Busy News Day Roundup: Ney, McCain, Gustav

The news is coming hot and heavy today. Bob Ney claims he was a “political prisoner”, Gustav is poised to take no prisoners on the gulf coast on the 3 year anniversary of Katrina, and McCain is poised to announce his VP selection (who presumably isn’t in prison).

Commentary By: Richard Blair

It’s one of those days where there’s so much to keep up with – and damn the luck, I have a day job and just can’t do justice to all of the breaking news. Here’s a quick roundup:

Bob Ney: “BushCo Went After Me Because of Iran”

I’m not sure why this story never became a bigger deal than it was when it broke last year – basically, convicted Abramoff felon Bob Ney is saying that the BushCo DOJ went after him so hard because he forwarded “peace proposals” from Iran to the Whitehouse in 2003 (via the Swiss embassy). The existence of the proposal has been previously verified by several people close to the discussions, however, the Cheney / Rumsfeld cabal put the kibosh on engaging Tehran. More background here and here. It’s amazing that the legacy media can go after a sex scandal so voraciously, but when it comes to a story like this, there’s no investigation and it falls down the memory hole.

Officials may evacuate New Orleans as Gustav nears

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Gustav’s arrival. The storm has already affected my own work life rather dramatically, since many of the customers I deal with are in the deep south and/or on the gulf coast. They’re in a panic mode. And it’s quite serendipitous that an evacuation order for New Orleans could come as soon as tomorrow, the anniversary of Katrina. As Steven noted earlier, should Gustav ramp up as predicted, he could overshadow the GOP convention early next week.

McCain selects his VP

Proving that there is indeed no honor among thieves, the GOP is doing everything possible to steal the thunder from the wrap-up of the Dem convention this evening. McCain will be making a live address / ad this evening, right in the middle of the Dem proceedings at Invesco Field in Denver.

I remember a time in the not too distant past when both political parties honored their opposition’s “day in the sun”, and that there were (for all intents and purposes) gentlemen’s agreements that there wouldn’t be any overt campaigning by the opposition during either party’s convention. The GOP already parachuted Rudy Gi911iani and Mitt Romney into Denver to grab some spotlight (Gi911iani was given a big segment on NPR’s Morning Edition today). And now the McCain camp is desperately trying, via their Drudgehorn, to get the chattering class chattering about his pick this evening, rather than the pinnacle of the Dem convention. And it’ll probably work.

One can only hope that the Dems have a similar plan for next week. I hate tit-for-tat politics as much as the next person, but what the GOP has been trying to pull all week (with some degree of success) isn’t sporting in the least. But then, in their recent Rovian history, that particular attribute hasn’t been much of a concern to the snipers in the Republican Party.

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Israel’s Olmert to Resign

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert announced today that he won’™t be seeking re-election, and will resign as PM when a successor is chosen. Olmert is embroiled in several scandals, but there are those who believe that he’™s been the ‘œresistance point’ in the Bush administration’™s efforts to goad Israel to attack Iran.

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Israeli media is reporting that embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not be seeking re-election in September, and will step down as Prime Minister:

Olmert is currently under two separate criminal investigations. One involves suspicions that he took bribes from American businessman Morris Talansky and the other, dubbed ‘Olmertours’™ by the media, charges him with submitting duplicate claims for travel expenses during his former office as trade minister and mayor of Jerusalem.

Olmert has denied wrongdoing with respect to the police probes, but has said he would resign if indicted.

The fact that Olmert is stepping down is a very big deal. Indictments may indeed be coming, but most importantly, it’™s become increasingly clear that Olmert can no longer lead an effective governing coalition. Perhaps he’™s just accepting the inevitability of a ‘œno confidence’ vote, were he to remain in power. Olmert’™s favorability rating is at least 10 points lower than George Bush’™s.

Obviously, the million dollar question becomes: who will take his place?

Uber-hawk Benjamin Netanyahu? That seems to be the direction that Bush administration necons would prefer to push. Would that be the last piece of the puzzle that needs to be in place for BushCo to prod Israel to attack Iran before the U.S. elections?

