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, June 02, 2007

US Attorney resigns following Conyers’ request for BBC documents

US Attorney resigns following Conyers’ request for BBC documents
by Greg Palast
June 2, 2007

Tim Griffin, formerly right hand man to Karl Rove, resigned Thursday as US Attorney for Arkansas hours after BBC Television ‘Newsnight’ reported that Congressman John Conyers requested the network’s evidence on Griffin’s involvement in ‘caging voters.’ Greg Palast, reporting for BBC Newsnight, obtained a series of confidential emails from the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign. In these emails, Griffin, then the GOP Deputy Communications Director, transmitted so-called ‘caging lists’ of voters to state party leaders.

Experts have concluded the caging lists were designed for a mass challenge of voters’ right to cast ballots. The caging lists were heavily weighted with minority voters including homeless individuals, students and soldiers sent overseas.

Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee investigating the firing of US Attorneys, met Thursday evening in New York with Palast. After reviewing key documents, Conyers stated that, despite Griffin’s resignation, “We’re not through with him by any means.”

Conyers indicated to the BBC that he thought it unlikely that Griffin could carry out this massive ‘caging’ operation without the knowledge of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rove.

Griffin has not responded to requests by BBC to explain this 'caging' operation. However, in emails subpoenaed by Conyers' committee, Griffin complains to Monica Goodling, an assistant to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, about the BBC reporter's reproduction of caging lists in Palast's book, "Armed Madhouse."

In the email dated February 5 of this year, Griffin stated that the purpose of 'caging' was to identify "fraudulent" voters. This contradicts one explanation of the Bush campaign to BBC that the lists were of potential donors and not in any way created to challenge voters.

Griffin confidentially wrote: "The real story is this: There were thousands of reported illegal/fake voter registrations around the country, so some of the Republican State Parties mailed letters welcoming new voters to the newly registered voters. … The Republican State Parties ultimately wanted to show that thousands of fraudulent registrations had been completed."

Last Wednesday, Goodling testified under a grant of immunity before the House Judiciary Committee that Gonzales' Deputy Paul McNulty, "failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of allegations that Tim Griffin had been involved in vote 'caging' during his work on the President's 2004 campaign."

Goodling's testimony prompted Conyers' request to the BBC for the Griffin emails.

Last night Palast showed Conyers a Griffin email from August 2004 indicating that Griffin not only knew of 'caging,' but directed the operation.

---
And check out this story from Slate: Raging Caging - What the heck is vote caging, and why should we care? Here: http://www.slate.com/id/2167284/pagenum/all/#page_start

Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, ARMED MADHOUSE: From Baghdad to New Orleans -- Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild. For information, go to www.GregPalast.com

http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2007/2619

Friday, June 01, 2007

Andrew Sullivan - "Verschärfte Vernehmung"

"Verschärfte Vernehmung"

29 May 2007 12:36 pm

Translationofmuellermemo

The phrase "Verschärfte Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their "enhanced interrogation techniques" would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

Also: the use of hypothermia, authorized by Bush and Rumsfeld, was initially forbidden. 'Waterboarding" was forbidden too, unlike that authorized by Bush. As time went on, historians have found that all the bureaucratic restrictions were eventually broken or abridged. Once you start torturing, it has a life of its own. The "cold bath" technique - the same as that used by Bush against al-Qahtani in Guantanamo - was, according to professor Darius Rejali of Reed College,

pioneered by a member of the French Gestapo by the pseudonym Masuy about 1943. The Belgian resistance referred to it as the Paris method, and the Gestapo authorized its extension from France to at least two places late in the war, Norway and Czechoslovakia. That is where people report experiencing it.

In Norway, we actually have a 1948 court case that weighs whether "enhanced interrogation" using the methods approved by president Bush amounted to torture. The proceedings are fascinating, with specific reference to the hypothermia used in Gitmo, and throughout interrogation centers across the field of conflict. The Nazi defense of the techniques is almost verbatim that of the Bush administration...

Agcorpse3

Here's a document from Norway's 1948 war-crimes trials detailing the prosecution of Nazis convicted of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the Second World War. Money quote from the cases of three Germans convicted of war crimes for "enhanced interrogation":

Between 1942 and 1945, Bruns used the method of "verschärfte Vernehmung" on 11 Norwegian citizens. This method involved the use of various implements of torture, cold baths and blows and kicks in the face and all over the body. Most of the prisoners suffered for a considerable time from the injuries received during those interrogations.

Between 1942 and 1945, Schubert gave 14 Norwegian prisoners "verschärfte Vernehmung," using various instruments of torture and hitting them in the face and over the body. Many of the prisoners suffered for a considerable time from the effects of injuries they received.

