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World War One from the OTHER side: Hundreds of fascinating images taken by a GERMAN soldier reveal life in enemy’s trenches

  • Walter Koessler took almost 1,000 images while he served in the German Army during the war
  • The images have been perfectly preserved by his descendants in America but were unseen by public
  • Walter’s great-grandson Dean Putney has shared them and hopes they ‘humanize the war’
  • Is fundraising to turn the unique collection into a photo book in time for next year’s 100th anniversary

By BECKY EVANS UPDATED: 18:08 EST, 8 August 2013

The rare glimpse into life in the trenches reveals Walter Koessler’s journey from the smiles and hopes of signing up to fight, to the stark the reality of war.

The poignant album begins with Walter smiling and ‘playing at war’ with his friends to dead soldiers lying buried in muddy trenches.

German officer Walter Koessler's rare collection of photos that have been preserved by his descendants show his devastation of the First World War

German officer Walter Koessler’s rare collection of photos that have been preserved by his descendants show his devastation of the First World War

The unique set of images provide a glimpse into what life in the trenches was like for a German officer

The unique set of images provide a glimpse into what life in the trenches was like for a German officer

The unique set of images provide a glimpse into what daily life in the trenches was like for a German officer 

Pictures such as this one of German soldiers playing cards together next to their trenches 'garden'

Pictures such as this one of German soldiers playing cards together next to their trenches ‘garden’ give an insight into the reality of the boredom, as well as the violence, of warfare

He also records for posterity the devastation that was wrought on Europe.

Walter took almost 1,000 photos while serving in the Reserve Artillery Battalion and as an aerial photographer.

While beautifully preserved by Walter’s descendants, the unique window into the war has been hidden in a cupboard for almost a century.

However, Walter’s great grandson Dean Putney has now launched an ambitious project to share the images and hopes to turn them into a book.

Software developer Mr Putney only discovered the album’s existence during a Thanks Giving visit to his mother in 2011.

He said the day before he was due to return to his home in San Francisco, California, she ‘casually’ pulled it out to show him.

Mr Putney told Mail Online: ‘I thought “this is incredible”.

‘There were hundreds of photos over a century old.

‘I am in publishing and spend a lot of time looking at stuff like this. I immediately knew it was something really special that lots of people needed to see.

The albums and negatives have been preserved immaculately by Walter's famil

The albums and negatives have been preserved immaculately by Walter's family

The albums and negatives have been preserved immaculately by Walter’s family but they have only now been made public by his great-grandson Dean Putney

Mr Putney now wants to turn the images into a photo book and is raising money to kickstart the project

Mr Putney now wants to turn the images into a photo book and is raising money to kickstart the project while sharing images of his great grandfather and friends online

Mr Putney feels a connection to his ancestor. He is one year younger than Walter

Mr Putney feels a connection to his ancestor. He is one year younger than Walter (pictured left and right) was when he was conscripted into the war

Mr Putney feels a connection to his ancestor. He is one year younger than Walter (pictured left and right with friends) was when he was conscripted into the war 

Pictured, two soldiers wrestle in the snow

The software developer said early photos seem to show the men playing at war and the first sets in the album show them having fun. Pictured, two soldiers wrestle in the snow

The smiling early portraits, such as this one left, are gradually replaced by images of devastation and dead soldiers (right)

The smiling early portraits, such as this one left, are gradually replaced by images of devastation and dead soldiers (right)

The smiling early portraits, such as this one left, are gradually replaced by images of devastation and dead soldiers (right) 

‘Not only did lots of people need to see it, it was something that I needed to spread and share.

‘I hope people can get in touch with that understanding – how different life was back then.’

Mr Putney said he immediately felt a connection to the pictures of his great-grandfather.

At 23, he is just one year younger than his ancestor was when he was conscripted into the war.

But they also look strikingly similar.

Mr Putney said the album is a ‘real treasure’ and especially important because it tells the personal story of a German, when most of the photographs that remain are from the Allies’ side.

The negatives have also been kept and among the collection is a box of more than 100 3D stereographs from the war.