I’™m sure that Dick Cheney is already burning up the phone lines.

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
Category: Iran,Permalink

Bush/Cheney Ride Popularity, Reject US Intel on Iran Nukes

Bush and Cheney are riding a wave of popularity unseen since 9/11. 23% is the number of those who agree with their mission, so it appears they’vce decided to gamble on their huge numbers and reject US Intelligence estimates about Iran. Does this mean they are going to open a second front there? Listen to Mitch McConnell.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Bush and Cheney are just as popular as they always were, scoring a full 23% approval rating in the latest LA Times poll, which is easily as much approval as they deserve. Heck, one could likely those 23% would stay with them if they decided to mount an offensive in Iran. And that’s just what Seymour Hirsh claims they are going to do. But not before Bush and Cheney listen to their own Intelligence Agency’s opinions on the Iran Nuke program, and then summarily reject the report. Here’s the LA Times poll, and here’s the story about the US Intel.

Why did they reject US Intelligence estimates about how the Iranians don’t have an active nuclear program? …

(more…)

Monday, June 30th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Voters To McCain: Lose The Bush Cowboy Diplomacy

A recent poll suggests that voters prefer Barack Obama’s brand of diplomacy over the “cowboy diplomacy” that John McCain seems to have adopted from George Bush. Lest he find himself down on the ranch with his buddy following the election, McCain may want to rethink his rhetoric.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

John McCain likes to ridicule Barack Obama’s belief that we should meet with the leaders of nations we consider to be our adversaries. A new Gallup poll might have John McCain rethinking this rhetoric. If the polling is accurate, it seems clear that voters don’t believe that a continuation of George Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy” is a wise strategy.

From Gallup:

PRINCETON, NJ – Large majorities of Democrats and independents, and even about half of Republicans, believe the president of the United States should meet with the leaders of countries that are considered enemies of the United States. Overall, 67% of Americans say this kind of diplomacy is a good idea.

The issue of using presidential diplomacy with U.S. enemies distinguishes Barack Obama from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, and even from his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

Obama is the only one of the three who has said he would personally meet with the leaders of countries like Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela as president, and he recently defended his position by saying “strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries.” Clinton has criticized Obama’s approach as “na–¯ve,” and McCain has been unrelenting in his attacks on the issue, accusing Obama of being dangerously inexperienced and having “reckless judgment.”

Frankly, the rationale behind the Bush approach has always been suspect. There just isn’t ample evidence to suggest that refusing to meet with these leaders provides any measurable benefit. In my opinion, the problem with men like George Bush may well originate with their own awareness of their inability to engage in thoughtful dialogue or protracted negotiations.

Whether this reticence is the result of a questionable intellect, a fragile ego, a bellicose bravado, or some combination thereof may never be fully understood. Regardless, I suspect that the passage of time will reveal more of the motivations that led George Bush and his like-minded cronies to adopt such a strident strategy.

From my perspective, men like George Bush believe that a safe nation can only be achieved by presenting America’s persona as a powerful preemptive presence in the world. Instead of adopting the oft referenced historical approach of “speak softly and carry a big stick”, the Bush administration seems to have chosen to speak loud and large while swinging a big stick… indiscriminately.

Truth be told, the Bush-McCain machismo is contrary to the conflict resolution that most of us have been reared to respect. From our first adventure in socialization as a school child to the many years we spend navigating the difficulties that frequently characterize the workforce, we learn that the best resolutions often result from difficult, though diplomatic, dialogue. If one were to imagine either our schools or our places of employment utilizing the Bush-McCain mentality, it is virtually impossible to visualize a functional environment.

Granted, conducting foreign policy is far more complex than the above referenced experiences, but any situation involving human interaction can ultimately be reduced to the need for individuals to engage in constructive communications…even if those communications are with an obvious and obstinate enemy.

Perhaps the worst consequences of the Bush-McCain strategy is the collateral damage that accompanies this ideological intransigence. An example might be helpful. Time and again we’ve heard discussions of the degree to which a large segment of Iran’s population is in sync with the West…even to the extent that they might, at some point, entertain and enact some type of people’s revolt to overthrow their radical religious regime.