On 1st February, 1945, Clemens shot a second Norwegian prisoner from a distance of 1.5 metres while he was trying to escape. Between 1943 and 1945, Clemens employed the method of " verschäfte Vernehmung " on 23 Norwegian prisoners. He used various instruments of torture and cold baths. Some of the prisoners continued for a considerable time to suffer from injuries received at his hands.

Freezing prisoners to near-death, repeated beatings, long forced-standing, waterboarding, cold showers in air-conditioned rooms, stress positions [Arrest mit Verschaerfung], withholding of medicine and leaving wounded or sick prisoners alone in cells for days on end - all these have occurred at US detention camps under the command of president George W. Bush. Over a hundred documented deaths have occurred in these interrogation sessions. The Pentagon itself has conceded homocide by torture in multiple cases. Notice the classic, universal and simple criterion used to define torture in 1948 (my italics):

In deciding the degree of punishment, the Court found it decisive that the defendants had inflicted serious physical and mental suffering on their victims, and did not find sufficient reason for a mitigation of the punishment in accordance with the provisions laid down in Art. 5 of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945. The Court came to the conclusion that such acts, even though they were committed with the connivance of superiors in rank or even on their orders, must be regarded and punished as serious war crimes.

The victims, by the way, were not in uniform. And the Nazis tried to argue, just as John Yoo did, that this made torturing them legit. The victims were paramilitary Norwegians, operating as an insurgency, against an occupying force. And the torturers had also interrogated some prisoners humanely. But the argument, deployed by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Nazis before them, didn't wash with the court. Money quote:

As extenuating circumstances, Bruns had pleaded various incidents in which he had helped Norwegians, Schubert had pleaded difficulties at home, and Clemens had pointed to several hundred interrogations during which he had treated prisoners humanely.

The Court did not regard any of the above-mentioned circumstances as a sufficient reason for mitigating the punishment and found it necessary to act with the utmost severity. Each of the defendants was responsible for a series of incidents of torture, every one of which could, according to Art. 3 (a), (c) and (d) of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945, be punished by the death sentence.

So using "enhanced interrogation techniques" against insurgent prisoners out of uniform was punishable by death. Here's the Nazi defense argument:

(c) That the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement.

This is the Yoo position. It's what Glenn Reynolds calls the "sensible" position on torture. It was the camp slogan at Camp Nama in Iraq: "No Blood, No Foul." Now take the issue of "stress positions", photographed at Abu Ghraib and used at Bagram to murder an innocent detainee. Here's a good description of how stress positions operate:

The hands were tied together closely with a cord on the back of the prisoner, raised then the body and hung the cord to a hook, which was attached into two meters height in a tree, so that the feet in air hung. The whole body weight rested thus at the joints bent to the rear. The minimum period of hanging up was a half hour. To remain there three hours hung up, was pretty often. This punishment was carried out at least twice weekly.

This is how one detainee at Abu Ghraib died (combined with beating) as in the photograph above. The experience of enduring these stress positions has been described by Rush Limbaugh as no worse than frat-house hazings. Those who have gone through them disagree. They describe:

Dreadful pain in the shoulders and wrists were the results of this treatment. Only laboriously the lung could be supplied with the necessary oxygen. The heart worked in a racing speed. From all pores the sweat penetrated.

Yes, this is an account of someone who went through the "enhanced interrogation techniques" at Dachau. (Google translation here.)

Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/05/verschfte_verne.html

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Georgie Anne Geyer: A spreading terror

Georgie Anne Geyer: A spreading terror

Iraq now set up as a school for insurgents ready to be exported

11:44 AM CDT on Thursday, May 31, 2007

Anyone who knows anything about cancer knows that the danger point comes when the cancer suddenly and unexpectedly appears in another supposedly "clean" part of the body. As when, say, breast cancer, an implacable traveler, reappears in the bloodstream or the bones.

The Fatah al-Islam terrorists in Lebanon were recent transplants who showed up one day with new weapons, ready to fight.

That there are stunning similarities between what happens medically in the body of man and what occurs sociologically and militarily in the societies of men is far less noticed – but just as frightening and dangerous.

Think of what has happened in only the last week in the Middle East. In northern Lebanon, in the long-established Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, out of the blue arose a new al Qaeda-related insurgent group, Fatah al-Islam. Within days and even hours, the recurring hell of the Middle East was loosed, and refugees poured out of the camp in terror.

There had been none of this kind of terror networking in these northern camps. Indeed, since this camp was established in 1949 to accommodate refugees from northern Palestine after the creation of Israel, it has housed one of the more formal and conservative of peoples.

But it was soon established that these new "insurgents" or "terrorists" – or whatever they really are – had arrived at the camp only recently, that they marched in one day with brand-new weapons, ready to fight.

