The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

'Not America's man in Iraq,' Premier says

'Not America's man in Iraq,' Premier says
Aides say Maliki warns U.S. to respect nation's sovereignty.
By Borzou Daragahi, Times Staff Writer
October 28, 2006

Iraq's prime minister sharply criticized U.S. policy Friday during a private meeting with the American ambassador, pointing to the United States' failure to either reduce violence or give his government authority over security matters, aides to the Iraqi leader said.

The criticism was the latest example of tension between the two governments and stood in contrast to a joint public statement issued after the meeting.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and the U.S. Embassy said in the statement that they had agreed to unspecified timelines to make tough political and security decisions on the country's future.

Privately, however, Maliki criticized what he called the patronizing U.S. tone toward the Iraqi government and warned U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to respect Iraq's sovereignty, two of the prime minister's advisors said.

"I'm a friend to the United States, but not America's man in Iraq," Maliki told Khalilzad, according to Hassan Senaid, one of the prime minister's closest advisors.

Previously, Maliki had vehemently rejected the notion of deadlines for his government to achieve key goals, but the statement said that "the Iraqi government has made clear the issues that must be resolved with timelines for them to take positive steps forward on behalf of the Iraqi people."

The statement also said that "Iraq and the United States are committed to working together to respond to the needs of the people." It affirmed that the United States would "continue to stand by the Iraqi government" amid rumors that Washington might be seeking alternatives to Baghdad's Shiite-led administration.

Maliki's supporters downplayed the reference to timelines as insignificant, saying they were meant as rough guidelines to hand security over to the Iraqis.

U.S. officials in Baghdad could not be reached for comment.

After days of back-and-forth recriminations, the contrast between private criticism and the public statement brought into sharper focus a dispute that might have already undermined the Maliki government and increased friction between the United States and Iraq's majority Shiites.

Khalilzad is at odds with Maliki on how to address the Shiite Muslim militias wreaking havoc on large parts of Iraq. The ambassador last year persuaded Sunni Arabs, now victimized by the militias, to enter the government. He has insisted armed Shiite groups and Sunni Arab insurgents be treated similarly.

Maliki draws political support from the groups backing the militias. He said they should be drawn into the political process and disarmed peacefully.

U.S. military and political officials have grown frustrated over what they see as Iraqi government inaction on the militias, now deemed by Americans as the No. 1 impetus of sectarian violence.

Khalilzad told reporters Tuesday that Iraqis must "achieve key political and security milestones" by certain deadlines or face unspecified consequences. But he was rebuffed by Maliki and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who told critics to "back off" making unreasonable demands on the 5-month-old Iraqi government.

Maliki's inner circle, huddled in a late-night briefing, said the prime minister would call President Bush today to clear the air about what his government viewed as unproductive interference on the part of U.S. officials in Baghdad.

"Khalilzad's demand for a timetable was clear interference with the sovereignty of the Iraqi government," said Nada Sudani, a member of parliament from Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party. "Maliki rejects any exterior body giving a timeline for the performance of the Iraqi government."

Prickly truths underlie the squabbling and confusion: Maliki's government has lost public support over five months of car bombs, death squads and economic misery, and increasingly relies on narrow cliques of Islamist political parties, including the radical movement of anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr.

The U.S. government, undertaking a massive nation-building project while fighting off a ferocious insurgency, has little choice but to back Maliki's Iranian-influenced Shiite government. Any U.S. move against Maliki could spark greater violence and anti-American animosity.

Maliki has demanded that Americans let him try to politically co-opt Sadr, who has gone from a rabble-rousing street firebrand in the early days after the U.S.-led invasion to one of the most powerful figures in the country who controls 30 seats in parliament and several key ministries.

There have been numerous signs that Sadr has tired of the most troublesome of his loyalists. During prayers Friday in the southern city of Kufa, Sadr's principal pulpit, his deputy denounced recent violence in Iraq caused by "people who violated and stood against the wise and honorable leadership" of the cleric.

"If you would ever fail to comply with [his orders], then I frankly tell you that you will regret it, and you'd rather die," said Sheik Jabir Khafaji, one of Sadr's chief advisors.

Among his followers' alleged misdeeds was the Monday night abduction of a U.S. soldier of Iraqi descent. U.S. troops continued a days-long crackdown on Baghdad's volatile Sadr City neighborhood, where they suspect the soldier is being held.

Witnesses said U.S. forces raided schools, mosques and homes over the last few days in search of the missing soldier. He was taken from a home in central Baghdad on Monday night after he left the Green Zone to spend the Muslim holidays with relatives.

Sadr City is a stronghold of bands of Sadr's followers, who call themselves the Al Mahdi army. Sadr launched the organization as a tool to mobilize and organize Shiites who are poor, young and devout.

But U.S. and Iraqi officials suspect that splinter groups under no central authority have started using the Al Mahdi army as a cover for various forms of criminal activity, including wanton targeting of Sunni Arab men.

Sadr has ordered followers to refrain from violence during the latest U.S. raids, and for the most part Friday the command held.

"The Mahdi army members are restraining themselves," said Qahtan Sudani, a 28-year-old Sadr City resident and supporter of the cleric.

"It's Muqtada's orders that confrontation with the occupier will be through peaceful methods."

At least one U.S. soldier was reported killed Friday, bringing the number of American troops killed in Iraq this month to 97, the highest for any month since January 2005. The soldier, assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, died of wounds sustained in combat in Diyala province Thursday.

A British soldier serving near Basra died in a motor vehicle accident, news agencies reported.,0,3446246,full.story

Friday, October 27, 2006

The networks' refusal to accept ads for The Dixie Chicks documentary

The networks' refusal to accept ads for The Dixie Chicks documentary

by Glenn Greenwald

The new documentary, Shut Up & Sing, chronicles the hostile and sometimes threatening conduct directed towards The Dixie Chicks after one of the group's members criticized the Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush, during a 2003 concert. The documentary is being distributed by Harvey Weinstein's film company, and a preview for the film can be seen here.

According to Matt Drudge (a phrase that does not roll out of one's mouth easily), both NBC and the CW Television Network (the joint venture of CBS and Warner Brothers that combines the WB and UPN Networks) are refusing to air ads promoting Shut Up & Sing on the ground that the ads are "disparaging" to our President:

In an Ironic Twist of Events, NBC and The CW Television Network Refuse to Air Ads for Documentary Focusing on Freedom of Speech . . .

NBC responded to a clearance report submitted by the Weinstein Company’s media agency saying that the network “cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush.”

The CW Television Network responded that it does “not have appropriate programming in which to schedule this spot.”

According to Drudge, David Boies, presumably representing the Weinstein Co., said that "it is disappointing and troubling that NBC and The CW would refuse to accept an otherwise appropriate ad merely because it is critical of President Bush," while Weinstein himself said that “it’s a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by corporate America."

Leave to the side for the moment the fact that this controversy is far more likely to help the film than hurt it. Far more important than that issue is the emergence of a very disturbing trend whereby television networks are refusing to broadcast political advocacy material that will offend the Republican power structure in Washington.

In 2004, CBS and NBC both refused to broadcast an ad from the United Church of Christ which touted its acceptance of all people, including gays and lesbians, into its congregations. CBS said it rejected the Church's $2 million ad campaign "because its ad implies acceptance of gay and lesbian couples -- among other minority constituencies -- and is, therefore, too 'controversial.'" During that incident, CBS all but acknowledged that its decision was based upon the White House's potential disagreement with the ad's message:

Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations . . . . and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks.

The ad did nothing other than promote the Church by featuring its policy of inclusiveness:

The debut 30-second commercial features two muscle-bound "bouncers" standing guard outside a symbolic, picturesque church and selecting which persons are permitted to attend Sunday services.

Written text interrupts the scene, announcing, "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." A narrator then proclaims the United Church of Christ's commitment to Jesus' extravagant welcome: "No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.".

That was all there was to that ad. But because that message of inclusiveness was deemed by CBS to possibly diverge from the decree of the President on the topic, CBS refused to broadcast it.

Similarly, for the 2004 Super Bowl, CBS refused to air "an ad underwritten by the grass-roots political organization criticizing the ballooning budget deficit under George W. Bush" -- the ad which was selected by MoveOn members as the winner of its ad contest. And various ABC and CBS affiliates refused to run an ad in 2002 produced by Arianna Huffington and Lawrence Bender urging Americans to avoid SUV's on the ground that high gasoline consumption finances terrorist states.

The networks' claim is that they prohibit controversial political advocacy ads because allowing such ads would bestow an unfair advantage in political debates to those with the financial resources to afford to purchase such advertising. But that is just ludicrous, since the networks are awash with all sorts of overtly political ads, corporate ads that convey implicit political values, and politically charged programming content. Worse, the targets of the rejected ads are typically the most empowered and well-financed groups in our country, and it is just laughable for the networks to claim that allowing ads critical of them will put them at an unfair disadvantage in political debates.