Mr Putney, who is currently sharing the images through the Walter Koessler Project Tumblr blog and on Boing Boing, has spent the past two years researching the images.

He has even visited France so he can compare some of the photos with how the sites look today.

Towards the end of the album, Walter's images increasingly begin to show the stark realities of the First World War

Towards the end of the album, Walter’s images increasingly begin to show the stark realities of the First World War

Mr Putney said the images, such as this one of soldiers carrying heavy artillery

Mr Putney said the images, such as this one of men carrying heavy artillery and a German soldier posing, are a 'real treasure'

Mr Putney said the images, such as this one of men carrying heavy artillery and a German soldier posing, are a ‘real treasure’
The relaxed early images in the album reflect the initial ease the German Army had in moving across Europe before the stalemate of the trenches

The relaxed early images in the album reflect the initial ease the German Army had in moving across Europe before the stalemate of the trenches

Walter Koessler's early pictures show his friends relaxing together and posing for his photographs

Walter Koessler’s early pictures show his friends relaxing together and posing for his photographs

Others show the heavy artillery at the disposal of the German Army

Others show the heavy artillery at the disposal of the German Army

Others pictures in the vast collection show the heavy artillery at the disposal of the German Army
None of the pictures are annotated so Mr Putney said one of the only clues to the time of year is if there is snow on the ground

None of the pictures are annotated so Mr Putney said one of the only clues to the time of year is if there is snow on the ground

Walter survived the war and went to have a hugely successful career in Hollywood as an art director.

He moved to Los Angeles soon after the Armistice where he worked on the Charlie Chan films and worked for Universal Studios.

The family believe he was also the set designer for the classic World War One film, All Quiet On The Western Front.

Next year is the 100th anniversary of the start of the war and Mr Putney said the images are a crucial reminder of what life was like for soldiers on both sides of the devastating conflict.

Walter had trained as an architect before being conscripted into the German Army.

As an aerial photographer, he was one of the first to chart battlefields and help create maps from the air, in biplanes and hot-air balloons.

At the beginning of the album, the photographs of him and his friends look like a picture postcard to be sent home.

But with every page turned, the reality of the war kicks in and Mr Putney said by 1918 his great-grandfather was a staunch pacifist.

Mr Putney has spent the past two years researching the images and has even travelled to France to compare them to the actual sites

Mr Putney has spent the past two years researching the images and has even travelled to France to compare them to the actual sites

Because Walter was not an official photographer, his images show a different side to the First World War

Because Walter was not an official photographer, his images show a different side to the First World War

Mr Putney said the personal images 'humanize a terrible war' and how how life was for those fighting on both sides

Mr Putney said the personal images ‘humanize a terrible war’ and how life was for those fighting on both sides

He hopes the project will help people get in touch with First World War and is aptly timed as the 100 anniversary next year

He hopes the project will help people get in touch with First World War and is aptly timed as the 100 anniversary next year

Mr Putney said: ‘I think that his album and his photos are humanizing of this really terrible war.

‘He tells a brilliant story. The first pictures are of him and his friends going off to war.

‘At the beginning of the album they are almost playing at war – they are swimming in lakes and taking photos. They are almost glamour shots.

‘There are pictures of a crashed airplane

‘Towards the end of the album you really see his understanding of what they are doing.

‘He stops taking photos of his friends. It is pretty much taking photos of destroyed churches, of dead men in the trenches, blown up tanks.

‘It’s scary stuff. The smiling faces disappear.’

Dean Putney is raising funds on Kickstarter to make a photo book. To pledge or for more information visit his page.

The poignant images also put faces to just some of the hundreds of thousands of forgotten people who died in the war

The poignant images also put faces to just some of the hundreds of thousands of forgotten people who died in the war

 

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Kenya stokes tribalism debate

Residents of the Mathare slum in Nairobi point to a crowd of demonstrators during clashes between two rival groups 01 January 2008.

By Mark Doyle
BBC world affairs correspondent

World headlines on Kenya appear to say it all.“Tribal violence spirals in Kenya,” screams the front page banner in the International Herald Tribune. “Kenya plunges into interethnic violence,” says Le Monde.

