At the risk of undermining the vigorous debate and discussion now ongoing in response to my Saturday morning article drawing a comparison between Iran's '09 election and Ohio's '04 election (and the ongoing speculation about the reported Iranian results going on just about everywhere else today), allow me to amplify a bit on the point I was hoping to get at in that piece, written as reports were just coming in about skepticism in the reported results.
Since The BRAD BLOG began reporting on issues of democracy and concerns about elections, most intensely beginning on or about the early morning hours of November 3rd, 2004 and continuing ever since, we've likely investigated, researched and/or written as much or more on virtually every aspect of the topic as any other media outlet in the world.
In the process of observing one election after another since that time, and the increasingly inevitable ensuing questions about, as well as disbelief and/or belief in the validity of each election's results, one thing has become crystal clear: without complete transparency and 100% citizen oversight of every aspect of any given election, most notably the tabulation of its ballots, certainty in any given officially-announced result has become nearly impossible.
Without the transparency required for democracy to actually work, each "democratic" election, whether in this country, or in any other, has become more and more like Russian Roulette, but without the certainty...
The New York Times has an unbylined editorial today, headlined "Neither Real Nor Free" which blasts the Iranian election, alleging that "it certainly looks like fraud."
Our friend Michael Jay, a former delegate to the California Democratic Party who amended their party platform to include language encouraging Democratic candidates to not concede until every ballot is counted, took the opportunity today to riff on our weekend comparison of Iran '09 to Ohio '04 with a letter to the NYTimes editors which begins as follows...
Major typos in "Neither Real Nor Free"
To The Editor:
I'm afraid your spell check software got the better of you in preparing "Neither Real Nor Free," (Editorial, June 15, 2009.) It appears both the country and a key political party were misidentified.
I've included a corrected, and abbreviated, version. Too bad the Times, and other news outlets, didn't publish such editorials following our 2004 election.
See Michael's "corrected" version of the piece, sent with his letter to the Times editors, below...
It sounds a lot like Ohio 2004. A less than popular old-line incumbent facing massive public demonstrations against him and in favor of his main progressive challenger promising reform; polls that suggest a swell of support for the challenger; unprecedented turnout on Election Day; long lines at polling places; paper ballot shortages and names missing from voter rolls; widespread rumors, concerns, and evidence of voter intimidation and vote-rigging, all accompanied nonetheless by a general feeling among the populace that the incumbent has been turned out, only to learn from officials, late on Election Night, after secret vote counting, that the incumbent has been declared the winner of a second term.
The most substantive difference from Ohio 2004, however: the declared winner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is said to have defeated his main opponent Mir Hossein Mousavi by a 63% to 34% "landslide," instead of the razor-thin margin seen in Ohio (and across the popular vote in the rest of the nation). In Iran, a result of anything less than 50% + 1 for the leading candidate would have triggered a national runoff election.
The other main differences between Iran '09 and Ohio '04: New York Times is already asking "Landslide or Fraud?" this morning; in Iran, supporters of the challenger are taking to the streets; and the challenger himself has already called the election results a "fraud"...
In an interview posted on the website of the London Telegraph, John Bolton, one of the most belligerent of the neocon war hawks, predicted that Israel will attack Iran sometime after the U.S. presidential elections on November 4 and before January 21, the day George Bush and Dick Cheney leave office.
Attacking Iran has long been a neocon objective. Last February, New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh revealed that Dick Cheney had secret plans for creating an "open confrontation" with Iran, and that he had the Pentagon ready to start bombing with 24 hours of a signal from the White House. At the same time, the Times of London reported that top U.S. military brass had let it be known they would resign if Cheney launched the attack.
Public outcry generated by the Hersh article and other reports quickly dampened the fervor for attacking Tehran. Two months after the report, however, John McCain ramped up the bellicose rhetoric when, during a campaign stop in South Carolina in April 2007, he made a joke about bombing Iran by singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys song, "Barbara Ann."
John Bolton now believes Bush and Cheney have succumbed to political reality and will not pursue the attack using U.S. forces. According to the Telegraph, Bolton said, "It's clear that the administration has essentially given up that possibility... I don't think it's serious any more. If you had asked me a year ago I would have said I thought it was a real possibility. I just don't think it's in the cards."
About his suggested timeframe for the attack of November to January, Bolton said, "The Israelis have one eye on the calendar because of the pace at which the Iranians are proceeding both to develop their nuclear weapons capability and to do things like increase their defenses by buying new Russian anti-aircraft systems and further harden the nuclear installations.
One of Bush's top military leaders has resigned, purportedly because of a dispute over the administration's Iranian war policy:
Admiral William "Fox" Fallon, the U.S. Centcom commander who has spoken up several times at Congressional hearings and to the press the past year to suggest a military confrontation with Iran would be ill advised, has resigned, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has just announced.
