Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

In sports and politi

In sports and politics, pundits’ excuses the same
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, November 29, 2006

For years, I’ve had a running debate with a friend involved in professional sports. Who gets the worst press coverage, jocks or politicians? My argument is that fans wouldn’t tolerate the nonsense that passes for journalism in Washington. Just recently, The Washington Post ran a front-page story casually mentioning that Social Security will go flat broke in 2040, which happens to be completely false. It’s partisan scare-talk. If they’d reported the Redskins score backwards, somebody would have been fired. My friend agrees, but objects to the rumor-mongering, character assassination and moralistic posturing that characterize much sports punditry. Lately, though, I’ve been struck by how much the two realms have come to resemble each other. Consider college basketball’s opening week. Due to the growth of early-season tournaments, highly ranked teams faced opponents they normally would have avoided until the NCAA tournament. The results were similar to what happens during “March Madness” each year: TV schools from glamour conferences lose to hungry teams nobody’s heard of.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. Serious fans know that Gonzaga, which “upset” North Carolina, has a terrific basketball tradition. Marquette, which handled Duke decisively, plays in the Big East. Elsewhere, though, Oral Roberts defeated Kansas. The Butler Bulldogs beat Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga. Granted, Butler’s in Indianapolis, and no Indiana basketball team should ever be considered obscure.

Even so, to ESPN’s basketball gurus, these bizarre results needed to be explained away. It went roughly like this: Hey, it’s only November. UNC Coach Roy Williams hasn’t settled on his regular lineup yet. Problem is, he’s got too much talent. Ditto for the sainted Coach K at Duke. Fear not, ACC fans. Both teams are the “real deal.” You can count on it.

Funny, but I thought it was November on both ends of the court. Meanwhile, here’s something else you can count on: Duke and Carolina games on ESPN every time you turn on the TV. Along with the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and the other power conferences. If you’d rather watch Butler or Oral Roberts, you’re out of luck. Gonzaga vs. Pepperdine may be televised. Alas, by tip-off time in Spokane, much of the nation’s crucial beer-buying demographic will be sound asleep.

So yeah, it’s mainly hype involving TV contracts and money, this Top 25 business. I trust you’re not shocked.

What amused me was how much the jock talk mimicked the post-election rationalizations of many Washington pundits. What, Karl Rove not a genius? “Conservatism” rejected? Democrats preferred? Say it ain’t so.

On cue, many adopted the line taken by talk radio’s Rush Limbaugh. Despite the Democrats’ takeover of Congress, the party had a tiger by the tail. CBS’ Bob Schieffer put it succinctly: “The problem that Nancy Pelosi is going to have is not so much with the Republican White House, but with her own party. These Democrats that were elected last night are conservative Democrats. They are not like some of the liberal firebrands that are in the House right now.”

Could Pelosi, a known woman, pull it off? On the same day Democrats unanimously elected her speaker of the House—the highest-ranking woman in U. S. history—pundit chatter focused upon the “stunning” defeat of Rep. John Murtha, her preferred candidate for majority leader.

Was Pelosi’s leadership doomed before it started? New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd accused her of “throw [ing ] like a girl” by “making her first move based on relationships and past slights rather than strategy” —a characterization more reflective of her own preoccupations than Pelosi’s.

FOX News pundit Mort Kondracke dubbed Pelosi “the Wicked Witch of the West.” Much coverage focused upon the speaker’s clothing, makeup and hair. Google “Armani” and “Pelosi” if you doubt me. Then try to find out what brand of suits Speaker Dennis Hastert wears.

In short, the Democrats lost by winning. GOP intra-party contests were not depicted as divisive, despite the comeback of Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott.

But was any of it based on facts? Were incoming Democratic congressmen largely conservative? surveyed their campaign platforms. Guess what. Every single Democrat elected advocates changing course in Iraq. All support raising the minimum wage. All oppose privatizing Social Security. All but two favor embryonic stem-cell research. Exactly five describe themselves as “pro-life.” Ignore the flattops and the boots. Like Pelosi’s wardrobe, they’re trivialities: Every Democrat elected ran to the left of the Republican who was defeated. The clear losers Nov. 7 were moderate Republicans, a vanishing breed. Moreover, polls show that most voters—up to two-thirds in some cases—agree with Democrats on these issues. Anybody who expects Pelosi, a seasoned, disciplined politician, to waste this historic opportunity on purely symbolic, hot-button issues helpful to GOP propagandists is apt to be confounded. It’s past time some of these jokers started reading from a different playbook.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What the New York Times has learned from Iraq

By Barry Grey
28 November 2006

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The lead editorial in Sunday’s New York Times deserves careful reading and consideration. Entitled “Learning from Iraq,” the piece should serve as an antidote to popular illusions that the American electorate’s massive repudiation of the Iraq war on November 7 and the capture of Congress by the Democrats will lead to a retreat by the American ruling elite from its policies of neo-colonialism and war.

It is particularly significant, coming from a principal organ of American liberalism, one closely aligned with the dominant sections of the Democratic Party.

The general thrust of the editorial can be gleaned from its opening passages: “While politicians from both parties spin out their versions of Iraqs that should have been, could have been and just maybe still might be, the Army has taken on a far more useful project: figuring out why the Bush administration’s military plans worked out so badly and drawing lessons for future conflicts.”

There is no questioning here of the legality of an unprovoked war launched on the basis of lies, of the Bush administration’s doctrine of preventive war, which justifies such criminal enterprises, or the legitimacy of war as an instrument of foreign policy. All that is accepted as a matter of course.

The death and destruction unleashed on Iraq by the United States—the virtual destruction of a society and the killing of hundreds of thousands of its members—evoke no reconsideration of the legitimacy of such wars. On the contrary, the US Army is to be commended for concentrating on the practical lessons that can be derived for “future conflicts.”

The editorial continues: “That effort is a welcome sign that despite six years of ideologically driven dictates from Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, Army leaders remain usefully focused on the real world, where actual soldiers daily put their lives on the line for their country and where the quality of military planning goes a long way toward determining whether their sacrifices help achieve America’s national purposes.”

The conquest of Iraq and seizure of its oil resources are presumably included in “America’s national purposes,” although how such an imperialist enterprise benefits any part of the nation other than its financial elite the Times does not attempt to explain.

Following this bit of jingoism, the editorial gets down to the meat of its disagreement with the outgoing secretary of defense. The Times praises the latest draft of a new Army field manual, which it calls the “basic guidebook for war, peacekeeping and counterinsurgency,” because it “quietly jettisons the single most disastrous innovation of the Rumsfeld era. That is the misconceived notion that the size and composition of an American intervention force should be based only on what is needed to defeat the organized armed forces of an enemy government, instead of also taking into account the needs of providing security and stability for the civilian population for which the United States will then be responsible.”

The editorial continues: “Almost every post-invasion problem in Iraq can be directly traced to this one catastrophic planning failure, which left too few troops in Iraq to prevent rampant looting, restore basic services and move decisively against the insurgency before it took root and spread.”

It is, of course, assumed that the American occupation is legitimate and the resistance of Iraqis to foreign troops is an evil to be extirpated. The core lesson of the Iraq debacle, according to the Times, is that more soldiers, more violence, more repression and more killing are required to “achieve America’s national purposes.”

There is, besides imperialist ruthlessness, a large dose of self-delusion in such pronouncements—as though more bloodshed and repression could prevent the emergence of powerful resistance to foreign occupation.

To underline its point, the newspaper goes on to declare: “Modern innovations in warfare make it possible for America’s technologically proficient forces to vanquish an opposing army quickly and with relatively few troops. But re-establishing order in a decapitated society demands a much larger force for a much longer time.”

From where is this “much larger force” to come? It is only a matter of time before the Times joins with those politicians, most notably Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, in demanding the reinstatement of the military draft.

Turning again to the US debacle in Iraq, the editorial states: “These are useful insights. But they can only go so far when a host government lacks the will to rid its security forces of sectarian militia fighters more intent on waging civil war than achieving national stability. That so far has been the biggest obstacle in Iraq.”