Once corporate-owned networks start selecting which politically-tinged ads are "too controversial" and which ones are not, it is inevitable that messages which please the political leadership which regulates those corporations will be allowed, while messages that displease those political leaders will be rejected. That is plainly what is happening.

To see that very disturbing dynamic in action, just contrast (a) CBS' capitulation to demands from conservatives that it not broadcast The Reagans at a time when both the network and its parent company, Viacom, had all sorts of critical legislative and regulatory matters dependent upon Washington Republicans, and (b) ABC's steadfast refusal to cancel Path to 9/11 even once it was revealed that the film contained patently false scenes that blamed the Clinton administration for the 9/11 attacks -- a film objected to by the powerless Democrats but loved by the in-power, Disney-regulating Republicans. As Law Professor Paul Campos pointed out during the ad controversy:

Decisions of this sort are more than monuments to hypocrisy and double standards. Because those who have the right to broadcast over them have in effect a monopoly on the television airwaves, the television networks are regulated closely by the federal government. By law, the networks hold their broadcast rights in trust, and are thus obligated to do business in a way that is mindful of the public interest.

CBS doesn't serve the public interest when it rejects an otherwise appropriate advertisement because, in the opinion of the network's managers, the ad's message is too politically controversial. This is especially the case when the network broadcasts equally controversial political advertisements, during the same program for which the rejected ad was intended.

Given that CBS is regulated so heavily, and that indeed at this moment major legislation is pending that critics argue will unduly enhance the network's market share, is it possible that "too politically controversial" really means "harmful to CBS's corporate interests?" One need not be a cynic to suspect that, as a great American journalist used to put it, "that's the way it is."

The very idea that it is in the "public interest" to prohibit ads that criticize the Leader is ludicrous on its face. The President is constantly given free airtime to argue his views and propagandize on virtually every issue, and the networks endlessly offer forums for his followers and surrogates to defend him. And the networks' argument is particularly absurd now, given that networks are awash with cash from offensive, obnoxious, and repugnant political ads of every kind.

What possible justification is there for a network to prohibit the promotion of films which are critical of the nation's political leaders? Worse, the networks' recent history of ostensible avoidance of "controversial" political material seems extremely selective and one-sided. "Controversial" in this context seems actually to mean "likely to trigger displeasure among the Leader and his supporters."

The networks are still a very powerful public opinion instrument, and allowing them to become political propaganda venues -- where messages that "disparage" the Leader are prohibited while all sorts of pro-Leader messages are allowed -- has the potential to be quite harmful. We seem to be well on our way to that result.

UPDATE: As part of his superb report on political bias in the national media, eRiposte conclusively documents how this alleged network prohibition on "controversial political ads" virtually always operates to suppress political views that are critical of the administration and its allies.

Paul Krugman - The Arithmetic of Failure

The Arithmetic of Failure


Iraq is a lost cause. It’s just a matter of arithmetic: given the violence of the environment, with ethnic groups and rival militias at each other’s throats, American forces there are large enough to suffer terrible losses, but far too small to stabilize the country.

We’re so undermanned that we’re even losing our ability to influence events: earlier this week, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki brusquely rejected American efforts to set a timetable for reining in the militias.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, is a war we haven’t yet lost, and it’s just possible that a new commitment of forces there might turn things around.

The moral is clear — we need to get out of Iraq, not because we want to cut and run, but because our continuing presence is doing nothing but wasting American lives. And if we do free up our forces (and those of our British allies), we might still be able to save Afghanistan.

The classic analysis of the arithmetic of insurgencies is a 1995 article by James T. Quinlivan, an analyst at the Rand Corporation. “Force Requirements in Stability Operations,” published in Parameters, the journal of the U.S. Army War College, looked at the number of troops that peacekeeping forces have historically needed to maintain order and cope with insurgencies. Mr. Quinlivan’s comparisons suggested that even small countries might need large occupying forces.

Specifically, in some cases it was possible to stabilize countries with between 4 and 10 troops per 1,000 inhabitants. But examples like the British campaign against communist guerrillas in Malaya and the fight against the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland indicated that establishing order and stability in a difficult environment could require about 20 troops per 1,000 inhabitants.

The implication was clear: “Many countries are simply too big to be plausible candidates for stabilization by external forces,” Mr. Quinlivan wrote.

Maybe, just maybe, the invasion and occupation of Iraq could have been managed in such a way that a force the United States was actually capable of sending would have been enough to maintain order and stability. But that didn’t happen, and at this point Iraq is a cauldron of violence, far worse than Malaya or Ulster ever was. And that means that stabilizing Iraq would require a force of at least 20 troops per 1,000 Iraqis — that is, 500,000 soldiers and marines.

We don’t have that kind of force. The combined strength of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps is less than 700,000 — and the combination of America’s other commitments plus the need to rotate units home for retraining means that only a fraction of those forces can be deployed for stability operations at any given time. Even maintaining the forces we now have deployed in Iraq, which are less than a third as large as the Quinlivan analysis suggests is necessary, is slowly breaking the Army.

Meanwhile, what about Afghanistan?

Given the way the Bush administration relegated Afghanistan to sideshow status, it comes as something of a shock to realize that Afghanistan has a larger population than Iraq. If Afghanistan were in as bad shape as Iraq, stabilizing it would require at least 600,000 troops — an obvious impossibility.

However, things in Afghanistan aren’t yet as far gone as they are in Iraq, and it’s possible that a smaller force — one in that range of 4 to 10 per 1,000 that has been sufficient in some cases — might be enough to stabilize the situation. But right now, the forces trying to stabilize Afghanistan are absurdly small: we’re trying to provide security to 30 million people with a force of only 32,000 Western troops and 77,000 Afghan national forces.

If we stopped trying to do the impossible in Iraq, both we and the British would be able to put more troops in a place where they might still do some good. But we have to do something soon: the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan says that most of the population will switch its allegiance to a resurgent Taliban unless things get better by this time next year.

It’s hard to believe that the world’s only superpower is on the verge of losing not just one but two wars. But the arithmetic of stability operations suggests that unless we give up our futile efforts in Iraq, we’re on track to do just that.

Confession That Formed Base of Iraq War was Acquired Under Torture: Journalist

Confession That Formed Base of Iraq War was Acquired Under Torture: Journalist

An Al-Qaeda terror suspect captured by the United States, who gave evidence of links between Iraq and the terror network, confessed after being tortured, a journalist told the BBC.

Iban al Shakh al Libby told intelligence agents that he was close to Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and "understood an awful lot about the inner workings of Al-Qaeda," former FBI agent Jack Clonan told the broadcaster.

Libby was tortured in an Egyptian prison, according to Stephen Grey, the author of the newly-released book "Ghost Plane" who investigated the secret US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prisons that housed terror suspects around the world.

US President George W. Bush confirmed the existence of the network of CIA holding facilities overseas during a September 6 speech defending controversial US interrogation practices.

Libby was apparently taken to Cairo, Clonan told the broadcaster, after being captured in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

"He (Libby) claims he was tortured in jail and that would be routine in Egyptian prisons," Grey said.

"What he claimed most significantly was a connection between ... Al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. This intelligence report made it all the way to the top, and was used by (former US secretary of state) Colin Powell as a key piece of justification ... for invading Iraq," he told the broadcaster.

Powell claimed in a UN Security Council meeting in February 2003, weeks before a US-led coalition invaded Iraq, that the country under Saddam Hussein had provided weapons training to Al-Qaeda, saying he could "trace the story of a senior terrorist operative", whom Grey alleges is Libby.

"At the time, the caveats to say this intelligence was extracted under torture were not provided," Grey said.

Grey said that, after being held in Egypt, Libby was transferred to a secret CIA facility in Bagram, just north of Afghanistan's capital Kabul. The journalist said he had also met other people held in that facility who describe the torture that Libby faced at the CIA facility.

Since then, "he disappeared", Grey said.

"Like hundreds of other people arrested after September 11, he's vanished into a sort of netherworld of prisons where astonishingly, President Bush now says the prisons have emptied. "

Thursday, October 26, 2006

James Wolcott - Chaos Is Come Again

Chaos Is Come Again

Watching that presidential press conference this afternoon was like listening to the world's most boring seminar on semantics, everyone acting as if the most important determinant of success or failure in Iraq is what comes out of the president's yap. It's idiotic for the press to let themselves get suckered into badmitton games of "benchmarks" versus "timetables" or "stay the course" versus "tactical adjustments" when this back and forth bears no relation to the reality of what's happening in Iraq. We're long past the point when Bush or Ken the undead Mehlman could craft a new catchphrase on their labelmaker that arrest the four horsemen of the apocalypse from making their appointed rounds. As John Robb points out at Global Guerrillas, the U.S. opened the stable doors, committing two fatal errors.