But headlines can be misleading.

It is certainly true that the post-electoral violence in Kenya has taken on a tribal character.

Members of the incumbent (and controversially re-installed) President Mwai Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe have been pitted against other smaller tribes.

A mother carries one of her children as she flees violence in Nairobi

Thousands of people have fled their homes

But that is only part of the story.

A more complete headline might be: “Tribal differences in Kenya, normally accepted peacefully, are exploited by politicians hungry for power who can manipulate poverty-stricken population.”

But headlines are not really headlines when they are written like that – and few would criticise the international newspapers for their pithy style.

The ethnic and political violence in Kenya has renewed debate about whether multi-party democracy can be successful in an African context where ethnic loyalties are strong.

If you ask almost any African this question the answer will be qualified: “Yes, democracy can work… if only our leaders allowed it.”

Map of Kenya

It would be naive in the extreme to discount ethnicity in any African election.

The reality of life on the world’s poorest continent is that most people live a marginal economic existence and rely enormously, for survival, on those nearest to them.

Rural villagers rely on each other, for example, to bring in the crop, or to share food in difficult times.

Urban dwellers often organise themselves to provide common services like schools because their governments are either too poor or too incompetent to deliver.

In these circumstances the people nearest to you – whom you can trust – are first, family, and second, tribe.

African politicians know this formula very well and many of them exploit it ruthlessly.

“Vote for me,” they say, “because I’m from your tribe and you can trust me.”

Unemployed young men

The most dramatic recent illustration of this kind of manipulation was the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Ndorobo clan members with their livestock

Much of Kenya’s tribalism is fuelled by land disputes

Hutus were persuaded by an extremist Hutu power bloc that all Tutsis were their enemies.

There are many other less catastrophic examples.

Politics in Nigeria, for example, is a complex chessboard of ethnicity and religion.

The presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006 divided the country along ethnic and linguistic lines.

And even in a peaceful, democratic country like Ghana, it is clear that ethnic Ashantis, for example, tend to vote one way while ethnic Ewes tend to vote another.

But at the same time there is usually a further explanation – beyond ethnic group – for the way people vote or the way they react to situations like the current crisis in Kenya.

That explanation is almost always rooted in money – or a lack of it – and the cynical search for power by politicians.

It is no coincidence that the people who usually perpetrate “tribal violence” are unemployed young men.

In Ivory Coast in the late 1990s, for example, the campaign against northerners that was orchestrated by southern politicians – and which eventually led to a full-scale civil war – was spearheaded by youths in the main city, Abidjan, who were paid a daily rate for the job.

‘Land grabs’

Equally, in the Kenyan case, it is no coincidence that some of the worst violence has been in the Rift Valley area.

The region has a history of land disputes.

Electoral officers start counting at a local polling station in Nairobi

Most African nations now have an elected government

Some of those disputes were originally caused by what was coyly called European “settlement” – which created refugees hungry for land.

More recently, Kenyan politicians have practised more honestly named “land grabs” in parts of the country.

African intellectuals who concede there is a problem of tribalism on the continent – or, rather, a problem of the deliberate manipulation of tribal sentiment by selfish politicians – stress that there is also a rational solution.

Part of the solution, they say, is economic development. If there is growth in the economy there will be more education and less ignorance about fellow citizens of other tribes – and, of course, fewer unemployed thugs for politicians to “buy” for a few cents a day.

Another part of the solution, they say, is genuine democracy with genuinely independent law courts.

People would have no need to rely on their tribe – apart from culturally, should they so wish – if they could rely on all their ballot papers being counted, and could expect honest judgements from courts.

Here, Africa can point to progress in recent decades.

Fifty years ago, almost the entire continent was ruled by foreign colonial powers.

Even just 20 years ago, most African countries were run by dictators or military juntas.

Now, thanks to pro-democracy activists, most African nations have an elected government.

Good start

Many of those governments are far from perfect.

But the advent of at least some democracy – assisted by relatively cheap technology such as FM radio stations and mobile phones which can spread information easily – has encouraged what seems to be an irreversible cultural sea-change in African attitudes to those in power.