Two points grip you:

•The first is found in the words of French scholar Bernard Rougier, author of Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam Among Palestinians in Lebanon. "The main point is that these camps are no longer part of Palestinian society," he told The Washington Post . "They are only spaces – now open to all of the influences running through the Muslim world."

•The second is that Iraq, where we were supposed to be "containing terrorism," is now clearly exporting insurgents to other regions – to Lebanon, to Syria, to Gaza, to Bangladesh, to Kurdistan.

And so, on the one hand, you have weakened societies vulnerable to the "new answers" of "new insurgencies," and on the other hand, you have Iraq set up as a school for terrorists with American troops and policy providing the constant inspiration for their fight.

This, of course, is not the way the Bush administration sees it.

The White House sees terrorists as born, not created by history, bearing the mark of Cain, not the mark of circumstance. There is a scarlet "T" written on their foreheads at birth and the only answer is to destroy them. This kind of thinking, of course, relieves the thinker of any responsibility for the presence of the insurgent-terrorist-whatever in our innocent midst.

What's more, there is not much real give in the administration's policies. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other American diplomats met Memorial Day weekend with the Iranians in Baghdad (a good first move but limited, since the Iranians have most of the power because of our incredible stupidity in Iraq). But by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness.

Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."

The truth of the steadily deteriorating situation in the Middle East is, of course, quite different. The Palestinian people of 40 and even 30 years ago were formal, conservative people who remained closely tied to their families, clans and religious groups. Theirs was a highly stratified society, which has now been shattered.

In the institutional vacuum that is a camp like Nahr el-Bared, a few hundred men trained and tempered in Iraq can make a huge difference. At the same time, the Turkish military is ready to go into northern Kurdistan, al-Qaeda operatives from Iraq are popping up in hitherto untouched places, and the American military's advice to its troops is, "Get down with the people – listen to them!" Only four years and thousands of bombs and night missions too late.

Georgie Anne Geyer is a syndicated columnist. Readers may contact her through ltarry@amuniversal.com.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/viewpoints/stories/DN-geyer_31edi.ART.State.Edition1.4370227.html#

Lieberman talks to troops in Baghdad

Lieberman talks to troops in Baghdad

By Leila Fadel
McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Spc. David Williams, 22, of Boston, Mass., had two note cards in his pocket Wednesday afternoon as he waited for Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Williams serves in the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., the first of the five "surge" brigades to arrive in Iraq, and he was chosen to join the Independent from Connecticut for lunch at a U.S. field base in Baghdad.

The night before, 30 other soldiers crowded around him with questions for the senator.

He wrote them all down. At the top of his note card was the question he got from nearly every one of his fellow soldiers:

"When are we going to get out of here?"

The rest was a laundry list. When would they have upgraded Humvees that could withstand the armor-penetrating weapons that U.S. officials claim are from Iran? When could they have body armor that was better in hot weather?

Williams missed six months of his girlfriend's pregnancy when he was given six days' notice to return to Iraq for his second tour. He also missed his baby boy's birth. Three weeks ago, he went home and saw his first child.

"He looks just like me," he said. "I didn't want to come back. . . . We're waiting to get blown up."

Williams wasn't sure if he'd say how he really felt. But if he could, he'd ask about body armor.

"I don't want him to snap his fingers to get things fixed," Williams said, referring to Lieberman. "But he has influence."

Next to him, Spc. Will Hedin, 21, of Chester, Conn., thought about what he was going to say.

"We're not making any progress," Hedin said, as he recalled a comrade who was shot by a sniper last week. "It just seems like we drive around and wait to get shot at."

But as he waited two chairs down from where Lieberman would sit, Hedin said he'd never voice his true feelings to the senator.

"I think I'd be a private if I did," he joked. "It's just more troops, more targets."

In the past two months, the unit has lost two men. In May alone, at least 120 U.S. troops died in Iraq, the bloodiest month in 2007 and the highest number since the battles of Fallujah in 2004.

Spc. Kevin Krasco, 20, of Medford, Mass., and Spc. Kevin Adams, 20, of Moosup, Conn., chimed in with their dismay before turning the conversation to baseball.

"It's like everything else in this war," Adams said, referring to Baghdad. "It hasn't changed."

Then Lieberman walked in, wearing a pair of sunglasses newly purchased from an Iraqi market that the military had taken him to in southeast Baghdad. He'd been equipped with a helmet and flak vest when he toured the market, which he described as bustling.

Earlier, Lieberman had met briefly with Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi police at a Joint Security Station; there are 31 throughout the city now. The senator, who's steadfastly supported the Iraq war along with the current surge of more than 28,000 additional American troops, said things were better.

"I think it's important we don't lose our will," he said. "To pull out would be a disaster."