The first was outsourcing security, particularly in the British controlled south and Baghdad to "loyalist" paramilitaries. The second was incorporating paramilitary members into the new Iraqi security forces, particularly since they were more willing to fight than the general population. In classic US fashion (a reflection of the paucity of strategic thinking in our general staff), training to the numbers (quantity) and the early effectiveness of the unit in a fire fight (expediency) was deemed more important than loyalty of the unit to the government. The long term implications were not considered.

The result is that over the last two years the US military has actually created an environment that is conducive to a bloody and chaotic civil war. By partnering with paramilitaries, we accelerated the development of those forces that would take the war to the Sunnis.

Tactical adjustments, greater flexibility, bringing in a new choreographer to jazz up the finale, none of this can retrieve the irretrievable, according to Robb.

What can we do? Nothing but leave. We can neither expect the leadership of US military to develop sound strategies for mitigating the damage done, nor can we reverse drivers of chaos that have been initiated over the last three years. This chaotic system is now running smoothly under the power of its own internal dynamics and continued intervention will only continue to worsen it. Withdrawal is the only option. The faster the better.

This is not the "Faster, please" Michael Ledeen had in mind.

Bush can continue to claim that nothing less than victory will avail, but the backward tightrope walk has begun, according to the Guardian's Simon Jenkins.

...Where there is no hope of victory, the necessity for victory must be asserted ever more strongly. This was the theme of yesterday's unreal US press conference in Baghdad, identical in substance to one I attended there three years ago. There is talk of staying the course, of sticking by friends and of not cutting and running. Every day some general or diplomat hints at ultimatums, timelines and even failure - as did the British foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, on Monday. But officially denial is all. For retreat to be tolerable it must be called victory. [my emphasis]

The US and British are covering their retreat. Operation Together Forward II has been an attempt, now failed, to pacify Baghdad during Ramadan. In Basra, Britain is pursuing Operation Sinbad to win hearts and minds that it contrives constantly to lose. This may be an advance on Kissinger's bombing of Laos to cover defeat in Vietnam and Reagan's shelling of the Shouf mountains to cover his 1984 Beirut "redeployment" (two days after he had pledged not to cut and run). But retreat is retreat, even if it is called redeployment. Every exit strategy is unhappy in its own way.

Over Iraq the spin doctors are already at work. They are telling the world that the occupation will have failed only through the ingratitude and uselessness of the Iraqis themselves. The rubbishing of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has begun in Washington, coupled with much talk of lowered ambitions and seeking out that foreign policy paradigm, 'a new strongman'. In May, Maliki signalled to Iraq's governors, commanders and militia leaders the need to sort out local differences and take control of their provincial destinies. This has failed. Maliki is only as strong as the militias he can control, which is precious few. He does not rule Baghdad, let alone Iraq. As for the militias, they are the natural outcome of the lawlessness caused by foreign occupation [Robb's point again]. They represent Iraqis desperately defending themselves from anarchy. It is now they who will decide Iraq's fate.

While fate waits to be decided, a moral verdict can be rendered.

This country has been turned by two of the most powerful and civilised nations on Earth into the most hellish place on Earth. Armies claiming to bring democracy and prosperity have brought bloodshed and a misery worse than under the most ruthless modern dictator. This must be the stupidest paradox in modern history. Neither America nor Britain has the guts to rule Iraq properly, yet they lack the guts to leave.

Blair speaks of staying until the job is finished. What job? The only job he can mean is his own.

Likewise with Bush, who doesn't even have the guts to fire Rumsfeld.

Heather Wokusch - How the Bush Family Makes a Killing From George's Presidency

How the Bush Family Makes a Killing From George's Presidency
By Heather Wokusch
Common Dreams

Wednesday 25 October 2006

Halliburton scored almost $1.2 billion in revenue from contracts related to Iraq in the third quarter of 2006, leading one analyst to comment: "Iraq was better than expected ... Overall, there is nothing really to question or be skeptical about. I think the results are very good."

Very good indeed. An estimated 655,000 dead Iraqis, over 3,000 dead coalition troops, billions stolen from Iraq's coffers, a country battered by civil war - but Halliburton turned a profit, so the results are very good.

Very good certainly for Vice President Dick Cheney, who resigned from Halliburton in 2000 with a $33.7 million retirement package (not bad for roughly four years of work). In a stunning conflict of interest, Cheney still holds more than 400,000 stock options in the company. Why pursue diplomacy when you can rake in a personal fortune from war?

Yet Cheney isn't the only one who has benefited from the Bush administration's destructive policies. The Bush family has done quite nicely too. Just a few examples:

Bush Sr.: Bush's dad has strong connections to the Carlyle Group, a massive private equity investment firm whose Chairman Emeritus is Frank Carlucci, a former college roommate of Donald Rumsfeld's and former Defense Secretary under Ronald Reagan. Imagine the pull Carlucci has with today's White House.

But Carlucci has another secret weapon - Bush Sr. Amid conflict-of-interest allegations, the elder Bush resigned from the Carlyle Group in 2003, but reportedly remains on retainer, opening doors to lucrative profits in the Middle East and elsewhere. Bush Sr.'s specialty is Saudi Arabia; in fact, he was at a Carlyle investment conference with Osama bin Laden's estranged brother, Shafiq bin Laden, when the 9/11 attacks took place.

Carlyle specializes in military and security investments, and with Bush Jr. in office, the company's profits have soared; it received $677 million in contracts in 2002, then a whopping $2.1 billion in 2003. Carlyle's investors currently enjoy an equity capital pool of over 44 billion dollars.

In January 2006, Bush Sr. wrote China's Foreign Affairs Ministry that it would be "beneficial to the comprehensive development of Sino-US relations" if Beijing approved the sale of a Chinese bank to a consortium which included Carlyle. Bluntly put, Bush Sr. asked China to grant Carlyle a lucrative business deal or risk his son's wrath. Foreign policy at its finest.

William H. T. "Bucky" Bush: George's "Uncle Bucky" joined the board of military contractor Engineered Support Systems Inc. (ESSI) in 2000 and perhaps not surprisingly, the value of the company's governmental contracts has strongly increased with Bush Jr. in office. Uncle Bucky earns monthly consulting fees as well as options to buy stock at favorable prices, and considering that ESSI's stock tripled two weeks after 9/11 then settled into comfy territory, it's safe to say that George's uncle is doing quite well. In fact, Bucky cashed out on 8,438 stock options in January 2005, earning himself a cool $450,000 in the process. As of 2005, he still owned options on 45,000 more shares of the company's stock and accrues more each year.

War is profitable for ESSI, or as an executive explained: "The increasing likelihood for a prolonged military involvement in Southwest Asia by U.S. forces well into 2006 has created a fertile environment for the type of support ... products and services that we offer."

But lest anyone conclude that Bucky has opened doors for the company, ESSI's vice-president of investor relations explained in 2005, "The fact his nephew is in the White House has absolutely nothing to do with Mr Bush being on our board or with our stock having gone up 1000 per cent in the past five years." Absolutely nothing at all.

Neil Mallon Bush: Neil rose to infamy in the 1980s as director of the Colorado-based Silverado Savings and Loan; after Silverado collapsed due to mismanagement and corruption, US taxpayers were stuck with the billion-dollar bailout, yet Neil managed to escape the crisis with a small fine and no jail time. It helps to have a dad as Vice President.

In 1993, Neil joined Bush Sr. in Kuwait to drum up business in the Middle East, and today, he makes a profit by helping companies cash in on the occupation of Iraq. For example, in late 2003, The Financial Times reported that Neil earned $60,000 per year through the Crest Investment Company, a private firm generating contracts in Iraq. Crest was headed by Jamal Daniel, a longtime Bush family contact, who was also on the advisory board of New Bridge Strategies, a company specifically set up "with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq."

In 2003, Neil's messy divorce proceedings revealed that he was to get $2 million in stock options from a Chinese semiconductor firm despite having limited education or business experience in that area; critics complained that the Chinese company was buying access to his brother, the president. Neil later testified that on repeated business trips to Asia, he'd had sex with women who showed up at his hotel rooms, presumably prostitutes hired by companies trying to curry favor with the White House.

Neil has also profited from George's disastrous No Child Left Behind educational policy. His company, Ignite! (partially owned by Bush Sr. and funded by Crest Investment) has been awarded with lucrative federal contracts to place its educational products in school districts across the country.

Marvin Pierce Bush: Marvin joined Bush Sr. and Neil on their Middle Eastern sales trip in 1993 and then made a mint in the investment banking business. He is a co-founder of Winston Partners, a private investment firm whose investments in military and security firms profit from Bush's "war on terror."