Put bluntly, that change means that people can no longer be comprehensively fooled or dictated to.

It is still possible for politicians to cheat at elections – for example through the vehicle of ethnicity.

But the new freedoms, coupled with the new technology, make it almost impossible for politicians to do this without people knowing what is going on.

That is a good start, African intellectuals say, and it may one day mean the end of negative tribalism.

Meanwhile, of course, those headlines will remain at least half true.

KENYA’S ETHNIC GROUPS
Map of Kenyan provinces showing majority ethnic group
Population 34.5m, comprising more than 40 ethnic groups
Kikuyu are the largest tribe, mostly concentrated around Nairobi
Most of Eastern/ North-eastern regions sparsely populated with ethnic Somalis
Main ethnic groups are:
Kikuyu: 22%
Luhya: 14%
Luo: 13%
Kalenjin: 12%
Kamba: 11%
Kisii: 6%
Meru: 6%
Other African: 15%

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a story of how the u.s. government coerced a confession re: 9/11 and covered it up:

The long and the short of it was that an Egpytian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy’s life is worth garbage at that point, but … well, that’s why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy “confesses” and he’s processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent! He next sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession. The bottom line in the Court of Appeals: Higazy has a case and may recover damages for this injustice.

As I read the opinion I realized it was a 44 page epic, too long for me to print out. I blogged about the opinion while I read it online and then posted the blog as I ate lunch. Then something strange happened: a few minutes after I posted the blog, the opinion vanished from the Court of Appeals website! I had never seen this before, and what made all the more strange was that it involved a coerced confession over 9/11. What the hell was going on?

I let some other legal bloggers know about this, particulary the How Appealing blog and Appellate Law and Practice. They both ran a commentary on the missing opinion. Then someone sent How Appealing a PDF of the decision (probably very few of them were floating around since the opinion was posted for a brief period of time) and How Appealing posted the decison.

Then things got even stranger. The Court of Appeals actually phoned How Appealing to request that he remove the opinion from his website since it contained classified information. The Court said that a revised opinion would come out the next day without the classified information. How Appealing actually refused to remove the opinion. Through it all, hundreds of people came to my legal blog to see my summary of the opinion. It was either my blog or printing out and reading a 44 page epic.

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Bush, Defending Justice Nominee, Sees Unfairness

Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Bush arriving on Thursday to address a crowd at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

Published: November 2, 2007

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 — The White House began a campaign Thursday to save the candidacy of Michael B. Mukasey for attorney general, with President Bush defending him in a speech and in an Oval Office interview, where he complained that Mr. Mukasey was “not being treated fairly” on Capitol Hill.

With Mr. Mukasey’s confirmation in doubt over his refusal to state a clear legal position on a classified Central Intelligence Agency program to interrogate terrorism suspects, Mr. Bush took the unusual step of summoning a small group of reporters into the Oval Office to preview remarks he planned to make later in the day at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization here.

“I believe that the questions he’s been asked are unfair,” Mr. Bush said. “He’s not been read into the program — he has been asked to give opinions of a program or techniques of a program on which he’s not been briefed. I will make the case — and I strongly believe this is true — that Judge Mukasey is not being treated fairly.”

The president’s remarks and a separate address on Thursday by Vice President Dick Cheney demonstrate just how much the White House has been caught off guard by the fight over Mr. Mukasey, a retired federal judge whose confirmation until recently seemed like a sure thing and had been championed by a leading Democratic senator, Charles E. Schumer of New York.

But the effort also suggests that the White House believes it can combat criticism of Mr. Mukasey and his views by appealing to public concern about terrorism.

With leading Democrats like Mr. Schumer giving Mr. Mukasey positive reviews at the outset the White House hoped to use the Mukasey nomination to mend the bitter partisan feelings left by the resignation of Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general. Now Mr. Schumer says he is undecided, the top Democratic presidential candidates say they will oppose the nomination, and any hope of bipartisan support has been all but erased.