The soldiers smiled and greeted him, stood with him for pictures and sat down to a lunch of roast beef and turkey sandwiches. It was unclear if they ever asked their questions.

As Lieberman walked out, he said that congressionally mandated withdrawal would be a "victory for al-Qaida and a victory for Iran."

"They're not Pollyannaish about this," he said referring to the young soldiers he ate lunch with. "They know it's not going to be solved in a day or a month."

It isn't clear whether Williams mentioned the last line on his note card, the one that had a star next to it.

"We don't feel like we're making any progress," it said.

http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/17300884.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Frank Rich - Operation Freedom From Iraqis

Operation Freedom From Iraqis

By FRANK RICH

WHEN all else fails, those pious Americans who conceived and directed the Iraq war fall back on moral self-congratulation: at least we brought liberty and democracy to an oppressed people. But that last-ditch rationalization has now become America’s sorriest self-delusion in this tragedy.

However wholeheartedly we disposed of their horrific dictator, the Iraqis were always pawns on the geopolitical chessboard rather than actual people in the administration’s reckless bet to “transform” the Middle East. From “Stuff happens!” on, nearly every aspect of Washington policy in Iraq exuded contempt for the beneficiaries of our supposed munificence. Now this animus is completely out of the closet. Without Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to kick around anymore, the war’s dead-enders are pinning the fiasco on the Iraqis themselves. Our government abhors them almost as much as the Lou Dobbs spear carriers loathe those swarming “aliens” from Mexico.

Iraqis are clamoring to get out of Iraq. Two million have fled so far and nearly two million more have been displaced within the country. (That’s a total of some 15 percent of the population.) Save the Children reported this month that Iraq’s child-survival rate is falling faster than any other nation’s. One Iraqi in eight is killed by illness or violence by the age of 5. Yet for all the words President Bush has lavished on Darfur and AIDS in Africa, there has been a deadly silence from him about what’s happening in the country he gave “God’s gift of freedom.”

It’s easy to see why. To admit that Iraqis are voting with their feet is to concede that American policy is in ruins. A “secure” Iraq is a mirage, and, worse, those who can afford to leave are the very professionals who might have helped build one. Thus the president says nothing about Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, the worst in the Middle East since 1948, much as he tried to hide the American death toll in Iraq by keeping the troops’ coffins off-camera and staying away from military funerals.

But his silence about Iraq’s mass exodus is not merely another instance of deceptive White House P.R.; it’s part of a policy with a huge human cost. The easiest way to keep the Iraqi plight out of sight, after all, is to prevent Iraqis from coming to America. And so we do, except for stray Shiites needed to remind us of purple fingers at State of the Union time or to frame the president in Rose Garden photo ops.

Since the 2003 invasion, America has given only 466 Iraqis asylum. Sweden, which was not in the coalition of the willing, plans to admit 25,000 Iraqis this year alone. Our State Department, goaded by January hearings conducted by Ted Kennedy, says it will raise the number for this year to 7,000 (a figure that, small as it is, may be more administration propaganda). A bill passed by Congress this month will add another piddling 500, all interpreters.

In reality, more than 5,000 interpreters worked for the Americans. So did tens of thousands of drivers and security guards who also, in Senator Kennedy’s phrase, have “an assassin’s bull’s-eye on their backs” because they served the occupying government and its contractors over the past four-plus years. How we feel about these Iraqis was made naked by one of the administration’s most fervent hawks, the former United Nations ambassador John Bolton, speaking to The Times Magazine this month. He claimed that the Iraqi refugee problem had “absolutely nothing to do” with Saddam’s overthrow: “Our obligation was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don’t think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war.”

Actually, we haven’t fulfilled the obligation of giving them functioning institutions and security. One of the many reasons we didn’t was that L. Paul Bremer’s provisional authority staffed the Green Zone with unqualified but well-connected Republican hacks who, in some cases, were hired after they expressed their opposition to Roe v. Wade. The administration is nothing if not consistent in its employment practices. The assistant secretary in charge of refugees at the State Department now, Ellen Sauerbrey, is a twice-defeated Republican candidate for governor of Maryland with no experience in humanitarian crises but a hefty résumé in anti-abortion politics. She is to Iraqis seeking rescue what Brownie was to Katrina victims stranded in the Superdome.

Ms. Sauerbrey’s official line on Iraqi refugees, delivered to Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” in March, is that most of them “really want to go home.” The administration excuse for keeping Iraqis out of America is national security: we have to vet every prospective immigrant for terrorist ties. But many of those with the most urgent cases for resettlement here were vetted already, when the American government and its various Halliburton subsidiaries asked them to risk their lives by hiring them in the first place. For those whose loyalties can no longer be vouched for, there is the contrasting lesson of Vietnam. Julia Taft, the official in charge of refugees in the Ford administration, reminded Mr. Pelley that 131,000 Vietnamese were resettled in America within eight months of the fall of Saigon, despite loud, Dobbs-like opposition at the time. In the past seven months, the total number of Iraqis admitted to America was 69.

