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.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Democratic presidential candidates debate where to wage war next

By Jerry White
28 April 2007

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In the first debate between candidates for the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential nomination, the leading contenders made clear that whatever their differences with the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq, they are all committed to maintaining the US occupation of the oil-rich country and that, if elected president, they would not hesitate to use US military power anywhere in the world to defend the geo-political interests of American imperialism.

The debate, which was broadcast by MSNBC television from South Carolina State University, included ostensible front runners New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Illinois Senator Barack Obama and former North Carolina senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards, as well as Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Also included were Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska senator Mike Gravel.

The debate was overshadowed by the deep crisis over the war in Iraq and the growing popular hatred for the war—particularly among Democrat voters, who according to a poll released this week are 78 percent in favor of total withdrawal and 54 percent in favor of immediate withdrawal.

While all of the candidates did their best to feign opposition to the war, the debate began just hours after the Senate approved a supplemental spending bill that will provide the White House with an additional $124 billion to continue the fighting and occupations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of those on the platform sought to cast the funding bill as an “antiwar” measure because of the toothless and non-binding timetable in the bill for the withdrawal of some troops from Iraq. “The Congress has voted, as of today, to end this war,” Clinton declared.

Echoing the comments of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid earlier in the week, Senators Clinton, Biden and Obama made it clear they were against “this” war—i.e., opposed to the way the Bush administration is conducting the occupation of Iraq, not “the” war itself. Clinton set the tone by claiming the US had done everything to help the Iraqi people to have “freedom” and “their own country” but now it was time for the Iraqis to decide whether they would “take that chance.” Blaming the Iraqi people for the devastating civil war that has resulted from the US invasion and the shattering of Iraqi society, Clinton said the Iraqi government had to provide “security and stability without our young men and women in the middle of their sectarian civil war.”

These comments parallel previous statements by Clinton who has indicated that if elected she would keep large numbers of US troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future—not to protect the civilian population against sectarian reprisals,but to defend America’s “vital national security interests”: first and foremost, oil.

In his remarks, Biden criticized Bush’s “fundamentally flawed policy” in Iraq, which he defined as the “notion of being able to set up a strong, central government in Baghdad that will be democratic.” The way forward, Biden said, was to “decentralize Iraq” and have a “limited central government” to “share their oil wealth.” Biden has been the most strident proponent of partitioning Iraq into ethno-religious statelets, dividing Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis. Such a proposal is a prescription for ethnic cleansing and mass killings on a scale not seen since the partitioning of India in the 1940s. Governor Richardson endorsed this reactionary proposal, calling for the US to establish a “political framework” to “divide oil revenues” and possibly “set up three separate entities.”

Illinois Senator Barack Obama said he had opposed the war from the start and then attempted to justify his repeated votes to fund it as hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and more than 3,300 US soldiers have been killed. He claimed that the troops needed the best military hardware possible in order to “come home safely.” In reality, Congress has the power to assure the safe return of the troops by cutting off funding, something the Democratic leadership refuses to do.

Representative Dennis Kucinich pointed out this anomaly, saying every time the Democrats voted to fund the war they were “reauthorizing the war all over again.” The Democrats, he said, “have the power to end the war right now, and that’s what we should do.” Criticizing the Senate war-spending bill, Kucinich said he had proposed a bill that called for the United Nations to provide peacekeepers and security forces that “will move in as our troops leave.”

Gravel—a Vietnam-era senator who opposed the Nixon administration on the military draft and the war—also denounced the war-spending bill, saying he was “embarrassed” by what was going on in Congress. Because Bush is determined to continue the war, the Democrats should pass a law, he said, making it a “felony” to keep the troops in Iraq.

Neither Kucinich nor Gravel enjoys any support from the Democratic Party leadership, let alone from the Wall Street investors and other corporate backers who are pouring millions of dollars into the campaigns of the top contenders. Nevertheless, they play a central role in fostering illusions that the pro-war and pro-big business Democratic Party can be pressured to stop the war and defend the interests of working people. Kucinich in particular presents himself as the “voice of conscience” in the Democratic Party and living proof that there is an antiwar, progressive faction within it.

In the 2004 elections, the Ohio congressman also sought the party’s presidential nomination. After the Democratic Party leadership smothered the Howard Dean campaign—around which significant antiwar sentiment had gathered—it took measures to suppress antiwar opposition within the party and to make sure the elections were not turned into a referendum on Iraq. This campaign culminated in the nomination of a pro-war candidate—Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Kucinich immediately dropped his campaign and called for “unity” behind Kerry, thus attempting to confine the opposition to the war tightly within the borders of a pro-war party.

Earlier this week Kucinich introduced three articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney for the campaign of lies about WMDs and Iraqi-al-Qaeda ties that was used to justify the war against Iraq, as well as similar fabrications used to prepare another war against Iran. These are indeed grounds for impeaching Cheney. However, there is zero support for this within the Democratic Party leadership, which is averse to any serious struggle that might bring masses of working people into a political confrontation with the Bush administration. For that reason, when the debate moderator asked for a show of hands from the Democratic candidates on who supported Kucinich’s action against Cheney, not one hand was raised.

In the end, Kucinich and Gravel functioned as foils during the debate so that the leading Democratic contenders could re-assert their commitment to defending the interests of corporate America with military force. This point was noted by the Washington Post, which said that Kucinich and Gravel “provided a counterpoint of left-wing ideas that drew rebukes for a lack of seriousness from Biden and Obama. The challenges from the liberal flank allowed almost all the others to assert that, despite their criticisms of President Bush’s Iraq policy, they are ready to use military force to retaliate against future terrorist attacks.”

Fully embracing the “global war on terrorism,” the leading Democratic candidates singled out as potential future targets of US military action not only Iran and North Korea, but also Russia and China. Biden also specifically raised the possibility of intervening in Darfur, which leading Democratic think tanks hope will be a launching point for defending US interest in Africa, while at the same time selling it to the American people as a “good, humanitarian” war.

Kucinich pointed out that Obama and Clinton had told pro-Israeli lobby groups that “all options were on the table with Iran” and that this was a thinly-veiled threat to use nuclear weapons. Obama justified his remarks by saying a nuclear-armed Iran “will be a major threat to us and to the region.” Calling Iran “the largest state sponsor of terrorism” because of its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, Obama repeated the same threats made by Bush and Cheney in the run-up to the war with Iraq, saying Iran could “place a nuclear weapon into the hands of terrorists,” posing a “profound security threat for America.”

Gravel pointed out that the US has carried out sanctions against Iran for 26 years, while constantly threatening the country with military strikes. “Tell me, Barack,” he said, “who do you want to nuke?” Obama shrugged the question off, responding, “I’m not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike, I promise you.”

Biden was even more forceful, calling on Kucinich and Gravel to “stop all this happy talk here about the use of force doesn’t make sense. The use of force in Afghanistan is justified and necessary; in Darfur, justified and necessary; in the Balkans, justified and necessary. You guys can have your happy talk, there’s real life.”

The debate made clear that the Democrats’ chief criticism of the war in Iraq is that it has placed an enormous strain on the fighting capacity of the US military and diverted attention from other threats to US interests throughout the world. The plan for “strategic redeployment” advocated by the Democratic candidates is aimed at maintaining colonial control in Iraq—by waging a bloody counter-insurgency with fewer troops, primarily US Special Forces and the Air Force—and freeing up troops for Afghanistan and interventions in other global hot spots.

This support for militarism stems from the fact that the Democratic Party speaks for the same financial oligarchy as the Republicans. This truth was reiterated throughout the debate, as Clinton, Obama and Edwards went out of their way to praise the multi-millionaire and multi-billionaire hedge fund managers and Wall Street speculators who have enriched themselves at the expense of the great mass of working people. Clinton praised the people willing to invest their money in the “free market system” and the “entrepreneurial economy,” many of whom have poured some of that money into her multi-million-dollar campaign war chest.

After repeating his refrain about being brought up poor and humble in a South Carolina textile mill town for the one thousandth time, John Edwards responded to a question about being hired by the $30 billion hedge fund Fortress Investment Group with the absurd claim that “those people in New York who work in financial markets understand—in some ways, at least—what can be done and can play a significant role in trying to lift people who are struggling.”

