanche Filibusters Defense Bill, Biden Rewards Her w/$$$

This is just pathetic:

Vice President Joe Biden travels to Boston Wednesday, where he’s scheduled to team up with Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

A Democratic source tells CNN that the event is a fundraiser for the two-term Democratic senator, who faces a very difficult re-election bid this year.

Blanche Lincoln just joined Republicans to scuttle the defense bill, and with it the DREAM Act and DADT repeal–both purportedly Administration priorities (to say nothing about the Defense bill itself). Moreover, no amount of money is going to get Blanche out of her electoral hole this year. And her patrons, the Waltons, have plenty to give her all by themselves, without picking the pockets of Boston liberals.

So why is Joe Biden wasting some of his precious time and political capital helping a woman who, yesterday, broke with the party on the defense bill? Is this Administration so dysfunctional it can’t even demand discipline from those it’s financially supporting?

What Did Hillary Think about McChrystal’s Firing?

There’s a lot that’s interesting in this tick-tock of General McChrystal’s firing. It’s a finely crafted narrative, down to the foregrounding of Joe Biden, in spite of the way that the chronology appears to belie that narrative (that is, the chronology appears to start when the White House Press Office learns about the article). And note the way the normally cowardly anonymous source, Rahm Emanuel,  is on the record, as the story’s official narrator?

“He likes Stan and thinks Stan is a good man, a good general and a good soldier,” Mr. Emanuel said. “But as he said in his statement, this is bigger than any one person.”

But I’m most curious this paragraph:

On Tuesday, while General McChrystal was making the 14-hour flight to Washington, the White House was involved in a whirl of meetings about his fate. Along with Mr. Gates, aides say, four other senior officials were influential: Vice President Biden; the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones; the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Adm. Mike Mullen; and Mr. Emanuel.

Compare this paragraph with the picture, above, of the Afghan strategy meeting held after Obama canned McChrystal, conveniently arranged  by protocol in proximity to the President: Joe Biden, James Jones, Bob Gates, Hillary Clinton, Mike Mullen, Rahm Emanuel, David Petraeus, Tom  Donilon, John Brennan (here’s the official description of the Pete Souza WH picture).

That is, if the decision were made according to seniority, then someone is missing from the list of five important decision-makers counseling Obama (which include Gates, Biden, Jones, Mullen, and Rahm): Hillary Clinton.

Rahm, the official narrator here, says Hillary wasn’t one of the five advisors most central to the decision to can McChrystal.

Read more

Joe Biden, Another Big Fucking I Told You So

The Toobz are a-tizzy this morning with a Rolling Stone article revealing that Stanley McChrystal said mean things about Joe Biden–both publicly and behind his back.

Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile.

Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. “I never know what’s going to pop out until I’m up there, that’s the problem,” he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”

“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

But the article is far more subtle than the tizzy lets on. And the tizzy ignores the real moral of the story, revealed after five pages of eye-popping revelations. McChrystal’s counter-insurgency plan is failing. It’s failing not because some of his aides said mean things about Biden, and not because he’s got a long-running spat with Karl Eikenberry, our Ambassador to Afghanistan. It’s failing because the Special Ops guys, whom McChrystal led killing bunches of people in Iraq, are not hard-wired to win hearts and minds. It’s failing because both the tools at McChrystal’s disposal (a bunch of JSOC guys) and the conditions on the ground mean counterterrorism, not counterinsurgency, is the best approach: precisely what Biden argued during the Afghan policy review.

When Vice President Biden was briefed on the new plan in the Oval Office, insiders say he was shocked to see how much it mirrored the more gradual plan of counterterrorism that he advocated last fall. “This looks like CT-plus!” he said, according to U.S. officials familiar with the meeting.

One of the real revelations of this story–one which actually takes up about 1/5 of the article and which is based not on aides revealing embarrassing stories but on watching grunts interact with the General they are often depicted as idolizing–is that they no longer buy that McChrystal can bridge the seemingly (and in fact) irreconcilable forces of the Afghan war; his bravado and mystique is not enough to persuade the grunts implementing his plan to buy into using less lethal force with the hearts and minds they’re supposed to be winning.

“I ask you what’s going on in your world, and I think it’s important for you all to understand the big picture as well,” McChrystal begins. “How’s the company doing? You guys feeling sorry for yourselves? Anybody? Anybody feel like you’re losing?” McChrystal says.

“Sir, some of the guys here, sir, think we’re losing, sir,” says Hicks.

