Tag Archive: Defense Department

Feb 14 2013

Hagel Nomination Filibustered

Mitch McConnell is smiling

Chuck Hagel Confirmation: Senate Vote Fails To End Filibuster On Obama Pick

by  Sabrina Siddiqui

Senate Republicans successfully foiled attempts to confirm Chuck Hagel for the post of defense secretary on Thursday, by denying him the 60 votes needed for the nomination to proceed.

Democrats ultimately came up short of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and end the Republicans’ filibuster, with a final vote count of 58 to 40. Republican Sens. Mike Johanns (Neb.), Susan Collins (Maine), Thad Cochran (Miss.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) voted with Democrats in their failed effort to end debate. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted present.

The nomination is hardly dead. In fact, it looks increasingly likely that Democrats will be able to muster the needed votes to confirm Hagel’s nomination after a 10-day recess.

But the failure to end the GOP filibuster is still is a setback for the administration, which wanted a fast confirmation process, and Senate Democratic leadership, whose decision to punt on filibuster reform at the beginning of this congressional session was met with criticism.

Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it was “tragic” that Senate Republicans decided to filibuster a “qualified nominee.”

“It’s really unfortunate,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

This is on you, Harry, resign as Majority Leader.

Jan 09 2013

The Hagel Haggle

Chuck HagelThe controversy over President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense are, as Republicans say, he is anti-military, anti-Israel and soft on Iran. The gay Log Cabin Republicans, and a few others from the left, object because of his stand against the 1998 appointment of James Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg, who is openly gay. The problem on the left is he’s another Republican. Most of these objections won’t prevent Sen. Hagel from being confirmed.

At The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald discusses the concerns of the GLBT community and the objections of the left in his article:

When it comes to LGBT equality, 1998 is a different universe. Virtually no prominent Democrats (let alone Republicans) supported marriage equality back then, or even equal rights for LGBT citizens. In fact, Hagel’s comment came only two years after the overwhelming majority of Democratic Senators voted in favor of the truly odious and discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act – including Joe Biden, Patty Murray, Pat Leahy and Paul Wellstone – which was then signed into law by Bill Clinton. That law not only defined marriage as between a man and a woman, but barred the federal government from issuing any spousal benefits – immigration, tax, death benefits – to same-sex couples. If you’re going to judge politicians by how they felt about LGBT issues 15 years ago, be prepared to scorn almost every national Democratic Party hero you have as a bigot. [..]

So yes: like virtually every prominent politician in both parties, Chuck Hagel had primitive and ugly views on gay issues back in 1998. But shouldn’t the question be: does he still hold these views or, like huge numbers of Americans, have his viewed evolved since then? Hagel has apologized for what he said, an apology which Hormel accepted, graciously noting: “I can’t remember a time when a potential presidential nominee apologized for anything . . . .Since 1998, fourteen years have passed, and public attitudes have shifted–perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed with the times, too.” Moreover, Hagel last week also vowed that he is “fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.” [..]

Then there’s the issue of Hagel’s party affiliation. The perception that Republicans are more trustworthy than Democrats on military issues – and that Democratic presidents thus had to rely on Republicans to run the Pentagon – was indeed both pervasive and baseless. But that, too, has changed: the outgoing Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, is as loyal and partisan a Democrat as it gets, and nobody objected to his selection.

But much more importantly: when it comes to issues such as war, militarism, defense spending and Middle East policy, isn’t substance much more significant than whether someone has an “R” or “D” after their name? As Obama himself proves – and as Biden and Clinton before him proved – the fact that someone has a “D” after their name is hardly a guarantor that they will oppose policies of aggression and militarism. Indeed, as Clemons said Friday night on MSNBC, most Democrats in the Pentagon are so afraid of being cast as “soft on defense” that they hug policies of militarism far more eagerly and unquestioningly than Chuck Hagel ever would. Is partisan identity so all-consuming that it completely trumps substance, so that a hawkish Democrat is preferable to a war-skeptic Republican?