Unfortunately, though the Bush administration occasionally invokes the sensibilities of the Iranian citizenry, he and his minions more frequently rattle off the rhetoric that suggests we revile and reject all things Iranian…and Islamic. In so doing, we alienate those Iranians…and millions of Islamists…that might well be our ally (or at least not our mortal enemy) under the right circumstances…circumstances that may never mature in an atmosphere of elevated animosity. As such, they are left unable to distinguish our disdain for their demagogic leaders from our compassion for the common man.

In fact, the events that have led many Americans to distrust the Bush administration are the same ones that have likely undermined our hopes for an internal insurrection in Iran. Hence, one of the fundamental benefits of a direct dialogue with the leadership of Iran is the message it would send to the people of Iran. We can’t expect Iranians and the rest of the world to see the United States as a force for good unless we demonstrate that goodness is our preferred means of force.

Look, I have no illusions that goodness is a force that can solve all conflicts…and I’m sure the American public feels the same. At the same time, underlying all acts of physical force must be the perception that they have been enacted as a last resort, by good people, who have concluded that good order (safety and security) cannot be restored otherwise. In this way, goodness can remain the fundamental attribute and the means by which a nation of America’s strength and power can be seen as both a giant capable of imposing its will…and also as a benevolent big brother who chooses to insure that the will of the individual will not be arbitrarily abridged.

Cowboy diplomacy is a rich relic of our Old West history. It should remind us of where we’ve been and where we’ve arrived. An awareness of that journey should illuminate our growing commitment to civility; not our willingness to suspend it. In the end, we are strongest when our rational and reasoned restraint is the force by which the world finds the courage to reject and resist conflict. Each time a calamity is prevented because of it, America…and the world…grow even stronger.

America leads the world best when others choose to follow her on her journey to make it the best world she can lead. The future has patiently awaited her return. After eight long years, she must turn around and move forward. When she does, the world will once again follow.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Monday, June 2nd, 2008 |

Are Those Opposed To GI Bill In Favor Of Stealth Conscription?

George Bush and John McCain oppose the expanded benefits in the GI Bill passed by the Senate yesterday. They believe it might entice service members to leave the military. Limiting benefits because they provide alternatives to military service is stealth conscription.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

The passage of Senator Jim Webb’s expansion of the GI Bill to provide expanded educational benefits highlights a topic most don’t want to discuss. Since abolishing the draft and making service in the military voluntary, critics have argued that an inordinate number of the ranks are filled by those who lack other opportunities…including the ability to afford a college education. In other words, they contend that the election to join the military can often be a de facto economic decision.

When critics, like New York Representative Charlie Rangel, raise concerns that an inordinate number of new enlistments come from lower income families, those opposed to reinstating the draft accuse them of insulting our service people. Essentially, they contend the criticism impugns the patriotism of those who have volunteered to serve their country. If that deflection fails, they have also argued that the criticism insults the intelligence of military personnel by suggesting that those who serve in the military are uneducated.

That brings us back to the Senate’s passage of the Webb bill. One of the redeeming benefits of the passage of time is that is frequently shines a bright light on hyperbole and hypocrisy. In what can only be seen as a reversal of logic, some of those who rejected the assertions of men like Charlie Rangel are now opposed to expanding the benefits provided by the GI Bill. Yes, they are now arguing that those expanded benefits might entice some service members to exit the military in order to take advantage of the educational benefits. In other words, given other and better opportunities, some members of the military might not want to continue serving.

Let me be clear. The patriotism of those who enlist has never been the issue and it wasn’t for those who criticized the all volunteer army. Those who contended that it attracted individuals who lacked other opportunities always believed in the patriotism of those who enlisted…just as they will continue to believe in it should some service members elect to leave the military in order to utilize their expanded educational benefits.