The Times characteristically employs the euphemism “host government” to denote a puppet regime installed at the point of American bayonets (and bombs, missiles, prisons, torture chambers, etc.). The complaint about the fecklessness of the current US-backed regime of Prime Minister Maliki reprises a recurring theme in the pages of the newspaper.

In a major piece published November 12, the Times’ chief correspondent in Iraq, John F. Burns, put the matter more bluntly. Entitled “Stability vs. Democracy: Could a New Strongman Help?” the article argued for an abandonment of the “democratic” pretenses of the US occupation and the installation of a military strongman to sanction and collaborate in an escalation of US military violence.

The Times’ November 26 editorial underscores some critical facts about the foreign policy debate within the American political establishment in the aftermath of the electoral rout of the Republicans three weeks ago. The ruling elite and both of its parties have no intention of allowing the antiwar sentiments of the vast majority of the American people to determine their foreign policy. There is a bipartisan consensus against any early withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and a determination to do whatever is necessary to avoid an outcome in Iraq that would be seen as a catastrophic defeat for American imperialism in the Middle East and around the world.

Whatever the tactical differences between and within the two parties, the Democrats no less than the Republicans are committed to a policy of using military force to achieve the foreign policy objectives of the US ruling elite. Bush’s talk of the “wars of the twenty-first century” reflects the general outlook of the entire political establishment, liberal as well as conservative.

In the face of the worsening situation on the ground in Iraq, the US ruling elite is seeking to use the elections as an opportunity to sort out policy differences on military and diplomatic tactics and forge a new bipartisan consensus for the ongoing war in Iraq, as well as for “future conflicts.”

See Also:
More than 200 dead in Baghdad’s deadliest day of bombings
[25 November 2006]
UN report documents huge October death toll in Iraq
[24 November 2006]

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Comedy and Satire

Borat: a cultural Rorschach Test
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Satire, wrote Jonathan Swift in ©7, “is a sort of [looking] glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets in the world, and that so very few are offended by it.” As usual, he was being doubly ironic. As Swift knew better than anybody, the more penetrating the satire, the more anger it provokes. Everybody loves seeing his enemies mocked. Audiences that suspect the joke may be on them, however, can get testy. So it is with the hit film “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” In form, “Borat” somewhat resembles Swift’s masterpiece, “Gulliver’s Travels” —a picaresque tale of a fool traveling through a strange and different land, specifically the U. S. A. At first, audiences were encouraged to see the movie as sheer buffoonery, with British comic Sacha Baron Cohen impersonating a bumpkin from a former Soviet republic so clueless that he mistakes a toilet for a water fountain. Cohen is a one-man Monty Python troupe, a gifted physical comic with prehensile eyebrows reminiscent of Groucho Marx. A masterful impersonator, he simply disappears into the character of Borat Sagdiyev, a journalist supposedly sent to the U. S. to film a documentary for Kazakh TV. Enchanted by an episode of “Baywatch,” Borat’s quest to make actress Pamela Anderson his bride links what’s basically a collection of improvised skits.

Filmed in Romania, early scenes showing Borat departing Kazakhstan in a battered Soviet-era sedan pulled by draft horses constituted high silliness of the first order. Depictions of the make believe Kazakh festival of “The Running of the Jews,” however, set some viewers’ teeth on edge.

A Cambridge-educated, observant Jew, Cohen has expressed surprise that anybody took offense, explaining that he thought audiences would realize that he was joking about a fictitious country.

“The joke is not on Kazakhstan,” he told Rolling Stone. “I think the joke is on people who can believe that the Kazakhstan that I describe can exist—who believe that there’s a country where homosexuals wear blue hats and the women live in cages and they drink fermented horse urine and the age of consent has been raised to 9 years old.”

Then why not invent a fictitious name? Cohen made brilliant use of the Kazakh government’s indignation to promote his film, turning up in character outside the White House on a day its president visited Washington, demanding an interview with “the mighty warlord, Premier George Walter Bush.”

More recently, a Kazakh newspaper dispatched a correspondent to Vienna to see the movie. He advised everybody back home to chill out.

“‘Cultural Learnings’ is certainly not an anti-Kazakh, anti-Romanian or anti-Semitic,” he wrote. “It is a cruelly anti-American movie. It is amazingly funny and sad at the same time.”

Needless to say, this theme has provoked worry in the U.S. An earnest people, Americans are famously resistant to satire. New York Times columnist David Brooks decried “blue America snobbery, as people on the coasts try to fathom those who would vote for George W. Bush. The only logical explanation is that they are racist, anti-Semitic idiots who can be blamelessly ridiculed.”

Sigh. Another touchy minority group. I have zero sympathy for those South Carolina frat boys who are suing Cohen, claiming he got them drunk and tempted them into spewing nonsense about how the poor white man can’t catch a break in this country. The cameras weren’t hidden. Besides, they didn’t say anything you can’t hear on the Rush Limbaugh program.

Then there’s the New Yorker tenderfoot who worried that “Borat’s” send-up of bigots might be mistaken by the “latenight college audience” for the real thing. “Could the movie become a safety valve,” he worries, “encouraging its fans to let off steam?” By doing what, staging a “Running of the Jews” through downtown Tuscaloosa?

I found “Borat” very uneven, varying from extreme hilarity to cringe-making bad taste. It’s like a cultural Rorschach Test. At the expense of partly agreeing with the bluenoses, I found the scene of Borat being brought to Jesus by weeping Pentecostals almost unendurable. As weird as I find such public emotionalism, subjecting it to ridicule struck me as sadistic. That said, “Borat” wouldn’t be much of a satire if it didn’t take risks. The title character’s a kind of unholy saint, a chthonic Everyman (how’s that for digging out the old grad school vocabulary?) too naïve not to blurt out whatever pops into his mind. If that means saying he finds two of three women at a dinner party sexually attractive, but his host’s wife “not so much,” then out it comes. The joke is that everybody else at the table has secretly made similar calculations, but the others keep them hidden. We’re all ignorant peasants at heart. To Cohen, that’s the essence of the human comedy.


Wed Nov 22, 7:21 PM ET

The Long Slog of Rebuilding American Democracy

NEW YORK--The military tribunal lasted a week. At the end the 17 defendants were permitted to make a closing statement. Alexei Shestov, 41 years of age, stood up and admitted being a terrorist and traitor. "In that struggle," he confessed, "I employed every loathsome, every filthy and every destructive method." Coercive interrogation techniques--what effete and weak-stomached liberals would call torture--loosened the terrorist's tongue. "For five weeks I denied everything," he said, "for five weeks they kept confronting me with one fact after another, with the photographs of my dastardly work and when I looked back, I myself was appalled by what I had done."

Unlike his cowardly co-conspirators, Shestov proclaimed himself ready to face the ultimate sanction. "Now I have only one desire, to stand with calmness on the place of my execution and with my blood to wash away the stain of a traitor to my country." He got his wish. The Military Collegium of the Supreme Court ordered him to be shot.

The great Moscow "show trials" of 1937, officially bringing to justice the nefarious agents of the "Anti-Soviet Trotskyite Centre," were the centerpiece of Stalin's campaign to terrorize Soviet citizens from their previous state of basic subjugation to absolute submission. In truth, there was no such thing as the Anti-Soviet Trostskyite Centre. Shestov wasn't even an opponent of the regime. To the contrary, he was an NKVD (predecessor to the KGB) employee. His bosses ordered to pose as a suspect in order to inculpate the other men. Stalin, as thorough as he was diabolical, had him executed anyway.

A trial without due process isn't justice. It's farce.

Newly leaked audiotapes of military tribunals held at Guantánamo Bay concentration camp shared the eerie quality of the Soviet show trials of the 1930s. Once again the men are accused of membership in a shadowy terrorist conspiracy. The evidence against them consists of hearsay--the testimony of other misérables giving them up in order to save themselves. They have been beaten, abused and probably tortured.