Just as a reminder, although Sen. Hagel objected to the authorization to invade Iraq in 2002, he still voted for it. So have the feral children of the right turned on him? It would seem that Sen. Hagel did the unthinkable, he told he truth about the real reason for the invasion, oil. He then committed a second “cardinal sin” when he voted for withdrawal.

Then according to the neocon’s he is soft on Iran and not sufficiently pro-Israel and has even been called antisemitic. Those objections are based on Sen. Hagel’s refusal to sign onto a number of AIPAC’s policy pronouncements and objections to military intervention with Iran over a non-existant nuclear weapons program.  Since most of those allegations are exaggerated or just false, the opposition is losing “steam” according to Josh Marshall at TPM:

Nominations lose steam or gain steam. Campaigns against nominations lose steam or gain steam. And at the moment, the campaign against Chuck Hagel’s nomination is losing steam. AIPAC and the ADL have both signaled they do not plan to make a fight of it. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister is giving Hagel the thumbs up. Now even the Washington Post editorial page has signaled it’s backing off its opposition.

As I noted on Sunday, the prospect of a five seat Democratic majority denying a reelected President the nomination of a former Senator who is blandly unobjectionable anywhere outside the hothouse of DC was always quite unlikely. And these tells are consequential precisely because they signal that the parties in question don’t think it’s a winnable fight.

This is all a tempest in a teapot and ridiculous on its face just as the complaints that Pres. Obama isn’t sufficiently bipartisan. Sen. Hagel is just another in a long succession of right of center nominees, appointments and hold overs from the Bush administration that have been part of Pres. Obama’s neoliberal agenda.  

Nov 16 2012

The Last Word on L’affaire de Petraeus

The affair between David Petraeus and a married Tampa socialite was more than just embarrassing it exposed the media’s adoration of a very flawed man, the media’s cover up of his failures and the bigger scandal, the US surveillance state. Three critics of Petraeus weigh in:

Glenn Greenwald: While Petraeus Had Affair with Biographer, Corporate Media Had Affair with Petraeus

The scandal that brought down CIA director David Petraeus has spread to the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen. The Pentagon says the FBI has uncovered thousands of “potentially inappropriate” emails between Allen and Jill Kelley, the woman who complained of harassment from Petraeus’ biographer and lover, Paula Broadwell. Kelley’s complaint to the FBI led to the discovery of Broadwell and Petraeus’ relationship, prompting Petraeus’ resignation on Friday. We’re joined by Guardian columnist and blogger Glenn Greenwald

Transcript can be read here

Petraeus scandal is reported with compelled veneration of all things military

by Glenn Greenwald

The reverence for the former CIA Director is part of a wider religious-like worship of the national security state.

A prime rule of US political culture is that nothing rivets, animates or delights the political media like a sex scandal. From Bill Clinton, Gary Hart, and Eliot Spitzer to John Edwards, Larry Craig and David Vitter, their titillation and joy is palpable as they revel in every last arousing detail. This giddy package is delivered draped in a sanctimonious wrapping: their excitement at reporting on these scandals is matched only by their self-righteous condemnations of the moral failings of the responsible person.

All of these behaviors have long been constant, inevitable features of every political sex scandal – until yesterday. Now, none of these sentiments is permitted because the newest salacious scandal features at its center Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned yesterday as CIA Director, citing an extramarital affair.

FBI’s abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation

by Glenn Greenwald

That the stars of America’s national security establishment are being devoured by out-of-control surveillance is a form of sweet justice

The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny obviously due to its salacious aspects, leaving one, as always, to fantasize about what a stellar press corps we would have if they devoted a tiny fraction of this energy to dissecting non-sex political scandals (this unintentionally amusing New York Times headline from this morning – “Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers’ Ethics” – illustrates that point: with all the crimes committed by the US military over the last decade and long before, it’s only adultery that causes “concern” over their “ethics”). Nonetheless, several of the emerging revelations are genuinely valuable, particularly those involving the conduct of the FBI and the reach of the US surveillance state. [..]

