Category Archives: Diplomacy

Cheney Lawyers Claim “Absolute Immunity” in Plame Suit

In case you thought it did, the Plame Case hasn’t gone away. Buried beneath the unsurprising news that the Bush Administration’s political office (read: Karl Rove) originally wanted to fire not 9 USA’s but 30 and that Paul Wolfowitz is out after gaming the system for his girlfriend and doing absolutely nothing he promised to do when he was hired (corruption and broken promises being the hallmark of neoconservatives everywhere), the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame lawsuit filed against Li’l Dick, Scooter, MC Rove, and Dick Armitage is actually in court. Sort of.

Led by SCOTUS Judge Sam Alito’s former law clerk and current Dep Asst AG in Gonzo’s civil division, Jeffrey Bucholtz, govt lawyers went before U.S. District Judge John D. Bates and asked him to dismiss the case. Their reason for dismissal? Pure D-for-Dick “Unitary Presidency” Cheney:

[A]ny conversations Cheney and the officials had about Plame with one another or with reporters were part of their normal duties because they were discussing foreign policy and engaging in an appropriate “policy dispute.” Cheney’s attorney went further, arguing that Cheney is legally akin to the president because of his unique government role and has absolute immunity from any lawsuit.

(emphasis added)

The judge, who apparently wasn’t sure he was hearing right, wanted to make certain he understood what they were saying.

“So you’re arguing there is nothing — absolutely nothing — these officials could have said to reporters that would have been beyond the scope of their employment,” whether the statements were true or false?

“That’s true, Your Honor. Mr. Wilson was criticizing government policy,” said Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil division. “These officials were responding to that criticism.”

Now, before I go on I have to note that asking for a dismissal is a standard defense tactic nowadays, and that many defense lawyers will do it, especially in high-profile cases, even if they don’t think they’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the argument. That, in turn, has led to them often coming up with some pretty creative legal grounds for the dismissal that have little to do with legal precedent and everything to do with desperation. There was, for instance, the famous example of a lawyer who claimed that one of her cases should be dismissed because a proper defense would require her to call the plaintiff’s dog to the witness stand.

This might be one of those “It sucks but this is the best we’ve got” arguments, but I don’t think so. Continue reading

Let’s Stop Pretending Rice Is Doing Something

The trouble with policy wonks is that they think everybody is as knowledgeable and logical as they are despite all compelling evidence to the contrary. Eric Martin riffs on a Josh Landis piece about the “meeting” between the fabulous NeoCondi and Syrian foreign minister Walid Moualem in an attempt to analyze what might be going on.

The recent diplomatic thaw between the US and Syria may be a manifestation of a nascent strategy to de-link Syria from Iran (which would then, presumably, make it easier to isolate Hezbollah in Lebanon by eliminating Iran’s middleman). This reading is not made any less credible by the obvious empowerment of Iran in the region, and the perceived need to assemble and fortify an effective counterbalance. The question remains, however, what would the US offer Syria in return for its cooperation? The return of the Golan Heights, and the killing of the tribunal investigating Syria’s role in the Hariri assassination, are the two most obvious Syrian objectives.

This is all nonsense. There is no “thaw”, the US has no intention of offering Syria anything for their “co-operation” except calling off its potential invasion – maybe (there are three carrier groups off the Iranian coast, a stone’s throw from Syria) – and no one in the Bush Admin understands the concept of “counterbalance”, let alone is looking for a way to achieve it.

Landis isn’t much better, though he does at least hint that Condi offered, in fact, nothing, and quotes Iran’s foreign minister to that effect.

Mottaki was more honest. He explained that the US needs Iran more than Iran needs the US. The US had not prepared for the meeting properly and was not willing to discuss the an agenda important to Iran, comsequently Iran passed up the chance to talk to the Americans at the ministerial level.

(emphasis added)

Of course we hadn’t “prepared properly”. Since when has the fabulous NeoCondi prepared for anything properly?

Look, at some point it would be helpful if we stopped talking about these people as if they were sentient, rational human beings with knowledge, goals, and strategies for how to attain them. They are none of the three. They are not-very-bright ideologues who feature a deep-seated disdain for most foreigners and a heavy penchant for throwing their weight around. They know how to bully, they know how to threaten, and that pretty much exhausts a list of their negotiating tactics.

Continue reading

Say Again?

A headline in today’s NYT screams: Diplomacy Fails to Slow Advance of Nuclear Arms!

KENNEBUNKPORT, Me., Aug. 7 – American intelligence officials and outside nuclear experts have concluded that the Bush administration’s diplomatic efforts with European and Asian allies have barely slowed the nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea over the past year, and that both have made significant progress.In a tacit acknowledgment that the diplomatic initiatives with European and Asian allies have failed to curtail the programs, senior administration and intelligence officials say they are seeking ways to step up unspecified covert actions intended, in the words of one official, “to disrupt or delay as long as we can” Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.

I’m sorry? What diplomacy? You mean that half-hearted meeting in Asia where the US let Japan do all the heavy lifting and then refused to back its proposals? Or the gesture that doesn’t even qualify as ‘half-hearted’ to have some members of the EU and one or two of the other Arab nations intervene with Iran? the gesture we made just before we abandoned the whole project?

If what the Bush Admin has been doing qualifies as ‘diplomacy’, then I qualify as a nuclear physicist because once I read a book title with the words ‘Nuclear Physics’ in it. Powell has been trying, I grant you, but he has two crucial difficulties: first, he’s doing it on his own and getting no support from Junior; and second, since the UN speech before the onset of the war has been shown to have been made up almost entirely out of whole cloth, he’s got a massive credibility problem–nobody believes anything he says.

I have a radical suggestion to make:

Could we at least try actual diplomacy before we declare it to be a failure? The results might surprise you.