The diplomat Richard Holbrooke, whose career began during the Vietnam War, told me that security worries then were addressed by a vetting process carried out in safe, preliminary asylum camps for refugees set up beyond Vietnam’s borders in Asia. But as Mr. Holbrooke also points out in the current Foreign Affairs magazine, the real forerunner to American treatment of Iraqi refugees isn’t that war in any case, but World War II. That’s when an anti-Semitic assistant secretary of state, Breckinridge Long, tirelessly obstructed the visa process to prevent Jews from obtaining sanctuary in America, not even filling the available slots under existing quotas. As many as 75,000 such refugees were turned away before the Germans cut off exit visas to Jews in late 1941, according to Howard Sachar’s “History of the Jews in America.”

Like the Jews, Iraqis are useful scapegoats. This month Mr. Bremer declared that the real culprits for his disastrous 2003 decision to cleanse Iraq of Baathist officials were unnamed Iraqi politicians who “broadened the decree’s impact far beyond our original design.” The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is chastising the Iraqis for being unable “to do anything they promised.”

The new White House policy, as Zbigniew Brzezinski has joked, is “blame and run.” It started to take shape just before the midterm elections last fall, when Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a memo (propitiously leaked after his defenestration) suggesting that the Iraqis might “have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.” By January, Mr. Bush was saying that “the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude” and wondering aloud “whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq.” In February, one of the war’s leading neocon cheerleaders among the Beltway punditocracy lowered the boom. “Iraq is their country,” Charles Krauthammer wrote. “We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war.” Bill O’Reilly and others now echo this cry.

The message is clear enough: These ungrateful losers deserve everything that’s coming to them. The Iraqis hear us and are returning the compliment. Whether Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is mocking American demands for timelines and benchmarks, or the Iraqi Parliament is setting its own timeline for American withdrawal even while flaunting its vacation schedule, Iraq’s nominal government is saying it’s fed up. The American-Iraqi shotgun marriage of convenience, midwifed by disastrous Bush foreign policy, has disintegrated into the marriage from hell.

While the world waits for the White House and Congress to negotiate the separation agreement, the damage to the innocent family members caught in the cross-fire is only getting worse. Despite Mr. Bush’s May 10 claim that “the number of sectarian murders has dropped substantially” since the surge began, The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the number of such murders is going up. For the Americans, the cost is no less dear. Casualty figures confirm that the past six months have been the deadliest yet for our troops.

While it seems but a dim memory now, once upon a time some Iraqis did greet the Americans as liberators. Today, in fact, it is just such Iraqis — not the local Iraqi insurgents the president conflates with Osama bin Laden’s Qaeda in Pakistan — who do want to follow us home. That we are slamming the door in their faces tells you all you need to know about the real morality beneath all the professed good intentions of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Though the war’s godfathers saw themselves as ridding the world of another Hitler, their legacy includes a humanitarian catastrophe that will need its own Raoul Wallenbergs and Oskar Schindlers if lives are to be saved.

posted by montag @ 1:44

Paul Krugman - Trust and Betrayal

Trust and Betrayal

By PAUL KRUGMAN

“In this place where valor sleeps, we are reminded why America has always gone to war reluctantly, because we know the costs of war.” That’s what President Bush said last year, in a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Those were fine words, spoken by a man with less right to say them than any president in our nation’s history. For Mr. Bush took us to war not with reluctance, but with unseemly eagerness.

Now that war has turned into an epic disaster, in part because the war’s architects, who we now know were warned about the risks, didn’t want to hear about them. Yet Congress seems powerless to stop it. How did it all go so wrong?

Future historians will shake their heads over how easily America was misled into war. The warning signs, the indications that we had a rogue administration determined to use 9/11 as an excuse for war, were there, for those willing to see them, right from the beginning — even before Mr. Bush began explicitly pushing for war with Iraq.

In fact, the very first time Mr. Bush declared a war on terror that “will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated,” people should have realized that he was going to use the terrorist attack to justify anything and everything.

When he used his first post-attack State of the Union to denounce an “axis of evil” consisting of three countries that had nothing to do either with 9/11 or with each other, alarm bells should have gone off.

But the nation, brought together in grief and anger over the attack, wanted to trust the man occupying the White House. And so it took a long time before Americans were willing to admit to themselves just how thoroughly their trust had been betrayed.