The nomination has not moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee — a panel vote is expected Tuesday — and the committee could decide to keep Mr. Mukasey from receiving a vote on the Senate floor. Mr. Mukasey’s biggest obstacle is his refusal to declare whether he believes a particularly controversial technique known as waterboarding is illegal and a form of torture.

One Republican consulted on the nomination said the White House realized only recently that confirmation was in doubt, and had debated whether it was wise to risk a partisan backlash by having the president weigh in.

“Everybody understands that there’s a price to be paid for the president upping the ante,” the Republican said. “The price is, you put pressure on the Democrats to have a committee action, and you basically do a warning shot to Republicans, including people like McCain and Graham. The flip side of it is you’re making it far more partisan, so nobody’s expecting now that the vote will be 90 to 0.”

The warning shot may have done Mr. Bush some good, at least with Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, both of whom have condemned waterboarding as torture. They issued a joint statement Thursday saying they would vote for Mr. Mukasey.

“Once he is confirmed, however,” the statement added, “we strongly urge that he publicly make clear that waterboarding is illegal and can never be employed.”

The senior Republican on the judiciary panel, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said in an interview Thursday that the White House was right to be concerned about the nomination.

Mr. Specter said he was trying to persuade the administration to brief Judiciary Committee members on the C.I.A. program, so that “we can talk it out amongst ourselves and try to come to a consensus.” But he said Mr. Bush’s aides had been “noncommittal.”

Among Democrats and their outside allies, support for Mr. Mukasey is dwindling. In a sign of how much the debate has shifted, the Alliance for Justice, a liberal judicial advocacy group that had spoken kindly of Mr. Mukasey at first, said Thursday that it would oppose him.

“Based on his record as a judge, we had every expectation that he could show some independence from the administration,” Nan Aron, the group’s president, said in an interview. “But his testimony and his answers indicate that he’s really unwilling to distance himself from Bush’s illegal, unconstitutional policies.”

Mr. Bush, in the Oval Office meeting, declined to address waterboarding. “I’m not going to talk about techniques,” he said, adding, “My view is this: The American people have got to understand the program is important and the techniques used are within the law.”

Waterboarding, a centuries-old method that simulates a feeling of drowning, has become a symbol of the larger debate over the C.I.A. detention and interrogation program, and the Mukasey nomination has become a kind of proxy fight for that battle. Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney made the war on terror and the C.I.A. program a central theme of their speeches on Thursday, with Mr. Cheney suggesting that the agency’s efforts had spared Americans another terrorist attack.

“Because we’ve been focused, because we’ve refused to let down our guard, we’ve done — gone more now than six years without another 9/11,” the vice president said, addressing the American Legion in Indianapolis.

Mr. Bush, for his part, took after Congress on a variety of fronts, accusing lawmakers of delaying not only the Mukasey confirmation vote, but also passage of an emergency spending measure to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and legislation that would make permanent the administration’s domestic surveillance program.

“On too many issues,” Mr. Bush said, “Congress is behaving as if America is not at war.”

White House officials said it was Mr. Bush’s idea to invite reporters in for an informal “pen and pad” briefing, without television cameras, something the White House has not done before. Dana M. Perino, the press secretary, said aides to Mr. Bush had been discussing ways to make him more accessible to the press, and settled upon the Oval Office idea after Mr. Bush saw a photograph of President Dwight D. Eisenhower conducting a news conference there.

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Bush Defends US Interrogation Methods

By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush  defended his administration’s methods of detaining and questioning terrorism suspects on Friday, saying both are successful and lawful.

“When we find somebody who may have information regarding a potential attack on America, you bet we’re going to detain them, and you bet we’re going to question them,” he said during a hastily called Oval Office appearance. “The American people expect us to find out information, actionable intelligence so we can help protect them. That’s our job.”

Bush volunteered his thoughts on a report on two secret 2005 memos that authorized extreme interrogation tactics against terror suspects. “This government does not torture people,” the president said.

Meanwhile, Senate  Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., demanded a copy of a third Justice Department memo justifying military interrogations of terror suspects held outside the United States.