See Also:
Senate passes Iraq war spending bill, paving way to Bush veto
[27 April 2007]

Friday, April 27, 2007

Right Wing Nutcases Try To Shut off Discussion

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Laws out of sync with reality
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The mass murders at Virginia Tech strike most of us as the human
equivalent of tornadoes: random, terrifying and senseless. A killer like
Cho Seung-Hui can be described, but never fully understood. Partly
that’s because we lead blessedly sheltered lives. On the day after Cho
ran amok in Blacksburg, Va., more than 200 civilians were slaughtered by
car bombs in Baghdad. Distracted by the carnage closer to home, many
Americans hardly noticed. Writing about the Spanish Civil War, George
Orwell pointed out that atrocities are common in wartime on all sides.
He speculated that many people fantasize about murderous rampages and
that “war provides an opportunity of putting them into practice.” The
latter observation is no longer controversial. Much popular
entertainment aimed at young men consists of hyper-violent revenge
fantasies. Whether blasting rival street gangs in “Grand Theft Auto” or
slaughtering unbelievers in the apocalyptic “Left Behind” video games,
players can experience the vicarious thrill of homicide. Rappers boast
about “capping” each other, and sometimes do. I’m fond of shoot-em-up
movies myself, preferably with horses. I’ve seen Clint Eastwood’s “The
Outlaw Josey Wales” several times.

Do murder fantasies cause or reflect the violence in American life? Will
NBC’s (and other networks’) repeated airings of Cho’s ranting stimulate
copycat killers or teach us to be more alert to fragmenting
personalities? Nobody really knows. Yes, Cho and the Columbine killers
craved a bizarre immortality. But then, so did Lee Harvey Oswald, John
Wilkes Booth and Marcus Junius Brutus. What was NBC to do Keep Cho’s
ravings secret?

Elsewhere, the usual idiots vented the usual idiocies. Rush Limbaugh
decreed that left-wing professors undermined Cho’s sanity.

“You got a guy that hates the rich, you got a guy that thinks that
American culture’s debauched,” he explained. “Who is it telling us all
this...? It’s the liberals.”

After expressed dismay, Limbaugh claimed he’d been
joking, his usual dodge.

Newt Gingrich echoed the claim on ABC’s “This Week.” How this smug
crackpot, who blamed Susan Smith’s 1994 drowning of her children and the
1999 Columbine massacre on liberals, can be spoken of as a legitimate
presidential candidate escapes me.

Another GOP candidate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (a Baptist
minister), allowed as to how if students or faculty members had been
packing heat, Cho’s rampage might have been prevented—presumably after a
Hollywoodstyle gun battle.

Heaven forfend that we toughen laws making it easier for a disturbed
individual to buy a semi-automatic handgun than a six-pack. Mustn’t
inconvenience “varmint hunters” lest the nation be overrun by small
rodents. So powerful is the National Rifle Association gun cult in
Washington that it’s considered impractical to suggest otherwise.

But enough of that. For Cho’s kind of evil to manifest itself on a
university campus strikes us as more grotesque because we see them as
idealized communities set apart from the rough and tumble of American
life. Indeed, reading the delusional harangue he mailed to NBC between
killings, I wondered if his psychosis (if that’s what it was) might have
been worsened by panic over the scary prospect of graduation.

As bizarre and isolated as he was, Virginia Tech tolerated Cho’s
eccentricities—tolerated them far too generously, it’s tragically clear.
He wasn’t the stereotypical, quiet serial killer next door. He’d exuded
menace from childhood. Cho’s relatives in Korea told The New York Times
that his mother prayed for God to transform him almost since birth.
Everybody at Tech who dealt with Cho understood that there was something
grievously wrong.

Cho’s creative writing assignments struck his instructors as psychotic.
He spoke hardly at all, but did tell people he had a supermodel
girlfriend named “Jelly” from outer space. He confided to a roommate
that he’d spent spring break vacationing with Russian President Vladimir
Putin, a childhood friend. After reading one of Cho’s plays, one student
told his own roommate, “This is the kind of guy who is going to walk
into a classroom and start shooting people.” Cho’s last manifesto read:
“You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience.
You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today. But
you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me
only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your
hands that will never wash off.” It’s unclear if he was addressing his
victims or voices inside his head. And yet, nothing could be done.
Committed to a psychiatric hospital as a danger to himself and others,
Cho was basically released on his own recognizance either to undergo
outpatient treatment or not—as if he’d had the capacity to choose. And
that’s because the laws governing treatment of disturbed individuals
like Cho reflect a romantic concern for their liberty and privacy
completely at odds with everything we know about the compulsions that
drive them.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Gonzalez before the Senate Judiciary Committee: The Bush clique on life support

By Patrick Martin
21 April 2007

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Thursday’s day-long interrogation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee provided a picture of an administration visibly in crisis, but with a political “opposition” unwilling and unable to seriously criticize the regime, let alone genuinely combat it.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate panel sought to focus attention on Gonzales’s individual conduct, interpreted variously as incompetence, mismanagement or outright lying, while obscuring the most fundamental and overriding issue: the systematic onslaught by the Bush administration against democratic rights and constitutional processes, in which both parties are complicit.

Gonzales appeared after more than a month of public criticism of the summary firing of eight US attorneys, nearly one in ten federal prosecutors nationwide, in what was evidently a politically motivated purge. The eight prosecutors, all Republican loyalists appointed by Bush in 2001, denounced administration claims that they had been dismissed for “performance reasons.” The real issue, they charged, was that they had either prosecuted Republicans or failed to prosecute Democrats on various corruption charges.

Even more seriously, there is evidence that the Bush White House sought to instigate bogus prosecutions of “vote fraud” before both the 2004 and 2006 elections, to intimidate opponents and depress the Democratic vote. Chief White House political aide Karl Rove was said to be preparing an even more ambitious campaign to influence the result of the 2008 presidential election, and wanted to get compliant prosecutors in place. Hence the dismissals in key battleground states like New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Michigan and Arkansas (as well as in northern and southern California).

In the weeks before Gonzales testified, the attorney general gave a series of conflicting accounts of the reasons for the firings and his own role in them, summed up in one exasperated question from Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont: “Part of my problem is we’ve had a number of statements about the dismissal of these eight US attorneys. I just want to know which one is the accurate one. Your January 18th testimony? Your March 7th op-ed in USA Today? Or your March 13th press conference? Or your March 26th interview with Pete Williams on MSNBC? Or your written testimony that was submitted in advance today? Or your live testimony here today?”

The hearing provided no answers to these and other questions. Instead, it put on display a salient feature of the Bush administration: the president’s penchant for surrounding himself with political and moral ciphers, individuals who will not only be disinclined to challenge Bush’s own narrow, right-wing mindset, but virtually incapable of doing so. As abysmal as are the president’s intellectual powers, those of many of his closest aides are even lower.

Gonzales himself is a hack of hacks, a man who attached himself to Bush at the earliest stage of his political career and served him loyally from then on in a series of reprehensible and ultimately criminal roles. In the course of Bush’s six years as governor of Texas, Gonzales oversaw the execution of 152 Texas Death Row prisoners. As White House counsel, he drafted the guidelines endorsing torture of prisoners captured in the “war on terror,” dismissing provisions of the Geneva Conventions as “quaint” and “outmoded.” As attorney-general, he rubber-stamped the illegal surveillance of the telephone and e-mail communications of millions of Americans.

At the Judiciary Committee hearing, Gonzales wobbled and clinched like a punch-drunk fighter, resorting nearly 100 times to claims that he could not remember major events as recent as last November. Even more frequently, he engaged in legalistic bafflegab aimed at obscuring issues, killing time and encouraging his cable television audience to turn off their sets.

Here are a few samples (all quotes verbatim from the transcript):

Could he give specific reasons why seven US attorneys were fired on December 7, 2006?

GONZALES: Senator, I have in my mind a recollection as to knowing as to some of these United States attorneys. There are two that I do not recall knowing in my mind what I understood to be the reasons for the removal.

Was the US attorney for Las Vegas, Nevada, Daniel Bogden, fired because his office had conducted an investigation of a Republican congressman?

GONZALES: I do not recall what I knew about Mr. Bogden on December 7th. That’s not to say that I wasn’t given a reason; I just don’t recall the reason. I didn’t have an independent basis or recollection of knowing about Mr. Bogden’s performance.

Was the US attorney for Milwaukee, Stephen Biskupic, taken off the firing list because his office prosecuted an official of the Democratic-controlled state government?

GONZALES: Senator, I — again, this was a process that was ongoing that I did not have transparency into. I don’t recall — transparency into with respect to Mr. Biskupic.

In response to criticism that he did not appear to have prepared for the hearing:

GONZALES: Senator, I didn’t say that I was always prepared. I said I prepared for every hearing.