It’s a terrible story, yet it’s also understandable. I wasn’t really surprised by Republican election victories in 2002 and 2004: nations almost always rally around their leaders in times of war, no matter how bad the leaders and no matter how poorly conceived the war.

The question was whether the public would ever catch on. Well, to the immense relief of those who spent years trying to get the truth out, they did. Last November Americans voted overwhelmingly to bring an end to Mr. Bush’s war.

Yet the war goes on.

To keep the war going, the administration has brought the original bogyman back out of the closet. At first, Mr. Bush said he would bring Osama bin Laden in, dead or alive. Within seven months after 9/11, however, he had lost interest: “I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s at the center of any command structure,” he said in March 2002. “I truly am not that concerned about him.”

In all of 2003, Mr. Bush, who had an unrelated war to sell, made public mention of the man behind 9/11 only seven times.

But Osama is back: last week Mr. Bush invoked his name 11 times in a single speech, warning that if we leave Iraq, Al Qaeda — which wasn’t there when we went in — will be the winner. And Democrats, still fearing that they will end up accused of being weak on terror and not supporting the troops, gave Mr. Bush another year’s war funding.

Democratic Party activists were furious, because polls show a public utterly disillusioned with Mr. Bush and anxious to see the war ended. But it’s not clear that the leadership was wrong to be cautious. The truth is that the nightmare of the Bush years won’t really be over until politicians are convinced that voters will punish, not reward, Bush-style fear-mongering. And that hasn’t happened yet.

Here’s the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a “movement” that “has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he should be treated as a lunatic.

When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of “Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” wants to “bring down the West,” he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.

And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn’t in Iraq, will “follow us home” if we leave, he should be laughed at.

But they aren’t, at least not yet. And until belligerent, uninformed posturing starts being treated with the contempt it deserves, men who know nothing of the cost of war will keep sending other people’s children to graves at Arlington.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lawyer: Cheney Visitor Logs Not Recorded

Lawyer: Cheney Visitor Logs Not Recorded

By PETE YOST
The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 29, 2007; 8:10 PM

WASHINGTON -- A lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney told the Secret Service in September to eliminate data on who visited Cheney at his official residence, a newly disclosed letter states.

The Sept. 13, 2006, letter from Cheney's lawyer says logs for Cheney's residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory are subject to the Presidential Records Act.

Such a designation prevents the public from learning who visited the vice president.

The Justice Department filed the letter Friday in a lawsuit by a private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, seeking the identities of conservative religious leaders who visited Cheney at his official residence.

The newly disclosed letter about visitors to Cheney's residence is accompanied by an 18-page Secret Service document revealing the agency's long-standing practice has been to destroy printed daily access lists of visitors to the residence.

Separately, the agency says it has given Cheney's office handwritten logs of who visits him at his personal residence.

Because of pending lawsuits, the Secret Service says it is now keeping copies of all material on visitors to Cheney's residence. According to the Secret Service document, Cheney's office has approved the agency's retention of the records, while maintaining they are presidential records subject to Cheney's control.

"The latest filings make clear that the administration has been destroying documents and entering into secret agreements in violation of the law," said Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel.

Regarding visitor information, the Secret Service "shall not retain any copy of these documents and information" once the material is given to the office of the vice president, says the September 2006 letter by Shannen Coffin, counsel to the vice president.

"If any documents remain in your possession, please return them to OVP as soon as possible," the letter added.

The vice president's lawyer wrote the letter as The Washington Post sought copies of Cheney's visitors at his residence. The Post requested the records under the Freedom of Information Act. The newspaper subsequently dropped a lawsuit seeking the information.

The letter regarding the vice president's residence was in addition to an agreement quietly signed between the White House and the Secret Service a year ago when questions were raised about visits to the executive compound by convicted influence peddler Jack Abramoff.

That agreement, which didn't surface publicly until late last year, said White House entry and exit logs were presidential records not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

When the agreement was signed in May 2006, a number of private groups and news organizations had filed FOIA requests with the Secret Service in an effort to identify how many times Abramoff or members of his lobbying team visited the White House.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/29/AR2007052901508_pf.html

Monday, May 28, 2007

Paul Krugman - Immigrants and Politics

Immigrants and Politics

By PAUL KRUGMAN

A piece of advice for progressives trying to figure out where they stand on immigration reform: it’s the political economy, stupid. Analyzing the direct economic gains and losses from proposed reform isn’t enough. You also have to think about how the reform would affect the future political environment.

To see what I mean — and why the proposed immigration bill, despite good intentions, could well make things worse — let’s take a look back at America’s last era of mass immigration.