Josh Marshall suggests Fallon was "too sane" for the Bush regime:
By all accounts, the points of contention between Fallon and Bush administration officials centered on three points: 1) his belief that the indefinite occupation of Iraq is a disaster for the US military, 2) that diplomacy has a central role in American foreign and national security policy, 3) that war is not a credible policy for the US to pursue in dealing with Iran. The last of these was believed to be the key issue.
Democrats believe Fallon --- whose conflicts with the administration were covered in an Esquire article in this month's issue --- may have been pushed out in order to silence his criticism. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "I am concerned that the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and a military leader with more than three decades of command experience, is yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts’ views are not welcomed in this Administration."
We momentarily interrupt our Election Meltdown '08 coverage to quickly point out that a total of five large undersea Internet cables, leading to various areas of the Middle East, have now reportedly been "cut." The Khaleej Times reports that "An estimated 1.7 million Internet users in the UAE have been affected by the recent undersea cable damage," which, folks who worry about such things note, is in addition to millions of users in Iran.
We noticed the story when three cables were cut last week, but didn't have time to look into it. We still don't. Nor do we pretend to know what it all means.
But as BonnieNet --- who's done some good digging, and has put together a map of the locations of the reported cuts --- says, "3 was quite a few. 4 is pushing it. 5 starts to make you wonder."
Wednesday night, George Bush's spokesperson Dana Perino was forced to acknowledge in an email that Bush had been lying to the American people both about the status of Iran's nuclear capabilities and about when he was informed that Iran's nuclear program had been suspended.
Yesterday, however, when she asked if Bush was "candid" about what he knew and when he knew it, Perino answered, "Yes, he was." Then, as proof of his candor, she launched into this tortured peroration:
If you look at the rest of that sentence, what the President --- the President was clearly told that there was new information that was coming in, but he wasn't told the details of it. And the President was also told that the intelligence community was going to need to go back and check out to find out if it's true. What I said is that [Director of National Intelligence Mike] McConnell told the President, if the new information turns out to be true, what we thought we knew for sure is right: Iran does, in fact, have a covert nuclear weapons program, but it may be suspended. He said that there were many streams of information that were coming in that could be potentially in conflict. They didn't have a lot of confidence in the information yet.
When challenged on the fact that her parsing did not square with what Bush actually said, Perino waved off the gap in credibility with this obviously scripted-in-advance bit of tripe:
I can see where you could see that the President could have been more precise in that language, but the President was being truthful.
The emphasis on "truthful" is hers. (And she will trot out the "he could have been more precise" nonsense twice more in the session.)
The White House press corps was refreshingly aggressive in putting Perino through her paces. As the session wore on, she sounded increasingly like her predecessor, Scott McClellan, in a skirt, deploying McClellan's usual tricks --- holding forth at length to answer a simple question and changing the subject whenever possible --- in order to avoid producing a sound bite. On the other hand, she couldn't entirely avoid that fact that Bush lied:
Q Dana, but listen to what he said: "He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze." Was the President told that there was a possibility that Iran's nuclear program could be suspended? That's what you said he was told.
MS. PERINO: Yes, the President was told that there is new information [in August]...
Meanwhile, in the real world, no one --- except increasingly desperate neo-cons and Bush-cult dead-enders --- believes Perino, Bush or Cheney on this matter. What little credibility Bush, and, by extension, the United States, had on Iran among our allies and other stakeholders in the Middle East has evaporated. And rightly so, why should any foreign government put stock in anything the Bush administration has to say now?
Our only hope is that no serious world crisis erupts until the United States changes leadership in 13 months, and, presumably --- hopefully --- a normal president and administration take charge at long last.
The White House has quietly admitted that George Bush lied to reporters at a news conference on Tuesday when he said he was not informed by intelligence officials that Iran's nuclear weapons program had been suspended in 2003.
On Tuesday, Bush denied he knew the program had been disbanded when he warned the American people in October that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons could unleash World War III. Now, as we reported last night at Pensito Review, Bush press flack Dana Perino confirmed off-camera to reporters that, in fact, Bush learned about the suspension of Iran's weapons program in August.
The White House made a stunning admission Wednesday that appeared to suggest President Bush has directly contradicted himself about when he learned U.S. intelligence that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program...
After taking a reporters' question earlier today about exactly what the President was told, White House press secretary Dana Perino provided a response to reporters Wednesday night.
Perino stated Bush had been told in August that Iran suspended it's covert nuclear weapons program.
"In August, DNI Director McConnell advised President Bush that the intelligence community would not be able to meet a congressionally imposed deadline requiring a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran because new information had been obtained just as they were about to finalize the report," Perino wrote in an emailed response.
"He said that if the new information turns out to be true, what we thought we knew for sure is right. Iran does in fact have a covert nuclear weapons program, but it may be suspended," Perino's email said.
Perino also said McConnell told the President the new information might cause the intelligence community to change its assessment of Iran's covert nuclear program.
Of course, Perino's latest version of who-knew-what-and-when may well be yet another lie. New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh said earlier yesterday that Dick Cheney knew about the Iranian program's suspension as late as last November, and that he had "kept his foot on the neck of that report" until last week.