And the response that summed up both the content and form of his testimony:

GONZALES: Senator ... I don’t recall remembering.

The attorney-general’s Democratic and Republican questioners, with only a few exceptions, voiced befuddlement, frustration or anger at the non-stop hairsplitting and stonewalling.

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a hard-line Republican right-winger, expressed astonishment when Gonzales claimed he had no recollection of the meeting on November 27, 2006 where top officials of the Justice Department discussed and ratified the firing of seven federal prosecutors. “I’m concerned about your recollection,” he said, “because it’s not that long ago. It was an important issue.”

Gonzales’s account was “significantly, if not totally, at variance with the facts,” said the senior Republican member, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. The handling of the firings was “really deplorable,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a down-the-line Bush loyalist. Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina suggested that Gonzales and his aides “were trying to make up reasons to fire them because we wanted to get rid of them.” Ultra-right Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma called on Gonzales to resign, declaring, “I believe you ought to suffer the consequences that these others have suffered.”

There were, in six hours of testimony, a few shreds of substance. Gonzales confirmed that he had discussed the performance of US attorneys with White House officials, including President Bush, although he maintained that he had no memory of what Bush said to him. Karl Rove, he said, had pressed for more aggressive prosecution of vote fraud in New Mexico, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. He admitted to discussing the fate of at least two of the fired prosecutors, Carol Lam of San Diego and David Iglesias of New Mexico, in the months before their discharge.

Gonzales conceded, under questioning by Democrats Diane Feinstein and Edward Kennedy, that he had not read the performance reviews for any of the eight fired US attorneys before he signed off on their dismissals. But he successfully stalled demands that he tell the committee who nominated the eight for removal—joining a long list of Justice Department officials who have all claimed, under oath, that they did not personally propose a single firing, but only collected names suggested by others. The following exchange took place:

FEINSTEIN: And to this time, we do not know who actually selected the people to be put on the list.

GONZALES: Senator ...

FEINSTEIN: I would like to know who selected the individuals that were on that list.

GONZALES: Senator ...

FEINSTEIN: Somebody had to. A human being had to.

The attorney-general also admitted that he had agreed to the firing of Iglesias because the prosecutor had lost the confidence of the five-term Republican senator from New Mexico, Pete Domenici. Iglesias has testified that Domenici and Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson of Albuquerque moved to fire him because he rejected their demands to bring a corruption case against a local Democratic politician last fall, when Wilson faced a difficult reelection campaign.

In perhaps his most bizarre declaration, however, Gonzales suggested that Iglesias deserved to be fired because he had not reported the attempt of these two powerful legislators to interfere with the working of his office, which could constitute obstruction of justice. “If a member of Congress contacts a U.S. attorney to put pressure on them on a specific case, that is a very, very serious issue,” he said. “Mr. Iglesias did not report these conversations. That was a serious transgression. He intentionally violated a policy meant to protect him.”

Democratic senators conducted the bulk of the questioning of Gonzales, but their questions focused exclusively on the manner of the firings and Gonzales’s specific role in the process, raising neither the broader implications of the purge or the overall record of the Bush Justice Department in attacking democratic and civil rights.

There seems to have been a prior agreement between senators of both parties not to raise such issues as the abuse of national security letters by the FBI and the illegal surveillance of telecommunications and e-mails by the NSA, both of which Gonzales has vocally defended.

Gonzales appeared before the committee as part of its regular work in overseeing the Justice Department, and his prepared statement discussed the work of the department over the past year on a wide range of issues. Not one Democrat strayed from the subject of the firings, however. In other words, they deliberately kept the hearing focused on the Bush administration’s treatment of eight Republican prosecutors, rather than addressing its much greater crimes against the American people, the Constitution and international law.

One study has found that the Department of Justice has investigated or prosecuted corruption charges against 298 Democrats and only 67 Republicans in the past six years. Not a single Democratic senator cited this widely reported finding. Likewise, the Justice Department has conducted multiple investigations of alleged vote fraud since 2001, but not a single case involving the denial of the right to vote for black, Hispanic or other minority voters. There were no questions on that either.

In his closing remarks, Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the committee, made reference to “the widespread abuses of national security letters, and we know it goes even beyond what we’ve heard. You have the invasion of Americans’ privacy, in an unprecedented fashion. Never in this country have we had such an invasion of Americans’ privacies. We see the inaccuracies, gross inaccuracies, in the department’s FISA applications, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications.”

But while Gonzales was actually testifying, Leahy spent more time rebuking anti-Bush protesters in the hearing room audience—who occasionally raised signs denouncing Gonzales as an advocate of torture, imprisonment without trial and destruction of the right of habeas corpus—than he did raising those subjects with the highest-ranking official of the Department of Justice.

The attorney-general appears unlikely to survive the current controversy; unnamed White House officials who spoke to CNN after the hearing described his appearance as “going down in flames,” “very troubling,” and like watching someone “clubbing a baby seal.” But his individual fate is of little importance. Thanks to the cowardice and complicity of the official “opposition,” the administration in which he has served as a cog continues.

Bush, Take a Walk in Baghdad. Please.

U.S. Blamed for 'Bloody Wednesday

Inter Press Service
Ali al-Fadhily*

BAGHDAD, Apr 23 (IPS) - Iraqis blame the U.S. occupation for the failure of two parallel security plans drawn up by U.S. forces and Iraqi troops that failed dramatically with the bombings last week that killed more than 300 people in Baghdad.

Under the security plans additional troops were brought to Baghdad and most city streets closed. But car bombings, operations by death squads and attacks on U.S. troops continue.

The attacks Wednesday last week took a high casualty among Kurdish workers known to work in that area. Kurds in the north have stayed relatively free of the violence and the sectarian Shia-Sunni killings in the rest of the country. Kurds had supported the U.S.-led invasion four years back.

"A car bomb went off in Sadriyah neighbourhood in the city centre causing death to over 200 people," Mahmood Abdulla from the Russafa Police Directorate in Baghdad told IPS. "It is not certain that the car was driven by a suicide person, in fact most of us believe it was parked there since early morning."

Sadriyah is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Baghdad. It is an area that brings together different ethnic and sectarian groups.

"We do not know who is killing us, but we do know who is responsible for our safety," Kaka Kadir, who lost a 15-year-old son in the attack told IPS. "All we receive from our government and the Americans is talk, and holding other people accountable, while it is them who should protect us."

"I do not believe it is al-Qaeda any more," a woman weeping near the scene of the bombing told IPS. "I do not care any more, I am just losing my loved ones. The last explosion hit my husband and now he is disabled, and this one took my son's life."

She referred to a similar bombing two-and-a-half months ago at the same market, which killed 137 and wounded many more.

U.S. leaders and Iraqi government officials again accused "terrorists and the Saddamists" of the bombing. But many people around Baghdad are blaming the occupation forces and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

"I noticed that security officers did not carry out any site investigation," a former police officer who lives in a neighbouring area told IPS on condition of anonymity. "I have also noticed that no such crime has been solved since the first days of the occupation."

The officer said that "huge crimes like the Samarra shrine explosions (at the al-Askari Shia mosque in Samarra, 90km north of Baghdad in February last year) that led to increasing sectarian dispute, and many other crimes, remain unsolved."

The focus last week was on the Sadriyah attacks, but many others were carried out.

One explosion was reported near a hospital in Karrada district in southeast Baghdad the same day. The attack seems to have targeted an Iraqi army patrol, and killed at least 11 people, four of them soldiers.

"Karrada is supposed to be very well protected," 28-year-old Hussein Rathman, a local shop owner who could not reach his shop that day told IPS. "It seems there is no hope, and everyone should think seriously of leaving the country."

Another explosion the same day killed at least 40 people at Muzaffar Square near Sadr City in east Baghdad. Angry Iraqis demonstrated soon after the bombing against the Iraqi government and occupation forces.

"The problem is that those Americans are still talking about peace and reconciliation in Iraq," Jabbar Ahmed, a lawyer and human rights activist in Baghdad told IPS. "They should just leave the country after all the disappointment people here feel towards them. All they are doing is lying all the time, while Iraqi blood has become so cheap."

The killings did not end Wednesday. In attacks the following day 82 people were killed and another 70 injured. Three U.S. soldiers and two British troops were also killed in Thursday's violence.

According to the U.S. Department of Defence, at least 3,315 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq so far.

