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, April 07, 2007

Is there any truth to 'the enemy would follow us here?'

Is there any truth to 'the enemy would follow us here?'

By William Douglas
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - It’s become President Bush’s mantra, his main explanation for why he won’t withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq anytime soon.

In speech after speech, in statement after statement, Bush insists that “this is a war in which, if we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here.”

The line, which Bush repeated Wednesday in a speech to troops at California's Fort Irwin, suggests a chilling picture of warfare on American streets.

But is it true?

Military and diplomatic analysts say it isn't. They accuse Bush of exaggerating the threat that enemy forces in Iraq pose to the U.S. mainland.

“The president is using a primitive, inarticulate argument that leaves him open to criticism and caricature,” said James Jay Carafano, a homeland security and counterterrorism expert for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy organization. “It’s a poor choice of words that doesn’t convey the essence of the problem - that walking away from a problem doesn’t solve anything.”

U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic experts in Bush's own government say the violence in Iraq is primarily a struggle for power between Shiite and Sunni Muslim Iraqis seeking to dominate their society, not a crusade by radical Sunni jihadists bent on carrying the battle to the United States.

Foreign-born jihadists are present in Iraq, but they're believed to number only between 4 percent and 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 insurgent fighters - 1,200 to 3,000 terrorists - according to the Defense Intelligence Agency and a recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a center-right research center.

“Attacks by terrorist groups account for only a fraction of insurgent violence,” said a February DIA report.

While acknowledging that terrorists could commit a catastrophic act on U.S. soil at any time - whether U.S. forces are in Iraq or not - the likelihood that enemy combatants from Iraq might follow departing U.S. forces back to the United States is remote at best, experts say.

James Lewis, a U.S. foreign policy analyst at CSIS, called Bush’s assertion oversimplistic, but added that there’s a slight chance a few enemy combatants could make their way to the United States after a U.S. troop withdrawal.

“There’s a grain of truth in Bush saying it’s better to fight them there rather than here, but it’s also overstated,” Lewis said. “It’s not like there’s going to be gun battles in the United States.”

Daniel Benjamin, the director of the Center on the United States and Europe at The Brookings Institution, a center-left think tank, agreed.

“There are very few foreign fighters who are going to be leaving the area because they don’t have the skills or languages that would give them access to the United States,” said Benjamin, who served as the National Security Council’s director for transnational threats from 1998 to 1999. “I’m not saying events in Iraq aren’t going to embolden jihadists. But I think the president’s formulations call for a leap of faith.”

"The war in Iraq isn't preventing terrorist attacks on America," said one U.S. intelligence official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he's contradicting the president and other top officials. "If anything, that - along with the way we've been treating terrorist suspects - may be inspiring more Muslims to think of us as the enemy."

Carafano and Lewis believe that a U.S. troop pullout would embolden Islamic jihadists, but that they’re much more likely to stay closer to home and spread violence to neighboring countries with poor records of combating terrorism, such as Somalia, Morocco, Algeria and perhaps Egypt, than they are try to penetrate America.

Increased terrorism in those places would tax the United States, which would have to deal with the economic costs, global refugees and health crises that combat in those countries could produce.

“The danger is not that they’ll follow us home,” Carafano said. “The problems will come to our doorstep, not the terrorists.”

Lewis of CSIS believes that a U.S. pullout could prompt some foreign fighters in Iraq to go home, head to Afghanistan to fight U.S. forces there or move to Europe, where Muslim anger is high and there are more Muslim communities to blend into.

“The United States is a distant (fourth),” he said.

Friday, April 06, 2007

McCain Regrets Remarks to Press on Baghdad Safety, But 'That's Just Life'

McCain Regrets Remarks to Press on Baghdad Safety, But 'That's Just Life'

By E&P Staff

Published: April 06, 2007 4:25 PM ET
NEW YORK Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a '60 Minutes' segment coming on Sunday says he misspoke in comments he made about security in Baghdad and acknowledged that heavily armed troops and helicopter gunships accompanied him when he visited a market there.

'60 Minutes' correspondent Scott Pelley accompanied McCain to Baghdad and then interviewed him afterward after the senator drew wide ridicule.

CBS previews the segment as follows:


In two interviews before the Army took McCain and 60 Minutes on the heavily guarded visit to the al-Shorja market last Sunday, the senator said security had improved in Iraq. Upon his return, he also told a news conference he had just come back from a neighborhood one could walk around in freely.

The remarks made headlines and he now regrets saying them. "Of course I am going to misspeak and I've done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future," says McCain. "I regret that when I divert attention to something I said from my message, but you know, that's just life," he tells Pelley, adding, "I'm happy, frankly, with the way I operate, otherwise it would be a lot less fun."

He continues to maintain that the president's surge policy has improved safety in Baghdad. "I can understand why [the Army] would provide me with that security, but I can tell you that if it had been two months ago and I'd asked to do it, they would have said, 'Under no circumstances whatsoever.' I view that as a sign of progress," says McCain.

Continuing America's military presence in Iraq has been a key position in McCain's presidential bid. He says he knows he is out of step with the rest of the country. "I believe we can succeed and I believe that the consequences of failure are catastrophic," he tells Pelley. "I disagree with what the majority of the American people want. Failure [in Iraq] will lead to chaos, withdrawal will lead to chaos."

McCain has been critical of the way the war has been executed and has severely criticized former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In the interview Sunday, he lays some of the blame on the president, as well. "I say that [President Bush] is responsible and I'll continue to say he is responsible."

One of the 85 ‘loyal Bushies’ comes under scrutiny

One of the 85 ‘loyal Bushies’ comes under scrutiny

Posted 11:10 am

The Carpetbagger Report

Last year, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D), seeking a second term, was considered relatively vulnerable by the Republican establishment. The GOP had successfully recruited then-Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.) to be their gubernatorial candidate, they cleared the field so he could get the nomination, fundraising was brisk, and some early polling showed Green within striking distance.

Right around the time that Green officially became the GOP nominee in Wisconsin, U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic brought charges against a top official in Doyle’s administration, accusing the state purchasing supervisor of corruption. Were the charges politically motivated? It’s hard to say for sure, but consider how quickly a federal appeals court dismissed the charges yesterday. (thanks to reader D.D. for the heads-up)

Federal judges Thursday ruled that former state purchasing supervisor Georgia L. Thompson was wrongly convicted of making sure a state travel contract went to a firm linked to Gov. Jim Doyle’s re-election campaign and freed her from an Illinois prison.

The three-judge panel in Chicago acted with unusual speed, ruling after oral arguments by Thompson’s attorney and the U.S. attorney’s office.

During 26 minutes of oral arguments, all three judges assailed the government’s case, with Judge Diane Wood saying at one point that “the evidence is beyond thin.”

During a news conference later Thursday, Doyle, a former state attorney general, said the three judges did an “extraordinary thing” by entering an order finding Thompson innocent and ordering her immediate release.(emphasis added)

I’ll spare you the minutiae of the case, but here’s the story in a nutshell: Thompson, who was originally hired under Doyle’s Republican predecessor, awarded a state contract to Adelman Travel, which became controversial because two of the company’s officers had donated the state maximum to Doyle’s re-election campaign.

There was no evidence that Thompson personally profited from the contract and nothing to suggest she approved the contract for political reasons. Biskupic brought charges anyway and managed to win a conviction, which was thrown out swiftly yesterday.

Given the recent evidence involving the politicization of U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the questions are unavoidable.

Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Wisconsin Republicans used the bogus scandal during the gubernatorial campaign as a political defense when Green stood accused of accepting dubious contributions.

Just to be clear, I know of no evidence to suggest that the U.S. Attorney in this district was trying to influence the election. I have no idea if Karl Rove gave Biskupic a call and said, “You know, it’s a close race. Anything you can do would be helpful.”

We do know, however, that shortly before a close election, Biskupic brought extremely thin criminal charges against a top Doyle administration official who apparently did nothing wrong.

It’s one of the lasting problems of the administration’s purge scandal — there are now constant suspicions about prosecutors’ political motivations. Now that the nation has learned that several U.S. Attorneys were pressured to bring politically-charged cases for Republicans’ benefit, and some of those who refused lost their jobs, it’s inevitable that prosecutions like this one will garner fresh scrutiny.