Having a sibling as president has helped Marvin in other ways, too. He is on the board of HCC Insurance Holdings, Inc., which had insured parts of the World Trade Center; HCC benefited from the 9/11 insurance bailout legislation pushed through by brother George.

Marvin was also on the board of Securacom, a company which provided electronic security for both Dulles International Airport and the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Marvin stepped down in 2000, but how intriguing that Bush's brother was so well connected to the security of two critical locations on that fateful day.

In short, the "results are very good" for the Bush dynasty, perhaps even "better than expected," thanks to George's stint in the Oval Office. Dad's still setting up international deals. Uncle Bucky's cashing in his stock options. Brothers Neil and Marvin are laughing all the way to the bank.

It's just the American people who have paid the ultimate price.

Action Ideas:

1. For more on war profiteering, head over to Halliburton Watch and Corp Watch. Catch a screening of the new Robert Greenwald film entitled Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers.

2. If you're searching for information on contemporary foreign policy issues, coupled with an opportunity to take positive action, check out Women's Action for New Directions. The site offers in-depth coverage of Hot Topics, such as war and nuclear weapons, as well as fact sheets and other resources. Visit WAND's Take Action! center for petitions to sign and opportunities to contact Congress, the White House and the media about the peace and security issues you care about most.

Glenn Greenwald - Rank ignorance posing as expertise

Rank ignorance posing as expertise
by Glenn Greenwald

It should surprise nobody that armies of "conservatives" have become overnight experts in New Jersey Constitutional law and have pronounced the 66-page decision (.pdf) from the New Jersey Supreme Court to be a tyrannical embodiment of judicial activism. But in issuing these condemnations, none of them mentions a single provision of the New Jersey State Constitution or any precedent applying it that supports their righteous conviction that the decision was legally erroneous; they just know intuitively, deep in their soul, that it is.

Others are arguing that it would simply be "better" if courts stayed away from gay marriage rulings and left it to legislatures to decide. Typical of this latter form of condemnation is James Taranto's reaction: "We'd also be happier if this were thrashed over democratically rather than forced upon society by the courts." Tom Maguire makes essentially the same observation: "My personal opinion is that gay marriage or civil unions is fine if enacted by the state legislature but wrong if crammed down by judicial fiat."

This just isn't how the law works, and it is always so ironic -- and more than a little contempt-inspiring -- when people who proclaim to oppose "judicial activism" condemn a judicial decision based not on what the relevant constitutional law requires, but instead based on their personal opinion of the policy outcomes (or based on some informal "belief" about what courts should and shouldn't be "involved in," independent of what the Constitution requires). Such individuals are engaged in the very crux of the crime of judicial activism which they claim to despise (that is, deciding legal questions based not on law and precedent but on their own personal preferences).

Either the New Jersey State Constitution -- as defined by the governing precedents applying it -- compels the legal conclusion reached by the New Jersey Supreme Court or it does not. That is the only relevant issue. It's not a matter of picking and choosing which issues we think it would be nice for a court to resolve and which ones we'd sort of prefer -- given our subjective druthers -- the court leave to the will of the majority.

At the very center of our constitutional republic is the principle that the overarching obligation of courts is to nullify any and all laws that conflict with the guarantees of the Constitution. Or, as Hamilton put it in Federalist No. 78: "wherever a particular statute contravenes the Constitution, it will be the duty of the judicial tribunals to adhere to the latter and disregard the former." Courts in these cases have only one question to answer -- do the relevant constitutional provisions (in this case, Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey State Constitution) bar the law in question? -- and if so, courts are required to nullify that law. There is no discretion or political judgment involved, and they are not permitted to simply decide that they won't involve themselves in such matters.

Thus, arguments which claim that "courts should stay out of debates over marriage laws and leave it to the legislature to decide" or "it would be better if these decisions were democratically resolved by majority vote" are -- even if true -- completely misguided and incoherent. Courts have no right to "stay out of" debates over laws if those laws violate constitutional guarantees. It's just that simple.

For that reason, in order to know whether yesterday's ruling is an example of great scholarly judicial care or unhinged judicial activism, at the very least one would need to be familiar with: (a) the interests claimed by New Jersey to justify the state's exclusionary marriage laws; (b) the arguments advanced by plaintiffs to support the claim that the law is violative of the state Constitution; (c) the provisions of the New Jersey State Constitution on which the plaintiffs rely; and (d) the history of how those provisions have been interpreted and applied by New Jersey State courts and the relevant precedents on which the court relied.

It is impossible -- at least without falling into total recklessness -- to simply look at the result of a court case, decide whether or not you like it, and then pronounce it as either judicially sound or judicially irresponsible. Yet that is what virtually all of these commenters are doing who are condemning the New Jersey Supreme Court for "judicial activism." They do not even purport to have even a casual familiarity with any of the issues one would need to know about in order to form a responsible opinion. They really have no idea what they are talking about.

The decision is 66 pages long. I've read it twice. But if you ask me what my view is as to the legal correctness of the decision (either the part which compels equal treatment of same-sex relationships or the part which refused to find a same-sex marriage right under New Jersey constitutional law), I would not be able to opine on that question, because I don't know enough about the scope and reach of Article I, Paragraph 1. Opining on the correctness of the New Jersey decision without that knowledge is nothing other than idiotic.

I have well-developed opinions about whether gay marriage is desirable and just from a policy perspective. And I have a fairly well-developed view of whether the U.S. Constitution prohibits the exclusion of gay couples from the institution of marriage. But the New Jersey State Constitution is its own document with its own guaranteed protections, and it grants broader and more extensive rights to New Jersey citizens than the U.S. Constitution grants to American citizens generally. Condeming this decision without knowing about the scope and reach of those New Jersey constitutional provisions is just indefensible.

This doesn't mean that only lawyers or constitutional law experts can form opinions about the court's actions. Anyone can read the judicial opinion, read the precedents on this provision, and inform themselves about what the New Jersey State Constitution does or does not guarantee. But -- as is true for any other topic -- a basic understanding of the relevant issues, so plainly lacking in all of these overnight experts, is required to be capable of anything more than baseless demagoguery.

This happens every time there is a controversial court decision like this, and the irony is overwhelming. We're subjected to all of these people parading around in protest of "judicial activism" who are doing nothing other than forming their opinions based on whether they like the outcome or whether they would "prefer" -- based on some tingly internal feeling -- that courts stay out of these issues. Maybe it would be better in some political, societal or cultural sense if gay marriage and related issues were decided by legislatures and referenda rather than courts. A reasonable argument can certainly be made that it would be "better" for advocates of gay marriage if they win by convincing their fellow citizens rather than by courts ruling that denial of marriage rights is unconstitutional.

But that is just not how a constitutional republic works. Constitutional guarantees exist to limit majority will, and courts must nullify any laws which conflict with those guarantees -- even if it would be "better" in some vague political sense to leave it to the majority to decide.

To know whether the court here acted properly, one must know whether the New Jersey State Constitution grants the rights which the court here concluded (unanimously) that it grants. Any condemnation of the opinion that is not based on that factor -- such as all of the condemnations linked above -- are themselves the very embodiment of an unhinged judicial activism that has nothing to do with the rule of law (other than to subvert it).

Bush's "Fence Bill" Doesn't Actually Create a Fence

Bowing to anti-immigration hardliners in the House, President Bush today held a White House ceremony celebrating the signing of the “Secure Fence Act.” Bush told reporters, “The bill authorizes the construction of hundreds of miles of additional fencing along our southern border.”

Bush is right, the bill does “authorize” the constrution of a new fence. But that doesn’t mean the bill pays for it. As the Washington Post reported earlier this month:

No sooner did Congress authorize construction of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexico border last week than lawmakers rushed to approve separate legislation that ensures it will never be built, at least not as advertised, according to Republican lawmakers and immigration experts.

… [S]hortly before recessing late Friday, the House and Senate gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute the money to a combination of projects — not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may also be spent on roads, technology and “tactical infrastructure” to support the Department of Homeland Security’s preferred option of a “virtual fence.”

The “Secure Fence Act” has everything to do with motivating the right-wing base, and nothing to do with securing America’s borders or passing comprehensive immigration reform.

President Bush: 'We've Never Been "Stay the Course"'

President Bush: 'We've Never Been "Stay the Course"'
by Theo Stein

We all know by now that President Bush has trouble reconciling inconvenient facts with the beautiful truths that inhabit his skull, but the White House's latest attempt to deny reality is, frankly, nuts.

During an interview on ABC's "This Week," host George Stephanopoulos asked where James Baker's Iraq proposal fell between "stay the course" and "cut and run." Bush's response: "Well, hey, listen, we've never been 'stay the course,' George." Huh?

For those of you just back from a long trip to Mars, "stay the course" is, in fact, the semantic formulation the GOP has used to differentiate itself from the "cut and run" Defeatocrats. Not only has the president, his spokespeople, his enablers and the right-wing punditocracy used "stay the course" innumerable times, it aptly describes the administration's tragic approach to the Iraq occupation.