Those who aligned with George Bush and John McCain in opposing this bill have simply exposed their inclination to make military service a matter of necessity. Voting to deny service members the same level of educational benefits that existed when the GI Bill was first passed is evidence that they recognize the differences between conscripted service and volunteer service. Why else would they not support a bill that would give volunteer service members the same benefits that were afforded to conscripted ones?

Truth be told, those opposed to this bill don’t want to provide a plausible alternative to military service because they know that the decision to enlist is, in fact, often a decision of economic necessity because there is a lack of other opportunities for those whose families lack the means to send them to college.

Look, I don’t object to the government using carrots to entice enlistment. The military can be the means to advance one’s education that might not otherwise be possible. Regardless, choosing to deny former service members access to benefits that will reward their patriotism and service is a far more egregious act than to question the inequity of an all volunteer military.

So what is the message given by those who would deny these benefits? Well it clearly states that they favor a system that facilitates the enlistment of the economically disadvantaged and they certainly don’t want to do anything that might take away the leverage that it provides. In other words, it tells our enlisted persons that we’re happy to have them defend their country’s commitment to freedom but we’re opposed to providing them the opportunities that would grant them the opportunity to exercise that freedom.

While I’m not in favor of a draft, I am in favor of an honest discussion on the shortcomings of the existing all volunteer system. It seems entirely hypocritical for those who have attempted to ignore the contention that economic motivations may lead to the population of our military to now be speaking out against providing the very opportunities and alternatives that their adversaries have long suggested were lacking.

When Charlie Rangel suggests that a draft would make members of Congress think twice about sending American soldiers into harms way if they knew their own sons and daughters might have to serve, he’s simply pointing out the same hypocrisy. In the end, if our volunteer military results from the fact that some individual’s lack or are denied reasonable alternatives, then it is, in essence, a form of conscription.

If I didn’t know better, I might conclude that those opposed to the expansion of the GI Bill are not only in favor of stealth conscription; they may actually be endorsing de facto enslavement…with pay…of course.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Friday, May 23rd, 2008 |

BushCo Plans for Iran? And Bonus Wiretapping Info…

Two stories are creating a lot of chatter today: an unidentified senior Bush administration official allegedly told a senior Israeli official that BushCo will be going after Iran before their term ends, plus, is there more to the illegal wiretapping story than meets the eye? Or is this simply a “buy” opportunity for Halliburton stock?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

So much to consider, so little time today.

First up: The Jerusalem Post reports today on an Israeli Army radio claim that one of the Bush administration’s higher-up henchmen informed an Israeli official in a closed door meeting that Bush and Cheney are champing at the bit to go after Iran prior to the end of their term in office. Who would the senior BushCo henchman be? Hadley? (That’s my guess.) Of course, the White House today is trying to downplay such speculation. Attaturk has more on at Firedoglake. Think this is all tinfoil hattery? Allow me to point you to an earlier post of mine.

Next up: Both Digby and Emptywheel take on a Radar Online report that there’s much more to the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping program than meets the eye. As you follow the links above, recall that Halliburton was contracted by DHS in 2006 to build detention camps in the U.S. Here’s how Marketwatch characterized the camp construction at the time the contract was awarded:

The contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to expand existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs, KBR said. The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency… [emphasis mine]

Feel safer yet? And please, someone tell me once again why impeachment is off the table?

Goddammit, someone (who matters) please connect the dots…please…I know I’m just a blogosphere dilettante and my opinion is laughable…but there’s something happening here…what it is ain’t exactly clear…

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Does Karen Hughes Resignation Signal A Strike On Iran?

This resignation raises a red flag which cannot be ignored. I hope I’™m wrong but I’™ve learned not to bet against the Bush administration when it comes to cowboy diplomacy. The fact that Hughes is walking away from her hospitality assignment leads me to believe George Bush is once again running around the White House sporting a half-cocked handgun in his spanking new holster’¦you know’¦the one Dick Cheney told him to strap on.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Tea leaf reading is clearly not an exacting science’¦but if I were asked to interpret the announced resignation of longtime Bush crony Karen Hughes, I would conclude that it signals the likelihood that stealth president Dick Cheney has succeeded in convincing his presidential placeholder, George W. Bush, to launch a strike on Iran prior to packing up the U-Hauls in January of 2009. I’™ll explain my rationale following some excerpts from the Associated Press article.

