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August 30, 2007


MINNEAPOLIS ALERT. Let me get this straight. We’ve had planes hijacked by suicide bombers, plotters planning to take shoe bombs and liquids onto passenger jets, and an airport screening system so overtaxed that law enforcement teams and journalists routinely sneak suspect items past security. So why are we putting the airport cops in the bathroom stalls?!!!

HIGH STAKES IN RENO. In a speech in Reno, Nevada, President Bush asserted that “Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.” Sorry, but do we now celebrate Groundhog Day in the dog days of summer? This is precisely the language Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and company used in the summer of 2002 to trump up their case for war in Iraq. Only, back then, the terms were “holocaust” and “mushroom cloud” and “nucular.”

Next up, we’ll hear arms experts say that a pre-emptive first strike against Iran by the U.S. or Israel would be “prudent,” and “limited,” and a virtual “cakewalk” militarily.

For a chilling assessment of the real risks involved, I suggest reading The Atlantic Monthly’s classic 2004 piece, “Will Iran Be Next?,” in which James Fallows persuades commanders, spooks, and diplomats to go through some chilling Iranian “war games” scenarios.

ALAS, POOR FREDO. Aha…The traditional “Farewell Lunch,” at an undisclosed Texas eatery, at which Dubya “Big Tony” gave Attorney General “Dunno” Gonzo his final Soprano-style send-off. (Alberto Gonzales's food taster is shown at right.)



LOWRY’S GONE GONZO? Yesterday, columnist Rich Lowry opines in The New York Post (under the headline, “Gonzo Goes—‘Mob’ Wins”):

“Alberto Gonzales’s tenure as attorney general, and now his departure, represent a triumph for what Karl Rove calls ‘the mob’—the howling mass of Democratic members of Congress, bloggers and media commentators who despise all things Bush….The Gonzales case is sad all around: for what happened to the reputation of a decent man over-matched by his responsibilities; for the distraction at a crucial department of government; and for the blood-lust that masquerades as political opposition in Washington. But it’s never very edifying when the mob wins.”

Huh? Spool the reel back a few years and replace the name Karl Rove with Hillary Clinton, the words “Democratic” with “Republican,” and “all things Bush” with “all things Clinton” and, voila, you get the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” As Justin T says: What goes around comes around.

AUGUST MAYDAY. The FDNY got wise this week and relieved three officials of their command in the wake of the Deutsche Bank disaster, which claimed the lives of two firefighters. But there must be a probe that goes deeper and answers the larger questions about the systemic problems within the higher echelons of the department. Where are the real “smoking guns” behind this debacle?

ABU GHRAIB HANDSLAP. Consider this from yesterday’s New York Times, after the acquittal Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the lone official to face court martial proceedings in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal:

“Colonel Jordan’s acquittal on most charges means that no officers have been found criminally responsible for the abuses at the prison. Col. Thomas M. Pappas, a military intelligence officer who ran Abu Ghraib, was punished administratively by senior Army commanders for improperly allowing military dogs to be used during interrogations to frighten detainees. Janis Karpinski, a brigadier general who was the military police commander at Abu Ghraib, was reprimanded and demoted.”

Perhaps this is becoming a new American tradition. Punish the henchmen and let the leaders off, scot-free.

For a thorough examination of the Abu Ghraib scandal, please pick up Tara McElvey’s blistering new book, Monstering: Inside America's Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War. (She’ll be doing a reading at the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan on Thursday, September 6, 7:00 PM, 828 Broadway New York, NY 10003).

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