Nevertheless, on Monday, press secretary and cheerleader-in-chief Tony Snow said it was inaccurate to describe U.S. policy in Iraq as "stay the course."

The transcript included this mind-bending exchange:

Question: "Is the president responsible for the fact people think it's stay the course since he's, in fact, described it that way himself?"

Snow: "No."

The abandonment of this rhetorical buttress on which the GOP based its entire campaign strategy while disgraceful in its dishonesty would be a blessing for both the United States and Iraq.

There can be no hope of intelligent dialogue on strategies to salvage what increasingly looks to be a hopeless situation when the administration refuses to admit change is required.

The midterm elections have forced on Bush an accountability moment. A Newsweek poll conducted Oct. 19-20 showed 65 percent of Americans feel we're losing ground in Iraq, while 54 percent believe invading Iraq was a mistake. A poll of Iraqis conducted by the University of Maryland showed 78 percent believe the U.S. presence is causing more violence than it prevents, while 71 percent support a withdrawal within a year.

Among the unforgivable tragedies of this war is the real possibility that the erosion of the president's domestic political base, rather than an objective assessment of what's best for the Iraqi people, may be what forces him to acknowledge reality.

Most foreign-policy observers no longer make any pretense about American "victory" in Iraq. The discussion is centered on finding the least-worst option.

With "stay the course" abandoned, Bush has two choices. He can escalate the U.S. effort in Baghdad in hopes of restoring security in the capital, or he can begin the process of disengagement while pushing for a political power-sharing arrangement Iraqis can live with.

Given how the war has stretched the U.S. military, escalation is not a realistic option.

Step one should be cashiering Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose failure to provide sufficient military forces for the war and occupation all but doomed Iraq to its current agony.

The United States also needs to abandon its unilateralism, and bring in Iran, Syria and Iraq's other neighbors, all who have much to lose if an all-out civil war erupts.

Iraqis must themselves be convinced to crack down on the sectarian death squads, which are now busy murdering the innocent.

The country's leaders need to hear in clear, unambiguous terms that the United States intends to withdraw its troops over a period of 18 months to two years, and that our willingness to stay longer depends on their ability to reach difficult agreements on disarming the militias, protecting minority rights and equitably apportioning oil revenues.

With so much blood spilt and so many blunders committed, merely avoiding disaster may itself be a long shot.

The coming elections may be a referendum on the president, but Democrats and Republicans need to be ready to work together on what comes next.

What Bush cannot be allowed to do is prolong the ongoing lunacy in the hopes that he can simply bequeath it to his successor in 2008.

For the sake of this country and the one we currently occupy, Americans must come together over this principle.

Acknowledging reality is the right place to begin.

Theo Stein is an editorial writer for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and can be contacted at 207-791-6481 or:

Cheney confirms that detainees were subjected to water-boarding

Cheney confirms that detainees were subjected to water-boarding
By Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that U.S. interrogators subjected captured senior al-Qaida suspects to a controversial interrogation technique called "water-boarding," which creates a sensation of drowning.

Cheney indicated that the Bush administration doesn't regard water-boarding as torture and allows the CIA to use it. "It's a no-brainer for me," Cheney said at one point in an interview.

Cheney's comments, in a White House interview on Tuesday with a conservative radio talk show host, appeared to reflect the Bush administration's view that the president has the constitutional power to do whatever he deems necessary to fight terrorism.

The U.S. Army, senior Republican lawmakers, human rights experts and many experts on the laws of war, however, consider water-boarding cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that's banned by U.S. law and by international treaties that prohibit torture. Some intelligence professionals argue that it often provides false or misleading information because many subjects will tell their interrogators what they think they want to hear to make the water-boarding stop.

Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have said that a law Bush signed last month prohibits water-boarding. The three are the sponsors of the Military Commissions Act, which authorized the administration to continue its interrogations of enemy combatants.

The radio interview Tuesday was the first time that a senior Bush administration official has confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding against important al-Qaida suspects, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammad was captured in Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and turned over to the CIA.

Water-boarding means holding a person's head under water or pouring water on cloth or cellophane placed over the nose and mouth to simulate drowning until the subject agrees to talk or confess.

Lee Ann McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, denied that Cheney confirmed that U.S. interrogators used water-boarding or endorsed the technique.

"What the vice president was referring to was an interrogation program without torture," she said. "The vice president never goes into what may or may not be techniques or methods of questioning."

In the interview on Tuesday, Scott Hennen of WDAY Radio in Fargo, N.D., told Cheney that listeners had asked him to "let the vice president know that if it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives."

"Again, this debate seems a little silly given the threat we face, would you agree?" Hennen said.

"I do agree," Cheney replied, according to a transcript of the interview released Wednesday. "And I think the terrorist threat, for example, with respect to our ability to interrogate high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's been a very important tool that we've had to be able to secure the nation."

Cheney added that Mohammed had provided "enormously valuable information about how many (al-Qaida members) there are, about how they plan, what their training processes are and so forth. We've learned a lot. We need to be able to continue that."

"Would you agree that a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" asked Hennen.

"It's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president `for torture.' We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in," Cheney replied. "We live up to our obligations in international treaties that we're party to and so forth. But the fact is, you can have a fairly robust interrogation program without torture, and we need to be able to do that."

The interview transcript was posted on the White House Web site. Interview of the Vice President by Scott Hennen, WDAY.

CIA spokeswoman Michelle Neff said, "While we do not discuss specific interrogation methods, the techniques we use have been reviewed by the Department of Justice and are in keeping with our laws and treaty obligations. We neither conduct nor condone torture."

McClatchy correspondents James Rosen and Marisa Taylor contributed to this report.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The World Enters the Dangerous Era of American Impotence

The World Enters the Dangerous Era of American Impotence
By Renaud Girard
Le Figaro

Wednesday 25 October 2006

Since September 2001, the world has not experienced an Indian summer as politically hot as this one. North Korea effects its first nuclear test. Iran announces that, come what may, it will continue its uranium enrichment program. Iraq sinks into civil war and anti-Western insurrection. The Sudanese military regime allows deadly chaos to take hold in Darfur, and the UN cannot intervene effectively. In Afghanistan, NATO undergoes the bitter challenge of the Taliban and the opium lords' rebirth. In Pakistan, al-Qaeda is treated as the nuclear issue once was: deny, always deny; the reality is that the Country of the Pure is not even fulfilling some minimal responsibility in the fight against bin Laden's networks. In Lebanon, Hezbollah strengthens its grip on society and one does not sense even the least little beginning of a disarmament of the Shiite Islamist militia. In Palestine, the youth becomes ever more radical under the banner of Islamist parties that refuse to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. In Rusia, the Kremlin - without any hang-ups - tramples on the last fifteen years' democratic advances and overtures to the West. In short, the list of destabilization viruses suddenly emerging into view this autumn of 2006 is long.

The "new international order" announced by American president George H. Bush (father of the present one) in the spring of 1991 now seems quite distant. It was a lovely era of illusions when communism was dead; when people talked about "the end of history"; when wars were won without any deaths on the side of the "good guys"; when the UN experienced a rebirth under the uncontested authority of a Security Council that suddenly wasn't paralyzed any more; when the world's problems seemed to be susceptible to settlement by the organization of big international conferences (such as the conference of Madrid for the Palestinian question); when the password of all respectable diplomacy was "multilateralism."

Why does today's world seem to cover itself over so rapidly with the worrying boils of political, ethnic, and religious violence? One of the main reasons is America's loss of its deterrent power. In the absence of a real permanent UN force, the United States is the only permanent Security Council member and power to command a credible modern army capable of being projected to any point on the globe. The problem is that, today, that force no longer really makes anyone afraid.

Unfortunately for the West - and for world peace in general - America, by getting itself bogged down in Iraq, has wrecked its deterrent power and, in the same blow, its political credit. Its advice, its demands, its threats are far less attended to than they were only three years ago.

February 5, 2003, the day of the famous Security Council debate on Iraq that was broadcast on television screens the world over, American deterrent power was at its apogee. The deployment of 50,000 troops to Kuwait had been sufficient in this instance to make the world understand that America was very serious about the matter. Saddam Hussein certainly understood that when he secretly transmitted proposals accepting all American demands via hawk Richard Perle. "Prince of Darkness" Perle did everything to bury these proposals that forestalled the planned conflict, and President Bush's entourage was very poorly advised not to take them into consideration. It was a time when Iran itself proposed to suspend its uranium enrichment activities as proof of its good faith.