Murat Kurnaz, 24, a German cititzen held for four years without being charged with so much as a traffic violation, described life at Gitmo to CNN after being sent back to Germany. Among the "many types of torture" he endured were "electric shocks to having one's head submerged in water, (subjection to) hunger and thirst, or being shackled and suspended [hung from the ceiling]."

"They tell you 'you are from Al Qaeda' and when you say 'no' they give the (electric) current to your feet...As you keep saying 'no' this goes on for two or three hours."

In testimony consistent with that of other Gitmo survivors, Kurnaz said he was suspended from the ceiling for at least four days. "They take you down in the mornings when a doctor comes to see whether you can endure more. They let you sit when the interrogator comes...They take you down about three times a day so you do not die."

Such precautions weren't 100 percent effective. "I saw several people die," he said.

Now the United States is trying to burnish its nasty image as one of the world's leading torture states--not by eliminating torture, but by silencing its victims. In a remarkable bit of legal sang froid, the Bush Administration has filed a brief in its case against Majid Khan asking a federal court to seal its torture of him as "top secret."

Khan is one of 14 alleged Al Qaeda suspects transferred earlier this year from secret CIA torture chambers in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Pakistan to Gitmo. CIA official Marilyn Dorn said in a Bush Administration affidavit that Khan should be silenced lest he reveal "the conditions of detention and specific alternative interrogation procedures."

"If this argument carries the day," The Washington Post wrote in an editorial, "it will make virtually impossible any accountability for the administration's treatment of top Al Qaeda detainees."

"Sausage making," a right-wing blogger calls it. We abandon American values to protect the American way of life. But we don't want to hear about it, much less watch it. A YouTube video of a volunteer undergoing waterboarding--an illegal but frequently used CIA torture technique that Dick Cheney agreed was a harmless "dunk of water," a "no-brainer"--vanished hours after being posted.

When political leaders justify torture, it isn't long before it goes mainstream. Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a 21-year-old college student at UCLA, was typing away in the back of a campus library computer lab when security guards demanded that he produce ID for a "random check."

What happened after he refused was caught on eight agonizing minutes of video shot by another student's cellphone. As he screamed and convulsed on the floor, rent-a-cops repeatedly shot Tabatabainejad with a Taser stun gun.

"Any student who witnessed it was left with an image you don't want to remember," a witness told the UCLA student newspaper. Asked whether Tabatabainejad resisted, the witness said, "In the beginning, no. But when they were holding onto him and they were on the ground, he was trying to just break free. He was saying, 'I'm leaving, I'm leaving.' It was so disturbing to watch that I cannot be concise on that. I can just say that he was willing to leave. He had his backpack on his shoulder and he was walking out when the cops approached him. It was unnecessary."

The video captures the security men ordering Tabatabainejad to "get up or you'll get Tased," shooting him when he complies and laughing as they repeat their demand. "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your f------ abuse of power," he shouted at bystanders who were visibly upset but too cowed to intervene.

The Democratic takeover of Congress has seen high hopes of national moral redemption downgraded to more modest goals: raising the minimum wage, allowing the Medicare program to negotiate lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies. No leading Democrat has called for impeaching Bush, closing Guantánamo and other torture camps, or outlawing spying on American citizens without a warrant. There is, however, a sign that something remains of American morality.

Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd has introduced a bill to defang the neofascist Military Commissions Act, signed into law by Bush shortly before the elections. Under the MCA, the president or secretary of defense can declare anyone, including a U.S. citizen, an "enemy combatant" and toss them into a secret prison for the rest of their life, where they can legally be tortured. The MCA eliminates habeas corpus, a legal right enjoyed by Westerners since the 13th century that forces police to file charges against an arrestee or let him go.

"People have no idea how significant this is," said Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University. "What the Congress did and what the president signed...essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values."

Dodd's Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act (S. 4060) would eliminate the most heinous aspects of the MCA and begin the restoration of American democracy before 9/11, when it was supplanted by our current police state.

"I strongly believe that terrorists who seek to destroy America must be punished for any wrongs they commit against this country," said Dodd. "But in my view, in order to sustain America's moral authority and win a lasting victory against our enemies, such punishment must be meted out only in accordance with the rule of law."

As we've seen in Iraq, it's easier to destroy a society than to rebuild one. Seven decades after Stalin's Great Terror, Russia is still struggling to establish democratic institutions.

Unraveling the oppressive legacy of Bush's post-9/11 security apparatus won't be easy either. Even if it passes, Dodd's bill faces an almost certain presidential veto--yet another reason impeachment should be Democrats' top priority in January.

(Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

Friday, November 17, 2006

US hearings on Iraq set course for intensified conflict

By Peter Symonds
17 November 2006

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Just over a week after American voters expressed their opposition to the war in Iraq, Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on Wednesday provided further confirmation that there will be no rapid withdrawal of troops or end to the US occupation.

A string of top generals and officials argued that any pull-out would be a disaster for US interests in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. The decision to convene the committee so rapidly after the election underscores the determination of Democrats and Republicans alike to shift the focus of public debate on Iraq. The hearings were staged quite consciously to undercut popular antiwar sentiment and to address instead what the Bush administration must do to shore up the US occupation.

In his testimony, General John Abizaid, the top US commander in the Middle East, bluntly opposed the call made by some Democrats in the course of the election campaign for “a phased withdrawal” of US forces from Iraq. He rejected the suggestion that there should be any timetable or constraints on troop numbers. Rather than reduced troop levels, Abizaid strongly hinted there would be an increase, ostensibly to provide more training for Iraqi security forces.

Abizaid made a definite appeal to the Democrats, whose chief criticisms of the Bush administration have been, not the invasion of Iraq, but the tactics used to carry it out. He pointedly endorsed the comments of retired General Eric Shinseki, who, in 2003, warned Congress that several hundred thousand US troops would be needed in Iraq, only to be publicly belittled by then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “I think you can look back and say that more American troops would have been advisable in the early stages,” Abizaid said.

Rumsfeld’s claims that a smaller US military force could seize and occupy Iraq have been discredited by the deepening disaster in Iraq, which has already claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 American soldiers. Abazaid’s comments reflect the opinions of the Pentagon top brass that more troops should have been sent, and that a sustained occupation required a general expansion of the US military.

Indicating what is being prepared, Abizaid said the military faces the same problem today. “We can put in 20,000 more Americans tomorrow and achieve a temporary effect. But when you look at the overall American force pool that’s available out there, the ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something that we have right now with the size of the Army and the Marine Corps,” he said.

Abizaid’s comments were supported by other officials, who painted a bleak picture of the crisis facing the US military in Iraq. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) director, Lieutenant General Michael Maples cited the rising number of attacks on allied forces, which averaged 180 per day last month, up from 170 a day in September and 70 per day in January. He said sectarian violence was rising in “scope, complexity and lethality” and “creating an atmosphere of fear and hardening sectarianism, which is empowering militias and vigilante groups.”

What was evident in the course of the hearing was the general consensus that US troops have to remain in Iraq, not to secure a better future for the Iraqi people, but to protect American economic and strategic interests in the Middle East. Senior State Department official David Satterfield told the committee that the US had to prevent Iraq crumbling. “Such an outcome in Iraq is unacceptable. It would undermine US national interests in Iraq and in the broader region,” he warned.

While pointing to the disaster in Iraq, none of the Democrats seriously challenged Abizaid’s insistence that US troop numbers must not be reduced. The New York Times prominently featured the general’s testimony, reflecting its own support and that of significant sections of the Democrats for the continued US occupation. In the same edition, the newspaper highlighted the remarks of various analysts in an article entitled, “Get out of Iraq now? Not so fast, experts say.”

The “course correction” being discussed in ruling circles is not to rapidly withdraw troops, but the opposite. Retired general Anthony Zinni told the New York Times that any substantial troop reduction would likely accelerate the slide to civil war. “Instead of taking troops out, General Zinni said, it would make more sense to consider deploying additional American troops over the next six months to ‘regain momentum’ as part of a broader effort to stabilise Iraq.”