*(Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who travels extensively in the region)


*** Think Dahr's work is vital? We need your help. It's easy! ***

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bring back Imus
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Funny, but I never saw the hullabaloo over Don Imus’ offensive remarks
coming. Nor am I sure exactly what’s been accomplished with him gone.
For the time being, anyway. Does anybody doubt that the “I-man,” as talk
radio’s AM drive-time misanthrope likes being called, will resurface on
a different network peddling his peculiar blend of news, sports, insider
media gossip, satire and buffoonery? If only, I suspect, to prove that
he can. There’s no doubt that Imus’ nasty crack about the Rutgers
women’s basketball team was brutally offensive in ways nobody really
talked about. Maybe because the actual insult didn’t precisely fit
anybody’s script in the ensuing melodrama—neither Imus’ nor those who
demanded his firing. Here’s how it went: Imus: “So I watched the
basketball game last night between—a little bit of Rutgers and
Tennessee, the women’s final.” Sid Rosenberg: “Yeah, Tennessee won last
night—seventh championship for [Tennessee coach ] Pat Summitt, I-man.
They beat Rutgers by 13 points.”

Imus: “That’s some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and—”

Bernard McGuirk: “Some hardcore hos.”

Imus: “That’s some nappyheaded hos there. I’m gonna tell you that now,
man, that’s some—whoo. And the girls from Tennessee, they all look cute,
you know, so, like—kinda like—I don’t know.”

McGuirk: A Spike Lee thing. The Jigaboos vs. the Wannabes—that movie
that he had. ”

Charles McCord: “Do the Right Thing.”

Rosenberg: “It was a tough watch. The more I look at Rutgers, they look
exactly like the Toronto Raptors.”

Actually, they got the movie wrong. The 1988 Spike Lee film satirizing a
feud between “Jigaboos” and “Wannabes,” lightskinned social climbers at
a black college in the South, was “School Daze.” Like most of Lee’s
films, it sparked much controversy in the black community. Three
colleges expelled the production company from their campuses during
shooting. One of its big production numbers was called “Straight and

The Rutgers girls weren’t being mocked for being black. Most of the
Tennessee players were African Americans, too. Worse, they were being
lampooned for being, to Imus’ liver-spotted, New York wiseacres,
unattractive and masculine.

Nobody should have been surprised. Sports reporter Rosenberg has been
dropped from the show for making even uglier remarks about the
tennis-playing Williams sisters. He once mocked a woman entertainer’s
breast cancer surgery. But the I-man kept bringing him back.

Imus’ gang may have imagined that the Spike Lee reference would protect
them. Interestingly, Lee himself, no shrinking violet, played no active
role in the televised drama of accusation and recrimination that
followed. Maybe that’s why I missed the cue. A long-ago graduate of
Rutgers —“ The State University” —I’d watched some of the game, read
about the slur, figured most New Jersey people had thicker skins than
that. My freshman dorm was like one of those World War II platoons in
the movies—mostly first-generation college kids from every ethnic group
imaginable. Irish, Italian, Jewish, Greek, Polish, Russian, everything
but Hispanics, of whom New Jersey had very few in those days. If there
were few blacks, there weren’t many WASPs, either. We used to sit up
nights comparing the superstitions and foibles of our immigrant parents
and grandparents, secure in the belief, most of us, that Old Country
tribalism was behind us forever. I recall being thrilled by the
protagonist of New Jersey novelist Philip Roth’s “Portnoy’s Complaint,”
telling his relatives to “Stick your suffering tradition...” —well,
somewhere very impolite.

Ethnic insults are a New York/New Jersey art form. My brother used to
have a routine where he’d outline who did what on a New Jersey
construction job—Mexican laborers, Irish plumber, Polish roofer,
Brazilian floor men, Jewish lawyer, etc. He’d close in a loud stage
whisper for his Italian partner’s benefit with something about not doing
business with “Guidos” at all. But African American is an ethnicity
people often don’t let you resign from. And the Rutgers girls were just
that: young college kids, 19 or 20 most of them, and not public figures
like Hillary Clinton (“Satan” to the Imus gang), or Dick Cheney (“war
criminal”), or Al Gore (“evil”). To me, everything that needed saying
about the episode was contained in a letter to The New York Times by
Lisa Wilson, a self-described “white, prudish suburban woman” from York,
Maine. “When I saw the young women of Rutgers,” she wrote, “I was shamed
as I have never been shamed before. I suddenly saw my very real
contribution to our racial divide. Indifference. I’d been willing to
dismiss the denigration of African Americans and women because it’s
become common and because it suited me. And I learned the true meaning
of grace and courage from those young women.” So should we all. As for
Imus, satire’s impossible without giving offense. These ritual
banishments only provoke resentment. I’d bring him back, assuming he can
find any sponsors.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This is one slimy little war mongering Bush loyalist

Five MILLION missing White House EMAILS???

Will White House sacrifice Gonzales to save Rove?

Will White House sacrifice Gonzales to save Rove?

By Patrick Martin
17 April 2007

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As the political controversy over Attorney General Alberto Gonzales continues to escalate in advance of his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, there are mounting signs that the Bush administration is preparing to sacrifice Gonzales in order to protect aides even closer to President Bush, including chief White House political operative Karl Rove.

Vice President Dick Cheney made only a perfunctory defense of Gonzales during an appearance Sunday on the CBS program Face the Nation. While declaring that he and Bush still had confidence in the attorney general, despite widespread criticism of the politically-motivated firing of eight US attorneys, Cheney sought to distance the White House from the issue.

“This took place inside the Justice Department,” he said. “The one who needs to answer to that and lay out on the record the specifics of what transpired is the attorney general, and he’ll do so.”

The senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, joined with Democrats in suggesting that Gonzales had only an outside chance of retaining his post. Senate Republicans who are closer to the White House, such as Jon Kyl of Arizona, were also noncommittal on the prospect for Gonzales surviving.

A group of conservative lawyers and former Bush and Reagan administration office-holders urged Gonzales to step down, in a statement released Monday. The statement went well beyond the criticisms voiced in the Senate, attacking a range of anti-democratic policies with which Gonzales is identified, declaring that he “has presided over an unprecedented crippling of the Constitution’s time-honored checks and balances.”

The prepared testimony that Gonzales was deliver to the Senate committee Tuesday morning—an appearance subsequently postponed because of the massacre at Virginia Tech—was released by the Bush administration Sunday. This unusual action, supposedly in response to a request from the Senate panel, gave critics and opponents ample time to prepare questions and highlight contradictions and falsifications.

The statement by Gonzales is 25 pages long, but only the first five addressed the subject of the firings of eight US attorneys, with the balance devoted to a recitation of the Department of Justice’s supposed accomplishments over the past year, part of a routine budget presentation.

Gonzales did not seriously address the charges that he organized a politically motivated purge of the prosecutors who brought corruption cases against prominent Republicans or who showed unwillingness to bring cases of vote fraud or political corruption against Democrats or Democratic-affiliated interest groups.

After his previous denials of any involvement were flatly contradicted in the sworn testimony of former aides, Gonzales was compelled to agree to appear before the Judiciary Committee to address the issue in more detail. But his statement only begrudgingly concedes that his previous comments on the subject were “imprecise,” an adjective that would not usually be applied to barefaced lies.

The prepared statement contained still more conflicts with the facts, as Gonzales claimed that the process of replacing US attorneys began “soon after I became attorney general,” even though there is an e-mail record of discussions having begun several weeks before he took office.

Gonzales claims that he had only brief discussions on the subject with his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, and that these conversations were about the review process Sampson was conducting, not the names of prosecutors targeted for dismissal. Sampson, who resigned last month, has already testified to discussions with the attorney general about “asking certain US attorneys to resign.”

Another former Justice Department official involved in the firings, Michael A. Battle, former director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys, told congressional investigators that several of those fired had no performance problems and that a detailed memo on the firings was passed out at a November 27 meeting attended by Gonzales—contradicting Gonzales’s statement that he never saw any documents about the firings and that all of the dismissals were because of performance issues.

Last Friday, the Justice Department turned over another batch of documents which further undermined the position of the attorney general. One February 12, 2007 email message has an attached, undated spreadsheet which lists all federal prosecutors in the Bush administration together with their work experience, including a category for Republican Party and Bush campaign work, and another for membership in the Federal Society, the right-wing legal fraternity that supplies much of the judicial and law enforcement personnel for the administration. This list clearly demonstrates that the political loyalty of the US attorneys was the principal concern of Bush aides.