The American failure in Iraq has paradoxically given the mullahs' Tehran sanctuary: the mullahs understand that Congress will not, under the present circumstances, allow George W. Bush to attack Iran. American speech in the Security Council against the Iranian nuclear program hardly holds any weight at all because everyone knows it will not be followed by any use of military force. Still worse, by provoking a tripling in the price of oil, the Americans have endowed President Ahmadinejad's regime with the financial margin he dreamed of to feed his hegemonic regional ambitions militarily. Today, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Hezbollah distributes fistfuls of Iranian oil money.

By launching itself into the invasion and occupation of Iraq March 20, 2003, the Americans unnecessarily exited the deterrent posture that had nonetheless worked very well. Not to have solicited and obtained the UN Security Council's approval aggravated things still further: in the history of nations, individual mistakes have always been more deleterious than collective mistakes.

France could not in any case rejoice in the destruction of American deterrent power. The United States is a difficult ally - sometimes even an arrogant ally - but it is an ally, and the only one we have who can make credible the resolutions we make together inside the Security Council.

As the twenty-first century promises to be a century of dangerous religious, ethnic, political, and economic rivalries, the planet needs a global policeman. As long as the UN has not established its own military force - as it is invited to do in its Charter - the need for this policeman will continue to be felt. And today, whether we like it or not, that policeman is American.


Renaud Girard is a star reporter in Le Figaro's foreign service.

Soldiers in Revolt: 346 active-duty troops call to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq

Soldiers in Revolt: 346 active-duty troops call to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq

10/25/2006 @ 2:41 pm

Filed by Christian Avard

Under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (DOD directive 7050.6), active-duty military, National Guard, and Reservists can send a protected communication to a member of Congress regarding any subject without reprisal.

Earlier this week, 65 military service members and National Guardsmen sent appeals for redress to members of Congress to urge an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. That total is now up to 346 service men and women, 125 of whom are on active duty.

Three active-duty servicemen (one of whom spoke under condition of anonymity) held a press conference today, along with a retired Judge Advocate General lawyer, to discuss their appeals.

"Many of us--who have to follow orders and took an oath to defend the constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic--[also] have reservations about the orders. And," Jonathan Hutto, a Navy Seaman based in Norfolk, Virginia, concluded, "at this point some of us feel compelled to let our reservations be known and that the occupation should come to an end right now."

Hutto added the group are not pacifists or conscientious objectors and are not urging any actions that might be deemed illegal.

The grievances

Liam Madden, a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps stationed at Quantico, continued, "The real grievances are, if democracy is our goal than I believe we are going about it all wrong. The occupation is perpetuating more violence and I think is the biggest destabilizing thing we can do to the Middle East."

One service member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity of her recent year in Iraq, said that she "was hit by IEDs, by mortars... I was hit by snipers in my convoy and I’ve seen friends injured and affected by deaths in my brigade and my unit. I can tell you that many of them are not quite sure what their purpose or focus is now.

"A lot of people don’t want to admit it," she insisted, "but we are stuck in a civil war and it’s hard for the soldiers seeing the ethnic fighting going on around them and feeling like they’re stuck in the cross fire and not really feeling like there’s anything they can do to stop it.

"And it’s very frustrating to go out in convoys and get hit and not really sure why it is and not seeing any tangible results for their actions," she added. "I think it’s very important that Congress members and people understand that we do have a voice, and pay attention to our surroundings and what’s going on--and listen to what we have to say."

Appealing for redress

Hutto explained that the idea of issuing Appeals for Redress originated in early 2006, when he was deployed off the coast of Iraq on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt.

"An old buddy of mine, who was a member of the GI movement back in the early 1970s," Hutto explained, "sent me a 30th anniversary copy of Soldiers in Revolt, written by David Cortwright. The book chronicles the GI movement within the military during the Vietnam War who advocated to end that war and bring the troops home."

Hutto continued, "One of the avenues that they used, which was a legal one, is appealing to their political leaders in Washington. By 1971 over 250,000 of these active duty servicemen had appealed to the Congress people."

"None of the Marines know that there is a policy available to them," Madden added, "and that it’s everybody’s duty to support democracy and do it much more effectively than we are in exercising these rights in Iraq."

J.E. McNeil, a former military JAG lawyer, emphasized that all servicemen and women still have their rights as U.S. citizens and can exercise them when need be.

"When men and women join the military and put on the uniform, they don’t give up their rights as U.S. citizens," said McNeil, though "there may be some small limitations to their first amendment rights."

"They are supposed to be very clear," McNeil elaborated, "and they have been, that they’re speaking on their own behalf and not using any of the military resources to make these statements that are their own beliefs, and we should be very proud of them to do that."

Fear of reprisal

Many in the military fear reprisals for coming forth, even though they have the legal right to do so.

One soldier in the Army, who participated anonymously in the press conference, had more information to reveal, saying, "Anyone who’s been involved in the military does know there are informal means of punitive actions that circumvent the legal system which are often used in different means to intimidate soldiers."

"I’ve talked to numerous soldiers," the anonymous soldier said, "and obviously looking at the numbers now, they obviously haven’t stepped forward. I will tell you, though--and I don’t think the American Public realizes--just how many soldiers and service members in general really do have reservations about the actions going on in Iraq.

"And fear," she added, is a main reason why people aren’t stepping forward.... I think that once they start seeing momentum going forward and more and more service members come out, that they will be more inclined to come out as well."

"It’s costing way too many humans, Iraqi civilians, and American service member lives," Madden concluded, "and brings us no benefits. The only people who benefit in my eyes are corporations like Halliburton. I don’t think that war is being paid for in the right manner and I think that if people want to support the troops then they should support us coming home."

U.S. generals call for Democratic takeover

U.S. generals call for Democratic takeover

Disgusted with the leadership of the Iraq war, two retired generals say the GOP must go. Plus: More than 100 current military personnel join a campaign to get the U.S. out of Iraq -- now.

By Mark Benjamin

Oct. 25, 2006 | Two retired senior Army generals, who served in Iraq and previously voted Republican, are now openly endorsing a Democratic takeover of Congress. The generals, and an active-duty senior military official, told Salon in separate interviews that they believe a Democratic victory will help reverse course from what they consider to be a disastrous Bush administration policy in Iraq. The two retired generals, Maj. Gen. John Batiste and Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, first openly criticized the handling of the war last spring, when they called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"The best thing that can happen right now is for one or both of our houses to go Democratic so we can have some oversight," Batiste, who led the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, told Salon. Batiste describes himself as a "lifelong Republican." But now, he said, "It is time for a change."

Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, agrees that Democratic control of Congress could be the best way to wrest control from the Bush administration and steer the United States away from a gravely flawed strategy in Iraq. "The way out that I see is to hand the House and the Senate to the Democrats and get this thing turned around," Eaton explained, adding that such sentiment is growing among retired and active-duty military leaders. "Most of us see two more years of the same if the Republicans stay in power," he said. He also noted, "You could not have tortured me enough to vote for Mr. Kerry or Mr. Gore, but I'm not at all thrilled with who I did vote for."

An active-duty senior military official who also served in Iraq said that, among a surprising number of his otherwise "very conservative" colleagues, there is hope that Democrats will gain control of Congress. "I will tell you, in the circles I talk to, the only way to enable or enact change is to change the leadership," he said.

Political experts say there is no evidence of a large exodus of military voters from the GOP, and it remains unclear how Iraq will affect military voters at the polls. Particularly among officers and the top brass, the military has long been heavily Republican. President Bush led John Kerry 73 percent to 18 percent just prior to the 2004 election in a Military Times poll, which largely surveyed higher ranking and career members of the military. Three separate studies in the past decade, including one due in dissertation form from Columbia University next spring, have put the ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the upper ranks of the military at 8-to-1.

But last spring a handful of retired commanders shook the military establishment to its core by publicly calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And palpable frustration and anger among officers over the Bush administration's Iraq strategy clearly is driving some to do what was previously unthinkable: switch their allegiance to the Democratic Party, at least for the time being.

That may also be the case among the rank and file. As Salon reported recently, there are signs that support for Bush and the GOP is eroding in a Virginia congressional district saturated with military voters. Salon has also learned that more than 100 current members of the military have now joined a campaign formally appealing to Congress to immediately withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq.

"The rest of us still in uniform cannot publicly articulate our own concerns, but there is a whole bunch of people out there who feel [this] way," said the active-duty senior military official. When asked if he was a Republican, he responded, "I was in the past." He railed against the Bush administration's head-in-the-sand approach to the war. "What do we have today? Holy shit. Now you have sectarian violence? That is a new term, by the way," the official fumed, emphasizing that before the war and even well into a volatile occupation nobody in the Bush administration "would even believe there would be an insurgency."

It's not that the current and former military leaders are suddenly eager to see liberal House Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi take more power in Congress if the Democrats win control. Instead, the embrace of the Democrats, they say, is purely pragmatic. They hope the Democrats will succeed where Republicans failed and conduct critical oversight to help the Bush administration fix its stalled and failing strategy for Iraq. "Over five years our Congress has abrogated [its] oversight responsibilities," Batiste said. "They have not held serious hearings about this war."