My own grandparents came to this country during that era, which ended with the imposition of severe immigration restrictions in the 1920s. Needless to say, I’m very glad they made it in before Congress slammed the door. And today’s would-be immigrants are just as deserving as Emma Lazarus’s “huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

Moreover, as supporters of immigrant rights rightly remind us, everything today’s immigrant-bashers say — that immigrants are insufficiently skilled, that they’re too culturally alien, and, implied though rarely stated explicitly, that they’re not white enough — was said a century ago about Italians, Poles and Jews.

Yet then as now there were some good reasons to be concerned about the effects of immigration.

There’s a highly technical controversy going on among economists about the effects of recent immigration on wages. However that dispute turns out, it’s clear that the earlier wave of immigration increased inequality and depressed the wages of the less skilled. For example, a recent study by Jeffrey Williamson, a Harvard economic historian, suggests that in 1913 the real wages of unskilled U.S. workers were around 10 percent lower than they would have been without mass immigration. But the straight economics was the least of it. Much more important was the way immigration diluted democracy.

In 1910, almost 14 percent of voting-age males in the United States were non-naturalized immigrants. (Women didn’t get the vote until 1920.) Add in the disenfranchised blacks of the Jim Crow South, and what you had in America was a sort of minor-key apartheid system, with about a quarter of the population — in general, the poorest and most in need of help — denied any political voice.

That dilution of democracy helped prevent any effective response to the excesses and injustices of the Gilded Age, because those who might have demanded that politicians support labor rights, progressive taxation and a basic social safety net didn’t have the right to vote. Conversely, the restrictions on immigration imposed in the 1920s had the unintended effect of paving the way for the New Deal and sustaining its achievements, by creating a fully enfranchised working class.

But now we’re living in the second Gilded Age. And as before, one of the things making antiworker, unequalizing policies politically possible is the fact that millions of the worst-paid workers in this country can’t vote. What progressives should care about, above all, is that immigration reform stop our drift into a new system of de facto apartheid.

Now, the proposed immigration reform does the right thing in principle by creating a path to citizenship for those already here. We’re not going to expel 11 million illegal immigrants, so the only way to avoid having those immigrants be a permanent disenfranchised class is to bring them into the body politic.

And I can’t share the outrage of those who say that illegal immigrants broke the law by coming here. Is that any worse than what my grandfather did by staying in America, when he was supposed to return to Russia to serve in the czar’s army?

But the bill creates a path to citizenship so torturous that most immigrants probably won’t even try to legalize themselves. Meanwhile, the bill creates a guest worker program, which is exactly what we don’t want to do. Yes, it would raise the income of the guest workers themselves, and in narrow financial terms guest workers are a good deal for the host nation — because they don’t bring their families, they impose few costs on taxpayers. But it formally creates exactly the kind of apartheid system we want to avoid.

Progressive supporters of the proposed bill defend the guest worker program as a necessary evil, the price that must be paid for business support. Right now, however, the price looks too high and the reward too small: this bill could all too easily end up actually expanding the class of disenfranchised workers.

GOP rivals embrace unproven Iraq-9/11 tie

GOP rivals embrace unproven Iraq-9/11 tie

By Peter S. Canellos, Globe Staff | May 27, 2007

WASHINGTON -- In defending the Iraq war, leading Republican presidential contenders are increasingly echoing words and phrases used by President Bush in the run-up to the war that reinforce the misleading impression that Iraq was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In the May 15 Republican debate in South Carolina, Senator John McCain of Arizona suggested that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden would "follow us home" from Iraq -- a comment some viewers may have taken to mean that bin Laden was in Iraq, which he is not.

Former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani asserted, in response to a question about Iraq, that "these people want to follow us here and they have followed us here. Fort Dix happened a week ago. "

However, none of the six people arrested for allegedly plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey were from Iraq.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney identified numerous groups that he said have "come together" to try to bring down the United States, though specialists say few of the groups Romney cited have worked together and only some have threatened the United States.

"They want to bring down the West, particularly us," Romney declared. "And they've come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, with that intent."

Assertions of connections between bin Laden and terrorists in Iraq have heated up over the last month, as Congress has debated the war funding resolution. Romney, McCain, and Giuliani have endorsed -- and expanded on -- Bush's much-debated contention that Al Qaeda is the main cause of instability in Iraq.

Spokespeople for McCain and Romney say the candidates were expressing their deep-seated convictions that terrorists would benefit if the United States were to withdraw from Iraq. The spokesmen say that even if Iraq had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda-inspired terrorists have infiltrated Iraq as security has deteriorated since the invasion, and now pose a direct threat to the United States.

But critics, including some former CIA officials, said those statements could mislead voters into believing that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks are now fighting the United States in Iraq .

Michael Scheuer , the CIA's former chief of operations against bin Laden in the late 1990s, said the comments of some GOP candidates seem to suggest that bin Laden is controlling the insurgency in Iraq, which he is not.