In a letter to Attorney General-nominee Michael Mukasey, Levin wrote that two years ago he requested – and was denied – the March 14, 2003, legal opinion. Levin asked if Mukasey would agree to release the opinion if the Senate confirms him as attorney general, and cited what he described as a history of the Justice Department stonewalling Congress .

“Such failures and the repeated refusal of DoJ to provide Congress with such documents has prevented the Congress from fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to conduct oversight,” Levin wrote.

The White House said Mukasey has not been cleared to read the classified documents Levin requested.

The two Justice Department legal opinions from 2005 were disclosed in Thursday’s editions of The New York Times, which reported that the first opinion authorized the use of painful methods, such as head slaps, freezing temperatures and simulated drownings known as waterboarding, in combination.

That secret opinion came months after a December 2004 opinion in which the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” and the administration seemed to back away from claiming authority for such practices, and after the withdrawal of a 2002 classified Justice opinion that had allowed certain aggressive interrogation practices so long as they stopped short of producing pain equivalent to experiencing organ failure or death.

The second Justice opinion was issued later in 2005, just as Congress was working on an anti-torture bill. The opinion declared that none of the CIA’s interrogation practices would violate provisions in the legislation banning “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of detainees, The Times said, citing interviews with unnamed current and former officials.

Though both memos remain in effect, the White House insisted they represented no change from the 2004 policy.

“We stick to U.S. law and international obligations,” Bush said, without taking questions after a brief picture-taking session.

Speaking emphatically, the president noted that “highly trained professionals” conduct any questioning. “And by the way,” he said, “we have gotten information from these high-value detainees that have helped protect you.”

“The American people expect their government to take action to protect them from further attack,” Bush said. “And that’s exactly what this government is doing. And that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do.”

He also said the techniques used by the United States “have been fully disclosed to appropriate members of the United States Congress” – an indirect slap at the torrent of criticism that has flowed from the Democratic-controlled Congress since the disclosure of the memos.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said those briefed on Capitol Hill “are satisfied that the policy of the United States and the practices do not constitute torture.” She refused to define, however, what would be considered torture, or off-limits, in interrogations.

“I just fundamentally disagree that that would be a good thing for national security,” she said. “I think the American people recognize that there are needs that the federal government has to keep certain information private in order to help their national security. … We cannot provide more information about techniques. It’s not appropriate.”

CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden issued a memo to agency employees Friday that said the CIA has not withheld information from Congress and the legal opinion has not “opened the door” to harsher interrogation techniques than the law allows.

But House and Senate Democrats disagree that there is sufficient clarity on the matter, and are demanding to see the memos.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-WVa., said in a statement Friday he is “tired of these games.”

“They can’t say that Congress has been fully briefed while refusing to turn over key documents used to justify the legality of the program,” Rockefeller said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., promised a congressional inquiry.

Another White House spokesman, meanwhile, criticized the leak of such information to the news media and questioned the motivations of those who do so.

“It’s troubling,” White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto said Friday. “I’ve had the awful responsibility to have to work with The New York Times and other news organizations on stories that involve the release of classified information. And I can tell you that every time I’ve dealt with any of these stories, I have felt that we have chipped away at the safety and security of America with the publication of this kind of information.”

The CIA has interrogated fewer than 100 “hardened” terrorists and has used “special methods of questioning” on a third of them, according to Hayden.

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GOP Sen. Hagel: Republican Party hijacked by incompetence

Bill Maher recently sat down with outgoing Nebraska GOP Senator Chuck Hagel to discuss Iraq, his departure and the fate of the Republican Party.

Maher asks: “Did you decide not to run for President because you just saw that a (sic) anti-war Republican could never get the nomination?”

“No,” responds Hagel, “I was actually looking for some honest work.”

The Republicans, says Hagel, are a party going through a time of “transformation” during a time when the country is struggling with the situation in Iraq. On the subject of GOP candidates continuing to support what Maher considers to be an unwinnable war, Sen. John McCain in particular, Hagel cites McCain’s “charm.”

“The difference between John McCain and I on the war is very clear: We disagree on that point.”

On the prospect of the United States winding down from Iraq, Hagel predicts a “very high toll” taken on the country for a long time ahead.