I recently started a list.

* Paul Krugman noted a couple of weeks ago, for example, that Chris Christie, the former Bush “Pioneer” who is now the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, issued subpoenas as part of an investigation against Sen. Bob Menendez (D) shortly before last year’s election.

* In New Hampshire, Democrats want Congress to investigate whether prosecution of a Republican phone-jamming scheme on Election Day 2002 was intentionally delayed until after the presidential election two years later.

* Did the U.S. Attorney’s office in Pennsylvania intentionally target Bob Casey allies to undermine his Senate campaign against Rick Santorum?

* Why was the career U.S. Attorney in Guam removed in 2002 after he started investigating disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff?

* Why has Western Pennsylvania’s U.S. attorney, Mary Beth Buchanan, spent a disproportionate amount of her time launching public-corruption investigations against Democrats, while overlooking Republicans?

* In July 2005, the U.S. Attorney in Denver decided not to pursue a matter in which bouncers at a Bush event impersonated Secret Service agents to throw out three law-abiding ticket-holders because of their bumper sticker (the Denver Three controversy). Did politics dictate the decision?

As Bud Cummins, one of the purged prosecutors, recently explained:

“[T]he public must perceive that every substantive decision within the department is made in a neutral and non-partisan fashion. Once the public detects partisanship in one important decision, they will follow the natural inclination to question every decision made, whether there is a connection or not.”

Bingo. It’s the consequence of the administration undermining public confidence in the system.

Joe Klein - An Administration's Epic Collapse

An Administration's Epic Collapse

The first three months of the new Democratic Congress have been neither terrible nor transcendent. A Pew poll had it about right: a substantial majority of the public remains happy the Democrats won in 2006, but neither Nancy Pelosi nor Harry Reid has dominated the public consciousness as Newt Gingrich did when the Republicans came to power in 1995. There is a reason for that. A much bigger story is unfolding: the epic collapse of the Bush Administration.

The three big Bush stories of 2007--the decision to "surge" in Iraq, the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry political reasons--precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance (the surge), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S. Attorneys).

Iraq comes first, as always. From the start, it has been obvious that personal motives have skewed the President's judgment about the war. Saddam tried to kill his dad; his dad didn't try hard enough to kill Saddam. There was payback to be had. But never was Bush's adolescent petulance more obvious than in his decision to ignore the Baker-Hamilton report and move in the exact opposite direction: adding troops and employing counterinsurgency tactics inappropriate to the situation on the ground. "There was no way he was going to accept [its findings] once the press began to portray the report as Daddy's friends coming to the rescue," a member of the Baker-Hamilton commission told me. As with Bush's invasion of Iraq, the decision to surge was made unilaterally, without adequate respect for history or military doctrine. Iraq was invaded with insufficient troops and planning; the surge was attempted with too few troops (especially non-Kurdish, Arabic-speaking Iraqis), a purposely misleading time line ("progress" by September) and, most important, the absence of a reliable Iraqi government.

General David Petraeus has repeatedly said, "A military solution to Iraq is not possible." Translation: This thing fails unless there is a political deal among the Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds. There is no such deal on the horizon, largely because of the President's aversion to talking to people he doesn't like. And while some Baghdad neighborhoods may be more peaceful--temporarily--as a result of the increased U.S. military presence, the story two years from now is likely to resemble the recent headlines from Tall 'Afar: dueling Sunni and Shi'ite massacres have destroyed order in a city famously pacified by counterinsurgency tactics in 2005. Bush's indifference to reality in Iraq is not an isolated case. It is the modus operandi of his Administration. The indifference of his Environmental Protection Agency to the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions was rejected by the Supreme Court on April 2.

On April 3, the President again accused Democrats of being "more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than providing our troops what they need." Such demagoguery is particularly outrageous given the Administration's inability to provide our troops "what they need" at the nation's premier hospital for veterans. The mold and decrepitude at Walter Reed are likely to be only the beginning of the tragedy, the latest example of incompetence in this Administration. "This is yet another aspect of war planning that wasn't done properly," says Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The entire VA hospital system is unprepared for the casualties of Iraq, especially the psychiatric casualties. A lot of vets are saying, 'This is our Katrina moment.' And they're right: this Administration governs badly because it doesn't care very much about governing."

Compared with Iraq and Walter Reed, the firing of the U.S. Attorneys is a relatively minor matter. It is true that U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, but they are political appointees of a special sort. They are partisans, obviously, but must appear to be above politics--not working to influence elections, for example--if public faith in the impartiality of the justice system is to be maintained. Once again Karl Rove's operation has corrupted a policy area--like national security--that should be off-limits to political operators.

When Bush came to office--installed by the Supreme Court after receiving fewer votes than Al Gore--I speculated that the new President would have to govern in a bipartisan manner to be successful. He chose the opposite path, and his hyper-partisanship has proved to be a travesty of governance and a comprehensive failure. I've tried to be respectful of the man and the office, but the three defining sins of the Bush Administration--arrogance, incompetence, cynicism--are congenital: they're part of his personality. They're not likely to change. And it is increasingly difficult to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead.,8816,1607243,00.html

Hussein's Prewar Ties To Al-Qaeda Discounted

Hussein's Prewar Ties To Al-Qaeda Discounted
Pentagon Report Says Contacts Were Limited

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 6, 2007; A01

Captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides "all confirmed" that Hussein's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a declassified Defense Department report released yesterday.

The declassified version of the report, by acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble, also contains new details about the intelligence community's prewar consensus that the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda figures had only limited contacts, and about its judgments that reports of deeper links were based on dubious or unconfirmed information. The report had been released in summary form in February.

The report's release came on the same day that Vice President Cheney, appearing on Rush Limbaugh's radio program, repeated his allegation that al-Qaeda was operating inside Iraq "before we ever launched" the war, under the direction of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist killed last June.

"This is al-Qaeda operating in Iraq," Cheney told Limbaugh's listeners about Zarqawi, who he said had "led the charge for Iraq." Cheney cited the alleged history to illustrate his argument that withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq would "play right into the hands of al-Qaeda."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), who requested the report's declassification, said in a written statement that the complete text demonstrates more fully why the inspector general concluded that a key Pentagon office -- run by then-Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith -- had inappropriately written intelligence assessments before the March 2003 invasion alleging connections between al-Qaeda and Iraq that the U.S. intelligence consensus disputed.

The report, in a passage previously marked secret, said Feith's office had asserted in a briefing given to Cheney's chief of staff in September 2002 that the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda was "mature" and "symbiotic," marked by shared interests and evidenced by cooperation across 10 categories, including training, financing and logistics.

Instead, the report said, the CIA had concluded in June 2002 that there were few substantiated contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and Iraqi officials and had said that it lacked evidence of a long-term relationship like the ones Iraq had forged with other terrorist groups.

"Overall, the reporting provides no conclusive signs of cooperation on specific terrorist operations," that CIA report said, adding that discussions on the issue were "necessarily speculative."

The CIA had separately concluded that reports of Iraqi training on weapons of mass destruction were "episodic, sketchy, or not corroborated in other channels," the inspector general's report said. It quoted an August 2002 CIA report describing the relationship as more closely resembling "two organizations trying to feel out or exploit each other" rather than cooperating operationally.

The CIA was not alone, the defense report emphasized. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had concluded that year that "available reporting is not firm enough to demonstrate an ongoing relationship" between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda, it said.

But the contrary conclusions reached by Feith's office -- and leaked to the conservative Weekly Standard magazine before the war -- were publicly praised by Cheney as the best source of information on the topic, a circumstance the Pentagon report cites in documenting the impact of what it described as "inappropriate" work.

Feith has vigorously defended his work, accusing Gimble of "giving bad advice based on incomplete fact-finding and poor logic," and charging that the acting inspector general has been "cheered on by the chairmen of the Senate intelligence and armed services committees." In January, Feith's successor at the Pentagon, Eric S. Edelman, wrote a 52-page rebuttal to the inspector general's report that disputed its analysis and its recommendations for Pentagon reform.