The bipartisan top-level Iraq Study Group co-chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton is yet to formally hand down its recommendations, but there are strong indications that the proposals being hammered out involve a bolstering of troops numbers and a bloody crackdown on anti-US opposition in Iraq.

Citing senior American officials, the British Guardian reported yesterday that President Bush had told senior advisers that the US must make “a last big push” to win the war. According to the newspaper, “Bush’s refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the [Iraq Study Group’s] policy review.”

The Guardian outlined the four points of a “victory strategy” being circulated among senior US officials. These include an increase in the number of US troops in Iraq by as many as 20,000, enlisting the assistance of neighbouring states including possibly Iran and Syria, and the establishment of an autocratic regime in Baghdad. A former administration official told the newspaper: “What they’re going to say is: lower the goals, forget about the democracy crap, put more resources in, do it.”

Not coincidentally, the figure of 20,000 troops happens to match the number floated by General Abizaid in the congressional hearings. The purpose of these extra personnel was also hinted in his testimony. While nominally allocated for “training”, the Pentagon is planning to insert US advisers into the Iraqi army at all levels, including in relatively small units with less than 200 soldiers. The plan is to make them “more capable in their ability to confront the sectarian problem”.

In reality what is being proposed are measures to bring Iraqi security forces, which currently have various conflicting sectarian loyalties, firmly under US control. Such a step is a necessary precursor to demanding that the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki crack down on Shiite militias loyal to parties in his ruling coalition, in particular the Mahdi army of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. There have been repeated hints in Washington and Baghdad that if Maliki refuses, he faces the prospect of being removed.

In his congressional testimony, General Abizaid emphasised that Maliki had to deal with the Shiite militias “very soon”. “We have to make sure that the Iraqi army is the paramount force in the country to defend the country so people won’t turn to the militia for support. What would make me very pessimistic is if the Iraqi government fails to disarm the illegal militias.”

This is the bipartisan agenda being hammered out in Washington. Far from ending the war, it involves a military build up and a confrontation with the Shiite militias that will inevitably produce a bloodbath for the Iraqi people and a further descent into the quagmire for US soldiers.

See Also:
After the US elections: Renewed pro-war consensus emerges in Washington
[16 November 2006]

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, November 15, 2006

“A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.”

—Thomas Jefferson, on the Alien & Sedition Act, June 4, 1798. Are we having fun yet? Not half as much, I suspect, as those of us alarmed by the radicalism of the Bush presidency are fixing to have watching Republicans castigate each other for last week’s stunning electoral defeat, which could signal the beginning of an altogether different era in American politics. Even so, it was hugely gratifying to see Americans rescue the nation from the extra-constitutional extremism of the Republican right. Veteran reporter Robert Parry put it succinctly at consortiumnews. com: “By a surprisingly decisive margin, American voters rejected George W. Bush’s designs for transforming the United States into a one-party government run by an all-powerful executive waging endless war abroad and throttling constitutional liberties at home. In essence, the voters asserted themselves as the final check and balance in the U. S. political system.”

For most of six years, Bush governed as if there was never going to be another election. He acted as if the whole country had turned into East Texas or Alabama. So before we get all fuzzywarm and bipartisan, let’s recall his inept and disgraceful performance during the 2006 campaign.

“The Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this,” he said. “The terrorists win and America loses.”

In essence, the president of the United States had accused his opponents of treason. Asked about it by a reporter after the traitors turned out to represent a clear majority of Americans, Bush played it off like a high school “Heather.” Just kidding ! Why, of course presumptive Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are strong patriots like himself. “What’s changed today,” he said, “is the election is over and the Democrats won.”

What glassy-eyed throngs of Bush cultists who’d cheered the president’s divisive rhetoric were supposed to make of that wasn’t immediately clear. Had their champion been conning them all along ?

But the presidential deceit that cost Republicans big time was the one about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Asked during the campaign’s final week about the growing controversy over Rummy’s inept, arrogant handling of the Iraq war, Bush vowed to keep him on the job until January 2009. As any halfway competent politician ought to have anticipated, it played as a stubborn refusal even to reconsider a catastrophically failed policy.

No wonder Republicans in competitive races fled Bush like Typhoid Mary. If they wanted change in Iraq, voters had no choice but to support Democrats. Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC News that the White House would proceed “full speed ahead” in Iraq regardless of who won the election. Anybody who didn’t like it, as Cheney once told Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., could go bleep themselves.

In fact, the president had not only decided to dump Rumsfeld, but had already chosen Bush family retainer Robert Gates to replace him. Confronted about it after firing Rummy the morning after the election, he off-handedly admitted it.

“The reason why,” Bush explained, “is I didn’t want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign.”

Next time, we’ll know better than to believe him. Anyway, let the recriminations begin at the top. It’s reasonable to say that Bush and Cheney’s blunders probably cost the Republicans Senate seats in Virginia, Missouri and Montana.

And speaking of little white lies, here’s talk radio propagandist Rush Limbaugh, who doubtless helped swing the Missouri contest by mocking actor Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease tremors: “I feel liberated.... I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don’t think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, ‘Well, why have you been doing it?’ Because... even though the Republican Party let us down, to me they represent a far better future for my beliefs and therefore the country’s than the Democrat Party does.”

Got that, dittoheads? Reckon whose water Limbaugh’s carrying today?

As close as it was, if Democrats don’t blow it, the election could signal a major political realignment. Writing in the British newspaper The Guardian, former Bill Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal argues that the 2006 election may represent the bitter end of Richard Nixon’s vaunted “Southern Strategy.”

“After the mid-term elections, the GOP has become a regional party of the South,” he wrote. “And, in the future, Republicans can only hold their base by asserting their conservatism, which alienates the rest of the country. More than ever, the Republicans are dependent upon white evangelical voters in the South and sparsely populated Rocky Mountain states. The Republican coalition, its much-touted ‘big tent,’ has nearly collapsed.” If, to repeat, the Democrats don’t blow it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Will the Democrats Become Part of the Problem?

By Paul Craig Roberts

11/09/06 "
Information Clearing House " -- -- It only took six years for Americans to comprehend George Bush and the Republican Party and to realize that the Republicans were not leading America in any promising directions.

Exit polls and interviews with voters across the country by CNN political analyst Bill Schneider show that the November 2006 election was a vote against both Bush and the war in Iraq. Schneider reports that voters did not even know the name of the Democrats for whom they voted. Voters said: “I am going to vote Democrat, because I don’t like Bush, I don’t like the war. I want to make a statement.”

I believe that voters recognized that the peril of one-party rule is that political accountability exists no where except at the ballot box. With the Republican built and programmed electronic voting machines, even accountability at the ballot box was disappearing. Americans realized that they had made a serious mistake giving power to one party, and they rectified it.

With Republican control of the legislative branch ended, Pentagon Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was immediately swept from power. With the troops, generals, and the service newspapers calling for Rumsfeld’s head, only the delusional warmonger, Vice President Richard Cheney, wanted to keep Rumsfeld in power.

It was a battle that Cheney lost. Cheney’s defeat is an indication that reality has elbowed its way back into Republican consciousness, pushing hubris and delusion away from the control they have exercised over political power.

The lust for unbridled power proved to be too strong a temptation for normally cautious Republicans. The Republicans waved the flag and shouted “terrorist sympathizer” at every civil libertarian who attempted to defend the US Constitution, the separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, the Geneva Conventions’ proscriptions against torture, and America’s reputation from a nazified US Dept of Justice
(sic) and a president who behaved--with the approval of Republicans-- as if he were above the law. In violation of his oath of office, Bush used signing statements to negate laws passed by Congress, not with a veto, but with his personal opinion. Bush, thus, elevated himself above the rule of law that has protected America from becoming a tyranny and made a mockery of the separation of powers that are a foundation of American liberty.