Gonzales’s prepared testimony continues the pattern of stonewalling that has characterized the Bush administration in every political scandal of the past six years. The attorney general simply denied any political motivation for the firings, without addressing the record of contacts with his office by Rove, Bush’s chief political operative, and House and Senate Republicans, who demanded the removal of the prosecutors for overtly political reasons.

Rove’s role in the affair sparked additional controversy Friday after the Bush administration claimed that a large number of e-mails from White House political aides, including Rove, had been deleted and could not be produced in response to congressional subpoenas. The e-mails in question had been written by White House aides between 2001 and 2004 using accounts at the Republican National Committee and the Bush 2004 reelection campaign.

A total of 50 White House staffers, including Rove, used the RNC email system to evade legal requirements for document retention and avoid having to turn over materials for congressional or other investigations. According to press accounts, the RNC’s “document retention” policy was to erase all emails after 30 days, including erasing the backup record on servers, something which would only be done for the purpose of destroying evidence.

This policy was only altered in 2004, after special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, investigating Rove’s role in the exposure of CIA covert agent Valerie Plame Wilson, sought records of both White House and RNC correspondence. The RNC then began to permit, but not require, the indefinite retention of emails sent and received by Bush administration officials using party accounts.

However, according to press accounts over the weekend, Rove continued to personally erase his own RNC emails, and in 2005 the RNC issued a special addendum to its email policy, applying to Rove alone, preventing him from making further erasures. This policy change was described in an interview by RNC attorney Rob Kelner with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The revelation of the systematic destruction of politically damaging and potentially incriminating emails led some congressional Democrats to hearken back to the Watergate scandal. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, compared the erasures to the infamous 18½-minute gap in a Nixon White House audiotape. He denounced White House claims that the emails had been irretrievably lost, declaring that “any teenager” could recover the erased emails with a little effort.

Security experts generally agreed with Leahy’s assessment, pointing out that to erase all copies of a particular email would require a systematic and extensive poring through multiple servers that would itself leave traces that could be detected.

The White House reliance on RNC email accounts for conducting sensitive political business—including much of the discussion of the US attorney purge—could backfire legally. While a plausible legal case can be made for withholding internal White House emails, under the doctrine of “executive privilege,” no such claim can be made for emails in the custody of a private organization like the RNC.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the Oversight Committee, sent a letter to the White House asking for an inventory of all communications by White House staffers using non-government accounts, suggesting that the administration was not complying with the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which requires a permanent record of all communications and policy decisions.

Meanwhile the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington, a watchdog group that brought the Mark Foley case to light last summer, reported that as many as five million government emails may have gone missing because the Bush administration failed to put into place the necessary archiving system. The failure was first made public during the trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis Libby, but CREW made the first estimate of the scale of the data destruction.

White House press spokeswoman Dana Perino said Friday that she could not rule out that as many as five million emails have been deleted without possible recovery. On Sunday, White House counsel Fred Fielding called Leahy and Specter and agreed that the Senate committee would be consulted on the selection of an outside email consultant to help recover the deleted emails.

See Also:
More calls for attorney general to resign over firings of US attorneys
[9 April 2007]

Time for the NRA to lockstep with Bush

More than 30 dead at Virginia Tech Worst shooting incident in US history

More than 30 dead at Virginia Tech

Worst shooting incident in US history

By David Walsh
17 April 2007

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In a tragic episode Monday morning, the worst shooting incident in American history, a gunman shot and killed at least 32 students and faculty and wounded dozens of others on the campus of Virginia Tech university in Blacksburg, Virginia. In the end, the gunman turned the gun on himself.

It is too early to draw any specific conclusions about the incident, the identity of the killer has not even been established. One can only express horror at the event and sympathy for the victims and their families. Thousands of lives have been changed permanently and the peaceful university town will never be the same again.

The shooting at Virginia Tech surpasses the death toll at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in April 1999 and at the University of Texas in 1966, when ex-Marine Charles Whitman opened fire from the top of a clock tower. Another atrocity has been committed, another new American record has been set.

Once again, global television audiences have watched scenes of bloodied young people being carried out of US school buildings, while others run or stumble, distraught, dazed. A videotape captures the dreadful sound of a weapon being fired carefully and with calculation.

There are already certain disturbing questions. According to news reports, the first shootings took place at a coed dormitory shortly after 7 am Monday morning. Two individuals, one male and one female, were shot and killed at West Ambler Johnston Hall, a residence that houses nearly 900 students. Police arrived on the scene and began to investigate. They decided, officials explained at a press conference, that the incident was isolated and contained. Why was such a conclusion drawn?

There appears to have been no systematic effort to warn students that a gunman might still be loose on the campus. Students were allowed to go about their business on campus, unalerted to the danger. An email, blandly reporting that a “shooting incident” had occurred and urging the “university community ... to be cautious,” was not sent out until 9:26 am, only minutes before the second, far deadlier killing spree erupted.

The gunman proceeded to shoot and kill some 30 students and faculty in Norris Hall, a sprawling engineering and science building a half-mile from the dormitory. Some of the injured jumped out of windows to escape the rampage.

Student Jason Piatt told CNN, “I’m pretty outraged that someone died in a shooting in a dorm at 7 o’clock in the morning and the first e-mail about it had no mention of locking down the campus, no mention of canceling classes.”

MSNBC interviewed Derek O’Dell, another Virginia Tech student, who said the gunman was in his 20s and wearing a black leather jacket. O’Dell was inside a classroom in Norris Hall when the gunman entered and started firing. O’Dell was shot in the arm. “He came into the room and started shooting,” the student explained. “He let off a full round. I was one of 10 to 15 people in our classroom to get shot. He didn’t say anything, he just started shooting.” The gunman left and students rushed to barricade the room, but the man returned and fired his weapon some more.

Tiffany Otey reported that she and 18 other students were taking a test when the gunfire broke out. The group of students locked themselves in a professor’s office. She described “continuous gunfire,” as many as “50 shots,” and the chaos in the building as students ran, screaming.

The BBC’s web site received numerous reports from students at Virginia Tech, providing their reactions and accounts.

Bethany Zimmerman writes, “Students are now coming back to the dorms. I have a friend who is in the building behind Norris and is surrounded by students and faculty who were in Norris. One girl expressed how she saw many bloody bodies. We are being advised to stay in the dorm, but information from the University is slow, although the news coverage has been the best source of information. Why weren’t we warned after the FIRST shooting?”

“One of my friends,” recounts Brandon, “was in one of the classrooms where the shooting occurred, and the scene he described was utter chaos. It sounded like a scene from a movie, something that you watch but never expect to happen to you, or to anyone that you know.”

Jamal Albarghouti, a Palestinian civil engineering graduate student, captured some of the most troubling video of the scene, on his cell phone camera. On the footage one can see police around Norris Hall and hear the slow, popping sounds of gunfire. Albarghouti, originally from the West Bank, told CNN that he had been in cities where violence had erupted, including in the Occupied Territories and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where a terrorist bombing took place. He never expected such an incident on the campus of Virginia Tech. “Blacksburg is one of the nicest towns I’ve ever been to. You can’t imagine, everyone is so sad, so shocked.”

The Virginia Tech campus, located some 240 miles southwest of Washington, DC, was locked down on the first day of school last August during a manhunt for an escaped inmate who killed a hospital guard and a sheriff’s deputy. In recent weeks, there have been two bomb threats. Authorities have no idea yet whether the threats and Monday’s shootings are related.

It should be noted that Virginia Tech has close historical connections to the US military. According to an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in May 2005, the university has “become the nation’s top producer of Navy and Marine Corps officers among universities and colleges with the exception of the US Naval Academy.” From 2000 to 2005, Virginia Tech produced nearly 220 naval and marine officers.

The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets is one of only six senior military colleges outside the federal military academies. The university is one of only two in the country that maintains a full time Corps of Cadets within a large university. According to the latter’s web site, “Since 1872, the Corps of Cadets has produced outstanding leaders for the Commonwealth and the Nation. Seven of our alumni have earned the Medal of Honor, a number exceeded only by West Point and Annapolis. Over 100 of our graduates have been promoted to General and Flag Officer rank.”

Following the massacre in Blacksburg, George W. Bush issued an empty statement, declaring that “Schools should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community. Today, our nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech. We hold the victims in our hearts, we lift them up in our prayers, and we ask a loving God to comfort those who are suffering today.” This is from a man who loses no sleep over bombs dropped on Iraqi or Afghan schools.

A former FBI agent, interviewed on one of the cable television talk shows, asserted that such incidents were “Part of the risk of having a free and open society.... These are rare and unusual events.” Not so rare or unusual. Workplace, high school and campus shootings are an all-too prominent feature of modern American life.