WASHINGTON – Karen Hughes, who led efforts to improve the U.S. image abroad and was one of President Bush’™s last remaining advisers from the close circle of Texas aides, will leave the government at the end of the year.

Hughes told The Associated Press that she plans to quit her job as undersecretary of state and return to Texas, although improving the world’™s view of the United States is a ‘œlong-term challenge’ that will outlast her.

‘œThis will take a number of years,’ Hughes said in an interview Tuesday.

Bush and Rice had picked Hughes two years ago to retool the way the United States sells its policies, ideals and views overseas. A former television reporter and media adviser, Hughes’™ focus has been to change the way the United States engages and responds to criticism or misinformation in the Muslim world.

‘œNegative events never help,’ Hughes said when asked how events like last month’™s shooting of Iraqi civilians by private U.S. security guards in Iraq affects the way the world sees the United States.

Polls show no improvement in the world’™s view of the U.S. since Hughes took over. A Pew Research Center survey earlier said the unpopular Iraq war is a persistent drag on the U.S. image and has helped push favorable opinion of the United States in Muslim Indonesia, for instance, from 75 percent in 2000 to 30 percent last year.

Hughes said the Iraq war was usually the second issue that Muslims and Arabs raised with her, after the long-standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Hughes said she advised Bush and Rice two years ago that U.S. help in ending the six-decade old fight over Israel would probably do more than anything else to improve the U.S. standing worldwide.

Hughes is serving her second stint in the Bush administration’¦this time assigned a task that she concedes will not be achieved in short order and that will undoubtedly remain a challenge for the President’™s successor.

More telling is Hughes assessment of the prevailing obstacle to improving the U.S. image’¦especially in the Middle East region and the Muslim world. As noted in the above excerpt, Hughes has told the administration that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict serves as the primary impediment to reversing the slipping view of America.

I took note of the fact that Hughes made this remark to the President and his current Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, two years ago. I interpret the statement to suggest there was a meeting of the minds at the time she offered this assessment and agreed to take the job.

Today, I believe her resignation may well indicate a shift in the thinking of the President’¦one that would make Hughes’™ task virtually impossible and therefore lead her to conclude it better to leave now rather than later. I suspect the event which would lead Hughes to an abrupt departure is knowledge of the administration’™s plan to strike Iran.

Let me explain my reasoning. Given the anti-Israeli rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a strike upon Iran would be seen as a defense of Israel and a affirmation of the assertions that Israel and the United States have no real intentions of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Such a strike would further fuel the anger at Israel and the United States and make it virtually impossible for Hughes to maintain the credibility necessary to pursue the mending of the American image.

As such, rather than wait for the terse and inevitable repudiations, Hughes has chosen to jump ship prior to a strike which would almost certainly unravel any progress she has been able to achieve. I also don’™t believe Hughes would have returned to the Bush administration with any intention of leaving prior to the end of the President’™s second term.

Adding support to my speculation is the fact that Josh Bolton advised White House senior aides that if they were to stay past Labor Day they would be obliged to serve till the end of the President’™s second term. The fact that Hughes is leaving regardless of that directive must indicate changing circumstances have created an untenable situation. Lastly, the fact that Hughes has long been regarded as one the George Bush’™s most loyal supporters makes the resignation all the more suspect.

Obviously my hypothesis is little more than anecdotal. Notwithstanding, this resignation raises a red flag which cannot be ignored. I hope I’™m wrong but I’™ve learned not to bet against the Bush administration when it comes to cowboy diplomacy. The fact that Hughes is walking away from her hospitality assignment leads me to believe George Bush is once again running around the White House sporting a half-cocked handgun in his spanking new holster’¦you know’¦the one Dick Cheney told him to strap on.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Opening The Files: 10/31/07

It was Hillary Pillory at the latest Dem debate.

Commentary By: The Xsociate

The Not So Thrilla in Phila.

