Offers We Should All Refuse

Now that I'm working for the good folks at a{”>MediaChannel}a, and trying to write a book about technology (ever so slowly), I find that I haven't been blogging very much. One of the reasons I started this blog in the first place was to help me keep writing every day. In fact, I started out trying to write one book (about Iraq) and ended up writing this blog instead. Lately, the situation seems to have reversed itself and I end up working on my book proposal instead of blogging. Oh well. I promise not to neglect you in the future, dear readers.

<b>How Can It Be Wrong If It Feels So Right?</b>

One of the more amusing things to watch is the Bush Administration equivocating about whether Saddam was involved with Al-Qaeda. Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, the White House and pals have been, shall we say, strongly suggesting that Iraq was in league with Al-Qaeda and then shrinking away from those allegations when questioned about it by reporters.

First they link Saddam and Al-Qaeda, as they did in a{”>2002}a, a{”>2003}a, a{”>2004}a, and a{″>2006}a, then they deny ever having done so. Did you notice that the White House took a sabbatical from claiming a Saddam-Bin Laden link in 2005? My guess is that this was due to Senator Carl Levin a{″>releasing documents}a detailing how various intelligence agencies knew the connection was bullshit in April of that year, and then the recantation of a{”>Ibn Shaikh al-Libi}a in November of his claims (extracted under torture) that Iraq had supplied chemical weapons training to Al Qaeda. As I've a{permalink.php?uid=82″>said before}a, torturous interrogation will most likely yield poisoned information, and this was a pretty good example.

At any rate, a few months later, the Administration will try to weasel out of their claims when some enterprising journalist tries to nail them on it, as they did in a{”>2003}a, a{”>2004}a, a{”>2005}a, and the best half-hearted denial of all, most recently in a{”>2006}a.
It probably doesn't help that the Senate, the CIA, and the FBI all say that there were no ties binding Iraq and Al Qaeda and that, as anyone who had studied either of them could tell you, the two were enemies.

The latest official denial, though, is a real whopper. Talk about painting yourself into a rhetorical corner, watch this exchange between my favorite White House Press Secretary, Tony Snow, and a reporter:
Q Well, one more, Tony, just one more. Do you believe — does the President still believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to Zarqawi or al Qaeda before the invasion?

MR. SNOW: The President has never said that there was a direct, operational relationship between the two, and this is important. Zarqawi was in Iraq.

Q There was a link —

MR. SNOW: Well, and there was a relationship — there was a relationship in this sense: Zarqawi was in Iraq; al Qaeda members were in Iraq; they were operating, and in some cases, operating freely from Iraq. Zarqawi, for instance, directed the assassination of an American diplomat in Amman, Jordan. But they did they have a corner office at the Mukhabarat? No. Were they getting a line item in Saddam's budget? No. There was no direct operational relationship, but there was a relationship. They were in the country, and I think you understand that the Iraqis knew they were there. That's the relationship.

Q Saddam Hussein knew they were there; that's it for the relationship?

MR. SNOW: That's pretty much it.

Q The Senate report said they didn't turn a blind eye.

MR. SNOW: The Senate report — rather than get — you know what, I don't want to get into the vagaries of the Senate report, but it is pretty clear, among other things, again, that there were al Qaeda operators inside Iraq, and they included Zarqawi, they included a cleric who had been described as the best friend of bin Laden who was delivering sermons on TV. But we are simply not going to go to the point that the President is — the President has never made the statement that there was an operational relationship, and that's the important thing, because I think there's a tendency to say, aha, he said that they were in cahoots and they were planning and doing stuff; there's no evidence of that.
I have to say, and this may disappoint some of my readers, that I actually feel kind of bad for Tony Snow. He seems like a geniuinely intelligent, even somewhat likable person. We may not agree on politics, but he plays <i>jazz flute</i> and I'm sure we could both enjoy listening to Herbie Mann.
But there he is, day after day, trying to defend the most incompetent White House in history, and damned if he didn't just <b>establish a "relationship" between Bush and Al Qaeda</b>. Because, you see, it didn't matter if Bush was pursuing terrorists before 9/11, to say nothing of turning a blind eye to them ("a{″>Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside U.S.,}a" anyone?). The sleeper cells were here, operating freely in the U.S., and that constitutes a relationship, you see. No charge, conspiracy theorists!

(Bonus denial: The white House web page has a section called "Setting the Record Straight" where a{”>they try to pin their lies on George Tenet}a. It's a gem.)

<b>Che Cosa, "Mafia?"</b>

Though a decreasing number of Republican supporters will protest, the Bush White House is nothing short of an inept criminal enterprise. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised considering the corporate records of Bush or Cheney. But their actions have gone far beyond the province of even your most corrupt CEO; it occurred to me today that what the Bush Administration most closely resembles is that classic criminal enterprise, La Cosa Nostra.

It's not just the use of torture as an information-gathering device, or the "you never take sides against the family" philosophy in dealing with whistleblowers or former employees. It's the bullying, criminal <i>modus operandi</i> which informs everything the Bush Administration does to Americans. Whether it's Apalachin Conference-style secret energy industry meetings or their dismantling of government agencies for private profit, there's a kleptocratic criminal style of operating that extends into every crevice of the Bush Administration as well as the GOP itself as evidenced by the Jack Abramoff affair.

Let's take Iraq. Some of you a{”>may be familar with a bread and butter mafia operation}a called a 'bust-out.' This is where a business owner becomes heavily indebted to the mob, and so instead of breaking their legs, the debtor is forced to exhaust all of their (and the business') lines of credit so that the mob can buy goods to be resold on the street. When the debtor goes into bankruptcy, the debt is resolved.

Now, a{permalink.php?uid=220″>remember these guys?}a <img src=><br clear=all>
These two are from the infamous firm called a{”>Custer Battles}a, some of the worst war-profiteering fraudsters involved in the Bush Marshall-Plan-in-reverse that is the occupation of Iraq.

In March 2006, the firm was convicted of defrauding the U.S. government and ordered to pay damages of $10 million dollars. The jury found that Custer Battles had engaged in all sorts of illegal operations including fraudulently obtaining their contract in the first place.

But just last month, a{”>the verdict was overturned}a on appeal because the judge found that Custer Battles had actually defrauded the Coalition Provisional Authority, and not the U.S. government. In this way, a company who had defrauded the U.S. government by (in addition to many other offenses) setting up offshore shell companies to launder false invoices was saved by the fact that the U.S. government had essentially done the same thing in setting up the CPA, which conveniently no longer exists.

The military industry is making a killing off fat (a{”>and often, no-bid}a) government contracts intended to repair the damage we have caused in Iraq, rerouting billions in government spending that the Administration is constantly forcing the Congress to approve as "emergency spending."

Bush and company are constantly trying to bust-out the U.S. government. It's beyond a philosophical tenet about limited government–it's plain old kleptocracy. And it goes all the way down the bottom; consider the <i>prikhvatizatsya</i> of a{″>the Department of Homeland Security}a and its abused step-child, a{″>FEMA}a.
In the brave new world of privatizing formerly government-provided services like a{”>policing}a, a{”>disaster relief}a, a{“>warrantless surveillance}a, and a{”>torturing prisoners}a, old-fashioned ideas like "war profiteering" give way to <i>everything</i> profiteering. Private business is supposedly more efficient than government in every way, but so far, all I can see is that businesses can defraud the public way better than government agencies which (used to) have actual oversight.


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