Americans may not have understood this as clearly as the Founding Fathers did, but the people recognized, however dimly, a problem and exercised corrective action. The question now is: what will the Democrats do?

The Democrats clearly have no mandate for their pet issues of gun control, homosexual marriage, and higher taxes--especially at a time when the average American is deeper in personal debt than at any other time in history and jobs are being offshored at a rapid rate destroying the economic prospects of the American people.

After the years of illegal war and the overnight destruction of civil liberties that were 800 years in their creation, the United States stands at a watershed. If the legislation that has been put on the books permitting spying on Americans without a court warrant, legalizing torture and self-incrimination, and repealing habeas corpus and the right to an attorney remains on the books, the United States will be a police state regardless of which party is in power.

If the Democrats are to make a real difference, their first task is to repeal the Orwellian-named “Patriot Acts,” the torture legislation, the detention without court evidence legislation, and the right-to-spy and invade privacy without court warrant legislation. The White House tyrant needs to be quickly told that one more “signing statement” and he will be impeached, convicted, and turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague.

The notion that Americans can be protected from “terror” by giving up the Bill of Rights is absurd. Democrats are complicit in this absurd notion. Many were intimidated into voting for police state legislation, because they lacked the intestinal fortitude to call police state legislation by its own name. The legislation that has been passed during the Bush regime is far more dangerous to Americans than Muslim terrorists.

Indeed, the prime cause of Muslim terrorism is the US interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries and America’s one-sided stance in favor of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Jimmy Carter was president, his even-handed approach made the US respected throughout the Muslim world. 9/11, if it was actually an act of Muslim terrorism, was the direct consequence of US one-sided meddling in Middle Eastern affairs.

When, and only when, the Democrats have erased the Bush administration’s police state legislation from the books, thus restoring the Constitution, they should clear the air on two other issues of major importance. The Democrats must convene a commission of independent experts to investigate 9/11. The 9/11 Commission Report has too many problems and shortcomings to be believable. Recent polls show that 36 percent of the American people do not believe the report. Such a deficient report is unacceptable. 9/11 became the excuse for the neoconservative Bush regime to launch illegal wars of aggression in the Middle East. The 9/11 Commission Report is nothing but a public relations justification for the “war on terror,” which in truth is a war on American liberty. As long as politicians with a police state mentality can cling to the cover of the 9/11 Commission Report, the Bill of Rights will remain endangered.

The other issue is the blatant corruption in the Bush regime’s contract practices. So many contracts are tainted with their connections to Republican power brokers, including Vice President Richard Cheney, that the taxpayers are being fleeced on the level of the Grant administration. Indictments and long prison sentences are in order.

This leaves the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both are lost. Both invasions were illegal. Those responsible must be held accountable. The American prosecutors of the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg emphasized, as Robert Jackson put it, that Germany’s crime was not in losing the war but in starting it. Under the Nuremberg standard, to launch a war of aggression is a war crime. It is punishable with a death sentence.

As the wars are crimes, they must be stopped. Having overthrown a stable secular regime in Iraq, the US and its craven allies have no recourse but to accept that Iraq will break into three states: In the north the Kurds will unite with the Turkish Kurds, and Turkey will have to deal with the situation without US interference. In the south, the Shiites will have an Islamic regime similar to the government in Iran, with whom the Iraqi Shiites will be allied. The Sunnis will be isolated in the middle without any oil.

The US and Britain no longer have any role to play in the Middle East. As the King of Jordan predicted, there is now a Shiite crescent that runs from Iran through Iraq into Lebanon. This Shiite crescent is the most powerful force in the Middle East.

The Iraqi Sunnis can come to terms with Shiite power or be destroyed. The American puppet states of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the oil emirates are faced with the instability that comes from being allied with the “hegemonic” West against their own people. It is up to their own wits whether they can make the transformation. The US has neither the resources, the finances, nor the credibility to intervene.

The Israelis have isolated themselves with their genocidal policies against the Palestinians. Intelligent Israelis are already sending their children out of the country. Israeli peace groups have thrown up their hands in the face of the persistent intransigence of the Israeli government and the disregard of common sense. It remains to be seen if the Israelis can learn to care about anyone but their own kind. Israel can save itself if its political leaders will stop pushing Palestinians off of their own land by destroying their homes and orchards and murdering their children, thus turning more Palestinians into refugees. It would be easy for the economically talented Israelis to pull the Palestinians into prosperity, thereby ending the conflict. Are Israelis capable of the humane leadership required to create a place for themselves in the Middle East or are they forever wed to Mao’s dictum that “power comes out of the barrel of a gun”?

Republican rule in the 21st century has devastated American civil liberties and American prestige and leadership capability. Can Democrats restore American liberties and leadership, or will a lust for power corrupt them, too, and cause Democrats to retain the police state powers Bush has created?

If the Bush regime’s police state legislation is still law in 2008, the Democrats will have failed.

Paul Craig Roberts , was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington ; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice

Friday, November 10, 2006


By Ted RallWed Nov 8, 2:41 PM ET

Like Cornered Rats, GOP Losers More Dangerous Than Ever

NEW YORK--"My fellow Americans," assured incoming president Gerald Ford hours after the Watergate scandals forced Richard Nixon to resign, "our long national nightmare is over."

I'm tempted, in the aftermath of the widest and most stunning electoral repudiation of Republicanism since Watergate, to mark the Democratic recapture of governorships, the House of Representatives (and probably the Senate) as the beginning of the end of Bush's fascism lite, and thus a long overdue vindication of what I've been saying about him since his December 2000 coup d'état.

Back in 2001 and 2002, state-controlled media called me radical. Now, with most Americans seeing things my way, I'm mainstream. Yet I'm more scared now.

"Iraq," I wrote a week before the 2003 invasion, "will probably be Bush's Waterloo." And so it has been: Exit polls found voters more motivated by opposition to the war than any other issue. "There was general revulsion in the country, particularly among Democrats and independents, against the conduct of the war in Iraq," said pollster John Zogby. "This was, at the grass roots, a referendum against the war and the president. For Republicans, there was significant disappointment about opportunities lost through enormous budget deficits, threats to civil liberties, a failed social agenda, and the war." Although Democrats failed to nationalize the election, Iraq succeeded: a pitiful seven percent of respondents to the latest Gallup survey still want to "stay the course."

A White House controlled by an unpopular, highly partisan lame duck, a rival party majority without enough votes in Congress to override his veto, and the early start of a highly anticipated 2008 presidential campaign add up to one likely result: gridlock. Bush's legislative and military agendas are dead. But our long national nightmare has just begun.

A Frightening New Security State

We'll be cleaning up Bush's mess long after his scheduled abdication on January 20, 2009. But the trillions of dollars in national debt he has run up and his two losing wars will drain our economy for decades to come. We've provoked a new generation of terrorists. Yet even more damaging and nearly impossible to unravel will be the threats to Americans posed by the neofascist national security apparatus the Bushists will leave behind--unless they use it to remain in power.

Shortly after 9/11 Bush began the first of a long series of power grabs that have transformed him from the leader of a country beholden to its people to an authoritarian despot. He signed a secret executive order granting himself the right to declare anyone in the world, including a U.S. citizen, an "enemy combatant"--without proof--and order him assassinated. Violating federal law and privacy rights, Bush authorized the NSA to listen to our phone calls and read our e-mail. FBI, CIA and HomeSec goons "disappeared" thousands of people into a horrible new matrix of concentration camps and secret prisons.

On October 17, 2006 Bush signed the Military Commissions Act. The new law, scarcely mentioned in the media, is breathtaking for the breadth of its attack on basic rights. Under the MCA either the president or the secretary of defense may declare you an "enemy combatant"--as usual, without proof. Under that designation you may be jailed, without the right to an attorney, for the rest of your life. You can even be tortured. Your U.S. citizenship can't protect you. And it's all "legal."