McChrystal nods. “Strength is leading when you just don’t want to lead,” he tells the men. “You’re leading by example. That’s what we do. Particularly when it’s really, really hard, and it hurts inside.” Then he spends 20 minutes talking about counterinsurgency, diagramming his concepts and principles on a whiteboard.

[snip]

“This is the philosophical part that works with think tanks,” McChrystal tries to joke. “But it doesn’t get the same reception from infantry companies.”

Read more

Petraeus’ Challenge to Obama

As I noted in this post, the front page NYT story putting Petraeus in charge of the paramilitary groups I will call “JUnc-WTF,” which are deployed in allied countries, reminded me of Eric Massa’s allegations that Dick Cheney and Petraeus were plotting a coup (though, as Massa describes it, it sounds more like an “election challenge”).

• Earlier in the year, long before the allegations had been made public, Massa had called me with a potentially huge story: Four retired generals — three four-stars and one three-star — had informed him, he said, that General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, had met twice in secret with former vice president Dick Cheney. In those meetings, the generals said, Cheney had attempted to recruit Petraeus to run for president as a Republican in 2012.

• The generals had told him, and Massa had agreed, that if someone didn’t act immediately to reveal this plot, American constitutional democracy itself was at risk. Massa and I had had several conversation on the topic, each more urgent than the last. He had gone to the Pentagon, he told me, demanding answers. He knew the powerful forces that he was dealing with, he told me. They’d stop at nothing to prevent the truth from coming out, he said, including destroying him. “I told the official, ‘If I have to get up at a committee hearing and go public with this, it will cause the mother of all shitstorms and your life will be hell. So I need a meeting. Now.'”

The Esquire has a follow-up noting it would only be a problem if Petraeus starting running while still on active duty and Politico has a denial from Petraeus’ people.

Then there’s Jonathan Alter’s report of the tensions last year between Obama and Joe Biden on one side, and Bob Gates, Mike Mullen, David Petraeus, and Stanley McChrystal on the other. Alter describes the span of this confrontation as starting on September 13, two weeks before Petraus signed the directive for JUnc-WTF, until November 11. The confrontation arose when the Generals kept publicizing their demands for a bigger, indefinite surge in Afghanistan.

Mullen dug himself in especially deep at his reconfirmation hearings for chairman of the Joint Chiefs when he made an aggressive case for a long-term commitment in Afghanistan. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was enraged at Mullen’s public testimony and let the Pentagon know it. When Petraeus gave an interview to Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson on Sept.4 calling for a “fully resourced, comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign,” the chief of staff was even angrier.

From the start, the potential of a Petraeus presidential run was in the background.

Some aides worried at least briefly that Petraeus was politically ambitious and was making an implied threat: decide Afghanistan my way or I just might resign my command and run for president in 2012. It wasn’t a crazy thought. Rep. Peter King and various blogs were promoting him for high office.

Ultimately, presented with the choice of deferring to the Generals or undercutting them, Obama chose a third option: surging in Afghanistan, but sternly scolding them to make sure they would back a withdrawal in 18 months.

Obama was perfectly aware of the box he was now in. He could defer entirely to his generals, as President Bush had done, which he considered an abdication of responsibility. Or he could overrule them, which would weaken their effectiveness, with negative consequences for soldiers in the field, relations with allies, and the president’s own political position. There had to be a third way, he figured.

In the meantime it was important to remind the brass who was in charge. Inside the National Security Council, advisers considered what happened next historic, a presidential dressing-down unlike any in the United States in more than half a century. Read more

Biden To Announce Fisker Auto Plant In Wilmington Delaware

imagesVice President Joe Biden is set to make an appearance in his home state of Delaware today to make an announcement that Fisker Automotive will be purchasing, retooling and opening up operations in a shuttered former General Motors facility in Wilmington. From the Washington Post:

Vice President Biden will make the announcement that Fisker Automotive of Irvine, Calif., is expected to invest $175 million to retool the plant.

Fisker, which will pay the old GM $18 million for the facility and equipment, is getting tax incentives from the state of Delaware, although officials there declined Monday to say how much.

Fisker plans to make a car in Delaware that is being developed under the name “Project Nina” after the ship belonging to explorer Christopher Columbus. Russell Datz, a Fisker spokesman, said that the project’s name is meant to be “symbolic of the transfer from the old world to the new in terms of auto technology.” The car is expected to cost about $39,900 after tax incentives.