The military leaders also say that Democrats might be willing to put up the massive infusion of cash they believe will be required to fix a military stretched thin, and to permanently increase the size of the Army. In July 2005, Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sen. Hillary Clinton introduced a bill that would boost the Army by 100,000 soldiers. In the House, Pennsylvania's John Murtha and Missouri's Ike Skelton, ranking Democrats in military matters, have also indicated support for a beefed-up military. While the Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation temporarily increasing the size of the Army, a permanent move in that direction is anathema to Rumsfeld -- who has battled for a smaller, ever more technology-dependent military.

The Bush administration's handling of the war, meanwhile, has come under extraordinary fire from within the military. More than 100 service members, including those on active duty and members of the Reserves, have now sent "appeals for redress" to members of Congress asking for the "prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq." The appeals are a form letter designed to air a complaint without running afoul of official regulations restricting what members of the military can say. Although they are sent individually, the unusual wave of appeals has been organized by antiwar groups including Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out and Veterans for Peace.

It appears to be one of the first examples of an organized effort by active-duty and reservist military members in opposition to the war in Iraq. It also signals a level of desperation -- since those troops who contacted Congress have potentially invited retribution from their superiors and put their military careers at risk. "It is significant because it is a clear voice from people who are dedicated to the military and dedicated to service, but not dedicated to this war," said J.E. McNeil, the executive director at the Center on Conscience & War who is providing some legal advice to those participating. "For every one of those guys," McNeil claimed, "there are 2,000 or 3,000 guys who are not willing to go public like this. These men and women represent the tip of the iceberg."

Army Lt. Col. Brian Maka, a Pentagon spokesman, said he was unaware of the appeals for redress, and declined to comment further.

A prompt withdrawal of troops, which some Democrats have called for, is not part of the major strategic overhaul sought by Batiste and Eaton. But the retired generals are hoping that a Democratic-controlled Congress can push back more forcefully against President Bush, who continues to argue in favor of establishing democracy in Iraq, and against partitioning the country along sectarian lines. Some in the military say that partitioning the country may now be the only hope of success in some form -- a plan aired publicly by Sen. Joe Biden in May and backed by a number of Democrats.

"It will never be democracy," Batiste said, pointing to the military's several years of experience battling the insurgency in Iraq. Democracy, he said, simply runs counter to the powerful tribal and religious fault lines of Iraqi society. But he thinks that the country might still be successfully carved up among the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds. Sharing oil resources might seal the deal, Batiste said, and it could be spun as "some form of representative government" -- if not a democracy.

"Either partition it into three countries or go into a loose confederation and have assurances on the sharing of natural resources," Eaton agreed. "I think that is the best we can get out of this deal now."

It's too early to tell whether the acute dissatisfaction with Republicans will have staying power, says Stephen Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University who has lectured at West Point. But Wayne says it reflects real and widespread disappointment among military officers at the Bush administration's wrongheaded approach. "I think in the short run, you are seeing anger" at the Bush administration, he explained. The uniformed officers "have been completely marginalized" by an administration that refuses to take their advice.

Batiste said he was tormented by reading daily casualty reports and knowing that the deaths are, in part, the result of a bungled, backward strategy that focuses on lofty but unattainable goals. But while he and others admit they have no particular love for the Democrats, they see the party as perhaps their last, best hope of reaping anything other than more death and destruction in Iraq.

Parkinson’s Foundation Debunks Limbaugh’s False Smears of Michael J. Fox

Parkinson’s Foundation Debunks Limbaugh’s False Smears of Michael J. Fox

Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly attacked actor Michael J. Fox for appearing in television campaign ads promoting stem cell research. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, appears “visibly racked by tremors” in the ads.

“He is exaggerating the effects of the disease,” Limbaugh told listeners yesterday. “He’s moving all around and shaking and it’s purely an act. … This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn’t take his medication or he’s acting.”

According to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, Limbaugh has no idea what he’s talking about. The Washington Post reports:

[I]n an interview in Ladies Home Journal’s September edition, Fox said he was taking a medication that causes jerking, fidgeting and other abnormal involuntary movements, known as dyskinesia. Fox said he was taking another medication to lessen those side affects.

An official of the National Parkinson Foundation said movements like those exhibited by Fox are the result of taking medication to treat the disease, which would otherwise result in rigidity.

When you see someone with those movements, it’s not because they have not taken medication but because they probably have taken medication for some time,” the official said. “If you don’t take the medication, then you freeze.”

Limbaugh continued the assault today, calling Fox’s video “an attack ad” that is “filled with disinformation about embryonic stem cell research.”

Maureen Dowd - Running Against Themselves

Running Against Themselves


Things have become so dire for the Republicans that now even Bush is distancing himself from Bush.

The president is cutting and running from the president.

In a momentous event at the White House on Monday, Tony Snow made a major announcement about an important new strategy for Iraq. The president will no longer stay the course on the rallying cry “stay the course.”

A presidency built on message discipline (Message: “Stay the course”) is trying to salvage itself with some last-minute un-messaging (Message: “No more stay the course”).

Of course, the administration has never really said what “the course” is, so it was never really apparent what “staying” it meant, anyhow.

It was a wacky moment for Tony Snow, who renounced the slogan while sticking to the policy. “It left the wrong impression about what was going on,” the press secretary said, “and it allowed critics to say, ‘Well, here’s an administration that’s just embarked upon a policy and not looking at what the situation is,’ when, in fact, it’s just the opposite.”

The important thing was that the cliché sounded good to Republicans, strong and virile, for a while. But pollsters for the White House seemed to be the last to learn that even many of the party faithful had soured on the phrase, deeming it inflexible and stupid. Has Karl Rove, who urged G.O.P. candidates to keep the Democrats on the defensive on national security, lost his magic?

In a White House with a Fox News all-spin sensibility, officials don’t think they need to change the strategy as much as they need to change their slogan.

The overworked Bush phrase suggested “burying your head in the sand,” Steve Hinkson, political director at Luntz Research Companies, a G.O.P. public opinion firm, told The Washington Post’s Peter Baker. “The problem is that as the number of people who agree with remaining resolute dwindles, that sort of language doesn’t strike a chord as much as it once did.”

Unwilling to admit mistakes or face the urgent need to go past semantic changes in a protectorate that has fallen into a vicious civil war, in which Americans are merely referees and targets, the White House is falling back on marketing. Just as Andy Card rolled out the war as a marketing event, the Bush team now thinks that all it needs to do is come up with a catchy and chesty new advertising pitch.

Bay Buchanan assured Wolf Blitzer that the president still intended to stay the course and seek victory, he just wouldn’t use that phrase, because it gave people the impression that W. was unwilling to change tactics.

After all, Dick Cheney told Rush Limbaugh last week that the inept Iraqi government was doing “remarkably well.”

But given the Republican meltdown, it’s obvious that Democrats are having better luck mocking the Republicans for staying the course than Republicans are having mocking the Democrats for cutting and running. But Democrats have no ingenious ideas about how to extricate ourselves from this nasty war either.

Yet W. once more accused the Democrats of wanting to cut and run in Iraq at a campaign stop in Sarasota, Fla., yesterday.

Many frantic Republican lawmakers are also running against themselves, either reneging on their support for the war they started, or railing against Washington, the town they absolutely control, claiming that the capital has forgotten their values, or making ads denouncing the Democrats’ “homosexual agenda,” even though Republicans are now the party of gay scandal.

It’s a hilarious spectacle of a whole party re-enacting the classic scene in Mel Brooks’s “Blazing Saddles,” in which the sheriff holds the gun to his own head to take himself hostage.

The Bushes don’t connect words with action. Action is something that’s secretly plotted with the inner circle behind closed doors. The public should stay out of it. The Bushes just connect words with salesmanship. Poppy Bush never meant it when he said “Read my lips: no new taxes” at the 1988 convention. It was just a Clint Eastwood-sounding line in a Peggy Noonan speech, meant to pump up his flighty image.

Just so, his son never paid any mind to his campaign promise not to nation-build, and he didn’t come through on his bullhorn pledge to catch the perpetrators of 9/11 or his tough-guy vow to bring in Osama dead or alive.

To W., the words he says to Americans don’t matter as much as the words Dick Cheney says to him. He just has to hope that daddy’s friend, James Baker, the smooth fixer who is co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group and who has already suggested moving past the meaningless partisan jargon of “cut and run” and “stay the course,” comes up with a plan to rescue Junior from a fine mess one more time.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Congresscritters Rated by Veterans Group--Democrats Rule!