The White House has apparently been successful in burying the news that Bush lied at the news conference on Tuesday about when he was informed about the suspension of the Iranian program --- and that, by extension both Bush and Cheney have been lying to the American public for months about the threat Iran poses to world peace.
Repercussions continue to shake out in the wake of the release this week of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that says Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program four years ago.
At a news conference yesterday, George Bush denied knowing that U.S. intelligence had learned the Iranian program had been suspended when he warned the American people last month that Iran was on the verge of launching World War III. He was not lying, Bush suggested, but rather his own incompetence and famous lack of curiosity led him to give the false warning. Bush said that when Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Mike McConnell told him in August that new information about the Iranian nuclear program had come to light, he simply did not bother to ask the DNI about the nature of the new developments.
If the muted response to this assertion, from reporters at the news conference, is a guide, journalists close to the White House appear to believe that while it may be unacceptable for Bush to lie to them, it is perfectly okay for him to issue false predictions about an impending apocalypse if the warnings are based entirely on his ineptitude as commander-in-chief and his personal lack of curiosity.
As if all of that isn't a sorry enough state of affairs, today we learn that Dick Cheney has known about --- and actively suppressed --- the intelligence community's finding for over a year. In particular, Cheney knew that Iran suspended its weapons program when he made this statement on Oct. 21, 2007, in an address to a Washington think tank...
In August, the U.S. government intelligence agencies sent word up the chain that Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons programs back in 2003. And yet, about two months later, on Oct. 17, 2007, George W. Bush issued a dire warning about Iran's nukes to the American people:
Bush: "I've told people that if you're interest in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
At Bush's news conference today, amid his tired, cringe-inducing towel-snaps at the White House press corps, he denied knowing the Iranian program was suspended in October when he suggested that the apocalypse was nigh:
[BUSH:] I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was [Director of National Intelligence (DNI)] Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze. Why would you take time to analyze new information? One, you want to make sure it's not disinformation. You want to make sure the piece of intelligence you have is real. And secondly, they want to make sure they understand the intelligence they gathered: If they think it's real, then what does it mean? And it wasn't until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.
Q I understand what you're saying about when you were informed about the NIE. Are you saying at no point while the rhetoric was escalating, as "World War III" was making it into conversation, at no point nobody from your intelligence team or your administration was saying, maybe you want to back it down a little bit?
[BUSH:] No, nobody ever told me that.
Normal U.S. presidents don't generally suggest, especially off-handedly, that the planet is on the brink of World War III. Is it really possible that Bush could have been so woefully uninformed about his own government's intelligence findings that he could make such a world-class blunder?
Yes, her outing led to a still-classified CIA damage assessment and "serious" consequences" to other members of her CIA intelligence network.
No, despite Bush's promise, no one has ever been held accountable for leaking her identity in the first such outing of a covert CIA operative by agents of the U.S. Government itself.
No, Bush "is not a man of his word," as Valerie Plame Wilson told 60 Minutes tonight in her first broadcast network interview. Here's the video in two parts...
Some of what Plame is still not allowed to say, including details about "being taken hostage and subjected to torture for two days," is covered by her former CIA colleague, Larry Johnson, right here...
So what did the White House do about it? Johnson tells us...
When the White House learned of these threats they sprung into action. They beefed up Secret Service protection for Vice President Cheney and provided security protection to Karl Rove. But they declined to do anything for Valerie. That was a CIA problem.
Valerie contacted the office of Security at CIA and requested assistance. They told her too fucking bad and to go pound sand. They did not use those exact words, but they told her she was on her own.
Larisa Alexandrovna draws our attention to a piece by noted reactionary Michelle Malkin. In her blog, Malkin publishes some photos of Iranian police brutalizing four men, and adds these comments:
The innocent young men in the photos were beaten, humiliated, and arrested for wearing Western clothing and hairstyles. It is in the public interest to spread these photos far and wide. The images should be seared onto the global conscience
Question: Will these photos be blared across the front pages of the international media with as much disgust and condemnation as the photos of Abu Ghraib or the manufactured Gitmo Koran-flushing riots?
As we'll see in a moment, Malkin hasn't quite told the truth about those photos. But even if we were to take her assertions at face value, Malkin has ignored what we may call the "Matthew 7:4 factor."...
...And this one, unlike John McCain's version, is actually amusing. Even if both of them are creepy as hell...
Kudos to the creator of the video, Adam Kontras, for his prescience and sense of dark satire back in April of 2006 when it was originally released. Even as we curse him for having given McCain, the former "straight shooter"-turned-wingnut-loon, any bad ideas.
Kontras tells us he received "lots of death threats from angry Iranians not understanding it," when he first posted it, and that he still does. As we receive far too many love letters here at The BRAD BLOG, hopefully this will to serve to send a few of the irony-impaired Iranians our way for a while instead. Always happy to serve.