Concentration Camps

In January 2006 HomeSec awarded a $385 million contract to Kellogg, Brown and Root, the subsidiary of Halliburton Co., to build "temporary detention and processing capabilities"--internment camps--"in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs."

The question, asks Progressive magazine editor Ruth Conniff, "is what is the government planning to do with mass roundups of people?" After all, Bush and other Republican leaders have spent five years calling Democrats and others who disagree with them traitors and terrorists. Following so much hateful rhetoric, you can't blame liberals for wondering whether they too are about to be declared "enemy combatants." They're not paranoid; they're just paying attention.

And Now, Martial Law

About a week ago some left-wing bloggers began circulating rumors that Bush had secretly signed something called the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007" that "allows the president to declare a 'public emergency' and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to 'suppress public disorder.'" I couldn't find the text of the law at the time, formerly H.R. 5122, or a reliable media account, so I decided not to report on it.

I can now confirm the bloggers' account. Bush signed the JWDAA hours after the MCA, in a furtive closed-door White House ceremony. There is, buried deep down in Title V, Subtitle B, Part II, Section 525(a) of the JWDAA, a coup. The Bush Administration has quietly stolen the National Guard away from the states.

Here's the relevant section of Public Law 109-364:

"The [military] Secretary [of the Army, Navy or Air Force] concerned may order a member of a reserve component under the Secretary's jurisdiction to active duty...The training or duty ordered to be performed...may of operations or missions undertaken by the member's unit at the request of the President or Secretary of Defense."

The National Guard, used to maintain order during natural disasters and civil disturbances and the sole vehicle available under U.S. law to enforce a declaration of martial law, has previously been controlled by state governors. They have now been stripped of that control. Thanks to the JWDAA, Bush or Rumsfeld can now deploy National Guardsmen in American cities without obtaining permission from state governors.

Section 526 of the Warner Act goes further still. It states that the "Governor of a State...with the consent of the [military] Secretary concerned, may order a member of the National Guard to perform Active Guard and Reserve duty..." The key word is "may." A governor can no longer deploy the Guard in his or her state without first getting Rumsfeld's permission.

Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sounded the alarm during senatorial debate, but U.S. state-controlled media ignored him. The Warner Act, he said, "includes language that subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military's involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law...We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the states, when we make it easier for the president to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty."

Only one governor, Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana, made a fuss over the Warner Act. A spokesman for the National Governors Association requested a wimpy "clarification" concerning what circumstances might prompt Bush to impose martial law. As far as I can determine this column marks the first time the JWDAA has been mentioned in the mainstream media.

Now the dark men who engineered America's post-9/11 police state have watched the public reject their policies. The incoming Democratic majority Congress will be able to hold hearings and launch investigations that could lead to their indictments and removal from office. John Dingell, the liberal incoming chairman of the Commerce Committee did nothing to dissuade GOP fears of "a blizzard of subpoenas": "As the Lord High Executioner said in 'The Mikado,'" Dingell recently joked, "I have a little list."

A year of crisis commences.

As ugly secrets surface, Bushists will turn desperate. Democracy has failed their grand schemes; token resignations like Rumsfeld's come too little, too late. Only tyranny can save their skins. Will the beleaguered neocons led by Cheney and Bush, cornered like rats, unleash their brand-new police state on their political opponents? Or will they tough it out and suck up the fines and prison sentences to come? The next year or two could go either way.

The nightmare is not over.

(Ted Rall is the author of the new book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Neocons are on the way out

Neo-cons are on the way out
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, November 8, 2006

No matter who controls Congress come 2007, we’re not going to have the neo-conservatives to kick around anymore. The geopolitical seers whose Project for a New American Century manifesto helped convince President Bush to invade Iraq are having second thoughts. Displaying the same impeccable political judgment that led the U. S. into Baghdad, the war’s intellectual architects chose the weeks before the election to vent against the White House. See, if the American Enterprise Institute and the Weekly Standard ran things instead of that pinhead Bush, everything would be different. Here’s who Michael Ledeen, the AEI “freedom scholar” currently promoting war with Iran, blames for the mess in Iraq: “Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are,” he told a Vanity Fair interviewer. “They are women who are in love with the president: Laura, Condi, Harriet Miers and Karen Hughes.” What, no Karl Rove? It gets worse. Here’s Kenneth Adelman, longtime GOP cold warrior and member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. Adelman famously predicted that liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk in two influential Washington Post articles in 2002 and 2003. Now he thinks he was foolish to believe Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condi Rice could pull it off.

“I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national security team since [Harry] Truman was, indeed, going to be competent,” Adelman told author David Rose. “They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, ndividually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional.”

For Adelman, the decisive moment came when Bush awarded the Presidential
Medal of Freedom to former CIA director George Tenet, retired Gen. Tommy
Franks and Coalition Provisional Authority head Jerry Bremer, “three of the most incompetent people who’ve ever served in such key spots. And they get the highest civilian honor a president can bestow on anyone!... It was then I thought, ‘There’s no seriousness here, these are not serious people.’”

Former White House speech writer David Frum laments that Bush proved sadly incapable of absorbing his wisdom. As a speech writer, he’d imagined “that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything.”

Yeah, maybe. Or maybe Bush’s biggest mistake was listening to this cabal of half-baked swamis to begin with. But hold that thought. Here’s Richard Perle, the so-called “Prince of Darkness,” an icon on the Chicken Little right. For Perle, catastrophe is always imminent and war mandatory, although it’s doubtful that he’s ever personally had even a fist fight.

Back in 1987, he resigned from the Defense Department, reportedly in disgust over President Ronald Reagan’s chumminess with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev—the rapprochement that helped end the Cold War two years later.

Consistently wrong but rarely in doubt, Perle was made chairman of the Defense Policy Board by Bush. He and Frum co-authored a 2003 book portentously called “An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror.” It urged pre-emptive strikes on several Middle Eastern countries. Now he says it’s a shame no Delphic oracle predicted White House bungling.

“Huge mistakes were made,” he says, “and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neo-conservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I’m getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, ‘Go design the campaign to do that.’ I had no responsibility for that.”

Ledeen even posted an article in the National Review on-line claiming he “opposed the military invasion of Iraq before it took place.” Alas, as Glenn Greenwald pointed out on his Unclaimed Territory Web site, Ledeen had published an August 2002 article in the same magazine endorsing “the desperately needed and long overdue war against Saddam Hussein and the rest of the terror masters.” He expressed “hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today.” Evidently, National Review editors have short memories. When it comes to personal betrayal, Bush and Rove famously never forget, so it’s clear that the neo-cons are finished for now. If they did something serious like work for the Weather Channel or pick NFL games for ESPN, chances are they’d need to change occupations. Alas, every right-wing “think tank” in Washington is chock-full of half-baked ideologues and magical thinkers exactly like them. So we probably haven’t seen the last of them yet.

GoPPigs Badly Beaten as national turnout shuns Bush

Democrats take House; Senate hangs on Virginia

With the House of Representatives firmly in Democratic control, the battle for the Senate focused Wednesday on Virginia, where razor-thin margins raised the prospect of lengthy recounts.

In Virginia, the Republican incumbent, Senator George Allen, trailed the Democratic challenger, Jim Webb, by a margin well below the 1 percent that allows for a losing candidate to demand that ballots be counted again.

A recount in Virginia could mean prolonged uncertainty over control of the Senate, since a formal request can be filed only after the results are officially certified on Nov. 27, according to the state board of elections. Last year a recount in the race for Attorney General was not resolved until Dec. 21.

If the Senate ends up evenly split, the Republicans would remain in control by virtue of Vice President Cheney's tie-breaking role. Members of both parties began adjusting to the Democrats' victory in the House, a sharp turnaround in the fortunes of the party and a sea change in the political dynamics in Washington after a dozen years in which Republicans controlled both houses of Congress for all but a brief period.

President Bush telephoned Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who will become the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House. Mr. Bush also scheduled a news conference for 1 p.m. Eastern time today.