Cheney's public statements before and after the war about the risks posed by Iraq have closely tracked the briefing Feith's office presented to the vice president's then-chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. That includes the briefing's depiction of an alleged 2001 meeting in Prague between an Iraqi intelligence official and one of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers as one of eight "Known Iraq-Al Qaida Contacts."

The defense report states that at the time, "the intelligence community disagreed with the briefing's assessment that the alleged meeting constituted a 'known contact' " -- a circumstance that the report said was known to Feith's office. But his office had bluntly concluded in a July 2002 critique of a CIA report on Iraq's relationship with al-Qaeda that the CIA's interpretation of the facts it cited "ought to be ignored."

The briefing to Libby was also presented with slight variations to then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet and then-deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley. It was prepared in part by someone whom the defense report described as a "junior Naval Reservist" intelligence analyst detailed to Feith's office from the DIA. The person is not named in the report, but Edelman wrote that she was requested by Feith's office.

The briefing, a copy of which was declassified and released yesterday by Levin, goes so far as to state that "Fragmentary reporting points to possible Iraqi involvement not only in 9/11 but also in previous al Qaida attacks." That idea was dismissed in 2004 by a presidential commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, noting that "no credible evidence" existed to support it.

When a senior intelligence analyst working for the government's counterterrorism task force obtained an early account of the conclusions by Feith's office -- titled "Iraq and al-Qaida: Making the Case" -- the analyst prepared a detailed rebuttal calling it of "no intelligence value" and taking issue with 15 of 26 key conclusions, the report states. The analyst's rebuttal was shared with intelligence officers on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but evidently not with others.

Edelman complained in his own account of the incident that a senior Joint Chiefs analyst -- in responding to a suggestion by the DIA analyst that the "Making the Case" account be widely circulated -- told its author that "putting it out there would be playing into the hands of people" such as then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, and belittled the author for trying to support "some agenda of people in the building."

But the inspector general's report, in a footnote, commented that it is "noteworthy . . . that post-war debriefs of Sadaam Hussein, [former Iraqi foreign minister] Tariq Aziz, [former Iraqi intelligence minister Mani al-Rashid] al Tikriti, and [senior al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh] al-Libi, as well as document exploitation by DIA all confirmed that the Intelligence Community was correct: Iraq and al-Qaida did not cooperate in all categories" alleged by Feith's office.

From these sources, the report added, "the terms the Intelligence Community used to describe the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida were validated, [namely] 'no conclusive signs,' and 'direct cooperation . . . has not been established.' "

Zarqawi, whom Cheney depicted yesterday as an agent of al-Qaeda in Iraq before the war, was not then an al-Qaeda member but was the leader of an unaffiliated terrorist group who occasionally associated with al-Qaeda adherents, according to several intelligence analysts. He publicly allied himself with al-Qaeda in early 2004, after the U.S. invasion.

Questions Linger About Bushes and BCCI

Questions Linger About Bushes and BCCI
Analysis by Lucy Komisar*
Inter Press Service News Agency

NEW YORK, Apr 4 (IPS) - Now that the U.S. Congress is investigating the truth of President George W. Bush's statements about the Iraq war, they might look into one of his most startling assertions: that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Critics dismissed that as an invention. They were wrong. There was a link, but not the one Bush was selling. The link between Hussein and Bin Laden was their banker, BCCI. But the link went beyond the dictator and the jihadist -- it passed through Saudi Arabia and stretched all the way to George W. Bush and his father.

BCCI was the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, a dirty offshore bank that then-president Ronald Reagan's Central Intelligence Agency used to run guns to Hussein, finance Osama bin Laden, move money in the illegal Iran-Contra operation and carry out other "agency" black ops. The Bushes also benefited privately; one of the bank's largest Saudi investors helped bail out George W. Bush's troubled oil investments.

BCCI was founded in 1972 by a Pakistani banker, Agha Hasan Abedi, with the support of Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi and head of the United Arab Emirates. Its corporate strategy was money laundering. It became the banker for drug and arms traffickers, corrupt officials, financial fraudsters, dictators and terrorists.

The CIA used BCCI Islamabad and other branches in Pakistan to funnel some of the two billion dollars that Washington sent to Osama bin Laden's Mujahadeen to help fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. It moved the cash the Pakistani military and government officials skimmed from U.S. aid to the Mujahadeen. It also moved money as required by the Saudi intelligence services.

The BCCI operation gave Osama bin Laden an education in offshore black finance that he would put to use when he organised the jihad against the United States. He would move money through the Al-Taqwa Bank, operating in offshore Nassau and Switzerland with two Osama siblings as shareholders.

At the same time, BCCI helped Saddam Hussein, funneling millions of dollars to the Atlanta branch of the Italian government-owned Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), Baghdad's U.S. banker, so that from 1985 to 1989 it could make four billion dollars in secret loans to Iraq to help it buy arms.

U.S. Congressman Henry Gonzalez held a hearing on BNL in 1992 during which he quoted from a confidential CIA document that said the agency had long been aware that the bank's headquarters was involved in the U.S. branch's Iraqi loans.

Kickbacks from 15 percent commissions on BNL-sponsored loans were channeled into bank accounts held for Iraqi leaders via BCCI offices in the Caymans as well as in offshore Luxembourg and Switzerland. BNL was a client of Kissinger Associates, and Henry Kissinger was on the bank's international advisory board, along with Brent Scowcroft, who would become George Bush Sr.'s national security advisor. That connection makes the Bush administration's surprise and indignation at "oil for food" payoffs in Iraq seem disingenuous.

Important Saudis were influential in the bank. Sheik Kamal Adham, brother-in-law of the late Saudi King Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence from 1963 to 1979, and the CIA's liaison in the area, became one of BCCI's largest shareholders. George Bush Sr. knew Adham from his time running the CIA in 1975.

Another investor was Prince Turki bin Faisal al-Saud, who succeeded Adham as Saudi intelligence chief. The family of Khalid Salem bin Mahfouz, owner of the National Commercial Bank, the largest bank in Saudi Arabia, banker to King Fahd and other members of the ruling family, bought 20 to 30 percent of the stock for nearly one billion dollars. Bin Mahfouz was put on the board of directors.

The Arabs' interest in the bank was more than financial. A classified CIA memo on BCCI in the mid-1980s said that "its principal shareholders are among the power elite of the Middle East, including the rulers of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, and several influential Saudi Arabians. They are less interested in profitability than in promoting the Muslim cause."

The Bushes' private links to the bank passed to Bin Mahfouz through Texas businessman James R. Bath, who invested money in the United States on behalf of the Saudi regime. In 1976, when Bush was the head of the CIA, the agency sold some of the planes of Air America, a secret "proprietary" airline it used during the Vietnam War, to Skyway, a company owned by Bath and Bin Mahfouz. Bath then helped finance George W. Bush's oil company, Arbusto Energy Inc., in 1979 and 1980.

When Harken Energy Corp., which had absorbed Arbusto (by then merged with Spectrum 7 Energy), got into financial trouble in 1987, Jackson Stephens of the powerful, politically-connected Arkansas investment firm helped it secure 25 million dollars in financing from the Union Bank of Switzerland. As part of that deal, a place on the board was given to Harken shareholder Sheik Abdullah Taha Bakhsh, whose chief banker was BCCI shareholder Bin Mahfouz.

Then, in 1988, George Bush Sr. was elected president. Harken benefited by getting some new investors, including Salem bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's half-brother, and Khalid bin Mahfouz. Osama bin Laden himself was busy elsewhere at the time -- organising al Qaeda.

The money BCCI stole before it was shut down in 1991 -- somewhere between 9.5 billion and 15 billion dollars -- made its 20-year heist the biggest bank fraud in history. Most of it was never recovered. International banks' complicity in the offshore secrecy system effectively covered up the money trail.

But in the years after the collapse of BCCI, Khalid bin Mahfouz was still flush with cash. In 1992, he established the Muwafaq ("blessed relief") Foundation in the offshore Channel Islands. The U.S. Treasury Department called it "an al Qaeda front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen."