That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email. The emails Kelley received were, as the Daily Beast reports, quite banal and clearly not an event that warranted an FBI investigation: [..]

Based on what is known, what is most disturbing about the whole Petraeus scandal is not the sexual activities that it revealed, but the wildly out-of-control government surveillance powers which enabled these revelations. What requires investigation here is not Petraeus and Allen and their various sexual partners but the FBI and the whole sprawling, unaccountable surveillance system that has been built.

Michael Hastings Takes Down Media For Promoting and Mythologizing David Petraeus

BuzzFeed‘s, Michael Hastings was not just harsh on David Peraeus but also took one of CNN’s own reporters for her fawning reporting, repeating the Pentagon talking points without question.

The transcript can be read here

h/t Heather at Crooks and Liars

The Sins Of General David Petraeus

by Michael Hastings

Petraeus seduced America. We should never have trusted him.

The fraud that General David Petraeus perpetrated on America started many years before the general seduced Paula Broadwell, a lower-ranking officer 20 years his junior, after meeting her on a campus visit to Harvard.

More so than any other leading military figure, Petraeus’ entire philosophy has been based on hiding the truth, on deception, on building a false image. “Perception” is key, he wrote in his 1987 Princeton dissertation: “What policymakers believe to have taken place in any particular case is what matters – more than what actually occurred.”

Yes, it’s not what actually happens that matters – it’s what you can convince the public it thinks happened.

But the final word  on L’affaire de Petraeus goes the host of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert and his guest All My Children soap star, Susan Lucci.

General’s Hospital

David Petraeus’ affair is all anybody in Washington can talk about, which might be why the country is in financial ruin.

“I think the news has jumped the shark” and that’s the “word.”

Nov 13 2012

Desperate Housewives of the Defense Department: Up Date

I’ve been a little busy with the on going disaster that was left by Hurricane Sandy, but not too busy to have missed the latest MSM obsession the soap opera of the “Petraeus Affair.” As it turns out this little episode was brought to us by a sex obsessed, “shirtless, Tea Party sympathizing FBI agent” and an out of control surveillance state. Like Atrios, I am not surprised that the PTB and the MSM will not recognize the real problem here, the surveillance state that the Bush/Obama regimes have created:

Even with this happening, I don’t expect the people who rule us to suddenly realize that the FBI trolling through emails looking for unapproved sexytime might be a problem.

Jane Mayer, in The New Yorker, “puzzles” about the politics of the “affair:”

There seem to be some potentially fascinating political aspects of this story that have yet to be explored. Why, for instance, did this news explode publicly when it did? Both the New York Times and the Washington Post report that the F.B.I. had found, after months of investigation, that neither retired General David Petraeus, now the former director of the C.I.A., nor the woman with whom he was evidently involved, his biographer Paula Broadwell, had broken any laws. Congressional intelligence officials reportedly want to know why they were not informed earlier that the F.B.I. was investigating Petraeus. But what I am wondering is why, if the F.B.I. had indeed concluded that they had no criminal case, this matter was brought to anyone’s attention at all. [..]

But what, exactly, was this F.B.I. employee trying to expose? Was he blowing the whistle on his bosses? If so, why? Was he dissatisfied with their apparent exoneration of Petraeus? Given that this drama was playing out in the final days of a very heated Presidential campaign, and he was taking a potentially scandalous story to the Republican leadership in Congress, was there a political motive?

It doesn’t break my heart to see him go. I always thought putting ex-military men in charge of the civilian CIA was a bad idea that would just get us into more foreign wars. Echidne, writing on her blog, points out that Petraeus is not exactly a “flaming liberal” and cites this passage from an article in The Washington Post:

Since his first combat tour in Iraq in 2003, Petraeus had cultivated a cadre of a few dozen loyal staff officers, many of whom had doctoral degrees from top universities and taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Usually, he personally selected these men and women to serve on his staff.