The Democrats held a debate last night in Philadelphia, yet another in the seemingly endless pre-pre-season horse race. For some live blogging of the main event check in with native Philadelphian Will Bunch, with more observations at Josh’™s and Kevin’™s.

Pretty much all day yesterday, the inside the Beltway media was breathless with speculation about whether Barack Obama would begin to poke some sharpened elbows at his front runner rival Hillary Clinton. But aside from a few jabs at her wishy washy record and a dated Rocky reference, the Thrilla from Illa(nois) failed to land any knock out blows.

That is not to say that Clinton wasn’™t the proverbial punching bag in the debate. She took a bruising for her waffling on driver licenses for illegal immigrants. Was pelted for her votes on Iraq and Iran. But despite the barrage, I have a feeling that Hilla will come through this, especially considering that the GOPers seem to have already singled her out as the opponent to beat. And really, as harsh as some of the things said about Clinton were last night, they are nothing compared to what has been and no doubt will be said about her by the Repubs.

Some other notable moments: Joe Biden got the biggest applause for a dig at Rescue Rudy for his limited vocabulary. Dennis Kucinich once again made calls for impeachment but because he also claims to have seen a UFO, that means no one should take him seriously. At least MSNBC had the good sense to forgo any overly long cutaway shots of Mrs. Kucinich.

Hunter lists reasons to be freaking sick of pre-primary season.

Michael Roston says that some of the digs at Hillary seemed more befitting of a Three Stooges routine.

Booman tells us some of the new things he learned.

And Walter Shapiro says that some of the dueling Dems appear to have sharpened their rapiers and are looking to draw some primary colors out of Hillary.

(X-posted at The Xsociate Files)

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007 by Richard Blair |

More Chainsaw Juggling

For almost as long as I’™ve been blogging, I’™ve opined that the Bush regime is simply juggling too many running chainsaws, and at some point, one chainsaw too many would be thrown into the mix, and the whole act would come to a crashing halt. When that happens, someone is bound to get hurt. [...]

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For almost as long as I’™ve been blogging, I’™ve opined that the Bush regime is simply juggling too many running chainsaws, and at some point, one chainsaw too many would be thrown into the mix, and the whole act would come to a crashing halt. When that happens, someone is bound to get hurt. Based on the fact that Dick Cheney made a surprise trip to Pakistan today to browbeat Perez Musharef into cooperation on Taliban, al-Qaida, and border control issues, it looks like more chainsaws are dropping:

Vice President

Dick Cheney made a surprise visit to Pakistan on Monday for talks with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. The Bush administration wants Musharraf to be more aggressive in hunting down al-Qaida operatives, and has raised the possibility that Congress could cut aid to Pakistan unless it takes tougher steps’¦

First off, I want to know how this happens: one world leader just drops in on another without a summit being scheduled weeks or months in advance. You know for a fact that Musharef couldn’™t just fly into Washington on a moment’™s notice and get an appointment with Dick or George. So, how does Dick get an immediate audience?

Secondly, doesn’™t Dick read the newspapers? Isn’™t he aware that Pakistan is a hotbed of al-Qaida training camps (and has been for years), and that the Paks hung out the Century 21 ‘œwelcome’ sign for Osama & Co. several months back? Isn’™t he aware that the reason Iran is rattling the nuclear saber is because Pakistani scientist A.Q. Kahn’™s nuclear black market essentially gave the Iranians the blue prints? And Kahn is wandering Pakistan as freely as Osama right now.

Of course, the sycophantic media also seems to forget these inconvenient facts from the very recent past. Wow. This is all news to the newshounds. Maximum leader orders another 3000+ troops to Afghanistan. They’™re anticipating bad things this spring. The Taliban is back with a vengence. Pakistan continues to be an ‘œimportant partner in the GWOT’ even though the Musharef regime has never fully cooperated on GWOT issues.

Ahem.

And all of a sudden, Cheney is trying to twist arms again in Pakistan??

What is wrong with this picture?

Monday, February 26th, 2007 by Richard Blair |