"There are at least 41 groups [worldwide] that have announced their allegiance to Osama bin Laden -- and I will bet that none of them are directed by Osama bin Laden," Scheuer said, pointing out that Al Qaeda in Iraq is not overseen by bin Laden.

Nonetheless, many GOP candidates have recently echoed Bush's longstanding assertion that Iraq is the "central battlefront" in the worldwide war against Al Qaeda and have declared that Al Qaeda would make Iraq its base of operations if the United States withdraws -- notions that Scheuer said do not withstand scrutiny.

"The idea that Al Qaeda will move its headquarters of operation from South Asia to Iraq is nonsense," said Scheuer.

The belief that there is a clear connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks has been a key determinant of support for the war. A Harris poll taken two weeks before the 2004 presidential election found that a majority of Bush's supporters believed that Iraq was behind the 9/11 attacks -- a claim that Bush has never made. Eighty-four percent believed that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had "strong links" with Al Qaeda, a claim that intelligence officials have long disputed.

But critics have maintained that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney encouraged these ideas by using misleading terms to describe the threat posed by Iraq before the war.

Bush, for instance, repeatedly spoke of Hussein's support for terrorism -- which many Americans apparently took to mean that Hussein supported Al Qaeda in its jihad against the United States. The administration, however, sourced that claim to Hussein's backing of Palestinian terrorist groups targeting Israel.

Now, some GOP presidential candidates refer to "the terrorists" as one group, blurring distinctions between Al Qaeda, which has attacked the United States repeatedly, and groups that former intelligence officials say have not targeted the United States.

Romney said Friday: "You see, the terrorists are fighting a war on us. We've got to make sure that we're fighting a war on them."

Romney's comment in the earlier debate that "they've come together as Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda" struck some former intelligence officials as particularly misleading. Shia and Sunni, they said, are branches of Islam and not terrorist groups. There are an estimated 300 million Sunni Muslims in the Middle East, many of them fighting Al Qaeda.

"Are Shia and Sunni together? Is the Muslim Brotherhood cooperating with all these other groups? No," said Judith Yaphe, a former CIA Iraq analyst.

"There's a tendency to exaggerate in a debate," she added. "You push the envelope as far as you can."

No point has been emphasized more strongly at GOP debates than the link between the Iraq war and Al Qaeda. During the debates about war funding, GOP leaders have downplayed the role of sectarian violence in Iraq and emphasized the role of Al Qaeda.

On Friday, McCain called any attempt to cut Iraq war funding, "the equivalent of waving a white flag to Al Qaeda."

But specialists say that the enemy the military calls "Al Qaeda Iraq" is a combination of Iraqi jihadists and an unknown number of fighters from countries throughout the Middle East. "AQI" came together after the US invasion. And while there is evidence that AQI members coordinate attacks among themselves, there is little evidence that they coordinate closely with bin Laden.

In pressing his case for continued war funding, Bush last week said a previously classified intelligence report indicated that bin Laden had sent a messenger in early 2005 to urge the late Iraqi terrorist chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to aim more attacks at the United States.

But there is no further evidence that bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, exerts control over Al Qaeda Iraq, according to a senior military official in Baghdad in an interview last week.

"We don't have any direct information that would link Al Qaeda Iraq to getting e-mails, memos, whatever, from bin Laden," the military official said, speaking under condition of anonymity.

A McCain spokesman said the senator did not mean to suggest in his debate comments that bin Laden was in Iraq. But aides to Romney and McCain, in interviews, insisted that the candidates are not exaggerating when they speak of bin Laden and the link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

"The larger point shouldn't be in dispute," said Randy Scheunemann , McCain's foreign policy adviser. "If there's a territory where Al Qaeda is left unmolested, free to plan, conduct, and train for operations, they will do so."

Romney's national press secretary, Kevin Madden, said the former governor's linking of Shia, Sunni, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood was based on their common hostility to the West. "I think [Romney's statement] was much more directed at intent -- they all share a common ideology or intent to bring down Western governments," Madden said. "There's a shared attempt to fight any beachhead of democracy in that region."

Analysts say that Hamas and Hezbollah are participating in democratic governments and that the leaders of Shi'ite militias are part of the Iraqi government.

"All of the bad actors in the Middle East get mixed up in people's minds," said Andrew Kohut , director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, which has polled extensively on views on Iraq. "That's why it was easy to play on the perception that Saddam Hussein got together with Osama bin Laden and said 'Let's fly some planes into buildings.' Saddam Hussein was seen as a bad guy in the Middle East, and so it all gets jumbled up in people's thinking."

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/05/27/gop_rivals_embrace_unproven_iraq_911_tie?mode=PF