In Afghanistan, the retinue grew as people drawn to his fame and eager to launch their own careers took up positions for him in Kabul. “He didn’t seek out these people, but he also didn’t turn them away,” said an officer who spent 40 months working for Petraeus in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prominent members of conservative, Washington-based defense think tanks were given permanent office space at his headquarters and access to military aircraft to tour the battlefield. They provided advice to field commanders that sometimes conflicted with orders the commanders were getting from their immediate bosses.

Some of Petraeus’s staff officers said he and the American mission in Afghanistan benefited from the broader array of viewpoints, but others complained that the outsiders were a distraction, the price of his growing fame.

Of course no one in the MSM is asking why this was done without a warrant, since Jill Kelley’s complaint was about harassing e-mails about her association with Gen. Petraeus. But, hey, they’re keeping us safe from those terrorists.

I find that rather amusing, since former CIA Director and retired Army general, David Petraeus is one of the right wing’s “hope” for a shot at the White House in 2016 was brought down with the very same “tool”, unfettered surveillance, that the right wingers claim is keeping America safe.  Whatever the motivation was, I also have a sneaking suspicion since the right wing media is  wondering why the President even accepted his resignation and portraying Petraeus as a “victim,” wondering why the President even accepted his resignation that he’ll be back in the near future with his right wing halo all polished.

Up Date: Apparently someone at the New York Times is reading Atrios’ comments:

The F.B.I. investigation that toppled the director of the C.I.A. and now threatens to tarnish the reputation of the top American commander in Afghanistan underscores a danger that civil libertarians have long warned about: that in policing the Web for crime, espionage and sabotage, government investigators will unavoidably invade the private lives of Americans. [..]

For privacy advocates, the case sets off alarms.

“There should be an investigation not of the personal behavior of General Petraeus and General Allen but of what surveillance powers the F.B.I. used to look into their private lives,” Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an interview. “This is a textbook example of the blurring of lines between the private and the public.” [..]

But the events of the last few days have shown how law enforcement investigators who plunge into the private territories of cyberspace looking for one thing can find something else altogether, with astonishingly destructive results. [..]

But some commentators have renewed an argument that a puritanical American culture overreacts to sexual transgressions that have little relevance to job performance. “Most Americans were dismayed that General Petraeus resigned,” said Mr. Romero of the A.C.L.U.

Am I “dismayed” over Petraeus’ resignation? No, since I don’t think he should be in charge of the CIA in the first place. I am dismayed that about the surveillance state that caused it and loss of our right to privacy that conservatives hypocritically opine when they complain about “big government.”

Apr 27 2011

National Security Musical Chairs

While everyone was focusing on the bogus issue of President Obama’s citizenship and busily examining the authenticity of the newly released long form, there was a national security shake up going on that finally got it’s 5 minutes of attention by the media. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had announced that he would be leaving the Pentagon this year. There was some speculation about his replacement that included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She has since made it clear that she was not interested and would remain in the critical job steering Obama’s rudderless foreign policy. By law, the Defense Secretary must be a civilian and disqualified if having served in the military in the last 10 years, thus eliminating any of the current or recently retired generals.

The President met this morning with his national security advisors at the White house and announced that current CIA Director Leon Panetta would be replacing Gates and Gen. David Petraeus, the current Afghan war commander, would take over the CIA. The other announcement at the meeting was that Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who was ambassador to Iraq under President Bush, would move to Afghanistan to become the Ambassador there, replacing Karl Eikenberry. One of the most experienced diplomats in the foreign service Crocker has also served as Ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen would replace Petraeus as the commander of the war effort in Afghanistan. Not yet decided, or atleast not announced today was who would replace retiring Gen, Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Once again, as we did with Bush CIA Director, Gen. Michael Hayden who continued to wear his uniform, the military dominates the national security agencies. As David Dayen puts it

So the merging of the military and the intelligence community is complete. Within a few years it’ll just be one big black op. The good news is they can cut the military budget then, and put everything into the secret, off-the-books intelligence budget so as not to raise suspicion.

h/t David Dayen at FDL

The New York Times

Susan Crabtree at Talking Points Memo