Whatever the immediate circumstances prove to be, clearly, this incident, like Columbine and the other tragedies, is an expression of deeper social tendencies, of a profoundly dysfunctional society.

See Also:
Minnesota: Ten killed in deadliest school shooting since Columbine massacre
[23 March 2005]
New school shootings in US: social issues once again come to the fore
[22 January 2002]
The Columbine High School massacre: American Pastoral ... American Berserk
[27 April 1999]

Saturday, April 14, 2007

True face of Bush Administration revealed?

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Yesterday, whilst searching for a quotation to add as a comment to my diary on Daily Kos, I saw an item from the New York Times picked up via Huffington Post.

I read it with such deep disgust that I felt it needed the widest possible circulation. It has been something of a frustration that I have had to wait until today to post it because it needs to be out there and known to every Kossack, to every political commentator and, above all, to every representative in Congress.

The article quoted a comment by a senior administration official that was outrageous. So appalling was it, and so revealing about the mindset behind the White House political tactics, that I cannot imagine in any other democracy that the person who made this statement would not immediately be told to resign from his non-elected high office of influence....(continues at link above)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Every single Bushie is a fucking criminal waiting to be caught. Including Bush.

I made a mistake, World Bank's Wolfowitz says | Reuters

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said on Thursday he made "a mistake for which I am sorry" over his handling of the promotion and pay increase of his girlfriend and staffer Shaha Riza.

"I proposed to the board that they establish some mechanism to judge whether the agreement reached was a reasonable outcome," Wolfowitz said in a statement he read at a news conference, ahead of the upcoming meetings of finance ministers in Washington this weekend.

"I will accept any remedies they propose," he added.

Reality not violent enough for neo-cons
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 11, 2007

To some people, the themes of international politics are
indistinguishable from those of professional wrestling. They see in the
relations of nation states a ritualized melodrama of dominance vs.
submission, triumph vs. humiliation. To them, every game’s a zero sum
game; millions of individual human beings are labeled “good” or “evil.”
All conflicts that don’t end violently, end shamefully; compromise
equates with cowardice. So it was with the standoff between Great
Britain and Iran over 15 Royal Navy sailors taken captive in the Persian
Gulf. Ordinary people welcomed their release with happiness and relief.
Actually, it’s tempting to say most normal people did. A perilous
situation had been resolved without tragedy and without provoking a
potentially disastrous war. Sure, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
used the occasion to score propaganda points. But what points? That Iran
is a sovereign nation capable of defending its territory. That its
leaders can act magnanimously, freeing the prisoners before Easter as a
“gift to the British people.” With a characteristic lack of subtlety,
Ahmadinejad all but spelled out the message: We respect your faith.
Maybe you should respect ours.

Although there were indications the crisis came as a surprise to Iran’s
government—London’s Guardian newspaper reported that Revolutionary Guard
hotheads had acted on their own—it managed to present the thing as a
Persian morality play on Farsi- and Arab-language TV. For their part,
the Brits reportedly waved off a series of aggressive military options
suggested by the Pentagon. In the aftermath, Prime Minister Tony Blair
praised his country’s handling of the crisis as “firm but calm—not
negotiating but not confronting, either.”

Without addressing Ahmadinejad directly, Blair told the Iranian people,
“We bear you no ill will. On the contrary, we respect Iran as an ancient
civilization, as a nation with a proud and dignified history. And the
disagreements we have with your government we wish to resolve peacefully
through dialogue.”

In the end, neither side budged from its original story about whether
the sailors were captured in Iraqi or Iranian waters. Time was, Glenn
Greenwald pointed out on salon. com, when one could simply have assumed
the Brits were telling the truth and the Iranians lying. But that was
before Blair assumed his role as what British detractors call George. W.
Bush’s “poodle.” Anyway, none of that mattered as much as the bloodless

Needless to say, the peaceful resolution threw American
neo-conservatives into a fury. Washington Post columnist Charles
Krauthammer lamented the “pointed humiliation of Britain” and the
“fatuousness of the ‘international community.’” Where others saw
compromise, he discerned “impotence,” “ capitulation” and “farce.”

If the outcome of the standoff was a success, “one hesitates to ask what
would constitute failure,” wrote former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton in
the Financial Times. “The only thing risen from this crisis is Iranian
determination and resolve to confront us elsewhere, at their discretion,
whether on Iraq, nuclear weapons and terrorism.”

Disappointment was profound among those clamoring for war with Iran. FOX
News pundit William Kristol complained of U.S. passivity. He favored
bombing Tehran. So did GOP presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich. He
appeared on right-wing talk radio calling for the destruction of Iranian
oil refineries and a blockade of the Persian Gulf—potentially doubling
the price of oil and throwing the world’s economy into a tailspin.

And for what? Try to believe even Gingrich said it: To “show the planet
that you’re tiny and we’re not.”

See, it’s not enough to invade Iran’s neighbors, Afghanistan and Iraq,
and to fill the Persian Gulf with U.S. and British warships. Mere
reality never suffices. To really make these jokers feel all virile and
manly, it’s necessary to kill a lot of people, and strut around the ring
with the championship belt raised over their heads.

George Orwell analyzed the phenomenon in a 1945 essay called “Notes on
Nationalism,” which he defined as “the habit of identifying oneself with
a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and
recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests.” Writing
immediately after World War II, Orwell emphasized that “[n]ationalism is
not to be confused with patriotism.” It was to him a species of moral
insanity. A patriot loves his country and its institutions, while “a
nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive
prestige.... [H]is thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs
and humiliations.... Nationalism is powerhunger tempered by
self-deception.” Did Ahmadinejad, an annoying jerk, use the British
seamen badly? He did. But here’s what Iran didn’t do: No torture, no
waterboarding, no being stripped naked, no 24-hour stress positions, no
sensory deprivation, no sexual humiliation, no naked pyramids, no dog
attacks or dog leashes. The sailors were released in two weeks,
basically unharmed. If Iran won a propaganda victory, it’s important to
recognize it wasn’t British capitulation that made it easy, it was
American tough guys.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Iran's release of sailors: A humiliating episode for Britain

Iran's release of sailors: A humiliating episode for Britain

Iran’s release of sailors: A humiliating episode for Britain

By Chris Marsden
5 April 2007

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Iran’s release of the 15 British naval personnel captured in the Gulf is the dénouement of a humiliating episode for the Blair government and for British imperialism.

Since they were captured by Iranian naval forces in the Shatt al Arab waterway, the sailors and marines have come to epitomise the gap between Britain’s pretensions as a world power and its actual capabilities.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s response to the incident, with repeated declarations that he was seeking a diplomatic solution, is not an indication of a new pacifist turn by one of the architects of the Iraq war. It was forced upon him by his reliance on the United States, both politically and militarily.

The sailors seized were part of Britain’s contingent in a US-led naval force that includes two aircraft carriers. This force has been mustered by the Bush administration as part of its political campaign against Tehran, demanding that Iran end its nuclear programme and alleged sponsorship of the insurgency in Iraq.

Blair has acted as Washington’s key ally in seeking to isolate the Iranian regime and impose the strictest sanctions possible, with the attendant preparations for a possible military assault in future.

But Blair’s efforts to enable Britain to punch above its weight by an alliance with the US have suffered a grave setback as a result of the debacle in Iraq, something of which Iran is fully aware and which conditioned its attitude to London’s demands for the sailors to be released.

The Iranian regime avoided any bellicose posturing, but continually insisted that the British personnel were captured because they had trespassed into its waters. Its diplomats were successful in countering the Blair government’s somewhat half-hearted attempts to take a hard line, portraying this and Britain’s refusal to admit wrongdoing as an arrogant effort to inflame the situation.

Tehran will have calculated that Britain could not move independently of the US. And, in turn, the ability of Washington’s more hawkish elements to win support for a military response was weakened. Within American ruling circles, there is significant opposition to a military attack on Iran, particularly under conditions where the US is still bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Internationally, the US finds itself isolated.

There were clear calls from the neoconservative media and think-tanks for the capture of the British to be met with a hostile response, or at least that it not to be allowed to divert from such action in the near future. Mario Loyola wrote in the National Review online edition that “the United States must make it clear to the Iranians that abandoning the non-proliferation regime will trigger a military confrontation. The British should have defended the hostages when they were surrounded. The United States cannot now be paralyzed in its response to Iran out of a desire to protect a group of sailors from an allied country that was incapable of protecting them itself... Otherwise, in a few years, Iran could be holding all of us hostage.”