When the BCCI scandal began to break in the late 1980s, the Sr. Bush administration did what it could to sit on it. The Justice Department went after the culprits -- was virtually forced to -- only after New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau did. But evidence about BCCI's broader links exist in numerous U.S. and international investigations. Now could be a good time to take another look at the BCCI-Osama-Saddam-Saudi-Bush connection.

*Investigative journalist Lucy Komisar's chapter, "The BCCI Game: Banking on America, Banking on Jihad," appears in the new book "A Game as Old as Empire", just published by Berrett-Koehler (San Francisco). (END/2007)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

No more GWOT, House committee decrees

No more GWOT, House committee decrees

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Apr 4, 2007 16:11:56 EDT

The House Armed Services Committee is banishing the global war on terror from the 2008 defense budget.

This is not because the war has been won, lost or even called off, but because the committee’s Democratic leadership doesn’t like the phrase.

A memo for the committee staff, circulated March 27, says the 2008 bill and its accompanying explanatory report that will set defense policy should be specific about military operations and “avoid using colloquialisms.”

The “global war on terror,” a phrase first used by President Bush shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., should not be used, according to the memo. Also banned is the phrase the “long war,” which military officials began using last year as a way of acknowledging that military operations against terrorist states and organizations would not be wrapped up in a few years.

Committee staff members are told in the memo to use specific references to specific operations instead of the Bush administration’s catch phrases. The memo, written by Staff Director Erin Conaton, provides examples of acceptable phrases, such as “the war in Iraq,” the “war in Afghanistan, “operations in the Horn of Africa” or “ongoing military operations throughout the world.”

“There was no political intent in doing this,” said a Democratic aide who asked not to be identified. “We were just trying to avoid catch phrases.”

Josh Holly, a spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the committee’s former chairman and now its senior Republican, said Republicans “were not consulted” about the change.

Committee aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said dropping or reducing references to the global war on terror could have many purposes, including an effort to be more precise about military operations, but also has a political element involving a disagreement over whether the war in Iraq is part of the effort to combat terrorism or is actually a distraction from fighting terrorists.

House Democratic leaders who have been pushing for an Iraq withdrawal timetable have talked about the need to get combat troops out of Iraq so they can be deployed against terrorists in other parts of the world, while Republicans have said that Iraq is part of the front line in the war on terror. Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the armed services committee chairman, has been among those who have complained that having the military tied up with Iraq operations has reduced its capacity to respond to more pressing problems, like tracking down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

“This is a philosophical and political question,” said a Republican aide. “Republicans generally believe that by fighting the war on terror in Iraq, we are preventing terrorists from spreading elsewhere and are keeping them engaged so they are not attacking us at home.”

However, U.S. intelligence officials have been telling Congress that most of the violence in Iraq is the result of sectarian strife and not directly linked to terrorists, although some foreign insurgents with ties to terrorist groups have been helping to fuel the fighting.

“You have to wonder if this means that we have to rename the GWOT,” said a Republican aide, referring to the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medals established in 2003 for service members involved, directly and indirectly, in military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.

“If you are a reader of the Harry Potter books, you might describe this as the war that must not be named,” said another Republican aide. That is a reference to the fact that the villain in the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort, is often referred to as “he who must not be named” because of fears of his dark wizardry.

Zbigniew Brzezinski - Terrorized by 'War on Terror'

Terrorized by 'War on Terror'
How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America

By Zbigniew Brzezinski
Sunday, March 25, 2007; B01

The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done -- a classic self-inflicted wound -- is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."

To justify the "war on terror," the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.

The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own -- and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"; nor is it the calm America that waged the Cold War with quiet persistence despite the knowledge that a real war could be initiated abruptly within minutes and prompt the death of 100 million Americans within just a few hours. We are now divided, uncertain and potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist act in the United States itself.

That is the result of five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror, quite unlike the more muted reactions of several other nations (Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, to mention just a few) that also have suffered painful terrorist acts. In his latest justification for his war in Iraq, President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging it lest al-Qaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.

Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum. The terror entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily engaged in competition to justify their existence. Hence their task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence, sometimes even with blueprints for their implementation.

That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable. A recent study reported that in 2003, Congress identified 160 sites as potentially important national targets for would-be terrorists. With lobbyists weighing in, by the end of that year the list had grown to 1,849; by the end of 2004, to 28,360; by 2005, to 77,769. The national database of possible targets now has some 300,000 items in it, including the Sears Tower in Chicago and an Illinois Apple and Pork Festival.

Just last week, here in Washington, on my way to visit a journalistic office, I had to pass through one of the absurd "security checks" that have proliferated in almost all the privately owned office buildings in this capital -- and in New York City. A uniformed guard required me to fill out a form, show an I.D. and in this case explain in writing the purpose of my visit. Would a visiting terrorist indicate in writing that the purpose is "to blow up the building"? Would the guard be able to arrest such a self-confessing, would-be suicide bomber? To make matters more absurd, large department stores, with their crowds of shoppers, do not have any comparable procedures. Nor do concert halls or movie theaters. Yet such "security" procedures have become routine, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and further contributing to a siege mentality.

Government at every level has stimulated the paranoia. Consider, for example, the electronic billboards over interstate highways urging motorists to "Report Suspicious Activity" (drivers in turbans?). Some mass media have made their own contribution. The cable channels and some print media have found that horror scenarios attract audiences, while terror "experts" as "consultants" provide authenticity for the apocalyptic visions fed to the American public. Hence the proliferation of programs with bearded "terrorists" as the central villains. Their general effect is to reinforce the sense of the unknown but lurking danger that is said to increasingly threaten the lives of all Americans.

The entertainment industry has also jumped into the act. Hence the TV serials and films in which the evil characters have recognizable Arab features, sometimes highlighted by religious gestures, that exploit public anxiety and stimulate Islamophobia. Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in newspaper cartoons, have at times been rendered in a manner sadly reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Lately, even some college student organizations have become involved in such propagation, apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.

The atmosphere generated by the "war on terror" has encouraged legal and political harassment of Arab Americans (generally loyal Americans) for conduct that has not been unique to them. A case in point is the reported harassment of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for its attempts to emulate, not very successfully, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Some House Republicans recently described CAIR members as "terrorist apologists" who should not be allowed to use a Capitol meeting room for a panel discussion.

Social discrimination, for example toward Muslim air travelers, has also been its unintended byproduct. Not surprisingly, animus toward the United States even among Muslims otherwise not particularly concerned with the Middle East has intensified, while America's reputation as a leader in fostering constructive interracial and interreligious relations has suffered egregiously.

The record is even more troubling in the general area of civil rights. The culture of fear has bred intolerance, suspicion of foreigners and the adoption of legal procedures that undermine fundamental notions of justice. Innocent until proven guilty has been diluted if not undone, with some -- even U.S. citizens -- incarcerated for lengthy periods of time without effective and prompt access to due process. There is no known, hard evidence that such excess has prevented significant acts of terrorism, and convictions for would-be terrorists of any kind have been few and far between. Someday Americans will be as ashamed of this record as they now have become of the earlier instances in U.S. history of panic by the many prompting intolerance against the few.

In the meantime, the "war on terror" has gravely damaged the United States internationally. For Muslims, the similarity between the rough treatment of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military and of the Palestinians by the Israelis has prompted a widespread sense of hostility toward the United States in general. It's not the "war on terror" that angers Muslims watching the news on television, it's the victimization of Arab civilians. And the resentment is not limited to Muslims. A recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries that sought respondents' assessments of the role of states in international affairs resulted in Israel, Iran and the United States being rated (in that order) as the states with "the most negative influence on the world." Alas, for some that is the new axis of evil!

The events of 9/11 could have resulted in a truly global solidarity against extremism and terrorism. A global alliance of moderates, including Muslim ones, engaged in a deliberate campaign both to extirpate the specific terrorist networks and to terminate the political conflicts that spawn terrorism would have been more productive than a demagogically proclaimed and largely solitary U.S. "war on terror" against "Islamo-fascism." Only a confidently determined and reasonable America can promote genuine international security which then leaves no political space for terrorism.

Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, "Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia"? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, is the author most recently of "Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower" (Basic Books).