Adds Hagel, “And I think that’s wrong.”

Maher segues into Iran: “In the speech President Bush gave last night, I noticed that he slipped Iran into the middle of it. He said ‘we have to defeat al Qaeda, counter Iran, and help the Afghan government.'”

Citing a Times of London article that shows preliminary plans to attack over a thousand targets in Iran, Maher implores the Senator: “Please tell me that Congress does have the power to stop President Godzilla if he decides to stomp on one more country, and that he could not get away with that.”

“As you all know we are at war in two countries, and not doing particularly well in either war, and I’m not sure the American people are about ready to go to a third war.”

“If the President is inching toward a military confrontation with Iran, then I do think that is where the Congress of the United States draws the line.”

The Middle East is too volatile for a purely military offensive, says Hagel. Iran is a threat, he says, but it needs to be dealt with strategically and diplomatically.

“I’ve heard a lot of Republicans in the last year or so say ‘I want my party back,'” says Maher. “I imagine you’re somewhat in the same camp. Do you think the Republican party has been hijacked by incompetents and religious fanatics?”

“Oh, I think it’s been hijacked by incompetency,” Hagel concedes. “I think that’s what has driven the Republican Party right off the cliff, and we are not who we say we are.”

“We’ve run up the biggest budget debt since FDR, and he had an excuse, and that was the World War and a depression.”

  • Greenspan Faults Bush Over Spending
  • AP

    Posted: 2007-09-15 22:44:15

    WASHINGTON (Sept. 15) – Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan , in his new book, bashes President Bush for not responsibly handling the nation’s spending and racking up big budget deficits.

    Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and President Bush in 2005 J. Scott Applewhite, AP

    In his book, Alan Greenspan is candid on former presidents. “My biggest frustration remained [President Bush’s] unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control spending.” Check out his quotes on other presidents.

    He also predicts interest rates will reach double digits in the coming years in order to thwart inflation.

    A self-described “libertarian Republican,” Greenspan takes his own party to task for forsaking conservative principles that favor small government.

    “My biggest frustration remained the president’s unwillingness to wield his veto against out-of-control spending,” Greenspan wrote.

    And he weighed in briefly but pointedly on the Iraq war: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

    Bush took office in 2001, the last time the government produced a budget surplus. Every year after that, the government has been in the red. In 2004, the deficit swelled to a record $413 billion.

    “The Republicans in Congress lost their way,” Greenspan wrote. “They swapped principle for power.

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    OBAMA (D-Ill.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

    Thank you, gentlemen, for your testimony. Obviously, with seven minutes, it’s a little frustrating, because we’re dealing with an extraordinarily complex situation.

    So I just want to stipulate a couple things. Number one, the performance of our troops has been outstanding. And we thank them for their service. They’ve done everything that’s been asked of them throughout this process.

    Number two, I think that both of you gentlemen are doing the absolute best that you can, given an extraordinarily difficult situation. And so I appreciate the work that both of you are doing. I would say that the mission that’s been given to you is what’s at issue here in the Senate.

    The question is one of strategy, not tactics. And the difficulty we have, I think, is that, each time we’ve talked to you, questions have been posed to you about the broader strategy of our war in Iraq, you’ve punted a little bit because you’ve said, look, that’s a little outside my bailiwick.

    But as Senator Feingold pointed out, we don’t have limitless resources. And we’ve got to make these decisions, at least, in the Senate, based on priorities and the costs, as well as benefits, to pursuing a particular strategy.

    I have to say, and this hasn’t been commented on, I think that we should not have had this discussion on 9/11 or 9/10 or 9/12. Because I think it perpetuates this notion that, somehow, the original decision to go into Iraq was directly related to the attacks on 9/11.

    OBAMA: And this is not to relitigate the original decision to go into Iraq.