But the best that Bush could offer such of his supporters was to insist that the captured sailors were “hostages” and that they should be handed over unconditionally.

Washington’s difficulties contributed to London only being able to secure the most limited formal censure of Iran’s actions at the United Nations and from the European Union.

Within Britain, the more strident voices in the media were opposed by those insisting that diplomacy be given chance to work, particularly with British lives at stake.

In both countries, moreover, military action meets its most serious opposition among working people. Neither Bush nor Blair is in a position to simply push for an immediate attack on Iran in the face of popular hostility to their war-mongering—and a belief that both are inveterate liars. Even a poll by the right-wing Daily Telegraph found that a mere seven percent of respondents had been convinced by the jingoistic media campaign against Iran that military action should be taken.

In the end, despite Bush’s insistence that there should be no quid pro quo, Iran appears to have been able to secure certain concessions in return for releasing the 15, most notably the release by Iraq of Iranian diplomat Jalal Sharafi, seized two months ago by gunmen in Iraqi military uniforms. Washington is also considering an Iranian request to visit five of its officials seized in January by the US military in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil and held incommunicado for more than two months.

It was in these circumstances that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mounted yesterday’s press conference to mark the Persian New Year, during which he again insisted that the British sailors and marines had invaded Iran’s waters. After first attacking the West for its Middle East policy, he announced that the sailors would be released as a “gift” to Britain and that they were pardoned in order to mark both the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday on March 30 and the Easter holiday.

After asking Blair not to punish the 15 for having admitted to being in Iranian territorial waters, he continued, “Instead of occupying the other countries, I ask Mr. Blair to think about the justice, to think about the truth and work for the British people, not for himself.”

Whereas no concessions had been made by the British government to secure the releases, Britain had pledged “that the incident would not be repeated,” he said.

Speaking later yesterday, Blair did not thank the Iranian president, but addressed the Iranian people, stating, “We bear you no ill will. We respect Iran as an ancient civilisation. The disagreement we have with your government we wish to resolve peacefully... in the future we hope to do so.”

Blair’s attempt to take the moral high ground is both nauseating and not to be believed, given that similar statements by him could be cited with respect to Iraq. No one should assume that the setback he has suffered will mean a let-up.

For its part, Washington responded aggressively to Ahmadinejad’s move, particularly his statement that Iran could reconsider its relations with the US if President Bush’s attitude changed.

Insisting that there would be no change in US policy—and therefore no lessening of the danger of war—State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, “The behaviour that needs to change is the Iranians’, not the United States.”

The US would only deal directly with Iran if it gave up its uranium enrichment programme, he added.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Trust in short supply
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Here’s a puzzle: If President Bush really thinks he’s holding all the
cards in his impending showdown with congressional Democrats over Iraq
funding, why bother with a veto? On previous occasions when Congress
passed laws Bush found irksome, he’s quietly issued “signing statements”
declaring in essence that the president is a law unto himself. Statutes
Bush doesn’t like, he vows to ignore. He’s done it scores of times. He
did it with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, granting himself
the authority to indulge in warrantless wiretaps. He did it again with
the 2006 Patriot Act, signing a bill mandating reports to Congress about
the FBI’s use of national security letters, but asserting that the
president needn’t comply. It’s no coincidence that the Justice
Department’s inspector-general later found widespread FBI abuses of
privacy rights. So why not just issue another signing statement saying
Congress can pass all the resolutions it wants, but U. S. troops won’t
be leaving Iraq until the Decider gives the order? Two somewhat
paradoxical reasons. First, the stakes are too high, because everybody’s
watching. Bush may be commander-in-chief, but the United States isn’t
yet a military dictatorship. Second, some Republicans have convinced
themselves they’ve got the Democrats where they want them.

A recent Washington Post news story claims that the impending deadlock
“has Republican political operatives gleeful.” Rep. Jack Kingston,
R-Ga., predicted, “It’s going to be like the government shutdowns”
during Bill Clinton’s administration. “The Democrats’ honeymoon is
fixing to end. It’s going to explode like an IED.”

Not the most appropriate simile, I wouldn’t have thought. GOP glee is
contradicted not only by 2006 election results, but also by every extant
opinion poll. A March 29 Pew survey asked whether “Democratic leaders in
Congress are going too far... in challenging George W. Bush’s policies
in Iraq.” Exactly 23 percent said “too far,” 30 percent answered “about
right” and 40 percent “not far enough.”

The Post’s own poll shows that 56 percent favor pulling U.S. forces out
of Iraq “even if that means civil order is not restored there.”

The public’s far ahead of the Beltway opinion elite. This president is
no longer trusted. Once people make that fundamental decision, they
rarely change their minds. They’ve pretty much had it with Bush, Dick
Cheney and their far-fetched World War II analogies. They understand
that Iraq’s not a war, it’s a military occupation, and a
catastrophically bungled one.

When as relentless a hawk as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
says, as he did recently in Tokyo, that “a ‘military victory’ in the
sense of total control over the whole territory, imposed on the entire
population, is not possible,” Americans no longer believe that any
conceivable Iraqi government is worth the cost in lives and treasure.
They recognize the childishness of basing U.S. policy on al-Qa’ida
taunts, as Bush and Cheney have done repeatedly.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer recently repeated the trope.
No less an authority than Osama bin Laden, he argued, “has been explicit
that ‘the most... serious issue today for the whole world is this Third
World War that is raging in Iraq.’”

Yo, Chuck, you don’t reckon bin Laden might try to sucker the U.S. into
a strategic blunder, do you? Besides, if this is World War III, then
Iraq should be likened to Dunkirk, not the Normandy Invasion. Sure,
Adolf Hitler crowed and boasted after the heroic British retreat from
France in May 1940. But Winston Churchill understood that if the Brits
didn’t withdraw, they’d have no army left to fight with. Every day the
U.S. remains in Iraq, killing Arabs and presiding helplessly over a
civil war, gives Islamic extremists a propaganda victory.

Meanwhile, Bush’s most strenuous defenders look ever more ridiculous.
Holy Joe Lieberman recently wrote a USA Today column claiming that
“sectarian violence is down in Baghdad” and lamenting that “just at the
moment things are at last beginning to look up in Iraq, a narrow
majority in Congress has decided that it’s time to force our military to

Let’s not notice that this is maybe Lieberman’s 10th announcement of
impending triumph. Violence has risen sharply across Iraq. Last week’s
Tal Afar truck bombing killed 152 people, the single bloodiest incident
since Saddam Hussein’s overthrow. Shiite police rounded up and murdered
65 Sunnis in reprisal. Got that? Iraqi police are sectarian insurgents.

Then there’s Sen. John McCain. The famous straight-talking maverick
recently got insulted by cheeky CNN reporter Michael Ware, who called
McCain’s claim that an American could safely walk through many Baghdad
neighborhoods “beyond ludicrous.” Stung, McCain flew to Baghdad with a
delegation of hawkish senators who bravely visited the city’s Shorja
market—wearing flak jackets and guarded by 100 U.S. soldiers, three
Blackhawk helicopters and two Apache gunships. The next day, 21 Shiite
workers were kidnapped leaving the market. Their blindfolded, handcuffed
bodies were found in a nearby village. Any questions?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Democratic cave-in on White House testimony in US attorney firings

Democratic cave-in on White House testimony in US attorney firings

Democratic cave-in on White House testimony in US attorney firings

By Barry Grey
3 April 2007

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Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who has been leading the Senate investigation into the Bush administration’s firing of US attorneys, on Sunday signaled his party’s capitulation to President Bush on obtaining testimony from Karl Rove and other White House officials involved in the purge.

Last month Bush rejected the request of the judiciary committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate for White House aides to appear at hearings and testify under oath about the 2006 dismissal of the eight US attorneys. Both committees, controlled by the Democrats, then voted to authorize the issuance of subpoenas to compel Bush’s top political adviser Rove, former counsel to the president Harriet Miers, and others to testify, but did not actually issue the subpoenas. The White House made it clear it would defy any subpoenas on the grounds of executive privilege.

Instead, it made the derisory offer to allow Rove and company to meet behind closed doors with the committees and answer questions on the condition that the officials not testify under oath and that there be no transcripts of the sessions. Rather than confront the administration’s assertion of quasi-monarchial privilege and assert the constitutionally mandated power of congressional oversight, the Democrats have, predictably, demonstrated once again their cowardice and indifference to democratic principles by offering a “compromise” on Bush’s terms.