Joe Klein in Tomorrow's TIME: Bush 'Clearly Unfit to Lead'

Joe Klein in Tomorrow's TIME: Bush 'Clearly Unfit to Lead'

By E&P Staff

Published: April 05, 2007 1:35 PM ET
NEW YORK In the upcoming issue of Time magazine, out Friday, columnist Joe Klein considers what he calls the Bush administration’s “epic collapse.” He concludes with a statement that may make some wonder if he is hinting that the president ought to be impeached.

Klein claims, in referring to the president, that he has “tried to be respectful of the man and the office” but now he recognizes that the “defining sins” of his administration “are congenital: they’re part of his personality. They’re not likely to change. And it is increasingly difficult to imagine yet another two years of slow bleed with a leader so clearly unfit to lead.”

Earlier in the column, Klein hits Bush's "adolescent petulance" and "indifference to reality in Iraq" and charges that his "hyper-partisanship" amounts to "a travesty of governance." He declares that the three major Bush problems of the year “precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance (the surge), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S. Attorneys)."

Klein considers Attorneygate, compared to the others, to be “a relatively minor matter.” Still, it is an area where Karl Rove “has corrupted a policy area – like national security—that should be off-limits to political operators.”

Meanwhile, in a profile in the same issue, Ana Marie Cox urges “Don’t Laugh at Al Franken.”

He is running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota and “at the moment,” she declares, “Franken is well positioned to become the state’s Democratic nominee” -- although the latest poll, she says, shows him losing to incumbent Norm Coleman in the general election by 10%.

The Minnesota GOP has called Franken an op-researcher’s “dream,” she notes. They claim he has been hostile, “at times crude” and that “he’s got an anger issue.” While the Republicans admit most of his comments have been merely for fun, “Franken will need to convince voters,” she writes, “that his past remarks were ‘just jokes’ and that he is more than ‘just’ a comedian.”

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Top Marine says Iraq war diverted the Corps from necessary training

Top Marine says Iraq war diverted the Corps from necessary training
AP Military Writer

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The strains of fighting in Iraq have forced the Marine Corps to forego training in jungle warfare and other skills that are the traditional backbone of the Corps, the Marines’ top general said Wednesday.

“We’re not training for the other kinds” of combat that could arise at short notice, Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, told a group of Marines at the U.S. naval headquarters for the Persian Gulf.

“We are the nation’s shock troops,” he said, stressing that Marines have to be prepared to make amphibious landings and conduct operations that require training they are not getting now because Marine infantry and air units returning from Iraq have time only to get ready for their next tour of duty there.

“We’ve simply got to get back some of those skills,” like firing artillery, he said.

Conway stopped in Bahrain before heading to Iraq to visit some of the 25,000 Marines in Anbar province, the predominantly Sunni Arab region that runs west from Baghdad to its borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

An extra 4,000 Marines were sent to Anbar in recent weeks as part of President Bush’s new Iraq strategy.

Three ships in the Gulf carry Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is conducting an exercise now but may be called on soon to go ashore in Iraq. If so, the 2,220 Marines of the 26th would replace a like number from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is now leaving Iraq and will return to their ships this month after having twice had their Iraq tours lengthened by 30 days.

Conway said that based on his visit to Anbar in December, he was encouraged by the decision of many Sunni sheiks to stop cooperating with, or tolerating, al-Qaida extremists who are fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces.

“Those folks have just had it” with the extremists, he said, and are taking up arms against them.

There are now about 25,000 Marines in Iraq as part of a total U.S. contingent of more than 140,000.

McCain's Photo Op kills 21 people

McCain's Photo Op kills 21 people

Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 10:26:36 PM CDT

On April the 2nd, John McCain did his staged photo op in a flak jacket, 100 troops, 2 Apaches and 3 Blackhawks to say "This market is Safe"

In a story today in the London Times, they report on this Obscenity:

...21 Shia market workers were ambushed, bound and shot dead north of the capital. The victims came from the Baghdad market visited the previous day by John McCain, the US presidential candidate, who said that an American security plan in the capital was starting to show signs of progress.

It's almost certain that this market was targeted because of McCain's visit. Which would mean his photo opportunity meant that 21 innocent workers were kidnapped, tied hand and foot and shot in the head.

Well, I've woken up and found this on the Recommended list. There's some of complaints that the story hasn't been fleshed out , so thanks to pgm 01 for these two stories.

New York Times

The delegation arrived at the market, which is called Shorja, on Sunday with more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees — the equivalent of an entire company — and attack helicopters circled overhead, a senior American military official in Baghdad said. The soldiers redirected traffic from the area and restricted access to the Americans, witnesses said, and sharpshooters were posted on the roofs. The congressmen wore bulletproof vests throughout their hourlong visit.

International The News

In another brutal attack, suspected militants massacred a group of 21 Shia workers overnight after laying an ambush north of Baghdad.Travelling in three minibuses, the workers were abducted on the main road out of Baghdad to neighbouring Diyala. The 21 Shias, together with six Kurdish colleagues still missing, worked in Shorja market of Baghdad.

Another conservative has a change of heart

Another conservative has a change of heart

Former Clinton inquisitor Bob Barr explains why he left the Republican Party and why he shouldn't have voted for the Patriot Act.

By Alex Koppelman

Apr. 04, 2007 | During the Clinton administration, Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia was one of the most visible Republicans in America. In 1998, the arch-conservative was a House manager of President Clinton's impeachment trial. But since leaving Congress in 2003, Barr has become a vocal critic of the constitutionally questionable policies of Clinton's Republican successor, George W. Bush. In 2004, he declined to support Bush's reelection, and in late 2006 he formally left the GOP to take a leadership position in the Libertarian Party. Two weeks ago, Barr and several other conservative heavyweights announced the founding of the American Freedom Agenda, a group opposed to what it sees as assaults on civil liberties in post-9/11 America. And in another break with his past, last week Barr, an erstwhile anti-drug warrior who once led a congressional effort to block medical marijuana use in the District of Columbia, announced that he is joining the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project as a lobbyist.

Salon spoke with Barr about his views on civil liberties, the American Freedom Agenda and his reasons for abandoning his old party. We reached him at an Atlanta phone number that ends, like all of the office numbers Barr maintains, in the digits 1-7-7-6.

You recently announced the creation of the American Freedom Agenda. Can you tell me a little bit about that and what you're doing there?

This is part of a multifaceted effort to bring attention to the abuses and losses of our fundamental, constitutionally guaranteed liberties since 9/11. This particular effort is spearheaded by [former Reagan administration official] Bruce Fein and focuses on 10 specific issues related to our fundamental civil liberties that Bruce, myself, [American Conservative Union chairman] Dave Keene, [conservative direct-mail pioneer] Richard Viguerie and hopefully a number of others feel are extremely important and go to the core of constitutional liberties in this country. So we're going to focus on those efforts to educate the public, drive home the message to appropriate members in the House and the Senate as to the importance of these constitutional liberties and work to ensure legislation, where appropriate, to address them.

You also recently announced that you were leaving the Republican Party and joining the Libertarian Party. What was your reason for doing that?

Several-fold. One, that the Libertarian Party, among all of the parties out there, is the only one that is true to my core philosophy of working to minimize government power and maximize individual liberty. None of the other parties, and especially the Republican Party any longer, is at all committed to that philosophy. And secondly, my great concern, manifested especially since 9/11, is the assaults on our fundamental civil liberties by this administration. [That's] personified, for example, in the disregard for the rule of law as exhibited by the warrantless NSA [National Security Agency] electronic surveillance in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. More recently, [there were] documented abuses at the FBI in carrying out certain of the expanded powers granted in the Patriot Act, namely, national security letters. And in January of this year, the testimony by the attorney general that this administration does not believe that the fundamental right to a writ of habeas corpus is an important, fundamental, constitutional guarantee. So what we have is a party, the Republican Party, to which I was very proud to belong for many, many years, no longer being committed to a core conservative philosophy. The Libertarian Party is so committed, and I felt that at the time that it was necessary to make a change because of the seriousness of the assaults on our civil liberties.

Why not the Democratic Party?

The Democratic Party, while much better than the Republican Party on these particular issues, in other areas does not share my commitment to smaller government, maximized individual power and minimized government power. For example, in many social programs, [Democrats] use the power of taxation to take money from individuals and use [it] for expanded government programs of dubious value and dubious constitutional basis.