No less significant for the long-term political fortunes of their party, Democrats were winning governors' seats across the country - notably in Ohio, a state that has been at the center of the past two presidential elections.

Among the faces that will be absent from the halls of Congress next year are some high-profile and long-serving members of the Republican Party, including Representatives Charles Bass of New Hampshire. E. Clay Shaw Jr. of Florida, J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, Jim Ryun of Kansas and Nancy L. Johnson of Connecticut.

The parade of departing Republican senators also included Mike DeWine of Ohio, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Jim Talent of Missouri, who conceded his race to Claire McCaskill well after midnight.

Karl Rove, the president's top political strategist, alerted the president that the House was lost at around 11 p.m., the White House said.

"His reaction was, he was disappointed in the results in the House," Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman. "But he's eager to work with both parties on his priorities over the next two years. He's got an agenda of important issues he wants to work on, and he's going to work with both parties."

One of the Democrats Mr. Bush telephoned - Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, a contender for majority leader - said in a televised interview that the president spoke of a need for the two parties to work together, particularly on Iraq.

In talk show appearances, tired-looking and glum Republican officials were also stressing bipartisanship.

Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, spoke of trying to move the debate on important issues out of the partisan political arena during an appearance on Fox News.

Drawing comparisons with World War II, he said the "threat of Islamic fascism" was neither "a Republican threat nor a Democratic threat" and that there was "no reason we can't work on a bipartisan basis on an issue like that."

By contrast, tired-looking and elated Democrats stressed the need for the change in direction that they had made the centerpiece of the campaign.

Representative Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Democrat who led his party's campaign this fall in the House, said that while he believed in bipartisanship, his party was ready to pursue an ambitious agenda, beginning with ethics reform.

By any measure, the result was a sobering defeat for a White House and a political party that had just two years ago, with Mr. Bush's re-election, claimed a mandate to shape both foreign and domestic policy and set out to establish long-term dominance for the Republican Party.

To the end, Mr. Rove had expressed public confidence that the electoral tools he had used to great effect in his long association with Mr. Bush - a sophisticated get-out-the-vote effort, an aggressive effort to define Democratic candidates in unflattering ways, a calculated and intense campaign to fuel the enthusiasm of conservative voters - would save the Republicans from defeat.

In light of the defeat, Mr. Bush's aides were striking a more conciliatory tone as they faced the prospect of two years of divided government and a clearly enlivened Democratic Party.

"We always recognized this was going to be a very challenging year," Ken Mehlman, the Republican Party chairman, said on CNN. "We have to continue to work and try to work on a bipartisan basis to accomplish things."

In the Senate, one of the Republicans' top targets - Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey - survived a nearly $5 million onslaught by the Republican Party to defeat Thomas H. Kean Jr.

In New York, Eliot Spitzer breezed to victory, becoming the first Democrat in 12 years to move into the governor's mansion in Albany, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won easy re-election. In Connecticut, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, running as in independent, defeated the man who beat him in the Democratic primary, Ned Lamont.

The election to a large extent became a national referendum on Mr. Bush and the war in Iraq, according to exit polls.

Sixty percent of voters leaving the polls yesterday said they opposed the war in Iraq, and 40 percent said their vote was a vote against Mr. Bush. In addition, a significant number of voters said corruption was a crucial issue in their decision, in a year in which Republicans have struggled with scandal in their ranks. Independent voters, a closely watched group in a polarized country, broke heavily for Democrats over Republicans, the exit polls showed.

Ms. Pelosi took note of the importance of the war in the outcome in her own victory speech early this morning.

"Nowhere did the American people make it more clear that we need a new direction than in Iraq," she said, speaking to cheers. "We can not continue down this catastrophic path. So we say to the president, 'Mr. President, we need a new direction in Iraq. Let us work together to find a solution to the war in Iraq.' "

In a sign of the political mindsets of both parties going into last night, Democrats had arranged an elaborate rally to gather the election results in Washington; Republicans had not.

Beyond the change in party power, the result signaled that the House was in for something of an ideological scramble. While the result was marked by the defeat of a procession of Republican moderates - from New Hampshire, Connecticut and Florida - the new class of Democrats include congressmen-elect who are considerably more moderate than many of their new brethren. In Indiana, Representative John Hostettler, a Republican, was defeated by Brad Ellsworth, a Democrat and sheriff who opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

Democrats picked up six governors' seats currently held by Republicans, most significantly in Ohio, where Representative Ted Strickland won. Mr. Strickland's victory, along with the defeat of Mr. DeWine by Sherrod Brown, signaled that Ohio was no longer the Republican bulwark that it has long been.

At stake was Republican control of both the House and the Senate in the most competitive midterm election since Republicans seized control in 1994. That was the last time one party took control of both houses away from the other. This year, Democrats were looking to win 15 seats to capture the House and 6 to win the Senate.

The day included concerns about electronic voting machines being used for the first time in many parts of the country, as well as about often strict new voter registration laws. Problems were reported in a dozen states, including Indiana and Ohio. In parts of eight states, polling hours were extended.

President Bush cast his vote in Crawford, Tex., then returned to Washington to watch the returns at the White House with a group that included Mr. Mehlman and Mr. Rove.

Throughout the day, Republican Party officials said they were encouraged by reports of what they said was high turnout in typically Republican parts of the country, as well as counts of early votes and absentee ballots. They disputed early exit poll findings that suggested that Republican candidates might be in trouble, though they acknowledged the problems the party's candidates faced this year.

The voting finished an often bitter campaign that pitted a Democratic Party frustrated by years of losses against a White House and a Republican Party acutely aware that losing control of the House or the Senate would fundamentally alter the remainder of Mr. Bush's presidency.

The Republicans went into the campaign with institutional advantages.

Because of redistricting, few incumbents appeared vulnerable initially. Republicans also had what both parties viewed as the considerable advantage of a powerful and sophisticated get-out-the-vote machine the Republican Party began putting together as soon as Mr. Bush took office in 2001.

Once again, Republicans had a financial advantage, even though vigorous fund-raising efforts by Democrats narrowed the historic gap. Over all, Republicans spent $559 million, compared with $456 million by Democrats, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission. And Mr. Rove made clear that he believed Republicans could again roll to victory by emphasizing terrorism and national security issues, as they have in both national elections since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But by the middle of October, Republicans found they were struggling with what several described as the worst political environment in a generation, making it easier, according to exit polls yesterday, for Democrats to achieve their central strategic objective: Turning this election into a national referendum on Mr. Bush's leadership and, more generally, on Republican stewardship.

The war in Iraq deteriorated throughout the fall, the American death toll spiked in October, and public opinion turned more firmly against the conflict. Eight in 10 voters who said they approved of the war in Iraq voted Republican, and 8 in 10 voters who said they disapproved voted Democratic, the exit polls said.

In contrast to 2004 and 2002, when the president was sought after by Republican candidates throughout the country, Mr. Bush was extremely unpopular in many parts of the country this year, limiting the places where he was welcome to campaign. He was shunned by his party's candidate for governor in Florida on Monday, and Democrats ran hundreds of advertisements featuring their Republican opponents standing or sitting next to Mr. Bush. Nearly 4 in 10 voters leaving the polls said their vote yesterday was cast against Mr. Bush.

The Republicans also struggled with corruption scandals, including the resignation in September of Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida, after he admitted sending sexually inappropriate messages to teenage pages.

By the end of the campaign, Republicans said they had been forced to spend money in races that should never have been in play, including the one to replace Mr. Foley and another for the seat once held by Tom DeLay of Texas, the former Republican majority leader who resigned from Congress after being indicted on charges of conspiring to violate Texas election laws.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


By Richard ReevesMon Nov 6, 2:18 PM ET

NEW YORK -- On Tuesday we vote, and the issue, according to most polls, is the performance of President George W. Bush. The president who promised us humility has instead given us humiliation.