Schumer used his appearance on the CBS television program “Face the Nation” to announce the cave-in. In response to the initial question from moderator Bob Schieffer, who asked whether Schumer believed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had lied about his involvement in the firings, Schumer demurred, saying, “Those are strong terms.”

Then he changed the subject, declaring, “there’s a real basis for an agreement here, which is to have Rove, Miers, other White House people come in with a transcript—you have to have a transcript—but privately at first, and we can reserve judgment as to whether we meet them publicly afterward. As for the oath, I think it’s better to have an oath, but, as many have pointed out, there are statutes that say you have to tell the truth anyway. And this is along the lines of what Senator Specter has proposed . . .”

Schumer’s fellow guest on the program, Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, interjected blandly, “I proposed that two weeks ago,” and went on to say, “I think that Chuck Schumer and I may have come to an agreement here.”

Schumer reiterated his call for Gonzales to resign, a demand that has been taken up by a number of legislators, Republicans as well as Democrats. The attorney general’s claims to have known little about the plans, two years in the making, to fire the US attorneys have been exposed as lies.

He is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 17 and his fate remains in doubt. While Bush has defended Gonzales in public, he has reportedly been less supportive in private discussions with congressional Republicans. Schumer’s climb-down on obtaining testimony from White House aides suggests an implicit offer to make Gonzales the fall guy and let Rove and other Bush aides off the hook.

Bush’s senior counselor Dan Bartlett, who followed Schumer and Specter on the “Face the Nation” broadcast, was coy about Schumer’s proposal. Without accepting or rejecting it, he said he had not yet heard from the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat of Vermont).

Schumer’s offer is a capitulation to the Bush White House’s assertion of virtually unchecked powers. It also serves to keep the American people in the dark about the administration’s drive to destroy any independence of federal prosecutors and utilize the US attorney system to suppress working class and minority voting rights and manipulate elections by means of trumped-up federal “voter fraud” investigations. The evidence suggests that Rove is the main architect of this political conspiracy, and that it is directed in particular at maintaining Republican control of the White House in the 2008 elections.

That this was a central motive in the firing of the eight prosecutors has become abundantly clear. One of the purged prosecutors, John McKay of Seattle, had refused to launch a phony voter fraud case against the Democrats following a narrow Democratic victory in the 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State. Another, David Iglesias of New Mexico, had defied pressure from Karl Rove and Republican legislators to indict local Democrats in the run-up to the 2006 congressional election in order to ensure the reelection of Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson.

The effort to essentially fix the 2008 elections is also revealed in the individuals chosen by Attorney General Gonzales—a loyal aide to Bush going back to the president’s stint as governor of Texas—to fill US attorney vacancies, both those created by the retirement of prosecutors and those opened up by the purge. One of the fired prosecutors, Bud Cummins of Arkansas, was replaced by a Rove aide, Tim Griffin. Not accidentally, Arkansas is where the putative front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, spent most of her adult life.

Bradley J. Schlozman was installed a year ago as US attorney in Missouri. As a deputy in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, he had overruled career government lawyers in approving a Texas redistricting plan pushed by Tom DeLay, then House majority leader. He also approved, over the objections of Justice Department civil rights lawyers, a Georgia law requiring voters to show an official photo ID—a plan designed to disenfranchise poor and minority voters.

Schlozman also was involved in filing amicus briefs in the battleground states of Florida, Michigan and Ohio in 2004, seeking to prevent the counting of provisional ballots in the presidential election.

Six days before last November’s election, Schlozman announced indictments of four voter-registration recruiters for a liberal group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, for allegedly submitting fraudulent registrations to the election board in Kansas City.

Other Republican operatives with little litigation experience have been placed in US attorney positions in states likely to be vital in the 2008 election, such as Florida, Iowa and Minnesota.

An April 1 article in the Washington Post, headlined, “Prosecutor Posts Go to Bush Insiders,” reported, “About one-third of the nearly four dozen US attorney’s jobs that have changed hands since President Bush began his second term have been filled by the White House and Justice Department with trusted administration insiders...

“No other administration in contemporary times has had such a clear pattern of filling chief prosecutors’ jobs with its own staff members, said experts on US attorney’s offices. Those experts said the emphasis in appointments traditionally has been on local roots and deference to home-state senators, whose support has been critical to win confirmation of the nominees.

“The pattern from Bush’s second terms suggests that the dismissal were half of a two-pronged approach: While getting rid of prosecutors who did not adhere closely to administration priorities, such as rigorous enforcement of immigration violations and GOP allegations of voter fraud, White House and Justice officials have also seeded federal prosecutors’ offices with people on whom they can depend to carry out the administration’s agenda.”

In 2006, the administration inserted a provision in the revised USA Patriot Act giving the attorney general the power to appoint interim US attorneys, with indefinite terms, without obtaining Senate confirmation. Some of the firings and new appointments were carried out under this provision, which was undoubtedly enacted with a view to the 2008 elections.

Not only have the Democrats signaled their readiness to forego any public or sworn testimony by Bush aides, they have refused to alert the American people to the extent of the criminality and anti-democratic conspiracies underlying the purge of the prosecutors. In both the public hearings that have been held on the matter, and in the dozens of television appearances by leading Democrats since the scandal broke last January, the issue has been deliberately presented in the most superficial and narrow manner, as though it were merely a matter of partisan politics.

Among those who appeared on the Sunday talk shows over the weekend was Senate Judiciary Chairman Leahy, who never broached the connection between the firings and the efforts to intimidate and harass likely Democratic voters and launch prosecutions to manipulate elections.

Nor can it be said that this cowardice and complicity are motivated by deference to popular sentiment. Quite the opposite. George W. Bush is arguably the most hated and despised president in the post-war history of the United States. He and his policies of war and social reaction were repudiated by the electorate in November, and his favorable ratings in the opinion polls are struggling to reach the 30 percent mark. Indeed, a recent poll showed that a substantial majority of the population believes Rove and other White House aides should be compelled to testify in public and under oath about the attorney firings.

In an extraordinary op-ed column published in the Washington Post on March 26, entitled “A President All Alone,” the right-wing Republican columnist Robert Novak wrote of the stark political isolation of Bush, even within his own party. “Last week, as Alberto Gonzales came under withering Democratic fire,” Novak wrote, “there were no public GOP declarations of support amid private predictions of the attorney general’s demise...

“But this is less a Gonzales problem than a Bush problem. With nearly two years remaining in his presidency, George W. Bush is alone. In half a century, I have not seen a president so isolated from his own party in Congress—not Jimmy Carter, not even Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment.”

Moreover, Schumer’s capitulation came three days after Gonzales’ former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, who resigned on March 12, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and flatly contradicted Gonzales’ claims to have had no significant role in the purge of federal prosecutors. Sampson also made clear that Rove, Miers and other White House aides played a central role in organizing the firings.

As always, the spinelessness of the Democrats stands in stark contrast to the political ruthlessness of their Republican counterparts. One need only recall the Republicans’ relentless drive to destabilize and topple the Clinton administration by means of the Kenneth Starr witch-hunt, culminating in the first-ever impeachment of an elected president. And the pretext for that attempted coup was a sex scandal that had nothing to do with the policies or official actions of the White House. It was carried out, moreover, in the teeth of overwhelming popular opposition to Starr and the Republican inquisition.

As in the Clinton impeachment, the theft of the 2000 election, the 9/11 cover-up, the lies used to drag the country into the Iraq war, and the countless crimes committed in the name of the “war on terror,” the Democrats seek in the US attorney scandal to conceal the gravity of the threat to the democratic rights from the American people. They thereby act not as opponents of these conspiracies, but rather as accomplices.

The Democrats launched their investigation primarily to provide themselves with political cover following the popular repudiation of the war and the Bush administration in the November election. They hoped to use it as a diversion from the catastrophe in Iraq and their own complicity in that criminal enterprise. But as soon as the scandal began to reveal the scale of the administration’s anti-democratic operations, they sought to contain it, in order to effect yet another cover-up.

Whatever their electoral calculations, the Democrats fear a further weakening, if not outright collapse, of the Bush administration, because of the dire implications of such a development for the foreign and domestic interests of the American financial oligarchy, whose basic interests both they and the Republicans defend. The last thing the Democrats desire is to provide a rallying point for massive popular discontent to assume political forms outside the capitalist two-party system.

See Also:
Ex-aide contradicts Attorney General Gonzales on US attorney firings
[30 March 2007]