How viable a force is the Libertarian Party?

Certainly it is not in the same league with the Republican or Democrat Party; no other third party is. Our country, for 150 years or so, has been very much in sync with a two-party system, and the entire political and electoral process is centered around that. So the real goal for the Libertarian Party in my view -- I certainly don't speak for it -- needs to be to take that core philosophy and do a top-notch job of explaining it to the American people, and to impress on the American people the value of having a third party that is a true, workable alternative. [It needs to] work to identify, recruit and support good candidates for elective office at all levels, to work to open up the political and electoral process in this country so there are ways for a third party to truly become a player in that process and to articulate its philosophy in ways that appeal to and are relevant to the average voter, the average family out there. And certainly the libertarian philosophy of reduced regulatory burden, reduced tax burden, much smaller government and so forth, I think, will resonate very well with the American people.

What do your old Republican colleagues and supporters think of your move?

I have no idea. When I talk with individual members and political colleagues, they all express understanding of why I made the move. Pretty much everybody is frustrated on the Republican side -- at least [everybody] that I've worked with -- with the current stance of the party, which is clearly not in the direction of smaller government but in the direction of much larger government, a much more activist, powerful federal government. [There's] a lot of dissatisfaction among Republicans, so really I don't think it came as a shock or a surprise to anybody that knows me and the issues that I've worked on over the years to see that I made that change.

I was just reading a Dana Milbank column from early 2006 about your appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference [the American Conservative Union's annual convention in Washington], and it seemed as if you didn't get a very warm reaction when you were opposing some of the administration's policies. I've talked with some other conservatives about this -- do you think that the conservative movement has become tied to the president and his policies?

I think the problem is that many conservatives have allowed themselves, in recent years, to view the conservative movement as not simply consistent with, but completely incorporated into, the Republican Party. That has caused, I think, significant problems and sort of warped the views of many conservatives -- who have sort of allowed allegiance to a party, that is, the Republican Party, or an administration, that is, the George W. Bush administration, to trump what they know in their heart of hearts is a much better approach, and that is a true conservative approach.

So the conservative movement in recent years has suffered from allowing itself to become captured by the Republican Party, and it has lost, in many respects, its independence, the power that comes from being a true independent, principled movement, the conservative movement. These issues have become very complex because of that. So, for example, when you go to speak to a group of conservatives and you are critical of the way the current administration has been denigrating civil liberties and individual freedom, many conservatives rally to the defense of the administration because they support the administration.

But I think that's changing, and you can see that, for example, just in microcosm in the group that Bruce Fein has pulled together for the AFA. David Keene, a very well-respected, longtime leader of the conservative movement, and Richard Viguerie, likewise a longtime expert on grass-roots movement on the conservative side, joining with Bruce and me to say, "Look, there are some issues here that are much more important than a political party or a particular administration and true conservatives need to band together and work for these civil liberties." So I think it really means a lot when you have leaders like that who come out and highlight what we're doing here.

We've been talking about civil liberties since 9/11. You voted for the Patriot Act -- what role did that play in any loss of civil liberties, and what do you think of that vote now?

It's a vote that I would not cast now, knowing how the powers in the act have been abused, and [seeing] how vast not just the Patriot Act powers but other powers that the administration has simply taken for itself or that Congress has granted have increased dramatically the power of the federal government. These are of great concern to me, and that's why I worked very strenuously in '05 and '06 to try to have the Patriot Act amended and some of its provisions that were up for renewal rescinded. That's why I've worked so very hard, also over the last few years, to bring attention to the real problems, where you have unfettered power for an administration, any administration, such as was granted in the Patriot Act. These are very serious problems, and even though there were some worthwhile provisions in the Patriot Act, which is why I voted for it back in '01, looking back on it now and seeing how it has been used and abused since then makes very clear in my mind that that act should not have been passed in the form that it was.

You were one of the House managers during the Clinton impeachment trial -- looking back now, what do you think of that period?

Of course, it was a different administration, different issues. The issues in the impeachment related to the sanctity of our judicial system, obstruction of justice and perjury by a very high government official, which I think certainly, even today, are very worthwhile and important to uphold: the principle that no individual is above the law regardless of their position, that when a person takes an oath in open court to tell the truth they do so, and that if they demonstrably have not done so they should pay a price for that, and the public should know about it. So I think the issues that we addressed in the impeachment were very, very important.

Speaking of that, Sen. Chuck Hagel [R-Neb.] recently speculated aloud about impeaching President Bush. Given your own experience, what do you think of impeachment when it comes to this president?

Some of the issues that we've looked at, and that have come to the public's attention in recent years, I think are extremely serious and ought to be inquired into by the Congress. On the issue of warrantless electronic surveillance, Congress still does not have a full and accurate view of what has gone on and what continues to go on with regard to what seems to me to be a clear violation of the terms of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the administration. That's just one small area that I think Congress definitely needs to look into. Where they take it from there depends on what they find out, but it's certainly something that needs to be looked at.

Wade Leaps

Wade Leaps
By cyncooperTue Apr 03, 2007 at 01:02:26 PM EST
topic: 'Faith Based Initiative' section:Front Page

Wade Horn resigned as Assistant Secretary of Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services yesterday, and effective this weekend. I wrote about Horn in "Hand That Feeds" onTalk2Action a few weeks ago. Horn is a go-to guy for the Religious Right but he always seemed to get a free pass from the media. I focused a recent grant his department gave for $1 million to an organization that he founded, the National Fatherhood Initiative.

There were other questionable grants by Horn -- giving money to reporters to write articles, funding a group on whose board he had been seated. He oversaw the failed abstinence program, and set up "Responsible Fatherhood," which sounded identical to the right-wing pet project he previously ran. On the rare occasions when explanations were sought, they sounded absurd but never attracted much attention.

In "Blowing the Whistle on Wade Horn," the Revealer wrote:

Why is Wade Horn invisible to the press? Is it because the media is part of a vast right-wing conspiracy? Is it because reporters hate women and queers? Not likely. Rather, it has more to do with a decades-long decline in press coverage of the federal government's middle managers, who oftentimes have more influence over our everyday lives than the boldface names. Such stories don't sell papers, but they do serve the public interest.

Hewing to the "traditional families" line, in which men run families and women submit to their men, Horn's policies were as objectionable as his cozy manipulation of funds. He set up programs to hand over billions of dollars to churches and right wing organizations under vague programs of marriage counseling and failed policies such as abstinence education. He effectively operated from inside the government as a banker to fund religious right policy.

In the last month, others also began to take a second look at Horn. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, wrote Right Wing "Father"land in a regular column,

Opposing everything NOW stands for (from abortion rights to economic justice), Horn founded The National Organization of Fathers, and openly stated his belief that "the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church." He even advocated that federal benefits, such as Head Start and subsidized housing, should only be available to children of married couples, not single parents. So of course the Bush administration put him in charge of all the welfare and public assistance programs that primarily serve those very same single mothers he so detests. And did he find a way to derail the funding away from single moms? You bet he did.

As Planned Parenthood Federation of America noted of Horn on his resignation:
"Horn's political appointment was a classic case of the Bush administration prizing ideology over public health."

Horn's installation of right-wing policies inside the government and bestowing them generously with funds, while starving alternatives, was being to roil.

An Associated Press article noted:

Others viewed Horn's work more skeptically. Horn oversaw a dramatic increase in funding for abstinence education, which now exceeds $200 million a year. Some groups would prefer that the administration fund comprehensive sex education programs, which would include abstinence as part of the curriculum.

"Because (the abstinence funding) is so contrary to public health, our hope is the next assistant secretary there can have a firmer footing on what the evidence says," said William Smith, vice president for public policy for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

Horn had stonewalled successfully for years. A legal action filed with the HHS Civil Rights division by Legal Momentum, pushed some buttons. It alleged sex discrimination in 34 or 100 programs funded under the "Responsible Fatherhood" initative, and cited the funding that went directly to Horn's old program as running as high as $5 million.