Wow. Take a look at this table, listing the ratings of current congress members by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Everyone rated above a C is a Democrat, save Independent Jim Jeffords, who caucuses with Dems). Every single C and below is a Republican. Our own Jim Talent earns a big fat D+, which actually stands him rather well in comparison to the rest of his Republican brethren and sistren.


--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
--AZ-01: Rick Renzi
--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
--CA-04: John Doolittle
--CA-11: Richard Pombo
--CA-50: Brian Bilbray
--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
--CO-05: Doug Lamborn
--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell
--CT-04: Christopher Shays
--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
--FL-16: Joe Negron
--FL-22: Clay Shaw
--ID-01: Bill Sali
--IL-06: Peter Roskam
--IL-10: Mark Kirk
--IL-14: Dennis Hastert
--IN-02: Chris Chocola
--IN-08: John Hostettler
--IA-01: Mike Whalen
--KS-02: Jim Ryun
--KY-03: Anne Northup
--KY-04: Geoff Davis
--MD-Sen: Michael Steele
--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
--MN-06: Michele Bachmann
--MO-Sen: Jim Talent
--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
--NV-03: Jon Porter
--NH-02: Charlie Bass
--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
--NM-01: Heather Wilson
--NY-03: Peter King
--NY-20: John Sweeney
--NY-26: Tom Reynolds
--NY-29: Randy Kuhl
--NC-08: Robin Hayes
--NC-11: Charles Taylor
--OH-01: Steve Chabot
--OH-02: Jean Schmidt
--OH-15: Deborah Pryce
--OH-18: Joy Padgett
--PA-04: Melissa Hart
--PA-07: Curt Weldon
--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
--PA-10: Don Sherwood
--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
--TN-Sen: Bob Corker
--VA-Sen: George Allen
--VA-10: Frank Wolf
--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
--WA-08: Dave Reichert

Glenn Greenwald - American values under the Bush administration

American values under the Bush administration

Bill Dedman has a new investigative report on MSNBC regarding the Guantanamo "interrogation" of Mohammed al-Qahtani, the currently alleged "20th hijacker." This is what the U.S. Congress voted two weeks ago to legally authorize and sanction:

Mohammed al-Qahtani, detainee No. 063, was forced to wear a bra. He had a thong placed on his head. He was massaged by a female interrogator who straddled him like a lap dancer. He was told that his mother and sisters were whores. He was told that other detainees knew he was gay. He was forced to dance with a male interrogator. He was strip-searched in front of women. He was led on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks. He was doused with water. He was prevented from praying. He was forced to watch as an interrogator squatted over his Koran.

These are not al-Qahtani's allegations and they are not in dispute. Rather, they are "among the findings of the U.S. Army’s investigation of al-Qahtani's aggressive interrogation at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

The way in which the Abu Grahib abuses were dismissed as the isolated, rogue acts of a few deranged low-level soldiers is one of the administration's worst deceits, which is saying a great deal. Most of these abusive techniques were expressly approved at the highest levels of the administration, after numerous intelligence officials and FBI agents vigorously complained about them:

In interviews with — the first time they have spoken publicly — former senior law enforcement agents described their attempts to stop the abusive interrogations. The agents of the Pentagon's Criminal Investigation Task Force, working to build legal cases against suspected terrorists, said they objected to coercive tactics used by a separate team of intelligence interrogators soon after Guantanamo's prison camp opened in early 2002. They ultimately carried their battle up to the office of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who approved the more aggressive techniques to be used on al-Qahtani and others.

It was widely recognized even back then that these tactics were illegal (as the Supreme Court in Hamdan would essentially and ultimately rule), but nobody -- not even those objecting to these tactics -- were bothered by that. In the Bush climate, even knowing illegality has never been viewed as anything more than a petty inconvenience to be managed away:

Although they believed the abusive techniques were probably illegal, the Pentagon cops said their objection was practical. They argued that abusive interrogations were not likely to produce truthful information, either for preventing more al-Qaida attacks or prosecuting terrorists.

The officer in charge of Guantanamo during these abuses was Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was sent in 2004 to Iraq to import these interrogation techniques there. It was several weeks after his arrival in Iraq when the Abu Graib abuses were revealed. On his very first visit to Abu Grahib, Gen. Miller demanded that "interrogators adopt 'emerging strategic interrogation strategies and techniques' being used at Guantanamo."

Most revealing is the source the U.S. military used to develop these abusive techniques:

The al-Qahtani plan went much further. The law enforcement agents began to hear a new term, SERE, an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. SERE training is provided to U.S. Special Forces and other military personnel to prepare them to withstand torture if they become prisoners of war. It includes mocking of their religious beliefs, sexual taunting, and a technique called water-boarding, which induces water through the nose to make a prisoner feel like he's drowning.

Intelligence interrogators had the idea to "reverse-engineer" SERE, to use its techniques to pry information out of the suspected al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists. Pentagon e-mails seen by show that at least a half dozen military intelligence personnel from Guantanamo, including at least one medical adviser, went to Fort Bragg, N.C., on Sept. 16-20, 2002, for SERE training. It was an experiment, apparently not unlike what the CIA had been trying on the few high-value detainees kept at secret locations.

In other words, by studying the torture methods used by America's enemies -- those uncivilized, evil regimes and groups we are always hearing about -- we learned how to torture people and then decided to copy their torture techniques. As always, the "rationale" of the Bush administration is that in order to defend our values and culture from the evil forces seeking to destroy us, we have to become as much like them as possible and copy their behavior.

It seems virtually certain that the entire top level of the Bush administration was fully aware of the techniques being used at Guantanamo. They took frequent trips to Gunatanamo and met with Gen. Miller. One particular trip that MSNBC learned about took place in October, 2002, when various key Bush administration lawyers -- including Alberto Gonzales, David Addington and John Yoo -- visited Guantanamo. That was the same group which, just a couple of months before that trip, had created the now infamous "torture memo" authored by Yoo in August, 2002, which sought to both re-define and justify the administration's use of torture.

I am not entirely unsympathetic to the defense that in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, military and intelligence officials would be tempted to use unusually aggressive, even extreme, interrogation methods on the person who was likely intended to be the 20th hijacker. That isn't a defense of those methods, but it makes its use more understandable.

But that isn't what happened here. These extreme and vile techniques became standard operating procedure for how we interrogate detainees. Far worse, five years after September 11, the U.S. Congress -- right out in the open -- voted expressly to authorize the use of most if not all of these techniques and empower the President to use them at will. Put another way, our country, after five years of distance from 9/11 and after much debate and deliberation, decided to enshrine this behavior as legally authorized and reflective of our new national values.

The article points out that the use of these techniques has likely precluded the prosecution of al-Qahtani, because any information acquired from him would be inadmissible due to the techniques used to interrogate him. But that seems to matter little. They can and will simply detain him indefinitely and never prosecute him.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the treatment to which U.S. citizen Jose Padilla was subjected by the Bush administration and, to do so, relied upon the allegations he made as part of his motion to dismiss the criminal indictment against him. It's usually wise to assign a healthy amount of doubt to claims that are nothing more than allegations in a judicial proceeding, but in the Padilla case (and in the case of other claims of mistreatment by detainees), it would be foolish not to believe the allegations.

The torture techniques Padilla described are the same techniques described by detainees around the world, and were the same techniques expressly authorized by the highest levels of the Bush administration. It would be shocking if detainees like Padilla -- whom the administration accused of being the Dirty Bomber -- were not subjected to those techniques. Torture has become a part of what our country is and does -- not in isolation or as part of abusive, rogue misconduct -- but as a consciously chosen value that we endorse. Setting aside semantic disputes over whether the right word for this is "torture," these "techniques" are ones we use systematically, deliberately, and now, with the full authorization of our laws.

When I wrote yesterday about the urgent need for aggressive, compuslory investigations, I did so with issues like these in mind. At the CAP event I did yesterday with Sidney Blumethal, he recounted that former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, Larry Wilkinson, told Blumethal that the U.S. has roughly 35,000 detainees worldwide in its custody. What we have done to these detainees, who knew about it and authorized it, and the way in which we have operated almost entriely beyond the reach of the law are vitally important questions -- of historic significance -- that have barely been examined. In those rare instances when bits and pieces of this behavior have leaked out -- such as Abu Grahib -- government officials who face no real checks and scrutiny were able to dishonestly dismiss it all away as some bizarre and unauthorized aberration.

A serious accounting is due with regard to the conduct of our government -- not because such an accounting satisfies vindictive urges or is politically beneficial. It is because Americans have the right -- and the obligation -- to know what has been done by our Government and in the name of the United States, and to take action in response to it. Our Congress hasn't wanted to know what has been done -- to the contrary, it has been eager to help conceal it -- and the media, with some rare exceptions, have been unable and/or unwilling to uncover it. But these things can't remain hidden forever, and the sooner they are revealed and discussed openly, the better.