But then, the neocons aren’t really interested in diplomacy, are they? Only in the appearance of it. If it worked, they wouldn’t be able to go ahead with their plans to invade South Korea and Teheran, and that just wouldn’t do.

The Imperium marches on !

Like Father Like Son:Selling Out the Kurds

As pressure for Kurdish independence builds, Junior is in Turkey making nice with PM Erdogan.

A senior American official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said, “These meetings today made clear that whatever the differences U.S. and Turkish governments had over Iraq, from this point forward — and both the Turkish president and the Turkish prime minister in their meetings made this clear — from this moment forward, Turkey sees its interests and the American interests in Iraq as parallel and consistent.”

The article concentrates on the old news of the Turkish Parliament’s refusal to allow US planes to bomb Iraq from Turkish soil or US troops to use Turkey as a staging area for the invasion (that oh so diplomatic fellow, Paul Wolfowitz, demanded that the PM apologize for Parliament’s decision; Erdogan declined the invitation), but the only current interest Turkey has in Iraq is the Kurdish resistance which they see as a threat to their claims on the region.

It is possible, of course (this is, after all, Junior, not a competent international diplomatist), that Erdogan and Bush never discussed the Kurds. It is also possible that I am in a position to assure you of a seat on the next flight to San Bernadino via my personal jet-pack transport plane, the Fruitless Shrub. Anything is possible.

Aligning US and Turkish interests at this ticklish point could mean only one thing, realistically: Junior is following in Daddy’s footsteps and selling Kurdish independence out in order to strengthen US oil interests just like Poppy did. This is going to make the handover really…interesting.

Is the US clever enough to rule the world?

It’s a good question even if the answer is obvious to all but the most die-hard neocons. Ian Williams of the Asia Times tries to answer it without belaboring that obvious answer.

Former United Nations secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who unsuccessfully tried to teach US secretary of state Madeleine Albright the art of statecraft, once noted that neither the Roman Empire nor the US had any patience for diplomacy, which is “perceived by an imperial power as a waste of time and prestige and a sign of weakness”.However, as the Goths, Huns and Vandals, among others, demonstrated soon enough, this was a dangerous misperception for the Romans and is currently proving equally dangerous for the Americans.


[N]o one would accuse either the Bush or even the Clinton administration of Cartesian logic in its recent policy formulations. Indeed, what makes recent US foreign policy so anomalous is how often it is in violation of any rational national interest, let alone of abstract moral and legal principles.In this less than perfect world, real powers with real problems will occasionally bend and stretch the rules, but this administration has gone further. It has challenged the rules themselves, and denied their normative power.

The doctrine of preemptive strikes and unilateral action, and the scorn for the United Nations and its Charter, represented a fundamental threat to the very global order that the US did so much to bring about in 1945.

He sounds surprised. The truth is that that challenge was the whole point of the policy: to prove that the neocon fantasy of American domination is feasible. As with what eagle2 used to call ‘Rocco’s Gang’–a reference to the movie ‘Key Largo’–enough is never enough, more is never enough, they will never feel ‘secure’ or that the country is secure until they own or run everything. As long as there is a perceived enemy or a perceived profit to be made, they will be grabbing for more, more, always more. They will tell us, they will tell themselves that it’s ‘necessary’, ‘the way of the world’, or, more baldly, ‘we deserve it because we’re the greatest country on earth and who should have it if we don’t?’ They will use the excuses of safety, economic survival, and peace but what they will mean is global destabilization, economic ruin for everybody else, and peace at the point of a gun if necessary–and they’ll make sure it is.

Ian is asking the wrong question, in a way. It doesn’t matter whether they’re clever enough; what matters is that they’re strong enough and willing enough to try to do what every empire-dreamer has longed to do since the beginning of civilization: own and operate the planet for their own benefit, which they will assume–and believe–means for our benefit no matter how often and how loudly we tell them that we’re not interested. Daddy knows best. And if he doesn’t? He’ll be holding the gun, so it amounts to the same thing.

They won’t do it because they’re smart enough. They’ll do it because they can and there’s nobody around who can stop them.

They think.

Bush Apologizes–A First

Well, I’ll be damned. Karl got Junior to apologize for something. That musta hurt like the dickens. And to Abdullah of Jordan, of all people. Poor Abdullah.

Two weeks ago, on the eve of a scheduled visit, Georgie announces that he’s throwing away the road map to follow Ariel off the edge of the cliff, backing Sharon’s land-grab, and the King has to “postpone” his trip–the King of Jordan making a “friendly” visit to the US is dicey enough, but to go there when the President has just reneged on one of his basic promises to the Palestinians? Uh-uh. No. Bad move.

So he waits a couple of weeks, Sharon’s plan gets rejected by his own party (not because it’s blatant theft and a repudiation of Israel’s previous stance but because they don’t think Sharon is stealing enough land), and he tries again. This time, while he’s here, proof that America has been torturing Arab prisoners gets splashed all over the Arab (and the world) press, and the King still has to go into the Rose Garden and make nice with the Shrub he would have liked to chop off at the roots. The guy just doesn’t have any luck at all. And now he has to go home. Oy.

But give him credit–his presence is what pushed Karl into authorizing that apology and Junior into going back to his original policy on Palestine. The King couldn’t go back to his country with nothing after all this, and he used the terrible position he was in to wrest the public apology Al Jazeera didn’t get out of the man who never apologizes for anything. Not bad, when you stop to think about it. A case of turning rotten lemons into acceptable lemonade, even if the Prez’ apology did seem to be more about the pictures being shown than what the pictures showed. But hey, you take what you can get with this president.

Nice work, Abdullah. An apology for something he’s screwed up is a lot more than we’ve been able to get out of him.