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Through the Looking Glass


There have been a series of articles, documentaries, books and academic panels and discussions on the subject of neocons, the Bush Administration, and the failures that all have been racking up in the foreign policy and crisis management arena.  But they haven’t seemed to make a dent in the overall news coverage — each and every time I have read an in-depth piece of analysis that pieces together the disperate facts into a coherent whole, and then opened the newspaper or watched a news clip of shorthanded bits and pieces, the difference in perspective is jarring.

It’s as though the two perspectives do not exist in the same space and time, and yet, I’m getting both with the click of my mouse or my television control.  Why is it that they never seem to match up?

Eric Boehlart’s Lapdogs takes a stab at the whys of this, in much more depth than I can here, and Media Matters covers the daily transgressions — where facts and articles don’t match — but the end result is that the snippets of news that most people get every day do not match up factually to the more in-depth reporting that the very same newspeople are uncovering in longer form.

It can be difficult to keep up with all of the information out there, so I thought, in light of the Bolton hearings this morning and the overarching questions that they ought to raise about the direction and philosophy of the Bush Administration, the failing stranglehold of the neocons, and the fact that the rest of us are continuously paying the price for these failures — a listing of some of the better reporting on a whole host of foreign policy and national security reporting recently, and a few links to some great documentaries that you may have missed.

This was all prompted by Dan Froomkin’s White House Briefing yesterday, which was fantastic from start to finish, by the way.  Froomkin began with coverage of the Hadley statement that was enormous in terms of implications, but done in such an understated fashion that the coverage was extremely muted: 

President Bush and national security adviser Stephen Hadley yesterday for the first time publicly acknowledged the momentous shift in the role for U.S. troops in Iraq, from fighting terrorists to trying to suppress religious violence.

This sea change was described in such understated terms that it was eclipsed by news about the crisis in Lebanon. Bush described a change in tactics; Hadley called it a repositioning.

But it’s a historic admission: That job one for many American troops in Iraq is no longer fighting al-Qaeda terrorists, or even insurgents. Rather, it is trying to quell an incipient — if not already raging — sectarian civil war, with Baghdad as ground zero.

Arguably, that’s been the case for quite a while. But having the White House own up to it is a very big deal.

As things stand now, an overwhelming majority of the American public no longer supports Bush’s handling of the war, which they think was a mistake in the first place. A majority wants American troops to start coming home soon. What unqualified support there is for the war seems to come from people who believe it is central front in the war on terror.

But how will people feel about our troops being sent into the crossfire between rival Muslim sects? That is not the war anyone signed up to fight.

Perhaps the Bush Administration is hoping this will stay under the radar for a while, considering how dire the news is from the rest of the region, but surely this will seep into press coverage and result in some tough questions for the White House, right? Right?

— Let’s begin with Emptywheel’s analysis of the James Bamford Rolling Stone article on the next war being ginned up by the neocon cabal — Iran.  Emptywheel does a great job of deconstructing some of the facts and information available via other sources — but there is a segment of Bamford’s article that I want to bring to everyone’s attention:

In the end, the work of Franklin and the other members of Feith’s secret office had the desired effect. Working behind the scenes, the members of the Office of Special Plans succeeded in setting the United States on the path to all-out war with Iran. Indeed, since Bush was re-elected to a second term, he has made no secret of his desire to see Tehran fall. In a victory speech of sorts on Inauguration Day in January 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney warned bluntly that Iran was "right at the top" of the administration’s list of "trouble spots"—and that Israel "might well decide to act first" by attacking Iran. The Israelis, Cheney added in an obvious swipe at moderates in the State Department, would "let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward."

Over the past six months, the administration has adopted almost all of the hard-line stance advocated by the war cabal in the Pentagon. In May, Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, appeared before AIPAC’s annual conference and warned that Iran "must be made aware that if it continues down the path of international isolation, there will be tangible and painful consequences." To back up the tough talk, the State Department is spending $66 million to promote political change inside Iran—funding the same kind of dissident groups that helped drive the U.S. to war in Iraq. "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared.

In addition, the State Department recently beefed up its Iran Desk from two people to ten, hired more Farsi speakers and set up eight intelligence units in foreign countries to focus on Iran. The administration’s National Security Strategy—the official policy document that sets out U.S. strategic priorities—now calls Iran the "single country" that most threatens U.S. interests.

The shift in official policy has thrilled former members of the cabal. To them, the war in Lebanon represents the final step in their plan to turn Iran into the next Iraq. Ledeen, writing in the National Review on July 13th, could hardly restrain himself. "Faster, please," he urged the White House, arguing that the war should now be taken over by the U.S. military and expanded across the entire region. "The only way we are going to win this war is to bring down those regimes in Tehran and Damascus, and they are not going to fall as a result of fighting between their terrorist proxies in Gaza and Lebanon on the one hand, and Israel on the other. Only the United States can accomplish it," he concluded. "There is no other way."

We have been hearing the term "proxy war" quite a bit to describe the current situation between Israel and Lebanon. The fact that it has represented a huge news distraction for the mess that is Iraq has been only a side benefit, I fear. Bamford makes a compelling case for a lot of behind-the-scenes machinations that may have led up to the beginnings of this proxy war — and, if accurate, takes us back to the tense days of the cold war, except we’re the puppet masters pulling all the strings.

Not a pleasant thought, is it?

Digby and Tristero have some perspective on the latest neocon efforts to "blame Condi."  Hint:  Even crappy, half-assed failed attempts at diplomacy are appalling to neocons.  More war.  (The fact that every military conflict these rubes have touched is FUBAR…minor detail.  Nothing to see here.)

Tristero also has some good insight into the Dick Cheney unilateral chief executive mindset, through some analysis of the ABA rebuke on signing statements and a peek into David Addington’s brain.

— Which leads me to the next series of links.  Frontline has been doing amazing work on the neocons, the Bush Administration, and the policies they have pushed — and the real world results of said policies.  If you have missed out on their various documentaries, you really ought to watch them.  Mercifully, many are available online.  Some of the best:

Inside the Terror Network: A look at the 9/11 hijackers, how they moved throughout Europe and the US, and what we missed before the planes hit. Great investigative journalism in this piece.

Gunning for Saddam: The steps toward war with Iraq, as ginned up by Dick Cheney and his neocon cronies.

Campaign Against Terror: A look at the search for al qaeda, a year after 9/11.

The War Behind Closed Doors:A look at the fear that drives the Bush WH toward war with Iraq.

The Long Road to War: The history of American and Saddam Hussein.

Truth, War and Consequences: Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration face the consequences of poor planning, and the quagmire that is now Iraq.

Beyond Baghdad:What the US is going to face in trying to hold all of Iraq.

Rumsfeld’s War: The quest for military supremacy and the use of might to control every conflict in his path. Rummy’s theory of the world.

A Soldier’s War: The psychological cost of war on soldiers.

The Torture Question: Bush’s war and crossing the line, and the consequences thereof.

The Insurgency: The battles in Iraq — and who we may be fighting.

The Dark Side: Meet Dick Cheney, the most powerful Vice President in history, for whom revenge and power go hand in hand.

And that is just a few of the documentaries available. There are a number of pieces on Israel and the greater Middle East, terrorism, al qaeda, and a lot of other fantastic topics. Click here for more.

So, the next time Kyra Phillips starts asking you whether or not the end times and Armageddon are near, while she’s sitting in the anchor chair on CNN, you’ll know that some actual news alternatives exist.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com