    It is to suggest that if the American people and the Congress had understood then that after devoting $1 trillion, which is what this thing optimistically will end up having cost, thousands of American lives, the creation of an environment in which Al Qaida in Iraq could operate because it didn’t exist prior to our invasion, that we have increased terrorist recruitment around the world, that Iran has been strengthened, that bin Laden and Al Qaida are stronger than at any time since 2001, and that the process of Iraqi reconstruction and their standard of living would continue to be lower than it was pre- invasion, that if that had been the deal, I think most people would have said that’s a bad deal, that does not make sense, that does not serve the United States’ strategic interests.

    And so I think that some of the frustration you hear from some of the questioners is that we have now set the bar so low that modest improvement in what was a completely chaotic situation, to the point where now we just have the levels of intolerable violence that existed in June of 2006 is considered success, and it’s not.

    This continues to be a disastrous foreign policy mistake. And we are now confronted with the question: How do we clean up the mess and make the best out of a situation in which there are no good options, there are bad options and worse options?

    And this is not a criticism of either of you gentlemen, this is a criticism of this president and the administration which has set a mission for the military and for our diplomatic forces that is extraordinarily difficult now to achieve.

    OBAMA: And there has been no acknowledgement of that on the part of this administration, so that we have the president in Australia suggesting somehow that we are, as was stated before, kicking A-S-S.

    How can we have a president making that assessment? And it makes it very difficult then for those of us who would like to join with you in a bipartisan way to figure out how to best move forward to extricate this from the day-to-day politics that infects Washington. So I just wanted to get that on the record.

    Final stipulation, I think the surge has had some impact, as I suggested. I would hope it would, given the sacrifices and loss that have been made. I would argue that the impact has been relatively modest given the investment.

    And I have to say that, based on my testimony, it is not clear to me that the primary success that you’ve shown in Anbar has anything to do with the surge. You said, in this testimony, that it’s political the reason for the success in Anbar, not because of an increase in troop strength.

    We have, maybe, seen some modest decline in sectarian violence inside Baghdad as a consequence of our troop withdrawals. That has been purchased at the cost of increased U.S. casualties and is unsustainable. What we haven’t seen is a significant disarming of the Shia militias. Again, during your testimony you’ve told us that essentially the Shias decided, even before we got there, to get on one knee and to wait it out.

    We haven’t seen, most importantly, any significant improvement, in terms of the central government’s performance. It continues to be ineffectual and we have not seen national reconciliation of the sort that was promised prior to the surge.

    So I just think it is important for us to get all that clear and on the record because that provides the context in which we are going to have to be making a series of decisions.

    That, of course, now leaves me very little time to ask questions and that’s unfortunate.

    BIDEN: That’s true, Senator.

    (LAUGHTER)

    OBAMA: Let me pick up on a question that, I think, was relevant and posed by Senator Murkowski. And that is, the general theory has been that we will draw down when Iraqi security forces stand up and or the Iraqi government stands up.

    OBAMA: General Petraeus, in the counterinsurgency manual that you wrote, it says that even the strongest U.S. commitment will not succeed if the populous does not perceive the host nation government as having similar will and stamina to our own.

    The question, I think, that everybody is asking is, how long will this take? And at what point do we say enough? General — Ambassador Crocker, you said the patience — the Iraqi people understand that the patience of the American people is not limitless. But that appears to be exactly what you’re asking for in this testimony.

    I don’t see, at any point, where you say, if this fails, or if that does not work, or if we are not seeing these benchmarks met or any conditions in which we would make a decision now to start drawing down our troops. And you suggest, somehow, that our drawing down troops will not trigger a different set of behaviors on the part of the Iraqis, but I don’t see what will.

    And if we’re there the same place a year from now, can you please describe for me any circumstances in which you would make a different recommendation and suggest it is now time for us to start withdrawing our troops? Any scenario? Any set of benchmarks that had not been met?

    CROCKER: Senator, I described for Senator Sununu a little bit ago some of the things that I think are going to be very important as we move ahead.

    OBAMA: Can you repeat those? And I know I’m out of time, so I’m just going to ask for both the general and the ambassador to answer.

    But as Senator Feingold pointed out, we don’t have limitless resources. And we’ve got to make these decisions, at least, in the Senate, based on priorities and the costs, as well as benefits, to pursuing a particular strategy.

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