HHS has stymied repeated efforts by the women's rights groups to learn more about how these programs managed to secure federal funding. The Department has delayed releasing copies of the funding applications for the programs - which describe in detail how the funds will be used - in spite of repeated requests from Legal Momentum. The only publicly available information comes from very brief summaries on the Department's website.

One of the discriminatory grants has drawn allegations of cronyism from the women's advocates: $5 million awarded to the National Fatherhood Initiative, an organization previously directed by Wade Horn, the federal official in charge of the program under which the grant was made. HHS has not responded to a letter of complaint about this grant. Horn has previously been criticized for arguing that single parent families, most of whom are headed by women, should receive vital social services only if funding remains after all married families have been served.

With Democrats in control of Congress, Horm may be leaving government, but hopefully he will be required to head back to the Hill to answer more questions. And opening up the Bush "faith-based" granting policies to public review is more necessary than ever.

It's not just Wade Horn -- that's where the media really needs to devote its attention.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

PAUL KRUGMAN - Distract and Disenfranchise

Distract and Disenfranchise


I have a theory about the Bush administration abuses of power that are now, finally, coming to light. Ultimately, I believe, they were driven by rising income inequality.

Let me explain.

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan won the White House, conservative ideas appealed to many, even most, Americans. At the time, we were truly a middle-class nation. To white voters, at least, the vast inequalities and social injustices of the past, which were what originally gave liberalism its appeal, seemed like ancient history. It was easy, in that nation, to convince many voters that Big Government was their enemy, that they were being taxed to provide social programs for other people.

Since then, however, we have once again become a deeply unequal society. Median income has risen only 17 percent since 1980, while the income of the richest 0.1 percent of the population has quadrupled. The gap between the rich and the middle class is as wide now as it was in the 1920s, when the political coalition that would eventually become the New Deal was taking shape.

And voters realize that society has changed. They may not pore over income distribution tables, but they do know that today’s rich are building themselves mansions bigger than those of the robber barons. They may not read labor statistics, but they know that wages aren’t going anywhere: according to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of workers believe that it’s harder to earn a decent living today than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

You know that perceptions of rising inequality have become a political issue when even President Bush admits, as he did in January, that “some of our citizens worry about the fact that our dynamic economy is leaving working people behind.”

But today’s Republicans can’t respond in any meaningful way to rising inequality, because their activists won’t let them. You could see the dilemma just this past Friday and Saturday, when almost all the G.O.P. presidential hopefuls traveled to Palm Beach to make obeisance to the Club for Growth, a supply-side pressure group dedicated to tax cuts and privatization.

The Republican Party’s adherence to an outdated ideology leaves it with big problems. It can’t offer domestic policies that respond to the public’s real needs. So how can it win elections?

The answer, for a while, was a combination of distraction and disenfranchisement.

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 were themselves a massive, providential distraction; until then the public, realizing that Mr. Bush wasn’t the moderate he played in the 2000 election, was growing increasingly unhappy with his administration. And they offered many opportunities for further distractions. Rather than debating Democrats on the issues, the G.O.P. could denounce them as soft on terror. And do you remember the terror alert, based on old and questionable information, that was declared right after the 2004 Democratic National Convention?

But distraction can only go so far. So the other tool was disenfranchisement: finding ways to keep poor people, who tend to vote for the party that might actually do something about inequality, out of the voting booth.

Remember that disenfranchisement in the form of the 2000 Florida “felon purge,” which struck many legitimate voters from the rolls, put Mr. Bush in the White House in the first place. And disenfranchisement seems to be what much of the politicization of the Justice Department was about.

Several of the fired U.S. attorneys were under pressure to pursue allegations of voter fraud — a phrase that has become almost synonymous with “voting while black.” Former staff members of the Justice Department’s civil rights division say that they were repeatedly overruled when they objected to Republican actions, ranging from Georgia’s voter ID law to Tom DeLay’s Texas redistricting, that they believed would effectively disenfranchise African-American voters.

The good news is that all the G.O.P.’s abuses of power weren’t enough to win the 2006 elections. And 2008 may be even harder for the Republicans, because the Democrats — who spent most of the Clinton years trying to reassure rich people and corporations that they weren’t really populists — seem to be realizing that times have changed.

A week before the Republican candidates trooped to Palm Beach to declare their allegiance to tax cuts, the Democrats met to declare their commitment to universal health care. And it’s hard to see what the G.O.P. can offer in response.

Glenn Greenwald - Still more extraordinary anti-democracy comments from Giuliani

Still more extraordinary anti-democracy comments from Giuliani

(updated below - updated again)

Glenn Greenwald

Over the weekend, it was revealed by National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru that Rudy Giuliani believes that, as President, he would have the power to imprison American citizens without any sort of review of any kind, and Giuliani stated he hoped to exercise that power only "infrequently" (Mitt Romney said he'd have to convene a team of "smart lawyers" before he could answer). That Giuliani expressly believes that, as President, he can exercise (and apparently intends to exercise, though just "infrequently") one of the most tyrannical and un-American powers there is received notice only in the blogosphere, but not in any national media outlets.

Now, NR's Rich Lowry, who attended a Giuliani event in New Hampshire last night, reveals statements made by Giuliani explaining his views of presidential war powers that are at least as extremist and disturbing as the ones revealed this weekend:

Rudy to Bush: Ignore Congress?

Rudy was asked about the Iraq supplemental. He said he finds it "irresponsible and dangerous." Then he began to muse about, after a veto, "would the president have the constitutional authority to support them [the troops], anyway?" He said he's a lawyer so he wouldn't offer an opinion "off the top of his head," then he proceeded to do just that.

He seemed to suggest that Bush could fund the Iraq war without Congress providing funding, but it was confusing. In an interview with a New Hampshire TV reporter after his remarks, he seemed more categorical and said, since the war had been authorized by Congress, the president has "the inherent authority to support the troops." But he added, "You have to ask a constitutional lawyer."

It really should go without saying that (as even Bush supporter Rich Lowry recognizes) these comments ought to be a major media story. One could even argue that, standing alone, they are office-disqualifying. Particularly in light of Giuliani's belief in process-less arrest of American citizens, this really is a complete repudiation of how our government works, of the most basic and unquestioned constitutional principles of our republic. Literally.

At least up until now, even the most radical of the Bush Theorists of Presidential Omnipotence -- even the John Yoo/Dick Cheney/David Addington strain -- have acknowledged that the two (and, in their view, seemingly only) powers Congress has is to fund or de-fund various policies, and make decisions about war, and that Congress therefore has the power to end the war in Iraq by refusing to fund it or de-authorizing it. Even John Yoo -- the most radical worshipper of limitless executive power and one of the architects of the administration's radical theories of lawlessness -- said in a February Op-Ed in The New York Times:

The fact is, Congress has every power to end the war -- if it really wanted to. It has the power of the purse. . . . Not only could Congress cut off money, it could require scheduled troop withdrawals, shrink or eliminate units, or freeze weapons supplies. It could even repeal or amend the authorization to use force it passed in 2002. . . .

But to stop President Bush's proposed troop surge, Congress doesn't have to do anything. It can just sit back and fail to enact the periodic supplemental spending measures required to keep the war going. Congress has wielded considerable power by just threatening such measures, as with President James K. Polk in the Mexican-American War and President Ronald Reagan in Lebanon after the 1983 barracks bombing.

That Yoo and company recognize this power is not a sign of their reasonableness. They hardly have a choice. The Constitution unambiguously and expressly assigns these powers to Congress in Article I -- so clearly that even the Cheney wing does not dare deny these powers. Yet here is Giuliani expressly proclaiming that Congress has no such power, that the President can literally ignore the Congressional exercise of the funding power and simply fund his own wars, presumably from some Presidential slush fund or by diverting the money from elsewhere.

Really, what country is Giuliani describing? It's basically an open embrace of the Iran-Contra theory of Government -- where Congress cuts off funding, the President can just go find a secret fund somewhere else and fund it anyway. To his credit, Lowry recognized just how extreme and damaging these statements are, and so he pursued it further with Giuliani after the event:

In a brief press availability in front of his campaign bus, I asked Rudy whether he was saying Bush could veto the supplemental and, in the absence of a deal with Congress, fund the troops in Iraq under his own authority. "If he vetoes it, he's going to have to find a way to support the troops," Rudy said. "They have given him the authorization to fight the war," and "Bush has the power to redirect the money and time to work something out" with Congress. The last bit suggests that maybe Rudy is thinking in terms of only the next few weeks and not making a broader claim about presidential authority (although he kept on saying "inherent authority" over and over).