The Fisker facility is expected to create 2,000 jobs and will likely be operational by 2011. Administration officials said the deal will indirectly create another 3,000 jobs once the plant is fully operational, expected in 2014. Administration officials say that Fisker expects many of the jobs will go to former GM or Chrysler auto workers.

Time will tell, but on the front end this looks like a wonderful deal in a lot of ways. Fisker is a company that has been putting the pieces together behind the scenes for a couple of years for a major production move, and their initial prototype, and soon to be production model, the Karma, is absolutely stunning and, from all reports, technologically sound. Wilmington is an area that, while not as hard hit as Detroit, is certainly depressed and has been further decimated by the recent closing of the large GM plant there as well as a separate Chrysler plant. When fully up and running, the Fisker Nina plant in Wilmington may Read more

The Dead-Enders Do Dallas

There are two notable details about this article on the reunion of the Bush dead-enders in Dallas to plan W’s legacy.

Dick Doesn’t Do Dallas

The first is the absence Peter Baker does note; apparently, Dick’s not doing Dallas.

Not coming to next week’s session is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who in the final days of the administration argued with Mr. Bush about his failure to pardon Mr. Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., who was convicted of perjury and other counts for his role in the leak of Valerie Wilson’s employment with the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Cheney later went on television to air his grievances with Mr. Bush, while also accusing Mr. Obama of endangering the country.

That is an approach Mr. Bush has rejected, telling aides that for now he is intent on giving his successor room to govern without criticism from him. Besides, he says, he is too busy in his own new life.

While I’m all in favor of flogging the "Cheney in a huff over Scooter" story (maybe it’ll spark some interest in why Cheney feels so strongly?), Cheney’s absence is more interesting, IMO, given his apparently recent decision to keep his records–and the loot he received as gifts while serving as the Fourth Branch–in the National Archives in DC rather than in the Bush Library.

Last fall, an architect for Bush’s library indicated that Cheney’s records and artifacts would be coming soon, but that apparently was a mix-up. Cheney wants them to remain in Washington as he writes his memoirs.

[snip]

During talks last year, the National Archives suggested that Cheney’s artifacts – like a set of gold Murano glass candlesticks and bowls from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – be sent to the Bush library. That way they could be displayed with Bush’s items, including the 9 mm pistol that Saddam Hussein held when captured by American soldiers in Iraq.

"The VP preferred to have the VP artifacts remain with the records," said Sharon Fawcett, assistant archivist for presidential libraries.

Plans for the Bush library at SMU include space for new collections, including Cheney’s archives. His official and personal records would need an estimated 6,000 cubic feet, according to the National Archives.

Last fall, e-mails between Bush architects and the archives, which ensures that the library meets federal standards, signaled that Cheney’s records would be coming to Dallas.

Read more

Joe the Vice President at the Train Station

Apparently, they’ve sent Joe Biden out to drum up some excitement for the stimulus package. Sending him to do so at a train station that would be upgraded under the stimulus package? A nice touch. (via email)

Mr. Mayor, thanks for the passport to get in town here. And, Governor, it’s a delight to be with you. And Ben Cardin pointed out — Senator Cardin — the things that Joe Biden knows this, and Joe Biden knows that. Joe Biden knows you’re freezing. (Laughter.) Joe Biden knows that pretty soon you won’t be able to even move your pens. So I figure if I talk long enough you won’t be able to report a thing I say. (Laughter.)

But, ladies and gentleman, I’ll be straight to the point. Thanks for coming here today. And as we stand here today, it’s an understatement to say the economy is in trouble and the need is urgent. Quite simply, we cannot wait. We cannot wait another two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. We cannot wait.

Our economic recovery package that’s now before the Senate will put us back on track to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs. And right here in Maryland, a paper released by the National Economic Council this week shows that the plan would create or save 70,000 jobs, Governor. That’s 70,000 people here in the state who won’t go through the pain and suffering of a job loss.

But this is only going to happen if and when we pass our recovery act. And Ben assures me he’s going to leave the frigid temperature here to go the warm halls of Congress and the Senate and get that done tonight or tomorrow. But quite frankly, folks, it’s only going to work if we make those investments we need, not only in generating employment immediately, but also investing in an economy of the 21st century.

By boosting paychecks through the Make Work Pay tax cuts, we’re going to put money in the pockets of middle-class people immediately. By making a down payment on the smart grid, we’re not only going to invest in moving towards a new energy future, we’re going to invest in clean energy. We’re going to invest in creating jobs that are going to not be able to be exported. Read more