It was on Oct. 12, 2000, during his final campaign debate with then-Vice President Al Gore, that Bush attacked nation-building and insistence on doing all things the American way, saying: "I think the United States must be humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own courses."

He also said that night: "I think one way for us being viewed as the Ugly American is for us to go around saying, 'We do it this way and so should you.'"

And: "I am worried about overcommitting our military around the world. I want to be judicious in its use."

That was then. In a little over two months he was president, promising "civility" in our relations around the world. Now, listening to a radio report Friday on the president's campaigning for candidates for the 110th Congress, I heard a correspondent casually begin his story by saying, "George Bush is campaigning for any Republican willing to be seen with him."

The same day's edition of The New York Times reported in two stories the combination of arrogant denial of demonstrated truth and incompetence that will be one of the historical trademarks of the second Bush years.

One headline read: "Congress Tells Auditor in Iraq to Close Office." It seems that the White House has found a new way to try to hide the obvious corruption in the financing of our occupation of Iraq. The administration persuaded Republicans in Congress to deal with the loss of billions of American taxpayer dollars in Iraq by slipping a provision deep into the current military authorization bill that would close down the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. That is the office that was investigating the many fiascos of our adventures, from financial cheating and poor work by American construction companies to the disappearance of millions of dollars worth of weapons sent to Iraqi police. Bush signed that bill two weeks ago.

The second headline read: "U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Guide." That one revealed that the administration unaccountably released and posted, on government Web sites, documents from the 1991 Iraq war that would be helpful to anyone trying to build atomic bombs -- that from a secrecy-obsessed White House that has been busily classifying more innocuous documents that have been open to the public for decades.

We have long been disliked around the world, which is to be expected in some quarters -- and also has something to do with envy. Now we are feared as a superpower asserting the right, or at least the power, to attack anywhere that strikes our fancy. Worse, we are being laughed at for continuing to insist that we are on our way to victory in Iraq. Not!

If you talk to members of Congress who have taken the time and trouble to go to Iraq, they tell you stories of endless "victory" briefings. But when they go from one briefing to another, which means from one secure area to another, including the airport and the Green Zone, members are trussed up in bulletproof armor and helmets. Then officers point to a helicopter or armored car a few dozen yards away and yell, "Run! Run for it!"

A small humiliation. Perhaps the officers do it because they think members of Congress need the exercise. The bodyguarding is so tight that when a recent "Codel" -- that's the jargon for "congressional delegation" -- complained during a visit to the Iraqi Parliament, they were told it was a favorite spot for kidnappings.

So, polls say the Democrats will win on Tuesday. God knows they should. If after all this the Republicans win, then Democrats ought to begin thinking about releasing the donkeys and getting out of politics. But if they do win, the rest of us can only pray that they have the humility to accept and understand what has happened to the world's only superpower in the humiliation of these past few years.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Saddam Hussein’s death sentence: a travesty of justice

By James Cogan
6 November 2006

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The death sentences handed down yesterday against Saddam Hussein and three other prominent figures in his regime are the outcome of show trial concocted for political purposes. Amid unspeakable atrocities being committed against the people of Iraq every day by the US occupation forces, a hand-picked court has condemned the former Iraqi dictator to die. The very timing of the sentence is an attempt to lift the electoral fortunes of the Republican Party in Tuesday’s congressional elections by energising its right-wing base with the prospect of a high profile legal lynching.

Saddam Hussein and the leading personnel of the Iraqi Baath Party should be tried for the litany of crimes they committed against the Iraqi people. The Bush administration, however, and the American ruling class as a whole, have no right to oversee the trial of anyone in Iraq for crimes against humanity. The invasion of 2003 was a war crime, an unprovoked act of aggression that was justified with lies and carried out in defiance of international law.

In the subsequent three-and-a-half years, the US occupation has attempted to subjugate the Iraqi people through mass killings, torture and the destruction of entire cities. A study conducted by the John Hopkins University—the only credible attempt to estimate the number of casualties inflicted by the war and occupation—found that the US government is responsible for the deaths of 655,000 Iraqis. Preceding the war, the United Nations sanctions from 1991 to 2003 cost the lives of one million Iraqis through malnutrition and disease.

The pro-war media are predictably highlighting the instances of celebration among Shiite and Kurdish Iraqis in response to the death sentence against Hussein. There can be no concept of justice in Iraq, however, until the individuals in Washington, London and elsewhere who are responsible for 15 years of death and suffering are brought to trial and the illegal occupation of the country by tens of thousands of American and allied troops has been ended.

Moreover, US governments going back to the 1960s provided political and financial support to Hussein and the Baathists as they carried out some of their most brutal atrocities—from the massacres of Communist Party members and socialist-minded workers in 1963 and again in 1979, to the slaughter of Shiite fundamentalist and Kurdish nationalist opponents of the regime during the 1980s.

The very killings for which Hussein has been sentenced to death—the execution of 148 Shiite men and boys from the village of Dujail in 1982—took place within the context of the setbacks being suffered by the Iraqi military in the US-backed Iraqi war against Iran. The US directly encouraged Hussein to invade Iran in 1980 and provided Iraq with political, financial and military support throughout the eight-year conflict because it viewed the theocratic Shiite regime, which came to power in Tehran in 1979, as a threat to its interests in the Middle East.

The war ultimately cost the lives of more than one million Iraqis and Iranians. In the midst of the carnage, the US supported the so-called “Anfal” campaign that was ordered by Hussein to wipe out the Iranian-backed Kurdish rebellion in the north, for which he is also on trial. In 1991, following the Gulf War, the first Bush administration ordered the US military to do nothing to prevent Hussein’s forces from suppressing Shiite and Kurdish uprisings.

Any legitimate trial of Hussein would expose the culpability of the US and other major powers in the crimes of the Baathist regime in Iraq. The travesty that has taken place did the opposite. It prevented any evidence being presented that documented the relationship between a brutal dictatorship and great power interests. There has been no accounting with the past or justice for those who were murdered. Only the most selective evidence relating directly to the events in Dujail was presented. As an additional precaution, the television broadcast from the court was delayed by 20 minutes so censors could delete anything that was considered damaging to the American occupation.

The entire process has been a shameless show trial. The Iraq Special Tribunal was established by an edict issued by US proconsul Paul Bremmer in 2003. Its judges and prosecutors were selected by American officials and instructed by American advisors. The court’s lack of credibility and impartiality has been sharply criticised by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other international observers. On numerous occasions, court proceedings took place in the absence of the defendants or under conditions where they were denied the right to have their own lawyers present.

In January, the chief judge was pressured to step down after the US media and Iraqi government accused him of not doing enough to prevent Hussein from using the witness stand to denounce the court’s legitimacy. Three lawyers representing the defendants were murdered and others forced to flee the country, most likely by death squads working for the Shiite fundamentalist parties that dominate the US-backed government in Baghdad.

The American ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, hailed the death sentence against Hussein yesterday as an “important milestone” in the “building of a free society based on the rule of law”. President Bush declared that the verdict was “a milestone in the Iraqi people’s efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law”.

The cynicism of these statements is staggering. Numerous leaks to the US media indicate that officials like Khalilzad have spent the past several months plotting a coup against the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki and its replacement with some form of military junta. There is a growing consensus among both Republicans and Democrats that US interests in Iraq would be better served by a regime very similar to that of Hussein.

Even as Hussein is sentenced to hang, the US political establishment is discussing putting many of the Baathist killers and thugs that underpinned his regime back in power, in exchange for ending their guerilla war against American forces and agreeing to an arrangement for the US corporate plunder of Iraq’s oil resources. The prelude to any move to rehabilitate the Baathist elite will be a bloodbath by the US military against the Shiite militiamen in areas like Sadr City in Baghdad who paraded in the streets yesterday to celebrate the outcome of the Hussein trial.

See Also:
Prosecutor demands death penalty in Hussein show trial
[22 June 2006]
Saddam Hussein trial resumes: a grotesque display of imperial justice
[30 November 2005]