But it wasn't quite clear what he meant, and his statements could be seized on by his critics to argue that he has a dangerously out-sized view of presidential powers. I'll defer to the lawyers in here, but my understanding is that Rudy is wrong: the president can't simply re-direct money Congress has appropriated for specific purposes.

Despite the minimal caveats, Giuliani made the claim three times in the same night -- first at the event itself, then in an interview with a local reporter afterwards, then with Lowry. Each time, he proclaimed that the President has the power to fund the war on his own even once Congress exercises its Constitutional power -- a power which, up until now, I have never heard anyone question -- to cut off funding for the war.

And Giuliani's caveats are meaningless. Certain ideas are so obviously wrong and repellent to our system of government -- such as process-less imprisonment of American citizens, or a President's power to fund his own war over Congressional de-funding -- that no American with an instinctive belief in that system would even be receptive to it. The very idea that the President can prosecute and fund a war unilaterally -- out of some secret Executive slush fund of billions of dollars that he lords over, or by diverting funds appropriated for other purposes -- is (just like Giuliani's belief in process-less imprisonment) the very opposite of our constitutional framework.

Giuliani's reign in New York revealed unmistakably how instinctively authoritarian he is. There are many superb prosecutors in this country who perform an honorable and important function. But what makes a good prosecutor is a sense of balance and restraint as a proper limit on the power of government coercion. In my view, what demonstrated what a superior prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is was not that he obtained an indictment and conviction of Lewis Libby, but that he chose not to indict Karl Rove, even though he plainly could have secured an indictment. Good prosecutors believe in genuine restraints and limits on government power -- and, most of all, recognize that their belief that they are on the side of Good does not justify limitless power.

Giuliani is the precise opposite. He has the mentality and instincts of the definitively overzealous and wild-eyed prosecutor who (just like George Bush) believes so much in his own Righteouness that he sees any limitations on his power as an ally of Evil. For that reason, he exhibits unbridled contempt for limitations on government authority and he just refuses to accept such limits. Whatever else is true about Giuliani, that is exactly the most dangerous attribute in a candidate at this time in our country when the dominant right-wing faction of the Republican Party believes in vesting -- and has made great strides to vest -- the very tyrannical powers in the Leader which our country was founded to avoid.

This Salon article by Cintra Wilson remains an excellent summary of Giuliani's conduct in public life which reveals what a power-worshipping authoritarian he really is. It is for precisely that reason that I wrote a couple months ago that Giuliani's candidacy was being wildly under-estimated, because what the "base" of today's Republican Party wants far more than anything else (far more than social conservative purity) is a power-exuding authoritarian Leader -- in particular, someone who has genuine contempt for the Enemies (The Terorrists and the liberals, not necessarily in that order) and a resulting refusal to recognize any limits in his powers to fight against those enemies.

More than any other candidate, Giuliani exudes those authoritarian traits, which is what accounts for his unparalleled popularity as a candidate, including among the extremist base of the GOP. And it's why they can't stand McCain even though his views are actually more doctrinally "conservative" than Giuliani's -- because McCain doesn't seem to hate liberals viscerally enough and seems to believe in some (very minimal) limits and restraints on what the Leader can do.

Rudy Giuliani -- the leading Republican candidate for President -- has made two of the most extraordinary statements of any major presidential candidate in a long time. In a rational world, this would be a major scandal and Democratic (and the other Republican) candidates would be rushing to make their views clear on these matters. But the revelation that Giuliani believes in process-less imprisonment (and that Romney can only decide once his lawyers are done debating it) provoked virtually no attention (but hey, those first-quarter fundraising numbers sure were interesting!).

Despite the fact that the media is only recently acknowledging it, we have had a serious Constitutional crisis in this country for the last six years as a result of a President who literally embraces a theory that vests him with the power to ignore the law. That crisis never really materialized because the submissive Congress acquiesced to the concept of President as monarch -- the Republican-led Congress (often with the passive acceptance of Democrats) chose to do nothing when the array of presidential lawbreaking was discovered (other than pass laws retroactively legalizing the lawbreaking).

For that reason, it is actually unknown what the Bush administration would really do if Congress (or the courts) sought to impose genuine limits on the President's will even in areas where those branches have unquestioned authority to act -- would the White House accept those limits or proclaim them to be invalid (because they impermissibly interfere with the President's "inherent powers") and ignore them? But here Giuliani is, making expressly clear what he would do in such a situation. Nothing can limit his powers, including express provisions of the Constitution regarding war-making. That seems worthy of some note, at least.

UPDATE: It is glaringly clear that the most important priority for the Republican base -- by far -- is that the new Leader be filled with contempt for his enemies and refuse to accept limits on his own power. Anyone who doubts that should consider the fact that conservative pundits like Kate O'Beirne (here and here ) and Rich Lowry (here) have both said that Giuliani's horrendous and publicly humiliating treatment of his second wife, as he was divorcing her, is actually a great asset among some Republican base voters. As Lowry put it:

Have been talking to some smart people today about Giuliani. Two of them said independently that the appeal of Giuliani is he'd be "a tough SOB -- for you," and that he'd be "a d*head -- for you." Another said . . . that a Giuliani supporter he knows considers the nasty divorce a kind of asset because it speaks to his toughness. . . .

Giuliani doesn't want to fight with the social right and that makes him different from most past pro-choice candidates, and Giuliani gets credit from conservatives for the sheer pugnacity with which he's stood up to liberals.

O'Beirne passed along an email from a friend which stated: "Contrary to popular speculation, the apparently brutal public dumping of Donna Hanover can only bolster the popularity of the man with conservatives." O'Beirne also suggested that an old Giuliani campaign ad showcasing his lovely family could be revised to say: "Don't worry. I dumped them all because I am that tough guy."

The "family values" party considers it an asset that their leading candidate so brutally dumped his second wife in order to marry his third one. That is why it is no surprise that a thrice-married, social conservative "liberal" can be so wildly popular among the GOP base. It is not political "conservatism" in the way that term has been understood, but instead is an authoritarian movement that venerates state power and desperately seeks a strong, protective Leader far more than any political beliefs or policies. Haven't the last six years demonstrated that beyond doubt?

That is why Giuliani's craving for radical and undemocratic powers -- and his glaring openness about it -- will only bolster his appeal in this party (in exactly the way that George Bush's did, and in exactly the way that John McCain's disloyal efforts to impose some minimal (really just symbolic) limits on the President's detention and interrogation powers earned him such contempt).

UPDATE II: Lowry now passes on an e-mail from "a friend" suggesting that there is authority in a statute -- The Food & Forage Act of 1861 -- which allows some short-term presidential reshuffling of appropriations where the monies authorized for certain programs fall short. Leave aside the (not entirely clear) question of whether that statute would authorize a few weeks worth of funding of the Iraq War where Congress has refused to fund the entire venture (as opposed to merely failing to appropriate enough monies for activities it seeks to fund).

Regardless of any of those quibblings, it is abundantly clear that Giuliani was not referring to this bureaucratic statutory re-shuffling power, since -- as Lowry himself noted -- Giluiani "kept on saying 'inherent authority' over and over" to justify the President's power to fund the war even if Congress refuses to do so. That is the Yoo Theory of The Omnipotent President applied to war funding -- if, as Giuliani himself said, he believes that the President has the "inherent authority" to fund and prosecute a war once it begins, then it means, by definition, that he has this power regardless of what any statute says, and that (at least in the Yoo world) there are no limits (temporal or situational) that can be placed on that power.

Giuliani himself said he was relying not upon any statutory power, but -- as he put it -- "the inherent authority to support the troops." This was the question Giuliani said he was addressing: whether "the president ha[s] the constitutional authority to support them [the troops], anyway." Searching around now for a statute is merely an effort after the fact to bestow a more benign meaning on Giuliani's comments that he plainly did not intend.